What if I told you?

What if I told you I died today?

My life never flashed before my eyes. I slowly gave my soul away until I had nothing left.

What if I told you I did it all knowingly, without coercion and without a second thought?

In a world of ongoing terror, divisive societies and chaotic turmoil, I did not seek solace in my family. I waged war on those closest to me. I broke hearts, destroyed unbreakable bonds and chose to seek refuge with strangers.

I rejected compassion, love and mercy. I embraced deceit, betrayal, and malevolence.

What if I told you I am oblivious to this happening?

I’m never wrong. I insult others for telling me how much they love me. I lie to gain sympathy.

What if I told you I died today and am very much alive?

I know myself inside and out and have no idea who I am. I feel deserted and am surrounded. I am desperately hated because of suffocating love.

What if I told you I’m someone you knew?

What if I told you I’m you?

Me vs. Age 30

THIRTY. 

30. Treinta. XXX. Three decades. No matter how it’s spelled, spoken, read, written, in English or Spanish, I’m now THIRTY years old.

For the six months leading up the 29th-plus-one anniversary of my date of birth, I struggled internally with the fact that I was rapidly approaching the aforementioned, unmentionable age. My twenties were over. Done. Gone. I was about to take my first baby steps as the newest member of the 30s Club.

Growing up, I never envisioned what it would feel like to be three decades old. I had no idea what 30 would feel like. The only thing I knew was that being 30 meant I was a full-fledged adult. And getting older. And older. And older.

I remember my parents being in their thirties and thinking they were so grown up and responsible for so many things. While my biggest concern in life was whether I was going to be picked last for backyard baseball or first in Red Rover, my parents were dealing with car payments, getting food on the table, keeping a roof over my head, and all the things in between.

Then, there I was — standing at that same door– about to take tiny, timid steps into the next decade of life, and scared as hell as to what lay waiting for me over the next 3,650 days.

It had been my personal ongoing struggle of Denial versus Father Time — a struggle Father Time never loses. With each passing day, the grip grew tighter and tighter, until the inevitable victor extinguished the final flicker of hope at 7:11 a.m. on March 6, 2014.

The battle was over. Denial was no more.

There I stood: a 30-year-old man. There was no denying it. The struggle was over, and I was forced to begin my first day as a member of a club I had spent the previous six months dreading and loathing.

I was tired. A six-month battle had just come to an end and it was time to face the inevitable. But as I began preparing myself for the day that lie ahead, I closed my eyes and spent a silent moment speaking to the one who blessed me with the ability to enjoy 30 years of life.

After a quick prayer, I opened my eyes.

Like coming up out of the water for the first time on Baptism Sunday, I felt different. New. NOT thirty.

I wasn’t tired; I was energized. Not defeated; determined. Not lethargic; excited. And, maybe most importantly: not old, but YOUNG. I was ready. I grabbed a shirt and tie from my closet, determined to make my first day of thirty look good. I hurried over to my better half, who had spent countless hours the night before forfeiting priceless moments of sleep to make my first day of thirty special, and I gave her a big wet one and thanked her for her generosity and work that made my morning spectacular.

As I continued through the next 24 hours — Day 1 of 3,650 in my thirties — I enjoyed laughs with coworkers, decadent celebratory desserts, two softball games (that made me feel twice my new age), and priceless time with loved ones who proved to me that thirty really is just a number.

As a two-day veteran of the 30s Club, my feelings on the previously unmentionable age of 30 have done a 180. I’m excited about being 30. I’m proud of my twenties and the things I learned and accomplished along the way, but I’m excited and looking forward to what’s in store over the next 9 years, 364 days.

The six-month struggle was one I was incredibly fearful of losing, yet knew was not winnable. Today, I’m excited to have lost.

Why? Because I’m 30. THIRTY! No matter how it’s spelled, spoken, read, or written, I’m now THIRTY years old.

And it’s going to be one helluva fun ride.

Happy Holidays

Each year, when the calendar turns to December, the world enters into a month of countless celebrations that we share with our friends and family. The mental “to-do” lists get longer, the days get shorter and our wallets seem to shrink smaller by the day.

Wherever you are in the world, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season seems to make us all a little crazy. And, regardless of the holiday you celebrate, this month offers some time to relax, share laughs with friends, get rejuvenated and make new memories with family that will turn into stories passed down to generations to come.

And then there’s that whole “work” thing.

You know—the emails, phone calls, meetings and projects—the place where we spend roughly one-third of our lives throughout the year. Our ability to focus on work always seems to get a little tougher during December, doesn’t it? Those swirling mental to-do lists begin to hold their own against our projects, meetings and emails in the Battle of Mental Focus.

Let’s just be honest—in December, work seems to get smack dab in the middle of our personal agendas sometimes. We’re busy. We’ve got things to do. Traffic is crazy and for many of us, it’s already dark when we leave work for the day.

But, that same work allows us amazing opportunities throughout the year. We can volunteer with charity organizations to help those in need, we’re given a generous balance of work and personal time, and our work not only helps provide for our own families, but for thousands of other families around the world.

With roughly 60,000 employees in more than 100 countries, we have a network of employees who are collectively helping to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through our volunteer time, our charitable giving donations, or even by simply interacting with clients, we are helping support humanity.

During your respective celebrations this holiday season, take a moment and think of the opportunities your hard work at the office has provided for yourself and for others. The emails, phone calls, meetings and projects have afforded you the opportunity to create those memories and share those laughs.

While the month of December can be stressful, hectic, and sometimes just downright chaotic, we can enjoy the printer jams, the lost or forgotten ID badges and the spilt coffee, and remember that what we do here at work every day matters. We are making a difference every single day. And that in itself makes our hard work worth it this holiday season.

Enjoy the laughs. Rest and relax. Smile and share the excitement of the holiday season. We appreciate your hard work and dedication throughout the year, and we wish you and yours a very Happy Holidays.

Big D 50 Years Later: We Are Better

JFKEnraged.

That’s the only word I can think to describe my emotions after reading this unfounded, speculative dribble from a “Marshall scholar at the University of Oxford.”

Although I was not alive to experience the heartbreak seen and felt in my hometown that fateful November day 50 years ago, I have spent countless hours reading, watching and listening to stories, theories and factual evidence from that tragic day. I can only imagine that the feeling I would’ve felt had I been here in 1963 would have been similar to what I felt when two of our nation’s most iconic skyscrapers were being knocked down by cowardly terrorists in YOUR city, New York Times.

And, yes: I remember exactly how I felt that day more than 12 years ago. I remember countless posts, tweets and conversations regarding how I felt. I also remember not one single mention of how I blamed the City or people of New York for one man’s murderous actions.

To suggest such an idea is not only radical ignorance, it’s insanity. It’s not only insulting, but offensive, degrading and libelous. Especially coming from an author who claims to have Texas ties in his ancestry. The author continues his ignorance by suggesting that Dallas be known as “the city of hate” and by ridiculing and mocking our plans to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary:

“Dallas being Dallas, it will be quite the show: a jet flyover, a performance from the Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club and remarks from the historian David McCullough on Kennedy’s legacy.       

“But once again, spectacle is likely to trump substance: not one word will be said at this event about what exactly the city was in 1963, when the president arrived in what he called, just moments before his death, ‘nut country.'”

It’s never been a secret that Texas is different. Hell, our state tourism slogan used to be: “Texas: It’s Like a Whole Other Country.” And while Kennedy DID dub our area “nut country” on the morning of the day he died, the thousands of peaceful Dallasites that unexpectedly showed up that day to see a glimpse of the nation’s leader and his captivating bride surprised the President and those expecting a much more raucous and controversial crowd. While this city is still a bit “nutty,” this town was as captivated and entranced by the First Couple as any other city in the nation during that time period.

Countless evidence of our citizens’ joy is seen in any video or photograph taken from the streets of Dallas that day; in the smiles and laughter prior to Elm Street, to the tears, shock and horror on the faces of men, women, blacks and whites after Elm Street.

Although he criticizes the city’s planned events commemorating the death of JFK, the author’s comments to begin his article are the most enraging and inaccurate:

“For 50 years, Dallas has done its best to avoid coming to terms with the one event that made it famous: the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. That’s because, for the self-styled ‘Big D,’ grappling with the assassination means reckoning with its own legacy as the “city of hate,” the city that willed the death of the president.”

If the city of Dallas is supposedly still trying to avoid the events of that day, why, then, are we commemorating the events which you subsequently chose to criticize? Why not continue to turn our heads and ignore the events of that day? Because we have never turned our head. And we have never collectively come together to will the death of a president.

The author suggests we will “still not mention what the city was in 1963.”

Why WOULD we? In spite of having to live with the fact that we live in the city where one of the most beloved American Presidents was assassinated, our attempts to obligatorily commemorate those events and intentionally draw worldwide attention to the biggest black scar on our city are then incorrectly insulted and radically ridiculed by an Oxford student’s article–an article that serves no purpose other than as a less-than-Oxford-worthy attempt at personal gain that was subsequently published by one of the most well-respected publications in the world: The New York Times.

Why go back to that day and falsely claim inaccuracies when Dallasites have to live with it every day as it is? The aforementioned publication saw an opportunity to take a shot (no pun intended) in the ongoing Yankees vs. Confederacy cold war, and they took it.

Using the most controversial national tragedy in history and dragging the City and people of Dallas through the mud in an unfounded article that was published solely in an attempt for personal gain is an embarrassment on behalf of the author as well as The New York Times.

The author’s speculative dribble is laughable. Dallas isn’t what it was in 1963. It’s hard enough that Dallasites have no choice but to live with this scar for the rest of history. But in the 50 years since, we’ve made significant progress and have evolved into one of the nation’s greatest cities and most dependable economies. To suggest we go back to 1963 and mention what we were has absolutely no benefit.

The arrogance that The New York Times took by publishing such a disrespectful and libelous article is unforgiveable. With all the tragedy New York has had to deal with, your publication should know better than anyone.

He is simply a bully trying to kick his opponent during our weakest moment.

We don’t hold the scar willingly, but we DO hold it acceptingly. We can’t change the reputation that one man placed upon our city in 1963, but we can accept it, move on and become better from it. And we have, Mr. McAuley.

We ARE better. We are better than you, and we are better than what you think you know of our people, our lifestyles and our commemorations. We have moved on from what we were in 1963 and have become one of the greatest and most desirable cities in the entire nation.

They may teach history at Oxford, but they can’t teach what it means to be a resident of the great city of Big D. You will never learn that, Mr. McAuley. And The New York Times should be ashamed for taking the bait and publishing such disrespect of an entire city in the wake of an upcoming commemoration of a national tragedy.

This “city of hate” has never and would never publish such disrespect in wake of recent tragic events that have taken place in New York or London. You and your friends at the Times ridiculed us for publishing disrespectful words in 1963. We did in 1963. We don’t today. We aren’t going back there, no matter how much we are provoked, Mr. McAuley.

We are better. We’ve moved on from 1963. Maybe you and The New York Times should also.

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I’m Thank Full

We’ve all seen the posts consuming our News Feed’s for the last 12 days. They show up every day like clock work. They are all a different variation of the same thing in different orders from our “friends.”

People are thankful. We get it.

But doesn’t it seem a bit disingenuous after a while? Now, before you go off and say I’m a horrible, unthankful Grinch, let me explain. The posts that people make which describe things, people, items, etc, that they are thankful for are the same things everyone else mentions. For instance, we all see the “I’m thankful for my family” posts. To me, it’s all cliché.

We’re all thankful for our family. And our opportunities.  And our children and spouses. And our health. And our friends, etc, etc, etc. But beyond all that common obscurity, what are some things you’re REALLY thankful for?

I’m thankful that the homeless man I saw today has a warm place to go tonight. I’m thankful for the huge smile on his boney face brought on after a more-fortunate Samaritan’s gift of warm food. I’m thankful that at least for one split second, evidence of sheer joy was shown to the world through that smile.

With that in perspective, I’m not going to post about how I’m thankful for the aforementioned obscurities. That goes unsaid. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have even just a fraction of the moments I’ve been afforded in life. I’m thankful I have a common luxury of being able to tell my “friends” and “followers” across the globe what I’m doing at any given second of any day from hitting a few buttons on the tiny device in the palm of my hand. We take the opportunity to half-heartedly post what we’re “thankful” for to “friends” we haven’t spoken to in years for granted.

My limit is full on the “thankful” posts. I’m thank full.

Forget just recognizing every day this month: recognize every single day what you’re truly grateful for and appreciate it with everything you have.

Now, back to Day 12 of News Feed obscurities.

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Minimum Way-ge Too Much

There has been a lot of talk over the last few months regarding the minimum amount of money employers must pay workers for their labor. In the United States, the current federal minimum wage (FMW) is $7.25 per hour.

On September 1, 1997, the FMW increased to $5.15, up from the $4.75 effective of October 1, 1996. The FMW remained unchanged for almost 10 years. July of 2007 marked the beginning of a three-year, annual increase in the FMW. On July 24 of each of those three years, the FMW rose to $5.85, $6.55, and finally, to $7.25 on July 24, 2009, where it has since remained.

Although it was several years ago, I recall never receiving an increase in my salary on July 24 during each of those three years.

In Corporate America, the only ways in which I know to earn a higher salary is through positive job performance. If you perform well at your job, you receive a promotion, along with a higher salary. The argument could be made for annual merit increases; however, merit increases are not mandatory and are dependent on the company you work for (I worked for a company who said all employees would receive an annual merit increase, yet they were not truthful in their statement).

Why, then, should workers in a minimum-wage job be given a “promotion” and a pay raise by the federal government when my salary (along with millions of other Americans) stays stagnant? Assuming my salary does not increase in conjunction with a raise in the FMW, my job, position and salary become devalued.

Let’s assume my salaried rate per hour comes out to $20 per hour. Currently, with a FMW of $7.25, my salaried rate per hour is $12.75 higher than the FMW. If Uncle Sam increases the FMW to $10 per hour, suddenly my salaried rate per hour is only $10 higher than the FMW.

My job just lost value. The money spent on a college education to obtain a degree that helped me earn a salaried position just became less important.

So, why should senators in Washington have the right to devalue my salary that I have worked hard for and earned? The person flipping burgers at the FMW was just given a pay raise and “closed the gap” on what my degree has since earned me.

The argument is that the current FMW of $7.25 is too low and that a worker cannot provide for his or her family at that rate. It sounds like an excuse to me; an excuse to give those unwilling to work harder for a higher hourly wage a free promotion and devalue those who have a higher hourly wage.

If the FMW is too low for you to support your family, work harder. Make yourself better. Do what you have to do in order to provide for your family. Depend on yourself instead of the federal government. It’s your choice, not anyone else’s. If the federal government is handing out free promotions, why are those making above the FMW excluded? They got theirs and I want mine.

The genesis of this debate stems from a recent group who are lobbying to raise the FMW to $15.00 per hour–more than doubling the current FMW.

What? $15 per hour? At that rate, a person working 40 hours per week would have an annual gross income of over $31,000. Meaning, the least amount of money anyone working in America with an hourly wage at or above the FMW would make, is more than some salaried teachers and public service personnel currently make.

Combined with the current student loan debt crisis in America, making an astronomical increase in the FMW would highly devalue the millions of jobs and salaries of those who worked so hard to obtain a “good” job. Being content in a job flipping burgers, yet complaining about the FMW associated with it is not something others in the workforce should have to pay for.

Make your own choices. Do what needs to be done to support your family and live the life you want. Don’t sit back and complain to the government about your personal frustrations and wait to get your “freebie.”

What should be done? Should the FMW be increased? To what rate? Should it be mandated that any increase in the FMW requires a subsequent percentage increase in salaries and wages of everyone who make above the FMW?

If the government is handing out free promotions and pay increases, I want mine–just like those who would rather complain than put in the work.

I think it’s time to write my congressman.

BEEP!

(this is a blog I wrote a few months back on my work blog site that I am repurposing here)

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!” Is it time to get up already?

After I finally muster the courage to set my feet on the floor and realign my body from horizontal to vertical, I often find myself immediately rushed — as I perceive most people in the morning are. We’ve got to get our coffee, our breakfast, let the dog out, get dressed… the list goes on and on. When I finally make it to my car to begin my 15-minute commute, it doesn’t take long to realize those 15 minutes will likely morph into 20 or 30. Again, I feel rushed. Especially with the lovely unbearable Dallas-area traffic.

My car often sings at least one, “BEEP!” every morning to alert other rushed commuters that I, too, am in a hurry. The blaring country music temporarily slows the swirling of the mental to-do-list tornado inside my head.

I make it to work, park my car (that reminds me: I still need to get my oil changed), hustle into the office and plop down at my home-away-from-home and fire up the Dell. I then set fire to my keyboard by the speed at which my fingers are moving — a speed that Captain Kirk aboard the Starship Enterprise would be envious of.

I’m intermittently interrupted by a “BEEP!” of the phone sitting next to me or the knock of someone needing my expert helpful opinion. When the phone call ends, or my filibusterous opinion is satisfied, it’s back to lighting fires.

Finally, I stand and dart away, immediately regretting the swiftness of my motion (did I stretch after softball last night?), and head to the printer, restroom or someone’s office. I Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge people on my way to my destination better than a Gold-Medal Olympian. My mental tornado shouts, “BEEP!” as I obliterate the obstacle course of people along my personal yellow brick road to my destination.

I return to my desk when my stomach audibly and arguably alerts me that it’s time for lunch. As I take what seems like my first real “breather” of the day, it hits me:

I’m exhausted.

My almost-instant “two-thirty feeling” has the 5-Hour Energy commercial added to my mind’s swirling vortex and I start to question the genesis of my exhaustion.

It began before the tornado. Before I even became vertical. Before the first “Beep.”

It’s time to slow down. Not right this second, but from before morning perpendicularity.

Instead of cursing the alarm clock for shouting at me to get my (beep!) in gear, take a breath and be thankful that my you-know-what was able to even have the opportunity to get out of bed this morning. Instead of my car singing its daily duet with other fellow rushers in the morning, drive The Texas Way and let other cars sing solo. Clear the mental skies and actually listen to the lyrics. Instead of rivaling a world-class athlete on American Gladiators while in the office, say, “Hello,” smile, and get to know my coworkers.

Let your beeps justify when you do something, not how  you do something.

Oops. I almost forgot: it’s time for lunch. Beep!

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The Great Cookie Debate

Little known fact: I’m a man. A guy. Male.

Although we’re not known particularly well known for our prowess in the kitchen, I happen to think know I can make one of the meanest, leanest, most perfectly-popped bags of corn that stainless GE microwave has ever seen. Hitting that one-touch button labeled “Popcorn” and closing the door with such precision isn’t something just anyone can do. It’s a skill that takes decades to master. And don’t even get me started on the overwhelmingly healthy dinners of green beans, roasted chicken breast, corn, sweet potatoes and pasta I conjure up, courtesy of my freezer and my friends at Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones.

Let’s face it: Baking. Broiling. Sautéing. They are all some form of cooking that I have as good a chance of mastering as Lee Harvey has of getting away with killing JFK (too soon?).

Or, so I thought.

I have brought this debate up multiple times over the last few years, and it never seems to resolve itself. No, it somehow only fuels my passion for a permanent, worldwide name change to one of history’s most beloved pastry treats: the cookie.

I’m a simple man (which may contribute to why my man-brain doesn’t comprehend any counterargument to my upcoming claim). Chocolate chip satisfies the taste buds just fine. There’s no need for the fancy-schmancy Macadamia Nut with Chocolate Chips and Caramel Snickerdoodle yadda, yadda business. Just give me the simplistic chocolate chips, you wa-hoo.

It’s my favorite bakie.

No. Don’t correct me. I know what you’re thinking, and no, that’s not a typo. Cookies are not cookies. Cookies are bakies.

Why, you ask? I have been repeatedly told that baking is not cooking. That it is not even a form of cooking. Why, then, do you bake something that has the word “cook” as two-thirds of its name?!

(Mind. Blown.)

If cookies are not cooked, but baked, they should not be called cookies. Plain and simple. There are countless other examples of foods that are baked versus cooked or cooked versus baked, but this post already undoubtedly has your head spinning and wanting some delicious, fresh, homemade cookies bakies (not to mention the name’s obvious tie-in for you “420 regulars” who get a craving for munching on something delish after the smoke clears).

The world needs to know the truth behind bakies. Get out there. Go all “Sinatra-ish” and start spreading the news.

Now, pass the dough. We’ve got bakies to cook. Or, bake.

Oh, f*** it. Whatever.

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Half-heartedly Hypocritical

I often criticize those who do things “half-assed” or who don’t give it their all. In fact, I often say,

“Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

This new blogging adventure of mine is probably one of those things that I should “do right.” But, who am I kidding?

With the writing I do daily for a very necessary bi-weekly paycheck, my excruciatingly popular extra-curricular social calendar (which consists mostly of my couch, sports and mini-Dachshund) and the my rigorous workout schedule that I always sometimes almost never adhere to, this blog is unfortunately nothing more than a secondary “if I get to it” task that will be hopefully I’ll get around to on an almost daily basis. And, yes. This makes me half-heartedly hypocritical.

Rest assured. The however-so-frequent posts will not disappoint and make not a liar of the blog’s eloquent and detailed title and description. (AKA: meaningless.)

Anything worth doing IS worth doing right. However often you do it, that is. And however often I do this and post my mindless ramblings and regurgitated thoughts and opinions is my prerogative and it promises to be six shades of sexy. However sexy a picture the word “regurgitated” can paint.

You’re still reading this. BOOM.

Hook. Line. And sinker.

Stay Tuned, Mighty Blogosphere.

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