Student Loan Broke: Can Low Net Income Housing be a Thing?

Low-income housing is at least understood if not supported as a concept. At its simplest, there are people who can’t or don’t make enough money to sustain a home for themselves and their families, so low-income housing provides an option. For the people who need this and take advantage of it, low-income housing is a valuable public service, and for those who support it, the justification from a cost standpoint is clear.

As a college graduate with plenty of student loan debt left to live off, I know that the difference between low income and low net income isn’t much during those payback years. You feel poor. You feel like you’re failing. Like it wasn’t worth it. 

Pretty sure this is true: just 90 days after you graduate, you’re expected to start repaying your student loans. That’s what the deal was in 2005, so someone tell me if lenders have gone soft since then. I’ll wait.

Assuming that’s still the case, knowing the cost for college has gone way up since then, and also knowing that the job market hasn’t kept pace, I feel good in assuming my situation 13 years ago is either more common, more severe, or both today. As of 2016, the average salary for the first job out of college was just over $50K. Took me 10 years to make that. Journalism, ammiright?

Of that average, there’s an end of the bell curve that’s really hurting. They pay a mortgage every month before they even consider buying a home. That’s what student loans feel like–a mortgage. Even with what seems like a pretty good income, your net after debt is closer to that of the low-income housing demographic. It’s gross.

And this collection of thoughts hits me on my way to work, somewhere between 88.5 (the NPR station) and 95.7 (ESPN radio). I press a button three times to get from one to the other, and sometimes this happens. I can’t shake some thought, so I turn the radio down and start talking it out. I have my first meeting of the day with me while David Greene or Mike Golic quietly make up the background.

Student loan debt housing looks at a person’s net income after student loans. Other negative factors like credit card debt can’t be factored in, because this should be specific to those who paid a high price for higher education that hasn’t yet paid off.

I can already hear people saying, ‘Yeah, nice, but how are you gonna pay for it?’ Well, that’s pretty much a recurring thought of someone dealing with low net income, so I’m used to hearing it internally. Naturally, the stakeholders are beneficiaries if the program is successful, so there has to be a way to make them part of the solution when it comes to starting and sustain the damn thing.

Key stakeholders:

  • College grads – Obviously. They’re in need and every little bit helps.
  • Local businesses – The ones that require a steady stream of college-educated workers. The more they want to live in an area, the better chance businesses have to land them.
  • Economic developers – This concept has the ring of a powerful differentiator for college grads and businesses, which means more talent, stronger local businesses, and the potential for other businesses to locate there.
  • Property developers – Just like low-income housing, they have the chance to develop a piece of property, make some money, and likely receive whatever kickbacks they’re used to getting with similar projects.
  • Local colleges – Their students stay local, perhaps turn into grad students down the road. They stay local for a long time and stay happy, they turn into donors.

This isn’t a free ride for grads; they’ll still be paying rent, just not whatever the average is for that particular city. And maybe there’s a sliding scale involved to address the range in debt-to-income levels. Pretty positive numbers can be determined that are so much lower than the average rent that grads see the value, and so much higher than zero that it actually does help make the program possible.

Then there are the rest of the stakeholders. I don’t know, tax cuts? Fuck, figure it out. Critical to keep this out of the taxpayer realm, because selling “help these poor college graduates” doesn’t exactly resonate. One last thought: You don’t necessarily need a building for this type of thing. Instead, you could say it’s an application to the city or some other relevant entity that maybe reimburses either the tenant, the landlord, or both.

Consider the possible results (more talented workforce laying roots in your city likely to work and live there for a long time, supporting your economy and having babies that fill desks in your school districts). The scalability of this alone makes it worth a try (Or does it? Serious question). You can start with a small building one year and expand from there. It could start in one city one year, show some results and then spring up in cities all over the state. Cities, companies and citizens are looking for differentiators, and this feels like, at the very least, could be one of those. 

Serious or hilarious responses only. Note: I get to decide what’s serious and hilarious.


It’s Time to Blow Up The Buffalo Bills

When in Rome, do as you do to (Greg) Roman.

Get rid of everybody.

OK, obviously not literally everybody, but it’s time to blow up the Buffalo Bills. Two years ago when Rex was hired, I was skeptical. Which is a nice way of saying I thought we were fucked. Hated him as a Jet and even more as a Bill. The paradox is that he’s apparently the most lovable guy in the world. How else do you explain him getting the job? He brought flowers with a card filled with X’s and O’s, and the Pegula’s swooned.

“He’s so real and so charming. I just, I feel like I can trust him, ya know? Plus, he totally gets my sense of humor.”

Two years later, the relationship is what we feared it would be. He said he’d get us a ring, and we told everybody that it was gonna happen. But, ya know, he’s had a rough go lately. Things aren’t working out for him, bit of a rough patch, and he just needs a few breaks and then our relationship will get back on track.

Metaphors aside, this relationship needs to end. Not a break. A breakup.

The Bills need to go full Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly. They need to go Eternal Sunshine on the relationship and remove every possible reminder that this was a thing. From pictures on the wall to players in the locker room. Clean house, start over and start new. This isn’t doom and gloom, this is just what needs to happen. Of course they’ll be bad, but they’re already bad.

My next move as GM? Trade Sammy Watkins. Give him a few weeks to put up some numbers a la Marshawn Lynch and deal him to a team like San Diego that’s desperate for a receiver. Or how about San Fran? Anybody. Get what you can for him, because that guy is headed straight for the self-checkout lane. I don’t blame him. He’s the stepchild in this relationship, doomed to be a misfit for a run-first offense with a run-first coordinator and a run-better-than-he-passes QB. He’s wasted on this team, and first chance he gets, he’ll be gone. So, better get something for him now. Won’t be the two No. 1 picks the Bills gave away for him, but better than nothing. He can’t make the team win, and right now, he can barely help.

I like Whaley and I hope he stays, but not likely. The rest of the coaching staff? Gone. If someone out there really wanted Charles Clay? Him, too. Another wasted talent — not his fault, either.

Shit of it is that, while Sammy and others can be traded in the next few weeks, Rex and Rob are more or less stuck here until the end of the season. I mean, unless someone can go Coach Lance from Varsity Blues the rest of the way. Terrible movie, by the way. I mean, just fucking god-awful. Back-up QB is reading Vonnegut on the sideline and taking his skill guys to a strip club the night before a game, yet somehow the coach is the bad guy. Clearly doesn’t know the playbook so he makes up plays, and instead of just spiking the ball he throws it at a mascot, wasting precious seconds. So, so, so much more wrong with that film. It’s the Rex Ryan of football movies. Seems like it should be better than it actually is.


The Saddest Joke I’ve Ever Heard Is Actually Pretty Funny #EndALZ

Just through the automatic doors, summer morning humidity clinging to my back and AC taking over my front, I see Jean. Her name’s not Jean, but it is in this story. She’s at the front desk that welcomes family, friends, and any one else with business at the nursing home where I work. She’s there in her floral blouse and purple pants, a staple look she’s cultivated over her time here. I see she’s laughing. And so is Robin, the concierge.

Jean spots me and the smile remains. I see her almost every day, and every time I see her she has a joke for me.

“Hi Jean, how are you?” I say in a sweetened version of my voice.

“Good enough to get outta here,” is her reply. Like always.

“Hey, did I tell you the joke?” Her eyes shine in the hopes she can make me laugh today. She loves making people laugh. It’s as normal for her as her floral blouse and purple pants.

“Let’s here it, Jean.” She has it memorized. I’ll do my best to retell it.

“A 6-year-old boy stands in church looking up at a row of plaques with names and flags, and the boy stands there staring and staring.” Her eyes are fixed on mine and mine on hers. I always make sure to look right back at her and give her my time. It’s just a few seconds.

“The priest walks up beside the little boy as he continues to stare. The boy eventually looks up to the priest and asks, ‘Father, what does this mean?'” She holds her stare and her cadence is steady. She continues: “The priest says, ‘These are to remember the men and women who died in the service.’ The boy lowers his gaze back to the plaques and in a hardly audible voice says, “Which service, the 8:30 or the 10:30?”

We laugh together and take the first steps of a short walk. She’s so happy she got me to laugh.

Now, the hallway splits. My office is to the left and she’s headed to the right. Normally I go straight to work, but I decide to hang out with Jean. She’s already made me smile, so why not? I tell her I found out she used to be a nurse, and she admits that it’s true. She tells me where she used to work and the types of things she used to do. It’s not heavily detailed, but enough to know she has great pride in it. I tell her about my mom, a former nurse, and my wife, a current nurse. We cover about 100 yards and it’s very pleasant.

Suddenly, she stops walking. She turns to me.

“Hey, did I tell you the joke?”

I can feel my face fall and I scramble to catch it. I was absolutely crushed and my eyes move down the hall. She had forgotten. She didn’t know that not two minutes ago she had told me the joke. But her eyes are bright in the hope of making me smile all over again.

I lower my gaze back to her eyes and in a hardly audible voice I say, “Let’s hear it, Jean.”

“A 6-year-old boy stands in church looking up at a row of plaques with names and flags…”

She tells the joke. I laugh and she smiles. And I go to work.

I knew before the day started that she has memory problems. She had told me that joke 20, 30 times already, but I never considered that her memory could be so short. It had always been a few days between hearing it, so I never witnessed it in front of me like this.

She’ll tell me the joke again soon and I’ll laugh at the punchline.

Because it’s not just a few seconds. It’s time. Precious time.

A New Son Rises … OR … Daughter Is The Best Medicine

Really? That’s what I’m calling this?

Shut up, me… Just keep writing and know that no one will read this.

We’re at 22 weeks and life’s about to go Pinocchio. (That’s a catchphrase I’m trying to start or maybe a hashtag I want to get trending, ya know, because it’s about to get real. Like Pinocchio did!? #amiright? No? #jiminycrickets). I’m gonna be a dad. Caitie’s gonna be a mom. We’re gonna be parents. And a little person is going to think we’re the best, then the worst, then whatever, rinse and repeat.

There is no way around how excited I am. When I was 17 I wanted six kids–true story. I wanted to start when I was 22 or something stupid and just keep going until the lucky girl in my life threatened to leave me or kill me if I knocked her up a seventh time. I’m 32. My wife, Caitie, is cooler than the other side of the pillow (RIP Stu), and she’s talked me down to “two, maybe three if the first two are girls.” Ew, girls. We don’t know the gender, but it’s sitting inside a little gender-neutral green envelope on the refrigerator with creepy 3D pics of our genital-toting baby. My family is torn, taking sides and forming alliances of Team Penis and Team Vagina, with an epic battle for gender prognosticating superiority set for the baby shower in July.

Did I mention my wife was cool? Of all the things she could want on that day to help celebrate — artisan cookies, fireworks, trained doves, or whatever else Pinterest is pushing — she wants an ice cream truck. Yup. That’s right, she’s mine.

Without the slightest hit to my pride, I can honestly say that I have never seen her so happy. Example:

“Oh my God, I’m getting sooo big.”

That sentence said one way with one tone can sound so sad. But, and I don’t think she knows that I notice it, she says it with an awed smile. Back before we got engaged, I went ring shopping for the first time. I walked into the store and the woman asked, “Are you looking for something?” And I said, “I’m looking for something that makes her do this –” and I put my hands over my face the way Caitie does when she’s really happy. She covers her mouth as if the happiness might try to escape through her smile. That’s how she says, “Oh my God, I’m getting sooo big.”

It surprised me the first time I noticed it, and after 22 weeks I know it’s not rehearsed or inauthentic. She’s not going to be a great mom. She IS a great mom. Because the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that kiddo is doing to her over this trial of trimesters doesn’t stand a chance to the love I know she already has. She gets sick, she aches, she cries … and then she smiles. It’s awesome. Sunday is Mother’s Day, and she’s earned it already.

In give or take 18 weeks, we’ll give a person a name. It’s a weird thought now that I’ve typed it. I don’t know how to give a name. Probably more alarming is I don’t know how to prepare a bottle without YouTube. The feet from our IKEA dresser are still on backwards three years later. Oh, and I’m only OK at cleaning, apparently.

But I can make funny noises. I can be a horsey. I can peek-a-boo. Yeah … I can dad.

14 years of catholic schooling, and I just went to church for the first time

I’ve been taken to church a million times. By my parents. By my teachers in grade school, and some more in high school. I’ve been invited to church for weddings and baptisms as a means to get to the reception. But until this past Sunday, I had never gone to church. I, under the power of my own decision, using my own transportation, my own free will, my own time … I went to church.

I won’t climb onto a soapbox and spill all my thoughts about Catholicism or organized religion in general. Sufficed to say, I grew away from it. The repetitious, authoritative, and largely hypocritical aspects eventually won the battle in me against the concepts of faith, love and charity. I didn’t give up on those concepts, I just didn’t care to hear them in a place where Jesus stares at me from his cross. I was cool taking the good without the bad.

At the aforementioned weddings and baptisms, I started to reject offerings of the body and blood of Christ. I passed on offers to go to Christmas Mass. “If I were God, and somebody whom I invited to show up every week didn’t take me up on the offer, and then just waltzed in on my busiest day to eat my food and drink my wine, I’m gonna be pissed.”

That’s from Paul to the Any-Body-Who-Asked.

My wife and I didn’t get married in a church (thank God we were on the same page). We weren’t rebels. We just didn’t feel comfortable pretending. “Oh, yeah, we’re totally coming back here every Sunday. Definitely. It’s in my phone so I don’t forget.”

We talked about wanting to find a church, though. We had conversations about our faith and how we’d want it to impact our kids when we have them. That talk led to finding a new church. One that isn’t even in a church. One that has an app and is on Twitter. One that teaches rather than preaches. One that might just fit us.

We walked up the four flights of stairs at the Auditorium Theater in downtown Rochester with a crowd of others. Young parents with their young kids. A trio of 20-something girls. A couple in their 60s and everything in between. As we reached the fourth floor, you could smell the coffee pots. It felt like parent-teacher conferences at first with so many kids bopping around. Bright signs above three or four rooms laid out where the kids should go by their age, and they scurried to find their classroom for the next 90 minutes.

Caitlynn and I, a pumpkin latte and vanilla coffee in our hands, respectively, sauntered in slowly to take it in and hope that no one noticed the posers that just showed up for the first time. We feared judgement. Was that a hangover from past church experiences? I don’t know, but it faded. It faded partly because it wasn’t a traditional church, it was a theater. A band was on stage ready to play, a projection screen behind them was lit with a timer counting down to the start of the sermon. It was so … young. The pastor was a 30-something-ish bald guy with thick black frames and jeans. His white collar wasn’t covering his throat, it was just the undershirt to his plaid button-down. He made mention at one point that his church–Grace Road–had built a strong following of 20-somethings. Impressive, because that age group is the least religious in the country.

What I saw over the next 90 minutes was, for lack of a better word, inspiring. An image that I knew would last was that of a married couple about five rows up. They were in their early 20s. She was pregnant. And they held hands as they swayed to one of the songs, his left hand raised in the air like he was trying to catch God’s foul ball. Next to them was a woman showing more tattoos than un-inked skin. The band played songs most had never heard before, but people sang anyway with the words projected above the stage like a giant karaoke bar. If you didn’t sing, you didn’t feel bad. If you sang, you didn’t care how you sounded. I watched as people were truly engaged with what was happening in front of them and thought: “This is how the thirsty drink.”

I quickly put that line in my phone to remember it for this blog.

This is how the thirsty drink. How the hungry eat. How lovers kiss. When nothing else in the room matters but you and that glass of water, that plate of food, or that girl in your arms.

When it was over, I dropped my wife off and went to work. I thought about it until I got busy and likely didn’t spend more than five seconds on it until after 9 p.m. when my day was over. It didn’t change my day. I’m not reborn, just refreshed. And a little relieved. Relieved to feel OK about doing it differently. It’s not a hipster thing or a millennial thing or a cool thing. It’s a good thing, even though I’m not sure what it is yet. But we’re gonna go again. Totally. It’s in my phone. Plus, if we oversleep, we’ll listen to it later on the app.

Works for me.

FaceTune: The ugliest beautification out there

Facebook is good for a bunch of things, not the least of which is discovering new products. The ‘Promoted’ posts pop up constantly in the news feed about everything from a new local coffee house to sales at Target. And while the new coffee house is a great find, there’s no stopping very unwanted products from showing their ugly faces.

Enter: FaceTune.

If you’re on FB, you’ve likely seen it. Take a picture of your ugly face, and use this app to smooth it, tweak it, slim it, and look just like the unrealistic magazine photos. Got zits? No you don’t. Got freckles? No you don’t? Got cheeks? No you don’t. Not anymore. FaceTune gives you the tools of a professional Photoshop “artist” so you, too, can look like someone better than you.

This is the lowest of the low. This is not the same as a bride on wedding day asking for a pimple to be smoothed out by an experienced photographer. This is teaching people to change themselves. That they should change themselves. Because your freckles are ugly. Your eyes are set back too far. That scar above your eye has got to go. You’re not right.

On the FaceTune website, you can watch tutorials. Not all are horrible. There’s nothing wrong with changing poor lighting or running some focus filters. But then you come across a tutorial for “Reshape Basics” where you can learn to change your bone structure. What? Changing the lighting only alters the way your face shows up in the photo, but reshaping your face … well … reshapes your face. Other tutorials include “Remove Eye Bags” and “Acne Removal” — both born of the premise that there are things wrong with your face that you should change.

Videos posted from organizations like Upworthy have done a lot over the past few years to show just how much glamor photos are altered, turning average-looking faces into the ones that average-looking people want to have. These posts are done to pull back the curtain; FaceTune is the curtain. FaceTune’s goal is to set society back by reinforcing the importance of not just perfection, but unattainable perfection. People are starting to understand what’s real and what isn’t (at least more than they ever have before) when it comes to images in magazines because of posts from Upworthy. FaceTune’s beautification app is as ugly as it gets.

“Powerful and Easy To Use Portrait Editing App” is the tagline. The sad part is that it it’s accurate. It is powerful. It has the power to stall the development of a society that is inching away from the “perfection-or-nothing” mentality. What’s next? ThighGapp? (Get it? Thigh Gap App? … awful, right?). It’s an ugly thought that comes from the same ugly concept that FaceTune lives on.


On Ray Rice Fallout: Stop needing the NFL to pass judgement for you

The media (traditional and social) landslide created by a football player’s suspension has reached Oh-My-God-Shut-Up-About-It proportions. And while other “major” events like this hog the spotlight for a time and then go away, this will be a thing for at least six more weeks and likely go beyond that. Football and the media that cover it have a way of staying relevant, and nothing makes it easier than controversy.

‘Damn, Paul, you’re so insensitive! I mean, did you even see the video from TMZ?’

Yeah, I saw it. When it came out. It hasn’t changed since then and it will never change (unless they release the unedited director’s cut that wasn’t suitable for theaters). This isn’t about whether Ray Rice was appropriately punished by the NFL. It should be noted that he wasn’t actually punished by his employer, the Baltimore Ravens, who are the ones who pay his salary. They deferred to the league to rule on this rather than upset a star player and take blame or credit for the harshness of their own judgement. He wasn’t punished by the justice system either. Not even charged. The only life sentence he got was marriage to the woman he allegedly knocked unconscious. NFL players often get called neanderthals, so maybe that’s the case here (see illustration above).

(Editor’s Note: I love being married, guilty as charged.)

No, this is not about his punishment. It’s a reminder to people that the NFL, like any other corporation, is not a moral authority–it’s a business. Stop looking for a moral stance from something that doesn’t make money off of being moral. Consider this question: If Ray Rice had been suspended for four, six, eight games or even a whole season, what would we learn that is different about the morality of his actions? The reaction is so focused on the punishment and what he deserves rather than the victim and what can be learned. Regardless of his punishment, he still did whatever he did, thus making the message to all: “if you’re comfortable with the punishment, then go ahead and do it.”

I imagine the concern here is that two games and hundreds of thousands of dollars is not enough of a deterrent, that a greater percentage of men will commit domestic violence because they can use NFL v. Rice as their playbook. I say, if the punishment is the only way to prevent domestic violence, then we’re doing it wrong. In sports and society, fear of punishment doesn’t appear to work as well as we’d think. Prisons are still crowded, crimes still happen, even when justice is served. Justice, after all, is the search for balance after a crime has been committed. Maybe it’s time to concern ourselves less with justice and more with being the type of people who don’t commit crimes.

Had the NFL sent a message with its ruling and really hit Ray Rice hard with a half-season or something that was deemed ‘enough’, how soon before another NFL player committed a similar crime? Or killed someone while driving drunk? Or beat someone up in a bar? And when that eventuality happens, what would people do? “Wait a second? But the NFL sent a message … how could this happen?” Then what?? More punishment? More justice? Instead, the NFL is deemed to have gone soft in this case, giving everyone ammunition for when it happens again to say, “See … should’ve come down harder on Rice.”

Stop needing the NFL to pass judgement for you. Stop needing anyone to do it. Right and wrong have some gray areas, but domestic violence and spousal abuse aren’t among them. It’s never OK. Remind your fans of that, not through punishment of the criminal, but through the eyes of the victim. Hitting someone can’t be bad thing because you’ll go to jail or get suspended. It has to be because … it’s a bad thing.

Think back on how basic it is from childhood: “Don’t hit. Bad. No. That hurts. Look, she’s crying. See? No. Bad. Don’t hit.” Those rules still apply, no matter how grown-up or problems are or how many adult beverages we’ve had. Yes, there are consequences to your actions and justice is important, but more crucial to learning from an instance like this is taking the time to teach why a certain action is wrong. It’s not in the punishment of the criminal. It’s in the innocence of the victim.

50 Words: Chivalry

I saw one of these 50 Word Challenges on WordPress a while back and thought I’d try. I’m a notorious long-writer. So, I guess, just pick a topic or concept and illustrate it in 50 words or fewer. This attempt required about 13 minutes and a half-dozen “Really? That’s more than 50 words?” moments.

Anyways, here’s 50 words on Chivalry:


He brushes off the clinging cold, ducking into the driver’s seat after 10 minutes of scraping ice. She scurries from the warm house into the warming car. Reaching for the heat blowers, she sees they’re already pointed at her seat. All of them. He breathes into his hands and starts to drive.


Thoughts? Does anyone know of any other tricks to brevity? I mean, I like my writing style, but I could benefit from harsher self-editing. Also, if you have ideas for topics, throw them my way. Apologies to anyone I’ve offended by mentioning snow or winter or cold at the height of summer. But it’s coming. It always is. Damn, I hate winter. But the picture’s all summerish, so there’s that.

You can do what you love, or not, but you still gotta work

What time is it? 9:03. Ok … Gotta get up. Come on. Fuck, my head. I still taste whiskey. For a futon, this wasn’t that bad. OK, pants, shirt, belt, name tag. Brush your teeth. Yeah, that’s gross, brush your teeth. A little product in the hair. Sprits, sprits, sprits of cologne. Better, but probably still not good. Doesn’t matter. Time to go to work.

No, I’m not 21, but that was my Sunday morning. My buddy Doug’s bachelor party was not to be missed, but neither is work when you mash three part-time jobs together to make up for the career you lost six months ago. Yeah. I lost my job. I was in newspapers (Google them, they still exist). I went to college to learn how to work for them, and will be paying that off for another seven years. I went from Ithaca College, to Trumansburg (NY), to Saratoga Springs (NY), to Norwich (CT), to Canandaigua (NY). And I worked. I got better. I worked at least one, sometimes two other jobs to supplement the criminally low salary. They shouldn’t even call it a “salary” if it’s not enough to pay back the loans you took out to get there.

So I worked. I was a fry cook, a paperboy, a fry cook again, an American Eagle associate, a gas station attendant, a freelance writer, a deli worker, a server, and a bartender over the first nine years of my career. My career jobs: Sports Editor (9 weekly papers), Sports Writer/Page Designer (‘Toga), Sports Writer/Page Designer again (CT) before promoted to Assistant Sports Editor, Page Designer (Canandaigua) before promoted to Sports Editor, then Production Editor, then back to Sports Editor, then News Editor in 2013. Since it started with a promotion, I wouldn’t have assumed it would be my last year in the biz. I shouldn’t even call it “the biz” if it continuously cuts the people who work so hard to carry its once-good name.

But, hey, gotta make that paper.

Whatever anyone thought about newspapers, at least I used to be able to say I was working in the field I trained to work in. I had a career, even though it took about eight years to be promoted enough to make just enough money to give up a second job. And then I lost it, January 6 of this year. One day before my four-year anniversary with the paper, my sixth year with the company.

“What do you do for a living?”

I work.

I’m a server, a bartender, a dock worker, a writer (POST Magazine, in Rochester) and now I’m even trying my hand at advertising sales for the same magazine. Not too many people both write and sell ads. Even fewer people write articles for a magazine, sell ads for the same magazine, load and unload freight with a forklift from 11 p.m. til 4 a.m., serve tables and sling drinks. I told Caitlynn (who’s been amazing through this up-and-down stretch): “I’m proud of how hard I work. I just don’t like my work.” I don’t work any harder now than I ever have; I just have a more diverse range than before. The biggest problem now is there is no calling out sick. No PTO. No personal days. Ahhhh …. personal days …

I work.

Sorry, hangover, you’re coming with me. I got to work Sunday and served tables for 11 hours. The next night, I served for four hours, took a break and loaded freight til 5:45 a.m. She asked me, “How can you do that?” And my response is, apparently, what it’s always been but I hadn’t realized until now: “Because I have to.” I gotta go to work. I gotta write. I gotta sell. I’m a husband and a homeowner and I want certain things and none of that comes without work.

And you know what else? I’m not special. I work with these kinds of people all the time. Bachelor’s and Master’s mixed in with GED’s and drop-outs. They all work.

My other part-time job is as professional Job Hunter. Two more applications out today. If I keep my fingers crossed any longer, they’re gonna stay that way. I recently realized how inhuman ‘Human Resources’ is now. It’s a series of fields and filters that sifts through the talent pool, weighing “Years of Experience” more than talent, requiring you to tread water for 45 minutes to get to the “Upload Resume” portion. ‘Oh, and all of that info on your resume? We’re gonna need you to retype that into the appropriate fields. We don’t want to waste human eyes on the actual resume unless you meet all of these specific criteria that may or may not determine how good you are at doing this job.’

If I sound frustrated, it’s because I”m frustrated. But someday I’ll have a shiny, new nine-t0-fiver with all the comforts of sick days and 401k contributions. So sexy. For now, I’m workin’ on it.

Ever wonder what God would sound like if he prayed to us?

I interviewed a monk recently for a story that will be published in the July/August edition of Post Magazine. The story is about how this particular collection of monks has developed a pretty popular brand of bread, Monks’ Bread, and orchestrates a lucrative, high-tech bakery within the walls of its otherwise solemn monastery.

Curiosity wouldn’t allow me to leave without asking my own questions about religion, faith and practice that would find no home in my 700-word article. I don’t often seek out religious figures. I don’t go to church after 13 years of Catholic schooling. My wife and I didn’t get married in a church or by a priest. It’s something we’re still figuring out, so I had take this chance. We spoke for about 40 minutes, which is an immense amount of time out of a monk’s schedule. And among the things he said that stuck with me was this:

“There’s a line in a poem [‘The Dry Salvages’ by T.S. Eliot] that says, ‘We had the experience, but missed the meaning.’ This is very true, especially in our very frenetic, 21st-century world that all of us have had experiences of grace, but frequently we miss the moment and it doesn’t have a chance to sink in because we’re already on to the next thing. So, we keep looking for new experiences but the experiences we’ve had haven’t had a chance to sink in and be appreciated. If they had, a lot of our questions may have been answered. In monastic life with a slower pace, these kinds of simple, repetitive manual tasks are opportunities to absorb one’s experiences, to digest your experience. All of us, most of us, right now are going around with these half-digested experiences. We need down time to catch up and let things sink in.”

Father Isaac is as thoughtful a man as you’d expect from a monk, but he didn’t say this–or anything for that matter–in any ‘holy-er than thou’ tone. I may not know what I believe in, but I believe what he said. We have experiences every day that happen so fast we fail to feel them. A conversation, a glance, a song, a breeze–so regular are these that we refuse to notice why each is unique. That it can teach us something. That it did teach us something.

Weeks later, I was at work shooting the shit with my friend, Christine. She and I banter quite a bit from one side of the bar to the other (I tend bar every so often). I couldn’t tell you how we got there, but I brought up the concept of flipping the script on a prayer.

“Imagine how happy God would be if you just started a prayer with: ‘Hey, God, how was your day?'”

She paused and I can tell she likely never considered it (how many people have, right?). I continued the banter as I usually do with what felt like humor but now feels like perspective.

“So there I was controlling the weather …,” I say, impersonating God with my hands hovering over an imaginary Earth. We both start laughing because, ya know, how ridiculous is that? A real ‘What if God was one of us?’ type of thought. It was funny. The moment passed and we went about our work, changing the subjects to drink orders, how slow it is, and how much we can’t wait for summer.

That was weeks ago. And I think I finally felt it: the prevailing wonder of what God would sound like if He prayed.

“I need Your help. I can’t do this alone any more. I feel like there is so much pressure on me to make things right, and I don’t know if I have the strength to do it all without You. I mean, I work so hard every day to be all things to all people, and it’s like they don’t even care. It’s like I’m invisible sometimes. Like I don’t exist. I feel like I have all of these great ideas on how to help people, but no one wants to listen.

Are You even listening?

Please, give me a sign. Just show me that you understand how much I care. You can change things so easily if You want to and I don’t understand why You wait for me. What can I do that You can’t?

Help me. I can’t do this without You. Please.


This makes sense to me. Not an omnipotent, omnipresent God, but a helpless God that needs Us as much as We need Him. He’s busy controlling the weather. And gravity. And throwing more coal on the sun. He is limited by Us and Our dependence on Him to carry Us.

But We are the rock that God himself cannot lift.

Not every moment we digest is religious or spiritual, but the content of this one just happened to be that for me. Others will be about being a husband, or a friend, or a writer. Father Isaac’s words won’t always hit me when I need them because he’s not here to speak them again and again. I have to apply them to moments as they pass to make sure I take what I need to take from them. That was his point, and at least this time I was listening.