Category Archives: But Seriously…Blogs

Daddy Take the Wheel

1962 – We lived on a major highway, between Flint and Lansing, Michigan.  It’s now part of Interstate 69.  But at the time, it was a state highway called M-78.  Four lanes – divided – populated by swift 4-wheeled steel titans – some sporting fins on the back that garishly displayed the taillights; with the newer ones having abandoned those “heights of automotive fashion – for 1959.”  Yes, this divided four-lane concrete ribbon displayed Detroit’s finest products of the day – at 65 mph.

Ours was a 1960 Dodge.  The fins had already been dialed back from the previous year.  But with its big chrome bumpers and massive beige finished doors and fenders, the giant passenger tank loomed large – but didn’t exactly turn heads.

1960 Dodge Dart-cropped

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And from a five-year-old’s vantage point, the Beige Bomber seemed even more immense.

Now, when you live on a four-lane divided highway, and you’re just a little tyke, Rule Number One is:  “No playing in the front yard!”  We had several ample neighborhood backyards that were safe.  So- no front yard – the front yard was dangerous – it could get you killed… by Mama.

As a good mom, she put the “fear of God” into us about playing near the road.  So it never happened.  It’s like we had one of those invisible fences – there was a “maternal force field” that kept us behind the house.  I never did find out what our front door looked like from the outside.

So by default, we learned to respect both the highway, and the lumbering semi-trucks and speeding automobiles it bore.

Now, Daddy was a professional driver, delivering a truck full of cookies each day to stores all over Mid-Michigan (Yep, my Daddy was the Cookie Guy – there’s nothing cooler when you’re five years old!)  So when we actually did take to the road in our ’60 Dodge – we always felt safe – Daddy was behind the wheel – and Daddy was a professional.

So it was more than a little unnerving when Daddy thought it would be fun for the boys to drive the car!  As she clutched baby Rhonda, Mama made it clear – she did not share in Daddy’s amusement.

That never stopped Daddy.  He pulled off to the shoulder and put Bobby on his lap.  No worries about seat belts… don’t think we had any.  With no traffic in sight, Daddy pushed the pedal and Bobby steered onto M-78, becoming the youngest driver in Michigan.

Until it was my turn.  Of course, Bobby did a great job, and now, somehow I was supposed to equal his effort.  But c’mon!  Bobby was a whole six, fer cryin’ out loud!  And knowing him, he’d probably already read the driver’s training manual and aced the test!

I was afraid… but sibling rivalry wouldn’t let me fully express it.  Daddy pulled off again and Bobby and I swapped places.  Okay, sitting on Daddy’s lap – that was cool…and grabbing the steering wheel – well we’d done that before – playing “racecar” in the driveway.  But then, Daddy pushed the pedal.

We…were…moving!  I was scared spitless, and knowing me, I’m sure I voiced my concerns in no uncertain terms.   But then…

It got a little easier… I relaxed a little.  So then Daddy sped up, and a curve was coming, and I didn’t really know how to steer!  This isn’t fun!  Daddy, I’m scared!

Ever felt like that little guy behind the wheel?  Me, too.  Even now.  Life comes at you – territory you’ve never navigated before –but you’re supposed to plow ahead, all by yourself, gripping a steering wheel with fear and trembling – because it’s all up to you.  And just when it gets a little easier, a little comfortable, life steps on the gas – and throws a curve into your path – hang on –we’re in serious danger!!!

We were never in any danger.  Daddy had just been allowing Bobby and me to sit in the driver’s seat. And learn not to be afraid.  To understand – and trust – that he was still in control.  Daddy had the wheel the whole time.  My eyes, my thoughts, my focus, my worries – everything told me that it was up to me – that I – and I alone – had to keep this all from crashing – my family’s life was in my little bitty hands.

But if I could have peeled my eyes off the road ahead – for just a second – I could have seen that Daddy had his mighty hand on the wheel, too.

Instead of being on our own while life is racing full-speed ahead, the reality is, we’re safely sitting in the lap of a Daddy who loves us.

And lets us steer once in a while.

Photo courtesy of Randy von Liski

1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix 4-Door Hardtop (2 of 9)

 

My ADD update…focus…focus

So, if you’re wondering how that whole ADD verdict went.  Here ya go.

On April 22, I posted that I’m pretty sure it’s a major player in my inability to gain traction in my life.  I have had a decent measure of success through the years, and to be floundering at this stage of my life is very difficult to admit.  But I do admit it – in the hopes that if my story sounds familiar to someone, maybe that someone will check into it for himself (or herself – though this seems to be about 3:1 guys more than gals.)

After visiting my new friend and seeing the amazing similarities in how we process information – and how we don’t – I got the book he recommended and devoured its 360 pages in four days.  My motivation SO outweighed my lack of focus, that I went into “hyperfocus.”  On a test of 20 questions, according to Sandy – I scored on 18 of 20 in favor of ADD.  Pretty much confirmed… yup.

We contacted our primary doctor – who recommended a psych clinic – who got me in on that same Saturday.  I spent an hour filling out a questionnaire, and spent a good bit of time with a doctor.  My first concern was, “How often do you guys treat adult ADD?”

“All the time,” came the response.  It seems there’s a ton of (mostly guys) my age who were never diagnosed as kids (the diagnosis didn’t exist.) So now these intelligent, often creative guys are walking into psych clinics wondering why their heads feel like human popcorn-poppers.

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I liked and trusted the good doctor.  He was pretty convinced, and wrote me a prescription for Adderall.  He told me to start with half the dosage prescribed, and see how that does.  I filled it, and have now been on the drug for a couple weeks.

For those of you who expressed great concern about medication, including a counselor friend from another state who spent over an hour on the phone with me making sure I understood what I’m working with, I say “Thank you.”  I don’t take  the use of drugs lightly.  When everyone else was indulging in the 70’s, I was the kid who was afraid of drugs.  And Sandy’s brother died at 37, much of his problems stemming from prescription drugs.  So believe me when I say I don’t take this lightly.

Yet – a part of me was thrilled – thrilled – at the possibility there might finally be an answer.

I took the first pill before breakfast.  Since moving three years ago, Sandy and I have spent our breakfast time reading faith-based material.  Some call it devotional time.  I always read aloud, for two reasons.  One, as a voice actor, it’s good practice to read aloud each day.  And two, my mind doesn’t wander as much if I’m doing the reading (uh, that should have been a clue, eh?)  As a voice actor, reading well is essential – yet it’s the weakest part of my game.  My eyes skip around, my brain gets ahead of my mouth, and I trip over the words…often.

But not that morning.  After we finished discussing the content, Sandy said, “Do you realize – that in reading this morning – you didn’t make one mistake?”

“Yeah… I sure do.”  And immediately…

To say that I wept, is putting it far too mildly.  I broke down and sobbed for probably a full minute.  I don’t ever recall doing that.  My constipated brain was releasing years of pent up toxins.  My head was throbbing when I finally caught my breath.  And then I was calm…and focused.  For the next two hours I wrote comedy – without wandering – without stopping.  In fact I’ve probably written more in the past two weeks than in the last several months.  And I’ve found a morsel of the one thing I’ve lacked more than anything….

Confidence.

My confidence has been shaken to its foundations over what’s taken place these three years.  The ADD book says that lack of confidence is a classic symptom – for with the utter frustration of constantly falling short of your own expectations, it feeds on itself – The vicious beast who says, “You didn’t – you won’t – you can’t.”

I want to kill that beast more than I can express.  And for the first time in a long while, I’m saying “I can” again.  It’s hard to write humor when you ain’t feelin’ it.  I’m starting to feel it again.  I know it’s early in the game, and there’s still much to be made up for – but for the moment…

Hallelujah.

 

 

A Matter of Perspective

Several years ago I gave myself a minor challenge.  We lived in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  Very scenic indeed.  Big hills – deep valleys… hmmm… quite  metaphorical, don’tcha think?

It was my birthday, but very mild for the end of January, almost no snow (shocking!)  Across the road from us was one of those big hills.  The crest of which was 600 feet higher than our yard (BIGGGG hill)Steep hill

For my “workout” that day, I decided to climb to the top.  (“The bear went over the mountain – to see what he could see…” “What do you think he saw…?”)  Well, he had to get there first…

When I said “climb” – I had no idea how literal that word would be.  It was way steeper than I realized.  My climb became very strategic.  Find a flat spot, gather my bearings, and plan how I would get the next few feet.  I would grasp a tree trunk to pull myself up, then anchor my feet against its base, or rest my back against the up-side of it to keep from losing ground – or even tumbling back down.

Then rinse and repeat.

Along the way, I saw a few deer trails – flat, narrow little highways that stretched like horizontal ribbons of chocolate syrup across a mini-mountain of ice cream.

Rocky road ice cream, of course.

And I could tell they were deer highways – they had… rest areas, if you know what I’m saying.

Onward and upward… ever slower.  Some of the toughest terrain was near the top – steeper, fewer trees to cling to.  More metaphor…

But I made it.  Took almost half an hour.  But when I got there…

(“What do you think he saw-aww, what do you think he saw…?”)

Looking to the north I could see Keuka Lake – one of the Finger Lakes.  Keuka LakeThe southern tip of it was about six miles from my house, but from that perspective, I could see several miles of its length – and the beautiful valley that led to it.

I just stood and surveyed, feeling a bit “Lewis and Clark.”  Wow.  By climbing 600 feet, I had gained several miles of perspective.  Talk about metaphorical!

Climbing much harder than I’d planned, encountering obstacles I didn’t expect, thus problem solving along the way, I had reached my goal – and gained a whole new perspective.

Sheesh – I’m starting to sound like Zig Ziglar or something… but these are words I need to hear myself say…

Real reflections …of a scenic scenario …full of meaningful metaphor.

Habakkuk 2:1 says, “What’s God going to say to my questions?… I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I’ll wait to see what God says, how he’ll answer…”

I’m coming to believe that, if faith is “being assured of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen,” then perhaps we need to climb up a little higher – and scan a bigger horizon – expecting to see His plan – to see what we’re hoping for…

And please – it’s NOT that the higher and harder we climb, the more we earn His favor.  No no no!!!  Please don’t think that’s what I’m saying!!!  Let the legalists settle for earning their “hill-climbing” merit badges.

Climbing up a little higher just makes it easier it is to scan the horizon…

…and perhaps, easier to find His answers?  “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?”

Let me know what you think.

And I’ll let ya know how it goes.

But for now, I’ll grab a tree, pull myself up, and “see what I can see.”

The Great Punchline…sorta

…It’s the punchline of so many jokes…

…A lame excuse for misbehavior, goof-ups or absent-minded moments…

…It’s rarely taken seriously, unless it’s your child and he’s out of control…

…It’s considered a weakness.  I, myself have scoffed at it.  Maybe you have too.

I’ve used it often – as a punchline.  So have other comedians I know.

I’ve often said that if it had been around when I was a kid, I’m sure I would have been diagnosed with it.  But then – it seems everyone has it – so stop making excuses!

Attention Deficit Disorder.   A.D.D.

I have been floundering seetimthumb.phpmingly directionless for the past three years.  Three years ago I lost all the structure to my life.  I had thrived in a creative job that was rigidly and intimately tied to a clock – the clock dictated what would or would not be accomplished.  Those three hours (exactly) were followed by standard duties that were routine, and yet, let me get creative within that routine…the perfect scenario for someone like me.

I just didn’t know how much structure played into my success – until I lost the structure.  And I seem to wander from incomplete task to incomplete task.

Ah – it’s just my A.D.D.… (rimshot) … but seriously.

I recently made a new friend at one of the twice-monthly men’s breakfasts I attend.  And other than being an enthusiastic, energetic, man of great faith – I knew little about him.  So I visited his office last week – and I was taken aback.

His meeting table was askew with papers seemingly having no organization to them.  All around the room were dry-marker whiteboards on easels, with all kinds of notes on them in multi-colored ink.  It was a sort of “information fort.”  Added to all that – visual artifacts, each with significant meaning behind it… and I quickly realized I was in the presence of a kindred spirit.

I had to know.  “You must be a visual learner.”  I surmised.  It was more than that.  He has ADD.  And we began comparing notes on how we receive and process information.  Oh my.  Then he showed me his little pill bottle…. Low dose Ritalin.

Mind you – he’s not twelve.  He’s a war veteran, and was a high ranking executive in a major church organization for many years.  He’s not lazy, incompetent or crazy.  He’s got it under control.

I don’t.  Can you relate?

He recommended a book, which should arrive on our doorstep today.  I couldn’t wait that long.  I started googling the topic.  I found an article by the same author with tips on how to manage adult ADD.  The first page is an overview about Hope.  Because Hope is the one thing that most needs to be rebuilt.

Boy, don’t I know it.  This is the first ray of hope I’ve had in a while – that I can re-organize my life and become productive again.

I have talents and abilities – I have so much to offer – but right now they’re all playing a lively game of dodgeball in my brain.

Does all this sound familiar to you?  I can’t wait to do something about it.

A.D.D. – the great punchline… But for right now, until I get it under control… it’s not very funny.

 

Clean Comedy?

Could it be folks just want a good clean laugh again? From time to time, I consider doing stand-up comedy.  Because I’m a glutton for self-inflicted torture, and Stand-up comedy is way cheaper than one of those “Home Root Canal Kits.”  I’ll never make that mistake again…

Bill CosbyBut not long ago, I watched the legendary Bill Cosby on Comedy Central.  Yes Comedy Central – the network that brings you classic punch lines like:  “!#@*!”   …and “!*%?#!”   …and the ever popular “! %&@!?” So – did Bill Cosby pull out all his naughty jokes, too?  Nah… he doesn’t have any…doesn’t need any… never has.  For an hour and a half – he just did Bill Cosby – the same guy you’ve always known him to be.  The jokes were new – but the delivery – and the civility – were still there.  And most important – so were the laughs.

I remember back in the ‘80’s there was a comedy club in Charlotte – owned by a guy named Lionel, who was a good friend of Mr. Cosby, and had a similar style of comedy.  And he also had a policy:  When comics were being paid to perform there, they had to keep it clean – for every naughty word they used getting the laugh – a dollar came out of their paycheck.   Back then it wasn’t uncommon to get $50 for your set.  So it didn’t take long for a potty-mouth to essentially end up performing for free – and it took even less time to get the message to clean up their acts.

The result – a comedy club you could take your mother to – and I did –Paul Aldrich on stage because Mom needs a good laugh too.

DurJonnie W Compresseding the Christmas season, I was privileged to do Seymour Swine – my stuttering-pig “Blue Christmas” bit – on a comedy show featuring three stand-up guys (pun intended):Daren Streblow  Paul Aldrich, Jonnie W. and Daren Streblow.  They were all hilarious.  And there were children in the front row!

But no worries – these were clean comedians.  Three funny guys bringing down the house – which happened to be a house of worship. Yep.  Comedy in church …on purpose, even. …three comics (and a pig) walk into a church to do a concert –  to benefit kids in our town who don’t have enough to eat.  Not one curse word – just funny.

So I shamelessly invite you to hire these guys – and other guys and gals like them, who spread joy and laughter without making you squirm uncomfortably.  And check out Daren’s comedy show on iHeart Radio – and you’ll hear some of their stuff… stuff from other comedians, and from time to time, maybe even a few of my bits too.

We all enjoy a good laugh – why not a good clean laugh?  How about you?   Does dirtier = funnier?  Or does keeping it clean mean keeping it enjoyable?

Oh – one more thing.  Bill Cosby did his whole routine seated in an easy chair …thus apparently inventing a whole new genre:  “Sit-Down Comedy.”  And with my decrepit knees, I think maybe I could try that!   Anyway – check out these guys- and their clean comedy!

www.paulaldrich.com/

jonniew.com/

www.darenstreblow.com/

Is All Death “Untimely?”

Life is fleeting.

It seems at every turn in the past few weeks, someone I know is in the last stages of life. Or, more accurately, I should say the parent of someone I know is in the last stages of life.

Now, we Baby Boomers all know that we’ve reached the age where, if we still have our parents, they are officially “elderly.” We all saw it coming. We can all do the math. Continue reading Is All Death “Untimely?”