Open House Alert: Who Do You Know Who Is Looking In Franconia?

Hi all, I just wanted to take a quick second to make you aware of an open house that’s coming up tomorrow (Sunday, August 23, 2015) from 1-4pm.  This place is really a little gem in Alexandria — right off of Franconia and Beulah.  It’s less than a mile to both the Franconia Springfield Metro stop and the Landmark mall, it’s minutes from the Mixing Bowl, giving you quick and easy access to all of our major highways.

6543 China Grove Ct, Alexandria, VA 22310

6543 China Grove Ct, Alexandria, VA 22310

It’s a 3 bed, 2 bath, 2 half-bath townhouse, but not just ANY townhouse.  It’s an end unit, and it’s got everything you could ask for as far as updates and appliances.  Stainless everything, not one but TWO refrigerators (there’s one in the finished downstairs as well), upgraded front-load washer and dryer, granite countertops, a separate dining and living room, hardwood floors, genuine Oak staircase, crown moulding, downstairs fireplace…the list goes on and on.  And it opens up from the downstairs into a beautiful, fenced backyard with a large deck on it.  You are backed up to woods, also — no nosy neighbors creeping on your privacy.  This place is beautiful!

Charming large backyard!

Charming large backyard!

Cozy Living Room!

Cozy Living Room!

You’ve got to see this place!  The price just dropped and at $399,999, I anticipate this property will go quickly.  Come out and join us from 1-4 to see a gorgeous house on a gorgeous summer afternoon…plus, you don’t want to miss my wife’s s’mores bites — graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate all in one little bite…makes the fat kid in me go crazy!  Realtors, check out listing FX8719264 for full details.  Thanks for showing it, and I’ll see you there!

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“So You Finally Bought A House…Time To Fill It Up, Eh?”

Let me start off by saying that I don’t begrudge anyone who has kids or Grandkids.  I imagine that your kids are just as wonderful as you’d hoped they’d be, and have changed your life for the better in all of the ways that every glowing parent tells you they will.  Expectation

But why is it socially acceptable for people I barely to know to be asking me the question — nay, placing the expectation on me — that I mentioned in the title line?

I am surrounded by a large group of people who love and support me, and I welcome the question of kids (or other life choices) from them.  At 33 years old, it’s a fair question for my Tribe to ask, wondering what our plans are for the future.  After all, I am the oldest of three, and the only one without any kids yet.  Yes, eventually we hope to have two or three little ones running around.

The reason we haven’t yet is that we’ve carefully calculated the parameters we need in place to comfortably integrate a new member into our family.  We want to be stable, both financially and in our marriage.  We want to learn from our siblings and friends about the pitfalls and costs (like the simple cost of having your kid…apparently it often runs between two and five thousand dollars even if you have insurance).  We want to learn about close calls (like when my niece and nephew both almost pulled tall furniture over on themselves — who knew that a four foot tall, heavy armoir could be brought over by just 30 or 40 pounds?).  These things are really important to us, and part of the reason we’ve waited is that it’s been beneficial to get our ducks in a row first.

There’s something inherently annoying about someone I am not close with assuming that my new job is to fill the house up with kids.  It’s not my job to have kids, it’s my job to be a productive member of society and to provide well for my family.

I suppose all that was to say to watch how you approach folks when you hear their tidbits of news, and be careful not to impose your expectations on them.  Nobody likes unsolicited advice, right?

Innocuous

Adj.: Not harmful or offensive.Impact-Hub-Community

I’ve been away from this blog for quite some time now…nine months just flew by in the blink of an eye, it seems.  If you want the God’s honest truth, I quit writing because I didn’t have anything important to say.  I figured nobody cared if I wrote or not anyway, and no one would notice if I quietly slipped out the back door.  I kept up my journals, but felt like whatever I could put out in the blogosphere would be either overdramatic or not dramatic enough.  There were days when I stared at a blank screen for nearly half an hour before finding a topic I wanted to pontificate on, then spent a further hour or so developing it, only to figure it sucked and didn’t contribute meaningfully to society and delete the whole thing anyway.

I generally try to avoid generic platitudes in conversation with people — for example, instead of the gentle nudge of telling my students “the early bird gets the worm,” I’d probably say something like, “Get your ass out of bed and get to class on time.  Do you want to succeed at this or not?”  I do not tend to do things in an innocuous fashion, I tend to do things in a straight-forward, purposeful, matter-of-fact way.  When I do or say something, I generally expect one of  given set of outcomes immediately to happen.  Most of the time, I’m right.  So when I quit writing, I expected no one to notice — or even to care, if they did.

I was right.  Until I wasn’t.

One of my longest-running and closest friends, TheHandsomeWeasel, noticed I hadn’t written first, and was ardently opposed to my absence of blog content.  With him in Chicago and me just outside Washington, DC, we do not have easy access to each other in person.  Haven’t for over ten years, actually.  So electronic communications are important to us.  I expected it from him.

I hadn’t expected it from Moosh, my friend over at Sell, Lead, Succeed.  This guy is someone who I have literally never met, and who has so much going on (in Canada) that I’d never expect him to notice I was absent (here in DC).   And one day he sent me an email asking how I was doing, noting that he hadn’t seen a blog post from me for a while.  Then a networking contact of mine (who follows my blog and I didn’t know it) asked me just recently where my blogs went to, after our paths not crossing even once in the past six months.  Then another friend mentioned it in passing at a get-together that it’s been a while since he’d seen a post from me.

The point is that people do care what you are up to, and will notice that you are going through something, no matter how tight-lipped you might be about it.  People will notice, even if they don’t notice right away.  And then, in the most innocuous way possible, you’ll see one day that the community you have surrounded yourself with will let you know they are there, carefully keeping a watchful eye over you, whether you know it or not.

Gwyneth Paltrow: An Open Letter To The Open Letter Lady

Obviously, there are memes everywhere.  Facebook is a bastion of memes for those who aren’t even sure what memes are yet, and if they are any indication, the world will end soon, President Obama is actually the Antichrist (even though GWBush used to be), and Gwyneth Paltrow is a snotty, stuck-up biatch.  It’s this last one that I have a problem with — but only recently, and not because I care about actors or the entertainment industry.  envy

I have no Earthly vested interest in Ms Paltrow’s life, story, success, or impressions upon people.  I don’t even care for Coldplay, and probably would’ve been offended by Shallow Hal if I was as overweight as her character portrayed.  But for the last five (at least) years, she has needlessly been the go-to hated-upon target for those who are not wealthy and want to be.  Who aren’t fit and want to be.  Who aren’t eating well and want to be.  People complain about her acting, her cookbooks, her lack of empathy for “us,” her whatever…what I’m telling you, if you are a hater, is that the envy is ugly on you.

Take this last one, for example:  “A working Mom’s Letter To Gwyneth Paltrow.” (Click the link for the story.)  What better way to tell everyone that they should care about you than to take a woman who works in an industry completely unrelated to yours, and compare it to your own.  The gist of the beef is that this lady who wrote the article (Mackenzie) is complaining about not having millions per year as she commutes on the train to work every day and has to find babysitters for her kids, in defiance of Ms Paltrow’s supposedly “easy” schedule and assumptions of “what it’s really like”.  Like Ms Paltrow never had to work a day in her life, and has absolutely no idea what reality is.  Here’s the quote this lady is butthurt about:

“I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening,” you said. “When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day, and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.” — Gwyneth Paltrow

No really, I mean this honestly:  Is there nothing more productive that you can complain about?  Gwyneth Paltrow is probably not completely accurate with this one-off quote that she probably told to some guy who reports for some magazine, but what the hell would you know about shooting a movie?  Have you ever worked in her industry?  Do you have any idea what it means to relate to her life?  Clearly, the answer is no.  She may not have any idea what it’s like to walk a mile in your shoes.  But obviously you have no idea what it’s like to walk a mile in hers.  So where do you get off throwing bombs at her?

I don’t normally do posts like this (because I couldn’t care less what kinds of problems Hollywood-types bring upon themselves), but I have a real problem with people who rag on others openly just because they have had more success.  If you want that success, go out and find it yourself.  Don’t bitch about it behind the safe, shielded face of your computer screen.

Drawing the ire of the public to someone on grounds no more complicated than simple envy is ugly on you, and speaks volumes to your character.  Knock it off, Mackenzie.

Winning!

There’s a country song out there by Emerson Drive called “Moments,” and in it, the reverberating chorus talks about how “I’ve had my moments” when he just rocked it.  The message of the song is simple: That homeless guy you walk by every day when you get off the train on your way into work…well, he wasn’t always homeless.  He is a person with actual accomplishments, family, relationships, and an entire history before you met him.  He’s had his moments of triumph, and the moment you met him may not have been his proudest, but homeless isn’t the only thing he’s ever been.  If the song was an old man serving hard-won life lessons on a silver platter, the lesson would be that it would serve you well to remember that.Image

I’ve liked this song ever since I first heard it, mainly because it reminds me to think hard about how I judge people, and how I act toward them myself.  And we all judge people…if you don’t think you do, you’re lying to yourself.  It’s built into our DNA, and the judgements we make are vital to our survival.  But it’s when our judgement becomes clouded by hatred, or distracted by bias, that it begins to work against us.  

In any case, I just had a “moment” myself, and it made me look inward at my own personal accomplishments.

I am part of this group of motorcycle riders on Facebook; most of the time, people post pictures of their bike in all of the great photo-op ready places they’ve been — mainly to enjoy and illustrate the freedom that riding a motorcycle can afford you.  I love it.  But this time, I noticed a question that a gentleman in the group had, where he noticed a spark plug lead that was connected loosely to the plug; when he connected it fully, he was impressed at the amount of “extra” power he got out of his engine, and asked what the cause could’ve been. I saw comments on the post from people who knew how engines work and from those who didn’t and guessed, and it really made me feel like I had a “moment” when I was able to explain that a loose electrical lead can make the spark plug produce a weak spark, which can lead to incomplete combustion inside the cylinder, which can lead to loss of power and wasted fuel (from the unburnt fuel leaving out the exhaust pipe).  

It isn’t that I felt superior, it’s more about the pride I felt at being able to explain the process to those who aren’t yet aware.  It was small, but it was a “moment” for me, and it is exactly what I envisioned when I became an aircraft mechanic at 22 years old.  My Dad could take a good shot at fixing anything, and I wanted to emulate what I so admired as a kid.  When you get into a career, you begin to slowly become an expert at it, and it’s only after you discuss the everyday things you do with those who aren’t aware of it that you begin to notice just how much you know.    

That happened to me, and I am not ashamed to admit that it was just as gratifying as I envisioned it would be a decade and a half ago.  

What moments have you had?  It’s okay to acknowledge them, you know…don’t be shy!

Many Peoples’ Greatest Fear…

Not spiders.  Not heights.  Public speaking. 

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Credit: mckpr.com

Most people would literally rather die than speak to a group or a crowd.

My good friend “Moosh,” over at Sell, Lead, Succeed! put up a short, really interesting blog post detailing the 5 main reasons for not being able to shake off the jitters of a presentation (click the link for the post), and it got me thinking about my own daily work here at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Manassas, VA. (Click the link to check us out!)

Every day, it’s my job to stand in front of the class and relay the curriculum that the FAA requires me to administer to our students.  I will never forget that first day, when I had twenty faces I didn’t know looking at me expectantly, critically, skeptically.  Sure, I was nervous.  They didn’t know me, and i didn’t know them.  I was the new kid, despite having to lead the class.  It was my duty to establish authority in the class, but I knew that if I expected them to respect me, I would have to respect them first.  So I did.

My job was actually easy starting out, because I was taking over halfway through the class for a guy who was openly racist to students in the class; he had formed a very adversarial relationship with them, so once my new students figured out I wasn’t like that at all, they warmed up to me pretty quickly.  I began to slowly learn their names, where they were from, what their previous experience had been before coming here…slowly, I began to welcome them into my space — sometimes, perhaps, before they were ready to let me into theirs. 

Beyond that, though, the content of my professional experience had to speak for itself.  I spent hours going through the plans I’d made for how my 6-hour class would flow each day, what I would say during the lecture, how I would get certain confusing points across to them…I worked hard at being effective.  You know what?  It worked. 

I am still terrible at extemporaneous (or improv) speech — I get nervous and step on my tongue just like anyone else does when I have no time to prepare a topic or speech ahead of time — but I have found that the best thing you can do to improve your own public speaking skills is simply to get out in front of people, prepare your speech, and do it.  Over and over again.  It’s not comfortable and sometimes not all that pretty, but of course, real growth never is.

Crowdsourcing My Own Biography

I have a favor to ask of you.  I want you to write something about me.  It could be anything — a memory of me, an experience weImage shared together, a relationship we have had and maintained, a relationship we had and left off, a first impression you remember about me, an overall impression of me that you have…it can be anything.  It can be good, bad, or indifferent.  I want it to be anything that you think my family, friends, or the rest of the world would want to know about me.  

Here’s the thing:  I will never know what you write.  

Every single thing that you write will be sent to a third party who is sworn to keep it sealed and locked away until my death.  Let me give you a bit of the backstory.

Since high school, my dear friend @thehandsomeweasel and I have looked ahead excitedly in anticipation of what our futures might hold.  You know — all of those “firsts” that you just can’t wait to experience, some of the “firsts” you never wanted…we approached everything new as an adventure, really livin’. However, for all of the late night political and philosophical discussions we’ve had, we are still both keenly aware of the fact that, at some point, both of our lives will come to an end.  

I have been an avid journaler for nearly 17 years now (as this link will further explain), and Weasel and I arrived at an agreement one day over beers, at least a decade ago:  If I kick the bucket first, all of my journals will be sent to him, at which point he’ll go through them, pick out some of the passages I’ve written that are really characteristic of “me,” and put them together in a book of some kind, to be given to family and friends who would want to learn a little something about me they maybe didn’t know before.  I hope to provide guidance (or cautionary tales) to my own sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, even after I’m gone.  Afterward, my tomes will be sent back to my wife, who I hope will keep them in good stead.  If Weasel pushes up daisies first, I’ll be happy to perform that same service for him, should he request it of me.  

Some whom I’ve mentioned this idea to have asked with a smirk, “What makes you so sure your wife won’t go first?”  I usually reply by mentioning that my grandparents all lived to between 67 and 77, if memory serves me, whereas Alli’s family has longevity on their side.  Her grandmother passed away a couple of months ago at 93 (I think), and her grandfather is still around and kicking at 95.  I’m fairly certain that, unfortunately, she’s going to have some time to herself.  

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The Life And Times Of Gufferson Q Grana

The entire point of this exercise is to take all of the (probably thousands by now) of pages that I’ve written and will write, and distill my life on paper down into something a little more palatable for everyone I care about to read when I’m gone.  It sounds morbid, but it’s not. I want to be remembered for something significant to those I love just like anyone else, and I figure that my journals will do that for my wife and kids (if we have any), as well as for family and friends.  (I wish my Dad had been even an “armchair” writer…there was so much locked in his head that he took with him when he passed away that I’d give anything to hear him talk about now.)  And you are about to contribute to that goal in a really meaningful way.  

So please, do this for me.  Right now.  Take a second to try and remember what you know about me.  What you like(d) about me, what you don’t (or didn’t) like, something great I did, something sh*tty I did, something I did or said to affect you…it doesn’t matter to me, I just want it to be true and authentic so that all of you who survive me in the future can look back and really get a clear picture of who I was at various stages of my life.  Once you do this for me now, you’ll send it to my friend Weasel at kevinrmarten@gmail.com (that’s Kevin R Marten @ gmail.comdon’t forget the middle R).  He will take what you send him and sock it away for later compilation.  Also, don’t forget to include your name, your relationship to me, when you knew me, how old we were when we experienced whatever you are sending him, etc.  Details like those will help make it so that you will have real ownership in the shaping of whatever my legacy turns out to be, as those details will be included in the final compilation of my biography.  When you shoot the email, be sure to put “Project SunshineBoy” in the title line, and he will know that you are sending him something related to this project.  (SunshineBoy was a nickname my Dad gave me when I was a kid, supposedly because I smiled all the time.)  Remember, I’ll never read what you write, so don’t be shy.

Also, don’t be shy about this project of mine, either.  Share this on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and whatever else is out there now.  Forward this post on to anyone you know who knows (or knew) me.  The more help I get from you, the more fulfilling it will be to read in the future, long after you’ve forgotten you did it.  It’s free, takes only a couple of minutes of your time, and really could turn out to be something wonderful because of your participation.  

Thanks in advance, and have a great week!!

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