Monday, April 30, 2012

From the Deepest Recesses of the Apex of My Cardiac Muscular Tissue.

For those of you having a bit of trouble with the title, I've illustrated it for you.

Disclaimer: Not my actual heart.

If you're still having trouble, I meant "from the bottom of my heart."

Just what exactly am I trying to tell you from the bottom of my heart? 

The answer to that is "Thank You." 

You see, I got a message the other day from someone, and it made me realize that I have the most supportive network of friends in the world. I've been stewing on it all weekend, trying to figure out how I can thank you all without spending a whole lot of money in the process. I was actually going to mail you all iPad 3s, but The Missus stopped that from happening. Something about needing to feed our kids and pay bills. She's a bit of a killjoy. 

In all seriousness, I want to thank you all for supporting me, this blog, and all of the crazy things I try. I realize that Facebook has become sort of the driving force behind this piece of Internet heaven, and so I want to give a special shout-out to all of you who have liked, commented on, or shared something I have written. The same goes for the Twitter friends out there retweeting and mentioning posts.

Another shout-out should go to the emailers, who forward my blog's links, or just tell others about them. 

And still another to all the "word of mouth" folks who send their people my way.

And yet I probably wouldn't be doing this today if it weren't for the "blog friends" I've made along the way. Some have come and gone, but others have stuck around, and keep supporting me in what I'm doing, which has to be hard, because most of the time *I* don't know what I'm doing. So I want to thank y'all as well. 

As far as spending money on you, you should all know that right now, I am having to hook up to my phone as a modem to type this and post it. So I'm using my data plan. Which means that this whole thing is going to set me back about .42 cents. If you break that down across my entire support network, you're all actually getting a small chunk of that sweet, sweet Travis money. 

There are things I still want to try. I want to write a book. I want to get up on stage again. I want to become a motivational speaker that makes people laugh and then helps them through problems. I want to get through college. And I want to hug each and everyone of you really hard and awkwardly while I'm doing all that other stuff. And knowing that you're there, supporting me, will give me a lot of the strength I need to do those things. 

*Except for the hugs. I'm already strong enough for really awkward hugs.

I know this is a blog, and is therefore a tad impersonal. I understand that you're just reading the words that I put here, and you have no idea if I actually mean them or not. But I'm here to tell you, when I got the message that instigated this whole post, I sat back on my couch, smiled, and thanked God for each and everyone of you. I was, and still am, enormously grateful for all of you, and the daily interaction that we have. 

So I've reached the end, and maybe you're still not happy. Maybe you want your very own personalized blog post, Facebook post, Twitter update, autographed headshot, or Skype call. I absolutely understand that, and I would LOVE to do it for you. Shoot me an email, fire a text my way, message me on The Book, or DM me on The Twitter Machine, or simply comment down below. Give me the details, and whatever you want is yours.  You can find the way to get in touch with me on social networks in the top right hand corner of the blog, and also the "Contact Info" tab just under the header. 

I seriously love you all. And once again, I thank you. From the deepest recesses of the apex of my cardiac muscular tissue bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Very First Podcast.

No need to waste the words here when I have plenty of them here today:

http://the188.podomatic.com/entry/2012-04-27T03_18_27-07_00

I'm at the very beginning of a rags to riches story. ZING!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ford Prefect Would Be Proud.

I want to preface this entire blog with this: I love our children, I would take a bullet for our children, and I would go to the ends of the earth to bring them happiness if that's what it took. Thankfully, right now, happiness is only as far away as the nearest item with the highest sugar content, so we're good.

But I do have a few minor hang-ups. And as odd as it may seem, this entire blog started with towels.

So let's take it back to the beginning. We all know that I have a problem with bathroom shame. I've had it since I was a kid, and I've never been able to shake it. I'm simply not comfortable knowing that anyone else in the world goes poop, particularly the ladies. I've been married to The Missus for 9 years now, and she's never once pooped, farted, or talked in any detail about either. She also doesn't pee. She tinkles.

I probably forced my bathroom shame on her, and that probably happened when, the day before the wedding, I told her, "If you ever poop or fart, I'll never find you attractive again."

I'm kidding.


So we've been together all this time, and it's a great thing we have going on. Then...we were introduced to the children. Being three and five when we got them, we didn't have the whole "poopy diapers and potty training" experience. We've been told countless times, "Dude! You didn't have to deal with diapers or potty training or anything!"

"You're so lucky!"


Alright, first, let me address the fact that some of us don't consider that "lucky." Some of us, particularly my better half, would kill to hold a baby and have it poop all over her and potty train it and stuff. That's me being real, so ease up off the "lucky" talk. Second, I don't know how many of you own a four and a six year old, but they're gross. Straight up gross. I just walk around my house, looking at them, and thinking about how disgusting the things they do are. The heck of it is, most of the things they are doing, I do too. But somehow, maybe because I'm an adult and I know how to shower properly, it's more disgusting when they do it.

When I walk into the bathroom in the morning to begin my morning ritual, the first thing I have to do is stare intently at the toilet seat for at least thirty seconds to make sure there aren't any little pee sprinkles. The boy child lifts the seat most times, but there have been mornings where I've been surprised. And not the cool, "OH MY GAWD I JUST WON THE LOTTERY!" surprised, either. If I see any water droplets of any kind, I have to spend another two minutes in an intense cleansing of the toilet seat ritual, even if those water droplets are from The Missus getting out of the shower. I'm not willing to take that chance.

Then, when I am seated upon the throne, my eyes turn downward to the floor, where more than likely, last night's clothes that were removed before bath time are still there. Before you get all judgmental, let me ask you a question. If I walked in your bathroom right now, would there be clothes on the floor? If you answered no, you  a) are a liar, b) might be gay, or c) you had company last night. Don't get mad at me about the gay thing. If you aren't any of those things, chances are probably good you have to take a pill to help balance out your moods.

So I'm looking at the floor, and there is -ahem- underwear. There is a possibility that it could belong to any of us, but usually it belongs to the kids. I still have a problem seeing little girl underwear. I have not seen our daughter in any state of undress since we've gotten her, and I'm petrified of the day it happens. Doesn't feel right. I'm also terrified of the day one of them accidentally sees me naked. I seriously feel like I need deadbolts on our doors when I'm changing. But back to the floor and the underwear that lies there. It's always gross. I think our son has a wiping problem, and sometimes it looks like our daughter might too, and I'm too ashamed to actually sit down and have a wiping discussion with them, so I just yell at them for being nasty a lot like D.L. Hughley. That's the correct way to raise a child, right?

So while completing my morning ritual, I have to try and keep myself occupied and my eyes off the floor. I play Draw Something, or come up with a witty Facebook/Twitter status, or just pick my nose a lot. When I'm all done, I hop in the shower.

After a very methodical shower, I open the shower curtain and look for my towel. It used to be, in every single house The Missus and I lived in, we had this whole sort of towel routine. I reuse towels, sometimes up to a week. Call me crazy, but I'm clean when I use them, and after drying off, I flip them up over the shower curtain bar and let them dry. Then, when The Missus takes her shower, she takes it off the bar and puts it on the towel bar next to the shower. Then I take it off the towel bar, dry off, and repeat. Like I said, this is how it used to be.

For the last week or so, I've noticed a trend. When I get out of the shower, the towel I used the day before is not on the towel bar, but on one of the hooks on the door. Where the children's towels are hung. Touching the children's towels. Maybe even used by one of the kids to wipe...well, anything. Maybe it was even used to...dry a kid off after their bath.

*cue me throwing up a little.

So, essentially, I've used more towels in the last few days than I have in the last two months combined. I can't touch a towel after I know it's been touched by one of our kids. Just the thought of using something on my body that has touched theirs...well, it makes me want to bathe in rubbing alcohol. Not that weak sauce 80% rubbing alcohol either. I'm talking 91%. That's the only rubbing alcohol that comes in my house.

This is how it works. See? Gross. Exactly how AIDS started, I'm sure.

Basically, after all this ranting, I'm wanting to know if this behavior is normal. Seeing as how I'm virtually surrounded by stay at home moms and mommy bloggers, I figured one of you could answer as to whether or not I actually need some sort of extensive therapy, or if this is something that I'll (God forbid) grow out of. When I addressed the problem with The Missus, she gave me one of those, "I'm late for work and I still can't believe I let you have sex with me" looks, and walked off saying, "I JUST moved it to the door, Travis. I JUST moved it."

And in the meantime I'll be wondering whether or not the conservation of a natural resource that is essential to life is worth me catching the kid cooties from towel transference.

Who can I call to get some of those mood pills?


Monday, April 23, 2012

The One About Transitions.

This should not be confused with transition defense, which I'm terrible at.

Wow.

I'd say that's all I'm able to say...but we all know that it's me, and that won't happen.

I posted a blog last Wednesday, about a tragedy that had befallen our hometown. If you haven't read it, go do so here, and this post might make more sense. It was a blog that was tough to write, but not for the conventional reasons that are normally associated with chronicling death. It was tough to write about because I was fighting my narcissistic nature the entire time that I wrote it. In fact, at one point, after having spent about 3 hours writing and deleting and rewriting, I finally had to walk away.

I'm so glad I walked away. You see, what I was writing was full of the word "I" and "me" and my thoughts and memories and opinions. And in the end, I'm not the person I needed to be writing about. So after spending a short time in prayer, I started all over. I listened to this song, and I allowed God to show me how he could be glorified, which inspired me to write the words that so many of you took the time to read and share. In fact, here are some of the numbers from the post, On Tragedy.

It has been viewed 2300 times in the last five days.
It has been viewed in 226 cities in 29 countries on 6 continents (the only one missing is Antarctica, and I can't blame them really, getting an ISP out there is tough).
It has been shared 430 times on Facebook.
It has accounted for 5% of all my blog traffic in the past three years.

Those are the stats as of right now. Even as I'm typing this, I'm checking my real-time data on the analytics website, and people are still drifting on and off the page. And seriously, as much as I've always loved blog traffic and numbers, I've realized two amazing things that I love more.

  1. The gospel message has been viewed 2300 times in the last five days. I've not been given any knowledge whatsoever that there have been decisions for Christ made as a result, but I like to think there have been. 
  2. The family has been completely unanimous in their expression that the post gave them peace and comfort. 
They buried Kambrin today. No one has given me an official attendance count, but I'd say somewhere in the neighborhood of eight hundred were there. There was standing room only in even the overflow room. There were a lot of tears, but even more laughter. We got to hear her uncles tell stories, and remind us all that she wasn't here anymore, but that we'd see her again one day. 

We drove out to the cemetery. My family gathered around my dad's grave briefly before the internment, and...we laughed. We joked about the size of coffin I'm going to need when I die. We talked about putting all four of us boys into a giant crypt with bunk beds in it, just like our room used to be. When the family arrived, we gathered closely around them and tried to give them comfort. There was more laughter, there were more tears. And then it was over. 

And because I absolutely deplore anyone who I feel is "cashing in" on tragedy, that's the last you'll ever hear of Kambrin on this blog. 

And so here I am. I'm sitting at home, much like five evenings ago, and faced with the most stress I've ever had when typing up a blog. In fact, I've been telling my wife all week that I have no idea how I'm ever going to write a new post. I'm wrestling with transitions. 

You see, a lot of people who have never seen this site before have been here in the last few days. More are on the way. I know that, because today I was asked at least five times what a "blog" was, and then asked for specific directions on how to get here. If you're reading this, I guess you made it. Thanks.

But it's in all that traffic where the problem lies. You see, I've not always been a "spiritual" blogger. I've always had and openly talked about my faith, but I haven't always represented it with the cleanest stories, language, or subject matter. If you look through my archives, you'll see posts littered with profanity, off-color humor, and several other things that would offend a great many "church folk," and my mom. 

I could go back through the posts and delete the worst ones, and I might still do that. I could also go back through and edit out all the foul language and use words like "pickles" and "dangit" and "fudge." And I might still do that as well. I haven't made a final decision though. You see, those posts, those stories, they represent a part of me. They let people know (if any still exist that think it) that I'm not perfect. I have a history. And it's not a "before Christ" history either. I've been a Christian for twenty four years now. It was simply a time where I was not as close to God as either one of us would have liked for me to have been. 

I will say this though. If you think I'm going to turn my little piece o' the internets into something other than a humor blog, you're dead wrong. You see, tragedy and comedy are a lot alike. In fact, you can't have one without the other. They are intertwined with each other, and both will ultimately lead to the other. So we'll go on laughing here. We'll go on telling stories about the athlete refusing to die and the fact that I'm a crybaby, or the time when I got what I deserved

For you rookies that might still be reading this, if you click the blue text, it'll take you to some funny stories. 

Will as many people see this post as the one before it? I'd be crazy to think that. Will this post be shared 430 times on Facebook? Maybe by me...but that's it. But the people that matter will be here. And they'll read it, and they'll know that even though I have a past, and even though I can form letters into words which might bring peace and comfort to some, ultimately I'm Travis Sloat, I'm a Christian, I'm proud to say my hometown is Okay, Oklahoma, This blog and I are a work in progress, sometimes I cuss a little, I love you all, and...I like to fish.  


How you doin'?

(Picture enlarged to show sexiness)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On Tragedy.

 "Travis, are you okay?"

When I get a phone call from my wife that starts out like that, I know there won't be good news in the conversation. Especially if it sounds like she's been crying. However, nothing could have prepared me for the words after my reply.

"I'm fine babe, what's going on?"

"Travis, Kambrin has been in a car wreck."

"Travis...she's dead."

I only know one Kambrin. A last name wasn't necessary.



"Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth,
would care to know my name, would care to know my hurt."

It certainly wasn't the first time I'd heard Kambrin sing. But it was the first time where the lyrics of a song she had sang moved me the way that it did. The song is by a band called Casting Crowns, and Kambrin did it justice. I remember crying, and asking myself why in the world God cared about me at all. But this isn't about me or what I felt or when. This is about a seventeen year old girl, taken from this world too soon, and how God can be glorified by it.


"I am, a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow..."

When a young person dies, it leaves a lot of people confused, hurt, and a lot of times, angry. They get upset about the unfairness of it all, and they start to ask questions about why it happened. Those questions rarely get answered. You can look to the Bible and see that God has everything laid out in a perfect plan, but the main issue folks have with that is that they aren't properly filled in on that divine plan. That's when the anger sets in, which quickly turns to bitterness, which can ultimately lead to hatred. In order to stop that chain of events, there has to be something that fills that disconnect between the plans we had for a person, and the plans God had for a person.


"A wave tossed in the ocean...vapor in the wind." 

Kambrin knew Jesus. We all know that. If we all try really hard, we can even push all the negative out of our minds and turn her into some sort of angelic personality, someone without blemish, who lived a perfect life and had no problems whatsoever. And yet, all of us realize that isn't true. Kambrin was a normal teenage girl. I listened to her own mother talk tonight about how none of us had ever truly lived a perfect day. The part we need to focus on is that Kambrin, right now, is sitting in heaven with Jesus. She cashed in on that promise we have in our salvation. We are absolutely guaranteed that heaven is way cooler than anything on this earth. So why do we want her to be back here with us so badly?


"Still, you hear me when I'm calling..."

We as humans are selfish creatures. It's been a part of our nature since the Garden, and it will remain a part of our nature until the end of the earth. Even with the knowledge that Kambrin is now with the Author of our Salvation, we still wish we could hug her, talk to her, laugh with her, or just sit with her one last time. So ask yourself this question? Would you pull her out of heaven for that? What do you think she would want, right now? I've known Kambrin for literally her entire life, and I think I can speak to what she'd want. She'd want people to turn to Jesus in all of this. She'd want to know that her life...her death, and everything in between led people closer to the Lord, because that is a sure fire way for her to get to see you again. We have been assured that Kambrin did not suffer. Death was instantaneous, which means that in less than the time it takes you to read this word, Kambrin was in the presence of our Lord and Savior, filled with a new understanding and knowledge about everything she'd ever had a question about.


"Lord you catch me when I'm falling." 

Romans 14:8 says this: "If we live, it's to honor the Lord. And if we die, it's to honor the Lord. So whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord." I've seen videos posted on Facebook of Kambrin singing "I Can Only Imagine" at SYATP. It's obvious that Kambrin lived to honor the Lord. But can we have faith enough in God to believe that even in death, Kambrin was honoring the Lord? Having that faith is instrumental to us dealing with the hurt we feel now, the hurt we'll feel on Monday, and the hurt we'll feel in a month when her fellow seniors walk across the stage without her. In her death, she will honor the Lord. The Lord will have his glory. Amen.


"And you've told me who I am..."

I spoke with her mom the night of the accident. She was in the midst of hundreds of people, packed into the Okay First Baptist Church parking lot, each one there united with the other, family, friends, students from school, faculty, administration, and many others. Lorena grabbed my arm and looked me in the eye and said, "Travis, I really want you to pray that this doesn't hit the ground without God being glorified." In that moment, spirit sodden with grief, she spoke about the peace she had. How many of us were at peace in that parking lot? How many of us were concerned with God being glorified? And so that's what I'm going to do now. I'm going to make sure that you readers understand how, in the end, God can be glorified in the midst of such immense tragedy and pain.


"I am yours. I am yours."

We are His. Kambrin is His. And so, life will go on. Ultimately, the world will not stop in remembrance of Kambrin, not even for a moment, even though we all think it should. The seconds will tick indisputably towards tomorrow, and then towards the day after. And maybe you've read this and you wonder how I'm so certain that I'll see Kambrin again in heaven one day. Maybe you want that assurance too. I'm here to tell you, you can have it as easily as she did, as easily as I got it. All it takes is the recognition that you're a sinner, and separated from God because of that sin. Then you have to believe that Our Loving God, upon recognition of our separation, sent the ultimate sacrifice to earth for us in the form of His Son, Jesus. You have to believe that Jesus lived a flawless life and was brutally murdered on a cross as a payment for all of our sins. And lastly, you have to accept that gift of salvation, knowing there is nothing in this world you could ever do to earn it. Then...tell someone else about it. And just like that...God will be glorified in Kambrin's death.



My thoughts, prayers, condolences, and deepest sympathies go out to the Dennis family. My thoughts and prayers are also with Kambrin's friends, her senior class, her fellow students at Okay Public Schools, and the faculty and administration as they try to encourage and counsel the students during this time of tragedy and loss.

In closing, if you have something you'd like to say about Kambrin, feel free to share it in the comment section down below. If you are an outside reader with no knowledge of Okay except for those funny Christmas videos I post once a year, I'd ask that you take the time to share an encouraging word to the home town folks that read this. Family, friends, students, etc., you can post whatever you want to anonymously, without having to create any sort of account or worrying about someone identifying you. If you want to leave your name, that's fine too. I love each and every one of you, and always remember, The Lord will take us through this.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

Kambrin Sophie Grace Dennis
5/2/94 - 4/17/12
You are His.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A List of My Reasons to be Happy.

This is me. Right now. Pissy and sad. 
I'm in a foul mood. Thanks to the IRS, the jackass that I work with that ate all my oatmeal and left the empty container in the cabinet, a headache, and the fact that my church league basketball team got slammed again last night, I have sort of gone into this funk, almost a pity-party, but with more anger and loathing. 

So before I sink too far into the "well of despair" and have to see some sort of doctor who will prescribe a pill that makes me really happy all the time but kills my sex drive and gives me a permanent case of the hot poops, I've decided to make a list of all the things that I have to be happy about. 

I've never tried this before, and I may leave some things out, but don't judge me. 

The Literal Counting of My Blessings

  • Our kids. Obvs. I actually got left alone with them the other night for forty-five minutes, and they didn't annoy me at all. In fact, I finally had to give them gum to shut them up because we were getting along so great. 
  • My wife. She's every bit as mad as me, but hey, misery loves company. 
  • I'm alive. I'm fat, I have diabetes, I'm stressed from work and school and everything, but when I woke up this morning, I wasn't dead. So there's that. 
  • I have pretty much the coolest dog on the face of this planet. She licks my face. 
  • My Sunday School class is seriously the best thing in the world. They REALLY suck at basketball, but they are definitely the underwire in the push-up bra of my life. 
  • My best friend is getting married. 
  • Last week, I told a lady at work that her lunches always looked amazing and that I was seriously considering giving her money every week to pack mine for me. Today she made me a sandwich. 
  • I serve a God who I get really mad at sometimes and maybe I say mean things to Him. He can handle that, and sometimes He slaps me in the face with sandwiches to remind me He's still around. 
  • You're reading this. 
  • I have an A in Algebra. Which, if you're an atheist or maybe even just agnostic, proves the existence of God. 
  • In five weeks I'll be laying on a beach in Florida. That may, in fact, be all that I can afford to do, but at least I'll have that. 
  • My mom, brothers, sister, and niece are the bees knees. 
  • We have a house, two vehicles, jobs, and food to eat. 
  • I'm actually not that terrible at Draw Something. 
  • I've lost thirty pounds since January. My BMI is still 8,456, but it's progress. 
  • I got a new flash drive today, and I named it Turd Ferguson, and then I found out that you can replace the default icon on your desktop with one of your own, and so now when I plug Turd Ferguson into my Mac, a picture of Norm McDonald in that ridiculous hat pops up and makes me laugh. 
  • I can still laugh at Norm McDonald. 
  • I haven't heard the song "Rack City" in almost two weeks. 
  • I can still tell a wicked good story that will have you laughing so hard you might pee a little. 

So there you have it. Those are a few of the things that I feel like are blessings in my life right now. 

But remember that guy a few years back that flew his prop plane into the IRS building because he was mad at them? For the record, I totally understand that guy right now. Totally. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Passion of the Christ...Centered Basketball League.



As some of you already know, I play church league basketball. About four years ago, I retired from The League, citing my overworked knees and my tendency to get really competitive and angry during games, resulting in decidedly un-Christlike behavior. Then we started going to a new church, and our Sunday School class decided to put a team in the "recreational" division of The League. We've played together for two years now, and in that time I've noticed that all the teams are pretty much made up of the same nine guys. There might be fifteen on a team, but it's really only nine personalities out there.

Here are those personalities.

1. The Angry Guy - This is the guy that's probably had a really bad day at work. Maybe he got yelled at by his boss. Maybe he IS the boss, and his employees are only marginally more competent than a stick of room temperature butter. Maybe he came home from work to grab a quick bite before the game and his wife told him that their four year old had choke slammed a kid at school resulting in their suspension and now they have to pay the choked out kid's medical bills. Regardless of what happened, the dude is angry, and he's going to release that anger on the court. Some might be passive aggressive and elbow you when no one is looking or call you ugly under their breath, but others will downright try to hurt you. They see you as the person who shot their pet turtle that one time in the fifth grade. They are what is traditionally known as a "live wire." They are probably already taking baby aspirin, and are a choke slam away from having that first heart attack.

2. The Show-Off - This gentleman is usually the best player on the team, and he knows it. He also has it in his mind that there are actually NBA scouts in the stands, and if he plays well enough he'll get a contract. He probably had a shot at college basketball at one point after high school, but he blew it in one way or another and he's still bitter. He'll give a post-game interview to anyone who cares to tell him "good game," and he'll usually try to get his teammates to run at least one play that he's seen the Lakers run. He's really not a bad guy, and all he wants is his picture in the paper.

3. The Mediator - The Mediator is the person who spends most of their time yelling encouraging things at BOTH of the teams. Peppy stuff, motivational stuff, and helpful stuff, reminding everyone that it's a church league and that Jesus is watching. He's the first one to break up any arguments that might happen, and he's the first one to explain to the referee that The Angry Guy's kid choked someone out in school today. He's the guy that will tell you it's all in fun when you're down fifty points and have absolutely no hope of winning a single game during the season. Everyone loves The Mediator, but everyone also secretly wants him to validate their own emotions by seeing him punch just one guy, one time.

4. The Competitive Guys - These folks can be broken down into two groups. The "Skinny/In Shape" guys and the "Fat/Out of Shape" guys.
The Skinny Guys are the ones who dive for every loose ball, foul you hard in the paint when you think you'll get an easy layup, try to get you to run a 1-3-1 defense, and just in general think that everyone should be playing as hard as them. These guys aren't angry, but they more than likely have an actual training plan for the church league basketball season that includes a strict diet and exercise regimen.
The Fat Guys are the ones who really want to run that 1-3-1 and who will still foul you hard, but they just can't get up and down the court the way they used to. They'll play with the heart of a lion for about thirty six seconds, and then they're huffing and puffing and pretty much just praying to God above that they'll be in the right place at the right time. At some point during the game, a Fat Competitive Guy usually turns into an Angry Guy.

The Stalwart Defender - No one else knows when it happened, but at some point and time in the Stalwart Defender's younger days, a coach looked at him and said "Son, you play really good defense. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, SON!" This guy could tell you the year, the month, the day, and what they were wearing when their coach told them this. They despise all things zone, and by the end of the evening can tell you what flavor of gum you're chewing. If you get stuck being guarded by a Stalwart Defender, your only hope is to try to check into the game when he's on the bench, which will probably be often, because his jumpshot looks like something out of a Michael Bay film. When he comes on the court, he immediately yells "FIND YOUR MAN!" followed by "I'VE GOT THIS GUY!" while tugging on your shirt like you're a puppy about to go for a walk. This is probably the most annoying guy you'll ever play against, but you want him on your team.

The Third Referee - Every sport has this person. The person who thinks they were born with a striped shirt and a whistle in their hand. The person who seriously considered listing "NBA Referee" as their five year career plan, or even worse, used to be an actual referee. They aren't the referee in this game, but you wouldn't know it except for their jersey. Their favorite line is "OVER THE BACK!" but they don't limit it to that. They're constantly trying to get a three second call on someone. They explain to the officials how that really was a foul. They scream "WALK!" after the referee has already blown the whistle to call a travel. They've usually been warned about it in a church league game and have been kicked out of their old high school's gym for insulting an official's mother. He's the only person on the team that will actually try to take a charge. He is also more than likely...

The Crybaby - This person may not try to be an official, but they aren't happy with ANYTHING they call. "Their foot was on the line." "That was probably a foul." "I want more playing time." "I just can't get it to fall tonight guys." "Honey, I can't believe you don't come watch me play." These are all things a Crybaby says. They are pouting when they come in, and they are making excuses after the game. They would rather miss a play on defense because they're trying to get the ref to notice that the way the point guard is dribbling is actually carrying than just suck it up and play hard. At some point during the game, The Crybaby will say, "I got Powerade in my eye guys, give me a sec."

The Washed-Up Ballhog - This is the guy that had a so-so high school career but was never actually good enough to get into college. He's played church league almost exclusively after that because he feels like he's better than everyone except The Show-Off. If you pass this guy the ball, he is GOING to shoot. Ball movement never enters his mind. He'll shoot 23% on a great night, and 12% on an average night. He doesn't understand how people can manage to block his shot or steal the ball from him without fouling him first. He probably tried to "retire" from church league at one point and got talked into coming back. He tells people he's out there for fun, but when it comes down to it, he's a choke slam away from being an Angry Guy as well. He'll make little noises on the three point line to let someone know he's open even though the guy with the ball has a higher shot percentage and a better shot. At some point during the game he'll yell "GIVE ME THE ROCK!" Also, he calls a basketball a rock.

and finally...

The Guy Everyone Wants To See Make It - If there was a "Most Improved" award, this guy would get it every year. He's never played basketball a day in his life, but he got sucked in by all the "It's gonna be so fun!" talk, and decided to cough up the money to play. At some point you've probably had to explain to him that he can't play in work boots or flip flops. When he gets the ball, everyone yells at him to shoot it, no matter where he is on the floor. He is, in fact, the only person that will ever have a screen set for him. The entire crowd is breathless when he chucks the ball at the hoop, and if it goes in...pandemonium ensues. At least one time during the season he'll have an asthma attack, and he can probably give you a complete run-down of the stats for the entire team.

So that about wraps it up. These nine guys step out on that floor at some point during every game. It may only be church league ball to you, but for everyone out there, it's forty more minutes of trying desperately to hang onto what's left of the Glory Days.

To them, it's The League.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter at Eastgate.



One of the great things about having children is marking all the milestone moments you have. All the "firsts." As a family, the Sloats have had their first Fourth of July, their first birthdays together, their first Halloween, Christmas, and yesterday, their first Easter. 

Straight ballin', yo.

In this recent post on comfort zones, I talked about a ministry that I'm involved in at Eastgate, an assisted care living facility for elderly folks. In short, a nursing home. Once a month, I go out there and teach Sunday School. Couple of hymns, a lesson, another hymn, a prayer and then they all go to lunch. I've talked about what a struggle it was for me to go in there, and what a struggle it was for me to involve our family as well. 

The second Sunday I went, a virus had swept through the place and it was very contagious. This caused me to rethink the "involving the family" thing. The Missus and I made the decision that it would probably be in the kids' best interest to not be exposed to that sort of thing, whether it was discovered yet or not. So they haven't been back, and I'm okay with that. 

A few weeks ago, I approached the director of the ministry about the fact that my Sunday was going to fall on Easter during the month of April. I asked him how that worked, and if I would still be responsible for my lesson, or if I would be able to come to church with my family. He said he'd get back to me, and I spent the next couple of weeks thinking that surely the Lord wanted my family together on Easter Sunday. 

I've learned a lot of things in twenty-nine years, but the one thing I guess I haven't learned is how to accurately predict the all-divine will of the Lord. 

"Travis, we still do that on Easter Sunday. In fact, the residents actually look forward to it. Are you okay with continuing as planned?" 

To quote George Clooney: "Dang. We're in a tight spot." 

You see, I got selfish. I thought (and rightly so, I'm sure some of you would say) that I should be able to spend my family's first Easter with, you know, my family. It would have been very easy for me to tell him, "No, since it's our first Easter with kids, I'd really like to spend it with them in church." He might even have been expecting that. I certainly expected to say it. 

But I didn't. 

So yesterday, I took some pictures with the kids, explained to them that they better behave, and sent them and The Missus to church with her parents, while I loaded up my stereo, my notes, and my iPad and headed to Eastgate. I had a lot of selfish thoughts on the way. Then, as I was pulling in to the facility, I got a notification on Facebook for a wall post. I assumed it would be a request to play the latest Super Duper Slot Machine Deluxe Ball Drop Extravaganza, and I was going to delete it and go on. 

However, it turned out to be a post about my dad. The gentleman said that he wished nothing more than to hear one of my dad's lessons this morning, and wrapped it up by saying what a great man he was. It's been almost twelve years, and it turns out I'm still not the only person who wants to hear his voice.  

It was the proverbial slap in the face. I started thinking about what my dad would have done in this situation. Then I thought about whether or not he would be proud of the parent I'm becoming, and the man I'm growing into. Then I thought about how it wasn't fair that he hadn't gotten to see the kids, or my niece Briley. Then I thought about how he didn't get to see me graduate, or get married, or see The Groom get married, and how he wasn't going to see The Liar or The Youngest get married or see their kids. 

In about ten seconds, I was angry, crying, and telling myself I was a stupid, selfish, and pity partying crybaby. I was going on and on about how life wasn't fair, and how it wasn't fair that I had to be separated from my family today, and how terrible I had it. To top it off, I had about ten minutes to get myself together before I walked in the nursing home and began telling people how joyous of a day it was supposed to be. 

I don't know how, but I got it together. I walked in the door, and the nurses started wheeling the people in. 

Time for smiles, right? 

About five minutes into the procession of wheelchairs coming through the doors, a lady looked up from her chair, introduced herself, and asked me what time it was. I looked down at my watch and said, "10:30." She then consulted her watch and said, "I have 10:25." 

+1 to that lady. 

Then she asked me what day it was. 

I said, "It's April 8th, ma'am. 2012. It's Easter." 

She threw her hands in the air as a huge smile lit up her face and said,

"PRAISE THE LORD!" 

She went on to introduce herself again, then tell me three times that she was German and Indian, then told me four times that she had only been there two weeks, even though I'd seen her there for three months. She obviously has some sort of dementia. 

But in the span of a second, with her reaction to the fact that it was Easter Sunday, she reminded me why I made the decision I made. She showed me that even though life had taken from her all sense of time, she remembered enough to know that Easter Sunday was special. She instantly validated my reason for being there, my reasons for splitting up our family on our first Easter. She reminded me of the excitement I should have had. 

I stood there, genuinely smiling, and listened to her tell me over and over again about her heritage and how she used to beat up people for messing with her brother, and how her parents loved the razor strap, and how her nickname used to be "Hitler." At one point during her stories, another lady fell asleep and her dentures fell out. 

I stood there, once again unexpectedly blessed by these folks, and finally I started the lesson. I told them how we should never forget Easter. How each day should and could be Easter to someone else who didn't know about The Gift. 

And at some point, during what I thought was a pretty inspired and amazing lesson, that same lady fell asleep and her dentures fell out again. Then I had a lady get mad at me because I couldn't control the thermostat. Then I had a lady wheel up to me afterwards and tell me how much she enjoyed me coming today. 

I got to my in-laws for dinner and hugged my kids.

To end the day, I stopped by and saw dad. I've been thinking about taking the kids to meet him, you know. I reached his headstone without crying for the first time in eleven years. I told him I was trying. Told him how much I wished he could see his three grandkids. I got mad again. I fought with God, yelled at him for a while. Then the tears came, and with it, the self-pity. I Almost fell back into that same spiral. I saw a couple of headstones and was reminded of what some of my friends of mine had lost. The realization came to me that no matter how amazing my Easter Sunday was, my dad had a better one. 

I left smiling. Crying...but smiling. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Rack City;" And Why Music Sucks Now.

Photo credit



A few months ago, The Youngest came over to my house to hang out, play some Call of Duty, and probably try to talk me into buying him booze.

The usual.

However, on this particular occasion he came in repeating the same phrase over and over.

"Rack city chick, rack rack city chick." 


If he said this once, he said it a hundred times that evening. He said it when he killed a guy in COD, he said it when our children talked to him, he used it to creatively answer questions, etc. At some point during the evening I finally took the bait and asked him what it was from.

"It's this new song, man. It's awesome." 


"Is it about boobs?"

"Yeah man. Boobs." 


As ridiculous as it sounds, that was all it took for my interest to be piqued. I mean, a song about boobs? Right? C'mon.

So the next day I queued it up on Spotify and had a listen. I picked the unedited version, and the following substance flowed into my brain and temporarily put me into some sort of catatonic state.

[Intro:]
Rack, rack, city b**ch, city b**ch
Rack, rack, rack city b**ch, city b**ch, rack
Rack, rack, rack city b**ch, city b**ch
Mutha on the beat
Hah!
[Verse 1:]
Rack city b**ch, rack, rack city b**ch
Ten ten ten twenties on ya titties b**ch
100 deep V.I.P. no guest list
T-Raw you don't know who you f***ing with?
Got my other b**ch f***ing with my other b**ch
F***ing all night nigga we ain't celibate
Make it sound too dope I ain't selling it
Bar fresher than a motherf***ing peppermint
Gold Letterman last kings killing s**t
Young money young money yeah we getting rich
I Got ya grandma on my peepee (ha ha)
Girl you know what it is
[Hook: x2]
Rack city b**ch, rack, rack, city b**ch [x3]
Ten, ten, ten, twenties and them fifties b**ch
[Verse 2:]
I'm a motherf***ing star (star)
Look at the paint on the car (car)
Too much rim make the ride too hard
Tell that b**ch hop out, walk the boulevard
I need my money pronto
Get it in the morning like Alonzo
Rondo, Green got cheese like a nacho
If you ain't got no @ss b**ch wear a poncho
Head hancho got my seat back
Nigga staring at me don't get bapped
Got my shirt off the club too packed
It's too turned going up like gas
God d**n pulled out my racks
Mike Mike Jackson nigga yeah I'm bad
Rat T-T-T-Tatted up on my back
All the hoes love me you know what it is
[Hook: x2]
Rack city b**ch, rack, rack, city b**ch [x3]
Ten, ten, ten, twenties and them fifties b**ch
[Outro:]
Throwing hunnids, hunnids
Hunnids, hunnids
Throwing hunnids, hunnids
Rack city b**ch, rack, rack city b**ch
Hunnids, hunnids
Throwing hunnids, hunnids
Hunnids, hunnids
Rack city b**ch, rack, rack city b**ch
(Rack, rack, rack, rack, rack...)

As you can see, I've had to do quite a bit of work on the censoring front, if only to protect the eyes of some of my younger readers. That aside, I counted about fifteen actual words throughout the whole song. Most of the time it just sounds like the singer, a Mr. TYGA, as it were, has a severe stuttering handicap that is triggered by the thought of a woman without a shirt on. Great stuff, this music of the younger generation. 

Let's break this thing down, shall we? 

1. In the intro, we are introduced to this place called "Rack City," which I have deduced to be a strip club somewhere close to Tyga's place of residence. I'll explain that later. It's also when we are introduced to the artist's speech impediment. At this point, I truthfully thought the whole song was just "rack city b**ch" over and over again. 

2. "100 deep V.I.P, no guest list." There are more or less one hundred people "in da club," and everyone is a V.I.P. There are also no guests allowed, which won't bode well for Tyga's best friend "Lyon," who is an up and coming music producer that has latched on to Tyga like a Lexington, KY resident on their favorite sectional. 

3. Apparently at this point there are two ladies, both of which are his, performing some sort of sensual act on each other. This is where he points out that he is excellent at marathon love-making, which would be easy to do if you were never involved in the fore-mentioned tryst. He then tells us how fresh the bar is, which he likens to a peppermint, so I guess he means sticky. That makes sense. Then he moves on to tell us about having "relations" with your grandmother. Just seems an odd thing to talk about when there are a couple of ladies in front of him obviously willing to try anything once. 

4. In the next verse, he tells us about his stardom, which is evidenced by the paint job on his vehicular conveyance. After that, he gives us a bit of practical advice by explaining that "too much rim make the ride too hard." This is a proven fact, if your rims are too big, then your vehicle's performance over rough terrain will be awful. He then immediately kicks a young lady out of his car and makes her become a prostitute. 

5. "Get it in the morning like Alonzo, Rondo, Green got cheese like a nacho." I wish I could tell you what that meant. Apparently Alonzo Mourning, Rajon Rondo, and this Green fella have a particular affinity for cheese like that on nachos. I also like nacho cheese. Assuming I've not missed any allegorical meaning here, I'm going to say that I'd get along well with those three guys. 

6. The next line advises all the young ladies who don't have a big rear end to wear a poncho to cover it up. I'd like to go ahead and tell you not to listen to that. To quote the amazing John Mayer, your body is a wonderland. Also, Tyga is obviously a boob guy, so what does her care about the rear end for? He then tells us not to get "bapped." Upon consultation of Urban Dictionary, the act of getting bapped is to be hit harder than a thwap, but not so hard that it causes any real lasting injury. 

7. "It's too turned going up like gas." This is the only part of the song I understand. Gas is high. Gas is real high, and it keeps going up. This is why I assume the club is close to Tyga's house. He seems to be concerned with the increasing cost of travel, and when you combine that with strip club tips, he's on the fast train to bankruptcy. 

8. I think after all this is done he's getting a Michael Jackson tattoo. I'm not 100% on that though, I may have mistranslated something. Seems as if the stuttering problem attacks again at this point. 

9. Throughout the song, the amount of money that he's been throwing at these young ladies has been steadily increasing. One can only assume that this is directly related to the amount of alcohol imbibed. The first time is was tens and twenties. Then he started throwing fifties. Now, at the end, he's throwing "hunnids," which is a one hundred dollar bill. Assuming that every mention of a denomination of money indicates what he's thrown at the ladies, and assuming that "twenties" and "fifties" means two of each bill, then at the end of the evening he's spent $1,610 at "Rack City." Also assuming he just turned out the one prostitute at the beginning of the night, and the average nightly take of prostitute is around $615, and a pimp's cut is around 25%, which equates to around $154, then the amount of money Tyga actually spent on this particular evening is $1,456. 

10. The end of the song is just the word "rack" about six thousand times. Many artists choose to end their songs with a clever twist, a beautiful piece of poetry, or a sympathetic word. Tyga went the other way. 

To sum up, the song is terrible. I won't get into the whole "it's degrading to women" argument, because that's the music industry in general, with the exception of Adele, and she's so depressing she doesn't count. But seriously. "Rack City" is just one more example of why music sucks now. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Used to Have Level 9000 Sarcasm...

This may come as a shocking revelation to some, but I'm a very sarcastic person with a pretty dry and ironic sense of humor that borders on narcissistic cynicism.
 
This picture has circulated Facebook more times than the words #StopKony, but still it pretty much  describes me perfectly.

As of late, I've noticed myself using sarcasm less and less, and I'm almost positive it stems from our two new recent additions to the family. You see, if you do something, and you are positively reinforced for that behavior, you tend to use that behavior again, seeking the same response. Now I'm sure that has a clinical name, but I call it the "Conditioned Response." 

So it makes sense that if you do something, and you are negatively conditioned, then you won't do it again, because you don't want the negative experience. Again, I'm no psychologist. So stay with me. 

Before The Missus and I got the kids, I was a sarcasm machine. My wit was withering, y'all. I could wilt plants at a hundred paces with my abilities. Really, it was a work of art. I dabbled in sarcasm the way Van Gogh dabbled in paints. The way the Democratic party dabbles in socialism. The way Nic Cage dabbles in acting. 

I think you understand. 

However, there have been some changes. It turns out, the kids don't understand sarcasm. The Missus keeps saying, "They're concrete, Travis. Concrete." 

Here's an example: 

Yesterday, as we were about to leave for church, I was walking through the house in my underwear trying to find clothes. As I approached the living room, I could see that the front door was open, so I asked Aven to close the door. I said, "Aven, please close the door." 

"The front door?" 

"No, son. All of the other doors in the house." 

"Yes sir." 

And he started walking back to the bedrooms to close all the doors. 

"AVEN! YES THE FRONT DOOR JUST CLOSE THE FRONT DOOR PLEASE NOW CLOSE THE FRONT DOOR!" 

"Yes sir." 

"Travis. They're concrete. Concrete, Travis." 

The girl child is just as bad, but with her it's mainly making terrible jokes. Jokes that the boy child finds hilarious. Keeli spent fifteen minutes yesterday on the car ride home "April Fooling" Aven. 

"Aven. There is poop on your shoe. APRIL FOOLS!"

"Aven. The cow is in the car. APRIL FOOLS!" 

This went on and on until Aven started whining. Finally, I said, "Keeli, stop. You have no idea what April Fools is, and until you do, you're not allowed to April Fool anyone." Then The Missus added, "What your dad is saying is that you suck at April Fooling." 

Then I pretended to pass out at the wheel and swerved into oncoming traffic while they screamed at me to wake up; and then I popped my head up and yelled "APRIL FOOLS!" It was a valuable lesson. 

I'm kidding.

But seriously, if I don't get to a comedy club or try to start writing stand-up bits again soon, I think I'm going to be in real trouble. My father-in-law taught the kids some sort of fart joke the other day, and they're still laughing about it now. The sad thing is, The Missus can tell I hate it, but she thinks it's hilarious, and does her best to always hide her amusement when they start in on it. 

I have come to appreciate the laughter of a child. I've even started to appreciate the fact that their innocence shields them from the oft-pointed barbs of a sarcastic or sardonic reply. I realize that there might even be an advantage, living in a world where sarcasm doesn't exist. How living in that world might mean less hurt feelings, and fewer questions about loyalty. 

But if I can't live in that world, why should they?