Friday, June 29, 2012

The Airing of Grievances.

"I got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're gonna hear about it!"
photo credit

We've all seen it. It's plastered on Facebook and Twitter daily, hourly, secondly.

The airing of grievances. 

"Well, my baby daddy told me he was comin' to get dis child, and he neva showed up, he a loser, I don't know why I screw wit dudes like him, he worthless, said he was in a car wreck, that looser* betta hope he wrecked, cuz imma send my new boyfriend afta his sorry butt." 

or

"If you got something to say to me, why don't you say it to my face? I'm not going to mention your name here because that would be too obvious, instead I want to keep this anonymous so that maybe you feel like it's your fault even though it's not your fault." 

When did social media become a sounding board for every disconsolate single mom, frustrated spouse, discontent family member, and opinionated TapOut wearing muscle head? 

Before we continue, I understand that there are ways to ignore these people, and not see any of the content they post. I know that. But that's not addressing the problem. 

Also, I really don't mind the political bashing, or bashing of Christians or atheists or pro-lifer or pro-choicers. As Christians, I don't think we need to let folks know that they're all going to hell, but in the same token, if you aren't singling someone out, let your opinions fly. Free speech and all that. I'm really focused more on specific individual bashing, friends, family, or otherwise.

A few nights ago, I got into a fight with one of my brothers. Imagine that. Fighting with a brother. About midway through the argument, I picked up my phone and another brother looked at me and said, "Are you about to Facebook this right now?" 

I just stared at him. 

"Absolutely not. Why would I do that?" 

Up until mentioning it here, no one knew that I had a fight with my brother except the other brothers and my wife. That's how I choose to run my life. I don't feel the need to express to the masses that I'm upset with someone, or that people in my family sometimes annoy the bejesus out of me. I think that's a given. If you've known me for more than ten minutes, you've probably seen me argue with one of my brothers. 

On the other hand, I want to share the good times with you. I want you to know that my daughter got saved, or that I'm happy to be celebrating nine years with The Missus, or that our son caught an enormous fish. 

So why the good and not the bad? 

I like to think you have enough of your own problems without seeing mine too. And while I love attention MORE than the next guy, I don't want that attention to be focused on the negative aspects of my life. And believe it or not, this costs me. 

I got a message a few weeks ago from someone telling me that they had honestly never liked me because I seemed stuck up and "better than everyone else." Then, upon reading "The Road," they realized that I had problems like everyone else, and their opinion of me turned around. 

I could not have been happier. I apologized to the person for my aloof attitude, and assured them that I had my fair share of issues. If you're reading this and you'd like to know a few of them, here you go. 

The Missus and I fight about money. I like to spend it, and she has to be the bad guy and tell me not to. I struggle with the fact that our kids don't like me very much because I come off as a stern disciplinarian and don't spend as much time with them as I think I need to. I've struggled with internet pornography for years, and just in the last few years have I gotten it semi-controlled. I'm narcissistic and cynical, but I believe in the basic good of people. I love Jesus, but sometimes I cuss a little. I'm currently paying someone to take a college class for me. I can't stand eating dinner at the table with my family, I like to watch TV when I eat. I'm selfish. I'm a very jealous person. I can be just a touch misogynistic in my words and actions. I struggle with my tolerance for certain things that I was raised to not tolerate. I struggle with control issues. I used to be mean to animals. And I can't stand your driving. 

There. If you thought for one second I don't have problems, there. 

"After all, we all live in Hyde Park. We all have our dragons."**

But Travis, isn't airing them here the same as telling Facebook and Twitter about them? 

Well, let me ask you this. Do you enjoy engaging with me on the social platform? If so, ask yourself why. Is it because 99% of my statuses are lighthearted and joking? I'm going to step out on a limb and say that hopefully you answered yes to those questions. 

On the blog however, you have to digest the good with bad, and it's not a three second glance over 140 characters and a quick dismissal or press of the "Like" button. You've committed to reading all of this, or most of it, and so it's less of a constant barrage of negative streaming onto your cell phone or computer screen. Also, I'll usually warn you that a blog is a "thinker," and not a normal, funny, make you laugh so hard you spit coffee on your keyboard and then pee your pants blog. 

Another reason is, when I'm on social media like Facebook or Twitter, I genuinely want to make you smile or laugh all the time. Sometimes I want you to think, and sometimes even cry, but I never want you to say, "Wow, I wish Travis would shut up with all that negative talk about his wife." I want something that makes you feel.

Some will accuse me of pandering to people's sentimental and emotional side. I'd ask those people to read my blog. I keep it real here. 

So why do people feel the need to bash their exes, their family, and anything else incessantly on social media? Is it because they aren't getting the attention they feel they need from people in real life? Is it because they get a thrill out of exposing someone for who they really are over the Internet? I really wish I had the answers for that. In fact, at the risk of becoming somewhat Maury-like, if you're a constant basher of people on social media, why don't you anonymously weigh in with a comment here. Tell us what makes you tick. 

As for me, and thankfully for The Missus and my family, we will continue in the tradition of leaving each other alone on Facebook and Twitter. I am proud of that fact, and I hope you'll consider joining me in making your social media feed a bit more positive. Focus on the good people have done for you. If no one has ever done anything good for you, why don't you start by doing something good for someone else? The feeling you'll get might be status worthy. 

In the words of mothers for generations:

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." 



*I absolutely misspelled that on purpose. Don't think for one second I don't know the difference between loose and lose. 

** "The Oath" - Frank Peretti



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fifty Shades of Awkward.


As I've explained in my post about being a Social Rapist, I am not always a smooth and captivating individual. There are moments, both when I'm alone and when I'm with people, where I can be incredibly awkward. As I get older, these moments are getting fewer and farther between, but they still happen, as evidenced by my day yesterday.

I left work early to go vote, and then I figured I'd go donate blood. There was a blood drive at my old church in Okay, Oklahoma, so I stopped by to give them a pint or two of my finest red (aged 29 years, with a sweetness to it that I have to take Metformin for).

I arrived in the parking lot and saw that they too were in the process of letting folks vote. That church has always been a polling center, as long as I can remember. So I walked up to the doors of the big building where the blood drive was supposedly at, and I see a lot of arrows pointing in the same direction that all say "Blood Drive" on them. The arrows kind of point back towards the main church building, so I amble over that way and look in the door, and the lights appear to be out. So I sidle on back over to the big building and walk in, only to see no sign of a blood giving party.

At this point, I could ask someone what's going on, but everyone looks so busy voting, and I will not be held responsible for a Democrat getting voted in anywhere because I've distracted someone at the last moment by asking them about a blood drive that they know nothing about because they've been focused on voting straight party all day long. So I don't ask anyone, and shamble on over to the main church building again.

It was 105 degrees in Okay, Oklahoma yesterday. 105. I weigh 340 pounds at this current moment. I also have the aforementioned sweetness in my blood that the doctors so lovingly call diabetes. The point I'm trying to make is that I run hot already, and for me, sweating often involves me doing nothing more than trying to fit six Doritos in my mouth at one time. Add the exercise of walking back and forth between buildings and the fact that it's 105 degrees outside together, and you get a very moist and salty Travis. Particularly in one area.

That's right... I'm talking about the swamp butt.

This is a mild case, trust me. Also, this isn't me. I would never put...well, yeah I would, but I don't have one.
This condition has caused me to avoid metal or plastic chairs like the plague, constantly fearing that I will leave a sweaty butt print that, let's just go ahead and say it, won't be making the ladies swoon with desire. Last semester in college I would have to sit in a plastic chair after a long walk to class, and I actually perfected a move in which I would get out of my chair and slide it under the table at the same time so no one would see my butt shaped ring of shame. If there are any swamp butt sufferers out there that need to learn this move, let me know. 

Back to the blood donating. The first chair I sat in was cloth covered. Thank the baby Jesus for that, because cloth sort of wicks away moisture and you don't know a swampy butt has been there until you've already sat down and...well, I'll just leave you to think about that. 

Then they took me back to my donating bed. The lady that was going to be drawing my blood was incredibly nice, and completely distracted me from thinking about the fact that I WAS GOING TO BE LYING ON A VINYL TABLE. 

We talked and talked while she was preparing to hook me up to the machine about how no one ever hits my vein on the first try. I explained to her that the last guy to try actually punched clean through my vein, leaving me with a slightly swollen arm and bruise that made it look like I'd been punched by the Hulk. We laughed, we had good times, and before I knew it, she nailed my vein on the first try, for which I told her she needed a gold star, and the machine happily started draining me of my liquid Travis. 

I often times wonder if I could replace my blood with "skinny blood." 
Then it happened. I overheard "Yeah, I finished all three books this weekend. Wow." 

I have recently acquired our daughter's talent for sticking my nose in other's business, so I said, "What books?" 

You see, I was honestly thinking The Hunger Games. It is a great series, and I read them all in a couple of days, and I was ready to discuss my literary knowledge and blow these three ladies out of the water. 

The expert vein sticker turns to me and says, "Oh, it's Fifty Shades of Grey."

Here you might be thinking, "Haha, this is awkward, Travis doesn't read trash like that." 

Only...Travis does. 

Ahem.
So. There we were. There was sort of this awkward moment where I could have said, "Oh, I've heard of that," and butted smooth the heck out. But...

"Yeah, I finished reading that last night!" 

I hate to reuse a picture, but this describes Expert Vein Sticker and her two friends perfectly. 

"Say what?" 
"You read it?!" 
"Oh my God."
"I want to read it!" 

You see, right there, I should have been mortified. But I wasn't. 

"Yeah, it was trash, and the writing was horrible Twilight fan fic, but I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about." 

These ladies ate it up. Then one of them said, "You know, I called my mom the other day and asked what she was doing and she told me she was in her room reading that book." 

Now it was my turn.
There were a few crickets, and then we picked right back up where we left off, EVS and I discussing the "merits" of the book, and the other two gals chiming in about how they couldn't wait to read it now. 

Then EVS said she hoped Chris Hemsworth would play Christian in the movie. 

Did I mention we were in a church building? 

So I look up and say, without thinking, "He is a handsome man." 

Their turn.
As I said, I can be an awkward guy. 

The ladies resumed talking momentarily, and I pretty much just waited for the machine to be done. I was really regretting donating two units at this point, because the machine had to stop twice and put the plasma back into my body. 

When EVS finally unhooked me, we laughed a bit, and she thanked me for the conversation. Then, and only then, I became aware that it was a bit steamy in the room I was in. And I had still not dried up from my pre-donating hike between buildings. And suddenly, I realized I was on a vinyl tabletop. And I knew what was going to be there when I got up. 

A full body sweat imprint of yours truly. 

I had no choice. EVS had been so kind, and I couldn't just let her walk into this blindly. 

"Ma'am, umm, I sweat. Real bad. And when I get up, there is going to be a sweat imprint here, and if you give me a rag, I'll clean it up. I'm so sorry." 

EVS didn't even blink an eye. 

"Don't worry about it man, I'll clean it up." 

I walked out, and I didn't look back. I couldn't look at their expressions as they saw what I knew was there. 

Fifty gallons of awkward. 

Laters, baby. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Andrea vs. Kony. The Battle.



Last week I held a contest on my Facebook where if you "Liked" the blog's fan page, you were automatically entered to have an epic story told about you. The winner, Andrea Collins, had no idea that she'd even been a part of the contest, but being a good spot, told me to "surprise her." That might have been a bad call, Andrea. 


I'm Not a Hero: The Andrea Collins Story


Andrea Collins was not a super-hero. She would repeat those words often, and then, thinking they needed to be more politically correct, the person corrected would say, "I'm sorry, I meant super-heroine." After that, Andrea would shake her head and walk away, wishing she could find a better way to word her rebuttals. It didn't used to be this way.

Andrea never felt that she qualified as a super-hero, or a super-heroine, for that matter. She didn't have "super" powers. She had never shot lasers out of her eyeballs, she didn't turn all green and ugly when she got angry, and, much to her disappointment, she had never experienced the joys of being able to threaten bad guys - or her little brother Tyler - with sharp, indestructible metal spikes shooting out of her hands.

She did have three qualities that people deemed worthy of the super-hero label though. She was fast. In fact, she was the fastest human alive, which she found out by complete accident when she broke an Olympic record in the 500 meter dash while she was at an elementary school track meet. She was also strong. She hadn't taken the time enter any kind of competitive event after the track meet incident, but she once lifted her mother's Chevy van in the air during a game of hide and seek when she was about six years old. The last thing was the really weird thing. It was the only "power" she felt she had. Anytime an object was thrown, hit, or directed at her, no matter the speed or size of it, it just...went around her. The effect was subtle, it wasn't something you could see obviously. To most it just appeared she was absolutely terrible at catching anything. This turned out to be a nightmare for her high-school softball coach, who, after seeing her run the bases in three seconds, thought he'd hit the talent lottery.

Andrea had never taken the time to test her powers to the limit. In fact, it was only recently that people had started calling her "super." This all started with a YouTube video, but there'll be more on that later.

All she really wanted was to be normal. She wanted to be a wife, she wanted to be a mother, and she wanted to live the rest of her life with those being the only things people called her. After college, she set out to make that happen, and both did. She met her husband, Charles, and decided immediately that she would keep her talents a secret. She asked him to open pickle jars, lagged behind in their weekly jogs, and soon he was joking about the fact that she "couldn't catch a cold." Then the babies came. In fact, before last month, most people would have thought that Andrea's only real super power was getting pregnant.

Andrea and her husband had three beautiful children. The first thought in Andrea's mind when she became aware she was pregnant was, "I hope my kids are normal." In fact, she prayed that her kids would be normal. She didn't want them to have what she had, she wanted them to be able to play catch, and run slow, and not cause $2500 worth of damage to the frame of a house during an early childhood fit.

So when her first baby girl was born, she threw things at her.

Not hard things, and not fast, just plush toys and the like.

And they all hit her.


Andrea praised God for this, and continued to watch her daughter, and soon after her second daughter, for signs of speed and strength that weren't exactly status quo for infants. She was happy to see that she wouldn't have to explain anything to her husband, and that she would be able to raise children that could do more than she did. She was so happy, in fact, that when they had their third child - a son - she didn't even bother to throw things at him. She was blissfully happy, and she loved her life.

Then came the day of the Stop Kony 2012 video.

It was early in the morning when Andrea saw the video, and it moved her, as it did millions of others, to tears. She was busy feeding and diapering her new son when she looked at him and asked herself what she would do if someone took her children away. She knew what she'd do. She'd kick their butts.

And so she decided that she wasn't going to donate money to this charity, she wasn't going to share the video on Facebook, and she wasn't going to sit idly by in her comfortable life while monsters like this roamed free. She didn't even know where Uganda was, but she started searching for flights there immediately. There was one leaving in an hour from an airport that was about an hours drive away. So she checked the savings account, transferred some money, left a note to her husband saying, "Gone to Uganda, I'll explain everything when I get back, Love, Your Wife."


She made the flight, and made it to Uganda. She tracked Joe Kony for three long days, and finally she found him. She was threatened briefly by his guards, but she beat them all like drums and then got her hands on the evil warlord. After working him over, she told him she had better never hear his name again, and walked out of the compound, onto the plane, back to her home, and straight into a husband demanding some answers, and some police wondering what to do with the missing person report they had just filled out.

Andrea assured the police that she was fine, and dismissed them. She then gathered her family around her to tell them her story. The family was so engrossed that they never heard the vehicle pull up outside. They were so engrossed that they never heard their front door open. In fact, the only thing that brought them out of the trance of the story was Joseph Kony, clearing his throat and leveling a gun at her.

Charles, bless his heart, immediately passed out. The children, knowing something was wrong, started crying. It is a known fact that Joe Kony hates crying children, so he yelled at them, and then swung the gun to face the youngest, who was still crying because he didn't know any better. When Kony saw the reaction this caused in Andrea, he smiled and evil, crafty, and douchebag smile.

"You don't like when I point the gun at them?" he asked.

Andrea's jaw was clenched so hard that you could barely hear the word she spoke.

"No."

"Well then," Kony said. "You will do what I ask then. You embarrassed me in front of my people. So now, I want to embarrass you in front of your people. You will come back to Uganda, and you will be my bride. You will help me take over the country. You are very strong, and very fast. I will have you, or I will shoot your baby."

Andrea was about ten feet away from Kony, and he had the gun leveled at her smallest child. She hadn't ever timed herself, and she wasn't sure she could make it before his finger pulled the trigger.

But she went for it.


Turns out, she wasn't quick enough. The trigger was pulled, and Andrea screamed "NO!" as the bullet meant for the life of her infant son sped toward him faster than she could move. She waited to see the damage, paralyzed with fear, having already reached Kony, feeling his hot, stinky, Ugandan breath on her cheek, and the moment never came. The bullet somehow missed her baby. And somehow, the gunfire had a soothing effect on him, because he had stopped crying and was now laughingly pooping his pants. 

Soon, he wasn't the only one pooping his pants.

Andrea grabbed Kony by the throat. He raised the gun to her midsection, and she had it out of his hands and bent in half before he even managed to realize it was gone. She continued to hold him by the throat, squeezing tighter, her eyes still burning with the tears of the unexpected miracle, and she watched as Kony struggled for air. He used his breath somewhat unwisely.

"You won't kill me," he gasped. "You've never killed. It's harder for those that have never..."

Andrea tossed his lifeless body to the floor.

"No one has ever threatened my children either," she said.

Of course, Charles chose this exact moment to come out of his nap, and he observed the mess in the floor.

"What did I miss?" he asked, in the classically funny "I'm the husband and I just missed something" way.

"Nothing major," replied his wife. "I just killed the biggest jerk in the entire world...oh, and our son has my abilities."

Charles immediately passed out again.

When he came to the next time, the house was cleaned up and the police had been called. Andrea had decided that it was time for the world to know about her secret. She wanted to help people. She couldn't sit idly by and watch as the world suffered when she knew that she had the power to stop it.

So she called a press conference. She gathered hundreds of people together, and she walked up on the podium and started her speech.

"I stopped Joseph Kony...and I'm just getting started."




Monday, June 18, 2012

Sent. A T-Shirt Giveaway!


Sent Clothing was started in 2009 by Wes Hammons. Wes remembers being at Falls Creek and hearing the message being preached from John 17:18, and realizing that he had a calling to spread the Word of God.

He struggled for a while on how best to do this, and one day, while doodling on a piece of paper, Wes decided he would like to make his own t-shirt and maybe turn it into a clothing line. From that day forward, Sent Clothing had a place to live.

Wes creates t-shirts that use simplicity and modern design to spread the message of Christ and His love for us. The concept is simple; create a product that drives conversation, which in turn opens doors to minister to others.



Wes works hard to keep his prices low, and all of his shirts stay at a very affordable twenty dollars ($20). This ensures that his customers won't have to break the bank when they want to stylishly proclaim the Good News.



For his latest shirt line, Wes has created a series called "Sent Cities." This will be a four part shirt release, started with "Oklahoma City," and going from there.



Wes has decided that in order to broadcast his ministry further, he'd like to have a giveaway on my blog with one of his shirts as a prize! And entering will never be any easier.

All you have to do is "Like" Sent Clothing's page on Facebook.

For an extra entry, you can comment on this post (one time only), and "Like" this blog's page on Facebook as well!

The extra entries are not valid if you don't "Like" Sent Clothing's page as well. While you're at it, check out Sent Clothing's website, and start choosing the design you'd like when you win, and the design you'll buy if you don't!

The winner of the contest will be drawn and announced on Friday, June 22, 2012.

So follow the links and get busy entering!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Finest Hour.


Contrary to popular belief, I was not always this cool.

She insisted on being in my lap while I drove my huge ocean boat.
There was, for instance, the time this picture got snapped. 

That camper is bangin.
When you factor in that unfortunate hip placement, the pigeon toes, and the fact that my family couldn't always afford the "brand name" clothes, it all equaled me getting picked on for most of my childhood. Some, especially today, would call it getting bullied. 

When the eighth grade came and went, I hit a growing spell that would eventually leave me around 230 pounds and 5'11". So when I came in my freshman year, I was a good deal bigger than some kids. But I still had no confidence, and still spent a lot of time getting picked on. 

My sophomore year came, and I got a car, a job, a girlfriend, and a new best friend, Kid Funk. The combination of those things sort of brought me around in the confidence department, and that's when I decided I'd had enough of the bullying, and started taking up for myself. 

I can remember a kid who had picked on me for a while hitting me in the arm in the middle of class, and I stood up, wrapped him in a headlock, and wouldn't let go until the teacher eventually threatened to send me to the office. I can remember a kid throwing a doughnut at my car windshield and me putting the car in park, grabbing the kid around the neck, taking a can of pop from someone, and dousing his head with it. In short, I was sick of it, and I liked putting people in headlocks. 

This is not to say I didn't take advantage of my newly found confidence. I can also remember putting a kid in a trash can - repeatedly - and body slamming a kid onto a table in a classroom. So I wasn't completely innocent. 

But I also remember the day my love affair with the underdog began. The day when I stood up to someone, and walked away feeling better about myself. The day when I decided bullying wasn't really right for me. 

The kid I rescued was really kind of scrawny. He's still a good family friend to this day, and I know his younger brother reads this blog, but I don't think he does. 

He was, and still is, very smart. He was a little on the dorky side, and small for his age. A late bloomer, if you will. 

I rounded a corner in the gymnasium, and I saw this kid pushed up against the wall with a bigger guy than me shoving him backwards and asking him if he wanted to fight. The bully may have been bigger than I was, but he was younger than me. You know the type. Hormones in the chicken and being held back several years had made him a 6'3", 250 lb. freshman. 

It's no secret on this blog that I hate confrontations. I always have. But on that day, I made a conscious choice to do something about it. 

I walked up to the bully, shoved him back, got in his face and said, "Hey man, why don't you pick on someone your own size? How about me? I'll fight you. I'll fight you right now." 

Of course there was a smattering of profanity interwoven into those sentences for effect. 

The bully, so eager to fight moments before, lost any courage he previously had and walked off, giving me a not so courteous goodbye. 

That's when the teacher rounded the corner. He'd heard the whole thing. 

The teacher and I locked eyes, and there was a very uncomfortable moment of silence where I was absolutely positive he was making up his mind to send to detention, and then he spoke. 

"Thank you, Travis. Someone has needed to that for a long time." 

And he walked away. 

I was left alone, the justified hero, and to this day, it was one of the finest moments of my life.  


Monday, June 11, 2012

Parenting With Cryostasis.


We all know I'm pretty new to this parenting thing. We've had our children for just a bit over a year now, and I'm constantly reminded (particularly by my mother) that there is a lot more to learn.

But there's been a breakthrough. I have news, y'all. The kind of news that you see at first and you think, "Oh wow, that's awful," but then you secretly try it later just to see if I'm serious. And it turns out, that even though what I'm about to tell you is based on common knowledge, I haven't heard of it being used before. This has led me to two different conclusions.

1. What I'm doing is groundbreaking and I should receive a Nobel Prize for it.

or

2. What I'm doing may in fact be slightly illegal and I'll be put in jail for it.

At this point, I'm really wanting to lean towards that whole "Nobel Prize" thing. Mostly because I don't think I'd do well inside the prison industrial complex. I'm not a fighter, and in prison, you're either a fighter or you're the guy the others guys fight over and then proceed to Andy Dufresne the mess out of you in the shower, in the movie projector room, or out by the tool shed.

"I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight and the Sisters let him be." 
I just want to chase a quick rabbit. If you read the rest of this blog in Morgan Freeman's voice, I really think it might soften the impact of the incredible news I'm going to share with you. So go on, get in character. I'll wait. 

Alright, so the other day, our children went out back with our niece to swim in one of those little turtle swimming pools that are about three inches deep and have a tiny slide. We've all seen them. It's the kind of pool that white trashy people put in their front yard right out by the street and let all the neighborhood children come pee play in. I'm proud to say my brother keeps his in the back yard. 

About twenty minutes into the "swimming," our son comes up to the door, and he's shaking like a Republican in a Pentecostal church. The Missus immediately runs to get him a towel, yelling something like, "He'll catch his death of the cold, bless my soul!" Apparently, seeing a shaking child turns my wife into a housewife with big skirts from a 1960's TV sitcom. 

I, on the other hand, observed the situation. I noticed the fine details. Mostly, I noticed the fine detail that our son wasn't talking for the first time in two weeks. He couldn't talk. You could tell he wanted to talk, he wanted to talk about leaves, and why he was cold, and tell us that he knew a bunch of stuff, and colors, and all the scuttlebutt down by the "pool," but he couldn't. He was shaking too hard. 

Something in my mind clicked. 

Then, The Missus rushed by with a towel, muttering something about the vapors, and wrapped her precious baby up in it, drying him off, and showing him all the love that she used to have for me. 

And my brain just kept right on spinning. 

"Travis. Hey, Travis. If he can't talk when he gets cold, this could mean a whole new dynamic in car rides. You've got to do some research here, Sloat. You have a responsibility to God, the people of the world, and your sanity to do something about this. If you don't, you'll go to your grave never feeling like the successful person I let you think you are." 

So I searched for the opportunity to research. 

It just so happened that yesterday after church, it was just the children and I in the car driving home. We got in, and they were so excited, their little heads filled with bible stories, and their little endocrine systems full of sugary drinks. They just kept talking. Talking to me, talking to each other, talking to themselves, it didn't matter. They just wanted to talk. 

Just another aside, but they are ALWAYS talking. I think, and this is Travis Sloat being real here, that this has got to be the worst thing about kids. They constantly talk. When we first got them, I thought, "Man, this will keep my conversation wit quick." Now, a year later, I'm trying to watch a National Geographic special on Blue Whales, and the announcer says, "This, a Blue Whale, is the most majestic creature on the earth, and also the largest, with a length of about 30 meters and a heart the size of a small car." And I'm thinking, "Wow. A car." And our son, our wonderful, precocious son, is sitting there, soaking it all in, and I'm thinking, "I'm a dang good parent, letting our kid watch this kind of nature stuff." And then I realize that if there are animals, and this is NatGeo, that sooner or later there will be a mating scene, and I'm not quite sure if I'm ready to deal with that just yet, and our son, he just looks at me, points at the TV, and says, "I know what that is, that's a Blue Whale. It's majestic." 

I KNOW YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS! IT JUST TOLD YOU WHAT IT WAS! DOES YOUR BRAIN SHUT DOWN WHEN YOU STOP TALKING? IS THAT IT? IF YOU KNOW SO MUCH, DEFINE MAJESTIC! CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE ME AT LEAST TILL THE MATING SCENE BEFORE YOU TALK!? 

100% disclosure? Their talking will be why I die at forty.  

But back to the car after church. They're talking, and they won't shut up, and I think, "Now would be a great time to test this theory I have." So I crank the AC up full blast. 

The only way this eventually works is if The Missus isn't in the car. Anytime I turn the AC on with her in the car, she just looks at me, rolls her eyes, and either turns it down or shuts her vents off. Meanwhile, I'm sweating like I just ran a 5k. 

So the AC is on, and nothing is happening. Of course, it's 98 degrees outside, so I have to give it a minute. Finally, the car starts cooling off to the point where it's getting chilly. Still, the talking continues. 

Then, the staccato pace turns to a heavy machine gun pace, and I think, "Is this working?" 

As the car nears a temperature rivaling that of a walk-in food storage freezer, the conversation grinds to a halt like a car running out of gas, and stops suddenly. 

I can't believe it. I looked back, and both of them had just stopped talking, almost mid-sentence, and were SLOWLY FALLING ASLEEP. 

"So there was this one guy, named Jonah, and he was...umm...mmmfdhjalfda...nnnn."
Folks, I don't have to tell you how big of a breakthrough this is. Houses will be permanently chilly, cars will be filled with dry ice on long road trips, and schools will have classes outside in the winter. It will revolutionize the "children should be seen and not heard" sentiment of generations past that somehow got lost, for which I blame Barney. 

Of course, there are still side effects to consider, such as an increased tissue budget, as well as an increase in cold medications. But you have to ask yourself. "Is a quiet child worth a little hypothermia?" If your answer is yes, then I suggest you start your own research. 

I just have to make sure it isn't actually child abuse first.



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Game of Parking.


The morning was fair, and redolent of promise. It carried with it the hopes of a new day, not yet crushed by entering the building where I work. There was joy, there was laughter, and there was good music on the iPod. The day would eventually bring great things - incredible things, actually - but they hadn't become a reality at this point.

I pulled into the parking lot, and I watched as a woman attempted to swing a minivan into a parking spot that was lined up for a car coming a different direction. When she was finished with her fantastic parking job, this is what it looked like. 

Navigating a Toyota minivan is tough.
As you can see, the spot directly next to her is virtually impossible to fill, unless you drive a Prius, or a motorbike, or you roller skate to work. And that just so happened to be the spot that I was lining up to get into. You see, I was going to be parking appropriately, not trying to go against the grain. 

I stopped, and I watched as her reverse lights came on. 

"Oh! She's realized the error of her ways, and she's going to correct it," I thought. "What a wonderfully nice woman. She is truly one of the people that make our society a great place to live. I shall wait for her." 

Then the reverse lights shut off with no further movement from the vehicle. 

"Surely she will see the error of her ways, and surely she'll see me waiting for the parking spot and fix this egregious error shortly." 

A few minutes passed, me still waiting, her still parked incorrectly, and so I gave a polite "Hey, I know this sounds douchey, but you're parked like a jackass and I'm a bit late for work so if you could just nip on over and take care of this mockery you call a parking job, we'll all be fine" honk on the horn. 

Nothing. No response. 

And still I waited, contemplating my next move. Would I have to have an honest to God face-to-face confrontation? And then I decided, I would exit my vehicle and politely explain to the woman the error of her parking ways. 

"But Travis," you might be asking. "Weren't there like, eighty-two other parking spots besides the one you wanted?" 

The answer to that is a not so simple yes. You see, there were other parking spots. But the point is, this lady needed to be taught a lesson, and it had been ordained and handed down by a higher power that I was to be the one to teach it. 

As I got out of the truck, I saw a man exit our building and head towards the vehicle in question. 

"Oh! Thank God, he's getting in, and they'll leave, and all confrontations will be avoided." 

You see, I'm still a pantywaist, in even the most minor of situations. Just call me Sam Tarly. 

The gentleman got in the vehicle, and...

...it just sat there. 

And sat there.

And sat there. 

I waited another good five minutes before I worked up another set of balls courage to go over there and ask the woman to move so I could park. At this point, I'm about fifteen minutes late for work, and something had to give.  

So I got out, walked over, and explained the situation to her. She was not at all polite in her reply. 

"You know what, go park somewhere else. There are eighty-two other parking spots. Go use one of those." 

"Yes ma'am," I retorted. "But what you've done is actually narrowed it down to eighty-one, and it just so happens I was waiting to claim the one next to you." 

Then she laughed in my face. 

Oh snap. 

I walked into the office to figure out what my options were. Turns out, I had no options. So I announced to the entire office that I would be in a stand-off in the parking lot if they needed me, and I returned to my vehicle, ready to stay this out for the long haul. In the meantime, I tried about six different times to call a supervisor to apprise them of the situation, and couldn't reach any of them. 

So I sat there, and I waited. 

I really wish this story had a more dramatic conclusion, but in reality it ends with me giving up after thirty minutes, taking a bunch of pictures of their vehicle to try and see if I could get her fired from whatever job she had, the dude in her van taking pictures of me taking pictures, her calling me a "f***ing idiot," and both my supervisors making a trip down to my office to make sure I was "calmed down" and to write me up. 

That's right, I got a write up. 

I won't get into the details, but apparently the situation could have been handled differently. Who knew? 

In the Game of Parking, you win...or you get wrote up.  

My Photoshop skills are really developing nicely.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Memoir Monday: The Road That Isn't There.


"When you get there," said The Missus, "and you're looking at the ocean, it doesn't matter how bad of a trip you had. You just feel peace. Everything just melts away."

Reagan chimed in next.

"You mean like the turnpike?"

Everyone laughed, but I was the only one who felt a small twinge in my brain, reminding me just how close I'd come to the edges of my sanity after a fourteen hour road trip and a road that wasn't there...

A long time ago, I had a thing. That thing? It was called "Memoir Monday," and it was huge. It was my baby, and I let it die when I took a blogging break. I'm not saying my baby has come back to life, but I thought I'd give it a bit of the ol' CPR and see what happens. I'll make a new button later. For now, enjoy this memoir, and maybe think of your own, for the time may come where I'm asking for link ups again. 


The story really should start with Voxer. I'm sure some of you have heard of this app. Basically, it's a walkie talkie that enables PTT (push to talk) on your iOS or Android device. You select a friend or group of friends, hit the button, and boom, you're talking with them.

So when I suggested to the families going with us on our vacation that we should be using walkie talkies to communicate instead of cell phones, this is what was suggested.

"Travis, just download Voxer. It'll work great. We don't have the money for walkie talkies."

Now I've been avoiding the Voxer for one very good reason. I hate talking to people on my phone. I hate phone calls. Text me, email me, Facebook me, Twitter me (heh), but DO NOT call me. I simply hate your voice. It's not just you though, it's everyone. Call it a quirk, whatever.

So I download Voxer, thinking, "Alright, I'll get it for the trip, and then delete it, and no one will know."

I could not have been more wrong. Fifteen seconds after I download it, my phone chirps at me.

"So and so is now voxing at you!"

That's how I looked at my phone when that happened. 
Then I get another Vox. Then another. Turns out, eighteen million folks got a notification when I downloaded the app. So, thanks Voxer, I see privacy is really high up on your priority list.

After finally getting everyone to shut up and leave me alone, it was time to head out on vacation. 

Fourteen hours and six thousand Voxer beeps later, we get to Florida. 

It wasn't all bad. At one point, we had this idiot from Georgia that thought she'd tuck in with our convoy and use us as cop protection, and we used Voxer to communicate how to get her top speed down to about six miles an hour. That was fun. 

It also came in handy for bathroom breaks, pit stops, lunch plans, etc. 

But as we drove into Florida, things sort of hit a breaking point for me. 

Our GPS told us to take a turn to go get the keys for the condo. This was a turn no one else was making, but it was our GPS, so we trusted it. 

We drove about two miles in the COMPLETE WRONG DIRECTION before our GPS said, "Oh, that's my bad, you're going the wrong way, make a legal u-turn and let's go get those keys." 

Meanwhile, my Voxer is making more noise than two cats making the sweet, sweet love under your windowsill on an otherwise completely calm night. 

I was occupied with the driving task, so I was ignoring it. Then I was mad because our GPS is dumber than a bag of wet hammers, and so I was ignoring it. 

At this point, I still trusted my GPS. I was mad at it, but hey, I get mad at The Missus, and I still trust her, right? 

So when our GPS told us to take a turn to get on the turnpike, I did it without asking any questions whatsoever. I was slightly pissed about spending five bucks to cross a friggin' bridge, but I was ready to get to our destination. 

About that time, the Voxer set a new record for most Voxers in a second. My phone was chirping like a bird with a  squirrel in its nest. 

I made a final turn to get on the turnpike...and the road was gone. 

There wasn't a road. 

My GPS, God love her, was saying, "Hey man, just go straight. You're so close. I can feel this road. Just two seconds further, we're there." 

The road wasn't there.

The Voxer, at this point, had burned through about sixty-five percent of my battery just with the noises it was making. 

Folks, I'm sorry to say, I lost it. 



I opened my eyes slowly, I looked at my wife, and I said, "How big is that sidewalk?" 

"Travis...you're going to tear my car up..." 

I reached down, grabbed my phone, and turned it off. I pulled slowly back onto the road, and I found the turnpike. 

The Missus picked up her phone. 

"Umm...hey. Yeah, guys? Travis is really, really mad right now. He has his phone turned off. If y'all need something, can you just call me? That'd be a lot better right now. We'll be there in a few minutes."

As I rolled to a stop at the turnpike toll booth, I looked politely up at the gentleman who took my money and asked, "Hey man, how many people do you have a day come through here that are pissed about that road that doesn't exist?"

He replied, "I can't even count, man."

I stared at him for a couple more seconds, honestly contemplating how much trouble I'd get in for dragging him from that booth, and beating him mercilessly to the rhythmic beeping of Voxer while screaming, "MAKE A SIGN! MAKE A $#$#*$#&()%$# SIGN!" And then I drove off. 

We finally pulled up, an hour later, keys to the condo in hand. I looked at everyone and addressed the situation. 

"If y'all will give me till tomorrow without talking about this, I'll be fine. I just need to calm down and see the ocean." 

Everyone quietly looked at me and nodded their heads. 

Then Reagan. Dear, sweet, Reagan...looks at me with a straight face and says,

"Was it the turnpike?"

And it turns out, all of them had done the exact same thing, and all those Voxers were them trying to tell me not to take that road, because it was the road...the road that doesn't exist. 


I still have Voxer on my phone, but I probably won't talk to you on it unless you have a foreign accent or you're a celebrity. I keep meaning to delete it, but I've never gotten around to it. Seriously though, just text me. 



Friday, June 1, 2012

The Walk: Part Two.


From "The Walk," a blog I wrote about two years ago.

"There are lots of walks that people make in their lifetime. Some are important, some are not. Some of those walks are tougher than others, and some seem like they take forever, because you know you can't wait to have what's at the end. Some are painful, some are joyous. Some are profitable, some will end with you losing everything."

Today I want to talk to you about another walk I recently made.

I am convinced that there is a serenity that comes from floating in the ocean that cannot be achieved by doing anything else. Maybe it's because I live in a landlocked state, or maybe it's just something that I feel. Regardless, our story begins with me, floating in the ocean, and listening.

My family was with me as I peacefully reflected on thoughts of life, the Universe, and everything. Aven was splashing around with Jennie, and Keeli and The Missus were floating as well, but I could tell they were involved in a deep discussion. They passed within earshot, and through a lull in the breakers, I overheard my wife telling our daughter about Jesus.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."
 -Proverbs 31:30

Keeli has been asking questions about the Lord's Supper and baptism quite frequently, and we've been doing our best to answer those questions without using the phrase, "You have to be a Christian first." You see, I don't want our children to think that they need salvation simply so they can eat crackers on the last Sunday of the month or take a dip in the baptistery. I want them to know they need salvation for the right reasons.

I paddled closer for a listen, and then I realized that I needed to be praying for the whole situation. It wasn't too much longer before The Missus said, "Well, let's go get your daddy and we'll go have a talk." Then she looked at me and said, "Travis?"

"I've been listening," was my reply. "Do we need to go up to the condo?"

"Yes."


And so began The Walk.

I walked through the water, praying feverishly. "Lord, give me wisdom. Lord, please give me wisdom. Lord, please don't let me screw this up."

My toes hit the beach, and then the powder-fine white sand. My wife and our daughter in tow, and still I prayed. "Lord, it's been way too long since I've lead someone to salvation, or even used words to witness to someone face to face. Please give me the words she can understand."

The sand turned to wood, signaling the closeness of our destination. Just a few more steps. Likewise, my prayers turned as well, to thanks. "Thank you God, for a wife who can effectively minister to our children. Thank you for Jennie and her family, who have been stoic Christian examples in the turmoil of their lives. Thank you for this gift that You've given us that I have the privilege of sharing with our daughter."

And then we were there. We walked through the door, and I grabbed my Bible and told The Missus to give me a minute to myself so I could prepare for this. She nodded, and I walked out on the balcony, hit my knees, and repeated everything I'd prayed in the last five minutes.

On June 28th, 2003, a door opened, and my bride to be walked through, radiant, beautiful, and a gift from God.

On May 20th, 2011, a door opened, and our children jumped out and ran to meet us, radiant, beautiful, and gifts from God.

On May 25th, 2012, another door opened, and my wife and daughter walked through, radiant, beautiful, and absolutely gifts from God.

They sat beside me, and I started asking Keeli questions about her knowledge of salvation. I made it two sentences in, and I started crying. Keeli, the ever-empathetic child, started crying as well. It took a few minutes, but I finally explained to her that I wasn't sad at all, I was happy, and very proud.

In the end, we joined hands and prayed together as a family, and our beautiful daughter accepted Christ as her Savior. I promised her we'd talk to our pastor about baptism, which is something we're going to do this Sunday. I fully plan to be the one to baptize her, and I fully plan on being the biggest blubbering mess in the world whenever I do it.

And so The Road continues, and so do The Walks. For our daughter, this walk has consisted of being a baby born to a twelve year old kid, a six year walk through hell on earth, the life changing event of being given to new parents, and now securing a spot with Jesus in eternity.

I'll never understand why they went through what they did, and I'll never understand why we've gone through what we have. All I do understand is that the Lord has a Plan, and it's a plan for good, and not evil. A plan to give us hope, and a future.

And this little family He's given me is the best Plan I could have ever asked for.

We are His.