Category Archives: Friends

January Sucks: Admitting Failure & Struggle

The other day I tweeted about how much January sucks:

I think this month is trying to crush me. And then kick me while I’m down. Not nice, January. Not nice.

I was sick for two weeks and it feels like I’ve spent the whole month coughing.

But the bigger issue is the struggle. I haven’t blogged much lately, in part because life seems like such a struggle lately. It’s hard. I feel like I’m flirting with failure and that’s not a popular topic to talk about. It’s not a topic that pulls me to the computer to craft a blog post.

But I think it’s time to fess up and move on.

Life is hard right now. Work has been slow for a while. Bills are stacking up and it’s depleting whatever safety net we had. I’m not saying this for pity. It’s just the way things are. It’s too easy to think everyone else is doing just fine and we’re the ones who are struggling, but I’m sure that’s not the case.

So between work and bills and daddy daycare and a preteen who doesn’t want to be here, it’s hard. I’m struggling.

I keep reminding myself that these are the times that show us what we’re made of. And what am I made of? Do I have what it takes to make it work? Or is this juggling act going to come crashing down? Some days I don’t know.

But we keep on.

My saving grace lately has been a client with a nearly unlimited capacity for low-paying freelance articles. Last week they offered me a section editor position and are putting me on retainer. It’s more work for less money, but it’s steady. It’s not the solution to all my problems (is there such a thing?), but it’s a nice step forward.

I’m also thankful for friends we can lean on. My color-coded Google calendar could trigger a migraine it’s so full. Lots of entries involve friends stepping in to watch kids or loan cars or give us some measure of sanity. We couldn’t do this alone.

I’m also thankful for a smart and strong wife. These are hard times and we need a lot of strength to get through. I’m proud that Abby has both good ideas and insights, but also the strength to buckle down and get through this. Especially since financial stress has to be about the worst kind of stress (otherwise you can throw money at the stress and that at least helps a little bit).

One of the books I’ve been reading lately (Not For Sale) reminds me that no matter how tough life gets, I have it easy. The book tells stories of children ripped from their homes, forced to murder and butcher their friends as they’re turned into child soldiers in Uganda. Or women enslaved in brothels in Southeast Asia and each glimmer of freedom turns out to be more of the same rejection and pain. My struggle would be their cakewalk.

I’m also thankful for babies. A few just born and a few still on the way, lighting up their parents’ lives like electricity. Can’t help but smile at that.

A little perspective always helps. And so we struggle on.

My Friend Adam Bottiglia is a Yo-yo Pro

Adam Bottiglia Yo-yo PackagingYesterday I walked into Walgreens and there it was: “Adam Bottiglia, Yo-yo Master,” right there on the packaging of the Peter Fish yo-yo’s, complete with the video display that also featured Adam getting his yo-yo groove on. You can watch Adam in action or see me show the video to Lexi.

More than just a resurgence of the yo-yo (can I claim to be ahead of the trend?), this is my old yo-yo buddy making it big (if you consider “big” to be featured on yo-yo packaging and in a video loop in an aisle of Walgreens stores across the country). Adam is the guy who taught me how to yo-yo when we were both Petra-loving, Christian T-shirt-wearing geeks. We had a yo-yo ministry in high school (that was even featured in the Detroit Free Press, complete with crazy cool photo). He taught me how to do street performing in Chicago, which made a crazy summer adventure even crazier. He was in my wedding and I was in his.

So you can understand why I think it’s pretty cool to see my friend on the packaging of a yo-yo. I think it’s so cool I bought four of ’em.

You can see more of Adam in action at And check out the yo-yos. $3.99 is dirt cheap for ball bearing yo-yos (back in the day we paid at least $20) and they work pretty good.

Fun fact: Adam and I had the chance to be yo-yo pros back in 1998. As I recall, the Yomega corporation offered us something like $20,000 to be their touring yo-yo pros. Being a freshman in college, that was the equivalent of a year’s tuition and not tempting enough to get us to drop out and become professional yo-yoers (besides, I don’t think I was ever that good). It’s cool to see Adam still chasing the dream.

Mark Horvath on's Mark Horvath on CNN.comMy day started by seeing the face of my friend Mark Horvath on the front page of Mark Horvath is a tireless advocate for the homeless and founder of Earlier this year Mark did a national road trip and spent a day in the Twin Cities, giving us a chance to hang out. CNN did an in-depth feature on his work, including a video and a lengthy article.

It’s a pretty great feature and hopefully a boost to Mark’s efforts to help the homeless. As the article notes, “He isn’t making money from this, but he’s doing this to make a difference,” says Heather Meeker. “You can’t say that about many people.”

Mark has been living on the ragged edge just shy of homelessness himself (again) for more than a year now. He barely pays his bills. He doesn’t have health insurance. His ghetto apartment sounds kind of scary. And yet he treated my wife and I to dinner when he was in town. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s an inspiration.

And he’s not just a jolly do-gooder. He’s fiercely passionate about his cause and will get worked up at injustice, the way we all should. I think he actually allows the things he sees to wreck him, to bowl over his walls and break his heart. Most of us (myself included) can only take so much and we turn away. I’ll admit I’ve only watched a fraction of the videos on They’re just too brutal. But any time I need that shot of reality, I know where to find it. Mark is a constant challenge to my own life of comfort and ease.

It’s cool to see him featured on CNN (getting higher billing than Obama’s announcement that 30,000 troops are going to Afghanistan) and I hope it translates to more support. Right now he runs the site on donations and pays rent with a temp job at a homeless shelter. I’ve actually been shocked that some homeless organization hasn’t just started paying him to run and keep it going. It’d be an incredible investment and a no-brainer marketing move, even if the organization was an invisible partner—I think Mark does that much good for telling the real story of homelessness.

Josh Lewis is LaserMacaroni

This goes out to my good friend lasermacaroni–I mean Josh Lewis–who is now immortalized in a poorly drawn* web comic, Friendly Stegosaurus, and a hilarious Googlebomb. All because he’s no longer the first Google result for his own name.

I am so jealous.

Well, Josh, if you can’t have your own name, at least you’ve got lasermacaroni.

*I should point out that most web comics appear poorly drawn (have you seen xkcd?), but it’s actually a lot harder to draw a comic than you think it is. Trust me, I’ve tried. Of all the get-rich-quick-on-the-Internet schemes, the web comic is my favorite.

Nostalgia, Shelley & Cancer

5th Grade TripI came across a blast from my past yesterday, this lovely photo from a fifth grade class trip. My dorkiness doesn’t so much surprise me. I’m used to that. But it’s the collective dorkiness that’s impressive. At least in hindsight.

While stumbling across the picture, I also came across a story from an old friend. I’ve talked about Shelley before (though reading it now it seems a bit stalkerish–sorry Shelley), but that was before I reconnected with her. She tells the story on her MySpace blog (I think you need to be her friend to read it) of her struggle with cancer. It’s riviting. Nobody my age is supposed to be fighting for their life against cancer. But I guess they are. But Shelley kicked cancer’s ass. And honestly, that doesn’t surprise me. She recently participated in a walk to raise money for cancer, hence the recollection of her experience.

Here’s one small excerpt:

On the drive from my apartment to school for the relay, I started to get teary eyed, reflecting on everything that has happened over the past few years. I was headed to an event that honored and celebrated my survivorship, something that I would gladly give up and never wish upon anyone. Sure, my life is so much more fulfilling after having cancer, but it’s horrible to think that I had to suffer so badly before the good fully entered into my life, or at least into my awareness, as I do believe the good was always present.

As I sit here watching my daughter crush Wheaties with her bottle, such a monumental struggle seems so far away. But it’s not. It always amazes me what people go through, if only we take the time to find out.

ULBC Youth Group Reunion

Speaking of social networking, this week a few friends and I launched a virtual youth group reunion for my old youth group from Union Lake Baptist Church. We’re all spread across the country (Detroit, Chicago, St. Paul, Kansas City, Dallas, Portland, etc.) so a physical reunion seems unlikely. But at least getting together and reconnecting online seems worthwhile.

We launched MySpace, Facebook and Flickr groups (as well as a lame-o web page) and are in the process of getting the word out.

So far we have about 16 people joined up (13 on Facebook, 9 on MySpace, obviously plenty of overlap). I hate using multiple sites like this, but it does enable us to reach more of our former youth groupies. So at least social networking sites are good for something.

Get Out of Yale Free

Having friends move away sucks. Since college we’ve had to go through it a lot. I guess you just have to get used to it.

Yesterday Tim and Nicole moved to New Haven, Conn. so Tim could become Dr. Philosophy, or something like that. I think he gets a cape, too. It’s rough because Tim moved away, then he came back, then he moved away again, then he came back, and now he’s gone again. Doh. Though a lot of that back and forth was really so he could get married to Nicole, and that was worth it.

The past year we’ve hung out a lot. They taught us Settlers of Catan and we taught them Killer Bunnies. We’ve stayed up late. We’ve gone couch shopping. We’ve gone house shopping. We called them at our scariest moments and our best moments. We renounced Satan. We traded a crappy car for a useless air conditioner. We had reached an odd and rare place in a friendship. It became most apparent when we shared meals together, which is a simple act, but also a vulnerable one.

Anyway, they’ve moved off to Yale and we miss them. The hope is that they’ll come back, someday, though it will be a long haul. Yale doesn’t exactly hand out doctorates for free. Until then, here’s hoping for a ‘get out of yale free’ card. Or at least lots of visits and contact.

Godspeed as you two caravan across the U.S. and may your time at Yale be wonderful–and short.


My friend Neals has a post on nicknames. Apparently he doesn’t like them, even the seemingly innocuous Neals. It made me think about some of the nicknames I’ve been called in my life and some of the nicknames I’ve used for others.

With the exception of a few playground taunts, I think most nicknames are terms of endearment. It shows a certain affection and familiarity that I have my own name for you, or a name I share with a close group of friends. Sometimes it’s not the affection you’re looking for or it’s not something you’re particularly proud of, but I think nicknames are evidence of a bond.

I was Nevinin in fourth grade and hated it, though I secretly wanted to ask that girl to dance in sixth grade. I was Jimi in high school, which I grudgingly accepted, though at first I didn’t get it. I was the Jammin’ K-Man to my air guitar buddy Adam, a nickname that came from many Friday night air guitar sessions to Petra.

Continue reading Nicknames

Wove, Twue Wove

Andy and Anna sittin’ in a tree…

In case you haven’t heard, Andy Fast is getting married! I love hearing from my friends who live far away because it’s just great to hear from them, and it usually means something exciting is happening. Go Andy!

Since graduating college and getting married myself, it’s been fun watching the slow and steady matrimonial march among my friends. It’s just cool when somebody finds that perfect girl (or wakes up and realizes she was there all along) and makes the big leap.

Now if we could just convince more of our friends to move back to the Twin Cities we’d be set.