Curing 30 Years One Month At A Time

December 16, 2008

The Fuzzy Ugly That Is Tacky Christmas Sweaters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — 30tocure30 @ 12:52 am

 

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

My wife says I never get into the holiday spirit. She won’t go as far as saying I’m a Grinch, but she is often surprised when I receive actual presents and not coal from Santa every year. Don’t let her know this, but I actually love this season. Yet, it is not for reasons you may think. Mistletoe, candy canes and singing carols are just okay in my book. Coming up with the most random Secret Santa gift that will leave people speechless always makes me chuckle. Another notch up is watching fellow cube mates let loose after tossing back way too much eggnog at the office Christmas party and having to do the walk of shame the next morning.

Don’t get me wrong. As jolly as these things are, nothing brings me more holiday glee then going Tacky Christmas Sweater hunting at the local mall. I always know when it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas based upon how many Rudolph’s and Elves I see plastered across the chest of a wool sweater. It seems like grandmas compete in some sort of twisted game to see who can wear the most ‘festive’ attire.  And by festive I mean snowmen huddled around Santa lying in a manger.

These grannies go to great extremes to hang just the right amount of bells on their outfit so spectators far and wide will hear the ‘ring-a-ding’ and have the opportunity to witness them in all their fuzzy, ugly glory.  There is no way anyone in their right mind looks into the mirror, sees one of these hideous warmers staring back at them and comes to the conclusion that it is a good idea to actually be seen in public. 

Even though the Tacky Christmas Sweater is primarily a female phenomenon, I think it shines light on an ugly habit most men face. I’m speaking of our tendency to act before we think. Rash decisions, irrational behavior, impulse buying, risky habits, regrets and words we wish we could take back.  The root cause of all these actions is a failure to think through the decisions we make. It rears its’ ugly head very randomly, but has a greater propensity to show up in late December.

Take for instance the thoughtfulness most men display when it comes to holiday shopping. If you are in a relationship, raise your hand if you’ve already purchased gifts for your significant other? Anyone…anyone…Bueller? I am assuming that if you are like 99.9% of all men you are justifying your laziness by saying it is only December 16th 

This means you still have eight more shopping days till the Eve is upon us and if all else fails there has to be some random convenience store open Christmas morning, right? When you are visiting the local mall at 9pm on Christmas Eve there will be no tacky sweaters to distract you. This is because the ladies will have long since departed and left the leftovers to husbands and boyfriends freaking out over the ideal gift. Let me fill you in on a little secret: all the ideal gifts were bought back during Black Friday.

Without thinking about style, color or size, you are grabbing any piece of clothing you can find off the rack. One does not need to be a fortune teller to realize the chances are good there will be some bawling going on during Christmas. It will take place either in the morning when she unwraps her size 20 dress in lady of the night red or in the evening from your back reacting to the stiff couch you will be sleeping on for the foreseeable future.

Maybe you vaguely remember how your wife complains about the Shop Vac not sucking up Cheerios off the carpet. You begin to do the touchdown dance as you picture her face lighting up when she opens a huge box filled with a new vacuum. You don’t know how wrong you are my friend. A man’s brain is wired for practical while a women’s is wired for meaningful.

So, for my fellow men that are in the same boat as me, all I can say is you have a little time left to get your act together and pay attention. After all, your fantasy football team has more than likely been eliminated from the playoffs, which should free up the majority of your time anyway.

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December 13, 2008

Free At Last: One Man’s Battle With Contentment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — 30tocure30 @ 11:41 pm

 

 

5 Years, 4 Months, and 1 Day...All In One Banker's Box

5 Years, 4 Months, and 1 Day...All In One Banker's Box

Timing is a strange fellow. It’s funny how a one-year endeavor can quickly turn into a half a decade residence. Not that I have been counting or anything, but over the past 5 years, 4 months and 1 day I have faced an ongoing battle over this idea of contentment. The location of the war zone was a tiny cubicle where a once idealist dreamer could be found filling in meaningless spreadsheets after tedious expense reports over and over again. The battle raged from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday with a short 30-minute reprieve when the weekend warrior grabbed a turkey sandwich at Subway.

Maybe it is just me, but the purpose of life can become very confusing when you spend the majority of your waking hours living inside a square box doing busy work. How is one supposed to think outside the box when they are stuck in a cube all day? There is a prank I regret never pulling off. The trick involved moving the walls of my co-workers cube one-inch closer everyday. Over time, panic and paranoia would be sure to ensue as he tried to convince himself that his cube wasn’t slow shrinking and tightening its’ grip on him.  

Discontentment consuming your thoughts is something I know all to well. Like most men, I’ve always taken great pride in my work and used my job title as a major marker in the foundation of my identity. Yet, when your answer to the question of “what do you do?” causes you to feel uneasy you become restless. Leave a man restless and you are just asking for trouble. He’ll look far and wide for anything to fill the emptiness caused by his discontentment.

The movie Groundhog Day is hilarious when it stars Bill Murray. The laughs instantly stop though if a guy’s life comes anywhere close to resembling the premise of the flick. Sadly most of my days had a wash, rinse, repeat feel to it where I could perform my tasks blindfold due to them being so mundane and repetitive. I’ve lost track of how many times I uttered the phrase “is this really all there is for me…. life wasn’t suppose to turn out this way” while sitting in my cube.

Those days of being a bright-eyed college grad with this crazy idea of changing the world for God has long since faded. When my first ministry position left me burned out, hurt and bitter, I retreated down to Wilmington like a confused puppy with their tail between their legs. My time on the southeast coast was suppose to a blip on the radar screen where I got my bearings back and figured out what God “wanted me to do with the rest of my life.” Since I was attempting to be a responsible adult and pay the bills, I decided to take an administrative desk job during this stretch.  You probably have already put two and two together and realize that temporary quickly became permanent. 

While I was trying to get some answers I ended up with just more questions.  Spend anytime in the church and you hear that God has a plan for your life. I kept praying that he would consider a re-write or Plan B. Heck, I was willing to step in and be the ghostwriter for my own life. Unfortunately or so I thought, I found out God never writes your story with a red pen.

I had to come to grips with Jesus saying he came to give me a “more and better life than I could every dream of” (John 10:10) and the piles of TPS reports I was experiencing. There were days when I thought Jesus’ words were hollow and other times when I clinged to them in hopes that they were true.

Even though I was able to leave my work at the office, the baggage of my discontentment always seemed to follow me home. Luckily, I have a loving wife who knocked some sense into me. Tired of always having to console her downcast little puppy, she finally spoke up by saying “Tony, have you ever considered God might me more concerned about who you are rather than what you do?” Being a thoughtful husband, I rolled over and promptly went to sleep because that wasn’t the answer I was looking for.

Yet, a strange thing happened. Jenn’s words proved to be true. She is now looking over my shoulder as I type saying why did I ever doubt her in the first place. I’ll blame it on being a typical hardheaded male. It’s either that or caused by inhaling way too much White Out. The walls in my cube stopped closing in on me, but began to open up so I could see that there were others in cubicle land that God had placed in my life. Maybe I wasn’t there for the spreadsheets in the first place after all. Contentment is something you learn over time when you understand that your place of employment never defined you in the first place. You could be a doctor, garbage man, athlete, stay at home mom, or janitor. The title is irrelevant. When you allow your masculinity to be defined by God rather than in what you do from 9 to 5, it provides freedom. You no longer find yourself chasing after things to fill the emptiness because there is no emptiness to begin with. A content man is a satisfied man.

December 11, 2008

Men, Get Your Stretchy Pants Ready….Or Borrow Some From Your Pregnant Wife

Filed under: Uncategorized — 30tocure30 @ 10:44 pm

 

The Big A Challenge

The Big A Challenge

I’M INVITING YOU TO JOIN ME ON A TESTOSTERONE TEST

Manly Men eat red meat…mass quantities of red meat actually. The more you can put down in one sitting the greater your legend grows among friends and family. With that in mind, I have decided one of my Testosterone Tests will be a literal gut check: The “Big A” Challenge at Andy’s. 

Here is the challenge: I have 30 minutes to finish 50 oz. of meat on a burger bun, with at least four trimmings, a side of fries and 24 oz. soft drink. If I can consume the entire cow then dinner is on Andy’s. Now, what fun would it be if I did this all alone? So, if any manly men in the Wilmington area want to join me on my quest here is the information on when it will all go down…. and hopefully stay down:

 

Think you have what it takes? Step up to the plate and take the challenge. 

WHO: Any guys who read this blog in the Wilmington, NC area

WHEN: Tuesday, Dec. 16th @ 6:15pm

WHERE: Andy’s on 6815 Gordon Road Wilmington, NC 28411


Where's The Beef?

Where's The Beef?

December 10, 2008

Mom, I Just Got Passed By An Elderly Woman With A Walker…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — 30tocure30 @ 10:25 pm

 

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

A real man knows what he is doing when he gets behind the wheel of a car. They can commit road rage, pull out of a skid, change the radio station and talk on their cell phone all at the same time. Inside every man there is a little Tony Stewart of Jeff Gordon attempting to break free; every man that is except for me. There is a good chance that your grandmother drives faster than I do. I have a tendency to soil myself out of fear every time a big rig pulls in the lane next to me on I-95.

You really can’t blame me for my reaction. After all, unless you count the bodies lying six feet under, there wasn’t another soul around me during my formative driving training. While other 15 year olds were experiencing how to drive the open road on the actual open road itself, my first encounters behind the wheel were in a cemetery where the speed limit topped out at a whopping 15 MPH’s.

The location was my parents doing as they felt more secure in knowing that if I got in an accident the probability of me killing someone was almost 0%. You know, since the parties involved would have long since met Jesus. Looking back on it now, learning to parallel park a car between tombstones probably led to me failing Maryland’s driving test on my first two shots. For those of you who are wondering, this is where the official expression of “third times a charm” gets its’ origin.

Driving at a snails pace in the cemetery, I was able to read the majority of the tombstones near the road. There were some who lived a long life while others time on this spinning globe was cut way too short. Still, each one attempted in a few short words to capture what they wanted to be remembered for: caring husband, devoted wife, lover of life, kind friend, idealistic dreamer, laughed a lot.  Men want life to make sense and to see a grander picture of what their time on earth is for. None of them desires for their life to be just a blip on the radar screen. We want to make an impact that will last long after our years have passed.

I toss and turn at night dealing with this paralyzing fear that I am going to completely blow it when it comes to the precious time I’ve been given. Here lies Tony Ripa…an utter failure. But, the thing is, most of my decisions are based on the right now with little regard to the impact it will have on the finished product. What I mean by this is that my words and actions are largely driven by how I am feeling at the present moment.

One day I will die. So will you. It is inevitable. Stop reading for a second and take a breath. Didn’t last long did it? Now, let the words of Palm 39:4-6 sink in: Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Thinking of the wording that will appear on your tombstone might at first seem morbid, but it also helps one to start to think of the legacy they will leave behind. What will be chiseled on your tombstone?

December 9, 2008

If You Can Dodge A Wrench, You Can Dodge A Ball…If You Can’t Dodge A Ball, Then You’re Like Me In 7th Grade…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — 30tocure30 @ 9:23 pm

 

Let's Just Say I Couldn't Dodge A Wrench

Let's Just Say I Couldn't Dodge A Wrench

No matter how many years have passed I often view life through the eyes of my former 11-year-old chubby self. For as much as I loved chocolate cake, I dreaded 7th grade gym class at West Frederick Middle School even more. My fastest recorded forty-yard dash was the evening they placed a fresh pepperoni pizza on the buffet line at the Golden Corral. Sweat beads graced my dome only on the mornings when I attempted to cram my jellyrolls into the Husky sized Levi jeans my mom bought on sale at JcPenny’s. Let’s just say athletic ability was not necessarily something I possessed, unless you count my wicked jump shot on the Jordan vs. Bird video game as a skill.

When you’re a fat kid with thick glasses and braces, gym period can feel like the shortest and longest 45 minutes of the day all at the same time. On one hand, not much action is going on when you’re positioned in deep right field so you have ample opportunity to reflect on one of life’s important debates: Big Mac or Whopper with cheese. Time seems to fly by as pictures of burgers dance in your head. Yet, if another kid has a mean streak and decides to actually hit the baseball in your direction, life takes place at slow motion speed. While watching the ball soar in the sky, your entire life flashes before your eyes including all of the embarrassing scenarios that will take place once (not if) your butterfingers cause you to drop the ball.  

Shame stings even more harshly when you are forced to wear tight yellow Champion shorts that ride up your butt crack. This doesn’t even touch upon the torment that is the middle school gym class group shower. I’ll spare you all the shrinking details. However, for us portly fellows no horror compares to that of Dodgeball. There is little concern where the fat kid is on the soccer field or basketball court. This changes when the sole object of the game you are playing is to nail people in the gut, head or junk with big rubber balls.

All of a sudden you become the most popular kid in class. Everyone is now wondering where that bright yellow sun of a rump is located. If you wanted to find me, your best bet was to look for the huge mass quivering in the corner. While the athletic kids would go towards harms way by running up to the front lines, my tactic was to retreat towards the back wall. Let those proactive fools take their chances while I play it safe. But, my actions did noting to stop those big balls from whizzing by my head any less. One by one my teammates would get picked off until I stood all alone with my back against the wall. There was a group of blood hungry pre-teens on one side and I was the hunted. Game over.

For far too long, I’ve accepted the lie that life is set and you can’t do much about it. So, you might as well flee to the back wall because at least when you get hit in the gut with one of life’s curveballs the impact will hurt less. Once you become a target you’re not surprised to get hit upside your head on a consistent basis. You grow accustom to watching from the sidelines as life happens. It is easier to blame the man you have become on the circumstances or conditions you face. During my 30-day journey to becoming a man, I’ve noticed how this mindset has crept into the words I speak.

 

“That’s just how I am wired.” (My behavior is predetermined. There is nothing I can do to change it)

“I couldn’t help blowing up. The kids are driving me insane!” (Something outside of my control drives my emotions)

“If she would notice my effort more, then I would….” (My actions are dependent on how others respond)

“There is no way I can do that.” (Why even try if I already know the outcome)

 

There are three major problems that are created when I use this type of language: (1) I no longer become responsible for my actions (2) By feeling out of control, my words become a self-fulfilling prophecy (3) Until I am able to admit my mistakes, there is no chance to grow from them. I am setting myself up for failure over and over and over again. Part of the disconnect is my failure to realize that even though you sometimes have no control over the events that unfold in your life, you do have power over one thing: your response to those circumstances. 

Life is similar to those continuous dodgeball games where when you get hit you aren’t out you just switch sides. Up to this point, when I’ve been blindsided by life I’ve wanted to stay on the floor and just play dead. I’m slowly learning that a man’s character is formed and developed during those times when they are knocked out cold. How will he respond – wave the white flag or jump back to his feet and continue to play?

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