One of the Girls

Lovie and I ran into one of her childhood friends at a restaurant this past Sunday–a woman I’ll call Cindy. Though I don’t know her very well, I’m a big fan. So whenever I see her, I always chat her up. The handful of conversations we’ve had have all been pleasant ones, filled with rapid back-and-forths and sprinkled with clever one-liners. Our rapport is excellent.

“You’re a man of mystery,” she said to me, looking lovely in her Sunday best.

“Oh really?” I asked. “How so?”

“My mom is always asking about you. She wants to know what Lovie’s husband is all about. You know what I tell her?”

“What’s that?” I asked, preparing to greet the series of compliments that were sure to follow with the perfect mix of appreciation and modesty.

“I tell her what a girls’ guy you are.”

Record scratch.

“I’m sorry?” I said, wondering if I had misheard, or if she had actually meant ladies man or some other complimentary moniker.

“I tell her how fun you are to talk to,” she explained. “How it’s just like chatting with one of the girls.”

An awkward silence ensued.

“And that you’re, you know, a real girls’ guy.”

Once concerned Cindy’s comments would render me visibly self-smitten, I quickly downshifted into damage control, hoping only that my expression wouldn’t reveal the fact that my engine was revving with disbelief, if not disapproval.

“I would have gone with versatile,” I suggested, wondering if I had come off as rude as I had feared.

But who could have blamed me. Girls’ guy? I wonder if my camping buddies think I’m a girls’ guy. What about my bookie? Or the rough-and-tumble, blue-collar types who work at the countertop shop I co-own? Or how about Chris Chambliss, the close friend I section hike the Appalachian Trail with? During our annual, week-long trips–the ones spent trekking up and down the sides of mountains, carrying forty-pound backpacks eighteen miles a day–I wonder if he ever looks at me and thinks, you know, as much as I love hiking with Osborne, what I’d really like to do is clutch a hot cup of coffee, plop down a fluffy sofa, and watch The View with that son-of-a-bitch.

Cindy's coming over and we're gonna chat!

I have a question. Since when did being unafraid to banter back and forth with one of Lovie’s all-time faves at a cocktail party suddenly turn me into RuPaul? I’m many things. And easy to talk to is one of them. But does that really make me a candidate to tag along on a weekend trip to Atlanta for a two-day Nieman Marcus bender?

As I drove to work on Monday morning, I replayed the conversation in my head. Maybe I was wearing my sensitive panties, I thought. Perhaps I over-reacted. So I asked my co-worker and close friend Shane Rose.

“Now what did she say, again?”

“That I was a real girls’ guy.”

“Was she serious?”

“Yeah, I think.”

“Buddy,” he responded while shaking his head. “That sucks.”

So much for the sensitive-panties theory.

Next time I see Cindy at a party, I’ll remember to stay on the boys’ side of the room and talk about the stock market and auto parts while belching loudly and occasionally readjusting my gigantic package. I’ll only cross over to the girls’ side to inform Lovie that her cowboy needs a drink.

Bourbon, bitch.

Harsh? Maybe, but I have to be careful not to use too many words or else I might come off all chatty. Wouldn’t wanna give anyone the wrong idea.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go. The Bachelor just started.

Thanksgiving, the Jungle, and a Machete

In 2001, I flew over 100,000 miles, visiting places like Vegas, Tahoe, and South Beach for fun and places like Birmingham, Tupelo, and Macon for work. I was a financial services wholesaler; a white-collared gunslinger, clad in a tailored suit—armed and dangerous with my carry-on, the Wall Street Journal, and a frequent flyer card.

After the first full year at my job, I won my company’s highest honor for sales excellence, the Reach the Peak award—an all-expenses-paid vacation for two anywhere in the world. But in spite of my professional success, I was a personal failure. And while this isn’t the forum to explain why that was the case, I will offer the following. I continuously molded myself to become whatever it was I thought people wanted me to be. In so doing, I had morphed from a person into a persona and was dangerously close to losing touch with who I really was.

I cashed in my Reach the Peak award on a two-week South African tour. It was in that foreign land I began the long process of rediscovering myself. It was there I realized how unfulfilled I was, as well as how much more I wanted from my life. I longed to fall in love, settle down, and have children. I also longed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Finding love and writing the perfect novel weren’t exactly the typical topics my metro-sexual buddies and I discussed while clubbing in Midtown Manhattan, yet I was at a point where I needed to give such concepts the attention they warranted. I knew that if I was really serious about trying to find a more fulfilling life, I needed to change my playgrounds as well as my playmates.

So in April of 2002, I quit my job and blew up my world. BOOM. Done.

In the months that followed, I was lost as a bat. Many couldn’t believe I’d thrown it all away, but I didn’t care what such people thought. I was deep in the throws of a spiritual reawakening, thanks, in part, to a few special friends and a couple of books by C.S. Lewis. (Incidentally, if you’ve not read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, it’s not safe for you to die yet.) I repeatedly pondered God’s will for me, near convinced that it included a wife and little ones, hopeful that it may even contain writing. I constantly prayed for God to show me the way, confident that something would soon reveal itself.

I was wrong.

Eventually, I moved back to my hometown and started a granite countertop business with my sister-in-law. The first two years were sheer hell. I found myself working doctor’s hours at janitor’s pay, much of them in the form of grueling manual labor. My dream of writing? There was simply no time. My dream of finding love? Though I was more true to myself than I had been before, I was still bouncing from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. By 2004, I was officially in a rut, often wondering if blowing up my old world was the right call after all. I grew skeptical that love and family were in the cards for me, but, regardless, I knew that God had something planned and I repeatedly prayed for Him to show me how to find it. Those prayers continued to go unanswered.

Enter Caroline, a girl I had known since 1980, but one I had not seen nor spoken to in over a decade. I was coming off of (yet another) dysfunctional relationship, and she was emerging from the wreckage of an unsuccessful marriage. We formed an immediate bond, and I was incredibly attracted to her. Sadly, however, I knew that our relationship had no future. Thanks to a few different trysts with single moms in my past, there was one thing I was certain of: I was not interested in becoming a step dad. Period.

But in spite of that preconceived notion, I fell madly in love with Caroline. And then something else happened. I fell madly in love with her daughter. Two and a half years later, Caroline and I got married. Thirteen months after that, we welcomed triplets into the world. Once worried that I’d never get married and have children, today I find myself happily married and the father of four. The business that used to suffocate me is now up and running to the point that I’m able to spend more time writing than I ever dreamed possible. Could it be that after all these years, I’m just now on the path that God had intended?

A close friend of mine, Dr. Michael Ruth, recently told me that, to him, God’s will is nothing more than each of us standing on the outside edge of an impossibly thick jungle armed only with a machete and the knowledge that God’s got our back. As I reflect on my journey, I believe my friend is right. God’s will isn’t something that’s magically revealed to you just because you’ve prayed about it. It’s not something that’s laid at your feet. It’s a feeling that’s deep in your soul. And that feeling is what you use to guide the machete as you cut your path through the jungle that lies ahead. That feeling is proof that God does, indeed, have your back. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you’ve got. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you need. The path you forge with the tools He provides is His will.

With Thanksgiving just a day away, I’m thankful for my beautiful wife, my four children, the successful small business I co-own, the time I’m able to spend writing, and the indescribable happiness all those things have given me. Not so long ago, it seemed unlikely that I’d be in such a spot. But I guess I just kept hacking away until I found them. I’m not naïve enough to think that my work is through, for I know how easy it is to get lost in the jungle. As I continue to forge my way, I’ll continue to uncover countless new challenges and will undoubtedly find myself lost as a bat again and again.

And daunting though that may be, it doesn’t change one simple fact. This Thanksgiving, above all else, I’m most thankful for the One who put me on the outside edge of this impossibly thick jungle. For without Him, the machete, and the feeling He placed deep within my soul, I would never have found any of the other wonderful things for which I’m eternally grateful, nor would I be able to continue making my way through His beautiful jungle.

Happy holidays, everyone. God Bless.

What Happens in the Bathroom Stays in the Bathroom

Caroline, is that you?

the triplets get their bath on

Have you ever tried to give three babies a bath at the same time? And if so, have you ever pulled it off successfully? (he asked with hope) Because if you have, Lovie and I would like some pointers. All we seem to be getting are floaters. And as far as we can remember, there’s no nursery rhyme that reads “Rub-a-dub-dub, a turd in the tub.” The first time the aqua deuce reared its ugly head, my neat-freak wife nearly fainted before finally pulling it together and embarking on a thorough, house-wide search, but alas, not one single biohazard suit could be found.

“Who did it?” I asked, as I corralled the kids while Lovie drained the tub.

“How in the world should I know? There’s three of them.” She had a point. Figuring out which of our triplets was the defecating daredevil was, at best, a crap shoot. (sorry)

The next night, it happened on my watch. Though I didn’t see anything that would incriminate any of the three, I immediately ruled out Peanut, if for no other reason than the mere thought of my sweet baby girl taking a shit in the bathtub was enough to make me move in with my therapist for the rest of my life. So I focused on my boys. I had a feeling it was Monster. After all, his body of work was clearly that of a little joker. I tried to stare the truth out of him, but he just stared right back with a wise-guy grin that said Prove it, big boy. So I set my sights on Biggs. And he… splashed me in the face. I had to come to grips with one simple fact—I had no leverage. And without it, I’d get no scoop on who dropped the poop.

Luckily for us, Monster, Biggs, and Peanut love baths, and the abrupt conclusions of said baths due these unidentified efforts soon rendered such efforts obsolete. Relieved, I thought that our scatological nightmares were behind us. That is until the boys made a little discovery.

Ah, the penis. Fascinating extensions of both man and mankind, no? Without them, it’d be impossible to create any more of these intoxicating flaps of skin. But, perhaps even more importantly, without them, Monster and Biggs would have nothing to relentlessly yank on during bath time. Peanut? She plays with plastic a rubber Dora toy. Monster and Biggs? They’ll play with their ding dongs, thank you very much.

One night, much to my chagrin, one of our boys—child privacy laws prohibit me from naming which one—reached down and pulled the other’s crank with the force of an Olympian anchoring a tug-o-war team. (And I thought the image of Peanut pooping in the tub would require lots of therapy…) After the aggressor finally relented, the two seemingly made peace and spent a few more minutes playing (with toys) before we finally got them out. I dried off Biggs as Lovie went to pull Monster out of his porcelain playground.

Look at him,” I said of our firstborn, his lips a never-before-seen shade of purple.

“He’s just cold,” said Lovie.

“I don’t know, babe,” I protested. “If my weenie was turned into Stretch Armstrong for thirty minutes? I’m pretty sure my lips would turn purple, too.”

Eventually, even the tugging of wankers ran its course, and, wouldn’t you know it? The baths became easier to negotiate, so much so that one night Lovie felt it safe to leave me in charge of manning the tub solo. Things were going smoothly until I realized that I had forgotten the diaper rash cream. It was in the kitchen. Fearful to leave the wee threesome in the tub alone, I decided to get them out and dry them before dashing to the kitchen and back to retrieve the ointment. Ten seconds. What could possibly happen?

I rushed back in the bathroom to find Biggs letting loose a relatively impressive stream of urine. On his sister’s left foot. So I did what any dad would do. I picked up my little girl and dunked her left leg in the toilet up to her knee. Don’t

wait til this clown sees what we've got planned for the shower. see ya!

worry, all you germ freaks out there. I chased it with a wipe.

I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that my harrowing bath-time experiences have not jaded my emerging and ongoing fatherhood career. But they have got me thinking long and hard about showers. I’m mean seriously, comparatively speaking, don’t they sound like a lay-up?

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