It’s Just a Game! – An Impromptu Guest Post

If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.

~ Chinese Proverb

Since I’ve been in a confessional mood lately, here’s a little nugget that may surprise you:

I’m lazy.

Too lazy to sit down for even a few quiet moments and write a blog post for this here space of ours. Oh, I’ve got ideas aplenty. Just none that have gelled into anything resembling coherence and poignancy.

Shocking, I know.

So, as it has been as of late, it’s Twitter to the rescue!

That’s by Twitterbuddy @bubblewench. Known in her human form as Shannon. Her tweets about random nonsense are the highlights of my otherwise routine days. If I need a chuckle, she provides. And there she sat, bored to tears. So I made a proposal: How about writing a blog post for me!

Yes, I’ve resorted to outsourcing The Cheek. But just for today, I promise. Until the next time, I pinky swear.

So, my preface at an end, I present Shannon and her burning question for sports lovers everywhere . . .

I’m not an ‘on demand’ blogger. And I’m definitely NOT a writer like Brian is. Trust me. He can put sentences together like no ones business! Me, I’m a rambler, not a writer. But yet, here I am. Why the heck not is what I figured.

Since this is a guy’s blog, I’m going to talk sports. Specifically WTH is wrong with you guys and your stupid sports??

I guess I ponder this regularly because my husband, Scott, is a sports freak. I mean freak-of-nature type sports freak. I know he’s not the only one out there, so that’s why I’m tackling this topic.

Let’s see if I can work this seasonally…  Starting with now, the end of Hockey season.

Hockey is in the playoffs. It’s the Flyers vs. Blackhawks. Scott & I are both homegrown PA, right outside of Philly. I left PA for 11 years and lived in Oregon, but being a Philly girl at heart, I’ve always been a Philly sports fan. (Even though I still think of OR as home.)

I used to enjoy hockey. Not anymore. I married a man with a Flyers tattoo on his arm. One he’s had for several years. Many years. He also has a cat named Flyer.

God forbid he miss one game. God forbid he not watch the games LIVE. Can’t record them and watch them later. God forbid we have plans and a game is on! I had to cancel dinner plans for this weekend cause of the 8pm Sat. game.

Then there’s the ‘playoff beard’. Seriously? Why guys? What’s with the crazy facial hair growth thing? I’m living with the Caveman guy from those TV commercials!  At least he’s still putting on deodorant.

The freakouts are insane! The bad ones and the good ones. There is still some shroud of mystery surrounding how the last TV got broken, coincidentally during a Phillies game that they were losing.

What’s with all the yelling, screaming, cursing, banging things around? Seriously? It’s JUST A GAME!

Oh and in the meantime, baseball is starting. I hate baseball. Call me un-American. (I always said I should have been Canadian anyway.) I find it extremely boring and long. Every game gets taped to be watched without commercials.

Thank god for multiple DVR’s and TV’s in our home or I’d go nuts, and never get to see the season finale of Lost! (which as of this moment haven’t seen yet either)

Again with the freak outs! The insanity of watching a game that just makes you angry! Why? WHY? If it gonna piss you off so bad, then don’t watch.

Then we have basketball and football coming up. I can’t stand watching basketball cause of the squeak squeak squeak of the shoes on the boards. Like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

Football on the other hand, I’m a die hard Eagles fan. But again, he’s such a freak I can’t even watch games with him! I make him watch them upstairs.

Let the freakouts continue!!!!

I guess I don’t get it. Maybe it’s a testosterone thing. Or an estrogen thing. I look at sports as games. Games that are played win or lose. It’s not going to run my life or dictate my existence. But there are guys (like Scott) whose whole lives revolve around games.

So I want to know guys, are you a freaker like Scott? If so, why? What is the big deal? I really want to understand this and just don’t!

Sports freaks, do your wives/gfriends/partners a favor. Go take a hot shower, shave and get a freakin haircut.

After all, it’s just a game.

For the record, this may be the first post here at The Cheek specifically about sports. Also for the record . . . Shannon neglected to mention NASCAR. Just what the hell is up with Jimmie Johnson this year?! It’s just a spoiler, dude! It’s not like learning how to drive all over again. You and Chad need to knuckle up a skosh and figure that bad boy out, dammit. NOW! Before I throw something at the TV . . .

Oh! Here’s a picture of Shannon. With an alligator. And bright red fingernail polish. She’s badass, I tell ya . . .

[Flickr photo is by mathplourde and is protected]


For Megan . . .

Kevin, a friend of mine and author of Always Home and Uncool, has asked me to post this as part of his effort to raise awareness in the blogosphere of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. Today also happens to be his wife’s birthday. I’m honored to do my small part, joining digital hands with numerous others bloggers, to make this day not one of sorrow but of celebration, for Megan and her family, and I invite those of you who are willing to do likewise . . .

Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter’s cheeks, joints and legs was something he’d never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn’t admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions – none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner – then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn’t know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter’s knee showed signs of an “allergic reaction” even though we had ruled out every allergy source – obvious and otherwise – that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift – a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago – Oct. 2, 2002 – the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter’s first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn’t tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don’t know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter’s condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to or

Out of the Box, Into the Air

In a word, Erika is passionate. About life. Love. Things that matter. And she writes about each, with sentences that sing, at Be Gay About It. In our final guest installment for the “Just A Little Crazy” series, she takes us two miles into the air to teach us a lesson about living with passion right here on sweet terra firma. Take a moment to visit the new Crazy! page to read previous entries in this series . . .

My earliest memory set the stage. In the first part of the memory, I’m wrapped in a blanket burrito-style at age two. I can see through the face-hole that it’s my mom, all nineteen years of her, cradling me as she runs, panting, alabaster against the coal black sky, her strawberry hair ablaze with each whipcrack of lightning.

In the second part of the memory, I’m being unwrapped by my slightly calmer mother on our neighbor’s velour sofa. The room is golden warm and there are pictures of the sweaty, later-years Elvis everywhere.

Two fragments of one event, equally traumatic.

It’s no wonder I grew into the hyper-aroused, hyper-prepared adult that I am today. Caution is an occupation and art form for me.  I walk across parking lots with my keys splayed between my knuckles like a claw. I fill my tank at the halfway mark. I cut my fruit before I bite into it. Thanks to my sixth sense of foresight, I’ve lived a pretty safe life (touch wood). Sometimes, though, my sixth sense of foresight becomes my cross and I need to leave it by the side of the road while I meander off the path for a minute or two or, on especially confident days, longer. These meanderings are few, but conspicuous.

It makes sense, given all this, that my greatest out-of-the-box moment, my boldest foray into crazy, was both planned and prepaid for months in advance, and involved a single engine prop plane, a parachute, and 12,000 feet between me and the earth.

Never, never, never did I imagine that I would skydive prior to meeting my lobster, Jenn. It was on our second date that she showed me her skydiving video; it was during that 12 minute run-time that I fell in love. Not only with her, but with what is possible when risk is given a second glance. In the video, she’s charming and dangerously badass. I held my breath watching her arc out of the plane to Rusted Root’s Send Me On My Way and I wondered what it would take for me to do it, to skydive. We struck a deal: if she could convince my mom, warrior protector of my life, to tell me to do it, then I would. If only foresight had told me that this would be one of those rare times my mom would surprise me.

It’s July 2005. I’m 28 years old. I’m wearing a jumpsuit, a harness, and flight goggles.

I’m scared shitless.

My tandem instructor is Howie. He and the rest of the crew at AtmosphAIR are amazingly Zen human beings; such is their approach to flight. They talk to me about fear management, about letting go, about breathing and being aware. I’m like, “Yeah, okay. Right. Let go. No problem.”

We hike out to the runway and load into the plane. The noise of the propeller is enough to overstimulate me. How in the hell am I going to handle falling two miles to my death?

We taxi, we gain speed, and – lift off!

Howie offers me a Tic Tac (my last meal?). At this point, I’m secured to the plane by one questionable seat belt around one questionable strap on my harness. We’re ascending and I realize what’s about to happen. I make a decision right then and there – I will go through with this. I will leave all my emotional baggage, all my rules, right here in the plane. It will be good. Yeah. It will be therapeutic!

At 10,000 feet, the door flies open. The noise is unbearable. It’s cold and dry and – OH! – my friend Steve and his instructor fall out of the plane! Just like that! Gone! Howie shuts the door and I have serious second thoughts.

But Howie is already walking me through the steps. He’s fastening my goggles. He’s fastening the clips, snuggling our hips together. The engine stills. Howie whispers (shouts?) that he’s going to open the door and then does it. My heart screams out of my chest. Bulls thunder in my ears. Howie tugs on my sleeve. I will not let go of the plane! He tugs again and I think, “OKAY, OKAY, HERE WE –


You can actually see me mouth this on my video.

To be honest, the rest of that jump is a blur. I have the video, which retells the story of a typical freefall, typical parachute opening, and typical landing.

All I remember is being cold and unable to think anything at all.

I’ve skydived five times now. I’ve somersaulted out of the plane, I’ve parachuted through a cloud. I’ve landed on my feet and on my ass. My last jump, however, put me into indefinite retirement; the chute opening was a bit rough and I experienced whiplash (not to mention my life flashing before my eyes at 120 miles per hour). Also, a dear friend who had also been one of my tandem instructors died during a jump last September. It was a medical incident and had nothing to do with skydiving, but it rattles me just the same.

Retirement or no retirement, my initial foray into crazy changed me. I’m much better able now to let go, to find my breath, to mark time without anxiety. I’m better able to forgive and to resolve emotional conflict, internally and externally. I’m at least capable of proceeding without caution.

And while my habit may be to plan like crazy, thanks to my five times out of the box, I’m now just crazy enough to go without a plan.

Once in awhile.

Dude, That’s F***ed Up!

Ed was one of the first “daddy bloggers” I ever read. I was immediately drawn to him because we both have daughters named Zoe. Well, actually, his daughter is Zoë, with the umlaut, because that’s how she rolls. In addition to sharing his generally G-rated tales of fatherhood at Zoë’s Dad, he has also written for the UpTake Vacations Blog, and is a contributor to For the “Just A Little Crazy” series, however, Ed tackles crazy from a completely different angle, and, as you may have gathered from the title, there are salty words and shenanigans aplenty. You’ve been warned! And while you’re here, be sure to visit the new Crazy! page to read previous entries in this series . . .

The only difference between myself and a madman – is that I am not mad.

~ Salvador Dali

I find it particularly telling that when posed the question, “What is the craziest thing you have ever done,” I was unable to immediately call to mind any specific examples. None. I drew a blank. Now don’t get me wrong here. I’ve got a past, a history, if you will. It’s just that quite a few of the details are a bit cloudy.

So I asked a few of my old buddies. “Simple question, guys – what’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done?”

I guess I was expecting a rousing round of “remember when” chock full of juicy examples and tantalizing tales of misspent youth (or early adulthood).

I was expecting them to share stories like . . . “Remember when we were in that car wreck? We were hosting those kids from the missionary choir and they were in the back seat. When we got hit you jumped out and started screaming, like a madman, ‘Oh, you fucked up now, dip shit!’ You stood there just freaking, expecting all of us to be your backup, only to turn around and realize our doors had jammed on impact. You were alone with two of the biggest, baddest dudes I had ever seen and these guys were getting more and more pissed with every obscenity you hurled at them.”

Or a story like . . . “Remember the time we went to the LSU game and decided, ‘What the hell!! The Saints play tomorrow at noon; let’s just go to New Orleans.” You got so drunk at the bar that we just left you. You told us you woke up thirty minutes after kickoff at that stripper’s house. She and her roommate were doing lines of coke off of your penis.”

Or . . . “that time you gambled away the $900 postdated check for the deposit on your brand new Mazda Miata. The Miata you bought before you had found out if you passed your nursing boards. And then you borrowed fifty bucks and won it all back!!”

Or they might have said something like . . . “Remember that time we went egging cars and you threw eggs into the open window of that one car – the police squad car – on surveillance.”

Little stories like these I was expecting. I got nothing. No answers to my e-mails. Maybe I was crazy to think these guys would answer at all. The more likely scenario is that their wives – wives very long on memories, quite short on forgiveness – intercepted the e-mail. They most likely saw my name on an email to their husbands and said, “Oh Fuck No!! You aren’t about to talk to that loon! I don’t care what he wants!!”


So I asked my wife. Straight up just out of the blue. “Honey, what’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done?” Without missing a beat her face lit up, she looked at me smiling and said, “Ooh, that thing. That thing with the beads. And the feather!”

(I kid. I don’t know you guys well enough. And it was Cool Whip, not a feather. I kid, again!)

Honestly, she thought a minute and said, “Well, the story about you going out drinking and gambling in Baton Rouge the night before you sat for your nursing boards and getting stuck on the riverboat until 4 in the morning – (I had no idea it left the dock) – that shit was pretty crazy. I mean damn, Ed, that is your livelihood, your future.”

Then she thought a bit more and said, “You know, there’s still not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t say something to me about the time you loaded up all five kids and drove them across the country by yourself. That was pretty crazy.”

So here’s the thing: I guess I have done some pretty crazy shit in my day. Or stupid. Either way, I just don’t see it that way. I’m just living. I’ve always been the dude that was ready to go. Scenario: A call from a buddy that says, “Dude, we’re heading out to X Marks the Spot. It’s going to be great. You coming?” A typical response: “When are you going? Now? Let me see . . . it is a work night. I’ve got a test tomorrow. I don’t know.”

Pose the question to me and my typical response was, “Pick me up.”

I just did shit other people wouldn’t normally do. Or would fucking wrack their brains deciding whether to do it or not. I don’t consider that crazy. Spontaneous? Sure. But not crazy. I just did stuff without thinking of the consequences.

(To my enormous fortune I now have children and the spontaneity has been significantly curtailed. That, and no one calls anymore.)

Truth-be-told, the majority of the things I do now as a matter of common occurrence most people consider crazy.

Taking five kids to the grocery store would be an act of lunacy to most of the people I know. I’ve got no choice. Why should it be crazy, then? Or what about packing the kids and their bikes up for a day on the trails? Why should that be considered crazy? They’re my kids! We’re a family and families are supposed to do stuff together, right? It’s not crazy. It’s just how it is.

Hell, what do I know?


So you want crazy? All right, here’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done . . .

Long after I was drunk, I continued to drink. Countless times I drank despite my wife having clearly enumerated the consequences for my actions. Severe consequences and I just said, “Fuck it!”

I would load my children into the car after more than several and drive them home. I’d put them to bed with alcohol kisses and continue to drink long into the night, cursing life and my depravity. I was angry with no one. And everyone. For no reason. For every reason.

I continued to drink despite what it was doing to me physically and emotionally. Most horrifically, I continued to drink despite what it was doing to my marriage and my family.

Now THAT is crazy!

(This October 23rd will mark the third year of my sobriety. I still have some issues with lingering anger but have opted instead to treat them with peanut butter. Oh, and for the record, some of the events described above may or may not have actually happened. Details were quite possibly embellished – except for the Cool Whip. That shit is real!)

Wherein I sing with a sock puppet and in front of Ed McMahon

Christine and I go way back to the beginning of The Cheek of God. Her own blog, Flutter, was one of the first I ever read, and with her entry for the “Just A Little Crazy” series, she continues to inspire me . Be sure to visit the new Crazy! page to read previous entries in this series . . .

I can sing.

No, really I can.

The problem is, while I can sing, and well, I get immensely embarrassed when someone asks me to. About a year ago, someone asked me to sing on my blog. I did, but I was so shy for someone to see the absolutely mental faces I imagine that I make when I sing, that I made a sock puppet to sing for me. Out of a cashmere sock. And dreadlocks.


So, there is a voice, hidden beneath a cashmere sock, just dying to be heard. When I was 19 I decided it was time for the world to hear it. I got a ginormous hair up my arse to audition for Star Search. Star. Search.

Ed McMahon.

Cheesy stage lights.

Copious amounts of make-up.

Bad, bad BAD costuming and enough pre-teen squeaky Whitney Houston wannabes to choke a moderately sized horse. Maybe even a big horse, although I haven’t done the calculations as to how big of a tween star it would take to bung up a Clydesdale. Not that you’d need to worry about a tween star being born purely Star Search.

For which I made my friend Jenny drive me to L.A., singing Madonna no fewer than 7034 times. She was a trooper, but to my credit I was on FIRE. Seriously? A 19-year-old white girl, wearing denim shorts, a button down denim shirt (of precisely matched washes) more hairspray than a southern girl’s wedding, and the reddest lipstick allowable by law, singing Madonna, with an entire verse en espanol? SO cross cultural. So fabulous.

[/end sarcasm]

We walked in to the auditorium where auditions were being held and without the benefit of my name or intent, I was given a number to wear when I reached the stage. I sat, watching a group of 6 girls, 3 guys, 2 dogs and a small Volvo do a rousing juggling routine, during which one of the dogs decided to crap onstage.

I shit you not (insert rimshot here).

Said shit was not yet removed, three excruciating acts later, when my number was called. I handed over my background music and took my very denim self up and positioned myself behind the mic. Then, I looked up. Ed McMahon (God rest his soul) was at the judge’s table, drinking coffee and picking his nose (so totally not speaking ill of the dead! It happened!). Literally. With his pinky. I took this to mean he was bored and I better hurry the hell up.

I waited for the music to start and opened my mouth, fully expected a belch, a crack or an “um” to betray my nerves. But, none of that happened. My voice, strong and true and beautiful came spilling out of me. Perfect in pitch and intensity, I rocked it. Until I reached one line.

I should have sang, “Te dijo, te amo”. Which means, “He told me, I love you”. What I sang was “Te dijo, me amo”, which means “He told me, I love me.”

Every Spanish-speaking person in the audience burst into applause and laughter.

Mortification grabbed me by my fallopian and yanked me off the stage, down the hallway and out to Jenny’s car. I didn’t wait to give them my name, I didn’t wait to get my tape of background music. I didn’t wait to get judge’s comments. I just hauled ass. I was at once thrilled with my nerve and mortified with my gaff.

Jenny and I drove home, me barely containing tears and her afraid to tell me that the judges thought I was great and had asked who I was. But it didn’t matter.

For three minutes, I moved. For three minutes, I shook. For three minutes, I let a room full of people see me . . . and I was a Spanish-challenged rock star. For three minutes, I dropped my chains and let the world hear my voice.

I’ve been dying to get back there ever since.