So, it’s Christmas again….

Back in 2013, the following was one of my first ever blog posts.  It still holds true for me today.  At this time every year, I hold up a figurative glass to all my fellow compadres who are stuck in the retail sector.  These titans of Christmas risk life and limb to bring joy and wonder to young boys and girls all over this great nation (and sometimes dogs, seriously, dogs…).  Whether warning of the dangers of bb guns (“You’ll put your eye out, kid!” – A Christmas Story) or getting yelled at by an overeager, too-tall elf (“You sit on a throne of lies” – Elf), there is no end to the dangers and responsibilities of being a retail Santa Claus (I mean, you’ve got the hopes and dreams of small persons in the palm of your hands!).  So, enjoy the below description of what it’s like to wade into the dangerous (and smelly!) pool of being a retail Santa Claus!

Now that the Christmas Season is upon us, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on a time in my life that quite possibly could have ruined my Christmas Spirit.  Many moons ago, I was working for a major retail store who shall remain nameless.  During my short time there, I was asked to do something that I had never done, nor will I do again:  Play Santa Claus.  That’s right, I was Santa Claus.  Now, let’s be honest, while I’ve never been a small guy in stature (so I had that going for me),  I would never have considered myself “Jolly,” or even a fan of holly.  I think that this was some kind of bizarre hazing ritual that the guys that were in salaried management decided would be the perfect way to test my dedication to the cause of retail.  So here’s the deal, no matter what the guy in the red suit looks like, please know, he’s rarely a happy camper.  Here’s a few things I didn’t know would happen, but did and gave me a new perspective of retail Santas everywhere (and  if you are guilty of any of these, I’m sorry, I can only speak from the perspective of the guy in the suit…..that nasty suit…):

1. The suit is nasty.  If you’re lucky, they washed it from the year before.  If you’re not, it has sat in its own stench for 365 days before anybody gets it back out of the “Santa Bag.”  In my case, I hadn’t been there for long and didn’t even know who had worn the suit prior to me.  Then, as the week (at least that’s how long this ordeal was forced upon me) progresses, it becomes worse and worse.  For me it was eight hours a day for a full week, with no way for it to be cleaned (because you can’t wash it – it’s DRY CLEAN ONLY and you can’t take it home because its store property).  Most days you’re lucky if it receives a Febreze bath.  Seriously, the suit is nasty, on the border of unsanitary, and in some cases, across the border and so far from it, the border is just a gleam in the eye of wishful thinking.

2. Most small children don’t like Santa, unbeknownst to popular belief.  Sure, I had kids hop up in my lap that would immediately blurt out 15 things that they wanted for Christmas, fulfill their duty as good Christmas wishers, but lets be honest, I don’t remember any of those.  What I do remember is all the moms that forced their young children into the lap of a stranger to take a picture only to have them scream at the top of their lungs because they had been forced into the lap of some large, red, stranger.

3. Old ladies turn into Dirty Old Ladies in a heartbeat.  Maybe it was just because of  where we were living at the time, but it felt like every older lady that came through wanted a chance to sit in Santa’s lap and get a picture and kiss him on the cheek.  Needless to say, it was beyond awkward for me.  I was 24 years old at the time, and I think they just jumped at the chance to dance around in the lap of somebody that young.

4. The suit is nasty.  I just thought that needed reinforcement.

5. No Santa wants to take pictures with your dog.  SERIOUSLY.  I know its fun for you to watch Fido crawl up in somebody’s lap for a picture, but again, this is a contributor to the suit stinkage (and if that’s not a word in any other context, it is here).  If you are going to force some poor schlub into taking a picture with your animal, please, please, please, please, have the decency to a) wash the thing before you come and b) make sure it won’t pee on said Santa.  That is a definite cause for you to receive coal in your stocking, possibly even something less useful…

6. The suit is ridiculously hot.  This is the true reason for Santa’s rosy red cheeks.  Personally, I have never had rosy cheeks, that is until I put that suit on.  As soon as you put on two layers of velvet over anything, it is hot.  I’ve never been sure why Santa chose velvet as his accoutrement of choice, but it would seem to me to be a poorly thought out decision on his part.  I guess when you’re at the North Pole, it might be well thought out, but he definitely was not thinking of all the impersonators that would be voluntold (definitely a not a word, but should be) to bear his likeness.

7. The beard is beyond itchy.  As all you men already know, as you grow a real beard, when it gets to a certain point, it itches….incessantly.  Once you’ve had it for a while, it quits, but fake beards never lose their itchiness.  NEVER.  Seriously, the only thing that could make this thing more uncomfortable, would be if they made it out of burlap.  I had a rash on my face for a week after wearing that beard for so long.  Not how you want to go into the Christmas season.

To all of you recovering Retail Santas out there…I salute you during your recovery time this time of year.  I feel for you and will pray for a speedy recovery as you move past this traumatizing time of year.  To all of you outside of this small brotherhood of tortured souls, please understand that this is not meant as a condemnation of you and your want of bringing small children to visit Santa.  In fact, I encourage you to keep doing that.  Just remember, there’s a guy under that suit that is making all kinds of hot, stinky, awkward sacrifices and he’s doing it for you.  Did I mention that that suit stinks?  Seriously, it stinks.

Baby Driver and my insatiable need for noise…

If you haven’t seen the recent movie Baby Driver (Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Jon Bernthal) I’ll wait right here while you go watch it. Oh, you’re back already? Oh, you didn’t have time to watch it and need a brief synopsis for background of this blog post? I mean, I can do that, but do yourself a favor and watch it sometime (I realize it will NEVER live up to my incomparable description and synopsis, but you really should give the artists their due since they worked SO hard, LOL).  That being said, I guess for this post to continue, I’m going to have to give you a synopsis, huh?  Well, I guess I’ll give the obligatory:


Still here? You’re SURE you’re okay with some minor spoilers? Okay then, I warned you.  Baby Driver is the story of  a getaway car driver named Baby.  Yep, that’s his name.  Well, that’s what everyone calls him anyways.  As a child, Baby was in a car accident that killed his mother that damaged his hearing in a tremendous way (he didn’t get any superpowers, that’s that Daredevil guy and that involved some radioactive materials).  After his accident (which killed his mother and put him on the path toward crime) he found that he had Tinnitus.  Tinnitus is a condition by which sufferers hear a constant high-pitched ringing in their ear ALL THE TIME.  To offset his Tinnitus, he constantly has earbuds from an iPod in his ears playing music, much like his own internal soundtrack.  Let me give you an example with the following video:

Exciting huh?  Kinda funny at the same time?  Well, Kelly and I loved it.  The whole movie is filled with phenomenal choices of music (the tagline of the movie is:  “All you need is one killer track.” – see what they did there?  Track?  Goes for both a race track AND a music track.  Clever, clever indeed).  The director of the movie, Edgar Wright, said that he has always wanted to do a movie where the music dictated what happened.  The music often was the centerpiece and it often felt like an action/musical. It was definitely a mission accomplished.  The movie was high-energy and even contained a love story.

Now that you’re familiar with Baby and his world, that allows me to tell you how it relates to mine.  You see, I have Tinnitus (listen to that in your head like Darth Vader telling Luke he’s his father – Friends, I have Tinnitus – you did it in your head didn’t you?).  Mine is NOWHERE near as bad as Baby’s is in the movie.  Mine is a low-grade, constant, high-pitch.  Some people report that theirs is a crackling, others like a constant crumpling of paper.  Here’s an example of what mine sounds like:

Interestingly, I didn’t even know I had it.  Kelly and I were at home one evening and the subject of silence somehow came up.  During that conversation I said something to the effect of, “You know, when it’s completely quiet and all you can hear is that really high-pitch noise?”  With a quick look at her face, I knew very quickly that we both had very different views of what silence was.  You know the look, the one your wife gives you when you know you’ve said something that’s not right (I get that look all the time, because let’s face it, I say stupid stuff all the time).  She immediately said something to the effect of “Babe, that’s not how it should be.”  And we began to talk about how I didn’t know that wasn’t normal. At her encouragement, I had hearing tests, which was when I found out that I had Tinnitus.

As far back as I can remember, that has been my version of silence.  That high-pitched sound always permeated silence for me.  I can’t remember a time in my life that it wasn’t there.  I just thought it was normal.  I always thought that silence was a strange word for it when there was still noise involved.  Worst thing about it?  I have NO idea what caused it.  Could be genetic.  Could be over exposure to loud noise (but having remembered it all my life, I doubt that one).  The only thing I really know is, I always knew I didn’t like it.  For those of you that do know me well, you know I have never liked silence.  I ALWAYS have something on.  Some kind of input of sound that is flowing around me.  I always have something on like a TV, or movie playing in the background, but most often, it’s music.  I have an obsession with music.  When I work, I typically have movie scores playing (the collected works of John Williams is phenomenal – from Jaws to Star Wars to Harry Potter, that dude has a firm grip on the greatest movie scores of all time).  These things have always helped me to focus and I didn’t know they were offsetting my condition.  I didn’t realize that I was unconsciously mitigating the sound that is always in my ears.  I found a great description of it from Dr. LaGuinn Sherlock, a clinical audiologist currently researching the effects of tinnitus on concentration, who works with the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). She compares dealing with tinnitus to a candle: “Picture a dark room, if you add one candle to the room, you’ll notice it immediately. If we light a candle in a room full of light, we don’t really notice it.” In essence, tinnitus is a sense of noise that fills a missing gap, even when there’s nothing there to cause it.

Kevin Spacey’s character in the movie describes Baby’s condition as a “hum in the drum”  and that is a very accurate depiction of it for me.  The worst part of finding out about my condition though, is now, I notice it.  It’s great knowing what that sound is when things are silent, but it’s also a curse knowing that it’s not normal.  Now when silence settles in for me, it’s not silence.  I hear IT.  It causes me to have some mild hearing difficulties, like at a ball game, even sitting beside you, I’ll have trouble hearing you.  In a crowded room with lots of noise or conversations, I’ll have difficulties hearing you (and I’m sorry if I just nod my head because there’s times I don’t want to constantly say “What?” or “I can’t hear you.”)  I know that I definitely have it much better than some people that have this condition.  For some people, it’s louder, much louder.  As mentioned before, for some people it’s a constant crackle or static like a radio station you can’t pick up.  Suicide rates are higher among people that suffer from Tinnitus.  Divorce rates are higher.  Crime Rates are higher.  When you can’t concentrate, it generally makes life more difficult.

I realize that there’s a whole lot more going on in life that is much worse than what I deal with in this area.  What I would say is, forgive me in advance if I annoy you with my insatiable need for noise.  It helps me to focus on life.  I don’t mean to annoy you with my constant talk of albums (I’m a collector of vinyl records for the uninitiated and will have another blog post about that soon), speaking with gusto about my latest find, or if I have headphones in, it’s not to shut you out, but rather to help me concentrate on the task at hand.  The noise keeps me going, and that’s okay.

Still interested or interested in knowing more?  Let me know and I can direct you to some great articles.

Getting to know me.

Clearly at this point, if you are here, you have some ties to me. What that means is, you already know some things about me. For instance, you would know already that I am a devout Christian whose love of Christ directs my life. If you know me, you also know that my wife and I are HUGE Green Bay Packers fans. So much so, that for Christmas two years ago, Kelly bought me a share of stock in the Packers (which makes us owners!). I am also unabashedly a lover of movies and all things tech. I figured for the remainder of this post, I would reveal some of my favorite things to you.  These are material in nature, no spiritual value is attached to them in the least.  I figure we will cover that in some other post later in this adventure.

1. Favorite Movie: Shawshank Redemption.  I don’t think there is any other movie, that no matter what I’m doing, I will stop and watch.  Anytime its on TV, or anywhere for that matter, I’m there.  I have read the “novella” that was the precursor to this movie and it was great, but there was just something about getting this as a visual representation of the story that made it all so real.  The acting (great performances by both Robbins and Freeman) draws me in every time.  Everything from the Rita Hayworth poster to the outfits that the prisoners were wearing is a phenomenal picture of what all of it looked like in my mind.


2. Favorite Movie Series:  The Godfather.  Is there any more iconic film series than The Godfather?  Kelly had avoided watching these movies for a very long time, but recently had occasion to watch them with me (well, the first two anyways, and really that’s all there really is right?  I could really leave the third one out completely) and saw just how much these movies had permeated into our popular culture.  It’s astounding to me to see how many people quote these movies on an almost daily basis, and some don’t even realize it.

The Godfather

3. Favorite Sci-Fi Series:  Star Wars.  When George Lucas unleashed this series on the world, I’m not sure that he was prepared for the avalanche of nerd following that was to accompany it.  For me, an unabashed Geek, there is no sci-fi heights that reach higher than Star Wars.  As a kid (and really as an adult too) I could sit and watch these movies over and over again.  The only thing that comes in at a close second for me would be Lord of the Rings…

Star Wars

4. Guilty Pleasure Movie:  Gone in 60 Seconds.  That’s right I said it.  I LOVE this movie.  While the quality is lacking (and let’s be honest, this isn’t an Oscar nominated film), I often find myself drawn to this movie.  From the soundtrack to Nicholas Cage’s swagger, I often find myself watching this movie, or at least having it on in the background while I do something else constructive.  This is another movie that I will watch almost anytime its on.  Seriously, don’t tell anybody about this one…

Gone in 60 seconds

5. I am a shameless Apple Enthusiast.  Its not that I shun the PC, or Windows for that matter.  In fact, both have been very good to me over the years.  I work on a PC.  Its just that for me, Apple is where its at.  I know, I know, I’m an elitist.  I know, I know, I should just get a black turtleneck and go vegan.  Here’s my thing:  It just works.  When I was younger, I didn’t mind spending time digging deep into settings, or spending hours finding the right driver to help get whatever new piece of hardware I had just gotten going, but now, if I don’t have to, I’m not doing that.  I am currently writing this post from my iMac, but I started it on my iPad, and even reread part of it on my iPhone while receiving internet from my Apple Airport Extreme (don’t you just want to yell that word every time you see it?  I know I do.  Let’s try it here: EXTREME!  Yep, feels about right.).  If that makes me a Mac Elitist, so be it.  By the way everyone, you can thank my brother-in-law Sean Warren for convincing me to move to a Mac in the first place.  Thank you Sean.

6. I LOVE the Green Bay Packers.  I know this was mentioned before in this post, but I didn’t feel like you would understand me well if I didn’t reiterate that.  Kelly and I are owners.  Let me let that sink in…..We are owners.  Like I said at the beginning, Kelly purchased a share of stock in the Packers (which is the only Professional sports franchise to be publicly owned) at Christmas last year.  I vote in stockholders meetings.  I watch games whenever they are on TV.  I get updates from Sportscenter on my phone whenever something Packers-related happens.  I get emails from the organization.  I follow as many tweets from players on Twitter that I can.  To say were are fans would be a true understatement.  Thanksgiving this year was time-shifted so that Kelly and I could watch the game (Shout-Out goes out to my in-laws for that by the way – THANKS Mom 2!).  If you have ever watched a game with Kelly and I, know that I apologize in advance for any hearing loss you may incur by being in close proximity to my wife.  Seriously…earplugs could be necessary.

7. I love Photography.  Seriously.  Is there anything cooler than capturing a moment in time and then being able to look back on it.  In my opinion there’s not.  I know, I know, “A picture is worth a thousand words” and all that.  I think that’s true though.  Look at all the ways that we use photography and imagery in general on a daily basis.  Good and bad.  Go ahead, consider it.  Ladies, how many times have you cut a picture out of a magazine and taken it to the salon to get your hair “exactly like that” (fingers pointing at the picture as if having the picture there with you were not enough).  Fellas, I don’t know about you, but before I could drive, I cut pictures out dreaming of the car I would purchase. (Which, by the way, was always a Mustang or a Lamborghini) My brother-in-law, Sean Warren, that dude captures some seriously powerful images.  I like to fancy myself to be a decent photographer, but that guy, he could fund Compassion International solo.  We could also talk endlessly about the negativity that an image can bring, but that’s not my purpose here.

8. Favorite Book:  Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  I have read this book several times over the years.  I love watching the inner struggle of the charge that the demons are given and how the tone of the letters changes once their charge becomes a Christian.  I see so much of me in that book that when I read it, I feel like it was written about me.  Every time I read it, I find something else in my life that could be affected by something that Lewis portrays in the book.  I watch the struggle between flesh and spiritual and always walk away thinking, “Man, I wonder if that’s why that happens to me so often.”  While I know that there isn’t a ton of scripture based around the actual battle in the background for souls, I know that there is one raging, and it could very well happen as Lewis depicts it.

9. I love trucks.  I’m not a hick, I swear, but for some reason, I just feel more “manly” when I’m driving one.  Currently I do not have a truck, but the next vehicle I buy…it’ll be a truck. And let’s be totally clear here, I won’t be “mudding” or anything of that sort.  In all honesty, I’ll probably have what Phil Robertson would classify as a “yuppie” truck.  You know the kind, it’s always clean, has tons of technology in it, and rarely gets used for its intended purpose.  Yep, I’m Yuppie Truck bound….

10.  Finally to close,  I love tech.  There, I said it.  I’m talking about a nerd-embracing kind of enjoyment of tech.  That’s right, I read tech blogs.  That’s right, I’ve listened to and watched product announcements.  I’ve even watched live-blogs devoted to the reveal of the next big thing.  I love figuring out how that thing is going to fit into mine and Kelly’s life and how that I am going to leverage it to make things better, then once that challenge is over, I’m going to tell everyone about it.  It’s in my problem-solving nature.  If we are talking in casual conversation, and I know something that’s going to make your life easier, 9 times out of 10, I’m going to tell you about it.  I might even be annoying about it.  I apologize in advance if I am or have been to you.  I promise, its solely because I care about you and I really just want to help you out.

Thank you for reading this small portion of who I am and what makes me up.  I’ll be getting more to you in the near future.