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The Grrreat Tiger Theory

I recently saw a trailer for the upcoming Mister Rogers movie starring Tom Hanks. So. Super. Stoked. That man was and still is a national treasure. God bless Mister Rogers, his soft-spoken, stoic, cerebrally strange puppets and all those sweaters.

If you haven’t kept up with the man’s legacy, then you’re missing out. In our home, we watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Ya can keep your over-produced, premium-subscription, serialized dramas. Give me big-eyed, silly, anthropomorphized animals in wool cardigans anytime.

And look, here’s the thing: Daniel Tiger is a veritable genius. Throughout history, humanity is gifted these truly remarkable people that change the course of society. Leonardo da Vinci… Galileo Galilei… Isaac Newton… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart… Albert Einstein… Daniel Tiger (I apologize for only listing white Western men… and one oversized kitty). It’s like the great man (person) theory that proposes most of history can be understood and explained by the significant impact of highly influential individuals—great people.

Not that I give a tremendous amount of credence to that theory but let me just share some tiger wisdom with you today. Allow me to drop some truth bombs into your brain cavity. Keep in mind that these are all meant to be sung with a little jingle:

“Keep trying, you’ll get better! Try, try, try!”

“It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again!”

“When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath—and count to four. One, two, three, four.”

And of course:

“When you have to go potty STOP, and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way!”

There’s a little song solution for every life situation. All throughout the day, my family is singing these little melodies to help us get through the grind and struggles.

So, when you’re facing today’s trials and attempting to navigate the winding labyrinth and corridors of life: take a moment, take a breath, and sing a little ditty. It’s not if these things happen; it’s when. Take a lesson from our furry feline friend Daniel Tiger. Keep trying, never quit. Believe in yourself. Learn to regulate your emotions. Don’t poop in your pants—that one’s especially important. And please, would we, could we all just be neighbors?

“Ugga Mugga. – Daniel Tiger”

Finley Walker

For Whom the Belt Tolls

I hate belts. If you know me, if you really know me, then you know this about me. I only wear belts if it’s absolutely necessary. Why do we do this to ourselves? In the name of fashion? It’s a noose for your hips; a tourniquet on your waist restricting the blood flow to the lower extremities. When I’m forced to wear a belt, I feel like my body has been sentenced to death by prolonged hanging and strangulation.

On that note, I hate buttons and fasteners and zippers too—anything that makes my pants a fixed, stagnant size. I am, after all, still a growing boy. I may be done growing vertically, but I’m certainly still growing horizontally, especially in parenthood, and so, I need some extra growing room. In fact, there are many days when a pair of pants may fit me in the morning but become too small after the spontaneous buffet luncheon. To my wife’s chagrin, I am often secretly not even wearing my trousers buttoned. I just allow the organic tension and traction of my gut to secure the pants to my bum. And when we’re at home… forget about it, all bets are off—belts are off.

This is why I was so excited when elastic waistbands came back into fashion. Elastic hasn’t been in style since I was about five-years-old. But they’re so much better, literally. The only thing that could be better than elastic waistbands is no waistbands. Bring back long tunics and casual cassocks for the common people. Way more practical and efficient.

Seriously, it doesn’t make any sense. The force of gravity is constantly trying to pull your pants down, and what do we do? We try to unnaturally fabricate a futile denim infrastructure to rebel against the laws of physics. Let’s just design better clothes. If it were socially acceptable, I would simply cut out a head hole in the middle of my bedsheet and wear that as a kind of minimalist poncho. It’s super economical. Plus, I’d be ready to take a nap anywhere. It’s like a Snuggie, but better.

So, I say, if life’s got you in a stranglehold, if you feel like the breath is being choked out of you by seemingly random and arbitrary circumstances and social norms, then I say, release those bonds! Let every chain be broken. Cast off all that hinders, entangles, and ensnares. Like a Greek athlete of antiquity who competed completely butt-naked, lay aside every weight and encumbrance, and run with endurance the race set before you (Hebrew 12:1)!

Well… Maybe keep some clothes on. I’m not a nudist, just prejudice against the pant patriarchy.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friends’ were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Falling with Style

The first time I went skiing was also my last. It was a youth group ski trip. Cliché, I know. And yes, this is another story of me nearly dying in (West Virginia). I’ve never been very adept at those balance and coordination-type activities. Also, who came up with skiing in the first place? Oh, I know, here’s a great idea: why don’t we lock and strangle our ankles to these impractically large planks and then zoom down these snow-covered deathtrap hills while holding treacherous pointy spears?

I didn’t even own any snow gear, so I had to borrow a hodgepodge of items from several people. My outfit included the brightest-luminescent-yellow-green snow pants you’ve ever seen. I looked like some kind of road hazard sign out on the slopes. People actively avoided me—I assume because they thought I was letting visitors know which parts of the ski slope were closed for maintenance. Do they have slope maintenance? Do janitors mop hilltops?

One of my friends, who was far more experienced in this sadistic sport, graciously took me under his wing. He tried to teach me the ropes. Then he just left me to hang myself with the rope. Clearly, I was a lost cause. I guess they call it the bunny slope because a cluster of bunnies had all gathered around to watch in curiosity and delight at the giant lime puff flailing about in the snow. After practicing my face plants a few hundred times (my nose felt like the forgotten popsicle left in the back of the freezer after last summer’s cookout) we decided it was time for me to try skiing, or belly-sliding, down one of the actual slopes.

We navigated our way onto the lift, and then my friend told me where to descend. He explained that I was getting off on the easy, beginner slope, while he was going to go to a more advanced one. “Here Finley, this is a green circle slope so you should be fine.” I’m sure you can guess where this is going. It wasn’t a green circle. It was a black diamond. I must have gone down the wrong side or something. I don’t know why they put those mountains so close to each other. And I thought going down was supposed to be the easy part.

I quickly realized that this whole skiing thing wasn’t going to work. I wouldn’t survive. So I changed techniques and just allowed myself to roll down the mountainside like a neon cream puff which was discarded into the garbage after melting at the church potluck picnic. I felt the embarrassment of a snow owl turn its bulbous eyes away in shame at the sight as I bounced and thrashed and floundered my way to the bottom.

I was a cold, lonely tumbleweed blowing in the wind.

Later, my friend confessed that he realized his mistake and was genuinely worried about me. He thought I died and was asking everyone if they had seen a guy who looked like an intoxicated Elton John impersonator hanging off a cliff.

Sometimes, life can be unexpectedly challenging. Perhaps you too have found yourself standing on the precipice of a black diamond slope and staring into the belly of the beast. You didn’t choose these circumstances, but here you are, and now you must decide: do I take a leap of faith and venture out into the abyss, or do I plop down on my bum and make snow angels until I die of exposure to the elements?

Choices. All you can do is choose how to respond to life. If you can’t ski down the mountain, then slide. If you can’t slide, then stroll. If you can’t stroll, then roll and tumble. Just keep going. You’ll make it, and you’ll be better for it.

As for me, next time I’m going tubing. Sounds more my speed since I can sit the whole time. I have this life dream of eating a donut while sitting in a rubber donut tube and being pulled around by a snowmobile doing donuts. Dream big.

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Noodle Polish

We tried out a new Japanese restaurant this past week. Perhaps I should say faux American-Japanese because we all know it’s not really what they eat in Japan. In fact, one time when we had a foreign exchange student from Japan visiting he really wanted to go to an American-Japanese restaurant because he couldn’t get that kind of food back home. But that’s another story.

This story. This story is about the creative depths of a toddler that transcend all logic and known knowledge about the universe and reality.

As we finished our teriyaki chicken and soba noodles, our pint-sized person was displaying some particularly peculiar behavior. She selected a pristine and perfect noodle of choice, and she delicately dipped the noddle into teriyaki sauce. Then she methodically and artfully began to paint her nails with the gluten string and black goo. And I thought I had years before I had to worry about my rebellious teenage daughter with her black nail polish, gothic “nobody-understands-me” phase.

Yes, after completing her meal, our toddler had decided to treat herself to a little spa day right there in her highchair. I was equally bewildered by her creativity, mesmerized by her skill, and proud of her proclivity to repurpose and recycle. Reduce that carbon footprint y’all.

I was also curious as to whether we could start a business and market this new product. They make edible arrangements and even edible underwear. So why not edible nail polish? Especially for young kids—they always be chewing on their germ-infested fingers anyways.

So, as you get ready for the day, ready to face the world and its judgments, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Express yourself girlfriend! Boyfriends too! Let your imagination empower you to stand against challenges with courage and creativity. You do you because what the world needs is more people who are actual real people and not the fabricated façades that we manufacture in response to social media, pop culture, and peer pressure. In other words, don’t pretend to be Japanese chicken when you’re really from Salisbury, Maryland. Is the chicken local? How local? Can I get some basic background information and family history? Were they a graduate of Purdue Perdue U?

This world is but a canvas to our imagination. – Henry David Thoreau

The Most Important Meal?

Sometimes I think about food. Okay, so oftentimes I think about food. Anyways, sometimes I wonder to myself, “How did we get away with this? Fried dough for breakfast?” It’s called a doughnut, but I really don’t think there are any nuts in it. You might be nuts to think it’s a nutritious way to start your day. Come on, it’s basically dessert. I might as well eat ice cream. Sometimes I do.

But usually, I don’t eat breakfast at all. I know they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But seriously, who is “they” anyway? I’ll tell you who: the sugar industry—BIG Sugar. I’m pretty much convinced that pastry and cereal companies invented breakfast. The cereal cartel. Oh yes, yes, breakfast is so important, that’s why we gorge ourselves on sweet glazed carb puffs and high fructose corn syrup flakes.

Breakfast is obviously important. That must be why I always want to take a nap after eating it. I thought it was supposed to give you energy, but it always feels like it required maximum effort just to consume it. Let’s just consider a few other “breakfast” items:

Biscuits and gravy. Let’s take this bleached, refined cinder block and pour the remnants of the grease trap on top. What in the world is gravy? Can we really consider this food? I imagine that gravy is the gelatinous innards of the Pillsbury Doughboy. Like if you stabbed the Doughboy in the gut, then gooey, gummy guts and viscous viscera would pour out. But hey, if you like a little extra jelly in your belly then that’s fine. Go for it.

Pancakes and waffles. More fried batter. At a carnival, they call it funnel cake. Maybe we just want to pretend that every day is our birthday. Deep down inside, we’re singing that comforting, nostalgic tune to ourselves, reassuring ourselves that “I deserve this. It was a long, tiresome night of sleeping.”

French toast. No, just no. Just because you dipped that Texas toast into an egg doesn’t mean that it’s now all sophisticated and healthy. That’s like dipping an apple into caramel or chocolate at the fair and pretending like it’s not basically candy now. Or putting a bowtie on a strip of bacon and calling it hors d’oeuvre. Also, French. That’s like taking a cowboy’s hat away and giving him a beret instead. Just wrong.

Other assorted pastries. Hey, you know what would be really great with all these carb cakes? What if we filled them with like 10,000 calories worth of jam, frosting, and custard? It all turns to cement in your stomach five minutes later.

The only thing that makes breakfast more indulgent is eating it in bed. That’s the American dream. Breakfast is so important for starting your day that you shouldn’t even get out of bed until you’ve eaten. Also, that way I just go ahead and take my post-breakfast nap with minimal exertion. Man, getting a good start to the day is hard work. But you know what “they” say: the early bird gets the worm. That’s disgusting. I don’t want a worm. Give me a dozen more doughnuts, hold the nuts.

So, however you choose to start your day, I do recommend taking some time to breathe and reflect. Meditate. Pray. Fill your mind and soul before you fill your gut. You may just find it to be the most important part of your day.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wave Your Flag

This past Independence Day brought me back to memories of a simpler time. Once, while still in high school, some friends and I went on a hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

On this particular day, on this particular hike, we came upon an old dilapidated deer tree stand. So, of course, we decided it would be a dandy fine idea to climb it. Because when you’re a teenager you’re not really living unless you’re playing Russian roulette with your life. I don’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure I was one of the first ones to go up because I was often volunteered to test the structural integrity of such things.

The poor excuse for a “ladder” was really just some old planks of wood ambiguously nailed into a tree trunk. As I started to climb up the split and partly rotted toothpick steps, I thought, “why, oh why?” As I got higher, the wind blew—just to say hello.

When I got to the top, those down below asked, “How’s it look up there?” I thought, “Oh yes, just terrific! Lovely view. I’m so glad I climbed all the way up here just so that I could see the same trees that I could already see on the ground, but now, I clearly appreciate those trees more because I’m about to die.”

I then carefully, gingerly began my descent. But as I climbed down, one of my friends started to climb up. Naturally, he had determined that this was the perfect time and place to pants me.

I shouted, “Hey, what are you doing‽ Cut that out! Get outta here!” But my pleas for mercy went unacknowledged. Soon I was hanging up there in that tree, twenty feet off the ground with my derrière exposed to the elements.

At the time, I was a wee bit embarrassed. But now, looking back, I take it all as a reminder to be proud of your heritage and what your momma gave you. You are a truly beautiful individual, fearfully and wonderfully made.

I like to think I did Harland Williams (RocketMan, 1997) proud. Hugging the top of that tree with my posterior flapping in the wind like a flag. I was a proud flag; a regal, high-flying flag suitable for fireworks and hot dogs—a display of what it truly means to celebrate independence.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: however you choose to celebrate the Fourth of July, don’t do it with aerial rockets at 1:30 A.M. IN THE MORNING (redundancy for literary affect)! Because I now have the city police non-emergency number on speed dial.

“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and [he/she] is important in some respect, whether he/she chooses to be so or not.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

I’ve Gotta Foodie Feeling About This

We had some friends from out of town visit with us this past week, and it was awesome. It was awesome because our friends are awesome. But it was also awesome because when people visit it means that we eat out at all the best spots. Hi, my name if Finley, and I have a very intense, emotional relationship with food.

When friends and family are around, what do we do? We eat. And we usually eat way more than what’s normally socially acceptable. It’s like we’re making up for lost time or something. Most activities revolve around eating. As soon as people arrive, we start making plans for eating. If there’s a time we’re sitting around just doing nothing (probably, because we’re at the dining table having just finished eating) then someone usually recommends getting something to eat. And we always have to have dessert—even though we typically don’t have dessert—after every meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Anyways, one evening we went out for dinner at a local favorite bar-b-que spot. The next morning, I woke up with a meat hangover. To counteract the effects, we then went to an artesian bakery for breakfast. You know, because breakfast is supposedly the most important meal of the day (according to breakfast cereal companies that advertise sugar-infused, syrup-coated wood chips for children).

Yes, breakfast is so important for eating all the right foods: like cake. That’s why we eat things like fried flat sweet dough (pancakes) and bald cupcakes pretending to be healthy by calling themselves muffins. And if you’re less pretentious, you just go ahead and eat birthday cake for breakfast because, yolo, right? (Actually, I believe Jim Gaffigan has a whole spiel on this if you want to look him up.)

After the pork belly bloat, then came the carb coma. All in all, it was a rather delightful time with our friends.

But after meals like these, things do tend to get a little fuzzy… like a self-administered anesthesia to help me sleep my troubles away.

However, I may not remember everything I ate this weekend because I passed out sometime between bread pudding and third dessert, but I do remember the way it made me feel. At first, euphoria and delight, followed by guilt and indigestion. I realize that after eating ten pounds of food, my body literally weighs more, but still, it feels like moving requires the effort of a competitive weightlifting event. It’s like my insides have turned into a waterbed filled with cement and cotton balls.

So, the point is: as in food, such is life. Remember that the way you live your life has a meaningful impact on others. So be kind. Do good. What’s the point in being mean, hateful, and angry? Life’s way too short for that nonsense. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I want to be treated to a tasty ice cream treat. Please buy me some ice cream. Let’s all just try to be decent human beings. Don’t be hideous.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

– Maya Angelou