Dear All,

 

Many apologies for the tardiness of this letter. Several drafts were undertaken, all of which were heavily censored with a black Magic Marker in the style of classified CIA JFK assassination documents, so much so that they appeared as nothing more than a greeting, several dozen horizontal black bars, and finally a farewell. Apparently my definition of an appropriate holiday epistle varies slightly from that of my better half’s. If you care to see the earlier drafts, please mail a written request, care of Norman Leonard, and I will gladly forward you said documents. In the spirit of keeping the peace, here is the sanitized edition:

 

Mark another great year for the Leonard Dynasty! On February 7th, we welcomed Samuel Cash Leonard into the bosom of our family. He immediately lived up to the controversial figures that are his namesakes (Samuel Clemens and Johnny Cash) when three neonatal nurses passed out at the sight of his manliness. On second thought, we should have named him after George Thorogood because Sam is Bad to the Boner (no, not a typo). We might also have named him after Barrack Obama as Sam has proven himself to be big on change. Not even a year old and he has dedicated himself to changing the tide of modern style by doing away with the plague that is skinny jeans. All of you silly little Emo folk should be afraid – very afraid.  Sam’s comin’ for ya.

 

And now on to Charlee who has had a somewhat tumultuous year; however, she’ll be the first to tell you that the most difficult part was admitting she had a problem. December makes it sixth months clean and sober for this tyke. She has helped herself to neither a binky nor a ba-ba,  and she’s made peace with the 12-Step philosophy – one day at a time, brothers and sisters, one day at a time.

 

For all the haters out there, I’d like to brag on my wife for a moment. Less than a year after Sam nearly tore Becky in two, she is back down to her pre-baby weight, and I couldn’t be more proud. Her hips are slim, her boobs are ridin’ high, and her butt fits nicely into all of her pre-pregnancy jeans. Because of this swift, enigmatic return to her figure, she has been made the subject of a study on gerontology and anti-gravity, a joint effort between NASA and AARP. Makes a husband proud.

 

Our dog Girdie continues to struggle with matters of the heart. After a long and torrid affair with a mutt named Armani that vaguely resembles a rat, she sank into a desperate bout of depression, self medicating with dirty diapers and kitty roca (Note: to the neighbor who owns the obese tabby cat that looks like Joan Rivers, please do not allow your felonious feline to drop trou directly outside our door). Just recently, however, Girdie picked up on a scent at the park, which she believes belongs to her one true love. At her request, I am including a description of the scent, so if any of you have ever smelled the south end of a dog that evokes the fragrance of “a port-a-potty on a hot day in Juarez with a subtle hint of pickled herring and deep-fried deviled eggs,” please let him know that his one true love is keeping a crate warm for him in Lake Forest, California.

 

As for me, things have been status quo. If I were to report anything, it would have to be my vasectomy, only because of its undeniable effect on our economy. You see, the day after my vasectomy the NASDAQ posted its biggest loss of the year. Who knew my vas deferens played such an important role in the United States finances? Oh, well. I’m sure our national wealth will recover just as quickly as did my testicles.

 

Happy Holidays!

The Leonard Dynasty

P.S. A quick update on the exploits of the Huckabees — my Aunt Norma and Uncle Chuck: the third nipple was not a nipple but a skin carbuncle. Rotten luck.

P.P.S. For those who have been asking about the professional exploits of my Aunt Norma: her internet porn empire continues to flourish. Brian Schnurle, I know you’ve asked, and since I’ve already dished out the money for the stamp, I’ll just answer your questions here: www.auntnormanailsthenorthwest.com.

Dear Friends, Family, and Obligatory Recipients (you know who you are):

Greeting from the Leonard family. I shall now regale you with anecdotal updates to demonstrate that the inner life of our family is richer than that of yours. We’ll start with Charlee. She’s had a productive year. She’s talking now (in three different languages), she’s engaged in academic discourse (in three different disciplines), and just last month she saved the lives of dozens of people during a structure fire (men, women, and children). However, all of these feats pale in comparison to Charlee’s contributions to equality. She has spent the last year laboring over a contraption that will finally close the gap between the sexes – a device that will finally allow women to pee standing up. The irony of it all: she’s not even potty-trained.

Our puggle, Girdie, is potty-trained, but that is one skill set that is likely to soon wane as she is currently struggling with old age. Gray whiskers are peppering her muzzle, and that spring in her step is less a spring and more a grinding, rusty gear. No matter, she’s not one to take old age lying down. Actually, that’s just an expression, and she’d like all of you to know that she does indeed lie down several times a week – with her lover, Armani, a lap dog mutt and her cousin-by-marriage. While Girdie’s love life is bountiful, she has found it necessary to supplement (i.e., lubricate) her romantic exploits for comfort’s sake. Ultimately, however, this has worked out well and even inspired an entrepreneurial pursuit. Certainly you’ve all heard of K-Y Jelly. Well, if Girdie has her druthers, next year Petco and Petsmart will be slinging a new product –  K-9 Jelly!  For all your breeding needs.

Speaking of breeding, the pregnancy is going fantastic. In case you didn’t know (and if you didn’t know, it’s probably because we place little value on your place in our lives), we are expecting in February. And we’re expecting big things. In fact, our expectations have already been confirmed by the ultrasound technician who, during our appointment, exclaimed, “Your son has a big thing!” That’s right, our little man is ALL man. God bless genetics.

Becky is in tremendous shape, and I couldn’t be more proud. A few weeks ago at the bar, she knocked back a few pitchers over a quick game of eight ball. Some roughneck tried to give her grief, whining about the dangers of alcohol and pregnancy and blah, blah, blah. Tell ya what, his argument sort of fell apart after Becky threw a right cross and laid him out; and when he didn’t get back up, she drank his beer. Not much of a chin on that fella. I’d bet my bottom dollar that his mom didn’t drink beer while he was in utero. That would certainly account for his namby-pamby demeanor.

As for me, it’s been a fairly uneventful year. Same old, same old, as the saying goes. Only a couple things stand out as significant and noteworthy: I completed 1,000 hours of volunteer work for the Peace Corps, and I killed a man. With my bare hands.

Happy Holidays!

The Leonard Family

P.S. A quick update on the exploits of my Aunt Norma: She and her husband Chuck (my uncle) – married many years now – have entered the twilight of their marriage. Many will tell you that it’s difficult to keep a marriage infused with romance and élan for so long, but they’ve managed to make it work, thanks in part to a discovery made earlier this year: Uncle Chuck has a third nipple. And let me tell you, brothers and sisters, there’s nothing like a third nipple to rekindle the flame.

P.P.S. Another update on the exploits of my Aunt Norma: her internet porn empire continues to flourish.

From the archives, circa 2008:

Greetings Family, Friends, and Loved Ones!

Well, 2008 is indeed coming to a miraculous close: a black man is waiting to set up shop in the White House; gasoline is inching back to a reasonable price, and our daughter Charlee is being investigated by the office of the Devil’s Advocate from the Vatican. Indeed, a bishop is being sent to our home after the first of the year to verify a real-live, honest-injun, genuine miracle. Let me explain. Not but a few weeks ago, I was changing Charlee’s diaper, and upon unfastening the handy-dandy velcro straps, I was stunned to find that there was a religious image in Charlee’s pooh. It was neither Jesus nor the mother Mary, for Charlee — even at a mere seven-months — is savvy enough to know that divine figures of such high caliber do not pop up in fecal matter. But Judas Iscariot does. That’s right — Judas Iscariot.  Once a turd, always a turd, I suppose. Some parents might be reluctant to appreciate a baby who moves her bowels in the image of such a traitor. But not us. We’re beaming, infinitely proud that Charlee has such a solid understanding of figures in the Bible (well, not solid — it was actually a bit runny; we’d just introduced squash the previous week and, well, a story for another time, perhaps). We’re expecting big things from this kid, folks.

As for Becky, she’s also coming off a big year as she’s just put the necessary pieces in play to begin her own business. It started when we were entertaining guests (who shall remain anonymous, but yes, it could be you). Becky had prepared a delectable dinner for our friends, and she had a dessert planned as well. As luck would have it, however, Becky forgot to buy milk, a necessary ingredient for the planned pastry dish, and — ever the resourceful one — she strapped on her breast pump and eked out a cup and half of frothy mother’s milk. Three-hundred fifty degrees and a half-an-hour later, Becky had baked a cake to beat the band. Since then, she’s designed an ideal business without overhead, save for electricity it takes to run a breast pump. All interested customers, please visit www.beckysboobjuice.com.

Because Charlee and Becky have our family covered on the religious and financial fronts, respectively, I’ve chosen to try my hand at politics. I think I can speak for everybody when I say I was nothing if not inspired by the recent elections. I didn’t realize how much foreign policy experience I have. To wit: I have successfully navigated The Home Depot and negotiated with entire teams of men to periodically work in my parents’ yard. Added to this, I know all the words to “La Bamba,” and I can order food and beer confidently at a number of Tijuana hot spots without fear of acquiring Montezuma’s Revenge or crabs. I’m practically the Mexican ambassador. Needless to say, ya’ll should look for my name on the ticket in 2012. Norm Leonard — A New America — I reckon so.

Putting political futures aside, I think it necessary to report on the present progress of Girdie, our family dog; many of you have inquired as to the progress and success of her sex change. Well, she literally and figuratively jumped through the necessary hoops (there were copious amounts of red tape, you know), and her operation was indeed a triumph. Having discarded the identity of bitch, she’s currently adjusting to the life of a male dog. Her transformation got off to a wonderful start when, during an afternoon romp at the bark park, she met a mutt bitch named Nookie whom she promptly mounted, thereby consummating her new gender role. Of course, a pack of the meaner, bigger dogs at the bark park — a pit bull, a pair of rottweilers, and a mastiff named Lincoln — gave Girdie and her bitch, Nookie, a difficult time. It just goes to show that macho insecurity not only crosses cultures but species, too. Not to worry. Girdie was brave enough to ditch her bitch-dom; she’ll weather this storm as well.

Well, that does it for our Holiday update. Until next season, a blessing on your homes!

Norm, Becky, Charlee, and Girdie

P.S. We wanted to send a quick X-mas shout-out to Aunt Norma Jean in Washington State. She retired not long ago, but she’s refused to become a simple spectator of life. Indeed, she’s embracing the best of today, namely technology and the current sexual revolution. In fact, she’s tackled both technology and sexuality and turned them into a fairly successful day job. We ask that our friends and family join us in supporting our Aunt Norma Jean and her sexual exploits. Please Google the following: Aunt Norma Jean Nail’s the Northwest. Any number of sites will pop up which will allow you to download her webcast pornography (volumes 1-47). We couldn’t be more proud of you, Aunt Norma! Go get ‘em!

Been a while since I last posted. The fall season was, well, a bitch. No other way to say it. But  the holidays are hurtling toward us, and to commemorate them — as well as the fact that life is easing up — I’ve dug into the archives. Enjoy!

***The Norm Leonard Pass at the Traditional Holiday Letter — 2007***

Being a novice to this form of epistolary communication, I’ll resign myself to speaking from the heart. I’ll start with my wife, Becky. She has had an exciting year, having infiltrated her second terrorist organization. By her estimation, she should be all set to completely deconstruct the infrastructure in the name of Christ our Lord. That’ll show Satan, that wily devil. Meanwhile, sunshine continues to spill from her backside.

Speaking of bodily orifices, our new daughter, Charlee Marie, (currently six months in utero at the time of this letter’s construction) is tirelessly preparing for her dismount from the womb. Her body control is precise, and we’re confident that she’ll earn perfect 10s across the board—save for the Russians. We think they’ll turn their noses at our American fetus’s outright excellence and score her a 9.5 out of spite. Damn those Sputnik bastards!

On another positive note, the final member of our family—Girdie, the wonder puggle—has finally saved enough for her sex change operation. She has lived her first three-and-a-half years as a bitch but maintains that she’s always been a male in a bitch’s body. For those who are wondering, Becky and I completely support her decision. We just want her to be happy.

As for myself, I have dedicated my time and thoughts to politics. I shall not be backing Hillary or Obama or Giuliani or Ron Paul or Mitt Romney or any other tired political troglodyte. Instead I will be launching my mother as a write-in candidate (though she doesn’t know it). There is no method to this line of reasoning. I merely think it would be fun to watch people call my mom “Madame President”.

Tune in next time when we dig into the 2008 archives!

 

I’m upstairs getting Sam dressed. There’s a knock at the front door. This is what I hear:

 

The door opens. 

Charlee: What can I do for you boys?

Jehovah’s Witness #1: Hi, is your mom here?

Charlee: No, my daddy is. What do you need?

Jehovah’s Witness #2: Can we talk to your daddy?

Pause (likely a dubious look on my daughter’s face). 

Charlee: Are you selling something or what?

Jehovah’s Witness #1: Uh….

Jehovah’s Witness #2: I think we’ll come back later.

Charlee: Have a nice day.

The door SLAMS.

 

All parents have moments when they’re only sure about one thing — that they’re completely screwing up their kids. But then there are moments like this — when I feel total relief that what I’ve been saying is actually getting through. Hell, it’s almost like there’s nothing left to teach her. Makes a father proud.

Death is on my brain lately, mainly because it’s been on my daughter’s brain. She’s going through a phase that involves a lot of fantastic tragedy. Every story she tells, every joke, every lie — it all ends in death. Here’s a common exchange.

Her: …then the pooh-pooh head went down the slide… and he died.

Me: Why did he die?

Her: (pause) ‘Cause he’s a pooh-pooh head. Bahahahahaha!

(Note: It goes without saying that she also has pooh-pooh on the brain lately) My guess is that this preoccupation with death is is developmentally normal. Kids squash a bug and wonder why it doesn’t just walk it off. Or, more specifically, my little girl finds roly poly bugs, which she genuinely loves and dotes on, but inadvertently sentences to death when she places them in a mason jar and sets them on our ninety degree patio so that they can “work on their tans”. Afterward, she contemplates the afterlife, mortality, and the problem of evil in the world.

During my daughter’s ongoing phase of slaughter and destruction, I’ve only been concerned once. That once was just a few days ago. She sat on the floor and gently stroked the ears and muzzle of our wonder puggle, Girdie. And very nonchalantly she said, “Daddy, I need for Girdie to get old and die so then you can buy me a guinea pig.” The comment froze me to the bone. Her actions were so sweet and warm, yet her words so coldblooded and ruthless. I half-expected her to grab the dog by the throat, snap its neck with the jerk of her hands, and then demand to be taken to the pet store. It was now I who contemplated the afterlife, mortality, and the problem of evil in the world.

For a few days,  I spent a close eye on the dog, ensuring that Charlee wasn’t putting it in the oven to work on its tan, or something similar. Of course, this never happened. My dog possesses pretty good instincts and senses when the kids are cooking up something evil.

Euthanizing the dog did, however, put another good idea into my head. Sit tight. We’ll get to that.

Our home is comfy. Not too big, not too small. Just right for the family as it stands. Those days are numbered, though, as I can see us outgrowing this place soon. Already, Charlee has started rolling her eyes, a precursor to the teenage years I am told; and although those years are far off, I’d like to give her a wide berth so as to avoid any collateral damage to my heart and soul. In the mean time, much of my day-to-day concern has to do with the available square footage in my home. The square footage does not change, but our access does.

To explain:

Essentially, we do not have a house; we have a gigantic toy box. When you have kids, the piles of crap that come with them is staggering. Much of this comes in the form of toys never played with, clothes never worn, and equipment — high chairs, cribs, diaper pails — too soon rendered unnecessary. But in my eyes, the coup de grâce of all kid-related crap is the plush toy. God hear this prayer, “Damn every stuffed animal to hell! To hell, I say!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I broke down our monthly mortgage to figure out how much we pay per square foot, and I can tell you that the stuffed animals in this house are cuttin’ a fat hog in the ass. They contribute nothing, and they easily take up the majority of our useable space. So back to my idea. It’s simple. I need to stage a genocide. The problem is that I don’t have much genocidal experience. There are details, I’m sure — politics, rituals, formalities — all kinds of things that will need to be considered. So I’ll have to read up on it a bit. Consult Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun before I cleanse our home of the plush terror.

Also, my wife — crazy as she is — has created an emotional attachment to every stuffed animal in our house. If a friend or relative gave our kids a stuffed animal — despite how little time we might actually spend with that friend or relative, and despite how creepy or ugly the stuffed animal might be — we cannot throw it away. To do so, she says, would be immoral or unethical. I concede that she is both morally and ethically superior to me. Still, I say the hell with ’em.

Anyhow, I’m plotting the plush genocide. It’s in the works. In the mean time, those of you close to my family, please heed this warning: if you give another stuffed animal to one of my children — be it a cuddly wuddly teddy bear or a lord-have-mercy plush princess doll — I will destroy you. Slowly. Painfully. You and yours will gnash teeth. You will bleed. You will cease to be. Thanks for reading!

 

I’ve been busy lately with some screenwriting projects — my first children’s adventure story actually, along with one of my usual dark comedies — and as such I’ve been neglecting my blogging habit. I’m still a little behind, so I’m going to keep this short and simply wish everyone a happy belated 4th and gift you with my daughter’s spirited cover of Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I’m more of a blues guy than a pop guy, but this performance is worth a view. Note: it starts slow, but, trust me, it quickly ramps up to something that will humiliate my daughter in a good ten years. Feel free to share with your friends.

My daughter is a liar. She’s no different than anyone else, I suppose. Everybody does it. It’s like masturbation. But already I digress. Masturbation is another post altogether — likely something I’ll save for Christmas morning.

Anyhow, my daughter has begun lying in the interest of self-preservation. I’ll be in my office, laboring over the tonal strengths of verb choices when I hear the sounds of flesh sharpening flesh, which is closely followed by the guttural squeal of my two-year-old son. When I step into the next room to investigate, I find my son crying crocodile tears and my daughter playing with a toy that is suspiciously designed for not just a two-year-old, but a two-year-old boy at that.

Inquiring into the matter — a simple “What happened?” — gets the same response from my daughter every time: “Nothin’.”

I shift my interrogation tactics and ask the same question of my son, to which he responds: “Cha-ree hih meh!”

I follow up: “Charlee, did you hit him?”

She retorts: “Nope.”

This is when I ask Sam where he was hit, and he points to his face, which seems to have been branded with a stigmata in the exact shape and size of my daughter’s hand. A little more good cop/bad cop gets Charlee to fess up to the crime. Time out is assigned, as are the requisite hugs, kisses, and apologies.

I don’t mind the brawling so much, but the lying really bothers me. Lying, of course, has its place — poker, dating, magic tricks, taxes, (blogging?) — but as in so many other scenarios, the rules should not be broken until they’ve been mastered. And my daughter has little mastery over the truth. She still believes Oswald acted alone. Kids are so dumb.

Anyhow, we’ve begun discussing truth, honesty, deceit — we’ve even delved into subjectivity and the difficulty of absolutes. My wife says this is too advanced for a pre-schooler, but my daughter can already work the ipad better than all of her grandparents, so I’m gonna keep on keeping on.

The problem with encouraging kids to tell the truth is that they don’t have much of a filter. Their consciousness is directly connected to their mouths with all the censorship of a Las Vegas porn convention. Consider this disaster from a recent trek into Costco. We turned down the frozen foods aisle — it’s summer time, which means it’s fudgecicle time — and ran into a woman who was probably in her fifties. This was a large woman. Not a full-figured woman (which I happily endorse — can I get a witness, Christina Hendricks?) but an overflowing woman. A woman who punishes seams and elastic, making them work so hard for a livin’.

As this woman pushed her cart past us, Charlee gave the woman a once over, then looked at me and said, “Daddy, that woman is really fat.” Now, notice the lack of exclamation mark in that line of dialogue. Her observation was casual and matter of fact. It was not saddled with mockery or malice. It was very Dick and Jane: “See the woman. See her groceries. See her jiggly chin.” No judgment. No scorn. Just the facts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The woman looked away. Charlee didn’t offend her; rather she embarrassed her, and probably did a number on her feelings and self-worth. Certainly, I sympathized with the woman. I don’t — as a general rule — champion unnecessary suffering. But let’s put this woman’s feelings on the back burner for a moment. Clearly, my daughter has a lot to learn about decorum, but for today, let’s just bask in the rapturous glow of her dazzling honesty.

Please list your children’s lies and naked truths in the comments section. Best truth gets a Cadillac. Best lie gets a set of steak knives. Also, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and share lest my daughter call you out in the frozen foods section of Costco.

My boy is currently two-years old, and he is every bit a two-year old. For those of you with kids, I probably don’t need to explain any further. In fact, as I type this, I can project into the future and hear you recite “The Lord’s Prayer” under your breath; similarly, I can imagine that as you read the phrase “two-year old” you heard the sounds of Waterford Crystal shattering, the blood-from-your-ears shrieking of toddler’s vocal chords, and perhaps even the soft — indeed, the ever so soft — whimpers of an adult man who is at the taut end of his rope.

For those of you without kids, the two-year-old tantrum is a sight to behold. It comes in stages. Most parents rely on the Homeland Security Advisory System to chart out the developments of a given tantrum. They rely on this for three reasons: (1) the terrorism metaphor is accurate in its comparison to two-year-olds; (2) it’s already been designed, which is convenient since most parents of two-year-olds have little to no creative energy; and (3) it is made up of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and parents may as well multi-task and use the stages of a tantrum as a teaching tool. Here is a picture of my son ramping up for a doozy:

This, I would say, is a Threat Level Yellow, which is “Elevated” and indicative of a “Significant Risk of Terrorist Attacks.” I considered posting a Threat Level Red image, but this blog is Rated PG-13, and I know that some of you, dear readers, are not yet parents, and I wouldn’t want to scare the shit out of you. Simple text may be easier to handle.

Consider this scenario: I’m at a mall. I have to buy a new set of jeans. Sam is in the dressing room with me. Nap time is creeping dangerously close. Sam tries to escape under the dressing room door. I tell him no. He screams. Actually, it’s not so much a scream as a squeal. Like a pig going to slaughter. I try to shush him, which is akin to giving him a bullhorn. I try to pick him up. He makes his body go limp. I manage to bear hug him and position him on the seat in the dressing room so that I can pull up my pants. As I’m pulling up, he leaps off the seat and makes a mad dash, military crawling underneath the door. I’m too slow to kneel down and catch him and must opt for opening the door and chasing him down the hall of dressing rooms. Never mind that I have yet to pull up my pants.  Never mind that the dressing room is unisex. Never mind that it is also packed with men and women alike — mostly women. Never mind that Sam’s deafening squeals echo off the cramped walls.

In moments like these — an honest-to-god, Threat-Level-Red moment — it’s easy for the mind to engage the negative. My thought process, which can only function in word associations at this high a stress level, goes something like this: exhaustion… frustration… forsaken… exploitation… black market… blue eyes… towhead… caucasian… big money… serenity… etc.

Of course these negative feelings diminish when the kids fall asleep and once again assume their cherubic dispositions. And while the black market fantasy makes the searing heat of the tantrums bearable, it’s probably not the healthiest coping mechanism. That said, I have begun to adopt a new coping mechanism, one which makes me feel safer and more at ease. Like many of you, I have logged on to Family Watchdog sites to educate myself on the local predators. I know their names, their faces, where they live, all that jazz. It’s easy to get carried away on those sites, to obsess and worry, and to weigh the pros and cons of automatic versus semi-automatic weapons. This, too, of course, is not the healthiest coping mechanism.

My strategy now is to time my kids’ tantrums. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. They’re not as fickle as fault lines or volcanoes. They’re more like a bad reality show — a predictable, scheduled train wreck. When they hit Threat Level Blue, I pack them into the car and march them right outside the homes of known sex offenders (the addresses are on the internet — convenient, right?). Before any of you get too excited about the notion of me chumming the predator-infested waters with my kids, please know that I’m on hand at all times — and completely ready to get all Clint Eastwood on anyone who so much as raises an eyebrow. Anyhow, the kids scream and wail and gnash their teeth and uproot vegetation — it’s beautiful. All the while I think to myself this lovely, comforting thought: “See, you son of a bitch! You don’t want any piece of my offspring.” When my kids hit Threat Level Red — usually a cat has been severely maimed by this point — I pack ’em into the car and drive home, leaving any would-be predators with a final image — one wrought with all the hell and fury of a two-year-old tantrum — that would make Attila the Hun wet himself.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and share on Facebook, Twitter, email, all that stuff. If you don’t, I’ll drop my daughter off at your house during one of her Threat Level Yellow tantrums. Play the video and consider yourself warned!

My writing career has slowly begun to take flight. It’s been a lot — a lot! — of uphill trudging, poring over sentences, fine-tuning images, sweating the choice between balmy and humid or paunchy and beefy, and obsessing over whether to use the formal colon or the informal dash.

Well, the drudgery has paid off and I’m finding myself taking meetings with producers and directors, managers and agents. This, of course, is a welcome advance in my career, but now there’s a whole new laundry list of items to worry about. How do I dress for these meetings? I’m not a suit (i.e., a businessman), so can I wear my Johnny Cash t-shirt with jeans and Chucks? Once in the room, should I accept the obligatory bottle of water? Is it rude if I don’t? Where do I sit in the room? The couch? The chair? Do I cross my legs? If so, how so? The more relaxed leg over the knee — or is that a sign of weakness? Perhaps the ankle rested on the knee — or is that too casual? Who do I look at? Is eye contact okay? Or is that a sign of aggression?

I realize the above paragraph conveys a man who is paranoid and maybe a little neurotic (if not fanatic), but bear in mind that I’ve been working to get into these meetings for over ten years, so I’m desperate for things to go well. Recently, I found myself walking into the office of a pretty renowned actor/director/producer — the kind who has a one-foot tall gold statuette of a naked man standing atop a five-spoked reel of film. Yes, that statuette. Something about the presence of such an award makes for an intimidating experience (that is, if you’re in the movie business — I don’t imagine that tax attorneys or pig farmers or day laborers give a damn about an Oscar).

Nevertheless, I was cool. My professionalism and experience crystallized in the room, and I was pitching ideas and turning story beats. You’d never know that just hours earlier I was warming a bottle, changing a diaper, and threatening to tickle my kids with all the enthusiasm of third grader who’d lost his prescription for Ritalin.

Before I could launch into my next pitch, the man (let’s call him Ernie) stopped me and asked if I wanted to continue the meeting over lunch. “Sounds great, Ernie,” I said. “But before we go I just need to use the potty.”

Oh. Holy. God.

Those two syllables came out of my mouth in slow motion, as if they had originated from a tape recorder with nearly-dead batteries: “…pawwww-teeeee…” I had always felt that getting married and having kids was one of the things that helped me to mature as a storyteller, to ripen and to flourish. And now, here I was in a make-or-break scenario, and my son’s bladder was rearing its ugly head, indirectly demanding my attention from a full county away.

Ernie cocked his head to the side. “Did you say you have to go potty?” he asked. I didn’t respond. I just sat there, looking, I imagine, pretty friggin’ mortified. “Do you need help in the potty?” he added. Before I could explain, he smiled and said, “I got kids myself. Teenagers. Don’t look so embarrassed. There’s more to come, trust me.”

He was right, of course. I wouldn’t need a prophet to tell me that there’s a lot more humiliation coming my way at the hands of my children. There’s nothing like a public and professional faux pas to remind you that nothing’s really all that sacred. Like the book says, “Everybody poops.” If you can make peace with that, it’s a lot easier to smile and just enjoy the ride.