A quick story for a change of pace

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This week’s blog post is a little different: A true story I had to share.

I Need to Go Potty

The automatic doors parted and I was hit with a blast of artificially cooled air. Thirty… no, fifty faces stared back at me with astonished curiosity. Each face was waiting to be beyond my gaze so that it could react, relax, and move on from this discomforting moment. The bodies standing directly in my way parted slowly and silently, awaiting some sign of my mood. Was it rage? Was it embarrassment? Was I going to laugh? Then, a voice interrupted the long silence.

“You got me all wet!” my daughter howled through tears, pointing an accusing finger. I kept my gaze straight ahead, on an imagined horizon. Without breaking my stride, I set my daughter down on a porcelain white floor, and continued my march to the sound of my feet squishing in my wet shoes.

Photo Credit: carlobautistaphotography.com via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: carlobautistaphotography.com via Compfight cc

Twenty minutes earlier, I was completely dry. The late afternoon Florida sun baked the pavement as we approached “The Living Seas,” Disney’s presentation of the world that existed mere miles beyond its tall, yet imperceptible walls. In one of those strange moments of numerical superiority, the adults outnumbered the children, four to three. “Look! There’s no line!” someone from our party uttered in amazement. A joy washed over the group that made everyone forget that the only thing higher than the 92 degree temperature, was the humidity.

A sweet, tiny voice piped into my ear. “Daddy, I have to go potty.” My twenty-something pound, two and a half year-old daughter brushed a wisp of wavy hair away from her face. Perched on my left forearm, she was a marvel of toddlerhood, learning to use the bathroom in a mere four weeks of preschool. My wife and I almost didn’t notice her progress, until she was refusing to wear a diaper. I answered her, with a question that revealed that I had learned absolutely nothing from being the father of two small children.

“Do you think you can hold it until after the Finding Nemo ride?”

Let’s break that question down into its important elements:

Me, the parent of a five year-old and two year-old, asked the younger a question regarding a bodily function, whose answer would determine the final resting place of a bodily fluid.

My daughter, contemplated the question. Using nearly five weeks of experience as a non-diaper-wearing human, considered the facts. Can I hold it until after the Finding Nemo ride? Why not? Is there even a limit to how long I can hold my bladder? Surely, my father would know better than I. How long is a ride? Are there restrooms during the ride, in case I’ve miscalculated my new found ability to control myself? What happens if I pee my pants? Did you say “Nemo?”

“Yes, Daddy. I can hold it.” 

I can’t say I wasn’t nervous on that ride, my daughter sitting squarely in my lap. I asked if she wanted to sit next to me, but no, she liked my lap. If we left a puddle on the seat, would we have the opportunity to alert a ride operator before someone sat in it? How long would pee take to dry from my shorts? These are questions we never had to answer.

The ride ended, and the only ones who got wet were Nemo and his friends. But rides don’t just end in the happiest place on earth. Next, we found ourselves deposited into an interactive play area. The only way out was through the gift shop. But that didn’t matter, the kids were already dancing on a floor in which their shadows changed the music. At a Disney theme park the outside world doesn’t exist, so I’m pretty sure no one heard thunder in the distance.

“I peed my pants.”

Technically, my daughter was correct. She could hold it until after the Nemo ride. What she didn’t count on was the playground beyond. We were all caught in the moment. Fortunately, my wife carried a change of clothes for everyone in the family except for me. She handed me a fresh set of underwear. We left through the gift shop, along with my old college roommate who was going to go across the park to see if he could move our dinner reservation up to an earlier time. “See you in a few minutes,” I said with naive optimism.

The restroom was in the same building, but nearly 200 yards away, reachable only by going outside. 200 yards isn’t far. We dash around the building to the empty restroom where we swap out her dry underwear. If I’m ever caught with a little girl’s panties in my pocket, there is a reasonable explanation.

I ask her, “Do you need to pee more before we leave?”

“No, Daddy,”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

We reach the door of the restroom and are greeted by a monsoon. Where we once walked is now a river. I text my wife, “Stuck at the restroom.” She was fine with the rest of our party in the magical playground.

The next words I heard were, “Daddy, I peed my pants… again!

I’m incredulous. It had been less than two minutes since I’d asked her if she needed to pee more. Luckily, we still had shorts. She will go “commando” for the remainder of the day. But we’re still stuck and she’s itching to get back to the fun. We have no umbrella, but we do have a towel. I pick my girl up, put the towel over our heads and we’re going to go for it!

I dash out into the storm. We get maybe 20 feet and I’m already drenched through. My daughter is screaming. And I do the wrong thing. I turned around. We returned to the restroom, where a lonely janitor is staring at me expressionless. We are both completely drenched, but we haven’t moved. A text arrives from my friend, who is stuck at the restaurant. It was this photo:

It was a lot of rain. I got stuck in a restroom with a toddler who peed her pants twice. My friend got stuck in Shangri-la.

It was a lot of rain. I got stuck in a restroom with a toddler who peed her pants twice. My friend got stuck in Shangri-la.

Here’s my internal dialogue as I watch it rain harder and harder: I’m already wet. Beer. It isn’t that far. Beer. The rain may not stop for a while. Beer. 

We strike out again. No turning back. We were already wet, but I learned that yes, we could get wetter. To read the faces as we entered the gift shop, you’d think we had emerged from a terrible battle, covered in blood. Give this man some space.

My daughter was angry with me, learning that I did not have the magical power to keep her dry during a downpour. Ultimately, she came out ahead in the deal, with a new Minnie Mouse dress from the gift shop. Did I mention we had a change of clothes for everyone but me? Wet or dry, I was getting to the beer.

We had two umbrellas and 6 people to ferry across the park. Grabbing a kid I ran with the first group a quarter mile to the restaurant. Then, I ran back to our starting point with the extra umbrella and escorted the remaining group to dinner. Two round trips, four traverses.

During dinner I took my daughter to the restroom six times.

– I can be reached at jkilewrites@gmail.com. Sign up for updates on the left and never miss a post!

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In Bed With The Enemy: Is Amazon The New Corporate Devil?

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I recently read that Amazon had surpassed WalMart as the World’s Largest Retailer. It’s impressive when you consider that for decades “mail order” was something that old ladies did, and the big-box stores were “convenient.” If Amazon had been around when my grandmother was alive, she’d have had her own truck arrive every day. She got so many mail order catalogs that she kept a laundry basket beneath the mail slot on her front door. I grew up in California and didn’t experience my first WalMart until I moved to Florida when I was fifteen. Small towns were fighting to get a WalMart, even though they knew it would kill their local merchants, because they knew a WalMart in the next town would still kill their local merchants.

So WalMart killed mom-and-pop, and it killed K-Mart, Sears and JC Penney for that matter (although remarkably they are all still breathing.) Amazon killed Borders, Crown and B. Dalton and there’s hardly a consumer item that Amazon isn’t impacting in some way. Some say Amazon is killing publishing, but I don’t necessarily agree. Amazon might be hurting big publishing companies, but there are studies that show writers are still making a living outside of the wise guidance of a traditional publisher.

The debate over whether Amazon is good or evil got even more interesting when the New York Times wrote a scathing article on the culture within Amazon. 80 hour work weeks, text messages from the boss after midnight, workers criticizing their peers via secret reviews, grown men crying at their cubicles, and workers forced to ship themselves to conferences in other cities via Amazon Prime. That last one may not be true. After the article ran, there was a rush to pile on the criticism, even if people weren’t ready to cancel their Prime Memberships. (I can slam WalMart, but when I needed a giant plastic pool for the kids, where did I go?)

So how do I feel, publishing my books exclusively with the new corporate devil? 

I’m okay with it.

First, yes, Amazon killed big book stores. After big book stores killed small bookstores. But I’m not the only one who has noticed a revival of small bookstores as a result of Amazon. See, we still need our bookstores, we just don’t need them to be 30,000 square feet.

In my yet-to-be-written script for You've Got Mail II , Tom Hanks's big corporate bookstore goes bankrupt fighting Amazon and he and Meg Ryan stow away on a UPS jet full of Amazon packages that crashes off the coast of a tropical island with an active volcano.

In my yet-to-be-written script for You’ve Got Mail II , Tom Hanks’s big corporate bookstore goes bankrupt fighting Amazon and he and Meg Ryan stowaway on a UPS jet full of Amazon packages that crashes off the coast of a tropical island with an active volcano.

Does Amazon treat its employees unfairly? Maybe their size makes them a target. The company culture is demanding – and at its worst – even cruel. But this wasn’t a story about people making minimum wage or having hours cut to avoid providing benefits. Long hours? Ever met someone who worked on Wall Street or owned their own restaurant? I have friends who work for Google and Apple, and while they enjoy the awesome perks a progressive and creative environment, they work long hours too. Grown men crying in their cubicles? Nobody at WalMart cries when they don’t meet expectations. I’ve never personally cried at work (I came close – see The Worst Job I Ever Had), but I have seen a LOT of crying at work over the years.

I do hope that the scrutiny caused by the NY Times article causes Amazon to think about the way they compete. Like WalMart, what Amazon does will have an impact on the way other people live – not just their own employees. If Amazon offers amazing benefits to employees and great products and service to their customers, then so will many other smaller companies. Every time I hear a “small businessman” say he can’t pay a better wage because he has to compete with WalMart I want to say, “Stop competing with WalMart!”

Last week I bought a vacuum cleaner belt for $3.95 and it arrived within about 32 hours of placing the order. Most people would just buy a new vacuum cleaner. Hell, you can buy a 6700 lb lathe and get free shipping. Or you can buy my novel (4.6 stars out of 5).

They make writers a deal they can’t refuse

Without Amazon, I’d never have been able to get my book into the hands of nearly 20,000 readers. Right now, Amazon is the only way to purchase my book (with the exception of a couple of small independent bookstores.) But I don’t always plan to be that way. They are 80% of the ebook market and they offer a higher royalty in exchange for exclusivity. I’m happy that Amazon gives indie writers the platform, but I don’t pretend these acts are borne of altruism – they are in it for the money.

When I achieve the status of Indie Publishing Juggernaut, I’ll thank Amazon by offering my book up to their competitors as well. Just like Facebook, they have a tendency to change the rules whenever they want and then writers briefly freak out. Having read about experiences of writers with other self-publishing operations Amazon is what’s good in indie publishing.

Is Amazon going to destroy civilization as we know it? Drop me an email or leave a comment. Sign up for updates on the left and never miss a post.

-Jonathan Kile

Speaking of small book stores: If you’re in the St. Pete area, check out Keep St. Pete Lit’s new shop: BookSpace at Bloom Art Center.

The REAL 10 Ways To Improve Your Morning Routine – WITH KIDS

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goundhog day clock

This morning, after dropping my kids off at school I stole a quick glance at Facebook before heading out into a day of crisscrossing the very flooded city of Tampa. There in my news feed, courtesy of my friends at Epic Launch, was this little gem of “go get ’em” advice:

10 Ways To Improve Your Morning Routine, by Carly Okyle

Now, I’m a sucker for click-bait for entrepreneurs and I’m also obsessed with making my day more efficient so that I can be a better outside sales rep during the day and get more writing done at night (I’m writing this during lunch at Panera Bread between stops, and I’ll finish and edit it this evening.) So, naturally I clicked to find out what I was doing wrong with my morning routine. Obviously, Carly Okyle (clearly a much more Irish version of my Kile heritage), has her morning figured out because she’s paid to write for Entrepreneur.com and I’m the guy who clicks on it, so I offer my commentary with overflowing respect for her work. (I encourage your to click on the link to her article so that you can see the photos of bliss that accompany each item.)

The REAL 10 Ways To Improve Your Morning Routine, WITH KIDS

Number 1: Stretch. Sounds great. When I wake up on our king size Sleep Number bed, I feel like I’ve been sleeping in the trunk of a Honda Civic. That’s because somewhere between the hours of 2 and 5am, two children have found space to sleep between me and my wife, where my arms and shoulders used to go. On a good night I have the where-with-all to move to my daughters twin bed, where my feet dangle off by a foot. So, if by “stretching” she means, get up and carry a two year-old down the stairs while feeling like I just got off the redeye to Paris, then I guess I do get to stretch.

Number 2: Start the day with protein instead of dairy. I actually do this. I used to eat cereal with milk every morning and I’d be starving by 10:00, which means I’ll end up eating Wendy’s by 11:30. If I eat protein, I’m good until noon and I tend to make better choices. But I don’t like to eat the same thing for breakfast every day. Some days it’s grits with a fried egg and cheese, some days it’s an egg sandwich, other’s it’s yogurt with fruit and granola. On top of that I make my son toast and soysage or fruit, and my daughter will usually eat what I eat. (So… I make 3 breakfasts and eat 1.) About this time, my lovely wife cruises down after actually stretching and pours herself a bowl a cereal.

Number 3: Start your morning the night before. Good advice. For 10 year’s I’ve set up the coffee maker the night before. My clothes are hanging, ready from the dry cleaner, and if we’re lucky we’ve made the kids’ lunches. Of course, there are two other small people to dress, comb hair, brush teeth, in the midst of major and minor conflicts related to “don’t touch me,” “don’t look at me,” and “can I play on the iPad?”

Number 4: Let there be light. According to Carly Okyle, and another Entrepreneur.com article, light sends a signal to the brain to wake up and produce melatonin. This is easy for us because we moved in December and still don’t have window coverings in our bedroom. On the flip side, I basically can’t get out of bed until the sun is making an appearance. I am NOT a 5 a.m.-er. I read a book about the “5 O’clock Club,” or some nonsense, and I know people who get up at 5. They all live out west, and I chalk it up to East Coast Markets and their earlier sunrise. I go to sleep at midnight, because the kids go to sleep at 9.

Number 5: Work Out. Yeah right. For a spell I was getting up in in the morning and running. Then I stopped for no good reason. I wonder how many calories I burn carrying a toddler, taking the occasional paddle on our local waters, and hauling the kids around on bikes. I hope it counts as a workout, but I’m guessing it’s just shortening my life.

Number 6: Banish the snooze button. She cites something about how it screws up your REM cycle and your body’s rhythm. Fine. I haven’t set an alarm since having kids (barring an early flight to catch.) On no occasion has my child slept longer than I wanted to. Not. Once.

And don't forget your booties 'cause it's COLD out there!

And don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s COLD out there!

Number 7: Wake up with pleasantness. What? Okay, Carly, this was a throw-away because “9 Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine” just didn’t have the same ring to it. She encourages us to use a pleasant alarm sound. I don’t have the luxury of sleeping until an alarm awakes me, so pleasantness is in the eye of the beholder. I wake up in a nice house in a great neighborhood with the heels of two small, beautiful children, lodged into my spleen. That’s pleasantness in my world.

Number 8: Drink water. Wait? No vodka? After I had a bout of gastritis, someone gave me a little pamphlet on how drinking a glass of room temperature water jumpstarts your organs, blah blah blah. And I do it. I always drink a glass of water before my coffee because of that winkled up pamphlet. So far, I’m still here.

Number 9: Get in a positive mindset. You mean shouting, “Find your other shoe now!” isn’t setting a positive mood for the day?

Number 10: Use technology for some extra help. Okyle suggests sleep tracking apps and recipe sites to bring the magic home. Hmmm… do I really need to tell Google/Apple when I sleep too? Don’t they already know?

Don’t get me wrong, these are all healthy habits that I’m sure would make anyone’s day better. If I were single in my twenties, I’d probably have time to do all of these things and do none of them because I’d have no idea what real stress is.

But, rather than just snark at Carly Okyle’s work, I’m going to try it. Now, I don’t know if I’ll knock all ten of these out every day, but I’m going to put this to work and I’ll report back and how my life has been transformed. In related news, tell my wife I’ll be staying at the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel during this experiment. I’m sure she won’t mind.

-Jonathan Kile

jkilewrites@gmail.com

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