Monday, February 29, 2016

Mug Shots - Life is Good

Life is good. 

Yes, it is. 

This mug was indirectly given to us by our dear friends John and Lisa Blowers. They brought this gift to a WJTL Staff Christmas party a few years ago for the White Elephant gift exchange and through some fancy footwork, Sarah and I managed to wrangle this for ourselves. 

I can't think of a mug that better encapsulates our feelings about John and Lisa. They've been dear friends of ours for quite a while now, and when you're with them you just...feel really good. Warm, generous, and sincere, they're probably one of the coolest couples you could ever have the good fortune of being around. 

When you're with John and Lisa, time really does fly. The common phrase that seems to be said when we're together is "Oh man, is it that late already?" because conversation with them always comes easy. On more than one occasion we've been hanging out, just talking about life and all of its simple pleasures, and seen day turn into night turn into early morning turn into what-are-we-still-doing-up. 

Like everyone else, John and Lisa have seen their fair share of struggle (to hear more about that, check out my interview with Lisa on the Foot in the Door podcast) yet they always persevere. It isn't easy to stay strong when things look grim, but John and Lisa share a faith that would make Job take notice.

At the end of the day, despite what that day may entail, John and Lisa always get back up on their feet and carry on. Seriously, if you want to be an upstanding citizen in a crazy world, then I highly recommend studying these two. Plain and simple they - just like life - are good.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mug Shots - Heady

Chris Heady and I are a lot alike. 

That's not why I like him but it is probably why we clicked so well and so quickly. Between our love for art, the arts, the Muppets, and Sherlock, there's really no way it could have gone wrong.

I met Chris a couple of years ago while I was working as a digital puppeteer (ask me what that is sometime in's a lot different than what you may have in your head and a lot easier to explain when I can use my hands to gesture) and we hit it off immediately. 

Most people try to give a good first impression when they meet someone (those who don't are either psychotic or Mennonite) so as I've gotten older, my jaded self stays guarded until I know just exactly what kind of person I'm dealing with. 

Chris is one of those guys you meet and immediately exhale a sigh of relief, knowing you've genuinely met one of the good ones. He has a sincere desire to get to know others and when he asks questions of people he's just met, you know it's not a formality. Chris just really loves people. 

And his heart. 

Oh, man, I love this guy's heart. It's huge (and not in a medically dangerous way) and it's great and its loyalty knows no bounds. Chris is generous and caring and just...just a really good guy, ya know?  Case in point: This mug he gave us a couple of weeks ago (actually he gave us two, but at the time I took this picture the other was in the dishwasher). Out of the blue he brought these over for us (filled with candy, by the way!) just to express appreciation of our friendship and Sarah and I were both sincerely touched.

I never take the friends who have been put in my path for granted (or at least I genuinely try not to) and this mug always reminds me that when it comes to the people in my life, especially Chris Heady, we are truly blessed.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mug Shots - Pac-Man

This just looks like a simple, plain, black mug but it's not.

Well, it is and it isn't. 

When I received this mug from my sister as a Christmas present, it didn't look like this. Instead it came adorned with the all-too familiar maze from the popular Pac-Man video game (in case you didn't know, I'm a bit of a gamer. You can find some of my gameplay on the Married to the Games YouTube channel). Much like my Community mug, it was heat sensitive, and when the mug was filled with warm liquid, ghosts and Pac-Man would appear on the mug. 

If you read my post about my Community mug, then you know where this is going.

Plain and simple, you're just not supposed to put magical heat-sensitive materials in the dishwasher. Because I didn't heed this warning, my Community mug is forever paintball-splotched. Not so with this one. In fact, pretty much the opposite happened. After one wash cycle, the entire maze decal began to peel off. I felt really bad about it, especially since it was a gift, but not bad enough to change my habits and wash the mug by hand like a commoner. 

So now I have something you don't see much of anymore: a simple, plain, black mug with no decoration on it whatsoever. But to be honest, I kinda like that about it. I'm sorry I didn't take care of the present you gave me, Jaime, but if it helps, I still use it all the time and really like it a lot. It's just...well, now you know why we can't have nice things.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mug Shots - Doney

I met Ed Doney my freshman (and only) year at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He's a Letterman fan, an Ed Grimley fan, and one of the funniest guys I know. Is it any wonder we've been close friends from the get-go?

Ed and I are ridiculous together and we all need a friend with whom we can be ridiculous. If you can judge the quality of friendship by how many in jokes you have, then it would be easy to say Doney and I have a super high-quality friendship. 

If you spend time around us, you'll hear us utter a series of nonsensical phrases (and noises), all with their own had-to-be there backstory. From "Aroo!" to "Do you have any paaaaancakes" to "Don't be scared" to "I....I'm not scared no more" to the classic "BAAAAAAAAAA," we pretty much have our own twin language that immediately sets us into a fit of giggles. 

We all have friends like Doney (or at least I hope you do) and as you're reading this, you're probably thinking of someone with a smile. It's that special pal whom you may not see in person for years but when you finally reunite again it's that old cliche of seeming like a day hasn't passed. 

Doney and I haven't lived in the same area code since that year in Whitcraft Hall back in 1989 and each time we see each other, we make the most of our time together. Whether we're filming shot-by-shot recreations of Rain Man scenes, exploring nearly-abandoned zoos and dinosaur exhibits, ghost hunting, or frolicking through the (scary at night) streets of Baltimore, we always manage to spend our time laughing. 

I'm super happy and pleased to report that Sarah is more than willing to join us in our goofy adventures. Rather than sit back on the sidelines and scoff as the old college buddies try to reconnect, I'm blessed to be married to a girl who is more than willing to not only let the guys have their guy time, but also encourage it. 

Like the time Doney visited and the three of us went walking through downtown Lancaster City on a drizzly day. We took turns taking pictures of each other being ridiculous, and we even got in a three-tiered plank. 

A little while after Doney returned to Oklahoma City, we received this mug in the mail adorned with some highlights of our hang time (you can see a glimpse of one of our cool "If we had a band this would be our artsy album cover" photos on the mug shot above). Needless to say, I love this mug. Although it's only a year and a half old, it carries with it memories of nearly 30 years (yikes!) of laughs, love, and genuine friendship. 

I'll drink to that.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mug Shots - Pottery Works

Not long after Sarah and I got married, we decided to walk to The Pottery Works in downtown Lancaster PA. It's one of those cool little shops where you choose your piece of choice, paint it, and then leave it there for them to fire. A short time later, they give you a call and you can pick up your new uniquely designed piece.

This was my first time at a shop like this and I was impressed with how many things you could choose from to paint and design. Plates, cups, bowls, animals...and a lot more. Of course, Sarah and I opted for coffee mugs and it made for a fun afternoon.

I chose to create a mug with sarcastic directions on how to use it painted all over it and Sarah went the more artsy route. I had forgotten from high school art class how the colors you paint with actually look nothing like the finished project because the heat of the oven makes the paint change. So, if you choose a blue paint, it might look red going on. It's pretty crazy, science and all, and makes it a little tricky to picture what the final project will look like.

Sarah doesn't like how her mug turned out ("I mean, what IS it?" she still asks to this day when I tell her she did a nice job), but I love it because she made it and I love it for its imperfections (or what she sees as imperfections). It's funny how we see ourselves compared to how others see us. When I take a photo of Sarah, it's always a dance because as soon as she catches me pointing the lens at her, she smiles and poses (Understandably so. I think it's a natural instinct for all of us) but I prefer a candid shot, one that doesn't feel planned or staged. I think there's a beauty in the everyday moments of life (especially when Sarah is the subject of the photo).

Maybe that's why I like her mug so much. It reminds me of a sunny Saturday afternoon we spent together but, more than that, it's a reminder that there's beauty in crooked lines. There's warmth and attachment in something truly hand crafted and admittedly a biased love that radiates from within knowing those lines and colors and shapes were made by my best friend.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mug Shots - Frothy Monkey

Yesterday I wrote about my time in Nashville working at Gotee Records. I've since returned to the area a number of times to visit friends and, projecting back to my time there in the early 2000s, the 2002 version of myself is wayyyyyyy jealous of the current-day version of Franklin. I'm not sure when it came about but citizens in and around the downtown area now get to enjoy and take advantage of the existence of Frothy Monkey, a coffee shop/cafe that does everything it does better than most places do. 

I don't remember who tipped me off to Frothy Monkey - probably Gabe or Brad - but I'm glad they did. They make a mean cup and the food... oh man, the food. Also, it's a great place to go if you like playing the "spot the music industry person" game (Hint: Look for skinny jeans and super deep vee shirts (guys only)).

Frothy Monkey is a great place to work out of the office, which many people take advantage of. And, if you're like me, it's a great place to meet someone for an interview which I've done more than a few times for my Foot in the Door podcast. They're always super-accommodating, the breakfast menu is incredible and, as a coffee nerd, I've never had a cup I didn't like.  

In our many visits there we've collected Frothy Monkey sweatshirts (they did NOT skimp on the quality) and of course, two of the mugs shown above. A good coffee shop is more hard to find than you might assume, so it's nice to have places like The Monkey you know and trust that you can hit up while you're in town (the same goes for Catalina Coffee Company in Hermosa Beach CA)

There are actually three Frothy Monkey locations (the other two are in downtown Nashville) so if you're ever in the area, you've no excuse to not stop in and experience the goodness for yourself. And when we're NOT in town...we have these mugs to make us feel like we are.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mug Shots - Gotee 20

From 2002-2004 I worked in the radio promotions department at Gotee Records, a label based in Franklin TN, about 20 or so miles south of Nashville. It was only two short years, but I'd be hard-pressed to find another time frame in my adult life that has meant so much to me and shaped me into who I am today. 

I had been a fan of Gotee and their music (Christian music that doesn't "sound" like Christian music, if you know what I mean) for years. I was a fan while I was there, and I'm still a fan to this day. 

It was during my time there that I really grew to have a heart for musicians and artists. It's so easy to hear a song on the radio and assume that, just because they have a song on the radio, they also have a diamond-encrusted swimming pool and George Clooney on speed dial. Let me assure you, that's not the case (especially in CCM radio). 

I admired the artists I worked with for their dedication to their art and their message. Gotee was an independent label, and that gave us the freedom to put out music that was way ahead of the curve (as a result, we sent a lot of music to Christian AC radio that, as far as I know, is still in the "To Listen" stack of a lot of Music Directors).  

What I'll really take away from my time there, though, are the friendships I've made. Many of my closest friends are those who live(d) in the 615 and I call it a sincere privilege to know so many good people, especially in a town where the "industry machine" rumbles strong. I won't begin to name names, but more than likely if you're reading this and I met you while I was in Nashville, I'm talking about you.

Gotee recently celebrated 20 years and I have to thank Brad Moist at Gotee for hooking me up with this mug. I'm fully aware that in the grand scheme of things two years isn't much, but to me, it' was everything.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mug Shots - Gotham Comedy Club

If you're going to move to New York City, I highly recommend doing it without knowing another soul there. It's a huge city and I realize that may sound counter-intuitive at first. "How will you find your way around the subway?" "Who will tell you how to get to your job on the other side of Times Square without actually having to walk through the masses?" "Who will point you to the nearest Duane Reade?" That last one is actually never a problem. If you don't see one, just turn around and look directly behind you. 

The thing is, when you go there without knowing the answers to these questions - or any of the others that are sure to crop up in the first 20 minutes of setting foot in the city - you're kind of forced to just jump in and go. Or huddle in the corner of an alley, crying and crapping your pants. I guess you could do that, too. 

One of the first things I did was scout out a comedy club (shocker, I know). I don't know if they're still doing this, but at the time Gotham Comedy Club was running a special on weeknights (I want to say Wednesdays, but I'm not sure if that's correct) where it was a 10-dollar cover and you could see a ton of comedians. Most of them were hammering out bits for the weekend and it was so cool to see a number of big-name comedians in the intimacy of a club setting. 

I began to go every week (I don't know if you know this, but Judy Gold is a hell of an emcee) and one night splurged a bit to buy a hot chocolate in a souvenir mug you could take home with you. It reminded me not only of the great comedy I saw, but was also representative of the time I moved to the big city by myself...and didn't get stabbed.

And then...a couple of years later....tragedy.

While washing my mug in the sink at work, I dropped and broke it and this upset me way more than it should have. I don't think it was until that moment I realized just what exactly this piece of kitchenware had come to symbolize for me.  

My time in New York was spent picking up the pieces of a shattered relationship but somehow I found laughter. 

I had become a member of an improv theater where I discovered one of my true joys and also made many lifelong friends, I had a safe haven in Gotham where I knew I could always find laughs, and I found myself giving directions on the subway to tourists without having to consult a map.

When Sarah and I went to New York with her family years later, we returned to Gotham (my first time back since their renovations) to see Iliza Shlesinger perform. And of course, to pick up a replacement mug. Iliza killed it (Of course she did! If you don't know her...I feel bad for you) but I didn't buy myself a new mug. 

I bought two.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mug Shots - Community

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Simply put: Sarah and I love the TV show Community, set at Greendale Community College. Toss in a reference to one of their groundbreaking episodes (Paintball!) and you couldn't ask for a more perfect mug.

Well, I guess you could. This is one of those heat-reacting mugs which starts off as a black mug and when heat is added, the colorful paint splotches appear. 

Unfortunately, we didn't bother to read the directions and looking back, I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to put it in the dishwasher. But let's be honest: We all knew that thing was destined for the dishwasher from day one and we pretty much destroyed the cool special effects.

So now, as a punishment for our lackadaisical drinkware care, the paint splotches are a permanent design. Meh, it's all good. I still like it. When I bought this mug, I bought an identical one for my friend and fellow Community enthusiast Dominic. I hope his is holding up better than ours.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mug Shots - Dylan Brody

I stumbled across Dylan Brody's fine words and phrases a few years ago while I was writing reviews of comedy albums and was immediately a fan. So much so that I soon found myself scouring his online store/emporium for more Brody goodness. 

Being a fan of both good coffee and good storytelling, when I saw this mug I knew I needed to add it to my collection. Not only did I admire the simple, strong strokes of the design, but as a coffee nerd I also loved the fact that it was a 16-oz mug instead of the standard 10 or 12 ounces (since the pourovers I make at home are of the 12-oz sort, many of the mugs we have are just to small to contain the perfect serving size)

I was fortunate to see Dylan live at a Storyteller evening in California a few years ago. Afterward he was gracious enough to chat with Sarah and I over drinks and it was an evening I haven't forgotten. He's a wonderful conversationalist with a knack for encouragement and speaking inspiration. Sarah and I made a few big decisions at the end of 2015 and Dylan's words stuck with us every time we began to second guess whether or not we were doing the right thing.

Encouragement, inspiration, and storytelling, all in one handy mug.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mug Shots - Slospeak

When I was living in Nashville, I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a guy named Davy. He's the kind of person you wish there were more of in the world: kind-hearted, generous, giving of himself and his time, and genuinely concerned for the well-being of others. 

I especially found this to be true when I was going through what was arguably the lowest point of my life. At the time my pride kept me from opening up to others about what I was going through, but Davy wouldn't have any of that. He was there to listen when I needed to bend an ear and speak wisdom to me when I needed to hear it most. 

Fast forward a few years. 

I had since moved out of the area and it had been way too long since Davy and I had seen each other. I had started up a podcast called Foot in the Door, a series of interviews conducted with people whose life stories intrigued me. When I knew my travels would once again take me to Tennessee, a sit-down with Davy was at the top of my list. 

My conversation with Davy isn't the only thing I took back with me on my return trip to Pennsylvania. Also a coffee aficionado, Davy presented me with this Slospeak Records mug after we had finished recording (but not before first sharing a cup of joe in his kitchen to talk about everything that wasn't fit for public consumption).

I love this mug. 

It reminds me of Davy and our friendship, yes, but it also reminds me of what friendship should be. It reminds me to not take my friends for granted; that not admitting I need help or a hand is a selfish place to be, especially when I have people around me who genuinely want to help. All of these thoughts - and more - go through my head whenever I use this mug. 

I'm sure when Davy gave me this memento from the record label he was heading up at the time he had no idea how much it would mean to me. But I wouldn't be surprised if he did. He's just that good a friend.

Mug Shots

We have a lot of coffee mugs. 

Like...a lot.

I realized the other day that many of them have a special story or meaning. Whether given to me by a close friend or purchased at a special moment in time, they carry with them a little extra something that gives each wonderful cup of coffee an extra bump of wonderfulness. 

Over the next few days...weeks...however long it takes me, I'll be writing a series of blogs about them. They'll be presented here in no specific order (it really just depends which one is closest at hand) but I'm eager to share them with you. 

So, grab your own favorite mug and join me. First stop: Slospeak Records!