Who is Feit?

Thought of the Day – 6/30/2015 – Paxton’s Paradox

Imagine an empty room.

It is a smaller room, approximately eight feet by ten feet with the ceiling at an average height.

The walls and ceiling are perfectly white – so unblemished you can almost smell the paint in the air.

The floor is wall to wall linoleum in an equally pristine shade of white.

There are no windows, but the room is well-lit from the ceiling.

In the middle of the room, there is a small table.  It too, is white.

On top of the table sit three items:

  • A brand new loaf of store-bought sliced bread*.
  • A half-empty jar of peanut butter
  • A stainless steel butter knife.

*Ironically, the bread is whole grain wheat; not white.  But that is irrelevant.

Nothing else is in the room.

I guarantee that if you placed me in this room and asked me to make a peanut butter sandwich I would not be able to locate the bag clip or twist-tie used to close the bread bag – especially it if said clip or tie was any color other than white.

*Random factoid:  in many cases, the color of the bag tag or twist-tie relates to when the bread was packaged.  This is Snopes verified, people.

After frantically searching the all white room for the blue twist-tie or sea-foam green bag clip*, I would give up and just spin the loaf real fast to close it.

Finally, after notifying the bag clip’s next of kin, I decide to move on and enjoy my sandwich.  As I raise my PB-sans-J to my lips, I’ll spot the bag clip or tie right where I left it.

Exactly where I had looked 87 times in the last five minutes.

*   *   *

Author’s note:  The title “Paxton’s Paradox” is an obscure reference to Mr. Floyd Paxton, owner of Kwik Lok Corporation – the company that makes the plastic bag clips.

1,000 Reasons for Thanks

On Tuesday, this little ol’ blog hit a pretty big milestone:


One thousand followers.  Damn.

Now, as has been previously discussed, a notable chunk of these are likely spam accounts.  Why do I say that?  Here is the short version:

If a new follower has their own WordPress blog, the New Follower email notification I receive lists three of their most popular posts.  The idea is that if you follow me, I should take the time to read your work and possibly follow you back.  Through this method, I have found multiple blogs that I enjoy and now follow.

But over this past year, I’ve noticed that I have gained a large international audience.  The posts listed on the notification emails are often in a foreign language (including, but not limited to:  Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, and one or more Asian languages).  I’m going to go out on a limb and say these folks are not following me because of my work, but because they think I’m going to blindly click on any link I receive in my email.

How bad has the spam follower phenomenon become?  A year ago, I had a little over 150 followers.  Certainly, I’ve had a good year on this site (including being Freshly Pressed in May), but when my little site is adding four followers a day (and my page views are increasing at the same rate) I call BS.

All of this said, I know that I am still adding human, English-speaking followers who arguably read some of what I post.  Follower 998 was my friend and former co-worker Nick Maestas.  Nick has a beautifully written blog that covers several topics that I’m too chicken___ to write about.  I’d much rather be followed by somebody like Nick than somebody like, say, Jenia568.  While I’m sure Jenia568’s post entitled “Трудный день”* would stick with me (and my virus scan) for years to come, I don’t trust that Jenia568 is a real person, and is definitely not a regular reader of my site.

*Yes, that is one of my “followers” and one of their top posts.  See why I think many of my 1,000 followers are spam?

There is a part of me that wishes my follower numbers were a little more indicative of the number of people who actually read my work on a regular basis instead of the number of spam bots who want me to click on their site.  But for those of you who do follow me, know that I am very thankful for you.  The number of true readers may be less than 1,000, but in my heart it feels like a million.


Happy Third Blogiversary to Me

I realized this morning that I missed the 3rd birthday of Feit Can Write.  Way back on August 17, 2011, I launched Feit Can Write with this post*.

*Technically, my blog was originally called “Feit for your Write” (hence the Beastie Boys reference in that initial post), and was launched on another blogging platform.  I upgraded the name and moved it over to WordPress about a week later.

Looking back at my very humble beginnings, I’m impressed by what I’ve built here.  In the last three years, I’ve posted 375 things, hopefully cementing my status as the web’s go to source for posts on Nebraska football, adoption, and silly lists.  A guilty pleasure is to go back and re-read some of my old pieces.  While there are some things I’d change (a phrasing choice here and there as well as the typos and dropped words that my editor doesn’t always catch), I’m almost always pleased with what I’ve written.  I like that.

In the early days, the readership was limited to immediate family members and a handful of Facebook friends who didn’t have anything better to do.  Now, WordPress shows me with almost 700 followers.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I think a good chunk of these are spam accounts, but I’m thrilled and honored to have a couple of hundred people who legitimately follow what I write.

And the readership…I distinctly remember repeatedly hitting refresh on my stats page on December 31, 2011, hoping that I would get my 2,000th all time view before the year ended (I did).  I was super pumped to hit 2,000 views in four months.  Earlier this month, I had over 2,000 views in a single day (a perfect storm of Nebraska Football, new uniforms, and a click-bait title).  Also this month, Feit Can Write surpassed 50,000 views all time.  I’m humbled and honored that people are coming here (even by mistake or bad Google search) and I hope people like what they read.

What’s next?  Well, football season is about to start so I expect to be busier with that.  The Feit Can Write world headquarters is moving in a few weeks, which means free time is going to be cut down.  I’m behind pace on the number of posts I want for this year, so hopefully I can pick up the volume while balancing work, home, and family.  I do take requests, so if there anything you’d like to see me write on, let me know.

As always, I appreciate the contributions for every one of you – your readership, compliments, shares, likes, comments, and continued support for this little endeavor.


Why I Write (Y)

There is a question I’ve heard a handful of times over the last three years:

Why do you write your blog?

Obviously, it’s not for the money.  To date, I’ve made around zero dollars from feitcanwrite.com and my writing for nocoastbias.com.  I do get a little bit from HuskerMax.com, but it’s best if I think about how I’ve spent my earnings (a nice meal for my wife and a new DSLR camera for me) as opposed to what I make per hour.

So no, I don’t write for the money.  It’s not that I’m opposed to being paid (and if you need any freelance writing done, drop me a line), but with three kids, a mortgage, and car payments, it will probably be a while before I quit my day job.

It’s not about the fame/notoriety/attention either.  Don’t get me wrong:  I am an avid checker of my site statistics to see the number of pages views and followers I have.  I like it when you guys “Like” a post (either here or on Facebook).  I love it when you comment or share something I’ve written.  Those interactions mean a lot to me.  Although they are not a primary motivation, I love knowing that people connect with, enjoy, or even disagree/hate what I’ve written.

But I’m realistic enough to know that there is a ceiling.  I’m not going to be stopped in the middle of Target by somebody saying “are you the guy who writes that blog?”.  While I’m currently adding about five new followers a week, I suspect that many of them are spam accounts*.

*Unless, like David Hasselhoff, I am wildly popular in countries that do not speak English.  That is certainly possible as the song “Feit” is obviously a huge hit overseas.

I think it would be really cool to have something go viral and be shared thousands of times across the country, generating tens of thousands of hits.  But that is something that just happens – not something you set out to do.

So why do I write?

I write because:

I enjoy it.  This is the closest thing to a hobby I have.  Besides, other pursuits (golf, hunting, woodworking, building ships in glass bottles, etc.) don’t interest me.

I sometimes need it to clear out my head.  I’ve talked before about the little guy in my head who feeds me all of my good lines.  There are days when that dude has a lot to say.  Left unchecked, he fills up my brain with thoughts and ideas and snarky bullet point lists.  Eventually, these things take up so much of my internal processing that I struggle to focus on other tasks.  If I don’t get them jotted down in a post or in my virtual notebook, they go spilling out of my ears and are lost forever.

I like to share my opinion, and possibly shape how something/someone is viewed.  I don’t go political very often, because I believe political opinions are too ingrained.  (I could do 5,000 words telling you Party X is wrong and Party Y is right, but it won’t have any impact on how you view the situation).  But on other topics – specifically, Nebraska Football – I love having a platform to help shape how something is viewed.  I enjoy the opportunity to call out fans for overreacting, praise players for small things that might go unnoticed, or provide a voice of reason among the talk radio and message board extremists.  I like that a lot.  I’ve also been an advocate for adoption on this site, and I cherish being able to share our experiences and my opinions.

It is a good outlet for my creativity.  I don’t paint, sketch, or doing anything related to arts and crafts.  Writing allows me to stretch my brain, look at the world from (hopefully) a unique perspective, and have some fun.  I enjoy the creative challenge of writing a post with exactly 1,000 words or starting each sentence with a different letter of the alphabet, or coming up with silly things like rejected tributes to Tom Osborne.  Those things are great for my brain and they get the creative juices flowing.

I’m good at it.  There, I said it.  I try to be pretty humble about my writing, but let’s be honest here:  there are some horrible blogs cluttering up the internet.  I like to think that I am one worth following and reading.  I wrote my first Husker piece because I was unsatisfied by the other offerings on the web (a polite way of saying that I thought they all sucked).  I knew I could do something better, so I did.  I realize that I’m not going to win very many awards (aside from the virtual blogging awards that remind me of chain letters), but I’m okay with having an ego about the things I write.  I make a conscientious effort to only publish things that I’m happy with – and willing to put my name/reputation on.  The rest lives in my Drafts folder awaiting revisions or a trip to the trash can.

And there you have it.  I doubt there are too many surprises in there.  There may other reasons why I write tucked way down in my subconscious thoughts, but unless my loyal readers are going to chip in for a psychiatrist, that is where they will stay.

As always, I thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing.

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

How a Dime Made Me Rich (X)

Authors note:  I’m realizing that I never wrapped up the A-Z Challenge I started in April.  Since I want to finish what I start – even if it takes longer than anticipated – we’ll get it knocked out.

*   *   *

If I’m faced with a coin flip option, I am always going to pick heads.


With very little exaggeration, I can say that almost every good thing in my adult life can be traced back to a single flip of a coin.  God only knows where I would be today, what I would be doing, and who I would be doing it with if I had said “tails”.

And it all started with a very lucky dime.

*   *   *

For much of this story to make sense, we need to set the stage.  The year is 2002.  My buddy Tony is marrying the love of his life, and I’m serving as his best man.  The wedding is in a small town, about three hours away.

I’m technically single, but I spend more time hanging out with my ex than the people on How I Met Your Mother.  I know there is zero future there, so I’m hoping to meet somebody new.  Unfortunately, I’m quickly realizing that I probably won’t meet anybody at this wedding – for whatever reason, there are not a lot of single ladies at this event.

One of the other groomsmen (Chad) in the wedding party is also single, and we’ve joked that we’re going to have to fight over any eligible bachelorettes.

Early on in the reception, the battle commences.  Chad and I are introduced to Michelle by a mutual acquaintance.  Jokingly, it is pointed out that Chad and I represent all of the eligible males at the wedding, and Michelle is one of a few single females.  Somehow, it is decided that in order to settle it like gentlemen, there should be a coin toss to see who has the “right” to pursue Michelle that evening.*

*Trust me, this conversation was much more innocent, and not nearly as sexist as I’m making it sound.

One problem:  nobody has a quarter that we can flip.  Finally, we track down somebody* who has a dime and commandeer it for the official flip for Michelle’s hand.

English: A Silver Roosevelt Dime from 1953.

Heads or Tails? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the coin was flicked in the air, I called – you guessed it – heads.  The reveal showed Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s handsome face.  I had won.

*The identity of the dime’s original owner has been long forgotten, but whomever it is, I owe you ten cents.  After I won, I held onto your dime.

If this were Hollywood, this would be the part where the time lapse montage begins, possibly accompanied by “Meant to Be” by The Nadas, showing how we bonded and fell deeply in love that first night.

But O’Neill, Nebraska is a long way from Hollywood.

Over the course of the evening, I did my best to talk to Michelle, get to know her, and be as cute and charming as I could possibly muster.  This was made difficult by my best man duties (toasts, dances, doing the YMCA with the other groomsmen, and leaving to pull a prank in the honeymoon suite) as well as the fact that I really suck at flirting.

Towards the end of the night, she’s getting ready to make the drive back to Lincoln.  I ask for her phone number, and she tells me “I’m in the book”.*

A fairy tale ending, no?  I told you O’Neill, Nebraska is a long way from Hollywood.

*If you think that is a lukewarm reaction, you should know that when her roommate asked if she met anybody at the wedding, my future wife replied with “nobody I’m going to marry”.  

She likes to remind me of this when I’m being difficult.

*   *   *

The following week, I was going out of town on a business trip.  As I was packing Sunday night, I looked up her phone number in the phone book, and tossed it into my suitcase.  After an appropriate number of days, I called her.  We talked for a long time and I was able to secure an actual date.

I have often said that I have zero idea how somebody like her fell for somebody like me, but against all odds, I pulled it off.  Don’t believe me?  Here are some “highlights” from our dating life:

  • Our first date was to a “Cajun Festival” that was woefully short on food, but long on loud music that made it tough to talk.  I struggled to hear half of what she was saying.  I did a lot of smiling and nodding.
  • When I tried to kiss her goodnight, I ended up kissing the area between her upper lip and her nostrils (I thought she was taller).
  • One of our first dates involved eating Long John Silvers.  In my car.  In the parking lot of Super K.*
  • The first time I professed my love for her, I was on a business trip in DeKalb, Illinois.  I called her from a payphone, drunk, somewhere around midnight.  I left a message on her work voice mail.  In my defense, I had tried to call her house, but her sister – also in a lack of sobriety – kept answering and telling me to “never to call again”.  I may or may not have thrown up at some point in the next hour.
  • And so many more….

*How I remained single into my late twenties is really anybody’s guess.  I was such a remarkable catch.

*   *   *

Michelle and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary in April.  Our first ten years were a whirlwind of laughter, tears, fun adventures and quiet nights at home.  We have endured the loss of family members, jobs, and our fertility, and have been blessed with three amazing children and a commitment  that is stronger than ever*.

*Mainly because neither one of us wants to be a single parent of three.  (Just joking, kids)

Obviously, it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows.  We’ve had to learn a lot to get to this point, and I know that I still have lots to learn, and much to improve upon as a husband.

But I’m pretty damn proud that our first ten years went by in the blink of an eye.  It bodes well for the next ten, and the ten after that, and so on.

Which is a damn good return on a ten cent investment.

*   *   *

(Author’s note II:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)


Quiet (Q)

The older I get*, the more I appreciate and desire quiet.

*My next birthday will have a zero in it.  I get closer to grumpy old man status every day.

Partially, this is due to having three kids ages five and under, all of whom fail to grasp the concept of “indoor voice”.  At any given moment, one of them is yelling/talking very loudly, another is crying or whining, and the third is trying to rest.  So.  Much.  Noise.

I spend such a significant portion of my day shushing them that I’m afraid they’ll grow up thinking Daddy has a slow leak.  I’m also very much afraid that during some contentious work meeting, I’m going to break in with a twenty second long “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”.

Shh--Daily Image 2011--April 2

I may install this floor in one of the rooms of my house. (Photo credit: Rochelle, just rochelle)

In my life, it often feels like quiet trails only “sleep” and “money” on the list of Things I Don’t Get Enough Of.

Certainly, much of this is self-inflicted.  I love the big personalities my kids have, and I don’t want to discourage them from expressing themselves – or try to shut them up with a movie* whenever they start getting too loud.

*Especially since the movie of choice in our house is Frozen, which leads to two guarantees:  1) my five year old daughter live-performing the movie line-by-line and song-by-song, 2) I end up with one of the songs (usually “Let it Go” or “Love is an Open Door”) wedged in my skull for the next five hours.  Heck, just typing the words “let it go” has been enough to put that song in my head on a continual loop.

Gone are the days when I looked forward to going out with friends to a noisy bar or when I would crank the volume when a favorite song came on.  Now, I find myself looking for ways to have a few blessed minutes of peace and quiet – even if it means making a last minute run to the grocery store, washing bottles, or some other chore that I would otherwise like to avoid.

I think when my birthday rolls around, I’m going to ask for noise-cancelling headphones…and wear them during most of my waking hours.

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Inside the Blogger’s Studio

A recent daily writing prompt asked folks to pretend to be guests on Bravo’s Inside the Actors’ Studio, an interview show where host James Lipton would ask each guest the same ten questions.

I’ll admit to having never watched a complete episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio*, but I’m not going to let that stop me.

*But I am familiar with the classic Will Ferrell spoofs of Actor’s Studio on SNL.  Close enough?

Your moderator for the evening.

I am a sucker for these types of questionnaires, be it in a blog prompt chain email, or Facebook meme.  Besides, who doesn’t love the opportunity to talk about themselves?

  • What is your favorite word?

Onomatopoeia.  Aside from it being a beautiful word to say, I love the irony that a word meaning “The formation or use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to” sounds nothing like the act of forming words.

  • What is your least favorite word?

Lots of options here.  “Moist” was one of the first to come to mind, but I feel like that is a clichéd response.  Besides, when used correctly (such as an adjective for cake), moist is wonderfully descriptive word.  My choice would probably be “panties”.  It is damn near impossible for a grown man to utter that word without sounding like a creepy perv.

  • What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

When an idea sparks in my head – a line that I think is clever, an opinion or insight that I must share, or I hear/read something that causes me to react strong (or with an excess of sarcastic snark) – it is amazing.  When that happens, I simply MUST write it down – even if it is just jotting a quick note in the electronic notebook I keep.

  • What turns you off?

I assume we’re still talking about creatively.  Otherwise, this is going to get uncomfortable for everybody.

My creative turn offs are a lack of time/energy to write; and dealing with stress zaps my creativity.  Frankly, I’d love to know what I could produce if I didn’t have to worry about / focus on silly things like work and paying bills.

  • What is your favorite curse word?

I’m going to give two answers here –  a PG and non-PG answer.  Why?  I feel that for the most part, “curse” words have lost their meaning.  An F-bomb in public, during a movie, or from your parent doesn’t have the same punch as it did 20, 30, or 40 years ago.  Shit, damn, bitch, and a host of other words practically feel conversational nowadays.  If you want shock value – which, lets face it, is a big reason why people swear in the first place – you need to go atomic by stringing together multiple curses into a Clark Griswold Christmas Vacation type rant.  Or you need to go to race or sexual orientation, which is not advised for day to day use.

My non-PG answer would be the f-bomb.  It is simple, classic, and timeless.  As others have noted, it can be a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, and so much more.  It can express frustration, fear, disappointment, hurt, and a whole host of other emotions.

But since I have three kids under the age of five, I need some good PG alternatives.  As much as I believe traditional curse words are losing their meaning and power, they are plenty potent (and pretty damn funny) when they come from a little kid.  Therefore, when I need to express frustration, I go with one of three child-friendly standbys:  “Biscuits and gravy!!”  “God Bless America!” or “Sons of guns!”

  • What sound or noise do you love?

Absolutely, and without a doubt, the giggles and laughter of my children.

  • What sound or noise do you hate?

I can deal with screaming, whining, crying kids, fingernails on blackboards*, squeaking Styrofoam (my wife’s nemesis), and a ton of other noises, but I simply cannot stand a dentist’s drill.

*I’m realizing what a dated reference that is.  Also, fingernails on a whiteboard makes no discernible sound.

  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I would love to be professionally retired.

  • What profession would you not like to do?

If my job involved selling stuff or contractor type duties, my family would starve.

  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“Trust me, this is most definitely NOT Iowa.”


One Year Ago This Weekend – Abridged

*Author’s note:  If this post seems familiar to you, know that I’m not doing reruns.  I am entering a contest sponsored by A Child’s Hope Adoption Services about adoption stories.  I started with this post, but needed to chop it down to 500 words.  Brevity is not always a strong suit, but I’m happy with how this turned out.

*   *   *

A  year ago, life sucked.

A lot.

My wife’s busy season at work means sixty hour weeks, and full-time daddy duty with our three year old Jamie.  Busy days.  Short nights.  Lots of stress.

We’re also two months removed from a failed adoption.  The pain is still raw.

Our agency says we could get a call any day, but my hopes aren’t up.  I’ve switched off the pain until Michelle’s work settles down.

Michelle isn’t so lucky.  She naturally wears her heart on her sleeve.  Sixty hour weeks plus guilt from being away from Jamie doesn’t help.

Michelle sends me two emails.  She said she was crying in the bathroom over a co-worker’s baby shower.

The second reads:

“Not getting better.  Can I cry?  Walk out?  Come back in a week?”

Today is Friday, March 9, 2012.

*   *   *

Jamie is at Grandma’s this weekend.  I need the break, and time with Michelle.  I know she’s struggling.

We take time to rest and recharge.  We sleep in and go out to eat.

Today is Saturday, March 10.

*  *  *

We pick up Jamie.  We missed her – our rock through the failed adoption.  She’s so ready to be a sister.

We head home towards another hectic week.

Meanwhile, a woman is admitted to an Orlando hospital.

Today is Sunday, March 11.

*  *  *

I head to work for another forgettable Monday.  Around 4:00, Michelle calls.  I hear excitement for the first time in weeks.

“How would you feel about a son?”

She explains:  a mom wants to place her newborn son.  Placement would be tomorrow.  In Orlando.

Dazed, I head home.  Michelle tells her boss she’s out for 12 weeks, starting tomorrow.

Over dinner, we discuss the situation.  It takes two minutes.  This is our son.

Today is Monday, March 12, 2012.

*  *  *

We spend the evening in controlled chaos.  Booking travel, finding non-pink items from our baby girl stuff.  Packing, packing, packing.

Michelle asks about a name.  We had a girl name, but nothing for a boy.

I reply, “What about Cameron?”

Michelle likes Cameron.  I like Cameron.  Our son has a name.

We just need to go get him.

*  *  *

Four hours of sleep, but I’m not looking for the snooze button.  We’re meeting our son today.

We get dressed and load the car.  Jamie doesn’t know what’s happening, but she loves an adventure.  She’s wearing the “Big Sister” shirt we bought to announce our last match.

In the car, Michelle calls our agency.  The birth mom can sign relinquishment papers today.  We won’t leave until they’re signed.

A big smile from Michelle, and we’re off to the airport.

*  *  *

After a long day of travel, we leave the airport and go to the hospital.

We meet our caseworker, and review a mountain of papers.  I know they serve a purpose, but I can only think of Cameron.  I’d sign anything to see him.

Finally, its time.

We meet our Cameron.

Today is Tuesday, March 13, 2012.

Life has improved greatly.


My wife and I are infertile.  I’ve long since come to grips with this, and as such, I understand there are some aspects of a fertile male’s life that I will never experience.  For example, I’ll never get to put my hand on my wife’s tummy and feel a kick.  I’ll never see a child that shares the same DNA as we do*.  I’ll never have the “delivery room” experience, or get cut an umbilical cord.**

*This is probably for the best as our collective family health risks would likely make any biological child one big, genetic time bomb.  Put it this way:  if there is a charity walk to support it, you can probably find it somewhere in our families.

**Also for the best as I’m irrationally weird about belly buttons.  Just typing this sentence makes me uncomfortable.

I am completely, perfectly, 100% fine with not experiencing these things.  Through the wonder of adoption, we have two healthy and happy children who are more beautiful than anything my flawed DNA could ever hope to be apart of.  We are blessed beyond reason.  We’ve talked about adopting again, but I’ve been firm in wanting to be done.

Or so I thought.

*  *   *

On a typical Tuesday morning (July 23, 2013), I’m sitting at my desk doing some work.  My wife calls and ask if I want to take an “early lunch”.  Looking at the clock on my PC, I see that it’s 10:29 am.

I am far from hungry, but I can tell that my wife wants to talk about something.

In person.


We agree to meet at home in 15 minutes and I head out the door.  I arrive home fully expecting to hear some job-related news.  Her department has been having some issues, and I’m wondering if she was fired.  Or if she got fed up and walked out.  Maybe she was offered a vacant management position.

We step in the house, and she tells me “_______________”.

Yeah, I have no idea what she said – either exactly or paraphrased.  It was something about a phone call from Florida.  But the message was this:

The birth mother of our son is pregnant and has chosen to place the baby for adoption.  Our adoption agency wants to know if we would accept the placement.

And just like that, I got to experience something I never thought would happen to me:  being told “You’re going to be a father” completely and totally out of the blue.

According to my wife, my initial response was “So you’re not fired?”

*   *   *

The next 20-30 minutes are a bit of a blur.  The baby is going to be a girl.  My wife always wanted to have two girls.  She’s a giddy, teary, excited mess.  She wants this.

I think of my son, picturing his beautiful face.  There is no way I could ever look into his deep, dark eyes and say “Well, buddy, Mommy and I had a chance to adopt a baby sister – your biological half-sister – but we said no.  Sorry, little dude.”  As much I was done – had you asked me 45 minutes earlier, I would have told you that I was more likely to grow a third arm than have a third child – this was a no-brainer for me.

When we called the agency’s case worker back to say “yes”, she said “Well, that was fast!”

Of course it was fast.  We’re talking about my daughter.

*   *   *

I’ll admit it:  I’m in shock.  As I type this, I still am in disbelief.

Oh yeah, there’s one other little tidbit from that first conversation with my wife that I haven’t shared yet:  this baby girl’s due date is August 19.  2013.  We don’t get nine months.  We don’t even get nine weeks.

This is a serious game changer for us.  With our previous two adoptions, we were able to plan and save.  I don’t know if you know this or not, but adoption is kind of expensive.  While my wife’s employer has some adoption benefits, it barely puts a dent in what we need.  Can I fit three car seats in my sedan?  We don’t have an open bedroom so somebody will have to double up.  There are a thousand other things that change.  The classic parenting joke of having to switch from a man-to-man to a zone defense.  Knowing that I may not sleep through the night again until 2014.  May not dine in a restaurant with my family until 2015.  May not be able to retire until 10 years after I die.

But it will all work out.  It will all be worth it.

This is my daughter.

*   *   *

As you are reading this, we’re sitting in a rented vacation home in Orlando, Florida – that’s where our daughter was born.  We’ve actually been here for a while.  We believed the birth mom would go into labor early, and since we were driving from our home in Nebraska*, we decided to take advantage of a weekend to get down here.

*Yeah, that drive was not exactly a breeze.  1,400 miles with kids that apparently are incapable of sleeping in a car – no matter the time of day.  All I know is the person who thought to put a DVD player in minivans will forever hold a fond place in my heart.  I’m sure the drive back with a newborn will be much better.

We took placement today (Saturday, August 24), and baby was discharged from the hospital into our custody. Now, we hang out here and wait for our ICPC clearance to leave Florida and reenter Nebraska.

Waiting for paperwork to process may sound like a real drag – especially to adoptive parents whose lives can feel like one giant form, but this is different.  This is relaxing, stress-free time.  This is bonding with a baby, and spending the quality family time that politicians preach about (before they go sleep with their mistress).  In short, this is heaven with take out food and a swimming pool.

*   *   *

I know most of my friends are probably reading this with their jaws dragging on the floor.

Trust me, I can relate to the disbelief you’re feeling.

I do want to apologize to you for not letting you know about this sooner.  But as you may remember, we got burned once by a failed adoption.  Even though we had absolutely no reason to believe it would happen this time, the simple truth is that until the relinquishment papers are signed, the birth mom has every right to parent this baby.  So we wanted to be guarded and protect ourselves.  Neither my wife nor I had any desire to go through the pain of having to tell everybody in our lives that we got our hearts broken.  Again.  Therefore, we decided to wait until she was born and her birth mom had signed the relinquishment papers.

I hope you can understand why we had to keep it a secret.

Besides, everybody loves a good surprise.

Baby Lexi

Baby Lexi

*   *   *

Alexandra Grace Paris Feit was born at 3:54 am on Thursday, August 22.  Lexi, as we will call her, weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces and was 20 inches long.  She is a perfectly healthy little girl with a full head of silky black hair.  Her birth mama needed an emergency C-section*, but is recovering well.  We understand that she was released from the hospital today.

*Almost a week past her due date, little Lexi was in no hurry to be born.  We were told that she was hanging on to her birth mama as the doctor delivered her.

Her birth mom chose her first name (from the two finalists we had narrowed it down to).  Her first middle name (Grace) is the name of her great-grandma (my wife’s grandma) who is very dear to us.  Her second middle name (Paris) was given to her by her birth mom, and is the name of her grandpa (her birth mom’s daddy) who shared a birthday with Lexi.

Lexi’s big sister Jamie is over the moon, and wants nothing more than to hold her and kiss her.  Lexi’s big brother Cameron doesn’t quite grasp what is going on yet, but we’re sure that he will be a wonderful (and protective) big brother.

My beautiful family

My beautiful family

I Survived One of the Worst Companies in America

I’ve been seeing the same link show up in my email and Facebook timeline over the last week.  The link is from the website 247WallStreet.com, who released their second annual list of America’s Worst Companies to Work For.

The reason so many people are sharing it?  One of my former employers* made the list, and there is no shortage of people in my life (good friends, current co-workers, and Facebook friends) who worked there too.

*I’ve gone back and forth on if I should mention the company by name or not.  On one hand, it’s been eight years since I left, and I don’t feel like I owe them anything.  On the other hand, this company has a pretty sizable footprint where I live, and their turnover is large enough that almost every single business in this town employs somebody who used to work there (something like 14 of the 17 guys in my office worked there at one point).  So I’m going to refrain from naming them at this time.  While I don’t foresee a situation where I go back to work for them, I don’t think I need to get into bridge arson – especially on a site that bears my name.  

If you really want to know who it is, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.  There are only nine companies on the Worst list, and I’ll even give you a hint:  this company is not located in any shopping mall.

(And if that doesn’t give it away, I have a hunch that one of my former colleagues will name them in the comments.)

While I knew the company would probably never make a list of best companies to work for, I’ll admit that I was a little surprised to see the whole corporation listed.  To be sure, the Lincoln office had it’s fair share of issues, annoying quirks, and things that frustrated employees, but I always assumed the grass was greener elsewhere within the corporation.

Almost every former employee I’ve met from there has a collection of war stories from their time there – things that shock and stun friends and colleagues.  When people get together to complain about their jobs, a person who worked at this company will almost always win – unless he’s going up against somebody who’s occupation is featured on one of those Dirty Jobs reality shows.

Don’t believe me?  Here are some of the war stories, lore, and head-scratching “I can’t believe they did that” things that were commonplace.  Some of these were set policies, others were “unwritten rules” that were passed down from the lifers and never violated.

  • Men wore a suit and tie.  Every day.*

*Okay…in fairness, they have since gone to business casual, a move that many (including myself) expected to be followed by a plague of frogs.

  • Jackets were expected to be worn between the different buildings, as well as walking to your car for lunch.
  • No walking on the grass.  In one of the parking lots, there is a five foot strip of grass separating the different rows.  It would be so much quicker and easier to take one or two steps over the grass instead of walking all the way around, but it simply was not done*.  Walking on the grass was viewed as the ultimate act of rebellion – and yet, nobody ever did it.

*My buddy Nate worked there during same time frame I did.  He has since started his own lawn care business, which I believe was done partially out of a repressed subliminal need to walk on grass.

  • Other than printer paper, no office supplies were provided.  None.  If you needed a stapler, scissors, or a two-inch piece of scotch tape, your choices were bum it off somebody else or bring it from home.  I can remember a several month stretch where paper clips were such a rare commodity that some folks horded them*.  The only thing we had an abundance of was pens.  The company worked in an industry where free pens are plentiful.  I, and others, became very adept at stealing pens.

*We never got to the point were paper clips were used as currency, like cigarettes in a prison.  But it was close.

  • No food or water at your desk.  The main building housed a couple of hundred employees, but had no refrigerator, no microwave, nothing besides a pop machine in the break room.
  • Expenses were paid by the customers, not the company, but they were still very stingy on how money was spent.  Co-workers of the same gender were expected to share hotel rooms, regardless of age or rank.  The lone exception was if one of the people was a notorious snorer, but only if the other person complained.
  • Expense reports were reviewed with a fine tooth comb.  While no written policy was in place, it was understood that meals were not to exceed $20, and tips should not exceed 15%.  I was once called into the office of my boss’s boss because I had tipped too much, and needed to resubmit my expense report without the “excessive” gratuity.  How generous had I been?  I had blown past the 15% maximum by two pennies.  He did not appreciate it when I told him that the combined cost of the sheet of paper, toner, my time, and his time were well in excess of 2 cents.

Yeah…I’m gonna need you to redo that expense report, and put a cover sheet on it this time.

  • There was no internal posting of job openings or applying for promotions or lateral moves.  Management would quietly select people to interview for open jobs, and the process would be ultra secretive until somebody accepted.
  • Discussing salaries among colleagues was a fire-able offense.  More than one colleague cynically noted that it is much easier to underpay employees if they don’t know what their peers are making.

Pretty crappy huh?  The place was a TPS Cover Sheet away from being Initech from the movie Office Space.


Not where I used to work, but pretty damn close


But here’s the thing:  I’m happy that I worked there.

It’s not because I’m a masochist, love needlessly strict (but yet unwritten) rules, or enjoy being viewed as an expendable cog instead of a valued asset.

I’m glad I worked there for the experience.  Not necessarily the industry skills, but for the professional and life lessons I learned while earning a paycheck from them.  For example:

  • Always negotiate salary.  On my application, I put down a number and they offered it to me.  Being fresh out of college, having only worked retail and lawn care jobs, I jumped at it.  Who knows who much more I could have made (in terms of raises and 401(k) contributions) if I’d negotiated an extra $1500?
  • A baby-faced 24-year-old in a suit will be called “sir” and get respect in most situations.  A baby-faced 24-year-old in jeans and t-shirt does not get that same respect nearly as often.
  • Be very careful what you put into an email, and who it goes to.  Learned that one the hard way.
  • I got to travel.  A lot.  I went on over 125 business trips for them, and got to see big cities and remote backwater towns.  Places that a kid from a small Nebraska town would otherwise never see.  Aside for my excessive tipping, most of it was paid for.
  • Many rules – even the head-scratchers – were made with good intentions.
  • Treat co-workers – even the ones you don’t necessarily like – with respect.  They’re less likely to screw you over that way.
  • When you don’t get much, you appreciate what you have even more.
  • Hard work pays off.  Eventually.
  • Complain all you want, but nobody will listen unless you can provide a solution.
  • Opportunities often arise when you least expect it.

But most of all, I’m glad I worked there for one key, over-arching reason:  I have had a much greater appreciation for the perks, benefits, and corporate cultures offered by my subsequent employers than if I had never worked there.  Instead of having an entitled, I-deserve-this attitude, I am thankful for what I get.

Case in point:  at one of my last jobs (not with the company being discussed here), they brought in pizza before a meeting.  The pizza they ordered was not very good, nor was there very much to go around.  This led to a lot of complaining from the staff, but not from me and another guy who had worked at the “worst” company.  We were thrilled that there was food, we could eat it at our desks, and we didn’t have to pay for it.

In short, if I can survive (and thrive) for seven years at one of the worst companies in America, I can be successful anywhere.

(But being I sure appreciate companies with good culture and better people)

A picture from a meeting at my current employer.  Yeah.

A picture from a meeting at my current employer. Yeah.

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