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My Version of “Critic’s Math”

Not long ago, Jon Acuff, wrote about “critic’s math.” In his
, he talks about how even someone as successful as Larry
David (co-creator of Seinfeld) does it.

How does this formula work? X number of compliments + 1 insult = 1 insult. Acuff says that we all too often lose sight of the
overwhelmingly positive in the face of a single negative.

I do this. You probably do it, too. I think it’s human (meaning fallen) nature to accentuate the negatives this way (“I heard You, and I was naked. So I hid).

As if that isn’t bad enough, some of us (meaning: me) take it a step further.

What do I mean?

I call it Chad’s corollary. Here’s how that works:

I’ve achieved a modest level of success in the blogosphere, and thus
have received a certain number of “attaboys.” By and large, very few
people have leveled any criticism at me.

In a very real sense, I’m somewhat prepared for it: I know that my
writing is not for everyone, that I exist in a certain niche–not everyone will get me. And that’s okay. I can deal with the lumps that come my way.

But what happens when the criticism strikes closer to home? When perhaps my wife doesn’t like something I’ve written, or said? Am I likewise prepared?

The answer has been, unfortunately, a resounding “No.” In my version of “critic’s math,” despite all the nice things she’s said about my writing over the years, on the rare occasions she’s had something less than flattering to say, I’ve gone “to the mattresses.”

The one person on this earth who is the most “for me,” and I’ve treated her like a bad boss–even accused her of being out to get me. In a badly misplaced sense of “artistic pride,” I’ve given her

As my friend, Ricky
, told me: that’s what bad bosses do.

But not wives.

Wives are on our teams.

My wife is on my team. Yet when I work hard on something, and she
brings a challenge–a little accountability–I bring out the claws.
Despite learning at the Love and Respect conference that women, by and large, confront to connect. Not to spar, but to engage.

She does this because she doesn’t want anything to come between us.

Which I don’t want, either. But is exactly what I do when I want the
strokes without the accountability. By fighting so ardently for my vision, my rights, my point of view, I put her on the wrong side of my dream.

Which is exactly the last thing I want her to do: is see this blog–my
writing–as something that comes between us. Especially if I want it
to become something more than a modestly trafficked blog.

I need her on my team.

And what did Jesus say? “He who seeks to save his live, shall lose it…”

I’m done trying to “save” my life. As such, Lisa, I want to publicly
apologize for running roughshod over your feelings. For playing “critic’s math,” when all you wanted to do was build me up. Please forgive me.

And faithful readers, this is where you come in: if you’ve ever found any value in this blog, any worth in the words I’ve spilled upon this page, please help keep me accountable in giving proper weight to the words of the one person on Earth who loves me the most.

Thank-you for reading!

Have you ever done this? Pushed back when you should have embraced?

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may feel you know a thing, or two, about me. And that may be. You know that:

I’m generally introverted, yet despite this:

I’ve gotten very personal on this blog, divulging a number of my failings.

Some of you have called me “brave” for doing so. I don’t feel particularly brave, but I do feel very blessed to have such an awesome group of readers. I appreciate each and every one of you.

As much as I’ve shared here, you don’t know the half of it–because you haven’t heard from my other half. As they say, behind every good man is a great woman. While I make no claims to “goodness,” God has blessed me with a great wife.

Without her, I couldn’t do what I do here, and elsewhere.

As such, I feel like it’s time that you all got to know Lisa a little better.


Thus it’s time to take that next logical, albeit, scary step, and open the floor to my lovely wife. Although she usually reads my blog, and I have her preview some posts, she has by-and-large not been active here.

I’d like to change that by giving you a forum to ask her any questions you wish.

If there’s anything you ever wanted to know, like:

How does she feel about some of my posts?

20120518-120453.jpg What’s it like being married to me?

What’s the square root of 144? (Never mind–that’s just gross).

Or if you just want her to dish the dirt, ask away.

I’m opening the floor to you.

Expect her answers in about a week (or so).


20120503-203409.jpgI feel like things have been kinda heavy, a little ponderous, around here lately. As such, I think it’s time for a nice little slice o’ life pie.


So, the other day my wife went grocery shopping. I’m glad for that, because it’s among my least favorite things to do. I mean it’s not “doing your taxes” bad, but’s not fun either. I mean if we hit the store, I’m in the cafe area writing. And maybe sipping a beer (yes, this grocery has a beer garden. Cool, right?).

Besides when I shop, I usually forget what I’m there after, and get things we don’t need (chocolate is essential, right?) <--In over twenty-one years of marriage this strategy has yet to work. She still sends me (from time to time).So I keep coming home with the good stuff.

Anyway, on the day I alluded to above, she’d done the shopping, and brought the goods home.

Picture the scene:

Grocery bags are in the backseat of my Scion xB (we switched that week due to car problems), so she’s bent over, reaching in to get what she can carry before making another trip. She straightens up, turns around, and is surprised to see a man (who isn’t me) standing behind her.

She screams. He screams, and jumps about six feet off the ground. He runs away.

Only later does she realize it was our new neighbor. Because we haven’t gotten to know him yet, I’ll call him “Ivan.” I say that because we have overheard him speaking in some kind of Slavic tongue.

So Ivan it is.

In relating the details to me, my wife can’t quite put her finger on what Ivan’s intentions were. Because he never spoke to her! That’s right: he stealthily encroached inside her comfort zone without so much as a “By your leave.”

So we still don’t know: did he want to help her with the groceries, or was he checking her out? Because I’ve heard that, even in Soviet Russia, one announces one’s presence when approaching someone unawares.

Or as Yoda would say: “The creeper is strong with this one.”

What do you say? Have you ever had anything like this happen to you? As John Quinoñes asks: “What would you do?”

God has a sense of humor. How do I know? He made this big old stupid world, right? And everyone in it.

Including me. Now, I’ve been a douche a time, or two–or three. If we’re honest, we all have.

That disclaimer out of the way, here are some of my pet peeves:

On the evening of April 1st, my wife and went to visit my father-in-law (who is recovering from surgery). The visit went well, he’s doing well. That was all fine and dandy. Afterwards, we knew we needed to get a few things from the store. Also fine, but first: we were hungry.

So we went to one of our favorite Mexican places (which we hadn’t been to in quite awhile), were seated, asked for water, etc.

We placed our orders. But there was something missing…

Chips! Our waiter hadn’t brought any. Thinking that perhaps this was a sign of the economic times, I asked him. His answer:

“We’re out.”

Did I mention this was April 1st? Even so: he wasn’t fooling. Not having those crunchy, delicious bits of fried corny goodness was like a kiss without a squeeze, or (for those that roll that way) apple pie without the cheese. (Who puts cheese on pie? Eww!). <--it's the Canadians, right? Figures!Our meal--incomplete though--had me at burrito! Om-nom-nom!----------------The next day, mainly because I had to, but mostly because I wanted to, I took an extra day off work to spend time--sans kids--with my beautiful bride of 21+ years. It being the day before her birthday, I wanted it to be special. We went out for breakfast; which, thankfully, was uneventful.Then we went shopping. I don't know about you, but shopping always does two things to me:I get tired, and I get hungry. (And maybe just a wee bit cranky, too).Anyway, because we were relatively close (relatively being about fifteen miles), we decided to try out this place we'd seen on T.V. Famous for their pies, they also have a cafe for the road-weary traveler. It's quite historic--having been since the late teens of the last century. It's also, being so old, quite rustic.Ok, it's pretty much a truck stop. <--this we didn't know ahead of time, ok?Anyway, we park, walk into the gift shop--to the left is the saloon, to the right, the "restaurant"--and seat ourselves (there's a sign telling us to).I excuse myself to the restroom; when I get back, my wife tells me:"A girl came over with menus, asked about drinks. When I asked her about the fajitas, you know what she said, 'I'm not your waitress. I just bring drinks.' How was I supposed to know?"How was she indeed? (Hint: she wasn't). If someone comes to your table bearing: menus, cutlery, and asks about drinks, what would you conclude?It gets better.We finally make the acquaintance of our waiter. Or, rather he deigns to grace us with his presence.You know the type: God's gift to waitstaff, and patrons, everywhere. Talk about putting on airs! This guy didn't want to be there.Like the "waitress on graveyard, and the surly night manager" in Randy Stonehill's cheery Yuletide ditty, Christmas at Denny’s, captain douchecanoe was “wishing that all of us losers would leave.”

Or at least just my wife and I. So we did. (Hope he enjoyed his 9% tip).

That was Monday afternoon.


Because I’m a little slow, and because–I don’t know–it was her actual birthday, I decided to try again, and take my wife out for a quiet birthday dinner.

Did I mention anything about God having a sense of humor? I did? Ok.

While we’re waiting to be seated, I excuse myself to the restroom to freshen up (this is a recurring theme in my life–ask my wife); while I’m gone, she’s seated.

She texts me, I find her.

Guess where?

In a restaurant with an abundance of available tables, where do we two introverts get seated?

In the cheering section, or in other words: next to four drunk guys pounding shot after shot.

We tried–we really did–we tried to abide. But after we counted four, or five, rounds, and some other tables opened up, we asked to be moved.

And we could still hear them!

Apparently we weren’t the only ones who complained. And we will go back at some point. After explaining that it was her birthday, the manager did right by us, and comped our meal.


Like I said, God has a sense of humor, or sometimes maybe He just likes pushing our buttons a little. I suppose there’s a lesson in all of this about life not always–or ever!–meeting our expectations.

Or maybe He’s telling us not to dine out anymore?

Or maybe it’s a lesson in patience?

I don’t know. It’s definitely one of those three, or four.

How about you? What was your worst experience dining out?

If you’ve been around here recently, you will have noticed that I’ve been feeling a bit squeezed.

Well, ok–a little more than a bit: quite a lot, actually. And there are reasons for this; chiefly:

The lack of margin. I have a life–as you do, too–that’s rather full of pressing urgencies–the tyranny of the merely urgent, if you will.

Mine have to do with work, family, parenting–in short, normal life life obligations that seem to have taken over, and squeezed the life out of me. (Don’t get me wrong: I love my family).

For example, when my wife and I don’t take the time to slow down, spend some quiet together, things get… (If you’re married, you know). We get short, terse–there’s a palpable tension coloring the tenor of our home.

Why is this? I suspect, again like you, that we are so busy doing our respective duties that we forget to breath. We lay aside the things that nourish our souls for the sake of getting that next thing done, making that next play in Words With Friends. 😉 We are living in the margins–instead of building in a margin.

Filling our lives with marginalia, rather than filling in the page. I suspect we are not alone in this.

How about you? Are you in the margin, or building in margins?