Arleen the virgin gets a book, ‘#JaneTheVirgin’ gets a show.

jane the virginFrom where I stood, the banner blocked the American flag that hung at the center of Citrus Park Mall in Tampa. It showcased ‘Jane the Virgin,’ the latest in an influx of TV shows inspired by sexual inexperience. It would premier, the banner said, on Oct. 13.

First, I asked what any virgin beneath that banner would: “WHERE’S MY BANNER?” Then, I marked my calendar.

The show, about a a virgin who — as a result of a doctor’s distraction — got artificially inseminated when she should have gotten a Pap smear, premiered as promised on Monday, and (spoilers to follow), I watched it. Here’s how I sum it up: Continue reading “Arleen the virgin gets a book, ‘#JaneTheVirgin’ gets a show.”

Texting, abortion and Band-Aids.

Texting and driving.

Not to do it is a no-brainer. Am I right, or am I right?

Wrong. People text and drive all the time. This is because people don’t know how to wait.

In my state, the fight for a law that bans it has been in the news for years. And there are a couple of things about this that boggle my mind.

First, that a law designed to make texting while driving illegal is shot down. Second, that there needs to be a law.

A law, while when necessary is good, is also like a Band-Aid. This is because the problem is not that it is legal to text and drive. The problem is that we are raising people who need to be told not to text and drive.

Apparently, we as a culture are not instilling in our children the values or the sense that make a person able to conclude on his or her own that it is a bad idea to text and drive. Apparently, we are instilling in them the opposite: that you, your needs, your wants come first. Which is why kids become adults who don’t know how to wait.

So a law that makes it illegal to text and drive is a Band-Aid. It aims to make the result of the problem disappear, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

The other law fight I hear about a lot is the one to ban abortion. And that law is like a Band-Aid, too. It aims to make the result of the problem disappear, but it doesn’t make the problem disappear.

This is because the problem is not that it is legal to abort a baby. The problem is that we are raising people who need to be told it’s a bad idea to have sex when you aren’t prepared to be a parent.

Apparently, we as a culture are not instilling in our children the values or the sense that make a person able conclude on his or her than that sometimes, it is better not to have sex. In fact, we are instilling in them the opposite: that you, your needs, your wants come first. Which is why kids become adults who don’t know how to wait.

What if our culture raised kids who could wait?

Stop stealing this from your employer.

While there is something magical about working where at the end of the day you find a flattened biscuit stuck to the bottom of your slip resistant shoe, rising to the top of the fried chicken industry was never my dream.

Fried foods was a day job, or, as implied by author Jon Acuff, a fundraiser for my dream job. Acuff’s book Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job is the thirteenth book I’ve read in full in 2012. And a lot of what he wrote was a reminder of what it was like for the writer in me to work at Popeyes Chicken.

My couple years behind the fast food counter were not glamorous. I spent a lot of the end of high school smelling and looking like my job was to repeatedly plunge into a dunk tank of chicken grease. I also had to clean public toilets and clean up after people who don’t understand the trash can concept. But despite that and the scar I think I still have from the time I pulled the fries out of the fryer with haste, I would never trade what I got out of working at Popeyes.

At Popeyes, I didn’t get to do my dream (write, speak, counsel, change the world). But as Acuff points out in Quitter, I got to practice stuff I’ll have to be good at when I am livin’ the dream. Lunch and dinner rushes taught me hustle. Rude customers thickened my skin. Our menu forced me to become comfortable saying the word “breast” to strangers (which I don’t anticipate having to do much when I am the writing, speaking, counseling world changer I dream of becoming, but it’s better safe than sorry).

The point is that people who work day jobs but dream of dream jobs sometimes quit their day jobs before quitting a day job is smart. Others suffer through the day job under the assumption that it is a giant waste of time. And others – the kinds of dreamers Acuff encourages his readers to be – neither rush toward the dream nor squander the valuable experiences in the time spent “fundraising” for it at a day job. And also, Acuff is hilarious. I love him. Read his blogs. But first, read some of my favorite excerpts from the book:

On discipline:

“…discipline begets discipline. When you step up to a challenge before you, your ramped-up resources rub off on other areas of your life. You wouldn’t think eating less ‘fat’ would impact how closely you monitor your family’s financial budget, but it’s all tied together. Discipline and focus are contagious and they tend to spread their benefits all around.” -page 22

On deciding what to do with your life: 

“You don’t ask the bottomless, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ but instead, ‘What have I done in my life that I loved doing?’ Instead of a million different options from out there, you’re suddenly left with a manageable handful of options from within your own experience. Instead of trying to hitch your star to an endless black hole of options, you hitch a ride on your rewarding past.” -page 40

On tackling perfectionism:

“90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 percent perfect and stuck in your head.” -page 62

On time management: 

“Few would boldly declare, ‘Today, watching television for two hours was one of the most important things I needed to get done.’ Yet that’s where we sometimes spend our entire evenings. The operative word in the phrase ‘enough time’ is not time. It’s enough. And the truth you should accept is that you will probably never have ‘enough’ time to pursue your dream. But every day somebody somewhere is making magic with the less-than-enough time he has. So can you, if you stop focusing on the amount of time you have and start focusing on the amount of tasks that really matter.” -pages 73-74

On stealing time from your day job to work on your dream:

“If you took your car to a mechanic and they charged you for seven hours of labor to fix it, you’d have a problem if three of those hours were spent spinning pottery. You’d be incredulous if when you complained about the bill they said, ‘We’re sorry. Pottery is our mechanic’s dream. He loved Ghost. We put a wheel and kiln behind our shop and he just really got into it the other day. He made some beautiful vases.” -page 111

“[I stopped] stealing time from work because they purchased forty hours of work, not just forty hours of my presence…” -page 111

On livin’ the dream: 

“When I finally published a book, I couldn’t wait to say, ‘I’m an author! I’m an author!’ When I had lunch with my oldest daughter at her school and she told her classmates, ‘My dad is an author,’ I was thrilled. That was a label I wanted to spoon at night and couple skate with at Roller Kingdom.”

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Click here to learn more about Quitter.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click the links and purchase the products I recommend, I earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. And when you do, I am sincerely grateful.

Actual song lyrics.

On my drives to and from work and school, I tend to scan Tampa’s radio stations, most of which play the kinds of songs I only started to like when — last year, at my cousin Frankie’s wedding — I realized how fun it is to dance. And almost a year later, I have to get the following of my chest: If I always tell my friends and family not to listen to the lyrics when they’re in my presence while I’m listening to music (and I do), I probably should find some new music. Just sayin’.

Anyway, as I’ve come to this conclusion over recent weeks, I realized how little I actually listen to the lyrics when I’m scanning for songs fun for dancing and/or driving. So, I started paying attention. Here is some of what I found:

1. “Girl, please excuse me if I’m coming too strong / But tonight is the night we can really let go / My girlfriend’s out of town and I’m all alone / your boyfriend’s on vacation and he doesn’t have to know.”
(“I Like It,” by Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull)

2. “He ain’t even gotta try to put the mack on / He just gotta give me that look / When he give me that look / Then the panties comin’ off.” (Superbass by Nicki Minaj)

3. Male voice: “Tell me what’s next, alien sex / I’ma disrobe you, then I’ma probe you / See I abducted you / so I tell ya what to do / I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do.” Female voice: “Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me / Infect me with your love and fill me with your poison / Take me, ta-ta-take me / Wanna be a victim / Ready for abduction.” (E.T. by Katy Perry, feat. Kanye West)

Know what those are? Actual song lyrics from songs that are actually popular on radio stations to which actual children listen. I don’t know what bothers me more: the songs, or the fact that hardly anybody ever bats an eye about them, like the anonymous commenter who responded last time I blogged about bad music:

“I think u guys are making this more than it has to be. It’s a song with a good dance beat!!!!N no disrespect, but if it is offensive or you don’t care for it just switch to another station. Stop takin things so serious!!! If I took things so serious I would never leave my house, watch television, or listen to music.”

I don’t disagree entirely. Take Enrique’s “I Like It.” It is, in fact, a song with a good dance beat. Just a song. But the anonymous commenter doesn’t realize his or her point proves mine: What has music become when it’s something we’d feel obligated to shun if we analyzed it? What have we become when we know that and choose not to analyze it anyway?

Well, I’ve analyzed. And one fun song with bad words — like “I Like It” — isn’t a very big deal. But it isn’t one song. It is most songs, and they send messages that call relationships dispensable, sex trivial and rape glamorous (Though these are just the aforementioned three. But if you don’t think there are more, turn on your radio.). And when most songs send messages like that, messages like that are normal. It’s just music. Just a song.

But is it?

This reminds me of the time a friend of mine expressed concern when I told her why I choose not to consume caffeine. Why don’t I drink coffee? Well, my body’s response to it is fun, but only until my friends start questioning my sobriety. And when the hyperactivity turns into anxiety, and my resting heart rate reaches 150, and my colleagues want to take me to the hospital (true story), the caffeine becomes completely not worth it.

“Um, that’s not normal,” my friend said. “Most people don’t have that reaction.”

True. But most people are desensitized to it. Immersed in it, if you will. It’s like horror movies. Some of us jump or scream at what we see on screen, and others sit silently with straight faces. How we react depends on how desensitized we are to it, or how immersed in it we’ve been. The more immersed we are, the less it bothers us. And maybe, in our culture, it isn’t normal to strike other people as drunk after you drink coffee. But look at what is normal:


Sexually transmitted infections.

Sexual violence.

None of us like those things. We should be bothered by those things. But when our songs are about dispensable relationships, casual sex and encounters that sound a lot like rape, our songs are about those things.

Are they still just songs?

Or are they songs we hear so much they’re normal? Songs to which we don’t even react, we’re so desensitized. Songs that teach us to be less and less bothered by things that should never cease to bother us.


A few months ago, I drove south on US 19 in Spring Hill, Fla. on my way to work. At the intersection at the county line, flashing lights from squad cars and fire trucks forced all southbound drivers to merge to the right. The traffic light turned red, so I had a minute to look for whatever it was on the left that required the presence of the emergency responders.

First, I saw the motorcycle. Then, I saw the body.

Upon my arrival at work, where my colleagues pursued the story, I learned a young woman in a red truck had run the light, killing the motorcyclist as he crossed the intersection. She did it after escaping arrest for driving while intoxicated and dragging a deputy (who’d jumped on to her truck to try to stop her) across 19’s northbound lanes as she sped away. The deputy survived. A mile or so north of the motorcycle crash scene, deputies caught the driver. She has been in jail ever since.

In a recorded jailhouse call between the driver and the father of her baby, she says some of the following, through tears:

“As far as the deputy, she jumped on the truck. It’s not like I hit her. She fell off. It was her decision to jump on the truck … what was I supposed to do?”

“I didn’t run (the motorcylist) over on purpose.”

“It was a car accident.”

Really? An accident?

Earlier this year, I interviewed Tom Vanderbilt — the brilliant author of the brilliant book Traffic — and in the essay about driving in which I quoted him, we came to the following conclusions:

Calling a crash an accident “implies there’s no way this could have been prevented, that it was unforeseeable,” Vanderbilt said. Phrases like “drunken-driving accident” are most egregious, he said.

The word “accident” enables negligent drivers. It lets a person create conditions in which vehicles are likely to collide and call it unpredictable after it happens.

The belief that it’s all right to call all car collisions “accidents” is not limited to the jailed driver from the crash scene I saw in May. Read a newspaper. Eavesdrop while you people watch. It comes up a lot. I am of the opinion that it has to stop.

When we call a crash an accident, we permit the person responsible for it to relinquish responsibility. We admit what happened is bad, but minimize the incident because — after all — the driver didn’t mean to.

What we don’t consider when we call crashes accidents is that premeditation is not a prerequisite for responsibility. You don’t have to plan out something for it to be your fault. But if we call crashes “accidents,” we perpetuate that belief, which lets a lot of bad decision makers off the hook. It becomes easy to live like “I didn’t mean to!” means “I’m not responsible!”

But when we call a crash what it is — a crash or a collision — it’s something worth dissecting. It’s something that, when dissected, is actually pretty predictable.

I am 100% certain the driver who ran the light that morning at County Line Road did not get in her truck that day with intentions to use it to kill someone. But she decided to use drugs. She decided to get in the car. She decided to escape police custody — after she was already in handcuffs — and flee in her truck. She decided to drive more than 70 miles per hour with a deputy hanging off her vehicle. She decided to blow a red light.

You can say the same about somebody who decides to text and drive. Somebody who decides to speed in the rain. To weave in and out of traffic. To dig through the console. To drive while you’re really, really tired.

When something happens while we do those things, it’s not an accident. It’s negligence.

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Click here to listen to listen to the driver’s jailhouse call and to read the story.