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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Just Tase Me

I'm not sure "tase" is a verb. As in I tase, you tase, he tases. But if it is a verb, I would please like it and the Taser it rides in on to be applied to me at one, very specific, time of day.

I would like to be tased at or around 5AM every morning. Yes, I would like to be "neuromuscularly incapacitated" as a result of the application of an electrical current to some part of the surface area of my body at that wee hour. I believe this "stimulation" of my "sensory nerves" may be the only thing that wakes me up.

For the past decade - give or take - I've been trying to train my body and my personality into becoming a happy-and-productive-in-the-morning sort. I've set one alarm. I've set two alarms. I've laid out gym clothes. I've slept in gym clothes. I've gone to sleep earlier. I've refrained from caffeine. I've refrained from alcohol. I've internally pep-talked, externally pre-planned, and universally hoped.

Nothing works.

Maybe I'll get up on a Tuesday morning, make it to the gym as the doors open, get in a "workout" and go home for a leisurely shower and an organized presentation of breakfast. I'll wake my children with a time-cushion for their protests or their distractions or their interference. We'll exit the door humming, not hustling, and I won't swear under my breath - not even once. I'll sit down at my desk, fire up my computer, and think: "MAN, this is AWESOME!"

Because the hardest part of my day - the part where I want to do something for myself, by myself - will have been taken care of. Because I will feel like the most highly-evolved, highly-organized, highly-uncrazed version of myself. Because I will not have to ask myself the question "are both my children properly dressed today? Come to think of it, am I properly dressed today?"

But the very next Wednesday, the bed will feel so comfortable and the morning will threaten to be so cold and the day's to-do list will menace with so many undesirable tasks. And the only escape, the only respite, from the pending annoyances and forthcoming demands will be...sleep. Sweet, gentle sleep, where I escape to the black holes of temporary unconsciousness or the technicolor of stress-dreaming about lines I didn't memorize, tests I didn't study for, or airports I can't find.

I might carry anxiety into my REM-states, but even there I know, somewhere in my subconscious, that I get to escape. When I wake up, it will all go away. Not so in real life.

Several factors would indicate that I should be able to conquer this wake-up-early thing. One, I've wanted to do it forever, and I'm usually pretty good at following through with things I'd like to do....eventually. Two, I've tried to adopt all the tricks that seem to work for other people. Third, I should have some genetic predisposition towards this, given that 66% of my sisters and 100% of my mother are unquestionably morning people.

Those factors are doing nothing for me.

And so I continue in my world of scrambled mornings and sporadic gym attendance. Of improvised hairdos and an unchanging waistline. Of constant catch-up and continual self-lashings. Of renewed goals and repeated falling-shorts.

If you have a trick I haven't tried, please share. If you have a tendency you're also trying to tackle, please commiserate. If you have a Taser lying around unused, please advise what shipping and handling would be for an overnight package to Maine.

Image via

Monday, January 28, 2013

Far From Gay

If you need your relationship to your sexuality expressed in a measurable distance, Manti Te'o is the cartographer for you.

Prior to Thursday, I had never really considered the need to plot my preferences on a map. But now I'm worried I'm behind the times. Is there a new, more highly-evolved gay-dar out there that identifies not only who is straight and who is gay, but also registers how straight or how gay someone is, and expresses that measurement in miles, minutes and turn signals?

Moreover, could someone please direct me to the national - or is it international? - rating agency that determines what constitutes solid gayness or 100% straightness, and then ranks the various shades of gray below those gold standards? Or is that kind of rubric something only nationally-ranked male athletes are given access to? I'm so overwhelmed.

Manti threw me this curveball during his sit-down with Katie Couric. The interview covered the many angles of his fake-dead-girlfriend catastrophe. As Katie tried to probe for some explanation as to how this young man could have been duped into believing a girl he'd never met both existed and was in a reciprocally loving relationship with him, she aired one theory that has been circulating:

That Manti created a fake girlfriend to cover up his homosexuality.

So, is he gay, she asked?

"No," Manti answered. For good measure, he added, "Far from it. Farrrrr from it."

The audience responded to his emphasis with a chuckle.

Beyond firmly planting Manti's flag in Straight Man's Land, the exchange raised at least three interesting and important considerations.

First, why did Katie ask the question in the first place? Considered in a vacuum, any person's sexuality is his or her business alone, its relevance diminishing with every step away from a direct relationship to that person. We, the general public, have no "right" to know, and no place to ask, about the sexual orientation of each other, even including the people we help make famous.

The line could begin to blur, though, when a person puts their sexuality at issue. Politicians do this when they take inflammatory or discriminatory positions against, for example, homosexuals, and then it comes to light that the politician is, in fact, also homosexual. The same has famously gone for members of the priesthood.

It is fair to argue that Manti put the question at issue by participating - knowingly or not - in a fake heterosexual relationship. The question of how he could have been so blind-sided, or why he would have concocted such a story, has spawned a cottage industry of educated guessers and uneducated speculators. Katie lobbed up questions related to almost all aspects of the controversy, so it is not entirely unfair or unreasonable for her to have given him a chance to respond to this aspect of the rumor-versus-truth mill as well.

Still, the troubling aspect of our fascination with sexuality, and our default presumption that someone is straight until proven gay, lurks in the background. Maybe we have more of a right to "care" when it comes to Manti, but does that relativity equate to being "owed' an answer? Is this line of inquiry okay, or far from okay?

Manti's answer itself actually underscores the worrisome aspect of the question. Not only is being gay a newsworthy angle, but actually being gay seems to be the worst label to be saddled with. At least, according to Manti.

He has essentially copped to lying, misleading, and being kind of dumb about this whole thing. But when it came to whether or not he prefers men to women, he seemed compelled not only to deny the rumor but to cast himself as the Heterosex-back of Notre Dame.

Again, context explains much of his response. He is the product of a Roman Catholic college that only recently (as in last month) authorized a gay student organization to be active on campus. He is also Mormon, raised in a church that teaches that same-sex relationships are "sinful." To top it off, he is Samoan, and homosexuality is illegal in that island nation. You can see why Manti might not be comfortable with even questions about his sexuality.

And then there's the fact that he is a star football player from a historic football instutition preparing to be drafted into the National Football League. One need only refer to Brent Musberger's "play calling" during the national title game between Alabama and, well, Notre Dame, for insight into how football culture views the trappings of a football player's life. The camera "happened" to land on Katherine Webb, former Miss Alabama and current girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Brent proceeded to essentially lose his mind, proclaiming Katherine's beauty, remarking that a girlfriend like that should motivate other Alabama boys to suit up and practice harder, and begrudging star quarterbacks of having "all the luck." The exchange quickly became more interesting than the game itself.

And the implications were both clear and stereotypical. Not only are glory and success and the spoils of wealth the luscious fruits and heady motivations of a skilled (male) athlete's world, but they get the shiny trophy (female) companions to boot. If those young men aren't indulging in the premiere bachelorhood afforded to them because of their first-string everything status, then what's the point; indeed, what's their point?

When Manti gets exposed as the faithful boyfriend to a girl he never laid a physical hand on, questions get asked. Manti scrambles to put them to rest. He is one interview away from insisting he's never seen a rainbow. We're one story closer to the realization that we aren't quite as highly evolved on the issue of non-discrimination as we might like to think, or allow ourselves to hope.

Which brings us to the audience's chuckling reaction to Manti's "far from gay" answer. It's unclear what part of that response prompted the laughter. That he felt the need for emphasis in the first place? That it's even conceivable a football player like him could be "suspected" to be gay? That Manti thinks there is such a thing as "far from gay"?

Or is it worse than those doors 1 through 3? Was the audience laughing because being gay is silly? Was there a note of condescension and/or derision in the chortles, directed not at Manti or even at Katie, but at the gay community writ large?

I don't know. I'm not sure I want to.

I do know that, on Thursday morning, I thought this "catfishing" trip had taken on every bizarre angle, complicated consideration, and head-scratching moment that a single story could. By Thursday afternoon, I learned that I was not right. Actually, I was far from right.

Image via

Friday, January 25, 2013

Faking It

Well, that was quite a week.

On Wednesday, January 16th, the story broke that the girlfriend who Manti Te'o talked about so much had never existed.

The next day, Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong aired, with Lance admitting to having doped before and during each of his seven Tour de France victories, after years of denying those very activities.

Four days after that, Beyonce "performed" at President Obama's second inauguration, her rendition of the national anthem widely praised until it was leaked that she was, possibly, lip syncing.

That's a pretty solid stretch of American exceptionalism.

As much attention as has been paid to the fall-out from each of these stories, there seems to be an equal number of inquiring minds who'd like to know "Why do I care about this? Why do they? Should any of us?"

In this context, "should's" have relatively little relevance. "Should" implies some moral, normative judgment attached to caring about cheating and/or lying and/or faking it. Of the three fakers outed this week, only Lance's cheating approaches the territory of value propositions; many of us would agree that people should not cheat to win, although the argument is complicated by the response that "everyone else" was doing it, too. The Manti hoax has no bearing on his past football performances or future professional aspirations, and Beyonce's rumored pre-recording doesn't seem to have a direct connection with her ranking on the Billboard Top 100.

That philosophical aspect of these controversies is a separate debate. Our collective reaction to the stories themselves, grounded in our perspective as consumers, sparks a conversation that is just as rich.

I can understand the people who scoff at the car-crash nature of each of these incidents. We all already "knew" that Lance was cheating, we watch football players because they play football and not because they have dating issues, and we can't honestly pretend to believe that every "live performance" is, actually, "live." You're right, guys. You are.


Our relationship with popular entertainment is complicated. We are a country of electronic voyeurs, expecting access to the intimicies of our Facebook "friends," our Twitter "followings" and our "reality" stars. We demand authenticity from the lives we invite into ours, and then we trade witty, edited banter and staged, filtered photographs. We want the real stuff, but we want it in a pretty, polished, perfect package.

Maybe that's unfair, and maybe that triggers double-standards and inconsistencies. But it is the new marketplace of ideas, the new common ground, the new quid pro quo. And in the defense of us consumers, the golden rule here can be boiled down to a fairly simple, if challenging, maxim: if you want us to adore you, be as awesome as you can be, but you'd better actually be it.

We fell in love with Lance because he was the ultimate hero. He beat cancer, defied medical and sporting odds, parlayed his professional success into a humanitarian crusade, and ran shirtless with Matthew McConaughey. We got swept up in the back-story Manti helped perpetuate because it demonstrated a strength of purpose and a dedication to team, institution and faith that made football seem like something more than just football. We adore Beyonce because, in the age of auto-tune and gimmickry, she is the standard-bearer for artists who can, you know, really sing.

Maybe our standards for winning our attention are too high, and maybe our appetite for details about our celebrities' lives is too rapacious. Maybe it's our fault that being good at something isn't enough to become famous for being good at it. Maybe we're the reason the road to success is paved with banned substances, soap-operatic side shows, and large microphones that mask pantomiming lips.


If we create the game and if we set the bar, then that means we also are allowed to cry foul. If what we're after is a story or a performance or a life to put on a pedestal because it is so inspirational that it becomes aspirational, then that means we can also express disappointment when an idol proves unworthy of the status. If we want proof that life is, or can be, beautiful, then we can be let down by further evidence of its ugliness.

I care that Lance doped because Lance accepted and then exploited his role as The Phenom who could beat not just death, but also all those other men in tights. I care because he was the symbol of what the human body can do until he became the symbol of how the human body can cheat. I care because, even in finally admitting to his lies, it seems there is some ulterior, selfish motive at play, and that Lance hasn't actually learned the lesson he's trying to convince us that he has.

I care about Manti's fake girlfriend because Manti so desperately wanted me to care that he had a real girlfriend. I care because of all the athletes in all the relationships with all the challenges that there are, Manti singularly fed the media machine with the romance and the heartache, with his bended-knee on-field meditations and his willing performance as the Heart-Wounded Warrior. I care because he fed a football image that coexisted with, maybe even depended on, his boyfriend image.

I care about whether Beyonce lip-synced because I thought she was better than that. I care because she was standing still on what was the world's biggest stage on that day. I care because Kelly Clarkson, that by-product of the American Idol machine, stood up and sang her song live, but Beyonce, that reigning American idol queen, wasn't ready or couldn't do it.

I care because when someone is elevated to exalted status for being the best version of what we have to offer on that surface or in that medium or for that role, I expect them to be performing in a manner befitting that exultation. I am weak and of marginal talent and exist in mediocrity, which is why I work in a cubicle and wonder when I'll be able to afford a garage. Lance and Manti and Beyonce have gotten to play in a rarefied space that my adoration and respect, and yours, carves out for them. They can come back and join me down here in every-day life, or they can prove, every day, that they belong on that podium or that stage or that income bracket. For real.

Maybe it takes two to tango, but I, for one, get mad when my dance partner starts slamming on my toes.

Image via

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Read All About It!

Hi, team.

Thanks to you, this little blog continues its evolution. And that evolution won't quit until the blog is the subject of a prime time interview about how every post was written by a ghost writer named Mo, who is actually a leprechaun that lives in Cleveland and incubates quail eggs in his spare time.

Until that day, we're going to fake it like all the other success stories.

To add some legitimacy to our fake-outs, I am pleased to announce the following entirely meaningless break-throughs. Get your fake-excited faces ready (please see Taylor Swift's appearances at every awards show ever if you need guidance).

1. Blog-Lift.

My blog is going under the knife. As I type and you read, some smart man is doing things I don't understand to make it look all gussied up and streamlined and "professional." It may be a few weeks more until the new-and-improved blog can make it's grand debut. Which gives me plenty of time to design the birth announcements.

2. Facebook Emancipation

The blog is also going to leave the nest of my personal Facebook page and spread its wings on its very own "fan" page. I will soon start posting links and sharing blog news only on that fan page. So be sure to "like" the page. The link is below:

3. Twitter-ific

My Twitter page is also a bit more grown-up looking now, with some graphics that will appear on the new blog and other personalized/updated touches. It only took me a year, but I think I'm finally getting to the point where I can harness the bird. If you're not already following me, well then, create a fake account and GET ON IT! Then apply to Notre Dame.

Find me at @AbbyDiaz1 (


In all seriousness, I really appreciate all of you migrating with me to the next stage in the life of this blog and my writing efforts. I'm sincerely grateful for all of you and all you do, from the retweets to the Pinterest follows to the regular reading, commenting, liking, favoriting, cash hand-outs, blind-date invitations, and swag bags. I've loved it all. Except the Applebees' dinner with the excessive-water drinker and the grab bag full of prawns.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

All Good Things Must End

I've had a hangover since Sunday, although I haven't consumed a drop of alcohol in that timeframe. The fog, the heaviness, the faintly upset stomach I've been walking around with for two days were brought on by a potent mixture of dashed expectations and vicarious disappointment. How do you hydrate your way out of the "what could have been's" and the "so close you can taste it's"?

I walked into the Georgia Dome on Sunday for the NFC Championship game between the Falcons and the 49ers in unusual form. First, it was unusual I was there in the first place; my last live Falcons game was in 2008. Beyond that, though, it was unusual that I was letting myself admit that I was optimistic about the Falcons, confessing to my sisters and other friends and family in attendance that I had a "good feeling."

Normally, superstition and my general cynicism tells me to hope for the best, expect the worst, and keep my mouth shut in any event. But I had visions of jubilation and confetti and trophies and a throng of 70,000 exploding in cheers dancing in my head. In my mind's eye, I could see my husband and I figuring out the logistics of getting to the Super Bowl.

As the game played out, my unusual state began to feel justified, comfortable, even reassuring. Sure, Kaepernick started heating up, but we stopped his offense on the goal line. Yes, they were narrowing the point differential, but David Akers' chip-shot of a field goal bounced off the upright. After years of losing to the moment's "team of destiny," it felt like it was finally the Falcons' turn to be the team fate decided to put on its shoulders.

With six seconds to go and the ball in our offense's hands, the question I was asking myself was whether Roddy, Julio, Harry, or Tony would be the one to catch Matt's dagger-to-the-San-Francisco-heart pass to put us back in front for yet another come-from-behind victory.

With zero seconds to go, the question I was asking myself was how victory had slipped out of the Falcons' hands. The question was not grounded in an accusatory perspective. I wasn't thinking about whether the defense cracked or the offense sputtered, and I wasn't rehashing catches that should have been made or runs that should have been stopped. I was wondering how, in fairness, the Falcons could have been allowed to lose.

As with any fan of any sport, the longer I have spent as a Falcons fan, the more I have become invested, emotionally, with the team. I recognize more and more of the players, I'm familiar with more and more of the personality they share with the public, and I'm aware of more and more of the back-stories. As this particular team ground through this particular season, I became more and more convinced that this team "deserved" to win, "deserved" to silence the doubters, "deserved" to step out from behind the perennial giants and claim its place among the elite.

I still believe that they did deserve all of those things. Perhaps that's why this loss has a sting that doesn't show signs of easing anytime soon.

I do not accept that the Falcons' loss is indicative of, or attributable to, some widespread failure or lack of competence on the part of the Falcons. No team is perfect, and the Falcons surely have areas where they fall short of ideal. But their record - not just this season, but extending back to the seasons of recent history - prove they're not the fluke or lightweight others choose to typecast them as.

What's more, it has to mean something that they were only one of four teams left standing. It also has to mean something that they were beaten by a team whose next stop is a Super Bowl. That team, regardless of provenance or coach or quarterback, is necessarily an exceptional football team.

And the Falcons almost beat them.

Until the final quarter, the game was a thing to behold. The atmosphere was electric, the noise defeaning, the spirit strong. The unparalleled relationship between athletes on a field working in tandem with the crowd of strangers using their voices and their colors and their towels to propel those athletes to the next beautiful play.

For one quarter, the Falcons racked up yard after yard of offense while holding the 49ers to -2. For one half, the Falcons were firing on all cylinders. For most of the game, the Falcons looked like they were going to dethrone the most recently anointed wunderkind.

The Falcons have every right to be going to the Super Bowl, and they almost made every play they needed to get there. The narrowness of the loss adds to the sting.

Probabilities dictate that the team we saw take the field on Sunday will not be the team we see take the field in September. Legends will retire, trades will be made, draftees will be picked. The magic of this season is bottled up and shelved for the record books and the highlight reels. We now live with this team in the past, and that loss also stings.

In my mind, the best men didn't win because those men didn't win. And though I know all good things must come to an end, I think the end here should have been in February, not January. So I continue in my hangover state, looking for the antidote that may rest only in the icy hands of one man or the fleet feet of another, neither of which will be deployed for months.

Thank you, Atlanta Falcons, for the season of extraordinary pride, enjoyment, and entertainment you delivered. Thank you, Falcons Nation, for the fun we shared. Thank you, Roger Goodell, for not getting in the way.


They take you to endings that may be low, and then bring you the prospects of glorious new heights. To which you rise up.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Oh My Darling, Colin's Time

The San Francisco 49ers are named after the men who participated in the gold rush of 1849 in the Sierra Nevada mountains east of San Francisco.

"Oh My Darling, Clementine" is a ballad about the daughter of a miner who participated in that same gold rush.

It's time for these two facts to meet.

And so I give you "Oh My Darling, Colin's Time"

In a big dome, in Atlanta
Awaiting their next time to shine
A team the "experts" say will lose
Whispers "now, it's Colin's time."

Oh my darling, oh my darling,
Oh my darling, Colin's time
The clock is ticking, fingers itching
Just two days 'til Colin's time.   

He can run and he can throw
All say he's the next in line
But all great stories have an ending
Lance then Manti, now Colin's time.


They've picked Peyton and blanked Eli
And caused Cam to moan and whine
Stopped Drew Brees' touchdown streak
And folks now it's Colin's time.


All the pundits and the writers
Say this man is just sublime
Can't be stopped, his team so hot
But guess what, it's Colin's time.


They said all the same things last week
If I only had a dime
For each slight of the Birds' game
Oh who cares, it's Colin's time. 


Hey guys do me one big favor
Go ask Russ what's more sublime
Losing within 30 seconds or
Knowing now it's Colin's time.


C-Nick might I make a call here:
Your next tat will be the grime
Of the turf you eat all day
That's Spoon, this is Colin's time.


Curtains closing, hot streak's ending
Grab a bud, add a lime
You're about to meet the Falcons
So Rise Up, it's Colin's time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sick Day

100% of my children are sick. True, I only have two children, so that statistic isn't technically "alarming" or "noteworthy." But relatively speaking - relative to me - that statistic is as close to Armageddon as I like to flirt.

My four-year-old has a hacking cough and intermittent "I'm going to throw-up"-s. My sixteen-month-old is leaking from every orifice, including his mouth. He announced the mouth-leaking development last night by making a sound I thought was juice spilling. And I guess it was juice spilling, just not from the cup I expected to be spilling from. Unless "cup" is a descriptive word for "mouth."

This bug and/or various strains of it seems to be striking in epidemic levels. Everyone has had it or knows someone who has. Accordingly, I feel as though I should pass along some of the things I've learned, so you can tuck them into your tool belt.

Things I've Learned from Being Home with Two Sick Children

1. It's not as fun as it sounds.

2. Cramming your work responsibilities into the hours of 5-8AM and 7-10PM sounds efficient and praise-worthy. It's actually a sign of delirium.

3. Legal advice should not be provided during the hours of 5-8AM or 7-10PM.

4. If an over-the-counter medicine is going to have absolutely no curative effects on a child, IT SHOULD SAY THAT ON THE DARN BOX.

5. You will spend $50 per day trying to find the miracle medicine. Please refer back to #4.

6. Buy orange juice.

7. The kids' echinacea they sell at Whole Foods is a liar.

8. Toddlers don't know how to blow their nose. Which is a real shame.

9. Toddlers don't know how to cover their mouths. Which is a real shame.

10. Preschoolers consider a medicine cabinet the equivalent of a swim-up bar, seeing as it is full of tasty elixirs and it's near the sink. Make sure your medicine is stored at a height the child can't reach standing on his or her own two feet or on any stool/pet/sibling/toilet within reach.

11. Toddlers don't like to have a piece of cold plastic jammed into their ear for any fraction of a second, no matter how exciting you tell them getting their temperature taken is.

12. If you agree to take a work call while you're at home with your two sick children, you might as well start drafting your letter of resignation and save everyone the trouble.

13. Don't be scared of how your children look when you wake them up from a nap or in the morning. It can all be washed off with a warm wash cloth.

14. Hahahahahaha!!! You won't be waking your children up! They'll do you that favor, probably around 4:30AM. Probably because they know you'll need help getting out of bed to face your pile of office work.

15. The Lion King will distract children for just long enough to write a blog post.

May the force and the multi-vitamins be with you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How Sweet It Is

At one point during yesterday's game, my husband looked over at me and said, "The last time I heard you breathing like that, you were in labor."

Labor, indeed.

The four quarters of the Atlanta-Seattle game were much like child-birth. The anticipation and excitement and nervousness going into the event. The thrill of things proceeding just as you'd hoped at the get-go. The inevitable complication and agonizing descent into effort and teeth-gnashing and hand-gripping and oh-my-God-I-can't-take-another-second. The shallow breathing, the bearing down, the we-can-do-this. The sweet, sweet result. Oh, the result.

And I'm just a fan, sitting on my couch, swearing in front of my children. I had nothing riding on the game other than emotion. I don't know how the players themselves get through the game, or speak into a microphone afterwards, or get out of bed and do things like walk today. If the game was like child-birth for me, it must have been like passing a kidney stone while competing in an Ironman backwards wearing Lady Gaga's meat dress for them.

I don't mean to overstate the significance of the game or the victory. This was a divisional round game. It wasn't the Super Bowl. I get it.

But it meant more than a divisional game usually does. There was more on the line than the NFC Championship. There were careers on the line, reputations on the line, legacies on the line. With 31 seconds to go in the game, tens of thousands of fans and dozens of players shared the same, internal you've-got-to-be-kidding-me moment. This seriously can't be happening to us. To them. Again.

With those 31 seconds to go, I was swearing to myself that I would swear off sports media forever. I was steeling myself for the face-to-face expressions of sympathy about the game at work. I was trying to figure out how I'd keep myself from letting my feeling badly for these guys completely consume me. I was wondering if this meant that Tony Gonzalez's 5% card was about to be played.

With those 31 seconds to go, the Falcons did what they do. They pulled it together when they most needed to. They made clutch throws and clutch receptions and a clutch kick and a clutch interception. The sweet, sweet relief. Oh, the relief.

Games like the one yesterday are why sports-lovers love sports. It's riding through the pain, feeling your loyalty tested and your faith questioned. It's watching heroics on a scale we can understand and enjoy. It's the euphoria of being proven right, of being rewarded for standing by, of being sublimely happy for people you've never met. It's losing your mind for three hours for a cause that is both collective and personal.

The athletic elements of the game speak for themselves. The human ones are just as special. I'm not just talking, here, about the fans' connections with the players. I'm also talking about the fans' connections with each other.

The broadcasters repeatedly commented on the noise inside the Dome, and how much the fan involvement was rattling the Seahawks, especially their offensive line. I heard from people inside the Dome that they had never seen the stadium so behind the Falcons. The players later confirmed this in their tweets of appreciation. It may seem silly to read so much into the cheering of thousands of John and Jane Does, but I think it is a special display of spirit and pride to think about people rallying in such a way for a cause that is theirs by adoption.

Sports are one of the few - perhaps only - "entertainment" vehicles that allow for this comradeship. You don't see far-flung masses of strangers banding together to support a movie or dress in the colors of their favorite book. But if I am any example - and I only humbly submit myself as one - sports have a way of generating connections like no other pasttime.

Through this blog, and by extension, the social media I use to shamelessly promote it, I have "met" dozens and dozens of other Falcons fans. Not only do I appreciate them for their loyalty to my attempts at writing, but I've gained a whole new level of enjoyment and appreciation of the games I like to watch because of them.

Jay Adams can play-call an entire game on Twitter, giving both insight and humor to the effort in 140 characters or less. When the Falcons win, I'm happy because it means good things for Jay.

I do a digital jump for joy with women like Kelly Hawley or Jeanna Thomas or Gretta Childs or Beverly F or Mrs. L. I think how-do-you-like-me-know thoughts with guys like Jason Henderson and Brian Schreiber and Keith Dragon when I think about the trash-tweets I received over the weekend. Then I think about what Coy Wire would tell me to do in this type of situation, and I promise to improve my mental attitude.

Perhaps most emblematic of this by-product of sports-fandom, though, is my electronic pen-palship with Shannan. Months ago, she commented on a blog post of mine (it was about laywers; she's a lawyer too, her comment was hilarious). I Googled her, found her work email address, brazenly emailed her, and we've been emailing/tweeting/texting ever since. She happens to be a 12-season Falcons ticket-holder.

We probably "talk" a dozen times a week, and several times on game days. In fact, we're convinced if we DON'T text in the opening moments of a game, it's bad luck. When we're not talking sports, we talk about our kids, our jobs, and writing. (Because in addition to being a full-time lawyer and raising triplet sons, she's writing a book and has a superlative blog of her own. Find all of this goodness at @shannanunc.)

Before yesterday, we'd never spoken live. But she called me from the still-rocking stadium as the team was joyfully running back into the tunnel. She was crying with relief/happiness, and I was just screaming and still swearing. How perfectly appropriate that our first nearly-human interaction was sparked by the Falcons.

So thank you, Falcons, for winning. Thank you for giving so many of us a way to interact with people we'd otherwise never even know about. Thank you for creating friendships and allegiances and a community where they/it would never otherwise exist.

There are a lot of ways to win in sports, and you've given us all of them.

How sweet it is. Oh, how sweet.

Image via

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rise Up. It's Time.

Well, here we are. Staring into another weekend with our team's destiny on the line. We've been here before, because they've been here before.

On those previous trips, we've come away disappointed because they've come away disappointed. The only charm of those previous three times has been the players; the scoreboard has seemed more of a curse. But we still left those fields in Arizona and New York and, yes, Atlanta, with our hearts singing even as they were stinging. We knew our guys were smart and strong and fast and fun and funny and capable and ready. They were ready.

They are ready again.

This is a roster full of professionals that has spent another season having their credentials questioned. Entertainers who have been told they're more B-List than A-List. Athletes who've been asked to defy science by winning a play-off game during the regular season. Men who've been treated like boys by broadcasters and armchair Twitter-hacks alike.

The underdogs despite their unparalleled record. The narrow favorites despite their bye-week and home-field advantage. The question mark despite their exclamation points.

I don't care how many more press conferences these guys give saying they're not listening to the criticism. I'm no longer moved by quotes that they're focusing on what they can control and ignoring the noise the can't.

If the Atlanta Falcons football team does not have a chip on its collective shoulder, I'll carry a boulder on mine. Like all of its other fans, I will take offense at the constant doubting and the tired discounting. I will add to the mix of pride and loyalty and devotion a healthy dose of "Up Yours, World" to the Rise Up cheer I tweet Sunday morning and pray Sunday afternoon.

Because it's time.

It's time for Matt Ryan to erase the asterisk next to his name, as if he's the Barry Bonds of football and his banned substance is a low QBR come playoff time. It's time for Tony Gonzalez and Mike Peterson and Todd McClure to know what it feels like. It's time for Julio Jones and Thomas DeCoud and William Moore and Asante Samuel to demonstrate the dazzling derring-do of their in-traffic receptions, be they from our quarterback or theirs. It's time for everyone to take note and start spelling names like "Biermann" and "Jacquizz" correctly. It's time for Matt Bryant to give a three-dimensional definition for the word "clutch." It's time for Spoon to use a shovel. It's time to give Harry something to dance about. It's time for Roddy to do Roddy. Show 'em what you've got, what you've got, Roddy.

I wish I could be there in the Dome to add my voice to the chorus of chants and the roar of celebration. I won't be. I'll be sitting on my lucky couch in my lucky spot wearing my lucky red zip-up LL Bean fleece, fingers crossed that my son takes a long nap and my daughter really gets into her coloring book.

To the fans that will be there, I'm putting my faith in you as much as I'm putting my faith in the team. Hoot and holler when we're on defense. Drown out the Seahawks band-wagoners. Introduce Russell Wilson to reality, Marshawn Lynch to Beast Modification, and Golden Tate to rust. Prove to Pete Carroll that cheaters never, ultimately, win.

Then when we're on offense, watch in respectful silence. You should be able to hear the Seahawks' hearts drop as Matt audibles, Julio and Roddy crunch the turf as they run their routes, and the football slices the air to land in one of their hands. Once that ball is caught for a big gain or a touchdown, you jump out of your seat, and you go crazy. I want to feel the good vibrations from my perch in Maine.

When the game is over, hoist the boulder-sized shoulder-chip in the air, smash it to the ground, and do a little dance on it for all the skeptics.

In an interview this fall, Matt Ryan told Coy Wire that one of his motivators is contained in the following quote: "If you want something you've never had, you need to do something you've never done."

I think it's safe to assume Matt wants the playoff victory that has, to date, proven elusive. Hopefully, he's added the secret ingredient to his preparation that will help him keep the offense on the field and marching to the end zone so that the scoreboard reflects a favorable number at the end of four quarters. I trust that he has, and that he will. I also trust that his teammates, on both sides of the ball, are ready to join him in building on their old success to take it to new heights.

Let's help them get there.

Rise Up, Atlanta.

It's time.

Image via

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

So Pin Me

When I started this whole writing thing about a year ago, I didn't have much of a plan in mind. Truth be told, I still don't. I began writing, and continue to write, with the vaguely stated goal of "writing good stuff" and "hopefully finding people who like to read my stuff." I wanted to start with this blog so that I could practice my Craft and try to generate an Audience, and I wanted to find other outlets that might be willing to let me come over for play-dates.

I'm supremely grateful to all the people who have read this blog - be it religiously or paganly - and am endlessly appreciative of those of you who have followed me to HelloGiggles and The Forecaster. You occupy a special place in my digital heart, and I will write a lengthier homage to you in March when we celebrate the first birthday of What's Left Over.

HelloGiggles and The Forecaster have been wonderful in taking a chance on me. My editors in both venues have been exceedingly generous with their time and advice, as well as patient with me as I try to hike the learning curve I'm so far behind on. (My editor at HelloGiggles had to teach me how to insert an image into my first posts, and my editor at The Forecaster just had to re-explain to me how my deadlines work. I've nominated both for sainthood.)

My naivete about this Brave New World - and the brazenness of my out-of-the-blue pitches to HG and TF - is summed up with the following confession: I thought all I needed to worry about in trying to "become a writer" was to work on being a "good writer." A daunting challenge in and of itself, but at least grounded in the understanding that the task was within my control. The only person I had to worry about in improving my writing was me, the writer. It was like my own little version of the American dream: if I worked hard enough and had the tenacity to stick with it, well then maybe, someday, this dream of mine would take off.

But like Fievel and Arnold Schwarzenegger before me, I've learned that success takes more than hard work and marriage to a Kennedy. As I have tried to expand to other platforms, I've been greeted with the same, gentle head-patting and semi-condescending clucking. The soft "no's" I get in response to pitches has not yet been grounded in my idea or my writing, it's been packaged in the following instruction:


Now, I'm not saying my ideas are terrific or that my writing is anywhere near perfect. But I'm at the point where I'm almost (almost) wishing I was getting turned down because of those things. Either because I suspect the "social media" line is not a completely honest answer, or because the critique would give me some direction about what I need to work on. Me. The person doing the writing. The person I can sometimes control.

So far, though, the only direction I'm getting is to turn back into the ethers of the Internet and figure out some way to get its attention. Apparently it's not just solid writing that I need to deliver; I need to have a readership dolled up on a silver platter to boot.

Some of the steps I've been told to take are relatively obvious: add some sophistication to the blog, get a Facebook page for the blog, get more followers on Twitter. Others are a bit more head-scratchy. Make your blog community more interactive! Find sponsors! Improve your numbers on Pinterest!

I'm not sure, exactly, how I can force you all to start leaving more comments on my posts. And I'll admit that I'm still thin-skinned enough that the negative comments sting more than stoke my pride that at least I'm generating a conversation. I also don't really think my blog screams out for sponsored posts on the magic that is Tide To Go.

Pinterest, however, is something I know and love. The question is how it relates to this blog. I mostly go to Pinterest to feel badly about my inability to craft, cook and clean. You mostly come to this blog for my snarky take on life. Or because you're related to me and you're obliged to click on my posts by Law.

I also know that I'm lucky enough to have a diverse audience - guys and gals, old and young, Northerners and Southerners. Some of you might hear "follow me on Pinterest" and think "What do I need with some Yankee who's only voted in 4 presidential elections telling me about cupcakes shaped like reindeer?"

So here's what we're going to do.

I'm going to create a Pinterest page as diverse as you. In addition to the typical tips and tricks and tootsie-pop tree houses, I will have "Boards" dedicated to books I recommend and articles on politics/sports/culture that I want to share. My "voice" will be there, in the "Board" titles and descriptions and my summary of the pins.

All you need to do is follow me. It's easy.

Go to my Pinterest page ( or search for me on the Pinterest home page (Abby Diaz). Then just click on the "Follow" button.'re done.

Thanks for this. With your help, I'll be able to pitch The New York Times and tell them they should, indeed, accept my piece on the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment in view of recent Supreme Court precedent because - look! - I have thousands of people reading my Pins about smoothies.

You're the best. Seriously.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Homeland Shmomeland

My husband got the first season of Homeland on DVD for Christmas. We finished watching it on Saturday night. And neither of us really liked it.

I believe this makes us extreme outliers or terrorists.

For the undoctrinated, Homeland is Showtime's hit series about a bipolar CIA agent who both tracks and falls in love with a marine sergeant who has returned to the US after 8 years in supposed Al Qaeda captivity. The "supposed" is there because, while he begins his POW turn as a traditional POW, he is suspected of cozying up with the enemy by the end of it. The question of whether he was "turned" before he is miraculously found in a dirt hole is the question around which the show, well, turns. Is this fellow a war hero or a domestic terrorist-in-waiting?

The star CIA agent, Carrie Mathison, is played by she of crying-on-cue clout, Claire Danes. The is-he-or-isn't-he marine sergeant, Nicholas Brody, is played by Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin co-stars as Carrie's mentor and all-around sage, Saul.

Everyone I know and everyone I don't has raved about this show. One of my sisters tweets about her pre-show anxiety, so angst-ridden is she with every episode. Another sister told me, before we started watching, that she was jealous we were about to experience it for the first time. And anyone who has every used the word "Homeland" in a sentence is either a recent immigrant waxing poetic about the mother country or is a fan saying the show is better than everything else on the planet and probably everything off the planet, too.

The show has won awards for best television drama, and both of its leading actors have walked away with statues for the mantelpieces in recognition of their work on the show.

All of which leaves me flabbergasted. Which also leaves me all alone on a cultural No Man's Land with no one but my husband to keep me company. This is a first.

I often think he has terrible taste in movies and shows, as he is passionate about American Pickers, Storage Wars and anything starring Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, or Indiana Jones. But I know there are other people out there who have seen these things and not regretted the experience, too.

And he sometimes wonders how I can watch things like Modern Family or Meryl Streep vehicles or other award-winning productions with actual entertainment value. Deep down, I think he accepts that Sex And The City is the thinking woman's A-Team.

Yet here we are, on the other side of Homeland, both of us wondering what all the fuss is about.

I can't speak for him, and if he wants to speak for himself, he can call you or start his own darn blog. I can tell you why it feel flat for me, though.

To begin with, I feel like the entire thing is one big cliche. The career-obsessed woman with a secret to hide and a vulnerability to protect. The war hero with a gorgeous, doting wife, a sweet son and a rebelling teenage daughter. A CIA depicted as a building where everyone walks fast or sits in front of surveillance video or uncovers the missing link in an attenuated crime theory by standing still and thinking a little bit. Consider the lightning-strike moment when Carrie realizes Brody moves his fingers in some sort of pattern that happens when she's at a jazz bar and looks up to notice that when musicians play music, they move their fingers, too. Moving fingers either make music or send a signal to Qaeda operatives in Iraq! Grab your cell phone and mobilize the Department of State!

Then there's the acting. It must be said that the redeeming aspect of the show is Danes' acting - Carrie is superbly annoying and affected but still, somehow, admirable and awesome. I also think the men who play her two closest allies - the aforementioned Patinkin/Saul and a surveillance lacky named Virgil - do great work. Everyone else drives me nuts.

At the top of the list is Lewis/Brody, so it amazes me that he has won awards for his portrayal. In fact, his character comes across as the biggest cliche of the entire show, what with all the chest-puffing and the monotoned delivery of "Nicholas Brody, Sergeant, United States Marines." The way he talks feels strained, which is maybe because it is - he's a British guy speaking with an American accent. His lips always look pursed, his face strained and devoid of almost any emotion other than an over-played one (piercing gazes, shaking fear). I see no signs of internal conflict, self-doubt, or, alternatively, conviction; all I see is what I always see when someone plays a member of the military. I can't tell if he is happy or relieved to be home with his family, or if he hates them for being part of the American war machine he now despises. This ambiguity does not play as a teasing nuance in my mind; I view it as a vague acting job that leaves me both confused and cold.

In close second is Brody's wife. She isn't helped by the cheesy lines that are scripted for her, but she comes across as the ultimate nit-for-brains wife whose only role in her family is to say meaningless things and look pretty. "You're okay, that's all that matters," she vacantly purrs. Doe eyes. Upturned face. Kiss-me pout.

Finally, the pace. I disagree that it is a high-intensity thrill ride that leaves you gripping your chair. I think I fell asleep at some point during every episode except the season finale. I also found myself thinking, on multiple occasions, "come on, let's just get this scene over with and get to the part where they answer this question."

I'm going to stop there. I think those are sufficient reasons for disliking the show.

Perhaps I have been spoiled. The last series we watched was Breaking Bad. We were WAY late to that party and had the luxury of watching all four seasons as quickly as Netflix could send them to us. That was a show that I loved, perhaps more than the hype had prepared me for. I frankly don't think I've ever seen anything as good on television, and I think the acting is outstanding. Give me Breaking Bad every day of the week and twice on every day of the week.

I'm sorry about this. I really am. I feel like it's unpatriotic of me not to like Homeland. And maybe I really am a terrorist.

In which case, the CIA will probably come knocking soon, and then I'll be a really qualified critic of the show.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Now That: The Resurrection

It has been a while since my last Now That post, and I figured 2013 deserved a resurrection.

Enter the resurrection.

Mayans, Mayans, you were wrong;
Knew you would be, all along.
A new year's dawned, fresh and bright,
What Hollywood news is in sight?

Now that Bethenny Frankel has announced her separation from her castmate husband, Jason Hoppy, we'll all learn that divorces can, in fact, be branded. Just wait until a new Skinnygirl cocktail featuring bitters is released, and get ready for Bethenny's Naturally, A Pre-Nuptial self-help book. All indications are that her second "work of fiction" will be about a reality television star turned talk-show host who has her shotgun wedding taped before a live studio audience, spends the next 2.5 years tweeting about what a successful businesswoman/amazing mother she is, and ends up in a divorce that shocks no one who has ever heard of reality television before.

Now that George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, is engaged, there are dozens of women roaming the planet with disheveled cinnamon-buns-around-the-ears hairdos learning what it's like to have your dreams shattered.

Now that Emmy Rossum has been quoted as saying that producers initially thought she was "too glamours" and "pretty" for the role she ultimately snagged on the television show Shameless, those same producers are confirming they came up with the show's title when they heard about Emmy's opinion of herself.

Now that Adam Lambert has taken to Twitter to diss the cast of Les Miserables for "pretending to be singers," we are all left to wonder which part he auditioned for and did not get.

Now that Katie Holmes' Broadway show has been canceled after a significantly abbreviated run, we'll all remember she got her start on Dawson's Creek, and we'll nod our heads knowingly.

Now that the Arab television network Al Jazeera has purchased Current TV, started by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Mr. Gore can expect to have a much harder time clearing security at airports across the country.

Now that Rihanna and Chris Brown have posted photos on Instagram to prove that they spent New Year's Eve together (largely in bed), we can only pray that a mutual friend explains that the superstition is to say "rabbit, rabbit" not to fall back into a "bad habit, bad habit."

Now that a paparazzo has died after trying to take pictures of police pulling over a Ferrari-driving Justin Bieber, we will share some head-shaking moments in which we ponder: that kid is old enough to DRIVE?!?

Now that trailers for Killing Lincoln are being released, we can all thank Hollywood for finally, FINALLY giving our sixteenth President some well-deserved, and long overdue, screen time. I mean, seriously, what does a guy need to do to get featured in a movie every now and then?

Now that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have announced that they are expecting their first child together, Prince William and Kate Middleton can breathe a sigh of relief. There's finally a couple out there that they can point to and whisper, "Dude, they need to chill."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff: An Allegory

One day, the weather stopped thinking about what was happening on the ground, where weather lands. On that day, the weather decided to think only about what was happening in the sky, where the weather is made.

That was the day the weather ceased operations as a cohesive, atmospheric balancing of moisture and temperature, and became a clash of wills between two meteorological conditions: the sun and the clouds.

The breakdown in weather was a long time coming. For years, the sun and the clouds had taken turns having their moment in "the sun" (the clouds long bitter at that phrase). The sun would shine, hot and bright, until those on the ground began complaining of drought and sun burn. As if on cue, the clouds would roll in, full of drenching rain and cooler temperatures. When the grounds flooded and the skins pruned, much like fingertips after a long bath, the weather-receivers began demanding more sun. And on, and on. And on and on and on.

Finally, a new day dawned, one with a sun that was declared to be unlike any sun before it. This sun was special, many believed. This sun would keep us warm, but not too warm. This sun would welcome a little rain shower now and then. We can lie out in this sun without SPF 155. Yes, we can.

And there was much rejoicing.

There was no rejoicing among the clouds, though. The clouds were worried that all the new sun-lovers would forget how good a drenching, soaking rain can feel. How invigorating a sudden downpour can be for the senses, and the flower beds. How dangerous too much time in the sun can be. Melanoma. Leathery skin. Freckles.

The clouds got angry. We can't let the sun do this to us, they thundered. They gathered up all their water droplets and ice crystals, and they summoned the iciest ice crystal of them all. Tell us what to do, they begged of the iciest ice crystal. The sun wants to melt us all into filaments. Help us!

The iciest ice crystal exhaled a slow, steady breath. The only defense against a bad guy with light and warmth, he intoned, is a good guy with darkness and the ability to blanket the entire sky. The clouds thought for a minute, and then for another. After several, fairly awkward, minutes, they understood what the iciest ice crystal was telling them. If you want to beat the sun, you must never let it shine. 

This was something the clouds knew they could do.

And there was much rejoicing.

From that day forward, whenever the sun scheduled a shining, wherever the sun tried to appear, the clouds were there. They were bigger, they were darker, they were scarier. If you try to move us from the sky, they bellowed, your crops will die and you will never eat again! Life without clouds means life without water, they roared, and life without water means no life at all!

The sun tried to peak out from behind a wispy cirrus to point out that hydration will bring nothing if there is no sunlight to spark photosynthesis. The clouds quickly formed a cumulus around the sun, and threatened to crystallize into a cumulonimbus if the sun refused to stop spreading his scientific message. The sun grew duller. It could not even shine in Georgia. Or Arizona. Definitely not Texas. Florida, only sometimes, and depending on who was reading the weather.

Those on the ground quickly began to tire of being told what kind of weather they needed and wanted. They generally liked the sun, but understood a little fall of rain can hardly hurt now and again. There's room in the sky for you both, they urged. For years, you have shared the atmosphere, surely you can figure out how to do that again.

The sun and the clouds refused.

Months passed. The sun began to grow more confident. One day, the sun threw the Milky Way in front of the clouds and insisted a line was being drawn. You have got to let me shine, at least some time, every now and then, you guys. I am here for a reason! Seriously, I am!

Still, the clouds wouldn't listen.

Then those on the ground began to clamor. A tsunami was on the horizon! Those on the ground saw it. Even the sun and the clouds saw it. Everyone agreed that the only way to avoid the tsunami would be for the sun and the clouds to agree to a calmer weather pattern.

If you won't listen to us, those on the ground begged, surely you will listen to the threats from a disaster of your own making. We cannot survive another tsunami! Don't do this to us! Avert! Avert!

So the sun and the clouds went behind a mountain to confer.

Every so often, the sun would cast a ray over the mountain to spy on the tsunami's approach or give the weathermen something to talk about. Then the clouds would do the same. The only thing that those on the ground were sure of was that the sun and the clouds both still existed. The tsunami, too.

Weeks passed. Those on the ground could hear the raging waters of the approaching tsunami. They began barricading with sand bags, taking emergency swimming lessons, buying nose plugs. It appeared that the tsunami would strike and that the sun and the clouds would leave those on the ground to fend for themselves.

But wait! Weather reports that some truce was in the offing. Near-agreements that some days could be  "mostly cloudy," others "partly sunny." This might work! This might work!

And there was great rejoicing.

Not so fast, bellowed cumulonimbus. He cast around a condemning eye, which landed on a cirrostratus formation to his left. All these so-called clouds making deals with the sun? Clouds do not make deals with the sun! Let the wind try to push us away, let evaporation refused to occur, but let a cloud volunteer to step aside to allow for more light? NEVER. I see your "partly sunny," and I spit in its UVA/UVB rays.

The sun gloomily sank lower behind the mountain. The clouds began to gather above. The earth grew warmer, and the skies grew cooler. Convection! Convection! Those on the ground pointed at the air masses about to collide. Everyone forgot about the tsunami, because a massive thunderstorm was forming that stole the attention from the even-more-epic disaster on the horizon.

Nature was about to take its course.

That was when God rolled over, and He looked at Mrs. God, and he whispered: 

I swear, this is not what I intended.

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