40 things, from an average dude

Thing 1 – Don’t complain about getting older to people who are older than you. They don’t want to hear it. Next time you do, look for that half-smile that looks like Dr. Sean meeting Will Hunting for the first time. It reeks of “oh to be young and naïve.”

Thing 2 – Don’t complain about getting older to people who are younger than you. I’m sure you already know this from being a young person that old people have complained to. It comes somewhere after they’ve told you how big you’ve gotten. In your young heart you’re thinking “well, I’m still young, and I can’t help you not be old, and I really would rather be playing video games than listening to you talk about your failing body, so…Grandma can I have a Coke?” Next time you’re tempted, just think to yourself, “I wouldn’t tell someone Bruce Willis was a ghost if they hadn’t seen Sixth Sense yet.” Don’t be the spoiler alert. Let the them find out the hard way. It’s really your only way to get even.

Thing 3 – Don’t complain about getting older to people your age. Don’t worry, you’ll still get to talk about it. Just let them bring it up. And when they do, focus on the good.

Thing 4 – Chuck Norris jokes make everything better. For example, Chuck Norris wrote a better list of 40 things than me, but it looks like a blank document because the words ran off the page in fear.

Thing 5 – You’re never too old to start doing new things. Yeah, I already ran out of points of wisdom, so I’m playing my cliché card. This one’s true though. My dad didn’t start fly fishing until his 50’s. My lovely wife didn’t start painting until her 30’s. In my eyes they are masters of their crafts (I’m sure they would humbly disagree with me). As I get older I notice a soft inner monologue that tells me because I didn’t grow up doing something, I can’t start now. My advice is challenge yourself, pick up something new and dedicate time to it. You will surprise yourself.

Thing 6 – Keep the gas gauge above a quarter tank. I got this advice from my dad Ken Pasley. The irony here is that fuel was not usually a factor in our cars being immobile when I was a kid. Fan belts, mufflers falling off, electrical wiring conspiracies…a few of the many reasons why we would hear caveman grunts and moans coming from under the vehicle. You would only see Dad’s boots sticking out like he was the Wicked Witch of the East’s blue-collar brother.

While this has less literal emphasis in an era of cell phones and roadside assistance, it’s a phrase that’s stuck with me and applies to everything. If I wait till my tank is empty, it’s easy to become desperate and make rash decisions. If I don’t get enough sleep, I’m grouchy and prone to mistakes. If I don’t make time to exercise, I coil negative energy. If I don’t pray, I become more of myself, and myself left to itself is a bad self. Identify the fuels that make your body, mind and soul move forward. Be mindful of them and make sure they don’t get depleted.

Fun fact: if you want your entire family to sound like Darth Vader, drop the muffler off a trashed Ford Fairlane and drive it from Yelm to Dash Point.

Thing 7 – Chuck Norris never turned 40. He went from 39 straight to 41.

Thing 8 – Find a doctor who’s not afraid to yell at you. Enter Dr Nguyen. My first reaming? Thought you’d never ask.

Me: “I have chronic heartburn.”

Dr. Nguyen: “Chronic! How long have you had it?”

Me: “As long as I can remember. It gets so bad I have to drink baking soda mixed in water to make it go away, but I’m tired of feeling like a 5th grade science fair volcano.”

He walked over to a drawer and pulled out a notepad and pen. He wanted to create a visual aid to assist his vocal chords with cutting to my core.

Dr. Nguyen: “When your stomach acid sits in your esophagus it develops scar tissue.” My eyes were fixed on his swirling hand that had created a rudimentary head and shoulder fixture with a long tube running from its mouth. “In time the scar tissue will become cancer. To treat this cancer, they open your throat and remove your esophagus. You will be in agonizing pain until you are dead.” I realized the hand swirling had put me in a semi-hypnotic state when he handed me the diagram, which now included the words CANCER, PAIN and DEATH, which were circled like thought bubbles with arrows pointing to the ghostly figure’s throat. He looked me square in the eye and screamed, “IT IS THE WORST POSSIBLE DEATH YOU CAN IMAGINE! GET ENDOSCOPY!!!!”

Point is, he’s effective. I got scoped and have taken medicine ever since.

Thing 9 – If your doctor draws you a GERD scare-o-gram, be careful what you do with it. For instance, you might not want to leave it lying around on the counter. If you do, you might come home later and find your wife in a teary panic.

Thing 10 – If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, then Satan must have coded the Nextdoor app on his smoke break. It amazes me that so many people pick public fights with others in their community. Don’t get me wrong, I like rubbernecking as the coyotes were here first faction wage a war of words against the dingo ate my fluffies. And yes, I know I’m just as bad by gawking from the safety of my phone. But let’s face it, some people like chocolate, some people like vanilla, some people like fireworks, others don’t. We’re humans, we don’t agree on much as a herd. Most of us don’t like mail thieves and a lot of us like free stuff. Outside of that, I’m surprised people don’t realize that you’re not going to change an opinion by trying to put someone down or prove them wrong in a public forum.

Thing 11 – In the land of the blind, who is the one-eyed man’s optometrist? Chuck Norris is.

Thing 12 – Smartphones have destroyed the ability to take a dump at work. I don’t know why someone would want to expose a device that will be later be next to their face to one of the dirtiest environments on earth. Apparently, I’m in the minority on this. Look, if you’re the kinda guy who needs to fill out the long form when you’re throwing the change up, then you’re excused from this, but please see Dr. Nguyen soon, cause you probably need a good yelling. For the rest of you blue light bombers, please stop being dug into the stall like an Alabama tick and be considerate of others.

Thing 13 – Ivy isn’t a good leash. Aussie Blue Heelers are either the smartest dogs on earth or clinically insane. My buddy Scott had the latter. It was as if that brain designed for hyper-intelligence had a short circuit and fired random synapses to its limbs. It wasn’t usually sure what it wanted to do, but it would try to do a lot of things all at once. Jumping, while spinning, while biting the air. It was before we had cameras everywhere so you’ll just have to believe me that it was a special kind of weird. Doggy Down-unda also had some type of separation anxiety. Where Scott went, dog followed.

One day my friend Marc and his mom Kathy were picking up Scott. Scott lived at the bottom of a steep, spooky, sadistic, washboard cement driveway in Dash Point. Unless you were the Scott’s parents or Chuck Norris, you didn’t want to drive down this thing. I don’t know why the crazy dog escaped from the house, but it must have sensed that Scott was about to abscond in an Aerostar. The smart part of its breed took temporary control of its body forming a plan to position itself in front of the van as a canine riot shield. Scott said he had an idea and proceeded to wrap ivy around the dog’s neck tethering it to whatever rotten wooden structure it was covering. He then looked at the van and yelled, “DRIVE!!!!”, Kathy accelerated, Scott ran for the open side door, crazy dog made short work of the ivy leash and was in full pursuit. Scott managed to hop into the van but the dog paced the van for several blocks biting at the tires.

Thing 14 – God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Don’t recall hearing it for the first time; probably came from a high school teacher or coach. Being a good listener is challenging, especially with all of our 21st century gadgetry. The trouble as I get older is someone will say something that triggers a thought and then my brain plays frogger and skips across a mental highway while I miss the message being delivered. It’s easy for my brain to do this when my kids are talking to me at the house and I’m multitasking. The thing with kids is that sometimes they bury the lead, and if you don’t stay engaged you can miss that epic punchline or a message from their heart.

Thing 15 – Don’t be the factcheck.oral person when someone is telling a funny story. No, it probably didn’t really happen exactly that way. Yes, I’m almost certainly embellishing. Names are changed to protect the innocent, details are modified to make them better punchlines. Don’t make the funny get weird, I implore you.

Thing 16 – Assume the best of the people you love. That’s from my mom, Deb Pasley. Often when Heather and I are processing a difficult interpersonal interaction one of us has had, that one comes up. It seems like a trait that should be intrinsic. Why is it then that I need to remind myself of it? All I know is that I feel better about that relationship when I keep that thought at the forefront.

Thing 17 – We all have opportunities to be missionaries. My mother-in-law Carolee demonstrates this better than anyone I’ve met. Whether caring for the elderly, the homeless in her neighborhood, or orphans in Jamaica, she loves on people like Jesus demonstrated for us.

Thing 18 – Fiberglass insulation makes a terrible blanket. I was probably 6 or 7 at the time. Insulation was held between the studs of my bedroom walls with twine as a temporary solution until the sheetrock grew on the wall. I guess the sheetrock either didn’t get enough water or sun, because it never grew. At some point the string reached the end of its pull date and I groggily awoke rolling in a comfy down blanket of cotton candy glass needles. This was shortly followed by an involuntary scream. Mom sprang into action and poured a bath, which helped subside the torturous stinging.

Thing 19 – More moms should play poker. Let’s face it, sometimes they’re the world’s best liars. My mom didn’t know if a bath was the right thing to cure inadvertent glass acupuncture on a mass body scale. There was no internet then. Doctors wouldn’t be in the office for hours. The woman had to think on her feet and deal with the emergency in a manner that would salvage the rest of her day and allow her to get to her list of 45 have-to-do’s. I don’t know how many times Mom bluffed me growing up, but I know I folded a lot of hands.

Thing 20 – The Long Kiss Goodnight is one of the most underrated action movies of all time. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin it. But sticking with the mom theme, it’s like watching Geena Davis give birth to Jason Bourne on screen.

Thing 21 – Chuck Norris gave birth to himself.

Thing 22 – Don’t watch TV shows upside down. I don’t remember the show and I’m not sure why right side up was not adequate, but I remember making it through an entire episode with my neck slung over the cushion. I also remember waking up in the morning screaming at the top of my lungs. My poor, poor mother. The diagnosis; a sprained neck.

Thing 23 – Pasta sauce and neck braces don’t mix. I remember being a little too cavalier with the spaghetti slurping and having some sauce chin runoff. I was a complicit kid, so I guess the doctor must have made it clear that I was not to take the brace off. For days I could feel the tomato acid chewing away at my skin. When Mom finally un-Velcro’d the tan foamy donut there was an unsightly rash down to my Adam’s apple. I wonder how many times growing up we as children believed something in our heads or were too afraid to ask.

Thing 24 – EQ is an essential ingredient to being a husband and a father. First, I am by no means a master here. Do you want to know a secret? There are times when I read the emotional inputs of an interaction well but ignore them. Sometimes because my inner dude wants the other party to man up. Sometimes because we’ve talked about the theme multiple times and school is out. Sometimes because I quickly do the math and think I can’t afford to invest the time and would rather gloss over the queue and hope we both pretend everything is fine and move on. For the inner dudes out there reading this, let me say that is a poor strategy. Your a dude. Sometimes it sucks to dig down and grab that feeling by the balls, but do it, make it sing soprano, and connect to your loved ones in a deeper way.

Thing 25 – I’m sorry’s are free. My kids are tired of hearing me say that. I say it out loud to remind myself. I mean, why would I need to apologize when I’m never wrong, right? It is very, very easy for me to live high and mighty. My opinions have opinions, and they get together and have a knitting club. I find a little therapy in making it a point to publicly apologize when I am being a donkey.

Thing 26 – Blamers suck. I’m a recovering blamer. Along the lines of thing 25, I spent the latter half of the last decade trying to get out of the mindset of finding guilty parties for life’s adverse events. Blaming spanned many areas of my life: tangible events (someone lost the spare key), politics, lines at grocery stores, sporting referees (those poor bastards took a lot of darts from me). I used to think it made me feel better. My wise wife Heather used to call me out and make songs about my blaming. Maybe that worked. I don’t really know what changed. I guess at some point it started to settle into my dense brain that shit actually does happen. And sometimes there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. You’ve heard it a thousand times before, but I believe things that do not go according to plan can become opportunities that can change your life.

Thing 27 – Be flexible, sponsored by Heather Bruce Lee Pasley. She is the most effective human at reacting to life’s curveballs that has ever walked this earth. She doesn’t blame, she MacGyvers through life. Whether panhandling her way through 3 years of high school lunch, getting 4 kids to 4 various locations in 30 minutes while talking to a friend in crisis, or creating a meal on the fly without key ingredients, this woman is a genie. It’s like her hips are lamps; she just rubs them and ideas come flying out. It’s incredible to watch.

Fun fact: Bruce Lee demonstrated his flexibility physically and mentally: “Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow and water can crash. Be water my friend.”

Thing 28 – Every man should have to choose between Ripley and Vasquez. The original Me Too movement. Any dude out there that has it in his caveman brain that men are somehow superior to women has not watched this movie. These women are boss. I probably quote Vasquez more (for example, “whatever you’re gonna do, do it fast!” works on many levels). However, Mike Pasley goes on record choosing Ripley. That sister puts on the mommy pants and personifies the determination I’ve seen in the strong women in my life; they’ll fight the monster for their Newt. The best part is that Heather isn’t jealous of my Aliens woman fantasies.

Thing 29 – If baseball is America’s pastime, why is it filled with littering? Is it kind of like The Purge? Because we’re indoctrinated to not throw garbage out of moving cars we need an outlet for this? Have you looked to your right and left leaving a game? Seen the dugout on TV after the 9th inning? Damn.

Thing 30 – 2 guys walked into a bar, only Chuck Norris walked out.

Thing 31 – Alcohol is as expensive as a physiologist but gives worse advice. Upside is it does make house calls. I don’t really have anything else here, I just thought that was a funny thing to say.

Thing 32 – Don’t mess with an old lady’s flower bed. Picture Mother’s Day, a 9-year-old paperboy, with his 14-year-old brother. The route was done, we had seen dozens of Sunday editions with Happy Mother’s Day in bold letters on the front page. It occurred to both of us that we had no gift. At the top of a long driveway laid a picturesque flower garden. The tulips were vibrant. Steph told me to go get some of them. I looked at him with a, why do I have to be the one, face. But this was a simple job. Completely shielded from the house, so many flowers, if it was even noticed that they were gone it could be easily blamed on a rodent. I was so confident I didn’t even look down the driveway, I just tiptoed into the mulch and before I could even decide what flowers to steal I heard “Hey, get outta there!” I forgot that old people know when the paper is delivered, because they’re home all the time. They hold routine in high regard. I cut tail and ran. Steph laughed at me on the ride home. As far as I know I was not reported to the Morning News Tribune for criminal trespass.  

Thing 33 – Siblings can be heroes. When my brothers weren’t getting me yelled at by old ladies or injured, they were showing me the way the world worked. Todd told me they landed planes on foam during emergencies. He told me this while the 3 of us were playing lightsabers peeing into the same toilet, “hey, they could land a plane on that foam.” Steph showed me how to play army and use camouflage. They both showed me how to like the outdoors. My sister Kate invented artificial summer where we’d blast the heat in the car with the windows down in the winter. I still do that sometimes. Then there was that time she tried to kill me by running a red light, but we won’t get into that here. Okay, it’s a short story. We lived, my Dad’s truck didn’t.

Thing 34 – Movie quotes help. I’m not sure why a family that used to have to rent a VCR from Albertson’s would have at its core quoting movies. Maybe because seeing one required some effort. Nevertheless, we all do it. Next time you really don’t know what to say, spin that IMDB rolodex in your head and pull out a line. If you get stuck, just fall back to Predator, there’s one in there that will work.

Thing 35 – Always build in a buffer. Punctuality wasn’t a central theme of our household growing up. I had to learn this lesson by missing things and irritating people. Today I like to think backwards from the time I’m supposed to be somewhere, approximate the time needed for the various tasks to get there and then add an additional contingency for the thing I probably missed. Worst case scenario, I get somewhere early, which has its advantages. Buffers work with all sorts of things. Money, flight plans, beer purchases when camping, wearing elastic to Thanksgiving, etc. Whatever you’re planning, you’re probably not going to thread the needle. If everything must line up perfectly for something to work logistically in your life, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Thing 36 – Try a New Month resolution. I used to be the guy who would rant about New Year’s resolutions at the party before and after the ball dropped (okay, I’m still kind of that guy when I have too much champagne). I felt I had a decent resume of evidence. I didn’t think I knew anyone who stuck to their goal for an entire year. But on the other hand, I can’t really match any goals with faces over the last several decades, so am I the best judge? I remember Millionaire Joe vowing off some type of meat product, and holding fast until at least the trees blossomed, but I couldn’t tell you if it was red meat, chicken or both. At some point it settled on me that demonizing a tradition wasn’t helping anyone. First, you look like a penis when someone tells you they want to try something next year and you tell them not to bother. Second, I was denying myself an opportunity. It’s a great tradition, and like Christmas, we should keep it all the year. I just need smaller bites. Let’s say I try 12 things and fail 12 times. Well, I tried 12 things. Let’s say I try something and like it. My goal the following month can be to keep doing it and get better at it.

Thing 37 – I don’t know how my parents survived my childhood. Things seemed harder on adults back then, and easier on kids. My siblings and I used to take off and spend the entire day at Dash Point State Park. We’d bounce around the neighborhood on our bikes. We’d come home for fuel and then leave again. My parents had to endure multiple layoffs, Jimmy Carter, my dad’s shattered feet, a house that stubbornly resisted its extreme makeover. My dad would come home from work where he’d swung a hammer all day, and then swing it some more. My mom cooked on a hotplate. We mastered indoor camping at times. Somehow, they pulled through. It really should have killed them. Oh, they also survived Gus.

Thing 38 – Nothing underscores childhood like a crazy dog. Enter Gus. I remember my dad hiding him in his windbreaker and surprising us kids with him. I think we were upstairs. Either he or my mom got pissed on during the car ride home. That was the first sign. Someone told them they should let Gus sleep with a hot water bottle to remind him of his mom. He bit the water bottle in the middle of the night and soaked his bedding. That was the second sign. He was kicked out of obedience school. My mom was mortified. That was the third sign. We had a pane of glass on our front door. When people would knock they would hear nails scratching across the floor and see his jowls flap in their face as he bore his teeth. That was the fourth sign. He and my brother Todd played tug-o-war with the chewie. The immovable object versus the irresistible force. At the time, the two most determined individuals I knew. One would give up a step, and then quickly step back two. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Then the SNAP! They both collided into opposite walls and you could hear the air exit their lungs. They had sheared the figure 8 kettlebell style rubber chewie completely in half. That was the 5th sign. Gus was tied to a 4×4 supporting the front porch. A lady with a dog on leash walked briskly by the house. Gus bolted, ripped the post out and drug the 4×4 down the street in hot pursuit. That was the 6th sign.

Steph and I were charged by my best friend Ian and 2 of his buddies across the field that separated our houses. They had fashioned spears from Ian’s weird cattail-ish plant that grew next to the equally weird railway tie wall. Steph gave the order to retreat. We opened the front door. Gus had been listening. Gus wanted to show us how we were supposed to defend our turf. Our arms became turnstiles. We called him and chased but it was futile.

Their faces. To watch fear instantly take hold of someone. Their playful war cries morphed into screams of panic. The faux spears were dropped. They turned and they ran. They were no match for the Usain Bolt of crazy springer spaniel/chocolate lab mutts. Gus found the slowest target. Poor Mike. Gus grabbed the ankle of his baggy jeans and shook like a hungry croc. He quickly released and Steph and I grabbed Gus’ collar. Poor Mike cried. He had a scrape and a little blood. In fairness Gus was defending us. In fairness if he’d wanted to bite him, he could have amputated Mike’s leg below the knee. In fairness I thought he was playing too and that he was going to chase them back to their yard and then turn around and come back. Gus’ tongue was out and he looked at Steph and I waiting for a “good dog.” He didn’t understand. That was the final sign for poor Gus. We never owned another dog.

Thing 39 – Remember that when you’re interacting with a kid, they might play that scene in their head when they’re watching the movie of their life writing their 40 things. It’s funny how much of our childhood sticks with us. It’s part of who we are. In some cases, it created themes and traditions that we want to carry with us and pass onto our children. In other areas, we find that parts of it are like scar tissue that we’re trying to break through. It’s strange that as a 40-year-old I can still go back and feel what it was like to be a kid. It makes me want to be a better dad and uncle.

Thing 40 – Always go for the laugh. As you can see, I don’t have a lot of sage wisdom from 40 years on this planet. I do have great friends and family.  My favorite memories involve us laughing. I hope I managed to get a snicker out of you. Either way, take care of yourself, don’t be so hard on yourself, remember what’s important, identify stress in your life and figure out a way to laugh at it, or make someone else laugh by talking about it.

And whatever you do, don’t mess with Chuck Norris.


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