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Conversations with DBB: The Boourns and Merwinly

In another installment of the Conversations series we go a bit deeper, while also keeping things light...and even creepy.

These two guys obviously hit it off, DBBBFF’s as they both put it. This conversation has a little bit of everything, including crockpot recipes and some truly human and personal stories. In today’s day and age this is what many would say is tl;dr but stick with it, I almost guarantee there’s a bit in here for everyone and these two really opened up which is really, really refreshing.

The Boourns (Comment thread regular): First Question: Who is your Daddy, and what does he do? Okay, Arnold impersonations aside, I'm always interested in knowing what people's parents did when they grew up and how that may or may not have led you to where you are today.

Merwinly (Comment thread regular): I really am getting stuck with the Boo Urns??? I just thought that was some horrible joke. :)

Thanks for this, Christopher. I love this kinda stuff.

Hello C. Montgomery. How's it goin'? I think this will be fun.

Okay, to your question. My dad was a salesman. When I was a kid, he sold sporting goods equipment. We didn't have a lot of money, but I always had good athletic gear, including basketballs! He was obviously a big sports fan too, so that's where I came by my love of sports. As I've grown older, I don't enjoy the other sports as much, so now I only follow the Pistons, despite being an avid fan of the other sports when I was younger. So that's where my sports fandom originated, but that's not the whole answer. You said you're interested in how what my parents did led me to where I am today, which leads me to my mother. In the interest of kindness, I'll say that I'm a mental health clinician for a reason, and leave it at that.

All right, my turn. I very much like your introductory topic, so I'm going to stick with it. Feel free to ask me any follow up questions about what I wrote, but also answer your own question. But don't think I'll just keep following blindly along!!! I'm going to have my own questions after this!!!

The Boourns: Very cool! Was your Dad a traveling salesman (door-to-door) or operating out of a 'sale center'? It must have been pretty cool to be regularly inundated with sporting equipment and what not. Aside from basketball, what other sports were you a big follower? And did you grow up in the Detroit area hence your Pistons fandom or elsewhere?

On my side, my parents both grew up in rural Michigan (dad up in Memphis, Michigan and mom in Vander Cook Lake). Both went to Michigan State and both went to school to become journalists. My Dad spent 50+ years in journalism whereas my Mom at around 35-36, decided to go back to school to become an attorney. While growing up, my parents kind of had a role reversal of the typical family dynamic of the 80s/early 90s where my Dad opted to dial back his career (he was working as the executive editor of the Detroit News at the time) and take a professor position in Wayne State's journalism program where he spent the next 20 years teaching many of the journalists that now work in the greater Detroit area. Doing so gave him more time at home so he was always my youth league coach and attended all of my brother's and my sporting events through graduating from high school.

My Mom still practices law but is more or less retired these days and is living it up in downtown Detroit on her own after my Dad passed away around five years ago. She spends most of her time working in philanthropy, sitting on boards of nonprofits, and walking her Bernese mountain dog, Harry, all over downtown Detroit.

I always had an interest in both law and journalism, but never a passion for either. Ultimately, I think their careers influenced me to find my own path and ultimately take the value of my words very seriously in all aspects of life. It’s interesting that today this gets me into trouble because I'm a stickler for qualifying statements and I find people just skim over the qualifying words in a sentence and ultimately misunderstand your point. Other than that, I didn't quite get my parents' work ethic...both went from poor families to earning academic scholarships at MSU to being truly influential in their respective fields so I always say that if I can accomplish even half of what my parents did in their lifetimes, I'll still be well ahead of the curve.

Merwinly: Excellent. This really is fun. No, my dad worked for a company called Jones Sporting Goods in Muskegon, where I grew up. He mostly sold to high schools and colleges all over West Michigan. It wasn't a door to door thing at all. He knew all the athletic directors and would go see them and get them what they wanted. It was really wonderful to get the good sports equipment. I once got 12 leather basketballs at the same time! That was so fun. I had fresh balls (HA!) throughout high school, thanks to that.

I grew up following baseball and football as much as basketball. Hockey less so until the 90s. I watched every game of the '84 Tigers and can probably still name the whole team. I loved the Bad Boys. I've tortured myself with the Lions until just a few years ago. And I enjoyed Yzerman and Federov and that group of Red Wings also. But I grew up in West Michigan and only went to Detroit for occasional sporting events.

I didn't know where Memphis or Vander Cook Lake were, but I looked them up. Do you have any connection to either town any more? Did you grow up in Detroit? You must have if your dad was the Executive Director of the Detroit News. Which, by the way, is pretty dang cool. Does that seem fun or interesting to you? Or is it just part of your life?

Speaking of your parents' role reversal, I think you know, but I'm a stay at home dad. It's much easier to do now then it was then, but it's still a little odd. And fun. I love it. But I can imagine it presented difficulties for your dad at the time. How do you feel about it? Are you glad he stayed home more?

Your mother's life sounds a bit more upscale than anything I've experienced. Like you, I didn't get my parents' work ethic, so philanthropy is a bit out of my league. Oh, I gave a few dollars to Mr. Happy Mushroom's orphanage! Does that count as philanthropy? Maybe not. :)

Journalism and the law. My sister went to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and excelled there, so I've interacted with journalism a little. I don't find much interest personally in either profession, although they both deal with language and thought and communication and psychology and I am interested in those. I have noticed that I enjoy it when an attorney makes a clear argument. The precision and brevity are appealing to me, which is funny, because I'm so loose with my language.

I think who my parents were influenced my career more than their careers did. Looking back, their personalities, world views and mental health all had an influence, but their careers, not so much.

Okay, I have a bunch of questions for you, but since I just wrote so much, I'll ask something easy. Tell me about your family and where you live now. You have a daughter, right? Tell me more!




Did you see my signature on my last email. It sorta looks like it got cut off somehow. Here it is again, just in case:

"Re: Forced communications with "Merwinly" if that's ACTUALLY his/her real name..."

The Boourns:

So I guess it kind of is your real name then...damn. So my family spent a lot of time on the west side of the state in Holland so I know Muskegon a little bit from our times going up to "Pleasure Island" during the summers. Your Dad's job sounds like it would have been pretty cool especially if you're a fan of basketball. I'd imagine knowing the Athletic Directors at most of the schools on the west side meant you likely got some tickets from time to time. Do you have a favorite non-major school on the west side of the state? I'm partial to Kalamazoo College, but that's my alma mater so I guess I have to be.

Sounds like if you watched every game of the 84 Tigers then you're at least a few years older than me...I was born in 83, though I still hold it against my Dad for not bringing me to the World Series game in 84 (he brought my brother and they sat next to Al Kaline in the Detroit News box...can't remember which game it was but it was definitely not the clincher).

No real connections back to either of my parents' hometowns although when my Dad was alive, he'd get together about once every couple months with some of his old friends from growing up and my Mom still does the same with her "Vander Cook Lake Ladies" which is kind of cool to watch and something I wish I could do myself, but unfortunately my childhood friends and I have spread to the four corners of the country more or less.

I grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and my family moved there from Vineland, New Jersey when I was just 2 weeks old. Grosse Pointe was a strange place to grow up, frankly. It’s filled with old money families like the Fords and many of the long-standing Ford executives along with a smattering of old money mafia (look up Black Jack Tocco ... I played varsity basketball and football with his grandson ... and two of his sons were my basketball/football coaches in high school). My parents didn't come from that and so we still lived "frugally" by Grosse Pointe standards. In any event, its a place that ultimately shaped me by exposing what I never wanted to become and for that I genuinely appreciate my upbringing there.

For my Dad taking a step back, I think at first he saw it as an unwilling compromise, but it didn't take him long to love it. Being our youth league coach took time and he'd have us practicing every day for little league baseball. Being able to see my Dad in the stands with his scorer's book tracking the team's stats for basketball is a picture that is seared into my brain and its definitely shaped how I want to be a Father to my kids as they get older.

I have a love/hate relationship with attorneys in general. My mother, uncle, sister, brother-in-law, and at least a few others in my closer ring of family are all attorneys and having to argue with them is exhausting!

So before I get to answering your questions - I wanted to ask, what does a Mental Health Clinician do and how do you balance that with being stay at home right now? Or do you not? I don't have a ton of experience with the Mental Health industry directly, however my first year out of college I volunteered through AmeriCorps for a small non-profit in Alamosa, CO called La Puente Home which offers a bunch of different services to an extremely rural and extremely poor area of the country. We had regular interactions with homeless folks with mental health issues and mainly what I drew from all of that is the system often seemed more intent on checking boxes than it did on applying the right kind of care for the individual. When I was in college, I studied abroad in Caceres, Spain where I volunteered at "Los Hermanos Franciscanos de la Cruz Blanco" Or "The Franciscan Brothers of the White Cross". The facility they had in Caceres was a home for adult individuals with severe mental disabilities. Mainly, I'd just spend time with them in their free time window, coloring, doing puzzles, and just interacting with them. I consider both experiences to be some of the best work I've done as a human being.

These days, I'm living outside of Seattle, WA or as I call it, "The Forbidden Zone" for the NBA. I've been out here for 11 years now after a shitty girlfriend convinced me to move out here with her only to stick me with a 12 month lease and dump me 6 months in. I think I got the best of that deal because ultimately she got pregnant with some other guy and moved back to Michigan while I ended up finding my dream job, adopting the world's greatest dog, and eventually meeting my wife. My wife and I have been married for 5+ years now and have 2 girls aged 4.5 and 2. They're hysterical and getting to an age where they're genuinely expressing the love/hate relationship that siblings have. We also have 3 dogs - the aforementioned "greatest dog in the world" is Mosa Burns (he's got his own facebook page), plus my wife's dog Phinn, and the dog we for some reason lost our senses and adopted, Willa. They're all sweet but our house is more or less a zoo. Like my Dad, I prioritize being home and ultimately do the cooking, picking up and dropping off of children, and all that, but for fun I spend a lot of time in the garden. Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Beets, Sweet Onions, Snow Peas, Sweet Peas, Cherries, Strawberries, Peaches, Raspberries, and Blueberries is what I'm growing this year so I certainly have my hands full. After gardening, its Lions and Pistons with some gaming thrown in as well (I work in the industry so I like to pretend that I HAVE to play videogames to keep up with the times...).

Anyway, that was a bit of a brain dump but you asked for it! Aren't you glad you didn't ask me more questions? Aside from what you do as a Mental Health Clinician, are you still in Michigan or have you like so many others moved out of the state? Did you have any pets growing up? What about now? And if you just won the Mega Millions Jackpot (let's say $100M after taxes), how would you spend the money?


Merwinly: Wow, James! What a fantastic email! I loved it. Okay, I watched this Ted Talk this morning. It's about addiction, but it's really about connection. I loved it and it's why I love this email idea so much. So, many thanks to Christopher Daniels! You don't need to watch it now, but I bet you'll like it, so give it a viewing at some point. Also, I have friends coming in tomorrow evening from Chicago, so I'll be mostly unavailable until Sunday or Monday, just so you know.

Okay, here we go! Holland sucks and so does Muskegon! But Pleasure Island was fun. It is just condos now. I live less than 10 minutes from Pleasure Island and went there all the time as a kid. The Black Hole was scary. I liked the pulley thing at the back of the park that you rode down into the pond and the paddle boats. That's very fun that you've been there.

I graduated from Grand Valley, so I'm quite partial to them. :)

I was born in 1974, so yep, a few years older than you. My dad has always loved Kaline. Probably his favorite Tiger ever. He got out of Vietnam on February 24, 1968, so that '68 Tiger Championship team has a special spot in his heart.

What's worse? Ford or Tocco? Sorry, I couldn't help it. Ford's ownership of the Lions has soured me a bit.

This is a great sentence that I fully grasp: "its a place that ultimately shaped me by exposing what I never wanted to become and for that I genuinely appreciate my upbringing there."

Muskegon is very different from Grosse Point, but it's impact on me was much the same. There's a highway down the middle of town, white people on one side, black people on the other. That highway really helped clarify some things for me as a child and young adult. So I get it.

It sounds like you had a really good father. That's excellent.

What does a Mental Health Clinician do? Well, I think there are many different types. What I did was I worked with people with severe and persistent mental illness. They were the sickest of the sick. So they were dealing with Schizophrenia, Bi-polar Disorder, Major Depression, personality disorders, homelessness, drug addiction, broken families, and on and on and on. I generally worked on teams, where we would go out individually and visit our "clients" in their environments: work, home, wherever. We'd work with them to learn how to manage their illnesses, so that they could lead at least somewhat normal lives. That meant medication management, life skill development, job skill development, talking through current or past difficulties, really anything that would come up, we were there to help. I found it fascinating. It really taught me a ton about life. But I'm not currently doing that. I'm just staying home right now. So the balance is pretty easy. :)

I used to live in Bailey, Colorado, which is pretty straight north from Alamosa. We used to visit Salida to eat Pizza and drink beer at Amicas. Fun times. How interesting that you've been to Pleasure Island and we lived just a few hours from each other in Colorado.

"the system often seemed more intent on checking boxes than it did on applying the right kind of care for the individual." This is part of the reason I'm a stay at home dad now. I was given much more freedom in my job than most people in the mental health field, but it still drove me nuts to have to focus on things other than the need of the person I was supposed to be working for. Really, don't get me started.

"a home for adult individuals with severe mental disabilities." I worked in Chicago at an agency that was a work center for adults with developmental disabilities. They had three residential homes as well, but I worked at the work center. It was the most pleasant job I've ever had. As a small part of my responsibilities, I got to take groups of around 12 adults with disabilities out in the Chicago community. We would go to parks and museums, play basketball, go sailing on Lake Michigan, gardening and landscaping at the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, and all sorts of other fun stuff. I loved it. So I understand quite easily why you liked that.

It sounds like you certainly made the most out of a bad situation with your ex girl friend. It worked out! It sounds like you have a great family and that you fully appreciate how wonderful that is. Congratulations to you on that. I've been with my wife since 1998 and married since 2001. We have one daughter, who is almost six years old and makes me incredibly happy.

I worked at a local garden center here in Muskegon as a teen and learned all about plants, so I love to garden. We moved here with dreams of a permaculture heaven, only to realize after we bought the house that there are walnut trees all over. In case you don't know, walnut trees secrete a substance called Juglone, which kills most vegetable plants. Long story short, I can grow some onions and lettuce. That's about it. Tomatoes in pots. :( We had spoken before about gardening, so I knew you enjoyed it. I'd love to be able to do all of that, like you do. Instead, I've been focusing on the landscaping. We have an acre and a half, mostly filled with trees, but there's a bunch of plants around the house. The woman who lived here before us had lived here for 30 years and loves plants. There are literally thousands of daffodils and tons of other plants and flowers. I could start a hosta-selling business out of my yard, no joke.

I was big into video games in my youth. At one point, I realized I was completely addicted and needed to stop. So I did and haven't bought a new system since. I have a Coleco, a SNES and an N-64. Pretty fun old games, but I don't get to play much.

In order, the places I've lived are: Muskegon (MI), Allendale (MI), Chicago (IL), Grand Haven (MI), Grand Rapids (MI), Chicago (IL), San Diego (CA), Denver (CO), Bailey (CO), and now Fruitport (MI). We've really moved around, but I think we'll be here for a bit.

Pets. Yes, I had a black lab and two cats growing up. One of the cats was the world's greatest cat, D.C. (Damn Cat). I still miss him. With my wife, we had two cats until we lost both of them within a year of each other about two years ago. I love animals, but am currently excited about not having the extra responsibility of owning one.

The Jackpot! I could go on aaaaallllllllllllllll day long about that one! I think I'd make a great rich person, in case anyone wants to help me out with that. :)

Of course, I'd start by taking care of all of my family's needs first. Pay off everything, college fund, etc. Oh, and I'd hire a nutritionist/chef to prepare all my meals and make them healthy! I'd love that. Once that was done, I'd buy a little cabin on a giant piece of land somewhere out in the middle of nowhere so that any time my soul felt under assault, I could go there and find peace. And then, I'd start working on opening the Center for Emotional Education. It would be like a university for emotional health. I think there's a lot of misunderstanding in the world about how emotions work. I think traditional psychology focuses too much on where emotions come from and too little on how they work and how to resolve them. I'd love to be able to teach people how they work so that they could find their way to health. It's a dream of mine that feels very far away right now, but I hope might some day become a reality. It's why I started my blog about emotions that I've talked about on DBB.

Okay. How was that??? Holy cow, that was as draining as reading a Shiny and NUM argument! :) I think I'll let you respond to that stuff and answer your own question about the jackpot and then ask you more next time. Otherwise, these responses are going to take hours to answer. I think that one did!

Talk to you soon,


The Boourns: I can definitely relate to the responsibility of managing pets...I do about 99.9% of that for the dogs and as they get older, it seems to get more excessive with the glucosamine for the hips and having to deal with their either choosing to or actually being deaf (I really can't tell with those dogs). Thank you for the Ted Talk suggestion! Will definitely have to check it out. Speaking of watching things, all time favorite film(s)? For me, my garden is almost ENTIRELY container gardening. Why you ask? Well because our house sits near the top of a ravine and our 0.4 acres runs at about a 10-15 degree grade from the front all the way to the back of our property. So all of my containers are terraced. I built them myself which I'm pretty proud of. In total, I've built 5 cedar wood raised beds that in the end gives me around 100 square feet of garden space to work with. Only my blueberries are in the ground and that's because the high acidity soil in the northwest from all the Coniferous forest area in the Pacific Northwest.

While I didn't know about the specific name of the chemical in Walnut trees, I do recall that issue with them. That had to have been a tough thing to find out but hey, maybe you can start a Walnut stand at the local Farmer's Market and sell Hostas on the side?

You've definitely hopped around a bit more than I have in my life...For me, born in Philadelphia, PA, --> Grosse Pointe, MI --> Kalamazoo, MI --> Alamosa, CO --> Seattle, WA. Within Seattle, I've lived both in the city and in the suburbs and now reside in the suburbs.

I can understand your growing out of gaming due to the time it took up. Even in the industry and in a role that is focused on driving gamers to engage even more, I find myself playing less and less as the girls get older. I'm excited though for my girls to get a little bit older and start being able to play some of the basic games, but its not something I'm necessarily going to encourage.

Okay so on to my for context, this is a question that every Sunday in my family we'd talk about as my Dad bought his weekly $1 mega millions ticket. Your approach is similar to mine in a lot of ways...

- Set aside a family/college fund that is big enough to cover my extended family and self-sustainable

- Establish an endowment at Kalamazoo College that pays for basic cable on campus (they claimed it negatively affected the ability to learn if students had access to basic cable so being on the west side of the state, we got a Chicago and a Detroit version of ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS and that was did mean though that you could watch Jeopardy 4 times a day with only 2 unique episodes so you could get REALLY good that second time around...)

- Buy myself some acreage in the City of Detroit with the intent of creating a massive urban farm

- Open up a Dog Park / Dog Boarding / No Kill Adoption Facility / Brewery

- Open up my own Food Truck and spend most of my time making food

Merwinly: Holy Cow! If you ever do win the jackpot, you have to hire me to be a part of the urban farm. I have thought and thought about that. Detroit is the perfect place too. That would be so excellent. Growing things and sociology, all wrapped up into one! I love it! When we lived in Chicago, I worked on the South Side and it's just a vast food desert. It's awful. So, Chicago would work too.

I'd make a great beer tester for your brewery. :)

I've also thought a great deal about the idea of a food truck. I have several recipes that would work well in a food truck. There was a woman, Linda Lou, who had a breakfast burrito truck in Conifer, Colorado and it was heavenly! Oh, what I'd do for a bacon and green chili burrito!

I love dogs, but I don't think I could do an adoption facility. I'd want to adopt them all. And I'd probably cry every day, which isn't terribly efficient. :)

Films: Oh, man. In no particular order:

V for Vendetta

12 Angry Men

I ♥ Huckabees

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Princess Bride

Waking Life

Rear Window

North by Northwest

I also enjoy several of the main fantasy movies: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Batman Begins, etc.

For many years, I kept a list of favorite films that I would update so I could share it with people. Mostly more thinking movies, less fantasy and such. That was fun.

I had forgotten, but now I remember you had talked about the terraces. I would love that too. It must have been a ton of work, but I bet it's awesome.

I've thought about selling walnuts and hostas, but walnuts are actually a ton of work. Opening them is hard work, plus you have to dry them. It just sounds like a bit much at this point.

I was just talking to my daughter the other day about Super Bomberman for the SNES. She wanted me to teach her, but I told her she wouldn't like it because I'd just beat her over and over and over again. I'm sorta relentless like that.

That's really a lot of stuff that we have in common. I like it.

Okay, tell me about something that is important to you. Big or small, doesn't matter. Just something of interest and importance to you.

The Boourns: Excellent Question! Honestly, it took me until the middle of today to come up with my answer despite long, hard...thoughts...on the subject. I think one thing that is important to me is both big and small...if you catch my drift. Despite its initial appearance being small, it is something that can grow to more than twice its size in reality as you realize just how important it is to society...I'm talking about small acts of kindness.

When you first asked the question, I genuinely wracked my brain (by the way, did not know that the rack vs. wrack usage was so interesting and complex!) for an answer that was worthy of the question. In the end, I was driving to work today with the girls and wife in the car and as a car slowed up to let me into the express lanes, I rolled down my window as I always do and gave the courtesy wave of appreciation to let them know I appreciated the kind gesture and got the nod of acknowledgment in return. Such a minor thing, and yet it can create such big feelings of appreciation.

I honestly stopped there for a bit and figured that would be my answer, but came to realize as I held the door open for a fellow Dad with identical twin newborns at my daughters' daycare that it wasn't just the wave or the nod, but the general small acts of kindness that can completely change anyone's day, including your own. What made me even more concrete in my choice on this answer was knowing that it's something that my Dad definitely instilled in me and an approach to life that he exemplified always.

Okay so your comment on Super Bomberman is hilarious, but I think you're just scared. "What if she gets better than you?" you say as you struggle to fall asleep at night..."What if she finds counters to what I believe to be impenetrable strategies?" as you wake up sleepy-eyed staring blankly into the mirror while you brush your teeth...

As for another question, I'm going to think on that one for a bit knowing that you're hanging out with friends this weekend (whatever man...its cool, I get it.).

Merwinly: Unofficial Reply: They're going to be here in an hour, so I can't give a full reply until probably Sunday, but this was so much fun to read that I needed to thank you for it now. So, thank you.

Have a great weekend. I'll talk to you on Sunday.

Oh, and that was absolutely hilarious, but clearly you've never seen me play Bomberman.


The Boourns: Even I found a way to throw a left handed hook shot over my 6'9" Father by the time I was 10 and still 18" shorter than him...Your Bomberman skills must be unequivocally great if you expect to hold off your offspring for long...Cronos would be proud of your attempts to avoid being usurped however.

On to my question: As someone who loves to cook, I am always curious, what are your top 3 best dishes and what is your go to, Wednesday evening, "need to get the family fed" dinner in 30 minutes or less?

Merwinly: That was an unofficial reply! I wasn't done! You can't add more questions before I'm done with the originals! All right, I'll combine both of your emails and answer everything. How's that?

I'm glad my I love your answer. I do those things too. For me, I see them as acts of connection as much as acts of kindness. I think most of us deeply crave connection, but our lives are set up for disconnect. When we moved back here to West Michigan, I started doing the grocery shopping with my daughter at a small, local grocery store. The employees there completely ignored us. That didn't work for me. So my daughter and I started speaking to the employees all the time in an attempt to open them up. It worked. We now know Garry, Liz, Tammy, Maria, Ken, Jilane, and about a dozen others quite well. We stop and talk to them whenever we go. It brightens all of our days. I think if you do enough of these things, you start to fill your life up with happiness and you're also bringing that happiness to the other people as well. I like it. It's wonderful that your dad gave that to you and that you don't take it for granted.

Food! Dang you! Food is a source of tremendous difficulty in my life. I love it, but spending the time to make it is difficult for me. I'm slowly coming out of a food funk. Over the last year, the answer was fast food burgers far too often. Our kitchen is decently sized, but lacks for storage, so the idea of just whipping something up doesn't exist here. I have to plan my dinners and buy the ingredients ahead of time. Lately, I've made turkey tacos quite a bit. Whole wheat tortillas, ground turkey with a bunch of spices including the "Aleppo pepper" that NUM recommended to me, queso fresco, onions, avocado, Sriracha, and sour cream. If I'm feelin' it, I add bell pepper and cilantro and sometimes black beans. It has an added benefit that the leftovers make a great topping for deluxe nachos the next night.

I like to do bbq chicken in the crock pot. Shred the cooked chicken, brown the whole wheat buns in the skillet with just a little butter, put the chicken on the buns with onion and some kind of goat cheese and you've got an easy, tasty meal.

And turkey burgers with worcestershire sauce, grilled onions, some good cheese, and avocado on grilled whole wheat buns are pretty easy, healthy and good too. I usually grill up some asparagus or corn on the cob with this meal.

Those are decent, but nothing spectacular. I make more creative lunches, for some reason. I make green egg salad, which is just hard boiled eggs in mashed up avocado with salt and pepper on toast. It's quite delicious and even fairly healthy. And I make cheese folds, which are basically just glorified quesadillas, folded in quarters and browned in the skillet. The cheese fold combinations are endless, so I make those fairly often. My daughter loves them.

Tell me what you make! I could use some good ideas at this point. It's time for the food funk to end!

Oh, and you'll be wracked with pain when I put you on the rack for underestimating my bomberman skills. Truly, my college roommate calls me the best in the world and he's correct. I will not be stopped.

Okay, a soft-ball question and a more involved one. First, who's your favorite Piston of all time and why?

And second, (okay, the evening just zigged when I zagged. I gotta go. Respond to this email, if you will, and I'll have a better question on the next go around).

Be well, James Burns.

The Boourns: Oh man...You've come to the right place Marcus. I can definitely help out with some tasty crockpot recipes. For starters, let me save you some time on those tacos. Drop 3 frozen or fresh chicken breasts into a crockpot. Add a taco seasoning packet. Add a jar of your favorite reasonably cheap salsa (Pace works really well and its not even made in NEW YORK CITEH?!?!?!). Add a can of black beans (don't you dare drain those beans and certainly don't rinse least that is if you want the fart juice to be retained). You can run this on high for 4 hours, but it makes the chicken harder to shred so I generally will do it in the morning and run it for 8 hours on low. Perfect chicken for anything Mexican - quesadillas, tacos, burritos, nachos, and even taco salad. If you want to use your own spices, I definitely recommend Aleppo, its a nice smoky, mild ground pepper compared to its Ancho or Cayenne counterparts. I'm also a huge fan of "Adobo seasoning". Don't get the peppers in adobo sauce...that stuff is SPICEH. But the powder Adobo seasoning is pretty darn good.

I also have an amazing, yet time intensive crockpot recipe for crispy shredded pork shoulder where you do the pork shoulder in the crock pot, pull it out, shred it, and then you fry it in a cast iron or frying pan with brown sugar, rice vinegar, and sesame oil but it gets pretty expensive with all the unique ingredients. You end up throwing regular ramen into the crockpot juices with some cut up mushrooms and make this ridiculously savory ramen bowl with crispy pork shoulder to top.

There is another great summer time recipe where you take the refrigerated Yakisoba noodles, slice up some cucumber, carrots, and green onion, and add some shredded chicken. You can just grab a rotisserie chicken or you can crockpot it ahead of time to shred. You then make a dressing for it that if I remember correctly is red pepper flakes, peanut butter, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. You toss that up with the veggies, chicken, and warm yakisoba noodles and serve luke warm/room temperature.

As for favorite Piston of all time...that is a tough one. I'm not sure I've ever completely and utterly committed myself to any one Piston. For a long time I would tell people Scott Hastings because he was always the forgotten powerhouse of our 1990 championship (1.1 points, 1.1 boards...without that 1 point and 1 rebound...just imagine where we'd be today...). After the top 50 players for the 50th anniversary spoof he did where he pretended he was offended for not being on the list, I think it sealed the deal. Since I can't decide on one of the Piston greats, I gotta go with Scott Hastings. He's got a great sense of humor and has been largely successful in life despite never being a great basketball player which I think is somewhat rare.

If I'm forced to select a player that contributed on the floor in a meaningful way, had the right attitude, and was a huge part of my young adult life, its none other than Mr. Big Shot himself. When Chauncey hit that half court bank shot to tie it up against the Nets, only to lose the game and go down 3-2, two of my closest friends and I had such faith in Chauncey and the Pistons that we long-haired hippie liberal types from Kalamazoo College committed to shaving our heads down to the scalp right then and there as a show of confidence that the Pistons would prevail. Later on during the Finals, Game 4 was played on my 21st birthday and watching Chauncey lead the Pistons to an epic dismantling of the Showtime 2.0 Lakers was a sight for sore eyes. The fact that it happened while I was in the D, partying it up at Fishbones, and Rock Financial had passed out about 700,000 thunder sticks all over the city made it even more memorable. Of course, I remember very little aside from that given it was my 21st but that's no matter...

Okay what about you? Favorite Piston player all-time? And as for a question for you since you didn't have a chance to ask one yourself..."Do you ever look back at your life and identify the pivotal moments that led you to where you are today?" If so, "Do you ever think about where you might have ended up instead?" The "what-if" question isn't nearly as interesting as the identification of the pivotal moments in one's life to me so feel free to focus on that. For me, there are roughly 4 major decisions that led me to where I am today:

1) Finally acknowledging that I couldn't keep following in my brother's footsteps: Toward the end of my Freshman year in college, I was very close to signing my intention letter to become an officer in the Marine Corps, just like big brother. For my entire life, I pretty much did what he did. I played football because he played football. I played basketball because he played basketball. I joined National Honor Society, volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, and even applied to roughly the same colleges as my Brother all because I looked up to him. Making the conscious decision to go in a different direction was the first time I truly made a decision for myself.

2) Turning down my Brother-in-law's offer to work in DC straight out of college at his energy-focused research/Hedge Fund company. He would have paid me six figures straight out of college to live and work in DC. It was quite literally a dream job for a 22 year old looking to make as much money as possible. The problem was I had already committed to joining Ameri Corps and volunteering my time in Alamosa, CO just the day before. This was the first time I realized that my parents' principle of "following through on your commitments" had been driven deeply into my being.

3) Ignoring all sense and logic and moving to Seattle with a really terrible person who I had been dating for 4 months and had cheated on me already. My parents despised her and made it clear they didn't like the idea of me moving to Seattle. Ultimately, she dumped me 6 months after we moved out here and after I'd spent the $2K to get us out here, first and last month's rent on a new lease (that she abandoned and stuck me with), and a massage table to boot. This was the first time my parents let me succeed or fail truly on my own.

4) Finally making the decision to move out of the boonies of Cottage Lake (essentially the outskirts of the suburbs of the Greater Seattle area) where I'd been living single with my best friend from college for the past 2 years, and finally get back out of my shell. The timing ultimately led my buddy and I to reacquainting with another friend from college so that we could afford a bigger place in a great spot in Seattle. The decision to rent and the convincing of the landlords to let 3 ~26 year old single dudes rent their very nice craftsman home ultimately led to us forcing the couple in the basement out through excessive late night Rock Band (apparently the floors weren't as sound proof as the landlords claimed) which led to a beautiful, tall brunette moving in who was forced to share a cable bill with me. Within 5 months we had bought a townhouse together, adopted a 3rd dog to add to the step doggos we'd introduced already, and I had my sights set on a big ole diamond ring.

Any one of these decisions could have led me in a drastically different direction and its always amazing to me how in hindsight life can so be simplified into binary equations. This is why I irrationally am supportive of Elon Musk's assertion that we are not in fact living in a base reality but are living in a highly intelligent simulation of life. So much so that I've even started fleshing out a novel based on that idea called "The Ascendants" that plays with the idea that every human civilization ultimately fails but ultimately lives on through a one-step deeper computer simulation.

Alright enough of that. Since I already answered my own question, you can answer it and ask your follow up. This has been great so far but not sure if SBNation has enough bandwidth to post this entire conversation. Also, do you think Daniels has stopped paying attention by now? If so, we should definitely start talking about all the things that we wouldn't want him to know we're talking about like "What's up with that?" and "Can Pigeons REALLY not fart?"

Peace out Girl Scout,


Merwinly: Oh, no. I'm in love with The Boourns. What will my wife say? :) This is really fun.

No way Christopher Daniels has enough attention span to still be reading this stuff. He's probably off photoshopping something anyway. (Hi Christopher!)

This is going to take seven hours to respond to. Just the time it takes to scroll back up to figure out what to respond to next takes me 3 minutes each time I do it.

For my tacos, I use ground turkey, so it's more similar to beef than it is to chicken. That said, I use your idea quite regularly to make burritos with rinsed black beans (BPA m-er, f-er!!!) and I love that meal, so good idea. I used to have and love "Adobo Seasoning". I don't know where it went. I'll check into that. Thank you.

We make a dish called "Hawaiian Pork" that sounds similar to your recipe. Ours is fantastic, but yours sounds even better. However, ours sounds much easier, so I'm sticking with it.

I don't even know what Yakisoba noodles are, but that recipe sounds delicious. If you have the ability/desire to get me more specifics on that one, I'd love it.

"Scott Hastings", you are such a dork. If I was going that route, it would be a close race between Fennis Dembo and Chuck Nevitt. I'm leaning toward Nevitt. I loved him. But I was talking about meaningful contribution type players. Chauncey is a fantastic choice. He would be quite high on my list as well. But my choice would easily be Isiah Thomas. I didn't really understand it at the time, but now I can see that a not-insignificant portion of who I am as a person came from watching the way he played basketball. His presence, his relentlessness, his joy were all inspirations to me that I still carry with me to this day and probably always will. His playing career meant a lot to me. The obvious suffering he's endured in his post-playing days bothers me. I hope he finds peace. But that doesn't take away from what he did on the court. It was beautiful.

"Do you ever look back at your life and identify the pivotal moments that led you to where you are today?" Um, daily? Okay, I'll respond to what you wrote and then go back to my thoughts. This is a fantastic question, by the way.

1) I have a hard time relating to this problem. I really never had anyone to look up to. But I did have a friend who struggled with it a bit, so I think I understand. I can see how it would be hard to find your own way if you lived in someone else's shadow. It sounds like once you got around to figuring this out, you did a good job. You don't sound at all to me like someone who doesn't know himself. So that's good. Tangentially, my dad was a Marine and served in Vietnam.

2) I know you valued your time in Alamosa, so it sounds like it worked out, but what a difficult and courageous thing for a young person to do. Congratulations to you. That was very well done.

3) Maybe not quite so well done, but it sounds like it worked out pretty well in the end. Sometimes we have to be stupid to learn how to be smart.

4) Sounds like it was meant to be to me! Love is a very good thing.

I am also highly interested in Musk's idea. Did you know that scientists are apparently interested in testing it? I guess they think that there should be signs that it's a simulation if it is and they apparently have ideas about how to find out. I don't remember where I read that, but I know I did. I just want to know why the programmer hates me so much. What did I ever do to her? :) I hope to read "The Ascendents" some day.

Okay, my turn. Is this going to be published? Oh, shit. Okay. Transparency, here we come!

1) My mother is a domineering, controlling, negative, judgmental, and manipulative person (I'm sorry, but she just is, and it's required as part of this story). One day, in maybe my sophomore year of college, she called me up at school and started aggressively pushing my buttons within seconds of the beginning of the conversation. I remember feeling like someone was physically pushing me, it was so aggressive. After taking much abuse, I had the greatest "Aha!" moment of my life: I wasn't the weak, pathetic, bad person and son she made me out to be. She was actually crazy! That realization blew up my brain. I yelled "F___ YOU!" at the top of my lungs, hurled the phone as hard as I could straight at the floor, where it shattered into a bazillion pieces, stormed down the hall, and put a fist sized hole in my bedroom door. I've spent the time since that call striving to be the person I think I am, and no longer worrying about who she wants to make me out to be.

2) In my junior year of college, one of my Sociology profs (much love to Herbert Bellrichard-Perkins!) asked me to consider a minor in the newly created African American Studies department. I decided to do it. I was the first person to graduate from Grand Valley with a minor in African American Studies. It broadened my perspective and fundamentally changed who I am. And I'm glad it did.

3) In my senior year of college, while sitting in my Sociology Capstone class, I suddenly "got it". I got what it meant to be a sociologist. I saw life from a much broader perspective, much more holistically. It has shaped every moment of my life since then.

4) In 1998, I was living in Chicago with a roommate I despised. I made the momentous decision that I would no longer live with him when the lease was up, even though that meant I'd have to move back to West Michigan, where I could afford the rent on my own. I moved back to West Michigan and very shortly thereafter, a friend of mine threw a party that I later found out was just a setup to set me up with the woman who eventually became my wife. That worked out. And I later had my cake and ate it too by moving back to Chicago with my wife. How 'bout them apples?

5) This one wasn't so much a moment as it was a slow moving event, but the impact was similar to the others, so I think it belongs here. I'm terrible with time, but 10 or 12 years ago, I was introduced to the writing, thinking, and talking of Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh. I had already been a mental health clinician, so I knew about compassion and being present, but they didn't have much place in my life at the time. Thich Nhat Hanh taught me how to really be present to my life and how to be compassionate, both to myself and to others. These two concepts have helped transform me from smart, but angry and aggressive person to a much more calm and joyful person. I will always be thankful to him for that.

I've always heard that pigeons (or is it seagulls?) can't fart and if you give them antacids they'll blow up, but that's probably just an urban legend. Maybe DBB will enlighten us.

All right, my question for you is "Does chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) change your enjoyment of watching football? Why or why not?"

Wow. I was writing when my wife left to take my daughter to a class at the library and I was writing when they returned. How's that for dedication?

(For Sauce, despite his SJ diatribes.)

Peace in oneself, peace in the world.

Christopher Daniels (Moderator): I have read bits and pieces but honestly I'd rather be surprised...the only thing I'm wondering is whether this will turn out as one post, three, or a book :)

Merwinly: What? You don't think we could manage a series of books? I say! The lack of confidence in us is appalling.

The Boourns: First of all, I'm offended. I've at least one epic sci-fi in the works in addition to a children's book "Bean Loves Belly Rubs" about my dog Willa who escapes the house when her kiddo leaves for school in the morning and goes on an adventure meeting all kinds of important people like the post man, the police officer, the Dentist, and even the MAYOR. I'm honestly just looking for a great illustrator who can bring the story to life and here Chris Daniels is talking about "one book". Man...I almost just want to take this off the record just to spite him.

So I love your 4 points of evolution that you describe above. Its amazing how life works out where a decision to cut out negativity in your life leads to turmoil (moving back home), which leads to positivity and a happier life when you ultimately met your wife. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite Sci-Fi villains, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman in the 5th Element):

Priest Vito Cornelius: I try to serve life. And you seem to want to destroy it.

Zorg: Oh, Father. You're so wrong. Let me explain.

[Puts and empty water glass on his desk]

Zorg: Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Now take this empty glass. Here it is: peaceful, serene, boring. But if it is destroyed

[Pushes the glass off the table. It shatter on the floor, and several small machines come out to clean it up] Zorg: Look at all these little things! So busy now! Notice how each one is useful. A lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people, who will be able to feed their children tonight, so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain of life. You see, father, by causing a little destruction, I am in fact encouraging life. In reality, you and I are in the same business.

Maybe not quite on point and arguably flawed, but the purposeful destruction or disruption you brought to your life ended up resulting in the propagation of a new and happier life.

Okay so on to your question...the news on 110 out of 111 NFL brain autopsies having indications of CPE is truly disturbing. Not necessarily because of the impact to the player, but more because this is information that could have been exposed likely years ago if the NFL hadn't been so devious and Devil's Advocate Al Pacino about it. I'm not sure where your head is at on this topic (ba zing...), but since we've been in such violent agreement with one another on pretty much everything I'm going to take a slightly contrarian view here. I think most would say, "yes this makes me less of a fan of football" because they can see that the players are hurting themselves to play this game that ultimately is just a game right?

But at the most basic level, its not a game. Its a business. Its a passion. Its a life style. It is so much to so many people that you have a guy like Jace Billingsley (

I do think however, that for the NFL to significantly change, it will take the small town communities like Jace's to rally behind the risk they're putting on their children all for the sake of "glory" on the field. I think the NFL could absolutely evolve into a full contact, yet pad-free sport that still utilizes 11 on 11 but turns the O/D-Line battles into more of a Sumo battle royale than the current trenches they are today. That said, I despise the fact that I have to pay so much money to the NFL and they spend none of it on player safety...or at least that's the perception that hiding information like CPE impact on players the NFL reinforces.

Alright so on to a question: Have you ever had a nasty pulled muscle in your neck that restricts movement to turning your head only 45 degrees to the right? If so, any recommendations on how to help it?

Okay now a real question: Has your daughter ever had one of those "Sixth Sense" moments where she scared the living shit out of you because she said something creepy? If so, what did she say? For context, when Clem was around 3 years old, I had put her to bed and was watching TV out in the living room when I heard her call me and ask me to come back to her room. I walk in and she looks up at me from peering through her window blinds and says, "They're watching us Daddy..." to which I momentarily freak out and tell her to step back from the window and ask, "Who is watching us sweetie? The birdies? The squirrels?" and she responds with, "No...the people." So now I'm freaked the F out because our neighborhood does occasionally get some transients or door-to-door scammers and every once in a long while some creepier folk looking to smash and grab in cars and what not. So I get Clem back into bed and ask, "What do the people look like?" and she responds with, "Well, let me tell you...they're big and skinny and they don't have any eyes." So now I'm more or less pissing myself and I keep kicking myself for asking more questions when all I want to do is hide under the covers but I ask anyway, "Well how are they watching us if they don't have any eyes?" and she says in a positively cheerful voice, "I don't know but I can tell they're watching!"

At that point, I concluded that my daughter was seeing dead people and decided to drop it. She's never mentioned the people watching us ever since and I've never brought it up but I have read online other parents accounts of their children saying freaky things like one Mom whose best friend passed away 3 years before her daughter was born once had her daughter say, "Why does Jessie always smile when I'm eating my breakfast?" and her mom was all, "Jessie?" and her daughter was like, "Yeah! Your friend Jessie! She's always smiling at me when I'm eating my cereal!" and it had turned out there was some connection between her Mom and Jessie and bowls of cereal for morning after hangovers or something.

In any event its crazy how in tune children are.

Merwinly: James, if you ever feel like sharing, I'd love to read your writing. I wrote a children's book a while back too, but I gave it to my wife as a present to cheer her up, not as something to be published.

Regarding the point of your movie quote: My wife's uncle always talks about how you can learn from an unpleasant or even unwilling teacher, highlighting how unknowable life is. I think he's right. And my mother is the main place I apply that knowledge. I learned a lot about how not to act in life from her.

(The 5th Element is the only movie I've ever walked out on. I thought it was terrible. I've known many people whose opinion I value who love it, so maybe I missed something. Let's not talk about it.)

"since we've been in such violent agreement" Damn us! (Sorry, rev). Dang us!

Your points about football are good. I have decided that the Lions have taken too much happiness away from my life, so maybe that makes walking away much easier for me. I think if I ask myself "would I let my child play football?" The answer is "no". And if I wouldn't want my child to play, why would I continue to support and derive pleasure from watching others play? I wouldn't. So I don't. I'm done. In actuality, I've been done for a few years now. But I won't be going back.

Your nasty pulled muscle in your neck: Are you sure it's a pulled muscle and not a subluxation in your spine? Have you ever been to a chiropractor? If not, I would go. Chiropractors have improved my life tremendously. If you're sure it's a pulled muscle, I'd do ice, but really, I'd still go to the chiropractor. You should go.

My daughter talks non-stop and is absolutely hilarious, but she hasn't said anything like "They're watching us Daddy...". I think you should change your DBB signature.

The Boourns: Alright so here's an a sound off, without going back to look at the conversation I'm going to tell you a bit about my DBBBFF Marcus. (sidenote: this could be good as a cliff's notes version for those who can't get through the mere 10,000 words we wrote in total...slackers.)

Marcus lives in Fruitport, MI, a township that got its name for quite literal reasons as when it was established it was both a fertile fruit farming area and a port. He actually grew up in the area as well spending time at the paradise of Western Michigan - Pleasure Island. He had some serious balls as a young kid as his Father was a purveyor of sporting goods allowing Marcus to obtain the best of balls and equipment. If you or your parents went to one of the schools on the western side of the state, there was a good chance Marcus's Dad was delivering high quality balls to your Alma Mater.

His Father's career being in sports, Marcus was naturally a diehard basketball, baseball, and football fan supporting Detroit Sports across the board. While he used to be a Lions fan, he smartly stepped away years ago and since then the news coming out about CPE affecting 99.9% of NFL athletes has simply reinforced that decision.

With a degree in Sociology and the first graduate of Grand Valley State University with a minor in African Studies, Marcus utilized some sometimes hard lessons learned from his upbringing to shape his path in life toward becoming a Mental Health Clinician where he agrees that the current system needs a lot of work.

More recently, he's been applying himself to finding a few new foods to cook up as a stay-at-home Dad and "forcing his way" into friendships with just about every single employee at his local grocer. As a caring and loving Father, he's reinforced this concept of human connection with his 6 year old daughter who is also now friends with everyone at said grocer. Aside from making regular and lasting human connections, Marcus wishes there weren't so many walnut trees on his property as its keeping him from realizing the vegetable garden he wishes he had (he educated me that there is a chemical in walnuts that seeps into the soil and makes vegetable growing all but impossible).

He has two all time favorite Pistons and its always tough for him to choose between the two - Fennis Dembo and Isiah Thomas. While both arguably had major impacts on their respective teams, Isiah likely gets the edge because of Isiah's tenacious competitiveness and resilience in playing. Marcus believes watching Isiah play basketball to be a significant influence on shaping who he is today.

Overall, what impressed me more than anything about conversing with Marcus is his ability to acknowledge and respond to what you say. You can tell he's a genuine listener who cares and has a natural curiosity that allows him to engage and discuss pretty much any topic. Reading his responses to my long-winded emails and seeing that acknowledgment provided me with perspective in my own life. I felt like more of a human being having someone so directly connect with me and all it took was acknowledging that you're actively listening. While I'm considered compassionate and eager to connect with people at work, I think my company and my job glosses over some of these opportunities to improve the human connection through genuine reception of a different person's ideas and perspective.

Aside from his love for human connection, the one thing that I was surprised by was Marcus's irrational fear of losing at Bomberman to his 6 year old daughter. He seems to have built this story into his psyche where he's "so incredibly good" that it wouldn't be fair to play his daughter despite his daughter's desperate desire to connect with him through Bomberman. For someone who loves human connection, I would think that this would be a natural experience he'd want to take part in, but there is some kind of mental blocker that is preventing him from doing so. As someone who works in gaming, I genuinely hope Marcus can get the help he needs to overcome his supposed "Bomberman dominance" and sit down to play and eventually lose to his daughter in Bomberman.

If I had to imagine Marcus as anyone Hollywood character from film over the past 20 or so years, I think it would likely be this guy:

Merwinly: I'm clearly an ego maniac, because I laughed like a lunatic while reading that. Thank you, James. It was both funny and kind.

I have no idea who that guy is, but that's hilarious. If I thought I could pull that mustache off, I'd do it, just because I'd laugh so much every time I looked in the mirror.

As my sign-off I'll say that the fact that I couldn't possibly beat what James just did says all you need to know about him: He's Awesome with a capital A.

Thank you both for this opportunity. I loved it.


Phew, did you make it this far? I hope so, I thoroughly enjoyed that.

One of the words Merwinly stressed in his writing is connection, the need for and lack of generally in society. DBB is connection. Hope you all get as much out of this connection as I do.