How Do You Spend Your Time?

14 Sep

rearwindow

American Time Use Survey – measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing.

Not much fascinates me more than what you’re doing in your house right now. I know that sounds weird, but I just want to know how you spend your time. When I walk the dogs at night I “accidentally” see people walking past windows. I see people on couches with magazines. I see people cleaning up dinner’s mess.

Yes, I look in your windows, but I assure you it’s passive voyeurism. I don’t stop to gawk. That would be different.

Most people sit around watching TV in the evenings. Tell me what you’re watching. If I walk by and I can see your television, in those few seconds, I’m trying to see if I recognize anything. I know right away if you’re watching rugby, cricket or football. (I’m in England so when I say football I mean soccer and if you’re in the USA, you’re probably not watching rugby or cricket, and probably not soccer.) Sometimes I see the Netflix home screen, waiting for the next selection. (Where’d you go? Are you asleep on the couch?)

So your task is to begin writing about how you spend your time as often as possible. It’s like a journal, but public and for my entertainment, not your self-improvement. I want to know the details of your activities and the thoughts you have during these activities. What did you eat today and why? Do you take long showers? What are you reading? Oh, you don’t read? Why not?

It won’t be fair if I don’t share. Here is my Monday morning up until noon.

Time awake: 4:30 a.m.
Time out of bed: 5:00 a.m.

I weighed myself and did 25 jumping jacks. I walked groggily down to the living room and meditated for 23 minutes. I couldn’t sit still and labeled the session a failure even though meditating at all is a success.

I washed some dishes by hand.

I fixed my “morning drink” which I can’t call coffee or tea because it’s weirdly both.

My Morning Drink: .25 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder, one scoop of decaffeinated instant coffee, and a scoop of Bambu coffee alternative, 200 ml of rice milk, and hot water to fill the rest of the mug.

I unrolled my wife’s yoga mat in the living room, set down my drink, turned on Netflix and started to watch the first episode of the first season of American Horror Story. I didn’t do yoga, but what I call deep stretching. Seven minutes later, I switched to a Hungarian film called “White God.” Some minutes later all stretched and limber I turned it off and went into the kitchen.

For months I’ve been eating a bizarre combination of foods mixed together like a thick stew because 1) I’m in a “health nut” phase of my life 2) I actually enjoy the taste and consistency 3) I always have food in my bag when I get hungry on my bicycle or out walking 4) I wanted to get down to my optimal weight.

Some of the ingredients are always the same and others are substituted in and out, especially the foods listed below in grams.

This was Monday’s Green Slop Superman Food:

One tablespoon each of hemp powder, hemp seeds, cacao powder, carob powder, nutritional yeast flakes, raw amaranth, chia seeds, oat bran, wheat germ, maca powder, cacao nibs, raw buckwheat groats, dried unsweetened coconut, pea protein, and bee pollen.

One teaspoon each of lucuma powder, spirulina powder,  and wheat grass powder.

Two teaspoons of cinnamon.
Three teaspoons of stevia powder.

In grams: rolled oats (37), dried cherries ( 18), plain soy yogurt (100), mashed tofu (50), raisins (30), mashed banana (82), pumpkin seeds (9), peanut butter (24), blueberries (150), spinach (79), matcha powder (3), and brazil nuts (18)

I add enough water to soak up all the powders and then I divide it into equal portions in small plastic food containers with lids.

As I whipped this up I listened to Tara Brach’s Buddhism/psychology podcast.

I fixed my daughters’ school lunches.

I walked the dogs and picked up two piles of dog doo.

I walked Ainsley to school.

I cycled 3.8 miles to Costa Coffee in Kingston where I bought a large soya cappucino.

I wrote for two hours.

I went to WH Smith and bought a cover for Ainsley’s history workbook.

I cycled 3.8 miles back to Twickenham.

Okay, now you go.

The Dead Blog Breathes Again!

19 Aug

Back-from-the-Dead-Sermon-Series-Idea

*puts on blogging gloves and magic underwear*

Today I’m blowing the dead skin and space rock bits off the ol’ blog. Yes, how the dust has settled all around here in my inexcusable absence.

*puts lips together, leans forward*

Fffffffff.

Fffffffffffff.

Ffffffffffffffffff!

There, much better.

*sneezes*

In order to get my shit together, to get my ducks in a row, to pull head from ass, I’ve decided to post several times a week. (I will regret writing that, I’m certain, before August ends.) So I’m talking minimal editing, typos, awkward sentence structure, over-sharing, and under-cooked chicken. Or maybe not that last one. But it will be like it used to be when I wrote for fun, when perfectionism, that scaly beast fueled by scummy puddles of cockroach piss, wasn’t stabbing me in the throat with a fork after every sentence. Cue Psycho Murder Music.

I can accomplish only so much in one day, so my goal now is to pretend you’re a former good friend I haven’t seen in ten years and we just stumbled upon each other on a street in your town. Like it happens in this type of situation, you might ask “So, what’s been going on with you?”

If you know anything about me, you won’t be surprised that in real life if I see you before you see me, this conversation never happens. I will dive headfirst into the path of a truck to avoid this type of chit-chat. I’m not proud of this.

Anyway … let me give you a quick peek into the recent months of my life. Forget about the whole talking to you in the street thing. It just isn’t working for me.

Some Basics

  • Location: Twickenham, London, United Kingdom
  • Age: 16,238 days
  • Weight: 128 pounds (down from the 140 I weighed five months ago. I’m quite slight.)
  • Married (still)
  • Offspring: two daughters (now 11 and 16)
  • (Blah, blah. Other stuff I got bored with and abandoned)

Books recently finished

Books I’m reading

Books I’ve recently acquired and have not read

Magazines currently next to my bed or in my backpack

Movies recently watched

What I’ve been thinking about recently

I think about the serious, DARK stuff listed below only when I’m not thinking about the more immediate concerns of modern life as in the people I live with, dirty dishes, keeping track of my shit (Ok people, where in the hell is my phone?), walking the dogs, picking dog hairs off my shorts, showering (Wow, has it really been six days since I’ve bathed?), removing hair growth from my face. And food of course. I spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking about food.

But here’s what else I think about:

  • Ageing
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Despair
  • Depression
  • Death
  • The ways in which life is incredibly difficult
  • How humans spend their time and how they wish they had when they’re close to death
  • The Meaning of Life
  • Happiness (what does it mean?)
  • Wellness (basically how to avoid “lifestyle” diseases)
  • Taming my “monkey mind” through meditation and mindfulness

If you rolled your eyes at any of these–how dare you!–I’d guess it would be the last one because I too used to think meditation was just weird. Like, anyone who meditated had to be from a distant planet. Probably Planet Lame-O!

But now I’m, like, a hundred years old or something and have learned the hard way that my out-of-control-bat-shit-crazy mind is my one archenemy. The destroyer of dreams. The negative voice in my head tells me…

  1. I’m not good enough
  2. I’m past my prime and my prime was shit anyway
  3. I don’t fit in
  4. I’m getting old and ugly
  5. I have no purpose
  6. I am a bad parent/husband/son/brother/friend
  7. I simply do not matter

What I might be getting at here (I have no freaking clue!) is that I think all the other items on that dark list have something to do with my inability to recognize that what goes on in my mind is a bunch of horseshit. And this goes for most people.

So life is incredibly difficult and insanely beautiful. I need to teach myself how to enjoy the good bits and to endure the bad without jumping in front of a train. I guess that’s kind of what this blog will be about. 

In one of the magazines I listed above, a high school philosophy teacher in Canada was asked what she thought was the meaning of life. Her response: “To find the beauty in everything.”

And I’ve decided to give that a try.

 

 

 

The Great Purge (Saws and Tight Underwear For Sale, Cheap!)

18 Sep

(Note: This will be the last post here at plumbananas.wordpress.com. New stuff will be forever at plumbananas.com. Adjust your bookmarks.)

One of the most exciting aspects of our impending move to London is what I’m calling the G-POOSH, or The Great Purge Of Our SHit. (Okay, I’m not really calling it that.) It’s the process of jettisoning everything but the essentials. For example, I have a shirt that pisses me off when I look at it because it fits a little funny. I like the idea of wearing it, but not the actual practice of it. At one point it had potential, but ultimately, it’s a huge disappointment. Needless to say, it’s not going to London. In fact, if it had a face, I’d punch it. Yes, I’m the kind of dude who would punch a cantankerous shirt right in the face without remorse. Pow!

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I'm not sure.

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I’m not sure.

That reminds me of my tight underwear. A year ago, I bought two pairs of tight underwear at Target to wear while I jog and exercise. You know, to keep things in place. I haven’t decided if they’ll make the trip. Sure, they’re small and take up very little space, but I haven’t touched them all summer. Each time I open the drawer where my underwear live, they’re like “You bastard, you better not abandon us!”

This will probably be a last minute decision. I’ll be at the airport with my tight underwear balled up in my hand, and the authoritative airport voice will say something like “Last call, get on the plane now or we’ll leave your ass in the United States!” and Jennifer will be, like, “Come on Mike, we have to go!”

Me: But what about my tight underwear? Do you think I’ll need them?

Her: Are you freaking insane?

As a family we have a thousand decisions like this.

But some have already been made for us. We have a Blendtec blender that cost about as much as a 1984 Honda Civic (with low miles) that is worthless in the UK. It’s not that they have strict anti-smoothie laws, but the thing just won’t turn on over there, or, worse, will electrocute my dumb ass for even thinking that a spinach-blueberry drink is a good idea. I would tell you why this danger exists, but I have no knowledge of basic electricity. I will just type words like “voltage” and “fire” and numbers like “120” and “240” and leave it at that.

Blendtec and 1984 Civic

Since I no longer know how to use electrical hand tools (I swore them off in 2009), I am especially happy that they won’t work over there either. Actually, I haven’t even checked, but I’m hoping really, really hard because I would rather read or sit around looking at the walls than saw boards and drill holes. Books will never, EVER tear my fingers off. (I especially hate circular saws. If I believed in hell, I would think there would be running circular saws all over the place.)Saw Injury

The most annoying problem so far are the toys we have accumulated in the “play room.” I would say that it looks like a tornado has swept through the room, but that’s an overused, boring expression. So I’ll go with this: it looks like three elephants devoured the contents of our kids’ youth and took giant shits all over up there.

I’ve collected enough broken crayons and pencils to choke a rhinoceros. No, a HERD of rhinoceroses. (If it were up to me, the plural of rhinoceros would definitely be rhinoceri.) I have amassed a pile of broken and mismatched toy parts taller than me. Tiny doll blouses. The smallest blue jeans you ever did see. Itty-bitty rubber shoes that won’t even fit on my pinky. (Where’s the doll wearing all this tiny shit?) Plastic pellets from exploded bean bags. Confetti. A headless Toy Story Woody doll that does absolutely nothing when you pull the string. And about four thousand pieces of paper with, like, one scribbled line on each.

What I don’t throw away immediately, I have been bringing down for Ainsley to go through, to choose what goes and what stays. So far–luckily!–she’s decided to “shitcan” about 95% of it. Since she’s discovered Minecraft, she’s much less interested in REAL blocks, like Legos. It’s pixels over plastic.

Okay, that’s it for today. If I continue to write about moving, that just means that I’m avoiding the actual work of preparing to move to the other side of the world.

We’re Moving to Freaking London, Mates

16 Sep

london-genericIf you want to continue to be updated when I post new stuff, which–I know!–hasn’t been often, go here, to the new site and sign up. Like, now! Please. You don’t want to miss anything because shit’s getting weird here in Edwardsville, Illinois, USA.

That’s because we’re packing up our underwear and spoons and plush toys and bras and moving to freaking London. And I’m not talking about London, KY either. (But I’m not making fun of London, KY because it’s the fourth largest city named “London” in the world!)

This is almost like moving to Manhattan, except everyone talks funny. You know, that crazy British English.

People are asking: Why the hell are you moving to London?

  • My wife received a promotion from Enterprises Holdings, Inc. Her new title: European Airport Properties and Relations Director. Don’t ask me what that means.
  • Of course, without the above promotion, there’s no way we’re moving to London because it’s expensive to move a family of four across the Atlantic. But her generous company is paying all of the related expenses, thus, basically, asking us “How would you like if we make it extremely easy for you to move thousands of miles away to one of the best cities on the planet?” We said heck yeah.
  • And on the awesomeness of London, straight from Wikipedia: “London is a leading global city, with strengths in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transport all contributing to its prominence.”

I expect the first six months to be difficult as we settle in. New schools. New job. New culture. New, smaller house. New car. New everything. The clothes washing machine is in the kitchen. Electric clothes dryer machines are, like, non-existent. Everything will be smaller than we’re used to.

People over there will say stuff like “After I get some petrol, I need to get my biscuits from the boot before I can take the lift up to my flat.” In the US this means, roughly, “Dude, I can’t find the cheese and my feet are sore.”

Just kidding. It’s “After I put gas in my car, I’m going to get the cookies out of the car trunk and then take the elevator up to my apartment.” Okay, it’s not like we’re moving to Russia. We’ll learn the little language differences.

But tears will be shed. Fits will be thrown. Someone will say “I want to go home!” That might be me. It might be each of us at some point.

But slowly, we’ll feel like we belong. We’ll wake up one day and realize that it feels like home.

Until then, you’ll find me under the bed sucking my thumb.

Our Dogs Kind of Love Uncooked Brown Basmati Rice

20 May

Warning: This post contains profanity and several references to feces. If you’re offended by this type of thing, you might want to skip this one.

*  *  *

I’m carefully crafting a blog post about how I literally almost crapped my pants on the evening of Wednesday, May 7 at approximately 8:30 pm.

Often people exaggerate and use the phrase “I almost crapped my pants” casually, like “This big, hairy spider came out of nowhere and was, like, right by my face; I almost crapped my pants!” This person doesn’t really mean that they actually ALMOST SHIT THEIR PANTS. I’m almost certain of this.

But once in awhile it’s real. Because I almost shit my pants thirteen days ago–FOR REAL! So check back every couple of days or, better yet, subscribe to this blog because you seriously don’t want to miss it. Now, for more poop talk . . . .

*  *  *

I wasn’t going to write today, but the dogs got into the pantry yesterday afternoon and helped themselves to a six dollar, 16 ounce bag of organic basmati brown rice, ripped it open and scattered it about the front room. (It was my fault; I left the door open.)

When I discovered the mess at around 2 pm, it was impossible to know how much they had eaten, if any. I mean, it’s uncooked rice. Eww. For humans, eating uncooked rice is not much fun. I can think of a 150 things I’d rather eat. But dogs? Who fucking knows. Dogs are crazy.

The mess our dogs made

riceCouch2

This morning while walking them, Dexter stopped and assumed his pooping stance while I jabbed my hand into a black shit-bag (because I pick up after our dogs unlike most people in this neighborhood) and waited. And waited. His eyes bugged. He strained. Nothing came out. The other two dogs were like What’s your deal? Come one, let’s get going! We ain’t got all fucking day.

Finally, after much effort, he pinched off this amazing little rice roll that put an end to me wondering if this particular dog had eaten any brown basmati rice. He definitely had. The rest of the way home, I fretted about all that rice sitting in their guts soaking up water, wreaking havoc and wondered what all this meant for our future walks. Alas, I predict much standing around staring at dog ass today and writing more about rice rolls tomorrow.

(I didn’t snap a photo of the rice roll. If I had known it was coming, I probably would have. But since I was standing there with a ready poop bag instead of a camera, I had it scooped up before I could think about it. Too bad for you because it was pretty awesome, though still gross, because, well, it’s dog shit.)

Since this is a shit-centered blog post, I’m sitting here trying to think of another incident I can talk about, but I can’t think of anything significant. I mean, I walk the dogs 3 to 5 times a day, so I see a shit-ton of dog poop. “Shit-ton” is a word that means “a lot” if you’re unfamiliar. I pick up so much dog poop, such a shit-ton, that we buy pet waste bags in bulk, 700 at a time, like the people who have pet waste removal companies.

Okay. I agree. Enough shit for today.

 

Help, I Married a Gum Litterer

14 May

It’s a miracle that I’m able to write today during such a difficult time. Here’s the problem: I just found out that my wife is a litter bug.

I’ve been asking myself: Should I alert the authorities? Should I file for a divorce?

I know. It’s not like she killed someone. She littered.

But before you stop reading because you think I’m a crazy person, know this: she’s not your typical public nuisance, she’s a chewing gum litterer, an assault to shoes all over Madison County.gum-dailymail

The first time I stepped in someone’s chewed gum, as a kid in the early ‘80s, I instantly hated all people who had ever spit their gum out on the sidewalk and hated unborn people who would someday spit their gum out on the sidewalk for innocent people–kids like me!–to step on while wearing their favorite and fastest pair of running shoes. (I didn’t particularly care for those who even had a passing thought of disposing of their gum improperly, but thought better of it. If you’re related to someone who has spit their gum out on a sidewalk, I hate you. I hate everyone!)

It’s a cruel twist of fate that I would end up married to one of those people.

I found out from our responsible (non-littering) fourteen-year-old daughter.

Here’s how it went down. While pulling out of our local Home Depot, my wife removed her well-chewed gum of indeterminate brand and flavor and chucked it across the front seat and out of the passenger side window onto the ground. She kept driving and apparently didn’t look back. The gum practically zipped right under our daughter’s nose, so I have no reason to doubt her account of this incident.

Obviously, it’s difficult to admit that I’m married to this woman. We took vows and stuff!

When confronted, she shrugged and said she was trying to throw it in a bush. Like that makes it okay.

You’ve probably stepped in chewing gum too. What a mess, huh? Maybe you went through the familiar stages: confusion (Why does it feel as if my right foot is partially sticking to the ground at every step?); anger (I’m going to break the friggin’ neck of whoever left their gum here!); uncertainty (How am I going to get this gum off my shoe without touching it?);  resignation (I’m going to throw this fouled shoe into that pond and walk home with one bare foot!); and finally, practicality and acceptance (I’ll scrape off what I can with this stick and deal with the rest later.)

Stupid gummy shoe in a pond.

Stupid gummy shoe in a pond.

Of course, I’m not perfect. I littered like a madman as a teenager. I would eat an entire McDonald’s meal while driving and, without guilt, toss all evidence of its existence–including the receipt and straw wrapper–right out the window. But I stopped littering during the Clinton administration. Before Monica Lewinsky! Over the years, to avoid littering, I have swallowed enough chewing gum to choke a stable of thoroughbreds.

And I thought she stopped too.

There were signs.

Two years ago she tossed a banana peel from a moving car and seemed surprised at my disgust.

Her response: What? It’s organic! It’s not littering when it’s food.A discarded, gross banana peel

We’ve all seen a rotten banana peel on the sidewalk or side of the road. It’s not pleasant. And here’s something I have never said during such an encounter: “Oh look, some thoughtful citizen has started a compost heap right here in downtown Edwardsville.”

I think it’s safe to say that no person has ever said that about food scraps thrown from a car window.

But it’s my nature to find the silver lining in sour situations. And here’s mine. I realize that I have raised a daughter who, instead of repeating such a foul act, would report it. Obviously, gum littering is not okay with her or she would not have even thought to tell me about it. Thankfully, after being raised by one littering parent and one non, she has taken the path NOT fouled with globs of synthetic rubber.

Like her father, she wraps her chewed gum in its wrapper that was thoughtfully saved and placed in a pocket, or, again, like her father, she dutifully chews gum that long ago lost its pliability and flavor until it can be disposed of properly.

No, this won’t end our marriage, but we’re going to renew our marriage vows to reflect our current reality. I’m working on a couple of spots where I can insert some common sense.

Until death or gum litter do us part.

And, I promise to be true to you until you throw something gross from a moving car.

Let me know what you think.

My Wife Should Know I’d Write About This

13 Oct

I might change the design around here; things are looking a bit stale to me, and I can’t stand that pink border WordPress insists on wrapping around my photos. I’d like to wrap it around their heads.

PurposeSoap2012_opt

Anyway, this is too funny not to write about. This is the stuff I wash my face with at night. I recently used up the last bit in a bottle (well, as you know, the very last bit is impossible to reach without sawing the bottle in half) and filled it with water, shook it up, poured it out and filled it again to clean it to recycle. I set it aside out of the way and forgot about it. Amazon sent a new bottle, which and I placed in its usual spot in the cabinet. Here are the bottles, on the left with water.

TWObottles

Jennifer, my wife, who normally uses her own facial cleaner recently began to use mine. One night last week she asked me something like “Why are there two bottle of that stuff?”

“That one’s just water.” I pointed at the old one.

Heh. This is hilarious. For several nights in a row, she’d been washing her face with the one filled with water. Notice on the bottle it says “Clinically shown gentle as water.” I guess that’s why she kept trying. She was rubbing like hell in her wash cloth wondering why it wasn’t lathering even just a little.

Needless to say, I laughed my ass off that night and showed her the obvious difference in color and consistency.

Whew, that was fun to write. I’ll hear about this later when she reads it. I’m sure she’s done some other dumb stuff lately, but I can’t think of anything. Of course, I do dumb stuff all the time, but it’s not as funny, and I’m holding the “pen.”

* * *

 It’s getting colder every day. Some observations and predictions.

  • Ice cream will be less fun to eat.
  • Riding my bike will begin to suck.
  • I’ve almost completely stopped saying, “I’m sweating my balls off!”
  • More often, I’ll be saying “I’m freezing my balls off!”
  • Soon I’m going to say “Where’d I put my damn gloves?”
  • Getting the girls to walk the dogs will be five times more difficult than it already is.
  • Once I find the gloves, on a dog walk, I’ll spend too much time trying to open those maddening poop bags, while the dogs wrap themselves around my legs. Then I’ll get all pissy and tell Jennifer we’re getting rid of the dogs. And cats.
  • Our puppy, who will be experiencing her first winter, will be like “What the hell?”