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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.

 

 

 

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?”

The End of Seven Days + The Saddest Pancake You’ve Ever Seen

25 Sep

Day 6 – Sunday, Sept. 22

  • Steps Taken: 15,773
  • Calories Consumed:  Around 1,800
  • Morning Weight: 138.2
  • 24 Hour Weight Change:  0
  • Total Weight Change: .6

Day 7 – Monday, Sept. 23

  • Steps Taken: 12,444
  • Calories Consumed:  1,600 to 1,700?
  • Morning Weight: 138.2
  • 24 Hour Weight Change:  0
  • Total Weight Change: .6

My 7 Day Challenge was not a total success. I didn’t hit 15,000 steps on Monday for the first time and over the weekend I didn’t track my eating as closely as I had planned. Also, I didn’t lose those three pounds. I was probably overoptimistic about that anyway.

Yesterday, instead of continuing this experiment, I failed to wear my pedometer and didn’t track calories. Let’s call it a buffer day before I begin anew today.

* * *

In other news . . .

Early Sunday morning Chloe finished off Ainsley’s “birthday” box of cereal: cinnamon toast crunch. It was supposed to be Ainsley’s personal, special occasion, sugary treat except for whatever she decided to share. To avoid a meltdown, I decided to bake Ainsley a single serving cupcake without the streusel. It was supposed to be done in 13 minutes, but it was still gooey, so I freaked out and tried to make her a single serving pancake despite the recent meltdown of our electric range.

I could have given her the more healthful oatmeal or Ezekiel bread toast, but she surely would have marched down to Lincoln Middle School to beat the tar out of her sister. Cereal is a serious business in our house.

I attempted to make the pancake in the Instant Pot 6-in-1 Pressure Cooker. This beauty can cook beans in thirty minutes. It’s a rice cooker. It’s a slow cooker. It can steam. It can vacuum the floor. Sometimes I squeeze my little butt in it and drive to the market. But it’s not a shit for pancakes. I tried the sauté setting and of course that provided way too much heat. In half a second the batter was stuck to the bottom. So I had to treat it like a big piece of broccoli, continuously flipping and turning it. Take a look at the disaster that she happily ate with some maple syrup.

pot_opt

Plate

Bipolar 2: The Sequel?

13 Sep

I haven’t been posting here because my creativity tank has been pathetically empty. I’m running on goddam fumes, folks. It’s been frustrating and led me to this realization: I must be more depressed than I even realized. That’s how it goes, it seems; you get depressed and the depression screws up your brain so you can’t even see that there’s a problem. It just becomes sort of a normal. You have to think back a year and then it’s oh I remember enjoying writing and posting. I remember how it felt to hit that publish button, why the f**! isn’t that happening anymore?

So I went to my doctor in Maryville and told him that my Effexor wasn’t working and that I wanted to try something else. I said, dude, I’m up for anything, but I didn’t use “dude” because I never, ever talk like that. I’ve never began a sentence with dude.

Anyway, Dr. Kopjas recommended a psychiatrist in Edwardsville, blocks from my house. Dr. Hammer. I sat there wondering how I failed to know there was a psychiatrist with such a kick-ass name right in my neighborhood. I’ve been to four other mental health professionals, two psychologists, and two master’s degree-level counselors. I liked the idea of talking to a psychiatrist.

Ten years ago, before I talked to a psychologist in Springfield, IL, I felt funny about talking to a “shrink,” a little embarrassed. I didn’t want to be seen walking in her door. That was stupid. I now believe that every human should be talking to a trained mental health professional. We’re all flawed in some way.

One of my flaws: I have a tendency to avoid using the phone, so I didn’t call “the hammer” right away. I understand that this is insane. Just pick up the phone, dude! Yeah, well, it’s not that easy. I finally called and got an appointment for three weeks out.

Zoom ahead three weeks, I walked into Dr. Hammer’s office and found an old, plump man wearing suspenders. His large expressive eyes sat under bushy brows. I was expecting more in the line of Alan Thicke, or Dr. Jason Seaver, from Growing Pains, but it’s not like I almost walked out.

I sat down as he was looking over the questionnaire I had just filled out in the waiting room. Then I got right into it. I said “I think I have dysthymia,” and I told him why I thought this. He asked questions for just ten minutes before diagnosing me with bipolar II disorder.

Uh, what?

Oh great, I’m bipolar like freaking Charlie Sheen. I told him that I don’t have those wild crazy-ass mood swings. When I think of bipolar I think of various damaging “sprees,” whether it’s gambling or shopping or killing. That’s not me.

“That’s typical,” he said. “You’re describing bipolar I, you probably have bipolar II, your lows aren’t as low and your highs aren’t as high.”

I was stunned I hadn’t read anything about this. He went on to argue his case quite superbly with a slideshow on his over-sized monitor.

Finally he got around to a treatment plan, which I was eager to hear, of course. First, he talked about the the meds I wasn’t getting: lithium, depakote, and others I can’t recall. Finally, the one he was going to prescribe: Lamictal (generic, Lamotrigine).,

He compared the possible benefits to The Wizard of Oz when it switches from black and white to color. Or maybe he meant I’ll feel like singing and dancing with midgets, not sure. I’m hoping he meant that I’ll wake up one morning and think holy shit, is this how I’m supposed to feel?

Unfortunately, I have to start with a low dose and bump up every two weeks. So now I just wait.

So, yah! I’m bipolor. Go me! And I’m being honest. I’m thrilled with this because it sends me off in a new direction in hope of squashing some of the demons.

Don’t Bother Me, I’m Busy Stressing About How Busy I Should Be

21 Jun

For the record, lest you think I’m an arrogant jerk (which I may be anyway), my Father’s Day post was only about 15% serious. I think it’s easy to tell, but I kept thinking about it when it was “out there.” Let’s balance it out right now: I’m a shit father and your daddy is awesome.

Okay. I feel better. Moving on . . . .

Here’s a nice essay about how people think they need to be busy all the time. Sadly, I have to include myself in this.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

If I have a lazy day, I feel like crap. I should have done this. I should have done that. Everyone else is accomplishing what they set out to do today, but me . . . 

Late morning and early afternoon are especially difficult for me. Generally, no matter what I’m doing, I think I should be doing something else. Then . . . evening, when leisure is socially accepted.

I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

This scares people, that most of what we do doesn’t matter one goddam bit, but it’s comforting to me. I take the long view: Will this matter in five, ten, fifteen years? Whatever you’re doing, arguing with your partner, trying to get something “just right,” ask yourself how important it really is.

Example. One of our stupid domestic animals barfed on a couch. It looked like hummus. Just . . . gross. I clean up fresh messes right away, but this blob was deposited in the middle of the night, so it had been sitting there awhile when I walked right by it Thursday morning. An hour later, Jennifer saw and left it. Yesterday, I noticed it, like, twelve times. Oh shit, I have to clean that damn mess up.

It’s still there.

I have some guilt over this. To help me get over this guilt I remind myself that “most of what we do doesn’t matter.” In five years the couch will be gone. It won’t matter that I let the hummus barf sit there for 24 hours. It feels like an minor emergency now, but it’s the tiniest blip.

Each day I there are dozens of situations or decisions that are ultimately insignificant.

  • Oh my God, I forgot to feed the girls lunch. And dinner. 
  • I’m wearing the same clothes for the third straight day.
  • I confused desert and dessert in a blog post.
  • I laid around and did absolutely nothing all day.

Short term, I stress about this stuff. But really. Who frickin’ cares?

We’re all staying busy and worrying about every little thing when we should be outside sitting under a tree reading a book sipping on ultra-sweet lemonade. Each day is a challenge to remember to chill the eff out.

So, people, chill the f**! out with me.