Tag Archives: Family

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.

Philosophy of Life, Home Improvement Edition

14 Jun

When we were looking to move from Maryville in 2010, I wanted to buy a smallish, updated condo. I didn’t want a yard to maintain. I didn’t want to move knowing, for example, that the kitchen cabinets would have to be changed out. So what did we do? We bought a large house in Edwardsville that’s, like, a thousand years old. With a large yard full of plants I can’t name.

My wife and I have “discussions” about my flimsy motivation for renovation. She might think I’m an alien. I call it “philosophical differences.”

On Monday I found a catalog on the dining room table that said something about an IKEA dream kitchen. I don’t physically roll my eyes when alone, but I did make a point to roll my “internal eyes.” I don’t dream about kitchens. In fact, I don’t think much at all about kitchens, or bedrooms, or bathrooms–I don’t fantasize about home improvement. And I don’t like to watch HGTV.

I occasionally venture into the room where she’s watching that stuff. To me, it communicates this basic message: Your house sucks!

If I could expand on that a bit it would be: Your house sucks and we’re going to show you why it sucks and how much it sucks and then we’re going to make it look easy to fix and then we’ll show commercials and will expect the depression we caused to compel you to spend thousands of dollars to fit in with the rest of the country. If you don’t you’re a big … fat … loser.

“Why do you watch?” I ask her.

“Ideas.”

I understand all the fuss with home improvement. I know it’s important to feel comfortable in one’s home. I get that. But it seems excessive. And expensive. Happiness, what Aristotle called “our highest good,” will not be satisfied by a kitchen remodel. And it will fail to magically create a love of cooking.

My goal is an easy, undemanding happiness, regardless of  living conditions. I see myself living in a Tumbleweed Tiny House some day. All the wise people will tell you: happiness comes from within, not without. With that in mind, our kitchen is fine.

So where does home improvement fit into my life? Well, it doesn’t … right now. I often ask myself: what really matters in life? And in June of 2012, this is it:

  • Creating (writing, blogging)
  • Education (For me right now it’s self-education and includes studying current events, philosophy, history, politics, and literary fiction)
  • Family (Spending time with the family, teaching the kids how to best live to maximize future happiness)
  • Health & Wellness (exercising, yoga, meditation, eating well, etc. and this includes helping the family achieve this)
  • Social Responsibility (helping others, driving less, etc.)

(Hey, stop judging my list!)

Luckily, nothing on there requires much money. I have no expensive hobbies (unless you count Starbucks, where I am right now). Notice that “creating a dream house” is absent, as is “winning a beautiful yard contest.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m capable of working on the house. I do have experience. And when I get one thing done it can lead to a string of others. For example, I experienced an epic wiring binge a few years ago. With a good book, I can knock out even the more difficult household tasks.

It’s just not the kind of book I gravitate towards, you know?

So the next thing I do is compare what I want to do to reality. So over the last eight years, I’ve added and subtracted to align with what’s most important to me. Here’s a partial list.

  • Quit smoking, drinking (health & wellness + Social Responsibility + Family)
  • Went from carnivore to vegetarian to vegan (health & wellness + Social Responsibility + Family)
  • Meditation (enhances all)
  • Jogging & bicycling (enhances all)
  • Joined a CSA, or community supported agriculture (Social Responsibility + health & wellness + Family)
  • Began a regular writing habit (Creating + Education)

And how can I fit this stuff into 24 hours? That leads to a third bullet list. (Wow, that’s a record!) So I try to account for my time. Like this:

  • Sleep, 8
  • Jogging, 20 minutes
  • Strength Training, 30 minutes
  • Eating & Food Prep, 2
  • Writing, 3
  • Reading & Studying, 2
  • Meditation, 20 minutes
  • Yoga or stretching, 20 minutes

Then I keep going until I have a full day

On paper, it looks easy. I should be able to fit it all in. But that rarely happens. Such is life. Some days I feel like crap and have trouble doing anything. That’s when my reading and sleeping numbers inflate to the detriment of everything else.

Marriages collapse when priorities are too far apart. One wants another child; one doesn’t. One wants to move to Europe; one doesn’t. One wears underwear; one doesn’t. Or whatever. Recently, I asked my wife to create her list, because I can’t always piece together her life philosophy by watching and listening. I don’t know if she will, but I can assume “dream kitchen” fits in there somehow.

People Watching (Why You Don’t Want Me Jogging in Your Neighborhood)

22 May

Common question asked while people watching: “Did you see that?”

Have you ever sat in a crowded place and just watched people? Of course you have. I think “people watching” is a common enough activity. I would go so far to call it unavoidable. If you ever go to a department store–a Walmart–you must be doing a little of it. I can do while pushing a cart; I’ll even stop and feign interest in bath mats if I hear something striking coming from an interesting face.

It’s enough time to create a tiny snapshot of people’s lives, no more than prejudices and stereotypes. When I see a mom unabashedly yelling at or spanking her kid, I shudder thinking about how she disciplines at home. I see families that look like they just climbed out of a dumpster and wonder what their house looks like. I see beautiful people and wonder if they live beautiful lives.

An extension of my love for people watching is actually discovering how people spend their time. I would love to grab an interesting-looking person on the street and ask “What are you all about?” Obviously, I don’t mean literally “grab” them–that’s against the law and could get you killed–but just talk to people. Sadly, I’m not one of those people who can approach strange people. Everyone seems so busy. And if I find myself in a conversation started by a stranger, I’m not able to ask such personal questions. Instead of probing, I end up being probed, which is uncomfortable.

Generally, I have to rely on the written word or television for glimpses to the inside. Though I rarely watch them anymore, I’m fascinated with shows about addiction and mental illness. I like Hoarders and Intervention, but the latter scares the crap out of me. A whole section of this addiction show is reserved to remind us that it can happen to anyone. She was such a happy baby. Maybe that’s why reality shows are so popular: our fascination with what’s going on behind the curtains.

When I jog at night by a house with unblocked windows I can’t make myself not look. What’s going on in there? Are these people happy? Miserable? Is there an alcoholic living there? Is someone dying from cancer?

My wife makes sure our shades are drawn at night. I tend to leave them open. What would people see in our house? Maybe me reading or cleaning up after the kids. They would see kids running, jumping, fighting, dancing. In the warm months, they would hear the sounds of kids and dogs–thuds, barking, screams, crying. They might hear music.

That’s boring, common stuff. It’s what you’d expect to see. The juicy stuff isn’t visible from the window. It’s in histories, sad stories untold, hidden feelings, dark thoughts, tense conversations in inner rooms.

I like to think that every house on our block contains a fascinating story, enough to fill a book I’d read. That’s every house on your block too. And your house. And of course mine.

I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill

1 Nov

I know it was two whole weeks ago when I was complaining about my sore butt–it’s healed now, of course–but I wanted to add some new information about the possible cause. Shortly after publishing on October 17, I remembered that I fell backwards into a hard, mean bush while playing tag in the yard with Jennifer and the kids. This was just a day or two after falling down the stairs.

The bush was a ragged, messed up thing that I hesitate to call a bush. A mangled, stunted tree, maybe. Recently, it had been groomed down into sticks. Hard, stunted stumps protruded out waiting for a clumsy thirty-something-year-old man to plant his ass on. So don’t think “soft” when you hear “bush.” Take the word “bushy” as in “look at all your bushy hair.” When I hear that, I think soft and roundish.

Ainsley had chased me into a corner and left me with two choices: fake right, go left or jump back and up off the ground, sucking my stomach in to avoid her swipe and then take off before she realized she even missed her agile dad. While in the middle of this fancy- pants maneuver, I tripped on a stinkin’ mole tunnel the size of a telephone pole. Of course, when I say “telephone pole” I mean one that is rubberized, more curved than straight, and lying on the ground–not one that’s forty-feet high (even our super-moles are not that ambitious).

A mole. Look at those fingers.

Okay, NOT as cute as I thought.

Actually, moles are really small and cute. This summer on a run, I came upon a dead animal on the sidewalk. Later, I asked the girls if they wanted to see a dead mole. Chloe said no, Ainsley, yes. She took one look at the little creature and informed me that it was a baby squirrel (they’re cute, too). She then looked up and pointed out that we were standing beneath a big clump of leaves and twigs: a squirrel nest.

So, what have we learned from this post? Well, we learned that I can’t tell a mole from a squirrel, I’m even more clumsy than you thought, my seven-year-old is smarter than me, and I suck at playing tag. We have NOT learned if my bruised butt came from the mean bush or the basement stairs. At this point, who cares, right?

Editor’s Note: I wanted to include a photo of a baby squirrel, but when I saw how much they DID NOT look like that thing above, I decided it would be best if I didn’t. Anyway, the first one I looked at was emaciated and sick and that made me queasy. Also, I have no idea how tall telephone poles grow to be.

Marriage Is Like an Amusement Park

1 Jan

Normally tranquil on coasters, this guy is reacting to his recent marriage.

“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.”
-Groucho Marx

Comparing marriage to a roller coaster has been done. You know, marriage has its ups and downs. Blah, blah. I see many similarities way before you get around to boarding a coaster.

  • The first thing they do is stamp you. All day every time you look at your watch you’re reminded of where you are.
  • Amusement parks are waaay more expensive than they should be. In the morning when you’re buying the tickets you think you’re getting a good deal. This is a frickin’ STEAL! All this fun for $39? By noon you know you’ve been screwed.
  • You walk in circles all day and there’s a tall fence around the perimeter. They tell you that you’re going to have a great time as long as you don’t try to hop the fence behind the Log Flume. The only way out is the way you came in.
  • Outside the park at a QT, a Budweiser can be yours for under a dollar. Once inside the gate, it will cost you seven bucks.
  • You spend most of the day waiting around for something fun to happen. When you’re in line, there’s nowhere to sit down because they make you take three steps every 30 seconds (carrying a little stool and dragging it along every half a minute is just stupid.  You know the asshole behind you will be knocking his stool into the back of your legs). Once you decide to rest by sitting on a rail–the second your ass touches the metal–the line moves and you have to get up again. Then you notice the back of your leg is sticky and you spend 15 minutes trying to determine if it’s gum or cotton candy. The longer the wait, the more likely your kid will have to pee. Then you’ll have to tell your kid to “just hold it” 176 times. Then you have to pee yourself. As the line snakes back and forth, you have to look at the same stupid people over and over and over and over. After ninety minutes of waiting, the ride is over in two.
  • Once in awhile, a ride will turn you upside down and make you lose all your shit. I think it was at Six Flags St. Louis years ago when I rode this loopity-loop-loop ride and realized that the things I held most dear were being sucked from my being. When the cart first took off I was having a great time. You should have seen the smile on my face. This roller coaster is going to be the best! In the middle of the ride, my limbs were suddenly grasping here and there trying to hold it all together. My shoes threatened to jettison. My hat disappeared into the wind and I heard clinking, bouncing coins mixed with the screams of my fellow riders.
  • Stinky, apron-wearing goons with bad teeth try to convince you to spend $125 to win a plastic back scratcher. At first the prospect of spending $2 for life-size stuffed panda is too tantalizing to pass up. Then you find out that even if you get the ring on the Coke bottle you don’t get the life-size stuffed panda. You have to keep trading up. First you get a feather on a string or a plastic spider ring. But, of course, you can’t get the ring on the Coke bottle anyway, so after you’re half way in you realize what’s happening and you wonder what the hell am I going to do with a life-size stuffed panda anyway?
  • At the end of the day, you smell worse than the panda-peddling carny, your feet hurt, your face and arms are sun-fried, your money is gone and your $125 plastic back scratcher is too short to scratch where it really itches.

"Come here loser, win your lady a stuffed snake."

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If the fly farts

26 Aug

This morning I got up at 4. Jennifer did too–for a minute. On her way to the bathroom she asked “Are you getting up?” I said yes. She said “What the hell for?” Or maybe she said “What the hell! Four?”

First I went to make sure Ainsley was covered up, because it’s, like, frosting over in the house–what, is it 40 degrees outside? In August?–and she wasn’t even in here bed. I looked on the floor between her bed and the wall. I looked in Chloe’s room. I started to freak out a little, because it’s not like her to wander down to the couch in the middle of the night. I’m freaking out because people like this are walking around.

I’m an ultra-light sleeper. If a fly farts, I’m awake (and not happy with the fly). Well, last night Ainsley must have been quieter than a fly fart, because she had snuck into our bed. I went back in there and grabbed my little pen light, pointed it at the bed, and still didn’t see her. That’s when Jennifer got up. I was thinking how to handle telling her that I can’t find Ainsley without throwing her into a panic (I’m the calm one). I said “Ainsley must have went downstairs to sleep” knowing how unlikely that was. She said “She’s on my side of the bed.” Whew! She must have been buried under the sheets.

Then I experienced a sign that today’s going to be a good day. I went down to the kitchen, freezing. Every window in the house was open all night and the whole house fan was on, sucking in 50 degree air. I had on only thin shorts. I couldn’t uncross my arms from my body to make coffee because I was too cold and wussy. I was thinking “damn I need a shirt,” but I didn’t want to go back upstairs or downstairs to get one. Then I spotted a shirt right there by me in the kitchen! Okay, it wasn’t a strong sign.

I’m always tinkering with my sleep hours trying to find the magic formula so I can get all my crap done and feel good doing it. I was on the 8 to 4:30 schedule for awhile, then 10 to 7, 9 to 5, and now I’m going to test out getting up at 4, falling asleep whenever I’m tired, and taking a nap after lunch between 1 and 3. I’m not particularly fond of the time between 1 and 3. What’s going on then? It’s the hottest part of the day. Awful hours. Siesta anyone?

Odd place for a siesta

The Big Yellow Bus Took my Baby…Again

25 Aug

This morning I gently woke Ainsley to find her in the foulest of moods. I had even allowed her to sleep an extra 15 minutes. I don’t know why I thought that would make a difference. I won’t pretend to know all that goes into what causes one morning to be one way and the next, another. My own morning moods are totally random. I stared out the window for a moment hoping for some miracle of mood reversal, because we had only 45 minutes to go from this to school-ready. She rolled over and covered her head with her pink “blankie.”

“I don’t want to put on clean undies!”

“Ainsley, you’re changing your underwear no matter what, so it’s up to you if you want to turn this into a struggle.”

Normally, she puts up more of a fight and on Krabby Patty days she’s been known to take it to the limit, ending up in a timeout, but she gives in, until we clash for a couple seconds over the need for socks and the matter of choosing shoes, but I drop that fight quickly. Choose your battles wisely.

As this is only her second week of Kindergarten, I know I have several hundred days similar to this one ahead of me. The rush of morning has never been my favorite part of the day. But once the bellies are full, faces are washed, teeth are brushed, and lunches are packed, the mood in the house always improves. It becomes, amazingly, one of the best parts of my day.

The three of us sit on a concrete ledge, across the street from our house, waiting for the number 16 bus. All that is left is to enjoy the time together, knowing we’ll be apart for the next seven hours. Petty arguments have ceased. Peace prevails. Any remnant of grumpiness melts away, and I’m left to ponder the mechanism behind this black magic, for ten minutes earlier she yelled over and over “You woke me up I didn’t want you to wake me up!” as she struggled to enjoy the pancakes she eventually abandoned in a huge pool of syrup.

Now we talk about the day ahead and I’m fed a couple of nuggets from the previous day that were not offered twelve hours earlier when I asked for them. What’d you do after rest time? What’d you do before lunch? It fascinates me that she has such a full life out of my awareness, but after school, gathering details of her day is tantamount to playing golf with a marble. She’s hungry, mildly excited to be home, and seems intent on putting all that silly Kindergarten stuff behind her.

We hear the bus before we see it and for reasons I can’t explain, she looks genuinely excited. A beautiful smile. Why is she this happy to be leaving? I am sad, then I feel a pang of jealously, for I know Miss Watkins will be getting this smiling, idealistic version of my daughter. But would I want it otherwise? Could she suppress her emotions at home and then have her blowouts and breakdowns at school?

On this day, finally, I have a camera ready to capture my princess going off to do interesting things without me.

Ainsley walking towards the bus

Time to go to school.

Our house from the bus stop

My two little girls

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