A.M. or P.M.

Am I a morning or a night person? The answer to this has varied over the years, as I think it probably does with most people. At the moment, I don’t think I’m really either, though that also depends on your definition of morning and night.

Most mornings, I’m the person who gets out of bed first and begins the day for everyone else. This is not a criticism or a complaint, it just is a fact. My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and that’s when I start my day, even if it’s just to hit the snooze button and catch up on the daily news via Twitter or Facebook. I’m not particularly happy that I’m the first one up, but I don’t really mind. I wish that my mornings ran a little smoother to the point where I could sit and grab a cup of coffee or tea and really settle my mind around the day. But, with a 6 year old and a 3 year old, that really doesn’t figure into my morning at this point. I would also imagine that some proper pre-planning at night might assist in this somewhat, but that leads us to the nighttime portion of this post.

I’m not really a night person, per se. I don’t stay up late generally and I find myself going to bed earlier and earlier as I age. Still, I enjoy the night. I like the night sky, in particular. The moon, the stars, the peaceful stillness (in most respects) are things I covet. But, it’s a struggle to get to that point. Once I’ve finished a day, I’d like to just sit and read a book or have a drink and get on with the business of going to bed. I don’t watch much TV anymore, I much prefer a movie or a good book…both of which can be enjoyed from the warm comforts of my pillow.

I suppose on the whole, I would consider myself a morning person by virtue of being able to commandeer that portion of the day with the most of my faculties. After a shower and a coffee or juice, I can attack the day. However, I think I would prefer if my mornings began at 8:30 or 9 or so. I could be a much better morning person at that point.

I reckon that this means I’ll be a pretty good retiree.

See you in the funny papers!

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double
Don’t worry…be happy!

~Bobby McFerrin

I’m not a worrier. Typically. I do have occasion to worry about my bank account, or my family, at times, but on the whole I don’t worry. I also have occasion to worry about the larger things: climate change, racism, gun control, the Red Sox, but I’m aware that there’s only so much I can do about these issues.

I know that other people worry about ‘the small stuff,’ and that’s fine, I suppose. I just wonder if they see little point to it as I do. For example, some people worry about traffic. Now, I grouse about traffic; it annoys me, particularly when there’s simply very little visible reason for such. However, I don’t worry about it. Often, particularly when I’m alone in the car, I can simply turn the radio up or enjoy the silence. I don’t worry about the cleanliness of the house, or the length of the lawn. I don’t think about the price of gasoline until I go to fill up and then I simply pay what’s listed and go on about my life.

Worry is an added detractor the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t help anything to worry, particularly about things that are beyond the control of the average individual — which actually encompasses quite a large swath of global issues. I’m sure a wise person once said Aside: because I’m certain that this fun little axion didn’t just originate in my head. “Take care of you, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Regardless, I’m going to go about my day, my year, my life, doing my best to adhere to this bit of prophetic wisdom. I’ll be taking care of myself. You should take care of you as well…but I’m not going to worry about it if you don’t!

See you in the funny papers!

Three Favorite Shows and a Friday Five

Television. It is ubiquitous in our society. I must admit that I’m drawn in from time to time by a variety of different shows, but lately I’ve backed away from watching television. It doesn’t hold the same interest for me and I find myself less and less engaged. I also find that a good book will do just as nicely and it even helps me fall asleep more quickly. Still, we all have our favorites, particularly those we can watch again and again.

  1. M*A*S*H – The good old 4077. I remember seeing the helicopter fly across the screen to the opening strains of “Suicide is Painless” as I went off to bed. M*A*S*H was after my bed time when I was little, but even now I can sit down and watch an episode and be completely engaged. It was a delightful set of characters whose shenanigans were always fun to watch, but the show’s more poignant moments were reminders that it was a war zone and that people’s lives were at stake. It was a great balance of sitcom and drama.
  2. Gilmore Girls – You wouldn’t necessarily think that I’d be drawn in by a small town mother/daughter/daughter drama, but the writing was so fast-paced and intelligent that I was hooked from episode 1. It was one of those shows that you hated to see end and you wanted certain things for certain characters. Even when things didn’t go the way you envisioned them, you still sort of felt okay about things and were just happy to be invited to the party.
  3. Fawlty Towers – John Cleese is a god, but without the help of Sybil, Polly, and Manuel, this show would never have made it. Just an angry Basil doesn’t get it, but the exasperating reasons for his anguish are what truly makes this small ensemble click. If you’ve not seen Fawlty Towers, go with all haste and enjoy the few episodes that are available. And, if you’re not laughing within moments…maybe we shouldn’t be friends.

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Back in the day, when I was writing on this blog consistently, there was a little thing I used to do called the Friday Five. Five questions on a theme that provided the substance on a Friday. Today’s Friday Five is about communication:

1. What makes it easy to talk to someone? When they have something engaging to say, or share an interest with you. As an asocial introvert, I can most days without engaging in substantive conversation with anyone. However, the short answer to this is that nothing makes it easy to talk to someone.
2. What percent of the day do you spend talking? Per the first question, I’d say less than 15% unless I need to be on the phone for something. I’m a relatively quiet person and I don’t typically engage in small talk.
3. Who, in your opinion communicates better: men or women? It’s not really a matter of better. It’s a matter of difference. Men communicate in small bits of information, concise, and without elaboration. Women, on the other hand, can serenade each other with a host of information that lightly touches the actual topic of conversation. Neither one is necessarily better than the other, nor are these definitive; there are exceptions to every rule.
4. What topics do you avoid when talking to a stranger? There are no topics that are anathema to me. I’ll talk politics, money, family, sex…doesn’t matter. However, if I’m not interested in the stranger’s communicative engagement, I’m liable to appear standoffish or rude. This might not be an all-together inaccurate assessment, but then I don’t care much for conversation.
5. Do you like to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations? By virtue of not being a talker, I do find myself on the eavesdropping end of things quite often. It’s not intentional. I simply am not engaged in a conversation and am near enough to hear yours. More often than not, I’m not interested in that conversation either, but listening beats talking.

See you in the funny papers!

My Dinner with…

You may have noticed an increase in the bloggery on this blog. I’ve toyed with the notion of shutting it down completely, but then I go through moments where I feel like I want to write. Currently, I’m exploring a year’s worth of writing prompts from Rustico.com. It popped up in an email. I have no idea why or where it came from, but a year’s worth of prompts is nothing to sneeze at. Still, don’t expect, suddenly, a year’s worth of blogging either. I’m old and crotchety and I’ll do what I want.

Anyway, one of the prompts was if you could have dinner with any living person, who would it be? I’m sure this question has been done to death. There may even be an answer on this very blog, but I feel like there are so many great possibilities, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one.

Honestly, at this very moment, my answer has to be Henry Louis Aaron, probably better known to you as Hank. This one seems easy right now. He’s getting on in years (He’ll be 82 next month) and I’d love to sit with him and just talk about anything. I’d love to hear his stories about baseball from his early year with the Indianapolis Clowns, through Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, and relive 715 with him. I want to talk to him about his civil rights activism, where we are now and how far we’ve come and where we need to go. I’d be interested in hearing about what he thinks his legacy is as a ballplayer and as a human. I’d be interested in hearing his thoughts on Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. I’d love to know what he thinks of President Barack Obama also breaking a different kind of color barrier. I’d also like to invite his friends to sit down and have a few drinks and hear what they have to say about Hank Aaron.

Honorable mentions for alternate dinners: George Lucas, Queen Elizabeth II, Sarah Vowell

See you in the funny papers!

I Hope You Dance

My first boy/girl dance was in the 7th grade. At least, it was the first boy/girl dance I remember attending. It was in the spring, but it was practically after school let out, so it’s not as though it was this grand affair with tuxes and limos. We just slapped on a tie and went back to the gym where we had waited for the bus not more than a couple of hours before.

My self-esteem in the 7th grade, on a scale of 1 to Awesome, hovered somewhere near three. This didn’t stop me from being enamored with girls. I had a crush on a lot of girls. Silent crushes, of course, because of the aforementioned self-esteem. But, in my head, they were dream states. Y’know that scene in ‘Wayne’s World’ where Garth hears Dreamweaver? Yeah…that was me. Still, in the 7th grade, I was halfway to manhood Aside: *snort* and this was my opportunity to ask out my current crush. Her name was Myrna* and she was tall (which for a seventh grader really wasn’t that tall) and brunette and I thought she hung the moon even though I didn’t know squat about her other than her name and where she went to school, and this only because she sat behind me in math.

I went through the effort of calling her to ask her to the dance. Back in my day, we had to look this number up in a large book and go to the kitchen where the phone was attached to a line in the wall and talk to our desired party in front of any and every one who wandered by, including parents or younger siblings. My self-esteem level was boosted to 4 just to make this phone call. Yet, by most accounts, it could be said that this phone call was a harbinger of things to come. After I asked Myrna to the dance, she stated that she was going to be attending the dance with several of her friends and that she would see me there. In my 7th grade consciousness, this meant that we would meet at the dance, glide across the gym floor for an hour, and then, possibly, a kiss. On her end, I’m guessing that she was pretty clearly stating that most, if not all, of this was never going to happen. She was simply being polite. Looking back, this should’ve been much clearer to me, but when your vision is clouded with Dreamweaver sparkles it’s hard to notice these things.

So, I got spiffed up and headed for the dance. Dance is a loose term for this sort of event. A large gym with a stage at one end that had the lights out and a few tables here and there. I don’t even remember there being refreshments. Just loud music and moderately dim lighting since there were unshaded windows near the ceiling. I should also mention that I don’t actually dance. I mean, I can shuffle back and forth. I’m aware of the notion of rhythm. But, in no uncertain terms could any movement I’ve ever done be misconstrued as “dancing.” My goal was simply to get to Myrna, hold tight at 8 and 4, and sway back and forth until the chaperones made us leave the gym. But, she had other plans.

She arrived with her friends, and they stood in a gaggle, talking. For a 4 on the ‘EsteeMeter’ I didn’t have many options for breaking into the group. At some point, I must have gained an extra ½ point or so and I asked her to dance. And my world fell apart.

‘No.’

No? NO!? Okay…um, yeah, alright…I’ll, um, I’m just…ugh! And as I walked slowly away the tears rolled out. Not heaving sobs or anything, because y’know, halfway to manhood and all…but hot burning shame droplets that my friends could see. Well, they would’ve seen if they’d been there, but my friends didn’t dance. They were smart enough to realize back in the seventh grade that dances were a waste of valuable effort and the return on investment was simply not worth the risk. To make all this worse, there was nowhere for me to go. It wasn’t long before the dance would end. I couldn’t drive away because it was the 7th grade for cryin’ out loud. I could’ve walked home, but in my emotional state that didn’t occur to me, plus my parents were supposed to pick me up.

There was one friend, Albert**, who was a mutual friend of both of us.  I had spent several minutes sitting at one of the lonely, undecorated tables in a middle school gym, listening to Richard Marx sing about love, when he came over. He told me that Myrna had said I should get up and dance. I fumed, and I was angry at Albert, at Myrna, at Richard Marx, at whatever fool had dreamed up dancing in the first place. What right did she have to dictate to me how I should react to being shot down at my first dance? Why the hell did she send an emissary on a peace mission that was bound to fail among 7th grade egos? Whatever possessed me to want to go to a dance in the first place? I waited it out. I sat there sulking, stealthily wiping away tears, until the music ended and the bright halogen lights came on. I walked out into the fading early evening sunlight and slumped into the backseat of my parents’ car.

No, I didn’t want to talk about it. No, I did not have a good time. I was fine. I just wanted to go home.

*Not her real name

**Not his real name

Snow Days, Weekends, and other lost joys

It will come as no surprise to those of you with children, adults, and others who have reached a certain level of engagement with the modern world that some moments in life that once held an inestimable joy no longer measure up and have become what some might consider a burden. The joy of snuggling deep into the covers on a Saturday or Sunday morning; the excitement of anticipation as the snow piles up the evening before a school day; allowing yourself 4 more minutes in the shower just because it’s warm; all of these things are gone for me.

We’ve had a good share of snow this winter. I write this as I’m guiltily indulging in my resting half of the morning which would ordinarily have seen me at work if not for the foot of snow on the ground and the bitterly cold chill that defiantly spites the sun which has made an unexpected appearance. “Resting half,” you say? What is this? Well, my wife, C, and I engage in what can only be seen as tag team parenting on mornings where we don’t have to be somewhere in order to have some free time to ourselves and not be arrested for killing our children. Also, our children do not understand the concept of sleeping in. My son was up at 5:48 this morning after repeatedly waking up last night between the hours of 8 and 12 to ask for milk, snuggles, and a variety of other bedtime stalling activities. It is no wonder that some animals eat their own young. If I thought mine were bacon-flavored, I’d be tempted myself. Anyway, some might see this as lazy parenting, allowing one spouse to bear the brunt of the household chaos while the other luxuriates in relative freedom. I call it self-preservation as I’ve spent the better part of the last half hour listening to pounding footsteps, screaming, crying, and muffled children’s television…and that’s probably just from my wife. And, I did say I was guiltily indulging…it’s not necessarily fun to lounge around in my pjs listening to my wife try to maintain some sense of order in the house, but in fairness, I had nearly three hours of the same experience before she took over.

However, all of this allows me to harken back to my own childhood when I adored the concept of a snow day. A day free from pattern, structure, and expectation. It was a time when I could engage the world on my own terms without the restrictions of a typical day. Now, however, a snow day merely means that I’m forced into a role of entertainer for my children unless I’m being called upon to perform the manual labor of snow removal, something I never gave a thought to when I was younger. Snow should be for playing and wonder, not for toil and pain. And yet, here we are.

Since we are here, may I also comment on the fact that my time is no longer my own. Even the time I’m taking to write this is basically stolen from my wife. With each keystroke, I struggle with whether to continue or to go and save her from the howling of pent up monkeys who have been unleashed on the home because of inclement weather. This not only extends to now, but even the most mundane activities. This is the second snow day in a row, and I’ve lost count of when I showered last. I’m pretty sure it was Wednesday morning, but one never knows. When I was single, and even when I was newly married, it was not unlike me to spend longer in the shower on a cold day because I knew getting out would not only be an assault on the skin, it would be the start of the structure of the day. As long as I remained enveloped in the soft warmth of the spray, the mental healing of the steam, I was safe. Now, I hurry through a shower regardless of the temperature to comfort my son who dare not be less than an arm’s length away from either parent at any given moment, or to make sure that my daughter has adequate screen time with a show she’s probably seen more times than I care to count.

So, life moves on, but the simple joys have disappeared. The elation of tugging a blanket closer around my head; the enjoyment of sledding down a hill; the heat of staring into the flow of the shower; all are gone. And, now that my children have arrived in our room to tell me all of the obvious things of the last half hour, I leave you to your own devices.

See you in the funny papers!

40 is the new…40.

There is a stigma to turning 40. Regardless of what age you are, you have an opinion on the turning of 40. Younger people look at it as the “over-the-hill” moment. Older people generally go into detail about how much worse their current age is, and why 40 was not really that big of a deal. Tomorrow I turn 40, and I’ll be honest, I don’t really have an opinion. For me, there’s no real wow factor and I don’t dread it, so 40 seems to be a fairly big non-event. It almost makes me wonder why 40 is so revered or feared. At what point did 40 become the age of conflict and confusion?

Still, having been lucky enough to have achieved this age, I feel compelled somewhat to offer my own two cents on this latest spin around the sun. Personally, I think 40 has brought a sort of zen to my life. I’m fully aware of my own strengths and my own failings and I am cognizant of the fact that I’m not aware of what other people are experiencing in their daily lives. I cherish experiences more than materials. I gather memories more than collect items. I use my old eyes to try and see new things.

Sure, there’s a little more gray in the beard (makes me look more distinguished, in my opinion), and a few wrinkles have begun etching their existence on my face. But, for reaching middle-age (life expectancy in this country for males is 77.11 years), I feel pretty good. So, all in all, 40 doesn’t look so bad. I can only hope that the next 40 are just as varied as these have been.

See you in the funny papers!