Month: October 2007

A bad day of golf is still better than…?

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Sad day of Golf

On Monday, I took a day off work to play in an annual charity golf tournament for my wife’s company since she does not play. It’s a terrible burden that I have to shoulder, but one which I’ll gladly do in the name of…um…cough, cough….charity.

 

And while this was a friendly game of golf among mostly men who could not even remotely be considered professional-amateurs, there were still some pretty good prizes such as free rounds of golf ($65) as well as lots of donated gear (by local vendors UPS, PGA Tour Superstore and more…) such as $250 drivers, balls etc. This tournament, not being open to the general public, is really the only chance that average guys like myself (read: dads with too little time to play very often) will ever get to play against similarly skilled golfers for relatively nice prizes. If an average Joe tried to play in a public tournament (which I have), you’ll end up playing semi-pro or retired professionals who will suck up all the prizes and get mad at you for taking more than six or seven swings at the ball on each hole. 

 

So this was kind of a big deal for us and most of us were taking this tournament seriously despite any “Have Fun! It’s for Charity!” hooplah the organizers were dishing out. 

 

This year, there were four players on a team and we played typical scramble rules. This means that each player hits the ball and then everyone on the team hits their next ball from whichever previous shot was the best. So, if I hit it to the 300 yard marker, and everyone else hit to the 280, then we’d our next shot from the 300 yard spot, and so on and so forth until we got it in the hole.

 

We didn’t really bother with handicaps, which adjust an individual’s score up or down automatically to keep everyone on the same scoring plane, however the men all hit from one set of tees, while the ladies hit from their tees, which are closer to the pin. The thinking here is that the extra distance women get from hitting closer to the hole will basically even out any muscular benefit the men have and thus you’ll have four relatively equally skilled players on the same team even if one or more of them are women.

 

I said that was the “thinking,” but in actuality, it’s not that cut and dried. The fourth player on our team was a lady in her early 50s I’d say. She had all the necessary gear and she claimed to have been playing for a couple of years along with taking lessons at the local PGA Tour Superstore. So the three of us guys were thinking, “OK, she probably knows how to play. How bad could it be?

 

Unfortunately, all that preparation didn’t translate on the golf course, where she could barely hit it fifty yards and the only time she helped our effort was on a Par 3 where all of us men-folk put our balls into the sand (hee heeJ). Her tee, being nearly 40 yards closer, and to the right of the hazard, rolled right up onto the green and what was probably going to be a bogey for us, turned into a birdie. The rest of her game was so bad though, that I finally stopped even trying to be a cheerleader for her and started pointing out that if she hit it where she wanted to hit it, she would roll right into the water–which she did several times. So thanks.

 

At the end of the day, our foursome came in 6th place out of 12 teams, so right in the middle, and the only prize I got was a Titleist towel for my bag (approx. value: $8). However, the three of us men who played weren’t bad and I’m convinced that had we an equal fourth partner, we’d have made it into the top three and garnered some good prizes. And while I harbor no resentment towards our lady-player, I would just like to tell all those would-be players out there that being a newbie on the golf course is just fine…at times. I mean, we were all new players at one time or the other. But when there is money and/or prizes on the line, and you know you won’t add any value to the team, sit it out. Don’t weigh the whole team down just because you wanted to be part of the club (no pun intended).

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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of no sleep…

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Money Sucking Heater

Thirty minutes. It’s not a big number really, but thirty minutes here…thirty minutes there…it all adds up.

Thirty minutes–that’s how much of my life I’ve gained back from the valley of “The Sleep” thanks to having another baby. And mind you now, this thirty minutes is only on the backend of the night—the time when I have to get up in the morning to get myself ready for work and help get the kids and dogs all squared away. This time doesn’t include whatever lost (er…gained) time I garner in the middle of the night thanks to bottle feedings and coddling.

 

I know about this thirty minute number thanks to my thermostat. When we moved into this house, one of the first things I did was rip out the 70s style-dial-A-temp thermostats and install handy programmable ones with the really cool green backlighting for easy nighttime adjustment. With these, you can tell your a/c and heater when to turn on and off, which is a heckuva lot better than just setting it one temp and then constantly running back and forth adjusting it, or leaving for work in the morning and thinking, “Crap! I forgot to turn the thermostat up (or down).” So, all in all, a handy little doo-dad.

 

With gas prices what they are, I’ve been putting off turning on the heat, but with temps dipping into the low 40s for consecutive days, the house finally cooled down enough to warrant the heater. I mean, there’s only so many layers of socks one can expect a toddler to put up with for any length of time. Last night just before bed, I turned on the upstairs heater and adjusted it down a bit since we were all going straight to bed.

 

This morning when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I noticed it was still cold in our room, but figuring the heat would kick on any moment, I just forgot about it and went about my usual routine. It wasn’t until 5:45 that the heater came on, which means that last year, when the baby was still a tiny baby, versus a cranky grab-tastic thing that never sleeps, I was getting up at 6 a.m. and setting the heater to kick on 15 minute before we got up so the house would be all toasty and warm for our emergence. 

 

So long story short, that’s how I know that I’m losing (dangit! GAINING!) at least thirty minutes of sleep each night. With my oldest son getting up as soon as he hears me pour my first cup of coffee, I suppose I’ll be adjusting the heat back to 5:15 a.m. 

 

Hello $400 heating bills–goodbye pocket money! And for this, we’re worried about some caribou in a land where few people live and even fewer ever visit. Nice.

I’m handy…I swear!

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Thanks to my own father making me sit and watch (and in a few rare occasions pitch in and help) him do things around the house when I was growing up, there are very few things I won’t tackle around my house. I can refinish furniture, build simple bookcases, perform general remodeling, install appliances, etc. In fact, I do so many things around here on my own because I’m too cheap to pay someone else to do it, that my in-laws are rarely surprised when I said I did such an such project and are in fact more surprised when I tell them I had to pay someone to do something (such as walk around on my roof blowing out the gutters!). 

However, this weekend, I found something that I can’t do…carve pumpkins! I absolutely stink at carving pumpkins. Once would think that with the thousands of dollars in tools that I have in my arsenal, that I’d have the two or three things necessary to successfully carve out some eyes and teeth without breaking the darn pumpkin nearly in half, but I don’t.  We got two pumpkins the other day at the Dairy-cum-punkin-patch and my oldest son wanted to carve a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine in it. So, I downloaded the template. I also thought I’d just carve the boys’ names in the other pumpkin, so I picked out a nice creepy font and typed their name in MSWord in a size that would fit on a pumpkin and I was ready to go. 

At first, everything went great. I got out my jigsaw and cut the tops off the pumpkins…perfection! This was going to be so easy…and cool! However, when I started trying to cut the design that I had traced out on the pumpkin, I quickly realized that the brute-force power-tool approach was not going to work. Unfortunately, that was AFTER I’d botched the first two letters in my son’s name. Leaving that one in disgust, I turned to the Thomas template and while it did turn out much better, it still leaves a lot to be desired. It looks OK at night with a candle in it, but I’m afraid that for the other pumpkin, I’m just going to print up the boys’ names on paper, let them color it and stick-pin it to the pumpkin and call it a day.

My Punkins

 

Hey, I’m no artist. I’ve always known this, and why I thought my handy-ness would translate into a useful artistic endeavor such as pumpkin carving is beyond me. But one thing about botching something is that it teaches you a valuable lesson. With luck, this year’s punkin debacle will fade from both boys’ memories as quickly as it takes my youngest to go through a box of diapers and by the time they are both old enough to appreciate punkin carving, and aren’t icked out by scooping out the punkin guts (my oldest wouldn’t touch them), I’ll hopefully have found a nice set of carving tools and perfected my craft.  Maybe next year I’ll get a third punkin and practice on it before operating on the real ones. All’s I can say though, is thank the good Lord that I didn’t become a veterinarian.

A pathetic, self-serving post…

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So I’m wondering at what point is it OK to write off one’s parents? 

 

I wonder this as a 34-year old, not as a 15-year old whose parents won’t let him stay out past 10 p.m.—so I do ask this with some measure of garnered cynicism. 

 

For years, I’ve labored under the impression that I would grow up, have a family of my own, a beautiful house, and some doting grandparents that would come visit and heap loads of love and attention (and gifts) upon my children, all while we parents half-heartedly fended off offers to watch the kids while we made our way out on the town for an evening of relaxation and romance. 

 

Now, many years into this little scenario and things just aren’t playing out as I had envisioned. Oh, I have the wonderful family and beautiful house and all, but what I seem to be missing are a pair (or two) of doting grandparents. What I’ve come up with instead are divorced grandparents who live not too far away, but whose lives are apparently busier than mine own and for whom travel is such a burden.

 

Warning: Blatant cathartic complaining to follow

 

About every six months I say to my wife, “I’m done with ‘em. They can call me if they want to talk.” This is usually after I’ve been the one to initiate conversations for months on end, if at all. This isn’t anything new really. Ever since I left home as a teenager, any relationships I’ve maintained has been because I reached out—because I made an effort—not because the other party deemed it important enough to maintain. One would think though, that such would not be the case with ones’ own parents. 

 

Wrong.

 

Despite being retired and living a mere 3.5 hours away, I haven’t spoken to my dad in nearly 2.5 months. And it’s not like we don’t have a good relationship. We do. He’s just..busy I guess with his girlfriend, whom I don’t like. See, I had to make a choice when my last son was born. On the one hand, I could remain silent while my dad and his girlfriend, who can’t stop giving advice peppered with her own brand of condescension, came to the hospital and stayed with us for a couple of days, or I could tell him that I didn’t want her coming, and thus keep me from saying something totally rude to her along with reducing the stress on my wife that her presence would surely induce. I manned up and told him that his girlfriend wasn’t welcome. 

 

I guess that as recompense, my children (his grandchildren) will have to learn to live with one less grandfather in their life. A grandfather who, despite a near-180-degree personality change from when I was growing up, was never really that active in my life either beyond ensuring that I was out in the yard helping him do whatever back-breaking work he deigned necessary. 

 

And my mom…ah…my mom. My mom moved to Tennessee after the divorce and she now lives on the river in beautiful Walland, TN. Both she and her husband still work, and they also donate three Sundays each month to doing a church service at the local retirement home. This gives them one weekend each month free to do whatever. This severely cuts down on the number of free weekends that we and they share. Add to that the fact that due to their scenic location, they are a mecca for friends and family who want to come spend time in the mountains, and so they rarely come to visit us. Despite living a mere 3 hours away, we only see them about four times per year, and half of those visits are because we pack the kids up and hit the road; a trip that I dread more than death.

 

It’s been nearly two months since we saw my mom and they were supposed to come this weekend to see the boys dressed up for Halloween, but her sick brother drove 9 hours from Alabama (how sick can he be?) last week and put the kebosh on that. 

 

I’m honestly not sure who I’m most upset over this for…myself or the kids. Part of me wants to discount my feelings as selfish, but the other part of me wants to just shake them and ask what their problem is. I suppose that I, being adopted, treasure family more, and maybe that’s really what this is all about–my adoption.

 

Perhaps, despite years of being told otherwise, deep down they don’t feel that bond to me and my children that I think they should feel. After all, my mom is my mom by bond only. She was my dad’s second wife, and thus my step-mom. My dad is my adopted dad, and therefore I’m not his real son. Maybe all that “2 degrees of separation” is finally catching up. 

 

It’s just sad that my children are paying the price. But isn’t that always the way it is? Our children always bear the sins of the parents. It’s just sad that in this case, the sins are completely avoidable.

Can’t we just leave well enough alone?

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gayder.jpg

 

Part of the reason fairy tales are so popular with children is because it lets them imagine themselves as someone else, even if only for a little while. The same thing for Christmas and Santa Claus, and all the other “characters” in our little ones’ lives that we allow because we know that it’s all pretend. 

 

I guess that’s why this week’s announcement by JK Rowling that the character “Dumbledore” in her Harry Potter series of books is gay, has me a tad on the annoyed side. And it’s not because he’s gay, per-se, but more because by making this announcement, she’s crossed the line separating fiction from real-life. And for many children, I believe, this line is difficult enough to see as it is without blurring it even further. 

 

I have a brother who is three years older than I am. He’s the only 100% true blood relative that I have alive (that I know of). That said, the boy was always a little “off.” He was always drawn towards the darker side of things, burying himself in Dungeons and Dragons and wilderness survival and whatnot. His life has taken a decidedly different turn from mine and it’s been speculated by many, that part of his problem stemmed from his inability to separate reality from the fictional characters and stories that he loved. 

 

He and I both share a love of fantasy and sci-fi lore, but where I’ve always been able to put that part of my life aside and face reality head-on, he has not. To this day his very talented artistic skills lean towards the kind of thing you see on movies like Lord of the Rings—very dark and often disturbing. 

 

I can’t imagine then, if someone back in the early 80s had come out and said of Star Wars’ Darth Vader that, in his spare time, Vader was really a cross-dressing transvestite hiding behind his mask of anonymity, that it wouldn’t have affected the way I (and he) viewed our beloved bad guy. Beyond the shock value, what would be the point? What could possibly be gained (beyond the PR buzz) by making an announcement about something like that, which is never discussed in the plotline and has no bearing whatsoever on how the story played out?

 

By making this announcement, Rowling has given her character validity and power in the real-world. In adult fiction, this is fine because most of us understand what’s going on, but here we’re talking about children (even if a fair amount of her readers are actually adults, the stories are supposedly aimed at our youth). There will be those who will cling to this announcement as a harbinger of freedom for gay rights, even absurd as it sounds. And by doing so, they bring the character of Dumbledore into the now, into reality. She has blurred the lines between a good wholesome story, and a power struggle in society that children shouldn’t be exposed to until they are old enough to understand what this announcement really is—a grandstanding attempt at garnering a few more $$ for her novels.

 

While I’ve never been an avid fan of the Harry Potter series, finding them to be exactly what they are—elementary level fantasy fiction—I’ll admit they are entertaining. That said however; JK Rowling, you really should be ashamed of yourself.

There’s a fine line between obsession and crazy…

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Weightlifting 
 

At 34 years of age, I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination; however, I’m no spring chicken either. After nearly 15 years of fairly heavy weight training, my joints and skeletal system (especially my back) are probably more in line with a 44 year old. A study back in ’01 revealed that despite any bone density gains weight lifters earn from throwing around heavy weights, once they stop, those gains rapidly diminish. Add to that all of the joint and spinal damage nearly all weight lifters garner, and you gotta wonder why a person does it.

 

As I was working out this weekend, I noticed a young guy who is frequently there at the gym when I am. He’s probably in his mid-to-late 20s and it’s always been obvious that he has a great body, mostly because when he’s doing legs, he rolls his pants up so everyone can see his quads, etc.  And despite being obviously muscled, I never realized how much until I saw him in one of those tight Under-Armour® shirts (white) this weekend, where you could see every muscle, including one of the best sets of abs I’ve ever seen. Now, despite being 100% heterosexual, I can tell you that, from one weight-lifter to another, the dude looked incredible! 

 

I can also tell you however, that he didn’t get that way naturally. I’m not saying he’s using steroids (I’m not “not” saying this either), but naturally, muscles simply don’t get and stay that full (read: pumped) without some help. It just doesn’t happen. 

 

Of course, I started reflecting back to the time when I was “that” committed to my body. I was never in my wildest dreams as chiseled as this guy, but I was worlds better than I am now and it occurred to me what a young-man’s game this exercise thing really is. Some people might say I’m just being petty and jealous, but the truth is that it takes a phenomenal narcissist to create and maintain that kind of physique. 

 

When I was 25, I once had a date critically tell me, “No woman wants a man who has a better body than she has.” 

 

Truer words were never spoken. The kind of commitment it takes to maintain the thin-skinned six-pack look that models make look so easy requires an approach to eating that is fanatically limiting. It requires that every waking moment that isn’t taken up with work or other essential activity, be spent either at the gym, or hitting the pavement burning off the calories you just ate that your body didn’t automatically siphon off to feed your muscles. It takes the ability to turn the guilt you feel over eating a slice of pizza, into something positive like a few extra reps on the bench press. Basically, it requires sacrificing nearly every facet of your life that doesn’t revolve around your body, and that, my friends, is why you see so few married couples with children who are in such great shape.

 

Sometimes it takes this kind of mental meandering to convince yourself that you don’t suck. I’ve been really down on myself about my weight gain lately, and although it’s nothing major, it’s a stark departure from my 20s. Plus there’s that whole drive to look good for your mate. I suppose in the end, all you can do is your best and hope that it’s enough. 

 

I mean, with two kids, who has time to be a narcissist?

Doin’ my part for the environment

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Watering Restrictions 

 

In case you’re not an avid watcher of the The Weather Channel, you may not realize just how bad of a drought the southeast is in. Here in the metro Atlanta area, the last tally I heard gave us just about 120 days worth of water left. Lakes that we use here for sport and for our water supply will be dry in a matter of weeks. It’s that bad.

 

So, keeping in line with my new “green” philosophy around the house, I’ve started trying to do my part to conserve water. Already, we can’t do any outdoor watering, so my yard looks like it normally does by February—all brown and wiry. I’ve managed to keep my newly-planted shrubbery (neep!) alive only by scooping out the dishwater each night and pouring that on  them, along with whatever waste water I get from the dog bowl before I rinse and clean it.

 

All of this is well and good, but you know…it takes work! It’s much simpler to just run the tap full blast and not worry about whether or not your neighbor is trying to help out, or whether he’s going to run his sprinkler on the weekend in direct violation of the guidelines.

 

Yesterday I needed to wash some clothes, so I pulled the drain hose out of its usual place and put it over the 15 gallon sink we have in the laundry room so I could collect the “gray” water. I went to take a shower (AKA: waste water) and left instructions for Career-mom to ensure it didn’t overflow.

 

It did.

 

So much for that idea. But, I did collect 15 gallons of water for my shrubs, for which they are eternally grateful. I’m trying to figure out other water-saving measures such as giving both boys a bath together, but our older one doesn’t like to do that anymore because he wants something for his own now that he has to share everything else. And I can’t blame him really.

 

Career-mom did her part last night too—when she invited me to take a shower with her. Course…I had already showered, but what the heck right? I’ve cut down everywhere else…why not splurge just a tiny bit?