Month: December 2007
I really enjoy shopping for CareerMom for Christmas. Inevitably, I end up in a women’s clothing store, preferably in the um…underwear section, where all men (according to the women employees apparently) come when they are clueless and lost as to what to purchase for their wives or girlfriend for the holidays.
The same goes for stores that sell beauty products. It’s always the same scenario:
Me…opening the door jingling the cutesy little bells hanging on the handle. I stop for a moment to look around and gather my bearings:
“OK, underwear and jammies on the right…jeans and knit tops on the left.” I start walking in either direction only to be accosted by a female employee:
“Hello sir, you look utterly lost. May I help you?”
“No thank you,” I say, “I’m good.”
“Great! I’m going to stand over here and pretend to be busy. Just let me know when you figure out that you’re completely in over your head and I’ll come over and rescue you.”
“Will do,” I say, not really meaning it, but knowing that if I do ask a question, I will only further prove to her my ineptness at picking out a gift on my own.
So, I walk around the store striking my most manly poses possible, lest some loitering lady mistake me for a gay man shopping for himself. As I stop to ponder the comfort and coverage afforded by the latest panty, I feel a rush of wind and a different female employee suddenly appears under the guise of folding some garment that has apparently up and disarrayed itself.
“Sir, do you need a woman to show you what a woman likes?” she asks.
I respond with, “No thank you. She’s straight.”
“I’m sorry sir, what did you say?” she quips; not quite trusting her ears.
I say, “I said, No thank you I’m great,” and then I depart the panty island and head over to another section of the store where there are currently no employees. What I really wanted to do was pick up the garment and check it out, but not with HER watching. What kind of perv would she think I was then anyway?
So, it generally goes on like this…I walk around and pretend like I know what I’m doing so as to not draw any attention to myself at all. Then, as I check out, the register lady unerringly tries to dazzle me with soap-math:
“Sir, these are $7.99 a piece or three for $25. Would you like me to get you a couple more?”
Quickly, I try to figure out, “Ok, $7.99…no round that up to $8 and it’ll be easier. What’s 25 divided by 8? 3? They’re $3 a piece if I get 3? Wait…that can’t be right…”
….”sir, do you want to get three for $25?”
“Um, just a sec, lemme think…”
….”sir, there are people waiting…”
“Ok fine, I’ll take three,” I say quickly not wanting to hold up the line of angry, albeit apparently perfectly adept female shoppers. I think to myself that surely I can pawn these extra items off on someone else as an original gift idea.
So, if you get a thong or some bath suds from me, you’ll know where they came from and why I gave such a strange, and slightly disturbing gift to a female family member.
I think most parents come into parenting with a “Parenting Philosophy.” It is probably a mix of things that their parents did with them, as well as some personal observation tweaks on parenting skills they have gleamed by watching the successes and failures of other parents.
I am no different. My parenting philosophy goes something like this:
I am your father first, and your best friend second (or maybe 5th or 6th after your real friends and your mother)
I ate vegetables and so can you. If you don’t eat them tonight, when you get hungry enough, you WILL eat them
After the approximate age of 3, you’re old enough to clean up most of your own messes and get your own toys and blankets from wherever in the house you’ve left them. I’m not your maid
When you’ve tuned out my threats of taking away your favorite toys, a spanking usually will do the trick
Just because we have kids, it doesn’t mean the house should look like a pigsty
You can entertain yourself sometimes
anything else that I make up along the way
The problem with a philosophy, is that it’s just that—a philosophy. A philosophy is “a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs” (thank you Dictionary.com). The quick among you will see the fallacy at work here—the fact that a philosophy comprises principles. And what is a principle exactly, but a, “personal or specific basis of conduct or management.”
Plainly put, a philosophy consists of a bunch of generally unproven beliefs. Which means then, that a philosophy is not proven and therefore seldom holds true in the real world.
Take last night. I met Careermom and the boys out for dinner at the local binge-n’-purge. Things went well for the first 20 minutes as our oldest contented himself with coloring the little menu thingy and our youngest donned a bib and commenced to eat pretty much whatever we put in front of him. But then all that wore off and we were left with, “I’m ready to go home” whining from our oldest and, “Hey, let’s see how many times I can make mommy and daddy pick this up off the floor” from our youngest.
Once dinner was over, I volunteered to take our youngest home while Careermom and my oldest went shopping for a last-minute Christmas gift for her Administrative Assistant at work who had made a point of telling Careermom as she walked out the door that, “I have a Christmas gift for you tomorrow.”
When we got home, I put our youngest on the floor with some plastic containers to play while I washed up bottles and generally cleaned up. Well, he didn’t like that and he decided to cry.
Now, I had two choices here. I could A) Stand by my philosophies and let him entertain himself (or continue to cry) while I cleaned, or I could B) Pick him up, leave the mess and keep him happy.
Have I mentioned I’m stubborn? Well, I am so I stuck by my philosophy and treated myself to pretty much a nonstop 40-minute cry-fest because once he got started, nothing would stop him. It finally got close enough to bedtime, so I bathed him, put his jammies on and put him to bed.
God Bless the quietness!
But I’m at an impasse here because I don’t think he “learned” anything, which is really the whole point of sticking to your philosophy when things go south. So I’m not sure I won anything here and I’m sure that the next time the situation arises, it’ll play out similarly.
The only question that remains is, “How strong is my resolve?” I don’t know the answer to that, but what I do know for sure is that I will be tested; Oh yes, I will be tested still.
There are certain movies that I like to watch at particular times of the year because of the memories they evoke. Dead Poets Society is one that I like to watch as summer turns to fall and even though I grew up in Alabama where there wasn’t much color during this transitional time, I have always felt that Vermont in the fall was how it was supposed to be and so each year I harken back to that memory; that feeling.
Recently, I rented “A River Runs through it.” You’ll remember this as the tragic story of two brothers who grew up in Montana, raised by their minister father (Tom Skerritt) and whose lives were forever changed by their love of fly fishing. I hadn’t seen this movie in many years, but felt prompted to watch it again because of my recent re-introduction to fly fishing and because I remember that it too had some wonderful Montana scenery in it.
As I sat watching A River Runs through It, I was struck by the similarities between the two brothers in the movies, and my own sons. The older brother was the brown-headed, thinker; shy though easily moved to action when convincingly appealed to. The younger brother (played by Pitt), was his brother’s counter—energetic, quick to action and not shy. It was the younger brother who inevitably pulled his older brother into questionable situations, for which they shared the punishment equally.
And once again, the relationship between these brothers just felt right. My own brother and I never saw eye to eye…we never shared a love of anything at all; but, these brothers had a bond that I hope my own boys develop. I want each of them to be his brother’s counter. For my oldest, his younger brother will be his spontaneity, and for my younger son, his older brother will be his caution. My hope for them is that they will bring a balance to each other’s lives and I hope that relationship endures for as long as they live.
Some may feel it’s silly to put so much emotion into a movie, but why not? Movies and books represent the perfection of our lives without all of the peripheral events that get in the way of the perfection. They are scrubbed, edited and colorized to represent the best that life can be and that’s what I want for my boys; the best. And if they want to fly fish with their dad when he gets old, well…that will just about be my perfection.
As I’ve mentioned before, I only have a few readers that I know of. So, in an effort to keep those few readers happy and reading, I’m using today’s blog to answer some of my reader’s burning questions.
It was either that, or tell everyone about the massive quantities of sewage spewing out of the manhole in the back corner of my property. Somehow, exposing myself (figuratively speaking) to my readers seemed only slightly less nauseating.
Q1: “How do your parents feel about your postings?”
A: With the exception of my biological mom and half-sister, both of who are pretty nonjudgemental, and not closely enough associated with my everyday life to get offended, the rest of my family is woefully ignorant of my writing adventures. Most of my parents don’t know about my blog. In fact, neither does my wife (CareerMom). Part of me has considered that when I die, this blog might give my family some interesting insight into what I was thinking and my personal life, but a couple of thoughts on that:
A) Would they care? Probably not.
B) Do I want people to remember me as someone positively pessimistic? Again, probably not.
Q2: “How do you come up with all of your blog ideas?”
A: I find that boredom greatly facilitates mental meandering. Often, as I’m rocking the baby to sleep at night, or as I’m doing something banal at home, such as replacing a toilet flapper even as I try not to breathe in the fumes from the major load my son left that morning and couldn’t flush because I had shut the valve off and nobody left in the house after me could figure that out, I come up with great ideas. However, for every idea that ultimately ends up in print, two others are lost to the ether.
Q3: “Do you consider yourself to be a good father?”
A: This is a toughie. Being a father encompasses a lot of areas of responsibility. It requires the right mix of understanding, compassion and discipline—things which are not necessarily complimentary. I think that being a father brings with it a responsibility to not just raise a child, but to teach a child as well. Given all of that, here’s how I’d rate myself:
– Willingness and Desire: A
– Imagination: C
– Understanding and Compassion: C+
– Discipline: A-
– Patience: D
– Ability to Teach: B
– Love of my children: A+
– Endurance: C
So, if we give each letter a number score (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1), my composite average comes out to a: C+
Yeah, that’s about what I figured. Darn those low scores will really bring you down.
Beyond that, I got nuthin!
Despite whatever doubts I may have as to the validity of all of the things I’ve been taught regarding Jesus of Nazareth, and his time here on earth, the fact remains that I do believe. Down in whatever dark place I’ve pushed so many other things in my life, the belief that there is a benevolent God out there watching over my family (how else do you explain all the good things I have?) remains a small beacon of hope that if I’m not too bad here on earth, and if I don’t commit the same sins over and over one too many times, that maybe, just maybe when I die, I’ll end up somewhere happy and warm with my family and all of my dead pets.
I don’t believe in much; I have to be honest with you. I feel that the glass is perpetually half-empty and that given half a chance at getting away with it, most people will screw you over for $100. It’s a crappy way to live life, but hey, I’ve lived a life of facts and reality and my reality has shown this to be true for the most part.
I suppose then, this is why I take Christmas to heart like I do. I love Christmas. Oh, I’ll admit that I love the decorating and the cold weather and the fires and the gifts and the food (oh, the food!) more than I really enjoy sitting in church for two hours listening to the pastor try to come up with some unique spin on the Christmas story that no one has ever covered before, but it all goes hand in hand. So much about religion is really about how you feel about it anyway, so why should Christmas be any different?
Given all of this, I’m really offended, not just pretend-offended like so many people—I’m actually offended when non-believers relegate this time of the year to just “The Holidays.” And why do Jewish people get so offended over Christmas? I don’t know which faith first proclaimed this time of year their own, but can’t we all just get along? Can’t we all agree that, “Hey, something deeply moving and spiritual happened at some point in the year, and since we can’t really pinpoint the actual date, we’re all just going to be happy around December.”
To all the non-believers I say fine, you want to celebrate the Holidays, then do it on MLK and Valentines Day. On Christopher Columbus and President’s Day, go all out and decorate. Just let us Christians, for whom you have to thank for this time of year anyway (OK, and maybe Coca Cola is partially responsible too), enjoy this time of year without your having to pee in the punch bowl.
I normally shy away from blog postings about my job because, well, we all hate our jobs and who wants to hear about my particular dislikes? But this time, I’m going to go out on a limb for a few minutes so you’ll have to bear with me (or click off my site…).
Last Friday, near the end of what had been a perfectly acceptable lead up to the weekend, I discovered that someone had taken it upon herself to usurp my responsibilities on a particular writing project and finish it herself. And in doing so, she had to contact the original requestor of the project and work with her. The project was on hold because I, having tired of the requestor changing her mind on things, quite frankly asked her to revisit the original messaging she had given me, from which I devise my story, and to come up with her final wording and then resubmit the changes to me before I moved forward and (dare I say) wasted any more time.
For a number of reasons, this person going around me to move the project forward annoyed—nay—ticked me off. For one, it’s not her job to do this. Secondly, the original requestor is new to her job and I was trying to teach her the process rather than just “doing” it for her. And lastly, but most importantly, having someone else finish a writing project you start is a bit like some rank amateur trying to paint eyebrows on the Mona Lisa. I’ll explain.
When I was an engineer, it was nothing for one person to begin one job and for another to finish it. Working with foreign countries and different time zones made this a simple fact of life. However, writing is an art form. And while some may argue that what I write is far from being artistic, it is still my creation. It includes my vision for the piece and includes the sum total of all of my knowledge on the matter at hand.
When someone else comes in and makes changes to my art, they do it without any insight into what has gone into creating the piece. In short, they are a bull in a china shop (I use this comparison despite the television show “Mythbusters” having disproved the idea that a bull in a china shop is actually woefully destructive).
And so, like a mother protecting her child, I approached this person about what she had done to my project and it turned into a full-fledged finger pointing, which was not satisfactorily solved and which I stewed about all weekend. Now there are times that, given enough time to think about something you’ve said or done, you end up regretting your reaction; however, in this instance, I can honestly say that I’d react the same way again if need be…because I’m stubborn…and steadfastly convinced of the righteousness of my outrage.
I have a meeting this afternoon to discuss this, and other outstanding departmental issues and if the outcome of this meeting is anything short of spectacular, well, I’ll finally have the motivation to tell this great big opportunity to stick it!