What I Did On My Summer Vacation.

I have never really been a fan of summer. Doubly so, since I have lived in Florida for the past couple of years. (I try not to stereotype, but there’s really no reason for anyone to actually live in Florida. Sure, a fraction of the general population leaves something to be desired, but nothing is helped by the fact that the Sun is essentially trying to kill everything that attempts to go outside between the months of March and December).

What also doesn’t help my general dislike of summer is the fact that it’s been designated as the time of year for vacations, as well as for kids to think that they should get a break from life. I’ve also thought that those two factors were absolute bullshit. Vacations should happen whenever it is appropriate and economically convenient for the person or people involved.

As far as kids thinking that they’re entitled to a break, fuck that noise. My kids don’t get a break. Every year, my wife and I have made a point of securing workbooks for our children for the grade that they would be entering in, in the fall. You know what? They have been consistently ‘better off’ for it. I’m not Hitler about it. They devote an hour a day and they also help out around the house. Other than that, they are generally free to do what they want as long as no one, and nothing, dies.

For the record, 2 out of the 3 have maintained ‘honor roll’ status (the 3rd has been a solid ‘B’ student). Point of fact? When I was a kid, my parents thought I should be able to “enjoy” my summer and “do what I want”. The following school year was always an educational nightmare for me because I retained little of what I learned the year before and no one was making sure that I was doing anything intellectually stimulating (defined as, the opposite of what I was doing: watching reruns of My Favorite Martian and playing endless hours of video games).

I digress. 

This past summer, through an unusual, but expected set of circumstances, my wife, a Captain in the USAF, received orders to relocate herself and her family to Japan.

That’s right: I am now littering the Internet from the Land of the Rising Sun. (Fun fact: while I haven’t confirmed this, I’m fairly certain that Japan is referred to as that because THE SUN RISES AT 4 IN THE FUCKING MORNING DURING THE SUMMER). Suffice it to say, there will be more writings about Japan, our journey here, and the usual drek I tend to prattle on about.

In sum, I will leave you with how I found out that we were moving to Japan. You may get a chuckle out of it, or it may confirm what you all ready know about me (that I’m an idiot). Regardless this is EXACTLY what happened. 

One day in the kitchen of my former, Florida abode, I was using our food processor to get down on some dinner prep before I had to pick up my kids from school. After I had cleaned up and was ready to leave, I go to put the food processor away and the damn thing slipped out of my hands and hit the floor. Rather than try to save it or perhaps catch it on the rebound, I got the fuck out of the way because it’s heavy as hell and can easily break a foot when it is in a gravitationally dangerous state.

After I regained composure, I surveyed the damage.

This is a present-day photo

Naturally, I was sweating bullets because my wife had bought this a while back. The name plate was popped out and, as you can see, there was a massive crack in the housing. My first thought was, “Welp: I’m fucked. There’s no way that this is going to work”. After I checked the remaining integrity of the base and popped the name plate back in, I plugged it back in to see how bad it was.

It worked perfectly fine. I switched out multiple attachments and it was still fine. My next move, I thought, was fairly obvious. 

I packed up everything nice and neat, put it in the one cabinet that she’d never go in, and buried it under other kitchen gadgets. All of this was done, thanks to the thought “I’ll blame it on the movers the next time we move”.

Five minutes later, I got a text from my wife saying that we were moving to Japan this summer.

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In which, I get “descaled” by my Keurig.

I like coffee. A lot.

Towards the end of living with my mother I had a small coffee pot in my room just for me. My wife, at the time she was my girlfriend, always found it amusing.

Seriously, who has a coffee pot of their own in their bedroom?

Just me, apparently.

At any rate, I like coffee. All of the vices of my youth are now extinct. No more drugs. Drinking has dried up to a trickle. Cigarettes have been gone for nearly a decade. My faberge egg addiction has been kicked.

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I am rather tame and boring by my own estimation. So you see, if it wasn’t for coffee I wouldn’t have any personality at all. 

Last year, my wife landed employment for a very prestigious institution. As a reward for herself, she wanted a Keurig. Given that she had to crawl through shit to get this job, I didn’t fight her too much. Truth be told, I didn’t want the fucking thing at all. They’re existence in the universe has never made logical sense to me: You have to make a fresh cup of coffee, every time you want coffee? And, the little k-cups cost an arm and a leg? NONSENSE. I DON’T LIKE CHANGE.

So we go to the store and she enlightens me to the features of the Keurig.

You don’t have to buy the cups, you can get a little filter to spoon your coffee grounds into. Also, the machine is basically a big hot water dispenser so you can make tea. In sum, I saw the use it could have in our home. I still didn’t like it, though. 

We buy it. Take the thing home. Run it through with just water to get smell of plastic out of the fucking thing and the rest is history.

The Keurig has been a part of our family for the past year. 

One day, I make my customary cup of coffee to get my brain working in the morning. I lift and depress the play-doh factory lever that tells the machine that it’s time to get to work and on the readout I see the word “de-scale”.

Frowning in response I say, “I don’t speak your language, but you better give me my cup of coffee, you little shit-stain” as I push the button that fills my cup up with the steaming, oily truth.

It fills my cup 1/3 of the way and sputters.

Apparently when your Keurig displays the word “descale” it roughly translates into “The person who is trying to make their cup of coffee is about to drown in a frothing rage”.

I immediately consult the junk drawer.  You all know what I am talking about: no kitchen is complete without the one drawer that holds all of the shit that doesn’t have a proper place in your house PLUS all of the instruction manuals for all of the things that you have bought.

The instructions weren’t there. Off to Google I go!

The only thing that I could find was this over at Coffee Detective.

Yes that’s right, I ditched the water tank, unplugged the son of a bitch, turned it upside down and proceeded to beat it like it owed me money. 

‘Descale’ went away but it still didn’t work. Keurig only gave me a fraction of the caffeine I needed. I make another cup and ‘descale’ comes back again.

At this point, all of the veins in my face and forehead are bulging. I am sweating with fury.

I then proceed to run vinegar through the system because I know that works. I have had to do it before with older coffee pots.

I load the tank up with straight vinegar and proceed to “make coffee”. After I run through the vinegar, I run a tank full of water through the system for good measure. No one likes tangy coffee. 

After I run through a tank of water, ‘descale’ goes away. Everything in me unclenches and I proceed to make a legitimate cup of coffee.

Yet another cup with four drops of coffee in it. As the Keurig sputtered it’s signs of completion, tears welled up in my eyes as ‘Descale’ returned, mockingly victorious. 

Defeated, I ran the coffee again in an attempt to get at least half a cup. 

Later on, I had an idea. I checked the filter that we had been using for loose coffee grounds.

Yep, dirtier than a motherfucker. We replace the son of a bitch with a new filter and it’s been kicking out the coffee ever since.

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Lesson learned: the simplest solution is usually the best. 

A “word” on house guests.

 As I have made mention here previously, I’m not a native Southerner.

With that being said, my family and I had our first group of official houseguests this year. Sadly, one set right after the other.

The first set was my brother and his significant other. He came down first and palled around with me for a few days and then she came down on the following weekend. It was a good time.

The biggest takeaway from that first visit was that my family, as well as our home, isn’t set up to receive houseguests. Initially, my brother slept on an air mattress in the living room. Eventually, the fact that his schedule didn’t jive with that of my families’ necessitated in him getting a room. No biggie as I’m sure that he and his girl wanted to knock boots without the added pressure of perhaps traumatizing one of my children. Still a good time was had by all. 

The following week, my wife’s mother finally made good on her threat of driving down to visit us. 

It would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact that she waited until getting to Tenne-fucking-see to tell us that she brought her mother (that is, my wife’s grandmother, of whom she never, ever got along with) with her and that the two of them would be kicking my two girls out of their beds regardless of the fact that their visit coincided with the kids school days. 

Total dick move on the mother-in-law’s part. 

We all suffered it well, myself especially. My wife got off easy because she “had to work” 3 out of the 4 days that they were down here to visit.

(While it would be easy to say that my wife should have handled it, I would like to point out that I have absolved her from any wrong doings with respect to her involvement with her mother. My wife and I have had similar upbringings and I understand how hard it is to suffer a parent’s bullshit like that).

Suffice it to say, should her mother threaten us with a repeat visit like that, I will undoubtedly unleash a salvo of “OH FUCK NAW!” and blog about it here, subsequently. 

What dawned on me during my mother-in-law’s bullshit visit was the fact that I let the skinny little shit steal my joy at first.

Throughout the course of any given person’s life, they are only allowed a daily amount of joy. Said joy is taken, extinguished, pissed and/or shat on, and ultimately ruined. What’s often disregarded is the fact that to let someone do that to you, is a choice.

You choose to let the person ruin your day, or you choose to give them the proverbial finger. 

Go ahead: argue all you want. You know that I’m right.

After the aforementioned epiphany, I proceeded to fuck with my guests on a rather artistic level.

I never go in for being an obvious dick. I work up to it. Make them more than aware that I’m not serving them food, offhanded comments about how the girls didn’t sleep that well, the occasionally incendiary comment thrown at them letting them know that their welcome was worn out before they breached the state line, that type of stuff.

On their final full day, I had the wonderful idea to clean the entire garage. At this point it was completely fucked and I knew that it would eat up my entire day while the kids and the wife were away.

Not to be stingy with my joy, I pulled my wife into my web of fun. What follows is a text conversation I had with her throughout the course of that day.

************

Thought you’d like to know, CURRENTLY, “the guests” are on the back patio. The “skinny one” is doing a Leslie Sansome Walking Workout on a portable digital video disc player. The “fat one” is watching Leslie with rapt attention.

THE HORROR!

As I have been keeping my distance and maintaining minimal contact, I have noticed that the “skinny one” has migrated to the trampoline area. She’s not using the trampoline, merely using the edge of it to keep her digital video disc player off of the ground. I can only presume that there was a disagreement with the “large one”.

As I pretend not to watch, I can’t help but wonder if Security Forces will pick her up for vagrancy.
The “skinny one” has finished her “walk” and has made contact. I didn’t hear what she said as I had ear buds in.

I did however reply in Spanish. She seemed pleased.

wife:
I would check to see what she said unless you like surprises.

me:
This is true with the “fat one”, the “skinny one” seems quite benign.

wife:
You are awful!

me:
This is the highlight of your day: DONT DENY IT!

wife:
Yes it is.

me:
😎 glad I can be “too kewl fer skool” for ya!

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The “skinny one” seems confused as to the operation of the trampoline. Prior to her mounting it, she tried the “lick/sniff test” common to her people.

At this point, urination became a serious matter to my overall well being. Knowing full well where “the skinny one” was as she had now gone on to the tactile portion of her learning about something new (eg touching the previously mentioned foreign object and grunting her findings) common to her culture, I decided to throw caution to the wind and use one of the toilets inside.

Damn my cursed luck! The “fat one” was emerging from the toilet in the “commoners bathroom”. While it was rather thrilling for her to try and engage me in conversation (not breaking my stride for fear of pissing myself, she commented on the fact that I was lucky that I didn’t have to curl my hair. Out of fear I replied “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? MAH HUR IS NATURALLY STRAIGHT!) it is not something that I would like to repeat for the rest of my days.

**********

They left the following day. See?

THERE THEY GO!

THERE THEY GO!

Have a horrible house guest story you feel like sharing? Hit it in the comments at the top of this post!!!

My adventures in discipling my childrens. Part 2.

I think that at this point, I should note that I do not enjoy discipling my children.

It would be nice if we all lived in a world where everyone respected everyone else and we were all aware of how our actions affected the lives of those in our immediate environment.

Sadly, that is not the case at all. 

From the moment we escape our mother’s womb, like the trapped miner’s that we all are, our curiosity is what guides us. For good reason, too: it’s the only tool we have at our disposal that helps us learn.

FACT: babies drop things because they want to know if the thing in their immediate reach makes a sound. 

Ever have that happen to you? A baby is in the high chair and the little fucker knocks all of it’s toys on the floor. Then, like a good Samaritan, you pick the stuff up for it because you think it’s an accident. Then it turns it into a game that you get sucked into every 5 minutes? Good times. 

Eventually the kid(s) get older but that curiosity is still there. It’s just evolved into a version boundary extension and seeing what they can get away with. This is the time of their life when their identity really starts to take shape.

More often than not, the kid will show an interest in things that you, as a parent, can completely get behind (e.g sports, music, being romantically interested in stuff, etc.). Sometimes, they’ll do a lot of stupid shit that makes you, as a parent, really wonder if they do share your genetics. And on occasion, they’ll do something so astoundingly dumb, that you, as a parent, will feel like a failure.

If you are reading this and you don’t have kids, or maybe you are on the fencepost, please know that it’s not as scary as it sounds. It’s just part of the ride that you bought the ticket for. 

Last week, I posted a document that I drew up for my eldest because she got her ass grounded this past summer. I made a point of spelling everything out for her because she had gotten grounded before and the groundings never really went anywhere: no conclusion was reached, she didn’t really seem to care about the effect of what she did, did to those around her, closure was nowhere to be found. It was just a waste of time for everyone.

Also, I welcomed the opportunity because I wanted to write up something where I got to use the word “redacted” and have footnotes. 

In sum, the grounding worked to an extent. There’s been hiccups since the actual grounding, but nothing monumental.

She understands how her behavior affects everyone else. She understands that when things build up like they did, she needs to do something positive about it. That’s why the grounding was as structured as it was and why it included all of the holistic things and educational things that it did. In the grand scheme of things, I was trying to arm her with weapons that she could use when she felt life start to close in around her.

Grounding your child is a tightrope all parents have to walk. If there is one thing that I would like to impart it’s this: keeping your balance is easy. Just make sure you leave as much of your own opinions out of the grounding as possible. The grounding is about your child and what’s been informing their behavior. Not why the kid won’t fit into the box that you made for them inside of your head. 

On the need for silliness in a serious world. (NSFW).

As a parent, stay at home parent, working parent, or general denizen of the earth, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of taking everything way too seriously. I battle with this daily.

My home is located in a social desert (e.g. there’s nothing but urban sprawl, shopping malls, and people I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with) and I live in a part of the Continental United States where the sun is a crushing ball of hate 7 months out of the year. As a result of those factors I am alone 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I don’t go outside all that much. I’m not complaining, those are just the facts.

When it’s just you and your thoughts, it doesn’t take much for the trap to be sprung and all of a sudden you’re on that slippery slope that is above the chasm of seriousness. One misstep and you’re thinking about all of the shit that you’ve been trying to ignore that other people have perpetrated. This has been my daily battle for the past 2 years.

As such, I always try to amuse myself. 

Prior to my acceptance of being the parent who stays at home I was a member of the retail workforce. One of the jobs that I occupied was that of a field representative of a now defunct company who provided outsourced maintenance to Home Depots.

One day I had a business meeting. Upon the conclusion of said meeting, I was walking my then boss (and his lackey) out to their automobiles. It was a nice spring day and for some reason, the area had seen a spike in the bee population. Seriously, the little fuckers were everywhere.

As we were exiting the building, I was concluding my plan for success and out of the corner of my eye, I spied a bee buzzing it’s way towards my left arm. Without hesitating, I left out a deafening “HYAH!!!”, karate chopped the little fucker, and concluded my spiel.

When I had finished talking, my boss immediately inquired:

In Which, I Talk About My Adventures in Body Hair Grooming.

Shortly after our world had stepped over the threshold into the 2000’s, man-scaping became a ‘thing’. Men, once hairy of forearm, were spotted out in public working on their farmer’s tan. Father’s once ashamed to sit on their front porch on a hot day, without a shirt, could now do so and know what a stiff breeze felt like on their stubbly back. Eventually, the Internet to spoke up and created a new word for these men who folliculy manipulated their appearance (amongst other things). And lo! metro-sexuals were born.

For those who don’t know what that is, the term metrosexual is a now antiquated term used to identify a grown male who takes care of their appearance in the same way that women zealously use beauty products and age defying cleansers. This male, the metrosexual, sexually prefers women, contrary to the implication of their description.

Men began publicly identifying as ‘metro’ when Bravo put Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on the air. Essentially, this was a reality show that took 5 gay men (of some renown) and tasked them with some hapless chump who couldn’t dress himself and lived like a college kid in a dorm room.

Yes, I watched the show regularly for the first couple of seasons. Don’t judge: it was 43 minutes of catty gay men ripping on a man child. What’s not to like about that?

At the height of the metro sexual phenomenon, my older brother and I were regular drinking companions.

On one particular excursion, I had met him at his apartment in Brooklyn, Ohio. For some impossibly stupid reason, my brother needed to change his shirt. He did it really fast, like the fat kid in gym class. But it wasn’t fast enough for me to notice that something was ‘off’.

His torso, from his pierogi shaped chesticles down to his (at the time) 3rd trimester food baby belly was completely nude. No hair. Smooth & shiny.

I didn’t question him at the time (probably because it was his turn to buy) but I did have an immediate thought. Either he’s on estrogen pills or something fucked up is going on here!

  • My father was a hairy man. He wasn’t Robin Williams hairy but he had enough for people to make sweater jokes should he doff his top. As such, my oldest brother (not the drinking buddy) was also hairy. Point of fact: I remember seeing a picture of Oldest Brother from the 1980’s in which he was wearing a sleeveless shirt. The hair on his shoulder/upper arm area was the same length as his moustache. Further, I was (and am) hairy. It only stands to reason that all males from the same parents would be just as hairy as the father, no? My confusion was palpable.

I questioned my brother about the incident recently and this is what he had to say.

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Sidebar!

Yes, I probably did call him a faggot. No, I don’t recall given that this was over 10 years ago. In the event that there might be someone somewhere reading this with bunched panties, I’d like to point out a few things that you may or may not be aware of.

The relationship between brothers, good brothers who keep in touch and have your back when you need it, should be the epitome of tough love. Case in point, if one brother is doing something vaguely effeminate, it is the duty of the other brother to call him out on such behavior. Doubly so, if the reasoning for the effeminate behavior was unsound. Hence, my word choice.

Do I use this word regularly? Nope. Have I in the past? Yep. But not in a harmful way.

My understanding and use of the word fag, as well as gay, or retarded has been in terms to describe something as dumb, boring, or useless. Do I still use those words in the same way? Not really. I have kids who understand the comic value in swearing and name calling. As a result, I have to watch my mouth.

End of Sidebar!

After my brother’s admission and his reasoning (that being, it made him feel less ape-like) I decided to give it a try. Sadly, I thought at the very least a lack of body hair might help my chances with the ladies as I had just come out of a horrible relationship at the time and I was remarkably lonely.

That’s right: the advent of man-scaping officially brought men into the circle of hell that the advertising & cosmetic industries had been holding women hostage in for years. “Do this thing with that product and the mate you want will love you forever”. Such a sad, and fucked up world we live in sometimes, no? I digress…

The first time I did it was on a wintry Sunday night in the laundry room of my mother’s basement. No, not exactly prudent timing on my part as far as the seasonality goes. And yes, I was still living at home at the time. Why? You might be asking… Because it was a lot cheaper than living in some shithole apartment.

There were a few remarkable things I noticed upon completion.

  1. Since I had never done it before, I decided that everything must go from the head down. So I took a pair of clippers and went to town. The drop in temperature from start to finish was bananas! (In the future, I made the strategic choice to doff my fur coat during the height of summer. It makes existing when the temperature is 90+ degrees much more bearable).
  2. Muscles. I had muscles. I had never noticed them given all of the personal foliage.
  3. Genital shaving is a fine art. Additionally, there is no greater pain than shaving your junk and knicking it because you were having a hard time clear-cutting the forest, as it were. And yes, the first time I knicked myself was the first time I was teary-eyed and trying not to land on the laundry room floor.

The next day, everything was amazing. My skin was new. Wearing clothes, watching the muscles in my forearm work, even taking a shower was a new experience. I was convinced that no woman would find me attractive as hairy as I was and I became fanatical about man-scaping for the next 10 years.

My fanaticism reached the point where I would actually take shaving cream and razor to a given area after it had been buzzed with the clippers. I was in pretty deep and it was inescapable. About a year later, advertising company’s were capitalizing on this new trend. Special clippers and lotions were made just for man-scaping.

The bitch of all that nonsense was that I had found someone who loved me for me within a year. Unfortunately, it didn’t dawn on me until almost 7 years into our relationship that I could be doing all sorts of other things with the time I spent shaving myself.

Nowadays, the only shaving I do is my face and my swimsuit area. On occasion, other areas will be groomed but only by my wife’s hand. She enjoys it and it keeps her calm.

I’m sure there are weirder forms of meditation out there.

A quick-ish word about “depression” being a son of a bitch.

Before I say anything further, it should be noted that I have absolutely no medical credentials. I have no certifications. I have also not been treated for depression. I am a man who has experience with depression.

As such, the purpose of this post is to address the topic of depression in the event that there is someone out there, male or female, working parent or stay at home parent (like myself) who is “down in the dumps” as the vernacular goes.

A little about me.

In terms of my genetic make up and heritage, there’s absolutely nothing remarkable about me. I’m a white male, of Irish descent. While I don’t like to bandy about cliches or stereotypes, what they say about Irish men being emotionally retarded is fucking true.

We don’t like our feelings. We don’t like talking about our feelings. We certainly think that there should be a medical procedure to remove the little buggers so we can live the rest of our lives in drunken ignorance.

I am no exception to any of the above.

I don’t like talking about myself PERIOD. I never have. As I am usually loathe to deal with anything feeling related, it can be safely assumed that I have never given it much thought. In general, I have always preferred to listen to other people talk about themselves. What’s at work there, is the fact that most people, LOVE TALKING ABOUT THEMSELVES.

Perhaps I’m a coward. Perhaps it’s a level of self consciousness that I’m not willing to deal with. Maybe it has something to do with some childhood trauma that has been buried deep within my dome. I just don’t know.

From ages 12 to 35, there have been numerous points in my life where I have been depressed. This isn’t the “boo hoo I can’t get laid” type of depression (even though some of it was). This is the “being a lone peach in a can full of syrup, fully realized” type of depression. Everything is awful. Every movement feels like trying to walk through waist deep water.

For the record, this has lessened substantially within the past 12 years.

What I am getting at.

As a parent, depression is a relatively easy trap to set for yourself.

Kids are fucking expensive. They’re not “gifts”. They are people. People cost money. Kids need money in order to grow. That right there is fuel enough to make any parent, new or seasoned, feel like they are in a race that they can’t win.

As a parent who stays at home (especially if you are a dad), it’s even easier to feel the wastes of depression seep in. YOUR JOB DOESN’T END. You don’t get that moment to look forward to when you realize that your workday is almost over and you get to go home. You are all ready there. Nothing ever stays clean and simple things like your asshole kids turning off the fucking bathroom light upon exit amounts to you asking them to build a goddamn rocket.

What’s worse is the fact that all of the parents around you are either bad at parenting or they are just assholes. Effectively you are on your own.

“In the event of fire”.

It’s ok to fall down every once in a while. What you have to keep in mind is that you can’t be the person your kids need if you can’t pick yourself up off the ground. Being depressed is ok. Letting it control your life and inform your behavior in your immediate environment is not ok.

If you need help, ask your significant other. Don’t have one? Think of the one person that has been close to you all of your life and ask them. That’s what they are there for.

If you are like me (emotionally stunted) and you don’t want to due to whatever cockamamie excuse you’ve cooked up, you still need to do something about it.

 This is where the Tumblr comes in handy. Don’t fuck around with the internet. That’s just asking for trouble. On tumblr I see a lot of posts about depression and what to do when you’re in it. A lot of them seem like they are on the level. As far as I know, you don’t need a tumblr account to use tumblr. Why not give it a look? 

What I do.

 My general rule when it comes to dealing with anything negative is that I am allowed 20 minutes to feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I can manage and get my shit together in the time allowed. Sometimes, not so much. The important thing is to recognize the behavior (hopefully before it starts) and take action. Usually this amount to me:

  1. Letting my wife know what my fucking problem is.
  2. Writing a telephone-book-sized journal entry about what my fucking problem is.
  3. Resort to OTC’s like Sam-E or St. John’s Wort.
  4. Work out and managing my food intake with Swiss precision.

In Sum.

Whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re going through, it is temporary. While it may seem like “it’s easier said, than done”, it is the truth. What you need to do, is to have the courage to admit that something is wrong. But what you need to realize and accept is that you need to take that step a bit further and correct ‘the wrong’ that is making you suffer.

In the event that you want someone to chat with (that is relatively objective) I can be contacted here

On Sleeplessness and Getting ‘Quality Sleep’.

I have had issues with sleep since the 4th grade. 

At that time, I was a child of two worlds. This is also known as living with mom during the week and living with dad during the weekend.

During the week, I was inundated with the strict Catholicism that my mother tried to use as a tool to enforce my obedience. On the weekend, my newly sober father was multi-tasking: he was learning how to be a father again (as he was drunk when he was supposed to be doing those duties when my siblings were my age) by basically letting me do whatever and spoiling the shit out of me (a common tactic divorced dads usually resort to in an effort to curry favor with their children). Occasionally, he’d alternate spoiling me with letting me know how he really felt about my mother.

One time he dropped me off from school and laid this one on me: “I would be getting out of prison right about now if I had killed your mother.” I was still in the 4th grade at the time.

Freshly divorced parents are too self absorbed to realize that if there is a kid in the picture, that the familial schism that their hubris has caused is going to fuck up the kid more than it ever will them. 

So, from the 4th to the 8th grade getting quality sleep was a pain in the ass for me. If I couldn’t shut my brain off at night, I was getting to bed on time only to wake up an hour later unable to get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. By the weekend, I was completely fucked because my father wanted to be ‘the cool dad’ so it became normal for him to let me sleep until the afternoons.

Bear this in mind: I harbor no ill-intent towards either of my parents. I’m just illustrating how sleep was a hard won ally for me. 

From high school until the present day, I didn’t fare much better. Sure, I got better at understanding people and how they worked. And sure, gainful weekend employment coupled with social activities made going to sleep at the end of the night a breeze thanks to sheer exhaustion. But getting enough quality sleep has always been a pain.

In recent years, if it hasn’t been anxieties about employment, or the future, it’s been about someone else: a new baby, a sick child, or a light sleeper sleeping next to me.

Since I have become the resident Resident of my family and since I have accepted the fact that I can’t burn the candle at both ends (like I did in my youth now that I’m in my mid-30’s) sleep is my favorite hobby.

Unfortunately, there are still some incidences where I can’t turn my brain off.

What to do in the Event of a Sleep Malfunction.

Before I go further, I should re-iterate that I’m not a sleep expert, nor am I a medical professional. 

I’m just another asshole who has an opinion and can kind of write good.

If you’re having trouble sleeping for a prolonged period of time (longer than a week), quit dicking around and make a doctor’s appointment. I  personally hate hospitals and I have a general disdain for doctors. However if there’s something keeping me from sleeping that may be “internal” you better damn well believe I’m making the appointment.

If you can’t bring yourself to do that, here is a short list of things that have worked for me in the past. (Maybe something herein will work for you too).

  1. Ear plugs and an eye covering of some sort. Yes, it’s a very thin line that separates you from a bird in a bird cage when you use these tools but sensory deprivation fucking works. I don’t use ear plugs often because they get irritating after a while, but I do make it a habit to cover my head. No light = better sleep.
  2. Daily physical activity (a.k.a keep yourself so busy through the course of the day that you have no choice but to go to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow). Think of it this way: you’re earning your right to sleep at the end of the night.
  3. Writing and meditation. Both are very effective means of helping you shut your brain off. I use the writing because I live with four different and dynamic people. Sometimes they do shit and behave in a way that makes me want to squeeze their heads so hard that their brains shoot out of their assholes. Instead of doing that, I write about the stupid shit they do that pisses me off. In doing so, I’m able to strike an understanding of said behavior and come to a middle ground without entertaining the idea of exactly how much Comet I would need in order to clean up feces and grey matter. The meditation has helped in the past because sometimes you just need to sit down and breathe. The only problem with that is that you need to make yourself do it consistently so it becomes a habit. Here are the apps that I use: Stop, Think, and Breathe, Meditation Studio by Gaiam.
  4. Alternate methods and drugs. As far as the ‘alternative methods’ are concerned, they’re pretty simple. The first one that I started using was to have a cup of ‘sleepy’ tea. Lame sounding, but it works. Lately I have been partial to Sleepytime Celestial Seasonings with Echinacea. It’s fucking delicious and is just as good as a traditional ‘night cap’. Sure, I have to get up in the middle of the night to take a piss, but it’s a small price to pay for quality sleep. My recent addition to my sleep regimen has been leaving one of my feet uncovered. I read an article on Mental Floss that explains the science behind it and guess what? It fucking works. I get to sleep faster. My last method I don’t do as often as I should: it’s taking a cold shower before bed. Doing this is the real life equivalent of getting hit over the head with a sledge hammer. I first came across this when Tim Ferriss included it in his book, The 4 Hour Body and came across it again when AOM did a post on it as well. It works. And yes, you get used to the blast of cold water on your bits rather quickly. With respect to taking pills to go to sleep, I haven’t taken any that require a prescription (yet). When it comes to over the counter drugs like Benadryl and Melatonin, I highly suggest that you tread lightly and do your own research. Speaking for myself, both drugs have consistently left me sleep drunk (I need to take a nap shortly after getting up in order for the fog of drugs to dissipate). This may not be the case with you. Again, tread lightly.

Have a sleep ritual or trick you’d like to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

 

Dealing with parental stigmas.

In the event that you are a Stay-at-home Dad (Bully for you!) I’m sure that you are still trying to get your sea legs and work out all of the kinks. It’s not a science after all.

Have you gotten to the point where you’ve wanted to say “The hell with everything!” and run away screaming into the night? Has the irrepressible feeling that you are underappreciated around your own home become to feel like an albatross around your neck, slowly pulling you down into the ether? Have you thought about getting divorced because you can’t handle the adjustment phase?

It may seem like I am joking, but I’m not. There’s something inside the male persona that does not let them properly articulate their own feelings. There are a few shining stars who are able to do this and I admire them for it. But for the most part, men shut down completely if they have to talk about their feelings.

I’m no exception to this, are you?

Consider this the next time that you are thinking about walking away: While the phenomenon of dad’s who stay at home is relatively fresh, it has been argued that “divorce will become less harmful to children than it is today. Father’s who share the care for the children will feel a stronger attachment to their children and will be less likely to stop visiting or helping…” (Smith, p.49, 2009)

Still don’t think your presence has made a difference?

That’s all right. I don’t blame you. Anyone who says that they were completely prepared for being a stay-at-home parent (or just being a parent) is a complete liar.

I have long been of the opinion that the one thing that keeps transitioning from being a breadwinner to a stay-at-home Dad an easy right of passage is the stigma that is attached to it.

Gasp! Negative sentiments about a man staying at home with his children?

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! There most definitely is a stigma attached to being a Stay-at-Home dad. 

My first encounter with it was 5 years ago during the paperwork portion of renting our house. I was on the phone, talking to the woman who ran the rental office in an attempt to build a rapport with her and to galvanize the fact that my family and I weren’t hillbillies.

Then she asked me what I did for a living.

I told her that I was a Stay-at-Home Dad.

It was like someone had flipped a switch. She went from being all chummy and glad to having someone of solid character in one of her properties to a cold-hearted shell of a person. She couldn’t get off of the phone fast enough.

“…This myth, (that) Stay-at-Home Dad’s are dysfunctional parents who are so demoralized by unemployment that they are incapable of pulling their weight around their house” (Smith, p.58, 2009) is perpetrated by every member of society who has every given a man playing with his kids at the playground before noon a funny look.

Who’s to say if this stigma will ever be put in the ground?

While as a society we are constantly evolving and creating, there are just some things that won’t go away. Racism, ageism, sexism… Basically any sort of -ism. What adds insult to injury is the fact that these things, these -isms are all born of our personalities.

I’m just as responsible for this stigma as much as you are.

Consider this: 4 out of 10 mothers are the primary breadwinners in their families. Additionally, there are an estimated 143,000 Stay-at-Home Dads with children under the age of 15, worldwide (Stout, 2010).

While men being the caregivers for the children may be a relatively new twist that our society has taken it should also be noted that gender roles as a whole are starting to change. More fathers are starting to participate in the daily mechanics of their families (dropping kids off and volunteering at their school) than their predecessors. If you want further proof, you needn’t look any further than the diaper-changing table in the men’s room (Gill, 2001). Additionally, “more and more fathers are filing complaints with the federal EEOC claiming that their employers have discriminated against them because of their care giving roles… (Some) employers have wrongly denied male employees requests for leave for childcare purposes while granting similar requests to female employees… (This results in) men deciding that they want a work/family balance” (Smith, p. 76, 2009).

So by now, I’m sure you are wondering what all of this means? Facts are great but they aren’t going to help you through your daily family-balancing act.

This means that you are not alone. You’re not feeling feelings that haven’t been felt before. And you most certainly are not going through something no one else has gone through before.

It seems like a bitter pill to swallow but it’s not. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to not being the breadwinner, find someone who has gone through what you are going through and petition them for advice.

Not sure you want to do this for the rest of your life? Then find someone who has made a career of this and see what they think.

As our society continues to grow and evolve so will the number and nature of parents who stay at home with their children.

If your situation isn’t working for you, it’s up to you to fix it.

Sources Consulted

Gill, LIbby. (2001). Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family. New York: Penguin Group.

Smith, Jeremy Adam. (2009). The Daddy Shift. Boston: Beacon Press.

Stout, Hillary. (2010). When Roles Reverse: The Rise of the Stay-at-Home Husband. Retrieved from:   Today Parenting.

A brief word on the need for heroes in your life (and a book review).

(This past Thursday, March 12, Sir Terry Pratchett passed away in his sleep. I’m sure you’re wondering “Well… who the fuck was that and why should I care?” 

Terry Pratchett was a prolific fantasy author (he maintained a writing pace of producing two books a year for the past 20 years!) that I had happened upon when I was really getting into Neil Gaiman. Mr. Gaiman, having worked with Sir Pratchett and had been a close friend, mentioned his relationship with Pratchett in interviews from time to time. 

My interest in Pratchett’s work was further piqued when I learned that he was suffering from a type of Alzheimer’s, PCA, if I am not mistaken. Ailment aside, he still kept up the pace that he had set with his writing. 

As I am a slut for writing and a slut for reading books, learning that he basically gave the finger to PCA and kept working made Sir Pratchett my new hero. 

If there is one thing that I have learned throughout the course of my life it is that you need to have a hero, an example to look to throughout the course of your life. There are going to be times when you are at your lowest of lows, having that person (or group of people) will help you pull through. 

As such, I have decided that this week I will share my thoughts on some of Pratchett’s work. I say ‘some’ because the amount of books that he has written in his lifetime is somewhere in the 70’s. I hope you enjoy what’s to come.

Thanks for reading,

Matt)

***

There’s a thing about literature that’s written by an Englishman, when they are being clever, or funny, the point is sometimes lost to anyone who’s not an Englishman (or Englishwoman).

Unseen Academicals is no exception to this (somewhat lame) theory of mine.

Through an oversight in the executions of college traditions, the wizards at the Unseen University have been delivered an ultimatum by the universe: they need to form a football team or else they will be taken down a peg or two by the Patrician of their city.

As with all things written by Terry Pratchett, the story is not that simple. However that is the main theme running throughout.

To be perfectly honest, I ended up putting it down the first time that I tried to read it. The business with the Megapode within the first handful of pages was a bit of a turn off for me.

After some time had passed, I soldiered on past the silliness (which was actually a rather coy set-up for a satire that I completely missed on the first go around) and I was completely blown away.

Unseen Academicals is pure Pratchett. Love, the importance of family, social tolerance, sportsmanship… All of these themes written into the rich tapestry that Pratchett has created with the birth of Discworld nearly 30 years ago.

If you are unfamiliar with Discworld, you will be at a loss if you were to start with this book. I would suggest starting with one of the early books like “The Colour or Magic” or any of the first handful of novels, they generally have a good explanation of things (and if memory serves correctly, they should have a basic glossary of characters, as well.).

Unseen Academicals, as well as most stories* written by Terry Pratchett, is well worth your monetary investment.

(*I say “most” because I have not read “ALL” of the stories written by Sir Pratchett.)

pic courtesy of: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91F0L5Md8UL._SL1500_.jpg