Important (Part 5)

Hoo boy.

Zaphod turns 12 this October.  Trillian is 10 and a half.  Zaphod has the cutest little peach fuzz starting to grow above his lip.  Trillian is “sprouting”.  Both of them are moody, snarky and snippy in such a fashion that the only way to explain it is that hormones are starting to get to work in their bodies.

I even see it in little things.  My early risers are slowly starting to stay up (and get up) later, no matter what time I send them to bed.  Both of them are starting to develop their own taste in music.  Trillian, who has always kept me at arms length since she was a baby, now has started to warm to me; it’s a shame, NOW that she’s older and somewhat heavier (but still with a bony behind), she wants to sit on my lap all the time.

And now it seems like the subject constantly discussed at our house is sex (and other worldly pleasures).  Oh, we still talk in generalities concerning the plumbing of sex, but we’re pretty specific about the morality and effects of it.

Even more shocking is that I constantly seem to be issuing warnings concerning those pleasures.  When did I get to be such a fuddy-duddy?  Especially considering the fact that I’m pretty fond of pleasure myself.  But, it is what it is.

I’ve somehow become the parent who sucks all the fun out of everything.

The world will entice them with one night stands, frat parties, buffets, pot, and lots of shiny things.

What they hear from me is pregnancy, disease, date rape, hangovers, weight gain, health problems, car payments and credit card bills.

Come to think of it, I’d roll my eyes at me, too.  I’d be surprised if my kids don’t grow up convinced that I think sex is dirty and fun is evil.  If they only knew…

Anyway, I think I do this because I know that all of this will fall on deaf ears very soon – if it isn’t already.  Very soon, no matter what I say, the pursuit of pleasures of all kinds will be the overriding theme of their lives.  It will not fully subside until the hormones start to decrease when they get about my age.  Hopefully, my admonitions will be in the back of their minds when the right moment arises.

If I could say what I really want to say to my kids about pleasure, I would say this: It is a wonderful sail, but a horrible anchor.  It can give your life enjoyment, but it can’t give it meaning. 

For a while, the former will be enough for them.

I do not think the pleasures of this world, even the desires for them, are inherently evil.  I do not think the “consequences” of acts that bring us pleasure are “punishment”.  I do find it interesting that nothing pleasurable in this world seems to be without price, but that is just one of the mysteries of the universe, and a far cry from the concept of vindictive “punishment”.

I do, however, think that most people (including myself at times) get lost, and lose the ability to put the pursuit of pleasure into its proper place.  It becomes our Master – and ironically, pleasure is possibly the cruelest Master of all.  It has been said: meaninglessness comes not from being weary of pain, but from being weary of pleasure.

It’s such a cliche: moderation in all things is key.  This is the reason we try to protect our children from their desire for pleasures when they are in their teens.  It isn’t until they are in their twenties (if even then) that they have the ability to enjoy life’s pleasures in moderation, and with the proper mindset.

So, for now, I get to continue being a hypocrite to untrained eyes.  I love a good hearty breakfast, I drink beer (sometimes a little too much), I enjoy the female form in general and Lintilla’s in particular.  I chase Lintilla around the house whenever the chance arises.  I imbibe in pretty much all the world has to offer, within the proper boundaries.

And I issue a whole lot of warnings to my children about these very things.

Important (Part 4)

My adult life as been one long love-hate relationship with “stuff”.

I’ve spent a lifetime collecting my stuff.  It clutters my house and gives diminishing returns on the pleasure I thought I’d get from it, yet I still clamor for more, half the time not knowing I’m doing it.

I’d like to invent a new word; there needs to be a word that describes the phenomenon where you leave Walmart in frustration because you realize there’s nothing new and cool there for you to buy – you have everything at the store somewhere in your house.

I am guilty in the worst way of materialism, and I don’t just mean my routine of lustily perusing the Best Buy circular every Sunday.  I have subconsciously bought into the idea that there is an amount of money and stuff I can acquire that will equate to happiness.  Or, if not happiness, security.

I know intellectually that neither can be had through any means on this earth, especially “stuff”.  But, my heart and subconscious betray me, and I succumb to the thought that the folks on Madison Avenue pay millions to get me to think:

If I only had x, I’d be happy.

How many lives have been ruined by this one thought?  Wasn’t it the emotional root of the current mortgage crisis?  How many have bought houses they couldn’t afford, and then they had to fill them with fine furniture they really couldn’t afford because their mortgages were so precariously arranged?  How many credit card balances are carried forward to pay for a closet full of hip, funky shoes (I’m sure the RIGHT people were impressed with those!), or the latest electronic gear – when the card holder had perfectly good existing shoes or electronics in working order?

How many marriages have been ruined because someone thought, “If I only had a new relationship with x, I’d be happy”.  “If that sexy, young person were only attracted to me, I’d be happy.”

How many of us wise guys have convinced ourselves that if we just arrange our lives so that we are “secure” – that we won’t fall prey to the coming crisis like all those other suckers – that we’d be happy, especially saying “I told you so”?

Every day, God tries to remind me that the “if only x, I’d be happy” mindset is totally flawed. 

In the store, my heart races as I think about buying the new item I’m looking at.  I envision what I’ll do with it.  I feel a type of euphoria as I’m paying for it.

I get it home, and I enjoy it for a few days.  But then, the euphoria wears off.  Then, I hate the item.  I hate that I spent so many days working to get the money to get it(or I’ll be working may days to pay it off), and now I’m just looking for a place to store it, because it’s messing up my house.

Why can’t I ever learn the greater lesson from this? It’s happened a million times or more in my life!

Then there’s the whole economic “security” thing.  I can tell you, there was a time when you could ask me if one day in the future I’d make the money I make now, have the amount I have saved, have a paid for house, investments and insurances for almost every situations, that I’d feel secure and “happy”.  Let me make one thing perfectly clear: the more you have, the more you worry about what you have.  Call this a character flaw in me, but it’s one I share with all humanity, whether humanity wants to admit it or not.

And the impulse isn’t even true.  I’ve lived long enough to know that “security” is an illusion.

Many do not want to hear this.  Even we do-gooders have convinced ourselves that if only the poor had a closer amount of money or stuff that the rich have, they’d be happy or contented, and the world would be perfect.

I am rich by no means (as I am constantly reminded every time I pick my kids up from school).  But I’ve acquired enough to tell you that it’s all crap in the end.

This knowledge is not depressing  – it’s liberating, believe it or not.

Important (Part 3)

So, my Titans season tickets came last week, and I literally jumped for joy.  They are now in a safe place, arranged by date.  I’m very much looking forward to getting back into my football routine.

It’s so funny, in the off-season, you eventually emotionally forget why you got so worked up a few months prior.  At least until the first regular season game, then you remember.

Preseason games don’t count.  They are at night, and they are the only games I can attend where I’m not constantly stressed out about what’s going on down on the field.  I can leisurely evaluate the new players, enjoy the action, and speculate on what kind of team we’ll have this season.  This is how I watch NASCAR or baseball: casually.

However, once the NFL season starts, it’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak.

Every game, every series, every down is of utmost importance, (Unless of course, a team like Indianapolis is beating the Titans in a blowout – then, I’m disappointed, but I can watch a little more casually). 

I swear, sometimes I get so wrapped up in the utter importance of the next play, I come pretty close to losing my lunch.  It sometimes takes me hours to purge the stress from my body after a game.

And this is how I have fun 🙂

Only other sports fans will understand this strange phenomenon.  It isn’t until February (good season) or January (bad season) that I start to unwind from having been all wrapped up in the drama of it all during the season.

Then, of course, we have the second half of the Predators season.  My wife and kids don’t see the carefree me until at least May.

Sure, you can sit there and snicker, but I’ll guarantee there are things in your life that seem to be the most important thing on earth at the time – maybe the stress even makes you physically ill – and then later you wonder why you let yourself get so worked up about it.  On a less extreme scale, think of movies.  Any well made movie will get you excited or stressed out during the suspenseful parts, for instance.

Not to mention teenage drama, church drama, work drama.  And then later, you wonder why you let yourself get all worked up over it all.

But, probably nothing compares to how I get when the Titans are on TV.  My kids know to just avoid me.

Let the fun begin!

Important (Part 2)

How in the world did my parents get to be old?

Well, OK, they’re not THAT old (Dad turns 65 in October), but you have to understand that my folks have always been “young” to me.  That’s what happens when your mother gained that status at a very young age.  At family gatherings, they were always the youngest in their generation (they were both “babies” of their respective families). 

But, at a recent family gathering, I took a good, long look at them.  They no longer looked so much younger than everyone else.  Dad will soon be 65, and is getting around a little slower.  Mom has had a series of illnesses and injuries that are starting to seem more than just coincidence.

You guys know, my “feeling” side is more dominant than my “thinking” side.  For the first time in my life, I am starting to “feel” my parents’ mortality.

In fact, the other day, I had one of those unbidden thoughts that rips your heart out; the kind you curse your subconscious for presenting it to you, even if only for a brief moment. 

For a split second, I could imagine my father on his deathbed.

I immediately squashed the thought, but the damage was done – my heart had sunk to my shoes.  I was literally shaking.

I realized in that terrifying moment, maybe for the first time, that I love my parents more than I might be able to express.  And, in that light, I also realized that I have not been a very good son.  I had pushed them to the margins of my life as I had built my own.  I had relegated them to a phone call – maybe every other week.  If I am totally honest with myself, I know that my life has become so busy, so self-involved, that they have become an afterthought.

That sucks.  They deserve better.  From now on, I WILL do better.  If Tim McGraw will pardon the plagiarism – I intend to live life as if my parents were dying.

I will do right by them, I will give earnest effort to earning the right to one day be able to walk them down that long, lonely road with grief, but not regret.  I want to have the moral authority to one day be able to tell the story of their lives.

Because who would we want to tell the story of our lives, but our children?

To be continued…

Feel Good Friday: Two Birds With One Stone

I like this one, not only because I can get all nostalgic about 9th grade, but because you youngins’ who came of age in the early 90’s can get all nostalgic for your ‘Reality Bites’ days.

I hate to tell you this, kiddos, but we are approaching 20 year milestones for all the early 90’s events.  Wow.  Not to mention the fact that this song is approaching 30 years old.  Still rocks, though.  My only regret is that this is the “short guitar solo” version.

Anyway, have fun!

Important

Have there ever been times more dire than these?  Has an election never been more important, for ourselves and our children?  Take a look around, America:

  • We are enmeshed in an increasingly unpopular war.  Our soldiers are doing the best they can halfway around the world.  Sometimes, they seem as if they have the upper hand, yet, there seems to be no end in sight to the fighting.  Certainly they must wonder if they’ve been forgotten about back home.  In this election year, one side vows to “finish” the conflict, while the other has an eye toward bringing our soldiers home.  Most people now agree that the war was a mistake, but overall the country is still divided.
  • Oil supplies are getting tighter and tighter, driving the price of crude oil ever higher.  This, along with spending on the war has started inflationary pressure.  The price of everything seems to be going up.
  • We are either in a recession, or on the verge of a deep one, caused by oil prices and inflation.  Unemployment is climbing.  Home foreclosures are up.  There is a general economic unease that permeates the mood of the populous.  Regardless of the turmoil of the last couple of decades, everyone has to admit that overall, the economy had been pretty good.  Now, it seems like we are entering a more permanent era of bad economic times.
  • The environment is under threat. Although industry and government give lip service to being good environmental stewards, the problems keep getting worse.  There is an ever growing movement of scientists and activists that is attempting to get governments to clean things up, and they are gaining more and more public support.
  • Our morality seems to have disappeared.  EVERYONE agrees, but for different reasons.  The left can point to our lack of compassion as a society, the right can point to an increasingly vulgar popular culture.
  • For all the strides we’ve made in race relations, many times it looks like we’ve made no progress at all.  Many times, conversations are on pins and needles.  Racial injustices, both personal and institutional, still abound.
  • The space program, once a source of national pride, has become old hat, and many consider it a boondoggle that has outlives its usefulness in these tumultuous times.
  • The Olympics, once an international spectacle of purist amateur sport, has become politicized, professionalized, and extremely expensive – especially with the safeguards necessary to prevent terrorist attack.  Although the US is sending a swimmer who may get more medals than anyone in history, the Olympics seem to have lost their luster. 
  • Even if we get out of our unpopular war, the world is still a dangerous place.  The Russians, the Chinese, the ever-present threat of terrorism – these are all huge challenges faced by whichever candidate wins the election.
  • A good half of the country thinks the president is a criminal – both domestic and international.  Even those on the right wonder if their president hasn’t fallen to corruption.  Whispers of “impeachment” are now being spoken in broad daylight.

Certainly, these issues are world-altering. Surely, our children will never forgive us if we make the wrong choice.

To be continued…

Brain Dump #42

I think it’s a blogger statute that says that after so many days of not posting, one must post a brain dump before more coherent posts can be written.  And, I’m all about the law, so here goes.

  • Lintilla saw the doctor yesterday, and got another CT scan.  The tumor has not grown.  But, they did find something very interesting that they didn’t see in the last scan: the tumor is very, very close to a couple of blood vessels.  This would make traditional surgery very difficult.  However, because of the location, Lintilla is a perfect candidate for Percutaneous Cryotherapy (Rachel, you might find the link interesting;me? I hardly understand even the pictures).  Basically, guided by cameras, the surgeon freezes off the tumor.  This procedure is probably the least invasive of all of our options, and will have a much quicker recovery time.  The doc has talked us into waiting until January.  Since the thing hasn’t grown, and since Lintilla is at peace with it, I’m at peace with it.
  • Speaking of Lintilla, she got a speeding ticket today.  Her first since like 1978. 
  • The kids are at church camp, and it just feels weird.  When they were at their grandparents, it was different because we could call them at any time.  Out at this camp, we cannot contact them at all.  I know they are in good hands, but I still feel weird about it.
  • The previous four weeks, the kids had gone to Camp Renaissance.  For any of you with kids, I couldn’t give a higher recommendation to this camp.  They packed the kids’ days with so many fun activities, there was no time for rolled eyes, whining, or snarkiness.  They did the usual zip lines, fishing, archery, swimming, tubing – and they shot guns.  My daughter even won an award for her sharpshooting skills.  She was so good at the rifle, they moved her up to clay shooting with the big kids during the last week.  The kids begged us to let them go back next year.  If you know my kids, you know that they consider it the height of uncool-ness to show that they like anything, so this is truly high praise.
  • The kids asked us about church camp (it’s Cedar Crest, in case you’re curious).  We told them, “It’s just like Camp Renaissance, except you talk about God and stuff.”  It remains to be seen how well they do with the last part, being worried about looking cool and all.  I’ve threatened them with electronics confiscation if I hear they had a mocking attitude.  The good news is, the preacher’s kid couldn’t go, so at least there won’t be any bad influences there. 🙂
  • I might just have to go to Blogher next year.  I mean, at my other place, 90% of my readers are young females now, and let’s just say UBN has, er, a few readers.  Now, they say men are welcome at Blogher – but I have a feeling I’d be about as welcome as a stay at home dad in a mom’s play group.  We’ll see.  If I go, it would be reminiscent of that 1985 Rick Springfield concert I went to. It was wonderful being surrounded by so many women, but they weren’t really paying attention to me, were they?
  • It’s funny when you are the child of teen parents – their experience isn’t ancient history, it happens right before your eyes.  I find myself more and more running from the ghosts of my parents’ mistakes and triumphs.  I find that many times I define myself, for good or ill, by how I stack up against decisions they made 15 or so years ago.  My second child is 10.  When my mom was my age, I (her second child) was 25.  I’ve been thinking about my folks a lot lately.  Sometimes, they drive me so crazy I could scream.  Sometimes, I love them so much it almost hurts.  Seeing them turn gray is tough – especially knowing that I’m right on their heels.
  • I’m feeling really ecclesiastical lately.  Actually, I should have capitalized that – I mean that I can really relate to “Nothing new under the sun” and “dust to dust” – really the whole darned, depressing book.  So, if I post something that seems out of character for me, just know it’s a phase (I hope). 
  • I still heart Plumgood Food.
  • Hey, Kat – you were missed.  FYI, I’ll bet you’ll think I’m insane.  I’m planning a Disney “grand gathering” for somewhere between 9-13 family members for next year.  One is in a wheelchair, and one will be reluctantly in a ECV (if I can talk her into it).  I have managed 20 million dollar mainframe systems before, but this will be by far the biggest, most complex undertaking I have ever embarked upon.  Between the cost, the special needs, the different “vacation styles”, and navigating the more conservative elderly members of our party around Gay Days (don’t be mad, dolphin – I just don’t need the aggravation), I may have to hire a project manager.
  • I realize this will get me kicked off of many blogrolls, but I really like Miley Cyrus’ new song.
Posted in Random. 2 Comments »