Author: Underdaddy

I am a well-intentioned father of four girls. I assume the identity of Underdaddy to carry out my mission of publicizing my mistakes and funny adventures so that others may smile. Engineer by day, I understand that if no one ever discusses failures then no progress will ever be made. In that light, I represent a lot of potential progress.

Sole Mate

Some of my best pondering comes from answering small questions from the kids on topics that are mainstream and seem innocent but upon a little inspection they are pretty terrible ideas.

One of my children asked me the other day, “Daddy, do you believe in soulmates?”. Awww, cute.

I thought for a second and asked a follow-up, “Do I believe in the idea that two souls are predestined to compliment one another like Yin and Yang and exist in effortless bliss? That they seek each other out and when they find their match there is an instant and permanent bond?” 

She smiled and said, “Yes. That.”

Do I believe in that? Hmmm.

No. 

I don’t. 

Honestly, I can’t think of a more toxic approach to romance. 

I think there are people who you meet and you know, in mere seconds, that you share something with them. Humor, interests, attraction. There are clues or vibes or energy that says “hey, this is my kind of people.” I have lots of friends that I’ve met this way. I knew in 0.2 seconds that I wanted to date Supermom. I think there are also people who you meet who you know almost instantly, “f* this asshole”. They cause your hair to bristle on the back of your neck. Something inside tells you that friendship is very unlikely. I believe in the power of first impressions and the feelings they create. But that isn’t something predestined.   

No… this idea of a soulmate is really a terrible one. 

For one, what happens if soulmates are a thing and yours gets hit by a bus? What if it is seconds after you meet or, even worse, seconds before? Do you get a runner up soul-mate? Are you doomed to go through life seeking someone less than perfect for a mate? And that brings another question. Do you even have to find a soulmate in the first place? What if you aren’t interested in a partnership at all. The current birthrate and beer commercials suggest that most humans are interested in mating but some people aren’t. Are they leaving someone stranded? Who is pairing people up and then sending them out with the stork to later find each other like a sexy game of Where’s Waldo? 

Or what about this one… Let’s say I’ve taught my children that soulmates are a thing because Disney or whatever and then they grow up and get married to someone who they feel fits the description. Then the marriage becomes terrible but they hesitate to make a change because somewhere inside we created this emotional trap of a soulmate. They are genuinely concerned that this is their one shot and by “giving up” on this idea they are settling for something less than ideal. That would suck.  

Don’t even think about the stalkers who are convinced that the uninterested target of their affections is actually their soulmate. They feel a divine purpose to stay in pursuit and awaken this feeling in their victim. What would have happened if Sleeping Beauty woke up and thanked the charming prince for his kindness and bravery but then moved on with her life and left him in the dust? I don’t want my daughters chained to some toxic dude because they feel that a) he earned it or b) the universe ordained it.

Or Snow White after the creepy dude kissed her knowing that everyone thought she was dead. They thought she was DEAD. Everyone did. This dude opened a casket and kissed a hot chick he found while walking in the forest. This is a romantic story but all I can wonder is what is wrong with men. If I was an eligible bachelor strolling through the woods and came upon a well-preserved dead girl in a glass coffin on a vine covered altar I don’t think the emotion would be aroused. Or even affectionate. Curious maybe but certainly not drawn to open the Tupperware container and bestow a kiss. That’s how you get zombies, Steve.  

Enough of that rabbit hole. Back to the main event. If I don’t believe in a soul-mate then where does this idea come from? What’s behind the allure?

I think our desire for an everlasting reward from a long struggle comes from a place deep inside where we want finality and certainty. We need a goal post. We want to know that a struggle is worth it. Love, like most good things in life, takes energy and effort. We want something that we can cross off the list and say “Done”. Soulmate, check. 

We do this with other things too. We decide that the next milestone is the key. If I can just get “x” then I will be happy or safe or something. 

Its why diets fail. Its why rich people and celebrities still suffer from depression. Its why empires rise and fall. We enjoy the challenge and the excitement of changes and compliments on our progress but once we achieve the goal. Now what? Oh… just some maintenance? That sounds fun.

Anything you worked hard to get should be worth keeping. And if it is worth keeping then it will take effort. Purposeful effort. I myself need that reminder a hundred times a day for a hundred different things. I still can’t figure out how our little white dog Jasper is worth any effort at all but Supermom has his back.  

Oh well. Such is life. 

If you are dubious on the ideas of soulmates then I guess this post is for you. You’re welcome. If you firmly believe you were granted one from the universe, then good for you. For myself, I believe I found an amazing partner. I couldn’t imagine a better person or path for my life. If I thought soulmates were a real thing, she’d be a shoe-in. But we work every day to take care of our love and our family. Does it help that we are both amazingly sexy creatures of unlimited physical and mental desire? Of course. Sure. But that’s icing on the cake. We share our journey as well as our destinations. We piss each other off and lift each other up. We support each other’s crazy ideas. But there is nothing guaranteed or automatic. I hope my children see the purpose and the effort and know that the life you live is the life you have chosen by doing the little things day in and day out. Don’t wait around to find your soulmate, work to become one. 

-Underdaddy to the rescue. 

Vehicular Homicide Pt 2

On Christmas day at 6:30 am some nutso domestic terrorist detonated a car bomb in downtown Nashville. An RV bomb is more accurate. The RV is the cover photo for this post. There were three injuries and no loss of life (bomber doesn’t count) but millions of dollars in damages and probably a total loss of some historic properties that won’t be replaced. A terrible event that could have been much worse. 

I mention this event for posterity and also to contrast and compare with the events I’m about to share so that in hindsight they will seem not-so-bad and even comical. 

So a few stories back we established the fact that Papaw is an immortal anomaly who haunts the dreams of OSHA inspectors every night. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration for my overseas friends) OSHA makes the recommendations to not stand above a certain height on a ladder or to wear safety glasses. Those kinds of things. Things that are too cumbersome for a man on Papaw’s schedule. 

No sir. This board has to be cut on this table saw immediately. Who has time for safety glasses or hearing protection or even proper wiring. Not Papaw. Safety third. 

The other day I had a very Papaw-esque encounter and I just found it too fun not to share. 

Papaw: (calling on the cell phone) Hey can you give me a ride home from work?

UD: Sure, what’s up?

Papaw: Ahhh, my truck’s got a flat tire and I had to park it and Mamaw had to bring me to work.

UD: Okay. No problem. I can be there in just a little bit. Say, I thought you had an air tank that you carried on the truck?

Papaw: Well… the tire is pretty damaged. And I lost the spare. And my extra gas can. 

UD: Hmmm. That sounds like one hell of a flat tire. Did it explode or something?

Papaw: Yeah, I hit something and tore my tire all to pieces and I it knocked some stuff off the truck.

UD: Oh wow. What did you hit? A deer?

Papaw: I don’t know. I ran off the road a little and hit something hard but I didn’t see anything.

UD: Did you stop.

Papaw: No, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but then my tire went flat.

UD: Did you look at the truck once you got stopped?

Papaw: Yeah something red on the bumper and down the right side.

UD: Jesus. Was it blood? Did you hit a person? Am I an accomplice to a crime?

Papaw: No, no, its paint from something.

UD: Something?! That could be anything! Was it a kid named Timmy in a little red wagon? (It was nearly midnight so this option was doubtful but I was concerned.)

Papaw: I don’t know son. *exasperated sigh* I’ll have to go and see after work.

UD: How did you not see something? Did you fall asleep?

Papaw: My window was frosted.

UD: Did you not wait for it to defrost?

Papaw: Well I did but the wipers don’t work on the left side (driver’s side) so it was blurry and I just ran off the road a little because I couldn’t tell where the edge was. It was just a mailbox or something.

UD: Okay. But you know that could’ve been little Timmy in a red wagon.

Papaw: But it wasn’t.

UD: But… it wasn’t. 

Y’all. 

This is peak Papaw. 

A chain of preventable events that are sacrificed on the altar of getting something done. In this case, it was “not being late to work so the other guy doesn’t have to work longer.” Epic self-sacrifice to avoid creating inconvenience. If he was in the military he would have been the guy jumping on the grenade or fending off an attack after getting shot thirty times. This is the core of his being and I love it about him but sometimes it manifests in hilarious ways. 

So fast forward and I’ve picked him up from work and carried him home. We passed the scene of the events and there wasn’t much to see. Some scattered debris and a couple of posts where mailboxes and something else used to stand proud at the edge of the road. 

I dropped him off and started back home but slowed down on this pass to get a better look. 

That is when I see the entire grill off the front of the truck, a crumpled light pole with a red cast iron base sheared out of a concrete footing, and two innocent mailboxes scattered into the forest. Someone had stopped and snagged the gas can. The giant spare tire is laying in the grass about twenty feet past the truck grill. 

It looks like the Roswell crash site. I can only imagine the explosive force required to dismantle all of these things and to further imagine that he drove three miles before thinking “that tire feels a little flat, better not drive on it” just makes my day. 

This is a smart man. A strategic man. A thoughtful man. But as a mechanic, he has the idea that cars are disposable and anything mechanical can be stitched back together with enough bailing wire and curse words. 

And he isn’t wrong but damn. My candy ass hits a pothole too hard and I’m sick to my stomach over a disrupted wheel alignment and uneven tire wear. I have a lot to learn.

For those of you wondering. He did go back and replace the mailboxes because he is a stand-up guy. He kept the light pole base because childhood poverty taught him that hoarding is necessary for survival. It will live in the pile of old truck toolboxes until the price of scrap metal rises or he passes it to his children in his will. The victimized truck will live to threaten more mailboxes. I guess its just another ongoing case of vehicular homicide. You’re welcome. And Happy NEW YEAR!

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

If you missed the original Vehicular Homicide or Papaw Stories like The Normalcy Bias or Coon Whisperer click on the link.

The Long December

What a weird season. 

Thanksgiving was weird. Christmas is going to be the same. 

We have had our first brush with COVID in our direct family. My oldest daughter and my mother both have had positive tests. One had some burning sensation in her nose. The other ended up at the ER twice and on oxygen for several days. Things are better all-around and no one else has gotten sick… yet. 

It is one of the most frustrating things imaginable. A slow-moving train of symptoms and the only real solution is to sit and wait. Check temperatures. Check O2 levels. Did you sneeze? Do you feel okay? Do I feel okay?

My dog had COVID. 

And not the dog I don’t like. The good dog got it and ruined the carpet in my hallway. Full stomach dog pukes. Like a dustpan and full rolls of paper towels to clean it up. At all hours. 

And here is a good question. 

Why does dog food have red coloring in it? Aren’t dogs colorblind? Do we really need the mulched soup of ricemeal and chicken lips to be some pleasing array of colors? 

My dog eats cat shit and dead things. Spare me the red dye. 

And Jasper, the little white dog… never showed a symptom. Each time I find him cold and motionless I think, “Thank goodness” or “that took longer than I thought.” But no. He is always fine. He just sleeps like the dead and he is deaf. I’ve found him in every contorted position possible and each time he is alive. I know all this sounds terrible and I’ve made my case before but he’s an asshole. He’s a papercut lemon of a dog.

 

We are behind on Christmas preparations. I got a tree and it is the most 2020 tree I can imagine. We didn’t soap it this year which made me sad but the again the damn thing doesn’t have enough branches to soap. Imagine for a moment that we rescued the scraggly tree from Charlie Brown and nursed it back to health. But even though it escaped death and grew into a full-sized tree the damage was done. The branches were warped from malnutrition and grew at odd intervals. Now, standing before us loaded with lights and ornaments, we all look around nervously wondering if someone is going to mention just how garbage the tree actually looks. 

Pitiful

Supermom had a fun crafts project that I got to help with. She made a wall of Christmas movie quotes.

We made gingerbread houses (thanks to my sister-in-law) and even though they look like they were assembled by blind people they look better than our tree. 

Its fine. Everything is fine.

We watched The Dead Poets Society tonight. I miss Robin Williams. It’s a great movie and I’ve been working hard to expose my children to quality entertainment in music, books, and film. I forgot how the storyline feels so very “Catcher in the Rye”. The story is in the characters and requires paying attention. There seem to be less of those types of stories. We don’t have time for them. We need things we can have playing in the background while we do ten other things. 

Yesterday we watched Ten Things I Hate About You and there is a house-party scene that interested me because no one had a phone. I hadn’t really thought about that movie being and old movie. No one was taking photos to share or scrolling through Facebook. No group selfies or texts. I don’t know that you could make that movie these days and get away with the plot devices. All the misunderstandings and miscommunications would be hashed out in the comments section of some viral teenage post. 

Buts that’s what we are up to these days. Sitting around finishing up quarantine. And while it is driving me insane, I feel extremely lucky that my list of complaints is so benign. We have it pretty good and a lot of people don’t. 

If you are having trouble with how the year is wrapping up, this one is for you. Winter is going to feel longer this year. I hope everyone who has love, shares it and everyone who needs love, reaches out and finds it. If you made it this far then go ahead and say hi with a comment. And for everyone who likes a good Papaw story, I have one in the works. Stay tuned and you’re welcome. 

-Underdaddy to the rescue. 

Just Next Door

I have a neighbor and he is in his 90’s. Let’s call him Mr. Jones. He is a really nice and interesting man. He lives alone and I don’t see him out and about much other than his daily walk to the mailbox. We talked a few times but, on the whole, I don’t know that much about him.

But I do notice how regularly he has his yard maintained. (Mostly because mine usually lags behind) He seems to like his yard to be really well looked after.

Mr. Jones’ backyard is a large expanse of Bermuda grass surrounded by tall and aged Oak trees. If storms knock down limbs or water isn’t draining away or the leaves begin to fall he has someone come and fix those things right away. He keeps things looking good. I’ve had the passing thought that it seems like a lot of work for something I rarely see anyone using. 

One of our impromptu mailbox talks led to a conversation about his backyard and how central it was as a gathering place for the teens in a church youth group many years ago. The weekly games of two hand touch football were a big deal in the neighborhood. I could tell that he held some really great memories of the time spent in that backyard. 

Today I heard some voices and laughter from my neighbor’s backyard and I looked over to see a mother and two young children running in the backyard and playing. A little later the dad joined in the fun. Then my neighbor’s son, which would be the toddler’s grandfather, made a few laps around the yard. Four generations of family with a shared memory of laughing with each other in that backyard. 

I thought about how Mr. Jones kept that backyard in top shape probably just for a few chance encounters. For days like today. He holds that space open.

I think of my Great Grandmother who had cable TV because we might want to watch it and bought cheese and Pringles chips because we liked to eat them. I think of my Grandmother who made sure our Christmases were special. My dad who keeps up a pool mostly because the grandkids swim in it and my mom who keeps a farm of animals that she should probably winnow down but because the grandkids like them… 

They were/are all holding a space.

That, to me, is our humanity. Our ability to love the next generation and give them a gift of memories they will open years down the road. Somewhere between receiving and giving is when we discover that the gift even exists.

I get caught up in the stories of the week and my chase for success in a hundred different forms. I forget that I am on the clock. I enjoyed seeing Mr. Jones and his family living in the middle of a moment. It reminds me that while you can’t demand memories be made, you can hold a space open for them and sooner or later they will come along. 

If you enjoy a nice and pure moment, this post is for you. You’re welcome. This is a crazy season for the world in general. Hold open some peaceful spaces.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.  

Copcakes

Lady Bug was playing in the front yard and came running around to find us with a worried look on her face.

 

Lady Bug: Mom. Mom! There is a cop in the driveway! (very concerned)

Supermom: What?

Prima: The cops are here! Go in the house!

Supermom: Cops?! (looks in the driveway) Hang on guys. Why are you freaking out? And let’s say officer.

 

Upon further inspection, there was an officer who was making the rounds to distribute lollipops to neighborhood kids and do some outreach into the community. We assured the kids that they could have the treats and to be sure and thank the officer. It seems our talks about the horrible stories in the news made our kids nervous about authority.

So… we had a talk to put some context around all of our adult discussions around race, riots, and abuse of authority. We explained that there are thousands of officers across the US that have big hearts, strong morals, and good intentions. That officers aren’t some separate group from everyone else. They are citizens like everyone else. They put themselves on the line to defend citizens, to check for intruders, to look out for drunk drivers, and to help generally keep the public safe. In fact, we have lots of people who dedicate their lives to make others safe. There are fire fighters that are ready to respond and help in life threatening situations beyond fire like rescues and searches. Both professions have men and women who are totally committed to the public welfare and to honorable service.

The anger and fear around policing are relevant but the spotlight cases are a magnification of the giant web of public safety that is happening all around at any one time. We have family in law enforcement and we worry for their safety every day. I want them to stay safe and to make it home to their families each night. I want them also to always be sure that they respect the people that they come across in the line of duty. I hope they hold respect as a high standard among their coworkers. Set the bar high and keep it. We can support our officers and demand the law is applied fairly when lines are crossed.

 

So after we had this talk with the girls, Lady Bug looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “I want to give my cupcakes to some cops.”

“What cupcakes?”

“My birthday cupcakes. They gave me a lollipop and I want to say thank you with cupcakes.”

“Okay, Sure. Who said you have birthday cupcakes?”

 

Fast forward. Supermom made fifty something cupcakes of all different variety and they were delicious since she is a semi-pro baker. We loaded the cupcakes up the next day and drove down to the police station. We went into the front doors and met two officers who were initially skeptical of six people storming the lobby but were quickly calmed with the site of the bakery boxes. The officers introduced themselves and talked with the girls for a few minutes and gave them sticker badges, coloring books, and crayons. They were very happy for a kind gesture and doubly impressed that Lady Bug had decided to share her birthday cupcakes with them.

Copcakes

The other box was full. I had to test the flavors. Don’t judge me. 

We had also talked about fire men and women who provide a critical community service so we took our last box of cupcakes and headed over to the local fire station that serves our neighborhood. It was a quiet Friday at the fire house so the three men on duty we excited to see us. Our gift of cupcakes was accepted and we were invited to take a full tour of the station. We saw the kitchen, lounge, garage, trucks, pumps, lights, and a fully suited up fireman. We got the extended tour and I had more questions than the kids. It was awesome.

Cupcake_Uniform

Willaims and Hanson giving us the 411 on 911. 

I think it did the girls well to put some faces and names with the ideas of these services. They shared some stories of how they have served and we talked about things outside of anyone’s job. Meeting people always goes a long way to show that we are really all the same. We wake up and have a job to do that may have hard days or may not always carry the respect of those we serve but the job is still important.

We need to have discussions about what we can improve. We need to be aware and honest about the flaws of our system and the bias that we all carry towards something or someone. We need to call out evil quickly and with a loud voice. But we cannot afford to paint with a brush that is so broad that our strokes blur the picture. There are good officers and righteous protesters. There are those who seek to cause problems and paint their opponents with a single wide brush; Thugs. Cops. Murders. Looters. Paid Organizers. Fascist. Anti-fascists. Kneelers. Birthers. Truthers. Republicans. Democrats. Conservatives. Liberals. Christians. Muslims. Pastafarians. Blonde. Bald. Tall. Short. These are all just simple labels that are stereotypes. They allow the user to make assumptions about someone and save them from the torture of having to think about people on a case by case basis. Your ears should perk up whenever you hear these qualifiers in a headline.

Don’t get drawn into the all or nothing debates. Don’t use labels. People are people. Your complaints are most likely directed at toxic culture or flaws in the system. Or maybe they are directed at the terrible people who seem to bubble up daily. Judging them is fine by me as long as they have done the deeds to deserve it. Setting up straw-villains just widens the gap of misunderstanding and prevents the reasonable discussions that need to take place.

If you like cupcakes, this post is for you. You’re welcome. We could all use a more cupcakes between friends these days. I’m just pissed the girls gave them all away before I could levee my dad-tax of one cupcake as a taste test, which I think is somewhere in the Constitution.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Ps section:

  1. I know there is an unspoken (or spoken) competition for who is actually cooler between the folks in red and the folks in blue. As it sits right now, the fire boys got y’all beat. I’m going to need to see some spike strips or something to even things up. Thank you to Officer Ferguson and J. Williams on Pump Truck and C. Hanson on Ladder Truck. You guys made a little girls day!