Life

TOH 2 – Wallaby Trees

Part of our planning for the new home included building a place for our wallaby Bindi to reside. She needs a place that serves two purposes; 1) She needs to be protected from the elements and other harmful things. 2) She needs to be able to not shit in my house.

The Bindi Bungalow serves both purposes.

After checking with some local retailers, I realized that I am not wealthy and therefore would have to build the critter condo with my own free labor. And by “my own free labor” I mean my children. And a coworker who was willing to work in exchange for pizza and pasta.

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Maybe my only shot at an engineer.

We built a footing, joists, and a floor fit for a queen. The pad was ready for the DIY Shed kit from Lowes

We traveled across the barrens of asphalt and traffic known as “The Bypass” to the home improvement store. I purchased a pre-cut, unassembled shed that would look great and wouldn’t take more than a long afternoon to assemble. How could it possibly take longer than a couple of hours? It couldn’t. Impossible.

The staff at the home improvement store were not what I would describe as the sharpest knives in the drawer. They almost crushed my truck with a fully loaded forklift because of a general misunderstanding of gravity and geometry. I was able to wave them off before the springs exploded and I redirected them in actually unloading the pallet of wood into the bed of the truck. The load was really long and was trying to fall off the forklift so the operator stacked a pallet of mulch on top of the shed and tried to set both in my truck.

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FYI, these kits don’t include roofing or paint. 

I drove home and promptly began construction… on something else. Then the next day I was able to begin on the shed.

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Just as I finished the walls, our fall weather brought three inches of rain. It was a hard week of finding time to finish shingles to protect the high-quality particle board walls.

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A few more days of details and painting and the structure was finished.

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Then we started on the inside of the house. We waterproofed the floor with flex seal and added a wire grid to keep our dear wallaby away from the front door and prevent her escape; an escape that we have determined from past experience, is probably fatal.

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After a solid three weeks of effort. It was time for Bindi to come home. She had been a resident in Mamaw’s basement for entirely too long. She had forgotten who we were and gave exactly two shits about leaving the basement. Oh well.

We loaded her into a pet carrier and drove home. We spread wood chips on the floor and wrapped her crate in blankets for insulation. Winter was approaching and she hadn’t put on any extra fur. Supermom had the fear that she would freeze to death. I had less of a fear and more of a scientific curiosity about the matter. I hypothesized that she would respond to the cold and grow fur. She did so everyone is happy.

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Queen Bindi in her new castle.

We could tell that Bindi was stressed from her new environment so Supermom decided that she needed to be able to watch her remotely.

SM: I need to see what she is doing. She could be eating the floor coating or something could get in there with her.

UD: Video would be just like a baby monitor. Whatever bad things you are worried about, listening or in this case watching isn’t going to help. You just get emotionally scarred by watching the murder happen in real time.

SM: I need to see her.

UD: She is going to be fine. She is a T-rex goat deer. She doesn’t have a box of razors or hard narcotics. Very little to monitor.

SM: I. Need. To. See. Her.

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Infrared wallaby cam 3000. 

Long story short – we got a solar panel, Wi-Fi-cameras, and a battery powered *(won’t stay charged so now I am likely running a power circuit out to the wallaby shed to power a 12v, 5mA) webcam.

Also, queen princess on high Bindi requires a leisurely area for her majesty to stretch her legs outside of her dedicated 8×12 day room so, I will likely be building a small fenced in area and a doggy door in the shed for her to hop in and out as she pleases. And I know that five minutes after I complete the fence and the webcam and we settle in to watch all the excitement beside a window-that-we-could-open-and-do-the-same-thing-but-it-is-cold-so-we-don’t, a giant hawk will swoop in and carry her away.

We will both cry but for different reasons.

Just kidding. I love Bindi and the shed and the challenge of making things work for this weird pet. It makes life interesting. And I don’t think a hawk could carry her away, she is getting huge. An eagle maybe, but a hawk? No.

Somewhat related subject – The previous owners left a palm tree and it is an impressive palm tree. I did notice that we live in an area where palm trees are not native but I really like the palm tree so I had an interest in keeping it alive. They told us that it would need to be moved into the sunroom for the winter. Makes sense.

Over the next few weeks I learned that I am the only person on the planet who doesn’t fully understand the value of this palm tree. Apparently, a palm tree that reaches eight feet tall in the south is an equivalent value to one of the tablets that Moses carried off the mountain where he talked with the burning bush and it burned moral suggestions into solid stone. I learned this fact in the following way…

One afternoon I decided to move the palm tree inside. I found it was rooted through the container directly into the ground. Problem number one. No matter, the roots were small and I could probably break it loose by grabbing the top and swaying it from side to side. I grabbed the top and felt a shooting pain through my fingers down to my spine. I swore loudly, “Holy border wall Batman! What fresh hell have I summoned?”. Of course, that is a paraphrase but the Lord was referenced at least once. I looked at my now bleeding hand and realized that this particular palm tree has a double row of serrated teeth that look like the back of a dragon. I let go of the base with my other hand and the tree rocked back into place and slapped me with a giant palm frond. My next thought was, “Fuck this tree. It can die in a deep winter freeze and rot in the spring like an unharvested potato in a field.” I relayed this sentiment to Supermom who disagreed.

UD: We don’t really need it. We will have to do this every year!

SM: I like it and they worked hard to keep it alive. We cant just let it die!

UD: Watch me! Effortless!

SM: Do you know how expensive a nice palm tree is?

UD: People pay lots of all kinds of stupid things. We bought a wallaby for godsake!

SM: You don’t mean that!

UD: I’m just angry about the thorns in my hand.

SM: It is a scratch.

UD: TWO scratches!

SM: We are keeping the palm tree.

UD: In a hole in the ground after it dies.

A few days later my stepmom, GJ, is at the house.

GJ: You need to bring in the palm tree.

UD: I’m not keeping it.

GJ: Are you just going to let it die?!

UD: Pretty much.

GJ: You can’t do that. That is a really nice palm tree.

UD: Only nice palm trees deserve to live? It is not native. I will have to do this every year.

GJ: They are expensive. Your dad can help you move it inside.

UD: I’m not in good standing with that tree I think we just need to let it die.

Later that afternoon my phone rings.

Dangraddy: GJ says you need help moving a palm tree.

UD: Nope.

Dangraddy: Did you already move it?

UD: Nope. Screw that tree.

Dangraddy: That is a nice palm tree. You cant just let it die.

UD: YES I CAN. IT IS MY TREE. I DECREE IT HAS OFFENDED THE KING AND ITS SENTENCE IS SLOW FREEZING DEATH ON MY PORCH. WHAT IS IT WITH THIS PALM TREE? DOES IT OWE YOU MONEY OR CURE CANCER?

Dangraddy: Your wife wants the tree you need to save it. It is going to frost tonight. Cover it up and I’ll come help you move it tomorrow.

UD: Just look the other way and this will all be over tomorrow. We can go about our lives and forget about this magical albatross tree.

Dangraddy: Cover the tree. I’ll see you tomorrow.

UD: Fine.

I attempted to cover the tree with a bedsheet and a canvas drop cloth. It was comical but it worked. The next morning we wedged it out of the ground and moved it into our sunroom with a furniture dolly and a work ethic fueled by bitter hatred of the tree. I stepped in dog shit and cut my hand a few more times. One of the barbs went right under my thumbnail and into the layer below. Other than those little annoyances the move went smoothly. I thanked my father for his help and for forcing me into the right decision. Supermom was happy and the tree was safe for the winter.

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Perfect fit. 

Five minutes after getting the devil tree settled.

Supermom: That container is kind of ugly and falling apart. Can we change it to a bigger pot?

UD: (Left eye twitching) …No.

With the wallaby safe and the blessed palm of Jesus safe we moved on to other projects. Like the fact that we can get a really tall tree into the sunroom.

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Everyone likes the tall tree. Supermom was right again.

If anyone is a constant victim of what they feel is misplaced effort, this post is for you. You’re welcome. It is all worth it in the end and happy wife does equal happy life. I promise. More of our adventures to come.

Oh and I almost forgot. I got this page from a coloring book and I am trying to interpret what my seven year old was trying to convey. It is from a fire safety book.

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All I can deduce is that Bob’s mom has a hot ass. Supermom says I am incorrect. 

What weirdo hangs the smoke detector on the wall. It goes on the ceiling at the highest point. They would be dead before this thing went off.  And the floating tree out the window. Why are they checking the smoke alarm in a tornado? I’m so confused.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Home

Our move looms in the distance. One week from today. There seems like an endless supply of quality junk that we don’t really need but poor people are suffering so it seems rude to throw away. Like three tubes of perfectly good Silicone Caulk. Someone could use that and I’m chunking it into a bag like I’m King Midas. “I’ll buy more if I need it.” What an arrogant thing to say but where do you put this stuff? I’m a reasonable hoarder. That’s all I can conclude.

Maybe we won’t use the crystal glassware laser lithography Santa Clause platter but that doesn’t mean you throw it to the curb like some classless trailer whore-man-person. Geez.

Some of the rooms are empty for the first time since we moved here in 2009. I had a vision from the first day we were moving in and Jane was barely older than two. She had a mullet, two from teeth, and overalls with a pink t-shirt. She was the cutest little redneck on the planet. I thought about her standing there today, eleven years old and so tall. Such an independent, hard headed but soft hearted young woman. Time flies.

We were excited to get the home and I have to give props where it is due so Obama, thank you for the first time homebuyer credit. Sure it was a form of welfare but it was for the working man because we had to put the money down before we got it back. That program got us off the mean streets of Bemis. But over the years, our house has grown crowded and we need to spread out.

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This is how they are choosing to sleep in our last two weeks at the house. One is actually sleeping in the crack between mattresses. I found her one morning sleeping in the closet.

They say the average amount of time in a home is 10 years. Looks like an accurate number for me. Both of my parents are anomalies, 1987-ish for mom and 1992 for dad. You guys are messing up the average. Time to move.

I hope we get about 40 years in this new home. I hate the uncertainty of moving and the whole dance. Low-ball offers. Arguing over who fixes a crack or ding or bad place in the paint. Home inspections that pick you apart and appraisals that magically go for about what the listing price was. I guess if the sellers get an offer in the ballpark then that must be what the home is worth?

You need lots of paperwork and bank statements too. Lawyer money, title money, closing costs, taxes, insurance, fees earnest money, utility deposits, moving trucks, and eating fast food for three weeks while you pack your house into storage units. Who says renting isn’t better? Pull up the tent stakes and move whenever you want. That sounds kind of awesome.

Our current house and our new house will both close new loans on the same day. We will load up everything we own the night before and hope signing day goes well. Then we will drive to our brand new house and vomit a load of boxes into the largest and closest rooms. The beds and furniture will be set up first and the boxes will dwindle but they will hit a critical mass where I feel that all my important things are out and the cost-reward ratio starts to favor other activities. That is how boxes of old CD’s get lost in an attic and found one hundred years later by a pouty teenage hiding from their parents. Suddenly Ashley Simpson and Jock Jams infects a whole new generation. Vintage. Retro.

So yeah. I’m excited about the house. I’m not as excited about the moving process and settling in to the new lifestyle. But…I am strong and the girls deserve a little more room to stretch their legs.

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Typical afternoon shade.

Our new house has a cool history and once we are in I will share more. For now, know that a family built the home in 1965.

 

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Notice the mother has her good southern lady pearls. 

There were four children. The oldest was eleven and the youngest was five. The home has never been sold and the youngest sibling has been living in the house while working through the parent’s estate. The stories parallel and I’m not much on things being meant to be but there are some strong coincidences that make my heart happy. The youngest sibling was so excited that a similar family was getting her family home that she insisted that we meet the older sister. We went to visit on a Friday afternoon and brought all four girls to visit. My four girls surrounded Ms. Lynn and took her on a tour of her own childhood home, telling her all the plans that they had for each room and all the wonderful games they could play. She told them all the history that she could squeeze into a thirty minute visit. “This was my room. That was my brother’s. This came from our cabin. This was from a trip to Europe.” After each room was visited and recounted the girls went to play outside on the giant steel swing-set and the older sister joined the group of adults talking in the kitchen. She embraced Supermom and I with tears in her eyes, “I’m so glad you are making my home your home. It needs little girls and playful laughter. That’s what it was built for. I hope you have many happy years just like we did.” It was a really good visit.

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Original blueprints were pretty cool.

There is something special to me about a place that was built purposefully and lived in. Made into a home. A safe place of refuge where anything in the world can be wrong but home is still there just as it always has been.

When either of my parents start talk of selling their homes and moving I understand what Ms. Lynn was feeling. So much has happened between the walls. So many memories and pictures and Christmas mornings and late nights talking the hours away. Waking up to emergencies or camping outside just far enough away to feel the danger of the forest but close enough to retreat inside if you needed to. Moving away is tough for kids, at any age. Our current home is the only one that they really remember. Only Jane has ever lived anywhere else. Lady Bug was born in our bedroom at the foot of my bed. It doesn’t get much more personal than that. We lost Biscuit here. We adopted Chester who ruined the carpet. We tried to buy vinyl hardwood and the cashier rang me up for 5 planks instead of five boxes so I was able to redo my living room floor for about twenty nine dollars. She threatened to call management on me for protesting her error. I was trying to do the right thing and pay correctly and she got so mad at me for implying she was wrong. I felt bad but I wasn’t going to get arrested for being a nice guy so we took the flooring and counted it as a win.

We hid in the master closet on several occasions during tornadoes. We rode out a couple of impressive floods. We fenced the backyard. Adopted a squirrel. Tried our hand at decorating only to find that we are not decorators. I’ll always remember the squeals of the girls when they hear that key turn in the dead bolt on the front door, “Daddys home!”. I will remember forever and ever, a period of about a year when I would put Jane to bed and tell her, “I love you.” She would say, “I love you to Daddy. You’re my best friend.” I choked back tears every single time and replied, “You are my best friend too.” My wife and I adopted the saying for each other at bedtime and Jane doesn’t say it anymore but it is as true for me as it ever was. I hope she reads what I write one day and knows that a girl never has a better ally than a Daddy who loves them.

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So… If you ever have packed memories and happy tears into boxes to move on to the next great adventure, this post is for you. You’re welcome. It is hard to look back and forward at the same time. I have a week to say goodbye to this home. It has served us well and is going to a family who needs the same care. I planted some trees that will be just right for a treehouse in a couple of years. Maybe the craziness will continue. Anyway…. On to the next.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

 

Fire On The Mountains

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit my Alma Mater for a series of nerdy engineering meetings. Things had changed on campus and I barely recognized the place. My memories were ghosts that were wound around things like the new apartment complex where a place called Cool Beans used to exist. Memories of Wednesday nights sneaking beers at Campus Pub; now a Holiday Inn Express.

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The big monuments were there. The Sun Sphere from the World’s Fair. The Henley Street bridge.

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I walked past my old dorms and around the stadium near the engineering building that had just been demolished. It is hard to think about the places that define you and how they are transient themselves. That school I attended was a snapshot in time and exists now in a different way.

I had some free time one of the afternoons so I took a drive up to the Smoky Mountains. Gatlinburg to be exact. In 2016, the mountains caught on fire and raged unexpectedly into the town. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed. Several people lost their lives.

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The aftermath was a burned hell-scape where concrete and steel were destroyed along with the forest and all was left in a scattering of grey ashes. We only saw the damage on the news. For two years we hadn’t made the trip to see the mountain.

I rode through the town on the way to the National Forest and everything was as busy and commercialized as I remembered. The entrance to the National Forest seemed the same and after starting up the mountain I pulled in a gravel shoulder to walk a well-worn trail to the Little Pigeon stream.

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It looked as pristine and beautiful as I remembered. Had it been my first visit to the park I might not have thought to look around for signs of the fire from two years before.

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Charred logs were underneath the brown and green. Moss was reforming and the charcoal was well on its way to being reclaimed by nature. The scars were there but life has started the endless rebound.

Higher up on the mountain, the vista told a clearer story.

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The old tree trunks of the dead forest poked out like quills from a giant porcupine. The green blanket covering the ground was starting the job of rebuilding a forest. All of the plants on that hillside came from another plant as a seed. The fire was terrible and destructive but it allowed them room to grow and become every bit as great as the forest they are working to replace.

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I drove back down the mountain and continued on with life.

The next weekend we had an unexpected loss of a beloved farm pet. Jane’s favorite goat Mallory fell ill and within twelve hours was dead. This goat was the smallest of triplets and since a momma goat only has two teats, she had to be bottle fed. Mallory imprinted to Jane and seemed to count the minutes between her visits. She was a loving goat and a friend to a child who has definitely needed one in the last few months.

We gathered at the farm and dug a hole in a shady spot on the hill. Everyone stood in a circle around Mallory and watched through our tears as Jane shoveled dirt onto her friend.

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There is therapy in the funeral traditions and the effort of ceremony. Doing something to say goodbye and honor a friend is good for the soul. I’m proud of the strength I saw in Jane that day.

I dare say that I know where she got it.

This morning, Supermom’s grandmother passed away after a long battle with cancer. The common phrase, “Battle with Cancer”, is often just lip service to a slow spiral. This woman battled.

We visited her several times in the last few months and each time we had a tearful goodbye because we thought, “Well… this is it.” She flat-out ignored death to take care of her ailing husband who passed away a few weeks ago. She wanted to make it long enough to attend his service and see his burial.

She did.

We sat and talked with her after Pop’s funeral and it was clear to me that her mind was better than my own. I was in awe of her selflessness. Here was a woman who had always carried a healthy weight and had been reduced to maybe eighty pounds. Maybe less. Cancer was in her joints, bones, and multiple organs. It was pressing on her nerves and causing vision issues. She was continuously attached to an oxygen tank and overwhelmed with a routine of pain meds and nutritional shakes. Earlier in the day she had seen her husband of more than forty year lying in a casket. She knew he was being buried the next day.

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She will totally haunt me for posting this but I like the peacefulness of it. 

Despite all this, she was concerned if her grandchildren needed a drink or something to eat. I never heard her complain. She used her time to ask for details about our lives and how the great-grandchildren were doing. She delighted in giving away precious pictures and memories to family who wanted them. If there is any advantage to a prolonged illness it would have to be the gift of saying goodbye.

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There was a picture hanging on her wall of her at an early age; twelve I think. The link to my wife and my second child hit me hard and it brought tears to my eyes. I could see a visual tie to a woman who shaped some of the things I love most in life. The beauty that I see around me every day. The caring that takes care of me when I don’t deserve it. The constant crafting and creativity that consumes every nook and cranny of our house. The gentle personality and sense of humor. The strength to say goodbye to the ones you love and lay them to rest.

She always had a goal and a focus. Her last goal was to die on a Sunday and despite all logic she made it happen.

Its easy in life to stand around and feel despair as your beautiful mountains are burning to the ground. Its hard to see how the world will recover when such wonderful things are lost. But we carry on. We put down better roots, turn our leaves to the sun, and hope to one day be the mighty trees.

If you are working to survive the fires of life, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Anytime you lose someone named Granny it is a true loss. Granny isn’t a term that is handed out lightly. She had my vote from the very first time I met her. She hid a bowl of homemade ice cream for me in the freezer because I couldn’t make it to the campground as early as everyone else. That is pretty special.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Augtober

We have officially put the Underdaddy Lair on the market. We have a contract on a new secret hideout with more room, which is going to become important in the coming years. I hope the new house is everything that it seems to be because I never want to move again. It is a ball of stressful bullshit. There has to be a better way. Maybe home ownership is a scam and renting is really the right way to go? Oh well, I’ve come this far so I guess we will stay on course.

I have accumulated a few blog-worthy experiences to file away in the history books so here goes…


Packing Up

While packing our things and cramming them into a small storage unit we have really realized how much junk gets accumulated over a ten-year period. We also realized that naming boxes is important. To everyone who might help us move, “Bedroom Books” is not what you might expect. A non-descript box labeled “Stuff” is not what you would expect either. Yet another, unlabeled box, has the potential to ruin two aspects of childhood if the fragile cardboard doesn’t hold together during the move.

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Hope the kids don’t find this one. 

We had gotten down to some of the last items hidden around the house and that included a box of vintage Playboys and our Elf on the Shelf. There was only one box and I was tired of moving stuff out. It was late in the day and hot. I made my decision, packed Elsie into the box and started towards the truck. The waterlogged cardboard gave way and the box dropped to the ground. I was alone but it made me laugh to think of four kids being witness to the truth of life’s secret lying in the driveway.

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Summer ended before it even got started this year. Luckily we took pause during the last week and visited with our Califamily at Discovery Park of America. If you find yourself in Tennessee around the western side, be sure to check it out. I see something new every time I visit. The indoor exhibits are themed and arranged in a somewhat chronological order. There is a progression of rooms that start with modern instruments of warfare and go backwards through history in each of the major conflicts. Somewhere around the Civil War exhibit I noticed a photo that summarized what I find truly awful about war.

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There is no way this guy was more than eighteen. Fighting a war against neighbors. It was a good reminder that those who declare war and those that fight in a war are two different age groups.

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Outside it was a beautiful day.

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Lady Bug is still pondering her own mortality. 

The park added an Escape Room and we thought that try to solve the mystery with five kids was a good idea. Everything was going smoothly until the smoke machine turned on to simulate a fire outside of the cabin that we were trying to “escape” from. The youngest children thought that we were going to burn to death because we couldn’t figure out which square object from a shelf was supposed to be used to get the last key. Nothing like some life-or-death panic to create quality time together.

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The figure on the left is someone who just jumped from a rope swing. Not a ghost. 

Following a week fully of painting and packing, we decided to hit the pause button and go spend some time on the water. We left early in the morning and rode to a special cove with a waterfall that forms a natural slide. The natural slide has a natural bump in the rock near the bottom that will give you a natural bruise on your ass. Big purple one. I will spare you the photo.


No Fun In Funeral

During our lake outing Supermom got the call that her Grandfather, Pop, was not doing well and was unresponsive. He held on for a few days but his body gave up and he passed away on August 9th. It was not unexpected but it was difficult all the same. We hastily made plans for our children to stay with grandparents and we made a road trip to Supermom’s hometown.

We stopped along the way to buy some nice clothes because most of our stuff is in a storage unit. I selected a few shirts and went into a fitting room. I heard a few other doors open and close in the fitting room. As I am standing in my boxers I look at the wall of my changing station and have a moment of deep consideration.

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Maybe it was a Bro. 

If I am in a men’s area why is there a bra? Am I in a men’s area? Am I in my underwear in a ladies fitting room?

I could have sworn that this particular fitting room was adjacent to the Men’s clothing section. I was 99% positive.

Anyway. Moving on.

We selected our garments and continued on the road. Supermom got a really pretty dress and adorned it with a pin that her Grandmother had given her as an heirloom a few weeks prior. It was really beautiful.

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At the funeral home we visited with family and mourned the loss of a good man. He had a peacefulness that is hard to describe. In the moments between catching up with family, we walked around the front room and admired some of the antique furniture.

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I wonder what he was like as a person?

I took a picture of this chair because it reminds me of something from Beauty and the Beast. I have a fear of sitting in that chair and having it grab me.

A fact that I glossed over in the previous paragraphs is that we left our wallaby at our house while we traveled to the funeral. She was enclosed in a cage-like structure but that only matter for a few hours because she escaped. So for about twenty four hours a T-Rex goat hopped around my living room and shat on about everything. She also pissed on the only remaining section of our sectional couch that has been flaking off the fake leather for the last six months. We are now couch-less. The wallaby lives elsewhere while we work to sell the house.

The next day I left for a conference for two days which made Supermom really happy. She thought it was pointless but consider this…

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I met a cool frog.

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I ate at Waffle House. Twice. Allstar, Scrambled, Bacon Crispy, Hashbrowns instead of Grits, Toast, and Waffle. Can’t go wrong with that.

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I played pool at a dive bar named Old Shakey’s because the sign advertised “Booty Tuesday – Rap Hits with DJ Meow Meow” and I needed to know what that meant. Sadly, I will never know because the guy with a SECURITY T-shirt told me that it wouldn’t be the REAL DJ Meow Meow but instead, a reasonable facsimile. If I can’t see the real DJ Meow Meow then I hardly think the three dollar cover is worth it.

Back at home and we finally listed our house this weekend. One showing so far. Here’s hoping.

If you have been too busy to notice summer morphing into fall, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Good Karma

If anyone remembers the bullying post from a few months ago then you will appreciate an update. Most of the “mean girls” decided to go to a different school which is awesome. Jane moved to a new class and is settling in just fine.

A friend, of myself and Supermom, contacted us today to let us know about an interaction she had. She met a young girl about Jane’s age and asked her what school she was attending and the girl said Tiger Montessori which is my daughter’s school. She asked, “Oh do you know Jane?”

“Oh yes. I met her last week! She is my new best friend.”

Her mother then explained that her daughter had been having trouble with some girls last year and was very nervous about not finding friends again this year. “Jane has been so nice and such a good friend. She really needed that this year.”

I teared up a little when I heard. It’s not a big overt thing but I’m proud of her.

Jane and I have been having some talks about the feeling of revenge, bullies seeking power, and the simple fact that the only way to win is to be a better person and commit to the long-game. It feels empty to tell your children things like that because there is no immediate relief for a wound. But I think those wounds need to heal slowly and leave what scars they will. Those battles either teach you to become the monster or defeat it. She was on the verge of joining the dark side and becoming bitter about how the other kids viewed her.

One of my favorite things about Jane is her knack for finding the wayward kids who don’t quite fit into the mainstream. She has a real power to befriend and include people who don’t always experience community with the other kids. She has a magnetism and energy and so much love. I told her all this and wrapped it up by saying, “Bad things are going to happen. Write that down. The only thing you can do to disappoint me is to forget all the good things about Jane because of a few bad things. Hold on to those good traits, those things that make you love. Go be a good person just to fly in the face of the few assholes who want to see you fall. Fly like a dove. Then shit on their windshield. Big goopy drops of love and understanding.”

Bullies want to be powerful but they are defeated from the outset, true power comes from the pack. From the friends that feel accepted and protected and are willing to stand beside you in return. I’m humbled to think that my daughters have already made impacts to other kids lives that will affect their lives for years to come.

So far so good. We’ll see how the rest of the year plays out but this little tidbit did my heart good on the end of a weekend that has had us more than a little stressed out. More on that in a few days.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.