Musing

Hero’s thoughts and witty banter.

Moving On

Some people say that you should live every day like it is your last.

That is a terrible idea. I would probably rob a bank, steal a car, buy fountain drinks at Sonic and a full tank of gas and drive until the sun went down while listening to all my favorite music and hitting mailboxes that looked fragile enough to explode dramatically into a million wooded splinters and a flash of junk mailers. It would be a flame-out rockstar ending. Thelma and Louise but with one middle-aged bald guy driving a stolen Corvette through a local park and ending up on the Channel Five news.

There is a country song about living like you are dying which is similar to the first idea except you have more time for experiencing consequence and righting the wrongs of your life. There is an end but there is time. Saying you’re sorry to people you’ve hurt or visiting the redwood forest in California before global warming creates a mega-wildfire and burns all those hippies to the ground. Maybe Nevada will get a contact high on their heathen, marijuana-laden ashes that will no doubt coat the streets of Reno. This approach to life also requires you to ignore the routine or inane things in your life in favor of experience and connection. It is solid advice but doesn’t make space for the day-to-day nuance that defines life.

After this week, I have a third ideology to offer. Live like you are moving soon. You throw away excess junk. Clean small messes immediately. Make more thoughtful purchases. Save money better and don’t buy frivolous things like the newest cat therapy back scratcher combo toy. You don’t get distracted with side projects because you have a well-defined goal; to move. The house is empty and cleaner than most times. You are free of all the lingering shit stacked on shelves and crammed into the top drawer.

I feel so free.

Go forth and live like you have to move very soon. Expect for dishes. Leave extra dishes.

You’re welcome.

Underdaddy to the rescue!

iMortal

The other night around bedtime we heard a sobbing sound from the girl’s bedroom. In a moment, our oldest was standing in our doorway holding her arms around herself in tearful and uncertain pose. She came and sat on the end of my bed and we had an interesting conversation. I’m certain that I have had similar conversations and probably even similar blog posts but since this is 50% therapy and 50% archive-for-my-children, I will share this one too.

This was our exchange:


Jane: What happens when we die?

UD: (Yay! This topic again!) Why are you worried about this?

I don’t want you and mommy to die. I don’t want to be without you.

Well, with a little luck you won’t have to worry about that for a good while.

But what do you think happens? Tell me the truth.

The truth… The truth is that no one knows. Everyone has a theory but I haven’t talked to anyone who has died and lived to tell the tale. 

I’m serious.

I’m serious too. I have no idea. I think we are so afraid of death because we fear the unknown. The uncertain. People have lots of different ideas and they hold tight to those ideas because that is what gives them comfort. It makes them less afraid.

Are you afraid to die?

Absolutely. I love my life. I love you girls. I don’t want to leave anytime soon but one day I will. My job is to make sure you can carry on with your life when I do. 

I don’t want to be without you.

I know and in a lot of ways you won’t be

What do you mean?

I don’t know how to make you feel better but I have an idea. Let’s talk about something else for a minute and see if that helps.

Okay.

Let’s talk about the way life works on a really small, basic level.

Okay.

Life and living things are really interesting because they made up of cells.

(she raises an eyebrow) I know about cells. We learned about them in school.

Good. Then you know that inside every cell are the instructions for how that cell is made. Think about how cool that is. Every single cell contains the instructions to build a copy of itself. In fact, if you are more than seven years old most of your cells have died but before they did they were replaced with an exact copy. You are made of completely different cells than you were seven years ago. Even your brain. It happens continuously.

That’s kind of strange. Are you saying I’m a different person?

No. Just the opposite. I’m saying that who you are can exist through the most dramatic of changes because you are more than any one cell. You are this continuous thing that is constantly getting damaged and updating and repairing itself. Do you follow what I am saying so far?

I think so.

The things that make you and me are different from things that are not alive. A rock will always be the same rock. Seven years down the road, same molecules. Same rock. A rock can’t have children it can only become smaller rocks. 

What about fossils?

That is the last change that something living experienced before it disappeared into a rock. Like a 3D photograph using chemistry and… that is getting off topic. Let’s take this DNA idea one step further. Every piece of your instructions inside your cells came from life before you. I didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It was inherited. That’s why we can do the ancestry tests and see where our ancestors came from. Our DNA passes forward.

But I am from you and mommy. Do I have both of your DNA?

Yes. Well sort of. 

Like, all of it?

No. We passed you about half of each of our DNA. DNA gives us our body shape and eye color. It can pass the same moles or a funny looking toe. It’s all part of the evolutionary-biology thing. But you can pass other things forward. We can inherit things from other people. 

Like what?

Like your opinions. Your humor. Your smile. A love of Mel Brooks movies or watching thunderstorms on a warm summer evening. You can inspire a passion for animals and a contempt for injustice. I hear myself saying things exactly like granddaddy does. Your sister looks exactly like your great aunt as a child. You learned to be a smartass just like me and sadly I think your sisters have too. We are constantly having an effect on the world around us. Passing things forward.

Lady Bug talks loud like Papaw.

Exactly, they have their own loud, country redneck language. It is a beautiful thing.

I don’t understand them sometimes.

Me either but you see what I mean. She learned that from interacting with him a lot and it is part of who she is. If something happens to Papaw you will still see him when Lady Bug yells at something that isn’t working properly.

(she laughs) Yeah. Can you tell me a funny Papaw story like the tree story?

Let’s stay on topic. Just for another minute so I can finish this thought. So another little fact about the way DNA passes forward, it is much more likely to pass forward good information instead of damaged information. Reproduction actually helps to repair us as a species. And when we take things from our friends and relatives it is usually things we like and things that make us feel good. Our social network makes us better too.

That is a lot to think about.

I know. It is. But I promise I have a point. Let’s go back to your original fear.

That I don’t want you to die or go away?

Yes. That one. Tell me something… if you are made of the same thing I am made of, if you are built off the same set of instructions, how can you be without me? You are one-half ME. You enjoy the same things I do. We like the same jokes. You can’t be without me if you tried.

I see what you mean.

One day something will happen to me. Hopefully it is a long time away. Like maybe I’m ninety and annoying as hell and you are plotting my death instead of fearing it. 

I won’t do that. I will be really sad.

And that is normal. Being scared of losing people is normal but don’t hang on to the sad. Set it down and keep moving forward. Take the good and the happy and pass it forward.

Like memories and pictures in Coco?

Exactly. There is no clear start or end. We are made up of our past and working together to make the future. Was any of this helpful?

Yes. Thank you Daddy. I feel better.

I feel better too. See… another connection. Now, two things… I love you and get your ass in bed. It’s late.

I love you too.


She went to bed and I sat for a minute pondering my spur-of-the-moment discussion. Was it the right thing to say? I think it was. She seemed content. It gave me peace and some perspective. It made me think of a poem that my cousin shared a few weeks ago and I have included a piece of it below.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

-John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, circa. 1624

 


If you have inherited anything through DNA or by everyday exposure, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Share a family trait that you have inherited in the comments.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Sliding Into Summer

Summer has arrived. Spring crept along at a snail’s pace but the sun is in full force and school is out. Here we go.

This might be the laziest beer brand ever. Frio means cold in Spanish. This beer is named Cold Light. Did they have a bag of adjectives and some fermented juice and think “Wow, we could start a cheap brand of beer and revolutionize the industry.” Who tries to be cheaper than Natty Light? Frio Light, that’s who.

WeekendUp2

I don’t trust anything that is only 67 cents per can. Except whole kernel corn. 

We went to a Painting with a Twist. For those of you living under a rock, PWAT is a class where everyone paints the same picture and has the option of getting hammered on booze at the same time. Somehow our trees look like we were actually sober. (We were.) It was a lot of fun. My tree wanted to have an angry face so I gave it one. Supermom says we can’t hang them over the bed now. We are going back in June for Jane’s birthday gift and I hope we paint a unicorn or a dragon. Or a unidragon. Hell yeah, Unidragon it is.

WeekendUp3

An angry face really changes the whole tone. 

Lady Bug is way overdue for some river fun. She is having dreams about riding around behind the boat with her Daddy. She even drew this picture. Luckily, summer has arrived (as I pointed out earlier) and we have a date with the river next weekend. In fact, my father’s entire side of the family has a standing invite to gather at the river and reunite with each other. We have boosted state tourism dollars from the mass migration of our family coming to visit. Be there or be square. And to all my family, take good notes and photos because there will be a couple of blogs dedicated to this one.

WeekendUp7

First glance I though she drew me peeing out of a second story window.  It wouldn’t be the strangest thing. 

One of the best professors at the University of Tennessee was a structural engineering teacher named Edwin Burdette. He passed away this week. I didn’t have a lot of interaction with him and he didn’t necessarily affect my life in a profound way but I remember his skill. He took lessons on steel and concrete and explained it in such a logical way that you really felt like genius. Like he was explaining how to count to five. Some people work really hard to show you how smart they are. Others work really hard to show you how smart you are. Thank you Dr. Burdette for being the second type.

But don’t show up late. God have mercy on your mortal soul if you showed up late.

There is a great article at on his career at cee.utk.edu.

WeekendUp5

Screenshot from Facebook. Not my work. (Obviously, I can only do angry trees. See above)

One of my friends shared a painting of Dr. Burdette that was pretty fantastic too.

Credit for the painting  -> Bobbiecrews.com

One of the last projects that Prima completed in school this year was a research into states of the United States. The drawing below is supposed to be Virginia. That thing on the side is Washington D.C. Personally, I think she nailed it.

WeekendUp4

Wonder what Ben&Jerrys would name this one?

In a small country store I found a confusing bag of treats. There were no normal chips to go with my thick sliced turkey-egg-and-cheese sandwich. Only this Hip Hop + Junk Food collaboration. They tasted pretty good. They smelled like a warm fart in a bag of ranch seasoning. I want to know what bold Potato Industry Executive brought up the idea. Well played.

WeekendUp6

Rolling down the street smoking Indo, snacking on Migos chips. Laid back. With my mind on my Migos and my Migos on my mind. 

If you are ready for all the adventures of summer then this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

 

Bullfrogs

Nothing can spin your moral compass faster than the protective instinct of parenting. We are dealing with another round of bullying at school and hearing about turns me into a seething ball of anger. Holding my composure around my daughters is even tougher.

I sat down at dinner the other night with the daughter who is having the problems. She was acting tough or maybe it was just a disconnection from the day.

“I heard you had a tough day at school.”

“Yeah”, she said without looking up.

I prodded further, “Some kids being jerks?”

Tears welled up in her eyes and she set down the book she was reading. “I just don’t understand it.” A tear from her right eye rolled down over her cheek and was followed by one on the left. “They threw a ball into some weeds and asked me to get it. I got muddy and the other girls laughed. ALL of the boys are muddy everyday but no one laughs at them.” She leaned over on me and her shoulders slumped. I knew she had been waiting for Daddy for support.

“What else did they do?”

“I tried to throw the ball back to the group but it was wet and it went way left. It slipped out of my hand. One of the girls called me stupid and another said, ‘Throw it again. Make the dog fetch’.”

I could hear how wounded she felt in her voice. I could see the scene of kids gathered around having fun picking at the lone target. A girl who was too wrapped up in fairies and fantasy to realize she was walking into a trap.

“Then they smashed my fairy house I was making.”

She likes to pile up rocks and decorate them with moss to make a fairy house. I could picture this scene too. “Who smashed it?” I asked.

“My friend told one of the boys to do it. And they walked over and jumped on it and kicked it around.”

“Your friend? That doesn’t sound like a friend.”

“She was my friend. She was just being mean with the other girls. I don’t know what I did to them.” She looked at her empty hands. Searching for some reason.

My heart ached in my chest. What can I do? I can love her beyond words. I can be her friend at home and on the weekends. I am lost at how to make things better at school. I feel tears building in the corner of my eyes. Hot angry tears.

I know what I want to tell her. I want to tell her to pick the biggest one and completely lose her shit in a tornado of rage. Bite them in the face. Poke an eye. Smash and burn everything they have ever loved into a powder. Light fires. Raze the landscape and leave nothing but scorched earth in your wake. Make those little bastards pay. Put fear into the hearts of men and all of those who would be your enemy. Take no prisoners.

I take a breath. The instinct passes quickly. I would never tell her those things and it wouldn’t matter anyway. That isn’t who she is.

I’m a little more “Old Testament” kind of guy. I was the kid who would get hit with a spit-wad and return fire with a chair. My daughter wants to enjoy animals and talk about funny things. She loves reading magic stories and watching old movies. I can’t imagine a better friend in the world and hopefully she doesn’t let the mob mentality of a few 5thgrade dumbasses change her.

I put my arm around her and sit for a minute. I need to say something but it all feels empty. “I’ll talk with the principal. It may help. It may not. Don’t ever for a second think that you will be in trouble for standing up for yourself. If you feel threatened or in danger, fight with everything you have. Once you decide to fight… don’t stop until someone makes you. People go after easy targets because they are assholes. That never changes. This will get better, one way or the other. Most bullies are just bullfrogs. They sit around their little pond and croak at whatever walks by.”

“Okay Daddy…”

I’m not the guy who cries wolf at every little problem. I feel like society at large is quick to label things as bullying. I was teased by friends occasionally but I don’t feel it counts as bullying. I did my share of teasing too but I don’t think it crossed that line. My daughter’s scenario is different. The actions are petty but constant. It can be difficult to decide if “kids being kids” or there is a persistent trend that needs intervention. Most of the kids who bully are dealing with a challenge from some other part of their lives. Some of them are just shitty human beings. When it is your child who is bearing the brunt of their actions, you really don’t care which is which.

We are going to work through this. Things are quieter at the moment. Summer is approaching so we will have a few months to rebound and several of the problem children are claiming they are transferring school districts for next fall. Fingers crossed.

I went to eat lunch at the school in a show of support and I met a few of the kids. They didn’t have fire coming out of their ears or horns on their heads. They were just stupid kids who didn’t seem to have much direction. They certainly weren’t prestigious enough to be passing judgement on anyone. One of them might actually be part bullfrog. Considering it may me laugh out loud.

Part of my visit was to try and see if my daughter was truly alone in her struggle. She did have one friend who seemed to have her back. The girl was holding half of a pair of scissors when I met her. I asked, “How well do those scissors work?”

“Just fine. They ain’t for cutting paper anyway…”

She then started to sharpen a pencil she was holding in her other hand. She stared blankly into the lunchroom crowd and let the shavings fall into her plate. I leaned over to my daughter, “It’s a good thing this one is on your side.”

“I know right. She is kind of scary but I like her. She doesn’t like people being mean to other people either. I teach her about animals and Greek Mythology.”

“Sounds like a good friend. Buy her an ice cream every now and then. I’ll pay for it.”

“Okay.”

Bears don’t mess with wolverines because the fight ain’t worth the crazy. I’m glad my daughter has a wolverine.

If you deal with any of this crap from time to time, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Bullying is complete crap. Be a friend and a safety net. That’s really the only advice I have.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Tough Love Legacy

I was reading a book a while back and one of the exercises that it wanted you to complete was writing your own eulogy. Kind of weird. The purpose was to focus on the fact that time is limited and to motivate you towards creating a legacy. Try and imagine all the things that you hope people have to say. I’ve tried several times to complete that exercise and I haven’t had much success. I started writing things down that I hope my children will learn or that I would like to tell them at some point. It ended up something like this:


You cannot be anything you want to be.

Society wants to say you can. But that isn’t true.

You cannot be anything you want to be.

However, you can do the things that you want to do.

You are free to pursue your interests and learn about anything you want. You have more tools than any generation, ever. Don’t waste it on cat videos. (Not all of it anyway.)

You can do the things that you want to do. You can work hard at those things and get better every day. If you are successful and diligent you can find ways to keep doing the things you love.

You will become the things that you DO most often.

So, if there is something you want to be… don’t hope to be it.

Go and DO it.

If you want to be a writer. Go write. Start a blog. Write a story. Send op-ed articles to your local newspaper. Volunteer to write things that need to be written and learn your craft. Get a degree in it or don’t… but write.

If you want to be a speaker. Go speak. Join Toastmasters or a local club. Volunteer to be a spokesman. Go speak at public meetings. Make a YouTube channel and rant about the diminishing cuteness of puppies. Get a degree in public speaking or don’t… but speak.

If you want to be a farmer. Grow something. Start a greenhouse in your backyard. Buy land and livestock. Go work for a commercial farm. Get a degree in agri-business or don’t… but grow something.

Go and do. If you do long enough then you will BE.

It isn’t exactly that simple but then again it is. There are roadmaps and requirements for everything you can do. Go and find the recipe for your life.

Set goals. In six months I will do this. In three years I will do that. In ten years I want to be here. Dreams are fantastic in the moment but they fade in the morning light. We all know that if dreams aren’t written down and recited then they are forgotten. Make a list. Make a schedule. Work towards a goal. If you miss a deadline, don’t give up. Re-write the schedule. Reset the goal. Tomorrow is another day.

Get rid of the notion that people are born “good” at something. Know that people are born into this world with the ability to do two things; cry about their situation and mess their pants. EVERYTHING ELSE is learned. You’ll be ahead of the game if you forget the first two instincts somewhere along the way.

Ask questions. Lots of questions. Dumb questions. Smart questions. Ask them all and remember the answers. Look for connections. The world is a mystery but there are answers. An expert is someone who has failed in every imaginable way. Impossible is a roadblock for some people and a to-do list for others. Everything new seems impossible until someone does it. You live in a world of things that were impossible to the generation before.

Remember that people can be mean. They usually attack for one reason; fear. People fear things they don’t understand and things that threaten their beliefs. It is an animal instinct. Part of the reptile brain. That is why true debate about religion, politics, and if someone’s child is less than awesome – is not a good idea. When you feel attacked try to consider why your opponent feels the way they do and says the things they say. Most strong opinions are built around good intentions.

Don’t put up with bullies. Bullies usually feel powerless and need to pick on someone smaller to feel powerful. This is an explanation not an excuse. Don’t take their crap. If they attack you physically then by any means possible, defend yourself. A well-placed elbow can enhance diplomatic relations. All is fair in love and war. Just be sure that you had no other option. Be fast to forgive and seek friendship.

This one is touchy and I hesitate to say it but… College isn’t for everyone. I prefer you take your education as far as you can. That doesn’t necessarily mean college. If you want to work in a trade then getting a degree in Philosophy doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you want to work in manufacturing or sanitation then you might not need to rack up school loans for four years at a private college on a partial scholarship for badminton. On the other hand, a business degree can be handy if you want to own your own business one day. Just think it through and have a plan.

You are not bad at math. No one is. That is a lie that is easier to repeat than it is to cure. I challenge you to find a single employee who wouldn’t raise a ruckus over a paycheck being off. Or set three kids at a table, in front of a plate with only two cookies on it and tell me people aren’t naturally good at math. Algebra will have all three of those kids nervous because 2 cookies/3 people is less than 1 cookie per person. Life is a series of word problems. Most math struggles are a vocabulary issue.

Get involved. It doesn’t take long to realize that there is no THEY out there controlling things. Only a group of WE’s that made it into management. If you don’t like what an organization is doing, join that organization and DO things differently. Or offer an alternative. Pointing out problems is easy. Implementing solutions is the real magic.

And finally… remember that life is a competition but not against each other. Not for the things that really matter. Most of the time the competition is between humanity and mortality. We need resources and medicine and social fabric. You could be the hero who cures all disease or you might be the guy who delivers his mail. Every improvement is an improvement. Share ideas. Help each other. Get excited about any and all success. Be charitable. Be loving. Be kind. It does come back to you.

I have to tell myself this stuff every day. Part of the list of good advice that I try to collect. I’m always open to more suggestions and you should be too.

I Love You,

Dad

p.s.- Shut the door when you are in the bathroom. You are not barbarians.