Musing

Hero’s thoughts and witty banter.

Merry Purgemas

Tis the season. So they say.

We joined most of the western world yesterday at a retail-outlet-near-you and completed our holiday shopping. Everyone had the same idea. It might have been just as busy as Black Friday at Hobby Lobby. Best Buy was a little better. Everywhere was crowded.

I had a better attitude while shopping this year and it freed me up to make some observations.

  • Everyone I interacted with in-person was nice and in a good spirited holiday mood. Some were tired from shopping and navigating crowds but nearly all showed some genuine goodwill towards men. One lady gave me a $20 coupon that she wasn’t able to use. A cashier suggested I make two separate purchases because the rewards system would save me $15. There was overwhelming care and concern.
  • Every car I met on the parking lot battle ground was a chunk of fiery metal cast from the forge of hell and the demonic drivers were all consumed with moving forward towards an unspoken destination and could give two shits about manners, traffic signage, or running over an elderly grandmother crossing the street. Civilization was coming apart at the scenes. I found myself happy that cars aren’t equipped with guided missiles because I would have blown at least three cars turning left (across five fucking lanes of traffic) into a flaming heap of aluminum and cheap plastic. I would have rummaged through the wreckage and taken any unburned gifts as my trophy spoils of war. There was overwhelming angst and rage.

Once we emerged from the madness and were on the ride home I thought about the whole experience. Is it possible that rage is an important ingredient in the Christmas spirit?

Is the holiday shopping experience just a version of the Purge? Do we empty the hate from our hearts onto random strangers so that we have more room for the good? Is this a version of the Orwellian Two Minutes Hate?

Purge2

Hear me out. Is there a pattern to holidays? Do you have to have good with the bad?

Let’s try some out.

Easter. It kicks off with Palm Sunday. There is a parade and kids get to carry palm leaves in memorial of the welcome ceremony for Jesus. The next Friday we get to remember the Angel of Death flying around Egypt and honoring an agreement that if a family will kill a sheep and rub its blood all over the front door then God will not murder their children. Seems more than fair to me, I love my children and I am lukewarm when it comes to sheep. There is also a brutal torture/murder where Jesus finds out he was setup by the trifecta of Jews, Judas, and (plot twist) his OWN FATHER. I guess the Romans had some blame as well. He handled it like a champ though. There was anger, sadness, violence, and the sweet release of death. Life starts to return to normal. Then BAM, Sunday it’s all rainbows and unicorns again because, just like a trick birthday candle, Jesus bounced back to life, busted out of his granite grave and encouraged a large rabbit to deliver candy eggs. DEATH WHERE IS THY STING? Jesus FTW! (Thats For-The-Win for you older people who are not hip to the text slang. If you read it too fast it would look like WTF and that would be an inappropriate sentence to associate with the resurrection.)

But you see what I mean about the holidays. The up and down mix.

What about Lent? There is a celebration period that climaxes with Mardi Gras which is notorious for splurge and excess and showing breasts for plastic beads. Drink all you want. Eat all you want. Steal a kidney or two on Bourbon Street. Live it up! Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and a week of fasting. After that, food returns and everyone is happy and ready to repeat it all next year. Except the guy who lost his kidney. He probably had enough of the whole thing. I’m out of my depths with this Catholic holiday stuff. Don’t bother correcting me on this one. I never listen.

Christmas fits this same mold. We start with Black Friday; a shotgun-start to the financial footrace to outspend each other to show our deep love through material things. There is the gluttonish excess of Thanksgiving and the pleasurable swiping of the credit cards to get discounted deals. The continuous holiday parties and office lunch. The parades of cars looking at lights. Sitting on an old man’s lap and asking him for free things. Holiday TV specials where underprivileged people are given thoughtful things by over-privileged people and we all smile on the inside because justice has been served. Life has balance. With all this warmth filling us up from the inside it is no wonder that our normal amount of ba-humbug is condensed and squeezed to one end until it erupts over the jackass who stole our parking space.

I propose that we no longer fight this process. Feel free to scream and swear. Make rude hand gestures. Throw some serious Facebook shade. Get in a fist fight in the checkout line. This is America, we do what we want. No guilt. No apologies.

In fact, I think the shift towards a real and raw America has already started. I offer the following proofs…

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Gold plated metal turkey decoration.

If anyone reading this has one of these bad boys just say “guilty” in the comments. I want to know who Im dealing with.

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No PC language here. Just some genuine Piss-Remover.

Is urine a big enough problem to get a dedicated line of stain remover? Can we blame this on free range parenting? I feel like I am missing some context here.

If you have enjoyed holiday shopping, this post is for you. I’m exhausted. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

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.

Wallahouse1

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.

Wallahouse8

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.

Wallaby_Palm

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.

Wallaby_Tree

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.

Driving Thoughts

Me While Driving A Car On A Long Trip:What if everything that appeared in the big bang was actually a mass of something traveling faster than the speed of light and a collision in space-time caused things to change? What if the speed of light is just a boundary in the phases of matter like solids melting to liquids and the reason we think it is a limit is because we don’t have a means to detect anything faster than the speed of light because all of our instruments operate on electricity? We can’t see it because we use light to see. What if the big bang was the breaking of a cosmic iceberg and energy cooled into matter and it is slowly working into one giant black hole where the energy will be consumed by the gravity well and released as x-ray bursts? Heat is just a measure of how fast something is vibrating on a molecular level. Everything on earth is a form of cycle or vibration that gets less intense and more diffuse over time. The universe is dying in a pool of energy homogeneity. That’s what absolute zero is all about the cessation of all vibration. Matter is involved in a war. An epic battle for release of electrons into pure energy like a chemical fight over a lemon seed. Oh shit, I need to write some of this down! I might forget.

 

Also Me, Sitting In Front of My Computer Ready To Write Something Deep and Profound: Why do my balls itch? What if cats had venom? Why would they need venom? Why wouldn’t they? What if people can hear my thoughts and they all conspired to just never tell me? Oh shit, we have ice cream sandwiches! I almost forgot.

 

If this happens to you, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

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.