thisworldofhurt

Archive for June, 2014|Monthly archive page

This Side of the Pen (Installment One)

In children, daughters, life, Parents, Smartassity, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing on June 27, 2014 at 12:14 am

Nurture vs Nature is always an interesting topic to contemplate. There are things like creativity, analytical thinking, deep emotions, or quick temperedness that you could arguably place into the nature category. Inherited traits, passed down through DNA. Perhaps no further than a generation away, from a parent, or perhaps a grandparent. Other traits, such as reason, observation and deduction, wit or rhetoric, can be learned, developed by practice, or through submersion in the culture of others.

A creative, or even just a clever mind could very well be a natural trait passed down through the chromosomes, but a quick wit—or as I label it with my own definition: Smartassity—can be developed over time.
I’ll give you an example of how clever can develop into Smartassity if properly guided.

About three or four years ago one of my daughters had spent a half an hour mixing together her world famous “special sport drink”.  It was a swirling concoction of mashed strawberries, blueberries, orange juice—heavy on the pulp—water and a splash of milk. She handed me the bottle full of the finished product and said, “Here, taste this.”

I accepted the proffered bottle and took a drink.  “What’s in this?” I asked.

She tells me of the contents and says, “You have to pay me 50 cents for that.”

I ask, “Why do I have to pay you 50 cents for a drink?”

She looks at me with complete confidence and replies in total sincerity, “Because, you’re family… it’s half price.”

See, now that’s clever.

Now just the other day—three or four years into the future from the previous dialogue—the same daughter returns from basketball camp. My wife was discussing her experience at camp, and was reading over some of the coach’s recommendations for how our daughter could improve her shooting ability. My wife had said to my daughter, “It says here that you need to put together a repetitive shot workout. You need to get a routine where you perform a series of shots from different points and repeat it over and over again.”

“What do you mean?” my daughter asked.

“Well the coach recommends that you develop a ritual.”

My daughter sighs and says, “Well, okay… but I don’t have any chickens.”

Now that’s Smaratassity.

Brilliant! I laughed for twenty minutes. I still laugh when I recall it in my mind.

I even see some early skills developing in the younger kids. For instance, just this evening one of the younger kids called from her room in the back of the house. The conversation went like this:

Younger kid yelling from the back of the house: Mommy, Daddy, Krystal (the Guinea Pig) is going to have babies.

Older kid yelling in response from the adjacent room: That’s not possible. We don’t have a male guinea pig.

Younger kid: Yes she is.

Older kid: No she…  with frustration Just go ask mom and dad about this process.

Younger kid: I know how babies are made, but she could have met someone at the Pet Smart.

Early onset Smartassity? It is possible. She bears close watching.

All writers have varying levels of Smartassity. It comes with the territory. Now to the individual writer, the transition from one side of the pen to the other seems to happen quite suddenly. It doesn’t actually. It happens slowly over time, but the realization occurs like an epiphany. What occurs is that the writer sits around writing ever chance they can, and reading ever chance they can, and then one day they read something and say to themselves—usually out loud—“Wow, this is crap. I could write better than this. In fact, I am writing better than this… and this junk got published.”

From that moment on you will seem to have this unconscious, yet slightly conscious, brain pattern going on. You will see things, think of things, observe and process things, quite differently than everyone else. For instance:

I was walking through the mall with my wife the other day, and as we were leaving one of the larger department stores we passed a sign. The sign read: Now Hiring, Apply Within. The human brain is truly a magnificent organism, possible of thousands upon thousands of calculations at any given moment. Now I’m sure that there are countless women out there that would agree that a man’s brain does not possess this ability. Admittedly, this would be a correct analysis—at least in part—as men do not multitask well. However, we are not talking multitasking. We are talking pure lineal thought moving at exceptional speed. It is this latter brain function that kicked into overdrive moments after my optic nerves sent the upside down image of the sign that I had passed leaving the store, and my brain began to unscramble the reversed image deciphering the bunched together letters reading the words aloud inside my head: Now Hiring, Apply Within.

These are words that a normal person’s brain would register to mean: this business is short staffed and is currently accepting applications, and should you desire to apply for the job, you may do so somewhere inside this building. But I don’t have the brain of a normal person; I have the brain of a writer. By the time I had walked the twelve feet from the sign to the threshold exiting the store and entering the mall, I had begun to laugh out loud. Partly because I had thought that the sign I had just passed was one of the most philosophical signs I had ever seen, and partly because I had begun to analyze the obscure slant that the brain of a writer has on the environment in which it passes through, and I had found great hilarity in my analysis. Let me explain.

I was thinking, “Well, would you lookie there? That sign is telling me that one who is in search of employment should look deep inside one’s self to inquire as to whether they may be a suitable candidate for work at this particular establishment.” I thought, “wow, that’s a pretty deep sign for a department store. At that same instant, I had a sudden flash of similar situations where I had found humor in some sign I had read, either through the unusual perspective of my own consciousness, or the exceptionally poor grammar of the composer of the sign. Unfortunately, this seems to occur most frequently in bathroom facilities.

Just for the record: a sudden outburst of laughter—no matter how small—in a bathroom, occupied by more than just yourself, always causes a moment of awkwardness. Then you find yourself in a situation where you feel you need to either explain the reason for you laughter, or get out of there as soon as possible. Often enough I will act like a mental patient speaking loudly about how excited I am about to be out in town, and how if I’m good will be rewarded with gummy bears, and that the green ones are my favorite. Then, of course, engage the other person in a line of questions about their feelings on sweet gummy deliciousness until they feel the need to escape as soon as possible. Kinda fun actually.

Every time I notice grammatical errors on printed signs it makes me laugh anyway. I won’t say that grammar isn’t important, because it is important, but often side-stepped by weirdo thinkers like myself. Like that ridiculous test that some English teachers give when they ask students to punctuate: a woman without her man is nothing

.
As soon as my professor assigned this to my class, I knew that it must be some sort of no win situation in which gender bias must be involved. Apparently men will punctuate the phrase: A woman, without her man, is nothing. And women will punctuate the phrase: A woman, without her, man is nothing. All of the sudden I felt like Captain Kirk engaging in the Kobayashi Maru. (I’m not explaining this to the non-Trekies out there… look it up.) And like Kirk I thought outside the box and found a way out. Thank you, weirdo thinking brain. I simply responded to my English professor by punctuating the phrase: A woman without? Her man is nothing!

Not really grammatically correct I know, but I’m pretty sure that E.E. Cummings proved that grammar is more guidelines than actual rules. Just goes to prove that everyone needs a good editor. Like they didn’t’ have a big enough ego as it was. I wish I had an editor for this blog; perhaps I wouldn’t have so many grammatical mistakes. A good editor that will work for free is hard to find in This World of Hurt.

Happy Birthday to… Me!

In Birthdays, children, Dads, life, love, Men, Parents, Uncategorized on June 23, 2014 at 12:06 am

Yesterday was my birthday. Birthdays are interesting days for celebration don’t you think? Where did this tradition come from, and why is it that we feel the need to celebrate our own birth? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not one of the birthday haters that are out there in the world. Those types of people are very strange to me. They tend to fall into the same bizarre categories like people who refuse to to allow their children to have chocolate milk, people who believe that St. Patrick’s day is a form of demonic worship, people who dislike honey, and Red Socks fans. They’re all weird, but we all have our moments I suppose. I’m simply curious as to where it all came from.

It’s not a biblical thing. There wasn’t any reference to the actual day that Jesus was born in the Bible, and if you think about it, birthday celebrations are a bit on the self centered side, which sort of goes against the teachings of Christianity. Ancient Egypt maybe. All those pharaohs were pretty into themselves, could be one of their inventions. I think that most of us are linked to the ancient Egyptians in that respect, as self centeredness seems a fairly common trait among humans… or at least in this country. I know it is one of my larger character flaws—big time. As my friend Pendergast might say, “A very bad habit, but one I find hard to break.”

On that note: let’s get back to me. 40 years ago I was born, and depending on the longevity of my life, today puts me somewhere around the half way point. What have I learned in 40 years of existence? In truth, not much really; however, I can share a little.

What I have learned about children is that regardless of the amount of preparation, you are unprepared. Think back to your days in elementary school. You remember when they told us that we were all unique? That wasn’t just to boost your self esteem. In fact it was some of the best advice that you could have received about parenting. Each child that you have will be completely different from one another. If you have decided that you will treat all of your children equally, then that will prove to be a bad idea. After all, your children will not be equal, no reason to treat them as if they are. Now they will all need to follow the same set of rules—rules and punishment should always be equal. But each of your children will have different strengths, weaknesses, interests, desires, goals, talents, and such. As a result, they will require different modes of encouragement. Observe your children with the wonderment. A parent wears many hats: teacher, mentor, student, disciplinarian, provider, chauffeur, councilor, just to scratch the surface. Notice that friend was not in that list. You are not their friend. Your job is to prepare them for life as an adult. Let their friends give them what they want. Your job is to give them what they need. And watch them close, because sometimes they don’t need a friend. Sometimes what they need is you. And if you have chosen to have only one child. Then you’re just cheating.

What have I learned about life is that there is an unseen connectedness that binds us all together. We exist for one single purpose: to allow the magnificence of God’s complex plan to unfurl. Just like our children, each of us is gifted with certain strengths and weaknesses, talents and ineptitudes. I have found that the only things that separate the average from the extraordinarily successful people is: education and determination. Do not confuse education with that junk that you might pick up in school—whether public, private, or collegiate. What I mean to say is that you must discover your talent. It will probably be the things in your life that you gain the most pleasure from. Ask yourself: what is it that you really love to do? When you have the answer to this question, learn about it, read about it, practice it, in short, educate yourself on every aspect of this talent that you have. More than likely, this talent will be able to bring you great success if you have the determination to work harder than anyone else to become the very best. After all, your talent will most certainly be someone else’s ineptitude. Since you love it, there is a better than average chance that it will not even seem like work at all. And always, always take the time to learn.

What I have learned about love and relationships is… well I have a formula for that. I’ll be happy to share this formula with you. But not today. I’ll be covering this formula in a future post. Think of it as just something to look forward to in This World of Hurt.

For Dad

In children, Dads, life, Men, Parents on June 15, 2014 at 12:01 am

Fatherhood is an fascinating institution. There is nothing in life that compares to the magnitude of not only creating life with the mother of your children, but then spending decades attempting to prepare the tiny person that you created for a life of their own. Children are the only things that one can experience that can both keep you young, and make you grow old at the same time. As for myself, I know that I am not always the greatest parent, but I absolutely love being a dad. I must admit that I have become the man that I am because of the men that came before me, and through their teachings.

My father is a great man, as his father was before him. He taught me more than simply how to grow into an adult, but he also taught me how to be a father when the time came. He showed me how to conduct myself in the world of adulthood, how to properly covey my ideals in a political setting, and helped me to learn how to defuse the volatile situations that may result from conveying those ideals. He instilled in me a love of art and music, and educated me on how to play an instrument of my own, tools that would carry me into a professional realm of music for many years into my adulthood.

My father taught me the importance of history, and how the learning of it will go far to prevent the repeating of it. He showed me the value of economics and the maintaining of a well balanced budget. He was the son of a World War II veteran—a Silver Star nominated Marine for merit under combat—and he passed down the necessity for avoiding conflict. I remember that both men have given the same advice to me: “You should avoid a violent conflict whenever possible, even at the loss of face, but if violence becomes unavoidable, you should meet your opponent with such aggressive brutality that it crushes their resolve.”

My father taught me the importance of loyalty to the ones that you love. He has said to me on more than one occasion that you should hold loyalty above all else but integrity. Fortunately, my father is still alive today, and I will continue to learn from him as long as his magnificent heart beats in his chest. So, I would like to tell him how much I appreciate him never giving up on me in my more impetuous years. I would like to tell him how much that I love him, and how much I appreciate his teachings. I would like to spend the years to come continuing to learn, and spending time together in laughter, retelling the stories that have brought us so much joy no matter how many times that we hear them.

I say to my dad, “Happy Father’s day” and , “Thank you, Pop. Thank you for teaching, for your guidance, for your love and compassion, for your patience and most important, for your inspiration. And of course, thank you for my life. Because of what you have instilled in me, I think I might be able to to make it through This World of Hurt.

Along Comes… Wait, Are You Sure?

In Babies, baby, Dads, daughters, husbands, life, love, Men, Moms, Parents, Pregnancy, wives, Women on June 11, 2014 at 1:26 am

There have been quite a few changes in this old World of Hurt since my last post, when I complained about flip-flops last summer. I’m still not a fan by the way, but I haven’t thrown them away either. My eldest daughter has gone off to college where she is doing well, we have the remaining five living with us throughout the school year, but my son—who is now a going to be a sophomore in high school—will turn fifteen in a couple of weeks, and I, of course, have become the worlds biggest idiot. I began a new career in the world of pest control as an inspector for Orkin. I like the new job, but it’s harder than you might think, lots of studying. The biggest change in This World of Hurt took place over Thanksgiving. Let me tell you about it.

The family loaded up the Suburban, and hit the road to Colorado to visit my parents. The day after we arrived, my wife had said that she felt kind of sick. We had just come from about 350 foot elevation in Texas to about 7,800 foot elevation in Colorado, and my wife would not have been the only one of us who had come up there only to suffer elevation sickness. The kids and I had plans for skiing and snow boarding the following day, so I told her to get some rest, and by the time we got back she will feel right as rain. After all, elevation sickness only last about 24 hours or so.

As planned, the kids and I hit the slopes, and as we were leaving the mountain, I received a text from my wife asking me to pick up a few items from the store. One of the items was a pregnancy test. Don’t jump to conclusions here; this is not an unusual request. My wife has made this request on many occasions in order to start a flow. Im sure that many men are aware of this strange medical anomaly. The way this works is this: the monthly is late, and the woman gets worried. She asked the man to pick up a pregnancy test at the store, which he does. He goes to the store, makes a selection, goes to counter, exchanges some form of legal tender for the item, and ta-daa… the menstrual flow starts right up before he even makes it back to the car.

This did not occur however. Instead, my wife took the test… twice. The test was quite clear. We were going to have a baby. All I could think was: well crap; I’m going to be the oldest dad at the little league games. All of us are actually quite excited. We will be expecting a little girl—which will bring the daughter count to a total of six to the one boy—and she is due to arrive in August. However, we have her delivery date scheduled for July 31st. Her name will be Everleigh, but we have not yet found a suitable middle name yet. Feel free to send me any suggestions that you have. It would be nice to have a name that starts with a “D”, but it’s not necessary.

Let me break down the last seven months for you. The first trimester was pretty miserable: lots of vomiting and unusual mood swings. The second trimester was pretty easy-breezy, and the baby really began to grow. She had begun to become quite active, and my wife looked fantastic with the whole motherly glow that everyone talks about. Now we are into the third trimester, and we have pretty much come full circle. Back to miserable. Resuming some occasional vomiting, and crazy mood swings: crying, laughter, explosive yelling, crying while yelling, crying due to the guilt of yelling, crying while laughing, and of course, pure unadulterated joy. All of this sometimes occurs over the course of a single afternoon. My wife still looks great, but she thinks she is fat, and her feet swell. But we are almost there; just a little over a month and a half to go.

One of the most difficult changes over the course of this pregnancy is the distance that has grown between my wife and I. Mainly we have become distant in the bedroom. I’m not talking sexual, or even emotional distance, I am referring to a true physical barrier that separates us at night in our bed. This barrier that I speak of is substantial, light and fluffy… pillows my friends, pillows. Many pillows.
In fact, my wife is up to a minimum of four pillows. These pillows are arranged in such an ingenious architectural fashion that my wife’s side of the bed more resembles that of a lounge chair than an actual sleep surface. In fact one of these pillows is actually commandeered from my side each night just before bedtime. I don’t mind. The level of unconsciousness that I am able to acquire requires no bed at all, let alone the need for two pillows. And I’m happy to make the sacrifice for the cause.

All of that said, I will be happy to have this new little girl in the world. I’m looking forward to meeting her, and I’m not too proud to admit that I’m a little jealous of my wife being the only one who gets to spend any time with this kid. Even though I will have to share time with all of the rest of the family, and my wife of course will get to have all the quality bonding through the feeding process—since she has all of the food—while I quite literally get the crap jobs. Still, I can’t wait to hold her and introduce myself. Hello baby Everleigh, I’m your Dad.
Just a little less than eight weeks to go, and you can all help my family welcome the brand new addition to This World of Hurt.

 

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