thisworldofhurt

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Who needs a GPS?

In Baggage, children, daughters, GPS, Humor, husbands, life, love, Parents, Travel, Uncategorized, wives, Women on November 25, 2015 at 9:10 pm

There will be many families hitting the highways during the upcoming holiday seasons, and mine will be among them. I consider myself to be an adequate driver, somewhere around average, but I have, unquestionably, one of the worst senses of direction of any person alive. My internal compass malfunctioned shortly after childbirth, and has yet to be repaired. So, don’t follow me, I only drive around in expanding circles until I recognize a place I’ve been lost in before.

However, I understand directions, and have developed good skills with a map and a compass, and I will admit that I often rely on GPS, and frequently use Onstar. My wife on the other hand, is the only person I know who will tell the computer generated Onstar voice that they are wrong. Her problem has never been knowing the way to get to where we’re going. Her problem is deciding on where we’re going.

For instance: Like most men, I really don’t care where we eat. So, the old Abbot and Costello routine plays out every time we face hunger.

“Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t know. What do you feel like eating?”

” I don’t know. What do you feel like eating?”

That is, of course, unless I’m really hungry, and then I will make a quick decision. And then, of course, my wife tries to talk me out of that decision by asking me if I want to eat at just about every restaurant that we pass along the way.

And it goes like this:

“Where do you want to eat?”

“Taco Bell. Quick. Tasty. Cheap.”

“It’s the other way. You’ll have to turn around.”

I turn around.

“There’s Wendy’s… How about KFC?… We could go to that sandwich shop.”

So, basically our road trips consist of: a pilot with no sense of direction and a navigator with issues in decision making. Now, take them, and lock them in a car for 10 hours with 5 girls.

It goes like this:

“Sounds like our exit’s coming up.”

“Onstar is wrong. It’s the next one, I’m pretty sure.”

“Dad, tell her to stop using me as a pillow.”

“Mom, she took my thing.”

“That’s because she took my thing.”

“Her feet stink.”

“She’s touching me.”

“She’s breathing my air.”

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

Now couple all of that with the fact that, although my wife knows exactly how to get there, she has a total inability to tell me how to get there, at least not with any consistency.

She chooses a different method of direction giving every time. Sometimes she will give me cardinal directions, which are excellent, if the sun is up—It’s not like I carry a compass in my pocket. But she tends to reserve this one for nighttime driving, usually when she is giving me directions via telephone. So, there I am driving around in circles with the phone to my ear and my head out the window looking for the North Star.

Other times she will call out the directions in simple commands: Right. Left. Straight. This is my preferred method, provided of course she is paying attention to where I’m going. Otherwise, she will look up from a recently sent text message and say, “You should have turned left back there.”

She often incorporates the point method. I don’t like this one because I never see it coming, and even once I have been made aware of the method chosen, the finger pointing system requires a level of observation and multitasking I do not possess.

She now has a newly developed and implemented verbal system I am calling IVANS (Indistinct Verbal Ambiguous Navigation System). Until this new system came online, I had no idea that-a-way was an official direction.

So, wherever you may be traveling to this season, when you see the Suburban with the Texas plates, the one full of girls, with a lone man at the helm and the good looking blond in the seat next to him, looking at her phone and pointing in no particular direction, slip in behind us. We will be diving in expanding circles until I find the North Star. Then we will be taking a right, a left, and a sharp turn that-a-way before pulling into the driveway of This World of Hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

Salty Tears and Somersaults

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Personal space has been in short supply in our house for quite some time. We have had kids doubled up in rooms for years, and we actually have quite a few rooms. However, things changed a bit over this last summer. The oldest, who has been attending South Plains College in Levelland TX, found an apartment in Lubbock TX, and branched out on her own. We are proud of her, but The Middles were ecstatic. (The Middles are my two freshmen girls for those of you not having read This World of Hurt before).

There is a term, Dead Man’s Shoes; it’s rarely used anymore. Nobody really knows where it came from. Maybe an ancient nautical term dating back to when shoes were hard to come by on a sailing ship, or perhaps it references battlefield promotions during war, or it just be a position with no designated retirement age, but they all tell the same message: You’re not getting this until somebody dies. Thus Dead Man’s Shoes, and that’s what The Middles were so happy about. Somebody dies, and somebody else gets promoted. Somebody moves out, and a room becomes vacant. Somebody else moves in.

In fare Verona and all that,(look it up), I tell you this to set the stage.

My father was in town over the weekend, and we were spending a little time as a family. The moving process was smooth. The Middles talked it over, decisions were reached, one packed, and the other helped her pack. But as it tends to happen to all of us who have more than one place to keep our stuff, moving all of the belongings from one place to another continues to drag on. And this was the catalysis to the explosion.

My wife was scolding the Middles over the condition of their room, to which one blamed the other for the untidiness. To paraphrase, one said, “I’ve been keeping my room clean. The only thing on my floor, are the clothes that she left in there when she moved into the other room.”

As you can imagine, the comment elicited a response from the other, which in turn, created a snowball effect. Tensions became tight, voices became elevated, and they were displaying the same mannerisms they used to when they were 9, and I had to hold them apart while their angry fists swung at the empty air between them. My wife had instinctively assumed her feet apart, knees bent, hands flat, fingers extended ninja defense pose, her eyes darting from one child to the next, ready for action.

I was slowly backing out of the room, my head swiveling about looking for safe harbor, which I found, as my wise old father had already dropped anchor on the living room couch. Pirates stick together.

I looked at my father, and he looked at me, eyes wide. If we had popcorn, we would have popped it, because there was about to be a boxing match. Let’s get ready to rumble.

The arguing gave way to yelling, hands turned to fists, teeth clinched, and jaws set. And then. … something entirely unexpected happened. The lips on one of the set jaws quivered. A domino effect, a chain reaction moving from crinkled cheeks, to closed eyes, to slack shoulders, and then. … crying. This emotion created a desire to be hugged, and she reached for her sister. Despite the preparation to defend herself in bloody combat just seconds before, the sister returned the gesture, locking into an embrace.

Some kind of electrical current was exchanged, perhaps some kind of unknown female emotion sharing program that men are ignorant of, but whatever the science, the other one began to cry as well. There were exchanges of I love yous and laughter. It was like falling down an elevator shaft. First you’re here, and then you’re Ahhhhhh.

I looked at my father, and he looked at me, eyes wide. If we had Olympic score cards, we would have held them up, displaying straight 10s across the board for the feat of emotional gymnastics that we just witnessed; even the Canadian judge would have given them a 9.5 for the ninja pose alone.

I will admit, like much of my life living with my girls, I can understand part only of it. At least in principle. After all, men have a similar way of working out issues. We just don’t typically cry or hug. If some fella wrongs us, it’s not uncommon to go exchange a few words, throw a few punches, buy him a beer afterwards, and become best friends for 40 years. But like I said earlier, pirates stick together.

So, plot a sound course for safe harbor, and keep a weather eye on the horizon, because the winds of change move quickly when you’re in the middle of This World of Hurt.

 

Welcome to This World of Hurt

In Babies, baby, Birthdays, daughters, Humor, husbands, life, love, Men, Moms, Parents, Pregnancy, Uncategorized, wives, Women on August 3, 2014 at 11:24 am

In thinking back to your youth, do you recall the difficulties in falling asleep on the nights preceding exciting events? The night before a big family gatherings or an exciting vacation, Christmas eve or your birthday, any attempt at drifting towards the restful slumber greatly sought after by adults, as quite an impossibility. When it did come, it was short and largely ineffective at providing any true rest. Sleep was simply the brain powering down non-essential portions of the body and placing itself into a stand-by mode in order to allow time and space to fold around you, creating a slipstream to pass instantaneously from one day to the next. Through the worm hole, the days merge, night turns to morning, and you woke up and see all your awesome relatives, hit the road to Disney Land or wherever, open your presents and check your stocking, eat cake and ice cream, blow out your candles, and hear “Happy Birthday”.

As you get older this feeling of sleeplessness and the brain’s form of suspended animation still occurs, but at different times and for different reasons. It usually precedes surgeries, or court cases, and is similar to the kind of sleep that undercover police officers must experience: neither unconscious nor awake, like some form of slumbering preparedness. Like a set animal trap or a bucket of water resting atop of partially opened doorway, resting in silence until that precious moment and then Wham! death… or utter hilarity as the case may be.

For adults, family gatherings are sometimes a dreaded event, and if not, it at least requires enough preparation that by the time the night arrives, sleep comes easy. Family vacations have a similar effect, the planning, the packing, the checking and rechecking, and checking again. And then let us not forget the impending drive to the vacation destination that must be rested up for. Christmas eve is similar to family gatherings, in that there is a lot of preparation for the arrival of Santa, and there is always, always plenty of stuff for the elves to put together on site. Most adults get sleep the night before a birthday in the same way they would any other night of the year. Try as we might not to allow it to happen, birthdays become just another day to adults until we hit triple-digits.

Yes, sadly for adults, birthdays become quite commonplace and are but a ripple somewhere between Wednesday and Friday. That is unless the anticipated birthday in question is the birthday of a child yet to be born. On the night before this birthday, the adults become filled with the overwhelming anticipation that sends us right back to excitement of our youth. Because that’s what children do: they keep us young, and they make us old at the same time.

My wife and I got little sleep the night of July 30; we were anticipating a birthday the next morning after all. We were up and out the door by 3:30 am. We were at the hospital by 5:00 and beginning procedures by 7:30.

A cesarean section birthing is one of the most terrifying events that I have ever been through. Now, I know right now there are hundreds of women out there that cannot believe that I just made it out to be all about me. They are probably speaking out loud to the computer screen, “What you have been through? You?! What about your wife? She is the one who is numbed half way down her body, the one being cut open. She is the one who is having the baby. You’re just sitting around trying to not get in the way.” I can’t blame them for that, but let me follow up by saying that I would have traded places with my wife in a heartbeat.

I have been able to do some pretty tough guy things throughout my life. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am a “man’s man,” but I am a man of action when the situation arises. I am probably like many other men out there in that I am a fixer: a problem solver. There are things that need to be done, overcome, worked out, or what have you, and I recognize these issues, formulate a plan of action and implement that plan in order to reach a resolution in the timeliest manner possible.

But now the time has come for a child to be born, and my wife is too small for that to occur in a regular way. I just can’t fix this. Now I have to allow one person to cram a needle into her spinal cord, allow another person to take a razor sharp piece of steel and slice into her body. All I can do is hold my wife’s hand and pray to God that she can’t see the unadulterated terror in my eyes that I am feeling at this point. This stranger now pulls out the baby. The baby starts to cry. My wife cries. I start to cry. Then he hands the baby off to another group of people who rush her off to another part of the room where she continues to cry.

My wife looks at me and says, “Go be with our daughter. I’ll be fine.” Let me tell you ladies, there are few things in the world harder than to try to decide in a split second where you need to be. I have never felt so disloyal in my life than when I let go of my wife’s hand to go see our baby.

The team of nurses measured, and tested, and rubbed, and cleaned, and finally they handed me my brand new baby girl. I took this bundle of perfection over and sat down beside her mother as the doctors finished up with their work, but she had been given some additional meds and was asleep. I looked at my wife’s still face, held our baby girl, and wept until I saw her eyes flutter open and a smile stretch across her face.

Some of you are thinking all of this is very dramatic. Doctors perform C-sections every day you may say. True enough. People fly airplanes and drive cars every day too, accidents happen, and I didn’t want one to happen today. Two of some of the most important people in my life were being worked on by doctors, and I couldn’t do anything but sit there and try to stay out of the way. There are fewer more helpless feelings of inadequacy that one my experience than to turn the well being of a loved one over to a stranger, let alone two loved ones simultaneously.

But we had a more than professional staff of people working for us, and they worked brilliantly. At 8:09 the morning of July 31st, we welcomed the newest addition to our family into the world. “Happy birthday baby”.

And if you are a follower of this blog—wink wink, nudge nudge—you are probably wondering what middle name we decided on. We ran through a gambit of names, no doubt about that. But in the end we went with something simple and close to the heart. My wife said that I could name her after the first woman that I ever loved: My Mom. So we did, and her middle name is Sue. I think it has quite a lovely ring to it wouldn’t you agree?

Everleigh Sue, welcome to This World of Hurt.

Everleigh  Photo by: My Oldest Baby, Kyndra

Everleigh Sue Hurt
Born: July 31st, 2014
8lbs 15oz
20.5 in

It Cost How Much?

In children, Dads, daughters, Humor, husbands, Investigations, life, Makeup, Men, Moms, Uncategorized, wives, Women on July 24, 2014 at 11:51 pm

My wife’s grandmother loves to host family gatherings. Periodically she will prepare large meals, and family members come from all over to simply partake of good food and great company. This is great for my family in that we happen to live just a short walk from all of the festivities. Despite this fact, my wife and I are almost always late to these events. It was during the preparation to attend one of these events that I made a most alarming discovery.

People who know me on a personal level would attest to the fact that I have more than one obsessive compulsive tendency. I like labels to face the same direction, I prefer things arranged in categories and in order from greatest to smallest, I hate for my food to touch, I eat one thing at a time and I’m not an overt fan of odd numbers just to name of few of these little eccentricities. On the other side of the coin, my office space is a train wreck of paperwork to any one other than myself, and I often appear to be a little more than scatter-brained in more than one aspect of my life. For that matter, if it wasn’t for doing certain things in a repetitive fashion, I would constantly loose most of my personal items. I am aware of this flaw, and as a result I have developed myself into a creature of habit to cope with my forgetfulness. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even be able to keep up with the contents of my pockets once the pockets are emptied. My wife has developed similar routines for things like her make-up bag.

Mascara, eye liner, base, blush, lipstick, eyebrow pencil, deodorant, toothbrush all have a specific place. They are each used in the same way and in the same order everyday. I am unclear as to what the order is—and truthfully I don’t really care—but I am aware that there seems to be a level of efficiency within this order. I also know that when it comes to this beautification ritual, my wife has a few dashes of Asperger Syndrome mixed in. Do NOT mess with the order of things.

So, the family begins preparing to head over to the Grandmother’s house—we call her Ree by the way—and join the rest of my wife’s family for food and socializing. About 10 minutes after my wife told everyone to get ready, I was ready. My son was ready about 4 minutes after that. It took him a little longer; he has hair. Around 6 minutes later, during the final sequence of my wife’s procedures she realizes: the next item is missing… Dun, Dun, Duuunnn!

There is a sudden explosion of vocal prowess as my wife assumes the persona of the Great and Powerful Oz. And when I say this I don’t mean the “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” feverishly pulling levers and turning cranks. I am talking about the full on bellowing voiced, floating apparition beset by spurting jets of flame. “Who took my deodorant?!” came the voice of OZ. And the usual stream of accusations ensued.

The eldest daughter is always the first to be blamed when something of mom’s goes missing, and more often than not, she is the culprit. The scene unfolded as usual. The eldest is blamed. She denies it. She almost always denies it. Especially when she can’t remember where she put the item she has taken. But she also says she never eats or drinks in her room or takes items from the house, yet we seem to find all the missing cups and bowls lined up along her dresser, and she drives around in a car full of spoons. Nevertheless, she denies the deodorant theft. Others get blamed. They deny.

“She took it!”

“No I didn’t, it was her!”

“Nuh uh, it was probably, so and so. She always takes other people’s things.”

“It wasn’t me! Mom probably just lost it, and she’s blaming us!”

The boy looks at me. I look at him. We both shrug.

“It doesn’t matter who took it,” proclaims OZ, “No one gets to eat until my deodorant is found!”

This is where I begin to question the accuracy of my character parallels. We have to head up an investigation, or we don’t get any food. What’s next? Fire balls at my straw-filled friend? Threatening my miniature K-9? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m hungry.

Where do I begin? The oldest daughter’s dresser? In one of the youngest’s many bags or purses. Perhaps one of the two middle girl’s beds. Both of them seem to actually sleep in the bed with all of their most prized possessions. But then I think: hold the phone. Someone has taken the deodorant, and that someone knows that they have taken it. I can wait this out. I look over at the boy, and I can see that he is thinking the same thing. We stand up, and move quietly to our respective rooms.

I can’t say what he was doing in his room, as I was not present, but I can tell you how I had handled the situation. I was laying prone on the edge of the bed attempting to remain aware of the progress of the ensuing investigation while focusing on the interior functions of my body. I was willing my heart to slow its beat, keeping my breathing deep and steady, clearing my mind of thought, hoping to coax my body into some sort of deep, zen-like state of consciousness in order to stave off the inevitable hunger pains.

The investigation drug on. The verbal finger pointing continued. Deny, deny, deny. My brain was working on some Cliff Note version of Chongg Ran while my stomach was acting like a three year old who’s crayons got taken away. I was growing hungry, and it was jacking up my inner peace. The girls were searching the house like a forensic team and arguing like senators. The house was shaking and banging, and full of indecipherable squawking and sniping. It sounded like a room full of construction workers and seagulls.

I had to do something before I starved to death, and raking the imaginary karesansui wasn’t working anyway. I got up, and went off to see the wizard. “Come on baby, it’s just deodorant. Let’s go eat.”

“Not just any deodorant. It’s clinical strength, and it’s thirteen dollars a stick.”

I had no response. Surely, surely this cannot be correct. She must have simply overlooked the decimal placement. A dollar thirty sounds much more reasonable. After all, I have seen her deodorant stick next to mine on a few occasions. In my mind’s eye I can recall that her stick is perhaps slightly less wide and about half as tall. Mine cost around two fifty. So a buck thirty sounds about right. I asked for clarification. She repeated and confirmed that thirteen dollars was indeed the price.

She applies this deodorant on a daily basis. Not weekly. Thirteen bucks for a half a stick of deodorant. For that price you should swipe it under your arm Monday morning and should be sweat free until Saturday afternoon. I am reeling at this new knowledge.

I try to justify this expense in my head. After all it is “clinical” strength. That seems suggestive of some kind of intense laboratory work, pointy heads in lab coats, grants and special funding, animal testing, things like that. Maybe there is some kind of medical prescription process that has to be met, and if so, perhaps our insurance covers the majority of this additional cost… No, this is a ridiculous thought process. You wipe it under your pits!

I had to leave. I went to find my brother-in-law. I was certain he would agree at the ludicrous price of thirteen dollar under arm wipe. And in fact, he did, but he was able to bring some previous unrecognized logical parallels into the mix. He asked two questions, and two responses later, the world became right again.

“Would you pay 150 bucks for a torque wrench?”

“If it was Snap On, sure.”

“Would it make you mad if somebody borrowed it without bringing it back?”

“Sure it would.”

“Well, there you go.”

Finally, somebody that can bring a little sense and clarity to This World of Hurt.

Chicktography

In Chicktography, Codes, husbands, life, Men, Uncategorized, wives, Women, Writing on July 10, 2014 at 12:24 am

It is somewhat debated among scholars—at least the ones who study such things—when the earliest forms of writing occurred. It seems that when the scientific community believes that they have discovered the beginning, an earlier form is uncovered. Of course all forms of writing seems to be predated by the use of numbers and pictures. However, all of this is irrelevant for that in which I elude. My point is, that as soon as mankind began to write, there also was a need formulate ways to keep the writing from being easily discoverable. It would seem as though man began to write on Monday, and began to formulate cryptography on Saturday.

Secrete codes have been utilized in every society, on every continent, in wartime and in peacetime for as long as we have been using written communication to exchange thought. Mankind has been a clever bunch.

However, there is a form of cryptography that predates them all, and has seemed to go practically unobserved by even the most well studied and devoted scholars. Interestingly enough, roughly half of our world population is so well versed in this obscure form of communication that it is truly like a second language, passed down from generation to generation through intuition and observation. The other half of the population is so ignorant to this form of communication, that in most cases, the attempt to decipher the true nature of the hidden encryption can cause short term—and on rare occasions irreversible—madness. This extraordinarily complex form of communication has been a long time fascination of mine. I have studied it for decades now, and despite years of intense observation and mental documentation, I am only marginally closer to understanding how it truly works. No, that’s not accurate; I have no clue at all how it works, only that it does indeed exists. I have, however, at least given it a name. I call it Chicktography.

Chicktography is the encrypted form of communication that women use—perhaps unconsciously—imbedded within all dialogue. The complexities of chicktography are vast, and these complexities are compounded by the fact that there is absolutely no consistency whatsoever. It would also seem that all members of the female gender seem to have some form of biological decryption device that allows them to communicate with each other unimpeded and with a lack of confusion as to the meaning to that in which they speak. The male gender is not equipped with this decoding device. Nor is there any written key that I am aware of. Additionally, I have discovered through years of trial and error that just because a woman is speaking, it does not mean that they are using code. Conversely, when she is speaking it does not mean that she isn’t.

For instance, I am notorious for being a night owl. I do some of my best writing at night. But I also read, or research some topic of interest, perhaps play the occasional video game or maybe watch some movie that my wife won’t let me watch while the children are awake. My reason for staying awake is irrelevant. The point is: my wife will ask a seemingly simple question… Or is it? I will hear her draw back the covers and slip into bed. The she will ask, “Babe, are you coming to bed?” And there you go. “Crap!” says my male brain, “what does that mean?”

I begin to analyze the tone, inflections, speed of the sentence and anything else I can think of. Did she pause slightly after the endearment, babe? How did she use the word? Was it soft and delicate? A motherly tone, soft and gentle, calming or persuasive. Like a request in itself, “Babe, I love you so much. I need you to do something for me.” Did it come out more like a bark? Like the tone she would use to scold the cat for climbing onto the counter. Perhaps there was a softening of the consonants in the word bed, opening up the possibility for a completely different interpretation of the meaning. Crap! Crap!

What is she really asking me here? Is she looking out for me, reminding me that I have an early morning, and it would be in my best interest to power down and get some much needed rest? Is she saying that she would really like to make love to her husband, provided that he isn’t too daft to figure it out? Perhaps she is telling me that the cotton is cooler than normal, and some additional body heat would be appreciated. Maybe it’s just a precursor sentence that actually requires an answer in order to ask a followup question.

Such as, “Babe, are you coming to bed?”
“Not yet.”
“Well I forgot to turn off the light. Could you turn it off for me?”

Or, “Babe, are you coming to bed?”
“Yes, I’m about to brush my teeth.”
“Okay, could you bring my phone when you come. I need to set my alarm.”

Or maybe she she’s just curious to know whether she is going to wake up to read a new blog post. She always gets to read them before you do. Seems only fair since she is the one who has to put up with me day in and day out.

At this point I’m beginning to think that I have over analyzed this whole situation. So I just roll the dice, power down the computer, or whatever it is, and go to bed. I slip into bed, and my wife says, “You didn’t have to stop writing, I just needed you to bring me my phone so I could set my alarm.” Or worse, I stay awake until the the early hours completing my writing, or finishing the movie or what have you, only to find her grouchy the next morning because I so clearly misread the perfectly obvious hints that she was dropping about the fact that she was really in the mood.

Stupid decoder ring… I got to get that thing in the shop.

I have often been just simply biting the bullet, and just asking if chicktography is being used in the communication that is taking place. “That wall just seems so empty,” she will say.
My response will be, “Baby, is that girl code for you wanting me to hang a picture, or move a mirror or something.”

If anyone out there has a code key for chicktography, or an improved decoder ring, or special glasses that will let me read between lines, or for that matter some device that will let me know when these lines that need to be read between are present, I will pay top dollar. After all, chicktography is the native tongue here in This World of Hurt.

 

Hello Joe

In Coffee, Dads, husbands, life, Men, Mornings, Uncategorized, wives on July 4, 2014 at 12:13 am

securedownload         Some days start in in such a way that makes you consider whether or not you would like to pursue the day, or return to bed. Every day is different, yet they all have varying degrees of similarities. In each home across the world these daily rituals exist. Different of course from one home to the next. Some rituals present in one household will be completely void in another. Despite my desire to be a a somewhat unpredictable person, the truth is: I am a creature of habit. And the habit that controls each of my mornings, 365 days a year—I am sure that I’m not alone in this—is my devotion, or should I say addiction, to coffee.

This morning began like the all of the preceding days. After a few attempts my wife successfully woke me. I am not a rise and shine kind of guy. I would say that I don’t like mornings, but this isn’t quite an accurate statement. A simpler way of stating it would be to say that I’m just not an overt fan of waking up. Whether in the morning, or perhaps just an afternoon nap I don’t like having to return from my unconscious state. But either way, coffee makes it all better.

Normally my wife gets up quite early, as she has rituals of her own, and she persists in repeatedly waking me from my slumber until I finally climb from our bed, stumbling to the kitchen in my quest for my old friend Joe. However, my wife has the week off and has no need to rise from bed at the same hour as myself. Therefore, with the exception of my wife informing me that it is time to get up, I am largely left to my own discipline to get out of bed. You might think that it’s unfair that my pregnant wife has to wake me up in the morning on her week off, but it is that assumption that is unfair. I would be more than happy to set my own alarm to wake myself, but my wife won’t allow it. Understand that an alarm powerful enough to truly wake me would also generate a noise so loud that it could in fact wake a good portion of the western side of the county. My wife would never allow such an infernal contraption to break her slumber.

The alarm that I would require would go off like an air raid siren. My wife’s alarm sounds very much like a set of muted wind chimes. My alarm clicks on screaming, “ALERT, ALERT. INCOMING FIRE. ALL PERSONNEL, GET TO YOUR STATIONS!” My wife’s alarm goes off in a gentle whisper, “Psst. I must apologize for this, but it is indeed time to awake.” How she manages to wake up so easily to such subtleties is truly mind boggling to me. But despite the fact that she has the week off, she sets her wind chimes, and wakes me up each morning. After that, I’m of my own.

And that’s just what happened this morning; just like all the other mornings. And after an attempt or two, I climbed out of our bed, and I shuffled to the kitchen, depressed the power button on the coffee pot, and as I headed to the bathroom to take care of other morning necessities, I could hear the water beginning to reach it’s optimum temperature of around 200 degrees. Perfect.

A few moments later my bladder empty, teeth clean, pits deodorized and bald pate moisturized to a shine, I returned to the kitchen to fill my cup. The window above my sink looks out to the western sky. It’s nice in the mornings. No harsh morning sun baking the pre-dawn kitchen, and equally true in the evenings as the gorgeous West Texas sunset casts the room ablaze in a wash of rich colors that can only come from that particular place at that particular time. Unique, every time, and the only time of day that you could call West Texas absolutely spectacular. As it is an absolute truth that we have some of the most stunning sunsets in the world. My coffee pot sets along the counter on the adjacent wall to the right of the sink.

As I approach the coffee pot, what do you suppose I saw there in the three foot of space between the sink and the coffee pot? Clean dishes dried overnight and awaiting to be put away? Neatly folded stack of dishtowels? A cutting board somehow overlooked, remnants of fresh baked bread scattered along the score marks left by countless slices from a perfectly sharpened knife edge? No I didn’t. What I saw was my coffee decanter, heavily tarnished by weeks of use; rinsed daily, but rarely washed.

Most coffee decanters are somewhat aggravating to me in that the manufactures of the things haven’t seem to grasp the fact that if they would increase the size of the spout, even by fractions, that there would be less spillage during a rapid pour. I know that right now you are probably saying to yourself, “Well Jeff, if you would just take a little more time, and pour evenly you wouldn’t spill a drop.” I see your point, but when it comes to coffee, I say, “Screw patience.” And it should make no difference, as the mouth of the decanter should simply be wider. I mean, for goodness sakes, have we learned nothing from Mickey’s? However, in this particular situation, the problem wasn’t the size of the spout, the problem was that the decanter was resting on the counter between the sink and the coffee pot.

My sleepy mind registered the decanter on the counter, purely recognition, similar to the way your brain would recognize the face of a roommate as you passed them in a hallway on your way to the morning shower. An eternity of microseconds later my brain flooded with with a surge of adrenaline as I suddenly became aware that the counter between the sink and the coffee pot is not where the decanter should be located. My head whirled to the right, hoping against hope that I would’t see what I knew deep down that would see. And see it I did.

A steady caramel colored ribbon of precious personality stabilizing nectar flowed from the filter basket into a widening pool. A pool now directed by gravity across the countertop, around the base of the decanter, across the thin strip of wood between the rim of the steel sink and the edge of the counter. The weight of the liquid no longer held back by the surface tension sent droplets in some places, short streams in others, cascading down the front of the cabinet doors to the hard floor where it began collecting in pools once more.

My only consolation was that no one was awake to hear the less than prestigious choice of vernacular that I had chosen to relieve the frustration at my oversight. Nevertheless, I did manage to repeat the choice word several times as I waded through the pools of coffee at my feet.

Somewhere in the midst of the wiping, and the sopping, the ringing and the rinsing, I managed to get a good deal of water into my wife’s rubber dishwashing gloves. I’m sure that I’ll have to answer for that later. Wish I had a kid around to blame that on. But a saturated towel and five minutes later, the counter and floor was once again clean, and the coffee pot restarted. Ten minutes after that, I was sitting at the table with my old friend Joe, who was doing his part to reconstruct the framework of my mind to be more amiable. Not the worst morning I have ever had, not by a long shot, but not the greatest of beginnings. Just another questionable morning in This World of Hurt.

 

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.

Dangerous Fashion

In Beach, Body, Footwear, life, Men, Sandals, shoes, shopping, Uncategorized on June 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

Through a series of events I recently ended up spending the night in Charleston, South Carolina, a city that in many ways reminds me of my old stomping grounds, New Orleans. Except that it’s cleaner, and surrounded by beaches. The food isn’t as good, and the music scene is not even close to comparable, but at least you don’t have to carry your money in your shoe to fool any would be mugger that lurks around each dimly lit corner of the Crescent City. Don’t worry, I still love you Big Easy.

What I discovered in Charleston is that I’m glad I don’t have to depend on my footwear to protect my finances. The shoes that I brought along with me would have done their job splendidly on the filth covered streets of the French Quarter, but were less than desirable when it came to beach sand.

Bear in mind that this trip to Charleston was an unscheduled detour on our trip. My wife, who had made a business trip to Portland, Oregon, earlier this year had mentioned that if we were to detour slightly and head to Charleston, she could have traveled coast to coast this year. Without giving my footwear a second thought, I said that would be a great idea, so while heading south toward Columbia, I just kind of real subtle like, turned the wheel to the left and drove to Charleston.

After arriving, I removed my shoes for a nice walk on the beach with my wife, and upon returning to the car I soon remembered something that is easily forgotten when living in an aired climate such as West Texas: beach sand is not easily removed from the skin, especially moist feet. Damn. I didn’t pack my sandals. Which I am not a fan of by the way, and not just “my” sandals but any sandals. To me sandals are like the Eiffel Tower of foot ware; they may be very well made and very safe, but when you look at them they just appear to be incomplete. But like I said, I didn’t pack my sandals, so moot point right?

Well like them or not, I looked in some of the local beach shops for a pair of sandals, and decided that I would just have to pass on spending fifty plus dollars on a pair of incomplete shoes. Unfortunately, the high price of unfinished footwear led me to the purchase of an item that I have not had on my feet since I was six: the “flip-flop”.

I see people in all walks of life, all over the country, in all types of both urban and rural settings with flip-flops upon their feet. In fact I was discussing my experience with a gentleman I met down at the hotel’s pool area named Lee, who told me that he, on occasion, even rides his Harley wearing flip-flops. So my question to all of you people who seem to get around with the seeming ease of mobility while having the soles of your shoes held in place by nothing more that a string between your toes is: How in the hell do you do it?

For crying out loud, I could barely get from one block to the next, and I am not too proud to admit that it took a conscious effort to accomplish this. First let me say that I do not like the sensation of anything being between my toes. I don’t do toe socks, toe rings, and there is no way that I am even going to attempt to to try on a pair of the new five finger shoes that have become so popular; not gonna happen. But just a few years ago I couldn’t stand for my food to touch. In fact I would prefer all of my edibles to come served on individual plates, but hey, now I can eat fajitas no problem. Baby steps right? So, I strap these things between my toes and off I go.

I don’t take two steps before my brain realizes that something is going seriously wrong. I would guess that the communication between my brain and the rest of my body is going something like this:

Brain: Ok everyone, we’re trying out some new shoes, so lets get him up to speed and then we’ll switch over to auto-pilot.

Body: Understood we are ready for walking procedures.

Toes: There seems to be something stuck between us, but it is causing no real discomfort.

Brain: That is part of the new shoes; It should be ok. Are we ok to launch?

Body: Ready.

(A few steps later)

Inner Ear: Losing power!

Brain: Feet! What the hell is going on down there!?

Feet: Toes are curling, sir.

Brain: Toes, Report!

Toes: The footwear is not attached! Repeat, the footwear is NOT attached! We are curling in an attempt to grip the shoe.

Brain: Understood, good work. Arms! For crying out loud slow your pace before you put him over on his face!

Arms: Sorry, sir. Slowing.

Brain: Heart! Lungs! Relax down there. We had some minor issues with the new shoes, but the toes are compensating.

Heart and Lungs in unison: We percieved danger! Are you absolutely sure that additional oxygen flow is not required.

Brain: Affirmative Heart and Lungs, there is NO danger. Stand down. I repeat, stand down.

Inner Ear: Power is back up, sir. Balance is reengaging.

Brain: Systems check.

Body: Running at 94 percent, sir.

Brain: Toes?

Toes: We’re holding our own, sir.

Brain: Good work. Keep it up.

And this is how the rest of my day went. Me attempting to maneuver around the streets of an unfamiliar city, while a portion of my brain is devoted to making sure that my shoes stay on my feet. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to remove the flip-flop while driving, before I became a danger to everyone else and not just myself. Driving barefoot is equally uncomfortable, but I believe that should be a blog all unto itself. For now let me just say that driving barefoot is intentionally making something that you have done a million times suddenly uncomfortable by removing clothing. Driving barefoot would be similar to grocery shopping in a speedo.

I managed to survive day one of wearing one of the most dangerous garments ever created by man, and I look forward taking them off at the end of day two. And so do my toes, who have to spend yet another day gripping the soles of an incomplete shoe to insure that it remains in place. For them it’s just one more day in This World of Hurt.

Mother-in-Laws: Myths and Legends

In children, Dads, daughters, husbands, life, love, Men, Moms, Mother-in-laws, Parents, Uncategorized, wives, Women on January 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Opposites attract. Or so the saying goes. In the scientific world, this holds up pretty well, but in the realm of love?… That saying about birds and flocking tends to be more spot on; at least half of the time. This is certainly the case with my wife and I. When I was younger I had often—only partially joking—said that if I were to get married, I would want someone just as “bad ass” as I was. Well, I found her. It is uncanny how many similarities that the two of us have; many more than our differences for certain. What is even more strange is just how completely different our parents are from one another, especially our mothers.

Now, I know that  we are supposed to  be somewhat predisposed to dislike our mother-in-laws. Similar to how dogs are supposed to hate cats, and in a way, I guess we are… then again, maybe not. I know that my dog would like nothing more than to eviscerate the old tom cat that struts his enormous girth past the living room window every day, but I have conversely seen plenty of pictures of dogs and cats nuzzling each other in those cheesy pet calendars at the mall. The point is: some people love their mother-in-laws and some people hate them. Both my wife and I happen to love ours, and the two of them also enjoy the company of the other. However, these two mother-in-laws are completely and totally, similarly different.

My mother’s name is Pam. My wife’s mother is named Pat. Pat and Pam. Pam and Pat. Both of them spent much of their career’s in public education: Pat, currently the business administrator at our local school, and Pam, a retired diagnostician for special education. Well, I’m confused already. This is going to be very interesting to write. 

Both are political conservatives, but while Pat remains “Pro Life”, Pam is a steadfast believer in that one should always have a choice. Both believe in the second amendment, but while Pat is in simple agreement, Pam packs a .40 caliber Springfield and has no problem putting a couple, center mass, into any would be assailant trying to infringe on her constitutional rights. Pam operates her vehicle at a speed conducive  to the weather and road surface and she is almost always late. Pat drives at the speed of sound regardless of the road or weather and she is almost always late. I love engaging in conversation that results in laughter, but occasionally, I will go a little too far and push the boundaries of acceptable humor. I can tell when this happens because Pat will use the phrase, “Oh my stars,” where as Pam will simply give me the finger. Pat probably said, “Oh my stars,” when I used the words “bad ass”, in the first paragraph. Pam uses profanity just like any other noun, verb, or adjective. It took several weeks of persuasive speaking before I was able to convince Pat to wear a temporary tattoo—on the underside of her wrist—to work. Pam wears a tattoo on her neck that would make a member of the “Hells Angels” envious. Pam Scrapbooks well into the night. Pat plays piano at church on Sundays.

Do see what I mean? The two of them are exactly different, and still, Pam’s eldest son managed to fall in love with Pat’s youngest daughter. Two different ladies that raised two very similar children; children that were destined to become bride and groom. You could drive yourself crazy trying to discover how this all came about. How all the cosmic tumblers of fate had to fall in just the right sequence. How the particular parentage, combined with the individual personalities of their children, resulted in those children growing into adults that were so meant to be together.

What ever the formula for destiny may be, I am grateful for it. I love the fact that I can find such wonderful—and similar—council in two different individuals that I love and admire. I cannot speak of your personal relationship with your own mother-in-law—as I am obviously not privy to such information. However, I will say that regardless of your relationship with her, she is owed your gratitude. After all, she is the woman that helped shape your significant other into the person that you fell in love with. So, the next time you see your mother-in-law tell her thank you. Thank you for raising the best friend that any of us will ever have. Besides, scoring a few brownie points with the moms-in-laws of the world is never a bad thing. Not to mention, brownie points a rare commodity when you’re living in, This World of Hurt.

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