Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking forward

I often run across sayings, song lyrics, and other writings that say what I want to say, only so much better than I could. The poem below by Linda Ellis is one of those things. While it greatly simplifies the truth about life here on Earth, it still has some significant meaning. I am definitely a follower of the be here now philosophy. Be here in the moment. Be here with who you are with. The next moment may not come, and the previous moment(s) are no longer accessible. We can so easily spend our time lamenting or wistfully desiring our past, but they are memories and should stay that way. We can spend all of our time wishing for better things in the future, but that future may never come. Plus I feel that it is a matter of physics and a natural law of the Universe that there is no such thing as time, there is just this moment, no past, and the future is pure possibility that depends on you right now. Getting into quantum physics with quarks and such and how little things, even thought, can affect the world around us (er, post coming soon about science fact versus science fiction)....well there is so much more to discover there....but I am off track again...I guess the point really is that we are responsible for our own happiness, responsible for charting our own course regardless of how much we feel we are the victims of circumstance and others meddling. I'm not a person that says the new year will be different (I mean, I don't believe in time so how could I be??), but rather make the changes the moment you see they need to be made. Hey, I'm the worlds biggest procrastinator and I'm saying don't put off anything to tomorrow. Seriously, how ironic is that? :-)

So, we were in church yesterday and the service was about making sure we were ready for action, ready for anything. He brought up this poem. I've seen it before, and I am sure most everyone has, but here it is again. :-)

The Dash
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth...
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars....the house...the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard...
are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
(You could be at "dash midrange.")

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile...
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy's being read
with your life's actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they
say about how you spend your dash?



On a very sad note, my brother and his wife are ending their marriage of 12 years. Really it is about 20 years of companionship as they met as teenagers, put themselves through college, moved to NC, completed their Masters degrees, and then got married. They have two children, four and a half and one and a half years old. Like every relationship, there was always some evident strain that made me really wonder, but both of them cover it all up so well when family is around. My brother just doesn't talk about anything personal anyway (another family trait from my father I am trying to break in myself). Just a personal thought in infidelity in relationships....I'm warning you so that if you feel strongly about this you may want to stop reading now....Ok, nevermind, not going to rant right now! :-)

However there is a book I'm interested in getting that was mentioned at Single Mom Seeking called Dating for Dads, The single fathers guide to dating well without parenting poorly. I've needed something like this for a long time. Dating and parenting are often diametrically opposed activities. It is so difficult to balance MY needs, my SON's needs, and my GIRLFRIEND's needs. In the past I have tended to lose myself in a relationship. That means I focus on that person and stop being who I really am. The book Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus does a pretty good job (I think) of explaining why each person needs a little of their own space and time to just focus on themselves. In this day and age we spend eight or more hours at work each day, then I have to come home and be a parent, then I have to be the head of household (bills, cleaning, repairs, etc), then spend time with my Girlfriend, and then try to eke some time out for me. It can be overwhelming at times, but with a little effort and less whining, a balance can be forged. Be in the role you need to be at that moment and don't put too much off if you can at all avoid it. No one can really tell you how to do it, you have to find that balance for yourself. Suppressing one area entirely will only lead to an eventual explosion and crash. Hmmmm, 'managing pressure' seems to be the right phrase that comes to mind. Each area builds up pressure and you have to let it out before a limit is reached. So, I hope Dating for Dads has some good wisdom and ideas that I can use to help me, and the people closest to me in my life. :-)

I hope you had a great New Years Eve with friends, family, strangers, or all of the above, may your 2008 be the best year yet.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The reality behind the fantasy...And where Valentine's Day came from.

I've been hanging pictures, trying to figure out what vacuum I need to buy and where I'm going to buy it from, cleaning the kitchen, moving the bird, folding clothes, and reading some blogs this morning. I haven't even had coffee or my new coffee replacement Monster Lo-carb. I'm a bit in a manic phase right now I think. It looks like rain so I probably won't rake leaves.

I went to Oh, The Joys bloganistas blogroll and read about blogrolls from various areas...I still haven't followed everything she referred to yet, but at Chicken and Cheese I read about Google Reader. I have seen some excerpts about it lately, but I have so much information to process that I didn't pay it much attention. I'm starting to use it now (as in 10 minutes ago) to read the blogs I like to read and see if it helps me more than the firefox bookmark open in all tabs method I currently use. :-) I'll let you know. So I started adding my blogs to this. Subsequently I was compelled to read some, though my girlfriend is going to shoot me because I have a ton to do today. :-( Sorry Susan.

I haven't read them all today, and most are on the right in my blog roll here so I won't keep adding the hyperlinks. Hygiene Chronicles says that eggnog is like drinking snot and that made me bust up laughing. What made me laugh and nearly cry laughing was this article from Nashville Scene, and is the source of the title above (Suburban Turmoil is the blog on the right).

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I know mine was fantastic. :-)

Ok, off to buy a vacuum, picture cutter, and my son has some gift cards for Gamestop and Target. :-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Internet Information

I saw this article today:
http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/12/20/ep.cyberchondriacs/index.html

As far as the internet goes, if you want a particular answer to a question, you can find it.  It does not necessarily mean that it is right.  Correspondingly, if it shows up on 10 million websites as the answer, it may still not be correct.  Just because 10 million people believe a piece of information does not make it true.  The article also highlights our truly incredible ability to fit square pegs into round holes.  How does that correlate to this?  Well, we tend to exaggerate or morph our "symptoms" to fit what is described when they either do not fit or the slight disparity is exactly what a healthy person should feel.  Our doctors may not be perfect, our medical tests may not be perfect, and we certainly are not perfect.  The point of this entry, absolutely nothing.  Just thought I would add some random bit of data from my day.

Something that is of interest to us all...those of us that encounter the horrors of traffic on a daily basis....but it doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know....
http://www.physorg.com/news117283969.html

Some us just should not be allowed to drive ourselves about...that includes me....which is why I would love for light rail to come to our area.

~Mike

--
"Until you forget what you think you know and what you think is possible, you will never know what is truly attainable."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"The Claw decides who will go!"

Any parent these days should recognize those words from Toy Story. Probably every one of you have told your children how those machines are a big rip-off. Well, not for my son. He took five dollars of his money over to one recently and came back with four items. It wasn't beginners luck. He is slowly filling his room with things he got out of those machines. He is totally fascinated with any vending product though. If you can stick a few coins or a dollar into something and get something out, he wants to do it. He begs to do it.

He begs for everything though. We went into the grocery store the other day and he asked for everything he saw, and some stuff he didn't see but was sure it was there somewhere. It was as if his only hope for happiness in life depended on him getting SOMETHING from the store at that moment. My solid answer was no. It almost became a game, except he was getting exasperated. We got to the checkout line and he was still going strong. I reached down and gave him a big hug and said, "I love you as though you were my only begotten son!" Well, he is. The lady in front of us started cracking up laughing. My son was not the least bit amused, but it did give him pause before he started right back into it again.

And, if you are looking for a card that has just the right thing to say for an awkward situation, check out Someecards.com. You may want to make sure there is nothing on the floor you wouldn't want to roll on before you go there. Check out Life is Crap for your Christmas shopping.....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Birthday and other things

I recently had a birthday.  :-)
I do not normally say much about them.  This one is a particularly painful one as it is the last year there will be a three in the tens place.  However, my girlfriend managed to make it a very special day.  She treated all of us to a champagne brunch!  Then she said she would take the kids for the afternoon and I could go do what ever I wanted.  However, I had an appointment at 4pm to get a professional massage!  When I got home, she had cleaned the house up and made dinner for all of us (Her son, my son, herself, and I).  We played games, played the piano, and decorated the Christmas tree that evening.  What an awesome day!

Ever hear "What are you going to buy that with?  Your looks?"  Don't say it to my son, because he can.  We went shopping for family and friends on Saturday and the clerks gave us extra discounts everywhere we went, just because of him.  :-)  I'm not even kidding a little.

My son is taking piano lessons.  Every week he is supposed to mark how long he practices each day.  He doesn't practice very much anymore.  However, he marked his sheet for 30 minutes every day.  His teacher believed him and gave him a wind chime.  She explained this to me when I came to pick him up.  I did not contradict her.  Partially because I like wind chimes.  Partially because I didn't want to embarrass Brandon in front of her.  So mostly I just smiled, nodded, and gave Brandon evil looks on the side.  I admonished him when we got in the parking lot though.  I did not make him take the wind chime back or take down his practice sheet though.  I'm going to parental hell aren't I?

~Mike

Friday, December 07, 2007

Charleston in words and pictures

Thanksgiving day and dinner on a plantation? Yup. Susan (my girlfriend) and I supped on sumptuous turkey and fixings, history, and the beauty of the plantation itself. Middleton Place on the Ashley river in Charleston. Some interesting things about it are that it was a dowry, has a traditional English garden, the main house was burned down by Sherman's troops and the largest private library in the US went up with it, an earthquake in 1886 (I think) brought the remains of that house down, and the lawn party in the Patriot was filmed there. Just an excerpt though, there is much more to it than that.











Friday morning was spent at Patriot's Point. We walked through the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the USS Clamagore diesel sub, the USS Lafey destroyer, and Coast Guard cutter Ingham. We then went into downtown Charleston. Charleston is an eclectic mix of History. While there are modern buildings and businesses downtown, many homes and buildings from Colonial times all the way up to today are there. The streets are narrow and rickety and mixed with the older buildings gives it a European feel. While it is crowded during the week, the weekends are much less busy. There is so much history downtown that you cannot take it all in even over a couple of days. The pace is slow so take your time. You can always come back. Make sure you take in a candle light ghost tour while you are there, it is well worth it. It helps if it is not the coldest day of the year like it was with us though.

Food. Charleston is a place you can really EAT. OMG. Every palate can be satisfied, even stuffed.

Art. There are art galleries galore. Several on every block. All kinds of styles. They are really awe inspiring. Michael Downs and Cary Henri on display at Mary Martin Gallery of Fine Art are the two favorite artists of the paintings I saw down there. Michael Downs has an amazing talent for displaying light. The pictures on the website do not really do them justice though.


Susan found this one below...










There are tons more Here and Here. Picasa is a great thing....er, supposing you really wanted to see a lot of pictures of Charleston. I was kind of drawn to alleys, court yards, and doorways.

My recommendations for Charleston are:
Visit in the fall or spring. Winter is ok too, but summer is hot, humid, stormy, and buggy. Humid is not your normal moisture in the air variety of humidity. Humid is you sweat soon as you open the door and you have to push your way through the air to do anything. Alligators and snakes are most prevalent in the warmer months. I was real surprised to see an alligator this trip.

Maurice Bessinger's BBQ. Hickory smoked, mustard based sauce. The yellow color will throw you the first time you see it, but when you bite into it the color won't make a difference after that. It is kind of unique and you have to try it.

Carriage rides are easy on the legs (especially since the roads and sidewalks are anything but even), entertaining, and very informative. Carriage guides are licensed by the city to validate their historical knowledge, etc.

Ghost Tours. Historical, funny, and even a little spooky. Later in the spring it might even be a little foggy, which is really spooky.

Shem Creek has great seafood, though you can get good seafood just about anywhere around there. Stone ground grits with fish or shrimp are surprisingly delicious, at least to me.

Night life. I have not been to any clubs downtown, but there are many and they are easy to find if you are inclined.

Pubs and coffee houses. The Meeting Place on East Bay street makes great coffee and Mochas. It has a fairly artistic atmosphere, and they appear to have live folk music on the weekend evenings. There are lots of pubs for just hanging out too.

If you go to Middleton place and take a carriage tour, ask for Dave. He is a history teacher from Ohio. He is a bit disenfranchised with the teaching for tests curriculum as he wanted to teach his children "how to think." So he is a bit on the cynical side, but he is funny and makes the history really come alive.

*Disclaimer: I didn't proof this well so if you are inclined to be corrective, let me know where I went wrong. I was kind of rushing through it.

~Mike

Woolly Caterpillars....and taking charge :-)

While we were raking leaves the other day we found a giant woolly caterpillar in the drive way.  These things are so cool.  I walked over to it to pick it up and it immediately contracted into a ball.  It's long black needle-like spines made it look like it was hovering just above my palm.  What a really strange feeling too.  I held it out for Brandon to touch and to hold.  He was reluctant at first but did it anyway.  He thought it was pretty cool too.  We then released it into the bushes, hoping it would continue safely on it's life journey.

Brandon has a take charge attitude.  He has no problem walking into sometime and just telling people what they ought to be doing.  Regardless of whether he knows himself.  :-)  I play on a men's ancient,er, over 30, indoor soccer league twice a week.  You can always hear Brandon in the background either playing with other kids, or trying to tell us what to do.  The guys on the sidelines think it is hilarious and they really encourage him.  :-)  He definitely doesn't need the encouragement!

~Mike

Wednesday, December 05, 2007