Monday, August 31, 2009
- Martial arts training on Saturday morning. It was Testing Day (although I didn't test) and we had a fine lunch at the New Peking Chinese Restaurant with our Wing Chun Do (WCD) friends.
- Worked the rest of the afternoon on balancing past month checking account statements. I was a little behind - as you can clearly see here.
- Saturday night, the Middle-Aged Woman, Ellie B, Queenmaker and I went to the Magic Bag Theater and saw guitarist extraordinaire Laith Al-Saadi with his trio. We were joined by their son, Beloved, and his paramour later in the evening. The two opening bands were not impressive - but Laith was fantastic. I highly recommend that you rush out and buy his two CDs immediately. If you enjoy the sound of a well-played electric guitar and you like your music with some blues, rock & soul and mixed together and drenched in melody - I've got your ticket, right here!
- After a late night out, I was back at Ambrose Academy Sunday morning to observe and help out some highly-experienced WCD practitioners who were taking their final test to become Black Belt candidates. Congratulations to Beloved and Julie - they did great.
- But I strained my back during the proceedings.
- Sang a new solo during worship for the first time later that morning. It seemed to go OK. I probably won't feel comfortable until I've done it a few times.
- Helped my good friend, Paul Johnny, shoot a brief cooking video at his house. It was fun - and he fed my a great meal of lamb ragu afterward. And nectarine cake a la mode.
That's it. Just a routine weekend.
Friday, August 28, 2009
The Thankful Award from Sunshine at Such life in the tropics
& The Honest Scrap Award from Jess at This Life Is Mine
I know I still haven't fulfilled a last requirement of the Honest Scrap Award (passing it on to ten other bloggers) - but I've spent so little time reading other blogs lately, I will have to defer that final step a while longer.
Thanks again, Sunshine and Jess. I really appreciate your support.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I got about 4 hours of sleep Tuesday night (I'd like to blame a late Tigers game on the west coast) which is really n-n-n-no-no-no..........body's fault but mine*. And Wednesday morning at work was fairly uneventful. But, at lunch time, one of our offices lost power - and all the systems in that office went down for a couple hours. And just at the point where they were going to shut that office down for the day, the power came back on (that's good, right?). But it only stayed up long enough for us to get most of the computers up and working again. And then the power went out again. So they sent everyone there home anyway.
When power was restored again, the utility company wouldn't commit to having uninterrupted power for our building until 6 pm. So we fretted over whether or not to bring systems back up - and once the computers in that office were functioning normally, we started to get calls from another office that they couldn't open, edit or save documents properly on their computers. So we tried to figure out what was causing that problem - but over two hours later - when the problem magically disappeared - we still hadn't figured it out.
Eventually, I went home. And had some dinner.
And made someone angry.
And made someone cry.
So now I'm really tired - but pretty upset (you know that state where you feel that you are somehow vibrating?) - and there are several extra people in the house who will probably be here until about 1 am.
I'm just hoping that tomorrow won't s*ck any worse. But I could be-
I can't bring myself to say it.
* Thank you, Mr. Plant
(you can skip to 5:15 in the clip - if you prefer cutting to the chase)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good..."
-- B. Benjamin/ G. Caldwell/ S. Marcus
So almost two weeks ago, I wrote a post about The Golden Rule which my friend, Pamela, from The Dayton Time commented upon. Her comment was so much in sync with what I was trying to express, that the next day I posted a follow-up quoting from her comments. The two of us were "of a like mind". We were simpatico. And so everything was cool, right?
It ain't necessarily so. Unbeknownst to me, Pamela was going through some rough times - and so, I think, some of the comments that I made here trying to be humorous might have seemed to be just rude (For example: "Hopefully, you've seen that you inspired today's post. If not, may I respectfully request that you - read the damn post!"). Others that were intended to be statements that might apply to anyone reading the post might have seemed to be directed at Pamela in particular ("Can you say 'hypocrite'? I thought you could!"). And the R.E.M. quote that I used to open one post could certainly have been interpreted as a slam on Christ and Christianity (which was certainly not my intention - although, to be honest, I think Christians are just as likely to violate The Golden Rule as anyone*).
So why write a whole post about this stuff anyway? Isn't it perpetuating a mountain that got created out of a molehill?
Here's why I think it's worth writing about: 'Cause stuff like this happens all the time. Sometimes we get so busy patting ourselves on the back for being clever or snarky or whatever - and we don't bother taking the time to be clear, to help people understand, to sacrifice being a smart-ass long enough to clarify, to reassure, to be a good neighbor in the Blogosphere.
Look, I have no illusions - being misunderstood is something that happens to everyone sooner or later. And relationships formed in the E-niverse (Blogosphere, insert your favorite term for this electronic world in which we trod) are particularly susceptible; I think in large part because our interaction is missing so much of the unspoken content (body language, tone of voice, inflection, facial expressions) that is such a huge part of communication in The Real World.
Even the Middle-Aged Woman just went through an episode where she was misunderstood and publicly flogged (mentioned just in passing on her blog). And she's so sweet, that this incident alone is incontrovertible proof that no one is immune from misunderstanding.
But I think if we make an effort to be honest and clear, if we give each other the benefit of the doubt, and not look for ways to take offense...
It'll make it a lot easier to win friends and influence people. And who couldn't use a few more friends these days? Or any day?
* I count myself in that "Christian" group - so I'm talking about me, too.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
- Last week (it seems like last year) I started a post with a song lyric from R.E.M. that may have left people wondering about me. I would like to state, for the record, that I do love Jesus - and that is not "a hollow claim".
- If I hit it big in the Mega Millions drawing tonight I'm committed to paying off Captain Dumbass' mortgage. You can check out Us and Them for more information - and to see the carnage left behind by the hostile takeover attempt staged by the Middle-Aged Woman and Ms. Partly Cloudy there today. Would you believe it if I told you that I am not related to these women in any way at all?
- Trying to do a blog entry while you're eating lunch at work kinda s*cks.
- I want to write a blog post about being misunderstood. But last night I had to write up four important emails (i.e. not just forwarding some joke to everybody I knew) and do a script rewrite for a video I'm supposed to shoot Sunday afternoon. And then it was 2 AM.
- Can you say "over committed"? I thought you could.
- But I had a nice time in Petoskey this weekend. And I plan on having a nice time in Greenbush over Labor Day weekend.
- Especially if the Mega Millions thing comes through.
- Did somebody mention donuts?
- Lunch time is over. But randomness? Who can say?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
So the Middle-Aged Woman's combined birthday/anniversary gift showed up yesterday...
I think she likes it.
My birthday/anniversary gift still hasn't arrived...
[Another d*mn clerical error, no doubt.]
But no Cricuts were
[You KNOW I'm being careful...]
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Click on the book at left to visit a brand new blog where men and women both get a chance to offer their perspectives on a book of their choosing.
Sprite's Keeper and I weigh in on
John Irving's The World According to Garp.
Tomorrow: I plan to get back to basics here at Speaking in CAPS.
In fact, I feel a Meaning Of Life post coming on.
Keep your fingers crossed and...
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
In the Middle-Aged Woman's other blog ('cause you can never have too many), she has recently posted about her dread of returning to work as a sixth-grade teacher. This is nothing new. We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Teaching Dread. When you still don't want to do something after a whole year, I think the warning lights and sirens are supposed to come on.
Anyway, on her other blog, the MAW said:
Husband feels this is simply another expression of my desire to do "something else." That whatever I find myself doing, what I want to be doing is "something else."Although I have not been substantively misquoted, the quote is woefully incomplete - and therefore I don't feel that it accurately represents my thoughts or feelings on the topic.
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, isn't it convenient that I, too, have a blog*. So here's...The Rest Of The Story.
When the MAW first expressed to me** (three nights ago by time this is published) how she was starting to "freak out" over the idea of returning to work soon, she spoke primarily of her concerns that the procedures to eliminate her back pain had not yet borne full fruit (and whether they would ever do so) and that continued need for painkillers would also be a problem.
Because I'm a guy, I decided to ask at the outset of the conversation whether this was one of those times when I was supposed to listen and empathsize (I read somewhere that women really like that sometimes) or if my role was to offer suggestions, direct feedback, try to "fix it" (all the stuff guys just love to do; I think I read that somewhere too). The MAW said I should play it the way I felt it.
So toward the end of our conversation, after taking a few minutes to process all the "new sh*t [that had] come to light", I offered the following comment:
[It ain't verbatim - but it's good enough]
Well, I think your fear over returning to work has three primary components:One more thing and I'll wrap this up. Around the time school let out, the MAW and I talked about whether she would return to teaching in the fall. Even before we spoke, she had let the school administration know that she didn't expect to be back. I told her at that time, if she couldn't or didn't wish to return, we'd just have to change our way of living in order to do without her salary.
One part is the amount of anxiety you would be feeling about returning to school any year, under any circumstance. This is normal stuff - to be expected - don't let it get the best of you.
A second part is the worry resulting from your continuing back pain. But since the timetable outlined by the doctor for expecting full relief has not yet expired - and you won't have to return to work for a full two weeks after that - let's withholding judgement and continue to hope for the best. Still, you must be sure to share your anxiety over any on-going pain and the need for medication - as well as your fears regarding a full, pain-free recovery - when you see the doctor.
The last part is your continuing struggle with the desire to be doing "something else." It seems to be the general rule that, after a while, whatever you are doing ceases to be the thing that you want to be doing.
So that's The Rest Of The Story. There's a lot more to come on this story, I'll bet. I, for one, am just full of ideas and opinions on the whole situation. Nurturing happiness, making and keeping commitments, dealing with pain and stress - it looks like I'm set for material on Meaning of Life posts for the foreseeable future.
Of course, living and blogging aren't the same thing. I guess we'll have to see just how close to one another they are.
* Just this one - at least until Wednesday when I unleash a new blog upon an unsuspecting world with the inaugural edition of He Read / She Read! Actually, I'm hoping that the world - or at least some part of it - won't be completely unsuspecting. So please, tell your friends & plan to stop by and read it for yourself. Sprite's Keeper and I are hoping you will let us know what you think of it.
** The 2009 Edition of Teaching Dread
Friday, August 14, 2009
"And here I was, thinking the problem with the golden rule was not with the golden rule, but that people don't practice what they preach."I must certainly agree that what is wrong with followers of The Golden Rule is far more severe than any flaws that exist in the rule itself. Or - as the late Fred Rodgers might say -
"Can you say 'hypocrite'? I thought you could!"
That Pamela is one sharp woman. Yes, she is.
* but in ourselves" --Julius Caesar, Act I Scene II
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I can't say that I love Jesus
That would be a hollow claim
He did make some observations
And I'm quoting them today
"Judge not, lest ye be judged"
What a beautiful refrain
The studio audience disagrees
Have his lambs all gone astray?
-- New Test Leper by R.E.M.
Everybody knows that the world would be a better place if we all followed The Golden Rule, right? And everybody knows that The Rule is commonly stated as:
"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
But - and here's where the whole question of judgment comes in - doesn't The Golden Rule only work if the way I prefer to be treated and the way you prefer to be treated are (at least close to) the same thing?
Of course, as the world becomes a smaller place and we begin to learn things we never knew about distant countries, unfamiliar cultures, different preferences in human interaction - it becomes clear that presuming other people want to be treated the way that we want to be treated has a high probability of inaccuracy.
Maybe the New Golden Rule will need to be:
Try to treat other people the way they want to be treated.It's a tougher rule to follow - because it means you actually need to understand another person, rather than simply assume that person is like you. But isn't that the underlying idea - having as much consideration for those around you as you have for yourself - of the original Golden Rule anyway?
Anyway, that's what I was thinking. Now I'll be quiet and listen to what those around me have to say.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Jen and I agreed to write down our reactions to the book and post the results to launch a new blog, He Read / She Read. Well, that inaugural post is nearly ready-for-prime-time. So keep on the lookout here - and at Sprite's Keeper's place - and soon it will be revealed just where and when you need to go for literary criticism of a multi-gender variety.
It'll be like..."Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria."
You won't want to miss that.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
You know her as the Middle-Aged Woman. I call her Snoplum.
Now, here she is - without further ado, a woman who needs no introduction (if you need character references, click here), the Lovely and Talented One, the Unmitigated One, the Magnificent One, the Little Pretty One, the One and Only One....
Mr. Steely Dan, and whatever.* -- JS]
It starts like this...I am at a concert with friends, Paul McCartney and Wings just so you know how old I am. Did Jim Styro mention that yesterday was my birthday? I think he may have. I'm thirty-sixteen now.
So, I'm at this concert, but there's a problem. The show cannot go on. Linda has lost her voice, and can't sing tonight. An announcement is made, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are very sorry to have to inform you that Mr. McCartney will not be able to perform tonight, as his wife is unable to provide harmony vocals. Unless....is there anyone here, by chance, who knows all the words and can sing the harmony parts? There IS? My God, what are the chances? Please report to the backstage area, immediately!"
And up I go, NOT taking the lead, NOT becoming the star, NOT rocking out for all to see. I become one of the sex-ay chicks at the microphone in the back row, dancing in a coordinated manner with my stage mates, and providing soulful harmonies to one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. I am a big hit. I bow modestly to the cheering of thousands.
Or....Styro and I are finally invited to the home of close, personal friend, Randy Newman. We ask him to play something for us, and he agrees, as long as I will provide the vocals. Of course my performance rivals that of Linda Ronstadt, and he signs me up to sing on his next record (Yes, record, I already said I was old).
I love to sing (in case you hadn't already gleaned this information), but am not much for the spotlight. Jim Styro sings in choirs. He does solos all the time. He performs in musicals, and sings on stage. I don't know how he manages. I once asked a friend how she found the nerve to sing in front of people and audition for a show. She didn't understand the question. What nerve? I just do it, she said.
I sing in the car and the garden. Someday, the theater group Jim Styro works with will do Guys and Dolls. Maybe the actress playing Miss Adelaide won't be able to go on stage one night....
[Thanks, Snoplum - and
Take care, everyone.]
* True Steely Dan fans need no explanation. For the rest of you, listen to Bodhisattva (Live) [from the Citizen Steely Dan box set or the CD editiion of Steely Dan Gold.
Or click here].
Monday, August 10, 2009
Beauty comes in many forms. There is a beauty unique to things we encounter that are fresh and unspoiled. The beauty of a child, of a young person whose faces seems untouched by worry, disappointment or age, of a flower in bloom, or a beach stretching into the distance - the sand untouched by anything but waves at the shore.
Physical beauty, though compelling, is transient. But beauty of the mind can be more lasting.
When I first met the MAW, she looked as pictured above - long straight blond hair, a sweet smile, a nice figure, pale & pretty. We both competed on our high school's competitive speech team. I was the smart nerdy boy, extra skinny, with bad acne. She was a smart nerdy girl who hated high school sufficiently that she had decided to graduate in three years. The only girl my age that had ever shown interest in me [not the MAW] became my first girlfriend (we were set up by mutual friends to attend my Junior Prom). When the MAW returned after graduation to see the fall play, her autograph in my play program expressed an interest in me that was unexpected (although I won't say unhoped for). No one that smart and pretty had ever expressed an interest in me as an object of their not-just-as-friends-type affection. My first girlfriend didn't stand a chance.
I proposed to the MAW the summer we both turned nineteen. I was spending the summer living with my grandparents in Evart, Michigan, because my family had moved to the suburbs of Chicago during my freshman year of college - and I had no desire to follow them. The MAW visited me there and we drove into Cadillac to be alone. I already knew that I wanted to be with her all the time - but there was no way to make that happen any time soon. But in a little park on the edge of Lake Cadillac, I asked her to marry me anyway - and she said yes.
She made beautiful babies.
I helped (as often as she would let me). Our first child did not come quickly. This troubled the (not yet) MAW at first - and greatly upset her later. But when the happy news came, it carried her through her first pregnancy like a champ. She had never seemed healthier. And The Girl was a wonderful first child; a (relatively) easy delivery [sure, that's easy for the guy to say - but the MAW would say the same thing; ask her], a happy baby and good sleeper with no health problems. Our dream of starting a family together had come true. I remember it as a golden time in our marriage.
Admittedly, the second pregnancy was not so easy. It wasn't that there were a lot of medical complications particularly - but for the MAW, it wasn't much fun. She was wishing for the pregnancy to be over almost as soon as it had begun. But The Boy was, if anything, an even more cheerful baby than his sister. Perhaps not quite as good a sleeper - but he was healthy, with all the standard equipment intact. We had a matched set and agreed that our reproductive days would be behind us. But the golden time was over for awhile.
She's a professional.
Once both of the kids were in school, the MAW struggled to determine what she wanted to do with her life. But once she settled on becoming a teacher, she excelled in everything she did. Perhaps more importantly, she seemed to love the work; deciding on the best way to convey information to students, working and interacting with the kids, developing new relationships with her mentors at the School of Education and (once she was hired into a full-time position) her teaching partners.
I can't explain why I love my wife. It's not something I can prove or quantify. I don't understand it really - and I don't intend to spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. The reasons I've listed above are all good reasons - but the explanation they provide is woefully incomplete somehow. My wife is a far more intelligent, talented and charismatic person than she has ever admitted to herself; it may be that in the past couple months she has come closer to realizing that than ever before.
The past few years have been as difficult as any in our marriage. And I know they have been hard years for the MAW all around. Although there have been times when I didn't see how our marriage could go on as it was, I never had a desire to see it end - nor can I imagine feeling that way. I write all this because I do not take it for granted that our marriage - or any other - is indestructible. I think I understand more fully now than at any other time, just how fragile a relationship can be. I sometimes wonder how much of the foundation on which our marriage was built remains.
But fragile and weak are not the same thing. My love is strong - though it's not unconditional - and can cover "a multitude of (our) sins". My attraction to and desire for my wife are stronger than ever (that hasn't always been a good thing, actually - at times, a cause of much hurt and frustration for me over the years).
But enough of that noise - Today, we celebrate!
To my friend, my companion, my advisor, my lover - I say:
Happy Birthday, Snoplum.
Happy Anniversary, honey.
I love you.
And don't forget to come back tomorrow for
The Middle-Age Woman's Guest Post
You won't want to miss that!
Friday, August 7, 2009
- I prefer to do interesting things - rather than let interesting things happen to me.The first involves making my own choices - which may or may not be good ones, which may or may not meet my original expectations. The latter seems based on judgement of events in hindsight - perhaps filtered through the view of others.
[You: "That really sounds interesting!"
Me: "Interesting? It was a tremendous pain in the @$$!"]
I don't believe that this preference means I can't "go with the flow" - or need to control everything (I go both ways in different circumstances). But I would rather be active than passive, I guess.
- It is poor use of another human being to keep them in a nearby room (figuratively or literally) primarily for one's own comfort or solace. Although you may derive benefit from the knowledge that someone will "always be there for me" - it is a diet on which few relationships can grow or thrive.I think the above is true regardless of whether the parties involved are introverts or extroverts - although those preferences would certainly be a factor in how the parties deal with issues of solitude vs. interaction.
Perhaps these ideas will become pieces of the puzzle that get woven into the broad tapestry of my Meaning of Life posts (which remain untouched these recent weeks). Or not.
Sorry I didn't have any more lingerie shots for you thrill seekers. You never know when I'll go all Alistair Cooke on you.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Things haven't been easy these last few years; the Middle-Aged Woman would tell you the same thing. Sure - she hasn't been feeling good for a lot of that time. And getting older has certainly doused the flames of her affection for me. Hell, I had almost gotten used to waiting for weeks at a time for some feminine attention. But that's not the whole story.
Oh, I knew about the whole Jody Foster/"switching teams" thing. I did my best to take that blow like a mature adult. But to find out now - after nearly 25 years of marriage! - that my wife shared the beds of two other women in Chicago...
Well, a man has to have some shread of pride.
I've never thought of myself as the sort of person who would be unfaithful - and what happened the other night wasn't planned. But a man has needs, too. And when I saw her for the first time, I literally stopped in my tracks.
For my part, the attraction was instantaneous. She didn't seem to notice me at first; which was probably a good thing since I went all bug-eyed and slack-jawed. I thought she was just about the cutest little thing I had seen in months. Petite, with nice features and a hard, compact little body. I decided on the spot that I had to have her.
Last night, I decided to get a picture of her wearing something soft and silky.
Hey, I'm not saying my marriage is over - but I'm tired of being ignored. If the MAW is too busy, too tired, too sore to spend some time with me...well, I know a girl that's just hanging on my every word.
Come on over here, baby, and let me plug in my...microphone. Oh, yeah!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."I consider myself lucky that the best boss I ever had also became one of my best friends.
Charlotte's Web, E.B. White
Apart from the fact that we have very similar personalities, there are three reasons why I think of Chico as my best boss:
1. He's an extremely intelligent person - who didn't lose his common sense along the way.
2. He understands the importance of making decisions at the right time - even when you can't be sure the decision itself is right.
3. He knows that the most important part of any organization - is the people.
For someone in a position of authority, this last point is critical. It has become a cliche in job interviews to make a statement like "I really enjoy working with people" - but how many who make that statement really mean it? Or, to look at the point from a different perspective: Who wants to work for someone who really doesn't value other people? (Not me.)
I've learned several valuable lessons from Chico over the years - both as boss and friend. Here's a few of my favorite bits of Chico philosophy (some are pretty much direct quotes):
- I would never screw you for the company; I would only screw you for my own personal gain.
[The importance of people over organizations reduced to a nutshell - and leavened with a believable measure of self-interest and/or humor.]
- The people who run the world are the people who show up.
[As they say with some give-aways: Must be present to win.]
- In a dispute with a woman, sometimes it's best just to ask her - "Honey, what's the right answer?"
[A close companion to that strategy is this idea:
Some things are more important than being right.]
It's not often that someone comes along who is a good boss and a true...
Oh hell - you get the idea!
Thanks, Chico. And to all you loyal readers and listeners out there -
*Title courtesy of Randy Newman
Saturday, August 1, 2009
And this was NOT the year-end one. So by process of elimination, it must be the mid-year.
Anyway, they are done. Everyone knows how I feel about the work they have done so far this year (in this case, ranging from good to exceptional) and they know the things I expect them to focus on for the remainder of 2009 (at least three major items for each person on my team). I take providing feedback for the people who work for me very seriously. When I began as a manager, the idea of evaluating other people made me feel uncomfortable; and, although I have gotten used to the process over time, it is not an activity where I desire to get too comfortable. I think that the process of evaluating another person should not be taken lightly. And so I do my best to be thoughtful, to be even-handed, and (above all) to be honest.
A few months ago, I wrote a post that concluded with my expectations concerning the busy spring and summer on the horizon at my job. Last week, the project which was the focus of that effort was completed. My team and I are all still intact - so it seems things transpired much as I had envisioned.
I'm glad that's over. We all are. Hopefully, the rest of the year will provide room to take care of things that did not receive our full attention during the heat of battle.
I never expect things to be slow at the office. I'd settle for manageable. And I hope that your work life is going well.