Today’s XKCD shows us that bitching about the pace of modern life and the ongoing debasement of the general public’s IQ has been a popular pastime for many, many years…
I am 45-years-old which puts me squarely into the category of Middle Aged Adult, but it’s often easy to forget that because there are Things That Adults Do which I have yet to master. Here’s three of them:
1.) Own and display art. My parents weren’t exactly art connoisseurs, but the walls of the home I grew up in had its fair share of artwork — both personal and commercial — along with decorative sculptures or hangings purchased on a whim somewhere along the way. I also have several friends who have various bits of art that compliment their homes nicely.
My apartment has walls bare of anything that isn’t a clock or a calendar or a coffee mug rack. I keep telling myself it’s because I live in an apartment and they have rules on what we can do with the walls, but the truth is that even if I had a house of my own I wouldn’t know what to hang on it. I have no art appreciation skills at all. I don’t go to art museums very often (like once in a decade) mainly because I look at it and utterly fail to understand why it’s of any significance. I can give a generic “I like that” or “that’s shit” comment, but really I can’t think of any painting or sculpture that made me feel anything other than mild disinterest.
2.) Do handyman stuff. Again I like to blame this on living in an apartment, but when it comes to fixing things like my car or hanging up a whatnot shelf I am in way over my head before I even begin. I realized this the other day when the damaged front bumper of my Honda started to rub up against one of the wheels when driving at speed. Someone in our complex backed into our front bumper a little while ago and I’ve not gotten around to dealing with the insurance company to get it fixed in part because it was just ugly and not affecting operation of the car. Being mostly plastic it flexes in the wind and has gotten weak enough that it was banging against the front wheel. Plus the airdam was loose and flapping and occasionally scraping the ground.
I was going to have our mechanic take a look at it, but my cubemate suggested I could just zip-tie it up myself. At which point I explained that I didn’t really have the tools or the space to do it. So he had me go by his place and he did it in about 20 minutes. It’s not a permanent fix, I’ll still have to get it repaired, but it’ll do for now. As I watched him work on it it seemed like a simple enough thing to do, but I’d be damned to say I would’ve known where to start with it myself.
I get the same feeling whenever anyone talks about home maintenance stuff they did over the weekend. “Yeah, I had a busy weekend.” they say, “I mowed the lawn and edged it with the gas trimmer and then I fixed that leaky faucet and painted the trim on the house and built the dog a new dog house with his own wading pool and then I completely stripped down cleaned and rebuilt my truck’s transmission and then patched the foundation near the back garage door that cracked when I dropped my overly huge and manly testicles on it.” To which I’ll reply, “Yeah, I had a busy weekend too. I got a new high score in Call of Duty: Medal of Warfighter Soldier Dude.” They’re always impressed with my accomplishment.
3.) Take vacations where I actually go somewhere. I blame this at least partially on working as a contractor for 20+ years where it is rare the company you work for offers vacation time at all. The few contracts that did usually only offered a week a year and it also doubled as sick time which they called “Personal Days.” Since having been hired as a Real Employee by my current employer I get three weeks a year for time off. This one isn’t entirely my fault as my wife’s job isn’t as good as mine and although she does get time off after working X number of hours, it also “Personal Days” and has to be used for sick time and she doesn’t get as many days as I do. This makes it rare that she has enough time at a time when I have time that we can actually take time off together.
Above and beyond that, however, is the fact that I’m not a very good planner or saver. I’ve not been to Disney World since I was 17 and went with my parents and siblings. I’ve wanted to go back for years and they’ve opened another two whole parks since I was last there (Epcot had just opened the last time). That’s an expensive trip even for just two people and even if we had the time we just don’t have the money. I’m always awed by people like my parents or my in-laws who take real vacations to places other than the living room couch and I often wonder how they did it. Truth is I know how they did it, but I still feel like I don’t know because I can’t seem to replicate it.
There are other things that occasionally remind me that I’ve still not quite made it to adulthood despite my age, but these are the three most common things that trigger that feeling. They are all things I grew up thinking adults inherently knew how to do and that, sooner or later, I’d develop the same ability. Perhaps there’s a class I missed somewhere along the way that would have taught me all these things. Not that it matters, I probably would’ve goofed off during it anyway.
This video has been making the rounds on the social networks so it’s possible you’ve already seen it, but on the off-chance that some of you haven’t I’m posting it here as it’s some of the best life advice I’ve ever heard:
In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.
We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested.
I find that this resonates with me on a personal level because it’s how I try to live my life. I couldn’t tell you when or where I learned this, but somewhere in my 45 years on this planet I’ve managed to find ways to alleviate the boring tedium that makes up the vast majority of our daily routine. Often by being a goofball.
The video gives an example of standing in a busy supermarket checkout lane and the inherent frustration that can provoke. I’ve experienced such situations countless times and most of the time I’m able to remind myself that I’m not the only one standing there and that many of them may have significantly more troubles than I do. I always try to make any harried cashiers I deal with smile if at all possible. Usually through an attempt at wit, or at least an approximation of it. Same thing with waitresses at restaurants. I try to live by the rule that the last person I want to piss off is the person who is handling my food.
It’s easy to get the impression from my ranting here on SEB that I don’t like people, but the truth is I love people. We are an amazing species capable of astounding acts of beauty, bravery, and plain old simple good heartedness. The things we can accomplish when we use our brains and work together seem to be unlimited, which is why I get so frustrated with those folks who refuse to use their brains and act as though they are the center of the Universe. Note I didn’t say they were incapable of using their brains, but refuse to do so.
That said, we all have our off days where using our brains is just too much effort and I try to keep that in mind when interacting with others as well. Life can be tough and none of us are getting out of it alive, but while we’re here we can choose how we deal with it and our attitude about it. I vent a lot here, but when I’m out in the real world I try to make at least my little corner of it a little less of a pain in the ass for myself and everyone around me. I may not always succeed, but I try.
I’ve not posted anything in over a week and I apologize for that, but I have a good excuse. I was waiting, along with the rest of my wife’s family, for the inevitable to happen. Last Thursday my father-in-law lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.
This is the third time in my life that I’ve watched a family member slowly subcomb to the insidiously slow death that cancer brings with it. The first time was when my biological father died of it 40 years ago when I was five years old. He was only 55 at the time. I wasn’t old enough to really understand what was happening, but that didn’t stop the experience from leaving me a little emotionally messed up for awhile.
The second time was my grandfather back in my 20′s. He at least made it into his 70′s before passing. I wasn’t there for the bitter end and, because of other obligations, only saw him a few times over the months that he suffered from the disease.
My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer almost 10 months ago and he lived a lot longer than his doctors expected him to. I, along with my wife and her family, were at his bedside at the end though I suspect he had vacated well before that point arrived. He didn’t look like the man who had welcomed me into his family with open arms despite the fact that I’m an independent Liberal atheist and he was a moderate Republican episcopal. He was literally a shell that was holding onto life for as long as it could manage even as various parts of his system were failing. It was not an easy thing to experience, but then that’s something that far too many people are familiar with. Then the situation was compounded by learning shortly after his death — while viewing and funeral arrangements were being made — that the wife of a longtime friend of mine had passed away from cancer on Saturday.
Lets just say that it wasn’t a good weekend. Needless to say, I’ve not had much inspiration to write anything during this time. Though I intend to try and get back into writing more often in the near future. It seems I’ve been coming across things that I want to blog about more often as of late so I’ll try to actually get around to doing so.
That’s what I’ve been up to. What about you guys?
Yep, I’m still around. My back problems have almost faded away completely after nearly an entire month of recovery, which is a record I hope I don’t ever break in the future. I started physical therapy this week in hopes of strengthening the core muscles that were the problem. Sitting for extended periods still hurts, but it’s more of an annoyance than the debilitating problem it was.
If nothing else, I think this episode has given me the motivation to finally get serious about losing some of the excess weight I’m carrying around. I’ll be pulling the elliptical out of the corner of the living room and getting back on it at least three days a week on the instruction of my physician.
Beyond that, I keep coming across things I think I’ll blog about only to decide I really don’t have anything all that significant to say about them. It’s odd, but as I’ve gotten older I seem to find it harder to get the outrage that fueled so many older entries going. Or perhaps I’m just getting to be apathetic about the stuff that used to rile me up. Probably a little of both.
In honor of the day I present you with this:
Been awhile since I last blogged anything so I figured an update was due. Part of the delay has been lack of anything to say, but another part is the fact that I’ve been flat on my back since last Wednesday with a sore back.
Every so often the muscles that hold me upright in my lower back go on strike and it’s often several days before they’re feeling up to working properly once more. This flare up has been one of the more severe I’ve had in awhile and has kept me away from my computer. Even now I can only manage to sit upright for short periods of time.
So, once my back stops complaining and I come up with something to blog about I’ll be back here in front of my keyboard hammering away, but for the moment I’m going to lay down again for a bit.
New Years Day has always been a weird holiday for me. For much of my childhood I didn’t really understand what folks were celebrating. It just seemed like an excuse to drink and eat a lot and stay up way past your normal bed time. Not that that’s a bad reason, but the celebration always seemed to be way more than necessary for reasons as simple as that.
At the age of 45 I now realize it’s a celebration of having made it to the new year at all. Life can be rough and each year brings with it new trials and tribulations that makes arriving at the dawn of yet another year something very much worthy of the celebrations we engage in. It’s a time to remember those who didn’t make it this far and to hope for a brighter future for all of us to come.
Compared to past years, 2012 went pretty well for me. It was my first year as a full-time employee at my current job. I’ve been a contractor for most of my career — over 20+ years — and it was great to finally be a “real” employee for a change. It was also the year we said goodbye to Melvin, the Official SEB Cat. We enjoyed his company for eight years and he was as good a cat as you could hope for.
I am hopeful about 2013, but we already know that bad things are on the horizon. My father-in-law has terminal cancer and we expect he only has a few months left before we have to say goodbye to him for the last time. I am arriving at that age where losing loved ones is no longer an unexpected event, but a natural consequence of the passage of time. It’s a phase of life we are all destined to go through, but not one I look forward to. The are other smaller challenges ahead as well. This year I really need to get serious about dropping some of my weight as I am waking up with a sore back near daily now. I’ve been hovering at just under 300 pounds for too many years and it’s starting to get intolerable.
It’s going to be another year of trials and tribulations, but there will be plenty of victories large and small to celebrate along the way. If I should be lucky enough to surmount the troubles and ride the highs to find myself at the dawn of another new year in 355 more days I will once again pause to remember and celebrate my good fortune. Happy New Year to you and yours. May it have more to celebrate than to mourn.
Given the downer nature of the last couple of entries about cats I thought I should take a moment to do a positive one.
One year ago today is when Jasper stumbled into our lives. When I brought him home he looked like this:
Today, he looks like this:
Amazing how much difference a year in a good home can make, eh? He’s grown up into a beautiful, good-natured cat who loves to talk to you whenever he gets the chance. We met by total chance and I think both of us were pretty lucky it happened.
We didn’t opt to bring Melvin’s body home to bury mainly because we live in an apartment and don’t really have a yard. We also didn’t opt for keeping his ashes, but we did bring home his collar though I wasn’t sure what we’d do with it.
Then I looked up and saw the clock I got for my birthday this past August and the answer was obvious:
I should probably tighten it up a bit so it doesn’t look quite so ridiculous. It was a spur of the moment thing. I don’t know how long I’ll keep it there, but for right now it’s in the right place.
It is with a very heavy heart that I announce that Melvin, the Official SEB Cat, has passed away. Melvin came to live with us 8 years ago on my birthday — August 25th, 2004 — and he was the best birthday gift I could have hoped for. We got him from my sister, who had taken him in after he was mauled by a dog. She spent the money at the vet to get him patched up, but already had her own collection of cats and a dog and really couldn’t afford to take on another one. So she called us and we said yes.
He was never much of a lap cat, I can only think of a handful of occasions he ever got into my lap and almost never into anyone else’s, but he did like to be near people. He would sit on the arm of the chair or couch so you could pet him and often he would come up and tap you on the shoulder to get you to follow him to his food dish so he could be petted while he ate. He become an indoor only cat for most of his time with us, something he wasn’t always happy with, but he made the best of it. He moved with us four times over the years and always managed to turn the new place into home.
Over the last 6 months he had lost a lot of weight dropping nearly 5 pounds and then over this past weekend he took a sudden turn for the worse. He was lethargic and having trouble focusing, dehydrated, not eating, and having trouble using the litter box. A trip to the animal hospital Sunday became a transfer to our regular vet on Monday to the news today that he wasn’t improving despite intravenous fluids and other treatments. He was uncomfortable and tests pointed to a likely cause being pancreatic cancer.
So today Anne and I went to the vet’s office immediately after work where we spent a little time with Melvin to say goodbye. He was conscious, but still unfocused and was obviously uncomfortable despite being on pain medication. The doc came in and administered the drugs that would put him to sleep for the final time. It was stunningly fast. Literally a matter of moments. He licked his lips two or three times as if he was tasting something and then he was still.
Melvin is not the first pet I’ve had to let go, but he is the first one I was there for when the time came. It was a heartbreaking thing to do, but I knew it was the best thing for him. Any other decision I could have made would’ve just prolonged the inevitable and made him suffer unnecessarily. He had a pretty good run at 14 years of age and trying to coax anything more from him would’ve been selfish. I know all of this and yet it doesn’t make me feel any better.
Goodbye old friend. You will be deeply missed.