Wednesday, April 25, 2007

anyone want to be me a while?

Sometimes I hate being a grown-up.

Which is weird because when I was a kid I couldn't wait to grow up. It constantly irked me that I had to get my parents' permission to do anything. Especially when I was a teenager in high school. Twice my parents called the cops to report me missing because I didn't come home when I was "supposed to". The first time was when we lived in Austin. I was 15 and in the 10th grade. Texas required driver's ed if you wanted to get your license before 18. I couldn't get into the school's driver's ed course so I took a commercial one. One day a week instead of riding the bus home, I took a city bus downtown for the class. I would take the city bus back to the high school and my parents would pick me up from there. This particular time the school orchestra had a concert on the same night as my driver's ed class. I didn't want to carry my uniform and instrument to school on the bus one of my parents (I can't remember which) gave me a ride to school. After school, as usual, I went downtown for my lesson and when I got back to the school afterwards I changed into my uniform and played in the concert. After the concert I called home to get a ride and my mom was almost hysterical. What class? What concert? All they knew was that I didn't come home from school - and they had called the police to report me missing. I swore to them that I just knew I had told them about the concert - hadn't they given me a ride to school that day with my instrument and uniform? Didn't they remember I always had my driver's ed class that day? But it was a good chance that I didn't. I had made my own plans and the situation was covered.

The second time they called the cops on me it was totally my fault. I was 17, we were now living in Georgia, and I was a senior in high school. I was playing in the college symphony and had been invited to a frat party by one of the college students in the symphony. I told my parents I was going to the party, they told me to be home by 11:00. I was having a good time and didn't want to leave the party, so I called around 11:00 and told them I gave them some excuse why I couldn't leave immediately, so my folks told me by home by midnight and no later. I wanted to stay and knew I couldn't get them to agree, so I didn't call home again. The party broke up around 4:00 AM, I went to Denny's for breakfast with some friends and toodled on home at 6:00AM. Mom read me the riot act. Dad was out looking for me. He called home after a little and Mom told him I was home. When he got home, I got the riot act again. I got grounded for 6 weeks.

I have always had a really strong independent streak. (read stubborn here and you won't be far off of the mark). I wanted to make my own decisions. So I grew up. I make my own decisions. Little did I know what those decisions were really going to be. When we first got married we weren't making a whole lot and sometimes the decisions were - which bill were we going to pay this month and which could be put off a month? The baby hasn't eaten for over a day. Is he sick? No fever, no other signs of being sick. What to do? Should we rent a house when we move, or look to buy? I hate paying rent but what if we buy and I loose my job? 30 years is a long time. My job sometimes requires me to travel at the drop of a hat. Who will keep the babies when Laura has to go to work? She'll lose her job if she can't go to work. I'll lose my job if I don't travel when needed. I can't afford a car payment, but if I buy a used car will it wind up breaking down a lot and costing as much or more? How do I find someone to take care of the cats while we are on vacation - not just anyone would volunteer to scoop litter boxes. Do I look for another job while I have one or do I stay here where I am sorely needed - but don't know if we will be in business next year?

All of those decisions (and thousands more) were made. That's life, huh? But my teen-aged self had no concept of the no-good-choice, make-the-least-bad-choice decision. And my teen-aged self really had no concept of the level of responsibility I would be taking on. Not that I shirked it - even then I always accepted and bore the brunt of the results of my decision-making. But I had no real concept of how my choices would effect the others in my life. That they too would have to pay the consequences for my choices. I've learned that lesson the hard way. In terms of the two police episodes up above, I now know, being a parent, how terrifying it can be not knowing where your child is, hoping they are okay. My parents had to endure the consequences of my selfish decision to party. I have had to pay those same consequences once or twice when raising our kids.

There are larger consequences to the decisions I make now. I read about the problems the world is facing and I wonder. In driving my 20 year old car, am I damaging the environment by polluting and consuming more fossil fuels or saving resources by keeping the car out of a landfill? I don't volunteer a lot, so am I part of the problem because I'm not part of the solution? I donate what I can afford to local charities, but is that a suitable substitution for not being there? I give someone on the street a few bucks, will that money be used to buy crack or a sandwich? Am I a bad neighbor because I don't pick up that hitchhiker due to being afraid of being robbed or attacked, but I remember my car breaking down in the middle of nowhere and wishing someone would give me a ride. Which candidate do I vote for? Was this shirt I want made in a sweatshop? On and on and on.

In general, I accept that as an adult the decisions I make are made as well as I can make them. I can only do so much, the woes of the world are not my sole responsibility. But when it comes down to it, though, I sweat each one of them. I worry if I did the right thing. Every time.

Sometimes I hate being a grown-up.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Miscellany

There is finally a tentative schedule for the system installation in Bahrain. Nothing is written in stone yet, but it looks like I will be leaving the last week in May and staying a month. I've been reading up on visa requirements and getting an international driver's license. The Department of State has the standard warnings for any middle eastern country, but nothing specific or current for Bahrain. I'm also trying to find out what is just across the causeway in Saudi Arabia that would be worth seeing. I'll probably try to cross the border just to say I was there. Insha' Allah. I've got my old vocabulary flash cards out and a few of my old text books and have started trying to relearn enough arabic to get by. I am also listening to the BBC news broadcasts in arabic while at work, thinking maybe that if I hear it enough some long-dormant brain cells will wake up and I will recover some of my old linguistic ability.

If this schedule holds I will be leaving the week after Laura gets back from her trip to England & France. At first I was going to be leaving while she was gone, but things so far have worked out so that I don't. Two weeks and counting before she leaves. She's getting nervous - and excited - about her trip. All of her preparations are complete, except for buying some euro's & pounds from our bank. They are looking for a place to have a high tea, but from the prices it maybe won't be so high. She doesn't like beer but promises to go to a pub for a meal and a pint just for me. I tell her she should try some scrumpie but hasn't been convinced. Neither is she up for toad in the hole, but might go for some bangers & mash or maybe some bubble & squeak. If anyone has any don't-miss destination suggestions, now is the time to suggest.

Now if she can convince her sister (who is a nurse and has an untethered imagination) that she won't die of an altitude-induced blood clot during the flight(s) or get mad cow disease from eating british beef, yada, yada, yada, they should have a good time.

I wish I could go with her.

Meanwhile, Kris' spring semester finals are on the same day that Laura leaves for England - May 5th. She only has 2 to take, and they are one immediately after the other on the same day. She then gets a week or two off and then she starts the summer semester. She's doing really well. The state of Georgia has a lottery-funded scholarship program that pays for tuition & fees for students who maintain a B average - which she has. I'm really proud of her.

Zack has settled in where he works. He is making friends there (which is difficult for him) and seems to enjoy his work. He works swing shift and that fits right into his normal wake/sleep schedule. That also means that during the week we only see him if he comes home for supper. During the weekend he's usually out doing something. Last weekend he used his tax return to by a new computer. Sometime or another, when I can get around to it, he's hinted at me maybe running a network cable to his room - but no hurry, after all he still has his laptop with a wireless card so he can still get to the internet. He won't outright ask for anything, he always comes at it sideways. Usually I hear about his wants through Kris (via Laura) way before he starts dropping hints to me. Dads are always the last to know.

Monday, April 09, 2007


I left a comment over at De's recently wherein I said the following "Blogging has given me a way to reach out in a controlled way - I get to decide how much of me everyone sees....". This was said within the context of De describing how little she sees of her neighbors and how little she feels a part of the neighborhood. What I meant to say was that I was much like her in that I see little of my neighbors and that blogging has given me a way to reach out and create a community that I feel I can belong to. But I do believe Freud intervened and I have inadvertently stated a truth.

The challenge for me in blogging is, much as it is in real life, to be completely candid in what I write here as well as what I comment elsewhere. None of you know me in "the real world" and can't call me on any untruth I might tell. It would be easy to write about myself as I wish I were instead of how I really am. But I don't. At least, I don't here any more than I do when talking about myself anywhere else. Much is said about the anonymity of the internet and the license it carries to do and say anything. But I don't exercise that license. Bob is my real name (nickname), but I haven't shared my full name here nor the specifics about where I live and where I work. I worry a bit about something I write here coming back to haunt me, but I don't know what. I'll never be popular enough for groupies nor controversial enough for someone to seek me out but there is this niggling worry I haven't yet got rid of. All of that being said, I really try to tell the truth about myself and what I think about any given topic.

But I haven't discussed several things here that I might have. There is a line that I have yet to cross. I'm not sure where the line even is, but I am aware of the reluctance in me to discuss certain things. Sex or politics, for instance, are topics that I don't see being discussed in the blogs that I read that in turn read here - so I don't blog about them. It isn't that I don't have views or opinions about these topics (ask Laura, she'll tell you in a hearbeat that I have an opinion about everything!) but I guess the absence of posts about them in the blogs I regularly read leads me to believe that they aren't topics for discussion here.

Don't get me wrong, there is little I won't talk about if asked. But much of the decision to talk about something depends on who is asking or who the audience is. I don't see the anonymity of the internet as freeing. I tend to base my decision on whether to post or comment about something as if I were talking to someone.

Do you have topics that you consider off-limits? Why?

*** This post was really published Thursday, 12 April - not Monday as stated above. I began it then and forgot that blogger hangs onto the original date unless you tell it otherwise - and I forgot to tel it otherwise. I only mention this because I am frequently disconcerted when seeing a new post at a blog I visit daily and it is dated 3 days ago!***

Thursday, April 05, 2007

5 Questions

I threw my hat in the ring for the 5 questions meme, and I got mine from Chani.

1. If you controlled the flow of time, what would you change?

Jeez, we only have @10,000 years of recorded history! I can't decide, so I get two answers! In terms of world history, I would probably stop Archduke Franz Ferdinand from being assassinated. Europe, the middle east and various and sundry bits of the world were literally remapped after world war I in a way that, I believe, directly or indirectly has led to the majority of the conflict (and suffering) in Europe and the middle east since then.

In my life, I would not change anything. There are many things I wish I had done differently, but each was a learning experience. Primarily, though, my wife and children are the most important things in the world to me and I wouldn't change the path of my life that led me to them.

2. If it's true that our choices are a result of beliefs and desires, but desires and beliefs are based on what we are taught, are our choices really free?

Yes, in the large sense. Beliefs are shaped not only by what we are taught, but also upon our interpretation of that teaching. Every person experiences the world in a unique way. What we are taught, interpreted through the lens of personal experience, that makes each person's beliefs unique and therefore allows for free choice.

I don't know that I can accept that desires are based on what we are taught. (they can influenced surely, but based upon?). I don't think it is nearly as straightforward and that this is a question of nature vs. nurture.

3. Does the end justify the means?

No. We should be held accountable for how we live our lives, not by what we achieve.

4. If we are all "special", how does that make any individual special?

We are all "special" in the sense that we are individuals each with our own strengths - and weaknesses. That doesn't preclude that there are those people that have characteristics or abilities that are developed far beyond those around them. Not everyone can be a Mahatma Gandhi, or Albert Einstein, or Rosa Parks, or Benjamin Franklin, or Martin Luther.

If we would teach our children to accept themselves for who they are then we wouldn't have to have these interminable ceremonies where every child gets some kind of award or certificate for fear of them feeling inadequate or left out.

5. For the final irritating question, what would you choose as a universal priority?

That every person on this planet have the opportunity to be the best they can be.

Now - let the discussion begin!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I have been tagged with the Thinking Blogger Award. I have somehow convinced TWO bloggers that I make them think. Who knew? I am still at the stage of being surprised that anyone is interested in reading my blog. So I am honored that Urban-Urchin and Lex of On Second Thought not only read me, but that I give them pause to consider - or reconsider - why certain things are as they are. I thank you both.

My task today is to pass this forward. I have had a difficult time preparing this list, partially because most of the blogs I read daily are ones that check by here and I don't want this list to be self-selective - and because I just have to be a little different. These aren't in any particular order, I just jotted a few notes as I visited my normal daily/semi-daily reads.

Chani at Thailand Gal challenges me to reconsider the cultural norms of the U.S. as she writes of her progress/struggles in assimilating herself into Thai culture and philosophy.

De at Sober Briquette challenges me with her absolute honesty about herself. She sets a high standard in discussions about ourselves.

I still think of my next thinking blogger as Grannyvibe, but she has a new blogger identity as Lymphopo over at As The Tumor Turns. She is one of the most remarkable people I've run across in the blogsphere. At her former blog she wrote about living in southern Louisiana, racism, etc. She was diagnosed with cancer last year and disappeared for a while, then resurfaced to write about her experiences with cancer. She is amazing.

Sieg Pedde at The Atavist is a fairly new read for me, but in this short amount of time he has really made me reexamine the basis for several of my beliefs. He brings an intellectual rigor to any topic being discussed that I truly respect.

Jen at One Plus Two challenges my heart as she writes about her struggles with her vocation as well as the other roles she finds herself in that maybe she didn't anticipate.

There are so many more blogs I read, I couldn't include them all here. Each has its own unique viewpoint on the world that I appreciate and that brings me back time and time again. In their own way, they all are thinkers and for those not listed above, I extend special mentions! Thank you all for including me in your worlds.