Silver Linings

Dauphin Island, AL
View from my mom’s back porch on Dauphin Island, AL

It’s the start of Spring Break. Normally, me and the boys would be driving down to Dauphin Island where one of my moms has a house. She’s not on the ocean side, but has a lovely spot on a canal of sorts. We spend the vast majority of our time on her pier catching trash fish. But occasionally we catch a red drum or a sheep’s head and that “what if” factor keeps us fishing well past the time when normies would have headed home and gone out for BBQ (unfortunately, the only BBQ place on the island burned down two years ago).

We will be staycationing this Spring Break, much as you are, no doubt. We had planned a trip to another, more populated island, but canceled it also. This #covid-19 is no respecter of plans.

My three children have been surprisingly adept at keeping themselves entertained. My wife has a lot to do with it, but even as we speak, they are down on the trampoline while mom and dad work.

Even my oldest, my usually slightly sullen 16-year old, has come out of his “mandatory cool” vibe and been more tolerable than usual. CareerMom and I theorize it has a lot to do with having to be apart from his friends where he “has” to be a certain person. Without them to live up to, we like him a lot more.

This #pandemic has not been kind to many for sure, but I can’t help but celebrate a few outcomes. We’ve come together as a family again. We’ve been so busy the last few years shuttling kids back and forth to sports that we’ve hardly spent any time just, together. I find us laughing more. We have “family movie night.” Everyone just seems to be getting along better and as a father, fewer things make me happier than hearing my children laughing, together.

My daughter, the creative one, and I, have built homemade bird feeders. I walk around the house and find fun little doodles like this:

We’re actually enjoying each other and having a good time. Barring the grocery store shortages and the deaths, I’m not hating this period.

Plus, I have this going for me:

Stay well everyone. Stay sane. Take long walks early in the morning.

Find your place.

I’d Have to Live to Be 92 for this to Be a Mid-Life Thing

I discovered Reddit several years ago. I started out just looking at Gifs, and then those mostly turned into people posting about their cats. So, I looked around and there are definitely some other good subs there.

One I found that I followed for a while is r/askmenover30.  There’s a plain “r/askmen” but most of the conversations there are about things that don’t even fly into my radar. I find the “over30” sub much more “my speed.”

But even that sub lately consists of many of the same types of post: “Anyone else here just generally dissatisfied with life?”

There are a LOT of these posts. So many that I barely even look at the sub anymore.

Casual observers would probably discount this as “mid-life crisis” posts, but the fact that they are so prevalent, and they generally all say the same things, is worth a minute.

Most of these posts include one or more of the following comments:

  • On the surface, I should be happy.
  • I have a good family, a decent job, and I’m in pretty good shape.
  • I don’t LIKE my job much.
  • My marriage is “meh”.
  • I don’t have many friends, or really ever have meaningful conversations with other people (read: other guys)
  • Is this all there is to life?

The sad thing is, I identify with nearly all of these. Life IS “meh”. I’ve given this no small amount of thought and I’ve come to the conclusion that yeah, that’s life. If you’re not happy, you can make the decision to change things, but know that it’s likely you’ll make someone very unhappy. Most transformational corrections don’t happen in a vacuum. Your big choices and changes WILL impact someone else and not always positively.

My wife once said to me, “You’re not stuck here you know.

I don’t know if I was more hurt by that statement, or relieved. Like my own dad, I have a pretty deep sense of responsibility and nothing short of my wife stabbing me in my sleep (or having an affair) would cause me to just up and leave. Even knowing that she has no desire for intimacy anymore (her words) isn’t enough to make me leave (the “or worse” part, remember?). Which means that I’m here. For better or worse, I’m here.

The bigger implication is that “No, your life–my life–probably isn’t going to change considerably for, what I’d consider “the better” any time soon. Maybe never.”

I saw this article the other day, “How to Be Mediocre and Be Happy With Yourself ” and I was both relieved that it’s OK not to be glamorously successful, and saddened that I’ve come to this place in my life.

Don’t get me wrong; I never wanted the glamorous life. I turned down opportunities at my last job to be highly visible. I even have “Professional Guy Behind the Guy” on my LinkedIn profile. But the fact that I’ve personally accepted this fact, is depressing on its own.

But yeah, “mediocre” is an apt description. Middling. Average. Fine. All good descriptors of how I feel most of the time.

But you know, only 30 more years of it, or so.

Simple Traditions that Define the Holidays

I have been sending out Christmas cards since my 20s. It’s something we did growing up and it is one of those traditions I am loathe to abandon. Even before I knew that you were supposed to send “Thank You” cards to the sweet little grandmothers who handed me $20 after church just because I was graduating from high school, I knew that sending Christmas cards was polite.

Back home, we taped up the cards we received from friends and family, around the extra-wide door frame leading from our dining room to our living room. And each year, it was filled, inch-to-inch, with cards–most proclaiming some religious sentiment (“Hosana In The Highest! For Unto You A Child Is Born!”) based on the fact that nearly all of our family and most of our close family friends’ families, were church-based. But, the cards were wonders of glitter and poetry and they stuck in my memories almost even more than any gifts I received under the tree.

Over the years, I have sent Christmas cards religiously (as an adjective) to family, boyhood friends, and even men I’ve worked with who have meant something special to me either as mentors or just by mere fact of temperament. And over the years, my “list” of Christmas card recipients has dwindled down from nearly 30 at its highpoint, to now no more than half that. Deaths and life simply moving on and not leaving a forwarding address are the two main culprits.

What saddens me more than the fact that my list continues to shrink, is that this exchanging of pleasantries has never been 1:1. There are people on my list whom I have sent cards to for nearly two decades and never received one in return. I know that not everyone ‘does’ Christmas cards, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is but another in a long list of traditions that we will sorely miss without even realizing it.

Today, the annual Christmas card exchange continues in my house. The ones we receive–primarily from my wife’s friends and family, and the families of children our children are involved with–go up on our own extra-wide entry from our dining room to our living room, just like when I was a child.

Even still, I can tell our inbound card volume dipped probably by a 1/5th this year and I’m not quite sure why. And like the ones my wife creates for us to send, most of these cards aren’t the glittery poetic treasures of my youth, but beautiful Snapfish-printed pictures of the families who sent them. But, there’s no place to even handwrite a simple “Merry Christmas;” Yet another part of the tradition that I won’t say I “enjoyed”, but that did force me to stop and spend a few moments thinking only of that person or family and deciding what to write to them. It made me feel connected to that family even if I hadn’t actually seen or spoken to them in the 12 months prior.

Tonight, I will be staying home with my daughter, who is recovering from the flu, while the rest of the family goes on CareerMom’s family’s annual “Progressive Dinner.”  This is another annual tradition I treasure. It’s loud and we’re all cramped into one house after another (there are about 27 of us after all), but it’s family and I don’t hate it. While I will miss appetizers and the Olive Garden-catered main course, dinner always concludes at our house with dessert and coffee and I will still get to experience the best part.

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Waters for everyone

With age comes sentimentality and a longing for tradition. Time can steal my youth, my virtue, and my health, but for now at least, I have my memories.

I hope that by continuing these annual activities, what I hold precious will live on in my children far after I’m gone.

To everyone I know and love, to the readers of this blog (some of whom fall into the “know and love” category), I wish you the best this holiday. My prayer is that each of us finds a bit of happiness in sharing this time with those around us. Warm wishes to you all.

 

 

Waiting to Exhale (or: “Things Always Happen in Threes and I was Waiting on the Third”)

As was reported in my previous blog about dog cruciate surgery and the chimney fire, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. These things usually come in 3’s, so I’ve been waiting on the other shoe to drop.

I thought it might be my oldest son’s “potentially” sprained tendons (or ligaments, I can never remember) in his hand from holding the ball for his younger brother who was practicing kicking field goals. Yeah, the younger brother kicked more “hand” than “ball” and we feared the worst. But, after a few days in a brace, he’s going to survive apparently.

I’m now thinking that Tragedy #3 was my beloved #AlabamaCrimsonTide losing its starting QB (again, and again) for good this time. Our boy @Tuaamann took, what appeared to be, a garden-variety sack in his game against Miss St. this weekend and dislocated his hip. It’s worse than it sounds and it’s taking him out of the game for likely a year. It’s the same injury that ended Bo Jackson’s career.

I thought it would be pretty cool if Bo (an Auburn alum) reached out to Tua. For those not from the south, there are fewer heated rivalries than Alabama and Auburn. For Bo to reach out, would go a long way to building some respect.

But eh…who needs respect between football rivalries! That’s what makes it fun.

Still though, it’s extremely unlikely our 3-Star QB is going to get us through the CFB playoffs and even TO the NC, even IF the stars aligned and we somehow got in with one loss.

But, it was a lot of fun watching Tua play. My oldest son (MLI) and I got to see him play this year in Tuscaloosa and that’s something neither of us will ever forget. Mostly because it was 115 degrees in the stadium at kickoff, but still.

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Roll Tide Tua. You’ll always be part of the Crimson Nation!