Random Stuff I’m Thankful For – 2013 Edition

As I did last year, I made of list of random stuff I’m thankful for beyond the obvious (family, friends, health, warm house, etc.). If you don’t know about these things, go find them and become happier.

  1. Shiner Holiday Cheer, probably available at your local Tom Thumb or favorite purveyor of adult beverages
  2. Yoga pants (for the ladies, not for me)
  3. The elusive no-hitter at work, which entails going an entire shift without a single phone call
  4. Not having a car payment. My vehicles aren’t new or sexy, but they’re paid for.
  5. Pandora internet radio. My current favorite station is Indie Christmas.
  6. Pulp Fiction, partly because it inspires insane awesomeness like this (language warning)
  7. Living five minutes from Lowe’s while we spruce up our house (and having a handy father-in-law who works for Lowe’s at another location)
  8. iMessage, which lets me text for free with most iPhone users and even see if they’re currently typing back
  9. DVRs, which are especially helpful when you have kids
  10. Getting free Southwest points through my credit card so we can get REAL TICKETS on flights instead of listing ourselves and hoping there are open seats
  11. Bath soap that smells good. Bath and Body Works sells several scents for men that are great.
  12. Getting birthday wishes on Facebook. I know it’s kinda cheesy, but it’s still nice to get bombarded with HAPPY BIRTHDAY throughout the day from so many different people from so many different parts of my life.
  13. My sons’ ever-patient teachers who are helping to teach and shape them into amazing young men
  14. Whipping cream for my coffee
  15. Roller coasters
  16. John Hughes’ wonderfully humanizing Thanksgiving classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

What random stuff are you thankful for this year?

Blog Soup 11/21/3013

Happy November and Happy Early Thanksgiving, everyone! I have a few moments and thought I would share a few thoughts and bits of news before I go tackle the huge pile of leaves in my front yard.

House

Since Facebook prematurely outed me (darn you, Facebook! ::shakes fist::), I’ll go ahead and share some house news. Once Jenny finishes school in May 2015, we are tentatively planning to move to Grand Prairie near Joe Pool Lake. There are two main reasons for the move:

  1. Family – We’ll live near my sister (currently 30+ minutes away) so our kids can go to school together. Instead of being 45 minutes from Jenny’s family, too far to see them very often, we’ll be 15 minutes away. It won’t put us too much farther from my parents and maternal grandparents, either.
  2. More Space – When we moved into our current house, we had nine-month-old Brenden and no Jonathan. Now that our family is complete and we have two very active boys, we’d like to have a bit more space, including a big game room upstairs where they can play, a study downstairs, and a media room where I can watch movies or play games late at night without worrying about waking anyone up. We can get a lot more house for the money in south Grand Prairie/Mansfield compared to the Mid-Cities.

With that plan in mind, we have been updating our current house to get it ready. I might share some more details in another post if that would interest you.

Things That Make Me Go Hmm

A few interesting observations:

  • I recently sent my ex-fiancee a babysitter recommendation. We are friends on Facebook, and when she posted a request for a good babysitter, I had one to offer. It was a bit odd, but it’s nice that we don’t hate each other despite the breakup.
  • A friend of mine got a bachelor’s from a private school, worked a bit, got a master’s in a really specialized field from another private school, and probably financed everything through student loans. Now she is married and staying home with her kids, but they are so strapped for cash that they’re selling every spare possession they can on Facebook to reduce their debt. I’m all for staying home with the kids if that’s what’s right for your family, but I don’t understand taking out massive loans for private colleges if you don’t plan to work.
  • Some people say you should rake and bag your leaves because they choke off your grass, blocking air, water, and nutrients from reaching your lawn. Others say you should mulch the leaves back into the soil. For years I’ve been mulching them, but I’ve had problems with thatch development. This year I’m going to compost the leaves instead of mulching them. Wish me luck. I need it!

Baylor

As you probably figured, I am greatly enjoying the Bears’ football season. Jenny and I went to the Baylor-Oklahoma game in Waco earlier this month and had a blast. I’ve thought all along that our toughest test would come this Saturday in Stillwater, OK, against a tough Oklahoma State team. If we can win this, and Bama loses to Auburn or Mizzou, we have a chance at the national title game. That. Is. Crazy.

Obamacare

I held out high hopes for Obamacare despite my eventual decision to support Medicare for All instead. I defended it. I explained it to people. But now that the exchange website has experienced so many problems, and so many people are getting their policies canceled despite Obama’s foolish promises that “if you like your policy, you can keep your policy,” I have little appetite left for defending Obamacare. I love the new requirements – expanding coverage to the uninsured, no ban for preexisting conditions, keeping your children on your plan longer, coverage for contraception, etc. – but the overall scheme is too complicated to work well and isn’t going to draw in enough healthy young people to make it financially feasible. So in a sense, maybe the Republicans were right on many points. However, the answer isn’t going back to the old crappy system. The answer is expanding Medicare, a system that already works well for tens of millions of older Americans, to cover every single American, much like most other civilized countries do. But I fear that after the disaster of Obamacare, the country will have little appetite for further health care reform.

Haiku Tuesday – The Woes of Plumbing

In our ongoing quest to purge our home of the 1980s, we replaced the final two sink faucets and all the bathroom countertops. I know just enough about plumbing to be dangerous. Yes, I can swap out a faucet to save some money, but I can also tear a stuck PVC pipe in half with a pipe wrench and force a plumber visit anyway. After the countertop guys did their part, I spent much of this weekend installing our new sinks and reconnect all the faucets and drain assemblies. There are about 250,000 things that would have been more fun, but I finally got it done, and we are quite pleased.

With that in mind, here are some plumbing haiku.

Woe! Woe! Woe is me!
Every nut is tightened down
Why do you still drip?

Man beneath the sink?
He must be a plumber and
A contortionist.

Thirty years of gunk
Black and oozy in the pipes
I need some fresh air

What does that pipe do?
Hmm. Oh well, just add some torque…
Dang! Let’s call a pro

Doing it yourself
Doesn’t save much cash when they
Need to fix your mess

Have you experienced any plumbing woes, either through your own home “improvement” or other problems? Post your plumbing haiku in the comments.

Turning 35. What Have I Learned?

I will turn 35 tomorrow. That makes me older than most professional athletes and many of my children’s teachers. But it also means I’m finally old enough to run for president. Sure, I’d never actually do it because I want to stay married to Jenny, but it’s nice to have the option, you know?

We aren’t planning anything crazy (not my style), just a nice dinner with my immediate family and an extended family party on Sunday for a few October birthdays. But I thought it might be a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way.

You Define Your Own Success

I think each person has to define success for him- or herself. You can’t let someone else define it for you. As Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

For me, success is a matter of achieving the goals you set for yourself. My main goals are to love my family and take good care of them, enjoy the precious time I have on this earth, and leave it better off than it would’ve been without me. No doubt I could do better on all counts, but overall I think I’m doing okay.

Some Battles Are Worth Fighting…

…but most are not. Standing up for those who need help is a good thing. Teaching my sons to be responsible young men, though often difficult, is good thing. Getting riled up with people who cut me off, diss my favorite sports team, or are firmly entrenched on the other side of the political spectrum is a waste of time and energy. The Serenity Prayer is one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Money Isn’t Everything

I’ve worked for roughly minimum wage and far above it, and I am still convinced that money doesn’t buy happiness. Yes, it can help solve certain problems and make life easier in some ways. However, no matter how much money or stuff you get, you will always want more.

That being said, I am very grateful for what we have. Just as importantly, I am grateful that I worked hard to get it rather than inheriting a huge trust fund. It’s satisfying to have a job and provide for my family and share the fruit of my labor with others.

Attitude is Contagious

In interacting with probably thousands of people over my lifetime, one thing stands out: the people I’m around have a large influence over me, more than I want to admit. Attitude is contagious. The world is full of cynics who love to complain and criticize, and some of them don’t even realize it. The more time I spend around those people, the more I become cynical like them, which depresses me. On the other hand, the world is also full of people who look for the good in things. Whether you look for the good side or the bad side of life, you can always find it. Always.

Life is too short to waste time getting dragged down by negative people. I’m trying, with varying degrees of success, to be more positive and spend more time with positive people. That’s why I no longer waste much time posting political stuff or angry rants on here or on Facebook. I would rather stay positive and post things that will make you laugh, think, or appreciate the good things in life.

Balance is Key

I’ve been a religious wacko. I’ve been an academic workaholic egghead. I’ve been overly preoccupied with grades, girls, money, politics, exercise, the future, other people’s opinions of me, righteous indignation, unions, and my job. None of these things made a good foundation for life.

It’s not healthy to obsess over any one thing. Balance is one of the most important parts of my life. A good day for me includes some time with my family, some time working on something productive, some tasty food and drink, a full night’s rest, some time to think and learn, and some time just for me to relax with a movie or game. Except for the uncommon good night’s sleep, many of my days look like this, which is one of the main reasons I’m quite happy.

Thank You

Readers, thank you for sticking with me through the changes on my blog. Friends and family, thank you for loving me warts and all. I am grateful for you and grateful for 35 years on this remarkable journey.

Brenden’s Bedroom Makeover

For the last couple of years, Brenden’s bedroom has consisted of an IKEA dresser and a secondhand IKEA pine bunk bed that was missing some parts and whose safety was slightly questionable. By questionable, I mean it was missing some fasteners and slats. But hey, who wants a bed that safe? BORING.

For months we kept saying we needed to go get some type of board to place atop the broken slats, but…you know, life happens. The final straw came when the boys, while playing along for a bit in Brenden’s room, decided it would be fun to jump off the top bunk and try to grab the ceiling fan cord on the way down. Miraculously, both boys and the fan survived this game. However, it finally persuaded us that it was time for a change.

We wanted his room to finally have a look, to appear to have some semblance of intention and style. Or at least to match. We decided to keep his IKEA Malm dresser in birch and buy a few matching pieces. Here is the result:

Bed and Nightstand

photo 2

Bookshelf and Reading Chair

photo 1

Testing the New Reading Nook

photo 3

I dig it. Brenden digs it. And it keeps them from rolling around in the floor or from ending up in the ER with a concussion from a falling ceiling fan.

Blog Soup 9/26/2013

Hi! Things are a bit crazy in my house these days. I’m temporarily awake and free to blog, so here is an update on us.

  1. Except for me, my entire family is now in school full-time. Jenny has class all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and also goes in sometimes on Thursday or Friday. Brenden is in kindergarten five days a week from 7:45-2:45. Jonathan is in preschool five days a week as well. I’m still trying to convince the boys that I really have spent many, many years in school and don’t need to go anymore.
  2. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are a bit tough for me. I get off work at 6:00, come home to help get the boys ready, take them to school, and crawl into bed around 8:15-8:30am. Then I get up at 2:00pm and pick them up. Plus Monday nights the boys have swim lessons at 5:45 and 6:45 in Southlake. So I’m usually pretty tired the first half of the week, not to mention the rest of the family.
  3. Jenny is probably studying more than she has in her entire school career. The material isn’t difficult for her, but the volume is staggering – tons of reading, video modules, and skills training. Despite the workload, she is keeping up and doing great. Starting in two weeks, she’ll be at Baylor Grapevine once a week working with real patients on a limited basis.
  4. I am embarrassed that Ted Cruz represents my state in the US Senate. If you’re not sure why, this editorial should help.
  5. The polls don’t show it since we haven’t played any tough opponents yet, but my Baylor Bears are one of the best teams in college football this year. They have a real shot at the Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl. Yes, it does feel a bit insane to write such things, but our defense is finally catching up to our ridiculous offense, and that should scare every team we’ll face this season. In our three games so far, our defense has scored more touchdowns (4) than it has allowed (3). We have tickets for the Oklahoma game Nov 7, our first real test of the season.
  6. I really want a media room / man cave with a nice projector, comfy seats, a wet bar, and soundproofed walls. You know, something like this. Since our current living room is open to the upstairs hallway where the bedrooms are and directly under our bedroom, my subwoofer doesn’t get much use when I have some downtime to watch movies or play games. Someday!
  7. Brenden is selling chocolate for his school’s PTA. I loathe cheesy fundraisers like this and would happily write the organization a big check rather than guilt-trip my family and friends and neighbors into buying overpriced junk they don’t want. I actually planned to refuse to participate. However, I forgot one crucial element: the fundraiser people give the kids incentives to sell. Brenden came home with his box of candy bars determined to sell two boxes so he could get get to play in the Game Truck (r) when it comes to his school. So guess what? I’m selling chocolate on his behalf. 🙂 To their credit, the chocolate company has improved its recipe, and the chocolate is now quite good.
  8. I did not sign up for the international desk at work next year. The international flights are interesting and the workload is light, but since you need a special qualification to work the desk, it’s difficult to trade an international shift away if needed. Since Jenny will have EARLY morning clinicals two days a week next year, I need to keep my trading flexibility. I might try it again in 2015 if I think we can make it work.
  9. Once we have the cash, I’d like to replace the Grand Caravan with a Mazda5 and the Fit with a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt. However, right now we’re saving up for other things, so we’ll try to squeeze a few more years from our current vehicles.
  10. The boys now have passports! I’m not sure when we’ll use them yet, but they are ready. We might do an awesome cruise after Jenny finishes school in May 2015. Once the Wright Amendment restrictions are loosened in October 2014, flying to cruise ports from Dallas on SWA will become much easier.