Meet Mr. Discomfort

Mark down yesterday as the first time my daughter said “I hate you” to me. But both and wife and I were glad she did. True. And I kind of earned it. I’ll explain.

First, my wife is the better parent, as if that needs explaining to anyone reading this blog. She’s up on the parent mags and is loving and caring. I stumble through life and wing it, happy to wake up each morning, which is an instant win in my mind.

And then there is our talented and smart 9 year-old daughter going through a transitional stage and testing the borders of the soon to be teenage years. And though we think our daughter is special, as all parents do of their children, I worry that she lives too comfortable of an existence.

My wife and I are not rich. We both work. Our house is less than 1,900 sq ft, which gives me house envy here in Los Angeles. And as an only child, our daughter gets all of our attention and lives a good life. And though her hardship and defining moment may come at anytime when my lungs fail or I get hit by a moon rock, she leans toward not wanting to break out of her comfort zone, and is a little on the shy side, especially with adults.

That’s where I come in. I’m Mr. Discomfort and my picture should be on a bottle with a really long legal disclaimer, a number for the local poison-control hotline, and the warning: “May cause irritation.” 

It’s my job to shake things up when life stagnates.

I get bothered when my daughter holds her feelings in and doesn’t participate in discussions. So, rather than have the silent young lady at the table sitting it out while life goes by, I push and prod until we have a mild conflict going that leads to emotion and the flexing and testing of communication skills. And most importantly in the end: growth.

So, when the young firecracker’s fuse ran out and she asked us if it was okay to speak exactly what was on her mind, we gave her the green light. We had plenty of burn cream in the kitchen.

And when she said “I really, really hate you right now” I was okay with that. It was a breakthrough of her not holding in her emotions and expressing herself. And more importantly, it resulted in her gaining the confidence to take singing and karate lessons, which is what the conversation was about in the first place – her not trying new things in life and ending up sad about it later as an adult.

When opportunities present themselves, we said, take advantage. Or, the moment may be lost and you’ll regret it.

To my daughter’s credit, she got it. And soon she’ll be kicking the daylights out of a karate bag and singing Lady Gaga songs.

The most touching moment came later that night outside when she asked me if I loved her. Yes, I do love you, I said.

Even though I said I hated you?

Yes, I said. Always. No matter what.

And the night was magical and mile 9 of the marathon continued with me skirting the fine line of “near-disaster” parenting, proving once again, even numskulls get lucky once in awhile.

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Work and more work

Work was a bear this week, eating me alive. I left late Sunday night and drove east to the lovely but highly polluted city of Ontario. Then I spent most of the week there getting up at 6 a.m to do treatments and work from the hotel. Then to the office by 8, on my feet all day and back to the hotel around 10 each night. A couple hours of treatments and to sleep at midnight.

The resting place for our black mutt

Before I left for the trip to the capital of polluting big rigs, we buried our black mutt on Father’s day. We sprinkled his ashes in the ground a few feet from our chocolate lab and planted a new plant on top of him. My daughter cried a lot. She loves dogs at age 9 more than I think I did as a kid, though we were not allowed to have them in the house, which made our relationship with them different. She’s grown up with a yellow lab for a pillow.

Knock on wood that I haven’t been spending much of my time at doctors lately. I have spent a lot of time at the vet with the dogs. It seems like I’m there with one of them each week. Yesterday, it was Luna. I welcomed the break from work, as I was moving slowly and not very productive early in the day. Luna has some “upset stomach/vomit on the rug” thing. Test results back today. Then, another trip this week or next to have Cali spayed.

The universe is happy when I’m speaking to someone with “Dr.” in their title, I guess. The only good part about the vet is not having to fill out 5 pages of medical paperwork and questions. The vet doesn’t care about who the parents of my dog are and what ailments her grandparents had. With real medical paperwork, I take the express train and line through those annoying questions.

Though I felt pretty good this week, it had its share of feel-bad moments. First was eating too much pizza for lunch on Tuesday and watching my digestion go south for the week, which is always a joy at group meetings and exceptional fun when standing in front of 50 people presenting.

Then my feet and lower legs swelled up thanks to the heat and Wednesday’s triple BBQ-meat lunch. I ate what could best be described as a small mountain of salty tri-tip, pork and chicken on Wednesday. I don’t know if it triggered a gout flare up, but I have to email the doctor and figure out what’s going on. By the end of each day, I was pretty creaky.

If I have any wish for my daughter today, it’s that she doesn’t work for a large corporation when she’s older – unless it makes her happy beyond belief to do so. And maybe I’m projecting my own wishes onto her, but there is something wrong with working for one. I can’t put my finger on it today with my tired brain, but I will in a future post. I just hope she does something really fun and is her own boss. Knowing her, she’ll be kind of bossy no matter what. Her poor future husband has no idea. 🙂

Stay rested.

The marshmallow thief and other snippets from life

I was standing in the living room this week when Cali ran out of the kitchen with a large bag of marshmallows in her mouth. My wife had left a cabinet open and opportunity presented itself. I felt like a shortstop fielding a 37-pound ground ball. I saved the run from scoring.

The innocent face of the thief

It turns out she’s quite the puppy thief, this one. Anything she can put in her mouth goes in her mouth. But there’s some mischief mixed in.

My daughter was on the floor drawing and Cali ran into the kitchen, grabbed the bag of markers and ran out, which irritated my daughter, who didn’t see the humor in it. Especially after the 5th time Cali tried it.

Cali has become quite the fun pup, and our “Socialize California” mission is paying off. (Does that make us Socialists?) She’s much more confident now and sounds and barking dogs don’t phase her as much. She’s doing great in puppy classes. We feel proud of the work we’ve done with her. Now we just have to cure her of her thieving ways.

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Cali got sick this week. Diarrhea sick. I got sick at the same time – my own stomach issues. Coincidence? After a chicken and rice diet (Cali), and Pop Tarts and Popsicles (me), I got better but Cali didn’t. So it was to the vet for a sample from her back end, which the vet staff gave us some hell about, as they wondered why were testing her if she was not showing any other signs of illness, and she had had the stool test a month ago.

Ah, summer

Because we’ve owned dogs our entire lives and something is not right, okay? Shut up and take our money.

The vet’s office called the next day to tell us the test was negative. What?

We were happy it was, but confused. So, I called the vet just to see what else it might be. When he called me back, he said the second test was positive for giardia. Vindication for us, antibiotics for Cali.

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I had a clinic appointment this week. My PFTs were up, but not back to the pre “flu from hell” levels. I felt happy and sad. Happy they’re better, but sad I may not get back that lung function. I also need sinus surgery. We’ll plan it the next time I go into the hospital. It’s like having your car repaired – making a trip in just to fix the door handle is a pain. I’ll wait until I’m due for a major service to repair everything.

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Work has been nuts lately. So, I’ve felt like reading more than writing. I just finished Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, which took me a while to get into but was excellent in the end. But I like Franzen’s other book The Corrections better. I have three or four unread books on my Kindle left to go this summer, though “summer” may be too kind of a word to describe this season, as it’s been warmer in Alaska than here in L.A. I’m writing this while wearing a parka and using icicles and flavoring to make homemade Popsicles.

Stay warm.

Letter to my daughter 06/13/11

[To my friends: I’ve been tinkering with this post for almost two weeks. It’s the most frustrating of my letters to my daughter and makes me wish I had told my wife about my blog so she could edit it. I’m posting it so I can move on to new posts. However, I’ll probably revise this one forever. ]

Dearest Daughter,

The mistakes I’ve made in my life haunt me. Probably more than they should. But I can’t help it and I can’t forget them.

I wish I could take what I’ve learned and transfer that knowledge directly to your mind, helping you avoid the same ones. But I know you need to make your own.

Perhaps, I can help you in an unusual way.

Creative commons: Photo by Chefranden

If a butterfly flaps its wings in Hawaii, will it affect the weather in California? This is my version, by the way. And, my answer is “no, it will not. Or, there is no way to prove it.” However, if a nuclear power plant melts down in Japan, will it affect California? Yes.

So, there are obvious, major events we can measure – radiation – and events we can’t – the influence of the butterfly’s wings.

But when it comes to your life, the butterfly flapping its wings, or the small event seemingly with little impact at the time, matters a great deal.

Think of the timeline of your life, past and future. Actions or a lack of action in your life, especially early on, will change your life when you’re older – for better and worse. In my case, worse.

I think of my life now and believe it should be easier than it is. I should know more than I do. I should know how to do more things – play the guitar, solve harder math questions, identify more plants and trees, make more money, have the perfect career. I should be in a better position to take care of you and your mother.

And when I look back on my life, my situation now is a creation from simple actions I took or didn’t take when I was younger – when opportunity presented itself. I hung out with the wrong people and made the wrong choices, and never factored in the future.

Here’s the simple equation: (here and now + anything goes) – an eye on the future = the hole you’ll have to dig yourself out of for the rest of your life.

Creative Commons: Photo by shark001

This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or must work yourself to the bone. Have fun. Enjoy life. Just remember little events and choices have potentially big consequences later on in life. You’ll have to live with the good and bad decisions. No matter what though, don’t beat yourself up like I have. Let the bad ones go.

I’ll leave you with this. Until you know exactly what you want with your life – what makes you the happiest – open as many doors as possible, try as many far-reaching experiences as possible. Play the guitar, the piano. Learn karate. Skeet shoot. Make a quilt. Study as much math as possible. Appreciate science and nature.

Better yet, ignore everything I’ve listed and go your own way, but always love your Mother no matter what.

It’s my hope one day when you’re in a tough situation, on your own, with someone leaning on you to do something you know is probably not the best choice for you to make, this post will remind you to imagine the butterfly and the air currents its flapping wings displace. And strength will come to you from the knowledge that those currents can only travel a long way into your future if you allow them to.

Love, Daddy

The dog days of summer start early for us

It’s not August, or summer yet, but our dog days (and nights) are here. We spend a lot of time playing with, talking about, watching, and walking the dogs. Our dogs consume our days. And it’s pretty darn nice and stress-reducing – most of the time.

Yellow Labrador on a hammock

We’re going to dog training classes. We have Nylabones in most rooms of our house, which, by the way, make for a heart-racing experience when you step on one on a wood floor. Like stepping on an ice cube. Surprise, you almost broke your backside because of a plastic dog bone.

We continually summon each other to see something new the pup is doing: “She’s yawning. Come look everybody. Bring the video camera.” 

And I’m tired everyday.

Cali has been doing great sleeping in her kennel through the night. But when the sun comes up, she comes up. I wake up on my dog couch with our yellow lab sleeping on my legs and two little brown eyes staring at me from the kennel. Out Cali goes to the backyard, sky barely awake itself. Then I try to go back to sleep for an hour. I try.

It’s amazing how important that last hour of sleep is to staying awake the rest of the day. No wonder I haven’t been blogging. I’m exhausted at night.

Cali is a bit of a conundrum. She’s shy with new people and dogs, but in the house her confidence grows each day and she’s become quite the playful pup. The trainer said she’ll become the dominant dog to our older dog. My wife and I were skeptical until this morning.

I walked into the kitchen while my wife was trying to explain a “neverbeforeseenact” of dog behavior – humping – to my daughter. But without using the word “humping.” As in, “Cali is humping the living daylights out of Luna.” Or, “humped,” as in, “Luna is being humped by Cali.” It was like watching a game of Password where you can’t say the word and have to dance around it.

Our unpredictable troublemaker

“So, you mean she’s riding her, Mommy?” Clever Mommy. Glad I missed the beginning of this conversation.

“Yes,” my wife said.

“She’s riding her like a cowgirl,” my daughter added.

Apply Parental Strategy #101-294-44B: Don’t say a word. Don’t laugh. Zip it. Yawn. Act like nothing important is happening. Continue with your daily tasks. 

And we did. And it worked.

My wife and I gave each other knowing looks of “that was close and awkward.”

I’m not looking forward to the day when my daughter comes home from school and tells us the more accurate word. It’s a shame kids and puppies have to grow up. They both peak at their maximum cuteness level when they’re young. At least dogs become less work when they get older. 9 year-old girls? Clearly, the opposite.

Work: The enemy of blogging

I traveled locally on business this week. Most days were over 12 hours of work, with one topping 15. Today, I’m feeling groggy and if I didn’t know a Red Bull would send me to the ER thinking I’m having a heart attack, I’d try one. A little “pick me up” to make it through the day.

Puppy life in black and white

And my sincere thanks to Cali California for waking me up at 5:30 this morning. Adios, REM sleep.

Usually, I can knock out a blog post on the road, but not this week. I’d get back to the hotel, do my treatments and watch TV, something I don’t do during the week unless it’s sports. But I find it enjoyable when I’m tired and sitting in a hotel room. Maybe it’s the florescent lighting? It’s the best time to watch all the wacky crap I’d never watch at home. When did MTV become a soft-core porn channel?

I missed the puppy while I was gone, and my wife and daughter. A friend of my mine used to tell me that if he traveled and missed his girlfriend at the time, he knew he liked her. If not, it was time to break up. After 25 years with my wife, I still miss her when I travel. That has to be a good sign.

Later today, I’ll be at a puppy training class with my daughter. I’m the legal guardian so she can attend the class. This should be interesting. The trainer we used told us they’re “treat crazy.” I’m not. I’ve never really had to use treats to get my dogs to do things, except complicated tricks. But this is a new world with our shy puppy. I’m sure she’ll be the size of a hog by the end of the classes. Maybe we can teach her to “oink.” Will I get kicked out for suggesting this? Or for being “treat adverse”? Probably.

What time is too early to start eating M&Ms? Can I suck the caffeine-like chemical from them to wake up? It’s almost time for my treat – my McGriddle and hot chocolate. That will help my mood. Thank you, McDonald’s for inventing the perfect breakfast treat for humans. I’d sit and beg for one, but luckily I have the cash.

Stay healthy and awake.