Parenting for the upcoming zombie wars

As my daughter approaches her teen years, my level of stress and worry increases: drugs, alcohol, guns, driving, high school drama, school shootings, men and boys that may want to hurt her, ineffective antibiotics, the bird flu, and who knows what else my mind can conjure up.

Wait, I do know: the end of the world and the complete breakdown of society as we know it.

I've been watching too many Walking Dead episodes. © Jeffrey Collingwood - Fotolia.com

I’ve been watching too many Walking Dead episodes. © Jeffrey Collingwood – Fotolia.com

There I said it. Throw me in an underground holding tank with a deck of Uno cards and the rest of the doomsday nuts.

However, before you do, I wonder if I and others haven’t been approaching parenting the wrong way. I mean we’re the protective generation of parents, aren’t we? We do everything we can to keep our children safe, which is a good thing. But I  wonder if we should have been looking at the “big picture” instead of worrying about our kids falling off a swing at the park, or riding a skateboard without knee pads.

Like doing more to make sure they inherit a habitable Earth.

I know other generations of parents have worried about their children and the future. However, are we the first parents to ever have the concern of our planet being so screwed up it won’t be able to sustain life?

And, as life heads to a possible end with food and water shortages, overpopulation, a larger percentage of poor, rising sea levels and global warming, what will those last years of life on the planet be like?

Yes, I worry too much. I know. I just wonder while the majority of us are working our asses off, and paying bills, and putting food on the table, and figuring out how to pay medical bills, and stressing about our jobs, who is keeping the planet safe from harm?

Was that up to us too?

I think it was.

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Breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you

Last weekend, on the beach, we met a very nice older couple. Our dogs met first, as their rare breed, 80 pounds, black and white with a patch over one eye, had a crush on our common black lab and couldn’t help but go Hugh Hefner on her every five minutes, until the leash came out and took the spark out of the stud.

Details about the couple: husband with salty gray, wavy, windblown hair, a deep tan, Ray-Bans, quiet; she of proper upbringing, talkative and charming, warm. They live in Santa Monica and have a house up here in Ventura they visit on weekends. They’re intelligent, articulate and the husband worked in Hollywood for a long time, making them successful. They have a son who is an engineer and working with a racing team back east.

Oh, and they’re in a class above us – the one I’ve always wanted to be in.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

So, right off the bat, I’m depressed and jealous, a bad combo.

Why are they speaking to me? What do they want? 

My wife tells the woman, Joan, a name I just gave her, that I know and write about automotive technology and luxury cars. And Joan, it turns out, is in the market for a luxury car I know a lot about. We have a great talk about it on the beach, as I keep one eye on the dogs to make sure Cali doesn’t run up and steal someone’s food, which she likes to do.

And Joan and I continue what I like to call, “rich people speak.” I can’t explain it. The tone of the conversation is unique, and uncomfortable. Name-dropping, lots of questions about what you do. A sizing up of the other person. Networking for one’s personal benefit? (Is there any other kind?)

We hang out with them for about 20 minutes or so, and Joan asks us if we’ll be around next weekend (yes), and if we’d like to come over for a glass of wine (yes). Great, she and her husband will stop by later with their contact info.

Two hours later, they show up. I’m standing on the front patio when they pull up. Joan gets out of the SUV and gives me a piece of paper with their names, phone number and address. Again, they’re super nice, which makes me wonder again why they’d want to hang out with me. My wife, I understand. She’s the nicest person in the world. But me? It’s all about the cars, which I’m okay with, and used to. People love to talk about cars, but it’s usually men.

The week goes by. I ask my wife to send Joan a text on Friday. She does. We don’t hear back, but then Joan and her husband show up at our door later that day. She has information on tomorrow’s Artwalk (Did you know about it? Yes. Are you going? Yes. Would you like to hang out and have fish tacos? Yes.)

We talk for 10 minutes and I probably say a bunch of stupid things (to be discussed later in this post). And she tells me she didn’t see the text from my wife.

The next morning rolls around. I send a text to Joan on my wife’s iPhone because my Blackberry is drying out after its swim. But I don’t hear back.

We arrive at the Artwalk with a couple of our friends and I call Joan. It rings but she doesn’t answer and I leave one of those messages where I didn’t plan on leaving a message and sound like a complete idiot. These calls come easily to me.

We attend the Ventura Artwalk, which is a bit of a disappointment, as it’s more “walk” than “art.” I don’t hear back from Joan. And it drives my OCD mind crazy: Why did they come by twice and then stand us up?

I re-think their second visit to our house and analyze everything I said. What did I say wrong? I was nervous for some reason – stretching to be cool? More name dropping? Was it the point I made of how similar Google employees seem to Hollywood people, that they’re special and in the in-crowd? Arrogant? Did I piss off her husband?

I can’t figure it out and my wife doesn’t understand why I’m concerned. She doesn’t care. And it’s not that I cared, as much as, I was curious what went wrong.

We went to the beach at the end of the day with the dogs, and who do I see down the beach? Joan, her husband, and their horny exotic dog. They’re leaving. (Did they see us and leave?) I have a business card for them. So, I follow them home. (Yes, I’m aware that sounds very stalker like, but it was to give them the card, not peer in their windows.)

I catch up to them at their house, as 50% lung function does not make for moving quickly through deep sand.

Again, they were super nice and offer water, which I thought was for me, but was for my yellow lab, though I did think about getting down on all fours to share it.

We talked about the Artwalk. Joan forgot her phone, and they too were disappointed in the lack of artwork. I complimented her husband on an amazing career in Hollywood – I looked it up on the Internet. And I told him he should write a book about the experiences on the different movies. At some point, I slipped in a stupid comment about wanting to make sure everything was good, as I’m prone to saying stupid things. It’s a blur how I threw that comment in. (Come on, I’m insane. I’ll never know where the stuff that comes out of my mouth comes from or why.)

(Now here is the “breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you” part of the story.)

So, Joan asks how long we’ll be in town, as if to hook up with us again. (In a Bronx accent in my head: Oh, no you didn’t. Oh, no you didn’t just say that.) I’m having none of it. No way. She’s just being polite. How many unreturned messages will it lead to? I can read the signs, babe.

“That’s okay,” I say. “We don’t want to bother you. I just stopped by to give you my card in case I can answer any questions about the car. That’s it. “

“Well, we know how to get in touch with you then,” she said.

We say goodbye.

Back to the beach, I went, Luna, hydrated, at my side.

Was it the orange Cheetos stain on my shorts? My week-old, bristly beard and the four long hairs sticking out of my left cheek that I was too lazy to shave or pluck? How stupid did I sound? What mistake did I make?

I’m sure they were relived after I left and looked at each other in agreement that meeting strangers on the beach would be something they would never do again.

BUT THEY CAME TO OUR RENTAL HOUSE TWICE! Twice. I don’t get it.

I’ll never know what happened. And that’s the part that will drive me crazy – for frickin’ ever and a day.

ARGGGGGHHHHH. Damn dogs. Next time, I’m getting two pit bulls, not cute, friendly Labradors.

Father’s Day 2013 and other thoughts

I’m grateful for my wife and daughter and two labs, though the black one is a pain in the ass sometimes, but in a good way, or not. I’m not sure.

So, I received white boxers with blue whales on them, Godiva chocolate bars (because I’m eating a lot of it to keep me going during long workdays), and noise-reducing headphones to protect my Tobramycin-damaged hearing while I use power tools.

Best of all, my wife wrote a long note all about me and how great I am. I wrote back right away and asked who she was writing about and how I’d like to meet the guy who does all of this stuff.

I’m not going to post the entire letter here, as I don’t think I can live up to the high bar it sets, but here is one of my favorite quotes: “The father who quizzes us on how to spot potentially unsavory characters on the street and what we should do in any potentially risky situations.”

You bet I do, baby. And you better pass that quiz each time. Keep your eyes open for those “unsavory” types, though I’m not sure I’ve ever used the word “unsavory,” which makes me think of poorly cooked food, not scumbags.

This reminds me of one of the first dates I was on with my future wife. I had a black soft-top Jeep Wrangler and we were in West LA stop and go traffic and one of them thar’  (cowboy voice) “unsavory” types approached my honey bunny while we were waiting at a light. With no windows on the Jeep and no six-shooter at my hip, I had to use my highly advanced communication skills to defuse the situation.

“BACK OFF, dickweed,” I said.

What did he call me?  © igor - Fotolia.com

What did he call me?
© igor – Fotolia.com

Being that my wife is a nice catholic girl and lived a sheltered life, her first question was, “What’s a dickweed?”

It was a really tough question. And I wasn’t sure how to answer it. But I guess my overpowering delivery won her heart and she stayed with me. I’ll never understand why, but then it’s never a good idea to question or analyze love.

It just is, and I’m lucky I have it.

My wife discovers my blog

Everything is temporary. Especially secrets.

After 3 years, 4 months, 383 posts, 2,733 comments, and rarely publicizing my blog, my wife discovered it. The gig is up, done, over. Goodbye to my secret. It’s kaput. ARGGGHHHH!

So, how did this happen and who is to blame?

Congratulations to my wife for her discovery. Well done. (I love you a ton, honey. Now find the next one. :-) ) © iQoncept - Fotolia.com

Congratulations to my wife for her discovery. Well done. (I love you a ton, hot mama. Now find the next one. 🙂 )
© iQoncept – Fotolia.com

Google. Yes, Google.

Bang. Done. Over with.

But did the little detective tell me right away when she found it? No. She read a bunch of the posts first.

However, unlike me, she’s the worst when it comes to keeping secrets and couldn’t help but confess, though I give her style points for her method of choice: she wrote a comment for a post, used her silly Disney alias, Dakota, and sent it with an email address I’d recognize.

I walked the 50 feet to her home office. And that was it. I got the low down on how she found it.

One of my blogging friends emailed me a CF question about marriage and I copied and pasted the text to my wife to get her opinion. She Googled my friend’s name and it came up attached to my blog, which she clicked on. It didn’t take her long to put 7 and 10 together (Denver Broncos, Fox, McGriddles) and realize it was me. (BTW, Josh, she really likes the header you created. Thank you.)

Somehow, my wife finding it feels like an ending. 

So, what do I do now? Do I continue to write this blog? Do I quit it and start another, bury it deeper in the internet?

Or, do I hand it over to her and let her write it for a while? (You found it, it’s your responsibility now, Honey.)

I don’t know. We’ll see. To be continued. Or not.

Addendum to yesterday’s post

If I could really shape shift, I would look like Don Draper, but a lot happier.

If I could really shape shift, I would look like Don Draper, but a lot happier.

INT. Today’s CF Clinic appointment – morning

Nurse: Hi.

Unknown (wearing a yellow hospital mask): Hello.

Nurse: You’re looking good. So tan.

Unknown: Thank you.

Nurse: You’re not feeling well, huh?

Unknown: Nope.

Nurse pauses, looks at Unknown again.

Nurse: You look good. Your hair looks different, short. It’s nice.

Unknown: Thanks.

Nurse: I must have caught you after a haircut, huh?

Unknown: Yep

Nurses takes another look at Unknown.

Nurse: Are those new glasses?

Unknown: Yep.

Nurse: They look good. Very stylish.

Unknown: Thank you.

Yes, after writing yesterday’s post, this happened. A gift from the blogging gods!

I’m not sure I nailed the exact quotes, but I’m close. The nurse is super nice. And everything she said was complimentary. I could, however, detect that there was something about my appearance she couldn’t put her finger on. She just kept looking at me over and over. Kind of like I was . . . wait for it . . . a person she didn’t recognize. I am, after all, a master shape shifter.

And then I blew the lowest PFT I’ve ever blown in my life. HUGE FAIL. Tomorrow I go to jail for a dose of IV antibiotics and the most hated drug I’ve ever taken – oral steroids. Hello, hallucinations. Soon, I’ll really believe I can shape shift.

Happy, happy, joy, joy, it’s off to jail I go, where I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow . . . nothing down.

The best Christmas ever (and I understand Charlie Brown much better now)

Here are my very simple criteria for what makes a Christmas, “the best Christmas”:

  1. Was I alive during it?
  2. Did I stay out of the hospital?

Check off both of those boxes this year. Thus, best Christmas ever. Check back next year and if those two boxes are checked again, you’ll see a post with the same title.

Though my present was Luna's bionic knee, I did get some stocking stuffers, like this BBQ mitt to keep me from burning the hair off my arm each time I cook the fish.

Though my present was Luna’s bionic knee, I did get some stocking stuffers, like this BBQ mitt to keep me from burning the hair off my hand and arm each time I cook fish.

You’ll notice there’s nothing on my checklist about the gifts I received during the holiday. Just living to see another Christmas and not being in the hospital are the only two gifts I care about now. When I was younger it was about the “stuff,” which would make the year I received a Sizzlers racetrack the best Christmas ever.

So, this Christmas was pretty awesome. We didn’t make any parental missteps like last year’s bicycle gift to my daughter. My wife and I gave her a bunch of eclectic gifts this year, including a messenger bag that she loved and carried around downtown Ventura two days later, which is amazing considering she’s allergic to carrying anything, especially groceries from the car to the house.

The art supplies Santa (my wife) bought her made her happy. And I went off the reservation, so to speak, this year, and ordered her several gifts without asking for my wife’s “voice of reason” opinion, which would have killed some of them. I just ordered stuff I thought my daughter would like: an origami book, a logic puzzle book, a scientific cookbook for kids, and a book on cupcakes.

Jackpot! I received zero, “Why is there a bicycle wedged in my stocking?” looks this year.

If there was one melancholy moment, it was at dinner the next night when my daughter challenged us to a logic puzzle. Both my wife and I made the big mistake of attempting it while we continued to eat, not paying attention that my daughter ignored her turkey and mashed potatoes and gave 100% of her young, healthy brain’s attention to the puzzle.

The two of us were halfway through it when she yelled out, “done.”

My favorite quote from the movie Aliens seems appropriate here: “What do you mean, THEY cut the power? How could they cut the power, man? They’re animals!”

So, my response was somewhat similar: What do you mean you finished? You did the entire thing? How did you do it that fast, you’re only 10?”

What happened to our little girl, the half-pint sponge who dressed up as Snow White and loved tea parties? Hello, computer-brained daughter whose main goal now is to have a mental throwdown with her parents, with little thought and compassion for their fragile adult self-esteem. What the heck are they teaching kids in fifth grade these days?

Round two. With fresh copies of a new puzzle in our hands and full concentration – dinner set aside – the three of us went at it again.

I also received a Kreg Jig Jr. I can go "pocket hole" crazy now.

I also received a Kreg Jig Jr. I can go “pocket hole” crazy now.

The scene: clock ticking loudly, sweat dripping off my brow, collar feeling tight, pencil slowly etching the paper, scribbled notes, stomach churning.

The result: My wife finished first, followed by my daughter two seconds later, followed by me – later.

Defeat, failure. Smashed by the two females in my house, an event that is happening way too often these days. ARGH, Charlie Brown, I know how you felt, my man. I know how you felt.

But if there is a silver lining to the beat down, I’m still the person they come to when their computers don’t work, or something in the house needs fixing. Luckily, the logic puzzles don’t extend to real life, and I still have some purpose and value left.

All hope is not lost yet, Charlie Brown.

Happy New Year to all.

Thoughts always on my mind

I could, at anytime, contract a bacterial infection that kicks my ass and destroys my quality of life, or kills me. What would it take? Touching the wrong surface? A careless hospital worker? A rogue germ on the escalator at the mall? It’s hard dodging an invisible enemy year after year.

I need all my clothing made out of these. Adios, bacterial invaders. Too bad I can’t reach inside my lungs and swab out the invaders with one of these.

I may have cancer now and not know it, or get it at anytime in the future. I’m in the death zone and potentially a doctor’s appointment away from it. My mother has cancer, my grandmother died from it. Should I take this as a hint from the universe?

At any moment, a stream of crimson fluid might blast from my lungs. I think about this throughout the day – each day – when I bend over, when I go to sleep at night. when I walk up a hill, when I accidentally eat food that thins the blood. (This salad dressing has garlic?) I think about it every time I cough. Every time. 

Why do I sweat the small stuff, especially considering the other thoughts that live in my head? I should be doing more with the life I have left and not worrying so much.

I worry about my wife and daughter, especially my daughter. My wife works out of the house, so I know she is okay most of the time. But my daughter is getting older and independence is calling. At 10 she thinks she knows it all, and when I gave her the “stranger lecture” before the festival last weekend, she grumbled and told me she already knew it. Every time I read about a missing child or teen or young female adult, I get sad for the loss, and worry.

How many admin tasks will my boss send me today? Menial, administrative work tasks feel like walking up to a chalkboard, opening my mouth wide, and running my teeth across the surface. The thought of it alone gives me shivers. End of Day (EOD), Close of Business (COB), End of Week (EOW) work emails = the classic comedy scene where Lucy works in the chocolate factory.

I need to read and write more. How did I spend three nights in a row watching the first three Alien movies? Final score: Aliens 3; creativity 0.

I suck. I am a failure. I have not lived up to my potential. If I had, my wife would not have to work for one of the world’s worst bosses and be stressed all the time. I should not have sold my Apple stock years ago. I should be running my own business and in control of my own destiny.

How many days has it been since I’ve taken a shower?

That’s the stuff I think about.