Speaking to my daughter’s future self

I hope there is a God so one day I can thank her for my daughter.

Kicking back at the beach with a yellow Labrador pillow.

How I got so lucky, I will never know. But I did. And it’s best not to question why.

I’ll also thank the Universe for my wife, too, because I won the marriage lotto. And, as a jackpot bonus, she contributed all the best genes and qualities to my daughter, especially the love, goodness, and kindness – because our 5th grader didn’t get any of those from me.

I’m the guy with the low opinion of humanity who thinks the world is going to collapse under the weight of billions of people with resources to support millions. No matter how much ketchup you use, you can’t eat an iPhone or iPad, or fish from a poisoned ocean.

But there in the middle of the madness is my daughter, bright, shiny, ready to join the ride I’ll be getting off of soon. And it’s everything we can do to keep her from harm, especially the self-inflicted kind. It’s almost as if the important talks we have with her now anticipate that she will become someone else, someone different from her 10-year-old self.  We speak to her future self, which feels a bit sci-fi like, and hope what we tell her sticks, and she remembers it when needed years from now.

We have conversations about alcohol and drugs: One day a friend will offer you drugs, someone you never expected (disbelief from daughter). What will you do?  If your friend drinks too much at a party and wants to drive you home, will you remember to call us? We’ll pick you up. No judgment. 

When she is a teenager, will she still love us? That’s a question my wife and I ask ourselves a lot. I’m not as concerned. I’m just not. I can only do so much.

But now that my daughter is almost 11, I’m feeling sentimental and a little bit . . . scared?

I read too many news stories about harm coming to women. I used to worry about our cabinet doors being secure and the bumper around the coffee table being in place, or wearing her helmet while biking. The stuff I worry about now feels more real, harder to see, like it’s waiting outside, lurking – a jungle filled with scummy people, losers, and criminals. We can prepare her, coach her, but in that moment when she in on her own one day, what can we do?

Our neighbor’s adult daughter has a drug problem and history with the police. We use her as the poster child of what not to do with your life. But I still wonder what happened to her. What signs did the parents miss? What mistakes did they make? How did she go from bright, bubbly toddler to living in her car and homeless? How did that happen? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen to our daughter?

So, what does the future hold for our daughter? Will we prepare her properly to succeed in the world? I’m in no hurry to find out.

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.

Odds and Ends in October

I’m entering the dark months.  Otherwise known as the months when the odds are I’ll be hospitalized – probably more than once. They’re also the bleeding months, especially autumn. Not sure why that happens.

We’re almost done with the kitchen. We’re this close (I’m pitching my two fingers together with a tiny gap of space between them.)

I’ve haven’t written about the remodel yet because I don’t like to think about it more than I have to. The contractor is a good guy, but he and I disagree about the quality of the backsplash installation. His assistant had to go back in and remove some glass tiles because there were gaps in the mortar that showed through. I’ll never do a glass tile again unless it has an opaque backing on it.

This is the backsplash we went with. Expensive and a pain in the rear to install. If my time machine was working, I’d go back and undo this decision, or know to hire someone with specific knowledge of how to install it.

So, that’s why the remodel has gone on for so long. Should be finished in couple of days when he cleans up the last round of grout and seals it. I can’t wait to have it over with. I don’t want to go through a kitchen remodel again.

I’m giving up on moving to a new house. I know that sounds strange having just remodeled the kitchen, but I don’t like the two neighbors around us. It’s just a matter of time before one of them loses it again. If this were high school, my classmates would be voting me, “most likely to be killed by a neighbor.”

I want to move, but trying to find a house right now is crazy. Looks like the market has finally hit bottom. Every time I find a house I like, it gets multiple offers in a matter of days. There is a shortage of good houses right now. Or should I say a shortage of houses that meet the qualifications of my wife who doesn’t want to move.

I went to see a fixer-upper yesterday with my agent and when we got there it had just entered into escrow. Argh. It had been on the market a week. Low supply, high demand. So, I’m giving up. It’s probably better anyway because I don’t want to saddle my wife with extra debt should a meteor fall from the sky and bean me in the head, though my head is pretty hard and filled with rock. Might not bother me. I’m more concerned about it ricocheting off of my noggin and hurting someone else.

I think I’m going through a mid-life crisis. I see the clock ticking, but I’m having a hard time changing course. Tick tock.

Conundrum

It starts with waking up to read my work email in the morning. I don’t look forward to it. There is something about it now that makes me wonder how valuable a lot of what I do really is. I don’t think it was always this way. And I don’t think it has to do with my having less enthusiasm for work email. It’s the email that’s changed. Economy, people worrying about their jobs, tracking everything, measuring and justifying one’s existence, busy work. I don’t know. I just know the quality and quantity of it is painful at times. A distraction from work that matters.

My life will be coming to an end in an unknown amount of minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. If I could find out exactly what day I will die, it would allow me to allocate my resources. 3 months, 6 months? Hmm, perhaps I’m done wasting my time with pointless work. Hello, Las Vegas. Hello, speeding tickets. 5 years to 10 years left? Well then, work is good. Keep on trucking. Benefits, a paycheck – all good. No reason to risk anything.

I’m lucky to have a wife and daughter, two dogs, a job, a house, a car, health insurance. Knock on wood. Life’s checklist is good. I’m lucky. Good too. But what do I do with the rest of my time? It feels like I should be doing more and that I know better than to waste time and worry about trivial stuff. It could all end tomorrow. But one has to survive. Artists and musicians glamorize this situation, as if I should be driving a VW van while lip-syncing to Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I suck at making the most of life. I must have slept through that class in school.

Ah, Ms. Perry, What was Russell thinking?
Photo by Eva Rinaldi – Creative Commons

My garage is full of crap. It’s a warehouse for items I may need once in the next 5 years. It feels like a ball and chain. Stuff weighs a lot. I don’t have the courage to throw it all away. Who knows when I’ll need that spare insulation or scrap of plywood.

I surf the Internet too much. It’s a distraction, has ruined my concentration, and keeps me from doing anything that takes effort, such as writing a blog post. It is escape. I’ve mastered it.

I dislike Yahoo! and its headline stories about nothing. Yahoo! – it’s your brain on cotton candy. “Levi Johnson Poses with Baby Daughter.” At what point is that story worthy of a major headline? Have you ever noticed how many stories are about celebrities’ new hair styles?

Yapoo!

I’m tired of Apple mania. I dig the new Samsung Galaxy commercial poking fun at waiting in line for an iPhone. It’s pitch perfect. I own Apple everything, but now I’m wondering if I joined a cult and they’ll be asking me to drink iKool-Aid soon.

I fear failure, but have nothing to lose, or everything. I’m not sure.

I have ideas. Always have. But I was born without the gene to make shit happen.

This is my conundrum.

We are not granite people

Zion, Aurora Borealis, Orion, Cosmos, Golden Sun, Copper Canyon, Golden Crystal, Espírito Santo, Purple Dunes, Emerald Green, Kashmir Cream, and Lapidus.

This was one of the most interesting granites we found. But even we don’t have the courage to go with a style choice like this. Fear of looking outdated overruled this choice and the fact we’re going with browns, oranges, yellows, etc. But still, this is one cool-looking slab of rock.

We spent Saturday walking granite yards.

It was dirty work and in areas of Los Angeles my daughter has never seen before. Areas with large power-line transformer towers, graffiti, murals on the sides of buildings, railroad tracks, and apartment buildings with cool-sounding names leftover from the 1950s and 60s.

I tossed  in a teaching moment and reminded her how good we have it compared to others. But it was a really a reminder for me, as I’ve been feeling envy of others in Los Angeles lately – the million-dollar home owners and those who can afford exotic granites with names like some of the ones I started this post with.

I should have no complaints about what we have and our good fortune. Driving through LA yesterday reminded me of this. We are lucky to have what we have, despite life  in Los Angeles and advertising constantly screaming that we don’t.

Another thing I realized yesterday is that I don’t like granite. Or, more accurately, I don’t like granite in kitchens.

Looking at large slabs of it is like looking at nature’s artwork. Beautiful, complex, deep – I love a 6 x 10 feet piece of rock. And if we had a kitchen island the size of a slab, we’d have granite. But we don’t even have a kitchen island. And granite when it’s cut into pieces looks busy to me, which makes me an oddball here in LA where granite countertops are ubiquitous.

If you listen to our real estate agent, everyone wants granite and that’s the only thing to put in for the best resale values. But we’re not going to because both my wife and I came to the same conclusion yesterday: we’re not granite people.

We don’t live in a house fancy enough for granite countertops. It’s not us. And we want a clean white kitchen, which is going against the grain of stained cabinets. Busy granite needs a mellow or white subway tile backsplash. We’re more backsplash people. And we want one that looks mind-blowing and is as colorful as an Andy Warhol painting or English garden in spring.

We want something fun. Not something serious and maybe a bit too proper or adult.

This slab is more in line with the colors we’re thinking. Goldfinger (completely random reference to James Bond who probably wouldn’t give a sh** about granite countertops, as he lived he life on the road away from home and ate in restaurants all the time.)

So, we going with quartz,  the number one choice of Consumer Reports for countertops. A nice neutral shade and solid color. And it will be nice and smooth like granite, which we don’t have right now with a crumbling-grout tile countertop.

If I had any courage at all, the quartz countertop would be colorful – orange or red. Or we’d paint our cabinets a color. But that’s not going to happen. We’re still adult enough to realize we will have to sell the house one day, which could be tomorrow knowing how much I want to move every time I deal with some of our neighbors and their demons.  We need to create a kitchen that appeals to a wider range of buyers. Or so conventional wisdom goes.

So, white it is with quartz countertops and an eye-catching backsplash. And though I’m not enjoying the remodeling process this time, I’m doing my best not to sweat it because I know how lucky we are and how many others are not. Kitchens are, after all, just kitchen cabinets and stone. They are not life.

And we want to become adults because?

It would have been nice had someone explained to me when I was young how difficult it is to be an adult. It’s not a cakewalk. Nor is every day a day at the beach. I probably wouldn’t have listened, or cared, but it still would have been nice. All those milestones we dream of as children, 16, 18, and 21, blow by. Then we become adults and can do anything we want, including wishing we were 16 again, but smarter.

Okay, moaning over. It’s just one of those days. Let me explain.

So many questions, so little time. © kbuntu – Fotolia.com

I spent two days writing a post about what happened over Memorial Day weekend with a neighbor. I would love to publish it, but I don’t know if I can make it plain enough to avoid all legal scrutiny and not get in hot water. In a nutshell, a neighbor who has caused the neighborhood and my family great stress went to jail this weekend. I and another neighbor followed the instructions of the police the last time they were here: call if she shows up again. We just wanted her out of the neighborhood. The going to jail part was a surprise and not intended. Now I know why some people don’t get involved. It’s easier and requires less effort and stress.

And if you do get involved, it’s easy to muck it up and experience more stress (I know this firsthand).

I’ve been on the phone with a lawyer about my options to sue since then, and I’ve spoken to a police officer about everything happening in the neighborhood for the past year. My wife and I have had stressful conversations about the situation. Unfortunately, there’s no manual on how to protect your family from people with drug habits.

But there should be.

I went to clinic today and my PFTs haven’t gone back to baseline. Not looking good. So, maybe it’s time for IVs to see if we can nudge them back.

When the nurse was reviewing my records, the conversation went like this: Have you made an appointment with the sinus doctor? No. Have you scheduled a sleep study? No. Have you scheduled a bone scan? No. An oral glucose test? No. And so on.

Working 50 hours a week makes it difficult to spend my weeks enduring medical tests.

A new doctor untrained in the mysteries of CF walked in and surprised me. I’m picky about my doctors and my time. I knew in the initial 30 seconds based on the way she entered, spoke, her mannerisms, and plopping herself on the first chair she could find that I had nothing to say to her. And I told her that, then asked for the regular doc. Nothing personal, I said, as she left. One of the regular doctors I like entered the room and it rained happiness and Skittles. I only had to use a third of the words and effort with her compared to the doctor I booted.

A similar situation happened with a temporary member of the staff. I answered her questions as quickly as I could and got her out of the room as fast as possible. But the visit wore me out, as the longer I’m there, the more the work feels like it’s piling up.

So, all of this and more have added up to remind me why some must turn to drugs in life. The future overwhelms. How much of what we worry about will or won’t happen? I wish I knew.

Remembering the mistakes, forgetting the successes, and the evolution of one’s character

I can remember every failure or mistake I’ve ever made. I could write out a list right now. Give me some ink, a quill, and a monk’s desk, and I could create a scroll that when opened would roll out for miles and miles.

I often wonder if other people face this or have this negative habit.

Say hello to my little friend, Jingles. He’s a genius. © Amy Walters – Fotolia.com

Every day I’m reminded of a few choice errors. It’s hard to predict which ones, but some bad memory comes flooding back. And I beat myself up about it.

The ones that hurt the most are the ones that hurt our family and have kept us from having more in life. But there are relationship mistakes I’ve made too, and those smart sometimes. And then there are the mistakes that have damaged my health. Ouch, thinking about a few now.

This is like shaking a warm can of Coke and popping the top.

I don’t remember very many of the successes. It’s either because there haven’t been very many or I don’t feel deserving of them? I have no idea, but the ratio is skewed in favor of remembering the idiotic and stupid things I’ve done – most too embarrassing to mention.

I try not to think of my first 25 years at all. They’re a collage of mistakes and bad choices and feeling like the village idiot. I’m lucky I didn’t end up in jail or an urn.

I’ve never claimed to be bright. And if anything, I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten smarter over the years as much as I would say I’m just not as dumb as I once was. So, I guess it comes down to degrees of stupidity. I’m less stupid than I was. Barely.

If there is a bright spot, I feel like I’ve improved as a human being over the years. It just took me a long time to get to this point. And I did have to figure out a lot of it on my own and the evolution took a little bit longer than it does for most people. Not that I have everything figured out now. I don’t.

I tell my daughter that the worse part of lying or doing bad things is not always the action itself, it’s the memories of what you did. They last a lifetime and haunt like ghosts.