Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An ode to the little things in life

An ear in a crowded bar sipping on a late-night happy hour rail drink until last call.  A check that breaks a financial strangle to improve life versus worrying about interest rates.  Shoveling a driveway in the middle of blizzard so an hourly worker does not have to go home with a short paycheck. 

“Let’s go for a walk”
“I’m sorry for your loss, how I can help?”
“Let’s get that drink we talk about but never do”

Grabbing an ass or not at the right time.  Leaving a person alone in order to be together.  Working late nights so the tired cook in the family that just came home from a rough day doesn’t need to pour through Pinterest for the latest creation that includes:  hamburger, zucchini, cream of mushroom soup, and bacon and can hop on Yelp instead to choose a decent local joint that makes a steak sandwich with a stiff vodka tonic. 

“Let’s make choices instead of excuses”
“I heard about a job you might be interested in”
“I think you should ask her out”

It is much easier to look for a way out than a way in because the pathway out was drawn while going in.  Marriages, jobs, friendships, all are drawn because people made an instant choice to interact with someone else and started a new road, a new street to walk down for a few minutes or a few decades.  The way out is easy, just go to the side of the road and sit because eventually the spouse will tell you they need a partner not a dependent, the boss needs a talented worker not someone who can pass level 530 in Candy Crush, the friend needs someone who will listen not an empty blog that hasn’t been filled in several months (*ahem*).

Reading Brad’s continuation on Wheaton’s Law tonight got me to log on for the first time since I graduated several months ago.  Walking the line at Roy Wilkins seemed like last week because I’ve spent this time trying to rejoin several paths where I took a seat on the curb holding a laptop trying to obtain a blunt force weapon called a college degree to break the corporate glass ceiling. 

Was the sacrifice worth it?  It wasn’t entirely for money as obtaining the latest Apple iEverything doesn’t interest me but providing some fun outside of paying bills does.  Living paycheck to paycheck sucks, becoming obsolete at work scared me but the cost afterwards was a harsh reality when I folded the Samsung RV515 and logged off the Rasmussen website for the last time to see people have moved on or changed.

Slowly, those walkways to my marriage, family, friends have become cleanly paved again, providing a place to grow and enjoy.  Work isn’t work anymore, it’s a challenge to learn.  Marriage isn’t marriage anymore its constant exercise to improve.  To quit at this point would do a disservice to all the people who didn’t mind that I hid behind five-inch thick books with instruction on taxing a partnership in Arizona correctly.

This all started with random invite from a friend to a hotel party, a morning Yahoo IM chat, a bonfire with friends along side of a half-used handle of rum.  Those people had no idea at the time how much they would alter my life, but maybe now they do.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The $50,000 Epiphany

It has been over a month since I walked down the aisle at Roy Wilkins arena to take home a gold stamped leather binder showing the Rasmussen College school crest (Doctrina, Concretio, Successio with a rockin Moose for a mascot) with a piece of cardboard that set me back around $50,000.  My wife sat in the upper deck besides her dad and my parents of 38 years, all of whom I owe my life to both figuratively and literally.  Sure I opened the padded folder a few times just to see if my name in fancy calligraphy proclaimed that my time as a student has ended and new path would present itself after shaking the hands of an academic dean I never met and would never see again.

Willingly give up 3.5 years of sanity and free-time to break a corporate glass ceiling that might as well been made out of Kevlar wrapped around the insulation used for the Space Shuttle seemed like a much easier task sitting over a bonfire in northern Minnesota.  It didn’t take Toby Robbins or Henry Rollins to shout in my ear that stasis was slowly killing whatever momentum this life had after breaking out of the haze of a head injury.  Sure, work was going in the right direction with accolades and praise for taking on extra work for the same pay while staying in the poker blogging game covering every –COOP tournament series PokerStars could come up with.  Giving up at this point would have been a trout slap in the face to me and anyone who invested even a nice word in my general direction.

There was no need for a life coach or religious schema to tell me that God would guide my rum-soaked soul to the promise land of fiscal and conscious independence if certain rules of life were followed.  What was needed was another complete detachment from day-to-day life, not completely unlike a certain wheel-assisted ride down Las Vegas Boulevard.  Letting go of a secure job for the chance to become that skinny third grader with the bowl cut and bright blue eyes who could shout out multiplication answers so fast some kids didn’t even try to contest.  Until a few weeks ago, that kid represented the last time I felt whole.

Strangled by insecurity despite a good, solid base at home, I let assholes into my head to plant doubt strong enough to grow a stalk to take Jack up into the clouds for his fight with the giant.  Every glance at a mirror was one of pity and pain wondering if life was supposed to feel that way.  There was no Facebook or Twitter back then to seek out a group of like-minded individuals who perhaps were struggling with similar depressive depths.  Maybe for the better as the brutal landscape of social media likely would have been more devastating than a chant during recess about the inability to hear and communicate like a normal elementary school student.  In retrospect it’s easy to look back on such events and blow it off like a flame on a birthday candle.  As a parent it is easy to go “you know what, in [XX] years you won’t even care or remember how kids at recess made fun of you”.  Yeah, 30 years later after the most amazing stretch of personal advancement, I’m sitting on a couch secure with my skin recalling a bunch of fourth graders throwing around a partly chewed up Nerf football not letting me play with them anymore.

I remember being curled up against the brick underneath the newly painted letters proclaiming the building was Cedar Island elementary during most recesses just wishing I could hide in the library despite my love for sports.  Thanks to my bump on the headspot I cannot recall many good times except for a select few that I follow on Zuckerberg’s peep show that allows me to feel good about their new step into parenting, offer condolences to the death of a parent, or question their life choices while posting a selfie with a Green Bay Packers jersey on.

The core of this whole epiphany was not receiving that $50,000 piece of cardboard or what it took to get to that moment that was captured by OverlyPricedGradPrints.com that offers a SPECIAL DEAL of only $50 UNITED STATES DOLLARS FOR A DIGITAL PRINT MUST ACT NOW!!!!  Seriously, the grad is probably strangled by the amount of debt they just ran up for the past four/five years, do you really thing they have $119.99 for the specially embossed 3-D pic of them wearing an article of clothing that will get used the same amount of times a wedding gown does?  Fuck. Off. 

Sorry.  That’s a rant for another time (luckily my father-in-law takes awesome life stills without directing me to a credit application for the honor of possessing one of them).

As I sit here now into my third drink and re-finding my love for writing in non-APA formatted structures, or any grammatically positive formations for that matter, I see a lot of good in my future despite this new debt sitting over porch’s roof.  Just like when entering adulthood, parenthood, or maybe a familiar neighborhood time is supposed to slow down.  No more parties that end up with a threesome in a cardboard box while others are discussing the superiority of grape over cherry Kool-Aid on a deck at 5am while waiting for McDonald’s to open to grab a Sausage McMuffin and hash brown (yes I’m old enough to remember the golden arches when they actually closed for the evening).  The epiphany came down hard yet landed softly into my timeline.  Stop rushing, hug more, accept more, put up with less.  Enjoy yourself or no one else will, stop expect each day will be filled with glowing unicorns blowing rainbows and perfectly distilled vodka out of their asses.  There will be times you will not like your spouse, there will be times a parent will want to take a full roll of duct tape and stick their tantrum-filled kid on the roof of a jet liner bound for Sri Lanka, there will be times that make a person question is it worth it.

It is.

Life may seem like shit if the manager just informed the department of cutbacks, a best friend suddenly goes AWOL from the friendship, or finding out that Axe Dark Temptation body spray really does not turn panties moist from grinding on that very special lady in the navy blue tank top with three visible bra straps and frayed daisy dukes when Blurred Lines takes to the DJs rotation at TGI Friday’s.  I thought like this for waaaaaaaaaaay too long and it hurt my relationship with my wife, my kids, and my friends.  Opening eyes to notice, hey people may seem ok through the veneer paneling they present in public, but likely have the same insecurities and issues about Christian Ponder throwing forward passes that you do.  Yes, I will struggle to upkeep this new direction but its better to state it and point a finger in the mirror call one’s self out on their bullshit versus not realizing it at all.

This scribbling tonight is the result of writing this post over and over in my head for the past month but never breaching the gate of turning on Microsoft Word to bang out 1,223 now 1,224 words.  At first it was a cautionary tale of after-college doldrums of how college students are not prepared for the utter financial clusterfuck they are about to enter (I just got my “guide to paying your student loan” from the college BEFORE getting my official degree).  But, to expound on this when I am relatively better off (married, just got promotion which breach previously mentioned glass ceiling, and no credit card debt) seemed very hypocritical since I’m not in the same fiscal state as a 22 year old trying dig their way out of the well-used county fair demolition derby port-a-potty of bank interest on top of their student loans while job humping LinkedIn, Monster.com, and mom’s good friend who owns a collection agency might hire the bachelor of accounting as a financial relief consultant to those that have not paid their Citibank Student MasterCard in two years or more.   

Instead a few words came out about the stressed yet calm currently in this author’s life.  My kids love the fact that daddy does not need to sit behind a laptop and expound on the different moral viewpoints of Martin Luther versus Immanuel Kant as it relates to a reversing subledger accounting journal entry.  My wife gets her friend back instead of the highly strung, over-sexed husband.  Well, he still wants sex just not at a Bree Olson pacing and enjoying quiet nights together to critique the Chopped contest’s use of pickled deer hooves as a base for the dessert round. 

Personally it’s a new life, one that should have started 15 years ago as a fresh out of college student but I wouldn’t trade my life experiences for anything, except a Vikings Super Bowl win and maybe some MN State Fair cheese curds with Dogfish 90 minute IPA to wash it all down.  But my life is just that my life.  It is not yours, nor should I or anybody tell you how to get to your one of many destinations.  Judging others for not making enough, like the story I heard at work about a young accountant working 12-13 hour days 5-6 days a week at a Big Four firm and being judge for leaving “early” because he actually had a life outside the office, seems short-sighted by most but some are driven to such career aspirations.  Yes, I was initially aghast but know that I should try to learn from both sides of such a situation.  Hey, if you want to retire by 45 and rock your millionaire lifestyle, go at it until those zeros pile up on the bank statement because that person is getting to where their goal path ends.  No different than my route to a bachelor’s degree while maintaining some degree of social interaction with my family and friends. 

And getting the college degree was not my goal.  My goal was to get to this point and being able to see that cute third grader again in the mirror before the glasses, acne, and depression.  I wanted to like myself again versus panning for praise from those around me. Yes, it cost $50K, yes it took almost four years, but I sit on this beige couch in suburbia-land with a sweaty Captain and Coke after tucking in the kids that I enjoy being me and accept the faults and awesomeness that come from it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day One

Not heading to Vegas but seemed appropriate and for whatever reason my head wanted to wake up at 3:30am to debate whether a man would rather lose all of his digits or his big (or perhaps not-so-big) digit Theon Greyjoy-style.  The debate was set at a deadlock as losing the sense to touch things and touch pretty things with your penis seemed cruel.  Thank you for the kind words on Monday.

Take it away Carnie, Wendy, and Chynna.

One day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 4

No excuses (honestly I really wish I could have kept this journal because holy shit did I hit some emotional craters).  Just these words that represent one of the last three papers I will write as an undergrad.

The topic is the phrase "every photograph is a self-portrait" and needed to be only a page long.

Self-Portrait of Opinion
On a personal level I have lived better in the last few years due to my experiences in the past.  Having a traumatic head injury 13 years ago locked me into a prison of reliance on others, unable to act out socially with friend or emotionally with my wife and new child.  Five years ago the abatement of concussion symptoms finally rusted the iron bars of seizures and light-sensitivity giving me a second chance at a productive life.  Since that time I set myself goals in self-improvement, some large, some small.  The first stop was regaining the ability to drive as my license was taken away due to the seizure spells.  After gaining my picture on a Minnesota state ID, I decided to inquire about hearing aids to enhance my social skills.  Unlike my hearing aids worn in high school, these brought out the songs of birds and my children’s voices as if they were speaking to me for the first time.  Lastly, my three and a half year journey to improve my financial and professional worth will come to a close as of June 22nd, 2013.  Graduating from college is a journey that started as a high school graduate of Osseo Senior High gaining entry to Arizona State University and realizing that money sometimes can knock our life’s course off onto a different road.  The phrase “every photograph is a self-portrait” means to gather all of the experiences plus the personality of an individual into their critique of an image.  My journey through life thus far is not the same as a person who may read this paper, much like my thoughts on a photograph would be different than that of the same reader. 
            For example, if I looked at picture of my family’s home and described its surroundings, I would do so with pride as we have put a lot of work into our house by trimming aging trees, replacing windows and siding, and put on a brand-new roof.  A person with financial wealth may look at my home in disgust, pointing out how small it is with splintered wooden beams in the entryway or the cracked blacktop driveway.  Or someone who is poor and unable to afford their own home may see it as an unattainable castle with perfectly lined bushes guarding the basement floor.  The cash-strapped individual may also look at a picture of the backyard to see a large half-acre of wooded land and marvel about all the space.  Whereas the rich may turn their noses up at the choppy, weed-riddled landscape and weathered shed that could use some paint.
            “Every photograph is a self-portrait” is saying “this is how I view the world from my perspective”.  My recent experiences in life have left a scar that I am proud of and will allow for growth in the years to come.  Because that growth my perspective on paintings and other photographs now would not compare to that angst-ridden person coping with the darkness of a head injury.  Even the same person could (and should) have two different opinions on a photograph at different times in their life.  

Four days.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

50 days

She stood no more than arm length’s away trying not to look at the task at hand. Lightly colored face with a nose stud and auburn hair hidden with a bun. Her shirt was slightly ajar with button hanging to the left revealing a hint of carefully selected lacy underthings.

The whole thing?” she asked in genuinely surprise voice like she’s never been told this before

I want all of it” as I pointed in a downward motion leaving no question as to my intention

She licked her cherry red lips moving slowly forward, never taking her eyes off mine.

I returned the stare with a devilish grin of satisfaction after being pended up for this moment.

Her eyes grew gently softer as her hands reached their destination.

Thank you for the big tip, most people around here stiff us”.

No problem” I said as I walked away with my two servings of mostaccioli for the kids, side salad and lasagna for me and the wife, and some of the best cheesy garlic bread you’ll find around the metro area.

One-third through the last quarter of school and carrying the load of five classes (one of them for six weeks) has been trying on the psyche (see McGrumpy post from last week). That’s why I asked a few close friends what they prescribe for a case of the HOLY SHIT I’M TAKING ON TOO MUCH. All of them mentioned at least three of the following four things that will become the medically recognized cure for keeping your shit together. Gastrointestinal issues have the BRAT (Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet which sucks ass but gets you through the gut pains.

Feeling like your life is a never-ending string of court appearences, spreadsheets, bad hotel coffee, and over demanding bosses? Meet the BEST diet!

B – Booze Easiest fix on the planet. Makes you socially intelligent and completely forget about next week’s overbooked meetings

E – Exercise Kids turning into movie extras from a poorly adapted Stephen King book? Go run/walk a 5K. Wife/Husband nagging you for the 26,174th time not to leave an open cereal box on the counter? Try some sit-ups with planks.

S – Sex No matter how you get it done, get it done. If you need to mix this with Booze, and make it Exercise as well, this is GOOD multi-tasking, well done.

T – Take-a-break Say “no” once in a while. Lock yourself in a treehouse with an iPad and play Slotomania or brag to the worn Claudia Schiffer poster about beating level 324 of Candy Crush. Don’t think, just get away and come back when the body is able.

The big 5-0 is done. Time to buck up for a rough next three weeks, if you’re playing in SCOOP starting on May 12th PokerStarsBlog has you covered.  But, before the madness ITS DERBY WEEKEND!  Gambling and booze in one neat package.  I was told Ocelot Sports may have a few words on those equine slot machines.  I hope so, otherwise I'm betting on numbers, colors, and if they have four legs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 60

I thought I had my shit together.

I was wrong.

While the end of this section of my life is about to end and start anew I feel as though my body is moving a few seconds too slow for my mind. No, this isn’t an attempt to regain past athletic feats but trying to not lose me. Spending time staring out of windows at home with viewpoints of (finally) melting snow, brown grass, and a familiar street with a far off window displaying a single strand of oversized red Christmas lights without a thought, and suddenly too many.

Bad thoughts, cashing out on the society as I know it with student loans due, being a role model at work, and hugging my kids despite trying to bang out a 1,000 word missive on Gauguin’s The Swineherd, Brittany (despite not being much of an art lover it’s a pretty kick ass painting). No more marriage, no more begging for affection when its needed, just taking a small roll and living off skills acquired whether they be academic or degenerate.

Feeling numb when elation should be flowing, that piece of paper which cuts through the glass ceiling is reachable like the cap and gown in an UPS box sitting under my bed. It hurts the soul to feel like there’s no one in the world that can touch this grey then be expected to man up and stop pouting and move on with life. It could be labeled depression, but the feeling isn’t down, it’s stuck in neutral like a blown engine that looks perfectly fine but has a few frayed wires that need connecting. Those wires show the abuse of overuse, too much thinking and not enough doing. Conspiracies versus giving into trust. Creating stories when there isn’t one to tell.

I blame no one but myself for this and I know this feeling is one that will come back as it does sporadically even after moving on to the suit and tie phase that I would have hit several years ago if I didn’t turn mush brained. But, my solid core will see this through I just need to put down my imagination for a few moments at a time and let things read as they are presented versus fearing the worst.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

73 days

Current mood: Needing Alka Selzer

This was supposed to be a daily diary of sorts but life does not always comply with ones wishes including the pack of Gillette Mach 3 blades that my stomach has been trying to digest for the past three days. It could have been the return to long running as a seven mile jaunt around Maple Grove through Fish Lake regional park, Bass Lake road, and at least two other lakes in view were part of a beautiful “spring” day that ended with watching snow flurries with my wife at a local non-restaurant chain bar serving up some firecracker chicken bites that got my rum laced taste buds’ attention.

Or, it was looking at the final schedule for school. A cold sweat maybe some stress for an unknown reason as there are five classes with two of them being “seminars” for easing me into the workplace which I have already done on the corporate level for 15+ years. But, there are several holes in my suits game that need some pimping so it is a welcome sight to see the school and work getting me ready to make this leap once I walk across the floor at Roy Wilkins convention center in mid-July to receive my empty folder with instructions that the real degree is in the mail and should arrive in 4-6 weeks.

Or, is it the fact that in just 11 weeks the turmoil of my daily schedule will be reduced to being a trusted co-worker, a daddy who actually likes discussing the strategy of putting more character points into Constitution than Magic, or a husband that feels left out right now and wondering what will come next. A person could quote Red from Shawshank talking about people become institutionalized and getting used to a way of life. I got used to depending upon everyone for the majority of my life whether it be having someone repeat a piece of a lecture to having my wife and sister drive my broken head to and from work for a few years. But, for the past four years it has been a daily struggle to be a little selfish, a little independent.

On the dangerous roads of Westeros (Photo cred)

Honestly at my core I have zero real wants and it scares me. I enjoy the temporary and the excitement of a random get together with friends of similar intellect and levels of degeneracy. Hugging my kids and their warmth returned in kind. Watching Game of Thrones and Arya’s struggle with her journey to reach a home, a meaning. But there’s nothing long-term that I want. I could care less if I attain the corporate rank of Senior Inquisitor of the Northland General Ledger. Money does not really tickle me except to have enough to pay the bills, feed my family, and have fun on the side. The “next step” seems to be walking through that floating door from The Twilight Zone’s opening credits with nothing but imagination behind it.

No, I do not need religion or some other pre-drafted path to follow as much like my run last Friday, if the road to the right looks like fun that’s where I will run and I hope the next journey will present itself soon.