Love Who You Do

The love of my life
Image via Wikipedia

Before you get all hot and bothered by the title of this post, it’s rated PG.  I promise.

Relationships – at least the ones you really value and want to thrive – require a LOT of work, effort, action, focus, time, and a host of other words that could be added here.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no master at managing them, and I don’t think I’m alone.

Life is hard.  Countless opposing forces battle for our attention.

  • Jobs.
  • Our social lives (i.e., Facebook, e-mails, Twitter, blogs).
  • Our personal interests that provide fulfillment (i.e., Words With Friends!)
  • Television.
  • And… oh yea, our families.

They might not always be dealt with in that order, but honestly, they probably are more times than not.

For me, between managing a full-time job, an upcoming career change and relocation, writing a novel, and trying to master cat-herding, it’s easy to stay so busy that I neglect the people around me.  Specifically, my wife and kids.

I get lost in a project and then ignore someone’s need for attention, be it an encouraging word, a hug, help with math, or just to be really heard.  I’m just simply not “present”.  When I realize this, it bugs the hell out of me.  There will be a moment of opportunity where someone needs my attention and I’m not there.  And once that moment’s gone, I can’t get it back.

The point I’m trying to make is a simple one.

Love who you do more than what you do.

Love is a verb.  An action verb.  Our families should be the foundation of our support system.  Our safe haven.  Our fanbase.

  • Love your spouse more than your job.  And show them.
  • Love your kids more than your hobbies.  And show them.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Not to say that our jobs don’t sometimes require us to be consumed with a project or absent for a period of time.  There’s obviously responsibility that comes with having a job.  Also not to say that we can’t have hobbies that allow us to have a little needed “me time”.  We need that.

I don’t say this from atop a soap box.  Heck, I spend most of my time underneath it!  I think most of us know what to do, but it’s sometimes hard to actually do it.  I don’t have it all figured out, but I have 5 (ok, 6 counting Wally!) really good sources of motivation.

Rex

A Saturday To Die For. No, Really.

I have the attention span of a gnat and the energy of a sloth today. It’s quite a paradox actually. (Btw, I never realized how cute sloths are just being lazy. Trust me, this is not the case for me.)

However, I’m trying to be the master of my world (or current mood) in 2012, ya know, until Dec 21st when it all ends. (Thank you Mayans!) So, in an effort to motivate myself earlier, I got fully dressed and went for a Starbucks and a drive through town with my eyes peeled for trouble. There was none to be had. And even with the Starbucks, I still lacked the energy to stir up some of my own. I was back home in 1/2 an hour where I got right back into my PJ’s and “my spot”.

Now I lay here cruising the internet (biggest time suck hole EVER), craving crab legs (which cannot be had in Boerne), listening to the Liam’s slay bad guys (they – the bad guys – just won’t die! must be his version of a zombie apocalypse. or maybe he’s directing a daytime soap where the characters live forever and can return even after decapitation. again, I can’t focus enough to figure it out), and wishing I could watch the new movie We Bought A Zoo (they seem like my kind of people/story. then there’s Matt Damon. no explanation needed) without going to the nearest theatre (20 minutes away, requires I re-dress. not happening). You catch all that? Me either.

So, now I’m hanging with my girls who came in here with pillows, bean bags and a plan to rent Flipped, a movie On Demand (no clothes/errand run required. SCORE!)

Meanwhile, I can’t quit wondering to myself when my traumatized toe nail will finally fall completely off (I’ll spare you the picture. You. Are. Welcome.), if I should cut my hair (if so, how much?) and what’s for dinner (damn, I really want crab legs!). And I’m hoping this movie doesn’t suck. Oh! AND for peace in the Middle East. Definitely hoping for that of course. (Please. I’m not completely shallow and self absorbed)

Um…yeah…. I’m NOW thinking a glass of wine is definitely in order here. Cheers!

(…I wonder if a sloth would make a good pet? Gosh he’s cute! But those nails, a little intimidating…. speaking of nails, what is with my toe?!?…. Hey, I’ve got it! If we lived on an ocean I could just go catch crabs and cook them puppies up. Yep, we should definitely consider living near an ocean…but then again….wait, was that a gnat that just flew into my wine?)

Chillin’ with Diego

So there we were, just me and the Liam’s.  It was a quiet Sunday morning, which is more than I can say for the preceding Saturday night.  Dee had a couple of friends stay the night, and Rushia was out of town supporting struggling artists again.  This time, it was Eric Church.

Liam and I were sitting on the couch with the television on.  All five other kids (my older 3 and the 2 castaways) were still asleep.  I had fresh coffee in my left hand, and my right arm was around Liam who was snuggled up to me.  For the first time in about 18 hours, I was relaxed.  And I was eating it up.  I actually felt my heart rate slowing down.  It was awesome.

On the television was Go, Diego, Go, apparently the only cartoon available in that time slot on Sunday mornings.  Which was actually fine with me, because the Liam’s were content and I was relaxed.  I’m not sure I had ever seen an entire Diego cartoon before, but I knew that he was Dora’s cousin or something.  Animated, yet educational.  A winning combination for my 4 year olds.

As we watched, I realized that the plot of this particular episode involved a baby orangutan separated from his mother and stranded alone on a canoe floating down the river.  I felt my pulse quicken ever-so-slightly but was confident that this cartoon would not spoil my only chance at relaxation in the foreseeable future.

As the story unfolded, the screen split.  On the left side of the screen, Diego asked the viewers what he might have in his Rescue Pack that would help him rescue this baby orangutan.  Then he waited for responses.  On the right side of the screen, the baby orangutan was shown floating down the river in a canoe…towards some boulders and rapids.

The “viewers” eventually told Diego what he should use from his Rescue Pack to save the baby orangutan.  But before he actually used it to rescue the baby, he decided this would be a good time to teach the viewers a new Spanish word.  The screen was still split in two.  Viewers, including yours truly, could still see the baby floating towards immiment danger and likely death, while Diego was busy interacting with the audience and teaching an ESL lesson.  I think the word was “actividad”.  Diego was saying “say it with me – actividad”.  Then he would wait like 5 full seconds for the viewers to say it with him.

All the while, my chest was pounding as I fought to not yell “just save the damn monkey!”.

In the end, the tool that Diego had in his Rescue Pack was a zipline, which he used to zoom over the river and snatch the baby from the jaws of death at the last possible moment (and this is rated “G”?).  Just in time for me to hear the footsteps of 10 teenage and pre-teen feet coming down the stairs.

Go, Diego, Go!  And bring me some heart medicine when you come back.

Real Men Buy Pads, and Sometimes They Sniff Them Too

Disclaimer:  Due to the sensitive nature of this post, some characters’ names have been changed to protect their identity.

Always, Kotex, Stayfree

(photo by peteserjeant who graciously let us use it)

My…. ‘friend’, Slovakia, sometimes asks me to pick up feminine products for her while I’m at the store.  And honestly, after being together for 19 years, I’m quite comfortable doing it, so long as the following 3 criteria are met:

  1. I know exactly what she wants.
  2. The store has exactly what she wants.
  3. There is no one else on the aisle when I’m getting it.

During a recent trip to my hometown in Arkansas, Liam and I made a visit to Wal-Mart.  One of the items on our shopping list was – can I really say this on a public blog? – pads.  Now, I’ve bought these a lot, and I know that there are 2 things that really matter to Slovakia:  no wings and no scent.

The packages that have wings are easy to spot.  They clearly say “with wings”.  However, the packages with a deodorant scent are a different story.  They don’t simply say “Deodorant” or “Scented” on them anymore.  No, they have to get creative and use phrases like “Odor-Neutralizing”, and I’m not always sure if these products contain a scent or not.  I asked my ‘friend’ one time how I could tell.  She had two words of advice.

“Sniff them.”

There are many things I’ve grown comfortable doing that I never dreamed I would be comfortable doing.  Sniffing feminine pads in public – or at all for that matter – is not one of them.

So there I was, in Wal-Mart in Mountain View, Arkansas, surely sharing the store with women who saw me grow up.  I stood on the feminine aisle, sweating.  They were out of the brand I normally buy, which made me have to examine every other product they carried, mentally eliminating the products and finally narrowing it down to one package that looked like it met Slovakia’s preferences.  It didn’t say “Scented” or “Deodorant”.  It said the following:

“Anti-leak channels. Dry, cool & comfortable. Thermo Control.”

Sounds safe, right?  It sounds like it’s unscented.  The only thing that had me concerned was that Thermo Control crap.  What is that anyway?  My guess is it’s either helpful on cold mornings (you know, like thermal underwear) or maybe for blocking out harmful rays while sunbathing.  Well, it had me concerned enough that I knew I needed to conduct the sniff test.  If pads are scented, you can smell them right through the packaging when you get them up close to your nose.  There was only one problem.  There was a woman on the aisle who wouldn’t leave.

She was apparently as perplexed as I was, checking every package.  It couldn’t have been the first time she was buying these things, so I guessed she was either from another country and couldn’t read the packages or was a recent recipient of a trans-gender surgery.  I tried to be patient but I felt crazy standing there holding that package for so long.  And the Liam’s were getting restless.  After waiting for a while, I couldn’t wait any longer.  I left Wal-Mart that day without conducting the sniff test.  And when Slovakia opened the package later, she had one comment.

“Ugh. You soooo did not sniff these or your nose is broke.”

I told her my nose was broke because I soooo sniffed pads for her. Usually anyway.

Damn that Thermo Control.

What have you grown comfortable doing that you never dreamed you would be comfortable doing?  Or dare you tell?

Rex

My Mountain Man and Me

So my Ozark mountain hillbilly man and I are taking the whole fam damily to Arkansas, y’all. We’re going to see the extended fam damily, some of our favorite people in the world.

As if that’s not enough excitement in and of itself, there’s the famous Bean Festival in town all weekend followed by Halloween on Monday.

We’ve never spent Halloween with that side of the family and our kids have never been to Bean  Fest which has long been a major source of concern for Rex. Apparently, at least in Rex’s mind, experiencing Bean Fest is akin to experiencing one of the seven wonders of the world. And it’s already criminal that we lived in Arizona yet never took the kids to the Grand Canyon.

And what says “Arkansas” more than the Bean Fest’s famous Outhouse Race? Besides this:

Or, this:

(not exactly his shining moment but I still find him undeniably likable)

Or, maybe this:

All joking aside, I can’t wait to hang with our fun, witty, big-loving mountain people. We really love and miss them.

As for Bean Fest, I’m really stoked about it, too. It’s not only a unique experience but it’s just down right fun. And delicious. And no, I will not be counting points this weekend. You can’t go there and count points. It’d be….well….just blasphemous! These people can cook like nobody’s business and it’s almost my birthday (in like a month but whatever) so I’m not denying myself crap. Did I mention the scores of talented folk music players around the square until the wee hours of the morning and the gifted artisans? Yep, it just gets better and better, right? Can’t wait!

Woooooooooooooo PIG Sooiiee,

~ Rush

Disclaimer: This post and all jokes including the icky Deliverance video were read, laughed at, and approved by the mountain man himself and in part by his Gretchen Wilson channeling sister. Don’t be fooled by the snarky Texan; she loves Arkies. 

Warning: If you are a weirdo stalker person, practicing criminal, etc., this message is for you: Rushia’s been channeling Miranda (and now the Pistol Annies) for over a year now. She’s packs a piece and there’s a  jumpy house sitter equipped with a big a$$ gun at our place while we’re gone. So don’t get crazy ideas. Besides, we’re all stocked up on crazy around here.

Skipping Pages

I think I did something evil last night.

Rushia took the girls shopping for winter clothes yesterday.  They were gone most of the day.  Dee had friends over and played football in the backyard for – no kidding – eight straight hours.  And Wally, well, he laid around depressed all day missing Bolt, my sister-in-law’s dog. 

Rushia, the kids, and Wally spent the past week with my sister-in-law while I was out of town on business.  Wally and Bolt are tight.  Whenever they’re together, they run and “frolick” with unending energy.  (Whatever image just popped into your head when reading that word – go with it.  It’s probably dead on.)

That left me and Liam.  Or more specifically, me and the Liam’s.  If you’ve been keeping up with the posts, you’re well aware there is more than one.  And after being away from Liam for the past week, he felt the need to reacquaint me with “the fake Liam”. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love spending the day with Liam, especially after being away from him for a week.  That kid is so fun and entertaining.  And me working from home for most of the 4 years that he’s been here has bonded us more than I could have ever imagined. 

But still, after spending most of the day before yesterday either on a plane or in a car, and then spending all of yesterday with both Liam and “the fake Liam”, I was ready when it was time for both of them to go to bed. 

Liam ate very little at dinner.  This is always a bad sign.  It means that after his bath, and after he runs down the hall naked with me chasing behind, and after I finally get him in pajamas, and after we lie in bed and start to read bedtime books…only after all that has taken place…he looks at me and tells me his tummy is growling because he didn’t eat dinner. 

Well, this happened exactly as predicted.  So I took him downstairs, made him something to eat, and sat next to him drumming my fingers on the table while he ate it.

So, after all that, we crawled back into his bed and I grabbed the 5 books that he’d picked out.  As I started reading, he couldn’t be still.  I knew what this meant.  He was so unbelievably tired that he was fighting with everything he had to keep from falling asleep.  His body knew that as soon as the light went out and it got quiet…he was going to be comatose.  All that stood in the way were the 5 books I was holding. 

Back to where I started the post… I think I did something evil last night. 

I read the first page, and if I knew he wasn’t paying attention, I skipped to the middle of the book and read that page, then I skipped ahead more.  I finished the book that normally takes 5 minutes to read in about 15 seconds. I then did it with the 4 other books.

All the while, I wondered if this would somehow screw up his cognitive abilities.  The kid is already going to need therapy. 🙂 But now I’m envisioning him lying on a black leather couch having the following dialogue:

“Liam, tell me when your troubles began.”

“Well Doc, my parents used to read these books to me at bedtime.  They would read the same book to me on different nights, and sometimes that book would be long and sometimes it would be short.  The story was always changing.”

Then the childless therapist, who was never tempted to shorten a story to get his child to go to sleep quicker, advised “Liam, based on your symptoms, you are suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment.  But thankfully, we’ve caught it before it developed into full-blown Dementia.  Don’t worry.  It’s nothing that a daily handful of pills and expensive weekly therapy visits – for the rest of your life – won’t cure.”

All because I couldn’t wait 15 more minutes for him to fall asleep.

Ok.  My guilty conscience is eating me up. 

Rushia, where are my Tums?

Music – A Safe Kind of High

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ~ Maya Angelou

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ~ Bob Marley

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” ~ Martin Luther

“Music is a safe kind of high.” ~ Jimi Hendrix (Y’all didn’t think think that was mine did you? On second thought, don’t answer that.)

(Yeah, that’s right, I’m rockin’ the vintage iPod, baby! You know, the old school one with the awkward circle dial thingie. She’s kinda special to me. Don’t be jealous.)

Sometimes I feel like I couldn’t live without music. I think I probably could but I sure wouldn’t want to. Nothing can meet me where I am at, soothe my soul, express my heart (sometimes the deepest darkest corners), or change my mood, like a song.

I’m really grateful for the gifted musicians and writers who challenge me to view something in a different way or express things I couldn’t find the words for. It makes me feel alive and less alone. Sometimes, it’s just their sound – their voice or musical compilations that reel me in. Whatever it is, I never know the artists from Adam yet I can feel like soul mates with those who write things I relate to deeply. It’s amazing to me how music can connect people like that.

It’s also a little freaky sometimes (“hey, how did they know that about me? get the hell outta my head!” insert  old Twilight series music). But, seriously, I love the way music reminds me so much of the human experience is universal; we’re all way more alike than we are different.

Lately I am really digging Gavin Degraw’s new album. As a long time fan, it’s so great to have some new tunes of his. I’ve always dug his sound and writing. And Lady Antebellum’s new one – Own The Night. Again, their sound alone gets me but they have that strong lyrical content I love and relate to as well. Of course Miranda, Eric Church, Mat Kearney and Rex’s crush, P!nk, have been staples around here for a while. If I’m feeling all Jesus-y and stuff it’s usually Kirk Franklin or maybe Mercy Me’s latest, Mr. Lovewell. That’s a pretty awesome album actually. Honestly, I’m kind of out of touch with a lot of Christian music because I struggle with the theology in most of it.

So what about you? What are you listening to these days? Have favorite artists/albums you turn to? Don’t hold out on me now. I am always looking for new stuff. Or, maybe you have a story about how a song spoke to you or even changed your life? I love a good story. Tell me about it in the comments.

~Rush