ThanXmas 2017

We celebrated / ThanXmas with my family / gathered together

We rented a strangers house / but soon it felt just like home

Katie and I relax / Climb on top of uncle Mark / Girls watch together
Morning sunrises / a lovely view through fall trees / from the parking lot

Not about the space / it is the people you love / making spirits bright

Add in some holiday cheer / Some card games, some wine, some beer

On Thursday, turkey / and food galore, we ate till / we could eat no more

Thankful for our blessings, true / mindful of our privilege too

discussion with beer / Pete and Dad find football spots / Sara and I rest

On Friday, hiking / up we went, up on the ridge / along river’s bend

Not alone to opt-outside / families, dogs of every size

We all sought nature / took pictures with our smart phones / ignored irony

Cousins together / then riding in a backpack / even my Mom hiked
Pose for a picture / Keep pace with pregnant Julie / Rio went swimming

A rest for the little ones / some light shopping for others

Then, Italian food / the Hill, twelve for dinner, sure / pasta and t-ravs.

A fish bowl of beer / looks much different depending / on who’s holding it

Long day, sleep calls the cranky / but there’s still more fun to have. Saturday presents

Christmas comes early this year / hybrid holidays

Living far from families / celebrate time together

No Santa presents / but toddlers delight to see / presents to open

Books and toys and clothes and more / great gifts and lovely feelings

Goetta cooked up right / Kate excited to open / look at all the stuff
Rio in the fray / Taylor and Mark aww moment / lovely purple quilt
Kids play inside box / Mark are those some Lularoe? / Dragons love tacos

Sunday, show on road / pack-up, clean-up, saying goodbye / to great family time

Over the river, through woods / west to home, as the sun sets.

SAMSUNG CSC

Walking together / great ending to a long hike / cousins holding hands

 

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Posted in Active Life, Christmas, Family, Fatherhood, Poetry on the Blog, Rio the Dog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Random Thoughts Thursday

Last night I was feeling tired and a bit run down, with a headache. So, shortly after I put Katie to bed, I laid down in the quiet dark bedroom.  As could be expected, I was soon asleep.  About 11 I got up and decided I didn’t actually need to do the dishes and just turned out the lights and returned to sleeping.  I slept soundly until about 545, when the cats work Rio and I decided to take her outside.  Feeling pretty good. I started my normal morning routine about an hour early.  I got done with the normal stuff and tackled last night’s dishes (spaghetti and meatballs mess). I made lunch, breakfast and a drive to school snack for Katie.  Then I realized it was only 630.  So, I finished getting dressed and lay in bed to surf the net till Kate woke up.  Kate decided to sleep in.  It got to about 730 and I decided to wake her up. She was non-too-pleased.  Like awaking an angry god, who rains down terror and fire (in the form of pacifiers and stuffed animals and whiny toddler voices).  So, I sat in the chair in her room and let her decide when to climb out.  Well this went on till about 750, so eventually I just picked her up and got her changed.  Much to her consternation.  Dressing an uncooperative toddler was like dressing an uncooperative toddler (difficult and unrewarding).  I finally convinced/bribed her with some chocolate if she would hold still long enough for me to get her hair into a pony tail.  That pony tail was like calf roping.  Couple of loops and throw your hands in the air in walk away.  Then there was additional discussion about the lack of Curious George on PBS. We were between the 730 episode and the start of the 800 episode, where PBS just shows short commercials from their sponsors.  This did not please Kate. She was even less happy when I turned off the TV and suggested we head for the door.  Now, instead of being early, we were running late. Which means that I need Kate to eat the PBJ that I fixed her, because she might miss breakfast at school.  They are very lovely and always hold a plate and some food even for those who run quite late.  But Kate, unlike my other child Rio, is not food motivated.  If other kids are outside and playing, that is where she wants to be.  She doesn’t care about a banana or even a sausage.  She has had FOMO (fear of missing out) from the first.  I’m not trying to make her change, just trying to make sure she has the energy and nutrition she needs. (A side note for concerned Grandmas: she does, she was right on track at of her check-up).  I got Kate to school, with a no-tears drop-off.

I got to work a little before nine and got a bunch of stuff accomplished.  Review done. Final revisions on a manuscript done.  Emails done. Updated computer restarted and now encrypted -done (although that part was done by our great IT staff).  I then go to get some caffeine, realizing I hadn’t had any yet.  Usually by 10 I’m on a second caffeinated grape drink.  I thought to myself. Maybe this is what happens when you get a good night sleep.  I had so much sleep last night.  Then I calculated the actual hours – I got 9 hours of sleep.  It wasn’t some monumental 12-16 hour sleep-a-thon. It was a slightly longer than the recommended daily sleeping time.  Normally, I go to bed around 12 and wake up around 630.  Turns out that is only 6 ½ hours of sleep.  An on night where the dog needs out twice, or Kate wakes up, that time shortens even more.  Maybe it isn’t apnea or a broke-down mattress, maybe I need to go for distance.  Or maybe it is just a combination of all those things and that if I could line them all up I’d be some sort of super-human me.  That would require many things.  It would require the dog to not have bladder issues, the cat to not tease the dog at 5AM (EVERTY DAMN DAY), Kate to never get sick or have bad dreams, me not to have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a new mattress, the ability to sleep with a CPAP machine strapped to my face, and 9 hours.  I guess I’ll work on it.  Or maybe just shoot for not going to bed at midnight (I can always catch Seth Meyers segments the next day).

On another note, I may have lost some weight.  I don’t know.  My pants feel quite baggy and my belts need to be tightened to their last notch to keep said pants from falling.  Of course, this may just be that I do generally purchase baggy pants, and belts, being made of leather, have propensity to stretch over time.  This could all be solved relatively quickly, except for the fact that my scale is either broken or out of batteries.  I am not sure of which.  The scale is in a high traffic area where it gets stepped on regularly.  I’ve even seen Katie try to jump up and down on it several times (which points me in the direction of broken).  But all of Katie’s 37 lbs does not amount to 10th of the stress I place on it when I just step on it.  I got it specifically because it could handle the weight.  That information points me toward the batteries. But the scale takes a giant watch battery. And since I don’t have any on hand and they are mildly expensive, I’m going to just keep guessing.  Plus, the inaction allows me to believe that perhaps I have lost some weight.  Maybe the belt is a credible witness.  Maybe it isn’t just the leather stretching.

Maybe the fact that I’m constantly trying to keep my pants up isn’t a sign I need a new belt, but rather that I’ve lost enough weight to drop a pants size.  That would be a happy day.  Sometimes it is OK to live in the bliss of ignorance and denial.  It is 2017 and I’m a liberal, democrat, scientist, working for a federal agency, on environmental issues, and significant student loan debt.  In 2017 occasionally, I need a little denial to sleep at night. And, maybe more time and a new mattress.

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my day

The Commute.

Driving man thinks / thinking while he is driving / his eyes on the road
thinking about the future / thinking about his writing
writing he must do / writing he wishes to do / writing out his thoughts
his thoughts that run and run on / Small, mundane thoughts, wild free thoughts
did he pay that bill / what super power he’d pick / aquatic powers
they would help him do his job / a small fantasy to dream
Everyone can’t be / superman or a Jedi / someone needs to think
About water quality / and pollution reduction
The man laughs a bit / even in his dreams he thinks / about his science
to create minute changes / in his Sisyphean stone
His radio drones / languorous voices speak on / the woe of the world
Weighed down, heavy thoughts persist / he turns off the radio
He frets as he drives / about things he cannot change / thinks on things he can
Broad strokes of an idea / a mind seed planted, nourished
His car moves forward / slower than his thoughts progress / his time to think deep
Before more pressing concerns / jubilantly insistent.
Emerge chattering / about her day and her thoughts / his fretting dissolves
Focus turns to snacks, singing / speakers sing out silly songs
Short commute refresh / aware, await swinging moods / toddler emotion
Present, here and now, thoughts / languid, lucid forgotten
Dog need to go out / dinner facilitated / stop at store for milk
Call commuting spouse on phone / passenger bolsters safe drive
Into the drive way / thoughts on hold till later / his minds life pauses

The Sleep.

The man grows tired / shuffles to the door, finds shoes / to let the dog out
So maybe she won’t wake up / and need out at three AM.
Weather outside nice / dog sniffs, seeks to expand turf / and finally goes
Inside, grumbles, turns off lamps / he checks that the doors are locked
Blanket unfolded / his wife already tucked in / he tells her good night.
They briefly, sleepily talk / about today, tomorrow
Phone goes off, light out / the dog jump up crowds his space / cats purr near his head
Crowded despite the king size / but soon they all find their groove
His groove actual / carved out by too much fast food / and too cheap a bed
But it is his sleepy place / comfort not comfortable
His eyes start to close / His thoughts, paused by daily life / surface in quiet
His mind, thoughts are racing through / unchecked and unfiltered thoughts
He seeks to control / starting a focus mantra / now is time for sleep
Repeat, repeat, and repeat / he calms his mind bit by bit
He focuses on / innocuous ideas / without consequence
What if he won the lotto? / What if he were a Jedi?
Sleep arrives mid-thought / world stops for a few hours / his dreams now arrive
Immune to his own snoring / All is well, quiet until
A furtive cat runs / a loud dog barks, gives chase / stomps on the man’s leg
Alert, he will rise / check the clock, find relief / it is 5 AM
He takes the woke dog outside / dog runs back in, claims his spot
Quick shove moves dog / moves quietly back to bed / to not wake family
Small noises in quiet dark / lurking cat, fish tank gurgles
A restless short sleep / more eyes closed meditation / before his day starts.

A Man Rises

Alarm sounds early / Alert, favorite song sings / Woke dog chases cat
Normal morning routine start / Dog walk, shower, prep for day
Six AM, outside / All quiet, a few birds cheep / Man waits, a dog sniffs
The chilled air of fall settles / Dew wet grass clings to feet
Dog finds the right spot / Man finds acorn with soft foot / Silent mourning breaks
Grumbling, the man limps in / To covers, recover sleep
Baby is awake / Too early, she chats away / Telling her stories
Her stuffed animals listen / She discusses today’s plan
The man listens too / Smiling and proud he prepares / Quiet, morning breaks

Morning Time.

Man and woman, both awake / alternate shower, kid prep
the man picks his clothes / pick some clothes for the child / with substitution
cartoon monkey talks / real cats and dog pace around / await breakfast time
The man tries to ponytail / hair askew woman fixes.
Food for everyone / kibble for the dog and cats / the man eats yogurt
The child eats cereal / the woman blends a smoothie
All head for the door / into cars for their commute / school and work await
The man drives his kid to school / there is much they do discuss
Which show is the best / is tonight a dance class night / mac and cheese dinner?
He walks her into classroom / slight soul tweaks with each leaving
He watches her play / a minute through the window / then on to his work.
The office, a short quick drive / he makes a mental task list
His office quiet / the man begins his workday / in repetition.

Posted in Family, Fatherhood, Poetry on the Blog, Rio the Dog, science, Star Wars, why i science, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Light show

Post midnight
Cannot sleep
Things buzzing
Around my head
Around the room

Intermittent flashes
Not the blinking LED
Of charging phones
Organic, moving
Here now there
Across the ceiling
Than low on the dresser

A signal
The room is dark
But I’m awake
Wide eyed
Waiting for the blink
To make sure it is not
In my head

Visual cortex signals
Real or imagined
Burned in from
Flashes
In the darkness
Waiting for more
Or nothing
Or maybe sleep
One more blink

Up high again
The ceiling fan spins
A bright arc To the floor
A fading glow
A lightning bug
Trapped no more
I close my eyes
Last light arc
Fading
As sleep arrives.midnightarc

Posted in Poetry on the Blog | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Random thoughts suitable for blogging

The last thing I wrote was some serious introspection about the transitions that come as decades pass.  From that writing, it would seem they (transitions) really seem to come in ordinated clusters. In the case of 42-32-22-12-2, the ordination would be 10-year spans.  Transitions happen much more frequent, and it is only when you start an inward dive into your psyche that you find the patterns.  Our brains are wired for patterns, which is why they seem so meaningful when we spot them.  I’m sure if I looked hard enough I could have found equivalent transition points at 40-30-20-10-0, or 44-34-24-14-0.  It helps when you have more than one life changing moment (brain surgery, trips to the Amazon, multiple cross-country moves).  Transitions don’t have to be life changing to be significant.  They can be the everyday mundane things that happen and that only later on, while you are deep in thought, do you realize were seminal.  These are the thoughts I had this evening.  Thoughts that were too mundane and detailed for social media, but substantial enough that I wanted to write them down.  This is what a blog is for.  It is for me. To write.  If you want to read, great, if you don’t that is also fine.  I’m not sure where these events and ideas will fall between life altering and daily meaningless dribble, but here they are…

After spending all weekend working with Katie on potty-training today was her first day of preschool.  Sara went back to work full time and we found a lovely preschool for Katie to attend.  Up to now, Kate has only been with us.  Her only babysitters have been family.  She hasn’t had a lot of intensive interaction with kids her own age.  We see Cousin Betsy regular, but that is generally unstructured and a bit chaotic, as it usually occurs around holidays.  For Kate this is two big changes in a few short days.  She’s cool with it.  She, at 2 ¾ doesn’t have the complicated, over-thinking, brain attached to her parents.  She just rolls with the changes.  For us these changes are less exciting and more frightening.  Letting Kate into the care of strangers (even those licensed and bonded by a state agency) is not something I was looking forward too.  I feel privileged that we were able to afford to be a single income family for such a long time, where Sara could be home with Kate.  It is not something that every family can afford (which is a discussion – childcare, family leave, etc. – for another blog).  Kate was more than ready for some additional learning and structure and other playmates.  She needs to learn more about peer-peer social interaction than she does need to learn how to identify all the birds at our backyard feeder (we’re still going to work on that, but just a bit less).  We were not ready.  Sara can speak for herself, but for me it was a difficult weekend followed by an emotional Monday morning.  Realizing that Katie was learning (and pretty well) to use the potty was one more layer of the infant cocoon shed, while the child emerges.  I want her to be successful and I’m happy not to change any more diapers, but there is a sadness.  The same with dropping her off at school this morning.  Part of me wanted her to have a fit, to cry and scream and demand to leave with us.  But that isn’t what happened.  She jumped into the daily flow of pre-school with both feet.  New toys, new friends, everyone sitting down for breakfast.  I can say there was a tear shed in the Rambler as I continued on to work this morning.  It is my job as a parent to be fearful, to be wary of childhood’s transitions, to let Kate find her natural speed of progression.  Life is too long to push her out of childhood.  We found a good school, with good teachers.  It has a cool learning/atmospheric concept as an intergenerational pre-school.  The school is housed in a retirement/elder care facility.  The kids and “neighbors” (as the older residents are referred to) get together several times during the week to participate in different activities.  I think it is great for both groups.  After work, I picked Kate up.  She was full of stories and songs and in high spirits.  She requested the whole Trolls Soundtrack and various songs from Sing.  I did sneak a Fitz and the Tantrums song in there (who can resist the Hand Clap).  The report from the teacher was great.  She didn’t nap for long and wanted to gather her new cohort for additional playtime.  This was not surprising, who can nap when there are toys to play with and new kids to interact with.  But she is excited to go back tomorrow, and I’m a little less fearful.

I also want to write about my facial hair.  I’ve had a moustache and goatee since I could grow them (~1993).  I certainly would have gone full beard but alas, genetics has not made me so substantially hirsute.  I grow it wear it grows, trimmed to what I find generally stylish.  Off and on, I choose to sheer away the lip and chin growth, often at the pleading and prodding of those who would suggest that my sense of style is suspect or that I look much younger without it.  Indeed, now I do look younger, as the hair on my chin has grown decidedly white.  But mostly I’m happy with my look and I like to remain slightly hairy.  Once in a while, a trim is required.  When I can no longer drink from a mug or cup without dribbling liquid down the side of my face (mostly onto my shirts).  When it looks as though I was in a beard-growing contest with the late 90s Houston Astros, it is time for a trim.  This morning was one of those days.  I have a nice electric trimmer and this morning set to work.  Unfortunately for me, I had a lot on my mind and looking in the mirror reminded me of all the things on my to do list.  That momentary lapse of concentration resulted in a missing chunk of my moustache on the right side.  Since the Charlie Chaplin look was ruined, I knew for the sake of balance, the rest of the moustache would have to go.  This also required the removal of the goatee, because I am not Sammy Haggar.  I am not able to rock chin hair without a moustache, just as I am also not able to not drive 55, I don’t own my own dance club, or my own brand of tequila.  So all the hair went (except for a couple of wily fellows I would find much later in the day, sprung forth like a couple of old man eyebrow hairs).  Without my white chin hair, I of course look younger (but also fatter but that is likely self-perception).  Luckily, my whole personality is not based on facial hair.  The loss is annoying, but it will eventually grow back.

I also want to write about email anxiety.  I hate to have unread email, HATE IT.  I once saw that Sara had 23433 unread emails and it made me shudder.  The problem arises in that I have five email addresses (not including one for my dog and one I made for Kate so that she can have her own name later when she starts using email – you know like in a year from now).  I have one work email that I use exclusively for work. I have two personal emails, one for bills, and one for professional and personal communications.  I have two junk emails that I use for online purchases and to sign into various websites so that my real emails don’t get too spammy.  All together, this amounts to many emails a day.  As I am constitutionally unable to ignore the little red alert tag on my iPhone email app I was spending quite a bit of time just dealing with emails.  Outside of work and few personal/professional emails, 95% do not even warrant reading.  Mostly I just look at the header and mark as read.  But even that was taking time.  I did the unthinkable.  I turned off my email notification on my phone.  More than that, I set the email so that it would only upload new messages on request and no unread notifications would be seen.  Now my email requires active participation, which I try to limit to once or twice a day.  The other day my unread count reached over the 200 mark.  This was hard to fathom but actually, the slight joy from batch function Mark as Read was worth it.  I don’t know if I am more efficient, but I am less anxious about it.  No red alert.  I then went further, to remove the alerts from all my phone apps – even Facebook.  I’ve been trying to detangle myself from my phone/internet for a bit now.  Trying to think of it as a tool that is present when I need information or to connect to someone; and inert when I don’t.  For a while, I was feeling I had to read, respond, update, and care about every alert that came to me.  The phone was driving me.  Turn out the experiment has worked/is working.  I don’t need 30 news alerts a day to know that Trump is still and asshole who is going to do something that will hurt me, or those I love, or those I know, or those unable to protect themselves, or those further down the economic ladder, or science, or the environment, or the planet.  Now I just assume it is true and work against it as I can and once or twice a day check to make sure it is still true and my rage/outrage tanks are still on full.  Alternatively, sometimes (like today) to see a glimmer of hope as the government didn’t shut down and we didn’t fuck over science (at least until September).

Therefore, that is it from the land of things Jason wanted to write about.  This was certainly a ramble.  Again, I could have clogged up your Facebook feed or told you all these things in person.  Or I could have made this like 3 or 4 different blog posts.  But this one is it. Just one last thing.  It has rained for a week or more. And while we are not facing flooding at my house I am dealing with a quirky and annoying Rio the Lab.  She won’t walk on certain grass patches ever (it might as well be lava) and when it rains the number of no-go grassy areas quadruples.  Now she will only do her business in the neighbor’s yard.  She barks at lightning and then at thunder.  It is quite cute at night when you hear Katie yell “IT’S OK RIO” from the other room and then go back to sleep.  She also needs to lose weight (me too).  Of course the Vet suggested green beans.  I wonder if Vets are given free stock in green bean futures, as our current vet is just one in a line of vets to suggest replacing food with green beans.  The problem is that Rio is already on a special diet to keep her from getting bladder stones and the concomitant bladder infections.  She can’t eat diet dog food and I’m not sure if the salt from the green beans would affect her bladder environment.  In addition, giving the dog a can of green beans a day is logistically annoying, plus slightly expensive.  I already pay more per pound of dog food than I would for boneless skin-less chicken breasts at the store.  But she is in good shape and she love Kate and tolerates all her toddler action (climbing, tail grabbing, sitting on etc.).  She’s a great dog and heading into her 8th year (June 1st is her birthday).

Anyway. That is it from the Ramble today.  Cheers

Also I’m in the process of migrating some older writings (Facebook notes and other blogs) into this one. Maybe I’ll eventually get around to some sort of table of contents for all these things. But for now links if you want them.

The-great-Berninger-car-diaspora

Skunks-and-Rio

 

 

Posted in catharsis, Creativity, Family, Random, Rio the Dog, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Many Hats were Required to Kill a Plant

 

There shouldn’t be much to killing a plant.  Don’t give it water or sunlight – Done. A misstep in the yard – squashed squash.  So many plants have gone that way.  But not yard weeds. They get stepped on, ground down, pulled out, dried out, flooded and yet they are always back and green.  They are hardy, thriving on neglect.  I let the dandelions thrive in my yard.  But even the dandelion can be pulled. But mostly I don’t do that.  I like lawn diversity.  With my biologist hat I am happy to see the mix of plants that grown on my lawn.  I’ve seen 4-5 different types of flowers this Spring, hidden among the blades of grass.  Each week in the Spring there is a biological sadness when I must get out the mower and cut the lawn down to a reasonable height (city ordinance and all).  I let it grow as much as possible so the bees and bugs and birds to do their thing.  The one plant I cannot abide is poison ivy.  I’m live and let live with the plant life, but poison ivy gets me itchy just thinking (or writing) about it.  I had some last year on the side of the house.  I found it the hard way when I wasn’t paying attention and mowed it down then hit it with the weed-whacker.  I got all itchy-rashy.  I sprayed it’s irritant oil all over my legs.  So, I brought out my toxicologist hat and looked closely at which weed killers were most effective, and providing long lasting weed-killing with a limit repercussions on other plants and animals and people.  Toxicologically, it was fun exercise. Balance pet and family safety with reduction in direct irritable plants.  And last year it worked.  The noxious week was destroyed and I remained rash free through the remainder of the summer.

Maybe poison ivy

definitely poison ivy and the target of this blog.

This year, however, the poison ivy has returned.  And not just on the side of the house (away from where anyone normally goes), it has shown up right by the front door.  The spot is right where Katie and Rio would find it.  Katie often touches those bushes.  Now I must take off my biologist hat and put on my Dad hat.  As a Dad, I can think of few things I’d like to face less than a toddler with lots of poison ivy rash.  I also must put on my ecotoxicologist hat and try to figure out how to kill the poison ivy without killing the nice bush that it is currently growing under (nice bush is a bit of an oversell, as it is really a scraggly agglomeration of 3 or more different plants all growing together in bush form).  But the biologist finds them cool, so the ecotoxicologist must find a way to cause the least harm to non-target organisms.

Now I have four hats – toxicology hat (how do I kill things most effectivity/safely), ecotoxicologist hat (how do I minimize risk to non-target organisms), biologist hat (plants are cool, except you poison ivy – ok your kind of cool too, but irritating), and of course Dad hat (don’t touch that, that doesn’t go in your mouth, alert alert danger danger).

The new poison ivy killer (blue) and the one from last year (empty).

All the hats brought me to a home improvement store on a Sunday afternoon.  And as a stare at the wall of plant poisons another hat emerged: an economical hat.  It turns out pesticides are expensive.  The best formulations (according to me wearing my toxicologist hat) were only available in concentrates.  These were expensive ($30-50), required mixing, and would necessitate the purchase of some sort of pressurized sprayer (for an additional $25). This would drive my cost up to $50+ and the economical hat was balking at that idea.  Econ, Tox, and Dad hats all had a frank discussion.  Econ was concerned about the cost for the removal of two plants.  Dad was concerned about the sprayer looking like a fun toy and about having concentrated poisons around the house (even if they are low toxicity to mammals concentrated form my approach those threshold – info courtesy of Tox hat).  While starring at the wall of pesticides I discovered on the bottom shelf a diluted version of the poison ivy specific weed killer.  It didn’t contain all the pesticides I wanted, but the lower cost and less concentrated formula, plus not having to buy additional equipment all met criteria set by the non-scientific hats.  It only has one of the weed-killers (no glyphosate – which is proprietary to Roundup brands), so Tox hat is not completely convinced it will be as effective, but given other concerns is willing to try.  Additionally, biologist hat chimes in that perhaps we can manually remove the plant as well, which might go pretty far in saving some of the surrounding plant life.

Now, the plant has been sprayed.  Ecotox hat took care to spray only the poison ivy, even going as far as to shield the other plants from over-spray.  And since Katie is out of town with Sara and her Nana I don’t have to worry about her getting into the sprayed plant and being exposed to weed-killing chemicals.  If it works I’ll also remove the threat of poison ivy from our direct area of concern before the girls return on Wednesday.

All told, it required 5 separate hat for me to enact a plan to kill two little plants.  It also was a long story just to say that I killed a couple of plants with weed killer.  But sometimes it’s easier to write about the mundane.

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42-32-22-12-2

On the occasion of my 42nd birthday, I thought I might reflect slightly on the last 40 years. Specifically, what I was doing on my birthday at 42, 32, and 22, 12, and 2.  Those years have been transition years.  At two, it was waiting for the arrival of Mark (due in September).  At 12, it was the transition from kid to teenager, the end of grade school, the beginning middle school, and somewhere in the near future puberty.  At 22 it was dealing with mononucleosis, senioritis, and deciding on life trajectories (job? Grad school? Med School?).  At 32, I was once again contemplating life changes as I was deciding if I should quit my job and go back to school.  At 42, I also find myself at the transitional crossroads.  It seems that every 10 years major transitional events occur.  Or maybe it is incidental, and that those events occur all the time and it is just that having a birthday makes me think about it.

Me as a toddler.

I don’t remember much about being two.  I assume from stories I was an active, rambunctious child.  I’m pretty sure I did many terrible two things that are being returned to me through karmic transference in the form of Katie.  I certainly don’t mind, as I’m sure my parents didn’t, because of how much I love her.  While not on my birthday, two was also the year Mark was born and I transitioned from only child, most beloved, to a big brother, sharing equally in my parents love.  I’m betting I struggled.  Without the introspective tools or perspective of an adult, that kind of life change was certain to be difficult and disruptive.

At 12, I remember more.  I remember reading competitions and creative writing.  I remember being challenged and pushed in my ACCESS (advanced language arts) class (Mrs. Cummings class – she was the best).  I also remember being bored and unchallenged by the rest of school.  I remember not caring about being organized.  I also remember paying the price for that disorganization, with the public humiliation of having my desk dumped on the floor in front of the whole class.  I remember that girls were on the horizon, in both literal and figurative sense.  Figuratively, as puberty was just initiating and changing my preteen brain into a hormone factory teenage brain.  Literally, as Beth was about be born (in October) rounding out our family at six.  It was a year in which I would transition from grade school to junior high (complete with 9th graders who could grow mustaches and drive).  Twelve was the year I learned I could hit the snot out of baseball (even the curve).  Twelve was when I discovered that sunglasses make you cool.  (it would take me much longer to realize that I was not cool, and even longer to be OK with that).

This is me at 12. And I am cool. You can tell because of the sunglasses. Sunglasses with a tie, sunglasses as one of the three wisemen, sunglasses in an outfit I got on my 12th birthday. I loved everything about those pants. Jamz were my jams.

Me at 22

Twenty two was tumultuous.  The highest highs, tempered by lowest lows.  I had decided that I want to go to grad school and pursue my MS in biology.  I’d applied all over the country, thinking about places that I wanted to go and fish that I wanted to study.  A growing spirit of wanderlust had taken hold of my soul.  I was ready to see the world, to seek my fortune.  Twenty-two was also when I learned that sometimes life and your own body will conspire against you.  I got senioritis first.  The paralysis and lack of motivation that comes from knowing that you have to push hard to reach the next life transition, but not wanting to leave the fun, safety, and limited consequences of college life.  Then I got mono, and a philosophical malaise turned into a physiological one.  Then I really had to push hard to catch up with my classes.  Then just as I was back on my game and life returned to the baseline awesomeness of college senior year, graduation loomed.  Then in the looming graduation, my dad got sick.  He was in the hospital for my graduation.  I thought for a while I was going to lose my dad.  He recovered, but slowly.  That window to revel the unfettered of no classes, no responsibility, and graduation money never opened.  I went home and threw myself at the transition.  I started classes, looking for apartments.  Then life delivered another abrupt fastball to the head.  My brain revolted, deciding that rather than function its normal high level, it would bleed and seize and render me incapacitated for some period of time.  It required brain surgery to fix.  While not new to brain surgery, it was worse at 22 than 14.  At 22 you understand more things, the world has become larger and possibilities abound.  At 22, I was a freshly minted scientist.  I’d also spent 3 summers working with doctors in the department of neurosurgery.  So the outcomes and consequences real and I knew them.  But I survived; in fact, I had very little in the way of lingering effects.  Which was good, because a few months later I started grad school.  Twenty two would seem like a bad year, but ultimately it wasn’t.  I did graduate.  I survived brain surgery. My dad survived and recovered.  I went to grad school, which led to my trips to the Amazon and set me on my career trajectory.  All in all, it is part of me.  Things occurred that I could have done without (Dad’s illness, mono, brain surgery), but the end result put me where I am.  A replay might send my universe in a different direction.

Advance another 10 years.  I am now 32.  I finished my MS degree a few years ago and am working in a job I really like and that is in my field.  However, I felt stifled.  I get to work on a lot of different projects, but they are not my own.  My opinion is valued, but I can do little to advance.  Those effort I did make to advance did not bear fruit. So I’m going to make a big change. I’m going to go back to school. To get a PhD.  I am 32.  This was the year of the Great Berninger diaspora.  I had decided to take a graduate appointment at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  Mark, feeling many of the same limitations, decided to move on to a job in Chicago.  Beth was away for her second year of college in Louisville.  That year we went to the beach as a family, had a great vacation, and when we returned we departed.  We moved Mark to Chicago, then I loaded Beth up and took her to college, then I loaded up and moved to Waco.  There wasn’t much traumatic about 32. It was time to make a move and I did.

Yep, I am a 32 year old “adult” in these picture.

Cut to 10 years later, a wife, a child, a PhD, a career type job.  But no real roots.  I am a science nomad, going where the career path lead – St. Louis, Oxford, Houston, Cincinnati, Waco, Duluth, and now Columbia.  Every 3-4 years I’ve moved.  Now moving is much more complicated and consequential, as I uproot three lives instead of just one.  But yet that transitional urge is strong and growing.  I don’t think Columbia is my forever home, and as such I’m loathe to put down real roots.  It might happen despite my contrarian thinking, but for now I seek the next transition.

Me at 42 (well night quite, these were taken before my birthday this year)

For now I can just set goals and work towards them, and thus progress.  I wrote down a number of things I wanted to accomplish before 42 and for the most part, I’ve completed or made good progress on most of them.  The birthday is also a time to look beyond the short-term, toward what the long-term goals are.  I’m written most of them down in GOGOBEAR.  In the next few weeks, my goal is to start going through that planning and make sure it is up-to-date with my accomplishments and current thinking.  It doesn’t track to seek a goal you’ve already accomplished or one that your know already is foolhardy or impossible.  Many of those goals have changed with the political climate, as has my level of engagement.

At the end, my 42nd birthday will pass like so many other days, quietly and without fanfare.  I’ll eat a steak, tuck my daughter in to bed, kiss my wife goodnight, and wake up another day older.  But I will progress and find the point of transition for this year. It may not come on this day but it will arrive, like the slow steady march of time, I will proceed – progressing ever forward.

 

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