Ten Years Past The Day He Left This Place

I am very thankful for today. It has been a decade since my dad passed on. His grandchildren have grown quite a bit, though he never met them on this level. We still talk to my sons about Papa Gerry. He would have loooved being a grandpa. LOVED IT. I am thankful I was born to him. He was 65.

It was awful and unfair to watch him go. My mom’s strength and faith and grace carried the little boy in me that sobbed when I’d get back in the car after visiting him at the care facility he was moved to. It was better for all of us. He had been wandering away from home, usually to church, and usually during the middle of the week. It was unsafe and harrowing. My mom had the right and hard decisions.

I am thankful today because of how he Parented. Those years I had with him, not knowing they were so gravely important to who I was trying to become. The lessons I have from his examples of parenting are numerous and pop up like pre-programmed cues when my kids start acting up. He was being Dad, and probably a Teacher. Sometimes he was far too easy on me. Other times he played it so straight for discipline, and I was so disappointed in myself for disappointing him, that the lesson seared itself into my DNA. I am grateful he did it his way.

In the 10 years since he died, I have seen some of the most amazing achievements that I think he would have been proud of. I have worked on major projects that millions of mobile phone users take part in. I met and married the perfect-for-me Woman, a fiercely strong and beautiful spirit in a gorgeous human. I performed for thousands of people at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, and the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery ahead of Earth, Wind and Fire. I have coached 3 different sports for dozens of kids. I have two healthy, happy, hilarious boys that he would have loved to sit back and laugh with and about. It’s been a great 10 years. I wish he had been here for it.

I am thankful today, for my days. It was a beautiful Fall day in Kirkland. My boys and I walked from our house to their school about a half-mile away, picking up garbage along the way. We found a lot of cigarette butts, mini bottles of vodka (empty, sadly), and a lot of Halloween candy wrappers. We played soccer for the 2nd day in a row, and snacked up in between the game and walking home. I hopped in for a couple rounds of Xbox-ing. It was a great day. I wish their Papa Gerry were here to be part of any of it. But I carry him with me, so in a way, he is. I am grateful that I was his son. I was very lucky.

 

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Writer’s Blah

I have nothing to really write about… to REALLY write about. Nothing. I have a lot of these little frustrations and nits I could wax on about. But it sounds like griping, and the time for the Straight White Male’s Gripe has passed. Oh shit, this guy at work uses the word “past” in place of “passed” and that drives me up the ass. And before you say I’m a “grammar Nazi” (why did WordPress auto-capitalize Nazi?), you need to reign that in. I’m not saying I want to round up and exterminate people who consistently mis-use phrases and cause confusion due to a lack of punctuation. I’m just saying that publicly flogging people for a lack of attention to proper use of language shouldn’t be a thing of the passed.

Did your brain feel like it shorted out for a sec? Yeah, sucks, doesn’t it?

Recently a guy I used to work with noted the passing of he and his wife’s 15 year-old fluffball dog, Pomeranian I think, on social media. I know that sucks. Losing a furry pet – that isn’t my cat – of any tenure will always truly suck. The gushing over their “little man” and how much he’ll be missed, and the magic he brought to their lives, was pretty stomach-turning, though. He and his wife chose to not have kids, and instead spend their lives traveling the world with stops back in America to work at software, inc. and rack up a 6-figure salary on a yearly basis. That’s great, and more power to them for choosing that path. Life’s larger challenges can be amplified via perspective. And perhaps it’s my having 2 kids and playing the roles of parent, teacher, doctor, gastroenterologist, party planner, fashion consultant, dietician, triage nurse, coach, team mate, chauffeur, pharmacist, meal planner, and intergalactic foe for them which has me in a totally different headspace than a dog-dedicated family resides in. I know, I’m an asshole about some things, I know this. Dog’s are sweet companions of families and can teach many lessons about Life. And they can be replaced after one passes, and barely anybody thinks that’s bad or weird, and might even attract more than a few kudos. I don’t think it works the same for children.

Humor can be hard sometimes.

 

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Plumber’s Crack

In the renovation of a small condominium (Latin, from Con + Dom + Inium, meaning “a small place to be uncomfortably screwed.”) in preparation for selling it (PLEASE, SEATTLE HOUSING GODS, HANG IN THERE WHILE WE SACRIFICE THIS CAN OF KELLY MOORE EGGSHELL MOON-GRAY PAINT UNTO THEE)… we had to hire a plumber service to hook-up/disconnect some kitchen work for us. Just an absolute mental clusterfist of a group, AA Plumbing & Drain. You know when somebody’s full of shit when you ask them about an item you need clarification on, and they just talk and talk and talk about everything EXCEPT the issue.

I don’t know if anybody’s going to give a clogged can about this, but here’s what I want to share.

GET YOUR BIDS IN WRITING. We had a verbal bid of $500 to $700. Final bill was almost $1000. After checking the reviews online, this looks like what this company does. Verbal Bid, Actual over-bill. So if the model is to come in way over the bid, just up your bid so you don’t have blowback when people ask why you’re way TF over your original bid. Makes  you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, outside of causing issues.

I know “shit happens,” in work and business. Time runs short, overruns on materials, etc. But when you overbill by $100, and add a guy to stand around and watch you swear for another $100, that’s shit you’re causing, not the happening of the shit.

I get why people have issues with the repair and trade industries. I’ve had contractors demo a bathroom and try to bilk a couple extra hundred out of me, likely due to a gambling problem. Once had a team do great work except for one of them stealing a $500 watch on their last day. This distrust is one reason why people go the DIY route, but all the same, there’s a point when you’re suddenly watching a shell-game happen. When somebody answers your concise question with a drawn-out response riddled with unrelated details (we have good reviews!, a high satisfaction rating!, my socks match!), you’re getting the run-around.

I’m already resigned that we won’t be getting any money back on an overbilling issue. But I’ve also included their integrity as part of the equation. I have moments where I miss integrity, I’m sure. So maybe it’s a karmic back-up throwing some shit my way. At least I know who not to call. I’ll handle this myself.

 

 

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Pardon The Interruption

Hey, you’re sitting there typing on a keyboard. I’m gonna jump in and start talking to you because I have like zero ability to judge a situation. Now you’re distracted and my question is confusing. Get out of your car and come look under my hood. Hear that? Yeah. What is that? I don’t know either.

Anyway, if there’s any justice in the universe, I’ll be shitting blood by lunch. OK, cool, I’m gonna get coffee.

 

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Death, Taxes, and Other Investments

In the past 2 weeks I have spent over 4 hours on the phone with the IRS’s on-hold music. I worked on a 1099 last year, wherein I took a higher level of pay and didn’t have taxes taken out; instead, I defer the payment to a single tax payment after some standard deductions as a consultant. If you play it properly you have the tax money (and then some) stored up and ready when the bill comes due. In our case, the payment to the IRS hasn’t happened because of… well, I’m not sure. It seems like the payment was supposed to, but didn’t, go through, and then I got a letter that prompted a call. Apparently, that letter went out to a lot of people. I have yet to speak to an actual human at the IRS.

At the same time, a massive merger between AT&T and TimeWarner occurred, creating WarnerMedia. Having worked at AT&T a number of times I can honestly say it is one of the corporations that is best at treating employees with the most basic of respect to keep them from leaving. Which is too bad. Because when publicly-traded corporations are beholden to shareholders, the CEO will do a dance to perhaps make people feel good about their investments. Money rolls in. Stock price rises. Dividends are paid out. Employees grind through work to keep the machine rolling. The company makes a very public, virtue-signaling bonus payout announcement. But that’s just a small part of the story.

So what’s my problem? It’s this… Shortly after the announcement, a round of layoffs began. There was no announcement for that. It’s a year-end move AT&T, and likely other corporations, do in order to get money off the books before benefits reset. For a company that touts itself – and this is for any corporation – as wanting to grow, invest in, and care about the people who work for it, nobody is more important than the Investor. That might also be employees of the company. The workforce within, and this is also common at many corporations, is heavily augmented by consultants, contingent workers, or contractors. We do not receive the same benefits as the people who we work alongside who are full time employees. But we do the same work. And many times, from management or leadership positions.

I work for a great corporation at the moment. I’ve worked for not-great corporations. A great corporation takes care of people, inside-out. It pays taxes to the areas and nations it works in. It has jobs for people to move in to, and up to, and cuts workforce as a last resort. Yes, Capitalism has allowed me a very comfortable lifestyle while I work to pay off taxes I accrued by working in a Capitalist economy. It’s a loop I’m out of, with an anchor to cut loose instead of reeling in to drop somewhere again. There’s a point where we all have to get to a 0-balance life. Hopefully we’re alive when it happens.

 

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The Value of Volume

Having finished another season of coaching flag football – 2 teams this time – I find it’s always good/self-indulgent to reflect on the season(s). There are so many lessons to learn from coaching that I hope I coach long enough to compile a long enough list to make a ton of money off a book that people download, something with a title like “The Basics of Success: 2287 Tips to Get to The Top From Your Personal Rock-Bottom,” or “Win Today: Turning The ShitShow You Call Your Life Into a Success Orgy.” But I probably won’t do that too soon.

This entry is more about some people I encounter regularly who believe that making noise – literally and figuratively – somehow equates to “get shit done,” or GSD. This happens at work, on the field, in the 7-11 parking lot, church choir planning retreats, we could go on and on… In coaching sometimes I have to yell. I mean BELLOW to get a kid’s attention. A lot of kids seem to go by a nickname, so I yell their name and they don’t respond. Instead, they’re just NOT dropping back to cover the flat and just gonna stand there having a go at their, apparently very itchy bum while having a good look at the opposing player running past them. You can’t coach instinct, but you can yell about the lack of effort.

A co-worker of mine is like a human whistle. Noise. Just noise noise noise. Dropping f-bombs in a way that most people use a comma. Got it. You’re fired up. You’re a rebel, a breaker of convention, a THOUGHT LEADER. From 70 feet away, over the tops of cubicles, WE HEAR THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED AND YOU’RE GONNA BE OK. Good job. Now please, shut up so we can GSD. This person, I swear, equates being loud to Leading. That’s “Loudership” (just invented that, trademark 2018), and it’s annoying.

My wife tells me I “really need to yell louder” on the sidelines. I always do. About as loud as I can yell, I let it rip. She’s also usually on the same side as I am, 3 feet behind me, and 30 feet to my left or right. So she can’t hear me trying to get Kayd’n’s attention so he’ll TAKE 5 BIG STEPS FORWARD. Again in the past 3 minutes. And I’m shouting for him to move up, and waving my hand to move up, while yelling “KAAAYD”””N! TAKE 5 BIG STEPS FORWARD.” He looks at me, palms up, as if to say “I am holding an invisible sandwich that is at least 3 feet long. It will drop if move!”

Later, when I ask “Hey, were  you able to hear me out there?”

“Yeah, I heard you.”

“Why didn’t you move up?”

“I didn’t know why I should.”

“OK… We don’t have time in the game to explain every little move. We coach that in practice so that, when we tell you where to move, you’re in the best position to make a play for the team. The basic spot you start from is on that corner of the penalty box. You’re not in the wrong place, but if  you move there’s a better chance good things will happen. You moved up and the other player had to try and come back inside, and lost the ball. Good job out there!”

(Blank stare)

“Good talk, get some PowerJuice.”

And this seems to be the way right now, in America. Being loud gets attention. It diverts us away from the constant thrum of whatever else is being hammered on. I’m not saying Kayd’n is trying to divert attention way from his meddling with his sister’s sleepover, or accuse his brother of eating all the Nutella with a spoon. I’m just saying that being loud has its place in the world. But not in the workplace, unless you REALLY need to be LOUD, or just like to yell at kids.

 

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Kids Can Be Jerks

Some kids are just dickheads. It’s amazing to see kids at 10 already being dickheads, but it’s there. When redirecting or reprimanding a kid, the last thing I used to expect was some sort of reply starting with “But we were just…” or “We don’t have to…”

I don’t care what you were “just,” that’s my couch and get your disgusting feet the fuck off of it. You just earned a 6 month ban from my house. Go wait outside for your parents, with your weird eyes.

You do have to, if you don’t want me to tell your parents, and then launch a thinly-veiled campaign against your availability for playdates. I’ll bury your social calendar in the stories of your bullshit backtalk. I’ll propaganda your ass right into a Summer of staring at the walls, you red-headed, sucker-punching, hat-stealing pre-prison ass clown. See you 8 months if you haven’t been transferred to a state-run juggling camp.

Quit being scared of kids. Start slapping consequences on them. Tell them loudly they aren’t being spanked, they’re being excluded from fun. Kill their video games. Win.

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Be Not Still, My Beating Heart

On the afternoon of March 14th, following some busy days and nights, I got home and felt like my chest was frozen. After sitting around and letting everything reset, I felt better, but that’s not a far walk from what I had been feeling. I told myself “don’t mess around here, man, this isn’t funny, this isn’t acid reflux.”

I walked around my yard for about 5minutes, and again felt frozen between my shoulders. I had never felt anything like it, and it freaked me out. It was painful, but not like a sore muscle. I wasn’t sweating, nor feeling a looming sense of unmitigated despair any more than usual. So my wife drove me to the ER. I walked in and told the folks there what was going on, and with eyes widened the way you’d widen your eyes if somebody had a harpoon in their ear and asked if it “looked bad” but you didn’t want them to panic, they told me to sit down and do some tests. My blood pressure was up, oxygen was OK, and I went to a room for observation.

An EKG showed no signs of a heart attack. A blood test found no evidence of a heart attack. I was admitted a few hours later with the aim of being kept overnight for an angiogram. It’s that procedure where a doctor snakes a thin tube into your artery (they went in through my wrist but shaved an area peri-groinal just in case… they needed even more power over the situation), to your heart, and you watch the entire thing on an X-Ray monitor while iodine is injected in a the artery, showing any areas of narrowing or damage. I was kinda high when they did it, after they had injected me with a light sedative, which calmed me down after I had spent a good half hour crying in my hospital room. They should grow a hybrid of Sativa, Indica, and Sense of Mortality. Really burns off the white noise.

So as I’m lying on the table, the doctor comes in and tells me this is his 4th procedure of the morning. I’m a little worried because it’s coming up on lunch time and, that usually leads to rushed or sloppy work. But the staff threw the X-ray over me and we watched my heart thumping away. I couldn’t really see anything of a blockage as they had yet to inject the iodine. I didn’t feel anything more than a poke at my wrist when they made the insertion. I just lay there with very little to think about other than my life, and my family, and my future with my family.

A minute or maybe 5 later, it was show-time. The doctor injected the iodine, enough to darken the artery we suspected was having an issue. It showed up like a black worm on the screen, wriggling beneath the right atrium as blood was struggling to get through. And there it was…

RCA-xray

Not my heart, but I was pinched above the PDA

 

 

My right coronary artery, had a 1.5mm area that was 70-80% narrowed/blocked/too small. 1.5mm. That’s miniscule. In the universe it doesn’t register as a blip of a blip’s blip. But it can cause huge issues. It can kill you. Is that how I wanted to go? After being run over by a Harley 20 years ago, narrowly avoiding 100’s of car accidents, almost flipping a car on 520, but I get taken out by 1.5mm of blocked artery…

A moment later the doctor said, “OK, there it is, that skinny part in the middle is the problem. Let’s get that back open here.” A stent was placed, and I could see the vessels and branches into the ventricles all grow darker, as well. They were finally getting far more blood than they had in quite a while. I was up and walking around my hospital room that night, and went home the next day, happy to go pick up my boys after school.

The staff said “Wow, you’re smart for coming in when you did. Too many guys try and walk it off.” Being proactive AND correct is very rare for me. I was even more grateful for listening to myself, and even in the face of some strong agnosticism, I fully believe that I have angels (for lack of a better term) that whisper to me.

Since this happened, I’ve felt far better than I have in about a year, and probably 3. Of COURSE I feel better – my heart’s working much more closely to “Normal”, ya big goose!  If you think something’s wrong, if you have consistently high blood pressure, please go get things checked out. You can save yourself a lot of trouble, and maybe even a lot of life.

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The Value of a Village

It’s been said and published and possibly pushed off to the side, but “it takes a village to raise a child.” If you’re not sure what that entails, the basics are as follows:
1. You and your child(ren) are part of a community, like it or not.
2. You and your child(ren) will interact on a nearly daily basis with that community.
3. The community will influence, and possibly instruct you and your child(ren) on how to live in that community, like it or not.
4. If all goes well, the influence and instruction are beneficial to the mental and physiological well-being and safety of all members of the community.

This doesn’t presume that the Village is always correct in all facets of thinking, nor steered by a reasonably-moral compass. Inversely, if all (or enough) goes badly, you find yourself in a barter community ruled by vigilant, self-absorbed despots who value strict order over neighborliness.

But enough about your local HOA…

As this article is titled, yes, I am parenting your kid. “I” is me, in this case, but “I” could be any parent, or adult of influence. A teacher, perhaps. A coach, for sure. A neighbor who hires local kids to yank weeds and rake leaves for a couple sawbucks an hour, absolutely. Kevin’s mom. Shalea’s dads. Derek’s step-parents. All of us, influencing kids. We’re all in a position to be influencing the development of kids if we’re around them on a semi-regular basis. And we should be.

I’ve been around enough kids to know when they crave attention, and how they can seek it. I sit here writing this after a double playdate, siblings hosting siblings here, and half of the visiting team is a boundary pusher. Within 15 minutes of arrival, I was told by an 8 year old that my video games suck. Not long after, after educating him on a safety issue regarding the use of NERF blasters (Rule 1, No close shots), was told that I was “being a hater.” I stared at him in the face. His challenge back to me was a stare. Here’s a kid waiting to see what that will get him. Well, he gets my attention.

I took the blaster away, and reminded him that it’s okay to play a bit rough but we have to take care of each other. And that nobody hates anybody who plays by the rules. And that the next time he does it he can’t come back to the house without his parents, who will be told of his behavior afterwards. Wow. His eyes got big. Then I took out my notepad and jotted something in it. He asked what I wrote… sI truly don’t care if your kid is in my house, a playground, my yard, a flag fooball squad I’m coaching, or a touring theatrical troupe’s presentation of “Hamilton, Jr.”, disrespect is bullshit, and will be met as such.

So yes, I step in and correct what I see when I see it. If I know the kid’s name(s) I’ll address them directly. I’m not trying to overstep any other parenting; it starts inside-out and as a coach I know that external yelling can hurt the process (your kid is playing over there because they LIKE to play there, not to embarrass you, which you’re doing fine at yourself). To use a nearly tired-out phrase, I “adult” when they “kid” so everyone stays within the rules of safe play. Rough-housing is fine if all the kids are into it. But sometimes a kid is swinging a stick that is dangerously too dangerous for this particular session of Flyer’s Up, and somebody really ought to put that stick where it belongs.

For the record, Capt. Talkback has been demoted to PFC Bigmouth and is barred from the grounds until further notice. His parents were notified. And each time he asks, or is brought up as a possible invitee, I’ll remind whomever is within earshot that manners maketh playdates. Likewise, I tell other parents and adults to correct my kid’s behavior that might hurt somebody else, break rules, or worst of all, embarrass me or my wife. Kids are Kids, and I’m not trying to mitigate their natural playful (sometimes criminal) instincts, but they need to have reinforced boundaries, too. Nobody’s perfect, but a village only needs so many idiots.

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Dad Style To-Do List #1

  1. Finances: How much do I think is in checking right now? Confirm.
  2. Finances: Investigate cash-based hemorrhaging.
  3. Fitness: Work out, Elliptical walk around the exercise area.
  4. Fitness: Guilt-carry, 3 sets/2minutes each
  5. Music: Consider getting into Father John Misty. Try the Zac Brown Band one more time. Confirm Migos is not writing for men in their 40’s who have almost no tattoos above the neck.
  6. House: Repeat “where are the gawddammed tops” >30 times when emptying the dishwasher of plastic storage dishes.
  7. House: Laundry. There’s a shit-ton of it again.
  8. Cultural: Belize accepting Americans, long-term?, vaccinations needed, cost of living
  9. Car: Vacuum abhors nature of kids dropping food in the backseat. My kids have dropped more wrappers in cars than Suge Knight.
  10. T-Shirts: Make 1000 with that last Suge Knight sentence, sell 4.
  11. House: Narrow-down what to make for dinner that the kids would really ignore.
  12. Finances: Download the new tax codes to stoke untapped rage
  13. Work: Nap.
  14. Finances: Rehearse the phrase, “Cheeses cripes, that’s all that’s in checking?”
  15. House: Hide the lighters.
  16. Fitness: Work the fat out.
  17. Creative: Publish a blog lazy-ass lazy.

 

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