Friday, April 30, 2010

Rambling in Paul and Sunny's Direction

When I first read Paul's Homeward Bound post, my initial thought, oddly enough, was "I'm going to miss them." Kind of an interesting notion, considering that we've never met in real life. It was a fleeting thought, and I really was amused at myself... after all, I can keep up via their blogs, Xbox Live, or whatever. Either way, chalk it up to the internet age... I certainly never would have thought that I'd miss people that I've never met, but I must concede that I feel like I know them. Now, let me speak directly to Paul and Sunny...

I know that my words have no bearing on your decision -- certainly in part because the choice has already been made, but for what it's worth, I support it. It's been relatively apparent to me from the beginning that you two have struggled just to get by. I believe that you two have diligently worked to get ahead, but haven't been able to make any headway. It's been said many times that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different outcome. By taking this step, you're stopping the insanity.

Regarding your comment about failing... I'm not so sure that you can call your time over here a failure. You stepped in to a new culture... you learned to shoot a gun... you ate squirrel... you learned the meaning of living hand to mouth... you gave up everything for love, and now you see that she's willing to do the same... But if you insist in saying that you failed, then remember this -- it's possible to do everything right and still fail. (Ugh... I'm starting to sound like Chicken Soup for the Soul).

I can relate to starting over. I spent the first six years of my adult life in the Marine Corps. During that six years, I moved three times, and each time I effectively had to pack my life into a sea bag. (That's a duffel bag for you non-Marine types out there.) Being young, it was an adventure... a chance to explore strange, new worlds... to seek out new life, and new civilizations... to boldly go where no man has gone before. Oh wait, sorry, someone else has already said that. And to make matters worse, I kind of strayed from my point. What was I saying? Oh, yeah... I was being pulled from the familiar in to the unknown, taking only what I could carry, and my identity. I enjoyed it then, but now that I'm a middle-aged man with a home and a family, I wouldn't want to do it today.

Sunny, this has got to be one of the scariest things you've done in your life. My last thought certainly didn't ease your anxiety. Try to keep your perspective. It's an adventure! You're going to go somewhere that many people only dream about. You're going to seek out new life, and new civilizations... oh damn, there I go again. What was I saying? Oh, yeah... keep your perspective. Think of the crappy things that have happened to you over the last decade (or quarter century, or your lifetime, or whatever) and remember that you're leaving it all behind. Oh crap, here comes the Chicken Soup again.

I've got a feeling that you'll be fine. In fact, I think you'll wonder why you didn't do this years ago.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Current Sight is 20/20

When I was younger, I had awesome vision. In fact, when I got out of the Marine Corps, they tested me at 20/15. I was able to read the 20/10 line, but they didn't count it. Of course, that was almost 20 years ago.

During the past two years or so, I've experienced a noticeable deterioration in my vision. Six months or so ago, I picked up a set of reading glasses, because I got to the point where my arms weren't long enough to make small print readable. (That's not exactly 100% true, but you get the point.) But when I picked up the reading glasses, I knew that I was merely postponing the inevitable.

The prospect of getting glasses wasn't a psychological blow or anything like that. My decision to hold off was strictly practical... no vision insurance, and I was able to function without prescription lenses. Well, everything's changed now. Last week I went to an ophthalmologist, had a full eye exam, and found out that I need... bifocals.

I got the glasses yesterday, and I'm still getting used to them. After 40 years of moving my eyes to what I want to see, it's a bit odd to have to move my entire head to keep my field of vision.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Healthier Me?

I gave up the cancer sticks. I've said this quite a few times over the last quarter century. Yeah, that's right, I started smoking almost 25 years ago. Probably one of the dumbest decisions I ever made, but that's not the point.

Before I get to the point, I want to make one thing clear. I am NOT a victim. I did not fall prey to the evil tobacco companies. I made a stupid choice, and the consequences of smoking -- the cost of buying tobacco, the reduced lung capacity, and the possible long-term health repercussions -- are all the result of a poor choice I made as a teenager. I am not a victim.

Mark Twain was right when he said "Quitting's easy. I've done it a thousand times," or however he phrased it. I have quit dozens of times... it's always lasted at least a week. It once lasted for two years. It's refusing to cave to my random nicotine fits that eventually kicks my ass... or in the case of that two-year quit, it was my then-wife saying that she wanted a divorce. Regardless, as I've said repeatedly, I'm not a victim.

Now... to my point. One thing I've noticed in previous quits, is the increased appetite. The pundits say that it's because nicotine is an appetite suppressant; others say that food is a substitute for the cigarette. I've noticed something different, at least for me. Smoke "fills" my lungs the way that food fills my stomach. When I'd get hungry, I'd have a smoke, and my lungs would be "full," in a way that's similar to how my stomach is full after eating. Furthermore, since the lungs and the stomach are in relatively close proximity to one another, my brain said "close enough." The eating-smoking correlation isn't really an issue with me, it's just something I've noticed in previous attempts at life as a non-smoker, and since I'm on day one one without the cancer sticks, I figured that I'd bring it up.

By the way, I also plan to engage in light exercise... you know, a few push-ups, sit-ups and whatnot... nothing radically different. I just figure that since I'm giving up the smokes that it'll be easier to be a little more active.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Guess I Want Aggressive Kids

While surfing the internet this morning, I read yet another article correlating corporal punishment and aggressive behavior in children. The article starts off by saying that "the American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse spanking for any reason," and continues by citing a recent study from Tulane University showing that children "who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive by age 5." The implication of the article is relatively clear... parents who spank their children are bad people. If that's the case, then I guess I am a bad parent who wants aggressive kids, because I spanked my children. Not only did I spank my kids, but if I had to re-raise my girls, I'd do it again.

There are several flaws with the correlation of spanking and aggressiveness... For example, exactly what behavior constitutes aggressiveness? How can causation be proven? Is aggressive behavior necessarily a bad thing? If one child takes another child's lollipop, is this aggressiveness or is it ignorance? Is it logical to assume that all children are blank slates and that spanking is the cause of aggressive behavior? Isn't there a fine line between aggressiveness (which is considered bad) and assertiveness (a desirable attribute)?

Those who oppose corporal punishment advocate time-outs instead. They say that spankings instill fear instead of understanding, and that spanking models aggressive behavior as a solution to problems. Once again, the researchers aren't looking at the whole picture. They're ignoring the unmistakable fact that eventually, little Jimmy will say "No!" when you send him to the corner. What's next? You say, "Go to the corner, or I'll tell you to go the corner?!?" No. There's got to be a nuclear option when it comes to raising children... a form of punishment that the child cannot resist, and that gets her immediate attention. Furthermore, using fear as a punishment doesn't cease when a person reaches adulthood. People don't drive the speed limit because it's the right thing to do, they do it because they're afraid of the fine and increase in insurance rates. People don't pay their taxes because of some internalized moral obligation, they do so because they're afraid of the consequences of NOT paying taxes.

I can't speak for everyone else, but I can say that by the time my kids were six months old, they started displaying individual personality traits. Both of my girls were happy, curious and mellow. When my older daughter started learning to roll over, however, she got cranky. She was irritated that she couldn't do it quickly. She was frustrated with the learning process. They were not carbon copies of one another... they had unique personalities. As a result, each child required a different method of instilling discipline. I certainly did not spank each child the exact same number of times during their upbringing.

I was blessed with mellow, happy children. If they would have been aggressive though, it would have been my job to channel that aggressiveness in a socially acceptable way. Taking another kid's Legos at recess is not acceptable. Wanting to have the top score on the math quiz, however, is socially desirable. We as parents are not here to create identical children. We are here to guide our kids in their journey through life. Sometimes we can't guide them gently... sometimes our kids need a firm hand.

If my thought process is wrong-think, then I guess I'd rather have aggressive kids.