Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I put my shoes on every day now.

Last Monday I realized that one or two little things can set in motion a string of psychological effects, many of which are unintended and unexpected. Last Monday, on a whim, I decided to put on my shoes.

I purchased a new pair of shoes a couple days earlier and they didn't quite feel right. I figured I just had to break them in a bit. So I put them on. Normally, I don't wear shoes around the apartment. I stay in my socks or wear slippers. I keep my shoes next to the door and put them on when I leave. I do this in order to keep the apartment a little bit cleaner. Last Monday, when I put on my shoes, I felt differently. I felt like getting something done. I felt energized and focused.

The simple act of putting on my shoes triggered my latent and heretofore untapped potential for productivity. I made lists. I cleaned rooms. I took out trash. I did laundry. I read a book. I scheduled appointments. I did all of this in addition to my usual daily tasks: feed the baby, feed the dog, change the baby, wipe up various messes, make some dinner, etc.

I think I don't feel dressed if I'm not wearing shoes. I find it much easier to sit around on my butt watching TV, playing on the internet, or doodling on scrap paper when I'm not dressed. When I put on shoes, I feel like I have things to accomplish. As a result, a week later, the apartment is as clean as it has been in months. The dog has all his shots and claws or a reasonable length. The baby is learning to eat with her own two hands. Michelle has been fed within minutes of arriving home. I've blogged twice, written in my journal twice, my neck is clean shaven and my beard is well trimmed.

I hope to incorporate more productive activities into every day as I become more efficient. Finishing my thesis may actually happen unless I backslide terribly. For now, I'm just happy knowing that I can be as productive as I need to be to keep this little family going strong.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The World is Ending

The auto industry package failed in the Senate. A bunch of lame duck ideologues decided that the market was more important than the jobs of some 3 million Americans; that Wall Street was good enough for a $700 billion bailout, but the Auto Industry wasn't good enough for a $14 billion loan. So now it is up to the White House to use so-called TARP money to float a loan to the auto industry. Most people are sure this will happen. George W. Bush will be judged by history to be one of the worst presidents ever, and he doesn't want to pile the failure of the American auto industry on top of everything else he as screwed up.

One in every 31 adults is either behind bars or on parole (just heard this on the news). This number has been growing ever since the Justice Department started tracking it. Either more people are becoming criminals or law enforcement is getting better at catching them. Wait, what if there are just a greater number of laws to break? Don't know why this is, but I expect the number to increase as the economy continues to tank.

The governor of Illinois is a corrupt idiot whose foul-mouthed stupidity is taking all the wind out of the sails of the upcoming Obama administration. I've been nothing but happy with the president-elect's cabinet nominations and staff appointments. I believed him when promised to eschew ideology, and his appointments, many of which are disappointing to the ideological left, have not disappointed me. But this a-hole of a governor is going to leave a black mark on the next administration before Obama is even innaugurated.

And William Petersen is leaving CSI.

Oh well, at least there's some good food in the fridge and a happy baby taking a nap in the next room. Everything will be okay.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting Discouraged

I've lived in Connecticut for a few years now, and for the most part, up until a few months ago, I was fortunate to find Catholic parishes and communities that were stimulating, vibrant, socially conscious and intellectually honest. The pastors, chaplains and campus ministers who presided at Masses were intelligent, sincere, and had a way of making the faith which I identify as my own fresh, new and relevant to my life. But that was before I moved to Middletown. That was when I lived in New Haven and enjoyed the benefit of the St. Thomas More Chapel at Yale University. That was when I worked in Southbury and participated in the parish life of Sacred Heart Church. Here in Middletown, I am at a loss.

I began participating in the Eucharist at St. Pius X, a Capuchin parish. While things went well for a while, in recent weeks, the preaching has been lackluster, and the music has been so bad that Michelle and I decided to look elsewhere. Two Sundays ago, we went to St. John Church in Cromwell, and last Sunday, I went by myself to St. Francis Assisi Church in Middletown. St. John was no better than Pius X and St. Francis was simply sad.

All of this makes things very difficult for me.

My wife has been alienated from the Catholic Church by the oppressive nature of the more traditional and conservative liturgies, by the Church's stance on women, homosexuals and reproductive rights (to name a few). She went to church with me because she loves me and the churches we were attending were neither oppressive nor conservative in their liturgy or approach. She did not feel as alienated at Sacred Heart Church as in the parish in Northern Virginia where she was raised. The past few parishes here in Middletown have turned her off all over again. Where she once even looked forward to coming to church with me in Southbury, she now comes only grudgingly.

I never asked Michelle to share my faith. But I do ask her to accept that it is part of me and who I am. She has done this. She loves me and my faith. But she is concerned that I may not be able to pass on my faith to our daughter; that I will somehow force the oppressive of her childhood onto Vivian. I have no intention of doing this, but I need a little help. I need to find a parish or catholic community that is vibrant, relevant, speaks to the daily lives of ordinary women and men, seeks the ongoing reform of the Church, reaches out beyond its own walls, stands up for the poor, oppressed and hurting, rejects hatred and violence, has an attitude of openness and true dialogue with other cultures, denominations, and religions. Is that so much to ask?

I am Catholic. I wish it for my daughter with all my heart. I love my church, but hate the injustice it's leaders and many of its members perpetrate in the name of Jesus Christ. I pray that, as she gets older, I am able to find a parish somewhere where I feel comfortable taking my family to celebrate. Right now, I'm not finding any help around here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thank goodness for beautiful people

If it weren't for Michelle and Vivian right now, I'd be in a much worse mood. I hate wearing this neck brace. I hate getting a sore back just from sitting or standing too long. I hate not being able to go anywhere, and I hate not knowing how long I'm going to be like this. But Michelle and Vivian still light up my world when they smile. Roscoe still makes me laugh just by looking at me. Home-made mac-n-cheese still tastes great. Coffee still wakes me up. I'm still getting married in a month. Spike still runs CSI every evening. "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Got Talent" are still on. Eh - life ain't that bad. In fact, it's pretty good!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Crappy day

I got rear-ended this morning on the way to teach a class. There I was, minding my own busines, waiting for the light to turn green when allathasudden - WHAM! I get pitched backward in my chair from the impact behind me, then I get knocked forward by the impact of hitting the car in front of me. Some scumsucker got strung out on some substance or another and didn't see me STOPPED in the left turn lane. That was at 8:35 AM. I know the exact time because my watch stopped working at that exact moment. My car is a wreck, I'm in a neck brace for at least a week, and without "reliable transportation" it is very difficult to go to work. Oh, did I mention that the entire ordeal wasn't over until Michelle finally got me home at around 3:30 PM. It's like losing a day.

DANGIT! Like there wasn't enough to worry about already.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

It's just spooky...

Immediately after Vivian was born, her fairy godmother gave us a book entitled The Poo Bomb: True Tales of Parental Terror by Jeff Vogel. As of this minute, Vivian is 83 days, 5 hours and 58 minutes old and has followed this book nearly to the letter. I recommend this book to anyone who is having or is going to have a child (especially a girl-child). It is brutally honest about the experience and completely hilarious. I stopped reading the ol' "What to Expect..." book as soon as I realized that The Poo Bomb was more accurate and reassuring. So-called "parenting books" make you feel as though everything you are doing for your kid is simply not enough for her to grow up to be anything less than a codependent, pacifier-addicted basket case. The Poo Bomb reminds us that most of the issues we have with our parents really started waaaaay after we learned to walk, talk, and use the bathroom. That's right. Vivian can't remember how to get her hand to into her mouth from one minute to the next, so she's not going to be psychologically scarred if I recoil in terror when she attempts to soak me in urine (as she does from time to time).

Now and then I get stressed out trying to keep Vivian from screaming at the top of her lungs. Unfortunately, this is how I spend most of my waking hours. Michelle needs it relatively quiet in order to study for the Bar Exam and a screaming baby is the opposite of quiet. In fact, I believe there is some kind of biological imperative built into female endocrine systems that prevents Michelle from doing anything while Vivian is screaming. So, when Vivian is fussy, I am simultaneously trying to calm her down and provide Michelle the space she needs to pass the Bar and thereby secure the financial future of this little family. (I do what I can, but teaching SAT courses part-time won't pay even half a month's rent.) Like I said - Iget stressed trying to keep the baby quiet.

I'm sure Vivian picks up on my stress. She's probably a latent telepath and can read my very soul while she's screaming at the top of her lungs. (Telepaths hear with their brains, not their ears, so they can scream and hear your thoughts at the same time.) I hope and pray that the fact that my face is contorted into a gruesome zombie-like scowl while I try to rock her to sleep doesn't mean she's going to grow up to be some sort of over-stressed neurotic nutjob. Jeff Vogel's honest appraisal of the mental capasities of a three-month-old gives me hope and actually calms me down. If she cries, it doesn't mean I'm a bad parent or doing anything wrong. At this point in her life there's not much to mess up as long as she is clean, fed and burped.

Don't get me wrong, What to Expect... is a great resource, but don't go to it to unless you have a very specific question and want to feel like and incompetent loser parent when they tell you you're doing it all wrong. Read The Poo Bomb first. Jeff Vogel's healthy skepticism towards parenting books helps to keep it all in perspective and reassures me that, as badly as I think I'm doing as a parent, someone else did it worse.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Travel System

Here's a video I recorded for my mom to test the "Flip" camcorder and to show her the Travel System she bought for us. Thanks mom!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gut-check Time

My chickens are coming home to roost. Various lifestyle choinces I have made over the course of my life are converging in a way that is probably going to be painful. I'm seriously contemplating that many friends who I love and respect are going to simply write me off.

In college, I hung out with and made friends with conservative, evangelical Christians and Catholics of a similar political and moral bent. At the same time, I have never really bought in to the "family values" espoused by my friends nor their interpretation of the Christian faith. I'm no fundamentalist - Catholic or otherwise. However, I sang in a choir an went to Mass on Sunday (sometimes) and made friends with conservative Christians of many denomintations and confessions.

On the other hand, I have a completely different take on the Christian faith these days and have integrated my values and my faith into my character in a much more authentic way. In other words, I no longer feel guilty when my lifestyle choices are in conflict with conservative, traditional, or fundamentalistic interpretations of Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, or doctrine and dogma.

No, these days I feel guilty about portaying myself as someone I am not for the purposes of holding a job, maintaining friendships and maintaining a false peace in relationships. Consequently, I feel I need to come clean with those people I love about who I really am, even if it costs me their friendship, trust and respect. The occasion for all of this is, of course, my upcoming wedding.

Let me be clear: I do not want to sever these relationships. I love my friends. I understand where they might be coming from. I want them to come to my wedding if they can. I want them to celebrate my joy with me.

On the other hand, I need to be honest with them. I don't want any of them showing up and saying, "I didn't know that! I've been duped! I never would have come if I'd known!" So I need to tell them, one at a time if I have to, that I've been living with my fiancee for two years now and we're going to have a baby in April. Being honest about this with my employer already cost me my job, being honest about this with my family has cost me their idyllic conceptions about "the good Catholic boy" they thought they had (which fulfilled all my super-egotistical desires for approval and praise), and being honest about this with some of my friends may very well cost me their friendship.

I pray this is not the case. In my heart, I hope my friends will accept me for who I really am and forgive me for appearing to be someone I am not for so long. But I'm realistic. And I know that some of them will use this as justification to break off what little remains of a friendship that meant something once upon a time.