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Full-Time, Full-Life Job

July 7th, 2014 by Nicho

I heard a story on MPR that was done by a 17-year-old father. He was recounting how his life had changed since the birth of his daughter a year ago, as well as that of his family. His father took off after three of his own sons became fathers around 16 years old. He had a brief telephone interview with his dad, who said that he was always a phone call away and if they felt he wasn’t around enough that it was their own fault for not contacting him. It also briefly touched upon the young mother’s life, who was 19 at the time of the child’s birth. She cried as she told of how her father was never there as she grew up. She spoke of how jealous she was of friends whose fathers picked them up from places and gave them hugs when they needed them.

Overall, the story was good. This kid, who initially had no clue how to be a father, is making steps towards being a real part of his daughter’s life. Good on him. But the real lesson, I feel, needs to be underscored — and it goes for both sexes.

Your job as a parent never ends; It changes, it evolves, but never truly ends. Even when you’ve successfully allowed your child to live for 18 years and get a diploma, you’re not done. If you end up walking away and leaving your children to effectively fend for themselves, you’re doing them a disservice beyond measure. This world can really suck — everyone knows that. But when you have a family you can turn to, it sucks a lot less.

Being a parent is no easier, nor is it any harder when your kid is 8 months or 18 years or any span between. The challenges are just different and you’ve got to learn how to adapt. You need to find a way to look at the world through those young eyes once more, when you were young, terrified, invincible and stupid. Remember that feeling of being utterly confused yet completely convinced of how right you were? Guess who’s going through that now. They need you to be their conscience, their sounding block, their occasional verbal punching bag and the arms that hold them close in understanding when they feel like the world is against them.

But really, is that much harder than waking up every 45 minutes to change a diaper and rock a baby back to sleep?

Is it any harder than trying to clean crayon scribbles all over your brand new painted walls?

Is it any harder than sending them outside to play and trust they don’t pull up your flowerbed but end up tracking mud all over the house?

Is it any harder than wiping their tears away when they’ve fallen and scraped up their elbows really bad?

Is it any harder than trying to get them to just sit down and do their spelling words for the umpteenth time?

Not really. It’s just different.

Even if your folks weren’t there for you, you can be better than them and be there for these young adults. Yes, they can grow up and be “adults” at different times. But that’s why I call it adapting — there is no manual for this.

If there is, it’s a simple one-line instruction: Be there for them.

Needing an Answer

June 18th, 2014 by Nicho

Recently news was made about the number of shootings that have occurred on school grounds since the Sandy Hook, CT incident. The reason for pointing it out was that absolutely nothing has been done to solve the problem. That really should’ve been the end of the story.

But it wasn’t.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mad Libs

June 6th, 2014 by Nicho

I loved Mad Libs when I was a kid. You know, those silly books of paragraphs that encourage others to find nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc, that are to be placed is deliberate spots so that the paragraphs take on ridiculous but mostly humorous resolutions. I think they’re great because most adults I know don’t even know what an adverb is, and these books actually force you to figure it out. All in good fun.

I brought this up because I use these to help illustrate my problem with religion. I know — quite the analogy. But follow me on this. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello Soldier

May 26th, 2014 by Nicho

To fully appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made, I fear that my only chance at understanding would have been if I had donned the fatigues, picked up a weapon and fought alongside you. Had I come to know the horrors of war through your eyes, only then would truly identify with what you feel. I want to understand. A small part of me needs to understand, but it can never be so.

It would be all too easy for me to get on my podium and speak of the injustices that you suffered upon returning home in the tone of pointed shame and anger of a country and a government that seems to forget you the moment you return home. But we’ve all read the stories in the news by now. I feel it would almost be self serving to recount stories of battles with the VA, the feelings of rage, the emotional isolation, and the struggles of finding a way back to normalcy. Or even to sullenly recount the lives ended too quickly on foreign soils.

Just know that the vast majority of the people you fought for are so grateful to you. Wars in all corners of the world, spanning decades of history, and seemingly endless attitudes towards the very meaning of the act itself that covers the broadest of spectrums. Your sacrifice meant something to us. It meant everything to us. Even if we didn’t understand or agree on the premise of why you left us in the first place, it meant something priceless. You fought for those who, for a myriad of reasons, did not or could not fight for themselves.

Thank you, soldier. Thank you for laying down your life.

Mad Plans?

April 18th, 2014 by Nicho

As I get older, I’m continually amazed at how quickly time passes. I just realized yesterday that I passed the two year anniversary of my divorce. (Divorcinnary?) It really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long as the actual 17-month divorce  process seemed to have taken much longer. But here it is, 2014, and my daughter is graduating high school, and my boys will be juniors next year.

What’s coming down the pipe is apparently momentous; My 40th birthday is less than two months away. I use the term momentous because, by all accounts, it’s all downhill from here. Truth be told, I never really expected to live beyond 40. I’ve been saying that since I was a teenager, much to the objections of certain family members who don’t like envisioning the concept. Not that I blame them, but even since seeing Monty Python’s Meaning of Life as a teenager, my own mortality has been somewhat of dark joke to me. (As a reminder to those who’ve known me for a while: I do expect to have Always Look on the Bright Side of Life played at my funeral. Don’t make me come back and kick your ass.)

But now I’m almost at that imaginary finish line. Forty is staring me down, waiting for me to flinch. I can see why folks get worked about this admittedly arbitrary number. It looks hungry, yet twitchy.

Regardless, I figured that I should make an event out of this. It isn’t often that I go out of my way to aggrandize anything about me — probably never. I figure this is as good of a time as any. So I took the week of my birthday off from work. My plan is to fill every day with something that I wouldn’t regularly do or have otherwise been putting off for some idiotic reason or another. For one, I’m getting a tattoo. This isn’t exactly an odd choice for the four decade mark; my Ex did the very same thing upon hitting the same birthday. But this isn’t so much about originality as it is new and fun experiences for me. (Not that being jabbed repeatedly with a needle should be in any way considered fun, but I digress.)

After that, I’m rather befuddled at what else to do. Call it a lack of original thought. If anyone has any interesting suggestions, I’d be delighted to hear them.

“Obama’s Deficit”

February 9th, 2014 by Nicho

After Obama was first elected in 2008, I made a vow or sorts to avoid public political commentary. I realized that after several years of doing this, I was about as popular at parties as a leper. And rather than helping people understand the sometimes quizzical nature of American politics, I was only rustling jimmies and upsetting people. Some of them were grotesquely stupid people, but they can’t help that. The point was that I really wasn’t helping much. I was only adding fuel to the fire. I was also at the point where I was ready to take my position in the political middle again. It was my hope that by having a solidly blue track ahead of us for the foreseeable future that the country would pull back from the Right Wing that it had been dancing on for nearly a decade.

So while I was retooling for a less confrontational existence, I let the world go on as it wished. It wasn’t easy, and I have to say that I did manage to become presentable in public gatherings again and even managed to rescue most of my sense of humor from the pits of caustic cynicism. Not that I could ever truly let that go, but I was much funnier before I let it engulf me. But something you cannot shake after delving into the depths of the political cesspool are the facts that you learned on your journey. And unlike many of the commentators out there, I prided myself in allowing all facts take root and letting my conscience guide me.  Read the rest of this entry »

Minnesnowda

January 26th, 2014 by Nicho

I have lived in Minnesota for my entire life. As much as those who visit have complained about the cold weather — indeed, those who live south of here have a misconception that it’s never warm — I’ve never had a problem with the cold. As I learned a few years ago during a particularly dry winter, not having snow for a few months of the year is unnatural to me. At the time, it actually plummeted me into minor depression. I proudly wear an imaginary badge on my chest that states “Yes, I’m from Minnesota, you wuss.” I think it ranks up with those who live in LA or New York City as a badge of bravery and is to be worn with honor.

All of that said, this winter has completely sucked the joy out of the season for me. As this month comes to a close, I cannot think of a January that has left me feeling more miserable. Even the novelty of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, an annual pilgrimage to the downtown area and beyond, has yet to intrigue me enough to get outside and enjoy the frozen festivities. All I want to do is stay inside, eat soup and chili, and hibernate like a bear. I have never felt this way. What’s worse, I never in a thousand years would’ve even thought I’d feel this way.  Read the rest of this entry »

Modern Fame

January 24th, 2014 by Nicho

In case you somehow miraculously avoided the news yesterday, Justin Bieber was arrested. DUI, drag racing, resisting arrest — in general for being a douchebag. And I think that’s why the majority of the civilized world is getting off on it.

I tend to avoid celebrity gossip and such. It’s pretty simple reasoning in that I genuinely don’t give a flying petunia what these people are like. When you stop to consider how much money is spent on public image, it’s a wonder how anyone can take anything they say as being serious. While I don’t like thinking about the personal lives of celebrities, I do tend to get wrapped up in the phenomena of what it must be like to be a celebrity. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t wish the experience upon anyone.

It’s sort of become the standing joke that once some kid gets famous there’s an invisible countdown that’s set off that ticks down to the moment where that kid finally implodes under the weight of their own success. The public at large seems to get reap great joy in making predictions and celebrating when it finally happens. For the record: Bieber hasn’t hit that moment yet. But it’s because of this recent news that I thought it was finally time to say something. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year

December 31st, 2013 by Nicho

I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I don’t see the value in wanting to make positive changes to one’s life, I just don’t see the necessity to feel automatically compelled because of an arbitrary change in a number representing a trip around a burning ball of gas. Perhaps that a bit clinical, but it doesn’t change the fact that people have all kinds of reasons to make changes and they shouldn’t save them up to make the commitment at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

If I were to be bluntly honest with you all, I’m perfectly aware of my shortcomings that could easily be changed if I just made the proper choices on a day to day basis. But that would mean actually changing my habits; routines that I’m perfectly comfortable with, thank you very much. Probably the most offered resolution around this time every year is to “lose weight”. Well that would be nice, now wouldn’t it? I could stand to lose a few, myself. But is the period just after a holiday period that encourages eating not only too much, but incredibly rich foods really the best time to reach this conclusion? What,  are you people masochists or something?

Another that tops the list is quitting smoking. To anyone who finds solace in burning tobacco, this is something akin to removing molars with no anesthesia — only less traumatic. And what makes it fun is when you combine this resolution with the aforementioned. It makes for the perfect storm of unpredictable emotional outbursts. Pro tip for my non-smoker friends out there: Quitting an oral fixation (don’t get cute with that) tends to make eating an all-too-perfect alternative. Trying to moderate your nutritional intake while quitting smoking has been a dominant astronomical theory in the collapse of certain galaxies. Ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Read the rest of this entry »

Dating at 39 – Part 1

December 17th, 2013 by Nicho

I’ve made a concerted effort to start dating again. This process has been met with mixed results, to put it kindly. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t take very good care of myself. So in entering the dating world again I feel like used car salesman who’s got one car to sell; a beat up Dodge Minivan. Sure, it’s got a horn that plays La Cucaracha, but how entertaining can that be after the first few uses? In the first few months, my walking train wreck of self-confidence was clearly evident to all who witnessed it. I think the women I was with stuck around for as long as they did out of pity. The alternative was that they were batshit crazy. But the point is that I had all of the dating skills of a dead ferret. I should add that this may still be the case, but I’ll let my dates decide.

What made this more fun was attempting to restart a love life that had about eight or nine years of dust on it (I’m being nice — honest, but nice), and doing so with three teenagers. You’d be amazed how much fail can be generated on a first date when you’re only real recent social experience is whatever is going on in your teenager’s life. I honestly think I frightened the first one when I refused to have liquor with a light dinner because “I’m driving and you can’t be too careful.” This was shortly after the Ex moved out, and I was abiding the rules I had set for myself many years before. Regardless, I’m sure her beer was just twice as tasty in the knowledge that this nutball on the other side of the table was probably judging every sip she took. I wasn’t, but do you think anything I said after that would’ve changed her mind? The poor girl nearly left skid marks on her way out of the restaurant parking lot. And I don’t blame her one bit. Read the rest of this entry »