Busy Being Busy

It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again. – Kreider, Tim (2012, June 30). The ‘Busy’ Trap. The New York Times.

Last night, I spent thirty minutes trying to get through three paragraphs of a National Geographic piece on the hardships of widows in the world. I was tired. Emails buzzed my work phone every five minutes. Angus was prying at my fingers so that I would come and play cars.

Of course, he then started bugging mom who was trying to get some cross-stitching done for a friend’s birthday present and had been dealing with him all day while I’d been in the office (dealing with children of a different sort). I reluctantly put down the magazine, hid my phone, and as tired as I was, fully engaged myself with Angus and his cars.

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

As I wrapped a flexible, rubber Mr. Bean action figure around the top of a toy ambulance and pushed him toward Angus Hospital, my brain began to boil over. Potential characters, settings, and plots based on those three paragraphs I’d read popped out faster than I could grab my phone and record them.H

Of course Angus protested while I furiously tapped out the thoughts, but then I put down my phone and made sure Mr. Bean’s pal, the six-inch rubber iguana, made it to surgery on time.

I was reminded that disconnecting is precious. Not just to create good memories me and my son, as in this instance, but for being creative. The National Geographic magazine isn’t going anywhere. I won’t receive my walking papers the next morning because I failed to read a work email after business hours. As for being tired? I’m pretty sure that’s a synonym for parenting.

-Phillip

We Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

“I got your six. Go ahead.”

The Old Man is a good partner, but taking point requires chutzpah. Someone whose only fear is timidity. Someone that others on the task force might call a live wire.

When it comes to fighting ghosts, I’m courage personified.

This time, the portal is inconspicuous enough — a palm-sized, medieval castle made of plastic stone and brightly colored turrets sitting on a tiny round platform. Underneath hang a grouping of metal chimes. The untrained civilian may pass by, may even swat it just to hear the jingle-jangle without realizing they’re inviting invisible monsters into the world. Pretty sure The Old Woman does this regularly while she’s tending the garden.

I place the orange tip of my pistol against the chimes and look back. I’m grinning like the Cheshire cat.

The Old Man nods.

I swipe my gun and unleash Hell.

Instantaneously, the world explodes in invisible ripples and we’re surrounded.

“Go go go!” The Old Man yells.

I don’t so much aim as the gun itself seems to magically zero in on the spiritual scum. The sound of high-velocity water squirting in all directions plays like a symphony in my ears. It’s a well-known fact that water is to ghosts as hollow points are to flesh.

“Behind the succulents!” he says and my body reacts like a system of bionic, hyper-connected smartnodes.

Sorry, Old Woman. Your plants are going to get a little extra today.

“To your left!”

Boom.

Adios, fantasmas.

The scene plays on for what seems like hours but is only seconds. The music from the chime dissipates and the spectral body count is too high to contemplate.

I take a deep breath and look back at The Old Man. He nods at the chime, reminding me that we’ve only just begun.

-Phillip

No!

I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.

– Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

If I can learn anything from my son (and there appears to be no end of learning from him), it’s the importance of perseverance.

Do you have to go to the potty?

No.

Are you sure?

No.

You keep dancing around and grabbing your crotch. 

No.

Why don’t you just try to go potty? I’ll give you a treat.

<brief pause>

No!

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the best example. Most of the time he relents, but not until the last possible second. Of course, this leads to the occasional disaster, but that’s all a part of this parenthood gig I signed up for. But let me tell you, this kid knows what he wants and he won’t be bullied into doing it.

So I really ought to follow his script:

Why are you staring at that blank screen? C’mon, let’s go grab some of those Jelly Bellies sitting on the kitchen counter.

No.

Hey, you have about fifty new tv shows to catch up on. You haven’t even seen Breaking Bad yet. Do you really want to be the last person on Earth to see Breaking Bad? You might be next to last if you start streaming the episodes this very instant.

No.

I see you’re putting some words down now. They look kind of lame, though. You can’t use an apostrophe there. And you picked that for character conflict? Do you even know how this works?

Shut up.

Seriously, you call that writing? Just give up.

No!

I’m getting better at paying heed to Coach Angus.

-Phillip

Crushed Tomatoes

We’re under attack.

After a swim yesterday, we noticed some odd orange clumps on the stakes around our tomato plants. Upon closer inspection, the clumps were moving…

Being amateur farmers, we haven’t seen it all — all including aphids — so we had no idea what these were and had to Google them. It may be the summer heat that’s bringing them on (which also seems have brought on a record crop of cherry tomatoes). Sadly, we have been forced to remove every plant but one, as they were utterly infested. Here’s to hoping the solitary survivor makes it through. No matter what may happen to our sweet little garden this season, we can’t say she didn’t provide:

Special thanks to Angus for his yellow-tomato picking skills. He’s getting better at ignoring the green ones, but the ones he does pick meet a sudden end at the bottom of his shoe.

Rest in peace, young tomatoes, rest in peace.

-Phillip

The Prodigal Writer

I’m back!

Maybe less like a phoenix rising from the ashes and more like Pete “Bleary-Eyed” McPartypants on a post-Cuervo Saturday morning. I won’t be off to a rip-roaring start as I rekindle my online presence, but I intend to get back in the game and show some hustle.

Over the next few posts, I plan to address some likely questions:

Why does your blog seem different (i.e. broken)?

Where have you been?

What have you been doing?

What haven’t you been doing?

How about those “experimental resolutions” you talked about early this year?

I hope my friends are still here and willing to lend an ear. If not, that’s fine as well. I’ve been known to talk to the air a time or two.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to plant some Angus-candy as an incentive to come back and hang out:

angus-ice-cream-side-eye
“I don’t like the way that dog’s looking at me, dad.”

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – November 13th, 2015

2015-10-29 13.27.57
Why can’t we do this every day?

Halloween has left us, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and Christmas is way too close for comfort. Oh, then there’s that whole New Year thing.

It’s going to be a busy couple of months, but I plan on taking time to reflect on what this blog was, and is becoming. I started it just over four years ago as an outlet for writing. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned–it almost feels like I attended a four-year writer’s college, and let me tell you, it’s been an amazing and wonderful experience.

But, as many of you know from my recent posts, things have changed. Not just in my drive to write. I mean, heck, I went from over-sized adolescent to father right in the middle of my schooling. I’d say that sort of flipped my world on its head.

But as I look at the tagline that’s been sitting on the top of my blog for quite some time:

A writer seeking employment as a Gentleman of Elegant Leisure.

It just doesn’t speak the truth anymore. Surely the second half sounds right, but the “writer” part? With my dearth of posts and lack of fiction, not so much lately.

I realized the other day that in these four years, I’ve never taken an extended break from this blog. I think the most amount of time I’ve managed to skip out on has been a week or so, but many folks I know have taken a longer hiatus. Sometimes they come back. Sometimes they don’t. I think in either case, the majority of the time, they discover what was right for them at that point in their life.

A well-functioning body and mind require rest. It’s a lesson I’ve needed to relearn time and again. It’s not necessarily an esoteric thought. Days of rest are common in many religions. In any exercise regimen, the muscles need rest in order to repair the damage done to them. That’s not to say going full sloth is the way to live, but the hard-charging “Go! Go! Go!” attitude is just as disastrous.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: balance. I need to spend some time figuring out what gets me excited about writing again.

Expect to see me still popping up here and on your blogs in the next few months, just maybe not as frequently. Just know I still care about what you guys are doing and will support you however I can.

Have a great weekend everyone!

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – November 6th, 2015

The Simpsons have arrived!
The Simpsons have arrived!

My apologies for the blurry photo, but selfies while holding a squirming one-year-old should be an Olympic event.

This past week has been bittersweet.

We had a fun time over Halloween. Angus got to be in costume for the first time — he was a cute little Bart Simpson, though keeping his hair spiked up was a losing battle. All-in-all, I’d mark the evening a success.

Then sadly, we received tragic news yesterday of someone close to the family suddenly passing away. It’s always hard to lose someone, but especially when it’s so unexpected and close to the holidays. 🙁

Hold your loved ones close and don’t let petty arguments cloud your friendship.

I wish you all a happy and safe weekend.

-Phillip

 

Weekly Recap – October 30th, 2015

Can you see me? Is my camouflage working?
Can you see me? Is my camouflage working?

Boy, what happened? It looks like I missed last week’s update, but that seems par for the course lately. All year, I’ve barely missed a day of writing in my personal journal. I inadvertently skipped a whole week on that as well.

The interesting part? It hasn’t bothered me. I suppose it’s just more evidence that I’ve needed a change in routine. I’ve upped my lunch walks to almost two-and-a-half miles while enjoying Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast (specifically the series on the Mongols). A few months ago, my web history was filled with articles on books and writing. If you were to look at it now, I’d seem like a fitness freak. Trade one addiction for another, I suppose…

Oh, and the family has really taken to geocaching! We found our first two treasures last week. Lots of fun. I think Angus will really enjoy the adventures as he gets older.

If you find yourself in a rut like I was, maybe give your current focus a break and try something new? It won’t hurt, I promise.

Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – October 16th, 2015

Of all the toys at the indoor playground, this is my favorite.
Of all the toys at the indoor playground, this is my favorite.

It’s been a busy work week. It started at 4am on Sunday morning, continuing with multiple nights of phone calls and troubleshooting, and with likely more excitement heading into this weekend. They say when you play the game of On-Call™, there are no winners. Well, that’s not entirely true since the hope is that people come into the office the next day never knowing that something broke in the night.

In spite of all the fuss, I’m going to toot my own horn: I managed to get in all of my scheduled exercise. Not only that, but I had the kinds of workouts where I was excited upon waking up and then felt entirely focused in the gym. I also got all of my lunchtime walks in while learning some interesting things about whiskey and wine (thanks podcasts!).

I definitely feel like my everyday focus is greater, now that I’m not so worried about writing and reading. I just need to remember that when the next slog comes around, it maybe means I need to change things up again.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

-Phillip

Weekly Recap – October 9th, 2015

1144 smallI was out of town for most of the week at a technology conference. It was informative and I got to visit some extended family while I was there. Of course I missed my wife and Angus, so I was happy to be home last night.

I don’t have anything interesting to say at the moment, so I’ll leave you all with a photo of Angus winding his way through the great and mysterious Retail Store Forest.

Have a great weekend everyone!

-Phillip