Writing Prompt Sundays – My Next Five Years…

Writing Prompt – Write about the goals you’d like to work toward in the next five years.

In five years’ time, I’ll be 46 years old.

The kids will be 12 (6th grade) and 9 (3rd grade).

If I continue at the same job that I have today, I’ll have been with them for 22 years!

Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about goals near and far, so I’m honestly not sure if most of them are much of a surprise…

  • I’d like to continue working towards taking better care of my health. This is probably the most important one – for obvious reasons.
  • I’d like to have built and moved into our dream house, so here’s hoping that real estate and construction costs have dropped considerably before then!
  • I’d like to go on some fun adventures with our family once COVID-19 is finally behind us, including travels out of state and possibly even under the sea… 😉
  • I’d like to explore some new avenues with my writing, and also continue adding more books to my bookshelf – both digitally and in person.
  • In general, I’d like my life to be less stressful and more within my control so that I can better focus on the things that are really important to me.

I actually think that every one of these are pretty reasonable goals for a five-year period if I’m able to practice what I’ve learned lately about making small, impactful changes over time. None of these are things that I’d expect to solve over a single year, but five years gives a person a lot of time to work with as long as you’re actually willing to put in the work.

And I’m not saying that by 46 I want to own a theme park or write The Great American Novel, though the money from the latter would be nice for funding that dream house of mine!

My goals are really to be more or less of healthy, reasonably wealthy, and just wise enough to fill a few tombs with my thoughts for my own amusement. With enough time and inspiration, how hard could that be?!

A Good and Bleh Week…

The last couple of weeks have been a little – how can I put it politely? – needlessly stressful.

But instead of grumbling about all of that nonsense, I thought I’d share some fun stuff instead!

Snorkeling & Diving Fun
Tonight the kids and I literally spent something like two hours in the pool after Sara went to work and aside from the usual tantrums about sharing toys and bumping each other and whatnot, we all had a lot of fun! I had ordered some sticks to dive for that ended up being so neat I’m going to get some more of them and David, Christopher, and I had a blast diving down to fetch them from the bottom of the pool along with toy cars and dinosaurs and anything else that we could find.

It’s honestly the first time that I’ve ever been able to surface dive – I guess the new mask and snorkel made something click, so I’m definitely looking forward to more practice. And it was quite the workout, too!

Meet Ollie!
It’s been a couple of weeks now, but we also got a new dog!

I’ll admit that I didn’t necessarily think we were ready, however I know that Sara has really been yearning for one since Cleo passed last fall and she happened upon someone on Facebook who had to get rid of theirs, so the next thing we knew she made a little road trip out into the country and came back with this pretty Australian Cattle Dog that we ended up naming Ollie.

For being less than a year old, he’s surprisingly well behaved and we’re really hoping to avoid some of the bad habits that Cleo was known for – so far he hasn’t really stolen food from the kids, his barking is much more subdued, and he even listens when I tell him to stay if I open the door! Plus, he’s pretty cuddly and the kids instantly fell in love with him (well, Matthew took a day to adjust), so it’s nice having another furry member of the family again. 🙂

The Colors of Pride
I enjoy Pride Month. I like seeing all of the rainbow stuff everywhere and people celebrating who they are, and I’ll always believe that equality is an important fight that we forever need to stay vigilant about. So needless to say, I scooped this new Lego set up as soon as it was released on 6/1 and it finally arrived yesterday, so after everyone else went to bed I took the opportunity to take a break from life drama and just enjoyed putting this colorful piece together while I was watching some old YouTube videos.

This is such a cool set – I really just love how bright and vibrant the colors turned out. It was like I was putting together a Crayola box!

New Writing!!!
Both of these were very much unexpected, but this week I found myself a bit inspired to write so in addition to starting my redesign of this site, I also ended up writing a new humor column and a new essay!

…which is significant when you consider that my last posts for both of those were something like nine months ago… 😯

Granted, I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to go from here at this point. I’d like to think that maybe this summer will feature some more of both of these projects, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself at this point. That said, I did really enjoy putting both of them together and I’ve been saying the last couple of weeks that I needed a change of pace creatively, so we’ll see! 😉

How to Lose a Customer, in Two Acts…

Act 1 – Sprinkler Repair Guy

We’ve only worked with him a couple of times, but it was a no brainer to give him a call when our sprinklers weren’t working because A) he helped us before, and B) literally everyone in town recommends him.

He’s here for maybe half an hour and everything is back up and running, or so I think, but after I pay him and he leaves, I run through the system again and notice that there are two heads that still aren’t working.

I try to call him back, but no answer, so I text and ask if he can swing back by to fix the other two heads.

Highly recommended sprinkler repair guy finally responds and says, “Give me a call in a few weeks and I’ll fit you in.”

No. No, I won’t. You didn’t finish the job I just paid you to do. You were great at most of the work that you did, but after this I’ll never contact you again.

Act 2 – In-Home Therapists

It’s no secret that we’ve hired several people over the years to help the kids with behaviors stemming from their autism. For the most part, both of them have been pretty successful with the therapy, however every now and then we find ourselves working with someone who just doesn’t quite click.

Right now we’re not clicking because apparently some of the therapists have complained that our house is “an untherapeutic environment” for them to provide their services.

We’ve been with this company for two years now and paid them enough money to buy this house that they’re not happy in, but instead of trying to work with us through these issues, they’re basically threatening to quit because our house isn’t clean enough for them.

And that’s fine.

If they’re not comfortable working in my home, then I don’t want them working here, either, and there are plenty of other providers for us to shop around to if we need to find someone less judgmental and more understanding of a family trying to raise kids with special needs.

I feel like if that’s literally your job, you should already be pretty compassionate in that department, but I digress.

Finale

The morale of today’s rant is simple – never stop appreciating your customers, even if you’re really busy and even if you’re really frustrated with them because customers are a lot easier to lose than they are to find.

Snorkeling with the Boys

The last couple of weeks, I’ve really been yearning to try snorkeling again.

The weather is finally warm enough for us to start using the pool, so recently I dug out my very old snorkel and was letting Christopher and David play around with it until I eventually broke down and bought each of them their own mask and snorkel set, along with a much less aged version for myself.

They’ve had theirs for a few days now, but today was the first day that I got to try mine out and I’ve got to say that it was even more fun than I had expected it was going to be!

Personally, I have a very love/hate relationship with the water. I enjoy it in theory, however I’m not the best swimmer and my anxiety kicks in when I’m in over my head … which is ironic in a way when you consider the couple of years that I was into scuba diving in my late teens! Nonetheless, I’d really like to get to a point where I’m more comfortable because I think as the kids get older we could have a lot of fun diving as a family, but if I’m going to take everyone out in the open water where I’m even more responsible for them, I know that I need to up my swimming game considerably…

Plus, not for nothing but these kids have all been taking swim lessons now for basically their entire lives! We started them in water babies classes at our local school as soon as they were old enough … six weeks, maybe?! … so seeing as Christopher for one is almost out of classes he’s been doing so well, I know that he’d love the adventure as long as his good, old dad can keep up! 😉

But today was a lot of fun – I threw on my mask and snorkel and just experimented a bit here and there while the kids were otherwise occupied, and even just did some bobbing around while I waited for Matthew to circle around in between diving into the pool. I also tried some diving myself, which is a surprisingly good workout I think because unlike the kids who are short enough to kick their way to the bottom, I found myself pretty much limited to just using my arms. 😯

I’m looking forward to doing it a lot more this summer, to the point where I just ordered some weighted sticks to practice diving for off of Amazon to use in between hunting for toys and whatnot that end up in our pool everyday! I don’t want to put the cart before the horse or anything, but maybe after a bit we’ll try packing up the crew and going to a beach where the kids can try swimming in salt water for a change.

Not sure how I feel about crowds vs COVID yet, but it’s something to shoot for and I think if I could take Christopher and David somewhere relatively tame where they could see a few actual fish out in the wild, it would be a HUGE DEAL for them and might even make it easier for them to slow down a little on future snorkeling expeditions!

P.S. I might need to splurge on a camera that can go underwater – that might be kind of fun. Even with the new frameless mask and dry snorkel that I picked up for myself, I’m already being reminded at just how expensive this hobby can be…

A fresh coat of paint…

When was the last time I changed the theme up around this blog, anyways???

Apparently it was back in 2011 when I migrated everything over from LiveJournal, if you can believe that…

A lot has changed since then – my word count here is roughly 2.5x higher than it was a decade ago, and more notably most of those projects that I used to advertise at the top of my site have pretty much gone defunct. 😯

I’ve also kind of been in the mood for something different creatively, so I thought why not start with a little facelift here and see where it takes me? That old design, while colorful, was built long before responsive design was a thing, so I acknowledge that it didn’t always look so great on mobile devices.

Do you realize that here in the 21st century, there are people who only have mobile devices as their means to access this Information Superhighway of ours?! Wild!

Anywho, I still have some pruning and spackling to do around here before everything is the way that I want it, but with any luck the end result is that I’ll be writing a bit more than I have been in the past … and then we’ll just have to see where it goes from there. I’ve got a couple of random ideas for things I might experiment with, though I don’t want to go taking on more than I can chew right out of the gate.

Still, even just looking at my family life there’s a lot that I haven’t documented in words lately that I wish I had, so one way or another I hope that this spurs some new creativity and I can come up with something that I’ll be happy to look back on in another 10 or so years from now… 😛

In the meantime, just this evening I posted a new essay for Scott’s Guide to Life – this is a piece that I actually started putting together a couple of years ago, but had stalled out on until something negative happened today that inspired me to try and flip it into something positive.

This in particular is a series that I’d really like to do more with because I thought that it would be fun to eventually collect a bunch of these essays into a print book or two, so we’ll see…

When Your Best ISN’T Good Enough…

We’re Going on a Dragon Quest…

…gonna do some grinding.

…lots and lots of grinding…

…I hope I don’t fall asleep!

The last time I played this game, I’ll admit that it got boring pretty quick. It was groundbreaking back in 1990, but needless to say RPGs have come a long way since then and grinding as your primary storyline doesn’t take long to get old.

Now that said, this time around I ended up finding the first in the Dragon Quest series on the Switch because they happened to be running a sale where the first three games together were under $10, so late one night last week after the kids were in bed I decided to give it a go. Lucky for me, apparently back in 2014 this got ported to iOS and that upgraded version is what eventually made it to modern consoles, so as you can already see the graphics are much better, and it felt like the XP and leveling got tweaked a little because the grind wasn’t nearly as tedious as it was in the past.

I even got Christopher mildly curious as he watched me play for a bit here and there between his own games, so I let him take a few rounds and (luckily!) I was in a place where all of the monsters were pretty easy to kill and he could just attack without having to worry about healing and doing anything else!

It turned out that the playthrough wasn’t really that bad this time around and after about an extra half hour of grinding tonight, I was able to take out the Dragonlord and call it a day. I think it worked well for me this time because surprisingly the simple playthrough made it something that I could casually play while watching the kids do something else or even a bit in the car while I waited for Christopher at swim class.

I haven’t really played much for mobile games in a while because these old eyes of mine can’t handle the tiny screens and even on my phone, there’s not really room for controls without taking up half of the real estate on the screen. But the Switch seems to be a good option that I’ve wanted to see for a long time – full-size buttons and a BIG screen, your usual library of console games, and it’s just as easy to dock it to the TV to play on the couch with a controller when you’re not out and about, which is honestly most of the time for me.

I’m actually kind of looking forward to digging into DQ2 & 3 now that I’ve got the first one behind me, albeit with copious use of this walkthrough because I’m just here to enjoy the game, not solve puzzles these days! I’m not sure how much of the Dragon Quest series is available on the Switch to date, but I’d love to slowly work my way through and eventually get back to DQ8, which I played through on the PS2 while my wife was in nursing school and thoroughly enjoyed!

So watch out, slimes – this grind has only just begun… 😉

20 Things I Wouldn’t Have Expected About My Life 20 Years Ago…

In the summer of 2001, I still lived in my Mom’s basement years after all of my friends had moved off to college. The auto parts warehouse I had worked for my entire teenage life had just been sold to our competition, but I didn’t really care because all of my time not shuttling auto parts around Northern Michigan was being spent building my first big website.

Looking back, just about everything in my life has changed from those days, so I thought it might be fun to muse a bit about those changes tonight…

  1. I’ve finally learned that I can’t just eat whatever I want, and it’s not the worst thing ever … though I do miss the taco pizza from my hometown pizza place that was a Friday night staple for me back in the day.
  2. I have three kids, and I live in the suburbs, and I’ve worked for the same employer since I first moved to Florida.
  3. P.S. I moved to Florida! In 2001 it seemed all but impossible, but a couple of years later I finally made what is still probably one of the single biggest changes in my entire life by moving away from everything that I ever knew in search of something more.
  4. I’ve been married for going on 13 years now.
  5. I’ve published multiple books. None have been successful enough to support me financially, but I’m still proud of each of them.
  6. I’m raising three kids – two of whom are on the autism spectrum.
  7. I’ve gotten to share my passions for video games and Legos and superheroes and all sorts of fun stuff with my kids, and it’s pretty awesome.
  8. I haven’t really touched a guitar since I moved to Florida.
  9. Or my SCUBA gear, although this summer I’m introducing the kids to snorkeling in our pool and we’re all really excited about it.
  10. My go-to alcoholic drink is still the same as it was when I was 21 – a simple rum and Coke, although now I like to mix it up with some Cherry Coke or grenadine.
  11. I didn’t truly understand most of my grievances with my hometown until I experienced something different.
  12. I used to be really into Disney World, but the last few years have really soured me financially.
  13. …which is somewhat ironic because I make more than I’ve ever made in my life, but my life is also much more expensive these days and my priorities have changed.
  14. For example, to blow my 21 year-old brain – the hospital bills for all three of my kids staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) each for several weeks after they were born totaled in excess of one million dollars. Thank god for insurance.
  15. Speaking of god, I’m still not a believer, however my wife is and I respect her immensely so it is possible to co-exist with the right person.
  16. There’s some music from growing up that I just can’t listen to anymore – a lot of the loud alternative rock mostly, though I do revisit the classics from time to time. I’ve been listening to No More Tears by Ozzy in my minivan trips to the grocery store lately … because I haven’t owned a sexy car in quite some time now.
  17. I’m grateful that my grandpa planted the seed for investing in me back then because I think we have a stable retirement plan today because of it.
  18. There are bits and pieces about where I grew up that I miss, but it’s often overshadowed by politics and the lack of diversity that I don’t miss from there.
  19. Despite being the resident nature boy my last years in scouting, I kind of hate nature these days and hate getting called on to deal with bugs and snakes and other pests that find their way into our home!
  20. I can’t think of a single problem I had when I was 21 that still matters to me in the slightest. 😉

#HealthBlog, Post #4 – Temptation Around Every Turn…

One thing that’s become more apparent as I make my way through month two of my great 2021 transformation is that it’s almost comical how much temptation I find myself surrounded by on a daily basis that I used to indulge in quite regularly over the past years when I’ve been mostly gaining instead of losing.

It’s really nuts – just the other day, I realized that pretty much every time I got in the car to go somewhere, stopping off for a snack or a meal had been part of the trip … whether I was filling up gas at Wawa and grabbing a slushee and a bag of chips or a candy bar for the road or just grabbing fast food for lunch when I was out to pick up the kids or run other errands. And then add in things like weekly pizza delivery and Uber Eats…

I was literally eating out almost every day – it’s honestly a wonder that I didn’t gain even more than I did over the last couple of years!

Looking over a quick sampling of some of my favorite go-tos, almost everything clocked in at over a thousand calories and this was just for a single meal, or sometimes even just a snack!

  • Dominos – Memphis BBQ Chicken Pizza (3-4 slices) – 1,050-1,400 calories
  • Chick Fil A – Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Medium Fries, Large Coke – 1,100 calories
  • Taco Bell – Chicken Quesadilla, Other Random Crap – 1,000+ calories
  • Pizza Hut – Personal Pan Pizza, 20-oz Dr. Pepper – 900 calories
  • Wawa – Large Cherry Coke Slushee, King-Size Reese’s Fast Break candy bar – 700 calories
  • Firehouse Subs – Medium Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket Sandwich, Large Cherry Coke Freestyle – 1,290 calories

Though it’s a sad realization that I’m not in my 20’s anymore and can’t just eat whatever I want, whenever I want, let’s be honest that the pros definitely outweigh the cons these days for avoiding all of this crap that had once been a mainstay in my diet – health, longevity, being able to keep up with my kids, not being ashamed of pictures.

And it’s not like I can’t still enjoy an old favorite once in a while, but every single day is unrealistic once you turn 40. Hell, it was probably unrealistic once I turned 30, but at least we’re learning now…

(For my next post, I’ll share some of the other things I’ve been eating instead of all of this garbage – it honestly hasn’t been bad, just different. And that different has helped me to lose 17 pounds so far, so that seems worth it to me!)

Coronavirus, Day 433 – Much Ado About Masks…

I don’t think it’s the right move to tell people that it’s ok to stop wearing masks and other COVID precautions once they’ve been vaccinated just yet.

I get that the idea is to incentivize people who haven’t been vaccinated yet to go get their shots so that they can leave their masks at home, but the cynic in me who has been stressing out about people not wearing masks around Walmart for the last month has a bad feeling that a big chunk of the people who haven’t been vaccinated yet aren’t wearing masks anymore, anyways.

The next couple of months are really going to tell us if the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers really are a large number or just a vocal minority as we watch both the new case and death rates alongside the vaccination rate here at home.

If you do the math, it looks like we’ve been averaging about 2 million shots a day over the last week, whereas we’ve seen between two and three million per day over March and April. That’s about 30 million people vaccinated per month if you assume two shots for full vaccination, although we know that about 8 million people have taken the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to date.

IF we’re to keep up that 2 million a day average for another month, that would be roughly another 30 million people vaccinated and about 25% of the way towards our goal … however it gets even more complicated when you take into account that kids make up about a quarter of our total population and nearly half of those not yet vaccinated…

Here are the numbers that I was able to pull together today:

  • Total US Population – 328 million
  • Estimate for Herd Immunity – 70-80% = 230-262 million
  • Currently Fully Vaccinated – 119 million (36%)
  • To Go for Herd Immunity – 111-143 million
  • # of Kids Under 18 – 74 million

Personally if *I* was making the rules, I’d have asked people to keep it up at least until the 4th of July … which originally I thought was President Biden’s target until yesterday … which would at least put us hopefully closer to 200 million vaccinated.

Maybe it’s because A) I don’t like being around people, so social distancing doesn’t bother me, and B) honestly masks don’t really bother me that much, either. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily wear one if there wasn’t a pandemic going on, but if you tell me that it will help to prevent the spread and in particular help people who are more vulnerable from catching this awful disease, then no argument here.

Hell, I’m high risk myself due to a chronic condition, and seeing as masks don’t as much protect us as they protect the people around us, it seems only neighborly that I wear a mask for you and you in turn wear one for me.

I know that not everybody thinks that way and some people are just plain tired of all of this, but given what’s at stake I don’t see how it makes any sense to rush it when we’re still a ways from the end. Right now we’ve slowed to about 700-800 deaths a day here in the USA, however India is seeing 4,000 a day … which is a number we experienced here only a few months ago back in January.

Earlier today I saw someone comment that it was time for those at high risk to protect themselves and the rest of us to move on with our lives, which just feels like a dirty, cruel thing to say, and for what? To avoid wearing a mask out in public and crowding each other? That attitude to me just seems selfish after 600,000 people in America and 3.3 million worldwide have died of COVID.

We’re making some good progress and the end is finally in sight – why risk it by being impatient before we’re actually in the clear? If you’ve been wearing a mask for the past year, what are a few more months at this point???

Random Thoughts for 5/13/21

  • I can’t help but feel cynical about the CDC’s announcement today that vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks because I think a lot of people who aren’t planning on getting vaccinated at all are going to take it as a free pass to stop wearing masks, too.
  • The kids’ last day of school is coming up in less than two weeks and I’m equal parts excited for them and terrified for us!
  • I’m looking forward to our pool getting a little warmer soon because I told David that I’d teach him how to snorkel this summer.
  • Despite taking this week off, I got a surprising amount of work done in about 8 hours time. Maybe less really is more.
  • I haven’t done as much writing as I would like lately, but it’s hard to complain because I’m doing well elsewhere.
  • Today is the first day that I found my shorts falling a bit looser since I started my new diet, so that’s kind of exciting.
  • Despite my progress, it’s still hard walking down some aisles at the grocery store – particularly ones boasting all-new S’mores Oreos…
  • Apparently at some point Christopher wrote his name in marker on my TV and he’s very lucky that there are usually black bars over that part of the screen.
  • Next week, hopefully, the evil oak tree in my front yard finally goes, and I couldn’t be happier!
  • Tomorrow would’ve been my older sister Lisa’s 44th birthday.