Wednesday, December 19, 2012

For the strong women...

Riding the Loop every morning, I get the opportunity to see some common sites, and then the not so common ones, the brightly colored business men in their expensive suits, the massive amount of life through texting, the strangely adjusted college kids off to their big city jobs – all of us swaying, or just falling, to the movement of the not so smooth Brown Line. We all compete for our little private space on the train, we all want our little uninterrupted corner with no one’s armpit in our face, or ass on our cheek (if you get a seat) – we just want to make it to work, and do our job, and very rarely do we ever say hello or exchange smiles – we just look for that extraordinary sight, knowing that there is something of interest beyond our iPod or iPad or The Red Eye… This morning, and just about every morning and evening commute, I see the strong women boarding the train – the confident mothers carrying loads of groceries and pushing a stroller, the daily workers reading and writing emails, the high powered money brokers talking silently on their phones – all of them focused on the task at hand, not so distracted, some perfectly in order, others in the process of getting there, some, just there – The strong women are there – you see it and sense it in their eyes and the way they hold their shoulders high, and take command of their surroundings – you see the confidence they have- almost an aura of simple ease about them – and most of them are strong women – they move, like the train, along the tracks, but more gracefully, more aware, more ready to change directions when needed to do what needs to be done. Being blessed with a strong mother, sister, partner, makes me take note of all of the strong women. There is some hesitation when I notice them – I know that someone is counting on them, and you can see that they understand the responsibility – they know the price to pay for failure. I am not sure if this is something that women share, their joint responsibility and awareness that they bring life to the world – they can raise and feed their children, they can comfort the tired, they can make sense out of the driving confusion of a testosterone infused conference room. They don’t need to strap on their helmets, their sensibility is that of a cautious predator, and a subtle musician – the work is not work, it is another facet that they accomplish – whether that be parenting, coaching, comforting, leading, or driving the machine of business, and they gracefully attack and make simple work of those things. I cannot speak for all men, only this one, and I envy that ability to put the process in context. Perhaps that is something that the responsibility of motherhood creates, or something that the way men are raised or built or chemically made up, that separates us from them. There is grace in their actions and words. There is spirit in their touch and approach. There is fire in their eyes. There is soul in their embrace. They are the strong women. No matter what. They approach the diaper changes and mass layoffs with a vision, and for them, I am grateful, because there is comfort in their presence. Until next time… G

Monday, December 17, 2012

Managing backwards...

Winter in Chicago is probably not the best time to start dreaming of a vacation in the Bahamas, in fact, it is probably the worst time to start dreaming of anything, with the exception of making through the winter. Every step of my walk to the elevated stop at Damen is usually magically transformed into a step closer to making it to a heated train car, making it to the CVS for some gum and cigarettes, making it to the coffee shop where the barista doesn’t know my name, but knows I travel back and forth to Seattle or Florida at every chance I get. I always wanted to try the big city, and always thought that I would make it in the big city – and making it has different levels of complexity and accomplishment – but right now, that’s about the extent of what I am doing – I am making it because that’s all I really have as an option right now. Having a fourteen year old son puts things in perspective. Having a fourteen year old brain makes that even closer to the truth. Outwardly, folks would think that I am living the dream, and if I could see through my somewhat distorted lenses, I probably would think the same thing. Unfortunately, clarity of vision was never really one of my strong points – it was more or less a challenge to manage myself effectively enough to make forward progress without inevitably cracking under the weight of my past decisions. I constantly reinforce that to my son – but have a difficult time reinforcing to myself that those decisions are no longer there – they have been made, the actions have been done, and that I should not make those again. I make them again – just like a crackhead to a pipe – you can bet that odds are I am going to choose to not manage forwards, and manage backwards. Self help books are not useful when you don’t pay attention to what you read – neither or doctors, or counselors, or programs, or thinking about it – none of those are any good unless you actually choose to manage things around you. It’s really easy to give up – exceptionally easy to give up – trust me on that one – I have always found a way to give up, and just manage from crisis to crisis – instead of taking the route of the most resistance – and managing the way I look forward. There are beautiful things about Chicago – where I live, it is a quiet street, not too busy, with single family homes – they are decorated in the seasonal finery – summer decorations for summer, Chicago Bears flags on Sunday, Christmas lights shortly after Thanksgiving. There is a little grocery down the street where they know I want milk and two packs of cigarettes, there is Bobbie’s Runaway on the corner where I know I can go to hide, and not be a part of anything other than a cold Miller beer and some conversation about the weather – there are a million things to do, and a million places to see, and a world of history at every stop on the Brown Line. The truth is that Chicago is an open and friendly city – and as much as I try to take advantage of it, I also seem to be falling behind on taking advantage of it. I get plenty of time to think about it – and plenty of time to do something about it – but so far – not so good. Until next time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wow, it's been a while since I have posted anything, but I figure that this letter to my Chicago crash pad (I live in Seattle now, own a home in Florida, and work in Chicago...go figure, so much for simplicity)landlord warrants a post. I really need to get better about this posting thing... Good morning, We are coming up on month two in the apartment, and I want to share a few things with each of you. Feel free to come to the coffee shop (where I have to go to get internet, more on that later) and join me, or just pull up a chair and relax, and enjoy this Monday morning diatribe. So how was your weekend? Mine was exciting! Let me start by saying that I am glad I am no longer of child bearing age, because the amount of bug spray that I used this morning would assuredly provide a high degree of certainty that something wrong would occur. The centipedes and spiders that are coming through the floor bite, and, after spending yesterday afternoon in a Benadryl and whiskey induced haze from the two bites on Friday, I decided that I liked having smooth soft skin, unmarked by bite marks from bugs. Fixed. The apartment has a fresh clean smell of bug spray and Lysol, almost sterile. I did not complain about this, I figured your hands were full getting tenants into newly rehabbed units. Anyway, I thought about making lasagna again today. You know, the thick cheesy kind with fresh mushrooms and fresh stewed tomato sauce, topped with grated Parmesan that I picked up at the cheesemonger. Alas, the oven is not working. So I thought about a steak, with the center just perfectly pink and fresh garlic and butter broiled over the top of it to go with the baked potato. Crap. The stove is broken. So I settled on a hot pocket. A ham and cheese hot pocket, and when I opened the freezer, it was once again a beautiful rendition of the stalactites and stalagmites in the great Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. It took me back to the summer of 2009 when my children and I journeyed there, but was not quite as thrilling. It sucks to have to chip an inch of ice off of the hot pockets. It sucks to want a bowl of ice cream, and know that odds are, it will be infiltrated by chunks of ice crystals. I like surprises, they are fun. I prefer them be balloons or chocolate or flowers or money...not the chip the ice off the hot pockets kind because the freezer is broken. The folks at CVS know me by name, because that is where I shop, freedom is not microwaving your dinner every night or buying single serve meals because the first 180$ of frozen stuff you bought is either sealed in an ice shell for the armageddon or has been ruined by the broken freezer. So then I said to myself,"Self, be thankful, you have a roof over your head, a television,an iPad,and your choice of four channels from which to enjoy.". That's right, I get four channels. Two of them are religious channels, and I am pretty sure that spirit of gratitude comes from knowing that the second coming is inevitable, and since I have moved in, have learned that the God of the old testament is not the god of the new testament. I also get public television, and if I hold the digital antenna just right, have learned a lot about cooking from Americas Test Kitchen, and to not throw away clay jugs from Antiques Road Show. These are all important things. I would like to sit and watch a movie from time to time, or even those new sitcoms I see posted on the billboards when I ride the train into the 21st century. Alas, Comcast cannot figure out where I live, if I live, and when I will be acknowledged as physically being in Apartment 2N. I thought I could live without cable, but apparently, I cannot. It has added a level of deep thought and newfound creativity to my repertoire that I previously did not possess, as reflected in this email to each of you. This goes to another point. I would love to know if I live in 2N. I have no document that says I live here, no contract that gives me the security of knowing that I exist. You may ask yourself, where is my beautiful house, and you may ask yourself, where is my beautiful mail...I do ask myself that. I don't have a lease. I am scared. My mail is sitting in the post office somewhere in Chicago, because the mail person cannot buzz the door to get in. Takeout delivery folks randomly knock on the back door to find out if I ordered the Kung Pao chicken. Sometimes, I tell them no. Other times, I eat my neighbors dinner because the thought of another grilled cheese sandwich makes me want to crawl into a corner and cry. I am 41 years old, and sitting in the middle of a coffee shop filled with twenty something artsy types who smoked way too much weed last night, are trying to remember the name of the girl or guy they had random sex with, and just in general looking like that creepy lonely guy your parents taught you to stay away from when you went to the coffee shop. Why, because this is the only way I can send you an email. I could have texted this to you, but that would take way too long. The apartment is still a half rehab. I finally (after two visits from Merry Maids and some high powered scrubbing of my own), was able to get the remaining grease and bodily stuff out of the bathtub, the sinks, the dishwasher, and can comfortably assume that any hair now is mine. I cleaned the microwave, and am thankful that when I use it now, the apartment does not smell like I bought a can of burrito scented febreeze. I am happy that I have utilities, but nervous that at any point, these could be turned off because I have no earthly idea if I am actually supposed to be doing anything with them. I don't want to move. I like it here. I do have a hard time paying 1100$ per month for a property that I get to manage. I own two homes in Florida, and when my tenant calls and says things are broken, I fix them. It is a pain in the butt to get those calls, but I want them to know that I am taking care of the problem. I value their tenancy. Those two homes are complete. They can roast a Cornish game hen, watch football, and get in the tub knowing that there are no bugs and that all remnants of the last tenant have been removed. Everyone has been easy to work with, but I suspect that until the last unit downstairs gets rehabbed, that I will overpay for a half finished unit that was closer to move in ready than 2S. So you see, I am not upset. I am taking things in stride. I just want to get the value of paying a high amount of rent. This is my home for now. You are my business partners. I am your tenant, and to some degree at your mercy. I appreciate your patience and kindness noted below, but would like some consideration, be it a temporary reduction until the unit is completely rehabbed, or an occasional invite to cook lasagna in your oven and watch football. Let me know, I have to go now, the girl next to me (apparently named Sequoia) has sucked me into her conversation with another girl ( apparently named Trish) about some jerk named Eric that had sex with another friend (Jennifer), and I am finding it hard to eavesdrop and type at the same time. George Sent from my

Monday, April 16, 2012

Family Jobs and Muscle Pain...

First, let me say that my blog has officially been turned down by just about every advertiser on the Google network. I am not good enough for Target, Alaska Airlines, the Home Shopping Network, and some online venture that sells dildos. Pretty damn disappointing, but in retrospect, who would really want to advertise on a site chock full or cynicism and irony, top ten lists of things to do (but do very carefully) and with a readership of six. Perhaps those folks just do not know how powerful six people can be. I am making a personal stand to boycott all of the above unless they offer me free stuff - including dildos. I will proudly display them right next to my baseball cards.

You really have to be careful about the jobs you take on. My best friend, albeit a twisted and strange relationship, has bailed my ass out on many occassions- not literally bailed me out of jail - that has yet to happen, but has saved my rear from financial ruin, poor decisions, and doing really stupid things - so I owed him. Big time. What was the job - fix a minor plumbing problem in one of the rentals. A small problem - no big deal - well, it was a big deal. It was a basement apartment - in Florida - (for those of you who do not know, Florida is swamp, sand, and limestone - the first two were what the foundation of this home was built on - and for an unknown reason, the damn thing had sunk) - and basement apartments are filled with little problems - like settling - that cause plumbing issues. I walk in - and in front of me is a bipolar tenant, a tub filled with three days of human shit, and a toilet, proudly displaying its inability to flush without running into the tub. Brilliant. I was looking forward to catching hepatitis, and every other itis there was, but most of all, I was looking forward to figuring out a way to fix the damn problem. A tub full of shit and a toilet that too easily refilled the tub with shit. Hmm, sounded like a problem that my Dad could help me with. well, a week later, 60 hours of labor, I can proudly say that the tub has officially been raised four inches, there is a city sewer attached to the house now, a lift station has been designed and installed, the sewer to the house has been repiped, and I still smell like shit.

Good news, the problem is fixed, the place is rented, and I was able to get the crap out from under my nails. Bad news, that is the last family project I ever undertake again. My little brother, a hard worker, was there for four or five days, Dad was there forever for a couple of days, I spent endless nights digging, filling, gluing, cutting, cleaning, regluing, recleaning, and running to Home Depot for every imaginable plumbing fixture under the sun. I am happy that it is over. I am glad that we did it together. I am pleased with the work, but the experience was not one I care to remember....

It has been a while since I have posted a top ten list - but I am going to give it a try - we shall see how humerous this is...


1. Clean out and replumb a tub full of shit together. Your Mom always told you to eat your greens - now you have the opportunity to show her how well you have been doing. EXCUSE TO AVOID IT - Plumbers get paid $175 per hour for a reason.

2. Grading a slope for drainage problems. There is nothing more serious than a one-legged man with a shovel. There is also nothing quite as funny as a one-legged man with a shovel. Think about it. EXCUSE TO AVOID IT - Think Bob Cat.

3. Any project that requires your children to use a wheelbarrow and a shovel over spring break. Sure, all of the other kids went to the Bahamas or to Disney - you will be providing them with a life long lesson - stay in school, or every spring break will be filled with wheelbarrows and shovels. THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO AVOID PUTTING YOUR CHILDREN TO WORK - IT IS A CHARACTER BUILDER.

4. Any Home Depot DIY project. The reason they call it DIY - is because you first try to do it yourself, and buy parts from them. You screw up, break things, and have to call a professional who does it for you, and buys the parts from Home Depot. They get twice the money, just for blowing sunshine up your ass about your skills with a drill and a screwdriver. Note - if you are good with a drill and a screwdriver, that does not mean you can install siding on your house. EXCUSE TO AVOID IT - Since they installed self checkout lines in Home Depot - you now have people who are looking for something they don't understand, paying for it at a machine they cannot figure out, and returning it to a lady who could care less what their problems are. Avoid this.

5. Paint a room using a highly toxic scented paint. There is nothing better than three or four family members in the same confined space, high off of fumes, yelling at each other about who ate the last bowl of Lucky Charms when you were in the tenth grade. By the end of the evening, after your buzz has warn off, things will seem much clearer as to why your life went in the direction it did. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Beer and wine at Thanksgiving have the same affect. Use this to your advantage.

6. Build a swingset kit together, preferably one of the ones that is manufactured in China using some rare lead based stain with screws that fit no standard set, and instructions written by an english second language student somewhere in Xiang Dao province. I did this once - sure it leaned six inches, and there were a ton of left over parts - but the speed and efficiency that I displayed trying to get the hell away from the "helpers" led to a 427 part swingset being installed in less than an hour. Neat thing is that there have been no lawsuits or untimely collapses....yet. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Sixty minutes a day is the new slogan for kids - just so happens the park is a thirty minute walk away. Perfect.

7. Repair a new car with anyone over or approaching 65. Remember when cars were engines and there was room to get your hands around parts - good. That does not exist anymore. Under the hood is a sheer block of aluminum surrounded by neatly packaged blocks of aluminum, all bolted together with the same bolts that were used for the swingset above. Send your grandfather in search of the oil filter. Two hours later, go outside and see if he has found it, or if his hand is stuck somewhere in between two blocks of aluminum. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Oil changes are 19.99 for most makes and models.

8. Help your folks move from a 4,000 square foot home to a 1,600 square foot home. Turn the two car garage into a storage and stack everything that they may really need all the way in the back on top of sixteen underpacked boxes. That way, you can count on a phone call every two weeks or so wondering where all of the underwear or towels went. Make sure to put things like outlet testers, or fertilizer, or tupperware in front. This will ensure a phone call. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Listen, I have moved more crap in the past six months than I care to mention. I am 40. My back problems are just as real as their back problems.

9. Install a surround sound system and wire in every device known to man, including a tape recorder, a reel to reel system, an eight track cassette player, a solid state turntable, and don't forget an X-Box 360 and a 72" TV set. Then, get a 170 button remote. Leave. Just let them figure it out. EXCUSE TO AVOID = Much like the furniture moving, the remote will garner a large number of phone calls. Best thing to do - plug everything in so that the time is blinking, but only hook up the cable box. Easy fix.

10. Build something without directions or guidance. Just go to Home Depot, buy a shitpot of odd items, get some nails, and glue and tape, and invite everyone over and tell them to start working on your platform garden or your left handed deck or your additional built in bookshelves. Just be prepared to hear the right way, the wrong way, the cheap way, the fast way, the hard way, the old way the easy way, the new way, the creative way, the best way, and the only way to do it. By the time you are finished - if you finish, the new found respect you have for each other is profound.

All in all, the project was fun. I was able to pay things back and forward and help out a friend. Next time, I am going to help him find a phone book, and just go to lunch or dinner with my family.

Until next time...


Saturday, April 7, 2012

I ain't no Matt McConaughey...

And if that is who you are looking for - go here:

Otherwise, just stick around and let me, covered in shit, be your guide through this wonderful afternoon. Everything was pretty peaceful - Gabe cooked some chicken with jerk sauce, Gray rested from a long afternoon at the swimming pool with her friend, and I decided to change and wash sheets (a rare occassion at the Bennett Household, one worthy of a glass of red wine, and perhaps a couple of beers) - all fine until on this wonderful spring day, the sounds of bickering children cut through my screen like a fart on an elevator. I live in the low rent district (comparatively speaking) of this part of town - it is a new townhome subdivision, and it has a gate, and a pool, and we have walking trails and security gaurds and all of that planned community bullshit that us middle class folks like. My view happens to be of the next step up home - the single family homes, in another planned community - and my luck just so has it that immediatly behind me within 50 yards - is a pool inhabited by two of the most spoiled, poorly behaved, and regularly beaten children I have ever witnessed. When I say beaten, I do not mean in the clothes hanger and wooden board sense, but I am pretty sure those kids get a swat at least once a day for some unknown reason - and based on what I have to listen to right now, I am pretty sure that there is a good one coming. I imagine their names - the two little ones - to be Cedar and Sequoia, and with their haircuts, and their generally metrosexual swim shirts and trunks, I cannot really tell if they are boys or girls. I can tell that:

1. They are apparently related.
2. They are also related to Cain and Abel.
3. One of them or both of them will end up in prison.

How do I know this - because drowning is not a sport. Hitting your sibling with the garden sprinkler square in the face is not a tradition. Standing on the edge of the pool and telling your parents that you are going to pee pee in the water near Cedar is not something most normal children would do. My guess is that they are hopped up on adderall, or it's nearest pediatric friendly cousin, have just downed a half dozen Capri Suns and Fruit Rollups, and are raring to have a good knock down drag out fight. Just so you know, you cannot see my view, but at least you can see the windows that act as Bose Wave Radios throughout the backside of my house.

Note the "air conditioning" unit in the window. I find that to be a nice touch, one of these days, I will get around to nailing sheets over the windows, but for now, the wooden blinds and the box fan are all the accoutrement that I need for my palace. Besides, the box fan keeps air circulating throughout the house, particularly when I have the other two fans in my son's window and daughter's window. I have recieved one letter concerning the use of them from the HOA, but I am guessing they have since relinquished the rule on "no box fans that make your townhome look like a trailer park residence shall be used to cool or circulate air throughout the home" attitude. As far as nailing sheets to the windows goes - I don't really have any extra sheets, so that would be a total waste. I guess I could tape aluminum foil to them, and give my house that "I am a fucknut crazy lunatic" look...

Anyway, back to the kids in the backyard. They have been silenced by the enforcer, which I imagine is an au pair from some small eastern european country that sounds like you are spitting when you pronounce it properly. I don't think I have ever seen their Dad, and based on what I hear from the two angels, have to think that there is a large amount of golf being played on the weekends.

I digress. Digging ditches is a tough line of work. This may sound a bit bitchy, but my hands are intended to work on spreadsheets and such. My back is not quite the manual backhoe operator that it once was. My palate is easily tainted by the smell of septic waste and black water. Note the picture below:

That is what is left of the two inch blister I worked into my hand last weekend. It hurts like a son of a bitch, and aside from the lidocaine cream, really makes it difficult to eat anything with salt or vinegar in it. Nope, these hands were not properly conditioned for the task that I was ill prepared to tackle - we did get it done - and as you can see from the picture above, I carried with me not only the pride of being covered from head to toe in bodily fluids and having a Squiggy hairstyle naturally appearing after the first fourteen hours - but by the proof positive in my hands.

Anyway, back to the Matt McConawhatever thing. How in the hell does he do that? I have to think that all of us have ample opportunity to work out, eat right, you know, the things that we are supposed to do - but it just seems unnatural to me to be able to do that - but perhaps that is all he does. Maybe he does not have to get up with an alarm clock, or go to work, or even think about the next sheet washing cycle - I am sure he has concerns, but most of them are probably related to what white linen shirt and tight blue jeans he is going to pick out, or what catalog he is going to scan through when he takes his next constitutional to buy matching outfits for his children (I am not sure that he has children, just guessing, because for a while there, everyone in the movies had to have some kids to make it on to the cover of People). It is almost surreal to me that there are folks who don't really have to worry about much - they pay people to do that for them.

To hell with it, I am becoming a scientologist. I am guessing that is what does the trick...


Rebirth and Shit Pipes...

Wow. Seven months or so since I posted. Guess that is about the time I started ignoring what I needed to pay attention to, and seeking at least some monthly or bi-weekly assistance in the form of a blog. Great thing about blogs - they are the best kind of doctor - I don't know who is reading this, I don't particularly pay attention to the number of hits, and I certainly don't consider it private - but I do consider it enough of a way to get the garbage out without co-pays and hours on the welcome to my therapy session (image of crush red velvet couch, german philosopher smoking a pipe thr
ough his large white beard, and walls lined with books comes to mind) - feel free to interject your opinions on these wonderful subjects..,

There is no point in me even trying to explain what has transpired over the past seven months - a torrential downpour of water under the bridge, and I cannot remember most of it anyway - I guess what matters is what is happening now - I do know that P Diddy and Justin Bieber are popular, I think, and that the fucking Friday song is no longer available on YouTube - I know that the baseball season is back, and that, even without cable television, I can enjoy the entire Masters and listen to the commentators for each group or pairing. I know that I have been on a vacation, have been working, and have been spending time with my kids - but other than that, the rest of the details are pretty much the same boring shit all of us deal with on a daily basis - the Soft Parade that Jim Morrison talks about so eloquently - the escapism that we are all prone to divert our attention to. Sometimes, you just have to reel that weight in, and so for now, that is what I am doing. Reeling in the escapism, and throwing a bunch of idioms and (damn, I forget what you call those things that everyone says) those things that everybody says that make absolutely no sense. Gabe and I were discussing one the other day - "What is good for the goose is good for the gander" - and we pretty much agreed that any of those quotes can be taken the wrong way - depending on which way you look at it. Consider if all of the folks in the world who had a drinking problem suddenly stopped drinking. The alcohol sales would plummet, the distillers would go broke, the tax coffers would be empty, and high school gyms everywhere would be filled with folks at AA meetings - but then, because of the strain placed on the folks who lost their jobs because street projects could not get completed or the distillery laid them off, or the liquor store no longer needed a clerk, or the marketing department did not have the money for that ad campaign, or the football team could not get enough sponsorships, you get what I am saying - they all pick up the bottle because of their problems...nature hates a vacuum - but what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander - so in a way, even though I ramble, those platitudes are mostly bullshit once you scrape through the veneer of it all.

Easter weekend - the easter bunny and eggs are signs of fertility for those of you who are Christian, and who have easter bunny baskets and egg hunts - and they are based in Pagan and Roman traditions of celebrating the spring equinox, but I guess it would be a bad idea to sell chocolate crucifix Jesus, or have a "find the resurrected Jesus" hunt - anyway, Easter weekend is about rebirth. Plain and simple. Passover dinner, spring equinox, flowers blooming, women running around in bathing suits, nine months until the birth of christ - conception - that is what this weekend is all about. A celebration of life. For those of us who attach ourselves to no particular god or religion, we celebrate this weekend as well - it is good to celebrate the rebirth of things - all things are cyclical, and many things are reborn every day - I see it in my children - their quirks and smiles and traits - I have been reborn in them, and they will be reborn in their children. That is a celebration. I can celebrate that my grandmother and grandfather live on in me, good and bad, I can celebrate that how ever many generations from now, somewhere, there is a little teensy tiny piece of me floating around in the gene pool....

That is what Easter is about to me. Looking out my window right now, it is clear, sunny, the trees have leaves on them again, the maginolia trees have blooms, and I can hear laughter from the swimming pool. All good things that remind me there are always seasons for rebirth.

Shit pipes. Now my kids have always had the luxury of big spring break trips. This year, due to unforeseen but predictable financial circumstances, their trip this year consisted of a two day excursion to Uncle Aaron's place down in St. Augustine to install a lift station and some drainage pipes. I have to say, this has been one of the most rewarding spring breaks for me - I got to see my two kids work their asses off and laugh and smile, even though their spring break, literally, was a world of shit.

They were about as dirty as they had ever been in their lives, covered from head to toe in dirt, dust, and particles of whatever had flowed out of the septic tank - and they were happy. They had blisters on their hands, tired sore feet, and smelled like they had been feeding hogs all day long - but they were smiling and laughing and joking - most of all - and I mean this - they were helping. Watching a ten year old girl lift a shovel full of gravel or a soon to be fourteen year old boy tear off the rubber gloves, grab a sewer pump, and man handle the damn thing into place - it was amazing to see them as young people be so responsive and tough - they liked what they were doing, and were proud to be a part of it. I have to admit, I was proud of them for their toughness - I was proud of them for everything that they were doing - they did not have any idea of what they were doing - but they kept going - digging, hauling, moving, working - and the entire time - they laughed about it. Sewer pipes and french drains are no fun. Putting them in as a family, now that is rewarding. I encourage those of you who think that you need to escape to a resort or a weekend warrior challenge - replace a sewer line or dig up a backyard. If your family does not get closer through all of that, then seek counseling. The week has flown by - the day job coupled with the other work, 40 hours here, 40 hours there, things just went by quickly. Each night at dinner, Gabe would step up and cook, Gray would step up and help me clean, and all of us would sit down and laugh - about how bad we smelled, about how crazy Uncle Ronnie was, about how Poppy would randomly yell "Shit" like someone stricken with Turrets - and I could see in their faces how proud they were of their work - and I hope they felt how proud I was of them.

Yep, shit pipes and rebirth - they seem to go hand in hand - no fancy cruise, no trip to times square, no easter egg hunt, none of that stuff this year - just work - plain and simple - and through that work, sort of a rebirth of my vision for our family - that simple things and a little bit of focus on the right things can make all of the difference.

Happy Weekend....