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This is normally a comic-book related site.  Not right now, though.

I decided to build a house.  That doesn’t mean I’m shopping around for real estate.  I’m going to design, contract, and build a house all on my own.  This means I have to study building codes and learn about permits and do a lot of research on furnace efficiency and r-value and carpet fiber and refrigerators and wind direction and toilet height and backsplashes… I simply won’t have time for Tiny Life any time soon.

So, probably through 2015, the majority of these posts will be about building a house.  And possibly about living with the In-Laws while the house is built.

The Longest Summer Ever

One day I’m going to make a list of Life Dichotomies — those things that almost contradict each other but are essential for life.

For example, the second you realize that “this is a good time”, you stop having a good time.  Another good one: “Throwing money” at a problem is considered lazy / unethical, but that’s exactly what money is for.

Here’s another one: when bad things are happening, you want time to move fast, you want the experience to go quickly; when good times are happening, you want time to slow down, you want to relish each second.  But it’s always the opposite:

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Being swollen, by skeletal foot almost looks normal

I had heart surgery.  The surgery itself wasn’t too bad.  I spent about a week in the hospital and came home with zero complications (other than the swelling of the feet…

But that’s not really my fault.  I did everything they told me to do, but the brand new beds that they bought we about as comfortable as frozen fruit-of-the-loom dipped in olive oil then dipped in bedbugs; I had back spasms after about an hour.  So, since I’m supposed to be resting, I slept in the recliner they have sitting there for visitors.  I guess having your feet dangle below you as your body is trying to rebuild fluid is a bad idea)

puertorican…as a matter of fact, I had so few complications that the already-paid-for, regularly-prescribed home-nurse that they gave me stopped coming after two days because I didn’t need anything.  Either that or she kept getting offended when The Wife kept calling her “Puerto Rican Nurse” (which isn’t exactly racist, but she kept saying it like she saw a ghost).

The only take-home complications I had were that I couldn’t seem to keep a normal temperature — I was either extremely hot (like “I’m a sitcom mom on a very special menopause episode” hot) or extremely cold (like “that Seinfeld where Kramer isn’t wearing a coat because he wants to look cool for the party and then they get locked out of George’s car by Saddam Hussein so he’s comedically shivering” cold) — and I couldn’t sleep.  At all.  For weeks.

That’s an exaggeration.  Of course I slept.  But it was about two hours a day.  Sometimes, on a good day, I could get four.  Not in a row, of course.  My schedule was generally this: the family goes to bed around 9:00, I stay up to watch Colbert, then I close my eyes ’til about 4:00.  At which point, I would do my exercises (which consisted of lifting my arms many times and walking around the dining room table) and go close my eyes again.  The kids get up around 7:00 and I spend the rest of the day trying to figure out how to spend the rest of the day.

Every day seemed like several days.  The summer felt like several summers (I’m sure there’s a Game of Thrones meme I could add here, but I’ve never seen it).  This was one of the few times in my life where I wanted everything to fly by, where I wanted to forget everything, where I wanted to sleep away the day, and instead I was aware of every second.

Now that I’m better (the prognosis being that I shouldn’t have to do anything out-of-the-ordinary for about a decade) and have a newfound appreciation for everything, life is flying past me in a blur.

It’s wonderfully frustrating.

Making Friends at Forty

How do you make friends as an adult?  Since I really never learned how to make friends as a child, it’s a pretty overwhelming question.

When I was a kid, I was just flock to someone who would laugh at my jokes and would tolerate my weird behavior (for instance, I always know what’s morally right, but I never know what’s socially rude; sometimes those fields of expertise need to overlap).  Once I found that person, I stopped looking for other friends.  As I got into adulthood, I just stuck with those same few people and became friends with their friends.  Except they’re not my friends, they’re their friends.  I have a few friends who have a bunch of friends, and as I get older, I think they see that they don’t need me as much as they used to.

Case in point:

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“Destination Bris” is the lowest-rated show on GSM

For the past decade or so, I’ve tried my best to see each of my friends at least once a year — I go to their house or they come to mine — it’s not some fancy vacation or destination bris; I just go to catch up.  A few years ago I had the novel idea of everybody getting together all at once.  We’re adults now.  We should have at least enough money to get a hotel somewhere on a Saturday and just hang out.  We went to Kalamazoo one year; we went to Lake Huron once or twice.  Each time it felt nice. Each time I was reminded of why we were friends in the first place.

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Winter: the best 7 months in Michigan

I had heart surgery May 30th.  I then spent all of June and a lot of July recovering.  I knew this was coming in February, I asked everyone to give me their summer schedule so that we could pick the best warm day in Michigan (of which, there are like 16) to get together.  We all picked a weekend in August.  For me, this was a great way to bookend a severely shitty summer.

I rented a house for $500 right on the lake (or rather, lake-adjacent; it was on one of those little man-made tributaries, but it was walking-distance to the water and it came with a fire pit and a boat).  The Tuesday before we were set to go, I texted everyone directions and a few pictures.  By Friday, every single one of them had given me a different excuse as to why they couldn’t come.

At different points in our lives, these excuses would’ve been completely legitimate.  There was a time that coming up with $100 on the spot would’ve been unimaginable; back then we compensated for being poor by going to a campground and splitting the $40 lot fee 5 ways.

But not now. Not at 40.  Not with six months’ notice.  Not with coming off the back end of heart surgery.  Not after The Longest Summer Ever.

My initial goal of all of us getting together was that we’d get together once or twice a year — just the guys — and then once or twice we’d invite the families (there isn’t much in the way of a Jones family reunion, so I find family where I can).  But not now.

I’m never doing that again.  I’m not saying these people aren’t my friends anymore, but it’s pretty clear how important I am in their lives (at best I’m the go-to guy when they need a one-liner on their Twitter feed).  So I need new friends.

How do I do that? Do I become friends with my kids’ parents? Do I join some sort of club?  I don’t watch a lot of sports, so that’s out…

Maybe I should just find someone who tolerates my weird behavior.  Maybe I can be friends with their friends…

And I’m Fine

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Stay classy, Ann Arbor

There’s no denying there’s a rift in the country today.  It seems to fall straight down party lines.  People say it’s because of the rhetoric that speaks to two different sets of people; others say that it’s because we’ve gotten into this tribalism where we’re defined by reactions of The Other (that is to say, it’s not enough that I like my team, I also must hate your team).  I think it’s a lot simpler than that.

Things are changing quickly.  It wasn’t that long ago that I had calendars, shopping lists, clocks in every room, a camera, photo albums, a computer room, a laptop, a discman, a CD-wallet, copies of CDs in my car, a multi-disc changer component stereo, a radio, a telephone with long-distance, a calling card, a VCR, a DVD player, a tape recorder, a printer, a scanner, several road maps, different calculators, a newspaper subscription, cable, an encyclopedia set, a dictionary, a thesaurus, several flashlights, a rolodex, recipe books, a bunch of regular books, a travel agent, a banker, an investment specialist, a filing cabinet with many files, and a white noise machine.  Now I own a phone.  It’s a lot to get used to.

Add all that change to the natural narcissism of people (although, I think everyone only reading news that caters to them isn’t helping) and here’s what you have: “I did these things that society has evolved out of, and I’m OK”

I got spanked when I was a kid, and I turned out fine.

We drove around Lake Michigan in the bed of a pickup and I turned out fine.

I used to watch TV on a schedule and the only was to catch an episode if you missed it was to watch it again at the designated time during summer reruns and I turned out fine.

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What if I stuck with it…?

No one says, “I am a trainwreck.  I have a ton of Daddy Issues so I always look for compliments from older men.  I seem to be addicted to everything and I have the absolute worst taste in TV (I can no longer make love unless The Bachelor Winter Games is playing in the background).  I’m not sure how refusing to brush my teeth works itself in there…”  Everyone says “I’m OK” because we all honestly believe it.  How devastating would it be to look at yourself in the mirror every day and say, “I picked the wrong religion.  I picked the wrong job.  I picked the wrong spouse.  These things that happened to me messed me up beyond saving.  I am broken; some of it’s how I grew up, but a lot of it is what I’ve done since then”?  We all — just to survive — have to say that where we’re at is good enough (at least for now).

And of the two schools of political thought, which one reminisces about the old days?  Which one wants to conserve their past?

Everything else falls to the left.

This also contributes the feeling of superiority of the liberals.  Of course everyone wants free health care and free college and less violence and a clean planet; that should be the goal of all societies.  From the liberal’s point of view, you’d be dumb not to want these things.  But from the right: “We paid for all our doctor’s visits growing up — even when dad got cancer — and we turned out just fine. I worked my way through college — paid for every cent — and I turned out just fine.  I got beat up in school once in a while — it taught me to be tough — and I turned out just fine.  We had asbestos in my middle school — I remember when they replaced it with fiberglass — and we turned out just fine.”  It feels like a personal slight to tell someone they have to be respectful to gays when they’ve spent their whole life trying not to get called a queer.

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It can’t be THAT hard

How would you react if someone told you your favorite music can be created by anyone? Do you take a good long look at your personal choices and weighing the evidence at it comes in, eventually arriving at a point where you try to discover new points of view?  No; you say, “Nut-uh!  You don’t know!  Rhyming is hard!  Words are hard! Sound is hard!”

 

Back on Track (and other advice that rhymes)

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To be fair, some of the excuses are pretty valid.

I know it’s been a while, but that’s mostly because I haven’t done a thing on the comic.  I likely never will.  I took some time off when the kids were born and I took some time off when I built the house and I took some time off when I had my surgery (actually, my plan was, during recovery from heart surgery, I would work on the book – after all, I would be spending weeks just sitting, might as well sit at my drawing desk – it didn’t work out)… no I don’t know where I was.  I’m not even sure if I want to pick up where I left off.

And, like everything else, once I stopped working on Tiny Life, I started filling that time with other activities, some necessary, some not (picking up the kids from school = necessary; giving some serious thought to whether I should start using the phrase “cutting the grass” instead of “mowing the lawn” = unnecessary).  All told, I have about an hour per day where I could actually sit down and do whatever I want.  That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s about a page per week.  That means in about two years, I’ll finish the most recent (I almost wrote “current”, but that’s not the right word anymore) Tiny Life book.

To tell you the truth, I miss it.  I miss the little puzzles an artist has to solve when drawing.  I miss how a page looks when all’s said and done.  I even miss the painstaking monotony of scanning a page and working on it in Photoshop to get it print-ready.  There was a sense of satisfaction in that. Oddly enough, though, that’s not what I miss the most.

What I miss the most is this.  I miss writing up a little something – apropos to the book or not – and thinking my way through an idea.  Sometimes that idea was “Lookit what I done!” and sometimes that idea was talking about how the Harry Potter series (as much as I hate any type of magic) should not be categorized as “young adult fiction” just because the protagonist is a young adult; it’s written for adults.  I miss organizing my thoughts in a compelling way with a beginning, middle, and (most of the time) end.

So I think I’m going to start up again.  I think I might take my hour a day and find something to say.

(also, as I get closer to 40, I’ve noticed myself just staring at a situation and shaking my head instead of actually coming up with a few original thoughts; I think this’ll help me get back storytelling)

A Conversation

Lemon: “I’m nervous about halloween.”

Me: “Why?”

Lemon: “I’m scared that boys won’t think my costume is scary enough.”

Me: “Boys are dumb.”

Lemon: “Not all boys.  There’s a boy in my class that’s really smart.  He can eat his apple sauce faster than anybody!”

Useless Utilitarianism

About 12 years ago, when I lived in Eleven-Miles-from-the-Middle-of-Nowhere, I built a cabinet.  At first I thought it was the best idea – it held all my video game systems in one place and I could play any one whenever I wanted.  I hooked up my Atari 2600, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega, Game Cube, Dreamcast, N64, PS1, and eventually Wii in one place and hooked up to a (then) hi-def projector.  Admittedly, it was a childish endeavor.

I’ve done it again at my new house.  I’d like to say I’ve grown up, but there are a glaring number of similarities between creating a place to hold a bunch of video games and a place to hold a bunch of tools.

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This is where I go when I need to feel manly.  It’s also where I cry.

With the game cabinet: I am by no means a “gamer”.  I’ll play Dr. Mario or Zelda for about a half hour, but I’ve never played a God or War; I only know that a “MMOG” exists, I don’t know what it is.  Yet, I spent hours creating a cabinet, buying the parts, and figuring the logistics of connecting all those wires so that I had the option to play video games should I choose.  I rarely chose.

With the workbench: I am by no means a “wrencher”.  I’ll get an idea once in a while and spend an hour making a box or fixing a My Little Pony toy; I know that a “fuel pump” exists, but I have no idea what it looks like.  Yet I spent hours creating this bench, buying the parts, and figuring the logistics of what tools go where so that I can tinker with things quickly and efficiently.  I rarely tink.

I spent hours on the game cabinet knowing that I would never play an actual Nintendo game – you have to put the game in just right, you have to push it down, just far enough, and if that doesn’t work, you have to blow it in (put don’t spit in it, because that make it worse) – I just wanted to fulfill a childhood dream of playing tons of video games in the basement where no one can bother me.  Cuz no one understands me.  And Alice in Chains rules.

I spent hours on the workbench knowing that I would never build anything worthwhile – there’s way too much measuring, cutting, sanding, and staining to make it worth it; I can buy the same thing at Ikea for $59 (and it has a cool name like GRÖNKULLA) – I just wanted to fulfill an adult dream of fixing things in the garage where no one can bother me.  Cuz these kids today.  And Muse rules.

People don’t really change that much.

Breakfast is a Liar

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My mom came over to watch the kids earlier this week and was appalled that I don’t cook the kids breakfast everyday.  She said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Then I started to think: it can’t be.  Like a Nobel-prize winning novel, dinner is a big deal with numerous sides containing lots of importance; lunch is something small and light that’ll get you through the day, like Mila Kunis.  But let’s take a look at typical breakfast food:

  • Cereal = a bowl full of carbs
  • Toast = a rectangle of burnt carbs
  • Granola bar = a candy bar with granola in it
  • Bacon = strips of fat fried in its own grease
  • Sausage = strips of fat, stuffed into an esophagus, fried in its own grease
  • Hash browns, tater tots = round french fries
  • Donuts, muffins, bagels = round cake
  • Pancakes, waffles, french toast = fried cake, served with liquid sugar

The only remotely healthy thing breakfast offers is eggs (which was neutral, then unhealthy, then healthy, then unhealthy again, then healthy if you only eat the whites, then unhealthy, then a super-food, then cruel, now healthy-ish) and coffee.

My kids don’t need coffee; the world doesn’t horrify/bore them yet.