Married with children: don’t compare with DINKs or Singles

Here in the ‘sphere, those of us married are in the minority. Those of us actually implementing the men-leading, women-as-first-officers is even less. Those of us doing it with kids is even fewer. If you’ve stumbled upon my blog, you’ll find that I believe in those things (patriarchy) while having the children fall in line behind that. It’s the structure that has worked for millenniums, so why change now? Singles like Captain Capitalism (who I consider an iFriend, though on the different side of life’s experience ) don’t have very much in common with us married-with-children type. Additionally, those who are married, but with no kids (double income, no kids — DINKs) are just as foreign, if not moreso, than Cappy.

Now, those singles and DINKs have many options in life, and if they continue that route are on a different path than the AMD. That’s totally cool. If that’s you, Cappy’s book Bachelor Pad Economics is a great start. For DINKs, save like crazy (shoot for 50% or more – fuck “things”) and retire early.

Those who follow this blog know I am a fan of Mr. Money Mustache (I don’t get anything from MMM by the way, just like his message – his website is way more refined and he’s making dough which is great. His message has stayed the same, which is great.). Anyway, Mr. Money Mustache is an Outlier and not something most of us could actually accomplish (though many try), but he’s nonetheless an inspiration. He is married. He has a kid. But he’s an Outlier.

Most of us with two (or more) kids are struggling with paying down a house, paying for childcare, and sports activities but we live with every day. As such, we can’t compare us to those on the high end of the scale, only to ourselves.

If you check out Mr. Money Mustache’s forums or the Financial Independence, Retire Early forums (which are both great BTW), you’ll find that many of those folks are singles or DINKs. A totally different world. While MMM may do so, most others who are raising a kid can’t retire at 30. It’s not a failure on your part to not meet those expecations. I’ve been there. They won’t specifically say they are singles or DINK’s, but unless they say they have kid(s), assume they are playing by a different set of rules than you.

That doesn’t mean you can’t save or save a lot, but just expect the same results as our brethren. If the estimates of $200k plus per kid (through age 18) is right, we obviously have different priorities.

like-this

If you are single – save a lot, fuck a lot, but do Life on your own terms. Don’t get tied down by expectations.

If you are DINK – save even more and stop being wasteful shits. Find cheap or free ways to spend your life. Volunt-fucking-teer and make life better for others. Big Brothers or Sisters. Soup kitchens. Whatever. Save money so that you aren’t stuck in the mix of those that wasted theirs and are asking for handouts.

For those married with kids – maximize your deductions so you pay less taxes, love your kids as much as you possibly can today (yes.. literally today), since in a blink of the eye they will be grown up and hate you (or moving out). Save the best you can – first for your retirement, and only after you are square, for  your kid’s college. Don’t be afraid (God! Seriously, stop being a pussy and tell your kids the truth) that you can’t afford their dream school. Tell them they’ll have to go to local college #2, or live at home and go to Community College, and then transfer in, to save money. Is it ideal or awesome? Hell no, but it sets them up for success. Be a parent and not a friend or enabler…….that is the role so many struggle with. Kick ass, and while your kid may hate you today, I expect they’ll say in the end graduating with minimal debt was worth it without that albotros around their neck. Plus, you can’t borrow for retirement.

So do you fuck your wife proper? If not, check out Craigslist. Are you single or DINK and getting down? Awesome? Are you saving enough to walk away? If not, fuck that Starbucks drink and lunch with the boys, and save slowly. Stop comparing yourself and do what you want. Blow it all. Walk away and be happy. Work until you’re 90. Your choice. Fuck the haters and live your life. Peace.

AMD

Well-run life machine clears headspace for improvement

Shitty post title, hopefully the post has something to offer and makes sense.

well-oiled-machine

I started this blog adventure as I was going through my own personal issues of marriage and sex and life. That was my jumping off point, never thought it would amount to what it has. Over the last couple years, I’ve worked through a lot of these issues, improved myself, got things squared away in my marriage, worked through some therapy issues on my own, and put a lot things to bed that were weak sauce. Today, things are on autopilot: kid life (in those Wonder Years right now – 7 and  9) is great, work life is ok (up and down), marriage is steady (sex life is good and much better than before), health is good and personal finance side is finally gaining traction.

Long time readers likely have noticed I’ve gone away from (or at least write less about) what I started writing from. That was: a big dose of marriage, moderate parts of sex, a few cups of health and fitness, a dash of parenting, a pinch of personal finance, and a sprinkle of game. I get it. People want to read about Married Game, or Married Sex or best porn for married couples. Or being a married dude who looks like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. I see the stats and my most popular posts. I know that writing about self-improvement isn’t what people want to hear. I don’t really care, I either write what I know about or am interested in, or write what the MUSE tells me (more common than you think).  However, I plan to start writing about more of those things like Married Game and the like, so hang on. I’m going through a transition period over the last year, so just bear with me, I have lots of good things to come.

Anyway, it took me awhile to deal with my own stuff. To work through my Beta-male issues. To be more confident. To be a family leader. To reestablish our sex life. To learn to stop being so small with my circle of influence, and expand into other endeavors. Once I took those steps, my world opened up. We obviously still have our ups and downs. Injuries happen. Surgery and life events happen. Sex happens based on those things. But my life is very good, and Holly and I have settled into a well oiled machine – mostly good. And that’s the point of this post.

Like me: you may not have a six pack, or have sex every day, or have a million dollars in the bank, but if you settle into a great routine that doesn’t have many trap doors or soft spots, you’ll end up pretty fucking happy and have a solid marriage. It takes a long time to build up your weak areas and buttress your strong areas, but once to that point, maintaining that and being happy is pretty easy.

So once to the point where all your hard work doesn’t leave you wondering if your kids are with the wrong crowd, or if your job is in jeopardy, or if your wife is cheating on you, then you are simply content to a large degree. You know that if you simply maintain, things will continue being good. That’s a good feeling. However, the problem is, if you relax, you’ll slide back into something less than what you’ve become, so you HAVE to keep striving.

But when you’ve hit all the bases, you find you have headspace. That room to actually think and figure things out. If you are hungry, all you think about is food (headspace gone). If you have a bad marriage, all you think about is your bad marriage (headspace gone). If you aren’t having sex, all you think about is pussy (headspace gone). If you are a fat and lazy person, you watch TV but in your subconsious your headspace is gone because you know you could be more.

However, if you are fit, happy, having the sex you want, you’ll find things come to you easily. You have headspace to take that quantum leap. But you have to take advantage of that instead of watching the myriad of CSI episodes. You can ponder the great things to ponder. You can learn a bunch of new things about a bunch of topics that interest you. When you have headspace, you can start to generate ideas, instead of just playing whack-a-mole with shoring up your life. With headspace, you find motivation and time to start to pursue those ideas.

I continue to read about positive thinkers and The Secret and pursuing your goals (and subsequently write about it) because it helps me to stay happy and grateful and motivated. Hopefully that comes off in my writing. I continue to do research on various topics, like Sex, Neuro-linguistic Programming, Coaching, Finances, Meditation, Marriage, PTSD, Substance Abuse, Parenting, Health, and Fitness because I love learning, and it is fitting together into my bigger picture for helping others. Because my life is in order, I’m free to pursue whatever. When one part of my life starts to falter, I can see how quickly my headspace gets filled and all of a sudden I can’t find the time (or motivation) to pursue those things, or to write, or to be awesome. At that point I’m working on surviving in a cloak of darkness, until that part get’s back on track.

So I’ll get back to my roots here, with marriage, fitness, health, and so on, but there is a lot of other crossover that happens in my life and yours, as well as the need to stay positive and present on the mental health side. Many things to write about and stories to tell. Thanks for hanging with me here.

 

Job Talk

Y’all know I read a lot. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success gets into what makes going to a job worthwhile. It has three simple factors:

  • Autonomy – You may have a task in your job, but rather than being micromanaged in that task, you get to choose how it get’s done. A book I recently read called What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson talked about a former lawyer, now turned long-haul truck driver, who loved this change in his life. Before, as a lawyer, his life was dictated to him. Now he has an assignment to pick up or drop off at a certain time. How he gets there, or what route he takes, or when he leaves, is entirely up to him. Autonomy is very important to feel you have some power and thus feel you control your own destiny (and happiness), verses conceding power to someone else.
  • Complexity – if you have the same mundane task, day after day, you’re not going to feel awesome about coming to work every day. During one of my summer internships, I spent time doing some work at a GM plant that allowed me full access to the plant during slow times. I walked the plant and watched the dead-eyed people put a stereo in the dash, or screw four screws into a door. You could tell they punched the clock, day after day, just for a paycheck. Maybe there were a few outliers, but complexity wasn’t a reason why people took that job.
  • Effort and Reward – a real connection – when you toil all day and no one appreciates what you do that sucks balls. Or if you fuck up and no one rides you, at least a little, where does the motivation come from (or where does it come from, asshole [for my wife who doesn't like sentences to end in a preposition])? The answer is: unless you are appreciated at work, life isn’t that awesome. There should be some reward or penalty for effort. If not, you are relying on motivation entirely from within – which is a gamblers mind.dilbert acknowledgement

It’s been no secret that despite two-out-of-three, I am not happy at my current position, though there are weeks that are pretty good on occasion. Item 3 (effort/reward) is the big one, from the day-to-day client to my direct boss. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, the arbitrary 40 Hour Workweek does not promote efficiency, more conformance to the norm.

I’ve been looking, and had an interview for a newly developed position at a good company (typical corporate structure – very formal interview which I haven’t done in a while, and did fine), but wasn’t selected. Other interesting prospects are out there, some that I have connections within, so we’ll see how the future shapes up. Still working on the side (related to this site) at things I want to roll out over the next 4-6 months. I am just about done reading the book Choose Yourself! by James Altucher that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit. Even if I stay where I’m at, I’m still working for an exit strategy that is slowly building behind the scenes. I’ll tease out more in about six weeks.

Anyway, if you aren’t happy where you’re at in your work life, you aren’t alone. I try and maximize my happiness away from work, and do what I can to not let the B.S. at work get me down. Plus, despite my bitching, I am grateful to have a job that pays well and allows me the flexibility to balance work and life. I’m doing additional training on my own outside of work to build my professional skills, and maybe it will help or maybe it won’t, but I’m not going to sit static. Hopefully you aren’t either. Hopefully you’re keeping an eye on opportunities, keeping in touch with your network, maintaining some interesting training, and doing what you can to stay fresh. And hopefully you’re saving up an FU stash so that if you finally can’t stand it, you can pull that ripcord and bail.

dilbert

Minecraft is Mind Melting

I watch 7 year old Loudboy melt his brain these days while playing the game Minecraft. This is a relatively new phenomenon for us, less than a couple months old, but is all encompassing at this point.

If you don’t know what Minecraft is, it’s like an open world sandbox Lego toybox with graphics straight out of the 1990’s (circa-DOOM):

Minecraft screenshot

Minecraft screenshot

Doom screenshot

Doom screenshot

The boy paid I think $5  with his allowance for the real version that you can play on the iPad and is obsessed. You can build things, mine blocks with a pickaxe, mix different things you collect together to make new things, and even do some RPG-esque things like create new weapons or armor to battle NPC bad guys. His sister isn’t as obsessed, but plays a little and helps. They’re constantly chattering about emeralds or diamonds or obsidian or creepers. I’m not sure when the tidal wave of popularity started gaining steam, but Microsoft recently acquired the Minecraft creator Mojang AB for $2.5 Billion – billion with a “B.” For what looks to me like simple block world. Presumably to access the 33 million users of the game.

So right now we have to keep a close on this addiction or many days that would be all he’d want to do. Melting his brain, as I tell him, but I see there are things he’s learning. Economics, money and resource management, architecture, strategy, creativity, and work sharing (with other people on the multi-player version). When we finally kick him off, we’ll find him watching YouTube Videos of people playing minecraft – for hours if you let him. Or if you go into full electronics lockdown, he reads the minecraft books he bought at the book fair. All encompassing.

So we create boundaries on how much he can play or watch videos, make sure he’s doing his other activities he’s involved with (including playing outside with friends), and let him have fun in bursts. Then we make him get off and play with his dang Legos instead (I say that in jest, but only half so). There are some elements to role playing games with upgrading of armor and healing potions, and I actually think that stuff is pretty cool and I was into those games (including videogames – Final Fantasy anyone?) when I was a kid.

Maybe his strong interest in Legos and Minecraft will lead to something like Google Sketchup (a free CAD program) or programming or engineering? His builds in both Legos and Minecraft are very impressive. There are a lot worse things we could be letting him do, or games he could be playing (Grand Theft Call of Duty  Prostitute Killer or whatever) but still, he’s constantly chattering about all sorts of stuff he’s doing in his game. It is often the first thing he talks about waking up, and reading a book on Minecraft is the last thing he sees before bed. Just a phase? Or something to keep an eye on? Either way, hearing about pickaxes and diamond armor is sooo boring. And I never even have to respond since he’s basically carrying on a conversation in train of thought with himself. A few “uh huh” and “yeahs” every now and then will suffice.

Dad?! You know that if you take your pick axe and mine some sandstone and then add coal, you can make TNT… then you can stack the TNT up and then put a torch on it and make a huge explosion!!

Boring

Dad?! If you take five leathers and shape them different ways you can make leather pants or armor. and then if you get diamonds, you can make diamond armor. But you need a special pickaxe to mine diamonds because they’re so hard and an iron pickaxe will break. Dad?! Can there be wood pickaxes in real life?

Cool-story-bro-wanna-hear-mine

Dad?! Did you know that you can play with other people and then you can both try and kill creepers and zombies. The best sword is a diamond sword. You can build a house with windows, but to do that you have to take sandstone and put it in a furnace and then that becomes windows and then you can put them in your house.

Close Three toed Sloth Portrait

Oh, and Dad?! If you have lava and let it cool and it becomes obsidian and then if you get flint and wood and make a fire you can add obsidian and some other shit and make plastic explosives and it’s really cool. Did you know you can stack them really high and make the creepers blow up in a trap?Minecraft legos

So there’s the craze of the day in our world. We’re breaking out the game of LIFE tonight. Minecraft needs a timeout.

Strive for excellence, not perfection

EXCELLENCE-VS-PERFECTIONExcellence is something that can be obtained, perfection, not so much. And often,  while waiting for perfection, you can suffer perfection paralysis and not accomplish as much. For example:

  • You won’t start going to the gym until you’re “in shape,” but you can’t get in shape given your current life circumstances so you’re left in limbo
  • You don’t initiate sex with your wife unless the circumstances are perfect, which they rarely are. Hence, infrequent marital connection.
  • You aren’t happy in your current job, but won’t apply for that dream job because you don’t hit every check-box of the posted position.
  • You have interest in an activity, but are afraid of not getting it right away and being given feedback or criticism on your technique, so don’t even start.

Perfectionists, despite their name, are not perfect. When they run into difficulty, they often get overwhelmed or give up. They don’t respond to criticism very well, avoiding it wherever they can. Winning is important, instead of finding win-win situations and bending a little so collaboration can take place.

Instead, striving for excellence and being open to the learning experiences that come from striving is a much better life approach. Criticism and feedback provide learning and growth opportunities.  Dealing with temporary obstacles and overcoming them requires grit, a favorite quality of mine.

Let’s take those bullet points from above, and instead of chasing perfection, let’s simply strive for excellence and see an alternate outcome:

  • You want to look and feel good, but know you’re fatter than you want. You are willing to be humble, go to the gym and start slow, asking for help, because your long-term goals of looking good naked are worth short term mental and physical discomfort as you strive to pursue betterment.
  • You realize both your wife and you are tired from work and kids and life, but also recognize that sex is important to you and your relationship. She may or may not be into it right then, but initiating and getting your needs out front and center instead of pussy-footing around the issue is the act of a confident man, and one who is striving for betterment of his sex life and marriage. Remaining positive in the face of “not tonight, but tomorrow,” raincheck is better than never getting in the game to begin with.
  • You’re career has gone well, but you’re ready for new challenges. The odds and ends of the various projects you’ve been involved with over the last two or three jobs paints a picture of a hard worker with a variety of skills. However, the job in the sister industry has all these requirements in their job posting and you don’t meet all of them. Go after that job anyway! You just never know what they’re looking for, or what training they’ll be willing to put in to find the right person. As one who hires, finding someone with the right personality, that fits with the team, and brings in new skills or perspective can be much more valuable than someone who checks all the boxes but has limited upside or doesn’t fit the group.
  • You recognize that you’ve got to learn how to hit a target/take elementary coding/get tapped out a million times as you start MMA /etc., and essentially build your skills over time before you can become proficient in anything. Rome isn’t built in a day, and the process of improvement itself can be rewarding as you’re working towards a goal.

As flawed people, we rarely achieve perfection. In Major League Baseball, in over 300,000 games and 135 years, only 23 perfect games have been thrown. It just doesn’t happen that much. As I’ve matured over the years, I’ve backed off from near-perfectionism of my youth to become more appreciative of the process. In doing so, I’ve obtained the state of flow much more often, and find peace more often than I ever did with closed-minded perfection driving me. With kids, it becomes much more easy to go with the flow when they aren’t doing things exactly as you’d like. Instead of yelling at my kids for their imperfections, goofing off on the field, and general lack of athletic skills (it’s genetic – I suck at ball sports), we smile and ask if they had a good time (usually the answer is yes) so things are good. We don’t tie our or their worth as a person in getting things perfect.

Live with integrity, and try to be a little better each day, but don’t strive for something that can’t be achieved consistently, or you’ll only end up feeling worse. And stop comparing yourself to others. They aren’t perfect either, despite what you may think. Good luck on the journey.

excellence

Lessons from TV show House Hunters

When we had cable, my wife used to love watching House Hunters on HGTV. Now that they’ve added it to Netflix, it’s been on frequently in our house. They have both a domestic (U.S.) version and an international version. Both are similar in that there is usually an American citizen or expat involved, which shows just how fucked up American’s are with their budget management, expectations, and entitlements. It’s illustrated to a higher degree in HH International where buildings are usually older or general house or apartment infrastructure/features are so different than typical modern homes in the U.S.

If you haven’t seen the show, they take someone looking to buy or rent a house, often due to a job relocation, and you get to see three houses or apartments they’ll get to choose from within or just above their budget. Often they are couples, either moving in together for the first time or married and moving. It’s really a first-hand view of social dynamics between a couple and is fascinating to watch for that reason alone.

Usually, the expectations are unrealistically high. And I will totally paint with a broad brush here, but are often driven by the wife or girlfriend. It will be something like “I want a large yard, an extra bedroom as a playroom for the kids, large master bath, huge walk-in closets, fence, great curb appeal, well landscaped, great neighborhood, and open floor plan, and I’m hoping to pay $1,000 per month.” Then the Realtor shows them what their budget will really get them: a small house on a busy street, no closet space, with a small yard. So they’ll nitpick every little thing (“I don’t like the narrow kitchen” or “the countertops are old” or “it looks a little warn”) and poke holes in all the homes, only having to choose from one of these dogs. Or alternatively, they’ll have a huge budget (not sure if these people overextend themselves or just have high-paying jobs) and be shown three McMansions and they’ll still hate large portions of each house.

A few International versions we were watching had a European dude (one was french, one was English or Irish) and an American girlfriend who was moving to work or go to school, after a long distance relationship. So much awesome in those episodes, and by awesome I mean the entitlement syndrome of the American women is a train wreck to watch since they have little income. The apartments in Europe are much smaller, or older, or different than in the U.S. Things like a “wet room” are common (bathroom and shower combined into a single room). The ladies predictably hate these, though Holly (who lived overseas in a non-English speaking country) said they are common and you get used to them.

wetroomThings we take for granted here (like a dishwasher, or “normal” sized refrigerators) are often a luxury. Seeing their whiny expressions and reactions to these European commonalities makes me smile. And the boyfriends didn’t give a single shit. They were used to this (and if you’re like me and grew up in a house without some of these modern conveniences, you are hardened to some degree and know you can live anywhere), and simply wanted to appease their harpy girlfriends. When they were choosing, the man’s attitude was literally “I don’t care one iota, you make the decision.”

And that’s where seeing life through the Red tint of the ‘sphere colors even a simple TV watching experience. My wife and I discuss those relationship dynamics and can see trouble ahead at this early juncture of the marriage or relationship. When the dude is already putting his balls in his girlfriend’s purse completely, or giving up proximity to a job (making life much more inconvenient to him) so his stay-at-home wife can have a different bathroom or a dishwasher, it’s like the stress cracks are already there but unnoticed. I think watching a House Hunters International – Where are They Now would be a great show. “Oh, we broke up, it just didn’t work out,” showing the ex-girlfriend with a $2,000 Coach purse, living back in the U.S. surrounded by White Knights and being $100,000 in student loan and credit card debt to boot. Meanwhile, the Spanish ex-boyfriend is still taking his public transit, living in a smaller home or apartment, enjoying 8 weeks of paid vacation, living a frugal lifestyle and happy in that environment.

So men, regardless of if you really care what you eat, or where you live, or what house you live in, at least make up an opinion and have a backbone. Watching these wet noodles buy homes as they get bulldozed into decisions you can tell they don’t really like, is painful to watch. Having a wishlist is fine, but in reality, if you are happy in life and your relationship, having a roof over your head is all you really need. Sometimes pushing back on unrealistic expectations (and especially budget) can pay back immensely in the future, both monetarily as well as in your social dynamic. Compromises can be made, but don’t just bend over and make a bad decision to avoid confrontation. I absolutely hate the term “happy wife, happy life” as it is usually said by a sappy puppy dog of a man with a wife up on his pedestal. How about “happy couple, have life” instead, with you climbing up and being a leader on that pedestal?

Anyways, I expect this show will be on in the background for many hours in my house this winter while I’m reading, and I’ll enjoy the relationship train wrecks and fighting that occurs on many episodes when they disagree.

 

Playing with TNT: guys or girls night out

I’ve always been of the opinion that guys or girls nights can cause major problems, as can work conferences. Mixing isolation away from the wife or husband, along with alcohol, along with maybe a hotel room and plausible deniability as to your whereabouts can lead to poor decision making. Even if you yourself really love your wife, or your wife you, sometimes the flattery of that hot guy or girl, along with the liquid retard-maker that alcohol is, can lead to a one-time poor decision that can crater something that is 15 or 25 years in the bank. I’ve seen it happen. Movies like Cedar Rapids are more reality than fiction, though obviously most people at conferences behave themselves. It’s what made me uncomfortable with some of my wife’s past jobs, where work conferences and late night marketing events were common. I’ve posted about it here and here if you feel like reading more on that topic.

Anyways, readers know I love my wife, and we have a very solid marriage and sex life. Even still, I’m not immune to biology and like a man am wired to appreciate feminine beauty and youth, as well as the dopamine drip that can come along with it. So let me tell a story to illustrate how even good men and women can get tempted.

Over the weekend I went out for an event with two friends that we had free tickets for. Afterwards, we went out to the local pubs since, as married men with busy family lives, we don’t often get a night out to just have fun. Sad but true. It wasn’t a planned Guy’s Night Out, but after our event it turned into one, hitting the local towny bars. Despite living two years in my town, I hadn’t been to two out of the three bars we went to that evening.

One of guys we went out with is in sales and can make friends with anyone and is on the extreme end of the extrovert scale. He’s a good lucking guy, and dresses like a conservative dad. The other friend is a little quieter in social situations until he gets warmed up – quiet confidence, and is a little thicker. He came from work (owns his own business), so was dressed conservatively. Me – I look about 10 years younger than my age, and dress very casual. That night I was wearing t-shirt with a red hoody, jeans, Adidas Gazelles (a shoe style that I’ve worn for 25 years – love ‘em), scruffed up hair. Not really trying, just wear what I wear. Like my own situation, both have good looking wives, and are committed to their marriages and kids.

So after finishing watching some college football at Bar#1, we headed to Bar#2. Loud, thumping music with a “DJ” playing music from 80’s to today. Social friend starts talking with a couple of young women probably mid-20’s at the adjacent table – one a very cute blond, one a decent looking brunette with a big nose. They looked sort of like this:

Like this, but with a small mole above her lip -sorta like Cindy Crawford

Like this, but with a small mole above her lip -sorta like Cindy Crawford

Sort of like this, but with shorter hair

Sort of like this, but with shorter hair

So we start talking with these women who are 15 years younger than us. I apparently hit it off pretty solid with the blond, who is closest to me, while Mr. Social is making friends with the brunette. Very early on in the convo blondie notices I’m not wearing a wedding ring (as I’ve noted elsewhere, I haven’t worn a ring for a few years [Holly wears hers though]. My reason was initially due to finger dermatitis that irritated my fingers when wearing a ring, but since cleared up, my fat fingers don’t fit the ring I had sized 30 lbs ago. This situation actually supports the fact that I need to get it resized). She makes a statement to the fact that she was surprised I wasn’t already “taken,” notes my lack of ring, and asks if I’m married. I state that I am but don’t wear my ring, and Mr. Social says we were just talking about this topic and were giving me shit over the fact. Doesn’t seem to impact the cute blond’s apparent interest in me as she’s very chatty, and even I can tell she’s into me. Now, due to my life circumstances I don’t deal with this type of thing that often, and my ego swells. The girl is very hot. Even us married guys get reduced to 16 year old horny boys who are thinking “pretty girl likes me; I could totally hit that if I wasn’t married,” especially after a few beverages.

The girls were meeting some friends at Bar#4, a few places down, so the five us us head out to Bar#3 next door, somewhere we were planning on going anyway. We’re enjoying the company, and I’m enjoying the attention. We do some shots, but my guys and me know that more drinking, and more bar time, is a bad idea and head out. The girls head to the next bar before we left, and I could tell blondie was disappointed we (me?) weren’t going there too, asking if we’d change our mind. Not a chance.

So that was our night. A few more (bad) decisions, a few more drinks, and bam — you find yourself thinking with the wrong head despite your best intentions. Again, I’ve seen it happen. You need to take efforts to protect yourself from yourself. My friends are morally solid and are a good support network. Even if I had wanted to start going down the wrong path, they wouldn’t have let me, nor me them. They say you are the average of the five people you hang around the most, these are two on that list. I’ve found myself in situations like this before (even if you don’t seek them out, sometimes they just happen), and have always done the right thing, but it doesn’t mean I’m not weak. I’m a man, and even at our best we are weak. Staying away from drinking in these situations is a good start. Staying with moral friends and not isolating yourself is another key aspect. If you keep these three rules in mind, you’ll end up doing the right thing (at least most of the time):

  1. Don’t drink too much
  2. Don’t let yourself get isolated with members of the opposite sex (especially those you find attractive or who find you attractive) when out in social situations where drinking is involved
  3. Surround yourself with people of similar moral gumption – going out with your recently divorced friend with a history of infidelity is the opposite of who you want for your wingman or woman. When you or they start to make bad decisions, reeling in the party going off the tracks is part of helping a friend.

Bottom line, it is flattering to have a sexy person be into you, and you can create a whole fantasy life on this single event. Better to keep it a fantasy, stop drinking, leave the situation, and later show your wife how hot you still are for her, than to keep drinking and make your fantasy into your worst nightmare.

Coming up for air

When I brought the rental car back after a six day work trip, the odometer read 1621 miles. It’s been a long week, but I’m actually in a better mood than I have been in awhile. I’m wrapping up some loose ends, taking care of business, and extracting myself from a toxic work situation with diplomacy and tact. And I’m taking a day off to recharge and recover. Weekend plans include getting a new suit for a job interview next week, rehab on some soft tissue that’s misbehaving, working out with a good friend, pumpkin patch and corn maze, kids soccer games, apple picking, wine making (pineapple this time), camping in the living room (complete with tent), and a scheduled hangout with a good friend that is long overdue. Good times all around.

My wife and kids are happy I’m finally home, and sometimes it really is “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” No one will accuse me of having my priorities out of whack. I was talking with one of my work mates on the drive back about marriages that fall apart or drift apart due to work. We know of several high work achievers that let their work-family balance get pretty far out of line, with the end goal in their world being very different than mine. My world is a world of “enough.” Enough financial stability, enough things, enough stability. Working longer hours to have more of those things usually results in having less. You’re constantly chasing something that cannot be achieved, instead of enjoying what you already have.

work life balance ball

My wife puts more emphasis on salary than me, as she sees that as a reflection on her value as a person or employee. Research has shown that once you meet a salary that allows you to have the basic necessities (house, food, clothing for example) and enough to support supplemental endeavors (like some sort of vacation, entertainment, and “toys”), having MORE does not equate to more happiness. Maybe you could go on “nicer” vacations, or have more toys, or a more expensive car, but in the grand scheme of things a $120,000 a year income isn’t that different than $75,000 – both can be Enough if you don’t overextend yourself.

In the past, I’ve occasionally changed jobs by choice to make less money when the future opportunity or fit or position was better than the one I had. And that has ALWAYS been the right decision. As I settled into those situations, I was promoted quickly and my earnings became higher than the position I left. But even if that hadn’t been the case, it still would have been right for me simply for the increase in skills, keeping things fresh in motivation, or other benefits Position B offered over Position A. As Holly and I discussed the salary range of the upcoming position I’m interviewing for, in her mind, it isn’t worth me leaving my current job (that has become stagnant, and I’m afraid of being pigeon-holed in) for a new one unless I’m making more money. I disagree on that point, recognizing that we have Enough right now, we would have Enough whether I make $10,000 less or $10,000 more, and also recognizing happiness or worth cannot be defined by money alone.

I liked this blog post from a CEO who resigned due to life imbalance, choosing family and fulfilling work over the big paycheck. Resigning, he wrote:

I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have an meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice the more certain I am that it is the right choice.

I know that things always work out in my life. To me, it’s not an IF statement, but a fundamental truth. Holly feels the same way. We are convinced of this fact, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have ups and downs. Anxiety and stress. But mostly we have Love, Happiness, and Abundance. As I come up for air after a brief period of insanity, I know things are always moving in the right direction, even if we don’t know how or why. And despite the fact that stressful times often kill motivation for pursuit of dreams and implementation of creative ideas, we (I) need to continue to fight for those things one small step at a time. Because one week of not eating well or exercising or [insert life goal or dream here] may not be a big deal, but one week often becomes one month, which spirals. And before you know it, you haven’t played guitar or painted or written anything in 2 years. Do those small things that keep you moving in the right direction, even if you don’t really feel like it, and enjoy the process, celebrating the small victories along the way. Happy Friday!

small victories

high five

How to deal with a sleeper creeper?

I haven’t been posting much content recently, just been too busy. I’m in the middle of a stretch of meetings in four different states  on four consecutive work days. Some posts I want to get to, but just need some time. Writing this one in a hotel tonight.

Anyways, in my personal family/kid/wife life, we are dealing with a sleeper creeper. Seven year old Loudboy will get up to go to the bathroom at night, usually between 2 and 4 AM, and then creep into our marital bed. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, and sure you all gave me good advice, but it is still a minor marital disagreement in the philosophy.

family_bed

Loudboy has always been a bad sleeper, even since he was a baby. For whatever reason, he is anxious going to bed or falling asleep, wakes up, and wants to be comforted. He was a bed wetter until maybe a year ago, so that may have contributed some. And now he wakes up to go to the bathroom, which is good. An old thunderstorm white-noise CD I had helps him go to sleep now, and if I wake up while he’s sneaking in, I tuck him back in and he usually is fine. But if I don’t wake up, there he is in the morning, like Groundhog Day.

Now Holly and I disagree on the parenting approach. I think we need to take a harder stance on the creeper, to the point of locking the door (since talking to him about not coming in doesn’t seem to work). Nights I have locked the door, he knocks, I put him back to bed, and then the next night(s) he is anxious about the whole situation. He’s a more sensitive and high-strung kid than his sister. She will come in about once every 3 months with a nightmare, which I am ok with. Kid being a kid.

So we are/were somewhat hippyish parents. Did the whole cosleeping thing with the kids for most of their first year while they were infants for breastfeeding purposes. My wife (especially) and I are big on snuggling with the kids, and want them to have a loving environment to grow up in. We also both recognize these snuggly, small kid moments are fleeting, so value them a lot. But it’s a fine line to walk, and every night of a sleeper creeper is too much for me. Holly said she used to do the same thing when she was a kid, and I never did this (with parents that didn’t show that much affection), so our perspectives are very different. I don’t think either of us is wrong, and family beds are apparently pretty common in other cultures.

We still get sexy times, so this situation isn’t impacting that, just sometimes better sleep (Loudboy moves a lot in his sleep). This study found kids who sneak into bed are less likely to be fat, so at least we have that going for us. Which is nice. Personally, I think it’s just a phase, but one I don’t want lasting for too long.

This funny (and clean) song describes my life, including the mix-breed dog part:

Motivation

Spend 6 minutes and watch this. There are no overnight successes, so make today better than yesterday and build on all those past yesterdays.  You can change your world, one small step at a time.