Monday, March 23, 2015

Why am I writing?

I've been an intermittent blogger. I enjoy writing. But I'm not one of those people who truly have the bug to write every day.

The time that I was writing online on a daily basis was when I was an at-home parent with a young toddler. I didn't get out much. Had limited social interaction. Blogging was a social and creative outlet between diaper changes and playing on the floor with an 18 month old.

Fast forward several years.

My kids are in 3rd and 6th grade. They talk up a storm. Often, it's very enlightening and enriching conversations. (Other times it's about Taylor Swift.)

I'm working out of the home now. My work is largely writing. (Grant proposals.)

But perhaps it would do me well to park myself down somewhere and write for myself and anyone else who happens on by.

What's the harm?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Time to man up

Football season is here! As a Green Bay Packer fan with tickets to Lambeau Field, I am very, very excited, let me tell you.
But I'm also dreading the football season, because the horrible television ads it brings. This is the only time of year I find myself exposed to television ads; and ads during football games seem particularly inane. One of my "favorites" is from a couple years back, telling men that to "man up" they must drink a particular brand of beer-flavored water
How I dislike the phrase "man up!" Whether in TV ads, or from the mouth of Sarah Palin, or the name of a failed sitcom, my response is to physically cringe.
What does "man-up" mean? Urban Dictionary has a few entries. Basically, it's an imperative to do the right thing and connotes being tough, brave, responsible.
What's the harm in that? Well, two problems. First, the implication is that these attributes are soley held by men. Second, its usage is almost exclusively as a put down. You tell someone to "man up" because they are not being responsible or brave or classy and therefore their manhood is called into question.
Should we dispense with all usage of this insidious phrase? Maybe.
But I thought of one* particular instance where it might be appropriate.
Shortly after my 35th birthday, after the kids were in bed, my wife and I were chit-chatting in the kitchen. During a pause, I took a breath and said casually, "So, I think it's time for me to have a vasectomy."
It wasn't what she was expecting in the moment, but it wasn't out of the blue either. We had two kids, girls, aged 9 and almost 6. We've been discussing whether we were done for a few years. Was now the time to drive the final nail in the coffin?
I had long said--half-serious--that I'd get a vasectomy at 35. It seemed like an appropriate point. Done with kids, but still a few years left in the reproductive years to be worth while. My loving wife has had to endure two pregnancies and labors, and years of mildly inconvenient birth control. Now that we were ready, it was my turn to permanently turn off the spigot.
In the weeks before my procedure, I read a few blog posts on vasectomies. One was a humorous take from a woman who successfully prodded her husband to get sterilized and marveled at how much hand-holding and "happy pills" he got compared to her pregnancy and labor experience. In countless other places in the Internet, men can be seen acting all squeamish about the possibility of a cut, snip, cauterize procedure in their scrotum, despite the fact that many of them witnessed their loved one first hand having a small human come out of their uterus.
A friend told me about a woman she knows whose husband agrees they are done after three kids, but just can't bring himself to do it, despite the negative effects she has from hormonal birth control.
To these guys, I have to say, "man up."
If it's appropriate to your situation, be the responsible man, and just do it. Thirty minutes on a table and a week or two of discomfort pale in comparison to one or more pregnancies for your wife or sex-partner.
If you do man up and go through it, don't expect to be coddled. I was astonished to learn it is common to give men pre-surgical drugs to loosen them up and calm them down. I have a phobia of needles. I understand anxiety. But women have to endure so much more. We guys can deal with a little cut and snip. We can indeed, man up.
post script
It's been two weeks since my procedure and I'm on the mend. I have to admit I was tense that morning. During the procedure the urologist complained about the stupid things the morning radio deejays were saying. At one point he quipped, "Well, it's too late now for the left one." I'm sure he says that every other procedure, but I still found it funny.
After several days of limited mobility, I'm almost back to normal. In fact, this weekend I'm bringing my wife and daughters to the Packers-Seahawks game in Lambeau Field. I'll probably drink at least one crappy beer that claims to boost my manliness. It's all good.
*  One other use of "man-up" I can get behind: the Man Up Campaign to stop violence against women by, in part, promoting gender equality. 

What a funny and wise post. I agree with you...despise the phrase "man up" especially when it's uttered by a woman, especially if that woman is a partner to a man. Very emasculating. However, your example is great and I'm wondering if men can get away with saying this more than women. I'm thinking so. Having said this, are you ready for some football? I LOVE football...and my Denver Broncos. Maybe we'll meet up at the Super Bowl :) Great to see you here today.
Wonderful post Derek! Excellent example of "manning up" in my book!
Mary, thanks. I am hoping the Packers will fare better against Seattle than the Broncos. They're brutal though, a Packers-Broncos match-up would be fun. Got to get revenge for the 1998 Superbowl afterall.
Skeptic Turtle
Good to see you back - football and all . . .
Oh, how I love reading your voice, Derek! Glad you're feeling better, too. All jokes aside, vasectomies *are* a huge deal for so many men, but you lovingly and selflessly thought of your wife and went through it in spite of your fears. No one ever needs to tell you to "man up." Guys like you set the bar for all others.
Lisa Kern

Friday, December 16, 2011

Who will I be in a year?


So I took a sabbatical from Open Salon. Thirteen months. This was back to back with a previous multi-month sabbatical. So it's been awhile. A lot of familiar names still abound these parts, but the place has sure changed in that time. Not for the better. Not for the worse. Just different.

It caused me to reflect on how I have changed in this time. A few changes in the last year or so.
First off, my overworked wife found out she was gluten intollerant. I'm a decent cook, but have always sworn that I DO NOT BAKE. But with gluten free options limited, I have become a baker out of necessity. Now I love it! Besides watching the Packers destroy another team, baking is my favorite thing about each weekend. I wake up Saturday morning thinking about what I'm going to bake today. Who is this guy?

I've also become a runner. Not a crazy long distance freak. But I've done a bunch of 5Ks and a couple 10Ks.  I used to make fun of runners. "What's the point? Isn't that incredibly boring?" But now I love to run. I got a treadmill when it's cold and when it's OK, I head out the door and run along theMississippi River gorge in Minneapolis. It's fantastic. Who is this guy?

I've always rolled my eyes in judgement at any non-sedan vehicle. But, in the last year I've been expressing mounting disappointment that our last car purchase was NOT a minivan.  "A minivan would be SO, SO useful!" I tell the horrified wife. "We should have gotten a minivan. Or next car should be a minivan."  Who is this guy?

Last May, our tiny, sweet cat, Maggie, passed away. She was old and had been with us since before children. We miss her very much. I was a cat person and had to twist the wife's arm to get one when we moved back to Minnesota. She leveraged it by making me agreeing to get a dog a few years later. 

Now, 7 months in a cat-free home, the three ladies of the house are begging for a new cat, and I'm the holdout, responding that "Aren't dogs a better pet choice than a cat? We don't need a cat." Who is this guy?

I've always been a progressive/leftist/socialist/independent/Democrat type.  I've generally held Republicans with little esteem. But...

Good to see ya around these parts again Turtle.
You are still the same person you was one year ago.
Plus one year.
Glad to see ya again.
Derek, great to read about what has been happening in your life while you were away from here and very sorry to read about your long time cat, Maggie, passing on. As another person who loves cats I certainly can appreciate the sadness.
Hi Turtle, Dee here from New Zealand, we have a wonderful book here by Alison and Simon Holst, Mother and son, its a bread book we swear by and has lots of gluten-free options, your poor wife !!! Losing a dearly beloved pet is a killer, but somehow we do shift our focus and remember all the fun times we had with our pets, we have been through it several times and No it doesn't get easier, but Yes you do get stronger, keep up the great work.
Oh, please don't become a Republican. If you must change political affiliation, go libertarian.
Stathi Stathi

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why Even Have Kids? A Father's Day Reflection


I always knew I wanted kids.  Two, to be exact.  At least I think I always felt that way.  I'm told that I once said to my mom that I'd never get married and have kids, but I was probably just trying to annoy her.
Shortly after I was married I told a friend that I hoped to  start the kid route in the near future.  She had observed me smiling the kids running around the coffee shop and begun to inquire about my plans.
"Why?" she asked.  Not rhetorically, but she genuinely wanted to know.
Why indeed?
You'd think it would be an easy question, but sometimes it's hard to explain the rationale for something you always just assumed.
In the pre-effective birth control world, children were just assumed--unless you weren't going to have any sex.  Without artificial birth control, the average woman having regular sex during her reproductive years would get pregnant an astonishing 13 times!
The Pill recently turned 50 years old.  Even so, having kids is by and large the assumption of most people still today.  Now we're able to be thoughtful on number of kids and timing.  The impacts of this revolution have been extensive and astounding.  Most couples are still having at least one kid though.
Some people question whether they want to have kids altogether.  If only more of us asked the question, "Do I want to have kids at all? If so, why?"  I'm sure most of us can think of specific people we wish would have decided that kids really weren't for them.
I don't recall how I answered her question. I think I said something to the effect of how much I enjoyed kids, that I felt I had a lot I could teach and instill in a child of mine, that I thought I'd be a good parent, that despite my cynical outer shell I was essentially an optimist whose contribution to this wonderful world could include healthy, smart, joyful, caring children.

I knew parenthood would be difficult.  Goddamnit! It has been difficult! It's been difficult despite the fact that I only have two kids, they are not problem kids, I have a full parenting partner, and we haven't had any family traumas.  It's still hard!
Plus, I've just gotten started.  I have another 15 years minimum until they are out of the house.
I knew parenthood would be joyful.  Goddamnit.  It has been incredibly joyful!  To have a daughter of mine who reads Encyclopedia Brown with a flashlight late into the night.  To have another clever and confident daughter who laughs at my dumb, silly antics.  Even though she is just three, she knows when anyone in her family needs a hug.
I don't want anything special for Father's Day. I just want my girls to be their regular playful, curious, compassionate selves.  I'm proud of them and want them to just be.  If I'm allowed to take just 5% credit to how they are turning out, that's enough pride for me and enough of a present.
So if the missus reads this, I don't need anything on Sunday.  Let's just have some fun as a family.
(Though perhaps a beer and a little quiet time would be nice too...)

I have 2 girls as well. They're in their 20s and don't laugh at my silly antics anymore. But my dog finds me amusing.
john blumenthal
I had my only daughter rather late in life. I waited or didn't have one earlier because I hadn't found the man who would be the father I needed. Or rather, I worried that I'd be a great dad, but I needed the man to be the great mom. Didn't work out the way I planned and good to see you have the happy family and that your daughters are such a joy. I'll only add: Why did no one ever tell me that one never should have only one? Tis true.

Anyway, it was a great adventure if not the adventure I imagined. And two is so right, I think only children have a harder time, w/too much attention, too little cushion from we adults who love them. You're one lucky dad. Every day sounds like Father's Day... Rated
I didn't know that I wanted to be a parent until I got with someone who had the most amazing kid. I married her, and I wouldn't trade either of them for anything in the world.
It's a good thing for the human race that we have kids when we're young and stupid. It's the only way we can be brave enough to do it.

My youngest is 26 and I can look back and say "Yeah, it really was all worth it." but if I'd known what was getting into, I doubt I'd have the courge to start.

Happily, life only happens to you a day at a time. And, trust me, you can do anything for a day.
John Leonard
Great post and agree with your reasons for having kids. Have our only, lost a first pregnancy or we might have had 2 which I agree is a better number.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I want to live somewhere else!

RATE: 11

When I was in middle school I read a survey that most of my peers wanted to live within 50 miles of where they grew up.  This surprised me.  Didn't they want to escape just like me?
I did my own survey of my friends.  Every single one wanted to stay in northeastern Wisconsin. Astonishing!  Why?
In college I had dreams of spending years abroad.  I traveled some at the time and that desire only grew.  I figured that's how I'd live my 20s.  In my 30s I'd probably settle down in San Francisco, Seattle or Washington, DC. Definitely not the Midwest.  Then, I'd settle down and get married.
Right out of college, I moved to DC. A bit backwards plan-wise, but still a good start.
Then I got married.
Then I moved back to the Midwest.
Then I had kids.
So now I'm here for a bit.  More than 1000 miles from an ocean. Definitely not in Europe, the Middle East, or any other neat foreign place.
At least I don't live in the same town I grew up in.  I'm almost 300 miles away!

Why do we live the places we do? For most of us it's determined by a combination of jobs, affordability and proximity to family.  Indeed, there are times I wish I lived in the same town as my kids' grandparents.
Driving out this month to Wyoming and Montana made me jealous of the Western lifestyle--at least the lifestyle I was exposed to in the tourist towns.  Everything was beautiful.  People were so friendly.  Nevermind there are no jobs, I'd be far away from my family, or the different cultural and political values I'd have from my new hypothetical neighbors.  I would be near mountains!
I love my home. I love my neighbors. I love my city. I'll love my state even more once we get rid of the governor this January.  But sometimes I grow envious.  Is the grass greener on the other side of the continental divide?

When I was 10 and my sister bet me $5 that she'd leave Wisconsin before me.  At the time she hated the place.  That was 22 years ago.  Today she's still there, although now on the other side of the river.  I'm still waiting for my $5 in the exotic Land of 10,000 Lakes.


I think about this all the time. I wish I lived on the coast by the ocean or in the desert Southwest. I live in the Central Valley, here for my husband's tenured position. Maybe we'll retire somewhere beautiful. This was a thoughtful post. r
Derek, people talking about where they live and why they picked that location is a subject that I find no end of fascination to. That's funny that you bet your sister about who would leave the state first!

A number of my classmates from high school cleared out of the town where I live north of NYC. I looked around and saw more reasons to continue to call this home than to move elsewhere. It's a bucolic area where people from the city like to have country homes and it's quite close to the city. Long Island Sound, while lacking in the rougher surf of the ocean, is about a 45 minute drive from here.
You asked, "Is the grass greener on the other side of the continental divide?" I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but yes it is. It most certainly is. Just ask Elizabeth Gilbert.
...and here I have been keeping in mind how beautifully green I found WI last time we drove through....and I love the barns out your way--- with the stone foundations... I want to live in one! (refurbished interior of course)...
Just Thinking...
We have no choice where we are born, and I think little choice in where we end up.....xoxoxox
Robin Sneed
NYC born & raised, i spent the first 20 or so years of my life there. it was a great place to be 20 something & single.

the next 20or so were spent in the mid-west...Iowa mostly. i raised my children was a great place to do that.

a couple of years ago i moved to the west coast...first to the beach, now in the desert... so far, its my favorite place to live.
skeptic, I hated my home town growing up and swore to get out and never come back. Yet... post marriage, post kids, here I am. It takes more character to be able to return to where you came from, especially if you weren't so happy with it in the first place.

Remember, wherever you go, there you are... you can run, but you can't hide.
Grace Hwang Lynch
I'm fortunate in that I had the opportunity to live in several different places earlier in my life, including overseas. I'm still rather astonished that I ended up in a small industrial city in the Midwest. I never would have dreamed I would spend the bulk of my adulthood raising a family here.

That being said, I'm a firm believer that where you live is a very minor determinant for one's happiness. If a person is unhappy, geography is not the reason for it.
I moved as far away from my mother as humanly possible without leaving the continental US. So I'm one of those who left and never looked back!
Maureenow: central valley still sounds nice. I bet the winters are alright.
Designat: proximity to city and ocean: very nice.
Ame: family is indeed key.
Mary t k: I knew it!
Just: the barns are pretty, but would you really want to live in one? Think about the mounds of cow dung that have passed thru those old buildings over the years.
Robin: we have a choice, we just forget sometimes about all the constraints on those choices.

Lorianne: I think I'd love the desert except for the part with the poisonous snakes.
Skeptic Turtle
I've lived in many places from New England to Arizona, Pennsylvania, San Diego, Texas, and S Florida, and several short-term places in between.

But if I'd gone the family route, I would have likely ended up closer to home and to family back in Mass to raise kids.

I am permanently settled in South Florida now, because it's the spot I like the best!
Grace: sometimes one would prefer not to build character, but I see your point.
Procopious: I think I could be happy just about anywhere, even northern Illinios. But I'd always think there was somewhere better (with mountains)!
Teendoc: I understand why it 'd desirable for some to get away. For me, being within a shrt day
Skeptic Turtle
Kelly: there's something for everyone, but I just don't get why people choose to live in south Florida.
Skeptic Turtle
With all that oil gushing, being far from the ocean may turn out not to be such a bad thing. Also, I think a lot of our modern mobility has to do with the fickle nature of modern jobs. People sometimes have to move a great distance to find work. Some might say they “are able to” as if this were mostly a positive. But I'm not so sure it is. I have a post I've been meaning to write ont his topic. Maybe I'll get to it one of these days. Meanwhile, thanks for an interesting time out from the more pressing matters of the day. Good luck collecting your due.
Kent Pitman
My Lutheran Wisconsin relatives might answer that way!
I do dream a bit...
Just Thinking...
You are soooo not alone in this thought. For me, I miss the beaches of Lake Michigan . . .
wow, this article is so true, i really feel the same way, I always want to live in another place, I have the feeling that I can become more happy over there... When I see people living in the same town their whole life, I think 'why do they do that?'. It's just safe, but I hope I will never chose for the regular options in life.