If You Like to Get Hammered, Maybe Parenting Won’t Be Fun

IBeer Glass had a cross-cultural experience of sorts a few weeks ago during a theology conference. We had about 45 minutes to kill, so I suggested we walk over to my favorite brew pub that happened to be right across the street from the convention center hosting our conference.

The brewpub was wall to wall people, so we slipped a few doors down to a legit, gritty bar.

I think I’ve been to a legit, gritty bar once before. Maybe. Unlike the brew pub where folks order a flavorful, fresh beer on tap and enjoy it over a rich appetizer, many of the gritty bar folks hauled fists full of Bud Lights in wave after wave. I have no idea how many people walked past our table with 3 Bud Lights in each hand.

I’m sure people drank other things at the gritty bar. I’m sure some of the Bud Light drinkers even branched out. Perhaps they tossed in a Coors Light too.

Whatever they added to their epic beer consumption, I soon caught on to the goal. This was not about “enjoying” the beer. The beer was a mood enhancer, a mechanism for partying. You didn’t need the beer to taste good. You just needed to get drunk enough to lose your inhibitions without vomiting or passing out.

I presume bar fights sometimes enter into the picture as well.

This was a fun night out for many folks.

Needless to say, I couldn’t relate. Call me a killjoy if you must, but I’d rather think of my own jokes rather than relying on the booze to do the heavy lifting.

Later that evening I walked out of our final plenary session for the conference, longing for the quiet of my bedroom, snuggled up next to my wife. However, many people in downtown Columbus were just starting their evening. Some may have still been at the bar.

If I pulled over and told the people waiting in line at the night club about my ideal evening that involves reading a book on the couch next to my wife, many of them would probably give me a thumbs down or sneer, shouting, “Boring!”

I didn’t think for one moment that I was missing out. Booze and booming music? No thanks!

That brings me to parenting and “fun.” There’s a book out about parenting called All Joy and No Fun that addresses the demands and limitations of parenting.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read articles about it and have heard some lengthy interviews about it. I have participated in conversations about how parenting changes your life and the limitations it places on you.

I’m not an expert by any means. We only have one kid with another on the way this July. So perhaps take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.

However, I think the all joy to “no fun” ratio for parenting will be REALLY different for everyone. It’s really tough to come up with a hard and fast rule about what kinds of joy and fun you’ll have as a parent because we all have different needs and expectations about what is “fun.” In addition, our conceptions of fun may change when kids are in the picture.

On the one hand, my wife and I relish a quiet evening at home. Having a kid asleep upstairs isn’t a major burden. We’re not fans of the times that he wakes up screaming, but for the most part, we’re not missing bars, clubbing late at night, or cruising the city after midnight because that wasn’t our lifestyle to begin with.

It would be nice to go out more often for artisan NY style pizza, but for the most part, having a kid hasn’t been the kill joy that it may be for those who want to party all night—Whether that’s clubbing, lengthy bar outings filled with cheap beer, or leisurely sipping a Saison at a brew pub.

There’s no doubt that one must reign in the bar hopping and beer guzzling in order to be a responsible parent. You need to be present. And if you hire a baby sitter, you can’t ask the baby sitter to come scrape you off the pavement outside the bar after last call.

Look, parenting is tough. You will be super sleep deprived for the first 6 months, if not longer.

You will have your patience tested by toddlers who would rather die than put on shoes.

You will be pooped on, peed on, and spat up upon over, and over, and over.

You will repeatedly ask, “What’s THAT smell?”

It’s not convenient. It’s almost always messy. We all have to make sacrifices. We all face limitations because of kids. Life changes.

And yes, there are many joyful, wonderful moments.

I watched my son take his first steps. We play together with his stuffed animals each day, and he’s kicking his imagination into high gear. Peter Rabbit has attempted to eat just about every object in our living room at this point.

My son loves digging in the dirt of our garden, and he can haul his wagon down the sidewalk on his own. He can wiggle to music, and there’s nothing better than sweeping the floor with his very own broom.

There are daily interruptions and tests of my patience. There are incredible joys and accomplishments. Every parent knows that. Every expectant parent can at least imagine that as well.

However, when it comes to the all joy/no fun balance, remember that every person has different needs.

The extroverted mother will hate being stuck inside all winter with her kids. The introverted dad will wince at the thought of going to story time with ALL THOSE PEOPLE.

The beer-guzzling champion who wants to settle down will have to give up on a particular version of “fun,” while the quiet bookworms will eventually figure out time to read and drink tea as is their habit, but they’ll never have enough time to read all of the books.

All parents need to make sacrifices for the sakes of their children, but those sacrifices will be different for each of us.

Some will sacrifice more fun than others. Some will find more joy in the daily ins and outs of parenting than others.

In my own case, I’ve found different fun and different joy in being a parent compared to when we were childless. It’s not like the fun stopped with kids or the joy only reached epic levels when we brought our son home from the hospital.

Yes, we don’t hang out with friends as often as we used to. Yes, our lives look quite different than before parenthood. There are times when the all joy/no fun mantra feels accurate.

At the same time, our son has redefined joy and fun for us. However, I can say without judgment that other parents have found that transition to be far more difficult.

I spent most of my adult life fearing parenthood. Seriously. Straight up anxiety attacks and all. Now, I can’t imagine a greater joy than parenting alongside my wife. Our family is evolving and changing, and for the most part, it’s changing for the better, even if we had something pretty awesome to begin with.

My wife is my favorite person in the world, and having a child together has added more than it has subtracted.

It would be presumptuous to suggest that every family’s transition to children will be the epic win we’ve experienced. It’s going to be different for everyone, even if I can guarantee that effectively parenting will most certainly require passing on the gritty bars where people walk around with three Coors Lights in each hand.

Then again, I can’t imagine getting much joy or fun from slamming back six Coors Lights in a gritty bar to begin with, so what do I know?

 

How to Claim You Are a Rock Star When You Are Not a Rock Star

There are all kinds of people today on social media who call themselves “rock stars” who are most decidedly NOT rock stars. This can be confusing.

How does one arrive at such a position without having accomplished any of the required “rocking” or “stardom” that is typically associated with rock stars?

Don’t worry, I’m a professional writer, and I’m here to help. While I am not a rock star in either the literal or self-proclaimed sense, I have observed enough self-proclaimed rock stars to cobble together a handy little guide that will show you the can’t-fail path to self-proclaimed rock stardom:

Step 1: Choose A Non-Rock Career

Choose a career path that is most certainly not related to rock music—the more boring and technical, the better. For example, marketing, website design, or social media consulting are particularly fertile careers for non-rock stars to claim rock star status.

Step 2: Adopt a Peppy Tone

Rock stars are passionate, off the chain characters who defy bland copywriting. Jazz up your website’s about me pages and social media profiles with peppy descriptions of how awesome you are. You’re really living on the edge if you can also claim you’re a ninja while weighing over your recommended body mass index.

Step 3: Crown Yourself a Rock Star

Peppy copy alone does not make you a rock star. Rock stars are self-confident and cocky enough to call themselves “rock stars,” critics be damned. Claiming rock star status for yourself, even if you’re hardly a social media maven or a blogging guru, is about going out there and taking what’s yours.

You know you’re a rock star already, so go out there and type it into your profile now, you… you… rock star.

The Stages of Studying for Finals

The following may or may not have any correlation with observations in a café near a major university…

I’ve got so much work to do, I’m going to fail and my parents will disown me.

It’s OK, I can study, I can do this. I’ll study right after I check facebook.

My friends wrote on facebook that they will meet with me for a study session. I’m saved!

It’s way more fun to text message and talk about complicated relationships than study right now.

I’m screwed, the exam/paper is taking place/due tomorrow! I need to get to work!

This makes sense, I know this. Studying is working!

This makes no sense, I’m screwed. Studying isn’t working!

Everyone looks way more worried about the test/paper. I’m in good shape.

I think I missed a few questions, but I think everyone did. The prof will probably grade on a curve.

Actually, the test/paper wasn’t too hard. Good thing I hardly worried about it.

I probably failed my test/paper.

Oh, I got a B. It could have been worse I guess.

But I studied so hard and I only got a B???

I got a B because my professor is a jerk.

Oooo, cake popsicle at Starbucks…

Advertising Fail: Hartford, Connecticut as a Beach Destination

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Did you know that Hartford, Connecticut is located along the beach and the women have freakishly long hyper-extending legs???

Is there a neighborhood in Hartford that I’m missing? I mean, I haven’t seen the whole city yet, but I’m pretty sure there’s an advertising intern who needs a geography lesson pronto.

The Elusive Vermont Accent

It’s got something to do with the “a’s” and “r’s.” At least that’s what I think.

I overslept one morning, and so, unable to make my own coffee, I ran into the general store on my way into work. Next to the assortment of Green Mountain Coffee is a large round table where the local guys sit and chat before working on the farms, in the woods, or wherever they take their pick up trucks after 9:00 AM.

Passing up the French vanilla flavored milk, I pumped out some hazelnut coffee—I know your opinion of me has just dropped a little, but it was a rough morning. While I topped off my cup, I heard it. That gentle bending of “r’s” and a subtle touch of an “h” at the end of an “a.” It’s not as hard as a Boston or Maine accent. It doesn’t sound like they’re prying an “ahr” sound out of words like park or farm which magically become “pahrk” or “fahrm.”

It’s a gentle accent mixed with the country twang that you’d expect to hear in any rural area, especially the mushing of “th” into a “d.” “I dunno, but somebody’s down ‘dere fishin’ fur trout.” To make matters worse, these guys talk fast and low, a style of their own. When I call our propane service guy—a local if there ever was one—I can hardly understand what he’s saying.

And that’s the problem, I want nothing more than to understand and to one day mimic the Vermont accent. This is a much bigger deal for me than it should be.

A huge part of my identify for years was my strong Philly accent. Water became “wooder,” “huge” became “uge,” and dog became “duawwg.” Ah, but it has since been lost when I moved north. Without my accent I feel uprooted, a wandering vagrant without an audible identity.

And so I am seeking a badge, a mark that I now belong in Vermont. I admit that I’m not a local, homegrown Vermonter, but I covet the chance to travel somewhere and have someone say, “You sound like you’re from New England.”

Then I’ll look them straight in the eyes and say, “Yep, I’m a Vermontah.”

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Choosing the Easier Road

Slipping all over the wet, packed, uneven snow, I rolled to a stop at the pond loop. The sticky snow had been rubbed off my skis during the descent and now I faced the prospect of either a relatively short ski to the Flatlanders trail that lead back to my car or a longer loop around the pond that eventually leads to the Flatlander trail head, albeit after slogging through some wet bits. I opted for the short cut.

As my skis ground along the packed snow, sometimes jutting gracelessly to the side, I noticed a man standing in the middle of the trail at a key junction where five trails meet, including the Flatlander. He was most likely in his 60’s and hailed from a southern, suburban location by the way he waddled about on snowshoes. His wife stood under a small pavilion with a large trail map and a bin of maps hikers can take with them.

They looked lost, which is really hard to believe since every trail is marked with distinct colors, arrows to delineate the direction of each color, and the aforementioned maps. Thinking that I’d better hang around for a moment just in case, I pulled off to the side and tucked my hat in my pocket. That was all the prompting needed.

Shuffling over in his snow shoes, he asked, “Where is the black gate?” Directly behind the man loomed a large black gate leading to a few parking spots on the street. On the other end of the trail system, near the main parking lot, stood the remains of the former red gate and a newer gate that has green and black parts. Assuming he couldn’t possibly mean the gate directly behind him—which may have been giving him too much credit—I asked, “Where did you park?”

“By the black gate.”

“There’s a black gate right here” I responded with the appropriate pointing gesture, “but I’m guessing that you probably parked on the other end of the trail system by the old red gate and the new black and green one.”

“We just want to get back to the black gate.”

This guy had one thing on his mind and he wasn’t giving it up without a fight.

“We started at the black gate,” he continued, “and now we just want to get back to our car.”

Thinking we’d best eliminate some options, I asked, “So did you park at the bottom of this hill or did you park on the other end and take the Flatlander trail over here?”

“We didn’t park on this side,” the woman said, wresting control of the conversation from her husband who clearly was not up to the task. “We parked on the other side and took Flatlander over.”

“In that case,” I said, “your best bet is to take Flatlander right back. You could always take the Snicket trail, but that has a few small hills.”

“We just did the Flatlander,” the man said. “Can’t we just get to the black gate by going down the hill and cutting across another way?”

I was dumbfounded.

“You could go down that hill, but it’s steep and icy. Then you could turn left onto the road, but it’s narrow and cars drive very fast on it. When you get to Maple Hill road turn left and you’ll have to walk up a steep hill to get to the parking lot. The Flatlander trail will work much better.”

“Nah,” he said, “We’ll take the road back.”

Despite having spent close to $20 on snow shoe rentals, despite my warning about the safety of the road, and despite the logical conclusion that I had provided the shortest and easiest way to move from one point to another, the man and woman took off their snowshoes, picked them up, and began walking down the hill.

As I slipped along the Flatlander trail, I wondered why anyone would do something so odd. You can walk on a busy road and dodge cars anywhere, why keep it up when you paid to rent snowshoes and have some perfectly good trails to hike?

Perhaps part of the issue is we like to stick with the familiar. Trudging in the woods with snow shoes must have felt so odd, so uncomfortable for this man and woman—definitely at least for the man. They had maps and signs, good traction, and well-broken trails: this trail system is as far from rugged as you can get while remaining in the woods. But still, it was a leap for them. And so, even if the trail was a safer, easier option, they took the more dangerous path and harder hike because it was familiar. And that familiarity bred comfort, safety, and created even a sense of ease.

Taking note of the icy patches on the final hill before the parking lot, I zipped down, removed my skis, and set off for the local café to do a little writing. As I turned onto the main road, the narrow one chosen by the man, I saw them merrily trudging along single file, carrying their rental snowshoes, and clinging to the shoulder.

I’m sure they went home and told their friends about their adventurous hike in the Vermont woods. However, tucked away in a lonesome Vermont valley by a rushing stream, there is one person who tells a very different story.

Living in Vermont, From the October Newsletter

If you already receive my newsletter, then you’ve had a chance to read the list of changes in my life since moving to Vermont. For those who have not yet seen it, I’m republishing it below along with a few additions at the end. If you enjoy what you read, you can sign up for my online newsletter by e-mailing me: edcyzewski (at) gmail (dot) com.

Two Years in Vermont
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but marriage to a Vermont girl has pulled me out of my native habitat and into the quiet, but cheerful world of New England. After living in Vermont for two years, I have noticed a number of changes in my life. Here are just a few of them:

– I am now the most aggressive driver on the road.
– I am starting to wonder what it would be like to drive a snow mobile.
– I am growing more and more fond of Democrats and less so of Republicans.
– Killing deer seems like a great idea for a good time.
– I am bored with the way I predictably pronounce my “a’s” correctly.
– Poisoning mice is part of a regular evening at home.
– My laundry room always smells of decaying mice.
– I actually paid full price for a pair of Birkenstocks.
– Sometimes I wear socks with my Birkenstocks.
– My red car always looks gray because we live on a dirt road.
– I never wash my car from April through December because we live on a dirt road.
– I learned all kinds of stuff about raising and killing chickens from local farmers.
– Going to church can be theologically horrifying.
– I lust after wood stoves.
– I have an inexplicable urge to tap every maple tree I see.
– I am nurturing a grudge toward big box stores even if I still shop at them.
– The phrase “night life” means wild animals prowling in the evening.

And the bonus material:
– “Pitchin’ it out back” is a viable way of removing garbage.
– I know what “clogging” is.
– I check for energy efficient bulbs in public places.
– “Going Out” will at best involve a pot luck dinner.

The Mutable People

Start writing for 20 minutes with the following opening line:
“If the mute button worked on people . . .”

If the mute button worked on people I would put it to good use in cafes, trains, planes, and other public places. Cell phone technology has advanced to the place where even people who shouldn’t have cell phones do. They treat the phone as an extension of their homes; as if holding a thin chunk of plastic with a chip in it brings a slice of home to wherever they are, enabling them to talk as loud as they please.

These cranked up conversations cover any number of inane topics that exhibit the listlessness and lack of creativity so rampant in our society. With so much drama, tragedy, and comedy in our world, we have to find better topics when using cell phones. Sadly, these conversations begin with a description of the caller’s location, since it’s so novel to use a phone from somewhere other than home, and then naming some poor excuse of a reason for calling.

A typical conversation usually goes something like this: “Hey Jane, I’m on an airplane right now surrounded by people so I thought this would be the perfect time to call you and speak up very loudly. Our plane won’t come down for 3 hours so I can talk about anything I want, such as our plans to meet for lunch two weeks from now, while everyone around me plugs their ears and casts mean looks in my general direction for no particular reason that I can discern since everyone uses cell phones these days and the captain himself said that it’s now safe to talk on cell phones, and I just love to use this wonderful new technology since I grew up with one rotary phone per house on the block and we sometimes had to walk a mile in the snow for days on end, swapping our last piece of cheese just to dial a single number on the phone unless you were willing to give up a week’s worth of pay in order to call a distant relative who always forgot your name because they didn’t have caller I.D. or cell phones back then.”

Now imagine the same person on a plane, but this time you sit behind him with a remote control that works on people tucked away in your carry on luggage. You hear the bleeping of the cell phone to the tune of some has-been top forty pop song and scramble for your remote. Your neighbor gladly takes your book because he knows the importance of your task for the common good of humanity.

You hear the person flip his cell phone open and imagine him surveying the number displayed on the screen. You paw through your carry on bag with books, magazines, an extra pair of underwear, and even toss your tooth brush on the floor just to grasp the remote in time to punch the mute button and cut off the deadly dialogue that is sure to begin.

Peeking through the seats, you observe hands flapping and a jaw moving up and down, opening and closing. Palms are up-stretched and sweat beads on a worried brow. The phone lies helplessly open in the passenger’s lap. The muted passenger looks to the woman to the left, but she is unconcerned and unsympathetic, refusing to be roused from her magazine. The passenger bows in resignation and punches the end button. A series of taps indicates this person is text messaging the would-be caller to explain this strange scenario.

Beaming with pride you hoist the remote control above your seat to the delight of the smiling, grateful masses on the plane who gaze on in awe and rally to your standard for you have stopped a cell phone conversation in a public place.

Rescued From the Kitchen Sink

I never found profanity tempting until I attempted plumbing. Plumbing is unforgiving, stubborn, and awkward. There is nothing worse than working on something fragile and difficult in close quarters. No wonder plumbers don’t give a second thought to the height of their pants.

Our new home had a nice location, but everything else was either cheap plywood, smelled of smoke, or broken. I exaggerate, but point made nonetheless. While most of the appliances were either satisfactory or in good shape, the sellers passed along a little cash to purchase a new dishwasher. During our first weekend in the home we left our mounds of boxes to seek out the beloved appliance of dish washing husbands. Continue reading Rescued From the Kitchen Sink

The Scripture Translation Service

UPDATE: The following piece is a humorous satire that is not true.

Living Word Bible Chapel has found a way to use every translation of the Bible at one time during Sunday morning services, a key way of connecting with the broad range of generations in attendance. “We call it the scripture translation service,” shared Pastor Ronny Steggles. “The Bible is relevant to people where they are, and I believe serving up a wide variety of Bible translations is the best way to do this. “

The translation team lines a box next to the sound booth in the back of the sanctuary, each with a different version of the Bible at his/her finger tips. As people enter the sanctuary, they pick up head phones, plug them into a jack in the pew, and then turn a dial to the translation of choice.

“I totally love the translator who reads The Message during the service,” commented Pastor Steggles teenage daughter, Jeanie. “I like using slang and when I IM my friends we use hyphens all of the time, like if a boy is super-hot or a girl is a stupid-plain-faced-dork. So the Message, with its hip phrases and over-reliance-on-hypens, really relates to me.”

Ann Pewter prefers the New Living Translation. “I sometimes have a hard time following the sermon, but then I hear the New Living Translation version of the scripture passage we’re studying and it’s as if I’m hearing the voice of God inside my head. Of course it’s really just the translator speaking into my head phones.”

Not everyone in the church enjoys the benefits of the translation service. Long time NIV supporter Mildred Stickler refuses to sample another translation through the headphones. “It’s one thing to toss aside the King James Version, I mean, that really isn’t English anyway. But once people start playing with all these versions of the Bible, there’s no telling what people are going to make the Bible say. Now that we have the NIV there is no reason to play Biblical potpourri.”

Though Living Word Bible Chapel provides a wide variety of translations—NIV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, NAS, RSV, NRSV, and ESV—there are a few that have not made the cut. “I read on a web site somewhere that the TNIV is trying to feminize God,” said Pastor Steggles. “That is simply unbiblical. We can’t have that, and I refuse to endorse any translation that attempts a gender change of God.”

As it stands, the program has been a tremendous success with 60% of attendees citing the scripture translation program as their number one reason for attending on Sunday morning. “It’s so nice to hear the Bible in words you understand,” shared Jeanie Steggles. “I think this makes our church really nice to visit. We accommodate everyone, except for those bad feminists who wrote the TNIV.”