Thursday, September 18, 2014

What's the News?


            For the past five to seven years, I’ve been living in a news bubble, largely avoiding stories and news reports from the world at large. I hadn’t planned to do this. Until Pip could talk I listened to the news on the radio while we snacked or played. However, as he got more capable, this arrangement stopped working. He would start to play with a toy while I was listening to a news story and before I knew it the toy would come flying across the room. It turned out I couldn’t pay attention to both Pip and the news. One thing had to go, and it wasn’t going to be Pip. So, the radio got turned off. The bubble got turned on. Polly’s arrival a year or so later fully cemented this arrangement.

Now that Pip and Polly are in school, I suddenly have time to pay attention to the news again. I read the Washington Post at lunch and browse through the Economist – a gift from Ava – in the evenings. When the first issue of that magazine arrived, I was overwhelmed by all the crazy things that were going on in its pages: Russia has annexed the Crimea and is trying to take over more of eastern Ukraine? Large parts of Syria and Iraq are being controlled by some metastasized terrorist group I’ve never heard of? Police units are rolling out tanks in Ferguson, Missouri? A commercial airliner disappeared over the Indian Ocean and another from the same company was shot out of the sky a couple of weeks later? I wondered if the world had exploded while I was out of touch or if this was just a normal condition that I was no longer used to.

I also began to wonder exactly what it was I was supposed to do with all of this information. When I was in high school and college these kinds of stories thrilled me. They represented history in the making. They were context for understanding the world. They were data that I could use in my future life. The people and places in those stories represented a world that was different from the one I was living in, one that was more important, one that I could strive to join. Even in grad school, I read the news with a purpose. I was studying Islamist politics and geographies of capitalism and globalization. Everything I saw in the news had the potential to show up somewhere else – whether it was in an example in a paper, in a conversation with other students, or in some lecture by a visiting professor. All of this was something to know so that I could be a part of it.

            Now, on the other side of school and kids, none of that feels true anymore. As I have found myself lured more deeply into random on-running news-stories – Scotland is voting to break off from the United Kingdom? – I am coming to realize that in my present life there is little to no difference between reading the news in the Economist and flipping through the pages of US Weekly. In neither case am I reading for any particular reason beyond curiosity and escapism. President Obamas plan to fight the Islamic State has no more immediate bearing on my life than some celebrity’s hemline. Regardless of what I read in the paper, the most pressing questions I need to answer – how are the kids doing at school, when is soccer practice, what issues are cropping up at Ava’s work – are all hyper-local. The world where all these news stories are happening – be they the financial impacts of Brazils presidential election or stolen nudes of famous actresses – feels farther away than ever.

            This idea that the news is just another form of entertainment is not revelatory. One only needs to look on the main page at Yahoo to see Kate Middleton’s wardrobe choices and Kim Kardashians latest shenanigans intermixed with headlines about Russia’s geopolitical strategies and gun control questions in Florida. The headlines on that page target the interests of very different people, but they all appeal to the same instinct – a desire to read about some other world, a desire to step outside your own for a little while.

            What is interesting to me in all of this is what my reaction says about where I am in my life. I guess it reflects something of a mid-life crisis. The dream that I would be a part of these stories, that my world would somehow overlap or interweave with these, has faded away, leaving me unsure about how to relate to things I use to easily understand. I still want to read about the world beyond my doorstep. I’m still interested to learn what’s going on in Beijing and Baghdad and Moscow. But, to my surprise, I no longer want them to come closer. In fact on most days, I’m happy for them all to be just as irrelevant as the latest controversial pop lyrics, to be curiosities that I can read about, enjoy, and then easily put away. We’ve got plenty of challenges to work out within the four walls of our home. I no longer have the time or interest to claw my way into the news world as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chess


Fathers worry about their sons because boys do stupid things. Fathers worry about their daughters for the same reason.

             A couple of weekends ago our family went to a birthday party for one of Pip’s friends. It was held at the friend’s home and, as it was a rainy Sunday afternoon, everyone got boxed up inside. With fifteen or so seven and eight year olds bouncing around and only a few parents about to provide some minimal supervision, things got a bit chaotic.

            In one of the rooms, the hosts, in an attempt to provide some direction, had laid out a bunch of different games for the kids to play. These were largely ignored at first in favor of building sculptures out of marshmallows, grapes, and toothpicks. However, as the party went along various kids began picking among the assembled options for things that interested them. At one point I looked in to see that two kids had set up a chess board on the floor and were attempting to play a game. One of the kids was definitely a less experienced chess player than the other – the latter was walking the former through the moves the various pieces could make with relative, though by no means perfect, accuracy.

About five minutes later I heard a great deal of ruckus coming from the same room. Peeking around the corner I witnessed two additional kids now crouched down beside the board basically yelling at the less experienced kid, competing with each other to tell this kid what they were doing wrong. One of the interloping observers even shouted something to the effect of,

            “You might as well start over. You’re doing it all wrong.”

The less experienced kid definitely appeared overwhelmed and in shock from the hyperactive, sugar fueled onslaught of these two know-it-all observers.

            As I watched all of this through the doorway, I felt caught in a state of hesitant uncertainty. First of all, none of the four kids around the board belonged to me. Second, it wasn’t a physically dangerous interaction. The house was quite loud, and the know-it-alls’ yelling was not in and of itself out of place. Third, the bullying effect of their actions was not apparent to any of the other three kids. They weren’t intentionally ganging up on the fourth. They were caught up in a competition between themselves that led them to gang up on the fourth. It would have been very easy to read the whole interaction as one of hyperactive silliness if I hadn’t seen the fear in the face of that fourth kid. It was this fear that finally prompted me to step in and ask the kids to calm down. They did to some extent, but the effect of their yelling had already been writ. A few moments after I turned away, the less experienced kid quietly pushed down all the pieces on the chessboard and left the room, bringing an end to the game.

            This small drama has stayed in my mind the last couple of weeks for two reasons. First, it was a discomfiting reminder of how violence happens even in ‘safe’ situations. The kids around that chess board were smart, good kids from decent families. They were not looking to exact any kind of violence on someone. But, the chaos of the environment and the competition of the moment overwhelmed their consciousness of what actions are right and respectful and obliterated any awareness they may have possessed regarding the emotions of the person they were ostensibly trying to coach.

Second, there was a gender component to the equation. The less experienced kid in this episode was a girl. The other three were boys. And, they were belittling her over a game of chess, a game whose history skews toward masculine associations. I don’t know that this drama in itself represents anything in particular, but it seemed in alignment with a pattern common in many male-dominated arenas – the girl’s knowledge was deemed unfit, even when her playing partner set up the board wrong and was making his share of mistakes as well.

Both Wired magazine and the Washington Post published commentaries this week talking about how women in the technology sector are systematically overlooked by male supervisors, have their skills routinely questioned, and have their contributions to projects regularly downplayed. These patterns do not result from conscious misogynism. I imagine that there is a general discourse in the technology sector that women and men are equally good at coding, but that women have not tended to get in to the field to start with (I know this thinking was true in my engineering classes two decades ago). But there is a difference in saying the right thing, believing the right thing, and doing the right thing. The last of those three is the hardest to get to as it means not only being aware of the patterns but also reprogramming many of the social cues and unconscious responses that create those patterns. These unthought elements, the ones that pass by unnoticed in day-to-day interactions, the ones that get reproduced accidentally in the pressure of the moment, the ones that get reinscribed in a sugar-fueled competition over which boy is most right about a chess move, are the ones that continue to perpetuate the structural inequalities of the world into which we were born.

I’ve be thinking a lot about Polly since watching that chess game because while Polly wasn’t the girl on the other side of the board that day, one day she will be. I once imagined or hoped that wouldn’t be the case. I thought perhaps enough would change by the time she entered the adult world that she would be able to largely avoid the agony of such ridiculousness. Watching those eight-year old boys enact exactly that ridiculousness has quashed that hope, and I’m not sure what to do about it. I don’t know how Polly should respond to those boys lost in their own particular world. I don’t know how to prepare her to persevere through their stupidity. I’m not sure how to tell her what is to come.

In the face of all that uncertainty there is one hope to which I still cling: that when it is her turn to face it the idiocy – in whatever form it appears - she will enough knowledge and support around her to call it out for the ridiculousness it is.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Scrimmage


A scene from toothbrushing time on Thursday evening:

As we put away our toothbrushes, Pip looks up at me and stares. His eyes are basset-hound droopy with little freckled puffs of skin underneath. He pulls momentarily at the shorts on his turtle green pajamas, the ones with the monkey peeking out through a bunch of bananas. He tries to stretch the shorts back down to where they used to ride, but he’s grown so much recently they just pop right back in place, snug against his skin. After a second tug, he turns away and spits some leftover toothpaste into the sink. Then comes the following exchange:

Pip:      My head is pounding.

Me:      Yeah?

Pip:      My leg is sore.

Me:      Oh.

Pip:      My thumb hurts.

Me [trying to keep bedtime on track]: Well, it sounds like you had a fun time.

Pip [suddenly smiling in wonderment]: Yeah. Now I know why everyone wants to scrimmage.

****

This fall Pip is playing an organized sport for the first time. Last year in first grade, a couple of his friends started playing soccer. During recess and after school they would talk with Pip about what they were doing and who they would be playing that weekend. By the springtime, Pip was kicking a ball around the playground with them, shooting at the school walls, and playing games of one on one. He also began asking me questions about the game itself, what the rules were, how often teams scored, why players wore shin guards, etc. Ava bought him a ball, and we started passing it around the backyard after school and on the weekends. By the middle of the summer, Pip was certain. He wanted to try playing soccer. 

            While I was excited by his enthusiasm, I also worried that the reality of playing little league soccer would not be nearly as great as he imagined it would be. Pip loves to run and loves games where he gets to chase and be chased. However, the only time he’d dribbled a soccer ball around was with me or his friends and neither were trying that hard to take it away from him. Also, the only games he’d seen were the couple of World Cup matches we seen in June. Neither of these things could approximate the chaotic scrum that is the soccer of six and seven year olds.

****

            After the first practice, my worries were validated. He didn’t like it. The drills were not as easy as he thought they would be. He struggled to kick the ball as far and as hard as he wanted. He couldn’t dribble as quickly as some of the other kids. He didn’t always understand what the coach wanted him to do. It was not the same as merrily kicking the ball around the backyard with a couple other friends.

            He came home that evening uncertain that this soccer thing was going to work out. He told Ava he had fun – because he knew that’s what he was supposed to say – but then followed that statement up with a list of frustrations. He was not ready to chuck it all and do something else, but the question had been raised in his mind.

            The next practice came three days later. At the start the head coach had the kids do a few warm-up moves - jogging forward, jogging backward, running with high knees, hopping with wide knees – then told them to sprint to the other end of the field. Now, as I already said, Peter likes to run. And, as it turns out he is also the oldest and tallest kid on the team. When the coach said go, he took off full blast, leaving everyone behind and reaching the other end several strides ahead of the next kid. When they turned around to go back Pip jogged the whole way with a big, toothy smile splashed across his face.

            After that sprint he was in. Throughout the rest of the practice he felt more in control of what he was doing. He wasn’t bothered by the things he couldn’t immediately do. He didn’t let the antics of a couple of wandering kids distract him from what the coach was teaching. He took water breaks and immediately ran back on to the field to keep going. He knew now what he could do.

****
   
            As the concluding activity of last week’s practices – the team’s third and fourth ones together - the head coach split the kids into two groups and organized a scrimmage. It was something to see. On one hand, the kids are old enough to play the game with something approaching skill. There were flashes of positional awareness, some legitimate defensive patience, and even an occasional pass. On the other hand, they’re still young kids susceptible to getting drawn into a kind of cannonball madness in which a scrum of players builds around the ball, kicking and slashing until it somehow pops out to the side and someone can run with it. Then the scrum barrels along in hot pursuit. In those moments, the game is closer to rugby than soccer.

Pip was thrilled to be a part of it all. He patrolled his part of the field, staying just outside the scrum and jumping on any opportunity to chase a ball down. (He wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it once he got it, but he’ll get there). As he waited for one of these opportunities to materialize his shoulders would roll in, his neck would stretch forward, and his hands would hover out away from his hips. He looked like a raptor getting ready to launch from its perch. A maniacal smile and hooting giggles accompanied his every move.

****

            Pip’s team plays its first game on Saturday. I don’t know whether they will win or lose. They have a couple of players who attack well. They have a couple of players who possess a good feel for defense. I don’t know at this age and in this league how much of either is enough.

I do know that Pip will play, and will go after it with everything he has. I imagine he will get his share of bumps and probably wake up sore on Sunday morning. And chances are, regardless of the result, he will be ready to go back to practice again next week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Free Time


            One of my biggest goals as a full-time parent has been to create a feeling of order and stability at home. From the start, I sought to establish a regular schedule of tasks and activities for the kids, a schedule I believed would allow them to feel like our home was a largely predictable place, a place where they didn’t have to constantly fret about what will happen next or be ever watchful against unexpected change. My hope was that this predictability would make it easier for the kids to share with and be concerned about others in the world because they could trust that things were under control at home.

            At the same time, one of the benefits of being a full-time parent is having the time to break out of this order every once in a while. My kids – like most – possess an internal world that is energetic, playful, creative, exploratory, silly, and chaotic, and they love it when their parents come and join them for a while. Usually I get to do this on the playground or in the backyard after school, but other opportunities can pop up as well.

            With both Pip and Polly now in school, those opportunities are becoming fewer and farther between, but last Friday brought me one of them. On Friday, the local schools were closed for the day as a way to give kids a breather after the intensity of the first two weeks of school. Pip and Polly both had mild colds which did not make going to the pool or the playground very attractive. We decided instead to take a trip to the library.

Our downtown library is a familiar and comfortable place for the kids. We’ve been going there almost every week for a couple of years now, and Polly and Pip know most of the children’s librarians by name. Whenever we visit they spend a little time on the computers, browse the stacks for different kinds of books, and frequently run into kids they know from elsewhere around town. It always works out to be a pleasant trip.

The kids like the library building itself, too. Built in 1989, the building is a tall, relatively narrow structure, trimmed in dark marble on the outside and organized around an open, five-story atrium on the inside. Through this open space swings the wire of a large Foucault pendulum, its golden ball gliding back and forth six inches above a map of the United States. Circling the eaves above the fourth floor are big Roman numerals from one to twelve that are illuminated in coordination with the time of day. Though the pendulum and the clock are not connected, staring up at these numerals while the pendulum swings back and forth gives the impression of being at the bottom of giant grandfather clock.

On Friday, after doing our library stuff, Pip, Polly and I stopped down on the first floor to have a brief snack in the atrium before pedaling home. Staring up at the mount of the pendulum fifty feet above us, Pip whispered to himself,

“Wonder what’s up there.”

Reflexively I peered up as well. I could see off to the side of the mount, the elevator doors open and a man in a blazer look down briefly before disappearing to the left. I realized that in all the times I’d been to the library, I’d never gone up to the fifth floor. There were probably just offices and maybe a board room up there, but I didn’t really know. I looked back down to check the time. We had a few minutes to spare.

“Want to go up?” I asked.

Both of their heads spun toward me, and the game was on. While they finished off their goldfish crackers, a full schedule was negotiated regarding who would push which elevator buttons at which locations. The kids also decided that they first wanted to go up to the fifth floor and then wanted to go down to the fourth to check out the illuminated clock up close. I just nodded along as they worked it all through.

Then, up we went. On the fifth floor the elevator opened on to a carpeted platform that glowed in the sunlight pouring through the big, circular skylight. The mount for the pendulum was contained in a box hung at ceiling level across the center of atrium space. From our newly elevated vantage point we could see the cable jerk slightly each time the pendulum swung toward us, the result of a consistent bump from the hidden motor that keeps the thing moving. Walking ten feet forward, we came to a railing of safety glass which allowed a clear view down into the floors below. The rail was short enough that Pip could look over it and straight down at the blue and green map way below. It was a touch unnerving, and I had to coax him toward the rail. Polly, by contrast, was exuberant. She hopped forward and pressed her hands against the glass, reveling in the vertigo. Then she bounced around the full circle while I continued to work Pip closer and closer to the drop.

Five minutes later we were back in the elevator and going down to check out the big numbers on the fourth floor ceiling. Coming out of the elevator, Polly and Pip moved off ahead of me, whispering to each other and pointing out different things along the ceiling above them. I let them go, thinking how proud I was of them: for working together, for being good kids, for handling all the nuttiness that has come with school. And I was proud of me, too. Too often I settle for just telling them that there’s some offices and a board room up there and expecting that to be sufficient. It was good to let them explore and learn about something simple like that for themselves.

****

After we’d made our lap around the fourth floor and back to the elevators it was time to go home for lunch. As we waited for the bell above the elevator door to ding the car’s arrival, Pip asked,

“Can we go down to the basement then up to the third floor and then back down to the first?”

I smiled at him, but shook my head no. He shrugged and happily walked into the elevator while Polly jabbed the button for the first floor.

Now, several days later, I kind of wish I’d said “Yes.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dropping off


            In 1999 I went to Europe for a semester with about twenty-five other undergrads from my university. Our program was based in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, a little village tucked in between the lakes and mountains just north of the Italian border. It was a beautiful place to live and a wonderful spot from which to take off exploring. Almost every Thursday afternoon, after class was done for the week (that’s right, no Friday classes) the bulk of us headed out for the train station and then on to an unbelievable variety of destinations. During my three months there, I went to Milan, Turin, Florence, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, and Prague. Others made it to Nice, Geneva, Pisa, Genoa, and more. I spent spring break in Tunisia and Easter in Rome. We all went to Frankfort, Heidelberg, Cologne, and Amsterdam together and later took a second trip down to Rome, Naples and Pompeii. The semester turned out to be the most amazing thing any of us had ever done.

            It was so amazing that when I came back to campus in the fall, I found it difficult to describe to my old friends the enormity of the experience. I put together the requisite photo album and told stories about all the exciting things that happened to me over there, but these tended to end up being disheartening exercises; there were too many people to keep track of, too many references that required complex explanations, too many details that had to be left out. I always finished a story feeling frustrated that my listeners didn’t really get it.

            To compensate for this, I’d get together from time to time with a group of people from the Europe trip. We’d sometimes reminisce about the trip itself, but just as often we merely hung out and talked about whatever was going on around us. Sprinkled in to those conversations were the codes and rituals and inside jokes, the special language, we had compiled during our time together in the spring. That language was a critical bonding agent for my memories of the trip, and I relished the opportunity to break it out a few more times before it faded away.

            And it did fade away. As the semester went on, people got busy with classes and projects and the affairs of the semester. The gatherings ended and were replaced by random, unplanned five-minute reunions when a couple of us landed together at a football game or some frat party. In those moments we would hug or shake hands and ask how things were going but the immediacy of our sympathies, the ability to dip into that special language, had slipped away.

            In the abstract, that seems like a sad thing, but at the time it felt okay. New stuff was piling on the old - new experiences, new challenges, new loves, new jokes, new things filled with their own importance and potential. There were too many other things happening to get choked up about the passing of a moment that was never meant to last forever anyway.

 
****

           For the last two years, Polly and I have had our own special club. We would get Ava out the door, bike Pip down to school, and then come back home to our own little bubble. Inside the bubble we followed a regular routine: reading, writing and math in the morning, some play or special activity, book reading at lunch, and then a nap. At the end of the nap, I would carry her down the steps to give her time to wake up before riding down to pick up Pip from school. Mixed into this routine were several idiosyncratic rituals – a special toothbrushing exercise, snack runs, and the ‘ding-dong’ game to name a few. We worked so well together that after a crazy weekend with everyone home, we looked forward to those first quiet hours on Monday morning when it was just the two of us again.

          Last week that all ended as Polly officially entered kindergarten. In June when school was letting out and Polly and I had our last couple of days together, I felt surprisingly emotional about it all. I welled up a few times doing the dishes and had to work to hold it together the final time we rode down together to pick up Pip from school. As such I wasn’t sure how I’d react to Polly’s first kindergarten drop off.

            But as it turns out it wasn’t that hard. Pip and Polly rolled into school together with heads held high and smiles on their faces. Ava and I headed back to the house and then on to our respective tasks. Too many new things lay ahead for us all to worry much about what coming to an end. My biggest disappointment in the whole experience is that there’s really not much more to tell.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Return

     Several years ago, while I spoon fed Pip some kind of gooey, mashed food, I heard the film director, Wes Anderson doing a standard, long-form publicity interview on NPR for his new movie “The Darjeeling Limited.” In explaining why he chose to make that movie, Anderson used the sentence “I wanted to tell this story” multiple times. I imagine it was a piece of stereotypical director-speak, and he probably cast it off without really thinking. But, for whatever reason, it struck me on that morning as a startlingly weird justification for making a movie. He wasn’t saying that he wanted to make people laugh or cry or quiver with fear. He wasn’t trying to make some political point or probe some critical question about the world. Instead, he was selling this frivolous, self-indulgent, narcissistic thing: a story that had been banging around in his mind for a while about a couple of white guys riding a train in India. It just seemed like a very puerile, childish, “I want to because I want to” kind of thing to do and at the time I didn’t understand how that was a compelling enough to get the film made.

****

     In February of 2012 I stopped writing posts for this blog. I had another project I wanted to work on, and there wasn’t time for me to do both. In the two years since then, I’ve encountered periodic moments when some simple experience with our family came together in such a cool way that I wanted to write about them. These weren’t moments that necessarily demanded preservation or reflected some great truth that needed to be shared. They were just fun happenings that I wanted to play with, to take them apart and reassemble them in an interesting way, maybe plant them somewhere and see what might grow. In short, I wanted to be Wes Anderson. I wanted to tell these stories.

****

     Since the day Pip was born, a single question has hovered over every conversation about my life as a full-time parent: “What are you going to do when your kids go to school?” For a number of years I gnawed on this, wondering if I should try to get back into academia or pursue an MBA or start doing some temp work that might lead to a full-time job. The answer turned out to be easy. About a year ago, Ava and I realized that my entering the full-time workforce was not the thing either one of us wanted. We like the flexibility and freedom that my presence at home gives us and did not see a tremendous benefit in trading those in for an extra paycheck. Thus, as Polly enters kindergarten today, I will not be embarking on a new job as well. Instead, I will be remaining at home to continue handling the logistics of drop-offs, pick-ups, lunch making, sick days, and all the rest.
     With that said, I will be gaining a couple of hours to myself each day, hours that I plan to spend writing. There is a novel in the works – I’m hoping to have it out by Christmas – and a couple more ideas to explore beyond that.
     And, I’m returning to this blog. It turns out that having stories you need to tell – with all the self-indulgent narcissism that entails - may be the best motivation for actually getting around to telling them.
     So, for all of you who, like me, never unsubscribe from anything, hello again. I’m excited to be writing for you once more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The End

In November we finally sold our house. It took 18 months on the market and a sale price that was one third less than what we paid for it four years earlier, but we finally had a buyer lift that massive financial burden from our shoulders. More importantly, we also rid ourselves of a gigantic anchor that kept dragging on our consciousness every time we tried to make plans for the future. We fought desperately against this drag, trying over and over to defy its pull and to pretend that we could just go on with our lives. To prove our defiance we even sought to buy another house - going so far as to actually sign a contract and put the mortgage process in motion before some structural problems with the house led us to back away.

So once the house was fully cleaned out, the paperwork settled, and the keys handed over to the new owners, the emotional relief was intense. We could breathe again. We could look at our bank statement without seeing the gut-wrenching erosion of our savings. We could make plans that did not include the caveat 'once the house sells.'

We could also start addressing some of the other long-running questions that had been pushed aside by the house. One of those questions for me has been what exactly am I going to do with myself once both kids are in school or, put another way, what comes next when fatherhood is no longer a full-time occupation? Pip starts kindergarten this fall. Polly is only two years away from joining him. My window for deliberation, once a half-decade wide, is closing shut at a tremendous speed.

Before we had to deal with selling the house, the question of my future employment was the unanswerable shadow haunting the ins and outs of my daily life. It would whisper in my ear as I did the dishes. It rocked with me as I sung the kids to sleep at night. It trotted along beside me when I went running. So, when we gained relief from the house, I was ready to keep the momentum going by taking care of this question as well.

After some consideration, I decided that the most logical route to gaining full employment within a two to three year span would be to go back to school and get an MBA. This was something I could get started on in January and with a bit of scheduling luck I could be almost ready for the job market when Polly entered kindergarten. Whether that was actually a realistic scenario or not didn't matter too much. What was important was that I had the answer to my question.

With that decision made, I began preparing for the coursework ahead by getting my math skills back up to snuff. Whatever free time I had - including the time I had used for writing - went towards working through practice problems in a college-level algebra textbook. At the same time, I figured out what prereqs I needed to complete and set about getting enrolled in a local university in order to knock them out. First up was Survey of Accounting. I acquired the book at Christmas and was heading into Chapter 3 by the time the first week of class rolled around.

And then it turned out I couldn't do it. There was not enough time to be a good full-time father and a good MBA student. Things would have to slide. Sacrifices would have to be made. Moments would come where I would have to choose between family and schoolwork. While this kind of negotiation is something people do every day, it is a miserable thing to live with after not having to do it for so long. And it only made everyone in our family edgy. So, I dropped the class. The MBA or whatever else is out there for me can wait. We will happily keep our domestic bubble intact for a while longer.

*****

I've had a similar realization with respect to this blog. Over the summer I attempted to balance the time I spent writing blog entries with other projects I wanted to work on. The results were not satisfactory. I felt constantly torn over how to allocate my attention and generally frustrated that I wasn't getting things done the way I wanted to. I broke away from all of it while managing our housing dramas and during my flirtations with the MBA idea. Once those ended I took some time to assess what I wanted to do next. My first decision was that I should only try to do one thing for a while. My second decision was that the blog would not be that one thing. I enjoyed my year of working on it, but I am ready to fiddle with something else for a bit.

And so, with this post I am bringing the blog to a close. Thank you to everyone who read, followed, and commented. I sincerely appreciate your coming along with me.

All the best,

Jeff