Saturday, October 22, 2011

Baby Kicks, or Dominion.

Baby Kick, the 4th.

First moving in to the our home there was the sense that it was important to "walk the boundaries" - get to know the place. I have noticed i am starting to know the place a little more, especially as I unpack. There is a growing sense or realization that i can do with it what i want as i put things where I want, subconsciously knowing (maybe?) that I can keep them there till kingdom come if I so prefer.

With that sense of "option" coupled with the sense that i am needing to prioritize the big projects, and weigh those relative to daily needs, and all culminating in the exigent necessity to budget my time as certainly as I budget my financial resources, well, i find both a desire to plan wisely and a (suggestion of a) sense of freedom (to do what I want). With local water restrictions meeting a Stage 3 "no yard watering, hose usage, or car washing" level of strictness - and all the attendant concerns for water and future drought shortages and scurrilous neighbors watering - there is a growing sense of place within the community that has me wanting to be more and more active in the community decision structures.

It has finally dawned upon me that there is something to permanence and ownership which allows for a sense of dominion. Growing up it was made clear to me that my house was in all fact my parents house and i merely lived there. Ironically this message was in direct dichotomous sentiment to the attitudes my parents were raised with (and imparted from my grandparents) that the family ranch land would descend down as inheritance to us, the grandchildren. My grandparents are amazed and aghast we do not carry a sense of the land being ours and thus through ourselves into its usage and the projects of the grandparents. I was never certain it would be mine, while they were certain it would be. My stepfather the meanwhile was always making jokes about spending the money which was to be the inheritance from him and my mother.

Older generations obviously had this expectation of things which were owned being passed down; ironically my generation and others understand inheriting the consequences of past generations decisions (environmentally speaking, and maybe financially with Social Security, but I don't know much of the latter).

Suffice it to say there is an aspect / sense of dominion which goes along with ownership of land married to permanence (a sense of). I have come to feel not only thrust into the microcosm of the community and relationships within the cul-de-sac, but also into the greater community, especially as community life bears on personal concerns. Did i mention we were part of a MUD, and it is superbly well run? They genuinely add to the sense of community, the they being the authority figures setting directives and emailing out policy notice updates.

I find, in short, i am compelled to want to be more and more a part of community the more i am with a sense of permanence and ownership.. a sense of right to speak on matters affecting me. I can see why older friends have such strong opinions or investment in policy decisions made by local politicians: it is a right we own, but only feel it as a right relative to the "feeling" of permanence and ownership. Army buddies mention how little Americans seem to appreciate all they have, compared to what they have seen of the world and what other countries have (not), but i wonder if, like not knowing a sense of place from not knowing ownership or permanence, most of us don't have a sense of other rights because we have not developed an equal sense of je ne se quoi (ownership, metaphorically speaking? exercise of them?). I don't use a gun (often) and don't publish much, so these two rights of gun ownership and free speech are not exercised, thus not accorded a sense of importance. It is more than i just don't know what i have until it is taken away, it is that until it is used i don't know what "it" is.

What would dominion (a sense of) in all my rights or privileges look like, i wonder.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Baby Kick 3

"You can't move a neighbor," as my realtor always said. That, or something like it. The sentiment never stuck with me.

Yet, in this on going experience of transition from a renter's mentality to an owner's mentality a new thought struck me: these people whom I live next to I will be neighbors with for the next 20 years or so - and as such I am plopped into a community. There was, of course, an initial awareness that I am now a tax payer, and have some degree of both vested interest and clout in local politics. That was made more real to me as I contemplated paying our first mortgage payment (replete with a the FHA required additional escrow amount for property tax). But, the fact that I am in community and relationship with people for 20+ years, people whom are in different phases of life, well, that struck me. And these people of whom I speak I will know, I will have friendship or relationship with long term.

Admittedly I was overcome with thoughts of "oughts": i ought to make good friends of them, i ought to take over plates of cookies, i ought to inject my community-mindedness and idealism into their Americanly-sequestered lives. Yeah, I'll tell yah how that pans out.

Suffice it to say I am finding an attitude towards these others around me that deems them and relationship with them as important. Admittedly I should have that attitude with any relationship I intend to keep, but I have historically been one those who (prior to FaceBook and status updates and friends lists) never kept up with friends that moved away. Maybe some of that new awareness needs be seen for that deficiency, but i wager we all know how easy it is to drive sealed in our cars out of the garage, into work and our cubicle cubby holes, back into our garage in our cars, then reside in air conditioned hovels while facebooking and blogging. Ironically, I wager some of my neighbors likely don't know how to email, much less blog.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Baby Kick, pt. 2

So, as of a few, under-rested hours ago we were officially done with the old apartment, having not only moved all our stuff but also cleaned. I suspect we put forth more effort than others, not as much as some - i mean, i cleaned down to the tracts upon which the drawers moved, and every surface including the lip of the inner edge of the front of the drawer. Ok, that sounds a little O.C.D., and also is a little bit of hyperbole: I only did that on some of the drawers, and gave up cleaning the baseboards.

This past week - in one of my fits if needing to touch base with the world in which things seem to be happening, a fit such as drives me to review the Yahoo headlines - i came across an article which struck me as interesting and odd at the same time. It was a New York Times article, i think. It was about a teacher and father of four who was leading his family to live on $40,000 a year, and his secrets for doing so. The gist of the article was it all boiled down to long range planning, and living below means. The article discussed how he and his wife always conferred before any big purchase was made, and how we would sleep on things if he felt impulsive. OK, nothing new, nor incredibly insightful, and with some of it I disagreed (like, the admonition to live without a mortgage (esp. since I just got one)).

The point that stuck me though is that with this house the shift in mentality towards permanence allows, encourages me towards long term planning with the house. Said differently, I feel allowed to long term plan, like, it is not a need-based stratagem nor a fiscal thought but that I am not allowed, able to, blessed to plan long term with this house, and with life now. There is something significant there, though, not so much something of great depth, root-sinking effect.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Waiting for Baby to Kick.

Waiting for the Baby to Kick.

We are officially first time home owners, as of September 12th, 20011. The process for my wife, by her own admission, was a little like pregnancy was for me: she was removed from so much of the hands on process it didn't feel real. Like a lot of husbands whom have to hear the heartbeat or feel the baby kick from inside the womb she needed some experience to get the sense it was all happening, that it was all real. This is not about her experience, though, but about mine.

At several points I have noticed something rather significant in my mindset. Bearing in mind I searched the MLS listings, I contacted the lender (repeatedly), I talked with all staff and faxed every document, I corresponded and coordinated with each party, I arranged the inspections and researched the different vendors (like the AC guy, the plumbing guy, the this and that guy) in case they were needed or just to get the quotes used to request money off selling price for repairs.. yeah, i did it all, and was intricately tied in to the process... bearing that in mind, I still notice there is so much greater depth to the sense of it "really being mine" for me to have. Understandably it is a transition from almost 2 decades of renter-mentality (i've been on my own for almost 20 years now, since moving out for college at 18) to an owner's mentality. Understandably I am writing this as only the large pieces of furniture (and none fo the gazillion boxes of books, toys, and crap) are moved, and I am still with half a month on the old apartment's lease. Understandably I am exhausted from a weekend of moving heavy stuff. Understandably I am eating left-over pizza and food from caps with pop tops cause we are waiting for a new fridge to be delivered.

I suspect the still not being settled fully into the house and fully into a fixed routine with the kids, plays a part. What strikes me is the sense of newness to everything, as if i am just starting out. It is true this is a new phase of life but it is a new phase within a context - a context whose over-arching narrative extends a good deal back and appreciably forward presumably. Why then this de-contextualization to feel as though this is newly beginning? Granted we bought th house at the beginning of what the calendar says is Fall, and I have always identified this with the start of a new semester and new beginnings in the schooling system, and so there is a component there to the feeling.

Bottom-lining it for you: i am interested in this transitioning into an owner's mentality, the dynamics of the process thereof, and the change it brings to certain base assumptions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mom's and Heroes

As a guy who got his Bachelor's in Philosophy, I think a lot, all the time; it's what i do. The most important subject matter i have ever considered, however, did not come about until i became a stay-at-home dad to my daughter three years ago (and a father to a second child, a boy, six months ago).

And it was not until the recent superhero-themed birthday party for my best friend's toddler boy did I think my most important thought (to date): my mom is a hero.

Picture my daughter, decked out in the cutest little Flash costume (the Flash being my favorite superhero), just as we had arrived at my friends house for the party, and in front of the onlooking parents (of whom I care too much about what they think of me), demanding to take off her costume. No sooner had we arrived than I was already worn down by the "super-whine and uber-difficult obstinacy" of my "little hero". Nothing to do but move on to uncomfortable socializing.

Not long into my hopscotching through random conversations did I have to resist (as the 25 year comic collector I am) my "mega-geek" urges to educate a few parents on the various heroes represented at the party. Biting my tongue, I began to quietly muse on the question of what it means to be a hero. Since having children I have revisited this question quite a bit, agonizing over the substance of what makes a hero. After all, heros are those who serve as examples for us to aspire to, right?

As I think about it, the folks whom i often call a hero - and I have found myself calling quite a few people that very recently - have been none other than other parents, and especially single moms. I and my younger sister were raised by a single mom for four years. Then we were children of a working mother until our graduation from high school. Mom (after a long day working, without a spouse to "debrief" with on the ride home) would sit on the floor with me and play Matchbox cars, then did "dinner, bath, and bed". She even went so far as to deny herself new work clothes so my sister and I could have new school clothes. As a stay-at-home parent of two, I have come to really appreciate this sheer effort of being a parent. And I have a spouse to help.

There is a single mom who brings her kiddo to the park we frequent, and as she sits in the sandbox playing with her son I am reminded of my mom (and the Matchbox cars). Some days I have a hard time getting socks on both of my own feet after making sure my kids are up and going and set on the path of our morning routine; and I do (despite all my moaning about my working spouse's availability) get a break at some point in the day. That my mom did this for two of us day in and day out, and that i have fond memories of my childhood at that time (emerging as relatively unscathed as I am), well this is harder to fathom than tangling with any super-villian.

Becoming a father has opened up desires for demonstrations of true heroism and goodness, much like the desires I had as a child (and which perhaps made comics so fascinating). However, until facing the effort of daily living with my cherished children I don't think I understood the notion of "self-sacrifice" that underlies so much of the concept of heroism, or of the notion of "effort," or "struggle," or "challenge." Some days I could not want to be a parent if I thought about it, but my mom was there, day in and day out, even when she had to go at it alone. The more I think about it, the more I want my children to know my mother: since she deserves the honor, the fame, the recognition.

As we grow older, hopefully wiser, we start to see we always have had heroes. They just don't wear capes (except when they dress up to play pretend with us), and they don't ride white steads (except when they sit astride the broom handles, galloping around the room). They aren't strong or fast (except when they play matchbox cars on living room floor with us). Maybe one day we'll be invited to another such themed party as my friend had, and I can dress my daughter up as her grandmother.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Holy and ignoble vessel

The Lord has said He Himself sets the purposes of the vessel, noble and ignoble both - either as a ceremonial vessel for oil in the temple, or as a chamber pot. Wordly success and wordly failure are both decreed, both Holy. Fruit of the Spirt is dependent upon Spirit, not circumstance; not all obedience ends in success, but all obedience is flavored by the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control). The question is if in obedience which leads to failure we find ourselves guilty of judgement which condemns the failure by worldly standards (or secretly exalts that of success). Ultimately if failure comes as a result of obedience, if failure is a calling even, then it is as holy as success. We are entrenched in our thinking with the thought of our success riding upon our efforts, affirmed in our senses of an untenable self by the what ultimately is the random conference of seeming success by the hand of God to our endeavors. Thus the attribution of personal culpability in success or failure is equally wrong, equally damaging - at best we can surmise if one was obedient to the Lord, and reverent in the walking out of obedience, and even this surmising is frought with peril of committing judgement if done without revelation from the Spirit. The rub is this: at any point one is considered lesser or somehow defunct or defective or delinquent or dismissible or detestable because of (what the world considers) failure in action / effort, then the judger is guilty of dismissing the Holy, of passing judgement of the Holy. Is it not God who wins the favor of men (men whom may decree in our favor, or against us), was it not God who chose not to win favor with Pontius Pilot that Christ might be turned over to the Jews, arguably a failure of Christ to save himself in the worldly, earthly, Sadduciac standards? Was it not God who said not Solomon in all his splendor was robed as beautifully as the grass of the field, and yet we are robed in more splendor - the Splendor of He in whom we are robed, the Splendor of Christ? Are we not robed in Righteousness not by success but by obedience? - even obedience to the point of failure, the point of not succeeding when we could shirk the fruit of the spirit and aspire, under our own strength, to accomplish a goal never desired to be accomplished by the Will of God in our lives? Bottom lining it: if in my obedience i never have a totally clean house, nor a successful academic career nor attaining to any other number of successes prized even within Christendom (aside from the successes of moral rectitudes), am I not yet still as Holy as any number of successful pastors or business CEOs of fortune 500 companies or princes or Senators? Am i not just as worthy to sit in counsel of those same men when it comes to matters of Faith and community?