May is a busy month for us

I’ve been pretty preoccupied with politics lately. It’s taken over my twitter feed, and it’s made me more active on Facebook than I have been in a long time. I’ve been signing petitions like a mad man lately, and making phone calls, and emailing representatives. I’m trying to find a balance between staying informed and letting it keep me perpetually pissed off all day long

Still working on that one. It might be time to do a politics purge again.

On a related note, my game time has taken a serious hit. Between the politicsing and working on the teardrop, there hasn’t been much time for gaming. I fired up Steam and played a few hours of DOD last night. Still a really kick ass game. A few weeks ago, one of my RPG groups verified that Roll20.net finally has their A/V issues sorted out, so last night I reinstated my account and I’m hoping to start playing at least one game a week. I’d really like to run some one shot games, on various systems, but the time just isn’t there. That may be more of a winter activity. I do have three active games right now and I’m playing about every other weekend.

The teardrop is coming along. It is progressing much slower than I hoped but I’m making slow, steady progress, and I still expect to have it done in plenty of time to be able to camp it this summer. I’ll give a proper update on that this weekend.

Heather is moving back in with us. Her teaching job did not pan out like she’d hoped, and the experience has been… unpleasant for her. So she’s in the process of selling her house and will be moving back in with us, probably some time in June. This means I’ll be moving the nerd cave, again. Fortunately, not into the garage. We’re playing a game of musical bedrooms in the house right now. CJ moved out when he went off to college, so Evan moved into his room. Shortly after that, Heather moved away, so I moved my nerd cave out of the garage and into her old room, which was originally the nerd cave. So now, Heather will be moving back into that room, and I’ll be moving the nerd cave downstairs, into Evan’s old room.

Make sense?

Laure and I spent a Saturday afternoon taping up and priming the nerd-cave-to-be, then a few days later I got two of the walls painted. Sometime in the next week or two, I’ll finish painting down there, and then start relocating all of my crap.

Evan’s birthday is next week, but we’re celebrating it this weekend, since the following weekend is Memorial day weekend, which is always spent at a lake about an hour north of here, with lots of family, food, music, board games, and napping.

It’s a busy month for us in general, right now.

Laure, in one of the cabins where we stay every Memorial day weekend.

Busy-ness, and my dog.

The time has really flown by these last few weeks.

I’ve been busy working on the teardrop during the weekends, and two or three evenings a week. I’m trying to keep from doing it every night so that I don’t get burnt out on it. Getting the side walls up feels like it’s taking forever and is getting a bit tedious, but I expected that. I think I’m just about done with them, barring any more unforeseen issues.

Laure and I are already making camping plans for this summer, and we got out and worked in the yard a bit this last Sunday. There is always a lot of clean up to do in the spring. We have some flowers ready to plant and we need to get those in the ground soon. Also, our raspberry bush has already started budding, which is pretty cool.

Lots of political developments. We’re seeing just how ridiculous the GOP is willing to let things get, and there is no sign of the ridiculous train slowing down any time soon. Even the possibility of nukes flying through the air doesn’t seem to encourage anyone to maybe step in and start taking some action. Although it does appear that most of what we’ve been seeing the last few weeks is just a lot of dick waving.

Missoula is coming to life again, spring seems to be driving people out doors more, which is always nice to see. I’m still not convinced that we’ve seen the last freeze of the year though. I’m afraid to turn on the water to our yard just yet.

That’s all for today. I have three half typed blog posts, mostly about my own life observations, but I’m not sure if I’ll get around to finishing one of them or not. We’ll see.

In the meantime, here is my dog.

The Step Dad

My kids are not technically my kids. They are Laure’s kids, from her previous marriage. When I entered their lives, they were three and seven years old. I’d like to say that we formed a really great bond, I tried to, but a step parent is almost always at a serious disadvantage in that regard.

I had several step dads growing up. I never had a bad relationship with them but never really had a father and son type relationship either. This is partly because growing up with a schizophrenic mother teaches you to stay on your toes, all the time, and to never trust anyone’s mood. This is something I still struggle with today. It also doesn’t help that I am a diagnosed schizoid, which is nothing like schizophrenia, just for the record. The first few paragraphs here sum it up quite nicely. In general, I have a difficult time forming emotional attachments, which explains a lot about me. I think it’s also contributed to my difficulty in bonding with the oldest.

But back to the boys.

The youngest and I are good, I think we have a great relationship. This is in part because he has no memory of his biological father, so I wasn’t forced to compete in that race. The oldest, on the other hand, that has been an uphill battle from day one, and it hasn’t gone well.

I won’t go into all the details, but Laure’s ex-husband was not a nice guy. He went away to prison for a particularly heinous, and violent crime. There were also physical and emotional abuses at home, toward Laure and the boys, as well as a complete disinterest, and outright neglect, toward the youngest boy. One would think that this would be enough to color the boys’ view of their father, but kids don’t really work that way. Memories are funny things, and more often than not, a child’s desire to remember their father in a particular way can over ride anything anyone tells them, and even their own memories.

The oldest has always had a very idealized and unrealistic view of his father. He blames the incident that ultimately sent his father to prison, on any number of other factors, and has always insisted that his dad is this great guy. This has been particularly difficult on Laure, who was forced to deal with the realities of an abusive husband, and a small town police department that all but ignored her pleas for help and sided with the father time and time again.

It was a nightmare for her. The oldest though, remembers things much, much differently.

The oldest has always seen his mother as the enemy, because that’s how his dad taught him to see her. He would make it into a game where it was he and the oldest on one team, and Laure and the youngest on the opposing team. That view has stuck with the oldest his entire life, and it has been the source of many problems at home.

There isn’t much you can do about that. I accepted pretty early on that I would never be able to live up to the standard that he saw in his dad, so I just tried to be a good dad to him and at least have a good relationship with him. Things seemed to go alright until we hit the teenage years, and then everything pretty well crumbled between me and the oldest.

I introduced them both to a lot of my hobbies, including pen and paper RPGs, which the youngest has really latched on to. Naturally I introduced them to all of my family traditions, and all the special places and things in my life. Most of the time, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing but in retrospect, I think all parents feel that way. For the youngest, many of the things that were special and important to me as a kid, are now important to him. We’ve bonded over a lot of the things that were and still are a big part of my life, and it makes me feel pretty great to have passed those things on to him.

He’s now in high school, and while we’ve hit all the usual teenage speed bumps, things are good. We have a pretty solid relationship. Sadly, things with the oldest have gone in an entirely different direction. He’s finishing up his first year of college, in a town several hours east of here. We don’t talk much, even when he comes home to visit, we tend to avoid each other in the name of maintaining familial harmony.

I take a little bit of comfort in that it isn’t just me. Laure has had a difficult time maintaining a relationship with him as well. She has a lot more patience than I do but I suppose being his mother makes all the difference in that regard. We both agree that he’s a troubled kid. He seems lost, like he’s struggling really hard to figure out his place in the world. He exhibits a lot of his father’s behaviors and views, which has solidified my belief that a child’s first few years are the most important. His father was paroled two years ago, and the oldest had never shown much interest in getting to know him. Laure even offered numerous times, against both our better judgement, to take him to visit his father in prison, but he never took her up on those offers.

We both suspect that he was worried that reality would not line up with his view of his dad, and he was afraid that meeting him would shatter that view. About a year ago, he did make contact with his dad, and has even been over to visit him a few times. Laure and I both agree that this has done even more damage to our relationship with him. Again, I won’t go into specifics, but his dad is very good at getting people to like him. He is very charismatic and knows how to manipulate people to get what he wants. The oldest is most definitely under that spell now.

We’ve been to family counseling, and no matter how bad things got financially, even during the out of work, foreclosure years, we always found ways to do things as a family. We always worked at that. While it did greatly reinforce the bond with the youngest, the oldest has always been a little bit on the outside of things, just on the edge of the circle. I think he always felt like getting close to me was a betrayal to his father. So the few times that he and I did start to get close, he always eventually made a U turn and I quickly became the enemy again. The same things went for his relationship with his mom.

He’s legally an adult now, out there trying to figure out the world with the rest of us. He’s not doing well at it, unfortunately. The only help that he’ll accept from me is in the form of money. Anything else, it seems, is strictly rejected and avoided simply because it came from me. There is nothing I can do about that. Laure insists that he’ll eventually come around, and learn to appreciate me when he’s older. I don’t know, I really doubt that.

Meanwhile, I’m glad that the youngest and I have a good relationship. He’s going through the usual, raging hormone, teenage shit that we all do, so things are up and down around the house but overall, we’re good. He plays RPGs with his friends at least once a week, usually more. He and I have a private Minecraft server that we spend a lot of time on together. We go to the comic book shop and out for lunch every Sunday, and we have a pretty good laugh together at least once a day. I think things are going to be fine between he and I.

Being the step dad is tough, for so many reasons. I like to think that I’ve met the challenge well, time will tell though I guess.

My birthday was last Thursday

I turned forty-one. It was a good birthday. We didn’t do much of anything celebratory that day, except both of us took the day off together. I really enjoyed that. We slept in, way in, went out to lunch, ran a few errands. I took a few photos of Laure, which reminded me of just how out of practice I am with my photography. We got a few good photos but I can see all kinds of mistakes I made. Still, it was great to spend the whole day alone with her.

Saturday afternoon we had an official birthday dinner with some friends, then came home and watched “Dr Strange” with Heather. It was a really good movie. I kind of lost interest in the whole Marvel thing the last few years but I really enjoyed this movie. Heather spent the night, we had a big breakfast Saturday morning and then she headed home.

For some reason I spent a whole lot of time during year forty, thinking about death. Not in the creepy, I-want-to-watch-everyone-die kinda way, but just a contemplative thing. I dropped christianity like a sack of rotten potatoes, damn near twenty years ago. I no longer believe in a god, or heaven, or hell. I also don’t believe that there is simply nothing after death. There are just too many things that science is barely tapping into, to suggest that this state of existence is all there is. I dunno, I’m sure I’ll find out though.

I think forty-one is going to be pretty good. I’ve been working out consistently, my motivation and interest in my bagillion hobbies has come back, things are good.

I’ve been spending less time focusing on politics but that has taken a bit of work to do. Shit is so completely fucked right now, but I’m trying to focus on the long term and hoping that this will end up being a positive thing.

Um… that’s all I’ve got right now. I’ve been awfully busy and neglecting my blog, so I wanted to get something up here.

Pantsless, yelling at trees, and flipping off little kids

I think I’ve actually been grieving for my country.

I know, that sounds really dramatic but hear me out here. I don’t think it’s what you think it is. It isn’t because of Trump. He’s just the icing on the cake. He might be what amounts to the last straw for me, or maybe he’s near the last and who the fuck knows what we’re in for next.

When I read political arguments, I’m usually only seeing people looking as far back as Obama. In rare cases, I’ll see people skipping Bush entirely (which doesn’t make any sense at all) and pointing to Bill Clinton. For me though, the shit really started with Richard Nixon. That seems to be when the train to hell really got rolling.

I’d love to go into the reasons for this belief, but most people these days haven’t got the attention span for that. It’s not something I could explain in one paragraph, or even one page, or in fifty pages. There is a LOT to it. The US has been very, VERY busy meddling in the affairs of other governments for a very long time, and it’s all finally coming back to bite us in the ass. Exactly how we got to this point is quite the confusing, convoluted mess. I sometimes have to sit down and write shit down, drawing up little timelines just to make sense of it.

Doing a bit of research on your own, you could muddle through it in an afternoon and have a decent grasp on the state of this country. Start by googling the relationship between oil and the US dollar, the history behind that, and then move into exactly how the US dollar currently maintains it’s supposed value. If you can set aside any blind patriotism you might have, and try to look at things objectively, you’ll begin to understand what is really going on in the world, and just how fucked the US is if it’s people don’t pull their heads out of their asses and re-take their country.

No, electing a good president is not going to fix a fucking thing. You’re starting at the wrong end of the pyramid there folks.

Anyway, back to the Nixon administration, and the 1970’s. Economically, the US was at it’s peak then. In spite of all of our technological advances since, we have been on a slow, steady decline. That is, as a whole, as a nation, we have been on the decline. A small group of people that is now referred to as the 1%, they’ve been doing better and better, and the media has been doing a fantastic job of making us think that because they’re doing better, so are the rest of us.

We’re not. The average American family is only one paycheck away from total financial disaster.

Most families don’t have much of anything in the way of savings. Most families are upside down in their finances, owing tremendously more than they’re worth (economically speaking). It may not appear that way because a lot of people, myself included, live in decent houses, have numerous personal computers, gaming/entertainment devices, massive flat screen TVs, several vehicles, etc, etc… That standard of living however, is quite shallow, and quite fragile. I will explain why.

Speaking for my own family, all of our value is tied up in our home, which we still owe quite a bit on. Looking at the market, our home is worth a decent amount more than what we owe on it. That difference is commonly referred to as “equity”. The last time we tallied things up, our equity was somewhere between four and five times more than what we owe in other debt, such as small personal loans and credit cards.

Now, so long as the market doesn’t crash again (which is imminent, I fucking promise you), we’re doing alright. If we wanted to, we have a reasonably decent chance of selling our house, paying off the loan on it, and using the profit from that to pay off that miscellaneous debt, and then still have a little bit left over to move into some shitty apartment somewhere. In any case, as it stands, we have a positive net worth. Not much of one, but it’s there.

In that regard, we are miles ahead of the average American family right now, which is a sad statement.

However, that is a very fragile condition, for several reasons. Chiefly, that condition depends on the state of the US market. If housing prices were to crash again (again, going to happen soon) we’d end up in big trouble. How much trouble depends on how far the price of our home dropped. If things drop like they did in 2008, we could find ourselves close to $100K in the hole, literally over night. As long as we both hung onto our jobs, we could weather such a collapse and probably recover in a few years.

Again, that sounds all fine and dandy, right? You’d be wrong again. With no savings, and nothing else of concrete value to fall back on, we’d eventually find ourselves back at zero again. Zero, as in owing about as much as we’re worth. If we were both in our early to mid-twenties, that wouldn’t really be a big deal. We are not in our mid-twenties.

See, this already happened to us once, in 2009, except it didn’t go well. Not at all. The value of our house plummeted. Only a few weeks later, I lost my job, as did a staggering number of other Americans. We spent the next year burning through our savings, then my retirement, trying to hang on to our house, which we ended up losing to foreclosure anyway when all of that ran out. Indeed, the system is designed so that what would have made much more financial sense, would have been to shirk our responsibilities regarding our home loan, and just stopped making the payments as soon as I lost my job. We would have come out of that whole ordeal in a lot better shape than we did.

That was 2010, and we lost everything. I eventually found another, good job, one somewhat more secure than the one I lost, but we started off at zero again, this time in our thirties. In a few weeks, I’ll be forty-one years old. My current retirement plan has me retiring some time in my 70’s, right around the age that, statistically speaking, most American men die. Again though, that all depends on the US economy managing to stay viable until after I die, which isn’t likely under the current conditions. In all likelihood, I will work full time, in debt, until I die. Even that is optimistic, because most American men are nearly unemployable after the age of sixty, due to health concerns and the way our dumb-ass insurance/health care system works. If I lost my job after sixty, without a savings or some kind of retirement plan, neither of which would cut it at that point… I don’t even fucking know what what would happen then. I can say that I’ve seen America’s public nursing homes, and they’re fucking scary folks. They’re limping along on social security, medicaid and medicare, all of which will be long gone by the time I would become illegible for any of them. Again, shit is bleak for the vast majority of my generation, and the generations following.

The fact is that my parents’ generation was the last American generation to actually live the American dream. The rest of us are surviving entirely on debt, and that isn’t sustainable for very much longer.

It’s not a pretty picture, and it’s the one that most Americans are seeing right now. Instead of working together to deal with the real enemy, the real cause of all of these problems, we’re lashing out at each other and getting more divided every day.

I could go on for pages, hours, about what I think is in store for this country but it would basically just be me, standing in a park, pants-less, wearing only a white t-shirt, yelling at trees, and flipping off little kids.

No one would pay any attention because they would think I was crazy.

But looking at all of this, having been neck deep in the reality of it at one point, and seeing it coming at us again, I’m having a very difficult time seeing the USA as anything but lost. I grieve for my country.

Red Velvet Cake

I woke up exhausted today. It took a good twenty minutes to talk myself out of bed. I managed to get to work and be relatively productive until about an hour ago. I’m completely drained and pretty much checked out for the day.

Must get to bed early tonight.

Saturday, Laure made red velvet cake. She’s been working on a dairy free (for me), gluten free (for her) recipe for quite a while now and nearly has it perfect. We all loved the cake but she insists that “it was too eggy”, and needs work.

Here’s the thing about red velvet cake. Red velvet is a flavor, a unique flavor all it’s own. Most of what you buy at bakeries and grocery stores is not red velvet cake, it’s chocolate cake that has simply been dyed red and called “Red velvet cake”. That is some serious horse shit right there, and I think it needs to be made illegal.

She also made some cream cheese danishes, which I can’t eat but they certainly smelled good. Something went wrong with the dough, and they didn’t turn out very well. She’s going to try again this coming weekend.

My brother’s birthday is today but he dropped by the house yesterday and we celebrated then, with red velvet cake of course.

Speaking of this weekend, I have a Rifts game on Saturday afternoon, which we’ll be broadcasting on Youtube. I’m going to tinker with OBS and see if I can broadcast multiple streams with it. I’d like to stream to Twitch and to Youtube. I may try opening two instances of it and see if that works. I have a Twitch account that I keep meaning to make use of, but just haven’t made it happen.

Along that same vein, I’ve been getting more familiar with Roll20.net, from the GM’s perspective. I plan on running some one shot games for a variety of systems, and started putting together an album of images for back grounds, since I’m not a big map user in my RPGs. I think maps tend to turn it into more of a board game, rather than an RPG. I generally only employ them when necessary, and avoid them when I can.

What else… My twitter feed has become quite political in the last few weeks. I’m aware of that. I need to back off and try to ignore it all for a while but there is so much going on. Trump is digging away at his hole with unparalleled exuberance, the GOP wants to sell off our public lands, the illegal muslim ban, boobs… there are a lot of boobs on twitter.

I got the results back on the biopsies from the two moles they shaved off of me a few weeks ago. The one on my abdomen was completely benign. The one on my head did have some atypical cells though, which is nothing new for me. I’m to keep an eye on it and set up an appointment if another mole starts to grow back in it’s place. Regardless though, I have an appointment in six months to get checked out again, and see if they need to remove more skin from the area where that mole was, or hopefully confirm that they got it all.

That’s about it. I don’t have much of anything interesting to write about today. I really am seriously fucking tired and I wanted to get something posted today.

 

Here’s Laure, working up a recipe for red velvet cake.

Better

It was a better day today. I got up and made waffles, pancakes, sausage and eggs this morning. Heather enjoyed a drawn out breakfast with us before she left to go back home. Laure and I got a lot done around the house, Laure a hell of a lot more than I did.

It’s been nice seeing her motivation return since she got her anti-depressants straightened out. She laughs a lot more, she has a bit of a dance in her step when she’s doing things around the house, and sings little phrases to herself while she works. Her sex drive has come back as well. It’s been great seeing her slowly come back to life. She comments on it a lot, how she never wants to go back to feeling that way again, how dark life was for her all those years.

Something occurred to me today. It was a train of thought started rolling by something I saw on “Malcom in the Middle”, of all shows. It’s a fucking great show by the way. We’ve already seen the whole series all the way through, a few years ago, but we’re watching it again because it’s that good. Anyway, Hal (the dad) said something to his kids, during what we can only assume was a cancer scare, since it’s never explained at all in the episode. He said something about how everything was still so new to his kids.

That got me to thinking that I remember that feeling. I remember that that’s exactly what it was like as a child, then as a teenager, then in college and as I was getting out into the world. That’s exactly what it was. I was still discovering the world, still learning so much and experiencing new things. Then, at some point, that stopped, some time in my early twenties. I think my ex-wife had a lot to do with that, because I remember a period after she left me, when I was still grieving our marriage, and trying to make up for lost time, when I traveled quite a bit. I traveled around the western states a bit, then took a trip to Ireland. That feeling was back. Everything I saw was something I hadn’t seen before. I think that’s why I miss traveling so much. It think that’s why I crave road trips every time Laure and I hit the interstate on our way to work in the mornings.

When our tax refunds come in, I have GOT to get to work on the tear drop. Laure and I need to start traveling again, even if it’s just weekend trips. I need to experience new things and new places again. I think that’s what’s been fueling this stagnation I’ve felt for a very long time now.

My dad used to take us on road trips when we were little. He would drive from his house in Wyoming down to Nebraska to pick us up, and the trip back would be part of the experience. We’d camp out, stop and see the sights, eat in little diners, get hot dogs at little road side stands, see those odd tourist attractions that seem kind of silly but are fun just the same. I really miss that. I would really like to take a few weeks to just wander around the country, with no particular destination in mind. Just Laure and I, and of course the dogs, on the road, going wherever caught our attention that morning.

I think that would be wonderful.

Shit to do

I have shit to do.

* Keep up with my exercise. I’ve been slacking the last week or so because of the temperature outside. It’s warming. Time to get back on it.

* Quit eating so much, and quit eating so much shit. Already doing better with this I think.

* Take more photographs. Hence, the photo accompanying this post, which I took specifically for this post, about fifteen minutes ago.

* Play more pen and paper RPGs. It looks like to accomplish this one, I’ll have to run some games on some systems I’ve never played before. It went well with D&D 5e. I’m sure I can pull it off with some others.

* Get to bed earlier. Been sucking at this lately.

* Finally get started building our teardrop. Haven’t been able to do this because money has been tight. Taxes refunds are nearly upon us.

I think that about does it. Small, simple.

Just Writing

I’ve got Les Brown and his orchestra doing their rendition of “Stardust” in the background. I’m in my nerd cave (prior generations would have called it “the study”) with the door closed, and the environment in here is quite comfortable for me, if a tad untidy still from Christmas. I’ve finished off two glasses of cranberry juice.

I sat down to write, because the urge has been hitting me an awful lot lately. Of course, it always hits me when I can’t do anything with it. Like when I’m at work, for example. Or when I’m driving, or in the middle of something else that I can’t just break away from. All the things I’ve been thinking about for weeks are clear enough, just for a few minutes, that I could get them down and make sense of them.

So here I am, distraction free, sitting in my comfortable space, watching the cursor blink in LibreOffice Writer for the last thirty minutes.

I have a lot of thoughts that I just can’t seem to articulate. Thoughts that are all connected, all part of this weight that has been on my shoulders for a few months now, an urgency that I can’t quite put my finger on. I need to be able to do something when those moments come together for me. I need to some how record them so that I can pick it up later. I’ve thought about a voice recorder app on my phone. I found one I like, but it’s never a good time to stop what I’m doing and record those thoughts.

I really need to get this shit out of my head, and writing has always been a great outlet for that.

This is frustrating.