Losing Your Temper

Yesterday, I lost my temper. I don’t do it very often, but it’s been known to happen from time to time. This time in particular, it was over something as silly as me getting upset that a package hadn’t been signed for at home. We’d been waiting for something from UPS, and I’d been frustrated that it was something we had to sign for, even though we were never home when they were trying to deliver it. But yesterday, my kids were going to be home the whole day, so I thought we’d be in the clear.

And then I heard it didn’t get signed for.

It’s not like I went into full-out Hulk mode. I didn’t yell or scream. I just got really snippy and rude, which is how you can tell when I’ve lost my temper. So why did this set me off?

Some of it was logistical. If the UPS package didn’t get delivered, I was worried I was going to have to go to Augusta to pick it up, or that it would be returned to the sender, and I have to worry about getting that ironed out. Normally, those sorts of things wouldn’t stress me out too much, but they’re not the only stressors I have in my life at the moment.

I haven’t been sleeping well. I haven’t been following my diet as well as I’d like (due to stress, mainly). I’ve had too much on my plate. Things at work, things with writing, things with church, things at home. There are just all sorts of small to medium sized problems that add up until I get to the point that I want control over everything I can have control over, just so that I feel like I have some control at all.

So when a problem I thought was controlled ended up not being controlled . . . I didn’t take it well.

What do you do when you lose your temper? For me, I go away and calm down. Easy to do when I’m at work and my kids are at home. So I gave myself an hour. Focused on getting other things done, and then called and apologized over the phone. The great news? The package ended up getting dropped off by UPS on the way back, so all troubles were avoided.

I feel stupid that I lost my temper, of course. I don’t like being rude and snippy to people. (Especially not my family, who are the ones I usually lose my temper with, ironically.) But at the same time, I’m okay with it. I’m okay showing my kids that their dad does, indeed, lose his cool, and (more importantly) showing them an example of what to do when you do or say something you regret. Apologize. Don’t blame. Take responsibility.

And move on.

Anyway. Just a slice of life that I thought I’d share with you all today. Have a great weekend, all!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Happy Birthday, MC!

I don’t think it’s possible to be more excited for a day than a six-year-old is for her birthday. Or for any “special” day at that age, be it Easter or Christmas or any holiday. MC has been looking forward to her birthday since her last birthday. She keeps track of family birthdays the way Scrooge McDuck keeps track of pennies. When the new year rolls around, she begins to fuel up the Hype Train. First comes DC’s birthday. Then Denisa’s.

And then MCs. And she reminds us about the upcoming birthdays each week when we check our family schedules for the upcoming week.

A six-year-old is at that total sweet spot of excitement levels where she can remember the last year’s festivities, but things are still so new each year (and the wait seems so very long) that she can be fully engaged by the time the next celebration rolls around.

For this year, Denisa took the kids skiing to Sugarloaf yesterday as a last hurrah. They were gone the bulk of the day, though of course there were balloons and streamers waiting for MC when she woke up. A family tradition Denisa keeps great track of.

When they returned, it was homemade mac and cheese for dinner, followed by raspberry pie and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. (Somewhere along the line, Denisa convinced the kids that cake is optional for birthdays. This makes me sad, as I love cake, but also is probably for the best, because I love cake a little too much.) MC got a camera, an umbrella, and DC’s old doll house castle. (Parenting pro-tip: when your kid outgrows a toy, don’t give it away if you have another kid coming up who might enjoy it. Instead, stick it in a box in the basement. Wait a few years for the next kid to be the right age, and then go spelunking around in the basement to find it. It will be 100% new to your six-year-old, and you will have saved yourself some money and saved the environment having one more plastic doll house in the world.)

In any case, the excitement was infectious, and it was great to see MC have such a lovely day. Always wonderful to have people be so appreciative of the things you do for them.

Happy birthday, MC!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Responding to Loss: Notre Dame, 9/11, and My Family’s Cabin

About 13 years ago, Denisa woke me up from a nap. Her face was white. Shocked. “The Cabin burned down,” she told me. I had no way to really process what she was saying. Ever since I could remember, my family had a cabin up in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. It was very much a communal affair. It belonged to my grandparents, and the entire family would head there en masse for holidays and vacations. Growing up, some of my happiest memories are spending a week each summer with my cousins up at that cabin, watching movies, playing games, going fishing, and just having a blast.

When I was in college, I was only about an hour away from the cabin. (Much closer than I’d been when I lived in Pennsylvania.) Denisa and I would go up regularly, but again it was almost always with family. My grandparents. My cousins. My aunts and uncles. Going to the Cabin on your own just felt . . . wrong. Like an amusement park where none of the rides are running. Year after year, the Cabin never really changed. It had always been there, and it always would be.

Until it wasn’t.

We never figured out exactly what happened. The nearest guess is my grandfather had left some rags in a bucket on the front porch. He’d been applying some stain with them, and he left them outside when he drove off. They must have spontaneously combusted in the sunlight. That initial fire caught the stairs on fire, and the cabin, being a cabin, was quickly engulfed. It was all gone. The film collection. The family pictures. The embodiment of all those years of fun.

I still sometimes think about it. Think about what it would have been like if I’d been there when those rags combusted. How big of a window did we have to stop the fire from happening? I think about the different rooms and things inside them that I loved, each of them burning, one after another. It’s incredibly sad to me. Yes, we rebuilt the Cabin, and when we did we said we’d make it “even better than before.” It’s a beautiful new building, but it’ll never be better than the original for me. The original was my childhood. It was Star Wars: A New Hope. The new one is the prequels. (Well, maybe it’s Rogue One. Let’s not get carried away here.)

It’s probably natural that one of my first thoughts when I watched Notre Dame burn on television was of the Cabin and all those nightmares around it. I’d been to Notre Dame twice, once in high school on a marching band trip, and once a few years ago with my family. I’m a bit of a cathedral junkie. Any city I go to in Europe, I have to seek them out, just to appreciate the sort of effort and craft that went into them. Seeing the aftermath is heartbreaking, though I’m so glad the entire building wasn’t lost. Hearing Macron say they’ll rebuild it “better than ever” definitely reminds me of my family’s goals after the fire, along with the inevitable conclusion that it can’t be better than the original, because the original was the original. There’s no need to be “better,” though we say it to try and comfort ourselves. To feel like there wasn’t a loss. That we’ll make things right again.

Even though we can’t.

When a loss happens in our life, whether it’s something physical like a building or emotional like a friendship, that loss leaves marks on us. The bigger the loss, the bigger the marks. It doesn’t mean we’ll never be happy again, or things won’t ever be right, but it does mean they’ll always be different. I think it’s important to recognize that and to give yourself time to process it.

The other thing I was reminded of in those flames was watching the Twin Towers burn on 9/11. The comparison is inevitable for me, since that event had such an impact on me as well. Here I was again, watching footage of a place I knew. A world icon in flames.

I remember in the aftermath of 9/11, so many people didn’t know quite how to respond to it. I was certainly one of those people. It was too big for my mind to really wrap around it. I was in college at the time, and I went to classes the next day. The professor chose to use the event as a lecture topic. I’m sure he was trying to deal with it, just as I was, and perhaps his efforts helped some. All I know is that for me, they were the exact wrong approach. He was discussing the symbolism of the Twin Towers. Picking apart why the terrorists had chosen those buildings. What it all meant.

I went back to my apartment and dropped his class that afternoon. I had no desire right then to use that tragedy as a discussion topic. That was a city I knew and loved. A city I’d grown up with. I had friends who had been around the World Trade Center that day. Family members who were close enough that I was worried if they were okay, and relieved to find out they were. I can talk about the events now, of course. I’ve had the time I needed to process it all. But I still remember the anger I felt sitting in class that day as the professor blithely used all of what had happened as a way to discuss something so trivial (to me that day) as Flaneur literature.

In the aftermath of Notre Dame, I’ve seen some of the same things happening. I saw articles written just hours later talking about how we all could use that loss to understand other things more acutely. How we were supposed to feel or think or cope. I couldn’t bring myself to read those articles, because to me, it would be as if Denisa had woken me from my nap that day thirteen years ago and said, “The Cabin burned down. We need to remember how much it inspired us, and how its loss will bring us to new heights in the future.”

When I encounter loss, I don’t need explanation or justification. I need time to let myself be sad. I don’t need people telling me “Cathedrals have burned down before” or “It was only a building” or “It could have been so much worse” or “There are so many other things in the world to be sad about.” I need people to be quiet. There will be time for all that self-reflection and philosophy later. But it’s okay to be sad for a while. To feel for what’s gone. To recognize that things will never be the same.

A tree grows organically. It encounters trials throughout its life. Wind storms. Ice storms. High winds. They affect what the tree looks like. How it twists and what limbs thrive. At the end of all those storms, it still looks like a tree, but it’s a different tree than it would have been without the storms. It might be stronger. It might be weaker. But it’s inevitably different.

And that’s all I have to say about that today.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

No, Random Website, I Don’t Want to Subscribe to You

It’s a quiet day in front of your computer. You’re casually browsing the internet, minding your own business, when out of nowhere, you twitch your mouse to move up to close the tab you’re looking at.

“DON’T MISS OUT ON NEW INFORMATION LIKE THIS!!!”

The popup window certainly can’t be missed. You sigh, and then you go through the new routine of trying to figure out how to close that window, since each of them seems to be different. As if the websites assume if the window is harder to close, you’ll be likelier to reconsider closing it.

“You know, at first I thought this annoying popup window in the middle of my screen was obnoxious and intrusive, but now that it’s taken me a full minute to figure out how to close, it’s beginning to grow on me. Maybe I should subscribe to this website, after all.”

I have a hard time picturing anyone with half a brain actually doing that, though since so many websites are taking this approach, I have to assume that it’s been somewhat successful in getting them subscribers. My current theory on that is it’s because people mis-click somewhere along the way as they’re trying to close the popup window.

I get that times are tough for sites, and they all want a piece of the advertising dollars, and so they try to do whatever they can to get eyeballs to their articles. But it’s getting to the point with some of these websites that the actual content is so buried underneath ads and links to other articles, that it’s nigh impossible to find where the actual article starts and stops. (This is no doubt on purpose, as the site’s goal has stopped being to convey information, and instead chosen to focus on getting as many clicks as possible.)

In many ways, this reflects what’s happened to most print magazines these days. They’re so full of advertisements and flyers that I usually give up trying to read them. I suppose I should just be grateful that the web hasn’t caught on to print’s favorite trick: publishing the first 2/3 of the article in one spot in the magazine and then tucking the rest of it somewhere else in the magazine. (Maybe they view it as a fun perk. A game. A scavenger hunt/Where’s Waldo experience when you’ve reached a lull in the writing.)

Actually, I probably shouldn’t give that idea to web designers. Next thing I’ll be playing mini-games in the middle of articles, needing to complete a Choose Your Own Adventure just to get to the end of what I was reading.

Here’s the thing, web masters: if I find an article I like, I read it. If I begin to notice that article appears on a site where I find a lot of good content, I begin to go there more regularly. If I really like it, I subscribe to its RSS feed, to make it easier for me to find cool, good articles. If, on the other hand, the article is buried under advertisements and popup windows, I stop reading and go find something better to do with my time.

In other words, your popup jedi mindtricks are wasted on me.

I’d ask you to stop, but apparently it’s getting you subscribers, and you’re panicked that if you stopped, you’d stop getting the sheep to subscribe. So you’re scared, because money. But maybe (just maybe) you’d have *more* success if you started just focusing on quality content instead of tricks and games to gimmick your way to success.

Just a thought . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Does the Audience Matter at a Performance?

Denisa and I had the chance to go to a live performance of Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies here on campus on Saturday, part of the New Commons programming that’s been running here since fall. It was a great performance, and I was so happy to have it here. (I’ve been a huge fan of the New Commons project, even though I haven’t been able to go to nearly as much of the programming as I’d have liked. Pesky work meetings keep getting in the way.)

But as I was listening to the performance, I couldn’t help thinking of other things. (Too much going on in my life at the moment, and a brain too easily distracted sometimes.) One of the things that occurred to me is how much different a live performance is from a recorded one.

There’s a spectrum when it comes to performance. On the one hand, you have the totally packaged offerings of Hollywood. Things that have been spliced and edited together to the point that they remove pretty much any of the original “live” nature. On the other, you have 100% live performances. In between, there are broadcasts of live performances, where you watch something as it’s literally happening elsewhere, and there are also recordings of live broadcasts, where you watch it after the fact.

I personally prefer live performances, but sometimes I wonder why that is. I’m even still willing to pay money to see movies in the theater, despite having a sweet home theater set up. And when I see things with an audience, there’s always a chance I’m stuck next to someone who’s noisy or annoying through the film or performance. (We had a guy next to us who started singing along to some of the performance on Saturday. I kid you not. Thankfully, he stopped.)

So wouldn’t it make sense to just watch everything at home? To buy the finest recordings and view them all on a great sound system?

I don’t think it would.

As I sat there enjoying the performance, it occurred to me that the audience is an integral part of that performance. Part of this insight came as I watched the bass trombone player sitting through most of the symphonies, doing absolutely nothing other than listening, since he had no part to play except every now and then. Did his not-playing add to the performance? Obviously, since he could have grabbed his instrument and started wailing away whenever he wanted to, and that would have ruined it all, just like the guy sitting next to me might have ruined things for me if he’d chosen to sing through the whole performance.

Watching a movie with a throng of people who are also loving the movie adds to my enjoyment of the movie. (Conversely, watching something with a group of people who are all NOT enjoying the movie detracts from my enjoyment considerably.) Watching a sports event live in a stadium heightens the emotions, whether it’s the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

There’s just something you get by that collective shared experience that you can’t capture in a recording. Watching it live, remotely, can have some of it, but it’s not the same thing.

Which leads me to the inevitable conclusion that humans connect with each other in so many ways that aren’t immediately observable. Sitting there with so many people all intent on the same goal (more or less), you pool all that focus. In the concert, there were other sounds in the room than the symphony itself. The noise of people shifting in their seats. The beeping from watches in the audience at the top of the hour. The breathing of the conductor. Sometimes it’s the absence of sound. People NOT talking or unwrapping candies or applauding after a movement. It all adds to the experience.

Watching the Fifth Symphony live, I noticed for the first time how important that eighth note rest is to the theme. Dun dun dun dunnnnnnn is actually {rest} dun dun dun dunnnnnnn. And you’d see the conductor jab out with his baton, meeting nothing but silence until an eighth note later. I’m having a hard time describing it, but to me it was like he was stabbing a knife, and the theme was the result of that initial stab.

I love going to geek movies on opening night. Watching them with a throng of like-minded people. The laughs, the gasps, the responses in general. The applause at the end. It all makes that experience more impactful.

When I walk into a room where people are bickering, I can sense it. Maybe it’s the body language or the facial expressions. I don’t know. I often feel like I can tell when someone’s fighting even in the same house as me. It’s hard for me to describe, though it’s enough that it makes me believe there’s something to auras, whether it’s a spiritual explanation or something else.

Anyway. I’ve gone on long enough now, and captured some of what I was trying to say, so I’m going to call that a win and move on. I hope some of you were able to go to the performance. It’s not something that happens locally very often. Many thanks to the New Commons folks for making it a reality.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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