Choice and Circumstance

Same shit…different year. 

I was about to post another “It’s Always Something” rant. However, this week I also did some housecleaning on my blog, reading through my thoughts at various moments through last year and judiciously deleting the unnecessary. Man, I’ve sure done more bitching than I care to display!

So….what now? Somehow, I don’t feel like my ‘digital penmanship’ is entertaining enough for everyone (anyone) to want to keep reading that crap. Besides, when I started this blog, I really had hoped I could use it as a medium to display my work. Truth be told, I really relish the presentation of a product. Despite my flurry of emotions when my product is less than impressive, I still enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and (am I vain for saying so?) I really love the empowerment of people recognizing my work. The most casual compliment makes me feel valuable and, I don’t know, true. Like I’m not just some schmuck with big ideas and a bigger mouth, like I actually go forth with my claims. 

That post, which I may or may not just delete, sort of followed my rambling thoughts to the heart of it all: Choices and circumstances.  

We all understand choice, at least we think we do. Maybe industrialization has numbed our minds with the constant need to make decisions, such that we are either complacent or exhausted by time the big ones come around. Either way, our minds do their best to process the inputs of our senses across the record of known outcomes with each option. 

I admit I’m not a fucking people person. Yet, in many instances, I’m embraced and cheered on. Pushed into leadership, even. It’s all well and good when I get to enjoy leading people who are naturally dedicated to the objective. When it comes to those difficult type people, however, all the worst sides of me come out. What really blows my mind is when those difficult people present their emotional plea and label me a bully.  

Well, before I chase that rabbit too far, let’s crack this choice nut. I suppose we don’t have a lot of choice in waking up or falling asleep. Everything between that, though,  requires a conscious decision. I have to choose to even so much as get out of bed after waking. Even though water, food, shelter, etc. are all necessities to survive, taking them in is a choice. I know that’s getting morose, but I have to bring this to attention: survival –sustaining your life– is a choice! 

So, that’s the long and short of it. Just like every last theorem in mathematics is rooted in addition and subtraction, every last choice we make is ultimately for the sake of survival. Can I live with charcoal gray, or do I absolutely have to have black? Can we shoot a rocket to the moon by lots and lots of addition or are we isolated to this terra-firma from which we came? It’s the same question, with different content. 

Choice. We can choose charcoal gray or black, and I think there’s a realization to face that the consequences of either are miniscule in comparison to the consequences of making the purchase at all. The choice to shoot a manned craft to the moon? There are a plethora of known risks and consequences, but ultimately it does boil down to survival. Most humans are prone to want to continue living and surviving as comfortably as possible.

Choosing can be overwhelming. I get that. Consequences of our choices is more to the point of this lengthy post. What do we do when our decision has been made and it’s not in line with expectations? I have to put that in bold, and maybe even repeat it. What do we do, how do we react, what  subsequent decisions do we make, when the effects of our initial decision are undesirable, distasteful, or unpopular? 

Consequences. Are you wondering if I lost track and rambled onto this instead of circumstance? I didn’t, and here’s the punchline: people, especially those fucking difficult people, love to confuscate consequence with circumstance.

Let me make this perfectly clear, and I will even quote it just to be sure, consequence is a result of choice. Oxford and Webster pretty much say the same thing, but I love for their bold and direct definition. 

A consequence comes after, or as a result of something you do. 

…Something you do. Rather, a choice you make. Doing implies action, but inaction clearly brings consequence, as well. It’s an effect of reactions set into motion by you, that you later find to be undesirable. 

I guess that about draws the line between circumstance and consequence, but I’m not hopping off my soapbox yet! Circumstances are what they are. They describe our environment, implying a one-way relationship to those in it. As before, I turn to the authorities on meaning, and I easily spot my supporting documentation at . 

A condition, detail, part, or attribute, with respect to time, place, manner,agent, etc., that accompanies, determines, or modifies a fact or event; a modifying or influencing factor:

 Fact is the root word here. Another source said it exactly as something environmental, inherent, and outside your control. Absolutely no choice you make will negate the outcome that circumstances induce. Sure, there’s a spectrum here. You can certainly do the best you can in every situation. 

If I was handy with memes, I’d insert one of Bert from Tremors 2. Stupid movie, classic scene, I’m only sort of surprised I had to look so hard for it. 

However, as I’m backing myself up, I stumble on the real issue. Those same authorities I called on also define circumstance as:

One’s state of financial or material welfare. 

Disclaimer: I hate politics and I entirely disapprove of America’s current disgrace of a president. However, I have to really challenge this definition following the lines of a quite unpopular statement made by him. 

Is poverty really a circumstance, or is it a consequence of choice?? 

I grew up poor. I worked. At the tender age of 10, I held my first 40 hour per week job. I didn’t have a lot of choice, but I did have one. If I were another child, I would have chosen to fuck around all day at best, or be a screaming, fussing nightmare for all involved at worst. I didn’t want to not have things, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be homeless, so I chose to be a good lad and work diligently. But, as my boss and parents were aligned in this scheme to provide some sort of slush fund, I still grew up in poverty. Emancipation was kept a secret from me until it was too late, else I damn sure would have just paid my own fucking rent, thank you very much!

I signed a dotted line in the middle of a war. Not a single faculty member could understand why a perennial honor roll student would willingly step into harm’s way. Probably because not a soul was aware that my parents put a roadblock in my future by lying on their taxes. Every university I applied for wanted me, but without filing a FAFSA, my options were this: get shot at and maybe dead for a chance at a future or continue to pay for my parents’ livelihood at the cost of my own life… I mean, I had a fucking choice, didn’t I? My options were absolute shit, but I did what I could with what I had. The career counselor looked down on me, and my service commitment wasn’t even announced upon graduation, unlike my fellow reserve-ees. They said I couldn’t get an education in the Corps, and I came out with an Associates. Doing what I can with what I got. 

I made my choice. I could hardly be happier about any choice in my life, because from that point on, I no longer suffered in poverty. 

Until the last few years. The state is beating me up for overdue child support. My car got repossessed. I have a stack of 72-hour notices and an eviction on record to boot. I haven’t paid student loans, credit card, vehicle insurance, or even daycare for almost half a year. Rent is coming up hard and fast, and I expect to have all of $400 to throw at it. 

Circumstances, right? 


I have made choices. All these years, I have been making choices. These choices have led me here, and now what? I’m suffering the consequences, and my child, along with another’s, are suffering the circumstances. This woman and I are stressed with the consequences of our choices, and our children are living with the circumstances.  

Coming into the new year, I cannot just continue to do the same damn thing, hoping for a different result. I’m not incarcerated or confined. I’m not living out in the boonies, and I’m not without a means to communicate. I have options, which means I have choices. I guess the ultimate point of this is that I have some foresight as to the consequences of my choices, and the range of outcomes possible in my circumstances

Stupid is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Defiant is making the same detrimental choices and blaming everything but your own choices for the consequences. Circumstances are nothing more than conditions actually outside your control that you should be considering when making a choice. 

Now, about that rabbit. If I’m relied on to make positive outcome decisions for the benefit of all parties, and I am met with defiance or inaction, does my frustration really make me a bully? If things are going really bad for everyone, and it’s another’s choices driving it, am I really a bully for trying to set them on the right path? For fuck’s sake, I stress so much over how to approach every situation with courtesy and finesse, I really can’t make the connection between my efforts and bullying. But, isn’t it just fucking peculiar that every last person who places that label on me is absolutely devastated when I leave them? Hmm, I thought a bully was a person you don’t want around because of the conflict they bring? I’m not being a bully, I’m just making the tough choices nobody else wants to face. Sometimes, that choice is walking away from the fucking difficult people in my life. Don’t hate me for having to live with the consequence of my absence after choosing to be difficult!


Courting the Dressing

“Ugh, I’m sick of ranch, can we get something different?” my girlfriend asks as we walk along the condiments. I give an affirmative grunt. Great, now we have to stand here and debate back and forth for ten minutes what flavor might appease all parties concerned. The conundrum of choice. We look. I notice the raspberry vinaigrette.

“Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on that one” I point out. My mind wanders off to a time I was on a late night kitchen rampage attempting half a dozen combinations and concoctions before admitting that raspberry is just never going to combine well with vinegar, no matter how intoxicated the consumer is. 

I hate the fact that it is never just her shopping or me shopping. To me, getting groceries is some kind of Ninja Warrior type event, where the goal is to get all the shit on the list as fast as possible without wrecking the produce, eggs, or bread. Yep, I’m the midlife, long haired shit that never grew up, riding the cart and kicking skater style through the store. Newman’s Own ranch, there! Scrrrr, snatch, kick and gone. To her, it’s a lengthy exercise in having to make critical decisions over and over. The critical decision of the moment being just which one out of half an aisle full of options will win her heart, eyes and tastebuds? Clearly, the ranch is not doing it for her these days. 

I see this raspberry vinaigrette isn’t a one brand show, and I start to ponder the deeper implications of the market given the immense selection and drastic price differences. Anything from 99 cent mostly made of corn products ranch to a small $6 glass bottle of goddess, and that horrid sweet-sour combination only appearing in the mid range to expensive. 

I reach the end of the aisle and turn around trying not to look annoyed, but there’s a reason I don’t play cards, you know? She finally reaches into the shelf and pulls out the Newman’s Own fucking ranch. I’m not the least bit surprised. Before stepping away with it, she saw the Chipotle ranch and avocado ranch. If my deceitful <ahem> poker face wasn’t telling her it was time to go, my grabbing the cart did.  

Later on in the shopping experience, we come to the toilet paper. This being near the end of the journey, I offer up my unsolicited advice, “let’s just get this brand this time.” That being said, her first consideration is to wonder what the price difference is between this brand and Charmin. I’m the only one who prefers Charmin extra strength, because I don’t appreciate the treatment of John Wayne tp but kinda need it at the same time on occasion. So, if I’m okay with the cheaper stuff this time, why ask? Well, then there’s roll count to consider. Twelve? Eighteen? Twenty four pack? Regular or jumbo roll? Ply count?? Fuck’s sake!

I stare at the Brauny guy for a minute, chuckling to myself at the thought of how sex sells and it’s not just men’s eyes being seduced. A whole aisle of paper, behind each roll some graphic designer’s attempt to woo emotionally driven and indecisive shoppers. 

I don’t get it, but then again I’ve always shopped by price tag. If most people thought the way I did, the grocery store would feature about 10 feet of aisle with plain cardboard boxes encasing each option. The limited printing would show the bare minimum of carton information, along with a hazmat style 3 point chart to indicate comfort, strength, and ability to remove shit. But I suppose by this point, I would rather have built the whole store into a pick-n-place warehouse conveniently networked with my fridge and pantry so I don’t even have to remember we need tomato sauce, ranch dressing, or toilet paper in the first place! 

The Year in Summary

Seeking an answer to “what now?”

I got nothing. 

I have been emotionally worn out for, well, the entire year. Shit sure is a mess. There have been some highs with the lows, but little of this year has come without suffering. I have been ready for this year to be over longer than that lump of shit has been in office. I guess the hardest part of it has been just rationalizing it all. What the hell happened? What happened this year? For that matter, what happened this last 3..5..something years? What happened since I was a super senior about to go make waves in the world with my double major? 

The debts have accumulated to a ridiculous level. “Sir, do you realize what this is going to do to your credit?” I can only reply, “Nothing that hasn’t already been done.” Seriously, the damage is more than done. You can take it to Uncle Sam or to a collector, but get in line either way because no amount of consequence is going to allow me to conjure up money faster than I am right now. 

I clung to school for dear life to save my sanity through divorce. Now that it’s all over and the dust is settled, I feel like I have lost my anchoring. I’m adrift in the world and every failure comes with a switch to the back side. Left to do little more than navigate over each swell of misfortune, I can’t say that I have any bearing at all on the course of my life. I have been so pulled into the moment that I haven’t really taken time to look back and haven’t possessed the faith to look forward.

So, this is where I’m at in closing out the year. I don’t have the words yet to describe what happened. I don’t have a lot of avenues for chewing much of it over, as my friends are so busy and my partner doesn’t find many parts of my life tasteful to share. I gave a thought last month to doing a NaNoWriMo memoir of my life in the last 15 years. A few thousand words into it, children and work and housework and crisis management and vehicles breaking down and…filed in the “it was a nice thought” folder. Still, now that I considered the notion, I do feel sort of an urge to follow through on it.

Perhaps a short list is best for now. I might sound dismal for saying so, but pulling ourselves into 2018 seems less crossing the finish line celebratory and more thank fuck we get to move past 2017. 

In any case, here’s what I can say for the last 12 months. 


  • Starting the year off with sciatica. I didn’t just lose income, I lost an ongoing opportunity that paid very generously and a valuable connection. My girl lost at least 2 weeks of income taking care of me and all the things I would usually take care of. The pain, the embarrassment, and the palpable disrespect from people I never expected it from just kicked off the whole year on a bad note. 
  • Eviction. Though we were able to settle up and avoid being preemptively removed, the motion made it to the record. After that black eye, you can imagine the kind of living conditions we had to settle for. Well, at least there weren’t roaches crawling everywhere when we moved in like another apartment I experienced. Still, there is no chance for an upgrade in housing in the near future, and it’s just a bit of a bummer. 
  • Repossession. I loved my car. The family loved my car. Now it’s gone and we are left to juggle the kids and two adults with one vehicle that uncomfortably seats 3. It just had to happen- ripping the band aid off and getting on with life. The finance company could have been more helpful, but they didn’t want to help me keep it. They simply wanted all the money I owed right away. Because surely I have a few thousand laying around that I’m just being stingy with, right? 

I mean, am I right in calling this a shit year? What can I say? Let’s just get on with it.

The best of the year:

  • Feeling normal. It was just one day, and it was nothing of a normal situation. In a desperate escape from life one lucky child-free weekend, we went to the coast to visit my best friend. We slept in the car at the bay, because what the hell else is a hatchback good for? We woke up at low tide with the cool, foggy morning air, and ventured out to explore. Without a care for time or a thought of anything or anyone else in the world, we chased crabs and poked at anemones. It was just the two of us on the beach for a while, and for just a little while I felt completely at peace with life. I felt normal, like just another person in the world connecting with the earth. 
  • Time with my kids. This last summer was next to impossible. Having a child without affordable daycare pretty much tanks one adult’s ability to earn income. It was tough having to make do with the park and library all summer, but at least we all had that time together. This next year, things are changing. Our kids are taking care of their own hair, which is the last bathroom assistance we had left to provide. They are using the table knives and learning to do basic cooking things. If we up the wage for doing chores, they might do those, too! But, last summer was it. This next summer, they will have daycare and it won’t be frantic days of pass-the-kids and trying to squeeze in just two hours of work in a day. But, I also won’t have those several other hours of the day spent with them. 
  • Building a network. I suppose this is really the key to working for yourself. Rideshare driving is a nice way to ease into self employment since it negates the whole need of a client base. To really take a skill and venture forth under your own gumption requires more of yourself. Honestly, I can’t say that I had a network to start with. All of my friends are off having high paying engineering jobs, which means I had a large supply of character references but not a lot in the way of casual work. I took a cabinet job over the summer that sprouted into more work with the company and more work from employees of the company. I finally have a contractor to vouch for me and throw me an occasional bone. I still need more work to pull myself completely back on my feet, but having a bunch of people backing me is all the difference. 

    Se la vie 2017. Happy new year and best of luck for 2018!

    I have a family

    What that actually means for me

    I have a family, so eh…

    I state this, but in almost the same manner as someone sending radio signals to distant stars hoping for a response from another life form. Especially during the holidays when people across the globe are embracing their loved ones and basking in the community of their siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. Most people conjure up warm, blanketing feelings of embrace and security. I suppose they are not wrong to do so, but at the same time I fail to convey the message with this simple phrase. 

    Some days, I want to take photos of my household. I want people to understand the extent of work that goes into ‘I have a family’. Those mornings where I can’t even make coffee because the kitchen sink is full of dishes. So is every square inch of the counter. The range not only adorned with grungy pots and pans, some full of solidified grease or leftover boiling liquid, but often heavily coated in sauce or oil from last night’s dinner. That’s only the beginning. There’s the dishwasher that needs to be emptied loaded or started, the dinner table to clear and wipe down, plants to water and shuffle around to share the precious little sunlight, laundry to pick up and wash, floors to sweep and mop, porcelain to scrub, drains to unclog, trim to re-adhere after the kids pick and peel it off the wall, disgusting smells emanating from sources that require even more cleaning to discover, bodily fluids to clean up after…

    It’s not like there’s a magical dirt fairy that flies in, swishes a little wand and poof! all our soiled undies and burger grease is gone. That’s my time. Three hours every morning of my time. It’s like a fucking part time job just keeping up with the basics, all for a hug and kiss. 

    Then there’s the more extensive things. Grocery shopping, deep cleaning things like heaters, fixing the espresso machine when the frothing nozzle clogs, fixing the kids toys when they break them, fixing the truck when it goes down. Providing solutions to the more challenging aspects of life is always appreciated, yet it’s still not like I’m getting a paycheck for it. 

    I have a family to take care of. As much as I look forward to a day when the kids can do their own laundry and hopefully their dishes, the fact of the matter is that time is neither now nor anytime soon. So much work goes into chasing kids around every day, and that doesn’t even speak to the real life shattering moments. 

    I was not happy to be sitting where I was yesterday morning. Asking for a handout is not my style, but to be reminded once again the need for me to get a legitimate, on the books job just fucking kills me. I just had to retort with the simple question that seems to have no answer: just what the hell are we supposed to do with our kids??  What do I mean? I mean December 18th and the following 3 weeks that there is no daycare available! I mean that, “hey boss, I need three weeks off this month” doesn’t fucking fly after needing 6 days off the month just gone. I mean that there truly is not a job that will give me enough sick days just to cover the times my kids get sick. I mean that I literally cannot have any job that starts before 9am because I have kids to shuttle around. I also cannot have a job that runs later than 5pm because I have to shuttle kids around. One would like to believe such accommodations would be available, but alas, not so much. 

    Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to do all of this for my family. I know that at least my girlfriend appreciates what I do. My beef is that society at large doesn’t value or appreciate what I do. I do work, as well, thank you all very much. As much as possible, I have a few folks that keep me busy with little projects. It’s enough to make up at least a part time income, but not nearly enough to pay all my bills. 

    Having pointed out the obvious fact that one school vacation alone far exceeds the stock standard two weeks leave even a decent employer offers, the helpful case worker says under her breath that we should maybe consider leaving the kids at home while we each work. At that point, my poor mind was kidnapped and hauled off in the way-back machine and felt the absolute fear, pain, and frustration of being a 7 year old boy burning eggs on the stove because I was fucking starving while my parents were away at work. 

    God damn it, society! Wake the hell up! Children need parents, period! I am but one middle age man out of a whole generation of men that mostly have no clue whatsoever what it means to be a man. Why? Because our fathers were too busy -presumably being men- to pass on a fucking ounce of constitution of manhood to their progeny. I’m sick of the demand to invest my time into some money mongers’ sadistic little money machine when it means short changing my family of my own time. Is our following generation not worth investing our time in? Is giving the bank/shareholders more money really a priority over nurturing our young children? Are we really trying to figure out how to feed people on Mars while school gardens get turfed over because absolutely nobody in a whole damn neighborhood will take one afternoon out of their year to show kids how to tend them? 

    I have a family. A family that I clean up after, feed, transport, and rescue. A family that I teach, hold, and comfort. A family that absolutely is my first priority before all other endeavors. I just wish that when I explain to someone that I have a family, they would understand the extent and importance of what I do for my family. 

    Day 23: Adult TimeΒ 

    It’s something that happens maybe twice per year at best, but once in a blessed while we are relieved of parental duties for a day or two!

    My son is with his mom for the holiday weekend and then Nana and Papa offered to take the other until Sunday! 

    We might make it out of the house for a date somewhere, or it might just be Discovery Channel all weekend! πŸ™ˆπŸ™‰πŸ™ŠπŸ‡πŸ‡πŸ΄πŸ˜

    Either way, it’s nice to feel like a normal human being for a couple days instead of having to consider the kids every moment.

    Day 22: It Could be Worse

    “Well, it can’t get any…”

    YES, it can. It can always get worse than it is. When someone near me begins to utter that phrase, I am sure to cut it off before they finish. Not that I’m superstitious, but I believe this phrase always precedes absolute complacency. 

    I was reminded of this last night (or maybe early this morning) as my girl jumped out of bed. Apparently, the commotion outside rudely interrupted her sleep and she just had to run around the house, turning lights on and bitching up a storm. Dogs barking, people yelling, and a blip of a siren shook the complex last night. 

    As it turns out, our neighbor has been trying to help her brother get himself together. I don’t know the full extent, but I see it in just about every dark, grungy corner of the city. I’ve heard the justification, and it truly breaks my heart. These people, at least some of them, just want to be okay. They want to not be cold, not to feel the pangs of hunger, not to be alone, not to feel like the pile of shit society at large makes them out to be. They want someone to care about them and to truly believe that better days lie ahead. Every conscious moment of their existence, they surely suffer, and if a little smack is all they are presented with, can you really blame them for making that choice? 

    I’m not saying it’s acceptable, as I see the more nasty side of it just as well. Kids with a bad attitude, many times running from parents that have done their best for them. These kids were sheltered from learning their limits. They travel in packs like mangy dogs, and anything they can throw in their faces, goes. Those are the ones you see yelling at imaginary people, breaking any random thing that catches their eye,  and throwing their feces at people or buildings. Catch them early enough, and just maybe a short stay behind bars will be a wake up call. However, it doesn’t take long for the smack to find them, and at that point there is tragic little hope of recovery. 

    He was standing outside with a cigarette when I came home. I looked him in the face, and with the warmest smile I could muster I gave him a greeting. He tried to say hi back, a couple of times, and all I saw was pain in his face. My girl was anxious, asking me if I had all my tools, if I locked the truck, if I had my phone, because that guy was standing outside. 

    I went to bed feeling rather shitty. I have been struggling to force food down my throat all month despite my stress induced lack of appetite. In the middle of the night, hearing everything go down and remembering that man’s face, made my heart ache for him. I don’t know what he did to bring the K9 unit down on himself, but I know he is suffering. I know the eyes of a thug, a con, a shifty up-to-no-good, poised to strike at the next opportunity some unsuspecting victim left open. I also know the eyes of pain, confusion, and desperation. 

    As the situation wound down, my girl commented on him trying to retrieve a white cross off the ground as he was getting hauled off. I imagine that in the blur of his mind, with nothing but a bleeding arm and the clothes on his back, it was the only thing in the world he could anchor himself to. 

    It brought me to remembering that it could always be worse. I reckon sometimes that I have hit rock bottom and lost almost everything and everyone that used to mean something to me, but that really isn’t the case. I’m grateful that as bad as my life is, I’m reminded just how much worse it could be. 

    Day 21: Life Goes On

    I’m alive. I’m all kinds of things that go against expressing positivity right now. 

    But, I’m alive. Odds are that I will still be alive tomorrow and the rest of the week. 

    The end of my world as I knew it may have already come, but it wasn’t the end of my life. 

    At some point I hope to feel like a complete human being, so to start, if only for the sake of this post, I will be thankful to be alive.