There But For the Grace of God and Rank Incompetence Go I

November 24, 2010 1 comment

I can whinge and complain about my life with the best of them.  Many days my glass is not only half empty but it’s leaking and probably full of lemon juice anyway.  But my worst days pale in comparison to many of the work days endured by my friend Roger Canaff.

Roger used to prosecute violent and sex crimes against women and children in New York City; today he travels the world teaching others how to do lock up those who would harm the defenseless.  How he does this and remains not only sane but sober, I’ll never know.

Take a look at his blog for insightful commentary on issues surrounding gender- and sexual violence.  The topics are comfortable ones but the issues raised are important ones.  And you can take some measure of comfort knowing that Roger and dedicated individuals like him are on the job.

Roger Canaff


A Life Change I Can’t Seem to Make

November 23, 2010 3 comments
Counting Sheep

At least it's better than snakes

Since high school, I have battled insomnia.  Given that is presently 4:40 in the morning and I’ve been up for nearly 24 hours, it’s fair to say that tonight’s scuffle is not a successful one for me.  I have an Ambien prescription though it’s effects on me are hit or miss–one night a pill doesn’t even yield a yawn, a different night and a pill means I’ll sleep like Sonny Von Bulow, except of course that I wake up albeit after 14 hours.

A simple search for insomnia on yields this result.  Short-term insomnia is described as resulting from stress and usually lasts no more than a month.  Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, can last–well, I’ll let you know when it stops–and can be a sign of depression.

I’ve been depressed before–honest to God chemically, mentally in the bottom of a black barrel for months, even years at a stretch.  As part of my life changes, I underwent cognitive behavioral therapy, which I can honestly say saved my life.  Rewiring my head also taught me to realize the danger signs of oncoming depression.  And I don’t see any of them right now.  I do however see a clock that now reads 4:49 am.

So why the hell can’t I sleep?  I’m averaging two all-nighters a week as of late; combined with an already busy schedule that starts early and ends late, my body and mind are starting to show signs of wear.  When I was depressed, sleep was blocked many nights by vivid, horrific images of rattlesnakes–I KNOW, how fucked up is that?  Terrifying and paranoia inducing to say the least, and that’s before applying any Freudian dream analysis.

No snakes now, praise be to the Deist being in whom I put what little faith I have left.  Just my fevered mind pinging about like a ferret on speed, clicking off an unceasing list of incomplete tasks and half-witted ideas.  So here I sit, another night of keyboard clicks faintly audible over a loop of  trance music on Pandora.  5:28 am.  It’s going to be a hell of a day.

Categories: Life Change Tags: ,

My Average Day is Shockingly Dull Yet Exhausting

November 18, 2010 6 comments

Yesterday was fairly typical for me–see below.  Bear in mind that any entry involving the children does not capture the true constant goat wrestle that is life with kids.  They are devoid of any memory of owning a book bag or coat let alone that these items should be with them when leaving the house in the morning and returning each afternoon.  Also absent from kids’ memories–pencils occasionally need sharpening; markers have caps; the existence of forks, spoons, napkins, tissues; toilets flush; oral hygiene; how to take a bath or shower; any items needed or due dates for school projects; current day of the week.  It’s easier to state what kids can remember, which is limited to what gifts they want, any promise you may have made them and any time you cursed in their presence.

Enough digressions, here’s my day for Wednesday, November 17, 2010:

8:00 Breakfast, make beds

8:30 am  Kids to school–no breakfast for Kate as she took 20 minutes to brush her teeth and walk downstairs

9:00 am Coffee, online newspapers, email, Twitter and text

9:30 am Finalize hotel contract for February trip to Washington, DC by Sam’s scout troop

10:00 am Gym–first week back since my toe injury.  Weights, floor exercises, half hour on Arc Trainer, run a half mile to test out the toe, ten minutes of soccer ball drills

11:30 am Lunch meeting & interview with fellow student Jim Shoff

2:30 pm Tutor undergraduate student

4:30 pm Return home, start laundry, unload dishwasher

5:00 pm Help kids with homework–Math help for Sam while Kate requires assistance to focus on anything that isn’t an animal or shiny

5:30 pm Start dinner while continuing homework help, more laundry

6:00 pm Usually in class by now but no class this week; phone call with childless friend whom I believe was sitting at a bar on the water in Miami across from his office–he sucks

7:00 pm Dinner, dishes, more laundry

8:00 pm Phone calls to finalize Thanksgiving plans with family while kids watch TV

8:30 pm Text wife to pick up another protractor for Sam, less than 24 hours after the last one was purchased

9:00 pm Cattle-prod Kate into bathtub

9:15 pm Remind Kate to bathe before water gets cold

9:30 pm Wash shivering daughter myself, wife arrives home following one of her two weekly study nights for EMBA classes

9:45 pm Kids in bed, wife’s night to read with Kate

9:50 pm Phone call from parents

10:10 pm Text reading, computer work

1:00 am Bed

No TV but I don’t consider that a loss.  Also absent was any significant contact with my wife, which she probably doesn’t consider a loss.  Mixed into the day were about a dozen car trips, a few random calls and several email and social media checks (except for Facebook, which I check about as often as I replace the AC filters in my house).  Took the picture below of me just before bed.

Does this make me look fat?

Actually I didn’t, I’m just jazzed for the opening of the next Harry Potter movie.  That’s a picture of Dobby, a house-elf from the Potter books and movies, and that pic is of course the copyrighted material of Warner Brothers.  I do feel like him some days though–not in a withered and persecuted sense but rather in the invisible, unappreciated laborer sense.  Better not tell anyone I speak Spanish or they’ll have me arrested.

My Cheap Stand Up Desk

November 15, 2010 3 comments

I blogged the other day about my desire for a stand up desk and my plans to re-create the budget model recommended here by blogger Dawn Foster.  She was able to piece her desk together for around $20; mine was double that but I’m still pleased.  The pic below shows how I arranged the shelves so I can easily place one foot at a time on the bottom shelf, which reduces fatigue and helps me stand for longer periods.

I’ve been using the desk for a couple of days and really enjoy being able to have my computer in the kitchen while cooking or looking out my backdoor during my coffee and email time.  It’s not the most attractive piece of office furniture but it works.  It especially adheres to our family condition since I quit work and entered school–if it’s not ghetto, we don’t own it.

My $40 Standing Desk

Recipes from a Busy Stay-at-Home Dad

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve always enjoyed cooking but didn’t get to do a lot of it when I was working.  Now that I’m at home and in school, I’m cooking quite a bit more, both out of necessity and because it provides a much needed sense of creative accomplishment.  Plus my family are eating healthier, even when I’m in a night class and can’t actually be at the dinner table with them.

These are some of my favorite recipes.  Most require a minimal amount of prep work and cooking.   And all of these reheat well for another meal or if, like my house, someone is always arriving home late.  Try one out and let me know what you think.

Cuban Black Bean and Ham Soup

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Cuban Black Bean and Ham Soup

  • 3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 pound lean or low-fat cubed ham
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • ¾ cup diced red bell peppers
  • 2 tbsps minced garlic
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsps chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 quarts fat-free chicken stock
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • low-fat or fat-free sour cream
  • cilantro for garnish

In a 5-quart stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, red bell peppers and garlic. Sauté vegetables for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Stir in ham and cook 2-3 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. Season with cumin and cilantro. Sauté for 1 minute to allow spices to toast. Blend in Rotel and tomato paste. Add chicken stock and black beans. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If a thicker, smoother soup is desired, purée half of the soup in a blender. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of cilantro.


Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce–great with chicken

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

  • 3 tblspn extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
  • One 28 oz can Cento crushed tomatoes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn by hand into small pieces
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

In a medium hot skillet, add olive oil and garlic.  Just as garlic begins to brown, add tomatoes.  Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until tomatoes and oil separate.  Add basil and red pepper flakes, cook an additional 2 minutes.

This sauce is best with chicken.   Try it added to the pan with the chicken during the last 10 minutes of cooking or with a sautéed chicken breast topped with melted mozzarella cheese.  Try it with ziti or angel hair pastas.