Careful What You Wish For

At the beginning of this year, I wrote an entry about how I wanted more projects in my life.  How I wanted to create things.  So far, mission accomplished.

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We finished our shelves down stairs.  They turned out pretty great I think.  We’ve already run out of room, but I have no regrets, as this was about as big as those shelves could fit in there.

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After that I started tearing into the Wrangler, which is still up on jack stands in the garage.  I have the feeling this is either going to end up being an easier… or much harder project than I have anticipated, but since the Wrangler is a bit of a toy, it’s been put on the back burner as we fired up all sorts of other things after it got started.

The biggest one has been the new floor, which has been pretty well documented on my Twitter feed @kartmaster.  I’ve helped putting down flooring like this before.  That snap together stuff.  But I’ve never been the dude in charge before so it was a bit intimidating.  Mostly because if I screw it up we have to live in it and look at it every day.

Sometimes people will say to me things like, “You should do that for other people and make some money.”  Here’s the thing.  This took me like a month… working after work.  Taking a day off when I just didn’t feel like it.  Getting mad.  Nah.  There’s a reason people pay other people to get this done.  And if I were to fall one way or the other from the DIY fulcrum, it would definitely be the customer side.

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We also sold the Cutlass and the red Jeep here this year too!  I’ll got into some more detail about the emotions behind all that in another post, but selling things like that is work.  I hate selling stuff, putting up with the people.  Wasting your time on the flakes.  But it’s done and I feel pretty good about how it all ended up.

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Selling those led to getting a truck.  I’ve never really needed a truck especially since we got the trailer.  Almost everything we’d need to do could be hauled around there.  But when we started riding ATVs, and as Luke gets older and we’re looking at getting a gas powered one for him, logistically it is going to be a lot easier to put his ATV in the truck, and the other two on the trailer.  Even with his little power wheels one now, loading up is a two person job to get Andrea’s beast turned sideways on the trailer.  So I’m looking forward to spending more time riding, and less time loading!

Of course days after buying the truck I was already diving into a project there.  On the test drive, I knew right away the first thing I would have to fix was going to be the seat.  It would slide around as you were driving like you were sitting on marbles.  It lead to feeling really not in control, haha.  “How hard could it be!?”  Turns out, actually, for once, not that hard.  I cobbled together some scrap pieces from around the shop, built some new bushings, put it all back together and it works great.

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I’m thankful to be able to do these sorts of things.  Thankful for Youtube mostly.  No matter what my problem, I’m NEVER the first person to have it and there’s almost always an ingenious way to fix it that I never would have thought of myself.  I’m thankful to have a wife like Andrea that trusts me to take these things on.  She used to ask me, “Are you sure we can handle something like that?” back in the day when I’d bring up a project.  Now she knows that… it may not go like we planned, but we’ll figure it out.

To be honest though, I’m ready for a break from some projects for a while.  I’m ready to get out and play.  We haven’t been riding at all this year except on the dirt roads around the house.  I have tools and piles of wood, or tires, or supplies everywhere.  I need to return to a normal resting state of existence for a while.  Careful what you wish for I guess.

My Love Letter to the Switch

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I still remember back to that moment that I got hooked on Nintendo.  I was 6 years old, we were visiting one of my Mom’s friends that lived on Avenue C in Dodge City.  The boy that lived there had an NES in his room, and we were playing Super Mario Bros.  I couldn’t believe there was this whole world to explore inside the TV!

Eventually we got our own NES at home, and I could play whenever I wanted.  Except when I had to go to school, or to the store with Mom, or to Grandma’s house, or any time anyone else wanted to watch anything at all on the TV.  In the 90’s the Gameboy was a thing, but the experiences were always so much more limited that you still kinda wished you were playing NES.  Now, exactly 30 years later, my dream is finally realized.

As I’ve grown up, gaming has waxed and waned as one of my great passions in life.  How I remember being a 15, hopelessly a slave to the N64… Mario Kart 64 Time Trials, GoldenEye Fests, 120 Star runs in Super Mario 64.  Then I said to myself, “No matter what happens, no matter how old I get, gaming will always be important to me.”  It brought me so much joy, it really did, that it was hard to imagine life without it.

That is life though, isn’t it?  Right when you think you can’t be any more happy, or any more miserable for that matter, life shows you a whole new level of it you never thought existed.  The hard part is I think we as humans have a tendency to throw ourselves at whatever the new shiny is.  At times to the extent of saying that nothing that has come before could possibly compare to what we have now.  And by extension, that what we had before must be “crap”.  I don’t know why we do these things.  We get rid of things we treasure because we are convinced that something newer is better, we will mistreat the people we love in order to win the love of new people who are basically strangers.

I don’t think that’s a fair way to treat ourselves.  It’s not fair to look at all of your past choices as mistakes or shortcomings, because of something new that you never saw coming ended up happening.

When I got that NES back in 1988…  It was wonderful.  Beautiful.  And that is an experience that I don’t feel like should be diminished because experiences now are so much richer and complex.  To extrapolate, that the feeling of holding that gold Ocarina of Time cartridge in my hand for the first time isn’t an experience I shouldn’t value, because how could it possibly compare to the birth of my children.

Unequal and valid.

So far the Switch has been becoming this common point that so many of the things that bring me joy intersect on.  It’s a place where I can play 2 player Super Mario Bros. with Lucas.  I can team up with Andrea in Rocket League.  Re-live the cookyness of Final Fantasy X-2.  I can play Ice Hockey with Dad in a hotel room.  I can re-visit old places from Ocarina of Time in Breath of the Wild.

But that’s not the best of what the Switch brings to my life.  Switch makes gaming fit into the nooks and crannies of life.  Switch doesn’t make me choose it as the most important thing.  It’s the master key that magically takes the shape of whatever you need it to be.  If I have 5 minutes before work, an hour over lunch, a 6 hour window on the weekend.  In the living room, in the car, at my desk.  It can find a way to fit, without having to push aside family, responsibility, or any of those other adult realities of life.

This “adult life” though is up to you what you make it.  You could let your responsibilities carry you away without having a choice, or live life completely to your own whims to the detriment of those around you.  Contentment is a bit of a moving target that always exists somewhere between those two extremes.  And I’m thankful that all along that spectrum, the Switch is always available to keep a part of me that brings me joy near.

 

 

So far… so good.

I had mentioned in the previous post that one of the things I really want to get back to is creating things.  Making things.  And thus far in 2019 I’m off to a pretty good start.  We built some under the stair shelves that turned out pretty great.  Not necessarily perfect, but I’m more than satisfied given the talent and tools that I had available.

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Overall since the holidays have wrapped up, I’ve been in a pretty good place mentally.  It’s so easy to stop and think about all the things you want to do, or want to have, then get sad that you don’t have them, or convince yourself that you’ve made the wrong choices to get where you are.  I think that’s a little short sighted.

Problem is that line of thinking has no end.  It’s a game with no way to win.  For example.  I want to build and make things, I also want to spend time with my family and have fun watching the kids grow up.  I want to fix up and restore the black car and the Jeep.  I want to play more games and get through some of them that I really enjoy.  I want to go see family more.  I want to ride ATVs.  I want to play D&D more.  I want to go on vacations.  I want to study Spanish. I want to stay home.

Choosing to do any one of those things, takes away from all of the others.  It’s the opportunity cost of making your choice.  Everything you choose to do comes at the cost of whatever else you COULD have done instead.  But I refuse to feel bad about these choices.  Because the option to do ALL of them was never an option at all.  You are only one person that can be in one place at a time.  To be disappointed that you can’t be everywhere with unlimited resources at all times is something silly to be upset about.

I’m putting my best effort into being thankful for the opportunities that I have to do any number of things.  To not be resentful of the experiences that I couldn’t have, but rather to be grateful for those that I did.

To Create

I need to take some more time to sit down and make things.  It’s one of my favorite things to do.  Whether it’s something artistic, or something useful.  Putting something out there into the world is super rewarding.  I’m going to get there…

First things first though, you have to take care of the things you have to do.  Work, yes.  But I’m trying to weave more creativity in to my day to day hum drum tasks.  The trick is not spending too much time on it.  I work because I like my job, but I also work so that I don’t have to.  So that I can spend time with my family, so I can do some of the other things I always say I “don’t have time to do”.  But even in this time I need to find more opportunities to put a creative spin on the regular.  It’s easy with my show to try something new, see if it works or not.  Harder when you’re filling out reports or making schedules.  And I need to finish my Christmas shopping!

The internet is great for inspiration, but at some point you have to stop scrolling.  In my scrolls this morning, looking for Christmasy things to talk about on my show, I spotted a wreath made out of caution tape that someone had made for the police station they work at.  And I thought, that’s the kind of stuff I wish I could find time in my day to do!  Haha.  There’s always going to be the nay-sayers wondering if you used company time, or wasted office supplies.  But I feel like there should be a little bit of company resources dedicated to joy and comradery.

I’ve made quite a few things I’m proud of this year.  I made a mount for a light bar on my ATV, fixed and fabricated a new power steering bracket for the Wrangler.  I made a little plastic flip card for Luke’s bike that makes it sound like a motorcycle.  I made my awesome box for the trailer.  I’m just starting to feel the itch again I guess.

I want to finish our shelves in the basement.  We’ve had 3 holes in our walls for months now, and we just need to get some plywood and some trim to finish them off for what will be some really nice stepped inset shelves.  It’s a 1 day project and just need to do it!  I still want to make a MAME Arcade cabinet.  But that is a bit more of a financial restriction.  I need to build some easy storage for some of my tools and spare parts in the shop.  Most of that I can do with scraps I have laying around.  And there’s the big project of fixing the Jeep frame that I just need to start pulling things apart.  And there’s that Clarissa Explains it All podcast that I’m still looking for a dedicated co-host…

All in time.  I know.  I look back and I got more done than it “feels” like.  Not guilty or anything.  Just gotta make time for more.  Balance… balance is everything.  Balance is hard.

Fall!

Aww. Isabelle is the best. It’s nice to see some cute and safe for work Isabelle fan art for once.

I’ve been playing a bit of Animal Crossing lately. Looking forward to the Switch version for sure. The seasons are changing in the game just as they are in real life too.

Luke has been super excited for Halloween. We carved our pumpkins today, I fear that by the actual holiday on Wednesday they’ll be looking a bit gnarly, but it’s always a fun tradition, made even more so by Luke’s anticipation of it all.

Also took the day on Saturday to head out and hit the trail. Might end up being the last nice weekend of the year, and boy was it beautiful.

I was just talking the week or two before about how both the ATVs have been running all year, but nobody wants to ride. Andrea and Karina went out last week and I went out this week, so I’m glad that’s happening again.

I spent a lot of time alone in this ride, just thinking about things. I guess I got it all sorted out. Either way, it was a beautiful day.

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Goofing Around

Not a long blog this time around.  Just a couple pictures of running around last night.  Andrea was stuck working, and Luke had put on his calendar over the weekend that today was the day to go to the park.  So we loaded up for a little cruise into town and decided to take the back roads.

Andrea had just washed a ton of mud off the Jeep from a muddy ride we took together on Saturday.  And we happened to hit a couple small puddles on our way into town.  Don’t worry, I cleaned up my mess, haha.

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The park was PACKED.  Was a bit refreshing to see.  People say kids don’t play outside anymore, but there was no shortage of all ages this evening.  Little itty bity babies, litter than Emma.  All the way up to the jerk teenagers.  Saw one kid tackle a girl to steal her Takis.  A kid three or four years older than Luke took great pleasure in out running Lucas all over the playground playing “tag”.  I didn’t mind though.  Luke went out pretty early.

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Kids can sure be jerks though.  And it’s a little tough to explain why to Lucas sometimes, because I really don’t know.  Heck usually the kids don’t know why they are mean.  One boy called Lucas a baby.  Luke was fairly concerned because he knew he wasn’t a baby, and it was important to him that this other kid knew that.  But the other boy was just trying to rile Luke up.  Instead of getting upset, Luke just followed this kid around the playground for about 10 minutes explaining how, objectively, he was not infact, a baby.  Haha.

The Current Things

I’m into a few things right now that I keep bouncing back and forth between.  Not enough time to enjoy all of them at once.  And I feel like chaining myself to one thing until completion makes the fun stuff feel like work.  So I do my best to remember where I left off, and dive back in when it feels right.

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Octopath Traveler is my main game of the moment.  It’s a new “old school” style RPG.  It’s very much my flavor.  It’s turn based, so there’s no timer making you sweat it out.  You can take as much time as you want in between turns to really plan out your strategy… or make another run to the beer fridge.

The story isn’t amazing per se.  There’s some really good moments and some really hard hitting lines though.  Above all else, the game is beautiful, and the MUSIC.  Oh my god.  It’s possibly one of the best sound tracks I’ve ever heard.  I love getting to a new area just to hear a brand new song.

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Cheers has been on my list for a long time.  I’ve probably been watching it on and off for a couple of years now.  There’s so many episodes.  Heck, that show was on for 10 years or more!  And I can see why.  It’s one of those legendary prime-time style TV shows that has a cast with real chemistry, and just some of the best writing in television, ever.  I’m working my way through it, and even though it’s taking forever, I’m ok with that because I’ll be sad for the day that it’s over.

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The Green Jeep.  I haven’t posted about it here yet I think.  So Andrea’s been wanting this bad boy for a long time.  Like years of talking about the somedays.  Well we’d always casually send classified posts back and forth, and one day this thing popped up and it was in our price range of about $5,000.

We went to look at it.  On the way there, I told her… if it has rust in the frame, or rust in the body mounts, I don’t want anything to do with it.  “Ok.  She said.”  We looked at it.  It had rust in the frame and the body mounts.  “It has rust in the frame and the body mounts I said.”

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“Yeah…” she said.  Well, I knew what this meant.  She still wanted it.  I mean, it looked like a Jeep!  Good enough, right!?  So I decided… okay, Matt.  If you’re going to deal with this rusty heap… what would you be willing to pay?  I offered $600 less than he was asking and he took it.  Probably thought I was a chump.  I probably am.  Haha.

Well either way, as most of these abused and neglected vehicles do in my life.  It’s grown on me.  We’ve got the stuff to fix the rust.. It’s going to be a pain in the ass, but Oh Well.  I’ll appreciate it more when it’s done.  Or something like that.

For now we’re just driving it and enjoying it for the purposes we bought it for anyway.  It can’t really get much worse in the short term.  And fixing the frame is the winter project.  I’ll learn something if nothing else.

In between it all, I’m of course working, dad-ing, and husband-ing.  I find some times for retro games still every now and then.  OH and I’ve been dedicating more attention to my Animal Crossing town.  The new game for Switch was announced a while back and it’s renewed my excitement for the game.

So right now I’ve got about 90 minutes before bedtime.  Not sure what’s on the plate.  Octopath?  GoldenEye?  Tough choice.

They’re not wrong. But it’s not for me.

I’ve spent a week without social media recently.  No twitter, no facebook, no online interaction at all.  I turned off everything.  No notifications on my phone.  It was weird at first you know.  I’d pull my phone out of my pocket at a somewhat regular interval, because it was “about time” there was something there for me to see.  Except this time there wasn’t.  And for the first couple days it was weird.  Kind of the same feeling you get when you pull off the interstate into a rest area, while the rest of the traffic screams past you on the highway at a little bit more than the fastest velocity allowed by law.  Some going left, some going right, but all pretty much following the one ahead of them in an orderly fashion, bound by rules they all acknowledge and accept.  While I meanwhile, had to stop.

You see you don’t stop at a rest area because you enjoy the amenities.  Rest stops are built out of a biological necessity.  Given the choice you’d choose a gas station where you could get a candy bar and a Mtn Dew Code Red for the miles ahead.  Or in a best case scenario, make it home, to the only bathroom on earth you can feel comfortable in naked.  But here you are, at exit 328, if nothing else for a quick pit stop to make the next leg of your journey somewhat bearable.

The rest stop analogy ends there for the most part.  I was growing weary of the amount of attention required to be given to my phone.  I once pulled my phone out of my pocket and was informed I had 22 notifications.  Twenty-Two.  At any given point along my existence up until now, I don’t think there’s any singular point where I’ve cared about 22 different things at once.  Messages, sports scores, news updates, recommendations, reviews.  There’s NO WAY I’m this important that twenty-two different people or organizations NEED input from ME.

And for the first time in my life that I can recall, it was starting to affect my real life relationships.  Not that I was spending too much time on my phone… but because I wasn’t spending ENOUGH.  At the right times.  With the right people.  Saying the right things.  Sharing the right stuff.  To the extent that it was starting to effect my REAL LIFE relationships.  And THIS really pissed me right the hell off.

You see, I exist in a pretty unique and remarkable moment in human history.  I remember when email was new.  I remember IRC, ICQ, MSN Messanger, AIM… and then later when text messaging was the thing.  Always as each new thing came out, and people used it to communicate more and more.  I still saw them as a substitute for actual interaction.  “This is the thing you can do when you can’t be together.”  It was the ‘instead’.  You used it to in the moments between the time you really wanted with a person.  Could you have meaningful conversation?  Sure.  But it was never the first choice.

I feel like I’m witnessing another remarkable moment in human history as I breath this air.  Digital interaction isn’t just as important as face to face interaction.  It’s maybe even more important.  We’ve wrapped so much of our identity and actual lives around the pixel portal we hold in our hands, that it literally is a relevant measure of who we are as a physical person.  And the fact that we have access to it at literally every living breathing millisecond of our lives makes it… completely reasonable.

Who is a person without their phone?  Does it matter if they always have a phone?

When I realized being bad a phones, meant I was being bad at relationships.  I suddenly did a full stop.  I never thought about it before, that having constant connection and constant contact, or at least the ability to do so, was a reality of my existence.  It was for better or worse, and by choice or not, a reality of how the world saw me.  I could be reached at any moment.  Therefore expected to respond at any moment.  By contrast, I could reach out at any moment.  Therefore expected to do so at any moment.  I have always said, “I’m not good at everything.  I just try to only do the things I’m good at.”  And I suck at this.

Besides.  It’s not what I want.  It’s not who I want to be.  I don’t want to be known for the sweetest links.  I don’t want to be a master of the emoji.  I don’t want to be the person who can craft the most heartwarming text.  It may be how people prefer to experience me rather than taking up their actual time and space, but to be honest, if that’s the case… I’m not sure it’s worth my actual time and space.

Goals

Man, when I was a kid, especially late high school, I remember how important “goals” were supposed to be.  We were encouraged to make goals for the day, goals for the week, goals for the year, 5 year goals… to write them all down and then come up with a plan, and check in on our progress.  To write down sub-goals that we needed to achieve to meet our goals.  And daily goals that would ensure we were always working on our big goals and where we wanted to be.

As a kid, you always are sort of thinking about what you want out of life.  Often influenced by what you consider successful in the lives you’re exposed to.  I never dreamt of having a big mansion on a coast somewhere, probably because I never knew anyone that had one.  But I’m sure for some folks… that’s their goal.

Truth be told, I despised all of that.  I wrote down the goals because I had to, and probably never ever looked at them again.  I sorta remember what I thought my life would end up like back then.  It’s pretty different than reality.  I figured I’d stick together with my friends, we’d move off to a place more interesting than Ingalls, and be close enough that we could all get together after work, and just hang out and be… well the same.

Something, that of course never happened.  We drifted away, pulled in different directions by people, opportunity, or just apathy.  One of my favorite things is listening to stories about how people got from where they were to where they are now.  It’s almost always for a reason or two or ten.  But I hardly ever hear anyone who arrived where they are know, because they had specific goals and a plan they executed to get there.  Maybe everyone hates goals.

Even to this day, you can ask Andrea.  I hate planning things.  I hate having days and weeks scheduled out in advance.  And I don’t always like to talk about the future and what we’re going to do, because a lot of it never happens.  I hear folks all the time talking about what they are going to do, what they’re going to buy, or what they want to create, only to never see it happen.  I’m not any different than them.  But I’d rather not set people’s expectations, you know.

Rather than focus on plans, goals, and destinations.  I prefer to just work on my character.  What is it that I like?  What is it that brings me joy?  What makes me the kind of person I want to be?  Every little decision we make, every left or right turn we choose, leads us to where we are now.  You can pick a destination in life, and try to work your way backwards to where you are now, stressing on figuring out what you need to be doing now to get yourself where you want to be THEN.  Am I making all the right choices?  OR… I like to think that if I try to take all the little things, and do what I think will make me happy, do the things I won’t regret, I’ll end up in a place that is perfect for me.  Whether I knew it existed before or not.

Aprendiendo Español

I don’t know if I’ve ever written about this here, or not.  But over the last year, I’ve been making an actual effort to learn Spanish.  I have no good reason to learn Spanish.  Of course it’s one of those things that everyone around here who doesn’t know Spanish says, “It would be really good to know”.  Inferring that it opens up opportunities and maybe will let you know if someone in the cereal aisle is being critical of your fashion choices.

On of my friends is bi-lingual.  I grill her on the language a lot and she obliges.  If I were to look into the future (far future) of my Spanish speaking existence, I don’t  know that I see myself finding that one great reason that learning Spanish will finally pay off.  My impression is that she finds herself being the nearest available translator in random situations.  Never compensated, and more than anything burdened with a responsibility of “getting it right”.

I never really thought about a second language being a sort of weight to carry with you.  Think about it.  When people need a translator, they need a translator.  Because whatever it is, whatever they’re doing, language barrier or not, they need to get it done.  So if you step in to translate for these people… you need to get it right.  That’s kinda of a big liability to sign up for out of the goodness of your heart.

Learning the language has taught me a lot about people.  I see how language can be so divisive.    Over the years, I’ve encountered people who know little or no english at all.  As a person is struggling to get their point across, searching and grasping for the phrase that will trigger a mutual understanding…  In the moment it’s hard to see that person as intelligent.  As your equal.  It’s easy to think, “this person is dumb”.  But how can you really make that judgment then and there?  What if you’re actually talking to the smartest most compassionate person you’ll ever meet in your life.  But because you can’t understand them you write them off as another idiot too lazy to learn.

More than any other quality we possess, skin color, lifestyle, education, I feel like language is more intimately tied to our culture.  A black man and a white woman can sit down and discuss what makes them the same, what makes them different.  Whether they agree or disagree on any concept that exists.  An english speaker and a spanish speaker can’t.  And what I’ve learned in my own admittedly narrow world view, is that so far… people are a lot more alike than we are different.  Traditions, beliefs, cuisine, humor might all be wildly different.  But what is right and wrong.  How a person expects to be treated.  What is fair.  We’re all on the same page.  It’s really brightened my view on humanity.

This is hard.  Really hard.  I’ve been at this for 10 months now.  Practicing at least a little bit most days.  I can read so so at least knowing enough context to make sense of it.  I can barely write and speak.  I don’t really have the opportunity for conversation, but listening to podcasts and watching shows in Spanish leaves me about three or four words behind and then I’m lost.  I don’t think it’s HARDER than I expected.  Just that I couldn’t do it “my” way.  Which was basically just expose myself to as much of it as I could and one day it would all sink in.  There’s just more too it than that.  You can’t learn something you don’t know by osmosis.  You have to put in work and effort and just straight hard memorization.  Just this week, 10 months into it, I finally broke down and ordered some textbooks.

I’m excited to get more comfortable with the language.  I’m excited to be able to express myself in it.  I’m excited to be challenged by people.  And to be quite honest, I’m excited for it to get easier.

En este momento, estoy feliz para saber que se.  Estoy feliz de hacer esta oración.  Quiero continuar aprendiendo mas.  Gracias por leer y si decidas hacer algo, no tengas miedo.  Si es dura.  Entonces el regalo sera genial.