The Armstrong Family Circus

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Maineville • Ohio • USA

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Angst And Joy: The Top Dad Moments of Whatever in 2012

Monday December 31st 2012

by Paul Armstrong


Let's call this the end of the year rant against my life and humanity and everything that I've pent up for 365 days (which isn't to say it's all about the bad, there certainly was more than enough awesome things in life this year). These are the things that have happened in our lives in 2012.


Let me first preface this entire post by saying this is a piece of creative writing. This is not a pure representation of who I am at all times.


The Terrible

  • Money is stupid. I had a dream that making a steady paycheck would solve all our financial hurdles. Consistency would breed savings and comfort. I forgot that this is my life and God hates me and wants to inflict as much discomfort and trouble in my life to teach me that I deserve nothing, am nothing and will have nothing. Or something. As quickly as money comes into your life is as quickly as it leaves. It solves nothing if you don't change the problem. Some things will forever be with us — taxes, food, clothing, shelter — there is no way to avoid it, but even when you do your best to avoid spending on meaningless things; somehow money still finds a way to get on a train to Splitsville (I don't even know what that means).
  • People are terrible. There's a wonderful quote from Men In Black (yeah, I'm going to quote Men In Black) "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals" I know and love many people, but humankind as a whole consistently infuriates and disappoints me. Despite the reasons why (the fallenness of man, his need for a Savior), we're truly horrible beings — one needs do nothing more than watch CNN for an hour. But as a whole we are so petty and full of ourselves (says the guy who is ranting and raving about petty and insignificant things), expecting everything for nothing, having problems with everything but never offering a solution, whining, bitching, moaning and hiding behind the shield of a device or a computer to be and say terrible things; believing there is no consequence because it's not real. I might be curmudgeon-y, but I try my best to never be petty, myopic, vicious and vapid.
  • Home ownership is overrated. Your psychotic neighbor will try to sue you because you improved your backyard without his permission (and you'll have to hire a lawyer to make sure you're protected from his insanity and to bully him into stop being a jackass). Your sump-pump will break and flood your basement right before Christmas (for the second time in 6 years). Your trees will die and you'll have to pay to get them chopped down. Your HOA fees will go up every year, so they can police your lawn to make sure it's green enough (otherwise they'll fine you, which means you either have to find time in a day that is already full of work and raising kids and helping them with their immense loads of homework and making home-cooked meals so you don't get fat and spend money eating at restaurants and spending time together so that we don't forget what's important in life, but you have to be out working on your lawn every weekend for hours with chemicals and seed and hoses and watering or you can pay someone else to do it with money you don't have). Or another neighbor will passive aggressively tell your wife that her husband squealed his tires (once because his tires were low) and she's frightened for her children because I'm he's reckless. Or a major appliance will break right when you feel like things are finally, financially back to normal. Or you have to pull what looks like a dead rat covered in toothpaste from a clogged drain. Of course I know that owning a home versus renting doesn't eliminate most of these problems, and that I'm lucky to even be able to afford a home (remember how I just said humans were horrible?), let alone a home like ours. And that I chose to be in a neighbor, in the suburbs, where the only way people feel alive is by forcing their neighbors to care about useless things like lawns and trees and mailboxes. But sometimes I feel it's all very overrated.
  • Winter is the worst. Our family unit of five has been sick for nearly two moths straight. It feels as if our house is trying to kill us. Or maybe our neighbor is poisoning us. But since November nearly every weekend someone is sick with a fever, coughing, throwing up, or bleeding out of their eyes. Sure, sure, snow is beautiful (when it snows and you're not sick so that you can actually go enjoy it) but the majority of winter is dead and gray and cold and somehow filled with viruses that get passed around like a plate of popcorn. You suck winter. I hope you die.
  • Getting healthy is terrible. I vowed that I would get healthy (and erroneously attributed running to health) but after a few weeks I found I was more tired and in pain than if I hit my knees with a hammer. I'll stick to riding a bike. I mean, what are we running for? Are we hunting our food? Are we traveling to get water? No, we're running because we love pain. Hips. Feet. Knees. Maybe at one point in our human existence we were "meant" to run, but this is 2012 and there are far less damaging ways to get healthy (biking, swimming, lying in bed and watching House Hunters)
  • Kids are a bummer. You hear that parenthood is a sacrifice, a selfless process of putting these little beings before yourself. But you can't ever fathom all the things you will miss out on. Forget the things you did because you were without kids or single. You will be ready for an awesome evening in the city with your wife leaving babysitting duty in the hands of what you hoped was your capable thirteen year old daughter only to get a call twenty minutes into the evening that she can't do it and you have to go home. Or going to a wedding as a family; all dressed up and looking your best, only to have your almost four year old throw up all over the lobby — right after the ceremony. Or you'll spend an entire day building an IKEA bunk-bed only to have your son hate it so you take it down and put in a normal bed only to have your son sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor of his room forever thereout. No, being a parent is full of personal disappointments, not just at how terrible at the duty you are, but that even the most mundane or pure-motivated activities will be postponed, stalled, revoked or cancelled because you ultimately have to do what is best for you children.
  • Getting older sucks. It's not just that I turned forty this year. It's not just that I feared I might have colon cancer because every time I took a poo there was massive amounts of blood. It's not that sometimes when I yawn I somehow pull a muscle in my skull that makes it feel like a hamster is clawing at my brain. Getting older sucks because all of those times when you stayed up late or didn't get a good night sleep suddenly decide to "cash in". Even after a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep you wake up tired and ready for bed. I look forward to crawling back into bed with a healthy pour of Scotch or bourbon by my side more than just about anything. So pile onto that sleepiness the stress of trying to string together enough money to save for your retirement or a nice vacation or your kids college (I cant't believe I typed that with any sort of conviction) and paying taxes and unexpected fees and bills and emergencies the fact that you are closer to death than to life And that your parents have a decade or so left in them. And that you will be going to more funerals that weddings. It's hard for me not to be consumed with the weight, with the knowledge that — despite my belief and faith — when things come to an end that beyond my lifeless body and closed eyes is somewhere that I am unprepared for. There is only faith to comfort my fear, and as a man who thrives of knowing things and problem-solving, my faith falters in my fear and sadness of leaving behind the only thing I can possibly perceive. This is aging. And it sucks.


The Awesome

  • Costco is the best place on earth. I'm only slightly more excited about going to Disney World (and or sleeping) than a trip to Costco. Maybe its the smell of churros in the rafters. Or the birds that swoop down toward you in the bread aisle. Or how whatever they food they put out for you to try seems like the greatest thing ever made. First, I have seen the same employees working there for years and years, clearly they're doing something right internally to have that sort of retention within the retail marketplace. Second, they have very good quality goods. Third, you can eat a meal for $2.50 (I have no idea why I don't do every lunch there). Did I mention churros? When you have three kids and you cook at home all the time, Costco is like God french-kissing you.
  • Rdio is magic. I can't tell you how many times my day is brightened or given perspective just by listening to music. Without Rdio I would never have discovered so much new and incredible music. As contrived as it may sound, music fills my life with more meaning. It's a reference to places or people or periods of time. It's frames the context of my existence. It helps me think and feel and create.
  • Time is expensive. Time is a greater gift than any physical object could ever be. You can't buy, earn or find more time. which means learning not to read comments or feedback on a product you're developing and designing and have invested yourself into because it inevitably comes from a bloviating asshat who thinks the world has to cater to their opinions and desires. To quote The Smiths, "why do I give valuable time to people who don't care if I live or die?" Giving your time to someone is valuable — use it wisely.
  • Making something that matters is amazing. We all do something that matters. I'm not one to believe that life is without reason. Simply working to provide for your family matters. Not everyone has the chance to work at something that will have some sort of meaningful effect in someone's life. This year I have been able to work full-time developing and designing a product that (we hope) has a positive impact on families around the world. Sure I've worked hard to get to this point in my life — slow and steady wins the race and all — I can't help but feel unreasonably blessed to have a business partner that I love working with, employees who share our vision and values, investors that believe in what we're trying to do, and a wife and family that blindly supports my risky endeavors. I get to exercise all my talents in one place, for a good and lasting cause. I have no idea where or how it'll all end up, but I could not have predicted where I'd be today compared to a year ago. I get to make fart jokes, draw monsters and soon make toys. TOYS! I certainly don't feel I deserve any of it, but I will make damn sure that I value and enjoy it every day that I'm able to do it.
  • Wisdom is a gift. There is no way you can earn wisdom. Not even the process of aging gives it to you. While I can't claim to have much wisdom, when I see it in others I see what a gift it can be. Call is perspective. Or patience. Or thoughtfulness. I know just enough to know that I'm unsure of many things; that I cannot be above change or listening to someone else.
  • Friends are a blessing. We're all very strange creatures, crippled with our own insecurities, idiosyncrasies and personality flaws. It's a miracle that anyone can stand us, let alone call us friend. I have many great friends that I'm shocked tolerate me; which is why I do my best to make sure they know that I love and value them by spending as much time with them as I can. I never want to look back on my life and regret a relationship unexplored (even if that means mercilessly teasing one friend about how short they are, or another on how they are constantly 15 minutes late, or another about how hipster-esque they appear, or how another is uncomfortably in love with sweaters and shrugs and sewing machines, or how another is such a nerd that you can hear his nerdjuice overflowing at the mention of something something nerd related). I would and will do anything for my friends, and I truly hope they know that about me.
  • My family is forever. Sure, my kids are a pain in the ass. They don't listen. They fight. They say horrible things to each other or us. They deliberately disobey. But they are my legacy. They are the only thing that matters in this life. They are a reflection of my values. They are all of who I am. While I cannot control the people they will be, being actively involved in their lives has a better chance of positively influencing their lives than devoting my time and values to my career (which isn't to say my career isn't important, but a life lived only for a career is empty without relationships to make it complete). This is why I drive my kids to school every day. Why we eat (nearly every) meal together, why we say "no" to many extra-curricular activities. There is a lifetime of choices and pain and sadness and lessons and jobs; but this is the only wife I have, the only children I have; and I will do all I can for them to let the know they are valued and important. They are my legacy, they continue my story when my chapter is over.



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