Saturday, June 23, 2012

Be careful what you ask for...

Well, it feels like I've fallen into the habit of starting my blog posts with phrases like, "Things are feeling pretty routine..." or "Not much to write about this week..." As a writer, it can be a little difficult to try and make the tedious and routine readable and engaging. Looking back on in, I believe I was complaining a little about how unexciting our lives have seemed to become. Now that I have something of not to write about, I can't help but feel that I didn't appreciate how nice it was to have a little bit of undisrupted routine in my life. There is comfort in tedium, but I think we're conditioned to dismiss it in favor of uncertain adventures.

For the last couple of weeks we have been very busy trying to get ready for the end of school. We haven't wanted to deal with the lingering stress of summer school like we did last summer. We wanted to enjoy our summer which meant we had to put a little work into things in advance of summer (there's probably a lesson in that somewhere).

In addition to the stresses of school, there are the stresses of moving. We have a good sized apartment, but we have no storage rooms or closets or unused corners in which to pile boxes or packed suitcases and the suitcases and boxes are most definitely piling up. In addition to the packing, there's the stress of sifting through all those things that you don't want to move. Two years later, and we're still unloading much of the furniture and other odds and ends we had mistakenly purchased at the beginning of our sojourn. It would be nice to sell some of the stuff, but, after having gone through the experience of owning it, I don't think I could bring myself to charge people for the experience.

This is what we got rid of this time (and I don't think we're quite done yet).

Then there's been the stress of my trip to Texas and Florida. I'm starting my doctoral program this summer and there's been a little bit of anxiety associated with that whole experience. Given the choice between traveling half way around the world and staying home with a good book, I'd probably enthusiastically declare my desire for world exploration and then retire to a bookish life under my covers. I'm always glad to have those adventures, but I'm not so good at enjoying them before or as they're happening. Most of the pleasures I enjoy in life are retrospective.

Oh, and then on the day we were to take off for Florida, I got in my first Abu Dhabi traffic accident. There are advantages to driving an SUV, but the ability to easily see small cars pulling up on your left is not one of them. I completely missed a car in my blind spot as I pulled out onto the street

Ironically, the accident was one of the least stressful moments of the last few weeks. Once I confirmed that the other driver was OK,  everything kind of fell effortlessly into place.

The other driver's English wasn't great. He kept saying, "No problem, no problem." And if it weren't for his incredibly calm demeanor, I would've said he didn't understand what he was saying to me. There was not the least bit of bluster or fist shaking that usually accompanies the post accident adrenaline spike. He had completely accepted what happened and the only thing left to do was call the police. Every accident, no matter how small, has to be reported and no body repairs can be done on a vehicle without a police report. When the accident officer arrived, there was almost a calming ritual to the experience. He began by shaking each of our hands and greeting us. He then took pictures of the damage to the vehicles and explained what I needed to do next. There was more hand shaking and then we parted ways. I've had beach days with more stress.

Julie's reaction to my accident was unexpected. After she made sure I was safe, she told me she was glad it happened. "Maybe, this will teach to to take a little more care as you're driving around on the other side of the world." She obviously felt this was a lesson I needed to learn before I spent too much time on my own.

Obviously, I didn't get much rest that night. Liam and I caught a taxi to the airport at around 11:30 in the evening and everything played out the way it was supposed to. Traveling with Liam is one of the most uneventful experiences of my life. He's a pretty low key traveler. He doesn't complain and makes the most of any given situation. Apart from how long it took to get from Abu Dhabi to London and the general discomfort of the economy seats, the trip couldn't have gone much better.

And yes, I took the liability coverage when the rental place pitched it.
This is Liam at the outset of a great adventure. I wouldn't say he was indifferent.

This was supposed to go up at the beginning of June

It's getting so I can judge a week's eventfulness by the number of pictures I take. These past few weeks I haven't taken any pictures at all. Everything is starting to feel a little routine which probably means that it's about time for a change. It looks like we'll be changing our living accommodations soon. It's a little overwhelming to try and navigate the housing market here, but I think we've settled on an area close to some people we know and relatively close to a karate dojo. Hopefully things will work out. We'll be sure to keep you posted.

There have been a few advancements in Karate. Just to keep everyone up to speed, Liam is at his Brown 2 in both Karate and Kobudo (that puts him two tests away from his black belt in each of those). Lucy is now a brown belt, Miranda has her purple belt, and James his yellow. It's been a great lesson in persistence and accomplishment. There was also a piano recital for Liam and Lucy. Their teacher will be moving back to China this summer, which will be keenly felt. They've both grown considerably under her care.

In just a few weeks Liam and I will embark on some serious father-son bonding time. It's a long flight from Abu Dhabi to Texas, but I think our relationship can handle that kind of unbuffered intensity. Liam will be off to his first EFY. I wish I had some experience with these kinds of things, I feel like I'm kind of throwing hi,off the deep end. How do you counsel someone through their teenage years when you were so miserable at the experience? I really have no advice to give him on girls or friends or hobbies or goals. I can't help but look back on my youthful experiences with regret and embarrassment. I guess I am a wealth of knowledge of what not to do and how not to be.

We're coming to the end of our school year. With the changes and challenges of this semester, it feels like it's been a long time coming. Not too long ago, the college I work at decided that there would be a shift from laptops to iPads for each student. You might imagine that this can have pretty drastic implications both on infrastructure and teaching. I've been involved on an iPad implementation committee which has made things busier at a time when they should be slowed down. It's not the change as much as the pace of change that can be a little overwhelming. I'm used to major changes going through several committees before being slowly rolled out. That's not quite how things play out here. It can be taxing, but, if you're up for it,it can also be very exciting.

I took Liam and Lucy to see Snow White and the Huntsman last week. It was one of those movies that would have been improved by the absence of dialogue--the design, cinematography and special effects were of the highest calibre, but the plot and dialogue were painfully cliched. However, it did give us occasion to discuss why The Avengers was so satisfying and this was not. It's fun to have conversations like this with Liam and Lucy now that they're getting to an age where their critical thinking skills are starting to blossom (and what better use of critical thinking skills is there than to extol the virtues of comic book movies?).

I've been reading a lot lately and ideas and motivation. Drive by Daniel Pink is an interesting book on what motivates people. Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson makes some great observations on the role of networking and collaboration in the birth of innovative ideas. It's good to think about why people do things, but you can go a little crazy if you think about it too much. We've also been watching Friday Night Lights and even though it's about football, football is the least important element of the show. As my kids get a little older, sometimes it hits a little too close to home, so I can't watch too many episodes too close together, but it is always worthwhile.

Speaking of my aging kids, Lucy turned twelve this week. I'm sure most fathers of twelve year olds completely understand how I'm feeling when I say, "Ack!" Any day now I keep expecting her to call me out for the fraud I am. "You don't know anything about parenting, do you? You totally lucked out with your kids." she'll say. And she'll be right.

Yup, I think it's time for a change

Is this drastic enough?