Now here’s the alternative!


(I’m kidding…..I think that I freak Jenny out a little bit when I mention moving around or living in a van. I don’t think that it’s a very appealing alternative for a family to live in a van…..)

It’s not so appealing if you can avoid it.

(If you can’t avoid it, though…..I really appreciate the creativity and resilience that it takes to figure out a way to make it when things are really hitting the fan. There’s got to be something better than just surviving….but to be able to just keep going is a good thing.  I do think that living in a van….unless it’s by choice…would be kind of hard.)

Hopefully, we’ll be able to avoid it.

To pour salt on the whole concept…..this van is old and rusty.

If I was going to pick a downscale way of life, I better find a way to do it that’s aesthetically pleasing.

Now check this out…..upscale van life complete with good food and paying off school loans.


I think these guys have a better camera than the guy who made the first video had.

There’s something about the second video that feels a little less dire.

If you have a Kickstarter campaign that coincides with your adventure, you probably aren’t parking down by the river every night.

You’re a hipster with a “lifestyle choice”.

And….check this out….big debt….out on the road.

So, it’s not any different than most of us…..


It’s funny to see how different some people’s range of choices are.

Some don’t even seem to have much choice at all.

Rusty van….or  a vintage Westphalia with organic food and mobile internet…..and a big pile of college debt.

And…..no matter how technologically connected or astute you are…..it’s still really hard to get out of debt, too.

“Van Life”….sounds good to travel around…..but I better get my place fixed up first.

The Rock Stars’ Manager


Sometimes I feel like a manager…..putting the chairs away in a cavernous hall, repairing all the damage caused “post-performance”.

Of course, I co-manage this whole deal.

In fact, I don’t even think that I’m the main manager of this organization.

I may be the road manager or something….the sanitation engineer….the chief mechanic.

I don’t know.

But….the show seems to be going on all around me….all the time….and it’s a “band” of rock stars with more demands than just the old cliché about “only brown M&M’s.

All these “clients by default”…..these little rock stars.

It’s funny how parents become the support crew.

It would be pretty sad if they couldn’t rise to that role, though.

So we become managers…..facilitators…..but when all of the crowds have gone away, and the rock stars are asleep, and all is quiet…..sometimes we take to the stage when everyone else has retreated…..and “turn on the microphones and plug in the guitars….and rock out”.

Who would have thought the managers could do that?

Who thought the managers were anything other than a vehicle for the “other ones” to shine.

What child understands that the parents have a life, too?

I didn’t….I was too busy trying to expand….trying to stretch out and figure out just what I was and could be.

That’s the secret parents carry with them….as they watch from the wings of the stage, they think, “I remember how that felt. Now look at them go…..”

That’s their secret….all the living parents carry with them….watching the little guys turn into big guys…watching them have their own lives….but, remembering that they have a bunch of living under their belts, too….remembering that everything that led up to this time is just as important as the things their children are going through.

And the thing that started it all was a shy sideways glance.

That’s pretty wild.

Who sees any of a life hurtling towards us?

Who thought we’d be “managers” someday?


Here’s a new Martin Sexton song….from his new album “Mixtape of the Open Road”.

Martin Sexton….so good.

“You (My MInd is Woo)” Martin Sexton

The Count

A friend at work said, “We’re going to have to call you The Count….” when this whole process started three weeks ago.

I didn’t get it….he had to tell me “Sesame Street?”….. for me to get it.

Sparrow was sick when I got home from work.

104.7 sounds like a good number for an FM station….but it’s not a good number for a little girl.

Jenny gave her some medicine…and the fever dropped.

The two of them are asleep still.

This count….this count….this thing that’s captured my attention and concern this past three weeks….the thing that determines how many weekends I get to spend with my family…..this thing that tells me how much money I make and how long it takes me to make it…..

This freaking count….

It is nothing.

I get all jacked up over nothing.

Jobs come and jobs go….and each one has its moments that get me kind of emotional….highs and lows….silly things that fill up my “worry pool”…..

And, then….I have a sick child and I realize that the thing that I use to support our needs is really NOTHING.

It’s nothing.

Not a single thing.

It just doesn’t matter in the light of a sick child.

Today is the last day of the count.

I guess that they extended it because of the holiday.

That’s fair….and I’m surprised that they didn’t try to adjust “the matrix” in some strange and cryptic USPS way to avoid doing it today, too.

One more day of this BS….but today, I have a secret.

My job is a tool….it’s a tool that I can pick up or put down (well, actually, I can probably only “put it down” once….unless I can get creative with all these sick days that I’ve never used….)….pick up or put down any time.



I have a little girl who is sleeping comfortably who was sick last night.

That’s the real thing.

That’s the “substance”.

sell the shadow2

Welcome to the Matrix


Today is the last day of a three-week “mail count”.

A mail count is what the Post Office uses to determine how a route is rated….and the rating determines how may days the driver has to work to make the money he or she gets to take home.

A big route….with a lot of mail….might be a “K route”….which means that the driver works 5 days every week and takes home a reasonably large paycheck.

Right now, I’m a “J”….so I work 5 days…..and then the next week, I work 6.

An “H” route is the least desirable…..you work 6 days a week every week if you run an “H route”.

During the mail count, they count all the mail that they bring you from the plant…..count all the steps you take to process it….and then use something that they call “the matrix” to determine what kind of route you have.

During this mail count, we’ve had two major weather events that made it hard to get into work….and hard to run the routes.

I wonder if it made it hard for the people who send out our mail to get it all to us?

That would be bad.

If the volume of mail was down because of the weather, it might be down enough to drive me into a less desirable section of the matrix.

I don’t want to be in a bad spot of the matrix.

So….today is the last day of the count….and I should know how it affected how the post office values what I do.

Of course, “the matrix” is completely objective. It’s supposed to be a straight count…..and what comes in is what’s evaluated.

Of course, legend and urban myth has it that during the count, mail is squirreled away until it doesn’t stand a chance of harming the Postal Service’s bottom line.

I’ve heard rumors of truckloads of mail staying on the road to avoid being introduced into the mail stream.

It all sounds like paranoid conjecture to me.

It’s strange to consider that what determines how much we make is dependent on the mail volume during a 3 week period of the year when historically the numbers are going to be low.

That’s by design….you don’t want to count when the numbers would be skewed in the driver’s favor.

You don’t want to count at Christmas, for example.

That would be crazy.

We’d all be “K routes” if they counted at Christmas.

I’ll know how this all went when the day is over.

Maybe I’ll be a different letter of the alphabet when all is said and done?

Maybe that’s the problem with the Post Office? The only thing that’s evaluated is the thing that means the least to our customers?

I know that the first commercial that said, “NOW YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAND IN LINE AT THE POST OFFICE!!” should have been a warning sign.

We’re not a bunch of robots….not trained monkeys.

It shouldn’t be a pain in the rear to interact with the people who send your letters across the country.

I don’t know if I want to interact with the Matrix again.



The Jeep I Drive


It’s a good thing to wake up to a pretty… benign…. situation.

I never know what’s going to happen….weather-wise.

They called for possibly 10 inches of wet snow…..and when I woke up this morning, it was only about 5 or 6″ and pretty powdery.

Man….that’s a different kind of situation.

That’s “quiet and everybody else staying inside” kind of snow.

I’ll have the roads to myself in a soft and gentle winter wonderland.

That’s the kind of snow where it’s good to have an excuse to have to drive around in it.


It’s good to be able to drive around in fluffy stuff like this…..not the hard and slick stuff that you drive across and look behind you and your heavy car hasn’t even made an impression in the surface of the “white stuff”.

There is something that’s a lot less imposing about this stuff.

It’s more fun….less dangerous.

I get nervous about weather these days.

The USPS doesn’t give us the option of saying, “I’m AFRAID!! I DON’T WANT TO DELIVER THE MAIL TODAY!!!!”

We can’t say that.

I believe they’d send us out to mosey around the route if the world was cracking open and fire was spitting out from the depths of hell itself.

If management was safe in some protected bunker somewhere when everything was hitting the fan on the surface, I think that we’d get the call to get out there and bring the people the Victoria’s Secret catalogs that they need.

It would have to something important….nobody would want to get their power bill if the world was cracking into smaller pieces.


It’s a blessing to have the potential for a fun day ahead of me.

That’s always a blessing to know that what I thought was going to be an ordeal is going to be kind of fun.

Of course, I’d never say that out loud.

“Don’t throw me in the briar patch!” is what I’d say.

So…..I’ll drive around in this soft white blanket of snow all day….and when I’m done, I’ll get to come back home.

I’ll get to come home and see the snowmen that I imagine that the kids will have made while I was gone.


That’s the best part…..


“home” Karla Bonoff




fields of vanilla ice cream


I don’t know.

I suspect that maybe Sparrow was thinking, “I know what ice cream looks like. I know what this stuff looks like. It’s cold like ice cream. I’m going to eat it.”

Or maybe she was just thinking, “I’m going to eat some of that SNOW.”

She’s pretty smart….I should give her credit for recognizing something she’d never really seen before.

“Never really seen before…..”

That’s pretty wild to think about.

All is fresh….all is new….everything an adventure.

And you get to take a nap whenever you want, too.

It has the potential to be a pretty big life….if the “big ones” hold up their end of the bargain and take care of the “new one” like they should.

The NEW ONE!!! Like some little astronaut…..wobbling around, thinking, “take me to your leader….”

Somebody’s got to be in charge here.

This snow sounds like it was the precursor to a much bigger snow.

This snow, they predicted about an inch and it seems like we got about 5″.

The snow that’s coming on Thursday is predicted to be about 7″…..so I suspect, given the ratios established earlier, that we should have about 35″ of snow.

That’s pretty deep.

That’s pretty deep…..and until you taste it for the first time, you never can tell…..it may be ice cream after all.

35″ is a lot of ice cream.

I better get my spoon ready.


ice isn’t nice….but snow is mo’ bettah?

tropical snow

We had a warm day and a melt off yesterday.

That was like a cooler version of minor league Heaven…..being able to drive around again on the black top….feeling the tires take purchase wherever I drove.

That was pretty wonderful.

I take so much for granted….all the time.

Traction is one of the things that I’ve grown used to.

It freaks me out to think that because my tires start to spin, and then the Jeep starts to slide, and then the Jeep (possibly) starts to slide faster, and then….in my worst imaginings, starts to slide over the edge of something tall and high….it freaks me out that the traction I’ve grown to love has failed me.

I hate sliding disappointments.

I woke up to snow this morning.

The weather folks told me it might snow a little…..but everything is white in my neighborhood….so I guess it snowed “enough”.

It snowed “just right”.

That’s what I’d say if I was a bear in a story.

But….I’m me….and instead I’ll say, to myself…”$%@#!!!!!!! SNOW!!! AGAIN!!!!    #$#%%^^@&&!!!!”

Those weird words are “curse words”…..like “dang” and “darnit”.

But, you know what? Snow really is “mo’ bettah”.

It’s “gentle slippery”.

I can deal with “gentle slippery” a lot better than I can deal with a solid and thick sheet of ice.

A solid sheet of ice is “Devil Slippery”.

School is closed today, though….even if it’s a gentle kind of slippery.



(I’m kidding….I know the rule….and I know my role.)


Who would have thought that after that brief respite that I’d have another round of slippery stuff to work around so soon?

Life sure can be crazy sometimes….even if it’s only the weather.

“amid the falling snow” Enya







I get up early in the morning, as quiet as a mouse, thinking, usually, that I can carve out a few minutes of peace to sit and drink some coffee….and write this blog.

Lately, Nate has been waking up early, too.

No matter how quiet I am…..no matter if I don’t flush the toilet…..or how careful I am trying to bypass the squeaky step at the top of the stairs….or how much I tiptoe around trying to preserve my little chunk of silence….he wakes up.

Maybe he installed some kind of weird motion detector that I’m not aware of that alerts him to my every movement.

There has to be some kind of secret to it all.

I’m so quiet.

This morning, he woke up and came out to sit on my lap…. and visit.

He wanted to talk.

At 5:15.

Of course, Jenny woke up when she heard us talking.

The computer is right outside our bedroom door….and Nate and I were sitting at the computer desk.

Before it was all done, I could hear Nate…back in our bedroom, in bed with Jenny and Sparrow, playing with this new/old toy that Sparrow got yesterday, this little dog that talks.

The dog’s name is Scout.

Nate has a Scout dog, too.

It says his name…..and sings a bunch of songs…..and talks about colors and shapes and all sorts of things that a talking dog might want to say to a little kid.

We couldn’t find “Sparrow” in the list of names the dog could say….so he just spells her name.

Nate needed to get his dog, too….so pretty soon, he came out and walked by me again….got his doll….I mean dog…..and then came back and went back in with Jenny.

I could hear them laughing….could hear Jenny talking to the two little guys….and it hit me that maybe this whole idea of sanctuary is approaching the situation from the wrong angle.

I don’t think that I’ll remember a bit of my solitude.

It won’t be something that I look back fondly at.

Now, I’m not going to get on some weird high horse and pretend that sometimes/all the time I’m not desperate for some personal and quiet space.

I love some peace every now and then.

But the crazy, random, noisy and volatile “kid time” is the thing that I need to be paying closer attention to.

That’s the thing that I will look back on….and miss.

It’s something that I better find the energy to pay attention to while I still have the chance.

I need to redefine what my idea of “sanctuary” is.

Anyway, I spend time with myself all the time….and sometimes I wonder if I’m really all that much fun to be around.

I do have to wonder, too…..what the heck is waking Nate up?!

I’m so quiet.


my favorite habit


I am surrounded by comfortable habits that I take for granted.

Like my family.

It’s not always “comfortable” to be a parent.

I guess that’s true.

Life is messy. Things happen. We never know what lays up ahead of us. We never know what’s going to happen.

Everybody’s life is like that. Nobody can plan for every occurrence.

My biggest habit, though, is being a parent.

I’m the catcher in the rye.

The buck stops….and starts….with me.

That’s kind of weird to really realize that. It’s common….knowledge….that we sweep under the rug because it’s so common.

We don’t think about it because it’s an everyday kind of thing.

Now, I have my normal habits that are so regular that if I don’t make my coffee and take my vitamins in the same order everyday it makes me feel like I’m really “bucking the system” or something.

I don’t believe that I’m OCD or anything….but I am a creature of a small range of habits.

I do the same things…the same way…. because the efficiency of it lets me be lazy.

Sudden bursts of efficiency let me lay back the rest of the time…..or something.

Maybe that’s the internal goal….but it seems like, no matter what I think or plan,that there’s always something to worry about doing…..and then, sometimes, actually do.

I think that our heads would explode (!!) if we could really see how much all these people….all these “soul wrappers”….all these members of our families really mean to us and to our lives.

Our heads would explode if we understood how much some of these things….these people…. really mean… before we’re gone.


I bought some sandwiches from Ingles last night….submarine sandwiches….hoagies….grinders…..what do you call them?

Sandwiches…..like at Subway….but better.

I brought them home…..and we ate them for supper.

That sounds a lot more mundane than it is.

Maybe it’s as mundane as it sounds.

Nothing too fancy about that.

Nothing too special.

But….I looked around at that “mundane” scene….and the thought crossed my mind that, “hey!!! This is my favorite habit.”

I don’t think that there has been a single good thing in my life that I didn’t take for granted.

My inattention has damaged.

My shotgun-like distraction has made me miss things while I tried to see everything in the world.

While I tried to see everything, I missed the things I should have been noticing around me.

What’s that “forest for the trees” saying?

Can’t see the forest for the trees?

Having something that I can take for granted is something that I better pay closer attention to.

Not everybody has a chance not to notice something good like that.

I better wake up.



PS….Isaac took this picture.


You grow up….and life is a lot more than just a cartoon.

I think that the safest thing to be is the guy who lives in a cardboard box out in the woods somewhere.

Nah….that’s not really practical with a family.

You can’t do that to your family just because doing your taxes drives you insane.

The thing about it all that makes me a little crazy is that THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU MADE, HOW YOU MADE IT, AND WHERE IT ALL IS.


And if you screw up because you don’t really know what you’re doing, they’ll come after you and try to get it.

I think that it’s just a way of seeing how clever you are.

“The rich” know how to shelter and protect…maybe it’s just a way to give them a chance to keep their money?

Ah, what the heck…it’s all some kind of twisted game that I hate.


That’s a strong word.

It’s good to pay your fair share…..and it’s good to pay your taxes.

It’s the American Dream.

The result is beautiful…..but the execution of the idea is horrible.


Ahhhhhhhhh……I’m a whiner. Everybody does their taxes. People can figure it all out.

So can I.