This is week 153 of The Life of Riley, a weekly post detailing my activities since I ended a thirteen year career as a corporate drone. These posts are usually long, personal, and geared more for my own memory than the reader’s entertainment.
Sunday (Day 1064): He Was Probably A Loner As A Kid
I stood over the stove groggily tending a pan of sizzling Sunday bacon, while #1GF! tended to the baby. I was setting a hot plate of loose eggs and crisp bacon on the table, just as #1GF! put the baby down for her first nap.
#1GF! quietly closed the door to the baby’s room and sat down at the kitchen table while I finished washing the pan. She flipped open her lady tabloid and drifted off, contentedly eating eggs and reading. She managed to spend a solid five minutes enjoying her Sunday morning before I dragged her into a conversation about books. I mentioned that I had a couple of book ideas going at the same time, and was trying to figure out which would get written first. I explained the plot of the first book before my monologue veered into the wildly exciting areas of grammar, plot lines, and characterization.
#1GF! stopped me. “You know, when you tell me about this stuff, it sounds like homework.”
“Outlines, plotting, grammar,” she held up her hands and shook her head, “it’s like you’re back in school. I don’t know how you do it.”
I looked at her with wide eyes. “Because I love that stuff.”
She looked at me like I was incomprehensible, but strangely cute—the way a kid looks at a picture of Sea Monkeys long before realizing that all they really have is a cup of shrimp with a really good marketing team.
“Well, what is the second book about?” asked #1GF!.
“Remember the story I was working on about [Ninjas! Gun fights! Exploding barrels of awesome!]?”
“Well, I’m still trying to figure out the character’s motivation for doing something so wrong.”
“He was probably a loner as a kid.”
I rubbed my forehead. “No, I mean, to take on that kind of risk, it would have to be a very personal vendetta of some sort.”
“He’s probably just sick of his boss.”
I stopped. “…And he’d risk jail time over that?”
“Well, sure. He sounds like a good guy.”
“Hold on. Think about it. Would you risk jail time?”
“No, but I wasn’t a loner as a kid.”
I rolled my head back. “He wasn’t a loner as a kid.”
“How do you know. Have you written out his history?”
“Right, and you can’t because he doesn’t have a history. Know why?”
I rolled my eyes.
“Because he was a loner.”
“Listen to me. He wasn’t a loner. He isn’t a loner. He won’t be a loner. All I need to figure out is if he’s inherently good like Robin Hood, or pure evil like Hans Gruber.”
I put on my worst German accent. “Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?” I raised my eyebrows waiting for recognition.
#1GF! nodded with recognition. “He’s not a Hans Gruber,” she said very matter-of-factly about a story that wasn’t even started.
“Well, I have to figure out if he’s motivated by greed or good. Or maybe all the good he does is just a diversion for all the bad stuff he’s hiding.”
“But, then he’d have to get caught in the end.”
#1GF!’s eyes widened. “He can’t get caught. Wait, does he get caught? Does HE? He doesn’t, right?”
And this is why I think I can write. I have the best audience in the world sitting across from me at the table every day.
#1GF! gave the baby a bath, and fed her while I went to take a shower. When I got out, I cleaned up the kitchen, and #1GF! left the room. The baby was still in her high chair, so I gave her some yogurt snacks to entertain her. They’re like little purple globs that melt in her mouth to teach her to feed herself.
Now, my baby likes to shove every bit of food in front of her into her mouth at the same time, so I always limit the number of snacks I put in front of her. This time, I put out four purple, dime-sized snacks and let her go nuts. What damage could she do with four meltable bits of yogurt?
After the second cough, I went over to check on her. She looked fine, but all of the snacks were gone. A quick check of her chair told me that all the snacks were in her mouth. From the ol’ CPR and first aid courses, you know if someone’s coughing, they’re on their way to working out the problem on their own. I saw three snacks appear on her tongue when she opened her mouth. I thought about sweeping them out with my finger, but they looked pretty dissolved, so I stood in front of her tensely waiting. Two seconds later, the baby coughed again, her entire lunch shot out of her mouth like a fountain.
My strategy is that if the baby isn’t in danger, I try to resist the inherent impulse to catch her every fall and correct all her mistakes before they happen. This time, I felt like I misjudged the danger. I not only felt awful, but I felt like a bad parent.
#1GF! grabbed the baby and went to clean her up.
“I’m sorry,” I said, my head weighed down with more than a little shame.
“It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”
“I saw the snacks, and I thought about sweeping them, and then I thought she’d resolve it herself. Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.”
“I feel like a rotten parent.”
“This is going to happen.”
#1GF! took the baby to change her outfit, and I cleaned puke off of the high chair and the baby’s clothes while reviewing the scene in my head like a lost football game.
After everything was cleaned up, #1GF! finally jumped in the shower. As penance, I spent forty minutes trying to get the baby to sleep. Those long stretches of trying to get her to sleep are the most frustrating part of baby care. As you shush a baby who doesn’t want to sleep and walk your fiftieth revolution around her small room, an aching line forms at elbow height across your back as a physical reminder that you are failing. It’s frustrating enough to make you take a five or ten minute break to stare at the floor afterward.
Once the baby was asleep, #1GF! and I sat and edited LOR 150. I was really tired of reading what I write, but watching #1GF!’s reaction ended up being fun, as it usually does.
Later in the afternoon, we took the baby out for a walk. Temperatures were in the 80s, and the beach was jammed with strutters, intent on giving the world a sneak preview of their soon to be released summer bodies. We made our way through the crowded sidewalk, trying not to laugh at the seriousness with which they took their pedestrian choreography.
We strolled along behind the carriage, watching people smile at the baby as we passed. One and two-year olds would point and say, “Baby!” which I always think is funny, considering their own status. One teenager passed and actually said “What a beautiful baby,” which was unusual to hear from such a young woman. A guy sitting on the seawall smoking turned to the person he was sitting with and said, “Did you see that kid’s eyes?” It was all cool to hear. Then, to make sure that we had a well-rounded beach experience, one teenage girl with straight blond hair, a blank expression, and a curl in her lip said, “Is that a baby?”
“That girl just asked her friend if I was pushing a baby,” I said to #1GF! as I rolled my eyes behind the blackout sunglasses that I’ve been wearing a version of since the days of NWA.
“No, she did not.”
“Yes, she did.”
“What an idiot.”
“Now, now. It’s fairly common for guys with homeless looking beards and blackout sunglasses to push around their dollies around in full-sized carriages because it’s the easiest way to smuggle guns and dwarf hookers up and down the beach when there are a lot of people around. Maybe she was an undercover cop.”
“Yea. Or an idiot.”
“Well, she definitely looked the part.”
We went home, and I was possessed by a stink that had overpowered my deodorant, attached itself to my shirt, and was threatening everything within a three-foot radius. I went to change my shirt. When I returned, I found #1GF! sitting on the stoop talking to a neighbor. I sat down and joined in. It was still 86 degrees and humid, but it was comfortable in the shade.
In the late afternoon, we went out to pick up some formula. The baby fell asleep on the ride, so #1GF! went into the store and I sat in the car. “Do you need anything?” asked #1GF! quietly.
“Look at my beard and memorize the color,” I whispered. “Then get some Just For Men so I can dye my beard and blog about whether it works or not.”
#1GF! studied my face. “It looks red to me.”
“Awesome. Never mind.”
#1GF! went into the store, and I sat in the car writing notes. They didn’t have formula, so she bought hair care products. I looked through the bag, and there was no sign of an age-defying beard dye.
The baby was still asleep when we got to the next store, so I stayed in the car again. We parked so that the sun was coming into the front seat because it was better that I broil than the baby. I continued writing in my notebook and surfing the dial until #1GF! returned.
I was hoping to pick up a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style while we were out, but I didn’t need it right then and I could probably get it cheaper online anyway. We went home, and I realized that I had been as useful as a dashboard figurine on that ride. Actually, I was probably less useful because I don’t have any secret voodoo powers. Sure, it was nice to get out of the house, but I didn’t even leave the car during the entire trip.
We went home and #1GF! gave the baby another bath to get all the sweat and sunscreen off her before she went to bed.
I went through Writer’s Digest‘s most recent 101 websites for writers. After sifting through the list, I realized that many writing sites are very similar to sites about blogging. They all offer tips that you think might be useful one day, so you bookmark them and file them away. By the time you reach the point where you think they’ll be useful, you realize that most, if not all, of your collected tips are pedestrian and relatively basic. I managed to find five feeds to add to my feed reader, but the odds of me ever actually reading any of them, however, are pretty low.
I shut the PC down, and #1GF! and I ate sandwiches for dinner because we weren’t hungry enough to cook. Then, we watched a couple of DVR’d shows because we weren’t awake enough to think. We went to bed soon after.
I lay in bed, and all the writing sites got me thinking about pro-blogging. I wondered if I could simply claim to be a pro blogger and gather a following by offering general blogging tips for people who are more clueless than I am. As more people subscribe, my claims of being a pro-blogger become legitimized. I then write an e-book on pro-blogging and offer personalized training at an exorbitant rate. Then, I write the book that blows the lid off of the pyramidal scam at the heart of the pro-blogging scene…or I just keep my mouth shut and buy that J-Diggity rope chain with a big dollar sign on it. Either or.
Monday (Day 1065): The Drunken Jumping Wonder Giant
I went out to get a haircut and do the food shopping. I came home and took care of a baby who didn’t feel like napping. I tried to put her to bed for an hour, and then #1GF! tried. Both of us failed. She didn’t take one nap all day. Before I knew it, it was 4:30 PM and the day was gone. And with no naps to break things up, it was a long and incredibly tiring.
When I went to make dinner, I found out that the onion that I had was rotted. I ran out to the store to pick up another one. It was a simple mission. All I had to do was buy an onion. So, how the hell did I end up whacking my head on the big plastic case hanging above the checkout? It’s not like I’m Sticky McGee the drunken jumping wonder giant or anything. I’m not that tall. The clerk apologized as if the checkout were hinged and occasionally swung into unsuspecting customers.
I felt my head when I got home, and had whacked it harder than I thought because there was already a scab. I started dinner, and #1GF! took the baby outside to watch the neighborhood kids play.
#1GF! put the baby to bed, and we spent the remainder of the night watching bad TV off of the DVR while we ate our soup.
Tuesday (Day 1066): Thigh Baby & The Tiny Bionic Arm
I woke up in the middle of the night, sat bolt upright, and grabbed #1GF!’s leg.
“What? What?” said a panicked #1GF!.
Just enough consciousness seeped in that I knew that everything was okay. “Sorry. Sorry. I was dreaming that the baby was on the bed, and she was making a run for the edge. I was grabbing her before she plummeted to a neck injury.”
#1GF! was not relieved to hear the news about our fictional thigh baby. We went back to sleep until the alarm commanded that we start the day.
“How are you doing?” asked #1GF!.
“Actually, I’m a little stressed.”
“I’m afraid that I’m going to have the same kind of day as yesterday, and I’m going to spend a lot of time trying to put her to sleep when it’s not in her plan. She was not good yesterday.”
“She was fine. We were just trying to force her to do something that she didn’t want to do.”
“You’re right. I guess if I assume that she’ll be up all day, and she sleeps, well that’s a bonus for me.”
#1GF! gave me a look that seemed to say, “You’ll figure it out.” I wasn’t so sure.
#1GF! got off to work, and I put the baby to bed. I got an hour and a half of writing in while she slept.
When the baby got up, I gave her a bath, fed her a couple of times, and kept her from climbing on things that I knew would topple over underneath her teetering little frame. I put out some pans and plastic containers to distract her while I cleaned up lunch, and then spent thirty minutes trying to get her to go to bed. She wouldn’t fall asleep. I gave up and put her in her crib hoping that she’d fall asleep on her own. I went to the kitchen and ate a sandwich at the kitchen counter. When I checked on her five minutes later, she was standing in the crib and smiling at me.
I picked her up and rocked her back and forth to get her to fall sleep. She latched onto her thumb, but wouldn’t nod off. After twenty minutes, I had given up on the possibility of her going to sleep and was about to take her out of the room. The baby whined and flopped on my shoulder like she was exhausted and about to drop off. I walked in circles for another twenty minutes before really giving up. I spent over an hour trying to get her to go to bed, and it was incredibly frustrating.
I took the baby outside to sit on the stoop with me for a for a few minutes, which helped me to relax a little. We then went in and I entertained her for a couple of hours until she was ready to eat. Books or magazines are a huge distraction for the baby when I feed her, so I usually can’t do anything more than stare out the window while she eats. During this feed, I read a book on writing because I knew that she would fall asleep midway through. Sure enough, she did, and I put her to bed. It was already 3 PM. I poured a cup of coffee and went in to write down the day’s happenings so far.
And I have no idea what went down from then on. I probably got interrupted by a mutant Tyrannosaurus with ninja training and a bionic arm that escaped from the basement of the local sewage treatment plant. I have to adhere to a gag order by federal law enforcement about the ensuing battle, but a tiny bionic arm was probably the dumbest (and probably ridiculously expensive) addition that I have ever seen added to a battle-ready Tyrannosaurus.
Wednesday (Day 1067): Unhooking The Meter
#1GF! went off to work, and I got the baby to sleep. I sat at my desk to start going through the Life of Riley, which I couldn’t stand writing anymore. I checked my stats to see if it’s even worth the time, and even though it was still pulling in thousands of page views, readership was flat to a slight decline. It didn’t seem like it would ever do better than it already had, no matter how much time I dedicated to it.
The posts were already eating up half of my week, and by the time I’m finished with them for the day, every drop of writing has been wrung out of me. It was Wednesday, I was still working on the prior week’s post, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. I’m fucking tired. I’m fucking tired of having a beard, I’m fucking tired of writing down every boring fucking thing I do. Sometimes, I just want to lay on the floor and let the world pass unmetered.
Even if I could bring myself to lay on the floor instead of writing, the world would still be measured. I would still end up writing myself through moments in my head, and there is no escaping, “I have forty-five minutes until the baby gets up. I have thirty minutes until…was that the baby? Did I prep the bottles?”
Once you have a baby, you’re almost constantly on. And when you’re not, you feel guilty, so you put yourself on call. Don’t get me wrong. I love that kid, I love being home, and I love taking care of her. I even love writing this blog. Somewhere in the no job / baby care cycle you hit a point where you start asking yourself, “Is it Wendesday?” Soon after, you hit the point where you realize that it doesn’t fucking matter if it’s Wednesday or not. The only thing that matters is whether it’s bath day or not. Or garbage day.
I have the best job ever. I do. Despite my self-created goals and schedules, I’m actually free to do what I want all day. I could take the baby down to the beach and watch the waves all day if I wanted. I could keep the baby from eating sand for a couple of hours a day, and wake up in a couple of years with a good tan, a happy baby, and an uneasy feeling that I should’ve done something more with what little spare time I have.
I slumped in my chair. When I sat in a cube for eight hours a day, I wanted something more meaningful to do with my time. And now that’s what I have. I write and take care of a baby. I really couldn’t ask for more. Yet, after nine months, I rarely have enough time, and when I do have the time, I don’t have the energy to face the fact that I haven’t moved my writing past the edges of this blog over the last few years.
That’s it. I’m done. Thanks for putting up with the rant in the present tense. I can already hear the baby stirring.
I fed the baby a couple of times, and for the third day in a row, she refused her midday nap. I wasn’t fighting with her. She was staying up if she wanted to stay up. I put her on the floor of the kitchen with some pans and made myself a sandwich. I had the same look that 50s housewives have in movies when they’re standing at the counter and blankly watching their kids through a situational or medicinal haze.
After I ate, I debated whether I should run errands, but gave up on the idea because I didn’t think it was a good idea to haul fertilizer with the baby in the car. I rummaged through the mail, and got an estimate back from the landscaper for grading the lawn. I counted one too many zeroes for my budget. I shook my head and looked down at the baby. She was standing in front of the cabinets. She had never pulled herself up on a flat surface like that before. We shared a smile at her accomplishment, but I was the only one who realized that I was in trouble.
I entertained the baby for a while and then took her out for a walk. I’m not one for walks, but I thought that we needed to get out of the house. It was hotter than I expected, and the skies were completely clear. We walked along the roads adjacent to the beach where the smell of beach grass and hot sand drifted on the air. I couldn’t possibly describe the smell beyond that it smelled like summer.
I walked along with the pink stroller, and was happy to have a beard. At least people could get a chuckle out the biker looking dude pushing a pink stroller instead of pitying the poor, clean-shaven bastard.
By the time we got home, the baby still had an hour before she ate, so I sat with her on the steps. She soon got bored, and we went back inside so that I could chase her around and practice saying no.
I fed her half of her normal meal and she started crying about everything because she was overtired. She would try to go one way, stop, then grab a book, then sit down, then stand up. I couldn’t help her. I picked her up, put her on my shoulder, and waited for her to fall asleep. She did about fifteen minutes later. It was already 3 PM.
I went in to write down the days events and gave some serious thought to my idea of giving up the Life of Riley. On one hand, I enjoy writing it most of the time, and it still manages to bring in a few thousand page views a month; on the other, it was becoming the anchor that drags down half my week and keeps me from spending time writing something that could actually see the inside of a publishing house.
In the middle of weighing out the pros and cons, the baby woke up not whining, but screaming. I ran into her room because I had no idea what was wrong, but it sounded serious. She ended up being fine. It was just a new trick she picked up to get me into her room faster.
Once she was up, we played for a while. By “played” I mean I kept her from climbing on things. I made dinner and put it in the fridge, and then the baby and I sat on the front stoop until #1GF! came home.
I went inside to figure out what I needed to get done with what was left of the evening. I was debating between going to the store or mowing the lawn. Neither really got my juices flowing, so I lay face down on the bed for a minute to think and fell asleep right there. #1GF! woke me up within a half hour and I had no idea where I was. I never fall asleep like that. Needless to say, neither the lawn nor the food shopping got done.
I got up and finished off the LOR post by 8:30 PM that was supposed to be out two days before.
Thursday (Day 1068): Just Skip This
I had a normal morning of baby care, and looked up landscapers and jotted ideas for a book in my spare time. At lunchtime, I went to my parents’ house because my mother left a message telling me to. I was either taking the baby to their house, or they would be coming to mine. If I went to their house, I would have to drive, but I wouldn’t have to clean.
The baby and I stayed for a couple of hours and got home by midafternoon. I got the baby fed, and into bed within the hour. I continued working on the book until she got up. I fed her again, and #1GF! came home. #1GF! mentioned that she wanted the lawn done, so I went out and mowed it. She tried to stop me, but you know, if the lady of the house gently requests a clean lawn, that’s no problem. I showered and made dinner while #1GF! put the baby to bed. I warned you to just skip this.
Friday (Day 1069): Destination Unknown
I had a normal morning of baby care, and once the baby was down for her midday nap, I started working on my book again. It was an amorphous, headless pile of crap. I hate the beginning of a story. It’s randomly pulling things out of the air. It’s wasting time. It’s driving around at night without a destination.
#1GF! called to remind me to order flowers for my mother for Mother’s Day. I spent way too much time looking at flowers. I still didn’t have anything for #1GF! for her first Mother’s Day.
Once #1GF! got home from work, we took the baby out for a walk through the neighborhood. It was so quiet. I typically don’t like walks, but it was pretty nice.
I made pesto for dinner and felt the inkling of a migraine before I went to bed.
Saturday (Day 1070): My Clones And I Will Be Waiting
I woke up at 4 AM with a full-blown migraine. I tried to watch TV and read magazines but everything was making me want to throw up. It was a good fucking time.
When #1GF! got up a couple of hours later, I told her about how Facebook stuck an application into my profile that I didn’t authorize. “No big deal, right?” I said with squinting eyes, “Except that when applications get authorized, the application has access to all of your profile information.”
“So?” said #1GF!.
“So?” I said as if #1GF! didn’t hear me correctly.
“Yea, so what? It’s not like you have anything personal on your profile anyway, Mr. Paranoid.”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s not the point. All my info could end up in a database somewhere.”
“Where? And what are they going to know?”
“What about your name, face, and e-mail address? Is that enough?”
“Or your relatives’ names? Or photos of them?”
“Okay maybe that’s not good, but what are they going to do with that sort of info?”
“You mean besides sending us more of those goddamned Lillan Vernon catalogs?” I made my hand into a phone. “What about, ‘Hello, #1GF!? It’s Bill Bradly from capitol One. You owe $13,000 for the seven credit cards you opened.’ Or what about, ‘Hi, #1Cousin? I’m Tom Shaverhaven from Shaverhaven Landscapes. #1GF! and #1SisterInLaw paid me to cut your lawn. May I come in to murder, er, discuss the details with you?’”
#1GF! stared at me. “Seriously. You need to write another book. You have a wild imagination.”
“When they start building clones from your MegaMarket Database profile, I’m going to say, ‘I told you so.’”
“My clones and I will be waiting.”
It rained all morning. I kept talking about looking at a foreclosure that we discovered on our walk the day before. It was ridiculous to think about buying another house, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. On the surface, the house seemed like a really good deal.
We tried to do the whole Mother’s Day thing a day early so that #1GF! could spend her first Mother’s Day relaxing at home with the baby and me. We did regular baby care all morning, and brought my parents lunch. We stayed there until late afternoon, and then went to #1GF!’s mother’s house for Chinese food. My last head-blasting, stomach-churning, sleep-interrupting migraine was still a little too fresh in my memory to take a Chinese food migraine risk, so I wandered around the house with the baby while everyone ate. Try to not eat in a house full of Italians. Smoking crack is more acceptable than having an empty plate. We left by 8 PM, and put the baby to bed once we got home.
At 11PM, we got a call that #1GF!’s mother was rushed to the hospital. As with all rushings, there were no real details. I offered to go because I suck at social situations unless they’re emergency in nature, but there was no way that #1GF! could stay home with the baby. I understood completely. I stayed home and watched TV while the baby slept, and waited for an “all clear” phone call.
What I Learned
- Three freeze-dried yogurt bits will choke the baby and make her throw up.
- Writing websites are a lot like blogging websites. At their best (or worst) they’re a collection of really pointless pointers masquerading as helpful information.
- I can inadvertently whack my head on almost anything.
- I do baby care in my sleep.
- Grading a lawn isn’t even close to reasonable.
- The words “breast pump” have the ability to make me nauseous during an early morning migraine.
- Facebook is increasingly treating its user base like a cheap commodity.