Tag Archives: Adulthood

Zippy The Changing Man

I’ve seen him laughing, crying and howling. I’ve even seen him dead.

Fortunately, he was only playing dead as part of a film project while away at University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Today is the day we celebrate every single aspect of the young man known to one and probably that’s all (known to me, of course) as Zippy the Travelin’ Boy.

Yep. It’s another birthday. This time, my middle not-so-little dude is leaving the teens behind and venturing into his 20s. It’s a bit of a shock to see the literal little handful, who had the most amazing head of thick, black hair when he was born, now grown into a young man who towers over his dad.

Zippy the Monkey BoyZippy the Travelin’ Boy has always been the most mutable of our sons. He’s gone through fashion statements (I’ll never forget the violent 180˚ turn he made from surfer punk to cowboy), loves, hates, political perspectives and just about everything else in his life as if he were in a fire sale at a department store and he needed to try on the clothing before it disappeared.

He’s been a bit of a chameleon, is what I’m trying to say. Oddly, considering he took so long to actually speak both understandably and out loud as a child, he’s probably the most verbally accomplished of the three dudes.

By which I mean that he’s always been the type to try out different accents and verbal tics and patterns, sort of like me. I started out early as well. As a young kid, I lived in England and got teased for being an American. So I developed a deep Southern accent, which came in handy when we moved back to Texas. However, as I grew older and started playing football, my teachers assumed I was an idiot because of the accent and the football so they expected nothing from me.

I didn’t like that. So I decided to drop the Southern accent and did, beginning to speak in a bland, newscaster-ish accent. To me, it was easy, but I learned that other people have a hard time doing that. I thought I was unique.

Until Zippy the Travelin’ Boy came into his own. He began copying the various accents I used when I read aloud to the boys and then doing better at them. He started mimicking the unusual voices he heard on television and in the movies, doing a stunningly accurate Bane voice that always cracks me up.

His latest chameleon turn came when he hit college. Since he was 2 and able to mispronounce it relatively consistently, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy (then known as Zippy the Monkey Boy both for his climbing skill and love of animals) wanted to become a marine biologist. Until he hit campus and discovered he would actually have to work and learn to earn that degree.

At which point, he discovered acting and fell in love. Since he wanted to make a living once he graduated, he decided to major in psychology while minoring in both Spanish and theater performance. It’s been fascinating to watch his ambition and skill flower in this new environment.

Whenever we talk about it, his mother and I are smiling like fools.

Which hasn’t always been the case. As he was growing up, I would only have given Zippy the Travelin’ Boy break-even odds that I would let him live to adulthood. He was the most stubborn kid I’d ever met and almost never used those powers for good.

Fortunately for us all, I was able to restrain those homicidal urges and even filled in the suspiciously shallow grave I dug on the sly in the back yard. He’s still stubborn and more than a little of a know-it-all, but he’s learning to actually listen to people with different opinions and has actually been known to listen to the advice from others without disdain.

All of which makes for a great opponent when I want to have an argument or refine my own opinion by seeing how it holds up in combat. His quick wit and merciless attack posture are the ultimate test of survivability.

As much as I enjoyed snuggling with the little dude when he was, in fact, little, I’m finding that I’m enjoying even more being around the young man he’s becoming.

Happy birthday, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy. We love you!

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Growing Older, But Not Up

I think I might actually have grown up.

I fought against it for years and years (hence the title, based on a fabulous Jimmy Buffett song Growing Older, But Not Up, embedded here for your pleasure.) but I think the years might have eventually worn down my resistance.

This came to mind yesterday when I realized suddenly that I actually enjoyed mowing the lawn.

When I realized this, I’m almost certain I felt a ghostly dopeslap to the back of my head by my mom, reaching out from beyond the grave to try and pay me back for all the grief I gave her while I was a young dude and it was my job to mow the lawn.

I hated it, dudes. Sincerely, loudly and with great passion, hated mowing the lawn. I would do anything to avoid having to get out there behind the mower, sweating in the brutal Dallas sun and trying to cut a lawn that would only grow back as soon as I got done cutting it.

Which, oddly, was my favorite argument as to why I shouldn’t have to mow it. Sort of like why it was dumb to make your bed since you were only going to sleep in it that night and mess it all up again.

I’m completely ignoring the fact that I’m the one who makes my bed every day now, just because it looks nicer than does an unmade bed.

As a young dude, when I was forced to mow the lawn, I’d grumble the entire time and then do as poor a job as possible. I didn’t mow in straight lines. I threw in curves, loops, circles and, on one memorable

occasion, Abe Lincoln faces.*

All of which meant that, as soon as I was done an put the lawn mower away, I could call myself done only until either my mom or dad saw the result and forced me to go back out there and get it done right. Which only led to more grumbling and groaning.

Amber Rose is an American model and performer who is married to some rap star and is the first person who's picture appeared when I typed Amber into Google Images, otherwise I'd have no idea who she was. Sorry, Amber.
Not the kind of amber I was talking about, dudes to the left.

Somehow, over the years, I’ve changed, despite my best efforts to cast my personality in amber and never move on into adulthood. It’s sneaky, adulthood. And it snuck in on me.

When I mow the lawn now, there’s a certain sense of . . . satisfaction, I guess. A feeling that, as the blades of grass fall to my rotating cutter, leaving behind a smoothish, shorter line, I have accomplished something tangible. And, apparently, I’ll take that sense of accomplishment where I can get it.

Growing up, it turns out, isn’t one big step, but a series of tiny, incremental ones that you never even notice.

Who knew?**

 

Footnotes & Errata

* I was very, very bored.
** Yes, everyone. Everyone but me. Yes, thank you for reminding me.

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How To Make Yourself Happy

There’s a growing body of thought that says happiness isn’t something that happens to you, but something you can go out and get, something you can create. Happiness isn’t a place, but rather a state of mind.

You can make yourself happy. If only you decide you want to do it, and find the right way to go about it.

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on happiness. Her booksHappier at Home andThe Happiness Project were both instant New York Times bestsellers, and The Happiness Project has spent more than a year on the bestseller list.

At her blog, Rubin talks about ways she goes about researching happiness and testing out various theories in her own life. One of those ways is to take on a happiness project. That is, consider creating a plan to make yourself happy. People resolve to do things that will make themselves happy.

And, according to Rubin, the number-one thing that people resolve, the first thing that they say will make them happy once they start doing it is. . . making the bed.

Yes, really.

Now, it’s true that some people thrive on a little chaos. They find a disorderly room to be comfy and casual. When one of my friends was growing up, her mother made such a big deal of keeping the house clean that now my friend has gone far in the opposite direction. Very far. Most people, however, even if they may find it tough to keep things tidy, prefer to live in orderly surroundings.

It’s a Secret of Adulthood: for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

You dudes have no idea how many times I’ve tried to drive this lesson home to the young dudes in the house. You should see their desks. Well, no, maybe you shouldn’t see their desks. They’ve been known to drive strong men to drink, less-strong men to scream and just-plain men to run into the night, even when it’s daytime.

“Why do I have to make my bed? It’s just going to get messed up again tonight.”

If your little dude or dudette is older than six or so, you’ve definitely heard that sentiment. And, yes, it will get messy again, but for the time it’s not. . . It’s as if theirs is a whole different room.

Rubin is right. When my bed is made, my room looks more open, less crowded, less like a cave and more like a space in which someone might want to live.

When my desk is clean and neat, I just feel better. I feel like I can get things done. Mostly because I usually use the excuse of straightening up to procrastinate when I’ve got work to do. Still, there’s nothing to beat that neat-desk feeling.

It’s something that really is difficult to get across to those young enough that they don’t understand it intuitively, as most adults do. Outer order contributes to inner calm. 

Give it a try. Even if you can’t get the little dudette in your life to do it right now, at least making your own bed will leave you feeling better, happier and more ready to face the day.

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