Of Mountains and Spain 2019

Three years ago, in light of our 30th anniversary, I promised the Good Wife a trip to a “Spanish speaking” country. It only took three years to pull of. The GW has always had a passion for languages, Swedish, Amharic, Spanish in particular. Sad isn’t it, that she married such a language loser, but she has to take responsibility for focusing exclusively on looks.

A week or two before the trip, while loitering in the kitchen, she said to me, “Being in Spain with you is going to be sexy.” Hubba hubba! All of a sudden the long distance flights seemed more manageable. But then I regained my senses and said, “Yeah, except for the fact that you invited our daughters.” Correcting the record, she smiled, “Ah, that was your idea.” What the hell was I thinking? Probably that their schedules would never allow it. They happily proved me wrong. We never should have taken them to live for short stints in China and Norway when they were young.

Here are the sordid details you so desperately want. The four of us shared small apartments in Madrid and Seville for eleven days. I was sick as a perro for about a third of the time. In the end, I’m sorry to report, there was very little hanky and next to no panky.

But all was not lost.

David Brooks in a recent piece, The Moral Peril of Meritocracy, contrasts first and second mountain life. He writes:

“If the first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self, the second is about shedding the ego and dissolving the self. If the first mountain is about acquisition, the second mountain is about contribution.

On the first mountain, personal freedom is celebrated — keeping your options open, absence of restraint. But the perfectly free life is the unattached and unremembered life. . . . 

So the person on the second mountain is making commitments. People who have made a commitment to a town, a person, an institution or a cause have cast their lot and burned the bridges behind them. They have made a promise without expecting a return. They are all in.”

And:

“Over the past few decades the individual, the self, has been at the center. The second-mountain people are leading us toward a culture that puts relationships at the center. They ask us to measure our lives by the quality of our attachments, to see that life is a qualitative endeavor, not a quantitative one.”

I may finally be approaching the base of the second mountain. Why do I think that? Because when the GW asked me what my favorite moment of the trip was, I wasn’t quite able to tell her. Instead, I told her my second and third favorites.

My absolute favorite was witnessing the wave of emotion that came over her as the trip drew to an end.

The last morning in Seville, I rallied and we went for an aimless walk through our neighborhood’s ancient, narrow streets. Eventually, we ended up at the outdoor window of a tapas bar in a small, beautiful, mostly empty plaza. We ordered dos cafes con leche and waited at an outdoor table. Sipping our drinks, she started to cry. “This is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to sit with you at an outdoor cafe and just enjoy the moment.” Later that morning, the tears continued as she declared her abiding love for the whole dam fam. I can’t remember ever seeing her happier.

That made the lengthy planning process, the marathon plane flights, the expenses totally worth it.

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I Have a Theory

How are two people supposed to peacefully co-exist given their different childhoods, insecurities, unique worldviews, and imperfect listening? How given all the uniqueness and flaws each brings to the equation?

We’re often surprised by people we know, or think we know, who decide to divorce, but maybe the more pertinent question is how does anyone stay together long-term?

Why are the Good Wife and I getting along better than normal these days? Because the kitchen is clean and clutter free a majority of the time. I have decided the foundation of successful long-term intimate relationships is a clean and clutter-free kitchen.

Being on sabbatical, I am spending a lot more time in our kitchen than normal. It’s a very nice kitchen and I like spending time in it doing dishes, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the espresso machine, putting groceries away, preparing food. The GalPal always pitches in too. The twenty-three year old temporary resident, no so much, but our games are so strong, we compensate for her twenty-three year oldness.

Eventually, the sabbatical will end, and my time in the kitchen will be drastically reduced. At which point, all bets are off.

Rocky Mountain High

The Good Wife and I lived in Denver in our late 20’s and early 30’s. I was studying curriculum and global education at the University of Denver, she was improving the life prospects of inner city third graders. We became a threesome while in Denver and it was supe-cool to be back for a family wedding with both daughters.

In 1993, I would’ve never left Colorado if there were more academic positions there once I had it piled higher and deeper (PhD). 300 days of sunshine a year, beautiful mountains, shimmering aspens, 300 days of sunshine a year. Of course, I’d probably be dead from skin cancer by now, but no one lives forever. The sun was hotter than I am used to and there’s next to no tree cover compared to the upper lefthand corner of the country.

Like most places in the country, Denver has grown and changed a lot in a quarter-century. Especially downtown. Tangent. There were NO homeless people downtown. In Boulder either. Coming from Seattle, Portland, Olympia, that was really odd. Someone in the know, educate me. Where are they? Why?

We hiked a few times including in a crowded Rocky Mountain National Park, visited the first house we ever bought near the “U”, and attended a wonderful outdoor family wedding in Lyons. Two young, giving, caring people committing to love is a wonderful antidote for these cynical times.

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First house. Observatory Park, 25 years and one grown ass woman later.

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Flatirons, Boulder. Getting our hike on.

 

Monday Assorted Links

1. I need another bike.

2. Swedish researchers say commute long distances for work at your and your partner’s own risk.

3. What does stand up comedy really pay? Brutal way to not make a living.

4. Those of you who are like me, meaning people with extensive life experience, get with the program—privacy is dead. As proof, dig The Verge’s “What’s in Your Bag” feature. Someday, maybe, they’ll get around to famous bloggers and ask me what’s in my bag. Because I know you’re dying to know.

5. The Asian-Immigrant experience.

Why Is Everybody Getting Married in a Barn?

You may not have known it, but Caroline Kitchener says:

“Millennials, in staggering numbers, are choosing to start their married lives under high eaves and exposed beams, looking out over long, stripped-down wooden benches and lines of mason jars.”

If you’re thinking of getting married in a barn, be sure to follow the template.

“Even if a couple isn’t actually getting married in a barn, there’s a good chance they’ll make their venue look like one, said Gabrielle Stone, a wedding planner based in Boston, Massachusetts. ‘There is this term that people use now: rustic chic.’ Typically, that means couples will fill the space with homemade chalkboard signs and distressed, vintage furniture.  ‘And wooden water barrels,’ Stone said. ‘Lots of water barrels.'”

And start saving.

“According to one widely-cited set of statistics, the average wedding cost has been steadily increasing, from $27,021 in 2011 to $33,391 in 2017. But, despite these price tags, many young couples today don’t want to be showy about it. Happier at a brewery than a fancy restaurant, accustomed to wearing jeans to work, many Millennials are proudly casual. There is a certain social capital that, as a 20- or 30-something, comes with being labeled ‘laid-back’ and ‘chill.'”

More analysis.

“It’s about the couple—who they are, and what they want to represent. More than ‘How do I want other people to see me?’ it’s ‘How do I want to see myself?’” Many live in urban areas and have a fantasy about a life that is ‘calmer and less complicated’: a life removed from the big city, where couples and their guests can be one with the animals (or—if none are available—at least the spaces they could theoretically inhabit).

I wonder if no mention of churches is an indicator of the increasing secularization of North American life.

And I gotta believe there’s one more explanation that Kitchener and her sources slight, that some are opting for barns because others are. How do I want to see myself? Like others.

The Only Constant Is Change

Dig this beautiful essay on selfishness, selflessness, and love titled “Nobody Tells You How Long a Marriage Is” by Lauren Doyle Owens.

At the end, she writes:

“Nobody tells you how long marriage is. When you fall in love, when you have fun with somebody, when you enjoy the way they see the world, nobody ever says, “This person will change. And so you will be married to two, three, four, five or 10 people throughout the course of your life, as you live out your vows.” Nobody warns you.”

Tru ‘dat.

Same as when I married three decades ago, I have no interest in military history, plant nomenclature, or jazz; now though, I am interested in lots of new things like cooking, food, endurance athletics, North Korea, and Stoicism. When I married I was a pauper public school teacher who was oblivious to the stock market. Now I identify in part as an investor. When I married, I was a conventional Christian, today I am more open to and interested in other religious traditions and forms of spirituality. When I married, I used a lot of product in my (amazing) hair; now, not so much.

When I married I was agnostic about the natural world; today, my well-being depends upon it. When I married I was a son; now, I am not. When I married, I was Lauren’s husband, preferring the suburbs; now I’m Lauren, preferring anywhere else.

Life is fragile and mysterious, meaning best case scenario, the Good Wife and I are in the middle of our life together, meaning she’s been married to four or five Rons* with maybe another four or five to go. Here’s hoping she continues adjusting to my continuing evolution.

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*As a result of this recent Janos tweet, I’ve decided my Witness Protection name is going to be Rondo not LeRon. What, you don’t get to pick your WP name?!

Written while the Celts were losing their last game, “we are need rondos.  I am say all day all night for lots time  but is no rondos.  i  am frustrate.”

The Credential Conundrum—Limiting Whose Qualified for Which Jobs

Recently I wrote that I’m lucky that my work as a college prof affords me ample opportunities to learn about myself and become a better person. That doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about other work.

Depending upon the day, I’d like to be Dustin Johnson’s caddy, write a newspaper column, be a subsistence farmer, have a radio talk show. The alternative work that loops the most in my peabrain is money counselor by which I mean a hybrid of a financial planner and a financial therapist. I enjoy managing money a lot and I’m always intrigued by people’s disparate thinking about money’s relative importance and how those differences complicate partnerships. Most of all, I’d enjoy helping people reduce the gaps between what they think about money and how they live their lives.

I didn’t know shit about investing thirty years ago when my parents gifted me some money to save on their federal taxes. Somehow, as a modestly paid school teacher, I knew the gift was an exceedingly rare opportunity to build a little bit of a financial cushion, that is, if I didn’t blow it. So I started reading John Bogle’s books, the first step in my personal finance self education. Today, I’m a good money manager for at least two reasons—my independent studies and I internalized some of my dad’s self discipline.

What I’d like to do for an alternative living is listen to individuals or couples talk about their dreams, their finances, their greatest challenges and then help them clarify their priorities, adjust their spending, restructure their portfolios, and enjoy more open and honest communication about money. There’s gotta be people interested in that doesn’t there?

There’s only one problem, to do that work I’d need a long list of personal finance and counseling licenses and certificates. Absent an alphabet soup of credentials, my self education and life experience don’t count in the formal economy.

Licenses and certificates are required in many sectors of the economy. They are designed to help consumers know they can trust that the holders of the licenses and certificates are competent. Take my work with teachers-to-be. Often people bemoan the fact that a Ph.D. can’t teach elementary, middle, or high school without first completing a formal teacher education program that typically lasts 1-2 years, not to mention passing related requirements including content area exams and a student-teaching based performance assessment.

Similarly, if you want to work on people’s nails or hair, you can’t simply rent a space and hang out a shingle, beauty schools offer formal training that culminates in licenses that enable you to “join the club”. Sometimes, when work is complex and requires specialized expertise, the Credential Industrial Complex contributes to public trust. Other times though, when the related work isn’t terribly complex, like working on nails or driving a cab, they can be used to limit competition.

Money counseling is on the “complex, requiring specialized expertise” end of the continuum, but wouldn’t it be nice if our job gatekeepers, the credentialing officials, devised intelligent ways to give some credit to individuals for self study and life experience. Absent that, everyone has to start from scratch, meaning people on the back nine of life, like myself, are less likely to switch things up.