You don’t have to spend a lot (or at all)

Today is Valentine’s Day.

My wife saw people running around the PATH, gobbling up overpriced chocolate, cupcakes and picked over flowers.

I feel for them. But I stopped spending a lot on Valentine’s Day a long time ago. I’d rather save that money for a special birthday experience for her. Or surprise her with a homecooked meal.

That’s why I made it part of my personal mission statement to do something nice for my wife each week.

I’m over the herd mentality that says you need to buy jewelry or roses or book a reservation at a restaurant I cannot afford.

I do something nice for her every week. Not just one day a year.

Valentine’s Day happened to be my reminder this week.

Did I mention that my toddler got a nice haul of Valentine’s from her classmates.

Next week they’ll be in the trash or forgotten like last week’s fast fashion trends.

It took a licking and keeps on clicking

Our family’s MacBook Pro is a brick. You can’t leave the house without its power cord. It takes a few minutes to launch the OS. Some programs run slow and sticky.

But it’s lasted almost a decade.

How many computers have you gone through since 2009?

Count the number of phones you’ve had. Add the iPads and tablets. Maybe you’ve even had a few laptops during that decade. Most of those are dead and either back in China or Africa, where they’re being torn apart to rebuilt tomorrow’s computers.

Our MacBook Pro trudges on.

In a disposable era that Apple and others exploit, this computer has lasted.

Imagine our clothes, devices and other stuff had that sort of longevity.

Brother, can I borrow some time

I don’t watch Netflix a lot.

I like to eat home-cooked meals with my wife and two-year-old daughter.

I wake up between 5:30 and 6. I meditate or write or read for a few minutes. That’s how my morning routine starts.

I arrive at work between 8:30 and 8:50 and work until 4:30 or 4:50.

Most evenings I chat with my daughter and wife on the way home from daycare.

My wife and I share bedtime duties for our daughter. That always includes three bedtime stories, toothbrushing, one outfit change and some serious negotiation. But she’s asleep or in bed for good by 8:30.

We clean up the kitchen and living room.

Then I look up and it’s 9 pm.

And there’s a bunch of things left undone.

I wonder what we need to steal back time.

But I know the hard work is in figuring out what to cut out.

Finding a parenting style that’s balanced

One day “intensive” or “helicopter” parenting is making inequality worse and consuming parents’ time and mental energy.

The next day it works.

The fact that it “works” doesn’t mean the other part is fixed — and that’s dangerous.

My wife and I have committed to “free-range” parenting, which is just regular parenting if you grew up in the 80s.

That could make us outliers.

But it’s OK.

There’s a balance and it requires you to avoid either extreme.

We’ve got bigger fish to fry

I’m exhausted by the outrage machine.

Scrolling through my Google News feed is torture. Because I’m confronted by angry people every few flicks.

Here are a few examples.

People are mad at E! News because they saw Big Boi and Sleepy Brown at the Super Bowl and tweeted that it was Outkast. Some people are saying E! News needs to hire more black people. That might be true. But I’d prefer to see more black coders, engineers and scientists. Diversity at an outlet trafficking in celebrity gossip is a symbolic win. And a weak one at that.

Liam Neeson admitted to deplorable and racist behaviour 40 years ago. Then he went on TV and explained how that was wrong and how he’s worked to make amends. “End his career,” the mob shrieks.

This weekend, I took out my 1995 high-school yearbook. On the cover, I found an inscription. “Dedicated to the memory of da O.J. Simpson trial and da year at Augustine.” It gets worse.

Inside, I found a younger version of myself that was immature. I drew crosshairs over the people who I felt had wronged me in grade 10. We wrote offensive things about each other. A lot of us believed OJ was innocent.

OJ is guilty. You can judge me for who I was or accept me for who I am. Of course, there are actions that might make it harder for us to forgive, accept and move on.

But in a lot of cases that what we need to do.

So I forgive Adam Levine and Maroon 5 for that boring halftime show. And I forgive Big Boi and Sleepy Brown for agreeing to join you.

A recipe for recommendations

I can’t part with the Winter 2013 issues of Lapham’s Quarterly.

I bought it in New York and after a recommendation from a stranger. My wife and I had dinner plans but we were early. We found a dive bar and it was happy hour. We sat at the bar and ordered a drink. I plopped Teju Cole’s Open City down and took a sip of my drink.

Continue reading “A recipe for recommendations”