“It’s really a people storm over there.”

Daughter, at a crowded park.

After watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, my daughter farted on me, then declared herself “The Fart Bender.”

"Clouds Raining on an Empty Park" by Daughter. She named it herself.

"Clouds Raining on an Empty Park" by Daughter. She named it herself.

When I wear a mustache, I look like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite.

When I wear a mustache, I look like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite.

I neglect blogs. Anyway, this transpired:

  • Me: Wear these boots. You'll look really pretty.
  • Daughter: You should probably say "chic." That means pretty.
  • Samantha: Guess what you and me and mommy are going to do tomorrow?
  • Me: What?
  • Samantha: We're going to go buy five real horses, and they are going to live in our backyard.

So that went well.

  • In honor of my new civilian-hood, I retained some facial hair when I shaved today. I sent a pic to Jess. This followed by text message:
  • Jess: I'm going to kill you! Get that off your face.
  • Me: What about the goatee?
  • Jess: Gross we will never have sex again!

I indulged in ugly behavior yesterday. I’ve spent some time sorting out why and here’s what I came up with:

I believe that when people disagree about things they care about, any ensuing argument is only “won” if two conditions are met:

  1. Each party contributes meaningfully to the others’ understanding (though they need not always fully agree).
  2. Through the process of arguing, their relationship is strengthened rather than harmed.

This can be devilishly tricky to achieve, even face-to-face with your closest friends and companions. It takes a balance of confidence, humility, and respect, and maintaining all three is like spinning plates, especially when emotions are raw. 

So what happened when I argued something I cared about over the internet with a stranger?

Without feeling responsible for maintaining a relationship, I let my victory condition change to “force a concession to my point of view.” I should have known the very best I could hope for was a pyrrhic victory. I didn’t even achieve that. I behaved badly in public to no good end.

As many of you know, public shame isn’t much of a deterrent for me. I do, however, bristle at failing to live up to my values. I don’t argue with strangers. I’m not sure why I did it yesterday- jet lag, maybe? Loneliness? Disorientation? In any case, I regret that I did.

EDIT: deleted a sentence that didn’t make any sense. I’m not getting enough sleep.

Today I took off my Army uniform for the last time. I left Fort Lewis with a terse summary of my last 9 years, 9 months, and 26 days on two sheets of eight-by-ten paper.

Words from 30,000 ft

These things occurred to me while flying through the air:

Useless Non-Update: airplane food is still unappetizing and hard to swallow. American Airlines prizes canned mushrooms above all other ingredients.

Still… we had 7 suitcases, a stroller, a car seat, a cat, two kids and about 5 carry-ons. Despite that American Airlines and the customs and security people at each airport jumped through hoops to get us onto our planes on time. The trip only hurt half as much as planned. Our kids were paragons of cooperation, too. I was stunned.

Homeland Americans are weird. I’ve lived in England long enough to be surprised by some things non-expat Americans do. These are not value judgments, just observed behaviors. Judge for yourself whether they are virtues or flaws.

  • They talk to strangers without invitation. Except for at the bar in a pub, this does not happen in London without drawing alarmed glances.
  • …and not just about the weather. Personal questions and revelations abound. I’ve had friends overseas for three years without knowing how many siblings they have. This is something I can expect to learn within a half hour of talking to a fellow American. A relationship in England is typically bound within a specific context, and very rarely strays from it. I’m not used to Fred Myers employees asking me what I’m majoring in within two minutes of meeting me.
  • …loudly. I caught myself wincing a few times in the checkout line at Heathrow.
  • …about money. I overheard an American mention (loudly to a stranger) that she had just spent an “obscene” £85 each on William and Katherine commemorative couch pillows. I thought, if it’s obscene, why do you discuss it in public? I’m moving from a place where bar patrons offer the bartender a beer instead of tipping to avoid exposing the commerce driving their relationship. Some people subconsciously avoid even using the word “bought.” I have to adjust to how readily incomes and costs and so forth spring from peoples lips over here.

As with any generalizations, they don’t perfectly apply to everyone. These are just things I noticed about the way some people act on either side of the pond.