Getting Spooky in the Suburbs

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, you have the occasional eerie experience. With the absence of humans and a lot of overgrown nature, it gets very dark, and very quiet. Howling, rustling, crickets and the occasional train compose a nightly soundtrack. Probably not a coincidence that both Pet Sematery 2 and The Walking Dead were filmed in our little country town south of Atlanta. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that a moment in our suburban back yard last year gave me the worst case of the willies I’ve ever had.

To set the stage, I have to backtrack a bit first. On September 16th of 2018, we had to put down Artimus, who was a dear cat friend and a true legend. Because I grew up in the aforementioned boonies, the only way I know to handle the aftermath of this situation is to dig a hole in the back yard. I wrapped the little guy up, covered gently, and let the girls put flowers on top. For good measure, I found a large rock to mark the spot. Then I had a few too many beers because it was still 90 degrees outside in September and the only other dude in our household was gone.

His resting spot was up on the hill behind our house, along one of the main paths. Going up to the shed in the weeks that followed, I would usually stop and pay respects. We got a new cat (although he was frequently called Artimus), and life progressed.

Fast forward to the night before Halloween. Those of you that know me are well aware that I have an impressive costume collection. I was on the hunt for accessories to fit with our Jurrassic Park-themed family ensemble, so off to the shed I went with flashlight in hand…but something was different.

ARTIMUS WAS GONE. No doubt about it, either, because the stone was moved. Nothing left but an empty hole in the clay. Walking back into the house (after acquiring the perfect matching handkerchief), Allison could see the disturbance in my wide-eyes. Out of little girl earshot, I told Allison what I saw. “What do you mean he’s gone!? How is that even possible!?” Needless to say, I didn’t sleep super well that night.

I awoke with a million questions. First, we blamed the dog. Lucy is admittedly still bitter about us having kids and all. She fought with Artimus on occasion, but it seemed more playful than anything. Hard to believe she would stoop to that level. Plus, it would require physical exertion, which her tubby butt is wholeheartedly against. That was the sum of our suspects.

Being Halloween and all, we donned our costumes for the neighborhood celebration. We really do it up right, with a parade, occasional adult refreshment stations, and a strategically circular route. A handful of us adjourned back to Chapman HQ for some pizza and more breathable attire. It wasn’t until Joe and I were hanging out on the back porch that we heard suspect(s) number two: coyotes. 

One isn’t used to hearing a lively pack howling on a Wednesday night in the middle of suburbia. With the lack of a physical barrier between us, my skin start to crawl as I started piecing the mental puzzle together. The local stories and footage that started to pop up in the community in the hours that followed certainly did not help.

After considering all of the facts at hand, there is only one explanation for the vacant tomb. As far as I’m concerned, Artimus was Kitty Jesus. He died for the innumerable sins of his kind, rolled away the stone, cast away his robes, and sitteth up there chilling.

The Dad Bod

I don’t recall when the term “Dad Bod” first became commonplace. By the time I picked up on it, Adam Sandler was unknowingly flaunting his in a candid People Magazine beach pic - hair and all. At first, I was resistant to the thought. Almost feels like settling, or giving into the idea that a man in this season of life can do no better, but I’m starting to embrace the Dad Bod more for what it represents.

We fathers tend to take a common route to post-collegiate fitness...or lack thereof. The metabolism slows gradually, our priorities get seriously rearranged, and 40 hours every week we sit upon our ever-more-cushy butts.

While maybe not as image-conscious as the lady folk, we still wouldn’t mind looking more like Ryan Reynolds and less like Seth Rogen. But there are so many challenges that we battle daily, and, after all, nothing is more asterisk-laden than health advice.  

Let us begin by analyzing the gym, itself. Over the last 10 years, I have held a membership at no fewer than 4 different fitness centers around town. Regardless of venue, I tend to feel out of place. Our latest endeavor finds us at a gigantic shiny multiplex, which serves mostly as a hookup spot for chiseled 20 somethings. While I’m creating a sweat lake underneath an exercise bike, hot young singles spend hours hanging out and striking selfie-esque poses. It almost serves to have the opposite effect, as I am witness to the investment required to look that way.

Maybe it’s just me, but there is a guilt factor that accompanies lengthy workouts. I have but so many hours in the week to spend with my family, and it feels inherently selfish to instead devote that time to getting ripped...if that were even attainable. On another note, however, they say that diet makes up 75% of the equation. So maybe with a little self control there’s still a chance!

You won't find this on the menu at Planet Smoothie: Radish, Brussels Sprouts, Carrot, Kale, Spinach, Tomato, Squash & Cauliflower.

You won't find this on the menu at Planet Smoothie: Radish, Brussels Sprouts, Carrot, Kale, Spinach, Tomato, Squash & Cauliflower.

Here on Chappy’s Thoughts, we have previously delved into my efforts to eat better. In continuing with that theme, each day now starts with the preparation of a smoothie while half-naked out on the back porch. I’ll pause here for you to take a mental picture. While the Vitamix is a wonderful machine, it sounds like I’m revving a Ducati motorcycle in the kitchen at 6 a.m.

As my wife can attest, the objective with this breakfast alternative is not flavor. Think more “Will it Blend!?” rather than Food Network. Some days, choking down the concoction is a legit challenge, but I’m trying to shove as many good things into my body as I can to start the day. From there, it very well could go downhill.

Sneaky vegetables are being strategically injected into our meals bit by bit, but it is taking all I have to resist the hot bar at Publix. Seriously, somewhere in the marketing plan “blast fried chicken smell into parking lot” is a notable bullet point. You don’t realize how many temptations there are (surprise 50% off pizza coupons, late night taco bell commercials) until you attempt to shrug them.

If you are moderately obsessed, as I am currently, menus with calorie counts are both a blessing and a curse. God forbid you put cheese and sour cream on that Chipotle burrito! Now, I’m scrutinizing every condiment and topping, and annoying the Hell out of anyone who dines in my company. Pretty please don’t tell me how many calories are in a large Firehouse sub.

But hey, this is fall in Alabama. There are traditions to be upheld. On the weekends, I’m no stranger to snack pizza and beer at gameday gatherings. Coach Saban eats oatmeal cream pies for breakfast, and he’s a winner, so I’m only assuming it is sacrilege to bring a veggie platter to your viewing party.

Heaven help me if there is a Saturday kid’s birthday party featuring handheld delights. My kryptonite is the Chickfila nugget tray. If they sprang for the Large Platter, I’m in for at least 25 nugs. Don’t bother reminding me that they traditionally come in 8 and 12 packs. Logic does not apply when you are presented with a gigantic pile of tasty chicken.

For the days when I’m trying, though, it’s frustrating that the fitness tracker on my Apple Watch is not super encouraging. Pushing a stroller barely registers as actual running. I’m lucky to get credit for 10 minute mile pace. Steps count the same even if I have 35 extra pounds (with curls) hanging on me. The thing about kids - they get heavier every day. Libby is currently great for adding some umph to squats, while “Maggie lifts” are generally military press and curls.

In summary, the struggle continues daily. Maybe I’ll drop a few pounds and get off of blood pressure medication, maybe I won’t. I think reasonable goals work best, so instead I’m just going to try and do better. Looking like Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy is cool and all, but I follow that dude on Instagram, and his diet during filming was notably cringe-worthy. As long as I’m beating the Chris Pratt from Parks & Rec, then we’ll call it a victory.

The Snippety Snip

I love my two girls. I love them so much that I am completely ok with not having another child ever again.

So at the ripe old age of 33 and with full understanding that my wife had only just recovered from another C-section, I volunteered to get a vasectomy. 

At first, this sounds like a rather ominous undertaking. All you have to do is mention the procedure and someone will feel obliged to tell you about their friend who’s man jewels swelled up like balloons due to a lax understanding of the required recovery. What is prescribed? Sitting firmly on one’s ass for at least 48 hours.

Herein lies the problem: I move constantly during the day; annoyingly so. My max continuous sitting period each week is one hour, and that is for our team meeting at work. They won’t let me walk laps around the conference room.

Fear did not lie with the procedure itself. I have full faith and confidence in the drugs and numbing agents they will readily offer up to weenies like myself. Being still for several days was the real challenge. Commence stalling.

Admittedly, I waffled on scheduling my procedure for a hot minute, leaning on the ever-popular excuses of time and money. Another potential hurdle: My primary care physician resides at a Catholic hospital. If you are unfamiliar with the church’s stance on birth control, Monty Python has a lovely song that explains it in detail. I was not looking forward to having that conversation.

Excuses debunked. The urology center down the street does consultation and procedure in one visit. Start to finish, I was there for less time than it takes for a haircut. As for financials, the total investment was $100. Date was set for September 1.

Why that day in particular? They (meaning sterilized men) tell you to pick a good sports weekend. Ideally, if you are going to be mostly lateral, catered to, and in possession of the all-important tv rights for several days, then make it count. On average, I get about 30 minutes of television freedom on weeknights and a few auto races on Sunday viewed in fast-forward. Since the college football schedule has gone officially bonkers, Labor Day weekend consists of games Friday through Monday. Hallelujah.

Why so many cutting tools!?

Why so many cutting tools!?

When the day came, I was a bit shaky. The doctor informed me that I was the sixth and final procedure before his long weekend started. Per advice, I was prepared to ask for a little hit of feel-good gas. Their offering was positioned as “Something to settle my nerves” and reminded me more of how people do heroin in the movies. A nurse tied me off until everything was setup and then a needle of happy juice was injected. Before she did that, however, my dangles were “cleaned” with the coldest sterile water they could find. Honest-to-God worst part by a mile was the icy waterfall down my gooch.

Once Doc got to work, the whole deal was over in no time. I only recognized we were finished after he started going through the standard debrief and gave me a look that said “why aren’t you putting on your pants already?” Couldn’t help but take a picture of the instrument tray that contained some of my leftover bits. The readers of this blog will be spared, but my friend group on WhatsApp was decidedly not.

Someone needs to come up with an ice pack that feels as good as frozen peas.

Someone needs to come up with an ice pack that feels as good as frozen peas.

Important Side Note:

If your wife has recently (or ever, for that matter) weathered C-section childbirth, then you want to avoid all possible parallels. Complaining about a few tiny incisions into your man bits? Try getting sliced open and having a child extracted while they pile up your innards like a side dish. You catch my drift. Play it cool, take your meds, and keep the complaining to a minimum. 

One thing for sure - I have never had a wounded body part so directly tied to my stomach. There were a few borderline moments where I didn’t know whether to curl into the fetal position or throw up. Sitting down constantly was a real problem, as expected. I iced the affected area like it was my job. No idea why, but people made it sound like frozen peas were basically prescription for a vasectomy. Allison even got the organic free range peas, so no GMOs came in contact with my special place.

Most of what I endured would best be described as discomfort, with the knowledge that any stupid move would cause a world of pain. But then Tuesday rolled around, and I put on jeans...

As soon as I arrived at work, there was no doubt that a mistake had been made. A comfortable position did not exist. Strategically, I hid myself in one of our call booths and only came out to waddle my way to the bathroom or kitchen. By lunch time, all I wanted was some ath-leisure wear, some of those peas, and a handful of Advil.

I am naturally impatient, so this process pretty much sucks. It seems I’ll be choosy with pant options and seating arrangements for at least a week. I guess the alternative is raising another child.

Closing notes:

My buddy Fritz, who just started PA School, asked for a picture of my balls for “medical reasons.” What he got was a fringe case of elephantiasis courtesy of Google. Sorry dude.

Anyone want some slightly-used frozen peas?