Powerless Parenting

A few weekends ago, further proving that we live in the end times, a storm came through Richmond, Virginia, severely damaging homes, displacing families, and, less seriously, knocking power out at my house for four days.

The kids were gone the night of the storm, away at grandma “camp”, but returned the next day while I was at work charging all the devices I could carry with me. When I got home in the late afternoon, things seemed pretty normal. The kids were doing kid things—reading books, coloring, the usual. The house was quieter without the hum of the refrigerator, but that was it.

It wasn’t until we started preparing dinner over our camping stove that things seemed dramatically different. Everyone who eats eggs would get eggs, and with makeshift grilled cheeses and quesadillas as an alternative.

But then, our neighbors brought us ribs they needed to cook before they went bad. Our other neighbor brought over beer to drink before it got too warm, yet another neighbor brought over hot dogs and s’mores stuff to cook over the firepit fire that we all spontaneously decided to start. It was delightful.

The girls stayed up later than their usual bedtime, going to bed with the sun, not the clock. I may be mistaken, but it might have been the first time the girls have ever caught fireflies. When it was time to go inside, we all had our flashlights and exhausted kids went to bed right away. So did the grown-ups, as lack of light postponed our normal end-of-day chores until the morning.

We had two more days ahead of us, but honestly it wasn’t that bad. It was like camping, but at home. Normally the weekend is a complex negotiation about iPad use, but with the necessary battery rationing, the kids only asked to play on them once, quickly themselves realizing it was silly to ask.

The weather wasn’t too hot, so we spend most of the day just hanging out outside. We read books on a blanket. We walked around the neighborhood. We made excuses to go on errands. I took a nap. One of my daughters made a doll out of grass like it was a Little House book.

The lack of options made it easier to enjoy the options we did have. Do I want the dishes clean? I better do it now while there’s light. Do the girls want to walk to their beds without stepping on their toys? Better go clear a path. Are you hungry? This is literally the only food we have in the house right now.

When the power came back on Sunday night, I cheered, but part of me was a little sad. Only a little sad (I like things like refrigeration as much as the next guy), but I started to think about what habits I didn’t realize I had. I started to think about ways I could manufacture less choice into my daily life.

I didn’t very get far though. I could look at Twitter again. I could play Threes! as much as I wanted. I had work the next day and things fell back into routine pretty quickly. Maybe the next time the power goes out, I’ll be forced into actually thinking about this, but for now I’ll just go watch some YouTube.

Powerless Parenting

The Saturday Blahs

My BMI is high with no sign I can ever get it lower. My blood pressure is on the border of being high, and I don’t have confidence I’ll be able to keep it in check.
I should exercise more but it’s hard and I don’t like doing it. When I do get in the habit of at least walking every day, I want to quit because the results take years, not days.

I long for more simplicity but instead take the path of least resistance. I’d be happier with so much less, but seem to always seek more. Was life better when the power was out for four days?

I get mad at myself for never starting on an idea, and get mad at myself when I finish something that could’ve been so much more.

It’s not even noon and I’m ready to write off this day to the sads. But, my six-year-old wants to give me a hug, and that’s pretty nice.

The Saturday Blahs

Primary Sources

Eliza, “The Schuyler Sisters”, Hamilton

Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now

Last night I watched a Congressperson use his phone to livestream a protest from the well of the US House of Representatives after the Speaker of the House killed the official cameras.

When the cameras came back on, and the Periscope stream stopped, I had to search around to find a place to watch the official stream on the Internet as I don’t have cable, but I eventually found it.

Part of my generation’s expectations are that we demand the primary sources. Give me the actual speech, not the editorialized sound bites on the 6 o’clock news. Let me listen to the actual audio of a longass boring public meeting to find out why my city council expressly wanted cars to park in the bike lane. Let me choose to watch the raw footage of gun violence so that I can feel the human outrage and horror that I should be feeling.

Everything Congress does is political theater, but at least I live in an age where there’s less centralized control over which scenes I get to watch.

Primary Sources

My Letter to the Thomas Jefferson Hour

Today I wrote an email to the creators of The Thomas Jefferson Hour, one of my favorite podcasts. My letter below:

Dear Citizens,

I cannot tell you what it means to listen to your show as a Richmonder. I spend my workdays moving between two offices in Downtown Richmond. 

I leave the first office, see a plaque commemorating it as the place where the first Virginia Constitution was ratified, and listen your episode on Thomas Jefferson’s critique of it in Notes on the State of Virginia. I walk down the hill to the other office, through the Virginia Capitol grounds, and listen to your episode on Thomas Jefferson and architecture. I walk to get some lunch, pass the First Freedom Center Monument marking where the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was signed into law, and eagerly await your 101-series episode on that important part of Jefferson’s life.

I don’t know why it took me so long to recognize the importance of your show in my life, but today I joined the 1776 club to express my support financially. Thank you for doing such great work and sharing it with the world.

Sincerely,

Sam Davies

My Letter to the Thomas Jefferson Hour

Printing

I think paperless offices don’t exist because people don’t trust Windows. When printing out a spreadsheet to take notes on is more reliable than carrying my laptop to a meeting, that’s what I’m going to do.

  • Will my laptop eject from the dock properly?
  • Will it sleep when I close the lid?
  • Will it wake up when I open the lid?
  • Will it find the wireless when I open the lid?
  • Will the connection to the spreadsheet on Sharepoint go wonky?

Printing it out works all the time. I’ll just bring that and a pen.

Printing

Goodbye RVANews

It’s my turn to say goodbye to RVANews. Publisher and my friend Ross Catrow announced to the world:

Well y’all, I’ve got some bad news. Next week, after almost a decade of local newsing, I’ll be shutting down RVANews.

I’m sad for my friend that he has to say goodbye to a thing that he worked on for ten years. And I’m happy for my friend that he will find some relief from the obligations and stress of trying to make his small business work for him, his family, and his employees.

I’ve been writing one half of the Raising Richmond series for three years and I’m so happy I got to do it.

Friendship

It’s impossible for me to separate my “professional” feelings about RVANews from my personal. I started writing for RVANews because my friend Ross asked me to. My writing got better not because I was getting paid, but because I was trying to impress my friend and editor Val, then my friend Susan took over editing and I was trying to impress her. I never missed a Raising Richmond deadline because I didn’t want to let my friends down.

Identity

I lost my job recently and have since found a new one. So much of one’s identity can be bound up in what our job is. I was the guy with a job no one understands who worked remotely and hung out at Lamplighter every morning. Now I’m the guy with a job no one understands who rides the bus downtown every morning.

But, I was also the guy who wrote for RVANews. As a 9-year transplant to Richmond, writing for RVANews was (and is) a badge of honor. Ross and team made me feel like a “real” Richmonder more than getting stuck in traffic behind 1,000 marathons.

If my identity is so bound to RVANews, I can only imagine what Ross and Susan are feeling. I’d like them to know that even if they aren’t defined by RVANews anymore, I’ll define them as some of the best friends a Richmonder could have.

What’s next

The Sam and Ross Like Things podcast continues fortnightly (In fact, instead of editing an episode of that show on this bus, I’m writing this on the bus). I love making it and I’m so glad people like listening to it.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been writing Raising Richmond for three years now and I don’t see any reason to stop that good habit (I finally got my repeating OmniFocus project how I like it). It won’t be called Raising Richmond, but I’m going to keep writing ~750 words every two weeks and putting it on this blog. Susan won’t be editing, so what I write won’t be as polished, but I’ll keep writing if only to prove to myself that I can.


Goodbye RVANews. You were a good thing and I’ll miss you.

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