It’s time to write about the subplots of my life in 2008…

1. I love being married. Candyce is the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. It’s a privilege to spend every day with her.

2. I wake up early. Since Candyce graduated college twelve months ago, her daily routine involves working at the coffee shop in the mornings and freelance graphic design in the afternoon. In late December we found out we were going to have a baby, which meant that a lot would change (for the better, of course.) One of the first changes was that Candyce can’t lift heavy things like the patio furniture and umbrellas in front of the coffee shop. So every morning since January 1st, I’ve gotten up at 5:30 AM and I am out the door by 5:45 AM. I enjoy the cool mornings and like the idea of getting a head start on the day.

3. Life takes management. An ambitious person like myself will continue to seize opportunities and pile on new projects. At the moment, my ongoing projects are remodeling my home, refreshing my landscape, preparing for a baby, and charting a financial course for my family’s future. None of this will get done unless I work hard and consistently. However, you cannot have progress on multiple projects unless you stop working and assess progress.

I take one day every two weeks to sit at my dining room table and grade myself on my progress. If I am failing on any project, then I need to recognize that and change the way I am doing things. For example…

  • In March I realized that the project was taking too long, devouring time and money. To get things on track, I opted not to build a computer docking station / office in a recess in the living room. Instead, I spruced up the wet bar that is already there with new paint and drawer pulls.
  • In April I realized that I the remodel had slowed because I was intimidated by the electrical work that needed to be done in the kitchen. I decided to call in the help of Jason Myer–handyman extraordinaire–to coach me through the first day of wiring.
  • In May, I realized that my landscape was crumbling because I was spending all of my time inside. So invited over eight friends for six hours of hard work on a Saturday morning. I called this event a “Baby Daddy Work Day.” Honestly, I hope this becomes a tradition for expectant fathers. Every guy needs a little help to get his fortress in order.

4. I don’t watch remodeling shows. Do doctors come home and watch ER? Do police officers and district attorneys unwind with an episode of Law & Order? I’ve been remodeling my house for eleven months now, and the last thing I want to do is watch someone else remodel their house. I don’t mind getting updates on real life remodeling projects from my friends, but home remodeling shows tend to be far detached from reality. (In other words, these shows make me feel bad.) Plus, the “remodeling for profit” shows stand in utter contrast to the common knowledge that the Real Estate market sucks. I wrote about this earlier in Flip This House Viewer’s Guide.

5. Breaking up with NPR. I’ve listened to National Public Radio consistently since 1998 when I was a sophomore in college. Since then, NPR has been my source for news that is not dumbed down. However, there is one consistent weak spot that frustrates me: hosts rarely challenge their guests. I’m not asking for a shouting match, but a host needs to have the confidence to challenge a guest’s research and opinions on behalf of the listeners.

The least challenged guest is the career academic who just wrote a book and is therefore ready to deliver his well-rehearsed opinions. If left unchallenged, he can (and always will) run his mouth about contentious social and cultural issues for ten minutes straight.

On a side note, I am always amused how the non-fiction books featured on NPR have the same rhythm to their titles. These are not the mysterious and succinct titles of fiction novels. No. The modern non-fiction titles are so wordy that they often warrant multiple punctuation marks. The length seems to be critical to the success of the book, because they leave no doubt as to what they’re writing about or who they are writing for. Nine times out of ten, the books featured on NPR appeal to someone’s intellectual vanity as well as their insecurity as a citizen in a world superpower. After a few minutes of searching online, I found some examples:

  1. Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium by Dick Meyer
  2. Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us) by Tom Vanderbilt
  3. Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America by Gustav Niebuhr

I am not well-read enough to give an informed opinion about the evolution of book titling, but it’s clear that you don’t have to look far to know that trends are trends, and no segment of pop culture can escape the desire to be cool. Trends are as rampant on NPR (my preset station #1) as they are on Power 98.3 (the hip hop station, preset #2.)

Right now on Power 98.3 everyone is little: Lil John, Lil Scrappy, Lil Wayne, Lil Mamma, Lil Flip. I searched for entertainers with the word “lil” in their name, and I found 513. If you were a rapper in the early 1990s, it was good to be the master of ceremonies: MC Hammer, Young MC, MC Lyte.

Personally, I’m rooting for the rappers and R&B singers who buck the trend and keep their birth names: Chris Brown, Jim Jones, Mike Jones. Why? My name is Matt Smith.

6. We do not drive far. In my thirteen years of driving, I’ve never witnessed such a drastic increase in gasoline prices. Over the course of four weeks at the beginning of the summer, gas prices increase from somewhere in the $2.90 per gallon to $4.25 per gallon.

As of this morning in mid August, gas prices of fallen about fifty cents per gallon to $3.75 since from the high a couple months ago. I snapped this photo on my phone on a particularly painful day at the pump:

Gas prices suck.

Gas prices suck.

Candyce and I decided to change our lifestyles to cope with the higher prices at the pump.

  1. We combine errands. We make lists of places that we each need to go to, and then we plan our trips around town together. It’s actually a lot of fun. Errands aren’t as cumbersome when you’re cruising around town with your girlfriend listening to music.
  2. We don’t drive far away from home. This is fine with me, because I moved to leafy green South Tempe because it is so pretty and close to fun stuff.
  3. We carpool with friends. I’ve always been an advocate for carpooling, but it doesn’t work unless you find someone who shares your conviction. Since everyone is feeling the pain, it’s easy to plan a night out with your friends using a single car

Every barista at the coffee shop has given up their cars altogether and now ride their bikes to work. Keep in mind…it’s summer in Phoenix, and it’s not comfortable to ride a bike under the sun. It’s cool though…the streets are more friendly when people are zipping around on bicycles.