Archive for the generic whines Category

Every adult should be able to set their own breakfast routine.

It’s often said that the most important meal of the day is breakfast.  That among the things screwed up with American’s approach to health is their approach to breakfast — hurried, a cup of coffee and toast on the go, or skipped altogether.

But the real problem with many people’s breakfast has little to do with their food choice.  It’s the lack of control over the routine itself.

Part of the routine is what you eat.  Of course.   And so it’s relevant.  But equally, or more important, is the approach to the time itself.  Is it leisurely, or hurried.  A time of quiet contemplation, or filled with chatter and household problems being brought up?  Is it used for “breakfast meetings” over croissants in the conference room?   With cheap coffee with the guys at a diner?  Reading the newspaper or watching the morning show on the little kitchen television?  A stop at the McDonald’s drive at the beginning of a commute?

The importance of breakfast routine — and what happens when that routine is out of an individual’s control — has been driven home to me, since I went on leave from the day job and as I’ve been learning to cope with the mental effects of my mother’s aging.  A leave is often considered to be a time of rest and relaxation, of recharging batteries, an extended respite from the demands of the work day.  And don’t get me wrong, I’ve found time for some of that in the 20 months since I left the day job.  But in one respect, my quality of life has seriously worsened.

You see, my mother is, how do I put this nicely, a chatterer.  From the time she wakes in the morning, to the time she goes to bed at night, she never meets a silence she doesn’t think needs filling.  She likes gossip.  She likes small talk.  And as her short-term memory has declined, she  is always asking questions about where something is, about what I want to eat, about whether I want this, that, or the other thing.  She’s never been much for listening, but even when she does listen to the reply, she won’t remember it 24 or 12 hours later, and so I get the same questions every day.

This makes for no little frustration, but I’ve gradually come to terms with it and have developed  ways of constructively tuning out some of the chatter.  Ways of dealing with the small talk.  Ways of ignoring, without seeming to be ignoring, the gossip.

With one exception:  the breakfast table.  Because my mother’s morning chatter is exactly the opposite of my ideal breakfast routine.  My ideal breakfast is one of slowing turning the mental engine on, thinking about the day ahead over the same food every day (currently: one egg, two pieces of bacon, cottage cheese with lots of black pepper, and ice water), and eventually wandering off to start work.  Chatter is a serious interruption, and constant repetition of having to answer the same questions every day (“Do you want toast?” (no), “How many eggs?” (one), “Have a cookie” (no thanks), and so on.)

The point is not that my mother is crazy.  She isn’t.  Nor is it that my routine is the sanest one.  By no means am I saying that “slow mental preparation for the day” is the approach others should take.

The point is that my preferred breakfast routine and my mother’s preferred breakfast routine are unavoidably in conflict.  Short of rising at 4:30 and doing my own breakfast before she rises (and I’m not *that* much of a morning person), I’m stuck with the conflict.  Because its not something I’m going to get her to change.   And while my ideal breakfast routine isn’t set in stone (two of the most productive periods in my life saw me going out for a sit-down breakfast every day), I’m pretty darn sure I’m never going to be particularly interested in small talk and answering the same inane questions every day.

Alas, things getting better will have to wait for my return to full-time teaching in August, when I can plead the exigencies of the job for not lingering at the breakfast table (and perhaps try that eating breakfast out option again).   C’est la vie.  As Master Ju my tae kwon do teacher, used to say (among the biggest costs of my going away to graduate school was that I quit tae kwon do and lost contact with a very wise man), “What cannot be cured, must be endured.”  (Actually he apparently still says it, just not to me; for among the biggest costs of my going away to graduate school was that I quit tae kwon do and lost contact with this very wise man.)

But my person bitching aside, it raises an important point for anyone who is tempted to control another’s breakfast routine.


Parents will, of course, continue to decide the routine for children in most households, and that is fine.  But, for adults, this is one place where the individual must be left to find his or her own way.

Because few things can have as big negative effects as interference with the breakfast routine.  Effects on the mental health of the individual concerned:  Even though I am a morning person, it generally takes me close to an hour after breakfast to get myself mentally settled.  And social effects through declining productivity and civility:  lacking that equanimity, it may be an hour before I’m concentrating, focusing, and getting anything done.  And it may be even longer before I’m going to be particularly pleasant to be around.

So if you’re tempted to interrupt your spouse’s, your friend’s, your employee’s, your co-worker’s breakfast routine, whether that interruption is for a trivial matter or for one of over-whelming importance to the future of world civilization, my advice is simple.


And if you are tempted to change a person by changing how they do breakfast, be warned.  It isn’t likely to make things better, for them, or for you.  And so my advice is the same.




I admit it, I hate Midwest winters.

It’s weird.   Ours is the most mobile of times, yet I find myself still here in a climate I utterly hate.  I grew up in Northern Wisconsin.   I’ve spent all but about four years of my life in either Wisconsin or Iowa.  It’s not like I don’t know what is coming come December, January, and February.  Yet I’m still here.  Sometimes I think I’m a pinhead…and sometimes I know I am.

It’s 8 a.m. here in NE Iowa.  10 below.  Wind chill minus-30.  Already close to a couple feet of snow for the year, and official winter didn’t start until today.   How’s this for a choice:  if I go out now to shovel out my driveway and the 3′H x 6′W pile of crap that the snowplow left at its end, I have to brave that bitterly cold wind for a couple hours.  Or, if I wait until tomorrow morning when I have to get out, I’ve probably got 3+ hours of dealing with snow that has been hardened against missile attack by a day of winds and drifting.  Great, huh?

I’m sure if I look I can find the scientific reasons for why winter of this sort is necessary to the health of the planet.  And the rational part of my brain understands.

But, sorry, but right now I don’t care.  Any more than I care that the ecology of the planet may need cockroaches and parasitic wasps.

Even though I’m sure God has a purpose with such a climate.   Like maybe pointing out to us morons who live here that its a dumb place to live?

Bah.  I just hate winter.

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On the good side,  my PageRank of 1 is apparently back.  And Alexa rank continues to improve, too,  to 1,522,776, a whopping 1000 percent increase in my global Internet “reach”.  Not sure why the temporary blip in PR, but glad it was only temporary.

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