“Don’t Grow Up….It’s a Trap”

What does it say about your life when you see a thought provoking message on a produce stand marquee?  Take a few minutes and find out!

“Don’t Grow Up….It’s a Trap”.


“Don’t Grow Up….It’s a Trap”

I saw this quote on a marquee at Bellew’s Produce here in Spartanburg as I was driving home from a rather testy day at work.  After I passed the building, I thought to myself how true that saying really is sometimes. Most of us spent our childhood trying to grow-up too quickly.  We wanted to get to the point where we could do what we wanted when we wanted.  Each year marked some sort of milestone that helped us get closer to our personal independence.  And with each passing year, our patience continued to dissipate.  We didn’t want to be kids anymore.  We wanted to be adults even though most of us were nowhere close to being ready to take on the challenges involved with going out on our own.

For me it started with a new bike in elementary school and continued from there.  Some milestones centered around key birthdays.  Others were based on the level of trust that my parents or teachers had in me at the time.  Others were contingent upon completing certain requirements to move on to the next level in school or within the church.  Some involved having access to privileges like having my own TV in my room or being trusted enough to stay out late when I got older.

Of course we all experienced a number of missteps along the way.  We chose to hangout with the wrong people or decided to blow-off homework from time-to-time.  Some of us even chose to skip school or not show-up for work during our teenage years.  We all attempted to test the boundaries established by our parents and teachers.  My dad would always ask me if I learned my lesson after I had served my sentence for doing something that was out of line.  That was always the most important part for him.  He wanted to make sure that my brothers and I wouldn’t do it again, and usually we didn’t.

We just wanted to grow-up.  We wanted to get our driver’s license so we could achieve a whole new level of freedom.  We wanted to be able to go places when we wanted to and with who we wanted to.  We wanted to finish high school so that we could either go to work so we could move out or go to college.  The goal was to gain independence.  We just wanted to be able to call our own shots.  College brought on a totally different level of responsibility.  No parents to nag us to get-up for class or to study for tests.  No one to tell us when to eat or that we couldn’t go away with our friends for a weekend.  We got to choose our friends and girlfriends without a parent there to question whether or not we should associate ourselves with that person.  We were only accountable to and for ourselves.  Some of thrived while some of us failed.

College is the grand experiment in my opinion.  Most of us determine our career paths during the first year or two when we pick a major.  A lot of us also go to college with the hope of finding that special someone to eventually marry and have a family.  A lot of key decisions are made in a relatively short amount of time.  The transition from teenager to young adult to adult essentially takes place in a 4-5 year span.  Many of us lose a lot of innocence during that time.  We are exposed to things that our parents spent many years trying to protect us from, and the decisions we make when faced with these situations can impact us for the rest of our lives.

After college, the path to being a grown-up is almost complete.  Many of us will start jobs, get married, buy homes, and then have children.   We will get rid of many of things tied to our youth – mostly stuff and some memories.  We will all start to forget what it was like to be a kid and have fun.  We will be so focused on the next step in our lives, our childrens’ lives, and our parents’ lives that we could forget what it was like to have fun.  And to me that is the proverbial “trap” that is alluded to in the quote I saw on the marquee at the produce stand the other day.

We can’t forget the feelings of having fun, of being a kid.  We can’t forget the memories from our childhood.  We need to remember the good times and the lessons learned.  Our children need to be able to see us as adults laughing and having fun.  We need to be able to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons and The Three Stooges reruns and laugh like we did when we were kids.  We need to keep in touch with our friends from high school and college – those that were there with us and for us during the good and bad times.  We need to reminisce and share old stories and new stories.

Even though we’re grown-ups and are doing some seriously adult things, we need to stay out of the “trap.”  If you want to wear a Batman t-shirt, wear your Batman t-shirt.  If you want to watch cartoons, watch cartoons.  If you want to eat your dessert before dinner, then eat it before dinner.  If you want to listen to your music really loud, listen to it really loud.  If you want to go to a concert, go to a concert and act like a crazy person.

We’ll never be able to relive our youth, but we can continue to avoid the “trap” by doing things that help us escape from adulthood from time to time.  But don’t do it alone.  Share the moment or the feeling with someone!


Music Truly Soothes the Soul

Delta Spirit

Everyone has a vice or a habit.  I have a number of them – Diet Coke, reading, potato chips, red meat, cooking, driving too fast, and music.  All of these vices help me cope with the daily stresses in some way or another.  Some work better than others.

Today my wife, Carrie, said you’ve been awfully grumpy lately.  I guess I’ve been too busy to notice, but when she makes an observation like that, I usually listen.  She has a good way of keeping me in check.  She doesn’t yell or scream or make condescending remarks.  She doesn’t make a big deal about it.  The conversations normally go something like this:

“Hey.  What’s wrong with you?  You’re grumpy.  Snap out of it.  The kids don’t like it when you’re grumpy.”

My reply today was short.  I said something like “really”, and I kept cooking breakfast.  But I knew she was right.  I knew that I needed to snap out of it.  The question is what did I need to do to get my head straight before the start of another week.  I thought about it most of the day and realized that I hadn’t spent much time listening to music lately.  Too much sports talk radio and NPR newscasts.

Well, I had listened to some music – mostly stuff off of the pop/rock station that the kids like to listen to.  You know the one that plays the same songs every two hours.  The kids love it because they can listen to the latest Taylor Swift song whenever they want because the station plays it every 15 minutes.

Nope.  I needed to listen to some “daddy music” as my oldest daughter calls it.  I grew-up listening to music of all kinds.  I remember listening to Simon & Garfunkel, Judy Collins, and Jim Croce riding in the car with my mom when I was a kid.  I eventually moved on to ’80s metal music and then took a brief detour into the rap scene during the early high school years.  I developed a love for De La Soul, Public Enemy, and Eric B. & Rakim.  I even had a Garth Brooks moment, but I don’t like to admit that.  I also started to listen to lots of classic rock and alternative music.  I wore out my first Led Zeppelin IV tape in about 6 months.  U2 was and still is one of my favorite bands.  The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby are probably two of the greatest albums ever recorded.  I started listening to bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, and The Screaming Trees.  I went to a concert my senior year in high school with three of my best friends where Public Enemy actually opened up for U2 in Columbia, SC.  It was a memorable show, and we all made it to school the next day.  Our moms were so proud!

My tastes changed through the college years.  The Black Crowes.  Grateful Dead.  Phish.  Neil Young.  Widespread Panic.  Radiohead.  Live.  All staples through my college years.  Summer concerts were my favorite times.  The Allman Brothers.  Lynrd Skynrd.  Drivin’ n Cryin’ to name a few.  The weekend I graduated from college, my future wife, my brothers, my best friend from high school and I all went to see U2 and Rage Against the Machine in Clemson, SC.

Listening to music is truly an escape for me.  My tastes continue to evolve.  I enjoy finding new bands on NPR and my brother, Graham, passes on new bands to me from time to time.  I still enjoy going to concerts.  A few years ago when The Smashing Pumpkins reunited, I took in a number of shows in Asheville, NC where they played for a couple of weeks at a small venue as Billy Corgan worked to integrate two new members into the band.  The sound was raw at times, but it was great to hear the songs I listened to through college and the new ones up close and personal.

This past summer my wife and I went to a My Morning Jacket concert in Charlotte, NC.  Band of Horses opened for them.  It was great to get away for a night – no worries.  Just listening to the music.  For some reason, I thought I smelled a skunk at the show, but I could never find it.  Before Christmas I went to see the Silversun Pickups at the Fillmore in Charlotte with a co-worker who has a deep appreciation for music like I do.  I was worried I would be the oldest person at that show, but that wasn’t the case at all.  There was a skunk there too.  Go figure.

I love music.  I look forward to finding out what band is playing on Austin City Limits on PBS each week.  I check Amazon and Rolling Stone to see what new music will be out in the coming months on a weekly basis.  I have hundreds, if not thousands of CDs and MP3 downloads.  Some I’ve had for years.  Others I bought a couple of weeks ago.

Some nights I sit in my chair listening to concerts.  I caught Wilco a couple of months ago, and I enjoy listening to all of the concerts NPR gives us access to.  This is how I escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  It really does soothe the soul.  Tonight I’ve been listening to a band that I heard on Austin City Limits last night.  A band called Delta Spirit.  Their song “California” is impressive.  I read about them a number of months ago, but I was in more of a Sigur Ros mood at the time so I missed out on them then.  They have a good sound.  Good lyrics too.  I found a few concerts on NPR that I’ve listened to this evening.

I think my grumpiness is almost gone.

Music therapy seems to have worked.  My wife and kids will be happy.

Hope everyone has a good week.

Breaking News: Christmas is Coming Down!

Christms photo

Breaking news from the Vereen house!  The process of taking Christmas down started yesterday!  My wife assured me that my blog topic did not inspire her to begin this process.  It was on her agenda for the weekend anyway….or so she says.

It seems that the child most adversely affected by the change is my youngest daughter, Clarissa, who was putting things back out as my wife would put them away.  I think she wanted Christmas to last all year.  The other kids have been more passive with their protests – frowning faces, sulking, and slumped shoulders.  The normal looks I get when they don’t get what they want.

As we put things away this weekend, we will cherish the memories of this past holiday season.  We will set aside some of the old decorations to donate and pack the new ones away with some of our favorites.

It was great that my family could all be in one place for a few days, and that we could enjoy Christmas Eve service at the church that we attended as we were growing up.  It really made my parents happy to have all of the kids and grandkids in one place for that time.  And somehow we all managed to get along and no one got hurt.

As my cousins Heather and Elaine said in their comments, putting Christmas away signifies the start to a new year.  Everything is cleaned up and put in its place.  Tables are dusted.  Floors are swept.  Carpets are vacuumed and cleaned.  You start thinking about plans for spring cleaning, organizing, and renovation projects.  Out with the old and in with the new is how the saying goes.

The same goes with our personal and professional lives.  The new year provides us with the chance to assess where we are and make plans for the upcoming year.  Personally, I start with a few big picture themes and move from there.  A few goals.  A few plans for minor life changes.  A few plans around big life changes since my wife is returning to full-time work in late March.

It all starts with Christmas coming down.  I think it has to start somewhere, and this seems like the best place.  Another Christmas is only about 340 days away.

What do you think?

I Think It’s Time to Put the Christmas Decorations Away

January 17, 2013.  It’s been 23 days since Christmas and all through my house, I still see Christmas everywhere!

There is a tree up in the living room!

There is a tree up in my den!

There are five stockings still hanging from my mantle!

The plastic Charlie Brown decorations are still sitting by the fireplace!

I think there are a few unwrapped presents for my nieces under one of the trees!

I am not sure how much more I can take!  I’m pretty sure our home is the only still fully decorated for Christmas in my part of the neighborhood!

Tonight my dinner was served on the Christmas dishes!  My wife says they are “winter” seasonal dishes!

I have mentioned my concerns to my wife, but she doesn’t seem to care too much!  I think if she had her choice, the Christmas holidays would last all year!  I would try to take down the decorations myself, but I am not sure how she would react.  I’m afraid I would be banished to the couch!  She might even inflict physical harm on me!

I’m trying not to over-analyze this situation or blow it out of proportion, but I think my wife might have a problem.  I understand why she likes the holidays, but can everyday really be a holiday?  In her world, that maybe the case.  I’m talking about a woman who still loves playing LEGO Harry Potter on the Wii – even though she’s already finished the game 5 or 6 times already.  So what am I supposed to do about this Christmas situation?

The kids aren’t much help either.  Every night when I get home from work, the lights on the tree are on, and they are still watching the Christmas movies they DVRed prior to Christmas – you know the old Claymation ones from the late ’60s and ’70s.  What am I supposed to do?

My wife has threatened to leave the trees up all year and re-decorate them for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, and the kids birthdays.  I’m not sure what to think about that.  It would definitely make these occasions much more festive.

I’m not sure why I should be concerned!  My parents leave their tree up and fully decorated year-round.  When it’s not in use, it gets covered with a king size bed sheet.  This is probably OK though since the tree is located in the living room that is never used except at Christmas.  Personally, I don’t condone leaving the tree up year-round, but I understand why they do it.  They do put up the other decorations though, however they have been known to be placed in a box and stored on the back staircase for long periods of time.

I guess I will have to take matters into my own hands this coming weekend!  I hope I can enlist the help of one of my daughters.  It may take some sort of bribe to make it happen!  I’ll keep you posted.  Wish me luck!