Thursday, December 17, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:

I am applying for the position of Chief Marketing poo-bah for your company. In my career, I have successfully closed three companies that have failed to find a niche. However, I blame the techies, since I have been very successful in creating a great deal of excitement for products that failed to live up to the hype. Despite the fact that the job description for this position states that an MBA is "preferred", I submit that my bachelor of FINE arts degree is better than a regular bachelor of arts degree since it is...well... finer.

On the surface, my background might not seem well suited for your company. But let me assure you that my lack of job experience utilizing social networking to market is unreflective of my deep understanding of the social networking phenomenon. I spend a great deal of time on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter endlessly networking with many people who all think I am the bee's knees. I will simply apply this knowledge to your company and in no time, voila, you too can be the bee's knees.

I am an extremely capable communicator and was once recognized as one of the top bloggers of the month on MySpace by someone who wanted me to link to their page. At one point I even cracked into the top 100 blogs of the day, but mostly because I was checking my comments so religiously that I might have spiked the numbers a bit.

I have a thorough understanding of Google Ad Words as should be obvious from the ads to the left over here ----------->
And I don't need to work since I make so much from people clicking on these ads, but I figure, why should I keep all this stuff to myself, right?

I have been the recipient of many awards in my career. I was voted "biggest feet" by my graduating class, in what I now realize was an inside joke at other parts of my anatomy. But really... don't you want someone on your team with big feet? I also won first prize in the Pinewood Derby when I was a Cub Scout, which means that I know how to make things go fast, and win... despite the part about the closing of companies, and the endless complaints from my wife about me being a loser. She is just joking. Mostly.

Combined, I believe my practical knowledge and relative success with companies such as yours makes me the ideal choice for this position. Or perhaps another position, if that floats your boat. I'm really up for anything. And remember the part about the big feet... unless you are a guy... or if you are a guy, and you swing that way... then remember. Otherwise, just forget I mentioned it.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Since Last We Left Our Intrepid Blogger...

The last month has blown. In a life of occassionally blowy months. This one has been one of the blowiest. I'm tired of the people that tell me that things will work out... and that at least I have my health... and that there are many people that are worse off than me. No fucking dah. I am accutely aware of how good I have it, during my times of blowiness. And yes... I know it will work out in the long run. Key word being "long". Why do we feel the need to address the whiney trauma-ists in life with these platitudes? Most of us are used to the roller coaster. We've been down. We've been up. We know the score and the game and the best we can come up with is "things will work out"? Of course, we feel bad. And of course, we feel helpless when talking to people in the middle of a down stretch. So we fall back on the easy answers. Because silence just seems silly and embarrassing.

On the flip side of blowiness... are a few people who actually seem to care. This surprises me. Because, at heart, I know that I care. But I'm so jaded at this point that I assume everyone else is just pretending. Why do we do that? Assume that no one else really cares. I mean, I suppose that life teaches us all sorts of lessons regarding this. One is that... no one likes a whiner. But everyone likes a winner. And so we all hide it away and say "everything is GREAT." Which really means "things are so f-ed up that all I have left is this fake smile." And we smile and see all around us the same facades in all the faces we meet.

I met a women once and we had many deep conversations about this and that. Very deep. I was fourteen or fifteen. She was more than twice my age. I'm sure now I had a huge crush on her. But at the time it was all about the deep conversations we had about things. We talked about this exact thing. About the surface platitudes that we share with those around us that we only ever know on a surface level. We made a pact that we would always ask each other how we REALLY were. And we would mean without all the covering crap. I grew up and we moved on and we talk every decade or so now. And when we see each other we ask each other how we REALLY are. And we laugh. And then we provide each other with a load of platitudes.

Because no one really likes a whiner.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Every sailboat is different. Each has its own signature, its own nuance, its best point of sailing. This fact is lost in a crude world of motorboats who plow the oceans and lakes with dogged monotony, in a rush to get from here to there by the straightest line. Sailing is not a game for the hurried. You zig and zag, back and forth, from tack to tack, crawling your way up wind and down. Mastering a ship requires patience and a concert master's ear for the wind in the rigging... tweaking, tightening, loosening, adding sail and taking away sail.

Those who know no better assume the fastest way to travel is directly opposite of the wind with as much sail as possible. But these sailors are barbarians with little sense. The true masters know a ship's best point of sailing is several points off the direct line of the wind... and in strong breezes, more sail can actually slow you down rather than speeding you along. This is true of life as well, where turning yourself directly into the wind will eventually leave your sails fluttering... and it is best to keep your options open by following the direction, but not too closely.

The winds do not obey you or I. They simply blow, or not. We created steamships and motorboats for this very reason. And so we plow forward now on strict time tables on direct lines. We forget the power of patience that are necessary when dealing with the doldrums. The power of listening to the wind in the rigging to hear the subtle changes that we must make to get from A to B. And we forget the white knuckled terror that strikes us when the winds and storms catch us, when all there is to do is pull down the sails, and turn into the waves and hold on.

But it is the doldrums that I think about now. For that is where I am. Sitting and waiting for the gusts to blow on my cheek to tell me that the waiting is over and it is time again to move. But sitting still and waiting is not the only option in sailing. There is a technique called "kedging". In large sailing ships, a small rowboat is sent out carrying the ship's anchor. The men row ahead of the ship and push the anchor overboard. Then the men on the main ship turn a crank to slowly pull the ship forward a few feet. The anchor is then pulled out again and the process is repeated. It is ridiculously hard work. But it keeps us from slipping backward, and keeps us moving forward, however slowly, until the winds pick up again.

Knowing what to do at sea does not come from an owner's manual. Certainly there is training, and basic skills necessary. But at the end of training comes instinct. A finely tuned ability to understand the subtle reactions that a ship takes based on your actions. Being in the doldrums can suck the instinct from you. It can pull you into a lull, addling your brain into contentment. And pulling one self out of this requires a ridiculous amount of labor.

Perhaps it is time to get out the kedge and start rowing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lyrical Memories

Thanks to blog friend Vic I've been singing the theme song from "Up with People" since yesterday.

Up, up with people!
You meet them where ever you go!
Up, up with people!
They're the best kind of folks you know!

That's really all I remember, but that's fine because if I remembered anymore my teeth would fall out. My sister had dreams of touring with them like 30 years ago, and this is the remnent that remains.

My mind is filled with lyrical reminders of times past. For instance... there is the alternative version of The Beverly Hillbillies theme song that I learned from my counselor at church camp that went like this...

Here's a story about a man name Jed
Threw old granny down on the bed.
Down came the zipper, out came the worm.
Out of the worm came a bubbling sperm.

Ah... church camp. My sister, who was also a counselor that year, had a total crush on my surfer dude counselor whose name... at least in my memory... was Jay Gatsby, but now I wonder if memories have blurred. But he was pretty "Great"... at least in teaching us how to avoid "Flat On Back" time and teaching us inappropriate lyrics.

And I am wont to break into song when things are tense. I have an odd munge of show lyrics from long ago, to rock songs, to rap music, to made up lyrics that are spurred by mood and a scrap of conversation. The audience is always my kids. I won't sing for anyone else, so don't ask. But they are safe, and somewhat humored (at least for now) by my musical offerings.

I'm terrible at learning lyrics now. I will listen to a song for years, and still be hazy on the exact lyrics. I'm too busy or not interested enough to concentrate and listen over and over until I have it down verbatim. But songs from years ago are locked in to my brain like my social security number. I wonder what lyrics will form the base of my kids lyrical foundation. I listen as my daughter sings religiously along with the latest pop candy song. Or my son will suddenly start singing along with some old song that I'm listening to in the car that I didn't even think he knew.

I mentioned yesterday that my father was not a big fan of anything past Brahms... which pretty much rules out lyrics. So for him, the rock revolution and the silly songs we sing are pointless. Yet that is a ridiculous notion. The lyrics of life wrap up our collective memories. They provide connective tissue and conversations that last for years and spur memories that would have been long forgotten otherwise. I remember the song that was playing at important events in my life... at the first first kiss (Journey's Open Arms)... wedding... (Aaron and Linda's Don't Know Much)... first kid's birth in the car on the way to the hospital... (REM's The End of the World As We Know It).

Some are cheesy. Some not so much. Some invoke bad memories. Many of them invoke good. But they are tied to times and places forever.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adventure Wingman

When I picked up the phone he said... "What are you doing on Friday." Not hello. Just right to the dramatic setup. We are a lot alike he and I. I suppose I derive a lot of my dramatic timing from him. But after 41 years I've learned that it is better just to humor him and bite on the setup.

"Nothing that can't be changed. Why?"

"Want to drive to Ohio with me?"

I could have thought of a few things I would rather have done. Scrubbing the toilet came to mind.


"Because I just bought a motor home. I need to pick it up on Friday."

Now, I have to admit... this was not what I had thought he was going to say. I didn't really know what he was going to say, but "I bought a motor home" was not at the top of the list. My father is 77, and while he is in pretty good health generally speaking, he hates to travel. He didn't used to hate to travel but I suppose this is one of those things that begins to fade along with... ahem... other abilities. "It was on my bucket list," was all he really offered by way of explanation. I understood. He was there a few days before when we buried my father in law who was 15 years his junior. My father thinks a lot about the sands that are sliding out of his hourglass, but mostly in the background. Funerals tend to bring those thoughts to the foreground. And in point of fact, this dream of buying a motor home was a dream of a much younger him... one about my age. So really... how could I say no. I took a breath... "Sounds like an adventure."

It was a two hour drive to the place which doesn't seem that bad. But considering that my father and I rarely talk anymore, it could just as well have been a week. My father writes books on being open minded and has spent years cultivating a following around the world of fellow travelers who share his open minded thoughts on a website that I keep up for him. The problem is that his open mindedness is contained to certain topics. Like after death recall, and reincarnation, and the like. Not so much on things like the cultural significance of any music past Brahms... or the concept that other people might have some ability to raise my children better than him. Or... well, I could go on, but those are topics for another day. My sister tries to intervene with us from time to time to clear things up, but even she has grudging come around to the idea that I am right... and it is best to let sleeping fathers lie. He is unlikely to change his ways.

It is better simply to celebrate the things that he still gets excited about. And I had honestly not seen him so excited about anything for a long time. We found the place and went inside. They were waiting for him. Like most things, he overdoes it, and he had been on the phone and talking to them for weeks about every detail of this day. So they all knew him by name.

A man that reminded me of Paul Williams was assigned to tech us out on the new purchase. Paul began by showing us the septic system and proceeded to demonstrate how to clean it out by pulling a hose out of the side and splashing the bilge water all over the ground around us as we attempted to jump out of the way. I raised an eyebrow and my father shrugged. It was part of the adventure. It continued with an hour and half tour where we went over ever pump, gauge, button, flange, and battery on the entire structure. I realize that his purpose for bringing me was twofold... first it was a "guy adventure" of which I am the only significant "guy" left for him. And secondly, because there was a lot of stuff to learn, and he was worried that he wouldn't remember it all. And so I watched him and was happy for him and his crazy impulsive need to live his life. Damn the torpedoes... full speed ahead.

I wonder at times what kind of father I will be to my children later in life. How I will interact with my own son. And when, in the course of things, my quirks will begin to annoy and my open mindedness will close in around certain topics to the exclusion of new thought... if he will still come on an adventure or two... just for old times sake. The lives we live with those that are closest to us are often filled with slights, and hurts, and wounds that fester over time. Despite our best attempts to the contrary, those things can build up like bilge water that we carry around with us in our mobile homes. Those wounds can't really be forgotten... the scar tissue runs too deep. But we can say yes to the adventure when it comes our way. And in the end, it is the adventure... and not the petty bickering... which create the epic poems of our life.

And so he drove out of the parking lot, and I followed behind for the two hour drive home... wingman on what might be his last adventure.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Stormchaser

There is a tempest that grows off the shore, spurned by the deep heated wetness. The waves swell, pushed by winds and rains, which turn and turn, gaining momentum, and seeking a foothold on land where its massive potential energy can be unleashed into a howling maelstrom. The wind cycles, cascading over the eye's center, down... down... and then violently back up again. Repeating over and over, growing stronger and faster each time, so fast and so high that the rain flashes to ice in a second before crashing down into the center again.

In the distance, the sirens wail and the flags rigidly point inland, foretelling the inevitable coming. The beaches are quiet, no one to watch the willows bend low in sublimation. There is a relentlessness that is frightening, and yet it is simultaneously exciting and mesmerizing. This wall of energy. This mass of motion. This fury of nature.

Most will flee, hiding behind closed doors and boarded windows. Some will leave completely, moving inland to calmer ports where the rain falls straight down and the wind gusts are caresses. But a few will try to weather the tempest standing before them, longing for its landfall to take them and press its wind and rain and power against them. Some call them brave... others call them foolhardy.

I remember storms like this. Of being the foolhardy one.

But now I live inland.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Night Off

My seven year old looked at the calendar this morning before school and asked me what day it was. I told her and she found it and exclaimed "HEY!! Look! We don't have anything scheduled for today." Then to her brother... "There are only a few days where we have nothing... and today is one of them! We don't have to do anything today, which means we can do whatever we want!"

I think that might qualify us as being officially over committed. Despite attempts to the contrary, with three kids... it is hard not to be over committed. Being the ages they are... and the sexes they are, it is hard to double up on events. Thus, even though we limit what they do... those things are always at the same time and in opposite directions. I don't remember it being this way when I was a kid... but maybe I don't remember because I was a kid.

Being a kid involves being completely oblivious to the consequences on other people regarding your decisions. "I want to..." translates into endless trips squeezed into endless other trips. But failing to listen to the "I want to"s makes one a bad parent. WHAT! Your child wants to play piano and you said NO? **Gasp** It is peer pressure that makes high school look like child's play.

Every parent I know complains about this fact. The pressure of running hither and yon. The desire to be a "good" parent... even though that often means letting them stay up until all hours of the night at musical practice when they have a project due tomorrow. And while we complain about being the taxi driver, we just as often worry about what it is doing to our kids... is there too much pressure? Do seven year olds really need to be looking at calendars and being happy when one of the blocks remains empty?

There is... according to many anthropologists... an evolution in process between my generation and the next. A video is being shown to adults and to teens. The video is a split screen with two different things happening on either side of the screen... with one side having people dressed in blue, and one side with people dressed in blue. Both groups are asked to count the number of times the blue side bounces a basketball. When the video is completed both groups gives their answer to the simple question. Then the person running the test asks the group if they saw the gorilla. 90% of the teens saw the gorilla, which comes on to the red side of the frame dressed in a basketball uniform and dribbles the ball. Less than 20% of the adults saw it... and they were completely stunned when the tape was reversed and they saw just how obvious it was. Not only that, the teens reported a much higher accuracy on the correct number of times the blue side bounced the ball... and were also able to report how many times the red side bounced the ball as well.

There is, I believe, a fundamental change happening in the brains of this next generation. One that involves a much higher level of multitasking and the ability to utilize more of our brains to process it. A change in which the parents of today are unequipped to handle because we are not evolved enough to handle it. But our kids are. Which is a long way around to saying that having them take music and dance and art... letting them play sports... letting them be in musicals and plays... and any number of the other activities that are now available... is okay. Because humanity is evolving to help them process what we could not. Change always happens. And my cro magnon brain is good for driving them here and there, even if it can't process all that they process. And that... my friends... is how evolution happens.

This does NOT change the fact, however, that it is still nice to have a night off every once in a while.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Those Moments

I was sitting with my father watching my son play goalie over the weekend when my father compared the goalie position to that of a pilot using the old joke... "hours and hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror." It is true in many ways... since a great deal of the time the puck is on the opposite end of the rink and there is absolutely nothing to do. But just when the boredom sets in, the puck changes hands and suddenly, as was the case in this game, here come three opposing players with not a defensemen in sight. My stomach drops every time this happens as I watch from the stands. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in the line of fire.

These moments happen not just in hockey games... or in the cockpit... but every day and all around us. And these "moments of terror" aren't always terrifying. The analogy also works for the special moments in life. Those moments when we are, as Joseph Campbell would call it... "fully engaged". Moments when things fly at you from all angles and your body and mind react instinctively. Moments of joy. Moments of terror. Moments when the story lines that we are writing for ourselves come to climax. It is the continuous perfection of that moment that Buddha sought... the name Buddha itself meaning "awakened". In the Hindu and Christian cultures the concept of god becoming part of the world underlies the idea that our incarnation here is merely a forgetting of the spirit life so that we can experience these moments in this existence. There is something reassuring in this idea... that a supreme being would seek to be a part of this world simply to experience that which we take for granted daily.

This concept has been much on my mind of late. The concept of "moments" of life. My life is indeed vast stretches of boredom... of sameness... punctuated by moments of sheer terror... or joy... moments of sheer emotion. Those moments form together like touchstones of my past, forming a life lived. I remember not the filler moments... those moments... like now... that simply lead to the climax. But I remember the births... the deaths... the coming togethers... the breaking aparts... the moments where mind and body are in perfect accord. Those moments when time slows to a crawl and all of my senses are alive.

The Buddha's search for a place where all moments where "those moments" is noble and telling... for truly every moment CAN be one of those moments if we let ourselves experience it that way. But then again, I wonder if we are capable of appreciating the moments if they are ALL special. And perhaps the ebbs and flows of life have a purpose... to lull us into a place where sheer terror... or sheer joy... are possible. And perhaps my challenge is to except the "in between moments" as necessary parts of the whole. We are impatient these days for things to happen NOW, instead of enjoying the times of quiet for what they are... prelude.

After the game, I asked my son what he does to stay focused when the puck was on the other end of the rink. "I hum." And I nodded... and I smiled.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Love and Death: Storylines of the Week

My philosophy of life can be summed up as follows: "It pretty much all works out in the end..."

The problem with this philosophy is A) there is no real clear indicator as to when the end will arrive and B) there is no clear indicator that the end will be the happy ending that we imagine.

But inevitably in my life I have found that what I first took to be bad endings are, in fact, better endings than I could have imagined. My short sighted view had me missing the forest for the trees.

You could say that I view my life... and yours... as the storyline of a novel. A novel in which we are the author, actor, and, more often than not, bit player. Because, you see, we are all the stars of our own shows... but we are the bit players in everyone else's story. And since there are more of you than there of me, I am... a great deal of the time... a bit player in other people's stories. I am alright with that role, as I hope you are about being a supporting character in my story. But I find the story lines... mine and yours... fascinating. The twists, the turns... the bad writing and the moments of sheer prize winning brilliance. And the story lines always work out in the end... some tragedies and some triumphs. But they all resolve... eventually.

I was a bit player in two such plot lines that came to the close of a chapter this week... one happy, one sad. One about death. And one about birth. One in which the star meets his end after a life that was not always well lived. And one in which the girl gets the guy... and the family... and lives (hopefully) happily ever after. I had no speaking lines in either plot, but instead served as audience... providing only reaction shots as the drama played out.

As far as "it pretty much works out in the end"... death would seem to be a pretty bad version of "the end"... and yet I don't believe that. In this particular case, it was the right end to this chapter... and since my personal beliefs include a belief in the here-after... it is the end of chapter, not of the book... and the next chapter might well be a lot happier than this one. And the girl? Well... her story is really just starting. It is a sequel to a best seller...and one that will have many more twists and turns, and ups and downs before it is all over.

My own storyline has many plot lines that are in various stages of resolution. Most will end in ways that I really can't fathom. Some happy, some not... but I have lived enough to know that what is certain is they all of those stories will work themselves out in the end.

The trick is to pick a good supporting cast to help you through both the good and the bad.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm Swine, How Are You?

So the swine flu hit Chez Mobius this weekend. 4 out 5 inhabitants are down for the count. I know, I know. I shouldn't call it "Swine Flu" because the Other White Meat people will get all offended. But really, the other name is more like a computer password... neither of which I can remember with any regularity. Before you all run off screaming, I think that you are safe from contamination. Reading my blogs will NOT make you catch swine flu. Or any other flu for that matter.

Being as how I'm neither pregnant, or an infant, I am hacking and wheezing but pretty much not in danger of anything other than a few days of claustro-house-dephobia... fear of being stuck in my house with the entire family and dog getting on my nerves. There are only so many card games you can play with your seven year old... or so many times you can watch Disney Channel reruns... or so many times you can let the dog out... then in... then out... then in... before you begin to lose it.

At any rate... I'm cranky. And hot. And feeling generally porcine. How are you?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Button Giver

So since all the cool blogger kids are taking hiatuses... hiati?... I thought I would join in too. So I have left you all for new adventures. But I am back filled with stories to tell you. Okay... one story.

I've been in the woods of late. Not figuratively. Literally. Each year the entire fifth grade at my kid's school heads off into the wilderness to learn about nature for 2.5 days. They bring along a few "chosen" parents... mostly ones without criminal records who can actually PROVE that they have no criminal records. At any rate, Monday found me bouncing along to points north on a yellow bus of 10 year olds. My son had deserted me to sit with friends, so I was sitting with the kid with a lisp that apparently no one else wanted to sit with. He announced each sign that we passed, and then asked exactly how far that was to our destination. Finally after an hour we took the exit ramp which caused him to jump up and announce, "Look kids, we're getting off the interstate." but sounded sort of like Sylvester the Cat "look kidthhthh, we're getting off the interthththate." I wanted to point out to him that the reason that he was sitting with me might have had something to do with his use of the word "interstate"... or his insistence on calling them all "kids". But arrive we did. And after unpacking a bus full of bags, including one Gucci bag that I could had fit my entire wardrobe in, the kids were off to meet their leaders and the chaperones were off to learn how to lead.

At this meeting a parent from each group was given a bag with buttons in them. They were special buttons to give to the kids for "special" things they did.. like paying attention, volunteering, and not jumping off cliffs. I was given the bag for our group of twenty kids because the other dad was too busy trying to find cell reception and coffee. Our duties consisted of escorting the kids here and there... entertaining them during breaks... generally staying out of the way of the guides... and handing out buttons. I figured that the kids would find the buttons patronizing as I did. But the dynamic was interesting. The first few badges garnered little attention and I assumed that they mostly didn't care. There were 16 badges and 20 kids... so I tried to watch each kid for a bit and select some special moments. The other father took a few and handed them out like lifesavers if the kid could answer questions like "what is your name?" and so forth. At dinner... badge winners were asked to stand up, and be recognized before returning their badges for the next day. Mostly they rolled their eyes at having to stand up. But kids are sneaky with what they care about... and by day two there was an undercurrent of needing to be recognized.

On day two of our adventure, some mysterious suited men showed up at lunch. "Suited" as in double breasted suits, with $400 loafers. I asked the student teacher sitting next to me at lunch what was up and she whispered that one of the parents in one of the other groups was "crazy..." and the school administrators came to "check in". This, of course, raised my hackles... because the logical conclusion was that someone had called me crazy again. This fear was confirmed when one of the suits followed my group out into the wilderness after lunch. The 20 ducklings, the student teacher, one environmental leader, and me and Mr. Gucci Shoes. The student teacher caught my eye and conspiratorially told me that I wasn't crazy... but Gucci was following because his daughter was in our group. She pointed the girl out.

She was a tiny pixie and in the first day I never saw her without a smile. But when I looked at her now she looked like steam was coming out of her ears. I have never seen a face more full off anger than on that little pixie face. The student teacher filled me in. "The parents are separated... she doesn't like dad much." They didn't teach us about this part in the chaperone training. We marched along through the forest path with Mr. Gucci Shoes trailing us by about 20 yards. While his daugher pushed her way to the front of the line to be as far away from him as possible. It was heartbreaking. From both sides. I have no clue what had gone down between them. It didn't really matter, I suppose. Her perfect world had been shattered. And he was to blame. Rightly or wrongly. And now here was a public reminder of it dogging her adventure in Italian leather. He stayed back and listened to part of the next session, and then when the kids were getting ready to do their learning, he leaned in for a whispered goodbye. She didn't even look at him and he followed the path back to camp. The pixie was still trying to recover several minutes later. She was listening to the wind in the trees, and the chipmunks chipping, and the wood creaking, and studiously copying down these finding into her current exercise, writing the song of nature. But it was hard to hear with all that steam in her ears. I could tell. I was watching her. And the joy of the place was gone, washed away by hurt feeling from the past.

I went and knelt beside her eventually and asked her to tell me her song. She rattled off the sounds and I asked her if she heard the bird in the distance. We both listened for a bit in silence. And the steam began to fade. And as I got up, I handed her a blue listening button with a smile. And suddenly, her smile was back. She pinned it on and showed her best friend who smiled too.

If only it were that easy. I would give buttons every day to everyone I met. Wouldn't you?

Friday, October 2, 2009

10 Things I Remembered This Week

1) I am not as dumb or as smart as she thinks I am.

2) I don't like the feeling of having the floor beneath me removed suddenly.

3) Sometimes saying nothing is the right thing to say.

4) Nooners are good.

5) There is nothing better than playing a three part trio of Heart and Soul with your kids.

6) There is nothing worse than listening to a three part trio of Heart and Soul by your kids.

7) Rain is nice... for a little while. Then it gets kind of sucky.

8) Despite Axe Hair Crisis Relief advertising to the contrary, no horde of women has popped out of a balloon to give my hair a makeover.

9) Expecting things to work out is different than making things work out.

10) There are always other options.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Problem With Being Nice

My new strategy for college saving is drinking lots of Diet Dr. Pepper. They are running some give-away that gets you $1000-a-day to use for tuition. This fits well with my general inability to save money... and my propensity to drink Diet Dr. Pepper all day. I think this is sage on several levels. One... I can continue to spend money now rather than save it for the kids for later. Two... in the unlikely event that I DON'T win... I will have shortened my life considerably through the overdose of all sorts of baaaaadddd chemicals, and therefore my life insurance will kick in to pay for higher education. "Doctor... we tried to draw blood but all we got was this fizzy liquid!" Perfectly logical reasoning.

On an unrelated yet related note... my children are too damn popular. They have been invited to no less than six birthday parties this week alone. My budget for "birthday presents for strangers" is also eating into college savings, not to mention my budget for essential things like food, heat and movies. I've told them to be less friendly. But they don't listen. My 12yo lectured me on niceness yesterday. She said... "Daddy... people always say I'm too nice... because I'm very empathetic. And there are worse things than being nice." I told her that she collected needy friends like stray cats.

Anyway... so the boy gets off the bus at 3:55 yesterday and tells me he has been invited to ANOTHER birthday party. I rolled my eyes and asked when it was... "Today." "TODAY! When today!" "At 4:10". Now, my ability to deal with chaos is pretty high... but since the other half was off at a school meeting, and I was busy cooking the dinner in preparation for dance/clarinet/musical practice/other meetings later on that night... this came as a little bit of a shock.

Boy: Mommy knows about this.
Me: Well... I didn't get the memo. Who's party is this?
Boy: (Name I've never heard)
Me: Who the hell is that?
Boy: That's XXXX's brother.
Me: Wait... you got invited to his BROTHER's party?
Boy: His brother likes me.
Me: I'm sure he does. That's not really the point.

At that moment the cavalry arrived in the form of the other half.

Her: Crap... I forgot. Ok.. plan B. We are taking the gift card I bought for Saturday's party and put it in the card I bought for Sunday's party... there problem solved.

I made the executive decision not to point out that this was a small symptom of an entirely larger problem. But the day was already stress filled enough.

And soon I was off to delivery the boy and his borrowed present to a party for his best friend's brother grumbling to myself about stray cats and college.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What They Draw From You

Repost... by request.

In a few weeks, my son will be entering his second decade on this planet. This has caused me pause and made me reflect on the boy who is fast changing into something larger and greater. All parents desire for their children to exceed... to move beyond the parent and into a life all their own. And yet all parents rue the passage... even if we don't admit it. His true passage is still years away. But I can see the potential of the man I helped to make. The genetics are a mix... my ears and build... her hair and coloring... but his eyes... they are all his own. That is a good description of children, perhaps. The chaos of mixing genetic materials which follow a form not to stray too far away from the original... but far enough to make the world interesting.

When he lay on the ER table a month back, being stitched up from taking a hockey stick between the eyes in a backyard game, he didn't cry. He joked with the doctor... deflecting fear and pain with humor. I sat beside him, holding his hand. The doctor asked where he had managed to get such a sense of humor... he didn't answer verbally, but his small finger rose so that only I could see it and he pointed at me. And he was right of course. In more ways than one. Humor is a weapon that we both employ with surgical skill from time to time. And we take pleasure in making each other laugh to the point of choking at the dinner table... and yet in his eyes... I see a melancholy. A melancholy that I recognize from my own reflection that passes from time to time. And so he deflects already the questions of sadness, hiding them behind a veil of laughter. There is nothing really to be sad about... but that is just the way that he is wired.

He is smarter than me. Certainly he hasn't walked the miles I have and has not the life experience that I have. But his IQ is above mine by a significant margin, and I'm not really a slouch. I'm fascinated by this. I challenge him constantly and am nearly always amazed by his capacity to absorb and adapt and change. We started playing chess last week. He knows the game and apparently has become the class chess champ. But he needed more of a challenge so he asked me to play. We had played in years past and he frustrated easily because he could not beat me. So he quit. Also a trait from yours truly. But this time it was different. He wanted to learn and have me explain what I was doing and why so he could beat his friends more easily. We dissected the game and he sucked it all in. And we played again, he, armed with new weapons, and me trying to set up chances and opportunities for him to see if he would catch them. He did. All of them. And I found myself losing. It took me years to beat my own father. It was a rite a passage I wasn't about to let go casually. So I played harder and eventually trapped him. But he was smiling this time because he knew that he had done well.

They are all so different. So unique in their own ways. You can group him if you like. Call him the middle child. Call him a result of nature. Or of nurture. Or diagnose the fact that he is the only boy with two sisters... You can see his tendencies and point them back to their origins. His dislike of crowds... or his taste for mustard and pickles... his reflexes... his smile.... his calculating eyes... his hyperactive leg... his fascination with building... his dislike of reading fiction... his yen for a life as a hero... his catlike need to rub his face against you...

But they are his. Not mine. Not hers. Not anyone but his. He is a snowflake. And so are we all.

Friday, September 25, 2009

10 Things I Remembered This Week

1) "Umlaut" is fun to say over and over.

2) Settling is much different than compromising.

3) You need to let them fall... repeatedly... as hard as it is to watch.

4) Sometimes it is nice to hear the words "it is going to be alright"... even if you are sure it isn't.

5) Sarcasm is not really an effective parenting tool.

6) It is impossible to be a writer without actually writing. Thinking about writing doesn't count.

7) Those goofy shoes she bought you because the look sexxayyy?... wear them... even if you feel goooofyyyy.

8) Wine is gooooood.

9) Sometimes the cover-up is worse than the actual crime.

10) Sometimes when the whole world is upside down and topsy turvey... the only thing to do is to play ping pong.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Random Flotsam

So the wife bought a new yard tchotchke over the weekend. It is a stone thing that supposedly looks like our dog curled up and sleeping. Our dog, however, is apparently offended by this analogy and barks at it with suspicion every time he passes it. I am in agreement with him. To me it looks more like the pig fetus that I had to dissect in 10th grade biology class. Every time I pass it I get a throwback wiff of formaldehyde and feel like barking at it too.

I finished reading the world's most depressing book the other day. Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I've always loved his prose, and this is the best of his that I've ever read... which apparently the Pulitzer's guys agreed with. They failed to mention however that it is the world's most depressing book. I wish I could have written the lines for the back cover... Mobius says, "Impossible to put down, harder to pick up." or Mobius says "Don't read without a large prescription of Prozac". But thankfully for those of you who don't want to read it, the movie will be out in a few months starring The King... from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Oh Boy! Just what we need in these days of depression... the world's most depressing movie!

Weird things are afoot in my town. The free world has come for a visit and brought along their various cadre of detractors. I suppose this is why they picked to do it here... since the world won't shut down if our city does. Literally... shut down. Unless you are head of state... don't try to get to work. My daughter was doing a report on one of the countries coming... she got France... and had to do a history of the country. So I helped her learn about Napoleon... and the guillotine... and trench warfare... and the Maginot line... and the 5th republic. Then I asked if she knew who Nicolas Sarkozy was... so we looked him up. Then I threw in a fun fact... "Did you know he is married to a supermodel?" At 12 she is accomplished Googler... so she Googled her. Oops. Um... Yes... well... the French also like to be topless. A lot.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On Peace...

We are a world of war. A world where the strong survive and the weak perish. Where those with money and power and influence can fix it so that they get more of the same by taking from those without. It is a world of injustice, where so often "justice" comes in the form of pent up anger which becomes a fist to the face of those who have caused us to suffer. It is a world that encourages conflict... for our entertainment... for our safety and way of life... even, perversely, for our continued peace.

Peace is word that conjures hippies, and radicals... people with rose colored glasses... Gandhi... Martin Luther King, Jr. And look what happened to them. We act as if death is the worst thing that can happen to us. Our most basic desire is, afterall, survival.

Yet, there are lines and shades of gray in all of this. I would not shoot a person in cold blood. But threaten my family... and the gloves come off. Without hesitation. So the power is there... right in my itchy trigger finger, through which blood flows from a supposedly peaceful heart. Situations always override philosophies. And every one of us has that breaking point.

So how do we pursue peace in a world that is so permeated by a need to fight? It is an nearly impossible task. It makes our eyes hurt to consider it. It becomes justification. Thin slicing. Endless scenarios on which writers, filmmakers and news moguls revel.

It is a tiny step at a time. The quotations are there every day.... "The greatest achievement is selflessness." "Love thy neighbor as thyself". "There is never a good war... or a bad peace." "We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds." "Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous."

And lastly... from the Dalai Lama: "Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for example, starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us.

Today is the UN International Day of Peace... spread the word... and spread the peace. One small situation at a time

Friday, September 18, 2009

10 Things I Remembered This Week

1) You can always get one more squeeze out of the toothpaste tube.

2) The bus comes regardless of your level or readiness.

3) There is a direct correlation between my inability to get comfortable at night and my inability to get uncomfortable in the morning.

4) Colds have little to do with being cold.

5) Waiting an extra second before talking is never, ever, ever a bad thing.

7) The people that quote Leviticus 18:22 are the ones most likely to forget Luke 6:31.

8) No matter how many times I return, a wagging tail makes me smile.

9) I'm not as cool as I was last week... but next week I will be retro.

10) We act like time is infinite and love is finite... when we should do the reverse.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


One of my favorite pictures of my son is one from when he was about three or four. He was in a serious Toy Story phase of life and we had bought him a four foot puzzle of Buzz Lightyear. The picture is an overhead shot that I took of him as he lay flat on the floor next to the puzzle pointing to the sky in imitation of his hero. He is wearing his Buzz Lightyear pajamas and a smile of sheer unadulterated joy.

"Unadulterated" is the perfect word. Even though the Latin roots for "adult" and "adulterated" aren't really the same... they are the similar. "Adult" comes from the Latin "adultus"... to grow... where as "adulterated" comes from "adulteratus"... or to change. To "adulterate" something, Webster tells us, is to corrupt, debase or make something impure by the addition of a foreign substance. So to be "unadulterated" is to be pure. And what better way is there to describe the difference between the wide-eyed awe of childhood to the jadedness that many feel as they age.

Most boys (and many girls too) grow up with fantasies of having special powers. Super powers. Be it strength, the ability to fly, laser bolt eyes, invisibility, or just a belt with really cool gadgets on it... all of my friends wanted one. To be able to stand up to the bad guys on the playground. To be looked at as special and super. To have people whisper with awe when you walked into a room. I mean, really... what is cooler than a guy in tights.

Over time it happens to them all... they grow. And the boys become young men and slowly the world of expectations encroaches on their fantasies... diluting them. Adulterating them. The spandex gets hung away in favor of other super suits... in my son's case, hockey goalie pads. Dreams of living in the Super Friend's Headquarters replaced by dreams of playing in the NHL. And while that is a little more realistic, it isn't by much. Don't get me wrong, I won't discourage the dream. But I know the odds... and so does he, really. He knows the pads don't make him invincible. He has won games... but he has also lost enough to know that they good guys don't always win. And each goal that he lets by further distills the purity of that smile in that picture.

The other day he was in the store and I caught him looking at a large display of Toy Story stuff in anticipation of both the original and sequel's re-release in theaters... (and in 3D!) There was a wistful look on his face. A memory of the forgotten past. A smile. I wanted to tell him that he doesn't need a super suit to be special. But me telling him, won't make him believe it. He needs to discover it himself. I pray that he does, before the world encroaches and makes him doubt. That is the wish of every parent.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Positively Insane

Me: Ok... so we have established that you think that health care reform would be too expensive.

Insane Person: Yes.

Me: But you are small business owner, like me, right?

Insane Person: Yes...

Me: And are your insurance rates ridiculous too?

Insane Person: Oh, they are ridiculous! And they keep going up.

Me: But you don't think that we should address that? You wouldn't like lower rates?

Insane Person: Of course I would... but not if my taxes are going to go up.

Me: No one said they would.

Insane Person: They have to, where else would they get the money.

Me: Now this is where I tell you that it would have been helpful if you were able to watch the speech from the other night where talked about these things.

Insane Person: But I told you.. I don't have to because I just listen to the news afterward.

Me: Fox news.

Insane Person: Yes!

Me: Third Base... right. Well, one of the things he pointed out in his speech was that we all have driver's insurance, right? Why do we have driver's insurance?

Insane Person: Because it is the law.

Me: RIGHT! So if you crash into me... I have some protection. But why shouldn't I have some protection against the 46 million people who get sick and go to the hospital and receive treatment... I mean, why should I have to pay for them getting sick.

Insane Person: Right!

Me: Right! So tell me again why you are against that?

Insane Person: Because I don't want to pay for their insurance.

Me: But... we... just... covered.... that.

Insane Person: Well the government paying for them and taxing us is the same thing, isn't it?

Me: Not even remotely... first the idea of public option gives a low cost health plan to people who can't afford their own plan by themselves. Secondly... they are trying to make it pay for itself.

Insane Person: They will fail.

Me: That's your answer? They will fail? So we should just give up?

Insane Person: Oh... no... I'm a very positive person.

Me: Obviously.

Tea for Two... With Smartphones for One

Me: So we have established that your opinion counts more than mine, right?

Insane Person: What? I never said that.

Me: You did say that since your candidates didn't win, that you have no representation, correct?

Insane Person: Well... yes. I don't agree with what they are doing.

Me: But do you at least acknowledge that they are your legally elected representatives?

Insane Person: I think that there are questions about how he got into office... like whether he is a citizen or not.

Me: Really? So you think that everyone that has shown proof that he was born in Hawaii is lying?

Insane Person: Well, I still haven't seen proof.

Me: Have you looked for proof?

Insane Person: Well.. no.

Me: (pulls out Phone)... Here.. that's a copy of his birth certificate.

Insane Person: I can't read it.

Me: That's because it is on a Smart Phone. **sigh** OK.. so because you didn't vote for them, then your opinion is the only opinion that counts, correct?

Insane Person: That's not how I would put it.

Me: Ok... how would you put it?

Insane Person: I'm just expressing my opinion that there is no way we can pay for healthcare for the whole country.

Me: Ok... that's fair. I will stop making fun of the name of your ill-named party and your inability to read factual documents, so we can concentrate on the facts at hand. Healthcare. What don't you like about the bill?

Insane Person: Well.. I just don't think that the governent should be interfering with it.

Me: Because it works so well?

Insane Person: No... I think there is a lot that could be fixed.

Me: Ok... so who should do it?

Insane Person: Well, the companies should do it themselves.

Me: Why would they do that? Isn't their job to make their stock holder's money?

Insant Person: Well, yes... but government shouldn't have a place there.

Me: Ok... so we have established that it needs fixed... but you think that the companies should do it themselves. Got it. By the way... did you read the bill? Or actually.. the five bills, since there are currently five... none of which is up for a vote yet.

Insane Person: No.. I'm sure no one reads them.

Me: Actually, I think a lot of people do. Did you listen to the President's speech the other night?

Insane Person: Oh, no... but someone I work with read me a little bit of it.

Me: Hmm... so how do you know you are against it when you don't know what it says?

Insane Person: Because I watch the news.

Me: And the liberal media tells you what to think about it?

Insane Person: I don't listen to the liberal news shows.

Me: I thought all news was liberal.

Insane Person: Most is... but Fox news gets it right.

Me: Except for the parts where they make stuff up?

Insane Person: They don't make things up.

Me: I would show you a long list of things on my smart phone.... but they would just bounce off you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Whine and Tea

Me: So why DO they call these things Tea Parties, anyway?

Insane Person: You know... because of the Boston Tea Party.

Me: You mean, the one where they dumped the tea into the harbor to protest British taxes?

Insane Person: Yup...

Me: The one where they were complaining because they were being taxed by the king without representation in Parliament?

Insane Person: Yes...

Me: But you have representation.

Insane Person: No I don't...

Me: You have a congressman, you have two senators, and you have a president, right?

Insane Person: Not ones that I voted for.

Me: But you did vote, yes?

Insane Person: Of course I did... It is my right. Just like it is my right to go my Tea Party and protest.

Me: Yes.. but shouldn't you be calling it a Whine Party instead of Tea Party?

Insane Person: I don't drink wine.

Me: You might want to rethink that strategy. I'm certainly opening a bottle.

Disposable Thumbs

I love the overheard conversations among my kids.

7yo: Well you know monkeys have disposable thumbs.

10yo: Ha! You mean OP-posable thumbs. Disposable means "easy to throw out".

7yo: I know that... but it's just easier to say.

So I'm painting my mother in law's house this weekend. The tall peaks and the stuff that no one else can reach. I'm the designated "tall guy". I used to do a lot of painting back in the day. I didn't really mind the high stuff back then. In fact, I can remember jumping off the roof and doing a stunt roll into my back yard... carefully avoid the dog terds. It used to seem so cool. I never broke anything. Somehow. But as I scaled the ladder and felt it go twisty under me as it settled into the rocks, I felt that pit in my stomach. That "oh no I'm going to fall and break my leg" feeling. Having never fallen and broken my leg, I wonder why it is that I worry about this quite so much. I mean, sure... if I had felt that pain before, I would sure as hell want to skip it the next time. But no breaks. I can only conclude that the "older, wiser" me understands the potential more than the "younger stupider" me. But this isn't entirely true. I knew that it was possible that I would break something. But I did it anyway. There was no one ever around so it wasn't like I was showing off. And I knew the risks. But I jumped anyway.

I find this interesting. I wonder if kids who are brought up to decide for themselves are more able, at a later age, to figure out what works and doesn't work... and therefore avoid the stupid things when they get older. Which then also makes me wonder if the overly protective way that most parents today handle their kids is going to lead to a generation of risk takers of adults trying to find their limits. Do risk taker kids = more cautious parents? Or do overprotected kids = risk taking adults.

While I was thinking all of this the 10yo appears below me.

10YO: Can I get on the roof?

You would look at me like I was crazy if I let my little monkeys get on the roof. I know you people. Because I've become one of those people too. Besides... it is a high roof. *Gasp* what was he thinking??

Me: Not today, buddy.

10YO: Why not?

Me: Cause your thumbs or none of the rest of you is "disposable".

10YO: Can I get on the ladder?


Me: Ok.. but be CAREFUL.

Coming from the kid that jumped of the roof...

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Treadmill

I'm tired. I've been on a treadmill seemingly forever. Walking. Always walking. But never getting anywhere. The view doesn't change... I never pass into the shade... or into the sun. But I remain, instead, in the greenish glow of flickering fluorescents. I never get away from what is behind me... and I never seem to reach that next crest. There are no surprises along the path. The walls are the same here as they were an hour ago. Or last week. Or last month.

I don't want to be jaded. Really. I want to be positive. I want to feel that childlike surprise that went missing somewhere around puberty. Is that the way it is? I say this... and I can see you nodding your heads. Because even if you think you have it figured out how to manufacture surprise... it is man-made. It isn't as real as it once was. Maybe at points we catch a glimpse of it... and handful of water that falls through our grasp before we can fully catch it. Maybe that is why we love watching children because we recognize the realness of their awe.

The others on the treadmills all around me don't change either. They react in predictable ways... saying predictable things... at predictable times. There is such disappointment in this. The knowing. When we pass over that point when people we love are able to surprise us. We know before their mouths even open. We cringe and turn away and feel ourselves sink just a little lower. Surprise replaced by disappointment, again.

Your comments will extol me to get off the treadmill and take a walk in the woods. They will tell me just to sit and be quiet. But you know as well as I, that this is easier said than done. And that I'm not really talking about walking anyway.

You fight the sameness by change. But eventually even the change becomes the same. And we become nomads with no real home, and a long trail of pasts that all look the same.

The trick isn't to change, of course... the trick is simply to accept. In the sameness is a comfort that we fail to appreciate while we are busy walking away. We picked to walk on this treadmill surrounded by these people because at one time we liked the place... and we liked the people. The words that disappoint us now, are the same words that once resonated with us.

Accepting is a choice. So is walking away. Neither are easy. Each hold consequences. They say that change is inevitable. I think the biggest change that we have to make is moving from a life of nomad to the life of a farmer. Accepting that we will see the same treeline... plow the same fields... and milk the same cows... for the rest of our time here. Acceptance means letting go of the jadedness. And, perhaps, the biggest surprise in all of this is that the predictable becomes less predicable... less disappointing.

Or so I keep telling myself.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Falconer and the Falcon

I've decided to repost a few blogs now and then that I've posted at various other times. For those that have read before apologies... but this is going to be home for awhile, so I'd like to keep them together someplace virtual. To those that haven't read them before... enjoy.


Several years ago I was friends with a falconer. He had rescued a red-tail hawk with a bad wing and nursed it back to health. The bird was housed on the campus of SUNY Purchase and we drove there one day together, on a day very much like today. The fireworks were exploding in the fall trees, the sun crystal in the blue sky. I held the hawk on my arm for a moment. He was heavy. Solid muscle. With piercing eyes that cut through you. He was capable. Built and bred for one thing… to hunt. My friend and I walked with the bird up the hill to the start of a forest. He let the hawk fly and it immediately went to the top of a nearby tree. My friend explained that it was very important to let the hawk hunt, to keep its instincts sharp.

What followed was a lesson in instincts. We followed the hawk as it flew from tree to tree. Finally stopping for a long time atop a massive oak. We watched for a long time. Then with a sudden burst, its wings spread slightly... and it dove. It hit the squirrel as it ran along the branch. The squirrel squeaked in terror that could be heard far below. The hawk shoved its talons into the squirrel's back and then let itself go limp. The squirrel clung for dear life onto the bottom of the branch, suddenly supporting not only its own weight, but the entire weight of the hawk too. It was only a matter of time. But they hung there for a few moments, prolonging the inevitable. Finally the tiny claws tired and weakened and finally let go. The two spiraled down quietly and my friend walked over and calmly covered the squirrel just as they hit the ground. He gave the bird a bit of raw meat while he quietly smothered the squirrel himself.

The trick of dependency is to fool the hawk into thinking that it can't hunt without you. To train it to give over its hard won prize of fresh meat for a morsel of dried meat. The hawk needed only to keep flying and find its own way, and yet it chose to stay in the safety of the world it had become accustomed to.

Our instincts tell us to hunt. But our need for comfort keeps us all on the arm of the falconer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Lakehouse

The boy sat eating his cereal before bed. He slurped milk and then looked up at me. "Dad... can we get a lakehouse?"

I had actually been waiting for a question like this. It used to be... "Dad, can we get a pack of Pokemon cards?" But he is aging into an acute awareness of the have and the have nots.

We have several friends of good fortune who like to share. #1 spawn has a friend whose father is chief muckedy muck of something at a company that you would know. Last year they bought a lakehouse an hour north of us. And while #1 spawn has stayed several times, this weekend was our first trip as a family. The place is beautiful, with a big boat that was on a constant rotation of pulling kids around in inter-tubes the whole day. It was a fantastic day. A day that you remember. And as I watched the boy eat his Captain Crunch I could almost read his mind. How cool would it be to be them.

We are, at the very least, predicable. Pleasure seekers. Hardship avoiders. And that scariest of words... entitled.

I joked off the request... but it stuck with me for the rest of the night. We have volunteered before a homeless shelters... but perhaps it was time for a return trip. Just a reminder of what it is that we DO have. Instead of reminders of what we don't. The spawns are pretty well balanced for the most part. They understand the dynamics of the world better than many. But there is always room for reminders. Hell... I need it sometimes too.

There is that razor's edge on which we must all balance. The acknowledgment of what we have... and the blessings that we take so for granted on a daily basis. And the desire to continue to try for betterment. I live in an area and a circle of people whose lives revolve around keeping up with the Jones. And I sometimes like taking jabs at those that go overboard. But for the most part, the people we hang with are those that don't make a big deal of what they have... or what they don't.

It is like climbing a mountain with no summit. We get a handhold and won't let go... scared to death of having to go back down. We get so used to life the way it is right NOW... that we forget what it was like a week ago. And so we don't want change if it means losing what we have. But we desperately want change if it means getting a handhold further up the cliff.

My goal for today is to be satisfied with right now.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How About These Cookies

So on Mona Lott's recommendation I had General Tso's for lunch. My fortune is as follows:

WTF? "but that's okay.."??

First of all, black blogs of sorrow aside, I am a steely eyed retired super hero. I know you all think I'm all mopey and whiney in real life. But I am a master exaggerator. Or not. But you wouldn't want to play poker with me. I'm that good at holding it deep inside.

So yes... I am annoyed that the cookie is patronizing me. "that's okay..." with a little pat on the head for good luck.

I'm annoyed, but I ain't showing it.

Why don't I get these cookies?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rocks and Hard Places

I've have had a pit in my stomach for awhile. It sits there... some days quiet... some days loud and nagging. Today it is yelling in my ear... "J’aurai toujours faim de toi"

It used to be that the decisions to be made were blacker. And whiter. You wrote them down and balanced the pros and the cons and the path suddenly appeared... like a lighted walkway, suddenly appearing in the dark. But perhaps the comic gods of fate have decided to mix things up a bit and make the pros and the cons equally wonderful... or equally horrible. The win wins have been replaced by lose loses.

And when I talk to people, I see them facing their own rock and hard place situations. And my heart hurts. For them. For me. But inevitably I manage to feel optimism for those other people. I know that things will turn for them. That situations that seem unwinnable from this vantage will shift and change and take on a different light when you move down the road a bit. I encourage them to meet their demons. And tell them that it will be alright.

But I can't quite convince myself of the same thing. Why is that? Why is that we are better about helping others over obstacles than we are at climbing them ourselves. I say "we" because I want your company even thought it haunts me. I say "we" because I don't want to admit that I can't get my legs to work just now. Because it is easier to push you ahead and tell you to face your own demons than it is to admit that I am scared.

The fears of childhood... the bogeymen that wait in the closets... are transformed from the imaginary and into full bodied horrors that we call regret. The worst rock and hard place decisions are ones that leave a trail of regret regardless of the decision that you make. Either decision by itself can bring joy. But choosing one over the other causes the color of both to fade. Moving one way... leaves behind the wraith of what could have been which sucks the soul out of the path taken.

I seek no sympathy. Since this is my path. I don't seek advice. Because having dispensed much in my time, I know that words aren't the answer. I can't even wish for company, because it is better simply to find my way alone. But the pit started the day I willed my legs to move. Even though it tore my whole being down the middle. It is grayer now than it was. Both in front of me and behind me. But if I keep moving perhaps, eventually, I will find the sun again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Check Engine Light

My car's Check Engine Light has been on for days. This happens periodically and the first time it resulted in the standard reaction of "oh no my car is ready to burn up into a pile of cinder" and a slow painful trip to the mechanic. Roland... my filthy mechanic, who resembles a holocaust survivor but a survivor that knows his way around an engine, chuckled and said in his faux-southern drawl "you didn't tighten the gas cap."


Apparently, in Hondas and Toyotas the "Check Engine Light" goes off when the car is burning up and ready to explode, or if you fail to tighten the gas cap sufficiently. I think this might be some sort of Japanese engineering humor.

My internal Check Engine Light goes off every so often too. It is a nagging amber light of doom that sits inside my peripheral vision and tells me that my life is about to explode into a disaster of epic proportion... or that my zipper is down. It is the little light that cried wolf. At first you rush off to have it looked at... and they open you up and diagnose you with all sorts of physical and mental issues. Or worse yet... you skip the mechanic and research the problem on line yourself. That is a sure path to hell. Because literally every symptom is either intestinal gas or a brain tumor. Which only makes it harder to ignore the your Check Engine Light.

"It must be a brain tumor!" You panic and sweat and worry. And then you psych yourself up for the doctor who laughs at you and says... "gas!" and hands you some antacid.

The hardware problems are nothing compared to the software one... those are a real bitch. My heart and the carburetor are easy to diagnose. But my on-board computers and psyche. Well... that is more of an imprecise art. They are finicky and sometimes it is as simple as hitting the reset button. But sometimes only drugs will help.

So I drive on. Pointedly ignoring the light. Hoping that my zipper is down. Ignorance is, after all, bliss. And I'm all about following my bliss.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Pier Glass

Over the years, my visage has changed. Grown longer... wider. The hair whiter... coarser. The eyes wiser. Or perhaps more jaded. It is difficult to separate those two things some days. I have fallen and gotten up too many times to count, the scars on my knees hidden by the scabs of my latest debacle. The face that looks back from the glass is no longer quite as full of potential as it once was. The edges are worn off and what remains is tilted with a rueful smile. It was never, what I would call, handsome. But there are moments when the look is pleasing, usually following some triumph where all is right. At other times it is best not to look too carefully, because the lines and creases have begun to deepen and the imperfections are all too... visible. But the physical features matter less as the sand shifts. It is the eyes that matter. At what point did the eyes change? When they look back on me now, the knowledge of the miles they have seen makes it hard for them to be as convincing of the things that are around the next bend.

A pier glass is a large mirror... hung high on a wall often between two windows. Its silver extends and reflects the room upon itself, giving the illusion of large space. It hides nothing and as I stand there looking... it is not the preened self that reflects in the mirror of the bathroom. The one in which I stand up straighter, and lower my jawline, in a futile attempt at vanity. No... the pier glass shows me as I am, unaware of the need for vanity. Stooped and gray and weighted by the years and the worries. I catch the glimpse of this stranger and feel the shock of recognition... as if seeing a long lost mate, suddenly coming in to a focus of memories. They flood through me. The memories.

But the mirror hangs between windows... the windows are not for reflection, but to allow others to see in. All of us... everyone of us... wonders how the world views us. Wonders what they see... and what they miss. The scars are never as noticeable to others as they are to yourself. But I am struck by the dichotomy of these two views... self view... and the view of others. How harsh we are on ourselves. How we learn to focus on the cuts and bruises that we know so well, instead of the beauty that radiates. At a certain point the mirrors become useless. It only reflects the eyes that either lie... or tell too much truth. Neither is fair. Neither is accurate.

But the jaded eyes also know that those looking through the windows allow their views to be colored, skewed by the imperfections of the glass, which perhaps reflects themselves back a bit as they stare through to you. These views are colored by jealousy. Colored by hatred. Colored by bigotry. Colored by desire. Colored by envy. Colored by grief. Colored... it would seem... by their own eye that have walked their own path and thus have formed their own distorted view.

So who to trust? We read often of unconditional love. The skeptic in me wonders if the idea is simply fantasy. The romantic in me wonders if this is the real answer to the question of trust. Unconditional love sees all... the bruises... the scabs... the jaded eyes... and loves anyway without distortion. And what we wish for is that... someone in the pier glass, or someone in the window that can view us that way.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pieces of Eight (repost)

From a few years back... something that resonated with me that I had forgotten that I wrote.

The air is still. The world is quiet. It is an odd pause in the bustle of the busy street. The constant flow of jets overhead stops for a moment. The stream of red lights going and white lights coming over the far away hill show that the arterial vessels of civilization still pump. It is just my little world here that has gone quiet.

The dog sniffs the air expectantly. I listen too. Listen to the quiet. Smell the cool air. A bird sings somewhere. The frozen grass crunches underfoot. We are caught in between, it seems. Caught in that waiting. Waiting for the cold to end and the new growth to begin.

There is the temptation in this world to fear the quiet. We grow nervous by the waiting. The expectation. It is worse than bad news. Bad news can be dealt with. Handled. Faced. Worked on. Gotten over. But quiet is harder. In it lurks our worst fears or our greatest wishes... or perhaps even the disappointment that when the quiet is gone again, all will be just the same.

A new sound emerges. Low and distant. Growing louder. The dog and I turn toward it. It comes from the sky. High up. But not the dull constant whine of a jet engine. The jagged honking of an enormous vee of geese. Hundreds of them. They follow the leader, the vee breaking and reforming in an organic, and cosmically mathematically way. They are returning. Coming home. The scales of the quiet are broken and despite the crunching of the grass, and the wispy breath in the cold air... the change is coming.

I have been through these times often enough to know that the quiet isn't to be dreaded any longer. Change comes regardless. And on its own terms. I am merely a passenger. I can look back at my life and see those crossroads that came before me. Some were happy. Some not. But they were all valuable to who I am now.

The quiet spaces are like silver coins in my hand. Some are worn and dirty. Some are small. Some large. But all valuable in their own way. And together they add up to a lifetime. Am I worth more now than I was then? Maybe. Or maybe not. Worth rises and falls on the whims of strangers. And those that count their coins constantly have buried their heads in the past. Trying to control what is uncontrollable. They will not buy future happiness. They are only tokens. Reminders.

And so I pocket the coins. They settle there, a comforting weight. And I tell myself that they are worthless to anyone but me. And I watch the geese coming. I watch the change coming. Without fear. Without expectation. But with a rueful smile.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Edge

I am sore today. And tired. And cranky. I feel old. I feel suspended in time. Late August does that. It always feels like the world conspires and all parts of life begin acting alike. Awaiting the shoe to fall. It is a conveyor belt of sameness. Until it isn't. Then it turns shockingly to one side or another. Most people I know are the same. They complain about the sameness. They complain about the sudden changes. We all ride the same rides. We pretend that they are different rides from everyone else. But really they are the same ride. Mine isn't more important than yours. Yours... not more important than mine. But we like to pretend that we are the first to ride this particular ride.

What I really want is a little break from the monotony. But not too much. Something unexpected and good. Not necessarily great. Just good. Definitely not bad. God... even the music that plays on my iPod is repeating itself despite having four weeks of music loaded on it.

This way of living is indicative of our time, I suppose. A media frenzy erupts until they kill the story. Then they are bored because they know we are bored until something else traumatic happens to rouse us all again.

But I'm tired of the roller coaster. I'm tired of writing the same things. I'm tired of reading the same things.

So I'm cranky. That will have to do until something comes along to make me smile.

So go on... entertain me. **fires shots at your feet to make you dance**.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Death Panels? Really? That is the Best They Can Come Up With?

I ask myself on a daily basis if I am biased. I just can't grasp the nonsensical rants being spewed against the need to change health care in this country. Am I alone?

Don't get me wrong. I have attempted not to dismiss the rants out of hand. I have honestly tried to stop and listen to find out if I missing something that these people have gleaned that I have somehow missed.

From what I understand... these people seem to believe that we are all complicit in a government plan to kill people. I've read the offending passage... which I'm sure many of them haven't. It reads as such.

From the infamous Page 425 of the Health Care Bill
Advance Care Planning Consultation
Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following: ‘‘(A) An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to. ‘‘(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses. ‘‘(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy. ‘‘(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning, including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning clearinghouses, and State legal service organizations (including those funded through the Older Americans Act of 1965). ‘‘(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.

So... what I can try to see when I scrunch my eyes up tight and pretend to be them is that they see that doctors will be forced to provide consultation every five years in which they will be forced to explain living wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney, such insidious things called "end of life" services... **dramatic music** which include palliative care and hospice.

Could be as simple as that the people ranting don't understand that many doctors and social workers do this today? And that end-of-life services are not death squads? But wonderful and helpful services for the very, very sad fact that we ALL die eventually... some of us in long drawn out and painful ways that make it extremely difficult on those close to us... and so palliative care and hospice comes to help us? Having lived with and around nurses, social workers, and palliative care professionals most of my life... I realize from the stories I hear what happens when you DON'T have living wills and health care proxies designated. You have situations where your loved ones are forced to make decisions on your life or death without your input. And the guilt of making these decisions can last the rest of their lives. So why in the world would I NOT want a doctor helping me to understand this paperwork and my choices while I am still able to understand and help guide those around me with the decisions that most effect me?

And how in God's name do we get from that paragraph above to accusing Obama of being a Nazi? That is absurd. And yet people continue to jump on that bandwagon. "Well... the liberals called Bush a Nazi." This is the excuse I've heard. So that's what this is? Payback? And comparing someone who ordered the unprovoked attack on another country... to someone who is taking on the largest and most powerful example of what is wrong with the free-market system. Fascists were for free market, capitalist societies, as I recall. The ranters can't even get their analogies right. At the least, they should be calling him Stalin.

Where is the reasoned discourse? Where are the pro and con arguments that are what makes this country great? I'm not saying that the bill is perfect... none of them are. But if the best they can come up with is death squads... I fear for our society. Not because the liberals will ruin it. But because the opposition is apparently too stupid to argue the edges off the liberal agenda. And the real danger comes when you get the boat so out of balance that we all sink.