Friday, February 1, 2019

On Groundhog Day, 2002

A select few hurt my heart a little but, overall, it has been relatively easy to write the pieces I’ve done here over the past eight years – four-hundred-and-eight-eight of them.  Earlier on I was so blinded by and enamored of the boys that, honestly, if there hadn’t been the time restraints, it’d be in the thousands.

As the boys got older, I attempted to transition away from talking about them, I started talking about myself.  It is both easy and hard, liberating and confining, joyful and miserable, to talk about oneself.  I’ve taken to it alright, though, with the exception of how to present the other players in my past.  I’ve tried to skirt the issue – you know, the old “the names have been changed…” thing – but anyone I’ve represented in these tales would immediately recognize themselves in my words.  This has made some stories impossible to tell, some of which I’d very much like to share.

You may wonder, as you often do, what I am getting at.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about my wife, Marci.  I’m in a weird situation here, the vast majority of the folks that read this know her, so, I don’t really need to give her curriculum vitae.  I don’t really feel like it’s my business to share her business, so, there’s no need to tell you all what she does, short of that what she does is in service to others.

She’s a wonderful wife and mother.  She’s my best friend and confidant.  She’s funny and cute and usually pretty happy.  She is kind and understanding and clever and…

Listen, I could tell you about this Christmas, about how the Nintendo Switch the boys got glitched out and “error code” died.  She got on her phone and laptop and dealt with it for hours.  In less than two days a new one arrived and the old one was gone.  I would have just gone ballistic on someone and we’d still be waiting for resolution.

I could tell you about how just this week the boys needed to work a rough plan for classes and “paths” and requisites, both pre and co, and such for high school next year.  She patiently sat down with each of them and figured it out.  She went to the parent orientation, met their counselor (no doubt a new friend, she’s good like that), quickly understood the whole process, all of that, and then patiently sat down with each of them and figured it out.  I found it all overwhelming and, frankly, I’d’ve sucked at helping them, that’s the truth.

I could tell you how easily she makes friends, how she’s good friends with the ex-wife of an old college friend of mine and the current spouse of another, and they get together more than I see my old pals.  People are drawn to her.  People care deeply for her.  She shines.  Me, not so much.

I could go on with these “I coulds” but I won’t.

What I will say is this, she’s made me a better person.  Fact.

I am kinder because of her
I am more joyful because of her.

I am stronger in my Faith because of her.

I am more content than I have ever been because of her.

My love has never run so deep.

Because of her I have a family and a home and a dinner table and good shoes and self-worth and… sons – things I never knew I wanted or were even possible for me. 

Dreams I never knew to dream have come true.

She’s given me so much and I’ve no idea how to thank her for it all.

There’s a song from a band called Sister Hazel, the chorus is:

“It's hard to say what it is I see in you
Wonder if I'll always be with you
But words can't say, 
And I can't do
Enough to prove,
It's all for you.”

It might seem trite, cliché even, but it’s true.

Can I be honest with you?  Over the years I’ve read a lot of bloggers and the like who seem to, well, bitch a lot about how hard being a parent, especially a stay-at-home-parent, can be.  Mostly they complain about the labor of washing and cleaning and cooking and such, but they also whine about how emotionally difficult it can be.  I’ve never felt that way, in fact I’m always surprised at, and, even found offensive, some of these notions.

I’m not saying it isn’t hard, ‘cause it really is, or that it’s not emotionally draining, because, well… kids.  But, to resent that seems counter-indicated at best, but, mostly, it just seems sad.

I don’t hate every load of laundry I do, every floor I sweep, every meal I prepare.  I don’t sit and seethe on the tractor as I mow the lawn on a hot summer day.  I don’t wait fuming in the school parking lot waiting for play practice to let out.  I don’t mind the snow-shoveling or the weeding or the wood-splitting.

I never cussed at the dirty diapers, or projectile vomiting.  I never hated the messes.  Never rued the long trips in car seats or the hot afternoon t-ball games.

I won’t hate waiting up late for them to get home as they get older.  I will not be afraid to teach them to drive in just a couple of years. I won’t question their decisions – if made wisely – or try to change them. 

Do I, did I, will I find these things hard?  Of course, yes, labor and hard emotional effort suck sometimes.  But, I knew I was better for doing them, in fact, I know it's the least I can do for what I've received.

But, more than anything, I love what I have been given the opportunity to do.

It is because of Marci that I have this chance - this chance to be of service, to help, to teach, to love, to preach, to be a good man.

“It’s all for you,” sweetheart, you’re the best one.  I cannot underemphasize that.

On February second, two-thousand-and-two we were married at Bellarmine Chapel on the campus of Xavier University.


 Seventeen years.

And, yes, the second of February is indeed Groundhog Day, thanks for asking.  (There was a groundhog groom's cake.  True story.)

Thanks for coming around today.  Try to remember the honor and joy at serving others and at being served.

I hope it's not seemed to corny, but, love goes that way sometimes, don't it?


Hey, since we're celebrating her, here's a one of those Facebook thingees she does:

... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ...

N: "I love my dad."
Mom: "I love your dad, too."
Z: "I love popcorn."
Dad: "Well played, Zack."

I love Sartre...

Ya'll know there's more to every story, here's today's.  When I asked Marci to marry me, I did so with a song.  I try to figure a way to play it for her on or near our anniversary.

This song:

I love you, Miss Marci...  thanks for saying yes.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

On Solicited Advice

I try not to give advice.  I could, mind you, and I do when it seems like it might help.  But, giving unsolicited advice is basically “mansplaining” – which I loathe – mixed with high self-regard – which I also disdain.  It’s like “I’m going to detail my opinion, which you don’t want to hear in the first place.”  I don’t really take advice well either, I mean, I take it when it is good but, speaking of high self-regard, I probably came to the same conclusion already.

So, uh, I’m… well, I’m gonna offer some advice today.  You already know all the big advice, the general things - make sure kids get enough sleep, feed them a relatively healthy diet but do not fret if they won’t eat, keep on a schedule, read to them often and early, wait as long as you possibly can to introduce electronic devices, you know them – but, I like specific things, details.

For instance, you know all that stuff kids bring home, especially in the early years, well, you can’t keep it all – I’ve tried – it’ll all soon crumble and turn to dust.  However, my advice is to take that smartphone, the one in your hand right now, and take a picture of it, or scan it if it’s not chalk and leaves and sticks.  If you are new to this blog, that’s what I did initially here and…  I’m really glad I did.

We still do it, just the other night we were at the middle school play and Marci to a quick snap of their little “bios” in the program:

Yeah, I know, they are pretty sweet kids.

Also, once in a while, print some pictures and put them in a photobook.  I treasure the ones my mother so lovingly made, I think the boys will love theirs as well.

It seems I could go on giving advice.  Huh, maybe I do give it…

Believe it or not, I did come here today with a point, and an actual idea of what I wanted to say.  I just haven’t gotten there yet.  I said above to read to them often and early.  I mentioned here before that for probably nine or ten years, we read to the boys before bed, often at the very table I’m at right now, and usually with an apple or crackers or ice cream snack.  Narnia, Potter, Magic Tree House, Artemas Fowl  and, well, a bunch of others.  These days, if we can, the boys take a half hour or so just before bed to read (and detox their eyes from the chromebook screens) and have for the past three or four years, I’d guess.

So, they have read a lot of books in those years and, finally, here’s my suggestion: if there is a book your child really enjoyed read it yourself.  Both Marci and I have done this over the years - in fact I remember a post about a book called Pie, which Nick very much liked - and it helps a couple of ways.

Foremost, I’d say it is a way to honor and respect your kids.  For them to know that you value their opinion on a book and are willing to read it, that’s a good thing for a child.

Secondly, well, you get a nice look into their intellect and likes and hopes and, if you don’t mind me getting too hippie-dippie (a psychosocial analytical term) you can get a peak at that soul they, and you, are slowly getting to know.

Recently, Z-man finished a book and was raving about it.  It is a book called The Looking Glass by Janet McNally.  There is a quote from a review on the cover, “A bittersweet modern fairy tale, tinged with magical realism, that will touch hearts.”  The inside cover describes the novel as being about two sisters, both upcoming ballet stars, one disappears and the other, younger sister, goes on a quest to find her.  Not a subject I would have thought Z would have gone for.  Frankly, and I hate to say this, but it is true and the world can’t seem to get away from it, it is probably a “girl” book.

Both Marci and I were intrigued enough by his enthusiasm to read the book.  I don’t think Marci thought it was all that, and, actually I didn’t either.  But here’s a few things I think I came to understand about him, things I probably already knew, but which were reinforced by the book.

I won’t go into deep detail, I don’t want to bear his heart here, but I can circle around the things I think drew him in.

There is a strong magical realism element, particularly in one device the author uses well -  a childhood book of fairy tales which both girls loved sort of reenters their lives.  Later, the younger sister, the searcher, begins to see scenes and vignettes which seem to come directly out of the books, or, they could simply be coincidence.  This is never made quite clear, leaving the reader to decide that for himself.  Zack really liked that part.

The older sister, the one who runs away, is an opiate addict struggling to get clean.  I know, rough stuff, but I think he feels ready for these themes and difficult subject matter.  Heck, Twain and Orwell and beautiful, tender Scout, and so many masterpieces are headed right for them and I think books like this make them, the boys, ready for those.

There is gay best friend, a strong and dependable new boyfriend, other good and trustworthy friends and a sibling love and rivalry that is indeed “bittersweet” as so many are.

I’d better stop there.  I will say that when I was a freshman in high school, just a year older then the boys are, a dear librarian gave me a book to read.  A big book, Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War. One of the main characters in the book, Natalie, was my first well, crush, I guess… you know.

I think, more than anything, what I learn about the boys when I read the books they love, is that they are ready.  Perhaps they are trying to tell us this.  I worry that they are too naive and tender for this century we find ourselves in and perhaps they have picked up on that.  Maybe they are trying to signal to us that they are ready.

I hope so.

We find ourselves, you and I, kind reader, at the beginning of a new year and I wonder how it will go.  I sense change in the wind of time, but, honestly, isn’t that always the case?  Lots of things will change – the boys will enter high school, likes and interests will be different, girls may become a bigger, uh… point of focus – all those happy starts Shel Silverstein wrote of in his last book, published posthumously:

“There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.”
― Shel Silverstein, Every Thing on It

(Thanks, Kevin.)

But, I sense a different change.  It is not a foreboding feeling it’s just that…

Nope, I can’t quite figure it.

Here are a couple of things from Marci’s “...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ...”

"If you want to get the girl, you have to fly a kite."

I love non sequitars, especially when they hold some truth.

Boy: "Are you taking us to military school?"

Mom: "No."

Boy (pointing): "That looks like military school."

Mom: "That's P&G, honey."

Boy: "My point exactly."

That’s funny right there.

Peace and Happy New Year and all that.  I’ll get back to you when I figure what’s blowing in, if I do.

Thanks for stopping by