Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Time Sensitive Stuff

A funny thing happened on the way to the blogarena this morning.  I was sort of getting down on myself because I have only done five posts this month.  Knowing that if I didn't do another one today or tomorrow  it would be my fewest ever in a month I resolved to get one done.

It's a pretty day here, the boys are playing athletic games in the well manicured backyard and I am making a healthy lunch  I'm working on this as the boys are playing some PBS kids crap on the computer that probably teaches them something.  We'll get outside after lunch I am sure.  A bike ride or a creek walk, something will happen, perhaps the pool.

Dammit!  See what I do, blather on and on when I have to get something said...

Anyway, I was leafing through the "keeper box" considering what of the endless supply of stuff that waits there, hoping to be shared, I would use when these came up:

Marker drawings of flowers in vases done by the boys sometime last year in second grade.

They are not aging well; the colors are fading and running; the paper is brittle and is a bit crumpled.  They are not holding up.  The ravages of time will soon take away their beauty and, unfortunately, their relevance.

Honestly, my memories are not aging well either.  I once asked a group of friends with older kids what they did when they couldn't get their kids to eat this or clean up that or poop right or pee left or, whatever, and none of them remembered.  I was appalled.  Now I get it.

There's just not enough room in my heart for all of it.  The joy that was watching them watch a fire roar up in the living room, that memory, is supplanted by the lazy memory that is a summer at the pool.  Trying to keep up with books they are reading now leads me to forget their early favorites.  It wasn't until I watched them eat a bag of chips between them, that I remembered to remember thinking they'd never be clever enough to eat anything crunchy.

And then a wave of images of bottles and soothies and diapers and giggles and knocks and trips and wonder and joy and fear and hope rolls over me and I realize, I can't.

I can't be expected to remember all of this, can I?  Could you?  Do you?

I suppose that's why I continue to poke around here, blundering one way and then another.  I am trying to remember this stuff, boys, really I am, but growing up is complicated and trying to watch it and guide it and live it sometimes gets in the way of remembering it.

Don't worry, we took some pictures, too.

Friday, July 26, 2013

What's Between Me and You

You know what? Something surprising happened, our internet service and our television service all got blown out by an electrical storm on Saturday.  On Tuesday, yes three days later, Kelly (names changed to protect the innocent, or are they?), friendly capable Kelly, you know, from the local phone company, got everything back in working order. Apparently, it broke a card of some sort - maybe a “NIC card” - and he had to add a Netgear thingee to make the computer work without the missing cardy thingee (is it like a playing card, what?), get this, over the airwaves.

I'll be honest here, computer stuff makes me cry, I don't get it and, since I recently learned that rage is anger at an unresolvable situation, it enrages me. I cuss, I weep, I scream because I don't get it. I can rebuild a carburetor from a '67 Volkswagen Beetle; I can line up a few words and make a sentence work; I can make a very good hamburger; I can grow pretty good kids; but I can't begin to understand how all of this works.

I understand, basically, how paper is made. I understand how a graphite pencil leaves a semi-permanent mark on that paper. I pretty much understand how a fountain pen works, the mechanics of a ball-point seems pretty graspable and even the gel pens I favor seem basic, aside from the ink chemistry, enough to understand. Crayons, got that; markers, cool; colored pencils, easy. I even understand type-setting and letterset-printing, lithography.  I've held a font in my hands, they smell of machine oil and guns.   I can honestly say I understand how photography works. Well, used to work ...

This ain't that simple. I don't, at a purely basic level, understand how the letters and words and sentences and hopes and dreams get from my fingertips here, to the screen, well, here. Beyond that, how, in God's good name, does it get from me to you? I mean, what we are doing collectively, although not simultaneously, here as I write and you read is beyond my comprehension. 

Consider this booklet the boys made with just a little help from me (if you click on the first one you should be able to then scroll through the whole book like, well, a book):

It's pretty cool.  But, there is more to the story, in this case, the story before the story.  The one where we were out, the boys and I, walking our rental dog - the dog we take care of for some friends when they are out of town - Snickers (names changed to protect the innocent, or are they?), when we got to talking about life and nature and I asked them what they thought were some of the most important things we need for life.  Honestly, I was sorta thinking sciencey stuff, I had a clever speech prepared involving Ancient Greeks and the periodical table but, the very first thing out of Nick's mouth was God.  Zack followed immediately with LoveFood and Water followed in the same order.

Nick has a matter-of-fact way of saying things - it's a little patronizing, but, I'm just gonna let his friends tell him that later - so he said, matter-of-factly: "That's about everything."

And then they continued their conversation about wizards, mosquitoes and, as I recall, squid, and walked on down the road.

I chuckled a little at myself and thought about my wasted, petty speech, realizing, how succinctly and poignantly they had summed up the whole metaphysical conversation.  Boys, I thought to myself.

They continued down to the stop sign, where we turn around, the dog pooped, I cleaned it up and, a few steps later Nick said:  "Dad we should make a little book about those four important things we need to live."

Yes, Nick, yes we should.

And, we did.

I folded the papers for them, explaining the 'folio' process and how a book is actually made.  They both chose the words they spurted out on the walk, and, they decided we should make the title page on the computer.

And we finished it and we held it in our hands and Mom read it and now, now...

Now you have it, on a computer screen, wherever and whenever you are.

And, I don't know how that happened or how it is even possible.

I may not know how this is possible, but, I know a little about  why it's possible? Why we have enabled this function? What led us to this impossible plateau of electronic sophistication? 

I needed to share this with you.

Thanks everyone who understands this stuff and lets me monopolize this magical digital mystery tour to bring you the essential nonsense I post around here.

And thanks to you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

"I am good and full of secrets."

So am I little buddy, so am I ...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Teaching Post Available

It's hard to say why I stay at this.

Are there better ways for me to spend my time?  Yes, thank you, there are.

That old worn-out tractor isn't going to sprout a new solenoid, shedding the old one cicada-like, ready to mow anew, now is it?

That old guitar ain't gonna tune itself and start singing John Prine tunes.  It never has before.

That half-finished novel will only get finished if the characters mutiny, pull themselves from the literary limbo in which they are entrenched, and finish their own damn story, you know?

That first Reds game after the All-Star break isn't going to be won unless someone watches, drinking beer and dreaming about youth and perfection.

The floors need scrubbed and the walls painted and I need to get on that guy about my truck cap, but it's too late now 'cause I forgot about it because I was thinking about something else.

I am often unable to afford myself the luxury of thinking about something else, but, and here's the thing, when I do, I frequently think about what I'd like to do here, with you, for them.

You see, I'm still engaged here.  I've learned a lot.  I've learned more, honestly, than I have given.  The karmic balance is decidedly one-sided.  I hope that with time it will equal out and all will be fair.

I've learned to keep my eyes and ears open, noticing the minutiae, the little stuff, the important stuff that happens all the time as the big stuff plans itself, and marveling in it.  A figure in construction paper, baffling, a bit androgynous until the child who made it says:  "Look, I made a paper Jesus!"

I've learned to bend over, to look under, to flip over and to not ask questions, even if a little boy with "x" eyes is on a little piece of a shim and a little girl coaxing the sun up is on the flip side:

I've learned to decode, even when, after serious analysis, all that is revealed is "cheek Rufus Lucky kings BONes":

I've learned to accept a pirate ship with feather sails soaring through timeless space, happily adrift, and to recognize the dreamy wonder it represents.

I've learned to help with the important stuff, and print them out if necessary:

No splashing or running.  It's important.

I've learned that this is a Dream:

 That this is a Hope:

And that this is a Prayer:

Oh, and that this is Corky Miller:

That reminds me, there's a Reds game on.

Thanks for stopping by, come back again, I'll be here...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Growing Up Kinda Sucks

"My 6yo woke up upset this morning.  He had a dream that there was a huge game room, but to get in he had to leave a toy in the box by the door.  All he had was his beloved stuffed bear that he got when he was born.

Today's lesson:  Growing up kinda sucks."

This was posted on a SaHD's page I am a part of on Facebook and I use it with permission and...  it broke my heart.  Not in a bad way, but, it's something that has been on my mind for a while now, something I haven't been able to get at, something, well, difficult.

Growing up is difficult and watching kids grow up is difficult as well.

Sometimes when I watch my kids playing, especially with other kids, but, really just in general, I am hit with waves of sympathy pains.  At the pool lately Nick has been having a hard time getting involved with other kids, playing and the like.  He knows a couple of the kids there but hasn't really made any "new" friends.  I am afraid the other kids are a little off-put by his cast and, since he doesn't really like to tell the story of how it was broken, I'm afraid he comes off as a little strange.

It's difficult to watch his face as the kid swims off and he stares at the empty spot where the kid was, thinking, I surmise, that something is wrong with him.

And, it's difficult to watch it happen.

I think what makes it really difficult is knowing you can only do so much to fix it.

So, I decided to show you these, instead.  A fully articulated, disco-dancing space ninja and a knight banner festooned with string.

I guess I can't really figure out what I want to say today.  Nick got his cast off yesterday and we had hoped there would be great joy, but, he's very worried.  He told me he was "overwhelmed."

Childhood is difficult to watch.  And amazing and delightful and mesmerizing and horrible and flabbergasting and, honestly, so is grown-up-hood.

From Marci's  "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

(sung) "I am a dingo. I am a dingo. I am a dingo. I am a dingo."

That then segued into "Dingo bells, dingo bells, dingo all the way" ...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Barmy and Brent... and Brian (But He Didn't Know)

There's a dude, "Barmy" Rootstock, who writes a brilliant website and blog - one of those blogs that is both deliciously hilarious and deeply, fundamentally loving - called I've Become My Parents.  It's really good, but, that's beside the point.  "Barmy" writes anonymously, he has a fake FB page for his blog and his pseudonym, that's how much he wants to remain so.

You may remember that I once wrote a piece about wishing I'd started out that way called "If You Didn't Know Me."  I still wish I had, and, I'm jealous that "Barmy" is so much cleverer than I.

Here's the thing, I tried to find out who he really was, I mean he lives in Canada, that should narrow it down, right?  Nothing.  I tried for, like, ten minutes, on Google, no dice.  And then, and then, I saw this slinking in the trash:

I immediately knew it was a picture of "Barmy" all grown up:

A short confession stapled to the back reads:   

Hi!  My name is lester.  I am a varey (very) good craftsman.  I live in a little cotig (cottage)  by the Hillside.  one day I got an order from the king!  He wanted 3 hats by the therd (third) sunrise.  Deep I thot (thought).  I wint (went) to work.  I finishit (finished) the first at the first sunrise!  I fisist (finished) the secont (second) one at the secont (ibid.) sunrise!  I fisilsht (oh for God's sake) the last one at the last sunrise.  The king was varey (ibid) happy.  He toled (told) me to work with him at the casal (castle) in a cra7tsman shop!

"Barmy" Rootstock is really Lester the Hatmaker, Cratfsman to the King.  He's making this all up, folks.  His not even an artist, he is but a craftsman.  He went so far as to hire a kid to pretend he was his endearing son telling all about the befuddlements and intricacies of some game, allegedly on the innerwebs, called Mineshaft, or Minecraft or Hatcraft or Hatshaft or whatever - which I am sure he made up as well - and he taped and posted the entire scripted event in this post.  Like anyone is going to believe that a twelve year old is that sweet and comfortable with his seemingly hapless, hilarious dad.  I ain't buyin' it.

And why, dear Lord, is this information addressed to "Mom?"  Is she auditioning new husbands?  Is there a vacancy opening up soon?  What the hell!?  Why is my son drawing pictures of "Barmy" Rootstock?  My brain hurts.

You know what?  While I'm at it I'm gonna call out another dude who is clearly made up as well.  No one could be as picture perfect, as sweet, as talented and, just, well, as keen, as "Brent" at Designer Daddy.  The website is perfect, an old-timey refrigerator door and those magnetic letter magnets you make cusswords out of spelling out the title.  It's cool and fun and... no one person could possibly do all that has been done there.

"Brent" did this great post using magnets as a clever device to voice his support of gay marriage.  It's insanely witty and refreshingly unbombastic.  "Brent" wrote a song, that is both catchy and sweet and he tells a story about where the song came from that is so thoughtful and sincere that I teared up at the strength of his love for his beautiful son.

Maybe, maybe, I'll buy all that, but, really, he sang The National Anthem in front of the Supreme Court building as the DOMA decision was coming down.  C'mon!

Clearly Designer Daddy is a consortium of some sort, maybe ten or twelve really talented guys pretending to be one wonderful, enlightened, talented and generous gay man.

Also, and this is the kicker, does anyone believe that one person could have had the time, the vision, the insight and the audacity to do this piece called "The Father's Day Gallery of Greatness".  Right, one guy did this for so many, with nothing to really gain but awesomeness.  Impossible.

(Yes, thanks for asking, those are pictures by my boys called Still Life One and Still Life Too.)

So, I need to show you this, "Brent", some designs "I" did:

Cincinnati Candles

Seattle's Silver Spotted Leopards

The American Maroon Meercats
The Yellowsone Yellow Yettes

Yep, some professional sports team logos.

Yellowstone was on a budget ...

Also, out design this, "Brent."

Yeah, I thought so, your whole design team couldn't do this in a year.


Well, that's all said and done and, now I go a little deeper.  I'll drop the attitude and I'll tell you something I have come to realize, something important.  I have been deeply affected by both of these fine men, they are ennobling a medium so often maligned and shorted.  Good things are going on in the blogarena, funny stuff, heart-wrenching stuff, honorable stuff, enlightening stuff, decent stuff.  And, here's the hard part, people aren't seeing it.  And, that's too damn bad.

I'm not in charge of fixing this, I really don't know who is, but, I can point the way, pay it forward as best I can, and I can be sure that these guys and so many others know that they have inspired me, fed me, taught me, empowered me and made me a better person.

There's another guy who seems made up to me, but, I know he's not.  He's just an expat in New Zealand who tells stories so lovingly rendered and so carefully crafted that he renders me breathless at times.  His words are on a blog (more a memoir, really) called Dadding Full Time.  If there is a more intelligent, thoughtful, funny and loving piece than "Cussing Kids Are Clear Thinkers", I haven't read it.  He is the real deal, pop on over there and have a lookabout, you'll be glad you did.

Thank you, Barmy, Brent and Brian.  I mean that.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I am unoften without words.

Words, howsomever, take time, energy and clear perception

Lately, I have none of the three.  Well, perhaps singularly, or even in pairs, I may have, but, altogether in one cohesive space/time continuum, not so much.

I can still wonder and marvel, laugh and love, respect and honor, witness and learn, savor and remember.  That's what I set out to do here a couple hundred or more posts ago.

Yeah, I got time for that, I got the energy for that and I definitely have a clear perspective on that.

I'll try anyway.

Zack's made a few of these and they defy all logic and somehow make all the more sense for it.  Marci showed me how to scan the two halves of this and paste them together on the computer (who knew?), all I could think to do was this:

Yep, I took a picture of it.  (Of course I once considered taking a photo of all the indecipherable notes I had stored on my phone, true story.)

I can't begin to explain my befuddlement at this.  Not because I think it's silly, or funny, or cute but because it is brilliant.  You try it,  I'll wait...

On the right are some handy graphics; as you can see, the blue is the bottom floor, red in the middle, and the top is yellow and there is a design in place for a triple peaked roof.  What the hell!  I can't draw a convincing stick-figure and he is putting his ideas into three dimensions?  Good Lord, imagine what he could do with a working knowledge of drafting and perspective and physics and, well, a ruler.

It simply flabbergasts me.

We found this the other day in Nick's wheelbarrow full of stuff he brought home the last day of school:

I know he called it a phoenix, a mythology he gleaned from a Magic Tree House book  or Aurthur or, more likely, Phineas and Ferb.

There is a somewhat odd, and, honestly, grim detail down there in the bottom right corner:

A baby in a stroller saying "AAH!" as a mother says "Shhh!"  Why?

And who is "fre .d bern?"  And why is there a fifties-style UFO above it all?  And why the hell was he doing this at school?

(Apparently, I did have some words today.)

I am sometimes - in a sideways sort of way - accused of making fun of the boys around here.  I'm not.  Anyone who knows me knows that.  Actually, the truth of it is the opposite, I stand in awe of them.  I admire them.  This creativity, this innate intelligence, this cleverness, leaves me gobsmacked most of the time.  And, honestly, embarrassingly, I remember that I, too, had it once and have squandered it away in adulthood, forgetting the wonder, forgetting the hope, forgetting the unbridled optimism that is childhood.

I'll keep looking for it in their souls, in their eyes, in their hopes and loves and dreams and in this utterly essential childhood nonsense.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

Z: "Italians get to eat pasta every night."

N: "And they are known for their French toast."

 And Eskimo pies...