Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Everything is so complicated these days, and by everything I mean everything.

Okay, honestly, I can rant.  Anyone who knows me well knows that.  My problem is, and I don't think I have ever acknowledged this before, I look absurd silly ridiculous cartoonish stupid or any number of like-minded adjectives when I rant.  I just don't look, well, credible.

In the back of my mind I have always known that.  I have a curious talent for separating myself from a situation and viewing it as I live it.  So, there are times that I have actually laughed, out loud, at myself as I went on and on about something unworthy of such vehemence, like the opening ceremony for the Olympics...  "oh, look, we are The British Isles (or whatever they call themselves this century) and we conquered and invented and invaded and corrupted and alienated and oppressed everything and everyone, we are empire builders, remember.  Yeah, today, not so much..."

See now, that's what happens.

I have made it a point not to rant here, I just didn't want ihopeiwinatoaster to have that feel, I try to be tender and nice.

So, I won't go on about how complicated computers are these days, how simply unreliable and unpredictable they can be; I mean sometimes, when I turn my computer off, which takes about four freakin' minutes, and turn it on again, which takes about four freakin' minutes, everything is all rearranged and the screen is crowded with programs begging to be updated like eager seven-year-olds, hoping I pick them first.  What the hell! I didn't ask for any of this crap and I sure as hell would not put the "recycle bin" in the middle of all those folders where I put important stuff!  The "recycle bin" belongs in the corner all by itself, everyone knows that except the stupid computer.  Arghhhhh... and why does Wordstarter 2010, the overcomplicated, ad filled, piece of pretentious crap of a word program, take over every damn Word document I create, and why does it take so long to load.  Oh and what about Blogger, did somebody's grandmother design that interface...

Uh, oh.  I got Popoed.  It's a new widget I installed on my blog that warns me when I am starting to get ranty.  Yeah, sorry there.  I downloaded the image for the widget with a drawing I got from N.  One day, not long ago, the  boys and I were sitting at the table doing crafty things and, as I watched, I was junior ranting about some crap, "how things were when I was a boy..." or... I don't know,  possesive pronouns, anyway, midrant N handed me Popo.

"It has the same letters as poop, it's a cow saying poo-poo," he said.  Which is funny.

It also is synonomous with crap, and, obviously, bullshit.   (I believe that boy just called me out, didn't he?)

The Rantdector (trademark registered) is also personalized to detect your specific rants after an intense survey of questions designed to determine what you rant about and why.  It's very sophisticated software.

For instance if I were to begin something about prayer (which I have, I hope) or God or Truth or Love, even Charity... see nothing.  I sometimes forget to pray and at the end of the day, I regret that.  However, I really don't see why some people think they have to pray through a Saint to get God's, attent-

See!  Pretty handy there, eh?

I believe in reaching out to others.  I am open to those not like me, and, I think people who are different from me are absolutely more interesting than I am.  I know about myself, I don't know about you.  I've known people from all religions and have always gotten along just fine with them, same with people of a different political feel as mine.  Honestly, I try to think and act locally.  This globalization crap is for the birds.  How can I care about-

Whoa, that's a pretty good questionnaire they got there.  I thought I might be able to sneak one in with that.

Anyhoo, things are too complicated, and, this no one will admit, we all think so.  Do you love your smartphone, or is it as frustrating as it is useful?  Do you think your computer is easy, really?  What about your cable provider, your internet connection, your Wii, Netflix or FaceBook?  I mean, how is fencing the most complicated sport I've ever see?  It's two kids with sticks.  Nothing is easy, I guess to natives of this technological jungle it all seems negotiable but, then why are they buying music on vinyl again; why do Harry Potter books fly off the presses into the eager hands of millions of young people?

And why do we let it all get in the way of our lives with our kids?  Every handy technodevice (I just accidentally typed 'technodivide') seems perfectly designed to get between me and my kids, my wife, my God my soul.  Why is that?

Hey, where's Popo?

I long sometimes for a simpler life, simpler needs, simpler wants.  I feel sorry for my boys, even childhood seems so complicated; have a seven-year-old explain Pokemon or LEGO Ninjago to you if you need proof.  I mean, when I was their age I didn't have so much to worry about; well, except the Vietnam War, and cheating politicians, and a bloody, too-long-in-the-making battle for Civil rights-

Right, looks like I just got a warning there.

Slow down a little, simplify.  Let the kids do what they want, be cool, love each other, uncomplicate.  I hold a glove, a boy holds a glove, another boy holds a glove.  A ball is tossed around in a circle.  It's easy, I promise.

Wow, I totally expected to get Popoed there with the baseball thing again, maybe this thing does know what's important to me.

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

N:  "I am the dancing police. I fight crime while dancing."
*then later, when play fighting with his brother ...
N:  "Ooo wait! I'll use my dance moves!"
*the opponent was stunned and confused by this and was defeated.

When you're a Jet, you're a Jet...

(I have received no monetary compensation from the makers of The Rantdector (trademark registered) and my opinions are totally my own, in fact if it were up to me-)

Crap.  Hey, at least it closed the parenthesis for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Future Perfect Post

An old man walks slowly between the two old maple trees; he looks up and admires them fondly.  He uses an old-fashioned aluminum folding chair as a cane and continues until he unfolds it and sits down between two significantly younger oak trees.  He smiles as he looks out, out onto his backyard.

He remembers.

The slightly, perhaps only noticeable to him, worn out spots in the grass are the most telling.  The spot where the playset was, brand new once, now the tired boards barely support an ancient-looking tree house; the spot where he used to hit balls and catch pitches with the boys, worn year after year, nearly making it back, then spring, and hope, always began to wear it down again; another worn spot, a slight ditch in all honesty, once a trench muddy, bracken filled, a siren song to six year old boys.

Yes, yes, he is the only one who sees those places, he knows that, but still his eyes seek them out, and he sees once again the summer's of their youth.  'You could hear them running, and feel them screaming,' he always said.  Now, there they are again, forever young, happy.  The melancholy nearly overwhelms him. He leans back and tilts his head skyward.  He is tired...

Two younger men are approaching, one darker, balding, somehow dignified, the other, blond, fair, his manner is carefree.  Anyone watching them would know they were brothers, leaning in to one another just that little bit too far to be just friends.  Touching, smiling, comfortable.

Anyone watching might also guess that they, too, can see the ghosts in the back yard that the old man had just been conjuring.  They both look up at the tree-house, at the spot where they had swung away more than a few summer evenings.  They both look at the spot where Dad had stood all those years hitting balls, making up a silly play-by-play, encouraging them, advising them, teasing them.

The old man can now hear them talking:

"...and you fell out and landed in the molehills perfectly, not even a bruise, from that high up.  Oh man, we laughed so hard."  The fair one says.

"We were probably just relieved that we didn't have to tell Dad."  The darker one.

"Tell Dad what?"  The old man still is leaning back, looking into the brown-green of the oak leaves.  The same color of his eyes, the father is thinking.

"Oh nothing, something we didn't tell you about at the time," the fair one says with a twinkle in his ever-sparkling eyes.  The color of the sky where it meets that leaf right there, the father thinks this time.  "You hate that."

"I did.  Now?...  I don't really care.  I've got too much to remember as it is," he responds.

"What are you looking at?"

"These two fine-looking trees, but mostly I'm thinking."  The years roll back as the man leans forward.  The men turn into the boys they once were. They wait, hoping for a story, hoping as all boys do, as all men always will, for a glimpse back to their so easily forgotten childhood.

"When you were in first grade you brought these guys home," he gestures to his left, where the darker son is sitting, "that one was yours, and the one you are picking at was yours."  He looks into the eyes of the fairer son, "Yours didn't do so well at first."

"For some reason I fell in love with those two little trees.  I mean, they were as scraggly-assed a tree as you ever saw.  Just stuck in a plastic bag, a wet paper towel around the roots, beat to death on the school bus...  But, you were determined to plant them.  Well, I said alright, and we went out and found this spot for them.

"You know what used to be here?  The reason they ended up here?"

The boys both shake their heads, trying to remember.

"Well first I planted a rose garden here, I think it was the first summer we were married.  I'd promised your mother in a song once that I grow her 'rows of roses touched by morning dew' so I was..."

"In the song you wrote to ask her to marry you, right?"  The fairer one, the romantic, asks.

"Yes.  Anyway..."

"I still have that song, my kids love it," the quiet one says.

"Quit interrupting.  So I planted a nice rose garden, and it did well for a couple years.  But, it floundered and then pretty much just ended up dying altogether.  I never really knew why, I always thought maybe too much sun or the aphids....  I do now, though."  The boys both take a slight breath, readying themselves to interrupt.

"I said quit interrupting.  I had bordered the rose garden with pressure-treated two-by-sixes so I figured I could grow a tomato garden in the same spot.  That didn't really work, I mean, it went gangbusters for a couple years then it started not doing so well, I guess that was after you guys were born, so I finally gave up.  I had failed, of course, but, I'd tried as well, I never cared much about that.

"I suppose it was maybe two or three years later I gave up on the gardening thing and moved the boards over there, around the mulch pile."  He points to a derelict shed he's never had the heart to dismantle and a pile of leaves and clipping which has been added to for decades now.

"You guys used to come back here with shovels and bare hands and dig holes and ditches and tunnels in the old weeds of the garden, so, I never really tried to reclaim it back into good yard."

"Pig stew," the excitable boy shouts.

"Oh yeah, pig stew," the other one laughs.

The memory blows against the old man, palpable, it seems like just today they were digging in a mud puddle, adding anything they could find into it, and calling it 'pig stew.'

"I always thought it needed meat, but what do I know."  The man continues his story.  "So when you guys came home with these sticks, I didn't even know what kind of trees they were at the time, I thought we could plant them in the area of those old gardens.  I figured the ground would be a little softer there and the digging a little easier.  And I'd already shed enough love, tears and sweat into that dirt for a couple of little trees to grow.  You dug your holes and I showed you how to plant the saplings.  We got them in real good as I recall.  We watered them and, secretly, I said a prayer over them; I so didn't want you to be disappointed.

"And they did grow, but, twice that one there," he points to the shorter of the two trees, "Yours, Nick, well, it lost its leaves to the wind or a critter or something, and twice it came back with new leaves.  Twice.  I guess you guys don't know how I worried about these stupid trees.  For years I never really understood why.  Why did I water them, carrying buckets from the house?  Why did I feed them, and mow around them so carefully, mulch around them, and fuss over them?  I did it for years until they were finally established, coming out in the winter snow to be sure they weren't bent over.  Making sure they weren't drowning in 'pig stew.'  And I still water them now when it's been too dry and feed them occasionally."

"Why do you suppose that is, Dad?"

"Well, Zack, I didn't know until right now.  I am eighty-eight years old.  You two together are my age.  Memory is fickle as you get older, sort of sporadic, jumbled, but, thinking about these two trees, it all seems so clear, so real, so... recent.  I guess it brings a lot back, that summer, camping, Kings Island, lakes... and it was so hot.  That was summer you decided you might like to be a pilot, and look at you now, flying everywhere, and so happy.  That's the summer Nick, you were afraid of the world never ending, afraid that time would go on forever.  I think it's the summer you started on your PhD.  I guess I been tending these trees so tenderly because I needed this memory right here and now.  Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah, Dad, it does..."

"You know there's a picture or two of these trees that first summer, somewhere."  The old man is tired, emotional.

"Let's get you back to the house, Dad," Nick says.

"That's what Mom sent us to do a half hour ago,"  Zack says helping the man up.  "I remember seeing those pictures somewhere, Dad."

Together they head out from under the twin oaks, each brother on an arm, still boys, they walk under the ancient maples, across the ball-field of their youth, onto the screened-in porch, men now.

"Your blog Dad, remember, 'ihopeiwinatoaster,' I think there are pictures on it there."

"Maybe," the old man says, a whisper of a tear in his voice, "I hope so..."

Zack's Tree
Nick's Tree

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Distract... ions

Honestly, I don't have much time.  It's hard to get anything done, really done...

Sorry, the boys wanted some Orange Pop ("pop" is Ohioan for soda) and I said yes.  So...  it's been hard to find the time to really think about a good post, you know, craft one that is clever and snarcastic , a little wistful.  I have a great idea for a story about the two oak trees the guys brought home from...

Sorry, some pretzels were needed and some dried cranberries, it's a nice textural thing.  So, I also have a great idea to tell you about the game that has exploded in the boys' room.  It is some sort of Pokemon-baseball-card-paper-airplane-hybrid game in which they bet pretzels and can loose to a "schnoodle" which is a character on one of the many numerous millions infinite playing cards they make themselves.  I should scan some of them and show you...

Sorry, I had to explain that it was actually a thousand degrees outside and we can't go outside for some batting practice, although I usually say yes to such requests.  Where was I?  Oh, I also wanted to do a moving, self-effacing post about friendship and modeling it to your kids.  You know about how I have had lots of friends in my life but right now I don't have too many around here and how that might affect their socialization and skills at making...


Why yes, yes it is time for me to start dinner, uh, thanks.

Gotta go.  Hey, do you know who this is?

I guess it could be the ghost of  Mittens but the color is off.  Anyhoo, she keeps showing up in the oddest places; up on the mantel, on the dining-room table, the boys dresser, the top of the fridge.  I hope it is a sophisticated practical joke the boys (and Mom?) are up to, which would be great, or, I am loosing it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your Guess? Good As Mine

I walk into the living room to find Nick like this.

Sometimes it makes more sense if you don't ask.

I think he's all set, except for food.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'
 Z:  "Argh!  That is not what I wanted."

N:  "Okay, Grumpy man."

Hey, I thought I was Grumpy Man...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Not Another Baseball Post

The proofs came back from the studio that did the boys' seasonal baseball photos.  It's a pricy place but the images are great.  These are my favorite of the two of them:

That's Nick there on the left.  The studio chose the action backdrop on this one, even the kids in the background match N.  I like it, totally captures the boy on the field.

Zack is on the right.  A simple stadium shot for him.  They caught his grin just right and his sparkly eyes.  Sometimes, only for a second, his head does float up when he is really happy, they took the picture at that exact moment.

My only problem with them is that the color is off in one or the other, clearly they are a different shade, and I sure wish they would have told Zack to tuck in his shirt, and where's his hat, or his glove?  And why do they both look so skinny and you can tell N's smile is fake and Zack's arms are all distorted...

What the Hell!?  These suck...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Just Thinkin'

I doubt you've noticed but I have been away

Have you missed me?  I have been on a family vacation

It's not that I haven't wanted to post lately, it's just that it's difficult to

Well, let's just move on, right.  We were in the car yesterday coming home from a trip to Tennessee and I glanced back at Nick who was staring out the window.  "Watcha doing, Nick-Nick?"  I asked him.

"Oh, just thinkin'."

Sometimes I think people today don't think enough, not as in "what were you thinking texting and driving" or "did no one consider the fact that this package is unopenable, what were they thinking?"  No, I mean people don't think, they don't consider, they don't ponder, wonder, imagine.  I still do, and apparently, so does N, God love him.

One day I found these on the floor:

They are very small, maybe about a couple of inches each, in fact they were small enough that I had trouble getting them off the floor, and, honestly, I didn't notice they were little faces, I thought they were trash, you know scraps.

Well, they are not scraps.  They are finger puppets and Nick has a long narrative explaining them, something to do with a king (upper left) a queen (to his right), a "Princess who is sick" (bottom left), and "a court jesker, you know the clowny guy who makes the king's people laugh" (lower right).

There was a long story about her illness and all the funny stuff the jesker did to make her well, but I won't bore you with the details.  The point is, he is thinking.

So am I.

I've been thinking about how I was hit hard by the  recent death of Andy Griffith.  I loved him.  I loved Mayberry.  I loved the way he loved Opie.  I loved the respect he had for Aunt Bee.  I loved the way he handled his challenging friendship with Barney.  In a way he was sort of my parenting role model and will continue to be.

I've been thinking about how to continue on this blog, how to proceed.  I am not really sure what's next here.

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

N:  "Daddy, can we play baseball?"
Daddy:  "Well, I guess so but it's awfully hot out there."
Z:  "We can just pretend it's not hot."

I suppose it is worth a try...