Monthly Archives: October 2011

the week.

my brain is quite scattered today. between r. being gone the first half of the week, a dermatology appointment in birmingham yesterday, an eye exam today, and all the other running, dodging, picking, tucking, wiping, and other “ings” our week had for us – i’m pretty spent. i could take a turn down cry baby avenue, i will not. we all have weeks that drain us. in reality, it has been a good week, and i am going to try to convince myself of that , i mean reflect on the top events of the week, in hopes that it will clear my mind of “the drain”, and lift me up for the coming weekend. so, if i may lay down on your davenport, cuddle up with an afghan, and share the top three memories of our week.

1. after a.’s dermatology appointment in birmingham, we went on the hunt for a restaurant to celebrate our flat warts. now, you can’t celebrate flat warts at just any toad restaurant. no, no, no. flat wart celebrations are wart-hy of a special eatery with one of kind food. i don’t know birmingham very well, and drove until i found a mall area that had a handful of restaurants attached. we pulled into a place called flip burger. they were pretty good flipping burgers. we ate outside and had a beautiful view of the hills. we especially enjoyed the n2 shakes – we had the nutella and burnt marshmallow – wow – they were amazing and smoked on the way to the table. r. and i are fans of the show “top chef” on bravo. it turns out that a contestant of the show, richard blais, whom i happened to like, opened up two “flip burgers” in georgia and this is his first in alabama.

h.'s face when the shakes came to the table

a. giving the thumbs up to a good burger

2. a. and h. danced and played together in a.’s room while listening to the beatles for close to 45 minutes – alone. the greatest part? they went in there on their own, had a blast, and came out smiling for lunch. we need to listen to more “kid” music, but there are some bands that they need to know – the beatles being one. and i would say that the beatles play music for every age group, but i do get a bit creeped out when i go in to check on a. at night, she is sleeping and “only a northern song” is playing.

3. r. and i sported our patched-up overalls, patchwork pants, listened to jam bands, ate tater-tot-hot-dish (the first meal r. made for me), burned patchouli incense, and flashed back fifteen years in time to celebrate who we are and who we were – a la my last blog post – for our fifteen years after meeting one another celebration. a. and h. got in on the groove and showed that they can jam dance with the best of them. i must admit that the length of some of the songs, that i used to be able to sit through, grew tiring. how i used to sit through fifteen minute jams (songs) is hard to know.

and this bunny needs a rope tied around his neck. ( I think that may be my new “sign off”)

that is all for today.

enjoy your halloween celebrations.


new blog post: stubborn.

“fine. i don’t want it anymore”

the “fine.” caught my attention as i worked on my second cup of coffee while cleaning an alligator cup with a chipped lip, i have yet to throw it away because it’s h.’s and a.’s giraffe is in good shape. we tease h. that she needs to stop eating plastic alligators. she has no idea and smiles – oh, to be that clueless. i mean innocent.

“a., stop it, she said you can have it. she just didn’t want to be grabbed at.” i am guessing that was the case by the grunts, squeals and predictable nature of their sisterly exchanges.

“no, that’s fine.” she says with a huff and walks towards her room. which, by the way, she has been going to, locking the door and listening to music when she gets upset. a good strategy to cope with anger, but she is four, and that was the second “fine”, i may be willing to let one go, but a second? i think it’s time to see what’s going on. there are three words that work their way behind my eye balls and claw at my optic nerve “whatever, sure and fine”. there are more than three, but those are the “big three”. i once had a student who made and wore a t-shirt to school that said “whatever andy” – i hope he knows how much i loved it. that day i played as if it upset me in some way, we both smiled, knowing in our own ways that it was a connection we had.

now, here is the true battle of stubborn. i could let a. walk away in her fit of anger and think about what she may or may not want to do next, i mean we are talking about a princess wand that is missing its jewel and batteries to make it go “zwing”, which had no value in the house prior to h. picking it up, a. going to grab it, h. saying “mi…mi…mi…whaaaayah.”, and a. turning away to exhibit her control to younger sis. i could let her walk away, or i could ask (read: demand and watch take place) that she ask h. for the wand in an appropriate way and see what h. says. i let this one go, i was only on my second cup of coffee and had yet to have my three glasses of morning tea – yes, i enjoy liquids – more on that some day. a. went to her room, came out 4 minutes later holding a flashlight, walked past h. dangling it, h. wanted it, a. gave it to her, a. then grabbed the wand and moved on. they were both sitting below me with towels on their heads five minutes later.

i am stubborn, i like things to go my way, and i dig my heels to the core of the earth when i believe in something. what’s interesting? i am not sure if others see my stubbornness. i mean, i know that r. does, and definitely the people who i used to work with, but it’s not like i am unwilling to compromise, i just know when i am right, and when compromising would, well, compromise the situation. a. and h. have been working on balancing my stubbornness, they don’t know it, but they are. kids have a funny way of exposing your weaknesses and giving you time to work on them until they have “real” memories.

is it a weakness? i actually wear my stubbornness with a sense of pride. (but questioned whether other people see it in the previous paragraph?) i would ask people at work, with a half grin, “am I stubborn?” they would look at me as if i just asked them if i was white and bald. i knew the answer, i like being stubborn. (sorry, but I was just reminded of a time when i used to work in kitchens and when a new hire was working their first day i would ask them “is something in my nose?” not sure why. it made me laugh.) i enjoy listening to people’s ideas, but I don’t enjoy pandering. so if you want it your way, well, do it that way, don’t give me your left over compromise. that sounds weird.

tomorrow r. and i will celebrate fifteen years of dating. fifteen years ago tomorrow i walked into a “fine” establishment called the “golden chair” in eau claire, wisconsin on my brothers twenty-second birthday and said hello to the woman who is now my wife and mother to our two girls. she is much more than the previous sentence – to list what someone becomes to you in fifteen years of being together would be ridiculous.

as we drove home from lunch today, a beautiful eighty-degree day demanded that we eat outside, i was trying to remember who I was fifteen years ago. i look at pictures and i can see how i represented myself, but i can’t get myself back in the body and mind of the person i was when i first met r.. i feel like i was a lot of “normal” things that a nineteen year old is; carefree, relaxed, and up for anything, but i couldn’t remember how that felt, i couldn’t completely remember the traits that i had then that i don’t have now. i don’t miss them, well maybe a little, but the benefits and growth that come with actually “growing up” certainly outweigh a longing to feel carefree again. at this point at least – i kind of have to care. we all go through the process of wondering “who am i?” “who have i been?”. many times we take outside roads to try to get closer to the person we want to be, or who we want others to see. we want people to see our confidence, we want to be confident, we want the world to know that we have our shit together, but none of us do. actually, if none of us have our shit together, then we all have our shit together – yeah. which, I think we all do. there is a core all of us share.

i may still be stubborn, i didn’t walk away from r. when she politely took my hand off of her knee fifteen years ago, but there are many things that i am not anymore, and many things that i still aspire to be. can’t stop.

anniversaries, birthdays, holidays in general, are important. they are a time to look back, but more importantly they are a time to look forward. trite? perhaps, but true. they are a time to be grateful that you can’t fully remember who you were “back then”, and a time to hope that the pieces that have taken you to a more positive place are the ones you held onto, and the ones that held you back were dropped off. we can get caught up in our past, become nostalgic, long for what was, but that is what we are, we are a culmination of everything that we ever went through. we are our past. we hold onto it. do we remember it? not important. be what you are as a result of what you were, and continue to forget – so that you can appreciate who you are now.

ramble babble ding-dong. bunny needs a rope tied around his neck. that is not a euphemism, but would make a really cool one, really a. is holding bunny and has asked six times for me to tie a rope around its neck. i should probably now state that the bunny is not real. i’ll stop now.

a cool song. no real connection to the post – just beautiful to listen to.

the dessert dance.

they rushed to the counter or to their parents. all nine of them. well, those were the kids that flashed around when they saw the tree of chocolaty wonder that was dessert. the adults were a bit more patient, at least in action, i am sure our minds had already wiped the last chocolaty crumb off of our grown-up chins. the ‘tasty dessert’ in question? chocolate-covered-cake on a stick – it has a way of drawing a crowd. actually, anything on a stick has a way of drawing a crowd – twinkies, bananas, pickles, hot dogs, heads, really, anything. but, this was not just chocolate-covered-cake on a stick, this was chocolate-covered-cake on a stick with an assortment of toppings. m&m’s, sprinkles, some white shaved stuff – i think coconut, anything that would stick to chocolate was stuck. yes, they were good. the cake maintained a rich, thick moistness that demanded a break in-between bites. the beauty of this sweet creation? you didn’t have to rush back for your second bite, save that nonsense for eating an ice cream cone outdoors on a ninety plus degree day (i bite ice cream and it drives r. nuts), nope, no hurry here, your next bite just sat there, waiting for you, waiting for you to peel the last bite off the roof of your mouth, take a drink of milk, and repeat. r.’s mom c., with the assistance of her two grand-girls, a. and h., brought these wonders into the world the night before our family get together in eau claire, wi – hometown to one mrs. r.. how could someone not want chocolate-covered-cake on a stick? we all love chocolate-covered-cake on a stick. have i got you reaching for your ‘back-up’ bag of m&m’s in the bottom right hand drawer of your desk?

what interested me about the ritual of dessert during a party, specifically dessert during a party with kids, was not that kids and adults alike wanted the dessert, but how each person went about getting their hands on it. okay, some did not want any, and they, more often than not, gave reasons for their refusal, “oh no, i, ah, that brat just filled me up.” “oh those are for the kids.” “hmm. we’ll see i may get one later.”. pleasantries to explain something that really didn’t matter to anyone else. i mean, i was going to get mine, why should i care if someone else wants one or how and when they are going to get it?

the verbal dance between parent and child at dessert time, dessert time at seven o’clock when parents are thinking about a pre-bed-sugar buzz and kids are low on natural energy, is, i imagine, fun for grandparents, or anyone without kids, to watch.

some kids grabbed a stick without thinking twice – their parents watching out of the corner of their eye, waiting to pounce if they went back for a second, and more often than not – they do. mom or dad is then forced to step in, “hey there, you had one already, make sure everyone else gets one.” “but there are enough.” sputters out between half-sugar-buzzed-lips soaked in chocolate. “well, wait and see.” a huff and a puff and back to the couch until mom and dad aren’t looking and then they swoop in for “seconds”. mom and dad usually see, but let them think they “got away” with something. plus, it would interrupt their conversation with uncle chet and they look like “party-poopers”.

some went to their parents for approval, “mom, can i have one?” “yes, honey, but finish that last bit of brat.” as the child in question watched his family members grab dessert at will, without parent approval, he grew angry “but mom. i want one now.” mom, slightly more agitated “do you want one at all?” “yes.” the brat goes in quick and almost comes out with the rest of dinner. “geesh you’re going to choke. sit down, chew your food, and you may get dessert.” “brao k.”

some tag behind their siblings (a great younger sibling tactic. use your older brother/sister as a shield, mom and dad notice you’re going for thirds, they get caught, you grab dessert and give a great big smile to your sibling who is now forced to sit close to mom and dad as they talk to great-aunt martha.), others monitor their own dinner and dessert timing, and some run to the other room to play. in the end, after the sugar runs its course, there are tears for not getting more, tears from having too much, tears because someone got more than them, and tears because everyone else has tears. my grandmother, not to my recollection but i was told, used to say “all that laughing will end in tears.” i once said that to a student – he told me i was a ‘sick, sad man’.

there are different ways to getting our needs/wants met. we learn how to deal with limited resources early on in life. we learn how to be happy with what we have, beg or connive for more, or give up on wanting what others have. fortunately, in this situation, there were enough sticks for everyone to get what they wanted. fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about running out. i am guessing there would have been many more tears had someone told the kids that the tenth kid at the party was taking a bath in the chocolate that their cake was dipped in, or better yet, that while he was taking a bath in chocolate he was brushing his teeth with the toppings, if that was the case, i am sure we would have had an outright, well, let’s just say things may not be good for our bathing friend. now, if they found out he was taking a bath in chocolate, brushing his teeth with toppings and didn’t have a bed-time – forget about it, the other nine would have made sure that that was his last chocolate bath. we avoided this potential catastrophe by providing enough for everyone, making sure each person had a reasonable amount, and not putting the entire emphasis of the party on dessert. everyone was reasonably happy.

a special thank you to all of our eau claire family for making it a nice visit. especially u.j., the girls uncle, for hosting the festivities.

*in the interest of full disclosure. 99% of my blogs are based entirely on the truth. this post happens to fall within the 1% range. i took some liberties with the facts of the evening, but in no way did i fudge the facts on the taste of dessert.

growing pains.

i have been reflecting on my favorite episode of “growing pains“. yes, reflecting on an episode of “growing pains”. for those of you who do not know, and have been deprived of this piece of television wonder, “growing pains” is a family based sitcom that aired in the late 80’s early 90’s, stared one kirk cameron, and, in its later years, introduced a young leonardo dicaprio to the world (of course soap opera fans had met him, but pre-teen and teenaged kids watching growing pains were getting their first dose.) here is a better synopsis i found on “Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns are Jason and Maggie Seaver, a Happily Married couple living on Long Island with their three children: mischievous teenager Mike, brainy Carol, and precocious Ben. Maggie has decided to return to her pre-motherhood career as a journalist, and Jason has moved his psychiatric practice into the family home.” one more note, they got away with saying the word “boner”, which was the nickname of a kid on the show named ‘richard stabone’, yes, richard stabone, probably the real reason i watched each week. just waiting for that ‘boner’ – wait a minute.

my favorite episode, and forgive me if you are a true “growing pains” historian and i am not recalling the show perfectly, but it had to do with mike, the “mischievous teenager”, staying home from school “sick”. mike couldn’t believe that while he was out sick – other kids still went to school, his two buddies got in trouble in science class and when he turned on the television, that shows continued to air at their regular time. mike realized, but i don’t think fully accepted, that the world didn’t revolve around him, that the rest of the world went on without him, that he was a part of the world, but not the only one in it. simple right?

i have not written a post in two weeks. my family and i went to the gulf coast for five days and then flew back to wisconsin, our home state, to visit with family and friends. it was our first visit home since moving to alabama. there were many wonderful, thought-provoking and inspiring events that occurred in the last two weeks, and to process all of them in the course of one blog post, giving them any true respect, would be ridicules – and hard. i imagine that they will seep out of my posts over the course of time.

one of our stops along the way (‘along the way’ was – waukesha, milwaukee, madison, wisconsin dells, west bend, eau claire, madison, and milwaukee) was a visit to the school where i used to teach. needless to say, anxiety kicked in 20 minutes from the door. “would they care? did they even know i wasn’t around? was the place better without me? was it worse? would the kids be indifferent to my visit? ” all these thoughts ran through my mind at breakneck speed as we approached the door. i carried h. (should read ‘clutched h. uncomfortably tight’) thinking that she could be my shield for any awkwardness that came my way, yes, she would protect me, and give me an “out” if things got really weird. “uh yah, would love to stay but someone just pooped. ha, ha, ha’ – and i could be out the door. but, why would things get “really weird”? well, because i was walking into a situation that i had only known professionally, and not only that, but i spent nine years of my life building that “something” up with wonderful people, and i was now an outsider, i was entering a situation where i used to be in full control, and now, now, i was an observer, a guest. i could have skipped the whole thing and saved myself the anxiety, but we knew i had to do it. i had to visit the people i cared about and not run from a situation that may be uncomfortable. i have done a lot of that in my life, run from uncomfortable situations, but r. and i have vowed that we will try to put ourselves in life situations, however uncomfortable, and deal with processes fully. try to.

now, i am not arrogant enough to think that the school would be drastically different without me. right? i was one piece of a puzzle that worked towards a common good, with frequent positive results, but, but, but, i was “andy”. okay maybe i am arrogant, or too honest, but i was the guy who made the world run. right? wasn’t the school going to topple over without me in it? wasn’t i the one who directed us to these results? how could any one person do what i did? as hard as this is to write – i have to. i obviously had/have good rapport with (i think) all those i worked with, and what made us successful (our kids successful) was the fact that we all worked insanely hard in positions that we excelled in to help kids reach their full potential. it is difficult to speak about the “self” while talking about a job that is purely for others, but i think that completely rejecting your ego is dishonest. i did not work for my benefit, but i knew that i was good at what i did. i wanted to be the best at what i did (obtaining more degrees, reading, observing and training) so that i could offer more to those i serve. yes, i took pride in my work, and although i know someone else could do the job i did, i know i did it well. now that i have stroked my ego enough in this paragraph, i will say that i am proud of what i saw when i visited our school. the school looked great, the teachers were calm and the kids appeared to know that they were wanted and felt safe. it was awesome. i am happy. i am proud. the school was excelling in its mission – without me.

a family member asked if the visit back to the school was emotional. for those of you who do not know, i can be a pretty emotional person. i couldn’t believe that the answer to the question was ‘no’. now, by emotional i imagine that she meant “did you tear up?” or “was it hard on you? did you miss what you saw?”. it is weird, and comforting, that i felt calm. i felt as though i knew, even more, why i am, where i am, at this point in time. the school was functioning well, i realize that i had a place in it, that i was still there in some way, but that i wasn’t necessary. i am necessary where i am now, as i was necessary there – when i was there then. make sense? when we choose to function fully and honestly in life, no matter where it is, that is where we are to be, and that is where we will make the greatest impact. really, that is everywhere we are – always.

the above mentioned feelings and lessons would never have been obtained without confronting my fear. if i would have given into my anxiety and skipped the visit – i would have been left wondering. i would have never properly said goodbye to a place that made me who i am – i did not make it what it was and what it is today. people come together to create regardless of your involvement. if you are present for those creations (work or life experiences where something bigger than any one person, or one persons imagination, are made), you know that you are the one who receives the most – the show goes on whether you are there or not. i had my “mike seaver lesson”. i have been “home sick” thinking that the world operates dramatically different when i am not around, and really, it operates as it is meant to. our trip home was full of these moments. it makes me wish i could go back in time and re-do a few transitional elements in my life. say goodbye to a few friends i ran from, attend a funeral, and otherwise ‘deal’ with moments that seemed too hard – we can’t, but we can stay home sick some days and know that the world is just fine without us. we can also face our anxieties that transitions bring, and recognize the lack of permanence and importance that our lives have by themselves.

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