Monthly Archives: November 2011

be happy to be happy being happy

“enjoy them while they’re young.”

if i had a nickel for every time this was said to me as i walk around with the girls, i would never have to think about losing one every time (every time should be one word.) i used a quarter to plug the meter in downtown florence. (see yesterdays blog post). i could be at the shopping mall, gas station, park, anywhere and inevitably someone looks at me, mostly with a dreamy look as if they are so pained by what became of their kids, that they are trying to vaporize and enter my body, to hold those little hands one more time, and they say, with a shake of their head ‘man, enjoy them while they’re young’. i typically laugh and say ‘they get older? not these ones, the breeder promised.’ perhaps it isn’t fair to say that they are ‘pained’ by the fact that their kids grew up, but that they are thinking back to a time when their kids were innocent, believing, and otherwise looked to them as if ‘there were no others’, and then puberty hit, influences outside of parental controls took center stage, boyfriends, girlfriends, parties, choices, decisions, and the eventual move out of the home. perhaps it isn’t all that. perhaps they are looking at a picture in time when they were happiest, or they are looking back and wishing they could have a do over. or, and this is the last perhaps, perhaps, they are simply made happy by the sight of young children and want to make sure that you appreciate the time that you have with them. perhaps, oops i lied, it is a favor that all parents who have older children give to parents with younger children, a reminder to slow down and enjoy this life, not just their lives, but the life that you have. not only should we enjoy ‘them’ while we are young, but we should enjoy ‘us’ while we are young. or, and this is my last hypothesis, it is something that people, who don’t know what else to say, say. like ‘cute baby’ or the ‘how are you’ when they don’t really want to know. a side note: no one has ever stood next to me in a public restroom while i changed a wiggling, screaming, poopy handed baby’s diaper all the while doing my best owl impersonation to keep the other child’s hands out of the urinal. ‘no, those are not real cakes’. and said ‘enjoy them while they are young’

so, all these ‘enjoy them while they’re young”s (can you do that with an apostrophe?) have got me thinking. thinking about: the enjoyment of life in general, about sharing happiness, and about how we go about expressing our joys. people say ‘enjoy them while they’re young’ as if there is a lifetime of agony after the first 10 years. people don’t stop and say ‘man, you look happy. i remember how much i enjoyed my kids at that age. life’s transitions and stages are awesome. i am so happy today’. no, they don’t. in fact many people would think that someone saying that is either obnoxious or on some really good medicine. but, we do seem damn good as a country, society, culture (whichever way you want to slice it) in expressing our sorrows, our outrages (mostly manufactured to prove to any doubters what side we are on), disappointments, and otherwise the things in life that have kept us from happiness. we seem to take comfort in the struggle of life, and look at times when we are ‘doing well’ as lucky or ‘times of good fortune’. first off, and i recently had this discussion with a friend of mine – not in these exact terms, but the word lucky should not apply to how people get to where they are in life, unless you truly were lucky – like won the lottery. you are not lucky to have a job, you are not lucky to have children who are polite, you are not lucky (or shouldn’t be) to go visit a doctor, luck did not influence your abilities. that term, ‘lucky’, is a way that we have found to let people believe that we were not in full control of obtaining or becoming the things that we have or are. you know? if we know someone may not have it as well as us (in any respect) we chalk it up to luck, we feel compelled to squelch what we have done, or how we feel, in order to, well, i’m not sure what we are trying to protect or why we do this. i understand being humble, i have never been a braggart, and i don’t believe in making people jealous of what i have in my life. because, i certainly wouldn’t want them to feel sorry for me either. i try not to live a life where i view others, who show their pleasure in life, as being obnoxious. they are happy.

are we afraid of expressing happiness? i don’t mean all together, but i feel myself withdraw from expressing how cool my life is right now (when my life is cool right then) more than i find myself holding back sharing disappointments when they happen. for me, and perhaps you, i fear that expressing my triumphs and joys would be viewed as obnoxious. have you ever had a friend tell you how tough things are for them? yes, we all have heard it and said it. have you then been afraid and held back on expressing honestly, when you are doing well, how well you are doing?

this is embarrassing, but when I was younger, this is bad, but I used to wish that something horrible had happened in my life. i wished that i had had a series of terrible events that i could somehow use to justify the ‘edge’ that I felt inside. i thought that if bad things happened to me, it would make me more real. people wouldn’t question why i was doing what i was doing, actually, they would just feel sorry for me. yuck. (by the way the Internet just went out, i lost three paragraphs, and they were not sure when it would be back up. i’m typing on my phone and hoping you’ll forgive the mistakes and incomplete thoughts (you’re probably used to) while I try to get this post published. going back to this post once the internet gets back up and running, who knows when, is not something I want to do.) it’s not just me that feels this way, i can recall walking (intended) down the hallway at school and over-hearing kids sharing their ‘war stories’ – the kid with the worst life story was undoubtedly the ‘coolest’.

when someone tells you how well they are doing – how do you respond? what do you think? yes, perhaps i’m prattling on about the negatives here as well, but i’m trying to understand why we fear feeling proud and happy – at times.

perhaps we fear over expressing, or expressing, our joys because we are fearful of what we enjoy.

our daughters remind us to look at the parts of life that we may lose touch of as we age. perhaps that is why people tell you to ‘enjoy them while they are young.’ maybe they are telling you to enjoy having a daily reminder of how wonderfully fantastically awesome life is, and you just helped them glimpse at that reminder once again.

ahhh darn internet. i may have to fill my comments section with clarifiers and further thoughts when the internet comes back on. this little screen doesn’t make correcting or editing easy.

sing a happy song to yourself, and don’t feel lucky to breathe air, feel inspiration from each breath.


the old ‘you only have a quarter’ tax


isn’t it their convenience that i use a quarter. some people would believe it fair that ‘nickel boy’ should have to use six nickels for two hours and ‘dime girl’ should have to use three dimes for the same amount of time. or should ‘nickel boy’ have to use seven nickels, which would make the convenience fee higher and the task one more nickel less convenient.

expressing energetic emotions in front of kids.

where did you go?

seasons are shifting again
signaling in a new stage
get up, they say.
dance and sing, they urge.
sing for me my forgotten friend
let me be the one you raise your voice for
i hear before I hit the floor, wishing and wanting to be out the door as i hear the voices of three more.
responsibilities mount
and then the snow falls.

where were you?
wondering and wandering
using me as your excuse
an excuse to look over and back again thinking all the same that you would never look this way.
my eyes, a painful squint, broken cigarette creeping out of the corner of my mouth, flattened, half chewed
i used to use the shit out of every thing that came my way.
still do.

so, this is the start of a poem that i wrote on friday night. not really a poem, more a stream of consciousness – i enjoy writing and not looking back. a trip through my mind without edit. the poem goes on for about three pages, but it is riddled with cuss words and some things crept out that felt far too personal to share. some thoughts weren’t even really about me – i enjoy getting into a character when i write, a part of me, but not the whole me. it’s fun to blow up a section of your personality and let it dominate, but not everyone understands that people who write, like to play with ideas and thoughts more than write about reality – at least i do. if someone found my notebooks i would have a lot to explain. expression.

we express ourselves in different ways through the course of a day. not only do we express ourselves through different mediums, we express ourselves with different uses of language (r. gave me a hard time after she heard me on the phone with the tattoo artist i went to. she said ‘you sounded a little more “gangster” than you normally do’ laughing through each word. (i normally sound any bit gangster?) she went on to say that my words ran together more and that i was more relaxed, that i used more slang, and that my voice was lower. now, i was not conscious of my change in tone at all. after being a tad embarrassed, i realized that i had “code-switched” without realizing it. much like i used to do when i went from a staff meeting to a classroom full of kids.), and we express ourselves with different emotions. our “expressing” is being absorbed by h. and a. at an incredible level right now, and that is difficult to keep in mind, especially when emotions “run high” – um, when we argue.

now, i would be lying if i said that we didn’t argue in front of the kids, in fact we argue, or have intense discussions (as i like to call them – ever the diplomat), from time to time. i think about their feelings when “i just need to get my last point across” or when r. needs to let me know that she is aware of that “button” i just pushed, and i beat myself up for exposing them to their parents arguing or not being happy with one another, but i don’t know if having these discussions, or emotions, in front of them is all bad. there are some people who think that you should save your “heated discussions” for when the kids are in bed, or go into another room. i struggle with both of these. waiting until they go to bed would make the time until bedtime rough, yes, i am an adult, but some things need to be nipped in the bud right away, on both sides. stewing anger has the ability to take more away from the kids than modeling healthy ways to express it. and “going into another room” is tough for me too, if you don’t think kids can hear through those walls, you’re nuts. have we done it? yes. but it makes it more of an unnatural mystery for our kids if they notice that you left to argue. they may create stories about why you’re arguing, or worse, blame themselves. so, i say, let it all out in front of them. i’m kidding, but i do find value in showing our kids all types of expression, and that people get angry. they may be uncomfortable, i know, and that is the hardest part for me. i am very sensitive to how others feel in intense situations, but if we are readying them to regulate their emotions in a healthy way, then we need to show them how that looks. we need to show them how you come to an agreement, even after you disagreed intensely, and we need to show them how to say they are sorry, or that they were wrong. the one thing i love for our kids to see, after a brief intense stand-off between two strong-willed people, is our ability to come to an understanding and for one of us to say “hmm, i can see it from that point of view. sorry, i just got upset.” of course all of our arguments don’t end that way, but more often than not we share with the kids that even though mommy and daddy got upset, we still love each other.

lou needs to eat too

this is tough for me. sometimes i think that i am being selfish, that i can’t put my own emotions in check to save them seeing their parents have a disagreement, but someday they are going to realize that no matter how much you love someone, you don’t always agree with them, and sometimes they upset you. i am sure they are aware of this – they are sisters. as a. and h. get older i understand that we can’t shield them from the world, we need to explain it to them. do we use our imaginations frequently? yes, but we want them to have a healthy respect for their emotions and the world around them. i thought about this when we were watching the fighter jets do training exercises yesterday. a. asked “what are those little planes?” h., of course pointed and continued saying “apelane, apelane, apelane” louder and louder until she got enough of a reaction from all of us. i said “those are fighter jets” naturally she replies “what’s a fighter jet?”. i responded by saying “they fly in the sky to keep us safe” a. couldn’t leave it at that “safe from what?” my first thought was ‘man, why does she do this to me?’. at this point i left it at “in case those attack aliens from mars come to get us” okay, not exactly reality, but probably would mean the same as if i explained what and who we may need to protect ourselves from. everything in time?

where do you fall on the “arguing in front of the kids” debate. obviously arguing does not take up the bulk of our days, weeks, or lives, but everyone argues and we are comfortable with that, and feel healthier that we talk about it, rather than bury emotions that have the potential to creep up more intense and with too much sludge attached. as with everything – who knows what is right or wrong – there is no right or wrong (you know what i mean) – just ideas to help us all get better at being human.

naked chick peas and a wurlitzer

i learned something today. how to make hummus silky smooth. i know. probably the most significant revelation in my life since discovering the beauty behind separating halloween/parade/pinata candy (yes, we still have all three) into a chocolate bag and a candy bag.

candy and chocolate should never mix

the start of de-skinning the chicks

proof i didn't give up

they can't believe how smooth the hummus is - stupified

i don’t measure my ingredients, but here is a list of what i used – pretty standard: chick peas, sesame seeds (no tahini. i think a. is okay with it, but after it’s responsibility for an allergic reaction that ended in the emergency room – i have an aversion to it. just like my inability to eat grape jelly. when i was younger i couldn’t swallow pills – my parents crushed them up and put them into grape jelly.), cumin, red pepper flakes, smart oil, ginger, lemon, salt and pepper. yes, peeling the peas proved to be worth the time. i should also say that blending the spices and oil before adding the chick peas may have added to our wonderful hummus creation. unfortunately, i just remembered that we are out of pita bread.

our find of the week.

the wurlitzer funmaker delux

i couldn’t pass this little beauty up for three reasons: 1. we want to expose the kids to music in all forms whether it be playing instruments, listening to it, or watching videos. 2. it looks really cool. it warms up our reading room – very warm blanket on a couch in january feel. 3. it is the same organ that we had in our home growing up. i never played the organ. in fact, i have never played any musical instrument, sans a brief affair with drums, the violin when i was very young, wailing in the harmonica annoying everyone but me, and the bells for church in the 6th grade (the only reason i played the bells was to go on the end of the year trip to bay beach park in green bay, wisconsin – a small-scale amusement park. the only reason i wanted to go to bay beach park was because girls would be going to bay beach park and i could get out of school.). i’m hoping to learn alongside the girls. r. wants me to pick up the guitar – we’ll see.

lately, i have been concentrating my energies on turning this here blog into a podcast. i will be posting my first podcast, a read of a previous blog post, to this here blog by the end of the weekend – hopefully. if you are a fan of this blog, if you appreciate my written word, please let me know what you think of the podcast. i will continue to write blog posts, but want to play with audio as well. i appreciate all of the feedback i get on this blog. please let me know what you think of the podcast once it is posted.

writers block.

writer’s block. need to unlock. writer’s block. need to unlock. the tick of the clock. need to unlock. my writer’s block. needs to unlock. my mind is scattered. need to unlock. this writer’s block. i need not mock. this writer’s block. it’s got me caught. this writer’s block. words a lost flock. this writer’s block. anybody got a hammer? for this writer’s block.

here’s a picture i took of my brother c..


how to catch aliens.

how to catch an alien.

supplies needed: ten foot rope, a small child, a smaller than the small child, and tricycle pusher attachment.

there are aliens everywhere. the first and most important thing to know, or remember if you happen to be using this post to brush up on your skills, is that different colored aliens live on and in different areas of your yard. the red ones are on the roof and are not an immediate threat, nor are they in immediate danger – more on that distinction later. blue ones live over the fence and are usually top priority. the tree aliens, which are the only aliens not distinguished by color, happen to be green and move around a lot – only worry about them if you notice a mass migration. the last aliens that we have discovered are the brown guys. they live in and around mailboxes. the brown aliens are generally friendly, but be careful once you get them on the “raft”.

now, to catch the aliens. throw the rope in their general area. have small child ready with the tricycle attachment (holding it like a net for the aliens to hop on). next, slowly pull rope towards you. when the rope is four feet from the small child, send the smaller child out to the end of the rope. aliens generally want “big game”, and if they are dangerous aliens, they will leave the smaller child alone – most of the time. have the smaller child pick up the end of the rope, slowly bring it to the small child, and release the aliens onto the tricycle attachment (the carrier). once all aliens are on-board bring them to your designated hospital or holding cell.

important things to remember:

be sure to understand the purpose of your mission before heading out. are you helping aliens in need or capturing aliens that pose a potential threat. the smaller child need not wear bright colored clothes on good will missions. if you are suspicious that the mission may be dangerous; wear bright colored clothes or stain them insanely with lunch before heading out. the bright colors and food stains subdued otherwise aggressive aliens.

a dirty diaper is no reason to abort a mission. in fact, the smell lures the red aliens from the roof to the gutter, making it easier to get them with the rope, or if adult helper desires, they could hold the tricycle attachment.

there are no quick missions and a seemingly great mission could end disastrously if care is not taken by adult human. the smaller child may need to hold the tricycle attachment, small child might not want to hold the rope, aliens may sense the disturbance and band together due to their suspicion of “the human ones”. if this happens: adult human must remove small and smaller child from the area where the aliens may be, put small and smaller child in their holding cells, wash all equipment by himself, pretend that he is capturing the thousands of aliens that escaped while they were arguing, insist that the blue ones turned against us and will only be friendly again if silence is had for one hour, after silence and snack…go back to catching aliens.

feel free to post your alien encounters, captures, good will missions, or anything else alien related.

“why do you care?”

you can read that question a few ways, depending on what word you emphasize. try it. repeat that sentence four times, each time putting your gusto behind an individual word. when you put the emphasis on the “why” I think it should have a question mark behind it like “why? do you care?” actually sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it? i have to say, the way i read that question, initially, without giving it thought, is harsh – the emphasis on the “you” reading of the question. last night before bed i slowed it down as much as i could and tried to say each word the same way, i said it over and over to myself, until I fell asleep and dreamed about playing guitar with kimya dawson and then, in a different dream, i was a vampire, which is weird because i don’t read vampire books or watch the shows, but i did identify the guy after me as the square-jawed guy from the “twilight” movies, i found that out watching the video music awards years back, sad right? i hid above stairs and was almost outed by another vampire – i woke up.

asking “what do you care about?” is nice, but too easy. not easy to care, but I think, depending on the day, answers could range from the color of my car to the health of my family. this morning, i cared about coffee getting in my cup – fast.

we hear people say “you’re a caring person”, ” oh, I care so much about kids in Uganda.” (I mean every time I’m at the grocery store it comes up at least once), or a myriad of ways to say that “blank” is something that is important to me. but why? ask yourself and please reply. what do you care about? more importantly, why?

the greater question for me is the big question. why do I care? why do I care about what goes on in the world. why care? not “what is important to me?”, but why do i put my energy into this whole human race thing? what drives me? why do others seem to not care?

this is tough for me to explain, but the hardest question that our students asked was “why should I care” or simply put “who cares”. this was usually in regards to the subject matter being taught, but overall there was a sense of hopelessness about everything. why care at all? like, why live? now, granted many of my students may not have had someone show that they care for them in the way that i, or the staff at our school, do, but i struggled to answer the question when they asked it. “well, um, you should care…” quick, flip through rolodex of stock answers that kids hear all the time “cause it affects you” well, if you are hopeless, this really doesn’t matter much. “why should you care?” i remember, especially on mornings at school that were continuations of the night before when both girls would be tag teaming their sheets with vomit, blinking, standing there motionless, thinking about what their life has been to this point, probably freaking them out that I didn’t answer as fast as other adults in their life, and saying “um, well, *far off look* (by the way, I have seen other people using these star things to show signify an action. I think it’s becoming universal?) you see…” and i would pause again and look at them. i wasn’t trying to freak them out or tell them not to care, i just didn’t want to “feed them a line”. i wanted to be the one that helped them understand that there is something to breathe for every day. but, what? I cannot tell them what. i could maybe weird them out so much that they come back the next day to see if i have their answer, but you can only show people how to care, not give them the why? not sure I agree with this, help me play with it.

i just paused my writing, stared out the window, and repeated the question to myself several times. like anthony michael hall in “the breakfast club” asking the “who am i?” question. i then heard tiny voices in the background (seriously i’m not writing that cause it sounds warm and cuddly. they are in the garage, with r. as I write this.) the same tiny voices who just refused to eat breakfast and were oppositional during teeth brushing, they make me happy, and if they catch me at the right time, those tiny voices along with r.’s fill me with emotion and energy that drives me to become more, but that is not why i care about life. i mean it is something i care greatly about, and it is where I devote most of my caring energies, but I cared about living before we had children.

i was staring out the window again, asking myself the question, and there is no answer. why do we care? we just do? unfortunately, we don’t always show it. more unfortunate than that, is some people simply don’t care about the welfare of others. some people, when asked why they care, think about how it services them, not how it services the whole. the whole of humanity.

i hope you care. i hope you care about building up rather than tearing down. i hope you care about love, respect, truthfulness, and above all, i hope you care enough to show other people that you care. if we do that? maybe there isn’t a need for a reason, maybe the “why do you care?” question is gone. maybe we won’t see one another as having motives that are self-serving, maybe we will trust again, and not have to care so much.

the best way i have found to show that i care? stick around. stay there by them. don’t say a word. just give them your time. doesn’t have to be physical, and certainly don’t annoy them, just let people know that you are available. i know this isn’t an advice column. i just got caught up thinking about my former students and the lessons that they taught me.

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