Monthly Archives: January 2012

extremely loud incredibly close. part two.

celery. we recently brought this wonderfully crunchy cradle for soy butter back into the house (it wasn’t ‘kept out’ for any reason). it got me thinking about brent celek, philadelphia eagle’s tight end, and then of course i thought about tom selleck, and invariably these thoughts led me to the vision of a piece of celery that looks like tom selleck. anyone with the ability to make this vision a reality? i would be forever in your debt.

critics, critical, constructive criticism – more words on my “c” journey. it seems that being critical, rather than accepting (or creating our own) has become the approach/reaction upon discovering something new. it goes like this – a company comes out with a new product (director with a new movie). first adopters say ‘yah I got it, it’s cool, but…’ then others get it/see it and say ‘yah some nice features, but…’, then the world adopts it/watches it, and the first adopters say ‘it was better back in the day’ and everyone is using it happily, but no one wants to admit they like it until years later when it’s ironic and cool to be retro. how’s that for being critical?

i read three reviews of ‘extremely loud incredibly close’ – all were not glowing the way i have about this movie, which is fine, but then i went to the comment section of the reviews – you know, the area where us ‘common folk’ can weigh in on the topic at hand, where somehow, even if the discussion starts with a debate about hand soaps, it turns into a name calling feast for r’s and d’s – and as i scanned the comment sections this time, expecting to read raves about the film, i ran into a number of complaints, the number one being that it wasn’t at all like the book, that the ‘film adapter’ missed huge parts, and that the actors were not what they thought of in the book and blah, blippity, blah, blah. no. movies, that are based on books, are not going to be the book – things will be left out, the characters you saw in your mind will look that way on film ten percent of the time, dialogue between characters may be different, and so on – if you can’t handle this – hire someone to read you the books (in the comfort of your own home) and use hand puppets, that you create, to bring ‘your book’ to life. sorry, i cringe when i hear ‘it wasn’t like the book’.

now, criticism and being critical are important. to me, those words have undo negative connotations. being critical means that you are examining something – not putting it down. the problem i see is that people act like they are being critical, and in reality they are either 1) proving how much they know about something by being a critic of it 2) they don’t like anything that is mainstream (i fall into this camp from time-to-time) or 3) they are angry about everything and use products and movies to unleash their pent up aggression that spawns from being the last one on their block to get the nintendo entertainment system (nes). ‘yah i heard mario was stupid anyway’

i think about this with the girls, family members, and friends too. i can be critical, mostly constructive, but sometimes i am critical of things that are inherently who they are – do we need to point out everything in the name of honesty? no. be critical of things and people, but do it in a way that is offering something other than your ability to use google or misdirected angst for being stood up at prom. or write a blog and unleash all your anger and thoughts in a semi-coherent way – leaving others confused and some inspired.

i’m not sure what i am trying to say. i guess it’s more of an observation. it seems as though we have all become critics, and perhaps in that shift, we are failing to enjoy things for what they are. food (holy bologna does food get criticized), technology, sports, movies, everything – we are critics. perhaps my struggle is this – being a critic implies that you are an observer, and i want to be a participant – i want to be criticized. i want to criticize myself. it’s how we grow.

so, around in another circle i go – hope you are all well.



the great worm rescue.

ballet outfit, silver boots, argyle socks, and a blanket for a cape – it was sixty degrees out – today was h’s day, and we were hunting for worms to save. our last bout of rain washed out the creek and left dried minnows and worms scattered on the sidewalk in its wake. h. was calling herself “captain something” as she stumbled down the sidewalk following her sister’s direction. sister (which is what h. calls a. – and she will remind you of their relation to no end) is a professional worm rescuer, and has taken h. under her wing. as they made their way down the parkway, they stopped at every ‘thing’ that didn’t look like a rock, dead minnows or worms, and crouched down to pay their respects to the fallen. dried worms get a little more ‘crouch time’ than the minnows. as they huddle over the crunchy-dried up-circles (h. having to be reminded countless times by a. not to touch) i think a. is reflecting how she could have saved her ‘poor little buddy’.

a. gives h. a pep-talk prior to her first solo worm rescue

we continue on – h. falling on the walkway that was made slippery by washed out mud and sand, a. seeing how close she can go to the creek before I call her back, and me thinking how fruitless this worm search seems to be, but enjoying the sounds and sights that join a walk alongside a moving body of water. and then…what to my surprise do i hear from a.? “h. we got one get over here” h. clumsily run/falling down the slight incline (down the incline?hm), knees knocking, cape blowing in the wind, hair in her face, panting and red-faced she makes it to where a. is hunched over a…a…a… real worm – still alive, and now it is their job to save it. i was quite impressed that a. waited for h. and walked her through the process. “now h. (yes she really speaks this way) pick it up carefully. no, no, no use both hands. okay, now you want to set it on the grass by some water. no h., don’t squeeze it. oh, oh,oh h. just gently set it down.” I am watching with a huge grin not wanting to butt in, and now h. is swinging the worm as if she skipped tee ball and went straight to fast pitch softball. “oh…h….okay, that’s right. set it down right there. good. leave it. no, don’t pick it up. great.”. yah for h. we clapped, danced, chanted “h. h. h.”, hopped in our wagon, and went home.

thanks to the efforts of a. and h. – there is one more worm in the world, and one less crunchy snack on the sidewalk for a one year old.

my second piece on “extremely loud incredibly close” will hopefully be up by friday. r. is out-of-town and today time only permits a quick story about worm rescue. if you have seen the movie, or read the book, since my last post – please let me know what you thought either in the comments section of the last blog post or drop me a note at

extremely loud and incredibly close. part one.

this is part one to what may be a three-part posting about my reaction to this film. i don’t discuss the movie in detail, so no spoiler.

we went to a movie last night. it’s interesting how we come to be exposed to certain music, literature (why isn’t there a cool word for music like there is for books), or movies (‘cinematatic experiences’ as i like to call them – and push my fake glasses back up my nose). i would say seventy-five percent of my exposure to these three portholes of ‘soul oxygen’ are introduced from a ‘trusted source’ (yes ‘trusted source’ – so much easier to say family member or friend, but ‘trusted source’ has weight – right? like i have a team of people working to find new information for me.), ten percent comes from magazines or on-line sources (definitely not always to be trusted) and wait, *whispers to self* seventy plus ten is eighty, eighty minus one hundred is… seventeen percent. (sorry I’m practicing in case anyone asks me to ‘walk them through the math’, what a funny thing to ask someone, likes it’s going to change their manipulation of the numbers. “oh you want me to ‘walk you through the math’, darn, um, well, *whispers to self – loud enough to be heard* two plus twenty carry the eight, so, six. yes, i have six sheep.” too funny) back to where I was going (where are we going?) twenty percent of my exposure is from blind luck. yes, just stumbling onto something. i found nellie mckay that way, if you haven’t heard her music – you should – now i’m one of your percentages of exposure. i was at the library looking through cds, the cover looked interesting – it was just her looking happy in a red jacket, i listened to it, and have since passed it on to others. you’re welcome nellie, which you have to say mckay after, or people think you’re ‘repin’ the lou’, and who but a few could blow through a reed for that city. just kidding – a fine place. just a little sports rivalry, i wanted to work mr. reed into this post, and didn’t want to make a silly ‘hot in herre‘ reference.

breath of air.

spoon man. yes, i'm up to four.

i ‘stumbled on’ a book a few years back called “extremely loud, incredibly close” by jonathan safran foer, and it moved me. it made an impression, so much so that i had to ‘trade it’ to a family member i rarely see, and don’t remember how or when we exchanged it, for one of his other books “everything illuminated” which was also turned into a movie. we went to see the ‘film adaptation’ (sorry my fake glasses were sliding down my nose again and needed a reason to be nudged up) of “extremely loud incredibly close” last night.

my goal is not to write a review or ruin the movie – if you have read the book- or seen the movie, then you already know what i know, and you tell others to read the book or see the movie. see, my goal is to advocate for this movie – because i want everyone to cry. yes, for those of you who don’t know me, i am an emotional person. our wedding, the girls first days of day care, the wind blowing east, are all lip quivering, shaky voice experiences for me. that being said, i have never seen so many people leave a theatre in tears. it was awesome, and inspiring. something happens when you become a parent, or have parents, something happens when you are human, your view of the world changes. (not all people are humans) you start to see everything through the lens of someone who has a shit load of responsibility – to put it bluntly. you kind of matter more than you did, and this understanding makes you more vulnerable to be a crier at a movie. i know, some people cry inside and don’t outwardly show emotions, i’m cool with that, and can see through the flesh on their cheeks. i think what makes me emotional in situations that i observe (movies, t.v. shows, or airport drop offs – your welcome for clarifying) is that i put myself in their place. i find something i identify with, and then create a landscape in my mind where all the people in my field of vision are suddenly ones i know and i see myself moving in front of me – stay with me – and i feel. simply put. i allow myself to feel. guess some of that may be empathy.

i think we were twenty minutes deep in the movie and i had already wiped my eyes, put my pointer finger on my eyebrow and pinky to my mouth (try it so you have the full picture) in an attempt to raise the top of my eye, causing a bit of pain, and making it easier to not turn into a total mess. the reason for my, and r.’s, emotional response? we saw some of our relationships with our girls, specifically a. – only because of age – in the characters, and i suddenly was watching a film of memories and couldn’t get my head around not being around, more specifically, not having them in my life – not being in theirs. i’m welling up as I write this. it’s something we can all think about, something that we can all gain perspective from – what if ‘they’ or ‘i’ were gone, as in dead. what would i miss? what would i leave? what do we do during the days, hours, minutes that we are together that they carry with them as indelible images? i identified with the dad in the movie’s quirkiness. we all have it. it’s called individuality. it’s what separates us from others, it’s what makes us, well, us. we can forget to expose that sometimes, or forget how much of it is being observed by our children, and the importance of it is insane. sharing quirkiness, or in other words, being ourselves, gives others a chance to share theirs, and with kids, that is of paramount importance. express and don’t be afraid to be what and who you are – a simple trite message, but one we need to remember, one that, as we age, is easier to forget. being yourself, by the way, is not just clothes, music and slang, it’s the way you smell the lid of the soy butter container and lick the spoon. it’s the things your loved ones remember when you’re gone, it’s your impression. share it.

peace by the creek. a visual meditation.

please enjoy two minutes of “peace by the creek”. a. and h. decided to water the world. i watched – they were in their own universes – it almost appears synchronized at times.

my morning vent. rant. call it what you want.

It was cold upstairs; I turned up the heat and opened the vent. I opened the vent. All the way open. You there?

It was four a.m. This I would not know unless from the glow of the microwave clock that beamed in my half-opened, angry, and quarter conscious eyes. I was not craving a “hot pocket” (which I haven’t had in years, but were a staple in my early twenties diet), nor was I waking for an early morning fishing trip. I wasn’t relieving my bladder of the two pints of oolong tea I had during the, um, well, the game of American football that played on the screen from three thirty in the afternoon to…whenever that “thing” ended, nope, I wasn’t getting up for an early morning jog either. Actually, I was lying, quite peacefully might I add, in bed, asleep, as I normally do, when I heard what I thought was the sound of a cup pushing against the water dispenser on the refrigerator door. At first I thought it was the heat kicking in, “who would be getting water right now?” ran through my mind, but the gulp and loud “ahhh”, clued me in that, after a pat down to rule out the human who sleeps next to me (who was there – sleeping quite soundly), I realized one of the two “little people” were up getting water, in the kitchen?, and I identified which “little person” by the sound of their little feet that they don’t pick up, but shuffle quickly across the floor, which most of the time endears me to her, but when my mind realized there was no “forty o’clock”, I was anything but endeared.

H. had woken up, needed water, moved a stool in front of the refrigerator, got a cup, climbed the stool, pushed the cup into the lever, filled the cup, drank the water, and set her cup on the counter – all in the dark. I should have been impressed; perhaps I was, until the day progressed. Progressed may not be the right word. I shuffled H. back to bed and she, I presume, went back to sleep.

double rainbow.

It was six fifteen. This I wouldn’t have known unless A. hadn’t announced, on their way into our bedroom (yes “they” – ol’ “shuffle feet” was in tow and blamed for the early wake up call), that “it is six. one. five.”. I was thinking quicker than I was at four a.m. “Okay, I can handle this” was the pep talk I gave myself – really motivating huh? “Girls, can you go in one of your rooms and play? I need a minute (or fifty).” A surprising “yes daddy” followed by the shuffling and pounding (a. is a pounder like me) of feet out the door. Ahh. I made it. I get a little more sleep to make up for the random four a.m. hydration fest.

It was six twenty. I was woken by cries. I made my way, slowly, into A.’s room. A. was crying and H. was hiding – I didn’t need details. “Really?” I thought to myself. “Really I am starting my day, wait, my day was started two hours ago, well, starting the second part of my day with cries.” Okay, I can handle this. “Hey girls, what’s up?” Why? Why do I do things like that? Why do I ask questions? A. Starts “H. blah blah blah” It was like the reverse Charlie Brown. Let’s head into the kitchen – I need to start the coffee. They went to the table to color.

It was six forty. I was turned around by grunts. H. was pulling the bag of markers from A., and A. was trying not to cry because I told her my head might explode if I heard anymore cries – they started anyway. “Girls, could you go to one of your rooms and play while I get breakfast going?” – let’s try this again. “Yes, Daddy.” Yes. We are back on track – until H. walks into a wall on her way to the bedroom. Crying. Followed by a “I wanted to make your bed and leave Minnie Mouse on it – don’t take your Minnie Mouse off argument”, then a wrestling match to change H.’s diaper while A. commented on the smell and size of H’s rooster (in case you missed it in a previous post – we call “poops in the diaper”, “roosters in the oven” for no real reason), a crying fit because H. wanted to wear her tutu for the tenth straight day and I was trying to explain that we needed to clean the wheaties-pudding-milk-hotdog mush off of it, a nice walk to the washing machine to put it in together, then a total misunderstanding when the washing machine actually started, to a blissful moment watching the tutu swirl in water , to a melt down when the tutu couldn’t come out after a five-minute wash, to walking into another wall, a peaceful moment listening to “puff the magic dragon”, jumping on sister, then, as I was showering I heard from our closet “Dad, she has to poop” a minute later “Dad, she’s taking her diaper off”. The warm water and glass barrier were comforting. Let her poop all over the closet, this moment is worth cleaning the poop out of my clothes and carpet. Luckily, no poop.

Nine o’clock. Yes, only Nine o’clock. Only Nine o’clock and we had enough tears, cries, pouts and thirty-second bliss moments for the week. “One of those days” I thought. “Just shoot me” I texted r.. They were fed, we tried schoolwork, and H. and A. started arguing about something else. My leg bounced, as it had when I was twelve waiting to give an oral presentation, “come on ten o’clock, come on ten o’clock” racing through my mind – and I think verbalized a few times. At ten o’clock we can get in the car and start heading to gymnastics where at least A. will be busy, and I think I can wrestle H. into eating a snack – or six if it buys time – to get a little peace. It worked. We are good. We ate lunch and are now getting on with our day. I am writing and they are doing an art project.

No moral, no message – just an open vent that I am yelling through. We all need that every now and again.

i had an epiphany. is that dramatic enough to get your attention?

i had an epiphany, yes an epiphany. ( i can’t write that without thinking of a former student of mine. we were in a school meeting discussing his progress, i started the meeting by addressing the fact that his attendance was affecting his grades, when, he stopped me, with a grin and a finger on his chin and said ‘i just had an epiphany.’ his eyes were squinted and cast my way. ‘a what?’ i said, wondering where this word came from, and why was he saying it in a low tone like a godfather gangster discovering his best friend had ratted him out. my student was confused, he thought we were friends because i respected him, he didn’t understand why i would uncover his four-days-a-week absences in the meeting, he thought i was turning on him, so he turned to me and shared what he thought was a decisive way to express that our bond had been broken -that he had an epiphany. it got kind of weird when all he would say was “i just had an epiphany” with a shake of his head. we moved on. man, i love the teenage mind.

my epiphany had to do with legos. the girls got a box of legos for christmas. now, i don’t remember playing with legos when i was younger, i’m sure i did, but i was more of an action figure kid. he-man to be exact. my lego epiphany? they come with directions. there are things that you are ‘supposed’ to make with the pieces. i think i knew this, but thought you just ‘built stuff’ that the box suggested. wow, there are step-by-step directions to make specific things. we made a car, helicopter and house, but after a while, i missed my flying house with skis, and we quickly disassembled our fleet, better said, h. and a. weren’t too into the uniformity either, or they didn’t have the patience to search out specific pieces and put them in the exact place they were to go, according to the directions that is. so, we used the helicopter propeller as a steering wheel for our ski ship.

there are ‘direction people’ and there are people who prefer to be directionless. now, directionless does not mean lost. i’m reminded of the bumper sticker “not all who wander are lost”. or all who ‘wonder’ either. then there are people who use directions in some situations and don’t use them in others. and even more people, like me with the legos, who don’t know that directions exist. i have never been a fan of categorizing humans into one of two ‘camps’ that they can’t get out of. once you are a direction person – you are always a direction person, in some people eyes. (a few other ‘types’ of people – people who floss/people who don’t, people who look at a map/people who ‘will remember when they see it’, and people who stand in line patiently behind someone who’s having a hard time deciding between cone or dish/people who push them out-of-the-way/or a third group of people who know what ‘people who act like they have a hard time deciding between inconsequential life choices and make a production out of their ordering to prove their complex understanding of the mundane’ look like, and skip them in line) no, not a fan of breaking us down like that.

i enjoy using the directions at times, and creating our own lego universe other times. if you use directions, cool. if not, cool. if you’re like me – you’re even cooler, but are you happy with what you made? does it matter what the end result looks like to others – as long as you enjoyed the process and appreciate the outcome? do you put your creation in a shrine or break it in pieces the moment it is complete (i’m looking at you h.) and put it together another day? the thing of it is – we are all using the same pieces, just mixing and matching them in different ways to form objects that appear different when assembled. when broken apart in all there separate little pieces – they are the same. i will not judge or criticize what you make with your legos, or how you make it, as i would like the same from you. and please – don’t throw your legos at me (i’m looking at you again h.). see, you may not know, but this is the century of the lego. people will be making lego everything, and i am preparing you for the reality that we all view our legos differently.

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a poem waking up

i was awakened by the clickity clack of the remotes as they made their way up and down the valley we created with last nights fast moving glacier – no million years needed to change our landscape – just two words. two words. two lumps of chemicals exchanging elements with the world. a fjord left holding our go go gadget arms that control our contact with the outside world.

i much prefer the nights when we form an island. exchanging elements with one another to survive, an ocean of thoughts surrounding us, rising with each inhale of one anothers existence – tectonic shifts pushing us higher – and then, i am awakened by your ‘ouch’ when i roll over on your hair. you roll away. and i pick up the clickity clack remotes left in the valley.

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