Master of Peeves

A tablet left on the couch, awaiting destruction by an unsuspecting person who blindly sits down. Endless cords and chargers, always left plugged in, with nary a device to send its replenishing current to. Dishes abandoned in places no dishes should be, the household equivalent of a grocery cart toppled over on an empty playground .  A minefield of shoes and book bags left at the door, requiring entrants to navigate an obstacle course that more often resembles Wipeout than American Ninja Warrior. And of course, the perpetual challenge of putting toilet paper in its rightful place.

These are a few of my least favorite things.

In fact, these seemingly innocuous childlike actions are my most infuriating things.

Taken individually, these are nominal indiscretions. Collectively, they engorge my rage gland to bursting. One by one, each indignity pushes my anger level upward until I explode, Mount Vesuvius-style, expletives and bluster spewing forth in a majestic display. After the initial grand eruption, grumbles sputter out the sides of my mouth, embarrassment overriding aggravation, my mood cooling like so much magma meeting the air. The only way to save face is to retreat to some other location, irritation mingling with shame, faux complaints mumbled incoherently.

Sadly, this is not the end of this disaster. Now that my personal volcano has let loose, so it must bubble beneath the surface I privately stew on the heinous infraction (or so I have built it up to that level in my mind) that caused me to blow my figurative top.

“Haven’t I asked them to not do those things hundreds of times?”

“Have I not been clear enough in my fire and brimstone diatribes?”

“Don’t they respect me enough to extend the smallest of efforts to keep me from going ballistic?”

“We provide so much for them. How is it too much to ask to do the most menial of tasks ?”

This is my jukebox of justification, and it plays all the hits, over and over again. Its cyclical nature ensures that I stay ever-livid, rage boiling just below my exterior. I am dangerous, a smoking crater of exasperation that can erupt at any moment.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed. Not so long ago, my wife put to me a question that shook me: “Where is that happy-go-lucky guy I met all those years ago?” She had a valid point. Upon a time I was a devout believer in the mantra “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.” Now a simple misplaced cup will launch me into a soliloquy on the virtue of responsibility as if that one cup will be the fulcrum that pushes our kids down the road to ruin.

Where has that man gone? The one who always saw the glass as half full (regardless of its location), the one who wore a grin like it was his favorite shirt? The cheerful one, the one who exuded glee and happiness?

That man had kids that became teenagers. The age of confusion and hormones. When the journey to discovering themselves, physically and otherwise, begins. Chaos reigns in their minds, even if they are awash in smugness when you are bestowing wisdom upon them. We’ve been there too, feeling like we understand the world so much better than our parental units while alternately being thoroughly confused at who we are supposed to be. Tumultuous and righteous, they are grappling with themselves and the two worlds they live in: the real and the digital. It’s a lot to ask a developing human at their most vulnerable stage mentally and emotionally to be perfect in their actions. They are coping with hurdles most parents of teens have not had to contend with: crafting and honing an online persona in the midst of figuring out their lives in our tactile existence. On those grounds alone they deserve far more leeway for missteps than I have allowed.

Yet, despite these truths, I have done little in the way of granting such graces. I’ve done mostly the opposite, letting minuscule peeves rule my days and nights with our kids. I’ve allowed perceived slights fester within, squashing the good man, the happy man, the man who found joy in life and his family. Perhaps my offspring aren’t the only ones weathering the internal storm of upheaval .

There is certainly an appropriate time and place for frustration to show with your kids. It is healthy for them to see you upset, and understand the why of the disappointment or irritation with their action or inaction, especially in the moment. Family is rarely Rockwellesque; it tends to be more in the vein of Dali. Strange and odd, but all the more lovely for its natural eccentricities.

Armed with the understanding of my teenagers’ challenges as well as my own, I will try to lessen the grip of the wee things that wriggle their way under my skin. I will endeavor to keep in mind that we are all imperfect, and that is OK. Of course I’ll slip up. I’ll burst at the seams here and there, regressing into the easily agitated father role that I’ve lived in as of late. But I will, over time, quell the dweller of peeves within, and return the volcano to dormancy.

 

 

 

Sea of Imposters

The bustling of bodies seems frenetic. I know there is purpose to their movements; indeed, their purpose is mine. But I am in a city foreign to me amongst those who have honed their skills and studied their craft, and I am hoping to glean knowledge from them. I’m not overwhelmed, not exactly. What I am is petrified.

“You don’t belong, you know.” The dreadful passenger that is my constant companion lends its voice to my fears. I’m rarely without its insistence.

“Everyone will figure you out. You’ll be known as the fraud you are.” The faces passing by are friendly, their eyes meeting mine with a smile attached. I nod and smile back, even eke out a few hellos to those who are familiar. I do not let the terror show, the one that rides with me no matter where I am. I fervently worry that those scuttling past me, or worse, those who stop to share a word or a handshake or a hug will hear that dreadful passenger and know the truth. That I am a charlatan, a sham. A trickster.

I am an imposter.

There has never been a moment where someone outside of my mind has heard that voice. Not a single instance of accusation from another human being. You’d think that without any sort of substantive proof that I’d be able to silence the dreadful passenger. To annex him to a dark cell and seal him off from any input in my thought processes. This is his true genius. He needs no proof. He can manufacture doubt from nothingness, and it will CONSUME me. The skepticism runs quickly through my nerves and bloodstream. It renders me motionless, afraid to move. As if stillness will shield prying eyes and minds from my fraudulence.

I am a writer, or at least that is who I am when I am here. I am also a father, like nearly everyone else is here.

Here happens to be Dad 2.0 Summit, a conference for dads who are telling their stories and sharing their lives through an array of mediums. Writing, video, photography….all ways these folks are presenting their journeys through parenthood. Lending themselves bare for all to see. Like I am. Ostensibly I am part of this clan. Yet the dreadful passenger tries to foil my membership with this community.

“Look at how popular they are.”

“They’re so much more successful than you are. You’re not on their level.”

“Why would you think that they’d want to talk to you? You’re nobody.”

“You can’t even get a hundred people to like one of your posts.”

He’s had years of practice to cut my confidence down in mere seconds. Fear and insecurity are his weapons, and he uses them with utmost precision. Attacks are brutal and swift and devastating. He doesn’t limit his ruthless barbs just to occasions like this. He’s omniscient. Nothing is out of his reach for comment. Parenting. Writing. Being a husband. Self-perception. What I eat. What I drink. How I love. Every crevice of my existence is available for his special brand of critique. He pulls no punches and takes no quarter. He lords over my self-esteem and pounds it to dust when he deems I’m challenging his rule.

Normally when his sharp words play in my head, I’d shrink into myself and try to quell the uncertainty raging within. But this time I allow the sea of peers to push and pull me about, adrift on camaraderie and compassion. The more I let myself bounce along the ebbs and currents of support and relatability, the quieter that voice becomes. He is losing this round, and it enrages him. He launches a final salvo.

“See all these men? They’re REAL dads. Look at you; you’re a terrible father. You sacrificed a weekend with your kids to come to a conference to be with people who know you don’t matter? Huh…some dad you are.”

That’s an uppercut to my psyche most days.

But this is not a day for hammer blows to my confidence. The waves move me towards kindred souls.

Thom, a warlock with words, seeks me out. We share stories and a few drinks. He compliments my writing and my family. I’m more than a bit floored by his generosity. Hugs and handshakes, and we carry on conversations with others who want to share their lives bare and fully.

I talk with my friend Scotty, who tells of a horrific past that you’d never suspect. He’s a humorous sort, quick with a smile. The adoration he has for his children explodes from my phone each time I see it. Tears are spent from both our eyes. His courage is immeasurable, and I’m proud to know him.

Then there’s Spike who’s a whirling dervish of ideas. We’ve had many a conversation via text and good-old-fashioned-honest-to-goodness phone calls. We’ve never met, but he and I sit in adjoining chairs, whisky in hand, catching up and casting story ideas off each other like we were college roommates. The good kind though, not the creepy ones that you invariably got assigned to for your first semester. He makes my mind buzz with creativity and the desire to commit to the concepts moving around my head at mach speed.

My roommates for this excursion, Ryan and Dan, two men I’ve never met nor hardly had spoken to prior to arriving, were sincere and hilarious, combinations not normally found together. I feel fortunate to have known them briefly there, and thankful for the friendships we’re constructing.

I have heard speakers on a large stage talk about being bullied; I’ve been in small rooms with fathers sharing their deepest fears and troubles with each other. Judgment was not cast. Empathy was the rule of the day, each day, that I was in attendance. Bonding was not a big enough word to encompass what was happening here.  It was a collective, a commune, a brotherhood.

The last night I was there, I was lucky enough to be present for a conversation between two men I admire more than I can express. Two utterly different fathers talking through their experiences. A black father who remarried and is now part of a blended family consisting of black and white children, and a married gay father with one son. They related. They regaled each other with the common struggles all parents face. They were both fathers. The rest of the descriptors I gave? None of that mattered in that moment. Or any moment, really. We were all parents, all striving to be the best parents we could be. Each one of us wanting to raise responsible, well-adjusted children that could succeed and flourish when released from the relative safety of our wings.

As I was awash in the realization of how we are all connected by the threads of fatherhood, it dawned on me: the dreadful passenger was silent. He had nothing to combat the sense of belonging I felt. Especially knowing through so many wonderful and intriguing conversations, no matter how brief or elongated, that I was not the only imposter here. I was surrounded by imposters. We all felt the niggling doubts regarding the ways we parent; how we addressed challenges; how we uttered phrases by our parents that we’d all swore we’d never levy against our own offspring.

Yet here we all were, at Dad 2.0 Summit, each seeking to silence our own dreadful passengers and become the fathers we should be and our children deserve.

Self-doubt be damned, we’re going to get there.

Photo credit: Flickr:Wild_and_Natural

Ritual As Love

Light pushes between my eyelids, announcing a new day. For a few seconds my eyes battle the morning, wanting more time to dream. Ultimately, morning wins as it always does, and I blink away the remnants of rest. A small stretch follows, soft grunts escaping me. These are the songs of age that come with the years I’ve amassed.

That very same light bathes my sleeping wife, highlights and shadows playing upon the face I love so. It is serene, idyllic, and beautiful – that face.

She is perfection in the dawn. So perfect that I dare not disturb that vision.

I slide my legs out from under the comforter, an exaggeratedly slow action of putting my feet to the floor and gradually raising my body off the bed. This goes much clumsier than I would have liked. A glance back reveals my lack of gracefulness hasn’t awoken her. Steady and rhythmic breaths come and go – telltale signs slumber still has her under its spell.

Awkwardly, I tiptoe out of the room hoping that the carpet will mask my steps. The remainder of the way is pure hardwood, old and unforgiving, and unconcerned with my need for quiet. My first tentative step elicits a creak and I freeze. I look back to insure my wife has not awoken. Still no break in her breathing which gives me hopes that my quest can continue. I resume tip-toeing, navigating to the steps. The descent is a chorus of complaints from the wood, each one making their best effort to expose my secretive trek. There’s no way of knowing if the floor has given me away, so I keep moving. I lightly step through the living and dining rooms and finally reach my destination: the kitchen.

My ritual can now begin in earnest.

I reach for the kettle to test its weight. It’s roughly a quarter full, so I migrate to the sink and fill it. When water finally reaches the rim, I shut off the faucet and return the kettle to its home. Switched on, the heater under the kettle coaxes the water to boil – a crucial element to the ritual.

I fetch two mugs, stoic receptacles awaiting their prize, and set them down next to the now-heating kettle. A small mason jar of sugar yields its contents to the mugs; one spoonful for her, two for me.

The ritual continues with final preparations.  The French press now is pulled to the fore. A container of coffee offers its contents for use. Six level scoops are dropped into the French press and await the steaming water to rain down and release its potential.

The water reaches its penultimate boil, signaling the time to join the roiling water with the inert coffee grounds. I do just that and am rewarded with the smell of java and caffeine, a partnership of elementals that fill the air. A spoon moves in circles in the press, creating miniature whirlpools of foam and coffee. I pull the spoon out, satisfied that union is complete. For a moment, I watch the eddies and swirls move about, fighting for supremacy.

I settle the lid on the press and gently push down. The key is to go slowly so no grounds find their way free. After what seems to be an interminable amount of time, the pressing is done, plunger at the bottom compressing the grounds.

Holding the lid and plunger in place, I pour the coffee into mugs which have been waiting patiently for its passenger. I pour hers first. I always do, but I can’t say why. Hers I fill to the brim, or as near as can be. Mine, I leave a bit of room for a splash of milk. My wife needs no such accompaniment. She prefers her coffee strong and stark; mine, not so much. Milk is poured into mine, and then both are stirred. Hers is a dark mocha; mine is caramel colored. At last, the ritual is close to complete. Now for the final part of my stealthy journey: deliverance.

Across the hardwood I go again, trying and mostly failing to avoid parts that protest my weight. As I reach the steps, a smile escapes my lips. This happens each time I begin my ascent back to our bedroom. The smile of anticipation looking forward to that face I adore giving back its own smile, dreamy and struggling to remain before a yawn overtakes.

The steps groan just as loudly as they did when I first made my way down them for my morning ritual. I send a disapproving scowl at the wood, but it pays me no mind and continues to do what floors of its age do. Just a few more steps to the relative quiet of the rug floor of our bedroom.

Cautious steps carry me to the rug, wary of both noise and spillage. Now that I am back at the beginning, I bring the coffee to her side of the bed and set the mug down on her night stand. I touch her face, lightly caressing it, and just as lightly, “Good morning, my love. I brought you coffee,” as I lean down and kiss her.

The smile she gives is as lovely as I envisioned. It always is. And it is unfailingly worth it.

On Handsomeness and Pedestals

My wife thinks I’m handsome. Pretty, even. She tells me this of her own volition, and quite often. It’s never contrived. Her eyes and her actions confirm her words.

I feel much the same about her. She’s stunningly beautiful. Her smile and laugh are perfection to my senses. The variety of conversations we have draws me into her depths, drowning me in their poetic rhythms. When her skin touches mine, fires race along every nerve, my body on the precipice of uncontrollable desire. I do not withhold how I think and feel with her, either. She’s as aware of my longing and adoration as much as I am of hers.

The incredible part of this love story we live is that I do not believe her.

Oh, I do believe she well and truly means these words. That our loving and lustful times are transcendent and real. There is no lie in her enraptured gaze, nor in the thoughtful ways she cares for me. I have never felt so well met as I do with her.

Yet I don’t believe her.

This is not an indictment of her intentions or her honesty. It is my inherent doubts that trump her earnestness. I don’t believe that I am handsome or pretty or sexy because I do not believe that I am worthy of such affirmations.

I WANT to believe her. More than anything I want to accept that I am as she sees me. But those niggling insecurities creep in and wage their silent wars on my marriage.

On the surface, it seems simplistic. If I can see her in such a radiant fashion, why can’t I accept that her view of me is just as brilliant?

For nearly seven years, I’ve held her on a pedestal, above all others. She belongs in the clouds, a visage of beauty that I have somehow finagled into loving me. She’s held me on the same pedestal. Yet I try, repeatedly, to descend from that pedestal, knowing that she alone is worthy of lofty space.

But that’s not really true, is it?

We belong together, at whatever height we ascend to.

Those bastard doubts are chains, forged within to hold me down. She has worked ceaselessly to smash those links so that I may climb up and claim my space with her, as we have claimed each others’ hearts. Our journey lies together.

I want to believe her.

I WILL believe her.

And I will love her as we traverse this life, and any others that follow.

 

Earthbound

Upon a time that cosmically was not very long ago, I could defy gravity.

I could accomplish this superhuman feat almost at will. Each time I rebelled against Newton’s law, I’d swell with adrenaline. I’d gather myself after a few long strides and leap into the air, escaping the earth’s gravitational pull. Elevating, stretching towards the heavens. At the apex of these flights, I’d slam a large, orange, grooved ball through a metal ring.

I used to be able to dunk. With ease. I was no Michael Jordan, being that I stand a towering six foot, one inch in height, but for the smallest of moments during these assaults on the rim, I felt equal. Strong. Gifted. Free.

The basketball court has been a sanctuary for me for most of my life. A place free from worry or fear. I could spend hours there, in a universe all my own.

How odd was it that in one of the few places where I felt this free that I was hit with a reality that struck me with such a force I wondered if my private universe had imploded. Maybe it was fitting; I haven’t decided yet.

I was playing with friends with whom I have been in countless pickup games. I hadn’t been there in several months, thanks to plantar fasciitis wracking my left heel. I was finally able to walk without limping, so I decided it was time to get back to where I had always been welcome, where I knew I had always belonged.

Two trips up and down the court and I was completely winded. Worse, when I went to corral a rebound…I could not jump. Oh sure, my feet left the ground, but only just.

I’d lost my gift of flight. I am earthbound.

In fairness, I’ve not been able to dunk in many years. But I’d never felt so cemented to the floor as I did in that moment. Movement, vertically or horizontally, was labored. Until this incident, I’d been able to grab or touch the rim consistently. Now I would be fortunate to have my fingers slide across the bottom of the net. Earthbound.

I was able to finish that game. Afterwards, I felt as if I was wearing sneakers filled with sand. Walking was now an effort.

I’ve never felt heavier in my sanctuary.

The reality is that I am in my mid-40’s, and I shouldn’t expect to be able to repeat the athletic achievements of my youth. I’ve known this for some time, of course. But feeling so utterly unable to move as I am accustomed in a place that has held me safe for so many years felt like a betrayal. Initially, I looked at the sadness that was threatening to crush me as an inevitable thing. I was losing something that was dear to me, and I feared it was lost to me forever. Just as the tidal wave of blackness crested in my mind, a new thought saved me: this was the result of me utilizing procrastination and abject laziness for far too long.

For months, I’ve been meaning to get into a fitness regimen. The thought process is the same every day. “I’ll get to it next week. I have too much going on right now.”

I’ve been stalled on two separate books I’m writing. Again, my mind pulls its tricks: “I don’t feel like getting the words out tonight. But tomorrow I’ll get back into it.”

This process, I found upon full and true introspection, was at work in all of the nooks and crannies in my life. Laundry need done? I’ll fold it tomorrow. Household project needs to be finished? Time, man. Just don’t have enough of it. Or we don’t have the funds. I’ll get to it when we get paid. The kids want me to play some game with them? I’m in the middle of something. And so on. And so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’d let putting tasks on hold until some unspecified”later” become my modus operandi. For all my bluster of “being in the moment,” I was doing the opposite. Pushing all manner of things towards a tomorrow that might not come when it could and should be done now. Including ignoring my health until the next day, or week, or month.

I left basketball that night committed to turning that way thinking around, starting with my health. The next morning I weighed myself for the first time in months. A startling number appeared: I am 10 pounds heavier than I ever have been. I knew I was packing on a few pounds, but this was far beyond any expectation. Instead of being crushed by this, it gave me purpose. Now I had a number attached to my health, and I could work towards making that number lower and be more healthy. My children deserve to see their father live out their youths. My wife deserves a man who takes pride in himself. I will give them that, as much as I possibly can. As the saying goes, life is short. So why help shorten it by procrastinating my health away?

Health is but one aspect of my rejuvenation. If I do not apply myself to engaging in the now, I most assuredly will repeat the process that fed upon itself so well and kept me static. This post, its own small way, is an affirmation that I’m changing that old cycle and reversing its flow to one that works for myself and the ones I love. I’m doing this now, not later. That is but one small step, but it IS a step, and in the direction I need.

I may have had my sanctuary dented a bit by this revelation. In all honesty, it will never be the same for me. I am most likely never going to be able to take flight towards a basketball hoop again and feel the satisfying and thrilling slap of my hands upon the rim as I hurtle a basketball through it. But that is OK. That is the way the cosmos works: change is constant, uniformity is not. I may be earthbound, but I am not stationary.

Image courtesy of Arturo Donate

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Yo-Kai Watch Takeover

There is a wave coming, my parenting friends. You may not have heard of it yet, but I assure you, it’s well on its way.

The Yo-Kai Watch wave.

You may brush this aside. Just another funny cartoon for your kids, you may think.

But no, my parenting comrades, it is SO much more.

Yo-Kai Watch is a legitimate phenomenon in Japan. It even out-grossed the latest Star Wars movie when their movie was released on the same date. That is nothing to sneeze at, no matter where you’re from.

We were lucky enough to receive a box from Hasbro containing a bunch of Yo-Kai Watch goodies: the watch needed to see and hear the Yo-Kai; several medallions for particular Yo-Kai to insert into the watch, which allows you to hear the various songs and catch phrases of each; a notebook where they could store their medallions and see which ones they still needed; posters (which were required to IMMEDIATELY be put up on our children’s walls), and one solitary DVD. The Yo-Kai Watch show itself.

After the kids went gaga over their new found toys, they wanted to watch the show to better understand the characters. We did too, so we threw it in the DVD player.

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Watches at the ready, we sat and dove head first into the wave.

The catchy theme song pulled my kids in right away. And when the line “Fidgephant makes you need a quick commode,” happened, they roared with laughter and were hooked. Let’s face it: so was I. They are my offspring, after all.

But Yo-Kai is not only a catchy song; it’s a show with compelling characters that each child took to in their own ways. There’s Whisper, who guides the main character Nate by gifting him the Yo-Kai Watch so he can see other Yo-Kais, who appears as an excitable ghost who  has access to a Yo-Kai database of sorts. He informs Nate of what the powers of each Yo-Kai he encounters and fills him in on their back story. Manjimutt is part human, part poodle who enjoys scaring people with his hybrid features. Jibanyan is a feline looking creature who haunts intersections. Nate tries to helps the Yo-Kai, like these two, change their ways to help people.

We saw the first four episodes of this show, which my kids watched straight through. Lots of laughs and trying to find medallions to match the new characters that appeared in each episode. They were completely engrossed, and when the show was over they ran into our sons’ room to play with the watches and trade medallions, the little entrepreneurs they are. Suffice to say they absolutely LOVED it.

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We’ve watched those four episodes a few times already. They know the theme song word for word (which means we know it word for word too). The show is catchy, funny, and is perfect for kids. Many has been the time where I’ve found myself humming the theme song around the house, only to have one or all of our kids start belting out the words, huge grins on their faces. The kids even asked me to record them doing some version of the Harlem Shake to one of the medallions songs:

Harlem Shake/Yo-Kai Mashup

Their smiles, joy, and happiness is all the barometer I need. Bring on the wave.

Yo-Kai Website: http://www.yo-kai-world.com/ 

Yo-Kai App link: http://www.yo-kai-world.com/app/appinfo

Hasbro Website: www.hasbro.com

Yo-Kai Watch and Hasbro have graciously provided me and my family with Yo-Kai toys, videos and other compensation for this post. Doesn’t change my opinion of the fun and awesomeness we had with it. #YoKaiWatch #YKWdad #sponsored

 

 

The Longest of Years

I can still feel the panic. I can still remember your small hands in mine, warm and sweaty. The fear and confusion in your eyes. Doctors and nurses moving like flies, swarming you.

The silence. Your silence. I can hear that over everything.

The questions keep coming at you from all angles.

“What’s your name?”

Silence.

“Do you know who that is?” Fingers point to us.

Silence.

“Do you know where you are?

Still silence.

You can’t talk, but your eyes are loud and pleading. This must be so strange for you. Your dad isn’t much given to tears.

So many tests. Still more questions. Still no words from you.

The doctor asks us to come with him so he can speak to us. I go with him, but my eyes stay with you, afraid to let go of our stare. I fear that if I do, I’ll never get you back.

The doctor talks in hushed tones, but it’s blurry. The words “stroke” and “life flight” are said.

This can’t be. Not to you.

Another flurry of activity surrounds you. They are preparing you for a helicopter ride that you have to take alone. We’re not allowed to come with you. We have to drive two hours and will not be by your side. My heart is on fire, fueled by helplessness. You are told about the flight, and you nod your head. It’s the first response we’ve seen from you; the faintest of hopes for all of us.

I can’t remember much of the drive except seeing your helicopter fly over us.

When we finally arrived at the hospital and found you, I can recall the small smile you held. The recognition was like a lasso pulling us toward you. Still no words are available to you, but I knew our Eric was on his way back to us.

Several hours passed, their numbers unclear to me now, before you spoke again. Tentative at first, as if you were putting a foot on ice you’re unsure of to test it out. More words come later, but they are labored. You were struggling, but fighting. As I knew you would.

After an astonishing amount of prodding, needles and more tests, the doctors finally agree to let you rest. We tried to rest too, but it was fitful and impossible.

The next morning you were more nearly yourself. You spoke mostly normal, with a gap here and there. You were almost back.

You endured a week of constant evaluation as you healed. We endured the unknown.

One year ago this happened to our vibrant, silly, boisterous, funny, loving son.

One worrisome, scary, blood-test-filled year.

The longest of years.

Tears come to me each time I revisit that day. I’m thankful for those tears. It reminds me of how healthy you are today, a year after our world nearly collapsed.

I’m grateful that this past year, the longest of years, will be followed by many more years for you…and for us.

A Mantra Amongst The Dishes

Less complaining, more doing.

This phrase popped into my head this morning as I was cleaning up dishes left on our dining room table by our daughters who had to rush to get out the door to make the bus. My initial reaction when I saw the dishes? Rolling my eyes and mumbling to myself about how the kids always leave stuff laying around and don’t care about our house.

I carried the glasses and plates to the sink, a scant ten foot walk. I froze in front of the sink, my hands full of things left behind, four words blazed in my mind’s eye.

Less complaining, more doing.

It took me less than five seconds to migrate the dirty dishes from the dining room to the sink. Five whole seconds. For the duration of this laborious effort, I bitched. A pissy version of me outright accused my girls of being lazy.

Never mind that they were in a hurry to not miss the bus.

Never mind that they are both mildly sick and a little out of sorts as a result.

Never mind that I’d been sniffling for the past few days, allowing crankiness to set in.

There I stood, surveying the objects in my hand. Was it really a big deal that I had to pick up a few things? Not at all. In fact, it was something helpful. Something kinetic that made things easier for everyone. Yet I took that opportunity and turned it into a means to lament another thing that needed to be done that someone else could have taken care of, instead of seeing it for what it really was: an act of doing. Of helpfulness.

For too long I was in the rut of private protest whenever I had to some menial household task to finish up that clearly someone else (namely, my able-bodied children) could have done, but chose not to. I groused and grumbled complaint and disappointment to myself, which only made the rut deeper and harder to get out of. The stress of our house went up tremendously. Our kids didn’t understand why, other than I was being grumpy AGAIN.

What were the major crimes they were committing? Wanting to spend more time with their mom. Finishing up some show or movie they were watching. Working on a world in Minecraft that they had been feverishly working on for days. Reading. Texting friends. Just being a kid. All egregious offenses, clearly.

In our house, we talk frequently about being helpful and mindful. My wife and I want to instill the desire to help others in our children. Here was a perfect opportunity to practice what we were preaching for years, and I was failing spectacularly at it.

Less complaining, more doing.

I set everything in the sink where Jillian prefers them, instead of on the counter like I normally would. I looked about, to see what other ways I could help in the short amount of time I had before I had to leave for work.

I scrubbed what I could out of a dirty crock pot, then filled it with soap and water to soak.

I replenished the cats’ food dispenser.

I cleaned the dining room table.

These are seemingly small tasks, but they are steps toward that epiphany that I want to make my mantra.

Less complaining, more doing.

In those simple maneuvers, I felt better. I felt helpful and useful.

Now the challenge is to adhere to my new mantra. Being human, I’ll undoubtedly slip up here and there. I’m hopeful that by doing more, I’ll indeed complain less. I’m certain my family will prefer less complaints and grumpiness from me and my rut. Who knows? Maybe they’ll join me in doing more.

Dare to dream.

 

The Exciting Holiday Adventures of Peptoman!

Peptoman

Out of nowhere, the call to action came. And Peptoman was ready.

He prepared himself for the descent. With his trusty chewable and capsule weapons strapped to his belt, he jumped down the esophageal slide to face the danger that we was sworn to fight.

Peptoman plunged into the stomach pool that signaled the end of his ride down. He began his search for threats that were causing all the upheaval his benefactor felt. He started wading towards the exit to the intestinal halls when a sinister voice boomed, “Peptoman! So we meet again!” followed by a cackling laughter.

He whirled around and saw his nemesis: Doctor Ham. Doctor Ham wore a greasy smile and rubbed his meaty hands together. Peptoman was not surprised. After all, it was the holiday season. Doctor Ham was a foe he had faced many a time, especially during the festivities this time of year. And every time he’d faced Doctor Ham, Peptoman prevailed. He’d have to be on his toes, but he wasn’t worried.

“And yet again, you’ll meet your demise!” Peptoman roared back, confident and full of swagger.

“Ah, I see you think you have the upper hand. Indeed, in the past you have. That’s why I brought a few friends…” Doctor Ham let that last sentence hang.

A huge rumble sounded off to Peptoman’s right as a monstrous THING rose from the pool. It towered over him, covering him in shadow. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to have a form. Mostly it resembled a small mountain.

“Prepare to meet your doom…from Potatolanche!” Doctor Ham gleefully exclaimed.

A hole opened up in the middle of this mashed potato monster and it roared. LOUDLY. Then it began to tumble down upon itself, rushing at our hero with incredible speed and force, closing on him fast.

But Peptoman was faster. He sprang into the air while grabbing a chewable from his belt. He broke it into four pieces and flung them into Potatolanche. They hit their target and were absorbed into its bulk. He aimed himself at the gaping maw, he threw a full chewable into the roaring thing’s mouth. He stretched up to fly over the mass of potatoes that were trying to swallow him. Then a series of explosions erupted, blowing hunks of Potatolanche everywhere. The mountain screamed, then it burst apart and splattered, thanks to the final chewable doing its job.

Peptoman landed back in the pool as the last of Potatolanche settled next to him.

He looked to Doctor Ham and said “Is that all you’ve got?” a smile of victory on his pink face.

“Not by a long shot. Let’s see how you deal with…The Pied Pieper!” He clapped his slimy hands together, then a dozen or so triangular shapes darted past him, zeroing in on Peptoman.

They zipped around, weaving and rolling. Our hero reached for his capsules. The objects moving at him, he saw, were pieces of pie: apple and pecan, bent on destroying our Pink Crusader. He stood his ground as they rushed at him, waiting for his flying foes to get closer.

Suddenly Peptoman’s hands were a blur, flinging capsules Frisbee-style at the pie pieces intent on his destruction. One, two, three pie pieces destroyed, a fantastic rain of fruit, nuts, and crust coming down in their wake. One capsule missed its target, a piece of apple pie dodging the pink bullet.

“Ha!” Doctor Ham laughed.

His excitement was short-lived. In a flurry of hands and capsules, Peptoman cleared the air of all pie pieces. The Pied Pieper was no more.

He stood victorious, the embodiment of #PinkRelief.

“Any other surprises you have for me? Or is it finally time we battled it out?”

Without warning or hesitation, Doctor Ham sprung at him, stringy arms coming at him from all angles. He yelled, enraged that Peptoman had his measure yet again. “You will NOT win this time!”

Peptoman crouched, again using his patience. He had to time this just right.

Just as Doctor Ham was almost on top of him, Peptoman pulled his helmet off and pushed a stream of Pepto-Bismol into the face of his nemesis.

“AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!” his foe screamed in agony as our hero turned his head and doused the rest of Doctor Ham. He plunged into the stomach pool, defeated again.

“#PinkRelief never fails,” Peptoman said. “My work here is done.”

 

At least that’s how I picture Pepto-Bismol and #PinkRelief waging war against my overeating during the holidays. Have I mentioned how much I love superhero movies?

*Pepto has compensated me for this fanciful post. No food items were harmed in this imaginary gastrointestinal war. Please visit Pepto.com for all your #PinkRelief needs!

Morning Love

Sunrise dances across you, searing your beauty into my memory. Like every morning we share, I’m awash in gratefulness for your existence in my life.

How did I ever live without your loving warmth?

Would I be able to go on if I could no longer have you?

I shudder at those thoughts. They are too heavy and loathsome to bear.

Instead I will savor your fragrance and just how perfect you feel. I’ll be thankful for another day with you in it. I’ll marvel at how you’ve opened my eyes yet again to the world.

I love you, coffee.