Tag Archives: storytelling

A Costume Conundrum

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A Costume Conundrum

I never have had a problem finding costumes for my kids to dress up.  They have creativity pouring out their ears.  If anything, pulling off the creative costumes is far more difficult and expensive than any thought of being creative and doing it.

My two sons have very different personalities.  My one son love Sci-Fi so his was in his head forever.  Most the parents and none of the kids in his school or what have you even knew what he was doing.  He didn’t care.

IMG_5710 Yep.  He went as Arthur Dent.  Martin Freeman,hitchhikers-guide-dvd-uk the actor in the film version has a doppleganger. My son had his slippers, his green robe, even the slightly depressed and confused look of Freeman from the film.  I had to get  a green robe, of course, but we had the slippers and the shirt and sweats.  He lost the towel, so he’d be in some big trouble in the Douglas Adams universe.

His brother up there in the top was Charlie Brown.  Not a big deal at all.  His sister . . . a Hogwarts student.  Again, not hard, she had the cape and the tie.

I was encouraged to dress up, be a kid again, have fun!  We were going to a friend’s house so why not?

The conundrum was what to do?  I had a half-hour to get a costume.  I started with Marty McFly, I had jeans, a jean jacket . . . but the only down vest in the house was pink and was waaay to small.  That succeeded in also making me look about as old as I was.  It dawned on me then, though . . . kakhis . . . hat . . . military-style shirt.

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So I was Indy.

That came together in about 10 minutes…with a chorus of “that’s just NOT FAIR” from the daughter, who couldn’t believe I slapped together a costume in a few minutes and it was actually a passable Indiana Jones.  Okay . . . old Indy, like Crystal Skull-ish Indy, but still . . .

This was a great day for a number of reasons.  we went to friends, had food, the kids went out and got – literally – 9-10 pounds of candy each.  The boys counted and traded with their friends.  My daughter laughed and talked about her classes and such.  It was a great night.

When we got home my daughter and I sat down, the boys exhausted and sleeping already. She looked up, a twinkle in her eye like her mother used to have.  My wife had that twinkle when she was feeling mischievous and wanted to do something.  This day came just one day after their mother’s birthday, a day that they all enjoyed and sadness was not the norm.  (Okay, I was a bit down in the morning, but it got much, much better).

“Can I count my candy like when I was a little 5-year-old again,” my daughter asked?
“Of course, I told her.”

She grinned, took a meticulous count of all her candy, laid out what she’d try to con her brothers into taking, and then kissed me good night.

This . . . was the end of a great evening, and we weren’t even trying for great.  Just to get by.

But then . . . my son DID have his towel with him at the beginning.  I guess we somehow had reached level 42 . . . live, the universe and everything.

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I Been Up…I Been Down

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I Been Up…I Been Down

Weekends are a weird dichotomy in my home. They are the one time I sleep past 5:30 or 6:00 am.  Yet I don’t get really past 8am because…essentially…they are catch-up days, too.

The last few weeks have seen an abundance of weekend events and things too, though. We had homecoming one weekend.  Then I had a gig with a band – musicians I’m thrilled allow me to make some noise on the stage with them.

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But then today saw me showing my exasperation with the three remaining miniature Manoucheris in my household. One had been sick with a cold, which he has since passed along to me. I started another change in eating habits because I’ve been told I’m eating too little and I won’t lose weight unless I balance my diet better. It’s true, I’m sure, but I feel more than a bit bloated from eating more than I normally do each day.

Then came today.

My daughter was in her usual position – asleep until nearly noon.

I didn’t.

After twins arguing constantly . . . and the kitchen a complete mess . . . and several weeks of getting behind on cleaning the house I had reached nerves that had gotten more than a little raw. Add losing energy from a cold and it gets worse.

So when I had to load a plethora of dishes that one of the boys missed for the dishwasher while in the middle of prepping to vacuum I had my own temper tantrum.

“You know . . . I got up this morning, made you breakfast, mowed the lawn, did two loads of laundry and then cleaned up the front room,” I calmly asserted.
“I cannot do everything,” I informed them. “If I did I’d sleep sometime around 2032.”

It made a small dent.

When my daughter woke up I told her “good afternoon” and she rolled her eyes.
“You know, I’ve cleaned your clothes, at least some of them. You could take the rest upstairs.”

Then my son put his creativity in place and made one of the cutest Halloween decorations ever using recycled Kuerig K-cups. Ghost lights.

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The pleasure was short-lived, though, when I went to wash sheets and the bottom sheet of one of their beds tore down the middle. They simply don’t make them like they used to I suppose. This created a hour-long search for old twin sheets until I can replace the custom space-themed sheets on his bed. Life of having a late wife who was part decorator, I guess.

Then came the 7:30pm hyperactivity, which seems to hit with every kid around the ages of 10-12. This is solved fairly simply with chores. Lots and lots of chores.

While making beds the sons begin to ask if I have any stories about their older sister or oldest sister and things they did that got them in trouble. After regaling them with one or two I look down and it dawns on me:
“You don’t need to start telling stories about their problems. You yourself tried to climb up your dresser only to have it fall on you. You were screaming your head off.”
That stopped the conversation dead in its tracks.

It was a long weekend of cleaning, decorating, and other issues that I never thought would come up. But in the end, as they went to bed, tired and satisfied . . . it ended, this weekend, on an up note as I turned on the ghosts and watched them twinkle in the house.

A Lesson in Pacing

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A Lesson in Pacing

I had a long discussion with my daughter this evening about pacing.

She is in a film history class so she has taken to having long discussions about movies.  When we visited her sister in college, the sister’s good friend is going to school for film so they had a lot to talk about.

Tonight, though, in the wake of having watched Citizen Kane as well as a number of other films she informed me that one of her advisers dislikes the film.

“She thinks it’s too slow.”

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I rolled my eyes which caused a long discussion of how I somehow, without using the words, called the adviser an idiot, classless, and probably a whole lot of other things I didn’t remember having said (because I didn’t.)

The whole thing came after I informed my kids that I got to see a Delorean on October 21st, the day Marty McFly went to the future in Back to the Future II.  

But the whole thing comes down to a discussion I’d had with an actual film director and with others in the industry. Films today are being edited, directed, and written by a post-MTV generation. The number of edits on every film is vastly different from a film cut even twenty years ago. So is the music, the pacing, and the freneticism of it.

But then . . . we also have an age when Hollywood is filled with comic book movies. I don’t dislike comic book movies, by the way, but I do leave them with a bit of exhaustion sometimes.

“So this same adviser probably hated Lawrence of Arabia because it was too slow,” I ask?  This was met with eye-rolling from her part. It was warranted, I was trying to elicit a reaction.

The thing about this entire discussion is not a generational thing nor is it cultural nor industrial.  This is just what some of these movies call for in the editing process.  The Avengers, by Marvel, would not have long, sweeping landscapes.  Yet as much as they liked that movie, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, which had those long shots, sweeping landscapes and slow moments wowed them more. “This movie deserves and Oscar,” my son said as we left the theater. I agreed.

So why do I write this? When I sit with the kids and watch an old movie, which is often – that’s our kind of habit/hobby – I don’t let them spend the whole time on video games or phones.

Citizen Kane I made my daughter look at the scene that Wells dug out the floor to put the camera low to the ground and explained – it may not be modern now . . . but it literally was groundbreaking. When directors of photography told him he couldn’t do something, Wells said “why?” Then he did it anyway.

When I bring up The Third Man, they realize that an old episode of Pinky and the Brain is completely modeled after that movie . . . and succeeds in paying homage and lampooning it at the same time.

Sure, we don’t have as many epic movies. Ben Hur would be a miniseries, not a movie. Spartacus turned into a bloody spectacle of a show, alternative to the Kubrick version.

Life is quick today, so it’s obvious that media, movies and everything are reflective of that.

But then . . . we sat and watched Back to the Future this evening, on the same day the Marty went to the future, and this was not an edit frenzy. It was pretty amazing, though, and complicated, and tackled a lot of issues and made you pay attention to the story in #1 and #2.

This after they loved Shaun the Sheep, which wasn’t quick, either. It was paced out and funny and sweeping in its small model way and they loved it!

Slower isn’t necessarily worse . . . and quicker isn’t necessarily better.  My daughter walked away, smiling, because we’d come to the conclusion together that the answer to this debate was, like so many things, somewhere in-between.

Super Powers

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Super Powers

We were in the car, driving, heading north to visit their sister in college. The way there was split into two parts, as we left on a Thursday evening and were going to arrive on Friday morning.

I made the kids get up sometime around 6am so that we could hit the road.   We had roughly 4 hours left before we hit the college town and picked up their sister.  We had a deadline: we were supposed to get to a studio where we were getting a tour. Why or how this happened – and what it was like – are a completely different story. Suffice to say . . . we got there and amazement was had by all.

About an hour into the trip only one of the four people in the car was awake. Fortunately that was me, the driver. Could have been quite disastrous otherwise. I moved along, news playing through the car’s speakers, when my son woke up in the back seat.

“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“For what?”
“That I fell asleep.”
“That’s okay. We have a ways to go so no big deal.”
“But you don’t get to sleep.”
“Well…no.  That’s okay, though.”

He was quiet for awhile, his brother and sister breathing heavy in their REM slumber.

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“So how do you do it,” he asked, his head cocked just a bit to the side.
“Do what?”
“Stay awake like that. Is it like a super power?  When you become an adult do you get the ability to not fall asleep or to stay awake without needing sleep?”

I had to try hard not to laugh because he was actually quite serious.

“No,” was about all I could muster. “No, it’s not a super power being able to stay awake. I just do.”

He couldn’t wrap his head around it. It honestly seemed to bother him that he got 9 hours of sleep and was barely able to stay awake and I kept going.

Sleep.  More appropriately staying awake. It’s probably not a superpower. I would suppose sleep is more Kryptonite to my waking hours than staying awake is a superpower.

I didn’t go into the routines of the day with him. I don’t know that he’d understand and I don’t want him to think I am put upon in my role as a single dad. Yet, to give him fuel for that super power fire, I realized, when we got home from the trip, around 5pm, I didn’t get to just sit on the couch. All the clothes in the bags we’d packed needed to be washed, as did their PE clothes from the week.

The house was a mess.  I started dinner, which while lacking in complication, was still something needing to be made. While that simmered I loaded up the dishwasher, ran it, and switched out the loads of laundry.

I made cookies, then lunches, then cleaned up the table. Fortunately while out I’d purchased some Coltrane with Kenny Burrell for the turntable and we listened to some old jazz while I cleaned up.

Staying awake isn’t really a super power, it’s just a necessary evil when you get older, I suppose. Sometimes you work too many hours and the elusive hours of sleep are because you obsess over success in your job.  Then there’s the times when you do something wonderful with your family . . . and then you have to pick up the routine right after.

What they didn’t see was that exhaustion hit about an hour early and after cleaning up the last of the night’s dishes . . . I was done. Spent. Nine hours of driving, laundry, dinner . . . that had taken its toll, even on me.

As I said . . . sleep. Kryptonite for the super dad.

Humorous Lessons

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Humorous Lessons

I learned long ago that just beating the lesson home with your kids works . . . but they start to zone out and think of it as white noise.

But use humor . . . that tends to drive the point home with abandon.

On Sunday the television was on while I made breakfast for the kids. My sons had already eaten and I was waiting to put my daughter’s on a plate because, frankly, she was still asleep.  I sleep in on weekends, but by sleeping in I get maybe another hour or two of sleep, so I’d been up since 7am.  After cleaning up the breakfast extravaganza for the boys I noticed that the movie Maleficent was on the TV. My sons were actually watching it, too.

“Hello, beastie,” Angelina Jolie says to the little girl who will become Sleeping Beauty.

“Beastie…I like that,” I told the boys.

When by 10:30am my daughter was still in bed I cooked her breakfast and put it on a plate.  I walked up the stairs, started a load of laundry and then stood in front of her door.  When knocking didn’t work I opened it: “it’s 11am, Beastie . . . breakfast is on the table getting cold.”

She was down in about 5 minutes.

I cleaned over the weekend, too. My daughter got a trick from her doctor that her attention will focus when she chews gum. So I buy her gum . . . except I find the wrappers everywhere. Particularly on the floor, about 2 feet away from multiple trash cans.

“I find one more gum wrapper on the floor, Beastie, I’m going to start putting them inside your pillow case!”
“sorry…”

Her brothers aren’t immune, either.
“I find one more Game Boy cartridge on the floor I’m going to sell it and keep the money!”
“Sorry dad . . . ”
“I have to clean up one more box you played with in the front room I’m going to make you sleep in it!”
“No you won’t.”
“Oh, really?!  Want to try me?!”
Here their sister steps in . . .
“NO!  Don’t try him, you’ll be sleeping in a box!”

We watched the lunar eclipse and it went really, really well . . . until it didn’t. When one son started standing in front of the telescope and the other tried to whack him with said telescope . . . MY telescope . . .
“I’m going to knock your heads together if you don’t knock it off!”
“No you won’t . . . ”
“Umm . . . ” said the sister, “yeah . . . he did it to Abbi and I once. It really hurts.”
You may say that’s not humorous . . . but in a Three Stooges kind of way, it’s actually really hilarious.

“Grab the telescope, Beastie, it’s time for your brothers to go to bed,” I tell my daughter. She politely obliges.

Then came this morning. By 6:45am I noticed the shower wasn’t running.  I went up the stairs and her door was closed.
“Are you going to go to school today, Beastie, or were you planning to get up sometime today?”
“What time is it?”
“6:45”
“Oh sh…umm…shoot.”
“Good save.”

As she raced down the stairs I’d made her a drink to take with her and a breakfast bar to eat in the car. She looked at me funny.

“Are you going to wake me up every morning and call me “Beastie”?”
I started laughing. Her brothers, too.
“It’s taken you two days to notice I’ve been calling you that?”
She wrinkled her brow.  “I’m a mess,” she informed me.

That she is.

I can verify it because she still hasn’t noticed all the gum wrappers inside her pillow case.

Neither Democracy nor Republic

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Neither Democracy nor Republic

“You need to be the one in charge, otherwise you’re just the tallest person in the room,” is a piece of advice I got very early on.

Funny as that line is, it’s true.

I’ve heard dozens, maybe hundreds of terms describing parenting.

“Helicopter”
“Tiger”
“Authoritarian”
“Dolphin” (for the life of me I have no idea what the hell this one means)
“Hands-off”

The list goes on and on and on and . . .

I found myself, at a certain point, informing my kids of a basic fact of their childhood after a particularly exasperating evening, however.

Kids

I have three kids still at home, you see.  (One is in college, and I hear from her occasionally, but for our purposes today…we’ll go with three.) Twin boys who are 12 and their 16-year-old sister. They seem to take great delight in poking each other, either verbally or emotionally in order to see just how far things will go.

“You’ve been getting at me all day,” said the somewhat larger female figure in the home.
“Well…you always tell me I do things wrong,” said the much smaller male figure in the room.
“It’s true, you do,” said the other smaller male figure.

This led to verbal abuse the likes of which I would gladly recount except I cannot. At this point all three smaller creatures in the home began talking at once.  Well, talking would fall short of the actual adjective. Projecting loudly might be kind. Arguing might be better. Shouting and screaming would be most apt. Eventually it turned into a white noise akin to the loud, 60-cycle “beeeeeeeeep” that comes when color bars appear on your TV screen.

At this point the couch pillows began flying across the room.

“Knock it off…” came my voice, now raised in hopes it rose above the din.

It worked.

For about 1 1/2 seconds.

The next fifteen or twenty were a combination of sounds and flailing body parts that could have filled the 1960’s Batman.

“WHACK”
“SMACK”
“POW”
“POP”

Here’s where I lose it.

“If you don’t KNOCK IT OFF YOU’RE ALL GOING TO BED!”

Now . . . call it teenage hormones. Maybe it’s adrenaline. Or maybe it’s just talking before your brain tells you it’s a really bad idea to say anything . . . but the next words sealed it all.

“You can’t do that, it’s only 8 o’clock!”

Here’s the point where reality is driven home.

“You guys are under the mistaken impression that this is a democracy,” I informed the three smaller people in my home.
“This is no democracy. This is a dictatorship. There’s no electoral college here, boy-o, I’m freaking Stalin!”

Apparently this was said with enough vigor and raised eyebrows that the vision  of a household cleansing like the Russian purge hit home.

Silence ruled.

The somewhat smaller female figure moved to her room and began playing guitar.
The smaller male figure showered. The other male figure opened a Michael Crichton book and began to read.

I then informed them that the kitchen needed cleaning. The television went off, my stereo went on.

Yet, as that dictator, you know when things need to be lighter and pleasant, too. So I put Sly and Family Stone on the turntable.

As “Dance to the Music” hit the needle I started helping with the dishes and suddenly . . . without urging or prodding . . . the small male figures and the tallest person in the home began to do just that. In a dancing assembly line we put dishes in the cupboard while singing and gyrating…badly. We talked homework, problems and successes at school , and then sang with Sly and finished.

Prayers were said. Covers were tucked in. Hugs were had. Friendliness reigned.

As I was logging off my computer a mass of hair from my daughters head hit my shoulder and she kissed my cheek saying good night.

Thus . . . the coup de tat was avoided for one more day.

Though I think I need new couch pillows now.

The Small Pieces of You

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The Small Pieces of You

As the time has passed and my children have started to find deeper and more striking personalities of their own a very interesting thing seems to have happened.

They are also letting pieces of their family tree sort of branch out in those personalities.

I certainly have pieces in there. My middle daughter up there is a musician. She plays guitar and has a seeming inane sense for lyric that simultaneously makes me proud and jealous. I wish I could write words as easily as she does for my music. Her brother is a guitar player, has a shyness that equaled mine at that age, and seems to have a hard time coming out of his shell, much like his father.

But then . . . I noticed something more in the last few weeks.

Tonight, for example, was nothing in my personality coming out of my daughter.

Occasionally, and this is a rare occasion, I will have time where the boys are in bed and my daughter is upstairs and the lunches are made, kitchen clean, etc. I can actually sit . . . and watch a TV show. I had actually pulled something up on Netflix to watch. I was maybe 10 minutes in when my daughter came down the stairs.

“Hello!”
“Hi.”
“Watching something?”
“Yep. It’s really good! Can’t believe I haven’t watched this before!”
“Cool.”

Now for most people that’s the end of the conversation. However, my daughter has her mother and her grandmother’s genes in there. As I watched James Spader go into a monologue that apparently had a very important bit of information in it my daughter started talking.

“So my friend Zoe . . . ” and it went on from there. (I did listen, I just don’t want to invade her privacy and give her full conversation) Seemingly she timed her own little monologue to end just as the television ended its seemingly important plot twist.

I scrubbed the little line back on the screen and watched my TV spin its beach ball of death counter-clockwise.  All the while, in the painful silence, my daughter remained silent.

Spader began his rant again . . .

“Did you know my teacher Ashley…”

After another 5 minutes I realized I was right where I was five minutes ago. I scrubbed the Netflix show back again. Third time’s a charm.

“Lizzy…” began Spader

“I’m so worried I’m going to fail my history test.”

It’s here I shut off the television.
“Why’d you shut off the TV?”
“You want to talk.”
“Oh . . . no, I just don’t want to study.”
“So . . . you worry you’re going to fail, but not worried enough that you didn’t notice I’ve watched the same 5 minutes of television for the last half hour now.”
“Oh . . . is that why you were doing that?”
“No . . . I was doing that because I thought you wanted to talk.”
“Oh . . . no, I just can’t help that.”
“Yeah, I know. Your mother and grandmother couldn’t, either.”

Here I recounted to her nearly every night of my marriage. We would sit, I would try to have a conversation with my wife and she’d be thoroughly engrossed in some reality show. Real Housewives fascinated her for some reason. When she’d be exhausted she’d ask to go to bed. Right as I reached that twilight, the moment before REM sleep, I’d hear it.

“I’m so worried about work, Davey.”  My wife knew I hated being called Davey, so she did it anyway . . . and more importantly, so I’d wake up.

“Your mother couldn’t stand the silence, it seems,” I told my daughter.
“Oh, that’s awful,” she exclaimed.
“Not awful, just was. I don’t know why.  Your grandmother could never stop talking in the middle of TV or movies.  Even at the theater. Drove your grandfather nuts.”

My daughter blushed a little.

We talked. Finally, she got out her worries about the test.

“Maybe you should go study some more.”
“Yeah . . . that’s a good idea.”
She hugged me, leaned on my shoulder and lie there for about five minutes.

In silence.

“What’s the show about,” she asked me.
“I have absolutely no idea,” I told her.
“It looks cool,” she informed me.  “Can you turn it back on? I want to watch it with you.”
“Okay,” I informed her.

I started the episode from the beginning again. James Spader walks out of the shadows, starts the monologue . . .
“Lizzy…”

and then

“So I was thinking about Homecoming, Dad . . . ”

 

A Wooly Endorsement

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I don’t normally give endorsements. Nor do I normally give reviews, it’s a journalist thing. Opinions are things we have, just tend not to give them as we have to try and remain neutral and unbiased in our reporting and writing.

Still . . . I have to give an endorsement, I cannot help it.

I took my kids to see the movie Shaun the Sheep. Bearing in mind, sure, that I have a son who looooves stop-frame animation and cartooning, it was still something that was a bit of an aberration in today’s movie world. This wasn’t a cartoon so much as a creation.

A brave creation.

I call this brave because I don’t believe there’s a single line of dialogue in the entire movie. You know something? It didn’t need it, either. My sons, both 12, and my daughters, 16 and 20, all went with us to see this movie. The girls had seen Shaun in an occasional airing here and there in television short films but nothing feature-length.

This was a 90-minute film and it held their attention better than the last Marvel Avengers movie.

Poster

Created by Aardman Animation studios, which made Wallace and Gromit as well as Flushed Away  and a number of other amazing films, this is their first feature film with the character of a little sheep named Shaun. The basic plot is that the sheep, in an attempt to break their boring routine, end up losing their farmer and have to try and get him back from the big city.

Hilarity ensues.

This is no small feat, I have to say. The film is full of character, humor, slapstick comedy and poignancy that is done through the movement of clay (or plasticine, whatever) on a model. You forget they aren’t real until you pay attention to the fingerprints in the clay next and eyeball that they leave in.

In a world (reference intended) where superhero movies with loud explosions and massive set pieces have taken over it’s a feat of epic proportions to have a film with so much heart garner attention. My kids did see a lot of the recent action films and there’s nothing being stated here against any of them. Yet this Labor Day weekend, when the Cartoon Network decided to run a marathon of the old Shaun the Sheep cartoons, they recorded them and watched them over and over again. Not only were they funny, they were clever and turned old cartoon tropes on their heads.

More to the point, for a family that has its struggles and difficulties on a regular basis, to come out of a theater with a glowing smile, our stomachs sore from laughing, and realize that more was said with no words than many movies do with thousands of words was more than fun. When a goldfish plays harmonica in a pet jail it’s a pretty amazing thing.

It is a feat that Mark Burton and Richard Starzak, the directors, with the help of Nick Park, who helped create the characters pulled off with subtlety and style. There is nothing like it out today.

I am not affiliated with, don’t have stock in or have a job with the studio. I was just that impressed. The movie was a pleasure to watch, Aardman.

I highly recommend that you see it. As do all four of my children.  I mean, come on, the poster says “CATCH THEM IF EWE CAN!” What more do you need?

It Needs to be Done

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It Needs to be Done

Every once in awhile I get asked the question:

“What do you do if you get sick?”

There really isn’t an answer to that question. Not at all.

This weekend was a perfect example of that.

I have a back problem, a chronic one. It’s not something I complain regularly about (okay, not much) but it’s always there. From years of carrying tons of gear around and doing it the wrong way – yes . . . I was stupid in my youth . . . my spine compressed in the last few vertebrae. My back, you see, has the discs get closer and closer together as they go down.

I don’t know what I did. Sometimes it’s something stupid, like getting up off the couch and you feel it strain. The entire weekend I’ve been in agony.

So what do you do when that happens?

You parent like always.

In agony.

It’s not something you have a choice about. There were four days’ worth of laundry to wash, fold, and put away.  I made the kids put the clothes away.  There were dinners to be made. Sure, they could try and cook one but we’d have Mac and Cheese or sandwiches each night. They need (and so do I) something a bit healthier than that.

The house was disgustingly dirty. I’d had a lot of late hours last week and didn’t have time to oversee all the cleaning and chores and as a result they were, let’s just say, neglected. Add to that the normal weekend cleaning that we need to do and suddenly things are a hairy.

Then do that with shooting pain down your leg every time you bend.

I didn’t do this as a martyr. My kids didn’t sit and play videogames while I cried “woe is me, my children don’t care!” No . . . they worked. But even with four of us working the house doesn’t get clean easily. While one did the kitchen another did the sinks, I did toilets (because, god forbid they clean up their own pee and what have you). One dusted everything and then I vacuumed.

I made brownies, which is pretty simple. Once I was upright, I was fine. It’s getting upright that’s an issue.

The same thing happens if I get a cold or the flu or strep or any other disease.

The difference now, compared to if some other issue was to have happened, is my kids worried about me.

“Do you need to go to the doctor,” my son asked?
“No, this just happens. If it gets worse I’ll go.”
When I lie down to ease the pressure on my back they put blankets on me. When I got up they asked if I needed to take medicine.

My kids, you see, lost one parent. They don’t really want to lose another, not right now. I get that . . . and they won’t, not if I can help it.

So yes . . . I work through all the illnesses and the injuries. The thing is . . . now, I just don’t do it alone.

Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

It’s been easy to recount tales of the times when my kids had two parents, when things were bright. Holidays and a tiny house in the Midwest and moving to a larger home in Texas. Those all seem just such easy things to recount and such amazing things to remember. It’s also therapeutic to talk about events as they unfold in our lives and how we’ve had to adjust.

One thing I hadn’t thought about was the fact that, now more than four years removed, that things will spring up as memories from those first days after losing someone you love. It’s easy to understand the melancholy of memories from a song, a scent, or even a taste. You don’t think about what comes in those days just after since you lived them.

Recently, though, I stumbled on something I’d totally forgotten from the first few months after my wife passed away.

Cleaning up the remnants of a trip to visit my family I reached into the side pocket of the suitcase my sons used and found two envelopes. Neither of them was from our trip so I was a bit confounded to find them. Inside were two greeting cards, ones sent to my sons from me during the summer of 2011.

You have to have some context here: my wife passed away in March of 2011, causing unbelievable grief and uproar in our home. In that same stretch of a month or so I changed jobs, we lost our home, everything was a mess. In order to actually concentrate on the work and setting up our rental home my parents volunteered to take all four of my kids back with them for the summer. As needed and appreciated as that was the times at home alone were maddening.

After a few particular conversations over the phone I sent greeting cards to the boys.

IMG_5297I know I sent them to all four kids, but these had IMG_5298been lost to the recesses of their suitcase from the trip to the Midwest.  The boys had worked for the newspaper for fun and inserted ads in exchange for some small change. The paper is run by a relative and “worked” is a bit of a misnomer, but it was the same. The boys had said they didn’t get to do the work that week and I had an idea.

IMG_5299My new job had a vending machine that dispensed dollar coins, the kind that look goldIMG_5301 and had Sacajawea on them. I got four of them and taped them to the cards. I also wrote notes to each of them, promising to visit them before the summer was over and come back home with them. I made good on that promise, by the way.

IMG_5300

 

I had forgotten the cards, and maybe I had wiped it clear for a reason. The notes are hopeful and talk about how much I loved them and would see them soon. What they don’t reveal is how much of a panic I was under and how I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Regardless, though, I couldn’t show panic or worry to my kids.

My oldest daughter said something once, and I’m likely quoting it wrong, but the gist is there: as a kid growing up you live with your parents and it’s like living with giants. But losing their mother it was like seeing the giants fall and you can never raise them up again.

They’d already learned their parents were mortal. They needed to cling to the hope that their father had an idea of where to go next, even if he really had no idea.

So reading these notes brought back the heartache for me and how difficult that first 3-6 months was for our family.

My sons? They looked and said . . . “HEY!  I forgot these were in here. Now I have two bucks!”