Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

There are way too many photos and not enough energy to tell the stories that go with them, but best as June's camera could catch it, this was our Christmas...

It wasn't ornate, or overplanned.  It was pretty simple actually.  Christmas eve at home with grandparents...Christmas morning with just us...and the afternoon and evening with more grandparents...There were no siblings in sight...all busy with their own Christmas' out of the country...that left just us to celebrate the day, so we quietly did our best.  With two small girls under five, that's easy.

I feel badly for the people who aren't surrounded by kids at this time of year.  It's the best part of a busy, big build up kind of day.  Grown ups just don't often do this thing the right way.  It has to be equal parts magic and mystery... sprinkled with twinkling lights. You can't forget the lights. Any kind of lights will do, I suppose, as long as they're illuminating something wondrous.

The presents don't have to be big or expensive, as long as there are presents.  One of Zo's favorites was a new Harry Potter wizard's wand that my Dad carved her.  She tripped over herself tossing curses and jinxes about the house a full hour after opening it.  It doesn't take much. Christmas does most of the work...we as adults just have to show up and try to shape all of that magic.

For me, Christmas has always been an enormous deal.  It's the one time of year where we're allowed to fall headlong into sentimentality and magic.  It's okay to get nostalgic.  It's okay to overindulge all of our senses and emotions.  It's Christmas...say what you will about it's commercialism...about it's forever altered meaning and interpretation.  It's the one day of year that can halt wars, and silence the sound of indifference.

All I heard this Christmas was people naysaying Christmas...complaining...avoiding...even running away from this one day that allows us so much joy and magic if we only let it.  Sit and watch the snow fall.  Decorate your tree with vigor and pride and the knowledge that it's lights can heal souls.  Wrap your own presents, fiddle with the ribbon, and finger the paper that will only be ripped and torn by hands smaller than yours.  It's good for you.  It's healthy.  Believe in something that you can't see.  It's important.  It's always been oh-so important.

Each and every year I recall a letter written a long time ago. I was never better able to explain my love affair with Christmas as well as Francis Church did in 1897, but then who has? Not many. In it's entirety it is one of the most moving collections of words on earth. There is nothing that explains the magic of Christmas as his letter to Virginia O'Hanlon did.

Dear Editor— 

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

I don't know how you feel about Christmas, if you're one of the many like me, who love it, or the few who don't. I only know that we can all use a little more faith, poetry, love, and romance, and there is Christmas giving it away for free. You just have to reach out and take it. I suppose sometimes the easiest things are the most illusive.

Each year I wait for the excitement to consume people, to fill even the most indifferent with wonder and joy, with the true spirit of Christmas, and every year I catch more and more people finding it difficult to fall into rhythm with the season.  It can undo me.  Mostly I find myself focusing on my own house, and what's drifting through the air and into the heads and hearts of the people that I love the most.  Sure there can be disappointment, and of course we can never really impart change in the lives of the people who aren't willing to embrace change, but we can make wondrous our own homes, and make magical our own expectations of the season, so we try our best.

I sincerely hope that you had as merry of a Christmas as we did.  Indeed, there was wonder, and magic...and yes, there most definitely were twinkling lights.  It wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

'Tis The Season...

I feel guilty on Christmas...not for what I have, or for what I'll get, but because of just what I take for granted...and I always do.  Somehow I always manage to forget my privileges in great big heaping piles.  I have a wonderful family. I have a job I love, that gives meaning to my days without compromise.  I am not poor or of poor health.  I have friends.  I have freedom and often too many choices.  I don't often have to just accept that things are the way they are, no, more often than not I am able to dictate just how I want them to be.  All of my life I have avoided tragedy and hardship, or at least what I perceive to be tragedy and hardship.  I am happy.

There are a lot of people who have less...some of them are people who earn more, or were raised with more, or who will always have much, much more than I will.  Bigger, newer houses...better cars...more money...more opportunity...better back up plans...more support...ways and means and an absolute abundance of many of the things that we all chase...but they don't have the pride that I have...and they don't have the grace and thankfulness...they certainly don't have the good fortune of living without obligation, debt, or unchosen responsibility.

Some of them don't simply have choice...a child whose diagnosis changes everyone's lives...a natural phenomenon that forces ruin and change...setbacks and mountains that must be climbed...loss...trauma... I have nothing to fear, worry about, or manage...just the things that I've chosen.

I feel guilty at Christmas but not for reasons that you might guess.  I don't have as much as some people, but I have everything I've ever asked for, and hardly anything that I haven't.  'Tis the season to remember that and so I try.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

She Said That She Wanted to Learn How to Skate...

She said that she wanted to learn how to skate and what father doesn't like to hear that?  Not the skating part, no...the "I want to do this and I want you to help me figure out how"...and the "I can't do that yet but I want to so let's go figure it out"...that's the part that you hear.  At least, that's the part that I hear.

I imagine that a lot of us don't ever hear those "in between words" things that the people we love tell us.  It strikes me that too often we miss them entirely.   I try to pay attention for them.  I don't always catch them, but when I do...well, the skates got sharpened pretty quickly.

You've Got Things to Do Today

You wake up on a random Sunday morning, the last one before Christmas, in fact, and thanks to the online version of the LA Times you find out that Ned Vizzini has committed suicide and that the real life Jerry McGuire, Leigh Steinberg, is a recently recovering alcoholic, and the day just looks different.

I always tell the kids that I work with, each one, that the world does not care about you...that tomorrow morning the sun will come up, and people will go to work, even the people that you know will go about their lives with absolutely no critical awareness of your plight.  They won't stop to wonder how you are.  They won't embrace your issues.  They won't wonder if things are okay in your universe.  The world will just keep spinning, so...bluntly, it's up to you to do something about your problems.  No one else is going to wait for that bus to pull up to take you wherever you need to go.  You should just drive there yourself.  It's harsh, but it's true.  This world will spin on and on without the slightest hiccup that you're unhappy.  So get up and find the strength or help to manage it all...or don't.  Reading about Vizzini and Steinberg this morning it strikes me that those words are more truthful than even I care to admit.  We're born into dizzyingly unsympathetic life.  Get yourself a helmet and hang on...or don't.

It's hard to look at my sleeping daughter and think, "this universe does not give a damn about you," or to feel the tiny heartbeat of yet another daughter as she fades into slumber on my chest and imagine that the world could care less about her, does not need her, does not have a plan for her, does not care...but it's true, and that's difficult to imagine and accept.  The sun rises and sets, regardless.

So I will promise my girls this...

I will try to be great...not just good, no...great.  I will try to be more than I can be, and something that makes you proud.  I will try to be different than the rest...better, if I can.  I will do my best to see the world for what it is, and clang away at it's hard edges until it's what I want it to a blacksmith pounding red hot steel.  I'll do my best to shape my world...our world...into what we so desperately  want it to be.

I'll try to be the kind of person that the universe, as indifferent as it is, mourns when I go.  I'll help people. I'll help myself.  I'll try not to simply accept, or sit idle, but instead I'll fight, and scratch, and I'll dodge and weave...I'll run instead of jog.  I'll climb instead of walking around, the easy way.  I'll try to live in a way that makes people say, "look at that."  I'll learn from mistakes, and leave myself open to change and criticism.  I won't be scared.  I won't regret.  I'll live as though you were watching every single second because you are.  Whatever you can imagine your Dad to be...that's what I'll be.  If you think that I can fly...I will.

There's no big secret to all of this living stuff.  Just be sincere...don't give up...don't let the bad guys win...get up when you're knocked hard...find meaning...give...accept love and help...fight for things...let go of about the people who care about more than you think you more than you don't...pick yourself up, don't wait for others...find peace in everything...find hope.  Remember who you are and what you mean to have no idea.  Be bright and bold and beautiful and shine...oh wow, shine.  Make people respect you.  Demand love.  Do what you do and do it better than anyone.  No one is going to just give you any of that, or make you anything even closely resembling you have to take have to create your own love story, your own success story, your own legacy.  YOU have to.  The universe isn't waiting on it either way.  It's just waiting on you to get old and fade away.  It'll replace you soon enough, but don't make it easy...don't make finding another you a simple task.  Make it hard.  Make it nearly impossible for the word to find another you.  Make sure there are a lot of people saying on the day you die, "man, the world is a way worse place now that he's gone."  Do that and to hell with the damn universe.  The universe doesn't care about us or me. It doesn't.

Go on then.  In the words of the late Ray Charles, "go on and do what you do, baby."  Don't wait for someone else to make you happy, or give you meaning.  Don't let anyone else decide on your trajectory.  Chart that path yourself.  If you're unhappy it's not because of someone else, it's because of you.  I don't mean that to sound harsh.  I'm not trying to inspire.  You shouldn't need me to do that.  Look in the mirror, find love and purpose, and go on and get this living thing done.  Do it right.  You only get one chance.  You wake up on a Sunday morning and someone's died and another person's life has fallen apart only to be pieced back together, a much more humble version of what it was, but maybe a better one?  You wake up Sunday morning and the universe does not care that you woke.  Now you've got all day to make it take notice.  Better get busy doing something other than feeling small.  Better get busy being the kind of person that the universe can't ignore.  I recommend a shower and some coffee first, but to each his own.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Just in case you were wondering what "love" looks like...this is it.

Pretty simple. Snow plus smiles...big eyes...beautiful little people...

Sometimes math is easy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Amazing What a Minute Can Do.

This is an edited version of a previous post that was never published in consideration of the privacy of the people involved. The names have been changed to protect the subjects. The details have been left vague to protect the author.  The subject of this post, Janessa, had recently reached out to re-connect, inspiring me to finally post my original thoughts for the holidays.  What once was cathartic is now redemptive. It's always been inspiring.

As I sit and listen to my daughter sing Justin Bieber as she uses the washroom upstairs, my heart flips, very much like my stomach had earlier in the day.  I think about Janessa, the thirteen year old girl I met that afternoon who was wearing a hand me down Bieber t-shirt, and who sang along to the very same song Zoey is crooning now.

"I was like baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, noooo...I thought you'd always be mine..."

Zoey lives without worry. Janessa falls asleep with worry, and she wakes up with worry, and is pretty much surrounded with worry every day of her life.  At thirteen she has lived in the housing blight that many families refer to as "leftovers," and like many of the mostly brown skinned residents of leftovers, worry is the only thing that you can count on each day...worry and hardship.  Janessa is sick from literally sick.  She gets headaches, and gets knots in her neck and shoulders, and down her spine.  "Me too," I tell her.  "It's how I know the stress is winning." She laughs because she knows it's true.  She laughs like a little girl, but at jokes so burdened with abstract notions that only adults could possibly find them funny, yet still she laughs because she has grown up too fast.

I watch as Janessa tucks her coat and backpack into her middle school locker, changes from her boots to shoes, and searches for her binder and texts, a meticulous ritual for someone without a closet, or a space to call her own.  She has six brothers and sisters, and shares a room with four of them.  The five girls share a 10 x 10 bedroom.  She sleeps on the floor so that her little sisters can share the bed.  There is no heat in the apartment, at least none since Monday when it mysteriously grew colder and colder despite Mom insisting that she paid that bill. I know that she didn't.  I know that she spent that money on meth and alcohol and marijuana, but I can't bring myself to have that discussion with Janessa.  I can't be the one to tell her that her Mom is the problem.  Besides, she knows...she only lies to herself to feel unburdened by the responsibility that comes with a parent who is an addict.

Children's Aid is already a fixture in Janessa's life but strangely they've done least, not enough.  They're working to keep the family together but it was ripped apart years ago by the drugs, and their efforts are much too little and late.  The drugs took over when Janessa was seven years old. That's when Todd, her father, left.  I don't know anything about Todd.  Janessa doesn't talk about him much.  I don't know the details surrounding that loss. I only know that it's a raw nerve for Janessa and so I don't ask.  Like most pre-adolescents, Janessa absorbs far more than she is given credit for.  She knows the ugly truth behind her domestic situation. She hides behind Goodwill Bieber t-shirts and a smile so wide and of such wattage that it could blind you. She had freckles that draw you to her dark face and leave many of the boys in her class awkwardly mesmerized. Her face looks like the night sky and she sometimes uses it to her advantage. You'd have a hard time telling her that she's beautiful but she's absolutely certain that she's not ugly. She may be humble but she's not blind.

 I met Janessa nearly seven months ago. At the time she was an honours student who just suddenly stopped coming to school. A little digging found her at home alone, watching over her sisters. Her Mom had simply just not returned home one night and despite phone calls did not return for a full five days. So Janessa missed school. She cooked meals for all of the children, even her older brothers, and bathed and prepared bottles for her younger sisters. She became a single Mom for one week in June, at the same time a truant child, a target for Children's Aid, and the school's attendance officer, which meant court, which she would eventually skip, which landed her in my foster home for four months. All she wanted to do that year was make Honours, and go on the year ending field trip to Toronto. Instead she took care of her sisters and ended up with a B average and abusive foster parents. She was ripped from her placement and returned to her Mother after a series of assessments and parenting programs were deemed enough to return the County's confidence in Mom. She missed her field trip, but got to spend an afternoon in a judge's chambers, wide eyed and freshly inspired, reeling in a new friend, and unbeknownst to her, finding a mentor for life. Someday that afternoon might change her life, but for now it was just another "maybe" moment. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't. She's collected a lot of those in the past decade.

Janessa glides through her days with the grace of a dancer. She's smart, and more impressively, savvy, and between the two she accomplishes a lot more than most children in her situation. Her situation is dire, despite what passing glances might reveal. Her clothes are donated, and as is typically the case, are discarded name brands that the previous owners grew tired of. Her winter coat is North Face, the fleece beneath it matches, and her boots are barely used Uggs, a small salt stain marking the stitch line around the sole. Her hair is well kept. She is clean. She looks like any other middle school child, but when you sit close to her in a quiet room you can hear her stomach growl. Unlike the other girls in her phys.ed. class, she showers at school, not because she had sweat so much playing volleyball in gym class, but because there is no hot water at home. School showers are a luxury that she loses on the weekend, and that she is perpetually amazed other children don't take advantage of. What she doesn't know is that not every gym class gets the opportunity, her teacher is especially tuned in to Janessa's situation and has made the practice a part of her class time under the guise of preparing the students for high school. If it weren't for school showers Janessa would wash her hair in the sink at home, with cold water.

Janessa's Mom is on methadone. She has been since Janessa was a toddler. An addiction to oxycodone robbed her of a life that would already have been a difficult one. Her family has been perpetually poor. At least four generations have known County supports, and at least two of them addiction. Breaking that cycle would have been a big challenge for Janessa's Mom. It became nearly impossible when her own addiction took hold. Janessa's matrilineal line has followed a depressing trajectory of addiction, teenage pregnancy, and abuse, until now. "Not me," Janessa insists confidently. "Not this girl," she asserts. I believe her, but I'm one of few. Most people are quick to remind me that such a meteoric change is an anomaly. I'm all for anomalies, besides, Janessa doesn't know what an anomaly is despite her best efforts to become one.

As a rule, kids like Janessa are harder to help than you might imagine.  They take what you give, and they give you back what you want, but they don't give you everything, and everything is what you need to consider to even begin to understand.  With Janessa I've considered everything that she's given me...and fortunately, she's allowed me a lot.  I know that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, and I know that she has been abused by no less than two strangers and four family members.  I know that her neighbor is a registered sex offender, not allowed near children or schools, but since he lives here at "Leftovers" no one really cares.  I know that her life is a testimony to the failure of our society to protect our most vulnerable.  She once asked me why I cared so much and I stuttered through what felt like a completely inadequate answer..."because I am some version of you, and you of me."  It was an abstract enough notion to quiet her quickly, but also leave her silently contemplative. It was honest enough to inspire a smile and build a bridge.  We understood one another, even if such a notion made no sense.  She trusted me, and I trusted her. So when she disappeared in September I felt her loss as acutely as any I had ever known.

There was no word where she had gone.  Teachers didn't know.  Social workers didn't know. Janessa and her family had simply disappeared. I was distraught.  She was on the very brink of becoming something impressive, if the right people chose to make her their own...myself...the judge...a teacher...any combination of the right people could alter Janessa's life forever, but we would never get the chance.  That's the plight of the poor. Very often uprooting trusted connections and severing life changing ties that the rest of us stay entangled in our entire lives.  Janessa had sixteen schools listed on her transcripts...sixteen.  In eight years of public education she had managed to average two schools a year.  That's the sort of thing that makes taking care of your brother and sisters alone for a week, or washing your hair with cold water in a dirty sink no big deal.   Janessa is one of the forgotten children that our continent pretends to serve.  She will move enough, and disappear enough, to eventually fall off of everyone's radar, only to surface again at 18 to collect assistance or in the criminal justice system.  It's a damning cliche, but an even more damning destiny.  That's what happens to bright and beautiful young children like Janessa if no one gets the chance to anchor her to something transformative.  For me she was one more story without an ending.

Five days ago my phone rang in the middle of the afternoon, a shy but hopeful voice cracked from the other end.

"Hello.  Is this Brian?" I replied yes. "It's Janessa.  Do you remember me?"

My heart leapt, and in that same dizzying instant I felt the warmth of affirmation.  In a millisecond I felt relief and joy mixed with worry and disbelief.  She caught me up to speed awkward re-connect...just excitement and easy falling onto your couch at the end of a long, crazy day...only her day had been a lifetime.  She was doing good, in Toronto, finally with a foster family, but a good one.  Her Mom was in rehab, again...but trying. In an astonishing twist her siblings were with her, with the same family.  She was feeling very blessed. She was calling to say Merry Christmas, and to tell me how important it was that we had met.  I fumbled for a gracious response but she saved me from my own honest humility.

"Don't even say what I think you're going to say," she interrupted, "you were the first one to make me believe and help me trust.  Please, don't brush it off.  I don't want you to.  I want to know that you know what you did.  I'm calling to say thanks."

I was quiet.  I didn't know what to say.  Again, she saved me from myself and carried on with catching me up with everything that had happened since she disappeared.  I heard about half of it, so lost I was in the earlier the power of her gratitude.  We talked for a few minutes more, and when we said goodbye it struck me that I might never hear from her again.  I didn't do much, I thought to myself.  I really didn't.  There were times where we spoke for only a minute...a quick hello, or a question...time for a smile and an offer of understanding.  Sometimes we spoke more, but many times we spoke less.  A passing high five...a glance from across the hall or encouraging nod or admonishing furrowed brow.  I was always able to get her attention, and she mine.  It didn't take much.  Just one minute.

It's amazing what a minute can do...amazing.


Monday, December 16, 2013

What Once Was...

Ever since I stumbled through something of a freedom of speech issue in the Spring I've found it difficult to type here.  Ideas fall flat, stifled by prudence or caution, and the freedom that comes with expressing yourself can now, at times, feel can feel more like filtering than finding truth, and it's been a frustrating and sometimes painful process. I've never been without words and too often here I find myself searching for the right ones. Fortunately for me, this is one relationship that I'm not ready to shy away from. It's been such a sturdy post to lean on for so long that I wouldn't know which way was up if it weren't here to fiddle with...or even to just consider. Still, I had no idea how hard it would be once my eyes were opened wide to the ways that we can be filtered.

I write about situations almost constantly...most will never see the light of day, not now. I was always careful to exclude accurate details, and always aware of the impact of my words. I was cautious, but honest, and when I lost that, it made things difficult. I've never been very good at separating the two versions of, home....probably because there aren't two versions. There's just one of me, and that's the one that everyone gets.  It felt like having a part of me cut off.  Strangely, the words have never come more's just that now they have no place to go, but still I write them...almost every day. I have to put them somewhere.  In losing the ability to put them here I lost a giant part of my ability to just let the situations move on from the stories and from the feelings that they inspired, and let go of the burdens they too often left me with. Now I find I carry that all around with me. It's exhausting...and frustrating.  For so long I had you, and now I have an overflowing shed full of thoughts and emotions and beliefs, all piled at odd angles, unsafely, seemingly ready to topple. I suspect that I will someday start putting all of those things here again, and very likely soon, but it's been a challenge beyond what I expected. I think of Robert Hunter's elegy for a sadly departed Jerry Garcia<\a> and the sentiments ring true..."Now that the singer is gone where do I go for the song?"

Expect a return to the old...if I were a gambling man I'd lay good money down that the time is now for those stories and feelings to find their way back here to these pages.  After all, this was partly a document so that my daughters would someday know, beyond any shadow of doubt, who their father still is.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fairy Labour

Fairy Cleaning Service

What happens when your off at work and the household drips with estrogen?  Fairies sneak out of the darkest corners and clean.  I never knew that we had a fairy infestation until now, nor did I realize how domestically inclined they were. a clean house.  Not all that worried about the fairies in dark corners.

All Day Long I Think of the Mixer Lick...That Sounds Awful


What's a guy to do when his days go bad from the very beginnings, and his job is to be the light, not the anchor?  He thinks of his daughters licking the batter off of cake mixers and wishes he was anywhere but where he is.  It's an easy piece of escapism.

I should be writing down each day's today's Mother who hasn't bathed in years, or the father who thinks we're buddies and punched me in the arm today and called me "dick stick" think I'm joking.  There's the teenage woman beater, and the meth addict wasting away despite all of your best efforts, or the refugee who's PTSD is so bad that half of their family needs to be medicated so that they don't kill themselves.  When your day goes that south, and that frequently, you need cake batter and dripping mixers and beautiful kids licking them. Then you need this.   Then you carry on.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Just One of The Reasons...

The Silent Night game at Taylor University is one of the most unique and coolest traditions in college basketball.  It's one of the reasons why college athletics are so special.  Anyone lucky enough to occupy this orbit for even a moment is privileged beyond words.  What an incredible experience, and this Taylor tradition, like so many others, isn't tarnished by a billion other's just college kids doing something great with hardly anyone watching...until now.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ten and Five Makes Fifteen

Last night June had volleyball...that's right, volleyball. She's finally found something for herself, and something that she had as a young woman, which is always the best kind of re-discovery, and now she gets to take a break each week and re-charge her batteries, which is something that she just never did. Zoey's been kickin' around for nearly five years and Maggles for almost a year and a half, and never once has June taken time for herself. Now she gets to bump, set, and spike her way to personal bliss at least one night out of seven.

While June was busy bruising her forearms and straining her quads, Daddy was in full on Def Con 5 mode...bathing both girls, rocking the pajamas enterprise, navigating snacks and some Christmas TV, and then bottling up some sleep juice for Mags, and shuffling her off to bed...oh, not before stripping Mags of a glow stick that Zo left on the floor that her little sister chomped on and I think scored a small taste of glow poison...awesome...Mom's gone 30 minutes and I poison our second born...but she really only tasted a pin drop of the stuff before Dad was flushing her full of fourteen billion gallons of water, which she willfully gulped just to wash the taste from her lips. After my guilt and panic subsided, and I assumed she was free from the clutches of death by poison, we snuck up for bed. A bottle and some hard to hear Bruce Springsteen lyrics later and Mags was asleep...ten minutes. Who's a champ? Both me and the Boss it seems. After a quick zip back downstairs and a snuggle session with Zoey and me, withDonald Duck as Scrooge, it was tooth brushing, pre-bed peeing, too tight tucking in, and Harry Potter reading as Zo wiggled her way to sleep....five minutes. Harry hadn't even gotten on the Quidditch pitch before she was snoring. Back to back championships for Dad it seems. By the time I got downstairs June was home and all was right with the poisoned screaming bedtime tossing and turning can't fall asleep 'till 10:30 Zo...just silence...and sore forearms and strained quads...and one happy Mom.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Rules...

Here's the thing, when you're busy feeling bad about yourself, it's really hard to feel anything for or about anyone else. It's the that you can't fight. Oh, you can try, but I'll wager you'll lose. There are a billion little rules that I've learned in the past fifteen years...ones that I'd fight for, or over. It's hard to argue when you don't walk face first into the scenarios every day, yet strangely, people do. I might never fully "get" that, but I try to shrug it off, and I try to articulate those lessons without sounding like an ass, but reality suggests that you always sound like an ass when you insist on something's absolute certainty.

This is what I know...

- there's always a reason...a story. In a social/emotional sense, nothing happens randomly.

- what you do and say, and how you act matters...always.

- lonely, frightened, damaged people are capable of anything.

- you'd be surprised at what can change a life, alter a path, make a's not what you think.

- good wins...and good can be mined from even the most tragic of circumstances.

- more people are lost and drifting than are anchored and certain.

- everyone wants to be loved, acknowledged, belong, and have value...everyone.

- very few people don't care...everyone, or very nearly everyone, cares about something.

- put your faith solely in something or someone else, and admonish yourself of all responsibility and/or ability to affect change, and a very important part of you will die.

- the only acceptable answer to the question, "why are we here?" is "to do something important."

- loss, or perceived loss, is maybe the single most pervasive emotional trauma we experience.

- being who we truly are is a difficult thing to do, and most people fail.

- you don't want to go to jail...ever.

- drugs...substances, period...make us less than we can be...period.

- if you don't make yourself into something then the world will.

- your children will soak up vast parts of you, and that is a scary thing. Our goal should be for that notion to inspire us.

- it is impossible for you to be something that you've never known or seen...impossible.

- if there's a part of you that is empty it will fill up with something. You can decide what that is, or not.

- Adam Duritz said it best when he said..."we all wanna be something beautiful."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Zo to the rescue! She promised this would rid Daddy of some of his leg pain

We were kind of hoping that she'd grow up to be a doctor, but after seeing her in action...sporting a lacrosse chest protector and using a saw exclusively...we're having second thoughts.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Wish I Had a River So Long...

It's always been one of my most favorite songs but when Corinne Bailey Rae and Herbie Hancock paired up on Joni Mitchell's classic, "River," it found a whole new place in my pile of swoon music. If there's a soul out there that at one time or another didn't wish they had a river that they could skate away on...well, I'll never listen to another note. There's something so sweet and melancholy about the holidays that escape is sometimes the most accurate sentiment of the season. Oh, sometimes I wish I had a river...

The holidays make my job about a billion times harder...there's more sadness than even the biggest heart can handle sometimes, and I find it leaves me super sentimental...and pathetically nostalgic for simple joys and easy peace. There are things I want or expect out of the holidays and when I can't find those things, or when they elude me I fall flat...It's less that I want them then that I need them, I think. I need them to keep from falling apart with the rest of the coat tuggers that pull on me almost as soon as the calendar flips to December. Oh, I wish I had a river so long...

Someday These Photos Will Haunt Her


When you're a parent you snap photos of the most ridiculous things...and then when taking photos is kind of "your thing" you tend to take way more photos of ridiculous things. So nothing surprises me now when I check June's Flickr account, or when she passes her phone over and says, "look at this one." It's just kind of expected now that I'm going to see something side by side toilets in the family washroom at Partridge Creek mall in Michigan. Two toilets! Cool! I want this in my house. Sure pooping would no longer be a chance to catch a breather from the chaos, but it would make up for that in terms of efficiency. What? Like I'm the only parent that uses the crapper to re-group and gather themselves?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Egg Nog Lattes and Assholes Will both Make You Shake Your Head

It's much too early to listen to much too wealthy people talking much too heinous bullshit to much too fake strangers. Ugh. Is it Monday? Wait...what week is it? Is this December? My God. What just happened?

Months have passed and this blog has waned as my life has spun into insanity...sometimes a brilliant insanity, like when I slipped over to Ann Arbor to pick up the University of Michigan's donation to the Jimmy Twohander programs...or when I got to sneak down to Toledo, OH to play in a Masters lacrosse tournament...or as June's job quickly metamorphasized into stay at home mom and creativity farm...or as Zo's first school report came home and her first parent-teacher night passed, both with glowing reviews of what we already knew was a very audacious little girl. Time has flown past and sometimes in a shimmer of brilliant light and sound...but there's also been the increased stress and strain of a rapidly approaching holiday season and all of the social land mines of that...a lot of homeless kids...a lot of rehab visits...a lot of kids and families falling apart. My approach to it all was to retreat into my family and my ideas and plans, and running away has seldom been this easy. Now it's time to ante up and get back in the the game. I've had a nice rest on the bench and now I want back in. First I have to listen to this turd spew overly intellectualized nonsense about TED Talks to complete strangers in a Starbucks. Ugh. I guess you get what you pay for, I mean, I AM sitting in a Starbucks...but I like Starbucks.

Wait...Corrine Bailey Rae and Herbie Hancock doing Joni Mitchell's "River"...and there it smile inducing reason why I wander into Starbucks. Call it what you want but good music trumps blatant capitalism every day of the the week and twice if Apple is involved.

And here it is, boldly ventured amongst all these egg nog lattes and assholes...a promise. I will blog every day in huge month of December, excluding of course, the 1st, because that ship's already sailed.  Not only will I blog, but I will blog my ass off.  Merry Christmas to me!

Now...back to that post's a beauty isn't it? I loved it the minute it fell from my fingertips. What's that all about? It's a simple story that involves a guy who spends his every waking moment at a local Starbucks and does something that earns a sickening amount of money without ever really having to go to a, finance, something disgusting like that...and who drips with self importance and confidence. Well, I watched his bike get stolen from right out front of this Starbucks less than a month ago and trust me when I tell you, no matter how much someone makes you shake your head, somewhere, somehow, in some unimaginable way, someone will even the score. Sometimes the universe reminds you that despite what you may think, regardless of how out of whack it's seemed, it can be a pretty fair place. I feel great, and this self important poop it's missing a bike. Tip of the cap to you karma.