Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Year Recollections

The year is over. Pretty much. A nutty one here in Seattle for us, with moving and changes and planning of our future. 2009 will be the year of the Big Step, the beginning of our practice and our career, in essence. I'm excited and scared. Jaime is getting prepared, which is intense. I imagine if I were married to Eisenhower during the ramp up to the invasion of Europe, it would be startlingly similar to this. (Well, Jaime has nicer hair.)

This was the year of Arkaedi, in many ways. Jaime took off the winter quarter to care for her, Taviri had to adjust to the new baby. It was a tough couple of months, certainly, for everyone. Now that she's a year old, everything seems like less work. My job has gotten easy. I joke that Arkaedi was for me, that I needed her. It isn't really a joke, though. Something about her makes my life make sense. Taviri is my project for the world. I named him after someone who went out into the world and changed it, and that is his destiny. He doesn't even feel like my son, he feels like a little warrior waiting for his tribe. I'm the caretaker who hands him over to the tribe when they show up. I can see the movie version now; the actor who plays me better have a great beard.

Arkaedi, though, is for us. It just feels like she is going to be present in a way that Viri won't have the time and opportunity to be. Of course this may be totally wrong, it's just my impression of them as small children. I'm not writing his biography or anything. But you do get a sense from little ones, even children who I work with at the daycare. I'm curious, looking back after a few decades, how accurate my impressions will prove to be.

I'm excited about 2009. We have a collapsing economy, a new president. I'm starting an enormous undertaking, with my typical optimistic zeal.

Jaime and I like to play a numbers game with events like holidays and important dates. We play "which number is this?"

This is my 32rd New Year, counting the one when I was two months old. My 16th New Year with Jaime. My 4th as a father. It's funny when you put down simply like that. I have now spent half of the New Years in my entire life with Jaime.

Happy New Year 2009, everyone. Enjoy the year of the ox.

You Have To Do A Better Job

Seriously, say what you want about President-elect Obama... this is a pretty low bar.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Get a Truck With Brakes!

Last night was a crazy one, a typical sick child insane evening. Taviri woke everyone up in the middle of the night vomiting and angry, and we had to clean and console and heal. I got the good end of the deal: me and Arkaedi holed up in the office with one of my favorite MST3Ks, "Space Children." She fell quickly asleep and I watched a fun film with strange children possessed by a benevolent space blob.

This movie has one of my favorite examples of poor communication in film history. There is a scene where the children have magically disabled a truck, and the driver starts to lose control. The passenger yells, "Stop it!" in an annoyed voice as the driver starts to crash. Not helpful, my friend.

Servo helpfully points out, "Next time get a truck with brakes!" This has become an oft repeated phrase between Jaime and I. We have observed that a lot of fights begin with a 'get a truck with brakes' statement. So many fights between couples start with frustration that is not totally warranted. When you get mad at someone for doing something accidently, or mostly out of their control, you don't really solve anything, just make them feel bad on top of the initial mistake. Sure, in hindsight there are things that could have been done differently, care could have been taken that maybe wasn't, but in the moment it seemed sensible. I warn my friends sometimes to think for a second before being angry. Holding my tongue before shouting 'get a truck with brakes' has saved me a ton of little arguments in my life.
It's odd where you get little life skills that serve a person well. Strange as it is, this silly movie gave me insight into communication that has yielded tangible results in my relationship with Jaime, and probably others. Sure I still sometimes make these statements, but I make an effort to think before I speak in a way I didn't before seeing the film.

(I'm particularly bad about after the fact "be carefuls," which are really only a passive aggressive "get a truck with brakes." I'm working on it.)

I haven't worked out how else a benevolent space blob can better my life, but if I do I'll write about it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

After the Snow

We've finally returned to real Seattle weather here: Mid-40s, overcast, the snow on the ground all but disappeared. Feels good to be back to normal.

We could travel over to the PCC Co-op and grab a nice field roast bbq sandwich and a pint of vegan potato salad. All is well with the world.

I enjoy the holidays, and I enjoy snow. But I'm happy to return to my normal crazy schedule as well. Jaime and I have developed a fun west coast/ big city system in the past few years, and I've grown accustomed to it. I love Seattle, I really do. But there are some fun/silly/annoying aspects. I'm guilty of some of this myself. I wouldn't be a true Seattle-ite if I weren't.

The three secrets of being a west coast big city person, or WCBC for short:

1. Care about food. You don't have to be vegan or eat all organic. In fact, an occasional burger at Johnny Rocket's helps you, because it highlights your otherwise organic lifestyle. I talk about food more than anything else.

2. Complain about your city. This can be weather, growth, traffic or city planning. Preferably all three.

3. Revile the Democrats, but vote for them. (Bonus points if you worry about Obama selling you out before he is even in office while sporting an Obama sticker on your car.)

But I kid you, Seattle! You're a fine old town. Put in a decent light rail system and I'll be yours forever.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Dinner and Assorted Fun

We had a wonderful Christmas day, with friends and children and fun. Jaime made a feast, there was food and chocolate galore... a delightful and festive day.

I understand why some people don't get into the holiday season. It's been shaped and co-opted by state and religion and corporate entity, it's mixed up and silly and sometimes depressing. But my Christmas day reminded me of why I do enjoy it, and have enjoyed it thoroughly since Jaime and I got together: it's a day off with friends and family, where we can all get together and have a good time.

This year we didn't exchange any gifts, and we didn't buy anyone anything. We just gave away a little food and invited people over to eat. We had a buffet of goodies, a noisy room of children with runny noses, and our company. Except for the runny noses, everyone enjoyed it.

We had our first experience of assembling toys for Christmas morning. I imagine I'll grow tired of it, but I really had fun with it this year. I plan on enjoying the childhood Christmas with my kids, and when they get too old Jaime and I will holiday in New York City. When the kids get too old, it's nice restaurants and room service for Christmas. Until then, I'm happy to play Santa.

Today we're gathering donations together for Boxing Day. I'm thinning my bookshelves, and we're donating a lot of strange reading and clothing to needy people in Seattle. I hope they like philosophy and science fiction. And little girl baby clothes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Free Time for the Holidays

I imagine this person has space in his life for silly projects. God love him for it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dark Knight of the Soul

I finally got around to watching this summer's Dark Knight. It was interesting. Certainly well crafted. I have a soft spot in my heart for Batman, since he played a large part in my development for a fictional character. The movie was good, a little difficult to watch and (no pun intended of course) dark, but well written and acted.

The movie is very much The Joker Show, with special guest Batman. Which is fine, and as I said the well put together film gets a huge break for style. Heath Ledger generated a lot of interest with his performance here, and his death made a media circus out of the film. He does do a fine job, and is creepy as hell as the villain. This is the real strength of the film. The Joker is a great opponent for Batman, cruel and crazy and chaotic. It's always a mistake to make him fun or amusing. Clowns aren't funny to anyone not already psychotic. Clowns are evil and dark and sad. If we laugh at all, it's because we're relieved that we aren't anything like them.

Batman attempts to bring some kind of order and justice to the world, and the Joker delights in madness. A strange and awful version of the prisoner's dilemma is especially interesting. The message of the story is that while we get weak and afraid, we don't always lose what makes us people. We may laugh at the clown in relief, but we aren't willing to don the make-up and throw pies.

The plots of the Joker are evil and interesting. He goes a little overboard with the planning, however. The fear mongering tactics of the Joker are a weak point of the film, I think. (How many times does he pretend to be a police officer? Thirty?) One thing that diminishes fear is exposure. Look at how few of us have nightmares about Dick Cheney now. In 2001, he was terror incarnate.

The film does a good job with the mythos of Batman. Batman is the hero that can solve our problems by being outside of the system. He chases down bad guys without worrying about courts or lawyers. The character works because while we want to trust the system, most of us know we can't always or even usually rely upon it to work. When the villain is buying off judges, it's nice to know there's a good guy who will punch him in the face. Making Bruce Wayne a billionaire is more than just a convenient way to alleviate worries about the price of gas for the Batmobile; it makes him immune to the kind of worries that more mundane civil servants have. He has a yacht and his own jet, what are you going to bribe him with?

I don't think I'll watch this film again. It's hard to stomach the meanness and cruelty beyond the first viewing. But it's an interesting movie to see, especially at night by myself. Nothing like a dark cold evening pondering the meaning of morality! I couldn't help thinking of the Joker's message of "there is nothing in the world but randomness" as a spiritual challenge. Seeing the meaning in life is the job of decent people, and the underlying order and beauty of the world are visible to those not blinded by their own image. Fittingly, the Joker makes everyone in his image: his henchmen and victims are copies of him. The ultimate narcissist is our villain. And the Batman fights him, but not as his opposite. His opposite is Jim Gordon, the family man, who cares about everyone more than himself.

Batman gets all the credit though.

ps. I have a new nephew today! An awesome little boy without any red hair at all, for which his parents are grateful.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Social Statement

As a follow-up to my post on Charlie Brown's insane christmas special, here is a quick run down of the Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This has always been a favorite of mine, for various reasons. Rankin/Bass figure prominently in my childhood, having done the wonderful animated version of The Hobbit that has brought joy for as long as I can remember. And this story is so odd and delightful, with funny stop motion animation and disturbing character voices that stick with you long after you forget the other aspects of the story.

(Hermey the Misfit Elf is particularly odd-- an effeminate elf outcast for his preferences? Really? Okay it is 1964, a more innocent age perhaps. But are they trying to say something with this?)

One thing that really struck me as a child still is very much evident as you watch the show today: Every male character is a jerk. Rudolph's father shuns him, Santa mocks him, the coach of the reindeer games actively encourages the other reindeer to exclude Rudolph. The women fare better, at least. Although they are pretty excluded from the Christmastown power structure. Santa calls Donner's wife "Mrs. Donner." Mrs. Clause is of course basically unseen, except when trying to get Santa to eat. (Does she have a first name either?)

There is Clarice, Rudolph's girlfriend. She's nice from the start, though I'm wondering why as I watch it now. Is she trying to get at her parents? Why does she instantly fall for the oddball? I understand not mocking him or shunning him, but love at first sight? Maybe she's just a friendly doe.

The real cultural high point of this is the Island of Misfit Toys. It gets better every time I see the show. It's so dark and funny and sad. Some of the things are not even the toy's fault. A water pistol that shoots jelly? Just don't put jelly in it, kid! It's no one's fault but yours! The high craziness is definitely saved for the island. The king is a flying lion (?) named Moonracer. Wow. I mean I was not raised in an incredibly pop culture savvy household. Christmas involved Santa, assorted elfs, reindeer... the Christian aspect had Mary and Jesus and wise men. Flying Lion King Moonracer did not factor in anywhere. God bless you, though, Rankin/Bass!

Yukon Cornelius carries a six shooter throughout the show as well. I loved that.

As always the best thing about these sixties cartoons is the random dialogue scattered throughout the show:

"I'm off to get my life sustaining supplies: Cornmeal, gunpowder, hamhocks and guitar strings." (I'm sure my grandfather used to say that.)

"No! This is man's work!"

"That silly elf song is driving me crazy!"

"I don't have any dreams left to dream."

"Rudolph existed as best he could."

"They realized the best thing to do was to get the women back to Christmastown." (I will say this to Viri in reference to Jaime and Arkaedi every chance I get from now on.)

This is the day to be in watching cartoons, too. It is winter death storm outside.

We're loving it. It's rare we get a snow in Seattle. I'm glad it's here. I'm also glad, however, that it's rare.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Have a Medicated Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Viri and I enjoyed watching Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown today. He was a little confused by it, and well he should be.

I'm not sure if Charles Schulz himself was insane, or merely chronicling the adventures of a group of insane children and a dog with human characteristics. But oh boy is the cartoon crazy. The basic story is familiar to everyone in my generation, I imagine: Charlie Brown is outcast and unloved, but after hearing the true meaning of Christmas from Linus, the children band together, shun him slightly less, and sing. The message is that even though Christmas has become commercial, it's still nice. Oddly, the only example of commercialism pointed out is the fact that Snoopy decorated his house. I don't think commercial means what you think it means, Chuck.

Linus has his problems too, of course. He carries a blankie everywhere, sucks his thumb, and is deathly afraid of Sally, all in spite of the fact that he appears to be ten years old. A ten year old with a blankie? That's pathological. He does do a good rendition of the nativity story. He's a savant of some kind.

Which leads me to wonder: Can Snoopy really ice skate and dance and decorate his house, or do the mad children of this town imagine it? It certainly appears possible.

Still, this is a really fun cartoon to watch. The quotes alone are worth the time.

"All I want is my fair share. All I want is what's coming to me."

"We all know Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big east coast syndicate, you know."

"I just don't feel what I'm supposed to feel."

"Boy are you stupid, Charlie Brown."

The insanity even extends to the end credits, where a dozen or so people are credited with "graphic blandishment." Excuse me? Did you just make up a credit?

One of the things I love about the holidays is this kind of cultural phenomenon. I genuinely enjoy it, and I think a lot of people my age do too. But there is no denying its bizarre, fragmented themes or existential meandering. I wonder what it is that got this kind of thing made in the mid-sixties? And why did we enjoy it?

For me and other people born after the sixties, maybe it's simply a nostalgic connection to the first half of the century. Or maybe the themes resonate somewhere in our own crazy minds that imagine dancing, decorating dogs who fetishize World War One.

I hope it's nostalgia.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ryan's Ability to Enjoy Everything

It really is amazing how much fun I had with this. Check out the lamp falling on him towards the end; low comedy done beautifully, that's the Muppets.
I hope my kids can find pleasure in life with little things, it's a nice skill. I credit my mother for instilling a sense of wonder and joy. Thanks mama.

Snow Like It's Back East

Today we really had a crazy snowfall. The biggest I've seen since I moved to Seattle. We got the kids bundled up and walked around the neighborhood with Cathy and Joel and Gabri.

It was a wonderful day. Everyone was out, there were few cars. Once again events like these remind me of how amazing a community can be when we aren't all isolated in little boxes. Cars and suburban fortress housing have removed us from each other. When we all get out on the street and interact, it's amazing. Of course a lot of the goodwill was a factor of time off work and the rarity of a real snowfall in Seattle; but the walkability and general feel of the neighborhood made it a great day for most of my Greenwood compatriots.

The insane idealist part of me dreams of a city with arterial streets for limited car traffic, major streetcar and bus traffic, light rail scattered through the city, and neighborhood streets for pedestrians only. Cities would be connected with safe and reasonably affordable railway systems. And of course there'd be blimps. I'm not sure how economical or sustainable blimp travel is, or whether it makes any sense at all as a transportation option. But, you know. Blimps would be fun.

I know I said it was crazy.

Viri was less enthused about the weather than us. He does not tolerate the cold well. But once we got to the house and started chatting and watching the snow fall, he got into the spirit. Arkaedi responded as usual with babbles and wiggles. She's a trooper. Some strong northern European stock in this girl, she does not mind the cold. Somehow my son is designed for the tropics. When the temperature dips below 60 he complains it's too cold. Of course his insistence on wearing rain boots in the snow may be a part of the problem. At least his totoro hat will protect him from the icy winds.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parents Discover "Free Time" Not a Myth

The rare double nap, much sought after by parents of two small children, has occurred. I'm playing on the computer and Jaime is cleaning. That says a lot about us, I think. I enjoy our life very much, and I am grateful for this chance to be a family, and have small kids. Still, we're busy enough that an hour to ourselves feels good.

With the cold and snow and time off, it really does feel like the holidays.

The next week will be much cleaning and cooking, I'm guessing. I'm trying to convince J to have a never-ending spread of chocolate treats in the house. I may actually win this one, too. She seems amenable at least. One secret of long and happy marriages is keep the husband stuffed with food. She's good at that.

I wonder what it will be like in a few years when we do have time to ourselves again on a regular basis. It's going to be strange to suddenly have an unscheduled day from time to time. Of course careers and social events that have been put on the back burner will get higher priority. But judging from how my life was before, it'll be a lighter workload than now.

I hear the fussing of the Viri now. He does not wake up well. Next to me Arkaedi is babbling and laughing. She wakes up better than her brother. "Prah! Buh Prah," she says. I think that's Arkaedi speak for "Let's get to playin, Papa!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Have Found Goodness

Here, ladies and gentlemen, on this very blog, is proof that God exists and favors me.
Okay perhaps I'm guilty of hyperbole here. But nevertheless, I am happy to discover this dangerously sugary food.

I can hear the speeches from Jaime now, about being sick and sugar lowering my immune response etc. And I defy my immune system! If you'd deny me these lemur treats, you are not a part of me! If thine lymphocyte offends thee, pluck it out!

(With, I dunno. An electron microscope and syringe? Maybe?)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winter Hits Us... Not Nice, Winter!

The snow has made it Christmastime, as Viri points out. We had a good day today, even though I can't talk. (Perhaps especially because I can't talk, some might say...) I'm hoping my voice will return soon. I really enjoy talking.

It snowed here last night, and Viri got to go outside with Mama and see it.

The snow reminds me of being back east. I miss the snow, sometimes, although on a day like today when I don't feel well I'm glad it is a rarity around here.

Now we have a few weeks of pleasant work coming up. We're getting the house in order, preparing for the holidays. We're hoping to have a nice Christmas dinner here with friends. We may set up a Christmas tree, although we're concerned the kids may be too young yet. Viri is all for it, he wants a tree in his house.

Then Arkaedi's birthday. I don't think there'll be any big celebration, but her first birthday still warrants some notice. I can't believe that she is almost one already. As cliche as it is, the time really does fly with the little ones.

I'm going to lie back and enjoy the fact that I don't have to rush out the door in a moment.

Holidays Begin

We're back from our little excursion to the penisula. It was a very pleasant trip, even though I now have no voice after wandering the cold streets of Poulsbo. Taviri got to see a new place and ride the ferry, which he was excited to do. Although he argued with me for hours about whether or not a car could board the ferry. I explained to him that it was okay, but he was not convinced. When we finally did board the ferry, he acquiesced. "Oh, the boat is a car friend!" I guess I just didn't explain it in a way that made sense to a three year old.

Poulsbo is an interesting place. Touristy, and Norwegian. I'm glad I've seen it, now I'll think of a nice walkable downtown rather than that horrible commercial for Poulsbo RV.

There was a Christmas Caroling competition going on while we were there, and it was snowing. It made for a really wonderful atmosphere, though the children were appalled at the cold. We have definitely raised temperature controlled babies. Anything above 75 and below 45 is strange and bewildering.

Today we're resting, and I'm trying to get my voice back. Hopefully Jaime will get me back on track and we'll enjoy the holiday season to its fullest.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Music Comp for Christmas, Marriage Vows for Xmas, Wisdom for Boxing Day

I just got the most awesome gift, a compilation of music from the mighty herc that has twenty five of my thirty current favorite songs. Among the amazing songs are They Might Be Giants doing a (typically) sweet and funny song, a cover of "New York City," An old Less Than Jake song from the Grease soundtrack, and Bruce Springsteen doing a classic rocking "Mountain of Love." Springsteen has an ability to be sincere that blows my mind. Even when you know he's just messing around knocking off a song in his studio, you get the idea that he's unemployed writing on the bathroom wall of some tavern in Hackensack. I don't know how he does it.

It got J and I talking about doing a similar love song comp for Valentine's day, to send to friends.

Which got us on marriage. One of my failings, one that I'll admit to, is a tendency to think of the world in terms of abstractions and avoid real world complications, which are not easily evaluated on an intellectual plane. This is a common "smart" person problem. I'm aware this could sound a little odd, and I hope I say what I say with humility: not meaning I am wise or anything but the ability to process information and apply it often creates a bias towards modeling and away from practical experience. In reality, problems as variable as love and children and national economic crises are very large and complex. Not easily modeled and therefore in danger of oversimplification by pretty much everyone. I certainly do it. But I also feel that I have a nice marriage, and some of the things I've learned could be useful to people trying to make a go of a relationship.

I thought a lot about that this week, a I was sick and J was working on finals and our life seemed insane for a few days. We set aside everything we could and just plowed through, checking in with each other, asking for and giving help...It reminded me of one thing we've always talked about as a strength: We aren't going to let any little things (even careers or money) push aside the commitment we've made to each other. I may not succeed at much, but in fifteen years I have succeeded at trying to grow as a person, admit mistakes, and share with Jaime. She jokes that I couldn't lie to her if I wanted; and I find it a little amazing that I never have. Well, I try and say it wasn't me who gave Viri cupcakes at 7pm, but she doesn't buy it. I may be wrong, but searching my memory, I think the last time I even avoided telling her something I thought was important was in high school. Spouses have aspects of themselves they don't talk about, sure. But if I think it impacts J or the kids I say.

This tendency to focus on the deeper issues is something I don't hear a lot about from my friends and coworkers. I worry that people today get together for superficial reasons: I like this band, She looks punk rock, She shares my taste in art. These are fun things, but they don't make a relationship for life. That comes when you say, "I love you. Our love means something. I will do anything to help you fulfill your life, including improving myself and sacrificing for you."

Paraphrasing from my Christian comrades, faith, hope and love abide in the world. The greatest of these is Love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Careening Towards Holiday

Much in the way an out of control car on ice moves towards a snowdrift, we are headed for the winter break. I'm recovering from illness, Jaime is sick, poor Arkaedi Sue has a diaper rash that should logically blast holes in her onesie... We need this break.

I did have a nice day today, back at work after a day coughing in bed. Busy, as any roomful of toddlers is busy, but nice. I say again that working with kids is balm for my spirit. J said today I like working with kids because they have the potential to be the good people I think everyone is. I think that works out to a slam on me. But a mind like her cynical pragmatic one would never come up with baby olympics!

Arkaedi did pretty well at the double chair. Viri kept tackling her during her futon routine, so I'm not sure who won.

She definitely gets a gold in the putting cars in papa's tea event. Three times she did it! With me trying to stop her even...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Seattle Center Fun

I dragged my ill and weak self down to the diy craft fair down at Seattle Center.

There is a Winter Train that Viri was just nuts to explore. Arkaedi was less enthusiastic, but she can't run loops around a giant train set like Viri can. She waved her hands and said "PAPA PAPA!" which is her standard behavior. The capitalization of "Winter Train" weirds me out a little too. Like it has ties to Faerie. I'm really hoping Viri chooses a simpler line of work than Winter Knight. But knowing him, I doubt it. I'm already warning him about making deals with beautiful people. Hopefully it sticks.

The problem I now face is the exertion made me more sick. Now I am lying in bed feeling awful. At least I have a few weeks off work starting next week! I need it to start... today.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Star Wars Holiday Special... Live From Hell!

I'm attempting to make it through the rifftrax version of the Star Wars Holiday Special. My LORD, is it difficult! This is a punishingly bad horror of television. An abomination. If Paris Hilton directed the remake of Casablanca, starring the cast of Full House nude, it would be an Oscar worthy effort compared to this dreck.

The awful wookie family... the irritating and unfunny "holonet" that we somehow watch inside the show itself, like some meta-torture... Art Carney. It's just too much.

I'm so glad I didn't see this as an impressionable youngster. It would have forever tainted the joy of Star Wars for me.

I will hold fast to the original trilogy and cast out the evil of all superfluous Star Wars evil.

Black Friday and Fallout

We actually went out and shopped for the first time in our lives on the day after thanksgiving.

It caps a nice couple of days for us. We got the old apartment totally emptied, we had an awesome dinner over at Herc and Sarah's, complete with pie and mst3k.

So today we enjoyed the Seattle mist while we purchased practical gifts for school and work.

Okay, Jaime's was practical. Mine is simply a toy. But oh such a fun toy.

J got herself a new computer, replacing the old model. We basically rotate computers every five years, what with new software or features or whatever. The new macbooks are nice, and considering we use the computer ten times a day I don't mind getting one that really meets our needs.

The itouch, of course, is just a toy for me. Mostly it's for me while I wait in the car or by the bed with sleeping children.

Then me and the kids walked around Ballard with Herc and Sarah, not shopping but just looking at stores and getting ideas for Taviri's christmas presents. These we will actually wrap up and place under the tree, unlike ours which are in use immediately. The fun thing is Taviri loves the ultra low tech presents, the puppets and wooden "food" he makes on a cardboard stove. We try to encourage this; I guess our own technological excess won't be multiplied by the next generation, even if we do pass it on to some degree. I love that I spend a few hours a day playing puppet theater with him. (Although my hands are killing me; if I'm going to play puppets I'm going to do it well!)

I'm looking forward to christmas this year. Taviri is just getting a few simple gifts, Arkaedi will get something little, and me and J have ours already. It'll mostly be about being together and eating a huge feast prepared by J for our friends. Which is what holidays should always be about.

(Well, food at least. Everyone can get their own Jaime to cook for them, this one's mine!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day at Beach, with Rainier Looming

Another bizarrely perfect day today. Chilly, but great. I took the kids to Golden Gardens and we watched the trains. Well, me and Viri watched the trains, and Arkaedi was obsessed with the ocean. To the point of saying "WA! WA!" which is incredible interest from an 11 month old baby girl. This nice weather may actually carry me through the winter now. I can possibly hold out until May!

It got me thinking of what my friend texted me about being parents: our kids do get such a range of experiences, and it's great when we can really bring them something that expands their world. Living here, I have the opportunity for mountains, rivers, the ocean. In the natural environment alone there is a daily reminder of the beauty and power of life. I'll never forget my first time seeing the ocean. Due to geographic and financial circumstances it was tough to get there, but my kids can see it every day. Easy to take these kinds of things for granted, and we do. But it's wonderful to be reminded of these things.

After that we came home and Viri and I played puppet shows with Arkaedi. I really am enjoying this stage of my life immensely. I make some mistakes, I get irritated and fail my kids in little ways, true. But I still make sure they get a quality of life that is very good. They learn, play, and grow. I hope I am doing my part to guide them to their destiny.

One amazing aspect of this recent weather is that we get to see Mt. Rainier every day. It's incredible. I do wish they had kept the native name, Tacoma or Tahoma. I forget what it means. I think it's "One who comes here to loom menacingly over the horizon and make glaciers, and is all out of glaciers."

I may be mistaken. Still, having Tahoma standing watching you would be better than Rainier.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sausages, Springsteen, Arkaedi and an Aloe Plant

In the spirit of disjointed narratives everywhere, I bring you the Ulysses of blog posts.

Arkaedi, the girl who will not go to sleep before 11, hung out in my room late last night while the boy and mama slept. She enjoyed playing with my sparkling water bottle. Sparkling water is a big weakness of mine, after the strangest of starts.

Jaime and I traveled in Europe after I graduated college. We had an amazing time, possibly the greatest trip of our lives. The one odd thing was, everytime I ordered water I got sparkling water. I thought I got pretty good at saying, in various languages, no sparkling water. (Italian is goofy: no one can say "Acqua senza gas" and not feel ridiculous. Although it did teach me how to order vegan. "Senza frommagio" is invaluable.)

But the odd thing was, after days of this, I got to enjoy it. Now I love it. It has to be done right, of course. A little ice, a small thick glass. Like scotch. But done right, I love it.

My other guilty pleasure is tofurky's beer brats.
Even typing the sentence I feel dumber. (More dumb?) But it is a simple meal I delight to prepare. Fried in my cast iron, they are crisp and juicy, the perfect evening light meal. I partake gratefully before my chocolate and tea dessert. Another nightly pleasure I don't even feel guilty about anymore, since it is such a part of me. I'd just as soon feel guilty about having a pinky toe. Tea and chocolate are integral to my function as a person. (Which, come to think of it, makes them more important than my pinky. So, nevermind.)

The move is commencing to continue. Our plants are looking lovely in the new place. I can't describe the feel of this new place, but it is very cozy. Definitely a hobbit kind of house. The one quantifiable statement I can make is: I sleep really well here.

Though I was listening to Springsteen, there is nothing else about him here in this post.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Nature of People

"I have to speculate
That God Himself did make
us into corresponding shapes
like puzzle pieces."
-iron and wine, 'such great heights'

I'm hesitant to quote songs. But I really liked that line, and it fits into my recent thoughts on relationships and people. I've been disappointed lately in how things have worked out in certain relationships in my life, and that always leads to thoughts on regret of the past. I think a lot of people I have known, and the could have beens and might have beens there. And once I contemplate I see again that I was meant to be with Jaime. Every turn of my life she provides me with energy and perspective that I need, that other people in my life would have been (or have been) unable or unwilling to provide.

I wonder how many people also had this corresponding shape, and they didn't understand it until it was too late. Or never understood it. Not that I think I made some great leap; it was luck and fate as well as work. But it was work too, to know myself better, to listen to my heart and make a good choice. Good choices, really, because we choose it every day.

I wonder how differently my life would be if I hadn't chosen this path. I think I would be, as J often puts it, cold and hungry. I'd certainly not be the father and husband I am today. I see myself living under a bridge. Not a good thing; I'm scruffy enough WITH indoor plumbing.

Then again, I don't feel like I could be anywhere else. This is who I am, where I need to be.

I'm not sure where I'll be in ten years; I haven't really set up my life to be anywhere. I've spent a lot of energy being me, building my relationship with j, my friendships. I'm glad I did, it has served me well. I like who I am, which is what I wanted to be able to say years ago when I thought of my future self. I was in a position as a young man to see very little material gain, and I am thankful for that. It shaped my goals.

Seeing people who are desperate to look good, or have financial security, I understand again why I never sought those things. I'm content with the choices I have made, something I wished for myself when I was still a teenager in West-By-God.

I sought J, I sought my family, and I found them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Seattle: Like a beautiful child...

For those who don't catch my lovely and talented colleague's blog little black star, this is a great video from the MST3k folks about the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle.

It's nice to see that the future has CONSTANT ORGAN MUSIC!

Seattle Day

Today was an amazing day. Lovely, cool but not cold. It's the kind of fall day that makes Seattle great. Don't talk to me in January, sure. But I love these nice fall days.

This time of year makes me want to buy a farm in Carnation. But then I'd miss the fun city aspects of Seattle. I'm not sure what it is about this city, but I went from hating it a lot to enjoying it a lot. Again don't talk to me in January. But for now...

I took the kids to the library, and to Ken's Market. I love that even in little corner markets here you can get organic food and hummus. They didn't have bulk teas though; I'm going to take Cathy's advice and check out Greenwood Market. At least I can walk there.

I think one reason I'm enjoying the city more is the change in myself over the past few months. Events that have occurred have made me less concerned with ideological differences and more interested in the present moment. I'm not offended by abstractions as easily. Despite problems with this place, it is a good city, with good food and nice people; it doesn't have to fit an image I construct in my mind.

Living in my current neighborhood helps with that. It's a family place, and fits well with the practical realities of my situation. This is where I am with my life, and I'm comfortable with that. I like working with kids, I like raising my kids. I'm not interested in creating my past or future anymore. I'm content with just being who I am, where I am. I've seen firsthand the dangers of living in one's imagination, and I am beginning to understand it now.

That reminds me of one of my favorite poems:

The Rain

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

I'm not sure why, but that seems fitting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Drug Companies: Evil, Sure. But now with new Dumb!

Boy I am not showing this to Jaime. She will not be happy.
Also I want to start a sxe band called Evil With New Dumb.

Exploring Greenwood

I have taken a little time to walk around today, with the kids in tow. Being able to walk to multiple coffee shops, the library, and several places offering me falafel is dangerous, certainly. But rewarding. I'm really impressed so far with how awesome Makeda Coffee is, and look forward to really taste testing some of their blends. The service was awesome, at least, which honestly is nine tenths of a Seattle coffeehouse-- you know the coffee will be decent.

My next task is to check out Ken's Market for healthy options. And tea. If it has tea then I am a returning customer. Good tea, that is. I need tea within walking distance. I take my beverages seriously. I'm guessing it has some decent options, once again this is Seattle and standards for beverages are pretty high.

Greenwood is shaping up to be a great place to live.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Straight Edge Merman!

I really cracked up at this hilarious article.

I don't know if sxe merman got me more or the casual "it takes place near lava fields."

My autobiography is now "It Took Place Near Lava Fields."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Viri's Bday

We had a nice little party here. Our first celebration in the new house, Taviri's Birthday!

Everyone stopped by and had cupcakes and wished Viri a happy 3rd. He enjoyed the attention.

Cathyjoel really outdid themselves spoiling our boy, as usual. He is well loved, certainly. I'm saving and documenting all of this so that when he grows up to rule the world he has some perspective. He has so far spent quite a long time at play with the puppet theater, repeatedly reminding me that "Puppet dinosaur comes in the door, Papa. Not the window." Will I ever learn?

The new place is starting to come together nicely. I love my little tea corner. Any place where I can have a separate shelf for tea is a winner in my book. Open shelving, if that is such a thing, is my new favorite design element.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Star Trek

The new Star Trek!
I am definitely getting in touch with my childhood nerd here. Very excited about this movie.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Greenwood Home

Technically, we live in Phinney Ridge. But Seattle Department of Neighborhoods be damned! I say Greenwood. Our place is a mess, but thanks to cathyjoel, tom and yolanda (and herc and sarah too yesterday) we are mostly moved.

I am exhausted now, but really excited about our new place. It is a combination hobbit-hole and sprawling play area. So the kids and I are pleased. Arkaedi already has been crawling circles around the place. It is laid out like a long tunnel with rooms off to each side, so she can go up and down the hall and explore each space to feel like she is really covering some ground.

When we get the place cleaned up I'll write more and publish pictures. Now I'd better work.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Impending Move

We're very not prepared for the move. But excited.

(Not sure if you can be 'very' not something, outside of 80s films. But nevertheless!)

Arkaedi is hitting keys as I type so blame the typos on her.

I'm anxious to get to Greenwood. And out of this place, honestly. It hasn't been a very nice living experience since we moved in. And now we have some unpleasant associations because of the recent roommate craziness. I'll be glad to be in a cool place with neighbors I like and trust.

Greenwood also has Neptune Coffee, vintage Western store, and vegetarian restaurants. It makes me appreciate Seattle, honestly. I'm so much more into Seattle when I have a comfortable place to live. I hated it when I started to get frustrated with my situation, because my instinct is to run. Not a totally unreasonable instinct, but not always the best solution. When I find a situation I like, suddenly I remember: progressive town, good food, coffee, cool weather. 3D Creature with Herc and Sarah! Cathyjoel and Gabri and Tom! Seattle is a pretty great place. I like the city, I think. I just need to get settled, if I can.

PS: President-elect Obama is the same age as the karate kid, Ralph Macchio. I am old.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prop 8 Fallout

You know the world is crazy when I link to some mainstream talking head. But I can't get over this vote. I DO have a personal stake in this-- and I have even wondered about the legal institution of marriage for everyone myself. To me it didn't seem like a legal concern at one point. But that was before I had kids, and began to think about the consequences of illness and long term health problems of loved ones. We need a society in which people are prepared to care for their loved ones as best as possible, and have according rights.

I am sickened by the conservatives who make hate an issue of family. I hear people who are divorced, who don't take care of their families themselves weighing in on this. It's sad and alarming. Apparently you can be a divorced drug addict conservative and talk to me about family values. As someone who has been married almost fifteen years, I think there is a lot of weight to my statement that a family is about love and mutual support, not the genitals of the people involved. It's awful that some people who think of themselves as understanding the spirit think of the world in such concrete and materialist terms. But that's the US; material first, immature ideological ranting in place of the spiritual.

Hopefully people eventually grow up and my daughter and son can live in a world that cares less about what the genetic makeup of their dance partner is and more about how much they love and are loved in return.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Master On Sufism

One of the greatest moments in this is the Master's laugh. Such an amazing laugh. Every time I hear it, even on a recording, it is overwhelming.

I love also the moment he frowns at the camera. Such a great knowing look, as if asking the viewers what this guy is doing, asking about things for which there are no words. As Rumi said, "When I come to Love, I am ashamed of all I said of Love."

Seeing this reminds me of why this path is so perfect for me. The attraction to the Truth, seeking Love with every fiber of my being, and remembering to laugh at the intellectual self that tries to ask questions instead of being in the moment.

Happy Jaime Day

It's J's bday! And our anniversary. Dating, that is. Sixteen years. It sounds like a crazy number when I type it out like that. J is taking the evening to go out to the spa with her girlfriends and soak and relax. Which I imagine will be awesome.

I am always confused by the nature of time when I think of the years J and I have spent together. It seems like three or four lives strung together. This is the one with kids and money worries and serious consideration of an investment plan. I'm pretty sure the Ryan of ten years ago didn't think that way.

I'm enjoying my evening though, even with screaming children (Viri hurt himself somehow, he won't explain. Now he's pushing my chair away from the computer.) I like this stage of my life. I seriously want more kids, even, though j threatens to kick me if I get to close to her before graduation. (Now Arkaedi is screaming. Viri, "She bonked your head." I think he means 'her' but he hasn't got the hang of the pronouns yet.)

Now I hope I can get them to bed successfully with a minimum of fuss. And that j doesn't find out we ate baby carrots, newman-o's and potstickers for dinner. Happy anniversary to me!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Super Papa Day

Today was a day in which I did everything in a very Papa way. I called my own dad, even, and chatted about the kids. I watched a football game with Sarah and Herc, and even though Sarah's black magic caused our team to lose, it was still great fun. Then I helped both of my kids fall asleep so Jaime could study.

(I'm always tempted to say I put them to sleep. That sounds bad. Remind me to delete that from my vernacular. Along with Goddammit, that Viri has picked up from me. Bad habits surface with talking children...)

My littlest one is asleep now, looking like the smallest Jedi. It is amazing to me how much love I have for my children. Even the thought that someone could not be near their children is shocking to me. I had a few hours away from them, enjoying myself and watching football, and I still missed them. I had to relate a few stories about them to Herc and Sarah. I should have mentioned the awesome little Jedi pajamas.

The place we watched football today was an irish pub downtown, a fun little place. It made me want to listen to the Pogues, which I am currently doing.

And I should rush off and make a new cd for the car before the little Jedi wakes up and demands boobs and justice. In that order.

John Williams Tribute- A Cappella

I was all set up to hate this... but I can't. It's like the power of my childhood has overcome my desire to mock a man in a player shirt. I'm powerless to be sarcastic and cynical!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Careers and Futures

The intense feelings brought on by my family situation and the impending move have put me in a pensive state. I'm ready to start the next phase of my life, the next stage for my family. I'm busy working on my future. I am interested in continuing my acupuncture studies, but I also want to start a daycare. And I am trying to help J start her practice. It's a little insane. I have a dream in my mind that I can almost manifest.  I imagine a naturopathic practice integrated into an open school, with parent counseling and marriage counseling available on site.  I imagine a daycare drop off for parents to go for a treatment.  If only it could all flow together into a coherent concrete image to present to a funding source and say, "Here it is. This is a good thing, it will help people!"

Taviri got a fireman helmet today. I asked him what firemen did. He said they rode in fire trucks. I said, "Yes they do. Why do they ride in fire trucks?"
He paused. "To help people."

He's a great boy. And he's right. I think I have a plan for something that could help people. Build some relationships, prepare my community for the challenges of the future. Now it is my responsibility to manifest this dream and actually get to helping people. 

Saturday, November 1, 2008


A crazy night here. Crazier than I would have imagined possible for me, and my life. But here it is. Now I wonder how to deal with it, and move on. I worry greatly about people in my life now, who I have to get some distance from... I pray and hope that they will make it through this no more damaged than they already are. Well... inshallah... hide in a hole if you want. 

World of Tea

I am drinking a lot of black tea lately. Something about my life in the past year has required a large amount of black tea, and much less of my traditional green. I even have been more into the western tea culture, listening to classical music and enjoying the cup on a saucer, next to a spoon (useless for me, since I still can't bear the thought of sugar in tea)

Since Seattle is attempting to cast itself as the beverage capital of the world, including the famous coffee as well as various teas, I have a great opportunity to indulge. There was even a Northwest Tea Festival recently that I was able to attend. (Taviri enjoyed the "papa tea party" with me.)

I can see myself become a mad drinker, coffee in the morning with scones, tea and biscuits in the afternoon, green tea at night in simple cups over a game of go. A great time, certainly.  When I get settled in the new room a special corner will be set up, with my low table and various cups and pots for tea. I may even get up the motivation to install the espresso maker that my Shayhk gave me, if I'm feeling brave.


We signed the lease today for our new place.

Appropriately, on the first of the month, we're preparing for some big changes.  I am a little concerned about the commitment we're making, but I think it needs to be done.  We need our own place, with our space clearly defined. We've been living communally for a long time, and it has weakened me a bit. 

Now I'm sitting at Teahouse Kuan Yin, enjoying some Earl Grey and reading Basho.

"do not forget
 that in the thicket are
 plum blossoms"

I hope to use this blog to express some personal ideas and thoughts, since so much of my work lately has been professional.  Which is great; I feel like j and I are on track, planning our future with a clarity that we had never had.  Perhaps prematurely, I feel like we are were we want to be professionally. Strange and wonderful as it is, I think in sixteen years j and I have never been happier with our lives.  Clearly a lot of this is my own work on myself, being a darvish, and j's work on herself as a mother and healer. The confluence has made a great space for us to just be a couple.  

"with that moon
 i wish to paint glitter
 on the inn"

Since I am just beginning this blog, and moving to our new place, I should compose an opening poem myself.  Traditionally the first stanza of a poem sets the tone, prepares the author or authors to move forward and compose a longer poem as a celebration or contest. In that spirit I begin my newest journey, aged 32, father of two.

sweet sounds of life
morning smells through curtains
Love dwells