Friday, December 31, 2010

You Gotta Loosen What You Bolted Down

"Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougotta dance. Don'teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you'restuck. Sodon'tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou're tired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, ok? Justdon'tletyourfeetstop."

-Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

2010 was an insane year. We moved across the country, I started a new program. I got horribly sick. Definitely an odd year.

I'm looking forward to 2011. I'll graduate. Hopefully find a teaching job. I have no idea where we'll be in the fall, which is exhilarating to me. I'm funny that way.

I don't put too much stock in New Year's resolutions. But they do serve a purpose. It's useful to think about where you are, where you were... You don't want to be trapped in an idea of the past or a wish for the future. But evaluation of what you are can be good for you.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for 2011.

I'm going to read more poetry. Somehow that escaped my attention too often in 2010.

I'm going to eat a little better. I had major ups and downs in 2010, for various reasons. I'm getting too old to just eat what and when I want. I don't want to go insane with a diet or anything. Just stay a little mindful.

I'm going to really be a great teacher. I know I won't be perfect. But I'm going to do well.

I'm not going to accept any excuses for skipping meditation. None. It's important. The most important thing I do.

I've going to have fun. All of this is fun. Don't forget that. Like Rumi says. We rarely hear the inward music. But we're dancing to it nonetheless.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Crack the Frozen Sea

I love reading. I love books. I think that reading, like Kafka said, can be a way to "crack the frozen sea within us." As an elementary educator, I read a lot of children's books. There isn't a medium quite like children's literature. It's visual, but not exclusively so. It isn't really a genre; what genre includes Cinderella and Pokemon? It's a way to show children what art can be. I absolutely love children's literature, from simple picture books to young adult novels. They are amazing and underrated. I've decided, in my random and confusing jumble of things I write about, to include some examples of the medium. Unsurprisingly, I am a snob in this area of my life as well.

Cinderella is a classic folk tale. It's been Disneyed and distorted, but the heart of the story is interesting. The version I like, Cinderella by Cynthia Rylant and Mary Blair, strips away a lot of the nonsense and gets at the simple story of a person who is looking for something special. Unlike the other versions, this Cinderella isn't a passive person, but acts to help herself. She knows that Love is out there, if she is willing to find it. It's sweet and simple and beautifully illustrated.

Idries Shah was known to me as a Sufi scholar. He has also written many children's books, and the favorite of my kids is one called The Silly Chicken. It's a morality tale, essentially pointing out that the ability to talk does not necessarily translate into meaningful conversation. It's goofy and fun, and the kids are remarkably astute at discovering the moral. Even before the story ended, my son asked "Why are they listening to a chicken?" Another one of Shah's books that I like is called Fatima the Spinner and the Tent. It's more serious, essentially another story to explain a moral. Natasha Delmar does the amazing illustrations for this one.

Neil Gaiman has always been an interesting writer. He combines pop culture and myth in a clever way, but he has a deeper well than I realized. One of his children's books, Instructions, is a recent discovery of mine. It is already one of my favorites. It's typical of Gaiman in many ways, simple and meaningful... but there is a depth to it that isn't in his other books for children or young adults. It frightened my kids. But in a good way.

I'm not an anti-TV person. I like TV. But I can't deny that when the television is off for a day, and the kids just read and play games, everything at my house is better. There is never a day when we don't read to our kids; I'll skip dinner before I skip our nightly story time. But just as important is choosing great books, books that move you and inspire you to read. Finding those books encourages you to explore the world, and you in turn encourage your kids or students.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Meaning of Christmas

It's the season of Christmas cards, gift giving, and pointless arguments about wars on Christmas and replacing Christ with X. In other words, for someone like me who likes philosophy and family, it's the greatest time of the year!

I had a conversation about the holiday with Taviri this week. It was a hard thing to explain, since the holiday is such a strange mix of secular and religious. Even without getting into the historical connections to Yule and Roman pagan celebrations, it's a complex time of year. Taviri asked me what Christmas was, and I tried to answer. In the process of talking about it, I discovered some aspects of the holiday that I had always enjoyed without really knowing it.

C.S. Lewis, the writer and Christian apologist, was fond of the trilemma argument for Christ's divinity. It goes like this: either Christ was insane, lying, or God. That's it. Now, I don't believe that Christ was a literal son of God, for various reasons, but this argument is interesting to me in what it leaves out. In reality I think it is a five-horned argument (pentalemma?). The historical person either didn't exist, was a liar, was God, was insane, or was a teacher who used metaphor. I fall in the teacher camp, like many people. What interests me about that is not the how or why, though, but what it means.

For one, it lets me use this awesome sketch of a historical Jesus. But most importantly, it allows me to frame the story of Christ's birth with that context and make a meaningful idea of Jesus for Taviri.

Think of the Christmas story. An angel comes to a poor woman, tells her that she is pregnant with a special child who will be a savior of his people. He will be a great leader. The parents are instructed to set aside their worldly concerns about parentage and just love the child. Wise men come from far away to see and bless the child. This is the story of birth, period. It's a metaphor for welcoming a special person into the world every time a woman gives birth. It's really a wonderful little tale of love for your family.

There is a children's book called "Tonight You Are My Baby." It's a sweet story, about Mary speaking to Jesus as an infant. She tells him that he has all of this to do, and he belongs to the world, but at least tonight, he can just be her baby. Isn't that the story of family? We have a few precious moments, our baby can just be there in our arms. They are not for us. They are for the world, for themselves. They go away from us almost as soon as they can, seeking their destiny. But for a night, a day, a year, they are just ours, wrapped up in our love.

All knowledge is local, as one of my favorite writers reminds me. I am not concerned with the religious dogma. The truth is the truth, and I understand it as best I can. I have no idea what the historical Jesus was like, who he was. I don't think anyone does, despite the claims to the contrary. But I can see a baby, a mother, a father, unsure of the future, huddled together for one night. They tell the baby he is special, that they love him. That's a pretty amazing story. I can celebrate that.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Music and the Mixed Message

I have been thinking a lot, since my illness and hospital time, about what I want out of life. When I was seventeen, the only thing I wanted was to marry Jaime. The rest of my time I spent playing music, having fun... I really didn't think of anything else. Work, school... these were just things I had to do to keep Jaime around. I enjoyed them. I tried to do them well because that was me, that was how I operated. But I didn't really care. When something more interesting came along, I changed and went along with it.

Everything else I did was connected to my value system. I enjoyed being straight edge, eating vegan... I enjoyed these things because they expressed something about myself. I think my values were the clearest from that age to my early twenties. Not well developed or even true, but they were me, they made sense in the context of my existence. It's telling that I haven't really changed those values in all the years since then. Not even at age twenty-one.

Listening to that old music, I realize that I was really happy then. I think I was happy because I knew what I wanted, and I didn't get caught up with nonsense. The rest of my life since then has been an effort to find that clarity of purpose. I still understand intellectually what I want. I want to be with Jaime, take care of my kids, practice my Sufi meditations. It's amazing how clear it becomes again when you don't know how much time you'll have in this life.

So many people my age are gathering things. Buying houses, video games, giant tvs. All of those things are fine, of course, I don't have a problem with things. Things are just things, they don't matter. But gathering things isn't me. I don't like houses. I don't like video games. I kind of like tv, but not enough to pay too much attention. I was happiest in a simple apartment, with bare floors, and piles of pillows to lay around on and listen to music.

In this way the kids are good for me. They ground me, make me pay attention to my career, my surroundings. I think I'll always strive for some form of the bare floors and simple apartment. I'm not sure why. The kids keep me from going too extreme. I could see becoming a strange old straight edge hermit, listening to old 7"s and watching the white walls of my apartment mold.

Which is probably going to happen anyway. But at least this way I'll be prepared.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

License to Ill: Not The Good Kind

I am healed! After a few crazy weeks I am back to being mostly myself. I still have a gross leg wound, but it's nowhere near the disgusting leg wound that it was. I'm walking normally, my energy level is back, and in a few hours my antibiotic regimen is complete. I'm feeling pretty good as long as I don't stop and contemplate all of the work that I need to catch up on in the next few weeks. So I won't.

I have a ton of appointments in the next few weeks, many of which I will have to cancel now that my work schedule has returned to the normal 12 hour days. The strangest things that happened during my illness are the ones no one wants to meet about, which I don't understand. All of the heart issues worried me more than the infection, and that has been totally ignored. The sepsis was scary, and that hasn't been mentioned. In fact, of all of the things on my hospital paperwork, only the original leg wound is getting any attention at all. Because it's the most visible?

Overall I can't complain, I think the care I got was good. I was very concerned about the quality of care here, considering how rural it is. (Below: my image of a central New York ICU ward) But despite my concerns they seemed pretty on the ball. My one big concern is that I got several different opinions on what was going on and never really got a straight answer. But I guess that is to be expected when a lot of weird stuff is going on in your body. And I'm better now, which is what matters.

It's amazing how fast these things can happen. When I really felt bad in the hospital I was too out of it to be really scared about my health. I found out later that the most dangerous time was the evening I just zoned out and watched college football. I'd be feeling pretty stupid if the last thing I did on Earth was watch a horrible Alabama game. The next day, when I did get concerned, I wasn't scared. I just wanted to rest and chat. I get really talkative when I'm ill. So everything really bad that could have happened would have happened while I was least expecting it. Maybe there is some kind of metaphor there. At the very least it's an argument for living your life without regret. If things had gotten worse, I'm really happy that I had made some of the choices I had made. I wouldn't regret being broke, or not owning a home. I'd be happy for Jaime and the kids. For my experiences. For traveling and eating good food. The great part about these scares is they make you appreciate life. And in my case, they make you proud of what you have worked to have in this world, and happy you invested in yourself and not your stuff.

Also they make you want to listen to Beastie Boys.

Friday, September 24, 2010

City Mouse Country Mouse: The True Story

I've always had a dilemma about urban living. I grew up in the country, and I felt like that was who I was. I always wanted to be a city person, and when I got the chance I moved to a city. But I was never sure it was who I was. I wondered if I was just reacting to my upbringing, or seeking something different. And maybe I was. But I have become completely comfortable with my desire to live in a city. Whatever the reasons, whatever the origin of my need to be surrounded by people, I've accepted it. I'm a city person. I might even be an urban cowboy.

(On second thought...)

The reasons are complex. Lately I have been obsessed with the philosophical concept of emergent structures. Basically the idea of emergent structures is that a system is complex enough that certain properties arise out of the structure that are not inherent. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and some features of the whole are not able to quantified into parts. My desire for cities, my need for cities, is an emergent structure. Everything I love about life is connected to people, relationships, and experiences. Cities give me that space in which to be me. I don't know if it is totally logical. But in cities I feel alive. The secondary factors, such as good food, Sufi centers, fun activities... they are all there. And they matter. But it's greater than that. Sitting at a coffee shop in the morning, watching the city flow past, I feel connected in a way that I can't in a small town. It isn't a critique or a judgment, even. It's just how I feel. I'm fully capable of admitting I'm weird. But I don't think I can change.

I think I've sold Jaime on the idea. Amazingly. Which either means I am a great salesman or it really does make sense for us. And I am certainly not a great salesperson. Jaime would cut through me like a sword through warm butter. So, it must make some kind of sense. In tribute, here is a song about going from small towns to big cities.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Everyone's Your Friend (In NYC)

Especially if you're playing the Mets. They like to let you win!

Jason and I had an exceedingly fun time in NYC yesterday. We saw a good game, even though the Mets lost. At least they helped the Braves. The weather was perfect, so we were comfortable. Citi Field is a great place, built along the modern ballpark lines of great views and decent concessions. Overall it was a great time, and it provided some much needed relaxation for me.

We had a fun little detour as well. We walked around looking for some vegan food, and we followed Google maps' wonderful walking directions. The directions led us through some strange and sketchy parts of Queens, filled with garages and staring faces. None of them spoke to us, but there was an implied question on every face. "What the hell are you doing, and do you hate your wallet so much you'd practically give it away?" We were not forced to answer the question, thankfully. But we did find out that Google maps is evil and dangerous. If we didn't already know that.

Between the danger walk and the plethora of ads papering the stadium, we explored two of the most horrible aspects of capitalism in one brief period. We were a traveling sociology project! I imagine people observing us could see APA citations floating above our heads.

Check out some pictures, if you wish!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good Morning Cla- AAAH!

It's really hard to explain how insane the school system is. There are a lot of people involved, most of them care a lot, and kids come flying around like we're in the tornado scene from the Wizard of Oz. There are not words to describe it. Especially not if I want to capture that it is actually pretty fun.

The students are still in the process of settling in, and I'm completely at a loss. I don't think I've felt more confused about what I am doing in my entire life. Honestly the first few weeks of work in Japan were the closest, but even they pale in comparison. Because at least in Japan I expected to be lost. I was in a foreign country, I didn't have mastery of the language. I was hired and being trained after the first few weeks. And even then I had a clear idea of what I was doing, even if I didn't necessarily do it right. Or well. Or at all. The idea was there.

Here, it's bedlam. Students are lost and confused, other teachers are busy and excited. Fifth graders wander the halls looking seriously threatening. (Honestly when did fifth graders get huge and violent? Is it the cafeteria food? Some of these kids look like NFL linebackers. And that's just the girls. One of them called me by name last week. Minimum three weeks before I get shivved.)

I wonder if there are still movie of the week style PSAs that I can turn to. I feel the dire need for one. Maybe one about how huge kids are. Or one about the range of tears you get in first grade. ('Meredith Baxter in "Why Did That Fifth Grader Eat Me?' followed by a special airing of "WAAA! The Musical!"')

Once again the confusing thing about all of this is that it is FUN! Kids are great. Being in a classroom is great. The only places I have been able to walk into and feel happy to be working there involve kids. I wouldn't want to do anything different. But it does make you wonder why this country is so insane. Why are kids filled with so many problems? (And Cheese Curls, apparently?) I can almost sympathize with the insane political ramblings. There is a major issue with a country that allows seven year olds to experience the kind of life that these seven year olds experience.

But there is a beauty to it to. Because next to the kid relating stories of his mother's meth addiction is a kid whose mom is a physician treating that addiction. It's public school; the good the bad and the ugly are all lined up for lunch together. They are all ready to help each other face the challenges.

Except that one fifth grader. She's ready to eat you. But she's an exception.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vectors and Luck

I spent the weekend ill. It was lucky, in a sense, because I have a very busy week next week and I cannot afford to be sick then. I'd much rather be sick now. I'm not quite sure how I got sick, since I haven't been exposed to the little vectors yet. But there it is. Like I said, lucky for me it happened now. I'm even feeling a little better today. Thanks to listening to Dr. J and getting some rest. (Not Jaime. Julius Erving. I always call him when I feel under the weather. He's a great help.)

Seriously it really reminds me how blessed I am to have Jaime's help, though. I could never accomplish anything without her help. The kids are so young, and it's a great challenge to keep them under control. I have an awesome family. Thanks to Jaime.
(If only we looked this good...)

Hopefully I'll feel much better this week and I can get into the classroom and do my work. I love the prospect of being in the classroom and working with the kids. It's an amazing chance to do what I want to do with my life. I'm happy to be taking these steps. I'm grateful to Jaime for the opportunity. Even my own little disease vectors, Captain and Crimson Death, are really excited and supportive. It'll be interesting to see what they have to say in ten years about my career. Or twenty.

Now it's time for more rest. More vitamin C. Maybe I'll check in again with Dr. J, see if he has any more advice. I bet it'll involve a foul line dunk. Everything does with him.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pure Insanity Reigns

Obviously record companies are under a lot of stress. I mean, they need to buy mounds of cocaine for the musicians, those Korg keytars keep breaking down, and Steve Jobs keeps calling and screaming "iTunes!" and hanging up, laughing maniacally. It's a tough time to work in the industry.

It wasn't always, though. So how can you explain the horrific album covers of years past? Check this site out. You will recoil. You will cry. You will thank me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Autumn Exists

It's almost fall. The weather is getting cool, school is about to start. (Teachers care a lot about fall.) And for the first time in many years, I live in a place that actually has an autumn. I'm excited. Fall has always been my favorite season, and I'm happy I get the chance to enjoy it.

Enjoying fall means driving the kids through the country to see leaves and drink cider. It means begging Jaime to bake treats. (But honestly every season means that. Fall just means I'll get more treats per beg.) Fall means food and cool weather. If I had more time, fall would mean long walks under beautiful foliage. But I don't imagine I'll be walking anywhere except to to and from school.

I'm anxious to get the school year started. I'm really anxious to get into the semester and get some of my projects done. It's insane to think that this time next year I'll have my own elementary school class. The first step to that is getting into the fall and accomplishing my work. The leaves turning red is just a bonus.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Poetry, Pain, and Lesson Plans

I'm starting the school year working with a 1st grade class. I'm extremely excited to be there, and I think I'll have a great year. It's going to be strange to work with kids this age. It's exactly the age I want, and I think I'll do well. It won't be easy; it's a tough time in a lot of ways. My philosophy of elementary school involves placing kids in situations to appreciate the world, and learn from it. My lesson plans pull from many things, but you can see my primary focus: math and poetry.

Not that I'm a math genius or anything. Quite the contrary, I am mediocre at best at advanced math. But I like it. Oddly enough. I enjoy it. I think it's important. I think math and poetry are important things for human beings to understand and appreciate. There is a difference for my classroom though: I'm good at poetry. And I hate bad poetry.

I mean I have a seething, intense rage at bad poetry. Unreasonably so. To get a better understanding of what I mean, here is what I consider good poetry. Whitman, Creeley, Rumi are all good poets. There is no particular time or region that defines good poetry. There is just an aesthetic sense, a value of the poems themselves. I don't know if I can even explain why Ryokan and Zukofsky are both good poets. I don't know if anyone can.

Bad poets, on the other hand, are plentiful. Sometimes, like Nimoy, they are people who are good at other things and think they can try poetry. (Jewel, *cough*) Sometimes, education is the problem. They are MFAs in poetry and then write. It never works out for the best.

And here is my problem. I want to introduce, to teach them to appreciate. But education and poetry have historically created monsters. I think I can say without hyperbole that most poetry journals publish horror that is ten billion times worse than the next worse thing anyone can ever imagine in the history of the universe. I'm pretty sure I'm safe in stating that.

So, I will probably be careful. I will have the kids write poems. If they produce anything as bad as most poets, I will quit. I promise. There is always math. That can't hurt anyone, right?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Return of the Blog

I'm starting the school year, and preparing myself for the insane year ahead of me. In the process of deciding what is useful work and what is wasting time, I have decided to try and continue my blog. I enjoy it, and it is a way to keep perspective and vent. I doubt I'll be updating that often, but I hope to post a weekly summary of what my life is like. I expect it will be mostly personal work about myself and my family, and very little about what I'm doing in the school. It makes sense to minimize the amount I write about the schools, and I imagine the bulk of my friends and family are more interested in me than my work, regardless.

So, the year of coffee fueled teaching begins on Monday. I am incredibly excited. I hope we can make the situation relatively painless. Well, except to my adrenals. They are totally in for a beating.

I'm ready to get moving on this great project of work and life. I'm ready to take the next step forward. I'm ready to make another cup of coffee and start going over lesson plans.

I'm planning on making the weekly posts relatively simple, honest affairs. It reveals the extent to which this blog is decompressing for me, and I apologize for that in advance. At the same time, if you are reading this you are a friend or family member and are interested in what I am doing, so hopefully this will work for everyone.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Actually Am A Super Fly Homeboy In The Oaktown

And I'm known as such. By a select few.

We're having a great time as we continue our California vacation. Our pre-moving trip trip. We're staying with Cathyjoel, though tonight we're meeting up with Aaron and Emma for an evening meal at Souley Vegan, which should be great. Cathyjoel are nice enough to watch the kids for a few hours, so we're taking advantage of it. Hopefully we'll have some great food to go with our conversation.

California is a fun place to be. It's such an alien land for those of us from the east. Spending time in Seattle has prepared me a little for the mindset, since so many Seattle people are former Californians. But where the Seattle casual is silent and judging, the California casual is carefree and fun. It's noisy and busy, too, which is a big change. I might get a little overwhelmed by California over time. It's been a blast so far, though.

I have put up a ton of pictures at my Picasa site. Check them out for kids and California fun! In the sun!

Monday, March 22, 2010

My In California

Hey all! I didn't stop this as quick as I expected, apparently. Well, we got an internet connection, so I figured I'd post about our wonderful beginning to our trip.

We left late, of course, and stayed near Portland, Oregon. We had a breakfast send off with Herc and Sarah. It was lovely, but we were so sad to leave them. They are our awesome and wonderful friends. Actually, all of our friends in Seattle will be sorely missed. We met some lovely people during our time.

We're in California now, visiting Aaron and Emma and Cathyjoel©. Also lovely and wonderful friends. Right now we're in Marin County. We had a big hike today. (Well, a little hike. But we're tired!) Tonight it's a relaxing dinner with Aaron and Emma, some repacking, and more visiting tomorrow. On Wednesday, we're off to Alameda, to see Cathyjoel©. So far we are having a great time, our friends are amazing, and we're tired. Astoundingly, the kids are being perfect. (So perfect, in fact, there is a present for Viri in his future. I hate to operate on a reward system, but that boy is being perfect.)

Hopefully I'll find time to post again during the trip. Hopefully I'll find our camera to have photos to post. (Oops.) Hopefully we'll continue to have a fantastic journey with our loved ones.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pack, Clean, Prepare

We're trying to get ready to leave on Friday. It's insane. Arkaedi is unpacking what we pack, things are getting broken, and I'm still working today and tomorrow. I really shouldn't be; I'd never have guessed that I am more sensible with money than time. In this case, I am. (When I moved to Japan I think I quit my job five months in advance.)

I've been debating what to do with this space during and after the move. It's tempting to try and keep updating, but I think the insane days of driving and camping and motels without wifi will make it prohibitively difficult. So, I'm going to take a break, another hiatus, this time for good reasons.

When we get to New York, and settle in, we'll start the blog anew. I'm hoping to have Jaime's website for her business up and running, which will allow me space to blog. This has been in essence a long practice run, giving me a forum to rant and ramble, and prepare myself for a more formal blog about parenting and teaching. I'll still post the occasional fun story, but there will be less "look what I found on the internet" and more well thought out articles on education and family. I'll try to not be too boring. (Though no promises.)

We're off to Ithaca on Friday. I have a feeling that most people who read this will see us on our travels. If not, hey, flag us down. We're always up for tea. Pretty will give you hugs and break your mug. "My cuteness supercedes my destructive capabilities in the minds of my admirers!"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Book, The Music, And The Beverage

I'm in the middle of my annual re-read of the Lord of the Rings. This year, as I sometimes do, I'm including the Hobbit. The Hobbit doesn't have the epic scale of the Lord of the Rings, but in many ways it's my favorite book. It's sweet, and simple, and honest. It captures a wonderful aspect of Tolkien's writing, which is that important human things are lost as we embrace modern life. He says in the preface that he saw his world of rural England subsumed and replaced by trains and automobiles. In his typical honest fashion, he isn't lamenting the future or praising the past, but simply pointing out that things are changing, have changed, and wondering if anyone is thinking about what it means. It isn't anachronism; it's contemplation.

I love the writings of Tolkien. Paired with two other things, tea and jazz, I think I am a great hobbit. I'd certainly rather have cakes and tea than gold and adventure. And sometimes, a deep part of me longs to see the mountains and the sea. But I settle for tea and cakes. Maybe a cappuccino if I'm feeling wild. It's a good thing pipes are relatively uncommon, because I'd be sorely tempted to smoke. And Jaime would never allow that. (There's a reason Bilbo was single.)

I thought, when I was younger, that I was Frodo. Maybe my dad was Bilbo. But as I age, and reflect on the characters, I think I'm Bilbo, and dad is his father, Drogo. Taviri can take over the mantle and become the Frodo. He's got it in him to save the world. He isn't so enchanted with the simple pleasures of jazz and tea, and he doesn't seem the type to sit still. Perhaps it's a possibility, a potential. I found Jaime and became the Bilbo. I could have been Frodo, but for some different choices.

I sold a ton of my books and gave away a lot of music this week. I'm taking a few boxes back east with me, including my battered old Tolkien books I got from my dad. I'm loading up my ipod with jazz, and making some fun playlists. I'm packing our cooler with tea. The music, the hot tea, and the books will make the long days pass in comfort and pleasure. I'll sneak out when Jaime isn't looking and find the cakes. The pipe... well, the pipe I'll save for retirement.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Movin' On Up! Er, Across!

We're in the week of the move. It's strange. It seems unreal. I know we're packing, I look at apartments, I'm logically aware of the move. But as with many big changes, it won't seem real until we actually get on the road. And even then, it will be a vacation. Not a move.

When we moved to Seattle it was from Japan. That was even more surreal, and it was made more so by the fact that a moving company packed us up and shipped our stuff. We just flew to Tennessee and visited JoAnn and Becky. Then we drove across the country. This was before kids, and we didn't really plan anything. We just bought our little Echo, and drove.

The reality of the children necessitates more planning now. We can be flexible, but we cant just camp out when and where we feel like it, or eat nothing on a day. Oddly, and wonderfully, the only consistent element of this trip is that we're still getting help from JoAnn and Becky, and we're also visiting Aaron and Emma. If anything is going to stay consistent, I'm glad it's friends and family.

There is so much I'll miss about Seattle. But as our last week starts, I realize how excited I am for Ithaca. I'm ready to be in a new place. I'm excited to not be in a city, for once. Since Jaime picked Seattle, and we've stayed here seven years, I'm excited to get a chance to pick a place. (Actually, since it's been so long, I get to pick the next one too. She doesn't know that yet.)

We're not headed to an apartment in the sky. But it'll be wonderful to see a slightly different sky above us.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gender And Strollers

All kids love strollers. They're one of the most sought after toys at the daycare. Boys and girls both love them. There is a difference, however, in how they're used. The girls put babies in them and stroll them around. The boys dump the babies out and fill the space with toys. I'm not sure what this says about innate gender differences, but it says something. I call it my PRC study. (Well, I didn't. I do now.)

Before I had kids, I would have never believed there is a natural inclination towards certain behavior in boys and girls. But watching kids over the years at the daycare I believe there is something to it. The PRC actually makes a good sample, since we have single moms, lesbian moms, stay at home dads, and all kinds of in between. Some of the dads are boisterous football players, some are silent and gentle. It's part of what makes the job great. We have a diverse group, from different countries and different backgrounds. But every boy dumps out the stroller, and every girl puts a baby in it and pushes it around.

There is probably a case to be made for different explanations. Maybe the kids copy who they see looks like them. But that doesn't work perfectly: why does the stocky dark skinned girl identify with the tiny blonde above a stocky dark skinned boy? Gender means something to the little ones. I don't know why, or how. But they know, or at least are acting upon, something within themselves. It's interesting.

One of the most bizarre and pervasive divides I have seen since returning to the U.S. is the pathologically individualist side, where the ego reigns and everything is about individual expression, and the monotonous, "everyone is special" politically correct engine. It's fascinating, and both sides take the argument very seriously. Most individualists, ironically, would argue that boys are boys and girls are girls. Most of the p.c. crowd argues against any innate gender differences, that boys and girls are blank slates that we impose a political will upon. It's a cross-over, a revolt against the party line in a funny and weird way. I wonder if it could signal a positive approach; a possibility of dialogue.

I think the country is in real trouble. It's bigger than if we are naturally inclined to push babies or machines. But the inability to discuss gender and politics and health care all lead to the death of a nation if we are so convinced we know everything that we can't communicate. I think it starts with watching, and listening. It begins when I can clearly explain that I see the boys pushing toys, and the girls strolling babies. And get an audience instead of a lecture.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Crazy!

Arkaedi Sue has catapulted into the terrible two Hall of Fame this week. She has thrown water, pooped on the floor, and made our frequent trips to Wayward a challenge in Pretty management. Today she ran around and made trouble, then went to the zoo with our good friends Tiffany and Wade. They said she was perfect. So the craziness is just for me.

This morning she came screeching into my room, "Papa sleeping!" He was, Pretty Sue. Now he isn't. Later was the floor pooping incident, which I admit was partly my fault. She came to the door while I was getting out of the shower, and said "My poopy!" as she frequently does. Well, I didn't move fast enough, and she took off her pull up and pooped on the floor. My poopy indeed.

She always is intense. She always screams. Sometimes, like now, she is asleep. I imagine her in the future, though, using this intensity to her advantage. She'll be in her thirties when the genetically altered supermen like Khan take over. She can be a fighter pilot. Her dialogue alone will make it worth all the trouble. Plus, she'll destroy Khan before he has a chance to bother Kirk and crew.

"No, Khan! You bad! My nice! Fire!"

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Perfect Baseball Blessing

I had hoped to visit the Albuqurque Isotopes while I was on the road. We'll be driving right through there, and I figured it'd be a nice stop for a day, we could get a motel, and have a short driving day. I checked online, and realized the Isotopes where not in town. I was bummed. Until I noticed a little asterisk next to the schedule. There was a game on April 3rd, but it wasn't the beloved minor league team named for the Simpsons episode; it was my Seattle Mariners! Playing a spring training game! In the one place this year I'll be able to see them! Perfection! (Ironically, the first Isotopes episode featured Ken Griffey Jr., now back with the Mariners. So I'll get to see him.)

There have been a lot of serendipitous aspects of this move back east. Some are more important to our overall well being. But none made me happier than to realize I'll get to see the Mariners at least once this season. If they go on to have a wonderful season, I can have the satisfaction of knowing I saw the beginning. If not, then, well, I still had a good day in April in New Mexico watching baseball. If baseball is blessing my move back east, then it must be a good idea.

We may also hit some more minor league games while we're traveling. I love minor league baseball. There is something so pure about the game. The stadiums are small, the players are not paid much more than normal people. There is a speed to the game, uninterrupted by jumbotrons and grounds crews. I hope to see the Nashville Sounds, and the Oklahoma Redbirds. I'm planning on taking my son and my dad down to see the West Virginia Power. (Great name. Sounds like a wrestling move.)

The one benefit of Ithaca is its proximity to great minor league teams. The Syracuse Chiefs and Binghamton Mets can be seen with easy day trips. I'll try and make lots of trips this summer to see games. I'm looking forward to the minor league baseball season. Even more so now that I get one chance to see the Mariners in 2010. Even if I end up buying an Isotopes souvenir.

Friday, March 5, 2010

King 5 Does A Mighty-O Story

The fun thing is, we were there! They didn't use the footage of us, but we were there as they shot the story.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Music Supreme

I used to be a big fan of jazz. I listened to jazz most every day, I owned some nice vinyl, I knew tons about jazz from 1939-1960. Then, I slowed down. I listened less and less, sold some of my records and cds. I eventually stopped listening to music in general, barring the occasional car trip or interesting song I'd choose to plug into my ipod. I'm not sure exactly why, though I suspect a busy schedule and kids made enjoyment of sound a problem. Children are noisy, and I imagine I wanted quiet. Or maybe I got bored with my choices. Either way, I stopped. Recently I unearthed some of my digital music files I'd stashed away, including some of my jazz. I only kept the greatest hits, like Coltrane and Charlie Parker. Some Mingus made it to the computer.

Oh, I didn't know what I was missing. It's heaven. Perfect music. I realize why I fell in love with it in the first place. Unlike my other musical interests, there isn't a narrative. No story, just intensity. I'll always have a soft spot for bluegrass, or country, or early punk rock. It's fun. But jazz is music. It's analogous to the feeling I get when I compare baseball to other sports. I love other sports. I enjoy watching them with friends, and cheering for different teams. But baseball is the game, it is powerful in a way that others don't approach.

I wish I understood exactly why I drifted away. Maybe it was a necessary change, a chance to better understand why I loved it. I'm almost glad I did, in a way. It gave me the opportunity to jump back in and see what is so amazing about it. Now I need to run around to used music stores and gather up my old favorites. I can no longer live in a world where Sketches of Spain and Blue Train aren't available at the click of a button. That'd be as bad as not knowing Ichiro's single season hits record.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Strange Fascination With Degrees

I really like north Texas. It's an odd place to like; there isn't much there, and it's dusty and hot. But the sky is impossibly large, and the sheer amount of space just captivates me. I'm looking forward to driving through it again.

My favorite places in the United States are the extremes. I love the big cities and the vast empty stretches of nothing. If I had to make a blanket statement, I would say that the best of the U.S. is in these places, and the worst is in the suburbs and exurbs. I don't know if that's one hundred percent true, but I think it's at least a fair thing to say. If you want the great things this country has to offer, your best bet is to get off a subway stop in NYC or park your motorcycle by highway 60 in Willow Springs, Missouri. Anything in between will be degrees of compromise. Everything I like about this country, certainly, I have found in either small towns or big cities.

One reason, perhaps the reason, is we are an extreme nation. There are few in-betweens. Traveling through Europe or Japan, the other places I have experience with, and I see towns as smaller cities. Not that they don't have their own personalities and quirks, but they aren't made up of different people. The degrees of separation between Milan and Torino are in culture and scale. They're real differences, but understandable. NYC and Elmira are worlds apart.

So, I'm excited about north Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. I'm ready to see those empty, vast spaces and meet the rare person who chooses to live there. I'm nostalgic for that huge, heavy sky pressing down on me. I wonder what the kids will think of our extremes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

All New Wayward Cafe

Jaime, the kids and myself went to the opening of the new location of Wayward Cafe today. It was everything yummy and delicious and good. Apparently everyone thought so, since the place was packed. We even ran into a few friends. It was a delicious, delicious afternoon. Their menu has expanded, they're in a nice big new location. Wayward just keeps getting better. And look at this lovely stolen image of their food!

Wayward Cafe is my favorite restaurant on Earth. It serves food in the afternoon, too, but what makes it my favorite is that it serves the best breakfast and brunch I have ever had. I'm a big fan of brunch; it's the greatest meal of the day, and it's ambiguous enough that I can gorge myself or eat light, whatever my mood. It's one of the few times I can drink cup after cup of coffee and not get yelled at by Jaime! For some reason, probably coffee and fat based, brunch is my happy place.

Today, thanks to the expanded menu, I had french toast, tofu scramble, and vegan sausage. I stole some of Arkaedi's hash browns too, just to round out the edges. (Pretty: "My food!") Viri had some pancakes, and Jaime had a breakfast sammich. I managed to steal some of that as well. As busy as they were, the wait wasn't too bad, and the food was perfect as usual. I'm going to miss a lot of food things in Seattle: vegan cinnamon rolls, Mighty-O doughnuts, multiple vegan Chinese restaurants. But I will definitely miss Wayward most of all. It's just so damn cozy.

After Wayward, we wandered over to the Sidecar Pigs For Peace shop, a nice little all purpose vegan shop, and got myself a new belt. Finding cool vegan belts is always a challenge, but I found a nice one today! I just need a nice buckle to snap on, and the pants-holding is complete! I'll miss Sidecar too. Seattle is a great place to be a vegan. It's a dangerously fattening place to be a vegan. But great.

Vegan family brunch at Wayward will be missed. We'll need a nice replacement in Ithaca. Maybe I can convince Jaime to just open a place. And let me have never-ending coffee. And she can make doughnuts! It'll make the pain of leaving Wayward ease a little, and my waistline slowly expand. Everyone wins!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thanks, Medium Large!

Love Takes Wing And Craps On Us

I wrote a few weeks ago about my problems as a demographic nightmare. Today I got a particularly egregious reminder of this fact. I ordered shirts, and received a nightmare of my own. It was an ad for a little doll, complete with porcelain horror and disgust. Witness the photo.

To begin with, I have to explain my problem with clothes. I've always had trouble finding clothes to wear. I repeatedly have wished for a national uniform policy, just to save me the worry of selecting pants and shirts. I solved this by just creating my own uniform. It comes in two varieties, a home and away version. The home version is black t-shirt, black dickies, and trail running shoes. I'm partial to Keen. It's simple enough, and it gets the job done without drawing undue attention to myself. The away version is slightly showier, to impress the crowds. It's a black button down, black dickies, and boots. Cowboy or motorcycle, depending on my mood.

It's worked for me for a few years, except I've never been totally comfortable with the button down shirts. I finally found the perfect shirt, all black, vaguely cowboy style. Meaning it's tailored in, and shows a vaguely more masculine shape than my doughiness would suggest. I'm muscular AND fat, you see, not just fat*. The company apparently caters to people looking to recapture a mythical west of happy and lovely native women, eager for the love of doughy white guys**.

It made me concerned about what mailing lists I got myself on. Am I going to get mailings from people selling American flag macrame? Is it the other end of the spectrum, and am I doomed to get emails from shamanic healers selling medicine bags? Which one is worse?

Either way it goes, this kind of bland and horrible whitewashing of history is awful to behold. It's bad enough we've stolen land and marginalized the population; now we add insult to injury. Unless this is a casino style thing, and the people are getting new cars and cashing our checks, laughing all the way. If there is a native woman somewhere profiting off of this, then, hey good on you. But is the punishment really fitting? Do even we, heirs to murderers and thieves, deserve "Love takes wing?"

Maybe. But it's a low blow. I'd rather they take back the midwest***. Much rather.

*You don't have to believe that.
**Not like me. I'm not that doughy. Seriously.
***Talk about doughy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trip Plotting And Driving With Kids

We're planning our massive journey from coast to coast. (For the sake of an easy description, I'll actually just christen the Finger Lakes part of the Atlantic Ocean, and say it really is coast to coast. There, done. Coast to coast it is.) We've got some exciting stops planned, some lovely scenery, some hauntingly beautiful stretches of road to cover. I'm incredibly excited to see my good friends in California, my family in Tennessee and Iowa, my friends and family in West Virginia. I'm less excited, somewhat seriously less excited, about crossing huge swaths of the country with two little ones in tow.

I'm not sure how they'll handle it. They are fine in the car, but this is a huge trip. They'll enjoy seeing friends and family. But we have no one from California to Tennessee, given that we're taking a pretty southern route. The desert will be interesting for them, I imagine. But how interesting? And will Arkansas derail us entirely, forcing us to disband and join other families? Will Jaime kill me the twentieth time I make reference to the Boggy Creek creature?

We have a mix of distraction and sleep planned to get us through the trip. We plan on early morning drives, evening drives, and a portable dvd player. I'm less worried about Viri, since he can draw and talk, and more worried about Arkaedi, who can throw crayons and scream. (And sing. Many a commute has been made hilarious and long by a chorus of "My poop!" from Pretty Sue.)

The trip is going to be amazing, however it turns out. Interesting, exciting, and insane, most likely. Some of my fondest memories are of trips just like this. Breaking down in snow covered fields in Iowa. Laughing at nothing in Arizona with Jaime because we've been driving for days. The biggest a sky could possibly be in Texas.

If nothing else, this could be the trip I reference when I'm boring my children with tales of the Boggy Creek creature.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Walk, Or A Trot

The kids and I walked around Seattle's downtown today, enjoying the nice weather and downing a doppio and a cinnamon bun.

Well, the kids and I shared the bun; I just drank the espresso. (Arkaedi Sue: "Papa coffee! Not my coffee!")

It was a lovely morning, and I just drank in the Seattle downtown. I miss living in the middle of the action. I don't think it's the best place for small kids, but I do miss it. One of my dreams is to eventually live in the downtown of a city again. Perhaps in the near future.

One of the perks of being downtown today: we saw the Harlem Globetrotters. Jaime had a seminar at some fancy hotel, and the Globetrotters were there! It was fun. They have really hot girlfriends. It pays to globetrot, I guess. Good for them.

I'm not much of a celebrity person. But it was fun to see these guys. I'll add them to Lance Armstrong, and some random Seahawks players whose names I don't know to the list of athletes I have seen in person. I've never seen a Mariner out and about in Seattle. I have friend who've sen Ichiro, but no such luck.

Being in this lovely city today though also made me excited to move. I'm not sure why, except that walking the streets, carrying Arkaedi in a backpack, and holding Viri's hand made me feel like we were traveling. It was a nice feeling, and I am enthusiastic about exploring a new town with them. I found out my basic schedule for the next year, and it's busy, while not overwhelming. It should be manageable. I'll have time for my three mental health exercises: coffee, brunch with Jaime, and parks with kids.

I doubt I'll see any famous sports figures. Maybe we can play spot the tenured Cornell professor. And then mock his Prius.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spring In February

Today is exactly the kind of day I will miss when I leave Seattle. It's warm, sunny, and spring-like in February. It's wonderful. Viri took Biscuit, Arkaedi and I out for some doughnuts, and we had a grand time. Even with Arkaedi Sue terrible two-ing and making a mess. (Biscuit was exceptionally well behaved.)

The mountains were out, and everywhere you looked there were snow covered peaks. I really love the mountains. It's hard to explain to people how amazing they are, when the clouds allow you to see them. I grew up around lovely hills, and there is a certain charm to the rolling green of West Virginia. But nothing beats the intense, hard glare of the Cascades, or the Olympics, staring down at you. It's like being watched by the gods of Mount Olympus.

As much as I'll miss the nice weather, and the morning trips to Mighty-O, I won't miss the calories. In fact, one of the big pluses of moving to Ithaca will be the relative lack of vegan junk food. Maybe my gym trips will be more than damage control, for once. (I could start running again. But the fact remains that I'd rather bench press my body weight than run. This way I'm strong enough punch whatever others are running from.)

My first step upon moving to Ithaca will be finding a good brunch place, however. Maybe I'm doomed to find unhealthy fare wherever I am. Compared to an addiction to crack or reality shows, vegan junk is pretty tame. I still imagine that Jaime would rather I had an addiction to... making tinctures, or something. Actually I don't know what she'd recommend. It'd be work, though.

Regardless, I'm taking a lot of pictures of the places I like in the next month. I'm keeping a record. When I'm miles from fried sugar I can eat, the memory can sustain me. Jaime will be sustained by the belt sizes decreasing.

ADDENDUM: I forgot that Cheese the penguin was there too. He's so quiet, Biscuit gets all the attention.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

All You Need Is A Bat, A Ball, And God's Green Earth

Pitchers and catchers report. The baseball season's spring training has officially begun. For the first time in six years, I will not see a Mariner's game for the entire year. I'm a little upset about that.

I will get to see the Triple-A Binghamton Mets. That'll be fun. But no Major League games, no Ichiro, no cheering what is likely Junior's last season. I'll have to watch online, read the Mariner's blogs, and envision green grass and cool summers in Seattle as the Mariner's roll to a probable division title and lands beyond. It's sad.

I've always rooted for professional sports teams near where I live. I watched what games were on, and didn't concern myself greatly with who won. It was about the game. It's still about the game, but years of going to the ballpark and watching and hearing the history of the Seattle Mariner's means that I am hooked. This is my team. The kids were born here, and I will always love Seattle. So, I'm a Mariner's fan.

It's like my college. I'm going to a different grad school, I've not lived in West Virginia since 2000, but I went to WVU. That's my undergrad school, so that's the college team I follow. There's no way around it.

It's different with baseball anyway. I like watching sports. I just finished a curling match (match? game? I don't even know) between the US and Japan, and I enjoyed it. Women's curling caught my attention for a few minutes. I like sports. But baseball is special. Baseball is geometry and statistics. Baseball is patience and speed. The defense controls the ball in baseball, and the pitcher and batter duel dozens of times a day. It's the greatest game in history.

And I'm going to miss my team's season.

Well, if Seattle is in the World Series, I'm flying back here. And staying in a hotel, and watching every game.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ode To American Palates: The Taco

As yon penguin here does show us
the lowly taco is more 'et
When shining vegan yummies are
easier for mine mitts to get

A stew is fine, or sushi good
a delicate salad suffice
Though when hearts yearn for olden time
vegan white trash food digests nice

Some snobbish compadres may balk
at soy meat or faux sour cream tub
I maintain the joys of my youth
In pretend fowl or fake deli sub

O! To glorious day beneath
rusty bleachers in squalid hole
Devouring what my mère sent
imagined grub of Mexico.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's The, Year Of The Tiger, It's The Thrill Of The Fight

Happy year of the tiger!

Unfortunately I couldn't find the awesome skit about Survivor that I wanted. But we did have a nice dinner with our friends Jeff and Kelly, complete with tea and Buddha's delight and mochi. It was a great deal of fun, and it reminded me of how important it is to get together and have a good time with good friends. We don't make nearly enough time for it.

Arkaedi was very impressed with the cat, and spent a part of the day chasing it around and being a general spazz. Good to know that Viri doesn't monopolize the family spazzing. When it comes to kitties, she can hold her own. "Kitty say meow! Kitty say meow! AHAHAHAHA!"

The prospect of moving has brought up the problem of friends. We have friends in Ithaca, of course, but I'm sad to leave my good friends here. We've been here six years, and between school and jobs and all, we've made some great friends. Especially our couple friends. We're at that strange age when basically all of our friends are couples. Many of them with kids. Moving so far across the country means we'll have a hard time seeing them, at least for a while. The trip from Seattle to Ithaca is going to be daunting enough with two kids, making it back here a few times a year is impossible. We may move back, certainly, but until we move I think we'll stay back east.

The move makes sense, and we need to do it. But there is a sacrifice, and I'm sad to make it. All of our friends, the kids' friends, Viri's school and social circle... they'll be sorely missed. I hope that we can meet some good friends with kids in Ithaca. I think we will, of course. But we'll miss everyone here badly. Until we find a way to come back.

Or kidnap them.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Plans©

As I obliquely hinted at with my previous post and map, we are moving across the country. I am starting a Master's program in Education at Ithaca College, NY. The one that isn't the home of Odysseus. (Funnily enough, I am sitting in Herkimer Coffee as I type this, named after Herkimer NY, a few miles up the road from Ithaca. Synchronicity!)

This is probably happening sooner than expected, due to money and schedule and other issues. It looks like we are leaving at the beginning of April, and moving slowly across the country, stopping to visit and camp. (With tents. Though we will enact a scene from Hairspray, if you like.)(I am more parenthetical when I get nervous and excited. I eat more too. Danger.)

Jaime and I are both exceedingly nervous about this. It's a big change, and an expensive one. But, for our long term careers and well being, it is necessary. We may, actually, even end up back in Seattle when the program is done. We like Seattle. My Pretty was born here. My boy has friends here. We like Seattle, and will miss it. We may find our way back. It depends on where I can find work, and what Jaime's practice looks like in New York. There are a lot of ifs, at this point.

Honestly, I'm fine with that. Through my nervousness and concern is a deeper strain of joy at the change. I always tried to learn from the experience of growing up in a horrible little town, and appreciate the greater world out there. I've lived in a fun big city, little suburbs, a college town. I've lived in two different countries, and traveled through a half dozen more. I've made an effort, at every turn, to soak up what was around me, and breathe in life. I started a family, and cared for my kids, and learned to see the world from the eyes of a little human just entered into life.

This is the next stage in that growth. I'm wise enough to be open to it, and not expect to predict it. At 33, this is a good place to be in, and I'm lucky to be here.

ADDENDUM: Case in point. I had to run to the restroom, and a couple of nice middle aged ladies watched my computer, joking with me about it. This happens a lot of places, but there is something casual about it in Seattle that I love. Jaime and I discussed it yesterday. Seattle is fleece, quiet, calm. Seattle is vegan food and no fancy dress. Seattle is polite and private. Seattle is US. I hope we do find a way to come back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crazy Plan Of The Decade

My Seattle friends will tell you that I am an expert crazy plan maker. I come up with them, and get a few steps, and the cold fist of reality smacks me back into place. I have, however, planned myself into a somewhat-less-crazy-than-usual plan, that actually seems likely to happen! It's a great, career advancing graduate program, complete with relocation and a vacation type trip!

I'm asking for some help, here. This is a map of the "return to the big east" trip, and it includes some family and friend destinations. People who I assume are okay with my cadre of four humans staying and visiting for a day or two. (Or six. Sorry Gramma and Bebe! And sorry Kacie! Your kindness is repaid with visitors!)

View Larger Map

The question I have is this: we wish to do some camping (it'll be spring) and visit some fun locales. (Fun locales for the Barker family mostly mean nature and farmer's markets.)

Any ideas? We'll be rolling across the country in April or May. Savvy, well traveled folks that my friends are, I imagine you have a better idea on this than I do. I haven't traveled over this country since returning from Japan in 2003, and I'm woefully ignorant of most of the middle of the country. And the south. And the north.

We're not positive this is all going to come together, but that's what planning is for. If we get some good ideas together, if money issues coalesce, if many ifs, we'll be making a cross country trip this spring. One can hope and dream. Dream along with me! You know you want to!

Awake And Present

Well, now I am ready to jump back into this thing. I took some time off, got my head together, and feel a lot better. To be honest, I think I was a little depressed. Which is odd for me; I'm a pretty positive and happy guy. But life events, money worries, career worries, and our little friend's accident conspired against me. Well, she's doing remarkably well and is back at the daycare, I got accepted into a great Master's program that I am incredibly excited about, and I'm feeling fine.

These next few months should be really exciting. It's getting warm, and knowing that we're most likely moving away from Seattle makes me want to go out and do all the fun things that I normally put off. I'll be going to the beaches, eating some donuts, walking around downtown, and trying to wring every last exciting moment from this city. This city that I do love, despite sometimes being frustrated with it. It's a great town, my kids were born here, vegan donuts live here. You gotta love it.

The enthusiasm with which I head back east is powerful. I'm starting a program in childhood education, which is my dream career. I moving to a nice town where I have a great friend. I'm almost sure we can make the move without going bankrupt. Almost.

I'll be back on a reasonable schedule of these posts now. Look forward to moving and planning posts, complete with maps!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Hiatus For Good And Bad Reasons

I haven't been posting lately, and there are some good and bad reasons for this. The first bad reason is one of the kids at my daycare and her big sister were in an accident and that really limited the energy and time I cared to devote to typing this blog. I was worried and upset, and I don't make much sense when I write worried and upset. I think those who know me understand the feelings I have for the kids in my care. I grow really attached to them, and I worry about them. I have nightmares about something happening to any of my kids at school, and now that it has come true it doesn't make it anything but more frightening. Thankfully she is doing better than she could have been, and we're all hoping she and her big sister come out of this okay. So, I took a break and spent my time writing old school, pen and paper style. And returned to writing more poems, which I haven't done in a while. It was gratifying, and easier than I would have thought. My love/hate relationship with my writing is especially true of my poetry. But the new stuff is fun to write, and there may be some good work there when all is said and done.

I'm going to take a few deep breaths and start working on the blog again this week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

He's Dead

Wow. Family Circus has gone round the bend.

Demographic Nightmare

I hate commercials. I hate them for all the reasons any decent, corporation detesting person hates them. But I have a special reason why I hate them. They have no ability to be relevant to me on any level. I am a moving target, and their attempts to hit me are so far off the mark as to be laughable.

There are two examples of this that I can give. One is the marketing during sporting events. There are a lot of sports fans, and the ads played during football and baseball are expensive and well researched, attempting to sell beer or vacations or other nonsense. I am impervious because I am one of the apparently few people who watch sports and neither drink nor play video games. I have no interest, and in fact I am irritated by ads for video games and alcohol. I change the channel or mute them, and sometimes avoid watching them altogether. Marketing people assume that if you watch football you also drink to excess and eat horrible snack foods and drive thru Taco Time. I do none of these things, and never will. Stop talking to me!

The other thing I enjoy watching is science fiction. This of course makes the marketing people who pigeonhole sports fans crazy, and that's fun. But the late night science fiction commercials are hawking video games, computer stuff, and sexy chat lines. There are also often disgusting junk food ads. No thank you. Please move along.

I'd love to see an ad marketed to me. It'd make heads explode. I want to hand some ad exec a form, with "vegan, sports fan, non-drinker, husband and father, socially liberal but radical politically, spiritual, hates arty and pretentious" and try and see them make an ad. It'd almost have to be a blank white screen, but then that'd be arty and pretentious.

I seriously don't think they could do it. Unless they knew my secret trump card, that despite wearing a plain t-shirt and dickies every day, I secretly long to shop for Brioni suits. And even then, how do you get the suit in a baseball stadium? Checkmate, Madison Avenue!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Healthy Snacks, Kids And The Joy Of Proportionate Response

I pride myself on providing healthy foods for the kids. I don't mean my kids only eat perfect foods, or anything. I'm not the food nazi that many of my fellow Seattlites are. And trust me in Seattle you see some real nutcases with food. My kids have an occasional doughnut from Mighty-O, or a cookie or Jaime made cupcake. Food is fun, we shouldn't flip out. And though my kids are vegan, if Viri borrows a cheese cracker and eats it on the playground I'm not going to have a fit. Life is too short.

All told, however, my kids eat well. It's not that hard. Check out the picture of Pretty Sue having lunch. Our lunch today was walnuts and carrots and hummus. They loved it. (Viri: "Look at Arkaedi going to town on her food! She's eating and eating!") I did very little. I put out some fresh organic carrots and walnuts, and popped a lid off a container of hummus from the store. It was easy. And kids love it. I don't understand why some people don't feed their children this kind of thing; unless the food nazis have inspired a reaction against it. Or parents really buy into commercials. Are either of those things true? I don't know. Try these simple meals. Kids will thank you.

I stuck black beans in the crock pot for dinner. I have the rice cooker primed. Brown rice and beans for dinner, and they'll enjoy it. It didn't take me any energy or time. I may, if I feel fancy, saute a few tofurky brats in olive oil with garlic and toss them in the pot. That'll be mostly for me.

I really hope that we can start a parent cooking class as part of Jaime's practice. It'd be really great to provide the resource, especially as a parent who isn't that much of a cook. I'd like to show them that you don't need to be a wonderful cook, just use some real veggies and whole grains and it'll end up healthy, pretty much whatever you do.

And no need to be a pretentious food nazi either. Kids who eat well won't have a heart attack if they eat a few chocolate chips either. And Mighty-O doughnuts are good for the soul.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beach Weather, Seattle Style

It wasn't pouring down the rain, so it's beach weather! When it gets a little warm, or the sun comes out for a day, we spend the entire time outside. It reminds me of why I love Seattle. The beach and the clear mountain views are the antidote to Seattle drivers, dreary days, and 4pm sunsets. They are pure medicine for the heart. I know I'll have to leave Seattle, and there will be a lot of things I don't miss. But I will miss the Puget Sound and the mountains and the beaches. They are lovely. (I'll also miss doughnuts.)

The kids had a great time running around. In the morning we went to Carkeek, and they were really excited. They had just woken up from naps in the afternoon when we went to Richmond beach, and they were a little confused. It was nice to be outside though, and they dealt with dazed post nap confusion fairly well.

I hadn't been to Richmond beach before, and I was really glad to see it. It's laid out differently from Carkeek, with the train tracks way back from the beach and a long walkway leading to the water. It reminded me of the northern California coast. If you move up from the city of a Seattle a little bit everything looks a little like northern California. I don't know why that is. I like it though; it's a great layout, with more beach grass and shrubs. It feels like there's more space than at Carkeek, even though I think Carkeek is actually bigger. Carkeek's space is behind the tracks, and Richmond's is by the beach.

This weekend, with beaches and nice weather, made me ready for the spring and summer. I'm not even sure where I'll be, but I hope I can enjoy some of the Seattle spring at least before we move. Ideally I'd like to be here this summer and spend the days in the parks, and driving up Rainier again. But we'll see where needs take us. I do know that regardless of what happens I will always have a warm place in my heart for the natural beauty around here. Nothing compares to it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Arkaedi Sue Arrested

This is a mug shot taken earlier today when Arkaedi Sue (aka Pretty Princess, Pretty Pretty, Little Beef) was taken into custody for multiple counts of extreme cuteness. She was wrapped up in pajamas and brought home at approximately 8pm, Seattle time.

Here she is wearing bear ears in a blatant attempt to be cute. The pink dress is icing on the cuteness cake. Her father has been arrested as an accessory to the dress crime. (Not pictured: really cute tights and even cuter pink boots.) This photo was taken at the PRC, where she purportedly engages in multiple acts of cuteness a day.

Below she is seen using her cuteness to destroy Ariel, which is either a crime or not vegan. It is unsure what she is attempting in this photo, but judging by Ariel's hair, it can't be good. Ariel is just one of many long haired dolls gazed at cutely in her two years of crime.

This known menace to society is now safely under house arrest. When reached for comment she threw the phone down on the ground, then could be heard in the distance saying, "My nice! My nice!" A plea of not guilty by reason of red hair will be entered on her behalf.