Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shane Claiborne, a (long) letter of apology.

Shane Claiborne is someone that I look up to. He often puts things into practice that I only dream about or aspire to. He's also very good at putting things into words, things that often get all jumbled up in my heart and in my head.

If you've got a few moments, I recommend reading the entire letter. It's full of apology, God, and dirt.

Gage, It's All in His Name

Heidi and I have gotten pretty good at choosing names for our children. We worked out a system that had stages. The first stage was kind of the brainstorming stage. We both took a separate pad of paper and just started a long list of every name we liked. We then compared the two lists for similarities. Sure, there was some arguing still. I was over ruled on Roland and Otis every time I tried to sneak them in.

With Gage, we never really got past that brainstorming list. Heidi had written the name down, I had not. But, as I read over her list, the name really clicked for me. There was a small, sly voice in the back of my mind reminded me that there was a tragic Gage character in Stephen King's novel, Pet Sematary. "We are seriously considering naming our child after a character in a horror novel," the sly little voice said gleefully. I chose not to voice this little tidbit out loud. As we discussed it, and the name was moved toward the top of the list of potentials, another small voice inside wondered if using such a name wasn't a bad omen of sorts.

I beginning to wonder that myself. I won't give away any major plot points from King's novel, but our Gage does exhibit some of the fictional Gage's more tragic attributes.

Now that I'm the stay-at-home parent, it seems like Gage is constantly causing me to question my parental abilities. He's always trying to do something dangerous. I think our first born son, Owen may have given me a false sense of security. He rarely endangered himself.

It's kind of like Gage has read the handbook on ways that children can have household accidents. It's like he has this to-do list that he's testing me with, and I'm failing a bit.

In reality, he's really a lot like my brother Bob. Gage enjoys the outdoors, wrestling, exploring, getting dirty. We haven't lost track of him only to find him inside the dog house sharing a dog food meal yet. He also hasn't found his way into my garage and doused his clothing in gasoline (both things my brother pulled off as a two year old), but I surely wouldn't be surprised by either incident. He's also like Bob in that Gage is a bit of a Mama's boy especially when his Mama is around.

I can't wait until he's a daredevil teenager, skydiving off of tall buildings with a bungie cord and hover board. Oh, they'll totally have hover boards by then. And Michigan will likely be part of New Canada, but I'm getting off topic…

My point being, I think this kid will always need extra attention. I'm sure I'll be up worrying more about adventurous Gage than bookworm Owen. It may be hard to tell sometimes, but I am equally happy to have a kid that stretches my abilities and another that is easy to handle.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Potential

I'm up late. I think I do some of my best writing when I'm tired, and everyone else is fast asleep. The house is quiet. My emotions often run more sentimental.

Thanksgiving is less than a week away. "The Holidays" are officially under way. There's great potential in the next few weeks: potential to forge fond memories, potential to relax and enjoy the love of family, and the potential to utterly disappoint ourselves when the first two outcomes don't show.

Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday. We tend to worship food. It kind of opens the flood gates of temptation for the holidays that follow. Beyond the food, I think we hunger for the warm family connection. We take the day off. We come together with some set of regular family or friend oriented group. Typically we all prepare something to add to the feast. We look forward to catching up with one another, putting our feet up, and hopefully walking away with the feeling that the day was special.

I know that all of these things are possible. I've experienced them. Not always in the same Thanksgiving, but sometimes the elements are all aligned. You find yourself not wanting to go home at the end of the evening. You find yourself ready and raring for Christmas gatherings so you can feel some of these things again.

It seems like things always fell into place when I was a kid. We'd have to travel to two different houses, two different feasts so both sides of the family could celebrate with us. In one twenty-four hour period we'd visit with all of our aunts and uncles, both sets of grandparents, and every cousin. We'd run and play until the feast was complete, and then we'd pause to break bread together. We'd eat like kings with our own special table away from the adults. Shortly after, we'd feast again on desserts that only seemed to appear for this occasion. Then we'd run and play again until we were exhausted. Our parents carrying us to the car, eventually tucking us into bed. As we'd drift off to sleep, we were left with this great sense of family, of belonging.

I remember the first time my father and my uncles invited me to play games with them. For more than eighteen years I'd watched as they'd play poker, euchre, and Statego. On my nineteenth Thanksgiving, I was allowed to sit in, and I did great. I kept up with euchre despite the fact that they appeared to be playing some lightning version I'd never seen before. I also dominated the map with Stratego, a game I'd never played prior (or since). I left that night feeling like I'd arrived at adulthood.

So, I sit here tonight, much like I've done in recent years, with Thanksgiving quickly approaching. I have this yearning for this year to be a memorable one, but I'm doubtful. In recent years, Thanksgiving hasn't left me with much to carry away and remember. True, I have kids now. You'd think that alone would supply me with plentiful memories, but it hasn't. Instead I'm left with memories of rushing around, trying to get little people ready. We often have to eat multiple meals, but they're often rushed. Instead of fond memories of feasting, I remember being overly full and pressured to eat. Instead of fond memories, I remember hoping in vain for something to click into place leaving us with those feelings of family and bonding. But nothings been clicking during these recent Thanksgiving celebrations. I'm left feeling more like we've just had a few good dinners where I over ate and barely spoke to my family. It's disappointing, and a bit scary to think about as I sit here right now. I wonder if it was like this for my parents.

But I'm not giving up. I intend to go in armed this year. Sure, I was somewhat armed last year, armed with dreams of praying over my entire family - saying something that clicks things into place. I'll admit it. I chickened out. But I might not this year. I might find the right words this time around… and if I don't, I plan on taking board games. Those have been missing in recent years. True, it's hard to get anyone interested in playing. Everyone else seems to be rushing to other events too. But I'm going to try again this year, maybe not for me. Maybe for my kids, so they can not only be thankful, but so they can actually feel that feeling of belonging to a family.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What to Expect

This will be hard to pin down.

I consider myself a very spiritual person. I also love horror movies. Being a father is one of the greatest parts of my life. I'm married. That alone could send me into a rant on any given day.

I've been called a lot of things over the years: Crazy, eccentric, funny, strange, scary, humble, liberal, harsh… My wife often calls me a jerk. In college, I had a friend tell me that I was a walking contradiction in my Ozzy jean jacket and khaki dress pants. I could go on.

I've also been told that I do alright at writing. More than one college professor tried to derail my dream of becoming a graphic artist in favor of writing. They were the good college professors too, the ones I respected because they were difficult. You know, the ones that caused panic when their names showed up on a class schedule?

I guess, if you throw all of this in a blender, you might expect a mess. I'll fight hard not to turn this into a mess. Perhaps if it gets too complicated, I'll turn this one blog into two in hopes of separating some of the subject matter. For now, it will fall victim to my various whims.

Life is a wild ride, hopefully a good story, and rarely static. Come along if you want. I'll share a bit with you, if you'll have me.


I lost my job slowly staring in November of 2008. It's kind of a long, drawn out story that had a lot more twists and turns than anyone could have predicted in the beginning.

I (very happily) worked for the local newspaper as a graphic artist in advertising. At that time, many newspapers were going out of business. Ours did not, but they did cut back on the number of days that they publish. This meant fewer days for published obituaries, something that would normally run every single day.

The local television news companies pounced on this opportunity, and you can now quickly read local obituaries on television specific times throughout the day. In the beginning, these obituaries got a bit ridiculous. They were showing them, what seemed like, once an hour.

One day, as I was pontificating my possible new career paths with some of my also soon to be unemployed co-workers, I started talking about how the local tv stations were all acting like ravenous dogs now that our paper was less of a thorn in their side. I kept exclaiming, rather loudly, "Bam! Obituaries." It seemed like you'd just get done watching a tv show and BAM! They'd be showing those obituaries again.

Someone pointed out that I should start a blog containing all of my daily rants and musings so they could keep up on my banter after "the end" came. They said I should call it 'Bam! Obituaries.' That made me laugh, which means I was sold on the idea.