Give Me Everything in the Bowl and No One Gets Hurt

I have this funny habit of questioning stuff. I’ve found it a useful thing to do, but it has, admittedly, earned me an eye roll or three over the years, particularly from certain members of my family. More than a couple times I have been told to lighten up.

From time to time I have questioned aloud on this blog, but more often than not I keep the stuff I post on here to winsome parenting stories and other utter ridiculousness, with some attempts at creative thought chucked in. Sometimes the questions become too loud and I need to exorcise the demons by subjecting them to others. That’s where you come in.

Well, ‘tis the season for one of my ponderings to stick in my frontal cortex and I need to go ahead and let this one out. This isn’t to cast judgment, mind you thoughtful reader, but instead to maybe inspire further thought. I’m sure to inspire some contempt – and I’m ok with that – but I’m shooting for thought.

Here’s the thing – what the hell is with trick or treating?

Let me start by saying this very clearly in preemptive response to the pillow case full of fun size comments that will inevitably say I’m a killjoy or commie or hater or Scientologist – I GET IT. I get that Halloween is just supposed to be a good time. I get that being a kid is supposed to be fun. I get the importance of creating happy memories without getting too balled up about making good choices. And I get that parents get fired up about jacking half of their kids’ candy.

I get fun.

I trick or treated when I was a kid. I dressed up. I begged for candy. And, yes, I loved it AND turned out relatively normal.

Also, I must be clear that I’m not calling out the whole of Halloween – just this trick or treating business.

This isn’t to throw my wet blanket statement out there that all trick or treating is bad and no one should do it. Though, the argument that kids should do it because it’s fun is ridiculous. I bet stringing two Slip ‘N’ Slides together and attaching one end to the roof of a two-story house would be pretty fun, too.

But when you break down this time-honored tradition, it just seems so damn odd.

Consider, kids dress up in costumes once a year and rove through their neighborhood, going door to door and demanding candy. Should the demands not be met, a “trick” is to be expected.

So, our impressionable youth are given the green light to disguise themselves and hold the neighborhood hostage for candy under the threat of vandalism.

What the hell?

Granted, that may be a bit hyperbolic and overly dramatic, but isn’t that essentially the story?

A byproduct of this whole parenting thing for me has been a nagging habit of considering what I am teaching my children in pretty much every situation. It has led me to (over)analyze a great many things that I have never before given a second thought to.

Like stupid ass trick or treating, for example.

If you, kind reader, will stop rolling your eyes for just a moment, allow me to explain. While I think this is funny, I also think it’s important.

My issues with trick or treating can all be found in a simple description thereof:

Trick or treating is going door to door demanding candy from strangers.

That is an accurate statement, no? Now, my points of contention:

First point of contention – going door to door DEMANDING candy from strangers. I spend at least 37 hours every day trying to teach my children to be polite, to be considerate, and to always, always, ALWAYS say “please”. Trick or treating includes none of those things. I don’t know about you, but my kids are not terribly adept at context or nuance yet and I’m not sure what message is sent when bold entitlement is not only acceptable, but celebrated on this one night. Have you experienced the slightly older kid getting a little pushy and a lot rude when they showed up with their open candy bag at your door? Yeah, me neither.

Second point of contention – going door to door demanding CANDY from strangers. When my wife and I aren’t trying to instill courtesy and manners, we are trying to teach our kids about nutrition and how to take care of their bodies. Food is fundamental. Candy is friggin’ poison. You know what day is most teachers’ least favorite day of the year? The day after Halloween. You know why? Yeah, me too.

It’s only once a year, you say? I don’t buy that. When we teach our kids something is ok even once, it then becomes ok. Again, kids aren’t good at nuance.

Third point of contention – going door to door demanding candy from STRANGERS. When I went trick or treating we were only allowed to keep things that were in unopened wrappers. Why? Because there was a valid concern that the wonderful neighbor who smiled at your ninja princess costume and happily bestowed a “treat” into your pillow case may have sunk a razor blade into that apple or pumped arsenic and whale semen into those raisins. Well, that’s comforting. Yes, Bobby, you can have that Snicker’s bar and remember to say ‘thank you’, but don’t linger too long or you might get poisoned or raped.

I might feel different about the knocking on all the neighbors’ doors if I thought that everyone had pure, kind intentions, but I’m not an idiot. And there is a convicted sex offender that lives just down the street from me. I wonder what he’s got for the kids this year?

So, those are my thoughts. I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do – I have a hard enough time making my own decisions. My hope is that decisions are made based on thought and reason, not just tradition.

I would love to hear other opinions of trick or treating. Agree or disagree, I would love to hear why and what you do differently.

If you just want me to shut up, I get that, too. Luckily for you, my kids will only be of trick or treating age for a few more years and I can start getting all pent up about other stuff like why all costumes for women are the slutty version of whatever they have decided to be. Like this slutty body bag, for example.

Happy Halloween, y’all.

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On Opportunities and Being a Parent

I guess this is going to be a theme around here for a while.

When you step back and look at the whole forest that is life, I guess this is something of a theme all around us all the time, for everyone.

The girls have been very emotional the last two days. Little things set them off. And I don’t blame them.

Yesterday Rainbow Pony was drawing a picture for her mommy and wanted to make an envelope to put it in. The roll of paper was coming undone and the scissors wouldn’t cut quite right and she just couldn’t remember what the next step was and it was all very upsetting. She threw the paper down and sat on the craft room floor and cried. Her shoulders slumped forward and her head dropped and she just cried. I don’t think she really knew why she felt so sad, but she did.

This morning Bug forgot her goggles for swimming day at school. The school has other goggles and she doesn’t really need them anyway, but today the idea of forgetting her own goggles was just too much to take. She cried and cried at the door of her classroom. She couldn’t bring herself to walk into the classroom and, once she did, she reached her hand out to me like she was drowning under the weight of it all. And that is probably exactly how she felt.

Just two days ago we found out that our dog, Jasmine, isn’t going to be around much longer. She is part of our family in every sense of the word and this has had a heavy impact on all of us. As hard as this is on Holly and me, we are the adults and have the tools and perspective to process what we are feeling. Our daughters don’t. They haven’t experienced loss yet in their young lives. They don’t really get it.

It’s our job as their parents to help them through this.

There is nothing more natural than death. All of us have and will experience death over and over throughout our lives. And it’s never easy. As omnipresent as it is, the permanency and physical absence that death lays on those of us left behind changes us and moves us to emotion that we struggle to process.

There is no indifference to death. There is no getting used to death.

For children, this burden is weighted further by a lack of understanding and an inability to contextualize what they are feeling. We have talked with the girls about death before this and tried to explain it in terms they can understand, but how do you explain forever? They may be able to put their thoughts into words, but what children can’t hold on to tends to float away. The theoretical world doesn’t work for them. It’s like trying to explain infinity.

These feelings that they can’t escape and can’t explain, then, manifest in ways they do understand. Rainbow Pony couldn’t make the envelope. Bug forgot her goggles. They get that. The emotion that becomes attached to those things within their grasp then becomes the outlet for the river of unexplainable sadness associated with the impending loss of their furry sister.

We can’t take that sadness away from them anymore than we can take the cancer away from our dog. What we can do is help them through their suffering just like we can help Jasmine through hers.

Yes, this is going to suck. And, yes, we can make it all right.

Holly said this morning that, in a very strange way, there is a gift in all of this, a gift for those of us left behind. We have the opportunity to say goodbye. We have the chance to sit with Jas and talk to her and rub her butt and not take one more second for granted. We can be very conscious of the gift that this dog has been to all of us. We can be present with her and be reminded to appreciate all of the gifts in our lives. The people, the animals, the cool autumn mornings, the sand between our toes, the music, the smell of home-cooked meals, the warm showers, everything.

We can ease her suffering as the days go on and teach our daughters about selfless love. We can show them that our time here is limited and that every second is precious. We can tell them stories about her and let them know that a loved one never really leaves you completely, that even when the physical is gone, the memories are still there. And slowly and with our help, our daughters will be able to put all of this in terms that they can understand.

The tears and the anger and the confusion are going to come. And Jasmine is going to get worse. As parents, Holly and I have the responsibility – and the opportunity – to help them all through it, to hold them and love them and tell them it is all going to be ok even when we don’t feel like it is.

There’s a lot to this life. And there is a lot to being a parent. It isn’t always easy or pretty and sometimes it hurts. Through it all, though, I am grateful for the opportunities.

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How Things Change

Sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to.

Sometimes things happen that remind you that there aren’t any absolutes. Sometimes your plans have to change and your hopes have to hope for something new. That’s just how it is. You have to change along with it because there’s nothing else you can do. Sometimes you’re going to take one in the gut. Sometimes it won’t seem fair.

Some things are hard to explain. Sometimes you get a call from the vet telling you that your dog has fucking cancer.

I’m still not quite sure what to do with all of it just yet. As I sit here, it’s just been a couple hours since I found out. I’m just going to keep typing because I don’t really want to reread what I just wrote.

I’ve been so excited to be able to spend more time with her now that the girls are in school. We had talked about maybe finding a house with some land and how great it would be for her to really be able to just run unbound, as opposed how it is in the fenced-in suburban square she has now. And Holly had been able to start walking with her in the mornings again, just the two of them.

Wish in one hand, and all that.

I’ve cried hard about this, but I understand where it is all supposed to fit into life. As much as dogs become our family, they are still dogs and we’re people. There’s a natural separation regardless of the real connections that can exist. As my wife and I sat in the waiting room at the vet’s tonight, the local news on the tv was showing a story about a rape on a college campus and another about two men who had died in a house fire and another about Syria. I couldn’t help but think about how those people or their families felt today. The world is full of tragedy and suffering. And I will admit that one of the first thoughts I had, even while listening to the vet say things like cancer and amputate and maybe nine months, was “thank god this isn’t about one of the girls.”

Still, it is about one of my girls. My first girl, in fact. And she’s only eight. Her name is Jasmine and she is a big, ol’ smiling Rottweiler. She’s a great dog. She’s mellow and sweet and takes care of her family. She loves sleeping in the tub. She would give anything to go for a walk with my wife or get scratched on the ass.

This isn’t supposed to happen yet.

But it has happened. My dog has cancer. Bone cancer and it’s going to be very difficult. For my wife and me who have had her since she was weeks old. For my daughters who haven’t known a day without her. And most significantly, for her.

She is going to suffer, which is the worst part to think about, and then she will be gone. And it’s going to have to be ok because that’s how life works. And it will be ok, because that’s how life works.

And we will do the best that we can with it. We will make her feel as comfortable and as loved as we can through this (we already have a family trip to the pet store planned to get her new beds and the girls want to get her new dolls to play with). We will take the opportunity to practice appreciating what we do have and the gift she has always been. And we will get to take the last eight years with us forever.

That is the joy that lurks somewhere under the surface of all loss.

I’ve been thinking a lot tonight of my dog when I was a kid, a wonderful mutt named Bear. We got him when I was four or five years old and he was without a doubt my best friend. I played by myself a lot as a kid, which is to say that Bear and I were always together. We grew up together. Then I went off to college and Bear got old and sick. After I left he didn’t eat much and he slept most of the time. Then one weekend I came home to visit and Bear got up, he even played with me in the yard a bit. I went out with some friends that night and came home late. When I got home Bear was on the front lawn, his breath was shallow and he was clearly not doing well. I sat down and he lifted his head up just enough to put it on my lap. I pet him and talked to him and just sat for a very long time.

Bear died that night. I still believe that he waited for me to come home before he went.

And more than twenty years later I still think of Bear and still talk about him often. He was – and is – a very special part of my life.

Jasmine doesn’t have much time left with us, but she too will always be a special part of our lives. We are so fortunate to have had a dog like her in our family. I think she knows that, but we will make sure she feels it while we are still blessed to call her our dog.

I still wish she didn’t have fucking cancer, though.

I’m gonna go pet my dog for a while.

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Telling Stories and Going Nowhere

I like to tell stories. Most of them start somewhere, figure out where they are and then go somewhere else. A beginning, a middle and an end. Someone does something, sometimes to themselves, sometimes to others. Big dramatic things happen. Or they don’t. And in between a bunch of mundane shit passes by.

I watched Rainbow Pony sitting on her grandma’s living room floor tonight. She was telling stories, too. Cross legged, she was surrounded by dolls and bedroom sets. She would pick up one doll, then another. She would search around for the little black haired one or the mermaid or the one in the purple gown and her hands would strain to hold all she needed.

And she would talk for them. I tried to listen to their stories, but I didn’t want to intrude. I knew she wasn’t done writing them yet and maybe she didn’t want to share. But I still tried. Tiny dishes and hair brushes waited to be worked into the plot. Overdressed dolls with glowing eyes lay scattered about and waited, too, without blinking or breaking their painted on smiles. The lucky ones that Pony could hold on to during this act moved between naps on various levels of the castle open in front of her and sitting around on the ground floor. The conversation circled around the sunny day and a comparison of ages. Small talk and mundane shit seems to pass by here, too.

Her stories, like mine, often go nowhere. She was clearly more comfortable with that than I usually am. I want progression. I want the stories to climb and then tumble back down. I want edges and angles and I want to see life.

Then again, life itself sometimes goes nowhere, if at times only for a moment or two.

Nowhere is where so much of the real stories reside. That’s where the dirt is, the real stuff, the honesty in between the dramatic moments. Nowhere may not be what we always remember, but it’s the stuff that sticks everything else together. Real life is made up of naps and bowls of cereal strung between blasts of drama. Life never stops and neither do stories, we have just decided to only retell certain parts.

But maybe Rainbow Pony is on to something. Maybe those stories should be told. There is depth in all characters beyond their bright eyes, weighty monologues and purple dresses. Maybe that depth can become clearer if we spend more time in the in between space.  Maybe there is more to find, more to tell.

I watched her tonight and thought of all the times I have learned from her and her sister. I thought that I was again watching the simplicity of a child exploring her world, putting it in her own terms, telling her stories in her own way and, by doing so, finding a clearer understanding of my own life and my own writing. I sat quietly there, just watching, my daughters playing, my family talking in the other room, football going ignored on the tv in the background, and felt like I was watching our story go into that nowhere place that could be so much more.

Then she got up. The dolls fell where she dropped them and lay staring into nothing. The castle sat quiet. She looked around for just a second and then just walked away, going nowhere in particular. She had lost interest in her story.

Those in between moments are the stuff that takes up space between compelling life. As characters in the story, we have to find balance in the in between. We can’t live always in the dramatic. And, while watching Rainbow Pony tell a story that went nowhere led me into my own thoughts that I found interesting, the scene itself probably wasn’t interesting.

There are many stories to tell, but not all of them should be told. As much as I want to dissect and digest the human experience in my own writing, I need to remember that I never did like Jane Austen’s books, stories should go somewhere and the mundane shit should be allowed to just pass by.

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My Stupid, Helpful Back

I have been a cranky bastard lately.

Two weeks ago I threw my back out. I shudder even typing the words “threw my back out.” It itself is a statement that implies something altogether different than that sum of words suggests. While you might assume that it would mean a problem with my back specifically, what that phrase actually communicates about me is that I startle easily at loud noises, frequently send soup back in restaurants and probably need an afghan for my legs when I go to the theatre. You can catch your death in there, you know.

Not to say that folks with chilly legs are necessarily feeble. After all, who am I to judge? Drill sergeants can have poor circulation, too, I’m sure.

But “throwing my back out” feels pretty feeble. I didn’t even get to do anything cool like lift a rolled over ice cream truck off the neighborhood kids or pull several unconscious workers out through a hole in the roof of a burning fireworks factory. No, when asked how I did it, all I could say was “I was sitting in a chair and turned funny to reach something”. The sad part is I’m not even sure I was reaching for something, I may have just “turned funny.”

Saying that I was reaching for something was actually an attempt to butch it up, it seems. Good lord.

That’s where I’ve been. For two weeks I have walked gingerly, sat uncomfortably and tried desperately to find a peaceful position in which to sleep. I haven’t been able to lift my kids up. I have carried groceries into the house one bag at a time. I have pet my dog only when she finds her way to my hand when I manage to get into one of my half dozen awkward seated positions.

I’ve generally been pretty pathetic. And it has made me a cranky bastard.

But I’m trying.

I’m trying to get the lesson out of this. While I have done my best to learn the lessons in humility and appreciation that parenthood has to teach, this whole back thing is taking that to another level. The universe must feel I have some more learning to do on the subjects.

I am accustomed to being the Bearer of Heavy Stuff around here. I scoop up my kids in each hand and I lift furniture. I don’t tire and I don’t become over burdened. I ask no quarter for I am the Dad.

Except for now, kids, because if you jump on daddy he might make that wretched little sound like a lonely seal pup who was separated from his mama.

It’ll get better, I’m sure. Until then I’m going to keep trying (and failing and trying again) to appreciate what I have and what I can do. It’s hard being so limited when you are used to having so much. I am blessed with abundance and the sense of entitlement that I clearly have attached to that abundance is pretty disgusting.

I mean, what exactly do I have to be whining about?

I can still walk, albeit slowly at times. I can choose to lay on either a couch or a bed in a house with a roof and air conditioning. I have a hot water bottle that I can fill up with piping hot water that comes straight out of a tap every single time I turn it on. I am surrounded by endlessly caring and selfless people who help me do whatever I can’t and remind me that I am loved. I have an in-house doctor, whom I call my wife, who takes better care of me than I probably deserve lately.

And I have children who tell me it’s okay when I apologize to them for being a cranky bastard.

It’s not really so bad being feeble, I guess. All of this gawky stooping and reactive bellowing and shuffling about has been good for the old perspective. But I still can’t friggin wait for my back to get better.

image credit

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A Post About Connection and Gratitude

I’ve written about this idea in one way or another quite a few times now, but it’s certainly one that bears repeating. And it’s one that has been wrapping me up in a big ol’ poncho of wonderfulness over the last few days, so why not write about it again?

There is, indeed, a lot in this world to be concerned about, to be sad about, to be spit-bubblingly pissed about these days. It’s a bunch of bullshit, I know.

But, really, it’s not.

The thing is, there’s more to be happy about, more to find beauty in, and more to love. We are surrounded by infinite abundance. We are walking, glowing balls of radiant energy. We have so much to celebrate.

Life is a gift, despite all the signs that seem to say otherwise. At least it can be, if you can keep in mind what really matters.

I have been reminded of this a lot lately. And I have been reminded so much that the people with whom we have connected are what make this journey what it is. It is those connections – our families, our friends, everybody – that provide our lives with depth and brilliance.

My life is better because of the people in it. So is yours. Simple.

Call this a gratitude post.

Last Sunday my wife and I walked back in the door from an amazing moment in our lives. Not only did we get to spend an entire weekend together on a magical and seemingly deserted island by ourselves, but we got to do so while celebrating our tenth anniversary. To think that I have been with her for ten years now is staggering. This is a person without whom I could not breathe and with whom I am more in love now than I ever have been. I cried a bunch.

Grateful.

So, when we walk in the house I see a card from one of my oldest and closest friends. He was my roommate in college and has been right there with me ever since. We’ve been through a lot as we have really grown up together. This man is my brother in every sense of the word short of biological. I figured the card was an invitation or something of the sort. Then I opened it to find a note acknowledging the passing of twenty years since we became friends and the significance that friendship holds. Such a simple, yet beautifully moving thought. I cried when I read it and when I called him.

Grateful.

Last night I sat down at the computer and found posted the TED talk (linked down below) by another old friend who has had a terribly significant impact on my life. His is a life dedicated to spreading love. As a prolific participator in the online world (and life itself, for that matter), he has walked the path of something of a love shaman. In the talk, he tells his story of gratitude, of his grandfather and of his path. It is wonderfully moving stuff, as his contributions to our collective consciousness always are. Take the time out of your day to watch the video. I did twice. Cried both times.

Grateful.

Tonight my wife and I went to our girls’ school for a kind of open house. While open houses are usually not on the list of parents’ favorite things to do, this school is a special place. It’s a Montessori school, which I think is a beautiful method of educating children, and it is a very warm place to be physically, but that isn’t really why it’s so special. It’s the people. Every day I know that my daughters are safe, respected and deeply loved. And my girls know it, too. Tonight it was the parents’ turn to explore the classrooms, learn the lessons and talk with the teachers. As impressed as I was with the structure and curriculum, though, I was overwhelmed by the teachers. They glow with love and enthusiasm for our children. I cried at least 4 times.

Grateful.

The details of life on this big, complicated rock sometimes can overshadow what really matters and make you forget to look with your heart, not your eyes. This last week I was fortunate enough to be given some wonderful reminders.

Life isn’t about money or politics or stuff. It’s not about schedules or accomplishments or diversions. Life is about love. And love is the people that are all around us.

I am so fortunate to have experienced all of the connections I have in my life. As I continue on this journey, I am finding a deeper understanding of and greater access to all the beauty, love and happiness that life can bring. It feels real and permanent in a world that can often seem anything but. None of that exists without the people in my life.

And for that I am grateful.

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On My Own Content and Value

I’m exactly like everyone else.

I run, walk and sit through my days. I think about stuff. I worry about big and little shit and then I remember that worrying is a complete waste of time. I try to do the best that I can. I love myself and I bash my own brains in. I love everyone around me and I get annoyed and want to be left the hell alone. I make a bunch of mistakes. And I also don’t.

I want to do things. The altruistic me wants to leave the world a better place than I found it. The ego me wants to leave my mark. In the end, I’m not sure how much different those two things are, but I’m shooting for the former because I’m trying to strip away the latter. Like everything else, I think it all just comes down to perspective and intent.

I am not here for me. I am here to serve. And love. And provide. And create positive change where I think I can.

(That is a lot of “I” for someone who is trying to strip away ego, methinks – another post for another day)

The window of opportunity has opened for me to work on these things where I think can serve. And love. And provide. And create positive change.

So, the time to do these things I want to do is here. My intent and perspective have created a vision and mapped out a path and now, with these extra few hours a day with my daughters in school, I am stepping down that path. Now vision must become creation.

I have learned a lot over the last few years and I think that information can be valuable. To share what I have gained I am writing a cookbook, a gluten free health and lifestyle website, children’s books, and several other things. I’m also going to be teaching cooking classes and doing some instructional videos. Those are the basics. Under the surface bubbles much more. I think I can help people to be healthier and happier and to create positive change in their own lives.

With that, I’m thinking a lot lately about content and value. Those wonderful buzz words that have been spun to a point of losing all meaning.

But what do they mean to me?

Where do I fit into all of this? Won’t I just be sharing information that people can get somewhere else? How will my content be any different? What of value can I offer people?

And how do I define my own meaning in all of this?

I’m going to just call those rhetorical questions because I don’t have good answers for them yet. Or maybe they don’t need answers (you know, being rhetorical and all).

We are all in this together. If I or anyone else can extend a hand and help another then that’s what we should do. I have been on this strange and beautiful rock for quite a while now (my grey hair and the hot water bottle on my aching lower back remind me of that), all the while experiencing and learning and stuff. The real question becomes what to do with all of that stuff.

The lessons I have taken from my unique path through this life are my content. Sharing those lessons, then, become my value.

I am exactly like everyone else, with all the same beauty and ugliness, wisdom and naivety. The only differences between us are in our paths. It is from my path that I have learned lessons that can be of value to others. And it is from these lessons that I can build my own unique content and continue to serve and love and provide and create positive change.

Now, onward…..

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And You Will Know Me by the Nickname I Just Picked Out for Myself

As the half dozen or so of you who have read these parental ramblings may know, I have always referred to my daughters on the blog by their nicknames – Bug and Lemon. I like their nicknames. Not too saccharine, but they’re not going to be mistaken for prison gang members, either (despite the harsh reprisals doled out on each other when one of them breaks the Kid Code. Snitches end up in ditches, you know). And I actually call them both by those names, so it feels natural when I’m writing about them.

Well, I have been informed that some changes are in order.

Lemon announced recently that she doesn’t want to be called Lemon anymore. Fair enough, I guess. As nicknames go, she certainly could have ended up with a better one, but I’ve definitely heard worse. Case in point, I am still known to more than a couple of people I went to college with as Doo Doo. Yep, I’m the nearly 40 year old man who answers to ‘Doo Doo’. ‘Lemon’ doesn’t strike me as too much of a burden.

Nevertheless, my little girl doesn’t want to be my little Lemon anymore. As much as I will miss it, though, the logistics won’t be too much of a challenge. I call Lemon all kinds of different names, so subbing the others in more regularly will be easy. Were it Bug that decided to opt out, that would be tougher as that is about all I call her. And ‘bug’ has that whole monosyllabic thing going for it, whereas ‘lemon’ is a bit gawkier, a name I’m less likely to land on in a pinch.

Compare:

“Could you please untie your sister, Bug?”

Versus

“Why is the dog wearing my pants, Lemon?”

See what I mean? ‘Lemon’ just doesn’t have the same flow.

So, with a semi-heavy heart, I will be retiring ‘Lemon’, which means that I’m going to change what I call her on the blog, too. It just seems like the right thing to do. After all, I imagine she will read these one afternoon 20 years from now when she’s bored out of her skull because none of her friends are returning her calls and the tv, computer and personalized holographic music festival imaginificator aren’t working. And I don’t want her to call me at my clothing-optional, assisted living beach in Costa Rica wondering why I didn’t honor her wishes those many years ago. I mean, that could really ruin the overall mood of the intergalactic pancake social my wife and I will be attending that day.

(The future is going to be awesome)

Rather than just picking a random new name for her to use on the blog (and despite my unwavering opposition to picking one’s own nickname – ALWAYS a bad idea), I decided to ask her what she thought it should be. I suggested a simple transition to another fruit like apple or pomelo, but that was quickly shot down. “It has to be an animal”, she said in her best I-want-to-do-everything-exactly-like-my-sister accent. Cool, I thought. There are some great animal nicknames. Grizzly Bear, I said? No. Spider? No. Zebu? Monkey? Hippo (my personal favorite)? No. No. No.

“So, what do you want me to call you when I write about you then, Lemon?”

“DON’T CALL ME LEMON!!”

“Right. Sorry. So, what do you want me to call you when I write about you?”

“Rainbow Pony.”

“Rainbow Pony?”

“Rainbow Pony.”

“OK, but don’t you think it would be sweet to be called….”

“RAINBOW PONY!”

And she has spoken.

Lady and gentleman, the Daughter Formerly Known as Lemon will hereby be called Rainbow Pony. Make a note of it.

Then again, she’s four, so this will all probably change tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

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Casting My Vote

I’ve spent the last few years changing directions politically.

I have always been a pretty heavy left leaner, always identifying myself as a liberal even though I rarely personally identified with the Democrats, the de facto liberal party. In my circle of friends I have played the role of the tree hugging, people hugging, justice-for-all, let-love-rule radical hippie. While I have voted for members of both parties (and third party candidates) in smaller elections, I have never voted for a Republican in national elections. I railed against Dubya and what I saw as his fascist regime. And I cried tears of joy when Obama was elected, thinking that hope and change may have, indeed, come.

Then he started appointing his cabinet and my descent into disillusionment began. That’s when I started to really examine my own beliefs about this country and politics and history. Though I have always considered myself a student of history, I am embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until then that I truly began to think critically about history and all that falls under that umbrella term. The more I read and the more I learned, the more disillusioned I became. I had bought into hope and change and all I was seeing was a lot of the same old thing.

You know, here comes the new boss, same as the old boss.

We’ve been hoodwinked, I concluded. We’ve been sold a lie to keep the rich rich, to keep the oil flowing, to keep the bombs exploding. We, the masses, have been kept complacent by sparkly distractions, manipulation and disinformation.

Feeling angry and hopeless, I began proclaiming that I was done with it, that I would no longer participate in the puppet show. I decided I would no longer vote. What was the point?

This isn’t to say that I decided to just curl myself into the corner and passively wait for the coming apocalypse. I chose to, instead, turn all of that energy inward. If my vote isn’t going to change the system, as I had naively believed, then I would change what I could from where I stood as one of the masses. I would move the mountain one pebble at a time by living a life of love and kindness and humanity and justice.

I can’t change the world, but I can change my world. I can make my little corner a better place. I can be the change that I want to see.

While born of pessimism and anger initially, this political shift I experienced has had a profoundly positive effect on my life. I do live a life dedicated to love and seeking to positively affect all around me and I am a happier person because of it. I believe that I am making the world a better place now.

This morning I walked my daughters into their third full day of school. I watched them through the window and couldn’t help but think of all that lay ahead of them. They have embarked upon their own journey into the world and each day that passes from now on they will be more their own than they will be mine. It has been a pretty significant week around here.

Their future has some dark clouds on the horizon, as do all of ours. As Americans and as human beings, we have some very difficult choices to make in the very near future. My understanding of that fact, I think, is at the root of my disillusionment with our leaders. The status quo is not sustainable, but who is going to lead us in a very necessary new direction?

Watching my girls through the window this morning I realized something else, though. Something I hadn’t thought about in regards to all of this political bullshit and all of these big-picture ideas. Something that made me see the two choices with which we are being presented in this election in a whole different light.

Before too long, my little girls will be women.

In so many ways, the choices we have for the next president of our country are no choice at all. Regardless of which side wins, the wars will continue, the bankers will profit, the corporations will grow and the people will be left behind. That’s the big picture stuff and that isn’t going to change, at least not because of any election or particular politician.

But there is at least one big difference that I can see. One side has made it very clear that a vote for them is a vote against women. That side is standing proudly and proclaiming women’s bodies are not entirely their own and something to be legislated against. They find logic in a debate over degrees of violence against women and just how much is tolerable. They find acceptable slanderous and hateful speech against half of humanity.

Theirs is not a world to which I would choose to subject my daughters. Their platform is not one that includes equality, liberty and security for the women of this country. Period.

I have lost faith in our leaders – all of them – when it comes to fighting for justice and freedom for all Americans and all members of the human race. I will continue to try to be the change that I seek rather than hold out hope that such change will come from above. A peaceful and sustainable future can only come from the foundation, from each and every one of us. It will not come from the ruling classes who have proven time and time again that their only desire is to maintain their power and wealth.

But when November comes and all of this pageantry and propaganda dies down and this country goes to the polls, I will go, too. And I will vote.

This year I’m going to vote for my daughters.

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A Family in Color and Shadows

Her head peeked around the door to welcome the three of us into her office and her warm smile and her long hair carefully organized into disorder on top of her head was all that we could see. As always, our friend’s eyes spoke so much more than her mouth did and we knew today would be one of those unforgettable and wonderful learning experiences, for all of us.

Bug had spoken of an uneasiness about today’s appointment. Would she have to talk? Will we be there with her? What will the room look like? Can we go to lunch afterwards?

You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to, Bug. We’ll be right there the whole time. I don’t know – this is a new office and we’ve never been there before. I’m sure it will be very nice. Of course, we can go to lunch afterwards.

Bug speaks of uneasiness about a lot of things, really. It use to sound like fear. New places and new people would be the cause of tears and hidden faces. A very small person making herself even smaller. Fear doesn’t come around as much anymore, but its cousins anger and sadness do. As time has passed and her stature has grown, so too has her complexity. She has become such an interesting person, which is one of the highest compliments I can think to pay someone.

But that uneasiness, that’s just part of her, one thread in her tapestry. This little girl is mighty. And creative. And deep. And funny. And kind. She is explosive and alive and there is no one like her.

Life ain’t always easy, but who’s to say it’s supposed to be or that easy is always such a good thing.

Our appointment today was to help her – and us – find some peace and understanding in all of this (the love, of course, is already there). “Appointment”, though, sounds so clinical and this was anything but. Today was another way of looking at things, a glimpse beyond what we normally allow ourselves to see, a joining of ourselves and a shared moment with a remarkable friend.

Today was another step in our journey together.

Stripes of sunlight found their way through window shades onto the wall of the office and Bug broke them apart with her little fingers, casting shadows in light blue and black. A paper lamp in the corner and a crystal lit from within danced to the rhythm of the clouds outside passing between us and the sun. Light to dark, dark back to light. Through hidden speakers hollow thumps of a tabla blended with endless elongated metallic vibrations. And all around us were blue, yellow, green, purple and gold; throughout the room and through our imaginations.

We all spoke to each other, sometimes without talking.

I could go on and on about what we experienced and how we experienced it, but that really isn’t the important part. The important part is that we all experienced it together, that we were as one stating our intentions to continue pursuing peace, balance, harmony and happiness. We spoke clearly today that we are on this path together, forever connected. Through the color and the light and the sound and each and every moment, we are here to love each other, above all else.

We are a family. I love that.

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