EVERYDAY STUFF

bandaid

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

Q. “Where does the hambooger go to dance?” (Actual five year old pronunciation)

A. “The meat ball!”
Q. “Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?”

A. “Because he didn’t have the guts!”
Q. “What do you have if you have 80 oranges in one hand and 80 oranges in the other hand?”

A. “You have BIG hands!”

SO begins an extended Easter visit with H and M.

This time Friend J accompanied me on the trip to Harrisburg to pick up the girls. I am telling you, I know the road between here and there so well that I could probably drive it blindfolded! But Friend J wouldn’t allow me to do that, he being a sissy and all. (Boy, if he ever starts an online journal, I am in serious trouble!) We did have a fun time with H and M on the way home. For quite a while they were quite excited and wound up especially since Friend J was there. Kids usually act that way when they see a clown. (Okay, man, I’ll stop! I was only kidding… Bozo…)

SINCE this is supposed to be a journal, do you want to hear the everyday stuff? I was off from work on Friday. I showered. I was off on Saturday. I didn’t shower. Last Wednesday I got a pimple. By Friday there were a flock of them on my forehead, proof that I am a teenager trapped in a man’s body. I finally found two old Aerosmith CDs that I have been trying to get my hands on without paying full price through my nose at the record store in the mall. There is a used CD store near my Sister C’s house that I just discovered. So much for the children’s college fund! Let’s see. What other everyday stuff should I tell you? Oh. I made an attempt to purchase a few new shirts for S. How was I to know that a ladies small is huge for a 14-year-old! Excuse me! My fashion deficiency is showing again!

WHILE I am writing this, H and M are playing with the neighbor’s kids in the back yard. M ran in at one point, yelling, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to be quick as a cookie!” Quick as a cookie, huh? Just exactly how quick is a cookie? I guess, compared with a cake, a cookie is relatively quick! Maybe this is exactly the point that Einstein started at when he was just a five year old little girl. Err… Well, you know what I mean.

Before H and M came this time, I made sure that I had lots of Band-Aids on hand. (No, not actually not on my hand! Do I have to explain everything?) I got a box of Band-Aids that have different animal markings on them: zebra stripes, leopard spots, tiger spots, etc. So far, in just three days, H fell and scraped both knees and an elbow. The zebra stripes are covering those. M cut her finger on a box. The leopard spots took care of that three times over now. While we were in the car today, I noticed a big tiger striped Band-Aid on M’s thigh. I asked, “M, what did you do to your leg?” She said, “I hurt it. But it wasn’t bleeding or anything.” “Oh! So you don’t have a boo-boo on your leg. It’s an excuse on your leg!” It’s amazing how much more serious the injuries become when cool looking Band-Aids are on hand! It’s a relative thing again. (I’m catching on to that Einstein guy!)

MORE everyday stuff? Well, a few of us at work have been dipping into a little philosophy a la Forrest Gump. “Stupid is as stupid does.” Or the equivalent “Oyster is as oyster does.” How about the deeply philosophical “Momma always said that life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Momma, why didn’t you pinch some of those chocolates so that I would have known which ones to avoid? Yes, you are right. You did pinch and I ate the yucky ones anyway. “Stupid is as stupid does!”

Well, I suppose that is enough everyday stuff for one day. Since H and M are with me for the next week, I am sure that plenty of everyday stuff will happen. So stay tuned. I’ll write some more soon… relatively speaking.

SHE LISTENS LIKE SPRING

yelwhitewild

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

Come. Run away with me! Did you feel that? That spring breeze carried June within its folds. I felt its warmth as your hair strayed across your cheek. I have a new CD in my car. Come. Let’s run away; live the next hour as if our lives were a movie. I can dance if it’s a movie. Let’s just drive, let the music play. It will be our soundtrack. Life is always better in the movies. Come on; don’t peer at me over the top of your sunglasses. It makes me think that you don’t think I’m serious. Have you noticed that the songbirds have returned? I think their singing is what really causes the trees to grow leaves again. You’re peering at me again! Did you notice the daffodils and crocuses blooming? I think the magnolias will bloom soon.

“She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo, reminds me that there’s room to grow, hey, hey.”

Yeah, I heard that in a song today. I don’t know if you would like their music. Lyrics are good though. Mozart is okay. However, I prefer Vivaldi. “Hey, hey.” Ready to go? You just peered again. Why do you do that? I think it is supposed to rain for the rest of the week. Me? Yes, I am feeling better than I was a year ago. I am sorry that it had to happen to you too. It sucks when someone cheats on you, huh? Makes you want to run away even more. Well, at least it makes me want to. But I am doing better. I don’t know if I believe in self-esteem. That’s probably because mine has been shot down and trampled on. The cheating will do that. But I am doing better. Maybe it’s just the effect of the songbirds. Maybe it’s the new shirt I’m wearing. Maybe it’s you. I am doing better. I had a funny feeling this morning. I felt like I was starting to like who I am. Maybe we shouldn’t run away. I think I’d better just stay here now. Movies are usually overrated anyway. Oh, I like these lines. Turn it up a little.

“And tell me, did Venus blow your mind? Was it everything you wanted to find? And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?”

I don’t know. She told me once that she missed having tea together. I think she prefers coffee anyway. What are those bushes with the yellow flowers? I always forget what they are called. No, not honeysuckles! Are those gnats already? It must be your cheap perfume. Oh, don’t peer at me again! It was just a joke! Look at the robin over there. It was just a joke. Stop being mad. They say the robins are a true sign of spring around here. They remind me of Pop. He used to tell this corny joke about seeing the first “robbin'” of spring. “Right across at the gas station. These two guys with masks…” Funny, I thought I saw him today.

“With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey. She acts like summer and walks like rain. Reminds me that there’s time to change, hey, hey.”

No, she wouldn’t admit it if she did miss me. That’s okay. I’m doing better. You like the song, huh? I thought you would. Is that shirt new? You look like spring. Maybe it’s your eyes. I like it when you peer over your glasses when I talk about your eyes. Yes, I suppose we should. It’s a shame to go inside on such a wonderful day. Makes one feel like running away. If only the movies weren’t so damn overrated! The song is ending anyway. But we can always dance. We can always dance.

(Song lyrics quoted are from “Drops of Jupiter” by Train.)

DRIVING AT THE SPEED OF THOUGHT

speed

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

DRIVING is good thinking time. Yes, I know that “good thinking” is usually a good idea while one is driving. And thinking “good thoughts” is always a good idea, while driving or otherwise. But it seems that I have some great thinking sessions while I am driving. This is especially true when I make the long monthly trips to see H and M. The only drawback is that I don’t have a word processor in my car so that I can type out my thoughts while I am driving. (Let all other motorists breathe a sigh of relief!) So many ideas and plans share my ride for several miles and then get bumped out by incoming ideas and plans. Between my home and Harrisburg, PA there must be so many grand ideas lying along the highway! I can just picture a worker on one of those highway clean-up crews shuffling along in his bright orange safety vest, kicking one of my ideas around with a tar-stained boot, picking it up and saying, “Hmph! Whatever it is, it sure looks broke now!” Then, by the time I get home, I am either too tired to write, or my eyes are nearly bleeding from the headlights of four hours worth of opposing traffic, or the only ideas left in my mind are too poor to write about.

I HAVE noticed that the types of thoughts I think while driving sometimes depend on where I am driving and where I am going. Far too often while driving the crowded New Jersey highways on my way to work my thoughts are on death. All it takes is one traffic report of an accident and the Grim Reaper sits up in my back seat. His long bony fingers stir my imagination until my mind is full of crash scenes, the highway is full of blood above the axles of my car, and somewhere among this stampede of motorists is my assassin waiting his opportunity to get me under his wheels. Just last week there was a bad accident on Route 80 in which a few people died. The traffic report on the radio said that cars were backed up for over 20 miles. It was funny how some of us at work talked more about how badly the traffic was delayed and how some had to make a major detour in order to get to work than we did about the fact that a few more of us breathed our last during New Jersey rush hour.

speedrip

When I set out to pick up H and M in Harrisburg each month, I usually have some pleasantly optimistic thoughts. I think of having fun with the girls for the weekend. I think of seeing their happy faces as they bounce out of their mom’s car with shouts of “Daddy! Daddy!” That is worth a two hour drive any day! Life seems a little less burdensome on the way to see my girls. My thoughts flow more freely during those drives. I tend to sing more, sometimes singing hymns from an old Baptist hymnal that I keep in the car, sometimes singing at the top of my lungs to something good on the radio. I tend to pray more when I make these trips. Of course, I always pray while driving to work in New Jersey. Only a fool would drive our highways between 7 and 9 AM and not pray while doing so! But on the way to Harrisburg to pick up my little ones, I tend to pray more serious and thankful prayers. I guess it is easier to pray when you are not cursing at people who cut you off during rush hour.

OFTEN during these trips I think of old friends that, for one reason or another, I have not had contact with for a while now. It seems that a guy not only loses a wife when he goes through a divorce, but he loses some friends too. Maybe it is my own fault for one reason or another. Maybe it is just that people change and it is normal for one’s set of friends to change. Maybe it is just coincidence. All I know is that a lot of people that I knew going into this divorce are not here now. I think of some of these people when I am driving. I think that I should dig up their phone numbers and give them a call. About a month ago I even did this. I found my old address book, dug out an old friend’s number, heard his voice on the answering machine and left a message in which I was nearly begging him to please call me back. I’m still waiting.

SOMETIMES my thoughts are all over the place as I am driving. I think of this journal and how I have not written much lately. What shall I tell everyone? Should I use the single-father-run-over-by-three-teenagers excuse again? Or should I go for something with a little pizzazz, like the best-looking-American-man-abducted-by-aliens excuse? Often thoughts of programming fill my mind while driving. I think of code and piece together functions in my head that no one else in the whole world would even care about, except for Friend J and maybe a handful of other guys. These are guys like us who think nothing of losing sleep, talking to themselves, drinking bad coffee, and staring into the glare of a computer monitor until their eyeballs bleed. The programming thoughts are the ones that always seem to jump out of the car though. Half way home I can have the world’s most intricate software all figured out in my head. But wouldn’t you know it? I always start second-guessing my ideas. Then I start reworking the whole thing until it ends up as one big mess that does not work. And then I think “My goodness! Am I becoming a business analyst instead of a programmer??” Somebody shoot me!

speedtwirl

Often, after taking H and M home, my thoughts will swerve into the “danger zone” where some things just cannot be figured out. These things usually have to do with X.2 and the whole train wreck that happened between us. Usually these kinds of thoughts will gather, twist and swirl with increasing force until I am trapped in their vortex, violently pulled by love at one moment, anger at the next. But, thankfully, just when I am about to be sucked down into the very bowels of that whirlwind, a different thought will come galloping along to rescue me and carry me back to where the sky is clear and the air is calm. It is then that I get a better perspective on things and I realize how much I have grown in the past four years. I realize, even if I do not completely feel it, that God does work all things together for good for those who love Him. I realize that divorce and death are not the same, even though they may feel like they are. It is at this point that my determination to achieve world domination is renewed and I step on the gas to get home.

MOST people know that I drive fast. Maybe this is the reason why. I drive at the speed of thought. Yeah, I know that can be turned around to say that I think pretty slowly then! I can hear Friend J saying it already! But how else am I going to end this article?? I have to have something to tie it all together. Some kind of philosophical statement that leaves you thinking that there was some deeper meaning to all of it. There has to be a moral to the story. Right? Just something to make it a nice neat package that makes sense in the end. Ah! But we are talking about MY thoughts! There is no making sense of it all! All you can do is get in the car and come along for the ride! Just be sure to buckle up!

OF ASTRONAUTS AND MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

decmoon

SO, I was walking out of a certain place around 8:15 tonight. Ahead of me were a woman who appeared to be close to 50, kind of plump with gray fuzzy hair, and her teenage daughter. The woman looked into the sky and remarked, “Oh look! There is Saturn! You can see it clearly tonight.” To which the daughter replied, “You need a life, mom!” I could not help but chuckle when I heard it. And I thought of how many times I have pointed to things in the sky and tried to get my teenagers to lift their gaze above their immediate surroundings for a few moments, only to receive similar comments as this woman did. All of these comments are listed in the official “How to Survive as a Teenager” manual under the section titled “What to do When Your Parents Confront You with Any Object/Concept of Beauty, Grandeur, Awe, Etc. or Anything Which Could Potentially Expand Your Intellect.”

I am one who has always been fascinated by anything space related. In fact, I still want to be an astronaut when I grow up. One of the most exciting places that I ever visited was Kennedy Space Center in Florida with my grandparents when I was a much younger kid. To see and touch those space capsules in which real astronauts really traveled in space, to see the place where so many rockets were launched was incredible. The bigness of the place was awe-inspiring for a kid like me. This awe has stayed with me all of my life. I love anything space related. I collect stamps with space themes. For hours I could watch documentaries on space explorations. One of my favorite movies is “Apollo 13” with Tom Hanks. (I will tell you a little secret. I get tears in my eyes at the end of that movie when the returning capsule finally appears in the sky and they splash down. But don’t let any of the other guys know. Okay?)

THERE was something special about being an American kid in 1969 and the several years that followed. We had heroes- real ones. We lived with pioneers- the kind who were willing to risk it all by sitting atop tons of steel and fuel in order to be propelled at incredible speeds through the sky, past the bonds of earth and into the threshold of the unexplored. These men were giants. We gathered in our homes and in our schools to watch them on television as they blasted off. We watched them floating weightless moments later. We watched breathlessly for days as they sped their way to the moon. And we were there when they stepped out upon the lunar surface for the first time and every time. We all wanted to be like them- pioneers, heroes, ASTRONAUTS!

It is just not the same today. So much is taken for granted. The Space Shuttle goes up and most of us are not even aware of it. We are shooting crews of people into space at great expense of steel, fuel, knowledge and courage. But most of us do not seem to notice it, especially our children. Maybe we need to make it mandatory that each generation has to make it to the moon by their own efforts. The former generation can instruct and guide them. But THEY have to get up the motivation, make the effort and get to the moon! If they do not do it, well, they do not get to be astronauts! Plain and simple! Get to the moon and back and you are one of us, kid! Or at least TRY!

decriver

WHICH brings me to another point. (I think I just made some kind of point so this would be considered another.) Why is it that some people do not TRY? Why do they not make an effort? At least if you try you can say that you cannot do it. But more than likely you will find that you can do it, if you try. But some people do not even have a desire to do it. They are miles away from trying.

Recently I was with a friend who was complaining that it was too cold out. I asked, “How will you ever climb a mountain if you cannot endure the slightest chill?” My friend looked at me with confusion for a moment and then asked, “Why do I have to climb a mountain? What mountain?” I said, “Any mountain! How could you not want to climb a mountain? That is what mountains are for- climbing!” “But I do not want to climb a mountain!” I said, “Sooner or later everyone is confronted by a mountain. It is inevitable. Then you will have to decide to either climb it or turn around and go back.” To which the reply was “You’re weird. There are no mountains. I don’t have to climb them.” Hmmm… Still reading that teenage manual I guess.

As for me, I want to be an astronaut! I will not be denied. I will climb all the mountains between here and the moon if I have to. That is what they are there for. How quickly the hardships of the climb seem almost trivial when I get to the top and take in the view! How close the moon is when I reach the mountain’s summit and gaze up into the open sky! With each successive hike I inch my way a little higher. And when I finally make it to the moon I will just start climbing the mountains there.

SO what am I saying in all of this? Am I just weird? No, I do not think so. You see it is all about perspective and attitude. Is a mountain an obstacle or a route to something higher, better and nobler? Should I resign myself to the acceptance that the mountain is bigger and stronger than I am or should I determine to beat the mountain and make it to the top even if I die trying? Should I let the mountain crush me into non-existence or should I fight, struggle, sweat, bleed or whatever it takes to conquer it, put my foot on its throat and laughingly declare, “Ha! I am the king of the hill!”

I wonder if these were the things that the mother was really pointing out to her daughter tonight. More power to her! All I know is that if she would have turned to ME and said, “Sir, look! There is Saturn!” I would have said with a grin, “Last one there is a rotten egg!” And off I would go!

BUFFALO BEFORE BREAKFAST, TWIZZLERS BEFORE LUNCH

twiz1

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

SATURDAY, Saint Patrick’s Day, found me making the trip to pick up H and M. We have a new meeting place now. This place is a small mall with several large stores and a few smaller ones. When I set out from home on that morning, I did not think that a few interesting adventures awaited the girls and I at that mall.

When I go there, H was still in her pajamas and robe since they left their home so early. So our first little adventure was to get her into some publicly acceptable clothes so that we could go into one of the stores. I have been in desperate need of new pants for work. Some of the ones that I have been wearing are getting so worn out that in the right light I probably look like a skeleton from the waist down. Well, I wished as hard as I could for men’s clothes to be on sale, took M by the hand, inhaled deeply and entered the store.

I was pleased to find Levi’s Dockers on sale at 33% off the insanely high normal price. I began digging through the piles to find my size, accompanied by the tunes of “Daddy, I’m hungry” and “I want to look at the toys” and “Oh, we will never get out of here!” As the chorus swelled, we danced our way throughout the men’s department; Levi’s draped over my left arm, M twirling from my right. We waltzed through the dress shirts and polkaed past the underwear, performing daring tango dips to prevent M from crashing headlong into stage props and auxiliary performers, and H fox-trotted along as we exited stage left to the dressing room. I tried twisting my way into a few pairs of Dockers whose waist sizes I so optimistically selected. But they were not up to the dance and I had to return to the rack for the next size waiting for its chance to perform. At the end of the show I left with three pairs of pants, two shirts discounted at 75%, a pack of T-shirts, and two daughters whining for relief.

ON TO the next adventure…

At this particular mall there is a large bookstore, the kind that also has a music section and a coffee shop where one can pay an arm and a leg for Starbucks coffee and some very “yuppie” snacks with new age names. We headed straight for the children’s books to find another book in the series that H is reading. She is in first grade, reading like a fiend and currently in the middle of “Buffalo Before Breakfast” by Mary Pope Osborne. So, as her birthday gift, we added “Tigers at Twilight” and “Sunset of the Sabertooth” to her collection. M got a Hansel and Gretel book that came with a puzzle, a game and a witch mask all inside a case that looked like a candy house.

While we were there they had a story time. A very pleasant employee of the store read a story about an Irish guy named O’Toole and a bunch of leprechauns. I stood at the back edge of the crowd with the big people while all the children sat attentively at the front. Then the kids all colored pictures of leprechauns and pots of gold. I was happy to give into my childhood urges and grab a crayon and color too. Then we went over to the coffee shop where I paid several arms and legs for a Starbucks coffee that did not live up to its reputation and two yuppie slurpees for the girls. I picked up the latest issue of POETRY magazine and the “New England Review” before we left.
twiz2

YOU KNOW I could spend forever in a bookstore! I would not even need food or anything else! It was Erasmus, a 16th century contemporary of Martin Luther, who said, “When I have a little bit of money, I buy books. Then, if there is anything left over, I buy food and clothes.” Now there is a man after my own heart! For you see, I am a BIBLIOPHILE. Yes, I admit it! I am a BIBLIOPHILE! And these large bookstores are my favorite places to prowl around. You might spot me there lurking about the classic literature and poetry sections. You might find me peeking into the latest journals on the periodicals rack. You might even catch me in the embrace of a fresh hardcover, my face buried in her leaves, intoxicated by the scent of her ink, caressing her spine. As I flashed you my best smile and confessed my addiction, you would scurry off to the reference aisle. There, with trembling fingers paging through the “Bs,” you would discover what a BIBLIOPHILE truly is and realize that I am not such a bad fellow after all! You would come running back only to see that you could never tempt me away from my true love. If the choice was between you and a good book… well… see you later, baby!

All right, I speak nonsense! We all know that if you were the right girl with pretty eyes, a good heart, and a mind to match, I would be asking you to accompany me over to the coffee shop. There I would pay my remaining arm and leg for the pleasure of having another cup of overrated coffee and some conversation with you. But, of course, we would talk about books! “Did you know that I also love old books? Did you know that I have a hardcover edition of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ with a publishing date of 1863? Did you know that that was right in the middle of the Civil War? Did you know that I especially like hanging out in dusty old used book shops? Hey! Wait! Where are you going? Okay. Fine. I’ll just stay here with my bad coffee and read!”

OKAY, back to reality…

In the car on the way home the girls and I munched on Twizzlers. I really do not care very much for licorice. It has the consistency of half-finished plastic or something. But it was there, so I ate it for the hundred miles home. Of course, we sang to the radio, played air guitar and drums, danced in our seats at 70 miles per hour. The girls had fun with the witch mask that M got.

Later in the day we went to Mom’s house. Since it was an Irish holiday, we had corned beef and cabbage. We made everyone wear funny green hats and took pictures. I baked a cake and we had a belated birthday celebration for H. We laughed. We joked. We stuffed ourselves with corned beef and cake. We went home.

Past midnight I fell asleep mid-poem. Some things never change.