Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thank You, God

“…the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” -Tolkien
If you haven't read the charming little children's book, Thank You, God, put it on your to-read list.  It'll take you about 3 minutes, and is proof that a simple rhyme for kids can even be a meaningful prayer for us grownups.  Anyway, let me tell you why El Comodoro is particularly thankful this week.

By the grace of God Almighty, I am leaving the toxic red ore of the Cinnabar Mines behind.  I signed up at Greener Pastures Capital, LP as their Chief Factotum.  And I am happy.  Happy and profoundly relieved.  Almost as relieved as when I left the soulless, devil-worshiping pagans at my first real job.  I don't think Faust himself would cut a deal with those guys.  On that cold, sunny December day, I walked down Ross Avenue and felt as if a Volkswagen had been lifted off me.  But that's another story.

In practical terms, with unemployment heading north of 10% (and over 17% by some measures), all this is welcome news.  And not just because my mortgage gets paid for another month, either.  Greener Pastures has the potential of being quite literally the perfect place for me.  Perfect.  I probably just jinxed it.

So, you see why I thought it strikingly appropriate that Thanksgiving fell when it did.  My thoughts are usually more coherent during times like this, so I apologize for this being so fragmented.  There's been so much going on, with every issue seemingly of great import to our family.
Over the past many months, I've asked God for wisdom to know the right path to take.  I've asked that He would lead our family to the right place (and that we'd recognize it when we saw it!).  I think about the working of God's Will (a.k.a. Providence) a lot.  To me, it's an incredibly interesting subject.  For further reading, see my ill-fated little essay on Robinson Crusoe.  And if you really want to tangle your mind, dig into determinism versus free will.  And watch this.  And go read this.  And this.

But after this wonderful thing has happened, at precisely the right time, I find it harder and harder to be articulate in my thanks to God.  How many times can you say thank you?  How many ways?  I struggle with that.  And I feel like praying with Roget's Thesaurus.  Would that even help?

Maybe just trying to be grateful is the answer.  Living your life well, gratefully.

I am certainly grateful.  And happy.  I think I said that already.  But first things first.  Tomorrow the mercury-laden dust flies down at the mines.

Thank you, God.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nursery Rhyme Crime

This weekend, the crew has been 40 kinds of hither and yon over the great state of Texas.  We caught my family's Thanksmas, basically a portmanteau where there's brisket.  It was great in a lot of ways to get to see Our People once again.  And also my Uncle's cows [MUH!] were immensely popular with the Captain.  It was quite muddy up there, and HMS Tahoe looks like it's been wrestling in a two-piece bikini.

On the road, Jack (not Kerouac) and his fabulous mood eventually deteriorates.  So we do what just about everybody does:  We toss what dignity we have left and switch over to the CD of children's songs*.  I was VERY impressed as the frighteningly perky lady on the CD covered The Drunken Sailor (you'll recognize this one from the chorus, Way hay and up she rises, early in the morning!).  But I guess little kids can't sing sea shanteys about (sloshed) salty seafaring sailors, so it morphed into What do you do with a silly sailor?  I guess that's fine, but it kinda lacks the genuine imitation rum flavor.  Needless to say they didn't make the drunk drink bilge water, either.

The CD's next unexpected break from tradition came from Dry Bones (Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones...).  Substituted for "Hear the word of the Lord!" was, "These are the bones you know."  Hmmm.  Being who I am, I didn't really think of the original being remotely, in any way shape or form objectionable, but considering today's climate, it's not surprising. It does make one wonder if anybody gave much thought to the story itself being inconveniently, ah, Biblical.
Really Peppy Recording Artist:  Hey I know, let's sing that Delta Rhythm Boys' song about Ezekiel's vision.  It's catchy.  And it's even on the Rain Man soundtrack!
Less than Peppy Producer:  Well, yeah, that Bible thingy's great for song ideas and all, but better scrub all the God stuff out of it.
In just about every nursery rhyme where something goes awry, be it breaking crowns or whatever, this lady sings a saccharine new verse.  In Sing a Song of Sixpence, the poor maid gets a much nicer ending, with the blackbird only sitting on her nose.

So let's review.  Children's songs shouldn't reference such questionable subjects as:
1.  God
2.  Drunken Sailors
3.  Disease
4.  Animal Attacks**
I don't know what to think about this.  But it annoys me.  It's kind of like why I don't buy abridged books, and why I roll my eyes at Looney Tunes edits and Tom and Jerry overdubs.  Must everything be watered down?

Even with nursery rhymes, I want the straight dope.

*That would be Disc 3, in between No Line on the Horizon and The Black Keys' Magic Potion.
**Accidents involving large talking eggs are okay.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Ode to Respiration

I've got a big paper sack full of nothin' today.

I told a friend a few days ago that I didn't expect to tangle with the psilent "P" pso psoon (no, not psychotherapy, although there's persuasive evidence that's needed around here).  No, pneumonia was our phlegmy little problem this week.  And as you can see above, the Skipper got to smoke out on probably my favorite drug, albuterol.

When your lungs are en fuego, and you feel like you want to  cry like a little girl die, albuterol can resurrect.  So our hero ended up looking like an extra from the last 5 minutes of a Die Hard film.  As it happened, the little guy thought we were trying to murder him on the first few breathing treatments.  But after that, he was all smiles.  Not that you can tell from the (creatively) fish-faced mask he's sporting.

Oh yeah, throw in a double ear infection, too.  Y'know, I got some sass yesterday at church for using this term, rather than simply "ear infection".    Is there some other preferred term I'm not hip to, here?  Surely there's a more elegant way to say "an ear infection in each of my child's two ears rather than only one infection in one ear and not the other"?

Since the sprog's ears are all stopped up with candlewax and sawdust, he SHOUTS EVERYTHING.  AND IT'S LOUD.  And he's annoying us with his use of an ear trumpet.  It's weird.

Anyway,  Jack's been stir crazy all week.  When he's not trotting around in circles, he's sitting atop his mountain of toys, reading (see pic).  I'm calling it Mount Doom Mount Toy*.

I post this last pic for a few reasons.  First, the much-discussed Led Zeppelin shirt finally arrived from Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur or whereever.  And I'm insanely jealous.  Second, I think the shocked look is pretty indicative of what Jack thinks about our wacky brand of parenting.  As in, "Dad bought me WHAT?"  And last, behold the stunning amount of hair on this child.  I hear that the gals in the church nursery routinely put his hair up in a topknot, samurai style.

The kid's got bushido, so I'm fine with that.

*Incidentally, we keep having to turn away little people that want to destroy some sort of ring under it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dearly Beloved? An Ideas Piece

We took Jack to a wedding this weekend.  We didn't really want to drag His Royal Snottiness with us, but for a lot of reasons the little skunk went along anyway.  About 5 minutes into the ceremony, I realized I was going to be THAT guy whose kid talks over the wedding video.  The Skipper kept fixating on two words, both appropriate to the circumstances:  BABUH [Bible] and DADA [Esteemed Father and Breadwinner].  In a church, with so many Bibles to prompt him, the former is understandable.  But Melanie and I worried that the latter would distract the groom.  I mean, one thing at a time, right?  When you're trying to get yourself married, fatherhood isn't exactly on your mind.  Unless you're this dude I know that got something worked out on the Honeymoon.  Yeah.

So I pulled Jack's card about 10 minutes into the formalities.  We went to an empty classroom and entertained ourselves with a rolling swivel chair, a plastic waste bin and 2 pew Bibles (BABUH!).  But before we walked out, the one thing I got to see was the father of the bride abruptly kidnapping the mic.  Now this sort of thing makes me terribly uncomfortable, as I wasn't sure if this was planned/authorized or not.  And for everyone involved, there's just tremendous possible downside with blood kin plus an open mic, memorialized on DVD for eternity.

The blessing was heartfelt.  That's for sure.  But let me run this one by you.  I'm paraphrasing the man, but this was the gist:  "A father's love can never match a mother's love.  It can never be as great."

I know what the guy was driving at. A wedding, like the Brandenburg Gate, is the place for soaring rhetoric.  But I wondered a lot about his statement.  And I wondered if other people wondered about it, too.  As it happened, on the drive to the reception, Majesty asked without my prompting, "So do you agree that a father's love can never be as great as a mother's love?"

We talked it over, and I distilled my position.  If both mother and father are willing to brutally kill for and die for a child, at that magnitude aren't we splitting hairs over who's love might be greater?  "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends*" (John 15:13, KJV).  Jesus gives no other seeding guidelines once you get into the Life Laying Down Madness tourney bracket.

Maybe it's unrelated, but I bristle at the fashionable, and oh-so-commonplace trashing of dads, and men in general.  At least at the societal level, we've generally accepted that dads are less involved, less loving, less committed, less communicative, less anything.  Moms are held up as the zenith of care and nurture.**

It's everywhere, even spilling over into our Bible class yesterday.  Men were (facetiously?) declared to be "too dumb" to be understanding (read:  loving) in their marriages.  The gals were quick to giggle at an axiom.  The guys were quick to chuckle and embrace it as a shield.  Think about it.  If one isn't physically capable, then one can avoid all blame for the inadequacy.  Johnny's a C-student, and is rewarded for a B.  Billy is an A-student, and is grounded for making the same B.  It's not about outcomes.  It's about expectations.  If men are, by definition, these silent, football watching, emotionally stunted, unloving slobs that respect no one but their HDTV provider, then women shouldn't waste time getting angry at them.

But for men, that's a cop-out.  And it's a lie.

One more thought on the motherlove versus fatherlove cage match.  Children react differently to each parent, usually depending on age.  Little ones love mommy like no other person in the universe.  And sons starting their own adult lives can find great wisdom and connection with their old dad, as they audition for the role of man, husband, and father.  These relationships are different, and from the child's perspective, they probably do favor mom.  But from the parent's side, I can't score which is more or less powerful, or loving.  And I can't accept being thrown under some assumed cliché.

Am I off base here?

*I'm equating "friends" and "children" here, which is probably a safe jump.
 **This may do much to explain the single-mom as adequate craze, but that's another discussion.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

The World is a Vampire
I picked up an ague this weekend and was stranded belowdecks watching The Silence of the Lambs and Night of the Living Dead. Between Snuggie and Seat Strap adverts, there was one that featured a "celebrity" telling of her baby's conversation with a "spirit" while in her crib. Which is, I'm 99.9998% certain, a bunch of hooey*.

But spirits aside, darn it if I'm not absolutely convinced of toddlers' supernatural knowledge of electronics. The phenomenon to date:

1. Toddlers know whether electronics work or not. Old remotes or phones given as toys are NOT as fun as the real things, which are coveted, stolen, and end up in the Coffee Table Drawer Viking Hoard for safe keeping.
2. Toddlers can resurrect non- functioning electronics, to wit, my car clicker (essentially an abacus with cuneiform markings). I can stand 2 feet from the car, threatening it with violence, angrily clicking like mad, with no result. Jack grabs my keys yesterday, and in the detached garage, 75 feet away, my trunk opens.
3. A complex series of locks and menus, thought to be childproof, is no match for the ingenuity (or plain dumb luck) of the toddler. This weekend, in full view of my visiting family, Jack grabs the remote and buys ON-DEMAND P0RN. Yes, you read that right. Excerpts from that conversation:
H.M.: Morgan! Jack just bought a movie!
(the movie ah, flashes, on the screen behind me)
E.C.: Really?! You're kidding. Well, are we watching something good?
Uncle Carrol: Oh, it looked pretty good...
Tell Me I'm the Only One!
We took the JACK-o-lantern (it's a costume and a pun!) on a brief trickertreatn' tour of the neighborhood on Halloween. Mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds cut the night a little short, I'm sorry to say.

I've posted some pics from the Trunk or Treat, as described on last week's post. Note the wagon fully loaded with incredulous-looking Jacks in (identical) Halloween garb. As with their names, the matching costumes weren't planned. Which really ramps up the comedy even more, I think.

Despite All My Rage, I'm Still Just a [Dad] in a Cage
It's the little things that make a neighborhood great. And it's also the culmination of little things that can irreparably sour one. So, to the blurry little thug that kicked in my PERFECTLY carved pumpkin, I hope you thanked God yesterday in Mass that my IR cam couldn't ID you properly. I can only hope (wrongly, I know) that you choked on your ill-deserved candy. Someday, when you're sitting in County, staring down the barrel of an aggravated assault rap, you'll look back and know this moment was where you began to go terribly wrong. (Around here, y'know, we'd just lash you to the mast and let the gulls pick at you for a week. Problem solved.)

A pox upon you and your house, you little slimeball.

* Sorry for shocking some of you. Don't even ask me about Santa Claus or where veal comes from. I now pronounce you a Grown Up.

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