If You Have Ever Felt the Need to Write

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If you have ever felt a need to write.

For those of you who know me, I have been away from this space for quite a while now.  And thinking back, I can’t really remember why I became so busy that I had to leave. I remember I had a good reason.  I had made a clear decision to stop blogging.  But that gets me to where I am today and the trouble I’m in.  Being busy.

 

I’ve recently run into problems with work.  Serious problems.  The kind of problems that have kept me out of work for 8 months.  Not depression or anxiety as many of you are immediately thinking.  Nervous breakdown, you say.  Nope.  Boundary issues.  My mouth ran away with me.  The filter “wasn’t working so good” anymore.  Or, I just got too comfortable.  I was asked why I didn’t have these problems before.  Why was the first part of my career so richly productive and successful?  Was something going on in my life that may have been contributing?

 

No.  I don’t think so.

 

But then I had to go have a behavioral health assessment.  A what?  Really?  Me?

 

So after several days of building patterns with blocks and looking at Rorschach diagrams (more commonly known as ink blots) we find that “…there is no psychiatric or psychological reason that would keep you from the safe and reasonable [profession] of ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­________________.

 

Okay, but?

 

But you need psychotherapy because you were raised in a dysfunctional family that was disengaged and rigid, i.e. you weren’t listened to.  Your mother physically abused you and your father was an alcoholic, living in absence.  You weren’t hugged enough and, most importantly, you weren’t listened to.  Did we mention that?  You must ponder how your childhood may be affecting your behaviors today.  You need to be more aware of your feelings and other people’s emotional spheres.  And while you’re at it, by the way, the psychological testing suggests that you are under a lot of stress and that you tend to take on too much.  Maybe you should try to harbor more emotional reserve.

 

Thank you.

 

Somehow, I let life get away from me.  I have three wonderful, beautiful children under the age of 8.  I have devoted virtually every waking moment, every tremor of my essence to their well-being and development.  And I plan on continuing it.  But I recognize now that my busy life left me vulnerable to poor judgment, basal emotions, and The Shadow of my highly dysfunctional upbringing.  So I need to find ways to “take it easy”.  Ways to buffer my emotional reserve.

 

Which brings me to here and now.

 

If I listen to my feelings, rather than think my way to a more peaceful, centered self, I find myself drawn to writing, to expression.  Somewhere in my soul is an artist.  Those of you who have followed my blog before know that it’s been as much about photography as writing.  I’m struggling with this.  My conscious mind wants to me to analyze, organize, choose a method.  It’s hard for me to just go with it, be swept along.

 

But here I am.

 

So I am going to come back to writing.  Maybe I will “find the time” to add in some photographs.  Maybe not.  Because you know those photos have to be chosen, edited, uploaded…there is so much organization that needs to be done, and I don’t have time, and so I’ll do it later because I have other things that need to be done, and…

 

You get it.

 

Just write.

 

I’m back.

63 Days: Mother, Fathers, and Toilets

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ONE OF REASONS WHY THERE ARE MOTHERS AND THERE ARE FATHERS is because of situations like this. I remember the time our dog stuck his head in a box of dog treats and lifted it up so that the cookies would slide down to him. It looked like he was stuck. Come to think of it, maybe he was. But instead of putting a halt to the Viking plunder or checking to see if he was stuck, I ran to get the camera. Ditto, here.

My wife is generally more pragmatic with the children than me. I’m her fourth child, after all. Where she would counsel the young man about the health hazards of playing in toilet water, I run to get the camera. I figure, hey, it’s flushed. What’s the big deal? Where she chafes at the children calling her Butt Head, I answer, “Yes, Poop Face?” And though they might avoid asking her because Mom will say, “No!”, they tell me straight to my face that when I say, “Maybe”, it really means, “Yes.” But it’s a necessary balance I think, and it’s more than Good Cop, Bad Cop. By coming at parenting from [at times] opposite ends of the spectrum we bring balance to the children, giving them choices, unwittingly demonstrating that there is more than one way to solve a problem. This is not to say that my sophomoric tendencies don’t step on wife’s last nerve once in awhile, but mostly we recognize the value of a diverse sense of humor.

Finally, what’s with toilets and children anyway? This is Round Three for us, and everyone of them loved to undress the toilet paper roll (see evidence, People’s Exhibit “A”, above) and experiment with Sink or Float in the toilet. On any given day the seat could be wet from the toddler, cats, or dogs. Splash patterns and footprints are useful clues. At least the children can flush.

So Ladies, the next time you are chagrined at your man’s failure to appropriately maneuver the toilet seat, just remember it could be worse.

🙂

64 Days: Can Your Child Dial 911?

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This is one of those posts where taking the photograph took longer than writing the post.  This image is neither a montage of multiple photos nor a digital art creation.  It is a multiple exposure, taken in a dark room, camera on top of the dresser, iPhone in hand.

Anyway, back to the point of the post.  I wonder how many of you with young children have taught them how to call 911, and when.  I mean, you don’t want them calling 911 because you sent them to time out, or because their younger sibling just spilled grape juice all over their favorite toy.  If you did teach them, how old were they?  Did you teach them on more than one phone?  After all most households have at least two different phones that require different sequences and keys to make a call.

What’s the best way to do this?  By the way, you cannot actually call 911 just to practice.  Not unless getting an earful of Johnny Law’s invective sounds like fun to you.  And you can’t just tell your children how to do it   Who learns anything that way?  Kids need to see, touch, feel, hear, because who knows if your child is a “touch” learner.  You hear this from adults all the time…”I need to see it.  I can’t learn by reading about it.”  I am going to draw a picture of my phone and have them practice the key sequence on it.  Maybe I’ll just take the battery out of the real phone and let them practice.  Or maybe I’ll see if Johnny Law is in a good mood. 

Hey, it might be my life that gets saved.

65 Days: No, You Can’t Watch TV

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THEY’RE 4 AND 5 YEARS OLD.  They can’t really read, but they don’t need to know that.  They’re naive enough to believe they can just look at the pictures and be entertained.  It must be nice to be a child.  The world is so simple.  It takes so little to make you happy. 

My children have taken to asking on a daily basis if they can have TV.  It has become their daily mantra, “Can we have some TV? Can we have some TV? Can we have some TV?”  Somehow I have been transported to Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania overnight.  Who let them know it’s summer?  Because they sure as heck would not even be asking if it were a school day.  They don’t get much screen time anyway, so where is this coming from?

Yesterday, after yet again denying my 5 year old’s request for TV, I told her that she should read a book instead.  Without much fuss she went over to the bookshelf and pulled out a stack of Clifford the Big Red Dog books and sat on the couch and began reading.  I could hear the soft beat of angels’ wings.  Several minutes later the 4 year old joined her.  Now the angels were singing.

I felt the beginnings of an epiphany, the rushing, squeezing sensation that gives rise to Smart Parent Things.  It was one of those “Aha!” moments.  Recognizing what it was I looked into the future with the full 20/20 vision of parenthood and saw an opportunity to strengthen my efforts to get my children to love reading and learning.  I created the 30-Minute Reading Time.  What a genius I thought.  Yeah, they can do this.  This is a logical evolution of their daily Quiet Time.  I asked my wife (since she is home with them during the day) to have them gather some books and sit quietly and read for 30 minutes everyday.  Not be read to, they get that too, but “read” independently, alone with their imaginations. 

I think reading is the keystone to success in life.  You can’t be successful without a good education, without intellectual drive, and the direct path to getting a good education is enjoying reading.  Reading nurtures imagination, and imagination feeds the arts, science, and entrepreneurship.  You don’t need 4-, 8-, or 10-other players, electricity, or even money to read.  You just need someone to teach you to love to read.  And teaching a love for reading doesn’t stop just because they can read on their own.  In case you think I am preaching bookishness, reading can be a shared enterprise, social even.  My fervent desire is that someday I will sit with one of my children, as adults, and discuss books we enjoy, paragraphs we have read, characters, places, styles,…funny stories.  Perhaps, we will even read to each other.  

I can see carrying the 30-Minute Reading Time forward all the way into middle school and beyond.

66 Days: Dads as Doctors

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“MY TUMMY HURTS”, SHE WOULD SAY.

“Where does it hurt, Sweetheart?” 

“Here”, as she points to her belly button and keeps eating her macaroni and cheese.  Hmmm.  A dark cloud of fatherly concern passes across my face, quickly, like a Tucson thunderstorm.  I never was very good at playing poker.  In fact, my wife will tell you I’ve never been good at hiding my emotions, especially when one of the children pops onto my radar screen of Threats to My Children.  I try to march a delicate line between hovering and nonchalance. 

Kids.  Now I know how veterinarians feel.  How do you extract diagnostically important information from a 4 year old without conditioning them to have your neuroses?  Father versus Physician.  Trust me, this is not an enviable place to be.  Why does a child complain of belly pain for more than a year, just once in awhile, and otherwise look so normal?  The pediatricians aren’t worried.  (Stay tuned, because herein lyeth the lesson)

I look at parenthood as following your child in a maze.  You’re expected to get them from one end safely to the other, but they lead, you follow.  Huh?  I picture myself awkwardly following along behind my toddler, trying to remove obstacles in his way, not really knowing which turns are the wrong ones, because, after all, I’ve never done this before. 

Anyway, back to the tummy pain.  I want to slip into my Hippocratic persona and ask a battery of questions.  How do I do this casually with a 4 year old?  My mind reaches back to every complaint of tummy pain searching for patterns, and I find none.  Constipation, the pediatricians say.  Except it’s not right.  Trust me, I try hard not to be my family’s doctor.  The pitfalls in that are many.  Hell, I even fired my wife as a patient.  But there is something about the chronicity of this tummy pain, its duration, its very vagueness that whispers to me that it’s more than just constipation.  My oldest daughter had tummy pain too, and constipation was the cause.  We made more than one trip to the emergency room for severe tummy pain that ended up being constipation.  Probably.  But daily Miralax made the pain go away, so there.  It must have been constipation. 

So finally after a year of these sporadic, albeit casual, declarations of tummy pain, I said to my wife, “Let’s get her an appointment with a GI specialist at Children’s.”  [The photo above was taken at Children’s Hospital North in Peabody, Massachusetts.]  The stomach specialist was everything you would hope a pediatric specialist to be: intelligent, warm, gentle, intuitive, and smiles a lot.  Now, obviously, I am skipping a lot of details, but here is the rub.  After presenting our daughter’s story as accurately and objectively as possible, the doctor agreed with my impression that this could be a lactose-intolerance.  Ta-Daaaaaa!  Or maybe celiac sprue (gluten sensitivity = wheat sensitivity).  I say our daughter’s story because too often parents pursue their own objectives and transfer their own fears to pediatricians.  The point being that as a parent you need to listen to that little voice, not always act on it, but listen to it.  If it keeps whispering the same thing, then it’s likely to be valid. 

I respect pediatricians and veterinarians.  God knows how they put up with us neurotic parents.  But sometimes they’re so used to seeing familiar, as in familiar = normal, that they have blinders on.  Sometimes.  But nothing will ever replace your instincts as a father.  No one will ever know your child as well as you, or have their well-being their priority as much as you.

67 Days: Lead With Your Nose

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DOES YOUR DOG SURF IN THE CAR?  You know, stand with his front paws on the console between the seats?  Or on the front seat?  How do they do that?  Lean left, lean right.  Lean against the seat, lock those elbows when you’re stopping?  I think it looks like too damn much effort.  Why don’t they just lay down? 

Sometimes I look at their eyes, and I wonder what are they seeing?  It must be fascinating for them, looking at a world distorted by speed, a world that’s even faster than they can run.

This guy has three legs.  He’s missing one of his hind legs, the result of abuse when he was 4 months old.  We adopted him 2 months later.  But before you feel sorry for him I will tell you that he is the fastest dog he has ever met.  That’s right.  No dog he has met at the park has ever been faster than him.  Sometimes I truly believe that if he had four legs he would be slower.

And Man, can he surf.

68 Days: Born to be Wild

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THE IRONY OF THIS IMAGE DOES NOT ESCAPE ME.  There was something strikingly paradoxical about seeing this advertisement on the crowded concourse in front of the New England Aquarium.  I would have expected to see such a visage instead on the theme park banners at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I felt like a shark had brushed against me.  Silently I snorted, “Are you kidding?”  Were they really using this primal image, this iconograph of Life in its purest form, to advertise a movie?  Something felt defiled.  I was reeling from the incongruity; a static gaze, seeing everywhere, everyone and being unseen.  People gliding by in the concrete jungle.  Where have we come from?  Like the cripple in the wheelchair panhandling on the street corner.  We see him and we don’t. 

We have to watch movies now to understand the concept of being wild.  It’s being sold in movie theaters, The Wild.  Go to an IMAX theatre, put on 3D glasses, feel the vibration of the Surround Sound. 

I can look into the portal of his thousand-yard stare and slip into a world that’s just beyond my conciousness, to a world of a thousand questions, to see glory and shame, wonder and science, where I am naked under the inspection of Life.  Amongst a thousand people on that hot, summer afternoon, I was the only one looking at this image.  I realize now what enchants me about his gaze: by looking in I can see out.   

Stare at this image for awhile.  Tell yourself what you see.

69 Days: Five Minutes and a Lifetime

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“THAT’S MY DAUGHTER IN THE TANK”, he said.  The gentlemanly middle-aged man was kind enough to have stepped away from the tank window, letting the children walk closer so they could see.  My children.  His smile was the smile of neighbors.  There was a pleasant way about him, and familiarity, like Santa Claus.  He had the kind of immediate warmth and friendliness that in another corner of your mind you wonder if auras are real. 

“Oh, is your daughter a marine biologist? ”

“Marine Science”,  he said.  It’s Christopher, not Chris.  Oh, sorry.  He said it with the conviction of a loving father who thinks that what his daughter does is important.  “She’s a junior at South Carolina.  She’s wanted to do this ever since she was a kid.  I can remember bringing her here when she was a little girl.  This is what she’s wanted to do all her life.”

There they were, my 4 and 5 year old daughters leaning against the window, watching this Body Glove-clad, young woman in scuba gear playing frisbee underwater with another diver, loose wisps of hair flowing in the current.  I had that familiar “Gonnnggg” of obligation to aid Destiny in connecting my children with their futures, as yet unrevealed to me.  Is THIS is it, my subconcious whispered without words?  Anything I do with them, anywhere we go could be IT.  How do I know?  It was a New York Minute, a cascade of monologue more felt than heard.  

I came back to the moment.  He could not have known, of course, but he was lucky.  Maybe that’s why he had that aura of peace, of vindication.  He had chosen to endorse his daughter’s pursuits, investing in Fate, and it had paid big.  He had made the right choice.  He was bona fide.

It was a wonderful warm sensation, those moments, with just a prickling of discomfort, like putting on a wool sweater.  I watched them, Little Girl and Young Woman, and wondered if I was seeing the future.

70 Days: My Personal Perspective

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MOST OF THE TIME it’s all about the perspective, in photography.  Of course, lighting helps create mood, depth of field, yada, yada, yada.  But something in a photograph needs to grab you.  Something needs to make you STARE at the image, make you want to figure it out.

For me it’s perspective.

71 Days: The Four Things

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TODAY IS MY SON’S BIRTHDAY.  He is one year old.  When he awoke this morning I went to his crib, and there he was in his usual awakening state: squinting, fussing, standing against the side rails.  He seems not to know how to get past this, stuck in that middle ground between comfortable slumber and complete conciousness.  He wakes up hard, like his Dad. 

I lifted him into my arms, and as I usually do whenever I get him out of his crib, I held him.  I stood there, holding him, quietly swaying; let him ease into wakefulness gently.  He tucks his arms inside of my embrace and leans against me, head on my shoulder.  I usually say nothing.  Today, I whispered and murmured.  I whispered, “Happy Birthday Little Boy.”  I felt the coolness of his skin over his thick, fleshy thighs, the warmth of his head, the muscles of his arms.  I made the effort to put into words his hair: a blend of lanugo softness and coarse, thick, grown-up hair.  It reminded me of a dog, of all things, of their soft, warm undercoat and the protective, rough outer coat.  I turned to smell his hair.  He is losing that baby smell.  Why are the most beautiful things in life so transient? 

I murmured the same mantra I have said a thousand times for all of my children.  May God grant you a Safe, Healthy, Happy, and Successful life.  A good life.  I sang, “Happy Birthday” to him.  I asked God to bless this child. 

Then I did what I always do on my childrens’ birthdays.  Then I asked God to bless their mother for bringing them into this world.