Sunday, August 10, 2014

I should join this support group!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Insanity at my Window

I'm guilty of this on many counts, but right now (actually for over 24 hours now) a red bird has been trying to get in my bedroom window. He keeps banging his head on the glass. He regroups on the tree branch not a yard away, shakes his head a bit, then charges back to the window pane. There must be some terrific homing instinct that drives him.

So, I took off the screen and opened the window full. What do you suppose happened then?
I think I"ll leave you hanging a little.

What is it that makes us, humans who are not so driven by instinct, do this same thing? Why do we repeatedly do something we know will not work? I suppose sometimes it might be sheer force of will, that drive that makes us great beings. We just know that one more chip at the stone, one more attempt--and we will break through! That's noble. That's determination.

I think, however, that more often we try and try again because we do not see the alternatives. We just know that this way is The Way, so it's the only one we put any effort or thought into. Other times we might stick with what we've always done (even if it failed) because we are not comfortable with the trying. We don't want to do something new and different because that is (on top of everything else) the Unknown.

In my case, finish carpentry is a weakness. I usually just stick with pirate ship club house carpentry. Whenever I have done something inside the house, it's been mediocre, like that I put sheetrock in my closet but never did mud and tape it. Or that I did mud and tape the laundry room but never sanded it out and painted it. Or the shelves I made of MDF but never painted or trimmed...the list goes on. I just take it so far, typically to the point that it functions, and quit, saying to my self that this is all I can do. (In my case I know very well the initial point of failure for me, back in middle school shop where an overzealous shop teacher failed me repeatedly on a little jewelry box project, but that's another story.) So, in this carpentry instance, it's pure/simple fear of failure that keeps me in my rut.

BUT NO MORE. We have a contractor who respects homeowner sweat equity. He's willing to coach me on laying the wood floor and finishing the stain on the woodwork, so I'm going to take him up on it. The way I see it, I'll be learning all this carpentry stuff while also getting my home made-over. A double win!!

Back to the bird.

If you guessed the bird would then shrug his wings and take off, you'd be wrong. He's kept at it for at least another 30 minutes now.

The window bears some explanation. It's a pair of double hung windows. He's beating against the top glass of only one of the four choices. The lower 1/4 is the one that is wide open, but he never attempts it. Oh the headache he must have, for yes, he continues his same futile practice.

I'm starting to think even instinct would guide the bird to try the open window. Maybe he's just insane.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Blow me away

'Changing winds' photo (c) 2010, Kevin Dooley - license:

Winds this week have been typical--for western Kansas! Around these gentler parts, it's unusual to have had relentless wind for something like two weeks.

It was so unusual for me this early morning to step outside to stillness! I have grown accustomed to fighting the storm door, the car fighting the steering wheel like a ship's wheel in a gale. I was so surprised to find it so still--it actually reminded me of the "calm before the storm," so much so that I said as much aloud at that moment.

There's not much more creepy than that humid stillness, when the sky goes green/gold and you can hear everything and yet nothing at all, for the wind is no more and the birds and bugs are hunkered down. Last time I recall, I could only hear the dripping of run off from the roof, measuring the infinite time before the really rough stuff hit us. (At least, where I was at that time, no tornado, per se.)

It's that way with much of life, too, this twisted pacific moment before it all goes wild.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Give me a Sign

Sometimes I feel like I am without direction, like I'm just whiling away my time. Oh, I've had upstarts of enthusiasm for Getting Things Done, Franklin-Covey, you name it....but I always seem to fall back into the doldrums of mediocrity. I do not feel I'm progressing at anything. I feel like a quitter.

I suppose 100-200 years ago people were too darn busy surviving to wring their hands and pout about not being self-actualized. It was "get with it or go hungry" just a couple of generations ago. Thus, the phenom is new-ish, so based on that alone, I should not take it too seriously.

Still, I just feel I should be there by now. I talk to others who have achieved life goals and I'm just awestruck. Almost all my classmates have kids graduating/graduated. They are almost all grandparents.

I still want to "make it big" but now I'm falling in with the likes of Colonel Sanders and Ronald Reagan. I liked it better when I could compare myself to Beethoven or Emilio Esteves who made it big when young.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Adult Themes

So, last night we watched the film adaptation of The Book Thief. When I say "we," in this instance, I mean the entire family. Anyone who's seen the film and knows that I have kids as young as 4 likely thinks I'm a bad, bad man. The movie deals with brutality, prejudice, hatred, genocide, mass hysteria and murder, slaughter and mayhem--in short, the propaganda machine and the war it evoked in Germany.

Truth is, it gave us a lot of opportunity to discuss those difficult topics. Though we talk constantly, we'd never explored the root causes of war, WWII, anti-antisemitism, etc. It was the first film in which my son ever became teary eyed.

I realized I was in the deep end of the pool when my 6 yr old asked me, "Why would anyone be so mean to someone just because of what they believed in? is it bad to believe in things?"  My 8 year old commented sagaciously at another time late in the film, "I hate death." Quoting the film, one of my kids asked, "What's it mean when that guy said he was reminding people of their own humanity?"

It was so challenging to convey all that information without being too judgmental, too pat, or too definitive in my responses. It would have been easy to just say, "Germans went mad and Nazi's were the embodiment of evil."  Being mindful of all we still do not clearly know about that period, and realizing I was not there, that I do not know the full context--all that made my answers complicated, but I always tried to distill them down to something the kids could grasp without making them all abandon mankind.

It was a teachable moment--well, more like 4 hours due to interruptions for clarification, etc--but it was a moment I'll likely not forget.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Darth Disney

My brother recently took a trip to Thailand. It was a glamorous trip, something like I would have very much wanted to do in an earlier life, myself--before kids.   Sunset beaches, great scenic wonders, age-old architecture and artifacts...It was by all counts a great trip, and I know he enjoyed it.

This winter,  we took one of those once-in-a-lifetime vacations like my dad used to take us on when we were growing up.  I will be writing about aspects of that vacation for a long, long time. For this post, I am going to address just one tiny facet of the Disneyland experience. Since I am a Star Wars fan, I was one who went into mourning when Disney bought the rights from Lucas. I did not see how any good could come of that. As we wandered around Disneyland, I noted that Disney has the rights to just about everything, and that list is growing. (I'll write on that again sometime when I feel more political.)
When we did find the Star Wars presence at the park, the force was not strong with us. It was the third day in Disneyland, and it was raining. It rained so much, they canceled the Jedi Training Academy! Like Clark Griswold, I found such a closing intolerable, and I hunted down the nearest Jedi robe-wearing teenaged Disneyland employee to give her a piece of my mind. "Rain? Rain trumps Jedi?" I said. "Well, when it lets up, will there be another show?" To which, the Disney Jedi curled her lip and reprimanded me: "We don't do shows, sir. This is a training academy...but stick around, because some of us are already in costume so we're going to do pictures."

We now have a good number of pictures of our kids with punk kid Jedi Knights, Storm Troopers and Darth Vader. Those are all keepsakes that made that day less drab. However the best picture of the whole day, perhaps the whole vacation, was the one below, however, for it documents my lovely daughter in her truest form, hissing and snarling at Darth Maul.

If one is unfamiliar, hissing and snarling are Ellison's way of repelling strangers. She does this subtly sometimes with just a hiss under her breath or a growl only the animal kingdom can hear. With Darth Vader and others, she gave her best Navi hiss, but when she encountered Darth Maul, it was a hiss/snarl-fest. (She was NOT at all afraid, which is what some people interpret from the picture. Maybe he was.)

I can't wait to blow this up to poster size for her 18th birthday party!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

O' Cap'n, my Captain

This picture is one of my favorites for it captures three big influences on my life. I've written elsewhere here as to how Shatner is my surrogate father. Stewart's got a great command of stage and screen--heck, even his voice overs are powerful.

But Nathan Fillion--that man IS the captain of choice. Mal Reynolds. Part pirate, part captain, underneath it all a Sargent and sailor and in spite of himself, a swell guy. Throughout the series, Firefly, he says variously that he's a bad guy, a rascal, a mean old man, destined to a special hell...but in my books, he's the imperfect hero we all want to be.

If the scene above were real, not photoshopped or a joke in a wax museum, I am certain both of the Star Trek captains could take direction from Mal. I know I do.