No matter how awesome your Wednesday was, you’d be hard pressed to top all the cool stuff Ezra did on his field trip yesterday! I wanted to go too, but alas, no grownups allowed! It’s kind of the opposite of the height restriction on a roller coaster? I’m too tall to ride the field trip bus?
Sometimes I joke(?) that I’m a Blind Ogre when standing next to Sophie. She sees things that I don’t, and sees things in ways that I don’t. It would seem that the same is true of Ezra, and all I needed in order to see the world through his eyes was a good camera!
Before he left, I asked him to take lots of pictures, of just anything at all that caught his eye or interest whether he thought it would make a good ‘picture’ or not. I really just wanted to see what he saw on his field trip. I whittled it down to my favorite 136 pictures, but he took over 200. Looking through them all was kind of like walking through his day with him.
I love them all! Some of them are things of beauty, some are geometry, some are just interesting. Some even surprised me! He took so many pictures of the flowers and the plants in the gardens… some very very good photographs as well, but what intrigued me most was that he stopped to take such detailed pictures of them. I love that he took a picture of the huge crane towering over the trees. I love them all!
So his Wednesday involved ancient history, our state capital, government, museums, flowers, genetic engineering, civil war relics, architecture, smiles, and all the Tomfoolery you’d expect from 2 buses full of 5th graders… how was your Wednesday??? 136 pictures: The next best thing to being there!
Poor old Walt Disney. I truly believe that he had good intentions. I think he just wanted to make movies that kids would love. And he did. In 1930, could anyone possibly have foreseen ‘Princess Syndrome’ becoming a plague? Would anyone really have sold us red M&M’s if they thought we’d get cancer from them? Maybe. Maybe not. I really don’t know. In any case, part of me does hope that old Walt is rotting in the below right now.
But since I’m all manly and whatnot, I didn’t grow up hoping that one day my Prince would come. I grew up hoping that if I learned enough smart stuff, I’d get a college degree, get a good job, buy a nice little house with a white picket fence, get married, and come home to my family every night after work to talk about our day over the dinner table. I followed the instructions. Got an Engineering degree. Bought the cutest little house in the country, married a lovely young lady that I was very much in love with. The rest didn’t really go as planned. Although my kids would fit right in with any Normal Rockwell painting you’ve ever seen.
Is it Norm’s fault? It’s the American Dream, isn’t it? Grow up, get married, have kids, maybe even buy yourself a shiny new car. Get a bigger house. A newer car. And so on. Even I, with my harshly jaded view of marriage (or more accurately what divorce does to marriage and family), still slip sometimes when I’m talking to the kids and say things like, “When you have kids” etc… I should be saying, “If you decide to have kids.” And, “If you decide to get married.” Am I planting seeds in them that will make them think that getting married and having kids is the only life path they should consider?
I honestly don’t know the answers to any of these questions. No answers today. I don’t know one single Princess. I do know a handful of happily married couples who could be in Norman Rockwell paintings. A small handful. But the odds are similar: One in a million, or so.
I like to write happy stories about the fun things my kids and I do as a family. Those are the things that inspire me the most, and therefore I write best about, and people enjoy reading the most. I bet Norm did the same thing. Saw something that inspired him, so he painted it. Similarly with Walt, he had an inspiration that turned into a movie, so he shared it with the world. It’s just what I think. You won’t find a Norman Rockwell painting of the first time he saw his wife with another man, or an animated Disney movie about children beaten black and blue by an alcoholic parent. Because nobody wants to immortalize any of those things. I doubt Norm or Walt realized they were writing instruction manuals. Maybe that’s where it goes wrong? When we see these things as instructions rather than recreation?
Am I doing it too? Am I creating an unrealistic vision of how things can or should be, by writing about only the good stuff? I don’t mean to. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine here. We have our days. In general though it’s very good, and I love to write about it. So I’m not even for a millisecond thinking about changing any of it. But I do wonder… I wonder why, when we see amazing things, they also make us sad that everything isn’t amazing all the time. Yet isn’t that the nature of things? We should be striving to improve all the time, so when we see something we like, shouldn’t we also strive to achieve it? Where does all that completely natural thinking go so horribly wrong? No answers today. Only questions. Sorry!!!
I love to tell people that Legos are brain food. They make you smart. I should have played with them more when I was a kid!!!
Guys Night. Love it every time. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve written about Kid Exchange, but in summary, now and then we try to make something good come of the ‘2 homes’ situation by swapping kids for a weekend. We each get one of each kid to ourselves for a night. With Baby Girl that means Daddy/Daughter stuff. With my Main Man, it means Guys Night!
Recently, Ezra decided that we needed to sort the massive ‘Sea of Legos’ out of the tub they’ve been in for years, in order to streamline the building process. Good call, Buddy. I bought him several organizer type toolboxes to go with his tackle boxes, and the process has begun, albeit a very tedious process sorting more than 30 years worth of Legos. In one of the pictures, you can see that we’ve also been weeding out what we call “Leg-No’s”, which are other brands that are ‘interchangeable’ with real Legos, but obviously inferior in fit and function. They work in a pinch, but aren’t ideal. Over the years, they get intertwined with the good stuff. So it goes.
Throughout the sorting process, I’ve found countless pieces that are from the very sets I used to build with when I was a kid! The crane, the bulldozer, the semi tractor trailer truck! The tractor that had steering and a real power takeoff for the attachments you could build! They’re all still in that tub, and they all still work perfectly. Show me another toy that works flawlessly for 30+ years…
The picture at the top shows 30 years of evolution here. On the left, the real-life ‘new and improved’ (Ezra calls it ‘customization’) version of the very simple tractor trailer semi cab shown in the instructions just to the right of it. This was our primary build from Guys Night on Saturday. We sorted a little, built a little, goofed around a little. Ate icing from a can. I started out just doing a ‘nostalgia build’ because I wanted to drive that truck again 30 years later! But as we went, it became apparent that Legos have come a long way in that time. Way too many new and improved thingies to add to the original design! As you can see, the final result is impressive. You’re looking at a collaborative project with my childhood best friend who just wasn’t born yet when I was a kid. Some things are timeless.
Intertwined in this semi cab are pieces from my own childhood, as well as pieces from his childhood, his favorite sets, his favorite pieces, his own personal ‘style’ in all the ways he loves to customize his Legos. It’s the best of him, the best of me, and the combination of both of us. And we built it together, just like we’re doing with his life.
And isn’t that what we try to do as parents? We take the best of what we learned from our own childhoods, and sort it out clear and away from the crap that wasn’t so grand? We teach them all the things we know about life, and teach them to avoid the bad things we learned the hard way. Some things they still have to learn on their own, experience on their own, but what it all comes down to is that we’re trying to give them the best possible future based on what (little) we know about navigating life.
I almost said, “I hope Ezra manages to improve on my life’s experiences as much as he improved on the design of this semi cab.” But I don’t have to hope. I know he will. He already has.
Sidenotes- 1) The cool black and gray car is just something Ezra built on the side while we were doing everything else mentioned above. Even his side projects are marked improvements over my childhood masterpieces… 2) Even the family dog loves to build! Or rather, to supervise the building… Anything that gets the humans to the floor…
Grand Cheers to Legos, for 30 years of brain food, and many more to come. I love to tell people that Legos are brain food. They make you smart. I should have played with them more when I was a kid! (And I did play with them a lot!) Now if they could just find a way to make me younger? Wait, maybe they do…
Five years ago I had my last seizure. As much as I’d love to, and may yet, write a book about what led to my having seizures, and why I don’t have them anymore, that’s not my point today. Today is kind of like Memorial Day for me. I both celebrate that anniversary, and remind myself of the losses of that time of my life. It’s important not to forget, lest history might repeat itself. It’s also in the past, and best left there.
A long time ago, a friend posted one of those motivational posters that said, “Karma: You get back what you give out.” Or something like that. I like that, but it’s not really that simple. It’s not magical, or some mystical force that gets payback for you when people wrong you, or rewards you when you do good things for others. It’s the way of things. If you make sound choices about the people around you, and base your relationships on trust and respect, you’ll have a life filled with the rewards of those philosophies. You’re still in for some bumps here and there. But it stands to reason that if you make sound choices about life and people, your life will be a product of those choices. Conversely, if you choose to fill your life with people who lie, cheat and steal, and congratulate and help you when you do, well, your life will be filled with all the things that come bundled with those choices. But it’s all a matter of choice. Not some chick named ‘Karma’ out for vengeance. As much as I’d love to think she exists, because she’d be into me for a whole lotta ‘Large’. But that’s now how it works.
With all that said, I’m still going to talk about Karma like she’s an old friend. Because she is. She’s very busy keeping balance in all of the universe. Droughts that need rain, and floods that need dried. Famine to feast and feasts to famine. Mountains to erode with the sands of time, and oceans to fill with dust. She still keeps up with the small things though… if you get too little sleep tonight, she’ll catch up with you and make you tired earlier in the evening tomorrow so you go to bed early. If you get drunk and beat your kids, she’ll taint their hearts with just enough strength each time you do so to prepare them for the day they can get away from you, yet not enough to make them hate you. As much as I disagree with her on that issue. If you take a man’s wallet and leave him for dead, she may breathe life back into him after you walk away so he can warn others about you. Yet it’s all your choice. Karma is just a mirror for your conscious decisions.
Sometimes Karma gets behind with her work, and has to make drastic changes asap. A fault line that requires an earthquake, or a volcano that requires an eruption. Tyrannical rulers that need overthrown and cancers that need cured. A 30-something man who won’t give up the fight to save his poorly chosen marriage, in spite of that fight literally killing him. Tyrannical rulers don’t even know what’s good for themselves, let alone those they’re trying to rule. Sometimes ordinary people don’t know what’s good for them either. I was so hell bent on saving the family that I couldn’t see how bad the marriage was for my children. Karma straightened me out. My children and I are a family now that we could never have dreamed of being had I managed to save the marriage. And Karma has played her aces on those who fought to destroy that marriage. Tenfold. I didn’t ask her to do that. Remember, she’s just a mirror.
My kids think of me when they see a beautiful sunset. They know my favorite sunset spots, and because I’ve shown them so many sunsets, they look at the sky when the sun meets the horizon, wherever they are. Sophie said to me when she called to say G’Night from her other home recently, “I knew you’d take pictures of that beautiful sunset, Daddy!” And I had. And she was happy that she knew I had. And I was happy that she thought of me when she saw such beauty. Ezra recently called me “Dad come quick!” from his room and I found him next to his window with it open. “I knew you’d want to see this sunset!” We don’t have a clear view of the sunset from our home, but on that night the bright colors were shining sharply through the fresh green buds on the trees across the street. He knew the urgency because he’s watched enough sunsets with me to know that the best part of the show lasts only a few seconds. This is just one example, but my favorite. I would have never been able to cultivate this amazing relationship with my children if I were still pouring all my strength into a doomed marriage. As much as I still believe that trying to save a marriage is the right thing to do… at the same time, there’s a point at which even a proud man should surrender. Just shy of it killing you is that point, just in case you aren’t there yet. Not everyone gets to come back. I’m just a very good negotiator. And a bit of a badass.
So on April 11th, I will now and always both celebrate the ‘Hawaiian Islands’ that our lives have become in the aftermath of what I could easily liken to a volcanic eruption, and I also do dwell just long enough to not let myself forget what I went through because I wasn’t listening to Karma. She tried and tried to tell me kindly for years, and she finally got sick of that and just plain damn beat me to death. So be it. She’s just a mirror. They were my choices.
And ever since April 11th, 2007, the primary reason I’ve written just about everything I’ve written is so that my kids will have these stories to look back on, and pass on, long after I’m gone. So, all the bullshit and admittedly unbelievable truths about all that aside, there are two reasons I’m still here. And I will not ever forget them.
1) My 6 year old son screaming, “Get UP Dad, Get UP!!!” and trying to lift me up off the floor with all the might his 40-or-so pounds could muster.
2) My 3 year old daughter standing behind him in the doorway, the windows to her soul welled up with tears, too scared to come closer but too strong to run away.
That day, we all aged in ways that time can’t measure. That 6 year old boy is a fine young man now, and that 3 year old little girl’s soul has proven to be more timeless than Karma herself. No man’s arms have ever been stronger than yours were that day, Buddy, no man’s voice ever louder. Baby Girl, no eyes have ever given a man more strength than your eyes gave me that day. These are the things I think of when life is kicking my ass, and they are what keep me getting back UP. Not just on that day, but every single day since, and every day to come. Always. I won’t forget. The two of you make me want to better myself, and to live long enough to see my Grandbabies overflow with strength and kindness just like your eyes and hearts do. And most importantly, you’re what made me value each and every day I’m here, in the here and now. I Love You two more than all the words I’ve ever written could ever convey.
Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Karmastrophic Islands
We had the good fortune to take our first trip to the Outer Banks of NC earlier this week, and the highlight of our trip was seeing wild horses running on the beach!
We toured with Wild Horse Adventure Tours (www.wildhorsetour.com) and I have to agree with the many great reviews I read on tripadvisor.com. There are several horse tour places nearby, but I highly recommend WHAT… I knew we were with the right tour when Jill, our tour guide, said, “Don’t worry about getting the Jeeps dirty, stand up in the seats if you need to for great photo opportunities, we’ll vacuum it out later!” And she meant every word she said, she was a lot of fun and we did indeed stand on the seats!
The horses themselves are amazing… WHAT’s web site gives a great detailed history of them, so I’ll just summarize here by saying that they’ve been living wild since shipwrecks brought them to freedom on the Outer Banks in the 1500’s. They are protected in this environment, and there are steep fines for feeding or approaching them. They do not receive food or medical intervention, they live solely on what the island provides them. They do, however, live among the humans who also call this beach home. While the horses also don’t approach the people, they do wander right by closely. At the very start of our tour, Sophie said, “I see horses!” Jill was just finishing her opening speech but cut it short to point “That way!” and off we went! The first group of horses we saw was literally just out for a stroll on the beach as you and I would enjoy. After we watched this group for a bit, Jill guided us throughout the area and we saw many more throughout the homes and roads. Lots of great pictures! I’ll put a slide show at the end with all of my favorite pictures from the tour.
The horses were incredible, but driving through Corolla Beach was also an amazing experience. There is no pavement, and you can only reach the homes in these pictures by 4×4. (Trust me, listen to the signs, we passed a dude who had buried his rental car not 20 feet from the pavement…) It’s a real neighborhood just like any other where you’d expect to see kids playing and people driving to and from their homes, except there are no roads, and you have to exercise caution and watch for wild horses! I snapped a picture of the ‘Fire and Rescue’ as well as the neighborhood park. You can of course rent some of these houses, and I hope that next time we go we can stay an entire week in one of them. As much as I love the beach, I’m not a fan of the crowds that usually accompany them, and Corolla Beach appeared to be a nice mix of privacy and view.
Lastly but not at all leastly, I drove a wicked cool Jeep on the beach for 2 hours! In a distant previous life, I was known to drive a wicked Chevy Blazer through hinder and yon, places unmapped and untamed, and well just plain full throttle until no body panel was left unblemished… (Ezra said next time we need to bring his K5!) But for a pleasure cruise on the beach, it was fun to be the wheel man in a topless/lifted Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Even my Mom was impressed with the smooth ride! If off-road driving makes you uncomfortable, WHAT also has impressive stretched topless Hummers and even cozy/enclosed Expeditions, so if you’re mostly in it for the horses or the scenic ride, I think they have all the bases covered.
It was truly the highlight of our trip. There would seem to be no end of things to see and do in the Outer Banks, but as many of the reviews indicated about the wild horse tours, this one is a must!!!