Tag Archives: Philosophy

Paths

Squint 14-March-2014

Squint  14-March-2014

Vegas
Vegas

The Lights of Vegas!  They’re really bright, and clear, and motivating, and inspiring. I’ve never been to Las Vegas.  I’ll make it there eventually.  It’s a universal thing.  You don’t have to go there to know that the lights guide you.  The City of Lights.  And all that.

Life doesn’t work like that.  When you go to Vegas, you’re specifically going to Vegas to get away.  I’m assuming.  You make the decision that you’re going to Vegas, and that you’re going to ‘let loose’ and enjoy yourself.  You go and you have a good time and you come home.  You know the risks and what you’re willing to spend in advance.  And by ‘spend’ I mean in both dollars and life choices.

Life doesn’t work like that.  Did I mention that yet?  You don’t always know the risks of the path you’re going to take before you take it.  We all know how to get to Vegas, even if we’ve never been.  So how do you know what the risks are before you take any given path?  You don’t.  I wish I had better news for you.

It all depends on how you see the choices you make in life.  Some people give absolutely no thought whatsoever to the path they’re taking all the while they’re taking it.  Some people give so much thought to the path they’re about to take that they never ‘really’ take any path at all.  Everyone makes their own choices about the path that may lie ahead of them, or the path that lay ahead that they may or may not take.  Right or wrong depends on your perspective and your choice or not to take any given path.

Vegas is bright, and for the most part you know what choices you are or aren’t making before you go anywhere near Vegas.  If you’re a person who tries to make as many good choices as possible before you head down any given path, you focus hard on how clearly you can see the outcome that lies ahead should you choose to go down said path.  Or not.  Sometimes, you can see the end of a path very clearly before you even turn onto it.  Sometimes, the path is so convoluted and complicated that there is no hope of knowing what may or may not lie at the end of it without actually travelling it.  Sometimes.  Life is all about ‘sometimeses’.  All.  More often than not, the ‘sometimeses’ are far more important than the ‘alwayses’.  More often than not.

Yet, this story is about vision.  How clearly can you see the end of the path ahead?  You can’t.  I’m sorry.  The path that you can see to the end of clearly without actually travelling the path…  well that path isn’t worth taking.  You can see how it ends without actually taking it to the end. Where is the fun, adventure, or the education in taking a path which you can see the end of?  I don’t know.  I don’t go down those paths.  Why would I?  I can see all the way to the end of those paths. Why bother travelling them?

Paths
Paths

The best paths are those which twist and turn to an extent that you can’t adequately see the end of them by simply looking down them.  Some of them are treacherous.  Some of them are amazing.  You can’t get the ‘amazing’ without risking the potential dangers.  These are the best paths.  Sometimes they result in amazing rewards. Sometimes they result in unforeseeable tragedy.  You don’t get the ‘amazing’ without the potential for ‘disaster’.  This is simply the way of things, and I’m just the messenger.  I want to tell you that I’m sorry about all of that, but I’m not even a little bit sorry.  You can’t win big if you don’t play.  You don’t get big rewards from small risks.  It is the way of things.  I can’t change it and neither can you.  We can only choose which path we take.

Some paths are foolishly, obviously, dangerous.  What you can see from the entrance of the path tells you  very clearly that you would be a fool to enter at all.  There is no potential for reward regardless of your valor or desire to take risks.

Some paths have an obvious potential for security.  You can see far enough down the path that you know what lies ahead, yet you could feign adventure by convincing those around you that you think adventure may lie ahead even though you can see very clearly (although only barely) that the adventure is only imagined and/or hoped for.

The best paths?  The intricately elusive ones.  You can see down them soooo far that you believe that you know what’s at the end, even though you can’t actually see the literal end.  Yet, you also can’t actually see the end of the path, which leaves you wondering what’s at the end.  Is it what you believe is there from experience?  Do you have 10 years of experience guiding you?  100?  1000?  Does it really matter, if you can’t actually see the end of the path?  No amount of experience can see through a blind turn.  Trust me.

Road Ahead
Road Ahead

I’m going to tell you a secret.  The best paths?  Those in which you have to squint to see as absolutely far down them as you possibly can, yet you can’t see far enough to know what may lie at the end.  You’re leveraging your 10/100/1000 years of experience against the random chance of the unknown.  You’re taking the chance that takes you beyond your years of wisdom.  This is the path for you, regardless of your wisdom or your in/experience.

It’s just my opinion.  Paths with ease and clarity aren’t worth taking, because you’re wasting your time on a path you’ve already travelled.  Paths with wild and imperceptible unknowns are so reckless that you have to have nothing to lose for them to be worth taking.

That path where you find yourself squinting in order to see as far down as possible, and also wondering what lies beyond that bend you can barely see ahead?  That’s the path you need to take.  No matter who you are or how many paths you’ve travelled.

Squint.  It’s how you’ll know which path to take.  More accurately, when you find yourself squinting?  You’ve found your way…

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero (lack of) Vision

The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life 19-July-2013

The Meaning of Life
The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life  19-July-2013

Geesh it’s been over a month since I’ve written anything!  I guess I’ll warm up with something simple like the meaning of life.  Sorry it’s taken me a while to get around to this one.  It’s been on a post-it note on my desk for months…

You know how sometimes you have to look at things through someone else’s eyes to really understand their position on an issue?  It’s not easy to do, especially if their position is opposing you.  Yet, understanding is critical to resolving opposition.

Now this next part is a bit abrupt.  Albeit necessary.  I had the un/fortunate experience once (or twice; the thicker your skull is, the more times karma has to beat you to death to get you to listen… but who’s counting?) to look back on my life through the eyes of my own death.  Not like you hear about, or see in the movies, where a person’s life flashes before their eyes just before they have a near-death experience.  For me it was different.  It was also extremely effective.  I woke up knowing exactly what the meaning of MY life was, and always will be.

I hope you don’t have to die to find out the meaning of YOUR life.  Yours is different than mine, and mine is different than my dog’s, etc.  There is no one meaning to all life.  All life is different, and therefore why would one meaning fit all?  At least that’s the way I see it.

You’ve heard people hint at it…  “You’ll never hear someone on his death bed say he wishes he’d spent more time at the office.”  And, “You can’t take it with you when you die.”  These are great hints at what should matter most in your life.  To you.  Your call.

Life tests us too, in ways that we often won’t know whether we passed or failed until the test has long been over.  That’s how I make many of my own decisions when I’m conflicted about what is the right thing to do in any given situation.  I try to think of how I’ll look back at this decision 5, 10, 20 years from now and at that time how will I look back at it as a success?  How will I look back at it as a failure?  It’s still guesswork to a large degree, but…  it’s educated guessing based on how you measure yourself.  Will my kids one day look back at this important decision I made about their future as good parenting?  A parenting fail?  By the time they’re old enough to know how they feel about it, it’ll be long ago too late to change things.  At least that’s the way I see it.  No pressure.  I just do my best and move on. 

Are you envisioning yourself old and wise and looking back at your today-self yet?  That’s what I do.  I think about, if I knew I had only one more day to live, what would I want to sit and reminisce about fondly?  I know what MY fond memories will be.  Time spent with my kids.  A shoulder for them to cry on and a sounding board to help them make their own decisions about the meaning of THEIR lives.  Pizza for their college roomies as often as I can sneak myself in.  A diaper change or 10 in the night when they’re sleep deprived and wondering if they’ll survive my grandkids.  An ass-chewing from them when I bring their kids back from Grandpa’s house spoiled rotten and full of sugar.  If I’m really lucky, and karma goes easy on me, maybe I’ll even see Great-Grandkids. 

When I look back on my life from my last day, those are the things I want to be remembering fondly before I take my last breath.  Those not-yet-created memories are the meaning of the life I want to live.  The path I take now leads me toward that goal.  As we all know, things don’t always go as planned.  You can only connect Point A to Point B if you define both points.  What happens in the middle may or may not go smoothly, but having a destination certainly helps to plot that course.

With all that said, the meaning of life is simple.  You make it up as you go along, and how much of your life was meaningful (and how much wasn’t) will only become clear to you when it’s over, or possibly in the last few days or hours before it ends. 

Some people don’t have kids at all, and therefore the meaning of their lives would be very different than mine.  Maybe their meaning lies in curing cancer, or ending world hunger.  Doesn’t make mine or theirs better or worse.  Just different.  I can’t define their meaning of life any more than they can define mine.  Only you can define yours.

The hard part is if or when you realize that what you want the meaning of your life to be is almost contradictory to the way you’re currently living it.  Like I said at the top, when you try to look at an issue through your opponent’s viewpoint.  In this case, you might be your own opponent.  It’s a difficult realization to come to, yet also an easily remedied situation.  You have a lot of pull when it comes to your own will.  Understanding is critical to resolving opposition. 

Sneak into your own future and take a peek back at the imaginary road you had to take to get there.  Then plot that course.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Meaning

Your Last Day

Your Last Day 08-May-2013

Your Last Day  08-May-2013

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

We had a bit of a scare recently.  Ol’ Willie Wonka had to duck, dodge, and high tail it away from… the light!  I’m happy to report that he’s doing well and got a completely clean bill of health on Monday, after about 3 weeks of evading my old nemesis, the Grim Reaper.  The guy is hard to evade, but a sore loser he is not.  Another story…

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

Amid that scare, as a family we were faced with not only the possibility of having to say our Goodbyes, but having to choose the right time at which to say our final farewell.  There is no good way to choose which day or time to bid farewell to a big chunk of your family’s heart.  We have counted our blessings many times over in recent weeks, as we did not have to make that final call.

We tried to think of a way to celebrate what fleeting time we may have had left:  A roadtrip?  Sunset on our favorite slice of heaven?  Doggy treats for dinner?  Extra long walk?  At the time, Ol’ Willie’s health wasn’t well enough for him to do or enjoy any of those old favorite things.  Evening in front of the fire?  Cuddled up with the kids on the couch for some Doc Who time?  Great ways to spend your last day, but also nothing out of the ordinary for Willie.  In essence, there was no way to celebrate in any grandiose fashion, because every day of Willie’s life he has celebrated as if it were his last.  That’s a Good Boy!

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

We did come up with one small thing we could do for Willie.  Every night when I go to bed, there is Willie in the exact geometric center of my bed, warming it, and he gives me a stern grumble when I scoot him over so that I can sleep there too.  When we thought Willie might be spending his last night with us, I let him have that spot, and I slept at the foot of the bed.  (Don’t feel too bad for me, it’s a big bed!)  That’s it.  That’s all we could come up with.  The King’s Ransom of the bed.  There was nothing else worthwhile that Willie hadn’t done, seen, or lived.

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

Willie has seen and done so many things with us as a family.  Countless wild goose chases in the family truckster…  witnessed that big bright ball in the sky slipping under the horizon as we sat and watched for no apparent reason.  He joins in, even if he doesn’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing.  He loves bedtime books, although he doesn’t understand many of the words.  He sits in front of the crackling fire even though he doesn’t know why it burns.  He steals a few minutes in our laps even if it’s not the most comfortable place in the house.

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

Ride the hayrack?  Uhm sure, we could just walk but if you’ve got your heart set on it, Willie will play along.  Pretend he likes my guitar playing?  Dance?  Wear a funny hat?  Scream and run in circles?  Climb that mountain just for the view?  Sure why not, there’s probably something up there worth sniffing.  Yep, that’s a Good Boy!  A puppy dog face in your hands when your heart is heavy, and a nip at your heels when you’re playful?  Yeah Willie does all that.  Every day.

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

It’s not all fun and games though.  Willie is the burglar alarm and the homework monitor.  He sits quietly while we get our work done and waits for us to have time to play.  He monitors my blood pressure and nudges me with a cold wet nose when I need to cool down a little.  Reminds me when I need to be walked, and alerts me to kids having bad dreams.  He keeps the floor clean of crumbs and makes rounds in the night to be sure the area is secure. 

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

Willie sounds like a very rich canine, right?  None of these things cost him a dime.  He just goes along with the ones he loves most, for whatever ride we’re on.  He doesn’t pitch a fit if we don’t do what he wanted to do that day.  Everything we find interesting, he finds interesting.  He won’t ever regret that he wasn’t able to save up enough money to see Egypt.  Our 20 year old Chevy van is just as much fun to him as a new Cadillac would be.  Willie doesn’t see through material possessions or places or social status…  he’s unable to see them at all.  He loves his family, and everything they do.  He’s not interested in much else.

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

My reason for writing this story is not to try to explain what a brush with death does to a person, to a dog, or to those who love that person and/or dog.  It’s really not something you can understand unless it happens to you, just like you can’t know what the searing kiss of hot lead feels like until it kisses you.  My point is that Willie didn’t need a brush with death to know what is most important in his life. 

How about you?  If today was your last day, would you look back on your life and be completely unable to think of a single thing that you wished you’d made a major part of your life while you could have?  Would the center of the bed be the only place in your own life that you’d never been?  Would you regret not listening to someone play an instrument poorly?  Would you wish you’d gone to more sunsets while you had the chance?  On your last day, you won’t get an opportunity to go back and redo it.  At least most people don’t.  Don’t wait until that day.

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

We all know that the life of the family dog is often a posh one.  What I think we often overlook is that the family dog finds more joy in one day than most humans do in a month.  Or a year.  Or a lifetime.  Forget about the doggy treats and the dog bed and all the things we do FOR our dogs, and think for a moment about how much your dog enjoys the joys he brings your family. 

Your Last Day
Your Last Day

Do you see through the haze that life is often veiled in, and see with great clarity what is most important to you?  Willie sees only black and white.  A life spent with and for family is a good one, and a life without those things wouldn’t be very colorful.  Are you enjoying your life more than my dog is enjoying his?  Are you living your life with all your heart in all the right places?  Are you as smart as my dog?

None of us can answer all of those questions as perfectly as we’d like to.  I just hope that Willie and I helped you stop and be honest with yourself about at least a few of them.  Did I mention that he’s a Good Boy?

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Dogs

IMG-20121005-01093

The Power to Forget 30-October-2012

Power to Forget
Power to Forget

The Power to Forget  30-October-2012

One of the (few) things I know with great certainty about life, and hope to pass along to my kids, is that thing we’ve all fallen prey to at one point or another:  Love Blindness.  It’s really easy to be taken advantage of when you’re wearing the love blinders.  It’s one of my regular speeches.  The other night when I gave it at an opportune moment, Ezra chimed in with his two cents.  Or $47.

“Well yeah but it’s not just that you’re blind. It’s also that you maybe want to believe something is better than it really is, or that something isn’t as bad as it really is. It’s a way to make yourself think your life isn’t really a mess.”

I suppose I can stop giving that speech now.  He’s way beyond what I can teach him.

Later that same evening, he asked me if I’d come up with a new superpower yet.  (Any time one of the three of us comes up with a new superpower, we’re supposed to report it right away in detail.  I guess I’ve been slacking off on that…)  I reported that, sadly, I hadn’t anything new to report.  He had a new one:

“Imagine how amazing it would be if you had the power to make yourself forget.  Just inside yourself.  You could forget your worst fear.  Or a heartbreak.  Or the worst thing that ever happened to you.”

This was one of the few times that I had something to offer him on the subject, yet I did not go into detail.  I am often blessed with kind words about both of my kids-  how mature they are for their ages, wise beyond their years, etc.  There’s a reason they’re 30-something with only a decade-ish of experience.  Sometimes I want to tell him that he’s that ‘Soldier of Fate’ that Phil Vassar sings about.  After what he’s already been through, life will have little to challenge him with once he turns 18.  He knows this to some extent.  To another, he’ll realize it later in life.  I’m in no hurry to go into all that detail with him.

I wanted to say, “That would be an amazing superpower, Buddy, but those struggles are what shape who we are and how we deal with what life throws at us.  Erasing them from within might erase part of who we really are inside as well.”

Yet what he had said was too beautiful to in any way disagree with, even constructively.

Instead, I said, “Awesome.  If you figure out how to do that, please let me know.  It seems like no matter how much I do want to forget some things, they’re there permanently.  I could do without a few of them.”

He chuckled a little (he doesn’t have to guess which memories I was talking about…)  and was quiet for a while.

After a few minutes, he added, “I’d have to keep it a secret.  Most people would use it for evil.  They’d forget the bad things they’d done to other people, the things they hate about themselves, and what they did yesterday that they were ashamed of.  Most people would use it to become more evil instead of more good.”

I want to promise each and every one of you that if Ezra ever does find a way to create this superpower within himself, I will beg him not to tell a soul how to do it, not even me.  He’s the one person on this planet I would trust it with.  No others.  Not even me.

Some people become masters at lying to themselves.  Believing their own lies.  Making up excuses and reasons they had to do the things they did.  No fault of their own.  And therefore, they never make any effort to simply improve on who they are.  This is a personality type.  It has a tendency for self-destruction and spirals itself into disarray.

Some people learn from their mistakes, own their failings, and try hard to always improve on the things they make mistakes in.    They do their best to right their wrongs and even if they cannot salvage a broken situation, they learn from it so that it might not happen again.  This is a personality type.  It has a tendency to turn young children into superheroes.

I’m glad he has 4 more years before he doesn’t need me to drive him around anymore.  I hope that when he gets his license, he’ll still let me ride around with him and tell me stories all the while.  It would seem that even though he has my thick skull and strong will, he is much more adept at learning from life than I am.  I hope he never tires of teaching me.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Unforgotten

Video

Paper Airplane 27-August-2012

Video
Video

Paper Airplane  27-August-2012 

Fancy that, I was driving the kids yesterday when they taught me this bit.  I’m the driver.

I was probably babbling on and on like I do, in fact apologizing for how that big thing I really wanted didn’t work out quite like I planned.

Me-  “Blah blah blah I’m really sorry about that, Honey.”

Sophie-  “It’s ok, Daddy, it doesn’t work that way.  You can’t always plan out how life will go.”

Ezra-  “Yeah, Dad…  it’s like making a paper airplane.  You can plan what design you want, and try to fold it perfect, but it won’t always be perfect.  Then you have to throw it and follow it wherever the wind takes it.”

And that would pretty much be an exacting description of how the first 41 years have gone for me.  Uttered by an 11 year old boy and an 8 year old girl as idle chatter in the van along our day.  Why in the world didn’t it occur to me sooner to simply ask, “Hey guys, could you neatly summarize life for me in 50 words or less before we get to Burger King?”

Thank goodness they still need me to drive them places.  I’m the driver.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Paper Airplane

Flower Petals

Flower Petals 27-July-2012

Flower Petals
Flower Petals

Flower Petals  27-July-2012

Flower Petals
Flower Petals

This is something Sophie said Friday night, and I did my best to scribble down enough notes that I could come back to writing the story when time allowed.  Often, I try to write these things out immediately when the kids say them, so that I don’t miss or forget any details.  I didn’t rush on this one, though, because I knew that no matter how well I managed to put it in my own words, I wouldn’t do justice to how Sophie told it, nor can I convey in words how special it was to sit and listen to it come from her own lovely lips.  I suppose I get to keep that part all to and for myself, as much as I wish I could share it too.

Sophie has a box of dried flowers and petals that she has saved from the flowers I’ve bought her on our date nights over the years.  Not all of them-  often she gives away most of her flowers before we make it home, but there are at least a few petals from each night in there.  I hadn’t seen that box in a while, and the other night I noticed it sitting on the kitchen table.

Me-  “Why do you have your box of flower petals out, honey?”

Sophie-  “I have something really smart to tell you, but it’s going to take a few minutes and I want to tell you in private.”

Sophie isn’t really the shy type.  This ought to be good…

Flower Petals
Flower Petals

We found a quiet corner and she proceeded to tell me about the different kinds of dried flowers in the box.  Many of them are well-preserved:  They remain somewhat soft and smooth in spite of being entirely dried out.  Some seem to have been only lucky enough to remain partially preserved:  They are still soft on the inside, but the outer parts of the petals are dry and crisp.  Some haven’t stood the test of time well at all:  They are dry and brown throughout, and the deeper inside you dig, the darker and more brittle the petals get.

“See Daddy, these are kind of how people are.  The ones that are just a little brown on the tips, but are still mostly smooth and soft are like a person who has made just a few bad choices in life, but they’re still a good person.  Like this rose.  It’s still beautiful, even though it’s not perfect.”

“And then, there are the ones that are dry on the outside, but if you pull the petals out, they’re still kind of soft and smooth on the inside.  These are like a person who has made a lot of bad choices in life, but there is still a lot of good inside them, even though on the outside it looks kind of bad.”

“Some of them are just dry and brittle all the way through, though.  Even if you pull off all the petals, all the way down to the very inside, it just gets darker and blacker inside, and the inside petals are even more brittle than the petals that look terrible on the outside.  These are like a person who has made mostly bad choices in life, and is really just a bad person all the way through.”

Flower Petals
Flower Petals

For each description, she dug out a flower to disassemble for me, to show me the different parts she was describing as she talked.  I honestly don’t know why some of the flowers in that box are better preserved than others, but undoubtedly, Sophie saw more in there than any botanist ever could.  Or than I ever would have.

Flower Petals
Flower Petals

As the Blind Ogre I willingly admit that I am when standing next to my kids most of the time, I thought I was doing well to see the beauty in that Sophie has saved all of those flower petals all of these years.  This is another of the many times I find myself in awe of the amazing depth with which Sophie sees the world around her.  Little known fact about Blind Ogres:  They see the world in black and white, just like dogs.  Know why dogs love kids so much?  I know why.  It’s because they can paint a colorful masterpiece in our otherwise grayscale worlds.  Even using old dry flower petals…

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Petals

Notice 17-May-2012

Notice
Notice

Notice  17-May-2012

Last night, Ezra came back out to the kitchen after I’d shut off all the lights.  I wandered out with the expectation of growling at him for still being up, but instead I found myself watching quietly from the hallway kitchen entrance.  As he normally does, he had already put out his cereal and cereal bowl for the next morning, but while I watched from behind him, he unpacked his lunch box as well.  That’s new.  There were some ‘salvageable’ crackers that he put out next to the lunch box, and he put the freezer packs, of all places, in the freezer!  I didn’t ask him to do any of that.  That’s all new.  I want to say that he suddenly looked taller, but that’s actually not at all new.  He’s a lot taller.  Every day.  And older.  Every day.  He would have been unpacking his lunch box every night a long time ago if I’d just thought to ask him to do so.  He does lots of other things around the house for me.  The lunch box is just something I never thought to ask his help with.  That’s been my responsibility since he was a Kindergartner!

Sophie has shown lots of interest in cooking with me recently.  Helping me cook, asking me how I cook her favorite things.  I realized the other night while she was helping with dinner that she doesn’t slow me down anymore, in fact she’s a major help…  It won’t be long before I’m in her way!  Her latest ‘favorite sandwich’ is thin sliced turkey on sourdough bread, with a thick slice of mozzarella cheese, light mayonnaise on one side and heavy ranch on the other.  The notable difference between this and other, prior, favorite sandwiches?  This time, she got frustrated with me not quite doing it right and decided to do it herself.  And now she does it herself every time, whenever she wants one, even this morning’s sammich for her school lunch.  All by herself.  No Daddy required.  Similar to last night’s front row seat for Ezra’s growth, I stood there this morning weeping quietly inside with the realization that she’s a lot older than I wanted to admit.  She hasn’t needed me to make her a sammich for a long time, I only recently got out of her way so she could do it herself.

I almost forgot my point, and let this turn into (yet another) ‘boo hoo they’re growing up too fast’ story!  I know I write a lot of those.  And I promise to write a lot more of them in coming years!

My point today, though, is that I noticed all of this.  Sometimes it slips by quietly, and like in the two examples here, it hits me hard because it almost got by me.  But it didn’t, and in general it doesn’t.  I do notice.  I notice when they do new things.  I notice when they pass milestones in maturity.  I notice when they notice that I pass milestones in maturity!  And even though I do pay attention and I do notice their changes, sometimes things still get past me, even if only briefly.  Everybody wins when you notice.  Ezra feels good about himself when I tell him I’m proud of how he does helpful things all on his own.  Sophie feels good about herself when I tell her how helpful she is, and how much I enjoy her help.  I feel good about myself when I’m proud of my kids.  And I noticed something good in a world where we aren’t exactly showered in positive things to take notice of.

Like noticing the beauty of a single rain drop during a thunderstorm maybe?  In the end, all those drops of rain are indistinguishable from the flood that quickly passes.  Just like all these single evenings will be swept together one day in an entire lifetime that passes in the blink of an eye.  Time may stand still for no one, but everyone can enjoy it as it passes.  Just don’t let it go by unnoticed.

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Notice

Rockwell Syndrome 18-April-2012

Rockwell Syndrome
Rockwell Syndrome

Rockwell Syndrome  18-April-2012

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!!!

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Syndrome

Guys Night Evo 14-April-2012

Lego Evolution
Lego Evolution

Guys Night Evo  14-April-2012

Lego Evolution
Lego Evolution

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!

Lego Evolution
Lego Evolution

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.

Lego Evolution
Lego Evolution

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…

Lego Evolution
Lego Evolution

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.

Lego Evolution
Lego Evolution

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.

Lego Evolution
Lego Evolution

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…

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Evolution

Karmastrophic 11-April-2012

Karmastrophic
Karmastrophic

Karmastrophic  11-April-2012

Karmastrophic
Karmastrophic

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.

Karmastrophic
Karmastrophic

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.

Karmastrophic
Karmastrophic

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.

Karmastrophic
Karmastrophic

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.

Karmastrophic
Karmastrophic

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.

Karmastrophic
Karmastrophic

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