October 30, 2009

The Weeklies #107

The Weekly Nickname Beth Came Up With For Me. Dick nostril.

The Weekly Euphamism for Sex. Smooshing the dolphin.

The Weekly Time Waster. Pumpkin Push.

The Weekly Read. The kind folks at Hachette Book Group sent me a copy of David Baldacci's True Blue to read and review. I'd read Baldacci before and liked him so I figured what the hell. 450+ pages later, I was left feeling a little shorted. Don't get me wrong - the book was good. The plot was well thought out and the action was tight. It was well written and Baldacci clearly knows his subject matter and the city of Washington. But the characters felt a little too wooden to me to really root for. And there were a couple of plot elements that either didn't need to be there at all or were there to set the premise for the inevitable sequel. And there really should be a sequel because I have the feeling it would be good, perhaps better, now that the stage is set and the characters defined. Should you read it? Sure, why not? I'm not sure I'd pay full hardback price for it but it's worth a spin.

The Weekly Health Situation. There were no hospitals this week so bonus.

The Weekly Truth Behind The Blog Entry. Yesterday's story? Mostly true. All except the meeting a ghost part. Beth and I did actually stay in a fairly gothic place, at the top of a cliff overlooking Mont-Saint-Michel which was as I described. Also as I described was the late night/early morning wake up call due to the fire alarms, the ten or so minutes spent outside in the dark, wet night and the encounter with the British lady. Only she wasn't a ghost. That part I made up.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for David Letterman, a former writer calls his show a hostile work environment. Of course, she might have just been referring to having to work with Paul Schaffer.

The Weekly Hypothetical. You have the one-time power to add hours to the day. Do you? Why or why not?

Posted by Chris at 7:32 AM | Comments (18)

October 29, 2009

Mystère

Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a small, rocky island a little over half a mile off the coast of France around Normandy. It's a tidal island, only accessible when the tide goes out. And when the tide is in, it's 50 inhabitants are entirely cut off from the mainland. It has been a cultural stronghold, a prison, an abbey and, now, a historical monument.

A few years ago, Beth and I traveled to France. We traveled throughout the country for a few weeks and managed to stay a couple nights in a small village overlooking the bay in which Mont-Saint-Michel sits. The place we stayed was literally gothic, an old gothic estate situated on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the water. When the tide was in - the same tide that blocked all access to the Mont - the waves crashed against the cliff and winds buffeted the old mansion. But when the tide was out, the winds disappeared completely and mud flats paved the way to the Mont, lying eerily out there in the fog.

We did all the touristy things - we walked through the villages, visited the Mont, ate in the ocean-front restaurants that lined the main avenue of the odd yet charming town. But on the first night we were there, something truly odd happened.

We were in bed asleep when, about two in the morning, buzzers and bells began to ring out all over the house, echoing through the stone walls and marble halls. Beth and I looked at each other, wiping the sleep from our eyes. I put on some clothes, opened the door, heard someone mention a fire alarm. So we put on the warmest things we had handy and went outside. There, on the lawn, directly at the top of the cliff, the waves were battering the cliff walls, the cold winds were howling and a frigid rain started to spit from the sky. I can't explain the feeling - it was truly eerie, like being in some gothic horror movie from the 1950s.

"Are you the Americans?" a voice asked from over my shoulder. I turned and there was an elegant older woman, probably in her early sixties, dressed for bed having been awakened like us, long flowing silver hair. A distinctly British accent.

"Yes. Cold, wet Americans," I replied.

"I'm sure it's nothing. Just a false alarm from an old house like this. Esther Landsdale," she said, offering a hand.

"Pleasure meeting you," I replied. And we talked about who-knows-what for the next five minutes until the alarms stopped, the house was checked out and the proprietor gave us the all-clear.

We returned to our room, exhausted, shed our cold, wet clothes and awoke the next morning to a cool, sunny morning, no trace of the weather that had soaked us earlier. We lounged around in bed for a while, what with the interrupted sleep, then made our way down the house's grand stairway to breakfast. Lining the stairway were a series of photographs I'd not noticed the day before. They were each labeled not with names but two ranges of dates. One of the photos sent chills up my spine. I rushed down the rest of the steps and found the proprietor at the front desk.

"Excuse me. I just noticed the photographs on the stairway. Who are those people?" I asked.

"They are the former proprietors and owners, sir."

"And the dates - those are the years they managed the house?"

"Yes, and the years they died."

"One of the sets of dates seems to be wrong. One of them was Esther Landsdale, correct? I met her last night when we were evacuated."

"I'm afraid that's impossible, sir. That is a picture of Ms. Lansdale however Ms. Lansdale died in 1943 in a fire that consumed most of the east wing of the house. We have a book on the history of the town and the house over in the parlor if you'd like to read about the incident."

And so I did, stunned. I made my way to the parlor, opened the book and found what appeared to be the right place chronologically. There, again, was the picture of Esther Landsdale with a brief mention of the accident.

On July 22, 1943, while the conflict raged throughout most of the European continent, a fire raged through the east wing of Chateau Bâtiment, killing Esther Landsdale, proprietor, and three guests. Mme Landsdale succumbed to the flames after leading several visitors to the property to safety, returning to look for survivors. Her last known words were reported to be Veille de la toussaint heureuse or, in English...

Happy Halloween!

Posted by Chris at 6:36 AM | Comments (25)

October 28, 2009

My Latest Toy

I'm not one to follow fads or seek out what's hot solely because it's hot.

[Okay, okay, I'm lying. I'll admit to owning parachute pants in the 80's and lots of florescent t-shirts. And I distinctly recall going through a phase during which I wanted to dress like an extra from Miami Vice. And, okay, there was the flannel and ripped jeans grunge phase when I grew my hair down to my ass, bought Doc Martens, and pierced my ears a couple times. But for the most part - at least lately - I don't feel the need to chase trends or be in any way trendy myself.]

Which is why it took me a long time to get my hands on an iPhone and why I didn't believe the hype. Until recently.

[Yeah, I lied again. The reason I waited so long was primarily due to the fact that AT&T didn't offer me an equipment upgrade until earlier this month and frankly I didn't want to spend a bazillion dollars on a phone. Okay, I did want to spend a bazillion dollars but I didn't let myself. Or, um, Beth wouldn't let me.]

While we were in Manhattan, we swung by the flagship Apple store on Fifth Avenue, a day after my phone upgrade got the green light, and plopped down the cash for an iPhone. Hands down, best gadget investment ever made. I've spent the week and a half getting used to it, configuring my email accounts and calendars, syncing contacts, and loading applications. And I think I can honestly say that this thing changed my life, just a little bit.

With it, Beth and I were able to keep in constant contact with each other while one of us was at the hospital with Mia and the other was with Owen. We shot video of the kids and sent them to the other. We texted throughout the night and snapped pictures to send back and forth. I know I could do most of this with my old smart phone but not this easily. And now that I'm loaded up with apps, I can make dinner reservations, browse Amazon, shop my local Target store, order Mexican food (Chipotle!), open up and edit all kinds of documents, book movie tickets, read the latest novel (courtesy of the Kindle app which I was skeptical about but needn't have been), Tweet, update Facebook, play the piano and accompany myself on drums, fly an airplane (a fake one, that is), make sure my desk is level (who wants a sloping desk?), retouch pictures and scan barcodes (I'm not sure why I would need to do that but it really is cool for some completely unknown reason) all without leaving the comfort of wherever I happen to be.

[So, really, if you're paying attention at this point, you can see that the iPhone is a total enabler for me to sit on my ass and buy stuff. And I'm fine with that.]

Do you have an iPhone? If so, what apps do I need? And what piece of technology that didn't exist say 10 years ago are you most dependent on now?

[By the way, Apple paid me approximately nothing nor did they give me anything for free to say all this stuff. But if they'd like to, I wouldn't turn 'em down.]

Posted by Chris at 6:47 AM | Comments (46)

October 27, 2009

Balloon Boy

Richard Heene and the entire Heene family are a bunch of asshats. There. Post complete. Cactus out. Talk to you tomorrow.

Okay, wait. This isn't the time for me to become less verbose.

Beth and I were in NYC, getting changed out of our rain-soaked clothes and ready for dinner on a couple of Thursdays back when we flipped on the TV and saw the Balloon Boy story unfolding. Both Beth and I called bullshit immediately (actually we called whatthefuck first, then bullshit). At dinner that night Marshall filled us in on the latest - that the kid had been hiding in the attic the whole time. We still called bullshit. More.

I don't say I'm awesome or toot my own horn a lot. Because that's creepy and uncool. But I will say that I'm adept at three things - I can spot a hit song a mile away, play a pretty mean guitar, and I'm a good judge of people. (Oh, wait, I've got a nice ass. But this isn't about my ass.) The first two things are irrelevant (though the Balloon Family did release a single via YouTube that you should really check out if you, you know, hate music and love seeing people embarrassing themselves in front of a global audience) but I kind of knew from the moment I saw him that Balloon Dad was full of shit. And I'm somewhat amazed that anyone believed the story at all. I put a lot of stock in that whole do not judge lest you be judged line of reasoning but sometimes judging is okay (and fun). That's why I'm comfortable saying Richard Heene and his wife are terrible people.

These are people who used their children in the hopes of personal gain. These are people who diverted emergency manpower and resources as well as public sentiment in order to satisfy their desire for fame. These are people who told their kids to lie to cops. These are people who made the television talk show rounds for nearly 48 solid hours in the aftermath of this potential tragedy, keeping their kids up all night and early in the morning to do so and not relenting when Balloon Boy puked on camera. Instead of taking a break, they got him a bowl.

It is unbelievable to me what some people will do for fame. Especially considering the consequences. Have Jon and Kate taught us nothing?

(Hey, where are you going? That's not rhetorical - have Jon and Kate really taught us nothing? Why is everyone so anxious to be famous? Have you ever wanted to be famous? For what?)

Posted by Chris at 6:52 AM | Comments (22)

October 26, 2009

Catching Up

The last week and a half have been completely hectic and surreal and it feels like at least a year has elapsed. I'm finally headed back to work and realizing that so much has happened in the interim. Here's the run down.

Thursday, October 15. We dropped Mia off at school and headed to the train station. Three hours later we found ourselves deep in the heart of a very rainy and very cold Manhattan. We checked into our hotel and after drying off and changing clothes, we found ourselves at dinner with Marshall Karp and his wife. Then we met his dog Kylie.
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Friday, October 16. The weather in NYC broke and we ended up walking the length of Manhattan. Well, not quite but almost. After a jaunt through Central Park, we hit the Apple store on Fifth Avenue where I picked up my brand spankin' new iPhone. After that it was more walking, down to Battery Park and the financial district to Ground Zero then a cab back up to midtown, dinner and a show. The dinner was great. The show - Next to Normal - was heavy and surreal. Heavy because you don't find many musicals that deal with severe mental issues and the breakup of a family. Surreal because halfway through the first act, a woman a few aisles in front of us stood up and screamed for a doctor because her sister was dead. Seriously. The show was stopped while doctors rushed to her, ambulances and police were called. The woman eventually made it to the back of the theater under her own power and the show started again.

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Saturday, October 17. Another jaunt through Manhattan with a few stops on Fifth Avenue and a side trip through the Museum of Modern Art (weird stuff) then we were off to an early show - 39 Steps, a brilliant and hilarious takeoff on Hitchcock's movie of the same name - and dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. We rolled out of the restaurant two hours later and made a few loops through Times Square before calling it a night.

Sunday, October 18. The sky opened up on our last morning in the city. We hit a museum instead of walking in the rain. We stopped and picked up some sandwiches then headed to Penn Station and caught the train home. And saw our kids. The smiles on their faces were awesome as they caught sight of the car turning the corner. We were so glad to be home.LW3.jpg

Monday, October 19. Mia started breathing hard. And it quickly went downhill. In the mean time, I sat in the dentist chair and got a temporary crown. We booked a pediatrician appointment for Mia but after getting there, Beth was told to take Mia to the emergency room. Which she did. Mia was put on oxygen immediately and admitted a few hours later. Both Beth and I commenced freaking out. There's nothing quite so bad as holding your child down while she's given an IV.

Tuesday, October 20. Mia still in the hospital. I relieve Beth around 11:00, giving her the chance to come home, see Owen, take a shower and nap. In spite of the oxygen masks, breathing treatments, cords and tubes running into my daughter, we had a nice afternoon. By four, having slept precisely two hours the night before, Mia was wiped out. When Beth returned, they sacked out and I returned home to hang with Owen. We ate pizza, watched Scooby Doo and slept, cuddling in the morning when we both awoke.
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Wednesday, October 21. Another long night for Mia and Beth, but better than the previous evening. More oxygen, more breathing treatments. Then, thank god, home. We chilled out the rest of the day, let the kids watch just about as much TV as they wanted and got prescriptions filled. And we all slept in our own beds under the same roof. Finally.

Thursday, October 22. No school for Mia but a follow-up doctors visit and a diagnosis that makes sense - cats! Yep, Mia is apparently more allergic to cats than we'd previously thought.

Friday, October 23. Still no school for Mia. Instead a trip to the mall to get her Ariel Halloween costume. And Scooby-Doo for Owen. The boy loves Scooby Doo.

Saturday, October 24. Pumpkins! We loaded up on pumpkins to decorate, hit the grocery store (filling more prescriptions) then spent the afternoon at home, being playful and crafty

Sunday, October 25. Mia resumed her swimming lessons while Beth and I quietly freaked out over what looked like an increase in breathing difficulty. Mia had an event at her school that she attended after which she made a quick trip to the pediatrician.

Monday, October 26. Oh, hi. I think you're caught up.

Posted by Chris at 7:03 AM | Comments (27)

Haiku For Monday #290

A week and a half
of no work and now I'm back.
Line up the coffee.

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (2)

October 23, 2009

The Weeklies #106

The Weekly Emotion. All of them.

The Weekly Read. Way back last week - because that's the last time I remember picking up a book - I polished off Joe Schreiber's Chasing The Dead. I picked it up on the strength of his latest novel - Eat The Dark. And it was meh. I mean, it wasn't bad but it also wasn't overly great. Should you read it? If you've traveled the globe and read every suspense novel to man with the exception of this one, well, sure. Otherwise, give it a pass.

The Weekly People Who I Think Are The Awesomest. Pediatric nurses and doctors. Everyone in the medical profession we dealt with over the last week was absolutely, insanely awesome. It takes a special type of person to a) make kids better, b) make kids comfortable and c) handle those kids' parents. Thank god they're around doing what they're doing.

The Weekly Greatest Invention Ever. My iPhone. Yeah. It does live up to the hype.

The Weekly Personal Lapse in Blogging Etiquette. I'm contemplating doing something I never do. See, whenever you guys comment, my blogging software posts that comment on my site and sends me that comment via email. And I answer all my email. But I think this week I'm going to have to put that personal rule aside. So you have my humble apologies if you don't get a reply from me this week. My priorities are a little different this week. That said, I can't thank you enough for the outpouring of support.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Is there any doubt about it? Balloon Boy (and the entire wacky Balloon Family). Look, up in the sky...its a bird...its a plane...it's a fame-hungry publicity whore.

The Weekly Hypothetical. You win a vacation home. Or, rather, a pile of building materials and a contractor. You can have the house built absolutely wherever you want. Where do you build your vacation house?

Posted by Chris at 8:22 AM | Comments (37)

October 22, 2009

Home

Mia is home. She arrived with attitude, enthusiasm, accessories like a nebulizer and an armload of prescriptions but without wires, tubes and monitors. Mia Unplugged. She's home and we are thrilled. Especially Owen who screamed MIA! at the top of his lungs for an hour when I told him she was coming home.

Mia's got more medicine to take, more breathing treatments and follow-up doctors visits. She's not done with this yet. But with a little patience, we're hoping that the worst is over. What I do know is this. It's fantastic feeling to see my daughter laughing her ass off. And having the whole family under the same roof again.

Thank you guys for your support.

Posted by Chris at 12:05 PM | Comments (49)

October 20, 2009

Update

Words cannot express how awesome you are. I'm in the process of going through all your comments. Don't expect my traditional response. There's no way I can write you all back. I am beside myself, overcome with gratitude. You all rock.

Mia is still in the hospital but making really good progress. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and is receiving regular breathing treatments and healthy doses of oxygen courtesy of a mask she absolutely loathes combined with steroids and plenty of fluids both through an IV, something she hates more than the mask. The breathing treatments are growing farther and farther apart and her reliance on oxygen (from the mask, not oxygen in general) is decreasing. All of which is good news. We're hoping we can bring her home tomorrow.

Owen will be just as relieved as us when she comes home, if not more. He talks about Mia constantly, refuses to eat anywhere else besides Mia's chair at the dinner table, will get dressed and changed only in Mia's room, would read only Mia's books before bed. I'm pretty sure if I'd have offered up one of Mia's nightgowns to him, he'd be sleeping in it as I type.

I spent a chunk of the day in the hospital. Mia and I watched a lot of TV. We wrestled over the mask - I wanted her to wear it, she didn't. I hooked and unhooked tubes and wires so she could get up and move around. And at every turn, I had to fight myself, fight the lump in my throat, and just keep going. Short of being in the hospital with Beth and both the kids after each was born, this is without doubt the hardest moment in parenting I've ever faced. It's just so basic - I want Mia to be well and getting her there is mostly out of my power because I'm not a doctor or a nurse and as it turns out Grey's Anatomy viewing doesn't prepare you for a hospital gig.

I'll keep you in the loop. In the mean time, I think I'll go grab a beer and look at pictures of my daughter. Thank you again for all the comments, kind words and positive vibes.

Posted by Chris at 9:51 PM | Comments (101)

October 19, 2009

A Little Helpless

Can I ask you guys a favor?

Earlier this afternoon, I was sitting in the emergency room. Mia is sick and I'm scared shitless. More scared than I thought I ever could be (I'm not just saying that for the blog, for drama). It's a nice hospital and all the doctors and nurses are fantastic but sitting there waiting for her to get back from an x-ray, all I wanted to do was to pick her up and take her in my arms and run as far and as fast as humanly possible to breathe air into her little lungs and make everything okay. Which it's clearly not because - again as I was sitting there - alarms in other people's rooms were going off and people were talking about splints and H1N1 testing and broken ankles. This is a binary situation to me - it's either all good or just plain bad.

Backing up. Beth took Mia to the pediatrician this afternoon after a bout of troubled breathing. This led to the emergency room which has, in turn, led to a hospital stay. The prognosis is good but that doesn't stop me from being terrified. Terrified, like every nerve-ending simultaneously buzzing like you imagine it must have felt when Kirk and Spock beamed down to a planet in the transporter, when they got all sparkly just before they disappeared completely. Beth and Mia are staying at the hospital tonight. I'm home with Owen, who is now asleep. I miss my girls. I want them home. But I'll hope for a night of recovery so that I can welcome them home tomorrow. In the mean time, you damn well better believe I'll be sleeping on Mia's Little Mermaid pillow.

So, that favor. Could you guys think some positive thoughts for my little girl? I know it didn't work out all that well on that Big Work Thing but, hey, it can't hurt to try again, right?

Posted by Chris at 8:00 PM | Comments (141)

I'm Baaaack

So, as you noticed on Thursday I took an unexpected leave of absence from the world except it wasn't so unexpected. Instead of giving each other stuff that we didn't need for our tenth anniversary, we decided to give ourselves the one thing we did need. A vacation. So we packed up a couple of small bags, convinced the grandparents to spend a long weekend with the kids, hopped a train and spent a long weekend here:

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Yes, we honeymooned in the Big Apple so we decided to return for our anniversary.

Nights away from the kids: 3
Mornings we slept in: 3
Meals out that someone else cooked: 10
Manhattan blocks walked: 100+
iPhones bought: 1 (yep, I finally got one!)
Cold, blustery days: 4
Gloves bought: 3 pairs (a lone glove was unfortunately lost in Manhattan)
Museums visited: 2
Famous authors eaten with: 1
Cabs taken: 4
Broadway shows seen: 2
Broadway shows interrupted due to a surreal, hysterical medical emergency: 1
Times we missed our kids: 6,301

We got back into town last night, the kids were wonderful and the grandparents wiped out. And the look on my kids' faces as they saw us pull up to the house was priceless. It's nice to be missed. Now it's back to reality. And nothing says reality like getting a cavity filled. So, if you'll excuse me, it's off to the dentist chair with me. Maybe a little novocaine will help take the sting out of reality.

What were you guys up to while I was away?

Posted by Chris at 8:01 AM | Comments (27)

Haiku For Monday #289

Reality is
a four syllable word that
I just loathe today.

Posted by Chris at 7:55 AM

October 15, 2009

Gone Fishin' (Metaphorically)

Yesterday, my Big Work Project ended. A project I'd worked on for the past six years. Surely a day or two off never hurt anyone, right? Right. I'm taking some much needed time off...here and at work. Catch you guys on the flip side of the weekend.

Posted by Chris at 7:16 AM | Comments (15)

October 14, 2009

Recent Dream (Or, I'm Slowly Losing My Mind)

It's quite possible that I'm going insane. This would not be a shock to most of you. If we're being honest with each other, it's been a long time coming. Proof? A recent dream.

I was with a couple of friends in an average library, like the neighborhood library you visited when you were in elementary school or the one you headed to in high school when you had to finish a research paper and needed to actually cite sources instead of just making shit up (not that I ever tried that). Except, in the back of the library was a giant stage which looked as if it was lifted out of any major arena. And on stage, in a hail of blue lights, was the band Rush. Except it wasn't like modern Rush. It was 80's Rush, complete with mullets and parachute pants. They were playing quite loudly and there were lots of folks really rocking out but the minute you went back into the library part of the building, it was quiet. Weird. On the other side of the library was a set of double-doors. Going through them, you'd find yourself in a long, windy tunnel, dark with faint traces of red lights. At the end of the corridor was a strip club.

For some strange reason, my best childhood friend was also there. We were our current ages. Brian had turned out to be gay, which we all knew at the time anyway - he was apparently the last to get the memo. He was catching a flight back to Houston at midnight. We were busy checking out books and he wanted to head to a local Chinese food place for eggrolls before going to the airport. The guy checking us out was one of my current clients. He wore a sidearm. Apparently we were in a dangerous library. A dangerous rockin' library. Or he doubled as a bouncer for the strip club. It was unclear. There was also a hot chick who kept roaming through the library asking everyone if they'd read Watership Down. I told her I hadn't. (I really haven't.) Then Brian and I argued over which one of us got to ask her out. I reminded him he was gay. I don't remember if she and I ever hooked up. I suspect not. I'm sure she frowned upon my lack of literary prowess.

So, I ask you - is this a sign of impending insanity? Is a rubber room in my future? And what could a dream like this - especially one featuring mullets and classic literature I've never read - possibly mean? What are your weirdest most recent dreams?

Posted by Chris at 5:40 AM | Comments (22)

October 13, 2009

Premature Nobelation

I am unashamedly a bleeding heart liberal democrat. The previous eight years under the Bush administration were physically painful to me and the degree to which that administration undermined our progress and values (in my humble opinion) will not be completely understood for decades. Which is why I became an Obama fan early on. During the election I became more emotionally invested in a Presidential campaign than I thought possible. Signs adorned our yard. My car was littered with magnetic Obama bumper stickers. I watched every debate. My children knew who Obama was. The night of the election, I was a wreck. The relief when he won was incredibly profound.

In short, I have an immense amount of respect and faith in the man which very well might be irrational. Which is why I find it so hard to understand my feeling that he should not have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a way I feel sorry for the President. He came into office on a wave of hope and hype to which it is virtually impossible to live up. I don't envy him the tasks in front of him - two wars, healthcare, the economy. He's in a no win situation. The Nobel just adds to the pressure. But more than that, he doesn't have enough accomplishments under his belt to warrant such recognition. I get that the prize can be awarded for actions or potential but to me it's like giving someone a million dollar check because they entertained the idea of buying a lottery ticket.

What do you think? Was he a worthy winner or was the award premature?

Posted by Chris at 6:19 AM | Comments (42)

October 12, 2009

Children of the Corn

Every so often - very rarely - you encounter the absolute perfect weekend. I mean, so perfect that you have to pinch yourself to make sure that what's happening is real, that it isn't some kind of cruel dream that makes reality pale in comparison. This was just such a weekend.

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On Friday night, to celebrate our anniversary, Beth and I ditched the kids with my parents and we went out to eat. It was a fantastic fall evening. We sat outside in the breeze, devouring pasta. There are worse ways to spend an evening. And in the company of my wife of ten years, the night was priceless.

I woke up at 6:30 on Saturday, Owen in tow. The phone rang which, at that hour, means its important. And it was. An hour later and my niece was our houseguest for the day. Two hours later, I was an uncle. Again. My niece spent the day with us while her mom, dad and new sister rested and did all the things new parents do. We played, laughed, visited fire trucks and took long walks. When the day was through and my niece was off with her grandparents for the night, we collapsed, spent, realizing again that the three kid thing wasn't for us. But we'd had a fantastic day, all five of us.

And then on Sunday, it happened. The perfect moment. Owen woke up early and crashed with Beth and I. Around 6:30, Mia woke up, wandered into our room and climbed in on my side of the bed, and cuddled. The early autumn breeze floated in our open windows, curtains flew, and the warmth of the blankets and family were that much warmer. A square of light from the rising sun fell on the bed and crept its way up to my daughter's head. Her hair caught fire in the light and she glowed as if made of light and magic. And in a sense she is. Then Owen got up and sat on my head. The moment was brief but ever so perfect.

We got up, treated the kids (and ourselves) to doughnuts, then packed ourselves up and headed to a local corn maze. We got lost (intentionally) but eventually found our way out. The kids loved it. And so did we. Then we did all kids of other fall festival-type things. We spent the entire day outside, soaking in the wonderful weather. The kids collapsed as soon as night fell. We followed soon after.

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Perfection is rare and fleeting. The fact that it's Monday is proof. But I hope you all had wonderful weekends. What did you do? And what's the last perfect moment you recall?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (18)

Haiku For Monday #288

If I was Gary
Coleman, I'd be all whatchoo
talkin' bout, Monday
?

Posted by Chris at 6:56 AM

October 9, 2009

The Weeklies #105

The Weekly Celebration. Our tenth wedding anniversary! Go us!

The Weekly Time Waster. The Virtual Piano.

The Weekly Read. I love Chuck Klosterman. Not in that way. I just think his writing is good. His pop culture-focused essays are fantastic and his observations never cease to be insightful and inspired. So I was really curious what he'd do in his first foray into fiction - Downtown Owl. I wasn't disappointed. Okay, maybe I was. But just a little bit. Klosterman delivers a compelling, often hilarious portrait of life in small town North Dakota focusing on the lives of three inhabitants. My only issue was the fact that the story was almost non-existent. There was little in the way of plot. It read like a snapshot, not a movie, a description, not a flowing narrative. That said, it was highly readable and immensely likable and, like anything Klosterman touches, I highly recommend it.

The Weekly Bonus Time Waster Because I Don't Have Any Music To Talk About. When Penguins Attack.

The Weekly Strange Musical Juxtaposition In An iTunes Alert. iTunes is helpful and notifies me when there's new shit I might want to buy. This week? And alert telling me that I had artist alerts "From Alice In Chains and Burl Ives". Um. There's a combo.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Us. We've all been made to suffer through this whole pathetic David Letterman ordeal. Okay, so, he was a little creepy and did the horizontal mambo with some co-workers and cheated on his wife in the process. I don't condone it but when did we start holding talk show hosts to higher standards than pop stars? Michael Vick can get an NFL gig after fighting and killing dogs but we're supposed to be up in arms about Letterman doing an intern? Come on.

The Weekly Non-Hypothetical. What's your favorite color?

Posted by Chris at 6:52 AM | Comments (30)

October 8, 2009

Ten

I've noticed lately that my most frequently used phrase seems to be how did that happen. Mia is four years old. How did that happen? Owen is nearly two. How did that happen? I'm almost 37. How did that happen? The summer is over and it's already October. How did that happen? You get the point. Tomorrow Beth and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. How did that happen?

There are lots of adjectives to describe the last ten years - fun, exciting, eventful, difficult, challenging, emotional, fantastic. Take ten years of anyone's life and you'll get a wide spectrum of emotion, some good some bad. I'm lucky because the vast majority of the moments crammed into the last ten years have been wonderful. I'm lucky because I found a wonderful woman and, for some reason, she agreed to marry me and spend her life with me. I'm lucky because she's a fantastic wife and a truly excellent mother who delivered into my life two beautiful children. We laughed, cried, fought, yelled, told lame jokes and laughed at each other's lame jokes, watched a thousand hours of Friends and Survivor, stumbled through four years of parenting, learning the ropes as we went, bled, healed and, most importantly, lived together.

Beth, I love you. And I am truly lucky to be your husband. I can't wait for the next ten years. Or twenty. Or eighty.

Posted by Chris at 6:00 AM | Comments (44)

October 7, 2009

Need

Over the weekend, Mia and I were at the grocery store. When we emerged, cart laden with food - and beer, mostly beer - a couple approached the two of us. She was dressed in tattered dress slacks and a worn hoodie while he wore torn jeans and a Harvard sweatshirt. He limped. She stared off into the middle distance, beyond my shoulder.As they grew close, they started talking.

Him: I think you might be able to help us.
Her: That crazy woman.
Him: We're homeless.
Her: She's got it all wrong.
Him: We could use some money for food.
Her: Crazy.

Something wasn't right. But I was trying to get my daughter out of the parking lot and into the car, I had no cash and, what's more, I knew they were both full of shit.

Me: I'm sorry man, I can't help you today.

They turned, walked off in the parking lot and found their next mark. I got Mia buckled into her seat, pulled up in front of the store and loaded groceries into the back. And went home.

There are reasons I know these folks are full of shit. I've seen them before. I know they have a roof over their heads at least temporarily. I know they're not in need of food. I know that the limp is a tool for sympathy; I saw it get turned on and off. I'm willing to bet that the lady is slightly crazy but that's about the only piece of the act I think was authentic.

When Mia and I were back in the car and the food was loaded into the back, Mia asked me about it.

Mia: Who were those people? What did they want?
Me: They were looking for money.
Mia: Why?
Me: Well, some people have lots of money and others don't have enough.
Mia: Oh. Okay.

I was a little shocked that she took my explanation at face value and didn't ask any more questions. So I wasn't surprised when, after lunch later in the day, it came back up.

Mia: Daddy, do I have lots of money?
Me: You do in your piggy bank. And mommy and daddy have plenty of money for what we all need.
Mia: If someone needs money, I won't give it to them.

And that's, apparently, the lesson she learned from our parking lot run-in. The wrong lesson.

Me: Mia, we are really lucky. Our family has a lot. More than most. Some people have very, very little but our family is very fortunate. And it's our responsibility to help those that don't have enough.

I guess what amazed me is that so simple an incident taught my daughter so much. And that's simultaneously very cool and slightly frightening.

Posted by Chris at 6:44 AM | Comments (19)

October 6, 2009

Something Bizarre This Way Comes

Once again, I combed my server logs to bring the very best and well, not-so-brightest search strings together in one fabulous post. And just for shits and giggles - because who doesn't need, well, just giggles, really - I have scoured my overworked spam filter to see what kinds of things are being peddled. Without further ado, the best and most frightening Crap That's Been Aimed In My General Direction For The Past Month or Two.

  • Nymphomaniac midgets. Story of my life, my friend. Story of my life.
  • 1st star to the left and straight on till morning. Second star, dumbass. Peter Pan needs a GPS. Take the first star to the right and someone's going to clock you over the head and strip your fairy dust for parts.
  • Living with two women. Come and knock on our door...
  • How to tell if your cactus can get you high. Just say no.
  • What can you say about canned goods. Well, they're goods...and they're in cans. Um. That's about it.
  • Office Downblouse. Is this some Microsoft productivity application I know nothing about?
  • Impossible things to make. Jessica Simpson talented...pickled beets tasty...
  • Robbed using a dildo. How'd you like to be that guy? Yeah, I got robbed once. I was working in the 7-11 and this guy came in and stuck me up with a dildo. It was so realistic that I couldn't help feeling threatened so I turned over all the cash, a bunch of lottery tickets and a dozen Big Bites.
  • Turning myself in to be tried by a jury of my piers and I will prove my innonce. Spelling is not your strong suit, unless you are, actually, a dock trying to prove your innonce. If you are a pier, I commend you on your excellent spelling.
  • Generation born between 1965 and 1980 rude. Hey, fuck off fuckhead.
  • Geckos survive a flush down the toilet. Better get Geico.
  • Book where dude falls out of tree and breaks leg then dies years later. Fuck. Damn, that's uncool. I don't know what book it is but you totally ruined it for me and now, when I find that book - because I will due to my vow to read everything - I will really and truly be let down.
  • I had sex after wedding in Wisconsin with Kali. Mazeltov!
  • ilovegranny.com. Why do I get the terrible feeling that that's not love in the let's take grandma some cookies kinda way?
  • Big black caulk. Someone is going to be very disappointed and unsatisfied in their trip to Home Depot.
  • H1N1 killer bees. I think you're confusing two separate catastrophes but if you can get killer bees to spread H1N1, you've got yourself a movie of the week.
  • There are some things in my past that I wish I could forget and I wish I could take back but that's not how life works its a one way track...we have to learn from our mistakes and keep our head up even during the hardest times and the worst of luck. True dat.
  • If your pee pee goes in your eyes can you get blind. The only excuse for this search string is if you're an astronaut peeing in zero gravity wondering what you just did to yourself.
  • Lick own nipple blog. I just tried. Couldn't do it. Try somewhere else.

Those were the search strings. And now for the email.
  • Your cell operator cheats! Yes, I get my cell service from Dave Letterman.
  • White guy's confession. Can't dance, can't play basketball.
  • Get bigger tool in your pants there is, bigger man you feel like. Yoda's writing spam!
  • Britney embedded ass-jewel. I don't even want to know what that is or how it's mined.
  • By enhancing your friend down there you enhance your popularity. Wait, are we talking about midgets again?
  • Bush will return in 2012! What kind of bush are we talking about here? If it's Dubya fuck!. If it's the other kind, well...
  • More inches in your pants, less steps to success. Now, how's that going to work. Unless we're talking about a true third leg. But still, that would be more steps, right? Maybe a pole vault-like action?
  • Mate like Clinton? Get a blue dress and an intern.
  • Why wasting time here? Because I'm looking for funny shit in my inbox so I don't have to use my brain to write a real post.

What's the weirdest site you've seen on the net?

Posted by Chris at 6:10 AM | Comments (17)

October 5, 2009

Funked

I'll admit it - I feel like I'm in some sort of funk.

The last couple of weeks have been rough. While I didn't lose my job, I did lose a project which I've been working on for over six years. And as we've discussed, I'm somewhat averse to change. Anyway, I take all this stuff - everything, not just work - way too personally.

In some respects taking everything personally works out very well. It makes me care about everything I do and, as a result, I am probably better at those things than I might otherwise be. On the flip side, though, it drives me absolutely, certifiably, batshit crazy.

I'm not one of those people who can leave the office and forget about work. Nor am I the kind of person who can shut out family and it's challenges when I pull out of the garage in the morning. I feel very passionately about my roles and, occasionally, that passion spills across those roles' boundaries. Some days I wish I could flip a switch and turn it off, turn off that passion, and focus on the here and now.

[On a related note, I truly hate it when my life sounds like the closing monologue from a Grey's Anatomy episode. Which it does. Specifically the most recent episode. And a part of me also secretly (not now) hopes that someone drops a bomb (literally) on Seattle Grace hospital and wipes out all the whiny doctors but despite this I still watch the show though god knows why and even he's not really sure.]

Don't get me wrong - the weekend wasn't an emotional wash-out by any means. There was a parade, a high school football game, swimming lessons, dinner out, a discovery by Mia as to how she can make a rainbow (you paint colors on my bottom and I'll run around), and what I hope to be one of the final weekends of yardwork for the year. Oh, and beer. There was beer.

So, how about you? What did you do this weekend? And what's your best method or worst habit for coping with stress?

Posted by Chris at 6:41 AM | Comments (26)

Haiku For Monday #287

If the week were like
Seinfeld, on Monday, I'm like
all Hello, Newman

Posted by Chris at 6:40 AM | Comments (6)

October 2, 2009

The Weeklies #104

The Weekly Word. Wiener. Not sure why but it's getting a lot of play this week.

The Weekly Beer. Labat's. It's really not all that spectacular. I just like saying the name.

The Weekly Word About My Job. I still have one. No need to worry. I know that a couple of posts over the last week or two may have made you think that I lost my job. I did not. Just a big important project I was working on.

The Weekly Read. I like to pace myself when I read. If I dig an author, I try not to blog through his or her entire bibliography in a month. Instead, I'll read one a month or something, so I don't run out of the good stuff. I broke my rule when it came to John MacDonald this month. After reading (and reviewing) Nightmare In Pink, I immediately picked up A Purple Place For Dying. Again, our hero Travis McGee - introspective, philosophical, brutish and dashing - saves the world. Or at least a little slice of it, and runs away with the girl. These are not complicated novels. They don't exceed 300 pages nor do they take more than a couple hours of uninterrupted time to finish. But they sure are fun.

The Weekly Music. Did someone turn the clock back to the mid-1990s without telling me? First Pearl Jam tops the Billboard charts with their latest release and now Alice In Chains has a new one? Fourteen years since the release of their last album - and seven years since the death of singer Layne Staley - Alice In Chains is back with Black Gives Way To Blue. And you know what? It doesn't suck. It sounds, genuinely, like a trip back in time to an era when grunge ruled the world and everyone wore lot of flannel. That said, AIC haven't made this album to try and capture former glory. Their sound has evolved and they don't sound stale. The mastermind here is Jerry Cantrell (vocals, guitars) as always. The rest of the band - including new singer William DuVall who to his credit doesn't try and imitate Staley - sounds tight but it's clearly Cantrell who's driving this bus. And he drives it well. The album is strong, with few weak moments. Fair warning - listen to it too much and you'll be rooting through your closet for your old flannel shirts.

The Weekly Time Waster. Dynamic Systems.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Epic CNN fail.

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The Weekly Hypothetical. The year is 2030. What do you identify as the biggest fad of the first decade of the 21st century?

Posted by Chris at 5:48 AM | Comments (20)

October 1, 2009

The Lonesome Streetsweeper of Northern Virginia

Picture Billy Gibbons or Dusty Hill. You know, those long-bearded guys from ZZ Top. Only take away the flashy guitars and sunglasses. Add an old, orange Home Depot shopping cart, a bucket and a vast collection of brooms and brushes. Meet the Lonesome Streetsweeper of Northern Virginia.

On any given day - morning, noon or night - during any season, you can find this old gentleman armed with a broom, a bucket and a dust pan, sweeping the streets and medians all over the area. I'm not sure who he is, where he came from or why he does what he does. But he is nothing if not dedicated.

More than likely, he's homeless but he doesn't look like your typical homeless guy. He ambles around more out of old age than drunkenness. He dresses decently, certainly for the task at hand but doesn't look otherwise shabby. I guess it's just as likely that he's some bohemian throw-back from another era, dropping out of society in the hopes of cleaning it up.

I drive by him a lot. I wonder about him a lot. What's his name? What did he do before he started sweeping the streets? Does he have a family? I'll probably never know the answers to any of these things unless I pull over and ask him. Which I've honestly thought about doing.

I noticed something strange recently. I was in the left hand turn lane, behind a van. To my left was a median and the Streetsweeper was cleaning up beside me. The light turned green and almost as soon as it did, the driver of the van tossed a $20 bill on the median in front of the Streetsweeper. It was obviously intentional but the Streetsweeper didn't seem to notice. I rolled down my window.

"There's a $20 there in front of you. Didn't want you to miss it." I said.
"I know. Thank you, son," he replied.

And I went on my way, watching him pocket the $20 from my side-view mirror as I made the turn. For some strange reason over the next few months, I found myself at more lights beside the streetsweeper and witnessed the same generosity time and time again.

I spend a lot of time bitching about stuff that's wrong with our society - healthcare, the economy, entitlement, intolerance, the death penalty and certain (but not all) Republican administrations - but this is an example of what's right. I mean, here's this guy who's just randomly cleaning up for whatever reason and people are finding some small spot of generosity in their hearts in the face of reasonably uncool economic times.

Share some good news. What goodness is happening in your world?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (23)


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