Denouement

Hi. I’m eddie. I’m a teacher that has always identified as a failed writer who identifies as a failed romantic who identifies with everything I’m not as opposed to what I am. I am eddie and I’m a teacher and this will be my last entry in the everyday blog thing for work.

I actually started this post early on in the challenge. I mean it’s kind of like a time machine just sitting here typing and knowing this will be the start to my final post which won’t be completed or published until the end which is still a ways away. I will edit and revise and add as I go. I planned it. That’s what we teach, right? I know me. I have upwards of 50 notebooks or so that have remained and are filled with thousands of poems spanning at least 2 decades and maybe 1 percent of those lines have ever been edited. I’m a first draft, first thought, pure emotion kind of weirdo writer. Or I’m lazy. Whatever.

That said, I do think writing is important so once i started i took this seriously. Yes, we ask the kids to edit and revise and plan. We ask them to reflect, which I did throughout and blogged about it in my penultimate post yesterday (again, weird time machine moment). We also ask them to trust us when we tell them that writing is important. So i write with honesty and i try to make it good. Just like because we ask them to believe when we say that reading is important, we read and we tell them, in honesty, that since we were their age we have, at all times, had at least one book going – no AR points on the line or tests to take. In short (ha) I would never promote anything which I do not practice or ascribe to.

I get that anyone who read more than one of my posts might be getting a bipolar vibe. I get it. I just don’t know any other way to write. I respect the medium too much to put falsehoods on the page. I do lots of texting with people and am amazed at how good people are at it. Seriously. I’ve had hours long text conversations with people. Like, lots of times. I can’t do brevity and my fat thumbs are stupid. So even when I have something super clever to say in such a conversation and those clever somethings come, for once, lightning quick so you sound all witty and junk, it still seems like a comeback to a burn way too late. Because the clever response is way too long and takes way too long to be translated from my brain through my dumb thumbs to the little buttons. It literally goes to outer space after I finally hit send and gets beamed back to earth in the same amount of time that it popped into my head but you’d never know. So yes, I am, and have been, emotionally all over the place and very long winded and I am aware of all of this. It’s just me. The fact that I didn’t filter for audience is in no way disrespect to you, the reader, it is more my respect for writing in general.

Looking back, I took this slice challenge and basically outlined myself within the context of my daily life. Most of my stories are in here, and all my things. That’s always been me: for whatever reason I use things I am into, my favorite everythings and such, to define myself. That went from my always finding ways to change up my school uniforms to be unique, to an unparalleled movie film and rock concert t-shirt collection, to tattoos nowadays which are either quotes from art I like or writings/drawing by the people I love, now forever emblazoned on my skin summing up and defining my essence. Or something like that. So in reflecting on what I’ve written for this challenge I feel like I pretty much nutshelled myself like t shirts or tattoos do. Explored, traced, and defined my parameters as it were. At least some of them. Maybe most of them.

I am also thinking at least one or two people clicked on one of my things and thought “TMI much, buddy? That is not what this thing is supposed to be!” And for a while there early on I think that bugged me slightly, this being my first time doing this. Again, what I did know is that this was writing. Based in writing. I teach writing, I write, I believe in the power of writing almost as much as I believe in the power of love despite the fact that both have failed me (or I them) more spectacularly than anything else in my life. I don’t just wear my heart on my sleeve usually. I am aware of this too. My shirts are all made of thousand count sacred hearts and are made holy by sharp twisted thorns and crispy by burning eternal flames of angst and remorse and indecision, and which are stained and dripping from wrung out strung out bloodletting.

But that’s writing to me. It’s what I say when I interrupt what Lucy Calkins says I should be saying because I see no passion in the ten year olds I’m trying to turn into Whitman or Plath. I tell these children that I want them to bleed on those pages. That this, what they’re doing, this…writing, is important. That giving voice to their hearts and minds is a tool unrivaled in this or any society. That the exorcising catharsis of a tear stained sheet of loose leaf at ten can mean the difference between being stuck at meaningless, soul-crushing 9 – 5 and ruling the the whole damn world at forty. That what they spend their time writing should reflect as perfectly as possible the clouded fractured hide and seek fluidity which comprises their inner experiential awarenesses at a stage in life where everything is changing and incomprehensible sometimes from one day to another, so they can develop some sense of who they are were and will be one day.

I approached this as a writer and as a teacher of the writers I want to produce. Be brave in your weakness in the hopes that you may one day write it out of existence by virtue of the bravery you are creating in admitting and exposing it. This includes understanding others will see your vulnerability and may judge you. Let them and move on. Write your truth always and maybe one of those who would look down on you will instead be the one with the key and ability to make you use it to unlock answers to those questions that constantly lead you astray. Or maybe your problems are those only conquered by going it alone on sometimes Quixotic journeys, madness and struggle and virtue and truth – write that stuff out too. Explore the corners you think are too scary even for the dimmest flashlight and work your way up to knocking down the walls which leave them in shadow. That, what I tell my kids, is what writing can do. Should do.

And so with all that in mind, yes, I wrote personally about various sadnesses I’ve been encountering and trying to handle. For some, including me at times, it seemed like that’s all I focused on: Her. Not being adult enough for this or that. Struggling with kids/students. Her. Money problems. Unfair systems of the world. Her. Negotiating with my own qualms and demons. Her. Loneliness solitude and isolation. Her. The past, the future. Stuff like that. But in honesty those were things on my mind this month while the thing was happening and guess what? They are a part of life. I spent my worst years compartmentalizing. Thinking that life had to be just one thing at a time or at least one general flavor and if that one thing didn’t taste/feel happy or secure or even understandable then I was screwed and had to do something rightthisverysecond to “fix” it.

But that’s not life, is it? I slice of life wrote about life. My life. And what I know now that allows me to carry on even through very rough months like this is that life is all of those things. Loss, happiness, confusion, trepidation, worry, angst, joy, connection, rebirth, renewal, fear, loathing, self doubt, struggles, accidents, uncontrollable variables, failure, breakthroughs, despair, longing, regret, triumph, giddiness, wistfulness, humbling bigness, microscopic pick me ups, and like 4 other things. You just ride it out and control what you can which includes how you handle what you cannot. And sometimes you will suck at all of that and know it and it will be hard. So what? That’s just how that day or moment or year went. So what? Life is still here and still capable of being all of those things on the head of a needle which is your lifetime compared to everything else so suck it up, buttercup.

Yes I am an island. I have bridges burnt and bridges that used to reach but don’t including those dismantled by me and those by others and some very important ones by those who have nothing to do with the island chain save for a very inflated sense of self importance and blindness toward all else. Some burnt bridge smells still suffocate me when I look upon them and some look better charred. Some bridges that connect my island to others are shifty and precarious and only traversed when necessary for purposes of danger or need. I look and look for realtors magic enough to relocate me but have resigned myself this late in the game to island life, finding satisfaction in the fact that while my kids may not always want to visit I can hold out hope that they will and know it will be enough.

But I still think the best means for movement, for change, for redemption – is writing. If I have a golden ticket that is it. With my brain and my heart and my words I still believe 100% that I can find my way back. That I have used those same transformative machines to become what is needed for success eventually or at least that I will die trying. I know that I know what I want and will settle for nothing less than exactly that and that I can remain in this transitory state forever if need be until such machinations allow for the finding of the gold at the end of this messed up rainbow I so solemnly bow before. I will rebuild that bridge and it will grow and evolve until islands are no longer separate entities but a rejoined summation of all that is supposed to be. I got this.

 

Thank you for reading, thank you for creating, thank you for just being.

 

“Words defy the plan

When I can, I will

Fool enough to almost be it

Cool enough to not quite see it

Old enough to always feel this

Always old, I’ll always feel this

No more promise no more sorrow

No longer will I follow

Can anybody hear me?

I just want to be me

When I can, I will

Try to understand

That when I can, I will”

 

So it goes.

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fin

We are near the end. Just today and tomorrow left. This challenge was presented to us as a way for writing teachers to become better at what they do by plying the trade themselves as well as reading and commenting on other writers’ blogs. One thing we constantly tell kids to do is reflect on their work, their actions, their words, etc. So I decided to do the same, write something and put it out there, let it marinate for 24ish hours, and reflect in writing. I found it interesting how much more reflection I put in toward the end. Maybe I was getting used to people commenting or even just seeing what I’d done by then or maybe I was a little reluctant to let the whole experience go and it was my way of hanging on. As I’ve said in multiple posts it was a bummer month riddled with smaller bummers and I just happened to have a writing challenge thing to participate in as I dealt with it. The sun is coming out and I have made a plan to keep myself busy. That’s my whole thing, and I think i’ll touch on that more in tomorrow’s thrilling conclusion: my life can be unsatisfactory and because I am this emotional romantic poet idiot I feel all the things but I have, over the past handful of years, learned how to deal with it. After a handful of relatively “up” months I simply needed to remind myself on how to deal with the bummers as they creep back in and this writing through it really helped. I am fine when in front of my students or kids – beyond that I just need to keep my mind off everything else. The key is to replace the darkness with positivity, usually in the form of working out or creation – even if that means writing sad/bad poems to ghosts or long ass letters I will never send to people for whom the contents can do nothing but add to endless word counts anyways.

So I stay busy or, you know, I drink. Because weekends alone are nothing but way too much time for my simple sad mind to come up with positive ways of killing that time. And really that’s what it amounts to, what I’m working toward changing, my “free time”, straight out of that glorious Radiohead song. The one I made that all-important decree about when faced with that all-important question posed really just by me to a group of friends that one night really just because I wanted to tell them my answer – if you could sing any song as beautifully as the original, which would it be? My answer was that one Radiohead song with the quote “I’m not living, I’m just killin’ time”. That one song they finally tacked on to that last album finally recorded in a studio. The one I saw performed for just the 2nd time ever live just by Thom at the end of one of the craziest shows I’d ever seen that summer at Meigs Field with an acoustic guitar to close out my 2nd favorite concert experience of all time. The one that finally came out on the I Might Be Wrong live recordings EP just a few years later (and in my opinion is far superior to the recorded version that came out last year) and that at certain times in my life I listen to on repeat for its sad haunting beauty and remember and cry and do my form of prayer. The one I found a killer youtube video of a couple years ago to post on socials to capture exactly what i was feeling for the masses from either an MTV or Neil Young Bridge School show where the audio was great and the filmer trained his camera on the huge screen for most of the performance. That song. I’ll never be able to sing that song good enough, and not just because I can’t sing any song good at all. I love my memories of that song and I love loving that song but I hate what it is inside of me that makes all of that possible. I cannot change it but the point is I’m working toward harnessing it and making as much of my time-killing positive creation over sad massacres. So it goes.

 

Day 1 – does my weird stream of consciousness mess translate to blogging. Am i too odd to share my honest thoughts, and the kind of strange writing i lean toward, with people i work with? Strangers are no problem but colleagues? People are nice in comments tho so that’s pretty cool. Slice of Life

Day 2 – just went with the big stuff right out of the gates, huh? It’s fine, i still have a job and stuff. idealiotic

 

Day 3 – rough day yesterday – overall a fun weekend but sprinkled with bummers. So it goes. Love of the Game

 

Day 4 – oh boy. I better whip up some happy stories or i’ll be that emo blogger inner sarcophagal cacophony

 

Day 5 – um, yeah, emo blogger. Ugh. happy tomorrow, right? Yeah. Symbolic Drowning

 

Day 6 – a sad poem. Well done. No, colleagues and other bloggers, i do not teach wearing black eyeliner, thanks. sentry barring entry

 

Day 7 – ooh a 2-parter in which you vaguely allude to being possibly, delusionally, insane. Wonderful. Well done. Can’t wait for the sequel to that extravaganza of self-importance Write Away part 1

 

Day 8 – dude, i mean it’s like a million pages long, but i liked that one yesterday. Good day. ripcord: a memoir

 

Day 9 – shout out to dan! With only a modicum of back patting of my own. Ok. offset all the vulnerable sap during the teacher writing thing with some actual school life stuff back to back. On a roll. Nice. Show. Everyone. Love.

 

Day 10 – a love song to my son with “heavy balls” in the title. Yep. killin’ the “he’s really just a normal teacher guy” comeback tour. heavy balls (and the young people who sling them)

 

Day 11 – a super long novella about my manic sunday with a huge sad dagger jagged through the middle. Light fare to end a weekend. Lovely. Prioritized Propulsion

 

Day 12 – well, i mean, i promised after i finish this tuesday emo poem thing i would write about future and positivity so that’s something, right? Sigh proust’s swann

 

Day 13 – poem – it reads jumbled and doesn’t flow how i wish it to but when i speak it out loud it sounds cool. As for the content… Bubble Pop Smirk

 

Day 14 – always safe to write about the kids – so crazy how one walked out and one “walked up” yesterday and it wasn’t even planned – oh crazy universe. So mysterious and weird turn and face the strange

 

Day 15 – a kid getting dared to kiss his “girlfriend” at lunch reminded me of how i carried an old bleedy guy home once. Because of course it did. Am i pressing here? Have i run out of ideas? Write Wrong Right

 

Day 16 – loooong day yesterday. And i talked about my sad stuff and brought up drinking this weekend. Brilliant, eddie. Ugh. free, time

 

Day 17 – hungover blogging at its…finest? Worst? Whatever. Just so random that such an “idealiotic” argument took over the night. Ha. Thirty K

 

Day 18 – of course i felt the need (and was inspired by true beauty) to make an “i’m ok everyone” post because ego-me thinks the like 12 people who read my bummer posts are missing work due to worry over my over indulgent dreck. It was a cute egg hunt though. thanksgiving on irish easter

 

Day 19 – why do i have to go such a long way to say something uplifting. Was it even uplifting? I tried. That’s what counts. (right?) PD

 

Day 20 – i actually don’t usually like poems that rhyme that much and the first 2 i tied myself to doing that so i maybe like this one a little better however it took me like a half hour to write that first line but once i did the rest fell out in like 10 minutes. Feels lazy. I edited slightly after posting but that is how 99.99% of my poems have always been – first draft, first thought. It’s fine. Whatever. devoted reclamation

 

Day 21 – haha – i wrote about the national. Sigh. they’re so cool. I found that it was fun talking about something i love so much. Also that it’s way cooler to be overly dramatically emo if you’re also doing it as a rock star. Ha. About Today

 

Day 22 – it was too big a part of my day not to stop in the middle of writing my hometown homage slice and furiously throw down thoughts of yesterday where I stayed at work til almost 6 with a distraught mom, a child services worker, my principal, a detective, dcfs, and most importantly one of the bravest students I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching who was kept after school for not doing wrong but just being unlucky. Yesterday sucked.  monster

 

Day 23 – i was still numb yesterday and yet on edge and underwater lost feeling. Not great for the last day before break. Very glad i already had my piece on the ridge almost ready to go. My writing would’ve been dark and scattershot as hell yesterday. Well, moreson than usual anyways. Represent

 

Day 24 – universe – plan it – “planet” – get it? Ha. ugh. Yes, i wrote about working out and ironic circumstance. Afterward i felt like kind of a meathead toolbox but the real me, after 24 hours, has shown itself to myself i guess. Whatever – everyday can’t be breakthroughs and epiphanies. universe helps plan it

 

Day 25 –  ha. I told the ostrich story and it sorta fit in with what i was thinking about yesterday anyways. I mean i wrote, again, about what a loser i am but that’s what this month seems to be about. That said, as far as this slice challenge thing goes, it is really cool to interact with people. Last night one of my very favorite writers, i think not even just on this but in the world or writing, read and commented on a few of my posts. When she writes sometimes she sounds like me but…better. Ha. more “sophisticated”, is a word, not the best word but the first one i could think of this morning. Validate me!! Ugh. anyways, that was cool.  Weakest Link

 

Day 26 – felt good to explain myself even if there really wasn’t a reason or need to. I always feel as if i trivialize people with “real” problems when i go on about my own. I love that poem i posted too. She really is so good. slice: the duality of it and these

 

Day 27 – i am proud of the wizard of oz thing, i have to say. I had how it looks, parts of it anyways. I messed with the structure a little bit because just reading it doesn’t really make it sound like it’s supposed to. Maybe i’ll read it for my writing students when we write poetry next unit. It sounds better read aloud when the reader knows where the accents and stuff go. The syllables and weird shifting rhyme schemes actually line up pretty nicely, for something that i wrote anyways, i just know that coming in and reading it without, like, studying its structure makes it sound like a mess. A well-meaning mess with lofty aspirations, but a mess anyways. Oh well, i’m glad it exists and i rarely say that. Once In A Lullaby

 

Day 28 – reflecting on yesterday after watching the Cubs look pretty impressive in the opener. It was nice pulling out the things we have almost forced ourselves to do naturally, traditions, and explain them and give them names. It was also kind of refreshing to pour one out for the ones we no longer do. I’ve been accused of living in the past before but I think i’m more fascinated with how my past has dictated my present, with me willing or not, as well as how what i’m doing in the present will help dictate the future for both myself and my kids (students included). So yeah i look back and ahead lots but almost solely from here and now and how it pertains to the present. traditional programming

 

Day 29 – ah the bloviated sequel no one wants but got anyways. This, i know, is my last reflection of the thing. I’m taking the final 2 posts to look back, and probably look forward. The entire 30 day thing was basically about me and i think this 2 parter was about outlining the big, essential, stuff whereas other posts took small idiosyncrasies or weaknesses or whatever and analyzed them based on whatever boohoo moment struck me that day and triggered me. I do love to write, love people who write and wish i was one, realize i am somewhat stuck, and hope one day maybe writing can help unstuck me. That’s what yesterday’s final “real” slice was about and I’m good ending it that way. Hopefully I move forward knowing that while this writing challenge is coming to an end, I am going to use the practice and all of this reflection to use it as the jumping off point I described yesterday. Fingers crossed. Write Away part 2

 

Write Away (part 2)

1231d-truman

Sequels always suck. Well, maybe not always. But I have a feeling this ain’t going to be Godfather part 2. I almost ran out of time but it’s time to finally finish this post that grew quickly and say what I set out to say in that one. I know, all my posts drone on forever. They’re my posts. Grow up. (by the way, “grow up” is a phrase my friends and I adopted a while back as a catch-all, it almost never actually means what it says, I have to throw this caveat at basically every new person I meet).

In part one I wrote about, really, how insane I might be with my whole Truman Show thing. That was to be the entry point into more stuff which I will now attempt to word vomit in some coherent fashion. I should’ve written that idea, or psychosis, down and made a movie starring Jim Carrey and Ed Harris and been rich! I’ve always been known to enjoy writing. That should’ve been obvious. I worked on another book or screenplay or whatever for a bunch of years right after high school. It was about a girl, it’s me so of course, and I worked and worked and even met a semi-famous singer one night and told her my people would one day be contacting her about rights to these songs I would use in certain scenes if I could get it made into a film. Then one day a movie called Forrest Gump came out. I kind of wrote that, but without the awesome Gumpy historical stuff: Guy unrequitedly loves girl who keeps him as friend and basically strings him along, girl goes away to college, explores the world, etc, girl contracts a disease ( AIDS, for all intents and purposes), isolates herself from all her posh suburban friends, boy is the only one to stick around – often Duckie from Pretty in Pink style on a bike in front of her house, until one night she finally caves and lets him in, they get drunk and cry and have sex, he of course succumbs way quicker to the disease than she does and dies, but boy gives speech to girl about how worth it it was for just that one night, roll credits. Ok so obviously not exactly Gump without fixed found footage but I always just focused on the part where boy stays loyal, in both my thing and the Gump thing, that was more important than Tom Hanks hanging with John Lennon or whatever, so they were same, so garbage.

My other book idea did exactly what I worried it would, rather I did what I thought I would, which is outgrow it. I was going to write a book that was also a time machine. That was the idea. It was to be a book to and for my children but written from the perspective of an idealistic kid who was not yet changed by the trevails of parenthood. Like “cool” me talking to them before I ever yelled at them for doing anything that cool me would have been ok with. I would talk about partying and have “the talk” and the importance of being weird and allowing art to enrapture you. But I did not and now that guy, that particular author, is gone forever.

That idea definitely sprang from my love of writing as well as my changing station in life. At the time I was in the beginning stages of stay at home dad mode. I had no idea yet what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I was very much not grown up. So besides the idea coming from those places it seemed to me to be the best idea I could come up with for providing for my new family. Write something that, when someone was expecting or a kid was graduating, would be the go-to book one would pick up as a gift. Brilliant. And my kid would go to college. I’ve been worried about that since the term “ultrasound” was reintroduced to my lexicon. How am I going to possibly do this?

To say I am not a money guy is an understatement. I don’t value it. I don’t care about it in myself or others. But I get it, I have children. In my head I have that ongoing argument that money should be spent creating memories. Moments. Experiences. For my first solo tax return I bought a car for us because duh. It’s not fancy, it’s eco-friendly, good on gas, and reliable for the constant constant constant driving around I do with the kids. The next year I said screw it and the kids and I had the summer of our lives. We went away on a short excursion, and hit every concert that tickled our fancies. We mapped out a summer of us and it was amazing. Last year I finally joined this sportsman’s club we visit because a friend is a member. It is an hour south and amazing. I do not hunt but we camp and I could spend a paragraph listing all the features that make the expenditure worth it but the bottom line is the kids love it. And now it’s ours. After a big entry fee the dues are doable and it’s ours.

Here’s the thing – I live in my beautiful and generous aunt’s basement. With the kids when I have them. I don’t know how to do this. This being a single parent 2nd year teacher guy. Not emotionally, and certainly not financially. I get that I just laid out big ticket spending based on my yearly tax returns. But also, we finally sold the house at some point this year, it was months ago, anywhere from 5 months ago to a year, I’m bad at remembering stuff like that. Anyways, after that I had in my possession more money than I ever have. The idea from all around was that I was to now finally buy a place. Awesome! So I tried. I was about 8 grand short of putting a downpayment on literally anything that would allow for mortgage payments to be affordable for me on a monthly basis at my pay rate. I gave almost exactly that amount out of my share to the kids’ mom and the buyers because of some legality I didn’t understand. At least I then had some perspective on how buying a place would go. Cool.

That money is now gone. That makes me feel really, really pathetic. I bought nothing for me. I still 100% shop at Goodwill for all my clothes. I always have. Except for underwear which omg why are they so expensive?!?! All it meant was for all those months I didn’t have to “borrow” money from anyone. Because even living at my aunt’s, my paychecks don’t cut it. I have no idea how that is possible. We do have to eat out from time to time because everything the kids do is centrally located in Woodridge and to go back to my aunt’s and make something and then get to practice or games or whatever is literally not feasible. I feel like I’m still getting slipped cash by my grandma or friends at least once a month when bills come due and I don’t get it.

Every once in a while I will splurge and get the 7.99 grocery store sushi instead of the 4.99 stuff which I do maybe once a week. Otherwise it’s yogurt for breakfast, fruit, popcorn, and jerky in my desk to keep me going during the day, and a can of soup for lunch. When I do have to take the kids to Panera or even Taco Bell to grab food I order nothing for myself and eat what they do not. When I do eat dinner it usually is some mustard squeezed on lunchmeat I sometimes remember to pick up. A lavish lifestyle I do not live. I am a teacher. Basically a first year teacher. And I can’t figure out how to do this. Half of you are like “loser” in your heads, it’s ok, I get it. I feel it and I understand.

I coach so that “free time” is gone but it’s for the kids. My time with them has been reduced from 100% to 50% when I’m lucky so getting a job I have to perform when with them takes more time from them. That said, teaching requires tons and tons of time outside of the bells to do right so, since when I have them it’s just me and them I try to limit the time spent working to focus on them, which means my “free” time is spent on work. Like, my actual job. So the money I get from what I do is the money I have. People don’t get why I’m still at my aunt’s. I still don’t, exactly. But I just re-upped my pay as you earn thing on my student loans (which may or may not be financially screwing me in the long run, no idea) and it went up sixty bucks. So that’s fun.

So I make what I do. Money is not the reason we do this job. When I first set out to become this it was supposed to be some pretty solid supplementary income. Not stand alone with 3 kids and make a living income. Now I look for places and all I can “afford” are studio apartments. For 4 of us. And that means not being able to send kids to Washington DC with their class as I was able to with my eldest, or paying upwards of 2 grand for my middle guy to continue playing travel ball. No chance. No 7.99 sushi from a grocery store ever, either. I don’t need to have a social life, at all, I just need to give my kids what I think they deserve. A studio apartment will take up very close to HALF of my monthly income. Half. And then my other bills. I can’t even get a bedroom let alone the 2 or 3 we should have. So, what? I say hey kids no more baseball or, like, eating beyond ramen, and yes we are technically in one room now (the two littles literally sleep on a mattress on the floor with me, I sleep on a mattress on the floor. At 41. With 3 kids. Winning.) but we should move and take away half our income to rent a place so we have our own one room to live in because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Awesome. And that right there is the rub. I’m writing all of this and putting it out there. I don’t care how people see me. Truth is truth. But I am in constant fear that my children will start to see me, or even worse maybe, remember me, as a loser in a basement. I can only hope they see that I do it for them. I hope they see me always trying my hardest for them. I care how they see me and I care how they remember me. It’s complex, I know. They will grow up smart and solid. Hopefully that will help them remember me with kindness during this time, during their one childhood. And if it doesn’t? At least they have grown to be smart and solid, in the end that’s really what matters.

No this is not a rant session and yes I know you can now see why I had to split this into two parts. It should have probably been 3 or 4 parts. It should probably never have been written but here we are. This is me laying out my possible solution, finally, to this messed up situation I am obviously not equipped to figure out. I think I’m going to write a book. I think that by just typing that out, by law, I now have to. So I can give my kids the more they deserve. Because right now they are not going to college and that would kill me. Way, way, way more than the embarrassment of everything I just laid out about my pathetic everything and nothing. I get that anyone with a brain and an eye for good writing who is somehow still reading this rambling mess is saying “no. dude, no. i get that you enjoy writing and all, but you are not a ‘writer’.” Ha, believe me I get that. This is not the result of my friends and family who who are not used to long winded thoughts strung together by normal people and see my way too long facebook diatribes (shocker, right?) saying I should write a book. I’ve never written a publishable sentence in my life and I know that. But I also know I have a story. Full circle – it’s why I still bring up the Truman Show craziness. I mean, I know lots of people do too. Have crazy lives filled with twists and turns. But this one is mine and I’ve had lots and lots and lots of time to try and make sense of it and I still think it is unbelievably incredible, inexplicable fiction ready to be written. I think, the way I have considered packaging it, that my story will sell. That’s the point. Full, full circle. Turn it into a better life for them. One I cannot mathematically provide now.

I may still bite the bullet on the studio apartment thing if I can somehow find an under the table summer job that works. This is the first summer I will be paid for by my district. So I don’t know where exactly this plan will go down but I think I maybe spend this summer, when I’m not with the kids, writing my book. The point is not to have a publishable thing by August. If you’re reading this or anything I’ve written you know that’s not possible, ha. But it’s like I tell my students when coaching them to write long on word vomiting their first drafts – just think about it as producing a big piece of marble to be chiseled into a masterpiece. Even I’m not egotistical enough to believe I have a block of marble in me that can be massaged into a masterpiece. But my story with the packaging I have in mind…in this world? Maybe I can trick something into existence someday. Maybe. Once I get that marble on the page I can spend years working on it, editing and such. Maybe.

A summer filled with me writing, trying to give the kids fun, coaching, and still working out. A summer where, besides the working out, I don’t care how I look. Let my work d-bag too much product hair grow and be wild, same with my beard. It’ll be good to take a break pretending I want to Bird of Paradise anyone by trying to look purty. The only one I want to impress can’t even see me now anyways, but I will keep working out so a quick cut n shave if my invisibility status finally changes can make me at least presentable. And I just do the thing. Make it happen. Why not, right? Why not write?

traditional programming

Today I’m thinking about tomorrow instead of yesterday for a change (ha). But I mean that literally. Tomorrow starts baseball season. More importantly tomorrow is opening day for the Chicago Cubs. How fortuitous that I should have that 50/50 roll of the dice all Chicago kids get land on the team known most of my life as the Loveable Losers? The northside squad and all the losing while showing continuous loyalty, yes that is very fitting for me to identify with.  

But I’m not writing about this particular tomorrow because I am alpha sports meathead bro guy. I mean, part of me is, I do run a 17 years long fantasy football league. And, while part of this post is about opening day, and that league actually, I am coming at it as more of an inward look at traditions. I’ve read some very cool blogs people write about the traditions in their families, how they changed since the addition of kids, how much the kids gravitate toward them. I’ve always loved that stuff.

I am a traditions oriented guy. It was bred into me. I also see it most in my youngest brother. He was an oops. My next brother was born a year and a half after I was, which was when my parents were 19, and the third guy was 10 months after that so 3 boys at 21 for mom and dad. My youngest came out 12 years after I did. When my family was starting he was still very young, so I know he has his traditions due to the double whammy of my parents and watching me cultivate mine with my little family. He has the same (sometimes copycat identical) traditions with his similarly large group of long term friends as I do, and is as aware of traditions with his adorable little family as I always have been as well.

I say that I believe he gets at least some from me because for lots of my family’s traditions the littlest brother was a baby or not around yet. Every Sunday we watched the Bears game but before that we wore full pads and played two on two football, my next youngest brother and I against the then-baby brother and my dad. We played a full season and kept the record of wins and losses that culminated in a superbowl where my whole family came, even when very snowy. My grandma sang the anthem into a kid toy microphone, my dad spray painted lines on the backyard field for this one, family friend refs in full regalia, MVP voting – it was awesome. My dad usually made pasta on Sundays too, except when he got into a dumpling phase. We had traditions for new years eve, fourth of july – all stuff that, looking back, I see why which random holidays or moments are so important to me these days.

Tomorrow is opening day. On a whim, when my firstborn was just 6 months old I made a little sign and stood by the tv and had his mom snap a pic. This is before cell phone cameras I believe. It was opening day but really, it was his first game. His first Cubs game. I didn’t know it that day but when the next year came around we made a sign and did it up again. We now have 15 pictures having lost one of the hard copies somewhere along the line. I don’t think I ever realized how awesome this tradition was until Facebook to be honest. Now I have an album in there and I will be adding to that as we snap another pic in front of the tv eating Doggie Diner hot dogs to celebrate the start of a new season.

 

 

In 1984, after 8 years of being told I loved the Cubs, I finally actually did. I remember racing home after school to catch the second half of 1:20 games on WGN before there were lights at Wrigley Field. I remember Bowa, Davis, Sarge, Dawson, Dunston, Durham, Moreland, Sutcliffe, all those guys. After or before games and on days off my brother and I would be out back making up baseball catch games or we’d have some neighborhood kids over and convert the winter’s football field into a backyard wiffleball field. We’d keep stats and argue over who we got “to be”. But my guy was always Ryno. Ryne Sandberg. What a stud. He just did everything right. I love that dude. 8 year old me saw him as a real life superhero. That summer, although they ultimately fell short, was amazing and came at the perfect time in my life.

My eldest wound up being a die hard Cubs fan. Die hard everything his weird little mind gets into fan as well. But he loves sports. Loves diving into the numbers and making far-ranging speculations that sound like they should be yelled over beers at a tavern between scruffy men in like flannels and work boots or something. The other two are along for the ride yet, Cubs-wise. They know it’s their favorite team. Ha. No choice there. But they’d rather be out playing than spending hours watching others play, and that, of course, is fine.

So when the Cubs finally won it was on a school night and my eldest was legit sick, like flu sick, but we were watching game 7 together no matter what. See, the kids don’t stay with me on school nights, but this was obviously special and he was staying home sick the next day anyways. Game 7, of course, was miraculous and memorable and we hugged after they won and will always remember it. Of course, after watching it with my son, I saw on facebook that my brother (the other traditions one, the oops) got in his car in the late innings and rushed to be by my dad’s side to watch the drama unfurl and be there with him as well. The game had me all torn up inside. So stressful. Toward the end lines started popping into my head and what helped me, I think, keep my composure, was that I was recording what I saw in real time in poetry form and it was just flowing out. Literally creating a memory to help enhance an already monumentally memorable one. A short while after the game ended and we hugged and were watching champagne cover our heroes I was able to post my poem in celebration on the facebooks to add to my feed’s festive explosion.

They blew it in the eighth. 
The game 7 Cubs. 
And then a peculiar thing happened: the tears of the scores of Cub fans who died waiting for this began to saturate the ballpark as they fell in torrents 
from the celestial grandstand above.
It served not as an omen, but a reminder – not you guys. Not this time.
And the wait was prolonged, and nails were nubbed to bleeding 
on fingers pruned 
by angelic pleading – but somehow the drama seemed obvious, even in its 
striking cinematic hyperbole.
The watershed came and went 
as Schwarber, who is a poem himself, added to the legend of the moment.
Riz was given a pass
And then Zobrist made good 
on a previously made blue-eyed sacrifice, and countless cubbie blue-eyes 
watered. 
A different floodgate now opened, its current rapidly rising – the fevered dream of legion die-hards 
spanning back ages.
When impassable walls crumble
they do so in a blur. 
Something standing so long 
it becomes firmament suddenly gone disorients. At first. 
But when it becomes clear the thing is finally done 
and the eyes adjust to the reality of it all – there waves a white flag
not of surrender but success
and it is soaked immeasurably by the comingled weepings from the sky and 
this brand new earth.
A white flag, drenched in hope redeemed, and a W. 
For, finally, it is done. 
Finally, the Chicago Cubs have won.
“Never” is merely a challenge, and “impossible” an invitation to prove loyalty and dedication.
“It happened.”

I tell my students, and I don’t know if this is morbid or extreme or whatever, when they are faced with behaviors and decisions based on seeming cool in fifth grade or whether or not this girl or that boy thinks they’re cute or funny or whatever – that most of their lives are ahead of them and very tiny slivers of this time in their lives will even be remembered! That girl who did the equivalent of “checking no” on that instagram message or the boy who teased the girl for the shirt she purposely wore hoping to catch his eye? You probably won’t even know what happened to that person when life becomes life, that’s what the odds say anyways. I assure them I know it feels like the whole world to them right now because they’re in it but beg them to believe me and not take any of it so seriously as to allow it to affect who they are becoming as young men and women. Inadequacies, self-esteem, defeated/jaded natures – those are long lasting sometimes – the kids who instill these feelings in you are not because they all grow up and evolve into who they will be.

You remember, maybe, the first person you “go out with” but for the most part our memories become populated with other relationships and some pop out in retrospect for a billion reasons over others etc etc. But early on as a father one thing I became very cognizant of was the fact that every single person has one childhood that they will look back on for the rest of their lives. Mine is long over. I, like everyone else in the world, look back on it all the time. When asked, when reminded, and sometimes just because. It is mine. Everyone has theirs. And while lots of things play a part in what that childhood winds up being, it is the parents who set the stage and have the heaviest hand in creating this amazing thing that will forever be singularly looked at for the rest of this human’s life. I am very aware that a major part of my job as a parent is helping create a childhood to be looked back on by these 3 people with as much happiness and joy when they are my age as humanly possible. And traditions stick out, so I take special care in the preserving of them.

Sometimes they falter with time or fall to the wayside. I watched the hit reality television program Survivor, without missing an episode, from day one. Before I even thought about having kids. That’s 2 seasons a year for something like 97 years, which mathematically means like 8.9 billions episodes. Shortly after starting the tradition with my kids as a family tv show to watch it got tainted for me in a petty way and we just stopped. Some holiday traditions have had to be altered, other ideas that come when you’re constantly thinking about making traditions count wind up being excellent in theory but then just too much work in practice. They have to feel organic and natural.

We watch every Star Wars movie over winter break. Way back when there were just I think 4 or 5 dvds to watch we would just get a bunch of junk food, throw down blankets, and do it over 2 days. Now we do it differently. This year, for example, the new, and NINTH film came out BEFORE xmas AND we were going to Florida for break and had plans to see the new movie on day 2 of our trip with the whole Star Wars loving family so we had eight (!) films to watch, after school, on weekends, and in between basketball and winter workout baseball practices all before break even started. In the name of tradition we got it done.

At the end of every August we go see their grandma at the cemetery. Only the oldest was alive while she was. It is important that memory of that woman stays alive. We spread out blankets, eat her favorite cookies smothered in whip cream, and I tell them stories. All mostly the same ones. I get choked up but hide it decently well. They take turns telling her gravestone about their years and tell her they love her. The kids each leave a cookie with whip cream on top. I say my goodbyes and we listen to a mix cd she made me one year for xmas. Then we bring their mom her favorite her mom steak dinner and fixings for black russians, grandma’s favorite drink. Tradition. Important.

We have fish and coins in our hands when the clock strikes midnight on new years for Uncle Chuck. This year we used goldfish crackers after my baby girl dry heaved sardines last time. We bang pots and pans afterward because that’s what I did as a kid. Fourth of July tradition starts weeks before with an expensive trip to Indiana or Wisconsin and is always a huge friend event and now the kids are getting bigger and more free and it’s so amazing to see them all together watching our own fireworks display. Annie’s cake always has a big anarchy symbol A on it since I was so punk rock with her 1 year old bday smash cake and added it. If Corgan has a freshly cut and dyed mohawk you know school is out and summer is underway. It looks like if Lollapalooza keeps putting one of “our” bands on the docket a day in Grant Park each summer is a new tradition we started last year.

It looks like my kids will not grow up rich. Beach houses and vacations and “that year we splurged and went to France” – but I still have some control over how this time, this childhood, will be remembered. I throw myself into that. It is possibly, besides actually creating them, the most important thing I will ever do. When you’re at the end of the road, no matter what things you have accrued, all you really have are your memories. And everyone just has the one childhood to look back on. I hate that I am missing a good deal of my kids’ childhoods. That was not the plan. But I am always their dad. And as such I will always put that responsibility for helping shape this time as a memorable one for as many happy reasons as I can. The very rare times my family all gets together, my brother and I reminisce about growing up in front of my parents. We bring up stuff we remember, confess sneaky thing they didn’t know now that we can’t be grounded and all made it out more or less in one piece. Ever since my first guy was very young I knew that day would one day come for them. For us. While I hope every day that time would just please slow down because it is with breakneck speed we seem to hurtling toward that time, I know that eventually we will find ourselves there. I just hope I wind up doing a decent job of giving them the childhoods they deserve.

Oh, and go Cubs!

Once In A Lullaby

Can I please just ask

After all the sweet singing

And disjointed skippy dances

Who could be so dense

To think for one second you

Possibly remember Kansas?

 

A twister-tore up flatland plain

Boring black n white blahs

Anyone’d trade a life in vain

For technicolor Oz

 

Because, yes, the grass is greener

On the other side of the rainbow

But of course it is, my dear

The city’s made of emeralds,

Its main street paved in glamorous gold,

We’ve nothing as lovely’s that here

 

You also get the excitement of danger

Threats written across the sky

Every person you meet is a stranger

Poppies poison, monkeys fly

 

So travel, you must, this place is a bust

Look toward the stormy horizon and roam

Leave all this dust with the help of a gust

As long’s where you land is no place like home

 

You really don’t mind

That you left them behind

The scattered and so-so few

Just took off from this place

With your dress and your face

And yeah, you took Toto too

 

Are you confused, now

About evil, I wonder?

Tornado house crushed

Like a kamikaze jet

A destruction the opposite of subtle

But sometimes, you’ve seen

The same taken ascunder

By simply messing around

And getting it wet

A similar evil reduced to a puddle

 

I don’t know if the lion

Needed to get brave

If courage tends to make one more a king

Or slave

 

I am glad the straw man got his brains

For reasons more than one

I will remark, before he did

He was known to weild a gun

Scarecrow_with_gun

But of the great and powerful

Man behind the curtain

There’s one thing that you and I

Can agree to take for certain:

 

Poor tin woodsman

Most of all by him

Was wrongly steered

 

Gave him a heart

Which tore him apart

 

When, with just a click

Of them red shoes,

And a nod

You simply

Disappeared

“And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings, too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon”

And

“Wizard of Oz: As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.
Tin Woodsman: But I still want one.”

 

slice: the duality of it and these

Spoiler alert, Idealiotic Army™, I started writing my second to last post on day 2 of this thing and about a week later wrote the first 2 paragraphs of my final one. I sort of had an idea of how I wanted to close things off so to prevent me from forgetting I started them in google docs and just never close them. The reason I bring this up is that my penultimate post will be my reflections on my slice posts. Each day after I post I reflect on how I felt writing the day before or what it feels like now that those thoughts are out in the world and viewed by upwards of 4 to 8 people or just whatever comes to mind about the previous post. The plan was to then use my daily reflections as a way to sum up the entire experience at the end.

So today whilst recounting yesterday’s riveting treatise on being a failure that somehow involved ostriches and blah blah blah I looked back for the first time in a while at the whole of my reflections and dude, I am a mess, huh? Ha. I mean, yeah, I am in many ways lost and confused and have a sad streak I just live with, but so many people do. I know I have broached this topic before, me (surprise!), and explained it away saying that I just automatically correlate writing and expression with sadness/emptiness/longing and just sort of soak up and dwell in the happy stuff. And this is true. But also, this is a 30 day challenge and it just happened to be these 30 days. Had it fallen on another 30 days the takeaway could have been different. The 30 days previous, for instance, would’ve been lots more sunshine and rainbows. Yes, there have been 30 day stretches that would’ve been better, and, shockingly, 30 day stretches that would have been much worse.

One beautiful part of this, though, is the interaction. After a few particularly bummer posts that I can’t believe I put out there I had people reach out and express empathy for “what I was going through” or let me know they think I’ll be ok based on this or that. How nice is that? Strangers and colleagues both took what they gleaned from my slices and expressed concern for me as just a fellow human being. That’s a burden I didn’t want to put on blog readers, I promise. I owe everyone in my circle a lifetime of no longer worrying about me after I strung together quite a few bad 30 day stretches a few years back. I do not like putting that on people, strangers or otherwise. I get that it might seem like I do as more than half of my posts reek of me begging precisely for pitying attention. I assure you, it was all just me writing my truth because, for good or for ill, it’s just how i do. Mine is a roller coaster life, emotionally. It has been for a while now. I am more used to the quick changes in altitude than I used to be but will never be fully acclimated I don’t think. But I want you, if you’re reading this, to know that I know I am not alone and that so many people have it so much worse.

I am not “lock myself in a dark bathroom listening to like, The Smiths, with a bottle of whiskey” sad. Ever. At least not when I have my kids. At least not anymore, Ha. We have fun together. Last night my daughter chose Up for movie night. (As an aside – I sleep through every kid movie in theaters. The only ones I did not were Polar Express because it was my first kid’s movie in a theater with a kid I created and I basically bawled the whole time because of course, The new Muppet Movie because it was awesome, and Up because I love it and it’s beautiful and so me. Also I know parenthetical offerings are basically asides so I didn’t have to write that at the beginning of this tangent but I did so deal with it.) (Also I’m aware of how prone to tangents in my writing I am, I’m working on it. But not really.) (Also The Fantastic Mr Fox is bomb.com too.) I wisely waited to start drinking my pinot noir until after the first 15 minutes passed. I still let a couple eye leaks drop but I’m not a robot. The Cubs opening day is Thursday and although I am once again faced with multiple days of solitude because their mom has surprised them with a spring break trip and this leaves me alone without even work to break up the monotony, I have opening day to look forward to. Traditions. I have a picture with the kids and I dating back 15 years now on opening day, replete with signs and evidence in the form of the tv broadcast in each picture. So I have that to look forward to. And summer is knocking on the door and with it a full slate of lots and lots of coaching which means lots and lots of time spent outdoors with my family having something on the schedule to do.

I have so much good in my life and am far from alone in having to deal with the bad. And so many people have it worse. Mental health and suicide are huge issues in our world today for myriad reasons. Those issues are near and dear to my heart. So when I looked back at all the depressing pictures I’ve painted over the course of this slice challenge and thought of all those who have reached out to support or otherwise show kindness I was moved to share the poem below. It is by far my favorite contemporary poem. I like its now-ness compared to other faves of mine like the sonnets (29, anyone?), or cummings my whimsical genius, or the quiet ferocity of soft insane powerful Ginsberg. I like that it mines the depths of sad to prove authenticity while shining such a bright beacon of hope with those who identify with the message. It is haunting and important (unfortunately) and, ultimately, very inspirational. I don’t mean to trivialize other people’s real sadness with my pithy dirges. Hopefully I can rectify some people’s notions (or my own) that I might be doing just that by sharing this in solidarity with showing support for those who need it.

It’s good, right? Most of her stuff blows me away.  

Anyways, between reading back through my reflections on this slice challenge as it winds down, getting news yesterday that a close buddy’s very awesome dad unexpectedly passed, watching videos of Emma from Parkland do her thing at the march, living through my amazing sis-in-law’s hospital stay for sudden partial blindness/illness while pregnant and the subsequent totalling of the front end of her husband, my brother’s, car as he rushed to the hospital to be with her, my mom’s struggles with the isolating nature of lupus (which another near n dear was just diagnosed with), my grandma’s deteriorating memory and constant doctor visits, another friend in and out of hospital for an ever increasing list of mysterious ailments leading to stays and operations all while trying to single parent 2 kids, one of which has special needs, and the list goes on and on and the point of this run-on dumbness is please don’t take my self indulgence over the course of this thing as my inability to empathize with the world and those also struggling with the same or worse. I can’t help, in retrospect, how I came off but I have no option but to be fine and have enough left over to support and raise awareness for those for whom the struggle is real. Because god knows it was and has been done for me.

Those of you who have read with open minds thank you for letting me vent and accept my apologies for overstaying my welcome at times. Ha. I appreciate the catharsis this blogging allows. I know I don’t always comment on all of your posts but they are lovely. All of them. I am super heavy handed and aware of it so when I get to read reflections on cutesy everyday things that this challenge is probably more meant to highlight, it usually makes my day more than you know. So thank you, all of you, for sharing slices of yourselves. You have no idea how much it might mean to people getting glimpses into your lives and either recognizing the tough times you’re experiencing, or being lifted by the small moment beauty you so wonderfully articulate. It all matters. So thank you for writing your truth, whatever that is.

Weakest Link

I think I spend so much time telling kids, young and older, that they can and should have anything they want that it leads to me being bummed out sometimes when reminded constantly that for me it’s usually not the case. I loved Chris Rock’s genius new stand up special Tambourine.  He has a bit in there where he begged us to stop espousing this concept, or at least amending it, as it pertains to kids. Instead of telling them they can have or be whatever they want, Mr. Rock says that we should say that they can be anything they are good at (as long as they’re hiring). It is definitely more realistic (and less idealiotic) as it adds in the truth that you need to work for those lofty wants. Whether it’s something you want or want to be, the point is you need to work for it. To earn it.

But the thing is, in reality even working hard and being a good person does not lead to one achieving their wildest dreams. Bummer, I know. And yeah – some people do just have things handed to them, or have no qualms about circumventing the being a good person part or considering societal guidelines and just taking what they want regardless of how it affects others. Those people either highlight the unfair lottery of life or make it seem like we should all just ignore the interests of other in the name of taking what we want. Those routes just seem so much easier.

But I always remember my kids are watching. Not just the ones I made but all my kids. The word “model” is in the title “role model” and while I am far from perfect I do try and live the truth I want them to see and become. And yes, I definitely got some of the unfair advantages on the market these days. I am white, and a man, in an age where an idea and a little hard work (especially, unfairly, if you’re a white male) can result in windfalls maybe larger than at any time in our history. But I just feel like I’m trying to do so many things that I can’t figure out no matter how much hard work and good personing I do. I don’t want to settle for less than what I want in my bones. But no matter how hard I slam my head against the wall, or massage its bricks, or study its structure for points of entry, or attempt to construct machinations which allow me to tunnel under or soar over – I just can’t. And meanwhile there are so many other aspects of life I just can’t seem to decipher. I can whip up a killer rubric based in CCSS or NGSS, or I can last minute lesson plan to account for misconceptions out of nowhere, or I can incentivize the heck out of a Friday school day variation to curb undesired behavior patterns. But every time I think I get a foothold in other places of my life something or another tends to take me out at the knees.

The thing is, I am what I think one needs to be in order to earn these little slices of happiness. Or at least I strive and bust my butt to deserve them. I know one cannot be “good” just so they get what they want. That’s not good, that’s self serving and trying to buy contentment. I did do that for a while. No, I just mean that I work on myself constantly. Try to always do the kind thing for all involved in every situation. Sacrifice when necessary. I am basically like this obsequious sycophant just hoping it all works out in the end.

But no matter what we are limited by what we are. Where we rate on the great food chain. Part luck, part effort. Some people are just born with, or otherwise receive, more help than others. When I lived in Florida there was this weird little farm near where the high school was. I had a country boy friend who helped the lady who ran the farm after school sometimes. Every once in a while after a few pops toward the end of the night he would bring a few of us to the farm and we’d park the trucks in the moonlight and walk over toward this large pen that was half forest and half open space. We would then attempt to help him ride the pen’s inhabitants. The farm had some chickens and other normal farm fare but the animal we helped our cowboy-in-training friend ride was an ostrich. There was a mom ostrich and two baby ostriches. Usually we would get there, make noise so they’d wake up, and with our headlights illuminating the pen watch as the mom ostrich shooed her kids into the woods and stand guard against us moron teenagers. This sounds bad, I know, teens are dumb, but we never hurt any animals while there. What would happen was 3 or 4 of us would get the big bird near the fence and just sort of corner her while the one guy got on her back and rode her as long as possible. It seemed like as long as her babies were safe she kind of just humored us. I believe the cowboy friend did this way more often than the 3 or 4 times he took me along and, actually, on the 3rd or 4th visit he helped hoist me up once or twice and I rode an ostrich for a few seconds before being tossed.

Anyways, one time I decided to be a big shot and on a night where the cowboy was not present brought my high school girlfriend and a couple other guys to the farm. I mean, I had ridden the thing before so I was basically now a cowboy myself. Only, I wasn’t. I did not possess the ability, wisdom, or talent it took to be this type (or any type really) of cowboy. We got the babies evacuated no problem. But the guys I brought along didn’t have the training needed to properly prepare the ostrich for riding, nor was my tutelage very helpful, and pretty soon they were spooked and up against the fence with the main squeeze I was failing miserably at impressing. Then, something happened I’ll never forget: the ostrich charged and tried to Karate Kid crane kick me. I immediately broke into football player mode and just as the kick leg began to swing forward I delivered a two-handed shiver to that beast’s majestic breast. Since she was balanced on just the one leg the shot was effective in warding off the kick as the bird had to right herself. My friends were cheering like spectators at a gladiator arena. The ostrich reset, made a 3 step charge and again received a stiff arm shiver soon as the kick leg was engaged. The crowd went wild. The third time I slipped. Just my right hand connected and she was kicking with her right leg. Square in my chest, the kick landed, and while ostriches can’t fly – one kick from one can initiate flight in others. I was in the air for at least 7 or 8 yards. My friends and I all scrambled over the fence and it wasn’t until we got to a buddy’s house that I realized ostriches have razor sharp claws, or I guess talons. My shirt had about a ten inch vertical slice in it, and so did my torso. Ostrich made me bleed my own blood. And, of course, I deserved it.

Years later my son and I were on an adventurous eating kick. He knew the ostrich story and we were given the opportunity to try ostrich jerky. He thought that because of the kick I’d want some semblance of revenge in the form of eating cured, dried ostrich meat. But I told him no. I didn’t deserve it. Ha. Obviously that ostrich bested me and therefore was higher than me on the food chain.

And I guess that’s how I feel about the things in life I cannot achieve. Yes, growth mindset – the things I have yet to achieve. But I’m starting to doubt, finally, that I’ll ever win. That my failures are simply a result of my place in the food chain. Because every time I strive for something above my pay grade in this food chain, as ludicrous as it sounds, I get ostrich kicked. I feel the blow struck in my failure. I fly-fall back only instead of that 3 second slow-mo launch backwards it often feels like that second you know your chair has tipped amd you are going down with it only elongated and constant, that terror and helpless freefall, for days and even weeks. And usually, too, I feel as if I am left with a bloody laceration near my chest where my heart is. Because I wasn’t born with the luck or the face or the money or the body or the brain needed to attain what I want or to figure out the rest. But I don’t see myself lowering or changing what I want. I think, instead, eventually I’ll just continue trying to better myself and show kindness and just “be good” and call it a life. Resign myself to where I’m at on the food chain. Stop feeling frustrated, confused, or bummed out that I can’t have what I want no matter how hard I try or think on ways to make it happen.

Because in the end it doesn’t really matter how I deal with this dumb stuff. Because in the end all that matters is that my kids continue to operate under the assumption that their places on the food chain are not set yet. That they should reach for the stars in their wants but be aware that they will have to work very hard to reach those heights. Because they were not born into guaranteed college money or BMWs at 16 or genetics (on my side anyways, ha) that ensure they will remain as “give me things” beautiful as they are now into their adult lives. No, I’m not giving up. I probably never will. I just need to re-adjust to my role and hope my kids, all of them, wind up higher up than I did.