End Again

This is it. Another whole month together. In the weeks before this year’s slicing I envisioned myself really using it as a way to explore themes and writing styles and not be so personal. Or at least if I was personal it would be through some really well crafted allegorical tale propelled by fantastical flights of personification with inanimate objects as main characters. And I certainly wasn’t going to explain why I was writing things or talk about the writing itself.

But then it started and somehow life continued happening as the days progressed and then, well, you know. Suddenly we all had an unavoidable topic to dwell on. 

But it helped, right? Of all months for this to hit. We had windows to other perspectives. We heard about survival tips, both from boredom and, you know, scary death stuff. This will not be an easily forgettable slice month. And we have such a talented collection here. Really. 

So I slip in to my final slice. Away from life for a sec to offer up my window of the day one more time and then back to the whole life thing. Today I decided to extend my woodsy cottage stay. My shabby shelter in place. The kids and I will be here through the rest of the weekend and then we all go back to this new version of school. Last night I stayed up until almost four with my guy watching his TV show. In a minute I am going to attempt to be that dad who learns the Tick Tacks dances with my daughter. We’ll put together an extended menu and plan meals. We will use this time of confusion and fear to bond and find security in the comfort of family togetherness.

Just like this year’s slicing, the virus has made this spring break, and beyond, memorable in ways we couldn’t have guessed. Thanks to all for helping build what has become this monument to a thing we’d have never chosen but are all a part of, together. Memories were created and documented here this year that will last and I very much appreciate it. Now I’m going to slip away one more time for this year, and continue making more memories on my end. Good luck, everyone. Take care of yourselves, and each other. And one more time, thank you.

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i believe in you

I say

We’re going to be ok

 

Though

I don’t know

How it’s gonna go

Hope to show

Belief in what we sow

 

Our reaping

Will justify the leaping

 

Future clarity

Making past hilarity

 

The 

 

Feared confusion

Of now

Turned infusion

Of wow

 

We made it thru

Again

Hindsight view

When

The faith that grew

Then

Like I almost knew.

 

Dreaming is encouraged during this. When limitations threaten to dwindle all to nothing, everything is illuminated attainably possible. Restraints before seen obsolete and mirage-like. Fear melts in the face of courage challenged by an existential cleansing of all that came before. Turn around, bright eyes. Your life is and always was yours alone. Decorate it as if it will forever be your shelter in place from the scary effigies your adolescence carved to keep you questioning the sanctity of your spirit. For you are holy and worthy of any height you’ve yet dared imagining. Dream your universe on the other side of this and so it shall be. A stunning display of soul and song, you. They will see, and then their hearts will smile big and sigh comfortably.

Larceny Under Cover of Covid

Looking out at the grey sky, crisscrossed with yet autumnal-seeming almost April Fool’s branches whipping wildly in a noisily hyper wind, with that gust rippled lake below. We sit as high as a 5 story in this bi-level house with two stair sets and a small hilly jaunt leading from lower covered balcony to the shoreline with its half sunk “dock” well past saving after a zero maintenance decade or two. Just before the mandate, we decided we needed a shelter to remain in. Air BnB, not surprisingly, had some good deals. Our magically shabby cottage with two fireplaces, one of which is a brick pizza oven, is in the woods an hour from home and we have quarantined just fine, thank you very much.

I wrote about my living situation last year or the year before. For myriad reasons I’ll not delve too deeply here. But as it pertains to this slice, it is small, I have limited use of things one grows accustomed to after 10 years of owning their own home, it lessens the amount I get to be with my kids during the school year, and it was a blessing at a time in my life when I needed one. Despite all of its drawbacks, I am grateful to have a place for my things and a roof over my head.

If you’ve read me you know I go from tangent to tangent in an increasingly annoying manner. If you are me, you know this painfully too well. Anyways, I finally watched Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, today, whilst also staring at the window I mentioned in sentence one. He just did The Favourite which won all the awards this year but that was his first “normal” picture and by normal I mean not like his two other English language films, the aforementioned Sacred Deer, as well as The Lobster, which also starred Colin Farrell. I separate these movies from the big normal one because in the other two, all the characters basically just recite their lines. Almost no affect. The stylistic result is beyond jarring but it does create a sort of tone or rhythm that you fall in step with as it goes. What I believe, after hearing Yorgos on my podcast, is that he believes in capturing purity with these films. Which means Mr Farrell, and the rest of these genius casts, are actors reading lines while being filmed for a movie which is telling a story, so, they deliver their lines as such. It’s a lot, I know, the movies are bomb though.

Ok but why that tangent? I don’t have the metaphor fully worked out but I think it plays both ways. Or at least I do. See, I am limited by the living situation I’ve been working with in so many ways. And now I am, in essence, faking it with this long run quarantine. I am not in a mansion or fancy lake house. It is about an approximation of what someone in my situation, same jobs, kids, etc, who maybe made one or two different choices in life, could afford. But, dudes, screw it. I am unabashedly in love with doing dishes and taking out the garbage and doing laundry. (Yes I do those on the reg but here it’s different) 

Mostly, though? Cooking. We planned out the food thing and I have cooked every bite of every meal. Made my pasta, crock pot tacos, bbq marinated chicken, sausages with my famous cajun potatoes, and homemade pizzas which were literally some of the best things I’ve ever put in my face and I live in Chicago. And breakfast? Bro. Everyday something new, just after waking up and making the coffee from the pot I cleaned out and prepared the night before! That sentence almost made me cry a little. Today I had my first non-restaurant made sandwich, with bread, in at least 6 years. I stay away from carbs and buying lunch meat where I live is just not a viable thing unless I eat it with mustard out of the bag for dinner, cold cuts tray-style. I used lettuce and tomato and all the stuff. It was immeasurably satisfying.

And tomorrow I get to bring the kids here and they can see me in this habitat. A version of dad I know at least my daughter will never have memories of from before when it was real life. I can cook them all the food and tuck them in and take them fishing and not be limited to one TV when the middle guy wants to late night binge the kinda bad show I know he loves less than he loves talking to me about as it’s on, because big brother can play video games with his friends in “his room” while baby girl watches her old Nick shows in hers. 

Corona sucks. This whole everything is scary and weird. I’m looting in a way I guess. Using the time of confusion and fog to grab myself some memories. And no, hell no, I’m not looting smiles and security from some past life long gone, I am 100 percent motivating myself to build this for real in the future.

i know how to do the play now…

Thing number 74 you can do during quarantine times: share art. Today I watched my favorite movie with someone who’d never seen it. The movie is Charlie Kaufaman’s Synecdoche, New York. 

When I first heard three of my favorite female actors were going to be in a movie written and directed by my favorite screenwriter, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman to boot, I was so excited. But then it only played in the artsy places downtown and, unlike in my pre-kid years, I couldn’t make it out during its brief run. But online stuff was around so I remember ordering the Blu ray ahead of time and after it finally showed up I waited each night, for five nights straight, until everyone went to bed and I devoured it. I watched it over and over and could not stop thinking about it.

When we finished today I got the wordy question I usually do as the credits roll: “explain?” When I was chasing a lit minor to go with my education degree as an adult student returned from the parental trenches, I remember most other students in lit studies classes writing papers and leading discussions about theories having to do with the one and only Harold Potter or Disney stuff. I wrote the most in depth, theoretical rabbit hole nosediving, and definitely pretentious, paper positing that SNY, Kaufman’s meditation on solipsism, was actually an attempt at creating a character, Caden Cotard (the name means something, the title means something, everything is something!), to be a metaphor for the artist’s obviously impossible struggle to reach the Lacanian “Real” through pure creation.

So I tried to dig into the dark recesses of my brain for tidbits from that little ditty in order to answer the question. I snatched bits and pieces, but really, no. And yet, it is still my favorite film of all time. Maybe precisely because it does demand attention. And, honestly, either a bunch of doctorates or lots of googling. So, if you can find it, and you want to get lost in some drearily beautiful art as a way to re-engage your brain after diving headlong into the world of Joe Exotic and his cats, or Tick Tox, or Animal Crossings, or any other diversion du jour (which we all need and deserve), watch this film. Just don’t expect clarity. I think whatever you take from it will be enough. Maybe you, too, will watch it like 50 times and try to form some outline of a structure of a template of a meaning. 

Life is not always as linear in its messaging as we think. Sometimes exploring the nebulous can be exhilarating. Challenge does not always need to be rewarded with happy endings clarity. Art is, whatever you decide. To me, there’s comfort in a hole-y narrative like that.

The Kids Are Alright

I did something like this last year but there’s one obvious factor that’s glaringly different this time around. For this slice I decided to let my kids, my actual biological ones, write my slice. It’s the last day of distance learning before break so I gave them a writing assignment with the prompt: what has this been like for you, academically and personally, and what’s it like to ride out covid with a dad who’s also a teacher? They’re with their mom now so I had them text their responses. Tech they’re used to, right? I’m just going to leave them as is.

Eddie IV, Junior in HS

The day before our school was cancelled ,for who knows how long it will be, a teacher told us “this will likely be a pivotal moment for you guys. Everything before Corona and then everything after”. We are entering our “spring break” with the very real possibility that the next time I walk into my school as a senior in High School (currently junior). Now for people who know me (which I’m sure is most of you lol) I’m ok with school but I’m always ok with the occasional snow day. This situation has changed my perspective of how important teachers really are. These first two weeks have not been great for me and my peers education. It is a very stressful time to not be able to see friends you’ve grown accustomed to seeing over a 4+ year period. Another factor as to why learning has been near impossible is the way it’s being ran, now excluding the one teacher that is running a class to the best of her ability virtually by meeting every class day possible over zoom most teachers are finding it difficult to educate. I am in no way faulting these teachers because this is a truly insane time for everyone but, if the rest of my year in education is ran the same way it was ran over the last 2 weeks the state will likely see a drop in scores. Again taking this from someone who is a junior in high school I’m just speaking from me and my peers perspectives. Now I’m currently 6 grades over the grade my dad teaches but what he is doing with his class has looked like a good method. Personally contacting and connecting with his students when able to make sure everyone is understanding as best he could. In all honesty though I don’t know if there is a perfect way to master online education for kids so used to the system and I’m sure every teacher will do what they think is best to help their students. That’s all I have to say sorry I wrote so much. Everyone stay healthy and we will find success through this with a strong teacher-student connection.

Corgan, 7th grade

Corgan- my experience for the corona virus situation that’s happening in our world is wouldn’t say boring but it’s not eventful. i learned that i actually like and miss school and I would of never thought I would get bored of my phone. having a dad as a teacher he shows us that we need to finish our work so that as he says our brains dont turn to mush and that he can help us. ive only been outside like 4 times the whole entire time and coming up this spring break i don’t think i will be out that much more. so my experience isn’t event full but it’s crazy what’s going on and will be something we look back on.

Annie, 3rd grade

my experience with the corona virus is better then I thought it would be.it is really easy for me. Like I can get in my iready quick and easy in the morning. And it is a crazy time for all of us. And having my dad around is great because he can help us with are work because he is teacher. And with the corona virus it does get boring but with the school work it gives me something todo.

From the mouths of babes…

fishing for perfection

Had a zoom meeting scheduled for 8 am this morning. Got up early, posted my daily thing to the kids, donned my zoom meeting shirt and tie over my pajama bottoms, and logged on. It was audio only. Got all dolled up for nothin. 

Before making my world famous french toast (which was bomb because it always is and has been forever and ever) I went fishing. I caught nothing. But I loved it. Not like thrill-a-minute, loved it, but I loved it. I don’t get to fish much. Even in summer because I am a travel baseball coach and because, life. But I do get some in every summer. Whether it’s landing big ones every few minutes, or just sitting out in the sun/rain/gloom watching a body of greedy water for an hour, I love it. 

It got me to thinking about the things we can do and not satisfactorily actually do the intended thing, and still really have a great time. The only other thing I could think of for me is golf. I do it maybe once a year. Maybe. And I pretty much suck. Sometimes it takes like 5 or 6 hours and I hit maybe 3 balls really well. And those shots are pretty awesome, but it’s not really that. I’m usually with family or friends, it’s usually outdoors and I can show off my sweet mismatched socks which are usually covered by leg sleeves. A golf cart and a beverage – good times. 

I’m lucky enough to have a few students whose parents are able to really be all in with this distance learning stuff. Shockingly, these also tend to be the students who like doing school. So from them, or their parents, I’ve been hearing a lot. Sometimes they’re worried or their parents are asking if they should be worried about not doing this version of school good enough. And all of these specific students have sent me pictures of themselves completely engrossed, smiling, determined – while doing the work provided as well as some really brilliant home cooked learning. And to each one I say – yes. You’re doing enough. Chill. Relax. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t add stress because you think you need to win covid school today. 

Be a kid. Enjoy what you can. Be proud of your child. Watch the lake and don’t expect a seafood feast. There is no par for this course.

Or Are We Dancer?

Humans, their interactions, and the dynamics we find ourselves in are often complex and sometimes downright messy. Especially when others have impacts on us, negative ones, it suddenly becomes hard to remember that they are also just humans at the core, just like us.

I am in my second to last class for my Master’s degree. It has been a fairly smooth road, as many told me it would. Since returning to school as an adult I have been very good at “doing school”. That’s not to say I’ve had some really challenging classes, which are of course usually the most rewarding in the end. And I don’t mean it as bragging to say that I’ve never earned anything less than an A in any class. Most classes earning 100% of the points offered. I only mention that because this second to last class is extremely frustrating to me, and the human reason for this frustration is the professor. 

We are about at the halfway point. So far I’ve been dinged points on a discussion assignment for not responding to the two posts I was supposed to respond to on different days. Ok, this is my second to last class and every class has had discussion assignments identical to this: initial post by Wednesday, respond to two other posts by Sunday. Every week, for the whole program. But it is in the fine print of the rubric, ding me the points. But, another spot in the rubric gives points for “following all directions” so, double ding. In most classes the final is worth like 100 points. This is week 4 and we’ve already had three 100 point assignments and two 75 pointers. AND there is always a max word count of either 200-300 or 400-500. I have edited and erased more words than I have actually turned in! And then I lose points for not “expanding” more. Like, what?!

The last two weeks there were papers to be written with topic choices. In the directions and in the rubrics for both it says we are to write about the topic she assigns us individually. She never assigned anything anywhere. I wrote a quick email asking her for a little help understanding this and a few other points of the assignment which were clear as backseat kid windows even after many many read-throughs. Instead of helping she scolded my lack of appropriate grammar in my email and said that’s why she couldn’t help. I didn’t capitalize. That’s all. I have spoken casually in emails like this to every prof I’ve had so far. She didn’t have answers because there were none. Frustrating. 

At the start of each week’s module, many teachers record and post videos of themselves. Explaining the week, I’d assume. I never watch them because I understand how to follow concise directions fairly well and I have stuff to do. But this week, this lady? I was intrigued. She told a story about the recent death of a loved one. She went into horrific and graphic detail at times, and made things even more chilling when she would be vague about other parts. She cried. It was almost like a confessional of sorts. It made you feel like this was the first time she was able to get it off her chest. 

I’m not saying she’s not usually a frustrating teacher, I have no idea. Especially teaching the second to last class of a program where everyone is acclimated to the way things generally go. But I was slapped across the face anyways with a reminder that she is very much human. I told her she was brave and thanked her for sharing. Then, for the first time in almost 2 years taking the same coursework with the same people, commenting on at least two of their discussion posts per week, I reached out to a few and we all exchanged numbers and will be helping each other navigate this second to last class. You know, like humans.

sorry

I have a couple hours yet but I know it won’t be good. I know I promised to slice and when I started out I did so with all the best intentions. I see other people always slice on time and so well. Neat and polished and complete. But today, I’m sorry, I understand the importance. I do. But I just can’t. Not today. If you ask, yeah, I guess I can explain. But as an adult I would really rather not give voice to embarrassment so you can be placated. Stuff is just really crazy now and this was just one of those days and it’s a mish mosh of all the stuff that, yes, I know suzie and edgar and viv took care of their own dramas and turned in another gem and yeah I am fully aware that I didn’t capitalize their names but right now I feel their names aren’t quite proper because I had a day. Ok? It was a getting used to a new work thing and a kid thing and a financial thing and a question the morality of all I do and say and feel and decide for myself and those someone decided (maybe me who can recall on days like this?) I was equipped to keep alive, like every single day, kind of thing. That’s my excuse if you needed one, ok? Sorry. I’m sorry. I know. This is important. Like super important and I signed up for it. I know. I promise, I know. Today, though. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t.

 

Sometimes some of us teachers/administrators/academics just need to remember that, although many of us are getting high marks for the aplomb with which we have, seemingly to the outside world anyways, reimagined how we ply our trade for these kids (and yes, believe me, I know we rarely get recognized exactly for what our jobs entail), our kids’ parents aren’t all able to so quickly reimagine the reality of their lives. I’m sure most of you are doing an amazing job respecting each parent/guardian. Let’s continue to remember the ocean of difficult many of our kids’ people are facing right now and just keep doing our very best to do our part.

Inside Out Perspective

I went for a walk at about 9:30 last night. Not many people out walking dogs and such, which is what I generally see during my ever increasing strolls I use to get some semblance of exercise amidst all this lockdown snacking. It’s a funny game of Frogger, the walks. A sort of reverse Chicken game where the first person who sees another immediately crosses the street like we’re all barely handling rabid pit bulls.

Snow covered everything last night and the wind was down. While walking I was in it. Meaning, snowfall was still heavy, illuminated under street lights – a blanket in the making, and it covered my hoodie as it did my surroundings. It both reduced and exemplified what the whole world was going through somehow. The whitewashing made it seem distant, or at least covered. Sheltered in place. But at the same time, the uniforming snowstorm spared no one or nothing. All in, all under. I walked, one with the snow, but beyond, capable of witnessing its beauty, while all the while aware of my power to remove myself, shift perspective.

It was the same feeling I get when I look at the stars. Rather, the direct inverse of that exact feeling. When I am overtaken with mystical wistfulness, imagining all those stars as suns with possible peopled planets looking up at our own star as sun, as a fleck of biological possibility. In those microscopic moments I feel reduced and freed from all of life’s big-ness by such reduction. But last night, as I said, was same but opposite.

In this thing we are all big. All “essential”. Whether we clock in still everyday, or log in, or couch and eat/drink/game/Netflix/whatever – we all have a role to play and literally every single one of us is important.

The feeling is close to that of 911. Closest in my lifetime anyways. Only this time, somehow, the dangers are more tangibly imminent. We are the weapons of mass destruction. But, similarly to the tragedy of 911, in transcendence of religion or politics or social standing, I am finding hope in that forced unity. This world, and its social media and hyper media and peer pressure advertising built on thefted identities given willfully by our sheepish succumbing indoctrination into all the trappings of this modern world’s technological social advancement, has made me cynical and wary in general of society, and those who make billions vulturing us while being trusted to connect us.

But somehow, like in those days after 911, I believe in us. I have to. Not them, us. That we will show them, again, whose world this is. And in doing so, hopefully, we teach those who will deal with iterations of despair like this in actual future times, the kids who are watching, just how powerful we can be, with or without the “them” who are supposed to be blanketing us with security and protection, like newly driven snow on a peaceful neighborhood evening stroll. We can show them to see the beauty in all we’ve built while empowering them to see their own ability to move beyond, and shift perspective.

superman dies sometimes

After I posted yesterday about trying to keep my guys feeling secure and engaged during this time of weird I got a lot of very sweet, kind words. It was ironic, then, when we wound up having a glitch in our well crafted loosey goosey matrix a few hours later. We’ve basically been corralled in a room for three days. I get it. Artificial rainbows and sunshine are bound for exposure eventually. I was so down that I texted my girlfriend, “even superman dies sometimes.”

After a bit of parent pouting and thinking and trying – anything to unpop the bubble, I did salvage the night. A childhood is constructed of thousands of nights, but the number is finite. And I really don’t want a single one during this time to devolve into angst or stress-ridden confusion that would constitute a throwaway. 

This is not a paid advertisement. But while passive aggressively reading the Eggers book I shared with my eldest that he was not reading (superman dies, remember) in my mind I was fluctuating between “they need to learn a lesson and my anger is justified and we’ll just go to bed in this ball of odd tonight and tomorrow is a new day”, and, “dude, you NEED to fix this or THIS will be the one night they remember of all this covid mess.” I remembered a game I played with friends on one of those summer nights where you don’t realize as it’s happening you’re in a little slice of perfection, and very lucky. Parts of the game, I remembered, were kind of drinky and a little bit on the adult side of things. Not quite Cards Against Humanity, but still. 

I spent about an hour googling whether you could scale the game back for kid use but the name of the game is – It’s You, which really makes Google searches difficult. As I felt the night slipping away forever I just bit the bullet, paid the 10 bucks, and bought the thing. As soon as the kids saw that I wasn’t knitting my brow at Mr Eggers’ prose any longer but clicking things on their PS4 they began to withdraw from their corners and sneak peaks. They all have phones and I had them download the app, sure enough there is an option to scale back the adult level questions (the game narrator guy’s AI did allow a “damn” to slip in there once but it was pretty tame overall), and soon we were playing and laughing and the issue that befell us earlier was transformed into just a much needed timeout for all of us. I’m still bummed it happened, but it did and we made it out alive.

So if you have kids, I’d say 8 or 9 and all the way up, and a PS4 and some cell phones, That’s You is worth the 10 bucks. I know people are looking for distractions and ways to bond. My almost 9 year old, due being the youngest, is probably pretty mature as far as media goes, too much for my taste sometimes as it pertains to kids. So if you have a kid that age and you’re very big on parent lock protection you may want to give it a trial run before playing. But it helped save the night last night. Superman does die sometimes, and that’s ok. But every night, every moment, is precious. Not just during a pandemic. But, I mean, really, during a pandemic. And I’m really glad something from a slice of heaven in summer, when Corona was definitely not a scary word, happened, so a precious night when it was, could be saved.

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Yes that is my son, yes that is a cigar, yes that is that finger. It is not mandatory to be this crude in the game, he is here depicted as a very stereotypical truck driver. It was funny. So it goes.