Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
The childhood of Atticus and Zane, it was often said, covered all things from A to Z, and as such the phrase would provide the friendly punchline to many of the adventures that the brothers shared. The parents of the two Honea boys were nomads by nature and tended to wander from places like Agoura to those like Zelienople, and along the way they stopped often to smell the roses, let their dogs use the ground, and seize the day accordingly. Mrs. Honea often said things like, “Let’s make something of this life,” and Mr. Honea would often take a sip of his coffee, give her a nod, and push play on the soundtrack to their story, which, to be fair, was more than heavy with the assorted works of The Beatles. Atticus and Zane would run through the sun and shade of the respective seasons and laugh at the jokes that the world was telling.
So it was on a Sunday morning when the day was still stretching and Mr. Honea was yawning with coffee on his breath that Mrs. Honea turned to the boys and told them that she had heard a symphony of sidewinders in the night and suggested that they wear two pairs of woolen socks over their normally one pair of feet. Also, she clarified that the sound of a rattle in the desert was not an invitation to curiosity, but rather a warning to the contrary. They had lost too many cats that way. Cats are notorious for not wearing socks.
Atticus and Zane bundled their feet per their mother’s request and opened the door to the RV that they called home. Their view was one of pine trees and snow-covered mountaintops. There was no desert to speak off.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Honea, “what a strange dream that must have been.”
And so the boys put on second layers of everything else, including an extra set of underpants which may or may not have been on the wrong side of the laundry pile, and they jumped down onto the frozen tundra in search of very cold rattlesnakes or maracas packed with chilly beans.
The forest was deep and equally wide, and there were rinks of ice scattered around where ponds should be. The Honea boys, thanks to their parents, park rangers, and countless viewings of It’s a Wonderful Life, knew better than to walk upon frozen bodies of water without their safety having been confirmed by someone that knew how to do such things, and so they avoided them as a rule. However, the current sheet of ice under their feet had appeared without warning as they had been too busy looking up in trees for sleeping bears that must surely fall like very large pine cones, and had managed to miss the difference between cold ground and colder water as they made their way from the comforts of family and home into the depths of what was clearly wild.
“I suppose,” said Atticus, “that we would have noticed the difference had we only one pair of shoes on.”
“Oh,” said Zane as he looked at the awkward feet of his brother, “I was wondering where my shoes went.”
Zane looked down at the boots of his father, which were currently on his own little feet and had been filled with the aforementioned two pairs of woolen socks, but also with an entire roll of tissue paper and part of the Seattle Times that he assumed his parents were finished with. Then he looked at the ice and wondered how something so big and clear could just appear beneath two little boys who were nothing if not diligent in observation and whatever other skills were deemed necessary for a life like theirs, being one full of adventure.
“Atticus,” he said to his older brother, “I really have to poop.”
It was just then that Mr. Honea opened the door to the portable outhouse that served as a public restroom in the campground where their RV was parked and rejoined the morning. His feet were freezing, hanging as they were halfway out of his wife’s fuzzy slippers, and he could not find the sports page anywhere. Everyone knows that a sports page is best read while taking a personal moment upon a seat of porcelain, and even though this particular seat had been more plastic and the moment more public, Mr. Honea still expected a certain level of civility in times when the deeds that must be done were having their doing. Also, someone had used every last square of tissue paper and not bothered to change the roll. Needless to say, Mr. Honea was not in the best of moods when he opened the door to said portable outhouse to rejoin the morning and saw his two sons standing in the middle of a large rain puddle frozen over by winter in the night.
“Hello,” he said in a firm voice that implied much more than a casual greeting. And he meant it.
The two boys looked up at their father and smiled broadly. They were, in addition to many things, saved.
“Good,” shouted Zane. “Daddy’s done pooping!” and he ran past his father into the restroom. He could feel the tissue paper grown warm and soft between his toes.
This isn’t a typical post, so forgive me. It also isn’t entirely true. It’s part of a project I’m working on that has been getting mixed reviews, so I thought I’d put it out here to get some public reaction. What do you think, Mom?
Blogging is all about ebbs, flows, and being too busy to maintain one’s personal space. It happens. I’m sure you are over it.
It’s not that I haven’t been writing anything of substance — I have. I’m just writing a limited supply of substance, so I have to put it where the paycheck is.
To that end, I would be thrilled if you took the time to read the posts below:
“I’m not even sure that I would want my kids to be popular. Yes, I want them to be liked by their peers and to have good friends, but there are a lot of trappings to popularity that I would rather they not deal with. First world problems? Maybe — but, and I’m painting with the stereotype brush here, I wouldn’t want them to feel that they had to be something that they are not. I want them to be, first and foremost, comfortable in their own skin. I’m basing a lot of this on Glee and various Disney Channel movies, so forgive me if my grasp of stereotypes is a little rusty.”
“What happens is that a sweet, sensitive boy becomes a monster. He yells and screams at those that play with him or those that tell him it is time to stop. He talks in quick, sharp daggers of hateful speech and he whines when we mention it. It is ugly.”
“The right for all people, in this case, all tax-paying citizens of the United States, to marry the person of their choosing is such an obvious thing that to fight against it is well beyond the bounds of politics and commonsense. To suggest otherwise is to declare an ignorance of history and to put oneself squarely on the wrong side of it.”
“…for every single note was a child’s wish, grown from whispers and wandering thought, written down with careful hand, and tied somewhat gingerly to the hopes of the wild.”
There are a lot of other things to do on the Internet, and I appreciate you taking the time to read the words that I fling on it. Also, I would like to thank BlogHer for naming me one of their 2012 Voices of the Year. The post that made it happen is “When Stuffed Animals Die.”
There is a mess in this house, long and winding — a trail of places left, those to go, and the hopes and tangents along the way. To leave it is lazy and layered in dust and frustration. To clean it is to deny that the sun ever thought to shine.
All things are out of order — lost crowns are newfound treasure, and open-faced books are the windows that we all fall into. Every out of place thing is but a bookmark where words did run across the paths of adventure. Every small muddy footprint is but a footnote to home and history. So many mountains. So many molehills.
Brooms are the batons of a warm and happy brass band. Their days are spent in sweeping parades and the spreading of springtime. They spend their nights in kitchen closets telling tales of clouds and flying to mops, buckets, and all who would listen. The quiet is filled with longings always longer and the constant wonder of which straw will be the last.
The day rolls slowly over shade and shadows, and the house tells time across cobblestones and wildflowers. The stars show up better late than never.
A rare spot of uncluttered floor lends itself to the wild dance of many things, and songs grown within the moment. Our little home is warmed by little boys and their hearts are full of rumpus.
There is a mess in this house, and it will linger through the morrow.
In memory of Maurice Sendak, 1928 – 2012
Illustration from In Grandpa’s House
It was four hours past the the day I turned 41, and I stumbled into a dark hotel room covered in the smells of whiskey, Texas, and things best forgotten. The night had grown stale and suddenly quiet. I threw my clothes on the floor and I fell asleep immediately.
The morning found me relatively fresh and thankful for it. I was at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Austin, Texas, and I had a reputation to live up to — the drinking was only part of it.
The other part was crying in public, which is something of a running joke among those that have seen me speak on the topic of parenting. Turns out I’m a freaking sap. (Also a sap, Robert Candelino of Dove Men+Care, a sponsor and speaker that lost it on stage. I’m only bringing it up because a) it was quite touching, and b) hello? When Doves Cry). Luckily, I managed to forgo my own tears this round (barely), much to the chagrin of those that enjoy such things. Rest assured, I didn’t let them down on the drinking.
But it wasn’t all beer and bourbon.
The Dad 2.0 Summit was an amazing meeting of parent bloggers and brands — a public place for parent relations, which sounds weird now that I typed it, but I’m leaving it in. Somewhere in the distance that’s what she said.
Blogging conferences seem to appear at just the right moment. I have been in this space for a long time by most standards, and I find that my passion for it tends to wax and wane like so many moons and other things that cows jump over. It is safe to say that recent events and the lack thereof had me on the wane. There was thought of turning away.
I am as unemployed as I have ever been, leaving me embarrassed, stressed, and flirting with depression. I thought about skipping the conference. It was only due to a series of phone calls with an impassioned Doug French, one of the founders of Dad 2.0 (also, John Pacini), that I somewhat reluctantly decided to make the trip despite the funds involved and the lack of them coming in. I’m glad I did.
I was greeted by familiar faces (lots of the DadCentric team!) too numerous to mention here (plus I know I would forget someone and subsequently feel like a jerk), and many new faces that became fast friends. What can I say, I’m a people person.
There were engaging conversations about parenting, dads, writing, media, brands, and peanut brittle. Who decided it was a holiday thing? Peanut brittle is awesome all year.
There were things to do, things to learn, and things that I will never forget. There were also plenty of things that didn’t apply to me at all, which is fantastic, because they were presented in an open and honest manner, allowing for curiosity and contemplation when needed, or judgmental silence where warranted. And sometimes I was just looking toward the distance and thinking about my family.
I managed to find room in my bag for a big box of Legos and pinned my newfound focus next to the heart on my sleeve. I had gone to Austin in hopes of finding what I wanted, a job, which didn’t happen, but I came home with something equally important (though less help financially) — I came home with what I needed, and that feels pretty damn good.
No, it wasn’t peanut brittle.
This is the only picture I took. It is the only picture I needed.
And a couple of photos that Charlie took so that he could enjoy me at his leisure:
Here I am blowing (save it) out the candle on my birthday cake thing which I then shared with the 10 other bloggers at the table. Yes, I’m eating soup and salad. I believe I have already established that I am sensitive like that. Special thanks to Bruce and Charlie for buying my birthday lunch!
And this is what Andy (Betadad), Charlie (How to be a Dad), and I do when we sit outside a gas station for two hours waiting on a cab. Yes, we were posing for album covers. So what? The band is called DadShart. We’ll be touring this spring. Mostly smooth jazz.
For the purpose of total transparency, let me say that I stole the following thank you list of sponsors from John Cave Osborne. Literally, I broke into his blog when he was out grilling eggs or whatever the hell they do in Tennessee and just took it. He had it coming.
Also, I got shot. Thanks to Stacy for reminding me of what was, obviously, a very dark time for me.
Don’t worry, I’m okay. Relatively.
Photo by Caleb, who was, as always, exceptional.
Popular thought suggests that there is a spark inside all of us. Personal experience is that some shine brighter than others. That doesn’t devalue anyone. It just is. Accept it or change it. It’s your spark.
Mine twists like a lighthouse in a windstorm. It is either lost through waves of bourbon or cutting through so much fog to find you like a spotlight. When I shine I want you to shine with me. It is lonely at the top.
We live in a land of opportunity. The cobblestones are plated gold. The dust a blend of pixie. But dreams are not granted to the masses. We must walk uphill in every way, knocking on doors and selling our wares and what passes for awareness. Don’t sell yours short. The highest bid is often the most careless.
And there are dark doors that figuratively represent whatever you need them to. Literally they are but hinged barriers to the path ahead. The light from the other side glows like a burning picture frame. It is an invitation. It is a warning. It has a handle that only needs to be turned.
Opening doors is why steps are taken.
It may require pause. New paths are hard to start and old paths end too quickly. The scene from the doorstep is of rolling hills and promise. My feet are tired and anxious. There is a stack of shoes in the foyer, each covered in potential and glowing with dust (the smaller shoes shine the brightest). The surrounding floor grows sterile and absent as it stretches down the hallway. I cannot remember if I am coming or going. I am paused, and I am wondering where to put my foot down.
Some look to the heavens when they have nowhere else to turn. Some look there first. I look up and I see stars that stretch forever. I find more perspective than answers.
Perhaps it is the time of year. Perhaps it is the wind in your hair. Life is a dance of wonder and melancholy, and each step brings a gasp, each spin leaves a smile. We are tussled and chapped, and the deeper the dip the more we feel alive.
Perhaps decisions are best made when we don’t know that we are making them. We are lost in the movement. We are paused before doorways. We are always looking for a better place.
That is what I am doing here, writing in circles and wasting language best spent on documents and deadlines — thirsty words wandering from waterhole to wonder and always with the stars in their eyes, always with the day’s dust behind them.
Popular thought suggests that there is a spark inside all of us. Mine is helping to keep us warm, and perhaps that is enough of a wonder for anyone.
Photo by ImaRawkStar