Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Story

For the last few years, I have been without kids to share this story with. When I was married and got to see my nieces every Christmas I would have one of them snuggle up on my left and one on my right. They would hold the book and turn the pages while I read it to them. After a few years of not reading it to anyone but myself, I settled for reading it to Steph. It was nice to read it out loud, but it just wasn't the same. I think I will share it with you.

It is the book "Red Ranger Came Calling" by Berkeley Breathed. Pick up a copy if you can find one. Go hardback with this one. It is one you will want to keep in good condition.

Here is an excerpt:

Christmas, 1939
During the Depression years, before the second war, my folks would banish me from East Orange, New Jersey, to Michigan for the school year and then ship me to upstate New York for summer camp. The lone remaining month, for Christmas, would find me on a train to my aunt Vy's house, on Vashon, a damp little island somewhere off the country's upper left-hand corner It was an out-of-the-way corner, but a good place to grow things, where strawberries and sour-faced little boys might ripen up sweeter. Or so my mother told me each time she sent me away.

But on Christmas Eve of 1939, I'd grown no sweeter at all. My prize eluded me: an Official Buck Tweed Two-Speed Crime-Stopper Star-Hopper bicycle. It sat there gleaming in the Vashon Hardware Store window, tantalizing earthlings with its spine-tingling glamour.

The Red Ranger of Mars - me - visited this place daily, like a cow returning to the salt lick. There I would loiter, miserable in my bicycle poverty, kept company by Amelia, Aunt Vy's Dalmatian wiener-dog mix. Most of the time Amelia just snoozed nearby, dreaming, like me, of other places and other lives far away.

But it was 1939, and although Christmas Eve had arrived, dreams were unaffordable. Amelia and I headed home with mine far behind in a store window.

As usual, I looked for delays on the walk home. Aunt Vy would be waiting, and we made each other equally uncomfortable, so I saw no reason to hurry. That evening's detour brought me and Amelia past the ramshackle lighthouse perched high in the mist on Point Robinson. As always, we paused to consider the old house's legend.

Island old-timers insisted that its unseen occupant, old Saunder Clos, was actually Santa Claus himself...the real McCoy of childish fancy migrated down from the North to spend his final days in secretive retirement on Vashon Island.

It took folks far more fruity than the Red Ranger of Mars to be tricked into believing such twaddle. Like many my age, I knew that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny were just that many more promises hatched by those who weren't very good at keeping them.

As we turned to leave, an astonishingly squat little man no bigger than me rushed past us toward the old lighthouse. He carried an overnight carpetbag, which bumped along behind him. The tiny man smiled weakly and tipped his hat, revealing pointy ears. Something flowery needed to be said by the Red Ranger of Mars, but in my shock, all that came out was, "Mister, you look like a turnip."

I could not recall ever actually seeing a genuine elf, nor calling one a vegetable, but I was certain I just had. An elf. You-know-who's elf. To a dyed-in-the-wool everything doubter such as myself, it was mind-boggling.

I love this story for several reasons. One, it is written for children and adults. Two, the artwork is phenomenal. And three, one of my nieces was "a dyed-in-the-wool everything doubter" and she would come away from the reading of this book slightly less convinced that Santa Claus was fake (you'll see why if you manage to procure a copy of this book).

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's All True

I was reading an article on cities that you should live in rather than visit. I was surprised to find Philadelphia, PA on that list. Probably shouldn't have been, though. I loved it there. The funny thing about it, everything negative that you have ever heard about Philly is true. Yes, they booed Santa. Yes, they throw batteries at athletes. There is a jail and courthouse located on site at their sports complex. You might assume that the people are mean because they seem so harsh. But, in fact they are some of the nicest, straightforward people you will ever meet. They are completely different from us midwesterners, but that isn't really a bad thing.

It is a very dangerous city. But, that is only in certain parts. In other parts it has some of the most historically significant structures and items in the United States. There are some of the nicest neighborhoods I have ever laid eyes to the northeast and to the west of downtown. You just have to go far enough north and east or far enough west, otherwise you can end up in those really dangerous areas. Anywhere you look you can find buildings dating back to the revolution. The architeture is awesome. If you go east you can hit the shore in an hour or so. If you go west you can hit the plains in a few hours. North will take you into the Poconos in an hour or so, and into the Adirondaks if you go furhter. South to the nation's capital and the Virginia countryside. New York City is about an hour and a half away.

I completely understand the author's point of view about needing to live there and not just visit. There is way too much to see and do, and no way to fit it all into a trip. I doubt it could be truly appreciated any other way. I know I wouldn't have the feelings I do about the city if I hadn't stayed rather than passed through. I can't wait until February when I get to go back for a few days.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Need To Recenter

And cannot figure out how.

Yesterday really threw me off. I am not where I want to be in life. That has been a constant for most of my adult years. But, it has seemed to me that since I got divorced four years ago I have been headed in the right direction. The problem is that even though I have felt like after years of making poor decisions and working my way out of them, now that I seem to be making the right ones I still feel stuck in a bad situation with no end in sight for the foreseeable future. And no effective way to change my circumstances and keep headed in the direction I want to go. So, my dilema is, do I keep moving in the direction that I am moving or do I change it yet again and see if that helps?

Lately I have been asking myself this question and yesterday really made me have to examine it. I really can't ask my friends and family what they think, because I know what they think. Their thoughts are very valid. They know where I have been, where I am, and where I am going. But, knowing what they would say, only confuses me more. I just don't know how long I can keep going the way I am. In some ways, it was so much better before. In other ways, it was so much worse. I had so much more freedom, but I didn't have the control over my life to use it. Now, I have control of my life, but I am confined to small steps. I don't know which I prefer.

I am a very patient person. My life has made that a requirement for keeping my sanity. But, every once in a while, the light at the end of the tunnel gets obscured somehow. Right now, I can't see it.

A night out with friends last night, although very fun and thanks to Steph, very free, did not help. When I woke up the cloud was still there. I avoided everything and everyone today and went out to play hockey tonight. That didn't help either. My one last great hope for the weekend is when I go to coach tomorrow afternoon. If that doesn't set my head on straight, I have to go back to work in the wrong frame of mind. That will make how I am feeling right now so much worse.

If I had any money, I could take a trip somewhere and relax and recenter after finals this week. But, I don't and my other very few, normally effective options for personal healing haven't done the trick. I need something unexpected to lift me up soon, or I just might have to make a change that I really dread to get me out of my funk. It just seems to me that the only choice I have will put me in reverse. But, that is a different direction and it might just be what I need. One step back, two steps forward, repeat?

Maybe if it snows tomorrow my outlook will change.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

For Tracie and Kristi (and whoever else is interested)

"Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?" -Lisa Miller NEWSWEEK Published Dec 6, 2008

I did not do the research on this and unless I do, I will take it for what it is. It is an interesting news article on the Bible and Gay Marriage. For the three of us, we have already discussed it in length and none of our views are changing, I don't expect this to change them. But, it is a "third party" analysis of the topic that we argued. I am not posting this to get into another lengthy discussion. I am posting it because it covers a very relevant subject and I would like to hear if any of my other readers have a thought on this subject. If you readers want to know what Kristi (original post), Tracie (rebuttal), and I think about it follow the links. We all have our reasons for believing how we do and none of our discussions with each other changed that. In some ways they helped reinforce and clarify our individual ideals but did not sway us. I expect this article to do the same thing. For those of you that believe this should be legal it is ammunition. For those of you who believe it is immoral, it will show you where to direct your arguments against. Either way, it is interesting to me, the interpretive value of information. If we all used the same version of the Bible as our only reference, we would all interpret it differently.

I will not participate in the discussion because I have said what I had to say, and argued what I believe and why I believe it with Kristi and Tracie. My view have not changed in light of this article. I doubt yours will either. Enjoy it, or at least wrap your mind around it and, if you would like, formulate your response.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Guess I Finally Have To Admit It

I'm getting older.

There, I said it. I have been avoiding that idea for the last few years, but I think that this morning is about as good a time as any to actually accept it. I have been sore for the past few weeks. Aches and pains ranging from a stiff shoulder and a bum knee to a tight back and sore elbow. After playing hockey last night, I now have two sore knees and my shoulder which had gotten better is back to being pretty stiff again.

But the final straw, and this is a doozie, I was actually checking out a 40+ year-old woman in the crowd. I found this out when I asked my 20 year-old teammate's girlfriend who she was sitting with and she told me it was his mother. I my defense, she looked like she was a whole lot closer to my 31 than her mid-forties.

I used wake up pain free, go out into the world and think that any woman who looked older than 25 was, in fact, old. Now, I wake up with aches in parts of my body that I didn't know I had, get out and think that any woman who looks younger than 25 is a kid. I thought this wasn't supposed to happen until at least 40. I mean, is 31 really that old?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Changing Seasons

I just got to work this morning. While engaging in my normal start of the day routine-starting my media player, checking email, browsing the interesting headlines and doing a quick once-over of my daily blog reads-I came across an article while listening to a song called "Summer Skin" by Death Cab For Cutie and watching one of my coworkers throw some ice-melt on the steps outside of my office window. It reminded me, as the weather of the past week has, that seasons change in life, like they change over the course of the year.

The title of the article was "Jobs That Make Good Cocktail Party Conversation". You see, I used to have one of those jobs. It still peeks peoples' interest when they first find out. I am now in a job that has very few remotely interesting occurrences. I just do it so that I can pay my bills, have health care benefits and pursue my educational goals. I love the fact that I am finally moving forward. I am happier than I have been in my adult life, but I sure do miss an interesting work story.

I also love the newest season. Some people use Winter as a metaphor for the ending of things. For me it is just a way to cleanse the pallet before you take the next bite of food or sip of wine. I mean, people use strawberries or sorbet to cleanse their pallets. How yummy is that? Mmmmmm. Winter is my sorbet. It is cold and sweet and delicious. It helps my body get rid of the taste of the three previous seasons and get back to center before the next series of birth, growth and decline takes place. Just as my new job and my continued education are helping me cleanse the past jobs and past life away as it helps me prepare for my future endeavors.

But, oh how I long for an interesting work story or two. It was so awesome when someone would look at me with that "I-amazed-if-you-actually-do-that-but-I-think-you-are-feeding-me-a-line-of-bullshit" look and then be completely taken with the adventure that I unfolded for them. (Except of course Steph, who is bored to tears by just about anything that comes out of my mouth.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

" don't embarrass the team and you carry yourself with class and good character. I've told him before, there's more to the game than just lacing up the skates. There are things you have to be accountable for." -Brett Hull, former NHL great and Dallas Stars co-GM, on a horrible statement made by Dallas forward Sean Avery.

I had to post this quote. It's kinda like a "pot calling the kettle black" statement. One former classless player calling a current classless player, um, classless.

Hey Brett, last I checked, YOU SHOT A PUCK AT YOUR COACH'S HEAD and still had not apologized. You are right. But if someone chooses to listen to you on the subject of character and class, their ability to reason and make good decisions should be questioned.

I guess this is a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of moment, eh.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Time Travel, Giving Thanks A Bit Late

With my bother and his friend both back in town for the holiday, we all spent a lot of our spare time together. As I mentioned in the previous post, my brother and I were not close as teenagers. So, I never really knew his friends. I knew who they were, but never hung out with them. Every night that they were here, we hung out, either at our home or his friend's. It turns out that his friend and the friend's wife are really cool and fun people. On Friday, we went over to his house to have a few drinks and hang out in the basement. We were all transported back to our childhoods, if our childhoods had alcohol.

We went down into the basement and my brother's friend started digging out a bunch of old stuff he or his parents had saved from his childhood and college years. He had G.I. Joe figures and vehicles. He had a Voltron toy where the lions all connected to make the big robot, "...and I'll form the head!" He had Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, of which I stole all of the doubles. We listened to vinyl copies of the Footloose soundtrack and Michael Jackson's Thriller. Looked through old yearbooks and school dance photos. We talked about mutual aquaintances and old friendships. We even played billiards on a table that was not quite level, so everything rolled to one side. This really brought me back. Even though we did not hang out together when we were younger, one of my best friends growing up also had a table that wasn't level. Needless to say, I managed to win most of the night.

We shared our stories of things that we had done or that one of the other people had done. My brother's friend had kept a break-up note that my brother had written in blue crayon to his college girlfriend. It was brilliant. I will not share the whole note or whole story of what had transpired. But, I will share a few of my favorite lines:

"...leave the rest of the money for the acid on the bed..."

"...if there is anything wrong with my car or anything is missing I will start breaking things that you like..."

Seriously, knowing the whole situation makes it really funny. I can't believe his friend kept it. It's pure gold.

It was one of those magical nights that if you're not careful, you will forget to appreciate. Everything seemed to be perfect, good friends, good music, good memories and I even happened to find a really good beer that one of my new friends had not had in ten years. She was in heaven.

So, belatedly for American Thanksgiving, let me give thanks for the wonderful occurances in my life this year.

First, thank you all for reading, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

Also thanks for a great start to the year with fireworks over the mountain and the best powder/tree skiing I may ever experience for three straight days. Thanks for the moment in Hooters where Doug embarassed the new guy. Thanks for a few more semesters of undergrad education. Thanks for my new friends (real and cyber) and thanks even more for my old ones. Thanks for the lessons learned. Thanks for pulling me up on stage and helping me do things I would have never thought I could do sober, and thanks for letting a friend be there to back up the story. Thanks for making hockey more fun and opening my eyes to what it is really all about. Thanks for making me wear a kilt. Thanks for those "Wow" moments that seem to make it all worth while. Thanks for one last show with LeRoi.

And most of all thanks for my family. They have always made it easy for me to be me, even when it was extremely hard just to be.