Dormant Fields

March 5, 2018

my young daughter laughs

as we race through dormant fields

spring is drawing near

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With the early-morning squeal of the bus’s brakes, I knew that the end of summer was actually a reality. Sure, summer isn’t over on the calendar. There will be some heat, humidity, and fun yet to be had on weekends to come. But the days of the kids riding bikes past dark and sleeping in past noon have been halted for another year. We will continue to hear the hypnotic hum of weed-eaters, have our favorite baseball team to cheer on, and be met most days by singing birds and beating sunshine. There will still be some splashing in pools, backyard badminton, and — at least for now — the ground still feels very inviting to our bare feet. But a change is coming soon.

Summer certainly swims by faster than when I was young, but so does the rest of life, I suppose. Sadly, I don’t see it slowing down any in my lifetime. It feels as if the earth’s rotation is gaining momentum, and there are simply no brakes. The passing of summer is not all bad, however. It actually brings plenty I look forward to.

Like Friday nights, when my family will wrap ourselves in comfy sweatshirts and sit in our driveway, listening to the distant P.A. system announcing names and numbers at the local high school football game. We will watch leaves turn colors and breathe the strange, wonderful smell of decay when they fall to the ground. Autumn brings Halloween and Thanksgiving, flannel shirts and cozy blankets, bonfires and the roasting of marshmallows.

Before we know it, there is snow on the ground and flames in the fireplace. Wet boots and heavy coats pile up by the front door, with sleds and shovels waiting just beyond. The frigid air stops our kids’ running snot in its tracks, causes our old joints to ache, and keeps everyone from wanting to leave the warmth of our beds. But we keep forging ahead, until the holiday season and new year bring joy and hope to all. Slowly the snow begins to disappear as the mercury creeps upward a notch or two at a time.

Spring renews our faith in all that is good. We feel truly alive for the first time in months as the grass turns green, leaves fill the barren trees, and neighbors come out of hibernation. Bicycles are dusted off, balls are aired up, and cars are washed. We inhale the aroma of freshly mowed grass, budding flowers, and charcoal. Life is finally good…although it was never actually bad.

And in the blink of an eye, school is out again. But our children are a year older. So are we…

My kids are excited to get back to school. It’s a time of endless possibilities for them, and excitement of the unknown. I guess it’s bittersweet for me. I’m happy to see them ready to go back, but I will miss our summer life when laziness is not only respected, but encouraged. When happiness is the main goal. It seems like that should be the case more often. The occasionally melancholy, over-thinker in me realizes that summers with my kids are a fleeting time and one day will truly be only a fond memory. But, as with the changing of the seasons, I know there will be more to experience, love, and remember as they grow older and become adults, themselves.

In the meantime I hope and trust that we can all make an effort to pay attention to what’s happening around us, and appreciate what life offers us. There really is so much it offers. Let’s cherish the time we have with our families, and look forward to the changes. Sometimes life will be good, sometimes it will be bad, and we may never know the reason. But may we all have endless summers, regardless of the season.

  
It’s a very cold and rainy spring break morning in my neck of the woods. Regardless, I’m still feeling very fortunate to be able to be home with my kids (well, mostly), and the weather provides a perfect day to make some popcorn, cuddle up under blankets, and watch movies. We have cable and Netflix, and movies are just a couple clicks of the remote control away, yet I would love to be able to take my son and daughter to the local video store to pick out some old classics. Something they have never had the pleasure of doing.

While technology certainly has its upside, our kids are missing out on some things that my generation took for granted. Long gone is the excitement of perusing the new releases at the pre-Blockbuster corner video store (don’t forget to check the recently returned cart — and try to sneak a peek into the Adult section), the joy of getting dropped off by our parents at the mall (my mom can take if yours can pick up?) and slowly flipping through records at Musicland (either before or after slurping an Orange Julius), or even just playing board (bored) games like Life, Monopoly, and Clue.

Perhaps I’m suffering from a worsening case of silly nostalgia as I get older, but it seems like it was just a simpler, better time when we were kids — despite being more difficult to do some things. I’m aware of course that every older generation thinks such things about the current “troubled” youth of society, but maybe the old geezers are on to something. I mean think about it…we rode our bikes everywhere (my kids literally dislike bicycles), we played outside from sun up to sun down in the summer (my kids would rather lie in bed doing “stuff” on their electronic devices), we got severe, tissue damaging sunburns (my kids wear sunscreen if they happen to enter sunlight), we played actual sports (my kids excel at virtual bowling). This is messed up, man.

Who am I kidding, my kids would probably freak out if they had to go to an actual video store. Part of how they act is on me for not being a better parent, and I suppose part of it is just the way things are today. That being said, my children do great in school, are generally very kind to others, are not complete spoiled brats (despite how I describe them), and my wife and I love the hell out of them (and that love is definitely reciprocated). They also recycle sometimes. The world may be going to hell in a hand-basket, but things could be much worse. As the old saying goes, the kids are alright (they just aren’t as good as when we were young).

Here’s to a happy spring break for all and some true quality time with your damn children (oh, and better weather than we have). Cheers. 

 

 

 

Amelia’s Wish 

February 28, 2016

 

Litter is a big problem. Amelia Meyer is part of the solution.

I just spent the morning picking up trash. I’ve actually done this twice in the last year, because I felt like I should — it was never something I looked forward to. This morning I did it because I wanted to. I was truly inspired.

I hope by now you have heard of Amelia Meyer. If you haven’t, you need to. Amelia is an eight-year-old girl who happens to go to my daughter’s school in Kansas City, Missouri. She is battling brain cancer, and was given a chance to make her dreams come true by Make-A-Wish Missouri, the local chapter of the wonderful foundation that helps children with life-threatening illnesses.

Most children might wish to travel to Disney World, meet a famous person, or do something similar that sounds fun and exciting. Obviously there is nothing wrong with this — it is what I would expect any kid to want, including my own. After all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so any typical kid would be licking their chops. Amelia’s wish was quite different, however. She decided to “take care of the world” by picking up trash at local parks. Saying this is not your average child’s idea of fun is a huge understatement.

Amelia was originally inspired to pick up trash during walks she took with her grandmother. Now her selfless wish has inspired countless numbers of others — not just in Kansas City, but reaching far beyond. I have read about people cleaning up litter in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Louisiana, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as in Germany and Dubai. It’s simply amazing, and new reports continue to come in.

Something else that’s amazing is how Amelia — someone who might have wished to meet a celebrity — has become quite the celebrity, herself. Although I’m sure she isn’t very interested, the amount of news and social media coverage that this event received yesterday (I had to work, which is why I partook today), and continues to receive, is remarkable. In fact, actual local celebrities joined in and are talking about her. Sly James, our mayor, declared February 27 as “Amelia Meyer Take Care of the World Day.” I applaud the declaration, but would rather see people continue to be inspired to do their part for the world every day — which I believe is all Amelia really wants.

The cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I have no doubt that we will hear from Amelia Meyer again in the future. Like her wish, she will live on and will someday change the world. Indeed, she already has.

  
“Dad, whatever you do, please don’t embarrass me!”

These were my daughter’s words before her boyfriend came over to pick her up for the first official date of her life.  I wish.  Okay, I certainly don’t wish she was dating, but that would make a lot more sense.  She actually said it before going to meet a former preschool classmate for a play date.  You see, she’s only five years old.

Silly, crazy, ridiculous, over-the-top, annoying, please stop, you’re embarrassing me, you’re embarrassing yourself…  These are all words and phrases that my tweenage son (and quite possibly my wife) might call me or say to me at any given time.  I admit that I might (definitely) tend to overdo it on the jokes, and that my sense of humor is sometimes (usually) a little (very) bizarre.  Personally, I think I’m very funny.  I crack myself up on an hourly basis.  Maybe I need to chill out a bit, though?

Perhaps I shouldn’t sing along (in my falsetto voice) to the horrible pop songs that my son insists on listening to — when his friends are in the car with us.

It might be best if I didn’t ask the costumed mascots to hug my kid at every high school, collegiate and professional sporting event we attend.

I probably shouldn’t, after dropping the boy off for school and letting him enter the mob of kids waiting to get in the front door, holler, “I forgot to say I love you!”

That time, during the back to school sale at a Target packed with similarly aged “cute” girls, maybe I shouldn’t have yelled from way down the aisle, “Hey bud, I found that Justin Bieber notebook you were looking for.”  Yes, in retrospect, that definitely wasn’t cool.  

But alas, I have done these things, and many others that are possibly (without a doubt) worse.  Too many to remember them all.  Is it bad that I don’t want to stop?  Won’t it make my son less embarrassed by the awkward moments he encounters in the future?  I’d like to think so.  Or, maybe I just selfishly enjoy the pleasure it gives me.

But hold on, now my five year old daughter is already paranoid that I might do something wrong.  The writing is on the wall, I really ought to take it down a notch.  I, myself, am a little embarrassed that she feels this way (but also secretly pleased).  

Okay, I’ve made up my mind, I will try to be better.  When that first date does finally come around, I want my daughter to insist that I meet her boyfriend, and even keep him company while she finishes doing her hair.

“Have a seat, pal,” I will politely say.  Then, rather than saying something embarrassing about my daughter and putting the fear of God into the young man, I will only choose the latter.  If this causes any embarrassment for anyone, so be it.  I never made any promises, I only said I would try.

Imagine That

May 7, 2015

  
“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Land ahoy, me hearties,” cried my daughter, Ainsley, from the helm.  “Let’s go get the treasure!”  The helm was actually a steering wheel attached to the jungle gym at our neighborhood playground, but to Ainsley it was real.  More “real” than anything she could watch on TV.  “Sit down behind me,” she instructed, then she took us on a voyage.

It had been a slow morning, and I was trying to think of something fun to do.  As a stay-at-home dad,  I like to get out of the house everyday, but we were both feeling a little lazy.  I threw out a couple of ideas, “We could go for a hike or play tennis?  How about the library?”

“Let’s just walk down to the park,” Ainsley suggested.

I have to admit that going to the park, while very easy (and free), isn’t my favorite activity.  Ainsley loves it, but I worry that it isn’t enough.  By “enough” I mean, what is she getting out of it, other than some outdoor time and exercise?  These are obviously important, but I also want her to be doing something productive.  When we hike, we talk about nature.  When we play tennis, she is getting better at a sport.  The library obviously has a lot of productive possibilities.

“Okay, the park it is,” I conceded.  “Tomorrow we are going back to the library, though.”

Our neighborhood park is about a half mile walk.  Once we arrive, I usually play with Ainsley for a bit, then let her run around on her own while I sit and watch.  This gives me a little time to make a grocery list, catch up on emails, or just relax and try not to remember the laundry waiting for me at home.  Sometimes there are other kids there, which is great.  It was just the two of us on this day, however, and I decided I would actively play with her the entire time.  This is when we had our voyage.  It was a short trip (it wasn’t long before the allure of the monkey bars became overwhelming), but it was long enough that it made me think about what it means to be “productive.”  It occurred to me that using her imagination like that, even for ten minutes, is equally as important as reading books, exercising, or a number of other so-called productive activities.

Do our kids today use their imagination as much as children of past generations?  I don’t have the answer, but you have to wonder.  Many kids now grow up with 1000 TV channels, the internet, and video games.  Electronic tablets are as common as books.  School districts (including my family’s, which is considered to be one of the more financially sound districts in our city) are cutting art and music budgets.  I have read about some districts in the U.S. that are completely eliminating art and music programs.

It sure seems like less and less is left to the imagination?  This is a shame, and the trend needs to be reversed. 

Hey all you grown-ups out there; using your imagination is fun.  Can you remember?  Sharing your imagination with your children is even better.  Pablo Picasso said, “It takes a very long time to become young.”  Think about that for a second.  Today Ainsley and I are going back to the park.  I’m going to fly a rocket ship.