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New Years Radioactive Russian Bore-Man

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I would first like to start out by saying that I should be posting and writing more. A lot has happened since I last posted anything which creates a huge amount of things to reflect on and unfortunately I’m sure even more gets lost through the cracks of memory. In spite of that I hope and intend to post with more frequency in the coming year.

Most of the time my writing (when it’s actually practiced) has been devoted to two things: Documenting a portion of my life as a father, and a creative writing project involving a radioactive Russian boar-man. For the moment, I feel the need to do the daddy thing.

It’s a new year now and a lot has changed. I am still an art teacher at an inner city high school. I still have no clue what I’m doing but I’m trying more to relax about that fact. Leading up to the break I was getting so stressed out and tired, that it all kind of bit me in the ass. I guess I just need to realize that even if I’m prepared I’m not going to feel prepared and work isn’t going to go away, or change.

Over the holiday break I had a chance to apply a bit of a third person perspective to things. I saw that much of 2014 and 2013 caused me to obsess over general preparation. The last two years have been some BIG years for me. Got married. Bought a car. Bought a house. Became a dad. Started a new career.  Bought another car. All while trying to get my shit together for adulthood after the fact… Yeah, there have been some bumps. Plenty of which were my own damn fault. But the idea of preparation has been weighing heavy on me for a while. Especially when I look at my beautiful daughter. Sometimes my heart just breaks when I look at her. I feel this gnawing guilt and worry that I don’t or can’t provide for her properly. Like I don’t deserve her, or even her beauty in my life. Sometimes she looks at me certain ways and I just feel compelled to beg for her forgiveness. Such deep seeded agony is a liability to my performance of capable fatherhood. I’m sorry to always feel so woefully unprepared.

Violet turned One and is getting big. WOW. She’s still so tiny though. I worry all the time about her fascinating little bones and joints. Last night she got a little annoyed while she was sleeping because I kept checking to make sure everything was positioned properly for comfort. I love her and can see that I will have trouble letting my little bird fly and it’s important that I remain aware of that. She is communicating clearer everyday. Today was another “first” when she wanted up and out of her walker. She walked up to her mother, lifted her arms and waved her hands. When she sees that her message is understood, the happiest most satisfied rosebud grin spreads across her beyond cute little face.We had an old friend of Melanie’s stay with us for a couple nights over New Years, and my god how Violet put on a show. At the risk of sounding like a ridiculous parent, She is REALLY good at peek-a-boo. It was such a trip to watch because she has only ever played with her Mommy or Daddy and to see her play with someone she just met was mind blowing. It wasn’t just THAT she played it was HOW she played. She varied her peeks all the way between big reveals to just one coy, grinning eye- and giggling the entire time. Such large personality in such a small frame. Personality– that’s just it. She is A PERSON. I have a WIFE, that I made A PERSON with… ME. That’s CRAZY.

That italicized digression is a prime example that the details of my life haven’t quite sunk in yet. Which is weird. Maybe it’s just because so much has happened in such a short time, and I just need more to process it. If that’s true I wish it would hurry up and sink in so that I can get on with actually fully enjoying my life. Or maybe it’s just supposed to feel that way. Maybe it’s just life and it’s not the remarkable big deal that the media makes it out to be. No, I doubt that because I try to never let the media influence my personal judgment on validity of anything. And maybe my subconscious judgment of ME is that I don’t feel deserving those great things, so I have to try extra hard to work and earn them, eventually stressing out to the point of break down. God, what a sad dysfunction… I started out writing this in a spirit of gratitude. But that has quickly changed into a spirit of penance. Bummer.

I think I know what the problem is though. I think the problem is that I just need to feel like a fully actualized person, in order to be a fully capable husband and father. The extra details and interests about me that I have and want to bring to the table, for Violet to learn that she can do the same of her own choosing, to find unquestionable strength in her own identity. Instead of the personal doubt that I find in mine and cripples me shamefully. I know I bitch about this stuff a lot but, I think feeling like a fully actualized husband, father, stepfather, teacher, and homeowner, means feeling like an actualized writer and artist.

But taking time to do that means taking some time away from those important roles. The line of balanced sacrifice seems imperceptibly thin sometimes. Does it get easier? Because that hasn’t been the trend for the last couple of years. As a man, I have had virtually no guidance while continuously assuming multiple life-time roles in the last two to three years. Those family roles are hard things to do, made even harder by feeling alone in them. Because of that, I have begun to suspect that a grown man has no friends and is happy anyway. A grown man never gets what he wants and is happy anyway. A grown man doesn’t let anything upset him or stress him out because he is always happy anyway. Maybe a grown man is just a big powerful dumb robot with a handle bar mustache, a broom in one hand, and a hammer in the other. Just point and click that son of bitch in the desired direction, and off he goes. Roles be damned it’s all the same. Problem solved. Everybody’s happy and he can’t enjoy a thing because he’s always happy anyway…. No. the truth is, I am not a robot. I am a man and I have to reconcile this chronic state somehow, because  it’s already taking time away from my family.

I guess you’ll be seeing more posts… or at least a radioactive Russian boar-man.

C.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Violet Over Atlanta

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My name is Chris. I am a father of a 9 month baby girl who is the center of my universe. While the loving relationship between a parent and a child is nothing new or remarkable to an outside spectator, to an actual parent it is so much, much, more- beyond words in fact. Personally my relationship with my daughter has a hugely redemptive quality that restores my faith in myself in small amounts everyday. Her name is Violet and the fact that such a perfect and pure little person loves a jaded and proud fool like myself, and actually needs me, is something that heals my scarred heart just a little more every day… and quite honestly for that, I need her too if I’m ever going to be worth a damn in this world.

I don’t care how enlightened, pure, or righteous a life anyone claims to have lived. I believe that in all honesty, in everyones life there are events that we wish we could go back and change. Depending on one’s age those regrets may be more or less severe, but it’s naive to think we don’t all have them tucked away in some dusty recess of our minds. But if you are lucky, something comes along later in life to inspire a redeeming perspective to cleanse and heal those old wounds. This is a true story about such a thing.

I’m an art teacher at an inner city high school in Oklahoma City. It’s a stressful job. The high school where I teach is over crowded and rowdy. It was originally designed for 1200 students but we actually have 1800 under our charge. Funds are as tight as the space, and every day presents a new problem personified by an unreasonable and melodramatic teenager. Many of the students are involved in gang activity and have little regard for the tenants of education. My wife is a guidance counselor at a middle school just down the street from my school and her work struggles are a mirrored reflection of my own.

These struggles are coupled with a nine month old baby and two teenagers at home, so its and under statement to say we are both constantly exhausted. The balance of our duties at home is very delicate and so it’s difficult at times to maintain a positive outlook in the face of relentless fatigue. I feel that my pay is relatively fair, but my wife’s education deserves a bit more consideration in her own wages. Bills are mounting, our house needs some repair work, and the children are growing and in need of new things and attention at every turn it seems.  Our story begins after my wife, Melanie, came home from a dentist appointment after work.

Norman Oklahoma 2014:

I had just put Violet down for her afternoon nap when I heard my wife come in the front door. I met her in the living room.

Chris: Hey baby. How’d it go at the dentist?

Melanie: It went okay. I was right about the infection. It’s pretty bad, but they gave me some antibiotics for it.

C: How much were they?

M: Not bad. Like ten bucks with the insurance. The dentist also said that a partial would be a good idea. The insurance will take care of a lot of it but it’s still going to be a bit pricey.

C: Yeah… well… I can wait to get my glasses until after we get that squared away.

M: No you should go ahead and get them.

C: I don’t think it’s a good idea. The car still needs to go to the shop and we have that huge tax bill coming in april that we have to save up for, and we still haven’t figured how the hell we’re going to get rid of the termite problem. Plus we have to save some money for a down payment on another car and we still need to pay off your medical bills from your biopsy. My glasses can wait… I’m probably going to get a part time job in the summer just to help with some of the debt that’s going to build up.

M: No, you don’t have to do that.

C: Yeah. I do. We gotta pay it all somehow, Melanie. We’re taking on some serious water here.

Melanie took Violet from my arms and I stared at her with worry on my face.

C: I wonder how much the whole thing will cost.

M: Do you wish you didn’t have us?

C: What do you mean?

M: Do you wish you were single and had nobody to worry about but yourself?

C: No. I don’t. I don’t wish that at all… Let’s try and relax tonight. Faceoff is coming on tonight. You wanna watch it with me?

M: Sure, baby.

We spent the evening playing with Violet and feeding and washing her before we laid her down in our bed for the night. Afterward we turned on our show to marvel at some creativity, criticize other’s lack thereof, and debate which work we liked the best. As we distracted ourselves with television, I began to sink back into a silent stress and think about what I could do or even could HAVE DONE to make things better.

My mind went back to a time before Melanie and I had ever met. About ten years ago I regretfully burned a pretty serious bridge that I believe had a determining role in the professional direction of my life. I was 25 and a hotshot student at a graphic design school in Atlanta, GA. I had been there for about two years, finishing up my six year formal education of graphic design. I had learned and unlocked conceptual and visual talents and I was eager to be done with school once and for all. Unfortunately, I was also very stubborn and rather arrogant and very poor.

This school was a specialty school with a president that was extremely well connected in the world of corporate graphic design. His name was Hank, and if you wanted a sweet gig in the design world, you not only jumped happily through Hank’s hoops, but you PAID to do it. In my career at Hank’s school, I had visibly grown in my talents while climbing his mock ladder of ego. I had worked hard and my potential was feeling red hot and honestly about to pop.

The culminating project for this school was the design and production of your physical portfolio of work. Hank of course, had a company that fabricated student portfolio boxes that all students were more or less expected to purchase for use. Those portfolios and boxes went for $3,500 and the bill would be added into your tuition. As I said before I was eager to be done with school but I was VERY poor. Even if I hadn’t been so broke, on principle I could not justify such an expense. And even more, I wanted my portfolio to stand out from the usual well crafted upholstered boxes that regularly came out of that school. I had an original idea of my own that I felt would express my talents, but Hank said I needed his approval, (probably because he would not be getting another $3,500 out of me) so I set up a meeting to present my idea.

I was too confident in Hank’s faith of my talents. I thought for sure that my idea combined with my body of work that he had witnessed would be enough for him to send me to one of his old cronies with a ringing endorsement. As you can assume, that did not happen. He ultimately didn’t care about my work or talent as much as he cared about that $3,500. The school was an unaccredited institution so Hank had no legal obligation to get me an interview with a large well paying company. With some heated and colorful language, he basically told me that if I wanted to go my own way on my portfolio, then I would be going my own way entirely. Being young, scared, and angry at this insistence, I literally responded with “GO FUCK YOURSELF.” And stormed out of the school that I had worked so hard to ingratiate myself with, never to return.

A couple of weeks later I left the fast lights and plenty of the east coast and was back in Oklahoma, scraping by. I tried for years to secure design work. Some years were better than others but the profession of graphic design is a desolate landscape in the midwest, especially the bible belt that is Oklahoma. By the time I got married, I was reduced to laying out newspaper ads for mom and pops and garage sales for minimum wage, and no insurance. I had fallen a long way from where I expected I would land.

When Violet was born, I not only needed to make some more money, but I needed some health insurance for she and I. That’s when Melanie suggested being a teacher. People say that teachers don’t make enough money, (and they don’t) but try being a graphic designer in the midwest when everyone has photoshop at home. In comparison to that, I make a kings ransom every two weeks and my baby has awesome insurance. But times are still hard and bills are barely getting paid. Some not on time, but most of them are. We barely have any savings and a laundry list of expected expenses. So it’s good, but it’s hard.

I always regretted that conversation in Hank’s office because I believed it shaped more than I knew it would. That son of a bitch was “the man” and I bucked him. I told the man to “GO FUCK YOURSELF” and look where it got me? I was supposed to be designing the cover of Rolling Stone, directing photo shoots for record labels- and because of my scared pride, a decade later, I’m laying out the weekly circulars for a discount grocery store in Muskogee, Oklahoma for minimum wage. You’ve heard the old saying, “It’s not what you know, but WHO you know?” Well, I knew somebody, and I feel that if I just would have done what he said, maybe I could have afforded all of my current expenses and had enough to build and play with. My wife and I wouldn’t have to worry about affording things like basic dental care, or staggering bills around our house payment. So yeah, out of sheer necessity I hung up my graphic design career and became an exhausted art teacher at an inner city high school.

I don’t teach because I love teaching. I do it, because I love my daughter. I’m sorry if that sounds insensitive or makes me a bad teacher, but it’s the truth. I have never felt more at peace with myself in this world than in those quiet hours after she has first fallen asleep under my arm, or when I just hear her laugh and see her gummy toothless smile. Like my ancient regret from Atlanta, everything good and bad in my life connects directly to her. Everything. She is my reason for everything.

Thinking about all of this while my wife and I watched television, it occurred to me that by telling ol’ Hank to go fuck himself, I had actually just fucked MYself. Slow and hard. I was sorry for that, and felt the need to apologize to my wife and child for my dusty old mistake from so long ago. My heart was heavy by the time the television show was over and I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t feel like I could rationally articulate my head space to my wife so I grabbed the remote and turned off the television.

C: Let’s go to bed baby.

M: Okay, weina. (that’s her sometimes irritating playful name for me.)

I don’t know when I fell asleep that night, but when I finally did, I had a very vivid dream. I was sitting in the Camaro that I drove in college and I was driving through a fog and what looked like a thousand loose pages from my old journals blowing in the wind. It was dark, but through the fog I could see I was passing random objects from my past. A guitar I sold to pay an electric bill, a house I rented once, a dog I lost, lots of scribbled paper and pages of comics I had collected, blowing around, etc… suddenly from the fog came a clear and concise question from a benevolent voice…

V: So… what’s it gonna be?

I wasn’t surprised about the disembodied voice or where it was coming from. In the dream it seemed to be perfectly normal and almost inside my head. It was the voice of all creation and as it’s product I already knew what it was asking me. It was asking what I wanted to change from my life time. Without hesitation, I replied with complete understanding.

C: Atlanta. I need to change what went down in Atlanta.

Suddenly the driver seat turned into an office chair and I was no longer looking out a windsheild. The scribbled pages swirling by instantly collected in a mass of human form and I was staring across a large desk in an eclectic modern office. Staring back at me was that tubby, grey, mustachioed son of a bitch, Hank. Just as I remembered him on that day, like a shaggy Boss Hog in round Lennon glasses and a voice like foghorn leghorn.

I had just gotten back from an internship in New York City that Hank set me up with. I was meeting him to present what I had fabricated of my portfolio so far. It was one of those matte silver aluminum brief cases that you see now and then in action movies. Sometimes they have money, drugs, or some kind of weaponry in them. I had marked the outside matte finish with a large glossy logo of my own design and retrofitted the inside of it with multiple trays that held numerous pieces of my best work.

Everything was exactly as I remembered it as it played itself out flawlessly- and it was not going well.

H: Son, I can’t let you do this. I know you think you got a hot idea, but you need to see it’s a gamble.

C: But it’s not. The portfolio is more than just a representation of my work. It’s an EXTENSION of ME. So I think it makes perfect sense to use the case I already made. It’s sleek, it’s smooth. Even if it is a gamble, that still makes sense, Hank. It looks kind of dangerous, like an assassin or something. I mean what is a corporate designer but a mercenary of visuals?

H: What are you talking about?

C: I mean c’mon Hank. Every kid in this place is hungry to get out there. We don’t care what we have to do. We can’t afford to. Hell man, I’ll take a beautiful photo of a fetus in a garbage can and write up some editorial copy for which ever side pays the most. That’s what the game is out there.

H: There’s no Ethos in that, son. Where is your Ethos? (He was always going on about the importance of ethos, as if he had just learned the word last week and wanted to impress you.

C: Ethos? Hank, how much of the supposed $3,500 would you be getting if I went with the upholstered box you have in mind?… My ethos lies in my honesty. How about yours? Or is that too dangerous for you? (that was obnoxious)

H: Son…

C: Hank, I don’t have $3,500 to give you. This is what I’m going to use. It looks awesome, it has a concept behind it, and I made it myself. It may be a bit late to say, but with all due respect I don’t need your approval for a good idea.

H: Your testicular fortitude is gettin ahead of you. I’m not going to argue with you about this.

C: Then it’s settled.

His mustache twitched.

H: Elliott, You’re gonna sing for your supper. If you go with that case, it won’t be at any interview that I have set up for you.

My eyebrow twitched.

I stood up.

This is the moment when I said it. I had lost control again. But as I opened my mouth to curse us both with an F-bomb, his eyes rolled back in his head and he spoke. But this time his voice was the same as the voice from the beginning of my dream. That benevolent voice of all creation was no longer disembodied as it was before. It came directly from ol’ Hank’s mouth and inside my skull.

V: That’s fine… You wanted a chance to change what happened here, but you failed. Your pride got in the way again. That’s fine. You can have it the way you want it, and still have the future you wanted. But you will have to give something in return.

C: What do you mean?

V: Your daughter. You won’t have her. You will never meet your wife in this future, so you won’t have Violet either. Therefore you must surrender her soul to the fates of the universe.

I furrowed my brow in resumed anger as I processed this information.

C: then… You can go FUCK YOURSELF!

I opened my eyes as my daughter stirred under my arm in bed. The clock said 12:17. I had just relived a painful memory of my own folly and had said exactly the words I had regretted for ten years. This time however, I did not regret them. I kissed Violet on the forehead and stared at the ceiling until i fell back asleep feeling old and complacent.

 

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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Love Beyond Love…

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Three months ago, my wife Melanie and I had a baby girl named Violet Lynn Elliott. It’s been about that long since I have posted any updates (or even had the steam to do so really). But I suppose things are settling into a bit of a routine enough for me to document our current triumphs and struggles for posterity’s sake. I suppose first I should rewind and start at the morning of Violet’s birth and then try to catch us up to speed from there.

On the evening of December 16th, Melanie wasn’t feeling too well. But after being pregnant for almost a year (see previous blog entries for the explanation on that fact) you can imagine she wasn’t feeling so hot in a myriad of ways. She was very tired and just ready to have her body back. Anyway, we knew things were getting close to fruition but were still uncertain as to when. A few days before at our last doctor’s appointment the doctor told us that it could be three weeks or three hours before Violet was here. Knowing this, there really wasn’t much of a sure end in sight for our weary eager eyes and being so close to the end made it feel so much farther away for me personally. It was like that old saying, “The darkest hours are just before dawn.” But time marched on and we stayed dug into it and trudging on. Then at one point late in the evening Melanie had to use the bathroom and that was when she noticed a small drip of blood… and for about three to five seconds… our minds, our breath, our hearts, the invisible molecules of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide in the air, the world, TIME ITSELF……………………….stopped.

I remember running to consult our book, “What To Expect When You Are Expecting” and I remember there was a medical condition that was possibly dire to Melanie and Violet’s health but I can’t remember what the name is. Anyway, this possibility prompted me to call the hospital and describe everything and they told us that yes we should come in if we were able. so I grabbed the “Go-Bag” and got Melanie in the car. I think it was about 10:00 at night.

When we got to the hospital, in my mind there was going to be a full staff with a mobile unit and bed just waiting for us at the front door. I suppose that was just a product of too much television or something because that was not the case. We came into an empty lobby with just a little asian lady behind a computer monitor. I repeated to her the situation that I had described not ten minutes before when I called this same hospital. Too my horror this little asian lady just kind of chuckled and quietly asked for Melanie’s email address… her email address. Allright. So Melanie looked at me with “What the hell?” in her eyes and I took it in stride and afforded the little asian lady the two seconds of grace I had to spare. Melanie told the little asian lady her email address and after that the little asian lady calmy (and awkwardly) chuckled again asked Melanie who her insurance provider was. Melanie answered her question with the appropriate documentation, and asked the little asian lady if this information was already on file because we had been here a few times before throughout the pregnancy. The little asian lady awkwardly laughed again and said that she was new here, and then asked Melanie when her last period was. That was it. We did NOT have time for this shit and with gritted teeth and white knuckles I let that fact be known. But the little asian lady just awkwardly chuckled again and calmly told us again that she was new here. “THEN GET SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING. SHE IS HAVING A BABY, LADY! RIGHT NOW! WHATEVER INFORMATION YOU NEED, YOU CAN GET IT AFTERWARD.” another awkward laugh and then I exploded. “IT’S NOT FUNNY. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LAUGHING ABOUT?! WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT. GET US IN HOSPITAL ROOM. NOW.” Well I guess that did the trick because the little asian lady promptly retrieved a patient bracelet for Melanie and told us to proceed upstairs.

Once we were in a room Melanie tried in vain to tell me to calm down, and we dug into some more waiting for a couple of hours. She had to be monitored for a while to see where Violet was in the natural process. But… as it turned out, there would be no arrival of our Violet on this night. We were sent home and told to “keep an eye on it.”…Thanks doc. We’ll do that. ( I should say that our nurse practitioner that night was actually a very sweet and attentive professional) By midnight we were back home in bed. For Melanie’s sleeping comfort, I had taken to sleeping in a separate bed about a week before and as you can imagine, it took me a while to fall asleep from being so on edge.

At seven o’clock that following morning I got a gentle shake on my leg. “Chris… Get up. We gotta go.” Unbeknownst to me Melanie had actually been up since 3:00am and shouldering a mountain of pain. I popped up, threw on my jeans, grabbed the Go-Bag and we headed out. It was just after sunrise and I’ll always remember the moon on that morning. It was massive and low on the horizon and glowing a bright pale canary color. It was so big that it appeared to be floating about ten feet off the ground not 50 yards away. It was surreal. That wasn’t the weird part though.

There is an awful band (in my own opinion) from the 90’s by the name of Hole. This awful band has an even more awful song (again, my own opinion) by the name of Violet. And I swear to you, that as soon as we got in the Kia to go to the hospital, THAT song came on the radio. Melanie and I both looked at each other with amazement. That few seconds of exchange was all she could really afford me before she was taken aback with pain once more. But for me, I remember just feeling like the mysterious and celestial eyes of the universe were focused on us that morning. It was like when you get a hundred calls and messages on your birthday from people you never talk to, just calling to say happy birthday. Or when someone holds a door open for you. They see you and for a brief moment in life, acknowledge your direction. As if to say “This is happening” that’s what the universe did by having that song pop on the radio and painting that rare massive yellow moon on the horizon. It was beyond surreal…

Anyway, I called my parents and let them know what was happening and we got into the hospital room with no problems this time. The next three hours or so were kind of a blur but things went much smoother than the night before. My parents arrived and my mom was in the hospital room with us, quietly bugging out with enthusiasm. Melanie was in the bed and continuing to dilate and soldiering through her pain. Before long they gave her the epidural. I remember the nurse checking Melanie’s progress and I think she was crowning because the nurse said something to the effect of “If the doctor was here I would tell you to push.” I thought I should try and record what was unfolding so I grabbed the video camera.

That’s when I saw that I had forgot to charge the camera because the battery on the camera was about to die. Despite that. I decided to get what I could. I remember that I recorded for about three minutes when I thought maybe this would take a little longer than I thought, and I might not get it at all so I turned it off. But at that point Violet had made up her mind and the nurse said “DON’T PUSH. THE DOCTOR’S NOT HERE YET.” To which Melanie moaned “I’M NOT PUSHING!” Which is when I hit the record button and the doctor entered the room. Other staff members were frantically trying to get the doctor’s sterile garb on her hands and feet and head. A little over three more minutes later, the nurse asked me to put the camera away and the doctor barely had enough time to catch our 8 pound, 11 ounce, Violet as she shot into the world with barely a cry at 11:00am on December 17th. Like many men before me, my fatherhood was consummated with the cutting of a fleshy umbilical cord and to say that it was amazing would be a gross understatement.

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here is brief snippet of her birth…https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=715851661768378

hi mommy

It’s well known that traumatic events can be so difficult for people to process that their minds cause them to disassociate in order to process the trauma incrementally. But I have learned that the same can be argued for hugely life affirming events as well. I know this because in writing about Violet’s birth at this moment I am once again processing just how surreal and beautiful those hours were. Melanie and I love that baby so much that three months later we can both get teary eyed just changing her dirty diaper. There are still times when I am just lying in bed with Violet, in complete disbelief that she is mine and I feel that catatonic joy will persist for a great deal of time to come.

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It’s hard though, man. The first few nights were so stressful and mind numbing that Melanie and I struggled just to get along together. We still do sometimes. Money and fatigue are a couple of killers, I tell you and in my opinion it’s honestly the most difficult thing a person can do in their life and maintain a consistent positive attitude. Sometimes you can be so tired that any virtues of your character are totally exhausted that only your flaws are present for the a.m. feedings. Things that normally would not be a big deal can be perceived as hugely personal slights, and it’s hard to know what is real in that respect. But you learn. Slowly, you toughen up and you learn. Keep in mind, we’re only three months in so we have more progress to make than what has been made, and we still fall from our graces now and then, but it’s worth it. When that beautiful little girl gives you that big, gummy, open mouthed smile, it’s forever worth it a million times over. We love her beyond love and we love each other for her.

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I’m not sure how much she weighs at this moment but everyday she grows and changes in appearance in the slightest of ways. She has been beautiful from her first breath and her physical beauty continues to grow with her mind. Everyday she eats just a little more and is in amazing health and strength. She has been trying to hold her head up from the day she was born and she can just about keep it aloft despite some occasional wobbles. She is also beginning to emote and reflecting smiles which are simply thrilling to witness. For the most part she has been sleeping through the night for the last few weeks. Which is pretty amazing for such a young little one, and a welcome hint of reprieve to normalcy or routine. She is cooing and smiling and trying out different sounds and it’s really cute. I have taken to reading her some Dr. Seuss at night and Melanie helped her discover her feet the other day which was super, super, super cute. She was born with a dark swash of her mother’s thick hair but it is continuing to lighten to a sandy blonde and appears to be taking on a bit of her father’s wave. She also has her father’s blue eyes and her mother’s full rosebud lips. She also seems to posses both of her parent’s fierce independence by commonly expressing the need for her own space when she is tired. She is a beautiful baby and in many ways is the best part of both her parents.

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We are looking forward to an active Summer as the Winter has had us as rather miserably cooped up and stir crazy for some fresh air and sunshine. We haven’t even had the chance to use the stroller yet and there is a whole world for our Violet to see.

C.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Everything is as it should be…

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In a matter of weeks I’m going to be a father to little baby girl named Violet… I still can’t fully grasp or comprehend that. I’ll try to be as organized as possible here, but I can’t make too many promises as my stream of thought is so much more than active lately. From abstract concepts such as the shift and growth of my identity, the basic truth of the connection my wife and I will share with one another as well as with this new person we have crafted, and the shift of my perception of my own life, it’s like a constant fire of thought crackling and flaring, falling and climbing, rolling and blooming in so many different and indirect ways. I’m surprised I haven’t had more trouble sleeping at night. (Though I am certain that aforementioned fire of thought has settled some in my belly and as a result I have inflicted some slight intestinal damage from the subconscious stress.)

Like anyone else I have an identity that is shaped by many facets ranging from my personal interests and life experience; some of those facets are positive virtues, and some of them are negative scars. And like anyone else, sometimes those scars can be hard for me to forgive or see beyond in the grating and unspoken regrets of foolish pride and abandon on the twilight grey fringe of my memory… Projects that I never finished. People I hurt in my angry youth. Broken bones of trust to myself and others. Admitted mistakes as well as some never mentioned, simply swept under the rug. You have them too. You’re human. “Sure, I love myself” we claim almost universally as we squint toothy smiles in the sunshine. But when the hour is right, and the lights are low enough, if we delve deep enough, sometimes we all hate ourselves to the point of catatonic, Poe-esque horror... And those unspoken, squirming horrors of our own characters have a way of shaping our identities and self images just as much as any glowing accomplishment can. Unless you are a complete and utter sociopath, and no matter how far chronologically or geographically removed you are from these regrets, you will always carry them with you to some degree. The only thing that seems to erode and wash out these clawed gouges on our souls and thereby redeem ourselves is the chance for human connection. With that connection we are redeemed in the light we are held in by another. Simply because someone doesn’t know or see us as the “fuck up” we see ourselves as. And the longer we are held in that light, and the deeper our motivation is to grit our teeth and WORK to STAY in that perceived light, then the more our sins our washed away and the deeper our redemption runs… Enter Violet, my daughter.

I cannot imagine anything more unnatural than betraying this tiny innocent little girl’s trust in me. I’ve longed my WHOLE LIFE to be looked up to and seen as someone’s legitimate hero, and HERE is my chance. For granting me that self redeeming opportunity I owe her everything I can humanly summon and command, and I swear on my own life that she WILL have it. For the first time and for the rest of my life, I will TRULY know the meaning of unconditional love because it will flow FROM me, and to another; and that is the only way to truly know such a thing. Any mistakes I have made in my past will be washed away with every dirty diaper lovingly changed, every spill lovingly cleaned, and every scraped knee lovingly bandaged. With every effort I put forth to better her life, I will better my own and become a more patient and understanding person. I’m no longer some lonely, depressed, douche bag guy that skipped a tab after a bar fight and drove home drunk and bloody so many years ago. Today I’m a HUSBAND and soon a DADDY and a DAMN GOOD ONE TOO and I will do whatever I have to do in order to remain so. YES. THANK YOU VIOLET. AND THANK YOU MELANIE (my beautiful wife). YES. Keep in mind, there will be times when I fall and fail. But you girls and my obligations to you are my saving grace to get back up, wipe my eyes, and try it again. That virtue is not mine to claim. It is solely yours in which to find safety and solace. And I hope you always know that, even if I ever need you to remind me.

In the middle of any given mundane household task, it’s not uncommon for me to declare to Melanie, “We’re gonna have a baby girl!” Just last night we were laying down in bed for the night and I was doing just that. “We’re gonna have a baby girl! We made a PERSON. You and I, we MADE a real life HUMAN BEING together. Where there was once nobody, there will now be A PERSON… from nothing but OURSELVES.” She just looked at me and smiled as if she’s heard this from me before (and she has). “That’s AMAZING”, I marveled. “It’s… it’s honestly the most AMAZING, GREATEST thing I’ve ever done!” And it’s true, it is. This amazing little girl, who is so amazing by virtue of existence alone, is here because of US. Violet is made from the two of us. The love we have for one another has LITERALLY been personified by Violet and that is only one more (of many) thing that she represents to me. And as Melanie and I grow together so she will grow with us. AMAZING.

It’s been one hell of a year for growing in my household. First we got married and had ourselves challenged and sometimes just annoyed by the others perceptions. But that’s growth. Then we bought a house and snipped at each other in moments of fatigue and stress while accomplishing a goal. Which is still more growth. She has had stressful changes in her own vocation that I struggled to understand and appreciate. Vice Versa. During the house hunting and procuring we had a miscarriage which broke our hearts in such unfathomable ways that it took weeks of sporadic disassociation and gut wrenching acceptance to come together over it.  But despite everything, the universe has given us a very clear and beautiful neon illuminated sign that tells us everything is fine, and everything is growing. The miscarriage began to happen on the 23rd of Christmas, and concluded it’s soul numbing horror on Christmas Eve. A month later, we found out that Melanie was pregnant again. A few weeks later, we learned that Violet was to be born on the same calendar day that the miscarriage occurred. Think about that- That means that even in that once perceived indelible destruction in the bathroom, there HAD to be some order or design of growth, progression, and life, still ebbing it’s warm little heartbeat away on the cold, dark side of the moon just waiting with faith and other worldly grace for it’s time in the sun while we obliviously nursed our wounds. There are just too damn many days in the year, for the odds to work like that, and have that day as her targeted day of birth. (To Melanie’s credit she basically will been pregnant for over a year now when Violet arrives!) Today at lunch, Melanie was telling me about a quote that she had read somewhere. Loosely the quote stated that no matter what it is you are going through, good, or bad, that it is of the utmost importance that despite your own intentions or desires, to know and accept that everything is as it should be. Everything is on time and working as planned even if you think you are running late, or on time. I happen to believe she is right on the money with that… I have no evidence or reason not to. I have Violet and Melanie. And I am a fool for ever being so short sighted to forget that; no matter how tired I may be.

C.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Violet Pirate Pugs…

Hello there true believer… and how does this post find you? I just thought I would touch base with anyone out there that may be listening, as it has been a few weeks since my last post. I had been writing, but I never bothered to post because the things I was writing about were difficult to keep aloft on a positive wind. It all just kept gravitating to the negative and no matter how I tried to dress it up, it was always an ugly maid in a pretty dress with a decent vocabulary, which in the end is just an ugly maid. SO, I scrapped it this morning and I am starting a new post. Which was kind of remarkable because it was a rather large and well written post. I must admit that I did not anticipate the difficulty of writing in a constantly positive tone. I’ve made the mistake in the past of intentionally and unintentionally disparaging others in my writing which has only served to double my grief at the time. I write this blog as an outlet for my feelings but it’s difficult if those feelings are negative ones because then I am reduced to either vague and cryptic posts, or forced and inauthentic. That’s a balancing act I haven’t completely figured out yet. But today things are pretty rosy so I thought I would send a documentary message in this digital bottle and cast it forth on the ever growing waves of the world wide web.

Since my last post the last hours of summer crept away and fall has begun to settle in. The nights and mornings are brisk with glowingly temperate afternoons and evenings. I am putting another year to bed soon as my 35th year approaches. Halloween should be interesting as it will be our first year in a legitimate neighborhood to pass out candy. We initially planned to decorate the house to the 9’s with Halloween gusto. But it looks we may have to save the enthusiasm (as well as our money) for Christmas and Violet’s arrival.

We had a doctor’s appointment this morning and Violet is developing nicely within the confines of Melanie’s womb. Both girls are growing at an alarming rate that has consistently measured a week ahead of schedule. Melanie’s belly has taken on animation independent of her command- fluctuating and stretching as we watch wide eyed on the couch at home. Violet has just now entered the period of rapid fetal growth as now she is about to double or even triple in size in the span of about a month. The doctor said she is about 29 weeks along which only gives us about 6 weeks to get all of her provisions in order. This weekend we are hoping to get her diaper bag together and ready to roll at a moments notice for her arrival.

Speaking of new arrivals, we also brought home a new dog last weekend. She is a little fawn colored pug girl named Polly and she just turned 3 years old. 644329_636398763047002_111236987_n1381200_636398449713700_379803873_n

Polly serves as Gracie’s bookend as Gracie is our 4 year old black pug.

Obtaining Polly was a bit of adventure because we went through a rescue organization that coordinates adoptions and foster homes. It would have been a cake walk but the lady that was fostering Polly was NUTS and woefully unprepared to turn her over without a struggle. I’ll leave the report of that exchange at that, as I feel anything further would just be negative reflection. However, we also had the chance to dress Gracie up in a pirate costume because the rescue organization was hosting a pirate themed “Puggerfest” and they had a costume contest.

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Gracie didn’t win or even place for that matter, but it was still a pretty fun time, minus the near stabbing and pepper spraying from Polly’s foster mom in the parking lot.

I admit this post is rather void of the usual brooding introspection, but I just wanted to document a few things before they zip on by like so much life. I’m thinking about starting and maintaining a tandum continental blog for the fiction I have quietly been tinkering with. I don’t really have much of a place for it on this blog without completely redesigning the site on my own and I really want people to read it. But aside from all that, I don’t have much else to report or reflect upon. I have a feeling I will muster a more meaty post next week though. But until then true believer, fight the good fight, and keep it between the ditches! Talk to ya later.

C.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Albatross…

albatross“What are you gonna do with that?” That’s what my wife asked me while I was staring at an old fictional story that I am always talking about finishing but never have. Actually that’s not true. Now that I think about it, I never actually talk about finishing it. I just talk about the act of writing. So maybe that’s why I bristled with such brief and concentrated irritation when I didn’t have an answer for her, because I could not envision it being finished. And to be honest with you, I’m STILL a little irritated about the question. No- it’s not the question that irritates me. It’s my answer that irritates me. Because I. DON’T. KNOW… I WANT to finish my old story, and I want it to be great. But I’m afraid and I don’t know what it is I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of looking stupid. I have to say, it’s an ironic thing to be blinded by your own vision and crippled by your own control… but I’m sure that theme will pop up again so I’ll try to avoid any digression there.

There is an old maritime poem with a metaphor for a never ending burden someone must endure. The metaphor is in the form of an albatross. Here’s what the trusty ol’ wikipedia says about it.

The word albatross is sometimes used metaphorically to mean a psychological burden that feels like a curse.

It is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798).[1] In the poem, an albatross starts to follow a ship — being followed by an albatross was generally considered an omen of good luck. However, the titular mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, which is regarded as an act that will curse the ship (which indeed suffers terrible mishaps). To punish him, his companions induce him to wear the dead albatross around his neck indefinitely (until they all die from the curse). Thus the albatross can be both an omen of good or bad luck, as well as a metaphor for a burden to be carried as penance.

Melanie is a great sport for putting up with this dead albatross I bring into the house on a weekly basis. “What are you gonna do with that?” She asks me, just hoping for me to see exactly what it is I’m playing with and reply with certainty that “I’m going to throw it away.” or with confidence, “I’m going to make it fly.” But no… I just spread it’s limp wings and furrow my brow with confusion as they fall back just as limp and dead as before- awkwardly a feather comes loose and drifts to the tiled living room floor. The weight of it’s mass too heavy to fly- crumpling as it slips from my grip and to the floor with a soggy slapping sound.

Oh this albatross… wasn’t always an albatross, you know. At one time it was actually an IDEA. And it was a REALLY good one too… It even had a name- Neon Continental. It was going to reach out and uplift the downtrodden and astrocised members of the midwest that just didn’t “fit in”. Those who were suffering from the effects of severe alienation from the society that was rejecting them with fear and ignorance. This albatross… Neon Continental was a love story to serve as a beacon over the bible belt and save the lives endangered by their own hands or loved ones. That may be grandiose but through intention alone it would bring forth into the light, all of the admirable qualities of the down cast, and highlight all of the flaws of the social elite. The darkness of midwestern ignorance would be cast aside as it leveled playing fields, shattered archaic barriers, and protected hope itself. Dieing dreams were saved on a daily basis and the unifying laughter of children was the song of this… this dead albatross in my living room.

“What are you gonna do with that?” She asks me… At this rate I’m just going to stuff it and have it mounted over the fire place out of shameful spite. Or maybe I’ll just cook it up and eat it while crying in bed like a woman in menses with a tub of ice cream. I don’t know. There may be no breath in it’s chest and no wind beneath it’s wings, but I am not yet remotely prepared to throw it out because I still believe it can fly. I still believe it can soar to reach those misunderstood unfortunate souls being lost to fear and darkness… but at the moment, it is merely serving to befuddle me as I struggle to articulate an answer to my wife’s subtly prodding question. “What are you gonna do with that?”…”goddamnit,” I sigh. “I don’t know.” Sometimes I don’t understand how she can take me seriously on anything. Then this mild paranoia starts crackling on the outskirts of my mind and I start thinking that I am in fact NOT being taken seriously and I begin reading too much into the mundane mannerisms of others, once again blinded by my own vision…

I just wish there were more hours in the day. If I have any legitimate excuse to make it would be the matter of time. Between work, weekly house chores, and daily familial duties there just isn’t much time left until I need to recharge my body with food and rest. (I also believe it’s important to take some time to just relax with your loved ones.) I remember not too long ago in my 20’s when I could go on as little as 4 hours of sleep a night. Granted, it wasn’t very good for me and aside from a finicky knee, I am more healthy now than I was in my 20’s- but that’s because I get my rest and I’m not recklessly partying all night long or cramming for final exams like I did then. Melanie is now 25 weeks pregnant with our daughter, Violet. I’m hoping that the necessity of waking hours will be ramrodded into actuality by Violet’s arrival. If not, then I need to figure out just what the hell to do with this albatross carcass. Wouldn’t want the baby playing with it.

C.

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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Fighting with Rudy actually…

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Hello there true believer… it’s funny, I used to really enjoy that opening. And maybe I still do. It’s a great salutation with an acknowledgment of positivity that sort of creates and instills positivity in the reader even if it’s not initially there, which is a great feeling… but it works entirely different for the speaker because the positivity HAS to be there initially and almost inherently in order for it to be done with any honesty or passion to have any impact whatsoever. Because if that positivity isn’t there, then I just don’t see the point- in anything, much less trying to compose some words to spin a positive and relatable message and I’ve been having a hard time doing that with any harmony for the last couple of weeks… but I suppose I’ll try anyway.

In times like this, I often look for entertainment in sources of inspiration like the stories or creations of others that have successfully danced a happy jig on the grave of adversity. Last night I spent the better part of the night watching Rudy, a 1993 production of the true story of an unlikely champion of human will. He basically lived an entire young life being blatantly told by his loved ones that he was something he was not, and simply relied on the power of his own desire to realize his goals.

Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger was a 5′ 6″ 175 lb. dyslexic kid that dreamed of one day playing football for the college of Notre Dame. Because of his undiagnosed dyslexia his grades in high school were never good enough to even be considered a candidate for an ivy league institution such as Notre Dame. He talked about it all the time time though. Always telling his friends, family, and teachers how one day he would be riding the throes of glory on the field of The Fighting Irish. But all anyone saw was just some big mouthed kid with a brain and body that were both too small to equal such big dreams. People couldn’t even see past their own perceptions enough to provide him with any form of emotional or moral support. He was on his own to work harder in EVERY way than anyone had ever been expected to work. However, one day through years and years of adversity and trials, and heartbreaking hard work, he actually made it on the team.

Most of the time he served more as a practice dummy, with his small body taking the brutal blows of young men much too large to be seen as peers or contemporaries. Due to his small size, there were occasions in practice when his teammates would go easy on Rudy. But this only caused Rudy to get in their faces and slap them around for not giving their all, which only resulted in even more brutal punishment for someone so slight. The larger players actually complained that someone so small as Rudy was making them look BAD for the coaches! Yet the majority of his time on the team, he wasn’t even allowed to suit up on the field for games which caused his own family to not even BELIEVE him because they never saw him on television on the sidelines. But all that hardly broke Rudy. Bruised, battered, and grossly underestimated, he was still happy just to be a part of the team. He was proud and grateful for every bruise and because of this; though he hardly looked the part and was lacking in natural ability, through the power of his own will he had actually become the most important team member. He was the heart of the team. Men that towered over him actually looked up to him as a source of inspiration.

Then one day in his senior year in 1975, in the last minutes of the the last game of the season his dream came true. Though it was only for a matter of minutes, for just a few minutes, his dream came TRUE. Years and years of excuses and being overlooked and never given even the benefit of the doubt were cast aside with absolutely no regard whatsoever. There on the field, the one person everyone said couldn’t do it… DID IT. He sacked the quarter back! Though it was the only tackle he ever recorded in game time, somehow it was THE ONLY tackle that mattered because in those few minutes, he became an actualized person. If there was ever a great meaning to life, Rudy discovered it and showed everyone. There on the field was Rudy- riding the throes of glory on the field of The Fighting Irish, and being carried away on the shoulders of his teammates. Starting from literally NOTHING, he had actualized his lifelong dream.

He soon graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in sociology and inspired 5 of his younger brothers to do the same. Whereas before they were all expectant workers of their local steel mill.

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I’m not going to jump on some self righteous soap box here and moan to you about how hard I had it, and how much I relate to Rudy’s story. Honestly I’m not sure if I can relate to a story of such remarkable and unconquerable spirit. But I appreciate it and admire it greatly from the inspiration it elicits in me. In all honesty, the key difference between Rudy and I is HUGE. He didn’t need anyone to believe in him, whereas I do…

When I was a kid, I had the walls of my bedroom literally covered in what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to make comics. I wanted to write them, I wanted to draw them, I wanted to be KNOWN for them. But most of all I wanted to inspire others with them. I wanted to create magnificent stories of triumph like that of Rudy. I wanted to tell stories of hope so that in some small measure, the mark I made on the world would be a positive one, however small it may be. I wanted to help people by letting them know that everything is okay, things aren’t really as bad as they seem, and life is good. But I suppose the grip of my will is weak because life has knocked me so far from that course that it’s not even funny. At this point the only thing I have in common with Rudy is the begining of his story, where he started from nothing.

Most of you know that I am soon to be a father to a baby girl named Violet. I am of the opinion that though I am just as imperfect and flawed as anyone else, I will be a good father to Violet because of how grateful I will be for everything life with her throws at me. I am also of the opinion that this is a typical level of intention and self expectation for someone in my position. And while my intentions may be common, I happen to know that life knocks many people off this course of behavior. I mean, EVERYone’s parents have screwed them up a little bit in some form or another. It’s basically inevitable. Life happens and parental obligations are often used as an excuse for letting go of personal dreams. Letting go of dreams is painful and scarring, causing unbridgeable distance and emotional unavailability. It’s just bad for the spirit. When a dream dies, a certain part of that person dies and is forever stunted. Things just aren’t as fun as they should be. A bruise is just a bruise and not a badge of admirable courage. Fear is ever present and Love becomes a chore. But… what if some of that could be prevented by staving off any personal frustrations and knowing that in the face of failure, at least you tried and you showed up for the tryout. And even if you failed once, you got back up and tried again, if only to take another hit. Instead of making an easy excuse for yourself out of your child (or someone else for that matter), you provided them with an example of strong character, and let them see that dreams can and DO come true. What if the natural damage of growth can be lessened or even prevented by a balance formed between both taking care of your child, AND taking care of yourself? Why can’t they both be done? Is it possible that being a healthy actualized person can greatly increase your odds of successfully raising another healthy actualized person? I honestly don’t see why not.

C.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Uncategorized