dad did it

It’s Saturday as work on this entry begins.  Day four as Mr. Mom.  Over the hump and with aplomb, I might add.

Presently it is 6:30am.  It’s that time of year where it’s light outside beginning around 5am here in California so it doesn’t feel so early when judged by surroundings.  But it is early; early to have Cohen up, bathed, and fed already.  Early to already have a load of laundry out of the washer and into the dryer.  Early to be on my third cup of coffee.  By eight o’clock Cohen will be back asleep… somehow the whole schedule slid forward by about an hour and a half when I was waking everyone so early to get them fed and readied before the daycare drop-off.

I’m not complaining.  I’m enjoying my morning.  Keaton’s still sleeping and I decided the grey skies outside were calling for a spin of Steely Dan’s sophomore record, Countdown to Ecstasy. (Note: somewhere in the middle of this paragraph a lot of time passed, that’s how writing goes.) In fact these days with just the kids and I have really been a blessing.  I kind of lost myself in it this weekend; stopping once to think how great it was to be able to do nothing but lounge on the floor playing peekaboo with Cohen or coloring with Keaton.  I like to think of it as a preview of the coming seven weeks on the road: plenty of time to spend enjoying my family and the fun we can have together seeing and doing new things.

Sunday after church (which, I should add, I was early for – not a regular occurrence) I decided that I’d take the kids out for lunch.  I didn’t feel like making their lunches and I’d already half-planned to do something so I’d packed food and bib and spoon and snacks for Cohen in the diaper bag.  Part of me knew it could be disaster… one parent and two kids in a busy restaurant, but another part of me anticipated the challenge – and even more so anticipated looks.  Dads… you know what “looks” I’m talking about: The “Oh gosh what a good dad he must be!” looks you seem to get whenever you’re out just you and the young’ns.  I thought I’d written about it before but I can’t seem to find it.

Anyway, dad’s out mom-less with their kids really do stand to get a swollen head.  People look and point and nudge and talk, it’s a good feeling but part of me also thinks it’s sad that being a “good dad” is something rare enough that we have a warm emotional reaction when we see someone doing it.  But, whatever, I’ll take it gladly.  It might help that Sharaun and I made some fierce-cute kids, like cute enough to strip the hide of a live steer – or some other such meaningful expression of a hearty cuteness.  It might also help that we’d come straight from church and I’d taken care to dress both kiddos as sharply as possible (y’know, to prove to the parishioners that this lone-dad has it going on… and to get those fond smiles from the pews as well…).  The image accompanying this post shows what sort of merchandise I was showing-out.

Sharaun get’s back today (Monday, not the “today” of writing), and it couldn’t come soon enough.  Goodnight.

don’t kick that anthill

Hey friends and readers who don’t like me.

It’s Monday we are at t-minus 13 days until the big trip.  From a work perspective this means that I’m at t-minus 9 days (I’m taking that last Friday off to pick up the vehicle).  If I find more time to write between now and then, you’ll likely hear me come back to this theme again and again.  Y’know, the “Oh Lord I only have X days left to get this all done!” with a , “Oh Lord I only have X-1 days left to get this all done!” follow-up.  I have a feeling that, as the sun sets on those last couple days, and the whistle blows at 5pm as I leave the sawmill that this guilt will begin to fade into excitement.  Already I’m making little lists of things I want to remember to bring.  Sharaun’s been doing a good job borrowing things from her Facebook consort… thus helping us minimize our continued investment.

Speaking of Sharaun, she leaves for her New Kids On the Block cruise on Wednesday morning.  Abandoning me to both kids and a full-time job and all the week-before planning madness.  I don’t want to devote much writing time to this cruise, because I’m afraid I’ll get to riled up.  I’m glad she’s going because she wants to so bad… the kind of bad where you might mistake her for a thirteen year old teenie-bopper instead of an established stay-at-home mom of the suburbs.  I’m also glad she’ll have some time to cut loose with her friends, so there’s that.  But don’t ever, ever, try and talk to me about the money thing.  If I think too long about it I get disgusted (probably shouldn’t tell her that either, even though she already knows it’s not good to kick the anthill).  But let’s talk about it just a bit… perhaps…

I wouldn’t deny her the experience because of cost, obviously… no.  What angries up my blood is realizing how rational it is in her mind to spend so exorbitantly on something I consider so wasteful.  I think it’s that mental disconnect around “return on investment” that irks me.  To her it’s a “no duh” to spend so much on something like this, to me it’s akin to burning dollars.  But then again, I don’t expect to understand it… the ROI for her is something I’ll not be able to comprehend.  I’d like to say that there’s nothing I would be willing to spend so stupidly on… but I’m fearful of making such a statement and then getting called down with lightning.  I suppose I can leave it at that, because if we go much further down this route I’ll begin playing the apologetic and start questioning myself in her voice about the money I’m disposing on this silly RV trip (which, I might schizophrenically add, is a family thing).  I could do this all day… debate with my own consciousness.  Probably as good reading as it is thinking, though, huh?

Anyway it’s the kids and Mr. Mom for the latter half of the week, our last weekend in town, and Monday of next week.  Then Sharaun’s back and we have five days to get everything together, load it into the vehicle, and hit the road.  It’s going to go by in a blur, I already know it.  Wish me luck.


dad’s superman veneer

Shhh!  Don’t tell anyone, but I made a conscious effort to dial-down my work investment this week.  I really did.  I was sort of sick a couple days so that forced slowdown helped, but I also tried to do less.  You can see, from the writing, that it worked.  I feel better (not bad at all) about it.  Let’s go.

I don’t know if it’s the lovely Spring weather or what, but lately Keaton’s had a renewed interest in riding her bike.  I talk more about the whole training wheels saga later; right now we’ve just been getting out of doors almost nightly and riding small suburban circuits.  While we ride together, I can help but to do a bit of dad showing-off… dredging up muscle memories made in my youth and popping and riding wheelies (on my mountain bike, no less), riding with no hands, “fishtailing,” “endo’ing,” and bunny hopping.  (I think) she finds it all terribly impressive, and a dad’s gotta keep up his Superman veneer, you see.

Monday evening Sharaun was at the gym and Keaton, Cohen, and I had all gone on a long walk around the neighborhood.  Keaton chose to ride her bike and after we got back home she joined up with a group of neighbor girls who were also out riding bikes in the cul-de-sac across from our house.  For a while, while the sun was still well enough above the horizon, I stretched out on the grass in the front yard and played with Cohen there while she rode.  Then, as dusk came and the sun was no longer there to warm us, Cohen and I took our leave of the lawn and headed inside.  I hollered at Keaton that she could stay out and ride with the girls.  She stayed out there and cycled around in circles until after the streetlights came on and all her friends had to go home too.  It was after eight o’clock before I stepped outside to call her back.

Later, I learned that she was absolutely thrilled to be given this tiny freedom.  I considered it quickly at the time, only just briefly, for it really isn’t a situation she often finds herself in.  She’s only just five, and the times where she’s “alone” are usually playdates with friends or in childcare at the gym or church.  She hasn’t really yet experienced the empowering rush that I can remember as a kid when you felt that the world (as big as it was to you at the time in your radius of four of five suburban blocks) was yours to explore and discover.  But for Keaton that night she was out hanging with the big girls.  Riding bikes with no parents, laughing and playing and having a grand old five year old time.  Nevermind that I could hear her the whole time through the front screen door, or that I could see her by craning my neck from my seat on the couch – to her she was unchaperoned.

As she was coming in she said to me, “You can do that again Dad; let me ride by myself.  I wasn’t scared or sad at all; it was fun.”  It’s fascinating to try and plumb the psychological implications of what your kids say and do.  Maybe this little self-affirming comment was her way of admitting that, in fact, she may have been a little scared or sad to begin with – but that those notions soon passed and she was thrilled to realize that there is a world off the apron strings.  I figure one thing I can do is try and give her an idea of just how big and wonderful that world is, maybe grow in her some passion to explore it and test it.  Then again, I have no idea what I’m doing here.

OK, the other thing I wanted to capture about that evening bike ride.  I mentioned I could hear the girls in the circle through the front door, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to stand there and eavesdrop a bit.  I’m glad I did, because I got to overhear my daughter bragging to her friends.  “Hey do you guys know that my dad can lift the whole front wheel of his bike and ride around?  He can also ride with no hands and jump his whole bike off the ground!”  Hearing this made my heart swell, I tell you.  Of course the other girls were quick to represent their dads in response, I heard lots of “My dad does X,” and “Yeah and mine can do Y!”  If you’re not a dad of a little girl, I don’t think you can even approximate what emotions this evokes in a man.  It’s primal, tickling something in us which dates back to primitive times; and it is so satisfying it’s hard to describe.  (Pat just wait.)

Just wait until she’s fourteen or fifteen and reality comes crashing in as she realizes I’m not but a human after all, and a flawed one like the rest of us at that.  Owell, until then I’ll enjoy the view from this pedestal.


which thought is it that counts?

I took a “to-do” note on my phone last week.  There, snug between other terse and cryptic items like “2×4 bed,” “wisdom teeth,” and “401k review,” I wrote the words Betty Jonhston.

I didn’t know any better at the time, but want I meant to type was Betsey Johnson.  Google it.  I’ll wait.

You probably got some pages about womens’ clothing or something, right?  Strange thing for me to be taking a to-do note on the phone about, but let me explain.  See, each morning at work I go through my little routine.  Get to the office, walk to my desk and dump my stuff.  Dock my laptop and get it booting while I grab my coffee mug and head downstairs to fill up and grab a banana or two.  While downstairs in the cafe, I often run into a set of “same timers,” folks who have a similar cafeteria-run timeframe to mine (and are regular enough about it to be consistent).  I say hello to a few of these folks, some only because I see them most mornings and some because we’re friends “outside work.”

The other morning one of those same-timers stepped in to say “good morning” and, when she did, her freshly spritzed perfume wafted across to me.  “Dang,” I said, “you smell rad.”  (Note: I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was long those lines.  Smooth, to-the-point, slightly inappropriate for the corporate environment, and delivered with some sort of outdated slang for just a little comedic impact).  “So many people have told me that,” she replied.  I sniffed conspicuously, asking, “What is it.”  I thought she said Betty Johnston.  I complimented the scent again as she went on her way, and after she left I typed those words into my to-do list.  (Hey, HR-types, don’t worry – I know the woman well and I don’t think I’ll be facing harassment charges anytime soon.  Don’t think you’ve not trained me well; I know that I’m a chauvinistic demon for wanting to compliment my female employee’s new hairdo or nice coat; I’m well indoctrinated.)

Women must know what motivates men to buy perfume, right?  We smell it, it smells good, we buy it.  But women must also know that (most) men aren’t just stopping by the perfume store and doing a bunch of comparative sniffing to determine what smells good.  Nope.  Those places are overwhelming anyway, those scent superstores.  The “din” of smells is so thick that my ability to distinguish individual scents flies from me, and any sort of shopping around in that environment becomes pointless.  No, no siree.  The only place I ever smell perfume, the only place I ever notice it, is on other women.  I smell it on someone, and if I like the smell enough I try and find out what it is so I can look at maybe getting some for Sharaun.

I hope this isn’t bad.  There’s no notion of fantasy here or anything… no concept of making one woman smell like another as some mindtrick or anything like that.  It’s just how I encounter and decide I like fragrances.  (OK, OK, just as long as anyone who knows the real story behind the star-shaped bottle of Thierry Mugler’s Angel I bought her sophomore year of college – you keep your mouths shut.)  It’s not like I’m saying, “Hey, I bought you this perfume so you can smell like the blonde I see every morning at work.”  It’s more like, “This perfume smells rad and I think you’d smell hot in it, so I bought it for you.”  I think that’s OK, yeah?  I guess it’s too bad if it’s not, because it’s how I do it.  She uses perfume so sparingly, anyway, that I rarely have a reason or opportunity to get her more – so it’s not like a regular thing.  Yeah, that’s OK.


how i ended up shaving my head

A thorough retrospective.

In the late 1940s, an Alabama-native named Anne met and wed man named Wesley.  A religious man, Wesley introduced Anne to his church – one of the many smaller arms of the protestant Christian faith which sprung from the Restoration Movement of the 1800s.  Soon, Anne found herself “born again.”  Wesley and Anne moved to Florida in the mid-1950s, soon after the birth of their middle child, a daughter, Gail.  Gail inherited her parents’ faith, and after marrying and having her first child, a daughter, my wife, raised her in the church.

Sharaun, that daughter, my wife, grew up in that Southern conservative Christian tradition.  When she turned nine, that daughter sought special permission to go to “Bible camp” a year before she should’ve been allowed to.  For those, like me, who didn’t grow up in the Bible Belt, the notion of a “Bible camp” may sound odd (as it did to me).  But, it’s really just a week-long summer camp with a healthy dose of Jesus.  Sharaun, my wife, Gail’s daughter, Anne’s grand-daughter, loved Bible camp.  She looked forward to it all year long, and went every year without fail  – although they made her be a counselor instead of camper sometime around twenty years old.

It was at that Bible camp, about seventeen years ago, when Sharaun was a sophomore in highschool, she met a girl named Melissa when the two shared a cabin.  Over the next few summers, Sharaun and Melissa would be yearly reunited at Bible camp.  Around the very same time, although definitely not at Bible camp, Sharaun and I started dating.  We’d met five years before that when we were in the sixth grade, but I’d fallen hard for her during that same summer she first met Melissa at Bible camp.  I courted her during those months, eventually won a boyfriend audition as we started dating as we went into our junior year.  The summer before our senior year, Sharaun brought me into the church in much the same way her grandfather did her grandmother.

Three years later, after a couple years of junior college for Sharaun, she and Melissa again shared a cabin at summer Bible camp and discovered that they were planning to attend the same state University.  As it happened, I was also packing bags after two years of junior college and was bound for those same hallowed halls.  Sharaun and I, while not having been together the entire time, had been dating for almost four years when all three of us – Melissa, Sharaun, and myself – converged on that university town to earn our degrees.  The three of us spent three years together being educated, and I got to know Melissa as Sharaun did.

Sharaun and I got engaged in 1999.  That next year we graduated, got married, and moved across the United States, to California, where I’d accepted a job offer.  We kept in touch with Melissa and that first year we were here I surprised Sharaun by inviting her out for Christmas (we were poor beyond belief, using credit card cash advances to pay the rent month to month, and couldn’t go back to Florida as we’d wanted).  Four years later, Melissa decided she wanted a change of scene and uprooted herself from Florida to move to Northern California.  She’d consulted with Sharaun and I on the move, saying she wanted “something different” and taking advantage of an internal transfer through her employer.  She showed up sometime in 2003 (her name is still on the mailbox).

Getting acclimated and looking for a place to stay, Melissa bunked in our guest room for her first month or two in California.  Being co-located, our paths remained intertwined over the years and we stayed close.  Ultimately, she’d end up buying a house just a stone’s throw from our place.

A few years ago Melissa walked up to a hulking man in a dive bar in the city and, boldly out of character, kissed him flush on the lips.  A South African native, Charl was introduced to us as Melissa’s boyfriend a few months later.  Charl, now Melissa’s fiancée, is a beast of man; larger than life, sometimes even intimidating in his ebullience.  Charl is also bald, having begun shaving his head back in college when he discovered his hairline was no longer going to behave.  Like he is with most everything, Charl is passionate about his baldness; and ever since I’ve known him he’s been working on converting me, proselytizing the bald lifestyle and all its associated merits.  Hearing my woe over my thinning crown, he’d urge me to let him bring me into the fold.  I like Charl, and have grown somewhat closer to him too.

Sometime in Spring this year, after a year or more humoring Charl about one day letting him shave my head, I relented and went through with it.  It was after a few beers at an evening barbecue in our backyard.  Fifteen minutes of buzzing and bic’ing and it was done.

Turns out Charl was right; I love being bald.  Now that I’m hairless (at least on top), I’d not have it any other way.  I shave every other day (with a razor, not electric); takes me about ten minutes extra in the shower.

And that’s the story of how I came to shave my head.

Goodnight, and thanks Mimi.

a wet-dream supernova

I remember the day I asked Sharaun if she wanted to go to the homecoming dance with me.

Facts: it was a hot Florida day; I was a high school sophomore; I had been pursuing her for a while but we were not “dating;” I was probably sixteen; I was truly nervous.

I remember taking the old portable phone out of the house and into the backyard to make the phone call with some privacy. The phone was this large unibody thing, a muted tan-yellow “manila” color (can that word be applied, as a color, to something other than a folder?) and it had a large segmented antenna you had to manually extend and retract. I walked through the screened-in porch and out onto the pool deck. It was late afternoon but the sun in Florida was still bearing down through the piles of humidity. I remember walking around the deck to the deep end of the pool, we had a planter there at the edge of the grass with some shrubs and a few birds of paradise, it was bordered with large coquina rocks, as many landscape installations are in Florida.

It was over there near the deep end, where the pool deck was wide enough and offered enough runway that my brother and I used it as our makeshift diving platform when we were kids and the novelty of a backyard pool was still enough to see us in it daily, that I made the call. Sometimes in the post-rain heat of the afternoon in Florida there was this ambient buzzing noise permeating the air outside. Like the chorus of bugs I imagine in equatorial rain forests it would camp out at the edge of your hearing and become part of the atmosphere without you really realizing it. But that day, during the second or so that elapsed after I dialed the last ‘9’ in her number and before the phone rang on her end, that buzzing jumped to the fore and became a roar reminding me how much on-my-own I was. Me and the background bugs, about to put ourselves out there in the most real way… the fragility of youth plus lust.

I forget who answered but I remember asking.

In the end it was a pitifully (or maybe blissfully) short exchange. And while I don’t recall my exact wording I remember feeling that I hid the awkwardness I felt in asking well and ultimately came off smooth.

She said yes.

She wore a black dress that blazed like a signal fire against her pale skin and shiny-gold, straight hair. She was the walking, breathing embodiment of all my coming-of-age fantasies to that point. A wet-dream supernova. The memories of the emotion of that night make me thankful there is no such thing as foreknowledge. Knowing that we’d end up together as happy as we are now would’ve stolen all the mystery and timidity.


what would it be?

It was so hot yesterday when I got in the car after work I touched the metal bit on the seatbelt and burnt myself.  That’s hot.

Sharaun is asleep on the couch; has been since 9pm.  Early, even for her.  I’ve got the home theater PC playing a nice random shuffle from the collection, right now I’m jamming to part of Colosseum’s 1969 The Valentyne Suite.  It’s good Sharaun is asleep, actually, she would absolutely revolt if she had to listen to this frenetic mess of stabby organ.  Actually it’s good for more reasons than simply sparing her the Colosseum’s psychedelic-prog-jazz – she really needs the rest.  I have to remember she’s up three times during the night, and at about forty minutes a piece she’s getting two full hours less sleep than I am.  Combine that with eight hours spent at home with Keaton and Cohen and I’m surprised she wasn’t out before 9pm.

Despite her exhaustion, or maybe in defiance of it, she really helped me today.  My alarm went off around 5:45am and I arose intending to go to the gym for my morning workout.  But when I sat up in bed, something was wrong.  Well, two things were wrong: 1) I had stayed up far too late the night before and was in no mood to sacrifice an hour of sleep to the elliptical and 2) I immediately remembered something.  That something was the fact that, the afternoon before, I’d printed out a bunch of paperwork before leaving the office – with designs on reviewing it in the evening for a back-to-back string of important meetings I had at work the next day.  That night, however, I completely forgot about the printouts and the need to review them.  Waking the following morning then and remembering that my meetings started at 8am and went solid through 3pm… I became quickly horrified that I’d entirely forgotten to review and prepare.

I sat in bed agog.  How could I forget something so important?  It was now 6am and just a couple hours stood between me and those meetings.  I told Sharaun what I’d done (or not done) – she was awake feeding Cohen – and, deciding, said, “I’m going in.”  I was at work by 6:30am and spent the wee hours preparing and readying and am happy to say those meetings went quite well.  My wife though… and this is where it gets good… my wife had obviously read perfectly the stress and slight panic in my face as I sat bolt-upright in bed.  Around 9am she texted, “I’m thinking about you, I hope your day is going well.”  Then around noon she e-mailed, “Hope your day is still going well. I wanted to know, if there was one thing that you would like to see get done while you’re at work, what would it be?”

And even though my day hadn’t gone even remotely close to being “bad,” I think that if it had she’d have turned it all around with those couple of notes.

Too bad I’m such a jerk of a husband though, I responded with, “Israeli–Palestinian peace accord.”

Not really.  But that would have been funny.

I love my wife.