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So much has changed. So much is better. So much is scary. So much is uncertain. 2004 was the year I began a new career, became someone's father, moved my family across the country, bought a new house in my home town and belatedly, but finally, graduated from college. This year will be the year that we become business owners, we will celebrate our daughter's first birthday and I will make a serious commitment to my writing. 2005 is the year to suck it up and achieve something great. 2005 is the year I will make myself proud of me.
Talk, talk, talk. My family talks plenty. If only the conversations were more constructive, more direct, more open. Every time someone in the family takes exception to a decision I've made, or haven't made, I eventually hear about it through the network. The commentary buzzes about from sister to sister to Mom at headquarters and around the horn again. When I finally hear about my apparent audacity to think for myself, the original offense is distorted beyond recognition and little things have grown to big things. Frenzied, frazzled emotions become blind to reason. Is it possible to reform a gossip?
At 4:00 a.m. Susan woke up worrying about all of the damn family gossip since we moved back. I suppose we were a hot topic when we lived in California too, but at least it wasn't in our face all of the time. She had the TV on downstairs trying to zone it out and I joined her on the couch. We watched a documentary on Annie Proulx's research for That Old Ace in the Hole. The settings of Wyoming, Newfoundland and the Texas Panhandle provided serene backdrops for Annie's deliberate and disciplined research process. My groggy, creative senses stirred.
Home. For some, a consistent, stationary noun. For others a mobile yet nonetheless comforting state of mind. The word always implied this New York town in which I was born and raised. It is changing though. The town itself is nothing more than a historic location in the history of me. My real home is now wherever my wife and daughter are. Home was Northern California a few short months ago. Now, home is again this New York town in which I was born and raised. Not for that reason though, but because it's where my wife and daughter are.
Refreshing or repulsive, this new start to a new year? More of the same or shake up the game? January is tough for starting anything fresh; for recharging the batteries. It marks the beginning of a long stretch of gray skies, random illness and no festive holidays to speak of. How do we jump start the process of rejuvenation with uncertainty hanging over head like storm cloud waiting to burst? The new business is exciting but scary. The current job is anything but exciting, but certainly necessary. Can we muster the strength to overcome the petty issues of small minds?
The vanilla boys in their short sleeves and blue blazers board amidst anxious chatter. My guess is most of them have never been on a plane. Sleep-deprived and rank after driving all night, we grumble as we wait for the young Mormons to find their seats and hunker down. On the window in our row sits a crew-cutted missionary sporting a nametag that reads Robert. Luke looks at the kid's Book of Mormon then at me. "You want the word of the Lord, or should I take it?" Without waiting he swoops into the middle seat. "Hey Bob, whatcha readin'?-
In a way it's a brotherhood although I only really feel like a few of them are my brothers. In a way it's a fraternity although I despise frat boys. You might even call it a habit. You know, a guilty pleasure; sort of enjoyable but not all that good for you? Whatever you want to call it, it has stood the test of time and I'm sure will continue to do so. That's something if nothing else. I find it odd that some consider it the be all end all event of the year. To me it's an obligation.
They are fascinating, not to mention frustrating, wonderful, raw, beautiful and overflowing with a zest for life and unlimited potential for taking it by the balls and skyrocketing to the moon. They are manipulative, cunning, obedient, needy, irrational, emotional, imaginative, loving, dependent, brilliant and awestruck by daily newness. Kids are nothing more than short adults without the baggage, or perhaps you would prefer experience, that gets accumulated through living. Experience teaches us, for some reason, to question dreams, be suspicious of creativity and take ourselves too damn seriously. Tomorrow, check the baggage and look at the world like a kid.
Once the ceremony began I was able to let go of the stress and enjoy the beautiful moment. It wasn't about family members with issues, it wasn't about divorced parents and it wasn't about her middle name. It was simply about Kami, our special blessing, and her special day. The Reverend Bill was entertaining and sensitive. He took Kami in his arms and blessed her with Holy Water. She never flinched. She just looked at him like an old friend. It's difficult to find things to be proud of an eight-month-old about, but I couldn't help beaming with pride today.
It was hard but necessary to look them in the eyes as we boarded the pontoon boat for the short ride around the point. They looked so much older now, and their sad, worried eyes sparkled when they spoke of him. We shouted reminiscences over the roar of the over-worked motor and the slap of the waves, just as he would have done, even if it was quiet. Rounding the point and approaching the landing where we used to camp, we saw about a hundred people standing silently as if a grand ship approached carrying the parents of a king.
We dined on pasta and a fish that stared at us until Susan deftly carved it up. It was an odd Fourth of July. Strolling the cobblestone we heard the rising sound of helicopters and Wagner from Apocalypse Now echoing through the ancient village. And as if that wasn't surreal enough, we approached our hotel on the hillside when over its shoulder we saw a brilliant spray of orange sparks in the dark sky. Gradually a matching line of reddish-orange crept slowly downward from the spray. Etna had erupted, on the Fourth of July, with Apocalypse Now providing the soundtrack.
As I approach the dreaded forty-year-old milestone this year and continue to be awed by my new role as someone's father, I have become acutely aware of my own mortality. I look at my daughter and realize that she is completely dependent upon Susan and me. Suddenly my health is important for more than mere superficial reasons. I have secured life insurance, which is another eye-opener. It's a bizarre concept, life insurance. If I use it, I'm pushing up daisies. But if I don't, it's a waste of money. Life insurance is nothing more than a wager on your life.
Susan says I don't look happy. What it is that is making me seem that way, or actually be that way? I am definitely in a rut. It's tough working from home and not having any activities that require me to leave the house. It's tough not having a social life now that we have little Kami to take care of. And, it's tough having a job that is uninspiring and I really could care less about. The thing is that I'm lucky to work at home, lucky to have a great kid and lucky to have a good-paying job.
His brother-in-law was just released from prison and arrived at the house while I was visiting. He and I hadn't seen each other for four years; since I was in third grade. For some damned reason he volunteered me to with to run an errand with the criminal. Must have been good cover. We walked in to the crappy house in Albuquerque and were greeted by Latinos with guns. Some cleaned guns on the couch, others counted money. All around were kids playing like any other kids would. The thug went in the back and came out with his package.
My unidentified discontent of late has at least been acknowledged, and perhaps as a result of this awareness I am more in tune to environmental and spiritual signs that will help me reconcile my uneasiness. First the prodding that we get a will together and name a guardian for Kami. Then the movie about the kids losing their parents. And now, Benjamin is sick. When the Miners wrote to tell us of our little friend's ordeal it struck me that there is nothing more important than keeping my little girl safe and happy. That alone will make me happy again.
I feel lighter today. Certainly not physically lighter, but spiritually; emotionally. I can't even say why. We had a nice time last night going out as adults with our new friends. The Andersons are coming over today in our attempt to reach out and be better family members. Church today felt good. I saw Susan laugh a lot last night. Whatever it is, I dare not question it. I can only hope that it continues and the heavy heart that I've been carrying lately can stick to its diet. Now if I can get my body to do the same...
She had a headache and looked exhausted. I gave her Tylenol and she buried her head beneath a pillow and fell fast asleep. I lied still listening to her breathing and imagining life without her. Not just life without her ability to keep everything going smoothly around here. I thought of life without the woman I love. I imagined life without that smile. I thought about life without my best friend. I realized how lucky I am and how I would treat her in the morning. All she had to do was wake up. I prayed she would wake up.
Does he know there are people dying because of his order? He must not. Is he aware that the death toll from the tsunami is approaching 200,000? He can't be. Has he realized how this looks to the rest of the world? It doesn't look that way. Because if our president had noticed any of these things I'm sure he would give the order to tone down this week's garish inauguration festivities. I'm certain that a man of his experience, faith and upbringing would see fit to show respect during war time rather that throw lavish parties in his honor.
The Governor sat on his stool staring at the well-dressed business man soaking in every single syllable with extreme attention and respect. The man described his dilemma regarding a land deal he was working on in the valley. The price seemed quite high, he said, but in the long run the property should triple in value based on speculation that a major developer was going to build condos and retail in the area sometime in the not too distant future. The Governor nodded and grumbled as he formulated his response. "Young man,"he said. "I AM the Queen of England!-
Kami is a blast. Finally. She was one tough little bugger for awhile there, and I'm sure she will be again. But tomorrow she turns nine months old and her personality is shining through. She's feisty, energetic and extremely sociable. She loves music, power cords and standing. I know the day is coming when I say "What the hell happened? Where did the time go?"and that's why I'm doing best to covet, remember and enjoy every second. This kid was a blessing sent from Heaven when we sure that it wasn't possible. I will always be thankful this gift.
He crossed in hopes of catching a glimpse of the sun rising over his apartment. "For a man to see the sun rise over his own home was for a man to see himself in the safety of God's glow,"he would say. The sun didn't shine very often on Wkeji but that day it painted the clouds over The Block with shades of lavender and pink. The Governor stopped, tipped his fine hat and gave a distinguished bow to the sun. "And top Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœo the morning to you as well,"he said before continuing on with a springier-than-usual step.
I attended the kick-off meeting for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. Today I committed to raise at least $4,500 and to complete America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride; one hundred miles around Lake Tahoe. The most I've ever ridden is about thirty miles but the inspiration I felt in that room today was unbelievable. The feeling of being part of something so special and that helps so many people in need was uplifting. I can't wait to send my donation letters, raise twice the minimum and complete an endurance event for the first time in my life.
This place is buried in beautiful, light, cold snow. Nearly a couple feet blanket the entire area as the rare sun reflects off of everything, making for a gorgeous but cold, squinty day. Tomorrow I head for Santa Cruz for the week where it has apparently been in the seventies all week. For some reason that doesn't even appeal to me right now. I'm in the mode; the mountain winter mode. I need to get on a hill and feel the rush of cold air in my face and the glide of fresh snow beneath my board. I am jonesing.
It's seventy degrees and the sun is mostly shining. Whenever I arrive here now I get pangs of nostalgic longing. This is where we were married. This is where we made great friends. This is where we bought our first house. Our sweet little house on 5th Street with clay tile roof and horse chestnut tree in the back yard. And of course this is where our Kami was born. Yes, nostalgia is a powerful thing. I always intended to leave but I suppose until we fall in love with our new home San Jose will continue to cause pangs.
Susan told me it came today. The final grade; the A I was expecting after a long, hard road. We must have set some sort of record; Jack and I. It took over two years to complete the ambitious project. I successfully completed the Berkeley course during that time in only six months, and that required ten hefty novels with good-sized papers after each one. Seventeen years later and the damn monkey has officially been removed. Now I will wait with anxious anticipation for the official notification. I won't relax until that once-elusive piece of paper arrives in the mail.
"You won't even believe what happened"she said into the phone, her energy drained and her voice resigned. "The pipe on the other side of the garage burst tonight. That's two pipes in two nights. Nice timing." I was crushed. It's hard enough for her to be home alone while I'm traveling. Simply dealing with Kami 24/7 is a challenge. But to have this happen on two consecutives nights in the single-digit cold is brutal. I can't help think that there is some cruel conspiracy against us these days. The effects of which are especially hard on Susan. What gives?
He spoke like a man that seemed wise beyond his forty years. His voice steady and sure. His experience like nothing I would ever wish upon anyone. He is the father of ten-year-old cancer survivor and his perspective on life is one I'd love to acquire without having to endure the pain of being told my kid had leukemia. I wonder if it is at all possible to realize a true, life-changing shift in perspective without a painful jolting? Is it possible to truly achieve that sort of inner peace and gratefulness without having your world rocked by intense suffering?
I woke up in the Barlok's "lake house"at four, nervous that I would sleep through the alarm set for four thirty. Just the thought of only fours of sleep depressed me. I decided not to shower and just go the way of my ancestors. I applied an aggressive amount of deodorant and put on the same clothes from the day before. For some reason I was concerned about the time. I turned the key in the ignition of the rental car and nothing happened. Not a peep. It was dead. "Now what the hell am I going to do?-
There's a woman in the paper today named Tracy Diina who is going to court tomorrow to fight a ticket she got for using her cell phone while driving. Such activity is against the law in New York State, however Ms. Diina has decided that she disagrees with that particular law and therefore has chosen not to observe it. She does however agree with the seatbelt law so she does observe it. What a great citizen she is. Maybe that's the answer. If you agree with a law then follow it. If not, don't worry, it's just a guideline anyway.
I can't wait to see what the reality is regarding this weekend's Iraqi elections. GW was on the TV yesterday claiming a huge success and a victory for freedom. Truth is I hope he's right. He likely would have given the same speech regardless of how many Iraqi citizens showed up to vote. We'll probably never really know what to consider a success and if it was achieved. The cynic in me knows that we only know what Big Brother wants us to know. The optimist in me agrees that an Iraqi vote without major incident is indeed a success.
The year has gotten off to a weird start but is starting to show promise. My first writing class begins tonight at the Downtown Writer's Center and I also begin training this week for the century bike ride in Tahoe coming up in June. Both are firsts for me and mark new beginnings in my new life. The class is the first step toward taking writing more seriously. It will also allow me to connect with other like-minded people. The training starts off a journey to achieve something I never would have done without the support of Team in Training.
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