Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Clash of the Universes

I’m one of those strange individuals that actually enjoys early mornings. I love the quiet, peace, and the pace of a lazy weekend dawn. It is a time to sit in my big green chair with a huge cup of joe, read a book, and reflects on life. I get up about 5:30 AM on weekend mornings. This gives me a hour and half of selfish Steve time before my kids wonderfully invade my sanctuary. This past Saturday the good Lord decided to grace us with a Spring snow fall. The flakes filled the sky as disbelief filled my heart. Spring flowers yielded their colorful hue to snow flakes the size of quarters.
My daughter Kaylee wakes up at 6:30 to open up this amazing gift of snow. Now my daughter is much like my wife, her countenance and energy slowly rise with circumference of the sun. In KJ’s universe the day needs to be eased into with gentleness and grace. The early morning snow show was a shot of double espresso with extra sugar to my daughter’s immune system. Full of excitement she states the obvious with enthusiasm “Daddy it is snowing outside!!!” When God gives you such an amazing gift you desire to share it with everyone. “Can I wake up Noah?” Snow doesn’t fall forever and not very often in the Willamette Valley so I gave Kaylee the green light to invade Noah’s slumber. A few moments later the sound of running feet echoed down the hall. My son Noah does morning much like his daddy; sleep shakes from his personality like a quick change of a shirt. He embraces the day with vitality and excitement. Noah is drawn to the big glass window in the family room with wide eyed joy and determination. “HOLY NUTS!!!!!!!!!!” he screams with excitement. My son is now like a super nova of exuberance, spinning out of control and swallowing whole planets that lay in its path. “Dad can I go outside and catch snowflakes with my tongue?” Before I have a chance to answer, Noah is out the back door in his batman PJs, barefoot, tongue to heaven, eating God’s gift of falling frozen manna. Kaylee is quick to follow. As I mentioned earlier great gifts were meant to be shared, so my ice cold children find their way back inside and ask permission to share the love with Momma. I admit my motivation at this time was purely for my selfish enjoyment, my lovely wife is very morning challenged. Morning is a very slow, drawn out, painful dance of accepting the reality and responsibility of the day. My wife holds the world record for hitting the snooze button. They actually named the button the snooze bar in honor of her. My wife loves weekend mornings because I watch the kids, as she over indulges in sleep. I typically make breakfast for the family and hopefully sometime before noon my wife emerges from her comatose sleep to grab her coke and join in us on our day. I set these two parallel universes into a collision course by consenting to my children’s wishes. I watched (at a safe distance) as Kaylee and Noah arouse my bride to a rude, unwelcome, awakening. Cold hands and feet collided with warmth and security, joy and exuberance collide with groggy and grumpy. Two greater opposites rarely exist. My bride did the best she could not to fall down the dark stairs of bitterness. The combination of a Spring snow, cold children, and the early hour of the day proved to be a force far to great for her to endure. My children retreated in defeat as poor Michelle buried herself under her down comforter and was simply not in the proper frame of mind to receive my children’ s gift of enthusiasm. I quietly enjoyed the clash of the Universes from the safety of our hallway. The kid’s had a blast in their gift of snow in April as they filled our neighborhood with laughter and joy, and I will treasure that special morning among my favorites of Spring.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tensions of Two Realities

I find myself living in the tensions of two realities, the reality that is alive and well in my testosterone driven male ego, and the much less glamorous reality of getting older. I’m in the process of training for a half marathon. My testosterone driven male ego tells me that I’m running faster and farther then ever before. I’m a 41 year old stallion keeping pace with the running elite. I’m sleek, arrow dynamic, and powerful. I have defied age and endurance, and I’m a chiseled statue of muscle and flesh.
My much less glamorous reality of getting older, is slow, out of shape, and distanced challenged.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I asked my wife last week if she would drive my running route to see if by some chance that my mileage was wrong, or perhaps my watch was needing batteries. I couldn’t have possibly run as slow as I did. When I was running marathons 13 years ago, I arrogantly dismissed runners of my current caliber as “joggers”. In my minds eye I was flying. I pushed myself hard. The miles moved under my feet with speed and power. How could my watch deceive my testosterone driven male ego? When my wife returned and shared the unfortunate reality of my old age, my heart sank and my fragile delusional reality dropped from my prideful mind like an anchor to a reef. I have been humbled and grounded by truth.
I spent the first weeks in my new reality in denial. I shook old age out of my mind like a dusty rug. “If I just work out harder, if I can manage to lose a few more pounds, if I put in more miles or if I just have greater focus, perhaps I will soon return to my former glory”. Denial gave into acceptance and I have embraced the painful truth of getting older. The graying hairs on my receding hairline will need to adapt to the new reality of running slower. My standards and expectations of myself will now need to adjusted to new ones. What I once saw as running mediocrity will now be my standard for excellence.
I feel like I’m settling for less. I feel like something has died within me that I desperately desire to recapture. Why can’t I run for the love of the run? Why must time dictate my self worth and perception of excellence? This half marathon will hold greater personal meaning then the full marathons of my twenties. This race will test my character. I will cross the finish line knowing that my accomplishment isn’t any less significant then the guy who finished first or any more spectacular then the guy who finishes last. I will have run the race of knowing who I am and being ok with the knowing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Your momma don't dance and your daddy don't rock n roll

I’m the proud father of two beautiful children. My daughter is seven and my son is five. I was driving with them in the car the other day, when a great hard edged heavy metal 80’s hair band song came on the radio. I couldn’t resist. I threw caution, self respect, and restraint out the drivers side window and did what every child of the eighties would do; now some songs require class, sophistication, and reflection, but there are some songs that reach down into your aged soul and stir up the passions, emotions, and adrenaline of an age long gone by. Some songs require extreme volume and a good portion of lunacy. This song begged for both. I reached for the volume knob of my 98 Saturn and turned right until my car was enveloped in the hard driving rift of a bunch of rebels who had spent their youth on over indulgence and who have became the subject of a sad rocumentary on VH1. Have you ever lost yourself in a song? Have you ever given yourself over fully to the music you love? I entered into this parallel universe with unbridled abandonment. It was me, the song I love, and the volume to make your ears bleed. The rest of the world momentarily faded into a rock and roll dream as fist were pumping, my head banging, and my melody challenged vocal cords pounded out a tune from an era long gone by. Like a cup of ice cold water down your back when you least expect it, I was awaken from my rock and roll fantasy by my screaming daughter trying to be heard over the magnitude of volume pouring forth from the rear cheap speakers of my 98 Saturn . Reality and common sense slapped me across my face as I reached for the volume knob. Turning sharply to the left, my daughter’s voice trailed down with the music as I had just played her some kind of a practical joke. Embarrassed; I asked her to repeat the words she was previously screaming from the top of her lungs. “Daddy that hurts my ears, can you please turn it down?” These words brought me back to my youth as this annoying mantra was the theme of my parent’s survival of my awkward teenage years. I looked in the rear view mirror to see my boy, wide eyed and mouth dropped. Their quite, respectful, conservative, Daddy had just become a crazy lunatic right in front of their innocent eyes. I had crossed over into a world that was foreign and strange to their perception of Daddy. How would I recover? How would I explain my peculiar behavior? How could I regain my dignity, self respect, and status as the dad they knew and loved? I confess right now that what I did next was rather pathetic. I uttered the four words that would make all right with the world; the words that every daddy knows will bring exuberance and joy into the heart of a child, and the four words that would help me save face;” Who would like ice-cream?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Ode to Fashion...

I would like to personally thank the genius inventors who created stretchy pants. Yeah I know what you’re saying, “Stretchy pants! Only old people wear stretchy pants”. I would like to proudly proclaim to the civilized world that I wear and love stretchy pants! What’s not to love? For those of us who are fashioned challenged and who don’t mind a little ridicule, the stretchy pants provide amazing freedom and comfort. Never in all of human history has the elastic waist band been utilized with such skill and craftsmanship.
The great genius of the stretchy pants is that they expand and contract with the seasons of life. My size 34 waist stretchy pants made me feel good about myself when I expanded to a size 36. I could brag to my friends that I was a sleek 34, when in reality my waist was several super sized combo meals bigger.
Another great benefit of the stretchy pants is that in wonderful times of being able to eat your body weight in the cuisine that makes you stomach balloon to over capacity, the stretchy pants allow you to stay buttoned and zipped. No more embarrassing trips to the bathroom or the refrigerator in which you’re bulging hairy navel and your Speedo style red undies are on display for your horrified family members.
My loving wife and several co-workers have expressed great distain for the stretchy pants. They simply refuse to see the tremendous benefits to mankind. If we all could just embrace this amazing apparel, we could ease the extreme discomfort and suffering of bloating and over indulgence. We could free ourselves of the old people stereo-types and from the bondage of fashion.
I imagine those who despise my stretchy pants are secretly jealous of the great freedom I enjoy. They sit in judgment over my fashion sense and mock my elastic waist bands. I personally refuse conform to their unforgiving fabrics. I will proudly wear my miraculous apparel and proclaim to the world my love for my stretchy pants.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Please allow me to flush.

Choice and convenience. We love choice and convenience. They are essentially woven into the fabric of American life. When we grocery shop we are inundated with both choice and convenience. Convenient one minute meals with hundreds of meals to choose from. Five hundred TV channels to choose and TiVo to watch them at our convenience. Choice and convenience walk hand in hand and make life easier. So tell me who was the person who forgot to tell the inventor of the electronic toilet about the immutable law of choice and convenience? Some laws were never made to be broken, and I'm afraid the makers of the electronic toilet have violated humanity.

How did the concept of the electronic toilet ever enter into existence? I imagine some guys with engineering degrees sat around a table and pondered the multiple ways that we can make the bathroom experience more enjoyable and less stressful. I'm sure the laziest guy in the room said " I really hate to flush, the last thing I want to do after I dodo is exert myself by turning around to push the button. Perhaps we can invent a toilet that will push the button for us?" Convenient, sure; choice; I think not.

There are at least two disastrous scenarios that can occur with the flush-o-matic, and unfortunately I have been a victim of both. The electronic toilet at my work is a wonderful example of why the electronic toilet violates the law of convenience and choice. (Please forgive me as I describe bathroom rituals. I know such things should never be spoken in public, but I'm at the end of my rope and I beg you for grace and understanding.) So I go into my favorite stall at work, let's just say that time is of the essence and I'm very anxious to have a seat. The first rule in public bathroom etiquette is of course to lay down the protection. (Just a side note about the protection. Life would be both convenient and far more enjoyable if the perforated protection center was actually not a part of the protection. I hate removing the unnecessary center, especially in dire circumstances. Sometimes the unnecessary protection circle is a great and mighty hindrance in times of desperation. Please go the extra step and sell the protection without the unnecessary protection circle.) After the protection is laid down "the" electronic eye now notices that an object has moved away from the seat and even before I can have a protective seat the electronic toilet flushes. Now when the toilet flushes it does two annoying things. First it flushes down my protection, and second it sprays nasty toilet water over my seat. This is when I delude myself into thinking that I'm smarter then the electronic toilet seat. My plan is sure speed. First the protection, and before the great electronic eye has a chance to respond I sit with speed and urgency. Someone once told me that I can't move faster then light. I should have listened because the electronic eye hates me and wants to make my back forty glisten with the dew of others dew. At first the nice cool mist is rather refreshing until you begin to think about the refreshing source. By this time I'm totally committed. There is no getting off this ride until it is done. The only sound my stall mate can hear now is my cursing of the great electronic eye. I have lost the flushing battle once again.

The second disastrous scenario occurred in the same stall. For some reason the geniuses who invented the electronic toilet never put in an escape hatch. After completing my transaction and putting all the pleasant sundries behind me, I stood up waiting for the great electronic eye to faithfully do its part. But low and behold the electronic eye has foiled my bathroom enjoyment once again. The electronic eye refused my deposit and would not flush. I then spent the next five minutes trying to figure out how to make the electronic eye obey my commands. I sat down. I looked for every button I could possibly find. I stood up. I sat down. To no avail. I had to leave my stall in defeat, leaving behind the fruit of my failures. I sprinted from my stall hoping someone would not soon take my place.

So my first blog is dedicated to the geniuses who have violated the basic laws of choice and convenience. I'm a simple guy. All I'm asking for is a lever to pull or a button to push, and for my life not to be humiliated, again, by the great electronic eye.