Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On Gaining a Foothold

Sometimes, lost is where you need to be. Just because you don't know your direction doesn't mean you don't have one.
-- Slick, "Someone to Watch Over Me" (Battlestar Galactica, Season 4.5)

When I first found this picture, I thought I'd use it for one of my solstice posts, but it didn't seem to fit with the words that came out, so I held it back until I found the right words to pair it with.

Sunrise always seems like a new beginning, a look forward. The solstice marks a transition from one season to another. And, as a friend reminded me some weeks ago, there are seasons to our lives...and the season I've been living through has been one of loss and recovery.

The image reminds me that while it's important to mourn loss and to allow the grieving process, it's also important to recover, to figure out where life goes from here.

I am still in the process of recovery; I'm still trying to work out some of the practical details, but the important thing is that I've noticed the sun still rises and that there's still a life I need to live.

It's a process and I'm sure there are still dark moments ahead; however, it seems like the vector has changed and momentum is starting to build.

I am beginning to figure the direction I want to move in. I'm still wandering, but maybe I'm starting to find my footing. Maybe I'm starting to get my bearings. More on that later.

For now, it's enough to mark...and appreciate...the beginning of a new season.


Photo credit: Grufnik

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Some Quality Time

There's nothing quite so good for a man's ego as the admiration of his daughter.

This year, the Solstice falls on a day that Kara would normally spend with her mother. However, because it's Father's Day, I got a little extra time with her. Spending the first day of Summer with her was comforting on many levels this year.

The day started with the traditional breakfast in bed, though it was "supposed" to be a surprise. I quite naturally had "no idea" that she had anything planned. She's never done this before. Nope. Never.

And, no, there was nothing suspicious in her a) telling me that I needed to sleep in until at least 9:00 am and and b) later asking if would it be okay if she cooked some breakfast in case she "woke up early." Nope, nothing to see here. All perfectly natural. Right?

Riiight. ;-)

It was sweet, really. And nice to be pampered for a moment.

I'm not sure how she finagled it (because she'd done it while at her other home), but she managed to get a few small things for me (shown in the photo). The front of the card says:

Dad, I will never forget many of the things you've told me.

To which, the inside adds:

Or understand them or do them really. But I'll remember them. Happy Father's Day

To which, she'd written underneath:

I love you and I sometimes will actually do them. But not so often that you get used to it.

-- Kara

P.S. You are a rockin' dad!"

She has a sweet tooth the size of Texas, so it's no surprise that she gave me things that she enjoys, clearly hoping I'll enjoy them, too. She knows that Almond Joy is one of my favorite candy bars (Because' y'know, sometimes you do feel like a nut) and M&M cookies are one of her favorites (I had gotten her one as a special treat).

She'd put a piece of her cookie in a plastic bag and used a Sharpie to scribble a sweet message:

My love is a cookie and I'm giving a lot to you.

Sure, it's a little corny, but I'm a little corny and, besides, it really was lovely.

We spent low-key day together. We played video games, watched a movie, played catch, and generally hung out. It was, in large part, a day like many others that we've spent together. And that, too, was very sweet for me.

And, later in the day, I managed to get her to slow down long enough to take the perfect picture for the magnetic photo frame shown in the photo. There's a blank spot on the refrigerator that's perfect for it.

It was probably the best Father's Day I could reasonably ask for this year. A sweet, simple memory of the best kind of Family time.


Photo credit: Me

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reflections on Perspective

To succeed in life is to be able to transform.
-- Blake Snyder, Save the Cat

Tomorrow is a solstice, the first day of a new season. Locally, it marks the first day of Summer and the longest day of the year. In your part of the world, it may be the first day of winter and the longest night. Regardless, it marks a new beginning.

Tomorrow also happens to be Father's Day and I have two sets of ideas going through my head at the prospect. I'm not sure how to weave them into a single (semi?) coherent post. Instead, I thought I'd work through the more difficult set of thoughts today so that I can spend tomorrow focusing on however much of my family I get to see.

Had my first marriage survived, tomorrow would also have marked my 12th anniversary. Two years ago, I wrote about the view from that moment. It was a happy moment, one filled with filled with love, hope, and dreams.

Ironically, I spoke of knowing then what I hadn't known a decade earlier. My, my. What a difference two years can make.

Two years ago, we bought this house and looked forward to making it a loving, secure home for our family. Today, I am (still) trying to figure out how to work the finances so that I can keep this house...so that it can (eventually) become the family home I'd originally envisioned, a place of security, comfort, creativity, laughter, joy, and (most of all) filled with deep, abiding love. Love freely...and fully...given.

The pronoun may have changed and certain aspects of those hopes may no longer apply or be possible, but the underlying dreams remain the same.

The following poem is dedicated to the perspective I have today and the one I hope to have in the future:

We do not know where our path will lead
Until we look back to see where we have been.

We do not know what we will see
Until we remember what we have seen.

We do not know how we will survive
Until we have healed from the wounds.

Move forward with faith, trust, and hope.
We only fail when we stop believing.

(It's similar to the earlier one, but embodies a different perspective.)

I believe in a better future.

I trust the Universe will help me figure out how to solve the financial problems. I trust the Universe to help me find the loving, trusting, and honorable person I deserve in my life. I trust the Universe to lead me to the woman who will become my best friend, my biggest fan, my greatest inspiration, my best lover, my true partner, and the love of my life.

And I hope that the perspective in two more years is one filled with happiness, security, love, and the family life I've been trying to create for most of my adult life...the family life I truly deserve.


Photo credit: Daniela Goulart

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Regarding the Spirit of Children

Give a little love to a child, and you get a great deal back
-- John Ruskin

Do me a favor, would you? Click on the photo and take a few minutes to look at it. What do you see? This collection of oddments, bookmarks, photos, pieces of candy, and, yes, even a baggie filled with Jell-O represents souvenirs collected during an evening spent at Kara's school, the culmination of an interesting assignment that I thought I'd share.

The assignment was called "The Night of Notables." Each child picked a historical figure, researched them, and then developed a series of questions and answers. The child created a costume so they could dress as the selected person and then created a display board that displayed their questions next to "buttons" waiting to be pressed. When a button was pressed, the child would recite the answer to the corresponding question as if they were a wax replica of the selected person. If you listened to enough questions, the child would present you with a souvenir to remind you of the person you learned about.

The souveniers in the photo represent (in no particular order):

  • Achilles, Hero of the Trojan War
  • Alexander the Great (a piece from the Gordian Knot)
  • Anne Sullivan (the teacher of Helen Keller)
  • Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile
  • Ellen Richards, first woman admitted to MIT
  • King Leonis of Sparta
  • Lady Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie
  • Leonardo Da Vinci, artist, architect, and more.
  • Mohandas Gandhi, pioneer of non-violent resistance.
  • Nostradamus, prophet.
  • Peter Cooper, credited by some as the "inventor" of Jell-O
  • Pocahontas, rescuer of John Smith,
  • Sir Winston Churchill, aka The British Bulldog (and famed cigar smoker).
  • Thomas Jefferson
And these were only the presentations with souveniers; I also heard presentations from Amelia Earhart, Meriwether Lewis, Robert the Bruce (including a critique of the inaccuracies of the film Braveheart), Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Erwin Rommel (aka The Desert Fox), George Washington, and even Saint Peter (as in, yeah, the guy at the Pearly Gates).

It was an entertaining...and fascinating set of presentations, though I have to confess I barely heard a word in twenty due to the noise. With so many conversations taking place in a confined space, understanding what was being said was difficult at best. It was frustrating, because I wanted to know what they had learned about people I knew a lot about, as well as those I wasn't so familiar with.

So I paid attention to the child making the presentation. I crouched down so I could hear as much as possible and watched as they gave their answers or read them from cheat sheets "disguised" as books, letters, etc. (I think I was the only adult who actively tried to listen to them at their level.)

As you might expect, I saw a variety of presentation styles and comfort levels with public speaking. Some children would look me in the eye as they tried to work through their memorized pitches and some would shyly look at the floor, as if to hint that they'd rather be anywhere else at the moment.

I recognized in each one, though, a passion in their chosen individual. A hope, a spark, a light showing confidence in their future...yes, even in the ones that wouldn't meet my eyes. It was an inspiring...and even rejuvenating experience in some ways. "Here," I thought, "are the notables of tomorrow and I get to experience the beginnings of the changes they will bring to the world." I felt honored...and humbled.

And it reminded me why I love being a parent. Because children remind us, as long as they still possess it, that innocence has power...and faith...and, well, hope. A child, perhaps, may be the only one who is still able to open Pandora's box and release the remaining contents into the world.

These children are at the cusp of adolescence. They are not yet teenagers and they are no longer little kids. There is the beginnings of experience and wisdom in their eyes.

I think the greatest sin is to bring pain to a child...and I think one of the greatest comforts lie in the love of a child.

We should listen carefully to our children, for they see things more clearly than we do sometimes.


Photo credit: me

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's Not the Years, Honey...

I've been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days and weeks, trying to make sense of what happened, how it happened, and the impact of the various changes that have taken place.

Four months ago, I was proud to celebrate my fifth anniversary. Within days, I learned of a betrayal...and as the weeks have continued, I have learned of other betrayals. Broken trust, broken confidences, broken promises. The hits keep coming and I keep trying to understand how things have changed so much in so short of time.

The most trusted person in my life four months ago has become, well, among the least trusted...and the least respectful. It gives me pause...and it's made me think...and rethink...a lot of the past.

A friend of mine, who shall remain anonymous because I don't have permission to "out" her here, put it this way, "Betrayal takes away your past as well as your present." She's quite right. I recently looked back at a number of photographs of earlier times and I couldn't help but see them in light of today's knowledge. The same is true of some of my previous posts, one of which I'll highlight in a couple of weeks.

Three years ago, I took a picture. It was just after the Reconciliation and I was struck by the loving emotion, promise, and happiness it showed. It meant a lot to me; I used to keep it on the refrigerator because it spoke volumes to me about how far I thought my relationship had matured. "We'd been through so much," I thought, "Surely we can survive anything."

I recently burned that photo in a personal ceremony designed to recognize the ashes my hopes had become...a ceremony designed to help me release those dreams. I want to open myself to new hopes, new dreams, new ideas, and new beginnings.

And yet, as I face the prospect of opening myself to these things, I wonder...how do I open my heart again? I gave everything I had to my previous relationship...and it wasn't enough. Can I truly take that leap of faith once more?

The part my friend didn't connect to is that betrayal also affects your future. One of the many questions I'm trying to answer is, "How do I trust again?" Here's another, "How do I open my heart that completely again?" A third, "How do I seriously believe that I can allow someone that much access to my inner self again?"

In one sense, it's hideously ironic...in another, it's pathetic and ridiculous. I have so much love to give and give so much of myself to a relationship...and, yet, I continue to fall for women who can neither recognize the rarity of such gifts nor honor...or respect...the risks associated with unconditional love. These women ply their own agendas. They take and they give as little of themselves as they can to get what they want.

Oh, I know. I'm being a little bitter and I'm throwing myself a nice little pity party here. But even as I recognize that, I also recognize that there is truth in these doubts. In so much that I can no longer trust either of the women I once called "wife," I wonder if I can trust anyone with my heart...or my soul...again.

It concerns me. It concerns me because I have chosen to live my life in a way that allows me to love freely...and completely. I don't play games with my heart because, well, frankly it takes a lot of energy to play games, energy I'd rather spend communing, flirting, playing, collaborating, exploring, giggling, tickling, cuddling, and well I'm sure you can imagine the next few action words.

When I think about the possibilities of actually having opportunities to suit those words to actions, it makes me stop for a moment. You know what? It actually makes me a little nervous, truth be told.

I realize that I don't want to go through this; I don't want to start over again. I have to, of course, but it's not something I really want to do.

I remember a certain moment, standing on a department store roof overlooking the Paris skyline. I remember the thrill of watching someone realize a lifelong dream. I remember the flash of love in her eyes...as well as the joy of discovering things in a city I'd never been and probably wouldn't have gone to without her influence, help, or dream. (I remember other things about that trip and see them in a completely different light than I did then, but that is a story for a different post. This post is about me and how betrayal has affected my perspective.)

I have to admit that there's something exceedingly tempting about running away. How nice it would be to grab my kit, spend my last few on a ticket, and blow this popsicle stand for a new set of constellations and a new opportunity at life.

I can't, of course, because I'm connected to my daughters and will not abandon them. Also, I have responsibilities, such as financial commitments I'm still trying to figure out how to meet and pets to care for, but it is a very appealing and romantic vision, isn't it?

I'm beginning to yearn for new discoveries. And you know what? I think I'm going to start saving for a ticket somewhere. Where? I don't know yet. Barcelona? Tokyo? Rio? Dublin? Rome? I haven't decided. I do know that my last two trips abroad included a person who eventually backstabbed me.

I have pleasant memories of those trips, but those memories are tainted. I will not forget the good times, nor will I poison them with untruths about what "really" happened. I will remember those times as truthfully as I can. A scar, however, is a scar.

I think I'm going to do something else, instead. I am going to complement those memories with better ones. It may take a few years to arrange, but at some point, I'm going to stand at an overlook in an exotic location, one I've never been. I will look at the view and will have my own realization, my own dream fulfillment. I will know that I am there in spite of the betrayals in my life.

And you know what? I think that's going to feel good.


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Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Message from the Aether

For as long as I can recall, I've collected bits of wisdom, quotes, and epigrams that I've found amusing, interesting, or worth pondering. I'm fairly certain I started collecting because a girl I knew (and wanted to date) had her own collection. (Amazing how that works, isn't it?)

At first, I wasn't very organized about it. I just scribbled things down. I didn't keep very good track of my sources either. I was simply saving random bits of knowledge that spoke to me in some way. I couldn't tell you where I'd found it, who had written/spoken it, or where it was originally published...but I had the wisdom.

Sometimes, I'd print things out and tape them to places where I'd see them on a regular basis, including computer monitors, keyboards, refrigerators, etc. The photo shows one such poem after a bit of mileage beyond what is typical.

I found the paper in the driveway one morning, dripping wet, bedraggled, and a little worse for wear. I don't know how it got there and I'm not sure how long it had been there. The point is that I found it and realized it was something I'd saved years before. It was something that had helped me get through college.

I can't tell you where it's from and I have no idea who to credit it to. I can tell you that I added the last line because the poem itself made a lot of sense to me at the time.

I thought I'd share it because it showed up at a time I needed the reminder.

The text is as follows:

It's not easy...

-- to apologize,
-- to begin over,
-- to be unselfish,
-- to take advice,
-- to admit error,
-- to face a sneer,
-- to be charitable,
-- to keep trying,
-- to be considerate,
-- to avoid mistakes,
-- to endure sucess,
-- to profit by mistakes,
-- to forgive and forget,
-- to think and then act,
-- to keep out of a rut,
-- to make the best of little,
-- to subdue an unruly temper,
-- to shoulder an undeserved blame,
-- to recognize the silver lining.

But it always pays (generally)

You might think it's a little much, maybe even a little preachy. Like I said, it was something I was grateful to find and re-read after all the recent drama. I took it as a message from the aether, something the Universe had placed at the right place and the right time to remind me of the kind of person I want to be, if I can.

I thought I'd share. Enjoy.


Photo credit: Me.

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