Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thinking on Thanks

I am thankful...for the decades of memories I got to share with my mom. Some bad, some good, but all woven into the threads that bound us together. Family is a complicated beast, and Lord knows our relationship was a complex one. But at the end of the day, there were more hugs than shouts. 

I am thankful...for the countless miles traveled in the RAV4, for the late-night trips with the windows down keeping me awake, for the journeys with both my boys, for the Christmas trees strapped with salty language to the roof, for the safety and comfort it brought.

I am thankful...for the opportunities granted to me - unlicensed and unordained - by New Hope, to stand and speak my heart. I found a passion that I never knew existed, hidden under what I thought was my desire. The smiles, laughs, and open hearts allowing me to be me have left an indelible mark of joy.

I am thankful...for those who have taken my words and gotten something from them. For those who saw something in my scribbles and tangents and felt them better than I gave them credit for and deserving of a wider audience: Ashley. Lindsey. Adam (the man). Scott. Darrell. Alise. Your faith gave me courage to keep writing. And though the volume of my writing was lessened this year, the fire has not died.

I am thankful...to the craft beer community here in Columbia (and beyond), for amazing days and nights of laugh-filled memories, tastes of rare delights I never knew existed, and for letting me find friendships I didn't think possible. Shawn (always first). Julian. Travis. Nick. Wes. Joseph. Matt. Matthew. Ashley. Josh. Tyler. Ben. Andrew. I raise a full heart to you all.

I am thankful...for the decades/lifetime of memories contained within four-color theaters of imagination. Our journey is nearing its completion, and my closets will be emptier without you, but your contribution to my intellect, creativity, and personality will live on.

I am thankful...for Kai. For half a decade of teaching me to be a better person. For letting me understand what love feels like. For letting me be a part of you as you grow, learn, and take the world on.

I am thankful...for Eli. For endless dances, for laughter and smiles that make me heart so full it feels as if it will burst apart. For redemptive parenting. For holding my hand as you sleep and as you lead me on journeys where we will go together.

I am thankful...for Ashley. For without whom I could not breathe. For without whom, my life would have been a series of events devoid of meaning and depth. For the laughs, the fights (good and bad), the ways you tolerate, love, and help me to grow into myself.

I'm just thankful. For that next cup of coffee in the morning, because that means a new morning has come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Palindromic, Tribonacci, Happy Number Birthday

I see you over there, calendar. Littered with hash marks, ticking off the days. In what feels like the blink of an eye, another year will be here.

The years that have preceded you have each come with their own little earthquakes. Really. From 18 until now, I can look back and see one - if not more - major seismic shifts that hit with annual regularity. Some good, some heartbreaking, some pushes in the right direction, some free falls off a cliff.

Each year a mile marker on this journey of life. The ones at the start are still somewhat pristine, their innocence never having weathered a major storm and becoming tarnished. The ones that lie directly behind me, however, have chips, scratches, and show the sign of having stood in the midst of chaos for a year.

They all have strong roots. That's why they - and I - have never fallen. They are planted firmly in the ground.

My journey has taken me to this point where there are an equal number of miles to go that lie before me as what lie behind me, if not with the possibility of less before me than behind. And that's okay. It's not scary. It's a challenge to take those remaining miles and make of them something amazing. Something spectacular, to be found in the mundane every day rituals of life.

Every smile needs to count. Every moment of choosing peace over frustration or anger needs to count. Every moment when I have the chance to play on the floor with my family needs to count. Every quiet moment on the couch at night needs to count. Every meal I fix with a flourish, ignoring recipes and directions, needs to count. Every leaf I see falling, every sunrise and sunset I view, every breeze of wind that stirs the ground before me needs to count.

Every beer I enjoy. Every word I write. Every sentence I utter. These should count only if with friends and family who count. They should not be for my glory, but for my community.

Forty-four isn't a scary age. Trying to mentally see that many candles on a cake is, but that's why I like cupcakes.

Each one counts. Each one is unique, each one is to be tasted separately.

Like every day in life.

So raise a pint with me. Raise a mug of coffee with me. Raise your eyes. Raise your heart.

And count.

Everything.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

You're There, Right?

Every night, as I read Kai to sleep, I always ask him to get in his "sleep position:" laying still, eyes closed, and snuggled under the covers. When I read him a book with pictures in it, I always promise him that I'll read the words first, and then he look to see the pictures after I finish each page. But if I read a book with little to no pictures, he is theoretically supposed to lie there, peaceful and still, until he drifts off. But even though he can hear the sound of my voice not two feet away from him, he will on occasion open his eyes as I am reading to him.

It's as if he needs to check and see if I have left him.

"You're there, right?"

Eli has no fear. As a toddler, he is invincible, immortal, and has no understanding of how that as he propels his tiny frame like a wobbly rocket, he could easily lose his sense of balance and face plant. He gathers sticks bigger than he is with reckless joy. He tries to climb ladders, chairs, and out of his crib with a surety that he's got this. The only thing that stymies him is his mortal enemy: the stair. It cracks me up that he can be running at full speed, and as soon as he hits a stair - be it to go up or down - he stops, and without even looking behind him, sticks his hand up in the air for me.

It's as if he knows I've been with him this whole time, and he has faith I'm going to be right there next to him to help lift him up. 

"You're there, right?"

As my child-like faith gave way to the cynicism of my 20s and early 30s, I stopped looking around and holding my hands up. I felt like the Voice had been silenced and the Presence was no longer there - if it ever had been there in the first place. It is only now, after struggles, stumbles, and ending my attempt to be someone I'm not supposed to be, that I know. I know that the Voice I thought muted was only drowned out by my screams. I know that if I had raised my hand to grasp a Presence, that I would have swatted it away anyway, thinking I could do this on my own.

Now I know. That even when I don't hear a Voice, it's there anyway.

Now I know. That even when I don't feel a Presence, it's there anyway.

And that when I ask, it is less a question of doubt or needing reassurance than it is a simple checking in with a Friend Who is listening to and watching me.

"You're there, right?"

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Eyes Have It (Part Two)

(Click here for Part One, written about two years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same...)

Now having been a stay-at-home dad for two kids/five-plus years at this point, I'm fairly certain I have worked out what one of my favorite parts about being with my kids 24/7 is.

No, it's not the wizardry of coming up with innumerable crafts/activities to engage them so that the television stays off all day. No, it's not my personal dress code of cargo shorts, shirts of questionable wrinkles, and an unshaved face. No, it's not learning to master the art of cutting raw chicken while a toddler plays around your feet (although I am pretty much a badass at that bit).

It's kneeling down, getting on their level with them, and seeing the world through their eyes.

Eli is just now starting to explore his world, and man. This kid has some beautiful eyes. So much so that I've started nicknaming him "Sparkles" when I play with him.

Because they sparkle all the time
.
They look up at me with wonder how I got so far up there when I'm standing up.

They radiate when I'm down on his level with him.

They squint when he laughs while climbing on me while I lay down on the floor.

They get wide when I say the words "food," "balloon," or "dinosaur."

They manage to go from active to droopy in .000052 seconds when nap time rolls around.

They get focused and piercing when he's upset.

They look at me like "You get this, right?" when he talks in baby talk to me.

They explode wildly open when he gets tickled.

They become calm when he is studying an object for the first time.

They stay perfectly still and unmoving when he meets someone for the first time.

They close with peace and serenity when he's laying in my arms asleep.

And his eyes help me. Not in the sense that they can reverse the prescription on my glasses (darn it), but they help me to look at the world in the way he does.

With hope. Love. Openness. Trust. Excitement.

And fun.

Now if you'll excuse me, we have a dinosaur hunt to go on.