Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Time is no longer on my side

It's that time of year again, when our thoughts approach the aptly named January - looking back, even as we look forward. I'm one of those persons whose birthdays occur mid-year, so it seems I end up with a semi-annual self-assessment schedule.
It gets kinda quiet here in the Building Operations Center during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day - the docs have sent home most of the patients they can send home, lots of staff are out on vacation time, and the rest of us are trying to keep a low profile, as it were. So here I sit, contemplating this blank screen between the occasional phone call for a broken TV or plugged toilet.
I am constantly amazed at what's taking place at my home on a daily basis. Between my kids, the neighbor kids, the kid we watch after school most days until early evening, my house is a maelstrom of running, thuds, screaming (both joyful and painful, often at the same time), strewn toys, swinging lightsabers and jump ropes, and at least one TV with Elmo running on it. As annoying and bothersome as it often can be, I am, at my core, happy about this. Happy that my children are well, that they have what they have, and that my home is a safe place to play. There's the paper-mache' shark on the top shelf from Sam's latest Animal Report, a pretty good rendition that is as much testament to Vicky's abilities -- artistic as well as her ability to keep Sam focused on getting good work done. A few nights ago, Vicky was wrapping presents on the Family Room floor, and Sam joined her to "help". I sat, a few feet away from them, and pretended not to just be awed by the glimpse of the young man that I was looking at. He's still 9, but there are flashes every now and then that make me immensly proud and horribly apprehensive (regarding my abilities to finish the job) of him at the same instant. My goal for him this year is for him to become more aware of his impact on this family, and on his world. He's got so much to offer, I want him to see some of it and enable him to start earning some of his own "character points."
Emma, the enigma. After an oh so long period of just grunting and pointing her way through life, she's showing an interest in communicating with us. The completion of a good sign or word is a time for joy, watching her try a few times, only to give up in frustration, pure hell. It's been so cute, the last week or so -she'll walk into the room and say, "Hi", nonchalantly as you please. We've made a game out of "Dadeeee", "Mama" has been a lot harder. Although the words "Angel" and "innocent" are often not descriptive of her at all, living with Emma has a way of bringing me around to what really matters more often than I care to admit. And that is Love.
Vicky gets it all done. I don't deserve her. That's all this Gump can say about that. I just try to keep up, or at least look busy.
I've got to crawl out of this hole. I'm not happy that my bass amp is behind the lawnmower in the garage. I think I still have a little light, I'm just at a loss as to where to let it shine (for all of you Sunday-schoolers out there). I'm trying to prepare myself for some 'leaps of faith' this year. I'm not sure just what that means, yet, but I know that something has to change. I really hope that it's more than just my attitude, I'm getting kinda tired of lemonade. I keep looking for jobs in the paper, but there's very little listed in either the "guru" or "maven" categories, these days. I'd like to write a book, but I don't know what I'd write about. "A Book about Nothing" has probably already been written. I thought about writing an expose on the rotten underbelly of the Church of the Nazarene, but there just isn't enough material. There are, believe it or not, lots and lots of books about what it's like to be the parent of a child with "special needs", "special gifts", whatever - even semi-celebrities - so there's no real "market edge" there for me, either. Fiction sounds like too much work. Scott Adams has the corner on workplace nonsense. I've thought about writing "inspirational" material - but then I wouldn't want to end up like William J. Bennet, my seedy lifestyle and habits ruining my success. I'd write about how to negotiate your way through the healthcare system, but I'll be damned if there is a way, and I work there. So, I remain in a quandary. There is the story about how I was peed on by a Hippopotamus, but that really isn't enough to build an entire book around. Sigh.
So, I'm looking forward for myself to exhibit some out-of-character behavior this year, hoping that perhaps it will be more-in-character behavior, but I'm not making any promises I can't keep. Hope springs eternal. Thanks for reading, perhaps I've spurred some ideas for your own blessings-counting/resolution planning session, soon. Get on with it.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lord of the Wardrobe, or Disney's not-Lion King

I had the opportunity to see “The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” yesterday. For whatever reason, I really wasn’t in the mood for it. As this blog seems to be an exercise in selfishness, I’m going to say that the movie didn’t change my mood a whole lot. But it was nice.
We (and by that I don’t mean the ‘royal’ ‘we’, I mean our family unit) have watched several series’ of pictures, lately – the”Lord of the Rings”, “Star Wars”, “Back to the Future”, etc. I couldn’t help but think, while watching this movie that they’d just suited up a few hundred of the extras from Lord of the Rings for these battle scenes. Lewis and Tolkien were friends – perhaps Narnia is just over the mountains from the “Shire”. There wasn’t any mystery involved -- everyone’s been reading the book in anticipation of this release. It was rather more like seeing a play that you’ve seen three or four times before, looking to appreciate the performances as much as the play itself. The performances were fine, but none extraordinary, with the possible exception of the computer-generated lion. This story is Christian allegory, and the strongest imagery is embodied in that of Aslan. I shuddered in my seat, thinking what it might be like to actually stand before my Savior, one day, to be deemed worthy or not. To be forgiven. To hear him say, “What’s past is past.” That got my attention. The rest of it, again with the exception of Aslan’s “deep magic” disappearance at the end, and vague promise to return, was what has become pretty predictable fantasy fare. The “coronation” scene looked just like a “Star Wars” movie ending, or was that a “Star Trek” movie. . . or was it “Shrek II?” I am a believer in “archetypes” – and I certainly think that there’s no better introduction to them for young children than the writings of C.S. Lewis. Although I’m glad that Peter Jackson didn’t direct this picture - it would have taken two more hours to tell the story - there might have been a bit more passion, though. It is a well-crafted movie; my criticism is that, unfortunately, nearly all of the themes have been theatrically pounded into the ground at this point – which is truly too bad for this particular story.
To be fair, this was not made for me. There was certainly applause at the end, most of it, I think, from children in the audience. That it was picked up by religious groups and deemed worthy of their support speaks more to me about those waiting for permission, and those feeling a need to give it, than it does for the content. There’s as much religion in “The Wizard of Oz” as there is in this film, unless you’re already a believer. That’s the way Mr. Lewis wrote it, thank God (and thank you, Mr. Lewis). I won’t mind sitting through 6 or 7 more of these with my children, truly, as long as they enjoy them. There should be enough parental/authority death to deem them Disney-worthy, and I’m pretty sure that the Mouse will market what follows as effectively as they always have.
In the interest of journalism, Sam liked it very much. Emma fell asleep about the time the other three on-screen children fell through the back of the wardrobe, and snored through the credits. I only napped through what must have been the first expository section in the Beaver’s home. I tend to hold a special, personal value in those kid’s movies that I can sleep at; this film met that criteria too, minimally. I think it held Vicky’s interest, and, as she was holding Emma, she had nothing better to do. There’s little to dislike here, and talking animals and children who rule over dumber adults are always winners. To say that I’m quivering with anticipation for book 3 would be a bit of an understatement, but it’s a safe bet that, nap-worthy or not, it’ll still be a good time.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Twas Twas

***I seem to be slipping into pseudo-Seussian rhyme, lately.
***My apologies for lines borrowed.

Twas’ a month before Christmas, and all through the land.
Not a creature was stirring, from fresh tryptophan.
The turkey carcass was not even cold, yet red and green ornaments glowed big and bold.
“Black Friday” arrived, shoppers formed at the doors
For early-bird sales, and fighting in stores.
Too early for spirit, the gift is the thing!
Without it, we’re hampered, true joy for to bring.
Soon news of “Black Monday” grew on the ‘net
Turned out was a marketing scam to forget.
As newspapers swelled with holiday ads,
Malls began filling with seekers of fads.

Three weeks before Christmas, and everyone’s tired
Checking on coupons that, just now, expired.
Grumpy and Sleepy are dwarves, they’re not elves,
People just arent’ really feeling ‘themselves’.
There’s parties, and candy, and White Elephants,
And all sorts of unexpected expense.
Hanging of lights, and dragging home trees,
Pulling down glittery gunk from the eaves.

Stringing, and plugging, and looking for lamps,
Fresh aches and pains, not to mention new cramps.

Two weeks to go, the stupor kicks in,
We’re on automatic, obtuse to the din.
Slogging from store to store, weary and worn,
Our only nutrition from stale Caramel Corn.
Stashing our purchases far out of sight,
Collapsing as evening turns into late night.
Fitfully sleeping with heads full of lists,
We should be so grateful, instead, we’re just pissed.

The day is approaching; few hours left to pack,
Our brains softly pounding from Yuletide’s Muzak.
Standing in line, wishing we knew him better,
Could Uncle Bob even want or need this sweater?
He has to get something, that says that we care,
But we really don't know, so we keep standing there.

Please don’t forget as we just settle in,
That Christmas was just the “down payment” for sin.
The first “Hallmark” gift, that just keeps on giving.
He soon came to die for our eternal living.
Bittersweet joy, as you look at your tree
Glimpse at Him hanging there for you and me.
But just for a moment, please don’t be depressed
To know what His Father did, then, doubly blessed.

For there is no greater gift to be sold,
No precious glittering thing to behold.
Than that of a life given, so pure and free,
To purchase redemption for you, and for me.
It’s been passed to us, by those, who often had less
Who understood gratitude and selflessness.
Our wealth leaves us without a need for such sharing
What’s harder, now, seems to be small acts of caring.

So all that I’m saying here, in this refrain,
Shouldn’t have taken this time to explain.
I’m having trouble, but I’m going to try,
To be a gentler, more sensitive guy.
At least for a few weeks, I’ll work on my “cheerier”
Instead of my usual sneer, fear, and “leerier”.
I never would slug you, in line for a toy,
But maybe a smile from me’d slip you some joy.
If you were to return a grin,we’d both be merrier,
The world would get friendlier, then, not just wary-er.

Then, and most certainly last, but not least.
Save your best cheer for the day of the feast.
Savor the giving, not getting, the most.
And a moment or two for the Heavenly Host.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night,
Please Please Please!, I am asking, with all of my might,
Let’s make it Christmas, and not Xmas Lite.