Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On The Contrary My Dear Fatso

Once I was sitting outside of a Starbucks when this incredibly fat woman came out drinking one of those giant whipped mocha caramel things that are the calorie equivalent of putting several cheesecakes in a blender. As she sipped her creamy artery grenade and headed for a van with a special door designed to handle her girth, I thought, 'She will not live long enough to drink all of that. Pathetic. There ought to be a law.'

Then two other people sitting nearby saw her walk past and turned to one another and said something along the lines of, 'Can you believe that? It's awful. Pathetic. There ought to be a law.' My next thoughts were pure reflex. 'Who are these two idiots? This is a free country, she can drink what she damn well wants. If it weren't for people like her, who would buy these specialized vans? You want a bunch of union guys to lose their jobs?'

The important thing to note here is not that I can see both sides of an issue, it's that when anyone is certain about anything I become certain about exactly the opposite thing, even if it means contradicting what I said five seconds before. It's called being a contrarian. It means you love a band or a song until everyone else does and then you think it's lame. It means you tell all your friends about a restaurant, and then when they start going you stop. It means you want everyone to agree with you right up until the moment they do, at which point they become idiots. Along with my cynicism and cheapness, it's one of the traits I hope you guys don't inherit from me. Of course that pretty much limits my potential contribution to a propensity for wearing the same clothes for weeks at a time, but I suppose I have to give you something.

I've been sending out the book chapters as I finish them to a small group of individuals, mostly to make myself feel obligated when deadlines roll around. Today one of my readers called to essentially say that reading them had been painful enough to injure her brain. She had clear and well thought out ideas about what had gone so wrong, which I will boil down for you by saying that she didn't care for the characters, story, structure, or execution. The font however, was presumably aces.

Not that I'm new to this. Remember the short story award that made me cry and earned me a free sandwich? Well, after I'd gotten the good news I continued to receive rejection notices from other places I had submitted it to for months. Most of the time a rejection slip is just a form letter, but a couple places took it upon themselves to provide feedback. One just wrote 'nonsense' on the slip and another told me in great detail why it was not just bad, but offensive. You would think, award in hand, I could just write these people off as cranks, but it doesn't work that way. You won't have to become writers (let me start pushing you towards law school right now) to know what this feels like. At some point you'll go to a party, meet ten people, hear that nine of them loved you and one thought you were an asshole, and all you'll be able to think about is that one. The words 'You Suck' have a way of sticking while 'great job' goes in one ear and out the other. Everyone will tell you that it's the other way around, but everyone will be wrong.

When this happens, you'll do exactly what I did, try to obtain overwhelming evidence in your favor. Long before I heard you two were on the way and got back to the book, the first few chapters had been circulated by my agent and met with positive feedback. Today, I suddenly wanted him to get all these people on the phone. Why did they like it? Were they sure? What did they like? Did they like me? Would they mind writing that down and swearing to it on a stack of bibles? Could I just stop by to have them pat me on the head and tell me I'm good?

But in the end, there aren't enough people in the world to convince you you're good if you don't believe it yourself, and no amount of positive feedback will restore your faith in your work if you don't have it yourself. When someone knocks you down you don't get up because a survey says that enough people think it's worthwhile. You get up because eventually we all get tired of being down.

Being a writer is the only job you just announce you have. You can't just decide you're an airline pilot or a nuclear physicist. There are rules, tests, qualifications. The only qualification for my job is access to pencils. This means that there's a lot of us who should be doing anything else. I've had jobs reading awful scripts, and if I could have gotten the authors on the phone and begged them to stop I would have. When you give someone a bad review, you don't do it to injure them, you do it to help, to save them from themselves. You're telling them it's bad. You're trying to keep them from making it worse.

But when people get bad reviews, they all tend to discover their inner contrarian. Tell a friend you hate their spouse, you practically guarantee they'll see their fiftieth anniversary. Tell them they can't sing, they'll do it louder. History is littered with people who stormed out of rooms saying 'I'll show you'. Most of them never do. I realize that putting Matt Lauer and a talking beaver in a manuscript is probably not something anyone would describe as 'wise', but I'm honestly comfortable with what I've written and what's to come. If I wasn't I wouldn't dare to put it in front of anyone. Whether that's because it's good or I'm an obstinate jerk only time will tell. What I think we can be assured of is that long after you two get here I will still be receiving rejection letters, some of which will inevitably include the word 'nonsense'.

Novel - Nonsense
Dunking - Wk7
French - nunucheries

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Non Oprah Approve Nightmare That Awaits You

Pretty much everything in our house is either hard or sharp or both. Wood and concrete floors, pointy tables, broken glass thrown about for decorative effect, it's not exactly kid friendly. This didn't occur to me until a friend brought her toddler over and wherever he headed in looked like stitches or a concussion was imminent. Welcome home.

We've recently been contemplating how or if we can bring a highly fragile duo like yourselves into this joint. In addition to lacking soft surfaces, it's not terribly large, and the only candidate for a nursery is downstairs while we're up. At first I thought that sounded perfect. Who wants to sleep in a room near a crying baby? Apparently when it's your baby you're supposed to do more than just put an additional pillow over your head. Also, your mother and I routinely ask one another to throw things down or catch things that are being thrown up to avoid having to traverse the stairs, but somehow 'Toss me the baby' sounds like it's going to get a different reaction than 'Toss me my keys.' We've entertained everything from moving to buying a bubble wrap factory, but none of these seem like good solutions. I mean, people in NY get by raising families in glorified closets, so surely we can make a two bedroom, one office, concussion generator work. Kid friendly it's not, but it's nice to me and I was here first.

Your mom has also begun researching and purchasing the vast quantity of crap that it apparently takes to help you sustain life. You haven't been born yet, so you don't know, but pretty much all baby furniture looks horrific. You have two style choices: things that a fairy tale threw up or things that your grandmother's house threw up. When I heard we were getting a glider I was confused but excited. Perhaps this was how we planned to deal with tossing you up and down the stairs? But it's not that kind of glider. It's an incredibly ugly chair that appears to function by sucking up the soul of those who sit in it. Then there's strollers. Twin strollers. For newborns. And then the ones for not newborns. And the ones for toddlers. And car seats. A neighbor wanted to give us her car seat, an 11 month old car seat that's verifiably never been in an accident of any sort, but your mom says it's not safe. She says you can't use a used car seat. Period. I asked if this meant that all car seats had a shelf life of about a year and that landfills should be filled with carseats the minute a baby gets out of them. She said yes.

All of this points to a bigger issue that makes me want to put my head into any one of the numerous sharp corners avaliable to me: baby advice. To be clear, some advice is welcome. Don't reuse diapers, avoid flammable clothing, your baby cannot fly, all seem like nuggets that will be good for all of us. But the fact is there is no shortage of 'experts' willing to prey on the desire of every parent to raise a happy, healthy offspring, and no shortage of products they're willing to sell that will get the job done. Food, clothing, and shelter don't cut it these days. Our job is now to stimulate you with colors, toys, and sounds. To foster the development of your language skills with endless chatter, your dexterity with clay and playdoh, your motor skills with physical activity, your brains with word games, your sense of self with positive reinforcement. We should shower you with praise but never criticize or physically punish you lest we destroy your self esteem or perpetuate a cycle of violence. You'd think that before all these advice books came along we raised kids like veal.

The truth is that almost all of this advice comes from useless studies with abhorrent methodology and a knack for confusing correlation with causation. I'll tell you more about it later since it's the study of twins like yourselves that have gone a long way toward debunking them, but the important point is this. Your mother and I will do everything we can to provide a stable, warm, nutritious, glider filled environment. We will read to you, we will play with you, we will encourage you to play with others. We will do this because we plan to like you and like spending time with you, not because we think it is the key to getting you into a good college or preventing you from being serial killers. I used to tell people that if it were an option I would gladly have created you in a test tube, selecting hair and eye color, maximizing IQ and height, minimizing any resemblance to myself. They told me I was a monster. But once you're here I'm supposed to buy you Baby Motzart cds, or take you to Gym Crawlers class in order to accomplish exactly the same things (well, technically there is no class for avoiding a resemblance to me). And if I don't, well, I'm back to being a monster. The irony is that no one disagrees that me putting you together is a lab would make a difference, while no one has shown that what I buy you once you're here makes any.

That said, you will be getting new car seats. Science is one thing. Sleeping on the couch is another.

Novel - If I'm not finished with Ch12 by the end of this week I will just write "Scene Missing" on about 20 pages and hope that no one notices.
Dunking - The workouts don't seem to be paying off in inches, but they are killing me, which should count for something. But doesn't.
French - To stimulate your language development.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I measured my vertical leap today. After 5 weeks on the program, I'm afraid I've only improved an inch and a half, bringing my leap to 28.5 inches, which you may recall was the number posted by countless 300 pound linemen in the NFL draft. At this rate I will be able to dunk a marble by the time you get here.

Other bad news, I'm hearing that you might be ugly. At least when you get here. Apparently twins come early and look sort of strange. You will probably grow out of it, though that's what people have been telling me my whole life and I'm still waiting.

On the upside, now that your girl parts have been confirmed you're ready to graduate to your real names. Honestly, I forget which one of you was Bear and which was Danger, but I've got a system for which goes with which this time. When I face your mom the one of you on the right is Ripley Finn. The one of you on the left is Nixon Jones. There you go. Two kids, four last names. You will undoubtedly meet people who will tell you that you were better off as Danger and Bear, but trust me, when you're in a class with five Addisons and ten Ashleys you'll thank us. Nixon, it took your mom a while to come around on your middle name, and she still reserves the right to freak out and change it, but I think it's going to stick. Now that we've got you identified we've started asking you to stop doing things to one another like real parents, i.e. Ripley stop sitting on your sister's head, Nixon stop punching your sister in the liver. This isn't so you can get used to following directions, it's so we can get used to you ignoring us.

Have run into a sticky chapter, so I continue to fall behind you two on that score. It's really intimidating to sit here staring at a blank screen and realize that whether I get anything done or not, you're still growing, still kicking, still coming. I have a history of finish line surges, so I'm not licked yet.

And frankly, I'm pretty excited about having daughters named Finn and Jones. Please remind me of that when we're all on a plane for the holidays and you two won't stop crying and everyone wishes we would die.

Novel - Ch12
Dunking - 28.5
French - Joyeux Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shooting Guns and Smoking Pot

Experimentation is generally considered a good idea. It's cured diseases, determined the age of the universe, and led to self cleaning litter boxes. At some point in your lives people will encourage you to try everything from eggplant to skydiving. Even if you hate them, you'll be told that just trying will make you a better, more well rounded person. This weekend I tried hunting and getting high. Taken together they should not only make me more well rounded but unelectable in every state in the union.

Luckily the hunting came first. If it were second I might have actually killed something. Personally, I'm not really much of a killer. When I find a roach I generally build an elaborate maze leading from where the roach is to the nearest door and spend about an hour trying to help it find its way outside where it inevitably crawls back into my walls and lays millions of eggs. This kind of thinking doesn't really wash in Texas where there's certain things you're just supposed to do when you're a man. Hunting, fishing, and drinking beer are among the top three, and I'm not into any of them. I'll take your fruitiest cocktail over a cold one any day, I hate fish, and when I was a kid I shot at a bird with my BB gun and then tried to nurse it back to health when I actually hit it. It died and that was the end of my hunting career. Until this weekend when I upgraded to a 16 gauge shotgun.

The frightening thing is how good it feels to fire a gun. If I owned one I would be tempted to just sit around blowing holes in my walls and ceilings. The effort (moving your finger a fraction of an inch) and the outcome (KABLAM!) are so disproportionate it's a little like being a superhero. A superhero who kills things and blows shit up. Unfortunately, hunting is not nearly as exciting as shooting holes in walls. There's a lot of walking, standing, and dead animals involved, none of which are among my favorite things. In our case, the experienced hunters killed birds quickly and then took to flushing them out for the rest of us. When they would get a bird to fly past us we went off like an anti aircraft battery, guns blazing as a wall of sound and lead filled the air. And then whatever we were shooting at would continue on its way as if nothing had happened. The closest I came to actually killing a quail was when one hit my car. If I could have just condensed all of my wild shooting into the air into about a half hour and gone back to watching football, I'd not only be on board, I'd probably do it every weekend. As is stands I will continue to get my meat at the store and my drinks with umbrellas in them.

Which brings us to marijuana. When I was in high school I joined the Young Republicans and my brother got busted with pot. At the time it seemed like his actions were the dangerous and irresponsible ones. Who knew how bad the Republicans would turn out.

In high school the most important thing in your life is being cool. It influences what you wear, listen to, talk about, and do. I was never remotely successful at it. When you're as hopeless as I was, you sometimes go the other way, meaning that before all the various groups can disown you, you disown them, tell them you don't want to be in their stupid gang anyway, and you start cutting your own hair and buying Cure albums. Being anti-drug was less a philosophical decision for me than an avaliable niche. It was sort of like I showed up late on the day they hand out high school personas and ended up with Young Republican. I'm sure if they'd have known I was going to hate hunting and beer they would have kicked me out as well.

That said, the following is my experience with pot. In high school I smoked oregano with a bunch of other people and then spent an hour debating whether or not it was oregano. This put me off for many many years. Another time a good friend felt that it was absurd that I had achieved nominal adulthood without ever smoking and took it upon herself to get me high. This was almost as successful as the oregano and resulted in a lot of yelling about how I wasn't doing it right. Which brings us to this weekend.

This time the marijuana was baked into brownies according to a highly complicated and not well followed recipe. I ate a brownie. Then another. And another. And then one more. I felt nothing. Others were laughing, grinning, thinking deeply about the nature of the universe, but not me. Again, there was a lot of yelling about how I wasn't doing it right, how I wasn't 'open' to the experience. Say what you will about my umbrella drinks, it doesn't really matter whether or not you're open to them, after four or so you will be willing to show everyone how well you can do the robot whether they want to see or not. An hour after my last brownie, we declared the experiment a failure and I went to bed, still unclear why this was such a big deal for so many people.

Then I woke up. I have no idea what time it was. I had a series of thoughts, five of them to be exact, the third of which was that I was incredibly thirsty, and the last of which was something about being in a field. And then I had that same series of thoughts, in that same order. Over, and over, and over. If I tried to think about something else, dogs, toilets, being a Young Republican, I could hold it for a second or two and then, WHAM, I was thirsty, I was in field, etc, etc, etc. Each time the cycle repeated itself I got more and more freaked out until your mother woke up to use the bathroom and I tried to explain my predicament with panicked talk about fields, dry mouth, and fear that my brain was stuck on repeat. Tried, is the operative word. It really just came out as paranoid incoherent babbling and she rolled over and started ignoring me about the fifth time I said, 'there it goes again, see, I'm thirsty, see, now I'm in a field'. When I woke up the next day I was incredibly thirsty, not in a field, and not wild about anything that moved or produced light. That's it. What can I say. Not really the kind of experience that would make you an addict. Every time I see other people doing it, it looks like a ton of fun, and I'd love to have that experience. I just don't think I'm cut out for it. For me it's more eggplant than skydiving.

Which I guess brings us to the obligatory parent/unborn child drug talk. Here's the thing. If pot is the stupidest thing you ever try then I'll count myself lucky. I know it's not in my top ten stupidest things this year, let alone this lifetime. As a source of recreation it hasn't really worked out for me, but the idea that it's something we lock people up over while Budweiser sponsors the Superbowl strikes this Young Republican as ridiculous. As a father it's hard to see how I'd ever be okay with the idea that you might drink, have sex, or do drugs. But you will. Everyone I know has, and I don't think any of their parents were cheering them on. If the promises of every school sponsored film or 'just say no commercial' that I saw as a child had been fulfilled, the doctors and lawyers I know today would dead or knocking over 7-11s for their next fix. But life isn't that simple. It can't be reduced to a slogan. If being a parent or being a child were as easy as feeling one way or another about dead birds and dime bags then this whole thing would be a piece of cake. It also wouldn't be very interesting. I'll be glad to tell you about all the way I think I went wrong and the few times I think I got it right, but there are some things you'll simply have to decide on for yourself, even if it takes three decades to do it.

Novel - Ch12
Dunking - Wk5
French - Pomme de terre.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The One Where I Try To Make Failure Sound Noble

Let me start by saying that, in my defense, I can't tell you how many times before we were married that I tried to impress upon your mother how much better she could do. Get yourself a nice surgeon, or an investment banker, I said. Do you really want to spend your life with someone who clips coupons for ramen noodles? I'm not totally blameless. The gay guy in the aforementioned hot tub was a surgeon and if she'd gotten him to touch her breasts maybe they would have hit it off. That one's my fault. But, beyond that it's really just your mother's poor judgment that's kept us together. How's that for luck? She has one fault and it happens to benefit me.

Now as soon as you become humans you're going to be fascinated by all the things you can do. Reading, speaking, running on your hind legs while waving your opposable thumbs in the air, it's all very exciting. And then one day you'll realize that there's someone, or more likely lots of people, who can not only do those things better than you, but they look and sound better while they're doing them. And that's when you'll discover the most critical tool in the human shed, self deception.

Show a bunch of positive words to a human, they'll explain how each of them seems to describe them. Negative words, they'll detail how none of them really apply. Show them where they've made an error, they'll show you where the problem was poorly designed, the test poorly graded, or the Do Not Enter sign too ambiguous. It sounds like a bad thing, but if each of us had to face the day with a true accounting of how smart, attractive, or capable we were in relation to the rest of humanity, no one would get out of bed. The ability to believe that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, there's something different, something special, about each one of us isn't what holds us back, it's what makes us go.

Self deception is tricky since its job is to tell you that you're doing the right thing no matter what you're actually doing. When you get in your car after nine margaritas self deception doesn't tell you that you're going to run over a light pole, it says that you're going to glide home on a little cloud. Once you run over a few light poles you realize you aren't always the most reliable judge of your own abilities and that maybe you should listen to the four identical spinning people who are demanding your keys. And of course the minute you give up the keys you'll convince yourself what a smart move that was and how you're really awesome for making it.

So how do you know when to listen to the little voice and when to tell it that it's ruining your driving record? How do you know when you're fooling yourself as opposed to the only one who really knows what's up your sleeve? I don't really have a good answer for that, but I do have a horribly uninteresting story that I hope explains why I keep getting behind the wheel (have I gotten enough mileage out of that metaphor for you?).

I was working construction in Los Angeles and had spent the entire day crawling around in a ceiling and arguing with my boss about how much I sucked at construction and crawling around in ceilings. After work I went to get a sandwich, still covered in dirt, ceiling guts, and an odor that made other people reconsider eating. My phone rang and, thinking it was my boss who'd come up with another reason I should be fired, I answered it by just yelling, What? And then this very polite person on the other end told me that a story I'd written and submitted so long ago I'd forgotten about it had won an award. And then I started... I'm trying to think of a manly word for crying... bleeding salt water from my eyes? To be clear, we're talking about an award no one has ever heard of in a magazine no one had ever heard of. To this day I doubt more than 200 people have a copy of it, no more than 20 have read it, and only 2 thought it was worth printing, and they're both related to me. But there I was, bleeding from my eyes. I thanked the person, hung up and tried to pay for my sandwich, but the cashier, mistaking my eye blood for tears told me that there was no charge and that, 'things would be okay'.

So what was the big deal? It barely paid anything, no one read it, and when I try to tell the story the reaction I usually get is something like, 'you skipped law school to write because you cried and got a free sandwich?' The problem is that there's really no way to explain the feeling. How do you explain what it feels like to connect your own dots? All I can say is that up until then I knew a lot of people who didn't know what they wanted from life, and I envied every one of them. When you get handed your life it's just this pile of clay. Everyone else seemed to be able to make anything they wanted out of theirs, and more importantly, to be happy with whatever they made. Having a dream, a desperate need to make the clay look like something in particular, felt like an affliction, and if I could have taken something for it I would have OD'd on it. But in that little moment I got to feel what it would be like to have your life follow directions, to turn the amorphous blob of years into something that makes you cry to look at it. That moment wasn't great because it made me rich or famous or even employable. It wasn't great because it made me anything. That moment was great because I made it.

So as for moving on, I'm afraid I'm hopeless. As humans we know we're weak. When something's hard we talk ourselves out of it. Invading armies used to burn bridges behind them so that turning back wouldn't be an option. I got a film degree which is kind of the same thing. Does this make me a good husband or father? No. If they administered tests for either position I'm sure I would fail. And I may well fail at being a writer too. If I weren't trying to be all three it probably wouldn't be an issue. But here we are.

You'll find out soon enough that most of what I say should rightfully be ignored and that leading by example is not my strong suit. But if I'm able to teach you anything, I would hope for it to be this: When you're young someone will ask what you want to be when you grow up and they'll tell you can be whatever you want. Sadly, if that were true we'd be a country of 250 million astronauts. But what they don't tell you is that that 'what you are' can't be expressed as a job description or a title someone slaps on a brass nameplate. The truth is, what you are is much bigger than that, and it really is in your hands. Accountants or opera singers, I don't give a damn. What I hope you grow up to be is the kind of people who never stop trying to bend and shape the life you get until it looks like the one you want. It will rarely cooperate, but the moments when it does, however brief, will be the ones you never forget. I've had two: one in a sandwich shop, and one at the end of an aisle with your mother. These moments don't pay, you can't live in them, they don't last, and if they could be bought there would be nothing else for sale. But until you have one, I'd argue you won't really know what it means to be alive.

Novel - Chapter 12
Dunking - wk5
French - C'est la vie.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The One Where I Briefly Consider Being A Good Husband And Father

Your mom and I aren't really fighters. By my count (she probably has a different one, but she's wrong) we've only fought twice in nine years. Once she was drinking in a hot tub and kept challenging a gay guy to touch her breasts. Another time she ruined the end of a movie for me. In retrospect the second one seems kind of stupid. Maybe I was still pissed about the first. Anyway, it's not that we don't disagree, we're just more into debate than door slamming. I always thought that was a virtue, but maybe slamming a few doors isn't so bad. Everything your mom and I had to talk about this week, we've know about for years. Maybe if we'd just fought it out then we wouldn't be here now. But it's like someone told us we had a broken leg a long time ago and we've just been trying to walk it off. Thursday we finally fell down.

If I haven't made it plain on other occasions, the broken leg is me. Here's how I addressed it in my wedding toast (the fact that it had to be addressed while she was still in her dress kind of says it all):
What I’ve chosen to do with my life isn’t easy and it certainly doesn’t pay well, and if at any time she’d ever asked me to stop, to give it up, I’d have done so in a heartbeat. It’s a testament to just how incredibly lucky I am that the only times she’s used the words stop or give up, they were directly preceded by the word never.

What can I say, it sounded better in person. Anyway, while you could certainly say that I've been lucky to find such a patient partner, you could also say I've been incredibly selfish to take endless advantage of that patience. But if you put it that way it would sound awkward in a toast.

For a lot of years your mom was doing what she wanted to and what I did made no difference. I guess we just thought that by the time it mattered I'd have gotten something going. Well, with your imminent arrival that time has come. If this were a slasher movie now would be the part where the ax murderer is bearing down and the cute girl just can't get the car to start. You two are the ax murderer. I'm the cute girl.

The short version is that your mom doesn't love her job. What I mean by that is that she gets depressed and yells before she goes to it. You know what sounds like a good job to your mom? Turns out it's taking care of twins. But since the only house my writing could provide would have to be made out of my actual pages our options seem limited. That's why I finally said what we'd both been thinking. That's it time for me to give up.

The truth is I feel guilty sitting here stringing together sentences that can't finance the computer they're typed on while your mom wades around in other people's barf and blood (that's how I picture it anyway). Whether the roles of men and women are the result of innate differences or playing with Barbies instead of Tonka trucks, it doesn't really matter. The fact that your mom has to work while I sit around chasing rainbows just feels wrong to both of us on some deep, politically incorrect, get fired from Harvard for mentioning it level. She's given me years to do my thing. It's her turn now. And yours. Someone has to make sure that you have every opportunity to do what you want to do, right? If someone has to do something they hate, it should be me.

That's what we agreed on. Sadly, it's not even a matter of just getting a job. I have to get trained to do something useful first. It would be some time before I could shoulder much of the burden, but just knowing that it was coming seemed to perk your mom up.

So, I sat down and I wrote all this up for you guys. It looked like I said all the right things. Growing up, facing reality. The end was something like 'dreams are what you have when you're asleep, a job is what you have when you're awake'. Incidentally, it's just that kind of hacky writing that's gotten me where I am, but that's not the point. The point is that I didn't send it. I don't know, I guess when I read it over it said what I thought it should say, what I'd already said to your mother, what a bigger, less selfish, more responsible, more fatherly person would say.

But I kind of thought it sounded like a bunch of Dr. Laura bullshit.

If you didn't have the attention span of bees and I didn't have to feed a cat through a tube I could tell you why. But, like your mother before you, you'll have to wait a day to hear me take it all back.

Novel - Ch12
Dunking - wk 5
French - unit 2 lesson 2

Thursday, November 8, 2007

10 Items Or Less

Last time we talked I was burying a cat. Today we're having a feeding tube surgically installed in another one to try to avoid a repeat performance. Pets are a lot like children in that the things you're willing to do for them seem absurd from the outside and obvious from the inside. I have trouble justifying the additional cost of putting cheese on my hamburger but would gladly trade my laptop so that our cat can continue sleeping for 23 hours a day and walking on my head for the other one.

As for you two, we visited the doctor who is sending us to a new doctor that will be better equipped to handle your twinly needs. We've been told that it's essentially inevitable that despite my warnings you guys are going to put your mom down with some extended bedrest and possibly a host of procedures designed keep you in that little bubble relentlessly punching each other (yes, we saw that). I tend to think that with her bedridden for weeks and me desperately trying to finish a novel in the same house, we're setting up a very Stephen King situation. I don't really have time to explain that to you, but imagine axes, sledgehammers, and pre-birth post traumatic stress disorder.

On the other hand, your mom is getting a little burned out on work. Maybe time off will make her fall in love with it again. Or make it impossible for her to go back. That's what really kills me about our collective situation. For all I know your mom would love to stay home tending your every need as much as I would love to avoid it. I just don't know how to make that happen. Various strikes and so forth have made the movie look impossible for the foreseeable future. Millions of books are written and never published, most of which probably aren't handicapped with a beaver character. And it's hard to see how dunking will improve my breadwinning skills unless there's a circus somewhere that needs me. The truth is, despite accumulating impressive amounts of school debt, I'm not qualified for many jobs that don't directly relate to the movement or checking of groceries. I said you guys worried me because I hadn't really done anything with my life. I think you really worry me because the reality of you will finally make it impossible to keep sitting on the beach imagining a large ship headed my way. On the upside, I really think I could kick ass in an express lane.

Novel - CH11
Dunking - wk4
French - Je suis faim.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Via Con Dios Marvin

Well kids, Marvin died today. It's a long sad story that doesn't get any happier if you add words, so suffice it to say that my first effort at parenting was a total disaster. Hard to get much confidence out of the fact someone like Britney Spears can raise two kids and I can't keep a poor kitten alive for two weeks.

I don't really think that I can explain why I cried like a four year old over the death of an animal I'd known for less that the amount of time it takes my mother to program a VCR, but I think it was the sense that I had so totally failed. Failure itself I'm familiar with. I do it often, and like anything it gets easier with practice. It was the idea that someone else was counting on me not to screw up, or cut corners, or try and do better the next time, that I was unfamiliar with. Done right, failing yourself is inadvisable, but eventually tolerable. Failing someone that depends on you just to so they can keep breathing is a special kind of hell. I liked it better when the consequences of poor performance on my part were limited to feeling bummed out and eventually having someone send me a toaster.

I suppose this would be as good a time as any to tell you that all kittens end up in heaven and that Marvin is sitting among puffy clouds and Popes just waiting for us all. I don't happen to believe that, but after spending part of my day with a shovel in my hand I certainly understand the appeal. Personally, I think this is the good part, whether it lasts a day or a decade, a month or a millennium, and if you really appreciate how miraculous it is then you can't help but want to suck it dry. The only way I'm completely confident you can stick around is in the minds of those you happen to bump into along the way. Marvin showed that you don't have to do more than spend a couple weeks crapping on hands and asking to have your belly rubbed to secure a spot in someone's head for the long haul. And while I hope it's for more than my crapping and belly habits, if people manage to remember me half as fondly as I'll remember him I'd consider my time well spent.

I'm almost positive that there aren't any parenting books that say you should eulogize a dead cat to your unborn children, so please accept my apologies. I don't even pretend to know what I'm doing. It just seems important for some reason. I thought Marvin was going to teach me how to take care of you guys. Instead, he taught me never to take you for granted.

What a smart fucking cat.

Novel - Ch11
Dunking - wk4
French - Je suis desole.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Do You Guys Have A Snooze Button?

First of all, I feel like I'm getting some things worked out. For instance, you're both aware that I really don't find babies very attractive, that I'm in fact creeped out by them and would rather have a dog lick my eyeballs than a baby try to touch me. But Halloween has taught me that children can be cute as long as they're dressed up as small animals. So far I know that duck and lion costumes work and I assume there must be others. If not you can just rotate between those two outfits every few days for the first few years. And all this time I thought I'd have no interest in buying you guys clothes.

I'm also getting more comfortable with crap. Marvin, he's that kitten I'm bottle feeding, doesn't know how to crap on his own. I have to rub his butt with wet toilet paper in order to stimulate him. That often stimulates him into crapping all over my hand. If I'm lucky enough to put him down before he goes he tends to walk through his crap and drag it all over the place, meaning that one way or another I get to clean it up. Of course, I doubt that your mother is going to let me get away with just holding you under a running faucet and throwing you into a pile of towels the way I do Marvin, but we'll see. Maybe I can convince her it's a French thing.

I also find myself very interested in the color and consistency of Marvin's crap, something I hear parents talking about all the time. It seems that until you're able to start getting A's or applying to law school parents are still obligated to find something to brag about and early on feces is popular. I worry about it being too runny, or not runny enough, too brown, or not brown enough. It's like opening an oven to check on cookies only it comes out of a cat's butt and kind of makes you never want to eat again.

But every time I get used to one thing you two throw me another curve ball. It seems that in addition to your new due date you're now planning to put your mom down with bedrest for some extended period of time. Maybe you've forgotten who wears the pants in our family. It's not that I don't earn enough to bring home the bacon, it's just that once I've actually purchased the bacon I won't have enough to cover the mortgage, utilities, or another groceries we might want to eat. I can't stress enough the degree to which you are biting the hand that feeds you. Unless the thought of a bacon filled yet domicile free future appeals to you I suggest you sit quietly and keep your mom on her feet until someone shoves a speculum in there and politely asks you to come out.

Also, we were hoping the barfing would be ending soon, but somehow having two of you in there means there's ten times the hormones floating around so the sickness may never end. To be honest, your mom's gotten so used to it that she can pretty much be right in the middle of a story, run to throw up, and then continue \without missing a beat. My real beef is that it offends my cost conscious nature. I can't tell you how many times we've gone out to eat and by the time we drive home your mother has thrown it up. When she says we should go out for pizza I just want to give her ten dollars and say why don't you just put this in the toilet and we can skip the drive.

But the adjustment that's killing me is the lack of time. I remember watching the Olympics as a kid and wondering why the people who were losing the races didn't just run faster. Then I joined track and learned there are some things you just can't outrun. In my case it was anything speedier than an overweight junior high girl. This is my first week trying to do two chapters and I'm already behind. According to my schedule I need to not only successfully do it this week, but thirteen more times before you show up. And the truth is, even before you're here, you're here. You're here in doctor's appointments and showers and nursery decorating and cloth diaper research and stacks of books that I'm supposed to be reading but keep avoiding because they have pictures of babies not dressed as small animals on them. How can anyone with unborn children find themselves applying to a day care and still pretend that they're not yet a parent?

I'm the kind of person who spent his life asking teachers for extensions and postponements, and while I may be clinging desperately to the last bits of my youth, I'm too old to actually start taking deadlines seriously. I know it's crowded in there, but really, if you could just hit the snooze button for a few weeks it would really help me out. I had three decades to grow up and I didn't get it done. The least you could do is give me the full nine months.

Novel - Chapter 11
Dunking - wk3
French - Learning French nursery rhymes that have been guaranteed to make you fluent, or that was my understanding when they were given to me. Have added ants to my vocabulary.

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