Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Far Will They Take It?

One aspect of the whole Gay marriage debate, (holy war) which I have not seen is what the defining of marriage by Christians means for the rest of us who are religious but non Christian.

I was standing in the shower thinking about this. How can anyone really define marriage for anyone else? Maybe the state can say this is a marriage that is a marriage but that definition does not change the quality of one relation to their chosen one. And even if a marriage is defined as one man one woman not only can the state not tell me that I can't consider my friends as married.

I really have absolutely no clue what legally constitutes marriage; what does it get me, and my spouse. How I see it is there is a contract saying I am married and then there is the "spiritual" (I still don't know what that word means) side, or religious, marriage. The part of actual commitment. Lets face it as the Gay community has proven, at least to those of us who have been paying attention, one need not have a legal contract to be committed to someone.

This is where religion comes into the marriage. Religions are the guardians of spirituality (what does that word mean?) . I could have said that better, to me, the job of a religion is to help clarify life. Marriage is part of life, a sometimes difficult part, one that needs the help of a supernatural, supreme or enlightened being to keep going and to convince you that you should. Unless you are an atheist, then I guess it is your own convictions keeping you married or ...Love? (gasp)

Gay marriage is also a freedom of religion issue. What I have been hearing from my L.D.S. relatives is that they are afraid that without marriage being defined as between one man and one woman they will eventually be sued into allowing gays into their temples. Could this happen? maybe.
It seems that Churches should be able to marry anyone they think fit to marry according to their codes; within reason.

There are churches that already do actively marry same sex couples. There are recognized non-Christian religions that also do not have qualms about whether the couples are straight or Gay.

So, so what if the majority has decided to try to put their version of reality into law, it has not really changed reality for the rest of us. Fundamentally I will continue to view my married gay friends as married, regardless of laws. I know that this does not help legal headaches same sex couples face, at the very least they will know that their marriage has the support of all those who really matter.

Finally, Christians should keep this issue out of the public sphere and put it to the Christian theologists and accept that their version of reality is not everyone's. If someone quotes Biblical scripture to me I am likely respond with Buddhist teachings.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Equal Protection

A few weeks ago my family and I went to a wedding down in the SF bay area. We went down to see two good friends, who are raising their daughter together, get married. They have been living together for some time now and finally decided to tie the knot.

I have been to weddings like this, where two people who have been together for a while get married, the couples sometimes get ribbed that they are doing it just to throw a party.

I don't care how cynical it may seem but even those types of weddings are special. It is like they are coming out to their friends and admitting they actually do want to stay together and they are not going to just split up.
And to get the support of their friends and family they throw a party.

This couple in particular knew of the support they had. When their baby was born their whole community went to the naming ceremony. Then when the momma got cancer we all prayed for her and hoped she would get well.

Of course when we found out they had the chance to get married we dropped everything to go and be there to show our support. Plus there was not a whole lot of time. There marriage license would be denied right now because they are two women.

I can't say that I am mystified why anyone would vote to deny someone else's rights. About twenty years ago, I might have voted that way myself, not because I actively hated but because I did not understand that love is not some static thing that exists in certain situations but is fluid. I also really believed that my Church would not lead me the wrong way.

At the time of the founding of our country the idea that all people had inherent rights was pretty big, so big in fact that it was written both in the Declaration of Independence and into the Constitution. I know, back then, when they were granting rights, they gave most of them to taxpayers; men who were not slaves. Even though the other groups, women, slaves, Jews, and Catholics( in some states) did not get the same rights, I assert that the writers (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) really did believe that those groups were actually equal to the people holding all the power.

They must have known, that those other groups would eventually have the right to equal protection and voice in the government. They did not set up a democracy where the majority ruled. They set up a Republican government one where the power is not concentrated in one branch, one with courts to interpret laws etc. one that would protect minorities.

From what I have read of John Adams, I think he would be happy about the abolition of slavery and the subsequent civil rights, he would not be surprised by women getting the vote. What would he make of same sex marriage? I don't know. Judging by what was written in the Constitution I doubt he would vote to take away rights.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Memory

Memory is such a funny thing. Really, what is it for? other than to help us survive. You know, so you can remember how to get to the hunting grounds, remember that the good drinking water is over here, and remember that wal-murt is having a sale.

Sure, those are all the practical uses, the good things. Then there is the shadowy side of memory: Nostalgia. ( I capitalized it for the effect) Memory can color your past so that it is maybe more palatable. For example, in high school you were a depressed, self-absorbed nerd. (this isjust hypothetical) but twenty years later, you think of yourself as having been this sort of, avant garde hipster who was ahead of the curve. ( I guess that sort of sums up everyone who was into punk in the 80's then defined the nineties?)

Those memories can be kind of appealing, really you were very cool; you were just the only person who knew. And it is your memory, so hold on to it. This story has more of a point than that.
Let's say that you did not keep in touch with anyone you went to High school with, you lost touch the last day of classes your senior year. That is even better for your memories.
Only, one day it dawns on you that, "I was a really a self absorbed, depressed, nerd and not as cool as I thought" (this all comes to you a few years later, while you are making Latte's for the theater crowd, while listening to Eric Clapton's Unplugged album and one of the patrons suggests listening to something more...progressive. You sneer at him and say Eric Clapton is fuckin cool.)

So, then you think hey, if I still lived in the same town, not 800 miles away, I might be able to be in touch with those people. You are looking around you at the friends you have and realize that they have known each other since they were in grade school. And feel like you have not kept in touch with your past. Granted there are down sides to being that in touch but I digress. Sometimes in order to stay present I think it is good to have the past clarified. And when you keep in touch with those who grew up with you it can help.

A funny thing happened to me. In the past few months I have, on Facebook, gotten in touch with a few of the people who I spent my senior year of High school with. I have not seen or talked to them since the last day of classes in 1989. It was my most, up to that point, tumultuous year. (that is over stated) I don't need them to tell me what I already know, but it would be great if they can tell me what they were like.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ruthie: Cartographer

Ruthie and I were looking at the Eugene/Springfield bicycle map; Ruthie was quite impressed that we could find the spot on the map where our house is. She asked me what the map was for so, I explained that it is a drawing of the different paths one could take to get somewhere. This map specifically shows the easiest and safest ways to bicycle to those places.

She was really taken with the Idea that someone drew a picture of this and that she could do the same thing. So, Ruthanne came up with this:

Basically, it is a map showing the four schools we all go to. I would have to have her orient me; the two bear stickers represent two of the schools and there are two circles that represent the other two.

Monday, October 13, 2008

School?

I'm actively ignoring the reading I should be doing and listening to music. Ahh that is exactly what I used to do when I was in high school. Yes, it is true, heritable gene exposed to homework brings out this allele? Geneticists may be able to confirm for me if I wrote that sentence correctly. Anyway, I don't know what percentage is wholly due to genetics but, listening to SCOTS and writing down my opinions about me seems to be so, much easier than reacting to, an image or writing about John Winthrop for example.

And my psych paper the subject of does interest me; but is easier for me to have a casual relationship with and not one where I have to explain.

Charlie seems to be having alot of fun in school. He is learning to use the potty and looks forward to playing with his friends. Ruthie is also digging school, (I mean she likes school and is not there with a pick and a shovel) she has figured out the 1 and 1 are two and enjoys copying words. She has also found that there are other kids her age that she can play with.

Remember when.........you could draw a picture, play nicely on the playground and that was enough.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarah Palin: What If The Tables Were Turned.

I just watched the last installment of Katie Couric's interview with Gov. Sarah Palin. It was painful. I felt uncomfortable for her.

I began to imagine a world where Mccain loses the presidency (I am not making a prediction just put on you imagination caps for a minute and imagine with me)

Mccain loses, the pressure that Palin is now under is off. She is sitting at home, in Wasilia with her five kids, thinking about being a grandma and how a weekend trip with her old man would do her a world of good.

Palin: Lands I am glad That (the election) is over. Whew no more stuffed shirts telling me what to say......Do I need a Vacation........hmmmm....

Who can I get to watch the kids? (she imagines a list of people she could call) Karl Rove.....nah......too grumpy.......the Obama's....too busy, not to mention Liberals.......hmmmm.... ( A slightly evil, but kindly, mischievious look comes over her face...) Man McCain owes me big time. Ha

Palin comes home from her vacation on the sunny shores of Vancouver Island.

She walks in the door......to see that the kids have decorated the house with toilet paper, the T.V. is on displaying the menu for Nightmare On Elm Street. All the Disney DVDs are scattered on the floor. The house smells of burnt toast and rotting feces.

She is shocked, there are no sign of the kids.

A light tapping noise is heard from somewhere in the house. As if someone were trying to send a message. It's Morse code for "Please help, I am locked in the upstairs bathroom closet, bring food". Sarah rushes up stairs and finds a note " Mom. Went to Grandmas house. Mr. McCain is locked in the closet. p.s. Senators make horrible babysitters. signed kids"

Sarah Opens the closet door to find a weakned John McCain.
(Palin reacts how any parent would if they found the babysitter tied up in a closet)
Palin:"Oh John I am sooo embarrased, did the kids do this to you?"
McCain: "No I did it after watching the Lion King for the fifth time....the kids would not go to bed....and and....It was worse than Nam......" he sobs uncontrollably...

Palin ...rofl.......ha those darn kids...ha I'm sorry John clearly you just are not in your element. I promise I will never ask you to babysit again.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Charlie And I Are Starting School!

Number two son starts preschool tomorrow. I don't know why, but it seems to be much too early for him to be going, I mean, he is still so young. Bah! I hear you say, two-and- a- half is not too young.

Okay, Okay 2 -1/2 is not too young, especially not for Chas. He is ready and will probably excel at whatever preschool throws at him; even it is just food. He will be provided things that I don't provide like ...structure, for example.

Beyond nap time and lunch, I don't have activities planned for him like: play dough (too messy to clean up) Art play...(usually the crayons all get trashed after he does free form art (scribble) all over the windows and walls. Oh yes and potty training. This is something that I utterly fail at. Our toilet training program consists of him removing his diaper and going to the bathroom when he remembers to or if I catch him in the act. Without going into more detail toilet training is a primary motivation for me to send him to preschool.

The other major motivation is my entering the University of Oregon. The fact that I am starting school the same year that my daughter started Kindergarten has hit her funny bone. She thinks it is the silliest thing ever!

Maybe she has the image of me going to some big, adult version of kindergarten? who knows? She has no idea that I am not starting school but continuing where I left off a couple of years ago.

Even I think it is kind of silly that I am going to school; here I am basically going into more debt in the hopes that when I get out I can get a job that will pay off the debt. All the while, I know that I could get a job without going into debt and spending years studying a bunch of abstract stuff.

Sigh, ah but the problem is if I did get a job I would have to put the kids into daycare, either at six in the morning (because of bakers hours) or if I were lucky enough to work a 9-5 job for the entire day. Then I would be paying someone to raise my kids.

Going to school at least gives me the flexibility to keep doing the sahp gig for a couple of years, and I don't have to hand them over to someone else for long periods of time. Who knows, my writing might get better.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Haiku

Rain falls from the clouds
brown grass turns green

Apples fall from the tree
apple sauce tastes sweet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Charlie scares me!

About a year ago Charlie got hold of a very large knife with frosting on it. (which was more than adequate to cut cake with) He was in the middle of the room with several people standing to far away from him to just stop him. It was as if he was about to attempt to hold everyone hostage with this knife.

When I saw him with the knife, I had one of those "noooo" slow motion moments. Before I could get the knife away from him he stuck the tip of the knife in his mouth and licked the frosting off. ugh.

It was a scary two seconds.... Charlie has absolutely no qualms about using knives: to cut up cheese, put peanut butter on bread, cut the bread up.
He is a very resourceful little man; I have no doubt that he gets it from his sister.

I could be busily, working in the yard, cleaning the house or wasting time on the computer (not paying attention to the kids) and find them having a four course lunch: grapes, apples, cheese, bread, carrots. It used to be that they would tell me when they are hungry but now they don't even bother.

It is kind of nice; the only draw back, really, is that they don't clean up and there is sure to more of a mess than there would be if I had provided lunch for them.

On the plus side if I pass out, impale myself with gardening tools, drown in the sink or become otherwise incapacitated I know that the kids won't starve.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Presidential Politics

I really have to get this off my chest. I don't write about my opinions of national politics much because well, the enormity of it all makes me feel that there is no point to having an opinion. Presidential campaigns bother me. every campaign I can remember (that would be all the way back to Reagan.....I am only 37 after all)

They talk about changing things, changing the tone in Washington, changing tax laws, changing welfare, yada yada, change blah blah d blah blah. So, far from my perspective things have gotten better for those who were already well off and those of us on the bottom still have to walk a tight rope over poverty. (Wealth seems to me to be more of a birth right than a good work ethic) (who am I to complain, I mean I swore that I would always be poor and now I eat every day and I don't have a paying job) It is a difficult balance regardless.

I like to consider my self Independent, In reality the Dems have always had my vote, except for that year that Nader ran......sigh...... Socially I am not conservative I am all for abortion, drugs, wild sex, and atheists. ( I am much more consverative than that) What turned me off of Republican candidates is their distance from reality, they speak in platitudes that don't stand up to scrutiny. I mean Reagan, known as the great communicate was just a pitchman and was totally void of substance.

They talk about "family values" but then get caught in airport bathrooms trying to get lucky, and who can forget Bob Packwood.

I am more irked with the Republicans now than I ever thought was possible; I mean we have McCain who I viewed as being somewhat honest, shooting for the platitudes that will get the yokel vote. Not so long ago McCain was pro-choice now he is talking about banning abortion out right.

One would hope that if he gets into office he will stick to those wacky right wingers.

I am voting for Obama, but honestly I have only heard one of his inspiring speeches; that was all for me. why? Well it is that platitude thing again; he is a much better speaker than Gore or Kerry were. Gore and Kerry appealed to me because they did not use flowery speech, I just don't trust any one who seems to be trying to sell me something.

If Obama were not so slick I might feel really good about voting for him.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Gratuitous Poop Story

When I first moved to California, I lived in the Napa valley (actually a little town called Angwin in the hills east of the valley). What I liked most about living there was not the availability a lot of really good inexpensive wine, but the food. All the food was good. Grocery store deli food was superb, the scones at my favorite coffee shop melted in my mouth. The burgers at the local drive up place were incredible and all the food was fresh. Not only are there chefs and cooks with a lot of vision, the Napa valley is smack dab in the middle of family farm country there is a plethora of fresh produce. Even the local taqueria, which was inexpensive, had the best burritos and tacos around; I and my fellow bakers would get dinner there before they closed.

Not to forget the grapes. In St. Helena, where the bakery I worked at is, there are vineyards all over town; my son and I would often walk through the rows of grape vines to get to the library, his day care or the store. Sometimes, when the grapes were just getting ripe we would take a couple.....maybe more...and pop them into our mouths to test their readiness for the crush.

The Crush came toward the end of August and went well into September. Just when the grape leaves start to change color, the grapes come off the vine and are loaded into huge gondolas that are towed to the various wineries, Which, as you may imagine are also as ubiquitous as the grape vines . I did not take much interest in the goings on of the wine industry, I did not go to tasting rooms or drive around the valley and the surrounding hills looking for the best wine, I did have some wines that I thought were good. What I do know is that you don't generally drink wine when it is just grape juice. It puzzles me why it seemed that during the crush there were suddenly more people in wine country? These BMW driving fashionistas were not there to work, I am positive, since most of them seemed to be a drunk at the end of the day. They were definitely tourists. The other puzzling aspect was the smell, the smell of, well, fermenting grapes was everywhere and it was not totally pleasant, You would think the tourists would all wait until after the smell went away to come. I did get used to it eventually so much so that I don't find it all the offensive.

Right now I have loads of grapes, like a bunch of purple chandeliers hanging from my arbor, and ripe grapes are being crushed under foot on our porch. Charlie and Ruthie have been eating grapes by the handful for almost a month. (most of them not ripe)

A couple of days ago, Charlie walked past me and suddenly a whiff of something reached my nose that brought back a flood of memories. I was transported, I remembered eating tacos and drinking Corona at work, walking the vineyards with Kyle, buying grapes at the St. Helena farmers market. A couple of minutes later as I changed Charlies diaper I realised where the smell was coming from.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

IN The Moment......

It was a popular topic for myself and my twenty-something friends to talk about the virtues of being in the moment. We talked about the moment as if it were some far off utopia that once we found the path to, life would be smooth. I am not sure exactly where we came upon this idea, it came to me through Jack Kerouac and his books, Allen Ginsburg and Ram Das. I did not get enough information however, to actually narrow down that big Moment.

When those moments of conversation would turn to the moment, the magical mystical moment, not that last moment, often we would talk about how children truly live in THE MOMENT. Just watch how they flit from thing to thing totally engrossed for a few seconds then changing their focus. It is easy for me to understand why, when I was on the cusp of adult hood, I would pine for the type of awareness a child of 2 to 7 has. Everything is just new enough that all objects and experiences are amazing.

Now I am positive that what I thought THE MOMENT was back when I was twenty seems totally naive and....shallow. I realized this when observing one of my 2 year old's antics. Chaz was playing on our back deck (which we now call the poop deck) when he stopped in his tracks and pooped. I don't know exactly what went through his mind when he did that but my guess was what led me to my realization. First he had this funny feeling in his gut. Second came the poop. Third: uh ohhhh daddy there is poop on me. He has not made the connection between the pre-pooping feeling and the poop coming out, and he may not have made the connection between the poop on the deck and the poop that came out of him. (He actually is more advanced than that)

Imagine a grown adult who previously could use the bathroom, suddenly forgetting to go.

I really do appreciate the part of my brain that alerts me to run to the bathroom before I have those types of moments, and to want to live that way seems a bit backward. I have learned, since I was a twenty something, that being present is different than being in the moment.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Carry On Abroad

We are two weeks into summer vacation now, and we have spent most of our time working in the yard. Our garden is huge and is putting out at least, a ton, (A TON!) of veggies. It is great since we have little to spend on food.

My natural reaction to my wife having time off is to travel. This year is no exception; but travel this year is less likely to happen, not just because of gas prices. We have our livestock to take care of, our garden and yard still needs maintaining and, well, the major thing for me is getting myself acclimatized to Eugene.

Yes, I am still a bit homesick for Utah, (many ex Utahans don't get this.....sometimes I don't either) I can't put my finger on "one" reason why I miss the place; still the fact that I miss it remains; I also miss the SF Bay area.

So, staying put is a pretty good idea for me. If I visit Utah it will just feed my malaise.

We were even planning a trip to Moab this year......sigh......
On another note, when I was looking for pictures of Moab, I found this NY Times travel article about Moab and its environs. Take a look at the slide show. Their photographer needs to get out more. From this slide show, one would think that the only thing to see in the entire area ,around Moab, is Delicate Arch....(I am rolling my eyes)....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fathers Day

I knew , when I went to bed at 2:00 a.m., that Charlie would be up in five hours; he would not tolerate my sleeping much more than him. I knew, when my older son went to bed at 1:00 a.m. that staying up as late as he did, then sleeping late, he would wake up cranky; therefore moody and argumentative.

We don't really celebrate Fathers day or mothers day much. Mom does not get breakfast in bed, what she gets is a kiss on the cheek and a "Happy Mothers day." I get happy mothers day too, which I know has nothing to do with the givers gender confusion but with an acknowledgment of the type of work I do. (my equipment is what makes me dad and not mom)

I can't really expect much on fathers day. I can expect to have the same things expected of me that are expected me every day. Make breakfast and be ready to jump when something is requested of me.

What can I expect when we have all stayed up too late: I am depressed and whiny, my son argues with every suggestion I make, and my two year old, is, well, his normal bubbly, energetic, demanding, loud self.

So, I will slog through today and see if I can get a day off with my wife when school gets out.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fun, Happy Marriages

One of my favorite "Happy " couples was on the Front page of the Vallejo Herald.

I know it is a big deal for them; when their daughter Lucy was born they had to go through tons of paperwork and they had to get a signature from the donor in order to have Marnie recognized as a parent. (getting him to sign was not so difficult) Anyway, hopefully , the process will be easier now for other same sex parents to be legally recognized as such.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Zen

I am amazed that there is so much written about nothing.

Genjo Koan

We are studying this writing by Dogen Zenji at our Zendo, so far it is one of my favorites. What I have noticed is that when you get right down to the fundamental point, the writing is all about sitting.

Despite that, I think I will keep reading.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I'll knock on wood

I am probably really inviting disaster with this post.....

I was busily moping about under our gray skies, a few minutes ago, when I thought about the amount of time I have spent being depressed verses actual tragedies I have experienced. I have had nothing catastrophic enough in my life to, I feel, to warrant the amount of sadness I have had. I think about the typhoon in Myanmar or, the people on the bridge in New Orleans. I think of my friend who is in mourning of her fathers recent death. These people deserve to feel hopeless, sad, in the pit of suffering.

It boggles my mind that I even had depression as a teen. OK, maybe my sadness was warranted I was, hopelessly shy, a magnet for bullies and even my attempts at being cool, and above the popular kids did not serve to lessen my pain. Now, I am truly above such things...yes?

To compound the sadness, I had a bit of guilt thrown in. I was not supposed to be sad. I was born into the one true Church.... I must have done something wrong. I realize that this is simplistic thinking but the message I remember getting was that, the truth made you happy.

When I was a kid, coming home from a bad day of school, I would put a Bauhaus tape into my stereo and listen to it loud. Loud dark music does not pull me out of a lull anymore. Neither does wishing something really awful would happen so, I could feel better about sadness.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My son is a Princess

My two year old (whose name I will not mention) about two weeks ago was going through a puppy faze. He would come up on hands and knees and insist on being scratched behind the ears; then, in a non-puppy like voice, ask for a bowl of water. He would bark a little, then leave the life of a four legged and rejoin the two legged population.

Now, he is in his princess faze. Ok that isn't fair, really it is just that he is wearing his sisters clothes, which consists of very tasteful flowy dresses. Being the completely honest person I am I have to admit to my feelings of discomfort.

I want to just allow him to experience what he wants, but, there were a few minutes there at outset of his skirt wearing that I was insistent that he put on his overalls.

I decided not to fight it because I could not find any reason why I should. Besides, the only problems I could think of, were that wearing girls clothes might lead him to a life of say: joining the Lincoln Brigade and fighting the Spanish civil war then writing "The Old Man And The Sea" or heading the CIA. (So, boys wearing dresses equals fighting Fascism and writing books about man against nature in a non-descriptive style or well, becoming a spy ala J. Edgar Hoover)

What it really came down to, was avoiding the classic two-year-old meltdown, which I am all about avoiding when the thing he wants is not dangerous....

Friday, May 23, 2008

grr

Every other word out of Chaz's mouth is in the form of a scream and I am on the edge today. I am given to yelling today and I am driving me nuts.......


video

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Journey, and Zen

I was sitting during sesshin a few weeks ago, cultivating nothing, well trying to cultivate no- mind. (seriously, how can you really cultivate nothing? Maybe there are more advanced Zen folks out there who can explain that) So, I was sitting there on my little cushion staring at a wall, bringing about no mind when I hear this " Just a city boy/born and raised in south detroiooit/he took the midnight train/goin anywhere"

I managed to calm my mind a bit then " When the lights/ go down in the citay/and the moon shines on the baaayaa/ooh I wanna be thereyaya in my citay/ ooohoohooh"

Followed by more no mind and more Journey songs; I think all from the same album which, I have never owned or heard.

Really, it gave me hope that maybe enlightenment was looming before me. And, just like the pain in my knee, my stuffed up nose and my sleeping leg I needed to make room for Journey and not try to push them away so, the next time Steve Perry's voice manifested itself in my head with " oh the wheel in the sky keeps on trunin/oh I don't know where I'll be tommoroooohooh" I just sat with it and relief came around. Not no mind relief but " It's the end of the world as we know it/and I feeel fiine"

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Toddlers are Amazing!

Charlie has a most amazing skill. Maybe it is a sixth sense that only two-year-old's have, needless to say, I discovered it today. I was sitting at the kitchen table filling out my Oregon voter Ballot, when I had to check the bread in the Oven. Charlie, as far as I recollect, was playing in his room on the other side of the house.

Now, granted, our house is not huge, still, it is possible to be in one of the back bedrooms and not know what is going on in the kitchen; unless someone is running the blender or shouting. How Charlie could discern my action I will never know.

When I got up from my ballot I put the pen down, I stepped to the oven (three steps! not ten, or twenty. Three) I turned around to find Charlie traveling the pen around several twists on the morning news paper. I caught him just before he got to my ballot.

All I can guess is, that two-year-olds can smell an abandoned pen and tele-port to them.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ahhh Spring

This is one of our apple trees, all those blooms will, hopefully, be followed by lots of apples.
This is our front garden.

The Wisdom of Ignorance

I remember vividly how it felt to be an expectant father for the first time. It was scary. I was 25 and still trying to get over my troubled adolescence; how would I be able to process my shit while trying to raise a child? I was not afraid of changing diapers or feeding this little being; the fear I had originated in my emotional instability and that all my prejudice, scars and fears would get transferred onto him.

The step I took, which is probably the best thing any new parent can do, is to admit that I was ignorant then, I started reading every handbook on parenting and father hood I could get my hands on. I worked at a great bookstore....shameless plug.....called Sam Weller's, at the time, so had access to several titles, bad and good, about parenting.

At the time I was reading almost anything with the words Zen, Buddhism, and meditation in the title so, when a book with a title that was something like; Zen and the Art of Fatherhood came into my view I read it. I hated it. I did not get it at all. Now, twelve years, three kids and a couple of years of Zazen practice, I might have a better understanding of what he was trying to say. (I know it might be helpful if I could maybe give a glimpse of the contents of that book but it has been almost thirteen years since I last saw it, and that I hated it is what I remember.)

From what I remember the premise of the book was: that you don't know what you are getting into but don't worry, if you are aware you will know what to do, and you will notice when you have messed up.

I was much more aware of my lack of knowledge back then, my first child benefited from my state of mind, I was much more engaged; even now as I am trying to shift to parenting a 12 year old I am still more involved with him than I am with the younger ones.

The challenge for me is to keep remembering that, despite what I know about taking care of kids, I still need to pay attention to them as if they both are my first. (my kids are now, this second, trying to get my attention from my all important blogging...sigh. Don't they know that writing about my philosophy of life is so much more important than living it? Durn kids.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Want To Live Like Childless People

One common lament that can be heard in our house, between the two adults, is: "remember when, we could go on long drives just for fun or have a clean house, or not have to grocery shop every day."

Before the two youngest were born we were parents for part of the week and childless the other part. It was great; responsible adults one part overgrown adolescents the other.

What am I getting at? I am not complaining about having kids, I made a choice and am happily living it. I can't write about this without first bringing up the envy I sometimes have of people with less chaotic lives. I mean, face it ,even the most organized people lose some of that...ability? when they are faced with the chaos that surrounds young children. ( I was not organized before I had kids; I had less stuff. Now it is all to obvious that organization is not a skill I have ever had.)

This is for all the people who don't have and don't want children. Don't let your friends, coworkers, family members, or acquaintances who have kids tell you otherwise having children is a completely selfish act.

There is nothing altruistic about it, it is driven by hormones; by this want to reproduce. Adoption is altruistic. Reading to kids in elementary schools, becoming a mentor, giving money to charities that help kids is altruistic.

Taking your brother or sisters kids for the weekend is also a sainted activity.

I think that half of the people who have children spent a few minutes thinking about what they are getting themselves into they might not do it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Charlie and I took a walk around Alton Baker park this morning. Nothing like a walk along the Willamette River during a light drizzle. Charlie was, as usual, fascinated by the geese and ducks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From the Kids Book of Knowledge

Ruthie: " Why do parents tickle kids?"

Me: " Because we love to hear you laugh and squeal"

Ruthie: "Kids hate laughing, and we hate being tickled"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Boy is Living with us now.

Kyle is 12 now. He had his birthday in Oakland, at his moms house. Then two days later he hopped onto a plane and flew to us. He is here.

I have not been away from him long enough to not know him but somehow, I forgot that and have been expecting him to start acting really strangely. But he is just twelve and not some odd monster.

Sure I was a twelve year old boy once so, why be scared. He is a different breed of twelve than I was, and the world is a different place than it was in 1983. Video games are more realistic and graphic, there is more swearing in music......... ( I have to say that I was turned off by the macho posing, swearing, and attitude in some the rap songs I let him play for me. I have since reflected on those songs and what I used to listen to. I am starting to not see a problem. ) he is in middle school and for me, middle school and being twelve were an incredibly traumatic experience. I was so glad when it was over.

What I keep telling myself is that he is my son, the same one I have been caring for since birth, 12 will be no sweat.

Monday, March 03, 2008

There is a there, there.

I went down to Oakland this past weekend to hang out with my boy. I had planned to spend the day hiking in the Oakland hills, instead we spent our time socializing with friends.

We stopped by our old house and found that it had been sold again, and the previously lush front garden had been reduced then covered with rocks.

The tangerine tree, that DW planted when she was pregnant with the girl, was covered with tangerines. The boy climbed the fence and picked a couple; I hope the new owners don't mind.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Visitors From Foreign Lands

One exciting event that has brought fun and culture to our "white bread" house is Yuna.

Yuna teaches home economics at a high school on a small, tropical, Japanese (in the prefecture of Okinawa) Island. She came with a group of students from her high school, with an exchange program, that the high school where my wife teaches has been doing for the last 28 years.

Even though I have had a handful of friends from Japan, in my life, I still had stereo types of what the Japanese are like. For example: very efficient and clean, and loves to shop. None of the Japanese I have known really fit into that description, so you'd think that I wouldn't have been worried at all. Even the wife was worried that Yuna would not like our home.

As it turns out she loves kids, (the kids love her) she would rather go hiking than go shopping. (I took her to a shopping mall, after taking a long walk with the kids; she had about the same reaction to the place I usually have; "so many people, noise, lights, useless plastic objects, aaahhh") She also sometimes understands our sense of humor. Needless to say, she has been perfect fit.

When she leaves, she will be missed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Amazing Things My Daughter Says

That she speaks is amazing to me.....Not because she had trouble with language acquisition or something, only because that is what it is like to be a gushing parent.

I was getting the 2 year-old to sleep, and could not reach my coffee, so I asked my daughter if she would grab it for me. I thanked her for doing me this small favor. Her reply was "That's what kids are for; to do favors for their parents."

........of course I could not just leave that where it was; I had to confuse her by suggesting that, that is not her life's purpose. I had to remind myself not to get too philosophical with the four year old, so, in the end I just agreed with her.

"hey would you do daddy a favor? Go to the store and buy me some beer, then go scrub the bathroom floor"

"No"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spring?

I am not sure what caused it, but about a week ago I suddenly had more energy. I found myself putting up shelves, cleaning the garage, and, actually keeping the sink free of dirty dishes. More sun.....the days are getting longer.

Even on cloudy and rainy days, I have had less of an urge to sit around all morning, nursing cup after cup of coffee; while I read blog after blog, New York times, or play scrabble on facebook.

It is amazing what an effect a few minutes more of sunshine can have.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What Happens When...

....my wife doesn't have to go to work because it has snowed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It Snowed Today!!!


The last time I saw this much snow, in a place I lived, was the winter before I moved from Salt Lake City to Napa, California.


It was , as they put it in the newspaper this morning , near blizzard conditions.

Instead of driving the mile to the Zendo , yesterday, we did one of my favorite things to do on a snowy morning ; we walked. A snow storm is much more pleasant to walk in than a rain storm.

Our bike trailer did well in the snow, but the front wheel attachment kept jamming up and acted more like a ski.

Snow is such a big deal here, it only snows about two days a year, they closed school. The only reason I can see for them to close school for this little amount of snow is so the kids can all go out and play.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

When looking at my stats, at Statcounter, I have noticed that some of the searches that have brought people to my blog may have been searches for help. I have added the National Domestic Violence Hot Line , just above my profile.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ruthie and Chaz Model Citizens?

The two little ones and I were at a cafe this morning. They, the 2 year old and the four year old, were eating muffins and sharing a croissant with me. There were only two other people in the cafe, two middle aged women eating croissant with egg and reading the paper.

The little people sat there contentedly eating for, a long time, by child standards. Just as I went to get another cup of coffee Chaz (the two year old) was, obvious to me, starting to lose his contentedness.

I commented that, getting another cup of coffee, was not a good idea since I could tell that the kids would soon get restless.

One of the women said that they sure were good kids, and that they sure were patient. Whenever anyone says that my kids are good I always agree with them, but, generally I find that what they see as good and what I see as good are different.

After our brief conversation it was clear to me what she meant by good. He was not running around screaming in the cafe. Of course, I knew what she meant, if your toddler is running around screaming that is not "good" cafe behavior, you might as well take your stuff and leave. You won't enjoy being there and neither will the other customers.

It is a given that there is good behavior and bad behavior, for certain situations. If Chaz is having a tantrum it is much easier for me to handle if I am not in a nice restaurant; if I am at home or even at a grocery store I am less embarrassed. It all comes down to how I feel, and how I think me and my child are being perceived by other people.

I have accepted that a two year old throwing a tantrum is neither bad nor good. Every two year old has tantrums, at least all three of mine have. As they grow and their communication skills become more sophisticated tantrums become less frequent.

So, my comment to the other cafe customer was; he is being pleasant now, but an hour ago he was screaming.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Fear Looks to A Toddler

Charlie experienced a car- wash for the first time a few days ago. You know, one of those car-washes with big moving brushes that spin around and go back and forth over the car.

Charlie, having never seen one of those things before, did not know what to make of it. I am guessing that, he must have thought, that they were big furry monsters that were attacking our car. Not like the big furry monsters on "Sesame Street" who teach you how to count , hang out in garbage cans and eat cookies .

Charlie shook with fear......I wish I had a visual.......he quaked with terror....scared. His, always practical, nonplussed, sister sat there and tried to soothe him. "It's just a car wash Charlie" "those things won't hurt you...see they are washing the car."

Then, as if to soothe himself, he started repeating: "it's just a car-wash" over and over.

When something scares him now he says "it's just a car wash." We have added others. "It's just a machine (vacuum cleaner)" "It's just a lawnmower"

But really scary things, like white movie credits rolling on a black background, is just a car wash.

( I would love to be able to see the thoughts going on in his head when he sees things)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chaz's Latest Song

A song about a legendary older brother, who, looms large in the two year olds psyche-

"My Kyle lies over the ocean, bring back my Kyle to me"

"My Kyle lies over the sea, bring back my Kyle to me"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Former Saint

Recently, I have had a few readers from the ex-Mormon and Mormon community reading my blog. For them I am posting my Exit from Mormonism story; I wrote it for the Recovery From Mormonism board.

Please comment, and ask questions, I will answer all questions to the best of my ability.

The reason that I initially left the L.D.S. Church, at the moment I consciously decided to leave was pretty simple, I had no testimony. It was not an action of just slipping into in-activity but an actual thought. I could not say, with any honesty, that I knew the Church was true. This problem, and at 19  I did view it as a problem, prevented me from going on a mission.
My disaffection with the Church began earlier than that. As a kid, I probably was not much different from many other born and bred Salt Lake valley Mormons, insulated from the non-Mormon world because Mormons are the majority but enough non-Mormons so, that contact with non-members was common.
I can clearly remember that I had ingested the idea that we needed to avoid evil; in my mind non-members were not so much evil but had access to evil things so, obviously needed to be avoided; that philosophy only applied if they were doing something wrong, like smoking or drinking. As I grew up I could see how prejudiced my attitude was. Despite the awareness of my prejudice most of my friends were just as devout as I was, and I did not try to befriend people who were outside my faith.

As a teenager I was the type who took church pretty seriously, I never missed a meeting, went to seminary every day, I obeyed all the rules (I even turned down free tickets and a backstage pass to a Depeche Mode concert. Only because it was on a Sunday!)  Like many average teens the music I listened to and the look I adopted probably appeared pretty rebellious to other people; I was aware of that. Sure, I had spiky hair, wore a lot of black, I went to dance clubs and concerts on the weekend but my outer look did not necessarily reflect my spiritual life.
I was also hyper aware of what I thought of as fake righteousness. We were pretty poor, my father could not hold a job, and he suffered from bipolar disorder. When I was fairly young I was sure that my fathers mental illness  meant that he was not a righteous person.  Also If he were living the gospel he would be happier and would be able to hold a job.  When I was a teen and started battling my own depression I could see that this conclusion I made about him  was wrong but I perceived that others in the church and in our family did not see this.  I  sensed that my family, especially my dad was looked down upon for our relative poverty.  
The direction I took was to cultivate an authentic spiritual life that shed outward appearances and was more focused on my inner life; so I did all the things and tried to think the things a good Mormon should.
When I was fifteen I took some summer theater classes at University of Utah, through this I started making friends with non-Mormons, this was when I became aware that “righteousness” was not something that only Mormons had, I also discovered that even people who were not religious could be “good.”
This little realization was faith shattering. I realized that, according to my church, these people from other churches were moral, but they lacked the absolute truth that Mormonism offered. So, if they did not accept the “truth” as we saw it, even with all their good deeds, they would not make it to the Celestial Kingdom, the highest tier of heaven in L.D.S. cosmology. This bothered me, instead of just accepting this explanation I started to doubt that Mormon truth was absolute.

By the time I was 19 these doubts were fairly solid, they were helped by the fact that, despite my often desperate prayer sessions, where I would ask god for some sign of the Church's truth, I expected the "burning bosom" that was often referenced, this feeling often came in church when we were singing hymns and it came at a Public Image Ltd. show when John Lydon  screamed "anger is an energy."  I never did get the witness that so many had promised so, instead of doubting the church I doubted my sincerity.  It was really easy to tell my bishop when it became time for my mission interview that I could not put my papers in until I had some personal revelation.  My view was that my faith and testimony should be solid, so that when I went out looking for converts I would be able to really believe what I was doing.
My bishop told me I should just go and my doubts would be lifted. I can see now the wisdom in this statement; yes, sometimes you just have to jump and maybe if I had just gone I would not have left the church. With all the doubts I had, a mission may have just cemented my feelings even more, and I probably would have gone to a place with even less Mormon influences than Salt Lake City.
When my mission interview took place I was living with my girlfriend  who was not Mormon and we lived in a part of SLC where, as the local singles ward bishop put it, kids who don't want to be in the church anymore go. 
 After my initial break with the church my Girlfriends mom was pretty influential in my post-Mormon “spiritual” development. During the Late sixties she had become involved with a group of American Hindus. She had a guru and practiced yoga.
She gave me a couple of her guru's  books plus some others in the eastern philosophy bent. What grabbed me from the outset was that their idea of god fit mine easily. My idea of god had gotten fairly large in my imagination;  god was not this judgmental character who had a chosen people but one who loved all his children and gave them several ways to get back to him.
I began practicing yoga, not just as physical exercise, but as a spiritual one. I also devoured books about yogic philosophy and Buddhism. I read books by Alan Watts, Ram Das, and Jack Kerouac. I spent a couple of months living at an ashram in California, where I learned meditation and various yogic practice’s, and met other young people like myself who were searching for an authentic spiritual life.
This was an incredible time in my life, being free from Mormonism, I felt free to choose my experiences without fear. I believed fervently that I could free myself up with yogic practice and truly worship god with my whole self, not the limited self I felt I was as a Mormon. Once I achieved that state, I thought that I would really be living “righteously” and the appearance of righteousness would be because of what was inside.
I was also free to do things that are denied to a member of the church, which meant that I could make mistakes and not worry about whether or not I would still go to heaven.
By the time I was 24, I was as far as I could get from Mormonism. I was not interested in it, I did not think about it much, except when I traveled and people would ask me where I was from. My pride in my Mormon pioneer heritage became apparent to me; I loved to tell people that my relatives were involved in the beginnings of the church and had scouted out and settled the Salt Lake valley. My disaffection from the church did not change my feelings for my family, nor did it seem to change how they felt about me. I am aware that for many exmormons this is not the case and I know I am lucky in this respect.
By the time I was 27 I had begun practicing Zen, I had a 2 year old son, and an ex-girlfriend with whom I was sharing parenting duties. At this time, I met a woman who was about six months from departing on a mission for the church, to Bolivia. She was attractive, intelligent, well educated and a devout Mormon.
We discussed and debated religion a lot, which, I found to be one of her more attractive attributes. My Zen practice softened my bias against the church significantly enough so, that when she suggested to me that I take a second look at the church, I did. I also had the thought that I might go back to the church. I can’t say honestly that my attraction to my friend did not influence this; mostly going back would have been out of my nostalgia for simplicity. I decided that the best route for me would be to take an institute class.
I chose a class at Salt Lake community college which was taught by one of my former high school seminary teachers, this teacher was the only person who suggested to me that exploring other religions fully was not a bad idea. The class did not sway me in any way to go back to church. In fact during the class I got the impression that Mormonism was much more convoluted than I had originally thought. I also found it devoid of the pragmatic approach to spiritual development I had found if Zen practice. The other effect it had on me was that I could now admit that Mormonism was fine for other people, but not me.
At the time of this writing it has been 17 years since I decided to leave the church, I finally had my name removed about three years ago. I currently am a practitioner in the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. Leaving the church has been more of a journey than a destination for me; a journey that brings me back to it, in mind, frequently. One of my struggles has been to accept the parts of myself that are still Mormon, and respect those who practice it. The immediate benefit I can identify from this struggle is that I have good relationships with the members of my family who are solidly L.D.S.

(Now it has been almost 21 years since I left.)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Absent Kids

For the first ten years of my older sons life we were rarely apart for long; a month at the most. The two days of the week, plus the weekends, that he would spend with his mother seemed like an eternity at times. When he was with us I would just get to feeling like a normal family; normal as in the constant reminding him to "pick up your socks" or " no computer until you have finished your homework" normal. Then I would whisk him away to his moms.

I would drop him off, and drive away reminded that this was not what I considered "normal."

I was used to it, so was he.

This situation had its perks, my wife and I never had to find a babysitter if we wanted to go out; until the little ones were born.

When we moved to Eugene, I knew it was drastic, it would be a change that we all had to adjust to. I knew it would be hardest on him.

For the second year he spent winter break with us. Two weeks of 11 year-old boy. Light-saber fights, stinky socks, wet towels on the floor, one or two days of emotional turmoil.

Me, resenting that he wants to spend more time playing with his neighborhood friends than with his step-mom and two, drastically younger siblings. (he assured me that this was not the case, and I adjusted to his need.) We all had a great time with him, most of all his two younger siblings; who worship him.

His last day came. After I ordered him for the....millionth time...to please get your stuff together and pack; his step-mom found him sitting against his bedroom door sobbing. He did not want to leave.

Later on that day, at a pizza place in Portland, we talked about how temporary his whole situation is. Only six years and he will be able to settle where he wants, visit who he wants. We talked about the difficulty of our situation and who has it harder, him or me?

We both have it hard and the reasons are numerous.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Two

Chaz turned two yesterday. What can I say about him; just six months ago he was freaking other parents at the park out by climbing higher than they thought he should. When he did fall, I would ask if he was OK, he would say yes, then get up and keep playing. (sometimes he would cry and want to be held.)

I can't remember what his first word was, but I notice that, he says "thank you" every time I give him something he asks for, he used to say wow a lot, and there is the ever present "that's mine", no and " I want that.........." whatever dad does not want you touching.

Happy Birthday Chaz! It sure has been fun.