A Father and Bedtime

October 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny Thomas
487949_10153128667860187_451789761_nits time to write
part of the reason that I have not written recently
is that I have been trying to figure out how to make up for lost time
how to catch the blog up
well it aint gonna happen

here’s the thing

between the new life of working full time at an amazing job,
and having an incredibly busy and wickedly smart toddler,
with two amazingly active and outrageously clever big sisters,
and an unbelievably driven admirably ambitious spouse,
all of whom eat on dishes and wear lots of clothes that need to be washed,
I’m having a slightly hard time balancing all these blessings…
and saving time for a creative life.

I haven’t sat down to write a blog or a song in 3 months.

It’s not as painful as I thought it’d be, I’m too distracted or tired to spend too much time dwelling on it…

What happens is – on the rare occasions when I’ve cleared the decks and I have a bit of me time , I spend it either exercising or with a cocktail and whichever episode of Skins or Louie I happen to be on…

I will just pick one of the bloggable highlights from the last three months…
as a sort of post-cardy attempt at catching this blog up on summer, and back to school and the astounding development of this lovely family…

a few weeks ago I was a little uptight at bedtime…

maybe more than a little…

there are nights when I get wound up
at bed time
largely due to my own choices;
waiting too late to start bedtime,
not checking on the room before we head in to read stories,
(I have a hard time putting them to bed in a cluttered mess)…

sometimes though I get pushed to the edge because it takes
the rugrats far too long to settle…
and it turns in to a game.

with Lil Chaos it’s an ancient pattern that we found ourselves in when she was just a toddler…
It became a power struggle at an early age and there are still some remnants of that struggle hanging on…

at any rate, on this particular night,

I lost it…

I basically jumped right to mutually assured destruction,
I went nuclear..
without sending in ground troops or firing a warning shot…
I came in to the room,
saw clutter,
I was tired,
and began grumbling
tidying
prolonging…
and was never able to get myself to zero
so that
when things finally got tidy and I was ready to read
and Lil’ Chaos started to kick and fuss and flop around in her bed

I walked out

and told them they’d have to put themselves to bed.

I’m sure there are plenty of parents who believe a 5 and 7 year old should be putting themselves to bed all the time.

I love bed time these days.

It is our time.

Certainly, Jen will tell you, there are times when I need a break.
When I wish I had the gear to nurse the little one to sleep if she’d have me.
but most of the time, we are reading great books
and chilling
and having interesting chats

it is a good together time
and I feel it is part of the foundation I am setting with the girls for
communication and openness…

but…

not this night.

The thing that sucks
when we reach the “no story time” consequence
is that we all pay the price.

In a big way.

When they lose my help with bedtime,
it becomes a protracted,
melodramatic,
saga.

This night I was stuck
between
not wanting to deal with the saga
and wanting to stick to my guns.

Well,
my blessed daughter,
Lil’ Chaos,
in all her wisdom,
gave me an out…

as I was storming out,
grumbling about the endless
tidying,
and socks and underwear
and Barbie clothes on the floor
and the piles of crap on every flat surface…
and the kids’ inability to be calm in bed…

I heard my words,
probably my fathers words,
come out of my daughters mouth…

“Will you stop for a minute and listen to me?”

her clear, calm, adult tone jarred me out of my preoccupation…

“okay…”

“I have three ideas for you Dad, three ways you wouldn’t have to get to this point.”

“okay…”

“Start with smaller consequences; like, say this is the last page or last three pages or something, instead of not reading at all, take away pages or chapters instead of the whole book…”

“okay…”

“don’t let yourself get so mad about all this stuff… count to ten, take a breath…walk out of the room for a minute…“

“okay…”

“and you could just ignore me.”

It worked.

On so many levels – she convinced me – she came up with good ideas…
and also showed me that something is making a connection in there.
That, not only is she absorbing all the crap I spew daily,
she is able to volley it back to me and school me with it…

all three of my kids have had at least one or two moments like this,
in the last few months
showing me incredible levels of development and maturity…
over the course of this big transition…

from summer to fall,
no school to school,
pre-k to kindergarten,
1st to second grade,
at home to full time day care,
part time worker stay at home dad,
to full time worker,
summer “off” to back to teaching.

But lets face it we are perpetually transitioning
life as we know it is an endless tunnel of transitions…
There is not an end “thing” to become…
We don’t transform from chrysalis to butterfly
because it doesn’t stop
until we are dead…

and maybe not even then.

As soon as you think there is some routine to settle in to…
the lawnmower breaks,
and your car needs a new clutch,
and ballet gets traded in for taekwondo,
or something bigger…

At this point I am convinced it is more about
perpetually becoming a butterfly…
or finding your butterfly self in each moment.

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A Dad Dealing With Change

July 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

by: Danny Thomas

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man…
it’s been way too long since I’ve posted…
I’ve been trying, believe me, I’ve been trying.
it’s a combination of this new life using up all my time and wearing me out,
and the million billion things having this new life makes me want to write about…

but i have been letting these things block me for too long –

I am just going to try let it all out today in any fashion possible organized or not…. and unblock…

with the hopes that I can work to fit writing into my schedule again – even though so much of it is filled now with working…

sometimes the best way for me to deal with a million billion things – especially things as peripatetic as thoughts -

is to make a list,

so that’s what I am doing today to liquidplummerize my writing and get back into a cycle…

some of the million billion thoughts, in bullets… they are almost all contradictory…
• I am finally having to grow up, put the big boy pants on and carry some economic burden.
• it sucks to grow up
• its great to grow up
• its nice to support my family in this way
• it feels good to relieve my wife of some of our economic stress
• its hard to support my family in this way
• it does not feel good to have the pressure of supporting my family factor in to how I feel and think about my job performance
• I am not built to work like this
• I should be making art and music and writing
• I can do anything I set my mind to
• It takes time, practice, learning and patience
• this is a great job with lots of interesting challenges
• its fun and hard and exhausting learning new stuff
• learning new stuff=making mistakes=emotional roller coaster
• I need therapy
• I need acupuncture
• I need a massage
• emotional roller coasters are hard
• learning new stuff, making mistakes, overcoming hardship, enjoying challenges = good things to model for my kids
• working full time makes me miss my kids a lot during the day
• missing my kids a lot during the day makes it easier to put up with a lot of their shit on the evenings and weekends
• we really play hard and relax hard and our togetherness is more together now that i work full time
• it is hard to fit exercise in to this full time work life
• it is hard to fit a creative life in to this full time work life
• it is hard to get the laundry done
• it is hard to keep up with the dishes
• the kitchen floor is gross
• the dining room floor is gross
• the stairs need to be vacuumed
• I can barely read more than 3 pages of any book at night – including Winnie the Pooh, to my kids – before my eyes slam shut.
• it has been hard to learn how to work from home and sometimes hearing my kids in the house and not being able to go to them, or hearing my wife get hassled by the kids and not being able to come to her aid – is like torture
• shifting from part-time, non-profit, artsy jobs for the last ten+ years to a more than full time, corporate, sciencey, start-up job is a major culture shock
• add to that working from home and the work itself…
• this process been layer upon layer of multitudinous learning curves
• I wish I could talk to my dad about all this
• his job 30 years ago was a lot like what I do now…
• he was training people to use computerized accounting systems
• I am training people to integrate accounting systems and put those systems on the cloud…
• cats in the cradle…
• my dad would have a lot of thoughts on dealing with the internal turmoil of being a poet type person who has to “punch the clock” as it were – to make ends meet.
• there are so many things about this job that are great and interesting and unique…
• it is a great fit for a creative person in many ways
• there is so much opportunity to be innovative and imaginative and problem solve
• and work with people…
• and there is also this voice in the back of my head doubting if I can hack it
• and also questioning if it is the right place for me
• it might be the same voice…just…disguising itself…

i am so glad i have my family.

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A Pat On The Back.

By: Danny Thomas

IMG_6467

here I am…
sitting on the end of the bed
with a pile of laundry
literally
looming
over my computer.
Everything is looming right now;
spring,
the river,
the future,
the past,
relationships,
colleagues…
Jennifer and I
are occupying the land of loom…
it seems to happen with us a lot.

oh Christ…
are we those people…

with the drama,
and the constant crises?

Probably.
Sometimes…
we are.
Probably
sometimes
all of us are.

Oh well.

sorry.

This week,
the last six days,
have been intense.

How many parenting and family blogs have that line in them?
How self reflective can I be in one blog?

I started my new job full time.
I haven’t had a full time job in ten years…
The whole time Jen was in grad-school
we got by with me
being a home maker
and bringing in a little extra dough for
beer and wine and whatever recreation..
and
also
of course
student loans…
and food stamps.

I am not one of those people who claims to have put my spouse through
grad school…

I have very much been in
along-for-the-ride mode.

So…

that’s a big shift.
But that is only one aspect
of our intense week…

Also,
all three children
got a stomach flu.
And it lasted for the entire week in ‘Zilla’s poor little belly…
So strange.

Another reminder how they are all unique,
not just in how they look
and interact
with the world…

but even down to their chemistry
and how their guts work…

that the same flu
can sit with one kid for 4 days
and be through the system of the other two
over the course of 36 hours.

Bananas…

But that’s a blog for a different day.

So that’s two aspects…

and a third
it’s the last week of school for Jen
which means;
extra hours…
grading,
finals,
graduation,
showcases,
stuff like that…

phew

anyway…

my point is
We. Made. It

We made it through the week,
and here we are, enjoying the weekend.

We had a great,
wonderful,
special adventure yesterday
after ballet…
celebrating free comic book day.
And we watched a movie together…
And we are
a family
who loves each other,
and who eats well…
and together…
and who
gets sick together too
and props each other up
through
these big shifts in life…
who guide each other
through the looming future.

And sometimes it takes the crucible of hard times,
or the catalyst of big changes
to see that
or be reminded of it.

We are a team
and we do well together
more often than we fail
and that’s worth noting.
It’s worth celebrating.
As a matter of fact,
as often as possible.

I have talked about this blog
being a vessel of positive
self reflection,
that when I started writing it
I made a conscious decision
to use this as a place to
be thoughtful
and positive.
Knowing that there are plenty of trolls on the internet,
enough critics,
and more than enough depressing pessimism.

I am not always jolly
and I don’t always write about easy stuff,
or good feelings…
but I think we can
lead an examined life
that is also a positive one
and that is a goal,
hope,
vision of mine…
That my better self
has a sense of humor
about being self-critical

and can be gentle about being critical of others…

and knows it’s necessary,
but also knows…
there is a way
to do it
and a way to reflect
that is helping us to know
we are okay
as much as it helping us
to be our better selves…

I was inspired and reminded of my
commitment to optimism
yesterday
when I read this blog by Steve Wiens….

I am inspired to start
patting my parent self on the back
occasionally.

I hope you join me.

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Work and play. Play and work…

April 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Kids, Parenting, Urban Dweller

 

By: Danny ThomasIMG_2290I think it’s interesting
and not insignificant
that Jennifer and I
both seem to use the words
“work” and “play”
interchangeably.

we are both students of theatre
so that has to be a factor
because
theatre
on some levels,
like many arts,
if you’re doing it right
I think,
is a vocation
largely devoted
to playing.

in my music
and my writing
I work at playing too
and I play at working…

I was in the kitchen…
cleaning the thing
which we can’t decide
whether to call
a griddle or a skillet
so we call it a skiddle…

anyway,
I was cleaning that
and I heard Jennifer say to the girls.
“You guys are working really well together…
you are playing nice.”
to the older girls
who were playing some math games
on the iPad.

I guess
I am just grateful that
I have partnered with
and get to co-parent
with someone
who, like me,
sees these things; “work” and “play”
as intertwined or symbiotic, if not actually one and the same…
who takes playing seriously and sees the fun in work.

Not long after Maya was born
I was talking with an acquaintance,
a guy who modeled at the art gallery where I worked.
(I got to meet some interesting characters in that job!)
I was talking about the idea that as much as I had wanted to be a dad
for nigh on 10 years
and that as much as we had prepared
by reading books
and watching movies
and talking to parents
our minds were still blown…
by becoming parents

and the responsibility…
the work of parenting
was particularly mind-blowing
in that it is work… it is Work.
but it is different than any other kind of work
i’ll ever do.
and the difference is ineffable
again,
here I am trying to eff the ineffable…
but these are the places
my mind occupies
when I sit down
to write…
or maybe I should say
these are the things
that occupy my mind…
whatever…

It is a unique work, and a work that relates to art making
in that it is creative
and compelling
and born out of love,
at least under the best circumstances.
it is a work that most of us who do it
do because
we feel obliged to or inspired to
or both.
It is a unique kind of
responsibility
not free of resentment
but an commitment that comes with a tender reward
that can only marginally be expressed by the joy I feel watching the flicker of an eyelash and last final sigh before the rhythmic breathing of deep sleep settles in… or the ecstasy on the face of a mudcovered child… or the profound fear of watching a ball roll down the driveway, child in tow… knowing that I can’t get there in time and hoping that my voice does the trick… and the relief I feel when it does.

back to the story…

I was talking to this guy
who was not a parent…
But definitely was a dude
with an interesting perspective
and outlook.
a model, working on a degree
in ecology… sustainability in particular…
our previous conversations had ranged from
Carlos Castaneda, to Kurt Vonnegut…
and Pink Floyd to Complexity Theory…
This was in Eugene, Oregon, mind you,
a place where chances are high that your bartender has a PhD in Physics…
or is high on psilocybin…
or both.

So this shaggy, brainy male model and I were having a conversation on parenting and he recommended a book to me… the book was The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff…

A book not originally intended as a parenting book… but over time was adopted as one…

Many, many ideas from the book resonated with me, and as I have mentioned in the past, I don’t believe any book or author is a panacea, there is no magic recipe for any family, relationship or person… however… there are certainly lessons to be gleaned and important ideas to share and think about in so much of what is floating around…

So, of the many ideas that struck a chord with me – one of the prominent ones that applies to the ideas bouncing around in my brain today – is the notion that these indigenous tribes that Jean Liedloff spent time with had no concept of a distinction between work and play… they all just did what they could, with the faith that everyone was making a valid and significant contribution…

I should probably go look up that section of the book,
I may be characterizing it incorrectly
but it was something along the lines of they had no separate words for work or play…

We don’t live among the tribes of the Yequana Indians in the jungles of South America, so the reality is we can’t exactly mirror their lifestyle… but there certainly are lessons to be learned, and that knowledge can inform how we approach our work, and our play, and the work/play of raising kids.

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The Wisdom to Tell the Difference

April 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny Thomas

seaside 2009 084

I sat in the nursery
holding the baby
for what felt like
the fifteenth hour in a row
it was the morning nap…
but I had spent all night in the
chair
rocking
and shushing
and holding
her
and her poor, sore, teething mouth…

getting her down
for the morning nap
had been a relatively painless endeavor
probably due to
the restless
night’s sleep.

but I was still feeling peevish
and my body was awkwardly cocked
in some rutty position
for fear of waking
Zuzu…

it was late morning
and I was watching the sunlight travel across the walls
in my distracted slumbering state…
and I noticed that
when we rearranged the room,
moving the crib and dresser
so that the heater
could actually heat the room,
we left the pictures
as they were…

and
it looked off.

just a little odd,
out of balance…
and I thought
well we need to change that.
fix it…

and that led to a whole
storm of thoughts
about change…

about how our instinct
or our reflex, rather…
is to look at things
and think about how they
should be
rather than to
see them
how they are
and accept it.

my life should be like this.
my house should be like that.
my job should be like so.
those people should be this way.
these people should be that way.
this table should not be swathed in sticky.
there should be a flat surface in my house not covered with stuff.

and this is the
default we seem to have as a culture,
that I seem to have
as an individual…

especially when things are
hard
or
uncomfortable
or
messy…

that if we change it
fix it
tweak it
in just the right way
it will be better
and it
won’t be
hard anymore.

we believe
we will
never be uncomfortable again…
we believe
the mess
will go away.

the vacuum
and the oven will clean themselves
the piles of papers
accumulated from school bags
and the mailbox
will be neatly tucked away
and our
living room
and dining room
and bedrooms
will look like
pages from architectural digest
or better homes and gardens.

if I can just pin
the perfect solution
just one more idea
it will all fall into place.

if we can just make a little more money
if we just had a few more square feet
if I just had a little more time
maybe if we try the couch over here…

if I change to this other laundry soap
this other anti-depressant
maybe if I change my lifestyle
give up that vice
just change my diet
if I change how I sleep
I’ll feel so much better.

there are books and blogs
and pin after pin after pin…
there are gurus and psychics
doctors and financial planners…

self-helpers of every stripe
many with the best intentions…
some a little more dubious
helping people change.
make that little change…

we are bent on changing things.
fixing things.

and I am far from an expert
but I am starting to think
that there is no special formula
no guide to life
no pill, product, or prophet
that is going to make this mess go away
that is going to relieve the moments of frustration…
discomfort pervades.

any formula
any chart
or graph
or plan
with six easy steps or less
determining your goal
and routing a plan
step by step
through life
to achieve that goal
while noble
and necessary
is also treacherous
and at least partially misguided
and here is why…

the tides…
there is this feeling that to navigate life
what you need is something like a tidal calendar…

but if life is like the tides…
if we are in a life that flows like the tide…
we are, if we are lucky, a stone, but more likely, a grain of sand
getting tossed in the chaos of each wave

more like a grain of sand, anyway, than a fisherman or sailor.

today
I’m hoping that I have enough of an idea of who I am
in my little grain-of-sand-y soul
to float through those entropic waves
and try to find the patterns
or at the very least some of the joy
without losing myself.

in the last three weeks
I have sold a house that is 1500 miles away
turned forty
been hired to begin a full-time, stay-at-home, telecommuter job
given notice at my current job
learned that my wife has secured a tenure-eligible position at the college…

maybe you can see why I feel
like a stone
getting tossed around…

some things must change
and we must change some things
but …
I think maybe…
some things are going to happen
no matter what we do

I guess Reinhold Niebuhr put it best
in The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference…

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Embracing the Rattling Cage

March 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny Thomas

IMG_1068

It’s St. Patrick’s Day…
We keep trying to make family traditions
for St. Patrick’s Day,
none of them stick.

In my head
it was always
a big deal with my family
growing up.

We certainly always
ate a special meal.
If not corned beef and cabbage,
then something related.

Sometimes we went to see a film
an irish film
at some art house theatre.
My mom loves foreign films.
And art films.
We went to a lot of independent films
at art house theatres
when I was growing up.

It sometimes depresses me
when our holidays
do not jive with
the holidays I remember growing up.
It happens,
oddly,
with Thanksgiving
and Halloween
and St Patricks Day…

I think…
mostly,
I just need to give it time…
let the traditions develop…
let the family grow…
and create relationships…
with each other…
and with other families…
and those traditions will take
root
and grow…

Also,
I think
it takes work,
and decisive thinking,
and collaboration,
on the part of the family,
to create the traditions.
It takes some effort.
And right now
that effort
is aimed at other things in our lives.

But there is time…

I keep coming back to this idea,
to this notion
of the difference
between
how we imagine things to be…
how we hope for them to be…
and the reality that they become.
This thought; that we have an ideal
or an expectation,
and sometimes the world matches it
or
if we’re lucky,
exceeds it…

but sometimes,
more often,
the world falls drastically short of our expectation.

Does it fall short,
or is it just different
than what we expected?

And wouldn’t it be worse,
to get everything you expect,
and know every bump down the road,
than rolling with
the ups and downs?

As much as it seems nice to have everything in place all the time,
the dreary monotony,
I imagine,
would be relentless.

I am more inclined
to find a way
to embrace
my rattling cage.

My dad’s birthday is on Thursday.
it’s the first one
since he died.

The thing that
makes me most sad
is not that he doesn’t
get to have another birthday
(he was tired of them 10 years ago)
or even that I don’t get to wish him another happy birthday.
The thing that makes me saddest
is thinking about my mom
who, by default of her partnership,
and the traditions built in around
that partnership,
has had something to do
on March 21st
for the last 50 years
and now
this year…

I wish we could be together this

Thursday.
I wish my brother could be there too…
All of us.

But this is another one of those bumps in the road.
This is one of those ways things are different than we expect…
or want…
this is one of the ways things change.
And embracing change
I guess
means embracing
the stuff that
troubles us
with the same
open arms
that we
embrace
the stuff
that brings us
joy.

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Relationships Are Like Snowflakes…

March 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny ThomasIMG_0126something that’s been on my mind
as a parent lately…
as my third baby turns one…
and the others plug along
and go through
all the things a first grader
and pre-schooler
should go through,
is how different each one of them is,
and how different each of our relationships is…
and I know
it shouldn’t be a surprise.

everyone tells you each kid is different.
and everyone talks about overcoming that expectation.

in the rational mind
it completely makes sense
I have been at a different point in my life
and thus a different person
as each of these children has come in to the world…

and each of them is very distinct
has different needs
and different ways of seeing and being in the world
and thus
each of our relationships is ever so distinct.

and yet…

I can’t fight this feeling
that they should all be getting exactly the same things from me
that
somehow, by not relating to them in identical ways
and giving them equal and matching gifts,
I am doing them a disservice.

this is all brought to mind, of course,
by the fact that Zuzu,
the baby of the bunch,
just turned one…
and had no real party to speak of.
no balloons.
she got some presents,
some great presents,
that she loves.
and we went out to ice cream
but…
no party.

which then led me to realize that
when the other two were turning a year,
not only did they get big(ish) parties…

they had groups of friends,
Lil’ Chaos had been in day care for about 4 months
and was part of a parent/baby group that we went to
as a family on a weekly basis…

‘Zilla had been in day-care from 5 weeks of age…
she was social.

Little Zuzu, all her friends are grown ups, or college kids…

and for no rational reason, I feel guilt for this, and many many other
distinctions…
the kid has more social stimulation within her family than the other two…
she is better than fine.
she is happy and thriving…

but because the parental reflex,
or at least my parental reflex,
is guilt
I have guilt about this…

reasonably, I know…
they will all be different,
develop differently,
have different needs and expectations…

I guess the challenge is
to get my heart and head in sync
in this matter
to let go of that guilt
and,
this time,
let the reasonable self
prevail…

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What I Learned from My One-Year-Old

February 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny Thomas

IMG_1373

my one year old
taught me something today
or stirred something
reminded me of something
some primal knowledge
that my body knows
that my heart knows
but that my silly samsaric mind forgets

as we wrapped up
after the shower
she looked up at me
bundled in her towel
and her eyes spoke so clearly,
slow down and hold me, daddy

so I put everything down
put everything out of my mind
put my phone in the other room
and sat
and held her…
and I’ll be damned if it didn’t feed us both
in our soul
to our core

as I sat there I thought
how is this something we
forget?
how is this something
we need to make time for?
how?

this is the root.
this is the core.
this is how we love each other.
we hold each other.
this should just happen.

there are a million other ways
we love our children
and most of them are the things that get in the way of holding them too…
things that take time away from stillness…
isn’t that just the dichotomy?
isn’t that just the bitch of it?

but we must.
we must make holding our children
a main concern.
holding with intention.
physical tenderness while we let the rest of the world and its worries fall away.
it is good for us all.

the other bitch of it is
it requires not just intention on our part
as parents
but openness
and listening
and awareness

we must be alert
to those moments
when they ask
not just with their words
but with their eyes
and their bodies
and their hearts…

it means we have to be patient
and vigilant…

making time

not just on our terms
when it fits
in between school
and work
and shopping
and ballet
and laundry
and homework
and dinner
and dishes
and video games…

but when it doesn’t fit…

Thanks
ZuZu
for reminding me
what it’s all about
and giving me that
downtime
today
in your nursery
sharing that with me
as you fell to slumber
you asked me
just to sit with you
and not rush things
and not be distracted.
You asked me to focus on you
and be still with you
and that was pretty amazing
and a wonderful reminder.

now I need to make sure it happens with your big sisters too.
and your mom.
and the trees.
and the river.
and the sky.
and the moon.
and the mountains.

but thanks.

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To Rage or Not to Rage…

February 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller


By Danny Thomas

xmas lights

Somewhere along in the holidays … I think b’tween Christmas and New Year’s
I got really mad at a box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags… this happens often… about every time I try to take one out of the box.

it is a stupid, stupid piece of product design… there is no way to get out a single bag… not even a way to rearrange the set up so that one can get a single bag without taking out the entire ball of bags… and of course each time you do this the thing gets messier and stupider…
just writing about it, my blood is beginning to boil…

at the time this happened I had been thinking
about the new year… you know self reflection… all that…
I spend a lot of time reflecting on myself…
probably too much,
as I write that it sounds pretty terrible…
let’s call it self examination…

anyway…

I spend a lot of time doing that –
I don’t wait for the new year…
but putting a year to bed, one can’t help but take a look at stuff
like progress, and growth and goals.

one of the things that I struggle with…
that I have wrestled with my whole life I guess
and that I occasionally focus on, since a very clever therapist
pointed out that this might be a struggle for me,
is this idea of the shadow self.
I have written about it before
and my struggles in that regard…

Robert Bly wrote a great piece about it
and it comes from Jung…
and the idea is that we all have this darker side,
these emotions that have a cultural perception as dark: anger and rage, sadness, glumness that kind of stuff.
The next part of the idea is that, if we try to suppress those parts of ourselves, (this is basically Zen philosophy, I think) they will leak and bubble out in uncontrolled ways.

it is clear, in my life, to those who know me intimately, that I have this struggle with rage, certainly the box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags is aware.

so anyway, when I was in therapy (I would still be in therapy if I still lived within proximity to my amazing therapist) one of the things we wanted to tackle was this rage… acupuncture really helped, but she also encouraged me to develop a relationship with my shadow self… to find an outlet for or at least acknowledge and accept my anger and sadness… and all those negative feelings.

Not sure if I have.

in fact, coming back to the moment, over the holidays, when I was exploding in the bathroom at the box of  Glad 4 gallon garbage bags…

I went to Jen and began a diatribe that went something like this;
“I am done being Mr. Chipper, Mr. Thoughtful, I am going to write about things that piss me off, starting with this fucking box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags. I have a lot to be angry about, damn it. My dad died of cancer, and not only is there a good chance that I will have the very same cancer, there is a good chance my kids will too, damn it… I am angry about the state of our country, and politics, and culture, and the economy, and the health of the planet…. and that’s just the start, I am writing about my anger damn it.”

She, very wisely, listened and said, succinctly, “okay.”

I have since, thought about it, and decided I was wrong…

When I started writing this blog, I made a decision, sort of a vow… I was not going to use it as a forum for anger, or complaining, or negativity… but as a platform for positivity, thoughtfulness, examination, and provocation… and I am going to stick to that. There are enough voices on the World Wide Web being pissy and shitty and complaining and being negative…

Occasionally I whine about my struggles, or bring up an issue with this or that thing out in the world, but I try to do it in a thought-provoking way, as an opportunity to examine some of my beliefs, or some cultural assumptions, rather than as a way to vent about a product, or a policy, or a person…

So, while I am still searching for a venue for my shadow self… (Maybe I’ll start a separate blog for him…) I am not going to spend a whole blog page complaining about how stupid the Glad 4 gallon garbage bags are; that would be a waste of time, and energy, and just one more crabby voice on the Internet. I would rather talk about growth and potential and questions, and balance and grace.

And here’s the thing, I do get mad, I say, “GOD DAMN IT! “ but, a few years ago, I would have screamed and yelled and torn that box apart or thrown it across the room. So it is an opportunity for me to see that I have grown,  thanks for that, Glad 4 gallon garbage bags, I hope you change your packaging soon. And I know I will never buy another box of Glad 4 gallon garbage bags again.

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What I Learned on Christmas Vacation

January 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny Thomas

I usually write a piece at Christmastime…
it usually touches on the cognitive dissonance I carry
being an agnostic
who believes in magic
and Christmas.
Usually there’s a bit of anti-consumerism…
and anti-materialism.
Usually I get nostalgic
and pine for my youth…
all the while noting that
even as a kid Christmas brought up a lot of uncertainty for me
about religion, and Jesus, and miracles, and magic, and spiritualism
as well as some of those cynical anti-consumerism questions.

Well I didn’t write one this year.

I was in a slump.

I’m over it, and I am trying to write a little every day, with the hopes that I can prevent another slump…

But I have a cool Christmas story to share… It’s about an amazing gift I received this Christmas that no one meant to give me, that is not a material thing at all, but is more valuable than any thing I received…

We were 500 miles south of our home on Christmas,
Visiting Jen’s family. Most of them live within a few blocks of each other, or on the family homestead… this alone blows my mind… as my nuclear family was at least a thousand miles away from any relatives… but that’s a story for another blog…

On Christmas day we loaded up the girls and the snow gear and the presents to drive the 45 miles south to visit the family that is not right in town… as we got to the end of Grandma’s block we realized that the hot burning oil smell we smelled was coming from our car, because clouds of smoke were pouring out from under the hood.

So we turned around.

As we pulled back into Grandma’s driveway Jen started dialing her brother and my manhood shriveled… metaphorically.

Jennifer’s family is full of dudes who can fix cars, and motorcycles, and lawnmowers… guys who build stuff, who hunt and fish… guys who know which teams won Superbowls and World Series’ in certain years… (I didn’t even remember what the World Series was called… had to look that up, and I consider myself a baseball fan…)

I have some personal issues around these things. Most of the time I feel secure in my manhood, and my issues are less, I think, about that, about macho-ness or manliness, than usefulness… The fact that I have extremely limited knowledge about cars, and hate getting oil on my hands, and am not very good at building stuff… just makes me feel inadequate…

My dad could do it, I spent a lot of time helping him with projects like that, and a lot of time freezing my ass off in the carport next to the bus handing him wrenches while he swore in 7 languages at Volkswagen engineers… I feel like, after that, and to carry the torch, I should be able to, at least, find an oil leak, or build a square table…

I’m sure ego comes into play and I’m sure testosterone is a factor here, I wont deny that… but for me it’s less about proving I am a good man and more about proving I am a useful human… when my car breaks I feel helpless and that is not a good feeling, and, yes, it is emasculating…

So the car sat, and we borrowed the Uncletruck, with the deer rack in the back, and the buck call on the dash… and he generously crawled under our car, looked at the engine, swore a bit and gave us some ideas… in the hour we spent sorting things out and driving south, I did some research on-line to get some ideas about what might have happened… the car had just been in the shop for an oil change, I was suspicious… again, that’s a story for another blog…

So, we got to Grandpa and the other Grandma’s house, and my ability to contribute to the car conversation was some very geeky sounding information that “I looked up on the internet…” NERDBALL! (As is turns out the sleuthing I did paid off and my diagnosis was correct.. NERDPOINTS!)

As we were hanging out, Christmasing in their abode, it came to light that Grandma & Grandpa were having some troubles with their Wi-Fi… how it was hooked up, how to log in… a few oddball things…Well, I realized that troubleshooting that issue is something I can do… bear in mind, I didn’t, the issue is less about me proving my manhood or worthiness, than it is about me knowing my worth. In fact, Jen took on the Wi-Fi situation and had it squared away in short order… well, in long order, and after a couple beers…

Then, a little later Old Weird Uncle mentioned that he had been working on applying for new jobs… and that the application process and building a resume was annoying… He has been a machinist for nearly 30 years, his qualifications are tremendous and specific, his aptitudes have very little to do with writing or computers. Here is another thing I can do. Again, I stood down, keeping a low profile in a Nerf war or Barbie makeover situation with the kids, on the periphery… While Jen took on the resume… but again I was shown, thanks, in part, to the magic of Christmas, another measure of my worth… another skill I bring to the table…

I was so comforted by both of these incidences; here are skills that I can offer, that while maybe not as tough as car knowledge or carpentry, are skills nonetheless.

Beyond that I came away with this; I tend to think of usefulness in these terms: “What good will I be after the apocalypse… when we are struggling to survive, what will I be able to offer to the tribe?” But the thing is, what I was shown, this Christmas gift to me, was to see that these are things I bring to the table right now. And trying to anticipate how you will be useful after the day of reckoning is a little asinine anyway, because… who knows? How can we anticipate what that will look like, if it will come, and if we will survive? And while I believe it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, living life anticipating the end of the world just isn’t a great way to live… by any measure.

So thank you Christmas, for once again bringing a little magic into my life and showing me that, not only do I have things to offer, skills that are worthy, but that the important thing to focus on is how I can use them today rather than how they will be useful to me in a Hunger Games scenario…

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