I came home from what is more and more the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had and got to work on a carpentry project I’m working on for Christmas. Take a gander.
I’m not great by any means but I’ve been taking stock lately of a few things. The thing I would most like to be proud of in my life is my vocation as husband and father. On that front all I can say is I am trying every day. I am a teacher and vice principal. After my family, in my adult life, few other things have brought me such joy. I am a writer who has never claimed to be much good although I do know my way around a few decent turns of phrase. I am a man who likes to challenge himself in the gym, not stopping or giving up until I’m satisfied. I will probably never be satisfied and that is just OK with me. It simply means I will always be challenging myself. And I think that goes for every aspect of my life.
On the writing front in particular, I have been reading old posts to my children. It is fun rediscovering our life together; but not nearly as much fun as seeing the joy and hearing the laughter from my children who really get a kick out of my writing. Also on that front, I have noticed that I have at seven separate times in the past few months started writing new posts only to save them as drafts. Perhaps I will one by one finish each post and publish them. I might even provide context.
Until then, the family is beautiful, school is wonderful, I am building back up in the gym and getting stronger, and Baby Jesus has a comfortable place to sleep in my garage.￼￼
I’ve been reading a lot of my older, archived posts to my son lately. It’s a fun trip down memory lane for both of us, except in his case he doesn’t really have a memory of most of it. The stories I’m reading him mostly happened when he was very young. Still I’ve observed some things.
Gosh, I’ve been having fun with this family of mine for a long time now. I look back and realize how much time has elapsed since these older posts were written and see how little has changed in the “Dad loves being Dad” department. It’s kind of like it was my calling or something.
My kids’ personalities were present even when they were super-small. Let me backtrack a moment. My kids were never super-small. Reading about their antics from 8 or 9 years ago I can clearly see large bits and pieces of who they are now and not even some kind of nascent, infantile hint of a trace. No, full on stuff here. Then again, I also see (to my chagrin since I strive to live a life of modestly false humility) that a certain someone who wrote those stories had a fat role in how their personalities formed. In other words, DNA strikes again.
I miss the old prompts. I started the writing of many of those posts as a response to a series of writing prompts. Granted I was always able to take those prompts in bizarre directions but that was a large part of the fun. Perhaps I’ll seek out new prompts.
Tonight I was wondering how I would answer this prompt I just made up (because I’m so clever)…
What are you doing right now?
I apologize to the Federation of Prompt-Writers because that one literally cried out to heaven for vengeance. But let’s go with it for a moment. Smile, sip, repeat. So what am I doing? Right now? Geez, so precise tonight. Oh wait, I wrote the prompt. I suck. OK, I’m sitting in my recliner, watching – wait for it – Nancy Drew. It’s the daughter’s choice. Yet somehow the four of us watched it. Actually, wife and son have fallen asleep and despite the fact that this cinematic gem features a leading actress who resembles Molly Ringwald (not an MR fan), daughter and I are invested in this nonsense. I’ve just finished grading a bunch of quizzes. I’m patting the head of my terrier who has come to sit by the side of my chair. He’s a good boy.
Ask me the same tomorrow night and you’d get a completely different answer probably along the lines of “Currently doing crazy” or some variant. One thing I hope to say tomorrow night at this time is that I jumped back into some semblance of a workout. Despite my recent posts and my insistence that I was just going to ignore every shred of medical “advice” and hit the weights anyway; a few things changed my opinion. I’ll let you in on a secret. Broken bones hurt. And they need time and rest in order to heal. Fortunately my night job hasn’t been too busy lately so that covers that half of the day. But even doing mundane tasks like standing (as I do when I teach) can put stress of the spine. I ought to know this by now.
And the truth is that I do know this. But I also know how dedicated I’ve been to lifting and how I hate being told not to do something. So that next day I mentioned – the one where I was going to get back to my weights? Yeah, I decided I didn’t need anymore painkillers so I didn’t take ’em, see? Yeah, see… And no one could make me either! You just read that sentence in your mind as Jimmy Cagney. Now read this next one as Cagney and Lacey. Harv, how stupid are you!? By 8PM I knew I had made a mistake and that I would simply have to follow orders and rest. So that’s what I’ve done. And it’s only been two weeks since the break. I tried some basics tonight to see what I could manage. Knocked out a few sets of pushups. A set for me is at least 40 pushups so I think I’m at least able to ease back into this. I’ll play it smart and not overdo it and all that. And I still have some of those lovely little Tramadol things they gave me in case I go too far. And I’ll get those gains all over again.
Too much going on to stop and document this past week. Ironically, it’s the excitement of everyday life that I have always sought to document.
On that note, I’ve been reading old posts of a road trip we took almost ten years ago to my son at bedtime. He is my biggest fan and his laughter at our escapades really warms my heart – both as a writer but especially as his dad.
For moments when someone you love praises something you’ve done for them and you feel not proud but truly humbled by it I am extraordinarily grateful.
Now for that preview… I’ll be writing all about this little beauty here real soon.
As many of you know I am a writer. I say this with no pride. There is nothing that I did to merit the gift of being able to string words together. My parents and teachers throughout my life helped me hone the skill. More importantly, God gave me this gift. And it is a gift. He gave me the ability to grasp at a large vocabulary (thank you, English language) and rapidly pull together consequential turns-of-phrase with grammatical aplomb and all that jazz.
I first realized I had this gift when I was a boy of about 7. I was always interested in the news, in telling stories. Could explain why I’ve enjoyed some success as a teacher. My dad read a few different newspapers every day. Notable among these were the Newark Star Ledger (before it was a complete leftist rag not fit to line a bird cage) and the paper he called “the best written English language newspaper in the world” – the Wall Street Journal. Side note: I remember well the great satisfaction he got when the Journal published one of his letters once. I guess due to the influence of dear old Dad I decided one day that I would put together a broadsheet, a newspaper of my own.
I decided to copy what I had seen and so I began with a screaming headline. “Headless Man in Topless Bar”. Oh wait, that was an actual headline in the New York Post around the same time. Something to do with a mafia decapitation at a “gentleman’s club”. No, I think mine was more family-friendly. “Bridget A Jerk”. Bridget is my youngest sister. As I recall she had hidden my roller skates on me and I was none too pleased. The second column blared “Mom Burns Dinner – Distracted by Phone Call”. In italics underneath: “Family Safe from Near – Fatality, Pizza Ordered”.
This little gazette had everything right down to a sports section on the last page. The only problem is that I didn’t follow sports that well. I believe I had the New Jersey Devils defeating the New Jersey Nets 105-13. Not bad considering the Devils play hockey and the Nets are a basketball franchise. Weather? I drew a picture of the sun and slapped a number under it with the word “Fair”. Seemed like the thing to do even if that number was 25. I think my favorite part was the obituaries. Dad was a fan of the “Irish sporting pages” as he called them. I may have literally copied an actual obit or two from the Star Ledger into my paper since I didn’t know anyone who had recently died. Imagine the contrast between the “Kids Alright, Pizza for Everyone” coverage on page 1 and page 2 where we read about Diane Distefano of Nutley who died peacefully surrounded by her husband and stepchildren. She was to be laid out at Biondi’s Funeral Home in Bloomfield with a visitation from 2-4 and 7-9 and a mass of Christian Burial at Holy Family the following morning. Donations could be sent to “Reading is Fundamental” because, you know, she was a 1st grade teacher or something.
I was quite proud of my paper. I got great satisfaction writing it all down, formatting it, and illustrating the stories. The one copy I printed was a big hit; but not for the reason I had hoped. It seemed everyone got a big chuckle out of the absurdity of the thing.
And that’s when I realized I could make people laugh if I just placed the right words in the right order and sometimes played dumb a little. I think I got that from my mom. She’s much smarter than she ever lets on.
In high school I began writing more. I had to. I was homeschooled and as if to prove our academic worth to the outside world our assignments were heavy on writing. I guess just like the guy who hangs around the gym with his buddies will eventually start lifting weights and then probably get good at it (terrible analogy, I know); the guy who writes volumes by necessity will eventually take a liking to it and probably get really good at it too. In college, the fun continued as I would write humorous study guides for my friends where I’d drop inane commentary and references. “Greek philo’s… 1) Socrates who’s pupil was 2) Plato (wrote Trial and Death of Socrates) who’s pupil was 3) Ari. who’s pupil was Alexander the Gr. Many theorize th/Ari killed Alex because he had become too good lkng. Ari was insanely jealous.”
Sometimes. I know, my writing has caused people to cry and not always in a good way. Fortunately those times have been few and far between. But for those instances where I went too far and used the gift He gave me as a weapon I am sorry. As I said a month ago: it’s a new year and this is a new blog.
I do take satisfaction in it. It’s like the pride a man gets when he’s mowed his lawn. I go back and read and re-read my posts. I’m half expecting them to have grown and matured.
Speaking of maturing, tonight I got the shock of my life. I started writing this blog when he was an infant. My hope was to chronicle his life (and later my daughter’s) for them. I wanted to give them stories to read as they got older so they would know how loved they are and all the fun we had. He’s ten now and already a young man in every sense. I suspect his voice will drop and he’ll be shaving before I blink. I’m not ready for that (or the accompanying “talk” we’ll have to have). This world is a lot more dangerous than when I was his age. But he knows I write this blog and he’s caught on that I do it for him. He caught me going through the archives the other day and asked me to read him a post or two. Tonight as he was getting ready for bed he said “Daddy, will you read me some of your stories?” I replied “Why, son? You know the plot.” Then he said “I don’t know, Dad, I just love the way you tell a story. They’re funny and you write so well.”
There you have it. Mission accomplished, I’d say. Tonight I read to him a tale of the time his goldfish died and I had to replace it before he caught on. He was five and, oh, the TWO replacement fish were accidentally killed by my wife. He howled with laughter and then he said to me “Your a good dad.” Well son, it’s easy for me. You’re a very good young man.”
Now keep livin’ that crazy life so I can keep documenting it. He wants me to put the archive in a book. Smart boy.
Gifts from God – be they talents or sons… for these blessings I am most grateful and I pray you discover your gifts as well.
*I started writing this post on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers. If you ever run into a block, ask for his help.
This post is dedicated to readers Jay and Jane who both correctly identified that the heading picture of this blog changed recently.
For several years my Jack Russell Terrier has diligently guarded this page. All the while he sat behind the wheel of our old Town & Country staring at the road in front of him – in this case I-35 Southbound somewhere near Sherman, Texas. We were returning from a family trip to a friend’s cabin in Oklahoma and sitting in traffic. The pup couldn’t resist climbing into Daddy’s lap and placing his paws on the wheel.
When I snapped that picture I actually took a few in rapid succession to make sure I got a good one. The other day I came across the series in my Google Photos feed.
Since I am taking a slightly renewed direction with my posts I thought it wise to tweak the banner.
Now, the dog is staring out at you, not unlike my dear mom used to do when she’d cart us kids around town. I don’t know how she did it (and we never crashed) but I know it scared the hell out of Dad.
So, if you’re ready (and grateful for all that you’ve got), let’s hit the road together. Come on, it’ll be fun!
Besides, you know you’ve always wanted to be chauffeured by a tiny dog.
Folks, I got off all that social media nonsense a while ago. Sorry but I'm not on Twitbook, Facepalm, YouHu, WingWang or any of the others. Maybe an event will happen to make me change my mind like Peter and Paul coming down with flaming swords and commanding it be so. Until then, read the blog and if you feel a comment is in order or you feel like sharing a tip or suggestion for a topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvey is a funny, witty and interesting read. Want to know what's going on in the world of Harvey? Then make a point to subscribe to his blog! You just never know when those pesky Weebles will show up. Hmmm, speaking of Weebles - haven't heard from them in a while (wink). Seriously, you just never know what to expect and whatever you find, it never disappoints! -- Debbi Robertson @ Photos and Facets