Wednesday, October 24, 2007

An ever so brief respite

I know it's Wednesday night and all, but it's taken me this long to realize that I'm only now recovered from this past weekend and the extremely busy days and nights that led up to it. There was, of course, Henry's birthday party, an event which brought together family from both sides of the tree, not to mention a couple of boyfriends who got dragged along by various aunts. The boy was so wired by the end of it that we had to coax him down off the ceiling with a stick.

But even before the party, I had a full day of classes, wherein I turned in two assignments: one quite ginormous, the other small to mediumish. Oh, and I took a test. So I'd been a pretty industrious Holmes in the days leading up to this rather full weekend. Which is why, as soon as we got Henry to bed Saturday night, I hit the sack too. I don't even think it was 10 yet.

Of course, the semester isn't over. I've several more tests to take, two more little papers to write, and one more heavyweight assignment to knock out. But for the moment, I'm relishing this lightweight feeling. Which is not to say that I'm sitting on my ass, um, writing blog posts all day. I've got tons of reading to do, but I'm on top of that. But I will say that it's been kind of nice to take the last few days off from being heavily engaged in the work of a huge assignment. I'll be back to it soon enough.

But in the name of all things unacademic, let's talk about something completely trivial, like, oh I don't know, my wife's Hollywood crush on Christian Bale. I must say, I don't particularly mind this little infatuation of hers. Hell, I practically encourage it. He's not only a handsome bastard, but he's an immensely talented actor. He's the best Batman/Bruce Wayne ever, and I'll exchange heated email and/or blog commentary with anyone who says otherwise. He's followed closely by Michael Keaton, with Adam West running a distant third. Besides his other amazing performances, there's also the fact that he's the kind of guy that will say the kinds of things that you'll find between 2:25 - 2:35 in the video below. Feel free to fast forward to it. Gotta love him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lord of the Flies was no joke

It is a very chilling feeling to realize that the large group of children who were supposedly under your control and guidance have now turned their collective will against you.

I don't know what made me think of this. Perhaps it's the fact that I'll soon have not one but two boys calling me Dad. Daddy. Pops. Gimmesomeicecream. Whatever name suits at the time.

In the summers that I worked at Boy Scout camp, experiences like this were few and far between, but they did happen, and it always served to bolster my cynicism regarding humanity's penchant for mob rule. I'm a peaceful man, but goddammit, every time I think about some of this shit, I'm glad that every major city has a S.W.A.T. team.

Like this one time, I was leading a bunch of kids on a little hike we called The Death March. It was maybe five miles, so there was little chance of death, though some of the more rotund scoutmasters that came along for the hike sometimes made me worry that we'd have to deal with a heart attack in the middle of the Texas hill country. But this one time, as we were walking down a rather narrow trail, I looked down a few steps in front of me and saw a snake crossing the path. I stopped the hike to let it cross the trail out of our way, but as soon as the kid behind me laid eyes on our reptile friend, the battle cry went up: "Living thing! KILL IT!" The rocks flew like crazy, a fully-automatic murderous assault on this poor snake who just happened to be on the wrong trail at the wrong time. I managed, with my teenage voice, to bark out the order to cease fire in time to prevent any injuries, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready to just leave all those little bastards out in the woods to fend for themselves.

And then there was this other time that I was trying like hell to get this one troop to pack up their shit and get out of camp. As employees, we basically had off from Saturday after the last troop left until Sunday when the next week's troops arrived, so kicking people out on Saturdays was a highly motivated affair. Everything was going smoothly with these guys, everything that is, until the scoutmaster's son's backpack inexplicably fell open and spilled a hefty pile of porno mags onto the ground for all to see. And for some reason, the sight of those provocatively airbrushed covers lying there in the dirt caused all hell to break loose. Suddenly the scoutmaster and his son are engaged in a heated argument, other kids start fighting, another adult is yelling at some other kids, and all I can see is the minutes of my free time slipping through the hourglass. I think even then I knew that asshole was only pissed at his son because those were his mags from his private stash.

Oh and then there was the time that the chaplain came out to tell the kids some ghost stories. See, every week, we took the kids who were signed up for the wilderness survival class out to this spot in the woods to let them build their own little lean-to survival shelters and sleep in them overnight. We'd build a fire and sit around and shoot the shit until it was time for the kids to hit the sack, er, ground. And one week, our chaplain volunteered to come along to help. And gathered round the fire that night, he asked if the kids would like to hear a ghost story. Sure chappy, tell your little story. Turns out this guy had the ghost story telling skills of a hook-handed Irish drunk...which, truth be told, he was only one chainsaw accident away from being. A properly told ghost story will leave you trembling in your trousers. It's an art, I tell you. This guy scared those kids so bad that we thought they would never go to sleep. And after a while, their fear somehow morphed into some kind of strange little boy hostility, and in the middle of the pitch-black night they started a rock war! Which is exactly what it sounds like: a war fought with rocks. What is it with little boys and rock throwing? I did it too and I can't say why. Readily available ammo, I guess. It lasted all of maybe five or ten seconds before we re-instituted peace, and nobody got hurt, but those were some scary seconds.

Good times. I'm setting the conch down now.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The big 2

Although the official celebration was yesterday, my little boy officially turns two as of 9:59 tonight. That's two years since a little piece of my heart officially took leave of my body and started wandering around in the outside world. Two years since my wife and I became Mom and Dad. Two years of delighting in watching him grow and learn and discover and be awed by absolutely everything in the way that only a brand new little human can do. Two years that have gone by so unbelievably fast. Happy birthday Henry.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Because now we're actually living inside the black comedy...

...and from this vantage point, it's not quite as funny.

I'm currently working on an assignment that's due in just under two weeks time. In order to stay on top of it, I spend several hours every night poring over all the details of yet another new and exciting mental disorder, and then writing all about it. Last night found me learning all about the joy that is anorexia nervosa. And by "joy" I mean anguish and suffering on a variety of levels for all involved. So imagine how coincidental it seemed this morning as I sipped my first cup of coffee and scrolled through my Google reader where I found this post over at Unsprung about eating-disorder inspired Halloween wear:

The costume is called Sexy Anna Rexia. Yes, you read it right. To be entirely honest, I'm sure there's probably a time in my life when I might have found this kind of amusing in an "oh shit that's gonna offend a lot of offendable people!" kind of way, but after reading all about the ins and outs of anorexia until 1 in the morning, I was actually kind of grossed out. It's really wonderful to see life-threatening mental illnesses receiving the compassionate attention and treatment that they so deserve.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Liveblogging theology class

When I decided I wanted to go into counseling, I decided on seminary precisely because I wanted to include the theological element as part of my education. One of my biggest concerns about the world we live in is the destructive power held by fundamentalist or cultish religious institutions over both individuals and groups as a whole. By this, I don't mean that I intend to become "the religion counselor." I have absolutely no intention of trying to bring clients around to my way of seeing things or immediately jumping to the person's religious background as the source of all their ills. That would be stupid. Besides the fact that it ain't my job, I'm also trying to figure things out myself, and probably will be for a lifetime. I don't envision therapy sessions as great theological debates. In many cases, religion may not come up in therapy, and that's cool with me too. All I mean is that I want to be prepared to speak to the spiritual aspects of people's lives as a facet of their being, and to understand where people are coming from when they're coming out of the types of backgrounds I described above. What interests me is helping people find a path to freedom.

I am, of course, at the early part of my education, not yet jaded or burned out in the least, and my idealism is at a high. But I've come to realize that idealism is part of who I am, and it's only been in the last few years that I've started to be cool with that and think of it as a strength rather than a liability. I fully expect that I will experience and learn things that may modify my vision, but I suspect that the idealism will remain.

When I tell people about what I'm going to school for, I sometimes get the impression that they think I'm somehow working the system from the inside, as if I'm going undercover in the enemy's lair to learn all of its secrets, and when I come back out I'll use what I know against it. Nobody has come out and said this, and maybe I'm totally mistaken. Either way, that's not at all the case. I consider myself to be a person of faith, though it's accompanied by all the questioning, doubting, and wondering that I think just comes along with being human.

Anyway, I decided to try liveblogging last night's theology class. And just so you know, I was paying attention and participating in class. My notes are about 5 times as long as what follows. Enjoy.

Class hasn't started yet, and I'm not sure if this is really a good idea. It might be interpreted as "not paying attention" by the vast readership. Fie. Fie I say!

I really should be paying attention though. He might say something that will spark an idea for my next paper. Or make sense out of this last reading.

I got to class too late to sit in the backrow, so in order to be able to plug in my laptop, I ended up in the front row. I don't think I've sat in the front row since junior high.

Important answers to important questions: 12 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced, 1 inch margins. No wingdings.

Teacher makes fun of Elijah.

Liveblogging not going so good. Paying too much attention.

I don't think I'll ever get past the belief that those of religious faith should be subversives. How that manifests itself varies, I don't know exactly. I just think that religious types who place their faith in politics in an attempt to reinvent the world into their own heavenly vision have lost sight of whatever it was they were seeking. There will always be empire. Beware of becoming the empire. I guess I'm arguing for separation of church and state from a different angle.


Still on break. Class is three hours long, I love that they put out snacks at the midway point. It's like Kindergarten.

I may be liveblogging, but the dude next to me is playing solitaire. Of course, we're still on break.

I should read Steinbeck.

Sometimes I want to live in Metaphor Land. Literal City is a drag. This is a good class for that.

It seems that we live in a world of primal narratives. It is said that to forget history is to be doomed to repeat it, suggesting that learning from history allows us to evolve. But perhaps these narratives always exist and recur no matter what. Cain didn't kill Abel thousands of years ago, Cain always kills Abel, over and over again. Neil Gaiman gets it.

Rowan Williams may be the Archbishop of Canterbury and he may have been a professor at Oxford and some people may consider him the greatest living theologian, but somebody needs to give him a lesson in punctuation and ending sentences.

From my notes: We can't read history as if the people in it were just like us. That imposes us on them, rather than seeing them for what they are.
We can't write history off as too foreign for us to relate to since that is what we are built on.
We can't write history's people off as just wrong, assuming that our present ways of being are self-evidently right.

Time to go!

Friday, October 05, 2007

He's the Flava

Our condo is officially off the market, so it looks like we'll be here for a bit longer. Emotions are mixed, some happy, some less than thrilled, but I must say that my most immediate feeling is relief - relief that I'm not going to have to somehow manage a move in the midst of prepping for a new baby and trying to be a halfway decent student. In fact, it has occurred to me throughout this process just how insane it is to try and simultaneously prepare for a new bundle of joy while keeping your home in a perpetual state of presentableness. You might as well try to walk forwards towards something behind you.

So that's one stressor off the list. In celebration, we had the following conversation:

HOLMES: Man, I'm looking forward to being able to mess this place up again.
ASH: We don't have to do that.
HOLMES: Whatchoo talking bout? I'm gonna pee right here in the kitchen.
ASH: I'll beat you!
HENRY: I beat you!

It's like having a little Flava Flav around to reiterate your points for you.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Commit to memory

There is, perhaps, a future time where a parent may look across the room to see their child doing something both hilarious and cute, some action great or small that makes evident the sheer joy that absolutely should be part of childhood, an act whose very childlike perfection will cause that parent to recall the child within themselves and feel for a moment both the the wonder of youth and the gratification of parenthood, all tangled up in a big goofy-grinned laugh-out-loud mess.

And that parent will just smile and say "start filming" and the scene before their eyes will instantly begin recording to a video file, with their visual sensory input acting as the camera, and will record until they say "stop filming." Because they're in the future, and in the future they're going to have cool shit like that.

Oh how I wished we were living in that future the other night. I was washing dishes after dinner. Henry was in a blessedly good mood, happily pushing his little chair all over the place. A chair, why he was pushing it, I don't know, but it was making him happy. The mp3 player was shuffling through the chill-out mix that I put together a while back, and it landed upon Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter." Perhaps your definition of chill-out music differs from mine, but this song always makes me feel plenty chill. As I was scrubbing the crap off of our dishes and gently bobbing my head along to one of the most recognizable bits of guitar ever recorded, I looked up to see what Henry was doing. He was looking at me with that enormous vote-for-me smile on his face, and bobbing his head right along with the music, just like me. And it called out to me, it begged me, that image of my son bobbing his head along to Led Zeppelin just cried out "Record me! Save me for posterity! Put me on your blog!"

But damn it all, I knew that by the time I got to the camera, the moment would be over. The very appearance of the camera would in fact create far too much distraction for my son to possibly continue whatever he was doing, and any attempts on my part to recreate the magic would at best result in a second grade imitation barely worthy of your consumption, and at worst a great deal of frustration on my part.

But were we living in the future, oh boy. You'd be watching a video of something that I thought was really funny at the time. You bet your ass.

But I don't know. Maybe the future isn't such hot shit. Maybe it's best that we're not able to capture every little moment in a permanent format. Maybe some things just have to live in our memories, imperfect as they are. Maybe that magical moment was just for me, and others are just for you, or just for the little group that was lucky enough to witness them, and after that they're gone. Even in the retelling they come across as not so big a deal. The magic was in the moment.

Dunno. Going to bed.