Even Karin seemed impressed. I’d been in the basement playing the same six bars of music over and over and over and over for half an hour, and she peeked over my shoulder and said something like “wow, that is pretty technical, isn’t it?” I was practicing my song, Gavotte from “Mignon” by Thomas as played by this dude, who is not me, on YouTube. It’s my “Cold Winter” project: learn to play this two page technical beast. Lots of fancy little frills to make me a better player (not that it’s a particularly high bar at the moment) like switching between strings and staccato, trills, tenuto, and some pizzicato. I guess what I’d say: if you want to know what it’s like to learn the violin, watch the YouTube video from 0:09 seconds through 0:26 seconds over, and over, and over, about a hundred times, and then imagine that among those hundred times, imagine that it sounds good approximately once. Then repeat the next night, and the night after that and the night after that… and then realize that you love every minute of it.
There are different schools of thought on the subject of when to introduce the technique to a beginning violinist, but the school of thought I’m paying for via my violin lessons is suggesting I start thinking about vibrato sooner than later.
Vibrato, I’ve learned in the last three months since taking up the violin is (a) an essential technique for adding depth and richness to a musical piece by slightly flexing the finger laterally along the string to produce a subtle variation in pitch, and (b) freaking difficult.
It’s like, and the best example I can think of, is trying to pat your head, rub your belly, while trying to read music, hit the proper notes, and grip an expensive instrument with the side of your face.
Apparently it eventually just clicks, works, and your brain rewires to figure out the motion, but at 40 training the fingers, wrist, and muscles of one arm to work in a subtle and melodious way while my other hand, fingers and arm moves in a completely different way… well, the only thing that’s clicking (and creaking, squawking and squeaking, to be honest) is the unintended noises emerging from my violin in the process.
My fingers have developed semi-permanent groves from the effort…. which will continue, at least until the clicking is appropriately allocated.
This is a post from the seventh edition of my (mostly irregular) Week of Lists where I bring you seven list-type posts, one per day starting on Saturday, October 25th and ending on Halloween, leaping from the darkest corners of your internetz and scaring you into mild confusion. Stay tuned!
For most every other day of the year we stick our kids into little bubbles of protection, preaching a little too much on the stranger-danger angle, and stick them in front of glowing screens to keep them occupied as we shuttle them from one extracurricular activity to the next.
But neighborhoods are not just the places we build our houses, and neighbors are not just the people who we call bylaw enforcement about when they park their cars in front of our houses for a few hours longer than appropriate. On Halloween, neighborhoods bustle with wonder and creepy awesomeness… and if you’re brave enough to trick-or-treat on the local streets rather than hiding from the chaos in a shopping mall, there is a lot to be learned, especially if you are a kid…
1. Someone lives there.
…because it is easy to forget that we live in communities. Yeah, we see the hundreds of other houses scattered around, complain about traffic, tell them to look both ways, and encounter random neighbours in the park. But there is something about going door-to-door, meeting the kindly lady with the yappy dog, or that couple who never opens their blinds, or peeking into the house of that family with seven cars parked in their driveway… something that makes a neighbourhood full of more than just lots of houses, but instead full of people and lives and all of it mashed together.
2. Even when it’s all about the costume, no one really cares what you’re wearing.
…because you’re gonna get candy, either way. It doesn’t matter that your costume is amazing or something you cobbled together using scraps from the recycling bin, you’ll still get candy. It doesn’t matter if your princess dress is layered between warm up pants and a winter jacket, you’ll still get candy. The only one judging is that face looking back in the mirror. Kids will figure out pretty quick that even though their costume is (maybe) not the epic dress-up they imagined, most grownups will still smile, and hand them a mitt-full of candy.
3. Effort (sometimes) equates to a reward…
…because if you’re willing to run a little faster, get up to doors a little quicker, or act a little cuter, you’re gonna fill your bag with treats. Not everything in life works out that way, but on Halloween kicking up the effort a notch or two can be the difference between a good haul and an epic haul.
4. Neighborhoods are still generally cool, welcoming places…
…because after dark there still seems to be a lot of lights on and a lot of pumpkins on doorsteps. We may not live in the most friendly of generations, but on Halloween everyone is expected. Neighbours are mostly neighbours, and people answer the door when you knock, ring or shout out the innocent threat of “trick or treat” at the top of your hoarse and quickly degrading lungs.
That I’m not getting any younger… and that back injuries suck.
Claire just finished the third year of music lessons. Three years of nearly-daily practice (with the summers off, of course) taking her from a kid who could point out a piano from a line-up all the way to a bright kid who can play two-handed, chorded songs with some aptitude. She puts me to shame.
The year-end recital was this past weekend, marking not just another year of learning but the last day with the teacher who has been with us for that whole journey. She’ll be leaving the studio for big, brighter things (and getting married, too, apparently.)
Claire didn’t seem too broken up, but you can tell she was a bit sad.
This is another post from my “Daddy Daze” series, an anecdotal exploration of my odd little adventures in parenting in bite-sized chunks (for your reading enjoyment) and because the last thing this world needs is yet another doting parent blog.
Temperatures dropped to well below tolerable this past week, the windchill factor creeping into the sub minus-forties for a couple of hours on Tuesday. We hibernated. And the warmer temperatures that appeared as the weekend — and another Friday installment of our Daddy Day — were very welcome.
I picked the girl up from Kindergarten as usual. When I arrived — a few minutes early because I can never remember the exact dismissal time — the kids (and the teacher) were taking advantage of the warm(er) temperatures too and they were doing an outdoor craft project: spraying colour onto the snow outside.
I’ve been into volunteer in the past, so most of the kids know who I am — as does the teacher — so a minute later I was down on my knees in the snow helping squirt little bits of purple and blue onto a bunch of kinder-creations.
She’s taken quite a shining to a Friday hot dog and the bag-o-fries, but I think the two real draws are (a) a lunch date with her dad and (b) the fact the kitchen is out there in the open for her to watch: she’s fascinated by the burger assembly line and the calling out of order numbers. We were 49.
She scarfed the whole dog — impressively — and together we polished off an order of regular fries: I don’t indulge that often anymore, but it’s nice to hang out with a five year old who can glory in the simplicity and wonder of a paper bag overflowing with fried potatoes: There’s just something innocent about it.
Neither did I. And neither did the dog, who on the coldest day of the year and with a full bladder was treated to the mind-fraking repetitive squelch of a CO-detector gone south, beeping at her every minute for dog-only-knows how long over the course of the day. She peed on some things she shouldn’t have peed on. But in fairness, given the weather and the water-torture-like pain indirectly inflicted upon her by the fine folks at Kidde and their beeping “err” message, I can’t really hold it against her: I would have peed all over the place too.
And after finishing up at the burger joint, Claire and I hopped over to Home Depot to browse the aisles and locate another detector.
After this… well, daddy days aren’t all fun and games. The poor kid has more responsibility than me sometimes (or so it seems.) We had to spend some time back at home, running through yet another piano practice. She’s getting pretty good. In fact, she knows a couple of scales now, can sight-read about half the notes on the bass and treble clefs, and was playing a gosh-darn-decent (though simplified) rendition of Bach’s Minuet this past week.
I mean… hey, it’s about as good as I am. Maybe better. And she actually has technique (where I just patter at the keys.)
Every day we’re supposed to be doing at least one book with her. Those books are very simple, of course. I could turn my average blog-post (at least as far as word count) into a month’s worth of reading material. But simple stories and basic-language books are no problem anymore.
We zip though our daily reading in about five minutes.
“Hop in Mark! Hop in Carl!” We’re off to the pool.
This time last year Claire was not a swimmer. But she’s been in lessons, and we’ve been doing a lot of drop-in stuff, her and I, particularly when we have a daddy day. And she’s improving.
I sneaked my camera in. Well, not sneaked. I was discrete and only took video and pics of my daughter. It’s not really against the rules… I think. Well, maybe. I’m a little hazy. At the very least, it’s frowned upon. But I think they really just want to protect the privacy of swimmers… and I’m all game with that. So, probably don’t follow my example.
I grabbed a few seconds of video of Claire swimming and then we put the camera back in the locker. Hey.. proud father here. Then we did the water-slide and the steam room and the hot tub and called it a day-at-the-pool.
We checked the standard items off our to-do list: Claire begging for a snack from the Second Cup, me saying no, that type of thing.
Then we went home to drop our wet gear and gather our supplies.
It’s hard to believe but sometimes a few short hours is shorter even than it seems: time just flies by. We wait a couple weeks — sometimes longer — for one of this little daddy afternoons, seemingly so few and far between now, and then when we get one: woosh! A bit of driving, a bit of swimming and next thing you know we’re packed up in the car making silly faces as we get ready to go to piano lessons.
Of course, they really frown on taking pictures during piano lessons. So… yeah. There ain’t none of that.
I guess it is what it is: a few hours of father-daughter time. Does it really matter if we do something epic or if we just hang out? Does it matter if we swim or shop or eat burgers? Does it matter if we watch a movie and eat popcorn before crashing on the couch later? What’s the difference? It’s just about the time spent right?
Later that night, after Claire was sound asleep and I’d finished my evening run, we were watching a slightly-out-of-audio-synced version of the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day” on the free-ad-supported digital video service, Crackle. The point being is that they were playing ads. One ad, actually. It was like they only had one sponsor all day and they played the same ad, twice, every ten minutes. It was for the US National Fatherhood Initiative, advocating just that sentiment: it’s about spending time. I think they got it right.
About a month ago I wrote a short post about reading through some of my old Calvin and Hobbes comics. By some miracle of the unintended combination of the right words and the information reliability score of this blog, that page suddenly started getting a lot of hits from various search engines. Lots…. as in it will very soon be the most “popular” post — if not the most visited post — on this blog.
If Calvin were anything like me he would understand that there is a lesson to be had in the so-called “trial by fire”…
Of course this got me thinking; the orginal blog post wrapped with a simple notion about my own personal parenting style being reflective (or at least aspiring) of some of the philosophies of the comic itself. In other words, I had tossed out a few scattered thoughts on how my own style of “free-range parenting” is often in parallel lockstep with some of the underlying philosophies implied in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. I noticed this because (a) I’m the type of guy who notices silly stuff like this and (b) I had done a lot of reading, thinking, talking and writing about parenting and whatever it is that we are calling the exact polar opposite of so-called “helicopter parenting.” This switch had occured between the two points in time — then and now — when I was reading a lot of Calvin and Hobbes, and when I switched from being just a guy into someone’s dad.In other words, I used to read Calvin and Hobbes when I was younger and aspire to the existential adventurism of Calvin and his stuffed tiger. Now, as a parent, I read the strips and I notice the parenting philosophies that allow Calvin to be the type of kid that explores the woods alone, invent his own games, routinely risk life and limb often shirking the consequences, and all-around let his imagination soar.
This philosophy is in stark contrast to the perpetual-play-date, suceed-at-all-cost, danger-lurking-at-every-turn, failure-is-not-an-option irrationality of the militant branch of the modern mommy movement, Facebooking every gurgle, burp, bruise, scrape and scrap for the world’s sympathy. So I thought I’d write some posts called “Parenting like Calvin” from the perspective of the free-ranging, skeptical-daddy, let-them-play approach… and just see what sticks. It will be something like a “What Would Calvin Do?” … assuming that, as a child of the eighties and nineties, Calvin (were he a real kid) would be about the right age now, in the early second decade of the twenty-first centruy, to have wandered off into the sunset, settled down a bit, and perhaps spawned a child or two.
And it should go without saying that all this is completely unofficial and has no connection to Mr. Wattersons epic and brilliant work — other than the greatest repect and spirit of homage.
So… (and maybe just one to start this new series off)… what would Calvin do?
Risk is part of education and managing that risk is my job as a dad.
1. Trial by Fire and Leveraging Risk
I seem to remember having an experience very similar to Calvin when I was a kid. It went something like this for Calvin: Calvin’s curiosity about smoking floats to the surface of his meandering life one sunny day and he (as he does so many things) nonchalantly asks his mom for a cigarette. Much to his surpise — and in surprise contrast to the running-gag-frequency of Calvin casually and often asking for extreme weapons, dangerous tools, or access to the family vehicle and then being routinely and dead-pan-denied — his mom (seemingly indifferent) agrees and provides him with some smokes from a side table drawer left laying around by a non-present grandfather. He goes outside, expounding on the coolness of his mom, lights up, and the rest of the strip is filled with gasping, wheezing, choughing, and a few sputtering words of “lessons learned.”If you fall into the “helicopter parenting” side of the debate, right about now you are gasping not with the lung-burning pain of burning tabacco, but rather in horror at the prospect of your own child with a cigarette so casually between their lips. Your precious little angel might be curious about cigarettes and — despite years of government sponsored aggressive anti-smoking campaigns and laws and increased demonization of the habit by Western society — the still-likely inclination for the average kid to show curiosity about this very probably raise your heckles and put you into protective parent mode: “Not on my watch!” you would proudly trumpet as you make a sudden and willful effort to purge a five kilometer radius of anything remotely encouraging of (or otherwise related to) cigarettes and start constructing a mental list and well-timed lecture of the dangers and pitfalls of smoking to health, happiness, and the preservation of modern society.
But then we all know this, right… maybe even feel this way a little bit, too. I mean, I don’t smoke. Maybe you do, but I don’t and I know a lot of people who do and try in an epic way to quit — and there are a lot of reasons for my own non-smoking, not the least of which is a Calvin and Hobbes-esque lesson…
Was that a lesson in the terrible, painful, cough-inducing horror of smoking?
I recall — and perhaps my own father who occasional reads this blog can fill in the gaps of the very likely reconstructed and possibly imagined details of my memory from his own — sitting in our dining room one single-digit-aged day of my early life, and pulling a puff — just one — from a cigarette that my non-smoking dad had brought home. Was that a lesson in the terrible, painful, cough-inducing horror of smoking? Maybe.
But here’s what we have: is the imaginary grown up Calvin of this thought experiment a smoker? Maybe. Not likely, but maybe. The immediate (and punch-line) lesson Calvin learned that idle summer day is to never trust his parents. But I expect if he ever chose to take up smoking as an adult, it would be in abject, willful, defiant contrast to the implied lesson learned in the ten panels of this particular Sunday colour comic strip. I — personally — think Calvin would have “got it” from this, and given his introspective and otherwise intelligent personality, would have actually learned to avoid smoking from here on in.
And what would Calvin (the parent) do now? If Calvin were anything like me he would understand that there is a lesson to be had in the so-called “trial by fire” — it is a kind of learning through doing, learning through experience and mild pain, learning by negative feedback and physically understanding the consequences of an action. And let me be perfectly clear here: not parentally-induced or action-unrelated pain, like spanking or consqeuential punishment, but rather the primary feedback of cause-and-effect. I suspect Calvin would do exactly as his mother did, perhaps needing to delay the lesson — perhaps prepare for it in advance — with a trip to the local convenience store for a pack of smokes and a book of matches. Sure, it is a little unkind. Some well-meaning folks might even accuse me some off-beat and overblown form of child abuse (or at the very least, endangerment) for even suggesting such a lesson: but is it really? What is more dangerous? Hiding the consequences of reality from a kid, or exposing it to them face on when they are at the right age to (literally) ask for that exposure?
Calvin’s mom didn’t force him to smoke, after all. She just let his curiosity provide him the answer he needed in that particular (teachable) moment.Or, perhaps the smoking model is too harsh? Perhaps you are formulating an argument against my assertions based on the threat or exposure to the immediate and proven dangers of cigarette smoke? Then how about this: What would you say if I told you that twice each week we expose our daughter to a very real potential for danger, sending her off through a room with water-slicked floors that are likely crawling with numerous varieties of bacteria and fungus, to a communal bathtub of water saturated with chemicals as deep as her neck. Supervised only by a teenager half my own age while we sit nearly-helpless on the sidelines, our daughter is encouraged to risk the real possibility of asphyxiation and drowning as she and her peers struggle through meaningless and pointless tasks such as repeatedly climbing out and jumping in, splashing copious amounts of water at each other, submerging their heads for no other purpose than getting them wet, and singing songs (thereby opening their mouths and encouraging that chemical-laden water to enter.) But then, of course, you will not object to swimming lessons because we’ve formalized this learning process, marginalized any real danger, and quantified the future pay-off of knowing how to swim in a world that is two-thirds covered in water, right?
The tough part about parenting is not simply keeping dangers out, but in figuring out what is actually dangerous right now…
See, as I figure it, it goes something like this: It’s my role as a parent to keep the real dangers at bay while teaching my daughter to survive in a world that (unfortunately, but in actual reality) will do everything it can to hurt her. The tough part about parenting is not simply keeping dangers out, but in figuring out what is actually dangerous in the immediate and right now — and what will be so much more dangerous later when I’m not there and she’ll need to have the skills and experience to keep those dangers out herself. It doesn’t matter if the lesson is chemical and substance abuse, learning to ride a bike (and risking countless scrapes and bruises) or sending them off to school on the (potential to crash!) school bus each morning. Risk is part of education and managing that risk is my job as a dad. I’m probably just more willing to leverage that risk than the average parent.
In other words, if my school-aged daughter ever asks me for a smoke, I might just have one ready to give her. Just one. “Have a light, honey.” Aaaaaand… lesson learned.
Calvin’s parents got it. And I think Calvin would get that, too.
What I learned about the art of politics working at my last job is both simple and complex; It is simple because if one understands the nuances of high school popularity, there are many, many parallels that can be drawn between the two. It is complex, because we expect it not to be so simple and in our idealism there is much frustration and heartache to be found because it is so simple.
Does this sound too philosophical for a backwards perspective on some silly job?
It might. It should. It will.
Someone once told me that in political bodies (note the small ‘p’) it is more often likely to find a democratic structure resembling a country club — a small group of entrenched long-term members acting as official gatekeepers for others wishing into the same small group — than a true democracy — a small group of short term members accountable to a selection process from a much larger group. Part of me imagines that country clubs are great for those lucky enough to be members, but another part of me is almost certain it is no way to run a balanced and accountable organization.
Readers might mistake this as some sort of commentary on the state of the organization for which I worked. It is not. It’s merely window-dressing for a much narrower and narcissistic tale of job loss. I write this because when I state that the organization where I worked was a ‘country club’ in the political sense, I don’t do so judgingly. It worked for what is was meant to do, and worked far better than some alternatives I could think of. In the long run, it just didn’t work for me.
The other thing that didn’t work for me was that like a real country club (I assume herein) there are years when the members of the club worry about big things that are difficult to control but for which strategy and forethought are valuable: unseasonable weather, the price of gasoline for lawn mowers, or economic conditions that impact the number of casual golfers. And then there are years when the members of the club don’t need to worry about — or simply cannot get their mind around — this bigger picture and spend their energy focusing on the small things: the color of the golf pro’s shoes, the flavors of salad dressing available in the cafe, or the number of those little pencils that are in stock in the pro shop. And from the perspective of staff, the employees of the country club, the latter types of years — the micromanagement years — are more difficult; managers are grumpy, chefs throw tantrums in the kitchen, and the caddies storm off the job when they find out their wardrobes are critically out of fashion with members.
We had one of ‘those years,’ the last year I worked where I used to work. And coming back to the idea of politics, popularity, and perspective it is fair to say that all three of those pieces were neatly aligned to make the life of the staff a living hell.
Not that anyone was to blame. The system, the process, the staging, and the ongoing existence of all those looming outside factors that needed more strategic thinking and less micromanagement all contributed to a moment in time when — votes cast — new people stepped to the tee box and readied their swing at overseeing the difficult shots that needed to be played. That said, it is completely fair to say — and given the fact I’m writing this nearly two years later — that the shot wasn’t a hole-in-one. It wasn’t even par. It was a more of a “let’s call it, uh, eight and get on with the next hole” kind of shot. And I know enough about golf to suggest that really sucks for the end score.
Nearly two years ago now — and a year prior to my last day at work — it was interesting to note that as that first swing was swung, we all — the staff, I mean — had a strong feeling that it was going to be one of ‘those years.’ And we braced, though not hard enough, for a few wild shots and some long, pointless digging in the bushes for lost balls.
Have I milked the golf analogy enough, yet? Ok, so really we sat around in a hotel ballroom, watched the last of our membership trickle out, eating the leftover cookies from a buffet luncheon. I remember downing quite a number of cups of coffee, trying to wake up, as the reality set in that, well… things had most definitely changed.
As I write this little epitaph to that life gone past, it is not my ambition to fire blindly at those to whom I ultimately reported nor those who played a hand in my departure from that organization. The strange thing about country club democracy is that, yes, it is popularity that ultimately matters, and the rest is trivial he-said-she-said kind of debate. At the end of the process, more votes will be cast, more heads will roll, more commoners will rise from the dark corners to fill the gaps. And my perception of what happened behind gilded gates will always be just that: my perception. It could have happened a dozen different ways, and according to the dozen people involved it probably did.
Instead, it is my ambition to make a note, a personal marker in time, of what happened and why I think it happened the way it did. There are five elements to that story: this is the first. The little country club politica for which I worked had a bad year — one of ‘those years’ — and energies that should have been focused upon the broader strokes of economics and ecologies were instead honed in on the little things, already neatly under control by competent staff doing their jobs: trimming the grass, julienne-ing the carrots, and laundering the linens.
So, as I suggested before, what I learned about the art of politics working at my last job is both simple and complex; But knowing that this holds true for almost all aspects in life is probably the better lesson to take away.
That, and I don’t really like golf much anymore.
A lot of the joking aside — but not all — this week is ramping up to a particularly significant (but hardly important or memorable) one-year anniversary for me. I thought, in light of that anniversary I would find some time and some words to fill in some of the gaps around the months and days leading up to that date (in the days leading up to the anniversary) and the gaps of those months and days following that date (in the days following the anniversary.)
Does that make sense? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
I’m going to tell the story of my job transition, from the first glimmers of project collapse to when I finally, months and month later, tucked safely into a new job, slammed the door on the org. I wasn’t blogging at the time, and in retrospect (given my disposition at the time) that might be a good thing. Now, with the distance of time and space, I think I can write (if not fairly) more impartially to the story.
And, as I’ve vowed not to gripe aloud to anyone — Karin in particular — following the noted anniversary date — to move on, get over it, and consider it something of an ancient (if formative) history of self, never to be rehashed in the details oft seen in the past year — I’m going to go into some detail here, fleshing out what I remember, clouded as it may be by the passing of a year or more, and plug the gaping holes of memory to be found (or not) in this blog.
I hope to cover five episodes leading in to the anniversary, and five episodes leading out:
2-1 – Shoes: Running, Weddings, and More
2-2 – Contracts, Promises, Concepts
2-3 – The Paternalism of Government
2-4 – Interviews Abound, Offers Trickle
2-5 – Just Saying No To Rebounds
Consider this something of a literary catharsis, and feel free to read, or not. I write this at a time when the blog, while not hidden, is not exactly out in the open. Anyone reading this is likely scouring my archives or just searching, stumbling randomly upon these stories. So, as I describe the events that found me unemployed at the end of nearly five years servitude to an often weird, occasionally wonderful organization, I’ll try not to implicate anyone or anything in particular, but instead reflect merely on my impressions of what happened, my (obviously) biased opinion of things, and the lessons learned in the process. No names. No accusations. Just what it is, and that’s all.
For those who are interested, I just published a new episode of my online web-novel, The Data Yodeler. I write two new episodes every week, and appreciate your insight and support as I work my way through this massive, multi-year project.
Below is an excerpt from Episode 25 / Key Notes
My fingers were long since accustomed to the music of a QWERTY keyboard, the featherlight dance of digits upon the typesets of plastic keys, echoing the translation of my thoughts into text. And having been borne to and by the generation of the wired, the act of word processing came naturally. Six rows of delicate binary toggles aligned in a pattern that I no longer required conscious thought to decipher were an open gateway to unlimited formulas; Words composed of characters, sentences composed of words, and entire narratives composed of sentences strung one after the other in an endless description of my life transcoded into a world-wide network of information and ideas. I was a wordsmith and my tools were the chiclet buttons of a standard English keyboard tethered to a blinking one-pixel-wide insertion bar waiting for input. For this reason one could almost say it seemed anticlimactic to take up Shen-Li on her suggestion to re-teach my fingers in a new style. One could almost say that is seemed an incompatibility of skills to sit down in our media room in front of her old digital piano and to learn, one finger-peck at a time, how to play real music.
Check out the full site at fiction.datayodeler.com
Claire is one month old today. I suppose I could pontificate on the transformative effects of parenthood, relating to world, or the nuances of not only becoming a dad but surviving it for the first four-plus weeks. Yes, the first month of life for this strange little creature that come to live with us has been both surreal and deeply rewarding, but then you would expect me to reflect divinely on such, and that would be overly dramatic. So I won’t.
Instead, the mundane: I can relate stories of cramped hands from holding a babe perfectly still on one’s chest while balancing a book in the other hand. I can ponder the oddity of laying on the floor and holding a staring contest with an impatient set of eyes less than a foot away. I can teach lessons in the daddy-dance, bouncing a whimpering child in one’s arms to ease the blubbers of imperfect digestion. I can wonder at the ease at which one learns to speak of the by-products of digestion in polite society. I can hint at some secret brotherhood of fatherhood, the secret handshake of new dads who suddenly have more important words to share than those previous brotherhoods of sports, computer speeds, and hemi-powered horsepowers.
One month along and her personality is emerging. I will qualify that: I have anthropomorphized her behaviors and linked them to what I understand as a personality. What I see is character, but it is likely more primal than that. But I’m a dad and I take liberties herein: She is oddly patient. She is pensive, often staring at something I would regard as mundane for minutes on end. She is defiant, choosing to ignore the toys and other delights we offer in favour of the organic shapes and shadows of a nearby houseplant. She is a quick study, taking up the tasks of being a baby — such as feeding, lifting her head, and even now smirking and smiling — more promptly than I would have thought. She relaxes at my voice. She grunts while she sleeps. She hates having her stomach touched. She is stubborn. She is unpredictable. She is an amalgam of her parents.
Did I mention it has been surreal? And did I mention I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Having just last week finished listening to The Diamond Age in audio format, and then having downloaded a promotional copy of the (abridged) The Areas of My Expertise from iTunes as read by the author (otherwise known as John Hodgman, aka. “PC” from the popular Mac and PC commercials) in a way only the author could, I stumbled upon the interested problem of what to listen to next as I fill the twenty minutes (each way) of my commute (each day.)
(Enough brackets by the way?)
Circumstances as they are, I stumbled upon the recordings of Michel Thomas the other day and pondered the fact that “maybe I’m NOT filling my brain with enough information lately” and perhaps I should cram German language lessons into my day somewhere. I loaded the CDs onto my iPod and listened to the first three tracks this morning.
Anybody heard of this guy? It seems all very intriguing… and if I can increase my fluency even a bit whilst driving to and from work, maybe it’s worth it.
In the meantime, if I finally get a grasp on German, perhaps I can take a look at picking up the French version in a few months. Then maybe Spanish or Italian. I’d still like to learn a little Mandarin if anyone knows a good instructor, by the way.