Today the snow was perfect for making snowballs. After my walk I took on two of my daughters in a snowball fight. We used the piles of snow on each side of the driveway as our defense. I lost. In my defense, I didn’t have gloves, so I had to take breaks to warm my hands.
Afterwards we ate Dilly Bars. We stood among the shattered pieces of snowballs on the driveway, soaking in the sun and just talking.
In the midst of this crazy time we are living in, we enjoyed a Sunday afternoon. For those who are regular readers of this blog, you know my word for this year is “Moment”. This afternoon was a great moment. It was a moment of living, of fun, of family.
I don’t know if it is because of my word, or just me getting older, but I notice that what too many people call living is just enduring life, or simply being entertained by a screen. Even in the simplest moments, there is a depth of joy to be experienced that you can’t get from a screen.
The snow is perfect for a snowball fight today. And Dilly Bars can be held with frozen fingers.
For a while now, we have been listening to the top 40 countdown on the 80s channel on XM radio while making blueberry muffins. We get to hear the top 10 songs, with breakfast usually ready while the number one song for the week plays. This week in 1986 was “Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red.
This morning, the kitchen was full. My second son had returned from a trip with his friends, and my oldest son’s girlfriend was visiting. Everyone was filling their plates: scrambled eggs, blueberry muffins, glasses of milk, and bacon. It was a typical Sunday morning.
Earlier in the countdown was the song, “Like a Rock” by Bob Seger (I don’t remember what position on the chart it was). There is a verse in the song about how 20 years have flown by:
Twenty years now
Where’d they go?
I don’t know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone
Mixed with the sad vibe of “Holding Back the Years” I thought about how bittersweet our Sunday routine is.
In one way, our blueberry muffin breakfast holds back the years because it brings us together as a family. Every tradition a family participates in is a way to stop time. It strengthens the bond of love and joy that creates a timeless bubble for everyone to live in, no matter how much time has passed or how much someone has grown.
Because time does pass, we do grow older, we do change. Sitting at the table, it was bittersweet to know that in a few months both of my sons would be out in the world. My youngest daughter doesn’t need my help taking the paper cup off of her muffin anymore. My children were growing, time was moving forward.
There was nothing I could do about it, but yet this morning, we were together, family. That will never change. Contrary to the lyrics of “Holding Back the Years”, our tradition of blueberry muffins is a chance for something good to happen, for love to happen.
I went out to the minivan to get the plastic containers so we could pack up our son’s graduation table. The last of family, friends, and other guests had sauntered off to enjoy the sunny Saturday afternoon. Graduation was still a day away but we held our graduation celebration a day early with two of his friends. Their families were tearing down their sons’ tables. It was a fun morning. We went through almost 300 breakfast burritos. Don’t know how many cups of coffee or slices of coffee cake we went through, but it was a lot.
There were old friends and new. Small moments of conversations. My son (and I’m sure his friends) had to answer the question, So, what are your plans for next year?, a million times. Slide shows were on constant loop, revealing how the boys have grown. A window into their lives in six second intervals.
I placed the container down that held all of his medals; sports, journalism, and science fair. Time to box it up all again. For a week my wife and I looked through boxes for material for the table (my wife more than me, but I had to lift the heavier ones). As I picked up this year’s second place medal and small trophy for basketball, I had to hold my heart together.
Not because I was sad. Just the opposite. No one ever tells you how joy can break your heart. Honestly, that kind of heartbreak is just as painful. Partly because on the edge of the joy is the realization that no moment lasts forever. Yes, we have the memories, the pictures and trophies to draw upon. But when you are in the moment, however big, like a state championship game, or small, like teaching your daughters how to play H.O.R.S.E. on the driveway hoop, is when we know we are living. Fully engaged with who we are, connected to those around us. Living life.
And then those moments pass. Many of them are captured in photos, medals, certificates, and home videos. Others are relived through stories told around the dinner table or at holidays. We laugh, we cry, we feel the moments again. Then we box them up. In our hearts. In plastic containers. In our phones.
I got all the medals, photos, certificates, and trophies packed up. We got the extra plates and cups gathered together. We divided the few breakfast burritos among the three families, and left the conference room to enjoy the sunny Saturday afternoon, ready to experience the next big moment: Graduation.
My three youngest daughters were all up early today. They were spread out in the living room. One reading, one drawing, and one on the iPad.
“What muffins today?” they asked. We have been alternating between blueberry and chocolate chip muffins, with a cinnamon option every once and awhile.
“Blueberry,” I say.
They respond, “OK.” But I can tell they wanted chocolate chip muffins. But there were only two left at the end of the day.
Next week is graduation for my second son.
I turn 50 this year.
I completed the Writer’s Digest 2021 April Poem a Day challenge. (You can read the poems on my Creative Corner for Writing blog. I’ve been posting them when I can. I am on day 9.)
I just finished Kevin Garnett’s book A to Z. (Great book!)
And maybe I’m just waiting for the end of this pandemic, but I’ve noticed that there are more endings in my life lately. I understand that time moves on. That doesn’t stop my mind from considering how everything ends. By chance I learned that my stepmother died in November. I haven’t spoken to her or my father in decades. Of course learning of her passing brought back memories (not many were happy). The obituary mentioned that her children were by her side when she passed. No matter what happened while our stories were on the same path, her story is now over.
I guess the aspect of endings I have been troubled by is the finality of most of the endings in this life. There is no way to redo moments in our lives. No matter how much we want to. That knowledge is the hard part of the ending, especially the ending of joyful moments. One of the lessons you learn as a dad. Letting go. Letting go of your children. Letting go of youth. Letting go of the past.
Yes, there is tomorrow and there are new beginnings. But a hard truth of life is that most of the endings in life leave you with only memories.
I filled my daughters’ water bottles. I made one lunch. I started the dishwasher. I had my one cup of coffee. My morning routine is predictable. There are activities I do every morning, like spend a few minutes in meditation. Other activities happen as needed, like making lunches for my daughters.
Today, I took out the trash.
Let me back up to the start of the day. My alarm went off at 4:50. Groggy, I put my feet on the floor. I was already dreading the day. The health department set their COVID dial to Orange. The school routine would be amped up. Cleaning every period. More temperature checks. No visitors to the school. Let alone, the daily battle of wearing a mask. That’s all I will say about that situation.
A bad mood was brewing before I even started my coffee maker.
And it just got worse. Especially, when I had to fight the trash container to get the bag out. We have a cylinder trash can that creates a vacuum when the trash bag is too full. Fun times.
I wake my daughters at 5:55. Get them breakfast. We are usually ready to head to school at 6:30. This morning, we were actually a few minutes ahead of schedule. My mood was darkening, that’s when I took out the trash.
I waited for the garage door to open so that I could put my bags in the truck of the minivan. After setting the bags in, I stepped out on to our driveway and took in the stars. I heard a side door open so I turned to see my second daughter waiting for the door to stop moving. I asked her to come see the stars, especially the constellation, Orion.
There we stood, father and daughter under a morning sky that was filled with wonder. I pointed out Mars and how it had a reddish shine. We found Venus, too. We circled looking at the different constellations. We heard the rest of the family getting situated into the van, but we stood there a few more seconds.
“Pretty cool, huh?” I said.
“Yeah, the stars are beautiful,” she said.
We smiled at each other, then got into the van to start the day.
The video was produced by my son. This is our first poetry video. We are working on a new video as I write.
My third daughter is teaching herself how to play songs on her keyboard. She learned the opening to “Purple Rain” for me.
I took my daughters to a crane viewing site by the river to learn how to draw landscapes.
I know life is challenging right now. I am teaching English online. My kids are attending college through kindergarten on line.
It is tough in so many different ways. But maybe this is also an opportunity. An opportunity for you, for your family, to do something you didn’t have time for… to do something outside your normal routine before the pandemic. Maybe, just maybe, now is the time to build your skills to go after your dreams.
I was thinking about life the other day while I waited for my daughters to finish their first day of practice for Cinderella Jr. So many little ideas bounced inside my head. I will be turning 50 in a few years. It is nice to have summer break again (been four years). The story lines of the Star Trek movies my wife and I have been watching (one through five at the time). This floor is hard. The idea of time presented in the movie, Arrival. Amazement at making it to this moment in my life. The new band Haevn I discovered.
Ideas like that, then something clicked in my head. Life became an acronym. Each letter represents an aspect of how to live a great life. I ran with the idea, jotted down some notes, and decided to write a blog series on this idea. After this introductory post, I will dedicate a post for each letter.
My goal of the blog series is:
To be inspirational for you, the reader
To satisfy my joy of dealing with deep ideas
To satisfy my drive for writing
So join me over the next two weeks as I discuss the acronym of LIFE. I will share my ideas, share some book or media recommendations, and hopefully give you, even if it is just one idea, something that will help you live an awesome life.
To reinforce the importance of doing the right thing. My wife and I spent the weekend at a youth basketball tournament with our two middle daughters. As you can imagine, there was all kinds of people and craziness. Youth basketball tournaments have a unique chaos to them.
First, understand we do enjoy seeing our kids play. We are thankful for the hard work it takes to run these tournaments. This post is not about that. It’s about people.
I’m not going to rant about all the stuff that goes on. From the yelling at refs, yelling at their own kids as they head to the car, or the way people disregard others around them. One child throwing popcorn all over everyone while his parents did nothing.
I’m going to use one situation, parking, to ask the question: When is it the right time to do the right thing?
If you have ever attended an event like this, you know that parking is difficult. There is never enough parking. Plus it is the middle of winter. But what is worse is the cars that blatantly take two spots by parking their cars so that the car is over both yellow lines. Or the person who parks so that the handicap spots can not be accessed. How about the cars that park away from the curbs so far it is hard for others to drive between the parked cars and the car six feet away from the curb.
My favorite is the glare you get because someone is driving the wrong way for the entry drive to the parking lot and you had the audacity to drive correctly and they have to pull their car to the side.
So, when is it the right time to do the right thing?
When no one is looking?
When we are all dealing with the same situation?
When there is an emergency?
I believe we should do the right thing every time.