Friday, December 29, 2006


It's almost over, and I have mixed feelings about it. As does the world, apparently. As I sit here typing this they are waiting to excute Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he may even be dead already, one more bit of grisly business before the world can take a deep sigh and be reborn again. Not that the number on the calendar is anything but an artificial construct really, but it is important psychologically, and if part of what makes up the world is human perception of it, then I guess that does make the calendar important after all.

This was a good year for me in many ways and a really bad one as well. It is the year I finally stopped accepting my own excuses and started kicking my own ass, which I feel good about. I got more written this year than I have in all the years I've been alive combined, so I suppose that is a victory. I also took care of myself better. I didn't lose any more weight, but I did drop another couple of pants sizes and the number on the weights I was able to lift went up. Another victory. I survived a difficult year at school and have welcomed the beginning of a new one under new management, with a principal that gives me hope that our school will be able to become a world-class school, and someone with the skill to possibly mentor me and help me become the best teacher I can possibly become. If that's what I want.

And I think therein lies my biggest problem with this year, an inability to pin down what it is I actually want. This has, to be frank, frustrated my wife and my family as it has made me very moody, very --well, it's dangerous to self-diagnose yourself as intense, but, ok -- intense, and it has driven home to me the fact that the face I present to the world is not usually the face I wear at home or with myself. In public I can seem friendly, jovial, but at home and in my personal relationships I am often quiet, morose even, seeming mad at the world. It's almost a Jeckyl and Hyde thing, my moods swings, which were supposed to balance out with my meds and with my increased fitness level, have actually gotten worse. Oh, these things help, but I think there's just a deeper issue boiling under the surface, which occasionally pops out, and I can feel it there most days, which makes me withdraw. This isn't fair to the people who love me.

Part of it is just the fact that, outside of my parents, and one or two close frinds. Well, one really (Hi Jenny!), I did not grow up with a great deal of acceptance. Everything I liked and wanted was considered weird and stupid, and I just got used to sitting there blandly, thinking my thoughts, and not telling anyone whatI was really doing. Like, writing X-men fanfic in my bedroom and drawing (really bad) covers to go along with it. Or watching TV until 3:00 in the morning because my thoughts were too unsettled to go to sleep. Planning out multi-volume novels in spiral bound notebooks, and then losing interest in them and starting new ones the next day. Creating elaborate sets and solo-game rules for the MARVEL SUPER-HEROES role playing game figures and playing campaigns by myself because there wasn't anyone to play with. These were the things I loved, the things that were always on my mind, and the things that I was always too embarrassed to admit to.

So, as an adult, I'm always thinking that the things I want or like or are on my mind must be stupid or embarrassing somehow. And maybe I'm right about that, but I married my wife and I adopted my children for a reason, and that was not to shut myself in a closet away from them. It was not to build a manequin and call it daddy and paint it to look like me while I went on with my own inner dialogue with people who are not actually there.

This came up a few months ago as we were all settling down for the night and I was doing something stupid on the internet and my wife was in the room and my daughter was and sho hopped over and wanted to know what I was doing and I got really annoyed with her and just said, "nothing, it doesn't matter" and tried to push her down off my lap. My wife just said, (and I paraphrase here) that I was just shutting everyone out as usual and she made me understand that it was ok to share myself with my kid. It was, in fact, required. And whatever I was doing--as long as I wasn't looking at something dirty or anything--was probably not going to be met with judgement. Nobody really cared if I was looking at silly comic book websites and hanging out at the NaNoWriMo forums. If that was who I was, great. She made me realize that my seven-year-old, who really was old enough to understand, didn't even know I was writing a book, that's how far away I'd pushed her. She wanted to know why I felt so little of all of them that I didn't bother to share.

And that wasn't it. It was just that I ... I guess I didn't know how. Very few people had ever not looked at what I was doing with derision, so I just got used to keeping it shut away. Clearly, that wasn't working anymore. Which led me to the realization that it actually was ok to want what I want, without qualifications. Which led me to the question, what is it I actually wanted?

I wanted to strike the word Dream from my vocabulary. I'd been living with it for too long. It was time to replace dream with work and start kicking my own ass, which I did, which accounts for the vast amount of writing work I got done in between work, family, and "service organizations."

I want to develop some career goal besides teaching. This was tough for me to admit to, but .... I really just don't like it much any more. Even with a good principal and a good environment, I';m tired of it. I'm tired, mostly, of being responsible for so many other peoples' behavior at all times. I just want to be. I don't know what this goal is going to be, I would love for it to be a writing career (thus the kicking of the ass) but I do know I need to come to some clarity soon. I just don't feel like, personality-wise, I'm much cut out for it. Call it burn-out or whatever. And I DO NOT want to go into administration. I break out in hives just thinking about that.

My wife and I set our next goal, which is building a house on property next to her parents', which will be a multi-stage, fiscally complicated, process. And I feel good about that but also a little scared too. We also decided we haven't traveled nearly as much as we would have liked to and want to do more traveling while we're young, hopefully international, since neither one of us even has a passport. I feel like I need this experience as a writer, and I need it with her. We do not plan to take the children, at least not yet, and anyone who knows my kids will know why we're waiting until they're older. I love them, but sometimes ... oy. I have no idea how this goal fits in with the house plan.

Since my birthday is in January, I can say that 2006 was the year I was 33. Jesus' age, which felt signifigant somehow, and probably caused me to do a lot of crucifying of myself. I didn't screw up as much as I have in some other years, but I wasn't perfect either. I have a feeling 34 is going to be more of the same, I just hope to have a better handle on it next time.

God, that was depressing. I promise to try to be funny next time. Still not used to this whole Blogging-as-therapy thing.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The 6 Assholes of Christmas

To the idiot standing outside wal-mart, right next to the "No smoking withing twenty feet of store entrance" sign, smoking a cheap, smelly cigarrette, blowing it at the Salvation Army bell ringer, who was too polite to grab the cigarrette and jam it in his eyesocket ... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

To the redneck guy in the black-smoking truck who stopped in the Raley's parking lot for the specific purpose of getting the attention of the cold husky dog in the back of someone's else's truck, just to honk at it and scare the bejeezus out of it, then cackle out the window with his friend and peel away with a cloud of smoke and rubber debris spewing out behind him ... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

To the woman at the outlet mall who wanted my parking place as I was putting my kids inside my Blazer, who apparently decided I was taking too long and decided to hurry me up by honking at me ... Congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

To the gang of teenagers in the mall, standing in the exact middle of the way, oblivious to what was going on around them, glaring at people and giggling profanities at the children who passed by to show everyone how "cool" they were ... congratulations, you're all Christmas Assholes!

To my neighbor, who's complaining that the Christmas Lights across the street look "too mexican" ... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

And, ok, to the grinch taking the time on Christmas Eve morning to think about this list, type it up, and post it on the web for all the world to see, thus taking advantage of what are probably basically decent people (well, in most cases) just giving in to the holiday stress .... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

Let's salute all of our Christmas Assholes. May they choke on some fruitcake and die this glorious holiday season. Well, most of them, anyway ...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Christmas Curmudgeon (warning: depressing content)

I've never liked Christmas. There. I said it. I just ... from the time I was a little child, the "magic of the holiday season" has escaped me. It's not that I don't get the meaning of Christmas, or that I don't believe in it. I do. The entire incarnation-death-resurrection cycle that makes up the core of my faith is meaningful and important to me. And it's not because I had my faith "educated out of me" as my family was always afraid would happen. I mean, yes, I know that the entire Christmas holiday was just a way for early Christians to co-opt the Roman Saturnalia festival. This is not what makes me ambivalent about Christmas. My favorite holiday is Easter and I totally geek out about that, even though I know if was just a way for early christians to co-opt the pagan rites of spring, only with a lot less sex. (well, a little less, anyway .... I still want to know why that bunny lays eggs.)

I am annoyed by Christmas in the way everyone is. As a TV geek, I resent the yearly "special holiday episode" most shows take (although the "How I met your Mother" one recently was the way to get it right). I can't stand any holiday song written in the last 100 year. I'm looking at you, Rudolph, Jingle Bell Rock, Rocking around the christmas tree, and I think there is a special circle of hell reserved for the writers and popularizers of "Grown up Christmas List" and especially, "The Christmas Shoes." I hate how everything gets so busy and there's so much social pressure around this time. I have never sent out Christmas cards and only decorated the outside of my house once. Don't ask.

And before you say anything, yes I do like getting presents. Always have. And yes, I realize this makes me a hypocrite.

This recently came to a head when I was putting up the christmas tree this year. My children were helping me string the lights, actually behaving themselves. Jewel's christmas cd was on the stereo (shut up!) and my wife was on the couch watching what was going on providing helpful instruction. And I was thinking, "this is a greeting card moment. this is when I should be happy" but I just wasn't, and I was trying to figure out why that was, and why it has always been that way for me. And then I had one of those stunning moments of realization that we have from time to time, the kind where you wonder why you haven't had it before. Some people need alcohol to get there, I only needed Jewel (shut up!).

ok, stop reading now if you just want this to be the geeky-silly blog and not the serious one, because what follows is in no way funny, but may help explain why I am who I am today. I firmly believe that our personalities start to form when we are little, and the things that happen to us then resonate out and affect who we become as adults. I don't think anyone will disagree with that. And when I was two years old, almost three, I lost my little brother. He died (I think) ten days before christmas. Now, I remember him, but I don't remember the specific occasion of his death or how I found out about it. I remember not going to his funeral, for some reason, and I have very specific memories of him when he was alive. But I think that sadness marked me in some way, and got itself forever associated with this season. I didn't share this with anyone, but I've been thinking about it ever since, and its taken me a while to process, but I think it explains why, exactly I just feel so unbearably sad this time each year, and I usually don't start to feel better until January when my birthday rolls around, and while Easter, with its promise of redemption and rebirth and its sense of relief from a cycle of unbearable grief has always been my preferred holiday.

So I hope that this realization will help me have a better christmas next year, as I think i still need this one to process. So, is this a new christmas beginning for me? We'll see. It may just be further proof that I need therapy.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Random TV Geekness

Ok, they got me. After some initial reticence about the show, I am now a full on Heroes geek! This will probably come as a surprise to no one.

At first, I thought the show was a little plodding and self important. This tone changed with the second episode. I heard this was because they brought in a new show-runner who wanted to lighten the tone. Whatever they did, it worked. Of course, OF COURSE, this coincided with the arrival of Greg Grunberg, who was the best character on Alias for many years, the only one who could convincingly crack a joke while saving Sydney Bristow's life. All we need now is for Kevin Weisman to appear as the techno geek who helps Micah Sanders learn about his powers, and were all set.

Even Hayden Panetierre stopped anoying me, with her stoic "bitch-goddess" face and over coiffed hair. And Bad Glasses Man? The one we all though was evil at first? Well, he may be the most awesome adoptive father of all time. I wish I had some shadowy quasi-governmental agency to help me protect my kids. Go, bad glasses dad!

ahem ... anyway, if you're not watching Heroes now, the previous episodes are being re-run on SciFi and NBC to get you ready for the show to return in January, and are available for streaming online. Oh, and you can get them on itunes too. Yes, I realize I have become a TV Missionary now, but we all knew it was going to happen someday. Any show that includes both a serial killer and an apocalypse will do that to me.

My other TV Geektastic moments so far this season:

The New Caprica Arc on Battlestar Galactica. WIth the fleet evacuated to avoid being killed by the invading Cylons, the civillian population is left on the planet they unwisely decided to settle and are living under Cylon domination for six months. Brutal, brutal stuff, but brilliant. The resistance forms, even utilizing suicide bombers, sacrifices are made, Starbuck is kidnapped and subjected to a Persephone-like internment, which includes making her a mother and then making her scared of losing the child, The Pres and the terrorist bond while waiting to be killed by firing squad, and then, Galactica, which can't live with having left so many behind, literally drops OUT OF THE FUCKING SKY and shows everyone, absolutely everyone, who's in charge. The people return to their home in exile, but have lost 10,000 of their own. Not exactly heartwarming, but brilliant.

The Slap Bet episode of How I Met Your Mother may be the funniest single episode of a sitcome I have ever seen. From the process of slab bets themselves, to the revelation of Robin's dark secret, I was laughing so hard my son came over to the couch to make sure I was all right. Let's just say I volunteer to be Slap Bet commisioner.

The Aitu Four on Survivor: Cook Islands. Rejected and betrayed by everyone, the four left on the Aitu tribe, facing defeat and eventual pagonging from the double-in-numbers Raro tribe, bind together and proceed to KICK ASS! They win every challenge, then Yul, genius as he is, uses the power of the immunity idol to bring the weaselly outcast, who also does all the work and can actually think intelligently about strategy, back over to their side and kick out the RARO assholes, starting with the jive-talking moron and culminating in the sanctimonious Candice, who had betrayed them in the first place. Brilliant, brilliant play for once (i hope you're watching this, Terry) and for once, the good guys win. Of course, from previews, it looks like it all falls apart next week, but for now, good on you Aitu. Thank you for saving this show.

Studio 60 continues to rock for me. Though some character choices have been odd. I appreciate the irony, but is it realistic that Harriett, who's supposed to be this brilliant comedienne, can't tell a joke to save her life. But I still like the show. It's funny and sweet in the right places, and yes, I want to be Matt Albie when I grow up.

Jericho, let' be honest, sucks. But for some reason I can't stop watching. It must be the whole apocalypse obsession.

Oh, and for your homework assignment, Watch Veronica Mars! It's the best show on television right now. Ok, well, it's at least in the top five. The Serial-rapist storyline that started out the season came together so well that I almost slapped myself for not guessing the truth. And the piz-dance? Yikes? My favorite line came from Mac. Paraphrased: I can't go to the Frat party because all the glitter came off my porn-star top. They won't let me in! But don't worry about her, she substituted nicely with an "ask me about my STD" t-shirt.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Truth, She is a Bitch

Recently, it seems the theme of my life has been "Facing Unpleasant truths." Here are some things that I've learned:

I am not as smart as I like to think I am. I am not even as smart as other people think I am. ON most days, I am not even the smartest person in my own house (this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my wife). Yes, this includes days when it's just me and the bunny and the cat. I may be smarter than the fish, since they accidentally ate the little sucker fish that was cleaning up after them. I stress the word may.

Despite the persistent fantasy I have of competing, If I actually were a contestant on The Amazing Race, I would get so hopelessly lost that Phil Kheoghan would not even be able to find me to Philiminate me. This would probably happen on the way to the airport. During the first leg, when I was still in the U.S. and could actually read the road signs.

In spite everything I may say to the contrary, I am a person who needs order and cleanliness around me in order to function. However, because of various issues (thanks a bunch, brain chemistry!) I am incapable of creating or maintaining it for myself. This keeps me in a constant state of freaked out.

Yes, I know I am too old to watch Anime and read comic books. No, I am not going to stop.

The cute barista girl at Starbucks? The one I always think is flirting with me (yes, i flash the ring, honey)? The one who told me I look "like the guy on CSI" who I choose to believe is Eric Szmada and not William Peterson? Yeah, she just wants a good tip. The guy who works the window on alternate days? Same thing.

My personal style, the one I like to think of as a fusion of earthy-crunchy and alternative hipster? It's really just whatever's on clearance at Old Navy and a couple of t-shirts from Hot Topic. And hair gel. Lots and lots of hair gel, because i have thick, straight hair and it will do NOTHING else.

That is all. I go to cry now.