Monday, August 29, 2011

"Why Don't You Clean Your Room?"

School started up for the girls last Monday (visual evidence follows), and probably not a moment too soon.

One of our best pictures of the two of them

Monkey 1 doing her best 60-year-old librarian look

Monkey 2 looking forward to a bright future full of opportunities that only kindergarten can bring

What happens when you tell the girls to pose

Last Friday, my older daughter reached out to me to help her with a problem she was having.  "I'm bored," she lamented.

I'm not sure if she was actually bored, and if she knows for sure what "being bored" actually means.  It may have been a ploy to get to play Wii, which she had already played her fill of for the day.

Regardless, it brought me back to some of the struggles of my own youth.  Fortunately, my own mother modeled for me how to address cases of bored in children, and I responded in turn to my own daughter: "If you're bored, you can clean your room."

Alas, her boredom was cured, as she quickly found something to do.

It's funny the things that make you realize life is not the same as it was.  Being on the other side of a conversation about boredom provided an exclamation point to a lesson I had learned over the summer: Summer breaks are for students and teachers.  I am neither.  It was about a month into summer this year that I realized this.  "Why do I not seem to have as much time as I did when the girls were in school 5 and 3 days a week, respectively?"

Of course, now I am asking, "What the heck was I thinking?"  I guess I was thinking I was still in school.  More subtly, I suspect I geared myself up for a non-specified shift in my schedule once school let out, but didn't really explain to myself what that shift would mean for me.  My synapses had for many years practiced communicating to the rest of my body that summer is a time for chilling, and these synapses were stirred from their decade-long slumber and started firing on all cylinders.  Now I am breaking the news to them that they are no longer needed.

I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't properly gear up for the summer.  That said, it was a good summer in a lot of ways.  I DID get some projects taken care of, like landscaping the front bushes.  And I had made it a goal to do at least one "special" thing with the girls each week, be it the zoo, the Magic House, the Transportation Museum, or whatever.  That happened, despite my feeling generally "off" for much of the summer.

Now school is back in session, and instead of classifying the time I have now as "extra time", I want to treat it as "proactive time".  I want to take care of both the things that HAVE to get done--like cleaning and shopping and attending to car accidents--as well as the things that SHOULD get done to enhance the functionality of our household and the endeavors of myself (like blogging).

For starters, here are 6 specific non-negotiable and ongoing goals I have for myself for the fall semester:
1.  Blog at least 2x a week.
2.  Finish landscaping and lawn-tending that needs to take place in the fall.
3.  Sort through the boxes of art that my children have created the last couple of years.
4.  Become social again, scheduling at least one lunch or coffee a week.
5.  Visit the girls' school at least 3x.
6.  Burn at least 3 DVD's of video from our computer so as to erase the data and free up disk space.

There are more, of course.  Many other projects are more of the "one and done" variety.  But these are ongoing, lifestyle-type things, out there for all the world to see.

So my "summer break" has started, but I have no intention of being bored.  And, if I do get bored, I can always clean my room.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

27 Years in the Making: "Highway 1"

In late grade school, when I would finish an assignment early, I frequently asked the teacher if I could go to the resource area and get a World Book encyclopedia to look at.  Specifically, I would look at political maps of states (and providences).

I was enthralled with state geography.  Volume N-O was an absolute goldmine, and either C volume (I think "Ci" was the splitting point) was useful as well.  I’d examine where oceans, lakes, and rivers were located within each state, and speculate how these bodies of water led to population settlement within the states.  I wondered why the population of some metropolitan areas were combined (e.g., Dallas/Fort Worth) while others were distinct (e.g., Baltimore and Washington D.C.).  Sometimes, I designed from scratch new countries: I’d draw a blob on a piece of paper, then add rivers and lakes, political divisions, and population centers—often creating in my head historical explanations for some of the more arbitrary seeming boundaries and population centers.

But what separated me from other children was that I honed in on one particular geographical area of the U.S.: the west coast.  I was especially fascinated by the apparently sparsely populated stretches of coastline between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.  Why were THESE stretches so devoid of large cities?  What were these thin gray roads like?  Could you actually SEE the ocean from these roads, or were they inland just far enough to tease?

I imagined that someday I would find out the answers to these questions firsthand.  That “day” happened during two separate road trips: from LA to San Fran in 2003, and from Seattle to San Fran in 2009.  These drives—on the Pacific Coast Highway 1, as I discovered it was called—were literally the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, a strange childhood infatuation that never faded even after I became a grown up.

Since first making the drive, poetic images related to the drive have been bouncing around in my head, every now and then making their way onto paper.

Perhaps one day I’ll write about the drive in prose form.  Right now, I sorted through some of the ideas and shaped them into some lyrics.  As per my M.O., I’ve got a melody attached to most of the words, and maybe someday this will become an actual song.  Who knows?

As something of a companion piece to this wannabe song, I have more lines and ideas that, when added to this, transform it into full-out poem instead of a lyric.  Whether or not I ever finalize THAT version remains to be seen.  Even this version may find itself revised soon enough.  We’ll see.

But for now, enjoy.


     Highway 1

Highway 1 is for the young and for the ones who might still be
But who can’t believe they might receive the chance
To stand and kiss on a precipice the vast and hopeful sea
Breaking free like waves from chains of circumstance.
It’s for dreamers and for lovers
And those who by life are smothered
Who believe but with their own eyes want to see.
It’s for the hardened and forgiven
For the passive and the driven
It’s for you and, baby, Highway 1’s for me.

So come on, come on, come on let’s go again
And maybe we’ll make it to
That place where we can finally know again
How to dance to all that’s good and true
Finding grace on Highway 1

Against the shore the ocean roars then beckons like a maiden
Whispering to those who sing to music in their heads.
And those who hear can wander near and maybe even wade in
To wash away their guilt and learn to live with hope instead.
It’s for friends and maybe lovers
Hopeful, searching for each other
On roads where neither one has ever been.
It’s for the damaged and forsaken
And those choosing roads less-taken
So let’s drive on down Highway 1 again


You can see a million miles and a million shades of blue
From mountain roads wrapped high above the sea.
Highway 1 is longer than our lists of things to do
It’s for you and, baby, Highway 1’s for me.


Friday, August 12, 2011


Sometimes I search hard for blog topics.  Other times, they just fall in my lap.  Today, one made a left turn in front of me while I was driving through an intersection and I "struck it" (that's an official police term, by the way, and in no way admits fault regarding said "striking").

As long as the AC still works, I consider it drivable.

It looks like it's winking.

Concave is the new convex.

RIP is a slightly premature assessment of the CRV.  Perhaps it was just a near-death experience, and in a couple of weeks it will be back on its wheels telling anyone who will listen about the bright light at the end of the tunnel.  We'll see.

A few details:
-I was by myself

-My back and neck are a bit stiff, but other than that I seem fine (ask me again tomorrow).

-The car I "struck" was a '98 GMC Sierra.  I don't know what sort of hidden damage his car sustained, but where I have a front 30% of a car that needs to be replaced, he has a dent that looks like a Prius backed into him in a parking lot.  You know the phrase "Don't take a knife to a gun fight"?  I would add, "Don't take a CRV to a GMC Sierra fight."

-I do not believe I am at fault.  The other guy feels the same way about himself, but that common bond did little to instill a sense of closeness between us.  To settle things, I suggested some good old fashioned MMA.  The police officer on hand suggested we let the insurance companies decide.  He had the gun, so his vote counted triple.  Honestly, I don't harbor any ill-will toward the gentleman.  It happened.  It's a bummer, but the guy himself seemed pleasant enough.

-The air bags did not go off.  I didn't seem to bump my head, so I can't complain about that, but I do kind of wonder what it would have taken for them to deploy.

-The other guy is probably also fine.  He was walking around, apparently unscathed, but my sources tell me he decided to go the ER to get checked out.  Of course, I genuinely hope that he is OK.  If you are inclined to pray to that end, I encourage you to do so.

-Both the firefighter and the police officer on the scene were left handed.  I am also left handed.  The car I struck was making a left turn.  Interesting coincidence, or boring "Twilight Zone" episode?

-Our insurance company will provide us rental reimbursement until we get things figured out with the CRV.

-If the car is totaled, we will probably consider the mini-van route for replacing it.

-I recently used the CRV to haul and store several bags of compost.  My younger daughter's reaction to hearing about the accident was, "We need a new car because the old one was stinky."

On that note, enjoy your weekend and drive safely.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fit at Five: the Hungry PK's Guide to Losing the Baby Fat

My daughters enjoy vegging on the couch with a bag of fruit snacks watching reruns of "The Backyardigans" as much as any of us.  Yet, they're both still able to comfortably fit into size XS 6/7.  How do they do it?  The answer lies in a well-balance exercise routine.

In this post, they'll share with you some photos of them engaging in a few of their favorite calorie-burning activities.  Enjoy, and be challenged.


Since this picture, I've converted Monkey Two into a left-handed batter, and she's done quite well.  She reminds me of a young David Justice.

The bag was a Christmas present from my mom.  The technique?  Inherited.

Fighting in one-piece, full-body sleepwear is all the rage in the boxing world.

We're just glad that she's emotionally well-balanced

Monkey One engaged in some pre-climb meditation

If I had a few more hours to kill, I may have cropped the climbing wall onto a panorama of the Rocky Mountains.

It was a victory for Monkey Two to even give it a shot.  It wasn't until she saw her big sister conquer the peak that she mustered up the courage to go for it.

This was as far as she got, but I was still very proud of her for trying.