The things we do for our kids

  • Deliver 301 boxes of girl scout cookies.  While she’s on a playdate.  And a sleepover.  Why?  because the boxes are too damn heavy and “if you don’t get these boxes out soon, I’m going to kill you with them” threats make you move your kiester 🙂
  • Go to class and get beaten with a bamboo sword.  Yeah, got hit last night, and it freakin HURT!  But I’m doing it because I want to do it with Aidan, not because the class is cool as hell and hopefully at some point, I’ll be able to wear cool ass armor and stuff.  Geeking out, me?  NEVER!
  • Allow them to put together projects without taking it over so ‘they are doing it right’ and instead give gentle nudges like, “Dude, the clay is falling off the base, you might want to shore up that one side” or “Yes, I think orange clouds would be really pretty”.
  • Read to them, every night before bed, because you know what?  THEY LOVE IT!  So what if you’re half asleep yourself – do the voices you A-HOLE or you’re a shitty father! 😉
  • Remind them to make their beds because when they do, Mommy gets really happy with them.
  • Make their lunches in the morning, and every once in a while, slip in a note.  Doesn’t really matter what you say, just makes them feel loved.  Tho I found that “Farmer John’s Overalls are full of poo” is not a good thing to put in a note to your son because he spits milk out of his nose laughing.
  • Stop writing on your blog when they come to you with a question.  I SAID STOP!  Save it where you are and be a Dad.

Okay, I think that’s all my meager brain can come up with right now.

A disagreement with my knees

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’ve been doing martial arts since 1993 and I’ve been interested in Zen and other things I’ve come across in passing while studying different styles.  I was talking with one of the guys I studied jujitsu with a few years back and he and I had discussed the possibility of making a trip up to a place he’d heard of from a friend to check out Zen Buddhism firsthand.  I stopped studying HYR Jujitsu, but kept in touch with the one guy over Instant Messenger.  (as an aside, if you live in the Princeton NJ area, Fabian Sensei is amazing.  I only stopped because I got a new job in White Plains.)

My 40th birthday is coming up and I was trying to decide what to do.  My friend Alex got me tickets to see the RedSox play in Fenway in Sept for the first time, giving me the best birthday present ever.  The question from my family came up as to what I wanted to do for my 40th in January.

After kicking around several ideas, I thought about the place my friend had told me about and I found the place again, Zen Mountain Monastery.   I found an intro class that sounded cool, but it’s not cheap, and it’s 3 days.  Everyone wants to go in together on a present and get it for me, but truthfully, I like meditating, and I do it quite often, but the package I looked at was for extended periods and I wasn’t sure if it was truly something for me or something I was physically capable of.  They do offer a Sunday class that is a nice intro to what they do, how it works, and what to expect.  So after getting in touch with them to find out what to do, they told me to just show up around 9, and someone would lead me from there.

6am – oye.  Didn’t sleep much, maybe 5 hours.  Mind racing a million miles an hour.  Is that the alarm?  Enlighten THIS!!  Ugh!

6:01am – get up loser.  You need to go check it out.

6:30am – fuck, it’s dark.  Shut up and go.  Wait.  Oh, okay.  It’s not really that dark, my eyes aren’t totally open.

6:35am – please please please don’t let me get into an accident before I can put the caffeine IV in.  Ahh, Dunkin Donuts, thank heaven for you:)

6:36am – where are my fucking directions?!?

8:40am – wow, I’m awake, the mountains are really beautiful and I’m almost there.  Man, I’m in the middle of NOWHERE!

8:50am – almost miss the turn, oh okay, the bridge is out.  I have to park here and hoof it to the place on foot.  Oh, thank goodness, it’s on the other side of the bridge.  Met some nice people who took pity on me and showed me where I could park and walked with me.  They introduced me to a woman who turned out to be the chant leader, very nice.  She told me where to drop my jacket and where to go and wait.  

The zendo (the place where everyone meditates) was a polished wooden floor with square padded mats, with a small round pillow on each one.  Very beautiful, yet modest statue on the altar at one end, and very sparse and simple room.  I found out that once the bell rang and the others filed in, I could find a place to stand and just try to follow along as best as I could.  Lots of bell ringing and chanting, and a nice lady who showed me which page to read from.  The energy was very clean and nice, allowing me to shrug off a lot of my stress.  Did some bowing and more chanting, falling into the rhythm of the group fairly easily.

9:30am -chanting ends, 1st time visitors shown into another room.  One of the monastics took about 10 of us to another room, and showed us the various positions we could use to meditate using different things.  Most people sit with legs crossed in front of them, sitting on a cushion.  Some kneel, sitting on the cushion, some kneel sitting on a hard bench(which I decided on), some use a chair.  I have been kneeling for martial arts for a long time, so I settled on seiza – kneeling position with a small bench. (Let me tell you – BIG MISTAKE.  More on that later.)  Talked about breathing, counting, dealing with discomfort, being still, being in the moment.  All made much sense 🙂

10am – went back into the zendo, and they managed to squeeze us in.  The mats were pretty full.  Who gets put right next to the senior students and monastics?  Yeah.  I swear the guy I sat next to was in his 80’s and he was a natural.  (probably been doing it a lot longer than the 1 day I had:)  So I’m kneeling, my posture is correct, my breathing is correct, my right foot has detached from my body, I’m concentrating on counting, I’m losing count, I’m focusing on the red hot poker someone has shoved through my right calf, I’m breathing, I’m trying to focus…  You get the picture.  One cool thing they did was there is one monastic that walks around with a flat wooden slat.  If you like, they will strike you on the shoulder blade, right where your neck and shoulder come together – it’s the source of most people’s tension in posture, as well as an energy point – nice little wake up call.  So I heard it start with a few people and when they pass in front of you, if you want to, you bow, they bow, you lean to one side, WHACK, lean to the other, WHACK, then bow once more.

Wait, did someone reattach my foot?  Dude, I can actually feel it.  Good.  Oh crap, okay, there it goes again.  But I did regain feeling for a few moments there.  The energy jolt was pretty amazing, and instantly brought my focus back.  I managed to limp through the rest of the zazen(meditation) fairly well and enjoyed it.  Then we had walking meditation.  Problem is, in order to walk, you need feet, and I had to find my missing right foot.  Thankfully, after switching to sitting position, it came back.  We did a bit of walking meditation (which I actually liked better) and then had a lesson – a talk – from the Senior.  I don’t think there is ranking there, but I think he’s been there the longest.

It was before he started that I realized I had been sitting in that position for 35 minutes.  I was pretty shocked that I had ignored or just bared the discomfort and pain for that long.  I did understand a lot of what it was all about and I think I impressed myself just a little.

10:45am the talk about community.  I won’t try to sum it up because I am really tired, but it was insightful, and I did feel it on a lot of different levels.

Noon: lunch.  Talked to a lot of people from a lot of different experience levels – some like me, there for the first time, some like one guy who is like the lead disciple.  Very laid back guy 🙂  Duh, ZEN?!

All in all, it’s something I would like to do again, this time hopefully more comfortably.  I understand there is supposed to be a bit of discomfort at times, but with an old injury to my ankle and from working out HARD on saturday for 2 hours in Kendo, I am not surprised I wasn’t able to do seiza for that long.  Again, I think I’m going to try sitting differently on pillows here at home for longer periods to see if it helps.

If you are at all interested in meditation, zen buddhism, or just a REALLY quiet afternoon, I would recommend the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt Tremper NY, it’s about 2.5 hours from my house, and about 2 hours from NYC.  If you don’t need the rustic atmosphere of upstate NY, they do have a center in Brooklyn

Wil Weaton – Pretty Smart Guy

[ For all of you non-geeks: Wil Weaton played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek the Next Generation.  Didn’t realize he had a blog, or that he was so deep ]

Wow.  Not that I ever thought he was an idiot or anything, just surprised at the depth and clarity of his thoughts and how close they mimic my own.  There is a big part of me that totally identifies with his anger and want, to lash out with a big HA HA!!!! at everyone who has smugly looked down on me and the way that I think for the last 8 years.

Wil’s Post

Dear Aidan & Gillian

Two days ago, history was made.  When I tell you that anything is possible, it looks like I wasn’t kidding.

Are all of the scary things going to go away?  Are the current economic problems going to be solved?  Are all of the countries of the world going to look to us to lead, and lead with pride, confidence, and loyalty?

No.

Will the democrats be able to push through all of the good stuff we’d wanted for the last 8 years?

Knowing the current state of politicians?  Probably not.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass.  This was a really good thing, a wonderful step towards a world of progress and change.  A place where I feel safer than I have in 8 years of that idiot in the white house.  A place that can believe in the American dream, freedom & liberty, and the hope that somehow, someway, we’ll be able to do something about how badly we’ve wrecked this planet.  Does anyone have all the answers?

Nope.  Is profit going to be the major factor?  Hopefully, but competition and demand for cleaner ways of doing things will hopefully bring us to a cleaner, more efficient future.  I’d love to see us get back into space.  I’d love to see science take off and become a priority so we can stop losing our edge in the world.

Hey Mr. Soon to be President – Nicely done dude.  You ran a fairly honorable campaign and only swung low when you had to.  We put you where you are, so you know what?  According to the way I interpret things –

YOU OWE US DUDE!

You make great speeches, and you definitely inspired the hell out of me and gave me pride to vote for someone I actually gave a rats ass about much less how I really felt about you – that  you really meant you wanted to bring change, that you wanted to bring us together as a nation and help us to shape our future.  Thank you for restoring some of my faith in my country, that the leaders we elect actually listen and try to do what the majority wants.

Don’t be just a talker.  Please, PLEASE be a doer.  Get er dun my friend, because as I said before.  We put you where you are today.  I have faith, please don’t let it be misguided.

Aidan & Gillian – that was Daddy going on a bit of a rant.  You get the point hopefully I’m trying to make here – we made real steps here to hopefully get our country back on track.  Lets see what happens in the next few weeks.

Wow…

Well, regardless of who you voted for, you have to say that was an amazing race. You also have to admit, that their speeches last night were both noble, inspiring, and hopeful. Hopeful that sometime in the near future, when all of the feelings are healed, that we as a people can come together as never before and change our nation back into the power, the inspiration, and hopefully, the leader of the free world. In my opinion, and yes, I have one just like you, I have always been proud to be an American. I have always been proud of our heritage, our freedoms, and our gifts that we’ve been given by our families back through the last 200+ years.

Yes, some bad stuff has happened, but I think last night proved beyond a doubt that anything is possible. Is he going to fix everything, make everything right? No, that’s impossible. Me? I’d settle for some hope for the future of my children, a bit of a break at the pump, and the safety in knowing that the person leading my country isn’t a moron and someone that embarrasses me. For the last 8 years, I have heard fear, condescension, bullshit, and a general feeling of unease.

I’m hoping that last nights speech, which gave me chills, bodes for a feeling of hope and unity for the next 4 years, and hopefully beyond. We’re in a lot of trouble, and it’s going to take a lot of things going right to make things better. I just hope that instead of a Decider, we now have a Stateman who can get people together in this country and outside of it, and bring forth a new future based on looking forward, now always looking around or behind in fear or for gain, or anything like that.

I was reading an article by Michael Moore, and again, whether or not you like him, I was hopeful when he started talking about arts and sciences and the hope that we are beginning an age of forward movement and change.

I gladly voted for Obama because for the first time in 8 years, someone gave me something more to believe in than voting against someone. Gore and Kerry never inspired me. They never really gave me more than a reason to vote for them except that I could not vote for Bush. I did vote for them, but I wasn’t happy about it. After last night’s speech in Grant Park in downtown Chicago, I was proud, happy, and hopeful.

these shoes were not made for walkin

Either that or I’m just an old fart. I brought my Sambas figuring they’re comfortable as hell, they’ll be fine. Dude, things are not fine in the zapato world of my feet right now.

So we got to Chicago on Saturday sometime before lunch. Took the train from Midway, and had to transfer to another line because the construction in downtown. No biggie. “Just keep going down to the red line at the Roosevelt station” was the common advice. Dude, they were NOT kidding about going down into the depths 🙂 Chicago, from what I understand, has a lot more L trains – elevated – than subways. The redline is a subway.

Tell you what, if Obama wins(and yes Mike, I’m crossing my fingers), this city is going to be nuts, and with the trains under construction on the loop. Ooooh doggie, I’m glad I’m leaving Tuesday afternoon.

We waited for my parents, aunts, and my bro and sis-in-law to get here(with my two nieces) and jumped into cabs to my sisters. I’m amazed at how much cabs cost…so used to just jumping in my car and driving. I wish the trains hadn’t been screwed, would have been easier and cheaper to get out to her. Anyway, hung out, had some good shish-ke-bab at Pegs, came back wiped from the trip.

Oh yeah, did I tell you we woke up at 5:15 to get to Philly for our flight? Yeah, I think I forgot to mention that little tidbit.

BUT! We gained an hour coming to Chicago, and another hour that night because of Daylight savings. Thank you!!! Everyone was up at like 7:30, and I had almost 11 hours of sleep. Needed it bigtime.

My sisters daughter was being baptized in an episcopalian church – very crunchy, down to earth, lots of open minded people – lots of music, clapping, dancing at one point:) They had a louisiana type bad walk around the block to celebrate day of the dead – very cool place indeed. Went back to the house and hung out for the afternoon, good to hang out with her on her home turf. The kids disappeared upstairs all day and outside, and down the block and around back. Brought home two tired puppies last night.

Today we went around a cool art museum, walked the Magnificient Mile (I think), went to the Hershey Store and grabbed some seriously great Deep Dish pizza. Man was that some good stuff. Went to the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier and then came back. Needless to say, we’re tired as hell, and I’m starting to see double. Maybe more tomorrow night, but I will definitely have pics up by wednesday.

Marriage Manual – kids entry #3

You will, upon threats of truckloads of guilt, walk to hell and back anywhere your kids want to go because you are a father, and you have sworn to spend time with them, and pick them up when their feet hurt (not that yours don’t), and get them bags of candy at the Hershey Store (as well as a bag of Reeses Pieces – Screw ET, these are mine), and then, only because they saw it on a post card, take them to one of the biggest ferris wheels in North America and ride it…

WITHOUT EVER GIVING THEM A CLUE THAT YOU ARE PETRIFIED OF HEIGHTS!!!!!

and they will never know either 😉