Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nightmare Wake Up

To my son Tommy,

You woke up because of a bad dream this morning at 3:30 am. From what I could gather from your somewhat nonsensical half asleep ranting, in your dream you were pushed down by your cousin Gabe and this really upset you. I laid down with you in your bed and in a few minutes you were calm and asleep. You even giggled in your sleep so I assume your dreams became much better and you reconciled with your cousin.

There are plenty of scary things in the world that could manifest in the subconscious worry of dreams. Yet our mind chooses to focus on things that are very unlikely. Not that you really have a choice, but rejection from a family member who loves you dearly is not what you should have a nightmare about. The things that should keep you up at night should be much more tangible and likely. Getting things caught in your pants zipper, that is something to be afraid about. Of course before your dad dressed you today, you might not have known of that fear. Sorry about that.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

No Snow

To my son Tommy,

February is almost over, and I feel we have been short changed. If you look back through the pictures you will see we made the best of what little snow we had, but for an eager four year old and an eager father it certainly wasn't enough. Maryland has skirted all the major snowfalls and though a couple states north and east might be jealous of that fact, I am just as jealous of their big snows. No snow days off of work, no sledding, no big snowman, no snow fort for us this year. A couple meteorologists have warned that Old Man Winter might not be done. I trust meteorologists less than gypsies and just a bit more than I trust politicians, but in this case I really am hoping they are right. I could really use a stay at home, shovel the walk, stay out and play till it feels like your nose is going to freeze off, then a good warm up over hot cocoa type day.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Numbers Numbers Everywhere

To my son Tommy,

The harsh reality of this world is every where you look there are quantification and qualifications based on numbers.  They exist in every walk of our lives, education, health, economics, employment, everywhere.  Are you in the top one percent of taxpayers or you in some arbitrary forty seven percent?  How tall are you? How much do you weigh? How much do you make? What is your BMI? Do you know how fast you were going? (Couldn't have been much over 55 officer!) How old are you?  How long have you lived here? What is your credit score?  How many calories are in that?  All these numbers exist for a reason.

People want to compare.  They want to know how you are doing compared to Joe Schmoe and themselves.  Even I want to know how I am doing so I look at the numbers.  I find it funny, in a sad ironic way, that we as a society tend to not know how we are doing unless we see the numbers.  The sliding scales and numbers of the world are part of reality, even though they are all relative.  So though we would like to, we can't just ignore these numbers.  But we can take them in and accept them for what they are worth.  From time to time we can even embrace them.

When someone asks me how I am doing, I think I will just give out a list of numbers.  "How am I doing?  Well let me tell you.  My weight is 275.5 which is down 16.5 lbs in a little over a month.  Here also is my cholesterol and my BMI and my bank balance and my tax bracket and the amount of times I rent a movie and the amount of times I eat dinner out and my pain level on a scale of one to ten.  You tell me how I am doing."  Sounds nuts doesn't it?  But often these number determine how we feel about ourselves and each other and how others see us, so why not just get them out there?  I can think of no good reason, well except of course identity theft, and TMI, and the fact that would be just creepy, and that it would skyrocket the number of people who avoid you.  Okay maybe I will just say, "Doing great! And you?"

By the way, the weight number in that example is true.  Down another couple pounds and still logging my daily journal of numbers so I can compare this food day verse that food day and this calorie count against that calorie count.  More and more numbers, I just can't get away from numbers and scales.

Your mom is dealing with lots of numbers as this is the only system they have found to grade students.  She had one of those "I just forgot everything I studied for the past week" moments at her last exam.  As she walked out the door after finishing the test, all of it came flooding back to her and she immediately felt sick about her answers and possible grade.  But here is a good example of how a number means very little.

In her travels today she came across a car sitting in the middle of the road and not moving and blocking traffic.  Of course her test experience was still on her mind so she laid on the horn with no results.  She finally got out and went to check on the driver.  She was probably going over there to give the driver a good piece of her mind but when she approached, the driver was slumped over the steering wheel.  She got 911 called, she got the driver alert again, she got the vehicle moved to the side, she broke out her stethoscope (though she wished she had her BP cuff too), she got information and medical history to give the paramedics.  It turns out this driver had been recently treated for stuff that relates to what your mom just learned.  Your mother handled it like a champ and yet again proved to me how much she deserves a cape and a mask and a super hero title.

Now later, she got that number she was dreading.  Worked out to be an 81 on the exam.  This little old number has your mother in a little funk, though most people in nursing would be happy with that grade.  She is focusing on a grade rather than what she has learned and can do and did accomplish.  It is only natural. Just like if I happen to jump on a scale and that number goes up, I don't think that it is just a number and focus in how healthy my eating habits and lifestyle has been.  It really stops you from seeing the forest for the trees.

So we have to accept that numbers and scales and comparison exists.  We can utilize these as tools but we must not let them dictate what we feel about life and ourselves.  We are so much more than a conglomeration of numbers.  No matter how hard pollsters and scientist of all kinds try and think they know how to quantify it, no one can ever put a number on happiness.  I know because on a scale of one to ten with you and your mommy in my life, as they would say in Spinal Tap, I am an eleven.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Shut Down Averted

To my son Tommy,

I was about shut down.  I was at my wits end and feeling overwhelmed at work.  I put on my jacket because I was headed out the door as I convinced myself that the day was shot and I would accomplish nothing.  Then I reached in my coat pocket looking for my keys.

I pulled out a little matchbox car.  It was one of the toys we brought to church the other day to occupy you in case you got bored.  I thought I had emptied out that pocket but I must have missed this one out of the five.  I sat there with this little car in my hand, blue top, gray body, flame decals, cheap little toy from Mattel. And somewhere from deep in my heart I found the energy and determination to take my jacket off and sit down and finish up my perplexing programming.  Thank you.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Extra For Lent

To my son Tommy,

I wonder if the person who counts the collections at church is picking through the coins and asking "Wonder who is the cheapskate that put all these pennies and nickels and various coins in here?". For the past two Sundays (and hopefully the next four) we have taken some coins from your piggy bank and put them in for the collections.   Not much, but perhaps two or three dollars worth of coins.  Last week we used a couple extra envelopes from the end of the pew and wrote in your name.  This week, no pencil in the pew and when you went to do the drop it in the first collection you opened the envelope and poured in the coin and dropped in the empty envelope.  All I could do was chuckle and smile and shake my head.  On the second collection for vocations we didn't even bother with the envelope.

I always enjoyed putting the envelopes in the basket when I was young.  Offertory and the sign of peace were the highlights to a young version of your dad.  I think you will develop a joy for this process too.  Of course we have to give you extra to put in because mommy and I signed up for the automatic electronic giving which means no envelopes for us.  We missed the first six months or so, after trying to sign up twice for the fledgling system.  We just realized it wasn't coming out again, so we re-did the account yet  again and they finally started taking it out this week.  So if we give a little extra in envelope form so you can have the fun of giving, well we are just making up for what we missed.  We just might have to find the collection plate counter person and offer our apologies for the extra work.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, February 23, 2013


To my son Tommy,

Lately the Congress seems like it is filled with a bunch of spoiled brats who don't play well with others and throw little tantrums to get their way. It is filled with political brinksmanship and threats of allowing consequences happen and finger pointing as who is to blame. The recent sequester is just one example. Your nursery school class plays better together, shares more, communicates more efficiently, and I dare say accomplishes more than the current Congress.

I am not taking sides or playing the political game here. No matter the party affiliation, I feel that the majority of our representatives have lost touch with their constituents and in fact lost touch with reality. I would say get rid of them all, through the vote of course, if it wasn't so darn expensive.

If I could bring up a court case to the Supreme Court, I'd bring up that the pension plan for Congress may be unconstitutional. If we vote out a vested politician we have to pay him his pension and pay his replacement a salary as well. I say vested because there is misinformation out there that if you serve one term as a congressman you get paid full pension for rest of your life. Not true, but that rumor persists, and that is not the point I am stressing. In essence voting out a fully vested senator or representative doubles what we pay as taxpayers. If we keep the vested guy, we don't pay any extra because he can't collect a pension while he is still working. Because of this knowledge, the entire pension package for politicians puts undo influence on my vote. Does that make it unconstitutional? Probably not literally, but I would argue that this could be considered a poll tax. In the least, it is outside the spirit and scope of electoral laws. In this day and age of fiscal cliffs and certain countries going through defaults and ratings downgrades and such, this might be the equivalent of a financial gun pointed to your head saying "Vote for this guy or else"

For the time being, if we vote a vested incumbent out, we pay their full pension and the new guys salary. So we have a few decisions to make immediately. Do we keep paying one price for the crappy ineffective junk we have now? Or do we pay double for the slim chance that the new guy we vote in might be able to accomplish something? Then if we do make the change, how do we make sure this guy doesn't get vested fully and it doesn't cost us an arm and a leg to vote him out when he screws up? Yep, I believe congressional pensions should go away. Replace them with some type of IRA contribution, subject to the same limits the general public has on contributions. Or better yet, change it to a profit sharing plan and they only get a contribution if the entire government makes a profit in that year, which usually happens never. That would teach them not to screw with the finances of the entire country for political gamesmanship. I understand why the pensions exist. They exist so the politicians don't sell their vote or politcal secrets for their future economical surety. But I think that happens already and believe we should prosecute this not pay them off with a pension so they won't do it. I really hope when you get older we still have a viable and solvent and non-bankrupt government. But i have my worries and doubts. Thus ends one of my few political rants.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, February 22, 2013


To my son Tommy,

This morning I did my little wall push out exercise thingamajig. I was on repitition 45 of my second set of 60 when I realized some thing. Endurance exercises are a perfect metaphor for life and train much more than your body.

Low weight high reps are usually not recommended for optimal gains in exercise. Or so says many of the experts. If you ever need to know what the literature on health training and weight training and such says, ask a fat guy. They have read every diet book and exercise book and such. Though they rarely utilize that knowledge they sure are inundated with it. Some experts say medium weights for three sets of 8-12 for power is this best. Some say high weight low reps for mass supplies the most gains, etc etc. Very rarely do these experts suggest 2 sets of 60 of anything.

I am not going to argue that they are not correct. Physically I am sure each knows what they are talking about. There is science to back that up. But what they are missing is they aren't just training a body, they are training a mind and a person. To lose weight you have to do the same small task over and over. At first it is easy, then it gets harder and harder, and you have to learn to push through. This is the same thing you do when you do endurance training. The first 10 or so at such a litter weight is a cinch, but when you are on your 105th rep for the day, then it gets hard.

This is the perfect metaphor for life. Those that succeed don't just have these big burst or sprints and then nothing and then another burst and then nothing. Those that succeed tend to have small sustained effort, day in and day out, rep after rep, and push through and don't give up when it gets tough. Everyone can handle a little bout of adversity but much of life is adversity. You have to learn to deal with it every day. The really neat thing is if you master this, others will look at you and think you make life easy and wonder how you do it. Just like us fat guys look at the skinny folk and wonder how they do it as we continue our cycle of starting and quitting diets.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, February 21, 2013


To my son Tommy,

I often wonder if there is a limited cache of doing in a persons life. Is doing like a battery cell charged by solar panels? If you "spend" your doing amount on work, how can you expect to do all those little things after work. This question often creeps in when work gets busy.

Fortunately, as they say, there is always room for jello. No matter how busy or how tired you become, you will always seem to have time for the things you enjoy. Tonight, for me, that was playing and singing with you while you did some tubby. After getting soaped and rinsed and deemed clean by your mom, I get to watch you as you get some play time. You assign me a toy, usually the shark or the dolphin, while you bogart the sea captain figurine you affectionately call Captain Morgan. Then as we play, we put our own twist on singing in the shower and sing all types of songs. You truly make my capacity for doing become unlimited.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


To my son Tommy,

You have tons of little quirky sayings that you have picked up through your life. I wonder which will stick as you grow. Here are a few of those phrases and some of their origins.

Hotchamamma - this fun word is compliments of Grandpa Leo. It is meant to be a word of excitement or approval and is usually followed by a high five.

Cuckoo-cachoo - though people will think of walruses and beatles, but you got this phrase from Jack's Big Music Show episode that had Phil the cuckoo bird.

Sounds great idea - with the omission of a few words such as "like" and "a" you made a phrase so cute that it actually has influenced your parents conversation.

Thank you sweetie - the timing and circumstance of when you utter this phrase is what makes it so special. It usually follows situations that make most kids cry... like getting your blood drawn.

Uncle Paaaatrick - print doesn't do justice to the cute way you refer to your Great Uncle Patrick

Lu-Lu-kiss - nothing to do with a peck on the cheek, this is actually how you refer to your second cousin Lucas.

Ocean city - you would think this refers to a vacation destination, and at certain times it might but it usually refers to a Disney production called Oceans.

It no taste very good - often you haven't even put the food to your lips before you try to explain why you are not going to eat by using this reason.

Old MacDonald lady - any female employee selling fast food. If they resemble a farm animal then that is purely coincidental.

Talk my angels - every night you ask me to talk to your angels and ask them where they are and make sure they will protect you as you sleep.

Want to make a boat - this question is usually followed by me and you going up to your bed, the S.S.Tommybed our favorite pirate ship.

You have many many more little phrases, but the best one is "I love you daddy! You are my best friend."

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Fall

To my son Tommy,

You and your mom took a tumble this morning. You were still asleep and your mom was carrying you down the stairs, no doubt for some quality snuggle time. Her stocking feet got the better of her on the top three steps to the landing. You ended up knocking your chin on the top step and your mom hit her back on the next two steps as she struggled desperately to catch the both of you. All this led to a trip to the ER to get the gash under your chin glued up with medical glue.

Your mother feels sore but what hurts more is her guilt. She blames herself and feels like she should get the "mother of the year award" which of course is meant to be awarded with a good amount of sarcasm and irony.

Accidents happen. Sometimes in life sock meets hardwood floor and slides and falls and stumbles abound. They are called accidents for a reason. It is what you do afterwards that defines you. Your mother quickly took care of you and made all the right decisions as any great mother would. Now she has a couple more things to do.

First she has to get herself checked out fully. She has done her motherly duty and got you fixed up and now she owes it to you to have herself examined.

Second she has to realize it isn't as bad as she has convinced herself it is. You know how many scars and accidents I have had throughout my childhood? Too many to count and many of the, far worse than your chin. Life goes on and scars (if it does scar) can add to your mystery when you become an adult.

So when accidents happen, do the right thing and the best you can to correct it, then forgive yourself and move on. Your mom is one the greats of the world and I don't say that just because of my bias. As for you, you got another story for your therapist. I kid, I kid.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

P.S. weigh in was this morning and down to 279 so 13 lost and slow and steady but still in the race.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Challenge Your Opinions

To my son Tommy,

Everyone has an opinion.  Most think their opinion is correct and true and have no intention of changing their opinion.  That type of thinking limits not only a person but society.  In essence a person with an unmovable opinion is filled with prejudice.

Ever have someone challenge your opinion?  The common reaction is to go on the defensive or worse to attack back.  Wars have been started over a difference in opinion.  Not fact, not truth, but opinion.  Some guy thinks things should be one way, another guy thinks things should be the other way, neither recognize the truth of how things actually are, and then they start a fight.

Opinions can also stunt your life.  You can form a poor opinion of yourself and your chances and thus create an insurmountable block to success, though it only exists in your mind.  The great news is an opinion is a choice.

You can choose to have good opinions of yourself.  You can choose to change poorly formed opinions on anything that you have an opinion on.  You can choose to respect other people's differing opinions.  So my challenge to you is to change an opinion.  Be open to new ideas, new perspectives, and most of all be open to the fact that your opinion just might be wrong.  Of course this is just my humble opinion on one aspect of life and it could be wrong.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

They Will Say You Are Wrong

To my son Tommy,

I am an argumentative type and probably always have been.  When I was a child, my parents tried to teach me Spanish.  One incident they always tell me about was during a drive.  We passed a horse farm and my mom (your Grandmom Roro) points to one of the creatures and says, "Mira el caballo" to which I replied sternly, "No Mommy!  That is a horse!"  No amount of reasoning or argument would dissuade me from the fact that it was a horse.  I was stubborn and would never even consider that it could also be el caballo.

I am not going to discuss the benefits and hardships of this trait which can be both a gift and curse at the same time.  I do get it honestly and I do see a bunch of these tendencies in you and hope your mother will be able to temper and soften this trait in you.  I am actually here to give you one of my favorite argument starters that is very fitting for today.  It is an argument you will never win even though you will be right.  I believe it got me sent to the principal's office when I had this argument with a nun at my high school.

Even some of the most devout Catholics have never done the math, so when you walk up and tell one of them that Lent is forty six days they will immediately balk.  Technically you will have to say the forty days of Lent spans forty six days to be completely correct.  Then you will try and try to explain to them how Sundays are not counted.  Then you will have to explain how Sundays are set aside to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection and thus every Sunday is a mini-Easter and your are supposed to rejoice.  This includes somewhere deep in cannon law that any fasting requirement (except for the Eucharistic fast) is null and void.

I think I figured this out when I was about eight years old and was playing with my calendar and filling my little personal poor box for Lent.  When the accounting of days and thus the accounting of my contribution didn't add up, I did an audit.  My investigation revealed that many do not know why and many didn't even know of the disparage.  I had people tell me that Holy Week doesn't count as part of Lent or that it is just called 40 days because it is approximately 40 days and they rounded down.  Both of those explanations turned out wrong but are common ones when the person doesn't want to say "I don't know."  So after asking a dozen or so people, I asked your grandpa Leo and he told me the right answer.  Then of course being the stubborn person I am and was, I didn't quite believe him till I got about three independent verifications from various sources.  This was in the days before the internet and you couldn't just research things with a quick google search.

If you do get someone who is willing to accept your explanation of the 46 days of Lent, the next question is going to be, "Do I have to continue my Lent practices on Sunday or is it a free day?" in which case you refer them to their conscience or their priest.  There are some things that it is just better not to counsel on.  My position on the whole thing is that it really doesn't matter if it is 40 or 46 days because we should actually expand the kind of extra effort we put in at Lent year round.  This is the reason I would give an argument starter to a potentially argumentative person.  It has taught me that it isn't worth arguing and the truth or facts of the matter really don't matter much.  It is a perfect lesson or example on how about arguing over the specifics and details totally misses the big picture.  It is a lesson I hope you learn early in your life and perhaps you won't waste as much time in your life on having to be right about the details.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, February 16, 2013


To my son Tommy,

There was a vibe in the house, an all too familiar and funky vibe. It was our own personal version of cabin fever. I sensed, as is the responsibility of any good daddy, that something had to be done. So I decided to get us out of the house.

On your birthday a couple months ago, we did duckpins bowling. I remembered that the lanes had been fairly empty on that day. This left the erroneous impression that there will always be availability on weekends. I didn't account that your birthday was on a Sunday and your birthday also was on a Ravens playoff day. So armed with ignorance I decided we would do, as you call it, Duck McBowling.

Your mother hemmed and hawed between a looming school report responsibility and her desperate desire to come out and have some family fun. In the end she decided to have some fun. I made a few calls and offered the opportunity to join to your first cousins. Emma was the only one to take up our offer. I checked the website to make sure of the hours of operation, but my misconception of the bowling economical market trumped my gut instinct to call ahead to see if there were any lanes.

After picking up Emma, we pulled up to a packed parking lot at the bowling alley. I think if I ever installed a dashboard camera, I would install it facing the driver and passenger so we could capture the dumbfounded looks of your parents. The lack of parking spaces and the ten guys out front smoking cigs definitely did not bode well for our chances of bowling today. We sent your mother in anyhow to inquire. She said before she got to the counter, she heard the f-bomb dropped about six times and everyone seemed to be half gassed. It was a little bit before noon. She didn't even bother asking about lane availability.

Determined we were going to do something fun, it was time for your mother to match your father in less than brilliant ideas. She at least picked something we would end up doing and was definitely fun and family oriented. Still, I wouldn't quite say that Chuck-E-Cheese is a smart move on a Saturday. Evidently every family that was unable to bowl had the same idea. We tend to like less crowded events but we bravely went forward with the plan despite the crowd.

Besides a melt down of gigantic proportion near the end, we had a great time. You had fun and played with every kid you could at the restaurant. When it came time to leave, you staged a sit in using the ceiling tube play set to your advantage so my fat butt couldn't just snatch you up. It is moments like this that I recognize your genius, and realize that genius can be used in devious and evil selfish ways. Finally with some psychology and the ability to use line of sight to our advantage, your mother and I put on our own evil genius moves and got you to come down the slide from your tube hideout.

I have a feeling we will have more ill planned or ill advised outings in our future. Perhaps I will decide to finally take you real golfing and pick a day that will have some type of stripper outing on the same course. It is the type of stuff that usually happens to Downeys and is why we are so well rounded. I remember your grandfather getting all excited when the movie Conan the Barbarian came out because he used to love Conan from his childhood comic days. I think it was less than ten minutes into the movie that he realized that Conan was not being portrayed as the hero he remembered and that scoffing at the movie rating as he decided to bring his young son was not the right move. Walking out was, so we did. So be patient with your old man (and your mom but she makes a lot less mistakes) as you grow up. Learn to laugh and accept and just roll with the mistakes because they end up making the best stories for later in life.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, February 15, 2013


To my son Tommy,

Programming and designing software systems and business systems can often be compared to sliding naked down a razor blade in to a vat of lemon juice. Frustration is rampant and bugs and problems always exist. You have to deal with your naysayers who always doubt a system will accomplish anything, as well as dealing with those who stuck in the fantasy that programming is easy and can do anything and be done in seconds. It often ends with the programmer stuck in the middle and making less accomplishments than Congress. Though it probably makes me a masochist, I love every second of it.

There is a serious sense of euphoria and accomplishment when you achieve a programming breakthrough. Even if that moment lasts less than a minute, it is very real and tangible. Seeing a job done automatically and correctly in seconds that when done manually takes a full day and can be fraught with possible errors, that is what I live for. A lot of people don't realize how fast my brain works on a problem and solution and how excited I get about solving it. I don't put off the right vibe that portrays that feeling.

Perhaps it is years of people blaming the computer for their mistakes and thus blaming me. Or perhaps it is from developing systems and requests that go un-utilized or under-utilized. Or perhaps it is just a keen sense of when a solution won't work all the way. Or perhaps the realization that if you create a foolproof system, only a fool will use it. What ever the reason I have learned to hide how much I love programming, which is a real shame.

But then that moment comes when you digitize a process or form that is antiquated and you see the light bulb come on in the person who just realized they save a significant amount of work or hassle per week. It is usually quickly followed with a request for more and more; no one revels in the accomplishments of the moment for long.

I love programming. I may be antiquated in the programming niche I occupy but it still works and, to toot my own horn, I am good at it. I am so good that things I programmed and built in to our custom software years ago finally are being realized. I can take a small vague idea and work out the specifics and foresee problems and solutions and frameworks needed to expand in the future. I am good and I love programming.

I write this to you not to brag (too much) but to point out you have to do what you love and be good at what you do. Work is a frustrating four letter word but if deep down inside you really do love what you do, and do it with a passion, you can get through even the worst days. I think recently I had a couple more of those moments that reminded me why I love programming and it may have re-awakened a passion that was hidden even from myself. Now I need to decide if showing this more to my co-workers will end up swamping me with too much work. Because I am more passionate about being a daddy and a husband and love that job even more than I do programming. And I am darn good at those jobs too.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be Mine

To my son Tommy,

For Saint Valentine's Day you got a stuffed animal and lunch box both with the frog named Scout from the Sweet Frog logo.  It was very sweet and you should thank your mother.  She is so thoughtful and courteous and if it weren't for her, you'd never get anything nice like this.  In fact you and I exchanged valentines this morning.

After the normal wrestling with waking and breakfast and teeth brushing. we got you dressed in a clean pair of pajamas this morning for school.  It was pajama party day at school for you, a fact that I used to my advantage to get you excited and actually working with me instead of against me as we readied you for school.  We went out to the truck early because it was completely iced over because of the combination of rain, sleet, snow, and cold weather from the night before.  I got you in your seat and started up the truck and grabbed a can of deicer and an ice scraper.  I had all the windows clean except the back passenger window as you watched me eagerly from inside the truck.  I took the time and etched out of the ice an imperfect little heart shape.  I peered through this clearing and stuck my tongue out at you.  That was it.  That was my valentine for you.

And you laughed.  You laughed so hysterically.  You would think I just bought you the world and did the greatest thing possible.  You thought this was hilarious.  I bet if I crossed the street, I could have still heard you laughing.  And that huge sincere belly laugh...that was your valentine gift to me!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be Change

To my son Tommy,

Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying "you must be the change you want to see in the world". Too many people talk about change but not enough actually embrace it in their personal actions and life. It is easy to fall into the trap of saying how you want the world to be without doing anything about it. People wait for others to solve the world's problem. Remember we are part of the collective society, and our actions reflect what society actually is. If you want the world to be nicer, than be nicer. If you want to the world to be happier than do something to make someone happy. Don't ever underestimate the effect one person can have on this world. Don't let the fact that you can do only a little stop you from doing anything. Imagine what you can accomplish in the next forty days of your life.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday

To my son Tommy,

Today is Fat Tuesday or as most people know it Mardi Gras.  It is traditionally a day of debauchery and gluttony before the forty days of lent begin.  Here I sit on my lunch break overindulging by eating a tuna fish sandwich for lunch.  Woohoo I am a party animal!  That should hold me till Easter week!  But only if my sarcasm can trump my bitterness of being on a diet.

To be fair, I have had way too many fat tuesdays and fat wednesdays and fat everyday of the week.  I did weigh in this morning and on the scale it listed at 281.  That means I am eleven pounds down since I started and three and a half pounds down since last weeks slip up.  I credit this weeks loss mostly to watching and keeping a food journal on as I did very little else new.  I kept up with everything else, like drinking more water and eating breakfast everyday but the food journal was the only new thing.  I half hoped that being sick yesterday would translate into some extra weight loss for me today but I quickly knocked that thought out of my mind, as weight loss through illness or through vomiting is not something to aspire to.

The inconvenient truth is I have to dedicate time for myself in the gym.  I am up to about 100 of those wall push-outs in the morning but that is kind of like throwing a nickel at the national debt.  I need to put in some serious time on some serious exercise and make some serious strives.  Since Planet Fitness already gets twenty dollars a month from us (ten for mommy and ten for me) I might as well get some value in it rather than throwing out $240.00 a year.  The only way I see it fitting into my schedule is going after you head off to bed.  Wonder if this will increase or decrease the quality of my sleep.  Only one way to find out I guess.

As always, I hope you never have to struggle with your weight like this.  If you do, I can only offer my trials and tribulations and failures and successes in hopes that it will inspire you to overcome just as your love has inspired me to overcome.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Do Not Call Registry

To my son Tommy,

My belly was not good and, not to get too graphic but, things were coming out of both ends and made life quite eventful.  I stayed home today and you and I got to hang out more.  Not that I was much company for most of the morning.  I pretty much laid on the couch and moaned and groaned and belly ached.  I finally got some energy and spent the last hour cleaning up the living room from the mess that I was just too under the weather to care about you making this morning as you played.

The one thing I was not too under the weather to do is make complaints at as I have received about a half dozen calls from telemarketers and such.  I honestly don't understand how that law actually did anything and doubt that anyone enforces it.  All the calls were pre-recorded and the phone numbers were probably spoofed or overseas.  But being sick did not stop me from logging each and every number on the website and hope.  I wonder why it is so hard to track these people down.  Someone has to pay for the phone line right?  Anyways, despite the recorded messages, I did not win a free cruise and am sure that I could not save thousands a month on my mortgage, etc. etc.

As life was breathed into me, I could begin to wrap my head around this mornings news that the Pope is resigning.  Not sure what I think of all that.  At first I wasn't even sure that a Pope could leave office, but evidently canon law allows this and it even has been done before about 600 years ago and a half dozen times before that.  Pope Benedict XVI has sited old age and failing health as his reasoning.  The Church is much bigger than any man but many will feel uneasy with this announcement, but I am inclined to believe that the Pope did not come to this decision lightly and I think we as Catholics should respect his wishes.

Of course now we will have to endure, for the lack of a better word, the wackos from within and from without of our religion pointing to the alleged Prophesies of St. Malachy and some even pulling out prophetic words from great Saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Hildegard or from popes of the past like Pope Pius IX or Pope Leo XIII.  I have heard these before and they always come up during times of trouble especially with regards to the Bishop Of Rome.  In this day and age of the internet it should be interesting.  Doomsday sayers will fill the minds of those that refuse to think for themselves.

I have looked into these types of talks before to settle my natural curiosity.  In my humble opinion, it is to borrow a word from the yiddish language, bupkis.  If, and this is a big if and something I do not believe to be true, but if St. Malachy actually wrote these, you have to remember he was an Irishman and you always have to doubt what to believe when the words come from an Irish mouth.  Also it doesn't take a prophetic vision to realize the Church is under threat.  The Church has been persecuted and under threat from the beginning and will be till the end of time, which most likely has nothing to do with the next pope.  But people will pull words and verse and such out of context to prove their point over and over again.  Don't fall for it.

Finally I am reminded that no one knows when the end will come and we should all live our lives so we are prepared and it doesn't matter when it comes.  Just like there is a "Do Not Call" registry for telemarketers, I wish there was a "do not call" option for all the crackpots that are about to come out of the woodwork.  As for the future of the Holy See, we will do what we do all the time and just pray for guidance and inspiration to be given to those involved in the papal conclave.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, February 10, 2013


To my son Tommy,

Mommy has been busy studying today, so it was just a daddy-Tommy day.  We hit Sweet Frog and the public library and your Grandmom Roro's house.  It was a pretty good day as any day spent in such good company can be expected to be.  On the way home you said "Dad, can we sing songs?"

We started off with just back and forth scat which digressed into a version of Minnie the Moocher that probably made Cab Calloway rollover in his grave.  We then threw in some nonsense songs from the Doo Wop age and ended up with you learning the oo ee oo ah ah of the Witch Doctor.  Then you said "Dad, can we sing Christmas songs?"

You have Christmas in your heart year round and frankly I have no intention of ever correcting you when you sing holiday tunes outside of the month of December.  My hope is if you can bring the joy of a Christmas carol outside of the month of December that perhaps you can bring the true spirit of Christmas to everyone year round.  So I happily obliged.

We sang Jingle Bells, and Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree and a bunch of others.  We had just finished with Rudolph when you decided to show your worldly diversity and sang me the dreidel song.  I thought you had expended your diversity cache after that song, but then you followed it up with a Happy Kwanzaa song that you clearly said the words "habari gani" followed by some mumbles and then "what's the news" and nearly floored me.  I think, unbeknownst to me, that we were following the songs and the play list from Elmo's World Happy Holidays video and then augmenting it with the play list from Caillou's Holiday Movie.  We finished with you singing Silent Night which, though you mumbled through many of the words, you did well and I didn't even realize you knew that song.  I was grinning ear to ear because who could be cross in any form after singing carols with a four year old.

There is a song in your heart at all times.  I hope you got more of your mother's voice in your genetic make up.  That way you will be much more welcomed to share the song in your heart vocally.  No matter, you just keep singing and spreading that cheer year round.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Stranger In My Own Home

To my don Tommy,

I sat there staring at the cheese grater I just got out of the dishwasher. I thought to myself "I have no clue where the heck this goes." I realized I have never used moved or touched a cheese grater in this house. I felt like a stranger in my own home.

I am sure many daddies world wide have this feeling of being lost when putting away or trying to find dishes and utensils and other such in the kitchen. Most of those daddies however have this problem because they don't venture into the kitchen. I however have no fear of the kitchen and try my best to learn my way around the kitchen. Your mom's most hated task is emptying the dishwasher so I often volunteer for the job. You would think after all these years that I would know exactly where everything goes. So this transcends some sexist gender role stereotype, there must be something hidden in the Y chromosome that tries to thwart men in the kitchen no matter how hard they try.

As you grow up you will, and I stress will, learn to be proficient in the kitchen. You will learn to cook and feed yourself and clean up from start to finish. If I ever hear "that's a woman's job" come out of your mouth, and you are not referring to carrying a child from conception to birth, we are going to have problems. But also understand that since you are a man, even if you become a master chef, there is going to be unexplainable times that you have no clue where something in the kitchen is or where it goes.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, February 8, 2013

Time Accounting

To my son Tommy,

During a weekday, you and I are lucky to spend four hours together.  The days where we get the most time are the days I am responsible for seeing you off which are Thursdays and Fridays.

Your alarm clock goes off at 6:50 on these days.  I come and get you from your bed and bring you down stairs.  We throw something on the boob tube and snuggle up on the couch.  This is our version of waking up slowly and is torn from a page in your mom's playbook.  Around 7:05 I get moving to make your cereal and gather your clothes.  We struggle through getting breakfast in you and then we struggle through getting dressed, though you are getting better at both.  After that I grab some breakfast too while you watch Doc McStuffins or Little Einsteins or some other morning show.  (We got through all that pretty quickly this morning and I have time to blog while you are watching your shows.)  We then brush our teeth together, which is often a struggle once again.  After gathering all the necessary Tommy accessories for whatever destination you are headed for the day (bookbag for school, backpack if you are going to Bwama)  we head out around 7:50.  So we have about an hour together on these mornings.  On other mornings where your mother has you, we have no time because I am usually out the door before you wake up to try and make it to daily mass.

In the evening, we are blessed if we have more than three hours together.  I always consider myself lucky if I get home from my work and commute by 6:00 pm.  We do dinner and perhaps some playing and a bath if required and before you know it, it is your bed time.  Mommy and I bring you up and we sing our traditional bedtime songs and then we do our prayers.  The bed time ritual has been quite trying recently.  You try every technique and tactic to extend your time awake.  The one tactic that always works on me is the proclamation that you have to go potty.  I know often you are fibbing but I really don't want to be the guy who made you wet your bed.  So though you cry wolf, I come running and you know this.  You also try the "I'm scared approach which brings on the usual conversations about angels and souls looking over you and how you can't see them but they are there and you have to feel them in your heart and soul.  There are other tactics, but those are the ones I fall for almost every time.

The point is... that is just four hours total on a work day.  It just doesn't seem like much time.  Then if you factor in the time spent struggling with our duties, be it breakfast or night night, the time is shortened even more. Life is short, and when you do some accounting for how much time you have to spend with someone in your life, it seems even shorter.  We have to make the most of our time together.  Hopefully we can minimize the time spent struggling on mundane tasks and maximize the time spent enjoying each others company and basking in the love for one another.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing

To my son Tommy,

A mind can be a terrible thing.  Though totally amazing for what it does and can accomplish, it is completely unreliable and easily fooled.  I was reminded of that yesterday while listening to NPR.  They were discussing false memories.

In some study, people were shown four pictures of what they were told are key events, three of which were real and one was photoshopped with an event that never happened.  For examples of the faked memory  they have a picture of  President Bush relaxing at his ranch with Roger Clemens during Hurricane Katrina and President Obama shaking hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  These events never happened.  Yet over one third of the people not only remembered when they first saw the fake picture but could tell additional details like where they were or how they felt and a whole story.  They in essence believed with their whole heart that they had seen this before.  It happened more often if the person differed ideologically from the person in the picture.  In other words, Republicans were more apt to believe the Obama picture because they wanted to believe it and Democrats were more apt to believe the Bush picture because they wanted to believe it.  But less than two thirds of the people said, they don't remember it happening, which of course is accurate because it didn't happen.  I wonder how many said I don't remember but I am not surprised and am now appalled.

In another study that I have seen in the past, people were shown a video and asked to count how many times a ball was passed amongst a group of people.  In the video a guy in a gorilla outfit walks right in front of the camera.  A good amount of people never saw the gorilla.  They would even get combative and tell you that the tape was switched when the tape was replayed to prove to them there was a guy in a gorilla outfit.

Thus I reiterate, a mind can be a terrible thing.  It can see things that aren't there, miss obvious things that are there, forget things that happened, and remember things that did not.  Now these flaws in the human mind has been known and abused for years by magicians, con-men, poker players, and political propagandist.  I show you a picture of an atrocity, no matter how untrue or doctored, and if you are ready to believe will.  Then I take you in your emotional state of outrage and fill your mind with more falsehoods and dribble.  Social media is capitalizing on this with misquoted quotes and doctored photos and lies and falsehoods to prove everyone's point.  And most people are falling for it.  And if you point out the gorilla, most people will yell out you no matter how wrong they were.  I point this out to you for multiple reasons.

First to warn you not to fall for it.  No person, no matter their IQ, nor their education level, nor how strong they think their mind is, is beyond the reach of such mistakes of the mind.  You have to stay ever vigilant and ask yourself "How do I know this?" and "Is this true?" and "Is this source credible?".  When you do find yourself falling for a propaganda technique, admit your mistake.

Secondly, forgive people who fall for such techniques.  If you must point out the "gorilla" or "elephant" in the room, do so gently and back off.  Everyone is susceptible to such errors.  Those that admit their mistake, and admit they knew it was too good to be true but just wanted to believe it anyways, are truly stand up people and are worth knowing.  But even if they don't, don't judge too harshly.

Finally, I bring up this point to encourage you to study and know how all this works.  To borrow a line from a Jimmy Buffet song, your father has "read dozens of books about heroes and crooks and learned much from both of their styles".  I learned my magic tricks, more than most.  I know where to look for misdirection.  I read about con-men and their schemes and how things work.  I learned how to double deal in poker and how to bluff with the best of them.  I know how to influence people falsely.  I learned how to convince a bar customer he is getting more liquor for his money with showmanship techniques that use the same amount of liquor.  I learned all this so I didn't fall victim and so I could also learn how to do things the right way.  If you become a student of human nature and a student of the mind and its limitations, it can help you in all aspects of life, but please only use this for good causes.

I could go on and on about the mind.  I could talk about experience versus memory and bring up Daniel Kahneman and other people your dad admires.  I could bring in the fact that you think (even if it is think wrongly) is suggested by Rene Descartes as the only real evidence that you exist.  I could delve deep into the mind and the altering effects of drugs and alcohol.  There is a bunch of different areas that I could go with a conversation about your mind, but the point is protect your mind and question things and think for yourself.  A mind can be a terrible thing, but if used properly and to its fullest, it can also be one of the most precious gifts on this earth.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

There's An App For That

To my son Tommy,

I was going to save all my weight talks for Tuesday weigh-ins but today it seems food and calories are all your mother and I can think about. We are both watching and journaling our diet on and just like when we decided to quit smoking, we are jonesing for some food. We have been commiserating together about our diet plans and leaning on each other for support and using each other to vent. The simple fact that your mother and I have teamed up in our efforts multiplied our chance of success tenfold. I have often said that no matter what the task, your mommy and I always do better as a team.

Technically I have over five hundred calories left from my day, mostly due to only having a cup of coffee or two instead of lunch. You would think that is a good thing, but skipping meals is actually detrimental to weight loss. I just get so caught up at work and rarely get in on the lunch order. Plus if I don't bring from home, it can end up costing an arm and a leg.

As for the rest of my diet today it was fairly good. My sodium was high because of some pickled green beans I had at your grandmom Roro's house as a snack. My sugars were high because I have a sweet tooth and because honey nut Cheerios and milk pretty much take care of my sugars for the day, then I add things like blueberries to the cereal and at dinner had some beets as a side and finished off the night with some 1% chocolate milk for desert and I am over the target sugars. That is going to be tough for me to curb but now that this app is logging and journaling it for me, I at least know it is happening and can adjust. That is what much of life is about, seeing the problem, figuring out the details, and adjusting. If I stick to everything, I am destined to lose two pounds a week, or so the app says. Slow and steady wins the race.

I still have to get back to the gym and plan on doing a couple other things. I am thinking lifestyle changes and not just about the pounds. I really hope this works because extra years with you and your mommy are the best gift I can give you guys and give myself.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It Is What It Is

To my son Tommy,

Tuesday mornings have become my weigh in day.  Today's weigh in was the type that makes everyone on "The Biggest Loser" show gasp and shake their head.  I jumped on the scale and it said 284.5 which is up about two and a half pounds from last Tuesday.  I even jumped on it a couple times hoping that it was just my crappy bathroom scale giving me wrong numbers but each time it said the same.  If I followed the expected script from the reality shows, this is the point I break down and cry and tell everyone that I worked so hard and I just don't understand.  Bah!  It is what it is.

First off, I didn't try really hard.  I had made a couple minor adjustments.  I don't have all day to work out and worry about my weight.  Plus the adjustments I made are adjustments I could live for with life.  Now with a small upswing, I need to re-adjust or add to my efforts and my resolve.  It is not the dramatic "end of the world kicked out of the house" moment that is made for television.  It was just a kick in the pants saying get back to work.  I could hear the little voice in my head saying "You made the decision to lose weight, no one is going to hold you accountable except yourself.  You can just blog about something else, for at least a year or two before your heart attack.  What ya going to do fat boy?".  My internal voices sometimes are not very tactful nor nice but usually you can't argue with them.  You can't argue with them because they are often correct though harsh.  Plus if anyone sees me arguing with my internal voices they would fit me for a straight jacket.  The only good thing about that is they probably wouldn't be able to find a straight jacket in my size.

After my disappointing scale session, I quickly examined the week.  As I remember, I kept up with breakfast for the most part.  There was a day or two I didn't do my little wall push-outs and there was a day or two that I had soda instead of water.  And I know there were at least two occasions where I said to myself "So much for watching what you eat".  When we watched the Superbowl I definitely indulged and over-indulged on full fat full flavor snacks.  I could make excuses for it being the Superbowl or lack of time or this or that but again those are just excuses.  Next week I could make excuses for it being Valentines then in March I can make excuses for it being Saint Patrick's etc etc.  The excuses and the rationalizations are always there, and as long as I give into them so will the weight be always there.

So now I just have to adjust again.  I will find a life adjustment that I can live with and add it to my schedule.  I am thinking that getting back to Planet Fitness is going to be the best way to go.  Also I think any food I eat around the house will be at the dinner table from now on.  I was thinking of doing a food journal with one of the various apps I have used in the past, but I am not sure if that will be a habit I can maintain after I lose fifty pounds or more.  It might be more of a short term option rather than a life change.  I would prefer not resorting to small temporary fixes but add in the small changes that I can live with forever.  Knowing most of our family, on both sides of the X-Y split, tend to be overweight, I hope that when you read this, if you find yourself with a couple extra pounds, you are inspired by my struggles and decide to do something about it.  I hope even more that when you read this you aren't in that situation, but the only way that happens is if I give you a good example now.

Sincerely with love from your (overweight but working on it) dad,

Monday, February 4, 2013

Because I Was There

To my son Tommy,

Your mom is out watching your Aunt Debbie at Center Stage tonight. Aunt Debbie was invited to tell a story on stage about parenting and her life and we are all excited for her. Your mother and I were recently discussing and agreed that we work together better as a team, but many times in our life we have to do more of a tag-team approach to taking care of you. Tonight just happens to be one of those tag team nights, so it is just you and me.

I have you fed and have only the basic tasks of bath time and bed time to accomplish. Right now you have conned me into 30 minutes more of Disney Jr before tubby time. As you sat and watched the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, I decided to clean and straighten the living room.

You have way too many toys and way too many of them downstairs instead of up in your room and way too many of them strewn across the floor. I would say it is because of a new schedule, but that would be ignoring the fact that even if we have all the time in the world this is a constant battle. You are starting to get better with cleaning yourself but it takes much prodding.

As I picked up various toys and accessories, I realized very few could do this job without so many questions. I picked up an odd piece of plastic that said "too cute" and where someone else would have no idea, I instantly recognized it as the license plate to this one car you got for Christmas. How do I know for sure? Well because I was there of course. I was there when you unwrapped and I was there when you begged for it to be opened and I was there when we first played with it. I continued cleaning and often chuckled to myself on how without hesitation I knew what so many strange items were and could even recall a story for each.

It dawned on me that so many aspects of my life are better understood because I was there at the beginning. I have worked at my job so long that what is a question for many is second nature to me. I was there when we created the software and of course had a major hand in that and still do. I was there each time the procedure changed and can tell you a story as to why we do it this way now. I do my job better because of all this experience and all this extra understanding and because I was there in the beginning.

Then it occurred to me this is how I understand you so well, because I was there. Maybe I should use "we" here, because this same line of thinking applies to both me and your mother. We are a team. So we understand you because we were there from the beginning. We were there for your first word, your first step, and every little aspect of your life. Even the ones we missed individually, we were still both there in a way. We know every little look on your face, we know what makes you happy and what makes you sad. We know you.

So as you go through life, give credit and respect for experience. Understand that those that were there from the beginning and listened and learned and cared for you, deserve your respect and more. Those that stick by you no matter what and are still by your side to this day and forever more, are those that truly matter. Remember anyone can come in and do the job, but it will be done better and easier by those who truly understand how we got to this point. A maid could come clean our house but there would be no way of knowing that this little figurine on your desk is Noah and really belongs with his ark at you Bwama's house. And though there will be times in your future teenage life where you will feel that your parents don't even know who you are, remember we were there from the beginning and we know you better than you think. Just something to keep in mind as we all grow older and up together.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Greatest Of These

To my son Tommy,

My inspiration comes from so many sources. From cartoons to great works of literature, from movies to radio, from heroes to crooks, from science to religion, from boring chores to extraordinary events, and from all points in between, my muse varies as much as my interest. But my message to you could probably be summed up and boiled down to a few common threads. One of those lessons is how love makes life worth living. Today's inspiration came from the second reading at mass today which comes from the first letter written by Paul to the Corinthians. It always makes me think of your wonderful mother and our commitment to each other but the love spoken of transcends just the love between a man and a woman.  It encompasses all love and all love has one true Source.  I could expound on these words forever, but sometimes words are so beautiful and ring so true and hold such a special place that they can only be quoted word for word and passed on.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Sincerely with love (that bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things) from your dad,

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Don't Cry Over Spilled Blueberries

To my son Tommy,

"Your son decided to wake up at two A.M. and I am going back to bed" said a frazzled looking mommy as I came down the steps.  To compound things I thought it was my day to sleep in so the last hour of me being upstairs was just lying there willing myself to sleep in.  I could tell no discussion was warranted and so it has been just you and me this morning.

When you and your dad do mornings, we try to always make your breakfast together.  You love pouring in your oatmeal flakes in the bowl.  As for the milk and the apple sauce, well that is a bit of give and take. I try to maintain enough control that we don't have a mess while giving you the illusion of doing it yourself.  The milk became a bit of a power struggle today and some spilled out on the counter.  I quickly said, "Don't cry over spilt milk" laughing that I finally got to say that actually due to milk and at the same time wondering if "spilt" is ok to use as an American or if it is only in the Queen's English that spill has that past tense form.  We  wiped up the little mess and finished your cereal without incident and plopped you down with a spoon to eat.

I decided to make some breakfast for myself, keeping with my healthy changes.  As I poured out my cheerios in a bowl, I decided to spice them up with some added nutrients.  I asked your mom to get me some frozen blueberries and a bag of walnuts when she went shopping this week.  A quick trip to the basement freezer and my cereal was now adorned with some health minded accessories.  I psyched myself up about eating healthy and convinced myself that I was really treating myself and I should have this option more often.  I decided to leave the blueberries in the upstairs freezer for convenience.  I resealed the resealable bag and threw them in.

If you ever heard a thousand marbles or dried beans or rice grains spilling out a bag, you would not be far off from the sound I heard immediately following my decision to keep the blueberries upstairs.  Evidently I didn't take the time to insure the seal on the resealable bag was in fact sealed properly.  What made it worse was the way I had put it in the freezer, I had to grab it almost in the middle and thus spill out more blueberries to make it stop.

I sat there discouraged and pissed as I looked at all the blueberries on the floor and spread through the various nooks and crannies of the freezer inventory.  I actually felt like crying.  Then I thought of what I would like you to do in this type of situation.  I thus started to clean up the frozen balls from the floor and get what I could out from the freezer.  I will wait for your mommy to wake up before I empty the freezer and make sure I got all the renegade berries from the freezer and then pull the whole unit out from the wall and clean underneath where there are bound to be another 20 rebel fruits hanging out plotting the resistance.

This little incident is full of teachable moments and ironies and such.  We could focus in on the karma or foreshadowing from laughing about the spilled milk.  We could expound for ages on how it is so much easier to make sure the job, in this case sealing the resealable bag, is done properly the first time.  I'd like to circle around on the lesson that what is done is done and the only thing to do after a mistake like this is to get down on your knees and clean it up.  I do not want to focus in on your bumbling father and his ineptitude but it makes me chuckle even now on the irony of spilling the blueberries.  Soon, after your mommy awakes and your dad summons enough testicular fortitude to mention his mistake, we could also teach how it is okay to ask for help and your mommy can be a savior when it comes to cleaning out freezers and finding and eliminating messes.  Next week, when we find a stray blueberry somewhere, we can focus in on how a simple mistake can sometimes have lasting effects.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Friday, February 1, 2013

Were, Are, Will Be

To my son Tommy,

There is a symbiotic relationship between who you were, who you are, and who you will be. Some connections in this relationship are easy to understand. Most people understand how "who we were" effected "who we are" and how both those can have a profound effect on "who we will be". This concept is linear and appeals to our natural concepts of time and cause and effect. Less intuitive is how "who we are" effects "who we were".

In the beginning of the Internet, content and form were joined at the hip. If you wanted to print something in cyberspace you had to include how it would look. Then some people figured out they could separate content and form and Web 2.0 and XML and such was born. With this evolution it freed everyone to view content how they wish to view it. They could put every other word in large font and every third word in bold if the chose. Tis is similar to how the present effects the past.

Who you are can highlight certain aspects of who you were. The content doesn't really change but the context does. Who you are can frame the challenges of your past as your inspiration to overcome or an excuse for your current failures. It changes what people remember about you.  If you graduate college and discover a cure for cancer, people will point out how you always did well in school, were well read, and how you used to play doctor when you were young. If you end up in jail people will remember and focus in on some anger event of your past and how you were destined for trouble and never mention your younger successes.  If you end up on the cover of GQ only TMZ would highlight your younger days of parachute pants and white button down shirt over top a pink polo, most would just recall how you were always well groomed when you were young.  What you are now might not truly effect what you were, but it sure changes the highlights from your past.  It is inherent in the way people think.  People see who you are or who they are and they need to justify this and they look for answers in what they know of your past.  Just ask anyone who has attended class reunions.

Even less intuitive is how "what will be" effects "what is" and "what was". How can something that hasn't happened yet and is not set in stone have any significant effect on who I am and who I was?  Just like present accomplishments can frame who we were, future dreams and aspirations can frame who we are. Every moment of the present is a choice on how to proceed in the future. Our vision of where we want to be is just as powerful as our past. It can frame you as ambitious and dedicated or it can frame you as obsessed.

You don't have to look too far to see this concept in other areas of life. Science poses the question in theories like space time continuum and string theory and quantum entanglement. They use Schroedinger's cat in a box to try to explain such difficult concepts. Religion points to this in prayers like the Glory Be and mysteries like how Christ died to save us from all sin not just sins that had already happened but all those sins yet to come. History books are constant examples of how the present frames the past. Psychology often studies how to move between who we were and who we are to help us figure out who we will be. We have examples everywhere in life on this symbiotic relationship between past, present, and future. But the best examples of this relationship comes from the heart and is only really understood deep down inside.  The good news is, though we might not be able to physically change our past, we can put it in a good perspective as we can adjust who we are now and make good choices in who we want to be in the future.

Sincerely with love from your dad,