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Sometimes…


Sometimes I don’t want to wear the big boy pants. Especially when I’m not feeling so adult, or even competent.
I need to listen more, and to learn not to spread myself so thin. I get caught up in things, enthusiastic, and sometimes will go off without completely understanding what I’m trying to accomplish, or why.

There are times when I miss key details. Because I want to badly to DO GOOD. To be PART OF THINGS.
“Yeah,” you say, “don’t we all?”

Well, yeah. But I’ve been a certified “weird person” all of my life. Couldn’t help it. I’m still a misfit most places. Hell, everywhere. Continue reading

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where it’s at


Oops. Well, I forget to post here for a bit. There was way too much life happening. Some of it had to do with the increasingly wayward child, some of it had to do with deadlines (most of them self-imposed), some of it had to do with other folks. During the last month or so, we’ve had to relocate for two days so that the complex could spray for bugs (seems to have worked), I’ve finalized the cover and contents of my book. somehow finagled renewing most of my web properties despite not having enough  money to do so (I spent the money on eating out during the two days we were in the hotel), and cooked a semi-gourmet meal damn near every night.

Did see the new pulmonologist. He spewed some hope, saying that there had to be some reason why the scarring in my lungs isn’t healing, and they’re not returning to full capacity. The last guy said that to, and tried to put me on the Atkins diet to fix it.

Wrong answer. I distrust fad diets, and, though I’m sure he had his reasons for recommending that (mostly having to do with my weight), I have my own reasons not to do it. We’ll talk about willful disobedience later. though, and in another context.

Continue reading

the Association Principle


No, this isn’t about the sixties pop group. It’s about the ability of a human being to create new ideas by combining two old ones. It’s about understanding the interconnection of things, and about relationships.

As strange as it may seem to some, the ability to associate needs to be taught (at least in most cases that I’ve seen). Seldom does a child come up with an example on his or her own. They have to be taught that “this” associates with “that”.

Here’s an example, from this evening’s conversation with our young one, after she had left the room and my wife and I were unable to prevent the smallest cat from eating the peanuts out of her teeny bowl of trail mix.

My wife-“Bright Eyes ate the peanuts out of your bowl. And she licked the almonds.”

The child reaches into the bowl and prepares to put some in her mouth.

Me-“You really are DeeDeeDee, aren’t you? The cat had her tongue in that bowl. You know where that tongue’s been. Why would you eat that?”

The Look…that blankly hostile look, with the jaw thrust forward, the bottom lip pouting, and the eyes ready to roll.

Me-“You don’t understand, do you?”

Child (in really small voice). “no.”

Me-“You really need to speak up (The hesitant childishness is a behavior that must have earned her cute points or something in her previous life, but doesn’t operate under her new laws). If I can’t hear you, I’ll ignore you. (I know this seems cruel, but so many of her “things” are attention-getting mechanisms that are leftover from when she was two or three years old. Stated in these terms, this gets HER attention).”

The Look softens a little. I am ON Her Side, after all. I Mean Well.

The Mrs.-“Cats lick their ass with their tongue. That’s where that tongue has been.” Aside to me-“She doesn’t “get” germs.”

“I know. Brook, do you understand about germs?”

A slightly louder No.

“Okay. Germs are invisibly small critters. The thing that made me and your grandma sick is a germ.”

That she has successfully made this association is obvious. She “gets it”. Her eyes fill with wonder as a few of the chains of association that come with this small epiphany cross her mind.

“So when the cats lick their asses, those germs are on their tongue.”

Wife-“It’s why I don’t like dogs to lick my face.”

“You see,” I say, turning to the child. “You don’t really want to eat that, do you?” An emphatic nod-NO! “Good. Go throw that out.”

“Ew,” says the child, hastening on this errand.

Precious stuff. I want to give her the universe.

It’s true. We’re trying to get her to learn to want to read. She hasn’t yet gotten it into her head that this skill gives her the universe. She thinks tv and dvds do.

It gives me a sad. She really isn’t far advanced from where she was at four, when we last saw her, in terms of her skills and her interior life. She’s been surfeited with Dora the Explorer, who is several years too young for her, and similar pablum, and bought off with a constant supply of snack crackers and candy, with the occasional ice cream and soda pop.

Ghastly. We just tell her we’re not getting things anymore. I’ll tell her we’re just going to buy water, since she’ll slip off to Circle K any chance she can get and download a 44 oz. Code Red.

When she first arrived, she had a taste for coffee. Her version has three tablespoons of sugar, about 1/4 cup of high fructose-corn-syrup-laden nondairy creamer, and 1/2 a cup of milk. A liquid truffle, more or less.

The first thing I did was cut out the sugar, after seeing how she crashes off the stuff. Want a bitchy kid? Make her vibrate in place for 20 minutes after imbibing something like that, and then watch for the crash. As soon as she yawns, try to get her to do something.

Good luck with that. She learned all of this lunacy from her mother, who is her role model, gods forfend.

While we were at the bookstore, the child stopped me in my tracks by explaining that her mother used to read to her.

Selections from “Twilight Saga”.

My knees buckled. Here we are trying to work with Black Beauty, and My Friend Flicka, and this former victim of pedophilia has been subjected to that travesty, in both book and video form.

Woof to that warp. We got her those, and a handsomely illustrated sorta Cliff’s Notes version of the Secret Garden. And a couple of jigsaw puzzles.

My wife has even gone further. She is buying the child a Kindle. One, because she’s tired of giving up her laptop so the kid can watch idiocy on Netflix, and two, to help further her education. I know how to work the controls so that she gets so much reading time, so much video time, etc.

My part was in picking up a recorder, a set of small drumsticks, and a pitch-pipe. She wants a Hannah Montana guitar for her birthday. I’m going to try to change that to something that will last a bit longer and cost less, just in case she tires of it. I’m about 90% certain that it will, and then it’ll pass to me. I’d just as soon not have to refinish the thing.

I’ve begun playing things like Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young video content for her, just adding them to her daily audiovisual diet, in the hopes that she’ll retain that association when we begin to try to find her musical horizon.

I know that she has excellent pitch from her happy-girl warbling, and I can work with that. She wants to learn guitar and piano…but she really doesn’t understand how hard it is to be good at playing a musical instrument.. She’s never had to work for or toward anything. So it’ll be a matter of not letting her frustration cancel out her talent.

She loves my song “Blutopia”. That one’s easy enough to teach her. I have lots of sheet music and tab books.

That’s the plan.

This weekend, I’m finally feeling well enough to maneuver the various boxes and instruments and equipment from one room to another, and she’ll have her own room by Monday night. Her and the bunnies.

Then I can get myself resettled and get back to work. It’s been a long time comin’-I can’t wait. My workday is cut down by an hour on each side, because of the child’s schedule. I’ll only be able to swing 3 hours writing/3 musical…but at least I have that, and can be productive under that arc.

A short story a week and a song every two is the aim. I’ll put them up here, at least temporarily, when they’re done. The first ones will be next weekend. I have three instrumental tracks and two short stories/articles justaboutthere.

Then, with any luck at all, I’ll have some things featuring the kid. I’m out looking for tambo, maracas, wood flutes, anything that’s cheap and will make noise, and I’ll drag out my acoustic instruments and usb drumkit. Perfect timing as the arthritis has been letting up and the pain in my shoulder isn’t as bad as it has been. I need practice at any rate.

And nothing teaches discipline and confidence like making music. I look forward to it. I hope we can get the Mrs. to play too.

 

Edison Nuthouse


Sunday dawned bright and early. I know, because I was awake. I fell awake at about 4:30…watched tv for a bit–preseason football. Miami and Jacksonville. The Dolphins won going away, though Jacksonville’s run game looked impressive at times. They could move between the twenties but they couldn’t get the rock into the end zone.

The Bears rebroadcast was scheduled at 7. I set the dvr to record the thing, made a pot of coffee for my wife, took my morning meds and waited for the percocet to knock me out for a bit. Figured I could get a little rest that way.

It would have worked, except that the child woke up and decided to have a chat with the rabbits.

I’m a notoriously light sleeper, and that did the trick. I got up and started the pot running, got myself something to eat (wholegrain toast and a cup of yogurt), and made ready to deal with the teeny drama queen, our eight-year-old grandchild.

She would want to watch cartoons, I knew, and that wasn’t going to happen, because the Bears game supercedes cartoons. Televised sports are the reason why we have a tv. So if the Cubs, Bears, or BlackHawks are on, they are a priority item. The child knows this. But that won’t stop her from wanting cartoons, or netflix.

Because the electronic babysitter is what she knows.

And Triscuits is what she wanted for breakfast. I told her that she should have some yogurt with those, to make it a better meal. She had just the yogurt, not enough food…later she complained that she had a little stomach ache, and was sent up to bed to rest, since she was getting cranky about it.

The smell of frying bacon brought her back down an hour or so later. I made some pancakes to wrap around the bacon strips, and one of those fixed the tummyache. She was just hungry.

Still cranky though. The child has this weird habit of clamming up when asked almost any question. She makes the pouty face, goes all glassy-eyed and just stands there with her face hanging out.

You’d think it autism or something, but it’s deliberate. She controls when she does this. And we’re trying to fix it.

Not easy. I’ve ordered her a special surprise, something to make her trips to and from school easier. She knows she has a surprise coming, but not what it is.

That’s our lever. She’s been told that she has to behave properly, not be a smartass or have a sassy mouth, answer direct questions, do her schoolwork and chores. Nothing extraordinary. She’s eight. You can only expect so much.

Her impulse control is so weak that she’s really in danger of me sending the thing back. Instead we’re going to have a black mark/gold star thing. Every time she is disobedient or otherwise misbehaves, a black mark appears on the whiteboard, and she is sent to the corner for a while. Every time she does her chores or homework without being asked, a gold star appears and she gets positive attention.

Because it’s the attention she wants. She thinks that she should be the center of attention at all times. I mean she really thinks that. For no reason other than simple selfishness and narcissism. She’s said so.

My wife told her that two-year-olds think like that, and that it wasn’t a reasonable expectation.

That’s when the baby-show ban started. No more cartoons for the preschooler. She loves Dora and Max and Ruby.

On the other hand, she also loves those ridiculous Disney tween situation comedies. The problem with that is that the characters are all sophisticated and sassy, and she mimics the smartass comments and sarcastic attitudes.

So we’ve instituted a ban on those too.

Hell, I’d ban tv altogether if I thought it would help. This kid has spent so much time nodding mindlessly at the boob tube that she’s incapable of thinking things out.

She needs to be reading and reading and reading, and she hates reading. It’s too hard, we’re told. Same circus as usual.

It feels like we’re getting closer to cooperation, but there’s still a long way to go.

Unnecessary stress. I have this giant pain in my shoulder that no meds can dent, and my neck muscles are like rocks.

So I’m not stressing over it. The kid gets the message, or doesn’t. She doesn’t, she spends the rest of her life in the corner. There are rules everywhere. Nobody is going to give her 24/7 attention.

That’s it.

I left the writing forum. Left a kinda nasty flounce post, which was taken down within ten minutes of its posting, talking about some of the things detailed in the previous blogpost. I don’t need that kind of stress anymore either. One of my friends there remarked “…most of these people have spent maybe one or two years writing, and they haven’t even finished one story.” And they expect parades for the first paragraph. And they won’t listen to advice. They know everything.

Screw those people. I don’t have anything to say to them. I don’t need them to critique my writing, I don’t want to read theirs, I don’t care what song they’re listening to now or how they prepare to write their one ungrammatical paragraph a day.  I’m too busy writing my own things.

Even this thousand words or so a day of stream-of-conscious semirant is preferable.

I did work for a while on the Letters from Outside stuff. It’s almost done. I’ll unveil the archive in due time. And the new short story is in polishing now. Tomorrow I’ll finish the hospital portion of “abed”, and put it up somewhere on the website so folks can read it. Then I’ll edit the whole thing into readable shape…hopefully by the end of the week, so I can move into a new project as I begin moving my things from this office into the bedroom, clearing the way for the kid to have her own room. Maybe that’ll help. Couldn’t do it before because of the hernia surgery.

Yay.  I get to squeeze all of my stuff into a corner of the bedroom. I think my friend Scott is right–I’ll need to get vertical with it. At least as much as I can. Isn’t really possible to stack guitars.

The Bears lost, though the first string looked okay. Cubs lost but took the series against the Cardinals 3-1. The Disney Three Musketeers wasn’t as bad as I had feared, and I think I even chuckled once or twice. I was going to let the child watch Free Willy 2 after that, but she got mouthy and presumptuous and canceled that bit of goodwill. If her plan was to avoid reading by being an asshole, she succeeded admirably. Louis CK is right, you know.

More tomorrow. Gotta catch up on my correspondence. Related article

Metaphysical Wet Willie


Every so often the universe gives you a poke, says “Hi! You’re it!” You’re about to have one of those days.

You know what I’m talking about. You rip your sock while pulling it on, lock yourself out of the house, knock things over for no reason. You’re two days late and four dollars short and the coffee tastes like bleach or blech.

The universe gives you a metaphysical wet willie just to remind you that it’s around.

I had one of those days today.

It started innocently enough. I awoke, saw the girls off to school and work, and sat waiting for the oxygen tank delivery man. The oxygen tank delivery company isn’t very good at communicating when they might arrive. Typically the new tanks come at around 2 pm, on alternate Thursdays, because I only call every two weeks, and they only deliver on Thursday in this zip code.

There was this huge bulge at the top of the birdcage. That meant that I had to get up from my doze and investigate. That can be bad news sometimes, the getting up thing. I have a couple aches and pains, and the meds hadn’t kicked in yet.

I put my glasses on and approached the birdcage, which is about five feet tall and three wide. I gingerly lifted the outer and inner coverings, to reveal a large orange cat sleeping contentedly atop the cage, his weirdly crooked tail draped over the bars.

Hard to believe the birds didn’t cause a ruckus and wake me up. But okay, I knew what the hump was. I let him sleep. He doesn’t really bother the birds. Ladybird wouldn’t allow that.

I went and fixed me a cuppa, and sat back down, leaned back, and grooved to a 70s game show for a bit, the pain meds starting to creep in around the edges. I had a couple of puffs to help that happen.

Started drifting off. My sore-for-no-apparent-reason shoulder stopped hurting. I got floaty.

The phone rang.

I had to get up and get it. I brought it back with me, just in case. I answered it.

“Do your homeowner’s bills got you down?”

I hung up. “We rent,” I muttered to the air.

I sat down again, in my plush black leather recliner. I sipped just a little coffee, dropped the tv volume down a notch. The birds were still reasonably quiet. I had a puff or two.

Developed a kink in my neck. That made my left arm hurt, really sharp and somewhere around the rotator cuff. Hurt right down into my fingers. I have a pinched nerve or something. It had been hurting most of the night, most of the last two days, and for a stretch before that. I keep forgetting to call the doc because life gets busy even if you’re sitting quietly by yourself sometimes.

I shrugged and called in the reinforcements. Four ibuprofen and a percocet. Another atavan. I was damn tired and was gonna get a little rest. By now it was almost nine.

“Just another couple of hours,” I begged.

I drifted off presently. I was the last man in the universe, sitting in my chair.

A knock came at the door.

My therapist.

Hooray.

We talked in a directionless sort of fashion for an hour, just having a conversation with no real subject guidance. That was actually okay, but I’d rather have been sleeping.

I sucked down another coffee while this was going on, to keep myself engaged. So, by the time he left, I was wide awake, but still muzzy around the edges.

I decided to get some lunch, maybe an omelet. Rinsed off the dinner dishes, put them in the dishwasher, ran the machine, went back and sat down.

Started editing a recent manuscript, forgot about lunch. Finished about one, when the oxygen man finally called to say he was in the area.

Didn’t save the edit.

While I was moving the fourteen tanks out onto the stoop, the cats turned off the computer.

That was all before the girlchild came home.

Bratty doesn’t begin to describe her bahavior. She was willfully disobedient from the git-go. It took two and a half hours to make five flash cards with the words “Respect“, “Cooperation”, “Effort”, “Responsibility” and “Patience” on them.

Four of the cards had no lines drawn on them. I drew lines so that she could print on them. Unlined cards were just right out.

She “forgot” what the actual assignment was. She drew a box around “Respect” for no reason that she could tell me, putting on the pouty face and fidgeting instead.

When I opened the dishwasher to get a glass, she said “Are those dishes fully clean?” In a sardonic tone, as if she were eating from food-encrusted dishes all of the time.

This led to a discussion of what “respect” meant, in her words, with many attempts to change the subject or play with the cat or do anything other than learn.

Finally done with the first card, she wrote the second. Asked what the definition of “patience” was, she replied that it was “being patient”. This of course led to conversation, with examples, and finally to some sort of understanding on her part. It dragged on so long I started making dinner, Sloppy Joe and hand-cut fries, quick and easy.

After we finished the cards, she took a break, talked to the rabbits for a bit, and then we tried to read.

Utter disaster. She refused to sound out words, instead trying to tell me that she grew jealous when my wife and I would talk to each other while she was watching one of her Disney or Nick shows. That she felt ignored because we weren’t paying attention to her 24/7.

So completely, unfathomably, immature that I put her in the corner, which I hate to do. But it’s the only thing that’s effective. She cried big crocodile tears too.

I released her just before my wife came home, so she wouldn’t be squished in the door.

The food was on the table. We had no food-time war. The child piled sloppy joe on half of a bun, got a tablespoon of vegetables, wolfed it down, put her plate in the sink, and went to wash her hands.

The chip on her shoulder just got bigger as the night went on. More time in the corner, more crocodile tears, more pouty.

Two steps back for every step forward, it seems sometimes.

At the end of the day, I relaxed to some music. Probably up too late, but what are ya gonna do?

Here’s a selection of my things:

moderan

 

Wakin’ up is hard to do


We’ve been spending much time this last week trying to figure out how to best insinuate the idea for “good taste” and “taking on a little more responsibility” into the life of our eight-year-old girlchild. She’s pretty independent, definitely a bit of a dramamama, definitely intelligent though just as definitely not as book-learned as she should be.

She loves the pets…so feeding/taking care of the rabbits has become her main job task. Playing with Buster is one of her favorite things. I suspect he likes it too, but he’s still suspicious of this small interloper. He has also taken on a great degree of independence, and is very good at making his wishes known (for example, the litterbox was let go a couple of days too long. He took the paper garbage bag, tore a hole in the side of it, pissed about a quart of ammoniac boycatpiss into and onto it, and then sidled over to give me a quick headbonk.)

Took half a roll of two-ply to fix that. Hard to be mad at him though. I’d feel the same way.

Which brings us to the subject of empathy, which the child does not seem to have much of. She’s been shuttled about so much that a lot of her feelings are locked up. Eventually they’ll surface-I imagine it’ll happen when hormonal challenges start setting in, a couple of years down the road.

We’ve banned the viewing of Spongebob, which I just can’t stand, and have severley limited the viewing of “baby shows”, i.e., programs that are way below her age level. Mind you, they’re not below her reading or ‘rithmetic level-but that’s the point. The child can barely add, and hasn’t yet learned the technique of sounding out words to produce the result. Nobody has ever taken the time to work with her on these things.

At least until recently. I’ve begun working with her on reading and on math skills, trying to show the relationships between numbers and methods so that she’ll have a good overview, and alternating pages of books. It’ll be a while til there are results-she seems to enjoy the process for the most part, but gets all stubborn and pouty when pressed. She puts on the “Can’t-Make-Me” face, which some kid is one day gonna slap right off 0f her.

Bad attitude, directly inherited.

I work on a reward system. Yesterday she walked halfway to school  by herself, as the daily round trip is too hard for me. Today she went all by herself. I don’t anticipate any problems. Once she’s past our block of condos, there’s the main intersection, with a crossing guard who already knows her, and another a block away by the driveway into the school property.

For making the half-trip, she was rewarded with a giant Mountain Dew slurpee, which lasted until almost 8 pm with a trip to the fridge for a couple of hours to stay cold.

Homework and chores come first after arrival. This is agreed to by all. I try to take a little extra time to explain things, and to exercise more patience than I ordinarily would.

She’s doing okay…and the daily trip will get easier in a week or so when her scooter arrives. Provided that she continues to act like a young lady and not a spoiled brat, she’ll get the thing right away.

Brattiness isn’t treasured, nor is drama. But that’s her wake-up routine. I’m not an easy waker either-if I don’t feel that what I was awakened for is worth being awake for. Otherwise I wake immediately and head for the medicine cabinet.

The child squalls or won’t get up. We’ll work on that.

Could be way worse. She says “I love you, grandpa”, at least 20 times a day. Hard to get tired of that.

It’s an Eight-Year-Old’s World


(and I live in it).

We’ve recently become custodians of an eight year old girl, my wife and I. It’s unusual to have one at such an advanced age (I’m 52, she’s ageless of course), but that’s the situation.

We make the best of it. The care and feeding of a young being require much attention to detail, and one must pay especial attention to consistency, since one is going to be called on it constantly.

“A deal’s a deal,” I was informed one afternoon when that worthy was being told she could go to the pool after all. I daved this situation in my memory bank, knowing it would come in handy.

Sure enough, the next day, she wanted to avoid sweeping the living room, under the birdcage, as she had done before, and announced that “this is what I do”, while performing said deed.

Making mention of this omission severely dented my momentary rapport with the child. I was favored with a pout.

She likes to pout; she’s a bad sport. Correcting both behaviors and keeping them corrected will take time. I just do a little course correction from time to time. That’s my job-I’m the designated driver.

I am the dreaded lecture dispenser in our household.

I refuse to babytalk and “I don’t know” is not an acceptable excuse. So there are lots of little standoffs. I do believe that the child thinks these are contests of will. To me it’s Pavlovian. I just don’t use a bell.

She loves attention-it comes with the territory. But lectures swiftly turn out to be unwanted attention. Especially when they contain the dreaded unanswerable question. Each lecture has one, it’s in the contract.

Today it was why should we let you keep a bunny and have it for your very own when you don’t actually care for it?

The desired answer was “I”ll care for it. I will water it and feed it promptly and properly, and the other rabbits, too.”

She does, when asked. She volunteers at other idiosyncratic times. She is always going to ” check on them” but doesn’t always address the food, drink, and litter situation. Heavens know what she is actually doing.

This was addressed. “If you go in to ‘check on the bunnies’, you should see if their water bottles are full, if their dishes are empty. You can let them out far enough to pet them, but don’t pick them up. They are fragile.”

My wife maintains that I am nitpicky. I don’t necessarily deny this accusation.

It’s about the welfare of the child. I feel that she’ll fare much better if she has her wits about her. Developing a sense of humor can come later.

I’ve devised math homework for the first time in years, a couple of tables of figures that show the relationship between “added numbers” and “multipliers”, to use two of the terms from the assignment.

The child cannot do her multiplication tables, but says math is easy.

It does come easy to her, seemingly, but she still has to learn it. Her peers will, and she knows that now, and that’s a righteous tool.

Monday we are doing more. I’ve come up with another couple of pages of notebook paper, in which we discuss the previous, and work with fives and tens before seguing into simple subtraction by introducing story problems.

That’ll allow me to branch into book-reading later.

I have a final two days left to relax and recuperate from my recent (successful) surgery. Today I didn’t feel so well and so was uncommunicative to the world at large. I watched baseball, and am heartened by my Cubs, who bear every earmark of the .500 record except the actual numbers (yet). They have some good young players.

The child hates the baseball. She likes cartoons and the things that the Disney and Nick channels offer only, and her attention wanders when anything else is presented.

This is often when she indulges in cleaning and sweeping and the like, a practice which I am loath to discourage, though it’d be best to follow after her with a little broom and collect the remnants. Attention to detail is not her specialty. Oh, wait, was that nitpicking?

Until now, I had for years enjoyed children most when they were going to go away. This is different. I have to change, but I don’t have to surrender.

More stuff about kids and pets and other oddities tomorrow.