1. Overheard: my son bragging about his wardrobe:

"...and this is my sweater that we bought at Goodwill."

Our children's newest addition to their working vocabulary: "oy vey."

Walking around muttering - and singing - "Oy vey! Oy vey...oy vey. Oy vey!!!"

(Which is, as we all know, basically a much livelier and interesting version of "oh dear!")

We were at a Christmas concert earlier tonight and something happened that just made me so happy: 

In the crowded church, someone's cellphone started ringing LOUDLY...and it was not anybody in my family!! Which meant I was free to enjoy the discomfort across the way as somebody not related to me scrambled to find the ringer button. Nice job, family. It wasn't us.

The concert itself was top-notch and featured a wide array of styles and instruments. One highlight, amongst many fantastic moments, was the energetic, enthusiastic, virtuoso piano accompaniments of Zachary White along with the gospel choir. A great reminder of how possible it is to bring raw joy into a spiritual environment and provide an uplifting, enjoyable, and thoroughly beautiful experience to the season. Great job, all of you. Zachary: keep those fingers moving and that head bobbing. Wonderful.

Also, during this event, someone's pants fell down, which reminded me of the importance of a good belt or pair of suspenders, which my son was obviously not wearing.

His embarrassment was non-existent, which is a pretty cool thing. As you get older, you learn all kinds of stuff that's good to know, like mathematics and cinema and important disciplines like those, but you also learn dreadful stuff like how to get embarrassed, and that's so sad. I was envious of my son and his nonplussed response; I suppose there are definite advantages to being three.

I'm often aware of the little things that differentiate generations; the shifts in behavior and communication that somehow just...happen. The easy response for the generation above to make is the classic "what's wrong with THESE kids; I wasn't like that."

My ongoing attempt - ATTEMPT - is to observe, analyze, process, try to understand, as opposed to passing judgment. But I'm also a product of the times and culture I grew up in. And I grew up without a cellphone. I have one now. I'm typing these words on it. But I'm not comfortable using it in "formal" settings - loosely speaking, church, meetings, etcetera. I'm more of a closet user, I suppose. Hop on in the early morning, jump on quickly at lunch, spend a bit of time at night after children are down. I TALK on it throughout the day. But as far as using for social functions...I'm self-conscious about being on my phone while somebody is up front talking or performing.

Now if you're my age (37) or older, then maybe you're applauding what I just wrote above and thinking something along the lines of: "well of course, it's just RUDE to be on your phone while somebody else is speaking up front." My intent is not to sound holier-than-thou. I'm just personally not comfortable with it (I am a constant old-school doodler, with my ubiquitous pen and sketch pad. Feel free to judge that  It helps me pay better attention). 

There are jumps; shifts from each generation to the next that are oftentimes not good, not bad; they simply redraw different sets of social mores as far as what's acceptable and appropriate behavior - and smartphones are something that kids today just grow up with. It's a given. And the ways in which we interact and communicate are changing; I'm still figuring out what I think. One thing is for sure: you go to virtually any meeting, event, church service, gathering, whatever, and it doesn't matter what the occasion is: there will be people plucking away on their phones.

What are the new rules here? 

And no knee-jerk reactions. I am genuinely curious. How do you determine, individually, what is an appropriate and what is not an appropriate time to be on your phone?

Oy vey, it's tough to be a kid today. Even a three- or 37-year old one.

I arrived home yesterday evening to find holiday music blasting, lights twinkling, and my wife and children playing Pirates with cardboard boxes and referring to each other by the monikers David Bowie, Major Tom and Inigo Montoya. 

"NOW it's Christmas,"
I thought to myself as I set my bags down and picked up a sword.

"Daddy, you can be David Bowie Number 2!" one of my children shrieked cheerfully ; an idea I found slightly insulting. I'd be fine with Ziggy Stardust, or even Aladdin Sane. 

Fine. I sighed. Merry Christmas, little drummer people.

"Daddy, can you believe that the Tooth Fairy lost my tooth?" my daughter asked.

my three-year old son jumped in quickly.
"The Tooth Fairy isn't real. It's pretend."

A. "Daddy, why don't you and Mama have Christmas lights in your bedroom?"
B. "Daddy, can you read me a book about a bad guy?"
C. "Daddy, why are swords silver?"
D. "Daddy, can I have two kinds of whipped cream now?"
E. "Daddy, do you want to buy something from me for five dollars? I will sell you a computer."

I had good answers for three of these questions.

4. The opening episode of Sherlock, series 2 might be my favourite-ever premiere episode of a second season. Mystery, intrigue, romance, occasional hilarity, poignant and earned heartstring-tugging, action, disconnected pieces starting to fall into place with perfect unveiling...what a mix of top-drawer acting, great writing, and superb production values. A program to savor.

"Can I change your name to 'Robert?'" 
my son asked his sister kindly.

She replied without hesitation.

5. Regarding the saga of North Korea's Jang Song Thae - formerly the second-most powerful figure in the country; denounced recently as a traitor and summarily executed:

I am so fascinated by the invisible transition from "current events" to "history," and how the passage of time provides some(times a) level of distance, objectivity and clarity. Events such as this: very much not history at this moment. Happening NOW. A reality for an entire other nation - and region - as we here skip around outdoor malls and and set children on Santas' laps and and water our trees and watch excellent British television dramas. There will be volumes of stories and op-eds in the coming days over what this means internationally, but I can't separate myself from the question of what events like this mean to families RIGHT NOW; to children in particular. Don't know. I am not a prolific flag waving, nationalistic evangelist who believes the U.S. is the moral center of the entire world...

...but it is certainly a sobering reminder that I live in a country where I won't wake up one morning to find that Joe Biden has been denounced as a traitor and executed. 

And also a reminder that there is a world that exists outside my family, outside my home, outside my country and comfort zone. And it's not necessarily a joyous time for the entire world right now.

On that note. Merry Christmas. Time to go pay some bills. Santa, will you please forgive my student loan debt?

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