Thoughts on the week past; one that is dead forever.
Siblings, part I.
My brother Jonny and I get into massive arguments about two things, and the second thing involves FaceTiming.
I am an old-fashioned guy in terms of technology usage, somewhere between a Luddite and Elon Musk. I can’t get many people to communicate via walkie-talkie with me or start a text thread via fax, so I usually lemming along and join the hordes with a phone up to ear…
…because usually I’d rather I have a phone to my ear than a phone in front of my face where I’m operating on two fronts: visually and aurally. Also, I’m an eye contact person when talking, but I’m also a multi-tasking person, so the combination of those two things is unfortunate and leaves me vacillating between two mutually-exclusive tasks.
But I FaceTime with Jonny. Because he is far away and I need to see that marvelous little stubbly Canadian face and his baking little bride. Plus, I’m building up a great little library of Live Photo screenshots taken during our conversations.
Technology Wars, 2019 : Jonny 1, Joseph 0.
If I was super-rich and had to decide between building a giant slide or a giant swing, then I would figure out a way to make more money so I could do both.
Childhood battles, pt. 1 of a million.
I got into a huge fight with our two-year old. Technically, I got into several of them this week. But one was special in particular, because before we engaged in verbal combat, he got ahold of a pair of swim goggles that he snapped around his head and over his eyes.
If you have ever verbally dueled with a toddler in an escalating battle of emotions over something important, like whether he should or should not take a nap, and that toddler is wearing goggles during this struggle, then you and I have something in common and you know that you deserve a special medal for being able to carry on combat despite the optics of arguing with a small human who is shrieking and crying and…
…wearing swim goggles at the same time. It is not cute. It is not. It is not. It is not.
Maybe a little. Just barely.
Read, pt. I.
Is it important to be a well-rounded reader when you’re nine years old?
Or is it more important to simply be a reader?
I think I know the answer…but I still have so many wonderful books to recommend that he might not ever get to.
Siblings, part II : San Francisco.
I spoke via FaceTime to Six and Seven.
Engaged in a tete-a-tete communication with them across West Coast state lines and spoke of pleasant things, including the mini-tour they are currently on.
Even across the gap, they suffuse their surroundings with deep-rooted feelings of…love, joy, and purposeful attention that megaphones inspiration.
Working in the creative disciplines is not always the simplest, easiest, or most carefree of choices. And it means you gotta be good at a handful of things other than the thing you’re actually doing (music, comedy, etc.).
You gotta be able:
To commit to a schedule and some level of discipline to ensure that all your incredible ideas don’t stay in your head…that at least some of them get consistently executed.
To have a thick skin and realize that your worth, value, and success is not tied up in followers, stupid influencer metrics, or even audience size.
To develop an internal confidence that North Stars your heart and legs and keeps you going, even amidst disappointment and setbacks.
To play the long game and the long tail; to realize the first three things are gonna help you, over time, increase the probability you’ll make a living doing what you love, and that there is an audience, a loyal audience that you will build. But it may happen quickly and it may not. It will happen though. If you stick to the first three.
To surround yourself with a small handful of people you trust who can give you criticism that is both affirming and constructive. These people will help carry you when you need it and kick you when it’s appropriate. But they will always be loyal. Make it a two-way street.
And that’s why these two are beautiful people. They remind me of these things over and over with the way they bounce, walk, climb, slide, roll, and run through life.
I cannot overstate how much I loathe what that word has come to mean. How about simply building relationships? Good ones without agendas…or at least transparent ones?
Birthday no. 12.
Nothing makes you feel the creeping encroachment of time quite like taking your 12-year old on her birthday to Dutch Bros. and Black Rock so she can get her complimentary drinks.
Not caffeinated, not coffee. Not yet.
Spidey, and then a tiny web of a tangent.
Took her and a small gaggle of girls and a couple boys to Spiderman: Far From Home, which was a worthy, albeit much less intense followup to Avengers: Endgame. I was satisfied with new arrival Jake Gyllenhaal, bored with much of the pyrotechnics and virtual reality action, and absolutely impressed by the chemistry between Tom Holland and Zendaya.
Who will our children be friends with in ten years? Twenty years? A year?
I understand very much the inclination to control - or try to control - your children’s relationships. You want them to have all the advantages possible and not get sidetracked, waylaid, distracted, or turned away from a healthy path. The influence of others, especially peers during key stages, can be incalculable.
I’ve been preparing for years. Preparing mostly myself internally, mentally, emotionally, but also logistically. How to find the right amount to control at the right point, the proper boundaries to set - and to help teach the importance of setting boundaries to begin with, the power of the most important word in the universe (No). Et cetera.
Everything balanced with helping raise children who look at those around - friends, family, strangers near and far - as part of humanity, worthy of respect, and therefore as opportunities not threats.
There will always be external forces coupled with the ephemeral whims of the human spirit and heart that make life difficult to map out with too precise a stroke. Doesn’t mean we don’t plan or strategize. We do so, knowing that much will change, and that’s okay.
Most importantly, we try to arm our children, all of our children, with the tools to handle changing circumstances.
We try to show them how healthy relationships work and how much better and easier life is when you can grow and maintain mutually-positive ones that are accepting of human frailties and mistakes, yet help each other live up to the best version of oneself possible.
That was a tangent. We want our children to grow up with a desire to share and spread their unique selves in a way that brings meaning and joy to the world and to those they love.
Things that make me happy.
Our two-year old running to his nine-year old cousin for comfort. Comfort from a physical injury or emotional distress. Trots over to her and buries his head on her shoulder, or lap, and curls up in silence. Usually for several minutes.
It is beautiful.
She sits there, tolerating, a slight smile on her face as her ruddy-faced, blond-haired buddy gets himself centered. Her patience and gentleness is exquisite as he burrows in and she sweetly talks to him and asks him about what’s going on.
He lies there and says very little, if anything at all. Eyes wide open, serious expression, arms wrapped around her, head lying on her leg or chest.
I understand the tactile nature of comfort; the calming sensation of a good hug, of a massage, of the emotional release of sharing a tiredness or discomfort with another. I love how young children embrace that idea, symbolically and literally. Maybe we could better at that too. The power of touch to provide comfort.
Obviously there’s a lot packed into the idea of touch these days, and the importance of respecting boundaries and people’s physical space.
But I am also deeply saddened at the ways that physical touch has been tainted. At its best, a simple hug or purposeful embrace is a beautiful way to empathize in a way that words and other ways cannot.
Part deux to ‘things that make me happy.
Our son and niece wrestling. With many references to Spartans and many Shakespearean insults hurled, all through the unmasked, uninhibited giggly faces of nine-year old personalities simply living with joyful intensity.
One would think that a summer program at the library that involves dangerous reptiles and venomous snakes would have parents extra cautious and careful of keeping their children behind the designated safety line.
One would think.
I will be writing a lengthier post soon about the responsibility of parents to let performers perform and not have to parent other people’s kids from the stage, performance interruptus. That being said, of course this is the big climax: every kid gets to take home their very own baby pet anaconda!!
Or at least gently hold one for a few moments. Pretty cool. And has got me thinking about some nifty gift ideas for next Mother’s Day…
If you suspect that there are six children who are fond of a certain beautiful blonde woman in the back left of the image below…
…then your suspicion would be correct. But you only get A+ credit if you also suspected that she has a son-in-law taking the picture who is also very fond of her.
(that would be me - and that suspicion would also be correct)
In defense of the maximalist lifestyle.
While trying to get some work done in my office during the daytime - a time which is frequently incompatible with my ability to work - I was offered the services of one of my assistants (pictured below). After questioning his ability to do various tasks, such as edit time lapse videos, retouch images in Photoshop, or carefully craft fiery emails, I discovered - was reminded - that his qualifications for all necessary tasks were sorely lacking.
I opened up a box of necessary items I have hung onto - a box I labeled “Necessary Things to Hang Onto,” and pulled out a half dozen old flip phones. He eagerly dived in with his two-year old hands and began organizing them into various combinations and shapes, numbering them the whole way in his Sesame Street-educated counting style.
Eventually he discovered how to call various people; a feat which was considerable, considering all the phones have been powered down since at least 2010. One hundred percent of his various dialogues were with Jeremy - his uncle - a happening for which I dropped the work I was doing to document on my phone - my phone that actually works.
Again, it’s a good thing I hung onto my box of Necessary Things to Hang Onto.
Dance your pants off, or on, or both.
Attended an all-ages show with the children; a show which was not all-ages necessarily in content, but all-ages in venue and time of show, and the music was loud and good and the children danced sweatily. Sweet sounds, Brown Erbe and Matt Nutter.
Said goodbye to a friend and long-time library employee; a figure to whom can be given one of life’s great compliments: there is truly no one else quite like him. He brought an irreverent - frequently irreverent - sense of droll humor and kindness to kids that helped make our little library an extra-odd and special place. We’ll miss you, man.
Becca has been making these salads that are amazing. No joke. Amazing. Food is such a great metaphor for life:
the sublime sensations you can create by combining simple things together.
Applies to not just food.
Our nine-year old is soaking up everything Greek-mythology and Greek history related, running the gamut from Percy Jackson to my beloved 1896 hardcover of The Story of the Greeks.
Our 12-year old is racing through thick books like Usain Bolt in a wind tunnel. Standouts include The Great Brain (1967), The Magician’s Nephew* (1955), The End of the Wild (2017), and Midsummer’s Mayhem (2019).
*Chronicles of Narnia, book 6
Our two-year old is frequently perched next to one of his siblings, trying to read along, and refuses to go to bed or nap without at least two books tucked at his side. We just finished the excellent adaptation of St. George and the Dragon.
Becca and I are sharing A Gentleman in Moscow. Soooo delicious.
And I am also checking out way more books than I can read, but still salivating and trying. Just returned Camille Paglia’s Provocations, working on Alexandra Lange’s The Design of Childhood and Hal Gregersen’s Questions Are the Answer.
The world is beautiful.
Sibs playing loud music in good venues. Coffee on summer days with vibrant people. Parks and swings and matching outfits and reminders that there are beautiful things, beautiful people, beautiful new experiences everywhere.