Monday, April 25, 2011

80 seconds in the slow lane

If you’re driving on a two lane freeway you can lumber along with the big rigs or try to keep up with the crazy speed demons. You can also dart between both lanes passing everyone right and left. But it looks like most drivers try to find a speed and stay with it. The times I’ve been out past Barstow on the I-15 or I-40 I’ll be in my Toyota Pickup which doesn’t have an impressive top speed. I would usually set the speed control at about 75 or if the terrain was flat enough 80. I’ll stay in the faster left lane going past big rigs until I see someone coming up behind me. Sometimes I’ll be going along trying to match the sped of the fast lane. The little truck won’t be able to take it. I’ll turn off the air conditioner for more power to the engine. Finally I’ll get an opening and move right. I’ll switch off the cruise control and feel the truck slow down. There is relief as I move slowly along with the other slow vehicles for a bit. My hands relax on the steering wheel and even the truck seems to be relived. But if I stayed in the slow lane all day it would double my travel time. I have to eventually move back into traffic when it’s clear enough.

I used to look at two desirable lifestyles extolled popular media and present this “would you rather” choice to friends. Would you rather have Fortune and Glory (from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) or Excitement, Adventure and Really Wild Things, (From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)? I don’t remember what any friends choose. But I remember always wanting the latter. Sure when Indiana Jones said: “Fortune and Glory, kid. Fortune and Glory” it did sound like a cool lifestyle. But I was 20 or so when I told anyone who’d listen that I wanted Excitement Adventure and Really Wild Things. The idea of surprises, chaos and fun thrilled me.

It wasn’t long until I was married. A son followed nine months later. And in 1996 we left with two children for Budapest, Hungary. We came back with three kids plus one more on the way. After that we dealt with childhood cancer and then the loss of a child. Within all of that were movings, job changes, vacations, and all ways of stressful things. That was all in the first 10 years of marriage.

Reflecting back I looked at 1995. That year I didn’t change jobs and we didn’t move. We didn’t travel farther than a neighbor island. Prajna got Pregnant with Naomi. In all it was a halcyon year. In the freeway of life it was 80 seconds in the slow lane. Maybe we needed that year to prepare for 1996 where Naomi was born and we went to Hungary.

Now it’s the spring of 2011. I’ve recently changed jobs and we’ve just moved. The past couple of years have not been chaotic but definitely not calm as Prajna was working early hours. I homeschooled the children in the morning and worked the rest of the day. Now she’s a stay at home mom again. There has been healing through time from the loss of Naomi. The children are all toilet trained. In a way it feels like I’ve merged into the slow lane for a bit of a breather. The truth is I don’t want Excitement, Adventure and Really Wild Things any more. Maybe I outgrew it or maybe had my fill of it. Or maybe I don’t want the chaos that always accompanies it.

I don’t know if we’re in for another one of those halcyon times or not. We will have teenagers for the next ten years. The washing machine broke yesterday. But however long this break lasts I’ve learned that even 80 seconds in the slow lane can be enough to take a deep breath and press on.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Spheres

This week from the “I’m not making this up” department comes a story out of Washington State. A school district came down and declared that students may decorate spring spheres. That is what they wanted them called. Them I am referring to what the rest of the world calls Easter Eggs.

Now I have come out before on my blog and said that I don’t like to write about topical issues. So why don’t I stick to childhood anecdotes and rantings about how much I like coffee first thing in the morning? This story is just a single incident. The morning radio show I heard mention it mostly laughed it off

But I couldn’t get this story out of my head. And I didn’t want to go on some tired harangue about holiday trees and spring spheres and wait a minute an egg isn’t even a sphere, right? And when the morning talk show brought up that an egg is an ellipsoid and how the geometrical community should be offended the host pointed out that if you look at an egg from the top down then yes it at least looks like a sphere.

You just have to skew it and look at it only one way and then it’s the shape you want.

Well I sure do that.

Back to this school district. Do people think that other religions are a study in cultural diversity and Christianity is intolerant so it must be kept out of the schools? Is this the same mentality of another true story about a church that wanted to put an advertisement slide up at a movie theater before the film began? The ad invited folks to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The theatre told them they could only show the ad if the name Jesus was removed. The church invitation was fine otherwise.

Maybe people are looking at Christianity from the top down and only seeing what they want to see. But if you look at an egg or even an ice cream cone and just see a plain circle you are missing something important. And so much of the world is looking at us and only seeing a flat shape.

I take these decrees by the contemporary world personally. I feel attacked when the PC police tries to squash the name of my Lord. I feel I need some strong and witty comeback that will shut them all up for good. But now that seems like sort of a flat way to react. So instead of rising up in righteous indignation I want to consider this:

Jesus showed us that when the population is against you and is insulting you and even physically hurting you that you can pray for them. You can continue to love them and show them the way to God. And this Sunday we celebrate the greatest comeback ever.

Monday, April 11, 2011

let go of the dream and find a real job

I don’t know how many there were, but I think it was a lot. Of the dozens of kids I knew in the local community theatre and the high school drama guild I think a lot of them hoped to go on to show business. Some of the kids joined up just for fun and others to meet boys or girls. But a lot of kids either joined up already with the acting bug or got bitten soon along. Plenty of them talked about going on to fame and fortune and subsequently plenty went on to get degrees in acting or related fields.
Too many kids at that age haven’t had big bad reality bite their hearts out yet. But a few years ago I was talking to one girl who had graduated about her college plans and she told me about some sensible course of study she planned for college. She had done acting, singing and dancing at Baldwin Theatre Guild. I asked her about that and she told me how she would love to get into professional film or theatre. But she wasn’t going to. She smiled and said that there was always community theatre.
Lots of those kids I acted alongside had dreams of moving on to show business. Some got their degrees related to it. Most are working jobs unrelated to their degree. A few, however, maybe even a disproportionate few have made it. Some work professionally onstage, do voice work, or sing. I don’t think any of this was luck. It was talent, perseverance and drive.
And here I am with a BA degree in communications with an emphasis on film and theatre. I did work in radio for a few years after college until it was necessary to support a wife and baby son. And during those several years after college it came to me so slowly that I never realized it that I would never be a film actor or director.
I tried writing over those years and did write a few gems. But I had the mindset that my writing would the meal ticket for me and my family. I became irritated when disturbed and told the kids (there were several by then) that they couldn’t disrupt my writing if they ever wanted to live comfortably.
That was a horrible attitude. Today I’m supporting the family on my salary as a custodian, a job I thoroughly enjoy. And I write. I blog and I write Icarus. Icarus is like a 50 thousand piece puzzle that I take thrill in putting together. I don’t write to be rich now, I write for the joy.
Many of us dreamers had to compromise. I’m glad I did.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Great people I have met but not shaken hands with

Hospitals, I learned, are kind of like children. You don’t know as much about them until you’ve experienced more than one. I won’t name the hospital that Prajna stayed at after her car accident 19 years ago. It did have me convinced that airplane food was nectar of the gods compared to hospital food. When Naomi first got cancer she was admitted to the hospital for tests. When they discovered what would turn out to be a solid tumor by her adrenal gland we were sent to Kapiolani Women’s and Children’s Medical Center in Honolulu.
The first ting I noticed about Kapiolani was that it was a teaching hospital. As we were unpacking and settling in two young doctors came and we talked about Naomi’s symptoms and they asked lots of questions. Then we didn’t see them again. Instead more doctors came and the same thing happened. All day we met interns and residents from the University of Hawaii school of medicine all taking the pediatric hematology/oncology business very seriously.
The second thing that I noticed about Kapiolani was that the food was some of the best I had ever had prepared for me. There was lamb for dinner in the cafeteria the first night. Breakfasts shone with local flair. Anyone who appreciates Hawaiian style breakfasts will know what I mean.
The rooms on the hematology/oncology ward were private. We stayed in different ones when we visited the ward quite a few times in the second half of 1999. We learned who the main doctors were and saw them at least once a day. We became friends with all the nurses. Naomi had her favorite ones.
We mostly saw interns in the off hours. One night Naomi woke up and as was typical was disoriented and began crying. As was also typical she began crying loud. She had soiled her diaper (she was three but had to go back to wearing them) and was a mess. It was all over her and her bed so I got to cleaning her up. The noise and commotion had attracted the night nurse and I assured them that Naomi was okay. She had indeed stopped crying and was standing next to her bed sucking her thumb. The room was still dark and the night doctor came in. She was younger than me and spoke with a gentle Eastern European accent. We stood in the dark hospital room and she introduced herself and asked if there was anything she could do.
I had always respected nurses seeing all the work they put in. That night I realized that this girl may have been at school all day and then been woken up out of the residency break room because a young patient might have needed attention. And as we stood there I saw in my peripheral vision below that she was offering me her hand in greeting and I ignored it. My hand was filthy from cleaning up Naomi so I pretended not to notice. Looking back now I wish I had apologized and explained. But she later just dropped her hand. This one little incident is something I have regretted for over a decade. I hope I feel a little better now that it’s in the open. And I hope this girl grew up to be a great doctor.