bentangle

About Me

Leap On

by on Feb.29, 2016, under About Me, family

On this day 36 years ago my life changed in a way it would take decades to fully appreciate. I welcomed a second little sister into my family who happened to be one of those “leap year babies”. As with any new sibling, reception is mixed and it takes time to see the good in it. My sister had a new compatriot, which gave me occasional respite from her iron will. And I gained an ally against that iron will when it got out of hand (which it often did).

One of the truths of being a leap year baby is that birthdays are a pain. For all the great uniqueness that comes with it in years when the day occurred, also comes a hollowness to celebrations in years when it doesn’t. We’d always make the jokes about it (her only being a quarter of her actual age, not being able to drive being “only 4”, etc.) as humor was a common way to skirt reality in our household. But as much as most of us used that humor as a salve, for my sister growing up in it, it was real. She was a soul of delight and mischief who rarely went down the dark path – always a paragon of hope and optimism.

But then at the ripe age of 4 ¼ (17 in real years), darkness found her. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor – one that was nearly impossible to treat and even harder to remove. In spite of this turn of events, she remained bright and hopeful. She coerced her biopsy surgeon to do minimal shaving so that she could cover her scar with an updo for her senior prom mere days later. She happily moved in with me and my wife in our inarguably shittiest apartment ever so she could have an easier commute to her regular radiation treatments. Even at her lowest – having the swiss cheese memory of an advanced Alzheimer’s patient, she still made jokes and kept us hopeful for her state of mind and recovery.

And despite a bleak prognosis as a teenager, she made it to her 5th and then her 6th “real” birthdays, fighting the good fight all the way. At 24, while she was reliant on a battery of medications to replace every regulatory hormone her body stopped managing (she lost her pituitary gland with the radiation) and had double knee replacements due to the compound effect of her body failing to take care of her own joints or metabolism, she stole the show at her own sister’s wedding by walking down the aisle unassisted.

Twelve years later I still think of that day. And the day that came a month later when she passed.

I think of her in those times bucking every odd stacked against her. It’s easy to look back and feel sorrow for the years lost – both those she half-lost fighting her ailments and those she lost in losing the fight. It’s easy to feel saddened that we can’t still have her presence in the world. It’s easy to look at the day she left us and feel its loss.

But her light wasn’t lost: that light she showed on her prom night, at our sister’s wedding and so many other times in between. There is hope and optimism in me that I don’t think would be there if not for her. There is hope and levity and light that I pass on to my children (without the spectre of being about misdirection and avoidance, but rather about acceptance and joy of life) that I don’t know that I’d have in me if not for seeing it in her.

As much as I miss her, there are some truths that are more important about my relationship with my littlest sister: for the time I had with her in my life, I am better, I am stronger, I am bolder, and I am happier because she existed however briefly. I am a better person than I would have been if the world never had that leap year baby. And I may well be a better person in spite of the loss of her. There are so many things in this world that remind me of her and remind me that I miss her. But in that absence I know better than to regret it or be subsumed by it – she taught me that.

I’m sure not a leap day will pass in my life that I won’t be thinking of her. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Not My Place

by on Jun.03, 2014, under About Me, parenthood, The World

I’ll admit that I led a fairly sheltered childhood. I grew up in a small, semi-rural town in a small, semi-introverted family. We had small circles of friends and family that was distant. And in turn my own circles of friends have always been small and close-knit. I don’t consider myself a close-minded person by any stretch, but my experiences at least in my youth were limited. As a result, relating to the experiences of others has never been my strong suit. What I did have going for me is that I had no perceptual baggage and luckily very few inherited biases. So while I grew up in a fairly culturally uniform area, I absorbed no prejudices from it. But having had limited exposure, I avoid positing positions on cultural issues not my own. It’s not my place.

Through college and work experiences and just life, I’ve been immersed in a more diverse world. And still I’ve avoided picking up too many prejudices or preconceived notions. If anything, many of such notions I hear about often baffled me. So as I became comfortable, I’d challenge such assumptions with my fellows (at least with those I felt I was close enough to) … but not the world at large. It’s not my place.

Now that social media has changed the way we communicate with each other and the world, the opinions and views that I find myself exposed to are too numerous and contrasting to keep track of. And while I hold to the belief that most things fall into the gray, there are some ideas and practices I see in the world that are clearly in the wrong. And while I’ll stand by my fellow person’s rights and liberties, I don’t actively crusade against the wrong-headed idealists of the world. It isn’t my style, or my place.

But now I have children: young budding human beings who cannot possibly live as sheltered a life as I had or avoid the wrong-headedness that is (and really always has been) rampant. While I can teach them the right ideals and principles, good judgment and good values, it isn’t enough. I have to do more. As a parent, this is my place.

And unfortunately part of that job is to teach my kids hard lessons like: to be strong enough not to use violence and negative words against others, to be confident enough to stand by their ideas regardless of whether they are different, to be brave enough to call out others for hurtful or prejudicial behavior. I have to teach my daughter to strive for no less than she wants and deserves even though there are many forces that seem to be working against her simply for being a girl. I have to teach my son to be better than the baser instincts that are so easy to fall slave to and hold to principals of respect and fairness and equality. It will not be an easy road, but it is my place.

But this job has taught me something more – it IS my place to confront the demons of the world. If I can steer my children to a higher standard, why not others? Why not my friends, my family, my peers, my elders? We are living in a world with too much darkness, too much violence, too much victimization and not enough respect and individual responsibility. But it doesn’t have to be this way – we can make it better. We can stop tolerating the injustice and petulance of the lesser among us and start holding them to a higher standard. To live and let live. To take personal responsibility for one’s own words, actions, and station in life. To treat each any every one of us as equals regardless of gender, race, religion, body type, or capabilities. I think we can bring those values to this place called Earth and this race called humanity … if we can’t, then maybe this is not my place.

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The Man Who Knew Too Little

by on Jul.18, 2010, under About Me, philosophy

I’m not getting any younger, and I hope that I’m still trending in the direction of smarter.  In less than 24 hours I’m going to be entering the latter half of my 30’s.  As my dad would put things, today if you rounded my age to the nearest decade, I’d be 30 – tomorrow it would be 40.  While oversimplifying things, it is hard to argue with the logic of it.

In truth, I hardly feel like I’m about to be 35.  But perhaps my mind just likes to let me feel that way.   Most of the signs of my age are things I can live with (I’ll take graying hair over balding) or tolerate (ibuprofen helps at times).  Some are comparative – while I don’t feel like I’ve matured more than a little in the last decade, but if I was anything like some of the 25-year-olds I know 10 years ago, then I’ve come a longer way than I’ve noticed.  I guess that a lot of it is perception.  But so far there are no costs to my age that I can complain about.

Kids help.  While on one hand they certainly can be challenging a lot of the time, the biggest challenge they offer is to your own perceptions of the world and what matters in it.  Before I had kids, even in my 20’s I found myself making efforts to define myself as an individual – both to myself and to others.  Now I know who I am and don’t feel a need to prove it to anyone.  My responsibilities are clear and my resolve is steadfast.  Plus they can make life so much fun.  They have personalities that are so big and bright that I can’t help but be drawn into them like the best show to watch is happening right in my house.

All that said, as I reflect on my time thus far in life I feel the need to question my progress.  Have I done all that I should have done by this point?  Do I know all that I should know?  It is the kind of introspect that leads to no good answers and often just to no good – the kind that leads to mid-life crises (and I can’t really afford a new sports car right now).

But again, perspective helps allay my mind.  I’ve never been one to give in to peer pressure or be all that comparative to or covetous of my neighbors.  And so I can soldier on in the knowledge that I know what I know and I’ve done what I did.  The only thing I can do is keep making the most of my time.  And at the moment I think the best use of such time might be for some sleep and prepare to tackle another opportunity for life experiences in the morning.  If I have any of note, I’ll be sure to let you all know.  In the least, perhaps you might learn from my mistakes.

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Unexpected Morals

by on Nov.05, 2009, under About Me, philosophy, TV

In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” I, however, have found that in some instances I have gleaned some life lessons from the actions of others (even when it seems that the others haven’t). Here are some examples:

  • For as long as can remember, my father has quested to top himself each year with his Christmas gifts for my mother – always looking to get her some new gadget or equipment that she would have never realized she always wanted. Sometimes he has succeeded, but often the hype in his head is greater than the real reaction. He has also always had a trend of uniquely labeling his gifts to her (e.g., From: XY/To: XX). To these, my mother has always had a positive reaction (even when they were bordering on inappropriate).
    Moral: Sometimes the giving is more important than the gift.
  • Both my father and my sister have always been very ‘tell it like it is’ types of people … but in slightly different ways. My dad in such that he does not sugar-coat much of anything (except perhaps in his business – he IS a salesman after all). My sister in such that should tends to be very curtly honest to the extent that she doesn’t always know what she shouldn’t likely be straight with people about. On more than one occasion this combination led to someone being offended by something that my dad probably shouldn’t have said around my sister and that my sister definitely shouldn’t have relayed on to the subject matter.
    Moral: Whenever opening your mouth, beware of feet.
  • Growing up, I saw my father primarily on the weekends. When my wife and I first were seriously dating, I ended up moving in with her and her family for a year – I didn’t see her father for the first 3 months I was there. With my dad, I know how he felt about the situation because when he was home he tried to make up for the time he wasn’t. Now I’ve got 2 kids of my own and I find myself working long hours on occasion when I’d rather be at home with them.
    Moral: If you don’t understand work-life balance, don’t expect your kids to get it either.

I can’t claim to have it all worked out – I don’t even always get these things right a lot of the time. But the foundation is there leading my intentions (and hopefully leading my actions more often than not).

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Return to Form

by on Jul.27, 2009, under About Me, family

Obviously I’ve been a bit lax in posting lately – partially due to being on vacation last week, but also due to being busy and falling behind on such things. I am going to try to be more disciplined going forward. In truth, I owe it mostly to myself to do so (not to discredit my readership, but frankly I know that it is small and not very regular – if I’m mistaken, please let me know).

As I believe I’ve stated before, the main purpose of this blog is to act as a sort of digital journal. I post my thoughts and experiences as much for my own catharsis as for anyone else’s enjoyment. With less posts comes less release. And all work and no play … well you get the picture.

So I will try to be more vigilant and consistent in my postings. I will try to stick to my regular memes as best as I can. And I hope that you continue to enjoy my musings as much as I enjoy sharing them.

By the way, for those interested, my vacation entailed a trip to visit family in North Carolina. We spent as much time as we could relaxing in the pool. I finally caught Star Trek on the big screen with my dad (awesome reboot – looking forward to more from this cast). And the wife and I got to have a dinner without kids via a double-date with my sister – Brazilian steakhouse and nice strong drinks (good times). Thanks again to everyone for the hospitality.

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