Wednesday, February 28, 2007

MoMa is Far Too Accommodating of My Eccentricities

Norah has not been sleeping well lately. She’s reached a milestone in her understanding of the world that makes her wail in the night. And while I’m happy that her little brain is developing on a daily basis, sometimes I wish this whole “object permanence” thing would be forgotten. Suddenly, she knows Mommy and Daddy still exist even when she can’t see us. So now, instead of rolling over and going back to sleep like my pre-permanence daughter would have, she instead shrieks and cries until one of her parents must make the trek down from our attic bedroom to soothe her. To those readers who have never hovered over a crib at 3:42 AM praying silently to any god that will listen to brings restful sleep to your child so you can slink back to your own warm blankets…let me say it’s difficult in those moments to remind yourself how cute your daughter really is and how lucky you are in the scheme of things to have this opportunity. Those thoughts, you see, are daylight thoughts. Night time thoughts are less eloquent and far more succinct, “Go to sleep, go to sleep, for God’s sake go to sleep.”

Now, in a moment of what I shall here describe as brilliance, I discovered that while I am unable to leave her until she is fully back to sleep…I am able to slowly increase my distance. This relives strain on my back and also allows me to eventually lie on the floor and in theory even get a bit of sleep while I wait her out with no more effort than an occasional “ssshhhhh” to soothe her if she forgets I’m down there. A perfect solution, you say. Should be…but it isn’t. Due to eccentricities alluded to in the title, I am unable to make proper use of my brilliance.

Problem # 1: The Mirror

One of the great benefits of moving Norah’s room into the larger guest room a few weeks ago was the use of the large dresser in there. With her growing collection of clothing, this thing has really come in handy. However, attached to this dresser is a six-foot by 3-foot and I don’t like mirrors. Aside from the mirror on this furniture piece, one small mirror in the china hutch in the dining room, and one mirror for each of our two bathrooms, reflective surfaces are kept to a minimum in Casa de Gren.

I’m pretty sure it stems back to an episode of the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Dark Side or some other such show I watched when I was young. This guy in his apartment keeps catching sight of a shadowy figure moving toward him in reflections. When he looks…nothing. It goes on and on until he sees the shadow approaching in the reflection from his bathtub faucet. He ignores it and the next shot is of him dead in his tub. I have no doubt that if I saw it again I would laugh at the cheesiness. But, the timing of my viewing struck such that I have ever since been wigged out by mirrors. I have to keep checking them; I have to keep an eye on them…especially when the lighting is dim.

So, I’m down in Norah’s room, lying on the floor of a room with a huge mirror. I’d love to just get a few minutes of sleep…but I have to keep checking the damned mirror.

Problem #2: Creepy Little Goblins

This is yet another reason I’m looking forward to finishing the story I’ve been working on for the past month or seven. I’m spending all together too much time thinking about little goblin creatures. I think about them while I drive, I contemplate them as I fall asleep, so I can’t get them out of my head as I lay there, eyes closed, in front of a huge mirror. And the sad fact is that it’s not really that scary of a story, I don’t think…it’s just the sheer amount of time I’ve spent thinking about particular aspects of it that has made the whole thing very real in my mind. I know it’s all in my imagination…and yet I can’t stop thinking about it…in the night…in the dark.

To further understand this issue, I need to tell you a thing or two about my over active imagination. I get what I call phantasms from time to time. I wake up and…well…see thing. And by God they’re there as real as my nightstand. I can look at them, stare at them, watch them move about the room. But when I turn on the light…they’re gone.

For example, on the second or third night that I roomed with FreddyJ in college, I saw a huge spider…maybe a foot across, darting across the ceiling. It dropped into my bed at my feet and starting scurrying toward my face. I did what any of you would do in such a situation…I screamed and flung the blankets over my attacker, thus making poor FreddyJ seriously consider asking for a roommate transfer.

Another time I awoke to find that the wall next to my bed had somehow been perforated with thousands of tiny holes and each one had a little worm-like creature wiggling its way out.

A few months ago, even before I became obsessed with goblins, I awoke and saw a little trollish man hiding behind my window blinds. He kept peaking at me to see if I was still watching him. Moonshot woke and asked me what I was doing. I responded by asking, “Can you see that little man on the window?” She assured me that she could not, so I knew immediately I was having one of my strange night time visions, but he was still there as far as I could see and didn’t leave until I turned on the light.

I bring this up only to showcase the power my imagination wields over me when the lights go off. I knew that crazy troll was not really there…but I’ll be damned if I was going to close my eyes until I’d proven it.

Anyway…back to the middle of the night Norah watch. I’m laying there with a mirror looming over me and my overactive imagination assuring me that I should be concerned about small creatures that scamper about in the shadows. I’ve thought ahead enough to bring a pillow with me…but it doesn’t matter…I’m not sleeping.

So I told MoMa about this. She knows about my mirror thing, I’ve been keeping her up to date on my story progress, and she’s always interested in Norah news. So, this seemed like a delightfully funny story to tell her. I figured we’d both have a little chuckle at how silly I am and then we’d segue right into helpful grandmotherly advice on getting a child to sleep through the night. However, I had underestimated a mother’s ability to rationalize her son’s lunacy.

“Maybe you should get rid of that dresser.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

40-Day Buzz Kill

Today begins the season of Lent, and by all logic…I shouldn’t care in the slightest. I am not Catholic. Heck, I’m not even Christian. And yet, I shall not be having caffeine for the next forty days. In addition to going without some of my favorite beverages, I will also have to endure the endless eye-rolling of my lovely wife who finds my adherence to a belief structure that I don’t believe in to be more than a bit bizarre. And I can’t argue with her, really. Maybe it is bizarre. But, I will do it this year as I have for the last 10 years and as I most likely will do again next year.

Why do I do play along with this odd little game of ritualistic abstinence? Well, I guess it appeals to my ascetic nature. Spirituality through denial makes sense to me somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start denying myself all pleasures, convinced of the wickedness of all worldly gratification. I am very much a man of the flesh. I like my creature comforts and enjoy my own rather tame vices. However, I find it healthy to keep my cravings in check. I’m a firm believer that the mind should have control over the desires of the flesh, and it seems like good practice to occasionally test that theory. So, from one point of view, I’m just using Lent as an excuse to remind myself that my mild vices should always remain pleasant but relinquishable joys. Consider it the annual test of the emergency broadcast system.

However, I also find it refreshing to focus on spirituality during these 40 days. You see, I don’t belong to any organized religion. And although I occasionally get on a kick and start reading books on Buddhist teachings, I really don’t spend as much time thinking about matters of the spirit as I’d like. I move through my days with a comfortable routine and rarely look inward toward the divine. So, for the next forty days, every time I reach for soda and remind myself that I’m not drinking caffeine right now…I will, for a small instant, stop and contemplate the greater mysteries of existence. I will remind myself to be mindful of every moment of this life I’m living. And I will, for a few days, live a little closer to the mentality I’d like to have all year.

Why these forty days and not some other forty days? Why forty days at all since the symbolism means nothing to me? Well, that’s simple. I know myself well enough to understand that if I didn’t rely on the well publicized season of Lent to remind me to focus on my own spirituality…I would forget. I suppose it’s like Christmas in this respect. As non-Christians, I suppose Moonshot and I could celebrate a season of peace, love, and gift-giving any time we want. However, we choose to join in the festivities of the holidays.

So, this year, like last, I will join the Catholics in their mildly masochistic ritual of self-denial. And tough my wife will roll her eyes at my adherence to ascetic traditions, I’m actually looking forward to it.

Cheesy Ad Placement

I just got Cheeseburger’s book. Hurray!

As many of you know, our blog pal Cheeseburger Brown just put out a collection of short stories. He’s a terribly gifted story-teller and a purdy nice guy too. He posts story chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday over at his website and is apparently going to start giving us papery versions every so often. So, Norah and I just wanted to take a few moments to support him.
Norah and Moksha Love Cheeseburger Brown!!

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Story: She Fights Me

From a literary standpoint, blogging is easy. I hadn’t, however, realized just how easy it is until I recently rediscovered what a wicked, grueling thing story-writing can be.

When I write a blog, I do not need to create a well-developed world. I do not need to worry about keeping my facts consistent. The world is my own, it is as it is and I must merely describe it. I do not need to create characters, backstories, or motivations since my readers know the major players already. I do not need to craft a cohesive feel for this world I invite my readers to roam because my tone can changed from post to post as my whim suits. In other words, a blog is but a small piece of a real life, and a blog post is but a small piece of a blog. It is an ever-evolving literary construct that requires nothing more than occasional tending to continue its flow.

For instance, I could, if the mood struck me, make a blog post of two words: “Norah crawled.” (Note: this is not true as of the time I write this…merely an example) You, my loyal reader, would know exactly who Norah is and you would understand the context within which the described action takes place. Such a post would be well-received, I wager. The blog would get excited comments congratulating my daughter on her new ability and I would have elicited these emotional responses with no more effort or time than it took to type 12 letters, one space and a period. “All too easy,” some might be tempted to remark.

However, the story is a relentless and contradictory taskmaster. Like its cousin the dream, it wants nothing more than to drift through your consciousness, to inspire you for a moment, and then fade away leaving only a vague sense that it was beautiful. It must be coaxed from the firmament and breathed life with imagination. It must be tended and pruned until vague beauty is replaced by details. And once it has been convinced to take up reluctant residence in your mind, you must then begin the arduous task of pushing and begging and cursing while you attempt to force it into words.

And make no mistake, the story loathes words. “I am a luminous thing!” shrieks the story as it blinds your inner eye with its radiance. “I am fluid and ethereal,” it whispers as it retreats to the recesses of your psyche. It glares at the rigid confines of the unyielding text as a caged tiger does the bars of its cage as it pacing back and forth with confusion and rage. The story understands that words cannot capture the real essence of its storyness. They can only feebly attempt to describe it.

In short…my story: she fights me.

However, I am not ready to concede this battle and limp back to the safety of my blog. Because even though the words are clumsy tools for the delicate art of describing the indescribable, there exists the possibility of getting…close enough. You see, the words are but a portrait of the story, not the story itself. So my task is not to fully capture the story in words. I need only for my crude representation to display some small element of that original figment. If I can do even that, the story in all its dreamlike perfection may take hold and spring to life in some reader’s mind. It may differ from the story that dwelt in my mind, but it will be just as ethereal and just as beautiful. Then I will have done something worth all the effort.

My challenge, therefore, is to approximate this transient splendor with mere marks on a pag. It’s grueling work, but writers through the ages have given a road map. Alliteration and tone. Symbolism and metaphor. Eloquence. Word structures that elevate these crude scribbles to something more; something worthy of touching the magnificent.

Yes…my story: she fights me. For though she is exquisite in my mind, her word form portrait is currently the equivalent of a half-finished drawing by a pre-schooler, some hunk of purple Cranium modeling clay that was supposed to be the Eiffel Tower…or maybe a skateboard…it’s hard to tell. The good news, however, is that I’m still enjoying the struggle. The thrill of the fight pumps adrenaline through my weary veins as I continue to grapple with the wily story. I am remembering why I used to spend my childhood free time dreaming and scribbling. My story: she fights me…but she is teaching me with every blow.

Patience my loyal readers, my story: she will come.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Preachy Rant

I apologize in advance if this rant offends any of my readers. A few of you have daughters I have not met and so I run the risk of putting my foot in my mouth. However…this is my blog and I feel the need to vent.

I enjoy making my Little Lutine look cute. We stick barrettes in her still-thin hair and we dress her in pink camo pants that just look adorable. So, I’m all for dolling a kid up to get cutsie compliments at the mall. However, I draw the line at piercing my infant daughter’s ears.

This practice has long bothered me, but now that I have a daughter of my own, it has quickly climbed the ranks of my pet peeves to such an extent that I’m getting less and less able to hide my disgust when I meet fellow parents in the grocery store and they proudly display their bejeweled child.

My concern over this issue is two-fold.

Primarily, the idea of inflicting pain on an infant for a purely aesthetic enhancement upsets me greatly. Now truthfully, I don’t think Norah would be any cuter with earrings. I find it disturbing in the same way I find 10-year-olds in too much make-up or child beauty pageants disturbing. However, even if I thought it was visually adorable…there’s no way I would shove needles through Jolly Green’s ears just so she could have a little ruby stud in her lobe. I have a hard enough time watching her get vaccines…and that’s for her health.

Secondly, I truly feel that the choice of whether of not to have her ears pierced should be my daughters when she’s old enough to make it. I’m all for body art. Tattoos and body-piercings get much respect from this blogger. However, I think it should be a choice by the person whose body is being modified. I’ve had five body piercings and each one marks an event in my life. The first one isn’t a big life event, but it was significant enough, I suppose. My parents told me I could get my ear pierced when I turned 16. My Mom took me to get my first earring after the last day of school my sophomore year of high school (about a month early…but close enough they figured). I was proud of that earring. The last day of school my junior year found another ring in my left ear and the day after I graduated high school was marked by a hoop through my right. Even my wife has fond memories of finally being old enough to pierce her ears, an achievement these pre-pierced infants will never share.

It wasn’t until college that I discovered that what I was doing with my annual piercings and what Moonshot was describing with pride was actually well-rooted in human culture. I could wax poetic about the virtues of the pain ritual and its significance in human society. However, the only thing that really needs to be said for this rant is that in my opinion, any body modification that doesn’t have medical value should be a decision made by the person whose body is being modified. To do otherwise not only inflicts unnecessarily pain upon a defenseless child, but also degrades the significance of the personal decision and personal milestone body modification should be.

So don’t be disappointed if you don’t see faux-ruby studs adorning Norah’s already cute ear lobes.


In an attempt to mitigate the impact of the preachy rant above…here’s a wonderful picture my brother Jet and me. It was taken last week after he won the preliminary round of the comics challenge.

Jet and Moksha Gren after Jet's on-stage triumph