Not Giving Up

Never give up
No matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country is spent
Developing the mind instead of the heart.
Be compassionate not just to your friends but to everyone
Be compassionate.
Work for peace in your heart and in the world.
Work for peace and I say again
Never give up.
No matter what is happening,
No matter what is going on around you,
Never give up.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Last night was a frustrating night with Speedy. For the first time since he’s been with us I despaired bitterly that maybe we cannot reach him, that we will fail to love him out of his defiance and raging episodes. I was ready to throw up my hands, draw a line in the sand, plan out how to move from “We will never ever send you away.” to something more, I dunno, realistic. I was out of ideas.

In the light of morning, cooler heads prevail. My wife is the voice of reason and encouragement. And from my inbox, the Dalai Lama himself is telling me to “Never give up.”

I have to say I don’t feel it. Speedy and I don’t have the history together yet for me to have natural feelings of love for him. Adopting an older child is a whole lot different emotionally than adopting a baby. So I guess it’s a damn good thing that real love is not about what you feel so much as what you do.

You can decide to Love, and Love stubbornly. Meet outbursts with calm. Meet anger with gentleness. The only way to love him out of his current mode is to be more stubborn than he is. And never entertain the idea of giving up.

(This is more self-talk for me than preaching for you. You guys prolly know all this stuff by now. I apparently have to keep relearning the lesson.)

Good News

The birth mother chose us. Looks like we are going to adopt Olivia.

Another permanent baby was not in the plan. An end to foster parenting (5 is enough. We are done. No rooms left at the inn.) was not in our plan. Extending our active parenting years to age 56 was not in the plan. But I know enough by now to know that God laughs when I make plans.

But now I can hold her and entertain the thought of her as my daughter. More heartaches and joys. More worries. Another college education to worry about paying for. More hugs and pretend tea parties.

Dancin' Dave

Dancin Dave was dressed differently this morning. Wearing a 3/4 length pink night shirt, oversize novelty sunglasses, and a rainbow beanie. Usually he wears some sort of really short lycra running shorts, bright tshirt, and suspenders with his variety of novelty headgear. Such as a plastic set of devil horns or a visor with flashing lights or a novelty cap with the stuffed clapping hands coming out of the front. But today he looked like he was still in his pajamas.

Dancin’ Dave walks just about every morning down El Camino Blvd as I am going to work. Dancin’ Dave is an older guy. I don’t think he has a car because I when I see him, he’s always on foot. He waves to traffic, smiling and engaging everyone who will dare to let him catch them looking at him. I can never wave to him because he always seems to be on the way opposite side of the road from me. Maybe next time I’ll honk.

I’ve never spoken to Dancin’ Dave. The only way I know his name is Dancin’ Dave is that I’ve heard tale of his exploits on the dance floor from friends. There is an oldies club within walking distance from the corner of El Camino and Nasa Rd 1 where he lives called The Hop. Apparently, he’s a regular. And, apparently, he’s every bit as eccentric at the Hop as he is walking around his little corner of town.

I am glad that our corner of the suburban sprawl has a guy like Dancin’ Dave. We need a few more guys like him, I’d say.

One day I was eating lunch at a Thai restaraunt near that area when I had an alarming thought – I hadn’t seen Dancin’ Dave in over two weeks. What had happened to Dancin’ Dave? After lunch I walked with determination across the parking lot into the Kroger and went up to the customer service booth. “I haven’t seen Dancin’ Dave in a couple of weeks. Have you seen him? Is he okay?” The lady at the booth laughed a bit and said, “Yeah, he comes in every day, pretty much like he always does.”

Dancin’ Dave is still around. I must have just been missing him. Whew.

We need you Dancin’ Dave. Pray for our boring suburban souls. Interceed for us.

Evicting a Spider

A rather impressive spider has taken up residence on our upstairs landing. A big spider. A “Hey, look at that spider!” spider. I noticed him because I accidentally clipped one of his web’s moorings while carrying a load out to the car the other day. I felt that chilling “I just walked through a spider web” feeling and I looked up to see a regal looking three inch spider moving down her now flapping web toward me. By the time I came back from the car, the damage was repaired and the web was stable again.

But that’s the problem. Big Spider. Big Web. Impassable landing. The Spider needs to move. So how do you evict a spider?

“Excuse me, Ms. Spider, ma’am, but I have a matter that needs your attention. First of all let me say that I am a big fan of your work. But you see you have taken up here on my landing where my kids sometimes play and you’ve made it impossible to pass without hurting your magnificent web. I’m afraid that while I’m away there might be an incident involving shrieking hysterics in which you and your web might be damaged. (No I am not threatening you.) So I think we need to plan a move. I want you here in my yard, but not right here.”

I thought I might take a stick and gently wrap up the web on it and get the spider on the stick then take the spider to some other spot in the yard. I dunno, is that a dumb idea? How do you evict a spider without hurting it?

Art By Mail

Have you ever seen an art exhibition coordinated totally through the internet? Sounds impossible, but not if it’s an exhibition of mail art. Three hunderd people of all ages mailed art postcards to this lady in Northampton, some paintings, a lot of collage, and one ingenious one made of astroturf.

I joined the mailart list too late to take advantage of this exhibit, but I do think I will contribute to the curator’s PhD dissertation on recycled materials in art, since that’s my kind of thing.

Well, now I’m in a mood for a snail mail art swap. Who’s interested in an n-way summer art swap?

Parking Lot

To anyone waiting for our parking space,

You saw us walk up to our minivan with several small children and that was not enough to deter you from waiting for our space. There is an open parking space a mere 100 feet farther from the door, but yet you choose to wait for us. You must really want this space. It must be the principle of the thing, getting the very closest space possible. Because by now you could have been in the door getting your cart from the cheerful senior citizen greeter.

So you must be willing to wait. Good thing. Hope you have some time. Here’s what we have to do before we can give you our space:

Set down the baby carrier, threaten kids to not so much as move a step because you are in a PARKING LOT and there are CARS and you could get RUN OVER, while you fish out your keys and unlock the sliding van door.
Referee the argument over who gets to open the sliding van door.
Settle the argument by opening the door yourself.
Chase down the toddler who has decided to wander the parking lot, ironically looking for you.
Negotiate relative seating. Usually seats are assigned. But if one kid is not present, then there is a seating vacancy which opens up a number of possible permutations. Each of which must be evaluated and one chosen. This requires, alternately, the diplomacy of an arms treaty negotiator or the iron fist of a dictator.
Make a half-hearted attempt to get the children to buckle themselves in their seats. Because buckling ones’ self in the car is a Life Skill that we must teach our children. Life is full of teaching opportunities, you see.
Exhale sharply, roll eyes, and buckle in the children, bending at the waist while standing on the running board of the minivan. So much for teaching Life Skills. At least this counts for an abdominal workout. Feel the burn.
Speaking of feeling the burn, muffle the obscenities that come to mined as you grab the metal seat belt buckle that’s been sitting for an hour in the Texas sun.
Negotiate the dissemination of the various toys and books in evidence on the floor and seats of the vehicle.
Distribute bottles, sippy cups, and juice boxes before departure, as in-flight drink service can be problematic.
Go around to your side of the car. Return the nasty look from the exasperated person waiting for your parking space.
Climb in the car, buckle yourself, start the car.
Negotiate air and radio settings.
Back the car carefully out of the parking space.
Stop the car, go around the car, and get the baby carrier. Put the baby in the car.
Back out slowly, counting children, waving to the people in the waiting car, who are now applauding.

Anyone with several small children knows that transitions are often a source of great frustration. Getting in the car is one such transition and it takes a lot of patience. So if you want our spot, you need to have some too.

Sincerely,

The Clark Family

Mean Girls

Saw Mean Girls with Heidi and Girlzilla last night. It was pretty good as the writing by Tina Fey was smart enough to rise above the standard teen movie fare. Though all the teen movie cliches were there, right down to the “why can’t we just all be ourselves” speech at the end.

I must say that as a grown married man I find it unfair to be subjected to teen movie eye candy. I mean, including a cute brunette teacher character with a dry wit and a love for calculus? That’s just not fair.

Apparently it’s based on a non-fiction book called Queen Bees and Wannabes about the byzantine and often cruel social heirarchy and rule structure of the teen girl world. Despite my belief that all of the characters were laced with a touch of hyperbole for comic effect, my wife and daughter inform me that it’s accurate. There is a prominent class of girls who are really like that. I thought you women were more evolved than us guys. Huh.

Well, anyway, it had a good message and proved to be a good opening for talking about friendship and popularity and values with Girlzilla. Coolness.

Rules for the Pool

If Mommy is not here to watch you, you stay in the big pool with me.
If you cannot demonstrate the ability to swim (ahem, Speedy) you cannot go off the diving board.
No drinking the pool water. (Yes, you, Petunia)
Absolutely no running. (That goes double for you, Fresh)
If you are going to jump to me from the side of the pool, it has to be a real jump. Daddy will not hold your hands while you “jump.”
You may not wear your shoes or beach towel into the water.
If somebody accidentally splashes you, no, you don’t get splashbacks. It’s the Pool. It happens.
If you splash someone on purpose, they most certainly do get splashbacks. Daddy, who is a much better shot than you, is included. So be prudent about who you splash.
Daddy reserves the right to join any splash war on the side of younger siblings. (Girlzilla…)
If you lose your grip while I’m giving you a ride, call out and I’ll grab you. Do not use my ears, nose, or what’s left of my hair to stabilize yourself. This goes double for my chest and back hair.
If Daddy suddenly turns into a sea monster, you get a two (count ‘em, two) second head start. You may climb up on the side of the pool to escape the monster, but you cannot run screaming across the grounds.
If the sea monster catches you, tummy szrrrbtts are the standard penalty.
You get no more than four “Daddy, watch this!” episodes per fifteen minute period. After a full hour, you must come up with new material.

Stuck in Abstract

Last night I found mysefl staring at a blank canvas, pencil in hand. Shiner Blonde in the other. Took me a long while to come up with something in my head I wanted to paint. When I went with my pencil to sketch it out, I was frustrated by my complete lack of technical skills. I couldn’t put what was in my head onto the damn canvas. I can’t draw for Shite.

Not to say I know anything of the pain and suffering of stroke victims, but I can see how it must be very frustrating to have words or images stuck inside one’s head that you just can’t get out there.

Maybe it was the Shiner Blonde and the welling frustration, but I just said Fkk it all and started drawing who knows what. Scribbles a la Cy Twombly only thicker like Jackson Pollock. (I am *not* inviting any comparisons. No sir.)

I started with pencil and pen. I’ll add pastel color later. Then I’ll selectively take it up with cloth and eraser. Only to lay down another layer of incoherent artistic babblings. Maybe I’ll throw on some liquid paper, my bourgeois bohemian surprise ingredient of choice lately.

So I am stuck, as usual, in abstract mode. My conscious representational ideas are locked away behind my lack of training, and so I bypass, tapping directly into my unconscious. And the stuff pours out in a flow state. I hope something cool emerges from my incoherence, my impulse, my frustration.

My working title for this piece – “I can’t draw for shite but I’m fkking drawing anyway.”

Even though I know that “The bad paintings have to be painted” I hope this isn’t one of them.