On delayed gratification

My college hair was glorious.

My girlfriend in high school thought I would look better with longer hair, so I started growing it out during my senior year and basically never stopped.  By my senior year of college my hair was mid-back length and, amazingly, wavy as fuck— I was a Jewish Studies major among a couple other things and there was a running joke that I could easily pass for an orthodox Jew if I just tucked a couple of ringlets in front of my ears and put on a properly conservative hat.

I spent a good chunk of the summer after graduation on an archaeological dig in Israel, and decided just before leaving for the trip that heading out to dig in the desert with an extra fifteen pounds of hair on my head was not what I wanted to do.  So I went to a barber and had him trim me down to a “normal” haircut, which lasted about another year until I shaved my head for the first time and I’ve basically been doing that ever since.

But yeah.  That first haircut.  The first thing I had him do was pull my hair into a ponytail and then cut the ponytail off in one fell swoop.  I then, for no good reason other than that I thought it would be funny, mailed the ponytail to my mother, who had spent years occasionally politely hinting that perhaps my hair was a bit too long.

This backfired when my mother received a bundle of my hair in the mail and, despite the handwriting on the envelope being mine, immediately concluded that I had been kidnapped, and, this being pre-cellphone by a few years, wasn’t able to quickly get ahold of me to confirm that I was actually still alive and putting up with Samson joke after Samson joke after Samson joke from all of my fucking Religious Studies-ass friends.

She still has the ponytail.  This happened in 1998.

When I got home from work last night, there was a large envelope in the mail addressed to me.  I thought the handwriting on the envelope was my mom’s, but it was dark outside– we are well into the part of the year where I’m working from cain’t see in the morning to cain’t see at night– and the envelope didn’t appear to have anything in it, and I had just seen my mother the night before and she hadn’t mentioned mailing me anything, so what the fuck is going on here?

I generally open my mail in the garage going into the house, since the recycling bin is right there and I can trash all the junk mail before going inside.  Ten seconds later I was laughing so loud that my wife heard me from inside the house.

This may be a good time to point out that Mom’s going through a course of chemotherapy at the moment.  Don’t panic; she’s gonna be fine.  But this is what was in the envelope:

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That, my friends, is the final punchline to a twenty-year-old joke.

Nicely played, Mom.

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: POKEMON

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You may have heard of this show.

My son has, in the last few months, become entirely obsessed with… whatever the fuck these things are.  They come in types, apparently, Water and Fighting and Nonsense and Flatulent and Clown and probably a few others I’m unaware of.  And they live in little plastic balls, except for the little yellow one, who won’t go in the ball.  And they only come out of the ball when it’s time to fight each other, which they are willing to do at any time and for any reason.

Except, see, they don’t know how to fight.  They have no fucking idea how to fight even though fighting is literally the only thing they’re for, or at least it’s the only thing they’re for once they go in the ball.  The ones out of the balls seem to live perfectly normal wildlifey sort of lives.  So they need people to tell them how to fight.  All of their moves have names and they have “trainers” who tell them, step-by-step, how to fight each other. Picture somebody outside a boxing ring hollering at a boxer to “Use Jab!” and “Duck!” and “Use Roundhouse!” or “Use Spousal Abuse!” and you have the basic idea.

The main character is a homeless orphan named Ash.  His last name is Ketchum, because his job is to catch all of the Pokémon– to catch ’em— and this show is nothing if not fucking subtle.  He only has one set of clothes and his electric rat lives on his shoulder.  He literally wanders around in the woods with his friends and looks for other electro-rats and fire-bears and flatulence-sloths and such and he finds them and he makes them fight his electro-rat or whatever and then if he beats them he gets to stuff them into a ball and keep them.

I think.  It’s hard to pay attention to if you’re grown.

Then there’s these assholes:

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These are… the bad guys, I think?  They seem to really want the electro-rat.  So maybe they want to steal him, or something, or maybe they just want a different electro-rat to go with their weird horn-cat thing they have, I don’t know.  But here’s the thing: there are eleventy fifteen thousand different versions of Pokémon.  There’s Pokemon XY and Pokemon Black and Pokemon Silver and a bunch of movies named after individual Pokébeasts and all sorts of shit.  And I’m pretty sure these three are in every one?

And every time they show up on screen they introduce themselves with the same rhyme.  

I’m pretty sure that this is actually supposed to be happening in the real world.  Not, like, in their heads or some shit like that.

Try and imagine knowing these people, and every time you see them they have to introduce themselves with this stupid fucking rhyme.  Each and every single time.

These may be the most annoying people in the history of television, and we live in a world with Super Why.

The gift that keeps on giving

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WHO THE HELL EATS ORANGES LIKE THIS?

One of the lesser benefits of not being a classroom teacher any longer is that I’ve gone from missing at least a day a month due to illness to almost never getting sick.  In fact, other than an occasional one-day thing, I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely ill, and I’ve never taken a sick day at my current job.  Not once.

I have a motherfucker of a summer cold right now, is what I’m saying.  I spent most of last night too tired to get out of bed and take some medicine but also almost entirely unable to breathe, sniffled and sneezed my way through work all day,  got home from work and took some cold medicine and went directly to my son’s parent-teacher night.  I may have been hallucinating for part of it.  I’m pretty sure I picked up the boy from my parents’ place afterwards because I think I’m at home and he’s sitting over there, but hell if I remember it.

All that said:  I will announce a release date for Tales from the Benevolence Archives on Friday if it kills me.  That’s it.  No more fucking around.  It’s coming.

Assuming I don’t die.

GUEST POST: Disclosures, Prefaces and Caveats, by Queen Maisha the Good

This is a little different– my amazing friend Maisha posted this to her Facebook feed a week or so ago, and I begged her to let me repost it.  She’s actually the person who got me into blogging, way back in the Xanga days, so basically my entire writing career and everything you’ve seen here is her fault.  

The name’s an inside joke, by the way.  She doesn’t call herself that.


20641326_10212326173003014_1881637019_oI’ve been meaning to sit down and do some writing for a long time now. I needed to write being a teacher, being a mother, being a wife, being a person, and all my levels of self prescribed failures at those identities. I haven’t written anything about my daughter in years, but today I am forced to put some words down and start stringing a level of coherence to my thoughts.

I was leaving Target, headed to Del Taco, and I started to cry. I started crying because of a phone conversation twenty minutes prior. I was still feeling, still aching, still worrying. That’s when I knew I had to write something.

It was a call from the dentist’s office. I’m setting up Leia’s first appointment. The anxiety started to mix in my chest when I asked how they get the children to cooperate. I know they’re pediatric dentists, of course they know how to work with kids. She explained how there’s a playroom and a tv on the ceiling and how the dentists have their ways. And as I listened my heart started beating faster because I knew what I had to say.

“The reason I was asking…I feel I should disclose…my daughter is on the autism spectrum.”

And I don’t know why that was so hard to say out loud. It’s lived every day. And I didn’t realize how much fear, worry, uncertainty curls in wisps around my chest about it. I was scared. Not for Leia, not worried for her to go to the dentist; it’s something she has to do and needs to be consistent with. I was worried what the person on the phone was going to say. Maybe she was going to pause or stutter or take back the appointment slot. Maybe she was going to pour out some saccharin coated “We won’t be able to see a child with those needs.” Ridiculous fears and worries, I know, right?

I used the word “disclose.” Like, I feel I should tell you this, so you have all the information to make an informed decision. That’s what it is. And that’s what it feels like a lot. When I talk to people who haven’t spent much time around Leia, I find myself having to explain. And I don’t know if I over-explain, or under-explain, or just say enough not to having lingering dread.

“Why don’t you bring your daughter?”

“Do you think she would like…?”

“You should put her in…”

“What’s your name, little girl?”

And then I have to explain how neither of us will enjoy xyz because I’d be chasing her around making sure she’s not climbing, jumping or stomping. I have to admit that I don’t know what she’d like because there’s a big chance she won’t sit still or attend to whatever is grabbing the attention of the other children. I have to talk about how I don’t know about her ability or willingness to follow directions or to do what other kids are doing because she’s pretty oblivious of other children. I’ll answer, “Her name is Leia, and she’s 3. We’re still working on saying (whatever it is they expected her to say).” Talking about it reminds me that she is different. But everybody is different. Every single f-c-k-i-n-g person on Earth is different. And I remember that and forget that within a matter of minutes.

Sometimes I can stay in the present, but most of the time I’m worried about the future–her future. I’m worried about the first time a teacher says she’s bad, or the first time she believes she’s not a good girl. I’m worried about something happening to her, and her inability to communicate what’s wrong. I’m worried about whether she’ll ever have friends, because I see other people’s kids and what seem like beginning friendships and I don’t see that anywhere in her life. Kids say hi to her, know her name, and play near her. She’s not necessarily responding back or interacting. I don’t know when she will–if she will. When we go to park and go down the slide together, she’ll say, “This is fun.” And it makes me so happy she’s saying a sentence in the right context, and then sad because I wonder if me and her dad are her only friends. And thinking about, talking about, worrying about the future makes me cry.

When my mind turns back to past, I feel like I can remember when she would say “Hi” to everyone she saw on the street. She would repeat some of the things you asked her to say. She would hand you books to read to her. She would point to things so you could name them. She was developing fine…or so we thought, just a little behind because of the prematurity. So we kept subtracting from that chronological age when she didn’t reach a milestone. Then at a point, the things she did before, the things that were developmentally on track, stopped. Some part of my mind thinks if I look at enough pictures and old videos I can see when she stopped and started taking steps back. Looking at the past, where she was, where I thought she was and where I thought she was going, makes me cry.

Sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think maybe I wasn’t supposed to have kids, that I was too old, too unhealthy, or just the wrong genes. Sometimes when I think back to the NICU days, maybe she didn’t get enough breastmilk. My milk never came in like that. We would nurse and I would pump, but it wasn’t enough. I think if I wasn’t her mom maybe she would have been okay; she would have been neurotypical. Thinking about what I wasn’t able to do, what I am not able to do, makes me cry.

So I have to find my way back to the present. When I am able to stay in those brief moments of the present, I marvel at her. She is fearless, creative, strong willed, musical, loving, and energetic. She is the girl who lived. He who shall not be named tried three miscarriages, preeclampsia, and three months early. But she is the girl who lived. Her life is a miracle. She is a miracle. She is amazing, and she has autism.

There’s so much I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know about early childhood and development. There’s so much I don’t know about the autism spectrum. There’s so much I don’t know about how to tell what she can and can’t do, will and won’t do, should and shouldn’t do. Everything is uncertain. I crave certainty because faith is fleeting. God doesn’t just show up and tell you what to do and promise that everything is going to be alright. That’s not how life works. That’s not how any of this works. So what do you do?

What would Tim Gunn tell you to do?

Make it work.

Still here, mostly

brainlessI don’t like single-daddery, guys.  We’re doing fine– the boy is still alive, as far as I know– but I’ve been in motion pretty much constantly since Sunday night.  Wake the boy up, get him dressed and fed, drop him off at my parents’, 11-hour work shift, pick him up, bring him home, put him immediately to bed, make sure all the pets are fed and watered, do one or two tiny things around the house, go to bed, spend the night getting kicked in the back by a horizontal five-year-old, wake up early, start again.  Wednesday I got out of work early but I actually had to go to a customer’s house for a service call afterward, which was… well, fun ain’t the word but it wasn’t as big of a deal as it could have been.  Today was my day off but I’ve spent most of it either napping or wandering around the house like a zombie, unable to figure out what I was supposed to be doing at any given moment unless that thing needed to be done in some other room.

To be clear: I just sat on the sofa in front of the TV with my laptop in my lap, wondering what I was supposed to be doing with it, for twenty solid minutes before remembering I hadn’t blogged in a few days. That kind of brainless.

Luckily for me, my wife is on her train and on her way back home, so if I can make it through tomorrow and Saturday everything will be fine.  It blows my mind that there are people who pull this off all the time.  Mental note: do whatever I need to do, for the rest of my life, to ensure my wife never leaves me.  🙂