Kids and Parents



It seems like it has been such a long time since my last post.

Looking back I was surprised to see that it has actually only been a couple of weeks, although it feels like a lifetime.

After 17 years of battling Ovarian Cancer, my mother finally succumbed last Sunday.

Since then a thousand jumbled thoughts have whirled around my mind.  Big thoughts, important thoughts, heavy thoughts.

So many times my fingers have sought the reassuring comfort of the polished keys, the beckoning cursor penetrating the fog like a lighthouse trying to guide me to safety.  But the words haven’t come, the thoughts refuse to close ranks and stand at attention, and all is chaos.

What I do know is this: The currents of my life have changed their course.  Glassy swells give notice of unknown forms gliding through the oily depths, too deep for my reckoning.  I see a course to set, but there is no destination, no arrival date, and no indication of what may lie along the path.

In the interim though, I have to write.  Silly, funny, serious, dumb, annoying or boring; the thing is to write.



Love this cartoon.  It is not actually Bill Watterson, but a young fella who has taken up the cause and run with it.  He draws a pretty great Calvin and Hobbes, and has embraced the ethos that goes along with it.

In case you don’t know much about C & H’s creator and his approach to life, art, ambition, money, and happiness, then you should read this:

Click on the comic below to enlarge it, I can’t figure out how to do it (but I’m happy doing my own work.)





Haven’t been posting much lately.  Haven’t been writing much lately.  Haven’t even been reading much lately.

Yeah, sure, things have been busy.  Start of a new school year.  Summer fading, packing up all the things that we play with and love and enjoy so much during the summer, those little things that make life so worth living in the summer.  But that’s not it.

The small death of winter approaches, leaden skies, endless rain, mold, mildew, tiny half-hidden spiny legs barely seen in the dark spaces under the stairs.  We’re hunkering in.   Slipping our arms into the sleeves of our old bunker mentality.  Erasing those transient laugh lines and re-exposing the old, well-worn furrows that complement the frown, the narrowed eye, the beetled brow.

The small death of winter is coming, and it’s not coming alone.

School’s started again, and that’s a lift.  We’ve overdone the togetherness for a bit; a little separation is a good thing.  The daily pattern of life will smooth out, become more routine, predictable, and later boring.  But for now it’s good.

“Kids need Structure!” they say with a cheery lilt in their voice, and I am perfectly willing to believe them.  But that’s the death knell for freewheeling play, spontaneous fun, for Kidness.  Boot Camp for Adulthood is what it is.

When does Real Fun disappear from our repertoire?  We have it as kids.  That effortless, unwitting devotion of every fiber of your being to the play you’re engaged in right now.  Beyond the fence of this yard, the walls of this treehouse, the pillows of this fort; there is nothing.  Anything else out there would be a distraction, a bummer, a buzzkill.  Debby Downer.

And leave us, this magical gift does.  For some kids, growing up in tough circumstances, it goes early.  “He didn’t have a childhood.”  We say.  For others in more fortunate circumstances, it lasts longer.

I find myself nagging my boy; “You have to be more mature now!  You’re eleven!” and I say it too loudly.

The school requires him to keep an agenda.  He has to plan assignments and work flow.   We buy him a watch, say; “You’re responsible for getting there on time!”

And then occasionally my wife cries, and sometimes my heart aches with a pain too exquisite to describe, and we say to each other in wonder and disbelief; “He’s getting so grown up!?”  And we cry, us two, not because of our own increasing age, not because of some clunky, Hollywood foreshadowing of death, but because for just the briefest instant, a faint memory of that endless, perfect, sunny, utopia washed, like a feeble ray of far-off sunshine, across the wall of the musty, subterranean chamber into which we so fastidiously walled ourselves.

The shining, innocent, trusting, unsuspecting face of our beautiful boy looks up at us and we cry the fat, salty tears of the traitors that we are.

Came across this article:

on SFGate the other day, relating the difficulties of older workers finding employment in Silicon Valley.  40 is the new 60 down there.  I would usually file this under “Stating the Obvious”, but then one quote caught my eye;

“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” Facebook’s CEO (now 28) told a Y Combinator Startup event at Stanford University in 2007. “Young people are just smarter.”

Yes, this is Mark Zuckerberg.  He went on to say:

“Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”

First I will say up front, that although difficult, I am going to ignore the inclusion of a six year old quote in a story which apparently thinks it is exposing a new trend.

As for the quote however, I am almost at a loss as to where to begin with this collection of sentences.  They seem to have been assembled following one of those instruction sheets written by someone who doesn’t know the English language.

Stressing the importance of being young seems innocent enough; not that there is really any great accomplishment to this.  I would guess that a fair majority of the human race has, at one time or another, been young.  In fact I myself have occasionally touted the importance of being young; sometimes even in a positive manner.

The sentence that follows is the one that really that really jumps off the page.  It’s a heck of a sound-bite!  Before you know it your posterior is perched on the edge of the chair as you read on seeking amplification, justification, gratification.  But then, like the old geezer who discovers the viagra bottle is empty, the whole thing collapses under its own weight and sags to the ground.

Most chess masters, he tells us, are under 30, and he explains why.  Oops, sorry, no he doesn’t.  Turns out he doesn’t know why, so he asks us.  This seems something of a failure on two counts.  First on his knowledge of the subject itself, and second, on the wisdom of bringing up your own lack of knowledge in a speech about the superiority of your mental abilities.

Soldiering on, somewhat deflated but still hopeful, we discover that young people have simpler lives. No car?  No Kids?  Awesome!  You’re free to focus on what’s important!  And I guess, through inference, he’s talking about work.

I have to give credit to Mr. Zuckerberg here.  He has made me think, and I am a house divided; 50% laugh, 50% throw up.

Jesus, if you so believe, was a simple man, who saved the world.  Ghandi simplified his life in order to lead people to freedom.  Buddha decamped to the wilderness, as did Moses.  Mandela lived an enforced simple life for 27 years in prison because of the importance of his ideas.  That is Importance.  Those are concepts, beliefs, visions, that require a life of simplicity.  Pulling an all-nighter to run a debugger in your cubicle just doesn’t seem the same somehow.

Well enough of this silliness.  I admit that I may be going a little over the top here about what may well have been nothing more than some extemporaneous remarks.  We should also remember that Mr. Zuckerberg was somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 when he made these remarks.   Oops, but then again, maybe we shouldn’t.  He’s trying to convince us he’s smarter because he’s younger, and I’m saying the exact opposite. Maybe we’re both age-ists.

I would like to ask him a few questions though; present day.

1.  Is he still a member of the smarter set?  Or has he aged out?  If not, what is the cut off?

2.  Has he noticed that he is getting dumber over the last few years?  If you were to extend that decline on a graph, how old will he be when we have to buy him a drool cup?

3.  Has he learned anything new in the last 6 years? Or have they been a waste?

4.  Has he found any value in older folks yet? Or are they (along with him, at some point) write-offs?

I like the word Callow, it is seen too infrequently nowadays in print, but it is seen quite often in action.  Definitions include: inexperienced, immature, and lacking adult sophistication.

Young people do possess certain attributes which are of great value in certain applications.   Attributes that many older folk either don’t have, or just don’t give a shit enough any more to exhibit.

Fast-paced, high stress environments, long hours, low pay, overnighters, rapidly changing job requirements, little if any job security, scanty benefits; all these things and more are much better suited to the 21 year old with wide eyes and diploma in hand than the 40 year old.

The difference is, all those 40 year olds have been through that 21 year old stage and know it well. They have learned how to be more focused, more efficient, more productive in less time so they can actually devote time to the things that really are important, like those kids.

These are the people who can teach you how to build a happy, sustainable, productive, and satisfying life while still getting a job done.

Take a stroll through the nearest cemetery some day.  Look at the gravestones.  Read the inscriptions.  These are whole lives pared down to one phrase.  Search for the ones that say CEO, or Chairman, or Acting Vice President, or President’s Club for Sales.  Go ahead I’ll wait.

Oh really?  Well what do they say?  Hmm, Loving Father, Devoted Mother, yes, that sounds about right.  They all speak of love, family, the home, the heart.

Take a tip from those who have moved beyond age.  These are the important things in our lives, whether you are old smart enough to know it or not.

You know one of the things that scares me the most about having an 11 year old boy?

His father.

Laughing and bs’ing with the guys the other night, we were spinning stories of our misguided youth and sampling some local beverages.  It was all very Monty Python, except without the keen wit, or the fancy accents, or the great stories.   Take all that away and what do you have?  Ammuricans!

Anyway, we did have a fine collection of stories about car wrecks, motorcycle wrecks, bike wrecks, skateboard wrecks, binge drinking, brawls, broken bones, ruptured innards, and one about running moonshine that was a surprise even to me.

I really don’t know why any of us are still alive.

At some point during that night a long forgotten incident from my youth slowly rose to the top of my mind like a gas bubble in a mud pit.  Dimly I recalled a driving trip through the mountains of Virginia with about 6 other guys in my 1974 Toyota Celica.  I think that car only had 4 seats.

Heading toward a far-off girls college, I kept it floored at all times and we lost a few fenders and some other non-essential items along the way.  After a couple hours, we were headed down a long hill at 70+ miles an hour when one of the guys, who was sitting in the lap of another guy in the passenger seat, was stricken by a bolt of brilliance and leaned over, turned off the ignition, and tossed the keys into the back seat.

What Hilarity!  What Fun!  It’s a manual, I’ve got the clutch in, we don’t need no stinking engine; and we coasted down the long, straight, mountain without a hitch

Then toward the bottom of the hill, a rest stop approached.  “Pull over, pull over!” came the cry from the distended bladders in the back, and I made the slight turn of the wheel to enter the exit lane at 70 miles an hour.

“Click,” said the steering wheel politely; and locked itself.

No key? Sorry, No Steering!

Well, by some incredible stroke of luck, or the grace of the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the god that watches over drunks and babies, the off ramp turned out to be the perfect arc to match the locked wheels of that speeding clunker.

We flew into the parking area in spray of rust and oil smoke and ran straight through the center of a dozen parking spaces.  There wasn’t one car parked there, thank the Spaghetti Monster again.

We ground to a halt as the wheels on the right side jammed against the curb and my friends flopped out of the car onto the concrete, channeling Spicoli before he even existed.  They all had a good laugh at the dummy who couldn’t park and was suddenly ashen-faced and covered in sweat.

That’s why I worry at night about my 11 year old.

Good news is, I think he’s  smarter than me.

You know what I love about this speech?

It’s completely honest.

At 13:12, he explains how he got his first job and immediately wins the hearts and minds of the audience, if not the faculty sitting behind him squirming and smiling through clenched teeth.

At 14:12, he explains how to keep your job, and I’m not sure if it’s ever been explained better.

Watch it:


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