Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Sixth Sense

Human history is rife with examples of profound and universally accepted ignorance. It's usually not something you can hold against the people in any particular time period (unless, oddly enough, religion was part of some larger "truth"'s denial). The Ancient Greeks, for example, were perfectly content with the idea that all matter was made up of some combination of four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. An educated person from that culture would be able to rationally and logically explain it, and someone who didn't know better would be suitably and understandably convinced. Physicians from Mesopotamia to 19th century Europe wrote for over 2000 years about the four humours--black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood--substances which composed the human body, and whose balance or imbalance caused differences in physique and mood. Before the mathematics or instruments existed to discover otherwise, the observation that the sun moved in an arc across the Terran sky led to the belief that it orbited the Earth. And as recently as 500 years ago (well AFTER aformentioned mathematics and instruments existed), many predicted with conviction Columbus's disapperance shortly after he sailed off the edge of the planet.

Of course, now these are all silly examples of a simpler time, and a simpler race. We can compare ourselves to such folk and feel proud of our advancements in art and science, in culture. Of course, we can see the truth now. We know the deal, and we'll never live in the dark again.

Right? Maybe not.

Prehistoric Man never knew about his brain. Any attempt to explain it or its function would have been lost, except to point it out as that pink fleshy thing that spills when you open the skull. But the first day he came up with the concept that adding one stone to another created a sequence, or looked into the sky and wondered what are those white dots up there? instead of taking them for granted as backdrop, or realized that collecting seeds from one fruit and leaving them in the ground yielded more fruit, he fundamentally understood something about the brain's purpose. It isn't that he could have explained what just happened, but he was definitely aware something HAD happened.

The modern state of our science and technology is admittedly astounding. It used to be, as recently as a few centuries ago, that an educated person could eventually be taught all that had been collectively learned by his or her cultural academia, and still have enough lifespan left to practice be recognized for it. We are now well past that point, and that is truly amazing.

However, I wonder if it really makes us more advanced as a species, or just gives us a greater license to justify our modern ignorance. Such advances have taken thousands of generations, and millions of thinkers who looked at the information they'd been given and realized it was insufficient, that it did a poor job of explaining something that they either observed or understood on a deeper level. For many of the early thinkers in any given era, there were no means of discovering, but like prehistoric man, they became aware of something. Their ability to even perceive a thing was a small step ahead of their peers', and a first step in what would eventually change the history of our entire species.

I believe we may be on the edge of such a discovery now. Oh, I am by no means well educated, nor am I exceptionally intelligent. But part of me has, for my entire life, been aware that something else is going on in this world, or specifically, with myself as a whole being.

Now's the part where you skip down to the next entry, if you're generous, or click the 'Next Blog' button at the top of the page if you're not. And I wouldn't blame you. But if you're at this point already, maybe you'll follow me just a little further.

We as physical beings have certain sensations that tell us what's happening around us. We use our observations--provided by our well-understood five senses--to collect these sensations, and then we reason, to the best of our ability, their causes and consequences. Take something as simple as gravity. We know it exists and how it works; we all have observed it our entire lives and taken it for granted. But it took theoretical physicists, beginning with (if you believe the myth) Isaac Newton and his apple, asking centuries of questions before it could be accurately explained. (Even now, current accepted theory doesn't give us the whole picture. Go read Hawking.)

Now take something slightly more complex: magnetism. This is another thing we've all observed our whole lives (or at least since the first time you pulled yourself to a standing position against the fridge and slid down because you grabbed one of those silly plastic fruits holding up a shopping list). This isn't, however, something we can all explain. Once observed, though, we understand and accept it. It's just always there, even if we can't measure it or create conditions to artificially induce it. We just all know that, unless it was created artificially, a magnet never ever loses its ability to stick to our fridge.

Imagine, for a moment, that magnetism was not something universally observed or understood, but you, a lonely pilgrim in your simple human journey, discovered it. Not discovered in the traditional sense of course, because in truth, it will have always existed. What would you call it, and therefore how would you explain or refer to it to people you wished to communicate it to? If you wanted to explore it, would you know how to go about it? Would you have been lucky enough to come across a cache of magnetic materials to experiment with, or something randomly lying around? If the latter, would you assume it was an isolated phenomenon, or something due to the place you found your materials, or something relating to the position of the stars and planets, or something related to your accepted divine being?

And all these what-ifs apply to something we can put our hands on, something we can see, bring someone else to and know they'll make the exact same observations, something we can photograph and measure and publish in a journal.

The discovery I think I've made...isn't so much of a discovery, because I believe it's always existed, and not just in my life, but EVERY life. It isn't something tangible, it isn't something that has a name, or something that can be measured, or photographed, or published, or shown to a person. Or even, as we're both coming to understand, written well about.

Prehistoric man discovered, by realizing he could think and reason and question, his brain. What I am exploring is something I've named my Core.

What I'm talking about is the thing inside us that is a kind of perceptory organ. It's similar to the emotional device called a heart, but has more than an emotional function. It's also similar to what has been called intuition in that it can 'listen' to things outside our normal perception. Our cores tell us when someone is sad or angry or attracted to us, and broadcasts to others when we are. Our cores give us a sense that something is wrong, and may guide us on a course of action. Our cores ache and need healing when a loved one dies. Our cores can send up red or white flags, and ring alarm bells about a stranger who may only be standing at the next slot machine. Now, some people--smart people, mind you--will say that all this is physiological, a result of pheromones and body language and brain chemicals. Those people may be right. But like prehistoric man wondering at the stars in the sky, I am wondering whether these physiological signals point falsely to what I am describing, or the thing I'm describing actually dictates that physiology, the way the brain affects the body by releasing adrenaline, or the way the body can affect the brain if we indulge in too much sour mash. And sue me for saying so, but if billions of people can believe in a greater power for no apparent reason, and be believed just because they have a name for this believe ("faith"), then I can name and describe a possibly-fictional system of the body/mind/soul*.

This is closely connected to my belief in body energy. There are well documented accounts of chakras and chi and the like from numerous cultures going back (how many?) years. Has anyone besides me wondered why energy therapy is NOT part of modern medical practice? Maybe it's because we can't see it, or measure it, or quantify its magnitude or effects. I'm sure there are people out there who know some or all of the reasons, but I'm not one of them. It doesn't make body energy any less real, but it does make people look at me funny when I bring it up in conversation (which is very seldom these days.)

How the Core, my newly identified metaphysical sensory organ, relates to body energy, or anything else, is still an unanswered question. I'll never know for sure, not in this life. And even if I had some answers, they would be tiny, delicious little revelations useful and understandable only to me. But one of my biggest discoveries has already occurred: that naming this sensory thing has allowed me to move forward in exploring it, and exploration has always been the point all along.

*Just to be clear, I am not a faithless man. While I won't quote you all the biblical stories as solid fact, I think anyone who believes THIS is all there is to life is an ignorant fool. I also believe in a single god/creator/supreme being/higher power, which I suppose technically makes me agnostic. I give thanks and pray and ask for help like most people who identify themselves as religious. I hold my beliefs for many reasons, most of which come from observations made...with my core.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Folly of Youth

Today I was reminded of one of my most egregious mistakes. It hurt.

This is one of the great errors in judgment which affects an entire life, and calls into question the validity of everything which preceded it. The sacrifices I made to commit this act have never ceased to cost me something every day since. Some days it's more noticeable than others, but I know it happens. Some measure of trust is lost, and my word isn't as good as it once was. There are moments of awkwardness when old friends realize what's changed, and then the coldness begins. The friendships I so desperately need to keep myself grounded are no longer available, and this above all else causes the most regret.

Is this selfish of me? I think it is, but I don't see any other way of explaining it. Mine, after all, is the only lens through which I'll ever view the world, or any of my own actions. And though I may mourn my losses unknown, the fact that I lack the perspective of those who I hurt or pushed away only serves to enlarge my sense of wrongdoing.

I've made partial amends, but I know I'll never have back what could have been mine. I know compared to others' crimes, mine is minuscule: nobody died, no laws were broken, nothing was stolen. But there was abuse and destruction, and I am still haunted by this regret. It's true that everyone has moved on, including me, but I still can't possibly fathom why I would ever risk so much for so little.

Monday, September 28, 2009

As I Am

I'm kind of sick of trying to make everyone happy with who and what I am. Though I thought I was doing this before, maybe I was mistaken. So let me be clear: from this moment forward, anyone who wishes for me to be involved in their lives will do so on the condition that they stop criticizing the things I do and say, the way I live, how I think, and who I am. Anyone unwilling to meet those conditions can kiss my merry ass.

Why the tirade? I'll tell you. In the last two weekends, I've been out with "the guys" on two occasions. This is unusual for me. I rarely go out on weekends, and when I do, it's almost always a family or couples event. Also, I rarely drink more than one or two adult beverages on any given outing, if I drink at all. I'm not given to excess. So on the occasion that I do overindulge, I'd like everyone to recognize that 99% of the time I'm perfectly functional and sober. Also, I think I deserve a damn break: I'm 36 years old. I'm a good man and a hard worker. If I want to get drunk with the guys every now and then, so be it. So long as I continue to earn our family's decent living, don't come home and trash the house, don't blow the car payment on booze, don't wake everyone up when I get home, don't operate under the influence, or any other such behavior that constitutes conduct unbecoming, leave me the hell alone.

And on that subject, the first of the two aforementioned weekends, I did, in fact, overindulge. It was partly by accident; I'm not as young and robust as I used to be, apparently. It was partly on purpose (see the last half of paragraph 2 above). And I did feel like hell the next day. But guess what else I did the next day? I got out of bed on time (before 7am), showered, and went on to meet every single obligation I made that day (which, taking into account I was volunteering at a meeting of ~100 exchange students, was considerable). I puked. I felt like crap. I cold sweated and I'm sure I was pale. I don't know whether anyone other than my wife could tell, but it wouldn't have made a difference anyway. Because every single time I needed to excuse myself, I did so graciously, and I came back within a few minutes, and every moment in between those episodes I was on track, body and mind. To make my original point: nobody suffered that day because of what I did the night before EXCEPT for me, so anyone who wishes to pass judgment can, well...refer to the last sentence of paragraph 1.

The second of the two aforementioned weekends, I did not, in fact, overindulge. I made this decision consciously as both a physiological and financial matter. I volunteered to drive instead, believing I ought to contribute something to the shindig, as it was an impromptu birthday party for a buddy. Good times were had by all. Two guys got pretty plastered, as was their right. The birthday boy got to pick the bar because he's into one of the waitresses, which is also his right, and after seeing her totally understandable. As it happened, I ended up next to this woman (with my buddy on the other side). This led to the perpetuation of a certain label these guys (with whom I work) have given me, which isn't entirely respectable. I usually take it in good stride; after all, we're all just guys messing around with each other's heads. But they insist on doing this at work, where (surprise!) there are lots of other people who DON'T really know me, who DON'T really understand that ALL of us guys actually qualify for that label on more than a few occasions.

The people hearing this joking are people whose professional respect I am trying to either earn or keep. Though I already knew it to be true, it struck me today: no matter where we go, or what I do, when I'm with these guys, I will always be the one who gets this label, and no matter how much I might tone myself down, they'll always adjust their rating scales to ensure I fall into the category they've chosen. It kind of pisses me off. I have realized the only way to change this (because appealing to their mature sensibilities will only serve to get me a new label) is to be a dick about it, call a spade a spade, and basically tell them to STFU.

And so, I'm done. I'm canceling my subscription. All of y'all who want me around are just going to have to put up with me. Any of y'all that have something negative to say may at least get walked away from, or at most get told where to shove it. I've got things to do and people to take care of, and I don't have time to try and fit into your expectations of me. If being your friend means bowing to your criticism or taking your crap, go find someone else to be your friend. I'm all done. Have a nice day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Circle K

A coworker noticed my serious nature and inquired whether I was in a funk. I replied that no, I was in fact in a groove, getting lots done, but as a result realizing the daunting amount of work ahead of me this week. Does this mean I'm in a funky groove?

* * * * *

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

I looked back over my writing a week or so ago, and it was apparent then I'd skipped more than a few significant events in the past months. I've let more than a few affecting news stories go uncommented on. I've let more than a handful of emotional benchmarks slip through my fingers. I've let many a family event go by unrelated. I've changed a bit, and documented none of it.

This is a problem for me. It's a problem because my memory is terrible, and also because normal means of documenting daily life are erratically or completely ignored in our lifestyle. Paper journaling, that classical, elegant predecessor to blogging, is simply out of the question. Pictures are taken mostly of (or by) children, mostly at events which are more important to us than them, and are almost universally forgotten about until the memory card is full. (And then, as is probably the case in most households, promptly forgotten about AGAIN until the computer's hard drive crashes, which prompts lots of regret and moaning about lost digital images that hadn't been looked upon for longer than it took to offload them from the camera.)

* * * * *

Yes, the Circle K reference, which I thought was so funny, and might appeal to other children of the 80's to whom Bill and Ted's excellent adventures were such a milestone, was written yesterday. The train of thought got lost in a work day, and when I picked up on it today, it was gone.

I mention this only because it's a perfect example of the emotional benchmarks I said I've missed so many of. Here it was yesterday, I felt I had something to say (really, there was much more coming), sat down to say it, and then *poof* it was gone, in a puff of orange smoke.

As I said, this is a problem for me. I told a friend who also blogs recreationally that writing is critical. To not get out those thoughts or words or feelings in their time of validity is to lose an essential part of yourself to the maelstrom of day to day life, from which nothing escapes unless there's an overdue dollar amount attached to it. And unlike more concrete aspects of thought (like those overdue dollar amounts for instance), you can't put your need to write aside and remember where you were emotionally or intellectually that day when you finally have the time to record it. You don't get much of a backlog; the Muse will only wait so long.

These thoughts make up who I am. How I express them, consciously and otherwise, through my words and actions, creates a kind of user interface for everyone in the world with whom I interact. My children will know me each day by how I love and discipline them, by my expectations and disappointments. My coworkers will know me eacy day by my expertise, curiosity, and professionalism (or lack thereof on any count). My friends will know me each day by my opinions, my sense of humor, and our shared experiences. My wife will know me each day by how I express my love for her, and how I care for our marriage.

I am known--and judged--by everyone around me in so many different ways, and by so many words and actions, simply by how I express what's inside.

So, what IS inside?

Some days I think I know, but what's known really is only valid in any given context or situation. Most days, I'm only going on program, following a mental to-do list or maintaining a routine of tasks because they're familiar or necessary or both. In this way, those exterior words and actions are there for all to see, expressing the stuff inside me which I am taking no trouble to either monitor or maintain. This seems counterintuitive.

In any conversation with myself, all that stuff inside is the whole point. Of everything. Even when I'm only "on program," as far as I'm concerned all those things I spend my entire day doing are specifically for the benefit of those around me, and are a direct result of the interior desire to provide for them. Maybe that comes out through my actions, or maybe it just looks like I'm running myself ragged, but either way I do it not only because I must, but because I want to--not only for them, but for myself.

So anyway, my whole purpose in ever thinking about about the insides are to make sure I keep getting better. It's important to me that I am a good, productive person, and it's important to me that I become more so as I age. The ONLY way I'll ever be able to benchmark any such progress is by taking some kind of snapshot of what's inside from time to time, and comparing it to other such snapshots.

This is just a very long way of saying that unless I blog (or otherwise write) those thoughts or emotions or events that strike me on occasion, I'm only shooting myself in the foot: I have no way of knowing whether I'm making any progress in my personal development. So I better get on the stick.

And on the subject of lost trains of thought, there it goes. But what I managed to get out in my short expressive window was, I think, pretty good. It helped me, anyway. And if that's not good enough, I respectfully suggest you hit that "next blog" button at the top of your screen. After all, this isn't here for you; this is my own gift to myself.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Just to let everyone know, sometimes dads need relief from talkative kids, too. And their cell phone bills. And the crap they dish out as they perpetually try to deceive their, parents. I'm just saying.

Seriously, am I the only one who notices this??

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March Forth

Today I turn thirty-six.

That doesn't really mean anything, aside from a new driver's license and probably some gray hairs, but considering how the last few weeks have been going, it's as good a time as any for some serious reflection.

I've done a fair amount of introspecting in this blog, from childhood and parenting, my Divine purpose, my chemical nature, and even my personal drains. I don't consider any of these insights to be revelations of any type. In fact, I barely consider them more than shadows flickering about on my cave wall. I'm struggling to understand myself on a daily basis most of the time, and no amount of flowery prose will ever make it any easier. All I really hope for in my writing is a way to talk myself through a given situation. If I become better as a result, that's usually just a happy side effect.

This year might be different. Of course, it might not, just like any other year that didn't make a damn bit of difference (except the aforementioned gray hairs). But I've got something scary on the horizon. I suppose one benefit of the very crappy economy is that I'm rethinking much of how I've become accustomed to living, what I take for granted, and what might happen if any of the blessings I've been given were taken away.

I'm not just talking about my job. One year ago, I was still mourning the death of my father as my wife watched her mother fade away. Just in the last month, I've had to face a situation I never wanted to be in, where I was forced to decide between two terrible outcomes: one long and slow, the other harsh and immediate. As the year thaws and new prospects begin to bud, I anticipate finding myself in a worse-than-usual self-induced pity party with respect to all the areas of my life in which I've disappointed my much younger, hungry-for-life self.

Of course, I've not been that person in a very long time. And I must remember that when I was that person, I was also a person riddled with the wounds of dysfunction and codependance. I'm not finished battling those demons (maybe I never will be) but I'm healthy enough now to know what I want, and who I am, and who I want to be. I'm playing a different game now, with more chips on this side of the table and fewer on that, and now some key cards are in the hole never to recovered, but I'm much more prepared to win than I ever was when that nerdy, lanky kid looked out into the world and saw no boundaries. That poor child: he also saw no steps along the road or any mechanism for success. He fell off a cliff long before he noticed it was even there.

I'm not that kid anymore, for better or worse, but I still look out into the future and dream, knowing the journey from here is a bit more limited than it was from way back there, but there's still a long way I can travel. And inside, I know it's not about how many years I have left on this earth: it's about how much I'm willing to make it work. Looking around all my circles, I have found people accomplished at both ends of the success spectrum: those who have set and achieved major life goals in less time than I spent trying to pass Calculus II, and those who decided early in their lives what they weren't capable of, and stopped right between the good-enough living and the couch.

I wonder, if anyone looks at me in that light, where they see me. I look at myself and don't even know for sure. I have days when I'm solidly one or the other, for sure, but all my slacker days are well earned by hard labor, and all my superstar days are just that--days. I know I'm capable of going beyond a handful of fantastic 24 hour periods, and I know in the end I won't be satisfied with less than my best.

I used to think I underachieved because I fear failure. While it's a pretty big factor, the real reason is the opposite: I fear success. And conversely, failure is comfortable and easy. Not settling for failure means stepping into unfamiliar territory, putting your neck on the block, exausting yourself with no end in sight for rewards that are as yet untangible. I know that's not the whole story, but it's the part I tell myself right before I sit down with two hours left in a day and the mental list I carry around is put away until tomorrow. "Why put off...when you..." Oh, shut up.

And then one day, you wake up and you're 36, and you realize you've done that for a few too many days lately, a few thousand days in fact. Not that you haven't anything to show for it, the good things in life still come, and you're not a complete doof. There are three beautiful kids I get to squeeze when I come home each day, that pretty lady who has put up with me for so long and still likes to kiss me, the faithful yellow dog who sticks with me no matter how awful I become. There's the bathroom I tiled, the pantry I built, the piles of firewood I split and stacked with my own two hands, and the closet I adapted for my vertically-challenged 6-year old daughter. All these things are solid reminders that I am a good person, a decent man, and not a complete failure. All these people love me whether I make the grade at work or finish my degree. Sadly, these aren't the only things that matter, not if I want to live in a house, or drive a car, or feed my family, or be insured, or retire one day. That's just now how the world works.

I can do better. And what I realize more and more is that I owe it to more than just myself. And so today, March 4th, I open my eyes to what I need to do. I still feel like that lanky kid sometimes, staring off into the unknown, not knowing how to proceed, but I have gained some wisdom up to this point, and to let it go to waste would be to decide yet one more day can pass on the couch, in the comfort of my own failure. And I just can't let that happen. SCW

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parenting Takes Balls

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
--Dr. Suess

As parents, we do a lot for our children. Obviously. I know that by about my third day as a new father, I had realized practically everything I would be doing from then on, forever, would be done, in one context or another, for my children.

Lots of things are done deliberately: bathing, feeding, changing diapers, soothing boo-boos, administering discipline, helping with homework, begrudgingly handing over the credit card for that Homecoming dress she has to have--you get the idea. But it takes some deep thought to realize just how much of parenting is done behind the scenes. You need only watch your five year old repeat your exact words and reaction to spilling dinner on the kitchen floor ONCE to realize this is true. If you haven't been through this, trust me when I say this is not a pleasant realization.

Once it hits, though, you get to the bread and butter of being a parent: your job, ultimately, is to raise this tiny human into an adult, a productive, responsible, successful, (wealthy?) adult. (If our own adult lives are any clue, we are also raising our children to move out and never call us except when they need something or every 3rd Sunday when they remember to invite us over for dinner. Which, by the way, starts in twenty minutes.) And if our own childhoods are any clue, the majority of the tools used to form these ideal future versions of our kids are not the obvious ones, like making sure they brush their teeth before bed, or finish their homework before playing World of Warcraft. In fact, the most enduring actions parents take occur between those deliberate, business-of-family-and-parenting moments.

We miss most of these moments, and if we catch them at all, usually we only realize it after they've passed. I stopped trying to keep track of most of them long ago. Instead (unless I want to make myself crazy), I try to focus on what we at work call key performance indicators, or KPI's. I watch the kids' reactions to too much homework, or punishment, or being told no. I listen to them in their room when they're supposed to be in bed, at the games they play or how they treat each other when they think no one's paying attention. I know most of what they're learning from me comes from the example I set in my own reactions, how I treat their mother, how I speak to people on the phone or strangers in public. I know much of how they learn to live their lives will come from how they see me living mine. Which is kind of scary to me.

My wife and I do try, as every parent does, to steer this colossal effort toward what we think might result in success. There are certain experiences we each think are important to provide to our kids with something we consider valuable. Even though, say, starting the kids on an allowance to teach them financial responsibility qualifies as one such effort, the others, and possibly the most valuable, come in another form: a family tradition of one sort or another.

One of these traditions comes up regularly Christmas time: the tree. It is our tradition, or has been most of these last ten years, to lug the biggest box in the house up the basement stairs sometime after Thanksgiving and assemble a 6' tall construct of green ribbon and twisted metal
that kind of resembles a pine tree when it's all done. Each year we do this, and each year we invariably mumble about how next year we'll get a real tree, even though we know full well this requires a family trip out in the cold to the impromptu tree farm beside Kmart, competing child's favorites (and the inevitable complement: the appearance of favoritism), haggling with a guy who has not shaven for days only to pay God knows how many score of dollars for something that will only end up on the curb in four weeks or less, all the while hoping you weren't taken advantage of. Not to mention all the damn needles on the carpet in January. Yes, we decide to do this each year because we want to provide our kids with fond memories of a special time. How this passes as meaningful I can't say, but both The Wife and I do hold it close to our hearts. Maybe we think having a "fake" Christmas tree means we're somehow "faking" Christmas. Who's to say our kids don't consider the sight of the giant box on my shoulders just as joyful as seeing a real tree get tied to the top of the car for the trip home used to for me?

Every person has these meaningful events: KPI's that mean we've reached some kind of milestone of happiness or success. We learned them as children from the people who shaped our lives, and we try our hardest to pass them on to those whose lives we hope to shape. In a way, these events are like baseballs thrown forward in time by people who hope we'll be able to pick them up and throw them forward for our own kids. Like when Dad lets you cut the last half inch of the chosen tree at the tree farm, even though the saw is as long as your entire arm, and kneeling down puts you chin-deep in dirty, stepped-in snow; or when Mom lets you help make the apple pie everyone can't wait for, even though you already broke one dish and get flour all over the floor in the process; or when Grampa lets you sit in his lap and read his paper to him, despite the fact that he can do it himself in a fraction of the time, and there are only fifteen minutes until dinner.

Some of these baseballs are real; others are imagined, learned from TV or watching how an envied friend's family interacts with each other. But real or otherwise, these baseballs are of immense perceived importance to us as parents, and regardless of their source, we treat them as timeless and hope our kids will believe things have always been done this way. We do this because we want them to do the same things with their kids later on, and that will somehow validate our success as parents.

After losing my dad, I looked around and saw more baseballs laying around than I ever realized were there, and most were already in my hands ready for launch. Some, like the Christmas tree thing, have always been kept close at hand, but never thrown, or not thrown often, for one reason or another. I know that my kids probably won't ever consider a real Christmas tree an essential part of a "real" Christmas, whether that's okay with me or not. But I can only hope that thus far, I've made good choices, deliberate and otherwise, on which balls I have been able to throw, and that I've thrown them often enough to land one in a place each of my kids will be able to find it when they need to, and that it will give them some kind of happiness when they do.

Because as a parent, no matter what their age, your children's happiness is KPI Number One.