Be Longing

To be
Or
Not to be

But
To think
Therefore
To be
Begs the questions
To be asked
Have always been asked

The questions
Are the quest

To do
And
To be

To do
Is
To be

But belonging is not doing
Though doing is becoming
It is being that
Is

So
Just
Be

To belong
And
Longing to be

All and all
Must ask again
Why?
And
Who am I?

All have been
And is to be
For being is indelibly bound
And cannot
Not be
Yet what is to be
And could be is infinitely free

So, here

To becoming
And
Belonging
To be

Selah Rain

Shy little one,
When will you say?
“Hello!”

I know you’ve spoken in your own small ways:
A turn and tease, a playful push, a grasp;
To tell us, “Hi, I’m here.”

But, sadly, we are not yet fluent
In the language of miracles and spirit.

And we’ve been waiting, oh so long,
Praying for so long,
Loving for so long,
Longing for so long.

Before that thought and twinkle first appeared,
You already lived inside our soul as one.
A perfect, tender fruit
Grown from grace
By the springs of hope
And nourished in the sunlight of wisdom
Rained down.

Yes, expectation
Is a fun game.
But now it’s time to play
A new way.

So, hello
My Dear
Now and always.

Personal Pet Peeves

“I’m really not comfortable with this…”

My wife always wanted to get a pet and name it Peeve, so that way, she could tell everyone, “Hey, this is my pet, Peeve.”

Well, I have some pet peeves of my own (why do we call it that anyways? It’s not like I cuddle my peeves and take them out for walks…). And this is my semi-customary opportunity to rant and complain into the empty void of the Internet where no one can hear me scream and no one cares either way.

Pets

Speaking of pets, I just don’t get it. What’s the point? My kids have been pestering me ad nauseum about getting a pet. But why? Why would I voluntarily go out and pay money for another living organism just so I can bring it home and pay lots of money to keep it alive? Why would I willingly bring into my nice, clean home something that is going to track in dirt, shed, and slobber everywhere? Why would I want to feed, potty train, clean up after, discipline, and take to the vet something that won’t even help pay the bills or wash its hands without assistance? I mean, come on, I have children to fulfill all those roles already. So, I certainly don’t need a pet. Plus, they always want to crowd your personal space and sleep in your bed. Again, kids.

Hammocks

Speaking of sleeping, my wife also loves hammocks, and I, in turn, also hate them. Some people’s definition of rest and relaxation would be taking a nap in a hammock while lying underneath a tree in the cool Spring air. That would be my definition of unlawful incarceration and inhumane confinement. I’m a human; not a burrito. Once you get into one of those things, there’s no getting out. It’s like a Chinese handcuff or quicksand—the more you struggle, the stronger the strangle hold. Anytime I’ve ever tried to lay in a hammock, my life has flashed before my eyes as I have a near-death experience. Look, I just prefer not to sleep while being swaddled by a fish net.

Soft Towels/Blankets

Speaking of swaddles, another thing my wife likes that I despise is soft fabric (is this a list about my pet peeves or about my wife’s irrational preferences?). Most of all, I hate soft towels and blankets. Feels like cruel and unusual torture. Maybe it just reminds me of pet hair. I don’t know. All I know is that when I die, don’t bury me in one of those padded, silk coffins. Straight-up, unfinished wood please. This was actually a pretty contentious subject early on in our marriage when my wife wanted to get a new color-coded, matching towel set from Bed, Bath & Beyond; and I wanted to keep using the same rough, scratchy towel that I’ve had since middle school. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I just don’t trust them—soft things that is. Especially if they’re too soft, like suspiciously soft. Makes me think, “What are you trying to compensate for? What are you hiding under those thread counts?”

Limp Handshakes

Speaking of soft things, I absolute cringe at a wet and/or weak sauce handshake (I’m actually not sure where my wife lands in this category…). Why even shake my hand bruh? Is that a handshake or a wet noodle? Is that a handshake or a limp biscuit? It’s like grabbing onto a dead, five-legged salamander. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to go all toxic-alpha and try to crush my hand. Just be normal. Better yet, just pound it dude. A fist bump is the superior greeting. All the social pros of a handshake greeting with none of the cons.

Handshakes During a Pandemic

Speaking of handshakes, just better not right now. Listen, here’s the thing, if we’re out in a public gathering, and you see me wearing a mask, please don’t rush up at me and start shaking my hand like we’re long, lost friends when we’ve never even met before. And definitely, definitely, don’t touch my kids. PEOPLE PLEASE! I’m talking to you! Strangers! Stop touching my kids! What is wrong with people? What social etiquette class did they play hooky during? In what dark parallel universe is it okay to just walk up to strangers and touch their children? So, again, please don’t touch me right now, and absolutely don’t touch my kids.

Don’t get wrong. I don’t think you’re a horrible person if you happen to like pets, hammocks, or soft things. Everyone is entitled to be miserable in their own special way. No judgment here. These are simply my own petty gripes. But seriously, don’t touch my kids. That’s all.

Signs of the Times

Or: Observational Evidence that the Worst of the Pandemic is Perhaps, Hopefully, Potentially Behind Us Notwithstanding Some Unforeseen Circumstances

Over the past couple of weeks, I have started to notice a few things that have put a smile on my face. And you actually know that I am smiling because I am fully vaccinated which means I’m now completely invincible to all viruses. It’s felt like a long, bleak winter trapped under an avalanche during the quarantine. But now finally there are signs, little flower buds pushing through the ice and snow to once again bloom in the warm sunlight.

You know that the worst of the pandemic is probably over when there is:

No More Plexiglass

Wawa took down some of their plexiglass barriers. I actually never minded the plexiglass. It made me feel more confident in the mornings when I had rushed out of the house without brushing my teeth wondering if my breath smelled bad. Nevertheless, it is nice to see my favorite quick stop for on-the-go beverages and snacks starting to loosen up and relax a little.

In-Store Dining

Dunkin’ Donuts has in-store dining available. We walk to our local Dunkin’ literally every week if not multiple times a week. It is our go-to coffee, donut, and just in general place. Our family loves Dunkin’ like a Winnie-the-Pooh loves honey or a sea cucumber loves algae or an infant koala loves its mother’s feces (good luck looking that up later). Now, we can once again enjoy our silky smooth cups of Joe and luscious Boston creams while being entertained by the sights and sounds of those patrons who run on Dunkin’. It’s like a free visit to the zoo but better because it doesn’t smell like manure.

Free Samples

Publix is handing out free cookies to kids again. Every other week or so when we’d roll our children down the aisles of our local grocery store in the rad two-seat carts that look like a race car, our kids would be disappointed as we passed by the bakery and there was no bubbly attendant to offer them a free cookie. But the cookies are BACK BABY! Now, the bakery is once again our first stop during a grocery run. It just makes the whole shopping experience much more pleasant when you have something to stuff your child’s face with to keep them from grabby, grabbing things and pointing and shouting at other customers who are wearing “alternative” clothing designs.

More Free Samples

Sam’s Club has free samples again. Albeit, they only put out one sample at a time, and the sample is covered by a plastic dome with a hand opening like some kind of sterile laboratory workstation. Nevertheless, the free food samples are basically why we have a membership. That, and we don’t have a Costco nearby… But whatever, I’ll take free food samples anytime, anyplace. My parents had a very difficult time teaching me not to take candy from strangers. I was always like, “Are you crazy‽ Why not‽ It’s candy! And it’s free! Of course I’ll have some!”

Even More Free Goodies

Our church recently began putting out the self-serve airpot pump thermal coffee carafe again. Basically, everything I’m excited about has to do with food in some way or another. Good riddance coronavirus. You’re kind of ugly and nobody likes you.

Some of My Greatest Fears as a Parent

(Or: The Return of a Flabbergasted Father’s Rants)

Sure, there are the typical fears of parenthood like your child getting hurt at the playground, lost at the store, or forever psychologically scarred and damaged by my ineptitude and bungling as a parent trying to explain things like where babies come from. But other than those big fears, I also have a few smaller, what some may consider petty concerns. Nevertheless, these are some of the things that keep me up at night. Terrors such as…

Milk

I’m pretty sure that it’s a normal thing for people to become more sensitive to dairy as they get older. And as such, I recently began complaining to my wife that milk products just aren’t settling well with me anymore. I told her, “I think I’m becoming lactose intolerant because it hurts my stomach now when I eat two large bowls of ice cream at midnight.” Her response was, “Umm, no, I think it’s because you’re eating an entire quart of ice cream in one sitting.”

So insensitive those wives.

Anyways, our kids pretty much survive on milk, cheese, and yogurt alone. It’s about all they’ll consume. Well, that and donuts. We’re pretty health-conscious parents. But all that means is lots of partially eaten, leftover lactose gleanings. My wife, again always the paragon of reason, tells me that I don’t have to eat everything. Silly wives. Of course I have to eat everything! But it doesn’t mean that I’m any less afraid at the end of every mealtime.

Monkey Swings

If you don’t know, monkey swings are these single-rope swings with a circular seat (why am I explaining this to you? Just look up a picture online). They seem like a fun idea, but so are many of the devil’s temptations. Basically, these swings are very difficult to control and not at all designed for most children. If your kid doesn’t fall off mid-swing, then they’re probably hitting a tree or another child. The random chaos is so prevalent that the term “monkey swing” has basically become a euphemism for all things that were “made” for children but clearly not “designed” for children. You definitely know when someone else doesn’t have kids of their own. Infamous examples include:

  • A waiter/waitress bringing a scalding hot plate of food and placing it directly in front of your grabby-hand child so that they burn off their fingerprints.
  • A dance recital that takes place right in the middle of dinner time, lasts three hours too long, requires that the whole family stays in attendance the entire time, and in which your child is only in one number towards the end of the second act.
  • Rubber bath toys that don’t allow air circulation and start to grow mold after just one bath time.
  • Slime. While we’re at it, let’s just add Play-Doh, Kinetic sand, and all molding clays in general.

These are all “monkey swings” and they are just the worst. Also, when I was a kid, I once got in a fight with a monkey swing. Don’t ask me about what was said. But the swing took a cheap-shot at me in the mouth as I was turning around. It chipped my tooth pretty badly and knocked it up out of alignment, so I had to get braces and the tooth synthetically filled. You may be tempted to think that now I’m simply projecting my own childhood trauma onto my kids and thus perpetuating a vicious, multi-generational cycle. To that, I would say, isn’t that what parenting is all about?

Barbies

WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS NAKED‽‽‽ Can someone, anyone, please explain to me why these humanoid dolls are all constantly laying around the house without any clothes on? It’s like I live inside some sort of weird plastic, twilight zoney, Korean bath house. I know when we bought these dolls, they had clothes on. Sometimes, they even have extra apparel items. But inevitably, all the garments come off, and the rooms and hallways and byways are filled and cluttered with nudist, sun-bathing Mattel models. I mean, does this make anyone else just a wee bit uncomfortable? Can these Barbies and Kens not be designed in a more modest affirming fashion way? The worst part is that my kids are constantly asking me to put the clothes back on the dolls. So, I do. I awkwardly dress those anatomically incorrect miniature mannequins, and then not one minute later, I inadvertently and painfully step on their naked, prostrate corpses again. Why so easy to undress, yet virtually impossible to redress by the known laws of physics. It’s like some sick, psychological power game inside a control vortex.

And when visitors come over, how am I supposed to explain the embarrassing life choices happening all around? My eighteen-month-old son seems to have picked up on these bad influences because he too just wants to constantly run around the house without any clothes on. Oh, what it would be like to feel no shame.

Still Yet More Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Car Seats

Both installing the car seat and buckling the child within the car seat are a literal pain in my back. You show me a car seat, and I will show an irritated parent ready to start throwing things. Car seats are meant to keep kids safe, but my experience has been that they are one of the single most dangerous obstacles that our family must overcome each and every day. First of all, good luck actually getting the seat snug and secured properly with those ridiculously placed straps and hooks that you can only tighten if you’re a contortionist for Cirque du Soleil. Secondly, you have to place your chubby toddler in the seat while bending over awkwardly on the verge of herniating every disc in your spine. And then, you’ve got to strap down that squirmy wormy, squishy meat tot with buckles that are clearly designed to pinch and tear away the flesh and fingers.

Mealtime

As babies, our kids seemed to eat anything. In fact, the trouble was getting them to not eat things such as socks and dirt. But as our oldest has grown, she’s become more and more picky. Right now, her one-year-old brother eats three times as much, consuming approximately his own body weight in food every four hours or so. She, on the other hand, has become quite the food aficionado of criticism. She will eat chicken nuggets but not tenders or strips. And I’m like, a chicken doesn’t have any of those things to begin with so why does it matter? She’ll eat mac ‘n cheese, but only that mac n’ cheese. Only this jelly on the PB&J. At this point, getting her to try something new is like trying to negotiate with D.B. Cooper who has already hijacked a plane full of hostages and parachuted out with all the money.

Peppa Pig

Don’t get me wrong. I love Peppa Pig. It’s easily one of the best kids shows out there, and it is just hilarious. There’s so much humor for parents, you can really tell the writers are all about using sarcasm to confuse their own children. But my one major gripe is this: Peppa’s favorite activity is jumping in muddy puddles. Seriously? Why would you do that to parents across the globe? Because if Peppa loves jumping in muddy puddles then you know what that means… it means my kid wants to jump in muddy puddles. But you know what? Muddy puddles are the worst. They seem like a cute, fun idea, like having an outdoor wedding. But in reality, they are a living nightmare. Puddles in a cartoon are clean and harmless. Real puddles in our city are not so much organic mud as they are an ungodly concoction of motor oil, tire shavings, bird droppings, tree pollen, and exhaust residue. What am I supposed to say to my kid when she wants to jump in that toxic sludge outside because Peppa does it? Either I crush her little dreams or I allow it at the risk of either someone calling child protective services or her gaining some special mutated powers.

Rubber Ducks

I’ve probably written about this before, but I’m too lazy to look it up in the archives, and who cares because this one is a real doozy worth repeating. Not just rubber ducks, but bath toys in general: they all get disgusting and moldy inside no matter what you do. And don’t you try and message me with all that vinegar and baking soda and other homeopathic baloney. None of it works. It all gets moldy no matter what you do. Look people, we live in the 21st century. We have the entire world’s information at our fingertips. We put a man on the moon. We live in a day and age where science can craft a vaccine for a novel virus in less than a year. And yet, we can’t figure out how to design bath toys better? The rubber ducky has its own Sesame Street theme song, but they never talk about the short life expectancy of a rubber duck, and how mortifying it is as a parent when you kid accidently sucks out all the black gunk from the dirty ducky butt like it’s some kind of sippy cup juice. The horror. The absolute horror.

The moral of the story? I’ll let you come up with your own this time.

Interesting Things I Just Recently Learned

This whole time, our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter has thought that a grilled cheese sandwich is actually a “girl” cheese sandwich. I’m not sure what a “boy” cheese sandwich would be. Are dairy products sexist?

Speaking of sexism, did you know the reason we have so much pollen in America is because of a major, national movement several decades earlier to plant only male trees? City planners believed that female trees were undesirable because of all the fruits that would fall on the ground and rot. They thought that the pollen would just blow away in the wind. Obviously, it has not just blown away. Our collective allergies can all be blamed on a bunch of old, white dudes who thought male trees were better. Who knew that certain trees even had genders? Trees are definitely sexist, and my sinuses agree.

Speaking of nasally things, some dogs, and even humans, have the ability (and/or can be trained) to smell certain chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even cancers! They can detect these diseases years before a doctor’s diagnosis. I definitely need to get one of these dogs (or humans) for when my kids say they’re too sick to go to school.

Speaking of illnesses, did you know that the coronavirus is just a myth? I know because a bunch of my acquaintances from high school who flunked science class say that the virus just doesn’t add up. I didn’t even know viruses could do arithmetic. Obviously, I’m being sarcastic now. The virus is real. Science is real. My seasonal allergies are real, and the struggle is real.

Speaking of struggles, my wife is experiencing considerable nausea at the moment. We believe it is possibly a side effect of being pregnant. Or maybe a parasite. But maybe those things are the same? She didn’t know it at the time, but I had been praying for another baby. Our daughter had also been asking for a baby sister. So gotcha. This is our secondary, official joyful announcement by the way.

Keep keeping things interesting, and stay frosty my friends.

A True-Life Trunk-or-Treat

The other day I was at the local Wawa (love saying that word—wawa—like kissing smooth silk, but also sounds like a baby came up with the name) getting me some of that sweet, free pressurized air for the minivan tires. But as I was hunched over, filling the passenger-rear tire, I spied with my little eye, out of the corner of my eye a person stealthily moving towards me.

We are all susceptible to making quick judgments, and I must confess that my thoughts quickly jumped to one of a couple of scenarios. Either this guy was (1) going to ask for money, (2) going to try and shank me, or most likely (3) going to try and cut in line so that he too could taste the succulent nectar of free compressed air out of a rubber hose in the middle of a parking lot. I could never have imagined what was actually about to happen…

As I turned to see the approaching stalker, I almost immediately realized that my preconceived notions were probably for naught. The kind-looking gentleman who walked towards me was an older man who spoke with a thick accent from somewhere in the Middle East. Without any proper introductions or much ado, the elderly man spoke to me with generosity and conviction, “Hello, would you like some bread?”

“Bread?” I thought. Did I just hear correctly? Did he just ask me if I wanted some bread? Is that like some new convalescent street lingo for the new synthetic drug hitting the assisted living streets? Elders these days, ya know?

I was unsure of how to answer him, but answered, “Umm, I’m okay, thanks.”

But he insisted, “I have lots of bread. Would you like some free bread? You come and see. You can have some bread as long as you need it and will use it.”

I kept thinking, “Man, I just want to get my free air fix and get out of here; not stand around in a parking lot in the Florida heat and discuss the finer details of starch and carbohydrates with a stranger.” I asked, “What bread? Where is it?”

“Oh, I have all kinds of bread. And donuts too! You like donuts? I have them here in my trunk. I am trying to give out this bread to people.”

Bread and donuts in the trunk. None of this sounds weird or sketchy at all. I figured, maybe if I just accept his offer for this mysterious bread I can get out of here. So, I replied, “Okay. Sure, thank you. I’ll take a look.”

I walked over with the gent to the back of his car, and when he opened up the trunk I had to do a double-take because I was so confused and surprised by what I saw. I know he told me he had bread in his trunk, but I mean, this guy had BREAD in his trunk. Like overflowing. Bread and pastries and, yes, donuts. Just so much gluten. It was like a movie where some gangsters open up a trunk and it’s full of money or drugs or a body. Except it was fluffy baked dough and smelled delicious. Very surreal experience. I was slightly afraid to ask but couldn’t help myself. “Oh wow, that’s a lot of bread. Umm… where did this all come from?”

“Oh, it’s from the bakery down the street. You know the bakery there around the corner. I’m retired now, and so I volunteer at a bunch of places. I volunteer at the bakery sometimes. They had too much bread, and they asked me if I could take it and give it away to people, so I came here.”

Now things were beginning to make sense. Naturally, a Wawa gas station parking lot is the most obvious choice for handing out free baked goods that are on the precipice of expiration.

I gratefully accepted his offer, and I selected a loaf of artisan bread. Then he picked up a box of donuts and also handed those to me, asking me if I wanted anything else. I explained that this was more than enough and thanked him profusely.

Only at a Wawa. Making dreams come true.

The moral of the story: It is the small, random acts of kindness from strangers that makes the world a better place, as well as a New Year’s keto diet resolution ruined.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to explain this story to my wife and convince her that I’m not going to poison our family with bread laced with unknown substances…

Just Another Day at Work

One day, for my job, I had to make this unique delivery. Don’t ask me what I do for a living; that’s confidential. I certainly don’t make any money rambling on the Internet.

Anyways, I had to deliver a package to a unit on the second floor of an old, decrepit townhouse complex. The building was wood panel construction with peeling paint and one entire side sloping down into the earth. The porch had broken boards, probably from where a trap door was installed. It was the kind of place where you might get a splinter in your eye just from looking at it. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume this place was abandoned and condemned. The front door swung open and shut on broken hinges. As you stepped inside, the only light visible came from a single, dangling, flickering bulb at the top of a stairwell and a skylight hole in the ceiling from a busted roof.

Worst of all, this dark, dilapidated den of a building reeked and smelled like COVID. I’m not sure if COVID has a smell. But I’m pretty sure this was it. I’m also pretty sure that the landlord would make more money by using the property as a haunted house attraction rather than as an apartment building. I was ready and expecting at any moment for a rabid, feral squirrel to jump out of the wall and stab me with an acorn shiv.

So, did I ascend those rickety, precarious steps to the top floor? Yes. Did I knock on the rotted door and successfully leave the package for what every mysterious phantasm lived there? Yes. Did I immediately run for my life afterwards? Yes.

Now, you might accuse me of exaggerating, telling a big fish tale, or spinning yarn, and I would say, that’s totally possible, but this is the way I remember it in my nightmares. Besides, I prefer the term embellishment like I’m putting ornaments on a Christmas tree or garnishing my plate of nuggets with aromatic parsley or adorning a scarecrow with a J Crew knitted scarf.

Now why do I share this story with you? What life lesson or morale of humanity am I trying to get across? I don’t know. Bye.

Even More Recent Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Yo, come at me bro…

What’s the deal with pickles?

Is there a kid who doesn’t love pickles? Seriously, why do kids like pickles so much? It would seem that the flavor would be too weird or intense, but no, given the opportunity they’ll devour an entire jar of fermented cucumbers. Is it because of all the pickles that women crave during pregnancy like some pre-birth, umbilical nourishment nostalgia? I don’t quite understand it, but at least it can make me feel better as a parent that I totally feed my children plenty of healthy “vegetables.”

How does the food even get there?

As I’ve mentioned before, my son has a natural talent and penchant for eating. He would score top marks on any appetizer aptitude test. And boy, can he shovel some macaroni like it’s going out of style; like he’s buying up subprime mortgages pre-2008; or like he’s collecting beanie babies and Pokémon cards before the nineties bubble popped. And yet, for as much food that he stuffs down his gullet, just as much ends up everywhere else. On the floor, walls, and ceiling. How does it even get up there? It’s behind his ears, up his nose, in his belly button, and down his pants. Cleaning up after mealtime, every time, feels like being held for detention to clean up the cafeteria after being unjustly blamed for starting that food fight—again.

Why do babies sleep with their butts up in the sky?

How is that even comfortable? Babies sleep like they are subconsciously practicing some ancient, Egyptian cat-yoga. Their derrieres in the air like some radio tower sending signals of flatulent grievances, or a lighthouse guiding salted, sea-weary sailors, or a flag, a proud, high-flying flag of glory to which we honor with an anthem of many fine, French horns. Can you imagine if adults still slept that way?

Why do kids ask for food they’re not going to eat?

I know it, they know it, we all know they’re not going to eat it. So why did I make another sandwich when I knew they weren’t going to eat it? Okay, so this one isn’t really a complaint or even a legitimate question. I know why. It’s so that I can have a reasonable excuse to eat a PB&J sandwich with a stringy cheese stick and a juice box.

Because this is the true secret to thriving in parenting: I always buy the 6-piece chicken nugget kids’ meal even when I know they won’t eat them all, so that I can have the leftovers.