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KIDS, SOCIETY (permalink) 11.13.2015
i used to hide my money in a band-aid box in an air vent.
while walking to school with anthony he asked, after a natural pause in our conversation, "so dad. what is something you really want, that cost less than 20 dollars?".

while i was reflecting on things i talked about how the best present for someone was something they really wanted but for whatever reason wouldn't buy themselves. after a few minutes i told anthony that something i've been intrigued by for a number of years were mounted insects. after explaining what they were he asked why i would want that. i told him that from my photography contest i've come to be amazed at some of the insect-photography, especially the up-close macro images that people have sent in of bugs and stuff and that they are really very extraordinary and if they could be enlarged to, say, the size of one of these houses we were walking by they would be the most extraordinary things we've ever seen, both in their beauty and detail.

a few days later i mentioned anthony's question to marty. she told me she was well aware of the conversation because anthony then went to her and said he needed her to help him buy me a mounted insect for my birthday. after looking a bit, anthony found one that was $30. when marty asked him if he had $30 he said sure, walked to and opened one of his bedroom windows, pulled a velcro wallet from the outer jamb and produced the requested $30.

yeah, what, like you don't keep your money hidden in a window jamb?

and for reasons i can't explain (in that marty has confessed ignorance) both of my boys have taken a great interest in getting me a birthday gift this year. i'm admittedly a little easier to shop for since i went on my spending fast (ref). also, i'm a little more eager for the goodies given i'm no longer buying myself each and every bauble that catches my eye. i have the sense it's all going to taste a bit sweeter this year.

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STORY (permalink) 11.21.2014
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

monthly archives

KIDS (permalink) 11.12.2015
what nine year old uses the word "glum"?
anthony got a typewriter for his ninth birthday. occassionally you'll find a sheet of paper full of typed text laying about the house. i've learned to stop and read them as i find the open narratives of a young child fascinating. the one below i read to the end and found myself looking around, a bit more desperately than i should feel comfortable sharing, for the next page. i was riveted. granted i'm his dad and probably find it all more interesting than you will or think i should but dang, i could read this stuff all day.

click to enlarge

LIFE (permalink) 11.11.2015
when you want it as much as you want air, or sex
i've recently stopped spending money. i have my reasons and they are good ones. and because they are good ones, i may have a prayer at rocking this financial fast.

the first and best thing about making a serious declaration to stop spending money is the liberation that comes with it (remember this guy). it frees up like fifteen to forty percent of your mind as you get to simply dismiss all of those little nags that happen through the day in this world of shiny material and digital things, all of which are vying for your attention (and money). now i just get to say "nope, not an option" and move on. as i said, liberating.

marty fluctuates between jubilation and frustration over my new declaration. she's jubilant in that she's been trying to get me to stop mindlessly spending money for better than twenty years. she's frustrated that the answer was as simple as putting the right vision in front of me. i can't be to blame in that though. i've been a vision-centric person since my earliest memory. without an end goal in mind (an end goal i viscerally want), i can't marshall a single neuron to act. i have sixteen years of unimpressive school transcripts to support this trait. a piece of computer generated paper with an A on it held no appeal to me (granted, i lacked the vision of the potential enough of those As held for me and my future-self). but, give me a tantalizing goal on the horizon i would love to possess, and my record, to date, has been perfect.

i heard a talk by a life coach who acutely and succinctly addressed this specific foible. she talked about men who would come to her and say they wanted to get in shape. she would ask them why they wanted to get in shape. they would say so they could be healthy and live longer. she told each and every one of those men she couldn't help them. when they asked why she told them their vision was too soft and she couldn't work with it. she instead needed them to say i want to get healthy so i look hot and girls want to sleep with me. to that response she would say, that i can work with. now let's go get you laid.

it's all about that wanna-have-more-sex kinda drive that makes something happen. and i finally found mine in regard to money.

SOCIETY (permalink) 11.10.2015
i hate that shit!
marty, bella and i were walking home. as we were crossing a street bella yelled "SLUG BUG!" and gave me a hard shot in the arm. that side of my body sagged from the unexpected blow (she is not the small and defenseless girl she once was). as i began my whiny "what didya do that for?" the guy inside the vw beetle guffawed and yelled out his passenger window, "Man! I love that shit!". his comment got bella and marty laughing. the humor missed its mark on me and my sagging arm.

KIDS (permalink) 10.23.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

WIFE, LIFE (permalink) 10.22.2015
perception is overrated. delusion is the way to go.
marty and i went out on a date night. this might be the second one of these we've been on in the last five years. i took her to a new eatery i recently discovered and then we went to see kathleen madigan at one of our cities swankier venues (the peabody). after the show marty and i remained in our chairs as the other patrons streamed out. they seemed as intrigued by us keeping our seats as we were with their immediate need to vacate the premises (and willingness to fight the throngs of people). as we watched the parade before us, marty commented at the age of the crowd in they seemed a lot older than we expected. as we did our accounting marty leaned in adding, "or maybe we look like them and are old too". huh? what? when exactly did that happen?

and, it seems we are not alone in experiencing this odd phenemenon.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 10.21.2015
reminds me of the beaver.
a few kidisms i've recently enjoyed:

we have some new neighbors. they are very much like marty and i were when we first moved into the community. early thirties. just starting their family. the guy is very young at heart and it is not at all uncommon to find him doing flips on the tramp with the kids or crouched behind a bush set to nerf-ambush someone. the other day he was out watering plants when alex walked by. he snapped the hose in alex's direction sending a quick spray of water over alex. to this alex said, "jeff, you can't spray me. these things i have are highly flammable." the men chuckled at this defense. but the moms took the time to explain the hole in the logic.

then a few days later anthony showed his own verbal creativity when he excitedly described a book he was making at school. he stepped through all the real-book parts it was going to have. a cover. a binding. pictures. and, even, a Table of Contests.

WEB, PHOTO (permalink) 10.20.2015
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

QUOTES (permalink) 10.19.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 09.25.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

WEB, PHOTO (permalink) 09.24.2015
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

HEALTH (permalink) 09.23.2015
check it out
in february of 2014 i said,
it is easy to wreck a strong exercise regimen with a bad diet.

and, it is impossible to wreck a good diet with a bad exercise regimen.
and in september of 2015 some really smart people said,
The diet vs. exercise debate has been in the spotlight since an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year caused a stir with its authors' blunt message: Physical activity does not promote weight loss.

"You cannot outrun a bad diet," they wrote. "Many still wrongly believe that obesity is entirely due to lack of exercise."
those brits should have just called me. i could have saved them oodles of time.

KIDS (permalink) 09.22.2015
sometimes when your computer gets hacked, it's good
as bella worked her way towards her teens, numerous people warned us of our pending doom, advising us to enjoy our little girl while it lasted. not having navigated the waters yet, marty and i found it hard to make a qualified defense to the assertions. so instead we kept saying and believing that it didn't have to go that way. the other night after reading to the boys for bed, i sat down at my computer to tend to the day's email. filling the screen was an open word document. it read:

Hey dad,

Everyone says that becoming a teenager is hard and that everything will change your relationship with the ones that you love, the amount of sleep that you get, your free time, the things that you're interested in. A lot of these things have begun to change in my life already, but if there's one thing that I want to make sure doesn't change it's the relationship that I have with you, mom, Alex and Anthony. I love each and everyone of you and I've noticed myself becoming more and more distant, you have to. I'm going to do everything that I can to show that I love you and the rest of the family. I just wanted to let you know because I know that you've noticed the changes and I want to make sure that you know that I'm going to try.

So this is my promise that I'm going to do everything that I am capable of to keep my relationship with the people in the family as wonderful as it is right now.

I love you and I'm going to continue loving you until the day that you die (which won't be very long, sadly). I know that in the future we're going to have some big fights and I just want to make sure that if I ever say something or do something that makes it seem like I don't love you, you know that I do love you and will never stop.

Love you, forever and always,

regarding these "inevitable" fights, i believe i have come upon a secret weapon which can mitigate both the frequency and volatility of these altercations. i call it, blandly, the twenty minute rule. the twenty minute rule states that if you ever see a family member, especially a child, coming off the rails you need to evacuate the area, isolating the failing human as quickly as possible for approximately twenty minutes. most typically, once a reaction begins, there's no preventing it. thinking you can steer around it would be like thinking you can stop yourself from projectile vomiting by holding your hand over your mouth. so evacuate the building. don't look the infected human in the eyes. move everyone out of the blast radius and quarantine the affected human so that when they do blow there are no innocents within shrapnel range as this can lead to chain reactions, sometimes bringing a whole home into emotional ruin.

guided meditations often point out that just like with weather, there are always blue skies overhead. it's just that sometimes we can't see them because a cloud front has moved in, blocking the view. the thing that makes the twenty minute rule work is that the systems are always in motion and if unprodded will typically move past just as swiftly as they rolled in. but if they are provoked they will grow in size and temper. give them space, they will move on and before you know it, you'll be looking at blue skies again. this is one of the advantages of an ever-changing universe and understanding that in the time it took you to read this sentence the world about you is forever changed and never to again look the way it did when you read the first word of this sentence. so let it change. embrace the change. and when you see dark skies, seek cover because oftentimes the storm clouds will move out as swiftly as they moved in.

also, i've learned this technique also applies with adult, professional relationships but for reasons both obvious and nuanced, the window is more like 24 hours instead of twenty minutes. the classic example here is not sending that angry email at the peak of your angst, but waiting until the next day, re-reading it, and seeing if you think it would be sensible to send it on. rarely have i looked at that email after a night's sleep and thought, yes, this is the push in the shoulder that's going to make this human act more civily towards me.

here you can see the twenty minute rule taking form several years back.

LIFE (permalink) 09.04.2015
my favorite piano song ever, the waltz of amelie
below is the musical piece i'm trying to learn right now (right now in this case equalling the last year). and no, i don't know how to play the piano. this is the first song i'm learning. presently i'm up to the 45 second mark, but as you'll see that's where things get interesting.

LIFE (permalink) 09.03.2015
a solid question to start your days with ...
What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?

- As derived from Richard Hamming (of Bell Labs)

KIDS (permalink) 09.02.2015
here i offer a glimpse into a newly minted nine year old's mind
click to enlarge

WEB, PHOTO (permalink) 09.01.2015
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

QUOTES, KIDS (permalink) 08.07.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 08.06.2015
backyard thunderdome
multiple people commented on the family pic a few weeks back that showed marty and anthony on the tramp (ref). they liked how the poles for the safety enclosure were stacked up on the side of the tramp, precariously close even. one commenter (bookguy, ahem) suggested i situate the poles around the tramp in some sort of mad max like configuration to further incent younglings to not fall over the edge. obviously i would never do this, but i also wouldn't make the suggestion aloud in front of two of my three kids.

TRAVEL (permalink) 08.05.2015
summer vacation 2015
we are recently back from a week of tent-camping in northern michigan. i would say where exactly but since i'm pretty sure we will return, i'm not looking for any more competition for campsites, so the specific place we like shall go nameless. some highlights of the week though:
  • i slept outdoors in a hammock all week. our location was remote enough the sky was fully peppered with stars--so much so that you could make out the hazy stripe of the milky way. the scene was so rich that i kept my glasses in a little pocket connected to the hammock so when i stirred in the night, instead of going right back to sleep, i would fumble around for my glasses, put them on and take a few minutes to take in the sky through the gaps in the trees above me. i had to do this odd ritual because i went to bed before the sky was in full bloom.
  • i began every day, save one, with a 30-40 mile bike ride through rolling michigan hills.
  • i concluded several of the afternoons with a multi-mile paddle board adventure along the coastline.
  • i didn't shower for 8 days.
  • i swam with olympian-speed (for me) to save anthony (8) who got caught up in a riptide. *
  • via yelp, we once again discovered an eatery the whole family enjoyed so much, we are tempted to make a weekend trek back up there just to enjoy it again.
  • on the way home we intended to stop for a hotel but after running into (a) very few hotels, and (b) no hotels with vacancies, we ended up driving straight through. when the day began i expected to be asleep by midnight or one at the latest. when i finally laid my head down on my own pillow on my own bed, i glanced at my watch--it read 6:00am precisely.
* regarding the riptide event. we were on a strip of beach where a large lake and a small lake were separated by about forty feet of sand. a little kid, around four, and his father dug a small trench between the two so the boy could float his boat through the channel. four hours after they connected the two bodies of water the trench had grown to be forty feet wide and possessed a waist deep (for me) current that was hard to stand against as the water from the smaller lake was pulled into the larger body--creating an instant riptide of sorts. as the channel and the current grew larger (as it was continually eroding the fragile sandy banks) so did its reach or push out into the larger lake. of course this new feature proved to be huge fun for the kids playing on the beach as they rode the waves on boogie boards or just simply threw their bodies into the strong current to be rolled along. for the several hours this went on i stood sentry at the bank, twice having to step in and grab kids who were having problems in the waters. the six kids with us (my kids plus three from a family we were traveling with) were having so much fun i offered to hang back while the other adults headed back to camp to get dinner going. i figured this would give them another hour or two of play in this unique water feature.

once the time had passed and we needed to head back to camp ourselves, i called the kids over to help collect our gear. just as i thought we were ready to go one of the young boys who was playing in the water came up behind me saying "mister! mister!" when i turned he pointed out into the water, past where our riptide's sharp current ended. bobbing in the water i saw anthony (8), a single arm waving in the air. i dropped what i had and sprinted into the shallows and once it was knee deep dove and began swimming towards him. i didn't do my usual freestyle technique which would have allowed me to swim faster because intuition told me to watch where he was positioned should he go under the water. sadly this change in form did not make me swim faster. when i arrived to him i saw he was clutching onto a kick board (thank god) but panic set in when i turned to the shore to see how far out we were and realizing how fatigued i was in getting to him. just before the panic took full root a voice behind me said, "would you fellas like a lift".

i spun further to see a man kneeling on a long paddle board. i had spoken with the man and his wife hours earlier, initially about their paddle boards but also about the area and such. he had been resting on the beach with his wife when the boy had pointed to a wayward anthony. alert and astute he followed me out to anthony and thank god he had because when i looked at how far we were out i was not confident about getting not only me but me and anthony back to shore. so i need to thank that three dollar kick board that allowed anthony to stay above water until i got to him and dan, the wildly calm and cool (and ripped) middle school history teacher and track coach from kalamazoo who definitely saved the chili of both anthony and i on that day. thank you dan.

KIDS (permalink) 08.04.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
dream fail

KIDS, WIFE (permalink) 08.03.2015
the scene looks like many american backyards on the weekend, with a dad doing lawn work. the predictable part of the picture is interrupted by a second story window being cast open and a partially eaten apple being chucked from it. the father watches the apple, land, roll, and then stop in his freshly manicured lawn. later when the father polls his children about the apple, the eight year old boy confesses to being the thrower. when challenged about his choices. he said mom told him to do it, or admittedly, said he could do it. to the question of why his mother would tell him to do it he said, so they could see what would happen, but only after guessing (or hypothesizing--science teacher and all) what would happen to the apple in the days ahead. and now they were testing their guesses (or hypotheses).

i wonder if any of them hypothesized that their father would come chirp at them about chucking fruit out of second story windows.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 07.17.2015
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.
what are you, a comedian?

WEB, PHOTO (permalink) 07.16.2015
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
JULY 2015

KIDS (permalink) 07.15.2015
aleo and i have been playing some video games together. much of this time, especially in the early going involves him getting me functional. occasionally his use of language is the greatest. two examples that stand out are:

1. i was complaining about my joystick. he asked to see it. he moved around a bit and then said, "yeah, your joystick seems to be a little cockier than mine. we can trade if you'd like." i said i'd rather not, because i for sure thought the cockier controller would pay off in the long run (this has not yet come to pass).

2. then we were playing something else on the computer and i was complaining about the mouse being extra twitchy. again, he asked me to see it, opened up a control panel or two, moved some dials and then told me to try again. in explanation he said his friend maria was over playing with him and he had to turn the "sensibility" up for her. knowing maria as i do, i'd second aleo's suggested course.

and let's get past the point where i come off as a over-delicate fool that just complains when things aren't exactly to my liking. it's not like this is getting exponentially worse with each year that passes. i can't help if i'm a touch cocky and high on sensibility.

LIFE (permalink) 07.14.2015
Padawan seeks master
the question on my mind as of late has been about mentoring and namely about why it seems so challenging for middle-aged guys to find and nurture mentoring relationships with our elders. i mean there are plenty of older men out there. and many of them are certainly accomplished enough. hell, simply by being older, even if you squandered the lion-share of your years in an armchair watching crappy, or even good, television, you're bound to have observed a meaningful thing or two, even if by accident, in your multiple decades of life.

so, these days, when i meet a person around my age i ask them about any older mentors they have and how they came to have them—you know, just the normal backyard party small talk. i posed my question to a neighbor who is a surgeon. through our talks we discovered how similar developing young talent is in both technology and medicine. he was experiencing some difficulties with a new, super-bright doctor his practice had brought on. when he asked one of the senior partners about it, the older doc pithily said with a hint of knowing sympathy in his voice:
good decisions come from experience and experience comes from bad decisions.
and that was all he had to say on the matter. in reflecting on the brief response, i'd conclude, that might be all that needs be said on the matter. while there are many challenges in aging, having a better grasp on the why's and how's of life certainly goes a long way in making those physical deficencies sting a little less.

VIDEO, MUSIC (permalink) 07.03.2015
new favorite
here's my new favorite all-time, acapella song.

when i first played it for bella, i blindfolded her and sat her in my office chair facing my stereo speakers and then blasted the song irresponsibly loud. something about that focused listening enriches the experience.

WIFE (permalink) 07.02.2015
sorry, it's my brothel on the line
marty was driving home from georgia after a week away with the kids. i was in a meeting in my office. in the middle of a sentence my phone, which was sitting the desk between the man i was meeting with and me, began to ring. in the seven years i've had my phone this might be the eleventh time it rang as no one really had my number and those that did knew using it was about as effective as screaming my name out their front door. surprised to see it come to life, i glanced down at the screen. it read: SEX GODDESS. i swung my eyes to the man on the other side of the desk to see if he noticed the caller. he had not. i said i had to take it and answered the phone and heard:
hi troy. it's marty. we got a flat. everyone is ok, but we're stalled out here and i wanted to let you know.
i later told the guy what happened and was relieved at the time that he didn't see it. he said if he did see it and i wasn't going to answer it, he surely would have.

KIDS (permalink) 07.01.2015
magical meadow
bella and i were on an evening bike outing. in the summer she has taken to riding later in the day, some rides lasting well past sundown. while many parents and riders would balk at these post-sunlight rides, bella landed the right riding partner because for twenty years i did all my distance cycling between 10pm and 2am for a number of reasons i won't get into here/now.

on this night, we wended our way through our typical route. as we rounded a gentle bend with high brush on either side, we came upon a broad meadow that, at this particular moment, had thousands, and i do mean thousands, of fireflies dotting the landscape. the vision fully took our breath away as we rolled through a scene straight out of a Miyazaki film. as far as you could see in either direction small dots of light silently winked on and off in the dark.

it wasn't until we cleared the meadow that bella turned her head to me, mouth agape. she didn't even say anything—she just had a look of amazement on her face. i shook my head in agreement. the next time we stopped a few miles later, before the bikes had even stopped rolling, bella was commenting.

did you see that?

yeah that was really something.

have you ever seen anything like that?


we shouldn't tell anybody about it. just keep it as our secret. and only show it to people we really love.

we fist-bumped the deal. so if you ever want bella and/or i to take you to firefly meadow, you're gonna need to amp up the charm, like a lot.

LIFE (permalink) 06.30.2015
uncertainty settled
i was making some new benches for our front porch (in part due to a new, totally sweet, dowling jig i recently bought). i was modeling them after a bench i made several years ago. between my superior skills (compared to several years back) and improved tools (uhhh, dowling jig), i considered upgrading to a higher grade of of wood. the problem point here is that it would add a fair bit of cost to the project so i wanted to make sure i could pull the benches off without any issues.

while getting things organized, i stepped out to the porch to take measurements on my existing bench. while crouched down and measuring the various parts and pieces, i noticed how the top slabs of wood, where you sit, had deep divots and mars in them from the kids various projects. the most damning of the marks came from our meat tenderizer hammer where, i recalled this day specifically, the kids went through a multi-day period of busting open acorns for sport using the medieval looking meat hammer as the pounder and my hand-made bench as the worktop. i imagined my reaction to them doing this, or any other number of their child-divined games, on high-dollar pieces of lumber versus the simple treated wood i've historically used.

then, from my crouched position, i recalled one of the first and most meaningful parental lessons i ever learned: you can love your things or you can love your children, but you can't love both.

after completing my notes, i, with nary a reservation, went and bought my low-grade planks of wood.

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