March 30th, 2017 – The Best Kind of Rainy Day

Spring Break – a great time to get out with the kids, play at some parks, and soak in the…rain? What?  Rain?  Seriously…all day…and I am with two boys ages 4 and 6? Ergh…

I don’t know when it started, I don’t know if it was a request or if it was an idea, but at some point in the last few years I became a master creator of coloring pages.  Utilizing Microsoft Word and Google Images, I can cook up a custom made page to suit any need. I’ve created jungle landscapes with animals of a child’s choice, underwater scenes depicting sharks, jellyfish and the cast of Finding Nemo. My crowning achievement was a gingerbread house with Santa and his reindeer flying in the background, a T-rex taking a bite and Spiderman hanging from the eaves of the roof.

So of course as the morning rituals came to a close and the “what’s next?” vibe hung in the air, I suggested coloring.  They were all in as they usually are.  Lately, I had introduced the boys to Mario Kart.  Now, I’m not at all a video gamer. I own a Wii for reasons a normal gamer would scoff at but one of the games I own is Mario Kart.  As my oldest began asking more and more about video games and was even using a Wii in his gym class to play Just Dance, I had little qualms about exposing them to Mario Kart, a fun, light-hearted racing game.  Little did I know that this would be a full on obsession.

“Can we print Mario Kart pictures?” Liam jumped out of the gate.

“Yeah, like Luigi?” chimed in Ben.

“Or Bowser! Mario, yeah, you have to have Mario!”

“King Boo!  I want King Boo!”

The creative synergy between my two sons and my ability to make it come to fruition resulted in 17 pages of Mario Kart inspired coloring.

“Let’s make a track.” said Liam, realizing how cool this was to him as he was saying.  The smile spread wider with each syllable.  “We can put it on the floor.”

“Or we could hang it on the wall…” I replied, casting out the bait for what I could see as being a whole day event.  Rainy day, solved.

It was on. We had printed a color sheet of all the Super Mario characters as reference for color and we hung that on the wall.  We called it the Mario Kart Project and I added DLB Studios to the sheet along with the project title.  We were now an official creative firm. We colored all 17 pages, ate lunch, made a quick trip to get some supplies and then Liam set to creating the track, while Ben and I handled other matters.   By 3:00 We had an L shaped track hung, 4 characters placed on it, all with backstories and what power-ups they possessed or were about to fall victim.  We took our final snack break, made plans for the future of our track and celebrated our progress with a few races on the actual game.

Rain, rain, don’t go away, please come back another day…

 

March 29th, 2017 – Early Morning Riser

Almost all of my posts this month have been at night, and they have been later at night.  But I’m not a night owl.  Not by any means. I am a morning riser, an early bird.  I savor the quiet moments when the world is still asleep but the morning star is about to rise.  I have a simple ritual to my day.  I make my coffee (it’s own little ritual as well), read and then write.  I don’t write for the Slice of Life Challenge in the morning.  No, I write for myself.  Maybe its a journal maybe its a writer’s notebook, I don’t know, and really it doesn’t matter.  I write whatever it is that comes to my mind.  I must do all this, coffee, read, write, before I start my day.  Its a way to let the new day slowly infuse with me, like tea in hot water…though I don’t know if I’m the tea or hot water.

I’ve seen both sides of the early morning hours.  In my early twenties, I saw the early morning as a final destination, walking home from a night out with friends. We would marvel at the hush about us, the absolute calm.  In that quiet, we owned the world.  We were the wide-awake dreamers, the sun gatherers, the shadow catchers.  Now, in my mid-thirties, I see early morning as a genesis, the onset, not walking home, but waking it. I marvel at the peace and serenity that each new day brings.  In this quiet, I own the world.  I am the shepherd, the sentinel, the watchman.

The coffee is made; now it is time to read and write.  It is time to welcome the new possibilities in this tranquility.

March 27th, 2017 – Jammed

Tell any parent that you are on a two hour trip with two boys ages four and six, and you’ll get a sympathetic sigh. But then tell them that you are now in a traffic jam that will last one and a half hour, and you’ll get a good groan.  

Thanks to the modern advances of GPS and Google, I knew it was coming, I k ew how long it would lasst, and, more importantly, I knew there was no way out of it. 

Okay…so what do we do?  Unbuckle, get out the stuffed animals and have a dance party to some classic rock. As Bruce Springsteen cried out about a Teenage Wasteland we laid waste to the lurching snake of semis, sedans and SUVs.  They shook and shimmied while their stuffed dogs and super heroes flew back and forth. Those boys…They sure do know how to have a good time, even in a jam.

March 26th, 2017 – Marvels

I went with the boys to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s a large hangar filled with planes from early 20th century bi-planes to more modern aircraft like an F-18 fighter jet.  

I didn’t get much of a chance to stop and read about each one, my boys were too intrigued by the indoor carnival rides with their brightly painted old-timey planes attached by a hydraulic arm to a rotating engine.  I did get some moments to look around and take in this assortment of mankind’s history of arial conquer.. and what an amazing feat to walk down.  I used to be in love with flight, assembling model B-52s, blasting rockets, and even attending the holiest of holies for little space nerds: Space Camp. 

But like many of us, that passion seemed to fade proportionately with my childhood.  Perhaps as the world lost its lustre so did the finish on my model Saturn V. 

Today, walking among riveted steel bodies and wood-winged war planes of WWII, a little spark seemed to return. To gaze at what we have been unable to accomplish as a species in such a relatively short span of time, to take flight, to send dozens of people across the globe in hours even see our planet from space.  Yeah, it sparked, and for a jet engine, a little spark can lead to a tremendous conflagration.

March 25th, 2017 – Solo Road Trips

I am actually a pretty big fan of a good solo road trip. Whether it’s a couple of hours or a couple of days, driving down the highway with just your thoughts for company can be like a retreat, meditating and musing on the grand and grain of life.  

I’m not your normal road tripper though.  Most people envision windows rolled down, great music blasting and your favorite guilty pleasure gas station fare being festively consumed.  But in my little sanctuary on wheels I bring along a different audio… audiobooks.  

It started when I had to spend the second half of a school year commuting 90 minutes to and from work after moving to a new home.  At first it was NPR and sports radio. I liked that I could use this time to stay knowledgeable and mentally stimulated so that I could use my time at home more productively. Now back then there was only so much I could stand listing to journalists squabble over every pro and con of Jay Cutler or the upcoming draft and NPR Wass becoming stale, so I moved on to Podcasts.  From there I found the pleasure of listening to a good story told by an intriguing and talented story teller could not only help pass the time but also actually made me look forward to driving!

Each time I go on such a journey, I am transported into the world of the book by the lure of a resonant voice and palpable plot. It isn’t until I step out of the car, finally reaching the destination that I realize how entranced I was. The world around me seems unfamiliar, alien and the people strangers. I miss the characters wishing in a way that they could be here with me to enjoy this time. For a few minutes a have each foot planned in two very different locations and I have to let the book slowly drain.  So in a way, I don’t take solo road trips, I always have a very verbose, storytelling friend to keep me company.