Dora Duck Drowns in the Pond

Reading children’s books is fun. I admire writers who can keep kids excited while also keeping adults engaged. But every once in awhile you find a book that is so bad you want to set fire to it and watch all the characters die a slow, painful death. Here’s a page-by-page commentary on one of my least favorites, Dora Duck Goes for a Swim.

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Dora Duck is out on this bright, sunny day. And she’s hoping some fun will come her way. “There must be something exciting I can do. I’ll search the garden and the meadow, too.”

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Cool! Nice to meet you, Dora! There’s always something to do when the weather is nice. Let’s explore together!

“Come and have fun with me and my ball of wool!” “Thank you, Kitten, but your paws look quite full.”

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Yeah, balls of wool aren’t really my thing either. And especially for you since you only have 2 feet. Way to be polite, Dora!

“You can come and chase my ball with me.” “That’s what puppies do best, but not ducks like me.”

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Sure, puppies are good at chasing balls. But how do you know if you’ve never tried? I think you should give it a try here, Dora.

“Come on, Duck, let’s bounce and spring.” “It looks like fun, but it’s not my kind of thing.
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Are you sure, Dora? You were desperate for things to do on this bright, sunny day and now you’re gonna buzzkill the rabbit’s idea because it’s “not your thing”? Well what exactly is your thing, Dora?

“Grab some sticks and build a nest with me.” “I’d like to, Bird, but I can’t climb trees.”

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What the hell? You know who else can’t climb trees? This Bird. He flies, and so can you, Dora. Or maybe you’re suspicious because he’s asking you for free labor to build his house? Even so, weak ass excuse, Dora.

“You can hop with me on all fours!” “Sorry, Frog, but I don’t have legs like yours.”

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I’m getting real sick of your shit, Dora. I would have had fun with all your friends by now. I bet you’re the last one to find out about the neighborhood block party.

“Join me, Duck, let’s dig a hole.” “It’s not what I do, but have fun, Mole!”

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Notice how Mole wasn’t even excited that you showed up, Dora? He overheard your lame-ass excuses with your other friends. I bet he wants to push you in that hole.

“There must be something for me to do. But I don’t seem to have a clue. What is it that ducks do best? I suppose I’ll have to try and guess!”

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Fuck you, Dora. You just had ALL YOUR FRIENDS give you fantastic suggestions for what to do on a great summer day. And you STILL have no idea what to do? Seriously, fuck you. 

“Why, silly Duck! We know just the thing for you to do on this bright, sunny day. Come and join us in the pond and paddle and splash away.”

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So you wasted time and shit on all your friends’ ideas just to hang out in the pond with your other duck buddies? You’re a real asshole, Dora.

Now please excuse me while I go use Dora to start my barbecue grill.

 

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Identity…….Epiphany

I’m now officially 4 days in to a 2 week business trip in the Netherlands. One wouldn’t think this is the time or the place to “find oneself”, yet here I am. As fun and unique as a trip to Europe is (I’ll be in Paris for a weekend day), the business part of the trip is certainly palpable. 12-hour work days, no time for lunch, working for Europe during the day and North America at night. International conference calls at odd hours racking up phone bills and data charges for someone other than me. Get back to the hotel, change, pound some beers with dinner, bang out a few emails before bed, crash. Repeat ad nausem.

Yet here’s the thing I can’t shake: I thrive in this environment, and I’m damn good at it. It’s what got me here in the first place, over 4,000 miles from home solo on a trip to a facility I’ve never been to in a country just as foreign. The reputation of a leader who “gets shit done” both honestly and fairly. The ability to negotiate a salary I never thought I’d see in my life, enough to support my family on one income and give my son the same gift I had as a child – a parent at home during those critical early years. To put it simply, when I have no one to account for but myself, I can kick some serious ass.

But then my wife sends me a photo of my smiling baby boy rocking out on my drum set at home, and the contrast jolts me back to reality. The important things are now incredibly clear. I am alone in this hotel room. The trip doesn’t matter. Me making money for some company that cares as much about me as they do about solving world hunger doesn’t matter. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Is it the most important? To some, but not to me. I do this to support my family and give us the privileged freedom of not having to worry about financial security (this itself is a rarity in these times, I am soberingly aware). Suddenly, all I want more than anything in the world is to fly home and hug my wife and son.

Sometimes it takes being away to truly understand what matters. Being a father, having a family, being connected to a community, these are things that I want more. Feel-good story of the year, right? Not exactly. I have not been the best father to my son and I’ve been a downright shitty husband to my wife. I’ve taken this for granted for years, all while driving my family, the ones I love most, to the brink of disintegration. What will it take for me to right the ship and actually show the love I profess to have? Actions will always speak louder than words, whether spoken or typed, although there is something strangely cathartic about the public admission of it all. Let’s hope I’m on to something and can finally atone. 10 more days.

Learning to Fly

The house is more silent than normal tonight. Most people would say that’s a good thing, but it just makes me sad. My father-in-law left to go back to Illinois today after spending the last 10 weeks with us. Back when I was still considering the job offer, he volunteered to travel out here with us and help with the move transition. An extremely generous gesture for sure; this decision was one of the reasons why I decided to take the risk on relocating my family. It’s one thing to move for a job, but it’s an entirely different thing to move across the country to a place where you don’t know anyone and your wife and 1-year-old son are completely isolated while you go to work. So needless to say his support was priceless.

And support he did provide. He endured 4 days of travel; over 2,100 road miles; 3 nights in a hotel with me, my wife, my son, 3 cats, and a dog; 28 nights in an extended stay hotel with us; the stress and strain of moving in a house and unpacking boxes; surviving the holidays; caring for his grandson while we adjusted (and also while we fought)…..all while being just as isolated from family as we were. He’s not just a father-in-law, he’s practically a saint.

And we all knew the arrangement was temporary. This isn’t his home, this is our home. We (or more specifically, I) chose to move 2,100 miles away from our entire family and friend base. So once we got settled and the roar of the holidays died down, we knew the training wheels would come off and we’d be on our own. But that doesn’t make it any less scary and any less sad. So now the real work begins. It’s time to band together as a family and put down new roots. It won’t be easy, but no one said it would be.

So thank you, Dad, for all your help getting us out here, getting us set up, and everything you’ve done. Travel safe, and we’ll see you in a few months.

From Sleep, Awake

As you may or may not know by now, I’ve moved from from Central IL to Northwestern Washington state. I’ve changed jobs, companies, and set my entire family on an adventure into the unknown, 2,100 mies away from friends, family, and everything we know. This wasn’t completely on a whim; the Pacific Northwest is the area of the country my wife and I decided we wanted to live permanently eventually; we just didn’t think it would happen this fast. But when the golden ticket arrives you can’t really say no. “Opportunity only knocks once”, as they say.

We’ve been here 10 days and we’re not settled yet. We’re staying in a hotel while we wait for the closing date on our new house. Me, my wife, my son, my father-in-law, 3 cats, a dog, and a partridge in a pear tree for that matter. We’re starting to go stir crazy, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re displaced and already feeling isolated it’s incredibly hard to find comfort, to start to put down roots and make a new place truly home. Add it all up and even when it goes smoothly, The question can creep in. Was this really the right thing to do? A routine errand provided the answer in the most unexpected way.

After work I decided to take my son and find the nearest “shared branch” bank that would allow me to transact using my account from back in IL. Even though it was only 5:30 in the evening Daylight Savings Time ensured that the sun had already been down for quite some time. A full moon helped guide us on our trek as we headed for Oak Harbor. A small road (WA Route 20) with only 1 lane in both directions took us the entire way, winding through the trees and a few small towns. Suddenly the view opened up to Deception Pass. Even though it was completely dark, the moonlight gave way to a breathtaking view. I pulled over to the scenic waypoint, turned off the car, took my son out of his seat, and walked to the viewing area.

We stood there, silently in awe, father and son, watching the full moon reflect over the eerily calm waters and pine trees of Deception Pass. Maybe it was the moonlight, maybe it was the slight chill in the air, maybe it was the stress release, or maybe it was that I was listening to the magically epic Z2 album from the Devin Townsend Project. Whatever it was, the significance of this moment hit me like an impact gun, nearly buckling my knees and practically moving me to tears. This is why we’re here. This is our purpose. The sense of adventure, of worldly exploration, of wonderment and deep humbling respect for Mother Nature.

My iPhone can't even come close to recapturing the moment. Yes, that is the moon.

My iPhone can’t even come close to recapturing the moment. Yes, that is the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That sense had always been a part of me, but years of spirit-crushing winters and a job that drained the life out of me had left me wondering if it was gone forever. Tonight the fire was reignited and it’s starting to burn brighter and brighter. This fire will provide the strength I need to carry my family through this transition, to dig deep, find a home, and instill those same senses in my son and all the children I will have. I was born and raised in the Midwest and will be forever proud of that. But tonight Mother Nature opened her welcoming arms and reassured me that yes, my family belongs here.

Welcome home.

Goodbye, Old Friend

While it’s definitely true that I get really excited over buying a new car, it’s definitely not like me to get emotional over the car I’m trading in. This past weekend proved much different. My car was getting up there in miles, had some decent wear and tear on it, and was proving to have not enough storage space for everything we needed to haul on longer trips with our son and dog in tow. So we decided to go car shopping. I’ll spare you the details of the experience as car shopping is about as much fun as watching paint dry, but needless to say I purchased a new vehicle. Cause to celebrate, right? Well, yes, but it was definitely tempered by having to say goodbye to my old car.

I bought this car (2008 Chevy Malibu) brand new. It was really the first car I got to choose to buy as opposed to having only one option for financial or circumstantial reasons. My plan was to drive it until it died, but obviously having a child changes the rules of the game quite a bit. Regardless, I drove the hell out of it – 128,000 miles in 6 years and 23 days. I’ve hauled everything from bikes to drums to pets to moving boxes, and it handled everything with nary a complaint. But those experiences aren’t enough to get my eyes to tear up. It’s the other, life-altering experiences:

March 8th, 2009: After walking into Petsmart with the sole purpose of buying cat food, we fell in love with the cutest dog ever and brought home our first dog since childhood – our pitbull/pointer mix Sandy.

September 19th, 2009: I drove my then fiancé to our wedding at the courthouse. After the ceremony I was almost given a parking ticket for an expired meter, but the police officer saw that I just got married and decided to give us a break. I then drove my new wife off to our reception.

November 14th, 2013: After over 24 hours of hard but productive labor at home, I loaded up the car and carefully navigated the 20-minute drive to the hospital where our first son would be born in the wee hours of the next morning.

November 17th, 2013: We brought our brand new, first born son back to his home.

 

As I took a final glimpse at my old car in the dealership parking lot, completely emptied of all my personal belongings, reflecting back on all those life changing events that it supported, my eyes welled up uncontrollably. Goodbye, my old friend. You’ve been nothing but the best.

 

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