Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Of Mice and Lying Men

“This CANNOT be happening.”

My wife sat up in bed, blankets pulled up to her nose, alert, watching for movement. We had both been drifting off to sleep when we were awoken by the cat thundering around upstairs. I woke up just in time to see her chase something behind a bookcase.

“Oh…it IS happening. I promise you this: This is for real.”

Earlier that night, our cat had shown extreme interest in something behind a stack of boxes in my wife’s closet. I joked that it was a mouse. Stacy ran out of the closet. I looked around a bit but found nothing. But I am not the kind of husband who wastes an opportunity like that. I moved stuff around, made some noises, said, “Oh, Aha…I see.” I heard my wife nervously ask, “What?” But instead of answering, I bent over, put my hands near the ground, and pretended to chase something out of the closet, towards her.

“EEEEEEK!” And she was gone.

Some years ago, as I sat at the table eating cereal, Stacy discovered a mouse in the silverware drawer. Until that day, I didn’t know that some women do, in fact, jump up on chairs and scream when they see a mouse.


“What? Calm down. What happened?”

“Mouse. Mouse. There’s a…oh god! A mouse in the spoons!”

I looked down at my cereal bowl, at my spoon. Great. Well, is there protein in mouse shit? I hope so.

We feed our cat a packet of food twice a day and, in case she wants to graze, we keep a dish of dry food out at all times. Usually we need to fill her dry food once a week, but in the weeks leading up to the mouse discovery she had been going through it a lot quicker. It was now clear that, in addition to not keeping our house mouse-free, she was feeding them. “Help yourselves, boys. They’ll come with more if you empty that bowl. Here let me hold the door for you.”

Back in bed, I looked with fondness at our cat, perched like a hunter, the very picture of patience, doing her job, prepared to keep us safe, or at least mouse-free.

“Just kidding,” I reassured my wife, “False alarm. The cat’s just playing with a toy. Go back to bed.”

UPDATE: They Have (Primative) Feelings, Too.

There was another sighting today of the near-human males who run through these parts. Below is a picture. If you look closely, you can see the supra orbital ridge, smaller than an ape's but larger than a human's, which is common to their species.

We Are Not Heathens

I love this photo. Every time I see it, I will be reminded of the first time I pushed my son on a swing, and of the time I tried to teach my daughter to go potty outside, and of the first time I have ever ran across a park with a baby and pee-soaked panties and shorts in one hand, baby carrier in the other, next to a four year-old girl, naked from the waist down, except for sandals.

"Daddy, I have to pee."

"Okay, let's go."

The bathroom at this park is among my favorites. It is huge and always clean- as bathrooms go, this is a safe one in which to set down baby in his carrier and a pleasant enough place to stand around and wait for a kid to go potty.  We were going to be the only people in there; the park was empty but for us.



"Oh, nothing. How bad do you have to go? The bathroom is locked."

"I don't have to go."

This didn't surprise me. She always wants to go to the bathroom when we're in public. She is something of a bathroom critic. She loves to check them out and, if we are alone, direct me where to stand, what to do, what NOT to touch, and, if neccessary, what not to smell.  "Okay, daddy, put baby brother there. You stand here. Don't touch that daddy potty. It's dirty. I'm going in that room. You wait, okay daddy? It's stinky in here, close your nose."

"Are you sure? We could run home, go potty, and come right back to the park."

"I don't have to go."


Ten minutes later, the pee-pee shuffle is impossible to miss. We are not going to make it home. Okay, think fast dad. We're alone. There are good trees here for her to lean against. And, it doesn't matter anyway. She is going to pee. And soon.

"Okay, here's what we're going to do. We're going to go potty outside! Won't that be fun!"


"Yes. Well, sort of. Over by that tree."

"I love that tree, daddy!"

"I know you do sweetie. That's perfect."

"Now. Here's what you do. Pull down your shorts. And bend down. I'll hold your shoulders. Okay, bend your knees. No! More! Bend your knees more. MORE! Uh oh. Well it's okay, honey. We'll practice more, on our neighbors deck. Allright, well, let's go home and change. Pull up your shorts, honey."

"No, daddy. They're all wet.  Eew, my shoes are wet, too."

"Yeah, I see that."

I could probably get her to pull those shorts up. But it'll be a fight. Will someone show up before I win it? The park is empty now. I think we could make the truck.

"Fine. We're going to run to the truck. Put on your shoes, at least."

"NO. They're all wet."

"Honey, here, give me your panties and shorts. Thank you. Now, We Morgans are not heathens!"

Now, as we ran across the park, were my gym shorts, pockets weighed down with keys and wallet and phone and hands too full to pull them up, creeping towards the ground with every step? Boy that would be a memory.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Who Do I Think I Am?

Medication allows me to function with depression, but it will never make me thrive. That I will have to do on my own. I've always had the notion that I would be a writer someday. I have a recurring dream in which I am in New York, doing the morning show circuit, talking about something I've written. There are two parts of the dream that never change: I always do the Today show; and I always leave the NBC studios in a Town Car, which is stocked with spicy peanuts and freshly brewed iced tea.  But, there was a long stretch during which my depression was being managed, and I was not writing. I would write here and there, and I always thought about it but, like with exercise, if you don't do it most days, you are not "writing". Going for a walk once a month is not going to change your health (disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This may not be true. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine). I finally took the step I knew had to be the next one - I went to a psychologist.

The first psychologist I saw asked me, "What would you need to be doing to feel successful?"


"Okay. Next time I see you, I want for you to have written something."

Right. Fuck you.

This women is employed!  I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. There are probably people for whom she is a good match. I am not one of those people. It took awhile, but eventually I made an appointment with another psychologist. She fixed me up in a few short months. We talked some about writing, enough that she knew that's what I wanted to do, but mostly she worked on getting me to acknowledge my strengths.

One time, after I had seen her long enough that I trusted that she really knew me, and would know that I wasn't bragging, I said to her, "I don't know. I mean, I guess I think I'm too smart for any job I've ever had, including staying at home with my kids."

"Well, yeah. Of course you are. And it's not bragging to say that. I know you don't want to sound cocky, but there's nothing wrong with knowing what you are capable of. You're smart, have a sharp wit. You see things not everyone sees. That's just what you are, that's your strength, your skill; what you have to offer. And everyone who knows you, knows that. You were the last to find out."

I started this blog shortly after that, because I allowed myself to believe her. She created a monster. A monster that is focused on the Today show and the Town Car. A monster who is willing to be patient, but would love to not have to be.

A couple of days ago a fellow blogger who also dreams of bigger things told me about a blog written by a single dad. The blog is followed by thousands of people- read by who knows how many more. And it is only a few months old. A couple of the posts have gone viral (dear mother-in-law, that means they have spread across the Internet like a virus, but in a good way: they've become hugely popular overnight). It is a funny blog, those viral posts are good: one implores people to be "real", to be unashamed of their imperfections, because everyone has them; the other is about adoption, about things not to say to an adoptive parent, which he is. But it is not that good. I mean, it is not hundreds of times better than mine. So what gives? What can I learn from his blog?

First, he does a much better job of promoting his writing, and of asking others to do the same. Secondly, I have to admit that my writing may not lend itself to mass appeal. I've inferred many times that people should not be ashamed of who they are, that we should drop pretenses and deal with each other on a real, human level. But I've never simply said exactly that. Inference doesn't resonate, apparently.  And, of course, I, too, am an adoptive father. I could list all the things you could say that could offend an adoptive parent:  How much did your child cost?  Where is his "real" father/mother? blah, blah, blah. In his blog, the single dad argues that adoptive parents are not buying their kids. We are simply paying placement fees, agency fees, legal fees, etc in the same way that biological parents pay doctor and hospital bills. People seem to like those kinds of blogs. But I'm not going to write that adoption is just like birth. Adoption is different. A biological child is probably going to come anyway, with or without doctors and hospitals. Adoptive parents are paying fees and getting a baby. That's not bad; we're not in an alley somewhere giving a woman money and leaving with her baby. It's just the way it is. 

Because I have adopted I have stories that biological parents do not. I will never forget sitting with my wife on a bed in a hotel room in Guatemala, dressed up, waiting for the phone to ring.


"Mr. Morgan?", asked the woman.

"Yes,"  My breathing stopped.

"My name is Carla. I am downstairs with your baby."

"We'll be right down." I gulped.

I will always remember the look on my wife's face when I put the phone down. She stood up. I hugged her; one last hug before our lovely duet changed forever.

"Let's go get our daughter."

The hotel lobby was open all the way to the ceiling, 10 floors up. The hotel's elevators were glass so that one could see the lobby below from them. When we stepped in on the seventh floor, I fumbled to press the button for the lobby, and hustled to the back to join my wife, who was already looking down at the couches below. I stood next to her and saw our daughter immediately, could see she was wearing the yellow headband she had worn in several of the pictures we had been sent. It was a priceless moment, of course, but it was not free, and couldn't be.

The business about being offended when people say "real parent" is, to me, kind of silly. I can't imagine people mean harm when they say it; it is simply awkward wording from someone who doesn't know the term "biological parent." I will say that if I were the type to take offense, the thing that would bother me is being told that I am lucky I have good kids. Every parent is lucky when their child is born healthy. After that, it's hard work, plain and simple. Yes, I have mellow kids. Is anyone who knows me surprised by that? But, those things don't offend me. I, and more importantly my kids, know who their "real" parents are. What other people think is a reflection on them, not on us. When my daughter says, "Thank you for being my daddy, daddy," she is talking to me.

I will probably continue to use my writing to encourage people to lighten up. Instead of telling my readers how to avoid causing offense, I will encourage you to not take offense when people say regrettable things. Still, I may try to sprinkle in what I hope may be more popular posts. There is a Town Car waiting.

Sorry for the rant. But what are you going to do? Wait for a better post and then recommend my blog to your friends and family?  Fine, do it. See if I care.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Cretin and Me

I've been mixing it up online lately. It's my dirty little secret- I like to follow the political "debates" that one finds in the comments of news or opinion posts. One must sometimes look hard, but it is possible to find thoughtful, interesting debate in those comments. A recent argument I was following, but staying out of, featured a conservative and a liberal debating the Ground Zero Mosque/Lower Manhattan Community Center. Each was being reasonable, avoiding inflammatory remarks. It was refreshing. The debate lasted several days, as those do, with one side's argument being answered several hours later. Eventually, though, a clownish cretin jumped in, and the debate evaporated. The clown made things very personal; he was condescending. He used big, fancy words and sentences and, because he shouldn't have been, his sentences often were hard to decipher. One was impossible, and someone commented on that fact. Cretin did not like that. He responded that, "Due to the 'stellar' education provided by your Department of Indoctrination, some of you need translation. I'll provide that as a kindness." He called liberals, "nattering ninnies" and "liberal lemmings leaping off ledges to prove to the Annointed One that they are worthy." He was sick of "liberals sitting around singing 'Kumbaya' and asking, 'Can't we all get along?'" And he answered the question he had liberals asking, in case anyone wondered what his answer to that question would be, "No we cannot, and that is the fault of Muslims, not me."  Here is where I jumped in.

My post:
It is not only Liberals who believe in freedom for all, at least I don't think it is. It certainly hasn't always been only Liberals who believed in tolerance. Tell me if this sounds familiar:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Additionally, though, I have a notion on which you can gnaw and gnash your cuspids and molars. It would not please me to sit around and sing 'Kumbaya' with you. Please kindly take that last sentence, and consider it thusly: it is something which you should feel free to encoil, pack into your pipe and light on fire, inhaling the resulting smoke. Or, if you would find it more pleasing and palatable, you may take It and, with such force as is necessary to accomplish the task, place it through your sphincter and lodge It into your rectum. I will translate:  Here's something else for you to chew on. You're a douche bag. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or, if you'd rather, shove it up your ass.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just a Guy

When I sense that my four year-old is feeling left out, jealous that the baby is getting most of my attention, we have a conversation which I hope reminds her how important she is.

"What was I before I met you, honey?"

"You were just a guy."

"That's right. And what did you make me?"

"I made you a daddy, daddy."

"Yes you did, sweetie. Thank you."

Just a guy, indeed. And, of course, I still am, though it will probably be about 15 years before my daughter understands that. She made a new friend in preschool. She doesn't know her name, though. She says she has asked her a couple times, but the girl is too quiet, and so, for now, she is "The Yellow-Haired Girl."  My daughter wants to play with The Yellow-Haired Girl outside of school sometime. Yesterday she asked me, "Daddy, do you think the Yellow-Haired Girl would sleep in my bed?" And here entered the guy in daddy. I thought to myself:

 "I was about 10 years older than you the first time I wondered that. But I have spent a lot of time since wondering the same thing. And the truth is, I don't know. I've never been very good at getting women with any colored hair into my bed."

Here is what I said, which pleased me enough:

"I don't know, honey. I don't know what kind of girl she is. Usually, though, you would have a play date or something first, before you had a sleepover."

Friday, September 10, 2010

At Arm's Length

My baby is seven months old and already he is pushing me away.  When I hold him, facing me, he almost always leans back as far as he can and, with his arm extended and his elbow locked, keeps himself an arm's length away. Sometimes, though, when he is out there, on his own, something will startle him and he'll dive into my chest and burrow in. And I hope that is the way it always is with me and my kids- them pushing away, exploring, learning, living their own lives and me doing the same, but with my chest always available for a weary or worried head.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Caveat Emptor

Last year, I accompanied my wife and daughter into a Bath & Body Works.  I wasn't interested in picking out hand soap so I began to drift, eventually landing on the needle in that haystack - the Men's section.  I saw a peppermint body wash and thought of the time I had fallen into a chair at a nice salon and gotten my hairs cut. Included in the cost of that haircut was a shampoo, so a shampoo I got. The stylist used a mint-infused shampoo and, I'm not going to lie to you, the tingling felt nice. Back in the store, I looked at the body wash. On the back I found the following directions: Lather over skin, rinse well. For the more "sensitive" body parts we recommend a quick wash and rinse because of the invigorating sensation peppermint has on the skin. 

Now I ask you, has there ever been a more suggestive use of quotation marks? I can think of plenty of sensitive body parts, only a few that I would consider putting quotation marks around. And it is no accident that those quotation marks are there either. They know damn well that no man reading that in a store is going to put the wash back on the shelf. To be fair, I was leaning towards buying anyway.

At the Minnesota State Fair last weekend I checked out a booth that was more to my liking. It was a booth devoted to spices, peppers and hot sauces. The man working the booth directed me towards the hottest sauce he had, "Ghost peppers. Many, many times hotter than a habanero." This I believed when I saw the sauce, which came in a vial and included a dropper. The vial was enclosed in a child-proof medicine container. The directions were clear:  Use ONLY one drop at a time. This sauce is very HOT. Wash hands after handling and before touching any sensitive body parts. 

You'll notice that there were no quotation marks, so I forgot about "sensitive parts" and thought, "What fool would touch his eye or whatever after touching that sauce?"  I didn't buy the sauce- that's too much for me. I like some heat, but a vial and medicine dropper seemed a bit excessive. At home that night I cut up a fresh habanero for a salad. When I was finished chopping, I knew I needed to wash my hands. But I also needed to relieve myself. I don't like to waste time, so it seemed silly to wash before and after going to the bathroom. I walked into the bathroom, unzipped my fly, and got the Truth into position. And that's when I remembered the rest of the sensitive body parts.