Author Archives: Temple - Page 2

Eldest is a Patriots Fan

Mwanwhile the rest of the fam is Seahawks. Tonight’s game is a matchup, with Patriots a strong favorite. Let’s see. 

Creating the Best Crispy Stir Fry

A few weeks ago I made a stir fry with a bag of frozen stir fry veggies we’d had probably two years. 

It was bitten by ice, and was a massive pile of ice and sad looking beans, carrots, baby corn etc. 

I made it salvageable with sauce but it was a low point if stir fry creations. 

Tonight was one of the highlights.

These are the elements of a quality stir fry.

I fried up tofu separate for a delicious nice crisp, light-crunch texture.

Also included:

Slices of red bell pepper

Onion, previously diced – about 3/4 of a cup


Baby squash

Sliced bamboo

Bok Choy


Snap peas

I put smaller amounts of things in the mix than I usually might. And I   cooked things separately, like the tofu in sesame oil and the zucchini too.

Downloaded iOS 10

I remember when the Mac OS X was a big thing. So far the changes just seem unnecessary and the Home Automation app has gone into a folder of disuse. 

Let’s see what else I find. 

Whew Seahawks win

12-10 win after missed Extra Point following a go-ahead finesse pass with 30 seconds left in the game.

Mouthy 3-year-old

Jasper, 3, just told me to “shutyour  frickin’ mouth idiot.” This was after I told Eddie he had a coupleminutes left on playing a computer game. Except for the last word this is hilarious.

I said he would either be King of Trash Talking or beat up a lot. Idiot is a word we definitely don’t encourage. 




One more “I” word I can’t remember right now. 

Those are Jasper’s great I words. He also regularly uses “legendary” which is indeed legendary.

Love this kid. :)

Karma Waters

If I sailed in karma waters everyone I know would drown in the tsunami. 

Ying. Yang.

Karma waters. Calmer waters. 

Whohooh. Daddy.

I’m in the bathroom and Jack comes up to the door and says, “Whoohoooh. Daddy, guess what the Great White Shark knocked the mosquito out of first place.” 

Who can guess what they’re watching?

UPDATE: I forgot to note that sharks are Jack’s favorite thing in the whole world so it was a super big deal. 

I had a dream

The first time Jasper said, I had a dream was today, September 3. He said, after waking up from his nap:

“I had a dream that we were in an airplane. And you flew and Jackie flew and Eddie and I flew and mommy too. I don’t know where we were going.”

Superhero Jack

Sung in the car by me:

Jackie boy is a superhero
And your brother too
Jackie boy is a superhero
And if he can he’ll save you. 

Whew – Blog no longer broken

Now let’s see what I’m gonna do with it.






Preparing, Delivering for a Toastmasters Speech

Public speaking is a big deal for me. Standing up in front of a crowd. Not sure why, but I’ve always put it down to not having the ability to keep all that in my head at once. Except when reminded, I know that’s not true.

I was reminded, as part of the feedback after I made my 7-minute speech – 7m10s to be exact, though I meant to be exact at between 5 to 7 minutes. I was born at 7:10 am.

While up there, in the middle of the speech, my hands and my voice started trembling. I have no idea why as it was going decently by that time.

Here’s what I did wrong:
1 – I wrote the speech on the day I delivered it, though I had planned to get to it the night before.
2 – I did practice once within the hour. It came in at 9 minutes and a few flourishes that looked decent on paper rang copper when speaking.
3 – I didn’t practice speaking more.
4 – I didn’t work with a buddy, which was an option.

Here’s what I did right:
1 – I didn’t obsess days over days. Not doing it the night before probably helped because I would have stayed up forever.
2 – I wrote the speech down and largely read from it. This isn’t necessarily a good thing because it’s not what you’re supposed to do, but it’s what I needed to do to “survive” this one speech.
3 – I noticed myself naturally including hand gestures and character and inflexion in my voice, all while maintaining a decent amount of contact.
4 – I kept to theme which was announced a week earlier.
5 – Minutes before I went into the room, I wrote: “It’s likely not going to be as good as I want it to be … but it also clearly wasn’t nearly as bad.”

There are other things I did right that I didn’t notice at the time. I only noticed two “ums” in my speech but the “ah counter” noted 10, but lumped them in with other verbal crutches.

The support and feedback after the speech was amazing and really helped. It was meant to be an organized speech, with a beginning, and a conclusion, with supporting reason and examples in the middle. I spoke too low, at times, but most people didn’t mention it. I was told there was no real “nail it” conclusion that brought it all together. The person who said that was my specific speech evaluator. I told him later that, that point might have been due to the fact that I had to end early and didn’t get to read my actual conclusion.

The reminder to practice was to go over it again and again in the car, more than once, practice over and over and get it done and get a feel for what you’re saying. I could feel that working because I know that it worked before. Once on a treadmill, I started telling myself a story and I would recite back the sentences. I think it ended up being about 1,000 words. Memorized enough where I could write it down afterwards.

I meant to record it but after I got up I forgot. Here’s the speech. Parts highlighted were not actually spoken. After the fold. (Below are written comments I was handed afterward, plus more about the evaluation which was good to see.)

Spoken intro to my speech:

“Temple joined Toastmaster’s because he was asked to. Volun-told. Attending these meetings is like bitter medicine – you know it’ll do you some good but you don’t want to take it. It has actually done some good, however. Many people struggle to talk in public and here, just as many people have a solid support system of fellow Vertical Toasters to fall back on.

His speech is titled, “Stop Worrying or How I Invented My Own Bliss.”


I may not have been the only one to think of this but the theme for today could also be used as my personal mantra for my speech today – Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t sweat … the small stuff.

It’s not as pithy as my usual mantra – Keep going. Nor does it lend itself to only one clear meaning.

Traditionally, it’s another way of saying, don’t worry, be happy. Don’t let your thoughts overcome action. Get past the idea that nothing’s easy.

Truly though, the way it depends on how you define Stuff, Small or Sweat. Here’s my attempt.

“Ask yourself the question, will this matter a year from now.”

In thinking about this part, I asked myself, does “sweat” mean “don’t worry” or “don’t pay attention.” I never really came to a conclusion. The best I came up with is, it’s about context and it can be both.

People get writer’s block. For real. It’s legendary. It ruins careers. It ruins lives. But when people examine it, it’s not usually about the act of writing it’s “all that other stuff” with “inaction” being the end result.

Think about this. If you get panicked or worry endlessly about the small things, what the hell are you going to do when the shit really hits the fan and you absolutely cannot be stuck – you have to act. I’m not talking about emergencies, where instinct kicks in. I’m talking about uncluttering your mind to find the right answer.

Don’t …. sweat the small stuff.

Action means pushing past everything you think might get in the way; you shouldn’t have to work or sweat harder to accomplish something – even if what you’re trying to accomplish is “just” trying to be happy. Unclutter your mind by figuring out what truly is important and jettison as much as you can. Only then can you achieve bigger things.

Now, if you still find yourself sweating, those MISSION cooling towels really come in handy. I will buy you one, just tell me what’s going on. Better, yet, people, not just friends, can be your towels to wipe away the sweat, the hard work by sharing the burden, mental or physical.

“Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there’s something good about feeling both.”

There’s this idea that people should think it’s all small. There’s a grand scheme and anything we do, truly, really should be thought of as small. That’s good and it sounds appealing – but some people aren’t wired that way. People feel both, often in an instant.

EXAMPLES: I read a blog article last week that makes sense: “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink.” Don’t worry, I just found it somehow, my wife didn’t send it to me. It talked about the underlying reasons people have relationship difficulties. It’s not leaving the dish by the sink. It’s not whatever bad habit is under discussion. On the surface, it all seems like small stuff, and it’s the kind of thing men and women complain to their friends about all the time. But if all you’re doing is complaining to your friends, it’s probably a small thing.

Here’s another, slightly counter-intuitive example: I drove to my first ever job interview after college. I drove about 5 hours to Eastern Washington where I walked into the tiny offices of the Grand Coulee Star newspaper. Especially tiny considering the huge hydroelectric dam you could see from the windows. Big and small.

I only remember one question from that interview. It was, “If someone called you up and said the mayor was a child molester, how would you report it?”

My first thought was, “Is the mayor a child molester?” I told the newspaper publisher Scott Hunter that I would proceed cautiously, that claims like that can instantly ruin a person’s life that they’ll never get back. But if it was true, I would absolutely report it even as I was sick doing so.”

It was one question among a couple of dozen at least. I got the job. I was a reporter there across several communities, Grand Coulee, Elmer City, Electric City, the Town of Coulee Dam and the Colville Indian Reservation, which itself was home to 11 Indian nations.

They were all small towns. Even the reservation had that feel, even though it’s land mass was large and it’s the 16th biggest reservation in the United States. Named after a white settler.

It was the perfect place to learn the craft of reporting and balancing people’s agendas. It’s places like this where people come to understood one person’s small is another person’s end of the world. And I started to understand the thinking and the lives behind both points of view. Ultimately in reporting, there’s not a lot that everyone can agree is “small.” It’s a tough, amazing existence.

Shortly before I left to work in Gig Harbor, a call came to the paper – someone was saying a teacher was molesting their child. It turned out to be true and there was more than one.

Nothing about this situation or reporting this situation can be considered small. But I was prepared; there had been a lot of tough things happening. I pushed the clutter away, Scott allowed me to push other stuff away so I could focus on this big deal.

A few months after I left, a high school volleyball player I had interviewed often, who I liked, who seemed to be liked, killed her child.

About a year later, in Gig Harbor, I talked to a woman whose five-year-old was dying of cancer. I sat in their home at Christmas. I sat in their home on the day he died. They, the family, were so calm, it frightened me and to this day, I don’t understand what was happening with them. They made his life as amazing as they could and he was most definitely spoiled. But really, of course, he wasn’t.

Clearly that puts things in perspective. But, it’s complex because in both these situations, the people involved – and me, too – had to sweat certain small stuff – details of what happened, exact dosages. But as well, a lot of things that might have worried people every day quickly fell away to be unimportant stuff.

Here’s a final example, head lice. One tiny bug changed our plans last night. We washed everyone’s hair last night in a wild storm of lather, much squirming and tsunamis of water all over the floor. We had to make everyone stand there for 10 minutes and then combed out all the little bug corpses. So, about now you’re probably glad I worried about that small stuff.

“Humans are more complicated than it said in the pamphlet,” “Oh” the alien in Home.

There’s a whole out of stuff out there. People can get caught up worrying about the big stuff – elections, the environment. They worry about work, they worry about kids, or events or keeping up appearances or that glass by the kitchen sink or the type of car they have or not being funny or being too serious or. In the immortal words of Willy Wonka, etc., etc.

Hell, people can drown in worry – or in sweat to provide an even grosser visual. As comedian Greg Proops says on his podcast, “this is where the boring, preachy part comes in.”

So much of this “stuff” just really is not thinking clearly, and using distractions as excuses. Certainly not all of it. People do need clear goals, in life, not just at work, and they need to prioritize them. In reality, so much of sweating about the small stuff, is doing things you don’t actually want to do.

Of course, that’s going to happen – you have to adult every day – but a good way to deal with this is to have less stuff. Do fewer things you do not want to do, even though that’s hard because expectations are often, “stuff.”

First, ask yourself whether these are reasonable expectations. Then ask if your time could be better spent doing something with as much value. In other words, not better spent laying on the couch, but something of equal value.

In putting together this speech I found myself coming up with more “stuff” that worked against the idea of “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Atoms and DNA, they’re small and they’re important, right? The “small stuff” is what makes things interesting, right?

You have to think big so you don’t get stuck in the mire of small. Neil Armstrong is one of the few uniquely qualified to put things in perspective. Others can think beyond their experience but Armstrong can say this:

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, vey small.”

Ultimately what it can be useful to understand is blanket statements never …. ….. ….. …. ….. rarely work. Worry less, yes. Don’t be debilitated and paralyzed by all the stuff. But always be aware of context and whether something is no big deal, kind of a big deal or a life changing event. A lot of people put their concerns and worries into the category of life changing events. But they’re not. Thank you.

Instead find it within yourself to work on things people are meant to remember and don’t worry so much about things that people are not going to remember a year from now … maybe not even by the end of the day.

The funny thing about mantras is a lot of people only think to say them in difficult times. A true mantra should translate into how you live, not just what you say. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The true secret is to develop positive statements and apply them to yourself. In that way they become more than words, they become the uncluttered action that eventually gives you more confidence to think big, not small.


Some written comments from listeners:

“You had a great speech, it was well put together and had a lot of personal example I was enthralled.”

“Love the idea of having speech linked to them of the day. Braking [sic] the speech in 3 defined sections. Great use of stories. Sweat. Small. Stuff.”

“Love that your speech was on theme and included personal stories and experiences to explain the definition of ‘don’t sweat the small stuff.’ I would recommend trying to project your voice a bit more as I had trouble understanding parts of your speech.”

“Fantastic job of incorporating ‘small’ throughout the speech. Try not to use notes so much.”

“Loved your breakdown of Sweat, Small, and Stuff. Was moved by your personal stories. You speak softyl and trial off but your stories made me want to lean in to hear it.”


The Experience of Listening to the SERIAL Podcast

SERIAL, the podcast is quite addictive. I came to it late in January 2016.

I’m trying to avoid, “The Making of a Murderer” because, well I would feel manipulated and that’s an investment of time where I can’t do much else but watch. By reading around, I also largely agree that the police screwed up a lot and likely enhanced the evidence. Beyond that, not idea but I can’t quite get into it, yet.

But Serial – I can listen while cleaning, while washing the dishes and doing other things. So, I plugged into Season 2, I think on Jan. 19 after the first four episodes were out: 01 – DUSTWUN; 02 – The Golden Chicken; 03 – Escaping; 04 – The Captors. I quickly buzzed through those 204 minutes / 3.3 hours and I really wanted to check in on the next installment. This is how old radio worked; oh wait, this is how current TV works, still. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing, it just takes a lot to get used to.

As evidence, of the point ending the last paragraph, I point to the X Files, the Resurrection or whatever it’s called. We watched the first, Carrie and I since it was after a football game – score 12 for marketing and scheduling. We then didn’t watch the one the next day and didn’t watch the next one. Even though I REALLY wanted to; I did remember the second episode but was too busy and completely forgot the third one on February 1.

Listening to Season Two
I paid attention to Soldier Bowe Bergdahl only a little last year when he was part of a prisoner trade with the Taliban. That didn’t seem like a great idea for a soldier who might have gone AWOL – and President Obama got a raft of shit for it. Usually my instinct when that happens is to push the raft away so it floats away. Beyond that I had no recollection or curiosity about the details.
Here’s part of the intro on the website page:

“In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home.

President Obama announced Bergdahl’s return in the Rose Garden, with the soldier’s parents at his side. Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, planned a big celebration to welcome him back. But then, within days—within hours of his rescue, in fact—public reaction to his return flipped. People started saying Bergdahl shouldn’t be celebrated. Some of the soldiers from his unit called him a deserter, a traitor. They said he had deliberately walked off their small outpost in eastern Afghanistan and into hostile territory.

Hailey canceled its celebration. The army launched an investigation….”

Sarah Koenig is narrating the series – both of them. And she’s doing a lot (most) of the digging into the details and what happened. The reporting. She quickly gives the impression of wanting to believe Bergdahl and, in the first season, Adnan Syed. That’s perhaps because I know these stretch out to many episodes; however I haven’t hit the end of either series, yet.

But Koenig asks good question and she has doubts, which she airs, often. There’s a true narrative and true story being displayed for the listeners to think on to; it’s not all handed to us, the listeners with conclusions and resolution.

I listened to Season 2, Episode 05 and now it’s going to be every two weeks because they are being inundated with a lot more information and details and context. I really want to find other programs like this. RadioLab is similar but a little all over the place; there is not one overall story arc.

Right now I’m listening to Season1, Episode 08 of Serial, titled “The Deal with Jay.” Jay has actually been a suspicion for me since the first episode and it really sounds like he’s a storyteller himself who was jealous of Adnan’s close friendship with his girlfriend; Jay sounds like he saw an opportunity and calculated this, pushing people’s doubts in the right direction. This is the story of a murder out of a high school in Baltimore. A girl was murdered. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, haw been convicted. He’s been in prison over 10 years already.

I didn’t think I’d be as interested as this story started; it’s more routine and covers smaller issues than a soldier leaving a post in Afghanistan and being a POW for 5 years. But this 1st season involves a lot of regular people trying to figure out this tragedy among them.

Until I just went to the Serial Podcast website I didn’t know proper spellings of people’s names or seen any visuals – such as a picture of Adnan.

“Rather than trying to get to the truth, you’re trying to build your case” it’s said at one point in Season 1. I think that’s the crux of so much of what goes on in the world. That’s inconsistent and hurts my confirmation bias.

The next episode comes out in two days, Thursday Feb. 4. Life is a continuum.

GMOs Are Bad. That’s Good?

People think of GMOs as either:

1) Nothing to worry about, it’s science-based.
2) Something people should have a choice whether to consume
3) A product of untrustworthy companies and their marketing techniques.

There’s the tricky tightrope of discussing Genetic Engineering and GMOs. The terms are somewhat fluid.

The two latest pro and con articles that try a reasonable approach are:

Slate’s William Saletan writing, “Unhealthy Fixation

A writer at Huffington Post counter-replies, “How to Cover Up the Pesticide Industry’s GMO Scheme and New 2,4 D ‘Agent Orange’ Crops

Other than Slatetan winning the comprehensible headline award, take a look at those two articles, read a decent amount of the comments, check a few more links and you’ll have the debate encapsulated.

I’m a mix of 2) and 3) … I find it hard to want to give companies the chance to keep on lying. Though I appreciate that people think others are too afraid of what GMOs might do, it is ALWAYS a good idea to keep an air of healthy skepticism. Now when that broadens out to public policy or action, then people get further divided.



2015-2016 Fantasy Football Team version 3.0 – Week 2

I have just put waiver claims in so this may change but I moved a couple of players around and this is my current Week 2 roster:

Week 2, Changed Sept. 15 version 3.0

Notable, I moved C.J. Spiller into the starting rotation. He was injured last week. I also reluctantly moved Tyler Lockett out of the starting line-up even though he had a good week one in Seattle’s loss (checking, yup, it still happened that way). I put San Diego’s Stevie Johnson in his place who scored 20 but was on my bench last week

UPDATE 9/16 a.m. – STARTINg (After Waiver claims Approved overnight)

QB – Sam Bradford (PHI)
RB – C.J. Spiller (NO)
TE – Jimmy Graham (SEA)
RB – Matt Forte (CHI)
WR – Stevie Johnson (SD)

K – Steven Hauschka (SEA)
DEF – Seattle

BN / WR – Brandon Coleman (NO)
BN / QB – Andy Dalton (CIN)
BN / WR – Tyler Lockett (SEA)
ADDED v w BN / WR – Donte Moncrief (IND)
ADDED v w BN / RB – Terrance West (RB)



BN / WR – Torrey Smith (SF)
BN / WR – Allen Robinson (JAX)


QB – Sam Bradford (PHI)
RB – C.J. Spiller (NO)
TE – Jimmy Graham (SEA)
RB – Matt Forte (CHI)
WR – Stevie Johnson (SD)

K – Steven Hauschka (SEA)
DEF – Seattle

ADDED f a / BN / WR – Brandon Coleman
BN / QB – Andy Dalton (CIN)
BN / WR – Allen Robinson (JAX)
BN / WR – Torrey Smith (SF)
B2 / WR – Tyler Lockett (SEA)


2015-2016 Fantasy Football Team

My work has a Yahoo Fantasy Football League. We drafted on Sept. 2 and I auto Drafted, with some do not draft and preferences indicated. My draft got B-. How does an autodraft get graded B-?


QB – Sam Bradford (PHI)
BN/QB – Andy Dalton (CIN)
WR – Allen Robinson (JAX)
BN/WR – Torrey Smith (SF)
BN/WR – Stevie Johnson (SD)
RB – Matt Forte (CHI)
TE – Jimmy Graham (SEA)
RB – C.J. Spiller (out / injured when drafted
BN/RB – Jonas Gray (NE)

K – Steven Hauschka (SEA)
BN/K – Nick Folk (NYJ)

DEF – Seattle


Changed for Season Day 1, Sept. 10

(Even though I have no Patriots or Steelers players)



QB – Sam Bradford (PHI)
WR – Allen Robinson (JAX)
TE – Jimmy Graham (SEA)
RB – Matt Forte (CHI)
ADDED / WR – Tyler Lockett (SEA) – added player

K – Steven Hauschka (SEA)
DEF – Seattle

ADDED / BN / WR – Brandon Coleman – added player
BN / QB – Andy Dalton (CIN)
BN/RB – C.J. Spiller (NO) – put on bench
BN / WR – Torrey Smith (SF)
BN / WR – Stevie Johnson (SD)

DROPPED / RB – Jonas Gray (MIA) – has been put on practice squad…
DROPPED / K – Nick Folk (NYJ)





Scott Walker and Harley Davidson HQ in Wisconsin

Scott Walker is not doing well in Republican presidential polls. That surprises me as he actually governs seriously – if nastily and without a soul. This Republican primary race seems mostly to be about who can speak the loudest and foulest rather than actual ideas.

Same as it ever was….

Democrats. Blowhards. Blow. Hard. … too in the primary but actual functioning ideas seem to take center stage. Practical ideas that seek to improve the country. 88% of them are over-promising pandering but at least it sounds like they care about, oh, citizens.

Walker, current Wisconsin governor become a GOP rockstar by fighting unions. not only fighting but closing them down, – BUSTIN’ ‘EM!!!! – and making them very ineffective in the state.

The 5-second elevator summary is that, labeling it as a cost-savings measure, Walker was able to pass rules eliminating collective bargaining for work conditions and benefits and also strip the union’s right for mandatory union fees for members. As a red meat bonus to GOPers, Walker and GOP assembly members did so over strenuous Democrat objections that included Democratic state senators leaving the state.

When the measure passed the Assembly (not the Senate chamber) it happened quickly. As the conservative site, The Blaze put it:

Debate had gone on for 60 hours and 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak when the vote started around 1 a.m. Friday. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, opened the roll and closed it within seconds.

Democrats looked around, bewildered. Only 13 of the 38 Democratic members managed to vote in time.

It’s not just the state that’s cold, right?

So I’ve had this story about Walker and Harley-Davidson saved for awhile. Walker thinks Harley’s are a big deal; he owns one, he rides one and after cheese, it’s the state’s most famous export.

But as this Reuter’s article, “Harley and awkward ride for ‘union-busting’ Republican Walker” points out, Harley-Davidsons are proudly, union-made.


Walker, it turns out, is boring and can’t compete in the GOP circus. It seems Scott Walker can’t be president – he would never be for a more perfect union.

While My Dad Gently Weeps

[and mom, too]

So that was attempt two.

Jack, 6, has now ended his guitar lessons for the second time. Here’s some of the story why.

“You’re boring.”
“You don’t teach me anything.”
“I hate the guitar.”
“ I like Mr. Tracy, I don’t like you.”
“Chords are way easier than tabs.”
“It’s too hard.”
“I dooooooooon’t liiiiiiiike Smoke On the Waaaaaater.”

Many angry moments, 99.99% of them coming from 6-year-old Jack. He loves his classes with his teacher Tracy, a guy with a Mohawk who has a surfer dude vibe and is, in fact a really nice guy. But no matter how sweetly or calmly or reasonably we talked to him, he would refuse to practice. (“Tracy wants you to practice.” “He wants to teach someone who’s trying.”)

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this but the more you try to reason with your kid the more upset you become because, goddamnit, who can’t see reason? That’s logical, right? Yup. Correct, and it should be no surprise that kids are not always the most logical of animals. Still, it should work and it’s good to try, right? Sure.

When we said the lessons had to end unless he could practice (because we couldn’t just stand there trying to get him to do his lesson all evening) he got angry, as well.

Ultimately he was being verbally abusive to us. So much so, I went to a couple of lessons because I had no frame of reference to help him with his lessons, and Carrie was taking the brunt of it all. So now instead of him just calling her names, I got called names, too.

He’s really good at insults. Advanced. It was a power battle of wills just for a 10-minute lesson, and we were being made miserable having to deal with it. And, of course, the whole point is for him to have fun and enjoy. And he wasn’t.

His last practice was Sunday when he actually did a double lesson to make up for refusing to do one Saturday.

Monday we talked to his music teacher asking if it made sense for us to stop lessons as he wouldn’t practice. Tracy said he’d talk to him about it. Tuesday we had his actual lesson and Tracy weaved in the importance of practice more than usual, and even taught him a new song, Happy Birthday because Jack said he wanted to play it on my birthday, next week. Sadly, that’s pretty unlikely to happen right now though a Jack-guitar, Eddie-flute duet was something I was looking forward to.

At the end of Jack’s lesson, his teacher showed him a practice schedule and went through it, 1) Name the strings 2) Go through chords at least 2 times, both up and down 3) Play Smoke On the Water 4) Misc., anything he wanted.

Wednesday, he refused to do his lesson.

With Eddie and Carrie at his flute lesson (he did great, apparently) I was home by myself for awhile cooking dinner and trying to stop Jasper, 2yo, getting into everything. Jasper lost his mind and wouldn’t stop crying – very loudly – because he got into (What, really? Yeah, I know.) candy and I took it away.

I could not pull enough emotional strength from the reserve to sit down and talk with Jack at all about his lesson. I did say he would do his lesson in the morning, instead and, recognizing that I was at my emotional end, I said he could just play so I could just cook dinner (a dinner, which was delicious if a little too spicy for the kids; easily fixed next time.). Yeah, I folded a little but it was survival.

Thursday dawned with promise. I woke up early and, after he got dressed, Jack sat down fairly quickly with guitar in hand and with negligible complaint, he named the strings, and he got through the chords. He made his own checkmarks and seemed to be, pretty much, having fun. And then he wasn’t. He didn’t want to play Deep Purple’s opus. He hit some invisible wall. It was at this point he moaned, the line above, “I dooooooooon’t liiiiiiiike Smoke On the Waaaaaater.”

Tried that reasoning thing again, but guess what, ain’t no one gonna beg:

“Mr. Tracy wants you to play it because it has the building blocks to better songs.”
“Go ahead and play Happy Birthday instead then.”
“You have to start again. You haven’t played a note in 5 minutes.”

Through the brief conversation the day before, and as many times as I could repeat it Thursday morning we talked about us having to stop practice AND lessons. It was clear.

Because: Because he was being nasty mean to us and we weren’t having fun, either.
Because: Because he was not practicing
Because: Because we can’t do this every night
Because: Because you can’t just do parts of the practice
Because: Because we didn’t want to waste everyone’s time and money.
Because: Because it was taking time and energy away from other things – and brothers – we also needed to do of equal importance.
Because: Because sometimes the squeaky wheel doesn’t get the oil.

I’m blinking back tears a little as I write this because it seems like such a failure as a parent not to be able to get your kid to enjoy something as awesome as a guitar. Though we had two Steinway pianos at home, my parents never pushed learning musical instruments on me, at all. At all. And, for whatever reason I never asked, even though I love and loved music.

This background adds to the sense of failure because I know, now, that I regret not being able to play anything and I don’t want Jack to have that regret. He’s 6, it’s not the end of everything but as I watched him put his guitar back in its case for the final time, heard him mumble, “Now, I don’t have to practice” …. [almost lost it there]

… and didn’t make a big deal but just put it away and let him have breakfast, I felt extremely sad, that we’d done something we tell the kids is never good – we’d given up.

This one doesn’t have a happy ending … … … … … … … … … yet. I can tell myself we’re doing great even trying to get him to learn the guitar at such a young age. Someone said that at the Meet the Teacher night, Thursday evening. I can tell myself a lot of things, but the sting of failure has inflamed things to a point where none of it helps. A few more days are going to have to pass, before I can reason … with myself.

Still, “Chords are way easier than tabs.” … Jack didn’t know that a couple of months ago.

Watching the Last Unicorn today

Watched the Last Unicorn today. The 1982 animated version where LU is set up as very princessy and feminine. This characterization is not what I remember when reading the book when I was 8. I still have the book… somewhere. I think it would not have stayed with me as long as it had of that was the case. But Peter Beagle wrote this screenplay, too.

And a few times, when the unicorn seemed in the most trouble, Carrie and I looked over and Jasper was in full-blown sad mode with his bottom lip in full protuberance, his hands clasped and nervously working on each other and one tear rolling down his cheek from his left eye.