Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All In

I wouldn't call myself a gambler, but I've been known to make a wager from time to time. I would say my betting style is fairly modest - I mainly play Blackjack, and I usually just move the chips around in a circle, all things considered, and count myself lucky if i got a few hours of good entertainment without losing a substantial amount of money. But there have been a few occasions when I've pushed the whole stack forward on a hunch, and I'd be lying to you if I said the outcome had anything to do with something other than just pure dumb luck on my part.


One of the things I love about music: the moment when you hear a song for the first time, and it is just the perfect song for the moment. Something about the lyrics, the cadence, the tone of the singer's voice that is just so, like you can see the glimmer of a half-smile on his face, or a wistful stare. And you get that feeling that every excellent songwriter must long to achieve, that sense that "this song must have been written about the one I love."


Take my wife, for instance. If you went back through my life, talked to the people that knew me in high school, my parents and sisters, drinking buddies from college and the Marine Corps - they would all have looked at Doc and said "No way, Shaw. Not in your wildest effing dreams." One young man in college, not knowing what he was talking about but hitting close to center mass just the same, remarked: "You know, if you got her to go out with you, that would be a victory for guys like us all over the world." That's the truth. 


One of the things I love about Pandora: the way you can plug in a song you lie and get some really great music, not too many repeats, even fewer commercials. Just really good tunes that take you to the place you want to go. Hooking Pandora up in my car was one of the best things I ever did, i was so sick of Top 40 radio and too busy to make new mix tapes - er, CDs.. And on top of it, every now and again you hear a new song, not just from another album of an artist you already love, but a whole new song. And rarely, it is the song that you had been needing to hear, the one that was actually written about the one you love and puts every inexpressible thing you've been feeling and thinking into words, and puts those words to music, and rocks it out over your car stereo while you hurtle down the highway, grinning from ear to ear.

Well it rained every day for a week / We had pots and pans and cans everywhere there was a leak
The sheetrock in the living room came down in one big sheet / on the couch, and the TV, and you and me

I tell you what we need to do / remember that above the clouds, the sky is always blue
If I was a betting man, I tell you what I'd do / I'd bet it all on me and you

We put every dime we had in that old car / but it's getting hard to count on 'cause it's getting hard to start
We're better off to walk these days if it ain't all that far / To the place we gotta be, you and me

I tell you what we need to do / remember that above the clouds, the sky is always blue
If I was a betting man, I tell you what I'd do / I'd bet it all on me and you


I haven't had much inclination to gamble recently, these last 5 years since I've been married. When you realize you just won a gazillion bucks by by throwing all your chips on the woman of your dreams, stacking quarters on some cheap felt with people you don't know just seems like a waste of time. I'd rather go home and count my winnings from the big game.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A letter to my son

Three years ago today, I was scheduled to be induced.  You weren't growing very well inside my belly and the doctor decided it was time you came on out.  But you decided to come on your own 4 hours before your scheduled arrival.  It was 2 in the morning when I started feeling the contractions. By 6am, I was certain you had fashioned a knife out of your umbilical cord and were trying to cut your way out of my belly button so off to the hospital we went. By 8:11am, you were here.  You looked like a skinny old man from the land of Whoville.  You didn't cry much at first; you just snuggled up next to me and blinked through the goo in your eyes trying to make out these odd faces that were so enamored with you we could hardly hold it in.

Of course, that calm didn't last long. Oh, you were the hardest baby. You had horrible gas pains and you never slept more than 2 hours at a time after sundown. You were incredibly hard to feed, no matter where the milk was coming from.  There is a clearly worn path in our carpet where your father walked laps with you on his shoulder just to get you quiet enough to keep the neighbors from calling Child Protective Services on us. And you were a projectile vomiter.  I kept burp clothes every 4 feet in our house and always held you facing away from nice objects because you were exceptionally good at sudden eruptions that could ruin dry-cleaned shirts and new sofas.   Fortunately, though, right around the time we thought we might have to return you, you started to get more comfortable in your skin and by your first birthday, it was quite clear you were going to be a delightful person.

Your first word was "Da."  For Dada.  But it worked well for the dog "DeanDa" and also for "yes" when you used it with a more Russian accent and quick head nod.  You started walking by 11 months. Firetrucks and bulldozers were your passion from the first time you saw them.  In fact, everything is your passion. You are the most enthusiastic person I have ever known.  I used to think it was just your age, but as I get to know your daycare friends, I see that you are truly unique in your ability to find the utmost joy in the smallest of things.  I pray you never lose that.  It is one of the things I love the most about you. 

 You are infectiously joyous. Your smile can melt the worst of my moods in seconds.  You are also incredibly tenderhearted.  Even at 18 months, when your sister was born, your compassion was far beyond your years.  Whenever she would cry, you would sit nervously by her side and cry too, as if her hurting was contagious.  You are incredibly affectionate and love to snuggle up next to me wherever I am, no matter what we're doing.  You are shy, too.  Most of the world has no idea how adorable you are because you usually spend most of your time around others with your head buried in my clothes somewhere.  You wear your heart on your sleeve and can find almost everything both hilarious and terrifying.  You are not a daredevil.  You are dumbfoundingly generous. You always share your cookie with your sister. You do not have the ability to intentionally hurt others.  It just isn't something you are capable of.  I pray you never lose that either.

It has been three incredible years since that morning in the hospital when we first met and every day I love you more than the day before it.  I never thought it possible to love someone as much as I love you. I am so proud of you, Jack, for who you are and what you have brought into our lives.  I am so lucky to be your mother and am having the best time watching you grow up.

Happy birthday, sweetheart. 
I love you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


There are some songs that I hear, and I just can't help but think of one particular person that I am lucky enough to spend the rest of my life with....


There's a song in my soul for the sun going down / When it dies at the end of the day 
With the sadness descending as soft as the sound / Of the light that was slipping away

The heavens above me seemed empty and gray / As dreams that won't ever come true 
Then the star-spangled glory of love fill the skies / And my heart with the wonder of you 

Pretty berries I carried to you / Pretty flowers still holding your hand 
Pretty reasons for dreams coming true / And for doing the best that you can 

I swear to be thankful the rest of my days / And worthy of whatever I do
For the chance I was given to live and believe / In the love and the wonder of you 

                                         -Wonder, Kris Kristofferson


Thank you, Doc - for being my sunrise and sunset.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

High Traffic

It seems like recently, we've been running at full capacity. Not in a bad way, mind you - I feel like the last 6 months have been some of the best yet. Jack and Caroline are marvelous, the boy-to-be is getting bigger, we are through winter and looking to spring. But with a new job for Matilda and the daily grind for Doc, and activities for the kids and holiday travel and all the other things that seem to be required to keep our heads above water, the carpet is starting to wear a little thin.

The other night, we were sitting on the couch after the kids went down, and ended up looking through all of our pictures from 2010 (which reminds me, I still need to make the album for 2011 - that used to be a New Year's Eve tradition, and now it is more like President's day). But what was amazing was to see how much we had been through. Graduation, pregnancy, melanoma, the bar exam, a version, starting two new jobs, getting to know Caroline - lots of stuff going on. But an incredible amount of fun-looking memories in there as well, and in the end a lingering realization of just how lucky we are.

What struck me the next day, driving to work, was how important that short periof of reflection was. It cast the next few days - the ups, the downs, chronos and kairos - all in a new light. Much like hiking in the Appalachians, you just don't have any real appreciation for where you are or how far you have come. And you climb and climb, dodging roots and hopping boulders and trying to see the skyline break through the trees ahead. And then you get to one of those breaks in the dense green, and instead of an amazing vista out in front of you, you look back. Through the gap, out over the incredible valley below, and the long wrinkled ascent. You have a new respect, a new thankfulness for all those vista-less steps, and a new tolerance for the closed-in   trail.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Following Public Service Announcement..

..was brought to you by the Sticker Producers Association of Milwaukee (SPAM):