Category Archives: Shepherd to the Wind

Things I think about, memories, comments about things I notice.

Magical Kingdom Loses to Call of Duty

This was the year the Zapcics Version 6.0 (Michael is the youngest of 6…all boys) were supposed to travel to the Magical Kingdom of Disney for our first family adventure to that particular mecca.  Me, at first I was ambivalent about going, as I find touristy throngs, long lines for short rides and constant noise and flashing lights excruciating, but I’ve been assured by many that the experience is truly exceptional and that I will LOVE it.  During research, it does seem to be pretty cool, and so I move from ambivalence to tentative excitement.

Michael’s got a con down in Orlando, March, and we figure it’s a great time to tack on a few extra days and finally plunge into Disney.  Plane rides, fireworks, cosplay — truly a perfect family getaway.

Then, just as we’ve made decisions about most things and are ready  to hit the BUY NOW button for our package deal…Mitch, my almost 11-year old comes through the door from school, fist crammed into his book bag.  Hand emerges, holding a piece of paper…an invitation to serve on the school Safety Patrol.

“Look Mom!”  He hands me the paper.  There’s a long list of requirements such as, always having your homework (written neatly –well, that would have been a deal-breaker for me, anyway), promoting tolerance and appropriate conflict resolution (his days promoting kindergarten cage-fighting are over), etc. all meant to instill and reinforce good citizenship, personal responsibility and a sense of duty to others.

Also on the list…..NO ABSENCES.  NO EXCUSES.

Now, I suppose massive head trauma and plague would be excused, but the point is, as he explained to me with a very, very, very serious face, speaking very, very, very clearly and slowly…the point is,

“We can’t go to Disney until after school is out.”

“But Mitch, we can ONLY take this trip when we’re planning it.  The summer’s no good — Dad’s and my work schedules won’t allow it.  If we don’t take it in March, we won’t be able to go for at least another year.”

“Mom. I’ve made up my mind.  This is the highest honor they give at the school, only a few people ever get picked and they chose ME.  For a REASON.  I HAVE to do this.  I’ll never get another chance.  Disney will be there next year.”

Now, there was no Safety Patrol where I went to school.  ‘Safety Patrol’ was the playground where you learned how to punch or take a punch.  And there was never any proof that it was me who ran the low-stakes card game at my grammar school, and at his age, any month where I was absent fewer than four days would have been a cause for a statue to be erected in the town square.

At first, I laughed.  I thought he was joking.  Then, I saw his face.  Eyes steeled for a real argument — though his face crumpled a bit.

“Honey, really?”

“Yes, Mom.  Really.  This is IMportant.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure Disney will be a lot of fun when we do go, but  it’s not IMportant.  We have fun doing everything together.  Safety Patrol is an honor.  It means everything you and Dad talk to me about helping people and being fair and working hard for what you want really works.  And I get privileges.  I get to walk the halls without a pass because they trust me.”

The older I get, the easier it is for me to see and believe the signs and wonders all around.  To understand what needs to be understood and let the rest go.  Sometimes, I get to witness how the words I speak (or not) and the actions I take (or not) influence and help shape the people and the world around me.  I struggle with balancing living in respect for ‘civilization’ and respect for working against it.

But I’ll tell you, it’s a heady thing to stand with your almost-11 year old son and listen to him argue for the opportunity to take on a commitment to serve, deferring a “trip of a lifetime” that many of his friends have already taken more than once.

M-I-C (C U Next Year, Maybe.)  K-E-Y (Y?  Because my son is just that Awesome.)  M O U S E .

thINK

I’ve wanted a tattoo for a long time.  Never gotten one for the same reason I haven’t done a lot of things I’ve really wanted to do…I had committment issues.

Good news for me, is, I seem to be getting over myself and committment.  Take, for instance, the new bathroom.  Michael and I moved into our home eight years ago, and the downstairs bathroom (about 6×6, not including the tub/shower) was in dismal shape, then.  When I get around to uploading some pictures, I’ll share them with you.  You’ll agree, I think. Dismal.

Now, we have money to make some home repairs this year, and so we go for the downstairs bathroom.  Frankly, the whole house could use a facelift, but since the floor is caving and buckling in the bathroom, we pick this first.  Needed to choose a new tub.  Tile or tub surround?  What material for the floor?  Colors?  Textures?  How about the walls?  What color paint?  Fixtures….several thousand to choose from at about a half-dozen retailers within 10 miles of my house….

Oh shit.  Oh shit Oh shit.  For one thing, SHIT!  I’m freaked out that there are over a half-dozen places to purchase this stuff within walking distance of my house.  Another thing…I’m might be living with this bathroom for as long as we live in the house — how am I going to pick the ‘right’ stuff?  What if I make a choice and then find something I like better?  And..

Oh, this is funny.  So I’m looking at the Home Depot website to get some ideas and I click on the “Before and After” section of their bathroom remodeling site.  Looking through the pics, I mean, criminey!  The bathrooms are beautifu! The paint, fixtures, the beautiful floors and the way they’re decorated…just stunning.

I call Michael over to take a look and get a sense of what he likes.  “Yeah, Babe,” he walks over and takes a look down at the screen.  “What do you think?” I ask him, mouse hovering over one particular bathroom I like.  “Ok,” he says, “Now show me the After pic.”

Um.  “Um, what?”

“The After pic, honey.  Click on the remodel.  Let’s see.”

Motherless son of a…

Yeah.  That’s right.  I was drooling over the BEFORE pics.  That will give you an idea, even without me getting up, sending myself the picture of the before and posting it here–oh dammit.  Let me just do that.

   

Ok.  So you see what I mean.  By the way, I think it’s wayyyy cool that when I take pics on my iPhone it automatically uploads them to my iPad.  Now, if I’d just had the good sense to purchase a macbook instead of a windows pc (and a slow-assed one at that…)

But PRAISE and WONDER!  Meditation and prayer work and though it has taken me a LOT of practice, I am now able to make decisions without agonizing over every little ‘maybe’ and ‘what if’.  Well, most of the time.

Instead of the months it would have taken me to make choices that I would have instantly regretted and felt gyped about for the life of the bathroom, I made choices in a matter of hours.  And, now that it’s finished, I am thrilled.

Oh, there are a few little things I could dither about, but instead of dithering, the quirks make me smile.  Life is beautiful, but it’s not perfect…much like my bathroom.  And…since I’m not focusing on how insecure I feel about making choices, but celebrating my ability to get things done and make headway — I’m delighted by all my choices and more interested in the next project and enjoying what’s accomplished and what is, than squandering energy wishing things were different — wishing I was different.

So, these are my ideas for ink.  There’s an absolutely stunning pic on the internet of a gal with this written on her side — “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”  I thINK that’s awesome and I want it.  I also want Michael’s name, with “As you wish.” written underneath.  Toying with getting the same artist to do that one as did his. (He has my name written on a scroll on his left bicep.)  Romantic, I thINK to have the same artist for both our name tattoos.

A black bear, which I am drawn to as a totem for a reason I can’t grasp, yet.  It would be sitting in a stream, looking very cool and content.

One of these days, I’ll make the time to get started on tattoos.  But now, I’m going to go wake up my husband, drink some more coffee, meditate and enjoy things as they are this moment.

     

That last pic? ! Before the renovation, that closet space didn’t have a door — just a cut out in the wall.  We were using a tension rod with a (sad) curtain.  The door’s pretty slick, right?

For Kymberlee

Ok, Kymberlee. I’m doing this so you won’t turn your back on me in mock disgust when I see you next.

You’re right. I’ve got to write.

So, since someone on Twitter got me talking about gambling and baby things, I’ll write about that. Here you go.

My mother was 27 when I was born. My father, 48. When her contractions were five minutes apart, he drove her to the hospital, helped her check in and waited to hear the results…both mother and baby ok? Boy or girl?

She’d managed to get into an OB’s practice who prided himself on the fact that his mothers were skinnier after giving birth than before they got pregnant. His secret? Amphetamines. Lots of of very strong amphetamines. And even though my mother flushed hers down the toilet in the 7th month, according to her, she did, indeed, weigh less after I was born than before she conceived me. I was her first child.

I don’t know how they paid for the hospital bill or the OB care. I guess they spent every last dime that they didn’t have because one of her fondest stories was of our homecoming from the hospital.

“And here I was, holding you in my arms on the drive home and thinking, ‘We don’t even have any diapers, or bottles or a crib, and then we got home and opened the door and the first thing we saw? A bassinet, a crib, diapers, blankets! Everything a new baby needed! There was even a Tiffany pearl and silver teething ring!'”

How? Well, right before they left for the hospital my father (not so successful at earning a living by gambling on horses) gave his friend Frank (much more successful at earning a living by gambling on horses) $50 from previous track winnings and, as the story goes, instructions to win enough money to buy baby things. And he did. Either that, or Frank went home and out of kindness for a child he owed nothing to and would only see a few times in his life, used his own gambling payday saving to buy baby things.

Though all the other baby things have long since found their way to the dump, I still have that teething ring. Right now, it’s tacked up to my vision board where I’ve got inspirational notes, lists of things that will come true for me and my family, various pictures and a doctored cover of Vanity Fair. I’ve pasted my face and Michael’s face over Prince William and Catherine Middleton. It’s the issue published right after they got married. (Also doctored…) The headline reads, “Michael & Julia’s New Life”.

I mean, hell. With all the moving and the running and hiding and the escaping I’ve done in my life, to still have that pearl and silver teething ring, bought, no less, with gambling winnings–either my father’s or Frank’s–why the hell shouldn’t I bet that good things…the best things…are waiting for me, just inside through the door.

So tonight, even though I’m bone tired and a feeling like my “Life is Great” train car is stuck a bit on the rails, I’m writing this. For Kymberlee, Frank and me.

Expert Opinion

Expert Opinion

“We’re not taking anything. I’m going to tell you what to do with these.”

Face to face with the owner of over 200 long-boxes of comics, Michael shifts his weight slightly and gestures to the boxes corralling them in the storage unit. Box tops lean against dozens of open boxes at sharp, odd angles. After driving nearly three hours to meet the owner and another hour and a half assessing the collection, Michael has made his decision.

“Please,” the owner offers, sincerely. “You’ve spent so much time and shared your expertise. Please take any four boxes you want. I can’t pay you for your time and trouble, but at least that will cover the cost of your gas and tolls.”

The owner’s face is stamped with resignation and disappointment, softened a bit by a naturally gentle mien. He’d asked the man standing opposite to come and assess this collection that was his grandfather’s. Thousands of books from all the way back to the Golden Age of comics—a potential gold mine, though most of them, apparently, nearly worthless. The grandson had hoped to sell the collection and pay for his children’s education, maybe pay down the house and build a cushion against calamity.

Michael had given him some good news. There were about 10 boxes worth about $100 each – filled with books that had escaped the worst of the damage from years of ordinary storage. Sunlight, moisture, smoke and temperature fluctuations had taken their toll on the collection, with the result that for the rarest and potentially most collectible books, re-sale values had plummeted from thousands of dollars to pennies– thanks to foxing, fading, creasing and puckering.

Grateful that Michael had accepted his offer to visit the storage unit and assess the collection, the grandson was offering the expert four of the 10 boxes for his trouble.

“Ok, thanks,” chimes in the third person standing in the unit. Michael brought along a colleague. Company for the drive and someone who he thought may have an interest in buying a piece of the collection should it prove valuable. Michael’s colleague quickly walks towards his choice of boxes, bends down and starts pulling them towards the entrance, towards Michael’s car.

“No. We’re not taking anything,” Michael says emphatically. Then, in a softer tone, his words directed squarely at the grandson, “I’m going to tell you what to do with these.”

Something in his tone arrests his colleague’s activity with the four boxes. Puzzled, the third man looks up at Michael and the grandson who are still facing each other.

“No, really. Please, take them…”

“Listen to me,” says Michael, directing his words again, to the grandson. He looks into the other man’s eyes, something he does not often do– normally preferring to interact with people from a shielded position.

“You told us when we started looking through the books…that these are all you have from your grandfather, right?” The grandson shakes his head yes. “And the reason why your grandfather collected comics for his entire life since he was a very young man—you told us. He collected all these, why?”

Not breaking their gaze, the other man answers.

“Because when he escaped to America–from the Nazi concentration camp, they were the only thing that could comfort him.” The grandson’s voice is soft and full of emotion. “Reading them brought him hope and confidence in the possibility of a better world. Heroes and heroines that fought and won against evil….Gave him courage to start a family and continue living.”

The two men stand, eyes still locked. After a few moments, the grandson looks away, casting his gaze over all the boxes stuffed inside the steely interior of the storage unit. Perhaps he looks around thinking, ‘This is the last shelter for the imperfect remains of a beloved dead man’s hopes and dreams.’

“Right.” Michael’s voice interrupts the silence. The grandson looks back at him and smiles weakly, sparking a vehemence that Michael, the comic book man, rarely displays.

“Right! Your grandfather fought the Nazi’s. He survived. He escaped and came to a foreign land where he found work, raised a family and rebuilt his life – a good life. You’re his grandson,” Michael continues, voice rising. “Your children are his great-grandchildren. You may not be able to sell this collection for a lot of money, but it’s worth more than money to you, and especially to your kids.”

Now Michael is gesturing around the guts of the metal box, voice ricocheting off the steel and through the boxes. The other two men are following his movements with their eyes, their bodies twisting in place, taking in the expanse of the collection.

“These books are what kept him going while he put his life back together. They gave him hope and strength. You’re here because of what these books gave him and so are your kids. What you need to do is take these boxes home – at least some of them, open them up and read these stories to them. Let them hold these books and tell them stories about their grandfather. How amazing he was and how these books and his family are part of him and his legacy. That’s your value in this collection, and there’s no one who can pay you what that’s worth.”

The grandson brings his gaze back to Michael.

“Thanks.”

“No problem,” replies Michael.

Michael and his colleague stand by while the grandson closes the door and puts the lock back on the unit—but not before they help him load several boxes of comics into his car to take home.

********

This is a true story. Michael came home that night, exhausted. After having something to drink and some time to check email, Facebook and twitter, he told me the story – rather, he allowed me to pull the story from him. He’s practically guileless and he’s got an eidetic memory so I always trust his account of everything to be exactly as he relates it – if he can be persuaded to tell. Michael is an exceptionally private person and typically only reveals things on a need-to-know basis.

My memory, especially for conversations—though extraordinary– is, however, not as flawless as his. So I have, undoubtedly, taken some license with dialogue and of course, since I wasn’t there, my representation of movement and interaction is an interpretation based on information shared and my knowledge of two of the three people in the story.

I share this with you because it’s one of the most compelling examples (that I know of) of two things: 1. How powerfully and wonderfully the genre of illustrated storytelling (yes, that’s comics and graphic novels, too) can influence the lives people, and 2. Why Michael Zapcic is the most important and beloved of my spiritual mentors. Many of us, I think, would have taken those four boxes.

Ok, there’s something else. I got to watch Michael for a couple of hours on the set of Comic Book Men this week. Afterwards, I thought about the show, the stories it told last season and all the stories it could tell this season. AMC’s tagline is, Story Matters Here, and I like that tag line. I think there are many, many stories, like the one above, that illustrate and illuminate the lives of people who love the genre, collect and share and yes, dream in panels and word balloons.

There’s more to Michael’s job than buying and selling and stocking shelves. More than banter, bags and boards. More than any show could capture no matter how many episodes. I’m looking forward, though, to watching how Comic Book Men tries.

Comic Book Men, season II, premiers Sunday, October 14th on AMC at 11:30 PM. It follows the season premiers of two other awesome shows, The Walking Dead (two hour premier) at 9 PM and The Talking Dead at 11PM. After 10/14, the lineup will be, TWD, 9 PM, TTD, 10 PM and CBM 10:30 PM.

No Blog for Old Women

Wow.  It’s been a while.  I can tell because almost every damn thing about the interface and navigation to get to this point is different. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting too old for this shit.  I’ve got about 200 saved emails from WordPress with great information about all the kick-ass improvements and flashy bits that I can add to upgrade my blog…about 199 of them I’ll never read and I’ll mistakenly delete the other one as I’m trying to open it.

In other news, I like the changes.  Much easier to write and edit.  Prettier, faster, stronger–this blog must feel like Jamie Sommers felt when she woke up from her ‘upgrade’.  Speaking of upgrade, my first-grader asked me to upgrade his toast with butter a few weeks ago.  At the time, I found it amusing and endearing, but just now, the whole idea of upgrading is just pissing me off.

Wonder if I need an upgrade.  Sounds like it, doesn’t it? 

I’m actually working on that.  Started a regular meditation practice.  Insisting on time for myself, taking better care of myself.  Feels good.  In fact, I was beginning to feel the yucky creep of martyrdom crap up my mind and soul.  Crappy creepy martyrdom receeding. 

Tonight, I didn’t yell once when getting the boys to bed.  I completely ignored their obnoxious behavior, and just went about my own business with a smile on my face.  It worked.  They were so nonplussed, they just snuggled into bed and fell to sleep like stones, quietly, without protest.

My new and improved strategies to claim peace within the chaos always work…once or twice.  But like learning how to use this damned blogging platform, the landscape will change under me, the context will upend and turn inside out and I will need to adapt and learn different strategies, or I will perish…at least my sanity will.

So here I am, again.  Happy, confounded, distracted, slightly belligerent.  Still can’t spell, but maybe I got lucky, this time.

Walk the Dog

I’m frustrating the dog.  She wants to go for a walk. I want to take a few moments before the day blasts out of the cannon to write.  If I wait around for her to get old enough to sit quietly and not bother me, I will also be older, and maybe not as bothersome. 

Hmmm.

Compromise.  I’ll give out the identity of the Question I caught (as no one has guessed), and then take that walk.

“What does a future look like for a community of people who mostly don’t make anything with their hands or minds that adds to the common good?”   

This Question troubles me.  Agitates me to feel uncomfortable since I, like so many others I know and admire, are engaged to some degree in the growing culture of the Personality-As-Product, or as I am coining this idea right now, PAP.  PAP Culture; the PAP Generation, PAPWorld, whatever.  

What will a world where hundreds of thousands of people make their living by being gurus, consultants, coaches, change agents and tranformation operatives feel like, offer us–how will it sustain and nurture us?  Is this a glorious turn of events that will catalyze our global society into a peaceful and compassionate place where we delight in helping others achieve the same things we want for ourselves? 

Is this the next step in the rotting out of the core of an effete society of self-indulgent cynics who use Abundance, Bliss, Peace and Generosity as the mule team that pulls the stones of the pyramids being built to hold the PAP’s stuff long after he/she dies–a bid for immortality that grinds to dust the bones out of thosands of others attracted to the glitter of PAP?

Real Power is recognizing when it’s time to stop writing and go walk the dog.