Friday, June 09, 2006


In Which We Tear A Page from the Datebook...

Yeesh, what a week. Here's a sample of what it's been like:

5:30 or so AM: Get up, hang out with Thomas, looking over his ever-increasing baseball card collection and going over the highlights of his last tournament game.

6:30: Creep downstairs with Her Lovely Self and make breakfast for Thomas while HLS goes walking with a neighbor. Send Blaze with her because she and neighbor want to walk on the trail, which has seen three incidents (including the perv from my last post) involving attacks against kids or women. Blaze is pretty even-tempered when I walk him, but he won't permit so much as a robin to flit within five feet of my wife when I'm not around.

7:00: Despite efforts to be quiet, we wake my Dad, who I helped position himself in my recliner last night around 2 in the morning. He is much recovered from his rotator cuff surgery, but he is wearing some kind of compression sling that holds his left arm and shoulder as immobile as possible. He manages to sleep for a few hours in bed, but eventually the pain wakes him up and he comes downstairs for water. I am usually just calling it a night, so we chat for a bit. I hate to see him so lamed up.

The Brownie announces that she is conscious and expects someone to come and get her. Meaning me. This is a bad habit to indulge--she IS five, after all. Maybe next year we can wean her from this terrible scourge of Daddy having to come and pick her up out of bed, while she nuzzles my neck and sings

Good morning, good morning
(Doo da doo da doo da dootado!)
Good morning, good morning, to you.
(Da doo da doo!!)

7:38: Bring Dad his coffee while Thomas, a.k.a. Captain Self-Sufficient, pours himself a few bowls of cereal. Sometimes, when he's feeling charitable, he pours a bowl for his sister, and even one for the dog.

Mom comes down and makes breakfast for the grown-ups. She also sings the good morning song to the kiddos. Thomas pretends to hate it, but secretly, he doesn't.

7:41: Her Lovely Self returns. Blaze is trotting in front of her in a way that suggests he is in charge and tragedy has once again been narrowly averted.

7:42: Shower, dress, grab everything I've been working on.

9:00: Get to work and update my proposal document, a file that I have named Lifesaver. After some recent and somewhat unexpected changes high in the upper echelons of the executive management of the Large Corporation that owns the Really Big Magazine, it has been determined that 90 percent of the stories and sections that run in my department are way off base. In a recent reader survey, all but two of my regular sections scored as the lowest sections of interest for our millions of readers. Note: not AMONG the lowest. THE lowest.

This is not my fault: when I came aboard, I inherited these sections. In fact, the two sections that scored as being interesting to our readers were sections I developed in the past 3 or so years. Now I'm being asked to reinvent the rest of the department, retooling our coverage to meet the needs of a reader who is slightly older and makes slightly more money. But however slight these changes in who our reader is may be, I have to make sweeping changes to accommodate that reader. Or I can let one of my senior editors go and be happy with a smaller department. I've already lost one open position that I needed to fill; I'll be damned if I have to fire someone because a survey of 1 percent of our readership says that 74 percent of those surveyed didn't really care for most of the material I'm responsible for.

Maybe I should be taking that job at that small magazine after all.

9:01-5:47 PM: Spend the entire day tweaking my Lifesaver proposal, as well as editing incoming stories to fit the new voice we're also suddenly deciding we need to invent. Spend some time reassuring my staff, but the truth is I don't know what's going to happen. If my proposed changes aren't successful, my entire department--and me along with it--could be gone inside of 18 months.

Get home in time to eat something cold--the remnants of supper--and them practice hitting and catching with Thomas. His coach has suggested he work on pop-flies. Our back yard isn't big enough for me to really whack a ball, so I hurl the ball as hard and as high as I can, straight up in the air. I can usually wing one straight up until it's higher than the roof of the house, then it comes down like a bullet. Thomas doesn't catch all of them, but he's learned to step right under them, which is the main thing, breeding fear of the ball out of him. We do this over and over til dark.

8:15: Get Thomas washed up and into bed. Tell him a few stories from my brief baseball and softball days. The story in which I get smashed in the eyeball with a softball is always a favorite.

9:00: Sit downstairs with my parents, chatting. My mom has brought some old photos. I spend hours each evening, staring into the hard, lined faces of my grandparents and great-aunts and uncles and third cousins. They had no worries about writing proposals to justify their work. Their work was self-evident: get enough food to keep the family fed one more day. Sleep. Get up. Repeat for 50 or 60 years.

1:58 AM: Dad comes downstairs, looking pained. I help position him in the recliner and bring him some water and aspirin. By the time I return, the dog is in his lap, chin on Dad's ample belly, gazing up at my dad like he's a long-lost relative. Dad absently strokes Blaze's big dumb head, but he's looking at the stony faces of his forebears in the photos I've been poring over. "Wonder what they'd make of the lives we've led," I say, following his gaze.

My dad nods. "I sometimes think the same thing. We traveled a lot when you and yer brother were young, and you boys got to go to college, which was something they never would have understood. Anymore than they would have appreciated the work you do now. Half of em couldn't read, I'm sorry to say. Even your own grandfather was barely literate. Hard to believe we're all branches on the same ugly-ass tree."

I nod and smile. But as I bid Dad good night and head up to my own bed, I wonder about that. For as old and wizened and weathered as they look, there's something immediately familiar in the eyes staring out from those old photos. I see it in my dad's eyes when he grimaces in pain over his injury; I see it when I look in the mirror every morning and resolve to save my department; I see it when I watch my son force himself to stand stock still in the field, glove out, eyeing a ball that's coming straight at his head.

It's a look that says, No ducking. Face it. Stare it down. Catch it and become the master of it.

It's the last thing I think of before falling asleep.

Then, three hours later, it starts all over again.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Sounds like your Dad is still doing the no pain medication route. I hope he knits quickly and is back to his regular vivacios self soon.

Sorry to hear about your job but I'm mostly sorry to hear about the no sleeping. When I feel like I've got the weight of the world on my shoulders, I suffer in just the same way- it's no fun.

Do you practice grounders too w/Thomas? Those were the best times ever when my kids were little, played ball and the biggest choice for them was chocolate or vanilla.
I guess seeing the faces of your relatives and knowing that they had the same kinds of days...just maybe a little bit different in kind of helps. If they can do it, so can we. Hang in there...I'm sending happy thoughts about the Proposal!
So far you've raised one kid who repects all life enough to give his dog a bowl of cereal(sharing) and another that shows appreciation for the finer things in life.(singing in the rain and girls in princess dresses) In the end thats what goes an the BIG scoreboard, matter what you did with yourself in between. It sounds, to me, like you're doing just may need..oh what do they call it...oh.. a seventh inning stretch
Just my humble viewpoint: You have already shown yourself to be superhuman, super-klutzy, SuperDad...but even you will have trouble in your assigned SuperTasks on three hours of sleep a night.
With regard to the reader survey, remember this: You are not your results. Enjoy each day for what it is and take pride in your intentions.
When the future looks uncertain taking stock of your past accomplishments can often be very reassuring. You've done much, achieved great things, been a truly admirable human being -- all that which you've been and done has led up to the good man you are today. With that firmly in mind turn once again towards the future and know that it can't conquer you but that you can only conquer it.
Wrapped into the uncertainty and stress of your day are some amazing things -- not the least of which is the fact that your five-year-old daughter wants you to be the first thing she sees when she wakes up. That's pretty incredible.
My son is four and the first thing he does when he wakes (always VERY early) is yell from his bed that he is awake and would like someone to come get him. It's nice to hear he is not the only child who does this. I (or my husband) go to him and he snuggles against us and recounts in greatly exaggerated detail, the dreams he had. I am always tired and sometimes find myself wishing he would just get up and play quietly but then I remember that I am the person he wants to see first when he wakes up and the one he is so excited to share his dreams with. That probably won't happen for too much longer so, tired as I am, I remind myself to cherish those early morning moments. If memory serves me correctly from my own childhood, in less than a decade I will suddenly become the last person on Earth he wants to share things with. That is an age I dread.
I'm glad to hear your Dad's recovery is coming along. I hope his shoulder heals up apace, and I hope you get some more sleep this weekend. Wearing yourself out to the point you get sick is no good.
Captain Self-Sufficient . . . that made me laugh.

I had other comments, but the baseball story reminded me of my own softball to the eye incident, and then I started wincing at the memory . . . and I've forgotten all my other thoughts.
You know, MM, what I am most impressed about is that, in your busy schedule, you find time to play catch with Thomas. I think that's important. Good luck with your department makeover at the RBM.
Oh, and I don't mean to nag, but 3.5 hours of sleep per day sounds a little bit on the low side, MM. Remember, adequate sleep makes for improved job performance and a healthy immune system! God, I sound like my Mom.
you are one of the good guys, mm, for laying ball with your son & actually enoying it. good for you. Makes me feel a little wistful.

hope your dad is feeling better, and as always, I love entries where Blaze makes an appearance!
I'm trying to figure out what you're doing between the chatting with your parents and the helping your dad into the recliner. Obviously your parents have gone to bed at some point between 9 pm and 2 am. What are you then doing?

I'm sure your dad can settle himself into the chair--I don't mean to sound insensitive, but he's a tough guy, and you need your sleep. So unless you are out saving the world as your alter-ego Magazine Superhero during that time, go to bed!
To Magazine Man:

"Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight noises everywhere"
Like Rabbit, I also had a baseball-related eye injury. I think I'll blog about it later this week. Thanks for the inspiration!
Life gets BIG and LOUD sometimes, doesn't it...Shoot, you'll be fine. You'll save the department, make an all star out of Thomas, spoil the Brownie rotten, do right by your folks, and of course keep HLS desperately in love with you--you always do.

Hang in there.
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