Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life

  • File:AlwaysLookOnTheBrightSideOfLife.jpg
Check this out...www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHPOzQzk9Qo...it conveys perfectly my view on the topic at hand.

So Joey and I both had doctor's appointments today...but instead of glancing into the abyss I decided to do something different and look at the bright side of things...the sun is shining and I figured what the hell. However, recognizing who I am, I decided I needed help looking at the bright side of life. So first I called my friend Larry.

TP: "Morning Larry how are you?"

Larry: "F**k You Tom...its 6:15 in the morning (most of my friends swear...a lot)."

TP: "I know Larry, but I am looking for some help looking at the bright side of life...can you help?"

Larry: "Eat Sh*t and die Tom."

TP: "Not the advice I was looking for but thanks anyway Larry." (see if I get him a break on his loan)

I then decided to look to my kids for advice...while they have have my slanted view on life they are great kids and I hope that have not been tainted too much by my cynicism.

Dad: "Fi, what do you do to look at the bright side of life."

Fiona: "I think of bubbles"

Dad: "just bubbles?"

"yes...and the word bubbles. When I am sad I think of bubbles and the word bubbles."

"thanks Fi."

Dad: "Aidan how about you, what do you do to look at the bright side of life."

Aidan: "I think of the zorball I am going to buy when I have enough money."

Dad: "anything else."

Aidan: "when I am sad I think the sad things belong to someone else and I then feel better."

Dad: "oh" while thinking "thats my coping mechanism...I hope Aidan does not want me to pick up the co-pays on his therapy 20 years from now."

Dad: "how about you Oliver?"

Oliver: "mmmmmmm"

Dad: "Ollie?"

Oliver: "Leave me alone...I am texting Cassie."

Dad: "lovely" while thinking "pre teen hell...I am living in pre teen hell."

Before my appointments I wandered into work and asked Nick about how he keeps his spirits up. He told me "by making sure that I never see the bottom of my glass." Lovely. I should have known better as Nick keeps his spirits up with spirits.

The other guys at work had their own ideas about seeing the bright side of things...one gambles...the other fixates on business...another has an ongoing love affair with food...so I think my colleagues are an empty well for ideas.

I think what works for me...and is something I had gotten away from...is to try to enjoy every moment for what that moment offers. Lately it has been a struggle...but...it seems to work. Enjoy Every Sandwich is my motto...I need to remember that.

I almost forgot about it...Gretchen Smith...this is for you...:) Paste this and put in your browser and enjoy. http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=1730510.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Play Date

Today two of the Pierce kids had play dates. Aidan had one of his friends over and Fiona had one of hers. Needless to say I am having a rather large, rather strong drink right now.

Aidan's friend, while nice enough has parents who are...well lets be charitable and refer to them as over protective (if they could have this kid live in a plastic bubble they would). The mom met me at the parking lot, offered to drive her little darling the five minutes it takes to get to my place, hands me a list of things her son can't eat, and a Tupperware container with the boy's dinner in it. I call her son "Bubble Boy" with reason.

Upon reading the list, I must have muttered a little too loudly, "jeez, what can this kid eat?" The mother then promptly informed me that they also try to keep him away from refined sugar and dairy. She asked me if I smoked in the house...I told her "only marijuana." She did not get the joke. I decided not to like this woman.

Fiona's friend is a sweet little girl. I have known her for years but thought her parents were a little too perfect, a little too plastic. For a Halloween party at school last year they went as an airline pilot and stewardess....you get the idea. When I did a mortgage a few years ago I started to think of them as Ken and Barbie and their daughter Precious.

So I get the five kids back to my place and fed four of them the snack I made, grapes, cheese, Cheezits, and Pepsi. Bubble Boy sullenly ate his own snack. I found myself thinking about the scotch and soda that was waiting for me after the kids went to bed.

After an hour or so in the pool the kids and I went back to my place for dinner....tonight...cheese burgers and homemade french fries and fruit for four of them... Two pounds of ground beef, five pounds of potatoes, and a plate full of fresh brownies later dinner was over, I had the kids playing the Wii, I put Led Zeppelin on the CD player, and I started to clean up.

There is a song on this particular CD that is not...well...not exactly child appropriate. I try to skip it when I can when the kids are around as the lyrics to "Whole Lot of Love" is not exactly something I want my kids belting out. It comes on after "The Immigrant Song," and before "Cashmere." Its tough to skip over as the kids love screeching to the "Immigrant Song." So I have five kids screaming the lyrics to "Immigrant" and I hear a knock on the door. It was Bubble Boy's mom. And she is early. I let her in and we chit chat as the kids continue to sing Led Zeppelin. During a lull in the chit chat as loud as possible, Aidan screeches..."I am going to give you every inch of my love." Damnit...I forgot to skip the song. Bubble Boy's mom started to loose what little composure she was able to muster for me and announced that she needed gather up her Bubble Boy and leave.

It was at that point I decided to throw gasoline on the fire by asking her..."don't you just love this song?" She then announced "we have to go" and left the apartment as quickly as she could.

About ten minutes later Ken and Barbie arrive. Now we have had this passive aggressive relationship for the five years we have known each other. Our conversation went something like this;

Ken: "So Tom, still able to eek out a living in the mortgage business?"

TP: saying"I do about as well as you do chasing ambulances" while thinking..."asshole"

Barbie: "Cute place you have here Tom"

TP: saying "Thanks, we like it" while thinking "cute boobjob Barbie are those new?."

Barbie: "I don't know how you manage the kids, and work, and the apartment Tom. I can barely keep up myself."

TP: saying "I manage...it also helps to scream into a pillow every night" while thinking "you can't keep up because you are too busy running up credit card debt at every mall in Massachusetts." (God I love my job sometimes.)

Ken: "Tom if you can ever get a sitter we should go out for a drink."

TP: saying "Sure that would be great" while thinking "when Hell freezes over."

Ken: "You know Tom, you could use a wife."

TP: saying "no I don't" while thinking "no I don't."

This dialogue went on for another five or so minutes before Ken and Barbie gathered up Precious and left.

Before she went to bed Fiona cuddled up next to me on the couch and asked me if I liked play dates. "Sure I do Princess...as long as I don't play Led Zeppelin."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Seeing Things As They Are

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I used to spend most of my time with books. One of the great things that has come with my recent move is I am getting re-acquainted with my old friends. As I arranged them on my shelves, I decided to let Shakespeare live next to Cervantes, Freud now hangs with Aquinas, Fitzgerald drinks with Milton, DiLampedusa sips coffee with Pushkin, and Plato chats with Bloom. These are my friends and I visit them often.

One of many reasons why I like books is that there are instances where an author shares his insight into the true nature of things, where he is able to convey reality without pretense, illusion, or delusion. Last night, while reading a book by philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm, I came across the following quote from Paracelcius, a 16th century alchemist and doctor;

"He who knows nothing, loves nothing. He who can do nothing understands nothing. He who understands nothing is worthless. But he who understands also loves, notices, sees...The more knowledge is inherent in a thing, the greater the love...Anyone who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as the strawberries knows nothing about the grapes."

There are times when you read something and it hits you between the eyes. We all live with our illusions and delusions. We have to otherwise life would be unbearable. However, we do so at the expense of seeing reality for what it is. In many ways our culture encourages escapism and avoidance and efforts to look into the true nature of things are discouraged. There are times we need a shove, to hear things we don't want to hear, to say things we don't want to say, and to feel things we don't want to feel in order to understand, to know, and to realize.

Reality can be an awful, terrible thing, but there are times when understanding can be a relief and when books not only provide insight...but also acceptance.

On another note...based on the reception I received at work this morning and the emails that have trickled in from friends who read my last post "Blown Off," it appears that a response is required...and that will be the subject of tomorrow's posting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Since When Did I Become A Short Order Cook?

Its 9:45 on a Wednesday morning and only now am I contemplating cleaning up the debris from my kids' breakfast. As I survey the damage, the omelet pan, the bacon grease, the half eaten bowl of oatmeal I wonder how I allowed my kitchen to be turned into a diner and what happened to my plans for a simple bagel and fruit breakfast. I realized what has happened, I allowed my kids to turn me into a short order cook.

As these things often do, it all started out innocently enough as one morning I made fresh muffins for my kids and then omelets the next morning. Two Sundays ago I put out a brunch for my kids. I made the mistake of upping the ante. Now...if I put out a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast I run the risk of having to deal with three surly kids without a whip and a chair.

Now...I have a friend who lets their kids get their own meals...and I thought about what that would look like here....Oliver would have steak with a side order of bacon...for every meal...Fiona, skittles floating in Pepsi cola...Aidan, who would dispense with all pretense, would sit down with a five pound bag of sugar and have at it. So faced with the prospect of having a preteen needing bypass surgery and twins in a sugar induced coma, I have decided to keep a firm reign on meal time around here.

Which brings me back to my original thought, how did I become a short order cook? I guess its my fault as I love food. I don't mind making muffins at 6:00 in the morning or staying up late baking cookies...but preparing three individual breakfasts each morning is a bit much. What I ought to do is apply my Napoleonic parenting style to meal time. The Napoleonic approach to parenting is where you give kids the appearance of democracy by offering them choices that appeal to the parent...so no matter the outcome you get a result you can live with. I know what you are thinking...that I am being manipulative...well too bad...its three against one and I need every advantage to keep the mob at bay.

So tomorrow morning a new breakfast policy will be in place...I will ask them what they want...cornflakes or rice krispies...but first I had better get my whip and chair.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Friend

My friend and I spent Saturday together...no kids...no mortgages...no ex wife....just me and my pal. Joey and I have been together for 14 years. I brought him home two days before my 28th birthday and he has owned me ever since.

He is not just a dog...he is my friend.

We went to our old home and gathered up a few things, cleaned, and then went for a walk. We went to the common and as he sniffed and patrolled his park, I sat on our bench, and watched. I thought to myself, remember this time...remember this moment. Watching him walk about, his tail wagging, his hind quarters aching, I know that our better days are behind us and that the sun will soon set on our friendship. But for today, for this moment, we are happy to be together and to have each others company.

We have shared much, Joey and I. He has been we with me through most of my major life events; the birth of my three kids, the disintegration of my marriage, separation, and divorce. He has shared with me the joy of being in love and has consoled me when I had to endure the sorrows of heartbreak.

Joey has been my companion, my counsel, my roommate, and my friend. He has been with me for each step I have taken towards being the man I am today. He is the one to whom I tell all my troubles well as my dreams and aspirations. He has brought joy into the lives of my children and others who are are dear to me. I cannot help but think of those we have met along the way these last few years who have made his life more comfortable and be thankful for both of us.

It is fitting now, in our final chapter, that my kids are with us. I see that once again, my kids enjoy his company as they call him into their room each night before they go to sleep. Watching his tail wag as he enters their room each night, I think that Joey enjoys their company as well.

So we sat in the early spring sun, we shared a lunch, and he dozed next to me as I quietly read poetry by Donne. Both of us content to be together and to enjoy the day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Ollie and I played hooky yesterday. I made this last minute decision yesterday morning right after I dropped the kids off at school. It looked like it was going to be a nice day and I have been ignoring work anyway so I thought it would be cool to have a Ferris Bueler day with my oldest son. So I snatched Oliver out of line and off we went.

We went out to Hingham for breakfast and then to the beach in Hull. We checked out the tidal pools and talked about how, when he was younger, we would go to the beach in the winter and sit in the car, talk, eat donuts, drink hot chocolate, and nap.

After a trip to Walmart to look at plasma screen tvs, we went back home for lunch. I made my best imitation of a Pimenti Brother's sandwich for each of us (corned beef, cole slaw, frenchfries, mustard on sourdough wrapped in wax paper...it was very good...but the genunie thing is an amazing sandwich and alone worth the trip to Pittsburgh). We then sat on the balcony and talked. We talked about the Red Sox, his mom, and his upcoming baseball season. He asked me about some of my books that he has been reading. Oliver wanted my take on girls. After the ten seconds it took for me to share my 42 years worth of wisdom about women, I told him to always strive to be a good man, to be attentive, and to follow through on the promises he makes. We then had a belching contest.

Afterwards we decided to hit the grocery. On our way we passed a ball field. I pulled in, grabbed our gloves (they are always in the car) and we had a game of catch. As we tossed the ball back and forth we did not say much. I admired his skill and how he now moved like a ball player. I remember playing ball with him when he was four and I thought about how his skills have evolved over the years. I saw that he would be able to succeed at baseball with skill, ability, and instinct whereas I had to sneak by with cunning, guile, and guts. I could not be prouder.

Over the years my family has had it ups and downs. My relationship with my son has had its peaks and valleys as well...but we have always had catch. As my younger son has grown he too has become a part of our ongoing game. I have always enjoyed baseball and I am happy beyond words that I have shared this with my boys and that they eagerly participate with me in this simple pleasure.

As I write this I cannot help but think of the boys I have met over the years whose fathers were either too busy, too disinterested, too angry, or too distracted to play catch with them. That these boys, these future men, some of whom remain very dear to me, are deprived of a chance to build a bond with their dads by the simple act of tossing a ball back and forth saddens me. They would be always welcome in our game as the good thing about catch is that there is always room for two or three more.

I am also reminded I need to keep on playing catch to maintain and build my bond with my boys. Despite what the world throws at me I should always make time for a catch.

Happy St. George's Day

Fiona woke me up at 5:30 this morning. She sat down on my bed, poked my side, and said in the sort of whisper that woke the entire household "Happy St. Patrick's Day!" The following sentence from her contained words that only she could utter; " Its St. Patrick's Day...do we get candy or presents?" I muttered something about Bushmills and Guinness being the traditional St. Patrick's Day gifts but I don't think that was what she had in mind.

On the way to school the kids were fixated on the topic of their ethnic heritage. They are fully aware that their mom is Irish (what is it with me and Irish girls?) and that I am not. I told them that my family has been in America for a very long time and that most of my ancestors came from the planet Krypton. They weren't buying my story so I made something up and told them that my family came from England a very long time ago and they did so only after the Pilgrims made sure that the coast was clear.

Now my kids are fully aware that green beer is not Ireland's only contribution to world culture. They also know the story of St. Patrick and how, among other things, he drove the snakes out of Ireland (resisting urge to make joke about ex wife's family). They wanted to know what England has given us. Now, I could have told them about the influence of the English language, or Shakespeare, or even bad teeth, instead I told them about St. George. I explained that St. George was England's patron saint and that his day is April 17. I told them that St. George killed a dragon, which got me thinking, getting rid of a few snakes is pretty cool, but killing a dragon is a far more impressive. Hell, even I have killed a few snakes, but I think with a dragon I would need some assistance from a professional.

My kids then demanded that I tell them what day I thought was better....so I did what I always do...I based my opinion on my stomach. I told them that St. Patrick's Day was known for corned beef and cabbage, which smells like feet and that the English probably eat fish and chips on St. George's day, which smells like....well...like fish. So I then told them that in my opinion St. Joseph's day was the best day, because as the patron Saint of Italy, we get to celebrate his feast in two days with lasagna...which smells like heaven.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Financial Panties

When you look at people's credit reports on a daily basis, you learn to be able to paint a fairly accurate picture of your client. Or so I thought. A credit report can reveal the most intimate details of someone's life. Just ask the person who coined the phrase used for the title of this posting.

I am working a what appeared to be a run of the mill loan for what appeared to be run of the mill people. They are looking to combine their mortgage and their equity line along with some debt into a new 30 year mortgage. I have met with them a few times and they reminded me of a younger version of Fred and Ethel Mertz from the I Love Lucy Show. Doughy is the word that come to mind to describe them physically. Bitter acrimony is the phrase that best captured their relationship. Again, nothing out of the ordinary.

So I call Fred and Ethel this morning to go over the final numbers. This is something I typically do prior to a loan closing. In speaking with Ethel I told her that were were giving her such and such a rate and were combining her first and second mortgages and then proceeded to tell her what debt we were going to pay...."ok, we are going to take care of your MasterCard, your Macy's Card, your Discover, your Victoria Secret," she then cut me short. "Thats not mine," she said. I am thinking "uh oh, Fred has something on the side." Trying to recover, I said well...if its not yours then perhaps your credit is co-mingled with some other persons." She then told me "oh its not mine, its Fred's." She then volunteered way too much. "Fred shops there all the time, he likes their styles and the enjoys their panties and thinks they are pretty." I thought "that's an odd way of putting that." I then said, "well....ok....well...we are taking care of that account too."

I then proceeded to resume going through the list of accounts we were paying off...."American Express, Lane Bryant...." Ethel cut me short again, "that one is Fred's too." He likes that they have clothing in his size."

It was at that moment when it all came together. Fred has more of a twist in his kink than I ever wanted to imagine. After fighting the urge to puncture both eardrums and run screaming into the street, I tried to recover. "Well....that is more or less what we are going to take care of for you...the closing attorney will be at your home Monday night, say hi to Fred for me."

When the call ended I wondered....who is had a more twisted kink? Fred because he dresses in dresses, or Ethel? I then tried real hard to think about something else....I mean Fred Mertz in Victoria Secret panties and a dress?!??!!? Its a mental image that I would rather not carry with me.

You have no idea what you are going to find when you look into someones financial panties.

SPECIAL NOTE TO MH9tpi4ojslP6PAFz2iL3Ylhfi7.rHPv_BUOIiY-

MH9tpi4ojslP6PAFz2iL3Ylhfi7.rHPv_BUOIiY- thank you for following my blog....while I suspect that this is the work of someone's over exuberant small child I am really curious as to who you might be. Shoot me an email to my yahoo account...:)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Knowing and Realizing

Knowing and Realizing are two different things.

When I got that phone call from my oldest son that sunny afternoon in January I knew my life was about to change. When February unfolded I knew things were going to be very different for me. When my ex's illness because apparent I knew I was going to have to make a new home for myself. When my kids moved in with me I knew my days as a bachelor were over.

Today the realization hit. As I said, knowing and realizing are two different things.

I now go grocery shopping on Friday nights. Yes....its a thrilling activity but it has to be done sometime. My kids stay with a friend while I get enough groceries to supply the Normandy invasion. Its also time I need to think about things other than mortgages or whose turn is it to play the Wii.

I whipped through the store, loaded up the car, and sat. For forty five minutes.

It hit me. I am on an island here.

Think a rocky outcropping. In November. Under a steel gray ski.

I am on my own with this. No co-parent. No partner. Nuthin.


So after staring into the abyss for about five minutes, I took an inventory. While my oldest son insists that we still need an xbox360, the logistics of my kids' lives have been resolved for now, I also know that the fallout from what has happened to them is coming. I am already worried about my daughter. Heck, I even tried turning to a practical stranger for some help with her. My oldest son is still decompressing. My younger son...well...while he spends much of his time in a bubble, his time is coming too.

As for me....well...yes...I am on an island. I wish it weren't so but there is is. I realize that for this to work the following has to happen; I need a long term plan for my kids (which I am working on) and I need to find a way to hammer out a space for me in all of this. While I don't expect to be able to come and go as I once could, I need to find some way, some place to recharge. Right now I have no clue as to how to do this...I need to work on this as well.

I guess this is a challenge that a lot of single parents face. I see many single parents either submerge themselves entirely into their kids lives or they spend their time fending off their children. Neither option appeals to me. I think this happens because they cannot find a way to have a bit of space for themselves. Either fear of venturing out beyond their children or a refusal (or inability) to imagine something different from the life they have created for their families keep them from having a bit of their lives for themselves. Names and faces of people I know are flooding into my mind now who fit easily into either category. There has to be another way.

I know that if I am to have any joie de vive and live a life that has any style there needs to be room for me in this equation. My kids will be better for it and so will I. Besides, I need to be able to turn this island of ours into a tropical one.....

The Inscruitible Female Mind (or I don't understand women including my 9 year old daughter)

My little girl is 9 years old and she misses her mom. Its as simple as that. I am afraid that despite my best efforts she is finding me to be a poor substitute.

Now boys are easy....play ball with them, sit with them every now and then, feed them, take them outside occasionally, and they will be fine. Men are pretty much the same...actually...I could also be describing what dogs need too....I wonder what that means? Anyway, girls are lot more complicated...at least for me...heck...I have a hard time figuring out emotionally developed, highly intelligent women in their mid 40s, so my nine year old is a complete mystery to me.

She is going through a rough patch right now. She has become my little shadow...to such an extent that she now insists on falling asleep on the couch at night as I listen to the radio and read. She has even asked me to play catch with her....and my daughter is not a baseball kind of girl. I now find that I cannot cook without her insisting on helping. She has tantrums at the slightest provocation. Yesterday we were late for school because she was upset that she was unable to sit in a certain chair. Its apparent, even to me, that she is frustrated that she has been unable to make a connection with me. This has happened before so I also know that she will go for periods where she won't have all that much interest in me. And this could happen tomorrow.

While I have been assured that she will "find moms," I really don't find that to be a satisfactory answer. Her brothers and I have been the constants in her life and I need to figure this out. I am guessing that the best thing for me to do is to remain engaged, pay attention, and make sure that she knows that I am her Dad and that I will always be there for her. The occasional corn muffin won't hurt either. Now, I will be in great shape if I could figure out emotionally developed, highly intelligent women in their mid 40s.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rent A Boob...My Take

Ok...when I read my friend Blondie's Rent A Boob posting last night I admit that I asked myself "ok...where can I do this and would they let me rent two?" Yes...its been a slow month. I asked her about the reaction she got from her latest missive and she told me "oh yeah...it was a shitstorm...I must have had 4000 hits." Now...what can I do to provoke that kind of controversy?

More or less her posting was about a mom giving her child over to a stranger to nurse as a favor because the stranger was lactating. Now nursing is something I intentionally try not to devote too much thought to. I have read Freud and Odeipus so I know if I give too much thought to breast feeding my fantasy life would have to undergo some serious re-vamping. I think I was traumatized in my early 20s when at college orientation I stumbled upon a La Leche League conference. Much to my horror I entered a room with about 75 moms nursing their babies at the same freaking time. Yes....my kids' mom nursed and it was my job to clean the bottles so I did participate in the nursing experience...but after the twins were born I think we both figured that we made our contribution to the continuation of the species so further carnal relations with each other was kind of pointless. So no harm there.

But seriously, giving your kid over to a stranger to nurse?!!? Isn't that sort of the equivalent of finding a half eaten hamburger on the sidewalk and giving it to your kid..."here you go...I have no idea where this came from but if it was on the sidewalk then its good enough for you." Now...the second thought I had when I read the blog was....ok...many of the women I know are medicated (does this say more about me than about them?)...so I wondered about what was passed on to the baby. I am thinking "ok, don't worry about your baby being depressed or having anxiety or needing a glass of wine...the meds and the booze come free with the breastmilk." Years from now I can see this kids mom telling him..."oh don't take candy from a stranger but see that lactating woman over there....go ask her for a snack."

Just when I thought my life was a series of insane experiences, Blondie has to go out and trump me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Bedford

Saturday I took the kids to New Bedford and we had a blast. We went to Carabiner's, a rock climbing gym, had burritos at No Problemo, went to the New Bedford Whaling National Park, and then had a half gallon of ice cream at my old apartment.

I had lived in New Bedford for two and a half years. I loved the city and I loved my apartment. It was a three bedroom place in a three family near Klasky Common. It was there that my kids and I became our own family and where they were able to see that their dad cared for them and was interested in making them comfortable and happy. There they were re-assured that they were going to remain at the center of my life. My kids and I had a Christmas tree for two of the Christmases I was there, we celebrated birthdays there, we did home work there. It was my home and I was proud of where I lived.

As we sat on the radiator in the parlor, we talked about the memories we each had of my old place. We were all a little sad, and yes, I wept a little. My kids liked that there was a park nearby, that we were a short drive to the beach, that their dad, and by extension, them, was an active member of a diverse community. They liked that their dad knew the park rangers by name.

My kids asked me about how I felt about moving. I told them that I was very pleased and very happy that they were living with me and that our new place made that possible. I also shared with them that I loved where I used to live, that the city and my old apartment were my home and that I would need to get used to living in a different place. We then talked about our new home in Abington. I was surprised that they were able to understand that it was possible to be sad about leaving the old place and excited abougt going to the new place. Not only did they understand that I was happy and sad at the same time...they also understood why.

Events almost overtook me but I made the move in time. I loved my old home and was not ready to leave. However, sometimes love means having to say goodbye before you are ready.