Monday, December 21, 2009

The State of Kug: more or less

A regular reader of this space chastised me recently for not posting a new column in a while. I admit, it is a longer break than is customary for me, but things have been on the busy side with the kids in school, and the holidays, and family visiting, and working on the novel. (I am well into the second draft now…stay tuned)

But, it is a quiet Sunday evening, where the kids have gone to bed with aloha. And, the Eagles won, and although it was a little chilly earlier (dropped to about 72 degrees overnight) the weather has been ok overall. Perhaps I can take some time to write in this space.

Things have been good. The twins are thriving at school and have made amazing strides in the things that they can do.

The Boyo is still deeply fascinated by Dinosaurs, and his informational recall and critical thought and reasoning about them would be scary if I didn‘t already know that he was smart. He remembers stuff that I try to remember but cannot. He nods politely at me when he has to correct me, like the other day when he explained to me that Troodon meant “wounding tooth” and not “terrible claw” which is what Deinonychus means. His sister rolled her eyes at me when I got it wrong.

And yes, those were his words. Really. It’s happened more than once.

His Twin sister entered a photograph in the recent PTA Juried art show, with the theme “Beauty is…” that won an Honorable Mention, and may be headed to the regional exhibition. Her response was, essentially, “well, that’s nice. Whatever. It’s not my best work…” She was far more interested in playing with the Glitter glue that the wife bought than dwelling on an old work. She was far more gracious than I, who bragged about it all week…and just did now.

The Bear is doing well, and just received her first glasses, which look very cute when she wears them. She also served as the “Christmas Elf” for Santa’s “Representative” (because Santa was very busy getting ready for Christmas Eve) at the YMCA Playmorning program last week. Man, that beard itched, and the boots were way too small. She is really ready for preschool, and we are planning on her going in the fall.

It has been two years that we have lived here now. In all honesty, I had originally thought that we might be on our way off the island by now, and while that is always a possibility, it is really only in the last few weeks that I have honestly and truly accepted the fact that we really do live here, and that the life we have is a good one. We’ve done everything we set out to do with this move, and, in all honesty, probably more.

There have been some surprises along the way, both professional and personal, and some relationships that did not survive our move, which while disappointing, perhaps says more about their strength to begin with than anything else. I’m over it, mostly.

But, it is the holiday season, and I should touch on that. One of our more recent holiday favorites has been the film “Love Actually” which is really only tolerable because it was made by the British.

There’s a scene where the dude who is in love with Kiera Knightly, who happens to married to his best friend, and as such, somewhat unavailable, tells her how he feels, and though he says that he expects nothing says, “It’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth…”

So, I’ve decided to try that, and see how it works out. Here are some things, that, however benign, are true in our life here, and are in order as they occurred to me to write and are not a hierarchy:

1) While I miss Yuengling, pizza, and bagels, the Ahi, Edamame, and Musubi are not horrible by way of substitute. For now. I miss Scrapple too.

2) I have gained a far deeper respect for the men and women that serve in the Military. I interact very closely with a number of military spouses, and to see the sacrifice that they make on a daily basis is very humbling. I know very clearly how difficult it is taking care of my kids with my wife here and working, and to think of being home with all three of mine with a spouse on deployment is downright scary to me. Having to be on point as the only caregiver for 24/7 for every day, six months to two years at a clip, as some of my friends have had to be, is overwhelming to think of. It scares the daylights out of me. I’m in therapy already.

But, they do it. They manage, and sometimes their families help out, but in the end, Military families face a great number of challenges that perhaps some people don’t consider. I know I for one understand and respect that sacrifice all the more now that I’ve lived here on Oahu where a large portion of the population is Military, and as I have had a member of my family spend several months on deployment in the Middle East recently as well. Plus, I’ve taken the kids to Pearl Harbor on December 7th the last two years, and had them meet and thank the Veterans from those attacks, which are very much a part of the culture here. In the end, deployment is tough on the soldiers, and tough on the families, and they do it anyway. Whatever your politics are, respect is due to them all. That’s far more political than I usually get in this space, but deal with it.

3) We’ve put up all the artwork. Up until about a month ago, there were still a few paintings that we’d not yet hung on the wall. But, it’s become clear of late that this is our home, and all of the artwork, from Daddy Pop’s painting of “Anchor Street” to my signed Andrew Wyeth print, it’s all on the walls now. We live here. And you know what? It doesn’t suck. I still don’t know that I want to live here forever, but damned if this place isn’t home because we chose to make it so. My kids are happy here, and we’ve made a life here. While the Northeast was under a blizzard, I was at the park. laying on my back with my kids discussing whether the wispy cloud above looked like a Pteranadon or a Pegasus-pony. So it goes…

4) I barely remember working for a living. I can’t be more honest than that. I last used my Masters Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from SHU over two years ago, and truth be told, I don’t think there is much I miss. That’s not to say that I don’t have some very fond memories of my time at PGHS, SKS, or the other places I worked that I won’t bother to mention, but in the end, I can’t think of that many days at work that compare favorably with the stuff I get to do on a daily basis while being home with my kids. Add to that the chance to make a home for my family, cook the bejesus out of pretty much anything I want to, plus the chance to write a novel, and man, why would I ever go back?

Don’t get me wrong-there are a lot of good memories from my career. There were moments of value, that I believe mattered, I really do. But they are moments of the past. There were periods of closeness in a number of schools where I served, where we were on the cusp of genuine educational and community awesomeness. But they never really happened in the end, and I left both disillusioned and a little more empty. I think I’m too old to go searching for that again.

While I can, I’d rather write, and teach and raise my kids. But I remember my best classes as a teacher-that last year at SKS was good. My final year as a teacher at PJHS was the greatest experience I ever had as a teacher. I don’t know that I could ever come close. I miss the kids I taught that year…they were my ultimate swan song and I will always hold them very dear to my heart for the amazing year they gave me. Should I ever land back in North Jersey, I would go back and teach at PJ in a heartbeat, if they would have me. That might be the only exit I ever made that had any grace…

Not long after moving to administration, despite initial enthusiasm, I became disillusioned with the process. I got into administration at SKS, a private school, and I did so because I thought I could do a better job than the people above me. In fact, when I interviewed for my first administrative position at SKS, I said, “I can do this job better, and I want to be here, so hire me.” I got the job. But, over time it became clear that the upper administration and I believed in different things. And I moved on.

I spent two years in North Jersey going to graduate school at SHU and teaching and coaching and bartending at the Pub, and being married to the wife and dancing to Belafonte with the our dog, Gracie.

Then I moved on to being an Assistant Principal. I think I’ve covered my time in that position pretty well in this space, but feel free to write me if you want more detail. Be rest assured though, gentle reader, I would likely be dead today, or at least infirm from a heart attack had I kept up the pace that my last job at PGHS demanded of me.

I don’t blame PGHS for that. That was the job, and I took it. There are apparently three people that now do the job that I used to do. I wish them well.

I didn’t leave because I was unhappy. I left because I could, and I wanted to do other things, and so I did.

I had some great moments in each of the schools where I served. Moments that I will never forget, and cherish very dearly. I would like to think that I did some good.

But, at least now, I don’t miss it and don’t want to go back. If I don’t have to, I won’t. Obviously, if my family needed me to, I would, as Pete Rose once said, “walk through hell in a gasoline suit” to provide for my family. And I would. But, that’s not what they need of me now. And, I think I’m getting pretty good at my current job.

5) I would never be able to live the life that I do if my wife were not simply the most amazing woman on Earth.

This one is easy. I’ve been with her since 1992. We’ve been married since 1999. There are a number of people in my life currently that look at these facts with amazement. I think they are amazed mostly that someone would choose to tolerate me that long.

In my experience, there is no real explanation for love and devotion, and so looking at the life we have, where the only forever I’ve ever needed has been perfunctory, I am continually not surprised by where we end up. It always seems very much like where we are supposed to be. She’s exceptional at her job, and provides for us. I can deal with that, but that is now. I know quite clearly that I was not of that mindset two years ago when we moved here. But I am now.

I am not where I thought I would be. Just yesterday, a pair of local kids were running far beyond the boundaries that their mother had given them in the open park we took the kids to. She was calling to them, but they couldn’t hear her. I was in between them, and after several attempts, I found myself calling out loud enough where I knew they could hear me: “Oi! Your Mama, she call you yah?” and waved my arm at him to come in. Which they did, and ran back to her, saying “thanks Uncle” on the way back.

My life is nowhere near what I thought it would be at this point, but, it’s a damned good life. My kids are so awesome that I’m forced to take a deep breath at times to handle it more often than not, especially when they aren’t throwing things at one another.

I’m deep into the creation of a novel that I would never have had the chance to do in the old days. But I can now. And it’s going to be good. It won’t be an easy one for some people to deal with, but it will happen, and some folks will simply have to accept it as a work of fiction, which it what it shall be.

But I remember the way that things used to be. I remember the nights I didn’t get to put my kids to bed when I was working 14 hours at school, and I remember the days I didn’t get to see them at all. That was not alright with me. Every missed bedtime was a loss to me.

For my whole life, it seems, I remember every moment, every stupid detail of everything, about everything. It’s who I am.

No one ever gave me a road map, which is just fine. I feel very much alright with where I have ended up.