Monday, November 25, 2013

Stronger Than Coffee -- by Josh

It's no great secret that, around bedtime, kids can start to get extra crazy.  What I've noticed with myself is that I think I get even crazier.  For the kids to actually get into the bedroom for stories and prayers, it seems to take FOREVER, and my composure starts to crack somewhere around minute two of said eternity.
Luckily I've got an amazing wife who's got my back and together we somehow manage to get them into their quarters.  Consistently, in the midst of the madness, I begin to yawn, and if I've made the mistake of sitting down while the sleepytime preparation plays out, it feels like I've got sacks of concrete tied to me as I fight against my body's better judgment and get up to go read with the kiddos.
Reading and prayers always happens in bed, now in their room, and I absolutely love it.  It is such a joy to end the day with calm, loving interactions, hopefully blotting from their little memories the sound of my yelling.  The kids have even gotten into the habit, when they really want me to keep reading (we're re-reading The Hobbit right now, prepping for the second film), of offering a foot massage, and all that practice has made them pretty good.  So, as you can imagine, by the time I'm done reading, I'm more ready for bed than they are!  I often tell Max to turn off the lamp and I make myself cozy, drifting off to exactly where I should be at around that time, according to 'ol circadian rhythms.
This is actually in an airport, but you get the gist, I like to sleep.
But I generally manage to drag myself out of the bed and stagger back to Rebecca.  Now, what happens next is absolutely astounding.  
Despite my body's consistent call to hit the hay over the past two hours, once I escape the kids' room, I suddenly get a second, nay a third wind!  I feel more awake than I have all day, just in time to prevent myself from getting a full night's rest.
Rebecca feels the same and had a fascinating analogy.  It's like being in college, in finals week, and you've just finished the last exam or turned in the last project.  You're bushed, exhausted, yet more importantly, YOU'RE FREE! You couldn't possibly go to bed at that moment, regardless of how tired you might be.  You must enjoy this freedom while you can.  And I do, knowing that it will only last a short while, and in the morning, I'll wonder why I stayed up so late, once again.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

We Didn't Start the Fire... -- by Josh

...it's that same old lady,
neighbors think she's crazy.
It's been a good month or more since we last had to deal with smoke pouring into our house (not counting tear gas and burning tires), and it's been real nice not having to worry about floating embers lighting our back room on fire.  But apparently the cease-fire has ended.
Just as the laundry finished its cycle this morning I noticed the cloud of wood smoke wafting into our house, just in time to make all of our freshly washed, soon to be hung clothes smell like we'd spent the week camping.  This time I didn't even bother to say anything though, because our last exchange over the wall left me feeling guilty.  Some time in September, after our downstairs neighbor, Carmen, had required a trip to the clinic for respiratory problems, Ramon and I decided to try to do something about the perpetual wood smoke drifting into our respective homes.  He and Carmen had yelled over the wall to knock it off, to no avail.  So, we headed around the block, in search of the culprits.  Naturally, although it could only have been one of three neighbors whose triangular lots abut or come near our wall, no one we spoke to was responsible for the daily fires.
"It's not me," they would swear, "but I think it may be So-and-So. Yeah, it's definitely them."  We investigated a bit more, then decided we'd narrowed it down to one particular culprit, and when we made further inquiry it turned out that it was the home of a local firefighter!
Ramon stormed down to the fire house, Max and I trying to keep up.  Ramon has a short temper and no patience for B.S., so he got right down to brass tacks.
"Who's in charge here?" he demanded.
After a few minutes of claims that essentially no one was in charge, we found someone who seemed to be in a position of power.  It seems that when people are paid little or nothing for their services, they're extra wary to accept responsibility. We laid out our case, that of concerned, suffocating citizens, the elderly and the young suffering pulmonary trauma day in and day out, by a firefighter no less.
"We'll look into it," they promised.
"No, I want you to send a truck right now," Ramon retorted, "and put out that damn fire. My wife is sick."
"Okay, we'll do our best," they lied, and we went on our way.
The fires, however, seemed to increase in frequency, and when I'd climb out onto our roof to yell at the lady who was responsible for them, I was ignored.  You see, she's conveniently placed her fire pit as far as possible from her back door, and consequently, as close as possible to three other residences.
I kept it up, yelling for her to put out the fire, or at least move it closer to her own house.
Finally, one morning I got a response. "Do you want the boy to starve?!?!? Is that what you want? The little boy to starve?" and on and on she went, for I understood but a tenth of her angry rant.  I waited for her to stop screaming and countered with my earlier suggestion to at least move it closer to her house, but she just belted out more heated words, so I left it alone.  Yet, a few days after that, they pretty much stopped.
I later heard more of the story fourth-hand, that her husband drinks all of the money that would otherwise be spent on natural gas, so she's regularly left to cook as if she were in the countryside.
Guilty.  How else could I feel?  And I'm left to wonder, if this is a barometer of their economic situation at any given time, about the very sad holiday season that she and her kids will have to endure again because of irresponsibility and addiction.
It seems like many people don't understand how many victims they create when they lead lives drowned in booze or drugs or whatever other addiction, and I could be pessimistic and powerless. I didn't start the metaphorical fire, after all. It ain't my fault.
But then I think of the virtues classes we teach.  I think of Rebecca teaching hopeless children that they really can read, and opening up a whole new vista for them, and sending an equally strong message of hope to their teachers.  I am an educator, a neighbor, someone with a Message that will heal the world, sooner rather than later if we as a people choose to take our medicine.  We just have to be sure that it's what the Physician ordered, not just more self-medication.