Category Archives: daughters

Gingerbread Dragon

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Despite what it looks like, this is NOT a bowl full of dog poop.  It is actually gingerbread dough in the process of being mixed.  I had already folded in the one large egg, and already stirred it almost to readiness for the kneading process.

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You see, my daughter and I have been staying at home in Texas while my wife and son are off on a trip I couldn’t manage for health reasons.  So, since the Princess and I have some bonding time, we decided to have a gingerbread cookie contest that we ended up putting off too long last December.

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We decided to make just two cookies.  I suggested unicorns, she wanted to do a dragon.  So we each took half of the dough and started sculpting.  We didn’t make the cookies mobile once cooked.  The plan was to make them, decorate them, photograph them, and eat them.

The Dragon is the Princess’s entry and the unicorn mine in the fantasy critter cookie contest.  In the previous pictures they are in raw dough form.  In the next set of pictures they are cooked cookies.

The en-fattened cooked cookies didn’t look quite as fine as our original sculpted conceptions.  We were hoping to improve their artistic merits by decorating them.  I had frosting left over from the gingerbread house we did in December.

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The chocolate frosting, though, had congealed in a strange, barely spreadable manner.  To deal with this, had to warm it and melt it slightly to get it to spread.  The Princess chose to forego using chocolate frosting.  Like an idiot, I forged ahead with the tasty goo.

Unfortunately, the warm chocolate had a tendency to melt all the other decorative frosting.

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So, I tried my best to be artsy creative and rescue the look of my unicorn cookie.  I failed.  I turned it into a fire-tailed ugly dog with a bleeding white stick stuck in its forehead.

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The Princess was, however, much more successful.

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And fortunately, both cookies were delicious when it came time to clean up our respective messes.

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Filed under artwork, daughters, goofiness, humor, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

O Mio Babbino Caro

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This beautiful song, an operatic aria by Puccini, is from the comic opera Gianni Schicchi.  But, more important than that is what the song actually means in context.

In the opera, Gianni Schicchi is a con man intent on swindling a family out of their inheritance and knowing all along that he will be destined to go to hell when he dies.  The family is gathered for the reading of the rich man’s will, which is, because this is a comic opera, lost for the time being.  Their main concern is for the money, which rumor has it has all been willed to the church.  But one among them is actually worthy of inheriting the money, Rinuccio the son of the rich man’s cousin.  And, as luck would have it, as it always does in comedies, Rinuccio is the one who, during the manic and desperate search for the will, actually finds it.  And assuming he comes out well in the will, he secures a promise from his mother that if he inherits money, he can marry Schicchi’s beautiful daughter Laurretta whom he truly loves.

But when he reads the will, he is devastated.  The money all goes to a monastery.  He begs Schicchi to help him convince the family that he should marry Laurretta anyway.  This Gianni Schicchi tries and finds it harder than turning water into wine.  So Schicchi is about to give up when Lauretta finally speaks up for herself through the song,

O Mio Babbino Caro (My Beloved Father)

At this point Schicchi is moved by the beautiful song and even more beautiful love his daughter has surprised him with.  He not only agrees to help, but executes a bizarre plan, hiding the rich man’s body and pretending to be him come back to life to rewrite the will.  Now the will favors Rinuccio, and over the protests of the family, he inherits the money and marries his true love, Schicchi’s daughter.  The opera ends with Schicchi singing his case to the audience, telling them in song that going to hell is worth it to aid true love.

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And this, then, is the truth of O Mio Babbino Caro.

Love, expressed through the surprise of hidden talent suddenly revealed, is the most persuasive argument there is.

Whether it is the love in the music suddenly discovered in the overwhelming voice of a little girl like Jackie Evancho or Amira Willighagen, or the late great Maria Callas who also sang the role, or even the singer of Puccini’s greatest work who is yet to perform it and make silly old men like me weep for beauty’s sake, the song is the most persuasive argument there is in favor of true love.

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That is a thing I desperately want to capture in the novel I am writing now, Sing Sad Songs.  Love expressed in music.  Love that reverses loss.  Love that heals all things.  And Love that moves all people.  The love that is masterfully sung in O Mio Babbino Caro.

Francois spotlight

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Filed under art criticism, classical music, daughters, humor, music, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

True Treasures Take Time

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I now have six good books and one embarrassing one published.  They represent stories I have been crafting, revising, telling, and retelling for over 40 years.  They represent things that happened to me in real life and people I have known and loved in real life that have all been transformed in the wizard’s crucible and witch’s cauldrons of my bizarre imagination.  They contain some of my best magic spells and some of my most worthwhile wordsmithing, by which I mean writing in ways that give the spellchecker fits.

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I tried to tell you this story about telling stories yesterday, but my computer glitched and burped and spontaneously deleted more than half of what I wrote just as I was finishing it to publish it.  So the complex part I had planned to  explain this Paffooney was lost and the resulting tantrum I threw kept me from remembering and rewriting.

But it was fortunate that I delayed the repair of this post until today.  Because last night my daughter finished her end-of-the-year art project for school, and the snafu-demons have inadvertently given me the opportunity to include it here.

It is a soft sculpture dragon made of felt and hand-sewn.  She didn’t tell me what his name is, or even that it is a him, but one can imagine that it must be something like Rumple-Tum Sneezer,  or something equally awkwardly foolish like that.  One can imagine it because one has a slightly off-kilter and Disney-demented imagination.  But the whole project took a boatload of time, and you can see she crafted it with great care and skill.

Treasure takes time to create.  We who attempt to create it in the red-hot forges of our stupid little creative heads put all the skill we have acquired over time into it.  And the endeavor renders something of value almost every time.  Time… time… time… Treasure takes time.  And now I need to hurry and publish this before the computer tries to fart it all away again.

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Messing Up With Mickey

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The way I handle the computer tends to be the way I handle life as a whole.  Thirteen tabs open at the same time, eleven of them not responding, and me cussing the machine for not working properly.

Spring has come.  In fact, Spring Break has come.  My daughter the Princess and I were planning to plant flowers in the yard where the pool used to be.  We started work yesterday spreading compost on the flower bed and churning the soil.  But we should’ve done it sooner.  It was too much for tired muscles to finish yesterday.  Then the rains came last night.  It would’ve been perfect to plant the seeds yesterday, then have God water them naturally at night.  But plans don’t go anywhere near perfectly.  Thirteen tabs are open and twelve are not responding.

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In my novel, The Baby Werewolf, the murderer is now unmasked and he has started on his final killing spree.  But as I was supposed to write the next Canto the last two nights, I found myself overwhelmed and overtired.  I got no further writing done.  I vowed to do it tonight, but the time change has left me no less tired and overwhelmed.  Thirteen tabs not responding.

So here I sit, paralyzed by entropy and worriedly contemplating the eventual heat death of the universe.  What to do?  What to do?

Mickey’s inevitable answer… Mickey opens a new tab and keeps on writing.  Did you think he had an actual plan for the rest of his life?  Of course not.  He planned on retiring from teaching and writing for about three years, and then dropping dead from one of his six incurable diseases.  Guess what?  This June will be four complete years.  Who knows how many more?

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, daughters, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney

Fighting Back

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The sad truth is that as this world progresses in the days since the Trump election, it becomes harder and harder to stay positive and happy.  It becomes easier and easier to figuratively stub your toe on the bad news each new day brings and fall into the deep dark pit of black depression.

Just after signing the paperwork for the bankruptcy, I get a couple of explanation pages from my health insurance, assuring me that I will have to pay somewhere around $4500 for my emergency room visit and 3-day hospital stay.  After I earned my first $100 dollars as an Uber driver, I ran over a glass bottle and punctured a tire in its sidewall, costing me over $100 to replace it.  And my bank account, in spite of scraping and saving and spending money like Scrooge McDuck, a thoroughly squeezed nickel at a time, does not contain near enough money to pay this year’s property tax.  In spite of the blood, sweat, and money put into this last summer’s pool crisis, we may still lose the house.  I may soon fall off of that cloud that I stand on.

The Trumpinator hasn’t been helping.  He got the tax plan passed that benefits him to the tune of $12 million dollars every year, and may give me $50, or nothing, or I may even have to pay more.  His tax plan removes the mandate from Obamacare that was its tentpole, probably causing its imminent collapse.  $4500 may only be the first wound in that battle.  And none of the terrible things he says and does get him even a hint of condemnation from the Republican Toad Army that backs him.  We are headed for even greater levels of income inequality, possible revolution and civil war, and general chaos, assuming North Korea doesn’t begin nuking us first.

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But the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune do not find their target completely undefended.  I have ways of dealing with double-danged downers that are all but unknown to those who are basically unartistical.  (Yes, I know that is not a word in English, but I am creative.)

Do you remember that little perfume-bottle figurine that I bought at Goodwill and vowed in this goofy blog to repaint to express my artistical madness and creativiticockle?  (Yes, I know that isn’t a word in English either.)  I broke out the enamels and the acrylics and the brushes and the other stuff, and invited my daughter the Princess to paint with me.  She got out her ceramic dragon, a middle school art project that she never yet finished painting, and we both set to work.

We talked and joked and laughed at the table in the family room.  We talked about art styles and painting techniques.  We talked about art classes at school.  We talked about many important father/daughter artists sorts of things, and the regret we both have for never seriously trying to learn to play music.

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And the result was the healing of many old heart-wounds and the painting of many spots of very nice paints. You can definitely fight back against a world of darkness by creating rebellious little acts of artistry.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, battling depression, commentary, daughters, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, grumpiness, happiness, healing, new projects, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Return of the School Daze

Today, school starts, and my two over-large babies are toddling off to two different campuses on opposite sides of the city.  My wife, of course, is still teaching and has a job to get to, so the responsibility for getting happy little kids to happy little schools (more accurately, big, nasty-smelling gathering spots for belligerent and borderline delinquent teenagers) is mine alone.

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Seriously, it was not a good way to start the day.  I got out of bed feeling moderately ill as the mold spores in the air have been heavy enough to really give the gift of swelling to my COPD restricted lungs.  I grabbed breakfast, an egg burrito with salsa, and quickly discovered the salsa had at least three ingredients in it that I am allergic to (not fatally allergic like a peanut allergy, just GAWD-I-HAVE-TO-VOMIT!!! allergic).

I got in the car after delivering my breakfast to the upstairs toilet, and was only a pale shade of green still, when wifey calls the Princess and I, three blocks down the road, and makes us come back for a first-day-of-school photo, which she now possesses ten of, kindergarten through ninth grade.  So, still determined to get there early, a new school that I had never taken a kid to before, we immediately ran into a pile of rush-hour traffic on Josey Lane.  The road crew had put out cones to indicate another mindless digging project so they could laugh at fuming, frustrated motorists while they stood by the side of the road and had donuts and coffee.  The school is less than a mile from my house, but the traffic jam was easily going to last for an hour or more and make us late, so we executed plan B.  I used Google Maps to chart a route that was only three times as long, and we got there in about fifteen minutes.

Blue and Mike in color

But the school parking lot was a worse design for drop-offs than the one I had been teaching at for seven years before I retired.  It had loads of entry access, but limited exits.  In other words, it is a place for parents and old elephants to go when they are ready to die.  It might’ve been easier to get out of if there hadn’t been so many old junk cars with human skeletons in them dispersed throughout the parking lot.  45 minutes later, I got out, but not before the engine overheated on my little Ford pony.  And I just had a new coolant pump and thermostat put in a week ago.  Ah, well… this is going to be an interesting year.

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Filed under autobiography, daughters, education, family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, pessimism

Trudging Towards Tomorrow

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My three kids used to be cute, even with goblin grins.

I spent a lot of time yesterday looking at old photos.  The journey seems a lot longer looking back than looking at the trail ahead.  But there are good things beside every signpost on the road behind us.  I am proud of where we’ve been.

The Three Faces of the Princess at the Kingdom Hall;

  1. “We’re going to MacDonald’s afterwards, right?”
  2. “What do you mean REAL FOOD?”
  3. “Yes, that was me that farted.”

We are basically right with God.  Oh, I know I haven’t been a very good Jehovah’s Witness the last three or four years.  Being an atheist might have something to do with it.  But I actually  believe in God.  It is just that my God is a bit bigger than theirs.  My God is not some old man with a white beard on a golden chair in some invisible dimension.  He is everything there is.  And he doesn’t have to promise me eternal life and goodies for a lifetime of doing what I believe is good and right and benefits the lives of others.  I don’t do it for theological dog treats.  I do it because I know in my heart it is right.  And I live for the here and now.  Because that is the only part of existence that is relevant to me here and now.  “I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, I have a right to be here.” (from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann)

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We used to do a lot of camping and traveling.  We have seen some amazing things in amazing places.

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The Grand Canyon is improved by having my middle son posed in front of it.

At the Grand Canyon Railway Station;

In a land where dinosaurs once roamed;

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You can find dinosaurs for tourists without spending big bucks to visit Jurassic World.

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Don’t worry.  The Princess is the scariest dino running with this pack.  That goofasaurus rex is going to regret that nose-bump to the back of the head.

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In the end, she ate every last one.

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But my kiddos hatched a replacement, so they are not personally responsible for the re-extinction of the dinosaurs.

Appreciating nature;

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Posing with dead nature.

Posing with living nature, including wild and feral cousins, is also fun.

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Filipino nature and wild and feral Filipino cousins.

And we have allowed ourselves to have fun along the way.

But children grow up and begin to have their own lives.  They get jobs.  They learn to drive.  And we have to fearfully accept the consequences of the monsters we have probably created.

As I continue trudging down the road of life, I am somewhat weary because I am old.  My bones have a lot of walking-around mileage on them.  My heart has a limited number of beats remaining.  But my biggest regret is… you can only go back and walk the path again through memory and old pictures.  Time and I march onward.

 

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, compassion, daughters, family, feeling sorry for myself, goofiness, humor, kids, photos