Howdy Do Moon

Lessons from “An I CAN READ Book”

Our tenacious toddler goes through these bedtime story phases. One week it’s all about the Seuss. The next, she’s got to have more Elephant and Piggie. Another week: can’t get enough of that Hungry Caterpillar or Goodnight Moon. But lately, it’s been a Little Bear obsession. She’s got a fever, and the only medication is more Little Bear.

Many of these books are cute and charming. Some of them are just silly. And then some, I’m like, “What the what? How did this get published, and who buys it?” (Well, I guess we do since it’s in our home and I’m reading it.) And then sometimes, sometimes, we read a story, and I’m just thinking, “Oh, well that’s interesting… there must be a moral here somewhere…”

The classic tale of “Little Bear Goes to the Moon” is one such book.

So, basically, the story goes that Little Bear makes himself a space helmet (out of a cereal box or something) and decides that he wants to fly to the moon. He naturally and perceptively deduces that: (1) since birds can fly, he must be able to fly too, and (2) if he can fly, he must be able to fly to the moon. The logic is clearly irrefutable.

Little Bear goes on to inform his mother:

“Maybe some birds fly to the moon, I don’t know. And maybe I can fly like a bird,” said Little Bear.

“And maybe,” said Mother Bear, “you are a little fat bear cub with no wings and no feathers. Maybe if you jump up you will come down very fast, with a big plop.”

Wow, mom! Thanks a lot for believing in me! We all know what it’s like to have our mothers call us little fat bear cubs. Well, at least I do. The struggle is real.

“Maybe,” said Little Bear. “But I’m going now. Just look for me up in the sky.”

“Be back for lunch,” said Mother.

– Else Holmelund Minarik, 1957

Cut to commercial break. The nail-biting drama, right? Will Little Bear ever learn to fly? Will he make it to the moon? Will he make it back for lunch in time? What is for lunch by the way? I’m hungry.

So, maybe, you too can soar on the shiny, sparkle wings of your pegasus dreams. I don’t know. Unless you try, how will you know? And maybe we are all just little fat cubs with no wings and no feathers who will come down with a fast, big plop. But so what? At least we fracture our tail bones trying.

Like the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll still land somewhere among the vast, empty, dark void of the vacuum of space where there is no air to breathe and no one to hear you scream.” Wait, that doesn’t sound right or encouraging. Why is that a saying? Maybe I misremembered something… Was it shoot from the hip if you want to hit a bull in the eye, or don’t go flying for at least thirty minutes after eating…?

Anyways, maybe we try something that’s impractical or unrealistic. Maybe we fail. But maybe failure isn’t this thing to be avoided at all costs. Maybe failure is a great teacher. Maybe we become just that little bit better version of ourselves. And maybe we can just simply say to all the haters and doubters that, “Yeah, maybe I won’t succeed… But I’m going now. Just look for me up in the sky.”

Also, if you’re wondering whether or not Little Bear makes it to the moon and back in time for lunch—I’m not going to spoil it here. Go to the library. Read a book; don’t be a blubber-footed booby. And be back home in time for lunch. Your mother worked really hard to prepare this meal for you. Now eat it while it’s still warm, and you better be grateful or else I’ll turn this car around right now!

A Perfect Fit

I never knew toddlers could be so sarcastic.

This past week, our rambunctious not-quite-two-year-old tried on Mommy’s shoes (again). She successfully slipped her tiny twinkle toes inside the front flap and then began to teeter totter around the living room floor. She looked like a miniature retiree in over-sized slippers shuffling towards the kitchen for some chocolate pudding.

I looked at her, wide-eyed and mystified, and I asked, “Little moon, who’s shoes are those?”

She replied with the confidence of a honey badger, “They mine. My shoes!”

“Umm… Are you sure? They look a little big.”

“It not too big. It perfect!” She continued to wobble around like she was running a three-legged race with just herself.

“Sweetie, I think those are mommy’s shoes.”

“Nope. They not mommy’s shoes. They my shoes. They fit perfect. Perfect!” And then she giggled, clapped, jumped out of the shoes, and frolicked off towards more silly shenanigans.

Moments like these, I can’t help but be star-struck by the wisdom of children. They have a sort of knowledge about the world that is pure and simple—an innocent intuition and insight about reality. Here’s the thing: too many of us, too many times, are way too preoccupied with how well we “fit.” We want to fit in to society. We want to fit in with our jobs. We want to fit in with our families, friends, and even strangers. We often don’t even feel like we fit in with ourselves.

But who cares‽

Why does it matter so much what other people think (not to say that things don’t matter at all)? Don’t let others tell you who to be and how to be (not to say that other opinions or advice don’t matter at all). You do you. You are the only you after all, and no one can do you better than… well, you! Maybe if we all just spent a little more time being true to ourselves and truly good to others, then the world itself would fit just a little bit better. There’s so much about you that’s already perfect just the way it is. Maybe we just need to realize that we’re already a perfect fit.

Also, in general, you probably shouldn’t wear other peoples’ shoes. It’s only cute when a toddler does it. But again, don’t let me tell you how to live your life.

Caution: Watch for Falling…

One bright, crisp morning I was sitting underneath a tree in a city park and reading. It was genuinely nice, dare I say, lovely? The air was surprisingly sweet and clean for the city. My mind drifted into the melodious pages before me. I was filled with a sense of peace and contentment.

But oh, how quickly things can change. From tranquility to terror.

As I sat and the moments passed, suddenly I heard something drop to the ground near me. I didn’t think too much of it. Acorn, I figured. But then I heard another, and then another. Then I felt something like rain hit my shoulder. I thought, “Oh bummer, it’s starting to rain, I better wrap this up and get moving.” Then a drop descended upon the top of my head and then my other shoulder and before I knew it, I was being bombarded by some strange shower.

And then, the horrifying realization: there were no rain clouds and the sun smiled with a naughty, villainous grin.

It was bird poop.

I dared to quickly glance up and receive confirmation. The tree I decided to sit under was the avian equivalent of a trucker’s interstate gas station. A migrating flock of birds had all decided to take rest on this particular tree and that particular moment to do their doody duty. I guess it’s like when you have the choice between a Wawa and a Citgo: the choice is obvious. And, tragically, I had sat under the Wawa.

I jumped up and ran for my life. And I was never the same again. Some life experiences change a person forever. After being caught in the rain of foul fowl feces… there’s no coming back from that. Today, I don’t sit underneath trees. I also don’t read.

Who knew reading could be so dangerous? Like a primitive version of Pokémon Go.

So, whenever you find yourself sitting at the park or the beach, or going for a stroll, or just living life in general (they could strike at any moment), remember to mind your surroundings. Watch out for falling poo.

Also, they should really put up signs for these things… Not that I would read them, but still…

My Delightful Joyride Trailblazing John Denver’s Country Road

So, we saw the new Marvel movie this weekend: Avengers Endgame. And it got me thinking… Wow, what an accomplishment for all those involved—this whole interconnected, cinematic phenomenon all started elevenish years ago. What was I doing eleven years ago? What do I have to show for the past decade?

Well, I was in college. And I suppose that when I wasn’t goofing off, I was probably in a class or something. But more specifically, for some odd reason, superheroes punching aliens made me recall a particular incident from a particular adventure that I went on during my Freshman year.

A friend from my dorm and I decided to go on a road trip during a school break: up through the Midwest to Canada and then back down through New England. We were driving my car, and I didn’t own a GPS. This is also before the whole smartphone revolution. So we were doing old school MapQuest printouts and even older school actual road maps to navigate our way across the northeastern region of the United States.

One night, late—like approaching midnight—we were lost. Well, I won’t say lost. I’ll say we simply didn’t know where we were or where we were going. Anyways, somehow we ended up on this backroad in the middle of must have been nowhere, driving through the thick, dark mountain forest of a state that perhaps doesn’t always have the best reputation for being a safe place to get lost in. But so as not to offend anyone, let’s use an alias and call it the Back Woods of the Smaller Skintag Version of Virginia Located Westerly.

All of a sudden, a dim light appeared in the distance: a partially lit motel sign with forbidding dead branches hanging around the property like a cloud of spikes and splinters. Yes, whatever you’re imagining right now, that’s about right. This was the Bates Motel, the Hotel California, the opposite of the light at the end of the tunnel. Look, I cannot possibly express how eerie the atmosphere and just plain creepy the building was.

The parking lot was absent of cars, but the open sign was flickering on. I looked at my friend. He was known as a military, survivor-type on our hall. He wore an army-issued jacket, combat boots, and in his pockets were knives. Why someone needed to carry so many knives with them, I’ll never know (actually, in retrospect, perhaps the greater danger was sitting beside me the whole time). But as I parked, I looked at my friend with bewilderment and trepidation, and he spoke up first, “I’m not going in there.”

As I stood in front of the door, I weighed my options: is it better to die from exposure, lost in the woods, or to be murdered by some motel manager maniac? Before I could really think it through, I was turning the doorknob. The door creaked open, and inside I could see shadows crawling on the walls as just the vaguest sense of any light source penetrated through the bleak darkness. Seriously, no lights were turned on. Sitting by a bar counter, a gruff voice behind a burning cigarette asked if he could help me. I thought, “probably not, I’m just fine, thank you and good day sir, I’ll be going now…”

I could go on, but not to make things overly dramatic, I did eventually get some semblance of directions to navigate back to the highway. Obviously, I’m still alive. Anticlimactic much?

I guess the point of me telling this story is that sometimes the journey of life can take unexpected turns. Sometimes we lose our way. Sometimes we’re surrounded by what seems like infinite darkness. Sometimes, we come face to face with our nightmares.

But don’t let those realities stop you from taking the journey, from living life. We can never prevent all dangers and disasters. Trouble is inevitable. Safety is never guaranteed. But if we let fear consume and control us, then what’s the point of being alive at all? Don’t just exist. Live. And maybe carry a pocketknife or two.

The movie was pretty good by the way (especially for fans). You should go see it—and think about where the last eleven years have brought you.

The Crucible of Potty Training

My wife and I were recently in the throes of potty training with our charming toddler. And like travailing the thick jungles of an uncharted rain forest, navigating the new land or Toiletdom has been interesting, to say the least. Like a good movie, it’s been full of suspense, mystery, drama, and intrigue. There have been unexpected turns, plot twists, and shocking character developments. The potty pangs are real.

But each day we kept going and did not give up, and neither did she. As we cheered on our child and celebrated each triumph the days got better and dryer. We would remind her over and over again, “You can do it!” And then, when finally the floodgates of her bladder opened up to descend into the bowl of destiny she squealed with delight, “I did it!” Her glimmering glee as she mastered the potty has been truly inspirational.

Perhaps you are enduring the refining fire of a similar forge. Do the days seem dire and the universe ungovernable? Is your patootie simply pooped in more ways than one? Are you in the midst of an inauspicious space as you seem to have had yet another accident in the underwear that is your life? Then let me take a moment to encourage you to take heart.

If you feel like life has dealt you handful of gerbil droppings, then throw them away, that’s gross. If you feel burdened and overwhelmed by all the worries of life, then don’t hold it in, that’s not healthy, just let it all out. If you’re straining with too many demands, then don’t push too hard, just wait, eat some prunes, and try again later. Does everything seem to be full of poop? If it’s brown, flush it down. Just like our toddler, you too can wave adios to your troubles, and say “Bye, bye poopie!”

You can do it. You can succeed in this next challenge of life training. You can overcome the rump scoundrels that cause mental constipation, emotional diarrhea, and spiritual incontinence. You too can proclaim from the misty mountaintops, “I did it!” Yes, yes, you did indeed.

As In Life, Such Is the Potty

Oh what ominous porcelain peak that lurks before me?
A forbidding cliff, a fearsome instrument of torture I’m sure.
Must I ascend this frosty alp, this saucy summit?

My bawdy bowels tremble.
My delicate derriere is in dread.
My keister shivers at the touch of the dead cold ceramic.

Oh hindquarters, don’t fail me now.
Take courage and sit strong!
You wayward whoopsies don’t miss the mark.
As posterior plumps on exterior of the galvanized gourd,
Please don’t slip and be sure all exits remain interior.

Behold, this throne of smelly terrors once my bane,
Now subjugated to my will is but a hollow seat.
My caboose celebrates in serendipity!
I’m a big boy now.