Book Review: Home Game

Earlier this year, I received a copy of Michael Lewis’s Home Game as a gift. This is definitely the kind of book that I probably would have bought for myself after reading the dust jacket. Here’s an excerpt:

“When he became a father, Michael Lewis found himself expected to feel things that he didn’t feel, and to do things that he couldn’t see the point of doing. At first this made him feel guilty, until he realized that all around him fathers were pretending to do one thing, to feel one way, when in fact they felt and did all sorts of things, then engaged in what amounted to an extended cover-up … The remarkable thing about this story isn’t that Lewis is so unusual. It’s that he is so typical. The only wonder is that his wife has allowed him to publish it.”

Lewis is the author of several sports- and finance-themed books that have been made into movies, which is as much a barometer of success for an author these days as anything (see The Blind Side, Moneyball, and most recently The Big Short). Home Game departs from his most famous subject matter to instead focus on his everyday experiences as a father to three children (his wife, I just learned, is Tabitha Soren, who was on MTV back when MTV mattered).

It’s clear through his anecdotes that no matter where a father falls on the income spectrum, no matter the amount of success, if he cares about and loves his family then chances are he’s going to have some version of the same fatherly experiences. Lewis retells his stories in a way in which, I suspect, any parent could recognize elements of their own lives. Most of them are laugh-out-loud funny, too. Some of the highlights for me: Secret pride as his daughter fends off bullies by warning them that she’s going to pee in the public swimming pool if they don’t leave her brother alone. Camping overnight with his daughter in a theme park in Oakland. The stress and anxiety of caring for his infant son diagnosed with RSV. It’s in this last example that Lewis spells out parenthood in as beautifully blunt a way as I’ve seen:

“If you want to feel the way you’re meant to feel about the new baby, you need to do the grunt work. It’s only in caring for a thing that you become attached to it.”

I think this is, quite frankly, one of the only ways the human race endures. We build up the bonds to our children through caring for them in those tough early days. That, and because they’re cute. There are other areas in the book where Lewis’s bluntness and candor might not be for everyone, but it is frequently hilarious all the same. And since the source material for the book came from the journals Lewis kept after the birth of all three children, it all rings true, making this book a very real peek into the life of a modern family.

As for me, I enjoyed the book – and it was a quick read – but I don’t think I buy the extended cover-up notion wholesale. I do think it’s true that once a baby arrives, the reality of the experience quickly replaces any preconceived fantasies you may have had about having a child. And it’s definitely true that, at least in our case, it takes time to forge a deep bond that goes beyond the initial just-getting-by days. Lewis also has a point with the idea that many modern dads don’t really know what the job entails these days, and we all sort of have to figure it out for ourselves and make it work for our own families. (As a member of the father club, however, I also want to be careful to not destroy the illusion for any of the other dads out there that are playing the long con.)

One final thing that I took from the book is the idea of doing a journal to capture some of the more fleeting thoughts and memories that come from being a parent. I’ve been trying to share the big highlights about parenthood on this blog when I can, but of course I can’t (and don’t want to) share everything. For one, everything’s moving so fast that I can’t trust myself to remember it all. For two, not everything’s blog material – I don’t have aspirations of posting daily about the peanut butter & jelly sandwich my kid had for lunch. But I want to resolve to write more in 2016, and a journal is one way I just might be able to make it happen, so I’m going to personally give it a shot.

In closing, if you have a dry sense of humor and you find yourself becoming a parent in the coming year (either “again” or for the first time), or if you want to relive some of those early parenting days, then Home Game is definitely worth a read.

It’s Here

Today, hope arrived. For the first time in months, spring’s arrival has a glimmer of a chance. Until now, winter’s icy fingers have had us in a stranglehold, keeping all of us indoors and sheltered, our dogs futilely looking out windows toward the Arctic wastelands that once held their vast, green bathrooms. The world is their toilet and, for three months or so, all but the smallest patches are rendered into icy and unforgiving tundra.

But today, I could finally smell something more than the bland scent of the winter wind. Mulch, mud, pine needles — even the leather seats in my car — all came back to life today. I swear I could almost hear the puddles of water soak deep into the ground to awaken the flowers slumbering deep below. The sun, no longer held to its low winter angles, has finally mustered enough courage to aim higher in the sky, sending the piles of snow into rapid submission. Heidi has her bathroom back.

There’s just something about spring that can instantly recast everything in a crazy Instagram filter of bright yellows and greens, though it should be experienced in person rather than through a camera lens. Spring is a giant reset button and a beacon home, a time of rebirth and relaxation, rain and allergies and blooms and picture perfect days.

I know that, meteorologically, we’re still a few weeks away from spring, but this was one of those days where I could finally just believe it was coming. Today was one of those days of demarcation and significance that we can soon point back to and say, “this was when it started.”

You don’t always get these kinds of days to kickstart a season. Around DC in particular, we’re fortunate to even get enough of a springtime to appreciate the cherry blossoms before nosediving straight into the oppressive summer humidity. Autumn is the next loudest season, announcing its arrival with football and a kaleidoscope of colors, but even those are more gradual indicators and are, let’s face it, only forestalling the onset of winter. Spring is reserved for the enjoyment of no overcoats, drying sidewalks, bare feet in the grass, and the celebrations of Easter.

It’s been a long, challenging, record-breakingly cold winter for many of us. But it has had its day. We won’t have to hope much longer – spring has arrived as sure as the morning.

Let’s begin.

 

Spring Eternal

It is April, and despite ever-growing concerns to the contrary all throughout March, winter’s icy hands have slowly released their grip on the Washington metro area. They did so begrudgingly, piecing together one last fusillade of snow, sleet, and ice on Sunday, to the surprise and disgust of just about everyone.

But now it is April, and while the nights still bite with a tinge of chilly air, the sun is stronger and is winning the battle for the sky on most days. The heat of the day lingers long enough to see schoolchildren safely to their dreams of summer and young lovers to each other’s arms. The trees and plants will soon realize that it is okay for them to awaken, creakily extend their branches to the sky and explode in the brightness of fresh buds and flowers, before yielding to the deep greens that will happily provide us shade for months to come.

It is April, and the boys of summer have taken the field once again. The cathedrals of baseball are thriving, filling with eager crowds, a new season of promise underway where every team’s record still looks manageable. Each player waits for their chance to make it count, each fan cranes their necks to get a glimpse of the rookie pitcher or the new manager. Every pitch is a new statistical odyssey, each play a chance to beat the odds. This diamond-shaped chess match is playing out every day all over America.

It is April, and that now means spring. Freshness. Rebirth. Life.

Resurrection.

Finally, it is April.

Dream A Little Dream

I don’t remember dreams all that often anymore. I chalk that up to becoming a light sleeper in my adult years. Last night was an exception. On at least three separate occasions during the night, I dreamed that I was on a platform on a lake with several friends and family members, though I don’t remember specifically who.

There was some kind of lake house nearby, and I vaguely recall being from there, or at least there was a fleeting sensation that was where we were staying. But we were all trying to go somewhere else, and we had no transportation.

hammermill_paper
The good ship Hammermill? (Source: earthwormrecycling.org)

Suddenly, someone brought out a bunch of those copy paper boxes that are so handy for packing just about anything in real life and dropped them all in the water. I instantly knew that these boxes were meant to be our watercraft.

I remember someone asking “will these actually hold our weight?”

To which I replied, “oh yeah, they’re sturdier than they look.”

Without hesitation, we all hopped into our Xerox boxes with nary a splash and began paddling around the lake with our hands, our bodies dry as a bone inside the protection of the corrugated cardboard.

Later, in another disjointed scene, I was left alone to gaze out over the lake, now choppy and impossibly seeming to flow uphill. The water was undulating like waves made in a bathtub in childhood, and it was murky brown, churning from a fresh storm.

Unfazed, I once more hopped back into my Xerox paper box and swam upstream into the unknown…

… where I was awakened to the sound of Heidi barking her head off at the workmen who came to prune our birch tree, and the real world came crashing back.

10 Years Of Blogging

Somehow, during all the turmoil of the government shutdown fiasco last month, I forgot an important milestone – at least, important to me, and I guess to you if you’re reading this right now. On October 7, 2003, I manually posted to Ramble On for the first time, using a painstakingly slow HTML process as part of my web empire of Project BS. So many websites and blogs celebrate their tenth anniversary. Not to be outdone, today I am celebrating my 10 year + 1 month anniversary. Happy birthday, blog!

Looking back, my earliest posts are a bit immature and more like a journal of everyday happenings. Over time, I hope I have actually matured and improved my writing. I do feel that I’ve basically used this outlet as a lens for my adult life. But through it all I’ve just tried to keep it entertaining for myself and, by extension, the reader.  If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know I haven’t always been a faithful servant. I took huge hiatuses (don’t you think “hiati” would be a better word?) for long stretches, letting this place collect dust.

The first biggest lapse came in 2007. I had a database error issue that kept me from posting anything for a while, and I simultaneously started grad school which sucked up most of my time. I only broke the silence to post about April 16 and then picked back up over the course of June when I went on a trip to Boston. After that, grad school and Big Life Events like getting married distracted me from all but a few posts here and there. Through most of 2009, the only thing keeping Ramble On alive was the ability to post low-quality cellphone pictures via e-mail to Flickr, from which I could then automatically craft a blog entry, all from the slide-out keyboard on my LG env3! Oh, the innovation! I “re-launched” everything with WordPress in 2010, which provided some momentum well into 2011, when the home-buying and home-owning experience took over my life for a while but also provided fresh writing fodder. I have no explanation for the long lapses in 2011 and 2012. I know getting Heidi left me in no mood to write for a few months, while we housebroke her and endured all the other joys of owning a puppy. I started things up again for the summer of 2012 when some interesting trips were happening, only to disappear again until this past July.

As it stands, I’ve really enjoyed my latest run of writing. I think I’ve settled on a sweet spot in terms of posting frequency and subject matter. Ideas are coming more or less naturally, and I’m not stressing out over trying to do too much. The other times that I was more concerned with how the site looked, thinking that if I could get the perfect layout, the content would come later, all seem silly now. Each time, as soon as I settled on a nice layout with all the bells and whistles I wanted, I would eventually lose interest and give up posting. Well, my friends, thanks to my general lack of caring how the thing looks anymore, you can kiss those worries goodbye!

I tried to think of neat things to do for this 10.083rd anniversary, like pick out my favorite posts of all time or do my first Flash animation or stage a table reading of Ghostbusters with my friends, but the fact is I haven’t had time due to all this traveling Gina and I have been doing. So I invite you to check out the archives if you haven’t in a while. Pick a random month and start browsing. It’s good for you.

And if that doesn’t float your boat, check out these ghosts of blogs past via archive.org‘s Wayback Machine:

Ramble On in 2004: The Blue Bar Era

2005: Reverse The Blue Bars

2010: Orange And Black

And here’s a final bonus! Anyone recognize this?

I'm on a roll!
I’m on a roll!

This was Project BS’s homepage in 2004, although you’ll notice the Javascript I had in there to display the current date still worked, even in the Wayback. I think I can safely say that I’m still on a roll.