Family Measures

When Dad died, some surprising family dynamics emerged.  My youngest brother disowned me, vowing to never return.  My “older” brother (I’m the oldest) was executor, and blocked me from understanding what was going on.

Later on, the older brother gave me a lecture.  He declared our family dysfunctional and decried the ineffectiveness of holding a grudge.  He was diplomatic enough so that I couldn’t be sure who he was accusing, if anyone.  I sat there attempting to be a calming influence given that he had a lot on his shoulders, even though I found his words inconsistent and insulting.

Months later, my younger brother returned to our fair city.  His wife has cancer, and our hospitals are world famous.  We learned they’d come and gone too late to visit or offer support.  But this event did trigger a discussion among our little family about what it means to be a family.

Here’s my take.  More importantly, it’s something that you can measure and record.  It’s one small step towards making all those soft sciences a little bit harder.

Sharing information.  Let’s not worry about what’s true or false, what’s gossip and what’s important.  In a tight-knit family, information is shared quickly.  In today’s age, it can be shared among everyone instantly.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about Mom’s breakfast or sis-in-law is town for chemo.  Who knows what and when, among the family, is very important.  In our case, we found out through a very roundabout non-family member.

Mi casa, su casa.

Many times in the past my older brother came to town, sometimes with his wife, but never notified me, and never stayed with us.  They could have, but generally I didn’t find out that they’d arrived until they’d always booked accommodations.  Yes, we extended an invitation every time.

In the case of the sis-in-law, they also booked rooms.  In fact, their hotel wasn’t too far from us.  In both cases, they could have stayed with us.  The comforts of home, more time to spend with each other, more time to share experiences and give emotional support.

I know of families that always stay with each other, even if they live in trailers.  They can’t stand it for too long, after all they are human.  But they try.

You might argue that it’s a money thing, or a culture thing.  You’re partially right.  But you can ignore those factors and look at the willingness of people to be together, to be close.

My older brother lectured me that families are comprised of people who are different.  That’s a given, everyone is different.

What defines a family is the willingness of “different” people to be together, argue politely together, and support each other.

Measuring how fast they share information, how closely they spend their limited time together when able, how open their homes are to each other, that’s a great measure of family integrity.

My extended family scores fairly low, but our nuclear family is tight.

How about yours?


Jane Austen Meets Emily Dickinson

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Imagine, if you will, such a meeting of two incredible women whose writing have touched the hearts of the world.

Consider this.  Jane’s works have NEVER been out of print since they were published 200 years ago.  Since movies were invented, her stories are repeated at least every ten years.

Emily’s poetry has also NEVER been out of print.  She’s now credited with being the INVENTOR of modern poetry.  Not only do her words touch hearts of so many, but the very way she wrote continues to DEFINE the way we speak.

So what else do they have in common, for me?

If it wasn’t for Jane, I wouldn’t appreciate Emily.

In order to properly write a romantic comedy, I wanted to learn from the best.  So I took the approach familiar to most men.  I analysed her.  I took P&P apart, quantified it, organized it, and put almost every part under a microscope.

I didn’t make much progress.

Suddenly, one day, (truly!) it hit me.

Understanding P&P using logic, using numbers, using traditional masculine components was awesomely wrong.

Jane Austen was writing in a language I barely understood, but was willing to learn.

She wrote in EMOTIONS.

Once I understood that Jane used words to paint scenes in emotional terms, the book opened up in ways I never realized.  I finished my own pale imitation of P&P recently, so trust me, I’ve gotten to know Jane’s style pretty darn well.  And I have nothing but admiration for her.

Something funny happened to me along the way.

I have a new, deep appreciation for emotions in art.  And I have a new, deep appreciation for women who think in terms of emotions instead of masculine concepts.

I understand why men complain about women wanting to talk about emotions, because the men don’t comprehend the language of emotions.  Women do, largely by nature.

Emotions are HARD.  Getting them right is TRICKY.  No one did it better than Jane.  Learning how to read, and possibly even write using emotional language is what I learned.

But here’s the really funny part.

Now that I appreciate those emotions, now that I better understand the language, suddenly it’s like entering a whole new world that existed in parallel to my old one.

I picked up a poem by Emily Dickinson, and suddenly the emotions poured forth, entering my heart in ways they never would have before.  I looked at another, and another, and it was as if light was coming from her lines.

Two years ago, before I truly read P&P, this never would have happened.  Now it does.

So, my new girlfriend is Emily.  But I never would have appreciated her if it wasn’t for Jane.

Eventually they will have to meet.  After all, I love them both, along with my wife.

And we’re all going to get along famously.

I can feel it.


Yoga Boot Camp


Sometimes I fantasize about leading a yoga class. To be clear, I don’t really want to, because there’s too many people to deal with. And all those problems!


Yet, every now and then, I imaging leading a class.  And my style of teaching is more like a traditional drill instructor. Maybe something like this:

“You are now in yoga boot camp!” I say.

“None of that spiritual nonsense for you lazy, good for nothing boys! (FYI, it’s a class of all adult men.) Give me a tadasana, for the love of mike, not a single one of you are doing it right. If you’re not sweating in 2 minutes, you’re doing it wrong. Stand there anyway, I’ll correct you later.

For those of you who don’t understand, we’re going to start with an AUM. This isn’t for you spiritual types, this is you shaking loose those things in your head that help you balance. You want to balance, don’t you?

I am not going to sit you on my knee and explain harmonics, musical vibrations, and resonant cavities. This is not physics class. You will give me an AUM, you will make it loud, you will make it proud, and there will be three of them. Understand?

“Then do it!”  Yes, that’s what I would say.

Anyway, imagine a whole class like that. Of course it would settle down quickly. A strenuous but short vinyassa sequence, followed by a couple of intense Iyengar style holds. Then a quick “master class” on a particular pose, followed by a few inversions, sarvangasana, possibly a restorative pose if we have time, then savasana (mandatory). We finish up with another 3 AUMs and that’s it.

Hurry, registration ends soon! Look forward to seeing you there. Remember, this is hard hitting yoga that doesn’t shy away from 8 limbs or anything else. This is yoga for the Iron Man.

See you there…
… in my dreams!


Pride in Kidlessness

I met this guy at a party, and he was boasting that soon after getting married he’d gotten a vasectomy.  His newlywed wife was all for it.  And they’d been married happily for many years.

But aren't they toooooo cute?

They are smart, well-traveled, fairly funny, and have a good life.  Why not want to share that with some little copies of themselves?

Here’s a few easy reasons.

  1. Perhaps one or both had a rough childhood, and don’t want to pass on those bad memories.
  2. Perhaps they are surrounded by enough children owned by relatives, they feel safe not contributing to the family.
  3. They could be so selfish that the idea of sharing any of their fun times with anyone else is abhorrent.  Why choose to share it with someone you are legally liable for?

I’m sure you can think of a few more, but the other day I realized there was a big one that I hadn’t considered.  It is very similar to thoughts I shared regarding suicide some time ago.

It goes like this:

This couple isn’t happy with the world as they know it.  There’s pollution, overcrowding, uncertainty, and increasing expenses.

They Choose No Children because they are afraid of the future.  The joy they might feel in raising a child is offset by the pain of exposing them to a frightening world.

In a way, we are seeing a form of species suicide.  For if the members don’t have enough children, the species will shrink.  Shrink enough and it dies.

So the next time you meet a couple that is childless, try to cheer them up.  The future can’t be that bad.

Can it?



Emily Dickinson is a cheap date

Rocking your World since 1884

As the oldest of five children, my upbringing differed considerably from the others.

Frugality is part of my earliest memories.  Conservation and efficiency were part of every lecture when I was old enough.  As a result, even to this day, I am not above eating everything on my plate and saving things that my younger siblings willingly throw away.

As you can imagine, frugality is not the easiest way to impress someone of the opposite sex.  Lucky for me, I met a wonderful woman, also the oldest, brought up similarly to me, and understanding of my ways.  In fact, to this day, she is even more frugal, so that I have to toss things when she’s not looking!  I’m sure she knows.

Which brings us to Emily.  Being a tough New England chick, she also would have eschewed anything having to do with frills and waste.  Which is why she was so happy taking long walks, tending her garden, or reading a book.

That’s why I can imagine walking with her, aimlessly, through the woods until we found a small glade, and then, sitting together, read to each other.  I wouldn’t choose anything too heady, no sermon or improving literature.  No, it would be something whimsical, even poetic.  We’d laugh, we’d talk, and then we’d walk home.

She sums all of this up right here.

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry—
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without opress of Toll—
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul