Spencer’s Story: Volume 1

Spencer slammed the door shut, knowing that he’d hear about it later, but not caring, for in that moment, he was alone, himself.

With each step up the hill behind his house, Spencer could feel the anxiety lessen, allowing for the calming breath of his mind to dissipate the stabbing in his chest.

He climbed.

The long grass under his feet held dew that made his socks all wet, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care that this would be a point of contention later; that the socks, wet and soggy, would somehow find their way into the “reasons why boys need structure” handbook his father so dutifully abused.

At the top of the hill, Spencer looked down into the valley. Horses fed on alfalfa in one-acre lots. Kids ran up and down the street looking for something to prod, someone to play with, some activity to occupy their time. His two younger brothers, Jeremiah (or “Miah” as everyone seemed to call him) and Marcus, played in the oblong patch of grass in the front yard of their home. Spencer, sometimes, was jealous of their innocence. He wondered how they could not know. They lived in the same house.  Slept in the same room. Pooped in the same toilet. Showered in the same linoleum box.

But perhaps they did know, and their alternate universe wasn’t the opposite. Just different. Possibly better.

At least that’s what Spencer wished for.

Something better.

Better like the time he spent the weekend at his friend Micah’s house, when his parents had to make a last-minute trip with the church. Micah’s house, with all of the tasty white bread and sour licorice whips and soda pop, was something better.

Less stabby chest, more sore smiling cheeks.

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Perception. Not In That Way.

I read Stick, a book from Andrew Smith. It’s incredibly powerful and relevant. So much so that I felt compelled to email him, tell him how much the book and its characters meant to me. I haven’t felt that way about a book in quite some time. Not since Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Not since Wilson Rawls’ Where The Red Fern Grows (Andrew, I am so with you on this. I’ve read this book at least a dozen times).

The book brought up all sorts of different emotions and memories. But there is one particular memory. One having to do with what my sister and I had to wear for church growing up. It wasn’t just that we had to wear nicer clothing than the typical garb, but that we had to wear it a certain way.

To him, we had to show the others at church that we were dressed up. They had to see it. And a t-shirt or a pair of shorts spoke of carelessness and non-conformity and being not too serious about the reasons for being at church.

To him, it was about the image we presented–to friends, to acquaintances, to strangers.

We had to (were often forced to) look like a tight-knit, well-oiled machine; perfectly happy and cohesive and strong.

And I think we were in certain ways. Certain, and small, yet meaningful ways. But not in the way he wanted it.

Not in that way.

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Don’t Judge Based Upon Irrelevancies

The other day, a friend of mine jokingly poked fun at a nose. Yes, a nose. It was a large nose, surely. And it was, from my subjective angle, perhaps unattractive in the way it silhouetted, or got stuck in the doorway. But it was just a nose. And, above all–and most importantly–a nose that this individual did not choose to claim. So one shouldn’t, as this friend did, and I did for sake of argument here, judge.

My running comrade Justin recently explained this idea as follows: that it makes no logical or rational sense to judge/discriminate/evaluate/value someone based upon a factor that they did not choose. And I wholeheartedly agree. Things we do not choose hold no inherent value because we don’t choose them. It’s merely happenstance.

We don’t choose our race. So it doesn’t make a lick of sense to judge based upon race. It’s irrelevant. We don’t choose our ethnicity. So we shouldn’t value someone based upon their ethnicity, based upon what they did not choose, something they were born into. Similarly, we don’t choose our gender or sexual orientation. So we should not judge/value based upon something that was not chosen, as it doesn’t hold any inherent value.

If you do make judgments/valuations based upon race, gender, sexual orientation and/or ethnicity, you are saying that you believe a person’s value or character is determined before they are born, by something they did not–and could not–choose and evaluate/judge themselves.

Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand said it quite well: “Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination” (The Virtue of Selfishness, 126).

Things we do choose are fair game for open evaluation and discrimination because we are, in fact, making a conscious decision, using our “rational faculty” to make an evaluation. We choose our religion. We choose our philosophy. We choose the clothes we wear. These are things that can be judged. Not race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity. These are irrelevant and hold no inherent value.

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Books, Movies, Cereal for Dinner

Sometimes I’d rather spend money on books and movies than eat. It’s true. And I suspect that this desire would be much more pronounced if I were, let’s say, a hermit. Oh man. I would be starving, yet my home would be made of books. Literally. But only those big, throwaway hardcover John Grisham novels. Yes, I’d eat cereal for dinner three times a week, but I’d have so much money to spend on books and DVDs and all of the finest relevant accoutrements: cozy reading chairs, library ladders, decadent decanters, entertainment centers, special/limited/for-one-time-only blu-ray/dvd movie packages.

Thank goodness for Jessica. While we may eat cereal for dinner every once in a while, it’s not on par with hermit-hood. And I am especially thankful that she loves movies and books too. We can immerse ourselves and still find a good meal, here and there.

But we will have our Beauty and the Beast library, so help me Santa Claus.

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Critter Bugs in the Bed

I don’t sleep well without the Critter Bug. I’ve gotten used to her bunchy face blankets that encroach upon my territory, my sleep number. I’ve gotten used to her body blocking Scooby from nuzzling me to death in my sleep. I’ve gotten used to her manic sleep talking, or “night terrors,” that leave me only mildly annoyed and mostly intrigued by their inherent craziness. I’ve gotten used to retrieving her coffee and Trader Joe’s O’s in the morning, while she sits up in bed with both of our pillows cushioning her back. Generally, I’ve just gotten used to her presence. And when she’s not there, I don’t like it.

Jessica, no more overnight shifts for you. I mean it.

Does anyone want a peanut?

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To Be a Parent, Ah Yes. What, You Hate Them?

I’m excited to be a parent; to be a dad. Jessica, oddly, isn’t. Believe me, I’ve tried to get her to understand. She doesn’t get it. The child with the chocolate yogurt on their face, the ceaseless crying of the baby–I find these things to be wonderful. Jessica, she hates them. She’d prefer to not see them, or hear them, or smell their adorable poopy pants. I keep telling her that they can’t just “go away,” that he/she is only one-years-old and can’t walk. One time, at the park, she approached a crying baby boy and shoved a damp, snotty ball of tissue down his throat. I told her that she can’t do that anymore; that we can only use the “I’m so sorry she was just released from the asylum” excuse so many times. I suppose, in retrospect, I should have seen this coming. The day before our wedding, at the rehearsal dinner I walked in on her punching herself in the tummy saying, “you will never happen.”

But I digress.

Parenting isn’t in my future. Unless I put her down. Although I’m not willing, just yet, to do that. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. I’m not kidding.

P.P.S. Okay, fine. I’m kidding. Jessica wants to be a parent too. She adores kids. But I hate that I have to explain that. But I foresee that I must.

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I Married Into an Animal Explosion

I was a dog person before I met Jessica. Well, in a sense. I say ‘in a sense’ because when I compare my life and its relationship with animals to Jessica’s life with animals, mine is incredibly tame. And by tame, I undoubtedly mean that Jessica and her family would classify me as an ‘animal abuser.’ But, allow me to explain.

When we met, she had a horse, a rabbit, two dogs, and lived with a bird. And she did say, on more than a few occasions during our initial ‘dating’ period, that she wished to be a horse. She even did the whole neigh sound and mimicked the gallop in a quick semi-circle around me. I told her that I loved dogs, and I suspect, in retrospect, that I was exaggerating. Perchance I even fabricated a story or two about time spent volunteering at the animal shelter, or saving the neighbor’s pot belly pig from drowning one wet winter season.

I learned quickly that the Dobson family was one that didn’t abide by–or agree with–the concept of ‘outside pet.’ Although, I must say, I was relieved that they didn’t go so far as agreeing to the concept of ‘indoor horse.’ When I was growing up, we had dogs. Well, we had a dog, and then we had another dog. His name was Montana, and he was a Golden Retriever. A wonderful dog. But he was an ‘outdoor dog.’ My brothers and I played with him in the big yard out front; we took him on hikes down to the creek; we wrestled with him; on occasions he would be allowed inside to hang out while we watched a movie, or played Monopoly. But he slept outside in his Dogloo (awesome, by the way).

In the Dobson house, the dogs slept inside, they meandered around the dinner table and were (cover your ears, Mom) allowed up on the couch. This was all foreign to me. And has taken some time getting used to. But in the end, it hasn’t been so bad. Sure, my allergies go a bit haywire at times, and despite my body’s aversion to dander, I’ve grown quite fond of their constant presence.

Jessica, like her mom and dad and sisters, is an animal lover. I’m glad of it. I like that Scooby sleeps near the bed, and that he can wake me up with a cold, wet nose to my back. I like that we have horses (yes, we have two now) and that I can pretend to be The Man From Snowy River. I like that mom and pop Dobson are near, and their penchant for picking up strays is as strong as it ever was. I like that we rent a space that gives us the opportunity to care for dogs when the owner is away.

I love that I met Jessica. The true 4-h babe. The galloping (critter bug) Mustang, or Percheron.

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