The Bananaplan

The day after Christmas, with distension of the belly due to broccoli casserole over-stuffing, my wife, Sarah and I decided to escape the holiday madness (and the chocolate covered pretzels on the kitchen counter) for the The Walmarts.

You, the reader, are probably saying, "The Walmarts!? The day after Christmas?! That's the very definition of holiday madness! And you're right. It's just a different kind of holiday madness.

We weren't headed to the The Walmarts just to people-watch, we had a tertiary mission of purchasing a game called Bananagrams, which we had a enjoyed playing the night before.

A short drive from Sarah's parent's home and we found ourselves in an overly-stuffed parking lot. In anticipation of the craziness inside the Big Box I said to Sarah, "Okay, here's our game plan. If you see someone going for the last Bananagrams game, you hit 'em high and I'll hit 'em low." To which Sarah replied, "Yeah, and then I'll hit the snack bar."



Many Thurdays past, two days before Halloween, I was standing in Rod Smith's kitchen enjoying some of his sister Jenny's world famous* curry. Parenthetically, I understand the term "world famous" is tossed around willy-nilly by just about every restaurant trying to convince you their dish is more impressive than it really is, but people have been ooh-ing and aah-ing across the globe over Jenny's curry.

Where was I? Yes, standing in Rod's kitchen.

Rod, with his back to the kitchen wall with an accent consistent with his South African heritage asked, "Ryan, have you ever done any acting?" A strange question I thought. It's the kind of question I would prefer to dance around. And I tried my best verbal two-step. "Um, not really. Well, I, uh, did participate in writing and performing in a, uhh, variety-type show in college, but I certainly wouldn't call what I did acting." Run! Ryan run before he asks another one, I thought loudly, but not aloud. His follow-up was too quick, "Would you be interested in playing Boo Radley for a party with my students this Sunday?"

Rod's curriculum at St. Richard's School, where he teaches English, includes reading and study of To Kill a Mockingbird, which culminates in a party where the students dress as a character from the book and celebrate over dinner and a screening of the movie.

"Your only line is 'I'd like to go home now,'" he said sensing my continued apprehension. Rod went on to tell me how he would like me to stand in the darkness outside the house where his students would be gathered until I am noticed. I was intrigued, but still not sold.

I wanted to decline, but I felt like my back was against the wall. I offered the softest acceptance I could muster, "Sure."

Later that night, I was complaining to Sarah about having agreed to accept this assignment. She reminded me that I was trying to live under the following pretenses: 1) say 'yes' more than 'no'; 2) choose adventure over safety. I try to live into these rules, but it doesn't come naturally. I'm uneasy with the unknown, mystery. I prefer safety, and am quite happy in my comfort zone, thank you. But Sarah had my number. I knew I had to do Boo.

I found the rattiest clothes I could and rummaged through Sarah's make-up bag looking for something to make me look sickly, like I had been in a cellar for 20 years. I opened one of her compacts and found some green something-or-other and dipped my finger then spread it around my eyes. Yes, I was looking quite ill. Perfect. "You know I have brushes for that," Sarah sniped as I looked at my green finger. Normally, I might have responded but I just stared forward emptily. I was, um, getting into character — goodness shrouded by mystery.

I arrived to the party site, found some dirt to smear on my clothes and face completing my ensemble and walked to the back of the house where Rod had instructed me to go. I stood looking into the room where Rod's class focused on the wall-mounted silver screen. I tapped gently. No one noticed at first. I tapped again. I saw a little girl's eyes widen. She tapped the girl next to her. They both screamed. Then everyone screamed.


Rod coaxed the chaos to quiet. He asked, "Would anyone like to invite this man inside?" Several volunteers threw their hands up. Then one by one students peeked outside and retreated. I couldn't blame them. Rod invited Boo inside. A little girl dressed as Scout Finch escorted me through the crowd to the front of the group. Some students asked questions, to which I offered short and nervous responses. Others simply thanked me for saving Scout and Jem's life.

I stood, back against the wall, enjoying every minute. I said my one real line and another girl dressed as Scout grabbed my arm and we floated through the crowd and she released me back outside. As soon as I disappeared from sight I was no longer in character. I was smiling ear to ear. On my walk back to car, it occurred to me, this experience was very much my Boo — goodness shrouded by mystery. I'm so thankful to Sarah and Rod for providing the encouragement and opportunity to find the goodness.

The following day I came home from work to find a 9 x 12 envelope from St. Richard's School with "Boo Radley" scrawled on the front. Inside was a thank you letter from every 7th grader in Rod's English class. It was page after page of goodness. I'd like to share some of the goodness with you:

Dear Arthur Radley,
It was nice of you to come all this way to Indiana. I never expected you to be there at the party. You were very brave to come here to the party. I know that you aren't used to having people around you, especially when coming to a party full of children. You are a very nice man Boo Radley. I thank you for coming to the party.

Dear Mr. Radley,
Thank you for coming in for us and acting out what happened in the book. I truly believed that the way you acted it out is the way it would have happened in real life. At first I didn't know who you were outside, and you kind of scared me, but that is good because in the book he didn't try to be scary but he was a scary person. I know you meant no harm as well. Thank you again for coming in to show us what happened.

Dear Mr. Arthur Radley,
Thank you for coming last night. I know being around a lot of kids can seem intimidating, but you did a great job. I enjoyed your company very much.

Dear Boo,
Thank you for taking your time and coming out to our party. It was something when you were just standing out the window. You really need to get out more. Thank you for coming.

Dear Mr. Arthur Radley,
Thank you for coming to the party last night. You definitely know how to make an entrance! At first, we were a little scared of you, but then, we realized what was going on. You made the night exciting! I wish you had stayed for dinner!

Dear Mr. Radley,
Thank you for coming and saving Jem and Scout. I know you are shy so thanks for coming out.

Dear Arthur Radley,
I would like to thank you for coming to our party yesterday. I know that it was hard for you because you hadn't seen kids in a very long time. I think that you handled it very well being yourself with a bunch of frantic kids screaming at you. I just wanted to say that it's okay. You did a fantastic job coming to talk to us. It must have been scary for you but I think you did well. You handled the situation nicely. I hope to see you again in the future. Again, I want to thank you for coming.

Dear Mr. Arthur Radley,
You did a great job of acting as Boo Radley. At first, I thought you were a criminal but then my teacher said it's just Boo Radley. You did a great job of acting.
Dear English Class,
Thank you for your kind words. It was my absolute pleasure to spend the evening with you. I learned a lot.

Boo Radley (or whoever I really am)


Happy Thanksgiving

I'm sure there will be a steady stream of what-I'm-thankful-for blog posts in the coming days. I find them all very uplifting. I find Thanksgiving very uplifting, actually. And when you add a Weber® charcoal-grilled turkey and an embarrassment of caloric riches, well, you've got a pretty fantastic holiday, in my estimation.

All that said, I'm not going to compile a list (not for this web log, anyway). Instead, I'm posting this video that pretty much sums up why my Thanksgiving will most assuredly be Happy.

I sincerely hope yours is too.


Anatomy Lesson

Bath time is Daddy/Simeon time. Bath Time (BT) is preceded by Naked Baby Time (NBT) and is kicked off with a little BT dance. I don't have any footage of the dance, but I do have a little glimpse of Bath Time itself. Hope you enjoy.


His Father's Listening Skills

I was showering last night, my back to the shower head when I heard behind me, plah-dunk. In the time it took me to think, "hey, that's a women's shoe in the bathtub with me" — plah-dunk — a matching shoe sat beside the first collecting the water the drain didn't.

"Sarah!," I called, "You might want to get in here..." Not in the shower, in the bathroom. Although I wouldn't put up a fight if she misunderstood me.*

Incredulously, Sarah said, "Simeon, I told you to put them in the closet." Counterproductive, I thought, to remind her that he's one year old. I think I did the right thing.

Sarah retrieved the soaked shoes and left the bathroom to put them in the closet, I presume. Ten seconds later pha-lopsh – a brassiere.

*Too Much Information, but too late. I can't take it back now.


Holding on | Letting go

This entry was supposed to be different. Producing web log entries has become more labored in recent months, and I had resisted all urges to blog about writer's blogkage. It would only sound like whining, I thought. Besides, I had my annual trip to Lewis Lake with my best friends and that would surely provide the impetus for new observations and stories. My time in Kentucky did not disappoint; I spent much of the car ride home mapping my next entry.

What I was going to write about was when I came home from the woods my son, Simeon, hugged me like he had no intention of letting go — and he didn't. I was going to write about how that gesture placed a fog over all the fun I had at Lewis Lake, and how I only cared about that moment. That's what I was going to write about.

Then MuShu, our family dog, died.

Shortly after we arrived home, MuShu slipped out the back door and through the open gate amidst the flurry of unpacking and related activities without us noticing. It wasn't the first time she had escaped. She would always take the same route we had walked her many times before -- leashed. I suppose she thought, I've done this a million times before, I don't need to bother my family with it, I'll just go by myself. But, she didn't have the benefit of us holding her leash taut in the face of traffic at the busy intersection of Talbott and 29th street, one block from our house. She didn't have us to look after her.

Some nice ladies found MuShu in the street and called the number on her little heart-shaped collar tag. I didn't drive fast; I was afraid of what I would find. When I arrived, I saw that these two women had moved MuShu to the sidewalk and laid her on a royal blue blanket. My heart plummeted. The strangers offered me their blanket, but I thought it important to hold her one last time. I thanked them for their kindness and made the difficult phone call to my wife, Sarah.

When I got home, Sarah and Simeon were visibly upset. Sarah wept over MuShu, and Simeon wept for us. I scooped Simeon into my arms and, well, he held me. Then he held Sarah — with no intention of letting go.


We'll miss you, MuShu. We'll make sure Simeon knows how much he loved you.


The Big One

On this day one year ago my son was born. Today I find myself nearly as speechless about the moment as I was then, which is why I think I'll just re-post the events as I documented them last year. I do think it's worth mentioning that the indescribable, uncontainable love I felt for Simeon the moment he was born has grown 365 fold.

Words Fail

4:56 a.m.

"Ryan! Wake up!" I sit straight up and look around the room for an intruder. "I think my water broke!," Sarah exclaimed. She wasn't lying. There was a pool of evidence right there on her side of the bed.


The car ride – 6:00 a.m.
Sarah's contractions have started in earnest. I don't know what I was thinking. Every time she began a contraction, I wanted to chat. That is when Sarah made the first of two rules – so far.
  1. Do not ask me questions.
  2. Do not tell jokes – I guess laughing makes contractions hurt extra bad
  3. I'm still waiting for the third rule.


Hospital arrival – 6:30

I dropped Sarah off at the door with the bags, and a nice lady asks, "Are you okay, miss?"

"Oh, I'm just having a baby," Sarah replied calmly.

I swear, she's Wonder Woman.


We're in our room now.

It's so strange to me that you ask a woman in labor to do a bunch of admission and insurance paperwork. I suppose it has to be done.

We're playing some music from the birthing playlist. Among those on the list, "Between My Legs" by Rufus Wainwright and "Here Comes The Sun" by George Harrison.


A friend of mine texts me, "Go Horny (The Noel Boy's in utero name), it's your birthday." I show complete lack of judgement by reciting this to Sarah mid-contraction. Dammit, I already forgot rule number 2.


Sarah quickly squashed the music with lyrics. There goes my dream of the head coming out to the sounds of "Here Comes The Sun (Son)".


Sarah is a superstar! She's endured most of her contractions while sitting on a birthing ball and digging finger nail marks into a wooden chair arm.


She's moved to the bed, laying on her side and focused intently on a photo of Charley Young Beach in Maui, where we were married. I've never seen her so focused.

By the way, our doula, Brielle has been a total Godsend. I'm good at the motivational speeches, not so good with the breathing part. I lack focus!


11:15 a.m.
Doctor Hurry is in the house. Sarah's getting ready to push!


I've never seen Sarah like this. I'm turning white and tearing up, not because of witnessing birth, but seeing Sarah in so much pain (no epidural).


Dr. Hurry is doing an amazing job. She said to Sarah, "You were made to birth babies, it just took us a while to get you pregnant." I think Sarah tried to laugh, but this is serious business.


Dr. Hurry apologizes to Sarah for blocking her view of the mirror that shows the birth site, Sarah amidst furious pushing says sweetly, "oh, that's okay."

11:52 a.m.
40 minutes of pushing, and less than seven hours after Sarah's water broke, baby Simeon David Noel arrived. He wailed as soon as he came out, as did Sarah and I.

Words fail.


Catching up with the Joneses

Sarah, Simeon, and I spent the Thursday evening prior to July 4th driving south east to Sarah's hometown, Morehead, Kentucky. I like our visits; the weekend moves along at a pace a little slower than what we're accustomed to at home. I'm pretty sure I've turned more book pages, fit more puzzle pieces, and taken more accidental naps in the Lewis living room than just about anywhere else I've been. One of my other favorite time-passers in Morehead is listening to stories.

Sarah's family members are prolific storytellers. Dinner and after-dinner times are chock-full with stories. Almost as amusing as the stories themselves is the pre-story ritual of establishing who the primary character is and to whom they may or may not be related. The pre-story ritual goes something like this:

"You know the Jones boy?"


"No, not Billy, his younger brother?"

"The one with the mole?"

"No, that's Johnny, the oldest..."

"Isn't he in jail?"

"He was in jail, but I thought I saw him mowing the Smith's lawn..."

It goes on and on like this. Sometimes we never actually get to the story, it's more of an exploration of someone else's family tree. I almost never know who Billy, Johnny or any of the Jones boys are, but that doesn't stop anyone from telling their story, and that's just fine by me.

Thursday night we were sitting on the back porch, sheltered overhead by the arbor and protected from mosquitoes by an army of tiki torches posted at every corner and nearly every point in between; Sarah's Dad finished telling some stories about a fellow named Alec (which is inexplicably pronounced "EE-lik"), when Sarah's mom, Jan, stepped up with my favorite story of the weekend.

Her story was about Doc Gray, a tractor mechanic and family friend, "who lives up Christy Creek." (He lives up a creek? I wonder if he's got a paddle.)

Jan was working at C. Roger Lewis Agency — the real estate office Sarah's Granddad established — when she heard Doc's voice in the reception area and decided to go greet him. Doc was standing there with a little boy and Jan queried, "Who's this, Doc — your grandson?"


"Well, what's your grandson's name?"

Doc cocked his head and stared blankly at Jan, "Well, I don't know. I reckon I always just call'em "Boy."



A month and about fifteen days ago, we took Simeon to the Indianapolis Museum of Art to have his picture made. Cliff Ritchey was the guy to make them, as far as we were concerned. Simple geometric shapes pepper the grounds of the IMA and it proved to be a nice little backdrop for our little Wonder. Hope you like them.


Yes. Yes I do.

I wouldn't have put this shirt on him if it wasn't true — and 100 percent organic cotton. H&M had a "Mommy Loves Me" shirt in the rack too, but there's only so much commercialism of the parent/child relationship I'm willing to force upon the little man. Ha.

That's all I have to share at the moment. I hope to post some more photos in the near future for all you pining family members, interested-enough onlookers, and accidental mouse-clickers.


these words are the bestest

Generally speaking, I'm a big fan of words. I like the way different letters relate to one another visually. I like word games. I like tinkering with words. I like the sound of words like "tinkering." I like just about everything about them. But, since my right hand was casted, I'm especially fond of a certain group of words — those that can be found on the left side of home row.

I decided to create a running list of these words. It's been fun. My friends Colin and Joe even chimed in that the longest word possible on the south side of the keyboard is: stewardesses. I had no idea. I also noticed that if you're going compose sentences on the left side, they'll all have to be exclamatory because the only punctuation on my new favorite side is an exclamation point. You can, however, vary the number of exclamation points for extra EMPHASIS (YOU ALSO HAVE THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON)!!!! 

Anyway, here's my running list. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments section. You can even put an exclamatory sentence together, if you feel like it.

tread creed raze axe
cave swerve trade trader
grave best bestest were
wad weeds crease grease
wart fart free as
test testes texas verve
swagger craze greatest raw
wax trade sax  vexes
dread gas crass west
vest zest Qatar stewardesses
rear exact dates rates
rat drat err tweed
dazed desert sexes fever
era dessert

Yeah. Let's end with dessert!!!!!!

Attention (photo)shoppers

A week ago, Wednesday, I took a tumble on my bicycle, and I have been left-handed ever since.  The transition from right-handedness to lefty hasn't been a smooth one. It seems that my left is connected to someone else's brain. I know, it surprised me too.

My friend, Colin rightly pointed out that I would likely feel sorry for myself and then feel sorry for feeling sorry for myself. It's difficult to stay down long when a broken hand is exceedingly minor compared with disabilities and circumstances that many in our global population deal with daily. When on this topic with my friend Josh, he added, "Yeah, you know you see those people on teevee that come home from Iraq missing an arm and a leg that are saying, 'oh I'm just so blessed...!'" (that's a lot of punctuation right there!!!). :) 

It was time for me to suck my over-sized bottom lip (it's not swollen, I was born that way) back into place and follow Monty Python's counsel and "always look at the bright side of life." (Song bomb alert!)

I thought back to grade (hey, you can type "grade" with only your left hand home row style) school when I was actually envious of  kids who had casts. I admit, it doesn't make sense. But, it was because they got to have everyone write, draw, scrawl and scribble all over it. It's like a Tattoo 2.0  — everyone gets to contribute to the body art. Cast signing is also great for those of us that just find thousands of needle pokes too high a price to pay for self-expression.

So, I have an idea I'd like to float by you:
  • Save the image above (me and my cast) to your hard drive
  • Open the image in a photo-editing software (Photoshop or whatever. Heck, I bet MS Paint would work)
  • Write, draw, scrawl and scribble on the cast
  • Save the image and email it to me: rydanoel@gmail.com
  • I'll post it back to the blog (unless you'd just rather I didn't.)
I think this could be a fun little little exercise that could have us all feeling better.


Cycles and Seasons

Life's been cycling all over the place. Sarah's granddad, Arnold  (Arnie, for short. One character short, in fact) died about a week and a half ago; my own grandmother (grandma for short), Marian died early yesterday morning; Simeon is nearly 10 months old and is developing faster than a polaroid picture; and I could, and maybe I will, fill and entry or 10 about each of those precious marks on my timeline. But, the occasion I really want to mark in this entry is my 8th wedding anniversary to Sarah. 

If marriage is seasonal as most things are, I think this anniversary marks the end of the first season and the beginning of the next. That's worth celebrating if you ask me. If you've read any of my blog entries over the past year and a half, you know that I'm not perfect. And in spite of what I might have you believe, Sarah's not perfect either. But, when you combine me and my imperfections and Sarah and her imperfections, well, you have a perfect fit. And that's worth celebrating too. 

I love you deeply, Sarah. Thank you for loving me back.


Low Five

For the second time in as many years, I ran the Indianapolis Mini Marathon. It was much more fun than running 13.1 miles should be. The high points far outnumbered the low ones. Come to think of it, there really was just one low point. 

One of the coolest aspects of the race is the number of spectators who line the course with cowbells and full voice to encourage you to keep running, and running, and running. Often times they'll even personalize the encouragement by reading the name on your bib. They might say, "Go Ryan," "You can do it, Ryan," or "Don't die, Ryan." 

I was cruising along, feeling good at about mile 6. There was a stretch of spectators up ahead on the right side of the course who were particularly boisterous. I worked my way from the center of the course over to the right to be a recipient of their well-wishes and to thank them. As I approached, I saw an older man (60s or early 70s I'm guessing) passing out high-fives. I thought, "Hey, I'd like one of those." The man slapped hands with the runners in front of me one by one. I raised my hand in anticipation.


The man put his hand down just as I ran by. He left me hanging in front of 30,000 people, 3 or 4 of which chuckled behind me. It was as if he looked at me and thought, "don't high five this guy, he has Swine Flu, I'm sure of it." Definitely the low point.

Fortunately for me, a square dancing troupe would be just around the corner to cheer me up.


Surprising combinations

Several years ago, my wife Sarah and I went to New York City to celebrate our 2nd anniversary. The trip was enchanted. We got to see a Matthew Barney exhibition at the Guggenheim, went to the Met, did Central Park, and got to see the Yankees and Red Sox play in Yankee Stadium. I also got to see Sarah's supreme navigational skills in action for the first time. But, the experience that left the most lasting impression was our dinner at John's Pizzeria

John's on 44th Street occupies an old church (complete with stained glass windows) and has two brick wood-fired ovens in opposing corners of the dining room. The pizza was amazing, the atmosphere was wonderful, but the most memorable part of the experience is what happened while we waited for our pizza. 

A group of young adults quietly gathered on the arced balcony overhead. Their director came half-way down the staircase and put his arms up. It's been said that music is the universal language, and I agree. I couldn't understand the words they were singing, but their collective voices spoke to me. I distinctly recall thinking, "This is what makes New York amazing. This is the kind of impromptu goodness you'd never get in..."

Last Saturday, Sarah and I took little Simeon out to the Oldfields Gardens on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) to be kissed by the sun and let him explore the forest of grass. As we played and baited Simeon to crawl from here to there, I noticed a man walking off into a clearing north of the rose garden with what I thought to be a tripod. It wasn't a tripod at all. No, not a tripod at all.


This bagpiper found a spot with only trees within stone's throw, warmed up for a few measures, and then started playing — beautifully. I thought back to the musical experience in New York, and was equally surprised and delighted that similar impromptu goodness was happening right here in my fair city. 

Then I started thinking about how I never would have paired the serenity of the IMA gardens and bagpipes as a winning combination. When I shared my thought with Sarah, she said quite Sarah-ly, "Well, it's not exactly the kind of instrument you can practice in the house."


One proud art director

I rarely, if ever, mention my profession or talk shop on this forum. But, I'm particularly proud of this project I worked on for Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) in collaboration with my Creative Director, Jenn Berry, copywriter, Colin Dullaghan and illustrator, Penelope Dullaghan.

IPL sponsors tons of worthy causes over the course of the year, and those sponsorships often come with ad space in programs and the like. As you might imagine, the ads are placed in a wide range of publications. We did ads that focused on causes in the following areas: The Arts, Diversity, Environment, Social Outreach, Sports and Education. While IPL is an energy provider, we wanted to focus on the worth-while causes that people use their energy on to make our community a better place. It's a bold thing for a company to focus on someone other than themselves.

I am really proud of our client for having the vision and willingness to do something completely different from the rest of the sponsorship ad landscape, and totally different from what you'd expect to see from an electric utility. I'm really proud of the writing that begged to be brought to life with some expressive typography. And I'm really proud of the illustrations themselves. Do yourself a favor and flip through the book below. Don't forget to zoom in and check out some of the subtle and beautiful details and textures. I think you'll like them.

As a project winds down, I'm typically eager to move on to the next thing. I'm more of a starter than finisher. But, I would have been happy to just keep producing these babies. 


I'm not good at naming things — and other observations by: Avan Ngel

Are computers taking over the world? I'm not the first to ask the question (see Linda Hamilton and Stanley Kubrick). Well, pictured above is evidence to the affirmative. 

I went to a client's downtown building recently tried signing in on the little tablet at the security desk as I have countless times. I can't remember the security guy's name — we'll call him Bob — well, Bob said, "may I see your drivers license?" 

What? They've never asked for ID before? 

Bob explained that the company had just gotten a new automated name badge maker. Trusting as I am, I handed my ID right over. I watched as Bob put my ID into this little machine, pushed some buttons, and a couple of mouse-clicks later, he hands me my badge.

That computer changed my name — the name my parents no-doubt racked their brains over — my Christian name — from Ryan Noel to Avan Ngel. (At first, I thought the computer had used a terrorist filter on my photo to make me look more, uh, terrorist-y. But, alas, that's how I really look on my drivers license.)

Avan Ngel?

I googled "Avan Ngel" with no results. Not so much as a wikipedia entry. Not a trace. The only logical explanation is that The Computers have something to hide. 



Simeon has been taking swimming lessons. You're probably wondering what swimming lessons look like for an 8-month old, as I was. Well, we finally got some pictures of the event. Here is Swimeon with his Nana.


Crawling Card Addendum

This morning, I was alone with Simeon and I had him upstairs in our bedroom while I got ready for work. I took Simeon into the bathroom with me, where he as a stockpile of toys, and closed the door behind me. I hopped in the shower (Yes, I hopped. Visualize it.). I'm lathering up with my Dove body wash and see the shower curtain move out of the corner of my eye; I look down and there he is; Simeon is looking at me and his eyes are saying, "Is it bath time and nobody told me?" I pulled the curtain back into place, and he kept pulling it back. Nearing the end of my shower, his head was soaked, and couldn't have been happier about it. I'm happy when he's happy, so I just kept splashing him. 

I moved Simeon into the bedroom and he thought my closet looked interesting enough, so he decided to go in for a closer look. I could tell he was entertained by my shoes, hats and dress socks and assumed it was safe for me to brush my teeth. 

While brushing I heard "cluh-dunk." While a cry didn't follow the "cluh-dunk" as it often does, it was alarming enough for me to stop mid-brush and see what the little guy was up to. Boy, am I glad I did.

Simeon was seated at the top step with his head cocked back, loaded with a grin that said, "hey Dad, watch this." He turned back toward the steps and lunged forward, just as I scooped him up. 

Simeon's new nickname is Charles Bronson — the dude has a death wish.


Crawling Card

Last Thursday was a work-at-home day, and my desk (see also dining room table) was missing something. I couldn't think what it was. Creative Juice. That's it. I gave Simeon a glance — he was seated and playing happily on the dining room floor by the built-in corner cabinet — and went to retrieve my precious pot of coffee. 

According to my wife, I am a living definition of a dilly-dally-er (I have likely mentioned this before). Sarah won't believe this, but I didn't dilly-dally — not so much as a pussyfoot, lollygag, shilly-shally, or even a dawdle. I grabbed my Creative Juice and walked back to the dining room. 

The corner cabinet was still there, as was Simeon's toy drum. Simeon, however, was not there. He teleported. I was sure of it. Actually, that's not true. I made that last part up.

Simeon made his first act as a card carrying member of the Crawler's Club count. He didn't dilly-dally. He saw an opening when I went on my Creative Juice run and bolted — straight for the light socket on the other side of the room. I mean, really. 

I half-expect the next friendly stranger at the grocery store to creep in and say, "hey, isn't he the poster child for child proofing your house?" Why yes. Yes, he is. 

I got the message loud and clear, little mister poster child. Not only is our house not child-proof, I'm convinced that there is nothing in our house that is out of his reach. Since getting his Crawling Card, little-s has lunged for more electrical outlets, pulled countless books off of shelves, attempted to scale every vertical structure, attempted to put numerous electrical cords in his mouth, overturned MuShu's water bowl more than once, and  — brace yourself — dumped the bucket we keep his dirty cloth diapers all over the bathroom floor. 

So, this weekend, I'm calling upon my long-dormant crawling skills once again. On my hands and my knees, I'll be navigating every square foot of our bungalow looking for unplugged outlets, sharp objects and poo-filled buckets.


I wonder what those toads are up to these days?

By miracle of facebook, a long-lost friend of the family posted this photo on my Dad's page. There's lots for me to smile about here: 
  • My highly fashionable cut-off shirt
  • Turquoise shutters — compliments the red get-up well, I think
  • Polaroid – doesn't it add charm to any photo? I'm sad to know it is going the way of the Vegas Valley Leapard Frog (extinct)
  • Hand-dating — I'm strangely comforted by knowing what I did on 8-26-85
  • It's kinda fun to think that this is roughly the time period that the story from my previous entry took place.
  • I can't wait for Simeon to bring critters into the house for the first time.


Saving Ryan's …

Like most men, I think denim is best worn when it's darned-near worn out. Well, I had a pair I wasn't ready to say "good-bye" to, that had taken a step or two beyond the "darned-near" stage. With head bowed, I humbly asked my mom to see if there was anything we (she) could do. Not only did she patch the holes, but she fortified all the weak spots to slow the progress of more holes.

I recently Tweeted (that's a micro-blog for all you non-Twitterers), "I'm sending thankful vibes my Mom's way for saving my busted-out britches," and I meant it. She replied to me via e-mail quoting my dad: "... and that's not the first time you saved his britches." 

Ain't that the truth.

I was in third grade and our teacher, Ms. Joffey (she was my first non-Mrs. teacher, I remember distinctly), thought taking her class for a nature walk to a nearby creek would be a good idea. And, it should have been a good idea — but it wasn't. We made our way to the creek, and it was nice. We looked for tadpoles, and Ms. Joffey pointed out the varieties of algae and moss, and even let us throw some rocks into the water. She said it was time to go, but I didn't think so — my arm was just getting warmed up. 

Suddenly, all the gravel on the side of the road that had gone unnoticed on the way to the creek, looked like a street paved with baseballs on the way back from the creek. I wasn't sure what work was in store for us once we got back to our wooden desks, but as far as I was concerned, my only assignment was to show my classmates how far I could throw, well, anything. But, my classmates weren't impressed with distance alone, they demanded accuracy. 

"See if you can hit that window over there." 

That window wasn't just any window, it was the kind that was still on a house, a trailer, to be more specific — the kind actual people lived in. I couldn't have weighed the pros and cons before letting that rock fly because I let that rock fly. Accurate, indeed. 

I immediately knew I had done something wrong because I was looking for a place to run. But I couldn't. That's the kind of kid I was, I think: ornery enough to throw a rock through a window, but too good of a kid to not own up to what I had done. While Mrs. Joffey probably appreciated that I took responsibility for the offense, she made it clear that I would be getting The Paddle (you know the one).


A. Drill holes — these are meant to limit resistance from it's drawn-back position to the perp's bottom. Teachers and Principals often created unique hole patterns in order to brand their kid's bottoms. Us kids also believe that the holes make the paddle hurt worse, but we can't back that up with science.

B. Paddle name — any paddle worth its timber has a name, usually a scary one like The Devastator or The Enforcer. This name was usually written on the paddle with an indelible marker, or sometimes burned in with a soldering iron.

C. A leather strap — the strap was used to hang The Paddle prominently for all to see and fear. It also ensured a secure grip. My fellow students and I also believed it was used for strangulation in special cases.


I sat outside Mr. Wright's Office (more ominously known as The Principal's Office) in a puddle of tears awaiting the inevitable. Then my Mom, who worked at the school at the time, showed up and made sure I was okay and fearlessly headed into the Principal's Office. I'm not sure what she said in there. As far as I was concerned, it didn't matter because I didn't see The Paddle on that day, and I'm not sure why. 

Maybe she convinced Mr. Wright that I felt guilty enough already and wouldn't throw anymore rocks; or perhaps she assured him that she would handle my punishment when I got home; or it could be that she was in disbelief that her son could have done such a thing, and convinced the principal that the rock actually came from the grassy knoll; or maybe she saw The Paddle and the damage it could do to both me and my pants. I don't know.

In any case, she saved my britches — and it's true what my Dad says — she's been saving them ever since.


Coupla baby food tips

Tip 1: Buy baby food in adult-sized containers
My wife, Sarah, gets complete credit for this tip. She astutely noticed that the ingredients on the Nutrition Facts of Organic Gerber sweet potatoes were exactly the same as the Nutrition Facts on a can of  Trader Joe's organic puréed sweet potatoes (Ingredients: organic sweet potatoes). Ration those 'toes in 4 ounce servings and you just saved yourself some money and space in the old recycling bin. The same tip applies for organic apple sauce. 

Tip 2: Don't whistle while feeding your baby apple sauce*
Be forewarned, your baby may find whistling absolutely hilarious (even if your whistling is to the tune of a melancholy M. Ward tune). If your baby does happen to find whistling funny and cause for burst of laughter, as mine does, the apple sauce your child was so contentedly eating may be projected forcefully on your face, hair and nearby laptop computer. Further, said baby may laugh even more at the sight of his stunned parent/target ensuring that all remaining apple sauce bits make their way from his or her mouth to your face and laptop. 

*This tip only applies for those parents who don't think it's uproariously funny and the spice/joy of parenthood to have your child make a mess of you.


Babies are a big flippin' deal

Our friends, Colin and Penny, just gave birth to a beautiful little girl this morning, and I'm so excited about it. I've discussed at length (here, here and here), how fatherhood has affected me, and getting super pumped about new babies is one of those ways. I think what I love about it is that when a baby is born (especially a first born), we're welcoming three people into the world: a new child, a mother, and a father. It's a celebration of parental potential and understanding that has been latent, and then released in one very powerful moment. I can't help but get excited about that.

Welcome to the world, Dullaghan Family.



Triggers. Everyone has them. That is to say, everyone has certain stimulus that spurs certain behavior. I've heard the term most often used as stimulus causing bad behavior, like the sight of someone smoking crack triggering a recovering addict to relapse. But, triggers can cause the urge for any behavior. A person can also have multiple triggers for the same behavior. For example, the summer heat, a cold winter wind, flipping the lights on in the kitchen, blinking, and breathing all trigger my wife, Sarah, to want ice cream. 

I am not trigger-exempt. Oh no. Far from it. I'm discovering new ones all the time. But, I have a favorite trigger. 

About a year ago, I IMDB'd Danny Elfman, whom I admire as much as any movie score composer, I reckon. I had forgotten he wrote the score for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, starring Paul Reubens (famously triggered), one of my favorite movies as a kid. So, I went on over to iTunes and downloaded the soundtrack. Well, Pee-Wee's theme song triggered some, uhh, primal behavior in me that had laid dormant in me for the previous 31 years of my life. I can't explain it. The song just makes me crazy, like I'm Jack in a box that hasn't been opened for 31 years — until now. My trigger is best illustrated in the little video that my co-worker, Chris, put together below ... 

So, do you have triggers? (Not to be confused with chiggers. Completely different.)


Thank you, Ms.

I'm no expert on marriage, or love. But, it seems to me that our American divorce rate might be lower if we spent more time finding new things to love about our spouses, and less time wishing they'd be "the person I fell in love with." I'm amazed by the moments when I learn something new about Sarah that I never knew in spite of my best efforts to have an open and honest relationship. What's better is when this "something new" comes by surprise and is mildly humorous.

Sarah and I went out on a date last weekend — sweeper and a movie. We dropped our Little Man off at my parents, who were happy to receive him; then went to Best Buy to get a new vacuum; then to see Slumdog Millionaire at the near-by Castleton Mall. Our vacuum purchase took less time than expected, so if we went straight to the theater we would have been forced to read the same Coca-Cola sponsored trivia slides 3 or 4 times over. We had too little time to go into Borders and have Sarah risk losing me in the media and literature labyrinth; I tend to wander when I'm not wearing my leash. So, we jointly agreed that going straight to the theater would be best.

As we approached the cinema Sarah said to me, "Does this theater have an arcade?" That's strange, I thought. Does she want me to try and grab a stuffed Spongebob from the claw game as a surprise for Simeon?

"I assume so," I replied. "Most theaters do these days. Why?"

"Well, do you think they have Pac-Man?," she said.

Pac-Man?, I thought, still confused by her line of questioning. "Why do you want to know if there is Pac-Man?"

"Sometimes I just like to play Pac-Man."

Who is this woman? I think I love her.

I cupped my hands, put them to my brow and pressed my face to the window to see if there were any joysticks present. If I were to be her hero, I would find Pac-Man and deliver him to her.

But no, there was no Pac-Man, "but there is Ms. Pac-Man!" Would she receive this as good news? Is Ms. Pac-Man an acceptable substitute for the original? Turns out, it is.

"Oh good, I want to play." She didn't use a deep breathy voice and bat her eyelashes at me, but I sure imagined she did. This was a lot to wrap my mind around, because the last time I played Pac-Man, I thought girls had cooties.

We bought our movie tickets and headed straight to the arcade. Tokens. We had to have tokens. Sarah rifled through her purse and pulled out a dollar bill, "oh, that won't work." She knew you had to have a crisp dollar bill to get game tokens.  "Here. Try this one." It wasn't perfectly crisp, but it worked; four game tokens clinked into the tray! Sarah popped in two tokens (can you believe Ms. Pac-Man costs 50 cents?) and hit the "start" button.

She used her whole body to navigate the maze and gobble up Power Pellets while the ghosts gave chase. When her three lives were up, she scrambled for two more tokens to continue her conquest. After each passed stage, she said with bright eyes, "I've never made it this far before." And with each passed level, I fell more in love. 

I can't quite explain why I got so excited about this revelation, other than to say that learning something new about Sarah, even a seemingly insignificant "something", is something I hope I'm always excited about.



Writing dreams down is a fascinating practice, and one that I've done for a few years now. I receive a dream remembered as a gift, especially one that you remember in some detail. It's also somewhat liberating that dreams are unfiltered by a social setting. They can be frightening, enraging, and many times just plain funny, and always unfiltered, which is what I love so much about the exchange in this dream:

I was sitting outside and Simeon was standing on my knee as he often does. I said to him, "can you say Ma-ma?"


My head snapped back, creating the inevitable double-chin. "Can you say Da-Da-Da-Da-Da?"


I looked up to Sarah, who was standing near-by and said, "Did you hear that?" She laughed and put her head over my shoulder to see if Simeon's Talk Show would continue.

I felt so proud of him, and pulled him to me and he wrapped his arms around my neck. "I love you, Son."

"I love you too, Daddy."

"What the..." I thought. Then I said, "when did you learn all these words — and sentences?!"

"I've been storing them up."

"Well, mister, what other words have you learned?"

"Dickpenis." Yes. All one word.

Just before the dream ended I said to Simeon, "I remember the day in Maui when you first found your dickpenis."


A little Thursday inspiration

Vik Muniz, whose presentation I've posted is a favorite artist of mine. I first became familiar with him when he had an exhibit at the IMA (Indianapolis Museum of Art) several years ago. Since then, when teaching, I've used his work several times as examples of using alternative media for communication, and how the media itself can become a communicative. I especially like the distinction he makes between creation and creativity.

This video is about 15 minutes long, but worth checking out.


Thanks MLK

More than likely, this video will be the most posted, most linked, video by web loggers today, second only to the Japanese man who plays Mary Had A Little Lamb with broccoli.

Anyway, it does me some good to watch this, and I suspect it'd do you some as well.


Worsts Nightmares

"That's my worst nightmare," Sarah blurted, as she looked at a cluster of college-aged kids outside their tents as a spattering of rain came down.


"Camping in the rain — that's my worst nightmare."


"I have a lot of worst nightmares, actually."

When my cheeks ceased being sore from laughter, I tried to explain that the word worst implies that there is only one worst nightmare allowed per person. 

"Nope. I can have lots of them," she said flatly. 

She does this all the time... she forces me out of my reality and enter in to hers against my will — sorta like The World's Biggest Loser (which is exactly what I feel like when I get sucked into just about any "reality" TV show) or, um, Wife Swap. This time, it wasn't really against my will because I thought there could be some comedy in it, or perhaps a blog entry.

"What are some of your other worst nightmares?," I wondered aloud. This is when she started reciting her list; since then, the list has been expanded, mostly unintentionally. So here, I give you the first (hopefully of many) Sarah's Worst Nightmares List:
  1. Camping in the rain
  2. Seeing a shark while snorkeling
  3. A week without Chapstick* (This one KILLS me)
  4. Waking up with a Gecko** on her face
  5. Sleeping with sand on the sheets
  6. Riding to Hana, Maui on a tour bus
  7. Being lactose intolerant (This one too)
  8. Sleeping in a wet sleeping bag.
I'm getting such a kick out of our little project now, that I think I have decided on mine. My worst nightmare: If Sarah stops having worst nightmares.

*Check out the coolest lip balm-related illustration of all time.

Not much to say

I just wanted to share one of the best moments of my life ...



We went to my favorite beach, Big Beach in Makena. I admit, the name of the beach is a little low hanging, but appropriate. And, who am I to criticize the name of this beach, when I am admittedly “not good at naming things.” If it were left to me, I’d name it Huge Beach, or maybe Noel Beach. But, it wasn’t up to me, so it’s Big Beach.

There are many contributors to my love for this beach. First, it is the best place to whale watch. I saw two mama and calf Humpback whales breach today. When the mamas came back to the surface, it looked like grenades going off in the water, and when the babies landed they looked like baby grenades going off in the water.

Big beach also has some of the biggest waves on the Island. These waves are good for getting pummeled and watching others get pummeled. I’ve been dumped more than my fair share, so I took it easy today and watched other people shake the sand out of their bathing attire.

Mostly, I love this beach because it’s where I spent the day of my wedding with two of my best friends, Jim and Darren. That day started splendidly. We picked up a hitchhiker named, Bliss. Bliss was an interesting fellow, one who probably warrants his own blog entry, actually. We dropped Bliss off at the beach, but not until he told us about how he wanted to be a "shaman on the mountain" and learn how to teleport. When asked how he planned to teleport, he told us, “I just need to get as comfortable as possible,” and that’s why he ended up in Maui. If being comfortable is what it takes to teleport — I'm with Bliss — Maui's the place to do it. We hated to see Bliss go, but he had some teleportin’ to do - and probably some LSD droppin’.

Jim, Darren and I spent the morning and afternoon letting the waves tenderize us, until about an hour before marryin’ time. We showered hurriedly and got dressed in our "Aloha" shirts and linen pants, then walked down to the beach where I waited for Sarah’s Dad to deliver her hand to mine.

I saw the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Sarah, she saw the sand from Big Beach stuck to my face.

Vacation within a vacation

A few days ago, Sarah and I were headed for a bed and breakfast for a vacation within our vacation. It turned out to be exactly that. We set out for the Road to Hana just after we finished our coffee with our hiking shoes and beach apparel, and without the flash card for my camera.


The Road to Hana is approximately 35 miles long — and if you’re minding the speed limit and see some of the sights along the way — might take you 3 to 4 hours. It’s an arduous trek, but I was feeling good about the drive this time, due mostly to the nice man in the black T-shirt blowing kisses to people as they drove by. That’s how it suits him to show the Aloha spirit, and we were happy to be the recipients of his generosity.

The drive is always more beautiful than you remember it — and longer too. We made it to Wainapanapa State Park (pronounced, WY-UH-NAH-PUH-NAH-PUH STATE PARK) within a couple of hours of leaving the Condo. It’s guys like me that lend creedance to the bumper sticker, “SLOW DOWN — This Ain’t The Mainland.” Wainapanapa is amazing. 

Sarah and I went for a hike along the rugged coastline and watched in awe as the the turquoise waves slammed the black lava formations. It’s the closest either of us has been to witnessing an unstoppable force meet and immovable object. 

My favorite part of the hike are the blow holes. Lava tubes were created in the rock by the hot flow of lava that once poured into the sea. But, now waves flow back up the tube forcing water and air straight up like a geyser or , uh, blowhole. I love climbing up the nearest rock to the blowhole and looking down into it and let the salt water wash over me. It makes my sunglasses unusable for the moment, but it’s worth it. Sarah has always pleaded with me when I choose to step near the edge of any potential peril, but she has new material to coax me back from the edge. This time she called, “Ryan, you’re a father now. I don’t want to be a single parent.” It worked. I stepped down from my perch and we continued our hike.

Next, we went to a red sand beach in Maui (this is it ^^^. Sorry I had to use someone else's photo). You have to hike a little way to get there, but it’s worth it once you do. The beach appears to have been scooped out of the side of a mountain with the world's largest ice cream scoop. Very few people make it to this beach in Hana, and we like it that way. There was never more than 6 people on the beach while we were there. It’s also a nude beach, and just before we left, it finally lived up to it’s designation.

Then, we headed to Hamoa Beach (also someone else's photo), which has my favorite sand. It’s considered a black sand beach; but it’s brown/black mix, if you ask me. Whatever the color, it’s the softest sand I’ve ever set feet to.

Finally, we headed to our Bed and Breakfast. The directions told us to turn right at the cluster of 3 or 4 mailboxes (it’s 5, actually) and make another right at the fence posts, so we did. Sam (short for something I can’t remember) Butterfly (who could forget this name?) was there to meet us by the clotheslines. Sam had long red curly hair, a big gap-toothed smile, welcoming eyes and no brassiere to speak of. Sam’s daughter, Mercury, went running across the lawn toward the house. She wasn't wearing a bra either — or a shirt for that matter. Sam and Mercury were a delight, and so was their place*, which they allowed to be our place for the night.

The guest house where we stayed had everything you could possibly need in the middle of paradise:
  • A view of the ocean right from the bed
  • An outdoor bathtub in the manicured gardens near the koi pond
  • An indoor shower with a high-efficiency shower head
  • An outdoor kitchenette with fridge, stove top, sink, tea pot and coffee percolator
  • A Weber Grill(!) - if you know me, you know how big of a deal this was
  • A banana orchard, which supplied the bounty left in our fruit basket
  • A bookshelf with 246 VHS tapes (I counted) — Everything from A Fish Called Wanda to Xanadu, and a book collection complete with copies of Dating for Dummies and Breaking the Surface, by Greg Louganis.
It rained most of the night, and the ocean breeze blew threw our room all night; it was perfect sleeping conditions by nearly any measure. Apparently, having a such a good day requires some recovery; we slept for 12 hours.

*Their place was completely solar-powered. Very cool.


Walking on water

Oh man, was this fun! Simeon's first step into the ocean. This was the kind of image/experience that finds permanent residence in the "Happiest Memories" section of one's mind. These are the moments that make the memory loss Sarah's grandparents are suffering so painful for everyone. Now that's sad...time for a subject change.


We're having a wonderful time. Simeon's having some difficulty adjusting to the time change, which means we're having difficulty adjusting as well. But, he's enjoying his first vacation, mostly because it has been a vacation from his clothes—thanks to the warm temperatures. 


Sarah and I are leaving little-s behind for the night and heading to Hana to stay here. A vacation within our vacation. 



Maui perspective

Well, we made it. The flight certainly wasn't easy, but Sarah demonstrated that she's every bit the superstar mama I knew she was. After a long flight where we packed three bodies into two coach seats—which I'm pretty sure are designed to seat one and a half people semi-comfortably—we needed to stretch our legs a bit. So, Sarah and I went for a run this morning. We didn't say much to each other. We didn't have to. We just let the Island do the talking and it had plenty to say. 

We started under an indigo sky with stars overhead, lightning striking in the distance over the pacific to our left, and a rising sun beginning to vignette Haleakala* to our right. The Island said "good morning."

We ran by the site where we pledged to spend our lives together. Neither one of us mentioned it. Like I said, we were letting the Island talk, and it's rude to interrupt. 

The sky began to brighten, which the Myna bird takes as its cue to wake the rest of the sleeping Island. 

Hibiscus flowers open and their scent coats the inside of my nostrils, making every deep breath a pleasure; this is the Island's reminder that every breath is a gift.

We jogged past a fleet of canoes which reminded me of how the first Polynesians came to Maui, and how long, difficult, and treacherous their journey must have been. This was the Island offering me perspective on how "difficult" flying coach with a 5 month old really is.

*the volcano responsible for creating this insanely beautiful place.