You and what army?

I'm not a stupid person. I like to think I'm even a bit smart. But I have yet to grasp exactly what the construction sign to my left fully means. I see it in a construction zone on the Interstate. "DO NOT FOLLOW TRUCKS." OK. Shall I just slam on my breaks if I find myself behind one? Or should I flip a U-ie and start driving the opposite direction? What are these mysterious trucks I'm not supposed to follow? And what precisely does "follow" mean? Perhaps that Darigold semi yesterday was just a form of entrapment by the local PD.

Heart (and soul and all your insides) on your sleeve

The hardest part about being a new parent isn't the stark change of lifestyle that has you pre-planning a five-minute trip to the gas station. It isn't the amount of patience it takes to get up from and go back to bed five times in one hour. The hardest part about being a new parent (or "old" parent I suspect) is the complete and utter vulnerability that instantly becomes you.

Every time I lift my child from his crib, it washes over me, this rawness and exposure: I wonder how I'll react if one day he looks at me and that light in his eyes is gone; I try to imagine how we'll afford the lawyer who has to defend me for what I'll do to the person who hurts him; I think if I loved him any more, the lump in my throat would travel down to my heart and explode it.

The gravity of parenthood is scary at times. You try not to let your mind wander to worse-case scenarios in an effort to keep your sanity.

This vulnerability isn't all that different from what comes with falling in love. In romance, you trust another person with some of your deepest emotions; you show them parts of who you are and believe they won't look away. Talk about risk. It's hard, and it's a wonder we ever do it all! I kind of get why people become hermits and close up their hearts. The sting of loss is a deep one, and sometimes "It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all" sounds more promising the other way around. Yet the majority mankind continues to expose itself in this way because the reward outweighs the risk.

And so it is with my baby. For every moment of intense, irrational anxiety, there is a stronger moment of joy when I see the huge smile on his face that I and I alone put there. There's nothing like the crazy, boundless bliss of holding that tiny body that's half-me and kissing his warm head. It's intoxicating -- intoxicating enough to overwhelm the crippling anxieties. Every wonderful moment I've had in my life comes pouring out in a moment, like Champaign that's just been uncorked.

But to get there, I had to expose myself.

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
{Elizabeth Stone}

On with the show

No matter what side of the aisle you found yourself on at the polls yesterday, I think the image below is what stuck with me last night. This is very cool.

Heavy heart

Who hasn't said this presidential campaign's made them tired or even stressed? There are some passionate candidate supporters out there, so it's no wonder. But it's more than that for me; this election season (or is it decade?) has made me sad.

There is something exciting and attractive about the idea of getting gung-ho for a horse in the race. There's a spark, an invigoration that comes with pulling for one side and cheering your little heart out for someone you believe in. Unfortunately, I lack said spark, invigoration and pom-poms. Part of it comes from not being as political as I was when I was younger, and part of it comes from not being enamored with the options at hand.

Over the past month or so I've grown literally sad as I channelsurfed to cable news networks, read magazine covers and sifted through politically-charged e-mails among my family -- sad because of the conflict, derision and downright nastiness. The sadness has even brought me to tears at times.

For whom should I vote? Should I vote? Sometimes I really like what he has to say. Sometimes I don't think there's much to his platform. Sometimes I think he's really earned this. Sometimes I think there's something to all this his hype. Sometimes I think I can sacrifice some important issues to me for others. Sometimes I think there's no room for me to compromise.

The stress began to take its toll. I ate more and breathed less. I struggled to find the real root of it all. I'm not sure I accomplished that, but I came close. See this year, my family is divided politically and I don't remember the last time that happened. It's put me in a mental and emotional tailspin. Not because I poll my family before casting a vote, but because there used to be more idealogical unity. And like some kind of decoder toy from a cereal box, this election has revealed yet another way my family has changed and moved further apart -- like the tektonic plates shifting.

So I hope people don't think I'm un-American for not wanting to vote at all (though I think I finally found the will to). It has more to do with family ties and less to do with citizenship. I've been to loyal to each my whole life, and this is the first time they've gotten all jumbled up together. Should I be able to separate them in my mind? Probably. So pray that I can. As I'm praying that blood is thicker than ink on a scantron sheet.