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Markers

It’s seems important to have markers—points along the continuum to clearly state something has ended and something has begun. And even though most people seem drawn towards delineations on some level, there’s something about having kids that really pushes the demand for recording the beginnings and the ends.

It starts with birth and quickly becomes first foods, words, and steps. Just as you record one marker another has already passed, and pretty soon you just can’t keep up. But today was a clear marker that’s pretty easy to name but hard to consolidate into a concise description that captures everything that was experienced.

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It’s a Beautiful Thing, but Glad It’s Not Me

newborn_cryingTonight, someone I know is in labor. I have three kids of my own—two born at home—so I have a little experience with the child birth process, at least from one perspective. Yes, not the perspective, but let’s not get into that here.

Child birth wasn’t just a life-changing event, but it totally changed the way I saw the world entirely. Everything came into focus; all of sudden, everything made sense. Even with the second and third one, I gained so much (besides the obvious). It wasn’t just “same old, same old.” In fact, I know now that no child birth is exactly the same, except for one thing: there’s always something. It’s such a crazy process—whether you do it naturally or there’s an emergency or you do a c-section—that there’s bound to be some aspect of the birth that tests the very core of your being, even if you’re not the one expelling the being from your core.

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A Case of the Sundays

Many of you will know this gem from the seminal film Office Space where the main character, Peter, asks his construction worker neighbor, Lawrence, about The Mondays:

Basically, I get the Mondays on Sundays. I get cranky and irritable as it starts to sink in that Monday is coming. I start to dread getting back into the less flexible routine of our weekly existence of work and school. Of course, this has a tendency to spoil my last day off which in turn pisses me off too. And this Monday is the first one back after three weeks off, so it has a little extra resistance behind it. This doesn’t always happen, and has actually gotten better over the last few years, but I’m hoping that by writing about it now on Saturday, I’m releasing it so I can rise above it and enjoy tomorrow.

Anyone else out there get the Sundays? Remedies?

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“The Swear Jar”: Insight On Acceptance

When I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas a couple years ago I also got a free subscription to GQ. I’m not a magazine subscriber, and not sure I would classify myself as a “GQ magazine type of guy,” but alas, somehow that subscription keeps getting filled. There are some great articles in there (and their ridiculous deals don’t help the matter).

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Photo by Franck Allais

Anyway, as I’m skimming the backlog of articles from the August issue, I came across The Swear Jar by Jay Kirk. The gist of the story is he swears *a lot*—like at his 6-year-old a lot—and with the help of his wife, devises a punishment which includes ordering a giant African millipede online and sticking his hand in it’s cage as a punishment.

Before you laugh, take a look at some of the pictures of this thing. It can be 15″ long AND shoots effing cyanide. Yeah. This might paint a picture of the masterfully written article and the situation:

Using the tongs and a pair of pliers, I managed to convey, awkwardly, the deli container into the roomy interior of the Critter Cage. Pinning the deli container to one corner with a paint stick, I used the tongs to pull off the lid, and then, feeling like I might faint, tilted the container, and out rolled the millipede with a hard click on the glass. For a second I thought it was dead. But then it began to uncoil. I took a few steps back as it slowly lengthened, lengthened out some more, and then erected itself against the glass, antennae probing, its hundreds of blood-red legs rippling, moving in peristaltic waves, scritching at the glass like a thousand tiny ink black bird talons.

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Life in Ballads

life_in_balladsWhen I was growing up, pretty much the only way to hear your favorite song was via the radio. I didn’t have a lot of disposable income to buy any album I wanted, not even those singles that came out on cassette tape. I remember just listening to the radio in hopes of hearing that one song and stopping everything just to listen to the whole thing or belting it out with friends as we cruised around looking for something to do.

I’m a sucker for sappy songs. From my angsty, emotional teenage years, right up until my last road trip with the family this past week, I pretty much can’t get enough of songs about love, loss, and pain. I tried to make a top ten for my life to share with you, and I had to leave out way too many, but I got it down to 11. This list covers a broad range from childhood up to the present.

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On My Way to Say Goodbye

on_my_wayThe week started with indecision. I got a call from my dad who said he was on a plane with my half-sister, Grace, to visit Nana (his mom). The doctors had given her a week or two to live.

The first thought that struck me was that I should go too…but what about my wife and kids? My wife’s been dealing with her own medical stuff lately and then, too, there was Miko, the cat, who might have intestinal cancer. There was the cost—did we have enough miles for a ticket? Could we all go? She had never even met one of my kids.

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Into the World

This is a re-post from my family blog, which I wrote late last night. I don’t normally do this and although I can and do separate out my person in different online spaces (i.e. work guy, music guy, baseball guy, family guy, etc.), I don’t always want to. So here’s a taste of this part of me…

In just a little over seven hours the thing on my wrist will beep, over and over until my waking consciousness suddenly jumps up and remembers it is an exciting day. Today is the first day of school. It’s strange as an adult, because for me, it will be like most days. I will work and I will do stuff—my day won’t be drastically different. But for the kids, it will be a very different day, one they haven’t had for months. And even then, it will not be like those other days that have come before, the ones where school was involved, because it’s all new, again. Not only that, but they have changed and that, really, changes everything.

The backpacks are packed—except for the lunches of course, those I make fresh—the clothes are bought, cleaned, and folded only to be unfolded in mere hours. The shoes are lined up, ready to be put on. Maia will be in “street clothes” while Keana will be in the now familiar navy blues, whites, and khaki. It was funny to hear her, two years ago as a kindergartner, use her new vocabulary word “khaki” for anything tan, and even now it sounds like such a foreign word coming from the mouth of our child. The supplies seem almost endless for Keana and it’s hard not to look back to when I was this age, only going to school with a notebook and pencil, and wonder how bad the state of education must be where even in a pretty well-off school like this one, Keana still has to bring two reams of printer paper, other notebooks with lined paper, a composition book, a box of pencils, glue, crayons, markers, highlighters, erasers, folders, and even a day/homework planner that has to be purchased for $3 from the office tomorrow. Oh, and two boxes of kleenex. I almost wondered if I should I also send her with the package of toilet paper that I have in the hall closet.

We’ll be sending our kids out for the day tomorrow packed high with supplies, food, and water, but even with all that, as a parent, you wish you could give them more. You know you can’t though, you’ve already given them everything for now—mentally, emotionally, spiritually—and you tell yourself it has to be enough. “It’s good, it’s important, it’s the right time,” you tell yourself and mostly you believe it. If you didn’t there would be no way to unlock that door in the morning and let them walk through it. This year should be much easier now that Keana is going into second grade and Maia is returning to preschool, now one of the older kids. Aliya, though, will be left wondering where her sisters are going and will no doubt want to follow fiercely. Maybe she won’t though. Maybe she’ll enjoy the alone time at home and Maia will be home by 1 p.m. anyway, excited to tell her all about her first day back at preschool. Then again, she may also come home in a storm, swearing never to return. You just don’t know.

And that’s the thing: you just don’t know how it’s all going to go. It’s just like any other day in that regard, but it’s not. We’re sending our kids out into the world with strangers. Not just adult strangers but smaller strangers too. Smaller strangers with different perspectives and vocabularies and experiences. They’ll experience new people and things and some will be great and some will be shitty and some may even fall somewhere in between. “It’s good, it’s important, it’s the right time,” you tell yourself and mostly, you believe it.

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Finish

Today I was reminded of a valuable lesson that somehow I keep forgetting. Actually, it’s not really that I forget, it’s that I get so wrapped up in polishing and perfecting, that I disregard one of the most valuable lessons I’ve been learning my whole life: finish.

I’ve been trying to get slightly more serious about running, and I’ve been a little obsessed with trying to beat a certain time per mile. Since focusing on this goal I have made great improvements. In fact I began to realize that perhaps I wasn’t really pushing myself during my runs before focusing on bettering my time. But at the end of last week through the weekend, I was hit with a stomach “bug” that really took a lot out of me, literally. On Monday I gave myself permission to run a little over 3 miles instead of 4, but I still pushed for an “acceptable” target time. Today was different.

I was committed to running 4 miles before I even started, but in the first half mile I felt tightness in my hamstrings, there was pressure in my chest, and I wondered if I was going to pass out. Maybe I hadn’t drank enough water today? Maybe it was too hot or the air quality was too poor? What if I kicked it on this street, barely into my 30s, running at a mediocre speed? How embarrassing would that be? These were not helpful thoughts to be having. I cleared my head and pushed on.

I got through the first mile in 7:37, almost 15 seconds slower than what I had been running. That was okay I thought, I’ll make up the time. But my body said otherwise. I may as well have been running with weighted flippers on. I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out anymore, but I felt, truly, like shit. Second mile: 7:48. I began to be really disappointed in my inability to catch up to my previous times. Not only was I 30 seconds behind what had become my usual pace, I was slowing down and didn’t feel like I could do much better. My body just wasn’t responding today.

At this point I began to weigh the options. I should just cut it short so I don’t ruin my average I told myself. Maybe if I go all out for just another half mile I can save this thing and quit then. But then it hit me: I committed to 4 miles and maybe today I wasn’t setting any records. Maybe today I wasn’t even meeting my average. Today I was just going to finish and let that be enough.

As I ran through the remaining miles I thought about this process. How many other things in my life were like this? Many. I know it’s all about progress, not perfection, but I constantly lose sight of this. I do finish many things to near perfection, but there are many more things that don’t get done or don’t even get started because I’ve already decided it won’t be good enough before I even start them. Or I get really stressed out or overwhelmed with all the things I’m juggling that I’m trying to complete perfectly.

Though I felt like shit running today I was proud to have just finished what I said I was going to finish. Maybe I could have run a faster time if I had cut it short or just erased the time altogether from my records and chalk it up to illness. My average time per mile today was one of my worst ever, but it was probably one of the most important runs I’ve had in months.

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