Sleeping With Both Eyes Open

She stares vacantly as I repeat her name. “Rae. Rae. RAE, she’s asking if you need anything else!” That one caught her attention, and my impatient disciplinary tone caught the restaurant’s attention. I feel stupid. “I swear I love my wife and we’re equals,” I mutter loud enough for some patrons to hear me. I have the same desperate frustration in my tone that I heard from my father so often growing up. It still catches me off guard.

I hear him in my own voice more often over the past five months. My patience has shriveled, my fuse has shortened. In the 5 months since becoming a parent, I’ve learned more about the psyche of my father than I had in the previous 30 years of knowing him. I’m not free from maternal influence. I become my mother when I panic about my son being too close to the edge of a bed, even if he’s in the dead center of a queen sized mattress. Every time he sniffles I think it’s pneumonia. I am on high alert and am convinced that  everything bad that could happen is happening, and happening right now.

Not that I could, or would ever want to experience it, but I still struggle seeing how I would’ve handled parenthood ten or even, five years ago. I still barely feel like I know what I am doing and I am light years ahead of where I was in my mid-twenties…(okay I was in my late twenties five years ago. Piss off.) My wife isn’t immune to it either. Remember that catatonic hot mama in paragraph one? She’s adjusting as well. Exhaustion hits her and hits her hard. I can’t remember the last time I saw her get a full night’s sleep. She has definitely sacrificed more of herself since our son arrived. She is now back to work full-time and a full-time mother. She is still waking up more often than I am at night, even if it’s to pump. She’s gracefully transitioning from pregnant woman to post-partum working mother, while recovering physically and professionally.

We’re five months into it now, folks. And now, we’re becoming the stereotypes we fought so hard against. Two full-time employed working parents, forgetting to change cat litter for a week and falling asleep at 8:00 pm. Zombie-like moans and grunting exchanges in the bathroom to brush our teeth at 5 am. We take care of each other just enough to get to tomorrow, but we are forgetting what a moment alone together feels like. Friends who’ve already gone through parenting look at us and smile because they recognize all the familiar symptoms. Their favorite part of seeing us like this is knowing that it will pass soon enough, and these motions are all part of the process.


Cow Toots and Coffee Cups

With parenthood on the horizon, I wanted to establish a healthier relationship with the planet. My childhood was full of dinosaurs, ZooBooks, field trips through Utah’s mountains, camping, and owning dozens of pets. We owned everything from monitor lizards to cats to scorpions to hermit crabs. As children, we were terrible pet owners, killing more creatures than Ted Nugent on coke. Aside from that, I’ve always had a deep connection to animals, nature, and living within the world instead of above it. My wife found it hard to believe I liked the outdoors, considering that since we met I had basically done nothing physical or spent any time outdoors for the first five years of our relationship. (I’ve gotten my shit together more recently…more on that in a later post). Even if I was indoors though, I was reading about nature, paleontology, and cultural issues with humans and nature.

Over the years I’ve been better able to process how much of an impact I’m leaving on this little hunk of rock hurling through space. Expecting a little one made me want to play a more active role in reducing my carbon footprint than I had over the past 30 something years. If you’re anything like me, at a certain point doing things for yourself isn’t enough motivation. My motivation had to start externally before I could bring it in house. For me, that was my son.

My mission was clear: I want to teach my son how to be a good citizen of the planet by setting the right example. I know I’m not alone when I say that I make so many excuses to justify the way I live. Even with the best intentions, my excuses for not exercising, or drinking to excess, or stressing out about things began to be the standard of living I set for myself. It’s part of my upbringing to justify bad habits, and I want that trait to die with me.

I won’t bore you with all the things I thought about before changing. Instead I’ll bore you with the specific things I changed. The first big change I made surprised me. I stopped eating red meat cold turkey–err cold cow. For the past few years I’ve stuck to a mostly paleo-centric diet. In loose terms, that means mainly unprocessed foods, sticking to real ingredients. I mostly leave out dairy, sugar, and grains as much as I can. Unless I’m doing a reset with a Whole30 program or something, I don’t really obsess about keeping it up 24/7. But for years I’ve been saying that I’d be a vegetarian if I wasn’t so used to eating meat. I mean, meat tastes delicious. I won’t deny that. Even now, if it flies or swims, I’ll eat it. But when it comes to pork, beef, and other red meat, I simply didn’t want to eat it anymore.

Reasons not to be a carnivore: some logical, some emotional. First, it’s never been lost on me that I am eating another living thing. To lack any kind of empathy about the things you choose to kill and consume is to be too far detached from the earth. As ass-backwards as it may seem to me, I think many hunters feel that same way. I’ve never felt that the natural world should be humans, then everything else. We’re the most technologically advanced animal to inhabit earth, but we’re still animals. I’m still divided on whether we’re better classified as apex predators or the worst invasive species on earth, but I digress.

Secondly, and this is probably more emotional, (though I am sure there’s some evidence to support it), cows and pigs are not mindless creatures just waiting to be slaughtered. They aren’t pink slime or the fatty strips sizzlin’ on a griddle. They are intelligent, social creatures. Though I have no intent of owning them as pets, over time I’ve started to lump them into the same category as cats, dogs, or horses. Most folks in our society would never consider eating category A, yet we justify eating category B. I just couldn’t make that justification anymore. Deep Shallow down, I think one day I’ll stop eating chicken, turkey, and some fish as well.

Finally, the single biggest catalyst to dropping red meat is that eating so much meat is just not sustainable for the environment. I’m not going to shove statistics down your throat, because I don’t want to spend the time googling them and let’s face it…facts mean nothing anymore, right? They just get in the way of the argument you’re trying to make.  But here’s the conclusions I came to: cows generate a ton of methane (via toots and poops) and it takes a ton of water consumption to produce beef. Because it’s such a huge market, many farmers focus on growing corn and soybeans as their cash crops because it feeds cattle, pigs, chickens, and so on. Almost none of that corn and soy go to feeding humans directly. Add in runoff from animal waste and it really wasn’t terribly difficult for me to reduce meat consumption. When I do eat meat I try to eat things that didn’t have to travel half-way across the world to get here.

Before you get offended or defensive about anything, relax. I don’t care if you eat meat. You make your own decisions and you raise your own children. Also, I don’t think farmers raising all this meat and cash crops are unjustified in their business. They grow and harvest the things that people will buy. Farmers aren’t these idyllic representations of pure Americana. They are people who need to provide for their families and keep a roof over their head. But until we as consumers give them the profitable opportunity to grow more diverse and sustainable crops, what else are they supposed to do?

So I cut out some meat and never looked back. It’s been surprisingly easy to do. I prioritize vegetables more now than I ever have. I feel that I am exercising my influential power as a consumer. It’s not foolproof. It’s not as obnoxious as demonizing factory farming or as militant as joining PETA, but it’s one way I can do my part to change the world around me. And most importantly, I think it’s a way to raise my son to appreciate and respect the world he lives in. By the end of this year my wife and I will have our own garden and start growing our own food. It’ll save money I assume, but also save the resources needed to ship vegetables across the state or country, and get me one step closer to living in harmony with our blue dot.

As I mentioned, I still eat chicken and turkey. And I really have grown to love seafood. They all meet the same criteria I listed above for reasons to quit red meat. They are living creatures with a sense of pain and suffering. Birds eat cornmeal and soy. Aquaculture has it’s challenges. Admittedly, some days it feels like there’s no way to be a socially responsible meat-eater, but my goal is not to be perfect. My goal is to be a bit better every day.

Room for cream: The second change I made was carrying reusable cups everywhere for my coffee and water. I travel a lot. I drink a lot of coffee. As I shuffled through a single-serve world of airports and hotel lobbies, I really started noticing how much we all consume. Next time you’re in Starbucks, think of everyone in there at that moment, and then everyone that will be in there that day. Then think of how many misspelled names are written on paper and plastic cups, topped with plastic lids and sheathed in paper sleeves. Now multiple that by thousands of Starbucks around the country. Expand that to the other local and infinitely cooler coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks, but still generate the same volume of trash. Think of the many millions of disposable cups used that day. Add in the water bottles. Try to mentally process the volume of trash we created for a cup of delicious damn coffee. I tried, and it just struck me as absurd. It’s so much garbage it’s overwhelming.

I drink coffee every day. I love everything about coffee. I respond emotionally knowingf I’m drinking responsibly sourced single origin coffee from a northern Nicaragua cooperative. I drink that shit up. I spend 20 minutes brewing two cups of coffee in my Chemex because I think it tastes better (it does taste better, objectively). From the ritual of starting my day with coffee, to dealing with the unfortunate yellowing teeth stains I suffer for my habits, I love it. Cold brew, nitro, bulletproof, I love it. Just no fucking sugar and no fucking cream.

I had to accept that I was generating too much garbage. And just because I can recycle the cups, that doesn’t make it okay to just go through them. Just this morning I listened to an NPR story that discusses how we think we’re doing such a good thing by recycling that we actually generate more garbage because we feel like we’ve earned a trash credit by recycling. Recycle 12 coffee cups and get the 13th cup to throw into a landfill!

So I bought a reusable water bottle, a cold brew cup, and a normal coffee canteen. I tried measuring how many cups of coffee and bottles of water I saved by using my own cups. I gave up tracking it after a while, but it’s been significant. Two or three cups of coffee and three bottles worth of water a day add up to a bunch of plastic.  I’ve had to break my own rule a time or two, but it’s so infrequent that when it does happen I actually feel guilty and it just propels me to be more strict moving forward. I’ve noticed that I also pay way more attention to the amount of sparkling water cans and beer bottles our household consumes too. Yes, we recycle all of it, but if we use less than hopefully there will be less on the planet overall.

These are just a couple changes I’ve made mostly due to my son coming into this world and me not wanting to be a hypocrite to him. While I’d like everyone to consume less, I don’t really care what you do. The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past 6 months is that no one can make me the person I want to be other than me. At my age, no one is going to change my behavior but me. But I can still dictate the hell out of my son’s life for the next few years. That’s why we have kids, right?


II. Cinco de Mayo Sopresa

May 5, 2016

The hotel lobby doors part in sync with my closing footsteps. An air-conditioned breeze hits my face and the sterility of the hotel lobby transports me from a day onsite to evening plans with my wife. She coincidentally had a work trip in Denver during my organization’s software go-live, so she was able to spend a night with me in gorgeous Denver, the sunshine state. My eyes scan the lobby and catch her standing with her company-issued black backpack and purple hard shell luggage. She has a “god, I am done with travel for today” look, one I’m intimately familiar with. I wrap up my conversation with my work colleague Jason and greet her with a big hug. It’s Thursday, and we haven’t seen each other since Saturday, when I left for go-live. Hell, I hadn’t seen her since last month. We’re used to being apart, both traveling across the country to implement healthcare software. But I’ve missed her more than usual this week, as today we’re going to take what feels like our thousandth pregnancy test.

It’s been something like nine months since we starting trying to get pregnant. We had no idea what we’re doing, and didn’t think we needed to be overly prescriptive about it. People have sex all the time and accidentally have kids, it shouldn’t be that difficult to do when we’re actually okay with that outcome. But there’s a few factors we had to stumble through before we started doing things (we think) the right way.

First, your body and mind have to be ready to have the babies. When you’ve used various forms of birth control for your entire adult life, your wife’s body has to get back its biological balance. So that took some time for her body to recognize we’re not trying to suppress things for once. From my side, for someone who has tried his whole life to avoid accidentally becoming a father, there was some considerable psychological obstacles. Like, maybe I was actually sterile this whole time? Was it just luck that I hadn’t fathered any children yet?

Shockingly enough, you then have to actually be in the same city at the same time, you know, to have sex. Who would’ve thought? Not only that, you need to time adult-time when your wife’s said biological body is in prime procreating condition, aka ovulating. Being  together at the same time, mentally and physically, when the ovulating stars align isn’t that easy for two people traveling three out of four weeks a month. And lastly, and this is important, when all those other pieces fit, you can’t treat making babies like you’re doing the dishes or driving to the bank. It can’t be a sterile, mechanical process where the only goal is to put the players in position.

After a while, that last part hadn’t been so easy for either of us. You start putting a lot of pressure on yourselves after a few months. You know you have to do it, but both my wife and I seemed to excuse ourselves from romantic effort, or even stepping up our personal hygiene. It wouldn’t have hurt me too much to do ten push-ups a day and not eat pizza the night we were going to play creators. But alas, we got ourselves more worked up about the process than just doing the damn thing.

That changed with a frank conversation between husband and wife. We both basically said, “Why the fuck are we trying so hard? Why aren’t we trying to enjoy this?” From that moment on, and I’ll spare you the details, team morale improved. We got our minds right and things have gone really well over the past two months. Still, even if it’s been two months of happy love at the right time of the month, it’s cumulatively felt like a long time.

So today feels like a big occasion. If our pregnancy test ends up being positive, it’ll be a huge celebration for the two of us, and a bigger sigh of relief. If we still aren’t having a baby, we’ll live, but those nagging doubts from a few months ago are going to start coming back up.

Back at the hotel, we say goodbye to Jason as we step out of the elevator onto my hotel room’s floor. Admittedly, I’m a bit nervous. We make our way into my rented room and she sits on the freshly made California king. I ask her about her flight in, though I really don’t care. We both travel and we both know every shitty thing that can happen during travel. It’s a throw away question. My wife must feel the same way as she responds, “it was fine.” I tell her I need to pee before she does, which actually wasn’t a delay tactic. I have the bladder of a woman three times my age.

I finish my business and come back to into the main hotel room, and Rachel is still sitting in the same spot on the bed. She’s bouncing a little bit with anxiety; her hands rubbing her knees with anticipation. She points to the new box sitting on the bed and says, “I know it’s stupid and superstitious, but you need to open this one. I’ve opened every single box and I just can’t open this one.” That sounds like sound logic to me. I don’t want to go another month with no buns in our family oven, and if the box opener could even be loosely correlated to our pregnancy test success, then she needs to step aside.

So I grab and open the box in the same way I’d open a box of Chicken in a Biskit crackers. I pull out the cotton packaging until all that’s left is the test and pull it out. It’s not in a plastic package, which seems kind of gross. Like, why wouldn’t they package these things in plastic? I pull it out and stare at it and it’s like the house lights at a concert finally flip on. My wife already took the test. I look at the math on the pregnancy indicator and I see a plus sign. We’re going to be parents.

Allow me a bit of revisionist history for the past two paragraphs. My anxious wife, who can’t keep a secret from me if her life depended on it (seriously, I’m worried that one day if authorities ever come looking for me, she won’t be able to resist telling them I’m under the floorboards hiding from the fact that I downloaded a bunch of metalcore albums in 2008), is losing her cool and needs me to open the box she compromised earlier in the day. The box is completely unwrapped of its plastic packaging and actually open on the bottom. She was banking on me opening it from the still-sealed top, which I did. Unbeknownst to me, pregnancy test kits don’t come with cotton packaging. The cotton I yanked out and threw to the bed was a onesie with “hello dad!” written on it. I completely skipped that part. The pregnancy test, again unwrapped, finally set me off.

She calls me out, “you didn’t even look at the onesie, you just threw it!” as she lays it flat so I can read it. I start tearing up and yelling out how happy I am. My wife gets on one knee, and asks me if I will do her the honor of being her baby’s father and slips a pacifier on my finger. Considering how cute and intentionally cheesy her proposal is, she sounds surprisingly nervous to ask. I hug her and we collectively breath a sigh of excitement and relief. The weight of the past nine months melts away and we float above the third floor hotel carpet.

May 5, 2017

My son wakes up with an ear-to-ear smile. He is loud and giggly and distracted. He spits up all over his mom and smiles while he does it. He’s a talker and likes seeing how much of his hands he can shove into his mouth. My wife is running late, showering and blow drying her hair furiously. She has an appointment with our personal trainer and still needs to collect everything she needs for the day, including her breast pump parts.

I’m changing the boy’s diaper and talking to him two octaves higher than I typically speak. I’ve been working on toning it down to a manageable range, but my mom talks to babies and animals with the same high-pitched tone. I think it’s genetic. I put him in his blue and green striped bodysuit with a small triceratops over his heart. He’s patient while I load him into his car seat and even smiles as I strap him in. I drive him the 300 feet to our daycare and he’s greeted by the staff and the other baby there this morning. I hate saying goodbye to him in the mornings, but know that I have a full day of adult shit to do before I can get back to him. This is exactly the life I hoped for in that hotel room one year ago.

The Shermans Take Manhattan

*So I could probably spend two more days writing and rewriting and refocusing what I want to actually write about in this post, but then it’ll never get done, and it’ll be a bottleneck for everything else I want to write. This isn’t my best, but not posting anything would’ve been my worst…

What’s the old saying… “There’s nothing travelers enjoy more than flying with babies on board?” Except for maybe getting forcibly re-accommodated from your United flight. No, everyone hates babies on planes, because they can be annoying when they are, well…being babies. I’ve been one of those people irrationally upset with babies on planes. They go right up there with people who bring hot food into the plane, people who try to talk to me, and people who lean their seat all the way back into my lap.

So why would my wife and I, the seasoned travelers that we are, take our 10-week-old son on his first trip from Wisconsin to Manhattan? I mean, I have a box of coconut water in my fridge that’s older than he is. Because we pride ourselves on our travel acumen. We wear security-efficient clothing: no belts, loose fitting shoes, reduced layers, and so on. We check-in early and rarely pack more than will fit in a weekender bag. We’re George Clooney in Up in the Air, but without all the emptiness inside.

We decided to do this about two or three weeks after we had the boy, back when we still thought things wouldn’t really change all that much. Any doubt was deafened by the dull hum of sleep deprivation. It couldn’t be that hard, right? March was not January, therefore it was far away. By the time March comes around, the kid will probably be walking anyway.  Once a few hours of sleep sobered us up, we better processed what we got ourselves into. We hid it from each other initially, but both had anxiety the closer we came to check-in.

My son gave me no reason to think he’d be a bad traveler. He’s calm and happy. He has his mother’s looks and his father’s temperament. He eats, sleeps, pees, poops, smiles, and repeats. But I was worried about my son’s sinuses buckling under cabin pressure. Which makes me wonder why I didn’t have more empathy for those other children on past flights who were probably just screaming because their head hurt?

Well, my son handled travel like a goddamn champ. Must be biological. He smiled at passers-by as we waited to board, fed well, and kept his bum in check. His pacifier kept him pacified and his ears popped when they needed to. He feel asleep to the dull roar of airplane engines. We even got through security checks so efficiently that the Madison TSA agent said we were doing a better job than most people she’s seen with kids. We lived the “early boarding for parents with small children” lifestyle for three flights and it was a dream. Plus the little guy flew for free.

Now that my son has proven (at least on this flight) that he’s a perfectly suitable traveler we can discuss New York. Manhattan was incredible, and if you haven’t been there, you should try it. But I’m not going to waste your time talking about New York. I’m going to waste your time talking about the way people in New York treated me.

We were treated extremely well by hotel staff, who went extra lengths to ensure we had everything we needed with an infant in arms. Restaurant staff accommodated us, by sticking us in areas where we wouldn’t affect other patrons if the lil guy woke up. It didn’t feel disrespectful, it just felt like a shift to a new normal. We’re a different customer demographic now, even if I feel the same. It got us a table next to the entrance of a sushi restaurant one night, and an early table at Bengal Tiger for Indian food on another night.

On our last afternoon, I met up with my wife in the basement of the Lincoln Center. There’s a huge Whole Foods there, complete with a ramen bar/alcohol bar. When we were placing an order, a stylish black man in his 40s glanced over and asked about our son. He ended up talking to us for ten minutes about how amazing children are and said a blessing to our son after he asked if we believed in god. I pretended not to hear the question so my wife would answer.

New York parents have ultra-strollers. We were Laserbeak navigating through a thousand Megatrons. The strollers had thick all-terrain tires in the front and back. Some of them had shock absorbers. The larger ones had built-in sleeping bag covers for kids to travel in low temperatures or wind. Some had thick rain covers to avoid disgusting ice dripping from skyscrapers and construction scaffolding. I had to treat the curbs and crosswalks like an obstacle course. It was kind of fun, but I would’ve really liked to spend the weekend with those Cadillac strollers.

Few people used the on-the-body baby carriers. When I walked out of the Essex House lobby to explore Central Park, I got quite a few looks with a baby strapped to my chest in the ErgoBaby carrier. People seemed to think it was cute, if not out of place. Which brings me to my other insight: the idea of a father alone with his child gets you a lot of affection and attention. From the hotel lobby and pedestrians to tourists at the Central Park ice rink, people thought we were just the cutest thing, me carrying my baby around like a marsupial. I kept hearing, “oh that’s/he’s so cute” as they’d peak at my son sleeping against my chest. Yet they couldn’t even see him because he was buried in my chest sleeping. I could’ve had a cabbage patch doll in this carrier and I would’ve gotten the same reaction.

All in all, traveling with a new child wasn’t that big of a deal. I was actually the biggest complainer at the end of the trip, when our flight was canceled and I had to miss my first day of work because a travel issue. I’m just going to wrap this post up because it’s not really going anywhere. They can’t all be winners, you guys. Sometimes you just gotta get something out.

I’ve Been Gone a Long Time

Welp, it’s a been a while…since I processed a clever thought.

And it’s been a while, since I forced myself to write.

It’s been a while…since I …ah, to hell with it. The realities of juggling a career, a band,  marriage, fatherhood, and exercise has resulted in me pushing this off. I’ve slipped. But I have a ton of stuff to post, they are all just in various draft stages.

I know I’ve been gone a long time, or at least it’s felt that way. But expect to see some stuff soon! Balance is a minor setback.

Vonnegut & the Tadpole

You’re seven weeks along in your physical existence. I know this because I have an app that tells me you’re seven weeks along in your physical existence. Your cells, masters of division that they are, are splitting at a furious rate. While you do that, I’ll share a bit of what’s happening out here. You know, I used to ask my parents what they were like before I was born. I’ve never known Norma and Phil: young irresponsible lovers. Their responses were spotty, and it’s understandable. If I had to think back twenty years ago, I’d be able to say I was in 6th grade and that I liked basketball. That’s about all I could give you. So for posterity’s sake, I figured I’d document what life is like for me right now while you’re still a tadpole.
I’m sitting in a Delta airplane in seat 1A. The worst of the first class seats. My luggage is several rows behind me, along with my brief case (it’s a back pack…who am I kidding?). It’s inconvenient. When the pilot finally rings his bell and lets us move about the cabin, I’ll have to stand up and walk to the overhead luggage cabinet to get my computer, while juggling my phone, my headphones, and my free gin & tonic. Where am I supposed to put that free booze for safe-keeping? Next to my single-serve friend in 1B? No. He’s a mouth-breather and brought a hot sandwich on board. 1B sucks.

This is an all-too-real example of the affluent me-first bullshit that you’ll hear me complain about from time to time. I see versions of this when I travel. People in American culture today call those first-world problems. Even as they rest their wide asses in the best seats in the house, some people feel like they were slighted by someone or something.

Your dad (still weird for me to say) flew in first class a lot before you were born because of my job, which boiled down to telling people how to talk to each other and making sure they do the things they were put in charge of doing. I pay for all of this fancy travel on my American Express credit card, which is then paid off by my employer. You may never use or understand credit cards. Who knows? Maybe they will go the way of the checkbook. I’ll have to show you a checkbook sometime. We may need to look online for examples. That is, if “online” is a concept by the time we have this actual conversation. Jesus, how the hell are things going to work by the time you read this?

Where was I? Ah…all these charges and reimbursements on the ol’ AmEx mean I accrue loyalty points. Like XP in video games. Shit, will I have to explain what a video game was to you? Focus, old man. These all add up to certain benefits. I’m rewarded for minimal effort. The lesson here is, don’t be fooled by false entitlement. And don’t assume you can predict how things will work in the future.

I’m headed to San Diego, California. San Diego: the city my mother romanticized when I was a child and the same city where I asked your mother to marry me. Mom was right, it’s a romantic city. I am here for five days to help a hospital change their electronic medical record. The company I work for takes all the different areas of healthcare and makes them work together by using the same software. The company itself is directly responsible for almost everything good in my life, including moving to Wisconsin, meeting and marrying your beautiful mother. This week’s main objective is to discuss the exotic world of medication inventory, or how to keep track of all your shit.

But let’s talk about you. According to my app, you’re a tiny little creature who just this week started developing lungs. Good job, sweetheart. I’m so proud of you. Only your mom and I know about the hard work you’re doing inside her belly. Staying tight-lipped is tough, but we’re supposed to wait a few more weeks before we share you with the world. Right now you’re more reptilian than human. But, just a couple weeks ago you were more fish than reptile, so you’re making your trek along the evolutionary highway. If you grow feathers you took a wrong turn.

Oh, and as for me? Well, I’m just sort of hanging out right now. Up to this point, my main contribution to your existence has been relatively brief. Over the past few weeks I’ve basically taken on your mother’s liquor quota and eaten whatever I shouldn’t. I have an all-access “get disgusting” pass. My young buff body has gone the way of the dodo.* I’m sure I’ll snap into shape soon enough though (I didn’t). I hope you’re working your tail off, literally, to become a healthy human. You’re an adorable little tadpole, but human lungs will serve you better above water.

Keep growing, little nugget.

-Love, Dad

*Little did I know, that my boy’s birth would be the one thing that encouraged me to finally exercise in nearly 8 years.

I. In the beginning, we knew nothing.

October 29, 2015
The sun is high and bright in the South African sky. The clocks say 7 a.m., but I don’t believe it. It’s got to be noon already. It’s our last morning in Cape Town and my wife doesn’t feel well. Struggling to sleep through the all-night house party a floor above us, she’s felt nauseous all morning. This must be it. She’s pregnant. We been trying since our August anniversary and two months has felt like forever. While she hugs the toilet, I’m standing on our small balcony taking in the views one last time. Our street leads up to Signal Hill; a hill much bigger than any mountain in Wisconsin. In the other direction the street descends into a maze of residential roads. Past the neighborhood’s trees sits a vacant Cape Town Stadium.

Black socks, black shirts, and denim shorts lay on the balcony’s built-in drying racks. Stiff and crisp underwear are spread across the patio table. As I fold our clothes to pack for our next stop, my wife is now peeing on a stick. A brilliant idea pops in my head. I start recording a video diary on the balcony. When she walks out of the bathroom, I’ll turn to her and we’ll have documented the moment our family math added up to three. After about twenty seconds I run out of things to say and sights to film, so I stop the video and wait for her to come out. She stays in there for about ten more minutes. Wow, morning sickness must be really getting her.

When she finally comes out, I’m onto new things. “It was negative,” she says, defeated. Damn. “Maybe the hormones just aren’t elevated enough this early in the morning. We’ll try again later today.* Let’s pack up and get coffee and head to the botanical gardens.”

After a walk to Shift Espresso I take us on an anxiety-inducing car ride to Kirstenbosch Gardens. Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of a car is about as intuitive as wiping my ass with my foot.^ The gardens are breathtaking and I feel like I’m prancing through Jurassic Park. It’s way more amazing than I expected, yet my ghost-of-a-wife is barely keeping up. I’m taking it personally. “You’re not pregnant yet, and we’re on vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Can’t you just suck it up?”

That I am this disconnected from my wife’s needs reveals a much deeper imbalance with my stress and self-happiness. I am ready to quit a job that just a year ago had been very meaningful to me. This sabbatical is my company’s way of thanking me for five years of work, but it’s my way of escaping and spending their money to do it, with two emphatic middle fingers pointed towards Wisconsin. I deserve this, dammit. Now we’re at the edge of the world, and my wife isn’t feeling well. It’s not fair. (Later that day she’ll spend six hours sweating off a really nasty sickness, and I get the honor of staring out at the ocean alone and reflecting on how much of an asshole I have been.)

We sputter to Kalk Bay for a three night stay at a Nordic-inspired guesthouse. My wife goes up to our room — the Impala room, to pass out. I’m still pissy about the gardens. Self-rationalizing that I can’t help her anyway, I make my way down Norman Road to the Main Road shops. I practically sprint into a bookstore, appropriately named Kalk Bay Books, and imagine owning a book store similar to this one. From the bar of the newly reopened Kalk Bay Café I stare out at the ocean, drink white wine and Savannah cider, and write (the drafts of which you’re reading right now) in my travel journal. I chat with the owners about showing the rugby world cup finals tonight on their newly installed flat screen. Springboks vs. All Blacks. They’ll keep the café open if people will come, they say. I never found out if they showed the match or not.

With a little drunken strut in my step I stagger up Norman Road back to the Impala room. The ten-foot-high linen drapes breathe in and out with the ocean breeze. The crisp cool bedding holds me like a cloud coffin. My wife’s fever breaks like a levy while I’m watching the rugby final from bed. She wakes up in a small ocean of sweat. It finally clicks in my big dumb brain that she’s actually just flat out sick.

I mistook the symptoms for something grander.

*We confirmed again when she took another pregnancy test at London’s Heathrow airport during our layover to Dublin. We were incredibly naive about a lot of things, from symptoms to realistic timelines to get pregnant. Also, why did we keep peeing on sticks? Like it was going to magically change the results from two hours ago? The only thing I thought I was sure of was how to make the babies. But even that took a while to get right. More on that next time.
^I have been writing a lot about ass-wiping, and I think it’s directly correlated to what I have going on in my life right now. It shouldn’t be an ongoing theme. But it may.

Allow myself to introduce…myself.

I’m seven weeks late for the birth of my first blog post. I planned to post this eight days after the birth of my first son. Eight days turned into nineteen. Nineteen days turned into eight weeks. But it’s going to happen today.

You see, I’m really nervous that if these words don’t captivate you now, then you’ll never look at this page again. Your general indifference to me explaining parenthood is really just a microcosm of the world’s inevitable judgement of my value as an artist. If I can’t keep your attention through a few sputtering paragraphs, then I may as well throw all subsequent writing aspirations out with the bathwater.

That paralyzing anxiety and the fear of failing is a motherfucker. That’s why I have to post something.

A lot of shit has happened over the past year as my wife and I decided to have children. I needed a way to write down all of the thoughts and experiences I’ve been having, and what safer space to expose my hopes, flaws, and fears than the internet?

Preparing for fatherhood over the past 15 months has forced me to reflect on what it means to be a human being in 2017. We’re living in an ever-shrinking world, with one half of humanity hating the other half at any given time, depending on the topic of discussion. Society feels more chaotic and closer to the brink of collapse with each passing day. And we’re choosing to bring someone into it. It’s our responsibility to raise him to be a happy and decent human being. But first, I have to learn how to wipe his ass without getting peed on and make sure he doesn’t suffocate in his sleep.

I want this to be something you enjoy whether or not you have kids or even want to have kids. I don’t plan on referencing statistics, sharing best practices, or parenting methods. What the hell do I know? I’ve been a father for like two months. You can find a bunch of facts and alternative facts and random bullshit all over this wonderful web of information. You don’t need me to add to that mess.

Finally, I have no idea what I am actually doing with this site. So as I grow as a parent and as a writer, so too shall this site. Join the ride. Thanks for giving Something Grander a chance.