I’ve been gone a long time…

Four months. Four months ago was the last time I posted anything. For months I had plenty of things to talk about but I could never get them out of my head and on here.

But I’m back at it, and since August here there’s been a few things I’ve realized I want to change. First, 2017 was really tough. For the world, not just me. It felt so intensely negative the entire year that towards the end of it there, I shut out most of the outside world and just internalized all the bad stuff happening, thinking it’d go away if I ignored it. Didn’t really work.

Next, I decided that I want to use this outlet for more than just parenting topics. One of the self-imposed restrictions that stopped me from posting more was that I couldn’t always shape what I wanted to talk about to how it ties to Parenthood. I like to do and be a little bit of everything, so trying to narrow the focus of this blog had the best intentions. But as life imitates art, I saw that I was becoming so one dimensional in my real life as a parent, that I started forgetting how to be a husband, friend, son, brother, artist, employee, and so on. I think that providing a wider scope of topics on here will also give me back the diversity in my life I’ve lacked. Plus, I’ll be able to share more.

So the remainder of this post is going to be a bit scattered. I have a lot of get out and want to just exhale everything dancing in my head.

In line with opening up the content a bit more, I am also going to start adding more travel-specific posts, as well as including more photo galleries of those travels. I am deciding whether or not to make a fully dedicated page just for travels, or have it stored on a separate page of Something Grander. I think it’ll be a good opportunity to share my experiences of traveling all over the country and sometimes the world, and if anyone follows me on Instagram, you’ll see my family does a good bit of traveling. I’d like a more organized forum to document those experiences.

I am also planning to incorporate music a lot more into my posts. Playing music, discovering music, and creating music is such an instrumental ::eye roll:: part of my life, that it seems almost disingenuous that I haven’t brought it up much over the past year. A couple ideas I had were doing nostalgic reviews of albums that shaped my life and specific memories that tie to them, as well as providing commentary on certain songs that mean a lot to me.

Finally, I am making a specific Instagram account just for Something Grander so that I can separate personal photos and topics from things I feel comfortable sharing with the whole world. If you happen to follow my Instagram account, look out for that.

So let’s get it started:

Until reflecting on 2017 and setting my intentions for 2018, I didn’t realize how fear drives a lot of my life. I guess it always has, but it jumped out as a big theme for the past year. Some of it is easy to explain. I just became a father last January and everything is scary. You worry about hurting the life you just created, and you want to instinctually protect them from all ills of the world. But fear trickled into my career and into my creative outlets.

I’ll save the specifics for my wife/volunteer therapist, but what I’ve realized is that I am more scared of rejection or loss of income than happy about how I live each of my limited days on earth. I worry about starting a project, whether it’s a blog post, song lyrics, a chapter in a book, or a set of pushups, so I just sit on my phone and check Instagram or NPR.org, which in turn stresses me out. It’s amazing how much time I can waste on my phone.

I fear the inevitability of having to choose family over long hours at the office, so I spend hours worrying about what I am doing with my life, when I should be focusing on being the baddest mother forker in the office. Fear is such a god damn distraction. And it took a lot out of me the past six months. My boss was incredibly helpful in trying to help me navigate it all, and now that I’ve had time to distance myself from the fear, I’m in such a good place. I have meaningful things to do and I’m taking on a lot of things I never thought I was capable of doing. It’s great feeling.

Balancing work and the home life is still tough. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my three week vacation, and having my wife still on her sabbatical certainly makes it easy to feel less overwhelmed, but the overarching theme: choose happiness over fear — will shape what comes ahead. I don’t want to live each day and be stressed out over not doing the things I want to do because I am afraid I don’t have enough time, or that choosing art over an income is going to destroy my livelihood. I can create and work. I can be father and artist, husband and friend.

Something Grander came from lyrics I wrote about trying to get pregnant. Each delayed period, upset stomach, or headache my wife got was a cue that this. was. it. She was pregnant, right!? Most of the time the answer was no, she was not pregnant. Until she was. The fear that we weren’t going to be able to have a child was weighing on both of us after months of that little pregnancy test’s missing plus sign. It wasn’t until my wife and I agreed to relax, have fun with the process, and focus on being happy that it finally happened.

That’s what this year and this creative outlet are going to be for me. I will choose happiness and embracing the things that could lead to happiness over avoiding heartache and fear of loss. Live more fully. Live more freely.

Rejecting the Dad-bod: A Comedy

There’s nothing funny to me about having a dad-bod. I reject the cultural cuteness we’ve given it over the past few years. I had a dad-bod before I had a son, but no one gave me a high-five for being so hip and ahead of the curve(s).

If you happened to read my posts from time to time I’ve mentioned that I thrive on proving people wrong. I get joy out of defying expectations. I like taking what someone assumes I should be or do and be the opposite. That has created a constantly-rotating wardrobe, different hairstyles every few months, new music explorations, new book-reading choices, and so on. Whether the drivers are healthy or not, the effects have given me a freedom to be and do whatever I want.

This is how I found myself at a gym, one week before my first son was due, signing up for a new membership — my third different membership since I moved to Wisconsin. When the manager asked what my goals were, “I want to look like a monster,” wasn’t a strong enough metric to monitor progress. He also couldn’t really take my testimony that I used to be in really good shape as a reliable gauge on what I should aim for. But that doubt gave me motivation.

My son was born on a Thursday; my first session with my trainer was the following Monday at 7 am. I hadn’t eaten before the appointment, I hadn’t slept much — as anyone with a newborn could understand. I nearly passed out. I couldn’t get through the 30 minute fit test. I spent the following 33 minutes crouched on or around the one men’s toilet. It was not my best day and not the impression I wanted to set with a guy I was financially and contractually obligated to see once a week for at least two years.

But it got easier over time, as things do. My wife was always home, and so I knew I could go to the gym before or after work, and she’d be with the boy. I started making visible progress. For the first time really in my life, I focused on the lower half of my body and started developing an ass, which I have never had in my entire time on planet earth. Eventually, my wife also got a personal training program with the same trainer, and she was able to go consistently between her part time schedule at work and either of us picking up our son from day care.

Culture makes it seem like the dad-bod is some sort of badge of honor, but here I was getting into the best shape of my life. I was telling people that this is my dad-bod. By Memorial Day, I was finally on the right side of physical strength and wellness. Then shit got complicated.

My wife went back to work full-time and our routines fell apart. One week I needed to be in San Diego, the next week she’s in Texas. Next week we’re both in town but I have band practice. She’s clawing her way back into full-time work mode, so she needs late nights at the office to get caught up from months of maternity leave and part-time work. Oh, now I’m in New Jersey. Now I’m in North Dakota. Now I’m in North Carolina. She’s in Texas. She’s in Palm Springs. Family is visiting. Family is visiting again. The rain finally stopped, we need to do yard work. Nope started raining again, this time causing floods in the basement. Oh, time to travel again.

It’s mid-August and in just 10 weeks, I feel like I’m slipping into that skinny-fat stereotype of bearing a father-body. I stepped up my volume of eating to account for all the gym time, but when my stops at the gym decreased, my caloric intake didn’t. I see love handles, I see a fuller belly, I see saggy man-boobs. Dammit.

After justifying my descent into mediocrity for weeks, I really got into my head about how I got here, and most importantly, how to get back. I don’t know if I have good answers really, but here’s the plan I’ve come up with. First, I need to do it as early in the day as possible so I ensure it gets done. Second, I can’t focus on the perfect opportunity. I have a plan each day to exercise and then I have things happen where my ideal scenario of exercise is compromised and before you know it I’m half-asleep in bed drifting off into tomorrow.

It must be a priority. It was a priority before and life was probably just as complicated (but in different ways) as it was a few months ago. But because it was so important, I found ways to do it consistently. My lesser vices went on the back burner (things like waking up and playing on your phone for 20 minutes can set off a sequence of laziness that derails a perfect amount of time to exercise). I ate better because I knew it was helping me each day. Once it’s a priority, it’s a way of life.

My son is getting bigger and heavier. I need to be able to haul him around, and set a good example. Today was the day I needed to remember how far I had come at one point, and how far I’ve slipped. But I am not discouraged, just delayed. I have a deadline to get to the shape I want to be in. 11/11: Family reunion for my wife’s side of the family. I was telling her that I need to be the most physically impressive man at this reunion so that her family knows the Shermans have strengthened the genetic makeup of our family tree. She laughed. But motivation comes in a bunch of silly forms. And that’s the motivation I need.

Everything I Need is in Front of Me

He sends his arms high and crashes them down against his thighs over and over. He hasn’t learned the pain of bruised legs or swollen fists, making his motions more fearless. He’d start to fly in a different life; if his biology took a slightly different evolutionary path. But he’s just a plain ol human being.

He’s taught himself how to sit up and is quickly learning how much more interactive the world becomes when you are vertical. His massive blue eyes, the glaring objects of affection for all passers by. They take in the world like two gallons of water emptied onto a thirsty sponge. Pupils dilate from the flashing lights of toddler toys. His mouth drops open when he’s particularly amazed at the daily monotony we’ve spent a lifetime dulling down and drowning out.

We’ve been here for an hour. Maybe more. Maybe less. I’ve found that he’s the only way I am truly present in a given moment. I can’t watch TV and I can’t fuck around aimlessly on my phone with casual obsession. He knows when I’m looking away. He knows when my mind has left the room. He sometimes prevents me from being able to go into the basement to put dirty laundry into the washer, or straighten up the dining room. He is not needy.

He wants to share his world with me. He forces me to be selfless–in the end for my own benefit. He doesn’t care about my poor eating choices this week, or that I skipped the gym today, or that I’m not challenged in my career. His greatest ambition is to fit his entire hand into his mouth, and catch Xuni’s attention by screaming at him because he doesn’t have defined degrees of excitement. He’s always at eleven or like a two.

He cares about eventually eating, eventually pooping, and eventually sleeping.

He is my escape from the distraction the 21st century creates.

via Daily Prompt: Glaring

Every other weekend, or Hello, my name is distance…

April 7, 2017

I’ve been away from my son for six days. I’ve only had tiny emotional breakdowns like half of those days. Nothing major. Two nights ago my wife sent me a photo of the boy and everything got blurry. One blink sent tears down my cheeks like a compromised levy. On Thursday I think I just had a run of the mill anxiety attack. My heart was racing and I felt helpless about being so far away. With tunnel vision I stared for 30 minutes at family photos and videos stored on my phone. If my coworkers asked me questions, I wouldn’t have known it.

So what the hell?  I’m not that good at missing people anymore. Since I migrated from the proper west to the middle west, I’ve adapted to being a little bit of everywhere such that I don’t feel very distant from anyone or anything. Plus, Instagram and text messaging has shrunk the distance considerably. Even if I haven’t talked to someone in months I am caught up on their lives. But, to be everywhere is to be nowhere.

I’m just not used to being ​everywhere anymore. I’m used to sleeping in the same bed and seeing the same two faces each day. Airplanes sent me away from my new normal. No first class upgrade can compensate for days away from them. Although the free whiskey helps.

I’ve noticed it’s not just my wife and my son I’m longing for. I miss my own father. I am my father’s son, and my father is his father’s son. That’s an obvious biological fact, as well as a way to say that we don’t miss people often. Or at least we don’t show it. My grandpa rarely talks to my dad. My dad rarely talks to me. And I return the gesture in kind. Shermans just sort of have a way of believing things are generally fine and if they aren’t, we’d know. We communicate by exception.

But I miss my dad all the time, despite that he’s only a phone call away. I feel the distance much more now that I have a son of my own.

I’d see my dad every other weekend, and it always felt like a vacation. My brother and sister would stay with my mom, who never seemed to be okay letting me leave– even for two nights. He’d pick me up and we’d do weekender types of things. We’d go bowling. We’d go to basketball games. We’d go to his band rehearsals where I’d get to hang out with all my cousins while my dad played guitar and keyboards (my aunt, and two of my uncles would also play in the band). I’d get fast food happy meals from Hardee’s, Burger King, or Warren’s. Every Sunday night we would wrap up at my grandma’s and grandpa’s house. During those get-togethers I learned the art of sarcasm from my uncle and comedic timing from my grandma. My grandpa always had cool novel things like portable 5″ TV’s, Atari computer games, a fire pit, and as my cousin and I eventually found out, Playboy magazines. We’d all spend time together before 7 o’clock rolled around and my dad would drive me back to Clearfield until our next weekend together.

To see my dad every other weekend was just what I did. It wasn’t weird to me because I hadn’t had any other experience. We saw each other more around the holidays and during Junior Jazz rec league basketball. Dad coached me, so I’d go months seeing him every weekend, and once during the week. Once our Saturday games were over, sometimes I went back to Mom’s, sometimes I went with Dad. I always felt great about my situation and couldn’t picture it any other way.

It wasn’t until I had my own son that I realized it was my dad who probably got cheated. My dad would see me twice a month. A month! Just a blink of an eye. The thought of seeing my son twice a month hurts me. And this was my dad’s version of normal.

This was visitation rights for fathers in the 80s and 90s. It probably hasn’t changed much. He paid his child support and got his standard visitation. I look back now and see all his attempts to get me to come live with him in a different light. I never took the idea of moving in with him all that seriously because I knew it would kill my mother, and honestly my dad would’ve been more strict. I was given free reign with my existing situation, and while I can now see that my dad would’ve given me the chance to be more of a kid, back then I just saw what was in it for me. I eventually moved back in with him when I went back to college and we had a great time. I really loved forming daily rituals with him, taming his excitement for me when I’d bring a new female friend over, and watching Jazz games with him in the front room.

Now the thing I want most in the world is to have him here in Wisconsin while I go through fatherhood. I want my son to have the same paternal leadership and love from him and my grandpa that I got from him and my grandpa. It’s harder now though. He has his own life. He lives a few states over, and he can’t be here whenever I want. I’ve been really frustrated and saddened by it, even sensitive to it. We’ve talked about it, and I don’t think he realizes how much it means to me. And I spend most time wondering how he managed to only see me two dozen times a year and not lose his mind. Because now I’m feeling that way about not seeing him.

Solid B+

I saw this coming. When I married my wife in 2014, I tucked this into my vows: “I promise that of all the big ideas or big master plans I come up with, we will follow through on at least half of them.” My wife and I are ambitious people. We take a lot of pride in taking on a lot of life. It shows up in our travel plans, our work schedules, our dietary challenges, our hobbies, and our commitment to spending time with family and friends.

But, something’s changed recently. Free time is abbreviated and we orbit around a new gravitational pull. The change is our bright-eyed baby boy. He’s about halfway through his first trip around the sun, meanwhile his parents are trying to live between two worlds. The Before Child, or BC-era Rae and Ty are trying to keep up with the Child Era Rae and Ty, and it’s…well, it’s tough.

The boy is great. Raising him is, and has been, an incredible experience. Rae and I have so much joy and pride in parenting such a beautiful happy child. Some of the greatest moments of my day are watching him get excited when he sees his mother come home, watching him watch his hands move, or seeing the wonderment in his eyes when I move my hands through the air like a jellyfish drifting through the ocean. Our mistakes thus far haven’t had anything to do with him. They’ve had to do with us wanting to stay superhuman.

I like proving people wrong. No, it’s more than that. I need to prove people wrong. I love doing what you either think I shouldn’t or can’t do. For instance, in growing up with an alcoholic, drug-addicted father, I became strictly drug- and alcohol-free for the first quarter century of my life. I’d intentionally listen to music that others wouldn’t suspect from me, because I hated being stereotyped. “Wait, I’m the only person at my company from my college?” Fine, I’ll be ten times better at my job than kids who went to Yale and prestigious school X. I’ve done demanding dietary resets during software go-lives at my company (notorious for all the free sugary, fattening sweets they offer at onsite support centers). “Oh, I’m supposed to have a skinny-fat dad-bod now?” I started working with a personal trainer 4 days after my son was born.

I doubt my method for getting me to do things is healthy or well-adjusted. But I’ve learned to work within the framework. So as my wife’s pregnancy was winding down, the idea that she would need to put her career on hold or that either of us would need to quit our jobs sounded like a challenge. “Maybe other people have had troubles with it,” I thought. “But Rae and I can do this if we plan it out.” We can raise our son, get into the best shape of our lives, and continue to grow our careers all at once.

So technically, we’re doing all of those things. By Memorial Day this year, I was in the best overall shape I’ve been in since I was 19 years old. My wife completed coaching certification, got back to work, got back into the gym, and we’re both back to full-time work and full-time child-rearing. But it doesn’t feel quite like we’re accomplishing anything.

I had this grand ol plan that I’d start developing a fiction novel outline over the course of the 12 months between my 33rd and 34th birthday. 3 months into it, and I’m essentially still on step one. Even this blog was intended to be a weekly exercise…or bi-weekly at least. I told myself I wouldn’t take on too much new work at my job, yet I am in a new leadership position on my team, and I’m implementing a new (to me) software application. Why, Tylor? Why?

Rae is right in the thick of it too. She went from comfortably not traveling and wrapping up work at 4 pm each day to getting thrown on back-to-back traveling trips and late nights and weekends in the office fixing other people’s mistakes. And my patience about it has worn thinner and thinner, to the point I get irrationally upset on her behalf. While she is powering through, I want to yell at the people keeping her at the office or on the road. I see my wife nearly every night and yet I miss her all the time. My friends, we are learning our limits.

We listened to a podcast recently from a couple who are going through basically the same things we are. The podcaster (?) Rachel summed it up nicely: you have to say no. Oddly enough we listened to this podcast a day before we took our young boy to his first Major League Baseball game, only for him to get overstimulated and scream like we’ve never heard before. He then had belly issues, wouldn’t eat, and before you know it we’ve missed 7 innings and our family wonders if they’ve lost us for good. Too much. We’re trying to do too much! But we didn’t want to say no to our family. We want to be superhuman.

My wife is thoughtful and always wants to give everyone her best self. She doesn’t want to let people down, and rarely (if ever) does. I’m much more self-centered than my wife.  Saying no to others isn’t too hard for me. I did it to drugs and alcohol (thanks D.A.R.E and addict father), I’ve said goodbye to Facebook months ago… Basically, I can turn away from things. But the uncomfortable area to navigate is our careers. How do I say no to a demanding job that I usually enjoy and get paid pretty well to perform? That’s been the hardest part, and has required the most creativity.

I’ve managed to get involved with projects that don’t require a ton of travel, and have been able to find creative solutions for the ones that do. I also have accepted that while my target job performance is here (I have my right hand pretty high), what I am able to practically give is about here (left hand is slightly lower than my right, but still impressively high in the air). I have to fit 55 hours of work into 45, rather than fit 70 into 55. I’ll probably get a “he’s doing well, but this could’ve been better,” type feedback from some of my peers, but I have to accept it. As the evil corporate couple HHH and Stephanie McMahon would tell Daniel Bryan, I should be proud to be a B+ player right now. Solid B+.

So the next few weeks will involve really breaking down necessity vs. desire. We like juggling a thousand things at once, but we’re going to work it down to a manageable 100 things. There’s so many good things coming our way this year (more family travel, fun home improvements, go-lives, and getting the dad bod I want), but if you see us around town, don’t bother asking us what else we’ve been up to. Just tell us about your lives. We need a break from ours.





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.