Now and Then

Came home from Idaho yesterday and realized when we arrived that Google Street View of our house had been updated. Yeah!

It was always sad to see its previous state on Google Maps when I’d get home. The picture at bottom was right before I bought it, when it was going into foreclosure 3 years ago. I was almost hesitant to put our return address on Christmas cards sometimes lest someone looked us up and thought we lived in a meth house.

I bought the house because I could afford it on one income and knew I could make it work seeing as it was structurally fine and is within walking distance to the train.

We’ve since put a little love into it. Most notably, I painted the outside last year (what a job). We’ve got quite a bit more to go, but it has come a long way.

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One of the upcoming house projects is a combination of new gutters and an 1100-gallon rain cistern for the garden and hopefully new landscaping. I applied for a grant a few months back and the agency providing the fund is coming over to do a site visit next week. I’m really excited to see what we can do in our yard once we have a sustainable and cost-effective source of water in the summer months.

This must be the place.

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Ah, summer. Digging into SW and finding our spots, our community. 

Sharayah and I had some incredible “Detroit style” pizza at the new Ex Novo location in downtown Beaverton yesterday. 5 minutes from the house is nice, downtown is coming along. She said it’s the “best pizza she’s ever had” in ‘Portland’. I’m not sure about that, but it’s a nice change from the pies we’re used to getting. 

Found a Quaker meeting house in the area I really like today at West Hills Friends Church. Just the right amount of weird meets structure. Everyone is really friendly and welcoming. After several weird experiences elsewhere, I think this must be the place. 

Now enjoying a Czech style pils under a tree on a 78 degree day on the patio at Lucky Labrador in Multnomah Village reflecting on the journey that brought me here and considering the future. 

Oh, and the kid is 5 months now. How did that happen?

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Playing music is like riding a bicycle but riding a bicycle is not like playing music

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One of the things that I wasn’t prepared for in midlife is how difficult it would be to adjust to life without a passion.

This isn’t to say that I have never had passion. It’s just that the time commitment involved in nurturing a passion is severely diminished. Work, commute, house, 5-month-old baby — it’s seems so cliche, but finding the time for yourself really is difficult. And when you try to fit it in with any level of regularity, something else usually suffers. But does it have to?

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14 years old. I never took lessons, but when you’re alone or unemployed or broke or all of the above, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands to noodle around and nurture it. What I lacked in knowledge, I made up in pure creativity. I’m not saying I was some sort of guitar god - that would be douchy as hell. But I loved playing so much and it was an escape from sometimes difficult reality.

Fast forward almost 25 years and I’ve been trying to get back into it. For too many years, my guitar collected dust. I’d pick it up now and again, and it was sort of like riding a bike. But there’s a big difference between taking a leisurely roll around the neighborhood and competing in a triathlon with it. Dedication, education, persistence, passion - you have to want it. And even then, when you’re a cyclist, rarely do people ask you to perform for them on the spot. There’s an implied prerequisite to share your passion with others through performance when it comes to music, even when you treat it as something personal.

Playing guitar for me still is a meditation, but it was more on the leisurely roll side of things. I had fun, sang some tunes around the house, and blacked out the work day stress or nonstop baby puke. However, I’d been feeling like my life was missing an opportunity for growth and to get me out of my shell. .

I started taking lessons for the first time a couple of months ago. I wasn’t sure how I’d like it, but it’s been incredible. It’s every other week, so not a huge commitment, but I already find myself getting to a level I’ve never reached before. I’m still rusty as hell, but it’s nice to be challenged in a way that is not in the form of a traditional education, or work or family related. It also gives me some much needed time to myself. I missed that.

All these years I feel like I’ve been coloring with 3 crayons. Learning the fretboard and scales (however slowly) is opening the palette up and making the creative process easier.

I’ve also made a friend in the neighborhood and we’re getting together for the first time tomorrow night to play acoustic guitar. I haven’t had a friend to play music with regularly in years and I’m actually pretty excited about it. I’m even more excited to have someone in my neighborhood instead of making the trek into Portland all the time.

At any rate, my goal by taking lessons and playing with others is to get better at improvisation and to become a better music writer. I harbor no illusions (or desires) to play regular gigs or becoming known in any way. But I would like to finally start making and recording music and honoring that part of myself that I’ve neglected as other parts of me grew. I’m setting that intention now and I’ll revisit this post in the coming years to see how I’ve done. Who knows, maybe I’ll even post something here someday.

4/26/19

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Today my son is three months old. As expected, it’s been a busy and amazing time. My life is changed forever and in all the best ways. Life is more inwardly focused with less a feeling of rudderlessness. It’s simultaneously simpler yet more complicated.

For me and many others, the idea of parenthood before becoming a parent is often shrouded in in fear. Fear that a part of your life will come to an end because of the responsibilities and time commitments that come with becoming a parent. But then you become a parent and, for me, the perspective completely flips.

If I had to pick one word that best describes the human experience, it would be adaptation. To me it’s the human condition. Our greatest strength and our greatest source of suffering.

All the brilliant works of art and feats of engineering were the result of the incomparable human ability to adapt. And yet that feeling of dullness that can often take over our once novel feelings about some aspect of life is also caused by adaptation. Boredom is adaptation. Depression can be a symptom of adaptation.

We can desire change in our lives and seek it out, through hard work and focus. We can be driven toward a goal by passion. And it’s an awesome thing to achieve something you’ve set out to do. Sometimes change is thrust upon us and the pangs of anxiety can be so overwhelming that you feel as though you’re 100 feet underwater and can’t breathe. But all our new experiences become the new normal in time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as an idea and a mindset, parenthood is my new normal. I am no longer fearful of the idea or the reality of parenthood. But the beautiful thing so far is that with every passing day, it’s different. My son changes every day, in big and small ways, and I get to help grow him into a person while simultaneously being filled with purpose.

There are tough times, and there will be so many more. But they pale in comparison to the good.

And unlike the sometimes unhealthy human need for change for the sake of itself, having this purpose nourishes my human need to move forward and adapt without—pardon the expression—throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There are so many things I could have said in this first post as a parent, but it is just too big now. All I can say is that having my son has been an enormously additive experience to life and I just can’t imagine having never experienced it.

Love,

Dad

1/21/2019

Baby still isn’t here. Just got back from a check-up and some grocery shopping. Shar’s about to partake in some reality TV, so I’m contemplating other things.

Yesterday was a really good day. We started out with breakfast from Black Bear Diner. Much better than driving into Portland, waiting forever for a seat, having so-so food, and then paying out the ass.

Shar surprised me by taking me for my first ever full-service pedicure. It was…incredible. Of course I didn’t get any color done, but they pull out all the stops. Massage chair, foot soak, foot scrub, foot and leg massage, hot wax, toe nail clean up. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I just might have to do it a couple times a year for relaxation.

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We rented a movie (Venom) and then went out to Breakside Brewing in Northeast for our friend Laura’s 30th birthday. Back home and in bed by 9:30.

Today’s MLK day, so us government workers get the day off and Shar just happened to have the day off as well. I took the day to give the office a thorough cleaning. The office is also my music room and also our spare room now that the spare room has become the nursery. Things are tight in here already, but I rearranged my guitar pedal board last week and all the cut up velcro and patch cables really put things in rough shape. Much better now. Still have to get these cords in order, however.

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I squeezed in an hour or so of playing this afternoon as I got lucky and had the sun coming in the front window. I soaked it up.

All in all, a real nice self-care weekend and much needed at that.

Song:

Japanese Breakfast - Till Death

1/19/2019

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I’m not 100% sure how or when it all got started, but for the longest time I just wanted to be seen as one of the “cool kids.” I wanted to be accepted by the “cool kids.”

I can speculate that it probably began late in elementary school. My brothers and I grew up poor but adjacent to wealthier people. We didn't go without, but I was consistently surrounded by kids who had everything they wanted and more. 

For the first part of my childhood, I also grew up without a father around. I think this contributed to my lack of confidence and knowledge about masculine things. I grew up knowing almost nothing about sports or cars or other things many men use to connect. 

To top it off, I have always been really quiet. This made me a target for bullying from the loud and more confident kids. My quietness and lack of confidence in myself made me not cool in the eyes of the ones I thought I wanted to be like. 

Sadly, I think I internalized this feeling of being an outsider and channeled in negative ways. Some positive things too, like introspective hobbies like music and writing, but also negative habits like consistently comparing myself, what I have, what I have accomplished, and my tastes, to others. And although I’m aware of it and want to change it, I haven’t yet. I’m beginning to, but I haven’t gotten over the hump. 

I find myself ever striving for more and focusing on material things. Not luxury cars, but quality things around the house. I get down on myself about the way my house looks and want to spend money to improve it (I bought it as a fixer up in the white hot Portland market back in 2016). I compare my neighborhood to others’. The list goes on. 

But I think I‘m starting to feel more of a letting go of these feelings and fake needs as I get older. I find myself not interested in a lot fo the things I used to be interested in even a few years ago, favoring time spent in at night enjoying quiet introverted things like playing music or reading articles on the internet on random topics I’m interested in. 

I’m accepting myself more for who I am and what my strengths are versus a superficial quality of coolness or acceptance by others. And it’s pretty freeing. I am actually growing less and less interested in people in general, with the exception of those closest to me, and it feels great. Strange, perhaps. But I don’t feel anything unhealthy about it. I feel like my season of life is changing and that I’m actually ok with things slowing down to more of an internal focus. I’m focusing less on accomplishments and ownership and more on an internal exploration of my purpose in life. 

I may not know who the cool bands are anymore and I still might not be able to chat up the boss about sports. I might be looked over for that promotion. But I’m becoming perfectly content with my quiet little life and worrying less and less about measuring it against those of others.  

January 15, 2019

Today I’m typing from a 15-year-old, wired, white manual keyboard. I just couldn’t type for any length of time on the pancake bluetooth keyboard without some discomfort. Plus, it always sucks when the thing’s batteries would die. Really kills the flow.

Ah, the Apple A1048. Seems a bit stickier than I remember, but hopefully it breaks up a bit after awhile:

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At any rate, I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately that I’ve wanted to write about, but whenever I try to figure out a way to put them into words, I have a lot of trouble. So maybe I’ve been over thinking them and I should just keep them simple.

We are now less than 2 weeks out from our baby’s due date. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had two sets of friends have their babies and that has helped to make things more real.

I mean, it’s really just a construct for us guys until the little person is out anyway, right? We’re not the ones going through all of it. We’re not feeling it inside ourselves.

And I guess the thing that is smacking me in the face is that this little human will be half of me. That is so banal that I almost passed out from boredom typing it. But that is really what I am gobsmacked about. That a person whom I love very much who is sitting in the other room is carrying a living being that is half me and half her.

This probably happens to everybody, but maybe I’m feeling it amplified because it’s been so difficult in seeing my own father in me given that he wasn’t in my life. It’s as though I’ve viewed myself as the child of my mother via asexual reproduction. Any lack of resemblance was merely a mutation or due to some environmental factor.

So today when I got home from work I found Shar lying on the bed in our room, exhausted from the day. She’s been a real trouper, working up until her due date and taking barre classes and such. So I crawl into bed with her and start rubbing her belly and I can feel this child’s outline. I can feel its bottom and along the side of its leg. I mean, it’s not too distinct, but you can sort of tell that this isn’t just a belly with a weird notch in it. And I’m just sitting in the relative quiet that is my life, the relative lack of responsibility for anything more than our dog, and realize. I just realize the reality. It’s slowly been creeping up on me, but it’s gonna hit me so hard when the little he or she is actually here.

I know, it’s dumb. But that’s how I feel right now. Dumb.

The other thing that has been sitting in the back of my mind is the hope that I’m not a failure. Throughout this pregnancy, everybody offers unsolicited advice. I know most mean well, but it can really shake you up if you let it. And it got me thinking about what if I’m not a great parent? All my life I’ve thought about how my father wasn’t there for me and that I’d be this wonderful father in spite of that. But what if I’m NOT? I know my shortcomings in life and I know the dreams I have in my head that I sometimes accomplish and sometimes don’t. I think of the goals I have and the ones I’ve gone after and the ones that collect dust. I guess I just hope I can provide the type of environment that my child or children can thrive. And that they not only love me but they like me and are proud of me someday.

I’m also thinking about my own life and my own risks in different ways. I’m thinking about safety and security and looking both ways when I cross through a busy intersection. I peed at the urinal today and thought about saving for the future and life insurance and college. There’s been a lot of thoughts in this head.

The past few weekends, Shar and I have been sort of go-go-go. I felt a bit of panic that the house wasn’t looking that great and that we don’t have as much as so-and-so or that our house isn’t as nice as this-and-that. And in my way of anxiety, I took it out on Shar. I tend to compare and I really am trying to work on that, but there was no excuse to act mean to her especially at this time. We got through it, but I need to recognize that I need to recognize my feelings for what they are, accept them, and either do something to change it myself or express them and ask for help.

And it was so silly. About making our house a home and just wanting more help in making it look like a home. In the same ways Shar needs help around the house with logistical things. I guess I focus more on the art of it while she’s more practical in a lot of ways. I think we’ll rub off on each other through time.

Finally, I know my time is about to be eaten up to a great degree. I’m taking a month off when the baby is born and I’m so grateful I get to do that, but I know once they’re here that some things will be put on pause. Perhaps this writing, perhaps my playing music almost every night. Maybe our lazy nights on the couch. I guess I can’t really fathom how it’s going to be at the moment. Hell, the next time I write, I could very well have a baby and 2019 is halfway done. But I hope I can retain a bit of myself along the way.

This feels like it’s been one big ramble, but I’m just so filled with a deep well of love and gratitude that I’m here right now and able to experience this. At least until I’m running on no sleep and elbow deep in shitty diapers. Until next time.

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January 10, 2019

So the new year came without much fanfare. 2019, here we are.

We spent the evening in bed, and dare I say it was probably one of the best NYE’s I’ve ever had? I’m not sure Shar can say the same, but I’ve almost always disappointed by NYE parties.

For starters, I get too nostalgic. Second, I hate crowds. And third, they’re just sad to me for some reason. Here we are! It’s another year! Let’s pretend we’re gonna change on purpose on this arbitrary moment in space but not really do it! That’s why I start my new habits regularly. I keep a running tally of how long I’ve been doing each to motivate me and to not break the habit.

So, we spent our NYE joyously in our luxurious double pillow top/memory foam king size bed reading, without any real intentions for the new year other than to continue to try and be our best. We leaned over and kissed each other at midnight, turned off the light, and fell asleep.

I also woke up sober and feeling alive. My skin had color to it and I smiled a lot, perhaps for the first since legally able to drink.

I ran 3 day this week. Yesterday I did 3 miles and ran a personal record at age 37, which is still a depressingly slow 10 minute something split. However, I’m trending in the right direction. I took today off because I sort of hurt my leg yesterday and wanted to give it a day to rest. Plus, I really don’t think the running 5 days a week thing is good for our joints.

I have still not lost any weight despite burning about 500 extra calories per day and giving up a lot of not-so-great foods. Not sure what is up there but I can only think it’s at least partially attributed to the vegetarian diet. I see folks doing keto losing tons of weight and it’s sort of frustrating given what I thought I was doing when I began this journey. At least I’m still not gaining. But I might have to rethink this thing. I’m working on 11 months without a piece of animal flesh in my digestive system and I’m rather enjoying it, but I’d really love to lose about 30 pounds.

My last update was about wearing the holter monitor after 3 months of trying to get one from Kaiser Permanente. They shaved my chest and glued the thing on. I dropped it off on New Year’s Day. Still no word. I’m coming to expect this.

The baby’s due two weeks from Saturday. I keep thinking I’m gonna get an excited call from Shar telling me things are happening. I don’t think she’s ever been more ready to be a mother in her life. Me, I’m a little nervous but also very excited.

Two nights ago it moved a lot in her belly and I caught a little bit of it on video. Kind of alien-like! Can’t wait to meet him or her!

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December 29, 2018

I finally complained to Kaiser Permanente that I was going to switch insurance providers if they didn’t get me in for a holter moniter. It had been three months since my doctor requested one for me and I was getting pretty upset.

Thursday KP called me to setup an appointment for the next day to get fitted for one. The lady was apologetic, and I kept my cool, but I really wanted to be an asshole. Even if this turns out to be nothing, no one should have to wait 3 months for something so simple when you have a family history of heart problems.

Anyway, my heart has only done its flutter twice since I’ve been wearing this thing, so hopefully they can get a read on it and tell me what’s going on. I’m wearing it it until 4:00 today.

My grandfather, whom I met only once, had a condition called an bicuspid aortic valve and died in his 60s. I learned this from my half uncle, whom also has the condition and had heart surgery in his 40s. I may not have it. My recent EKG came back normal, but they only monitored for about a minute. This bicuspid aortic valve is like a an occasional hard push in the heart. I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing is the same thing. But the combo had me scared and wanting to know.

Prior to figuring out my family history, I thought maybe it had something to do with my smoking or eating too much shit food. But I just hit the two year mark since I last had a cigarette and I’m working on a year since I’ve had meat. My cholesterol was way down 6 months after quitting the stuff. And I kept having the heart flutter.

Maybe this isn’t a big deal. But I guess I know my body and it’s not something I’m used to experiencing. Things happen as we age, but it still seems strange.

In other news, Melissa started having contractions for her baby yesterday and she’s in the hospital. I guess after hours she is still being induced. I’m not sure of the details, but I hope all is well with her and her son. I’m sure we’ll learn more soon enough from her and Natasha.

I drove to work yesterday for the first time in a couple of months since I needed to go to the hospital yesterday. I went to Ross and got some new underwear, which I’m strangely excited about. I also think driving sucks now. Traffic was super frustrating on lunch and after work and I can tell it has a major impact on my mental attitude. Even though I got my car fixed, I’m still taking the train to work (I did every day but Friday this week).

The weather has been consistently a little more wet, but not terrible for this time of year. The cloud breaks are still common, we haven’t got any snow, and we only had a couple of days of frost.

Zoey is sitting on the bed behind me and has brought multiple toys to me to get my attention. She really wants to play. I probably should give her some exercise.

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Songs:

Sun Kil Moon - This is Not Possible

Car Seat Headrest - Bodys

December 28, 2018

Making room in my life for the important stuff has never been easy for me. I am probably the most nostalgic person I’ve ever known in real life and letting go of that is pretty tough.

I’ll get lost in old notebooks or saved greeting cards for hours. I often think about people from my past. I think about my successes and my mistakes, of which there are many of both.

But the older I get, the more respect I have for myself, too. I have higher expectations of the company I choose to keep because I ain’t got the time or the energy for anything else.

My Instagram feed will not be filled with photos of me in large groups of people in interesting social situations. No, I have few friends, but the ones I keep around I truly value and I think they value me.

I’ve got a quirky personality, I am often quiet, and I can be awkward. A lot of people don’t know how to work with that or accept that. But the people I keep around work through that and allow me to be me, and that has become center stage in my awareness of good people. They stick out like sore thumbs, the ones who try and listen and smile and ask questions.

I don’t have the time or the space for superficial interactions, for political drama or thinly veiled insecurities on social media, for people who chatter. I’ve found the down-to-earth people, the lovers, the encouragers, the listeners, and I ain’t got no time for the holier-than-thou’s. And damn if it doesn’t feel good to respect myself enough to make space for the real ones.