Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Grand Canyon!

The Grand Canyon really doesn’t need an explanation—the name says it all.  You stand at the edge and look, and it’s self-evident why it’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  A week ago Steph and I, along with her parents, took our son to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.  What an experience.  As we walked up to the rim, his reaction was priceless!


We didn’t descent from the rim during the trip, but you can’t help but admire the views whether it’s your first visit or not.  The scale of the Canyon is almost inconceivable.  One of the best things about the trip itself was the US National Park Service’s “Junior Ranger” program.  When we checked in at the Visitor’s Center, they provided me a book for him with a number of educational requirements that had to be met to earn a Junior Ranger certificate and badge.  Needless to say, Paul was excited as we showed him the book.  Activities were based on the age of the child and broken into categories named after different animals.  For his age, he had to attend at least one presentation by a Ranger, write and draw what he learned from the presentation, and complete four other tasks oriented toward focusing a child his age on aspects of nature and the Canyon itself.  We ended up attending two Ranger presentations.


The first full day we were there Paul selected a presentation about fossils.  At the appointed time, we met with Ranger Mike and took a short walk from the Bright Angel Trailhead to a large fossil bed, probably less than a half mile away.  Along the way we stopped and sat on the rim while Ranger Mike talked about the geologic history of the Canyon and how it formed, the rock types present in the Canyon, and why we’re able to find so many fossils today.  Then everyone was up and walking again and in just a few minutes we were standing in the fossil bed.  Ranger Mike described the five types of fossils we could find, then made it clear to the kids that all of them would find and see an example of all of them.  The parents all seemed just as interested as their kids, but we had a moment of levity when Ranger Mike told the kids, “as our time goes on, if we haven’t seen a particular kind of fossil, you might want to look where the Ranger is standing.”  Kids were excited to know they’d get a hint; parents were happy that our guide wouldn’t let the lesson go too long.  The kids had great eyes though and within about 15 minutes everyone had seen all five fossil types.




At the end, Paul had to answer several questions in his book detailing what he had learned and present it to Ranger Mike to check.  Since Paul had already completed the other tasks, Ranger Mike signed his certificate and presented him his Junior Ranger badge.  Paul was thrilled!


The next day we attended a second presentation on the California Condor with Ranger Ty.  It was as well-done as the fossil class.  We gathered again near the Bright Angel Trailhead at the time of day that the California Condors are known to return to their nests after a day of scavenging.  It was amazing to hear how there were only 22 (or so) of these amazing birds at one point after the population had all but disappeared primarily due to toxins in their food supply.  Through a captive breeding program there are now approximately 400 birds total, spread across several locations, but primarily living in the Grand Canyon.  While they’re still endangered, all the indications are they’re  moving confidently toward eventual removal from the list of endangered species.  Ranger Ty taught the kids (and adults!) how to tell the difference between the California Condor, the Turkey Vulture and the Raven, all three of which are present in the Canyon.  He talked about the history of these birds and used kids to show us just how big they are,standing about four feet tall with a 9-10 foot wing span!  He also explained the breeding and tagging program as well as the role of the Rangers in public outreach to help reduce the toxins that get into the Condor’s food.  Sure enough, while we sat and listened we had the privilege of seeing two California Condors!



To make it all even cooler, just by walking around in and near our campsite, Paul was able to see a make and female Elk, several lizards, squirrels, and a variety of small birds.  He also made friends with a boy with a family camping next to us and ended up putting more miles on his bike in a weekend than he’s put on there the entire rest of the time he’s had a bike.



It was a wonderful weekend of rest, education, and fun for all of us!  I have no doubt Paul will remember his first visit to the Grand Canyon for the rest of his life.


It’s great to be a dad!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Realizing Your Mortality

Readers:  this post covers a heavier issue than usual.  I hope it’s useful to you now or at some point regarding how you may address the issue of mortality with your kid(s) or young people that you might have the opportunity to mentor.  

Early this month my son woke up crying in the middle of the night.  When Steph and I went to his room, he said he dreamt he was “buried in the ground under dirt before it was his time to die.”  He went on to say through his tears, “I don’t want to grow up and die.”  It’s important here to point out this wasn’t a horror movie kind of dream.  He wasn’t buried alive or anything like that.  He said he saw himself as if he was buried after he had died and clearly knew what had happened.



My son turns seven in February.  When I was a child, not much older than he is now, I also became aware of my own mortality.  I can’t recall anything in particular that could have triggered this realization, but I remember there were two related things that struck me heavily at that point in my young life.

First, I realized I was growing older, and as that continued, I would lose interest in the things that I liked to play with and do as a child.  It was obvious to me because I never saw any adults (my parents included) playing with anything I liked to play with or frankly doing anything I thought was fun at that young age.  That made me sad because from my young perspective I had some cool stuff and did some pretty fun things!  Everything about life was an adventure and I never wanted it to end.  But I could see movement toward a time when I wouldn’t enjoy these things.

I think the second revelation was a result of the first. I realized someday I would grow old enough that life as I understood it would end:  I would die.  I think it’s important to say I don’t remember knowing anyone who had died, or even being aware of anyone actually dying, but the simple logic of my young mind allowed me to put the pieces together.  This had a real impact on my life for several years to follow, as I wrestled with what it all meant.  Honestly, outwardly I was a regular kid, but inside I was distracted by my own mortality.

I don’t talk about it often in this blog, but it’s not something I hide either: I’m a Christian and as a result, I hold to the hope hope that when life in this body ends, I don’t simply cease to exist.  I wasn’t brought up this way though, nor did I experience anything akin to a conversion at that young age when I wrestled with the concept of death.  I mention this because as a child in what was practically an unchurched family, my parents didn’t have anything to offer me in the form of an explanation or context—not from a Christian point of view, or any other.  Life was just life.  Apparently you live, and then you die.  End of story.  

I remember at the point the frailty of life gelled in my mind, I was sick with a cold—a cold and nothing more.  But I was sick and as a result, a bit miserable.  In the middle of the night (like my son), and not directly related to being sick, I became aware enough of mortality that I sought the comfort of my parents.  I went into their room and as they comforted me I expressed to them my realization that I would die someday.  Looking back it was a bit of a funny moment, but when I told my mom I knew I was going to die and that it was disturbing me, she responded in an attempt to comfort me by saying, “you’re okay, you’re not going to die, you only have a cold.”  She didn’t understand that I wasn’t talking about having a cold, nor was I worried I’d die from it.  I can’t be critical.  What parent comforting a young child with a cold would ever think the issue at hand was actually the realization that death is a part of life.  I didn’t try to explain my struggle any further, they ultimately calmed me down, and sleep visited me again thanks to a soft back rub and the tiredness associated with the middle of the night.

Thoughts of the reality of my own mortality burdened me though for several years to follow, stealing some of the enjoyment from many of the things that were a part of my life.  It was a nagging preoccupation.  That brings me back to my son.  I remember struggling with the same thing and have worked to encourage his concerns by offering hope that there’s more to life than just life in the bodies he sees.

My son’s struggle with this issue does differ from mine in an important way :  he’s definitely aware of two deaths.  I blogged about losing my dad in August 2012.  My son was old enough to be very aware of what was happening as we visited my dad when he passed away, then during the memorial service in the days to follow, and finally when we interred him at Arlington National Cemetery a few months later in December.  Much less significant, but every bit as much real, we had to put our cat down just before we traveled to Arlington.  My son loved the cat and I’m sure he’ll always consider him his first pet.  

Although these things happened over a year ago, Paul has continued to talk about it regularly.  Not in a bad way, but it’s clear he’s continued to wrestle with mortality, and it seemed to come together in some way when he had his dream.  Since then I’ve worked to encourage him based on my own beliefs, and he seems to be handling it well.  One of the recurring discussions we have when he makes me aware he’s thinking about these things is that while we believe life goes on after our bodies die, it’s okay to be sad when we lose someone here.  It’s okay that we’re sad because we can’t see them like we used to any longer.  It’s also okay that we remember those we love who have preceded us in death.  And as a Christian, we can take comfort in the hope we’ll see our loved ones and friends again some day.  For those reading this who hold an orthodox or reformed Christian view, I’m sure you’re wondering how I’m dealing with the teaching that in death, everyone doesn’t go to Heaven.  I’m doing my best to be careful not to say (or imply) that everyone goes, but I’m also being careful not to lead my son down the path where I shatter any hope.  He’s not ready to have that larger and much more heady discussion just yet.  For now and for him:  all the hope I can offer a child with the stage set for the deeper discussion later.

We often hear the word “closure” associated with the passing of a loved one.  A year later, with all the understanding I can muster after losing dad, I think I’m mostly there.  Not completely, but mostly.  A way I describe where I am in the healing process: the open wound is closed and a scar is forming, but it’s still very tender.  Some days I think my son is farther along than I am; other days I’m convinced he’s not.  I do my best to understand all of this from his young perspective, not to make too much or too little of it all, keep it in perspective, and just be his loving (and living) dad.  My own childhood struggle with the matter of mortality certainly helps me with this.  I know this though:  it’s a privilege to be my son’s dad, and to be by his side as he continues to wrestle with it all.  There aren’t words to explain how special it is to be the man he turns to for explanation and comfort, to share what he’s thinking, and to cry and laugh with about anything and everything.  I get to watch him grow!


It’s great to be a dad!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My First Marathon

Two years ago I never thought I'd ever be able to run a marathon, but after putting several half marathons behind me and four months of dedicated training, I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon!

This is the same event that I ran my first half marathon during, just a year ago.  I completed the training without any issues and on the evening of November 17th I was ready to run, nervous and excited, and joined about 30,000 of my running buddies in the Starting Village as we put ourselves into a proper mental state with each other and with the help of the All American Rejects (who put on a fantastic concert for us!).  Then it was time to get into our corals, hear a wedding performed at the starting line (because it's what we do in Vegas) and the National Anthem.  Finally the gun sounded and we were off.  I set out to run the race in four hours and twenty minutes but ended up finishing in five hours and twenty six minutes.  I'll explain why.



I learned a few things through my training and the race.  First and foremost, a full marathon isn’t twice as hard as a half marathon.  It’s more than twice as hard.  I suspected this was the case when I realized I had passed through the 13.1 mile mark with what seemed like ease, but somewhere around mile 20 I was more than twice as sore as when I had finished the half marathons I'd run before, to include covering 13.1 to 20 miles seven of the last eight weekends during my training.  In the end, I think the marathon is the hardest thing I’ve ever put my body through.

Cramps.  Thankfully I’ve never had abdominal cramps or stomach issues while running.   I’ve had to manage leg and foot cramps after long runs at times but I’ve also never had to deal with them while running.  Until this race.  Between miles 17-18 my right calf cramped pretty hard.  It happened quickly and rather than pretend I could fight it, I slowed to a walk and let it resolve.  It seemed to take forever, but it worked.  I went back to running after it let go and continued on until sometime between mile 22 and 23 when it cramped again.  I slowed to a walk again.  It took longer to stop cramping but I finally picked up a slow running pace once it released.  At that point the front of my thighs were on the verge of cramping (probably the result of compensating for the misbehaving calf) but never did so, so I pressed on and crossed the finish line tired and happy, with a small group of other tired and happy runners.  The time I spent walking accounted for a good bit of the extra hour it took me to finish the race.

Hydration.  I don’t think the cramps were the result of dehydration.  I was well-hydrated, sweated throughout the race and even had to stop several times and take advantage of the portable bathrooms staged along the route.  I don’t believe I was over-hydrated either.  My watch and RoadID fit well and never got tight.  My hands and feet never swelled.

Nutrition.  I’d been training at longer distances with Gu gels and cut up nutrition bars, and if I ate during a training run, I’d carry water (rather than a sports drink).  I’d eat along the way every 45 minutes to an hour with good success.  On mid-length runs, I wouldn’t always take solid food or gels and would run with Nuun in my water bottle instead.  My longest runs made me sore but I never cramped.  With the leg cramps during this race, I have more experimenting to do with long distance nutrition.  I suspect the cramps were the result of not managing my electrolytes well and so an imbalance formed during the run.  (BTW, I’m a pretty salty sweater.)  Based on recommendations from others, I want to try Tailwind and will probably give it a go the next time I train for a long race.

Weather & Clothing.  The weather was perfect.  The temperature at the start was about 65F with low humidity typical of southern Nevada, and just a slight breeze.  Being a night race, the sun was setting as the race began and the temperature gently dropped throughout the run.  I wore shorts, a thin long-sleeved tech tee, with another short-sleeved tech tee on top.  Injinji socks and my Saucony Kinvara 3s on my feet, and no hat or gloves.  As is the norm, I had no foot problems at all (including no blisters).  I never felt too hot, and only got chilly when I was walking off the leg cramps.  BTW, the Kinvaras are now retired with that race bringing me just short of 400 miles on those shoes.  They were fantastic road shoes and I’ll probably replace them with a pair of Kinvara 4s.



My Family.  Training for this race took four months.  I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife and son, who patiently dealt with my (very) early runs during the hot months, then my evening/night runs during my last month of training.  That last month was especially disruptive since runs were longer and often trampled over dinnertime and even my son’s bedtime on occasion.  And then there was the adjusted social schedule with friends and other family members.  I owe my wife and son HUGE thanks for letting me train for, and then run this race.  So thank you Stephanie and Paul!  I love you and I can’t repay you for your generosity and patience.

Now that this race is done, I plan on trying to work more variety into my training:  more general body strength, core strength, and I want to get back to working on the stairs and rowing again.  I’m also going to try to get back to more trail running.

So, will I do it again?  YES!  I definitely want to run another marathon.  The half marathon in Las Vegas is awesome because you spend all of the time on The Strip and parts of the Art District, but the added route for the full marathon is frankly boring, covering two long and straight roads.  I’ll probably continue to run the half marathon here but will look for my next full marathon in a different location: perhaps one of the southern California races in LA or San Diego.


It’s great to be a dad!


(Disclosure:  I was not asked to comment on or endorse, nor was I compensated for mentioning any of the brand products in this post.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review - "Ender’s Game" and the Ender's Saga

Written by Orson Scott Card from 1985 through 1996, I’ve read the four books contained in what is often referred to as “Ender’s Saga” several times.  With the movie version of Ender’s Game now on the big screen, I thought it would be a good time to review the original books in the series.

 


Ender’s Game (1985)

When Orson Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game, he created a classic for older children (“young adults”) and adults alike.  When compared to most modern action/adventure stories (and movies) the pace of Ender’s Game strikes me as a bit slower.  Even so, there’s plenty of action, suspense and drama as the reader follows young Andrew “Ender” Wiggin through his training the military Battle School in order to make the cut to continue to be groomed for eventual command.

The story is set far in the future, after Earth has recovered from an attack by a hostile species referred to as “the Buggers”; an attack that nearly annihilated humanity.  In an attempt prepared for a future Bugger war, children are screened and selected for battle training in a special schoolhouse orbiting the Earth.  The hope that some will show the right tactical and command skills, and have the overall mental capacity as they move into adulthood to make them qualified and capable of commanding a fleet of warships.  This book focuses on young Ender’s training and testing as a child.  Removed from his family at a very young age, his adventure is often less than pleasant and at times brutal.

Without spoiling the end, events take a dramatic turn late in the book, having a lasting effect on young Ender, and significantly shaping the rest of his life.  This also sets the stage for the subsequent stories contained in what has become known as “Ender’s Saga.”  This book, as well as those that follow, are full of all the good stuff that makes great science fiction--space, ships, a struggle to save Earth, and the hope we have in our youth to move us into the future.  As with all great Science Fiction, Ender’s Game is thick with social commentary and leaves the reader chewing on weighty ethical questions once the story ends.  This is great book for adults, and a wonderful tool for parents to share with their kids when the time is right.  I believe the discussions over the lessons that apply to real life will last for years to come.  Grab a copy and enjoy!



Speaker for the Dead  (1986)

I loved Ender’s Game and was eager to finally read this sequel.  Initially I wasn’t sure how the story would unfold but it took off quickly, building on the momentum created in the first book.  According to Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead was the story he originally set out to tell.  Reinforcing what Mr. Card said, as good as Ender’s Game was, it only sets the stage for this story.

As with Ender’s Game, social commentary is at the heart of this amazing story, and the reader watches the practical results of the now mature thoughts and consequences of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin’s youthful act of xenocide committed against the Buggers.  In an attempt to address, put into context, and perhaps even redeem himself from the savage act of xenocide, Andrew authors two books, “The Hive Queen” and “The Hegemon”, and becomes the first of a non-religious order referred to as Speakers for the Dead. Through these two books, and his words as a Speaker for the Dead, Andrew strives as an adult to limit (if not prevent) any future act of xenocide.  Triggered by the practical calling for a Speaker for the Dead to address the death of several humans on the colony planet Lusitania, we watch a larger story unfold when the resultant moral doctrine contained in “The Hive Queen” and “The Hegemon” play out as decisions are made about how to practically deal with the much more significant emerging conflict between the Human and another sentient race called the Pequininos.

There are very few plot holes, but they’re not of consequence in the end.  They’re easily overlooked and quickly overcome by this amazing story.  If you liked the original story and haven’t read this sequel, please do.  You won’t be disappointed.



Xenocide  (1991)

After the strength of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, I had to see where the story went and decided to read Xenocide even after hearing and reading very mixed reviews for the book.  I’m glad I did.  Xenocide took a slower pace than the previous books and deals with a human fleet sent by Starways Congress toward Lusitania.  Onboard the fleet is a weapon called the Molecular Disruption Device (MDD, or the “Little Doctor”), a weapon with the ability to destroy an entire planet, sent with apparent intent to do just this to Lusitania.  If so, the destruction of this colony world would result in the annihilation of all the human colonists as well as the xenocide of two entire races living only on Lusitania: the Pequininos and a third (surprise) sentient race.  Working together, the three races struggle to find a way to stop the fleet and if necessary, to leave the planet.

Whereas moral and social commentary are usually undercurrents in science fiction, they take a much more significant role in this book as the author examines cultural, racial and even gender biases and preferences in the context of the struggle to preserve life: specifically what happens when the struggle for life and culture of one group puts another in jeopardy.  Xenocide also examines the unique origins and life of Jane, Ender’s faithful companion and an apparently another sentient being (a third species outside of humanity) living within a communications network of devices called Ansibles, spanning the inhabited universe and allowing faster than light communications between the worlds.

This diminished the strength of the book for some, but I didn’t mind as the more traditional elements of science fiction were still solidly present:  the possibility of a sentient life emerging from within the virtual world; an interesting and creative examination of a particle called the Philote; faster than light communication and travel; and time dilation. Some reviews I read expressed dislike for the liberties Mr. Card takes with science, however I enjoyed how he played with physics to enable a continuing and wonderful work of fiction.  He’s no guiltier with his scientific liberties than most who preceded him in the genre.

While Xenocide wasn’t my favorite single book in the series, I definitely enjoyed it as a key part of a broader piece of wonderful storytelling.  While taking a slightly different direction, Xenocide is a logical place and way for the story of Ender Wiggin and the universe he lives in to continue.  Keeping that in mind, I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.



Children of the Mind  (1996)

This book had many similarities to and differences from the first three in the Ender’s Saga.  It’s very different from Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead in that it’s more philosophical, even though it’s much more a direct continuation of the primary story that left off at the end of Speaker for the Dead.  While also different from Xenocide, there are a greater number of similarities with this book than with the first two.  I mentioned in my review of Xenocide that social commentary takes a  more significant role; in this book it takes a primary role.  Children of the Mind is much more philosophical than the books that precede it but Orson Scott Card does a fine job of wrapping up the overall story of Ender Wiggin and those who surround him.

As Mr. Card continues and concludes the story of Ender, he takes the events of the previous three thousand years of history and uses them to pose the very difficult questions we often try to avoid: what is life, what does it mean to be human, what makes us individuals and is the value of an individual life when weighed against a greater population or even the entire species, and what is gender?  His characters wrestle with the difference in value (if any) between life and sentient life.  He also does a fantastic job of posing very significant and real moral questions on a societal level, and works through them (often without providing “the” answer): when should war occur; at what point does the price of employing a weapon of mass destruction outweigh the cost; etc.

My only constructive criticism or observation is about the title.  I’m not sure what other name I’d give the book, but I didn’t feel the story was much about the order called The Children of the Mind.  While they play a critical role in the story, the order itself is only a secondary actor.  It seems the only real tie to the order is that the more heady and philosophical nature of this book suggests we’re all actually children of the mind in one way or another.  Mr. Card challenges us to think about ourselves, humanity, and the world we live in.

I definitely enjoyed Children of the Mind.  I recommend it to readers who enjoyed Xenocide, especially if you want to know how the story of Ender Wiggin concludes.  My only “caution” to the reader is to remember the much more philosophical direction this book takes.  Once again, enjoy!

I recently saw the movie Ender's Game and look forward to posting my review soon.

Based on my fondness for these first books, I'll continue reading in the Ender’s universe, moving on to the four “Shadow Saga” books.  I also plan on reading Ender’s Game to my son soon.


It’s great to be a dad!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Didn't Mean to Scare Him

It’s happened to many of us before, I’m sure.  I was supposed to be a tender moment, and I scared my son.  It was the middle of the night and he was asleep.  He’d been fidgety all night, having dreams, talking in his sleep, and tossing and turning.  At one point it sounded like he might have been awake so I got out of bed and went to his room to see what was up.



He appeared to be sound asleep.  If he had awakened, he was already back in dreamland.  Or maybe he never woke up and it only sounded that way.  I went over and stood by his bed for a while just watching him, gently adjusted his sheet and blanket, then stood a bit longer to see if he would stir.  Nothing.  He was out, and for the moment quiet and still.  So cute and peaceful.

It was time to head back to bed myself so I slowly knelt down on his bed and leaned over to give him a gentle kiss.  This is nothing out of the ordinary.  Every night before I go to bed, I walk back to his room to check on him.  I always give him a kiss and whisper in his ear that I love him, I’m proud he’s my son and I’m proud to be his dad.  This was no different other than it was in the middle of the night.  As I leaned down, just a foot or so from his face, he opened his eyes, saw me and screamed.  I felt horrible!

As quick as he was scared by the presence of someone so close to him, he realized it was just me.  I had also moved my face back from his a bit and said, “it’s okay buddy, it’s just me.”  Recognition set in immediately and I moved back in, now to comfort and hug and hold him.  He latched on, and out of breath, quietly said, “dad, you scared me.”

“I know, son.  I’m so sorry.  I just came in to check on you.  I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Catching his breath, “I know, dad.”

“I really love you, son.  Please don’t be scared.  I’ll always protect you.  I never want to scare you.”

“I love you too, dad.” And he held me tighter.

He quieted back down, faster than I would have thought possible after scaring him so bad.  Within a few minutes he was back to sleep.  I re-adjusted his sheets, gave him the kiss I had intended to give him at first, and whispered my usual affirmation of love to him in his ear.  As I started to move away and off of his bed, on the cusp of sleep he whispered back,  “I love you too dad.  I’m proud to be your son.”

That young and amazing boy broke my heart twice in just five minutes.  First because I felt so bad that I had scared him, knowing there was no way to undue that moment.  Then, with his sweet words of love back to me.  I left his room knowing the last thing on his mind as he went back to his world of dreams was my love for him.


It’s great to be a dad!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Comfort of 20 Years


Just over a month ago on June 26th, Stephanie and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.  In one sense it seems overwhelming.  I’ve realized it’s also a standard for comfort for me.



A lot has happened in 20 years.  We were young, but weren’t too young by most standards when we married.  I was already 29 years old and a captain in the Air Force, and Steph was just a few years behind me in age (although she undoubtedly looked much younger).  Relative to those who marry during, or right out of college, we had been around the proverbial block at least once or twice.

Time flies.  I can’t believe how fast 20 years has gone by, especially as I ponder that at 49 years old, we’ve been married for almost half my life.  It’s amazing and wonderful.  While I can easily remember life before we were married, those memories are mostly like the memories of a movie I saw.  They’re real, but the memories of life prior to our wedding are mostly absent of “tangible” emotion (if that makes sense).  The years after, however, are rich with the emotion and events of our lives together...our life together.  We’ve moved our household 10 times, traveled to and lived in a variety of places around the world, and 12 into the adventure our son was born as he joined us in our amazing journey.  Looking back at all that’s happened, all the moves and discussions about the stuff of life, the decisions we’ve made, our agreements and disagreements, all the things routine and exciting--it’s a bit overwhelming.  So much has happened in what now seems to be so little time.

And yet there’s comfort.  Even though time flies, somehow the past 20 years has seemed like a lifetime in the most positive way.  While time does fly, strangely at the same time it’s become foreign to me that there was a time before we were married, a time that I lived alone, did things alone, had no wife or son or in-laws.  The wonderful life I have today is almost the only life I remember with real emotion and passion.  It’s the long and delicious life, the full and complete life, that’s culminated in things that have nothing to do with houses, cars, places, etc.  The past 20 years has somehow quietly and firmly consumed all that I am, focused on my wife and our son, and our extended families.  All the rest very peacefully became the stage we’re on and the props that set the scenes we’ve experienced and enjoyed.  In the end, the past 20 years, married to the same sweet and amazing woman has taught, and brought me comfort.  At least a kind of comfort that didn’t exist before we were married.  Not that I was uncomfortable, but I’m somehow now more content and comfortable than I ever was before.  Life went from good to great, from tasty to exquisite, from black and white to full color, or perhaps from regular-def to high-def.  You get the idea.

So our 20th anniversary came and went, with the associated and heart-felt special events and a quiet evening alone while our son spent time with his grandparents, but the momentary celebration of our 20th year pales in comparison to the wonder and comfort the last 20 years has brought to and meant to my life.  I believe there’s truth in the statement that when we’re wed, the two become one.  I can’t think of a better way to describe it.  Without my wife, half of me would be gone; I can’t even imagine it, nor do I want to.  She is and continues to be the love of my life and the mother of our son, and I’ve probably failed in my attempt to explain how those very sterile words actually mean something more than words can say.  I trust that there are other husbands and fathers out there who know what I’m talking about.  I also hope this modest attempt to describe how something conceptual has quietly become real serves as an encouragement to someone out there who might be considering embarking on the same adventure in marriage.

And the only thing I can say to my amazing wife are these powerful and insufficient words:  I.  Love.  You.  Thank you for being my wife and the mother of our amazing son.  As long as it's with you, I can't wait to see what the next 20 years brings for us!

It’s great to be a dad!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Big Month!


First there was Free Comic Book Day, then Steph and I went away for a week-long vacation visiting friends and attending a convention on the east coast without our son, and shortly after our return the school year ended with Paul finishing kindergarten.


May the 4th (be with you)...Free Comic Book Day.  Yes, being the geek parents we are, we have a favorite local comic book store and took Paul to pick out a few issues and enjoy the costumes.  And boy did he!  He went in costume himself and was a hit with everyone there.  At his request we pulled out an old Halloween costume and transformed him into a little Bobba Fett.  When he arrived he was instantly greeted and flanked by by a few fellow Star Wars characters:  a Stormtrooper and a full-sized member of the Fett clan.  Our son told my wife, "This is the best day of my life!"



Toward the end of the month it was time for the convention.  I completely trust my in-laws with Paul, but I think I suffered from something akin to fatherly separation anxiety.  As I think I’ve said before, I miss my son when he’s in the next room asleep.  For my wife and I to be on the opposite side of the country for a week was a little stressful for me.  I’ve been on trips before, but Steph’s been home.  This time it was both of us going and while we had confidence he’d do well, listen to what he was told, and have a good time, there was really only one way to find out:  so off we went!  We had a blast at the convention and Paul had a blast with his grandparents, but this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as a father, and maybe in my life.  We spoke with him several times through the week and it was all fun and games.  The conversations weren’t long.  He was so busy having fun he’d give us a quick data-dump, and then off he’d go.  It warmed my heart to see how comfortable he was!  His behavior was great for his grandparents and at school, he did everything he was supposed to, and best of all he didn’t stress over our absence.  It was a great relief to know he took it all in stride.  (In fact, I think our dog stressed more than anyone, but she’s clingy and defensive.)  When we returned home, Paul was happy to see us, mostly because he could finally tell us about his adventures playing games, going on walks and especially playing in the pool.

I’m sure fathers who have gone around this track before understand--as a father this was a big step for me.  I think the same was true in a different way for our son.  Each of us grew a little (or maybe a lot) due to the experience and I’ve had the privilege of watching my son take a small but major step in his growth.  I’m happy to see this level of independence in him.  As I pray with him every night: I’m thankful and proud that he’s my son, and that I’m his dad.

Then, school ended this past week and we’re now the proud parents of a graduated kindergartener / brand new first-grader.  Paul did well this year at school and I’m confident he’s very ready to enter grade school.  For him it means next year he gets a new teacher and new friends in class, but Steph and I have made a bit of a big deal about it with him, pointing out we’re proud of him for being a first grader now and for how well he did this year.  He’s already excited rather than nervous about it, and we’ll reinforce this with him toward the end of the summer.  In the meantime, summer break is here and we’re swinging out efforts toward encouraging him to enjoy the fun and the days away from the classroom.  I’m pretty sure we won’t have a problem with that and if this summer is like the last two, he’ll tell us he’s ready for school sometime during the last month of summer break.  I love this lifetime adventure and as always...

It’s great to be a dad!