Friday, December 30, 2011

Three weeks in

Our baby has been ex utero for three weeks now, and so far it's been a bumpy ride. Not that we weren't expecting challenges, and this is surely nothing compared to future ones. Yet some things you just can't understand until you're 'in the shit,' or you've had shit on your hands, or you've seen projectile shit. You get my drift here.

What have we learned so far? Very little, I'm sure. Unfortunately there is so much conflicting information about babies that it's quite staggering to a new parent. The main rule to live by seems to be that "every baby is different." One book tells you it's OK to let them cry, then the other one reams you out for even thinking of such a thing. But when you've been trying to calm a two week old who hasn't slept for more than 20 minutes in the past 5 hours AND she won't latch on because she's too tired, your desperate hope is that the trick your friend told you about fashioning a tinfoil hat for the baby and playing polka lullabies will work for your baby just as it did hers.

The baby has gone from feeding for an hour and sleeping for 2-3 to feeding for 15-20 minute spurts and fussing for 2-3 hours. She'll get fussy, try latching on and then get cranky and flail her little arms around while singing her siren baby song. She looks tired, she's got slower movements and probably could not pass a sobriety test if she was pulled over. She just won't go to sleep! I've explained to her numerous times how she should relish the amount of sleep she can get right now. How when she gets older sleep will not be as easy to obtain, and people often take pills and dream of purple butterflies to get the desired result. Alas, my logic does not work on her. Perhaps when she's older someone like Dora or Barney can convey this better than I can.

She spits pacifiers out like they were chewing tobacco. Swaddling only annoys her because she needs her arms free to flail about and clean the shell casings we've set out for her to earn some extra money. Holding her and swaying about or doing the "parent dance" barely works, and it makes me look like a hopeless Heisman trophy runner-up who has no coordination. I even tried singing to her in my croaky voice, and not even my best renditions of Beatles tunes can soothe her.

Time and again we've been told that this period will pass. Parents who are veterans of the war on fussiness and gas have assured us that we will get a reprieve, and that this is the easy stuff. We want to believe them, and we know they're right, but it's hard to keep that frame of mind when your baby hasn't slept consistently for the past few days and it seems like she hates you for bringing her into this world. Yet there we are every night trying to soothe her and let her know that we're here for her. Due to the fact that we're breast feeding, many of the soothing sessions have been carried out by my wife (she is the best!), and I am so thankful for her hard work and dedication. I do my best to keep diapers changed, swaddles bundled (no arms!) and her mind and body nourished. I can only hope I'm doing as much for my ladies as my wife is doing in her role as a mother.

We've been lucky enough to have our families and some really awesome friends help us out since we've gotten home from the hospital. They've shown their support with gifts, visits, cards wishing us well and some fantastic food that needs little preparation. I cannot thank them enough for their support, and I hope we can pay them back properly once the shell shock of the baby being here has finally worn off. I can't wait until the baby is a bit older and (fingers crossed) past the fussy stage so we can take her out for visits and show her the world she's now a part of. I'm also looking forward to seeing the world through her eyes and learning with and from her. It's tough right now, but I know it's going to be worth it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I woke up at 5 a.m. to the sound of my wife’s voice and her shaking me. I noticed the time and wondered why she had gotten up an hour and a half early, which is something that she might do if she had financial motivation. “My water broke.” Upon hearing this I quickly shot up and realized what she had said, and what that meant for us. Today was the day we were going to meet our baby.

An incoming contraction made my head a little clearer. Checking the contraction timer she had going on her phone showed me that she had only 4 minutes between this one and the last. I hadn’t yet timed out how quickly it would take us to get to the hospital by taxi, but I knew it took over an hour and a half by train. Unless we wanted a train conductor or homeless person to deliver this baby, we needed to get a taxi, and fast.

The taxi showed up in about 10 minutes, however the driver hadn’t been informed that my wife was currently in labor. He floored it and asked us to vouch for him if a cop pulled him over for speeding. He then proceeded to predict the sex of our baby (we wanted to wait), and say a prayer for us out loud. We were so caught up in the moment that he had to remind us to say ‘amen’ once he was done. We’re not religious by any means, but who are we to stop this guy from praying for us to reach our destination safely while he barrels down the road at 70 mph. The only thing missing was music from the Blues Brothers soundtrack.

Our driver got us there safe and sound in record time. He ran about 3 or 4 red lights, never got pulled over, and only stopped once to jump out at a red light to ask the driver in front of us to move out of our way. We hit the hospital door running, got checked in and ushered off to our delivery room. We got settled in, met the staff members who would be helping us that day, and one of the doctors from the practice we were going to stopped by to check on my wife. I’ve not met many people who can have as much energy and enthusiasm at 6 o’clock in the morning like this guy. He checked my wife’s dilation (4 & ½ cm) and told us we were on our way. He left the room by saying, “If you hear any crying coming from under that sheet, give me a call.”

About an hour and numerous contractions later, my wife decided it was time for an epidural. She had wanted a natural delivery and was hoping to that some of the pain distraction techniques we’d learned would be enough, but she had finally had enough. I’d been told that contractions rival the pain of passing a kidney stone (which I’ve done a few times in my life), so I could relate to her level of pain. Unlike contractions, however, the kidney stone pain did not come back every couple of minutes over the course of 12 hours. People will say a lot of things while they’re in pain, so we set up a code word (Canasta!) that she used to ensure me that she was serious about needing the epidural. We did that because I thought her saying, “Give me the motherfucking epidural!!!” just wasn’t clear enough for me.

So they hooked her up, she got the icy, peppermint patty sensations and eventually those contractions went from “Holy shit!” to “I can handle this.” So, what happened next? We waited. And then we waited some more. Then ‘Ghostbusters’ was on Comedy Central, so we watched that. We checked our Facebook and Twitter feeds (a LOT), texted status updates (apparently everyone wanted to know how much we were waiting) and I tried to make my wife as comfortable as possible. But honestly, how can do you that when there’s nothing on daytime television?

After 11 hours of waiting, the time had come for my wife to start pushing. It was my job to cheer her on, dab her face with a cold compress and to not be afraid of the animalistic noises she was making. She pushed for 3 cycles of 10 seconds, and 45 minutes later doctor told me to look over at the crowning of the baby. I can’t remember what I said, but I believe it was something along the lines of “Holy shit.” I looked over at my wife and told myself to remember this moment. This would be the last time where it was ‘just the two of us.’ The 9 month wait was about to be over.

She pushed. I cried. She smiled. I got tingly in my face and hands. We kissed. I know it’s basic biology, but what happened is pretty incredible. Welcome to the world, baby girl.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strain during the 'cane

(I’m getting better with my Daily News/NY Post-esque sensationalistic titles, don’t you think?)

2 weeks ago my wife and I had another ultrasound for the kid. This was the 20 week biggie (although it was really more like 21), where they take a lot of measurements and can even tell you the sex of the child if you want (we don’t). So after they checked the tires, changed the oil and cleaned her windshield, the doctor told us that my wife’s fluid level was a bit low. She has to change one of her meds and come back in two weeks for a follow up. Good news mixed with a little worry, but hopefully nothing major.

A few days later I get a call from my step-father, checking in and making sure everything is going ok. He’s a great guy, and I genuinely enjoy talking with him. It’s a nice contrast talking to him versus my mom, who isn’t very personable and likes to keep things basic and superficial. You know how it goes, the mom who asks how you’re doing but really wants to tell you how bad things are for her. You get the chance to say some things, but it feels like what you say just isn’t heard. With my step-dad it’s like talking to someone who’s generally interested in what you have to say, and you have a good back and forth with him.

Pre-baby we were likely to talk to each other once every few months, and that only varied if there was a holiday, birthday or some other special event. That’s changed to some degree now that the baby is on the way. I looked at this as a chance to maybe get a little deeper than talking about the weather, a chance to bond over her experiences being a parent and mine in becoming one. There’s been a tiny bit of that, but things are going back to the way they were in terms of frequency. The last time I had spoken with her was probably a few weeks prior to this ultrasound.

A couple days after talking to my step-father I get an email from my mom: “Where are the new pictures of my grandchild?????” No “hello.” No “How are you doing?” Not even a “How’s the weather out there?” If she had asked that last one, I wouldn’t have even questioned this email. Things are fine! A bit breezy, but… However, I got pretty pissed about the fact that she couldn’t even fake interest in how we were doing. She just needed to see those pics. Little was written, but a lot was said in my mind. So I sent her the pictures stating, by the way, that my wife and I were fine. I got a response saying, “I know. I spoke to your father.”

This pretty much set me off. How could she not even fake interest in our well-being? I didn’t get a response that claimed she was absentminded about us due to her excitement over her grandchild. I got a response that said, “I heard about you from someone else, so I don’t need to bother asking myself.” I know it was only a couple of days in between the call with my step-father and her email, but c’mon! Sadly, I have to even wonder why I got worked up over this, because it’s really par for the course. I guess I just had a little hope that things might go differently now that the kid is on the way.

Over the next day or two, New York started getting a little worried about Irene making her way through town. The news channels were warning of her arrival, and telling us what to do in order to prepare. A number of people I spoke to at my job told me of how their parents called to see if they were ok. Some even had their parents saying to hop on the next available flight and just wait for things to die down here. All I could say was, “I haven’t heard anything from my family.” My wife’s parents called and emailed, making sure we had supplies and that our apartment would be ok. Even though I expected to hear from them, it was really great to hear of their concern for our safety. It felt good to know people were worried about me. I felt loved.

Then on Saturday morning, the day before Irene was supposed to hit us, I got a text. I was at the gym when I heard the familiar tone. I looked at my phone and couldn’t believe my eyes. My real father, the guy whose DNA I share, wanted to make sure we were ok and prepared. I hadn’t spoken to him in 2 years, and about 15 years prior to that. He has his own family, 2 kids in college and a business to run. Yet he cared enough to check in on us. It took me by surprise, for sure. But damn it felt good. I even ended up calling and talking to him for a while. And just like with my step-father, it was a real conversation. He gave me some tips on hurricane prep, and I caught him up to speed with our end. I still have lots of questions about what happened with his marriage to my mother, and he’s willing to share his memories with me in time. I think I’m ready to hear about it. We’ll see.

Later that night, around 8 or so, my mom finally calls. It’s a brief conversation, mainly because I’m pretty short with her. I want to think there was concern in her voice, I want to think that she was worried for us. I’m sure she was, but it was veiled in questions about what we were doing to prepare and what the news was saying. She wanted me to keep her posted, I told her we might lose power and I’d have to conserve my battery. Her response was reiterating that I should keep her posted.

In the end, we made it through Irene with power and very little damage to our block. A few trees down here and there, but mostly just leaves and branches in the streets and sidewalks. We got lucky, and I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to learn how to prepare for something like this. I would never have thought to freeze water in Tupperware and use it to keep our refrigerated food cold if the power went out. It was nice to work together with my wife to make sure we had supplies and were prepared as much as we could be.

The other thing I learned from this experience is how differently I would have acted towards my own child if this happened to them. I want to keep tabs on them until the day I die. If I hear that there’s going to be a stampede of hamsters in his/her town, I’m going to call and email and make sure they’re ok and ready to kick some hamster butt. Or just stay safely out of the way, whichever they choose to do. I don’t want a strained relationship, I don’t want my child to not want to talk to me or have me in their life. So in a way I’m thankful for how my mom has been. At first I was upset and frustrated, but that changed to introspection and the desire to be a better parent. I guess that circle of life shit is actually pretty true. You try to give your kid what you didn’t have, learn from your parent’s mistakes and try not to mess the kid up too much. Here’s hoping I can do even a bit of that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

12 years

This past Sunday marked the 12th anniversary of my marriage to my favorite person in the world. 12 years! And I'm 35, which means we've been married for our entire adult lives. Some find this commendable, while others couldn't imagine being married that young. I'm pretty much astounded that I've held someone's interest for so long. I'm not really that interesting, am I?

We got married right out of college, mostly because we were infatuated with each other, but also because of the timing. We were planning on moving to Japan to teach English as a second language, and we knew if we waited too long we'd lose touch with a lot of our friends. College creates incredibly strong bonds with people, but life directly after you graduate can be frustrating, demanding and may force you to move on in many ways. Seriously, who wants to find a real job and become and adult after you've just spent 4 years at the best summer camp, I mean learning institution, ever?

So we moved to Japan and had one of the best life experiences we've ever...experienced? Had? You get the point. I'll save the details for another post, however it is a time we cherish to this day and we hope to visit again in the future. The important part is, my new wife and I were living on our own, and in a foreign country! Talk about jumping into the deep end right away. But when you're young, fearless and taking it on together, it seems like anything is possible. Ok, it helped that there was a McDonald's right down the street. And that the menu was in English, and the people who worked there tried really hard to practice their English on us. What were we supposed to do, not talk back? Plus, McDonald's in another country is actually good. Trust me.

Moving back to the States was a challenge. We had no home, no jobs and we were in culture shock after living in a country where a large soft drink was meant for two people, not one. So we took what we could find and just started winging it. Neither of us had a clue what we wanted to do with our lives when we were in college, so that didn't really give us much direction. We were also inexperienced at living on our own, paying bills regularly and living like a married couple. Japan was kind of like a long working vacation, but now we were forced to get serious and get on with our lives.

After a few year-long stints at various companies, we settled down for a while in my wife's hometown. My wife got a job working at the same company her father was at, and I quickly jumped ship from the retail gig I had and joined her. Picture this: you wake up and see your wife, get ready for work together while griping about having to go there, drive to work together, pass each other in the building you both work in, take lunch together and complain about work, go back to work, drive home while complaining about work and then spend the rest of the night avoiding each other because you've done nothing but see each other all day! Wow that's a long sentence.

We spent lots of time together, but not necessarily "together." When the only thing you really have to bond over is how much you like or dislike a co-worker, that should send up a signal flare that things need a-fixin.' We didn't really see this, and it drove a wedge between us. So what is the most logical course of action to try and remedy a problem such as this? Therapy? Wait, I know, move to New York City!

Our life in Japan made us realize that we needed something bigger than the Midwestern lives we grew up with. 2 shopping malls and a road containing nothing but chain restaurants just wouldn't cut it. Luckily for us a good friend (and her then boyfriend) were moving out of their apartment on the UWS and they offered the lease to us. We jumped at the opportunity, packed up a U-Haul and headed East (insert Beverly Hillbillies type reference here).

But what of this divide you spoke of? Is it still dividin' like a divide does? After we got settled in NY, we took a good look at the state of our marriage and realized we needed to do something to fix things. Actually, it wasn't until we were both in solo therapy that we realized this. So off we went, getting all therapeutic up in this. And where do we stand now? Well, she's still a foot shorter than me, but our marriage is doing much, much better. We're able to recognize problems and patterns more consistently, and more importantly, talk about them! Who knew that the biggest part of being married is communication?

So what's the point? Why did I just ramble about our problems when I could have been reminiscing about all the good things we had these past 12 years. I don't know. Wait, yes I do. We're still together and stronger than we've ever been. We've done things that many people will never do in their entire lives, and we've also grown as a couple and as individuals. These past 12 years have been filled with many ups and downs. I can't say that I wouldn't want to change some things, but all those things have shaped us into who we are today. And looking back, I can't imagine spending those times with anyone other than the person whose face I wake up to every morning.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I've been reading some articles focusing on dads-to-be, and I'm concerned about the popular notion that we're not very bright or capable of handling what's about to be delivered into our world. Is it because I don't have a uterus and vagina? Does my wife have more credibility and parenting know-how because she has to carry our child in her womb for 9 months? Would I gain more respect and cred if during the same period I carried an assortment of produce that grew in size and shape?

I get that there are a lot of things I can't experience during the pregnancy, and I totally respect and admire my wife for what she has to go through in order to bring our child into the world. Biological law declares that I have a 9 month waiting period after "registering" for a child permit, so I can't begin bonding with him/her until then. And while my wife doesn't feel anything at week 16 (4 months in non-pregnant speak), she will eventually begin to experience the baby moving, kicking and redecorating her uterus. The bond and love she will have for our child will take shape much sooner than mine will, and I have to play catch up once the due date arrives.

This is our first pregnancy, and neither of us had any experience with babies growing up or in our adult lives until now. Yet the popular belief is that my wife will excel at parenting while I lag behind. Many commercials and TV shows predict that I'll be aloof and unfamiliar with what our child "really needs," while my wife will show up at the height of my mischief or mistake with the correct product or thing to do to save our child from my stupidity. Apparently there is some higher form of parenting osmosis that goes on during pregnancy and delivery that gives my wife a PhD in baby care. Perhaps I should start looking for night classes at a local community college to gain some basic competency.

To be honest, I don't think either of us are ready for what's about to happen. Sure we have some ideas, but we won't know until the baby is here and we get our hands dirty (literally). Up to this point, we've only had to take care of each other and two dogs. We haven't really had to do the kind of nurturing involved with being a parent, and we might suck at it. Does it scare me? More than you could imagine. I don't think it will be easy, and it will test us in new ways. But I'm confident that we can do this together. It took both of us to create this thing, and it will take us both to care for and guide it as it grows.

So what should I be doing while our bun is baking in the oven? According to this list I should do things like honor her mood changes, not ask her to "hold it," not expose her to bright light or feed her after midnight (I added those last two). I already do most of those things, but I'm so happy that someone made a list for me to keep handy when I forget them! Or maybe I should take the simple advice of the guy below. He seems to know what he's talking about, although he's a guy, so shouldn't we question his authority on this subject?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can we talk?

As a parent to be, I plan on talking to my child a lot. I'm already saying good morning to him/her every day, using my wife's belly button like a phone receiver. I've promised myself that when our child is born I won't speak in the squealish baby talk that most people are wont to do in the presence of a baby. Seriously, is there scientific proof that the baby actually understands you better when you sound like an blathering idiot? Or are they smiling at you because they have gas? I guess I'd better Google that one.

My hope is that my wife and I will create an atmosphere where our child will want to talk to us freely about things. I will do my best to not cringe when an awful truth comes out. I will try hard to not react quickly when I hear something that I don't agree with or can't believe my child would say. It's easy for me to sit here and say this without years of parenting experience behind me, as I'm sure veterans would laugh at my naivety. But I think my lack of having an open dialogue with my parents has made me see how important such a thing can be. And honestly, I should have written 'mother' rather than 'parents' there. Look at that, I totally went against something I just told you I wanted to have with my kid. I'm going to go sit in the corner for 5 minutes and think about what I did.

First, some backstory. My mother has been divorced twice and married three times. She has been the one constant parent in my life, so it's only natural that I would be more open to talking to her about things. She divorced my biological father when I was young (around 10), and married my first stepfather (Chuck) pretty quickly after. Chuck and I didn't get along very well, but he came along close to when I hit puberty and I didn't get along with most people then, so go figure. He and my younger brother hit it off well, having a similar knack for taking things apart and annoying me. So I naturally moved closer under the wing/apron of my mother, who was there to listen to me agonize over all the woes about my budding adolescence. If I needed to talk about girls, she was there. If I needed to complain about my brother, she was there. If I needed to talk about how awesome 80's rap was, she was there too.

One day, things changed. I don't remember the conversation, but I remember being in the car with her talking about something. A response she gave to me using something I had divulged to her earlier was used in a way to get a dig on me. I had let her in on some kind of secret or private thought, something most likely trivial if I were to find out what it is now, but it was a moment of clarity for me. This moment in time made me realize that sharing things with my mother would only allow her to use those things against me at some point.

The funny thing is, I don't know why I didn't see this coming sooner. Looking back on the family get togethers we had, this type of shit happened ALL THE TIME. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas our grandparents and uncle would come over and there would be a non-stop barrage of digs thrown at any and everyone. Sometimes they were playful, other times they brought up subjects that you thought were off limits to other family members. Somehow I never realized this was going on until I moved out of the house and made annual holiday visits. My wife and I would sit there uncomfortably while digs were hurled across the table like mashed potatoes in the food fight scene of 'Animal House.' Everyone traded barbs while I looked at my wife in astonishment and tried to chew my dinner as quickly as possible.

So is that what it means to be loved in my family? Is throwing some resentful dig a way of showing how much we care about each other? I've certainly used this on my friends and my wife on numerous occasions. I used to say that I let you know that I liked you when I did something like that. What a nice guy I was. Care for a nice compliment about how you look? Nooooooo. I'm going to tell you that you looked a lot worse the last time I saw you. What an asinine way of doing things. Excuse me while I hide behind sarcasm and resentment to avoid telling you how I really feel. It's only been through therapy (and lots of co-pays) that I've come to realize that this happens and that I'm just as guilty as my family members. Thankfully I can now recognize that I'm doing it and try to correct myself when I slip.

Ever since we told my family that we're going to have a baby, the lines of communication have been opened much wider than before. The phone calls that used to come only on holidays, birthdays and deaths in the family have turned into almost weekly status updates and real conversations. My mother used to call and quickly ask me how I was, followed by her updates and a check of the weather in our respective areas. It's like we were anchoring a newscast rather than having a conversation. "That's the weather in New York state. Reporting live from Brooklyn I'm Chris. Back to my Mom in studio and a look at who won the game last night." Now we're talking about how my wife is handling the pregnancy, ultrasound results and even a bit about parenting strategies. It's going to take some getting used to, but I like the direction we're headed in.

You know who I have to thank for getting us to this point? Our unborn child. That little lemon-sized (he/she has grown since my last post) little wonder has made it possible to have some type of connection with my mother again. Our relationship has been strained for some time now, and it's nice to see things changing for the better. I'm not entirely comfortable with it yet, because I've grown accustomed to our abbreviated annual calls. But I know that it is nice to see some of the ice between us melting away, and I hope that we can gradually get to a better place in our relationship. Until she makes a dig at my child, and then it's on like Donkey Kong.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The next step

That's a picture of a plum. I've never eaten one before, nor do I have any intentions of trying one. I've never met one on the street, but I'm sure they are quite nice once you get to know them. This image, however, is something that I can't get out of my head this week. This is due to the fact that the above plum is the same size as my unborn child. Right now my wife has a little baby plum nestled in her womb, leeching away at the nutrients she's taking in every day. Normally I wouldn't want another organism doing this to my wife, but I suppose I'll make an exception this time around.

I have to admit, it's absolutely blowing my mind most days. It's been doing that ever since we found out this past Easter. We got home that night from a trip to Washington, D.C., she peed on a stick, and 3 minutes later the game had changed. We knew it was true, but she still peed on another stick the following morning (I think she likes peeing on sticks, but you didn't hear that from me). Same result. That glowing + is etched into your brain forever, whether you like it or not. Ever since then I've been excited, worried, freaked out and a bunch of other emotions I don't normally feel on a regular basis.

I'm reading a book to prepare myself. I'd like to read more of them, but I'm a slow reader and fact heavy books have a way of boring me. We've watched 2 documentaries on childbirth, a National Geographic special on the first year of child development, and as many episodes of NBC's 'Parenthood' as we can stand. The problem I'm having is that I can't stop thinking about the future issues we'll have to deal with: driving, sex, arguments, school, etc. I have this knack of distancing myself from present issues by over-analyzing and critically thinking about ones that haven't even happened yet. It's easier that way, because I can plan out which emotions I might feel, what words I would choose to say. Present tense problems put me on the spot, make me try to feel in the moment, speak off the cuff. So in my head, our child's toddler through teen years are already being played out like a grandmaster plays out future moves in chess. I guess this means that if it's a boy I should name him Kasparov or Fischer.

This week has been a mix of high and low for me, as we hit the 12th week and decided it was time to tell the world. It was great getting congratulated by friends and co-workers, hearing them share stories if they had their own children and just feeling that appreciation of more humanity being brought into the world. It's funny how people who can't stand kids will still congratulate you and talk about it. Sometimes it feels more genuine coming from them than from someone who does want kids but doesn't have them yet. Sometimes you even get resentment from people who thought they would have them before you. Trust me, I wasn't trying to compete with you on who would procreate first. I was just happy I was in the running and taking one for the team by having sex all the time. Poor me.

The low end of this week came from exactly the same place: telling more people about the news. The reality of the situation grew exponentially. It was no longer our secret to cherish and share together. The little winks and nudges we would give to each other when someone talked about kids, or if we saw a child and thought about what ours would look and act like. I feel like I've put myself under the microscope to be judged on an entirely different level. People who know me or work with me can now take that knowledge and apply it to how they think I'll be as a father. I know I can't worry myself over such things, but one's mind does have a tend to wander.

Some people mentioned that having a baby means I finally have to become an adult. You're the parent now, the adult of the household. I'd like to think of myself as more of a person who's starting a new phase in life. It's taken me a long time to realize that life is more a work in progress than a destination you work hard to reach. Parenthood for me, right now in this moment, is another way of shaping who I am. Perhaps it's ignorance, or denial, but I right now I just feel a little older, somewhat wiser and nervously excited about the future.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Goodbye Jackson Heights

When we first moved to New York, my wife and I had a 1-bedroom apartment on the UWS. It was a quaint little place with a kitchen the size of a closet, and it served us well. After our first year, the rent was raised to an amount we didn’t see fit paying. Sure, we were living IN the city, but paying over $2k a month to hear fire and police sirens (we were a block away from both departments), getting followed by homeless people into our building and living in a small place just didn’t seem worth it. So we did a little searching on craigslist and found a nice little neighborhood called Jackson Heights in Queens.

Our first impressions: “Look they have trees!” “Do you hear that silence?” “Access to 5 different trains?” We had hit the motherload. Our search then lead us to a 1 bedroom that had a decent sized kitchen with lots of counter space, more closet space, and a seemingly quieter neighborhood. What else could we want? Cut to four years later. My wife and I have grown as individuals and as a couple. We’ve learned some things, we’ve lost some things, and we’ve experienced more in that apartment than we could have anticipated.

For starters, we’ve lost a number of family members during our stay. Our first dog together, Molly, was a medium sized (she preferred fuller figured) border collie/cocker mix who enjoyed chicken bones, barking at other dogs and being sweet as hell. She loved people and always enjoyed giving them, and us, all of her unconditional love. Ok, maybe she wanted treats in return, but still, it was mostly unconditional. One day we noticed she had slowed down considerably, and that she was straining to do the things she could normally do with ease. We took her to our local vet who kept her overnight for observation. The next day while we were at work the vet called us, saying we needed to get there right away. Upon our arrival we were told that she was critically ill and needed to be taken to an animal ER right away. We found one in the city and waited to hear what her prognosis would be. It turned out to be a disease where her body was destroying her red blood cells at a rapid pace. Almost a week passed by, with multiple transfusions, multiple credit card charges, and worry filled nights wondering how she would do. At the end of the week she had blood clots in her lungs, and the only thing we could do was to ease her suffering. I hope we never have to do something as hard as that ever again.

Our stay there also saw the passing of grandparents and an uncle. My wife’s grandparents on her father’s side got into a bad car crash, and her grandfather died shortly after. Her grandmother survived and had to deal with both being all alone in the house they lived in together and the return of her cancer. My wife loved both of them, and it was hard to see her lose one while watching the other wither away. I couldn’t help but see us in them, and secretly wonder what I would ever do if I lost my wife prematurely. I’m so glad to have known them, and I can only hope that my wife and I have the same longevity in both our relationship together and our love of life and the people around us.

I, on the other hand, lost my grandmother and my uncle. Mother and son, both on my mother’s side. My uncle was stricken with Pick’s disease at a relatively young age, and we watched him deteriorate both mentally and physically. Pick’s is a degenerative disease of the brain, much like Alzheimer’s, in which brain function lessens and the body starts shutting down because the brain isn’t telling it what to do. I was only able to visit my uncle a few times while he was in the nursing home, and unfortunately he hardly knew who I was. I was told that near the end his throat had closed up so much that they could only feed him apricot nectar. My grandmother had lived a pretty full life with my grandfather, and she seemed to be doing ok although she had lost him back in 2001. They were like my second set of parents, and I’m still realizing how much I gained from them to this day. When my uncle got sick, my grandmother cried and said that she should not have to see her child die before her. Thankfully for her, that did not happen.

Living in JH also gave us a glimpse into the wonderful world of bedbugs. We got these unwelcome tenants (shhh! Don’t tell anyone we got them!) shortly before Molly got sick. After noticing the huge red bites on our arms and legs we alerted our landlord, who promptly questioned whether we were correct in our assessment. I assured her that we were, in fact, not joshing her by capturing one of these critters and showing it to her in person. They quickly got an exterminator, and we got to work washing everything with fabric on hot and sealing our personal belongings in oversized Ziploc bags and Rubbermaid bins (shameless plugs!). It was like we had gotten leprosy and we didn’t want to tell anyone else for fear of us being shunned. We hardly went out, and the few people that did know about it kept their distance (rightly so). We vacuumed the floors every day and lived like hermits for what seemed like an eternity. This happened almost 2 years ago and we are still waiting to open up certain bags, just to make sure that those things have died. Did you know they can live without food for a year and a half? Now you do. Sleep tight.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the rewarding relationship we had with the neighbors that lived below us. They are an older Indian/Bangladeshi couple whose favorite pastimes are karaoke and being inconsiderate assholes. Turn the kids away from the screen if they are reading this, shit’s about to get real. Our neighbors, or the “Noisies” as I will refer to them, tended to have company over in the later hours of the evening during most of the week. I’m told by a co-worker (who is also Indian, so my information and assumptions are based on valid, second-info) that it is standard practice for Indian/Bangla people to have later dinners and, thus, later gatherings. So imagine our surprise when a karaoke party lasted from 8pm to 11 or 12 on a week night! Oh sure, we knocked and asked politely to have them turn it down, yes, we tried. The music did get turned down, but it somehow (through black magic, I assume) crept back up. And yes, we can’t only blame them. The building is post-war, which means the floors are thinner and less patriotic, so sounds do creep through much easier. What’s even better, is that they enjoyed watching (or sleeping with) the TV on late at night. So anywhere from 10 until sometimes 2 in the morning, we (correction, I, because my wife can tune it out most of the time) would hear the high and low warbling of their television. No amounts of pounding on the floor or ringing their doorbell would get them to turn it down, off or to put headphones on. We have dealt with this since day one of living there, and I for one am becoming a little koo-koo for cocoa puffs over this.

So, it is with mostly joy and a little sadness that I bid JH adieu. We’ve found a nice 2 bedroom in Bay Ridge that (so far, and with fingers crossed) seems to be pretty quiet. The people we’ve met so far have been nice, we have friends that live within a 15 minute walk, and we have access to the main shopping areas without being too close to the action. I have high hopes for this apartment and the area, and I hope they don’t disappoint. However that’s the problem with moving in the winter: the crazies aren’t out right now. Right now they’re quiet, hibernating and figuring out which karaoke songs to perform once they can open up their windows.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Another year has come to a close, another begins. I'm doing my best to put the past one behind me and look forward to what the new one has to offer. My problem is, I can't let go of things that easily. Certain things stay put in my mind and get over analyzed and chewed like a piece of flavorless gum I should have spit out a really long time ago. Why did I act that way to my friend? Why didn't I think of doing 'x' sooner? Why did I keep watching 'The Event' like it was going to turn into a better show?

In thinking back over the past year, I came upon my list of resolutions from last New Year's Eve. I had big ambitions for myself and the year, or should I say I just wasn't satisfied with doing so little with myself, so this was a pretty big list. Needless to say, I did not do a great job of crossing off a lot of those things I wanted to do. Here are a few that didn't see the light of day:

- Learn to play slide guitar (I took lessons a while back and dabbled a bit with slide, however I think I picked the guitar up twice in 2010)

- Stretch daily (I got to the gym maybe once a week at the least, and that's the only time I really stretched. My hamstrings do not like me and show their distaste every time I try to lengthen them)

- Do at least one creative thing a week (Never even happened. Maybe I should have changed that to 'Go to therapy once a week,' then I would have aced it.)

Now on the bright side, there were some things I wanted to do that did actually get started. For example:

- Cook more (My lack of knowledge and ability in the kitchen leads to normal self defeat in this arena. However my wife and I have done our best to make a few dishes here and there and they turned out great. One of my goals was to eradicate mac & cheese from our weekly menu, which was accomplished.)

- Read more (I used to read a shit ton (that's in metric) of books and comics when I was a wee lad. I've since been wooed by TV, movies, the internet and video games and have not read much. It feels like my brain is turning to mush, I'm not retaining much info and I know a lot less than I should. So my hope is to remedy that by reading more books, newspapers and magazines. Let's hope I can gain insight into the world's political climate through current issues of 'Highlights' magazine.

- Research fatherhood (I'm the kind of guy who likes knowing what he's getting into before doing it. And this, well, this is a doozy. So I got a few books, read some blogs, talked to some fathers and in the end I can safely say that I'm still scared shitless but at ease with the idea of becoming a dad. Now we just have to fit it into our future plans.)

So now that the past is history, what does the future have in store for me? Here's my rough draft so far:

1) Continue doing the things I started last year (cooking, reading, etc.)

2) Meditate on a regular basis

Stretch daily (ambitious, I know)

4) Go to the gym at least twice a week and do Bikram yoga at least once a week

5) Turn off the TV and listen to more music in the house

6) Find a new apartment

7) Stay focused on the things I'm working on and try not to get distracted or sidetracked (I have too many things I want to do with my life, and that makes things more complicated and confusing. It also leads me into being a Jack-of-All-Trades, but a master of none.)

8) Get more organized

9) Try to keep in touch with my biological father (Long story...)

10) Write on a weekly basis (How much? We'll see.)

Glad to see I'm already on the right track. Let's try not to screw this up, ok?