For my 43rd post under this goal I am glad to wish everyone, everywhere, a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May peace, joy, and prosperity of spirit be on us all.
For my 43rd post under this goal I am glad to wish everyone, everywhere, a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May peace, joy, and prosperity of spirit be on us all.
The darkside’s callin’ now, nothing is real. She’ll never know just how I feel.
Over the course of December I have been very busy. My days generally start around 7 am and end between 10:30pm and midnight. I take a day off here and there, but then I generally catch up on sleep, laundry, grocery shopping, and daddy-daughter time. During all this, I neglected to keep up with my prescription ritual. I had been cautioned by both my doctor and my therapist to not go more than a day or two without medication. I took that advice seriously, and almost never went more than a day or two. But I took my last pill the day after Thanksgiving and made daily plans to go to the pharmacy (.75 miles from my house) and get refilled. Only that never happened.
And things were going okay. I didn’t notice any withdrawals after a few days. I didn’t notice any reappearance of the symptoms that led me to take the medication to begin with. I did notice little treacheries and betrayals going on around me. I did notice an increases sense of restlessness and suspicion on my part. But I figured this was the cumulating stress of the holiday season, and that everyone was pushing toward the end of the year and approaching exhaustion (hence, everyone’s less than perfect performance and attitude).
But things began to… not slide, exactly. More like exacerbate. Little things stressed my patience. Of course I was responsible for all the food service for twenty some parties over the next 15 days, was dealing with the adoption process of a new born, dealing with the newborn, and trying to adjust my married life to accommodate this new, demanding, 24/7 presence. Normally my social life goes into a hole this time of year and I explain to all my friends that I’m just too busy, catch up with me in January. But this year I was pushing myself to remain in contact and visiting with people. This year I invited my sister to come and stay with us for a couple of days. This year I forced time to visit people under the explanation that I need to relax and change the scenery and de-stress. But it was all okay because I could rationalize it and besides, I still felt great. Except for a lingering sense of tiredness that began to sap at my motivation. Except for a trilling sense along my spinal column that made me jerky and short-tempered. Except for a persistent hum in my brain that reminded me that I could not trust these people, that they were not interested in my well-being or in doing a good job. It warned that they would cut corners and fail me and betray me with little or no thought. And why shouldn’t they? Who was I? Nobody special, somebody decidedly un special, to be truthful. Karma was reaping back onto to me the misdeeds of a year, God was lining up the universal abacus to settle the books, the pendulum had swung one last, mighty arc, and was swooping back now to cut me in half.
So, last Thursday/Friday, I kinda freaked out. Details are neither important nor interesting, but I recognized in myself a kind of mental detachment from my body and actions. A disconnected part of my mind sat high in the bleachers and observed myself in action with a kind of awe and alarm and comprehension. The part of me that was onstage could not see that it was not the environment, not the circumstances, not the paranoia, not the army of opponents that were causing me to cliff-dive. It was all me and the behaviors I laid dirt to during the year. They were resurrecting, zombie-like, to eat my brains and wreak havoc on my life.
”Whoa, dude. I sooooooo need my medication,” my higher brain announced. The part of me that was on stage, the part on the front line, in the thick of the fight, immediately disagreed. ”That’s not it! These fuckers are all out to get me! Everyone wants to deny me what I ought to rightfully have, and push their own agendas on me to control me. It’s just like before, when they were all trying to box me and just do their own things undeterred by the effect it has on me. And if I’m weak, they’ll do it. I can’t be weak. I can’t fail.”
”No, no, no, no. I’m telling you, we need our medication. You’re right, it is just like before; when our brain was fucked up and didn’t send out the right signals. Let’s get back on the meds before we say or do something that we will regret when we feel better.”
“Too late,” lower brain says gruffly. “If these people think they are going to treat me like this, if they think I won’t remember… Hehehehehe…”
Gonna need you to dial it down, now. Gonna need you to realize that you can’t trust the signals coming in right now.”
“Hehehehe… ♫‘Well, it’s too late to say you’re sorry, how would I know, why would I care?’ ♫.”
”I’m going to have stay above all this,” higher brain mutters. “Can’t let myself get drawn into – (phone rings) Aw, fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!! Why don’t the fuckers leave me alone?”
I went home Friday night late and told my wife that, per our marital vows, she could not hold me responsible for my words and behaviors over the last couple of weeks. I was off my meds. She said she’d noticed something was wrong lately, but since she was off her meds, too, she wasn’t sure it was actually me. Oh great. We both refilled our prescriptions on Saturday morning and I began getting back on my dosage. I probably should begin with half doses, but to keep it simple, I’m going in full dose. If I write or respond on this site with anything unusual, remember my medication is still unbalanced. But it is getting better. And I don’t think anything irreparable was done while I was under-drugged. But since I’m still getting my chemistry on track, it is actually too early to be sure.
I’m a wee bit disappointed that I had such a hard backslide. I was looking towards weaning myself off medication early next year. I’ve concluded my therapy sessions in part because I’ve been feeling so much improved and in part because it is very hard to find a therapist who can understand and work with me without trying to negotiate my moralities and refit my behaviors. No one is going to know me as well as I know myself, and trying to force some unitard-like template over me is just going to end in frustration for all involved.
I am glad, however, that enough of the “me knowing me” is at a point where once I went of tracks, I could discern it, recognize the cause, and correct my course. No downward spiral leading to the pit, just the herky-jerky drops and stops of an unreliable elevator. The cables slipped, but the gravity breaks kicked in and stopped me from tumbling all the way down.
I figure by the time I go back to work in earnest in January, my metabolism and chemistry will be back to normal, and my decision-making process will be sound as a pound again. I’ve got some remodeling to do within my organization, and there are some just punishments to mete out. Normal or not, some of those bastards are going to pay for their attitudes and behaviors. I expect (I am actually requiring) 2014 to be a banner year, where I move from foundations to embellishments, and from what I need to be happy to what I want and desire to be happy. If I do need a little orange pill for a little while longer to get me there, I can tolerate that. And I’m going to be very conscious to not leave such a gap in my dosage again.
Approaching the end of the year, and it is time for me to take my annual survey and review of how my life is going, how my goals are going, and what comes next.
This year, 2013, has already seen such great successes compared to last year. In just 9 months or so I was able to get on top of so many things that have been frustrating me and see them through. I finally broke down and admitted to myself and others that I was suffering from depression (both biologically induced and stress induced), got treatment and counseling and recovered. I took the challenges of my job head on and now, one year later, I am cruising through a holiday season firmly in command of my kitchen and crew, and having unparalleled success in my job and my private ventures. I took the challenges of my marital relationship head on and while not every battle has been a victory, we are as solid and committed a couple as we have ever been. We lost a long sought vacation this year, but we did work towards and achieve our even more sought after adoption, making us a happy threesome. And with the adoption being finalized on December 30th, we will finish out the year having faced, overcome, and relished the completion of many goals.
The bugaboo that usually follows a stream of success for me is a nagging feeling of emptiness, a sort of let-down in the post success phase. I’m not one to sit on laurels and remain content with my victories. I’m actually more likely to become restless, depressed, bored, and frustrated in the void that follows a series of accomplishments. As I move from a year of success to a new year of uncertainty, I’d like to be ready to offset that dip in enthusiasm with a fresh series of motivations.
Last year I cleaned out my 43T folder of goals because at the time, let’s face it: life sucked, I sucked, and who cared, anyway? Now I want to go down the list and clear some goals in order to revolutionize my coming year. And I think Revolution is going to be the theme next year, too.
My goal of “Change the Energy” is probably the only goal that will win immunity. Just having that goal has been majorly instrumental to me over the last few years, even when I don’t make lots of entries.
About half my existing goals need to be tightened up and worked on more effectively. The other half are about ready to be retired, and I want to keep the remainder of my list immediate and relevant. I need to toss in a few more short term, real-world, physical goals to balance against my more esoteric ones. I’d really like to update my “how I did it” status at least once a month.
And I’m due a Revolution in my “real life”, too. With a new career direction, new ambitions, new baby, and my resolution of so many inner conflicts, I am ready to step out boldly and reach for my top desires. I am ready to move past my wants and sense of obligations and guilt and onto what I really desire. In other words, think and intend and receive with the concept that I already have, and always will have, everything I need. Now it is time to fill the coffers to overflowing with the cream, to open up and receive the bounty, not just the bones.
So, if 2013 was a year of successes, I’d like 2014 to be a year of achievements. No plateaus, no leveling out, no backsliding and sure as shit no start agains. I’ve been there, I’ve done that… now let’s get on to the never been there, never done that. Okay, maybe that a couple of times, but let’s try it again in a new position… New faces, new places, no prisoners.
Curious: If you have a one-night stand with someone, is it utterly uncool for them to send you a friend request on Facebook?
And is it even more uncool to confirm?...
Dispatches from the closet of an apathetic slob:
29 Assorted T-shirts
2 pair blue jeans, well worn
4 pair Wrangler-style slacks
4 pair of cargo pocket shorts
1 pair denim shorts
3 Hawaiian print short sleeve shirts
4 Assorted polo shirts
1 Charcoal suit, too small in the waist
9 Assorted ties
2 Dress shirts
You get the idea. Throw in a couple of leather jackets, some work shoes, chef jackets, 14 pair of black socks (literally no other color), 4 ball caps, 2 leather belts… and the sum total of my wardrobe is that of a scavenger hunt-style collection that leans heavily to the practical and working clothes, the occasional off topic fad clothes, and what I’d best describe as JC Penny chic. I have no real functional purpose for a wrist watch, since I can check my phone anytime, and the ideal of a watch for appearances only just isn’t… me. Not the me of now, anyhow.
But I am working on a new me, right? A new me that gets stuff done, makes grand plans and follows through, does cool stuff, is a good father. And a new me requires some new threads, I think.
Another problem is that I just don’t go anywhere worth getting dressed up for. That is the sad fact. I mean, I could go to the Chinese take out restaurant in a suit. But that seems kind of a waste. I used to get dressed up (in my JC Penny chic way) to go to church, years ago. I don’t go to church now, so that is out. Maybe it would be okay to wear a suit to the movies, or dress up for a Meet-up of boho vegans. No question my fuckability index goes up when I show up some place better dressed than the circumstances require. I’m tired of every picture taken of me has me wearing clothes I’d mow the lawn in. And I refuse to accept that white-trash trailer/Good Will-wear is my style.
I’ve read about people who work from home and dress up in suits as if they are in the office, saying it makes them feel more productive. I think what I wear puts me in a certain mindset, and I’m only as ambitious as my wardrobe allows. Truthfully, a Bugatti Veyron doesn’t have that beautiful coat of paint courtesy of a Home Depot spray can, does it?
I’ve written about changing my style and wardrobe before but it hasn’t really gotten me anywhere except for a few token upscale items that don’t really go with anything else I own. Maybe because I had only an inkling of what I wanted instead of a plan. Well, thanks to Pinterest, I have a growing collection of specific ideas to make a plan. Now my tight-fisted self has to be convinced that I
can need to make the investment. In the coming year it is my goal to obtain a significant piece of wardrobe improvement each month. And I’m going out of my comfort zone to find places to wear these clothes to, as well.
As for the rest of my fall back clothes, I am undertaking a purge of 90’s Walmart-wear. Can’t be tempted to go out in ratty clothes that I no longer own.
In addition to clothes that make the man, I need to acquire other things that I think will fit the style I am looking for. A new wallet, cigar lighter, straight razor and lather brush, hairstyle, and a manly overstuffed leather arm chair (after all, I can’t be expected to rule the world from a paisley print sofa that my wife picked out at Rooms To Go, can I?)
In my “Miracle Mornings” routine, I have not been hitting the high points I set for myself originally. For one thing, I woefully underestimated my ability to get up at 6am after being up with a baby until 4:30am. But, rather than chuck that part of the routine, or berate myself for my mortal weakness, I decided to scale back my demands. Now I get up at 8am (my work schedule allows for this), and I will begin, week by week, backing it up by 15 minutes until I reach the 6am goal.
My risings are so lethargic that I wasn’t coming close to fulfilling my am exercise goals, even though they only take about 5-6 minutes. So each day I choose 1 exercise and do that for 1 minute. I think that when I can combine at least 3 minutes of exercise in the am, I can tip the scale and commit to the full 5-6 minutes. The sun salutations are currently about 3-5 every day, and the only affirmation is the mantra “Today will be a good day.” Meditation has not found its way in, nor has reading or writing. I’m compensating for the writing and planning by doing it the day before, which means I often end up trying to transfer the day’s list onto tomorrow’s list. The idea of doing it fresh in the morning was to prioritize for that day the most important elements, not think remotely about what I’d like to do.
I’m told that some regularity manifests itself in an infant sleep cycle after 8-10 weeks. Ideally at that point I will have slowly regained the ground I’m currently losing to progress on this challenge.
Saturday night I was doing a dinner party in Brookhaven area. While doing our set up check list, I noticed we had forgotten to bring the blood orange vinaigrette to dress the salads. I still had time before the start of the dinner, so I told the girls to get the apps ready and I would go to the store and buy some dressing to make a replacement. I had no hope of finding a blood orange vin, but I did find a citrus vin that would make a good substitution. I paid at the self checkout lane and while I was checking out S. returned a call I had made to her earlier. Distracted by the phone and the scheduling, I picked up my bag and walked off, leaving my wallet lying on the self checkout terminal.
I almost never, ever, do this. I’m very conscious about where my wallet is, because it has everything in it; driver’s license, credit cards, debit card, business cards, company cc, stuff to my professional and personal business with, and, on this occasion, about $400 in cash. I always carry some cash, but I had the girl’s money for helping with the event.
It took me about 8 minutes to notice I’d lost the wallet, and then I wasn’t 100% sure where I’d lost it. I went back to the Kroger and interrogated the cashier watching over the self checkout lanes. She remembered me, but had not found a wallet or had one turned in. I spent a few minutes looking around the checkout register, the parking lot, and my vehicle. Then I had to go back and attend to the party. S. came by and I had her follow back over my tracks, re-interrogating the cashier, and asking the manager to look at the video tapes. It was indistinct as to whether or not I walked away with my wallet or not. For all intents and purposes, the wallet was gone, gone, gone.
I cancelled my cards and tried to get my company credit card cancelled, but no one would return my calls. I told the girls they’d have to wait for their money, which they understood. I went through the process of figuring out how to replace or do without all the information contained in those leather folds, all the while putting out the multi-course dinner I was responsible for. One of the servers remarked that I was awfully calm about the whole thing, and I answered that I had a job to do, and in regards to the wallet, I had already done all I could. I did relate to them, during a break, how I had lost my phone in DC once, called the number, and a person answered who had found the phone and got it back to me. Also how I’d left my Ipad in a shopping cart once at the market, left the store, got to my next location, realized I didn’t have the Ipad, and dashed back to customer service, to have it turned over to me after a nice someone had returned it. So, I said, there was always a chance someone honest had discovered it somewhere.
S. reported no joy in the wallet search, and I headed home around midnight having done all I could think of to either find my wallet, or make it possible for any one who found it find me. I reflected upon the change in my mindset, how I chose to respond to this incident. A year ago I’d have beaten myself to a bloody pulp over it. I would cry over and over how stupid and careless I was, how unthinking and hopeless. I’d deserve it, deserve to lose everything. Such a loser. But now I viewed it very differently. I could not believe I’d just set my wallet down, or dropped it in the parking lot. But that is what had happened, so what now? Do what you can, hope for the best, accept the results. I made one small visualization of the wallet, back in my hands. I focused on just that, not the means, not how, not even when. Just that one image: wallet… in my hands. Then I released it with acceptance.
About 15 minutes later, my phone rang. At the end of the line was a young woman who’d found my wallet, and spent about 6 hours trying to figure out how to find me. She eventually found one of my business cards and called the number. She’d picked it up from the checkout stand and for reasons passing my understanding took it with her instead of turning it in. She could have saved me a great deal of stress and worry had she found my phone number sooner, but she was calling now so I made arrangements to drive to her house and retrieve it. When I got there I made sure to express my deep gratitude for her calling me, and got back my wallet, fully intact including the cash. I gave her $20 as a reward and told her to contact me and I would come and cook a meal for her and her family one night. As it happened, she lived one street over from my helpers’ apartment complex, so, upon leaving her house, I called Dulce and roused her out of bed, telling her to come downstairs and get her money. She must have been warm and comfortable because at first she told me she’d just get it Tuesday. I told her I was right outside, so she agreed to come down. She ran down, bare legged and barefooted, and took the cash and said she was very happy I’d found my wallet – not just because it had her money in it.
It is a strange, almost surreal thing to have happened. Each instance in itself seems improbable. From me distractedly setting my wallet down, to someone taking it, then calling me to return it. So many points at which it could have ended in disaster. I try to think of it in quantum physics (even though quantum physicists get really upset when you apply quantum rules to LOA), especially the cat in the box thing. At any given second, multiple possibilities existed for the fate of my wallet. Like slots on a roulette wheel, the ball of reality could have dropped into any one of them, determining the situation. Like a lucky gambler who bets on black 24, the ball dropped on my desired number. But was it luck? Was it visualization? Did I determine the cat’s fate by visualizing in my mind what I wanted, then releasing the hows and whys and whens of the outcome? Was karma making a circuit after I gave $20 to a bereft woman in a store parking lot a few days earlier? Some how, against what I consider very long odds, I got exactly what I wanted. Aside from a little extra gas to back across town and get the wallet, and the stress, it was like I had not lost anything. Within minutes of making that visualization, the reality gelled and soon thereafter the wallet was where I had visualized it; back in my hands.
Maybe what happened happened as it happened because it could not have happened any other way. Maybe the situation was set from the beginning of time to unfold exactly how it did. I hope not. In fact, choose not to believe that. I’d rather think that in a streaming multitude of possibilities, I was able to affect an outcome, to tip the odds just a little in my favor. I choose to believe that a visualization, followed by acceptance and release, molded an ideal possibility into a desired reality. That being the case, I should work to tip the odds more often, and to visualize my successes with the same spirit of gratitude, calm and acceptance.
Did another private party over the weekend. I mixed up the appetizers some, and they were pretty well received, but it was more a wine drinking crowd. The lamb balls were the favorite app. I copied a couple of popular items from my previous dinner, because if it works, go with it. The other dishes I had fun planning and executing. As usual my girls did a bang up job putting out the plates.
Everyone complimented the food, and one lady even came back into the kitchen and spoke specifically about the scalloped butternut squash side that went with the salmon. “It made my mouth happy!” she said. I got a big grin and told her that would be a great testimonial for my website… if I ever get a website.Appetizers
I’ve been to the 5 Seasons Brewery a few times, and always had good drinks and meals. It was especially nice on this occasion because I got to dine with TG while he was visiting Atlanta on his whirlwind tour of the South.
I told S. I was meeting a 43Thinger for drinks and dinner, and we bundled up Universe and brought her along. The hard fact is that now we don’t go anywhere without the baby. I hope TG was looking forward to a raucous time on the town, because I showed up looking like the Cleaver family, baby car seat in tow.
We did have a nice dinner and TG and I got the brewery’s sample beer tasting set; six varieties of beer, each with its own luscious description. Not enough to get us drunk, or even put a buzz on, but tasty and good along with dinner. We hung out and chatted for about 2 1/2 hours. TG is easy company and authentic to his 43T personna. We did the obligatory photo of the two of us, him still on his crutches, me lacking sleep.
I was called to prepare a dinner party for a client a couple of weeks ago. It was a multi-course dinner with matching wines. The dinner went off very well, and I did well with purchasing and prep. Getting to use the kitchen at work to prep and stage from makes a huge difference from using my home kitchen. My chicas were totally on the ball and competent enough at the guest’s house that I was okay leaving them there to get the dinner ready while I went out and got us some sandwiches. When dinner time came, we knocked out the dishes in tight, well paced, order. The entrees were served as “small plates” in three separate settings.
We got lots of compliments on the great food and I even got two new clients for my home meal service.
The menu is listed below:Welcome Appetizers
Henri Giraud Grand Cru Champagne, or;Jean Rijckaert Chardonnay “Arbois”, Jura, France1st Course: Soup and Salad
Domaine Fosse-Seche, Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France;Agnes Paquet Auxey-Duresses Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France2nd Course
Chateau Cordet, Margaux, Bordeaux, France;Domaine Rafael Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California3rd Course
Henri Giraud Code Noir Grand Cru Rose Champagne; followed by Leopold Gourmel 12 Year Old “Vieux XO” Cognac
My recent Paleo experiment was not a solid success, but was not without benefit. When ever I ate at home, I ate clean and stayed on Paleo track. I found sources for wild boar and venison that are not cheap, but by packaging and freezing, could be a worthwhile investment. I also lost 10 lbs and found myself drinking more water that I had for a while. But, I did not eat at home as often as I should have, food prep was a challenge with all my other work, the baby came and disrupted my eating plan, and I ended up drinking more coffee that water in any given day, and falling back on sugary and fried foods for comfort and sustenance. I’ve learned what I can, and now I’m moving on. I will definitely take some lessons with me.
Now, with 43 days left in the year, I want to undertake a new challenge. I recently read a book called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It’s kind of a
“what successful people do before breakfast” themed book, but I found resonance with some of the ideas, and I want to try them out for myself. It has a lot about setting intentions for the day, offering gratitude, being positive, looking forward to the day… and, most ominously, starting your day early. Like 5 am early. I used to get up at 5 am for a job and I never recall having liked it or benefited from it. But my mind was not really in the best place then, either.
Right now my wake-up schedule is pretty disparate. Some days I get up at 7 am, some days I lay in bed until after 10 am. Most importantly, when I do get up, it is out of a sense of obligation rather than purpose. That is what I want to change.
A few years ago I got to meet and talk with Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef. He was chatting with us culinary types at a book signing and someone asked him how he found the time, what with his time-gobbling responsibilities as an executive chef, to write his books. We all looked on and held our breaths, anticipating that he would reveal how he took a year off and shut himself up in a cabin with racks of wine and reams of typewriter paper. Or how he dictated his memoirs into a tape recorder between waves of kitchen madness. Or maybe he sat on a leather sofa in a ghostwriter’s office, gulping bourbon and recounting verbally his fortunes and misfortunes while the ghostwriter dutifully scribed his tales. Tony gave us a bemused, daddy-o grin and said he just added it to his list of daily to-dos. In a kitchen, the prep sheet is the blueprint for how things get done. He said he added the task of “write for one hour” to his daily prep list. Someone asked where he got an extra hour in his day to spend writing. He shrugged and said “I get up an hour early, writing is the first thing on my list.” Well, I don’t think any of us liked that answer. But, to my knowledge, none of us has written a book yet, either.
If I could conquer one failing in my character, it would be my habit of procrastination. It begins with getting out of bed. Hell, it begins with getting into bed, sometimes. Delaying the necessary hours of sleep needed to be alert and productive because I have wasted parts of the previous day and don’t want to put it to rest yet. Of course, not doing stuff, putting stuff off, is the main reason I don’t get things done.
What’s involved in Miracle Mornings is getting up at least an hour earlier than you normally do. You use that hour to spend a few minutes in silent meditation, affirmations, visualizations, exercise, reading, and scribing (writing). Those are the basics, and there are a lot of additional discipline and mind-training to gradually perform. The claim is that it increases your focus, makes you more determined, increases your energy, and helps you meet any goal more easily. I don’t know about that, but I’m willing to try it on a trial basis and see what benefits I can get from it.
I was working towards this a few weeks ago, and had to abandon it during the baby-chaos. But now that things are settling down, I’ ready to try again, and this time do it for 43 days straight, until the 1st of the year.
This is my renewed morning routine that I hope will bring me miracle mornings>
After that (hopefully about 1 hour) I’ll shower, shave, have a green smoothie, have my 1 cup of coffee for the day, and seek to make the best possible use of my day. And we will see if this experiment can nudge me in the progressive directions I’ve been leaning towards.
My daughter turned one month old yesterday, and it is not an understatement to say she has been the nexus of our lives the last five weeks. It is no understatement to say she has turned our lives upside down, in the best possible way. This little infant has single-handedly upset my sleep pattern, work goals, fitness routine, sex life, holiday and fiscal plans.
But there is a wider world that cannot be ignored indefinitely. It is time for me to begin working back to achieving my goals and aims. I need multiple dimensions to my life, outside our 8 lb bundle of dream fulfillment. Time, not to shift focus, but to broaden my view.
Talking with someone today, I remarked on how much change and progress has come about for me this year. This time 12 months ago I was in a spiraling downward grip of depression. I lived in a cold, grey world and I could not find anything that made me happy. I had succumbed to my darkest thoughts and feelings, and dropped off the map for a couple of months while I figured how, or if, I was going to deal with the rest of my life. The one thing I managed to hold onto was a conviction that my life is made up of my choices, and by changing my choices and changing my thoughts, I could change my life into what I wanted it to be. Some drugs and some therapy helped fix the way my brain worked, and enabled me to change the way I thought. From there it was step by step to recovering not just the life I had, but the one I wanted. I redisciplined myself for my work, and generated greater success for myself and my company. I refocused on my relationship with my wife, and we are now closer and more connected that at any time in our marriage. I pulled my finances out of the flatline it was suffering and while not totally on goal, is certainly profitable and manageable. And once I focused my intention on becoming a parent, the way manifested itself outside my designs and expectations within a few months. For me, all in all, a remarkable change. It hasn’t all been perfect or rosy or over the rainbow, but it certainly has been on a steady climb. I think from this point, if I can apply my intentions with the the kind of choice and discipline I feel like I have now, I can accomplish anything I set my mind to in the next year. I have felt hopeful and optimistic before, but this is the first time I have been certain of what I can do, if I will just step up and do it.
So I’m working to put myself back in the forge and back on the anvil. Not to beat and pound, but to temper and refine. I’m going to work to rejoin the broken links I was building before this lil’ stinker joined our lives and destiny.
I have a lot more to do…
The system plods along, but we are actually making good progress. By some measure of Christmas Spirit, we are getting a hearing on our adoption request on December 30th, the last possible court date we could have gotten this year. If all goes as it should the petition will be granted and Universe’s adoption will be legal before the end of 2013. It’s not just a great tax advantage, it is a personal achievement as well. I had set my mind earlier this year that we were no longer going to put off and delay the process of adopting a child. We were either going to get serious and apply ourselves and our wills, or we were going to get serious and admit that this was not something we wanted as badly as we said we did.
In truth, I wanted things in our household to be a little more “perfect” before a baby came along. But even so it is a little scary how just a mild application of vision, will and desire brought on such manifestation. I’m making it sound like magic when there was really a lot of hard work that laid the foundation for our being ready at the right time. But from the time I began applying my intentions, it seems the right circumstances came about very quickly.
Universe is doing well and kicking our asses with her sleep schedule. She has still not learned to cry with ear-piercing effectiveness yet, and we are slowly learning that we can in fact put her down and not cuddle her every moment of the day and night. Like most any new dad, I’m taking photos everyday and even after only four weeks, I can see changes in her face and developments of her body. Still weird to think that we are now parents, and that someone just gave us a baby on the say-so of a bunch of paperwork. Amazing, too, how someone who lays there and does next to nothing 23 hours a day can capture so much of our attention. I have worked some long hours, and kept a busy schedule, but it seems I have nearly exhausted myself tending to a swaddled infant who seems content whether lying on my chest or on the bed, and waking up every three hours at night to tend to the plaintive cries signaling empty tummy and full diaper.
The last six weeks have been like a video on pause for us. In the days before digital, when video tape use to pause and it would have those lines rolling over the image and it would twitter and jerk but hold still… We have been deeply and intently focused on what was most immediate to us, namely, making a home and adjusting to a home that included our little daughter. Not for a month or a winter or several weeks, but for a lifetime. We are ready now, at least a little, to unfreeze this one frame and resume the whole film. That doesn’t mean I won’t be lamely posting photos of my beloved daughter when ever I can…
All has been going well in our adoption process, aside from a couple of niggling technicalities. The birth mother’s option to revoke relinquishment has passed, so that is a major hurtle cleared. The county court has accepted our adoption to petition paper work, and in the process of appointing someone to do a post placement visit and write the court report. Since the birth mom refuses to name the father, the papers that carry legal notices in our county have to publish notices for three weeks, after which we must wait 30 days for any potential father to come forward and be heard on the matter of legitimizing the baby. After all that, the judge will okay our petition and the adoption will be finalized.
That final day, Dec 21st, falls on a Saturday. The following week are the Christmas holidays and the week after that is the New Year holiday. It is seen as very unlikely we can secure a court date to be heard by a judge during those two weeks. That means Universe’s adoption could not be finalized before 2014, and it means we would not be eligible for any tax credits in 2013. It is not that big a deal, we have decided, although it does sting to lose about $13,000 in tax credit due to a paper that had to wait a week to publish the notice, and a court that will be shut down for two weeks, not hearing cases.
The three week delay could have been avoided if the birth mom had provided information regarding Universe’s biological father. He could have been served and relinquished his parental rights and we could have finalized in early to mid December. But she chose to not name him, which is her right. She has been 100% accommodating and cooperative with us, and true to her word, so we are going to respect her desires in this and not ask her to name the father so as to speed things up for us.
Paperwork-wise there is nothing for us to do now but wait.
Baby Universe has been home with us for one week, as of Friday. Everything is going great. She is a happy baby who sleeps a lot. She has not found her lungs yet for crying, but she does get fussy every three hours or so to let us know to change her diapers and feed her.
I counted myself an accomplished swaddler in baby class, but real life is something else. As Bruce Lee said: “Brick not hit back”. Swaddling while wrestling four wiggling limbs is kind of like trying to stuff an angry octopus in a ziplock bag. I’m fast now, but my technique suffers, and it better to call her bundled than swaddled. S. had already discounted my suggestion of duct tape, so I must labor on.
I’m glad poo doesn’t scare me. I didn’t think it would, really, but I’m glad to have it confirmed. Being peed on is not a first time thing for me, either (another life, another story), so I go fearlessly into diaper duty when it is my turn. After about a day I got over the nervousness involving the whole baby vagina thing. I am the dad of her head, her toes, and everything in between.
We have heard from the birth mother just once, so far. Per our agreement we said we would not contact her, but we would respond to her inquiries. She said she missed little Universe, and missed us. She was doing well but family on her father’s side were very critical of her choice to adopt. We responded that we are fine, baby is fine, and we are totally in love and grateful for this life and opportunity. By the middle of next week her relinquishment will finalize and her parental rights terminated (I do wish there were less brutal ways to describe the process, but those are the terms). At that point, its no-givesy-backsies. There is a planetoid of concern orbiting way out on the fringes of my mind, but I’m not too worried.
Our attorney has jump-started the actual adoption process in an effort to get it finalized by the end of the year. Looking at the calendar, it will be tough to get it done before December 31st, but he is going to try. I appreciate his drive and proactive course, especially after dealing with the lackluster efforts of our adoption agency, whom we ended up by by-passing anyway and going private.
It is difficult to arrange a balanced life right now. I was working on a morning routine that involved calisthenics, mediation, reading, and goal-tending. Now my morning routine involves diapers, feeding, goo-gooing, wiping a milky face, burping, and trying not to drift off before Universe does. Come to think of it, that pretty much describes my evening routine, too.
I’m not sure it has totally hit me yet, the idea that this is a lifetime change. I don’t think it will frighten me or overwhelm me to finally absorb this realization. This is something I have wanted to fulfill for decades. This is not something that just is, this is something I have chosen.
I do worry about one thing. In the past (maybe even in the present) I have not been the very best person. I haven’t always been a good son, the way people think I should be. I haven’t always been a good husband, as two previous wives could attest. I haven’t been the best of friends to some people. I haven’t been the world’s best boss or a stellar employee. I have let myself down as frequently as I have let others down. I’ve dealt with it and moved on in most cases because we are all adults here. But I’m worried about failing as a dad to my daughter. Through ignorance or selfishness or weakness of character or shortcomings brought on by age and poor health. I say I will love her with all my heart and I believe that is true, but is that enough? Is it close to enough? What if I am not the dad she expects, or worse, the dad she deserves? My wife and I have taken this child from one path and put her on another. We hope and believe it is a better one, with more opportunity. Her life is irrevocably changed because of our involvement and influence. This is something I cannot fail at. This is a sacrifice I cannot short-change. I have put myself at the center of someone’s life, by my conscious actions and choices. Someone who will depend upon me and be positively or negatively affected by the things I now do with my life, and how I am observed by her. That is scarier than any diaper bomb or gurgling cry at 3am.
Not that I would change anything. Not one week in, not a lifetime in.
I’ve driven by the West Egg Cafe on the Westside a number of times, and frequently notes the lines of people lingering outside, waiting to get in. At first I figured it was just a typical Boho place where a certain class of people liked to mingle, to feel in the groove and appear stylish. There are a lot of places like that in Atlanta; style and hype over quality and substance. But we were downtown yesterday in the middle of the afternoon with Universe, so I decided we’d check the place out.
West Egg sits on the corner of Howell Mill Road and Brady Ave in an area that until a few years ago was very industrial. As industry dried up, the buildings went vacant, then were transformed into lofts and shops and eclectic restaurants. It was opened by a husband-wife team in 2004 and offers what few breakfast places in town does: a decent lunch and dessert selection. They are also open later in the evening. There is a large parking garage behind the restaurant where you can park for free. I don’t know how they managed that in metro Atlanta, but bless them.
Inside the restaurant smacks of a New York deli, with white subway tiles on the roof, retro furnishings and lighting, and the Boho, laid back, casually dressed staff I half expected. The rich aroma of coffee punches you in the face when you walk in. They have a large coffee menu and no less than three baristas working the counter at 2pm. We were seated and given the two page menu, which features breakfast served all day, and a host of sandwiches. I ordered a Short Rib Philly and S. got the Salmon BLT. We each got a cup of the soup de jour, curried cauliflower. Soup and sandwiches came out at the same time. The soup was okay, but a little sour, like they tried to kick up the bland flavor with lemon or vinegar. A better choice would have been a little more curry and some cayenne pepper sauce, or good ol’ black pepper. S. was happy with her salmon sandwich, but still rates Radial Cafe as being better. I enjoyed my short rib sandwich, which had swiss cheese, roasted onions, horeseradish mayo, and mustard. We didn’t get any chips or fries with the order. I guess we could have ordered them on the side. They weren’t necessary; the sandwiches were more than filling. We each had some desert: S. some red velvet cake which she liked, and I had a chocolate chip cookie cheese cake which was nice, but not spectacular. I hate to say it, but until someone learns to make a better cheesecake than Cheesecake Factory, I’m going to continue fighting the crowds there.
Over all a very nice afternoon break. I would go back on a slow day and try some breakfast. I saw them bringing out pancakes for another order that were huge! I don’t think I’d wait outside for thirty minutes for a seat, however. The place certainly has cool chic, but it also has a solid and creative menu, well executed and quickly delivered. Add in the coffee, beer, and desserts, and I’d say it measured up to the hype.
“How we do one thing is how we do everything”...
Have you ever learned something you already knew? Miyamoto Musashi said: “From one thing, learn ten thousand things”. There is a point where we apply what we know to everyone around us, but exempt ourselves, because we are certain we are living what we know.
I often study people. It is necessary for my work to look at someone, their dress, behavior, attitude, and work ethic, and from that draw a larger conclusion. It is also something I just do, when we are out having dinner or at the mall… I observe, and I deduce. One thing that holds true very consistently is that the way a person handles a single task or item or goal is an indication of how they will handle every task or item they are given. It is an indication of how vigorously and meticulously they will handle anything they are given to do. And it doesn’t take long to separate the wheat and chaff by this method. It isn’t even always about execution and effort as it is about intention and attitude. Give someone a chore and they go at it full bore and fuck it up, but do their best… That is someone you can trust with more chores (and more training). The most “expert” person who leans on a counter with this arms crossed, talking about how Obama ruined the US is not worth 1/10th the novice with the right attitude.
Anyway, knowing this about other people, I always thought I automatically did the same thing myself. The way I did every little thing was reflective of how I did every large thing. I could be judged in my entirety upon the testimony of small things(within reasonable limits). Being late to work indicated a lack or respect or dedication. Not having the answers meant not being in command. Not keeping my cool meant not being in control. Not being neat and orderly on my station meant everything I did was sloppy, dirty, disorganized and careless.
I also have a theory about the differences between effectiveness and efficiency. I think you can be very efficient without being effective(say, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic), and you can be effective without being efficient(say, the war in Iraq). Putting the two together, of course, takes concentrated skill and effort.
In the week since our little Universe has been home, we have congratulated ourselves on the smooth transition we have made from DINKs to parents. We plan store runs, schedule feedings and changings, had off baby-tendings, and communicate on schedules. I was considering myself a master of diaper mis en place as I worked out a routine to put the 4am bottle in the warmer, set it for 2 minutes, then layout a clean diaper, pull off the soiled one, wipe, re-diaper, and re-swaddle within those 2 minutes, having cleaned up and disposed of all poopy diapers and wipes, ready for feeding. I was a model of efficiency.
But, efficiency does not equal effectiveness. On our first visit to our pediatrician, Dr. B gave Universe a thorough going over. Every thing was good, but she pointed out our lack of effectiveness in cleaning away poop. Yes, to our horror, chagrin, guilt, and self-recriminations, there was dried fecal matter in the creases and crevices and folds of skin around our baby’s butt and genital area. Dr. B shrugged and said it was okay, that was why we were having this first exam. She diligently wiped away the offending matter, digging into the creases we were too timid to vigorously scrub for fear of hurting Universe’s parchment-like skin. Dr. B flipped Universe over and scrubbed at her butt-crack and anus, clearing away yet more poo that we had missed in our efforts to be efficient. Dr. B told us it was okay, it was normal, but we needed to make sure we got those areas very clean. I was sure she was thinking to herself: “Hmmm… can’t properly wipe a kid’s ass, can they really be trusted with the whole package of raising a child?”
We left with our diligence recharged. We have a butt-wipe routine that is most thorough, effective and efficient. We are studious to look for left-overs in the folds of skin, to be wary of the signs or rash or irritation. We hit the books and the Google and reinformed ourselves, learning things we did not know.
And it has transferred over to my work. When I am cleaning a carrot or peeling a potato or scrubbing down a counter-top, I think of poopy diapers. When I give instruction or demonstrate a task or lean on staff for results, I think about folds unseen and crevices we are too shy to dig into. At home, I give more thought to how effective an action is, and how efficiently I achieve it. Not just baby stuff. Making sure the car always has gas. Cleaning and straightening, putting stuff away. When I meditate on the things I want to do, the goals I want to set and the life I want to achieve, I now also consider what it will mean to flip things over and scrub the dirty butt-hole of things, how to really get in there and do all the little, unglamorous things no one wants to do, or doesn’t even really think to do when they are convinced that their actions and intentions are efficient. Hey, I’m not saying it is a beautiful metaphor, but it is an effective one.
It doesn’t matter if I am changing a diaper, mixing formula, choosing a vacation, planning a dinner for 300 people, reviewing an employee for dismissal or promotion, parking my car, organizing my Itunes, calling my family and friends, or doing burpees. The blend of efficiency and effectiveness with which I do any thing will reflect my commitment and dedication to doing everything. I don’t want to go to work and find the results of a poorly wiped behind. I don’t want to come home and deal with the build up of crap in the creases and crevices of my home life. I don’t want to be so efficient with my health and wellness that what I do is not effective. These are things I thought I knew. I am now learning what they really mean.
The path to enlightenment and fullness of life is how I deal with poopy diapers.
Being a new daddy is hard work, but worth it. Even the photoambush by the wife at 4am.
I’m calling this one now. Technically there is a 10 day return-on-demand time in which the birth mother can void her relinquishment, and another 60 days of adoption paperwork and legal rigmarole. But we have no reason to suspect there will be those kinds of complications. I am claiming victory on this one because I believe in my heart that this is going to happen as we have manifested and desired. The reason I think it feels so right and comfortable right now is because we have already become parents in our hearts.
No illusions that this isn’t going to be hard. I am starting to be a father at an age when most men are completing the task of having raised children, moving into the next phase of their lives. In lots of ways I think this has stunted my adult development. But I’m far more ready, stable, patient and mature than many other men who find themselves blessed to be a father. Okay, it is going to be hard, but I’m going into it whole heartedly with all the love I have been reserving for this role. I count myself lucky and blessed, and a blessing, beyond coporeal reckoning. I am gifted with what I consider to be the most important responsibility in the Universe, to take care of, nurture and raise my own little Universe. I have wanted, and achieved, many things in my life that have been important to me. This is something important that I have wanted my whole life.
This past Wednesday we got the call that our birth mother had gone into labor. We were not really expecting it before the first week of November, but when they told us her water had broke, we knew the baby was coming, no way around it.
We stayed in contact via text and phone calls. Mother was in labor pains, but calm and level-headed. To help out, since she had to go to the hospital so unexpectedly, I sent pizzas to her house for her aunt and her kids, to make sure they had dinner without worry. We settled in to just wait for word.
Just before midnight we got a text and a photo that a healthy baby girl… our baby girl… had been born at 11:40pm. 5lbs, 6.4 oz, 19 inches long. Even in the fuzziness of post delivery, the birth mom maintained this would be our baby, that she was proceeding with adoption.
I texted my staff and told them there’d be no work the next day, and why. S. And I went the hospital early the next morning and saw and held our baby girl for the first time. Mom was in pain(apparently 7 deliveries will do that to you), but she was happy and still at peace with her choice. Although she had announced her choice to adopt, they still but the bassinet in the room with the mother rather than in a separate nursery. It was still clear to us that she had maintained an emotional distance, even as she fed and swaddled and petted the baby. Within an hour of us visiting(torn away because S. had to go to work) birth mom had contacted our lawyer to give him the necessary details for the relinquishment documents. Everything looked good, but we still had to withhold a bit of full commitment, because you never know until you know.
Before returning to the hospital in the evening I bought a large flower bouquet with a “thank you” balloon and a card for birth mom. I also bought a floral bouquet, happy birthday and “it’s a girl” balloons, and a green stuffed tiger, which we brought up with us. We stayed, cooing and cradling the baby and. Allying her by her new name, until my wife had to drag me out. We thought it was likely both baby and mother would be discharged on Saturday.
It turned out that they were discharged just after noon on Friday. Once again my work day was thrown into confusion. I left my Number One in charge and went to the hospital. By the time I got there mom had already signed the relinquishment, officially and legally making us the guardian/parents of this little baby. S. arrived a few minutes later and we went though the process of checking out of the hospital. Per hospital regulations, birth mom was wheeled out in a wheelchair holding our baby, until just across the threshold. Then, with a serenity that I believe comes from knowing she has done the right thing, the best thing, she handed baby girl over to us. We put her in the car seat, which swallowed her, and I insisted we go by my kitchen, where I showed everyone my new daughter. S.took her home while I finished what I had to do at work, then went home, too.
Of course we have named her, and in about 45 days the Office of Vital Statistics will issue a new birth certificate with that name. When talking about my daughter here(and I’m sure I’m going to do a lot of talking and photo posting!), I’m calling her Universe. Because she is an impossible gift from the Universe, a a manifestation of my heart and souls’s desire, and because she is everything to me right now… my world, my life, my universe.
Everything has been going great, as expected. Sure, we have not slept more than two hours at a stretch. The bassinet is in our bedroom, but I’m sure Universe likes sleeping on my chest better. I know I like it better. Either that or tucked up next to me in the bed.
It has been very busy few days, and I’m not at my most eloquent or erudite. But it can say that right now, my family feels complete. I know there are hardships and joys to come. Fears and happiness, doubt and confusion. But always love. Forever love.
We are now a threesome: daughter, mommy, and daddy. I’m daddy. That’s me.
When something works, even if it is not working all that well, I tend to hang onto it as long as possible. This could be a box of microwavable rice, a mower that needs a new blade, a wife who comes home only every other night, a cook who burns everything but shows up on time…
Few “toys” have benefited me like my smartphone. I bought an Iphone 3 in 2009, fell in love and named her Isabella. That phone has been with me almost every single day for four years. She’s never cracked, broken, gotten lost, been wiped out, or fallen into a bucket of water. She has faithfully recalled my appointments and phone numbers and gotten info off the internet and stored my Dropbox files. She even carted around my Kindle books for times in waiting rooms or breaktimes. Oh, I’ll admit I took a shine to my Ipad, and have been carrying on a simultaneous love affair with her, too. But Isabella has my heart.
But time has caught up with Isabella. She looks great; none the worse for wear really. I still have the same heavy rubber cover I bought for her on day one, with no cracks or tears or worn out points. But Isabella has been becoming old cow now for a while. First there were several things she could not do that her younger, slimmer sister, the Iphone 4 could do. Then there were really cool apps that would not run on her perfectly functional, but outdated, frame. And with each OS upgrade, she seemed to lose a little spunk, a little fire, and a lot of speed. She began to crash while looking up phone numbers, lock up while cruising the internet, shut down while retrieving email or texts, and her GPS was so hopelessly slow, I could frequently plug an address into her, and then proceed to find my own way to the location before she could summon up the directions.
Finally, and with a tinge of regret, I decided that my Bugatti lifestyle required a slimmer, sleeker, more functional and faster phone. Time to trade in the old cow for a young fox.
We went to Best Buy, to the mobile department. I decided I wanted an Iphone 5S. They were all sold out, the guy told me. He checked the computer and said all the other local stores were sold out, too. They were so sold out, he wasn’t allowed to take orders or requests for any that might be coming in, so long was the wait list. I asked if he had any Iphone 5. He had those, yes. I asked what the main differences were between the two phones. He meantions some features that were unimportant to me. He also said that the 5S had a better chip than the 5, which allowed it to process faster. How much faster? I asked. Was it really fast enough to notice? He said most people probably could not distingush the speed difference. Then he looked at my account and said: “Ha!”, smacking his hand on the table top. “You’ve got a 3, so anything is going to seem a lot faster to you!” Huh, except the check-out process to actually get the damned phone.
I left with my sleek, shiny, black new girl. I opted to not trade my 3 in, since I would only get about $10 for her. I’ll keep her for the day when Big Bertha, my 64GB Ipod, eventually dies and I need something to play audible books and music in the car. 7 years and counting, however, Bertha hangs in there.
I admit, I could not bring myself to totally leave Isabella behind, abandoned and bereft. We’ve been through so much together, she and I. So I did a transference ceremony wherein I transferred the spirit of Isabella from the 3 to the 5. So, it’s more like I got my old girl some plastic surgery and a boob job.
And it was worth it. My girl talks to me know. She thinks her name is Siri, for some odd reason. But her skills and speed are amazing and we are having so much fun. A genuine November romance. I talk, she texts. I talk, she emails. I talk, she pops up a map super fast. I ask her what the time is, what the temp is, who’s the Prime Minister of Italy… she knows it all. Sadly, she’s become something of a prude, and I can’t talk dirty to her like I used to; she won’t have it. For four years I never cracked her screen or dropped her in water. Two days after I brought her home, she slipped off a shelf and tumbled into a bucket of cleaning water, complete with towels and knives. I dove my hand in after her and snatched her out, and toweled her down as quickly as possible. She acted a little funny at first, but then settled down and went back to normal. There was a large stain across her screen, like a mammoth bruise. At the suggestion of others, I sunk her into a bag of rice for over and hour, then again for a whole night. The bruise receded, faded, and is gone now.
I have a 14 day return policy, so I’ll make sure everything is okay before the time expires. I am still thinking about returning her and transferring to a 5S, if one becomes available. But for now, I’m quite happy, and I look forward to more years of intimate bliss.