Hope, Love, and the Changing Tide

This is for anybody who feels like they are wanting more, capable of more, ready for a shift, and creatively stifled by anxiety. For those of you who have ideas and are ready to put them into action, but can’t seem to find a jumping off point. You try, you sit, you meditate, you pray, and ultimately you push it off until tomorrow because the immense amount of “life” that seems to be blocking your way is just too much to allow you to focus. You are depressed because you haven’t started, and you haven’t started because you are too depressed.

I know it seems impossible to just start, but I’ve learned an extremely valuable and seemingly simple lesson from my wife. You can think something to death (and I often do) – but sometimes it’s better to just get your hands dirty, not worry about the outcome so much and begin.

I remember coming home one day to our tiny apartment to my vibrant beautiful wife. We had our baby Olive already, and Lindsay was pregnant with our second child. She did something that blew me away at the time. The whole living room was covered in scraps of fabric, an old sewing machine, rulers, large pieces of paper and her computer was paused on a youtube page teaching her how to sew. Olive was bouncing away in the swing. I was busy trying to turn my small creative company into something that could support our budding family, and Lindsay was feeling helplessly pregnant. She wanted custom bedding for our crib- she couldn’t find what she was looking for, so she decided to just make it herself. What started as a simple project, ended up being way more expensive than just buying something online. One crib sheet, turned into 5, then blankets, covers for nursing pillows, changing pad covers, pillow cases… it just kept going. She was inspired. I’m sure I told her at the time that what she was doing was costing a lot of money, but she persisted and said that she would just start selling it to make up the difference. I tried to overthink it for her and explain the difficulty in what she was doing, but ultimately just threw my hands up and handed her a credit card.

All she had was hope, love, and the changing tide currently taking place in our lives as young parents.

Lindsay was right. She quickly got really good at what she was doing. Her artistic eye translated perfectly to choosing the right prints for people and soon her online shop was pinging away with sales and emails for more custom orders. Often times she would be up until 4am, kneeling on the floor cutting fabric, listening to music and hammering away on the sewing machine. It sounds stressful, but she was happy doing it. The smile on her face was huge. She knew she was onto something.

Fast-forward to now. The operation has grown- but once again the tide is changing. All we have is the HOPE that we can make this happen and the LOVE of our friends, family, and supporters. It’s time for us to take this to another level. We are ready to get our first run of children’s clothes manufactured. It’s the beginning to something bigger. We don’t want to be stifled. We want to build out our future, create memorable products, and try to help and inspire people along the way.

My message to you is this: If you have something you are wanting to do, make, or grow, if you are feeling the tides changing in your life and see that something new or scary is eminent- don't curl up- push on, make whatever steps you can even if they seem tiny. Do something small that will put a smile on your face and hold onto it with everything you have, then do it again.

Sorry, Not Sorry About The Kids

Look, it really doesn't matter if you are the greatest parent in the world (not that there is a such thing), kids will be kids. When we are at family weddings or if we have someone watching the kids while us parents are on a date there can be feelings of guilt about how difficult it can be to watch the kids- especially if the person watching them isn't a parent themselves.

Here is a list of things our children may do while you spend quality time with them- sorry, not sorry. Growl loudly like a dinosaur. Howl at the moon at all hours of the day. Stomp up and down the hall. Stomp in place. Kick the back of your seat in the car. Try to climb in your lap and then immediately climb back down, and then back up again. Pull your hair. Touch your face. Grab your hand and pull at you until you sit on the ground. Ask you to draw something, then criticize and ask you to do it again. Take your purse/bag/wallet and dump out the contents on the floor. Take your car keys, hide your keys, set off your car alarm. Ask you to take them on a walk, only to find out they want to walk to the toy store. Guilt you into purchases. Break promises. Ask you to cook something, not eat it, eat your food instead. Pull the milk out of the fridge- spill. Pull rice/cerial/anything small out of cabinet- spill.
Cry at your wedding, yell at the funeral, drop silverware at the restaurant. Keep you up late, wake you up at 2am/4am/6:55am. And the list is growing and changing daily.

Dear Future Dads

Foreward: I remember when I first found out I was going to have a kid. A cold blanket of fear came over me as my brain tried to calculate all the life changes that were about to take place. I remember looking online for a blog/story/letter anything from another guy my age that talked about what I was getting into. I searched and found very little in which I could relate. I promised myself then that at some point I would take the time to write what I was looking for at that time in hopes that it would be helpful to someone. It's been about 4 years at this point since the initial shock. I now have two kids, and a ****load of experience... at least with pregnancy, babies, and toddlers. I'm not saying I'm some sort of guru on the subject, but I can at least tell you what my experience has been like.

Background: I wasn't yet 30, I co-own a creative company in Venice, CA- and my life pretty much consisted of the freedom that comes along with having minimal responsibility to anybody other than myself. I remember getting "the text" from my wife while I was at work, "hey babe, are you at the studio?" For some reason I knew from that simple text what I was about to hear in person.

10 minutes later I jumped in the passenger seat and got the news. I felt like I was floating 10 feet above my body (probably for the next 12 months). We went to the doctor to get the confirmation. We stumbled around the baby isle in Target for a minute. We drove. We talked. We ate. I took a shot or two. Our future had an immediate new direction and we were just surfing the wave of emotions. We had each other and that was fantastic. Our parents were in a bit of shock as they were all going to be grandparents for the first time (on both sides). But they were happy for us. At this point we had no idea what was in store... my internet searching for "becoming a dad" had began/failed and I was on my own. None of my friends were dads yet. I was blazing a new trail.

This was not a typical "accident"... actually it was meant to be if you believe in that sort of thing. In hindsight all the circumstances that led up to us being together and having our first born are amazing. For the sake of this I'm just saying that I didn't realize at the time how important this even was until months later when my mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away after getting to be there for the birth and meet her grand baby. My mom passed away when my daughter was about 3 months old. I'm still so thankful that she got to have that before she died, it's probably the best gift I could give her.

"I'm going to be a dad now." Yep, just keep saying it to yourself over and over again for the next 9 months until you are a dad. Your face will probably fluctuate between two expressions- one of total blank goofy happiness, and one of washed out fear. That's because, you are completely happy and worried at the same time, all the time. You have done what you are supposed to do on this earth (according to nature) procreate. A few hundred years ago this probably wouldn't have been a big deal, but now it is. People do it later in life, or sometimes not at all, But not you! You procreated. You are officially part of the life cycle on this planet. You are already thinking about your future, the future of your family, and specifically your baby to be. The unknown can be frightening, but fear can also be exciting. Try to embrace it. Use it to be productive. Good Luck.

Don't forget the most important part: I don't care how scared, shocked, worried, happy you are and NOBODY else cares either. It's not about you anymore. Only your pregnant wife matters at this point. The pressure on her is so far beyond what you are dealing with, that your insignificant struggle shall get NO ATTENTION. I'm sorry, but it's true. Actually, while I'm at it- and I promise you will remember this someday- people won't ask you how you are, or if they do you honestly won't want to answer anyway. Friend Without Kid- "How you feeling?" You- "Actually, I'm really scared that our child will be healthy, the birth will be smooth, and that i'll make enough money for the bare essentials, oh and shit i have to sell my truck to get a car with a big enough backseat, it totally sucks." Nope, that conversation most likely won't happen. You will just turn into a quieter more private human being. I'm not saying it has to be this way, but you'll see. I understand though. It is scary. All the things that have to go right before the baby is born- it's a lot. But nature is smart, 9 months is about what you need to get over the initial shock and prepare for the shock of the actual baby. I remember trying to describe it like weight lifting. You start out bench pressing under your body weight, but the more pressure you take on every day, little by little, soon you build up and can push more. The stress/fear/anxiety you feel will feel like nothing once the baby is born. It is nothing. I'm telling you. Everything is going to be okay.

Try To Relax.
Spend your time taking care of your wife. Cook her dinner, do the shopping, get her breakfast ready in the morning. Being pregnant sucks. Luckily you are a man and you don't have to be pregnant. Instead, your job will be to live vicariously whether you like it or not through your wife and her struggle. I just have to say for the record, that I had it very good. My wife was amazing pregnant, both times. But even with the best of circumstances it sucks for her. It's uncomfortable, hormones are all over the place, she's going to get bigger (thats how it works) and women worry about this. Be supportive. Say yes as often as you can to all demands. Get her out of the house. Go on walks. Go on a walk every day. Walking together will do a couple things: 1. it will give you time to plan. 2. combat depression 3. stay healthy. Obviously if the doctor tells you not to, then listen, but 99% of the time walking is good.

Back to food again. I'm guessing you are a modern man if you are reading this far, therefore you know how to cook or at least know how to follow basic directions. It's easy. Don't be afraid of the kitchen. Find out what your wife wants, look it up, and cook it. It's really that easy. Cooking (rather than going out) will keep you both healthier, and it will be good practice, because once you have a baby you will be eating at home a lot more. That being said, maybe you should go out every night until the baby comes because it won't be possible to do it in a few months, hahaha... seriously.

Doctors Appointments.
Go to all of them if you can. You need to be there. This is not just for your wife. Even if she says, "It's okay, it's just a checkup- go to work." Nope, you go, and get used to missing work. You'll be missing a lot more. It's important to go to the doctors appointments because believe it or not it will help you connect to the baby. I don't care if that doesn't sound masculine, It's true. Get over yourself. You want to be a good dad right? Open up and let yourself get connected. You are going to love this child. Go to the doctors appointments, hold your wife's hand, or if she doesn't want you to, then just play with all the models of vaginas and stuff, they make great instagram models. Ask questions (you'll have some). Record the sound of the heartbeat for the first time. Look carefully at the sonograms. It's a very cool experience getting to see the baby when its only the size of a raison, blueberry, grape, date, nectarine, plum, apple, orange, grapefruit... etc. get ready for a lot of fruit comparisons.

Getting Your Home Ready.
Dad, I don't know what kind of tax bracket you are in... but there is going to be a lot of stuff to buy. There is a thing called a "baby shower" they are great for most of what you need. My wife made a 0-9 month list,' here it is- give it to your wife and she can go bananas. http://blog.woolfwithme.com/newbornto9monthschecklist/

For our baby shower, we invited all our friends men and women- it sort of turned out to be a party. I made a giant bucket of booze that had champagne, liquor, juice, fruit, all kinds of stuff- it got everyone drunk and we had a good time. I don't know if I recommend this, but I didn't know what I was doing and it felt right at the time.

Do you need a nursery/kids room? Yes and No. You will absolutely want a room dedicated to all the stuff that goes along with having a baby. Will your kid sleep in that room? From my experience, No. Our first slept in our room in a co-sleeper for the first 9+ months. The crib is nice for naps and stuff during the day, but at night it was all about the co-sleeper situation.

Baby proofing the house- yes. You have a little time, but it is important because they are crawling in no time and you might as well get it out of the way while you can. quick list: plastic plugs for outlets, secure cabinets closed, if you are in an earthquake zone- get your stuff buckled down (shelves, pictures, tv, etc). Sharp corners? throw that furniture away or put a little corner cover thing on it that will probably fall off right before your future toddler hits her head on it. Gate off the doors/stairs/den. Yes, this is how you will live now.

While we are on safety- The Carseat. Don't skimp. Look up reviews, buy a good one. Rear facing w/ newborn padding at first. Keep the kid in that rear facing seat for two years. Don't be one of those parents that turns the kid around early just because your kid is whining. If you get in an accident and your kid isn't ready for forward facing, her little neck will explode. Seriously.

When installing the seat find the two metal parts that are in the backseat that you've never noticed before (usually behind a flap or deep in there behind some random gaps. The carseat base will hook into those. Get in there and put all your weight on the carseat base while strapping and tightening, Make sure it's tight and level to the instructions. Don't be one of those parents that half ass the carseat, that's just dumb. use the anchor if you can in your car (when you buy and READ the instructions, you'll see what I mean).

Okay You Have 3 Months To Go!
Remember when I told you that being pregnant sucks? Well with only a few months left, it sucks even more. My dad told me something that stuck with me. When your wife is only a couple weeks away or even on the due date, and she thinks it's absolutely time- You probably still have a week to 3 weeks left. The painfully annoying thing about pregnancy besides everything, is that when she thinks she can't take any more it just kind of gets worse. By the way, if it's not too late, I wouldn't let your wife read this part. Whoops.

So you have a few months left. Hopefully you are in the groove with cooking, making your wife comfortable, balancing work, and getting the house ready. That baby shower is happening or happened and now you know what's left on your list. Go buy the stuff. Try to get in as much recreational activity (biking, surfing, going to the movies) as you can. Book your wife a pregnancy massage. My wife had to book her own, but hindsight is 20/20. Be a good husband, I can't stress this enough. It's literally your only job right now.

It's Almost Time.
You will be living at the hospital for a few days. Get your gear ready and have it by the door. This is what to pack: clothes for a few days. Sweats. Sandals (for the shower). A blanket (i brought a climbing sleeping bag that stuffs really small). Pillow. Phone Charger. Laptop. Camera (a real one). Headphones (for watching tv when your wife falls asleep). Snacks (the food generally is not the best or over priced at hospitals). Toiletries.

Make a phone list ahead of time. Know who you are going to tell and send pictures to. Agree on it with your wife. Those couples that share on Facebook as soon as the baby comes out ... well, it's kind of gross to bring a kid into this world and immediately put her/him online.

You did it. You are at the hospital. You obviously previously registered months before so paperwork is very minimal and they knew you were coming. You will be nervous. I remember not really feeling like myself. You are going into the hospital as a couple and coming out as a family. It's so strange in a world of so much red tape, registration, licensing and bureaucracy that you can just have a child. Part of the weird feeling is just that. You can just do this and it becomes apparent how normal it is when you are immersed in the hospital where it happens 400 times a month for these professionals. You think you are special? Well, you are and you aren't.

Ice Chips.
Okay Coach, it's go time. This means that you still have hours of waiting around... Or at least we did. Labor takes awhile for most people. It's usually not like it is in the movies where the dad is driving 80mph to get to the hospital and the baby comes flying out. I've even heard stories of couples going back and forth to the hospital multiple times with false labor. Hopefully this isn't the case for you. So, you will probably be waiting for the labor process. During this time you will need to stay fully alert, attentive, and in the game. You will be watching monitors pretending you understand them, you'll be trying to comfort your wife with massages that you don't know how to give well, you'll be a dispenser for ice chips and water. Just be there and be a team player. It's honestly frustrating that you can't do more.

When you get to the active labor portion of the birth (and just so you know I'm strictly talking from experience with no medical insight) you will become a hand to squeeze and continue your job as an ice chip dispenser. Stay close, but not too close. Bite your tongue when you feel like joking around with the Doctor/nurse, shut up and just be a familiar warm body for your wife unless otherwise instructed to do something. Damp towel waving, music change, more ice, breathing, hand squeeze... Pretty much it, unless you take a birthing class that tells you otherwise (but we didn't).

The Baby Is Here.
Your wife is okay. The baby is out. Immediately all kinds of important stuff happens that goes by in a flash. Grab that camera, follow that baby- get some pics of all that stuff. More importantly (and this is your biggest job) make sure they give the baby to your wife as soon as it's safe to do so. Oh yeah, you will get to cut the chord at some point in all that confusion. Grab hold of those scissors and do it like you mean it- don't be a double cutter like some kind of pansy.

Congratulations, But No Cigar.
Yes, the baby is here. I was awe struck. It's absolutely incredible to see your child, study her features and just be together, but right away you'll find it's not that easy. The nurses give the first bath, they will change the first few diapers- but then POW you are in it. Not only are you in it but YOU are in it because remember that wife of yours that just gave birth? Well now she is recovering and that means it's hard to walk, move, and do just about anything. Her job at this point is to learn to Nurse the baby and heal. Your job is to tend to your wife and the baby. Your wife is going to be tired. You will be doing a lot of holding, and watching and comforting with the baby in the bassinet.

Get Some Rest.
I don't know about all hospitals but ours was awesome. The nurses took the baby when we asked for enough time here and there for us to sleep. They would bring back the baby to nurse or whenever we asked, but they were very helpful in keeping the baby while we rested. Take advantage of this. You will need your rest, because once you leave there are no more nurses. TIP: order some pizzas for the nurses at some point. They will appreciate it.

Home Sweet Home.
Everybody is healthy, it's time to check out of this place and go home as a family. Your car seat should already be installed. Go into that bassinet at the hospital and raid the hell out of it. Grab all diapers, wipes, etc they have around in your room- trust me you paid plenty, it's not stealing.

Load up your stuff and take it to the car first, no need to lug that and your baby and wife in a wheelchair all at once. You are going to be incredibly excited to get out of the hospital and nervous as well. When you finally exit the glass doors and see your car waiting for you that same feeling will come washing over you that you experienced when you found out you were going to have a kid. I believe it's called terror. You have made it this far though, this feeling is no longer unfamiliar and you know you can do it.

Pick up your baby, give her a big kiss and put her in that car seat. your wife will probably sit in the backseat with the baby. Enjoy this moment, it's your first road trip. I think my car didn't break 12mph the entire way home, if I had it my way there would have been flags on the car and warning stickers saying "baby on board." It's surprisingly nerve racking to drive with such a fragile life in the car.

That First Night.
We did not know what we were doing. Honestly, I don't have any great advice for you, just don't do what we did. We did not have the co-sleeper or a bassinet the first night back home. We got home and went to put the baby to sleep the first night and realized that a crib is WAY too big for a tiny newborn baby. We set her in there and I think our minds exploded, "now what? We can't leave her in there!" We ended up keeping her in the swing next to us in the livingroom while we "slept" on the couch. It didn't go well.

We wised up the next day and bought a co-sleeper.

First Few Months Are A Blur.
I remember the first few months but only as a feeling. We were falling in love with our family. It was an amazing time. We slowly got into our routine, got better with the diapers and driving and getting back to work. It's important to slowly let people meet the baby a few at a time so that you aren't introducing a party of germs. So you have very small, short get togethers. Very quickly (if you don't have friends that are parents) you realize that your old friends don't really "get it." Sure they are happy for you, but your life just changed 100% and you can't really expect everyone else to change with you. So, your life as you knew it before is over. It's absolutely true what you've heard. Your life is over, but as cliche as it sounds you have a new life now. For my wife and I it was a solidification to our marriage that could not have happened any better. We started a life that was ours with no baggage or expectations from either side. It was a way for us to start fresh. I'm not saying that a baby is the answer to your failing relationship- but for us it certainly helped us grow.

The Daddy Baby Bond.
This is something that nobody else is going to tell you. This started when my first born was a month or so old, my mom asked me if I was "in love" yet with my child. Of course at that time I said "yes, absolutely," but I didn't yet realize what she was asking me, and I wasn't. Moms have an instant connection with their children. Unless there is some serious postpartum depression moms will connect and have this amazing bond as soon as the baby is in her arms. Dads don't have this. Of course you will love your baby, you will enjoy being a dad, but you won't be head over heals in love until you are. For me I remember the moment it struck me. I don't remember how old my daughter was (maybe 4 months) but she looked up at me when I was holding her in my lap and holy **** it was like a lightening bolt in my brain I was sent back to my mom asking me that question and I just knew that was what she meant. Unfortunately for me, my mom had already passed away and I couldn't tell her. But man, it really was amazing to get that gift. I think if she would have never asked I wouldn't have noticed it so clearly, but now that you know maybe you will remember and get a similar experience.

I think that this is enough for now. I'm sure I'll have more to say, but this is what I was looking for initially when I found out I was going to be a dad. I truly get it, you aren't alone. Being a father is obviously very challenging as I'm learning that more every day with school, hospital visits, and just trying to raise good human beings. It is well worth it. Be inspired. Be inspiring. Choose to embrace it.

Feel free to write me if you have any questions. Message me on Instagram @joshwoolf

Up High

Your soft eyelids gently shut, lashes long and fanned perfect. I watch you as you lay still. If I hold my breath I can hear you breathe, and I do because I love to hear you breathe.

It's been a good day. I want every day this good. It's so simple, and it doesn't take much.

We hike, we run wild. "Up high, up high" you chant up to me, so I reach down count down from 3 and throw you high into the air. You laugh and point up again wanting another. 3...2...1... You launch high into the air and down into my arms. The cold grass crunches under your muddy toes as I gently set you back down. I chase you both in circles, watch you swing and bounce up and down and twirl. Again you come up to me and stand on my feet stretching your arms up to me, I let you hold my thumbs with your 18 month old hands - you grasp tight enough so that I can lift you off the ground. The way it feels to have you holding onto my thumbs so tight is the best feeling in the world. I want you this way forever.

I love your beautiful smiles, and your goofy faces you make when you say "cheese" and your excited faces when you are surprised or see something for the first time. I love seeing you balancing on your head and hands on the lawn looking at the world upside down. You put all your weight into the flowers you pluck from the garden. I sit from the porch and watch as you dig dirt, pick rocks, and tear grass bringing each new find over to me to inspect and tell you what a good job you've done.

When it gets too cold, we go in and get you washed up in a warm bath. Pajamas on and lights out. On good days it doesn't take much before you crash out in our arms.

Soft folded hands tucked gently together under your side. It's quiet and peaceful in your room. My boy and my girl fast asleep. The house is still. Will it always be this good? I have to savor every moment I have with these two kids.

For My Son.

Dear Remington,

You are here. You are "sleeping" in your crib in your room. I can hear you snoring. You stir. Up until now you have never slept in your own bed for a night. you wake up and want your mamma. Who could blame you. I'm hopeful that you will get better at this. You impress me so much. You are strong. I watch you crawl around the house from room to room at 8 months old. You get to tables and objects and lift yourself up by your arms to stand up and get a better view. You bend down nearly impaling yourself on sharp edges and corners but somehow your coordination keeps you from major bumps and bruises. You do fall over now and then. You smile a lot. You laugh. I play a game where I move my finger toward your chest slowly like a worm to come tickle you and you start laughing before i even touch you. You watch Olive all the time. I can tell you love her already. She plays games with you. Sometimes she is a little rough, but don't you worry we are close to make sure nothing happens. I keep telling Olive "you know one day he's going to be bigger than you and he will be the one tormenting you." It's true. You will be the one chasing her one day soon. I want to be a great dad for you. I want to teach you everything I know and more. We can learn together. I want to take you surfing and biking and climbing. Anything. I am lucky to have you my son. You are going to keep me young. Right now you are my inspiration. Granted, there isn't much i can do with this inspiration besides take care of you and your sister- but I have faith that you will help me do great things as well. I want to make you proud.

I was walking with you around the neighborhood the other afternoon. You turned your head side to side looking from what was close on the sidewalk to the cars passing by. So alert. As I walked with you I was thinking wow I only have 17 years of this left with you as my baby before you are an adult. It's boring to say it goes by quickly - but it does. A year is nothing. Some idiot once told me that the older you get the faster time seems to go by because each moment in your life is a smaller fraction of your life as a whole. I detest this concept- and i choose to reject it. I'm holding on tight to every moment I get with you and your sister. Maybe I can slow time down when I'm with you.

I'll give that a shot.

Daddy Woolf.

When She Was 3.

We hear her wake up across the hall calling out from our bed, "Mama... mama." Mom's busy with Remi so Daddy is going to play the role of Mama for the time being. I walk across the house with a sort of impatience from not being able to get more than 30 minutes of quiet, ever. It's dark in my room. Let me emphasize that she is not in her own bed. As I get closer to the bed I can tell that she is in a half sleep state. She lays the wrong direction on the comforter so I pick her up and prop her back onto a pillow and climb in next to her. Any previous feelings of not wanting to get up and comfort my little girl wash away. I'm exactly where I want to be.

Quickly these thoughts of happiness come to me as I listen to her breathing. I prop my arm up above her head to get a little closer but as I do it grabs her hair and immediately wakes her up. "Daddy! ow. Stop it." as she swings an elbow my way and arches her neck to stop my arm from pulling her hair. "Sorry baby" I sort of whisper and cringe at the same time. But I give her a hug and go to kiss the spot where I pulled her hair, as I bend down she buckles her head to get more comfortable and makes a direct hit- her skull into my lower lip- which also seems to tweak my jaw out of place.

Its a mess. Even the little sentimental moments I'm trying to savor get tainted.

My jaw feels better though now. Olive has settled down. I relax next to her with my hand on her hand and all is right. My mind is able to wonder for a minute while i listen to her breathe. "This is perfect," I think to myself. Thoughts start drifting to what it will be like when she is 8, 12, 16, 28, 35. Then to me possibly sick in bed one day laying there half asleep. I picture myself old and Olive a middle aged woman, coming in and sitting next to me.

Just as the thought enters my head "It will be amazing to have her at my side one day when I'm old" ... My wife whisper shouts from across the house to me pulling me out of whatever meditation and moment of enjoyment I'm having. She needs assistance in the other room. Remi is stirring and I am tasked to grab a laptop chord.

Moment over.

I roll off my bed quietly.

That is what a night with an 8 month old and a 3 year old is like.

Head In The Clouds

I’ve been a dad for a whopping 3 years now. It’s strange to become a parent when most of your friends aren’t. You see yourself changing in a way that doesn’t totally relate to the way your non-parent friends are changing (by the way there is no judgement here, I think not producing is just as important as producing). One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I really do care more than I used to. My pre-parental angst of not giving a chips-and-salsa has transformed into looking into my kids’ eyes and seeing down the tunnel to their future.

The struggle to swim through the thick, gooey, media filled day to something real. My head is full of other people’s thoughts and ideas of stuff that makes no difference in my day. My contribution to this world is consistently tainted by advertising via social media and campaigns loosely hidden by an aesthetic of "good design" and commercialized "art." The music blasting through the window of the car next to mine is a hyper sexualized drug ad packaged in a designer bag.

Abusive advertising ticks me off- that goes for entertainment/media as well. Perpetuating hate and violence and abuse is boring. It’s easy to see through the marketing plan of appealing to the rebellious nature of pre-teen, teen, young adults - 30’s and even “old guys" trying to stay relevant in this young world. We should be smarter than that.

We are being trained. Whether its on purpose or just dumb coincidence- we are being trained. Trained to think alike. We have chained ourselves together in the guise of “staying connected.” I hardly know anybody anymore. Our pictures speak thousands of words- words we quickly swipe through. We don’t talk anymore, we comment. We don’t communicate any more, we connect. We don’t have relationships, we change our status. We don’t develop friendships, we get friended. Soon this training will be complete and we will all watch and believe the same things- we’ll all read the same 140 character news stories and take them as fact without checking.

You are probably saying to yourself, “not me!” and you could very well be right, for now. What about our kids though? What will it feel like to know your daughter or son is logging-in and signing-up and consuming the same shart circling through his little network gone viral because of whatever point some bonehead is trying to make? We need to do our best to teach about credible sources, not believing everything you see and hear, and forming opinions based on who you are as a person. By the way, a 20 question quiz cannot define your soul and tell you who you are. We need real tangible adventures. We need quiet. We need more than Emerson, and Thoreau (although that would be a good start). What happened to reflection and putting the puzzle pieces of our existence together? We need to focus on the physical world, get our heads out of The Tech Cloud, and look back up into the real clouds.

I will not compare any generation to another, I will not blame anybody. This is not a problem that will be fixed. This is what a real-time world shift looks like. I’m not proposing that any of us make a stand or try to change anything. I don’t think anything can be changed anyway on the large scale.

What I am saying to my “friends" is this:

Don’t be swallowed up whole. Take a moment to break away. Be aware that whatever social media is the thing right now will not last forever, but the content you share and upload will be. Know that you are being targeted by advertising constantly. Find a way to be yourself and feel good about what you are doing without having to “share” it with anyone but yourself and the other people there with you.

Most importantly, be with your kids. Teach them what it is to be grounded by being grounded. There is a time and place for technology and social media- but it's not all the time in every place. Sometimes it's okay to turn it off.

Olive’s Home.

I am home. Our home. Where our child sleeps quietly. I go and kiss her on her tiny face, My lips so big they can touch her cheek and the corner of her mouth all at once. She quietly breaths out. Comforted. I'm here to protect her and look after her. Not a worry, only good ahead of her. She's tired and dreaming of the big week she's had.

Airports and airplanes. Stomping through terminals and isles. Each smile she gives away brightening up someone else's day. It's a big job. Momma guides her through the jungle of travelers with precision. She lands in a new world. Baby trudges through the grass barefoot in the hot sun being watched by grandparents and great grandparents, cousins, and aunties and uncles. So much love from places so far from her treehouse home. Boating down rivers and riding in big cars- I carry her through swimming pools and raise her high above my head to the sky where her strong legs kick and splash. Giggling and screaming in a language between real and child.

Now we are back safe at home base again. Missing and missed by so many. A reset between this adventure and next. Tomorrow when she wakes the house will be clean again and ready for the ceremonial tossing of the toys. The plates are clean and ready for feasts of fruits and breads and meats. Sippy cups full of tasty milks and juices ready to quench thirsts and make puddles.

Everything is ready for you my love. The world is yours. Rest up and sleep well. Dream up all the adventures to be had. Momma and I will take you to all the places you want to go. Hold our fingers with your tight fist and drag us to all the new things you discover.

Love Letters.

I sit in the dark with just the low glow of the fish lamp in the corner of the room. our daughter has been crying for over 30 minutes. The experts say that you should let them just cry it out and soothe themselves to sleep, which I was skeptical about at first- but now I understand that it isn't cruel, its just the first step in them learning to cope. The baby will play you, exploit your parental weakness and have you wrapped around her little finger in a snap if you aren't careful. Some are easier than others and lindsay and I created a baby in our spitting image which means she is a ferocious one.

Just as I finished that sentence she actually fell asleep and I can finally hear the inside of my head again.

Love letters. I wish I could say I write one a day for my wife, there was a time when we did. We'd talk on the phone for hours, mail things across the country, surprise each other, and now we are together. We share a home. So the courting isn't quite the same, but that makes me think- maybe it should be? She is stunning. My dream. We are real friends, the kind that confided in one another for years and years before romantically falling head over heals. We've had adventures. Our relationship has been exciting and storybook-like, brilliant- and often times disgusting to others around us (I don't care). We've been there for some of the toughest times and been there for some of the worst days we've ever had. But we have also been there for the best ones.

I love her so much.

Once a baby is brought into the world it's easy to get filed in line to this parental structure "eat" "work" "feed" "sing" "eat" "drive" "shop" "eat" "work" and so on, (I left out "sleep" on purpose). The outwardly exciting adventures take a break and we are on this much longer adventure of creating a family. This is mostly great but tends to get frustrating for us rolling stone types. Mo•not•o•ny, It can be a dirty word. Luckily for us, we were raised well. We know that family is the most important thing. Our daughter sees how much we love each other and will be a better person for it (*fact). We laugh a lot, we also pull out our hair. We get to see the most beautiful girl in the world growing up before us, but sacrifice so much of ourselves in the process. Being a parent is a very strange sort of mental push-up you perform constantly every day.

This upcoming month will mark our two year marriage anniversary (2 years going on 10).

I love you my wife. You've given me the best gifts. You and Olive. We're getting to reinvent what life and family is all about and that is the best thing I've ever had the opportunity to do. I give you my all.


365 Days Ago.

In this culture we remember dates and celebrate years since events happened. It must be part of the caveman in all of us to keep track and record these things because we tend to do it automatically. When you put more thought into this it starts to seem strange. Tradition, boredom, the sales of greeting cards all come to mind. Why does it matter? There is the saying that if we don't remember history we are doomed to repeat it, but the majority of the days we observe don't fall into that category. The real notable moments in our lives tend to be remembered everyday.

365 days ago. It was a hot day in Los Gatos. Our family was all gathered at my grandparents house for the past week spending time with my mom as she lay in her bedroom quiet and in a lot of pain. Her body had withered away from the medicine and cancer, but she still looked beautiful and goddess-like in her white robe. It was very peaceful in her room. Quiet with only the sound of the pond outside and family talking with whispering voices. There were 15-20 of us at all times individually coming in to speak with her, sit quietly meditating or praying, and help keep her comfortable.

At this point we all knew that my mom was going to be leaving us soon. There wasn't much of a chance of her coming back and her silent internal meditation was her preparing herself to go. She was in two places at the same time fluxing in and out of what is here and what comes after.

My sister Lily had been traveling across the country after spending months taking care of our mom, but she had jumped on a plane in Louisiana to make it back. It looked like my mom had been holding off to see her. When Lily arrived she burst into the room and mom pushed herself up to embrace her. It was as though she had been saving up this energy to give to Lily. They held each other- my sister was very strong but still weeping as she squeezed because she knew at this moment the fight was over. We all cried silently together sitting around the room.

In between seeing her in the room we spent time outside on the deck in the sun eating and sipping wine or coffee and working on a mosaic that my mom hadn't yet finished. Carefully picking up glass with tweezers and placing over my moms painting trying to follow her structure and patterns, often times not up to moms standards. Mosaics are difficult.

We were all exhausted. Emotionally spent. Our inner contemplations spinning at all different speeds just moving around one another with this sort of instinctual pack mentality.

After all saying good bye for the evening and knowing that mom needed to rest, some of us drove off back down the hill to the houses we were staying at, some spent the night there in the living room.

My wife Lindsay and three month old Olive had to make a trip to Texas and so I was sleeping alone that night. It was very strange to reach over and not have them there. I remember reaching my arms out to hold Olive every few minutes. Phantom limb.

Shortly after midnight I received a phone call from my mom's cell phone. My heart was racing. In my daze of waking up I had almost thought it could be her calling me. On the other end of the phone it was a friend calling from her phone, "it happened, she just passed away" were the words I heard. I said okay- ill be over. Got dressed, woke up my dad- he and mom hadn't been together for many years, but their friendship was lifelong. The look on his face when I told him was strong, he now had 3 kids all on his own. We made the journey back up to the house in the mountain.

We arrived and it was dark only lit by some candles and small lamps. Everyone was huddled together in the living room amongst the blankets from bedrolls and each other. I went to the room and saw my mom at peace, and said goodbye.

We all slept side by side that night. All of us kids and my dad. My grandparents were close by. Like a pack of wolves we held close and did our best to sleep off our sadness.

The rest of the events were less important. The real world duties that come along with someone passing away are less than special, but those days before mom had to go seem to live in my permanent thoughts every day. It was the end of something and the beginning of another.

Thank you Momma for giving us everything you had, for being the most loving, for teaching us your magic, for your laugh, your sarcastic humor, your energy, your support and for teaching us the most important lessons about what this life is.

Being A Dad.

It's still surreal when I think about being someone's dad. It's tremendously important. The title alone holds the weight of creating and shaping a life. My actions my attitude my outward personality gets soaked up by this little person like a sponge. My little 15 month old notices every detail already and she reflects what she sees with perfection. That reflection inspires me to strive to be my best so that she will be her best. It's this symbiotic relationship that was so unexpected. Just as much as I'm getting to shape her life she is shaping mine. As a dad you transform. You make adjustments to yourself, you look at the world differently and you base you decisions selflessly- the fantastic gift you get in return is that you do in fact become a better version of yourself. So, thank you Olive Lillian. Thank you for being my daughter, for choosing to be with us. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

And- thank you to my dad. Thank you for being my guide, for showing me how to be a man and a good father. I get it now. I am starting to understand the responsibility and the strength it takes to create a family. I know I have a lot more to learn and I'm thankful I have you to help me. I won't take this for granted.

Hot Springs Road.

In the last few years of the 80's we lived in a ranch style house in Montecito CA. 1989 still remains one of my fondest years. My family lived on one side and my cousins lived on the other- only separated by a large breezeway that had two sets of double doors opening up the house. Our parents rented from Dr. David Karpeles the well known mathematician and owner of the largest privately kept historical document collection (now in the Karpeles museum). Karpeles occupied a large mansion and grounds that bordered our humble home. His grounds were some of the most beautiful gardens I've seen to this day. There weren't fences separating the property and as an 8 year old boy this was an open invitation to explore the gardens. Although it was probably not a problem for Mr. Karpeles we thought it was of the utmost importance that we stayed as covert as possible in our explorations. It was a game to see how far we could get, what new things we could find and how close to the mansion we could sneak to without being caught.

To paint a clearer picture of the property there were no less than 3 gardeners on site at all times taking care of the watering systems, ponds, fountains, manicured lawns, fruit trees, flowers, and rock walls that outlined the seemingly endless pathways that cut through every which way. There was a bamboo forest which doubled to us as a sword fight training ground. A few redwood trees jetted up into the sky, one of which had a sort of cradle on the very top that doubled as a human size nest (so I was told, at 8 I was not able to climb that high). A flat area of soft sand like a desert which we called "the dusty dusty dirt" yes, dusty was there twice, I have no idea why we named it that. A literal grove of aloe plants allowed us to get on all fours and tunnel into it for hours.

It was an amazing place. The type of place where as a kid you could make wings out of feathers and actually believe it was possible to fly, which we tried. The type of place where you spent all day outside until you heard Dad whistle loudly which was the signal for dinner. I have memories of silly string fights that ruined the kitchen floor, candle light feasts in the summer, being squirted off with a hose when we came home from the beach, not quite making the jump on the skateboard, life-size home made paper mâché llamas (or giraffes?), rescuing my dog from nuns at the corner elementary school after he snuck in and ate the kids lunches, endless slip and slides, digging in the dirt, climbing up trees and falling out of them, wearing capes, and Family. Lots of family.

To this day all of us are attached. I am blessed to see my cousins every day as we build our studio and art together.

I still get glimpses of what that time felt like, and Santa Barbara still brings back those memories.

Of course from our parents view it wasn't all rainbows, there were tough times us kids were sheltered from. It's amazing what we can be oblivious of as children- but even the parents admit there was something special about that place and time. I'm sure they are still kicking themselves from time to time for not buying the house when it was offered for pennies on the dollar to today's standards.

Nonetheless, it is my goal to give my daughter this same sort of magical childhood.

Challenge accepted.

10 Seconds.

I've been thinking about my mom a lot this week. She was absolutely amazing, and if you knew her you know that. It's fascinating that events that mean so much to people have almost zero affect on other people who haven't experienced something similar first hand.

It's not surprising that we don't feel anything unless we have a personal connection- after all if we did and we read the news our hearts would probably combust. Once you lose somebody so close to you it changes the way you think about tragedy and people going through something difficult.

A close friend in our circle is going through one of these times with her dad right now, its uncertain if he will live and I noticed how much different I felt hearing about something like this now after everything with my mom last year- The strongest sense of empathy I've had thus far.

I was reminded today of something my mom wrote.

10 S E C O N D S

"Don’t we know that beyond loving the people we love, as actively as we can and giving of ourselves and our time to those people and the world if we are able - that the rest is either pretty meaningless or just the details of getting the aforementioned accomplished? Why does it often take a serious illness or some sort of near miss or miss to help us remember and change our lives to reflect what we know is true? Shouldn’t we just be hardwired that way? Why aren’t we?

After a lifetime of trial and error –of making good choices and plenty of really crummy ones - and after all the years of deliberating over life-path choices – it actually took less than 10 seconds for me to know what really mattered to me and what I wanted with life when I was diagnosed. In those 10 seconds all the other stuff I had been carrying around as either what I should aspire to, become, work hard for, hold as worry or fear, anger or old resentments became so very small – or meaningless.

Suddenly my personal bucket list became very clear. 51 years of wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up dissolved and I was left with this rather short list:

1.Actively Love my Loved Ones. It’s pretty much the whole reason I’m here at all. To articulate the love I feel within me.

2.Plant trees and Gardens. Appreciate this Earth.

3.Make Art, Beautiful Food and Write.


It seems like a very short list, I know –but consider how really time consuming appreciating the Earth is. All that appreciating going on and loving people can also be very inspiring. I foresee many paintings and Mosaics in my future… I’ll get hungry which will lead to a great deal of daily cooking and eating…. You get the idea. I’m going to have to live to at least 90 to get through my list at all!...


I want to watch my granddaughter whom I call Owl, and all those grandkids that I just know are on their way soon grow and play and give their parents the run for their money they gave me. I have plans to be the grama that says yes! more often than no –and provides books, a garden to play in and eat out of, tea -parties and space for fort-making. I want to be the grama that lets the kids get dirty and then squirts them off with the hose and sends them on their way. I want to be in a giant puppy pile of grandkids. I want to make trouble and fun so their parents about 1/2 regret bringing them to see me except that we all had such a good time."