Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Feeling Guilty About Nostalgia

noun: nostalgia; plural noun: nostalgias

    a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

By its very definition, nostalgia suggest that you wish things could be the way they were before, or that you could go back there, back to that time that must have been better than the time right now.  I mean, why would you long for something that's worse than what you've got now?

Parenting makes nostalgia feel wrong.

A memory came back to me recently, or, rather, came to the forefront, as it was never missing.  It's a nice memory, one that I've never really considered before.  I can't remember ever really wrapping myself in this memory, ever really taking the time to think about it and revel in its embrace.  It was always there, I'd just never given it the time.

I lived at 1716 Edgemont St. for four months before Nicole moved in.  I knew, or hoped, that would be the case when I moved into that apartment.  Nicole had helped me find it, after all, and my goal had been to find a place that she would consider to be Nicole friendly.  She was also my impetus to move at all, as she'd shown me that I could actually get a one bedroom apartment for the price I'd been paying for a studio.  Besides, the studio I had been living in was and always will be tied to my single days.  Nicole and I were serious by this point; it was time to grow up a little bit.

The apartment was the top floor, corner unit.  It had clearly been two apartments, a studio and a bachelor, that someone had combined into a single, one bedroom apartment.

The living room had been a studio at one point as evidenced by the hole in the wall that once housed a
This is a murphy bed, for those who don't know.
murphy bed.  It was the wall that separated the room from the kitchen and that hole was the perfect size for an entertainment center, or a TV stand, which was the extent of what I had.  Still, it was nice to kind of have the TV, DVD player, etc. back inside the wall and not taking up what little space there was in the room.  My old futon was across from the TV as a couch.

Since it was a corner unit, both exterior walls for the living room were made up of windows, tall windows that let in a ton of light.  It was particularly great at night when the lights from the street light up the apartment; it was instant mood lighting.  In the summer time, these windows were all that kept me from expiring, as the cross breeze alleviate the heat just enough to keep me alive.

The bedroom was set parallel to the living room with the kitchen and bathroom in between. It contained perhaps the most interesting aspect of the apartment: the bedroom closet.  It was a big box that they had attached to the wall.  It was a stand alone storage box that they'd just stuck in the corner of the room and attached to the walls.  It was completely out of place and it didn't even go to the ceiling.  There was probably a good four feet between the top of the closet and the ceiling.  We used that as storage.

The cats used it as a launching pad to jump into bed.  We called them Kitty Bombs.

A note about my bed: I bought it for $1100, which was the most I'd ever spent on anything in my apartment, let alone a bed.  I had, up until that point, but sleeping on the aforementioned futon.  But now I was in a one bedroom apartment, not a studio, so it made sense that I should have a bed.  Besides, if this was really going to be a Nicole friendly place, it should probably have a comfortable bed.

I really loved that apartment, even if it was on the fourth floor and the elevator was the size of a port-a-pot, which made moving in a form of legal torture.  For the first nine months, we had to park on the street, and when Nicole got a job working nights, I got up in the wee morning hours when she was done so she could pick me up and we could go park her car together, then walk back to our building, as I didn't want her walking alone late at night.  Then I'd go back to bed for a few hours before getting up for work.  It was a banner day when we finally got parking.

Like I said way up there at the top of this thing, I lived in that apartment alone for four months.  It was the last place I would live alone.  Nicole moved in that August and we have lived together ever since.

But the memory that's been coming to me lately is from the time before that.  It's a false memory, actually, or rather a symbolic one, in that it represents an idea of a time in my life.  It's the memory of my first night alone in that apartment, no doubt bolstered by the memory of any night I spent alone in that apartment, of which there weren't many.

It would have been warm.  It was summer in Los Angeles, after all.  The windows would have been open.  I didn't have blinds, so light would have been pouring in from street lights, buildings, and parking lots.  The apartment was just off Sunset, so there would have been plenty of street noise.  I walked around with all the lights off, just enjoying the sounds of the city, enjoying the moment.

I would have felt so great in that moment.  I had a new place with an actual bedroom.  I had a new bed.  I had a girlfriend.  I was pushing thirty and life was getting better every day.  It was a fantastic moment in my life.

But it was one without my son, one where I was technically still single.  I feel guilty when I feel nostalgic about such things.

I'll admit that there are times when I would love to have moments like that, moments of what can best be described as enjoyable nothing.  An hour of time like that would go a long way.

But I wouldn't give up anything I have now for that, so even that twinge of longing makes me feel bad.  The greatest thing I've ever done is to be a dad.  Nothing has ever been better than this.

Not that I watched it much, but there was an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" where the guys were talking about fantasizing about women and the one married guy said that he couldn't do it, because he would end having to create an elaborate story that involved his wife dying so that he would be single again to have sex with this theoretical woman.  The other guys gave him grief for it, of course, but that's exactly how I feel.

I feel like longing for the past is a betrayal of my present and I never felt that way until I became a father.

Ten years from now, I wonder if I'll feel bad about feeling nostalgic for this moment.

I hope so.

Because that will mean my life is even better than it is now.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's Irish Whiskey Season!

A while back I decided that "whiskey seasons" was a thing.  Bear with me...

I noticed that I was drinking bourbon more than Scotch in the summer time.  My reasoning for this was pretty simple: I only drink Scotch neat, and in the summer time I like to have something at least chilled a little bit.  And since I sometimes drink bourbon on the rocks, voila!  Bourbon became my drink of choice during the summer.

This got me thinking about which whiskey was best for each season.  Winter came to me first, because the holidays always involve things loaded with spice (cake, cider, etc.) which naturally made me think of rye.  So winter was rye season.  This left me fall and spring.

Spring was pretty obvious, too, because there's a holiday ostensibly dedicated to Irish whiskey.  Scotch fell to the fall, then, which actually worked out nicely, as I've become a very big fan of Scotch and my birthday is in the fall (which is usually when I splurge on a really good bottle).

And there it was: whiskey seasons.

My next step was to go a year only drinking whiskeys from that particularly season.  My bourbon summer continued.  Fall came around and I drank Scotch.  Winter came around and I drank rye.  Now it's spring, now it's time for Irish whiskey.

My seasons are broken out in a more practical fashion than the calendar.  I mean, theoretically, winter doesn't start until December 21st, but that's not really true.  My seasons broke down like this:

Summer: June, July, and August -- Bourbon
Fall: September, October, and November -- Scotch
Winter: December, January, and February -- Rye
Spring: March, April, and May -- Irish

Now, you might be thinking "Kyle, this is weird, why are you doing this?"  And I would say to you that I am easily bored and I like to try new whiskeys.

Besides, since I would love to someday open a whiskey (and wine) bar, I can consider this research.

Now it's time for some Irish whiskey.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Appleseed is switching daycares and it's freaking me out a little.

The Appleseed's last day at his current daycare is Thursday, which is probably a few days past by the time this goes up.  In fact, assuming this goes up on Monday, he'll have already started at his new daycare.

The new daycare is going to be better for him.  There are fewer kids.  There's more outdoor space.  It feels like summer camp, actually, because it's located on a few acres of land.  It feels more like a school than his current daycare.  The fact that it's a good amount cheaper than his current daycare is nice bonus, too.

But I have come to like the daycare he's at now.  It's a chain daycare, like chain stores or chain restaurants, and there's a certain amount of sameness to it.  It's very sterile, and not just with regards to being clean.  It feels very corporate, very sanitized.

But the people there have been great with Appleseed.  They really and truly seem to care about him, even if not all of them are as on top of things as I would like.  Fortunately, the less accomplished people generally work with the older kids, something one of the women in the infant room actually mentioned to me when I told her Appleseed would be switching daycares.

It's also the first place we ever left Appleseed.  It was a huge adjustment for us, more or less earth shattering as it completely rocked our world.  And while it wasn't a smooth transition, we go through it, so now I feel like I owe these people.  I feel like they helped us through this incredibly important period of our lives...and now we're leaving them.

Appleseed is going is go through a lot of people in his lifetime.  I don't remember who took care of me when I was less than a year old; I don't expect him to remember, either.  But I'll remember these people.  I'll remember all of this.

And I'm freaked out by this because that's how I am and because I'm never 100% positive I'm doing the right thing.  Appleseed clearly likes the people who take care of him now and he even seems to have made some friends, such as they are at this age.  Who am I to take that away from him, even though he doesn't care at all?

I know this is a better situation for him.  I know he'll be thrilled with the new place in just a few days because that's just how awesome he is.  But this is another big change in his life, just like starting daycare was.  It's stressing me out.

I'm sentimental.  I've always been sentimental.  It's only getting worse as I legitimately have things to be sentimental about.

I should probably start getting used to this.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sweet fancy Moses, my son is turning one!

My son (known on this blog as The Appleseed) turns 1 this week.  And this could be the first time I've legitimately freaked out about a milestone for him.

It's not just that he's turning one, which is, I admit, insane to me.  But it's that daycare graduates him from the infant room to the toddler room.  He's a toddler now.  And that definition probably wouldn't mean anything to me if he weren't walking all over the place these days.  Crawling is no longer his default mode of transportation.

He's not a baby anymore.

And that's a weird thing for me to save given that he's still not all that stable when it comes to walking and that he primarily communicates in "da da da da" and "ba ba ba ba" or "ma ma ma ma."  He still drinks from a bottle (although not for much longer).  He still only has four teeth.  He's still in diapers.  So saying he's not a baby anymore is a bit strange, because he still completely dependent upon us.

But he's a little person now.  I'd say he has a personality now, but he's had one from the moment he was born.  I suppose it's just clearer now.

And the depth of his dependence upon us has lessened a bit.  Not much, really, but enough that we notice.

He's becoming a little kid.

There's also the simple fact that I both can't believe it's been a year and that it's only been a year.

It's also amazing how I've adapted to living my sleep deprived again (that's another story entirely).

Anyway, I decided to dig into the vaults and pull out the first blog I ever posted after Appleseed was born, which is mostly made up with something I wrote in the hospital the next day.  I haven't re-read it in a while, so this should be interesting...

Roughly 19 hours after my son was born, I began to freak the fuck out.

It was while I was walking, for the third time that day, from our room in the recovery ward to the hospital cafeteria.  This was the first time I actually had some idea where I was going and the first time I managed to not get lost either on the way there or on the way back.

I was tired.  I was beyond tired.  If I was running on more than 4 hours of cumulative sleep over the last two nights, I’d be shocked. I wanted to go to bed, but my ability to do so was being controlled by this new little person in my life.

And I began to think about how all the time in my life was going to be sucked away.

Truth be told, the fact that our son is going to absorb the vast majority of my time isn’t really that big of a problem. I waste a lot of time. Hell, just my wasted time will cover a big chunk of his needs.  And while the inevitable cutting down on the things I want to do is upsetting, what was I really doing with that time, anyway? I don’t really do anything that can compare with raising my son.

No, what terrified me was the fact that I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.  My old life –and that’s what it is, a whole other life prior to this one –was comfortable.  I knew it pretty well.  It wasn’t always inspiring and It was always enjoyable, but it was the devil I knew.  I don’t know this new life and I don’t know how any of the pieces of the old one that I want to keep will fit into it.

Even simple things like phrases Nicole and I used during our old life make me feel panicked.  It’s as if those phrases no longer belong here.  The Reckoning came and our little jokes about the silly little things in our life before we became parents no longer matter.  It’s a strange reminder of what we’ve lost, even though we’ve gained so much more.

I don’t know how I’m going to sleep.  I’m terrified something will happen to my son if one of us isn’t awake with him at all times.  And then I wonder how that would even be possible and I wonder if I will ever not feel guilty about wanting to go to bed.

I wonder why we decided to do this.  Was it hubris?  Did we just want so badly to leave our mark on this world? Were we selfish do bring him into this world?  Why does anyone have kids?

But then I think about how great he is and the fact that he wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t done this.

I spiraled again in the 20th hour.  I was overwhelmed.  I saw my amazing wife forming this wonderful bond with our son the way that only a mother can and I saw a peacefulness in her, a sense of knowing.  She knew, without question, that this is what we’re meant to be doing.

I wish I had that confidence. It is not, I’ll admit, a new phenomenon.  I have never felt confident in most things I do.  Second guessing this new life was inevitable.

So where does this leave me as I sit here in our hospital room, watching the second hand on the big clock on the wall as we tick closer and closer to the completion of my son’s first 24 hours on this earth?

It leaves me, as usual, at odds with my own emotions.

Part of the difficulty has come from our environment. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change the time we have had in this recovery ward for all the money in the world. We have learned so much from these amazing nurses I can’t even do it justice explaining it.  But we’re here just as much for Nicole as we are for our son because she’s recovering for a traumatic ordeal.  This means that Nicole is constantly busy, which is just unbelievable.  She’s doing so much at once.

And our son is just here to feed and sleep and go to the bathroom.

Ultimately, this means I’m sitting around waiting to be of use, which is in some ways worse than being busy.  I only ever notice how tired I am when I don’t have anything to do.  When I’m in the thick of it, adrenaline takes over.

But I’m also a paranoid first time parent, so I have trouble sleeping if I have any worries about our son.   

Even if Nicole is nursing and has no need for me to be awake, I won’t be able to sleep, just in case.

If we were home, that much would be easier.  I (and Nicole, for that matter) could go to another room to sleep and at least force us into an out of sight, out of mind type scenario.

The other upside of being at home is that there will always be stuff to do.  There will be laundry to wash.  There will be dishes to wash.  There will be a whole house to take care of – the garbage alone will keep me busy.  The sleep deprivation will inevitably be easier to deal with if I’m busy the whole time.

There’s also the simple fact that being here at the hospital underscores the fact that Nicole is dealing with so much – a lot of which I can’t help her with.  The fact that Nicole is still dealing with what happened to her is hard for me because I want her to be okay.  I may be staying awake because I’m worried about our son, but I’m also staying awake for Nicole.  Going home will, even if it’s not true, make me feel like she’s doing better.

There’s also a strange sense of urgency being here.  Because we have so much support, I feel like I have to figure everything out before we leave because we won’t have a call button to hit when we get into jams.  But we’re never going to know everything we need to know.

I’d also really like to sleep in my own bed again, even if it’s only for an hour or two at a time.

It’s now Monday morning. We’ve been at this hospital for 86 hours.  We’ll probably leave in a little bit.  Nicole had a headache which has turned into a full blown migraine, so she’s sleeping.  Appleseed is sleeping in the mobile changing table/bassonette thing they have here.  He’s just absolutely amazing.

I’m looking forward to going home.  I’m looking forward to trying to relieve some of my guilt when we see our cats.  They’ve been like children to us for so long and we’ve suddenly replaced them.

Did I mention that Appleseed is amazing?

I don't think I can say that enough.

But I'm sure I'll try.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dr. Jones, No Time for Love

My blog has gotten a lot of traffic lately.  I've even gotten a decent number of new views of my Facebook page, as Facebook has kindly informed me.  Clearly, my biggest problem was that I was actually updating.

A year and a half ago or so I decided I was going to try to chronicle both my wife's pregnancy and life as new parents.  I chugged along for a while, bursting with ideas.  Every single moment of our new life was suitable for a story.  At the very least, I was preserving these moments for myself, even if no one else read or enjoyed them.

But, you know, there's a job and there's a baby and there's a house and sometimes I even like to see my wife.  The time for reflection starts to fade away.  It happens in those few minutes before I manage to fall asleep or while I'm driving to work.

I will never be able to write in the morning.  I think the belief that you're most creative in the morning is a completely valid one, and I find that a lot of the ideas that come to me on my morning commute are the best ones.  But the Appleseed wakes up whenever the Appleseed wants to wake up, and Nicole works long days, which means I'm often getting him ready the morning by myself.  I could get up at 3 AM and still never find a half hour of time to write.

So I have to write at night.  The Appleseed needs more sleep than I do, even if he refuses to accept that reality.  But he's not a fan of sleeping through the night and, again, when he wakes up for good is a crap shoot.  The only safe thing to do is to go to bed as early as possible.  In a perfect world, we try to go to  bed early enough to get 8 hours of sleep.  We never get them.

This ultimately boils down to about 2 and a half hours of time between when the Appleseed goes to sleep and when I do, assuming I'm not living on the edge and staying up later.  But in those two and a half hours I have to get all my daily activities done.  I have to eat and maybe make my poor, overworked wife some food, too.  There are dishes.  There are all the various cat things (litter box, food, hairball treatment).  There are any number of various and sundry other tasks that need to be addressed after a day stuck in a cubicle and my morning and evening spent hanging out with the most wonderful baby in the world.

In the end, I'm probably left with an hour.  I have an hour to do whatever I want, and often what I want is to do nothing at all.  I want to surf the internet and watch TV.  I want to read comics.  I want to do anything but sit down at a desk again.  And I can't even imagine trying to write, particularly with a countdown looming over my head telling me how long I have until I have to go to bed.

So when am I supposed to get any writing done?

There's one piece of advice that every professional writer and professor I've ever had any interaction with has given out and it has always killed me a little bit: write every day.

I suppose I do, to a certain extent.  In some way or another, I suppose I put words down in a Word doc.  The problem is that I don't know how much progress any of those words are making, I don't know that they're moving me forward.

But I suppose this blog isn't necessarily moving me forward, either.  Or is it?

If I want to make myself feel better, I can claim that any writing is worthwhile writing as it's working out the writing muscle.  I think there's some validity to that, although it would be easy to point out that I could be working on my books or short stories instead.  But it's not realistic for me to be able to do that, say, at work, whereas blogging I can squeeze in.

There's also the simple fact that, aside from perhaps Facebook where I'm only writing status updates, this blog represents my public face.  The easiest way to find something written by me is to look at this blog.  That's kind of freaking me out as I type it, because this is just a blog, and more often than not I barely manage to catch all the typos.  Still, I suppose this is a decent snapshot of my writing world, if nothing else.

None of this answers the question: when am I supposed to get any writing done?  Because there's really only one answer: I have no freaking idea, at least in any structured sense.

So I bought a cheap laptop with only enough memory for Word docs so I can write anywhere.  And I'm trying as hard as I can to get myself in front of the computer for at least a little bit of time at night.  But it's so hard when you know your time is limited, that no matter what you might be doing or how well it's going, you're going to have to stop because you have other responsibilities now.

My son will be one soon; maybe I'll get this figured out by the time he turns two.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dancing Machine

My son likes to dance.  Well, he bobs his head which causes his body to kind of rock forward and back.  Recently, he's started shaking his head, too, when he's really rocking out, which is awesome and reminds me of the Lalapalooza episode of the Simpsons.

He didn't pay any mind tot he Superbowl halftime show until Missy Elliott came on and then the head bopping started, so he clearly has good taste.  He's also a fan of "We're Here to Save the Day" by Constellations.  He dances to pretty much any song about the ABCs.

I drum on myself.  I'm sure you know someone like this.  When I'm waiting for something and I have nothing to keep me occupied, I drum on my body: one hand on my chest, one hand on my stomach.  The funny thing is that I can't play the drums at all.  Evidently adding in my feet is too much for me, but I can keep the beat pretty well when I'm only using my hands.

A few weeks ago, Nicole was on the floor, playing with Appleseed, and I was standing up, waiting for something.  And I started drumming, like I do.  And Appleseed started dancing.

I was beyond thrilled.  He was dancing to my stupid ass body drumming!  My son was bopping his head along to the beat that I was playing!

This wasn't a one time thing, either.  While he doesn't always dance when I drum, he does it more often than not.  It's particularly great when I'm making him food and he's sitting in the high chair, starting to get antsy.

Why is it so great?  Because I'm doing something that brings him joy.  I mean, sure, I do a lot of things that make him happy, I know that.  He's a happy kid and while a lot of that is simply is nature, I think some of it is the fact that we give him a ton of positive attention.  He has no reason to be anything other than happy (although babies always seem to have a reason).

It's a preternatural connection.  There's no genetic component that would make him more likely to respond to my crazy body drumming.  He hears better drumming all the time, given how often we listen to music.  But something about it coming from me, coming from right there in the room, maybe because it's live, gets through to him in a way that most other drumming doesn't.  And it's just drumming.  There's no music, just the sound of my open hand hitting my chest.

It's something that I've always done making him happy.  It feels like only my son would react like this.

Nicole asked me the other day if all babies enjoy music the way the Appleseed does and I guess that probably they do.  But it's certainly something I'd love to nurture in him.  While I've always been a fan of music, my tastes were fairly myopic, and I'd love to help him have a greater appreciation for all types of music.  I'd like him to have a greater appreciation for pretty much everything, a greater appreciation than I ever had for anything.

He appreciates my drumming, which is more than enough for me now.  I drum, he dances, and we smile and laugh.  My weird tic has finally paid off.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lift Off! The Appleseed is Walking

He took 8 steps and stopped, not because he was off balance, but because he'd reached his destination, which happened to be me.  He walked from his Learn and Groove Musical Table to me and it took him 8 steps.  And then he stood there.

I wanted to move back, but by that point he had his arms out and had grabbed my leg, so it was too late.  I have no idea how far he would have walked had I been further away.

So the Appleseed is mobile now, or more mobile than he was, and he was pretty mobile before.

My wife has been going through the whole "my baby is growing up too fast" thing for a while now, even though Appleseed isn't quite a year old.  It hasn't really been an issue for me, although it is crazy to see pictures from just a few months ago.

The walking thing is going to do me in, though, I know it.

I can't wait for him to walk (more than just 8 steps).  I think it's going to be a lot of fun and totally stressful.  But he's so happy now when he walks and there's nothing better than seeing him walking towards you.

The cats will be in trouble soon.

I just got home from picking him up at daycare.  He took 8 steps to me when I got there.  Apparently, he took 8 steps during the day today, too.

We're not prepared for him to be able to walk by any means, although I sometimes wonder if it's possible to be totally prepared.  I feel like we could lock down and clean up every inch of this house and a mobile baby will find a way to get into trouble.  I feel like that's just what babies do.

"Baby."  He's going to be one in a few weeks.

At some point, I'm going to be carrying him around, squeezing him and giving him kisses the way that I always do, and he's going to try to squirm out of my arms because he'll want down.  He'll want down because he can walk and walking is new and exciting and he should want down.

And it will be sad.  He probably won't enjoy being carried around as much anymore.

It's hard to wrap my brain around the idea that he's going to be one soon.  That he'll be walking and he'll be one.

I'm really going to be in trouble when he starts talking.