January 15, 2018

Christmas is Over


Christmas is over. Obviously.

This year we had a bit of an extended season though, as we had a few Christmas celebrations with my family, before going up north to visit my wife's family, and then came home to an awesome and unexpected snow storm that gave my wife an extra week off of work. The whole thing was really amazing and a great way to end one year and start another.

However, as we took down Christmas decorations, Ellie had a little trouble saying goodbye to the holidays. I totally understand, as I have vivid memories of the day after Christmas (Boxing Day to our northern neighbors) being solemn and feeling a bit empty. Sure, I probably just came off of an awesome Christmas and had tons of new toys and video games to play with, but the whole expectation of the big day is really what makes the season magical. The older I get, the easier it becomes to let go and move on, looking forward to new adventures in the new year; but I can certainly sympathize with my three year-old.



Her experience this year speaks to me though, as I still struggle with letting go of other things -- some physical and others internal -- and move on. With the extra week of time together, for instance, we spent quite a bit of it cleaning house and getting rid of things. I went through my box of "keepsake" items: things more sentimental than practical. These are items I've carried over the years, but rarely do more with than occasionally take a gander at, reminisce, and then place back in the box or a bedside drawer. It begs the question: why do I keep these things? I'm not saying that keepsakes are terrible, but they can certainly add up.

The longer Katie and I have been married, the more simplistic we have become with our lifestyle. We moved our whole life across the country in two cars and a 5x8 U-haul trailer, but I think we desire to cut back even more. With these cuts, however, must come the release of some items that take up space in the closet. And with that release, as difficult as it may be, comes freedom.

A poignant fortune cookie from a trip to Mojo during the holidays.
As I mentioned in the last post, nature beckons us to move on and change with the seasons. The bible supports it too: 
...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12b-14)
And so as we head into 2018, I pray that this year is filled with new adventures and experiences, part of which will inevitably involve moving on from what is behind -- be it clothes, toys, keepsakes, holidays, addictions, shame, relationships -- whatever may be hindering you from moving forward into all that God has for you.

January 8, 2018

Snow


Isn't snow beautiful? Having never lived above 34-degrees latitude, I typically only get to see it on snowboard trips or when visiting my in-laws. This holiday season, however, I have gotten two solid snow storms in only a week's time, and in two locations. The gift has been such a blessing, and as I have gazed at the large fluffy flakes falling in droves, or scanned smooth blue rolling hills, covered in four inches and lit by a full moon, I think snow teaches us some things about God and life.

First: I struggle sometimes with the idea that God could love so many people at once. Often times I find myself in a congested space, or a downtown area, and I look around or at the apartments and town homes near me, and think, Even if God just loved all the people in this area, that would be an incredible thing. But to think that God loves a whole world's worth of people, and has been doing so for centuries upon centuries...well, that is certainly something beyond my comprehension.

But when I look at the thousands and thousands of snowflakes around me, and consider that each one of them is unique, I can't help but think that this is an illustration of the intricate details with which God creates. If he chose to give us this beautiful substance that totally transforms a location, and brings with it a feeling of peace and serenity, when it could have just have easily been clear/blue like water, or brown like mud, and in doing so created each snowflake as a unique piece of art -- maybe he could give us lowly humans attention in a similar way. It makes such a big love a little more possible in my eyes.

A flower on a bush from our from yard.
Second: Snow melts eventually, which can be a bit of a long dreary process. It usually slowly diminishes, getting dirty and icy. As that process begins, a sadness swells inside, as the longing that the pure white substance that makes everything more beautiful would stick around; the soft hue that sparkles in the sun bringing with it some kind of magical power of gladness that overtakes you, warming your insides in a fun fit of irony. Later, however, the wonder of when it fell fades, and before too long it is more like an afterthought of what once was, lying in the shade beside the highway in little grey clumps.

The whole process is like a microcosm of seasons. We may truly love summer and lament its passing as the leaves change colors and the air gets cool; or enjoy the cold air of winter as a nice break from the humidity of the hotter months. But seasons change and we have nothing to say in the matter (save moving to warmer or colder climates). Each season though, brings with it something different -- some aspects we appreciate and others we despise. Either way, it is change and change is good, because nothing lasts forever and there are times in life when we are forced to let go: of people, jobs, places, skills, situations, love. Watching snow come and go is good practice for the bigger and harder things to loose our grasps on in life, particularly because we know it will likely return, but we don't know when or for how long.

Yes, this season I have come to the conclusion that snow is truly a gift from God; for how else would something so beautiful and unique simply occur, unprompted or unwarranted? And like most of what God makes, snow is good in more than one way, the greatest one being a nurturer our souls, which is edged onto maturity and proximity with him as we ponder the beauty of his nature.


January 1, 2018

Introvert


Recently I was invited to speak on a podcast about being a stay-at-home dad. It was super fun and I encourage you to check it out at that link, or below!

In the conversation, the concept of introversion/extroversion came up, and how that relates to being a stay-at-home dad. I said it was good, because in my 2+ years of doing it, I have spent a lot of time by myself or with only Ellie, much of it being when she could not speak in sentences. I remember telling Katie that I could really spend about two full days at home without leaving (save a walk to 7-11 for coffee or a trip to the park) and still be content. By the end of that second day though, I needed to get out. Katie, on the other hand, being an extrovert, could barely make it a day before needing some interpersonal interaction. As I have frequented parks and playgrounds, I have noticed that women tend to be alike in this (with exceptions, of course), often congregating at parks, making play-dates, etc. But without that intentional community-building, stay-at-home life can be quite solitary. As a result, I commented in the aforementioned podcast that being an introvert can be a very good thing in my case.



Lately, however, I have been struggling with my introversion, as I am rarely ever alone! The best definition of introversion that I have been told, is that an introvert recharges when alone, while an extrovert recharges when around other people. This certainly matches my experience, and so things like nap time, or letting Katie go out after Ellie went to bed have helped fulfill this need in the past. I would pour a nice scotch and whip out the computer for a good writing session, or maybe just watch Gotham. Either way, she would come home from a game night with friends and we would both feel rested and recharged.

At this point in our children's ages (2 and 3), I think that I have developed an expectancy that they should be old enough to play together, or even alone at times. Both have showed these tendencies, and when they do, it is kind of nice as I can catch up on things, maybe write a blog or pay some bills. However, these restful times are still the minority of our day, if they happen at all, and so I am finding myself rather spent when Ellie is hanging on my leg and wanting to play, even when Waverly is napping. Like a good introspective person, I was asking myself why I have been so stressed when all Ellie wants to do is hang out with me -- I should be flattered and heart-warmed! Two things occurred to me: first, Ellie is only 3 and friends are not coming over to knock on our door yet, asking if she can "come out and play." (Kids will likely text that request instead of walking over by the time she reaches that age anyway, sadly...) Katie, Waverly and I are her best friends, and so naturally she is going to want to hang with us all the time (Ellie is definitely an extrovert, like her mother). The second thing that occurred to me is what this whole post is about: I am an introvert and without my "recharge time," I will naturally become exasperated.

Does this look like a rested father to you?

And so the solution is also two-fold: first, exercise patience with my little ones. After all, they just want to spend time together, which is something I will long for some day. Second, I need to be more vocal about my needs to be alone. Sometimes it is easy as a parent to just give and give and give, because why not? That's what we're here for. We are grown ups and we can deal with a little stress and exhaustion if it means sacrificing for our families. However, this just isn't healthy, and at these levels of fatigue, I am simply not the best parent I can be. Though for folks like me, there is a certain level of guilt associated with these requests, it is okay to ask for time alone; for a surf or a skate session, or maybe to sit in a back room and read a book.

So if you are an introvert like me, I want to encourage you to be vocal! The request for solitude may just make you a better parent in the end.

December 25, 2017

Moving On


I got the urge to go street skating yesterday. It doesn't hit me too often, as I have been perfectly content skating skateparks for the past several months. Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe just lazy, but letting the ramps do part of the work just fits right now. But I woke up with an image in my head of an old skate spot I had only hit one time in my youth, and so I tried it out. Unfortunately, the school that had an excellent double set with ledges on each side, and a very attainable five-stair handrail, was totally fenced in and unaccessible without a little trespassing involved. I'm not sure how I could explain getting arrested to my wife and kids right now, so I decided to hit the loading docks I had seen on the way, which seemed pretty fun and empty.

It had a nice little drop to bank, with some higher drops nearby and even a big dumpster I tried to noseslide a few times before abandoning the trick. When a skater approaches a new spot, he or she tries to get familiar with some easy tricks, and then dreams up something new and progressive to his or her skill level. Well, if you read this blog, you know that I like to dream, and this is certainly no exception in skating. The problem is that my dreams are often way bigger than my body can handle, so I end up landing somewhere in between. After landing a few tricks, I dreamed up a backside flip into the bank of one of the loading docks. It's not too creative, nor that technical, but it's what I envisioned and so it is what I tried.


This trick sent me into about an hour of seemingly countless attempts, much akin to my yonder days of youth. I used to try tricks hundreds of times, often beckoning my friends to film the majority of them, until I either landed them, broke a board, hurt myself or ran out of daylight (and sometimes even the latter two didn't stop me). Just like my current street skating status, I don't have sessions like that very often anymore, but yesterday was different. Sometimes it feels good to pursue something with passion, even a faded passion that you rarely experience. It even feels good to get hurt, like I still "have it," the ability to push myself beyond my perceived physical limits to accomplish something my mind made up.

The problem with these types of sessions though, is that they usually don't go the way you want them to. I set up two cameras because I thought this might be a nice trick, and am trying to finish Skater Dad II with a big finish. This isn't so different from my experience trying to complete Skater Dad: the movie , though I will admit the pressure I put on myself now isn't what it was two years ago. Anyway, going for this trick brought back old memories that I would rather forget. Skating to an extreme level will expose in you thoughts and motives you may have not been aware of, much the way marriage or a good friend or hiking a really huge mountain might. You ask yourself all kinds of questions in the process: Why can't I land this trick? Should I even be going for this trick? Do I need to have it on video? Why do I care if anyone sees it? Am I shallow, or just crave the attention? Am I too old for this? These questions lead to an internal dialogue with responses of affirmation, deprecation, anger, humor, peace, turmoil. As I write this I realize that all those years of learning to admit, reject or compartmentalize these types of thoughts have led to a certain level of mental strength that helps me on a daily level. So when your kids want to go skateboarding, let them -- when an emergency comes and they need to think quick in a pinch, they'll be ready.

Card full...

I would love to end this piece with a victorious landing of said trick, but that is sadly not the truth. I tried until the batteries on my camera died and the space on the data card ran out, and then called it a day. Cops drove by about four times, so I figured I might get busted at any point (they didn't); the thought of which brought about a certain degree of open-handedness to the trick. When an outside force causes you to quit, it is easier to walk away than when it is up to your own volition.

And so I pushed my body and mind past the point of exhaustion, all for a trick I didn't land. So what is the point? I'm not sure...

It could have been an exercise in mental strength, as I mentioned before. It could have been to help me deal with some issues of comparison, getting older, goal setting, failure. While shooting this new movie, I have taken a little bit of a different approach, and this session was a good litmus for its usefulness. I used to dream up tricks and then try them over and over and over until I landed them. If I couldn't, I would get bummed and go through footage, hoping for at least a good fall and maybe a redemption session once I healed. Lately, though, I have been going to a spot and just doing the best I can, given the time and availability I have to devote to progression. As a result, I haven't progressed as much as I'd like to have -- I have some, just not as rapidly -- but my skating has been way more enjoyable and shooting the video way less stressful. And so yesterday's session was a bit of a throwback to the old ways, and I have to admit that I kind of like the new one better. Trying to do better, but moving on when time and abilities do not permit, and ultimately being okay with that.

So look for an underwhelming Skater Dad II, coming soon...just kidding. I'm still trying to make an awesome video, but as my wife said about the last one, it is much less about my skating and way more about my cute kids coming along for the ride.


By the way...Merry Christmas!!!

December 18, 2017

Wrong Things


I hate to admit it, but I am on a string of domestic mistakes right now, particularly in the area of shopping for our family. In the past few weeks I have bought: children's vitamins for the wrong age, the wrong cooking oil, green olives instead of black, the wrong size diapers, and quite a few other items that weren't the right ones from the list. The good part about it is that it does feel good to return items and watch that money go back into the bank account (even if it will only exit a short moment later with the correct purchase -- ride those highs to get through the lows).

I am a big proponent of the idea that dads can do more than they think they can, but there are some things we just aren't as good at. I don't mean that "we" as a dad-only thing, but more of a personality difference. When I go grocery shopping, I am in and out as fast as I can, mostly because I don't like the crowds, but also because the kids can get a little rowdy in there. My wife, on the other hand, takes her time, reads labels and somehow manages to keep the kids from grabbing everything off the shelves. She also enjoys grocery shopping, where as I merely tolerate it, so I think we're going to hand that responsibility over to her.

Still in my "returns" pile
The same thing happened with our budget. Years ago we decided to start budgeting, and so I, being the man, decided it was my responsibility to lead it. I began an in-depth process of analyzing our spending from the previous year, wanting to create an accurate budget that accounted for a year's worth of contingencies. Well, I got in too deep, and the process took so long that the budget was soon abandoned. Years later, we took the Financial Peace University class at our church, which begins with a budget. This time we let Katie take the reigns and she has done an excellent job for about a year now. I guess we figured out who should handle the money in our family...

It takes a humble man to admit his shortcomings, particularly in traditionally masculine tasks. As for this man: I can't say I don't struggle with not being as good at some things as I wish I was, but I guess that's life. Thank God that he gave me a wife that balances me out, making up for my lack in so many ways. I suppose that's the meaning of one of the earliest verses in the bible on marriage:
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement." (Genesis 2:18 - Holman Christian Standard Bible)

One of my all-time favorite albums. Maybe I need to take a listen!