Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween and the Inundation of "Stuff"

            Halloween with a kid. It changes everything. Suddenly everyone needs a proper costume. At one level, I totally get it. My co-worker’s son has a fireman outfit, complete with firefighter pajamas, jacket, hat and a cardboard truck. That’s cool.
            But Michelle got so excited about Halloween this year that she ended up buying Celia two different costumes. One is a Pegasus/unicorn. The other is a pumpkin. I’m sure Celia will end up as the pumpkin, don’t ask me why, I just think she likes it more. But seriously, two costumes? I don’t care if they did only cost $2 at the thrift store. She only needs one a year. When else does anybody need to look like a huge pumpkin?
            Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps we will find that moment in our daughter’s life, before next Halloween, where someone says, “Hey, we’re filming a scene where we need a baby who looks like a cross between the Ancient Greek flying horse Pegasus, and the unicorn. Know anyone who has not only an adorable and happy child, but also has that kind of costume? We’re desperate!” And we’ll say, “Wow! It’s your lucky day! Our daughter already has her Pegasus costume all ready to go!”
            Not likely.
            I think the costumes will remain a one-day affair, and unless she ends up wearing two tomorrow (which is a definite possibility with kids and their messiness factor), I think we’ll have that extra costume lying around for awhile.
            Of course, now that we’ve got another “pumpkin” on the way, I don’t think we’ll declutter our lives of all this crap anytime soon.
            I think that’s probably the biggest parenting shocker for me, actually. More than the lack of sleep and the achy back. When we were still pre-baby, I actually swore in front of Michelle that we wouldn’t buy any plastic toys, and we’d try to stay away from mass-marketed brands (like Disney, Barbie, etc). Ha! Ha! I laugh even now. How na├»ve! I was a pre-parent newbie. I didn’t realize the full extent our culture has captured us.
            Not only is our house completely full of plastic toys, there are trademarked big-brands all over my kid’s stuff! I’m still reeling. Everything is plastic! Everything! And the branding! “Get them while they’re young!” you can just hear the executives at every major child-marketing institution telling each other.
            They’ve succeeded with my daughter. Her favorite toy, sure enough, is the one passed along to her from a friend. Plastic Mickey Mouse and his friends who pop up when you press, squeeze, or twist the buttons. Egads.
            But here’s the craziest part. Although when I first saw the toy I thought, “There’s no way that’s going into my house!” now that I see how much Celia loves it I smile when I see her play with it. In fact, I even have sunk to naming the well-known names of all the characters as they pop up.
            “It’s Mickey Mouse!” I declare. Celia bounces happily. “It’s Pluto the Dog!” I shout. Celia squeals in delight. Yes, I’m participating in the branding conspiracy! But my daughter is just so cute! I can’t help but engage with her.
            There is more “stuff” in my house than has ever been in my possession at any other time of my life. I constantly tell Michelle to off-load things, which she is more than happy to do (she just sent another package down to my nephew). But then, of course, she always wants to buy something else when she sees it. And so the cycle will probably continue for the rest of our child-filled lives.
            I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing for Celia’s mental well-being. She definitely isn’t anything like kids from the old days, where children only had a few toys so they played with them till they got ragged and worn. Celia doesn’t bother playing with any one toy for very long. It’s like we’ve taught her to get bored easily. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe not. It scares me, but that’s the culture she happens to live in, so perhaps I need to accept it at some level.
            For now, I’m not going to throw away half her toys (which would still leave her with more than I had at her age). And I’m not going to throw away her extra costume. In fact, when I think of what I really need to do next, the most important thing I need to do is come up with some sort of costume for myself that will match my daughter’s pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Human See-Saw

            I have a one-year-old and a bean in the oven.
            Michelle told me a few days ago that she was pregnant while I was on my cell phone, standing at a counter ordering slow-roasted chicken at the Middle-Eastern hole-in-the-wall down the street. Later that night as we sat down for dinner I prayed for our little “bean,” and Michelle said, “Or Beings,” because she wants twins.
            I laughed in the middle of our prayer, because what she heard actually makes more sense. Yes, we have a new being in the house, and already Michelle is way more tired than even a week ago.
            At dinner tonight she asked me, “Was I this tired and emotional during the first pregnancy?” She had tears in her eyes.
            I looked at her and wondered what the best way to respond was. Finally, I just said, “Yes.”
            She looked relieved. “Okay. I’m done.”
            I nodded and held her hand. As if we need more emotional ups and downs right now. At work I’ve been riding a human see-saw. One day the boss is freaking out and insulting people, the next he’s patting you on the back and saying you’re great. Five times since I started working with him a year-and-a-half ago he’s blown a fuse; gone off insulting and demeaning people (well… me, to be precise). Five times I’ve thought of quitting. The last time, a few weeks ago, I actually did quit. I gave a few weeks notice. But then, the last few weeks I’ve just been slathered with pats on the back and encouragements.
            We really need you.
            Stick around till the end of the year.
            He said all of these things nicely at first. But by Monday I was being insulted and devalued again. Michelle and I talked about it (again) last night, and decided, Enough’s enough. He told me to sign something I disagreed with, and said if I don’t then I don’t have a job. But frankly, I won’t sign it. I’m sick of the see-saw. I’ll quit if he demands me to simply submit to his every whim, rather than talk it through.
            But the crazy thing is, today he tried to pressure me, and I said, “Okay, I quit.” But I guess he was bluffing because he became nice again, and convinced me to stay for two more months. And I gave in.
            See-saw. Up. Down. Up. Down.
            Michelle brought a book home from the library a few weeks ago called See Saw. Our little Celia loves it, because it involves lots of singing. If she has her way, she’ll have us read/sing it to her a few times a day. And every time I pick it up I think about how crazy things have been at work. Up. Down. Up. Down. A vocational teeter-totter.
            Today I actually told my boss what I thought. I yelled back when he yelled at me, and when he became demeaning or insulting I said I didn’t deserve that, and I demanded more respect. I feel like I’ve grown more spine today, which makes me glad that I’ve stuck it out this far – I’ve definitely grown, and feel like it’s been a priceless life lesson. But I know that after awhile, if it’s anything like the other times, I’ll get comfortable again and be ready to stick around long-term, and that’s when he’ll demean me and I’ll keep my mouth shut for fear of being kicked out on the street with no work.
            I hate that feeling. I wish I could always just let it out. Like my daughter. This morning she took a big bite of Red River, which is the Canadian version of gourmet hot cereal, full of all sorts of seed-and-grain-looking things. I was all showered up and ready for work, for the big showdown with my boss.
            And she sneezed.
            Seeds and grain-looking things went flying all over my freshly cleaned body. I looked down at the showers of bits covering my arms and chest and burst out laughing.  Sometimes I wish I could just let it all out like my baby. She holds nothing back. Yes, she’s immature, but there’s something about that raw openness that is very human and very good.
            Maybe our goal in life, after all our accomplishments, goals, and achievements, is to sit back, watch our kids, and learn from them. When it’s all said and done, and I hope I don’t sound ridiculous here, it seems to me that if we want to live life well, if we want to actually jump into all the messiness life has to offer, then really, we’ve got to learn to be more like a baby.
            Heck, even Jesus once said you’ve got to be more like a kid to get into Heaven. Maybe this is what he was talking about?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another!

            I rolled out of bed for the second time at 10am and snuck downstairs. The shower curtains were still in the laundry, so I showered carefully and crouching much of the time so as not to splash all over the floor. I gingerly dressed back in the bedroom trying not to wake my sleeping ladies, then gave Michelle a kiss and said, “I’m going to walk, so you can have the car if you want.”
            She was feeling kind of sick, and at church we were supposed to be with the kids, so I figured better for her to stay home rather than spread anything to the little ones. It went well without her. I led a few songs, and instead of Michelle getting the kids to dance around, I got two older kids to do all the movements, which in some ways was even better.
            After the service, I called Michelle and said, “Meet me at the Chicken Shawarma place.” It’s our favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, where they have magnificent skewers of chicken constantly roasting on vertical rotisseries. I ordered us each a plate, then called her to see how far she was.
            “I have news,” Michelle said on my cell phone.
            “Really? What’s that?” I asked, as I motioned the man to add more hummus to the plate.
            “You have to guess,” she said.
            “Um. You ran into a friend.”
            “Nope. Two more guesses.”
            “Um. You’re running late.”
            “Nope. One more guess.”
            “Hot sauce, please,” I said to the man. Then, I said into the cell phone, “I don’t know. You got an important phone call.”
            “Nope,” Michelle responded. “I’m pregnant.”
            “Oh.”
            I looked at the guy dishing up the tabouli and thought to myself, “This is where I find out?” But then again, I suppose the whole fact that the woman has to pee on a stick is kind of a down-and-dirty place to find out anyway. It’s not like the woman finds out while she’s sipping champagne on a cushy sofa and the stick is presented to her on a silver platter. Nope, she’s sitting on the toilet, probably 99% of the time. So, I guess it’s not too weird that I find out about my upcoming second-born in a Middle-Eastern hole-in-the-wall while on a cell phone.
            Another kid. And here I am quitting my job. Although that’s not the first thing I thought of. I think the first thing I thought was, “This is great,” but not much later I though, “Thank God we still live in Canada.” I suppose we won’t be making that move down to the United States we’d been talking about, at least until after July. Now that we’re pregnant, it’s a “pre-existing condition,” so no medical insurance will cover her childbirth down there.
            That’s what happened to my brother and his wife. They got pregnant literally right after her company went bankrupt and he quit his job. They had no health care, and although they tried many different ways to get their childbirth covered, in the end they were stiffed with a healthy hospital bill of over $20,000. I definitely don’t want to be in that situation, so it looks like we’ll be staying in Canada for now.
            It’s amazing to me how even just having a child in the first place is the big life-changing thing. Whatever their personality and issues, simply the presence of a little one changes everything. What country we live in. What kind of place we live in. What kind of work we do. What kinds of activities we get involved in.
            I certainly wasn’t leading the kid’s music time at church before I had Celia. But now, I’m downstairs anyway, hanging out with her, so why not get more involved with the other kids? I don’t care if your child is a troublemaker or a saint. An athlete or a bookworm. Simply having kids is the biggest step I think an adult can take, and learning to be a good parent amidst the smells, whines and misplaced shower curtains is the spice of fatherhood.
            I don’t think anything ever works its way out perfectly, and no parent is ever perfect. Neither is any parenting style. But if we shower our kids with love, positive words, and a healthy environment, we can get through just about anything.
            At least, that’s what it seems so far.
            Ask me in fifteen years, and I’ll let you know how it all pans out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The "Dance"

            Work has been interesting. I take a step back, and the owners take steps toward me. Over the week I’ve had a number of different offers passed my way. Some involved sticking it out with a different role and higher pay (yes, a promotion). Others involve becoming a partner or president in a US-based company.
            What interests me is the psychological dynamic of the relational dance of life. It happens in marriages all the time. One person attempts to get closer to the other and the other moves away. If one person starts to move away, the other will draw closer, in an attempt at keeping a sense of closeness to each other. The difficulty is when two people have a very different sense of space and closeness. Then, it’ll be one big dance all the time.
            Thankfully, with me and Michelle, we both have a similar sense of proximity, and so we don’t do the “dance” the way my previous relationship went.
            But back to work. They offered me these different possibilities, and I found myself being tempted to pursue a number of them. What I’m thankful for is a major distraction coming my way. A major writer’s conference is coming up this weekend, and I have a lot of work to do to prepare. I would love to write for a living (as would many, I’m sure), and I’m going to follow my heart on this one. Yes, I know very few people actually make a living off of writing. Yes, I know there will be hundreds and hundreds of others there all trying to promote themselves. Yes, I know I’m a mostly unpublished newbie. But deep inside, I feel like I’ve still got a glimmer of a dream, and I’ve got to honor that – I’ve got to pursue that dream, even if it means giving up promotions, money, power, and glamor.
            Only a few days to go. I can do this. I can do this. I can.
            I think.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Gaseous Affair

            Lesson #182: DO NOT let your child drink the bath water.
            I’m guessing that’s what the issue was. Not sure what else it could have been. All night long my little darling had terrible gas. It woke her up every hour, or even less, with cries of pain. In the end, Michelle discovered that taking her out and jiggling her on her side helped her pass the gas through. But the farts just kept coming all night long. Ugh!
            The next day we sat down and discussed what on earth she could have possibly eaten to give such bad gas. None of the food we gave her could have. It is possible that she ate something off the floor that we somehow missed, but I think that’s unlikely. The most reasonable solution we came up with was the bath water.
            She’s quite stable in her nightly bath these days, and so I stood in the doorway to the bathroom and discussed some things with Michelle in the kitchen while just keeping an eye on the baby. Of course, she didn’t slip in and drown, which was Michelle’s concern that eventually pushed me to go tend to her again. But what she did do was drink an awful lot of bath water.
            Now, is it the soap or the bits of fecal matter we must have missed during the day? I don’t know. But the lesson is learned. No more drinking from the tub.
            What interests me is that, now that Celia’s older and more aware, we treat her crying quite differently. When she cries during the day, she’s usually either hurt herself or she’s whining. She has other ways of showing us her other needs now. And she obviously understands things, because we can say, “Celia, go get your elephant and bring it to your Mom,” and she’ll huff across the room and do exactly that.
            So, when she cries at night, now, we have more pity on her. Something must be wrong.
            I’ve also wondered about at what age kids get nightmares. I don’t know, but I’m not looking forward to that. It’s one of those supernatural terrors that we really are quite powerless to do anything about, except pray. But even that feels inadequate. Best thing we can do is make sure to be there for when it happens. That way, they’ll feel loved and know that it’s just a night fantasy. In the awake world, there are two loving parents who will always look after her and be there for her.
            I just hope we can distinguish the difference between bad gas and nightmares. It strikes me that, unless ours ears are tuned in properly, they might sound a lot alike!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Harmonica Solos and Being Thankful

            Today I was reminded of why I quit this job. It’s a toxic work environment. People are demeaned and insulted. There’s very little respect. I am so glad to be leaving.
            I still wonder at the future, and what I’m going to do for work, but I am at peace with it all. After work, I was quite upset with my boss (who is only going to be my boss for another week), and I needed to run, work off some energy. I strapped Celia into the jogger, put on a wind-guard, and took her around Trout Lake a couple times. The air was crisp, the leaves were vibrant, and the sun was setting, casting a delicious glow on the placid lake.
            I was taken aback by the beauty, and I had this thought. “Everything’s gonna be alright.” A catchy blues song with those words started going through my head. Paul Butterfield, in between harmonica solos, belting out, “Everything! Everything’s gonna be alright!”
            I felt thankful for my life. For my daughter. For this earth.
            I took my daughter to a pumpkin patch yesterday. It was so delightful to hear her screeching in delight over all the pumpkins. She’d run over to one huge pumpkin, try to pick it up, then waddle over to another smaller one and actually manage to lift it. We had such a delightful time with her.
            She’s really becoming more and more delightful. She pays attention, she listens, she understands. It’s quite miraculous. A couple of nights ago Michelle was putting her to bed, and Celia started to stand up and cry so Michelle said, “Celia, you can talk to your animals until you fall asleep.”
            The amazing thing is, Celia proceeded to do exactly that. She did her little baby babble to her stuffed animals until she conked out. I am in shock. How fantastic is that? It’s adorable while at the same time being utterly convenient!
            We have this huge stuffed penguin that lives downstairs in the living room. Michelle says that Celia plays with the penguin much the same way that we play with her. She rolls around with it and nibbles on it while making delighted sounds.
            She is learning everything from us. And I am so thankful that I am leaving this toxic work environment. We may not live as well financially. Frankly, we may go through some tougher times. But when I think about the positive energy I’ll be bringing home, rather than the weight of a negative environment, I think it is so very worth it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Roller Coaster Road

            My boss took me aside today and made me some nice offers to keep a working relationship with him. It’s amazing to me how quickly things can turn around when you’re bold. I got the distinct impression that he started to look at my replacement cost, and all that I brought to the company, and realized that he really didn’t want to lose me.
            Truth is, I have no problem working with him. It’ll be a lot better than working for him. And I can do it on my own time, in my own way. I’m definitely going to keep this as an option.
            So, I got home yesterday and I just felt like it was a different place. I felt totally at peace. Which is crazy, because we don’t really know what will come to fruition next, but being there with my family I just knew that we’d be okay.
            They say that finances is the number one cause for breakups in marriages. Perhaps this truly will be our trial. I don’t know. But I look at us right now and feel the goodness within our home. Neither me nor Michelle even thought to watch a movie last night. As soon as Celia went to sleep we both got right to work on other things. Excitement is in the air. In a matter of weeks or months we will be facing brand new opportunities. There’s no time to delay. We are pumped up to move forward now.
            Let the roller coaster begin.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Resignation and Feeling Human

            I have resigned.
            I barely slept last night. It was so hard to not wake up and get excited. I kept replaying over and over the possible ways I could approach it; wanting to resign, but also to have a grace period, work the rest of the month maybe, and then be able to work on a contract basis with them so that I don’t completely dry up financially.
            I prayed a lot. I know others were praying for me too. I woke up feeling tired, but energized. I walked into work happy. Frankly, I was surprised how much easier it was to be at work knowing that I wouldn’t be doing it much longer.
            And this is really no offense to them. It’s just trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Can’t do it. I don’t fit. No matter how hard you try jamming me into that square hole, I am not a square peg.
            So, I sat down and they basically agreed to everything I put forward. I can’t blame them; it’s to their benefit as well as mine. I was amazed at how brilliantly it all worked out. I smiled when my boss said, “Now hold on, let me be careful here. You have a shrewd way of getting more out of me than I expected.”
            I simply smiled and thought, “That’s probably my Jewish side.” Only a quarter of me is Jewish, but I like to think of that as my shrewd side. The side that can charge a bit more for something, or pay less than the asking price. Yes, we negotiated and they seemed to like the vast majority of pretty much everything I lay down.
            Ah, relief.
            I feel human again.
            What a big, thrilling, unknown adventure this life of mine has become!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two-Year-Olds Who Sit on You and Take Your Toys

            My Little Pumpkin loves pumpkins!
            Yes, we had our Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday, and a full house of friends and kids running around and dipping their fingers into people’s pies. It was, for the most part, a somewhat chaotic evening. But there was this magical moment where the kids all quieted down, just after serving the pie and ice cream. I looked at everyone around the table and said, “Let’s all share something we’re thankful for. It could be anything, small or huge.”
            I was amazed at how many people shared thankfulness for their friends, and their community. Including me. One of the friends said that when we were gone for three weeks, it made him realize how precious our friendship is. He said, “You can have the most fantastic successes, or all the money you desire, but if you have nobody to share it with, it’s empty.”
            I was touched. It’s true, that absence helps us appreciate how fantastic what we have truly is. We do have it so good. I forget that sometimes, especially feeling like this job isn’t suitable to me. I appreciate my friends very much, and if/when we do move to Montana, I will miss them dearly.
            It was a precious evening. And it was great to see Celia interacting with the other kids. One of the older kids was quite rough with her, and she just took it without even complaining. It was quite shocking to me, actually. If any adult would have done that, it would have thrown her into a tizzy. But having this two-and-a-half-year old sitting on top of her and stealing her toys just seemed to get her going.
            Ah, my daughter is so adorable, it’s almost unbearable. It’s like she gets cuter every day. I can’t believe it. And that certainly does make me thankful.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

When Everything is "Right"

            I am elated.
            All day I’ve been so darn happy. I feel totally excited about life. More than I’ve felt in a long time. I’m amazed at how long it’s taken me to make these steps. I’ve felt the impetus to leave work many times over the last year-and-a-half I’ve been with the company, but finally I’m at a point where I’m going to act on it.
            And I am so excited.
            Once I recognized that it was pretty much only fear that was keeping me in the job, it was easier to make the decision to quit. But that fear is pretty huge. Almost the kind of thing where it deserves a capital letter. Big old formidable Fear. Attacking my freedom.
            I’ve felt imprisoned financially to this work that I dislike for too long now. The only thing keeping me is the hope that all my efforts will pay off financially and get us out of debt. But the truth is, I just can’t make decisions in life based on finances. I have to make decisions based on what’s right. What my heart says, not my pocket-book.
            I had one of those wonderful moments today where everything was right. It was a beautiful day, and after church I decided to take my darling daughter for a run to Trout Lake. The chill in the air was more than I’d expected, so I put up the wind-breaker for the jogger as we trotted past multi-colored trees and wind-swept leaves chasing one another.
            When we got home, I jumped in the shower and put on a scarf. We sat upstairs, me, Michelle and Celia, while Michelle hung the laundry to dry and piano jazz played on the stereo downstairs. I looked at my daughter playing with a scarf, wrapping it around her body and smiling at me furiously, and I just knew that life is good, through and through.
            I said, “Our lives are so blessed. We’re going to be okay. It’s all going to work out.”
            Michelle said, “Yes, I feel it too.”
            We smiled at each other. The decision is made. I know what I must do. I will quit my job. We will move to Montana, eventually. And we will embark on the new challenge of life, not knowing what’s next, praying like mad to survive, but living off of love and a bit of recklessness, because frankly, when it all comes down to it, what else is there in life. I’d rather be poor and living off love than rich and lonely.
            Not to say I don’t want to make money. I still do. But I realize I can’t let finances be what guides me. I must trust my heart, my vocation, and my inner voice. God will take care of us. I trust in that. I don’t know what else I can really trust in, in these kinds of times.
            And I am elated.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Step of Faith

            Last night Michelle and I talked and prayed over our life direction. We opened a nice bottle of wine and wrote down our biggest dreams in life. We also wrote down some of our values in life – what kind of home we want to have, what kind of lifestyle and impact. It was amazing how well our lists melded together – I guess that’s why I married her!
            It became pretty clear that both of our hearts are leading us outside of the city, and closer to my family in Montana. After discussing a bit, we sat and prayed in silence for awhile, then discussed again. Both of us felt a tremendous lightening of heart when we thought of quitting this job and moving to Montana.
            The big question is what on earth this will actually look like. Will I quit soon? Will I keep working on contract for awhile? Will we have to declare bankruptcy? or will we figure out how to pay for this whole thing? What will I do for work? How can I find a job I like during a recession? I have so many questions! But I am so much more at peace today than yesterday, and that is a good sign. We don’t know what the future will bring, how we’ll make it, what work I’ll be doing, but we know that we are in this together, and we are not going to be governed by fear.
            I think that’s the big thing Michelle and I both felt out of all this time; a sense that we can’t let fear be the thing that drives us. In fact, the whole reason I asked her to move out to be with me, and take that phenomenal risk, was from listening to a Bruce Springsteen song, Devils and Dust. There’s the critical refrain: “We’ve got God on our side. We’re just trying to survive. But what if what you do to survive kills the things you love; Fear’s a powerful thing, it’ll turn a heart black, you can trust. It’ll take a God-filled soul, fill it with devils and dust.”
            I remember sitting there trying to decide about Michelle, and that song came on. I sat there and realized, I didn’t know if Michelle would be the woman for me. I didn’t know if being with her would bring hurt or healing. How could I take the risk and ask her to move cities to be close to me? And then, that song came on and I knew; all those doubts I had were really just fear, holding me back. And fear, as ‘the Boss’ tells us, can take a God-filled soul and turn it dark.
            No, we simply cannot afford to be governed by fear.
            I don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know how we’ll make it. But I trust that we will. I trust God to take care of us. I trust that our daughter will be okay if we take risks based on our hearts rather than make decisions based on finances and fear.
            Nobody knows what the future will bring. And neither do we. So, this week, I will give my notice. And I pray to God that we get some good ideas for how to make this all work!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fear and Responsibility

            I’ve got to get out of this job. Why am I still doing this? My boss told me today he almost “downsized” me on Monday, but then a co-worker of mine told him I was still valuable, so he kept me. But he wants me to do more administrative work. Basically, less leadership, more grunt work.
            With such a volatile work environment, why don’t I just move on? Well, maybe it really is all about fear. I’ve got a family to feed, and a basic paycheck that just barely covers our living expenses and pays off the interest we owe. I need bonuses to actually pay off the debt. I don’t like being treated this way, but it’d be hard to move on to a job that pays less. Except that I didn’t get a bonus last month, and now with the changes from earlier this week, I may not get one for quite some time, either.
            In some ways, what’s holding me back is the fact that I have a wife and baby now. With the family comes a sense of responsibility. I can’t just quit and take big risks as if I were single. But then again, my family won’t be as happy if I’m not happy. And when you think of all the factors that are involved in making a decision, fear seems like it should be at the bottom of importance. Things like passion, dreams, relationships, vocation, these should be at the top of the list. And here I am allowing fear to take precedence over all these other values. Hmm. Even as I write it seems like I’m already convincing myself.
            It’s amazing that I’ve lasted this long, actually. But it’s not a simple decision. I need to discuss this with Michelle, and pray about it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Roommate Preacher

            My house-mate gave me an inspiring message today. I told him over dinner that I was thinking to quit my job, but that maybe we’d have to declare bankruptcy, since I have absolutely nothing lined up.
            He’s a loud Mexican man, here to learn English, and when he gets started on a subject he gets passionate. He began to preach to me, “God will bless you. You are already blessed. You have blessed me, and it says in Scripture that when you give even a cold cup of water to one of ‘my sheep,’ it will be returned to you a hundred fold!
            “My brother,” he went on, “You will be provided for. Whatever you decide, God will prosper you. Only make sure that God is first in your lives. When God has priority, everything will work out. You must trust in Him.”
            He went on and on. At different points in my life I might have gotten impatient. Yes, of course, I’ve heard all these things at church. But today, I needed to hear them. I soaked them up eagerly and said, “You are right, Pisho. Tell me more.”
            I need to hear this. I think I’m living in fear more than taking the adventuresome plunge of walking in faith, that God truly calls us to. I go to church, but that makes no difference. The difference is in actually living out the ideas in the Bible.
            Oh man, that’s tough. I’ve got to give this time. I can’t just jump in unknowingly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

High Fives and Understanding

            At my desk every day I see a photo of the family with Celia when she was just a couple of days old. It keeps me grounded, to realize just how much she’s grown in such a short time. She’s a little kid now, more than a baby. She listens to what we tell her to do, and she shows a preference to certain activities over others.
            A friend of ours last night was delighted with Celia. Celia had woken up at 9:30pm because of some serious teething, so Michelle brought her down to see all our friends. Celia squinted her eyes, took some Tylenol, and eventually woke up and started roaming around visiting everyone.
            We said, “Celia, do you want to read a book?” and she went over to her bookshelf and pulled a book off.
            One of our friends said, “What!? I can’t believe it! She knows what you’re saying!”
            We just smiled and nodded.
            I said, “Watch this.” Turning to Celia I lifted my palm and said, “Celia. High five!”
            Celia smiled and lifted her hand. I smacked it with mine and said, “Yeah! High five!”
            “I can’t believe it!” our friend exclaimed. “She’s so smart! And she understands you!”
            Celia grinned and turned to Michelle, who also gave her a high five.
            “I think it helped that we talked to her from day one,” I said. That was our strategy, right out of the womb. I think Michelle read it in a book somewhere, but wherever it was, we took the advice seriously; talk to your kids, and they’ll understand you at a younger age. And now the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Here she is, completely aware of what we’re saying at twelve months old.
            Not that she listens. I told her today to sit down in her high chair. The first time she obediently sat down. The second time, she took a bit longer, and I had to say it a few times. The third time she refused and I had to make her sit.
            Just like many adults I know, there may be a certain level of understanding going on. That’s all fine and dandy. But the next challenge is getting them to actually listen!

Friday, October 2, 2009

One-Year Birthday Balloons

            Happy birthday to my little baby!
            I guess she really is a toddler now. She’s not exactly “walking,” but definitely “toddling.” In all honesty, the whole parenting thing is becoming more and more fun for me. When we show her something new it makes me happy to feel like she understands and appreciates things. We can take her to the park and she’ll light up when she sees someone flying a kite. Or we can take her down the street and she’ll squawk to let us know she wants to play with the other kids on the playground.
            This morning when she woke up at 6:20am we brought her downstairs where Michelle had planted six large helium balloons floating in the living room. The house was utterly clean, and the balloons greeted us warmly.
            “Look Celia! Balloons! They’re for you. For your birthday! You’re One today!”
            She looked up at the balloons with a sleepy smile and started waving her arm up and down excitedly.
            “Yes! You’re One! That means we get to sing to you…” I started singing the Happy Birthday song to her and Michelle joined in. Celia stared with an open-mouthed grin at me, then at Michelle, then back at the balloons as her eyes sparkled. I just know she understands. I think that’s the pleasure I’m experiencing these days with her – knowing that she’s “getting it” when we explain things to her. Sure, she may not remember these exact experiences when she’s older, but she’s taking it all in and it will become her foundation.
            They say that 80% of what adults know about the world is learned in our first five years. That’s a big number, if you ask me. That means that most of the most significant things I can teach my daughter will happen right now. Today. On her birthday, she will know that she is special. She is worth a big party, a ladybug cake (thanks to Michelle), six massive helium balloons, lots of phone calls and presents and hugs. She’s our little precious lady, and today we give her an extra dose of effort to recognize that.
            Happy birthday ladybug!