Lost and Found

Essay

I spent a good portion of my twenties wishing I was doing something else or was somewhere other than my current situation. I would think to myself, If I could just get to this point, I would be happy. If I just did this more, I wouldn’t feel this way.

In 2008 I was hired as the graphic designer for a living history park. I can honestly say that I loved going to work. We had only planned on staying in Utah for three years but since I had found a job that I actually enjoyed we decided to stay longer. Then, on a Monday two weeks after Noah was born, my boss called me at home and asked me to stop into his office when I got to work. When I got there, he told me they were going in a different direction and they were letting me go. I knew I’d been doing a good job, but just like that it was over. I went home, and after some soul-searching my wife and I decided that the most logical thing was for me to stay home with Noah, even though this was not part of our plan.

I thought that I had figured it out, that with the job at the living history park I was finally able to define who I was. Then the job was gone and I felt lost and completely uncomfortable in being defined as just a stay-at-home-dad. At first I tried to do some freelance design work. Then I began writing this blog but soon became more concerned with how many people were viewing it and how often I was posting, and it became more stressful than fun so I stopped. After so much time spent on the computer writing, I drifted into painting, which led to printmaking, which led me to turn our shabby garden shed into a shabby but functional art studio. Every month or two I would freak out and exclaim that I could no longer do this and I needed to get a job. Then I would come to my senses. I looked into being a volunteer Chaplain at the VA but found that, unfortunately, the time commitment was too great. I looked into ski patrol, but for the same reasons I decided against it. My painting turned to sketching and then to watercolors, which were easy to transport when I was out with Noah. I would try running now and again but it never stuck. So I stayed with the art, even though what I put on the page or the canvas never looked like I had planned it to. I did a lot of journaling for myself and the boys, and spent a lot of time putting my sketches onto my blog and looking at other people’s sketch blogs and wishing I was as good as they were. Then my dad’s cancer treatment stopped working and his health deteriorated fairly rapidly and I wrote poems nearly everyday to cope with it. After he died, I stopped sketching and soon journaling but the poems continued, for a while. Then it all stopped. It was all just too hard.

We moved back to Vermont and I again tried freelance graphic design only to discover that I really did not like being a graphic designer anymore. I was really struggling with the loss of my dad, the move, the stages the kids were in, and who I was. Then I began to trail run and it felt right, so I kept at it and that helped release some of the pain and frustration I felt and the extra pounds I was carrying. Yet something was still missing. I wanted to be writing more. Then I would remember the stress that having the blog caused me and I would think, I’ll write when the kids are in school and I have more time.

This past winter I began journaling again and I started carrying a small notebook in my pocket again. I got rid of all my old ideas that what I put in the small notebook had to be good, and I just put everything into it, thoughts, things I would hear, descriptions of people, the start of essays, poems, and random notes. Then I decided I would start writing for this blog again on a regular basis. I came up with a posting schedule and I developed an editing system. I read a book about writing called Writing Down the Bones and it opened my eyes.

When I recently agreed to write a monthly column about parenting for our local paper, it occurred to me that God had a plan that was not anywhere near my plan, but it was obviously a better plan. As hard as it is to stay home at times, it has allowed me to try all these different things with little risk. We have a greater freedom to spend time together as a family, and my writing has given me a creative outlet and a way to capture the little moments in life that are often lost to time. Running allows me to satisfy the adventurer in me and gives me time to clear my mind. I’m no longer looking for something else or thinking if I just do this I’ll feel better. I finally feel comfortable in the definition of who I am: a runner, a writer and a stay-at-home-dad riding the coat tails of his boys’ imagination.

A Letter For Noah On Your 2nd Birthday

Essay

10-19-11
Dear Noah,

Another year has gone by. There are moments as of late where I stop in the middle of what I am doing and think, my goodness you are two. So much has happened in these last twelve months that I could write a book, if only I could remember half of it.
Last year at this time we were waiting for you to walk, and now you move so fast and with such purpose, there are days I struggle to keep up with you. Your personality has grown right along with you and it has been amazing to watch you turn into a caring gentle little boy who comes running when his little brother starts to cry. You are so helpful, pointing out and then throwing away garbage, though there was a time when it was not garbage at all and I found myself digging through the trash. You let us know when you have made a mess, by saying “mess” “mess” and then asking for a towel to help clean it up.  Sometimes you like to clean just for the fun of it.
You gave us quite a scare in Florida when you ended up in Pediatric ICU with RSV.  I have felt absolutely helpless a handful of  times in my life, but never as much as I did for those three days sitting at your bed side.  Ever since that trip there are nights when you wake up scared and I have found myself sleeping on your floor, next to your big boy bed, in [close space] the old sleeping bag your grandpa gave to me when I was a boy.
A year ago you said a word or two, but mostly used sign language, then you began to talk up a garbled storm, and now you speak in phrases, such as, “I want to dig.”, “Nana better than Momma” (that made Nana’s day), “I want to go down.”, “Truck, guy driving.” , “Luke crying.”  When we don’t know what you are saying you are not satisfied until we figure it out, never have you allowed us to get away with saying “that is good” and then moving on. We hardly carry you anymore. When we walk you hold onto my finger and know took watch out for cars, to look both ways before we cross the street and to stand aside on the trail when a bike comes along. You love to pretend to pee in the woods, complete with the shake and the zipping of the zipper, sometimes stopping every few feet to do so.  On our hikes, you are tired of walking; you are no longer happy riding in the kid carrier preferring instead to ride atop my shoulders while I have Luke on my chest and a backpack on my back. This works out well until you fall asleep and I have to fireman carry you back to the car.  You love ­to go driving knowing that getting in the car means a new adventure and there is a chance of seeing some kind of large vehicle on our journey. A few times during our trip to Montana I let you sit on my lap and “drive” through the empty parking lot back to the condo where we were staying.
This summer you got your first shiner at daycare, where you have been called the cleanest eater of the class when it comes to eating yogurt, which has been your staple food for the better part of the last year. You never go anywhere without MoMo, your stuffed monkey.  We thought ahead when you first started carrying him around and got a second one, you can tell the difference between them though just by looking at them, and Monkey does not hold the same status as MoMo.  We have been to the zoo so many times this summer to see the monkeys, tigers, ride the train to watch the rhinos “mow” that I am surprised they do not know us by sight. When we went this last time just a few days ago you were more interested in watching the construction of the new exhibit area than you were at looking at the animals.  When you finally got bored with the construction, you weaved your way through the school groups and pushed your way past the older children to get up to the exhibits so that, with wide eyes, you could watch the animals. You have a regular zoo of stuffed animals in your bed with you at night, including a moose of which we have seen many this past year, along with the foxes on our trip to Montana that would come right up to you and sniff wondering if we had any food to give them.
Together you and I flew back to Vermont to visit Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Tycen, it was a bit cramped on the plane with you sitting on my lap but we made it work. Once while you were sleeping you twitched and stuck your hand right into the drink of the lady next to us. We also went to see Nana and Grandpa in Michigan. On every flight your favorite thing to do is to stare out the window and watch all that is going on before the plane takes off. We watched the horses in Vermont and tried to catch minnows in Michigan, we ate fruit and dug in the sand at the beach. We have flown so much this year that you know that MoMo has to go through the x-ray and you need to take off your shoes when we go through airport security.
There are so many things that happened this year, and with each word I type a new memory comes to mind. I have been your jungle gym, all your teeth have come in, we have built countless tunnels with the pillows from the couch, and collected many rocks while on walks both in the city and in the mountains.   You like to make noise with parts of vacuum and other random house hold items, though you never make a vroom sound; you just say “noise” over and over.  You have become quite the chef with your “cooking” in the pots and pans and then when you are tired of that you head outside to dig, on hot days making your way between the sandbox and the pool several times. You have gone from stacking one color of Legos together to drawing on your easel and putting the track of your train together. Other than MoMo, Tigers, trains, trucks and tunnels are your favorite things.
I am truly amazed at all that has happened in the last year and when I think of how fast it has gone and how much you have grown I feel a little bit of sadness, knowing it will be all too soon that I will be writing about your first day of school.  Though the one thing you have taught me this year is to focus on the now and not the future or the past. For right now, when you are in the moment is when you have the most fun.

Happy second birthday, Noah!

Luf,
Daddy

 

I Got Me A Sugar Momma

Essay

Back in 2005 I purchased a Subaru Outback Sport.  It was red, I was single and it only had fifteen miles on it.  I never thought to sit in the back seat.  That little car took me to and from the mountains on the snowy back roads of Vermont, hauled me, my mom, two bikes, and several dozen small cans of real Vermont maple syrup across the country on my move west.  It propelled Erin and me to many National parks and out of the way places throughout Utah and Wyoming. It has carried skis, bikes, search and rescue gear, sod, groceries, furniture and crystal glasses, Leunig and our little family all around the Salt Lake Valley and beyond.

I had been aware of the lack of space in the back seat of the car for a long time, but since I was always the driver or in the front seat I did not worry about it too much—until we placed Noah’s car seat in there and it was clear that our family had almost outgrown my beloved car.  A short eleven months later that time has come, we purchased a larger car seat and after some grunting, swearing and sweating I got it installed into the back seat of the car.  There was only one small problem.  The only way to get Noah into the car seat was from the opposite side. The door frame was too small for him to fit into, unless we folded him in half. Taking a 20+ pound squirming child scrunching yourself down, so you can both fit in the door, and that sliding/ knee walking across the back seat to place said child into car seat is not an enjoyable experience. Taking them out is even less so.

We switched cars and weighed our options.  I needed the all-wheel drive car more than Erin did as well as the car that could carry Leunig and Noah at the same time.  My car was a standard which Erin was not very excited about driving.  When she asked me to park the Subaru on the flat part of the driveway I knew this was less than an ideal situation we were in.  It was decided that the next day Noah and I would go look at cars.  That is all just look, to get an idea as to what would be best.  We looked, we drooled, I asked lots of questions, and then the salesmen asked if we wanted to take a test drive.

I wrestled the car seat out of our car and into the new car. The back seat was like a banquet hall and the salesmen who was the about the size of the BFG said he could sit in the back seat with the front seat all the way back and still have room to spare.  The car also had a moon roof; I have always wanted a moon roof.  As a perk if you got the moon roof the car came with a back-up camera. This seemed strange to me and I asked the salesmen why this was; he had no idea.  Then it occurred to me that moon roofs are flashy. My guess is mostly men want them  which can be a hard sell to their wives, but if you tell your wife that you get a back-up camera with it she is more likely to allow it because of the safety factor.  The designers at Subaru are clearly very clever and married. After the test drive Noah was asleep and I was ready to sign on the dotted line.

That evening the entire family was back to check out the car.  Soon I was cleaning out my car. As I crawled around pulling out various odds and ends I was hit with a bit of sadness.  I had purchased this car on my own, no co-signer, no having my folks look at it before I signed on the dotted line, nothing like that.  They would give me $400 for my trade in and I just prayed it would start when they went out to inspect it.   Since this new car had lots of room and a moon roof, the sadness did not last very long.  As we came up to stoplight on our way home later that night, Erin looked at me and said, “Wow you really do have a sugar momma.” I looked around at my new car, at Noah sleeping in the back seat banquet hall and up at the moon roof, and knew she was right.

Dear Noah

Essay

Dear Noah,

A year ago today, you came into this world and we learned that you were a boy and had a fantastic set of lungs.  From the very moment of your arrival it has been nothing short of an amazing adventure.

You have grown up so much in the last year it is hard to believe that you once fit in the crook of my arm.  When your muscles were too weak to hold you up we would prop you among the pillows on the couch, and this morning you sat next to me while you drank your milk and I my coffee.  I have watched with great interest as your personality has appeared and you have become your own little person who knows, for the most part, what he wants and can in your own way tell us.  From army crawling to cruising you have kept me and the dog on our toes as you have explored every inch of the house; now we wait with baited breath for you to take your first steps and to move your already quick pace up yet another notch.

We gave you your first bath on the kitchen counter. You screamed the entire time.  Now you hardly fit into your little whale shaped tub and the only reason you get out of the water is because we make you.  In your first three months you screamed whenever we put you onto your belly and now you lie down to look under the bedroom door at the cat sticking his paw out from the other side.  You know what it means when I tell you we are going to go for a walk and you love to wave at the passing cars and people as we go along. Your squeal of delight when your mom comes home brings a smile to my face each and every time.  The way you wave from the front window as one of us leaves does the same.

I have watched you grow and change each and every day and I am so happy that I was laid off. I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing. This year I have had some hard times , but everything seems ok each  time you wrap your little arms around my neck and give me a hug or fall asleep in my lap. This coming year will be filled with an entire new set of adventures that I cannot wait to experience with you.  Being a dad certainly is the ultimate rush.

I Love you, Noah. Happy Birthday.

Luf,
Daddy