Category Archives: Storytime

Perfection

I met my son for the first time 1 week ago today. And I won’t say I wasn’t scared to hold him the first time.  There was a lot of responsibility in accepting the 6ish pound bundle.  I won’t say I wasn’t scared that something might be wrong with him. Because we were sitting in an operating room instead of delivery room. The beautiful Hannah was numb, cut open and behind a tarp instead of comfortably in a bed screaming “You did this”.

But when the nurses handed him to me I knew he was perfect.

He was tightly swaddled so I couldn’t see his hands or toes quite yet. But I could see his eyes checking out everything around us and responding to Hannah’s voice because that was the one he knew. Looking into his eyes I knew he was amazing.  When Hannah asked what he looked like all I could say was “perfect.”

She was able to see him and hold him closer in the next couple minutes but I was able to stare at him while she was sewn back up.   The bonding thing was happening.  That x-factor was there that made us instantly bond.  Allowing me to bond with this new creation that I’d never seen before but seemed to have always known.  It took a few more days for me to be tired of staring at him. To be fair I was completely tired of everything by that point and wanted sleep more than anything I’d known of life…

I was tired of not being able to know what he needed and how to provide it or if I could. I was tired of the late evening grocery and house stocking runs. Of wanting to get things done so beautiful Hannah did not think I didn’t have time. I was also sick of him sticking his foot in his diaper when I changed him. And him not fitting in any of the newborn clothes we had. Because, well, my son will most likely become large later in life but is a tiny bundle today.  He is just perfect.

Unlike him, I am far from perfection.  I keep letting him stick his foot in his diaper because if am distracted by not having the Vaseline or wipes open.  While going to get food and diapers, the only essentials now, I take corners too hard and jump curbs…but not just any curbs, the one with large ornamental rocks, that bust up the underside of my and the beautiful Hannah’s car… on the night before snowmeggdon hits our fair city and most likely will fill up the body shops with far worse issues than a small hole in some plastic.  And I have all of the concerns of most first time parents probably.  Why so much poop? Why so little?  Why is his foot doing that?  What happens if I drop my phone on his head?  Where is the children’s ER again?

But he is perfect…until he tells me otherwise.

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2013 2nd annual honeymoon

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Last year in the mayhem and madness of getting married I grew very excited about going on a vacation with the beautiful Hannah.  So as I planned the trip out it went from a vacation to an amazing honeymoon to “our 1st annual honeymoon”

In that vein,  this August we packed our bags again for 2500 mile+ roadtrip.

Unlike last year, I didn’t make any culinary adventure plans as we have found we are disappointed by the food outside of our fair city.  In fact we ate many meals that we spend effort to avoid here in Portland.  Don’t tell my doctor or her naturopath but pop tarts, packaged danishes and McDonalds were eaten.

We visited our favorite national parks, or I should say we showed the other our favorite national parks.   After a couple failed attempts over the years, we went to Crater Lake in southern Oregon.   Her initial response would have made her godmother proud, “Is that it?”

She liked it but not as much as I did 5 years ago when I bought an annual pass and went back 6 times in all seasons of that year.  A few days later, we took an early morning drive through Joshua Tree in southeastern California.  It was the opposite- dry, arid and hot- but it might have been more enjoyable to both of us, as it was new for me and still her favorite national park.

We also went through a couple cities that are tourist destinations…for retirees and gamblers.  We are neither and so didn’t enjoy them as much as we could have.  We lost most of our initial investments, and I lost all of my winnings before we left Las Vegas.  We also arrived in Las Vegas late at night which is when people like to drive slow, walk slow and the thousands of tourists cram the roadways.   We didn’t enjoy it as much as most people reading this probably would have.  The roadside attractions were not as easy to find or as epic as last year, likely because we didn’t really have the time to drive around with out delaying our long days of driving.

The road trip was capped off with a visit with what’s left of my father’s side of the family for a couple relaxing days on the central coast of California.

Overall it was too much driving in too short a time for a pregnant woman.

 

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A year ago

A year ago today, I woke up alone in a basement room.  It was a little early and all of the food and drinks I had the night before were fighting in my belly.  This would be a rough day I thought.  I had to shop for Christmas dinner things and then go decorate a gym, with just a couple other people who might not show…or stay.  But then better dreams became real and the following story started gaining momentum.  Enough momentum for me to be sitting in a tiny apartment a few feet from my sleeping wife who will celebrate this anniversary by decorating the same place, but with 17x as many people!  

Here are some older words I wrote about the beginning of our story starting a year ago today.  I sure am glad you stayed and helped that night, Hannah Meeks!

For almost 20 years I wandered around looking for this elusive thing called love.  According to Wikipedia:

Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection; and “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. Love may also be described as actions towards others or oneself based on compassion, or as actions towards others based on affection.

Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.

Love may be understood as part of the survival instinct, a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.

That is all well and good but like a lot of life it was not as easy to put into practice.  For me, after losing a friend and then my father to car accidents at age 19, I shut down and decided I didn’t need love.  Pushing away friends and family for a period of time and just dwelling in my own world.  I was still looking for things like love, but never really was able to give or receive it while being emotionally locked down.  The fortress was solid, the walls high and the inner workings idling but never revving.  As it turned out nineteen is an interesting age for that to happen since most guys go through that period for a few months or a year.

I was in that shut down, emotionally closed off period of life for 7 or so years until someone tried to break me out.  She was great and amazing but her eventual rejection brought up all the past rejections again.  It brought up a lot of pain and brokenness that did not allow me to trust.

“Do you trust anyone?”

-Not really

“How about yourself? Or your family? Or God?”

-Nope.  I don’t think they have my best interest and I apparently don’t either.

Those might not have been my exact words, but in 2009 I uttered something like that to a counselor…who then teared up and said he was sorry that the world was not a safe place for me.  We took a couple years to get through some of those issues, but I came out the other side victorious…mostly.

In the midst of those years, I started looking more actively for love.  I was pursuing what I knew as love.  It wasn’t always what love is, apparently, because it hurt, stung or made me drunk for a couple hours.  The dates weren’t defined, so the rejection wasn’t as harsh.  The interactions and calls just ended, and was often my fault.  The words and feelings were dealt with, to an extent, and laughed at by confided in friends.  It was fun most of the time.

Then, it wasn’t.  I realized I had fake love in 5 area codes, 3 country codes, and a couple Facebook profiles.  How was I to trust anyone when I couldn’t trust myself?  So I gave them all up.  I let some of them go.  I confessed fake, or projected, love to others and reconciled a couple more.  More dudes were confided in for advice.  A couple more girls entered the outer gates of the fortress but never were issued a treasure map to the hidden passage way.  Eventually those who were trying to be close gave up and no more invites were given out.

It seemed like a good day to renovate.  To open up a couple windows and air the place out.  To dispose of some old souvenirs that held more hurt than pleasant memories. While cleaning up the corners and deep recesses I was allowed the chance to see some amazing examples of love in those around me.  Love that isn’t written about but simply lived out.  The examples of friends and families loving each other whether in spousal relations or in neighborhood, employment or community realms.  I started noticing more and more how people made time for each other and just listened.  I started taking notes and planning when I would be done with the cleaning process…figuring the fortress needed to be cleaned well before anyone would want to come in or should be invited.

The yellow caution tape was put up… and this metaphor is losing steam.

As the old adage goes, when you aren’t looking you will find what you want and need.  Or something like that.

Last Christmas Eve, I was minding my own business doing what I needed to do relationally—preparing a Christmas dinner for 200+ people when circumstances set me up.  Only one girl stayed more than a few minutes to decorate. Since both of us were holiday orphans and had nowhere else to be. we worked for about 3 hours together decorating significantly better than the previous year…and talking… and towards the end I started admiring her smile and joy in life.

That girl quickly became a woman and something special to me.  Hannah walked past all the caution tape and somehow found the secret pathway into the fortress like she had been given the code and map by a higher power.

For almost 20 years, I had been searching for this elusive thing called love. Looking high and low, in corners and rooftops, in person and on phones. And yet that elusive thing called love simply showed up one day in a greater way than I would have ever imagined.  A way that in two months has made me a better man than in the 200 months previous.  The way that makes me wonder if dreams do come true and if Hollywood is writing my life story right now.  In a way that things just feel right…including the timing.

The Hollywood voiceover narration would begin like this

There I was minding my own business when we were brought together.  Literally and figuratively. I wasn’t really paying attention to her when I realized there was something attractive about this girl whom fate made the only other person in the massive room that night. With whom I had to work together to string lights over a basketball court in the gym.  I dismissed the thoughts quickly.

The week before I told a friend that meeting people and starting to date around the holidays was worthless and would never be genuine.  It would be all about emotions, like spring flings and filling the need of being a holiday orphan.

Plus, the only reason I was in that gym was because no one else was willing to lead decorating on Christmas Eve. Also, I was done with girls for another few months.

But there she was.  With an amazing smile.  Giving up her Christmas and Christmas Eve to volunteer with a bunch of ragamuffins to a larger bunch of ragamuffins.  She seemed to love people, was beautiful and goofy and sarcastic and funny.

After what might have been the most stressful day of my year being a “leader” the beautiful Hannah invited me to a friend’s place for Christmas dinner and some games.

I was just invited to the decorating girl’s friend’s place for dinner.  If I go I know emotions will be involved. Encouragements and rebukes welcome” is what I texted a buddy.

I had noticed Hannah blush a little as she wrote down her number.  It seemed like there was something there, but I was exhausted, but what if this is the one chance Eminem talked about, but I’m really tired and I’m already late, but I should just go.

I went, late and with beer to celebrate making it through the largest event of the year, and for nerves.  I made a short appearance, lost at Skip Bo and went on my way home.

How was your night?” was the text I received as I got home.

It was fun. She is really cute and funny, but not sure if she is nice to everyone”, to the same buddy.

And 20 minutes later he got another. “Well, I know now…we have a date Wednesday

‘What am I doing?’ I thought.  I just asked a girl out on Christmasby text.  I thought similar things when I invited her to my friend’s New Year’s Eve party for our second date.  And when we took a 12 hour road trip two days after.  But… she was different…beautiful…caring… and open.

Little did I know these emotionally open, exhausted, completely censor free interactions would influence the rest of my life less than 3 months later.

Last Sunday, having planned a super romantic and creative way, only to have it not completely work, I surprised the girl of my dreams in her house when I asked her to marry me.  I was sick and Hannah was still waking up from her nap, but it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.  The timing was a surprise but the act was not.

We had talked about marriage early in the relationship as we clarified our intentions.  A couple weeks before I walked out of a horrible movie with my mentee to call her mom and ask if I could marry her.  Her brother also gave his blessing.  My family was on board as was the inner circle.  My grandmother’s ring had been restored, sized and cleaned for her…and wasn’t going to wait until our trip to majestic Crater Lake next week.  And it is a good thing I didn’t wait!

We spent the weekend with friends in Bend, where it was cold and snowy and forest-y and beautiful.  I had gone to retreat, pray and figure out how to take over the world.  Hannah came because I was going away for the weekend.  Since I had the ring, and am not an eloquent speaker…just writer…I decided to type my thoughts out.  How amazing she is, has made my life better and how much I want to spend every day of the rest of my life with her. The standard things.  Because I knew I would want to actually say the words, I left the last sentence unresolved and asked her to read the last few sentences aloud…

The forecast for the mountain pass coming back to Portland was treacherous at best so I found a hiking trail near Salem that we could take a short hike and then when we returned to the car I would give her the letter while I changed my shoes and shirt, leaving me time to grab the ring and listen for her cue.  The pass wasn’t that bad but my cold was. It started to make me tired, stuffed up and nauseous occasionally.  As we approached the turn off for the trail, the skies opened.  It was not raining- even by Oregon standards.  It was dumping a month’s worth of sky water in a matter of hours.  So we kept driving, skipping the hike and I prayed…

God, I thought this was it.  Did I miss something? Am I supposed to wait? Is there a better place or did I mistake your timing?

The negative thoughts flooded in as my perfect plan failed.  I still had the letter and realized there was a better place and it would have more meaning.

After a much needed nap, we were sitting on the same loveseat we confessed love and infatuation for the other.  It was where we had shared some of the largest and deepest pains and hurts in our life.  It is also where we decided we were in this together and neither Hannah nor I was leaving. Now to make that official.  I had called her over to the chair after finding a song that we both enjoy- and she sings to me- and handed her the letter.

As she started reading, I held her and I could feel my heart in my chest, then throat… then forehead.  I waited as she read.  Setting the laptop to the side so I could get up and down on one knee.  I waited more.  I notice she was reading parts again so pointed to the margin note to read the last part aloud.

She started, “After thinking of you in all these ways, I have made a decision that both delights me because there is no one as perfect as you and scares me as I wonder if I can protect and love you as much as you deserve, but it is with incredible certainty I ask… ”

I have to admit I teared up a little as I asked her to make me the luckiest man I know.  She accepted. We hugged and stared at each other.  Called family.  Texted friends. Told my Portland family at Sunday night dinner.  Then I went home alone to my cold now lonely bedroom, ready to start the next chapter of this thing called life.

So there is the story.  And no, we are not getting rid of that chair anytime soon.

Let's go.

Let’s go.

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It Worked!

Wedding Day

 

When I imagined that day I never thought this would be in it.  There I was in the apartment I would soon share with my soon-to-be wife.  But I was alone at that moment.

It was hot outside so my pants were near the door, and my shirt was someplace near the fridge…because the apartment was HOT.  Facebook had blown up with well wishes so I was reading those while I sat on the floor eating cold, leftover Popeye’s fried chicken from the set up party the day before while the fan blew on my out of shape glistening, kind of smelly, overworked body.  I had finished the second of three trips to the park with furniture and other things needed for our picnic reception following the ceremony.

I should probably make sure I don’t forget get anything I think…

Hey beautiful, I’m at the apartment and planning to leave at 2 pm.  Let me know if you need anything before then.

As it sends, I notice it pop into our running text dialogue of the day..SENT   1405   08/03/2012

It is my wedding day, and I am alone on the floor of her (soon to be our) apartment eating fried chicken while I check Facebook.  I am supposed to be on the way, not still needing to clean up chicken bones, shower, get dressed fancy and make my beard all go the same direction!

When I arrived, 30 or so minutes later than planned, the photographer seemed a little relieved.  I walk up to him and I am told the bride was still on her way so I needed to get in position to see the woman of my dreams dressed in dazzling white.

We had decided to have our moment before the ceremony, because… well, we like to have moments with each other.  She came down the stairs and it was just us (minus the cameras) smiling, giggling and realizing how even with the fancy clothes on it all felt right.  How even with all the chairs and tables, which were set up for us, it was just another moment in our relationship… that other people were around to witness.  It was all normal and I was in “work mode”, as I greeted friends and family trying to make sure everything was right.  As I made decisions and told my groomsmen all the things I forgot to do and noticed things that mattered 2 hours ago but not now. It was all normal…

Until she literally took my breath away…

The dudes were in the center of the arch.  The music played and the ladies processed.  The music changed and groom gasped as the stunningly beautiful bride walked down 21 stairs. She came out from behind the screen positioned to make her the center of attention.

There were a lot of smiles and a lot of squinted eyes as the evening sun beat down on our ample attendees under the St John’s Bridge.  The readings flowed into the prayers which flowed into the vows and the breaking of bread.  The flash mob style poem was shouted from behind the main cathedral arch and we were pronounced the Mr. and Mrs.

We were cheered and the recessional song blared as we danced up the aisle of 42 stairs.  We were given another moment as the formal wedding party recessed out in time for the real party to start!  As the beautiful Hannah and I were escorted back down for some pictures we noticed the power of people as everyone moved their chair to the reception faster than the speed of the sound system.  Work mode was done.  We got to have fun and relax now.

“IT WORKED!”, we smiled to each other, as we took a moment to survey the valley of friends and family who were relaxing, smiling and laughing at us as we sat on a park bench finishing off the blessed communion wine.

All of our crazy ideas for a fun time were coming together.  The rest of the evening is a blur as we attempted to say “HI” to everyone celebrating in our honor, drink a couple beers and some sweet tea, eat some of the amazing food, and still take time to notice how many smiles were around.   The formal aspects (the pie cutting, the toasts, the first dance) were crammed together because we lost an hour or more being a part of the party we designed.

That was a month ago, and yet it seems simultaneously like yesterday and a year ago.

Happy 1 month anniversary to the beautiful Hannah!

It must be said our friends went above and beyond what was expected, or desired, and on a couple occasions originally discussed.  We didn’t pay for much more than supplies.  All aspects of the day and evening were done by friends, except two—the amazing airplane style toilet trailer, and the 130 chairs and tables.  Consider this your thanks, as we didn’t get the chance to do it on the day.  We know who you are and that is what matters.  THANKS!   

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Choose Your Own Roadtrip

swiped from here

A couple months ago, I took my fiancée on a little spring break trip.  I had been planning it for a while and done all I could to make it a peaceful yet amazing time.  We would drive to one of my top ten places on earth— Crater Lake— then spend a couple more days hiking around the Redwoods of Northern California.  A nice lodge was reserved and maps with side trips were printed before we noticed the weather would be less than ideal.

There was a major green cloud over the entire area we were heading to on the radar.  We are from Portland and like rain, generally, so we went forward. Before leaving town, I picked up some snow chains in case we hit any rough patches, like the ones we hit on the detours on the way trying to get into Crater Lake.  Apparently while driving that green cloud had turned purple and pink on the radar and very white on the ground.   Although handling well, the beautiful Hannah’s crossover car wasn’t quite prepared for all of that.

In the midst of the drive into Crater Lake we didn’t notice the gas gauge dropping until we were too far into the snow for the gaslight to come on… which it did…before we made it to the Rim Road of Crater Lake.  So we turned around and took off the chains as we went down the road praying fervently that we would make the right decisions to not have to tow the car too far when…if…it ran out of gas.  We found a little town and a little gas station.  One that may or may not accept credit cards which made the beautiful Hannah search the car for lost change and empty her wallet of its cash while I asked the attendant if plastic was accepted…only to be informed THEY ran out of gas.  A gas station was OUT of gas.  Trying not to let my stress show, I calmly asked exactly how far the next station was, while looking for a gas can and wondering if I should buy it here or at the next station. Do I want to carry it one way or both?   The beautiful Hannah was smiling and laughing through this.  I was apparently getting snippy but trying to force a laugh or two out to join her.

We went up the road and made the lefts as instructed, then hit a couple more T’s in the road not described by small town gas guy.   The wonderful Hannah was praying more as we passed a corporate trucking station and made another turn where we finally saw a sign for a travel center and casino.

We made it.  I breathed out and pulled into the station where we filled the 12 gallon tank with 11.92 gallons!  I was stressed, glad we made it, but stressed.  My knuckles were white from sliding through the snow and ice and barely making it to a gas station.  The beautiful Hannah realized I was done and came up with a great idea.  We should go blow her $6 found while searching the car for gas cash at the casino next door.  This would make up for missing Crater Lake right?

A side note here.  Neither one of us had made casinos a vacation destination before. We had no idea what to do or how it all worked but it would be better than being in the car that we were stuck in for 4 hours already.

When we got inside we signed up for the player’s club and were given $5 free on each card.  While signing up my phone buzzed with a message but I was too busy planning to have fun to notice.  We took our $5 cards and sat down at the penny slots where I blew my first dollar in about 2 minutes trying to figure out the system. One button I pushed when I reloaded with my second dollar was “Cash Out” and received a slip for…$0.02!  That’s right, I had 2 cents more than I did when I walked in.  We started cashing out after one or two wins and collecting our slips.  Luckily we didn’t have to turn these into a person, but instead a machine that totaled all of the slips to $6.14!  We just made more than planned…granted we spent $10 to get $6 but still.

As we exited, I checked my phone all excited from our winning streak.  I noticed we wasted nearly 2 hours and were going to be late for dinner and started listening to the message.  It was our lodge in the Redwoods letting us know they were taking on water, or at least planning to soon.  The road getting there would be severely flooded or washed out shortly, so even if we did make it the next morning, we would probably be stuck for up to a week.  I called them and asked options—come and get stuck or come another time with greater chance of not getting stuck for a week.

We decided to go later and realized we now had 3 days of no plans, and about 2 hours of road to cover before dinner which was supposed to start in 10 minutes at a friend’s parent’s house.  On the drive we discussed options and how to get to dinner and the free beds.  After a mediocre dinner in Klamath Falls (far away from where we should have been) we stopped into a local library where I had to help the aging librarian Google (verb.) our route. It was quite the critique on the ways of today’s world and didn’t actually help us get to the much need destination for the night.

The next morning we awoke and looked at the weather maps.  They were even greener than before we left, as the entire state of Oregon and beyond was being pummeled by rain.  So we could either head to San Francisco or Seattle, but both paths would be bad and have the potential of snow in the passes.

The simpler and possibly better route would take us back through Portland where we had just come from the morning before and north of the storm where the weather was pleasant.  It would make the drive home on Sunday easier and less gasoline intensive since we would avoid California’s prices!  But there wouldn’t be the hiking desired, because of rain, so why not more casinos?

After picking up a cinnamon roll the size of my head, we stopped to make another $6 or more dollars. After the first casino we thought all of the casinos would give us free money, however this one required you to put your own money in to start using their funds.  So we slipped some of the previous day’s winnings in for luck and went ahead losing their money.  This time we waited until a quarter or so to print the ticket.  We only made about $4 from this unlucky casino in less time and spent $10 of their promo dollars again!

We stopped at 5 more casinos in the coming days each worse on giving us free things than the previous.  One only gave you money on your second visit and another only a discount food voucher after two hours of gambling.  Come on! It was as if they didn’t want us to get out of there without spending a dime.   Since we hadn’t really made much money on the later casinos we decided to take what we had and risk it on some of the $640 million we kept seeing advertised and heard about on the random radio stations as we passed through towns.  We used some of our own numbers, and some quikpiks…for luck.

When we stopped at the Holiday Inn Express for the night we checked for the numbers, and the wonderful Hannah was disappointed that they were just announced during the news. That there wasn’t a live drawing like when I was a child, with vacuum powered ball blowing machines and a slightly too old— or young— model pointing.  I was disappointed we didn’t get more than one number total.  And then thought about all my conspiracy theories about the lottery being used as a poor tax and how the numbers aren’t actually picked as much as “randomly” assigned.   Then I got over myself and moved on to finding us a nice place to stay.  And more importantly finding the beautiful Hannah a replacement claw foot tub.  We found one even better at the Reflections Bed and Breakfast which has a soaking tub that overlooked the Port Orchard Bay.

When I called the B&B, I asked if they had rooms available. “We probably could.  What are you looking for and when will  you all get here?” was the reply.  When we arrived later that afternoon, we realized that the retired grandma who ran the place hadn’t had guests in a couple weeks.  What she meant by we could have a room was “if you give me some time to tidy up, yes”.  She was very friendly and provided us with some tea and wine while we chatted about life and her time running an elegant home on the Bay.  She made amazing food for us and gave us a key to come back late if we desired.  It was nice, definitely better than the corporate place we stayed at the night before.  And her food was better than the “fancy” steakhouse we went for dinner that night.

Sunday allowed a slow drive farther north, another casino adventure, a couple more choices of where to go and a ferry ride back towards home.  A ferry ride that was required if we didn’t want to have to drive around the entire bay and back through Seattle traffic, an adventure not desired.

We were able to make a lot more fun than planned by choosing what was in front of us.  And also able to bond at a deeper, more heart level when things weren’t perfect.

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