Category Archives: Journal

I Get It Now!

Thumbnail“Sheldon, I’m pregnant!”

“What?” I must have been dreaming. I started to groggily wake myself up.

“I’m pregnant!”

Wait, what? I must have still been half-asleep. I turned over and see my wife standing in the bedroom doorway. “What?”

“I’m pregnant!”

Okay, now I knew I was awake and it’s not a dream. The realization began to dawn on me: We’re going to be parents. Without saying a word, I stretched out my arms to my wife, the universal sign for “come here and give me a big hug that neither of us wants to end.”

We had actually been trying for a while. It had been around a year and a half since we had seriously started to try. Granted, certain circumstances that I won’t go into likely made it more difficult, but those had for the most part been cleared up six months before.

Thus began our journey to being parents. We went through a lot of the usual trials and some unsusual ones. We, or rather I should say I, found out the sex of the baby through a genetic test and had to keep it secret from my wife so she could be surprised at the gender reveal. That reveal was one year ago today, Father’s Day 2018, when we revealed to the family not only that we were having a baby, but we were having a girl.

It was a difficult journey. Unfortunately, my wife developed gestational diabetes and had to be extremely careful about what she ate, as well as take insulin three times a day. I don’t envy what she had to go through, but I will say and will never stop saying how much I admire her commitment to bringing a healthy baby into the world.

We went through our usual milestones. I still remember the first time that I felt the baby kick in her tummy. And I made sure to talk to the baby all the time, which will play into the story in a bit.

When the big day came (induced one week early, because she was considered to be a high-risk pregnancy, so they wanted to be sure that it was controlled), I dropped my wife off at the hospital and went into work. They said that it would take a minimum of 12 hours, so I had some time. I felt guilty leaving her there, but she knew that I needed to work. And the long weekend commenced. Hours stretched into days. Unfortunately, it appeared that our daughter was reluctant to make her big debut.

That Sunday evening, I had gone up to my shop to put a sign in the door that we would be closed the next day due to “family” reasons, since by then it was apparent that I would not be going in. While I was there, I received a call from my sister-in-law that there was something wrong and I needed to get back there. Of course, I ended up hitting traffic on my way and it took forever for me to get back to the hospital. I literally ran to her hospital room and told the doctor to give me the thirty second rundown. In short, she had started to spike a fever and the baby’s heart rate had begun to drop, meaning she was in distress, so they had to prep my wife for an emergency C-section.

At this point, we were both getting very scared, although I had to suppress my own emotions to be as stable for my wife as possible, because whatever I was going through, she had it a hundred times worse. I got into surgery garb and waited for them to tell me to come into the OR.

I remember it feeling very warm in there, much warmer than I would have expected. I sat down on a stool next to my wife, who I could tell was trying to hold it together. I knew she was upset by this turn of events, but she was doing what needed to be done. They had a sheet raised over her midsection so we couldn’t see what they were doing. I honestly had thought about taking a peek over the sheet out of curiosity since I’m not squeamish, but I knew that my number one job was to comfort my wife (that and, as they say, if you like sausage, never watch how it’s made). So I sat there holding my wife’s hand as she squeezed mine, almost to the point of breaking. They actually told her to loosen her grip on my hand because the sensor attached to her finger was losing the reading.

The actual surgery was pretty quick, but we didn’t know it. Time felt weird in there, and we weren’t sure if we were in there for an hour or for five minutes. Then they announced that the baby was out, along with “Come on, baby! Come on, baby!” And time stood still as my wife quietly said, “Why aren’t I hearing her cry?” Later, we found out that she was born limp because at this point labor had been going on for three days, and not only was my wife exhausted, but the baby was exhausted as well. Then, to our relief, we finally heard her start crying. They brought her over to the table where I cut the umbilical cord, something I was not sure about doing, but I figured that I’ll probably not get another chance to do that, and I saw her clearly for the first time.

And it still hadn’t hit me yet. You know what I mean. That moment when they say you become a father. I’ve heard it said that a woman becomes a mother when she becomes pregnant, but a man becomes a father when he sees the baby. It didn’t happen that way. I had seen her in the ultrasounds. I had felt her kick in my wife’s belly. I had now seen her in the flesh. Each of these had slowly helped solidify the concept that I was a father, but I wasn’t quite there.

They cleaned our daughter up, swaddled her, and handed her to me since they were still working on my wife. She was small and her eyes were closed peacefully, resting after the long labor. This was actually the first time in my life I had ever held a baby, but I was still not having that magical moment. So, I did the first thing I could think of.

“Hi, Vivy. I’m your daddy.”

With that, she opened her eyes with a look of recognition, like she was saying, “I’ve heard that voice before,” and studied my face.

And that was the moment. With an explosion inside my head, I was a father. In that moment, I knew that my life had led to this little baby and that I would do anything for her.

Today not only marks six months since she was born, but also my first Father’s Day as a father. I’ve had a crash course in baby care and now have some time to reflect. I would say that, even as difficult as it can be at times, based on some stories we’ve heard, we’ve actually been pretty lucky, and have a very healthy, happy baby who continues to develop and amaze us.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

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Twenty Years Ago

ThumbnailIt’s hard to believe that this marks twenty years (and twelve hours) since the nearly 7.0 1994 Northridge earthquake (I say nearly because there’s been some dispute as to how strong it really was, with some official records showing 6.7 to 6.8, while some other countries registered it as a 7.2). It’s strange to think that was twenty years ago because I remember it so vividly, but I guess traumatic events can do that.

At the time, I lived in the San Fernando Valley approximately 9 miles driving distance from the epicenter. So, yeah, pretty close. It’s odd how you can remember certain things about your life during that time. I remember I was in 10th grade, and I was in the middle of reading The Mote in God’s Eye at the time. I’m not sure why I remember that last detail so well, but I do. Anyway, I had taken some Actifed the night before because I’d been having some allergy issues, which can happen year-round in Los Angeles. One of the things I hate about this place.

I was in a deep sleep when things got moving at 4:31 A.M., so my memory of the earthquake itself is slightly hazy. I remember feeling things shaking really heavily. Now, for those who have experienced earthquakes, you may be familiar with the rolling motion that characterizes most them. This was not the case here. My father described it as someone underneath the house punching upwards. Things were bouncing pretty badly. I wasn’t sure what was happening at the time and thought I must be dreaming, then after about ten to fifteen seconds realized that I wasn’t.

Once the shaking stopped, all the power was out, so it was pitch black, and I didn’t have Riddick eyes. I remember my first thought was to put my shoes on, which I remembered were next to the bed, and they hadn’t moved much. I got them on and started to move towards my bedroom door, and immediately fell over. I wasn’t sure what I had fallen on because, again, it was completely dark and I’ve never had great night vision. So I started calling for help because I knew my parents were up after this major quake. But they couldn’t hear me because my mother was screaming.

My father got to the bedroom with a flashlight, and that’s when I saw that my bookcase had fallen over across the room, which was what I had fallen over. No, at the time we didn’t have things bolted to the walls, but over the following week everything was. It wasn’t until the daytime when we started going around the house to assess the damage that I saw what had actually happened. My bed was against the opposite wall of my room from the bookcase. When the bookcase fell, it missed my bed by only a couple of inches. I was already fairly tall for my bed, so I easily stretched its length. If that case had come down just a few inches over, I could have lost my foot.

In the dark with flashlights, we took a quick look around, and went to the side door to the yard to check on our dog (she was kept in the backyard; not an inside dog despite her calm and gentle nature). The second we opened the door, she bolted into the house, crying loudly, which was unusual because she was not a very vocal dog. She made it through the service porch and the kitchen to the entrance to the living room before we grabbed her and escorted her back outside. We went out with her to check on the yard, so she didn’t protest that much about going back out, staying close to us. A quick look showed that the brick walls which bordered the yard were still there, albeit shorter. Fine. Our dog wasn’t a jumper. We went out the front gate and shone the flashlight on the street, and it looked like it was completely rippled like waves in water. In the daylight, it looked fine. It was probably the effect of the only light source coming from the side rather than above.

After checking on our neighbors to see that they were okay, we went back into our house and got dressed, having all been in pajamas and robes at the time. It was still dark. We made sure we each had a flashlight. My dad grabbed a portable radio and we made sure our dog had food and water to comfort her. Then we huddled together in the doorway to our den for the rest of the night until the sun came up. We couldn’t really do much else since it was so dark, and with this earthquake, the ground never really stopped shaking. Aftershocks kept coming every couple of minutes, some stronger than others, which made it impossible to sleep, even if the adrenaline wasn’t already pumping. So, there we were, my parents and I huddled in a doorway, listening to the radio broadcast, as the ground continued to shake.

After the sun was up, and the aftershocks weren’t happening every minute (now they were five to ten minutes apart), we started looking at the damage. The top half of a two-part china hutch had fallen over on the dining table, left a tiny dent in the wood, then fallen over on the ground, break several item inside, although the hutch itself remained mostly intact. A large mirror hanging over the fireplace had fallen face-down on the bricks, but didn’t break, although there was a nice large crack in the wooden frame. Books had come off shelves, a book case in my dad’s home office had fallen over and broken. The brick walls outside had come half-way down. A brick was loose from the chimney. Some cracks were in the plaster outside. Luckily, we had no broken windows and little in the way of broken dishes. We still had no power and it was hard to use the phone as all the phone lines were jammed, but we got a hold of some family members and checked that they were alright. Luckily we didn’t have any ruptured gas or water lines. We got some pictures of the damage which I don’t have in my possession, but if I find them I might add them to this post later.

We went for a walk around the neighborhood, and saw that we got off relatively light. Chimneys and wall were down everywhere. Water mains were broken. A couple of main streets were flooding. Streets were being closed off for emergency repairs to those mains. On the radio we heard that some freeway overpasses had come down.

The portable radio was our only means of finding out what was going on. We had no power and couldn’t use the water. That night, my parents and I slept in the living room as the aftershocks were still going every few minutes. None of use slept well that night. At around midnight, the power came back on, so we checked the television for any more news (this was before the Internet was a big thing). We could use the water but not drink it, and we couldn’t drink our water for a couple of weeks. Again, we had it relatively easy compared to some. We also didn’t see our cat for a week. We have no idea where she was or what she was doing.

At the time, I attended El Camino Real High School, which was the second hardest hit school in the Valley. The school wound up being closed for about a month, although my AP Biology class still met a couple days per week so we could keep preparing for the exam. When the school did reopen, it wasn’t in great shape. Bungalows had to be brought in as the main building remained mostly closed while repairs continued and it took a while for everything to be reopened. The school days had to be extended to make up for the lost time.

Aftershocks continued for about a year, although less and less frequently. The damage from the earthquake lasted for a long time. We had to get our chimney replaced as a precaution. The walls around our backyard needed to be repaired. When I eventually went to Cal State Northridge years later, they were still repairing the damages. The wings of the library had come down and they finally reopened them while I was there. New buildings and facilities were being built, even after I left there, and that was eight years after the earthquake. Their parking structure had come down in the earthquake and a new one wasn’t built until approximately ten years later.

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I saw this all the time because my grandparents lived near CSUN, so I saw the collapsed structure every time we drove by to visit them.

Needless to say, it was one of the more traumatic and memorable experiences. I don’t think I’ve really written about it until now. I wanted to write this because it’s easy to find data about it online, but I wanted to share a personal experience and say what it was like to actually be there. You know, for the kids.

Oscar Project 2014

By my black hand, the dead shall rise!Yeah, I’m not that great at coming up with project titles…

 Anyway, last year, I had a fun little project. When the 2013 Oscar nominations were announced, I decided to try and see every nominated movie in every category before the actual awards ceremony, including documentaries and foreign films. In fact, I only missed one film, “The Gatekeepers,” which was one of the documentaries and didn’t win anyway (that honor went to “Searching for Sugar Man”). The Academy Awards are an interesting animal. It’s often considered “the big one” in terms of film awards and has some semblance of dignity.

The Academy Award nominations for 2014 have been announced. Last year, I posted quick one paragraph reviews of each movie to my Facebook and Google Plus pages, then summed up my opinions for each category in a blog post. This year, I will do the whole thing but on this blog with longer reviews, although even if I only have one paragraph of material to post, I’ll still post it. They will likely not be in a particular order, but simply as I watch them. I mean, I’ll do my best to group them, but given the criss-crossing between categories, trying to put reviews of movies in the main categories in any order would be somewhat meaningless.

Well, there’s a lot to watch, so I better get cracking.

Update Jan. 25: I’m making such good progress on my Oscar project (sans posting reviews which I’ll start doing in groups within the next couple of days) that I’m thinking of deliberately exposing myself to some of the worst films of 2013 for your amusement. That’s right. I’m going to watch and review every movie nominated for a Razzie. Stay tuned.

Update Feb. 19: I spoke too soon. I’m trying to do too much other stuff right now, and if I try to review all these Razzie nominees, I’ll drive myself nuts for more reasons than just the bad movies. So I’m dropping the Razzie addition. However, I’m making fantastic progress on the Oscar movies and am almost done watching them. The reviews have been trickling out, but the flood gates will open a little wider shortly. I might even finish this weekend.

Reflection on 2013 and Goals for 2014

ThumbnailWell, 2013 is nearly wrapped up with a nice little bow, in the bag, and on its way out the door. It’s been a mixed year. 2012 was a year that sucked pretty hard. I can’t say that about 2013. It’s been a year of ups and downs, some really good moments and some really bad moments.

I got married this year. That’s a big plus. I never managed to write my reflections on the wedding as I’d intended. I think the whole thing was so big that it got a little overwhelming when I sat down to try and write about it (yes, I did actually try to write about it, but never finished it; some photos and eventually video posted to my Facebook page will probably need to suffice; no, I haven’t posted any video yet, that’s forthcoming). It’s been a year of change. Our marriage has provided some ups and downs, but that’s mostly due to us adjusting to living life together rather than alone, which is something that we’ve both been used to. But the future stretches out before us, and walking that path together will in no way be bad.

On the negative side, I’ve continued to struggle to find regular work again. I’ve also lost some family and friends along the way. I didn’t achieve some of the resolutions I had set out for myself at the beginning of the year, such as my writing or fitness resolutions. And that’s why I’m taking a different approach to 2014. In intend to make 2014 a year full of positive changes and self-improvement, because if I don’t work to make myself better, who will? In that vein, I have decided on only one resolution:

I will not be setting resolutions for 2014.

In my mind, when we say we have New Year’s resolutions, they are things like “watch less television” or “eat healthier.” I’ve never felt that things like this need to wait for an arbitrary date. If you want to do it, then why not start now? There’s no reason to wait.

While I feel the same way about goals, I’ve been thinking a lot about them over the last couple of days, so by coincidence, I will be doing something a little different for the new year. Instead of general resolutions, I have decided to set specific goals to meet for 2014, using actual numbers and dates to meet wherever I can. My New Year’s Goals for 2014 are as follows, along with subgoals to help reach the major goals:

  1. Lose 50 pounds, with the first 30 pounds lost by my birthday in March; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Walk at least 30 minutes every day;
    • Drink at least two juices made with our juicer every day as a meal replacement;
    • Stop eating out and make as much food as possible at home from scratch;
    • Bring my blood pressure down so that my diastolic pressure is below 80.
  2. Have something that I feel ready to edit or send out for consideration by July, even if it’s just a short story; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Write a minimum of one hour every day, with a goal of 1500 words per day, but more if I can;
    • Continue the book reviews on this blog, but expand into movie and television reviews (open up a little);
    • Write a non-review blog post at least once per week, if nothing else than to keep the writing wheels greased.
  3. Have regular work again by the end of January.
  4. Read 52 books during the year (that’s one book per week).
  5. Complete my backlog of review books and write reviews, even short review, for all books which I have already provided ratings for by the end of 2014.
  6. Start clearing out my storage unit and admit what I’m not actually going to use or keep; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Donate old furniture that we won’t be using ever by the end of January;
    • Begin clearing out and selling old video games which I genuinely won’t ever play; have it sorted and some sold before my birthday.
  7. Practice handling my personal anxieties better; to accomplish this, I will:
    • Don’t be afraid to be an asshole; in other words, be more assertive and don’t be so concerned about feelings and opinions in business dealings if I know I’m right.

And because not all goals should be serious and we need to have a little fun:

  • Have watched, rated and/or reviewed a total of 2000 movies on my Flixster account by the end of the year (the current number is at 1825).
  • Due the same Oscar project I did in 2013, which is to watch and write mini-reviews of every Oscar-nominated movie in every category, then write a summary blog post of my personal picks before the actual awards ceremony.

By creating goals instead of resolutions, it feels that I am actually setting measurable and achievable changes to accomplish, and it feels more solid and less nebulous. Still, it’s still entirely up to me and there’s not much in the way of consequences if I don’t achieve them other than heavy self-criticism, but I still feel that setting these goals at least feels more concrete and creates a way that I can measure my progress.

I’ll probably check back in during the course of the year, especially with my goal of a regular blog post per week. In the meantime, goodbye and good night to 2013, and welcome to the future of 2014, which will soon be the present and then the past.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Reflections: The Pre-Wedding Jitters?

ThumbnailNot so much, but there is a lot of reflection in these, the last 24 hours of bachelorhood.

This post is bluntly honest, because, well, it’s incredibly late and I’m very tired.

At 2:00 p.m. today, I will enter into the bond of marriage. I wrote about Olivia and our engagement in a previous post, so I won’t reiterate what was said there.

But during this time, there’s a lot to think about. First of all, I have to be honest. Planning a big wedding sucks! There is so much to take care of, which means that there’s that much more to go wrong, which we’ve been experiencing in droves. Not to mention the cost. We’ll see how things play out once we’re actually in the event. But the planning and prep work has been a real chore. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love my wife-to-be, and want the best for her, but getting to this point has been a real slog.

Especially over the last week, people keep asking me if I’m getting nervous or excited, and some have even asked why I seem so calm. Strange, especially when everyone keeps asking you. Well, there’s two reasons. One is that I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had much time to stop and think, “Oh, shit! I’m actually getting married.” The other reason is that, with rare exception, I don’t get worked up over much because of a general philosophy that things go wrong. I will try the best I can to prevent those things, but they still happen, and there’s not much to really be done about them. We can build the boat, but we can’t control the river. We have now built that boat, but we’re about to put it in the river, so we might as well enjoy the ride, white water rapids and all. Life is too short to get worked up over insignificant details. After all, tomorrow, the sun will still rise regardless of what happens.

Less than twelve hours away, and am I nervous? It’s 2:00 a.m. the night before my wedding as I write this. What do you think? Well, in a manner of speaking. It’s more that there’s been a ton of last minute stuff to do, and I’m still doing it. Why this had to be done now, I don’t know. But it does. I’m more stressed than nervous, focused on the job at hand.

So, it’s turned into a bit of a late-night vigil for me. A chance to reflect on the pre-wedding experience and on bachelor life. Bachelor life has its advantages and disadvantages. Independence is not bad, and I’m an only-child afterall, so I’ve always had a slightly independent streak. But there does come a time when you realize it’s not good to be alone, and you find someone who is, in my case, so strangely compatible that you want to stay with her and be with her for the rest of your life. Will I miss bachelor life? Maybe. I don’t know. I know that being married is definitely going to be different. I have faith it will be better, but it will take some adjustment after having been independent for so long. I love my fiancé dearly and with all my heart. She is the love of my life, and I can’t imagine a different path for us, despite the stresses of this wedding. Do I have pre-wedding jitters? No, I do not. But I can recognize the apprehension I feel for what it is, and that is humanity’s natural aversion to significant change. But this a good change that I don’t fear, even though baser animal instincts make me a little anxious.

I also want to take this opportunity to publicly thank all those who came together to help us put this day together, from both families. They are numerous, and I’m afraid that if I start naming names, I’ll forget someone and they’ll be offended. So, you know who you are! Thank you!

I will post more later on reflections on the wedding itself.