Friday, June 25, 2010

You can't take it with you... right?

During this year, as my wife has been on (mostly) unpaid maternity leave and our finances have been stretched to the max, I have often thought about the near-decade I spent in Business journalism.

One of the lessons financial experts stress to people, particularly young(ish) people, is to save as much as you can for retirement. Work hard, live frugally and put the maximum amount away.

I understand it, but that doesn't exactly mean I buy into it.

Here's the thing: The average person lives to be what, about 80-something? Now, admittedly, I'm playing the medical history crapshoot, so I guess I could live longer, or die young. But, hey.

So, I'm expected to work 46 years (from age 21 to 67), all while scrimping and saving, so I can enjoy the last 10 to 15 or so years of my life?

That makes no sense to me.

When I'm a senior citizen, my knees are shot, Emma (hopefully) has grown up, gotten a job, moved out (it's Jersey, you never know) and made us grandparents, then I'm supposed to finally enjoy life?

As much as I love Scandinavia... when my time comes, put me in my Raiders jersey and call it a day.

Not a chance. I mean, it's not like they're going to bury me in a coffin lined with $20 bills, or with all my worldly possessions, Viking-style. Like I keep telling Marisa, as long as, at the end of the day, when they sell all my stuff and pay all my bills, if I end up on the plus side, it all worked out.

Don't get me wrong. I'm saving for retirement and planning for the worst-case scenarios (I have extra life insurance!). When I finally leave the office for the last time, I don't need a gold watch or nice memo. I just want to leave vertical.

But I'm not skipping out on 40 years of family trips or buying nice things for Emma and Marisa (and yeah, me, too) for two-thirds of my life, just so I can really go wild in the last fifth or so.

A gold coffin might work for Michael Jackson, but not for me. Eh, I don't like gloves, either.

Someone once asked me how I wanted to be buried. I said, skip the suit, put me in my best Oakland Raiders jersey, forget the fancy funeral and just throw a nice party. Or maybe just cremate me, and scatter my ashes over somebody I really, really don't like. Like the Denver Broncos bench. In mid-game.

So they asked if I wanted to be buried with anything. And I said, sure: A crowbar, flashlight and shovel.

Just in case they're wrong.

But seriously, we had a choice: M could stay home with Em for a year and we could skin the bank account to the bone, or she could go back in a few months and we could carry a little less credit-card debt. Like our rabbi told us, nobody ever says, "Boy, I wish I'd gone back to work sooner so I could have spent less time at home with the kids."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Has Facebook killed the casual blog?

I was thinking about the purpose of my renewed blogging recently, and I was considering a little post sharing a cool website I found. That's something I used to do occasionally before the reboot, so why not now?

And I realized: Facebook. See, nowadays, when I want to share a cool link, I just hit the little "F" button and it appears on my profile, where my 400 friends and "friends" can see it if they want.

Facebook: Fun for social networking, or the scourge of Blogger?
As opposed to here, where who knows how few readers I have by this point. When I was working on the reboot, I noticed two other things:

1. Some of my blogroll folks had shut down certain of their blogs, or shut down entirely.
2. I haven't kept up with many of them over the time I was "on hiatus," either.

To quote Norman:
So...not too sure who is still out there in bloggerland since I made the jump to that addictive hellhole they call FaceBook, but hey - I'm alive.

I'm reluctant to cancel this blog or delete it. I was just going thru some of my old posts and had to wipe a tear.. *sniff sniff*
It makes me wonder: Are other blogs falling victim to this pattern? Not the big ones, like The Huffington Post or what-have-you, but the little ol' regular blogs, like mine or the ones I used to follow daily.

I don't know. But it still begs the question: Where do I share fun stuff like...

Monotheism ... ... fail.

Do I bang out a blog post? Or just click a button or two and share it with the FB world? Time will tell...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Opposites attract

If you know my wife, Marisa, you know she and I are not always, shall we say, compatible.

Our wedding was the happiest day of my life... until Emma!

That doesn't mean we're not deeply in love. It just means... well... we are probably a textbook example of the theory that opposites attract.

You know you've married a crunchy one when her joy 
at meeting enviro-activist Ed Begley Jr. is topped only by...
... Her joy at meeting fellow Holistic Mom Mayim Bialik.

But that is part of the reason I love her: She is the kindest, most positive person I know. Her smile can light up a room, and there's not a living thing she doesn't care for. She is a child at heart, and a dreamer. A vegetarian, holistic, environmental. Loving, fascinated by new places and things, just the sort of person who radiates positive energy. In short, "crunchy."

For those who know me, you know that... well... I'm pretty different.

You might think Mom is having more fun on Em's first carousel ride...

I always like to joke that our baby, Emma, should be a smiling, laughing, squealing little chatterbox. After all, I say, I spent nine months praying every day that she would get her Mom's personality. (Hey, it worked! See previous post.)

I guess what I'm trying to do here is explain how I knew in just a few weeks that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this woman so different from me. It wasn't the great conversation. It wasn't the pretty face.

Not that those weren't factors...

But I guess when you've struggled with darkness as much as I have, whether justified or just a self-defeating trick of my own mind, when you find someone who loves you so much, and treats you so well, and cares for you in your times of need, and above all reminds you that no matter the demons in your mind, there is reason for joy...

Well, you hang on to her. Even if you have to check menus before you go to a restaurant to see if they are vegetarian-friendly. Even if she insists on "rescuing" the scary, scary spider you just want to vacuum from a safe distance. Even when, excited as a little kid at holiday-gift time, she wakes you up from a perfectly good nap to show you the fawn that wandered into the yard. Even if she insists some weird herb you've never heard of is better for the baby than good-old fashioned Tylenol. And then says "I told you so" when she's right.

My enviro-friendly Sigg water bottle: Yin/Yang, like us.

Interestingly, as time goes on, not only do I find my happiness grows (despite the occasional hiccup), but I find her eccentricities less eye-rollingly confusing, and more endearing.

I can't say if I've become a better person, but I know she has made me want to try.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Take your peace where you can find it

My apologies for the lack of posts lately. Sometimes, I'm busy; sometimes, just not inspired to write anything.

But today, I have some thoughts. Maybe "religion" is a hot-button topic, but it's not that kind of discussion.

Stained glass is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

What I want to talk about is something interesting I've noticed over the past year-plus at my new job. The College I work at is a Methodist-affiliated school, and there is a chapel in the main administrative building. In fact, the chapel just so happens to be next to my office. So, since it is not in regular use during the day, I often find myself wandering through on the way to various meetings or errands.

And over the course of time, I have found that it is a very special place, a place where I often feel at peace, no matter the stresses of the day; a place where I really do feel a connection to God.

Those of you who know me know I am not a particularly religious man. I identify culturally and religiously as a Jew, but I am neither particularly well versed in religion, nor particularly interested. Marisa is the more religious of the two of us, and even so, we are not regular Temple-goers. And I am certainly not a Methodist, even if my Cub Scout troop used to meet in a Methodist church back home.

But during the time when M was pregnant with Emma, I think I prayed in the Chapel just about every day. On the move, maybe, on the way to the men's room or something else mundane, but I would say a semi-silent prayer for my little girl. I still do, every day.

I am probably something of a glass-is-three-quarters-empty kind of guy, but I suspect that underneath it all, the good fortune I have experienced in my life leaves me with a secret expectation that things will turn out for the best. In the Chapel, I often find myself hoping and (literally) praying for such outcomes.

For my baby. For my wife. For my family and friends. Even for myself, though I try to be careful and ask only for what I deserve.

Funny how things work sometimes, in the peace and quiet of God's house. I may be considering reading The Bible merely "as literature," but that doesn't mean I am not a person of faith. I hope I'm right to believe. And I hope I'm right to believe God listens to a struggling man's humble prayer for a long, healthy and above all happy life for his little girl.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Em and the art of genetic engineering

One of the most fascinating aspects of fatherhood is not just watching Emma grow, but seeing how she looks and acts relative to her parents.

As an adopted only child of different racial heritage from my parents, I stick out like a sore thumb in family photos. When you have a group of Eastern European Jews and one little semi-Vietnamese teen, it looks like the waiter snuck into the family photo.

"Hahaha... Um. Hey, wait a second... that's not funny!"

When Emma was born, possibly even before she was completely out of Marisa, I took one look at her nose and said, "Well, there's no doubt she's mine." Even Marisa (later) pointed out how it must be interesting to finally have someone in the family who looks like me — and some people who see Emma would say exactly like me.

Once upon a time, I was fascinated with biology, to the point I even considered trying to minor in college. Those ideas were quashed in Bio 101, which I dropped the first time around because a monotone professor plus an 8:30 a.m. class is a recipe for naptime, and which was ruined the second time by a bad allergic reaction that cost me a quarter of the semester. I took that as a bad omen and stuck with Creative Writing.

My favorite part of Biology was genetics. Those Punnett Squares fascinated me. Needless to say, the joy of fatherhood had a certain clinical interest as a sidebar. I have often read that darker characteristics — skin color, hair color, eye color, etc. — are the dominant traits. Likewise, I have often wondered if I was partly white, or at least not entirely Asian — for a Vietnamese man, I am tall and broadly built; I had a fraternity brother once tell me I was about the third-biggest Asian he'd ever seen, and I was all of 5-foot-9 and (then) 175 pounds. Needless to say, now that I'm on the wrong side of 200 — hey, some of that is muscle! — I'm probably the second-biggest Asian in the known world.

Throw in that I married a 5-foot-8 fair-skinned blonde (talk about not looking like your heritage! she's a Jew!) and I was very curious to see how Emma would turn out, physically.

That's me on the top left, Marisa on the bottom right. Who does Em look like more?

Interesting, if Em proved anything, it's that I must not be entirely Vietnamese, because she didn't get the dark coloring we expected at all.

She is darker complected than Marisa (not difficult), but certainly lighter than me. Likewise, her eyes are darker than M's hazel on the blue-green side, but they are certainly lighter than my brown. Call them hazel on the brown-green side. Her hair? Dirty blonde, just like Mom's. She also got Mommy's red cheeks.

On the other hand, it's my nose, like I mentioned, and my thick (is that the right way to describe them?) lips, too. The eye shape is a mix, and we have no idea where the itty-bitty cleft in her chin came from.

Funny thing is, when she's with me, people always remark how she looks just like me. But when she's with Marisa, people think she looks like her. And sometimes, it works the other way — people see Em with M and contrast them, saying Em looks like me then!

There were other surprises — Marisa was a bald baby, and I arrived in America at 10 weeks only with only a bit of peachfuzz on top; but when our midwife checked the baby, she remarked about how she could feel the hair, and we both blurted out, "Hair?!"

But as she's grown and changed through her first nine months, it's not just her looks that remind me of myself, or her mother — it's her personality, too.

Believe me, the Chapel at College is next door to my office, and I spent nine months praying my baby would end up with M's personality. After all, part of what I love about her is that she is the most positive person I know, not to mention the kindest and most giving. Those of you who know me, well, you know I tend toward the darker, less-pleasant side of the spectrum.

And all that praying must have worked, because my Baby Bear is one cheerful little bugger. She's always laughing and smiling... except when she shows flashes of Daddy's quick temper.

See what I mean?

I like to joke that she got my appetite — we practice baby-led weaning, and she eats just about anything you put in front of her, and keeps on eating it. On the other hand, she got her mother's eating skills — which means she wears almost as much as she swallows.

The doctor says she's going to be taller than both of us, though! He's saying 5-foot-10, 5-11, with a shot at 6 feet. That's what I get for marrying an Amazon. I do hope she avoids her parents' predilection for being, to paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, a little stout about the tum. Right now, although she's still in a 90-plus percentile for height, she's down to the 70s for weight, so here's hoping.

All I ever prayed for, besides Mom's personality, was healthy and happy. I still do. But seeing a little bit of myself in her... that's a nice fringe benefit, to go with that smile that always brightens my day.

We even sleep alike... right arm up!