Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On Becoming a Man

Twenty-five years ago today, I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah, and so was declared a man in the Jewish religion. Even at age 13, I recognized the absurdity of calling myself an adult in any real way, but that didn't mean that I didn't appreciate the presents. Still, this rite of passage required months of preparation toward the achievement of the goal. Between that effort and the fact that Aaron and "man" were first associated with each other at that event, I recognize that my Bar Mitzvah began my slow journey into adulthood. How slow? Well, consider:

  • Twenty-two years ago I got my first job that didn't involve yardwork, babysitting, or a position my Dad got me. Not that it would have paid the bills or anything.
  • Twenty-one years ago I went off to college, meaning I was responsible for how I lived my life, but I still didn't need to support myself.
  • Twenty years ago, I was allowed to vote.
  • Seventeen years ago I went to law school, meaning that in many ways I stayed just as I had been the preceding four years. Except that I was legally able to drink, so maybe you could call this a period of regression.
  • Sixteen years ago I got engaged and started the process of learning how to live with someone in a relationship.
  • Fourteen years ago I graduated law school and finally started supporting myself financially.
  • Twelve years ago I paid off my college loans.
  • Seven years ago I got married, and together, we bought a house.
  • Six years ago I had to put my dog with cancer to sleep.
  • Five years ago I became a manager at work.
  • If all goes well, in two months I will be a parent, and for the first time will be responsible for another human life. Perhaps that event will be the first in a thread 25 years from now entitled "On Becoming an Old Man."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Baby

[Updated below; updated again] It'd be one thing if our pregnancy were the only one going on in our lives, but it hasn't been. We got together this past Sunday with Shizuka and Eric, the former being one of Kathy's best friends from college, and the latter being Shizuka's husband and the man with whom I made our celebratory beer. Shizuka was due the day after we got together. As the picture shows, she was VERY pregnant.

I wonder if our children will ever understand how wonderful this picture is, the end of an era for two close friends, and the cusp of a new one. Not to mention that they're in the shot too, plainly visible in the fabric of their mothers' clothes.

Kathy's really been enjoying having Shizuka nearby. Both Shizuka and Eric are college professors, and while Eric works at the University of Maryland, Shizuka had been living in Northampton, Massachusetts until a month ago. She had already scheduled a Sabbatical and was going to be living with Eric for this upcoming academic term even before they knew she was pregnant. I have trouble imagining being in a marriage where I lived hundreds of miles from my spouse, but it's worked for them. In fact, there was probably at least as much anxiety with how they'd get along being in the same house full-time as there was over the baby coming into their lives.

Speaking of a baby coming into their lives, Shizuka was induced on Wednesday. There had been no sign that she was ever going to go into labor by herself, and her doctor was concerned about needing a C-section if the baby grew much more. It took a while, and there were concerns that a C-section would be needed after all, but ultimately she dilated, and out came little Kazumi.

We were able to visit the next evening, and Kathy was on Cloud Nine as she held Kazumi -- I think she could have stayed in that position forever, but for the fact that visiting hours ended at nine (and that Kazumi needed feeding). We also partook of one of Eric's bottles of the Soft Spot Stout we brewed, and I must say, it's quite a tasty brew, although not quite as hoppy as we thought it might get.

Shizuka and Kazumi got out of the hospital yesterday, and we're going to try to visit them (and Eric) soon, perhaps even today -- Kathy's cooking up a storm to bring over a few dishes that Eric and Shizuka can eat over the next couple of weeks. Update, 5:15pm -- I made a bad assumption. While both were scheduled to get out yesterday, Kazumi turned blue for about a minute on Friday morning and has been admitted to NICU. The doctors don't believe it's a heart problem, but they don't know exactly why it happened (and it's happened a second time), so she remains in NICU. Kathy and I are both anxiously awaiting news that everything is ok.

It may have been an external one, but this baby was certainly a milestone for us in measuring the progress of our own pregnancy. The next one will be in another week or so, when another of Kathy's (and Shizuka's) good friends from college, Brenna, has her first child. Update, 10:20pm -- we found out this evening that Brenna had her baby Friday morning, and all is well. Brenna's out in Minneapolis, however, so we'll have to wait a bit to see him in person.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Kathy's the Pregnant One, Right?

My morning was an anxiety-filled one, as I discovered when I got to work that I had lost my keys. I checked with the security guard downstairs to see if anyone had turned in keys, but no luck. I retraced my steps back to the Metro, with no luck. I even had building maintenance check the bottom of the elevator shaft, in case my keys had fallen silently (well, I did have my headphones on) through the small space between the inside and outside elevator doors, and still no luck. Finally, around 2pm, Kathy called to tell me that our dogwalker had found my keys, still in the lock of our gate.

Good thing Capitol Hill is generally a decent neighborhood these days.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Quote me

A man who can lie to himself is no man. But he may be a politician.

Please note that in keeping with my general approach, I tried to make this gender neutral. Despite my best efforts, and consultation with someone else, I saw no clean way to do so. My apologies.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I am Not Going Through a Mid-Life Crisis

What inspires someone to get up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning? More importantly, what inspires someone to get up at 5:30 on a Saturday to go skydiving?

Tom really wanted to go, and invited me. I can't say that it was something I was passionate about, but I was interested. And although Kathy had her doubts, after I examined the activity's safety record and showed it to her, she said ok (though still she'd punctuate e-mails with phrases like "don't die tomorrow"). (Speaking of which, she had breakfast with a friend of hers yesterday and told him what I was doing today -- he was flabbergasted, not believing that I would do such a thing while expecting a child. For some reason he had trouble remembering that right after his wife told him she was pregnant, he quit his job to run a start-up company.) Our neighbor Bruce is an adrenaline junkie (he's raced cars, among other activities), so when Tom mentioned it to him, we had a threesome. We were going tandem, which means that an instructor is strapped to your back (connected at 4 different points), and he's the one with the parachute.

Our schedules were such that we had to pick a weekend two months in advance, but it was certainly worth the wait. Any of the previous five weekends would have left us sweltering and sticky, but today was a fantastic day -- it was actually cool in the morning, and the sky was a perfect blue. There also was very little humidity.

I really wasn't that scared when we drove over there, but my first moment of doubt came when we signed waiver forms agreeing not to hold the company liable if anything went wrong. Anything included negligence and even pilot error. The guy on the video (with a beard that made the ZZ Top guys look tame) explained that it's because, well, shit happens. After a moment's hesitation, I realized that no one had any interest in anything going wrong -- my tandem instructor had it in his best interest to be safe and make sure everything went well. Once I got past that initial fear, I was fine as we received our 15 minutes of training, got our gear together, got on the plane, and began the ascent. It was only after we'd reached our altitude of 13,500 feet and the door to the plane opened, the people before me jumping out while we're sliding into position that I really started getting nervous.

When we jumped out the plane, the brief lesson I was taught vanished from my brain as we began picking up speed. After a second or two, I remembered what I needed to do to properly orient my body, and then we were all set. Free fall is an amazing experience -- we were hurtling toward the ground, but we still were so far up that once I was properly oriented, the fear of smacking the ground never really entered my mind, even though I don't think I ever took my eyes off the ground. We were in free fall for about a minute, before my instructor signaled to me to reach around him to pull the rip cord. I had a bit of trouble, and he decided not to wait before pulling it himself, which was ok by me -- I have a much greater sense of survival than I do of independence.

With the chute opened we slowed our descent, and finally I was able to bring myself to look around at the gorgeous views. We also could have a conversation, once the wind was no longer screaming in our ears. After a little while where we just let gravity take hold, the instructor showed me how we could steer, and then he took me in a spiral, i.e., a rapid descent while turning in a tight radius. A couple of turns of that, and I begged off, my stomach not really agreeing with continuing. He then went into a sashay, which involved big 90-degree turns back and forth. That wasn't quite as nauseating, so I rode it out. Finally we started our final descent back to where we started. He led us right in, and I put my feet down to complete the touch down. My legs were shaky, but held firm. I had made it through intact, though my stomach remained queasy for a couple of hours -- not sure whether it was the jump/adrenaline, the fact that I only had orange juice and a banana in my stomach, the exhaustion of a short night's sleep, or some combination of these factors. Once I handed in the equipment I called Kathy to let her know I'd made it (she wasn't there because dogs aren't allowed, we'd be away too long to leave them behind, and no one was available to dogsit).

Tom's Instructor Shane, Tom, Me, and Bruce

Tom is ready to start doing this all the time, and Bruce definitely wants to go again. Me, I don't think so. I enjoyed it, and I'm really glad I went, but I didn't enjoy it so much to justify the high cost. I do, however, plan to go with Tom on the next adventure, rafting through Class V rapids.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gay Marriage Gone Bad

Stories like this one bug me. In this case, I'm bothered on several different levels.

First, there's the fact that a child is being denied access to one of her parents. One can argue against gay marriage, but the fact remains that this child has known two people as her parents, and now she's being deprived access to one of them. As always in the case of custody dispute, it's terrible when one (or both) of the adults decide to put the child(ren) in the middle.

Second, to call Lisa a hypocrite doesn't do her justice. She was willing to go to Vermont because her state didn't recognize the union she wanted. But when she didn't like that union, or the decision of Vermont in how to terminate it, she ran back to Virginia, the state that refused to embrace her relationship, in the hope of getting a decision more to her liking.

Third, on the matter of the legal case, if I'm reading it (and this editorial) correctly, I think the Virginia judge made a horrendous decision and I hope a state appeals court reverses it. This isn't just a matter of the rights of homosexuals, but of respect for the Vermont court's decision. These women were married in Vermont and lived there at the time of divorce. The fact that this woman left there after the divorce (and unfavorable ruling) shouldn't give a Virginia court jurisdiction to disregard the Vermont court's ruling.

If Virginia wants to disregard gay unions/marriages that's one thing. But Vermont was the residency of the two parties to the dispute at the time of the dispute, so it's appropriate that a Vermont court has adjudicated the dispute. This seems little different from a child custody case between biological parents who never married -- in such a case no court would look to disregard what another state's courts had done even in the absence of a marriage. Instead, it defers to the other state's court that considered what's best for a child.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Things I Learned This Week

1. Kathy and I went to Cornell Adult University this past week, where we went non-stop between our classes and the various activities when class was out of session. We had a fantastic time, and fully intend to go back in the future (not likely in the next couple of years, as its children's program requires that the child be toilet trained). We were two of the younger attendees, but there were plenty of people in their 40s and early 50s, so we didn't feel out of place. It really was a treat being in an environment where we had the chance to talk with intelligent people in a hot house setting, just like college was the first time around. Not needing to cram or even take an exam, and being treated especially well (we might not be big donors, but we were among them), were just bonuses. In other words, I learned that even years later,

College still rocks.

2. I was worried about not remembering where anything is on campus or in town. I hadn't been back to Cornell since 1990, and aside from there having been many changes and additions to campus, and a few changes to the town off campus, the fact is that Ithaca's roads had often given me trouble, even when I lived there. So I was relieved that when I got back, it didn't take me too long to regain a comfort with stuff on campus. Sure there had been plenty of changes, but there were more than enough buildings I remembered for me to find my way with minimal difficulty. Off-campus, however, was a different story. I managed ok using a map, but I pretty much always needed one to get anywhere. I guess what I'm saying is that I learned that

No one in Ithaca will ever mistake me for a local.

3. Kathy's instructor announced the evening before class began that she has shingles, which meant that anyone in class who had not had chicken pox was at risk of contracting the disease. Kathy thought that she had had them, but then she wasn't sure. So she called her mother (on Mom's birthday, which she had forgotten (pregnancy is causing her to forget everything but her own name)), but her Mom didn't remember her having had chicken pox either. We called my Dad for his medical expertise, and found out that although the risk of transmission would be small, there could be serious complications if Kathy were to contract chicken pox as an adult, and risk of harm to the fetus. Kathy had pretty much decided to take the class, when my Mom called while we were on our way to breakfast, hysterical over concern for Kathy and the fetus. And while I'm not one who normally would use the word hysterical, when someone says she didn't sleep the night before due to worry, and that she has no new information but is happy to throw out her unsupported fears onto the situation, I feel that the word is warranted. So Kathy began to have second thoughts, because she didn't want my Mom to be all stressed for the week. Kathy related her concerns to a classmate we saw at breakfast, a former public health nurse who, by some strange quirk of fate, as a hobby likes to look at people's faces to spot the scars from chicken pox. So after the seven seconds Carol took to examine Kathy's face, we learned

Kathy has had chicken pox.

4. Cornell has some of the best food college campuses have to offer. And while that's not a source of pride on behalf of my alma mater, it means that I acquired my freshman 15 in a tastier fashion than did the average college student. And actually, there was nothing wrong with acquiring a freshman 15 all those years ago, given that there were only 125 pounds on my six-foot frame when I enrolled. These days, however, I have no need for any weight gain, which was a problem when confronted with all-you-can-eat meals, free morning, afternoon and late-night snacks, and free wine in the adult lounge all afternoon and evening. Plus a couple of afternoons Kathy brought back food from her cooking class. Plus a few trips to brewpubs up there and to-and-from Ithaca. If the weather had cooperated, I'm sure I could have exercised away at least one-tenth of my caloric intake for the week, but the heat forced modifications to my class to make it less strenuous. And so, after confirming the obvious by weighing myself this morning, I have learned

I need to lose a few pounds.

5. My class was called "Underground Ithaca" -- it was a potpourri, and a veritable cornucopia of information. The instructor is a paleobiologist, and so we examined rocks, earth layers, the earth's history, fossils, and collected rocks, fossils, and fossilized mastodon poop. We also visited a mine that sits atop one of the largest salt deposits in the world (the deposit extends past Cleveland). But so much more happens underground, so we learned about lake source cooling, which uses cold water at the bottom of Cayuga Lake to cool the air at Cornell and Ithaca High School. We visited a waste water facility and learned about treating wastewater. We visited several places that were part of the Underground Railroad. We checked out the Cornell synchotron, located below a large part of the campus. We received a lecture from a dendrochronologist, located in the sub-basement of a campus building, and in the same building got to examine to various antuquities and plasters thereof. We got a lecture from someone who fights against toxic waste in the ground. We examined a site where a house blew up from gas in the basement. But the instructor took underground in additional directions. We went to Babbage's Basement, which is a used computer store that's really on the top floor of its building. We visited Mark Twain's grave, in nearby Elmira. We saw a documentary on Robert Moog, who invented the Moog synthesizer while living in nearby Trumansburg. The instructor also discussed and showed us additional tidbits of the area's history (for example, that the Oregon Trail had its origins in Ithaca), and took us to a Hortorium, where we learned how to press plants and looked at several interesting plants in its collection (such as a specimen of the world's largest seed). In other words, I learned

Tons of stuff.