I was driving along a winding road, back home from work at an Ace Hardware in Asheville, North Carolina. The night was dark and cold, and there were still patches of ice skulking along the edges of the road. My mind was worn, my body was weary, my stomach growled from hunger. On the road I was filled with thoughts from the past and a melancholy longing.
It wasn’t so long ago that I was in college. Living in a house with other guys, boys learning to become men, and adult life seemed so distant. One year I slept every night on a mattress atop a wood floor—no bed frame, no box springs—but I barely noticed. I lived in a cycle of classes and college sports. There were late night parties in our house almost every week, though I was an introvert and slipped away from most of them, preferring the tranquility of my own thoughts and the posters on my bedroom wall to actual people.
I was intelligent, working smart more than I worked hard, always finding the easiest method that worked rather than drudging through old fashioned learning devices, catering to my strengths rather than polishing my flaws. I was able to attain a high GPA and work a part-time job my senior year, all while managing to play more video games than ever before. I ate and exercised and slept when I wanted. Most of all, I was carefree. My biggest concerns were walking to class in snow or ice and an Arabic teacher who berated her students. My only financial commitment was maintaining the old Nissan 200sx I drove; I didn’t worry about paying for the food I ate, the house I stayed in, or my college tuition—my parents were tending to my needs.
Then that sense of security ended as graduation loomed. Suddenly I was to be responsible, to pay for all my bills and figure out my healthcare. My future job, rather than my parents, was to be my source of income, my livelihood, and there was a weight that crashed onto my life. I was my own provider. I didn’t know how, but I learned, slowly, with the unsteadiness of a toddler learning walk. Continue reading “My Provider”
When I decided to resuscitate my childhood aquarium hobby for the benefit of my young children, I failed to realize how tangibly I was bringing death into our living room. This reboot started out much better than before, though more expensive, because as an adult I have better funding and no mommy to tell me, “No.”
I spent months searching for a stable aquarium stand of an appropriate height; I wanted my toddlers to be able to inspect the fish easily and safely. I struggled over the decision between a glass or acrylic tank because acrylic tanks were safer but had largely gone out of style and availability. Eventually, I settled for glass, reminding myself that my eight siblings broke bones, split lips, and nearly hacked off fingers, but never once broke an aquarium.
From there, the decisions were smaller and more arbitrary: Would I use gravel or substrate? Did I want artificial or live plants? Which heater was least likely to malfunction and boil the fish? I made up my mind and placed my Amazon order because going into an actual pet shop to buy your aquarium in 2017 is passé and because I’m an introvert married to an introvert with tiny introverted babies—we don’t leave the house much. Continue reading “The Saga of Our Aquarium Fish and How They Died”
When I was a kid, I used to read the post-Exodus stories about the Israelites complaining in the desert and think, “What idiots.” Didn’t they remember the ten plagues or crossing the Red Sea? Didn’t they eat the manna from heaven every single day? How could they forget? With all the self-assured spiritual confidence of the missionary kid I was, I knew that I would certainly never do such a thing.
Now I’m thirty years old, and I find myself identifying with the Israelites. Sometimes their complaints were legitimate, directly tied to biological necessities like food or water or not wanting to die battling giants. Yet I’m reminded that their attitude rather than their complaints seems to be what got them into trouble. Their needs may have been valid, but the way they expressed them wasn’t acceptable to God.
My wife, Abigail, and I just had our fourth child in our five years of marriage. The addition was going remarkably well. My mother-in-law stayed with us for a couple weeks while we got our bearings. Grandma left, and everything was going perfectly, or at least as perfectly as life with four children can go.
Then I started to get sick, along with all the children. Baby Lily stopped sleeping well (for a newborn) at night. Then my wife started having nursing complications and an intermittent fever, which caused her significant pain and basically put her out of commission. Continue reading “A Lesson in Faithfulness”
Call me crazy, but I’m rather attached to living. I’d rather not end up mangled in the midst of a mixture of metal and fiberglass melding at the end of high speed collision. I’d rather not get maimed as well, and now that I have kids, I feel especially obligated to stay alive.
However, living in Asheville, North Carolina makes this reasonable goal more difficult. I learned to drive in Wichita, Kansas, a flat city on a grid with a terrific road to car ratio, where traffic or an accident meant a few minutes delay. Then I moved to Asheville, North Carolina.
Asheville is basically the inverse of Wichita. The city is built around mountains, rivers, and the Biltmore Estate, with narrow roads placed where they fit, meaning there is no predictable or convenient pattern. Compounding the problem, Asheville is an established tourist destination with an exploding population. The tourists and new residents in addition to the over population and the now insufficient transportation system create what I like to call purgatory on asphalt. Continue reading “Surviving Asheville, N.C.’s Purgatory on Asphalt: How I Crushed My Near Accident Occurrences and Became Saner in the Process”
Abigail and I started our third week as parents several days ago, and Lizzy is still alive. I consider that successful parenting. Now that the blood and gore is in the review mirror, along with those slimy, green, poopy diapers, I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts about childbirth and the first several days that followed.
I did crack some jokes in the birthing process. No, I didn’t actually tell my wife, “Imagine you’re pushing a bowling ball out of your body. See, now a baby doesn’t sound so bad.” I made that comment the day before my wife went into labor. To Abigail’s credit, she only shushed me once during labor and never got violent. Continue reading “My Nipples Seem so Pointless Now and Other Thoughts from a First-time Father”
It was my last semester of college. I began the term by getting rejected by a woman I’d wanted to ask out the prior year. There were circumstances that prevent me from asking her out sooner, so instead of getting rejected and simply moving on, my feelings had grown in a stilted, one-sided manner for six months. In short, I was infatuated.
When the rejection did come, it struck deeper than it should have, and in the melodramatic way emotions can work, it put my dream of having a family someday in doubt.
At the same time, I was uncertain about what I would do after college. I was aging into a new level of responsibility and freedom, but instead of excitement, I felt fear. Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled”
I first ran across The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, during my junior college Introduction to Literature course where we read the first chapter. I was unaffected. Most likely I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate what I was reading at the time. However, to my credit, as an adult I bought the book and it resonated with me, so much so that it’s become one of my favorite works.
The Things They Carried is a collection of essays written by a Vietnam veteran. We learn about the author’s experiences fighting in the war, being drafted, returning home, his childhood, and even revisiting Nam later. It’s not a particularly long book, but it does an incredible job of capturing the experience. Continue reading “7. The Things They Carried”