On failing NaNoWriMo

I’d be lying if I thought I’d have to make this post. In fact, just about a month ago, I made a post saying I was feeling pretty confident about this year’s National Novel Writing Month.

That turned out to be hubris. I had a run of 10 years of finishing NaNoWriMo, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but for the past few years, quite comfortably. So for all that KRH is very busy and distracting, I didn’t think there was anything that could stop me from winning.

I was wrong. The whole family got the flu, one that kept me off my feet for almost 10 days. Then KRH got conjunctivitis, three times. His latest ailment, that we’re just now getting over, was a lung infection. One of the things that’s caught me off guard is just how much the sickness of a child made me fearful and worried, even when the illnesses were minor.

We’re still working through all this, but it actually didn’t take me long into November to decide that this year simply wasn’t going to happen. I made that decision based on a cool calculus, because the draft I was writing was just a fun project that had no deadline, sandwiched between two important projects, one in October (which I hadn’t quite completed) and returning to my next project in December.  It was relatively easy, then, to decide not to worry overly about NaNoWriMo because I’d proven to myself I could do it, and move on.

It was actually more difficult than I thought to give up the month. NaNoWriMo isn’t exactly central to my identity as a writer because really November is just another month in my writing schedule, but NaNo taught me a lot about how to get butt in chair and finger to keyboard in the pursuit of completion. It’s also often the one month of the year I allow myself to write a fun first draft, and I spent the month seeing my writing friends and doing events (or I used to. With KRH this proved to be different). The long and short of it is, while giving up on NaNo made a lot of sense, it was hard in that it’s always something that I look forward to and this year I basically didn’t get to participate. If anything, it left me feeling a bit discouraged.

That doesn’t mean that I made the wrong choice. No one month can make or break my writing career, especially not my 10th NaNoWriMo. So in the end, I just have to  do exactly what I learned from NaNo in the first place, which is to get my butt in my chair and put my fingers to my keyboard.

The lost boys

I return to blog after the flu has knocked our whole family for a loop. It kept me off my feet for over a week. Get your flu shot, everyone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Angela Nagle’s Atlantic article The Lost Boys, referring to the wave of alt-right (read, fascist) young men who’ve emerged in the last few years. As a man in that age group, who could very well have ended up a part of that, I think it’s important to think about this sort of thing, both in introspection for myself and about how I’m going to raise KRH to not join it himself.

I say that I could have ended up a part of the alt-right for a fairly simple reason; I spent time on 4chan. Both at the time and now, I’d have described the toxic hate that oozes out of the alt-right as gross, but as a man in his early 20s, I can think about how spending time on that site changed me. At the time, the lack of reverence, where everything could be a joke, was something that I found appealing. It seemed like it could do good, which was why I got moderately involved in Project Chanology, attending a protest and doing some advocacy. But many of the techniques that were first pointed at the Church of Scientology, later ended up in the toolbox of Gamergaters and now are used by the alt-right, especially against women and people of colour.

Whew. I ended up drifting away from 4chan on my own. And yet the off-colour humor of the site, that’s often racial or hateful in nature, certainly infused my language, and it took some time for me to realize that was a problem. I did, and eventually I examined a lot of the things I’d picked up there. But it’s easy to see a different path, in which that time on 4chan leads instead to the alt-right, simply because of the attractive nature of the message. It appeals to people who don’t fit in and to those whose lives haven’t turned out great, both messages that have some power.

So how do I make sure that, if KRH ever finds himself tempted with this dark side, that he takes the route that I did? That’s a difficult question, because there’s no way to every make certain of that. KRH will become his own person who’ll make his own decisions. There’s nothing I can do to him that will force him to follow my political beliefs.

But. I was loved, I was surrounded by good and loving people, and I was educated both directly by those people and just by exposure to them. I also had experiences that educated me. And that was just in the 1990s and 2000s. I like to think that, decades later when KRH is going through this same journey, we can educate him in better ways  than I ever was, and that we can give him the experiences and understanding of people who are different than him, and that in the same way those experiences ultimately prevented me from taking a more odious path, they’ll do the same for him. Because ultimately, that’s all I can do.

How do I do these things? Well, I have a few ideas, though I’m sure I’ll need more. I’ll have to pay attention to the media he consumes, and work to discuss it with him. I’ll have to listen to his language and discuss why some things are hateful or hurtful. I’ll need to make sure he’s surrounded by people who are different than himself, in race, gender, sexuality, belief and more. And I’ll have to stay vigilant in the ways that the alt-right (or whatever this sleazy ooze calls itself in 10+ years) recruits people, and make sure it doesn’t happen to KRH. It’s a tall order, but it might be one of the most important things I can do as a parent.

NaNoWriMo with a 1-year old

I love National Novel Writing Month. I love it because I met CRH there. I love it because it taught me the kind of consistency I needed to actually get anything done as a writer. I love it because I’ve met a lot of good friends there, and get to see them regularly because of it. I love it because November becomes a time when writing can be the focus, which I don’t get to do often enough. NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, but it is for me.

This year will be my thirteenth year of NaNo, and after 10 straight victories, I feel pretty good about my chances of winning. I managed to finish last year, with an 8-week old. I also managed to finish in 2015, the year I had my appendix out right before November started. Those two years presented some new challenges, naturally. I dug into that a bit in this post.

I expect that this year will present its own challenges. After all, I slowly recovered from the appendix thing, and at 8-weeks old KRH didn’t do much other than sleep. This year, he’s a ball of active, mobile baby, who can be relied on to summon trouble from the ether if left unattended for more than five seconds. In other words, he’s probably going to be more distracting than anything I’ve faced before.

Here’s how I plan to get around his presence and still get in my words.

Scheduled times

The formula for NaNoWriMo is simple, Write 1667 words a day, achieve novel(la). I usually aim for around 70-80k, but the formula remains the same even if the numbers change. At this stage as a writer, pumping out that many words on any given day isn’t challenging. What’s challenging is doing it consistently, every day. Stuff happens. KRH wakes up early. There are poopsplosions of a horrifying nature. So in so far as I can, scheduling the time and being consistent, no matter what’s happened, is a huge part of winning. It relies habit-forming and perseverance, but it’s also the way to win.

Big writing days

My big secret to finishing NaNo, though, is knowing that I can’t be consistent every day. There are just some days where words won’t happen. So that means I have to have days where I write a lot more. Weekends and writing events are the two most likely times where I can either get ahead, or catch up. Either can be necessary, given on how things go. Writing events haven’t been all that productive for me as of late, thanks to KRH, but hopefully I can find one or two that will be.

The community

This is the thing I find the best about NaNo; the fact that a bunch of other crazy writers are there with me, all jamming fingers to keyboards in pursuit of the same goal. That energy has carried me through many years, and I expect to feed on it like some bloodthirsty cannibal again this year. However, I anticipate being able to make it to a lot less of the writing events than in years past, so I’m going to have to make sure I get this in when I can. I’m lucky that my region usually offers twice-weekly events, which I usually attend religiously, but now I pick KRH up from day care and he has a bed time, so I don’t imagine I’ll make it to at least half of them. Still, even a few will be sufficient to feel that energy.

That’s it, how I’ll make the magic of November happen.

Election retrospection

We just finished a hard-fought municipal election in Calgary and I wanted to reflect on a couple of things about it. Some relate to me and some to KRH.

Let’s start with KRH, because that’s the least reflective. He’s only 1, but Monday night reinforced for me the importance of being engaged with the political process. I sort of fell into politics as an interest backwards, in that I absorbed a lot of political beliefs from people around me in my early teens, and then went out and figured out what I actually believed in, which fostered a love of the political and democratic process. I don’t expect KRH to go to university for political science (like I did) but I do hope that he’ll share my belief that engagement in politics matters. I hope that’s something I’ll be able to teach him as he grows up. How will I engage him? That’s a good question. I think by example is a good start (he got not one but two “I voted” stickers because he went to the polling station with each parent, despite not actually voting. Cute privilege.). But so is discussion about the issues and characters and ideologies, if he’ll listen. And engagement in election campaigns, when he’s old enough.

What’s important about all this is that my goal isn’t to indoctrinate him to my political beliefs. Instead, I need to equip him to learn about politics and issues, and then draw his own conclusions. I feel pretty confident that if I do this well, he’ll come around to my political beliefs, but I also run the risk that he decides to believe in the opposite side of the political spectrum. I’d be disappointed, but that would be his choice (so long as he doesn’t decide to support things that hurt people around him. We’ll have no Nazis in any household I’m responsible for). But I really don’t think that’s likely.

Speaking of Nazis, that’s a fine time to consider the election itself. What struck me is just how stressful I found it, and how important it felt until it was over. Elections used to be fun for me. I recognize, of course, that in part elections were fun because the result wouldn’t truly hurt me. Part of that comes from privilege, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the stakes 15 years ago were different than today. But this was a municipal elections. Municipalities, especially for cities, have quite broad powers in Canada and in many ways matter more to day-to-day life than other levels of government, but at the end of the day their primary concerns are with things like infrastructure. The issues that dominated the election were increasing property taxes, whether the local sports team should get a new publicly-funded arena, and personality. If the election didn’t the way I wanted, it would change the tone of the city I live in, but it was unlikely to dramatically affect my home. So why did I find this stressful?

Well, it doesn’t help that the Canadian far-right has been quietly agitating against the tolerant muslim mayor that I support (You can see some of the nastiness here). Those same people are also targeting the federal and provincial governments, so naturally I’m against anything that would make them happy. There was also a pretty clear effort by business interests to support candidates who were favourable to their bottom line, not what citizens need, which felt serious. But this was never an election of the sort that would have installed dangerous candidates, merely candidates I disagreed with.

Nonetheless, it felt like it was. With even a few day’s distance, it continues to feel important, but not as critical as it did. Indeed, the amount of time and energy I spent worrying about it was probably out of proportion.

Politics matters. This was an election that could have changed the course of where I live. It mattered, and staying aware of the issues and voting were important ways I participated. But the campaigns took up space in my brain for a while, space that I’d much rather devote to other things. The next election is a provincial contest coming up next year, and that one will likely be even more concerning because it will be a starker choice between people I support and people whose ideas I believe can be dangerous to those most marginalized among us.  Engagement and participation will be critical. But I’m going to have to learn to keep the stress I’ve been feeling about elections in proportion. An election loss next year will be bad for what I believe, but it won’t be a slide toward fascism.  It lies somewhere between catastrophic and irrelevant. I’ve got to find that balance in my brain.

Tough writing times

Two authors who I respect recently  wrote about the difficulty of writing in our current world (John Scalzi in 2017, Word Counts and Writing Process and Kameron Hurley in Ongoing National Horrors Can’t Be Unplugged, But We Go On). And they are so right.

I wanted to throw in my own thoughts about this. I’ve had my own reasons for struggling to write, but they sure do dovetail with the political climate. KRH was born in October, and I must have said to myself and to others at least a dozen times how much I was looking forward to, at least temporarily, un-engaging with politics so I could focus on parenting. I felt I needed to do that because I’d found writing and indeed life difficult with the onslaught of news that hit in 2016, but I figured that after the American election, I could safely limit my focus. With progressive governments in place at all levels in Canada, it seemed as safe a time as any to take a break. I recognize the ability to do that is a sign of privilege, but I judged that I could stay aware of what was going on in areas I could effect, while disengaging from news what was ultimately irrelevant to me and was harming my health and well being.

We all know what happened that November, of course, and has been ongoing since then, and that’s bad enough. I worry hugely about climate disasters, or the collapse of international order (Canada’s foreign minister just called modern times the most uncertain since the end of the Second World War). But it isn’t simply the government that’s the problem. It’s the march of the far-right, of actual Nazis marching in the streets, of white supremacists and racists and fascists. They’re people who want to hurt nonwhites or who hate LGBTQ kids. People who would violently overthrow the government.

I’ve tried to strike a balance between engaging with these threats, and keeping my sanity. I’ve only been moderately successful. It’s definitely cut into my writing time. But why wouldn’t it? I worry about the world KRH is going to grow up into. Will he run the risk of radicalization? What about an international system that makes wars more likely? Will his children face a world where food security is an issue from the changing climate? There are countless threats brewing that could effect him. He’s only 1, but no matter how much I want them to be, it seems clear that by the time he’s able to understand these threats, they won’t have gone away. So my sweet and innocent child is going to have to deal with this shitshow world we’ve left him.

That makes me angry. Like, how did we fuck this up? How did Nazis become a thing again? How did we reach a point where so many things are getting worse, rather than better? But it did, and I have to engage with it, to do what I can to keep the world safe for KRH, for my friends and family and myself. I resent the people who made it possible, forcing me to spend time and energy on it, time that I could spend writing, or with KRH.

Nonetheless, I have to do it. I have to stay aware, and fight for the better world I want KRH to grow up in. And if that takes writing time and focus, then it does. If it effects my health and well being, then that’s what’ll happen too.

Still, I have to find ways to protect myself from the things that are irrelevant. And I have to find ways to survive the torrent of shit that we’re all getting hit with. Seeing that other people are struggling is important. It helps me feel less alone.

Back to work

Well, after four months, it’s finally time. Next week I go back to work, and KRH starts day care.

I don’t know if I have words to describe this summer, but I’ll try. It’s been a wondrous experience. I’ve learned so much about this new and tiny life, even as he continues to become less new and tiny. June, when I left work, seems a very long time away and the month have been marked by countless adventures and experiences. It hasn’t been that long, and yet in that time, KRH has gone from barely sitting to crawling to trying to stand. He’s embraced a love of food and then gotten picky. He’s met a lot of people, seen a lot of things, played with a lot of toys, and had a lot of naps. And I’ve been there for the majority of it.

Being the primary parent, as CRH and I like to call it, has been a totally different experience than just being Dad for a few hours a day. I’ve learned what KRH does when he’s hungry or when he needs a nap. I’ve learned how to judge his moods and emotions. I’ve found things he likes (right now, books, his soother after hating it for 11 months, and larabars) and things he doesn’t (swimming class, not being allowed to eat cat food or play in the cat fountain). And I feel so much closer to him than I did before. For the last four months, I’ve been the one in charge of keeping him alive, happy and healthy, and if I say so myself, I did a pretty good job.

Of course, I’m a big believer that KRH is going to succeed in spite of his parents, rather than because of us. But I want to do what I can to equip him to become a responsible and kind adult. And I’ve learned not just how hard that is, but also how I want to go about it going ahead.

I’m probably never going to have another experience like this summer. I will happily take parental leave again for future kids, but then I’ll be thinking about KRH +, not just one child. There’ll be less of an ability for me to simply learn and more of a requirement to do things on my feet.  I think I’ll always think back to this time fondly.

That said, it wasn’t all easy. I think I now understand so much of what CRH went through. Even though KRH was older, taking care of him all day was a draining task, because so much of it is listening to a baby cry, or fighting naps, or changing diapers, or trying to get him to eat, or struggling to entertain him. It took up far more time and energy than I expected, even expecting that it was going to take up a lot of time and energy. There were times I found myself upset, frustrated and sad, because it was hard.

I don’t know if this is a journey all parents go through. I suspect it is, though I recognize how lucky I am to both have a partner willing to split the parental leave, and to live somewhere with that much parental leave. I’m also intensely lucky to have a lot of support available, from grandparents and friends and even the child-minding at the gym, things that very much helped keep me sane.

When I’ve had moments, I often pause to reflect on this strange situation. Somehow, it still feels unreal that I helped create a life, have helped take care of it and now I’m responsible for guiding it and growing it. It still leaves me feeling gobsmacked. I mean, what fool allowed this? Me, having such an important task? And the more I’ve seen KRH grow and learn, the stronger the gravity of the situation seems. A life. How do I protect and nurture it to ensure that it becomes everything it can? How do I do it in a way that there’s absolute certainty of success, which is exactly what he deserves?

There is no way. Nothing is certain, though I wish there was. And even if I could spend every waking second working toward that, it might actually not be what he needs. It certainly wouldn’t be what I need, or what CRH needs.

A week from today, KRH starts day care. As much as I wish he could stay with me forever, I think this is going to be very good for him. He’s a bit shy, but very social, and full of energy and a desire to go and learn and play. Day care is a place where he’ll meet new people and have new experiences and much more.

Meanwhile, I’ll go back to work and think about how I can make my life more like what I want it to be. That won’t be the worst thing for me either. I’ll have more energy for KRH when we both get home, because we’ll need to get our quality time in a much shorter period. And I’ll need to get back to being focused. In a way, the last four months have been an interlude on the rest of my life, and so very glad I had it. But now it’s time to start working on shaping the way life will be for the coming years. And I look forward to that challenge.

Setting deadlines and changing deadlines

The whole point of a deadline is supposed to be that the thing you’re working on is supposed to be done by the deadline, right? Maybe that’s why I’ve struggled with having to move my deadline back twice. Good writers and good workers hit their deadlines, after all.

In August, I set myself the goal of finishing my current rewrite by September 25. I was about a third of the way through rewriting a 110,000 novel, so that made it a very ambitious deadline. I can hit 3-4k a day on a first draft fairly easily, but adding in rewriting and re-reading time, that’s difficult. When I realized I’d miss that deadline, I moved it to October 9.  Just a few days ago, I had to move that deadline again, to the 22nd.

I felt disappointed with myself. Twice, I made a deadline and wasn’t able to reach it. The feeling of failure was pretty acute.

But one of those things I’d describe myself as being mediocre at is setting good deadlines. A good deadline has to be achievable, right? In reaching the first deadline, I counted on KRH going to daycare when we’d originally planned, giving myself 5 whole days for uninterrupted writing. I knew that in order to reach the deadline, I’d have to do a ton of writing on those days. Well, those plans changed, meaning there was no way I’d reach that goal.

I recalculated, moving the goal up 2 weeks, to the day before I expected to return to work. But even then, that required me to write about 3k words a day, again re-writing with rereading time. That takes me 2-3 hours a day. I can do that, but it uses up any nap time KRH might give me and time in the evening. More importantly, it was using time that I needed to finish other temporary but higher-priority goals (basically, stuff I need to do before I go back to work). So after about a week, I realized that wasn’t the best use of my time, either. Hence, another pushed deadline.

I think that for my own sake, it’s important to remember that this was an entirely self-imposed deadline. Some deadlines, in other words, are worth staying up all night for (or at least a few extra hours). But for the sake of a month, when I’ve already told myself dozens of times (and will keep having to, really) where taking care of KRH was the primary goal, then it’s not worth killing myself over. A different deadline would be.

So what makes a good deadline, anyway? I’ve recently been reading Shawn Achor’s Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. I’m a big fan of Achor’s other book, The Happiness Advantageas a science-based look about how to bring positivity into your life and the proven benefits of doing that. In  Before Happoiness, there are some interesting ideas about how to design good goals. A couple stuck with me. From Before Happiness.

“Identify your X-spots. X-spots help your brain believe that success is close, possible, and worthwhile. They need not be near the end of successfully completing a project; they can be found all along the way. When you are at work, design minigoals that you can achieve daily so that you can be sure to reap the benefits of mental accelerants each and every day. Set markers to highlight for yourself when you’re 70 percent of the way to each minigoal—that will cue your brain to release the productivity-enhancing chemicals that will speed up your progress. And for particularly challenging or mundane tasks, focus on “progress to date” rather than “what’s left to do.”

Keep your eyes on the beach, not the rocks. Mentally practice and visualize accomplishing the small steps you need to take to get to your goal. Your brain will naturally steer you toward whatever you focus on, so instead of visualizing failure, visualize what success could realistically look like.

Make 70 percent your goal. Design goals or minigoals that you genuinely believe you have more than a 70 percent chance of achieving. If you doubt your likelihood of success from the beginning, then you dramatically decrease your chances of hitting your target. If you honestly believe you have less than a 70 percent chance to complete the goal, adjust it to make its likelihood of success more than 70 percent.”

I recommend checking out his work if you haven’t already. Still, these are things I’m trying to embrace in my current goal-setting. I think it’s easy to see how, by breaking down goals, staying focused on success, and believing you can achieve your goal, you can increase your chance of actually achieving it. Both of my previous deadlines didn’t take these into account. We’ll see if my next attempt can do better.

Finding community

A Facebook post recently led me to reconnect with some members of a community that I’d been a part of, some time ago. During the 2000s, I spent a lot of time in the nascent webcomic community around Keenspot and Keenspace and more independent comics. Most memorable were titles like Bruno the Bandit, Roomies!, Sluggy Freelance, and the one whose community I really got involved in, CRFH!!!.

I spent a lot of my late teens bouncing around the internet, looking for places where I could be. I spent time (that I’m not particularly proud of) on the Yahoo! message boards, in roleplaying chats, and other places. Luckily for me, I ended up in the CRFH!!! forums, a welcoming place that wasn’t toxic. From there, I jumped into a sub-set of fans, who imagined their own universe.

I spent a lot of time with those people, chatting, posting, writing, thinking, dreaming. They were probably one of my biggest influences, as far as being a person. I drifted away from that community as I reconnected with real-life friends and made new ones. I also made my way through other online communities, including a World of Warcraft guild and later, the National Novel Writing Month local chapter.

I don’t think it’s a particular stretch to say that we’re all looking for places where we’ll be accepted and we can also meaningfully contribute. What kind of form that takes and what we want it to take is going to be different for everyone, but if we don’t have that, I think we want it.

But what makes a good community? What makes a healthy community? I think back to the time I spent online, and sometimes I feel like it’s fairly miraculous that I turned out like I did. The time I spent on those Yahoo message boards now makes me cringe. So too does a lot of my behaviour in other communities. I spent time on 4Chan, and looking back it’s fairly clear that some things I picked up there did not make me a better person (and it’s also easy to see how, taken further, people can pick up toxic and hateful beliefs and even be radicalized from the communities they take part in). All of these communities were non-sexual in nature, but I tended to seek out the sexual parts of them, and there ended up being nudes of myself online fairly quickly after it was legal (although that was always by my consent and I count it as a positive experience).

I think it’s easy to see how any of those things could have backfired, and quite honestly I’m glad that social media like Twitter wasn’t around during those days, because the many mistakes I made could have easily been magnified.

When I think about my time in the healthy places, I think some of the most important parts of me are because of it. I found a community that generally didn’t care who I was, in terms of sexuality, political belief, hobby and ethnicity, so long as I was someone who was pleasant to interact with, most of the time. More importantly, they were people who were there during difficult times in my life, when I didn’t have many friends in real life.

Community, I’d argue, should foster positive growth in us, while discouraging the negative and asking us to be better. We should contribute in constructive ways, ways that help both ourselves and others. They should support us when we need it. Perhaps in this way it’s better to be a recognizable face in a small community rather than someone in a large one, but I don’t know if there’s a wrong way to do it.

I think about community because I wonder how I’m going to help KRH find healthy ones. There probably won’t be any one place I can guide him to that will be a positive influence for the rest of his life. Instead, I expect that like I have, he’ll pass through many different communities, sometimes being a problem, but hopefully learning as he does. The internet was new enough (and in my experience, the dangers slight enough) that I was able to make my way through it without being damaged, but I don’t think that’s the case now and I don’t expect it to be when KRH goes online, which I guess will continue to be one of the main ways we seek out community. So how do I help him?

Here’s what I’m planning. I’ll speak frankly to him about my experiences online, as he’s ready, and I won’t leave out the parts for me that are embarrassing or that paint me in a negative light. I’ve had these experiences and I think I can model being better for him. Especially as he’s younger but at all times until he becomes an adult, I’ll keep a careful eye on what he’s doing online, and his exploration of the world in that way will result in a lot of conversations and discussions about appropriate ways to treat others, dangerous beliefs and activities, and probably all kinds of things I can’t even anticipate yet. And those conversations will be difficult, but we’ll have to have them anyway.

I expect he’ll still have to do what I did, which was to go out and make mistakes, to be foolish and childish, on his way to learning. But I hope he’ll follow a similar path to me, in which that learning makes him a kind person. What will his healthy communities look like? I certainly hope they’ll look like mine. But what’s more important is that they be positive places, and he be a positive member of them.

 

Family vacation

Over the last week, KRH, my wife (Now referred to as CRH) and myself went on vacation.

I suppose you could say we went on several small vacations, smushed together. We spent the labour day weekend with my wife’s family out in B.C., near Radium. The temperature was hot (Nearly 30 C) but despite some smoke, we enjoyed it, mostly because KRH gets to go to the beach. He’s discovered sand as being fun, and was happy to use his shovel to fling it everywhere. Thanks to babysitting from Grandma and Grandpa, I wrote about 15k words while we were there, but still made time for meals and to visit the lake.

We returned home, and the next day we got on a flight… back to B.C. This time, we headed to Vancouver, where CRH’s sister lives. We spent a few fun days there, which included a visit to the Vancouver aquarium.

Then, for the final leg of our journey, we met up with my parents, and we all took the ferry over to Vancouver Island, where we went to a birthday/ reunion of sorts for my side of  the family. For almost all of my extended family, it was their first time meeting KRH, and he rose to the occasion by being cheerful despite many missed naps and intensely late nights. As family reunions on my side tend to go, there was a great deal of wine and even more food.

We returned home tired and with our schedules thrown out of whack, but having had a great time and learned a few things. We think, for example, that we’re raising a little extrovert, who gets energy from people, as KRH was happy to play with grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and be friendly long after he ought to have passed out. We’ve also got a pretty good idea of how far we can push him when it comes to naps, how well he travels, and a bunch of other things.

All in all, a pretty good week, even if I wrote very little for the last two-thirds of it. I’ve discussed before how I think vacations, previously an opportunity for me to work my butt off, are probably going to be a lot less productive, at least while KRH is young. I think I’m slowly coming to terms with that. I can’t sacrifice my writing, but at the same time, this is the sort of vacation I expect I’ll always remember. Those are the sorts of memories I want to create with KRH, so if that means a week or two less writing a year, so be it. That’s a price I’ll happily pay.

 

Three years

I mostly use this space to talk about writing and KRH, but in many ways that leaves out what’s probably the most important third of my life, my wife.  Today is our third anniversary, so I want to talk a little about our relationship and what that means to me.

Those three years have been a very long road, and I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say more things have happened in that time than in the 5-ish years of dating/engagement before. We struggled with loss…

…which turned into the adventure of success…

… and now apparently we’re parents or something. How did that happen? Sometimes it’s a mystery to me.

What I do know is that my wife had been the thing I can rely on most in this life. She allows me to be a better person, in ways that I wasn’t able before I met her. I can count on her intelligence, empathy and support in what I do. I often say to her that we make better decisions  than I do on my own, and I believe that. Sure, there’s a lot of kilometers and a lot of learning between where we started and where we are, and sure it’s been difficult and there have been struggles. But that’s the essence of growth, isn’t it? If we weren’t challenged, how would we improve?

But the real essence of what we’ve created is, I believe, a partnership. This relationship isn’t just about the time she makes for me to write, or how she went back to work early so I could take parental leave to spend time with KRH, or even just the way she’s always there to talk or listen or whatever I need. It’s about me also providing those kinds of support for her, just as often as she provides them for me. I don’t believe our relationship will ever be equal, because we both have different needs at different times, but it is important to me that it be fair, that we are both contributing enough to the well-being and success of the other.

I think this is something we do well. As with everything in our life, it’s been tested by KRH’s arrival, and there’s a lot more learning and a lot more improving that needs to be done. Indeed, I never want that to stop.

Looking back on those three years, there’s been some heartbreak and some euphoria. I hope things trend more toward the latter for the many years ahead, but no matter what happens I know we’ll meet it as partners. And that makes me happy.