Tuesday, January 10, 2017

So This is 40...

And so it has come to pass. 2016 found me not only welcoming a third child to the world (our wonderful Marichan), but also reaching that much feared milestone: 40. Years. Old.

As you would expect, just about everyone I know asked me, "So, how does it feel hitting 40?"

"It's a lot like 39," was my standard reply, but the question got me thinking. If I'm expected to live to 80, I'm smack-dab in the middle of my life. As such, I decided I'd take a look at how life now stacks up to when I was 20, the mid point of my life so far and well before these munchkins came along. 
Similarities:
I can't help but think I'm hardwired for certain things, or at least can't give up some of what fascinated me in my youth. So much has remained the same.

Living Situation:
  • 20: A four bedroom home in Northern California (Davis) with 5 roommates
  • 40: A four bedroom home in Northern California (Marin) with 4 roommates
Favorite Band:
  • 20: The Beatles
  • 40: The Beatles
Arcade Games in the Home:
  • 20: Gottlieb's "The Black Hole" pinball; "Return of the Jedi" arcade machine 
  • 40: Gottlieb's "Gladiators" pinball; MAME system with 200+ arcade games
Girlfriend Status:
  • 20: none
  • 40: none
Favorite Owned Mode of Transportation:
  • 20: 1975 Porsche 914 (the poor man's Porsche of the 1990s)
  • 40: 1982 Porsche 911SC (the poor man's air cooled Porsche 911 of the 2010s)
Religious View:
  • 20: Agnostic
  • 40: Better informed Agnostic
Fanboy Obsessions:
  • 20: Star Wars, Anime, Tolkien, Stephen King 
  • 40: Star Wars, Anime, Tolkien, Haruki Murakami
Vision and Coordination:
  • 20: Bad
  • 40: Aggressively bad 
Negative Changes:
While I can confidently say the past 20 years have been the best of my life so far, they haven't been free from the unfortunate realities of aging and some of the sadder aspects of simply living a life.

Hair Status:
  • 20: not particularly fashionable, but all there
  • 40: 50% Missing in Action. Have resorted to growing hair on my face occasionally to compensate.
Number of Living Grandparents:
  • 20: Four
  • 40: One (My grandmother on my father's side, who the children love to visit)
Number of Living Genetic Parents
  • 20: Two
  • 40: One (While my father passed away too young, he at least made it to see both his children married, though he missed out on five grandchildren)
Positive Changes:
My childhood was a good one, but the second two decades of my life is when the world really began to open up. Moving two hours away to Davis for college was the largest leap I was prepared to undertake at 20, having grown up in a small town. I had no idea how far this little leap would eventually take me.

Number of States Visited:
  • 20: 3-4 states and Washington D.C. 
  • 40: 30+ states (thank you business travel two cross country trips)
Number of Foreign Countries Visited:
  • 20: 0
  • 40: 5 (Yes, I know, there's still a lot of work to do here, but that's what 40-60 is for!)
Number of Trips to Japan:
  • 20: 0
  • 40: Too many to count
Marital Status:
  • 20: Don't know if it'll ever happen
  • 40: Happily married for 12 years to the only woman I've ever asked for her number
Children:
  • 20: None
  • 40: I still can't believe it: three. They have been exhausting, exasperating, and expensive, but they're also the greatest blessing and greatest adventure I've ever undertaken.
Friends:
  • 20: The Boys (friends from high school and earlier) and a few others
  • 40: The Boys and, thankfully, a few close friends from every changing stage in my life. In just one year in Japan, I made multiple friends that, even though I rarely seem them, will be friends for life. The same has been true of my work in New York.
Where I Feel at Home:
  • 20: Paradise, CA
  • 40: Manhattan, Tokyo, Marin County
Education:
  • 20: HS Diploma
  • 40: BA in Literature, MA in Literature, MA in Education (and a lot of debt)
Work Life:
  • 20: Washing dishes in an Elks' Club; Working in a Music Library (though, to be fair, if I could be paid an adult salary, I'd stay in that job forever)
  • 40: Ten years of working in education, traveling all over the country and to Japan; multiple years of freelance that have let me work from home to be available for the kids
Outlook for the Future:
  • 20: Skeptical and jaded.
  • 40: Skeptically hopeful. I haven't lost my sometimes aggressively skeptical mindset, but it's been tempered tremendously by the two best things that ever happened to me: my wife and kids.  
After making these lists, I found something that made me quite happy. Most of the things that have stayed the same I still love. And looking at the positive vs. negative changes, the positive have far outweighed the negative (though some of those have been heartbreaking). Perhaps this is why, without having compiled these thoughts before, my outlook for the future is now somewhat positive despite all the challenges my wife and I, and particularly our children, will be facing in the years to come. 

I honestly feel this country is on the verge of one of its greatest trials, though I have no real idea what form it will eventually take. If I were 20 now, I'd be furious, misanthropic, and spouting doom and gloom. While the realities we're facing are harsh, living this life, and particularly raising kids, has given me hope that we can work for the good. Indeed, as a father, I have to. Sharing a life with my wife and kids, one that has taken me from small town USA to Manhattan and Tokyo, has taught me that when you take the time to explore, and talk with the people you meet, you will learn, and learn for the better. My job is to continue to let my family explore, talk, and learn.

This family journey is not going to be an easy one, particularly with a late start. My parents had their second and final child when my father was 29, ten years younger than I was when Mari came along. I welcomed our first child at the age of 33. My mother and father welcomed me when they were in their mid twenties. When my father turned 40, he was preparing to teach me how to drive. The day I turned 40 I was still changing diapers on two children.

Though some might argue that it's all downhill from 40, I honestly think the best is yet to come. I'll get to watch my children learn to read, play sports, make music, and discover new friends, foods, and cultures. Lastly, I have to admit that despite the hard work my wife and I have put in, we've been tremendously lucky in our lives. If we continue to work hard, and raise our kids to appreciate the lives they are so lucky to lead, I can't help but feel our adventures will only become broader and more memorable. And maybe we'll help to make this world a slightly better place. I suppose I'll know in another twenty years.

And, extra-lastly, here are a few pics from our recent trip to the snow for those of you who have slogged through this diatribe wondering where all the pics are that usually fill my blogs. Thank you for your patience.





Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Facebook Image vs. Actual Reality

The other day I flicked through a number of the photos I've put up on Facebook (non blog). Virtually all of them are about family activities and, if these were all you knew of our family, you'd have an insanely distorted image of what our life is normally like. Facebook would have you think everyone is smiling, the house is generally clean, and the kids are well behaved. This is not the typical reality in a home of three children. Ever.

Let's start with eating out. A while back, I posted about a lovely dinner Sumie and I enjoyed.
We were celebrating Sumie's birthday at a French restaurant in SF. We talked and ate in peace and quiet for almost three hours.
This is not the typical reality. 99% of the time when we go out to eat our seating area is littered with burp cloths, random toys, and mystery silverware that is used to attack the table.
Additionally, all napkins will be ripped to shreds or used to build craft projects. These generally involve even more mysterious silverware that has probably dropped on the floor, bread plates, and drinks, now filled with shredded napkins, that are certain to spill.
Another topic I often post about is our Cars and Coffee outings. Most of these pictures show beautiful cars with at least one of my kids posing in front.
In this one, we see the two oldest taking pride in the car they came in, smiling, and looking forward to a car-based outing with their Papa.
While the kids do enjoy going out with their papa, and while they are generally fascinated by cars, the reality, once again, is rather different. As we walk around, Kuri insists on naming each car with a random series of numbers. Me: "That's a Lotus Esprit." Kuri: "No! That's a Boxster 4921T!"Kuri also has the stamina of and exhausted Homer Simpson. Halfway through the parking lot he tends to get tired, even if he's just devoured a delicious monster cookie.

Additionally, the appreciation of cars still has a long way to go. Here we are in front of a gorgeous, rare Ford GT. Kuri claims it's a Camaro and Mimi responds with faceplant. This is the norm.
The greatest divergence from reality comes with pictures of home life. Take the two below as an example. Here we have Christopher quietly and sweetly enjoying a vintage game of Astro Wars...
...and even more adorable, we have Mari playing happily on the living room floor as her big sister reads contentedly, bundled up on the rug. The only thing missing is a fire in the fireplace.
But the reality is quite different. While Mari is generally mild-mannered, her brother and sister can turn a clean room into a complete disaster in seven seconds flat. Christopher is particularly good at taking artwork, particularly pieces his sister is proud of, and sitting on them. Which, despite the rare occurrence below, generally does not result in smiles.
And while Kuri and Mimi do play well together, many of their games begin well but end in "Mimi pushed me!" or "Kuri wrote all over my picture!" As we can see by Mimi's face in the photo below, this game of "hospital," with Kuri playing the doctor, is about to take a most-likely violent turn.
Yes, the reality generally isn't that pretty. But despite all the challenges, and the reality taking up 99% of the time outside of what Facebook photos reflect, the picture of our family in my mind's eye is still closest to this:
Hope everyone reading this has a peaceful and happy holiday!