We're soul mates.
Sure, he's married... I'm married. But whatever. He's like me but with a penis. He just gets it and I love how well he can capture exactly what I'm saying and it causes me to talk to my book. Out loud. It was an awkward day at the park while I read the book because I'm pretty sure every mom there looked at me with sad eyes like I was that "special person" that the special bus dropped off for her day out on the town from the special person home.
But without further adieu, here is a hilarious guest post that you will love if you have ever traveled with a small child. Trust me, you'll like him as much as do. And don't worry Erik, I'm not writing this from the bushes in front of your house. (*waving!*)
(side note: I love how he says "ASAFP" because that is a total Saraism. See? Soul mates.)
I Remember, I Remember, When I Lost My Mind
(a.k.a. Notes from Year One as a Debut Novelist & Debut Dad)
On the morning of April 22nd, my wife, our nine-month-old wild man of a son, and myself all woke up buzzing with anticipation and adrenaline. We’d finally arrived at a day on the calendar that we’d long ago, circled, highlighted, and decorated with glittering stars. This was the day we were piling into our purple minivan and going on a nice long drive from our condo in Seattle...
To the mountains of New Hampshire.
And we weren’t coming back.
So yeah, this was one hell of a notch on the family timeline, as with hope in our hearts and a glorious future before us, we set out to give our son the same serene and idyllic childhood that his parents had growing up in New England. After too many years of city traffic and unnecessary bustle -- in addition to living just down the street from a 24/7 busy freakin’ fire station -- we adopted the following battle cry as our big adventure’s mantra:
Less sirens, more crickets!
Oh hell yes, we were totally ready to make a break for it.
Except we sort of weren’t. Not that morning, or that afternoon, or that night...
Or the very next morning...
No, in an amazing display of ineptitude that rivaled Continental Airlines typical service in Newark, we finally managed to hit the road almost 36 hours after our scheduled departure time. And why was it that we found ourselves stuck in pre-liftoff quicksand?
Because trying to relocate your life with a toddler in tow is probably the very definition of chaos. This is why it thrills me to no end to be writing this guest post for Sara’s Organized Chaos blog. I clearly could learn a lot from her. So Sara, thanks so much for giving me this stage time!
Anyway, here’s the thing... I’ve always been a fairly orderly and organized person. I’ve always known where everything I need is located, never struggled with time management, and have rarely felt like I’ve lost control. This past year, however, one in which I’ve become a new Dad with a debut novel who’s just moved into a new home 3,000 miles from his last home... Well...
I basically tumbled headfirst into the lunatic confluence of bedlam, chaos and crazy.
Just touching down in New Hampshire a mere two weeks after leaving the left coast didn’t magically soothe our sleepless souls. The place we thought we were going to call home didn’t quite pan out -- though the spiders there seemed to really enjoy taking root. Additionally, we soon thereafter realized that jobs we thought we’d be able to land weren’t exactly sure things. So began our personal Panic Dance, and somehow when the music stopped, we found ourselves paying rent at three separate residences and without a single job to our name.
This was totally okay, though. See, we had a plan. We were going to get by on smiles instead of paychecks!
Yup. Sometimes when Chaos sets up camp, Logic decides to altogether leave the campground.
To be sure, these are the times that test the capacity of intellect. Times when you open the freezer and find your house keys. Times when you catch your wife eating puréed apples and apricots, and when you shoot her a glance that suggests she needs help -- or at least a bib -- she coolly says, “This stuff is really good -- want some?”
Times when you look deep into the eyes of a six-inch-tall stuffed toy zebra named Zigzag and say, “Zigzag, what is the key to happiness?”
I was a big fan of the 1988 film She’s Having a Baby. Charming and relatable characters, clever humor, and just bursting with heart. All that said, I would love to see a sequel for this. Or better yet, write a sequel for this that takes place over the span of the Briggs family’s first year as parents. I even have a working title: She’s Having a Meltdown.
Kidding aside, we knew that trading gridlock for dirt roads wouldn’t magically lift chaos from our lives. The trick, I think, lies in the ability to stop trying to organize the chaos, and simply embrace it as a fact of life. Ironically, the less you try to give the chaos some sense of order, the more orderly it probably becomes.
Here it’s important that I point out that it just took me two hours and three separate trains-of-thought to write this last paragraph. I was rolling right along, but my wife & the little dude came home, which happily derailed the train for an hour, then just as I was gonna get back into a groove, little dude went all acrobat on us during a nasty diaper change, which sent us scurrying to the tub, and wait - do we have, like, any clean towels? Never mind, we’ll just use our comforter -- we don’t so much need it seeing as how we haven’t really slept since last summer. Okay, little dude is dry, I’ll get back to work just as soon as I have lunch, which I desperately need ASAFP because I forgot breakfast for only the 88th day in a row, and holy crap, when did we buy this cheese? Is it supposed to be, y’know, blue? I swear, we forget so much of what we buy at the supermarket that we may as well just toss our groceries in the trash as soon as we bring them home.
“I think the broccoli’s gone bad.”
“Let me see... Oh, that’s not broccoli.”
“Nope, it’s cauliflower.”
“Well that’s just gross.”
Scenes like this are the norm in our giddy but glorious brave new world. And even if our fridge looks like a nasty diorama honoring The Best In Produce from 2009, it pales on the chaos scale next to the home itself, which looks like an entire Babies R Us store exploded in the living room.
As the seemingly unstoppable demolition of control, common sense, and my already questionable intelligence continues, I wonder about the direction of my fledgling author career. My debut novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe was written in the pre-fatherhood Seattle era -- am I the same writer I was then? Do I have the creative moxie available to pen an Air Zoe sequel if sales end up justifying one?
Daffy and totally toddlerized by the little dude’s relentless energy, I plop down at the end of the day, and toy with possible prose for this would-be sequel:
“Zoe opened up the breakfast menu, then said to her date, ‘I think I’ll have the huevos rancheros, because I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I am...’”
Someday soon I hope to once again have my own brilliant ideas.
What I know is that I’m not blazing any trails every other new parent hasn’t already traveled. Every new parent is numbed by the sacrifice of sleep, misplaces valuables a dozen times a day, and invents weird lyrics to lullabies (You mean “Sunny lemon tea, man” is not a line in Frère Jacques?). But while unchecked chaos may be the surface of every new parent’s road, unbridled joy is its scenery, as every now and then, when you least expect relief from the swirling tempest of toddlerhood...
You stumble upon absolute beauty within the chaos.
See, recently the little dude and I were playing in the loft, which is 400 square feet of open, carpeted paradise. At least I think it’s carpeted -- sometimes it’s hard to see beneath the exploded toy store. Anyway... Our son has already learned how to walk and wobble around with a great deal of confidence, and during this particular session, he was going from one wall to the next, happily kicking a bouncy ball I won at one of those impossible fifty cent grab-a-toy-with-a-crane vending games on the New York State Thruway.
(pats self on the back for winning this ball)
“Now here are the nominations for Father-Of-The-Year...”
Sorry, where was I again?
Right. The ball. The loft. Chaos.
So there he was, kicking and toddling, toddling and kicking, when he stopped cold at one of my canvas sandals, which I’d lost in the clutter earlier that day. He scooched down to take a closer look, then satisfied, he stood back up, slipped his sweet tiny foot into the sandal, then looked up at me and flashed the greatest grin in the universal history of grins.
All because I’d misplaced my sandals in our massive mountain of lovely and amazing chaos.
Maybe we don’t need to be so organized after all, y’know?
“Hey Zigzag, guess what! I think I’ve figured out the key to happiness!”