The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

First of all, I’ve never read Watership Down, and I ought to.

Second of all, it’s been a while, blogosphere! Hi, friend! I had wanted to sit down and write a few times since all of the craziness of the last month kicked off, but I was pretty busy AND it felt wrong to be reflective about an ongoing though. Maybe it was superstition, I don’t know, but I didn’t want to pause to think when there were still so many things going on that could be scary. This is still the case, but the frenetic pace has slowed – as I write this, my kiddo is in front of me in his bassinet on the coffee table and my wife is upstairs catching a much-needed nap.

***

Thursday

‘Brad, Brad, Brad, Brad.’

My wife was downstairs saying my name with a note of alarm. Her brother and his wife were driving up to visit us, and I assumed it was some mild nuisance of a this-house-better-be-impeccable variety.

I was packing in our bedroom, preparing for our drive to Santa Fe the next day. We were going to catch the opera (it’s outdoors there, and my grandparents used to love doing that) and enjoy the foods, art, and tourist shops of downtown Santa Fe for a weekend.

I came to the top of the staircase and looked down, my wife said, ‘I think my water just broke.’

She was on the phone calling her doctor, I rushed back to our room to grab a hoody (we had done an ER trip a month before and it was cold in that hospital), shoes, wallet, keys, and a hoody for her.

Thankfully, we live 10 minutes from the hospital, and yet, I couldn’t help but think proudly as I calmly rushed us to the ER, I bet I would be good if I was a cop in a car chase.

I dropped off the Mrs. at the entrance and zoomed to a parking spot. Someone came down quickly, within minutes, and we began walking to an elevator to go to the birthing center area. The night prior we had taken a tour of the hospital as part of our childbirth class. The Mrs. had ironically asked a question, ‘does anyone ever not make it through the whole class? Because they deliver early?’ I had spent the tour thinking about the fact that they deliver fresh cookies every day at 4 pm to the birthing center. How can I get my wife to time her labor so that I can leave the room right after he’s born to have a few cookies?

A nurse quickly came to see us, a test was performed and yep, her water had broken. The midwife came in and she had the nurse do a second test, a different one, to verify, and yep, water still broken.

She was just shy of 32 weeks pregnant.

***

We were at that hospital from about 8 pm til around midnight. It was terrifying, emotional, and that odd mix of fast and painfully slow. They gave my wife a steroid shot, one of two that she would hopefully receive. The purpose of the shot is to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs. Preterm babies can have respiratory issues, and especially those born in Colorado with the higher elevation. Later, one doc informed us, a 36-weeker born in Houston (sea level) could go home right away, whereas a 36-weeker in Colorado is more likely going to need a visit to the NICU. Ideally, a woman can stay pregnant long enough to get one steroid shot, a second steroid shot 24 hours later, and then hold off on labor for 48 hours to let the steroids take full effect.

They also put an IV in my wife and began a heavy dose of magnesium, which dampens the body’s ability to have contractions and helps the baby’s brain. A two-fer, if you will. This stuff hit hard and fast, my wife described it as taking a shot of bourbon while sitting in a dry sauna. She had that warmth go down her throat (even though it was an IV) and felt hot. Her eyes immediately got a bit distant and you could tell she was under the impact of a powerful drug.

After all of the initial hullabaloo and checking, the pace slowed a bit as we waited for an ambulance to transfer the Mrs. The hospital where we had envisioned having our son could only support babies 34 weeks and up, and we were not looking like we would hit that mark.

***

When the ambulance arrived I swung by home to pack clothes, say hi to my brother-in-law and his wife, pet the dog, and scoot.

At the new hospital my wife arrived around the same time I did (shhh, nobody sped …).

While on her ambulance ride to this hospital, my wife was having contractions once every four or five minutes. If you don’t know, that’s worrisome. We wanted, really, really wanted, for her to stay pregnant.

Thankfully, after she arrived, the contractions slowed and eventually stopped. We buckled in for a long night’s non-rest at the hospital, with a nurse coming to check her vitals and usually help her to the bathroom every two hours. She had the magnesium, antibiotics (the ‘water’ is one of three barriers to infection for a baby, with that gone the antibiotics came in), and an IV of fluids all being pumped in. In addition, her belly had bands on it to monitor her heart rate, the baby’s heart rate, and any contractions. Every two hours they took her temperature, her blood pressure, and asked her to rate her pain. (What on earth is that rate your pain thing?)

A doc came to visit us, I think, and the NICU charge nurse, it was a happening place.

Ideally, she would stay pregnant until 34 weeks, when the risk of infection outweighs the gains of continuing to let the little guy develop, and then they would induce. In the meantime, during those two weeks, she would be on bed rest at the hospital, and if she showed signs of infection, they would induce or carry out an emergency c-section.

Stress, you old so and so, I didn’t know you were in town to see me?! You fu – nevermind, my mom reads this.

The goal: relax! Just relax! But if anything seems wrong, dear God hold tight.

On the plus side, the staff in the ‘birthing center ICU’ as we came to call it, and the whole hospital, were amazing. The amount of negative experiences or exchanges, given how stressful the whole ordeal was, is impressive. One of these sweet people went out and got a labor bed for me, which I slept on that night (and many nights to come).

***

Meanwhile, miles and miles away, my wife’s mom was in action. She had been in a play when the Mrs. called her during our ride to the ER, but when she found out what was happening she began to look into tickets.

This was all right before the big eclipse (doesn’t that feel like forever ago?) and Denver appeared to be a popular destination because they were not having luck finding tickets. But then, aha!, there’s one!

But wait … they booked a flight to Denver from … Dallas!? And they live in Houston. And the flight is leaving not too long from now so … ROAD TRIP!

Stress, huh? It plays tricks on the ability to process information.

***

Friday

Lauren’s bro and his wife swing by to chit chat. It’s lovely, it’s enjoyable, and it’s slightly education for the bro’s wife who is pregnant with twins. Twins are much more likely to arrive early, and at one point during our NICU stay there were four sets of twins.

After they take off it’s only a short while before her folks arrive. Reinforcements!

A little hello, a little how’s it goings, a few tears between the wife and her mama, and then we settle in for some good old fashioned hospital hang out time.

I headed home to shower, see the dog, pack new clothes, and I also took a shower and cried like a baby. I had been go-go-go, handling any little request from my wife, and oozing stress (did you know googling ‘long term health effects 33 week baby’ can result in sheer terror?). The crying was like a sudden thunderstorm, it surprised me, but it was a little refreshing. Don’t let anyone fool you, boys and girls, crying can be cathartic.

I changed, grabbed my bag, and headed back to the hospital. By this point it was mid-afternoon and we were approaching 24 hours since the first steroid shot. This was a big and happy milestone.

Every hour felt important and a smidge dire. One of the doctors or nurses told us that every 8 hours he is in the womb is one day less for our NICU stay.

Every 8 hours was divided into 2 hour chunks, because every 2 hours a nurse would come to check vitals. One might assume that every four hours was also a nice chunk, because in the afternoons I would go hunt for fresh baked cookies (they delivered them to the birthing center at this hospital, too!).

***

Sunday

Somehow, we made it to Sunday, when we were told my wife would be transferring to the antepartum/postpartum area, and not only that, we would be moving to a room with two windows! Look out world!

Sunday night, at around 9 pm (who am I kidding, I know exactly when, 9:21 pm), represented 48 hours since the second steroid shot. The kiddo had already benefited greatly from mom sitting tight and him keepin’ on.

Also in the postpartum area, we were down to three vitals checks a day, and no longer constant monitoring of her! Look out world! Instead, in this new setup, a nurse would come in during the morning, early afternoon, and evening to check on her vitals and the kiddo’s heart rate. Thirty minutes of monitoring and then they’d be off … unless, of course, the kiddo’s heart rate drops below the tolerable threshold in which case they’d need to stick around.

Oh, and did you know, when your water breaks, and the little guy moves in the womb, he can sometimes grab the umbilical cord which will cause his heart rate to drop and a nurse to say, ‘well … we were about to take you off [the monitor], but then we saw this little dip …’

Oh yes, our child is a champion of timing.

Also, fun fact, amniotic fluid (the ‘water’) is regenerated by a pregnant woman, and part of the recipe for amniotic fluid is baby urine!

The nurses also came by every X hours for a new dose of medicine. Solid sleep was not a part of the hospital stay.

***

That Work Week

Lauren’s step-dad left Monday, but her mom said I’m here til he’s here (he meaning the baby). From day one of the hospital til the next chapter, The Kiddo – Part II – TBD, we were in the hospital 10 days.

I went to work during the course of that week with the hope and expectation that my wife and her mom would be bored, restless, and watching Project Runway in the hospital. Instead, it turned out to be much more lively. Some highlights of that week are as follows:

  • With her water broken, my wife would sometimes experience pretty intense pain when the baby would move around (no water = no shield for his movements crashing around in there)
  • Bed rest can cause vertigo, or possibly the intense dizziness that yielded my wife throwing up was caused from side-effects of medicine … know what’s scary? When your wife wakes up and pukes and can’t get to the bathroom that’s less than 10 feet away without wheelchair assistance
  • Baby heart rate drops leading to extra ultrasounds and a short but scary trip back to the birthing center ICU
  • A raising white blood cell count, which potentially indicated a brewing infection … This was watched closely, and every time someone would pop by to draw blood I would excuse myself (I’m not so good with needles, thankfully, my pin cushion wife is much better than me about that)

***

Random Thoughts

  1. I was walking into work one morning when I saw a rabbit. This is really common here. We have a bunch of rabbits that live in our backyard, and all around the neighborhood. Because of this, we started calling the kiddo ‘the littlest bunny.’ Seeing a rabbit on the way into work I wanted to make it mean something – a rabbit! Ok, that’s a good sign … right? Or maybe it means he’s coming now!? Then it struck me, it must have been so easy for ancient peoples to concoct gods or various meanings for all kinds of things. I felt so powerless in this whole situation, and even though there was plenty of science and educated people talking to us about what was going on, I wanted to assign meaning to all kinds of arbitrary things.
  2. My wife was on a lot of powerful drugs, lacking sleep, and feeling stressed. As a result, she was in a sort of perpetual beaten down state. In this state, she had a funny habit of everything getting the same level of urgency. ‘Brad,’ said with a sort of sad and concerned voice, which would immediately awaken me or draw me out of whatever distraction I had thrown myself into (generally stupid apps), ‘I can’t find my chap stick.’ Ridiculous to have it awaken fear in me every time I heard my name said with that voice, right? BUT. With the SAME EXACT TONE, ‘Brad? … I feel too dizzy to get up, can you help me?’ I mean, come on.
  3. I had been reading, very slowly, one of those what to expect books, and you can sure read a lot of pages in a hurry when your kiddo is taking the bullet train to the station.

***

I doubt I encapsulated all my thoughts or feelings with much articulation. But I wanted to get this down for myself. I’m sure I’ll look back on this and feel like I left out big chapters in this story, but up next I’ll talk about the day he said ‘READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!’

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In Toastmasters you traditionally do your first ten speeches from the Competent Communicator manual. Each one has a focus – get to the point, organization, body movement, vocal variety, etc.

The tenth one is intended to inspire. And, motivated by the violence and racism that is currently choking out my ability to feel pride in the United States, I decided to talk about anger. I think the speech has some good parts, but it needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, the speech is due soon (the day before this will be posted) and so I need to work on memorizing it and quit revising it.

 

Let’s Talk About Anger

I can remember vividly a time in college when a then-girlfriend and I were talking about our upcoming summers. She felt out how I would feel if she smoked pot occasionally. I was immediately angry, which confused her and also myself. Later, I realized I wasn’t angry at all, I was scared of the idea of her smoking pot, and then cheating on me. That’s a little sad, but it’s the truth. I knew she was going to be seeing her ex, who was not so bright but very good looking, and I thought with inhibitions loosened up with drugs, she might make a decision I wasn’t too keen on.

With age, and good friends, and now a wife who is great at articulating her thoughts and feelings, I think I have gotten much better at trying to identify and then express what is going on inside me. I am still inclined to feel anger first, before anything more complex, but I am aware enough to know that it’s usually the hard outer layer, and if I relax and take a step back, I’ll usually find out more.

According to Psychology Today, this is normal. Men have few emotions that are considered socially acceptable – anger, pride, jealousy. If you see a man experiencing or expressing one of these things, that is considered OK.

Picture a strong American male. Can you name a movie star or character that comes to mind as an example?

When I think of that kind of person I think people who represent the greatest generation: strong, silent, hard-working, unlikely to complain, stoic, resilient. Anecdotally, my parents, many of my friends, my wife and I represent the idea of a relationship where the female is more likely to talk about emotions, or show emotions, and the male is reticent about those things.

But that doesn’t mean being emotionally aware isn’t something to strive for. Ask yourself, if I feel angry, or any sort of emotion, is it beneficial for me to present a flat countenance, bottle it up, or would it be good talk about it, with others or in my head? I’m here to tell you, it’s better to talk about it.

Today I’d like to talk about the view of why anger is seen as so ok for men in America, why it’s important to think or talk about it, and how you can start to go down that path.

 

I – Why is Anger Normal for Men?

There have been a number of times that I’ve been around family, with my nieces and nephews running around, where a spill or something upsetting happens, and I pick up a niece and saying ‘awwww, what’s wrong?’ vs saying to a nephew, ‘shake it off, buddy.’

According to studies, children become “gender aware” at a very young age (typically between three and five), and they begin to develop gender stereotypes almost immediately after. These concepts become rigidly defined between 5 and 7, and begin to have lasting impact on identity and self-esteem by adolescence.

I don’t have any kids, yet, but I think from being around others that there are definite ‘boy’ behaviors and ‘girl’ behaviors that aren’t taught, they are innate. But, and you’ll excuse this analogy I hope, think about people like computers. We have our hardware, which is our set in stone genetic makeup, and then we have our software, which is the culmination of our life experiences. Your hardware may have you naturally inclined for one field of work, but you can overcome that and do other things by working, training and teaching yourself. You may have to work harder then a colleague who seems to be wired for something, but you can still succeed.

There is hardware in each of us, for example more testosterone in men, that help make sense of men being tough and angry. But then there’s the software. Go into a toy store and tell me, honestly, that it’s not pointing you in a direction of ‘normal.’ The aisles are color coded like a classic nursery. This is the boy aisle, this is the girl aisle. And inside the boy aisle are action, violence, outdoors, and science oriented toys. Inside the girl aisle are beauty, care-taking, and home-making oriented toys.

Is it a surprise to carry these ideas forward, and think of guys attempting to prove themselves better than their male counterparts by being stronger, less likely to show emotion, more physically noticeable? Anger is easy, and in the United States it is considered more socially acceptable for men to show anger than women, and it can even be seen as a strength to show that anger.

II – Why It’s Important to Talk About Anger

The next question is why is it worthwhile to talk about it? After all, there are a number of ways you can work off anger without confronting it. You could work out, you could just sit and stew, you could go to a rally with some friends and some tiki torches, but I don’t recommend these approaches.

There are three reasons to talk with someone else, or at least have a conversation with yourself.

One, bottling up anger can lead to that anger showing up in other ways. One study conducted by psychologists from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that suppressing emotions may increase the risk of dying from heart disease and certain forms of cancer. The body is a wonderful and crazy thing – a cause can show up as many different effects which make finding the cause confusing and difficult.

Two, if you are bottling things up, you may struggle to connect with others. Think about the last time you were overwhelmed by some emotion – it could be grief, or joy, if someone came to you and wanted to have a conversation about something personal, or if you had to attempt to process complex information, it’s not easy. You have to try harder to focus on what that person is saying, because you’re constantly batting away any rogue thoughts like you’re playing whack-a-mole with your emotions. Stifling something you are feeling means you are constantly multi-tasking until you come to terms with that thing, or you have sufficiently buried it to face it in the form of a large bowl of ice cream a few days later.

Three, talking about your anger lets you know yourself better. I mentioned, at the start of my speech, that example of a college girlfriend. After thinking about it, I realized that the anger was borne out of fear. That’s interesting, and good to know! If you think, ‘why am I angry?’ and your answer is, ‘I don’t know – I’m just angry about this.’ That’s boring, and an incomplete answer, you’re smarter than that.

If you find yourself angry, and you don’t know how you got to that level of anger, or you don’t know WHY you’re angry, you’ve got a problem on your hands, and that’s fun.

Exploring anger, or any emotion, is a great way to attempt to discover some new pieces to the puzzle that is yourself. Maybe if you figure out what sparked an unexpected bout of anger, you’ll finally be able to have a new piece of the puzzle come into focus.

 

III – Ask Why/Do Something About It

Now, you’ve got all this knowledge, what do we do with it?

Be your own three year old psychologist and ask the question ‘why’ an insufferable amount. If it’s someone else who is showing anger, listen and help them ask why.

Going back to technical things again, here’s an interview question I love. ‘Explain the internet to your grandmother.’ It’s a question that assumes, rightly or wrongly, that your grandma doesn’t already understand the internet, but the intent is great. You have to take something technically complex, and then explain it simply. You want to work mostly with people who are able to take complex things and make them simple. Likewise, wouldn’t you prefer your relationships, whether that’s with a family member, spouse, or friend, to be with people who are able to explain themselves better than with frustrated noises and exclamations of ‘you wouldn’t understand!’’

If someone struggles to explain, try to gently help them. Don’t push an answer, but give them gentle nudges in different directions. ‘Do you think you might be extra frustrated about that because work has been more stressful?’

There are also conversation starters everywhere. For example, commercials. Those things are chalk full of lazy, cliche and stereotype oriented views because they express an idea quickly. The next time you see an ad featuring a man, or a woman, or a family situation, look at the ad and see how many cliche things there are, and then ask the people you’re with if that makes sense, or if they have counter examples they like.

What do I mean by counter examples? My dad was in the Army for 26 ½ years, he was a Ranger, he’s a tough and stoic fella all around … and he likes to garden and bake. You know how comforting that was for me, to see my dad doing non-stereotypical things? It felt like it gave permission for me to break the mold in ways, as well.

 

Conclusion

I know this talk has a very limited scope in theory – men talking more about their anger, but I think the concepts I presented here are applicable to everyone.

It’s worthwhile to talk about your anger because it’s good for your health, it’s good for your relationships, and it’s good for understanding yourself, which, coincidentally, is also good for relationships.

If you’re thinking, ‘that’s a nice theory, but … eh’ or maybe you’ll think about this later today and decide it’s difficult to try and have explore feelings that you or someone else is feeling. Think about this.

If your work said, ‘what you’re doing is good, but we need you to adapt and do x, but also incorporate a little bit of y.’ I DOUBT you would say, ‘hey, I am what I am, I can’t change.’ No. You’d try, you’d look up things online, you’d take a class, you’d find someone who is already good at that new thing and learn from them.

If you’re willing to put in an extra effort for your job, you need to take a step back and realize it’s also worth putting in a little extra effort for yourself, your own ability to process and deal with anger, or any intense emotion. It could improve not only relationships in your life, but also yourself.

 

Sources:

http://mediasavvygirls.com/gender-stereotypes-where-do-they-come-from-and-why-do-they-persist/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-the-questions/201401/how-crack-the-code-men-s-feelings

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/he-speaks-she-speaks/201501/why-don-t-many-men-show-their-emotions

https://www.familyeducation.com/life/anger-aggression/anger-acceptable-male-emotion

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/timi-gustafson/bottling-up-negative-emotions_b_5056433.html

http://mysahana.org/2011/05/emotion-suppression-effects-on-mental-and-physical-health/

 

 

Attn: Ellen (8/16/17)

Front

Ellen321a

Back (apologies for my handwriting!)

Ellen321b

 

The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

In my feeble attempt to learn some German via Duolingo, I am also learning that I don’t know much English. For example, today I am doing a lesson on ‘Genitive Case.’ I don’t know what that means, but I can only assume it’s language you’d use while visiting Geneva. Stuff like, “hey, nice watch!”

Sincerely,
DumbFunnery.com OR @DumbFunnery

Why am I doing this?

Music Monday

I’ll admit, I’m not crazy about this song – I just dig this guy’s look

There’s a playlist for these here.

And a playlist for all the Music Mondays here.

Go For It!

I know, I know, you’re still feeling a little cautious. That’s fine! I’m here to answer your questions to alleviate some of your concerns. Then, you’ll be able to Go For It! with confidence!

Question: Are you sure? Should I really go for it?
Answer: Did I stutter? God. Pay attention.

Question: Will others think less of me?
Answer: Am I some kind of mind reader? I have no idea what others will think. Yeah, they might, or maybe they won’t, whatever.

Question: Are there any risks to my personal safety?
Answer: Yikes. What are you thinking about doing??? Maybe don’t go for it?

Question: How much will it cost?
Answer: Your money is meaningless to me.

Question: What happens if I start down this path and then change my mind?
Answer: I didn’t realize I was dealing with someone so fickle. Get out of my face.

Now that all your questions are answered, you have the confidence to go forth with style, pizzaz, and maybe even finesse! I couldn’t care less!

Attn: Ellen (8/9/17)

Front

Ellen320a

Back (apologies for my handwriting!)

Ellen320b

 

The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

You know anything about the mechanics of dog bladders? I take the dog for a walk, she stops 3-6 times to pee! What!? How!? It’s like she’s a hiker rationing water … but the opposite. And does she plan her stops or do they strike her like, “THIS! This spot needs my urine!” Dogs, huh?

Sincerely,
DumbFunnery.com
OR @DumbFunnery

Why am I doing this?

Hi sports fans, here we go again.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done this – let’s recap.

  • 2011 Prediction: 8-4, Reality: 7-5
  • 2012 Prediction: 8-4, Reality: 6-6
  • 2013 Prediction: 5-7, Reality: 5-7
  • 2014 Prediction: 7-5, Reality: 1-11 (the head coach resigned in September, it was an ugly year)

Since then I skipped 2015 and 2016, perhaps I was afraid that I had played some role in the 2014 debacle, or perhaps I forgot/was lazy. In 2015 SMU hired a new coach, Chad Morris, and they went 2-10. In 2016 they went 5-7.

Now we are in the coaches third season, let’s take a wild, uneducated stab at their schedule. My knowledge of SMU’s abilities and those of their opponents are based solely on … I don’t even know what. It’s like that thing when you start saying something and you hope something good will come to your mind and you just dazzle everyone. That’s where my knowledge comes from.

  • 9/2 vs SFA … Victoryfootball-helmet-01sept2015
  • 9/9 vs North Texas … Victory
  • 9/16 @ TCU … Loss
  • 9/23 vs Arkansas State … Loss
  • 9/30 vs Connecticut … Victory
  • 10/7 vs Houston … Loss
  • 10/21 @ Cincinnati … Victory
  • 10/27 vs Tulsa … Loss
  • 11/4 vs UCF … Victory
  • 11/11 @ Navy … Loss
  • 11/18 @ Memphis … Victory
  • 11/25 vs Tulane … Victory

Total record: 7-5.

SMU football, you old friend/foe, I try to set my expectations low so that I won’t be frustrated but … I know you, you’ll still find ways to hurt my heart. LET’S DO THIS! FOOTBALL!!!

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