Bachelordom: Day 1

4 Aug

bach·e·lor (băch′ə-lər, băch′lər)
1. A man who has never been married.
2. A person who has completed the undergraduate curriculum of a college or university and holds a bachelor’s degree.
3. A male animal that does not mate during the breeding season.
4. A young knight in the service of another knight in feudal times.

GatesFamPhoto2015As a happily wed man with two wonderful children, being a “bachelor” for a few days is simply a state of mind.  My wife, children, brother-in-law, and my folks are all out of town at the same time…leaving me to fend for myself.  There was a time in my life that I actively sought out being alone.  When I graduated college, I drove straight to a small turn of the century cabin in the woods of the Adirondacks and spent my days alone in the wilderness without electricity or running water while I gathered my thoughts.  I later found a place in New York City without a roommate where I slowly built a mountain of dirty dishes, laundry, and cigarette butts.  At one point I ran out of socks, underwear, and dishes.  Logically, I bought new socks, underwear, and dishes instead of washing the old ones…as one does as a bachelor.  Then, in 2003, I met my wife (Kate).  We moved in together in 2004 and have shared a roof ever since.

It is not that I have not been alone since 2004, I have.  I have gone on business trips, Kate and I lived in separate cities when she went to grad school, and I’ve had the boys to myself while Kate goes on a trip.  However, I have never been home alone without any family for as long as I can remember.  I’m always the one going somewhere.  I’m never just…home…alone.  It scared the crap out of me!  What would I do with all that time?!

I made a list of possible activities to keep me occupied after work:

  • Prep the upstairs bathroom for painting
  • Refinish the basement stairs
  • Build an Adirondack set of chairs
  • Clean out closet & donate to AMVETS
  • Paint windowsills in the guest room
  • Reinforce newel post at top of stairs
  • Paint ceiling in kid’s bedroom

I looked at this list long and hard.  I could definitely pull a project from the list and keep myself very occupied.  Painting the kid’s ceiling seemed like a clear winner since I can’t do it when they are here and its an indoor activity so I can do it after dark.  I then added one more item to the list:

  • Drink Jameson and watch TV

That seemed much more in my wheelhouse.  Yeah…screw painting the ceiling!

Throughout the day I received texts from Kate and the family with updates about their road trip, pictures of the boys, and stories of family fun.  It knocked the wind out of me.  I missed my boys.  I had spent that morning hugging them over and over again telling them how much I would miss them.  I cried a little when it was time to go to work, I don’t like being separated from my family.  Kate called my office numerous times to tell me she loved me.  I felt loved…and abandoned.  I was sad.  I just wanted it to be next week and have them back.

Then I realized it was late and everyone had left the office.  I was just working to avoid going home.  It was time.  I took a deep breath and went home…alone.

The house felt weird…like it was trapped in time.  There were no little boys destroying my furniture, playing loudly, or arguing about having to take a bath.  Nope.  Even the cat avoided me on Day 1.  No love.  Ace Hardware had been closed on the way home, so if I was going to paint I needed to change and head over to Home Depot.  I drank a Jameson on the rocks instead.  I flipped on the TV and immediately my phone rang, it was my best friend beckoning me to come over and drink his whiskey and grill steaks.  Oh alright…if I have to.

jamesonI fired up a cigar in the house.  Usually I smoke outside but…who’s going to care?  It’ll air out by next week and I was halfway out the door.  My buddy lives a few blocks away and I decided to hoof it instead of driving…can’t remember the last time I walked somewhere alone.  Felt great.  Smoking a cigar and strolling through my neighborhood wearing flip-flops.  Upon arrival I was greeted with much joy and told, “I’ve never hung out with ‘bachelor‘ you!”  Its true, every time we’ve hung out I’ve either been with my kids, had to go home for dinner, or felt bad that I didn’t go home for the kid’s bedtime.  He’d never known me without obligation pulling me home.  So we drank bourbon, grilled steaks, listened to music, and talked till a little after 11 PM.  It was great.  I started remembering what it was like to do what I want, when I want.  Bachelordom looked good on me.

The obligation of work the next morning pulled me home and the walk home was simply delightful.  Alone in the dark…strolling, not rushing.  Where did I need to be?  Nowhere.  That’s where.  When?  Anytime.  So I drank water and dozed on the couch till I realized it was late.  I headed upstairs to go to bed and that’s when I realized my temporary state of bachelordom sucked at night.  The door to the boys’ room stood open revealing their empty beds.  There were no sounds of them breathing heavy as they slept.  There was no one to tuck in.  There were no cuddles, no hugs, no kisses…just an empty room.  I walked into my room and was greeted by a bed for two…but there was only me.  No one to talk to.  No one to cuddle.  No one to kiss goodnight.  My stomach sank.

Gates BoysI called to the cat.  She howled from another room in the house…I think she said, “Impostor!”  I was sleeping alone that night.  I slid into bed where the boys had left me stuffed animals to cuddle with, I had spoken to them earlier in the day on the phone and they said, “It’s so you don’t get lonely at night Dada.”  I gripped the stuffed frog and stuffed eagle close to me as I turned off the light.  I closed my eyes and tried to picture their sleeping faces, the images came to me immediately.  I felt Max’s hair against my cheek, saw Dodge’s chest rise and fall as he slept, and heard their little snores of innocence.  I drifted off to sleep…but it was a light sleep.  I awoke around 4 AM on the wrong side of the bed – clearly I had spent the past 4 hours scooting over further and further in my sleep, searching for Kate but finding only more bed…till at last I found the edge and my brain woke me up to tell me something wasn’t right.  It was hard going back to bed after that, loneliness set back in and I spent the rest of the night dreaming of my boys cuddled up in my arms.

Being an honorary bachelor is fun during the day, but it is lonely at night.  3 days to go.  Wish me luck…or buy me a Jameson…or both.

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Happy Father’s Day 2015

21 Jun


Happy Father’s Day 2015 from Max, Dodge, Kate, Uncle Mark, and Dada!

Recent Studies Show Parenting Gets Harder As Kids Get Older

18 Jun

ScienceAs it turns out, parenting gets harder as your children get older.  Huh.  Whodda thunk?!  Yes, the days of strapping a miniature human being into a rolling snack chair and wheeling them wherever the heck you want have passed.  Now, we negotiate.  We negotiate everything.  We negotiate things like putting shoes on, taking naps, how many books to read, and the age-old debate of why one should wear pants to dinner at a restaurant.  Like any negotiation, things don’t always go to plan and sometimes you have to walk away from the table.  Sometimes you find yourself tacking on concessions that really have nothing to do with the main topic of negotiation.  Then, sometimes…you stare at a toddler as he flops on the ground like fresh caught fish and hold your ground.

Pants will be worn at dinner.

D&M by FireplaceMy kids are now 4 and 2…though Max would correct me to explain he is “4 and a half.”  He can tell you every birthday between now and his birthday…but he casually forgets how Velcro works when it is time to put on his shoes and go to summer school.  This morning Max played the “I don’t know how to” card when it came to putting on his shoes.  Kate negotiated.  I waited in the wings trying not to explode.  Max made a great case as to how he had forgotten how these specific shoes worked, when Dodge (the 2-year-old) casually slipped his shoes on and said, “Come on Max!”  There was an argument about something trivial which ended in Max shouting, “I don’t want you to be my brother anymore.”  Negotiations stopped.  ” Patient Kate” reluctantly stepped aside as “Militant Dada” stepped into the room and explained to Max that if he didn’t put his shoes on that was fine, but that I would be giving away all his toys to kids his age who could put their shoes on.  Max rapidly put his shoes on without issue and changed into his shirt for school.  There were tears.  I didn’t mind.  I cockily smiled at Kate as if to say, “You’re welcome.”  She sneered back with disapproval as if to say, “You’re not helping you loud-mouth bully.”

…and that is why we have sought counseling.

As it turns out, for the bazillionth time in my life, I am not special.  It would appear this is as common as my garden variety anxiety I wear like a get-out-of-jail-free badge.  It would appear my getting flummoxed over why Max is such a turd sometimes is a condition called “Being the Parent of a 4 Year Old.”  Sorry…4 and a half-year old.  Like Steve Martin in the movie “Parenthood,” I’m high-strung and overreacting to common parenting situations.  Those of you who know me, know that sounds crazy.  <insert long pregnant pause here>  However, this isn’t a movie and I’m not Cowboy Gil Buckman learning to “go with it” via a roller-coaster montage.  I’m me…and I need help.  So what do we do?  We hired a third-party to listen to us and tell us what we’re missing, a parenting specialist.  While I HATE reading self-help books…my kids’ futures are at stake, so there’s those I have to read too.  The basic plan is this:

  • Kate wasn’t raised the way I was so she doesn’t get my parenting style
  • I wasn’t raised the way Kate was so I don’t get her parenting style
  • We both need to stop trying to be like our parents
  • We need to develop a NEW process to parent our children together

283036-pop-tarts-chocolate-vanilla-creme-1Lets all sing Kumbaya and talk about our feelings to the sound of a bongo.  Ugh.  I hate doing the right thing.  My parents rocked as parents.  Rocked!  They are the coolest parents I know, I love the relationship I have with them, and I want to be just like them when I grow up (if I ever grow up).  Kate’s parents rock!  They are also the coolest parents I know, I love the way they handle things in their family, and I hope I can have the same relationship with my kids when they grow up.  Two very different styles.  Two very different kids as a result…who fell in love, got married, and cranked out 2 kids who are looking to us to show them the way.  Okay…yeah.  The whole stop trying to be your parent and be yourself thing makes sense.  I’m 35…okay 35 and a half…okay I turn 36 in one month!  I’m 4 years from 40 and just want to run through the sprinkler, eat Pop-Tarts, and watch cartoons all day.  How do I have kids?  I started this site to document my 30’s and discuss parenthood…and now I’m on the downward skid towards 40 and it turns out I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about when it comes to parenting?  Wait, wait…get this:  I’m not alone.  Everyone reading this is either saying to themselves:

  • “Won’t happen to me.” (it’s coming)
  • “Get over it already.” (going through it)
  • “Just you wait Ryan.” (went through it)

Don’t believe me?  Check the comment section.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Leave a comment while you’re there.

To bring it full circle, as it turns out, parenting gets harder as your children get older.  Huh.  Whodda thunk?!  Since I do like to leave my constant readers with a little advice or something to take away from my writing, I’ll say this:  Of course it gets harder.  Parenting is shifting away from making decisions for your kids and into helping them make better informed decisions for themselves.  Some decisions you will not like.  Many you will not like.  You are integrating a new personality into your family unit…and that personality is prone to change…daily.  If you are in over your head, ask for help.  If you are being a loud-mouth bully like me, ask for help.  If you think you are doing great, ask for help.  A little outside perspective never hurt anyone.  Worst case scenario you find out you’re doing exactly what you should be doing.

So raise a glass, if you can over your ponch that suddenly showed up in the last few years unannounced and makes you feel “crumpled” when you sit and try to type a blog about your 30’s.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?  No?  Just me?  A toast!  To being another statistic!  I’m a dad in his 30’s struggling with a toddler’s statistically common “bad” behavior.  Cheers.  Seriously though…can we start drinking yet?  I’ll turn on the sprinkler and get the Pop-Tarts!


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Who Needs Alarm Clocks When You Have Kids and Pets?

2 Jun

Screenshot_2015-06-02-10-45-05For whatever reason, my boys slept in this morning.  By “slept in” I mean they slept past 6:30 AM which is a blessing on the weekends but not during the work week when I rely on them as my alarm clock.  No matter how early or late my wife Kate and I put our kids to sleep…they are up between 6 and 6:30 AM.  Dodge (2) tends to wake up with a cry while Max (4) usually wakes up with a mad dash to the bathroom and a thunder-pee.  This routine makes setting an alarm clock redundant because by 6:45 you can bet there are 2 stinky boys jumping up and down on the bed and breathing morning-breath directly into my nasal passage.  Ahhhhhh…parenthood.

Recently Kate made a rule that no child was allowed to leave their room before 7 AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  We placed a clock in their room, worked with Max on his numbers, and put Max in charge.  Oddly…it worked.  However, at 7:01, both boys are creepily standing next our bed staring wide-eyed at us as we sleep whispering things to us like, “We waited…we waaaaaaited!!!”

Thanks guys.

This morning, however, no child was bedside at 7 AM.  Nor at 7:15.  Not at 7:30.  I am now late for work but have no idea because…I’m a parent of two little kids and I don’t know what sleeping in feels like!  It’s like finding a $100 bill in your winter coat…then checking the other pocket and finding a satchel of rare jewels like in the final scene of the Goonies.  Its glorious…except when it makes you late for work.  Never fear!  We have a 17 year-old cat named Luna who has discovered the trickiest way I have ever seen to wake us up.  You see…when we sleep in, Luna doesn’t get fed at 6:45 and she gets pissed.  She’s old.  She’s a sack of bones draped with fur and topped with a set of vocal chords that have two settings: “Whine” and “Whine Loudly.”  As the sun starts to pour in through the windows around 6 AM she starts whining softly.

Luna?  Shhhhh.

Then she climbs up next to your face and whines in your ear.

Luna!  Come on!

It is important to note that Luna’s bowl of food is an over-sized cereal bowl of dry food which has never been empty…but the idea that it might dip below 1/2 full causes her great anxiety.  Sometimes we just scoop food out of the bowl and drop it back in…she needs to hear that sound of dry food going into that bowl.  By now she is standing next to the bowl with a look of great concern as she crosses over from whine to howl.

Luna!!!  Shut up!!!

This does not go over well with sack of bones and fur.  Her ears drop and she shoots me a look of veteran cat-knowledge as if to say, “Oh yeah?  I know how to get you out of bed.”  Then she trots out to the hallway and howls in the echoes of the stairwell.

Luna!  Don’t do it!

Then I hear it.  The sound of her pushing open the door to the boys’ room, climbing up on Dodge’s bed, and in her loudest voice howling into Dodge’s face.  Dodge wakes up crying instantly.  Max runs to the bathroom narrowly avoiding peeing his pants.  The house goes from a sunbeam sprinkled time capsule to a cacophony of sounds in less than a millisecond.  Max and Dodge waste no time and immediately find something to argue over.  The real world come crashing into our bedroom and in a matter of seconds…WE ARE AWAKE!

Then…only then…does Luna give the softest, kindest, most adorable and imploring “meow” as she stands next to her 80% full bowl of food.  Kate drops in the remaining 20%.  Luna is satisfied and the day has begun.


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Harvester Arts Residency: What, Where, Who, When, How, Why

28 Apr


Many thanks to Christine Wong Yap for an amazing 2.5 week residency at Harvester Arts, culminating in a Final Friday opening and amazing show.

Originally posted on R+D:

My Wichita residency wrap-up notes. 

WHAT: I just completed a 2.5-week residency at Harvester Arts in Wichita, KS.

Harvester is a two-year-old arts organization whose residency program encourages artists to experiment and share their process with the community. The results are exhibited, and then two local artists create and present work in response.

All the Steps in the Process, Installation view at Harvester Arts, 2015. Christine Wong Yap, drawings on walls, zine, furniture. Contributions from artist-collaborators screening on video.All the Steps in the Process installation view at Harvester Arts, Wichita, KS, 2015. Drawings and furniture by Christine Wong Yap. Zine edited and designed by Yap. Contributions from artist-collaborators screening on video.

I came up with All the Steps in the Process: a research project on collaboration. I did six interviews with eight artists from the SF Bay Area, New York, and Wichita: Kevin B. Chen, Amanda Curreri, Leeza Meksin and Eleana Anagnos, Armando Minjarez, Elizabeth Travelslight, and Linnebur & Miller. Quotes from these interviews are realized in a series of…

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