Peace, Love and Understanding

I've been mucking about, trying to encapsulate in words what it is like to have a newborn son. I have met limited, no, zero success. 

Is sleep deprivation to blame? Preoccupation with poop? Or is the experience just too darned cool for words?

Last Friday, our first evening home, my parents came by. (I actually think they sleep in the car outside our house, with cell phone in hand, waiting for an invitation to come see their grandson.) My dad was holding Simeon close to his chest. I nestled close to them to combine my gaze with my dad's. 

We just stared.

Slightly above a whisper I said, "I could just stare at him for days. My heart is so full of love." Dad responded, "You understand now, don't you?"

In that moment, immersed in a cornucopia of emotions, yearnings and compulsions, my dad put it in a way that I just couldn't. He helped me realize that I don't need to explain the unexplainable. But, with a newborn child comes an understanding that needs no explanation.

I understand.


I'm still sorta speechless.

Simeon does all his talking with calisthenics. I like that about him.

Good Morning, Son.

Simeon's stats:
DOB: 07.23/2008
TOB: 11:52 am
8 lbs 2 oz
20 inches


Words Fail

4:56 a.m.
"Ryan! Wake up!" I sit straight up and look around the room for an intruder. "I think my water broke!," Sarah exclaimed. She wasn't lying. There was a pool of evidence right there on her side of the bed.


The car ride – 6:00 a.m.
Sarah's contractions have started in earnest. I don't know what I was thinking. Every time she began a contraction, I wanted to chat. That is when Sarah made the first of two rules – so far.

1. Do not ask me questions.
2. Do not tell jokes – I guess laughing makes contractions hurt extra bad
3. I'm still waiting for the third rule.


Hospital arrival – 6:30

I dropped Sarah off at the door with the bags, and a nice lady asks, "Are you okay, miss?"

"Oh, I'm just having a baby," Sarah replied calmly.

I swear, she's Wonder Woman.


We're in our room now.

It's so strange to me that you ask a woman in labor to do a bunch of admission and insurance paperwork. I suppose it has to be done.

We're playing some music from the birthing playlist. Among those on the list, "Between My Legs" by Rufus Wainwright and "Here Comes The Sun" by George Harrison.


A friend of mine texts me, "Go Horny (The Noel Boy's in utero name), it's your birthday." I show complete lack of judgement by reciting this to Sarah mid-contraction. Dammit, I already forgot rule number 2.


Sarah quickly squashed the music with lyrics. There goes my dream of the head coming out to the sounds of "Here Comes The Sun (Son)".


Sarah is a superstar! She's endured most of her contractions while sitting on a birthing ball and digging finger nail marks into a wooden chair arm.


She's moved to the bed, laying on her side and focused intently on a photo of Charley Young Beach in Maui, where we were married. I've never seen her so focused.

By the way, our doula, Brielle has been a total Godsend. I'm good at the motivational speeches, not so good with the breathing part. I lack focus!


11:15 a.m.
Doctor Hurry is in the house. Sarah's getting ready to push!


I've never seen Sarah like this. I'm turning white and tearing up, not because of witnessing birth, but seeing Sarah in so much pain (no epidural).


Dr. Hurry is doing an amazing job. She said to Sarah, "You were made to birth babies, it just took us a while to get you pregnant." I think Sarah tried to laugh, but this is serious business.


Dr. Hurry apologizes to Sarah for blocking her view of the mirror that shows the birth site, Sarah amidst furious pushing says sweetly, "oh, that's okay."

11:52 a.m.
40 minutes of pushing, and less than seven hours after Sarah's water broke, baby Simeon David Noel arrived. He wailed as soon as he came out, as did Sarah and I.

Words fail.


I'm quite happy with high gas prices

I've been riding my bicycle more often recently. I like it because I think you get to see the world at just the right speed.

Riding in a car is too fast for me. There is a reason they (the advertising gods, I presume) say to only put seven words on a billboard – because it's hard for anyone to process any more than that. If one can't take in more than seven words, think of all the nuance in our surroundings that are missed while riding in a car.

I run as well, or jog, rather. This is a good speed to see the world as well, except that by the first mile or so, I'm too fixated on one of a few things. I may be trying to keep a particular time, in which case, I stare the screen of my Nike+ iPod and watch my pace fluctuate from 8:07 to 7:53. Or, I may be so tired and/or out of breath that I only focus on the next landmark and hope just to get there; or maybe I'm staring at my feet, making sure I continue to put one in front of the other.

Walking is a good option, too. But, if you're a little A.D.D. like me, it's nice to get more frequent changes in scenery.

Biking, though, is just the right speed. I've gotten to witness everything from a zoo keeper walking an elephant to a man urinating on the side of a building from my moderately comfortable bicycle seat (it doesn't supply the unmatched comfort of the banana seat, to be sure). Riding a bike truly is one of life's simple pleasures.

In summer's past I've chosen to ride my bike to work on Fridays. But, with a little nudge from escalating gas prices, I decided to make a more concerted effort to ride my bike to work every day possible. It's proven quite doable.

I ride to work an average of 4 days a week. I calculated that for every third day of riding my bike to work, I conserve 1 gallon of gas. I've also decided that my twice-weekly trips to the library will be made on my bike. I've saved nearly a tank of gas in last couple of months (any ideas of how I can spend my 50 dollars in savings – diapers excluded).

Saving gas and emissions pale in comparison to the satisfaction I get from starting and ending my work day on the saddle.

The beating we've all taken from the price of petrol seems to have made drivers more tolerant of people on bikes. People often wave me on, or just wave (they waved last summer too, but only with their middle finger). A man just last week stopped and held the door for me as I maneuvered my bike into my office building. How nice.

My co-workers haven't even made fun of my tight biker shorts. Recently.

If you know me, you probably know that I'm not a morning person. I normally don't often utter my first coherent word until about 9:30 a.m. In fact, on my last performance review, it was written, "Can be a bit grumpy before he gets coffee." I can't argue the point. But, since I've been riding to work I've felt noticeably more chipper upon arrival.

It's gotten me to thinkin'. These high gas prices have actually made my quality of life better, my world smaller – and, fingers crossed, my annual performance review more positive. An opportunity was created by high gas prices, and I pedaled right in without even knowing it.

All this has left me wondering – what other opportunities have I missed because I had my foot on the gas and not on the pedals?


Emoticon Invasion

I was doing some work this morning – and today that was brainstorming some newsletter names for a power company. I was doing my best stream of consciousness act, when I wrote the words "Light Up."

Initially, I thought, "that's kinda cool," until the humor in it hit me. I smiled to myself, and without thinking, it happened. I handwrote this –> :). I had every opportunity to make a normal smiley face, but it just happened. Sideways Smiley! The conventions of email speak have finally taken me over. 

Anyone else have similar stories of uninvited digital elements finding their way into your analog lives?


Robot Love

I have a swelling interest in robots, that has crested in the purchase of a little tin robot (I used by unborn son as an excuse for buying it) from Mass Ave. Toys on, you know, Mass Ave. A friend pointed out that my robot is made in China and is likely lead-infested, but that will not dissuade me from loving it. If anything, it shows my dedication to the little tin box.

I'm not interested in the kind of robots to do something like mow your lawn or bring you a glass of orange juice in the morning. They're too useful for my taste. 

My robot has integrity. He looks like tin, and guess what? He is tin. He looks like his insides are a series of cheap interlocking gears and coils. Sure enough, that's what's inside. I don't expect anything more from it. My robot rolls across my dining room table at an exceeding slow pace, has wheels for arms, and that's all I want out of a robot.

I've always loved watching people do the "Robot," and doing the "Robot" myself. It is the dance to save all of us who can't dance from dance floor embarrassment. One can't help but smile and be smiled at when Robot-ing

Most of all, I love when people impersonate robots. You know why? It's because everybody does it the same. Stiff arms bent at the elbow. Fingers straight out and together. Rigid legs. And, inevitably the words "I am a ro-bot" pass from their lips – in their best monotone voice.

Do me and yourself a favor, stand up wherever you are, and no matter who may be watching and say "I am a ro-bot" while assuming the familiar robot posture. 

That's better. It's about time we give robots who do nothing their due.


What's Happened To Me?

Many things happen to you when you discover that you're having a child. There is no question that Sarah is experiencing more significant physiological and emotional changes than I can possible imagine, but I swear I've experienced some physiological change as well. My chemistry is altered.

Almost immediately following the ultrasound where we first saw a beating heart, I became much more emotional than I ever had been previously. It seemed that any movie with the slightest hint of drama would send me into a funk for a few hours after having watched it. The strained relationship between Dr. Marvin and his son in What About Bob? was more than this heart could handle.

Another thing that happened — I got comfortable around kids, even good with them. I went from wanting to be good with kids, but never quite feeling natural about it, to feeling so natural that it is hard to remember what it was like before.

One more thing I've noticed (not so much a change in chemistry or physiology), is that getting ready to have a child of my own has made me think a lot more about my own childhood. I think this is born out of a desire to visualise (<-- blatant British spelling for effect) what my own son will be like. I mentioned this to my mom. Her reply, "Did you have a good childho--," cutting herself off, "--don't tell me if it was bad." 

This is a precarious position she put me in. Here's the thing about my mom. She is always teetering on the edge of tears. If you say something that hurts her feelings, she will cry. If you say something that will make her proud, she'll cry. If you make her happy, she'll cry. For a guy who is openly uncomfortable when others cry, well, like I said  it was a precarious position.

I'd already been thinking about my childhood, so I thought I'd make a list of memories (some good and some bad), that all come together to form a darned good childhood, all told. It's a win-win, I can tell my Mom that I had a great childhood, and I don't have to get that awkward feeling inside when someone cries. So here's a representative sample: 
  • Dad mowing the lawn with an orange electric mower, and jumping up to scare me at every pass by the kitchen window
  • Eating yogurt and watching Jesus movies around Easter time
  • Mom and I listening to the radio in the kitchen the day Keith Green died. I think I learned about death that day
  • Getting a TAB® from the church pop machine (the kind you pulled bottles out of, with that metal clanking sound)
  • Mom bringing home "surprises" – namely the G.I. Joe sleeping bag
  • Dad making me say "I will shut the door" 100 times, when I left the back door open
  • Mom saving me from a paddling at school for breaking a window
  • Walks in the evening that ended with an episode of Gunsmoke on the TV Set
  • Getting up early to play Pong before I had to go to school
  • Mom and Dad delaying our move from Oklahoma City a couple times so that I could be with my friends a little bit longer
  • Road trips in our Nissan Sentra
  • Waking up for naps in time for Days of Our Lives to end and Sesame Street and Electric Company to begin
  • Little League games, the concession stand afterwards (and if that wasn't enough sugar), Ice Cream with the whole family
  • Getting up early on Saturdays to get my allowance
  • Hiding in closets until my parents got justifiably worried
  • Late night tennis under the lights
  • Trips to TG&Y where mom let me get a Golden Book and/or a Star Wars action figure
  • Saturday breakfast with my dad
  • When traveling, planning our stops based on where the Hardees was for breakfast, or a Mexican restaurant was at any other time of  day
  • Getting home late at night and learning Great Grandpa Noel had died
  • Dad telling me it is okay to quit playing football
  • Being mad at my Mom and Grandma for watching People's Court – All the time!
  • Playing dodge ball at recess
  • My Grandma's arm getting pooped on by a Hippo at the Oklahoma City Zoo
  • Jill coming home for the first time
  • Grandma and Grandpa buying the first microwave I'd ever seen from Montgomery Ward
  • Having jar after jar of every kind of creepy crawly organism known to man in the house
  • Mom rubbing my head and ears when I didn't deserve it
Well, that didn't exactly work out how I thought. I'm beginning to tear up. I should have listened to my own second paragraph. 

I'm beginning to understand how you feel, Mom.


Assuming someone's reading this, I'd love to hear some of your favorite or least favorite childhood memories. So please, chime in.


Showering In A New Dimension

You may or may not know that Sarah and I are expecting a son any day now. I'm officially on call. I'm delighted to be on call. I'm even more delighted that my sister, Jill and her husband Jeremy, are expecting a boy about six weeks after our son is expected to join us in the flesh. 

What this means is that this Christmas, our sons will meet for the first time, and our collective family will never be the same. I see that as a very bless-ed thing. 

You see, I have a wild imagination, but I don't think it's wild enough to imagine how our family life will change. It certainly wasn't wild enough to imagine having a baby shower moderated by a combined three Mac laptops and the wonder of iChat video. But, that is exactly what happened on Sunday, July 14, and I wasn't sure how to feel about such a technological "advancement", at first.

I try to not frequent baby showers, but this one very much resembled every other shower I've been to. The table in our house was sprinkled with baby-related confetti (storks, I think), and topped with finger foods and a pitcher of lemonade. Family members and my sister's friends funneled in, and we all gathered in the living room. There was one key distinction, the expectant mother was in Flagstaff, Arizona, and all of us were in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

I couldn't quite sort out how I felt about the cyber shower, initially. Seeing my sister on the computer monitor only highlighted the distance between us. And, her image pixelating into what resembled a Chuck Close portrait when the Web connection slowed certainly didn't help. Then I realized, I was thinking about how it made me feel.

This occasion wasn't about me. I was about as focused as the aforementioned Chuck Close portrait. It was about Jill and Jeremy. When I adjusted my own focus, I saw a room packed with people to honor the coming of a baby that would arrive 1,604 miles away. I saw both of my aging grandmothers there with my great aunt, and a host of other friends and family who had traveled a significant distance to "see" Jill and her growing belly. This is quite a powerful testament to how loved Jill and Jeremy are, and that is a beautiful picture – no matter how pixelated.


Roman Noble's

I always had an affinity for Noble Roman's. It's not the food, mind you. It's the memories. You may ask yourself, what's so memorable about Noble Roman's? Well, I'll tell you.

I remember them playing old re-runs of the Three Stooges on TV sets (we called them TV sets then). I loved the Threes Stooges. As a youngster, I used to beg my parents to allow me to sleep on the hide-a-bed in the living room by the TV so I could stay up late and watch the Stooges.

I remember the hardwood booths, and how they would transform your average flatulence into something that would rattle the Parmesan cheese shaker to the floor and encourage your parents to disassociate themselves with you.

I remember the picture window with the miniature staircase that made it possible for me, and youngsters like me, to watch some chap toss pizza dough. I remember having a serious admiration for whomever was behind that window. At the time, I had no idea that poor guy was probably living in his parents' basement and spending his pizza-tossing money on a 38-sided die for Dungeons and Dragons. In my eyes, he was a deserving of my admiration based solely on how he tossed the dough.

But, I loved Noble Roman's most because of my Mom's utter inability to say, "Noble Roman's." I would set the trap by saying something like, "Hey mom, what's that pizza place called where you can watch them make the pizza through the window?" And she'd step right into my snare, "Roman Nobles."
I'd chuckle.
"No, Noman Roble's."
I'd laugh.
"No, it's Roble Noman's."
I'm rolling at that point.
Then my dad would step in to save her from her rare and very narrowly-focused speech impediment. He'd say, "Sandy, what's my grandpa's first name?"
"Noble" She'd say, quickly followed by "Oh, Noble Roman's. Noble Roman's."
I couldn't count how many times we did this drill. It never got old. In fact, I tried it a few times in recent years, but she's gotten really good at remembering my great-grandfather's name first.

I've since become disenchanted by Noble Roman's. It seems they only exist as those weird fast food combo stores, ala A&W + Long John Silvers or Noble Roman's + TCBY + Convenience Store (I'll never understand how these concepts have survived, let alone flourished). It seems that the original Noble Roman's concept is dead.

Sarah happens to really like TCBY. Well, not necessarily TCBY. She's an equal opportunity frozen tasty treat eater. Sometimes we go to the TCBY + Noble Roman's combo two miles from our house.

It was Waffle Cone Wednesday and there are few things that Sarah loves more than her frozen tasty treats, but one of them is discounted frozen tasty treats. On Waffle Cone Wednesday you can have a waffle cone full of your favorite frozen yogurt for the low, low price of 99 cents. So we went to take advantage of this extraordinary bargain.

As is typical, I make my yogurt choice quickly (it was actually sherbet – orange to be exact) and then wait for Sarah to labor over her decision. It is customary for her to ask for one or more samples before making a decision. Meanwhile, I meandered toward the cash register when I noticed a little point of purchase (POP) sign. As a communications professional, my antennae are acutely tuned into ever little piece of design/advertisement. It feels a lot like a curse at times.

Anyway, there at the cash register was a little POP with a snipe announcing, "New at Noble Romans!" I thought, "Are they bringing the stooges back? The hardwoods? The window into where the magic happens?" No. Not exactly.

I read on. "This pizza has kick! Try our NEW Mexican-style Corn Chip Pizza!"

Corn Chips? Really? Sure enough, there was a Fritos® logo there to substantiate the claim. My curiosity was piqued.

"Loaded with 100% real sausage, 3 types of cheese, jalapeño slivers, and covered with a generous layer of crispy corn chips!"

As it relates to food, my curiosity and judgement are mutually exclusive, most of the time. The one major exception is Fair Food. Even then, I enjoy watching people eat such curiosities at the Fair more that I like eating them myself.

I couldn't help but think, "Oh my Lord, Noble Roman's is taking the Fair Food concept mainstream." This disturbs me because I've always thought that while Fair Food couldn't be worse for you, it's only once a year. Once a year makes it okay. Kinda. Sorta.

Like I said, I was curious – curious enough to visit the Noble Roman's Web site in search for nutrition facts. What kind of damage are we doing to our insides, I wondered?

I found the Nutrition Facts pretty easily. The nutrition facts about the Corn Chip Pizza, however, were not just elusive, but downright invisible. I did my best to try and piece it together, but couldn't. Just how much is a "generous layer of corn chips" anyway?

I backtracked to the nutrition facts main page, where I found this language:

Nutritional Information

Great tasting, high quality products are one of our highest priorities.

We serve a range of high-quality foods that can fit into your balanced diet. We believe that accurate and accessible nutrition information help guests make informed menu choices. The links below will provide you with all the nutritional information needed to help you make choices that are right for you and your lifestyle.

I'm curious. Who's balanced diet does a corn chip pizza fit into? Accurate and accessible nutrition information – Really?

Suddenly, it occurred to me that some guy or gal in some agency, like the one where I work, likely wrote this. In fact, the potential is there for me to participate in this same sort of messaging on a daily basis. It's something I need to be more mindful of, a responsibility I need to take very seriously. I'm not interested in misleading people, or harming people. I generally like people and the potential of people.

Further, it validated what I've spent a reasonable amount of time thinking about. I want to, and will, actively pursue promoting and talking about products, services and people that I really like and believe in.

Because in the end, if the product is hollow (or even damaging) it doesn't matter whether you call it Roman Noble's, Roble Noman's or Noble Roman's, it still leaves me unsatisfied.