February 27, 2012

You board an ocean liner slowly headed towards the most beautiful place on earth, a place filled with colors you’ve never seen before, strange hues and surprising shades, a place that is guaranteed to change your life at the exact moment you land, the only place in the world where the reality actually exceeds your expectations.

The journey is taxing, laborious, filled with twists and turns, fog and wind, storms, alternate routes, close calls, exhaustion, but always, almost always, those who start the journey make it to paradise.

But this one time, with the destination in site, dead ahead, the ship slams into a storm and swallows the vessel whole, leaving you gasping for air, desperate for what lies just in front of you. And it’s all over. Just like that.

I don’t always know how to put this pregnancy into words.

The sheer guts it takes for Kari to get up from the shipwreck, grief stricken and physically broken, and then to stagger back to the start of the same journey, this time with the addition of fear, post traumatic stress and the feeling of utter helplessness, in order to board the same exact ocean liner is, well, an astonishing feat of grit.

February 23, 2012

We didn’t actually pay $600 a night, the rate stated on the inside of the bathroom door. We only paid $259, which was made possible by the brilliant folks at Living Social, and even with the deep discount, it is still the most we have ever paid for a room anywhere in the world. In Thailand, $259 would have gotten us forty-three nights at our favorite spot, a little tree house cottage a few steps from the Andaman Sea. But here, in the small village of Ojai, best known for hippies and meditation, we paid two hundred and fifty-nine dollars for twenty-hours of resort luxury.

That’s $12.95 an hour, which somehow seemed worth it in the moment, considering Stella would be with Grandma and kid three is still in utero.

The nicest place I ever stayed at as a kid was the President’s Inn of Grand Rapids. For a couple of years running, my entire family packed our suitcases in early April and headed to the next town over for a vacation. It could have been on the other side of the planet as far as I was concerned. It was magical. It had arcade games. It was three stories high. It had a television in the room, and it was in color. It had an indoor pool, a fact that I could base my entire magical argument on. It was a pool that was inside, that you could swim in while it snowed outside, because that’s what it does in Michigan in early April. My twelve year old self could barely fathom such excitement.

We follow a Lexus into the registration area to find the valet guys prancing around the entrance like they have pockets full of rambunctious dollar bills. They wear khaki shirts and corporate grins and we drive right by them and the long line of the cars that are waiting for their services. If you’re willing to walk thirty to ninety arduous feet, parking is free.

The room contains lots of bulky furniture, laced with veneer and drenched in maroon stain. There’s a table, desk, armoire, end table, dresser, couch, frames, ottoman, four lamps and a headboard that comes way too close to the ceiling. The carpet looks imported from the middle east and the towels could have passed as sheets. The bathroom features Spanish tiles, a scale and vanity mirror. It’s fabricated luxury at it’s best.

After settling in, we make our way over to the spa, which has separate areas for men and women and features hot tubs and pools, all varying in temperature, size and depth.

I find out rather quickly that the men’s spa is clothing optional. There are penis's coming at me from every direction, dangling and unashamed. In a throwback to my junior high days, I whisper to myself as I walk from the plush locker room to the jacuzzi, keeping my head up and avoiding eye contact.

Be cool man. Be. Cool.

Unfortunately, my bathing suit might as well have flashers and neon lights on it, with rap music coming from the pocket and gold chains for laces. I stick out like someone fully clothed at a nudist beach. I feel the men's glares in every annoying swishing sound my ridiculous suit makes as I walk from jacuzzi to jacuzzi.

There are workers everywhere, too many to keep track of. They greet you at the entrances, open doors for you, drive around in golf carts, clean up trash, check you in, explain the spa facilities, offer towels and come fold the corners of your toilet paper into a symmetrical triangle while you’re out for dinner. And I feel the need to identify with each one of them.

I’m like you, I want to whisper. I’m not like the other guests with their entitlement. I actually can't afford this place and I have no business being here. I want to start conversations and ask about their lives and buddy up with them. I want to make fun at other guests and hopelessly pretend like I’m one of them, like they aren’t serving me, like I’m not the guy who just spent $259 on a hotel room.

The room tag that hangs from the door knob offers two options for the cleaning staff. One side reads “please refresh,” which is certainly a nice way of saying, “please pick up the shit that I have managed to spread out around the room since arriving three hours ago.” The other side features a calming image of a droplet of water with the words, “seeking serenity.”

If the truth was on that room tag, if it revealed what we are really doing here at a luxury resort, spending $259 for a night, the room tag might say, “passing the time.”

Barring an unexpected early entrance, or an unforeseen calamity, we are exactly eleven weeks away from kid three arriving on the scene, one way or another. Seventy-eight days. There is hope. There is fear. There is grief. There is this intense longing, a desperation for what I can’t have and what may be coming. And if $259 can buy us a day or two, if it can buy us a moment of respite, it’s worth every penny.

February 21, 2012


Our darling Stella Rose is three today.

On February 21, 2009, near 6pm in the evening, after thirty-six hours of labor, my Kari pushed her out.

We have been dizzy with love ever since.


Every week or two since Stella was born, the two of us sit in front of the Mac, turn on photo booth and take pictures together. [unfortunately, photos from the last eleven months have been more scarce than normal] The data collector in me wanted a way to tangibly see her progress, one week, month and year at a time. This is a small part of a massive collection we have taken together since she was born.

*after clicking play below, you'll have to click the "watch on youtube" link.
*music credit goes to Nick Drake.

February 18, 2012

Stella and I recently drove up into the San Gabriel mountains, the collection of rocky peaks that frame Los Angeles so perfectly, for her first day in the snow. We have been waiting all season for the kind o white stuff that falls in feet and lends to the perfect snowman creation. Finally, on Monday and Tuesday, it fell, leaving Stella and I with no choice but to strap on our winter attire and head for the snow. She wore sweatpants, dress, socks and a sweater, which is arguably the most clothing she has ever had on her body at one time.

We bought oversize pink gloves and a sled at the mountain hardware store before heading out to find an ideal spot for our activities.

We sledded down long hills at scary speeds, dodging pine trees and boulders along our made up routes. We took walks through the forest, me pulling her on the sled, her sitting and shivering and pointing to every single pine cone she saw. We talked about frostbite and precipitation and laughed at ourselves every time I hopelessly tried to put each of her fingers into the glove. It was perfect.

February 13, 2012

I'm writing over at Glow In the Woods today, talking about Margot's future. Please feel free to stop by Glow and read my post, daydream, and join the discussion.

February 2, 2012

This was written on September 12, 2011, one hundred and seventy-two long days after March 24. 

We are driving on the 134, past Eagle Rock and over the hill that provides panoramic views of Downtown and the Pacific. My nerves are running laps between my heart and head, my knee is bobbing up and down, my mouth is unable to deliver the thoughts streaming in. We sit quietly as we roll down the hill towards our exit.

I am surprisingly confident. I am painfully terrified.

It was like this once before, almost exactly, except we were breaking the speed limit and Kari was screaming in pain and I was on the phone.

"Yes, hello. My wife just fell on her belly. We are driving to you now. Is Dr. Wu there?"

"Kari Jackson."

"39 weeks."

I hung up in a haze and relayed the news. The doc is there, I told her. It’s going to be okay. Maybe we’ll meet her now, we mumbled to one another while she lay sideways, clutching her belly.

"Something isn’t right." she said with measured doubt. Her eyes signaled the coming calamity. 

"We’re almost there," I replied.

I hugged the right lane and exited frantically, my right arm extended towards Kari, my left doing the driving. Every last ounce of hope I could muster went into that right arm, down through my elbow, past my hand and into the life inside that broken belly.

My mind raced about where to go. I contemplated the ER for a split second before deciding on Labor and Delivery. I stopped near the valet, just in front of the double doors, and barely had enough time to shift the car into park before leaping off the seat and running into the building.

"I'll be right back," I blurted out as I slammed the door shut.

I ran past the security box and down the hall, past the waiting room where balloons and family members waited anxiously, and straight into the nurse's station at Labor and Delivery.

"I need help!" I yelled. I stopped to catch my breath in a desperate plea with my body and mind to remain calm. My stomach was somersaulting around my insides. My heart pounded ferociously, each chamber pumping and moving my blood, which was laced with a fear I had never known before. 

"My wife just fell on her belly and something isn't right. Wu is our Doctor and she's full term. I need a wheelchair"

I must have floated back to the car, back to Kari doubled over on the front seat. There is no memory of getting back to her, of lifting her into the chair, of hurtling her towards the ultrasound machines. We were just there, suddenly, with a team of frightened nurses. One of them pulled out a fetal pocket doppler and placed it on her belly.

In the agonizing sound of nothingness, time stood still.

We gently roll past the valet, past the double doors and head for the parking garage. Our hands lock together in a sweat. We nervously kid about our new willingness to happily pay for parking. I ignore the obvious, even though The Day is still more fresh in my mind than any other day of my life.

It's September.

We take the stairs out of the garage and head towards the outside entrance. We walk past the valet and through the double door entrance. I can see pieces of my former self scattered around the place, my dismembered ghost calling out to me from the tiled floor, from the ceiling, from every little nook and cranny. My innocence in one corner, my naivety in another. Luck stares at me from under a chair, and unwavering optimism glares at me from down the hall. I stare at them with indifference.

She sits on the table, I pace the compact room, shuffling back and forth, my nerves still running laps, my hands still moist. There are few words between us.

There he is. Our frail, sixty-nine year old Dr. Wu, who delivered both our girls, one who was resuscitated after a thirty-six hour labor by a team of six NICU Dr's and nurses, and one who they tried to resuscitate. His eyes fill with empathy, with a gratefulness that we are able to be here again.

"How are you?" he asks. "Any morning sickness?" He asks in a way that suggests he is hoping with all the hope in the universe that there are other signs of pregnancy, that he finds a heartbeat.

"Okay, let's have a listen." 

And there it was. The most beautiful sound of all, so primal and miraculous and hopeful.

Another beating heart.


We are now six months along with a growing baby boy. He's due in early May. We really, really, really hope he makes it.