Sunday, January 19, 2014

water under the bridge.

Tonight was the annual cocktail party at my old house in Oakland. It's one of the least exclusive events I know, and you're encouraged to bring friends or co-workers--often it turns out they know someone else at the party anyway. Sometimes, it's a small Valley.

When Anna and I were dating, I once told her that if I got married, I could easily invite 200 people to the wedding without thinking very hard. She was skeptical, since she was still deciding whether I was a fountain of bullshit--I am, but not so it matters--but then she started meeting the horde, and saw that I wasn't showing off. It is actually a very big group, and while relationships vary as you'd expect, by and large we know each other well enough. The accumulated weight of shared experience.

Tonight there was my ex-girlfriend C, who was quite justifiably angry at me for a few years, until I got my head out of my ass and apologized, and eventually we became able to talk like old friends. Just last week, at a dinner party, I got to tell the remarkable story of our first date, which is one of my favorites. Of course everyone at the table has known me for years, and known her almost as long, and that just makes it all awesome.

There was also my ex from The Bad Relationship, who doesn't want to remember anything about our mutual past, but we did have quite a civil conversation about the labeling of the numerous cheeses. She reportedly acknowledged Anna's presence in the room, as well. Small steps toward a more peaceful world.

Many of us have dated, several have been married and divorced; sometimes the pairing up happens within the community, and sometimes the pairing up brings in a new person. (Or several, in my case: on the way home from the party when my late friend J and his wife H first met Anna, H commented how much she liked Anna and how well Anna and I seemed to fit together. J said, "Yeah...don't get too attached. We've seen this before, and they don't necessarily stick around." Anna was unable to convince H to tell this story at our wedding.)

(In my defense, this seems a little unfair, since my pre-Anna girlfriend was around for 3 years and still talks to my friends, if not, for mysterious reasons, to me. Nonetheless, a valid point.)

Most of the gang is a bit older than me, so they've had the pleasure of watching me grow from an obnoxious, if usually charming, twentysomething single guy, into a charming, if occasionally obnoxious, thirtysomething husband and father. These are my people. We've all grown up together, gone to Burning Man, eaten lovely food, helped each other, trusted each other, adjusted our expectations to what we're all capable of.

Across the community, biological families range from the fabulous like mine, to varying levels of dysfunction, all the way down to the horrific. No matter what we each started out with, now we have each other, too.

Our traditional dinner toast is "Here's to the family you choose."

Sunday, January 5, 2014

back to work, slackers

We had a lovely holiday season here at the Snugglehaus. On Christmas Eve we went to St. Gregory's to watch a family we're friends with be in the Christmas pageant. (The 3-year old was the best sheep ever.) Of course, since it's St. Gregory's, the pageant is different every year, there's a script and choreography and varied kinds of singing, and of course they alternate years with the different versions of Jesus' birth (Luke's and Matthew's). Then we were off to Dessert Night elsewhere in the city, and then we were cooked.

On Christmas we got the boy back around noonish, and opened presents. We spread his larger presents over the twelve days leading up to Christmas, which encourages actually playing with them as their opened. I got various nice useful things; Anna got a boatload of ukulele accessories from her family Secret Santa, and I got her a ukulele. I had hoped the ukulele would be a surprise, but she had said she wanted one, I'm the resident string instrument expert, and I'm kind of predictable in that this is exactly the sort of situation where I will buy her a present.

J got a full set of Star Wars Family Car Decals, so now our two back doors have adorable banthas on them.

The boy has been challenging at times recently, which I think is manifesting the half-year pattern: half a year of turbulence as he struggles to make a developmental leap, followed by half a year of cruising as he flexes new skills and cognitive abilities. He's been reliably on that cycle, and it's been a very smooth 6 months overall, so I suppose we're due. Given the level of sturm und drang we can already get at age 9, the teenage years are looking a little daunting. He's a loving, compassionate little human, and we'll figure it out.

At just about any tech job, the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year's is largely a loss. Half the company goes on vacation, which makes it hard for the remaining half to accomplish much; you have long deploy blackouts, not wanting to risk production outages during the holidays, which are customer-visible and also short-staffed (see above re: vacations). Years ago I stopped taking the holidays off, first because holiday travel is miserable, but second because workplaces become largely indifferent to whether and how long I show up in the office during that time, so it's not like I'm Bob Cratchit, toiling away while everyone else relaxes into the holidays. (Larger companies will often just shut the office entirely for the two weeks of Christmas to New Year's; nicer ones will do so without requiring you to take vacation days for it.)

Work has been unfortunate, if educational in a character-building sense, and that's probably all I should say about it for now.

We've added yet a few more stuffed animals to the household. We already had so many! But there's a specific kind of stuffed beaver that's a family institution, and Anna couldn't resist a pair of badgers from Ikea. I think we need a moratorium.

And, as always, being married is the easy part. Nice work, if you can get it. =)