Alive at 35

Blog, Gardening, Parenting, Woodworking / Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023

It’s that time again, isn’t it? The past year got away from me for a couple of reasons. The thirty-fifth year was definitely one for the books. Let’s recap it, shall we?


Shortly after my birthday, or maybe it was even on my birthday. That sounds right, on my birthday last year, I received the initial news that I would be getting an offer for the Director of Project Management job I had been interviewing for. It took a couple weeks to be finalized and for me to start but once I finally did, I felt overwhelming relief. Finally, it felt like I had made it and been recognized for my years of hard work. I was so happy and proud of my accomplishment that I treated Ellie, my parents, and Ellie’s parents to a nice dinner out.

However, since taking on the role things have been less of something I’m proud of and a lot more reflection and frustration that our office and company functions the way that it does. It doesn’t help that I was out on leave shortly after starting as a Director, but in the many months since I’ve been back I still do not feel like I know what I am doing or what the expectations are for me. Every day feels like a game of Whack-a-Mole and I can only focus on the tasks popping up at the moment. There’s little time for planning and strategy. It doesn’t help either that I have days full of meetings where I’m unable to complete any of the items on my long task list.

The more time I have, the more things I see that make me question how this ship stays afloat. I just want to stop all of the chaos and add processes to it before it spreads further. For example, we often provide quotes for new projects and as I try to understand how we price our services I learn that it tends to be more of an art than a science. I wholeheartedly believe that the pricing can be handled with a formula. Fixing that, at the very least for my own projects and quotes, will be my main priority.

I’m not sure how much longer this position will feel right for me though. Everyone else in charge just seems unwilling, or too overworked, to make any changes.

That being said, not everything about the new role has been bad. Around the time I was coming back from leave, the other members of my old team moved on and I needed to hire new people to take their places. I found the hiring process to be rewarding in a weird way. I was able to shape things by selecting whoever I thought was the best fit for the job. Never before have I felt that sort of freedom or control over a hiring situation. Even better, having worked with the two new team members for half a year now I’m convinced they were both the best choices I could have made and I’d argue they’re even better suited to the roles than I ever was. I enjoy meeting with them each week and teaching them everything I know about our systems. I’m also challenged by them, to allow them to work independently and for me to trust that they can and will do what they say.


I didn’t get too far into 35 before our baby girl decided to show up early. She came right around a month before her due date. Barely pre-term. To be completely honest, I was terrified when Ellie said we needed to go to the hospital. Nothing good runs through your mind when the baby is that early. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do in the moment, you’re not given much time to process it because you just have to let things happen the way they’re going to happen. At the end of the day, our beautiful baby was born, perfectly healthy.

Adjusting to fatherhood since that first day has been hard and easy at the same time. Easy because every part of my has been looking forward to being a dad for as long as I can remember. I just wanted to have this child who I got to know as they get to know the whole world. I wanted to raise a child to be free, and smart, and happy, and good. I cannot wait to see her grow into the most amazing person I’ll ever know. And in knowing all of that is ahead of me, I rest easy because that will be so damn rewarding.

Fatherhood has been hard to adjust to because for me to be present as a dad, I need to be present. A baby only does so much, sleeps so much, moves so much. For me, being a father is being there for as much of it as I can be. It means doing what doesn’t come naturally for me, sitting still. It has been a journey.

The first two months, Ellie and I both were at home with the baby full time. Then I went back to work for two months. After that, Ellie went back to work and I was on full time with the baby for another two months. A generous amount of paternity leave and extra PTO gave me much more time with my daughter than I ever expected.

Once we ran out of leave and PTO, the baby went off to daycare while we worked. She loves it. What I don’t love is that she brings home a new cold for us every few weeks. I think for Ellie and I it has been a bit extra rough since we’ve been working at home for the past three years and our immunity hasn’t kept up with all of the new colds.

One of the baby’s first colds really hit her hard and she couldn’t keep her food down and she had diarrhea and eventually, we had to take her to the emergency room for fluids. It was the only way we could guarantee that she was staying hydrated. They got her back to her old self fast, but it was another one of those first time parent terrifying events. I hardly suspect it will be the last.

Over the summer, we were supposed to travel to DC for my cousin’s wedding, but unfortunately we had a case of hand, foot, and mouth going around which didn’t make for a fun trip so we didn’t end up going. I was sad that we didn’t make it, but relieved that we didn’t have to travel so far with a eight month old. The prospect of long travel still concerns me. I know our baby is one of the good ones, but I really don’t need to test how good.

After that, she spent a lot of time working on crawling. There was a lot for her to piece together and figure out and I loved watching all of it. I never felt like I could teach her how to do it, though I did try. I just had to sit by and watch and hope and chuckle as she did her baby things her own baby way. She got there eventually, and then life became a whole lot more interesting.

Now, she’s a few weeks away from one year old and she’s an absolute delight to be around. She’s happy more often than not. She moves and explores. She gets into things. Every day, she just keeps us going.


Because of the aforementioned having to sit still and take care of a baby, I didn’t get to do nearly as much woodworking this year as in years past. I knew going into fatherhood that would be something I’d have to figure out again, but it was really, really hard to only get to think about it each day. That being said, I did squeeze in a few projects (mostly for the baby).

I finally managed to finish her mobile. I had the day off the day she was born and my plan was to finish it up that day. No dice on that. But when I installed it in her crib, she seemed to really like it.

For years we’ve had our cookbooks propped precariously on a…thing. The cookbooks never fit and if you looked at them the wrong way they would all fall off and the thing would fall apart. So, I took and evening to two to solve it by making a cookbook rack. I’m quite proud of it and I think it might be my favorite, or maybe just most useful, thing I’ve made all year.

My mom’s birthday present from last year, intended to be a cutting board, morphed into its final form as an end table. It was a lot of work but I’m very happy with how it came out. Except for the drawer because I learned a valuable lesson that the drawer sides should be as tall as their opening so the drawer doesn’t fall out when you pull it out.

When the baby started crawling and playing with the dog bowls, I thought maybe a nice stand with inset bowls would deter her. It didn’t, but Stella got a nice upgrade to her mealtimes.

And finally, Ellie asked if I could make a Pickler triangle for the baby. It looked simple enough so I whipped one together in a few days. She hasn’t started using it yet, but it is going to be a feature of the basement play area we are setting up for her.


Having the baby gave me the urge to document every moment of her life as I imagine most parents do these days. However, since I’m increasingly skeptical of and opposed to all new developments in technology, I wasn’t satisfied to only document her life with my phone. I wanted to have something more tangible so I looked to an old and brief hobby of mine for an answer, 35mm film photography.

I dusted off my old Kodak camera and loaded it up with some rolls of black and while film and I did my best to capture the baby and the people with her. I’ll be honest, the first couple of rolls weren’t great when I developed them and I know some of that is me and I’d guess that some of that is a 65 year old camera. But I kept at it.

At some point over the summer, my luck changed. We saw that a house the block over was having an estate sale so we popped in to see what they had. It turns out there were a ton of ducks. Ceramic, plastic, wooden, you name it there was probably a duck of it. But more importantly, I could tell that I could have been good friends with the old man who lived there. All of his things spoke to me on some level. What spoke most to me, though, was the Ricoh XR-7 35mm film camera lenses as well as some other cameras and lenses. I hemmed and hawed when I saw it, and decided to think about it and come back in the morning when things were half off. I’m glad that I did because I scooped up a good haul of decent quality gear for under $50.

The camera has been a game changer. After I had it cleaned up and gone over, it has improved my photography in ways I didn’t think it could. There’s something about having more modern tech at your fingertips that makes it easier to focus on the photo. I still have a ways to go to get every photo coming out good enough, but I have time to get there.

I did just get my first roll of color film developed since I was a kid, and I’m pleased with about half of the photos. Given that the estate sale wasn’t the end of my film camera buying spree (don’t tell Ellie, please), I plan to keep this habit going for the long term. I want to keep getting photos developed and have the memories stored away in a box. That’s important to me now.


There isn’t as much to say this year about running as there has been in past years. A lot of that has to do with me being absolutely frustrated with the results of the marathon this year. I think I came in 8 or 9 minutes slower than last year. Despite all of my training and preparation and feeling like this year would be the best year, it all fell apart.

However, I’m glad I ran. Back when I was on sole parenting duty during my leave, the weather nicened up and I decided to buy a jogging stroller to take the baby along for the ride. I needed to stretch my legs because I was getting stir crazy. So she and I would go for short runs of 3-5 miles. Bless that baby, she took all of the bumps in stride and even fell asleep most of the time while I was running.

But then I got into training mode once she was in daycare and I felt strong and fast. I did my best to work all of my runs around when the baby was not at home, but unfortunately some runs had to be done on weekends. Ellie was a trooper for watching the baby while I went off and had me time.

I still plan to run and I’d like to run the marathon again next year. But right now, at the end of the season, I’m really discouraged.

On a side note, I also got back into biking a bit this year and that brought me a whole new joy that running hadn’t been bringing to my life. While out walking with Ellie one day, I saw that one of our neighbors had put an old Cannondale aluminum frame bike on the curb for trash pickup (a high end bike back in the early 90s). I nabbed it thinking, if it doesn’t work or doesn’t fit me, at least I could do is part it out for some cash.

Turns out it fit me perfectly and only need a little bit of work to get it road worth again. Let me tell you, that bike is fast. I’m saying that I can easily get it up to 25 mph on flat ground without breaking a sweat. I’ve topped it out on a steep downhill at 34.5 mph. I even think it has more in it, I just need to unlock it.

So next year I’m going to run more, but I’m also going to work in biking because it just brings me joy.


I don’t know what it was about this year, but it was one hell of a year for cucumbers. I estimate that I picked over 200 cucumbers from the three plants I had this year. We’re good on cucumber products in this household for the foreseeable future.


It was a great year, but I also had to go through a lot of growth and learning to make it a great year. I’m okay with that.

This coming year, I’m not setting goals. I’ve learned that the baby is the one who sets the agenda from now on. I don’t want to give myself any goals I won’t be able to do and come back here next year and think about how I failed or disappointed myself. I know whatever life throws at me, I’ll be able to handle and for the foreseeable future, that will do.

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