If we’re going to be friends, your vote really does matter…

45485641_1746095872183715_6350298731287412736_oNow that we’re in an election cycle, there’s an image floating around the interwebs advocating for friendship across politics. On the surface, this is a great idea when candidates relatively agree on similar end goals: like freedom or upward mobility, but perhaps not in the means – progressive vs regressive taxes. I may not like the other candidate, or their political party. But we’re all trying to build a better society for ourselves and our children. We’re both adults. We can agree to disagree and still be friends, because our friendship is more important than politics.

Except when your candidate wants to, say, remove my citizenship because my grandmother was from Mexico. Or wants to deport my uncle because he’s Muslim. Or wants to take away my sister’s right of choice. Or wants to erase my partner because they’re transgender. Or wants to disenfranchise my brother because he’s Native American. Or wants to segregate my father because he’s African American. Or wants to kill my cousin because they’re Jewish.

When your vote comes at the cost of significant human life, we’re not friends anymore.

“But I don’t believe in any of that! I’m not racist! We’ve been friends for years and you’re brown!” you say. “I just voted for the guy because I agree with his economic policy. You’re being really petty and judgmental.”

Sure friend. I hear what you’re saying. We can totally agree to disagree on economic policy. But you also voted for a racist/fearmonger/bigot/misogynist/homophobe. Which is a deal breaker. What you just demonstrated was that you put politics ahead of our friendship, and that while you may not be any of those hateful qualities, you’re willing to let them slide because they benefit you. If we’re going to be friends, and adults, then we are supposed to have a relationship that supports one another. That cares for one another. That will show up for one another when we really need help. And you voted for the guy who wants to kill people like me, all because you wanted lower taxes. Which tells me that we were never friends in the first place.

You see, friend, how you vote doesn’t just tell me about your politics. It tells me about what kind of person you are. What the foundation of your ethics and morals looks like. And when you vote “pro-life” and at the same time ignore the racism, the hate, the bigotry, the violence, and the death, you tell me all I need to know. That we were never friends. Because politics and party really were more important to you than my wellbeing; and my actual life.

Being an adult means having healthy boundaries which sometimes requires removing people from my life who are toxic and destructive. It means having firm ethics and morality rooted in empathy and compassion. It means choosing to hold people’s worth and dignity above petty politics and disagreements; in seeing your humanity and loving you and showing up for you when things get hard. Being an adult is having the courage to say: “No more!” to evil, even at great cost. Being an adult means making hard choices, like say, voting against your party when their candidate supports putting immigrant children in cages at internment camps.

But I don’t hate you. I’ll still show up for you if you need help. I’ll say hello at work and if we run into each other during the holidays. I’ll still uphold your dignity and worth, even when you don’t uphold mine. Because that is what myself, as an adult, am called to do; be kind to the people who hate me. And to know when to walk away.

Sometimes I fail at being a parent, and that’s ok.

Tobias has officially put himself to sleep. Radio Paradise is playing in the background. The living room is dim with filtered light from the window shades. I think I can squeeze a blog post out before he wakes up. Let the contest begin!

Tobias is a little more than seven months old. In that time, Heather and I have received a tremendous amount of support from friends and family. Our friend Meghan organized a meal train when he was born, which for a few weeks unloaded the burden of trying to figure out what to eat. I think it was more for our own safety. In our sleep deprived states we shouldn’t have been handling sharp objects or cooking appliances anyways.

Both Heather and my parents visited. They gave us some time to go out by ourselves and remember what it was like to be adults. I knew newborns were a lot of work. I didn’t understand just how immensely time consuming they are. I admit that I was incredibly naïve as a new dad; of course a baby eats spacetime for breakfast. They’re like little black holes which consume all the chores and intentions within their event horizon, which I figure is around 50 meters or so.

We joined a PEPs (Program for Early Parent Support) group. Eight couples within our general neighborhood all with babies around the same age came together to reassure ourselves that we are NOT going crazy. I highly recommend this program for all new parents. It was crucial for me to connect with other people going through a similar immense life transition. We were able to share advise, tip, tricks, or just be able to vent our frustrations.

The most important rule was no judging. There are a lot of resources out there for new parents. Support groups, meetups, internet forums; you name it. However, I found that these resources come with hazard signs. Warning: Judgement Ahead! It makes sense that people become incredibly invested in their parenting styles. It’s hard to admit doing something wrong when it comes to my own child. Because if I do something wrong, then I’m a horrible parent, right?

However, Heather and I have noticed that even with all the immense research, resources and advice available, much of it is contradictory and only applies to what “may” work, not what “will” work. My limited observations lead me to believe that like people, babies are complex individuals. Yet people dishing out advice seem to think that their own baby and parenting style is the end all be all of what a parent “should” and “shouldn’t” do.

Our baby has tongue tie. We “should” get it fixed. (we didn’t and Toby is fine) You shouldn’t be using that carrier, you’ll ruin his legs and pelvis. (Toby’s legs and pelvis are fine) You should be feeding your baby “only” breast milk; if not then you’re a horrible parent. (we do feed Toby only breast milk, but know other people who don’t and their babies are happy and healthy) The list goes on and on. It seems that parents are sometimes the most horrible judge, jury and executioners of other parents. My opinion is it’s because we somehow believe that if we’re making “different” choices, then we’re making “wrong” choices.

I’m not saying that with babies, anything goes. Obviously there are many things a parent shouldn’t do. But it seems to me that parents deserve more compassion than judgement, more “You’re doing awesome” rather than “I know what you should do.” I know I make mistakes and bad decisions every day. Heck, before writing this blog I plopped Toby in front of the TV with a bottle and Sesame Street so I could take a quick 10 minute shower, get dressed and finish my coffee. But I did this only after we played for 2 hours and he was getting hungry and fussy. It’s all about balance and survival.

Now he is fast asleep. And he is a happy, healthy, loved little boy. Despite my mistakes. As horrible as parents can be to each other, my little boy seems to be the most capable of forgiveness. When he smiles and babbles at me, I pretend he’s saying “I know you’re doing the best you can dad. I love you.” I know I need this much more than “If you keep doing that you’re going to ruin your child.” Let’s all try to be cool to one another. We’re all in this together and we need as much support from friends, family and other parents as we can get. One thing I’ve learned is that it really does take a village because sometimes I fail at being a parent. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The very good and the very (little) bad…

how did we ever live?!
how did we ever live?!

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and experience! It seems like the whole month of August went by in a hazy blur. Somebody must have clicked the fast forward button on the VCR. Go figure; time passes by quickly when you’re not paying attention. Now summer is almost at an end.

A few weeks ago, my parents came to visit. We hadn’t seen them for over a year. I try to call every week or so, though it usually ends up being every other week. I’m a bad son in that regard. I just lose track of time. However, seeing them was wonderful! Their visit reminded me of how much I really do miss (and love) them.

This is my father. He is the BEST man you will ever meet. Period.
This is my father. He is the BEST man you will ever meet. Period.

One of the hardest parts of moving away from Vegas was being separated from friends and family by thousands of miles. This is pretty normal for families in the United States; as soon as we’re able we’re encouraged to leave the nest. My experiences in Eastern Europe taught me that many parts of the world feel that moving far away from your family is an insane (and stupid) idea. I mean, who’s going to take care of the kids when you get pregnant?

Seriously. Run. for. your. life.
Seriously. Run. for. your. life.

Second, I ran my very first extreme 5k. “Run for Your Lives” is a zombie themed race meant to challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally. The race organizers did a great job of making the zombies as realistic as possible. The race included obstacles, steep hills, off road terrain, ravenous zombies and plenty of ways to be electrically shocked. I made a video of the experience.

This is Maria. Destroyer of livers.
This is Maria. Destroyer of livers.

Then Heather’s and my friends from Vegas arrived for a few days. Maria was my roommate before Heather and I were married. Her and her husband Brock are some of the coolest people we know. They are into food and drink. Having them visit gave me an excuse to eat and drink my way around Puget Sound: chicken & waffles at Burgundian, pizza from Zeeks, ALL the beer at Red Hook Brewery, bacon cheese maple braised pork loin biscuit sandwich at The Commons, wine from Chateau Ste Michelle, whiskey & vodka from Woodinville Whiskey Company, grappa from Soft Tail Spirits, mead from Sky River Brewing, bacon tater tot poutine and shepherd pies from Pies and Pints, spicy chorizo quesadillas at the Ballard Farmers Market, ALL the beer from Reuben’s Brews, and finally chocolate from Theo’s.

I will need to exercise for 3 months to recover from this one weekend. Well done friends… well done.

This is Dominic Taylor. If you see him, please alert police. He is a little bitch.
This is Dominic Taylor. If you see him, please alert police. He is a little bitch.

Then the bad. Last Friday I got home from work to find our house was almost broken into. Which is much better than actually being broken into. Our front door had almost been knocked off its hinges and the doorframe cracked beyond repair. One of our front windows had been cut in a very similar fashion to how our home was broken into last May. Yes, I suspect Mr. Dominic Taylor had returned to our home to see what else he could steal from us.

After the first break in, we installed some extra lights around the home and yard. This time I broke down and bought a camera security system. It has 720p HD video, nightvision, motion-sensors and will email me anytime it’s activated. Hopefully this will be the last time our home is violated for quite a while. Because twice in three months is unacceptable. This transgression will not stand, man.

Chris says "Drink beer."
Chris says “Drink beer.”

Then more good. Today is my birthday! I have so far survived 37 solar rotations. I marked this achievement yesterday by spending 4 hours with friends at the LivingSocial Beer Fest at the Seattle Center. Then four more hours at Pies and Pints for more friends, whiskey, poutine and shepherd pies. Today Heather and I went to church, ate at Zaina for lunch (Mediterranean street food), I finished my latest book while lounging in our hammock, we took a walk around the neighborhood to visit our local Little Free Library and as I finish this blog post, Heather is finishing her famous homemade satay chicken pizza.

Friends, I learned something valuable today. Those who are not grateful in the truest sense of the word for everything they have in life are doomed for misery. For they will never get as much goodness as they think they deserve, and will always feel like they get more evil than they feel they are warranted. Today I am completely and utterly grateful for my life, good and the bad. Today I am breathing and I am immensely happy.

No more (painful) excuses…

This little truck moved so many people... I miss her.
This little truck moved so many people… I miss her.

There is no such thing as a relaxing summer in the Almeida household. My friend who has been staying with us for the last three months moved out. We’re getting the house ready for my parents to visit in three days. Some friends from Vegas are coming in a couple weeks. Plus, we spent 8 hours today helping some very good friends move into their new house.

I firmly believe this is what you do for friends and family. The relationships are beyond simple hospitality. If a friend is in need, you help a brother (or sister) out. When they come into town, there is no reason for them to stay in a hotel. If they need help moving, there is no saying “no.”

Oh, how young I used to be... I sometimes miss my 20s!
Oh, how young I used to be… I sometimes miss my 20s!

However, helping my friends move today I was reminded that I am not in my 20s anymore. The furniture seemed heavier. My back and shoulders seemed a little less stable. I found myself getting tired around 2:00–much too early than I’d like. Plus, I started aching.

Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed certain deficiencies in my body’s performance. First, there was the development of sciatica along my right leg, and then left leg. I developed a mild case of psoriasis (treatable with hydrocortisone). Then I get tennis elbow (no, I don’t play tennis) on my right arm.

Thankfully, none of these ailments are severe. I can treat the pain with a few ibuprofen. Along with stretching, exercise, and physical therapy they are manageable. But they are all reminders that I am getting older and am most likely paying for past physical abuses.

That's me on the far left... and yes... I'm a big boy.
That’s me on the far left… and yes… I’m a big boy.

I haven’t taken the best care of my body. I was very overweight for most of my life (25 out of 36 years). I smoked for a while. I played contact sports. There’s a physical invoice I’ve been building up over the years and it looks like some of that tab is coming due.

The most important part is that I refuse to let any of this stop me. So what if my elbow hurts, or my hip hurts, or the muscle in my neck is strained? I will not let these things stop me from helping a friend move, or going to the gym, or playing with the dog. Sure, there’s pain. But it’s manageable as long as I’m willing to do what it takes to keep it manageable.

Next year we will double our garden capacity!
Next year we will double our garden capacity!

I’m glad that I got my physical house in order when I turned 25. I can only imagine how bad off I would be if I had continued to let my physical body deteriorate. I turn 37 in just a few weeks. I definitely want my quality of life to improve; therefore I have to do what it takes to guarantee it will. If that means getting up at 6:00am every day to exercise, then so be it. If that means cutting certain foods or snacks out of my diet… well, it’s a good thing I have a vegetable garden growing in the back yard.

Moderation usually comes in liters.
Moderation usually comes in liters.

Not that I am a saint when it comes to health. I love alcohol and food way too much to give up so many delicious possibilities and I love to get lost for hours on the interwebs. It just means I have to understand my passions in terms of moderation. To know when enough is enough; to learn how to control my appetites rather than letting them control me.

I truly believe that the key to a happy, healthy life is everything in moderation. It is just so hard to remember that when there is a pint of ghost pepper vanilla custard in the freezer and a Supernatural marathon on the television…