Monday, June 12, 2017

Another year later and a year's worth of lessons

When our first anniversary rolled around, we had a 7-week old baby. That morning, the bakery that made our wedding cake delivered a top tier to our house and we enjoyed as much of it as we could in one sitting. Almost begrudgingly, we left that little one with my parents to go out to dinner. We were exhausted and talked about the baby the entire time. We celebrated it because it was our first. But our heads weren’t in it. Everything was still upside down in our lives.

And that was it. We passed our first milestone. Although between the day we got married - June 12, 2015 - and our anniversary we had hit so many other milestones.
  • August - we found out Linda was pregnant
  • October - she started a new job
  • November - we bought our first home
  • April - Nicky arrived
Of course, we had all the other stuff that happens along the way, like unpacking boxes, decorating, buying furniture, prepping for the baby’s arrival, and we managed to see Billy Joel in concert and take a Caribbean babymoon in between. When the 1 year hit, it felt like 10. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, but how could we possibly have done all that in just 1 year?

When we dropped him off at my parents’ house, we briefly contemplated going back to the couch and cake and enjoying a few hours of “us” time again. But we soldiered on to Chart House in NJ on the Hudson River that overlooked New York City. We had drinks and dined and watched a couple get married right in front of us. And for a few minutes, we remembered how we got to where we are. We felt like a couple again.

Year 1 ended and year 2 began. I got deeper into my job and she returned to hers, post-maternity. The baby began to do more than just sit there and stare at us blankly. Time started to be our most precious commodity. And that’s when it all started to happen. We became parents. Sure, we actually became parents the day Nicky was born (arguably before that even). But somewhere into year 2, we became more parents than we were husband and wife. We commuted and worked and commuted again. We raced to wash bottles and clothes and a tiny baby tushy. We fell asleep watching TV.

In January of 2017, we were nearly at the 1 and a half year mark and we knew something had to give. Linda left her job of 15 months to just be Nicky’s mom for a while. One piece of the sanity jigsaw puzzle got put back into place. Maybe 2 if you consider the 3 hours of commute and 9 hours of working she got back. But we were down to a single salary.

And this is when we learned that life - adult life, married life, parent life - is a zero sum game. You get and give and end up no further. It’s an even swap. Or is it? We sure thought so. We weren’t unhappy. We were just too busy to be actively happy if that makes any sense. We enjoyed each other. We still did things. We saw friends. We hung out. But it felt a lot like the hamster wheel.

At the end of April, Linda went back to work. She feels good being able to leave the house and function as a professional - something always important to her. Our income grew again. Nicky became a toddler. And the upswing began.

This was another inflection point. We realized something. We had to be us again. Jason and Linda. JayLynn needed to be more than a clever blog title or wedding hashtag. But how would we find the time to work on that? Here’s the secret. Some things in life are not zero sum. The energy you expend on your loved one pays you back many orders of magnitude. You get more than you spend.

And now we’re at the end of year 2. This time we dropped NickyT off at my parents again and took off for Atlantic City. We had drinks by the pool, we gambled, we ate (at a different Chart House this time), we gambled some more and we had a fun, mini, road trip both ways. We didn’t go out because the calendar said it was time to go. We didn’t celebrate the arbitrary trip around the sun. We celebrated our love. We celebrated each other. We celebrated our family. And we had fun.

Tomorrow year 3 begins. Who knows what it will bring? Some of the next 50 or so years will be up, some will be down, some will be in the middle. But we know how to approach it. We know where to focus. We know that we’ll always come out the other side - together. Maybe this blog shouldn’t be titled “The Adventures of Jason and Linda.” Maybe it should be called “The Adventure of Jason and Linda” because that’s what it is - one long adventure. One long life together. Each event matters less than the whole journey. It’s a hard journey, but it’s our journey and it’s worth it.

There’s nobody I’d rather eat/fall asleep on the couch/travel/cook/fight/raise a family/play/laugh/BE with - my best friend.

P.S. - Nicky can come too!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The shortest and longest year

Some moments I think "How is he already a year?" and other moments I think the day he was born was SO long ago. Either way, Linda and I cannot imagine a life without our little guy.

First he was the meatball, an idea of a person growing inside Linda. Week after week our Thursday "inside birthday" would come around and mark another week closer to the arrival. For 20 or so weeks, we listened to the apps tells what he would be some weeks and what she would be other weeks, all while guessing ourselves. And everyone told us surely what we'd have.

We planned to be surprised, but at one ultrasound, the technician asked us if we wanted to know and curiosity got the better of us. She counted 2 eyes, 10 fingers, 10 toes, and 1 extra piece. That's when we knew our meatball was a boy meatball.

And we had the name ready to go. Nicholas Thomas would be his name. Nicholas was my grandfather's name and would resume a tradition in my family. Thomas after my late uncle who left us too early, 16 Septembers ago. Both men who hold a special place in my heart. Both are men who I hope Nicky aspires to be like in different ways.

And then April 16th was a Saturday, 12 days prior to the arrival. We were at my brother's wedding in the city all day. Linda had worked up until just a couple of days prior. At 8 and a half months pregnant, she was commuting 90 minutes into the city and working a full day. We left around 6ish and by the time all was said and done it was 9 pm and we were home and settled and exhausted.

At 2:30 she woke me and alerted me that her water broke. We rushed to the hospital and Mr. Nick had a change of heart and hung out without moving for many hours. About 5 pm he decided it was time again. At 7 pm, the doctor arrived and gave Linda the instructions. At 7:30, he was firmly plopped on his new mommy's chest. And the rest, as they say, was history.

One year later, we had an amazing party with friends and family and celebrated the little life of this little guy. Today we spent it all together enjoying every ounce of him. Tomorrow, it'll be his actual birthday and back to daycare and back to work. Every day is a new adventure as he learns something new. For instance, today we learned he can not only crawl up the stairs, but he can do about 16 steps nonstop and FAST. And it was the first time he had tried.

There's one thing that happens every day. We stare at him. We marvel at who he is becoming. As of midnight, he stops being an infant and starts being a toddler. But he'll still be a baby. He'll always be our baby. And if you know anything about Italian households, we'll call him "the baby" until he's at least 8 years old anyway.

He has "things." Things he does and things he likes. He has his own idiosyncrasies. He knows how to give love and affection and I melt every time he blows a kiss (even if it's just him smacking himself in the mouth mostly). He has opinions. His personality is formidable and his smile is infectious and he's not afraid to flash either or both. He plays to his audience and can work the room already. And it's actually impossible to be in a bad mood around him.

In 12 months I've managed to be stunned and amazed at how a little baby can be a person. I'm lucky to be his dad and couldn't be more proud of who he is now and excited at watching who he will be.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for the adventure

On Thanksgiving you hear many people say what they are thankful for. You hear others say that we should be thankful every day of the year and not just once a year on Thanksgiving. I think most people are thankful every day, but are just more vocal on Thanksgiving. Also, we all know how fast life goes. Each day zips by, usually just a bit faster than the one before it. So, on the holiday we think about the things we are most thankful for. A day of additional reflection never did anyone harm anyway.

So I think about what I'm most thankful for. There are lots of individual things, of course. I'm thankful for the "stuff" I have in my life that makes each day a little easier, a little more convenient, a little more fun. I know it's just "stuff," but it impacts our lives. It's the simplest and easiest to notice very often. Of course, I'm thankful for my friends and family. It's similar to the stuff in that it's ever present and often taken for granted. Right now, I'm thinking about individuals in the family. I just finished prepping our part of the Thanksgiving feast. Linda is upstairs with Nicky, giving him a bath.

I'm thankful for my darling wife. She is such a good mom to Nicky. She loves us both so hard. That woman could exist solely on hugs, I think. I'm thankful that she gets up every day and goes into NYC with me and works only to come home and take care of our little family. Even when it's hard and frustrating and long and cold; she's there. I couldn't do all this without her.

I'm thankful for my brother. We are polar opposites. We see life so very differently. We want different things. But when I'm stuck in life, I can always call him and he can call me. We trust each other so completely and can talk openly about everything. Even when we don't agree; we still support.

I'm thankful for my parents who made sure my life was always complete and then some. Even now, they are always there for me when I need them - sometimes at 7am when they pick up Nicky. My mom is there to play with the baby when she should be cooking for the holiday. My dad is there to talk about Nicky's college fund, or to help me build deck stairs on the house, or to hang out on Friday night and just be everything to me. My mom will stay on the phone every last minute when I need to talk about something. And even though we've had our typical parent/child challenges, I could never have bigger or better champions of my life.

I'm thankful for my Nick. He's the most incredible tiny person ever. He's silly and funny and cute and smart. He makes me think about the future of the country and the world. He makes me think about my future. I sometimes stress about having enough time and money and patience and knowledge. I watch him change by the day and realize I don't have to have all the answers right now. We will evolve together. But still... I want all the answers right now so I'm always one step ahead of him because he'll know when I'm not.

I'm thankful for my job. Not just because we all need a job. But for this one specifically. They took a chance on me when I needed it most. They've continually invested in me with raises and promotions. But I love the company, the mission, the vision, the culture. I have so much fun every day. I believe in what we do. And it's really hard. I'm thankful for my team that works so hard for me and our colleagues and our customers. I'm also thankful because I can relax in knowing that my career is in good hands. Nicky and Linda will never want for anything. Olapic believes in me and what I do for them and how I do it. As a result, I always know I can provide for my family in profound ways.

The list goes on and on. My friends, who are too many to name, and have been there for me in too many ways to list. Over the years we've been close and far in geography and in life and in closeness.

The theme throughout all the things in my life that I couldn't bear to live without is that not one category has always been perfect. Everyone has been challenging and hard at times. It's always been more good than bad. The net effect will always be positive. That is part of the journey, the adventure. I often learn more from the bad times than I do the good times.

Of all the things in my life, I'm most thankful for the adventure. My life has been a rollercoaster for most of it. Despite the Rockwellian surface, we've all struggled along the way in different ways. And if I didn't have the wonderful foundation, I don't know how I'd have survived parts of it.

The inside of my right bicep is tattooed with "Life's challenges only strengthen me" and it couldn't be more true. But it's only true because of all the support I've had along the way. I'm always thankful for all of it. I show it as often as I can. Like anyone else, I fail many times along the way. I get consumed by the hard parts. I get overcome by the minutiae of the day-to-day. But right now, in this moment, I hear Linda and Nicky upstairs, I see my beautiful home preparing to be decorated for Christmas, I smell the food ready to be delivered to my parents' house. And in this moment, I'm thankful for my life... and the adventure it's been... and the adventure it will be.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

On this day in history...

A monumental event took place. June 12, 2015 was the day of the nuptials for Linda and me. For those of you who were there and capable of retaining memories, it was a hell of a day. It was an incredibly hot Friday. Linda was at the bridal suite of the hotel with her girls, I in my childhood home with my guys. We each got ready (physically, mentally, and emotionally), laughed, reminisced and basically began our journey separately that would ultimately end in our union.

The limo came to take me to the church where I waited with some of my closest and oldest friends in my life. At 3pm, I watched my bride enter to meet me at the alter. And off we went to becoming a married couple. What followed was a party of epic proportions. We had the largest cocktail hour ever created complete with signature drinks that paid homage to important parts of our lives and food to die for carefully selected to let locals and visitors alike taste what we love the most and what symbolizes us. For example, we had some pasta as pasta-loving Italians should. We had NY pastrami as any pastrami-loving New Yorkers should. You get the idea. Then came the main event. The reception. Photographers roamed, DJ's entertained, and we had all the fun stuff you'd expect. The dance floor was packed and everyone had a blast. At one point I sat back and just watched everyone for a minute. They were all there for us. They were all happy because we were happy.

And that's it. We're happy. We're best friends. We do everything together. Almost everything; despite my best efforts, she won't let me get his and her toilets. We genuinely love being near each other as often as possible. Our story of how we met and went through the long distance might play a part in the foundation of friendship that we built.

We complement each other. I'm logical and I plan everything. She's creative and likes to see what happens. I like data, she likes feelings. But we love the same stuff too. We just have our own approaches to those things. Alone, my planning is robotic. Alone, her go with the flow is chaotic. Together, we balance.

This day is very special to me for many reasons. It marks the first year of marriage and that's exciting. It was also quite a busy year. After getting married in June, she got pregnant in late July. She started a new job in October. We bought this house in November. And little Nick arrived in April. That's a lot for a year. Especially the first year of marriage when so much else has changed. I had also started my job just 3 weeks prior to the wedding. We're tired.

But as much as this is all still at the beginning, it also marks a bit of an ending. Or more of a completion. I've been in my industry for 21 years. I've worked in small mom & pop shops, big corporations and the Air Force. I'm studied and degreed in the same. When I moved home as a civilian again in 2013, I couldn't get a job. I decided to take a chance and run JayVig Media full time, which did well enough, but it wasn't the career or salary or growth I had hoped for.

Along the way, I had rejection letters piling up. I was 34 with tons of knowledge, credentials, and experience. We were cramped in a Jersey City condo. We were financially stretched to the max. We were alone since no friends or family were closer than 40 minutes. In truth, I didn't feel good. I went into the Air Force to get on track and left it feeling more off track than ever. It was a situation that would have broken many people, including me had I been alone.

But I loved my bride-to-be more than anything. She deserved better. I promised her better. We wanted better. So I had to make it better. Over 300 rejections later I caught some traction and found my way to Olapic. Then the events listed above all took place.

At the end of a very long struggle was an upswing. At the end of the upswing is today. Not to say we are done rising, but that period of catching up is now over. I have my bride, my boy, my family nearby, my home. We both have lucrative careers that we enjoy and do well at.

So today, we will celebrate the memory of our wedding - the first day of the rest of our lives. And we'll celebrate how our union at that altar that day was the beginning of something truly special. Something important. Something life changing. People say that if you date a long time and live together, that the wedding is a piece of paper. That's not true. It's a commitment to do it all together. And that's what we do, all day, every day. And we've never been happier.

Now we just need to complete the triumvirate by teaching NickyT the same values. On that note, I'm going to make breakfast for my bride and enjoy our day!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

What's in a name?

Almost 1 week ago I met the most amazing person ever. He's sweet and kind and funny. He's lovable and affectionate. He has not a single ounce of anger or hate in his heart. He is pure and content. He is a man of very few words. The person I'm talking about is my sweet and snuggly Nicholas and he is my week old son.

People tell you about the sleepless nights and stinky diapers and moments where you've fed him, changed him, held him and consoled him and he still screams without rhyme or reason; and certainly with wanton disregard for what the clock says. People tell you about the price tag on every thing baby related. On the good side they tell you about how 6 and a half pounds of squishy adorableness asleep on your shoulder will melt you instantly. They tell you how looking into his eyes means all is right with the world. They tell you about the switch that flips inside you the moment he's born and all your priorities are rearranged. They tell you that after just one minute with him, the 37 years prior in life where he didn't exist seem unimaginable.

They don't tell you one thing. The utterly strange feeling it is to call him by his name. While he was cooking in mama's tummy, we nicknamed him meatball. First it was because we didn't know if he was Mr. Meatball or Ms. Meatball. And then it was because we chose to keep his name secret until he met the world. And now that he's here, he's just Nick or Nicky or Nicky T. When he is inconsolable, he's Fussy Face. When he poops, he's Stinky Pants. Sometimes he's Sweet Pea. It seems the more nonsensical the nickname, the more heavily we lean on it. It's because it really takes a lot of adjustment to call him Nick. He's a baby and Nick sounds like it belongs to a man, or even someone not so... teeny tiny.

Or maybe it's because of the name in particular. Nicholas Thomas. Why did we choose that? Why was it so important to keep it secret? We just picked it out of a baby name book, right? Nope.

First of all, you know we're not like that. There is rhyme and reason to all we do. Carefully thought out and executed decisions. Second, a strong and traditional name like Nicholas Thomas fits our personality and culture. No disrespect to those who choose names that are more... "new age," but that's incongruent with our way as a couple and family.

But it's more than that. Each name represents an important person in my life. As luck would have it, my amazing wife loved the names and respected the reasons and was on-board without a 2nd word about it. So who is Nicholas and who is Thomas?

Thomas, is one that likely needs no introduction. So I'll start with it and I'll keep it short. Thomas Sabella was my mom's youngest brother, my uncle. He is the uncle we lost 15 Septembers ago. Honoring him and his sacrifice was paramount. Beyond that, my middle name is also Thomas. My Uncle Tommy was also my godfather.

What about Nicholas? He was my paternal grandfather. My father is Vincent, his father was Nicholas and his father was Vincent. By all rights, I was supposed to be Nicholas, and yet, I'm Jason. So we wanted to resume the tradition and pick up with next name in the order. My grandfather was a good man, but he was a bit of a stubborn man. When his first grandchild arrived, he thawed out significantly, I'm told. I'm also told this is a habit of most grandparents along the way. He did everything with me. Unfortunately, he passed away in the summer of 1985 when I was only 6. We lost many years together.

He did other significant things. He was an amateur pilot, for instance. That's why baby Nicky's room is pilot themed. My grandfather always wanted to be a pilot. He tried to be a pilot during World War II when the US Air Force was still the Army Air Forces (The USAF wasn't made independent until September 18th, 1947). And all those years later, in 2003, I went into the Air Force.

My grandfather and I had a special relationship that would have continued through to today, had he lived. And so I wanted his namesake to be the person with whom I'd have the most special relationship ever - my son.

Nicholas and Thomas - 2 men who meant a great deal to me. 2 men who aren't here with us anymore. 2 men who will come together in my darling son - and live on in him. I don't honor them by taking their names. They honor me by being ever present in my little boy.

Monday, April 18, 2016

These shoes are made for walking

April 17th, 2016 is a the day our lives changed forever. That's the day my son arrived, albeit 11 days early. But this isn't a story about my little Nicky. We will have more of those. This is one of the adventures of Jason & Linda only - which I'm sure will get fewer and farther between. 
Some of you may have heard of a "push present." Until recently, I hadn't. When Linda got pregnant every female I met asked me about it and wanted to know what she was getting. Apparently, a push present is a reward for pushing the baby out. I was under the impression that the baby was the present. They even wrap him up like a gift before handing him over in a formal Lion King like presentation. 
This feels like a made-up way to fleece sucker husbands out of more money so the women can get every branded high-end product they've wanted. At least that's the stance I took publicly. Privately I had been scheming from the beginning to surprise my bride on the day she gave birth. 
But what to get her? It needed to be something substantial. I mean, how do you match the magic of the arrival of your son with a retail purchase? As always, I had stored all the things to which Linda had said "I want" and to which I had replied "yeah, right." Now to distill all those ideas into one. 
I put my thinking cap on. As my beautiful bride gained weight and size with the baby, her self-image not surprisingly went south. She also started her new job in corporate America right around the time she got pregnant. As a matter of fact, she commuted to work in Manhattan on Thursday and gave birth on Sunday. 

Pregnancy is no joke. And my lovely Linda handled it like a champ. Sure she had her moments where she was frustrated but she did awesome overall. She was even in heels at her shower. 

I was so proud of her every day. It made me rail against the push present concept, ostensibly. Inside I got more excited to give it to her. 

So... What was the right choice you ask? The same thing any woman wants - SHOES. But not just any shoes. The single pair of shoes that any woman wants. The sexy black, with sexier red - Christian Louboutin 4" heels. 

So I looked and researched and shopped until I found the right pair in the right size. And today, while she was feeling proud and happy and excited and tired and overwhelmed and beaten up and everything else, none of which were sexy, confident, or ready to return to work; I gave her that push present. I received total shock, which was the intent. 

I wanted her to know that I was proud of her for all she did and how well she did it, and amidst being mommy to our bundle of joy, she's my sexy, strong bride as well. 

Congrats my darling. I love you!



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It's a...

BABY! That's what you wanted to know right? I'm just teasing.

As I type this, my pregnant bride lie asleep next to me on the couch. It seems the little thief in her tummy has been going through one of those growth spurts where her energy gets thieved. Tomorrow marks 24 weeks of pregnancy. Things are cruising along. Our baby has 10 fingers and 10 toes and they're all in the right places. The heartbeat is where it needs to be and nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. Our little meatball has all the anatomy you would expect one to have. That begs the question... is there a little extra piece that gives us a cool, little dude to hang out with? Or is the meatball sans-sausage so we'll have the prettiest little princess? Inquiring minds want to know.

We weren't going to find out initially because we wanted the thrill of the surprise as our baby joined us in the world. But temptation is tough. So we decided that we'd wait until we knew the baby was all healthy before we pulled the curtain back on the gender. That day has come and gone. So we were given the results.

People ask us all the time which we prefer. We say we don't care. People look at us like they don't quite believe those words. The truth is that I'm a guy so naturally I could identify with boy things better. Linda would also prefer to go to football practice than ballet practice. I also don't want to have to deal with young gentlemen coming for my baby girl down the road. On the flip side, there's nothing like daddy/daughter dates and I'm sure Linda would like a girl to help keep the seat down. Regardless, we will be overjoyed... but we were still curious. So we found out so she can shop and I can paint.

For some reason, everyone says the baby is a girl. The old wives tales and tests say boy. How she carries says girl. We've broken the mold and defied all logic, in true JayLynn form. I've delayed the inevitable long enough and you're tired of reading. Most have probably scrolled to the bottom by now. So with no more gilding the lily... everyone prepare yourself...

That's right. On or about April 28th, 2016 we welcome to the world and our family, MR. Meatball; although he has long since taken up residence in our hearts.