Tag Archives: WGOM featured

Listen Up!

Do you listen much to audiobooks? I don't really, though it's not because I have something against the format.

But I do listen to audio stories (a.k.a. podcasts) with the jalapeño as he's falling asleep, and that's not all that different from an audiobook. The first podcast we tried was Little Stories for Tiny People, and I really like it--the stories are engaging and Rhea's voice is lovely and soothing. We've also listened to a lot of What If World?, and those stories tend to be wackier and not always relaxing as I'd ideally like at bedtime (though to be fair, it's not intended as a strictly bedtime podcast).

Just this weekend, we started on Circle Round, which is hosted by NPR affiliate WBUR, and...wow! There are stories from all over the world, and they're told by professional actors. So far it's keeping mother and son equally engaged, which isn't always easy.

Do you listen to audiobooks or other story-like things in audio form? Any recommendations?

Preparing for an empty nest

This post may be a bit less about parenting, and more about being a spouse.  A few years back my marriage felt the aftershocks of numerous friend couples getting divorced.  To some degree, several of these divorces were affected by some degree by "empty nest syndrome".   Like anything in our lives, preparation is so important when any life changing event happens.

I remember when "the couple who will never break up" told us they were getting a divorce.  They never mentioned empty nesting, but reading between the lines it was there.  It threw me into a panic.  I thought "What happens when our kids move out?  Will our marriage survive?"  I thought about if for a while and then approached my wife.   We have a good marriage, but do have our occasional fights.  The topic freaked my wife out.  "Why would you want to talk about a potential split?" she asked.  Once we both settled down, we talked about expectations we each have after the kids fly the coop.

Her expectations:  "We will get to spend much more time together.  We never get time together now, and it will be nice to see you much more often."

My expectations:   "Yes, I get to spend more one-on-one time with you, but I also look forward to spending more time pursuing  interests I have mostly set aside the past 15+ years.  Golfing, fishing, fast-pitch softball (old-timer league), etc."

The result of this conversation has led to a 2 year journey of exploring what our relationship will look like.  My biggest discovery is just how much my wife has poured into this family.  I took much of it for granted.   Her absolute dedication to pouring all her time, energy and attention into our family is amazing.  She has, for the most part, disconnected with many of her friends over the years.  She does have hockey mom, soccer mom friends, but only spent time with them during sporting events.   Me?  I kept many of the friendships on a thin life line.  I still found ways to visit my friends or vice versa.

I also hadn't given much thought to the depth of the mother/child bond.   I do love and adore my children, but I did not give birth to them and my wife just has a deeper need to stay connected.  I already miss my college freshman son deeply, but it is nothing compared to what my wife is going through.  It has been very hard on her not to see him every day and not to care for him every day.  With only one of two gone, I am already finding myself spending more time helping her with these feelings and doing what I can to become a better husband to her.  More than ever she needs me and I have to be there for her.  And... that leads me to what I think is the answer (at least for us) to surviving empty nest syndrome.

In my business, I have always said that adversity leads to opportunity.   If a guest at our restaurant hates the food we serve, we rush in and make it right.  Remake it, try something else, buy the meal, whatever it takes to make them happy.  Turns an unhappy guest into a customer who knows you care, who knows you stand by your product, who knows you listen and value honest feedback.  I can make that person a regular guest who will come back and sing our praises to the community.

In my marriage, the adversity of sending our children away has led me to a point where I need to be a better husband.  I need to be a better friend.  I need to go the extra mile to make her happy.  I need to listen to her as she voices her thoughts, fears, frustrations, hopes and dreams.   Yeah, I am sure I will get more time chasing my other interests, but that will be the result of building a stronger marriage.  During this tough transition,  my primary goal has to be supporting and loving my wife and helping her cope.   For her part, my wife has taken a very similar approach.  This adversity is an opportunity for us to grow closer.

Words of wisdom to those beginning, or in the middle of, the great parenting project:

I used to shake my head at couples who would get a baby sitter and go out a couple times a month as a couple or with friends.  We rarely did that as we were laser focused on our kids and their happiness.  Looking back, we should have done that more.  We should have been enjoying our relationship more.   We should have skipped some youth games and enjoyed life more.   Being a great parent is an important goal in life, but can never supersede the goal of being a great husband or wife.  Or... look at it this way:  Strong parenting is built upon a solid base of a strong and loving spousal relationship.

Not sure if this will all be helpful to all of you, but it sure has helped me to write this all down and process where our relationship is at during a challenging time.  Thank you all for the opportunity to share.

 

The Debut Novel

I have found myself reading quite a few debut novels lately.

  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
    (currently reading)
    I'm kind of in love with this book right now. A Nigerian woman has multiple gods living inside her (some Ibo spirits, Jesus, etc.) and they sometimes take her over and sometimes fight each other and sometimes just comment on human affairs. It's not going to end well for the woman, that much is clear, but I'm really into this.
  • Mikhail and Margarita  by Julie Lekstrom Himes
    (currently reading)
    It's a take on Mikhail Bulgakov and the censors in Soviet Russia.  I just read The Master and Margarita during October, so I've enjoyed all the little parallels that crop up.
  • Pretend I'm Dead by Jen Beagin
    (finished last month)
    This felt a little unfinished, but it was good.  A "finding your way in the world" novel with just enough weirdos to make it interesting.
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss
    (finished last month)
    Dr. Jekyll's daughter teams up with Sherlock Holmes, and the daughter of Dr. Moreau, and Frankenstein's female monster, and some others to solve crimes.  This was ... a lot.  I kind of lost my patience in the climactic fight scene, so I struggled to the finish.
  • The Pisces by Melissa Broder
    (finished last month)
    I've enjoyed Broder's poetry and essays, but this one wasn't quite as captivating.  A woman suffers a breakup and house-sits for her sister in California where she falls in love with a merman.  Broder is frank and sex-focused and a little bizarre. Interesting book.

There is something exciting about discovering a new author, and getting in early on their career.  I follow a few early career awards (The Whiting Award, The Locus Award for First SF/F Novel, The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, etc.) where I found a lot of the books above.

What have you been reading? Any up and coming authors on your lists?

Of Strategy and Tradition

The designated hitter came into being in 1973.  That means we have now had forty-six seasons of the DH in baseball.  Yet, you will still find people who hate the designated hitter and consider it an abomination.  The reason they give, as I'm sure you've heard, is always the same.  "The DH takes all the strategy out of the game."

Well, we're all entitled to our opinion.  But it's interesting to me that the people who hate the DH because "it takes all the strategy out of the game" are quite often the same people who hate defensive shifts, openers, pitching changes to create favorable matchups, and every other recent innovation with which the "stat nerds" with their "analytics" are "ruining the game".

Again, we're all entitled to our opinion.  But if what you really love about baseball is strategy, rather than just tradition, you should love the modern game of baseball.  We've seen more new strategies in the last few years than I've seen in my entire life as a baseball fan.  I'm not totally sold on all of them, but that's not the point.  The point is that if what you love about baseball is strategy, you should be having the time of your life.  Every night you're seeing all kinds of innovative strategies being played out right before your eyes.  It's incredible.  I don't think it's going too far at all to say that what we're seeing now is a golden age of baseball strategy.

I love the baseball I grew up with in the sixties and seventies.  It was a great game.  But it's a great game now, too.  I feel sorry for people who claim to love baseball but are so wedded to the past that they can't see that.  They're not hurting me, but they are hurting themselves.  There's a great game of baseball going on, and they're missing out on it.

Minnesota Twins Top 300 Twins of all time: One man’s opinion through 2018 season

It is year 7 of putting my pet project on the WGOM site, SBG put it on his old site a few years before this. It was a dissapointing season for the Twins, but even in down times there's always movement on the top300 list. Mauer and Dozier can't repeat the success they had in 2017, so each is stuck in place at spots 4 and 24 respectively (which it appears is where they will stay for a while since more than likely both their Twins careers are over). Sano and Ervin also had stagnant 2018s, both staying in the top100, but actually falling backwards a couple spots being jumped by 2018 Twins with better seasons. Rosario, Escobar, and Gibson all jump into the top100 with good 2018 seaons. Buxton and Hughes drop a couple spots as well with the leapfrogging, but Polanco and Berrios join the top150 with Kepler and Grossman lurking just outside the top150. Pressley jumps up 50 spots to 226 with a decent 4 months before being traded away. Castro has a lost 2018 season and drops a few spots to 250. Newcomers this year are Taylor Rogers, Mitch Carver, and Jake Cave, all 3 finding themselves int he 200s.

Falling out of the top300 this year are Lenny Webster, Randy Johnson (not that Randy Johnson), and George Frazier.

I stole most of the idea from when Aaron Gleeman started his top40 list over a decade ago. The below quote is his, and the rest is an excerpt from a book I put together at the 50 year mark. I’ve updated the list and stats through 2018.

“The rankings only include time spent playing for the Minnesota Twins. In other words, David Ortiz doesn’t get credit for turning into one of the best players in baseball after joining the Red Sox and Paul Molitor doesn’t get credit for being one of the best players in baseball for the Brewers and Blue Jays. The Twins began playing on April 11, 1961, and that’s when these rankings start as well.”

I used a variety of factors, including longevity and peak value. Longevity included how many years the player was a Twin as well as how many plate appearances or innings pitched that player had in those years. For peak value, I looked at their stats, honors, and awards in their best seasons, as well as how they compared to their teammates. Did they lead their team in OPS or home runs or ERA for starters or WPA? If so, that got some bonus points. I factored in postseason heroics, awards (gold gloves, silver sluggers, MVPs, Cy Youngs), statistical achievements (batting titles, home run leaders, ERA champs, etc), and honors (all star appearances), and I looked at team success as well. If you were the #1 starter on a division winning champ, that gave you more points than the #1 starter on a cellar dweller. I looked at some of the advanced stats like WPA, WAR (as calculated by fan graphs and baseball-reference.com), WARP (as calculated by Baseball Prospectus), and Win Shares (as calculated by Bill James). For hitters, I also looked at OPS and the old school triple crown statistics like batting average, home runs, stolen bases, and RBI (and not only where you finished within the AL in any given year, but where you appear on the top25 lists amongst all Twins in the last 50 years). For pitchers I looked at strikeouts, innings pitched, win/loss percentage, ERA as well as ERA+). If there was a metric that was used for all 58 years of Twins history, I tried to incorporate it. I tended to give more credit to guys who were starters instead of part time/platoon players, more credit to position players over pitchers (just slightly, but probably unfairly) and starters over relievers (and closers over middle relievers). There’s no formula to my magic, just looking at a lot of factors and in the end going with the gut in all tie-breakers. Up in the top10 I’m looking at All star appearances, Cy Young and MVP votes, batting average or ERA titles or top10 finishes, etc, and placement in the top25 hitting and pitching lists in Twins history as well. In the middle 100s, it’s more about who started a few more years or had 2 good seasons rather than 1 with possibly an occasional all-star berth or top10 finish in SB or strikeouts. Once you’re in the latter half of the 200s there are none of those on anyone’s resume, so its basically just looking at peak season in OPS+ or ERA+, WAR, Win Shares, and who started the most years, had the most at bats, or pitched the most innings. What the player did as a coach, manager, or broadcaster is not taken into consideration for this list, so Billy Martin, Tom Kelly or Billy Gardner weren’t able to make the top 300 since they were poor players and Frank Quilici and Paul Molitor didn’t improve his status due to his managing career. Feel free to pick it apart and decide in your opinion, who was slighted, and who's overrated.

Now that Gleeman has finished his book of top50 Twins, it is pretty similar to the top of my list once you remove the specific teams/non-players he included in his list (he had 43 players in his top50). He likes Bert a little more than I do (#4 ahead of Mauer), which is pretty much the biggest difference in our top25s. He also likes Scott Baker quite a bit more, putting him in his top40 wheras I have him at 57.

Continue reading Minnesota Twins Top 300 Twins of all time: One man’s opinion through 2018 season

My wife is pregnant. It’s not mine…

…. and it’s not hers, either.  She is acting as a surrogate for someone else.  

We initially signed up to do this without knowing who the intended parent would be.  We (mostly she, but I had to some of this) signed on with an agency, expecting this would be for someone we had never met before.  But, when she started telling some of her friends about this, one said she had been in the process of looking for a surrogate, and asked if my wife would do it for her.  So, in the end, the intended parent will be someone we know, and are friends with.  That’s been nice, to get to see her excitement and anticipation grow as we get closer.  The baby mamma’s parents are also super excited; the mom is an only child, so this will likely be their only grandchild.  It’s definitely a nice feeling, knowing that all we are putting into this is going to cause such happiness for someone else.  

She’s due on November 1, so about 6 weeks left.  That means that it’s really, really obvious she is pregnant, so of course we get lots of comments from random people all the time*.   Depending on the question and the situation, my wife will often respond that the baby is not ours, which leads to reactions in two main categories:

  1. Wow, that’s so amazing!  What a gift to give someone!  You are so awesome!
  2. Wow, I could never do that because...
    1. pregnancy was awful for me, I can’t imagine doing that again for someone else
    2. it would be too much like giving up my own baby.  Won’t it be hard to birth a baby and then give it up right away?

For 2.1, my wife had very easy pregnancies for both of our kids.  And so far, everything is going fine this time.  She’s getting more and more uncomfortable, but nothing more than the usual third trimester issues (back pain, swollen legs and ankles, exhausted, sore all over, etc.).

And for 2.2, it really hasn’t been a problem for us at all.  This has never been our child, so it’s not like we are giving away our own kid.  Some of that is having no genetic connection; this was IVF, with the intended mother’s egg and donor sperm.  But I think more of it is just the mindset that it isn’t our baby.  When we started this, I was a little worried how our kids would respond to this, but they seem to completely understand that this is not our baby.  They say momma is growing a baby for someone else.  It’s kind of like babysitting, just for a long time (and internally instead of externally, but sort of alike at least).

It’s a new situation for us, but not in a bad way.  It does feel a bit weird to be dealing with a pregnancy and preparing for a birth, while not at all preparing for a baby.  It’s not like we need to be getting a room ready, or setting up a crib, or getting baby clothes, or anything else.  The intended mom is doing all that, of course, but that’s not our job.  Once the baby comes, our part of this is done.

I don’t know for sure if we’ll do it again for someone else, but that’s definitely a strong possibility, depending on how this last month and a half goes.  I know agencies are always very interested in having women with previous surrogacy experience do it again.  That way, the biggest worry the intended parent could have (that you’d run off with their kid to a state with less favorable surrogacy laws [like Michigan; if you birth a baby there, it’s legally yours] before it’s born and keep it for yourself) gets allayed a bit.

Overall, so far so good.  We’ve been very happy with it, the new intended family is super excited, and all the pains and problems my wife has had (both during the pregnancy, and the many, many hormone shots at the beginning of all this) have been as expected.  I know doing this is not something for everyone, but based on how well this has gone, I think it really is something for us.

 

*I don’t really understand why seeing a woman that appears to be pregnant makes strangers feel that they have a right to ask invasive, personal questions.  I personally don’t mind all that much, and I don’t think my wife does, either, but I’m sure there are others in different circumstances that would.

First Monday on a Second Tuesday Book Day

Book Club! - This month the WGOM book club is doing The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Thanks to eschapp for setting that up.

This month I read Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, which won the Man Booker International Award for translated literature.  It was really interesting, it made me hold a lot of ideas and themes in my head at the same time.  There wasn't much overreaching narrative, but there were lots of vignettes that very clearly fit together with themes of travel, observation and preservation, and the futility of the human desire to keep things familiar and the same.  I enjoyed it, although if you're looking for a "great story", this is probably not your book.

I also loved Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen.  The poems had absence and hurt, but with an enormous amount of tenderness that made them great to read.  It reminded me of Slow Lightning by Eduardo Corral (another favorite - Corral just announced he's got a second book coming out, I'll definitely be buying that sight unseen).