Thursday, May 31, 2007


Dear Spike:

Somewhere between marveling at your birth and worrying about you as your tiny body struggled to adjust to the world, I forgot to take it all in.

But it’s been a few days now, and I’ve had a real opportunity to process this.

I’m a father.

It’s still a bit early for me to be able to say what that all means. So far I know it means I love you an awful lot — so much that I feel as though my heart has swollen and it is making it difficult for my lungs to breath.

And I think I also understand that your mother and I are now fully responsible for keeping you happy and healthy (the latter, I suppose, is more important, but perhaps not much more.)

I’m pretty sure there are some other things in there too. Something about teaching you to throw a curve ball and showing you how to spit over the side of a bridge. Something about protecting you and being here to hold you when your heart aches. Something about setting a good example and making sure you know The Golden Rule and keeping a loaded shotgun as to run off unacceptable suitors.

Something about valuing independence and yet yearning for community.

Something about wonder. And beauty. And faithfulness. And discipline.

Something about forgiveness. And honesty. And tact.

Something about love.

The details are all a bit hazy. I suppose that’s just how it works. Somewhere inside I know there are some things I need to teach you and to show you.

And then, along the way, I do.

I’m really looking forward to that along-the-way part. Because from here on out, it’s along the way — with you.

I’m glad we get to journey together. I hope I’ll be a good guide.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Dear Spike:

You're so small, I could take you to lunch in a pail...

You didn't even come close to fitting into the outfit we'd planned on bringing you home in...

Your hand is the size of a quarter...

And you look so tiny in your cradle...

But you fill my heart...



Tuesday, May 29, 2007


You’re getting plenty of attention today.

You’re the smallest in the nursery. Your little heart is beating a bit slower than the doctors would like. Your paper-thin skin has yellowed a bit over the past 24 hours. And at the moment, you’re having a bit of trouble nursing.

But you’re breathing good and steady. Your cries are loud and strong. And your tiny hands grab onto my pinky fingers with a bull-rider’s grip.

You’re beautiful. You’re strong. And you’re getting healthier every minute.


Monday, May 28, 2007


Dear Spike:

No one expected you to come so early, let alone so rapidly. Within three hours of our arrival at the hospital, early yesterday morning, your mother was bearing down with all of her strength trying to push you free.

Your little heart — it’s given us such trouble over the past nine months — beat faster, slower, faster, slower and then, for a time, not at all. A army of anxious doctors and nurses charged into the delivery room. With grunts and tugs and many sharp tools, they fought their way into your mother’s body to rescue you, pulling you out and — without time even to present you to your mom — they carried you away.

I followed. Scared and proud and confused and helpless. I stood silently to the side, watching like a ghost over his own mortal remains as two doctors worked to recover your heartbeat, then to warm your tiny body. I didn’t understand the words they exchanged. But I knew their faces. I’ve seen those faces before.

Too many times.

No one had expected you to be so small. Four pounds, 8.6 ounces. God, we’ve bought bigger chickens for dinner. The nurses here say they rarely receive babies as small as you are who do not need some time in the newborn intensive care unit.

And so that’s where you spent your first hours on this earth, surrounded by other tiny babies, all hidden under a web of tubes and wires, beneath lamps and warmers, under ever-watchful eyes. You shivered. You tried to cry. You gasped your first breaths.

And as you fought, your mother — like a ravaged ragdoll — began her recovery, stitch by stitch by stitch. The doctors say the cuts and tears she received, as they fought to extract you, were as bad as any they’ve seen. She’ll be in pain for months to come, but her spirit has been buoyed by your remarkable come about (by afternoontime, you’d left the the cold machinery of the intensive care unit for the warm embrace of your mother’s arms.)

There’s still much work for each of you. And though you cannot realize it now, your challenges are vast. Your tiny body must grow warmer and bigger. Your tiny heart must beat harder. Your tiny cries must grow stronger.

Nature gave you my ears and my lips. She gave you your mother’s eyes and her chin. Perhaps you’ll take from us a few other traits.

But I’ve long believed that we are more than crude models of our ancestors. We are more than our genetic code. Our personalities, our bodies and even our souls are inextricably shaped by our experiences.

Your mother and I certainly will be shaped by this experience.

And so I wonder: What of you? Is it possible that these brutal early moments might shape your life? Will you be a fighter? A survivor? With you carry the seen or unseen scars of a life begun under such duress? Will you cower before a challenge? Will you meet adversity without fear?

Ours is a vicious world. It can be violent. It can be brutish. It can challenge you to the heights of your moral, spiritual and physical fiber.

Somehow, I think you’ll know that better than most.

Somehow, I think you are being prepared.


Sunday, May 27, 2007


Dear Spike's Friends:
More to come soon.
Spike's dad.


Dear Spike:

You were born this morning at 7:28 a.m., weighing in at 4 pounds, 9 ounces and measuring 17 inches from head to toe.

You’re small, but you’re healthy. Tiny but tough.

And I love you more than anything in the world.



Dear Spike:

The nurse just brought in a set of warm blankets, but your mother is still shivering — a typical reaction to the pain medication, she tells us.

Other than that, your mom is resting well — even managing to catch a few minutes of sleep between visits from the nurses and anesthesiologist.

On the computer screen behind her, I can see a red line tracking your heart beat (you’re ticking away at about 150 beats per minute) and a blue line tracking your mother’s contractions (they’re coming every minute and a half and, by the looks of your heartline, squeezing the heck out of you.)

You’re coming. Today.

I thought perhaps that I’d have something special or significant to tell you on your birthday — some piece of great advice I’ve been storing away, deep in my soul.

I close my eyes and listen for the voices that tell me what to tell you. But all I can hear is your heartbeat, coming through the computer speaker...

Thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump

And all I can think is that it is the most beautiful sound in the world...

Thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump

... and all my soul is telling me, right now, is that which I have known since I first learned you were coming...

Thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump

... you will be loved. Unconditionally. And forever...

Thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump

... and in exchange, all I ask of you is this...

Thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump, thu-tump

... in all you do in this world, listen to your heart.



Dear Spike:

It’s 2:18 a.m. and we’re all awake. Me. Your mom. And you.

It’s too early to believe we need go to the hospital, but it does appear that time is getting closer. You mom’s contractions have become very strong — so strong that they are waking her up.

And she, in turn, is waking me.

“Another one,” she whispers.

“2:12 a.m.,” I whisper back.

We fall asleep.

“Another one,” she whispers.

“2:18 a.m.,” I whisper back.

Now we’re both fully awake. She’s pacing in the hallway, rubbing her back and breathing heavily. I’m tapping at the computer.

“This is another,” she says.

“2:23 a.m.” I say.

There’s no feeling like this in the world. It’s Christmas Eve mixed with the top of Disney’s Matterhorn. A little bit of the pre-soccer game jitters. A little of the apprehension I had the first time I went to war.

Airplane turbulance. Raging hunger. Communion prayer.

It’s they way I felt when I stared into your mother’s eyes the night we were married. It’s the way I felt when we kissed behind the curtains at the reception the night before.

It’s a little bit of staring out over the ocean. It’s a little bit of standing on the side of a cliff.

This could last weeks. Or just a few hours more.

2:28... 2:32... 2:36...

2:39... 2:42...


I love you.


Dear Spike's Friends:
Spike's mom just now: "Am I permitted to change my pool date, or is that like Martha Stewart selling her stocks?"
I shouldn't let her get away with this. But she's really cute. And really scared.
Spike's mom's new date is May 28, 12 to 1 a.m.
Spike's Dad.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Dear Spike:

Your mom and I have always felt quite blessed. We’re very much in love. We have a wonderful home in a city we adore. We have good careers in fields for which we are passionate.

And now, most of all, we have you.

But this week the blessings multiplied. Your mother received a call to interview at a school just six blocks from our home. The very next day, the principal called to offer her a job teaching kindergarten.

The new job pays significantly better than her current position in the suburbs. It is at a school with many at-risk students, which allows her to help those who need it most. And its proximity to our home means she can walk or ride her bicycle to work, saving about 180 commuting hours a year — roughly the equivalent of an entire extra month of work. And that will allow us both to spend more time with you.

While we don’t always recognize the blessings we’re sent, this one was pretty unmistakable. And it prompted me to begin thinking about some of our more subtle blessings.

Like our garden — which may never produce a single pepper, squash, or tomato, but brings us joy nonetheless.

And the park near our home — where we can go, each spring, to watch the ducklings and goslings as they grow.

And our friends — many of whom seem as excited to bring you into their lives as we are.

And our mountains — which give us a sense of place, direction and humility.

We have been very richly blessed, in ways both subtle and profound. It is important to recognize those blessings.

And then, to make sure we are worthy of them.


Dear Spike's Friends:
Spike's mom's contractions seem to be getting stronger and more frequent. If you haven't yet picked a date and time in the Spikepool, you may want to consider picking sooner than later. (Just go to "About that Date" — May 20 and post a comment with the date and hour you think Spike will arrive.)
Meanwhile, I'm still holding out for June 8.
Spike's dad

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Dear Spike:

For the first time since we arrived here, three years ago, the city school district is hiring elementary school teachers.

Salt Lake City may be the capital of the child-rearingest state in the union, but in recent years, a lot of Mormon families — the ones that most contributed to the state’s overwhelmingly young demographic — have bled out into the suburbs. They’ve been replaced by single professionals, new immigrants, ski bums and others who aren’t as interested in popping out 10 kids. Fewer kids means fewer teachers, and that’s made getting a job — or even an interview — tough going for your mom.

She doesn’t mind working in the suburbs, but that's not why she became a teacher. So she’s trying to get in as many interviews as possible before you come.

To that end, she could use some help. It would be great if you could wait until she’s had a chance to impress a few principals. That shouldn’t take too long — she’s pretty darn wonderful — but if you could buy her a little bit of time, that would be great.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Dear Spike:

I’ve never known anyone I could trust more than my friend Matt. At various times over the past three years, he has been my coworker, my confidant, my workout partner, my coffee pal and my poker adversary.

When it came time to throw a baby shower for you, it was Matt and his fiancee, Leah, who hosted the party. When I have had to leave your mother to report from overseas, Matt has been there to offer his support and friendship. And when, a few years back, I wrote an “if you are reading this” letter to your mother, I left it in Matt’s hands to deliver to her in the event that something went badly for me.

We have a spot, on the balcony of our office building, that looks out over all of the valley. In the summers, we go there for lunch. And all year round, we meet there to talk.

Soon, I’ll be sitting there alone.

Leah will begin law school at the end of this summer. And when she goes, Matt will be leaving with her.

Not so long ago, when ours was a nation of small towns and close communities, the friends you grew up with were the friends you grew old with. And it was not uncommon, in those times, to be employed alongside the the same group of people for decades upon decades.

That served to keep friends close, but it also served to keep minds closed. And so, on balance, I suppose the way things are these days are not so bad.

Still, I will miss my friend.

I’ve done a poor job keeping in contact with the people I was close to growing up. And I’ve done a poor job keeping in contact with the people I was close to when I was in the military. Against that backdrop, I guess you could only consider it a success that I exchange frequent e-mails with some of the people with whom I attended college. Still, I could do better.

To that end, earlier this year, I rekindled a friendship that has grown cold with time. Now I am looking forward to introducing you to my very good friend Anamika when we visit California in July (she will be in transit at that time between her current State Department assignment in Sri Lanka and her next assignment in Jamaica.)

Not all of your friends need to be lifelong friends. Some will come into your life when you need them and drop out of your life at some point down the road. And that is OK.

But when you can — and even more importantly, when you feel you cannot — make a point of reaching out to those who have touched your life in important ways. Do not forget them. And do not let them forget you.

In this day and age, you may still find yourself sitting alone, sometimes. But the view does not have to be a lonely one.


Dear Spike’s friends:
There are still lots of hours open in the Spikepool. Just go to the comments section under the post “About that date” and pick a date that hasn’t yet been spoken for. Full disclosure: Spike is due on June 6., but the doctor says she could come at any time.
All the cool kids are doing it.
Spike’s dad

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Dear Spike:

My friends — who will gamble on pretty much anything — have begun to place bets on your arrival.

Your mom’s in on the action too. She’s convinced that you’ll be coming a few days after the next full moon, so she has picked June 1.

I’m still hoping you’ll be a few days late, so that we can share a birthday. So I’ve got my money on June 8.

I’ve actually grown quite hopeful about that date (and not just because there’s cash riding on it now.) It’s gotten to the point that your mother has begun to grow a bit worried.

“OK, let’s pretend it’s June 7,” she suggested the other day. “It’s five minutes to midnight and the baby’s head is crowning. Do you ask me to stop pushing for a few minutes?”

“The better question is this...” I replied. “... let’s say it’s June 8, five minutes to midnight and the baby’s not anywhere near coming. Do I ask the doctor to get out a knife?”


Dear Spike’s friends:
It’s only fair that everyone should get in on the action. Comment below to pick the date and hour you think Spike will arrive.
I’ve got dibs on June 8, 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Spike’s mom has chosen June 1, 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.
First come, first serve. Winner gets a trip to Salt Lake City, all expenses paid, to meet Spike.
OK, not really. Winner gets a photo. Or something else I can actually afford.
Spike’s dad

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Dear Spike:

Let’s see... Two funerals, a national campaign to discredit me, allergy season has officially begun and I feel like clawing my eyeballs out... yup, it’s been a bad week.

But last night, your mom and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant. And here’s what her fortune cookie said: “What you seek is closer than you realize.”

And with that, everything was good.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


Dear Spike:

Your mother and I sat in bed, two nights ago, as I dug out from under an avalanche of e-mails from people who think I should get a new job.

A small selection from their musings:

“You must be the stupidest man on Earth. ”

“You’re unethical, immoral and disgusting. ”

“Your mother is probably ashamed of you.”

Your mom read over my shoulder and winced as I typed out my responses.

“Thank you for your letter,” I replied — again and again and again and again.

“But they’re wrong,” she protested. “Why don’t you tell them how they’re wrong? How can you just sit there and let them say such horrible things to you?”


Last night, a Fox News commentator named Bill O’Reilly decided I was a scum bag.

“We have no respect for him.,” O’Reilly said on his television program. “I believe this man is an ideologue... he shouldn't be working in any major newspaper.”

When I arrived at work this morning, a friend pulled me aside. “That guy is so wrong,” he said. “How can you just sit there and let him say such awful things about you on national television?”


Growing up in Sunday school, I was always troubled by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount — and by one passage in particular: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the left one also.”

In my mind, this verse was always tied to other parts of the sermon — “blessed are the week... blessed are the poor... blessed are the peacemakers” — parts that suggested to me that Christ wanted his followers to be wimps. And heck, that seemed to make sense. I mean, the guy Christians like to call the King of Kings didn’t exactly run roughshod over the Romans.

But all these years later, I think I finally get it.

When most people get hit, they fall. Or they cower. Or they run.

But picture someone who doesn’t do any of those things, someone who doesn’t even fight back.

Picture someone who just stands there and offers to let his attacker have another shot.


It’s not always easy to stand on principle, lest of all when people are calling you names and calling you out.

Sometimes, it’s simpler just to fight back. You can say hateful things. You can make terrible allegations. You can hit back and kick back and spit back. And there may indeed be a time and a place for all of that.

But before you decide you must fight, consider who you are fighting. Consider whether you can win. Consider what you are fighting for.

And then consider whether the better option is simply to recognize that you don’t need to fight at all.

I’m not stupid. I’m not unethical, immoral or disgusting. And my mother? She likes me just fine.

And for me, this week, that has been enough. I don’t have to prove anyone is wrong about me. I’m content to know they are wrong about me.

So go ahead. Hit me again.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Dear Spike:

In one ear, I’m listening to the Jazz game (it’s early in the fourth quarter and Utah is up by two points.) We’ve got a movie playing on the television (the president’s wife has just discovered that Dave is an impostor.) I’m sifting through my e-mail (my inbox had been overrun by legions of lemmings who aren’t happy about a story I wrote about Dr. Laura Schlessinger) and surfing through a few news sites on my laptop computer (the Republican contenders for president took jabs at each other in a debate tonight.)

And now I’m writing you.

Humans have always been good at multi-tasking. Being able to juggle many tasks at once may, in fact, be one of the fundamental abilities that make us human.

But especially where technology is concerned, the past decade has brought an enormous surge in our capacity to handle many tasks at once. And while there remain serious questions as to how effective we can be at any one task while performing others (mobile phones are said to impair a driver’s ability as much as alcohol, for instance) I don’t think there is any debate that, in fact, we are simply doing more.

And more.

And more.

I wonder what that means for you. I can only assume that your generation will be far more adept at multi-tasking than mine. How many tasks will you be able to juggle? Seven? Ten? Twenty?

And I wonder if, as our capacity grows to do more, we are losing our ability to do less.

I hope not. For there is much to be said for occasionally doing nothing at all.

No car, no work, no mobile phone. No radio, no internet, no television. No music, no movies, no museums. No ball games, no house chores, no newspapers.

Back in the 1850s — a time in which life was considerably simpler — a man named Henry David Thoreau left his city home to live aside Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. For two years, two months and two days, he contemplated the trappings of civilization from outside of the trappings of civilization, finally emerging with the manuscript for “Walden,” one of the best-regarded works of political and social philosophy ever written by an American.

In that text, Thoreau famously observed that “a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

More than 150 years later, that’s still good advice.

You don’t have to retreat into the woods for two years to understand that. (Although I believe you’ll find that two days — or even two weeks — away from the bustle of this modern world can be clarifying.)

When you can — and even, on occasion, when you believe you cannot — turn it all off.

Multi-tasking may indeed be one of the fundamental abilities that make us human. But it all does little for our humanity.


Sunday, May 13, 2007


Dear Spike:

Today is Mother’s Day — the first in which your mom found herself the subject of the celebration.

I took her out for pizza at our favorite pie joint, and we ate on the sprawling lawn at President’s Circle at the University of Utah. It was a beautiful evening — perhaps 80 degrees with a very slight breeze — and I was in love with the moment.

Then it struck me: The next time we go for pizza and a picnic at the U, you’ll be there with us. And with that, I was more in love than ever before.

With your mom. With you. And with the future we all share.



Dear Spike:

At some point someone is going to tell you that rules are meant to be broken. Perhaps then you’ll look up at me expecting a few contrary words of advice. And I should probably give you that.

But I’ve never been good at hypocrisy.

Truth is, I’ve always been bad at playing by the rules. Maybe that makes me a bit of a nonconformist. Maybe it makes me a little bit mischievous. Or maybe it simply means that I never properly learned my place.

I mean — heck — rules are meant to be broken.

But before you store this letter away as an eternal get-of-of-jail-free card, a few caveats: Rules for breaking the rules, if you will…

First do no harm.
It’s not likely that I’ll always appreciate or approve of your rule breaking, but you’ll find a lot more leniency from me if you haven’t caused anyone else any harm, hardship or danger.

Act ethically
Ethics are the rules you make for yourself, based upon what you know to be right. These rules are meant to be challenged — and they will be. Always be able to face me and say you acted ethically. More importantly, always be able to face yourself and say the same thing.

Accept the consequences
The American Civil Rights Movement was effective, in large part, because brave people were prepared to accept the consequences of their actions. No matter how just your rationale, be prepared to accept the legal, social and economic consequences. And if you are not thus prepared, strongly reconsider your actions until such a time as you are.

Life is much too short to let someone else decide how you’ll walk, what you’ll think, how you’ll act and when you’ll breathe. But it’s much too long to act hurtfully, dishonorably or recklessly.

Find a balance — and if you wish, let it lean a little to the impish side. So long as you’re willing to face the judge, I’ll post your bail.


Met•a•phor, n. — The application of a word or phrase to somebody or something that is not meant literally but to make a comparison. For example: “So long as you’re willing to face the judge, I’ll post your bail.”

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Dear Spike:

The e-mail came at 4 p.m. from my friend, Liz. Her kids were starting a new soccer season. And she was wondering if I was interested in coaching.

Just one catch... “The games start tonight.”

You’re going to make a lot of decisions in this life. Sometimes you’ll make those decisions based on a lot of thought, discussion, prayer and contemplation. And sometimes you’ll just let your heart decide.

For me, the latter method of decision making seems to work out about as much as the former. Indeed, the two best decisions I ever made were made with a whole lot of heart and not much of anything else.

I didn’t do too much thinking before asking your mother to marry me. One day, I just decided I was going to ask her. And that was that.

And we didn’t do too much thinking before we decided to have you. One day, I came home and said ‘let’s have a baby.’ And that was that.

I’m not advising that you always — or even often — make important decisions without a fair amount of contemplation. By and large, that’s probably not the best way to do business.

But not every decision is as as important or life-altering as getting married or having a child.

Someday, your heart may tell you to dance. So dance.

Someday, your heart may tell you to climb a mountain. So climb.

And someday, your heart may tell you to quit a job. So quit.

Today my heart told me to take on a new soccer team. And so by 6:30 p.m., I was on the field with my new team.

Train your heart to make beautiful decisions by letting it make small decisions. When it comes time to make the big ones, your heart will know what to do.



Dear Spike:

The mattresses for your crib and cradle came this afternoon. Then, this evening, your mother found an advertisement online for a changing table — for just $19.

We didn’t set out to make you an Earth-friendly baby, but that’s pretty much how things have turned out. The mattresses, provided by your Aunt Kelly, are made from organic cotton. The paint we used for your walls is nontoxic, organic and lead free (heck, you could probably drink the stuff.) Your mom made you drapes from a set of organic beechwood fiber sheets. Your crib is a hand-me-down from our friends Brent and Rebecca. The dresser and desk are both old items we’ve had around for years. And our “new” changing table has been used by at least one other family — and possibly several.

We’re not psychotic about it, but I like to think that our family is environmentally aware. We do our best to recycle, we’ve worked hard to make our home as energy efficient as possible, we xeriscape, we drive cars with low emissions and good gas milage.

But we still have to think about most of this stuff.

I like to believe you won’t have to. By the time your footprints are big enough to make footprints, “living green,” may be no more than an afterthought.

In the meantime, we’ll try to make decisions on your behalf that are both healthy for you and for our Earth.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Dear Spike:

We visited the labor and delivery ward at the hospital with our childbirth class today. Even though I know the nurses were aware of our visit, I like to think it might have startled them a bit to see 10 extremely pregnant women coming off the elevator all at once.

The most interesting part of the tour was getting to see a placenta that had, only a few minutes earlier, been home to a little baby. And it was fascinating to think that, at that very same moment, you were swimming around in an organ just like it.


We’ve been to the labor and delivery floor before — twice for diagnostic ultrasounds, once for a tour and a bunch of times to check up on your heart — but there was definitely something different about this visit.

Everything seemed so close.

The nursing station, the labor room, the waiting area, the nursery — we’ll be there soon. For real.

It feels like Christmas Eve.


Monday, May 7, 2007


Dear Spike:

Your mom is having frequent contractions, though we’re confident that what she is experiencing is Braxton Hicks contractions, part of what is known as “false labor.” Still, it’s a sign that you are getting closer — your mother’s body is preparing for your delivery.

While you’re not due for another month (and we hope you’ll stay in and “bake” for that long) we have come to accept that, in fact, you could come at any time.

That’s a scary proposition for your mother. She hasn’t yet reached the point where it has become so uncomfortable with being pregnant that she is prepared to accept the pain of giving birth. In fact, she’s grown quite used to having you inside of her and, I think, is feeling a bit hesitant about giving you up to the rest of the world.

Planner that she is, your mom has left teaching instructions in her classroom that will allow a substitute to take her class through the end of the year. She’s hoping, though, to make it at least until the final week of school — the same week you’re due. And with a job interview at a school in the city, this Thursday (she’s been coveting an job a bit closer to home since we arrived here, three years ago) she’s definitively against the prospect of giving birth this week.

But, we know, you’ll come when you come. And to the extent it is actually possible to be ready for parenthood, I think we are.

So, for now, we wait for you to let us know when you are ready.

There’s a lesson there, I think, for both of us.

Your mother is a marcher. She likes to make lists, read books, and keep calendars. She likes order and predictability.

I’m a dancer. I like to move with the music, changing my steps as life’s rhythms and melodies dictate.

She’s dependable. I’m adventurous. She’s reliable. I’m rash.

Over time, we’ve rubbed off on one another. She’s learned, as I’ve always known, that adventures are rarely scripted. I’ve learned, as she’s always preached, that it’s not a bad idea to have a destination in mind when you begin a journey.

Now, you’re rubbing off on both of us. I’ve taken to doing things like diapering dolls, to make sure I’m ready for your arrival. She, meanwhile, appears to have grown more accepting of the pell-mell muddled misorder of life that comes with having a baby.

Maybe you’ll arrive on your due date. Maybe you’ll come several weeks later. Or maybe you’ll come tomorrow.

We’re in your tiny hands. And we’re learning from you already.


Sunday, May 6, 2007


Dear Spike:

The little rag doll looked up at me with his dark drawn-on eyes and begged me not to humiliate him again.

But I had to do it. Over and over. Fold, fold, lift, sit, fold, tuck, fold, pull, pull, pin.

And repeat.

Fold, fold, lift, sit, fold, tuck, fold, pull, pull, pin.

Just about every stuffed animal and doll in your room had been diapered — and I’m still no closer at being good at this.


Friday, May 4, 2007


Dear Spike:

Your mother’s been done with her master’s program for five months now, but the University of Utah only conducts a commencement ceremony once a year, so she didn’t walk until today.

She looked very impressive in her graduation robe, hood and hat. For some reason, seeing her surrounded by others dressed in their colorful robes and stoles made me wish that academics still dressed that way all of the time.

Your mother worked very hard to earn that robe and walk across that stage, and I’m very proud of her.

You should be too.


Thursday, May 3, 2007


Dear Spike:

We just got back from our fourth childbirth class. Today’s subject: Pain.


And more pain.

Ripping and cutting. Needles and catheters. Forceps and hooks and surgical scalpels and clamps. Oh yeah, did I mention they have videos of all of this stuff in action?

At one point, your mother turned to me and said, “I’ve decided I can’t do this.” She’s said that before, but she always was kidding. This time, I think she was serious.

All the moms walked out of the class looking like they’d come to the same conclusion. I can’t be sure, of course, but I think this woman might be why they’ve banned abortion in the third trimester.

To be fair, we also discussed pain management. But even where that was concerned, it was mostly about the pain you have to endure to get to the pain management.

I sure hope there is some sort of method to this instructor’s madness. At the moment, she’s just making me feel really, really bad about getting your mother into this mess.

A quick sidenote: I just realized that someday I’m going to have to teach you about where babies come from. Oh boy. Won't that be a lovely time.

For the moment, your mom is seriously freaked out. It's almost as bad as that time we watched "The Toxic Avenger," thinking it was going to be like the cartoon, but quickly realizing that, in fact, it was pretty much about crushing people's heads in a way that made their brains squirt out of their ears.

I turned off the movie that night. This time around, there's no power button. No rewind. No TiVo.

After we got home, she filled the bathtub and took a dip. I sat on the edge of the tub and looked down at her adorable belly, sticking up out of the water.

“You know,” I said. “You’re going to do great.”

“At birth or at being a mom?” she asked.


“I don’t really know how to do either of those things.”

“You will. You’re going to do great.”

“I’m scared.”

“I know. But you’re going to do great.”

For some reason, when we’re scared, it’s often good to repeat a single, simple, soothing message. It’s not even the words that really count, I think, but just that we have something true and comforting to think about. I think that’s why people say The Lord’s Prayer when they’re scared — even if they're not religious.

For the next four weeks (or more, or less, it’s really up to you) I’ll be telling your mother this same thing: “You’re going to do great.”

At being a mom. At giving birth. At handling the pain. At ignoring our masochistic childbirth class instructor.

Your mother is sleeping now. Snoring hard. I hope she’s not dreaming about any of those videos.

I wonder if you’re scared, too. By your new world. By all the noises outside your little cocoon. By forceps and hooks and surgical scalpels and clamps.

You know, you’re going to do great, too.

You’re going to do great.

You’re going to do great.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Dear Spike:

A man I knew came home from the war in Iraq just in time for the birth of his son. Except that when the boy came out, he looked remarkably like the man’s best friend — the white man’s black best friend.

“Our baby isn’t going to come out a different color than me, is she?” I asked your mom in jest a few days ago.

“Don’t be silly, honey,” she said, not even looking up from what she was doing. “All your best friends are white, just like you.”


She’s joking (I hope) but she’s also right about that. Most of my closest friends are indeed white, like I am (and I am assuming you will be as well.) For while we live in the most diverse city in the state of Utah, it is still... well... the state of Utah.

There are exactly two exceptions — my friends Sheena and Chhun are Indian and Cambodian, respectively. I know it’s not always easy for them being wheat bread in a white bread bakery. For Sheena, especially, things can be particularly tough.

“Just try finding a date in Utah when you’re brown, overweight and not a Mormon,” she told me once. “You’re more likely to get eaten by a Great White Shark in the Great Salt Lake.”


Sometimes I wonder why they stay here.

Take Monday, for example. Chhun’s car was stolen, then found by the police and towed to the impound lot over on the west side.

When we got to the lot, the man behind the window — a big redneck fellow with a long mustache and buzz cut hair — asked Chhun to sign a document saying he’d inspected the car for damages.

Except Chhun hadn’t even seen the car yet.

The man seemed frustrated as Chhun reread the paper.

“Can’t you speak English?” he demanded.

“Yes, I can,” Chhun replied.

“Well, then sign it.”

“But I haven’t seen my car.”

“You’re going to see the car eventually. Just sign the paper.”

Chhun, who has a bit of a stutter even when he’s not nervous, looked flustered. He looked up at the man, then down at the paper. He looked like a kid who was about to give his lunch money to a schoolyard bully.


My argument wasn’t any more reasonable than Chhun’s had been, but low and behold, the guy behind the window actually listened to me.

“He’s not going to sign something that says he’s seen his car until he’s seen his car,” I said.

“Oh... well...” The man seemed embarrassed. “You know I didn’t mean anything by all that. We can go see the car together.”

Gee, white man to the rescue.


I’m not sure I did Chhun any favors by sticking up for him. It wasn’t really my place to butt in and, in fact, I may have been playing into to the same belittling racial stereotypes as the man behind the window.

I’ve been playing it over in my head. Why don’t I think Chhun can stick up for himself? Did I step in because I discerned that he needed help by reading his body language, or did I step in because I decided he needed help because he’s not white?



Race can be funny, intriguing and beautiful. It can also be ignorant, wrathful and ugly.

Most of the time, it won’t be any of those things. Most of the time, when you look at your friends, all you’re going to see is your friends.

But color exists. And sometimes it matters. And sometimes, without even intending to, you’ll find out it matters to you. Ignore that, and you’ll find out that it matters more than you think.

But embrace it, examine it, acknowledge it, and you’ll find out it doesn’t matter at all.


As a matter of fact, that’s the case with pretty much everything we use to separate ourselves from one another.

White and black. Gay and straight. Christian and Jew and Mormon and Muslim.

I’m racking my brain to think of a single time in which any of that might matter.

And I can only think of one: White guy, black best friend, black baby.

And even then, the guy who I heard that story from — the one whose wife got pregnant with another man’s kid while he was away at war — he wasn’t upset that a black man had impregnated his wife. He was upset that his best friend had.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Dear Spike:

Someday when you are ravishing, with beautiful eyes and a charming smile and sexy legs, I want you to remember something your mother told me today.

“My ankles look like hamhocks!”



Dear Spike:

Your Aunt Kelly and I had a horrible argument today — the worst I can remember in the 12 years that have passed since we lived together.

The details of the disagreement are inconsequential. I had my say and she had hers. We hurt one another’s feelings. And thus ended an otherwise splendid week-long visit.

It took only a few moments of calmer reflection and a few quick phone messages to patch things up. I love you is a powerful healer, when you use it with sincerity.

But a patch is just a patch. Underneath, what is torn is torn.

What is done is done.

My siblings and I were always different, but we have grown ever more so over the years. And I think, perhaps, that I have grown the most different, or at least the most distant. Some around these parts like to say that it is difficult to see past the mountains when you live in a valley. To my siblings, especially, I think I’ve always lived in a valley, surrounded by mountains of my own making.

Those mountains have grown, over the years. And deep in their shadows, my valley has grown colder. It has grown contemptuous, materialistic and judgmental. It has grown haughty and hubristic.

I told my sister today that she should not apologize for something she was not prepared to change. That’s a lesson we both learned from our father. He often said, “Don’t say ‘sorry,’ just don’t do it.” I imagine you’ll hear that from me, sometimes.

So I can’t, at the moment, apologize for my mountains. I’m not yet ready to break them down. For whatever reason, I still pine for my siblings to be more like me.

And yet, could I choose, I would like you to be more like them.

So, my child, I wish for you my sister’s tenacity, her grace under fire, her spirit and her spunk. I wish for you her ability to live simply and elegantly, to walk small and dream big.

To leave a $20 tip on a $5 bill.

To see the homeless as neighbors.

To undauntedly speak in an English accent to an Englishman.

And I wish for you my brother’s loyalty, his humility and his integrity. I wish for you his willingness to be passionate in an often passionless world.

To sing in the middle of the grocery store.

To listen for the changes in a crackling fire.

To stay up, all night and all day and all night and all day — if that’s what a friend wants to do.

We all build mountains, some greater than others. Some have rising peaks that disappear into the clouds. Others are no more than rolling hills.

Whatever the mountain you build, build a small pass through which your friends can travel.

And for your family, build a tunnel.