Friday, July 26, 2013

Words on Patience

          My wife and I got pregnant at the beginning of this year, and we were both really excited and we were also really scared.  If you aren't slightly scared about bringing a baby into this world, you should stop taking 10 Lortabs a day and check back into reality because raising a child is a huge responsibility.  Well, we got pregnant and our baby was due October 10, 2013 which is one day before our 10th anniversary.

          Lindee and I have been through a lot over the years.  We have traveled and lived in strange and exotic places, including Gyumri, Armenia for a little over two years in the Peace Corps, we traveled to Tunis, Tunisia during some riots where the US Embassy was set on fire in September 2012, and we also lived in Flint, Michigan for a stint... Flint was by far the strangest place we've been.  We've seen and done some amazing things, including horseback rides through the Tuscan countryside, relaxing on beaches in the Greek Isles, and walking through ancient ruins in numerous countries.

          While all of those experiences, the good and the bad, taught me very valuable life lessons, I still realize that I have a lot to learn.  Not just about raising a child, but also about life in general.

          Lindee and I decided we wanted to wait to find out if we were having a boy or a girl.  We thought it would raise the anticipation and excitement even more as October 10th got closer and closer.  We also thought we could teach ourselves some self-discipline and patience.  When people asked us what we were having and we told them we were waiting to find out, most people thought that was cool and exciting; however, a few just thought we were crazy because we couldn't plan and get completely prepared for our baby.  Some people thought we were being untraditional by not finding out our baby's gender even though modern medicine has only allowed people to find out their baby's gender via fetal ultrasounds since the 1970's... and I think the human race has been around for a bit longer than that.

          We thought we were teaching ourselves patience by not finding out.  During pregnancies, a woman has numerous ultrasounds and the ultrasound tech could tell you at any one of these doctor's visits the gender of your baby. If during one of these visits the screen was pointing at us, we would turn our heads if we thought we might sneak a peek at our baby's bits or lack of bits.  

          Now, there are some times in my life that I feel I am definitely being taught something...  this is definitely one of them. 

          On July 13th, Lindee started having contractions, so we went to the hospital.  The doctor told us she was in active labor, and they would do everything they could to stop the contractions.  Lindee was put on Magnesium Sulfate which made her really loopy, but it bought us and our baby time.  She was able to get two steroid shots which greatly help to develop our baby's lungs in case he or she came early.  We met with one of the Neonatologists who told us about the NICU and what all they can do if our baby came early.  We had numerous visitors and a ton of people were praying for all three of us.  After a few days, Lindee was pretty stable.  She was still having contractions, but they weren't regular and they weren't progressing the labor.  The doctor told us that Lindee would be on bed rest and in the hospital until she had our baby.  Since Lindee was doing good, I went back to work on Wednesday, and I was just waiting for a phone call from her or the hospital saying that I needed to get up there because baby was coming... but I didn't get the call.  Since things stayed the same, I went back to work on Thursday, July 18th, and I was still anticipating the call.  Then at 1:40pm, I got a call from a Tulsa phone number that wasn't in my phone. It had to be the hospital, so I immediately went on high alert, and answered the phone, "Hello!" The person on the other end said, "Are you the guy selling the 3-wheeler on Craig's List?" (asked in a twangy voice)  I felt both relief and a heart attack at the same time.  I told him that I wasn't, and he then asked, "Well who are you?" So I hung up on him and caught my breath.  I set my phone back down and I was both relieved and I was still anxious.  Then, at 4:10pm, I got a call from Lindee, and she told me our baby was coming.  I made it to the hospital in less than 5 minutes.

          Our baby boy, Jude Isaac Johnson, was delivered at 7:23pm on July 18, 2013 at only 28 weeks.  He was 15.5 inches long and weighed 3 pounds even (which is actually a good size for only being 28 weeks).  Watching our baby boy come into this world was more amazing than any other experience Lindee and I have had together.  Right now, he is doing really well, and we still would like as many prayers as possible for his continued good health.  He's breathing really well and the doctors have raised his feedings so he's now starting to gain some more weight.  Numerous nurses have told us that he's very strong willed (which I assume he gets from Lindee) and also that he's really cute (which I assume he also gets from Lindee).  We assume that Jude is so strong willed that he already decided that he didn't want to have costume parties for his birthdays for the rest of his life with an October birthday, but that he'd rather have pool parties for his birthdays, which is why he decided to come almost 3 months early.

          We thought we were teaching ourselves patience by not finding out Jude's gender.  However, that is nothing compared to what we will endure over the next few months.  The Neonatologists told us to expect for Jude to be in the NICU until right around his original due date of October 10th.  These next three months will be very long and hard on us.  We will be in the NICU more than we will be at home.  There are a number of milestones that Jude has to attain before he will be released, and he has to consistently pass them before he can come home.  Everyone has told us that having a baby in the NICU is like a roller coaster ride because your baby will make two steps forward and then take one step back.  We will have to try to keep patient and know that Jude is being taken care of really well at St John's NICU.  They are doing everything they can to help Jude grow and develop.  

          We have had a lot of help from friends and family over the last few weeks.  We ask that you continue to pray for all of us, but especially for Jude's continued growth and good health.  We also preemptively ask for your forgiveness when we inevitably snap at one (or all) of you over something stupid.  We are trying to stay patient, but we are only human. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lenten Words

          Lent. Not the stuff in your belly button, but Lent- the 40+ days prior to Pascha. As Orthodox Christians, we don't just "give up chocolate for Lent," but we give up all dairy products, meat, fish, olive oil, and wine. We try to be more diligent in our prayer life, and we also should give more of our time and money to help those in need. These are not rigid rules where if you don't fast according to strict dietary rules, pray so many times, and give so much away, then you are not a good Christian. These are things we do so we can have a better relationship with our fellow man, ourselves, and God. With all of these things, we all do what we can, and what we do, we should all do in humility. Lent is a time to examine ourselves.

          Growing up, Easter was one of two major Sundays which padded the attendance numbers. The other, of course, was the Sunday around Christmas, unless it actually fell on a Sunday and then the numbers weren't that good. Anyways, growing up, there wasn't anything leading up to Easter. It was just another Sunday. Fasting was read about in the Bible, and those "suggestions" from Jesus were seen as not that important. However, I have come to love this time of year. I look forward to it almost as soon as it's over.  During Lent, I am usually somewhat hungry, the church services are longer and more frequent, and we stand throughout the services. Some services will go for over three hours... yet I still love them.

          Lent is an interesting and introspective time, just like the stuff in your belly button- Where did it come from? What would happen if I didn't pick it? Why do I have so much of it and my wife never seems to have any? Do people with outies have lint? 

          And just like that,  my focus has gone. I stop being introspective during Lent and I get distracted. My mind wanders, my stomach growls, my house breaks, my trivia team loses. I wonder what and how people are doing who I haven't seen or talked to in a long time. I hear and read about awful things that are happening all over the world. I hear about our impending doom due to our country's relationships with this country or that country. I imagine our demise due to our country's politics on both sides of the aisle. However, these distractions can be helpful during Lent. When my mind wanders to thinking of old friends, I should pray for them. When my stomach growls, I should pray for mercy. When I get distracted by our country's problems, I should pray for our leaders to have wisdom. 

          Lent is a wonderful time of the year. If you want to give something up for Lent, then do it. If you want to pray more during Lent, then do it. If you want to volunteer at your local food bank during Lent, then do it... but whatever you do during Lent, do it in humility.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Words of Advice

          There are some times in my life when I feel that I just want to scream.  I want to yell at the person that just cut me off-  "Hey jerk!  Have some decency!  We are all just trying to get home in one piece after a long day at work!"  I want to scream at the person that is berating my wife with their petty life problems- "Shut-up!  Just really, please... shut-up!  Your 'problems' do not register on my radar.  Do you even know what we have been going through these last few months?!?!  No, you don't, because you've never asked."  I want to punch the person that is cussing me out because his remote control is not working... but I don't, because I'm a pacifist.  Instead, I tell him that the batteries are only human and that after a long hard life of changing channels and ordering pay-per-view porn for the traveling businessmen on a nightly basis, they can only last so long before their little energies are exhausted.

          Just the other day, I was riding my single-speed bike along Riverside when a guy flew past me on a serious road bike. I tried to speed up to see if I could keep pace with him.  Further down the trail, he passed a man teaching his daughter how to ride her bike in the bike lanes (not in the walking lanes).  The serious biker seemed to yell something at the dad as he passed.  This provoked the dad to look away from his daughter and stare the serious biker down as he rode away.  Now, granted... there is a certain amount of etiquette to follow when riding your bike on a trail, however, this was a slow day and there were not a lot of people on the trail. My initial reaction was that this biker dude was a jerk! I wanted to give him a piece of my mind... "Hey man! There was a lot of room on the trail to go around the father-daughter life learning experience that was happening on the bike trail. You didn't have to yell at them as you passed them.  You didn't need to say anything at all!  All you had to do was move over a little on the trail and pedal past them... two seconds later, they would be far behind you and you would probably never see them again."  I thought that he should know that this is not something to get mad at somebody about and yell at them. He should be more patient and calm... and then it hit me...  why am I trying to give out advice through telepathy to someone I don't even know?  Why am I trying to give advice to anyone for that matter?

          I have always found myself to be friends with people who make some questionable decisions in their lives.  I will listen to them tell me about their latest problem with money, girls, boys, drugs, jobs, religion... whatever.  I try to give them advice as best as I can, but I am not a trained professional.  I have only dealt with the problems which I have dealt with in my personal life- no more, no less- and I have dealt with them in a very mediocre fashion.  My advice usually consists of 85% bad jokes, 10% advice, and 5% just walking out of the room.  I am probably making the problem worse by making light of the entire situation.  Which brings me back to the same question again... Why am I trying to give advice to anyone?

          After I rode past the father and daughter, I realized I needed to just pray for the serious bike rider.  I prayed that he would find patience and calmness in his life.  I should pray that the person that cut me off gets to his destination safely.  I should pray that the people who are dumping their problems on my wife's tiny shoulders (which are already heavily burdened) find meaning in their lives.  I should pray that the person who is yelling at me about batteries for his remote control finds true joy in his life.  I realized that rather than trying to impose my advice on people, I should simply pray for them.  People don't need my advice- they just need someone to hear them out.  When someone makes us mad, rather than dwelling on what upset us, pray for the person.  While praying, also pray for yourself.  Whenever I pray, I always try to remember to pray for patience, humility, and simplicity in my life.  Now, heed my advice, and go and pray for that jerk that just flipped you off.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Marriage Words

The summer after my Junior year in college, I decided to move to Tulsa. I had no plans, I just didn't want to be in Little Rock over the summer again. I moved to Tulsa with a friend from college, and we rented a 2 bedroom apartment. I applied at a number of places, and I was offered one job, but I didn't take it for some reason that I can't recall. Then, bills started to come in, and I had no income to pay them. So, I went across the street to a T.G.I. Fridays and applied. It just so happened that the manager that was working that day grew up in Sherwood, Arkansas on Geronimo Drive, which was 2 streets over from where I grew up on Custer Place. She interviewed me, had me take some personality test which I got a 100,000,000,000% on, and then she hired me to be a food runner for the summer.

It was probably just about ten years ago to the day that I walked into the T.G.I. Fridays for my first day of work. I arrived early to make a good impression on the food industry. I was waiting at a table for the morning meeting, it started, and I was introduced to everyone... no one seemed to care. A few people, men and women, looked at me with the "fresh meat" look in their eyes. A few minutes into the meeting, this beautiful blonde goddess walked in with this disgusted and irritated look on her face. She sat down, and a few minutes later, her boyfriend who she rode to work with came in and sat down. After the meeting, she looked at me with the same disgusted look on her face, and asked, "Who are you?!" To which I cheerfully replied, "I'm Dustin!" She rolled her eyes and walked past me. (I only just now found out that I had been sitting in her regular chair.)

The disgusted blonde and I started dating later that summer. We got engaged in March 2003, and we got married October 11, 2003. We are pretty awesome together, if I can say that about us. If one of us were to die early, we joke that we could never date again because we are too flatulantly comfortable together.

We have served in the Peace Corps together in Armenia, we have been to 16 countries together, we have raised two wonderful dogs together, we have moved 12 times together, we have had horrible stomach ailments together, we have gotten lost in Queens in the middle of the night together, we have gone horseback riding through Tuscany together, we have gone para-sailing, camping, and hiking together, we have sat and stared at wonderful pieces of art together, we have read books together.

Of course, we have our problems too. We fight. Lindee punches. I yell. We disagree. I'm right. Lindee corrects me. We realize how silly we would look if people watched us when we argue with each other.

There is not another woman I could imagine spending my life with. I pray daily to be a better husband, and a better man for her. Lindee... don't die on me... because I can't imagine learning to fart in front of another woman.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Introduction Words

I am a numbers guy. Numbers speak for themselves. They make sense. You always know what they mean, what they represent, and if you look at a number close enough, you can see how you got to that number. However, I know that to live and function in society, a person must use their words to communicate and function in society.

This is my dilemma. It seems that when I open my mouth, I either say something offensive (and get awkward looks from people as they inch away), I say something that no one agrees with (and get a tirade of reasons thrown, yelled, and yes... even spit at me to tell me why I am wrong), or I say something utterly brilliant. This is the magic of words. They convince people why they are wrong and you are right. They make people feel wonderful about themselves. They make people want to kill themselves. They make you want to shut out all of society and go live in a cave... or is that just me?

I will say many things on this blog. These words I will say are not for you; they are for me. I will give my opinions, I will rant and rave about the jerk on the highway, I will tell a funny story, I will reminisce about stupid things my friends and I did growing up.

A wonderful thing that words can do that numbers cannot do is console someone. Words can bring back good memories, and they can bring back horrible memories. Words can give other people an insight into how your quirky mind works. Words can help you remember why you became interested in something, Words can help future generations understand where they came from... and once they realize I am their great-grandfather, they can run- screaming and crying back to their mother and plead with her to show them their adoption papers.

But like I said earlier... this is not for you, it is for me.