The Man in the Mirror

A little over a month ago, I saw a sideview of myself in a mirror and was shocked to see how far my belly stuck out. I knew I had put on some weight – my clothes fit a bit tighter, it was hard to breathe when I would bend down to tie my shoes – but I somehow hadn’t really noticed how fat I had gotten. But I do know how it happened.

IMG_0650During the week-long hospital stay for my son’s birth, I got hooked on soda. There was a soda fountain just down the hall from our room. The general chaos of that whole week, being overly tired and not knowing what day it was, much less what time, I’m sure I drank way more Pepsi and Mt. Dew than I care to know. It is really easy to start drinking pop, but it was really hard to stop.

To make things worse, I have a hard time getting myself to drink water, especially from places other than home. It sometimes tastes weird, or if you have a plastic or styrofoam cup, it tastes like… well, styrofoam or plastic. I’ve gotten water bottles in the past, and after a few times through the dishwasher, the plastic takes on a dishwasher smell and the water tastes like soap. I had a metal water bottle that I liked, but it wasn’t dishwasher safe. That means it ended up sitting on the counter waiting to be hand washed for about a month. Pepsi, however, always tastes like Pepsi.

The cards were stacked against me. Everywhere you go, these’s soda. If I go to Taco John’s for lunch, the meals come with a drink. I don’t want to order the food separately, because it’s only handful of cents more to get it with a drink. I also don’t want to get the drink and then just use the cup for water. If I’m at work and I get thirsty, there’s always soda in the vending machine, along with some weird diet iced tea. If I stop at a convenience store, a bottled water is as much as, if not more than, a bottle of pop. It just doesn’t feel right to pay that much for a bottle of water. So what could I do?

I just quit.

I IMG_0651decided that the next Monday was going to be the day I quit drinking pop. I finally ponied up and bought a nice glass water bottle – making sure it was dishwasher safe. I pushed through a couple days of moderate headaches. When I had a strong craving for something flavorful and bubbly I would drink an Izzy instead of getting soda. I avoided getting fast food for lunch because I knew I’d get it with a soda.

Then something amazing happened. Not even a week in, I could tell my body was working better. I didn’t feel slow or sluggish. It felt like my internal systems had less friction moving nutrients around my body. I felt good and was proud of myself for overcoming the hold that soda had over me, and proving I have more power than a can of sugar water. I still had cravings for pop, but it was much easier to ignore them. It became somewhat of a game, to see how long I could go without having one.

It has now been well over a month since I last had a drink (of soda…). It feels good both mentally and physically to have gained control over such a simple part of my life. A part that is surprisingly easy to loose control of. For me, this is about that control as much as it is about health. I know I have lost some weight since I quit, although I didn’t weigh myself before and I haven’t been since. I’ve decided I’m not going to regularly weigh in, either. If this becomes about numbers, I’m probably not going to win. If I don’t get much change from one day or week to the next, that’s only going to be discouraging. But wether I loose weight or not, it’s still better for me to be drinking water instead of soda.

Did you know that Coke can be used to clean off corrosion around a car battery’s terminals? Or better yet, get blood stains off of a road. I’m sure many other sodas do this, too. We would never allow ourselves to drink other liquids with these properties, so why do we not worry about drinking soda? Plus, besides be pumped full of who knows what kind of chemicals, dyes, and preservatives, it also contains large portions of two highly addictive drugs – caffeine and sugar.

So there’s all kinds of good reasons to quit drinking soda, and I’m sure someday I will have a can of soda again, but being successful at cutting it out of my life has been a huge reward that has lead to other good things (more on this next time).

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I have found that my success came from removing barriers and committing not to the goal, but to the actions needed to accomplish the goal. It’s so easy to just grab a soda, and it felt so hard to just drink water. I tried to take myself out of situations where I would easily get a soda, and prepare ahead to give myself easier alternatives like having an Izzie or a nice glass water bottle. I’m not worrying about loosing weight, but focusing on finding ways to make being healthier easier. I don’t want to end up trapped in an overweight, lazy, and addicted American lifestyle.

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On my way out of work on a rainy, overcast day, the color of the dumpster caught my eye. It’s a burnt red color and just really stood out. The surroundings weren’t anything I wanted in my pictures, nor did I really want all my co-workers wondering why I was taking pictures of the dumpster.

I set out looking for something with a similar color, and ended up finding it at a little park by the river I had been at during the winter. I found some sort of utility box that had a nice rusty orange color. The rain had given it a nice shiny reflective top. I found a few angles that I liked and then moved on.

I didn’t find much else I wanted to photograph. There were some geese standing in a row along the edge of the river, but I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me and I couldn’t get close enough without scaring them away.

But then there is always the car.

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P1050558aSaabs always catch my eye, and I’ve always thought the color of mine looks particularly good on dreary days – especially covered in beads of rain. Sometime I will need to do a night photoshoot with it under street or parking lot lights. That’s another time when I feel like the Ice Blue color really comes alive. (These photos are sensationalized a bit – the blue color isn’t quite so saturated in real life).

See the full set and more from the past on flickr.

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I’ve never really been interested in taking wildlife or landscape photos. There are plenty of great photos of flowers and sunsets already out there. Plus, usually when I go out it’s around mid day with the sun directly overhead – which usually doesn’t make for an amazing sunset or anything too exciting on the horizon. Having started this project going into the winter, most of natures bright colors had left for the season and I’ve gotten tired of pictures with rather drab colors.

This day I was in luck because being in the middle of June, colors were back and in full bloom. I somewhat begrudgingly stopped at Noleridge Park and went to the flower gardens. I really didn’t want to take pictures of flowers, but it was what I found nearby that had what I was looking for – bright, bold colors.

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There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so the full sun gave me plenty of light to work with. It was very windy, though, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. Even being able to use fast shutter speeds sometimes wasn’t enough to keep my subjects from being a bit blurry.

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Click for larger image

A fun thing that happened when I was standing under a tree and felt something scratch my neck. I figured it was a leaf from the tree, but it turned out to be a very fuzzy caterpillar! I brushed it off my shirt onto a vine and started to take pictures of it. I ran into troubles here because the wind kept blowing the vine around and the caterpillar kept moving to places I couldn’t see it as well.

In the end I found quite a few more creative ideas than I thought I would and actually enjoyed doing nature photography. I even though of some ideas I’d like to try to try in the future.

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As always, these and more from this set can be found on my Flickr site.

How Things Change

Having recently become a parent, I have been thinking back to my life as a child. Aside from remembering iconic toys, tv shows, and things I used to do, I’ve been particularly aware of the impression I had of my parents.

IMG_1461I’m in roughly the same age bracket as my parents were when they started having kids, yet I don’t feel like I’m the same age. It’s not that I remember my parents being ‘old’, but rather I don’t see myself as much different than I was ten years ago. As a kid, my parents always seemed like grown ups, which I suppose they were. Being 31 I suppose I am, too.

So why do I not feel like I’m just not to that place yet?

Maybe it’s because the change happens so gradually, it’s hard to notice until it’s been done. There was never a sudden change over from being a ‘kid’ to an ‘adult’. Some might say I still am a kid – yet I have a wife, baby and mortgage – so I’m an adult…!?

IMG_1446I have much the same feeling about all this as I do visiting places I haven’t been to since I was little. For example, my elementary school. I remember the first time going back in to Arthur Elementary after many years to vote for the first time (first sign of becoming an adult). My memories of the hallways and cafeteria were much different than what I saw. It wasn’t that the paint had changed colors or doors replaced, but rather the scale. I remember the hallways seeming forever long with really high ceilings. Now the hallways seem short and narrow.

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My Grandpa Jack (my Dad’s dad) with me when I was less than a year old.

I know full well that the size of the building didn’t change. Obviously, I am what changed, but it feels the other way around. Since I hadn’t been in there for so long, there was a disconnect between my reality then and now. The feeling was very apparent and felt weird. It seemed like a sudden, huge change.

Even though I have been present (more or less) for every day of my life, this adulthood thing has kind of taken me by surprise. We all know it’s going to happen sooner or later (much later, for some people), but looking back – just like visiting my old school – things aren’t quite as grown up as they seemed.

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My Dad, Me, and Harvey on my first father’s day in 2015.

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My Dad, Me, and Harvey working backstage at the Iowa City Jazz Festival 2015.

Father’s Day

I was nervous and excited to finally get to meet him.
He had been with our family for nine months, yet we weren’t able to really know him.

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Moments after he was born he held my finger in his tiny hand.

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I got to hold him, wrapped in blankets and snuggled in my arms.

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I got to see him lay with his Mom for the first time.

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When little Harvey Jack was introduced to his grandparents, aunts, and uncles, I saw the happiness he brought to them.

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I got to change his diaper and swaddle him in blankets to stay warm and be comfortable to sleep.
I helped give him his first bath and washed his full head of dark hair.

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I got to help his Mom feed him every few hours for the first weeks.
I experienced both physical and emotional exhaustion like I never have before.
Finally, I got to secure him in his carseat and bring him home for the first time.

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I get to change many diapers and outfits, and give many baths.

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I get to rock him to sleep and wake up to his babbling in the mornings.

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Because of all this, I experience life in a much different way than I used to.
He has taught me about what is important in life, and that being his Dad is the best thing I’ve ever gotten to do.


IMG_1207.JPGBeing a father is both the easiest, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

It is hard because it takes a lot of time. It’s easy because most of that time I get to be with my son.

It is hard because it takes a surprisingly large amount of physical energy to watch a baby as they play and learn to be mobile. It is easy because I get to play and have fun with my son and watch him learn and grow.

It is hard because just as soon as you get into a routine and have a “normal” schedule, your baby will start waking up more at night and not taking naps during the day. It is easy because when I am getting up multiple times throughout the night, I get to see my son, feed, change, and snuggle him and be sure he’s alright.

IMG_1410.JPGIt is hard because the rest of the world doesn’t stop moving, and continues on wether you are ready for it or not. It is easy because my world is now a lot smaller, and the important things are with me right at home.

It is hard because it’s a lot of work that will always be requiring new skills, and will continue for the rest of my life. It is so much easier to get up out of bed when I know my little boy is right in the next room, waiting for me. Knowing that when I peek my head into his room I will see a super big grin on his face because he’s proud of himself for standing up in his crib and is excited to see his Dad.

IMG_0568.JPGIt’s hard to explain the amount of joy that my son gives me. His smiles when he first sees me in the morning or when I get home from work will never get old. Even when he is sad or doesn’t feel well, just knowing that I can provide him some bit of comfort makes me feel my life is worth so much more than it ever felt before. Then there are his giggle episodes when he goes on laughing for minutes at something he finds funny or smiling at his puppy. Seeing the look on his face as he’s finding new things to climb on and crawl to is precious. The excitement he has from seeing and experiencing things for the first time helps me see things for the first time again. Watching him play with toys and realizing he understands what he’s doing with them is awe inspiring. He plays hard and doesn’t get discouraged when he can’t do something the first few times. He is just an awesome little dude, who I can already tell has a big heart and lots of love. He inspires me to be a little bit more like him.

It’s hard being a father, but it’s easy to do for such an amazing young boy.


Happy father’s day to all the dads out there, especially Harvey’s Grandpas, Rick and George!