Friday, December 31, 2010

A new year

2011. My children will turn 10, 4, and 2. My wife and I will have been married six years. I'll turn 44 just weeks into the new year. I finish 2010 having invented 37 issued United States patents. There are more than seven others that have been indicated as allowable in some way, so I will likely cross the "more than one patent for every year I've been alive" line this year.

2010. Baby Bel learned to walk, started to talk, and became a fun playmate for her sisters. Eva made the honor roll and really came into her own. Sara learned to swim and in six months was able to do most of the 5 and 6 year old swim tasks as a 3 year old.

My weight had creeped back up, and I decided that missing part of my kids' or potential grandkids' lives was a horribly bad trade for the momentary enjoyment of french fries. I changed my diet (thanks, LiveStrong!) got my BMI down below the "obese" range (185 pounds is where that range starts for my height), and still dropping. I'd love to get to the "normal" BMI range this year, but I'm setting a realistic goal of simply seeing my weight continue to drop toward normal. For reference, 65% of Central Valley non-elderly adults are obese. It seems inconceivable to me that I'm thinner than average even now, but since every pound lost toward "normal" is statistically months of extra life expectancy, being thinner than average means nothing. Being a healthy weight is the goal.

My dad's cancer continues to scare me, but his great attitude and strong spirit continue to inspire me. Paradoxically, his cancer has made me feel closer to him than ever before. He is emotionally accessible to me and to my children and I am enjoying every day with him as a blessing. I hope so deeply that he beats his MCC cancer, but I plan to enjoy every moment I have with him regardless of the course of the disease. Many people fighting such a beastly kind of cancer might become bitter and harsh because of the unfairness of it. Thanks, dad, for showing me how to act in the face of adversity.

It was a tough year financially, so I guess I join the ranks of everybody else who had setbacks this year. I'm trying to emulate my dad's attitude and enjoy all of the things that are still good. Deal with the bad when I must, but live in the good.

I've found I missed my friends from years past a lot over the year. Lloyd Monserratt has been in my thoughts. Lloyd died several years ago from complications of bariatric surgery. I miss David Hoffman -- we email sometimes, but we live on opposite sides of the country. I miss many friends from UCLA and law school who are also separated by distance. I've reached out on Facebook, but Facebook often functions more to create the appearance of communication than actual communication. I am quite grateful that men seem able to pause a relationship, not talk for a decade, and then pick up the phone and pick up where we left off.

David Miller shot himself toward the end of the year. I've previously posted about that. The guys in my poker group who also knew him have been brought much closer in the aftermath. They were always friends of mine, but now I feel a strength of friendship that wasn't there before.

I've further developed and strengthened my friendship with Paul, and I am thankful for that.

My fellow inventor, brother, and friend Brian is always someone I'm thankful for. Sure, we've come up with some really crazy patent ideas that we laughed at the next morning, but even the dumb stuff is fun with Brian. He may be quirky like I am (inventors are quirky), but he also has the kindest and fairest heart of anybody I know.

My other brother, Michael, together with his wife Leanna, brought two wonderful cousins into my kids' lives (and my life). We so enjoyed seeing all of the kids play together this year.

I am thankful also for what many people would consider the strangest of all relationships -- a close friendship between my current and former wives. They call each other just to talk, they work closely on raising my 9 year old, and they genuinely like each other. Blended families are never easy, but they can be fun, happy and healthy if the adults act like adults and actually like each other. I am so grateful that we have such a situation. My first wife plans to remarry this year, and I am very hopeful that her new husband will make my daughter's good situation even better. I hope to get to know her new husband well, despite the golfer (him)/non-golfer (me) disparity.

My wife and I have worked very hard to keep our marriage healthy and happy, and my good feelings about that are such that I don't think there is a word in the English language to really capture it. Happy-Grateful-Family-Close-Smile-Work-Reward-Yay-alicious?

It goes without saying that I am more thankful for my children than ever.

I've tried hard this year to strengthen my relationship with my in-laws. I am (as is obvious to anybody who knows me) pretty quirky at times, and I think that put a lot of strain on things. I think things with them are now pretty healthy, and I'm going to continue to work on making them feel as welcome in my life as my own parents do. I wish I lived in the same city as my brother-in-law. He, his wife, and their son are all wonderful, engaging people and I am so hopeful that I can get closer to them.

This year I revisited often the decision to not work at a law firm, with the 80 hour workweeks and enormous paychecks and bonuses. Each time I think about it, though, I realize that I've given up an incredible amount of money, but essentially paid for the ability to know my children and interact with my wife. It is still worth it. And more.

My former classmate continues to be President of the United States. Having a classmate do THAT is enough to make anybody wonder if they're working to their full potential. But the same logic applies -- in my old age, the worst regret I can imagine is that I didn't know my children. I will not have that regret, and all other regrets pale beside it.

I've become less trusting this year. I've become older. I've become more comfortable setting appropriate limits for my kids. I'm looking forward to finally getting some vacation time alone with my wife (nursing babies is an awesome way to raise happy kids, but doesn't make for easy travel away from the babies). I'm looking forward to vacations with the kids. I'm looking forward to going SCUBA diving with Eva (my first wife and current wife both don't like SCUBA -- Eva's psyched about it!). I'm looking forward to inventing more things, although I'm hoping to expand my area of work to include different art areas.

Mostly, I'm looking forward to time with my family, to building my friendships, and to trying to emulate my dad's "enjoy the good" attitude.

I pray that everyone gets or remains healthy and happy this year, but as I sit here today, with a wonderful wife, wonderful children, wonderful parents and brothers, and good friends, I consider myself a very lucky man.