Birthday Status Update: I’m Super Famous for 24 Hours Just for Surviving Another Year

Birthdays are sort of a funny thing.  And they’re also pretty dang awesome.

After a flood of friends and family telling me to enjoy my 29th birthday via facebook wall comments and mailed birthday cards, I decided to do what they said.  Since last October, I have been wanting a mountain bike.  So when a generous check came in the mail from my parents, I went out the next day to Dick’s Sporting Goods with a “$10 off” coupon and bought myself the mountain bike of my dreams, which conveniently had just went on sale, saving me an additional $70.

Owning a bike takes me back to the days of being a kid.  Because the backseats of my Honda Element fold individually into the sides of the car, I just fold up one seat and my bike easily stays put there.  And I keep my helmet and air pump with me as well.  That means that wherever I am, I can take out my mountain bike for a spin.

I am just too cool these days.

On Monday I explored some areas around my work place, which is outside of Nashville.  There’s this gated apartment community that is only accessible by car and by punching in the correct password on the gate.  Unless you’re on a bike.

It’s interesting how much I blend in like a wallflower when I’m wearing my helmet, dressed professionally, riding my 10 speed mountain bike.  No one questions me at all.  I rode throughout the neighborhood as people said hello to me, not realizing I wasn’t one of their own.

Then I found what I didn’t know I was looking for.  In the back of the neighborhood, situated on a hill, yet just hundreds of feet away from the living quarters, was a Civil War Era graveyard.  Buried inside are the first two original “white settlers” (as the sign explained to me) who stepped foot in Franklin, TN.  They came straight from Scotland.

With my awesome mountain bike, now I can go on more adventures like that during my lunch break.  Or at my house.  I don’t go anywhere now without my new manly accessory.

In addition to my parents’ gift, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a gift card for Barnes & Noble, so I was finally able to buy the two non-fiction books (Maps & Legends, and Manhood for Amateurs) by my favorite author, Michael Chabon, who of course is Jewish.  No other writer has influenced my writing style more than he has.

I could have bought those books a long time ago but it’s so hard for me to spend my own money on stuff I want, but don’t need.  That’s what birthday money is for.

As for my wife, she couldn’t have read my mind any better.  I honestly hadn’t thought much about what she would get me for my birthday, with me being so preoccupied about Baby Bean.  But she got me four things that we’re just perfect:

1)     A ceramic wedding ring.  In our almost two years of marriage, I haven’t been able to consistently wear my actual ring because I am allergic to the metal in it.  So I’ve settled for hemp rings hand-made by people up in hippy stores in Louisville who basically made them for me for free after hearing the sad story of me being so much in love with my wife but not being able to wear my wedding ring.  But now I wear an exact replica of my original ring.  It feels great to look like a married man.

2)     Three years ago for my birthday while my wife was living in Australia, she bought me a Fossil watch and mailed it to me.  About a year ago, the watch battery died and we never got around to replacing it.  But my wife took the effort and time to get the battery replaced so now I can wear my watch again, which matches my wedding ring- a metallic slate color.

3)     The newest CD from the half-Indian, half-American living legend, Norah Jones.  It’s always the right time for Norah Jones.  She’s this generation’s Bonnie Raitt, whom I also love.  Maybe I’m supposed to want a CD from someone manly, like the soundtrack to Iron Man 2 featuring ACDC.  But I am unashamedly a Norah Jones fan, just as much as I am a fan of Michael Buble, who put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.

4)     Lastly, speaking of gifts that arguably I should want if I was 20 years older than I actually am, my wife set up a weekend trip for us to stay in a Bed & Breakfast in northern Kentucky.

We don’t really do hotels.  Because I can only imagine how seldom the blankets get washed on hotel beds.  But with Bed & Breakfasts, you just know everything’s clean and classy.  Some of my friends have commented, “But isn’t that awkward?  Getting up in the morning and eating breakfast with people you don’t know?”   Not for us.  It’s fun.

Yes, they’re always my parents’ age or older and have kids our age, but it’s always interesting to meet other married couples traveling from different parts of the country for different romantic reasons.  We took our honeymoon up in New England and there was no one up there where we stayed who was our age.  We didn’t mind at all.

So there it is.  For all those who wished me a happy birthday this year, not knowing exactly what that would entail for me, now you know how it all went down.  Thanks for caring about my birthday.  It really does mean a lot.

Bottom image: Clover handcrafted signs (Oak Cottage)

dad from day one: The First Time Dad at Age 29 Club

At 8:37 tonight, I will turn 29 years old.

I can think of three 29 year-old first time dads right off.  John Krasinski playing Jim Halpert on The Office.  Zack Braff’s character, Michael, in the movie The Last Kiss.  And Kevin Bacon playing Jake Briggs in the movie She’s Having a Baby.  And now I shall be among them.

Of course, I’m not an actor or a character in a movie or TV show.  But it’s natural  to look at them and think, “Hey, I can relate to them. And if they can pull it off… so can I.”

I have a habit of subconsciously giving myself reassurance based on the lives of actors and fictional characters.  The truth is, we all do.  I admit I used the characters of Stephanie Tanner (from Full House) and Winnie Cooper (from The Wonder Years) as the standard of the girl I wanted to marry.

Mission accomplished.  My wife is a fun-loving all-American middle child from northern California (like Stephanie Tanner) and sweet, respectful, and passionate (like Winnie Cooper).  I can’t deny that my personal life is affected by fiction.

So I put myself in the shoes of the average guys I see on my TV screen every week.  I am average, like them.  Arguably normal, like them.  Clueless to fatherhood, like them.

And from what I’ve learned so far about being a first time parent is this: Being clueless is sort of the whole point.  No one actually knows what they’re doing.  It’s a character building experience, just like marriage.

I think of this banking commercial that was airing a few months back.  A first time dad brings his newborn home and holding the baby up to his eye level he says, “I know.  It’s not about me anymore.”

Yes, my life as I know it is ending.  In November I will begin Life: The Sequel.  I will instantly be transformed from Married Guy to Married Guy With a Baby.  Totally cool with me.

Because I can easily admit that the transition from Single Guy to Married Guy has done nothing but make me a better person.  I’m less self-centered and more easy going because I have less personal expectations to be met.  My expectations revolve around someone else, as a Married Guy.  I am a helper and a partner.  I don’t mind those roles.

So how much more will I improve in my journey of becoming a more giving person once the baby gets here?  I can only imagine: that much more.

Born into this world as a baby who was completely dependent on others for everything, I have spent 29 years learning to do things on my own, having no choice but to realize it’s not all about me, more and more each day.

I had nay sayers trying to warn me before I got married how much I would miss the single days of answering to no one.  But almost two years into being married, I don’t feel that way at all.  I was not cut out to be a Single Guy.  So glad those days are over.

While I am fully aware that having a baby changes everything, I welcome this change.  What good would it do to spend the next five or ten years just trying to save up money to try to afford to have a kid? I would never reach that point of affordability or personal readiness.

I was married at age 27, the average age for an American man to be married.  And I couldn’t find Internet research to back it up, but I would have to assume that it’s safe to say that age 29 is the average age of a married, first time dad.  Despite my overawareness of my own quirkiness, I live a pretty normal life.

And that’s what I want.  A normal life.  Dirty diapers and all.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com