Charles Bukowski and I share a birthday. So does Madonna. Frank & Kathie Lee Gifford. Yes, both of them. Elvis died on my birthday. The roller coaster was patented on my birthday.

Such seemingly random events occuring on August 16th explains a lot.

I’m having trouble grasping the idea of being 34 years old, though. Not in some mid-life crisis kind of way; more along philosophical lines, trying to understand what being 34 means. Or should mean, at least.

I’m married with two kids. I’ve achieved some modest success in my various pursuits. As I define it, anyway. I’m as happy with my life I’ve ever been. I have no real regrets – the trials of 2002 left me a better and wiser person overall – and I feel like I’m basically on the right track for keeping things that way.

I look around at other people my age, friends and associates, and for the most part, I think I’m as well off, if not better, than most of them.

But the question of whether or not all of that is enough, or even correct, intrigues me…

D’you call life a bad job? Never! We’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve had our struggles, we’ve always been poor, but it’s been worth it, ay, worth it a hundred times I say when I look round at my children.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965), ‘Of Human Bondage’, 1915

Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.

Zora Neale Hurston (1901 – 1960), Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942

Last week’s vacation did me some good. Getting away from it all is necessary sometimes. No internet, no cell phones, barely watched any TV. Did some reading, some shopping, got my ass kicked in Madden 2004 and rediscovered Dungeons & Dragons!

The first night out there was my birthday and I was pleasantly surprised that Frank & Andie made the trip for the weekend. One of our few married friends – I’ve stopped referring to them as Salomé’s friends – I can’t wait until they have their own kid(s). That’s one of the things that’s been severely missing from my current group of [mostly single] friends and something that kept me from fully reconnecting to that group when I came back from Virginia.

As Jay Ward put it when we spoke a couple of months back, “You done grown up!”

Having children is a dividing line, even more so than being married. Your priorities completely change, your life is no longer your own and it takes a while to fully make the adjustment. Not having any friends with kids made it particularly hard for me. In a way, it’s been something of a weeding process as you find out who your real friends are when you’ve got less time to give them. Who has their head on straight, regardless of their familial status, and who’s just an acquaintance passing through.

Anyway, a week in a house in the woods with four kids was both fun and exhausting. It also made me realize how subtle the nuances of parenting really are. Kids are sponges and the habits they develop at the youngest of ages play such a huge role in how they grow up. I think I take for granted how smart Isaac is, forgetting he’s not even three yet, until I see him interact with kids older than him and realize how good a job we’re doing with him. They’re also a joy to watch do their thing. India, in particular, is extremely independent, something I’m very happy to see. the result of being the second child, I guess. I don’t imagine Isaac will ever have to fight any of her battles for her. If anything, she may end up defending him! Having them grow up around their cousins will be a good thing, too.

Would like to make a point of taking a week-long vacation every year with as much family as possible. Maybe get the Harper side involved next year.

Speaking of next year, I’m making a To Do list for the run-up to 35. I’ve got 356 more days to get it all done:

1. Write 3 short stories/novellas; publish one;

2. Write & publish 2 articles, one non-poetry-related;

3. Produce 3 performance events;

4. Go back to school;

5. Reconnect with my not-so-inner nerd;

6. Lose 5 more pounds and tone up;

7. Unsubscribe from the poetry_slam listserve.

The last one is the easiest and will be taken care of in the next day or two, soon as I catch up here at work (came back to a new boss!) and numbers 3-5 are works in progress (Empire State College, Icewind Dale II & NYHRC). The first three, though, will be tough to get started on as I’m a terrible procrastinator.

The short stories will be a challenge because poetry has both shortened my attention span and narrowed my field of vision. The articles will be tough because of pure laziness in regards to the necessary research and legwork. The events should be relatively easy, especially if I can work out a few reasonable dates at the BPC.

All in all, if I took care of all seven of these things – on top of the everyday stuff like paying the rent and being a good husband and father – I’d feel like I accomplished a lot.

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