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In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t post on this blog very much anymore–and I’m not sure how much I really will ever again, as I’m shifting my limited time for writing efforts over to my Dad blog, my Medium page, and my newsletter.

“You have a newsletter, Matt?” Why, yes, I do. I’m glad you asked! And you can subscribe to it by clicking this link.

I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to write long and deep blog posts here, but I’ve realized that a father of three just ain’t got time for that. I tried this newsletter idea a couple years ago, and our current “Shelter in Place” situation has me craving the ability to just share shorter-form writing.

The newsletter will provide some (briefer) written thoughts as well as links to anything I’ve written elsewhere, other links/videos/music that I find and want to share, and whatever else happens to strike me as worth including. I don’t know how long or if I will keep it up, but I have not given it a name tied to a single decade of my life, so at least I won’t be limited in that regard.

Rounding 30 has served me well, and I’m honestly proud of how often I wrote in it to wax poetic on the big moments of the last 8 years–especially capturing the details and emotions of my cancer journey. I frequently return to these posts and have been gratified by the site traffic and emails I receive from fellow cancer fighters and survivors who have happened upon it and found it worthwhile.

If you enjoy my writing, I hope you subscribe to my Dad blog using the subscription box on the home page or to my newsletter, or just send me an email at roundingthirty at gmail.com and I can manually add you to one or both.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me both in my writing and in this wonderfully blessed life that I’ve expended so many words writing about. It’s almost time to round 40, and hopefully you’ll stay tuned for those adventures, too.

These Are the Good Old Days

I recently happened upon this magnificent post by Michele Weldon, my one-time college journalism professor, two-time work colleague and all-time fellow cancer survivor.

The piece is remarkable in its poignancy and enviable in its prose. I read through it a few times–and even though Michele and I are not that close in age–her words really resonated, shocking me into a renewed sense of gratitude for my current moment in life that has lingered long after I closed the tab on her essay.

One image Michele offered hit me particularly hard in the taking-my-life-for-granted department:

I am the old lady in the lap lane … I swim in the same pool where I took my three children when they were young and never seemed to get tired; now I wonder how many laps I have left in me.

While I don’t swim, I immediately applied this haunting passage to my own life and the things I do with my kids. I could suddenly see myself walking the two blocks to the beautiful park by our house on a sunny summer Saturday, pulling my two beautiful kids behind me in the second-hand Little Tikes wagon our neighbor gifted to us. I could see myself idly checking my phone as I pushed my kids in the swings, preoccupied with thoughts about a work project and impatiently wondering when it would be nap time so I could take them back home and finally get some time to myself.

I didn’t hear the question my three-year-old daughter was trying to ask me until she raised her voice in frustration to ask it a third time. I didn’t notice that my one-year-old son was smiling up at me as he laughed with each thrilling sway of the swing. This outing had become a time-killing necessity, not a joyful bonding moment. I was embodying the kind of father I swore I’d never become–unengaged, unaware and ungrateful.

I didn’t notice the elderly man sitting on the park bench, wistfully taking in the Rockwellian scene of a father spending quality time with his two children. In this revery, I’m that guy, too. I’m the old man in the lap lane–walking ever more slowly the two blocks to the park where I spent so much time with my kids. There were times when I didn’t appreciate it enough in the moment, but there were even more times when I did. All of those times are enough to bring a tear to the old man’s eye, and to this younger man’s eye as I think about that scenario.

I am grateful for Michele’s essay as a pause button in the midst of my seemingly chaotic life to force me to realize anew that these are the good old days. This chaos is what I was created for and what I have craved.

When Theresa and I were dating, one of us said that we would look back on that time of our relationship as “a real Golden Age.” We meant this in all seriousness at the time, but we have since frequently laughed at the remark, as time has proven its arrogance and inaccuracy. Despite the temptation to view those unencumbered, carefree, dopamine-fueled days as the summit of our association, the reality is that there have been countless better times since we got married. And these are the times that I want to fully invest myself in so that when I really do become that old man on the park bench, the single tear on my cheek is full of joy and not regret.

I don’t fear the reaper of the lap lane–I know I’ll be there eventually. My greatest fear is the sin of preoccupied apathy–robbing myself of truly experiencing special moments, memories and interactions because I’m simply not present enough or too wrapped up in my work, my stress and myself to even notice the specialness anymore.

There is no denying the seasonality of life. It’s what we unknowingly signed up for. You don’t get the thrill of the rollercoaster’s drop without first taking the arduous journey up the long hill of the track. But it’s as important as it is difficult to try to admire the view as you rise, to enjoy the excitement of the descent and to bask in the afterglow when the rollercoaster is back in the station. There’s value in all of those stages, and we miss the point of the ride when we fail to recognize that.

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The Mundanity of Marital Bliss

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Today marks three years of marriage for me, and since this blog’s niche seems to be mostly about the passage of time and marking milestones, I can’t afford not to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

First of all, I know that three years sounds like a fairly insignificant amount of time about which to wax poetic, but it certainly feels a lot more monumental to me. I think that’s because each year of my marriage has been defined by a huge life experience.

To review:

Year 1: Cancer!
Year 2: Pregnancy!
Year 3: Baby!

I sometimes think about how we might have reacted if at our wedding reception we had magically been shown a movie trailer providing a tantalizing glimpse of what the next three years would hold. Would we have run screaming out of the ballroom? Would we have been a little more reflective whilst doing The Wobble on the dance floor? Would we have wondered where the Candid Camera was hidden?

Regardless of our imagined reactions to a hypothetical scenario, we still would have been forced to do exactly what we did—live through it all and rely on each other every day.

Marriage is not a movie trailer. It is not defined by the big moments and the dramatic reveals. A more realistic trailer would show how mundane married life really is, even when you’re dealing with an admittedly outsized number of intense life events over a short period of time.

The true-to-life trailer would have Oscar-worthy scenes of me texting Theresa about what time the train will get me home from work and Theresa replying to ask about my dinner preferences. It would feature suspenseful scenes of Theresa finding out that we somehow owe money on our income taxes and me desperately trying to finish mowing the last few rows of my lawn before the bag fills up. Will he make it?!

My point is that marriage—even a quote-un-quote exciting marriage like mine—is far less action-packed than it seems like it will be. It’s mostly about just going through your daily life, but with the added complexity of going through it with a partner.

That complexity is the key to the whole thing. If you’ve found the kind of partner with whom you would happily watch paint dry, the day-to-day “drudgery” can be pretty darn fun. Big stuff like getting through cancer, going through pregnancy and raising a baby will be similarly enjoyable (OK, maybe some more enjoyable than others) because you have entered into a partnership that enhances your life and makes the mundane moments manageable and the important moments magical.

I’m filing jointly now—in taxes and everything else.

But marriage is a process, not a proclamation, and there’s no guarantee that we’re always making things manageable or magical for each other. These three years have taught me two main lessons about how to be the loving, selfless husband that I want to be: how far I’ve come from who I was when I was single and how far I still have to go.

Sometimes it’s the day-to-day disagreements that stack up to the point where you’re tripping over each other as you try to walk around them. Other times it’s a seemingly fundamental fight that in the moment makes you wonder how you’ll ever come back together on the issue.

Thankfully, the balms of heartfelt apology, authentic forgiveness and eventual laughter have soothed wounds both big and small. We agree that the partnership is the best thing we have going—and that our partner’s influence is helping us to become the people we are meant to be.

As parenthood became the focus in Year 3, the centrality of our partnership became more complex and crucial than it had been during disease or pregnancy. We brought a new life into the world together—and introduced a host of new joys, sorrows, worries and wonders with which to grapple. With a third member added to our party, we found more magical moments to enjoy together and more opportunities for the marital rubber to hit the road. Our beautiful daughter required us to individually push ourselves to our limits of time, energy, and enthusiasm, while also requiring us to support each other and protect our partnership more than ever.

Even with our diverse experiences in the first two years of marriage, it was still hard. It remains hard. But as Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, it’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great. And the last three years of my life have been a whole lot better than great.

I try not to let a day pass without being grateful that Theresa and I found each other and for the innumerable blessings that have flowed into my life by hitching my wagon to her star. To have lived through and learned so much by her side in just three short years of marriage makes me wonder what mundane and momentous experiences await when three years becomes 30 and 30 becomes 50. Is there a movie trailer for that?

I love you, Theresa. Happy(est) three years.

And Then There Were Three

Dear readers,

I’ve been lying to you.

I recently wrote a post about the joys and sorrows, challenges and opportunities that came my way in 2015. But I left out the best part of the story–2015’s parting shot:

My wife is pregnant!

There was no angel in sight when we got the positive pregnancy test, but we still found ourselves asking “How can this be?” We discovered this joyous news almost one year after my oncologist had told us in no uncertain terms that there was a high likelihood that chemotherapy would render me sterile.

While we trusted in God’s plan for my cancer treatment and His guidance of the broader narrative of our lives, this was one of the more difficult cancer side effects to cope with. Theresa and I both felt called to be parents and had been excited about growing our family with a child (or two…or more) in the future. My oncologist (at a Catholic hospital no less!) told us that sperm banking would make it easier for our childbearing scenario to still occur after chemo, but we prayed about it and decided to follow the Church’s teachings and accept whatever outcome God had in store for us.

Now it appears that the outcome is a positive pregnancy test when we weren’t even trying! What a miracle!

After I finished chemo, we were instructed not to get pregnant for at least a year. As it turns out, that had more to do with the thought that we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant for at least a year and nothing to do with there being any sort of increased risk to our baby. Another miracle!

We’d like to thank Saint Peregrine, God and everyone who prayed for us over the last year. God clearly has more adventures in store for us, or maybe he just really likes reading my blog posts. Either way, you can follow my newly established Daddy blog–Dad Has A Blog–to read about what’s been happening since that fateful test. Here are a few pertinent details to whet your appetite: We are 11 weeks along and our baby is due August 5, we’ve already heard the heartbeat, Theresa has had terrible morning sickness (that is thankfully starting to get better), and it’s difficult to come up with a name that sounds good with my last name.

Since my 30s continue to be a wacky and wonderful decade, I will continue to post to this blog with updates related to Lumpy, random posts of my thoughts and musings, and anything else going on in my life, but the baby-related updates will all be at the new blog.

Please continue to pray for my wife and our baby! We are blessed beyond measure and excited out of our minds! All of the sudden, we are setting the stage for a new era of our lives. It’s crazy what can happen when your wife pees on a plastic stick.

mated