Theodore is 5 Months Old

It’s odd to think that five months ago, I was holding my wife’s hand while a large mass of hair exploded out of her nether regions. Theodore still has his head full of hair but has gained so much more ever since that fateful winter day. He is now rolling over regularly – from his right side but not his left – and spends a considerable amount of time on his stomach. While on his stomach, he tries to worm his way across the floor in a manner akin to a sprinting Jabba the Hut. Each time a new person comes into the room, he smiles and welcomes them with a gift of regurgitated milk. The spit up is relentless, and we probably go through five outfits a day. Just the other week, Teddy looked into my eyes and pooped for 30 seconds straight; a connection of intimacy that I never thought was possible. My reading and writing have gone down significantly because we watch ESPN for most of the day. Why ESPN? When Teddy takes a nap, he needs background noise to stay asleep. Music never seemed to work, and so the TV provides his auditory stimulus. I can’t stand The View or any type of syndicated news – hence, we watch people argue about the NBA Finals all day long. I enjoy sports, but my knowledge of current events in the realm of athletics has reached an expert level; I can tell you the merits of Lebron staying in LA, the poor draft choice of the New York Giants, and even the prospects of Tiger winning another Major. I try to juxtapose ESPN with audiobooks so Teddy can have some variety; we just finished a biography of John Muir and are now tackling Vanity Fair.

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Christina is pretty well back to the groove of work – however, I chauffeur Teddy to her office regularly so she can smell his head. My biggest takeaway at five months is that Teddy can laugh. He doesn’t laugh often, but when he does, it is a magical experience. He is ticklish under his armpits and if you are ever so subtle…a small giggle will squeak out. In addition to the rare chuckle, we have reached the milestone of feeding him some solid food. His first ever sampling was mashed up banana – his mouth and face enjoyed it thoroughly. I grew up in a family where love was given through food – suffice to say I am excited to plump up this skinny Asian-baby. Speaking of weight, he is a sprightly 15 and a half pounds and is in the 33rd percentile in his size charts. I’m looking forward to the summer and taking him to the beach – we bought him a hat that will attract all the ladies. He has a lot of energy, and I believe he will be crawling within the next couple of months; this will be both a blessing and a curse because it will expend some of his energy but use up most of mine. I can’t say that I would want to go back to that day in January when “Cousin It” came out of my wife. The more Teddy grows and develops, the more I enjoy him – the baby phase is great and all but by no means I want him to stay this way forever. Here’s to the five-month point of the most tiring and fantastic year of my life.

PS – Here is a list of his current nicknames for posterity

Milk Man
Baked Potato 
Don Corleone
Brown Eyed Squirrel
Tweedy Bird
Hair Piece
Grumpy McGrumperson

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My Mom and South Sudan?

My Mom occasionally buys me books that she thinks I will like. She has bought me about ten books in the past couple of years, and all ten books were far from my usual reading selection. I try my best to have a diverse reading list, but my Mom is in a league of her own when it comes to getting me out of my comfort zone. The most recent example of her eclectic curation came from the book – What is the What by David Eggers. What is the What is a nonfiction book written as a fiction book…yes I did say my Mom expanded my horizons. It is technically a piece of fiction because it is the story of Valentino Achak Deng – one of the lost boys of the Sudanese war during the 1980s. Valentino was a child when the war occurred, and hence his first memories are not 100% accurate – but doesn’t take away from the real nightmare that made up the first two decades of his life.

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When Valentino was seven, his peaceful life in the southern region of Sudan turned upside down when war broke out. The war was between the SPLA, who wanted an independent South Sudan, and the government of Sudan who wished to maintain control over the area. Southern Sudan was primarily Christian while the political north was primarily Muslim. The Islamic government wanted to bring an Islamic state to the south, and the SPLA wanted to maintain its unique Afro-Christian identity. The conflict has been known to posterity as the Second Sudanese Civil War which began in 1987 and ended in 2005. During that time, two million people were killed – almost three and half times more people that died in the American Civil War – and thousands of children were left orphaned to fend for themselves.

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A large portion of those children were boys who were too young to enter into the SPLA and fled their homes to escape the conflict. Valentino was one of 20,000 lost boys who marched from South Sudan to safe havens like Ethiopia and Kenya. The boys walked to these places many times in small groups and had to endure starvation, government attack, and even predatory animals. Valentino witnessed his friends being dragged into the jungle by lions, shot by overhead helicopters, and eaten by parasitic flies after dropping dead from exhaustion. The walk he took consisted of hundreds of miles and months of toil – on several occasions, he laid on the ground for hours unable to move from extreme malnutrition and infection.

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Valentino was able to obtain some semblance of life at a Kenyan refugee camp that was funded by the United Nations. He lived in the camp for several years until the US allowed several Lost Boys to resettle in the states. While in the States he met Dave Eggers who recorded his story and wrote the book What is the What. Through funds of the book, Valentino started his own foundation to support education in Southern Sudan. South Sudan won its independence in 2011 but is still in conflict with various internal organizations – it is one of the most depressed countries on earth. I had no idea the turmoil in Sudan until reading this book, and it has ignited in me a desire to learn more about Africa in general. Oftentimes, we get consumed with our own interests that we miss seminal events around the world. All these things impact us, and we must continue to learn and help those who are suffering. Refugees need help more than ever, and we need to seek practical policies which benefit not only the “lost” but also the countries who take the “lost” in as citizens. Thanks, Mom, for expanding my horizon, and I always appreciate your eclectic tastes – I never thought I would be mentioning your name with South Sudan. Expand your world…I am continuing my expansion by reading a book that is far from my comfort zone – Emma by Jane Austen.

Here are 9 out of the next 15 books that I will begin in June:

Nabokov, Vladimir
Tennessee Williams

The Importance of Sleep

Writing this sentence is flat out exhausting. Why? Because I am so tired. Christina went back to work a month ago, and I took on the duty of watching my son during the night. I am not a night owl or a morning person. I am probably one of the most high-maintenance sleepers on the planet – 10:00 pm to 8:00 am is my sweet spot. Nine to ten hours a night is my goal, and with a child, that goal is laughable at best. I don’t have problems falling asleep or staying asleep during the night. My problems come during the day – I cannot sleep in, I cannot nap, and I cannot go to bed early. As soon as 8:00 am comes around, my eyes are wide open until 10:00 pm – no matter how much sleep I had the night before. For example, while in college, I tried to party like all my other classmates. I stayed up till 3:00 am, drinking, laughing, and having a good old time. Guess what? At 8:00 am I was awake while all my other friends slept till lunchtime.  The same problem occurred as a child during sleepovers. The chatter of young men would go late into the night, and everyone would finally fall asleep by early morning. Not me. I would stay up as long as possible – usually, I was the first to crash – and guess when my eyeballs would pop open? 8:00 am! Being the first to wake up at a sleepover is the worst experience in the world. After staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, I would sneak away to the bathroom. After relieving myself, it was inevitable to run into my friend’s mom – an awkward conversation at the kitchen table ensued until one of my deadbeat friends’ woke up begging for pancakes. For these reasons, I did not have many sleepovers in my life nor parties at college.

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I thought as an adult I would never have to worry about my sleep schedule – no more peer pressure from drunk friends or adolescent sleepovers with too much sugar. But plans never work out, and I married a woman who has virtually no requirements for her sleep. Christina can function on five hours of sleep and amazes me with her energy. Her whole family is impervious to sleep – my in-laws regularly wash dishes at 2:00 in the morning. I bring all this up because I believe my son has inherited my wives sleep requirements. He is a baby, and I know babies have weird sleep patterns….but Teddy is one of a kind. Teddy sleeps sporadically during the night but rarely naps during the day – combining both his parents sleep patterns. The result is a nightmare for my sleep requirements and my ability to be productive during the day. For the past two weeks, I have simply sat on the couch and watched reruns of SportsCenter. My brain was in a fog, and my reading felt like the mental equivalent of treading through quicksand. Suffice it to say, my Aristotle book is on hold until I can get better sleep. Things are improving though, and within the past couple days, I have had enough energy to move from the couch to write this blog. Teddy is starting to nap more and sleep for more extended periods – he is now four months old, so I think the future looks bright. My point for this blog is to remind everyone that sleep is the most essential thing in our lives. If we don’t have sleep, we can’t be our best selves – physically mentally, and spiritually. When we sacrifice sleep, we sacrifice our ability to philosophize, to be optimistic, to eat healthily, and to connect with God. If you have a baby, I feel your pain. If you don’t have a small child then I implore you to shut the electronics and get some shut-eye – nothing else matters. If you feel like a zombie, you will function like a zombie.

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Teddy’s Three Month Update

This week’s post is much more uplifting than my last post. My son is now three months old and healthy as a horse; 12 solid pounds, vibrant energy, and a strong appetite. At this moment, I am watching him play and attempting to roll over – it’s a half roll but I imagine he’ll get it within the month. Christina and I regularly change his clothes because of spit up – sometimes we have to change our clothes because of projectile pee. If you have been following our journey, you may be wondering how the cloth diapers are going? Thanks to my in-laws I have a stockpile of disposable diapers that will keep us supplied for at least two months. The hardest point in the last three months was when Christina had to go back to work. Christina is an awesome Mom and a much better caregiver than me – my son is currently glaring at me while I write this blog. We’re trying to balance the transition but Christina is constantly missing her little sweet potato. Christina spent nine years to get her doctorate and her career is something that I wholeheartedly support; that statement may sound funny coming from a stay-at-home dad/philosopher but I believe she is at her best when helping psychiatric patients.

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Some highlights of the last month were Teddy’s vaccines and his circumcision. Both occasions left Teddy grumpy, restless, and irritable. The vaccines were a no brainer but I got some flack for the circumcision. People were worried that the procedure could be botched and Teddy’s wiener would be permanently damaged. I am happy to inform everyone that new methods of circumcision are 100% safe – when I say 100%, I mean 100%. There are no knives or sharp objects involved – all they use is a plastic ring and a string. The string goes around the foreskin while the ring protects the penis; after 7 to 14 days the foreskin and ring fall off. Teddy was in discomfort for two days and after that, he was back to his normal self. If in the future he yells at me for defiling his penis I will guide him to procedures that can regrow his foreskin – yes they actually exist. I don’t feel bad about the decision but I wanted to dispel some myths that it is a barbaric/irreversible procedure. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the medical benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks: – risks that include post-operation infection and minor loss of sensitivity (a debated side effect that in gold-standard studies has been entirely refuted)(source)(source). If this subject interests you, I highly recommend reading the sources provided.

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Enough about circumcision. Let’s get to the cute pictures that our photographer took. Teddy continues to grow, mature, and marvel us with his personality and ability to fart hundreds of times a day. If you know a working mom, give her a hug – it is the hardest two jobs in the world. Thank you, Christina, for all you do and thank you, everyone, for the continued words of wisdom.

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My Health Problems – Bugs and God

Many of my close friends know this, but I have been struggling with tingling in my hands, face, and legs for the past three years. The tingling feels like bugs are crawling inside my skin – it is constant and never completely goes away. I am not in pain and do not feel any weakness or numbness – just a continuous tingling sensation day in and day out. What caused this to happen? I have two theories. First, three years ago, I went to a Piston’s game with a friend, and I drank too many Budweiser Selects. I was drunk the entire match and upon going home, I looked down at my feet and saw they were beet red. Along with the redness, I felt a mild tingling sensation – I was also up the entire night because of nausea. An important note is that I was never a big drinker in my 20’s and alcohol always impacted me more than my industrious friends. The day after the episode, I felt somewhat normal and the tingling had ceased. Midweek came and all of a sudden I woke up with tingling in my feet and a new phenomenon of tingling in my hands.

The first theory is that my three-year-long tingling is from a bad reaction to alcohol that somehow damaged my nervous system. I have not had a drop of alcohol since that Piston’s game and I now notice that my tingling gets worse when I am anxious or stressed. Here is the second theory: The month before the Piston’s game, I began an aggressive treatment to fix sciatic pain in my back through stretching and chiropractic manipulation. My back pain originated from a fall five and half years ago when I walked down an icy step of stairs and fell right on my lower spine – I laid on the cold ground for 10 minutes in excruciating pain. My 24-year-old self was not smart enough to seek treatment and instead, I went to the gym that day and squatted 250 pounds. For a year after the injury, I had to sit lopsided because there was too much pain on my right side to put any pressure. At this point, you can call me all the foul names you want – I agree with them wholeheartedly.

So back to the month of the Piston’s game when I was trying to aggressively treat my back injury. The chiropractor decided to treat my back with traction – a table that essentially pulls your back to extend it and relieve pressure. I felt no tingling while on the table but there was slight discomfort. Once my tingling began after the Piston’s game, many of my friends and family claimed it was caused by the traction. Today, when I do planks or specific exercises, my tingling gets worse. In respects to my facial tingling, that came about a year later when my wife had a miscarriage – my Mom gets facial tingling and I suspect that my facial tingling is unrelated to the tingling in my hands and legs. In the first year of tingling, I went to three doctors, had two MRIs, had 6 months of physical therapy, and still received no relief or answers.  So what is wrong with me?

To better answer that question, I recently went to another family doctor and a Neurologist. The family doctor didn’t think the tingling was from my back and prescribed me Cymbalta for anxiety – the Cymbalta made the tingling worse and destroyed my sex life. The Neurologist sent me to get an MRI of the brain to check for MS. The results showed that I have three lesions on my cerebellum, but I do not have MS. The Neurologist said the lesions didn’t look serious, but they could be benign brain tumors – in the end, they wouldn’t explain the tingling, and I have to go back in six months for another MRI. I’m not worried about the lesions because I have no symptoms that match a malfunction of the cerebellum. So I am back to square one.

At this point, I believe my leg tingling is from my back problems, my hand tingling is from back problems/anxiety/blood sugar changes, and my facial tingling is from pure anxiety.  I am not an overly anxious person, but I believe my anxiety manifests itself through tingling – other people may have headaches or stomach problems. Overall, my tingling has gotten significantly better since three years ago but my back pain is stubbornly persistent. I am still on a journey of discovery but I wanted to tell you all these things for one reason. God has helped me through all these trials and I am here today because of my faith. When it feels like bugs are crawling under your skin 24 hours a day, your mindset can go to dark places. I had the resolve to fight on because I knew people were praying for me and that in the end, everything would work out. I am a Christian for the very fact that I have seen God transform me over the past three years – wisdom truly comes through adversity. If you are feeling down, you are not alone. Google, social media, and even modern medicine will never be able to give you the strength to completely move forward. We are designed for a deep connection with our Creator – don’t push aside life’s greatest resource. I’ll keep you updated on about my lesions and tingling but, please keep me in your prayers.

If you have a struggle and need a sincere prayer, please email me at jonathan.oldham1@gmail.com.

Two Months of Fatherhood

My friends asked me a couple weeks ago if I was enjoying my time as a father. I hesitated for a moment because a firm “YES!” would have been a complete lie. I couldn’t blurt out a resounding applaud for my son because, at the time, Teddy was going through his 6-week growth spurt; apparently, babies have several growth spurts within the first year. He went from an angelic newborn with predictable sleeping habits to a grumpy-old-man who wants to escape the nursing home. There was nothing we could do to soothe him, and his fussiness tested my patience to the point that I fantasized about sleeping in the garage. The growth spurt lasted a couple of weeks, and we are starting to see some rays of hope. Teddy is now 2 months old and weighs a whopping 11 pounds. We took him in for his first round of vaccinations; he cried a little bit but we promised him  ice cream afterward – Christina and I really enjoyed the ice cream.

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If my friends asked me today if I enjoyed my time as a father, I would leap up and give them a hug. I know there will be more growth spurts and hard times, but Teddy’s personality is starting to blossom – a big deal to all fathers. Newborn babies stress me out, and you can’t really do much with them because they are asleep 90 percent of the time – either sleeping, eating, or crying. Two-month-old Teddy, on the other hand, enjoys kicking his legs, smiling, and getting his double chin squeezed. It’s not much, but for a father who has no maternal bone in his body, it is a big step towards one day throwing a baseball or talking about Plato. I find it interesting the difference between men and women during the baby phase. Christina is always on the verge of tears thinking of Teddy becoming a man. I, on the other hand, am excited about those formidable years of Teddy’s maturity.

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Of course, we both are going to enjoy the journey, but it is definitely apparent which part of that journey best fits our personality. Christina is an amazing Mom, and she could probably nurture a rabid dog to sleep. My forte is being a coach and motivator – attributes which don’t kick in until much later. This points to a key philosophical concept. Children need both masculinity and feminity while growing up – the Ying and Yang of parenthood. There is a lot of arguments over sex and gender in today’s world, but I don’t believe anyone can argue that it doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a village of people because men and women bring unique gifts to the table of life. There is a big problem today of men leaving their families; a father or male role-model is essential. Consider the following stats…

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (National Principals Association Report)
  • 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
  • 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
  • 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. [Rainbows f for all God’s Children]

To find out more information about fatherless households go to the National Fatherhood Initiative

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Some of these stats are from the 20th century but the findings today show the same detrimental pattern. We need good men to help raise the next generation of children – and I hope to be enlisted in that pursuit. So the next time my friends ask me how I am enjoying my fatherhood…I will try not to hesitate too long :).

 

Partition – Is It Ever A Good Thing?

I live in the United States of America and I am very proud of its melting pot of culture, religion, ethnicity, and political beliefs. In respects to religion, I am a Christian sharing this great land of freedom with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Scientologists – among many others. In general, people get along in America counter to what people see on the news and social media – the fact that it is “news” gives you a marker for context. This cohesion is in large part due to economic, social, and geographical cooperation. The fact that all 50 states have relatively fluid borders – sorry Hawaii – allows people to interact and form connections; connections which provide the zest to America’s delicious stew. Not everyone agrees with me on these points and some desire to split away from the red, white, and blue; nearly every election, there is a call for Texas, Northern California, Southern California, Florida, the south, or the north to form their own country. Today, around the world, there are serious calls for partition. To better understand this history of division, I read about one of the most contentious partitions in history – the separation of Palestine and Isreal – in the book O, Jerusalem! By Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.   

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The partition of Palestine occurred after WWII and was caused by several concurrent events: A British desire to withdraw from the region because of increased retaliation from both Jews and Arabs; reparations for Holocaust victims and Jewish refugees who had no place to go; an increased nationalist movement by Zionists; and the West’s desire to keep communism from gaining a foothold. The United Nations voted to partition the region in 1947 and on May 14th, 1948, the state of Israel became official. Partition began a war that still rages today between Arabs and Jews – the first year of conflict claimed the lives of thousands of men, women, and children. Between 1947 to 1967, the Arabs had the upper hand on the Jews with their control of Jerusalem and major trading settlements. The Jews flipped the table in the War of 1967, and since then they have been slowly suffocating the Palestinians. Today, the state of Israel, with the backing of America, maintains dominance in the region. That dominance results in the persecution of Palestinians and continued hatred between the two groups.

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My question is this – Why was Palestine partitioned in the first place? Why couldn’t the region be one cohesive state with multiple religions like America? Maybe a better question…Why does America support the current state of separation when it goes completely counter to her own beliefs? Another example of the disaster of partition is the formation of Pakistan and India in 1947 which resulted in the death of 600,000 people and today is one of the most dangerous borders in the world. On paper, partition seems like a great idea; divide people based on their differences and then each state will have cohesiveness. The problem is that we don’t live in a bubble and arbitrary borders don’t mean much in real life. When a partition occurs, it is impossible to expel all members of a religion or ethnicity – there will be Jews in Palestine, Arabs in Israel, Hindus in Pakistan, and Muslims in India. The result is an obvious division between states and greater conflict within countries because the “unwanted” groups are seen as “internal outsiders” – separate in identity and a matchbox for intra-neighborhood conflict.

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So is partition ever a good thing? I think not. I think the state can unify people under a common banner of religion, ethnicity, and culture. I am a white-Christian-male, but that doesn’t mean I should have my own country. I am an American and that means that I share a connection with all Americans. The key is a balance between the two extremes; we can respect differences while maintaining a collective identity. So what is the solution to the problems in Palestine and India? To start with, we need to be good role models of statehood – let’s show the world what it looks like to be unique and united at the same time. One of my favorite leaders is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He didn’t push for a separate black nation but pushed for a united America behind a universal belief – the belief that all men are created equal. Is this an easy thing to do? Heck No. Is this something that can work? Heck Yes. Change is slow, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. What’s impossible is unification through division.

 

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Alexander the Exceptional

It’s been a while since I posted about my reading because of my son’s birth and all the complexities that come with a newborn. However, there is no need to panic because I am still keeping up with my daily page goals. My current project is Tackle the Library – Aristotle – the completion date is scheduled for June 12th. Aristotle is the peanut butter to the jelly of Plato – both philosophers form the bedrock of Western thought. To better understand Aristotle, it is essential to decipher his teachings within the context of ancient culture. One way of understanding that context was through my most recent book – Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman. Alexander the Great was the student of Aristotle for three years, and during that time he learned about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art; a breadth of study that led him to be one of the greatest kings of all time.

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Alexander was born in 356 BC to the then Macedonian ruler, King Philip. Macedonia was a northern state of the Greek peninsula and was looked down upon by the more cultured city of Athens. King Philip expanded his territory through an advanced fighting force and paved the way for his son’s conquests. Alexander took over the throne at age 20 after his father was assassinated by a jealous male lover. The young king quickly consolidated his control of Greece and went eastward to conquer the hated Persians. Over the next ten years, Alexander traveled 11,000 miles and established the largest empire up until that point in history; at only 30 years old, he ruled the entire world from Egypt to India.

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All good things must come to an end – at 32, Alexander mysteriously died; some say it was poison while others say it was from natural illness. The death of Alexander led to the eventual decline of the Macedonian empire. Aristotle was eventually pushed out of Athenian society because of his former history with the great king. I marvel at the life of Alexander the Great because he was mature beyond his years. At 25, my average day entailed Facebook and TV. At 25, Alexander’s average day entailed riding a horse into battle and leading thousands of men to victory. I believe Aristotle played a vital role in the great king’s success; throughout Alexander’s campaign, he was concerned with the central tenets of Aristotle’s teachings: political justice, virtue, ethical leadership, and philosophical contemplation. Alexander’s success led to the founding of Alexandria in Egypt – the city became the epicenter of culture and intellectualism in the ancient world.

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For me, the story of Alexander and Aristotle points to one fundamental fact: Mentors and teachers make a big difference in a person’s life, no matter the age. I’m sure we can all think of that favorite teacher from long ago; my favorite teacher fostered a love of writing. What we must ask ourselves is whether we are a mentor in someone’s life right now? Are we passing the baton on to the next generation? Are we equipping our friends and family to live the best lives possible? How are we fostering the future Alexander the Great or even the next Alexander the Exceptional? Like the lighthouse of Alexandria and the great philosopher Aristotle, be a beacon of wisdom for the world.

 

Baby Mathematics

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Teddy is officially one month old! I would like to say that this month flew by because of sheer joy…but the truth is far more complicated. My son is a normal baby and hence requires a lot of attention, food, and diaper changes. Added to this “normal” baby workload is the fact that Teddy needs supplemental formula. During the first three weeks, we had to bird-feed him through a special syringe because we were told bottle feeding would confuse his tiny brain – apparently, the nipple on a bottle is different than my wife’s nipple. After several exhausting nights, we gave up on the arduous procedure of the syringe and went against the better judgment of the breastfeeding police. We gave him a bottle and it took him about 1 second to figure it out. The bottle along with breastfeeding helped Teddy gain 3 pounds within two weeks and helped us get some well-needed rest. I once took a class in “Animal Behavior” while getting my Biology degree – I think more than anything else, that class has gotten me through the past month. My son, for all intents and purposes, is like a little puppy right now. He doesn’t have any rational thought or reasoning – my  Chihuahua has a leg up on him at this point in time. It sounds harsh to say, but it is the truth – all babies start at the bottom of the IQ animal totem pole.

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There are three significant things babies want throughout the day: food, comfort, and security. The first two needs are pretty easy to figure out as a parent – feed the baby every couple of hours and change the diaper. The last need is what requires some knowledge of animal behavior. Teddy is very good at crying and grunting so that he will be held and feel secure. Unfortunately for Teddy, we both need sleep. When we lay him in the crib he grunts almost constantly, and after a month, I have deciphered the meaning of those grunts. A single grunt within a 10-minute timespan means he is dreaming of breasts. A double grunt within a 5-minute timespan means he is farting, pooping, or dreaming of a field of breasts. A triple grunt within a 2-minute timespan means he is about to wake up and cry for my wife’s breasts. Hence, instead of rushing to comfort him at every grunt, I now have a fickle system of baby mathematics.

For matters other than grunting, we took Teddy in for professional pictures, and I am proud to post them below. The photo shoot was exhausting, and I commend the photographer for her patience – Teddy feigned sleep like a cocaine addict on the first of the month. He is scheduled for more pictures at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months…please keep us in your prayers.

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A Hard Look in the Mirror

Everything is going great in the Oldham household. Christina and I are getting into a better sleep cycle after a lot of trial and error – we discovered that Teddy only enjoys resting on top of luxurious pillows. It feels weird being a dad but I am slowly figuring out my role; every morning I rock Teddy and listen to audiobooks – probably the best way to put a person to sleep. I thought that my reading goals would be threatened with a new baby, but I am getting back to my normal pace. My most recent book was What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan. This is a different book for me, but it was recommended by one of my favorite philosophers as one of the few non-charlatanic finance books. Essentially, those who are wealthy become wealthy through some combination of luck and skill. Some work harder than others while some get luckier than others. In all scenarios, there is a degree of egotism that impacts risk-taking. For example, take a trader who is having the year of his life. His trades never go wrong and he begins to feel more confident with his “patented strategies.” These strategies lead him to the deal of the century and he puts all his resources into one basket. Unsurprisingly, when the deal goes south, the trader convinces himself that he is right and everyone else is wrong – the final result is ruin and humility.

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I want to extrapolate this scenario to all walks of life. Have you ever continued in a bad situation because of blind rationalization? Have you ever disregarded sound advice? Have you ever been too stubborn to admit defeat? I can say yes to all three. We are very good at subjectivism. Subjectivism is a flawed philosophy that argues that the “good life” is whatever an individual perceives as “good.” Put in another way, if I believe the best life is one of hoarding cat poop, then that is the best life, and no one can tell me otherwise. Subjectivism makes it very difficult for us to see that we are in a bad situation and we need to redirect. How can we fight this mental entrapment? I believe the quickest way to redirection is through prayer and advice. Seek out wisdom and you will find wisdom – if the advice is hard to hear then you are in the right spot; true loved ones will not enable you and they will help you see alternative perspectives. Don’t surround yourself by “Yes Men” – agreeance is only reasonable to a certain extent. The most successful people in the world are successful because of their luck, their hard work, and their ability to take criticism. There are much worse things to lose than a million dollars – a subjective life can lead to abusive relationships, anxiety, and a sense of isolation. Pray to God for truth, call that friend up who tells it how it is, and give yourself a long look in the mirror.

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