Today I turn 44 years old. I don’t feel much different from 43. Some days I feel like I’m 26. Other days I feel like I should be retired and taking chondroitin with my prune juice and egg whites in the morning. Tomorrow I’ll probably feel feeble and in my 80s because I worked in the yard today.

So it goes.

I’ve got no complaints about aging another year. Maybe if it could slow down a bit, I’d like that. I’m getting grayer and more sore quicker than I like. My kids aren’t so small anymore, either. Nap time, trips to the Children’s Museum, and that crazed look of glee on Christmas Eve have faded to quiet indifference and sleeping past 9am on Christmas morning(I’m okay with that  part.) Time, it’s a fickle beast. Jane can’t stop this crazy thing we call life. It keeps moving whether you’re ready or not.

Every birthday makes that all the more clearer.

I remember as a kid on birthdays I’d have at least one set of grandparents show up for cake and awkward glances as I’d run around the house in Superman Underoos(c’mon grandpa, you’ve never seen a 16-year old boy run around the house in just his underwear. You were a free mason for God’s sake.) I remember my 7th birthday party and the neighbor girl came over with her mom and I hid behind my mom for the first hour. I guess that was my first taste of dealing with the opposite sex. Birthdays were a learning ground for so many things. My 12th birthday party was the best. Me and 4 of my best friends went to Pizza Hut and then came back to my house where they all spent the night. We stayed up watching lousy horror movies and playing with GI Joe figures and Transformers. I think three of us stayed up till close to 4am that night.

My 21st birthday I bought my first new vehicle, a 1994 Nissan pick-up. My parents and older brother drove me to Fort Wayne to pick it up. My brother drove home with me and afterwards we went to the Ye Old Pub in North Webster and ate fried fish and I had my first official “of age” beer, which was a Michelob on draft. Two years later I spent my 23rd birthday in our new home. We’d only been in the house for less than a week so it still had that “empty, we’re new to this homeowner thing” feel. I’d gotten the flu and spent the day between my bed newly minting the toilet.

I have lots of birthday memories. Most of them good. Maybe a couple not so good. But the one thru-line is that you better enjoy ’em as they come because one day you’re hiding behind your mom as she lights the candles on your Boba Fett birthday cake while a confused 8-year old girl looks on, and the next you’re sitting on the couch, newly minted a ripe old 44-years of age typing on the couch as your wife of 21 years and your 12-year old son are in the kitchen making you a pineapple upside down cake.

To another year of learning and loving. To another year of figuring out the difference between relief and joy. To another year of enjoying these days as they come. As they slap you right in the kisser.


Ten Years Gone

Audrey JeanI can’t believe how fast the last ten years have gone by.  That’s no more apparent than when I look at my kids.  We celebrated our oldest daughter turning 13 last week.  A milestone in the life of a kid.  The kid turns to a teen, and the parent turns slightly less cool than they were before.  Well, yesterday our second oldest turned 10.

Ten years ago yesterday we entered the hospital around 7am and proceeded to wait for the entire day while our Audrey Jean decided when she was ready to come out into the world.  It was a long day.  Lots of lousy daytime television and maybe some cards.  I can’t recall.  But finally after a day of waiting, napping, pushing, more pushing, and visits from grandparents and fellow mothers-to-be, Audrey decided it was time.  I’ll never forget the moment, for it was a birth unlike any we experienced with either of our other kids.  You see, Audrey was a big baby.  We knew going in that day that she was a big bundle of joy(my wife attests her size to several trips to the frozen custard stand in town…two trips in one day so the legend goes), but once Audrey was in the birth canal and ready to “go towards the light” as it were, we knew it was not just heresay.  I can remember very vividly standing next to my wife encouraging her to do the breathing thing, telling her she was doing great in-between the doctor telling her to push, push, push.  Audrey wasn’t delivering as quickly as they wanted her to.  So before I realized it, the nurse was literally on top of my wife pressing down on her stomach in order to pop our Audrey out like a cork.  There was a certain amount of panic I was feeling at that point, suddenly thinking they may have to do a c-section.  Was my wife or our baby in danger?  But before I could work myself up into a full-on panic attack out popped our Audrey Jean, all 10lbs, 3oz of her.  She was a beautiful baby girl.  She was our crying sack of potatoes.

Audrey Jean can be the most  bull-headed kid you’d ever meet, but she is also the sweetest kid you’d ever meet.  She thinks about everyone around her before herself.  Whenever she has money she wants to spend it on every0ne, not just herself.  She’s also the kid with the common sense in the house.  While her sister borders on genius, Audrey is like the street smart kid.  She calls bullsh*t when she sees it, never letting her older, brainiac sis pull the wool over her eyes.  She’s always offering to help me around the house.  She’s my record flipper as well.  She knows when an album is going to end and she’s waiting patiently to flip it so we can keep the tunes spinning.

Ten years gone?  No, ten years gained.  Ten years with one of the sweetest little girls I’ve ever known.  She makes me proud.  Oh, so very proud.


Birthday Wishes and the Meaning of Life

Birthday boy

So my son turned 8 years old yesterday.  One more year down.  One more year that has blown out of the car window called life.  If you ask him how the year went, he’d give you a weird look and say “I don’t know.”  I think that’s a fair answer coming from an 8 year old boy.  His biggest concerns are what’s for dinner, Ninjago Legos, and The Avengers.  If you grow up in a good home with parents that love you and let you be a kid, well those are the kinds of concerns you should have.  I think my wife and I have done our best to give our kids the kind of childhood an adult looks back on longingly and lovingly, not with resentment or cold disinterest.  My parents gave that to me, and I’m very grateful to them for that.  It’s my duty to return the favor to my own children.

I feel like the last couple of years I’ve been on an upswing.  For awhile I felt like I was struggling to find the rails.  I felt like my identity was fading into a routine of work, household chores, cooking, yard work, and worrying about paying bills.  I was becoming bitter before my time.  The past 10 years had finally caught up with me.  I was trying to wear too many hats.  Husband, father, employee, musician, accountant, gardener, chef, and probably ten others I can’t think of at the moment.  But over the last couple years I’ve come to realize that the problem I’d been having all along was that I only need one hat.  Within that hat contains many things that make up who I am.  When you compartmentalize all your identities you end up neglecting one, or two, or 8 of the others.  When I realized that all those elements combine to create the super being known as J. Hubner, well life for me got a whole lot more beautiful.  Husband and father come first and formost.  Without those two integral titles the rest of those identities mean absolutely nothing.  Ever since June of 1996 when I became a husband, the evolution of J. Hubner has been moving forward.  In 2000 when I became a father for the first time that evolution became that much more important.  Not only had  I begun sharing my life with someone whom I planned to be with till the end of my evolution(death), but I had created life with that person.  Those two events have pushed me forward.  I’ve occasionally stumbled from the force of that push, but I’ve gotten up and kept moving.  This life is far too important to just lay there and get crushed.  The musician aspect of my identity allows me to express myself artistically.  I’ve written stories since I was a little kid.  I’ve played music since I was 12.  In some ways, music is one of the first identities I created.  It was the first hat, if you will.  But as you move on in life, the hats can weigh you down.  Like I said, some hats tend to take priority over others and things get confusing.  I’ve learned that these hats, or labels, or identities(pick your metaphor), only start to bog you down.  They become masks.  It gets hard to breathe behind them, folks.  I got tired of struggling for breath.

So this weekend I celebrated the day my beautiful baby boy was born.  Presents were opened, cake was eaten.  We laughed.  A lot.  In between all of this I had a glimpse of the meaning of life.  It’s simple, really….

start appreciating, dummy.  Hat optional.

Poppa and Momma