Happy New Year!

First, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa……. I dropped the ball and I wish I could say there was some specific circumstance that caused my radio silence and delinquency in writing. Truth is, yes I was busy, but I frankly did not prioritize and carve out time in my schedule for writing, something I hope to remedy moving forward.

Which brings me to the subject of this post: the New Year! Now I know that many of you will be scratching your heads and wondering how I’m possibly wishing everyone Happy New Year over a month after January 1, but I’ll explain.

My shift in perspective happened years ago when the Chinese New Year happened to fall on my birthday in February. It all of a sudden dawned on me that for everyone – every person on Earth – their *true* New Year was, in fact, their birthday. That’s when your clock begins, so why do we prioritize January 1 over that very personal date?

For me, selfishly, this worked out pretty well. I found New Years resolutions very difficult. Frankly, I’d be lucky if I made it through the holidays unscathed, and I can guarantee, there was very little time in December contemplating just what I wanted to embark upon for the next year. The result was that I began January hazily, and never really firmed up any resolutions, or had the generic resolutions we all have without any thought to specifics and execution.

Enter the (Birthday-centric) New Year

The lucky coincidence of my birthday being at the beginning of February meant that if I used that as my starting point, I had all of January to recover from the holidays, get a little bit back to “normal” and really give some meaningful thought to my resolutions. I have to say that this has had some pretty good results over the years.

Oh sure, I could be even more prescriptive and perhaps even establish clearer benchmarks or leading and lagging indicators for meeting my goals (if I totally want to geek out), and in some cases I have done so by default even if not explicitly. But, it definitely has paid better dividends than the failed attempt to center my annual goals around January 1.

So What’s Up for This Year?

Welp. I wish I could say I was super and uber specific and prepared this year, but I’m going to be honest and say I’m not, entirely. I have a few general things that have become a perennial set of goals I’ll mention and then a couple of new ones, even if I could have done a better job outlining them before embarking upon them.

Health and Wellness

I wish I could *not* be that guy who defaults to the generic health resolutions every year, but, alas I am – with a twist. See, another reason I found my Birthday New Year to be helpful was the way it gave me some “wiggle room” around the holidays. Basically, if I was very disciplined nutrition and exercise-wise most of the year, I felt like I could loosen the reins a bit during the holidays. As a result, I generally begin my “relaxed” period on Thanksgiving Day and allow it to run through (my) New Year in February. Now, I generally try not to go absolutely CRAZY during this period; however, it really helped eliminate a lot of the guilt if I ate something “off plan” at a holiday party (not to mention both Thanksgiving and Christmas themselves!), or the feeling of either needing to avoid these situations to stay “on plan,” or the societal cost of coming off sanctimonious by attending but not indulging in anything offered. That said, this year, due to our Disney trip I was a bit more off the rails than in a typical year, so I’ll have some ground to recover moving forward.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, health or nutrition professional so I’m not qualified to give any advice on diet or exercise. I’m only reporting what has seemed to work well for me in recent years and what my “goals” are for this new year.


I’ve experimented with a variety of different nutrition plans (I prefer this term to “diet” per se, since I think it helps to think of it more as a lifestyle than a set of restrictions if possible) over the years. What has worked the best for me in recent years has been the ketogenic diet. I’ll be honest and say some of the biggest draws for me are the fact that I can eat keto and keep a few things in the mix:

  1. Cheese. I. Just. Love. Cheese. Full stop.
  2. Meat. I’m a carnivore at heart. I have eaten for periods of times with meat substitutes, and do actually quite enjoy many of them, but I’m a sucker for a good burger or a good steak.
  3. Booze. Keepin’ it real – I’m a parent of a young child, and I like to have a cocktail. Now, keto has adjusted what I can drink (pretty much only hard alcohol, like vodka, with zero calorie mixers like seltzer) from what I used to drink (I’m a sucker for a good bottle of wine), but at least it’s an option without feeling like it’s completely tanking my progress.

So, my body had just reacted pretty well to keto compared to some of the other nutrition plans I’ve tried, so I’ve actually kept it as my primary state for the last four years or so. One new thing I introduced in the last couple of years that has also seemed to work well for me is intermittent fasting.

I started my intermittent fasting on as wide a band as you could: a 16/8 split. This basically means that you don’t eat for 16 hours (this usually includes the sleeping hours to make it at least somewhat easier/doable), and can eat within an 8 hour window. I’d basically skip breakfast, have lunch around 12 and then make sure dinner was done by 8. Last year I started expanding the fasting window to the point where many days I was only eating (a very hearty) dinner, but was generally fine and not feeling deprived throughout the day.

My plan for this year is to continue this intermittent fasting with a keto-based diet. I will probably start with a closer to 16/8 split and ramp back up to a shorter window, possibly even one meal per day again.

The next piece is a new experimental resolution. I am going to try a 24 hour fast once a week. Considering I have, at times, gotten down to one meal a day, this may not be a super heavy lift, but having heard about some of the benefits of true fasting, I am going to experiment with this to see how my body reacts. I plan on approaching this like I did with intermittent fasting originally – started with one plan and try variations and checking in with how my body feels as I go before settling on an approach (or abandoning if it’s just not something my body reacts well to).

Wim Hof Breathing and Cold Showers

I’ve been a big fan of Wim Hof’s breathing exercises for awhile, and even experimented off and on with the cold showers piece of his training regimen. My plan is to follow the printout he provides on his website to ramp up over time beginning with a short cold shower, and eventually increasing the time. Not gonna lie, this is huge for me. I grew up in Southern California, and despite living in the Boston area now, I absolutely HATE the cold. This is one of those “get outside of your comfort zone” resolutions. Pray for me.


It goes without saying on a blog entitled “Zen and the Art of Parenting” that some meditation is incorporated. Stay tuned for a future post on my history of meditation and my current regimen and tools that I find helpful.


I successfully completed P90X during a previous “milestone” birthday year. Last year I completed Shawn T’s “Focus T-25,” which I found much more conducive to a parent’s schedule with its workouts all strictly capped at 25 minutes. I found it very effective, and plan on taking my favorite sessions and rotating them to get back into the swing of things. Real talk: I hit my goal weight and felt very good about myself by the time of my Thanksgiving Day “grace period,” in large part to this workout program. I have put back on about 10 lbs, so have my work cut out for me to get back into fighting shape. What I can say (thanks to my friendly Fitbit app) is that over the last five years or so since I’ve been tracking my vitals and stats, each time I bump back up, the bump up tends to be lower than the previous year’s bump, so overall the trend is good. Over the 10 months I work hard my lows get lower, the highs in the grace periods don’t go as high, and overall I feel great. I’m toying around with the idea of reprising P90X again at some point this year (because it’s another milestone birthday year), but haven’t decided if I want to commit to that yet or not. I’d love to do it, but I am also trying to be realistic given the fact I’m now a parent, which I was not the last time around. Stay tuned.

Reading Fiction

This was actually a Birthday New Year’s resolution a couple of years ago but I have maintained it and have found it has profoundly enriched my life. I used to LOVE reading fiction and read almost nothing but fiction as a kid, unsurprisingly. As I got older and started reading to acquire skills or improve my life, I realized a couple of years ago I couldn’t actually remember the last fiction book I’d read. I crowdsourced a list of fiction books to try out and have been making my way through it ever since. To be clear, I still read plenty of nonfiction books aimed to improve myself; however, I realized that reading for the sheer pleasure and joy of it was also something that was important to me.

Be A Better Father

No pressure. I have to say, I really don’t feel terrible about how I’m doing as a dad on a day-to-day basis. I am fortunate that I work mostly from home and that gives me a lot of opportunities to spend time with Maya that I wouldn’t have been able to have in some of my prior positions. Instead of being out the door before she’s even awake to beat the traffic into the city, I am able to cook her breakfast, get her ready for the day, and sometimes walk her to school. I have the flexibility to volunteer in her classrooms from time to time, and I also am the primary evening-time parent since Michael works in a service industry meaning evenings are a moneymaking time. That said, I know I can engage even better and even more. My new goal is to sit down with her while she’s eating dinner, even if I am not eating my dinner until later (one downside of the keto diet is that there’s very little overlap between your food and your child’s food) and engage with her on how her day went instead of running around doing things “for” her instead of “with” her. Sure, I read her books and talk with her before bed, but adding this extra time can only add value to both her growing up experience as well as our relationship.

Be A Better Husband

I had been doing a pretty good job of this back in the fall, but let it slip when we were getting into the holidays and prepping for the trip. My goal is to make sure we have some sort of a “date” once a week. Date, in this sense, is defined very loosely and flexibly. It costs a lot of money for a sitter, and to layer that on top of the cost of going out and eating dinner, or going to a show, or fill in the blank, it’s a lot of extra expense every week for connection that can be gotten just as easily in other ways. Working from home and having negotiated flexibility into my hours at work, we can go out for coffee (much cheaper!), go for a walk (when the weather finally warms up), or just hang out for a half hour at home and connect as a couple rather than as parents of a daughter, which is what we too often feel is our only role and identity.

Improve Our Finances

Everyone’s always looking toward some version of this, right? My goal is to reduce our monthly spending by $1,000. I’m pretty good about tracking our spending using YNAB, and quite frankly, there’s a lot of fat we can trim. One area I have already started with is reducing existing costs by shopping for better deals and sales and reducing the amount of markup we’ve been paying for convenience. We have been paying a premium by having Amazon Fresh deliver our groceries and all sorts of other items instead of making sure we’re getting the best deals. Part of that started out of a need for convenience. It just saved so much time once Maya came along to not have to go out shopping when you factored in getting her ready, dressed, buckled in, and then taking her out for every trip, the carrying or the slowness of the walking pace of a toddler…. It just seemed easier to buy as much as you could online, and then you also got to spend more time with her at home instead of out running errands. Now that she’s older, things are in a different place, and there a lot of things we buy on a regular basis that we can save a ton of money on by just putting in a little extra effort. I found an Excel spreadsheet to help calculate the price per unit of items we buy to decide which version is most cost-effective and help me get re-sensitized to what a good price per pound something is. I expect even this initial step to pay off some pretty good dividends in meeting my $1,000 goal, but I’ll mention if I find anything else worth sharing that might help others.


We end as we began. I have already put in the calendar for next week the times I plan on writing each day for a half hour, and posting twice a week – once on Monday, and once on Thursday. Even writing that is scary to commit to, but even if it’s a sad, sorry, short post, I feel like the plan to post something on these two days will help keep me on track. More importantly, is the daily habit and scheduling said daily habit in my calendar to ensure it happens every day. Sadly, I have at least five blog post topics ready to go in the Draft folder as the ideas came to me, so it’s not like I’m wanting for topics to write on. It’s the act of doing. It’s the act of committing. And that’s my goal for this next Birthday New Year. Write half an hour every day, and post on Mondays and Thursdays.

What are your New Year’s resolutions for this year (even if yours begins on January 1 and not in February like mine)?

Disney and the Art of Disappointment

Last night, it was much easier to begin writing a post because we had a curve ball thrown at us that had us back in our room earlier than the previous few nights.

Tonight, we were sitting down waiting to watch Disney’s Fantasmic show at Hollywood Studios. I was super excited because neither Maya nor I had ever seen it. We managed to get to the theater early and lucked out with seats that were pretty much perfect – just high enough to see everything clearly without being too far away and dead center with no one sitting in front of Maya, so she didn’t have to peer between adults to see what was going on. The Goldilocks Zone of event seating. The show began and it was, well, fantasmic fantastic. All of a sudden about 20 minutes into the show while Jafar is whirlpooling down to be trapped into his lamp prison the video projection on the water freezes… a collective gasp/groan/sigh emerges from the hundreds of people in the amphitheater, and a moment later blinding house floodlights come on and an announcer informs us that due to technical difficulties the show is unable to continue. Maya bursts into tears.

I gather her up in my arms and squeeze her, wishing I had a Disney magic wand to wave to make either the show go on or Maya’s disappointment disappear. I carry her out of the theater (no mean feat – she’s getting HEAVY and there are a LOT of stairs!) while she sobs and I’m trying to soothe her, apologize for the cancelled show, and assure her it’s going to be alright.

Sidebar Background

Quick note to provide a little more context prior to this evening. For those who are tuning in for the first time, we’ve been planning this Disney trip for three years, and had to lock down a lot of details a year-plus in advance to make this all work. In order to get guaranteed seating at the show, we had to buy a special dining package at a pretty expensive Hollywood Studios restaurant. Without this guaranteed seating, people begin lining up two-plus hours ahead of time to get in. Seating is guaranteed, but not assigned, meaning the earlier you show up the more likely you are to get good seats. That we timed it as well as we did to get these seats was nothing less than Disney magic. Furthermore, after getting our seats, we still had to wait for 45 minutes for the show to start. For anyone with a very fidgety nearly-six-year-old, you can imagine what we were up against. It seemed the stars had aligned and we were due to get our perfect Disney magic memory for our little princess and us. Sigh. So, beyond the initial setup I mentioned, this was years’ worth of planning and additional expense in the making, so needless to say we were disappointed as well.

Disappointment Deconstructed

While carrying Maya out and feeling her shuddering sobs against me, I reflected on how disappointed I felt given all of the circumstances I mentioned above. Yet, somehow, my disappointment seemed…less. Bearing witness to Maya’s reaction (caveat: she was clearly exhausted as well and does not usually cry at the drop of a hat) made it somehow easier to make space for, recognize, and not get lost in my own feelings of disappointment.

Yet our (read: my) reaction to disappointments much smaller than this are often merely a (slightly) more mature version of the meltdown I was carrying in my arms. In particular, when we have a specific situation we have been working toward for a long time, and have a specific vision of how it should and will be that goes sideways – we lose our $#!+ (pardon my %).

Disappointment is totally understandable given the Action/Inspiration/Motivation cycle articulated by Mark Manson in his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” If we have enough emotional inspiration, it motivates us to take action to achieve the vision (inspiration) desired. According to Manson, each piece of the cycle reinforces the others. No matter where you begin on the cycle, momentum continues to build, meaning that as you take more steps to make your vision a reality, it increases both your motivation and your inspiration over time. When a vision is realized, it can release this built up motivational and inspirational energy as positive feelings ranging anywhere from satisfaction to utter ecstasy. When this increasingly built up vision suddenly comes crashing down, all of that pent up emotional energy washes over you instead in a negative way: disappointment, anger, frustration, etc.

This is an area I struggle with as a person trying to live mindfully while still living in everyday life situations. On the one hand, the hope is to neither cling to good things nor avoid bad things. On the other, if we went through daily life trying to have neutral feelings about everything from winning the lottery to accidentally chopping off a finger, it seems like a pretty colorless existence. Our innate nature is to change and improve our circumstances, so the challenge lies in using the Action/Inspiration/Motivation cycle to do so, while not becoming so invested that disappointment threatens to overwhelm us.

At the End…?

I wish I had a silver bullet or a specific action plan to get to that magical point, but others far wiser and more enlightened than me have struggled to do this. What I can tell you, is that I did have a conversation with Maya the next morning explaining how her disappointment was shared by us and everyone else in the theater. I used the fact that we’ve been planning this trip for years (she’s been aware of this) means we were particularly disappointed because of the cancellation; however, sometimes, this is what life throws at you. You work hard and have a plan and a goal, and sometimes the plan and/or the goal don’t happen the way you thought. It’s okay to feel sad (disappointed), but it’s also (ultimately) okay that what you planned didn’t happen. Sad but still okay. I hope she got it. Stay tuned to find out I guess…?

Consistency Is the Key

I swear this isn’t just a rip off of the title for @RyanHoliday‘s latest book (which I haven’t yet had a chance to read yet, but am so looking forward to); however, it is the truth for beginning to build a habit.

I probably picked one of the worst times possible to begin this new odyssey into blogging and writing (even if the main point is to begin by doing it for myself regardless of audience or lack thereof). I was heading off on a very long family vacation with very little downtime (even less than I originally thought possible) followed immediately by the holiday season, which can take on a life of its own.

I’ll be honest and say that writing this post is about the last thing I want to be doing after getting five hours of sleep last night (on top of four the night before and four the night before that…) combined with walking over 25 thousand steps today according to my Fitbit, and prepping for another day of doing pretty much the same if not more tomorrow.

BUT……if I’m really going to try to build this habit of writing consistently to try to improve the skills I’m trying to improve and seeing where it goes, tonight was probably the best shot this week, given the schedule we’ve got going forward.

That doesn’t mean this will be the magnum opus I’d love to present in blog form, filled with wit, humor, poignancy and prepped to go viral. In fact, this will end very shortly after this sentence.

The fact is, getting in the reps matters when you’re talking new habits, and this post is that rep. Not a great rep, but a rep nonetheless. And, sometimes that really reluctant, objectively terrible rep is what makes all the difference.


Today we head out on our first family trip to Disney World! We’ll be there for almost 2 1/2 weeks [sidebar: don’t be too jealous of us – this is literally the first non-driving family trip we’ve taken that wasn’t centered on visiting extended family and definitely the longest one we’ve ever taken].

A little background

I’ve mentioned before that our daughter Maya is five years old. We had originally planned on taking the trip last December, but for a number of reasons decided to push it off to this year. I keep telling people we were lucky we did! She is on the smaller side for her age, so had we gone last year, there would have been a lot of rides she couldn’t ride, and she would have been super disappointed. Now there are maybe two she won’t be able to do.

The other thing to note is that when I tell people about our trip and how long we’ll be there, I’m usually met with one of two reactions:

First, the “oh wow!” reaction of people who are excited for us, can’t believe we’re taking her for the first time, that we are going to be going for so long.

Second, that “oh wow!” reaction of people who follow it up with some version of “that sounds like the seventh circle of hell.”

I need to clarify that both Michael and I are Disney people, so for us, this was not a “grit your teeth and bear it for the kid” trip. We are excited in and of ourselves. We’ve actually been laying the foundation for this trip for awhile. About four years ago, we began showing her the Disney full-length animated feature films beginning with the first one – Snow White, from 1938 – and made our way through the Disney canon over time. It was actually a great family activity, which worked out even better than we anticipated since we realized that the simpler stories Disney used early on were great for Maya when she was young, and as she grew up she was able to follow the increasingly complex stories in the movies over time.

image of Cinderella's Castle made of legos

Also, “Santa” had been told of our upcoming trip last year and he brought her a Lego set of Cinderella’s castle. We started in January and our goal was to put it all together by the time we left for our Disney trip. Not gonna lie, it seemed like we might not make it toward the end, but we made a real push in the last couple of weeks and managed to get it all completed.

Michael had gone to Disney World many times before both as a child and as an adult; however, his last trip was in 2001 (another story for another day, but he was actually stuck there when they grounded the flights after 9/11 and had to take a bus all the way home!).

I had gone to Disney World once with my family years ago, but at that time there were only two parks: Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. Growing up in San Diego, we often went to Disneyland, so my parents’ perspective after that trip was “why should we fly across the country when Disneyland is right in our back yard?” Can’t say I blame them.

Since Michael was last there and certainly since I was last there, Disney has added a lot to the parks, so we’ll both be getting a ton of new experiences ourselves. But I think the most exciting part will be seeing Disney through the eyes of our daughter.

That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.

Walt Disney

Zen and the Art of Disney

Fortunately for me, Michael’s a Disney planning ninja so the itinerary is well mapped out, pretty balanced, but full. This means, as a friend mine says, “it’s time to put your patience pants on.”

Family unity can get tested all the more on a vacation, for no other reason than the sheer inability to get away from each other. Think about it: you spend most of your daily lives apart from each other. You’re off at work, they’re off at school/afterschool/activities most of the week, meaning face-to-face time is often a pretty small chunk of the day. Even worse, much of this time is functional – getting fed, ready to get out the door, getting bathed and so on. Imagine going from that relatively small amount of time to suddenly spending every waking (and sleeping) minute together for weeks? The irony is, we plan vacations to gain back the quality family time we lose on a daily basis, and it can sometimes blow up in our faces.

I write this less as an instructional “how to” and more of a talking myself through what I’m about to jump into. It’s not something I had given much thought to before writing this post, but the simple exercise of anticipating the challenges and gaming out potential coping strategies is very therapeutic.

If you think about it, this is exactly the kind of exercise or planning we do with so much of our lives – work projects, home projects, personal improvement – but we often fail to do with the things that matter most – friendships, relationships, and parenting. I’ve been trying to apply this strategy more and more to these areas with the aim of deepening the meaning and making the activities and the time more intentional. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post diving into this more)

So let me leave you with the question I’ve been asking myself:

What is your intention for your relationships, and how are you going to make it a reality?


“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”

Ram Dass

The holiday season officially kicks off today with Thanksgiving. For many people, their favorite holiday and time of the year centers on Christmas, but for me, now that I’m an adult, it’s Thanksgiving all the way.

Christmas is great, don’t get me wrong – I love the colors, decorations and overall holiday cheer; however, Thanksgiving is the best parts of a holiday minus most of the headaches of a holiday. Basically, you’ve got:

  • Good Food
  • Good Beverages
  • Good Company (hopefully)
  • Good Conversation (as long as you avoid politics)

What you get to avoid? The rampant, baked in commercialism of Christmas that pressures you to buy gifts for everyone in a culture that now largely indulges itself year-round with the click of a button and free shipping. Take a step back and ask yourself: do they really need more stuff? Do you?

Thanksgiving, in contrast, lets you focus on what really matters the most: family and friends. However you celebrate it – whether it’s a massive Martha Stewart turkey feast or going out to a chain restaurant that’s open with your roommate after just having moved into your new apartment (not like I’m speaking from experience…), the point is connection. The point is people.

Today it’s taken for granted that Halloween marketing starts right after school starts, and then quickly transforms to vomit up Christmas on every shelf. As my mother-in-law used to say: “No one respects Thanksgiving!”

So, today, I challenge you to stop, take a breath, and really enjoy the moment. Before we get pulled into the shopping frenzy, the holiday parties, the Christmas decorating, really take a moment to enjoy the day and the people you’re with.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello, world

Hi all. My name is Matt, and I’m – you guessed it – a parent. I have a 5-year-old (going on 15) daughter named Maya and this is my first attempt at a blog. My aim is to build a few habits and see where they take me.

First, I’m attempting to build a consistent writing habit. I had been attempting to do so in private Word docs and found that I just wasn’t being consistent with the habit. By creating a public-facing blog and working to set a schedule for publishing posts (stay tuned for that once I’ve had a chance to wrap my head around what I’ve just jumped into!) on a regular basis, I hope to add a little accountability to this habit. (Also, it’d be nice to actually get better at the actual ACT of writing)

Second, I’m attempting to put to words some of the daily struggles I have as a parent. I feel too often in this Instagramified world we are constantly bombarded by posts from parents that make their lives look amazing and perfect, and make parenting look easy. This has not been my experience, and I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to share some parenting realness. Let’s be clear – my daughter is actually pretty amazing. All told, she’s actually a really great, and a really easy kid. This blog will NOT be a bitch-fest or a nonstop outlet for complaining about parenting, since much of the time I have great and wonderful stories to share and will do so. However, because Maya is usually such an easy kid, it makes it all the harder for me when she suddenly goes into meltdown mode since it’s not something I’m grappling with all the time. Hopefully putting out there the good, the bad, the mistakes, the lessons learned, and most importantly the wins will help me make sense of this crazy endeavor that is parenting.

I won’t bore you all (and by all right now, it’s likely just me talking to myself for now!) with more at this point, since future posts will fill you in more on who I am, who my family is, and what we’re up to. In the end, just taking a leap online to say: “Hello, world!”