John Marsland

Coffee by day, Sriracha by night

Paprika--one of my favorite mobile apps--makes it easy to save and update my favorite recipes from the web. See my top recipes below, roughly ordered by deliciousness.

Bakes 🥖

Meals 🍽

Main dishes below catered especially for lovers of garlic, butter, and gluttony

Cocktails 🍸

I love complex cocktails, and usually error toward those that are citrusy, bitter, and a bit boozy

Caffeine ☕

A morning addiction

Since moving from SF to LA and having kids, I've become an early morning person. There are many reasons why I prefer the early AM over the late PM, the most important that I can control my free time in the morning better than at night.

A ritual helps me stay consistent. Watch buzzes me up. Water boiled, beans weighed then ground, a second buzz steaming post five measured pours. Nearly exercise ready. I've grown to crave an AM sweat (almost) as much as a morning cup. I tried to develop an evening fitness routine, but life gets in the way. Before sunrise, the only thing interrupting me from lacing up is myself.

Most of all, I look forward to mornings spent on the trail. The draw is more than just exercise. The outdoors for someone who works mostly inside arouses senses. Scents of california sage in the spring and bay leaves in the fall. Flickering lights amongst the morning chill over the hum of the sleeping city. All help to quiet thoughts of dread from the hill ahead, which soon fade behind the rhythm of the run. Now I'm in the zone, entering a flow state, the same felt in a good read, scuba dive, or shavasana. Each step requires just enough mental energy to keep my thoughts on a single tract, helped by the lack of daytime distractions. I can't pinpoint why I think more creatively outside. Maybe it's the change of scenery. Or adrenaline peaking with caffeine. Pausing to jot down an epiphany happens more frequently than breaks to catch my breath. I rarely run to clear my mind but am thankful for that byproduct.

LA's lesser known celebrities are its rolling hills and towering mountains, spotlighted in the morning. Focus keeps me from rolling an ankle an hour before sunrise, helped by dawn's eastern emerging ember. Steps later the opposing sky is pasteled purpled, clouds accented by pink tracers. I'm running in an insta' filter, gradually sliding brightness, intensity, and hue until picture perfect, roughly 15 minutes before the sun actually rises. I time my summits for exactly that moment. Breathtaking on their own, combined with actual breathlessness create a runner's high synesthesia. Chasing that feeling keeps me from hitting snooze.

On a trail day, the first thing I do is glance out the window. Fog is notoriously hard to forecast in Los Angeles, seeing it on the occassional morning is a welcome surprise. On a few lucky days, Santa Monica's fog meets 7000 foot peaks in the Angeles National forest, blanketing the skyline canvas. The city of angels:

I turn into a pumpkin around 9pm. I'm okay with that. At nearly 40, I've gained more from 5am than lost from 11pm. I sleep about 30 minutes less than I did before developing this routine, but don't feel less tired. Some studies show that exercise helps with sleep interia, helping athletes settle into regenerative deep sleep faster despite less overall sleep duration. Seizing the mornings also means having more of the day.

I found an addictive but cleansing ritual, made more possible by the early hours. Such experiences are powerful morning motivators. Your mornings don't have to be coffee and circuits. But they can be anything you want. I'm glad I found them later in life, but wish I had earlier.

Will is part of the story. The trail wouldn't be possible without the support of my partner, who is the first line of defense when our sleeply twins stomp their way out of bed. She is backed up by my in-laws, who manage our weekday morning routine. Thank you for being there!

Two under two

My experience as a father of premature twins

The first thing you learn as a parent is that the kids set the family agenda. Our girls took over early. Zara, and her twin Luna, came wiggling into this world the afternoon of January 9th, 2018 three months before their expected due date.

Full term is 39 weeks. Twin moms generally give birth at 35 weeks, so while we were expecting early arrivals, little could have prepared us for our girls to say hello world at 27 weeks, each weighing in just under 2lbs:

The first thing expecting parents listen for is their newborn’s cry. After a long wait, from behind the operating curtain, we heard Luna cry ever so briefly after delivery. We never heard from Zara. Both babies had Apgar scores close to 0, and had to be intubated immediately. While Luna only had the breathing tube for 24 hours, Zara cycled through different ventilators for nearly six weeks. One of them—the oscillator—pulsed oxygen-enhanced microbreathes 500 times a second to help her still developing lungs get her the air she needed. Because their caretakers had to carefully position the oscillator, we were only able to touch Zara through her incubator. The first time we held her was six weeks after she was born. Between the two of them they had over a hundred blood draws, half a dozen blood transfusions, brain bleeds, a collapsed lung, slowly closing holes in their hearts, and generally a really tough start in life.

Fast forward nine months—our little ladies just recently celebrated their first Halloween as baby sharks (doo do doo do do) and first birthdays. And while our days post the hospital were filled with appointments and normal newborn problems (sleeplessness, sickness, and spit up), in general our twins emerged unscathed. You would have never known that they spent their first three months on life support:

Luna and Zara beat the odds, and we believe the care they received at the hospital as well as the time we were able to spend with them are the primary reasons they are thriving.

The attendings, nurses, and respiratory therapists at Good Samaritan hospital near DTLA became our second family those three months we spent with our newborns in the NICU. They helped our family through every development milestone, from breathing unassisted to nursing from mom. The hospital also allows parents with children in the NICU to “room-in” free of charge so that they can spend more time with their newborns. For mothers of multiples, parents who live far away, or any new parent, a place to spend the night / rest privately was a true blessing. It allowed us to spend more quality time with Luna and Zara when we were emotionally and physically exhausted.

We were fortunate not only to have amazing medical staff but also understanding employers and colleagues. Netflix, where I work, has a generous full-pay parental leave policy, which allowed me to be with our girls both when they were in the hospital as well as for over half a year once they came home. With twins it’s all hands on deck. In the hospital twins are separated on opposite sides of the NICU to to reduce the potential for medical errors. Having both parents present meant we could spend more quality time with our girls.

It’s a shame that the vast majority of US working parents are not able to spend much time with their new arrivals. While some states have enacted paid parental leave programs, the US has not enacted a national program that would extend to all parents. We’re one of the few developed countries in the world that doesn’t have a comprehensive paid leave program. While companies and states are improving their paid leave programs, spending time with your newborns shouldn’t be based on where you live or where you work.

We’re convinced that the extra parental care that Luna and Zara received helped them thrive. Studies show that infants in the NICU who spend time with their parents gain weight faster than infants who don’t. Babies recognize and respond to their parents voices in the womb prior to birth, and being soothed by ours helped them cope with the constant barrage of medical testing. Despite being two of the sickest babies in the hospital, our caretakers told us they were also some of the most calm, and we’d like to think that because they knew their parents were near.

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