Sunday, September 9, 2018

Go Toward The Light

I've managed to lose 54 pounds in the last 4 months. No, I'm not done.

Somewhere along the way to my current forty something, I began hearing my doctor say things that I didn't want to hear.

"You're overweight, you're pre-diabetic, your blood pressure is high, your cholesterol is high. You are heading toward heart problems if you don't change your lifestyle."

I didn't like that, so I let it one ear and out the other. I was content to keep eating everything I wanted with no activity to speak of and a sedentary job. A friend reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in hearing a program he was on that had led him to lose over 60lbs (at the time... he's well on his way to 100 now). I brushed him off a few times and then, decided to hear him out. He explained the program to me and showed me how it would work and what it would cost (not much compared to what I was already spending on lunches, after work drinks and snacks).

I decided to give it a try and now here I am wondering how I have made it so far. My responsibilities didn't change, but my mindset did. It's hard not to believe in something when you see it working everyday. I just went back to the doc this past week and I'm now off my blood sugar medication (a shot I was giving myself in the stomach every day). I'm off cholesterol medications and I'm down to 2 of the original 3 blood pressure medications. My pulse is slower, my waist is smaller and I'm feeling great!

I really feel like I'm adding years to my life as I take inches from my belt. I'm not a guy with the most will-power, but the program has worked and there is no denying what a little discipline will do for you once you put your mind to it and find a program that works for your needs. I'm not working out, though I do try to be more active. I still get to eat some of my favorite things, but I'm monitoring my intake much closer now. Thank you to all who are supporting me and I encourage you to find a way to get healthier as well. Our children see us as super heroes and I'd like each and every one of you to keep that illusion for them as long as possible through better health and habits. If you need a hand in finding your way, please let me know because I would love to help you!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

On Changes... (two and a half years later)


It has been some time since I updated these pages, but I’m happy to report both J Bean and Link are growing like weeds and doing well. VV has a place nearby and we’ve been doing OK with the co-parenting gig, though we struggle with the occasional flash fire.

The person I alluded to in my last post as someone who thinks I am a better person than I am is now my wife. We’ll call her Serene here and she came to my world with two kids of her own, Bea and Nikki (also aliases). Serene and I bought a house and my career is back in full sing. As we have blended our homes into one giant Brady Bunch, we have dealt with hurdles in house rules, exes, schedules and the usual fun of living with someone new. Now our house consists of Serene, Dad on the Run, J Bean (9), Bea (14), Link (6), Nikki (10) and a puppy named Shade. I always dreamed of a big family and now when I ask for a table at a restaurant, the count is a half dozen! The puppy is an Australian Shepherd and we decided to get him because with only 4 kids, we found we were getting too much sleep and really didn’t have enough messes to deal with.

Serene and I met online and had a whirlwind romance, she is the most supportive and loving person I have ever met. She’s a wonderful mother, a beautiful person inside and out and I don’t know where I would be without her. Serene works on the IT side of a healthcare company, hails from Kentucky (which mixes well with my Georgia roots), and just happens to be one hot Mommy. In getting to know Serene, she took it upon herself to read my entire blog, which had the effect of allowing her to get to know me in ludicrous speed. After that, she was still interested, so what could I do but ask her to be my wife? Now, if I could just convince Serene to write a biography, then I could do the same. Much of her past seems a mystery to me, and she never thinks her story is as interesting as it is. I look forward to years of prying open that shell to find the pearls within. In the meantime, our magnetic attraction and complementary personalities keep life interesting. To say I’m in love would be an understatement and to write how happy I am would certainly fall short of reality.

I feel a little rusty in my story painting, so it may take me awhile to get the brushstrokes down again. I'll give you one guess on who has been begging me to start writing again for the past few years. Thank you all for your support over the past years, I look forward to sharing more in this new chapter.

From left to right, Bea, Nikki, Shade, J Bean and Link

DOTR and Serene

Nikki and J Bean

Thursday, October 15, 2015

On Changes...

Sitting on my new balcony, overlooking the large swimming pool, a gurgling fountain and surrounded by tropical fauna I collect my thoughts and begin to write.  I absentmindedly reach to my pocket for a cigarette where there are none. Overhead the cloudy, Florida night is punctuated by stars and interrupted by tall pines shifting sleepily in the warm breeze. I hear the barely noticeable white noise of my children’s monitor, motorcycles cruising along the highway, the chatter and splashes of swimmers and a few muted conversations of my new neighbors.

There have been quite a few changes in my life over the past several months and I reflect quietly on them while taking in a deep breath of the breeze tinted with chlorine and the memory of the sea. The monitor buzzes steadily indicating my children, my loves, have given in on their battle with sleep though they will live to fight another day. Laundry is done, well as done as it ever it is in my home, with 3 loads neatly folded and hung and one in the chamber, ready for a quick toss if needed. I fed the children, cleaned up after, helped with homework and even had time for a quick vacuum of the living room interstate. The surface streets can wait for the weekend.

A few dishes in the sink, a stray ant or 5 scrambling for food on the counter that isn’t as clean as the former at-home Dad within me would like, but all in all the “new normal” isn’t that bad. Two homes, two sets of beds, two jobs and two holiday calendars mark the odd multiplication that results from a family’s division. VV and I are co-parents of a different sort now and I have been back at work for nearly a year.

No apologies are needed, condolences are not appropriate. Two adults decided the best thing for our children was a home that didn’t include both of us. Reasons as old as time and as new as the pain of a paper-cut are to blame, but they won’t be rehashed in these here pages. Sure, there were periods of weeping and grieving. Heartbreak is never easy, no matter whose fault or how slow the burn leading up to it. Coming to terms with days where I don’t see the little ones, when I don’t get a hug and a kiss from either was not easy (for either of us, I’m sure).


I held my head high and stayed strong for Link and J Bean (at least when they were around) and I slowly came to terms with a new life.  A life I am feeling comfortable in, full of experiences and people I would not have known in my former station. Despite this, congratulations aren’t in order either. Life marches on and I am who I am because of what I have been through. There is no need for regret, for hatred or jealousy. I try to accept my shortcomings and those of others and let the pages turn. I’ve never been much for drafting an outline first, I tend to let the words and the shifting sands of time carry me where they will.

I’m forever grateful for the years I had the chance to spend as an at-home dad. I am better for the experience, more grounded in the lives of my children than I might have been otherwise. I benefited from the friends I made in circles I would not have traveled had my life taken another path. I’m thankful for the support and the interest of so many readers, friends and confidants. I hope to continue to contribute within these pages from time to time, but for right now I just want to stare at the sky, dream of the promise of tomorrow and talk to someone who thinks I am a better person than I am. Much love to all you parenting partners, keep fighting that good fight and if you find your world turned upside down? Well, I suggest you call over the little ones and stand on your head with them to see if it’s the world that has changed or if it was just you. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rebels With a Cause...

Because I said so...

Did I really just say that?


Are my demands for compliance without question really the goal of parenthood? Am I raising another brick in the wall; another round peg for every round hole? Does trying to do so more often than not result in a rebel without a cause?

More importantly, are the actions I take... the "ought to's" of parenting effective? What measure do I use?  At what point do I measure that outcome? Is a 2 year old who says please and thank you the goal? Or am I shooting for a 26 year old who can feed and clothe himself while not ending up in prison?

Maybe I'm trying to raise a better parent than I am.

Perhaps, it's not so important they listen to me (or anyone) without question and it's more crucial they be independent and comfortable going against the flow.

I've seen the the white water rapids of a group of teenagers pulling everyone along toward a waterfall and hidden dangers. I've rolled down that river myself. Learning to take a few strokes against the current of social rules and peer pressure is probably a valuable skill for a child learn... so how do we teach it?

It is difficult to remember the world view we present our children is not just in the words and lessons we teach with purpose, but in the guidance we offer through our actions (often inadvertantly). Will my desire to be unquestioned expand their horizons and their potential, or limit their ideas and confine their goals? Am I willing to answer that question?

What about the other people they come across? When a person tells my daughter this activity is for boys or tells my son those toys are for girls I want them to question the assertion. When someone offers a ride to an underage keg party and it seems everyone is going, I want them to decide for themselves if that is a good choice, because I won't be there.

I am the parent and I hold some authority, there is no avoiding the arrangement, but I don't have to squech their desires to know the "why's" and the "how comes." I don't have to silence their objections. It's not my goal to raise subserviant children, I want them to grow up to be capable, introspective and independent adults.

Being "like everyone else" may be easier in some ways for children and doing what they're told everytime certainly would make parenting a more pleasant endeavor. On the other hand, we should not forget to rejoice in the rebels and the rabble-rousers. I don't want to raise a rebel without a cause, but I do hope to raise discerning, skeptical children who see much cause in this world to rebel against.

Here's to you Link and J Bean, may you break all the rules (well, some of the rules) and challenge the status quo, may you not always take the easy way out, may you sometimes make other's uncomfortable with your individuality and may we always remember that you are the rebels with a cause we raised.

I want to keep you from harm, so my rules and your ideas of freedom will often clash, but I want you to know that somewhere behind my inevitable scolding and angry face is a jagged bit of pride stuck in my throat.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Man Under the Moon

“Look, Daddy! Moo!,” Link says excitedly pointing at the half-moon directly overhead as we walk into his daycare center. All I can think of is loving him to the moo and back and squashing the inner voice telling me to take him back to the car, speed home and spend the day hugging him and showering him with kisses.

I’ve been chatting him up about the great first day of “school” and how he’s a big boy and gets to go learn just like his older sister since we dropped her off 10 minutes ago and he seems excited. After 5 and a half years as an at-home father it is time for me to start a new chapter.  Last week I had the first job interview and soon I expect to be getting back into my career in investigations.

As I punch in his student number (how can a 2 year old have a number?) on the panel outside, the door clicks and we walk in to the impossibly clean facility. Don’t children attend here? I’m confused. After some small talk and administrative details with the director I walk down the hall toward Link’s classroom. I hear his sneakers pattering along the hardwood floors and see his soles blinking like tiny emergency vehicles (which reminds me of him yelling “Beedo, Beedoo, BEEEDOOOO!” on the way to school when a fire truck passed us). I fear the lack of that pattering when I get home, I smile at the teacher. Does it look sincere? I doubt it.

After she has a little chat with Link about Lightning McQueen on his shirt, to which I know he’ll say, “Ka-Chow!” before he even does, the teacher shows me to Link’s cubby. 

“Well, here are his things. He has a little eczema break out right now, but I forgot his lotion {more guilt, too heavy} so please don’t use anything else unless you have Cetaphil or Aquaphor even though it looks red.” I manage to squeak out before giving him a quick hug and telling him bye. I leave quickly because I know it is best that way and he doesn’t cry, but I put on my sunglasses before I’m out the door.

In the car, I breathe.

At home it is too quiet, so I write.

Tomorrow, he’ll be with me and we’ll pack every minute of fun in our two weekdays per week off school until I get back to work. I’ll cry, we’ll laugh and life marches on under the moon.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breath

The sun is in my eyes, glaring and sparkling off the pool. A shower of water rains on my face, created by the child drowning swimming in front of me. The tinge of chlorine tightens my squint.

I'm holding out a hand to my daughter who is trying to reach the edge of the pool











before her limited swimming skills fail to bring her mouth above the water for another hurried breath. She expends much needed energy to say, "No! <BREATH> I've got it!" Meanwhile, her feet and hands push and pull desperately against the water.

Almost. There.

I wait closely, tracking her progress. I don't want to offer help too soon (or too late) so I agonize over the slow drip of time between gasps. Goggles provide vision above and below. Underneath the water is cool, her hair dances slowly and rhythmically about her determined face. The sun is dampened and sound takes on new qualities as reality creeps to the edge of recognition. It really is another world under here. I am terrified. Looking for any sign of doubt or fear behind her own goggles and dreaming of the breath and the sweet chaos at the surface.

Is this the way I'll feel when she is learning to drive? The first time her heart is broken? Will I be there with my hand outstretched? Will anyone?

Of course she wants to be independent. She is of us, of me. Is it instinct, this characteristic of avoiding the request for help? Clearly, people everywhere need help of one kind or another yet hesitate to ask for it even when we need it most. I know I do. Did I teach her this? Is it some misguided shame in needing others causes us to act this way? Pride which misguidedly stays our hand from reaching out to others? Is it fear which causes the hesitation? Will the hand be there when I reach for it? Will it pull back too soon, leaving us no better off than when we started?

Children need to learn the value of independence, but in the end my daughter, J Bean, knows I'm there and if/when she reaches out a hand to me I'll pull her up as quickly as I can. Must be a great feeling. One we should all experience. As time passes, I hope to show her the power in the hands of the world. How her mother's and mine are not the only ones ready to lift her. Eventually she'll know ours are not infinite and she'll need that reassurance. I'll need that reassurance.

Her face breaks the surface just as her outstretched hands finally grasp the edge.

<Breath>

Relief floods my mind as oxygen fills her lungs and I pull back my hand. The edge is constant. I am here. Others nearby are ready to help.

I trust in the knowledge another intrinsically human characteristic is the desire to help others. People step up and offer help even when we won't ask for it ourselves. We like to help, we want to, I really believe that we need to. It seems we should be happy in giving and receiving. Help when we can, reach for a hand when we need it and know it will be there, because it will. 

A fellow dad blogger, Oren Miller of A Father and A Blogger, reached out a hand here. He didn't realize he had actually, because all he really did was let his community know his situation and his thoughts on it. Heartbreakingly, that situation is dire. The response to Oren's stage 4 lung cancer, much to his surprise, came in the form of hundreds of outstretched hands. One stood out to me, it was the hand of Brent Almond (Designer Daddy) who created a Give Forward page for Oren so that we might send Oren and his family on a much needed and deserved vacation. Brents' action was important as it flew in the face of the bystander effect. We all wanted to do something for Oren, but we didn't know where to start. That fund surpassed our imaginations and is now, I am proud to say, a true gift to help them through the rough road ahead. I hope you'll check out the Give Forward page and consider extending a hand of your own to help this loving family through the challenge of their life. 

Oren, we are with you. Take a hand.

<BREATH>


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

5 Ways Being an At-Home Dad is Supposedly Ruining My Kids





This piece was originally published at AskYourDadBlog.com and was part 2, and somewhat of a response, to his original piece you might want to read first here. The main thing to understand is that we're all doing it wrong... and that's OK. 
I “retired” from work when my daughter was born over 5 and a half years ago and now have my son (age 2) in the mix as well. Every once in a while I stumble across an article or a conversation where folks are talking about how horrible it is that some kids are stuck home with a father and what damage I must be doing to my children, my family, my marriage and my earning potential. There is a lot of guilt out there to roll around in. If Vv and I really prioritized our kids we should be able to figure something out so she can stay home and I go to work, you know, the way nature intended. It’s really the best gift we could give to our kids and if we love them we should really consider it. They are only going to be kids once, and if we didn't plan on raising our kids the traditional way, why did we have them in the first place?

Seriously, these are things I have heard… or read. The Internet is full of people who think they know things.

The irony in that last sentence aside, here’s the thing: My wife was consulting and traveling 4 days a week while I worked full-time as VP of Operations with an investigative firm before J Bean, my daughter, was born and that didn’t seem like a great way of carrying on with children. In the end, an at-home dad arrangement made the most sense for us so we could all be together the most and still maintain the best income. Despite the obvious fact that non-conforming gender roles could ruin our children, we still selfishly decided to give it a go. Sorry Internet. Sorry kids. I guess we fail.
Here are 5 ways the SAHD (stay-at home dad) arrangement is supposedly ruining our children...


1. The house is a wreck.  
Story after story indicates that fathers, even when we stay home, do less than our share of chores. To hear the media tell it, stay home fathers must let kids run around in diapers (the same one all day) or buck naked amidst the pigsty we call home. Oddly, from the inside looking out, I feel that I keep a similar home to most of the at-home mothers I know. Meaning, the house is a complete disaster until 5 minutes before announced visitors arrive and I give a final push before mom gets home when the tyrants allow for it. Both feats are only achieved when I plop the kids in front of the TV with a snack while I wipe and vacuum like the Tasmanian devil on crack. It seems I’m always cleaning up, but the work of doing so with two children is like that of a windshield wiper in a monsoon… as soon as I do it, another mess appears. Clean the kitchen, cook a meal and watch the salad shooters I call offspring spray down the breakfast nook with a fresh layer of oatmeal and strawberries. Fun fact: Oatmeal can easily double as an industrial adhesive.

I do have to admit, my wife would probably keep a cleaner house than I do were she home with the children. However, I have my doubts she would also keep up the lawn, the cat litter, the garbage, the pool and the vehicle. In the end, I like to think that a father’s house may be different, but not necessarily worse than a mother’s. After all, I’m raising children, not trying to make the cover of Southern Living. What I lack in gleaming countertops, I make up for with awesome science projects, home-made dollhouses and hand to hand combat training.
2. They are always sick (perhaps this is a function of #1?)

There is rarely a time that my kids’ noses aren't running, and at least once a year one of them will begin projectile vomiting which isn’t nearly as fun as paintball, but makes just as big of a mess. Having sick kids means that Vv and I are also often sick. I don’t get it. This is supposed to be a special torture relegated to those selfish working-parents like John and Stevie of Ask Your Dad Blog.

On one hand, maybe I should keep the kids and the house tidier; on the other hand, a quick leading-question Google search to affirm that my way of parenting is the best brought back this and this. Basically, my “research” shows that if you keep the house cluttered your kids will be more creative and if you let them play in the mud, they’ll be healthier and better able to fend off the super-human Nazi’s (aka: children of working parents) when they get to actual school.  



3. An at-home dad will foster gender confusion
Despite my best attempts at keeping the house dirty for the aforementioned benefits, I occasionally do laundry, dance with a vacuum or scrub enough dishes to unburythe Playstation. During those rare moments, my children are learning a skewed vision of gender roles, and who knows what type of damage this could be causing! My daughter may decide that she wants to be like her Mom and travel the globe as a successful business person  or perhaps she’ll choose a more domestic role, I just hope she decides based on what is best for herself and/or her family rather than what society deems appropiate. My son may become a nurse, or a politician (please, please don’t let him be a politician), or an at-home dad and that’s OK with me. He might decide that making money isn’t his primary “manly” duty! The point is that at-home dads are confusing the Hell out of matters. There are jobs for women and there are jobs for men, period. A fact I’m reminded of everyday through articles on the interwebs and the awkward facial expressions of some when they learn of my chosen occupation.

Truth is the whole situation of being an SAHD makes me hyper-aware of gender boxing and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held up the drive-thru under the golden arches as I informed the employee through a scratchy intercom that there is no such thing as a “girl toy” or a “boy toy.” Well, actually I’ve heard “boy toy” used legitimately before, but it’s not something you order off the value menu. This discussion is usually followed by me ordering a pink spider-man toy for my daughter at her request, and something with wheels for my son but that’s not the point! Or maybe it is. In theory, I’m raising androgynous children and in the process I’m ruining their lives.
4. My Our decision will bring financial ruin.
“…dads who left work for even a short period of time to cater to domestic matters earned lower evaluations and more negative performance ratings at work than women who opted out.” (Source: This ridiculous article that came up when I Googled, “What is going to piss me off today?”)

Some might think that making it to executive level in your career, taking several years off to raise your children and turning down job offers year after year is not a terrible predicament to be in professionally and that there are benefits to having a parent at home. Others would point out that is nonsensical crazy talk. I could have stayed in the workforce and challenged Warren Buffett for his spot on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest people in America. Instead, I’m blowing out flip-flops at the beach with my kids and making cheeseburgers in paradise like Jimmy Buffett. Meanwhile, their educational futures are at stake, not to mention a convertible at age 16! My guilt is mounting… or it would be if our arrangement had not allowed my wife to focus and excel in her own career surpassing with one job what we used to make with two. Note to my children: There still won’t be a convertible.

5. Children of an at-home dad will never make friends.

Kids who stay home with dad won’t know how to talk to, much less play with, other children without asking them creepy things about gender stereotypes or the best order to watch Star Wars. (“Episode one first? I can’t even look at you.”) At-home dads will raise socially awkward children who may very well give up on the whole “school” thing by age 6 and move to deep into the Everglades where they will survive on a diet of crawfish, hand-caught water moccasins, and Beanee Weenees. Those little hermits might go a step further and run around in loin cloths while taking aim at nearby rocket launches with slingshots while cursing the bright orb in the sky. Then again, they might grow up to be some of the most creative and interesting people we could meet. Maybe the truth is that it’s difficult predict the future of a child based on who changes their diapers and repeatedly picks up behind them and whether or not that person has an XY chromosome. With that said, If they do drop off the grid in a fit of anti-social rejection, I hope they get an airboat. I like airboats.  

So yeah, we’re HORRIBLE. I’m a dumb-witted half-man raising children who won’t have any idea how to carry themselves with other children and I spend days languishing in toddler-land when I could be making millions to put them through college. Our house would be better off with a cleaning woman (or man), a lawn service and perhaps an au pair. Luckily, we’re not raising houses so I think we’ll just continue our misguided efforts to raise kids in a way that works for our family even if it ruins them in the process. Don’t all kids deserve our very best swing at having no idea how to make them the best person they can be while not driving us crazy in the process? Perhaps Vv and I aren’t really that different from John and Stevie after all. Keep doing what you’re doing Parenting Partners!  

Note: This was not meant to disparage working parents, at-home moms, grandparents, uncles, shoe salesmen or Jimmy Buffett. I think you are all awesome. I think my wife and I are awesome too. Everyone is awesome! I am going to say awesome again. Awesome. 

And one LAST note: Follow me on Facebook. I am 50% more snarky there, and 35% less funny.