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Monday, January 21, 2013

Multimedia!!!





I decided to wade into the world of multimedia.  This is my first foray into the world of video, and I really enjoyed it so stay tuned for updates. 



 
 
video


 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Faith & Parenting


Thanks to Scott Hanley for his post on control and relationships.  From his thoughts, I have been thinking about parenting and relationships.  This article ensued…..
I am currently a judge for a book contest for my publisher.  They sent me two boxes of books to read, pass judgment on, and send back.  Due to my slow response, I received a heavy dose of books that fit into the “inspirational self help” category.  This includes one that is for African-American women, which I may or may not be qualified to judge, but of which I am definitely not the target audience. 
In reading all of these, several contain a faith based element to their message.  Most of the authors are advising more of some sort of faith, rather than any specific faith, and I respect that.  I have always held that any faith that encourages you to become the best, most giving version of yourself is a worthy endeavor.  It doesn’t matter to me if you are part of a traditional church, or you meditate and spiritually commune with the insects in your backyard.  If it brings you peace and inspires you to strive to be a better person, then there is value to it.  My only problem comes in when those of certain faiths feel qualified to judge those who are not part their faith.  Do they really believe in their heart that they have found the only “correct” way to worship?  But that’s for another time. 
Faith, by its very nature, is belief in something without having concrete proof of its existence.  It takes many forms.  Karma, or the belief that the universe is keeping score of your good and bad deeds, and someday will even the ledger.  I have heard the concept of “Paying it forward” or doing good deeds without payment or promise of compensation, I guess in hopes of improving your standing on some sort of cosmic scoreboard, or maybe just on Santa Clause’s list.  I have heard the saying that bad things “happen in three’s” where if two unfortunate things occur in your life, brace yourself, because there is one more in store for you.  All of these things involve some iteration of faith, that there is someone or something out there keeping track of us and our good (or bad) actions. 
For parents, we take leaps of faith all the time.  We trust the system (government) that approves the clothes, food, toys, etc. that we expose or children to, that no harm will be done to them.  If you take your child to daycare, you are putting faith in those people, often times people you do not know, that they will take care of your child.  As our children grow, we often send them to friends’ houses, having trust and faith nothing will happen to them.  This is having faith in your fellow man. 
As the parent of a teenager, I am finding there are brand new, serious issues of faith and trust that are required.  Dating for instance, requires some trust.  Is the boy picking her up trustworthy, or do I need to pull him aside and let him know I have friends who have spent time in prison?  When she tells me she is going to spend the night at somebody’s house, do I trust and verify (call the other parents), or do I trust her to tell me if the parents happen to be out of town?  At what point do I need to let go of control?  At what point do I need to let her use her judgment to know when a party gets out of hand and she needs to leave, or to be strong enough to reject her friend’s idea when it is not a good one? 
All of these questions are still somewhat easily answered, for the moment, as she cannot currently drive herself.  But in the next three or four months, this will change.  When she is going to hang out with friends for the evening, she could drive herself to any number of locations I would not approve of.  To Scott’s point, instead of my young child simply saying “NO!”, she can now reject my opinion of what she should or should not do by omission of her true destination, or leaving out that while she is going to see her friends, they are going to meet a group of boys in a setting without supervision. 
Some of this can be minimized by placing her in a positive environment, surrounded by kids who will hopefully be positive influences upon one another.  My next line of defense, sad to say, is to keep her extremely busy.  She is a cheerleader, and they have practice about 4-5 times a week.  Hopefully she is too tired to get into any trouble. 
The best my small brain can figure is as follows:  when they are young, you can control your kids.  But as they grow up and have more and more freedom, they have the power to exercise their own judgment.  Ultimately, you want them to exercise their own judgment, as otherwise you will have them living under your roof forever!  So in the all important teen years, where it is possible that their freedom outweighs their sound judgment, the best you can do is show them the path you think is best.  You show them the way to make decisions based on their (your) set of values, and to not be influenced by outside factors.  Hopefully you will show them enough where they will know the difference between a fun situation and one that could get them into trouble, or even worse. 
You do all of that and then, all you can do is have faith.  And at that point it doesn’t matter who your higher power is, all parents are the same.  We just want our children to make it home.      

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meet Our Guest: Scott Hanley

This week, we are fortunate enough to have author Scott Hanley offer some of his thoughts on parenting.  This is part of the series of articles Scott wrote concerning the issue of "Control" when it comes to relationships and parenting.  It's good stuff, and makes me give thought to my relationship with my kids.  If you enjoy it, you can read more of Scott's work here

Enjoy!




The Struggle For Control


 Truthfully, early childhood is similar to incarceration, because children can do little without their parents’ assistance, their direct participation, or their approval; nor do they have any significant responsibilities. They are completely dependent and can neither choose their options, nor remove themselves from their controlled environment. The older our children get, the more they strive for independence and freedom from this perceived incarceration. At about six months old, kids/children begin subtly expressing that their personal wishes don’t coincide with our own; putting us squarely in conflict practically from the get go! This is the beginning of their natural resistance to control.
The simple but social fact that our opposition to control, on a much larger scale, has generated most of the monumental changes in our world; and has been an important and critical process of progress and change. It is how we are wired. We humans seem to resist control even more than we resist change…at any age!
It is easy to create the illusion of control. When my boys were young, if I spoke in a loud, sharp voice, they would stop instantly; and for a moment, I was sure I had them! I believed I could control my kids with my voice and sheer determination, but they were really just being forced to pay attention by my strong action and louder-than-normal voice. This is not control, but rather just directs their attention to my issue. I remember the time when I tossed Ian (my older son at age 11) because of his completely unacceptable behavior. Although it was a very short toss to a comfortable landing in the couch, it seemed like I had control at the time because I held the power for a brief moment. But power is not the same as control. It was my fortunate opportunity to establish my dominant position at that time and that time only. Although it came from a place of anger and frustration and is not what I believe is good parenting, it straightened out his attitude and created a clear understanding. However, I never attempted it again.
At age 17, did you really believe that your parent had control over you? At what point do you think your parents lost control and you gained it? These are important questions to ask ourselves because they reach the root of our perceptions of control, as well as our instinct to rebel against anything that resembles it. The illusion of parental control develops during the child’s early state of dependency, but this temporary dominance will pass quickly and we probably will not become aware of its fading until it is too late to do much about it.
I remember when I first realized that my idea of control was an illusion. Ian, my first son, was just starting to talk, which was wonderful for me because I could begin to communicate with and relate to him. One of his first strongest first words was “no.” When I heard the first “no” from Ian, I was dumbstruck. I could not fathom how he could choose to use it so perfectly and be able to clearly express his choice. When he said, “No,” he was telling me that he wanted to make a different decision. Of course, he was too young to understand all the ramifications of most any decision at that age, but nonetheless, he felt compelled to decide for himself, and was already beginning to wrestle control from me, control I really didn’t have. By trying not to exert my control I was able to focus on other aspects of our expanding relationship with more joy, less tension, and depth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest Post

 Hey.....

   I was honored to do a guest post this week.  You can find it here.

They are posting part II later this week, probably Thursday.  Hope you enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day follow up.....


Father’s Day

So thanks so much to our guest, Mrs. Hellenbrand. 
Top notch job, but I would expect nothing less.  And to her comment, I begged her to write for me mostly due to the writer’s block.  But now that she got the ball rolling I will keep it pick it up and keep the celebration going….  

Despite her inability to you know, actually be a man, I think she’s got the gist of it.  We are Fathers.  We are the last to sit down.  We handle the things that go bump in the night, whether they are real or imagined.  And when it comes to our families, there is no doubt we love them. 
But perhaps she gives us too much credit.  I’ll never forget the first time my wife came tearing around the corner of the house, screaming that there was a snake in the backyard.  “SNAKE!”  She yelled in a terrified voice, “GO KILL IT!”  YES!  We must do this I thought to myself.  I waited a beat or two for somebody to go back there and get it.  Then I waited a little longer.  Then I realized she was talking to me.  

I think the lifecycle of a dad is a little messy for a lot of us dads, and luckily we have understanding families that allow for us to grow and learn.  This year has held many opportunities for me to look back and reflect on life and fatherhood.  I somewhat recently attended my high school reunion and approach “the big 40”, both events ripe for reflection.    

Here is what I’ve discovered:  We have covered some ground now.  We stopped by “cute little boy” for a few years, went to “obnoxious teen” for awhile, and then to a slightly blurry phase I call “irresponsible personal exploration” that covered the late teens and early twenties.  I seem to recall having a lot of fun and finding piles and piles of ATM withdrawal slips by my bedside most Saturday mornings, but the details escape me.  

Now were deep into “adulthood”.  Growing up watching my dad, I always perceived it to be horribly boring.  Work, mow the yard, and then go to bed by 10pm.  It didn’t seem like much through my eyes.  What I didn’t realize is that there are a hundred little challenges and moments with your family that make it fun and exciting.  My interests and what I do with myself have changed (let’s be clear: for the better).  

For us seasoned dads, we have gotten pretty good at the basics.  We make three trips to the car to haul in the family luggage while our crew excitedly explores the vacation housing.  We stand when there are one seats too few.  And yes, we go eradicate the unwanted pests from the area, whether it’s is a snake or some other unknown assailant.  As encapsulated by the man standing: Dads are often the last to eat off the carcass in today’s world.  We come to learn how to do all of these things and accept all of the glorious awards that come with it (read: few).  

But these are small sacrifices.  Now we are getting to the hard part.  We are no longer needed to feed our kids, hold their hands to help them balance as they take their first steps, or change diapers.  They are growing up before our eyes.  As a father of three daughters ages 5-15, more and more I am hearing “I can do it”.  This is a good thing, of course, so what is my role now?  How can I help?  I say it’s getting harder.  How do we teach our kids to harness their talents?  How do we give them the ability to take care of themselves?  Can we expose them to the positives in life, helping them to have the skills and knowledge to make smart choices down the road?  How can we show them the way to become happy productive adults?  How do we coach/lead/teach them everything they need to, gulp, leave us behind one day?

We are Dads.  We have embraced this.  The women that captured our hearts so long ago have grown into families that we love so much.  As Kristi wrote about, we do dad things that include trips to Home Depot and profusely sweating after exercise.  As Father’s we must change as our families do.  We do our best to tackle the obstacles that life throws in our way, and in the way of our families.  Even in today’s world where so many traditional roles have been turned on their heads, this is our responsibility and we love it.  Even if (when) our execution is a little off sometimes, it is still better to have a dad who cares.  So take a day to celebrate dad and all the little quirks that make him who he is.  Take him to the stadium or let him sit on the couch.  Make him his favorite meal as a symbol of your appreciation.  Celebrate the day and have fun with it.  Heck, just taking a time and telling him he is appreciated is a gift in and of itself.  So, I’m off to see help plan my Father’s Day menu.  To any Dads reading this:  Happy Father’s Day!

John is the proud father of three and author of Dude You’re Gonna Be a Dad. You can check out his fatherly advice (gripes) and ramblings at http://www.dudeyoureadad.blogspot.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @johnpfeifferdad .






Thursday, June 14, 2012

Father's Day!!! Welcome Our Guest.....







With Father’s Day fast approaching, I felt the pressure to come up with a brilliant blog post.  So instead of jumping right on it, I called in a favor from a friend.  This week at “Dude” blogquarters we are honored to have fellow author Kristi Hellenbrand as a guest.  She is author of the wonderful book, “Today is a Good Day for Marshmallows” which can be purchased on Amazon.  For those dedicated readers, you may remember I was a guest on her blog for Mother’s Day (todayisagooddayformarshmallows.blogspot.com).  Just as Kristi had a chance to attack me, um, I mean, respond to my article, I will do the same.  

Dads: Their Roman Catapults & Nasty Gym Shorts

To keep with the spirit of the upcoming Father's Day weekend, my good friend John asked me to guest blog on the topic of fatherhood. Note: I am a mother. Now, this may be payback since he guest-blogged (marvelously, I might add) for my website on the topic of Mother's Day. He probably wants a turn to kick up his feet and drink a few Corona beers this weekend, or maybe he just has writer's block. Either way, I am happy to oblige.

Warning!(here comes the disclaimer...) No, I have not suddenly sprung a pair. Therefore I write this piece from an overwhelmingly estrogen/progesterone perspective. I do not hold an academic degree that makes me any kind of expert on fathers and will not pretend to know even a smidgeon about how it feels to be a father in these modern times. I will, instead, muse on what it looks like it feels like.

As I write this, I am sitting comfortably in an oversize window of a local coffee house. Directly outside my window there is a cute little family sitting on a bench waiting for a table at Ted's Montana Grill. There are five of them, two young elementary-aged boys sandwiched between their mother and their big sis. They have grabbed the last remaining bench and there is no room for Dad. Repeat: Dad is standing. Stationed a few feet in front of them, like a captain commanding a ship, this man knows it is his fatherly/manly duty to relinquish his seat for the sake of his woman and his children. Not exactly Titanic here, but the social message is the same. I am witnessing what it means to be a man with a family. Correction: an upstanding man with a family.

My children have asked on numerous occasions why there is not a Sister Day or Brother Day on our beautiful nation's calendar. I am quick to laugh(!?!) and inform them it is because their job is too easy. Meaning they eat, sleep, might put their dishes in the dishwasher, but definitely never provide dinner or field work phone calls until 9pm. Our 401K does not receive contributions from them, and the refrigerator is not stocked by their hands. They consume, use, devour and generally disrupt order in our home. If they put away their laundry they do so only because they have run out of underwear and prefer not to go commando.

Besides, I further explain to them, children get their birthdays to loaf around and take advantage of the kindness of their family members. We, parents, rarely get to bum around being waited on hand and foot. Even the details of our birthdays are often orchestrated by our own hands. So, in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed Father's Day into law. It seemed fair, mothers had been celebrated for forty years already, so dads received a day to be renowned and to decompress a bit. Therefore, I authorize you, fathers, to drag your family to the golf course this weekend! Make your wife take you to the Braves game! And then force everyone to watch that same game on ESPN later that night! Because it is Father's Day and it is your right.

All fun aside though, fatherhood is tough. Fatherhood begins the moment you are drawing spirals on your wife's back with your fingertips in order to keep her distracted while in the throws of natural childbirth. A few weeks later, fatherhood is defined by waking in the wee hours of the night to change diapers before your wife nurses your prodigy back to sleep. It is only later as our little munchkins grow into romping, running, giggling little people, that the enjoyment of fatherhood increases exponentially. You thrive on your children's smiles, their laughter, and their unadulterated love for you. Coming home from an exhausting day at work, hearing their feet pitter-patter across the floor in a mad rush to greet you, they leap into your arms screaming, “Daddy!!”  And you wouldn't have it any other way. It makes the hassles of board meetings and sales calls, and even the ache you feel deep in the lower half of your spine from having been on your feet all day, fade into oblivion.

When our baby girl, Brooklynn, joined our household I quickly realized that I would have to give up a share of my husband's heart. No longer was I the only woman in his life. Because Daddy was smitten. He loved her piggy-tails, her white sundresses, and her gritty way of telling him that she wanted to wrestle. Yes. Wrestle. This is where we, mothers, lack. Without her daddy, Brooklynn would never have realized her love for rough-housing. Her love for hand to hand combat. I will not comment on whether that would have been a tragedy or not, I will simply state that things would be different around here without the things a father innately brings to family life.

Daddy is the one that baits the worm on the hook, kills the snake in the barn, and dusts the ceiling fan from atop the extension ladder. And while he is up on that ladder he finds time to build the world's tallest Lego tower. He helps his son build an ancient Roman catapult for a school project, and saves the frantically squealing field mouse from the determined jaws of our barn cat in order to console  a distraught daughter. Daddy teaches us how to kill carpenter bees with a tennis racket and explains the difference between a BB gun and a .22 long rifle. Kids eat this stuff up.

Every father would agree, I think, that these are the true joys of fatherhood. The reasons that men awake each morning and continue to drive to those nine-to-fives. The reasons for financial planners, 529 college plans,  and savings accounts strictly devoted to family vacations. The reasons they ultimately forgo bachelorhood and hitch themselves to a good woman.

Dear fathers, the woman in your home adores you. You probably do not hear it enough, but please know it. Know that we appreciate your strength, your calm and your sensibility. We love that you can rewire something, find a stud in the wall, and reposition furniture on a whim. We love it when the baby falls asleep on your lap, when you toss the kids into a four-foot-high vertical in the swimming pool and when you agree to swing by the grocery store on your way home because dinner is not at home waiting for you tonight. We may not love your crazy, loud music or your nasty gym shorts, but we cannot imagine, and hope never to experience a life without you in it. God bless all of you fathers on this happy holiday!






Kristi Hellenbrand is the newly published author of  Today is a Good Day for Marshmallows– A Mother’s Memoir, which received an honorable mention at the 2012 New York Book Festival. She is also the mother of three nutty children (whom she loves and adores anyway), is a chiropractor, a backyard gardener, and an animal lover. She is on a personal quest to be the best mother and wife that she can be, but confesses that she is “no Yoda.” She is simply a woman that is willing to share her many successes and failures in the name of her goal. Please join her and her followers on her blog page. She welcomes your comments and emails. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three children, and two dozen pets.



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Crow Soup for the Father's Soul



Feeling a little sentimental and philosophical today,  thanks.  


Fatherhood is a many splendored thing.  It tests many parts of your mind, body, and soul.  It is a challenging role that you often appreciate late at night or when you realize your child is growing up and crossed into a new phase by their actions or their words.  When young children get frustrated, parents when often tell them to stop throwing a fit and “use your words”.  Well, the beauty, passion, and depth of fatherhood is sometimes too much for me and my words, so I thought I would use somebody else’s.  When it comes to beautiful lyrics I cannot think of too many of my favorites who can outdo the beautiful and haunting lyrics of the Counting Crows.  Plus I get to pay a little homage to their music, and when it helped me to scream out some of these words depending on where I was or what song the situation called for.  This section is meant to be a little philosophical, and hopefully, a little inspirational.  Perhaps you will not need this section, or maybe you will need it on day 3 of fatherhood, I don’t know.  Hopefully if you haven’t clicked off this………..are you still reading?  Ok, thanks.  So hopefully you will find some spark in the thoughts contained below.  Of course, there is about a 100% chance that I will be “coloring” the lyrics to apply to fatherhood-
“Have you Seen Me Lately”
 Get away from me
This isn't gonna be easy
But I don't need you
Believe me
You got a piece of me
But it's just a little piece of me
And I don't need anyone
And these days I feel like I'm fading away
Like sometimes when I hear myself on the radio
Have you seen me lately?
I am sure the Crows and Adam didn’t intend it this way, but this song could go out to any stay at home or single parent.  “Have you seen me lately?”  I was having a conversation with the Father’s of my youngest daughter’s friend.  One of us actually said this phrase out loud, “I am really looking forward to seeing Beauty and the Beast 3d.”  I am not going to say who, but isn’t it enough to know it was said?  And that the other dad did not even flinch at the comment?  “Have you seen me lately?”  No, because I have become something different.  We are now fathers, and although we may never get there our goals is to put the needs of our family first.  Sometimes we become so wrapped up in our families and jobs we lose ourselves.  That’s why along the way, we need to renewal.  If we lose ourselves and why we are doing this, we’ll become Bobby Petrino.  So if you haven’t seen yourself in awhile, go find him.  When I say give everything to your family, I also mean to take care of yourself so you can give the best version of you.  Give everything to your family, including a strong, renewed, engaged version of yourself. 

 “Rain King”
When I think of heaven
Deliver me in a black-winged bird
I think of flying down into a sea of pens and feathers
And all other instruments of faith and sex and God
In the belly of a black-winged bird.
Don't try to feed me
I've been here before
And I deserve a little more
These lyrics are more symbolic than anything, and may or may not mean much to you or I.  But in an interview Adam (lead singer/songwriter) spoke about this song, and how it was about pouring everything he had into his goal without feeling self conscious about it.  I think this is important, especially for men as Fathers.  We are so programmed growing up to “win” and achieve status.  But as a parent all your child really wants is for you to be there for them.  That is winning.  So as we find ourselves in circumstances where we must be foolish to bond with our kids, we should do it every time and not be self-conscious about it.    So our craft and goal as parents is our child or children.  We have to use everything we have to raise our child.  The saying used to be that “It takes a village” to raise a child.  But now the villagers live in different parts of the country, and visit on birthdays and holidays.  Less often are aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  involved in your children’s life like they were 30 years ago.  So, for most people, it may take a village but all you have is you child’s mother and yourself.  You will get some outsourced help from teachers, coaches, and the like, but they are not invested in your child’s success like you are.  So pour yourself into your child.  Find ways to make their spirit come alive, and honor and celebrate who they are. 
 “Round Here”
Step out the front door like a ghost
into the fog where no one notices
the contrast of white on white.
And in between the moon and you
the angels get a better view
of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.

This is just a reminder about just how tough life and in turn parenting can be.  As your life progresses, you may wake up and feel totally disconnected from everything.  You energy and creativity aren’t there, something isn’t plugged in.  As this goes on and happens over and over, you start to think this is the life you thought you would have at this point.  This song represents how the things you were told that were “rules” in life growing up, how they don’t seem true as an adult and you begin wondering about the fairness and meaning of it all.  Your dissatisfaction with some aspect of your life and your inability to do anything about it has got you down, and then your child awakes and needs your care and attention.  At some point I will have to post about the new definition of control (or lack thereof) that you have as a parent.  In short, about how you are going to need to redefine your definition of control.  You thought I just meant your daily schedule?  You have to give up more control than that. 
 “Mercury”
And then runs away
It's a sin to be fading endlessly
Yeah, but she's all right with me
She is leaving on a walkaway
She is leaving me in disarray
In the absence of a place to be
She stands there looking back at me
Hesitates, and then turns away
She'll change so suddenly
She's just like mercury

This song is very likely about a relationship with a woman.  But for our purposes, this will be about our relationships with our family.  They will indeed change like mercury.  They are fluid things that are constantly changing and moving.  If you are not happy with the ways things are, be it in a specific relationship of at your home, hang in there.  Things will change soon, and you can help it along and take steps to facilitate positive change.  If things are good, appreciate the moment.  Don’t be afraid of what the future holds, for it can be just as good. 

“Anna Begins”
And I'm not ready for this sort of thing
But I'm not gonna break
And I'm not going to worry about it anymore
I'm not gonna bend. And I'm not gonna break and
I'm not gonna worry about it anymore
It seems like I should say "as long as this is love..."

This is just a reminder to Father’s that being a parent is hard.  Always putting your children before yourself is hard.  Using a great deal of your mental, emotional, and financial resources is hard.  This song is actually about the difficulty of a relationship and two people that were not ready for both the feelings they felt for each other, but the fact that the relationship that had to end.  For dads, you might just discover that despite the difficulty of raising a child, many parents actually cry and feel sorrow when their children grow up and leave them behind.  The parenting contract is hard to execute, but do everything you can to make it memorable.  Enjoy the moments; don’t be afraid of the bad times.  They will make the good times all the more enjoyable, because in some alternate universe where things make sense, you’ve earned it.