Tag Archives: Soundtrack

It Worked for Awhile . . .

Sam

It Worked for Awhile

Memories.

My son up there, Sam, has memories in everything.  They absorb the items and the breadth of everything around him like the pores of a sponge.

So it is that I contend, again, with a broken bed.

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This was the bed, a couple months ago.  Sure . . . it elicited many a “now you know why I told you not to jump on the bed(s)!”  Still . . . the bed was broken.  I had every intention on that next day to make a trip to the dreaded monument to Swedish engineering (he said in distinct sarcasm) Ikea.  Instead, I spent hours recessing screws, cutting boards and trying my hardest o fix the twin bed of my son’s.

My son saw this bed as a transport, his own time machine where he could lie in bed and think about his days as a toddler or elementary school child.  He used it to remember the days he loved going to the park and when he was across the hall from his Dad.

He used it to remember his Mom.

So it was I took an entire day to build the braces, using deck screws and other pieces, to rebuild his bed.

Then last night his older sister sat on the bed.  It’s here I saw the serious design flaw.  It just wasn’t made to handle more than a toddler’s weight, an engineering spec I hadn’t read nor realized since the beds had always been pre-assembled.

So it was that this very son, in the heights of his being bummed out by the loss of his personal time machine, he went with me to Ikea.

He helped pick the bed.  He sat in the restaurant with me because we were ten minutes early.

This wouldn’t normally be a big deal except I spent the entire evening tossing and turning.  I have cookies I want to make.  I have a cake to finish and frost.  I have cinnamon rolls to make for morning.  I have to wait for the arrival of the fat guy in the red suit and do my yearly ritual . . . watching The Apartment while I await the visitor from the North.

But it’s Christmas.  It’s a day of new beginnings.  It’s a day of love, delight, giving and not anger.  I looked at my son up there and looked at him and realized how patient and happy he was for having such a tight connection to this object.

“We are getting beds for Christmas!” He was smiling as we went through the labyrinthian store.  We had to use every ounce of self-restraint to not buy that set of coffee cups, no matter how cute, or the panda bears or the new cutting board.

Like Laurel and Hardy we got to the aisle with the boxes.  My 11-year-old, build like a wrestler and strong as a gnat couldn’t manage to hold the little cart.  As one box got closer, filled with iron and styrofoam and weighing about as much as an Acme anvil the corner would hit the cart and my son would exclaim “ouch!”  The cart would roll backward, the box fall and the eyes from the early shoppers would peek around the corner like a Pixar cartoon.

Somehow we managed to get the first box on the cart.  Then came number two, which I somehow managed to see was box number 1 . . . weighing about double the first.  By now Sam had wedged his foot behind the wheel of one side and held onto the other side.  By the third box we had a light piece we could put onto the cart and walk away.

On the drive home NPR’s Here and Now was playing the host’s interview with a DJ from his hometown.  They were playing songs from his childhood for Christmas . . . and Sam was bobbing his head to Chuck Berry singing Run, Run, Rudolph!  

The beds still need building, the rolls rising, the cookies cutting, the dinner creating . . . but I don’t mind.  Busy is better than bored and we’ll get it done.

And we’ll have new beds for Christmas.

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Humbug!

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Humbug!

It would be easy seeing the headline to think I’m turning Ebeneezer-ish on this week prior to the Holiday.  You’d be wrong, though.

No . . . Humbug is a person who behaves in a deceptive or dishonest way.  That’s according to my good friend Miriam Webster, anyway.  In Dickensian terms it’s a fraud or hoax.  “More of gravy than grave,” in other words.

I posted something on Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother on Sunday talking about how you should read aloud to your kids.  It’s worth looking at if you want to hear my soapbox exposition, but for now I’ll regale you of the offshoot to that very post.

Every year, you see, there are two books that dominate the lead-up to Christmas in my home.  The last few days before Christmas, of course, we simply must read Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  We’ll dutifully watch the cartoon as well.

Grinch

Over the course of several days – ususally 5-6 of them – we read from a tearing, beat-up, 1900 American edition of Dickens’ Christmas tales.  It’s blue, the binding fraying, and we don’t care a whip.  It’s the kind of book printed on a real press, the letters and ink thick enough you can run your fingers over the page and feel the letters with your eyes closed.  There are things in that turn of the century edition that don’t appear in other more “modernized” renditions that you simply should not remove.

Sure, there are references to saints and holidays that nobody here in the US celebrates (and perhaps never DID celebrate) but that’s neither here nor there.

When the time comes to read from the book my sons will jump – maybe even leap – at the chance.  My daughters did in years past, yet they seem bored with it this year.
“We’ve heard it, like, 15 times guys…” is their response this year.  That has little change in my demeanor, though.

I take the blue book, open it gently, the spine crackling slightly, and read as the narrator for the open of the book.

“Marley was dead to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.”
“Sheesh,” my son says, one line into Stave one.  “That’s a harsh opening.”
“Yes…it is a ghost story, though.  You’ll see why in a minute.”

Yet my sons are old enough now, resigned enough to the ritual as well, that they pay attention to the verbage.  Perhaps it’s reading A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or other intelligently humorous books, but they catch the sarcastic, droll humor in the book.

“Mind!  I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.  I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.”
“Well…yeah, what is dead about a doornail,” my soon asks.

About 5 interruptions into the first paragraph I inform them that if we keep stopping after every sentence we’ll be celebrating the 4th of July before we finish the book.

My point, though, is that sneakily, steadily and strangely enough I’ve inserted Charles Dickens in with JK Rowling and Jim Rollins and Eoin Colfer.  The boys watched the Bob Zemekis motion-capture movie of A Christmas Carol and have realized, very quickly, that it’s more faithful to the text than most other versions have been.

They also know terms like “ironmongery.”

Reading aloud to my children is something I simultaneously enjoy and wonder in as the kids listen.  The boys are 11, the girls 15 and 20 . . . but they still will sound off a line here and there.

“But the Grinch, who lived just North of Whoville . . . did NOT!”

Ghosts, Grinches, Whos and Cratchitts. . . .they all live in our house.  It would be easy to say that in the last three years the holidays would be melancholy.  The first had its moments, for sure, since we’d just lost their mother a few months prior.  But we lived the holidays not in spite of the loss but regardless of it.  The holidays didn’t disappear without her.  By the same token, I celebrated them before I met her.

So Christmas creeps in . . . along with literature.  And we’re all happy to participate.

My boys and me . . . taken by Hannah before the movies one night.
My boys and me . . .

 

It Cut Me Deep

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It Cut Me Deep

I tend to make dinner from scratch at least the majority of the evenings in our home.  Sure, there’s pizza night and I use the occasional pre-made dinner from the frozen aisle in the grocery store.  That, my friends, isn’t caving in it’s survival.  The nights we have chicken tacos more than offset the one night a month we might have honey-bbq battered chicken fingers.

One of those homemade dinner nights this weekend was painful.  Not figuratively, literally.

The bandaid up there on my thumb doesn’t look like much, but we’re a couple days past my stupidity.

I was cooking Spaghetti Bolognese for the kids and myself.  I had cooked the meat, cut the carrots, onions and even added the spices up to this point.  It was a can of mushrooms – the one time I hadn’t bought fresh ones – that got me.

I opened the can with an ancient can opener that I know I should have replaced eons ago . . . but I didn’t.  A sliver of metal stuck to the lid of the same said mushrooms and I couldn’t open the can.

Now . . . the sensible, smart thing to do would have been to use a knife or – here’s a thought – buy a new can opener to do this.  I, however, having successfully done this with hundreds of cans up to this point, decided to bend the lid back.

With my thumb.

It’s pretty amazing just how sharp the lid of a can is.

Using profanity akin to something Yosemite Sam would have spouted (but starting with “Aghhh!  Son of a . . . ) I immediately put the thumb under water and looked around.

I don’t often see my oldest daughter’s face turn white and then get anxious but this was one of those times.  This came after I asked for a towel or cloth.  “I need one right now!”

The cut, you see, was really, really deep.  I felt it go really far into the center of my thumb.
“There’s going to be a lot of blood, I need something to put pressure on,” was my follow-up line.
“Where is the gauze and tape,” she asked.  When I had her check the medicine cabinet the medical supplies were gone.  No bandaids, either.

“There’s cotton balls…”
“No, that will just get stuck in the cut.”
“I found two pieces of gauze,” my daughter informed me.  So I looked around . . .
“Get me the duct tape,” I informed the other children.  That grew derision and eye-rolling from the aforementioned oldest daughter.
“It’s that or I look for super glue, so which would you prefer?”
More eye-rolling.

It’s not often you realize the convenience of a 20-year-old child who has matured to be quite mothering, helpful and caring . . . and has a driver’s license.  I, however, was thrilled.  The duct taped thumb seemed to have been the last straw and she jumped in the car and went to Walgreens and bought new gauze, medical tape and band-aids for me.

You never realize just how much you use your thumb . . . particularly for typing . . . until pain shoots all down the said appendage just when you hit the space-bar.

I also realized that as much as I care and worry about my children . . . they do the same about me.  When I’ve been sick, coughing, tired, back hurt . . . they all fret and worry about what’s happening to me.

That being said . . . my stomach a little queasy from the pain in my thumb . . . once the bandages were applied my kids scattered.

I turned around, looked at the stove, and finished the dinner for the evening.

 

Crooked Teeth and Christmas Lights

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Crooked Teeth and Christmas Lights

The boy you see up there was the center of the beginning of the week.

Not that I didn’t pay any attention to the other two still living in the house.  They got their fair share.  Theirs just had to wait until after they got home from school.

No . . . the little boy up there had to go to the dentist because, for the second time, he’s had a tooth coming in on top of another tooth.  If you’re a little boy, I suppose it’s kinda cool, like a shark’s tooth.  “I get two rows of teeth that way!” But . . . no.  Unlike a shark, this isn’t cartilage and it doesn’t grow back if something goes wrong.

This day, as a result, I decided it was time to get my son to the dentist, which caused him great consternation.  It wasn’t that he was visiting the dentist it was the amount of homework and extra work he’d receive since he wasn’t in school.  My response was that most kids would kill to have a day to play hookie.

We managed the dentist with no problems and got what I expected – a referral to an orthodontist.  I informed my son that we’d likely be eating lots of mac and cheese or breakfast for dinner in January in order to pay for the Christmas presents and the braces I know are coming for my son.

After the dentist my son wanted, desperately, to get the lights on the house.  As stressed and exhausted as I was, it seemed a decent idea so we did it.  For the first time the boy climbed the ladder and went on the roof of the house to help.  Bear in mind, the shark-toothed boy is scared of anything dangerous or exciting.  Roller coasters completely terrify him.  So does parachuting, bungee jumping, heights and any other number of normal thrill-seeking things.  He can’t even stand it when I take a curve too fast in the car.

Yet here he was, after being told his teeth will have to be moved by braces so they can all come in properly, standing on the roof of our house.  He stretched out lights and handed me gutter clips to hold the lights up and watched as I leaned over the roof to put nails in the eaves in order to hang the lights.  He felt pride in having been able to climb the ladder and stand on the roof and do all this.

This has been a year of change for all of us.  He’s learned how to install a car radio and fix a bed and do some basic woodworking.  He’s made his own desserts and cooked lunch and done a myriad of things.  Essentially, he’s gaining skills for life without my having to press them upon him.

After hanging all the lights, cooking dinner, helping with homework, cleaning up and finishing the inside decorations it was past the kids’ bed times.  I sat down on the couch, having stayed home to take care of him and realized something . . .

I did more work staying home than if I’d actually gone to work.

The “What Ifs” of Youth

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The “What Ifs of Youth”

My daughter has been asking me a lot of questions of late, most of which involve what the future brings.  Most of that comes from the fact that we watched an hour-long special on how terribly high student loan debt is today.  In my defense, even though she’s just a high school sophomore, I helped produce the special so she didn’t have a choice but to watch it.

Sure, over the last few weeks she’s freaked out about the cost of a college education.  She bemoans the fact that we likely can’t afford a really expensive, private art college.

But that’s just a temporary thing.  She even says as much.

Then tonight she came to me with a sincere question.  It’s one of those “what if” questions that usually only come from middle-aged people who bemoan what’s missing in their lives.  One of those “if I’d only” questions.

“I don’t mean this in a bad, sad way, Dad, but what would you have done if you hadn’t met Mom and had us?  Would you have been in a band?  Would you have gone on tour and been a musician?”

I will, in all honesty, say that this question has gone through my mind.  I’ve thought long and hard about it.

“I would have liked to do it,” was my reply.  “I thought at the time I was pretty damn good.”
“You are good, really good,” she tells me.  That made me smile.
“Okay, now I am.  But I wasn’t that good when I was 20 and 21.”

It’s true, too.  The band I was in really only played cover tunes.  We tried to write material and had a couple original songs but the reality is we didn’t have much.  It wasn’t until I broke out on my own that I actually began writing my own material hard and heavy.  Most of that came because I didn’t feel like the music and lyrics I’d written fit in with the cover band I was in at the time.

My first band, Drastic Measures
My first band, Drastic Measures

But there was a far more important message to give my daughter.

“I would have wanted to be a musician,” I told my daughter, “but I’m relatively certain I wouldn’t have done it.”
“Why,” was her question?
“Because your Mom, when she came along, met me when I was really lacking confidence.  She gave me confidence.  Lots of it. I started my own band because she met struck up a conversation with a drummer I know and convinced us we should play together.”

Whatever had happened, I simply didn’t have the confidence.  It wasn’t my upbringing, that was pretty great.  It wasn’t anyone else’s fault.  It was my own failings, my own lack of respect for myself, my abilities, intelligence, whatever it was that changed it all.

But one of the things I’ve sworn to do, and I told this to my daughter, was to help my children gain that confidence.  Had I broken out on my own back when I was in my early twenties I might very well have improved to the point of being able to play.

There’s something else, though, too.  Things are just different now.  I told her as much.  I am nowhere near the person I was nearly four years ago.  I’ve changed a great deal physically, personally, emotionally, and it’s for the better.  We’re all doing what we want at this point.

I wouldn’t have wanted to go through the pain and grief we all did, but I’m also playing more, writing better, and doing far more than I ever did before.  None of that happened before my wife passed away.

“Plus, I wouldn’t have had you four,” I told my daughter.  “That’s a pretty big deal.”  As much as I pulled back on being a musician because I had kids it wasn’t the main reason.

This discussion came after I recorded a vocal line for yet another demo for a record my own kids have told me I need to record.  Many of the emotions come from loss and grief, sure.  They also come from struggle, happiness, and conflict due to trying to find ways to go on a date.  This is particularly hard since, just a couple nights ago, my sons informed me that instead of worrying about finding a woman to share time with I should just get a dog.  (Though I think there’s some selfish motivation in that statement on their part.)

What my daughter wants to know is do I regret the way things have gone?  I regret a lot of things.  I think nearly everyone has regrets, unless they’re Paul McCartney or Richard Branson.  (And I think Paul’s probably regretting that second marriage and divorce, truth be told)  I don’t regret that I had a topsy-turvy, interesting, emotional marriage.  It had amazing highs and spectacular lows, but we lived.

I also don’t regret that we’re living and thriving without her.  That’s necessity . . . and it’s brilliant.

am a musician, I tell my daughter.  I may be in my 40s, but that doesn’t mean I am not.

It also doesn’t mean I can’t still record, sell, and perform.  Nothing is beyond your attempting to reach for that dream, that’s my message to my kids.  You may fail, you may falter . . . but you won’t regret having tried.  That’s the main thing.

A Sense of Community

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A Sense of Community

No . . . this isn’t some “it takes a village” line to talk about raising my children.

I will extol, though, the virtues of music to young people, particularly those my kids’ ages.

I don’t care if it’s playing Dvorak or Beethoven or if you’re Rockin’ the Casbah with the Clash.  Music has a rhythm and sense of movement that help your brain do so many things.  More than anything else, though, music brings people together.  Musicians are a community in and of themselves, be it the Blues musicians in the Delta area of Mississippi or the symphonic players in the orchestra for the Boston Pops.  It’s music and it brings people together.

When I heard about the Youth Symphony in Sacramento trying to build on that image – that music and its musicians are a community – I immediately thought it was worth a news story.

Then I thought it was something my kids should experience.

The Youth Symphony’s conductor, Michael Neumann, had a dream after studying an old score, that it would be something amazing to have 1,000 musicians of all shapes, sizes, caliber and the like play together.

So they did it today.  (I write this on Sunday Evening.)

After two years’ preparation, they got a thousand people together to play a handful of pieces – roughly an hour’s worth.  The idea was twofold – bring people who wanted to play together and to show the community that this was something worth pursuing.

The key idea here was that people could do this . . . they got the professionals, the intermediate players, and the beginners.  They had several 4-year-olds, an 80-something-year-old and a young man who was blind but learned two of the pieces anyway.  There were people who hadn’t played in 40 years and people who’d been playing forever.

Until today, none of them had met before.  None of them had played together.  They all downloaded the music and rehearsed at home.  Then they showed up, spent an hour rehearsing with Neumann . . . and then played.

I brought my kids, after having previewed the day in the news, and the orchestra filled the entire floor of the Memorial Auditorium.  So many people in so much space they needed a massive monitor to show the conductor.

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Even when the musicians, all at once, began to tune to the “concert ‘A'”, you could feel the note, physically, vibrate to the very core of your bones.  They hadn’t even played a piece yet and something magical began to happen.  As Pete Townshend put it . . . “once was a note, pure and easy, playing so free like breath rippling by.”  It was a massive breath, wafting past us.

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My kids weren’t overly thrilled with the fact that they were being dragged to something symphonic in nature.  However . . . once the music began . . . this became something far different than a day at the symphony.  This was witnessing and being a part of something never done before.  While the gallery and the seats were filled with a number of nervous, stressed-out, anxious parents the majority of the auditorium seats and the orchestra “pit” (and I use that term very loosely) was filled with smiling, giddy, anticipatory looks.  The audience listened to the obligatory introductory statements that come with events like these and many were on the edge of their seats as the first anthems came.

The highlight, though, was the show’s last pieces . . . where the entire 1,000 people played the “Hallelujah Chorus” and closed with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”  The latter, as Michael Neumann extolled, being – in his opinion – possibly the greatest symphony ever written in human history.

When my children, though bored with certain sections, heard the Chorus and the Ode . . . they stood, as with the rest of the audience, and cheered.

The point here was not perfection, and that was certainly not the case.  Some sections had a hard time keeping time and some notes were a bit off.  But that gets lost when the one missed note is joined by 999 others rippling by.

We stood and left the communion of musicians and knew that we’d witnessed something special.

It isn’t the pursuit of perfection that binds musicians and people.  It’s the sense of community that music – something we all have in our heads and hearts – instills in us.

Or, as small children of mine put it on the way out the door . . . “that was just so cool!”

A Cold Shot

Cold Shot

Allow me to got back to my past where I was simply a teenager, just met a blonde woman who would one day turn my world on its ear, and was an aspiring guitarist.

In 1989 and 1990 I had just learned to play the guitar and had bought a used 1985 Fender Stratocaster.  It was tobacco sunburst, the color a dark, almost black stain going to red then yellow with the wood grain showing.  I had joined a band after playing only a year and thought I was the cat’s pajamas.

Here’s my first band, Drastic Measures:

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Yeah, I know, ignore the bad hair and uplifted collar.

The salesman at Schmitt Music Center in Omaha sold the virtues of the Stratocaster, talking about the “Lynyrd Skynyrd tone” and all that.  He didn’t have to try that awful hard, I already knew about a Strat.  I wanted one early on because Eric Clapton played one.  By this point, though, I had seen the guy in the video up there playing a beat-to-hell, dragged behind the bumper of a car looking Stratocaster.  Stevie Ray Vaughan.  This evening, right before heading to bed, the internet alerts started pinging with the musician’s official page letting me know that Friday would have been his 60th birthday.

If you’re not a musician, you may very well not get the point of this post, but I’ll try to get it to you.

I certainly, at that time, idolized Eric Clapton.  The reality was, though, that I never really thought I’d get to play with or meet the man.  It just seemed too far off, too high on a pedestal for me to reach there.  Yet, as much as I loved the songs, the playing and the style the Clapton utilized, I felt even more when I heard Vaughan play.  He seemed to channel a varying stream of blues greats and reform their own styles into a raucous, flambouyant, never-ending stream of notes coming out of his guitar.

In this era, the late 1980’s, when hair bands like Bon Jovi and Whitesnake were reaching the ebb of their peak this seemingly dead genre, blues and blues-rock, came rocketing back into mainstream because this guy with the boots and the black hat and shitty-looking guitar just wouldn’t be ignored.  He didn’t scream, he didn’t yell, he didn’t partake in theatrics, he just wailed on the guitar.  He beat it into submission, imposing his will on the instrument not so much by beating on it – though he did plenty of that – but by caressing the stream of ideas that flowed like a river out of him.

I know, flowery words and praise for a guy playing the guitar.  Understand, though, that I was hit like a shockwave when I first heard him.  As a result, I bought that guitar . . .

So when he died in 1990, just when I was starting to play on stage, my breath was taken away.  I couldn’t go to class.  Those crazy stories of people weeping because the Beatles broke up made sense.

Clapton was God . . . people said so on the walls of the London Underground.

But if he was God . . . who cared?!  Vaughan was Hercules.  He cared nothing for gods, he was paving his own way.  He would walk onto a stage with Buddy Guy, BB King, Clapton, tour with Jeff Beck, and just wanted to play.  That, to me, was the mindset I felt.  I didn’t want to meet these people or even idolize them.  I went to concerts and my fingers ached because all I wanted to do was go up there and play the music with them.

Whether you knew of SRV or not, he paved the way for music to change.  In an era when music was all synthesizers and pop ballads and hair metal . . . this guy walked in with a Stratocaster, playing blues and Hendrix and jazz and caring little for what people thought of genres or styles . . . and gave us musical whiplash from the speed and grace he gave us.

Having dealt with drugs and alcohol he’d cleaned up his act . . . and was even more on fire than than before.  Just when he preached that he was living on borrowed time . . . he was gone.

I was hurt because I wanted to meet this man, play with him, share a stage – even if it was just a living room or porch – and share in the love of the music he adored.  I ended up with a Vaughan model Strat, the closest I ever will get to him . . . but it’s close enough for now.

I came to the conclusion years ago that, like Hendrix, I’ll never play like Stevie, and that’s okay.  The lesson I learned, hearing pieces of the three kings, Clapton, Beck and Hendrix and Hubert Sumlin and T-Bone Walker in his solos . . . you shouldn’t try to imitate.  You should play.  Just play what you feel, what you hear.

My kids see that when I play and they know his material.  They can hear just a couple notes and know it’s him because his playing is just so striking.

Losing Stevie Ray was a Cold Shot, to use one of his songs . . . but live on he does.

Because he just couldn’t be ignored.

Recording this week
Recording this week

A Parenting Paradox

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A Parenting Paradox

The argument has existed for quite awhile.  In fact, I read an article tonight from four years ago in New York Magazine’s parenting section about it: “Why Parents Hate Parenting.”

Don’t let the title fool you, they have a sort-of happy ending.  However, you slog through a lot of academic studies and points that tell you just how parents are fooling themselves if they say they’re happy with their station in life.  I wonder about that, simply because the article is looking at the parenting paradox from the perspective of an upper-middle class person in Manhattan.  They look at things like soccer-tournaments, baseball, swimming lessons and the after-school programs.  They talk about Moms who say they want to have career and parent at the same time.  They say how stressed they are, how angry they are, how they can’t seem to do it all and how obnoxious (my observation) their children are.

I have to be honest, I just don’t feel that way.

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These are my children.  They are an amazing part of my life and they are a major focus of my day, too.  When things go wrong I go to pick them up from school.  When things go right I hug them, show my pride, and inside I glow with their achievement.

However . . . and maybe this is because I first became a parent very young, a mere 23 at the time . . . parenting is a part of my life.  It’s not all my life.  Don’t get me wrong, it eats up half my day . . . I work a full day, come home, change clothes, and then my day starts all over again.  A second job, so to speak.  I make dinner, make treats for dessert or lunch, do a load of laundry, and get them situated for the evening.  I don’t complain (much) about it.

When I had my first daughter I was freaked out but not as freaked out as my wife.  There were things about my life that changed.  In 1993 I still thought there was a chance I could be a musician full-time.  Children have a way of changing that dream.  The big thing to remember in this, you must see, is that it’s not their fault.  They didn’t have sex and then get pregnant.  They didn’t necessarily choose to be here.  They just are . . . these helpless little creatures show up and you’re responsible for creating them . . . so you’re responsible for their existence and continued existence.  That’s just reality.  You can rail against it like the world has handed you a bad turn of the wheel or you can just do what you can with the cards you’re dealt.

So no, I didn’t go on tour with Eric Clapton.  I also didn’t quit my career.

When my wife passed away, things changed dramatically.  We don’t have the ability to do soccer practice, baseball or other activities.  However, my son loves animation so he is able to do that at home.  My daughter is a musician.  My other son loves to write.  We all have our itches that we scratch.

My children are pretty amazing little people and I’m happy as hell to be part of all that.  Am I stressed a lot?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Am I unhappy to be their Dad?   No.  A surprise to some but not those who know me is the fact that if I could afford to stay home and just be an at-home Dad, I’d do it.  That’s not in the cards, though.  I’m not independently wealthy and I struggle, both physically and financially.  But my kids also get to see that I have a career, I work, I play, and we do things together.  That’s the key.  We enjoy each others’ company.

That’s what counts.

It’s no paradox, really.  It’s embracing the fact that you created these little people.  It’s up to you to make sure they are part of your world . . . not the focus of it.  That way, they are self-reliant but able to know you’re there to take care of them when something goes wrong.

The article talks about a researcher who says staying up at 2am with a sick kid watching cartoons becomes a nostalgia about watching cartoons with your child.

The week my wife passed away my daughter was heading to bed, got her hugs and collapsed on the floor, cracking her head open, likely with a concussion.  I stayed up all night with her.  I was worried as hell, stressed out, but happy to be the man there to help her.  She laid her head on my lap, I boosted her up on the couch, and I kept a close eye on her.  This wasn’t fun, nor will we look back on it with fondness . . . however, we’ll look back on it and know I was there for her.

Parenting isn’t a job nor is it fun, it’s just parenting.  It’s not rocket science, though it feels like it.

So I do it and realize that every time I do something for them they’re happy.  When I do something for myself, they’re just as proud.  That’s not parenting . . . that’s family.

Take My Example?

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Take My Example?

Don’t let the title there fool you. I’m not expecting you to take my example as the best and most ideal parenting situation.  In fact, being a single father is not something I wish on anyone.  It’s not because my kids aren’t adjusted nor is it because my kids seem well-adjusted.  Nothing like that.

I keep an eye out for parenting topics making the rounds and getting attention so I can write about them.  Most are normal parents, people like me (okay, I’m not particularly normal but go with me here), who are just trying to get form day to day.

In the last week, though, the celebrity parenting advice has reared its ugly head again.  Just today I saw articles referencing Sarah McLachlan, Ricky Martin, Zoe Saldana (does she even have kids?!) and . . . again . . . Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively.  (One article is awaiting Blake’s competition to Gwyneth’s website Gloop.  I won’t link to it here.  I have no desire for the NSA to see it on my web history)

I don’t know these people.  I have little or no desire to know them.  I am sure Zoe, Gwyneth, Blake, Ricky and Sarah are all nice people.

But they have no way of relating to my situation.  I have no way of relating to theirs.

This is just some of a flood of other seemingly strange advice: “A 7-year-old’s parenting advice that will blow your mind”; or “50-cent goes off on critics of his parents”; or my favorite: “pet parenting.”

I do read sites that give me worthwhile information.  Products that will help and enhance:

When my boys were smaller and I was the only one with an iPhone I read about Mo Willems making an app that was an interactive version of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus.”  It was amazing.  Book reviews are great as my kids read.  A lot.  Outdoor activities without straying far from home; bike repairs for kids’ bikes; meals to make that are healthy, tasty and quick are all things I can use.

How to survive without protein, be a vegan, raise pugs, all those are outside of my interest zone.

Even more outside my zone of influence: celebrity parenting.  Zoe Saldana is apparently having twins . . . okay I can relate I guess . . . and she won’t be as strict as her Mom.  Hmm.  No help there.  I have all this information overload coming at me and none of it is actual information.  It’s all fluff.  What do these celebrities do . . . many may be working artists who have to make ends meet.  I get that, I am the same.  None of the articles reference them, though.  They do reference things like people with personal chefs and pizza ovens in their bak yards and nannies that watch the kids all day while they work.

I don’t have any of those things.

Most parents don’t have any of those things.

So why do we read these articles?  Where they could help – and some do, don’t get me wrong – is when they have access to products and things we don’t and can tell us the good, bad and ugly about them.  They could all do that.  But instead I get “Gloop” telling me to buy a $75 t-shirt that – oh, yeah – is designed by Gwyneth or endorsed by her.  It might very well be free-range cotton weaved with home grown hemp and hand-picked silkworm threads.  That, my friends, won’t survive the regular cycle on my washing machine.

So . . . I do what parents have done for centuries: I pay attention to the reaction of my kids.  I listen to the advice of parents I know.  I read the information on the very websites I write for to glean what I can about my own situation.

Celebrities are a good escape for some people, I suppose, but when My son is waiting for me at the door and gives me a huge hug every day when I get home . . . I simply cannot see how having someone else raise my kids while I galavant around is a good idea.

But that’s my example.  What’s yours?

It’s My Birthday Too, Yeah!

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It’s My Birthday Too, Yeah!

As I write this the clock ticks forward to a birthday.

Yes . . . by the time your read this, it will be my birthday.  I don’t really put a lot of method or stock in my own birthday, though.

No, it’s not that I’m aging…though I suppose that’s there.  Middle age will do that to you.  It’s not even the fact that until the last few years I hadn’t had a wonderful birthday.  I actually had a few horrid ones when I was still married.  My birthday wasn’t the most enjoyable of occasions, I have to say.  I dreaded it and even more dreaded the fact that others would build up its expectations and know that they weren’t that keen on putting it all together.

But one birthday in particular was pretty amazing…and it made every birthday after more so.

On July 1st 1999, my middle child, Hannah, was born.  Considering the fact that this little girl was supposed to be born a couple days before was pretty amazing.  The fact that doctors first told us she might have a genetic problem and then had to have an amniocentesis . . . started the process.  Then her mother hyper-contracted and both of them almost died on the operating table.

Then . . . in the early morning hours of the first day of July in the year before the change in millennium (okay, scientists, I know, the millennium really starts 2001.  Sue me) this tiny little thing was born.

My birthday became enjoyable all over again.

No longer was I aging, this little girl was getting presents and her eyes would light up and she’d look at me and her mother like everything was golden.  And it was.

I didn’t have to see the world through the mass of either going out drinking with people my spouse knew and not see as much of my friends.  I didn’t have to deal with my wife hanging out with my friends and not wanting to spend any more time there.  It wasn’t about me or her or marriage or any of that.

July 1st became a day about this little girl as much as it was about me.

It’s an amazing thing to see that you’re being far too selfish and you can spread that day out with someone else.

The hardest birthday for both of us came in 2011 when, less than three months after losing her mother – my wife – we had to celebrate it in different places.  She visited her grandparents and I worked because I didn’t have the vacation time.  It didn’t matter.  We talked.  We celebrated.  We loved each other and she still got her presents and I lived vicariously through her.

It’s an amazing thing.  I’ve told her over and over again that she was the best birthday present I ever received and it’s true.  Someone asked once if I minded sharing my birthday.

Only if she minds, was my reply.

So as Sir Paul aptly put it . . . So they say it’s your birthday?  Well…it’s my birthday too, yeah!