Dad at 40

Fitness, Nutrition, Parenting, and Life

Archive for the category “General Musings”

Fitness and Life – A Game of Inches

So, as I pondered what particular topic I wanted to write about next – proteins, stacks, workouts, motivation, and a host of other topics, my mind kept coming back to this idea, this belief that our lives are all about acquiring inches to move forward.

Thus, I want to share a speech with you. It is a completely fictional movie speech (Any Given Sunday), although rumor is it was based off a real speech. For me, it is a metaphor for so much more than football. It has resonated with me for a long time now (and for this blog, I have changed it a bit to reflect the reality that we all face – my changes to the original are in red):

I don’t know what to say, really. You are facing the biggest battle of your lifeand it all comes down to this moment. And either you heal yourself… or you’re going to crumble. Inch by inch, moment by moment, until you’re finished.

You’re in hell right now. Believe me. And you can stay here and get the shit kicked out of you, or you can fight your way back into the light. You can climb out of hell. One inch at a time.

Now, I can’t do it for you. I’m too old and that is not my job. I look around, I see your faces and I think … I mean, I made every wrong choice a person could make. I have been irresponsible with my money, believe it or not. I have chased off people who’ve loved me. And sometimes, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get older in life, things get taken from you. That’s — that’s part of life. But you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches.

Because in life, the margin for error is so small … I mean, one half-a-step too late or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of this life, every minute, every second.

In your life, you fight for that inch. In this life, you tear yourself and everyone else around you to pieces for that inch. You CLAW with your fingernails for that inch.

Because you know when you add up all those inches, that’s going to make the fuckin’ difference between WINNING and LOSING! Between LIVING and DYING!

I’ll tell you this — in any fight, it’s the person who’s willing to die who’s going to win that inch. And I know if I’m going to have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what LIVING is! The 6 inches in front of your face!

Now, I can’t make you do it. You have to look at the person staring at you in the mirror. Look into those eyes. Now, I think you’re going to see a person who will go that inch with you. You’re going to see a person who will sacrifice themselves because they know when it comes down to it, you’re going to do what it takes to get that inch.

That is your life, people. And either you heal now…. or you will die alone. That’s it, folks. That’s life. That’s all it is. Now, what are you going to do?

This was a great speech delivered by Al Pacino (one of my favorites) and the power with which he delivered it was amazing. The first time I heard it, it had little impact on me because it was just a movie and I was too busy fighting my own demons to understand what it really meant. But, as I heard it over and over, it started to take on a completely different meaning for me. It became less about football and more about life. I was always trying to go for the big score. Trying to get the proverbial heroic touchdown or slam dunk. Every moment I spent trying to get that was a moment I sacrificed on the fundamentals of my life and health. I kept putting off for tomorrow what I could do today. I kept ignoring the inch in front of me hoping that I could take a foot or a mile!

And as I got older, I gained wisdom. Slowly. Painfully. I gained focus and resolve. I realized I had only this life to make a difference. To change myself and maybe, just maybe, change others for the better. And that despite losing so many inches while chasing a mile, I could still claw those inches out. They were still all around me.

It starts with yourself. Heal yourself. Put your demons to rest. For some, it is easier than others. I am not a therapist, but I can tell you that you have to want to move forward. We all need to put our energy into breaking free from that which holds us back so we can claim that first inch.

It starts so small….a tiny hint of movement. It is barely perceptible. We have all probably felt like we are stuck, not moving forward at all, even moving backwards. But, if you keep working hard and believing in yourself, you’ll get that forward movement. I am not saying that living a healthy life will solve all your problems, but it is something you control – you own. You can fight for those inches. You can claw for those inches. You can change yourself and see results. Yes, you will stumble and fall. You will have setbacks. But ultimately, you can and will prevail. And as you stand there victorious, you will realize you have the strength to conquer so much more.

And it doesn’t take anything fancy. Just willpower and dedication and desire. You just have to commit. You have to truly claw and fight for each inch. And that is why this speech resonates so much for me.

We succeed not because life dropped success in our laps. We succeed because we clawed for it. We fought for it. And when we finally stopped feeling sorry for ourselves and started focusing on what we needed, it changed us for the better. It is important to be a part of a team, and friends and support helps. But, we have to be prepared to go at it alone. We have to fight for our lives with our last breath.

Because you know when you add up all those inches, that’s going to make the fuckin’ difference between WINNING and LOSING! Between LIVING and DYING!”

Fitness, Food, and the terrible N word….

*I am a Doctor of Philosophy. Not an MD. I am not a Doctor of a Biological Science. What this means is I am a researcher. Feel free to disregard any of this…or do your own research, but please remember, should you undertake anything, make sure you check with your medical provider if you have any health issues.

Hey everybody, today I thought it would be good to discuss nutrition. I recently completed Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Shred program. It was a brutal six weeks, or so I thought until I examined the work I would have to do on the Super Shred 8 program. While messaging an old friend, I was asked about my nutrition during the program. This got me thinking that nutrition is a really ugly N word that we are just truly afraid of. Now, please do not confuse my use of the concept of N word with other more pejorative terms. Those are wrong….bottom line. But for people looking at health and fitness, nutrition is a very difficult concept to grasp. Intellectually, we all understand it. But, what does that mean in a practical sense? How do we apply it? What are some of the challenges we face? So, I want to share my knowledge with you. This will be a bit of a long read, but please read it….and ask me questions if you need.

First, what is nutrition? I am going to provide a standard dictionary definition for you:

“the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth”

Great Rod….that is super easy. I get it. Thanks. All cleared up. I am ready to rock and roll. Yet, despite knowing this simple definition, we all struggle with this everyday. You see, we can have copious amounts of food with little to no nutritional value. And we can have highly nutritional food without any of the flavor that we have come to love and crave. For most, the biggest obstacle to health and wellness is the disconnect between food and nutrition. People have adopted the live to eat mentality as opposed to the eat to live mentality. This is highly dangerous to you as a human being. We will get back to that in a few minutes.

Calories

So let’s get to the nitty gritty of this issue. Bottom line, you need to watch your calories. You will read a ton of crap about eating properly. You will hear people say don’t eat before bedtime. Eat smaller meals. Do this…do that. I am here to tell you that all of that is really just psychological bullshit. Someone, somewhere is trying to sell you something. But the bottom line is calories. Don’t believe me? Read the linked article below about the nutritionist who ate twinkies and doritos. It will probably freak you out a bit. It certainly raises some serious questions about all this healthy eating stuff. Organic. Farm raised. Blah blah.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/index.html

How about small meals? Yeah….I need to eat six small meals a day. Or I need not eat right before bed. Yeah, that is the trick. I need to do that. Well, take a gander at this article:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/6_meals_a_day#1

If you do not want to read it, here is the telling part “And a research review reached no conclusions about whether meal frequency helps or hurts with weight loss.

What the shit man? You mean eating multiple small meals a day may possibly make me want to eat more? Damnit….damnit to hell.

Then, you have this little gem about Herschel Walker. The dude only eats one meal a day. And he is a freak of physical nature. It must be genetics.

http://www.bettermanproject.com/the-diet-that-contradicts-everything-you-know-about-nutrition/

So, according to this other blogger, you can actually gain some benefit from just eating one meal a day and it could actually be good for you. Ok, so now I am totally confused. I can eat twinkies just once a day as long as I do not exceed my total caloric intake and still lose weight and get healthy. That literally runs against the grain of everything I have ever heard in my life. Rod, I thought you said you were going to help me understand nutrition, not confuse the hell out of me. Thanks man….I hate you.

However, there is a point to all of this. You see, the real deal is that there is no magic solution. There is no surefire way to eat right or find a quick fix to your problems. In an earlier post, I equated fitness and health to yard work. To make your yard look beautiful, you have to put in the work. You cannot just plow over it with the lawnmower and expect it to look amazing. So, this is your challenge. What works for you? No one can tell you what works for you because each of us is different. It means you have to do the homework. You have to track your calories. You have to monitor your foods. You have to take into account your circumstances. YOU HAVE TO COMMIT TO DOING THE WORK!

Macros

What does this mean? I hear it all the time. Macros simply mean macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates). You have to monitor your macros means you need to look after the ratios of proteins, fats, and carbs in your diet. Earlier, we stated you could eat twinkies all day as long as you do not go over your calorie threshold. But, it you want to build muscle you will be hard pressed to do so as twinkies have no real protein content. On the flip side, you can ingest nothing but protein, but not have any carbs to help you with energy to do an activity. Fats are critical because without them, our bodies would have a really rough time. We need linoleic and linolenic acid to help with brain development, the controlling of inflammation, and blood clotting (Medline Plus, 2017). So, we have to create a healthy balance of macros to fuel our bodies. An imbalance can lead to all sorts of problems – heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, death……

Read these two resources to help you better understand what to do with macros and to truly understand the purpose of fats:

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/from-here-to-macros-4-steps-to-better-nutrition.html

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000104.htm

It sounds like rocket science, but it isn’t. It is work though. You have to track things for a bit. Write things down. Make the effort. Listen, I promise you that if you end up sitting there with an amputated leg or the doctor telling you that your diabetes made you go blind, you will wish you could get that time back and do the work. So, just do the work now. Suck it up…put in the effort.

I Effing Love Food

Listen folks, I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Mexican food was not just an item on a menu, it was a way of life. Enchiladas were their own food group. Tamales were darn near a religious experience. Drinking beer is likely preferred to water. It is no wonder that diabetes is a raging epidemic in the Rio Grande Valley. Nationally, diabetes is really causing problems. But, the South Texas region is literally ground zero for the epidemic.

https://www.texasobserver.org/revolutionizing-care-for-the-valleys-diabetes-epidemic/

Now, this may be anecdotal, but many people I know via Facebook regularly attend this little event called the Livestock Show and Rodeo. This is one of many events that occur back home where people just gorge themselves on some of the unhealthiest food imaginable. Listen, I do not fault people for doing this. Not one bit. Your body, your life. But, if you jump out of an airplane without a parachute, you probably should not complain on your way down that you are probably going to die. Sure, you might survive, but the odds are not in your favor. Wherever you live, you have to look at your culture, your surroundings, and your habits.

I have met a ton of Europeans that come visit Austin and they are totally shocked by the amount of food that we are served and, more importantly, the fact that people will consume everything put on a plate in front of them.  Here is a fun fact:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database, a 2-ounce serving of tortilla chips, or around 18 chips, contains 275 calories. Carbohydrates contribute the most at 150 calories per serving. Fats deliver 110 calories, while proteins offer 15 calories.Feb 4, 2014″

That is just 18 chips!! How many chips do you eat when you sit down at a restaurant? How many margaritas or beers do you drink?

Eight ounces of a standard margarita on the rocks will set you back about 455 calories, while a 12-ounce margarita has about 680 calories. You can lighten up your drink by limiting the Cointreau — or triple-sec, which is sometimes used instead — and by using fresh lime juice instead of a sweetened version.Apr 23, 2015″

Now, if you are supposed to consume just about 2500 calories a day, imagine how you can blow through that. And then people wonder why they look the way they do or have diabetes. Sweet sassy molassey….it’s kinda obvious.

My Diet

Look, I love food. I love cake. I love warm cookies and milk. I love all the same foods that a majority of Americans love. But at 6’8″, I weigh 229 and have 9.5% body fat. How? Because I monitor what I eat. I pay close attention to macros. I have cut out the unnecessary junk. Water is my preferred drink.

When my buddy asked whether I followed the Stoppani diet, I had to honestly say I did not. But, that does not mean that I did not pay attention to the overall needs of my body to gain muscle, lose weight, and function effectively. I consume a multi-vitamin. I drink protein shakes. I consume essential and branch chain amino acids. And I have one meal a day. That was referenced earlier as the Herschel Walker diet, but it is really commonly known as the warrior diet. That diet hearkens back to our old hunter, gatherer way of life. The tribe would hunt during the day, eating snacks of berries and such, and then feast on the kill at night. One meal….once a day. Small snacks during the day for energy. Calorie count all the way. Now, I can increase my caloric intake if I like based on the intensity of my workouts. The more I exercise, the more calories I can consume without gaining weight.

But, that works for me. You have to find what works for you. That is the trick. So, all this to say that you have to figure your needs out on your own. You have to have willpower and dedication to make things happen. There are no fad diets. No drinks. No silly programs. It is just guts and willpower and a little science. Remember, this is about eating to live. To fuel your body. Not living to eat. Not eating because it tastes good. Not eating because everyone else is doing it. It is about your health. That simple.

So, I hope you learned something today. I hope that this helps. As always, I am here to answer questions and offer my insight. I also want to hear from you all. Share your experiences. But remember, you have to put in the effort.

It is okay if you do not. No one is judging you. But, at the end of the day, the only person you can blame or pat on the back is yourself. You are your own best friend or your own worst enemy. Good luck….

 

 

Ch…ch….ch…..Changes

I have spent a lot of time away from my blog this past year. I have a ton of ideas and thoughts and musings I want to share. However, time and life got in the way. As a new dad again, in my 40s, I did not realize how challenging this would be. The “I got this” mentality is something that I need to keep in check. In reality, I did not “have this” and have found that being a father again in my 40s is much more challenging than I had thought possible.

Add to that the fact that we had a crazy election year and that our country was challenged ideologically and I found myself stuck in a rut. Why a rut? Well, it is not so much a rut as it is frustration. You want to change things, but your voice matters little in a sea of voices screaming at the top of their lungs. So, I pushed back and tried to fight a battle that I could never win. It wasn’t even a draw. People will be who they will be. I can accept that. But, it affected me personally. I lost my focus and my energy to write about what I was passionate about. Instead, I tried to use logic to explain to people the fallacy of their views, which really just amounted to me hitting my head against a brick wall.

So, I am officially giving that up. I am going back to writing about my passion. That is this blog. It originally started as a place to share my musings about fatherhood in my 40s, and I will continue to do that. But, it is changing. It is going to focus on fitness.

Why fitness? What makes my blog so special in a sea of blogs about fitness? Well, it isn’t that special. However, it is the real deal. I am not going to bullshit you with craptastic advice. I am going to shoot you straight. I am not going to try to sell you anything or convince you to buy anything. I am just going to share my thoughts, ideas, and practices.

You can disregard anything I say. You can take to heart what I say. You can ask questions or reach out to me. What I do not know, I will research. What I do know, I will share. What is beyond my ability to properly answer, I will give you resources that do know. But this is my outlet and it is for everyone out there that needs some advice or some help or just a place to vent about the challenges you face. It is not just for dads, but for all men. For all people. But, I will tend to focus more on men our age. So please stop by and enjoy……

 

 

Losing my S!*% at Luby’s Cafeteria

So, I have been relatively quiet these last two weeks or so. It has been a busy time with South by Southwest in town. I will write more about that soon, as I have some really great stories to tell about my experiences this year. However, this story is about something much more personal to me.

Many of you may think this is ridiculous. Some of you may wonder why I even choose to eat at this restaurant. I have heard a ton of stories about it being a dinosaur from a bygone era. But, it was a dinosaur that I was familiar with. My mother would often take me to the theater in Harlingen, Texas and right after or before, we would stop to get a bite to eat at Luby’s Cafeteria.

To this day, my mother loves Luby’s. That is until yesterday. So, I relay this warning to you all as a courtesy. And before you go lambasting me about I get what I deserve for going there, please remember that a large number of people use Luby’s – especially the elderly who grew up with that food as a generational thing. This is why my story is so disturbing.

Yesterday, March 17th, I decided to join my mother and son at Luby’s. Was it my ideal choice? No. I prefer other food. However, in a pinch, it beats a burger. Now, the last time I went there, my food was mostly cold. I chalked it up to a bad day. The manager dealt with the issue and got me hot food. Bravo for him. But yesterday was a totally different story. Truly.

We get in line to get our food. My son went to sit with his little brother in a booth. As I am standing in line looking at what I want to eat, I glance over to the back kitchen area. I see a large, probably 6’2″, heavy-set guy with reasonably sized (and hairy arms) elbows deep in a huge vat of macaroni and cheese.I was immediately revolted. I pointed it out to the assistant manager. He looked back and turned to me and said that he was wearing gloves. Gloves! Ok, well, that was still gross, but gloves would make it better I thought. Then the guy stops mixing the macaroni and turns to wash his hands. No GLOVES!!!!

SO, I complain again. The manager (the same gentleman I met before in the hot food incident) explains to me that the guy washed his hands before and then mixes the macaroni and then washes his hands again. It was safe.

I am not going to lie. I was dumbfounded. I did not want to make a scene or embarrass my mother. So I told the assistant manager that if they were going to do something so disgusting, to do it behind the scenes and out of the view of the public.

I ended up not being able to eat my food. The thought of this guy elbows deep in the macaroni really grossed me out. I got a full refund on my meal and called corporate to complain. Corporate was dumbfounded. This was not our operating procedure they told me. They would report it to the area manager. Great. I did my part. About 20 minutes later I get a call from the manager at the Luby’s telling me how grateful he was for my feedback and that it would start a conversation about hand cleaning procedures. He also told me how gloves were not going to really make a difference and it was about hand cleaning. He then went on to list other things Luby’s made by hand and that they were proud of making things by hand. I seriously wanted to puke and I tried to explain to him that it was unsanitary. I explained my position that you can wash your hands and still have gunk under your finger nails. He simply said they would have a conversation about better hand washing.

I get it. I do not work in the food service industry. I was not trained in their specifics. But here is my inexperienced and non-food service educated response to them. HELL NO!!!

How about this? Let me really wash my feet well. Then let me mix up the macaroni and cheese with my feet. How about that? Pretty arbitrary? Right? No? I would probably be told by them that is ridiculous. And they would be right. Just as ridiculous as a guy elbows deep in a vat of macaroni!!! I am not sure if I am more grossed out by what I saw or what I heard. Rather than say we made a mistake and that vat was thrown away and that is not how we make our food, he actually told me they make a ton of food that way, they are proud of their hand made tradition, and they will improve their hand washing techniques.

Here you go Luby’s (some thoughtful feedback):

  • hand washing never quite cleans our skin because the water can never be hot enough to truly kill bacteria
  • to truly kill bacteria on our skin, medical specialists use betadyne (that red stuff) instead of alcohol or anything else – this is done to ensure a truly clean surface
  • how does hand washing prevent arm hair from falling off
  • is there truly a way to ensure that someone follows an exact protocol to wash hands
  • if a guy goes almost elbows deep in food, you would expect him to wash up to his biceps (did not happen in this case)
  • by being elbows deep in food, he had to bend over it, which means sweat, drool, dandruff, or anything else can fall into the food
  • how expensive is it to buy a large wooden or metal spoon (and that does not invalidate the made by hand mantra)

I mean, WTF. You see, the problem with this experience is it got me to thinking about the food we eat. It really grossed me out. I know that perfectly sanitary conditions can never be truly achieved. I am not foolish. But this blatant violation of my trust put that fact in my face. It slapped me around a bit with it and eroded my trust that restaurants make safe food (thanks to Chipotle and now Luby’s). It left me feeling very uncomfortable about what I saw and how my food is prepared at any restaurant. Generally, food is prepared out of our line of sight for this very reason. I am sure if we saw how horrible it looked, we would never eat out again. Yesterday was so difficult because Luby’s threw in my face those deep seeded fears that food is probably not prepared as well as I would hope it is. And while the manager was nice and thankful for the feedback, the poor dude did not realize that he simply made it worse by telling me that gloves were no solution and they would basically keep doing what they were doing.

My 76-year-old mother was grossed out too. She stated she would never eat there again. I am grossed out. I will never eat there again. My 18-year-old son is grossed out. He will never eat there again. My 3 month old son will never touch their food. Four generations of diners lost in one 30 minute period. And, I say to all of you, if you eat there…please stop. It will be fine until it is not fine. You may feel sick one day after eating there. All the equipment will be clean. All the food prep stations will be clean. Hand cleaner stocked up at all the washing stations. All inspections passed. History is great with sanitation. But just remember, somewhere…some guy is elbows deep in your food.

Gross…………………

 

 

What it takes to be a Good Man

This morning, my mother took a trip to California. As I was driving her to the airport, she mentioned my godfather was in the hospital.

Me – “Will he make it out?”
Her – “Yes, he will be fine.”
Me – “When the time comes, will I be expected to go to the funeral?”
Her – “No, we all know you don’t consider them family.”

So, some quick background and why this posting is deeply personal for me. I am an only child. I grew up alone, with only friends and my godparents looking out for me. It pains me to be distanced from my godparents. But I will explain why I am. My godparents had three daughters and a son. All of their children are good people, but Marta was the one I felt most connected to, as she and I were a lot alike. Marta was brilliant and funny and a character. She was head strong and stubborn and not afraid to take risks and live life on her terms. If her family was a band, she was Bono. She was a rock star.

Marta had many opportunities in life. Men loved her. She was beautiful and carried herself in the most ladylike of ways. Just classy. So, when she finally picked the one, we were all happy for her and her chosen love. His name was Steve Harding. Now, our Mexican culture is such that bonds run deep. Steve was white. His culture and upbringing different from our own. Marta, as progressive as she was, was very much in tune with her culture – she valued family and close friendships. Through a strange twist of fate, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a brutal thing to have happen to someone so amazing. She handled it with grace and threw herself into her recovery while maintaining excellent scores in her work to become a Physicians Assistant. Steve could have ended the relationship right then and there, but he persevered. I remember being at their wedding as she stood there in her gown giving her vows while she was most likely sickened from the chemo treatments she was receiving. The chemo port was tactfully hidden from view, but we could all tell she was weak and we were so incredibly happy for her and Steve. He truly manned up in that moment.

While not quite remission, we thought her treatments were going well. However, the cancer would not be abated. You cannot reason with aggressive cancer. It is indiscriminate. Despite her tireless work and effort, it came back. She even completed her medical boards to become a PA as the cancer ravaged her body and mind. In fact, she so impressed her professors and faculty, that the Martha Zuniga Harding Memorial Scholarship was created at UTSA in her memory. Marta was truly inspirational. I still recall the weekend she went to Houston to find out about experimental treatments. I was optimistic that she would find a medical trial that would turn back the cancer for good. Little did I know that she would take a turn for the absolute worst and would pass away that weekend. Her family was in shock. I was stunned. And Steve Harding became a widower. Here is a brief thought from one of her friends: The Three Musketeers.

So, you may ask, “what does this have to do with your godparents?” Well, I am getting to that. But before I go further, I want to share a bit more about Marta. She was brilliant. And she expected no less from the person that she was with. Steve was brilliant too. Marta would not have been with him otherwise. He was highly educated, with an MBA from UTSA and he was in construction – home building. He worked for Pulte Homes and last I heard had some pretty high level position with Meritage Homes. This guy was smart and capable and seemed like a good and honorable man.

I loved Marta and by extension considered Steve family. So, when Joshua was born in 1997, I asked her and Steve to be his godparents. They were at the hospital when he was born. Steve and Marta held my son before I did! She was so excited to be a godmother to Joshua. I figured Steve felt the same way. Because of her treatment, I believe she was unable to have children of her own. I think they were preparing to adopt a child, as they both wanted children. So, she relished the role of being a godmother. But when she died, perhaps a part of Steve died with her. Perhaps the part that made him a man was extinguished when her light was extinguished.

Joshua is now 18 years old. In 17 and a half years, I can tell you that Steve has not seen Joshua once. Not one card. Not one phone call. Not one happy birthday. Nothing. He even lived in the same town as we did, but nothing. My godparents defended him. He was a good man. Blah blah. After a while I became bitter with my godparents. They had family. They had other children. Their grandchildren had aunts and an uncle. I had no one. Joshua had no aunts and no uncles on my side of the family and limited contact on his mother’s side. So Steve being a godfather mattered to me. It was important.

If you look up the term godfather, it has its roots in Christian traditions. Now, some may say that I am not religious. This is a true statement. I am not. But this is not about me, this was about Steve. While I never asked him if he was religious, I can say that he stood in that church and accepted the role of godfather to my son. Think about this, it is not merely a title, but it was a role that was meant to support, nurture, encourage, and guide my son. And, in the event of our untimely deaths, we had even asked them to raise him as their own. This was the level of trust I had in Steve and Marta.

But nothing. No words of encouragement. No contact. No support. Nothing. Luckily, I did not die. But, I did become bitter. So, what does it take to be a good man? You keep your word. Steve never talked to us again. He might say that he was not religious, so he is not bound to religious promises he made just for Marta. Fair enough. I hope he has not found God then because he turned his back on a very important role in Christian tradition. But fair enough, maybe he was not a god-fearing man. How about this one? He gave his word. He stood there not necessarily as a Christian, but as a man. He swore he would do right by my son. He did not. So, when I think of Steve Harding, I think of a person with no honor. A person who made a commitment before God in St. Ignacious Church to be there for my son. He broke that promise. A man who gave his word to do right by someone. He broke that promise. I do not care what title he carries. I do not care if he is wealthy or powerful now. When I think of him, I think of the lowest common denominator of a person. Truthfully, I cannot bring myself to even consider him manly.

So, my godfather is ill. And while I should be better than this, I cannot in good conscience forgive the fact that for 17 years, they have never once acknowledged the fact that this happened. They have never once said they were sorry for the choice he made. I heard how they defended him. I heard how the family had to keep reaching out to him to stay in contact until they probably lost contact….or whatever happened. Who knows? Who cares? But at the end of the day, they all let my son get screwed. As a godson, I should be grateful to my godfather for what he did for me. As a parent, I am less forgiving of what was done to my son.

So prospective parents, when you raise your children, be it boy or girl, and it comes that time to teach them those valuable lessons they should learn, remember to teach them the most important one: honor your commitment as a man or woman. See it through, regardless of the adversity that you face. And if you make a promise to a child, keep it. It feels good to get that out. It has been a long time coming.

And to Steve Harding. Go fuck yourself. There was a time when your perspective and knowledge might have been useful. You could have supported the child you made a promise to support. Not monetarily, but in all the ways a good man supports someone. You can wear suits. You can make big decisions. You can have fancy titles. But at the end of the day, you failed a child you promised to support and that is something I do not forgive.

The Sacrifice of Parenthood – Disabilities and Children

Parenthood is a very challenging experience. For so long in our lives, we truly only responsible for ourselves. Certainly, we understand the concept of love. We love our family and friends, but it is different from the love we end up having for a partner. We then have a relationship (sometimes several) where we discover an external love for someone not family. We fall so deeply and so passionately in love that we decide that we want to have a child with this person. You start the journey of pregnancy with some visits to the doctor and you get some ultrasounds. These scans tell you whether everything is good with your baby. Now, back when Josh was born, I recall the scan being sooner rather than later and I recall my relief when I heard the technician say that we had a healthy baby boy on the way.

But…and this is a big but, what if the technician had been silent? What is he or she had said the doctor will need to speak with you? What if the doctor had said that she saw some problems with Luke when he was in utero? I think about these things as I look at all the babies out there that are abandoned. You may say that babies are not abandoned, but I recently spent time looking through a listing of the children available for adoption and my heart broke at what I saw. Most of the children seeking a forever home had profound disabilities – physical, cognitive, or emotional. Of that group, the most noticeable were those with profound physical and cognitive disabilities. One child had the need for 24/7 nursing care, needed to be close to a hospital at all times, and needed a parent to be home with him almost all the time.

Now, when I started this blog, I said I would always speak honestly and openly. So, I would ask those of you that might read this – is that a gift from God or a prison sentence? Life is precious, I know, but we throw it away in this world of ours so frequently for people with no challenges. I am very lucky in that Luke was born healthy and without any issues. But what if he had not? Would I be able to give so selflessly? And if people think children are such miracles, why then are so many children in the state foster and adoption system children with profound disabilities? I am lucky to never have to be faced with giving up my child, but I see so many parents that do. I do not see these children being adopted readily. This is not to say that they do not find homes eventually. But, what if they do not?

So, this brings me to the topic. Medical termination of a pregnancy when you know that your child may have a profound disability. Some parents decide to have their child anyway, which I completely respect. Some lose their child soon thereafter and take with them memories of their little loved one….a love unlike that of a family member or your partner. It is a powerful love that can overwhelm every part of you. Those parents take with them to their dying day those memories. Other parents do not lose their children. Instead, they raise them. These children lead a long life. I recently saw a couple at a restaurant with a child that had down syndrome. This child was not highly functioning, but still high enough to behave quietly. The catch – the couple had to be in their 70s or 80s and the child looked to be in his early 40s. Somehow, I felt like this was their life.

I read an article about a mother with a child that had a disability. She was so grateful for an iPad because it distracted him. Her thought was that as a small boy, he was fine and so sweet and gentle. But, now, as a grown man standing about 6’4″, she was deathly afraid of him losing it in public. She had been at her daughter’s recital and her son started to lose his cool. How would she control a 6’4″ 300 pound child without it being a safety concern? Luckily, the iPad calmed him down and she was grateful for that, but she said this would be the rest of her life.

So, at once they are a gift, but they can also be a prison sentence. We, as  a society, cringe at the thought of medical termination. Make no mistake, I am not saying this for a child missing a hand or limb. We are talking higher level stuff here. These are questions you need to answer before you jump into parenthood. As you look at your spouse and you two decide to take this road, you have to ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice for it? Are you willing to give up your independence? Are you willing to sacrifice your time? Your future? Are you willing to give so selflessly that you put others to shame with your sacrifice?

I know we were not. We discussed it and we decided that we could not do that. To some, we might be monsters, but we knew the limits of what we could reasonably do. You have to find your limits. You have to have that talk. One couple I heard about had a child they knew was going to be disabled, but then got upset that they did not get more government support. These people knew they would not get support based on their income, but then got mad that they did not. Rather than pay for it themselves, they just stopped working so much so they could qualify. I am not saying that will be any of you, but what will you expect? Who will shoulder the burden if you decide to proceed with the miracle of life? More importantly, what if you do all this and then decide you cannot do it any longer. Remember, most of the kids in foster and state care have these profound disabilities. I wonder how many of those people thought a child was a miracle and would not entertain the idea of a medical termination.

This is a hard topic and to those parents that do this…that made those sacrifices. I have nothing but respect for you and your sacrifices. Truly. I am simply stating that prospective parents have to think about these things. These are issues that impact you and your lives for the rest of your lives. Give this real thought. Yes, life is a miracle and perhaps you would be out of favor with your god, but you will spend a lifetime doing what you have to for a child. Just give it some thought…real though. Have a conversation with your spouse. Know what you plan to do if the situation presents itself. I certainly hope it never does. Good luck out there…..

Bad Kids or Bad Adults

I have been pretty quiet for the last two weeks. Work and life got in the way. It happens. However, I am back with a much lighter load. I still do not know if anyone reads this, but this posting is something I take very personally. So here it goes….

Much is made about children acting up in public. This posting right here illustrates the problem. I was not there and the owner could have handled it a bit differently, but the point that the owner makes is accurate – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. If you are not interested in reading the article, I will sum it up. Family in restaurant. Kid starts screaming. Owner screams back. Kid is quiet. Family is outraged. Morality police scream bloody murder. Restaurant owner says all my other patrons bothered, and I did what I had to do.

I get this. Last night, we were having dinner at Dan’s, a local burger joint. Luke was chilling in his car seat and we were trying to enjoy a meal. Not necessarily quiet, as the din of the restaurant was clearly present, but it was just families having dinner with their kids. However, one family came in and turned it all around. They had several small children. Again, I was not too worried because they seemed to have it under control. Then it started. A little girl of about 3 or 4 just lost it. She went nuclear over something ridiculous. The first minute was understandable, as I can give some people time to deal with a child and try to calm them. But this went on for about 5 minutes. The mother just kept reading on her smartphone. The aunt, I think, started trying to talk above the screaming child. This brought her voice up to a yell – in a crowded restaurant. The child was not in pain or being done wrong in any way. The child was simply throwing a tantrum.

The mother finally stands up and asks the child if she needs to be taken outside. Finally….some common sense and respect for others. But that was it. It was an empty threat. I noticed the look of relief on faces when she said this and then the look of disappointment when she sat back down to look at her phone. Meanwhile, the aunt?, just kept raising her voice. The child just kept screaming. They kept acting like nothing was going on. This went on for a good 15 minutes. Then, once the child quieted down, the aunt kept her barnyard voice and kept hollering how she was an excellent referee and kept the calm. At this point, two women sat in the booth between us and them and I waved at them and told them to move. They had no idea why and I explained to them how loud those people were. They started to get up and sure enough, the kid starts up again and the aunt starts calling the cows to come back to the barn. The lady looks at me and thanks me. Sure, there was only two booths separating them, but I guess it is better than point blank range. At this point, we had had enough and left.

So, what is this – bad kids or bad adults? I call it both, but the real culprit here is the adults. They were to blame for allowing this to continue. Screaming kids should be removed from an establishment. Bottom line. Now, when you hear someone say this, the natural response is outrage because whoever says it must not know what it is like to have kids. Wrong! I do know. And I still say taking the screaming kids out. You see, we all work hard for our money. Very hard. When we go out, we want a reasonable experience. It may not always be pleasant, but it should at least be decent. A screaming child, or children, is not acceptable. While the parents of the screaming child also work hard for their money, at the point of a screaming child, they are not enjoying their meal. So, rather than be the only ones miserable with their screaming child, they decide to make everyone miserable. That makes sense. Real sense of respect for others around you. Hell no. Take that screaming kid out.

Restaurants are in a pickle. Most chains do not say anything. They fear the court of public opinion. Plus, there is the danger of overreacting too quickly. So, when is it a good time. I would think some common sense would prevail here. A few minutes without abatement would generate a “sir (or ma’am), would you please take your child outside for a few minutes so he (or she) settles down? Here is a kids cup soda to give to your little one” or something along those lines. But no, they do not. I am not saying to kick them out, but ask them to deal with the situation.

Wait, but you would not take your kid out. You are just saying this. Hell yes I would take my child out. In a heartbeat. I prefer a quiet meal. I do not want to hear any screaming kid. And if it is mine, then out I go with him. I will not let him ruin a meal for anyone but me. That is the nature of the beast. Certainly, special situations are different. Perhaps you have a special needs child. I can live with some measure of sound, especially with special needs kids. But at the end of the day, they can lose it too and you as a parent have to know the difference between them being happy and a little noisy and ballistic and over the top noisy. Same rule then applies, take your kid out. Admittedly, it is much tougher with a special needs child and I can empathize with that plight, but the collective should not be subjected to that beyond a certain point.

Oh yes, and for the love of all that is holy….do not take a baby or a small child to a movie theater. I mean, seriously, there is a special place in hell for people that do that. I know when Luke wakes up from a nap, he is full on ballistic. Sure, he might nap through part of a movie, but once he wakes up, it is fight time. So, why do that? I do not. You should not either. Common sense.

At the end of the day, I can only come to one realization – BAD ADULTS.

So don’t be a bad adult. Be a respectful one.

 

Little Voices = Bad Choices

So, I was looking at my car about 15 months ago. My son was not yet a thought in my head. However, the idea of not having a fun car was. This little voice in my head chimed in and said “Get a new car!” so off I went to the dealerships to look at options. What to get? What would be fun and reasonable?

But before I begin, I should note that I am 6’8″ and car shopping is in interesting exercise in finding fit, form, and function that works for me. Add to that the possibility of a future child and you have some interesting things happening.

My choices at the time:

Nissan 370Z – Yeah…no. Great car. But, no. First off, it is pretty expensive and it is downright claustrophobic. Despite being a great looking car with performance to boot, I just could not justify this car to myself.

Ford Mustang – Sweet ride. Had been recently redesigned and looked amazing. Problems at the time – dealers were not letting you test drive them. They were too hot an item. Strike one. Sitting in the thing, it is small. Very cool, but small. The back seat could be used for a puppy. Not a baby, but a puppy. A small one. Strike two. Inflated prices. They were marked up the wazoo and I was not interested in buying an expensive car with a new and untested design. Strike three.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe– The Genesis is a nice car. Make no mistake. It was nice. I thought this was a serious contender. But again, for a guy my size it was really small. I was concerned that I would not be comfortable. Just not something that I was going to enjoy in the long run. But, if you are shorter and want a lot of car for your money, then the Genesis coupe is an awesome deal.

Mercedes C or E Class Coupe – I had owned a CLK once. It was a great car. Awesome for a guy my size with room to spare. I will say that I miss that car. However, the challenge of being a Mercedes owner is the cost of insurance and repair on a luxury car. Plus, it is a sitting target for thieves. No, I do not think roving bands of thieves run around town seeking out a random Mercedes coupe to vandalize. But of all the cars I have owned, it is the only one I ever had vandalized, so my perspective is biased here. A new or slightly used one was still hella expensive and not something I wanted to drop all my money into.

BMW – Nope. Just nope. Never liked Beemers. Not to say they are bad cars, just not my cup of tea. Why? I am not fond of their interior. So, ruled out quickly. The interior had not changed much from what I remembered. So, not a good fit.

Audi Coupe – Great car. But really pricey. Not as comfortable as I had hoped. So, not a good fit. Again, I am sure people shorter than me would love it. But it was not my thing.

Dodge Challenger – Ding ding ding. The winner by a wide margin. But, it was a Dodge and I was not sure if I would enjoy it. Still, old school American muscle. It looked great. More importantly, it was big and comfy. It had all the perks I would possibly want. They loaded these things. Great deal too. Of course, the little voice said this is the car….this is the one. Buy it. A more calm and collected voice, my wife, was telling me that I should really get a four door. But no, I was getting old and this was my last hurrah. I wanted the Challenger. Hellcat? SRT? Shaker? Nope. Just the V-6. Rode great and had plenty of power. Awesome choice. I even convinced myself it would be easy to get a baby in and out of the backseat.

 

Dodge Challenger

My mid-life crisis car.

So, fast forward about a year. The car was great. I loved every minute of having it. For a V-6, it was more than enough car. However, enter a small child. A baby. Ok, now I want to murder that little voice that said get this car. Why? Because that little voice is insane. I shall never listen to that little voice again. So men out there, do not listen to that little voice. Tune it out. Put on headphones. Do whatever you have to do so it does not win out.

Having a carseat in a car like this is torture. You literally have to be an Olympic gymnast to get into the back seat to put a child in. Honestly, it would be easier to teach my 8 week old to hop in the car and strap himself in than getting in and out of the car. It was a painful lesson in practicality. I share this with you all because I hope that no one makes the same foolish mistake I did. Sure, I loved that car. But it was not practical at all.

So, what was my solution. Well, here I go again to find a new car. Fun times. What to get? Well, SUVs are not my thing. I still did not want a fuddy-duddy car. So, I had to find something that would be cool and fun and large enough to accommodate my family. Yeah, this was going to be fun. Where would I find a car like that? Hmm? Where? What? And yes, I realize these are first world problems, but I am sharing my experiences with you, good and bad.

So, I found this other car – a Dodge Charger. Imagine that. A what? Charger? The same car I could have had 15 months ago and saved myself a few thousand dollars in stupidity tax. Yeah. That car. Well, stupid people should pay a stupidity tax and I am no exception. One new car later and I have the space and comfort that I should have been thinking about from the start. Luckily, I am in a position to absorb this hit without it killing me. But I know many people are not. I hope that this post helps someone. I also hope that I made the right choice. It feels right though, so I am lucky. But yes, my more improved four door experience. And I stress this – four doors are important with a baby!! if you take nothing else away from this…get four doors!!!

Dodge Charger

My second mid-life crisis car.

 

 

The Baby Whisperer

As a followup to my earlier post, I wanted to include a picture of what I am dubbing baby whispering.

babywhisperer

As you can see here, Luke is incredibly calm with his big brother. This is because Josh is an incredibly chill dude. He is so laid back. Unlike me, he can find contentment in just sitting there. Me, I have to be constantly moving. Constantly doing something. My brain races too much and I get restless if I am not solving a problem or creating something new. It is a curse for me because I miss out on the quiet waking moments.

Yet, Josh realizes that his laid back attitude is a curse for him when it comes to work and advancing in an organization. It is my hunger and drive that propels me forward and makes me rise above my counterparts. Yet, I lose something in the fire. Josh realizes that he needs more of that, but he does not feel that sense of urgency. When Josh was his brothers age, I feel like I was more like he is now – calm and chill. But as that damned scary concept of retirement looms, I find myself pushing harder and harder to ensure that I have the money and capacity to care for Josh and Luke. This is the challenge that we all face as parents in our 40s. At least, that is what I think. I am very lucky to have such a calm son and find myself saying this aloud:

“the teacher becomes the student, and the student becomes the teacher”.

Life man….what an amazing journey.

 

Emotional Sorcercy and your Kiddo

It has been over 15 years since I last dealt with a newborn/infant/toddler. There are things I remember and things that got buried. Only as the days go by do the things that got buried start to come back to me. This is one of those things. But, more importantly, I have some anecdotal data to back it up. Most academics dismiss anecdotal data by saying there is not enough of it and it proves nothing. I call BS. Anecdotal data is critically important to the person experiencing it. Trust me when I say, reading an article that says some experts are dismissing my experiences as not real is hogwash. So, do not fall for it. Your experiences are real. Most likely no one has bothered to take the time to find others and quantify it. But, your experiences are real!

So, emotional sorcery. What the heck is that? In my job, we work with technology. When we listen to people that ask dumbfounded questions about technology and do not understand our explanations no matter how simple we make them, we do this funny little thing – we wave our hands around like those Vegas magicians and state loudly “Sorcery” followed by the ever popular “Magic”. It is our way of finding the humor in humorless situations where people are failing to understand how to use technology. That which we do not understand is basically magical.

So, babies. Yes, I get long winded, but I still hope you are reading. Babies are like emotional sponges. They absorb emotion coming from the parent. Empath is a good word. According to Wikipedia:

Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others.

I have come to realize that babies are natural empaths. So, the real challenge for a baby is not being soothed. It is not being held. It is you! Let me explain by personality types…

  • Type A  –  competitive, over achiever, things done on time.

    I am a Type A kind of guy. I am competitive by nature. I strive to be good at all I do. I want things done on time and done right. I am a project manager. I see everything as mini projects to be handled. Whether it is cleaning the house, doing a chore, going to the gym, doing my work, etc. As I engage with my son now, I realize that despite my best intent, I have expectations. If I hold him this long, follow these motions, and do these things, then he will soothe and stop crying. So, I will start taking these actions. After a set period of time and with my actions failing, I can feel my intensity rising. Interestingly, I see a direct correlation between this and my son becoming more agitated. If anything, he cries even more. He becomes even more frustrated. I have noticed that about the only time I can regularly calm him is when I am sleeping. Even now, when I was awake and in bed, I was agitated because he was being crazy in his crib (which is in our bedroom). I left the room to come write this post and he calmed down. Not one peep. Coincidence? Maybe. You decide.

  • Type B  –  calm, relaxed, laid back, flexible, analytical.

    This is my son, Joshua. He is an extreme Type B kinda guy. Anymore Type B and you would have to check him for a pulse. He is an amazing kid and I love him, but he is an under achiever. However, he is amazing with animals and with kids. He has a calming effect on them. I have seen this repeatedly. Animals love him. So do small children. Naturally, with Luke, he helps as one would expect a big brother to do. What is truly amazing is that he can pick Luke up and sit him in his lap. Hours later, Luke will just be laying in his lap cooing and chilling. He is not agitated or upset. He just lays there, wide awake, kicking a little and taking in the world around him while Josh casually watches YouTube videos and occasionally talks to him. He has this amazing calming effect on Luke. Once again, coincidence? I am starting to think not.

  • Type C  –  detail oriented, not assertive, suppress wants, needs and desires.

    I have a Type C person in my life. It is an in-law. This does not mean that this person is bad or less successful. As a matter of fact, this person is frighteningly successful. Soon to be medical doctor. Very detailed oriented. Excellent student. All the bells and whistles. When interacting with Luke, he just generally chills. Not nearly as much as with Josh, but enough that he has a good time and will not get worked up. This Type C is not around enough to do more research, but so far, Type C seems to be good with kids too.

  • Type D  –  negative outlook on life, fear of rejection, prone to depression.

    I have a Type D in my life. I will not mention who exactly, but suffice to say, it is clearly Type D. While dealing with Luke, he stays calm. See, Type D people remind of of that character Sadness from Inside Out. With him, this person is very mellow and because he has no concept of sadness yet, he just relaxes. Although, he will occasionally get frustrated, he can calm himself down because the Type D does not get easily agitated. So, this type also is not bad with a baby or an infant.

Within these personality types also exists levels of intensity. By that I mean, some people can turn it up and down as necessary. Some people can turn it off totally for a bit. Me, I am forever stuck in Type A full steam ahead. When your life saying is “live by the sword, die by the sword”, well, you get the idea.

So if you are a new dad or starting over again and have changed a great deal since your last run, take a moment to do a self-inventory and ask yourself, what kind of personality are you? What makes you tick? And then remember, your baby is an emotional radar dish picking up on your signals. They may not always have this ability, but for a good while, they will. They will sense and feel everything you project. Be mindful of that as your raise and interact with your child. As always…good luck.

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