I think I am a good dad.
I do my best to keep that perfect balance of tickles and discipline. The evenness of "clean your room & go outside and get dirty". The symmetry of “eat your veggies & one more piece of candy." The counterbalance of "if you do this then you can go do that."
This blog that you are reading today is nothing more than a love letter to my daughter. This blog, all 1,814 posts, is me. It's my thoughts, hopes, desires, my worldview...it's what I learned and it holds the questions about what I wish to know. It's an archive of all the stuff that I have created. It's filled with lists of book that I read and music that I have listened to, and with all that said...it's only purpose is for my daughter to know who her Father was. To know who I am becoming. Maybe to understand a little more about herself.
My current project is a collaboration with Erik Vecere, which is a short film on Fatherhood. Erik works for National Fatherhood Initiative. "Initiative." Interesting word. A non-profit company dedicated to helping Fathers become better Fathers. Who knew that an organization for helping dads existed?? Things they don’t tell you when a newborn baby is placed in your arms. In case of emergency go here...do go there. Lots of interesting stuff. www.fatherhood.org
At the end of our film Erik said the words "A unique, irreplaceable role, and that's Fatherhood."
That sentence struck a chord with me, resonated deeply. I haven't been able to shake the question "Am I good at being a Dad?"
The opening paragraph above is me rambling about the greatness of the father that I am. Beware, I also feel that I am extremely good looking and even more talented than my good looks. Read on to see how well an ego like mine can father a child.
To give you engaged reader some context: I am 44yrs old and as I write this in three days my daughter will turn eight. Eight years into the journey of parenting a child seems like a good time to be evaluated.
Evaluation. Let's start there. Who gets to evaluate my Fathering skills? My wife, Grandparents, community, CYS, God, my daughter, myself. Answer is....my spouse first and coming in a close second place is a tie between God and myself. I am not afraid to go one-on-one with God. God doesn’t gives hugs, I do.
I do not do drugs, haven't been to jail, I go easy on the swears and I have never beaten her. Give myself a big check for doing the minimum; keeping myself out of Hell and bragging about the obvious.
This is a good time to go back and re-read that sentence about my ego. We have read books, climbed trees, walked in the woods, roughhoused to the point of having her Mother yell at us to stop making all that noise (countless times), mastered the monkey bars, learned how to swim, shared quiet meals together. We hold hands, snuggle, rub noses like Eskimos, held long interesting talks at bedtime about the meaning of life (honestly I think that she's just doing her best to stay up longer).
Is all of that also just the minimum? In a Homer Simpson world of fat dads in sitcoms what is a good Father?
Yes, I know that there is no simple answer and yes I know that the simple answer is: asking yourself the question in the first place must mean I am moving in the right direction. Yes, I know that Fatherhood is a journey, not a destination. With all that said then why bother evaluating myself or writing on?
Zen proverbs "before enlightenment chop wood after enlightenment chop wood." That's my "why". Let's carry on.
I am present, I am occupied by life, hell I am even occupied by laziness and TV. I will share everything with her, I will give up my life for her but I am sure to eat the last piece of pizza. I will watch her sleep at night. Her tiny little chest rises and falls with each breath she takes. That experience alone is all the proof for God's existence that I will ever need. No matter how crazy a kid can kill your last never (and even your will to live) watching your baby sleep magically evaporates all the anguishes away, giving you the much need life-juice to get up in the morning and do it all again.
I come from good Fatherhood-stock. My Father and Grandfather are good men, husbands and dads. They are from a different time and a different culture of what it meant to be a Father. They were providers first, husbands second and fathers third. In no way did either of these men fall short. It was how culture dictated the importance of Fatherhood. In today's world, us Dads are doing it all (or at least doing our best to catch up to our Wives who are really doing it all).
To be a good Father, does that mean I must put myself third?
For me, yes it does. Not in a self-sacrificing way; remember I will eat that last slice of pizza, every time. In my heart, my family's happiness comes first. To watch my daughter and my wife live life to there fullest, that is my first place. Before anybody wants to Saint me read on (Note: this is written specifically to my wife. I have said the words "dream big and do the work" over and over but also remember that I am extremely cheap, seriously frugal, opening the wallet is hard for me, so to you I say “dream big but please goes easy on the dollars”.)
Multiple purpose parenting: Who knew it was possible?
I have come to discover that I can cut the grass, cook a meal and then put ponytails into my daughter's hair. Honestly I am not very good at ponytails, dinners or even picking out clothes that match, but, hey...she made it to eight. She can pick out her own clothes from now on.
As of late I find myself with other Fathers having conversations on this topic. Gone are the days of football and hot wings. Today we sip coffee and talk about the joys and insecurities of being a dad. I guess I would have to say this is a good starting point if you are asking yourself if you are a good Dad.
As I finish typing this, my daughter sits downstairs in front of the TV alone eating dinner. That happens at times. Remembering the words "A unique, irreplaceable role, and that's Fatherhood." I get up from my chair and go downstairs. Vecere’s word still resonate deep within me.
For me, I think I need to go chop more wood, enlightenment can wait.
It's an honor to share this film. Michael Weir has been a deep influence on my creative and spiritual life. Today my wish is to share this film about Mike with you…enjoy, share, grow and be healed.
Turn off the outside world. Best watched in a quiet. Play full screen.
Is the photograph dead?
I ask myself this question as our photography business is about to branch into print sales for the first time since entering the digitals age. For the past ten years we have not sold a single photograph. (yes, yes, yes we have sold albums but this post is about wall art) We have sold thousands of digitals files, CD’s, DVD’s and downloads. We have filled up hard drives, shipped out flash drives, taken up plenty of space on the cloud.
How much wall space have we filled? I have no idea.
At every wedding and funeral there sits a legacy table. A table filled up with photos documenting the love and life of those who are being celebrated. I have to ask myself: is my work adding to that table? Or will future tables be filled up with computer screens scrolling through facebook and smart phone photo albums?
In a month I will be having a galley show of my photographs. Actual real life photos hung on a wall for people to look at. (You’re Invited) (there will be wine)
Is a gallery showing the right word to use? Is the notion of looking at photos more of a museum experience? Walking through a room with relics of the past. Picture this: you walk into the Egyptian room, next the Medieval room, then up last the prehistoric room of memories showing a space displaying how humans once chose to remember and celebrate each other.
What do you think? What is a legacy photo worth to you?
July 10th, 2013 I wrote a blog post titled "The New Normal Life with NMO", which in a nutshell was about living with a disease that will never give you a normal type of lifestyle. Ever. Upon first publishing this post I thought that it did not resonate with my readers. For days it sat virtually unread, but weeks later it found the people who needed to read it. For over 6 months now I have been slowly receiving e-mails and comments about the article. By December I felt that I had done some good sharing my words.
When I wrote it, it was my swan song about disease writing. I wanted to walk away from thinking, talking and explaining what life with NMO is like. For months I went silent; quietly rehabbing myself back to life.
For me: My new normal is living in rehab mode.
My body, at times, mysteriously slows down. Muscles become fatigued and week, balance is off, mind clarity is diminished and other random whatnots magically seem to strike me down.
What do I do? I get back up, daily. I am very good at getting back up.
Professional rehabbing is what I have become good at. At times I feel cursed to be a rehabber for life. I am good at getting better. I have written the words countless times that you can be a healthy person and have a disease. A disease is a condition you must live with. Good health is a decision you must make. I made the decision to be a healthy person who has a disease. I have lived my words as true as I can possibly hold myself accountable to them. I have succeeded, I have failed, I have gone the distance and I have come up short but every day I have played the game.
And then I went to a funeral.
That's where I learned how to live with my even newer normal.
I have been chasing death longer than anyone my age should. I read books. Volunteered at a hospice. I sat with the dying. I prayed with the dying. I have romanticized the notion of being present at death. I am in fear of death.
I can remember being in a philosophy class in college (I love writing that; it makes me feel more worldly than I actually am). The class had the existential exercise on talking about one's own death. The majority of the class spoke about no fear at the moment of death. For me, at the time being Catholic and new into Zen, I wasn't sure which scared me more: the "Emptiness" of Zen or the "Form" of a Catholic afterlife. I called out bullshit to the class. The idea of accepting one's own death (even at the young age of 19) never sat well with me. That memory of that specific conversation sits in my soul as a ghost waiting to find its way back home. Home, be it the white light or the black cave.
I sat in a church pew one day, before this past Christmas Eve, attending the funeral of a man who lived a good life. A man who died with love in his heart for his family and friends. He was a good man and he will be deeply missed by all that knew him.
The Priest spoke about his time sitting with this dying man. The Priest shared with us in the congregation his last conversation he had with him. These are his words as best as I can recall it.
"Father, I do not know how to die. I can see a white light but the Devil is blocking my way. Heal me or take me God. Just RUN THE PLAY. I will do your will."
For me, this is all the advice I will ever need. You can build a library of all the world's philosophy and never say a thing as strong as those words. A lifetime of wisdom spoke out loud before walking into Heaven. This is what is meat by eternal life and eternal love: his words, lessons, compassion and love will live on past any of us reading this today...and that is a very good thing.
With his words "RUN THE PLAY" I now know what to do. I know now how to live with a disease.
In the past I have used the phrase "Do not give up on being human". My life experiences brought me to those words. That is what I have learned and have shared with you. Those words still ring true for me. All too often I see people with a disease choose not to live, choose not to place effort into their health, choose to give up on the life that they thought they were going to have. They choose not to RUN THE PLAY.
I want to RUN THE PLAY.
Whatever darkness (disease) may get in my way I am going to look for the light (effort & health). I am not going to sit on the sidelines watching the game go by. I will continue to not give up on being human until my soul reaches the other side.
I want my last sentence, my last breath of life to be that great...to inspire, to heal, to motivate others to live a good life. That is a legacy. That is divine. That is RUNNIG THE PLAY!
What do you want your last sentence to be?