A Promise to Love is a Promise to Work

2014-08-16-14-29-29Ain’t love great?

It swells and swoons and sweeps you off your feet. When it comes it lifts you up over your problems, it sweeps away your issues and leaves your worries in the pile of life that now sits like a heap of laundry on the floor where you were standing, knee deep until this miracle made all of it fade so far into memory that it was like a dream.

Love is like that. It’s amazing. It is energizing and effortless at once.

Love isn’t static, however. It doesn’t stand still amidst storms. It doesn’t resist change and fly above all challenges. It bends and flexes. It is forced to learn and adapt. It’s formed in fire and the heat is increased until it learns to morph. Until it changes it’s molecular make up so it can be poured into the mold of your choosing. This fire can show your flaws in a way that will leave you carrying that first early version of love like an old and dirty T-Shirt you once thought you’d never take off, never have to mend or clean, back to the pile of discarded worries and concerns and issues you had thought you left behind. Other times it reveals strength and pliability that show you that it will never fail you so long as you never fail it.

You can fail at love by merely not trying. By not making an effort. It seems like an aspersion to say you didn’t try but it isn’t. Perhaps you didn’t understand. I didn’t. Not always. I thought it was a transformative thing. I thought once love found me I’d be swept up and out of my problems. That drinking myself to sleep would be a thing of the past. That bouts of self doubt and self-loathing would be replaced with a natural buzz that made me unconquerable and endlessly optimistic. I thought that because it did that. Well, it did most of that most of the time. And for a good long time. Why wouldn’t it stay like that?

2015-06-22 12.02.30You see my wife is fairly hard not to love. I remember early on the ‘falling fast’ aspect of our relationship. I made promises in those early days that I had no idea were so important. I did it because I had to. Love was making me. It was making me tell her I loved her. It was making me commit to things I’d soon waiver on, but ultimately follow through on. It made me a better person through no real effort on my part. Because that love was passive. I merely received it. I heard it loud, acted on it’s suggestions and never questioned its wisdom.

Until I did. Until love became hard. Until love started to get drowned out by the baggage I brought. Baggage is a loaded term but some of it was actually just the essentials. The stuff I needed to carry with me to retain the essential me. I need to be occasionally high and often low. It makes my world have color. I need to feel like I stick out, like I’m different. I carried my sense of uniqueness through years of outwardly trying to fit in because no matter how hard I wanted to leave behind being unique it turns out it was really important to me and all the testing of that I could withstand would never scrub me of it. I needed to feel bedraggled and bewildered at life from time to time in order to know what was right and what was wrong. And I had to carry some of this luggage and my wife needed to help with the load. As I need to help with hers.

These were the promises we made to each other. Promises we had no idea were so important until they were tested. By time at first. Then by kids. Then by life and all it’s joys and pains. Promises we had no idea were so prescient and wise considering the impulses that led us to make them. Promises that challenged us, melted us and made us anew, stronger and more able for all they exposed. Promises we needed to fulfill to make and keep the promises we are now making to our kids that have tentacles and reach in directions we never would have predicted when we made them so confidently. Promises that would have crushed the people we were before we promised our love to each other. Before we had to live up to our promises not only to one another but to ourselves. Promises to love actively, to work at showing our love, to build a home where it could flourish and be tested and where it could fail and be recovered.

Thank goodness I allowed myself to be swept away so I could make the promises that would make me what I needed to become. So I could soar above it all without losing sight of why I am aloft and how I can sustain what has become the life I know I was meant to live. Before I could promise and know that it was unbreakable.


This post was written in response to this prompt

Picture Day 

Today is picture day. You are wearing a new blue button down shirt and we packed a more durable, comfortable shirt in your bag for you to wear at after school. I have my suspicions as to whether you’ll change, though. You are so proud of yourself today and you know you are handsome. It doesn’t occur to you to be bashful, to quell your pride. You smiled this morning and you were excited. Today is picture day.

Picture day is a day for us too. It’s a day to get a snapshot of you in Kindergarten. A chance for us to attempt earnestly to do the impossible. To capture you as you are now, to freeze you in this moment. We do it so we can share this moment with the wide world of people that love you. To capture and disseminate your joyful boyishness so that even a tiny bit can be transported across space and your Grandma and Koba and Nana and Papa can hold this part of you from hundreds of miles away. So they can put you on the fridge and look at you whenever they wish. So they can show their friends and your relatives, ones you don’t even know yet, how well you are doing. So they can feel pride. Not only in you, but in us.

We also take these pictures so that we, your mommy and daddy, can travel through time to right now. It’s important. We dress you in your finest and we do your hair especially carefully. I think you may have even had your first encounter with hairspray this morning. We do it as it is our wont. We want you to look your finest and be happy. So we can find this picture a few years from now when you are perhaps a bit self conscious and less open to us combing your hair. When you try to comply and smile, but when that smile is put on, something to think about and not so much your default facial expression. We will come back in time to this picture and the others like it to remember who you are inside, at least the part of who you are that we first met. We’ll always see that part, even after you’re convinced it’s not there anymore. We’ll know it’s just dormant. You will never look like you do now and that’s important to memorialize, but you will feel this way again, but it will be tempered by life and what it teaches you.

Innocence is highly overrated. But it is also a real and wonderful part of being five and while you are a more mature boy everyday and while we love that you can be quiet and contemplative from time to time, there is something we will miss about this time you are rapidly graduating from where you are earnest and honest with us and yourself by default. You haven’t gotten too caught up in fitting in. Too caught up in trying on identities you conjure. Instead you look at the camera proud because you are handsome, funny, smart and loved and you know it. And so do we.

We’ll know it when you are away at college and going on adventures to find yourself. When you are busy developing and defining your purpose.  We will look at this picture and the others, the ones from every step on the way and we will be recognizing ours. We will see all that went in to getting you to picture day and take pride in us, all of us, for doing what we did together. We will still be doing it, but it will look a lot different than it does now, all of us smooshed together, experiencing it as one and interpreting it individually. There might be times when these interpretations are deceptive and we struggle to stay positive. You may need to distance yourself and we may reactively hold tighter. You’ll surely have to push us away someday, just like we will surely have to nudge you along from time to time. It will all be from love, but it might not always feel that way. When it doesn’t these pictures will help.

They’ll help you too. You’ll look back and remember vividly some things. I remember my mother wetting the comb and working with my cowlick. Trying over and over to supress my hairs natural desires in an attempt to look my best. Licking her thumb and cleaning the smudges from my cheek. I remember the brown bags we used for lunches that my father would sit at the table at night and decorate. I’ll remember the joyful pink elephant sitting under the lone palm tree on the tiny island on a lunch bag that I used repeatedly that I loved so much that he made for me. It’s another framed talisman from a time gone by that I cling to, though after my many adult moves I can’t say I know exactly where it is. I’ll find it someday, probably too late, and when I do I’ll cry tears of love and joy.

Hopefully when you look back, from a great distance and see your picture you’ll see love. The love and time and unabashed joy we took in giving you what we had. In doing our best to make sure you were taken care of, that you knew you were loved. Because when we look at them, when we travel through time and space to see the you you are now it will be with joy. It will be with love. It will be with longing for the time we had with you and the many journey’s you are surely going to take.

Trump’s Charities

thThere’s a lot of misinformation being spread by losers about me. It’s like people think that because they say something that makes it true. Things like, ‘he’s a bigot’ or ‘he’s sexist’ or ‘he’s unaware of the issues facing America’. These could not be further from the truth. The reality is that I’m exactly what America, at least a sizable chunk of it already wants.
But the strategists have weaseled there way in to this campaign and I’m kicking them out. Get this. They tell me I have to change my tone. My tone. You know the tone that has made me richer than they could ever dream to be and has me leading in every national poll only to grow that lead whenever the media gets its panties in a bunch over me telling it like it is in order to ‘Make America Great Again’. Yep. That’s what these unemployed losers tell me as they come, hat in hand looking for a job. Time for me to change, is that it.
Pound sand. That’s what I say. I hear there’s some Mexican’s gathering at Home Depot every morning to see if they can get a day’s labor from some of my hard working supporters, you know, Americans. Maybe they should take that there and see exactly how many people will hire them.
All you need to know about me and feeling others pain can be seen in my yearly donations to charitable organizations that are in line with my views. Read this list. I don’t need help, everyone. I’m rich. You’re poor. What the hell are you gonna teach me.
1. Don’t Feed the Foxes – There’s a problem in this country with our relationship to food and not enough people realize that it’s the models, as always, that guide us. We are eating ourselves sick and I believe in taking care of each other. To that end models can be the solution. But too many of them don’t have the self-control or discipline to refrain from eating. The good people at DFF have been helping young women find strength through repeated viewing of striking physical beauty brought by discipline and the self love needed to deny oneself of the basic necessities of life. You know, for the greater good.
2. CEODF (the CEO Defense Fund) – People always say it’s so awful to see bad things happen to good people. I agree. Thankfully there’s a proven way to find the good people. They are the one’s with more money. They have proven themselves worthy and bare the burden of carrying the ailing ‘American dream’ through all the challenges we face in making America Great Again. The liberal media’s out telling everyone that profiting from work is bad when it comes to the ceaselessly wealthy. But we know better and these guys, they just deserve a break. I’ve spent countless nights comforting dear friends in some of the finest restaurants in the world as they’ve cried into their gilded chalices about the threat they face merely for having the audacity to take a vacation in Thailand and the tour they set up, unbeknownst to them, has them caught in a sting to stop ‘human trafficking’, whatever that is. Should these innocent men just trying to get a little hard earned R & R have to pay the price for these shady tour companies? Hell no. That’s my answer. Consider the CEODF this holiday season if you’re pro-family.
3. Keep America Pure – It’s actually embarrassing that organizations like KAP are even needed, but despite countless efforts to educate the public about the value of good walls there is still a very vocal minority in this country insisting we open up the American dream to all that wish to achieve it. A minority that would be even smaller if you didn’t count women or minorities themselves. It’s the AMERICAN dream, so lets not act like these leeches who claim to have no place to live or any protection from the forces that have torn apart their lives are entitled to all the benefits of citizenry that we are afforded by simple geography. Remember, the American dream, like real estate, is all about location, location, location.
4. World With Walls – The WWW is doing the good work of educating America about the endless benefits of walling off our borders. I mean seriously. It’s 2015. Who the hell is going to be stopped by a wall. You think I believe that nonsense? I don’t. No one does. But we’ve already got a significant number of dummies ready to vote me in to do the job. That spells kickbacks. Huge kickbacks. Huge. Watch. My numbers will go up when this goes public. It’s crazy how easy this is.
5. PCBS – This organization is doing the important work of publicly being offended by anyone that takes offense to the frank and honest discussion of those that made this country great. Experienced males of northern european descent. We are a dying but proud breed.
Please consider joining me in supporting these GREAT American organizations working with me to Make America Great again.
Take that talking heads. I’m bulletproof and don’t need you. Also, I don’t care if I win. Frankly, I’d have to take an ENORMOUS pay cut, so really, your services aren’t needed. I’ve already won.

How To Put Your Kids to Bed in Whateverthef*ck Amount of Steps!!

Hello! I’ll be your child sleep guru. Leave your exhaustion and frustrations at the door because I’m here to help!

First a little about me. I’m a once proud man who has given himself over fully to parenthood. I’m a tad too heavy (actually it ranges from a tad to ‘grossly’, but that’s just a medical term) and happier for learning how to cry and doing it 5-7 nights a week. But don’t fret, these are tears of exhaustion and we all know there are different kinds of crying. I have very little sorrow these days and a great deal of joy (and exhaustion. Did I mention exhaustion?)

Like most parents we struggled with getting our children on a sleep schedule. There were tired, sleep deprived days and restless, exhausting nights. We struggled. But eventually we found ourselves in a routine of sorts. I don’t really know how, but there were a few months, I think, a couple winters back, maybe, when we were done and the house was cleaned up (a relative status during these early years) by say, 9 o’clock. These were the glory days. But then we did what any smart parents would do and changed who put who to bed. I mean, I wanted some time with the little one and she was missing the big one, so we switched it up. Shouldn’t be a big deal, but they disagreed. Both of them. So, there we were pulling our hair out. Trying over and over to get them to accept going to bed alone. Together. Apart. Whatever. Nope.

Then we figured it out. Here it is. The fail proof plan for getting your kids to sleep.

  • First things first. Have a healthy late afternoon snack. I find this is a good time to reward positive behavior with sugar. It’s not that I don’t get the dangers, it’s just they love it so much and surely they’ve sat still or played together or at the very least spent a portion of time not hitting anyone or throwing anything. That kind of self control deserves a reward. Besides, bedtime is far enough off for them to really be able to burn off anything you might give them. Salty processed snacks work as well.
  • Ease into dinner with some screen time Nothing big, but mine are 5 and 3. Perhaps they can do it on the deck. Get some fresh air.
  • Get the table ready for a good old fashioned family dinner At least that way they will have a sense that there is another way, not plopped on couches in front of the TV. Occasionally me and the Mrs. even sit at the table al0ne and catch up. It’s nice. Plus nothing goes with nuggets quite like Octonauts and Lego Batman programs.
  • After dinner let’s all go to our separate corners After you’ve devolved into trading m&m’s for bites of string beans there’s a natural tension that needs to be released. We tend to hide in the kitchen gorging on the m&m’s they didn’t earn while they go slightly banana’s in the living room and backyard.
  • Now that we’ve all calmed down let’s bribe them into a bath This works about 50% of the time. Frankly they’ve developed enough methods to get all the rewards they could want and by now they usually are tired of candy.
  • Sure. It’s 8:30. Let’s get one more show in.
  • Okay. I blew that one. I should have been putting on PJ’s and brushing teeth… But on the bright side I’m all caught up on Facebook. One more show. A quiet one.
  • Okay, NOW I’m all caught up on Facebook. Final show, Sarah and Duck, it’s the right thing for bedtime. I will skip over the professional wrestling moves often incorporated in subduing a 3 year old to brush his teeth. He’s stronger than you can imagine.
  • Hit the sheets. And of course by that I mean we bunker down, literally lying in bed with them. Some will say this is not the right way. Many actually. That’s all.
  • Bathroom. Can’t say no and we don’t want them wetting the bed Also, we have one who has made it his strategy to power down as many liquids as possible at about eight. It’s just good policy to let him go when he asks.
  • Lie in bed with them as they wear themselves out with a thousand stuffed animals that they only play with in bed. As I read this I’m starting to wonder why we even keep them. At the very least we shouldn’t keep them in their room. I’m pretty sure I have this thought every night.
  • Snap. Yell. Bark at your three year old that you’ve had enough. GO TO SLEEP. The predictable tears are the worst because it was your own lack of self control that brought them. Now you are both emotional wrecks. Kids recover quicker. This becomes the guilt and shame that weighs your shoulders down and gives you cravings for ice cream
  • Apologize. Make boundaries. One big stuffed dog and one more animal. And that’s it.
  • Buckle under and allow them all the stuffed animals they want.
  • Cry in the dark. As long as you control your own breathing they shouldn’t notice.
  • Fall asleep while they play in the bed. Let’s face it, you’re exhausted anyway.
  • Finally, now that you are unconscious and non responsive, somehow, they fall asleep.
  • Wake up, eyes puffy from crying yourself to sleep.
  • Look over and see your sleeping three year old. My goodness. He’s an angel.
  • Take pride in his development. Technically he fell asleep on his own!
  • Go back downstairs and cry the tearless sobs of a parent starting to clean a disaster area just before midnight. Cleaning, though annoying, will ease just enough tension to allow you to relax into a slouch on the couch in a half cleaned living room with a thing of Ben & Jerry’s or some Pringles.
  • Wash it all down with a giant plastic tumbler of boxed wine.

The best designs are simple. Elegant. Give up. Give in. Eat Ice Cream. Drink wine.

The best we do so much of the time is to keep them alive and get out of the way. I’m good at the first part, still working on getting out of the way..


Crumbling Under the Weight of a Whisper

What are you watching Daddy?

-It’s a memorial service for something that happened 15 years ago.

I knew he wouldn’t know what a memorial service was, but I was put on the spot and hadn’t yet worked out my answer to the question yet so I let it hang there.

The service was the now familiar reciting of names. The seemingly endless recitation of the dead that occurs every year where the towers stood. I’ve tried to listen or watch in the past, but couldn’t always make it. This year it fell on a Sunday and I had some coffee and wanted to stir the emotions that didn’t come as early as they used to. That still hadn’t really arrived until I put on the service.

As in past years two relatives or friends will recite a section of the seemingly endless scroll of names, alternating turns alphabetically until arriving at their final destination. The name of their loved one who is now gone, frozen in time, never growing older. Each year the pictures of them getting more dated as time continues to creep forward without them. When they get to their own loved one they say something to honor them, something to remember them, something to put out in the world some of the pain they carry the rest of the time. They give it out now so that others may burden some of the pain. If not for them, then at least with them. It never fails to stir me. Never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

In the past my emotion would arrive earlier. It would loom large on the horizon for days just waiting their stoic, unmoved  by and unaware of my concerns. This year I had yet to confront my emotions around the whole thing. It was my head that lead my heart this year.

-Why are you sad, Daddy?

-Well, something very sad happened 15 years ago. Some very big buildings fell down. I had a friend who was in one of them and when I hear about the people that were in the buildings it reminds me how sad that day was. It was very very sad.

-Did your friend die?

-Yes, he did. A lot of people did. Thousands of people died that day. 

-I’m sorry your friend died daddy. 

-That’s very sweet Charlie. Thank you. He was a very nice man and it is very very sad that he died. I’m sad.

I shattered into a million tiny pieces.

I’m not used to this. It’s completely foreign to me, in fact. These tiny little people are not so tiny anymore and while there has been love and pain and joy and pride and so many threads that bound us together since the beginning, this is new. This compassion and concern emanating from him. This expression of love and thoughtfulness, this true recognition of such a sorrowful moment and his wish to comfort me felt overpowering but it wasn’t. It was tender and gentle and disarming. I shattered not because the weight of the moment. No. It was the complete removal of defenses that his loving words brought me that turned me to thin glass that crumbled under the weight of a whisper.

-I could draw a picture of him!

He is five and I love love love his pictures.

-That would be amazing, Charlie. Would you like to see a picture of him.


So I searched for Darryl L. McKinney and there he was, the same tight, zoomed black and white tight shot, his head turning. The same action shot on the court in his college uniform, the picture of athleticism and youthful energy. The shots I see every year at this time. The one’s I’ll always have. The ones that will sadly never change.

-Daddy, how do you spell Darryl?

I spelled it out for him from the couch where they were up to the ‘L’ names.

-How do you spell love?

It was all their now. All I wanted was that one minute. I hoped it would be a family member of Darryl’s up there, telling of his life and saying some kind words past tears. I hoped I’d be able to see something of him in that face. It wasn’t t be however. I think they mispronounced his middle name. Only slightly.

-Daddy. Do you like it? That’s him and that’s you.

I love it. I love it so much.

I Hate School

img_3083I hate school.

I hope you won’t but I fear you will.

Let me be clear. I don’t fear you will fail at school. You are INSANELY smart and I suspect you will soar at school. My fear is that school will fail you. Will turn your attention from satisfying and stirring curiosity to simple and attainable achievement. That a fire you carry will dim in order that the oxygen it would have taken to be stoked from a flame to an inferno will be otherwise deployed to satisfy the wishes of others. It’s hard to stay away from that. You’ll spend lots of energy pursuing that which you may be unsure of to pursue the expectations you are handed. A little of that is okay, good even. But only enough to learn that you aren’t here alone and you are accountable to others. Beyond that my only wish is that you find that which excites you and you pursue it without fear, embracing the failures that come from trying new things. Staying true to yourself will make most failures tolerable and some downright necessary. Just remember that failures are not end points. They are merely spots on the journey.

School made me horribly self critical. I don’t know why but it did. As you prepare to head out for your first day you are so much more prepared than I was. Still I find myself regressing. I sat with your mother last night and it all came out. I’m horrified and angry that you are heading to school. I had a miserable first few years at school and as a result I learned how to be liked regardless of whether or not I was remaining true to myself. I lacked confidence and swam in conformity. As much as I could. My heart and mind were free, but under wraps. All that time and energy spent hiding me made me wonder if I was worth anything.

img_3078If anyone ever laughs at you or says something critical about who you are ignore them. Seriously. Hold on to your kind heart, smart head, unique tastes and your loving and weird family.  If you do you’ll see these clowns for who they are. Okay, there was a tad more anger in this sentiment than intended. Truth is most of them are scared and excited and wanting to hide in a corner unnoticed while also wishing to have all the attention possible. Growing up is confusing sometimes. The only power anyone has over your opinion of yourself is the power you grant them. Don’t give it. Hold firm. You are weird and wonderful and unique and perfectly flawed and loved. Find the people that are engaged in the things you want to be doing, regardless of what anyone else thinks about them, and sit with them. If it takes weeks or months or years, I don’t care. Stay where you want to be, don’t go where you’re ‘supposed’ to be.

I love you so much and for one of the few times since meeting you I’m shaken. It caught me off guard. I’ve been spouting the ‘I hate school’ gospel for over 35 years now. But I didn’t realize how much I feared it until I was seeing it through your eyes. Seeing it from a perspective of a protective dad. Seeing it as someone who is certain that school worked in reverse, at least for me. It killed enthusiasm, stoked self-consciousness, raised fear and followed through on it. I know this won’t happen to you, so why am I now thinking thoughts I haven’t thought since I was your age. Feeling scared that kids might make fun of your stuff. Hoping to god you aren’t picked on. Feeling a visceral concern that you have the wrong hair or wrong shirt or wrong glue sticks and you’ll react like I did.

This is your journey and I have to check out of it. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but this part of me, I have to protect you from it. Maybe when you are older we can talk about it. When we are two adults. Not now.

You really are going to do amazing things. You’re going to LOVE school! YOU are going to make friends today that will be your friends for the next 13 years and probably for the rest of your life.

YOUR LIFE. I’m sorry if I forget that at times.

Grabbing Life, Holding On

img_2962With every age and stage there comes certain signs. Signs that my little boys are running out of time to be ‘little boys’. It’s not such a bad thing. In fact, for them it’s the most exciting thing you could imagine. The walls are starting to come down. Well, perhaps not, but they are certainly moving further and further out and for my sweet rambunctious boys this is very, very exciting. From time to time they will pretend they are babies. Not in any real way, but they will say, ‘I’m a baby…’ in a silly voice, smile, giggle and laugh at the absurdity. They are decidedly little boys and we are accepting as best we can that we’ll never have our babies again.

img_2921Like so many parents before us, we know they will always be our babies. It’ll be a metaphor to them, but it won’t be to us. They will be our two and only babies and we will hold them, if only in our hearts, as closely and tenderly as if they were newly wrapped and leaving the hospital for the first time for the rest of our lives.

But that will be it. The rest of our lives. The seemingly inexhaustible but ever diminishing time we have left with them, here amongst them, able to hug and be hugged is also being put into stark relief with each barrier breached and each new independence learned and granted. As they go through life reveling in the ever greater autonomy of being a ‘big boy’ another tiny tick passes and we are closer to the end. Not noticeably so, not always, but the big ones can pierce the bubble we’ve so happily stayed in during these early years. Can make us aware if not of our own ticking clocks then those of their time left in the bubble we’ve created and cared for and patched up and loved. As they grab life that is out there waiting for them we are hard pressed to let go of another tiny piece of it that we’d give anything to keep in our grasp til the end of time.

img_2930It’s joyous. I don’t want you to misunderstand. It’s a faint feeling of time passing and is easily overwhelmed by the joys we share as they start there journey’s. But it is a real feeling. A real sense of life’s passing. We are older parents and we aren’t so quick to let feelings slide passed as we once were. I suppose that’s true for all parents, regardless of age. But with the years we bring to the task comes a thought that this second act that will happen when they no longer need the minute to minute, the meal to meal, the day to day or week to week attention they once did may be more on the down slope of our time here, our time with them. It’s jarring to think, but comforting as well. As long as we can make it long enough to know they are safe, to know they are loved and to know that they know how wonderful this all is, than knowing this is the thing, being a parent and doing our best to make foster this family, we’re pretty happy having that be the thing we go out on. The last and best of what we did while we were so lucky to be here.img_2978