Women I Admire Day 26: Kristina Hammer, The Angrivated Poet #WomensHistoryMonth

Poetry is one of the aspect of the literary/writing world that I have never gotten the hang of. Shit, let’s be honest, I barely have a handle on writing as it is. But, during my time spent in the blogging world, I have met some writers that create some of the most beautiful poetry. So good that I would rather hear than recite a poem that just came up with, than a blog post they have been stewing on or a while. And that’s in no way a knock on their writing; their poetry is just that good.
Maybe my lack of poetic understanding is why life has always seemed so unfair to me. They say life is poetic, and I guess if I understood that more, or how to tap into that world I wouldn’t have such a harsh outlook on life. But then…then I think about some of the people I’ve become acquainted with over the last few years. The kind of people that you hear about the roller coaster that is their life; the struggles they’ve have lived, and then listen to their outlook on life, and you might find yourself thinking, This person is crazy! But, wasn’t the same said about many of the greats?
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Women I Admire Day 22: Harmony Hobbs, Loving Herself Enough to Change #WomensHistoryMonth

Change is hard. Especially when you don’t see a need to change, or when the action that needs to change is associated with having a good time; like drinking. By this point in all our lives, we all know someone, or you are that person, that has a little too much at a party and becomes the life of the party to some, or the annoying drunk to others. When we were young it was easy to laugh off these kinds of actions as someone just cutting loose. But now, as we’re older and supposedly more mature, these are the kind of action we identify with someone who needs help.
But what if there was another in that scenario who also needed help? A person who doesn’t get out of control or make a scene? A person who can keep it together and handle their alcohol, but unbeknownst to you, they using that alcohol to cope with life? How do we spot them? Well, just short of that person saying they need help, we can’t.
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Women I Admire Day 21: Misty Browne, Faith, Conviction and Love #WomensHistoryMonth

I don’t actually how to start this story. How do I tell the story of someone I admire, but also a person I know little to nothing about them? Will I be able to write that story? Will people even believe me, or with they think I’m just making it up or trying to fill space? Will anyone even read that story?
Sure, those are all things I could, and maybe still do, worry about, but the real question I have is, will I be able to do this story justice with what little I factually know? Will I be able to tell this person’s story to the level that they deserve? Will they even read it? I guess there’s only one way to find out.
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Women I Admire Day 18: Alexa Haddock Bigwarfe, Defender #WomensHistoryMonth

I was recently a guest on a podcast, and I had an amazing time. It’s called Lose the Cape Podcast for Working Moms…because, when you think of working moms, you look no further than Mike at Papa Does Preach, lol. I have been talking about starting my own podcast, and who knows, maybe I can move into the working moms niche when I get up and running.
In all seriousness, the podcast is run by Alexa Haddock Bigwarfe and her co-host Aubrey Mathis. Alexa was awesome enough to invite me on as there first ever dad guest, to talk about topics ranging from the women’s march, the day without women movement, and women’s history month, because again, when you think women’s movement, you think of this guy right here.
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Women I Admire Day 2: Warrior Moms Making Real Progress #WomensHistoryMonth

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. If we met in the middle and just called it 15%, out of the four million live births in the US each year, approximately 600,000 women get postpartum depression (or other forms of postpartum mental illness) each year in the United States alone. And that’s not even factoring in the women who miscarry or have stillborn babies. That raises the number to nearly 1 million. That is scary as hell!
There are still many people in the US, not to mention around the world, that don’t think PPD is a “real thing”. But, I’m here to tell you it’s real alright, and it deserves just as much attention and care as any other mental illness.
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Progress is When We #ClimbOut Together

Progress is When We #ClimbOut Together

On Saturday June 18, 2016, I had the honor of taking part in one of the most amazing events I will probably every witness in my lifetime. From the outside it probably appeared to be a simple gathering of moms, ranging from pregnant to trying to corral a toddler or 2. Probably something you’ve seen every day in malls, parks and playgrounds alike. But, it was so much more.

My wife, who many of you know runs the page MamaChakra, recently became a Warrior Mom Ambassador for Postpartum Progress. With this title came the responsibility of putting together and organizing the yearly #ClimbOut of Darkness event for our area of Alexandria, VA.
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Daddy, Why Are You Sad?

Daddy, Why Are You Sad?

“Daddy, why are you sad?”

“Buddy…daddy is…broken.”

The question was innocent; without judgment. The answer however, was heavy; weighed down by years of self-judgment.

I’ve talked about my long battle with depression on many occasions. It’s something that has caused me a great deal of grief over my lifetime, almost bringing everything to a close at one point. But through all the trials; all the ups and downs, I’ve always been able to dig myself out of my hole. I’ve always been able to ride the waves, and right the ship. But something feels different this time; scarier.
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Why I Must Apologize to My Son, For Doing The Right Thing.

I’m not altogether sure I was cut out to be a parent.
Well, it’s too late now! And besides, you’re doing a great job.
That was part of a conversation the Wife and I had recently. I’m not breaking any news when I say that being a parent is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, with marriage being a close second.
Every-day-parenting is filled with it’s up and downs; highs and lows, and some days if definitely can feel like this little person who you’re trying so hard to raise and protect, and nurture, is doing everything possible to work against you. Yet, we parents continue on.
Sure, I give my kid a lot of shit on social media (and trust me, it’s well earned), and even here on the blog every once in a while, but for as much as I joke and talk about how much he annoys me, I have no issue pulling back the curtain and admitting that other than my wife, my son is the single most important person in my life, and I would do anything to protect him. That’s why something that happen earlier this week made me feel like I failed at that, and that I need to apologize.
Let me start this off by saying, I recognize kids are jerks. They’re jerks to their parents, and they’re certainly jerks to each other. In a weird way, that’s their job; to be assholes. That’s where we parents come in. When the jerk-behavior isn’t being directed at us (albeit the minority of the time), we’re supposed to be there to teach them how they should treat others, and communicate their feelings. But does that mean we have to stop them from not liking other people, or saying as much?
No, of course not, and as much as I love my kid, I know not everyone; certainly not ever other kid, is going to feel the same way about him that I do. And that’s what we faced earlier this week.
Ferris and I arrived at pre-school this past Tuesday, like any other day. Except this day was special for him; he was able to wear his brand new shoes that light up when he stomped his feet. I’m not going to go into how many times he stomped his feet that morning, because that would be a post in itself.
As we crossed the parking lot to school another one of Ferris’ classmates arrived, so of course he had to tell/show him his shoes. Along with the other boy was his mother, and older brother, who last year also attended the pre-school. As Ferris excitedly showed the boy his shoes the two boy gabbed only the way 4yos can about such trivial thing. I was lost in their adolescent excitement, but it didn’t last long.
As I was enjoying the moment I was abruptly pulled back to reality by hearing the older brother say to his mom, “That boy, Ferris is not a nice person. He’s mean to kids. I don’t like him.” I tried to brush it off, even when the boy repeated it to his mother. As I said, I get it, kids are kids. But the boy didn’t stop there, he continued the whole walk into school repeating some variation or another of his statement to his mother, with little to no effort on her part to try and discourage him from saying things like that.
I try very hard not to judge other parents. We have it hard enough, and no parent truly understands another parent’s struggle, because each kid is unique in how they act. Like tiny little snowflakes of terror. But I had had enough. As I expressed to my Wife when I told her what happened, even with the mean shit that kid was saying, I wasn’t mad at him. I was mad at the mom for showing no effort in stopping her son. Hell, for all I know, this isn’t the first time this conversation has happened, and maybe the mom agrees. But what I do know is that I was now pushed past my limit of acceptance of someone insulting my son.
I finally turned and looked at them both and said…nothing. I uttered not a word to either the older boy, or his mother; however, I fairly certain the look on my face probably said a thousand words, and she read every single one of them. I simply patted my son on the back, who was (thankfully) still lost in his excitement with the other boy, that he was oblivious to everything just said about him, and directed him to his classroom.
My son went about his day none the wiser to what happened that morning, and for that I am thankful. Me on the other hand? Well, I felt, and continue to feel like a huge failure. I vowed a long time ago I would never let anyone hurt my children the way I was hurt as child; not by physical or verbal abuse. I feel like I failed him that day. And before you say that it’s ok, because he didn’t hear what the other kid said; to me, that doesn’t matter, because I heard it, and I did nothing.
Then again, there is another side to all this. Maybe I did do something. Maybe I chose to break the cycle of anger that has plagued me from my youth. Maybe I chose to be the bigger person. Maybe I taught my son a valuable lesson in dealing with those who choose to insult you (even if he doesn’t know it). Maybe I did the right thing.

Find Your Pace

“It’s not about sprinting. It’s about finding your pace; giving it all you have 100% of the time. When you finish, you should be exhausted. If you have the energy to sprint at the end, you didn’t give it 100%, and that’s something you’ll have to live with.”

I remember the first time I heard the above quote, and every subsequent time I heard it after. It was a favorite of one of the NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officer) I served under during my time in the Army. The man was, and still is, the literal definition of physical perfection, and he never missed a chance to let the rest of us bad-body-privates (another one of his favorite things to say to us) know about it.
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Dear Timmy;

Friendship is an interesting thing. The older I get, the more I think about the concept of friendship, and what it really means to be someone’s friend. It feels as though the more I look around, society continues to bastardize the word friend, almost rendering it meaningless. Through the advent of social media, everyone is your friend now, even people you’ve never, and probably will never meet in real life.
I’m sure some will brush this off and say that there’s clearly a difference between OLF (On-Line Friends) and IRLF (In Real Life Friends), and we should all know the difference. But do we know the difference? And furthermore; do we tell those that we hold so close in our hearts as to call them friend, exactly how much they really mean to us? To me, the word friend is power, and should be treated as such..
I’ve been thinking a lot about my life-long friends lately. Friends I met when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and finding it harder to make friends as an adult. Maybe it’s because I live across the country now, over 3000 miles from those that mean the world to me. Or maybe it’s because I’ve come to realize how little I’ve told my friends how much they mean to me, and have simply taken it for granted in a way. I mean, they’re always going to be there, right…right???
I couldn’t really think of a clever way to segway into the rest of this story, so being the clumsy ass I am, I’m just going to push on through.
I want to tell you a story about a dear friend of mine; Tim, or as I’ve always called him, Timmy.
Timmy and I met in 2nd grade. While Timmy and I never really ran in the same circles, life always brought us back to each other from time to time, and we were always very close. I consider Timmy one of the best friends I ever had.
The sad thing is, like most friends in my life, I don’t think I ever told Timmy how I felt about him. Well, I think it’s high time I change that. So, here is my letter to Timmy:
Dear Timmy;
You know, it’s funny man, for as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve spent very little time actually around each other. But I really wanted to tell you how much the time we have spent together has meant to me, and I also wanted to say thank you.
We don’t really think about it much, but the words thank you can accomplish so much, and can  convey more than one could possibly imagine.
Thank you for being one of the first people to be nice to me in elementary school. I think you saw the fear in my eyes when I showed up at a new school where most of you had kind of grown up around each other. You hung out with me on the playground and would always invite me to play games with you at recess.
Thank you for always being the same back then, no matter what. I sadly hit my popular peak in 5th grade, and even though we were in the same class, we didn’t talk so much – that was my fault and I’m sorry.
While I was feeling the joy of being popular you were being labeled as trouble maker, and worse, a lost cause, by the very adults that were supposed to be guiding us, teaching us, nurturing us. No child should be made to feel that way. You would act out in class and had anger issues, but what those adults never understood was all that anger was actually a cry for help. A cry to let others know about the abuse you were seeing at home. The drugs, the alcohol, and worst of all the violence. I knew, because you told me about it when you noticed the telltale signs I tried hard to hide from my own abusive mother.
I think you told me as a way to help me not feel alone, and maybe (hopefully) it helped you too to know you weren’t alone either. You were the only one that knew about my home situation for so many years. You saw me cry. You hugged me when no one was looking, and most of all you helped a weak kid discover some sense of bravery when he desperately needed it the most.
Even at the young age we were then you were so smart. At times it felt like you were a grown up with the way you talked about life. But I guess that happens when you’re forced to grow up the way you did. It’s like you knew life wasn’t going to get any easier for you, and you also knew there was no way I would hack it the way you had to, so you made sure I kept smiling. At least one of us would be able to maintain some sense of youthful joy during our childhood.
Our teen years could not have been more different. My popularity from elementary school gave way to chubby teenage nerdum. I enjoyed acting and performing in drama classes, pretending to be someone else, while you probably wished to be someone else every day. Sure, I had sadness and angst like any other teenager, but nothing compared to what you were going through.
I think the memories of 1995-1997 stand out the most when I think of you. That’s because we saw each other a lot during that time. A friend of yours lived in the same apartment complex as I did, so you were there a lot to hang out or when you and your younger brother needed a place to crash for a while.
We would hang out in the complex courtyard and just talk, sometimes well into the night. You always asked me about me. How I was doing, what my new interests were, who I was hanging out with, making sure I was surrounding myself with the right people. But I was always more fascinated with you. I would sit  in awe when listening about all your experiences of living on the streets. But any time I would express any sort of admiration or envy you quickly shut it down, telling me not to envy your life. In reality, I think it was you who envied my boring life.
I remember one of the last late night conversations we had, I shared with you about my depression. You were the first person I ever told. You listened to me talk about my feelings, asked me questions, and gave supportive counsel. But when I shared with you that I been having thoughts about committing suicide you became very stern, almost like an older brother, or father, and said, “Don’t ever talk like that. That’s not you. You have to keep going. Don’t let the bad shit win.” I responded with, “Thanks Timmy.” You always told me you hated it when I called you Timmy, you were Tim. But I think you secretly like it, because it reminded you of where we started our journey, as two little kids. Nevertheless you told me if I called you Timmy again you would beat the shit out of me, almost daring me to do it. I knew you could too. Your hulking muscular frame could have easily destroyed me in seconds, but I said, “Ok….Timmy.”
You just smiled and said, “Good…don’t ever back down.” Then you proceeded to punch me in the arm over and over, all the while laughing while you made my arm feel like hamburger meat. That’s one of the last times I saw you. I left San Diego and joined the Army shortly after. It wouldn’t be until the winter of 1999 that we would connect again; just not the way I would have thought.
I received a letter from my mom one day. In the envelope it contained a newspaper clipping along with a handwritten note that read, “I’m sorry.” The newspaper clipping was a short, throw-away story about a young man who, during the very early morning hours before the daily work commute would start, stepped onto the trolley tracks in Lemon Grove, where he was struck by oncoming trolley, and died instantly. They ruled it a suicide. That young man was you.
I collapsed to the floor after reading the article. I couldn’t believe you were gone. It just didn’t seem real. I didn’t want to believe it. How could you do that after telling me so harshly not to ever give up? How could you stop moving forward? It took me a while, but I eventually realized, just like when we were small, you were telling me the things you wished someone would tell you. I just wish I had known.
I was talking with our friend Sara the other day. I told her I was going to write this. We both talked about how much we loved you, and how special you are to us, and most of all how much we miss you. We both shared our regrets of not focusing on you more, asking you how you felt, what you needed. My biggest regret though is that I never told you any of this. I never told you what you mean to me, or what a good friend you were. I’m not naive to think it would have changed what happened, but I just wish I would have let you know. And for that I am forever sorry my friend.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you,and I will always miss you.
To all my friends, I love you so very much. You are some of the most valuable parts of my life. I promise I will do a better job at telling you…because you deserve to know how valued you are.
September is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. If you or someone you know is possibly in danger of committing suicide, PLEASE, reach out for help. The national hotline number is: 1 (800) 273-8255 and website is:www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org
For Timmy