Women I Admire Day 28: Alexis Lang, No Truer Friend #WomensHistoryMonth

Maybe it’s my cynical nature, or maybe I’ve become too hardened over the years, but the more I look at the generation behind me, and the one following them, it feels like something is missing. Well, a lot of things to be honest, but none more than the ability to value others above yourself, or to put it plainly – friendship.

I feel like my generation is the last that will truly know what it means to be friends with someone; real friends, not just the kind of friends social media has created. We’re the last generation who can truly say we were raised pre and post internet, when you actually had to invest in building relationships. I know, this is sounding like I’m just seconds away from screaming, “Get off my lawn”, and I’m sorry for that. But this is the one thing I can’t seem to reconcile about the younger generation these days, especially when I look at some of the people in my life and see what a true friend looks like. It saddens me to thinkthey’ll never really know that feeling.
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Women I Admire Day 5: My Grandmother And Her Blanket of Love #WomensHistoryMonth

My grandmother passed away a year ago. Right around this time last year to be exact. For those of you who have been here for a while, you know I was really heartbroken when she passed, mostly because we hadn’t spoken in almost 10 years.

This post is so late today because I actually decided to revamp it after a conversation I had with my wife this morning. My wife is currently going through some pretty heavy family issues at the moment. In the car after dropping off both our kids at their respective places of care, we were discussing those issues, as well as many other things in our lives right now.
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With Liberty and Justice…FOR ALL

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Below is a post I wrote almost 6 years ago for a different blog, so excuse the dated references and crappy grammar. I wrote this upon the announcement of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This is my favorite story to tell when people ask what it was like being in the military. I always think about the friends I made, and the close relationship I built during those years…with all of my battle buddies, Black, White, Latino, straight, and gay. I wanted all my friends to know how important they are to me, but this story was meant for one man in particular who was a very dear friend while I served, and still is to this very day. Nothing will ever change the fact that these men and women were, are, and always will be my family. So, on this Veterans Day, I share this story with you.
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No Idea What I’m Doing Guest Post: Why I tell my wife she’s beautiful everyday

Today I am so honored to be guest hosting one of my favorite bloggers; Clint Edwards from the awesome No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. When I first got into the parent-blogging game Clint’s blog was one of the first place I stumbled across.

Clint and I come from very similar backgrounds (growing up without our fathers in the picture, and then becoming fathers ourselves), which really helped knowing there were other dads out there who didn’t have dads themselves, but weren’t letting that stop them from trying to make a difference. His writing helped me through rough times, especially the first year of little Ferris’ life.

Clint’s writing has been featured in such places as Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Good Morning America and the New York Times, just to name a few. He has written so many great articles; far too many to even try and choose some to link to, so instead I will say this, please head to his blog and follow him (like I do), or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Clint

My wife was complaining about the size of her breasts again. “They are so small,” she said. “I look like a little girl.”

She was changing into her pajamas. I was sitting on the edge of the bed reading from the tablet.

“I like them,” I said. “I think you’re beautiful.” I said it with sincerity. I always do. And yet, she always argues with me. She usually shoots down my complements as something I’m obligated to say.

“I can look like a little girl and still be beautiful,” She said. She had her hands on her hips now. “What I want is to look like a woman.”

Mel is petite. She stands just over five feet, and weighs just over 100 pounds. Small breasts, small hips, small hands. I think she has always been self-conscious about her size. When I took Mel home to meet my mother she asked if I’d checked her ID. When Mel first had a baby, strangers often asked if Tristan was her younger brother. She gets mistaken for younger, less mature, and I think that makes her feel like she is not taken seriously. And somehow this has translated into her self-esteem, and her understanding of her own beauty.

These feelings of being small, too young, and inadequate, started long before we met, and the world seems to constantly be reaffirming them through magazines, TV ads, and snarky comments. As a woman, she is bombarded by images of tall, lean, and full-breasted women that have been air brushed to perfection, as if this is the norm. As if this is what a woman must look like, and I can only assume that she looks at herself compared to these unachievable things and feels inadequate. The truly sad part is that the women on magazines are shown in one dimension. They don’t show who they are as a person, only their bodies.

If Photoshop could capture how much Mel loves her children, how dedicated she is to her family, the fact that she is a full-time mom, and a part-time student, and kicking ass at both, all the sacrifices she’s made for our family, she would be on the cover of every magazine, because this is the really sexy stuff. A flat stomach and large breasts just look good on paper.

But the fact is, I can’t change how the media sexualizes women. It’s not within my circle of influence. But here’s what I do know. I know that my wife is beautiful. I know that her hips give me chills, and that even after 10 years of marriage, I still get nervous when I kiss her. I feel warmth in my heart when she holds me. I long for her. I think she is a great mother and the most supportive and life-changing person I have ever encountered. So I tell her that she is beautiful everyday. Most days I tell her several times a day. I send her text messages. When she calls, I say, “Hello, pretty person.” I bring her flowers at least once a month, more if I can afford it.

I don’t know if my constant reassurance of her beauty is having an impact or not. Perhaps I say it too much. Perhaps it has become ubiquitous after ten years, the backdrop of her life. But what I do know is that it helps me to feel like I’m doing something. I can’t change the world. I can’t change the way companies market their products. I can’t change who is cast in what TV show, or movies, or how much a woman’s image on the cover of a magazine is altered. But what I can do is remind my wife, everyday, that I am blown away by how lucky I am to have someone so beautiful in body, mind, and spirit.

I was in bed now. Mel was dressed in her pajamas, standing next to me. I was going to bed early so I could get up and write the next morning. She leaned down to kiss me and I said, “You are the most beautiful person I know.”

She gave me a half smile and said, “Thanks.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “ I will remind you about it tomorrow.”

Mel laughed and said, “I know.”

“Good,” I said.

Then she turned out the light.

 

Rediscovering Santa Claus

One of my writer-friends posed a question to me the other day asking if I was going to write a post about Christmas this year. I laughed it off saying it wasn’t really my style, plus I couldn’t really think of anything snarky to say about my son pertaining to Christmas. That of course doesn’t count the numerous jabs I’ve been taking at him in 140 characters or Treeless on Twitter and the numerous statuses on Facebook detailing his buffoonery. But other than that, I got nothing.

Then a funny thing happened last weekend. As I watched the Wife and the Boy hang decorations on our mini table-top tree, I started getting a little mushy. Seeing him so excited to hang little ornament after little ornament, it got me thinking about the holidays and all the traditions and symbols that surround the Christmas season.

I was talking with a coworker just a few days later, when the topic of Santa Claus came up. They asked me if I had taken my son to get his picture taken with the jolly fat man in the red suit, to which I replied, “Actually no. He’s almost 3 and we haven’t even tried once yet.” To be honest the Boy has just started recognizing who Santa is, but he certainly doesn’t know, or care for that matter what Santa is all about.

My coworker went on to say, “Oh, you don’t know how lucky you are. At least you won’t have to lie to him that long, plus it will make it easier when you tell him Santa’s not real.” This got me thinking; why should I feel lucky? I’m actually kind of bummed we haven’t been able to do the whole mall-picture-5th-ring-of-hell experience; I mean it’s kind of a rite of passage for parents, and a tradition. Hell, I’m more upset about the missed opportunity to appear on awkwardfamilyphotos.com someday.

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Because who doesn’t need some of this in their life, right?

I remember the exact moment from my childhood that I first heard someone say Santa wasn’t real. I was 8 years old, and the daughters of the lady who watched me after school were making fun of their little brother (probably 4 or 5) for still believing in jolly old Saint Nick. They proceeded to ridicule and tease him telling them it was mom and dad who did all the Santa-related things on Christmas Eve. I was instantly crushed, and paralyzed by disbelief. The entire time they were picking on their little brother, they had no idea the kid standing next to them was having his heart broken from the news. As their little brother cried and refused to believe what they were saying, out of nowhere all the attention turned to me. The girls said, “If you don’t believe us, just ask Mike.” Their little brother, with tears in his eyes, looked to me for some sort of back up. Hoping and praying I would scream out, “DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!! SANTA IS REAL!!”, but out of nowhere the words just came out, “Oh yeah, I totally knew that already.”

It’s that memory that left me pondering; why do I ever need to tell my son Santa isn’t real? Who am I to make that decision for him? And further more; what if I’m wrong?

Look, I know I’m a snarky dude, and I like to shoot it straight, but if there is one time I’m going to admit this, it’s now; the Boy is my ultimate weakness. I’m never going tell him Santa isn’t real. Why would I do that? Why would I want to take that from him? Much like any part of life that has to do with belief or faith, shouldn’t this be a journey for him and him alone? Isn’t it ultimately up to him if he continues to believe in the man from the North Pole?

The really cool thing about having kids (and I’m serious; this is the only time of year you’re going to catch me saying shit like this) is that you get to rediscover everything in life all over again. I know what’s it’s like to be an adult, and it ain’t that fun. But everything he’s experiencing right now is off the wall awesome. Every time he finds a pine cone on the ground when we’re out for a walk and acts like he just found the fucking Holy Grail, it’s awesome, and I can’t help but get caught up in his excitement too. Whenever he sees a fire truck roll by and he gets so happy I literally think he’s going to lose his water in his pants, it’s amazing. So when I hear him get super excited when he sees a picture of Santa in a bedtime story we’re reading, and I see his beautiful little face light up I think, “You hold on to that buddy; don’t ever stop believing because the world needs more of that joy.”
It’s funny that it’s taken almost 40 years to learn that Santa is more than just the story of some fat dude in a suit who somehow squeezes his rotund self down each and every chimney, for every boy and girl, to bring them presents on Christmas Eve (not to mention somehow fitting in all the apartments and houses without fireplaces). Santa is a tradition; a symbol of all that is awesome about the holiday season. So what if someone tells you Santa isn’t real, I say keep on keeping on with believing. Would this world really be such a worse-off place if millions of people held on to the belief that probably the nicest person they have ever heard of exists, as opposed to being resigned to knowing their exhausted and cranky parents were the ones behind all the Christmas magic? I know one person is who definitely trying to keep that magic alive.

Cara Day, the founder of Daychild (daychild.org), is that person. Daychild is an educational online resource to assist parents in offering the very best options with trying to connect with their children in positive ways, especially for the busy parent (i.e. pretty much all of us these days). Mrs. Day is an educational therapist, life coach, and mother of 4, not to mention a fellow San Diego, CA native.

Cara reached out to me last week and presented me with her latest video on how to keep kids believing in Santa Claus for as long as possible, and I think it’s a pretty cool idea.

For even more videos from daychild.org check out their YouTube channel

So I say – why not keep the idea of Santa alive for as long as possible? After watching Mrs. Day’s video, along with seeing my son’s excitement over the past 2 weeks, I really feel like I’m rediscovering the excitement for Santa all over again, and I can’t wait to cultivate that excitement in my son.

To all my awesome Preachys out there, thank you so much for reading all my stuff this year. You have made this past year an unbelievably exciting time. And don’t worry; I’ll be back in 2015 with my same old snarky stuff. Besides, the Boy is turning 3 soon after Christmas, to which the Wife and I will be entering a new ring of hell. But for now, have a Happy Holiday and a very Merry Christmas from the Preach family.

Happy Anniversary to my Wife. Our love is like……Wood???

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On a rather hot July day five years ago; five years ago today in fact, my life changed forever. July 18, 2009 was a wonderful day filled with love and laughter that we shared with friends and family, alike… it was the day my Wife and I got married.

I can hardly believe it’s been five years already; we’ve actually been together for a little over eight. But truthfully, as I reflect back over the last five years, our wedding day feels like it was a life-time ago. So much has happened in our lives that has changed each one of us individually as well as a couple that I almost don’t recognize the two people in our wedding photos.

As always, I’ve spent the last month or so trying to come up with the perfect gift for my Wife, but to be honest I’m not very good at gift giving. Before you chime in with *typical guy* kinds of comments, let me tell you, I am VERY romantic. Take a look at what I did for my Wife on a not-too-long-ago birthday:

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It’s just that when it comes to gift-giving I struggle. When it comes to being on stage or entertaining a room full of people, or even writing, my creativity knows no bounds… but when it comes to the art of coming up with unique gift ideas, I’m clueless.

When I began my hapless gift-seeking pursuit by Googling gift ideas, I found out the 5th anniversary is the “wood anniversary”.

Great, that provided me no help at all. It did, however, inspire one suggestion for the Wife, in a brief meat-head man moment (those are some of my best btw) for a gift involving *wood *, but she simply pointed at our two year old son acting all toddler as hell at the table and responded, “No thanks, I’m good.” What can I say, I tried.

But in all seriousness, as I scrolled through lame idea after lame idea of gift ideas carved out of wood, or kitchen utensils made of wood that “All Women Must Have” (SERIOUSLY Amazon, are you trying to get me fucking killed over here?!?), I started to reflect back on the symbolism of the traditional anniversary gifts from the past four years of our marriage (although I put no stock in them at the time) were actually very fitting, and how this year’s meaning, wood, might be the most appropriate of all. Follow me here…. I’ll show you what I mean.

1st Anniversary – Paper

Has it been a year already?!? You most likely missed most of that first year because of the constant bragging to all your friends and coworkers about your wedding day and eventual honeymoon, only surpassed by the amount of time having tons of new marital sex, because no matter what anyone says, the sex is totally better after the I Do’s. One thing that is often overlooked in that first year of marriage is the delicate and fragile nature of your relationship. You’re both still learning each other, because despite what many may believe; I’m here to tell you that the title of “being married” changes EVERYTHING… there’s no going back. You’re playing for keeps now.

Our 1st year was very difficult for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, I was going through a very rough time emotionally, both personally and professionally. I was in a dead-end job where I was treated poorly every day, and my personal life was a mess because I wasn’t adjusting to our new life on the East Coast well. I missed the only home I ever knew (San Diego, CA), missed all my friends (making new friends as an adult SUCKS!), and I had a multitude of family problems that just wouldn’t stop. I felt I had no safe-haven to decompress and like I had no one I could talk/relate to that could brighten my perspective. The Wife tried to comfort me as much as she knew how, but I made home life pretty difficult at times. Needless to say, I wish I could have that time back.

2nd Anniversary – Cotton

Wow, that first one was fun, we should do that again! Now in year two you’ve begun to soften into your new titles of husband and wife, but mostly you spend a great deal of time simply enjoying each other, wrapped up and cuddling, like in a nice cotton blanket.

Many of the issues improved in our 2nd year of marriage. While we had great deal of ground to make up from our rough prior year, we did a better job at supporting each other. We began wrapping each other up in that blanket of love. I was eventually let go from my horrible job and my Wife was totally supportive in that situation. This year was filled with so much uncertainty that it felt really good to be comforted in the soft, cottony warmth of love. Our second year of marriage came to a close with a couple of high points: we took a vacation home to San Diego, I got a new job, and best of all we found out we were going to have a baby!

3rd Anniversary – Leather

Year three already huh? Congratulations, your relationship has become broken in like a nice pair of leather shoes. Wear those bad boys around with pride, and treat them well, because you’re going to have them for a while.

Boy… shoes are a great symbol for our third year because the new member of our family gave us little to no time to sit down. We were always up and moving with this kid. As for year three, I think the best way to describe it is, “One step forward and two steps back.” Shoes come in helpful with that saying too. Our son was not the easiest of babies, which made life for the Wife and I…..tricky. We openly admit we struggled as new parents, but keeping up with the shoe theme, we kept going forward on the journey. Sure, we hit some bumps (actually, some really big bumps) but we never stopped moving forward. Eventually we hit our stride and learned that this whole parenting (and marriage) thing is a marathon, not a sprint.

4th Anniversary – Linen

Year four; it’s time to change those sheets, and in our case, the scenery! By the time you reach year four of marriage you feel like you’re building a life with someone; a home built on love and joy.

After we survived the first year of our son, and were able to come up for a breath of air, we took a look around and decided we needed a change. We upped and left our cramped two bedroom apartment behind and moved. We spent the next year transforming our new house into a home… complete with new sheets. I had never lived in a house growing up, only apartments, so it’s been really cool to watch our son thrive here. He gets to run around, play in the yard and wander around the house… claiming every area as his own.

5th Anniversary – Wood

Around year five many couples may feel that the shine of newness is gone, and that things have become dull, much like old wood. However, the reality is that our marriage is not some dull stick. More accurately it is like a growing tree of love with roots that are strong, and deserves much respect.

In looking over this list of anniversary year symbols, there I have to say there are some really silly representations of love, and I place wood pretty close to the top of that list.

But the more I’ve thought about it, I’ve started to see the deeper meaning of the symbolism of wood. Our marriage has grown and grown over the past five years. It started out as a small, but pretty tree. It took on major storms to begin with and lost much of its beautiful leaves and flowers, but even as the storms raged on the tree stood strong, and would not be uprooted.

After the storms, the tree took time to soak in the joy of the sun and grow strong roots. Eventually as it grew, it even sprouted a new branch; a beautiful, and sometimes trying, branch.

Happy anniversary my love. I’m glad our love was planted together; went through the storms together; created a life together (in all meanings, a home and an actual person in the Boy), and like any strong piece of wood we keep riding the waves and never sink. I love you so much.

I guess wood isn’t that bad of a symbol after all. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do for our 9th anniversary; what can I do with pottery?!?

5 Reasons My Son is Like My Xbox

I am one of those quasi-adult parents – you know what I mean – the kind that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and now in our 30’s we are doing everything possible to hang onto some semblance of our childhood experiences at all costs. So, how do I do that? Well, at pushing almost 40, I’m still a gamer. For you non-gamer parents out there, that means I play video games…a lot.

I don’t just play video games; I invest quite a bit of time in my gaming hobby. I still visit GameStop and Best Buy to purchase new games, I still read reviews on the latest products coming out, and I still geek out with my friends and debate which console is better (Xbox or PlayStation).

My video game playing habit took a major hit in 2012 when our son was born. “Nothing’s going to change for me,” I foolishly told my friends, “I’ll just put the kid in my lap and play while he sleeps. Late night feedings will be cool; I’ll get in a lot of gaming time.” Yeah, think again.

Two and a half years later I continue the struggle to balance my nerdy gamer ways while in real life being a parent – that’s some pretty adult shit right there. In late 2013 I purchased a new video game console, and as we approach its half-birthday, I am noticing some eerie similarities to my toddler.

Only Responds to Yelling – One of the major attractions Microsoft tried to sell hard to the consumers was how their new console would be completely voice activated. Want to turn the Xbox on? Just say, “Xbox On” and it will recognize your voice and turn on. Want to do something other than game? Simply say the phrase, “Xbox go to…..” and fill in the blank and you will be binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, Skyping with grandma, or even watching TV. Problem is, just like our toddler, the damn system doesn’t do what we ask of it, the first, second, sometimes even the third time around. Many times I will be in the kitchen and hear my Wife yell, “XBOX ON, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!” Luckily, while just as difficult, our son receives a little bit more grace…..and I mean a little.

It’s always fucking watching me – While the last function was supposed to be cool, the next option is just downright creepy. Xbox has a built-in camera system that according to Microsoft, is always on, and is always watching; even when the system is off. So while it’s really annoying that my son follows me from room to room (even to the bathroom where he stares at me while I handle my business), at least when he’s asleep, I know there is no risk of him popping up and filming me while I walk around in my underwear and somehow posting that shit on the Internet. Trust me; no one wants to see that.

May Malfunction at Any Moment – Like any new generation of equipment or technology, there are usually some kinks or bugs to work out of the system. We consumers are usually more forgiving when it comes to techie items,like when my new Xbox crashes for no reason; it’s because we know a system update is right around the corner. But, where the hell is my system update for my toddler that is happy one second and then a ball of fury and flailing limbs screaming, “NO, I DON’T WANT IT!” the next?? You show me that product, Microsoft, and I will be yours for life.

The so-called experts are of little to no help – I’ve come to learn that when those times your techie gadgets inevitably fail you, much like your toddler will inevitably have a complete fucking meltdown in public, the people we are supposed to be able to reach out to, to help us fix our problem, are just as fucking clueless as we are. Sure, your big-box store nerd-smug-asshole behind the counter will eventually fix your hard drive. Just like whatever family member’s, doctor’s, or supposed child-raising guru’s advice might work when trying to calm your kid down, but at the end of the day they can’t ever tell you why the breakdown happened, or how to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s all a bunch of finger-crossing and hoping. So in my book, that makes you all full of shit.

Both are a serious drain on my bank account – Having a kid was a mutual choice between me and the Wife, but buying the Xbox One (aka the $500 paperweight in our family room) was all me. Both have the exact same effect on our bank account, however; they continue to take and take and take. Both require a continuous credit line for maintenance and upkeep. Examples include buying games or new products for the Xbox One, and clothing, feeding and paying for daycare for my son. I invest so much money into both, wondering what I’m really getting in return, which brings me to my last point…..

How my son is NOT like my Xbox – While I joke that my Xbox is a useless paperweight (and will continue to be seen as such given current release dates for new games and products), that depreciates in value daily; the same cannot be said for my son. I see my son grow and change every day. While the Xbox can easily go unused for days at a time, my Wife and I enjoy watching our son as he is becoming a little person; sometimes too quickly for his Dad’s comfort. I will most likely outgrow my video game addiction someday, but I will never outgrow being a Dad.

Happily raising the next generation of gamers

Happily raising the next generation of gamers