Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reflections after two years of fatherhood (I still have no clue what I'm doing)

Tomorrow morning I'm going to have a 2 year-old [or at least I did when I started writing this post. It took a few weeks for me to reflect and figure out what I wanted to say.]

Two years ago, at 1:42 AM, my world was forever changed when my daughter came into the world. This is one of those handful of life moments that I will never forget and can recall with perfect clarity. This little person lay on her mother's chest, not screaming, not crying, but perfectly calm and exploring her new world. She looked directly at my wife, blinked once, before turning her gaze to me. The little girl held my eye then blinked twice, which in my mind was her way of saying, "So you're Dad? Okay, you'll do."

My life has not been the same since we met. I think my current writing situation can testify to that. I'm propped up against an over-sized stuffed blue rhinoceros, with a fuzzy owl staring at me from the side table as I barely notice the mess of Legos strewn across the living room floor. Ironically enough, after two years as a parent, it's the modern Ikea furniture from our old apartment that seems out of place, not the baby doll whose head is poking out from underneath the couch or all the Doc McStuffins pull-ups scattered throughout the room.

I've found fatherhood to be simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing I've ever done. On the one hand, being a parent is hard work. VERY hard work. Being responsible for another little human being's livelihood with all its meal times and snack times and diaper changes is challenging. More than anything, I think it's the constant awareness - always being on alert -  that is truly taxing. Where is she? She's being quiet - that's no good. What did she put in her mouth? Is she taking too big of bites? She's going to pull that over on herself. No, honey, we sit down when we're on the couch. No, I don't know where you found this fork but it's mine now... The truly interesting thing is that all of my know-how on how to keep this little girl from getting herself killed in a house I foolishly thought I baby-proofed before she was born required absolutely no training. I walked into my role as Dad like a fish to water. I've noticed that my friends, who began having their children around the same time as me, have made this seamless transition into Dadhood in their own lives.

It seems God pre-programmed most of us for parental care, which is probably for the best since a steep learning curve would likely prove ill for the species. But that doesn't mean we always get it right the first time. As I sit here on the eve of my daughter's birthday, I want to reflect on three things I've learned on this journey through babyhood and toddlerdom. And here's the deal with kids: there are no do overs. It may be cliche, but I think it is a truism of most parents to say that I wish I could have this time back.

1. My kids are my life's work

Like a lot of guys, I want to make some kind of impact on the world. Leave my legacy. For me, that vision has always included my writing. (The Great American novel is still out there waiting for me.) Whether it's building a company, preserving the family business or trying to rid the world of all its social ills, a dad will have no greater opportunity for influence than with his kids. The best thing I've learned is even if I never publish a single book my entire life but my kids grow into adults who can remember their years with me fondly, I've succeeded. Since I live in a materialistic society that continually reinforces its definition of success, it is a daily challenge to keep this in perspective.

2. If I'm not acting like a fool I'm doing it wrong

My daughter and I have built our own little world that exists both at home and when we go out. Last week, we were at a store and I was playing with her on the ground with these light up frogs while we waited in line at the check out. I looked up to see annoyance on the face of the lady behind us. It saddens me that I get that look a lot on our Daddy-daughter adventures. Likely, some of these can be chalked up to over-stressed folks having bad days, but even taking that into account I still see a pattern. To me the annoyed look communicates, "Why is this idiot playing peek-a-boo with a woman's floppy hat? Why is he sword fighting with a roll of wrapping paper? Why does he every once in a while sprint with his cart down the aisle [after checking for pedestrians!]?" Because it makes her laugh. It communicates to her by example the important lesson that we should be ourselves and our relationship is never going to change no matter where we are or who's around. I'm ashamed to say that when I first began this journey I put the floppy hat back on the rack.

3. Those diapers are my privilege

No, I don't like changing diapers and I don't want to change more than I have to. I don't think anyone does. But I had this thought when changing my daughter's pull-ups, after another fruitless day of potty training. The time of changing my daughter's diapers is coming to an end, and on its most basic level this is cause for celebration. However, this signals a major impending change in our relationship. Just like when she learned how to walk and no longer wanted Dad to carry her or when she figured out how to use a spoon and began slapping my hand away when I tried to feed her, this is another step on her road to independence and eventually adulthood. One day, I will inevitably become a much more marginal figure in her life. If I'm any good at this parenting thing, we will have a lifelong close bond that is rich and rewarding for both of us, but right now is the only time when I (and her mother) get to serve as the foundation for all of my daughter's needs. There is something special and enriching, perhaps even sacred, in the act of caring for this little person when she is at her most vulnerable. The opportunity to caring in that capacity is shrinking everyday. Embrace it, don't avoid it.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please let me know your thoughts below or share with a friend!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I'm interesting, dammit!

If you've been following this blog since I started it a couple of years ago, you've probably forgotten that I write a blog. My bad. I've been very negligent with this project and haven't posted anything since January, despite the New Years Resolutions I gave at the time. There are several reasons for this, most notably the busyness that you are all too familiar with in your own life. But there's another underlying reason why I haven't been an active blogger. I just don't know what to write.

I think this is a pretty common problem, yet somehow the avid bloggers I follow have pushed through this rut to find fresh, interesting content to write about regularly. I've reflected on this over the summer and I think I suffer from a classic self-deprecation that many people have when it comes to talking about themselves. What could I write about? Why would anyone be interested in what I have to say? I don't do anything remarkable. You know these people. When you meet them for the first time and try to get to know them, they describe themselves as "I'm just a..."

Stop right there.

For starters, I realized I do this! In my case, it's: "I'm just an adjunct professor." In the past, it's been: "I just work retail." I've always thought, who would ever want to read anything about me. But I also had the more important realization that I the people in my life who are "just this" or "just that" are actually pretty interesting if you talk to them. I ran into my neighbor while I was taking out the trash this summer and we struck up a conversation about what we do for a living. He "just" drives expedited freight in a cargo van. Well, I found that pretty interesting, or at least enough so that we talked for a good half hour. He probably thinks he has the most boring job in the world, but as someone who does not drive expedited freight for a living, I enjoyed hearing about the challenge of having to cross customs into Canada multiple times a day.

I'm interesting, dammit!

Now, please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying this from a place of conceit. I'm not the Dos Equis Guy. (He is, of course, far more interesting in any of us!) But I do have quite a few interesting things going on in my life that I can draw upon for inspiration to write what I think will be insightful blog posts:

I'm an historian and college professor at three colleges. I'm struggling to build a career in a time when higher education is confronting several challenges. I work in the home of one of the Presidents of the United States. I'm a writer, and one who has decided to light out for the territories into the life of an independent author. I co-edit a quarterly literary journal called The Quill. I'm a husband and have been for nearly five years. I'm a dad, and let me tell you, there is no end to what can be said about a day spent with a toddler! I'm a foodie, coffee fanatic and beer snob. I'm an avid reader who tries to get through about 50 books a year. I love to travel. The list goes on...

I think this has been the problem. I set this blog up as a blog about writing. Indeed, writing is my passion and to become a professional fiction author is still the dream, but my life is so much more than just my writing. I feel my blog should reflect more than that. Plus there are my readers to consider. I am a writer, but I don't even want to read blogs on writing all the time. It's silly to expect you who are not writers to be that interested in a blog devoted to writing either.

So coming soon: either I'm going to dive into travel a little bit and talk about my recent trip to South Carolina or I might talk about what it means to me to have a daughter about to turn 2 years old. We'll see how I'm feeling in a few days!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

To 2015 and Beyond!

Hey all!

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season. I was able to spend some quality time with family and seeing a 1 year-old open Christmas gifts is such a joyful experience!

Now that we're beyond the holiday season, each of us has a brand new year to look forward to. This is always an exciting time. We get to reflect on the previous year - what went right, what mistakes we made, what opportunities we missed, and how we grew. We also get to take what we learned and plot a course for the coming months.

So what can my readers expect from me?

1. First and foremost I am in the finishing stages of Witches of the Water, Book Two - The Yucatan Escapade. This is my sequel to The Golden Merra. Readers will join Wil and Albert in Mexico after the events in Book One for an adventure that expands upon (and I think surpasses) the fun of its predecessor. I am pushing to get this published by January or February.

2. I plan on holding at least one book signing this year. I have never done one of these so this will be a new experience for me. I have no details at this point on the when or where, but once I figure that out I will of course share. I'm a little nervous about this idea...meeting the reading public, face-to-face, in person....it's huge! But this is part of the writer's life so it's high time I start doing it.

3. I plan on buying an author table at either a local fair or festival, such as the Old West End Festival, or perhaps something more tailored to books specifically. Again, no details as of yet. There is a lot involved in getting a booth at one of these events like building inventory and licensing, but I think this will be well worth the investment.

4. Getting my work on store shelves. I plan on finding retail venues around the Toledo area to sell my books as a local author. I have a few locations in mind and I look forward to meeting with people in the local business community about partnering with them.

5. Last but certainly not least. I need to finish editing Book Three of the series! This will probably be a very late 2015 project, if not 2016. I love this series and I've spent about seven years working on it. I look forward to getting in done and out there so I can move on to some of my new ideas.

6. #IndieBooksBeSeen. I've recently blogged about the IndieBooksBeSeen movement I'm a part of. They have a lot of big plans for 2015 that I am excited to be a part of. They plan on making some commercials, representing indie books at book expos and getting the word about indie books to school nationwide. I look forward to wroking with them to promote the indie author community. As of today, they finished their first goal for 2015 (they didn't waste any time!): Here's a link to their new commercial.

That's it from me. I hope you will all join me on this journey!