049/365 Just Rewards

It was a long day on the fields today. Natalie allowed only one goal in two games (and even then the one she let in should have been disallowed because the opponent played the ball while it was in Natalie’s hands), AND Daniel behaved well as he patiently sat through two soccer games. So, as a thank you from their daddy to them, it was off to Cherry Berry for some yummy frozen yogurt.

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020/365 T.G.I. Awesome

Being divorced, my kids have primary residence with their mom. I still see them just about every day, but there are weeks where several days pass and I don’t get a chance to hang out with them at all. This was one of those weeks.

As Friday rolled around, I picked them up at their mom’s house and we went out to dinner. I still find it fun and exciting for Lee, me, and the kids to go out to a restaurant and just have that time together as a family.

We came home and Natalie was excited to start putting together some of the stuff we picked up last weekend for her bathroom. The bathroom makeover was part of her Christmas present, and although there’s still much to do, she got a good head start on the re-do of her bathroom.

Having consumed too much time in helping Natalie, Daniel insisted it was now my turn to help him out with something. Still a little depressed following our Minecraft failure from last week, Daniel was determined to try and install a new mod for his favorite game. After a couple of errors on my part – one of which Daniel was able to figure out and left me feeling like a complete idiot – we successfully installed the Too Many Items Mod for Minecraft. Upon restarting the game, all I heard as I walked out of Danny’s room was, “This is so cool. THIS IS SOOOOO COOL!”. I’m pretty sure he’s still playing MC at this moment.

 

As far as Friday’s go, this one was very awesome indeed.

And it was also one where I took a moment to literally thank God for the blessing that is my family.

013/365 A Minecraft Success Wrapped in Failure

My 10 year-old son Daniel is quite the Minecraft junkie. He’ll spend hours playing if I let him.

Lately, he’s been obsessed with installing a new mod called The Aether. It’s basically some files that allow you to play a different ‘level’ within the Minecraft world. Daniel took to YouTube and even some Minecraft forums to figure out how to get the Aether mod to work.

Long story short, it wasn’t working. We followed the instructions step by step, and at the end of an hour and a half, nothing. “Let’s start over from scratch,” he said. I REALLY didn’t want to start over from scratch, but the disappointment in his face and the tears welling up in his eyes made me let out a big sigh and say okay.

We deleted all the files and started over.

When it came time to launch the game, we both jumped out of our chairs, arms extended as if our favorite team had scored a touchdown, both of us shouting, “YES!” We got the Aether to work!

…or so we thought.

Once Daniel selected the option to proceed with the game, all we saw was a black screen. Nothing. We waited and waited and waited and then we got some more of the nothing. Now I, too, was deflated and with tears beginning to well up in my eyes.

I looked at him and then at my watch. I had not realized how late it had gotten.

“Dude, we tried. I don’t know why the game’s not running, but we did well to get this far.” And with that, I bailed.

Last I checked he was re-scouring the YouTubes to see if he can figure out the answer. So if any of you happen to know any Minecraft gurus that can help us out, please be sure to direct them my way.

Geek With a Capital ‘G’

As a self proclaimed, sports, technology, and music geek, it doesn’t take much to get me revved up. Anything I find cool or fascinating can easily get my geek juices flowing. The complete Star Wars anthology on BluRay, box seats to a sporting event, meet-and-greet with one of my favorite authors, backstage passes to a show, figuring out how to perform a screen capture on my phone; like I said, it really doesn’t take much.

Most recently, I’ve been geeking out about the movies. The American version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ premiers this week, and Lee and I will be attending a special Tuesday night screening of the film. I’ve been anticipating this movie since I fell in love with the character of Lisbeth Salander and the entire Millennium Trilogy. After I read the first book, I quickly devoured the second book and then the third. I stayed up late watching all three Swedish movie adaptations (thank you, NetFlix), and I, of course, followed every article written and piece of information distributed about the upcoming US film version. I was hooked.

I find myself doing the same with ‘The Hunger Games’. I loved the first book of the trilogy and am more than half way done with the second book. With the movie version coming out in March 2012, I am sure my geek will peak, and I’ll be at the movies opening night for that film as well.

And, of course, there are the upcoming releases of ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ that will sure to have me in full-on geek mode next summer. I think I need to add movies to the self proclamation list I mentioned earlier.

There’s something uniquely energetic about letting yourself get geeked up about something. My friend uses the phrase “get’s off” when describing something that is so fun and enjoyable and satisfying. It’s a great way to describe it, but that phrase does come with its share of social awkwardness.

Still, I think the key to the geek out or ‘getting off’ is part of what makes us unique as individuals. It’s more than just likes and dislikes. It’s more than simply a preference of Coke over Pepsi or Burger King over McDonald’s. Instead, I believe the geek out occurs when we’re in tune with ourselves, and the multiple components that make up our personality align perfectly. It’s a controlled euphoria that’s wrapped in a layer of deep understanding and covered with a sprinkle of exuberance and ego. Yes, ego, because every geek moment has, in some shape, way, or form a flavor of, “Look at how awesome this is and look at how much it means to me.”

I have lived a very blessed life, and I’ve been very fortunate to have had my fair share of super-awesome geek out moments. More importantly, I’ve been able to share most of those moments with those whom I consider close to me.

Yet through it all, nothing rivals the how much I get off at seeing my children succeed. The feeling is beyond surreal whenever I watch either of my kids reach a goal or attain an accomplishment. It was my daughter stopping a penalty kick in the playoffs of her recreational soccer league. It was my son standing his ground in the face of an older and taller opponent on the basketball court. It’s watching their eyes as they learn something new; seeing the light bulb go off in their head as they finally get it. It’s being able to see them develop into their own persons, extending kindness to others, and realizing that whatever my ex and I are doing as parents, we’re apparently doing something right.

It’s parental pride.

Keep your sideline passes. I don’t need the VIP tickets. Who cares about the latest gadget? Nothing geeks me out more than having someone compliment my kids because of who they are and how they act.

Vocation: My Mission in Life

The dictionary defines the word ‘vocation’ as a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling. It can also be defined as a function or station in life to which one is called by God. Growing up Catholic, I heard this word a lot when I was in school. I think it was the Catholic Church’s not-so-subtle way of trying to recruit boys into becoming priests. “Normal people have careers, but those true to God know what their vocation is,” I recall Sister Mary Somethingorother telling me once. The way I figure it, if God wanted me to become a priest, He wouldn’t have created boobs.

Still, I believe in the concept of vocation. I believe we are all placed on Earth for a purpose; to play a specific role in His creation. I whole-heartedly believe God has blessed me with a divine task during my time here on Earth, but it has nothing at all to do with being a man of the cloth. Ironically, however, my vocation is one that still requires people to call me father. Two people to be exact.

There is no doubt in my mind my sole purpose in life is to be an exceptional dad. Not a good dad. Not a great dad. Not just an a’ite dad. An exceptional dad. A phenomenal dad. The best dad ever.

Granted, I know I can never be that. Like a perfect GPA in college, once you slip up, you can never get back to 4.0. It’s mathematically impossible. I believe my life’s journey and the transgressions I’ve experienced are akin to that, and those decisions will forever stain my resume as a dad. Nevertheless, I am resolved to make an effort every day and with everything I do to atone for the sins of my past. I am very fortunate my children were so young when my first wife and I split up, and their frame of reference continues to shift from a memory of mommy and daddy together to that of what our current situation reflects.

All that being said, I strive to be the best parent to my children I can possibly be. I like to think I don’t spoil them, yet there is not much which they lack in terms of the ‘things’ they have. By my standard as a kid growing up, my children are very rich. Still, I make sure they appreciate the value of money. I teach them to be respectable and honest, kind and unselfish. I do my best to lead by example; often times forgoing something I want to do in order to teach them the lesson of what is the right thing to do.

As they get older, I find I must give up some of the strict disciplinarian role in order to make room for the more patient and wise consultant. Gone are the days of very narrow limitations and binary choices that set the boundaries they knew as infants and toddlers. Now their choices are quite multiple, all with varying levels and parameters of depth, impact, and consequence. I find where before I would raise my voice and fall back on my trusted “because I say so” argument, I now break into mini-pep talks where the discipline is found in the lesson of the moment. Put another way, I’ve evolved from Nick Saban into Tony Dungy.

I say all this knowing I don’t do it alone. I’ve always said about my ex-wife that I would not want anyone else to be the mother of my children. She and I have always been on the same page when it comes to parenting, and I am so damn lucky that through all that happened, that aspect of our relationship never changed.

Being a dad is not always easy, but it is so incredibly rewarding. I feel it whenever I am complimented about my children. It’s a sense of validation and justification for the many trials and tribulations that come with being a parent. From a long term perspective, my vision is of two individuals who are pillars of their respective communities. Strong and intelligent leaders who are also humble and reverent human beings. That is what I want my kids to become, and that is what I feel it is my mission in life to produce. That is my contribution to my community and this planet. That is my vocation.

As a quick aside, my dad would have been seventy-seven years old today. I wish he were still around to see how beautiful, charming, witty, and fun his grandchildren have become. But I know he’s in Heaven looking down and smiling, and thankful that I never ended up becoming a priest.