Binary Memories

I saw a meme the other day that said something to the effect of, “great memories aren’t made playing video games.” I respectfully disagree.

As tough as it is for me sometimes to bond with my daughter, it’s quite easy with my son. All I need to do is run over to Game Stop and pick up a new video game. Then we’ll spend a Friday evening (and most of Saturday morning) tearing it up.

When Danny was younger, he’d rely on me more to help with the problem solving aspects of a game. If there was a level he couldn’t clear or a puzzle he couldn’t figure out, he’d hand the controller over to me. Now that’s he’s older (he’ll be thirteen in May), he doesn’t pass the controller over quite as much.

If you’re an avid console gamer, then you can appreciate the notion that learning the button commands for a game can be like learning a new language. Specifically with sports games where you may be required to press a series of buttons in a certain sequence or all at once. It really is quite fascinating for me to watch Danny play. It’s as if I am watching him develop muscle memory right before my eyes, and I’ve seen him do things in a game that leave me speechless.

To be clear, he routinely kicks my ass when we play head to head, and he’s only going to get better.

Yet through it all – through the levels of zombie apocalypse or World Cup soccer matches or covert, special operations missions in the jungle, or superhero adventures – it’s a special time we share. Danny remains super-informed on games and consoles and new developments, and he loves sharing that information with me.

The student has become the teacher, and I am fine with that because PS3 (and now PS4) time is our time. It’s the time we get to hang out and be father and son together. It’s the time we get to be goofy with each other. It’s the time when I am able to appreciate the young man into which he’s transforming, and I’ve found myself being able to apply some of our shared gaming experiences to real world troubles he’s faced. I hope when he’s out on his own as a grown up he’ll look back at those nights playing video games with dad as some of the greatest memories of his life.

 

We <3 Gaming

Delightfully Different

I really hate Mondays. Even during the NFL season when Monday Night Football is in full swing, I still hate Mondays. However, sometimes Monday’s just have a way of working out.

On the heels of a successful showing a the Florida State Cup and three games in two days, my daughter’s soccer team had the night off. No practice. This meant a night of not seeing my daughter given I take her to her training sessions on Mondays. I feel I don’t get to see my kids nearly enough, and I know my daughter will be off to college (2017) before I can say, “Where did the time go?” So tonight, we did something completely different.

I took my daughter to dinner. Just the two of us. I let her pick the place – Bonsai Sushi – and let her order what she wanted. In a manner that is typical of my daughter and less and less surprising every day, she ordered off the menu. “I don’t see it here on the list, but this place has a Caterpillar roll and it’s really good.” Not only was it good, it was divine.

Caterpillar Roll
(Stock image. Not the actual roll we had.)

We followed up dinner with some dessert next door at Happy Cow. It’s our favorite frozen yogurt spot, and it’s definitely a treat. The toughest choice is always, “should I be good and get fat-free yogurt with fresh fruit toppings, or be bad? (i.e. everything that contains peanut butter in it)”

 

Happy Cow

Finally, she wanted to practice her driving, so we went to a secluded part of the housing development and worked on her fledgling driving skills.

Dinner, dessert, and driving: It was a 3D kinda night. If you had been standing in front of me, you might have seen my heart beat its way out of my chest. It was an evening I’ll cherish forever, and one that made an every day Monday turn out to be quite spectacular.

 

Natalie and Me

Changing of the Guard (?)

Uncertainty can be so uncomfortable. What’s next? Will we do this? What about that? I love having a plan, and like John “Hannibal” Smith of the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.

When things don’t happen according to plan, however, it can be easy to get lost in the chaos.

Right now, we’re in the middle of a transition period with my daughter and her path as a young, competitive soccer player. There are decisions to be made. There are adjustments to be considered. There is a valley of uncertainty we need to cross.

Normally, I’d be wallowing in my own anxiety. I don’t really care for uncertainty. I’m reminded of a time when my wife suggested we spontaneously get in the car and drive to South Florida. She thought it would be ‘fun’ to just drive until we get tired and then find a hotel along the way. My furrowed brow must’ve said all that needed to be said, because she could immediately tell I was not understanding the words coming out of her mouth.

“So you’re saying we don’t need a reservation first?” I asked incredulously.

“No. We just pull into a hotel and tell them we need a room.”

“People do that?”

With the situation with my daughter, I WANT to know what will come next. What will be the changes with for next season? What will be my daughter’s decision with regards to school versus club sports? Is she going to re-dedicate herself to what’s she’s been working on for the last four to five years?

But all this is like going to the movies and wanting to fast forward to the end just as the movie starts. What fun would that be? What makes a movie great is the story it tells throughout. There are ups and downs. There are plot twists. There are moments that will scare you, anger you, and relieve you.

Life is the same way.

In my faith journey, I’ve learned to replace anxiety with the perspective of anticipation; anticipation in finding out how God – the master screenwriter – will reveal the story’s eventual ending to me. It’s a reminder that just because things are not going great now, they won’t be great again later. It’s in these moments of anxiety that I’ve learned I’m in the middle of a story that still needs to play out.

That’s not to say there are no decisions to make. God calls us to work so that we arrive at where it is He wants us to be. I need to be patient and supportive with my daughter as she weighs her options going forward. I need to find the healthful balance between pushing her too hard and being blasé as a dad. I need to provide counsel, yet ensure the decisions she makes are indeed hers. 

I need to remember the end of the chapter is still off in the distance.

So we will press forward in prayer and in the knowledge that anxiety is useless, especially when we have faith in the story He’s written for us.

What's Next

Father Time: Undefeated

There’s a saying about aging, superstar athletes that stay in the game a couple of years too long: Father Time is undefeated. Twice this week, I was slapped in the face by that truth. I was reminded that my prime is behind me, and that with every passing day, I am simply getting a little bit older.

The most recent reminder was today when I went in to get my eye exam. Although my new prescription is just about the same as it was three years ago (yes, it had been three years since my last exam ….. don’t judge), the reality is my eyesight is worse now. During the exam, the optometrist had me try to read one of the smaller lines on the eye chart with only one eye. My defeated response to him was merely, “Yeah … that’s not going to happen.”

The other reminder was over the weekend. I was getting caught up on some household chores, one of which included laundry. When I have my kids on the weekends, it’s not unlikely for them to leave clothes in the hamper of their rooms. I try my best to get it all washed and over to their mother’s house so that they’re not without an item they may want or need for the school week. Well, apparently I missed the memo where my daughter graduated from what I will call ‘regular’ teenager underwear to items that can best be described as what would be modeled during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

#WTF?

I was left with the sickening feeling in my stomach that A) my little girl continues to grow up (despite all my mandates to her that she not), and B) that my life had become the Bill Engvall Show (see clip below starting at 13:18)

I know it will continue to get worse before it feels like it’s getting better. My little girl will be a full-fledged woman before I know it. My son will, in a couple of years, be looking down at me as he continues to sprout like a weed. There is no controlling the passing of time, so I guess all that’s left to do is roll with it.

At least I’ll be able to see these changes more clearly with my new glasses.

Birthdays and Memories

January 27, 1933. That’s the day my dad was born. In a hospital somewhere in Colorado Springs, my grandparents welcomed their fifth child into the world.

My dad would have been 81 years-old today. He passed away almost 10 years ago, and I can’t help but wonder what he would think of today’s times. In many ways, my father was a simpleton. A stereotypical blue collar man, he was both amazed by advances in technology yet at the same time not very impressed. Whenever I would introduce him to something new – I always think back to how he reacted to volume control buttons on a steering wheel – my father would respond with a very canned and dorky, “that’s cool, man.” I never could figure out if it was a flicker of whatever small, child-like innocence remained in him, or his coy way of being sarcastic.

I sit and contrast both our lives. How different my life as a grown man (allegedly) is from his. I’m weeks away from turning 41, and I have a son in middle school and a daughter in high school (whom I swear is itching today to move off to college). At 41, my my dad had two toddlers from his second marriage. Call me selfish, but I can’t imagine being my age and having to deal with baby stuff, especially in an era of non-disposable diapers.

I think about how my dad would drive me every weekday to football practice. I had no appreciation for that level of commitment, both in time and money. I have no idea what he did to pass the time while I sweated away on the fields. I don’t know what he did to entertain himself all those hot, Fall afternoons in Miami. What I do know is that he did it selflessly because he knew how much I loved playing football.

I contrast it to my life now, and it’s such a crazy juxtaposition. Now I’m the one that is shuttling my kids back and forth to practice. Except, I’m killing time by sitting in my air conditioned car, composing this blog post on my Samsung Chromebook, while connected to the Internet via my mobile phone, while listening to Mozart Piano Quartet #1 on satellite radio. I think my father’s head would have exploded if I tried to explain that all to him (although I think he would’ve been very proud about the classical music part).

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a decade since my father was called home to Heaven. I remember the pain of the first couple of days following his passing. The notion of how surreal it was to no longer have him around. Now, although I still ache for his companionship and I still long to have one more conversation with him, I also know that he is with me always. He’s with me in the wisdom he imparted and the lessons he taught me when I was a child. He’s with me in my interactions with my kids. In many ways, I’ve become him: the stubborn and thick-headed man who is really a push-over deep down inside.

I used to look back at the absence brought by my father’s death and feel only sorrow. Now I look back and feel gratitude for the great fortune of having that man as my father. I look at the blessing it is to have the parents I have, and hope that someday my kids will feel the same way about me.

Thanks for laying the foundation you did with me, dad, and for directing me to be the man I am today. You are forever missed, and I am forever thankful to you and to mom. Happy birthday, dad. I love you. 

Smile

The Legacy Project

My father was not a wealthy man. Quite the opposite. He and my mother put my brother and me through twelve years of private school, and gave us both the opportunity to attend college. When my father passed away, there was no inheritance to be had, at least not financially speaking. My father did, however, leave me with a treasure chest full of pearls of wisdom, life lessons learned while working at his side as he tackled project after project around the house. I wasn’t just his son, I was his apprentice. And to this day, I still get to surprise my wife from time to time by displaying just how handy I can be.

When it comes time for me to pass on, I don’t know what I will leave my two children. Hopefully, there will be a small nest-egg they can use as they see fit. But more importantly, I hope they get to look back at their childhood and the time we spent together with the same wonder, awe, and admiration that I am able to with my childhood.

It is true that fathers and sons have different relationships than do fathers and daughters. As a dad, I want my daughter to see me as understanding and patient. Less rugged and more comforting. She’s fourteen and very well into that phase of needing daddy less and less. With my son, we still rough-house. We sit and play video games. He farts and hopes I don’t notice. I fart and grin when he does.

Back in 2012, Lee and I attended the local Renaissance Festival. It was fun and interesting ….. and interesting, but we were both captivated by the handmade, leather-bound journals a vendor had for sale. They were a must have. We each bought a small journal. Lee used hers for decor on one of our display cases. I was still unsure about the purpose of mine.

Journal 1

A couple of weeks later, Lee and I were talking about our grand plans once my son, the youngest, graduates from high school in 2019. With nothing necessitating us to remain in the New Tampa area, we explored our options. Move to downtown St. Pete? Move to Key West? Move to Costa Rica? I was sitting at my desk and I glanced at the journal from the festival. Then it hit me. I knew for what I was going to use it!

I decided I would capture some wisdom, encouragement, and inspiration in the pages of the journal. Over the course of the next seven years, I would record favorite quotes and Bible verses. Then, when my son graduated from high school, I would give it to him as a resource on which to lean as he ventures off into college. Thus the Legacy Project was born.

Journal 2

I’ve been at it off and on. Some days I’ll fill three pages with handwritten notes and quotes. Other times weeks will pass with nothing new added. I know I have time, but I also know I have a PhD in procrastination, and as of late it seems the years go by in a blink. So I am sharing this project with you in hopes that you can provide me with some of your favorite quotes, Bible passages, and words of wisdom. I would love to fill the pages of this journal not only with my thoughts, but also with the thoughts of a universal community bound together and forever growing tighter in this digital age.

So if your up for being part of the road map I hope my son will follow when he’s eighteen, please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section below. After all, it take a village, right?

Journal 4

The Lighthouse

I was filling out a survey today, and I was asked for my demographic information. I was asked to place a checkmark in the box for the range in which my age fell. It was the second to last of five boxes. The thought that ran through my head: “Oh crap I’m getting old!”

With that came an avalanche of other thoughts, all of them having to do with the fact that time continues to press forward no matter how much I want it all to slow down. This includes the continued maturation of my daughter, and the corresponding realization that in less than four years she will be off to college.

I am sure all parents go through those moments of anxious panic at the idea that your little loved ones will soon leave the proverbial nest to live their own lives, and like me, I am sure no parent is ever really ready for their departure.

As much as I have confidence in the young adult my daughter has grown up to be, I still have to pause when I allow myself to think of everything that’s out there in that big, bad world of ours. Yet I know what I must do is place it all in God’s hands and be an undeniable truth in the life of my daughter.

I need to make sure she knows that no matter where she goes or what she decides or who she grows up to be, my love for her will never diminish. I need to make sure she holds as a positive certainty the fact she can always count on me.

With that, I give you the poem that was born out of this moment of panic.

LIGHTHOUSE

In the darkness of your unexplored world stands a lighthouse

Less remarkable with each passing year

Weathered … beaten down by the crashing waves and the salt spray

It’s shone it’s light bright for you

From your very first voyage, a casual perusal in the harbor

To your treks of discovery, each one taking you further and further from port

Now, as you prepare to escape the confines of the bay

And explore the vastness of the mysterious yet exciting seas

Your lighthouse remains prepared

Diligent … Steadfast …. Anxious

What storms may come? What weather may weigh down your sails?

Your course is uncharted, each direction a new opportunity

Each decision a tightrope walk between failure and success

Yet through it all, your compass remains true

A constant unmoved by the chaos that is ready to attack at a moment’s notice

Through it all, your lighthouse shines bright to help guide you through the unknown

To help you see when you cannot

To warn you of the danger that lies ahead

And to greet you with open arms as you find your way back home

Lighthouse

My Struggle (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

There is a lot of struggle at the core of the Wild at Heart Boot Camp. Much of that struggle deals with the issue of masculine abandonment from father to son. John Eldredge makes the following statement: Only masculinity can bestow masculinity. Even Jesus received this validation from his Father when he was baptized in the Jordan River.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17 (NIV)

The struggle I face is somewhat the opposite. One of the many blessings I’ve always maintained in my heart is that my father, as flawed as he was, always gave me love and validation. My dad was a short-tempered alcoholic, and even when he got sober – sober because his doctor told him, “You can keep drinking and die in six months, or you can stop drinking right now and watch your kids grow up” – my father always set the bar very high for my brother and me.

My dad pushed me to excel, but he never hesitated to tell me he loved me. I’ve sat and pondered, and I cannot recall a moment when my dad ever told me he was disappointed with me. Coming from a man who was abandoned by his own father at the age of fourteen, the fact my dad’s heart overflowed with love towards me is nothing short of a miracle.

As I wrote in the eulogy for my father, I can only hope to be half the dad to my kids as my father was to me. I look at the relationship I share with my son, and I pray that I am bestowing on my son the same love and validation my father gave to me. I like to think I am doing a good job, but I am also terrified that I will somehow mess up along the way. My journey with Christ is as much about setting true both my children’s hearts as it is about setting true my own.

ESPN personality Colin Cowherd says that once your kids get to the age of about thirteen or fourteen, you pretty much stop being a parent and you’re basically a consultant. Teens and pre-teens are going to do what they want, and I pray the foundation my ex-wife and I have laid out, along with the amazing job my wife has done in her role as step-mom, will allow my children to make good and sound decisions in their lives.

Going forward, I hope I can ‘consult’ for my children by living a life they wish to model. I hope to live a life centered in God’s love, rooted in His truth, and reflective of His amazing grace towards everyone. By being the best Christ follower I can be, I know I am doing what I can to be the best father I can be.

 

Dan & Me

Daddies and Daughters (and Heartbreak)

I’ve had my heart broken, my world shattered, my dreams extinguished in the blink of an eye. I’ve felt the hollowness of failure; the lung-gripping stranglehold at the realization that everything of which I was sure turned out to be false. It was the worse feeling in my life, and it was a pain I thought never could be surpassed.

I was wrong.

It’s become very apparent to me that as my daughter continues to grow-up and mature into a young adult, as she continues to scream for independence and long for adulthood, my place in her life continues to diminish. With every shrug of the shoulders and with every roll of her eyes, the chasm between us grows greater.

“I don’t need you. You’re so boring. I’m so embarrassed. You’re not funny (or interesting or .. whatever).” She doesn’t say these words, but she doesn’t have to. My daughter’s eyes and body language yell it for her.

There was a time when the hugs were never-ending. The smiles were iridescent. The look in her eyes was one of love and wonderment and joy. I am sure she still feels those emotions, but not as a result of seeing or being with me. Now it’s celebrity crushes and her life on Instagram. It’s hanging out with her friends and shopping for clothes that leave me questioning whether they’re appropriate or I’m just an old man with dated sensibilities.

And she’s only thirteen.

Like a truck rolling downhill without breaks, the void between me and the little woman that used to be my baby girl will continue to gain momentum. Whereas now I’m a footnote to her daily life, over the next six to ten years, I think I’ll be lucky to be a mere afterthought.

She continues to take in new experiences. She continues to view life through the evolving eyes of an adolescent that can see womanhood far off in the horizon. She continues to grow, her once tiny hands now too big for me to maintain being wrapped around her finger.

And as for me, I thought I knew what heartbreak felt like. As usual, I was wrong.

I know the correct thing to do is to give her the freedom and independence she so desperately craves, still maintaining boundaries and being there to course-correct as needed. But I must allow her to navigate these new waters on her own, a direction having been provided by the previous thirteen years of parenting, but now with her hands at the helm and not mine.

Somewhere in my heart I know that in time my daughter will once again incorporate me into her day-to-day. That’s the way it happens, right? We rebel. We know better. We live life, only to realize our parents were right all along. That’s how it happened for me at least, and I know I still struggle with having the type of relationship with my mom I can only assume she wanted to have with me from the beginning.

So here I sit, a tear in my eye and a heaviness in my heart, as I force myself to learn to let go of that little girl that was, and stand in the background for the young woman that is. I sit here with my heart broken …. broken by the one person who captured it from the very second she was born.

And such is Fatherhood.