My Pain — Your Gain?

Last week, I posted a poem called Tomorrow which I wrote a long, long time ago. I was surprised how many hits it drew. Which, in turn, led me to a sudden realization. My pain is y’all’s gain. Thanks for that.

Rubber-necking jerks. [Read more...]

They Wanted To Show Me Their “Bunsen Burner” But I Politely Declined

The guys at DadLabs are funny folks, except they kept asking me if I wanted to see their “Bunsen Bruners,” and, frankly, I’m not into that kinda stuff. Especially with a camera rolling and all. [Read more...]

Calamities in Call Screening

I’m trying something new on my blog — a segment called JCO or JC NO. I’ve got four of them planned. The premise is simple. Each Thursday, I’ll tell a JCO story. Then y’all decide if it’s fact (JCO) or fiction (JC NO). To see if you were right, come visit me the following Thursday. Before offering up that week’s JCO or JC NO, I’ll confirm or deny the veracity (solid word, no?) of the prior week’s story. [Read more...]

tomorrow

Out of nowhere y’all. Straight off the pages of a journal I kept during darker times. Way before Lovie and the trips. I remember the guy who wrote it. I loved him even if I did feel sorry for him. Because he was lost. But at least he knew it. I think that’s why I loved him so. [Read more...]

My Sister, the Great

This past weekend, Lovie and I went down to Atlanta to be part of the M3Summit — the first ever conference dedicated solely to blogging men. Throughout the weekend, I gained incredible insight from many experts in the ways of social media and or fatherhood. But the most important meeting I would attend happened far, far away from the downtown Sheraton. In fact, it went down in a different city altogether. The most important meeting I would attend this past weekend was held in Stone Mountain, GA.

There were no powerpoint presentations, but there was a powerful presence. No conference room with with rows and rows of tables in front of countless chairs, but instead a small kitchen equipped with a wooden table which sat just four. No keynote speaker carrying on in a booming voice. Just a brave woman speaking in a soft but clear one that didn’t need the help of a microphone to reach my ears.

Much less my heart.

As many of you might recall, my sister Holliday has been battling cancer. And her fight took a dire turn for the worse just before the fourth of July weekend when, after her second round of a hellishly aggressive chemo, she fell into an unresponsive state for nine days. Toward the end of those nine days, virtually all hope was lost.

I penned five excrutiatingly painful posts which were laced with unspeakable sorrow to convey the experience from my perspective during that time. I just read them moments before I began writing this post, and oddly, though sad, I also found them beautiful.

Just like I find her.

Much has happened since she came back to us, yet I stopped chronicling Holliday’s story with Tidy Little Boxes. Today, I come to you with an update.

Since last I wrote, Holliday has checked out of MD Anderson much to the dismay of her oncologist. I can’t speak for how everyone else sees the situation, but as for me? I believe that this (pathologically egotistical) doctor mistook his limits for my sister’s. And while she did, indeed, have some limits with regard to fighting her disease, he had none.

After all, this particular cancer is of such an aggressive variety that he was in a no-lose situation. Kill the cancer, and he’d land on the cover of a medical journal, thank you very much. Lose the patient? Hardly his fault. The odds were stacked against him all along.

So onward he pushed, in spite of the fact that Holliday had voiced concern about the toll the medicine was taking on her. The end result was that horrifying nine-day stretch which saw my brave sister seemingly hovering between worlds before her remarkable resolve led her back to this one, albeit with a body that had been compromised along the way.

You see, what Holliday’s doctor had forgotten was that the cancer he and his ego were hell bent on slaying was growing inside of a real, live human being.

The very one who opened the door for Lovie and me this past Saturday. The very one who led us (slowly and with the help of her walker) down the hallway and into her kitchen. The very one who held court at the head of our four-top table for as long as her energy would permit — the twenty best and most meaningful minutes of my weekend.

The very one who, as of yesterday, has officially resumed her fight. This time at Emory Hospital. This time with a less aggressive form of chemo. This time with two things in mind — fighting for her life, yet optimizing it as well.

I’m happy to say that Holliday made it through the first infusion yesterday much better than she had the ones prior. She’s back in the ring and has successfully finished round number one.

Still, my sister is far from well. She’s far from strong. But my sister is also far from giving up.

And if you knew her, that would come as no surprise. Because she’s great. And the great ones never give up. Ever.

M3Summit Recap

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the M3Summit down in Atlanta. Here’s a quick recap.

First off, I was honored (if not a bit out of my league) to be on a panel alonside Danny Evans and Ron Mattocks. The subject of our talk was going from blog to book. Ever the contrarian, I spoke from the other perspective — that of writing a book, then leveraging it to quickly establish an online presence.

Each of us took different routes to get in print. Danny went the conventional way via a publishing house. Ron and I both self published, but Ron did a print on demand whereas I ordered a set number. (Which, incidentally, I need to finish selling. Get yours for only $9 — limited time only!)

Our three distinctly different personalities meshed well together. The Q&A session afterward went over the allotted time, but we certainly didn’t mind sticking around. Everyone had great questions, and it was awesome to get to interact with so many cool people.

Of course, there were a ton of great presentations. Like the one delivered by Jason Falls who spoke about brands and blogs. Though I personally am not into maneuvering this blog with profit in mind (except when it comes to my book — buy it, damn it.), Jason is a flat-out expert on the topic and provided lots of useful information for those who are hoping to court corporations.

CC Chapman encouraged his audience to consider themselves “content providers” as opposed to bloggers, and as such, develop a method to the madness of getting that content out.

Kevin Metzger broke down “Dads by the Numbers” with the help of his impressive survey. If you’re a dad, and you’ve not taken it, I strongly encourage you to do so. Kevin’s an exceptionally good man, and the numbers he’s gathering tell a compelling story.

The presentation I enjoyed most? It was delivered by the talented group over at DadLabs. Y’all, these guys are funny, super smart, totally dialed in, and extremely successful at what they’re doing. If you’re not on to them, you need to check them out. Lovie and I nearly wet ourselves watching this gem which showcases Daddy Brad hooking himself to a breast pump. Go visit their site, TODAY.

Sadly, I couldn’t see everyone as there were typically three sessions during any given time slot. Had he not been presenting at the exact same time Danny, Ron, and I were, I would have definitely checked out Caleb Gardner. He works in the Windy City with Edelman Digital and represents countless well known brands. He discussed his ideas pertaining to the organization of dads such that brands will pay us the attention we deserve.

I heard that Roland Warren of the Fatherhood Initiative was simply incredible. His organization seeks “to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.” He spoke at length on the topic and even showed clips from his appearance on Oprah which clearly displayed the overwhelming effect he had on the media queen. His impact on the folks who saw him present was just as strong. Though I missed him, I can’t wait to learn more about him.

Another person I wish I had seen was Angus Nelson. This dude is in touch. He spoke about the importance of being vulnerable. He’s also written an incredible book that Lovie can’t put down called Love’s Compass, which is kinda eerie because the last chapter in my book is called Fate’s Compass. What’s even eerier is that I strongly considered calling it Love’s Compass. Angus is an excellent guy. Really enjoyed meeting him.

Other great men I want to mention:

Chris Singer runs a wonderful site over at BookDads, not to mention his own personal blog where he chronicles (among other things) life with his adorable daughter, Tessa. As an added bonus, rumor has it he spooned my fleece. (Long story.) Of all the fantastic folks Lovie and I met in Atlanta, this guy is at the top of the list.

Jason Avant leads the smart, irreverent, and thought provoking crew over at, DadCentric. Meeting Jason in person did not disappoint. He’s been at this a long time and is one of the pioneers. Here’s a post of his I read the day before I left for Atlanta. I think it’s a good example of the edgy, yet universally applicable stuff he and all his guys constantly put out.

I finally got to meet PJ Mullen who is the voice behind one of the first blogs I ever read. It’s weird. You read these guys and follow them on twitter and develop an online rapport, then you meet them and they’re exactly what you thought they’d be like. PJ’s one of the great ones, y’all.

This dude? DadOfDivas? He SLAYS me. I’d known the guy for like four minutes before, at his insistence, I found myself standing back to back with him, Lovie carefully sizing us up. Well, way to go, big guy. You win. By like half an inch. Happy, shithead? Keep your eyes peeled for the therapy bill I’m gonna mail you. Not to mention the receipts for all the self help books. Love DadOfDivas. Good guy for sure.

Craig Heimbuch, Jeff Pugh et al represented ManOfTheHouse quite well. They were one of the main sponsors and it was awesome to mix it up a little bit with them. Note to self: if ever at a restaurant with them, NEVER follow Jeff’s order. But do be sure to check out their site. It’s excellent.

And lastly, I wanna give a quick shoutout to two guys I somehow hadn’t run into before this weekend. DaddyScratches and TheMuskrat. They’re both classic. Really enjoyed getting to know them and fired up to now be following them.

So there you have it. I don’t normally run posts which are more or less link-ups to a bunch of other sites. But I also don’t normally spend three entire days with such interesting and talented people.

That you all for making my weekend such an unforgettable one. I had a blast at M3Summit. I’d do it again in a second. Only I’d have to wait for a while. You know. Detox and all.

My Brush With Greatness

Last night was quite a treat for me. At the kickoff reception for the M3Summit, I got to hear Cal Ripken, Jr. speak up close and personal.

And if this picture taken by Lovie is any indicator, I must have developed a bit of a man crush on the former big-leaguer.

Wow! Then what happened, Cal? *bats eyelashes*

Simply smitten, no? So much so, I got all flustered and forgot to “pose” with Cal. So I did what anyone would do. I waited patiently for the next person to finish with the Hall of Famer, then briefly explained what happened and asked if he’d mind if I posed with him for a quick shot. One of his handlers, however, seemed to think my request was a little aggressive. Or maybe he thought it was a bit frenetic. Because he said “Whoa, fella. Relax. You must drink a lot of coffee.”

Not even sure what that meant, but, hey, at least I got the pic.

cal's tall. i'm short.

After my the pic with Cal, Lovie and I thanked the coffee-comment guy for letting us cut back in. He must have liked Lovie more than me. “Do you know how beautiful your wife is?” he asked.

“Why do you think I drink so much coffee?” I countered. “Gotta stay alert.”

Cal was extremely personable and his people were fantastic, too. Coffee guy included. All of our back and forths were very tongue and cheek. Good clean fun. Lovie and I had a wonderful time and are both really looking forward to the rest of the conference.

Walk a Mile in Our Shoes

I can’t decide if this is super-cute or wildly disturbing.

Happy Campers

Marriage. Lotta hard work, no? To have a successful one, much compromise is needed. At least that’s what Lovie and I have found. Perhaps the most amazing middle ground we’ve ever reached is the very one upon which we slept this past weekend.

You see, I’m an avid camper. I go at least four times a year. One of those excursions is my annual section hike of the Appalachian Trail. When we first met, Lovie thought such trips sounded miserable.

“My idea of camping out is ordering room service from the Ritz Carlton.”

Secretly, I vowed to change that. And I had a plan. The vehicle of change? Pookie. That’s right. I used my own stepdaughter as a pawn to capture the queen so I could drag her royal ass to the woods. And it worked like a charm. After all, Pookie, like virtually all kids who are given the chance, was hooked on camping from word go.

“I’d rather camp than go to Hilton Head” was her exact quote upon returning from our first outing. Lovie’s eyes grew wide with wonder. Soon after, she began asking countless questions about this noble outdoor pursuit, questions my ears recognized as buying signs.

“Where do you go to the bathroom?”

“How do you cook your food?”

“How do you stay warm?”

“What do you do during the day?”

Instead of capitalizing on these questions and trying to score an immediate sale, I simply answered them, hoping my explanations would lead this inquisitive horse to the very water she wondered how I purified. (Note to readers — stay away from analogies that depict your wife as a horse. It’s okay for me to do it because I’m a highly trained professional.) I had a hunch that no hard sell would be needed. This product was capable of selling itself.

Which is exactly what it did. Lovie and I have camped together a grand total of three times. Until this weekend, that is, when we went on our fourth excursion — our second as a family. We made arrangements for the triplets (thanks, Brenda!) so Lovie and I could take Pookie and her friend, Miss M, for a fun-filled weekend in the woods. Here’s how it went down.

We took two cars. Lovie, Pookie, and Miss M rode in one and met me at the campsite around five. Me? I left early Friday morning to procure a spot and get our camp set up. So I took all our stuff.

the stuff

Oh. And our canoe. I was also responsible for that, too.

I had the perfect campsite in mind, located in an area I know inside and out. But I also had a backup — actually two backups — just in case. As fate would have it, however, we got our number one choice. It’s one of my favorite spots in the world. Look how clean the water is.

the perfect campsite

As soon as I got there, I started setting up. I divided the camp into two main sections — an area where our tent would be, and another area where we’d spend most of our waking hours. Check out our kitchen, complete with an eight foot by eight foot pop-up, where we kept a five foot table, our large plastic tubs of dried food, as well as our coolers which contained the rest of our food. It was there where I set up my camp stove which I’d use to cook my award-winning bacon and eggs. Below the kitchen, you’ll see the makeshift grill I put together. After all, if you wanna eat well in the woods, you gotta do some grilling.

Lovie rummaging through the kitchen

Just below our grill was the fire ring. Solid choice on the locale if I do say so myself. Right on the water.

Here’s a shot of our preposterously large tent which has three rooms. One for Lovie and me.

Turn left from there and you’ll find an empty room. Well, empty except for some of Pookie and Miss M’s stuff spilling out into it. One day the trips will kick it there.

Then, turn right and you run into the room where Pook and M slept.

Here’s our site from the water. Note the tent on the higher ground to the left separate from the rest of camp.

Something crucial for any extended campout? Activities. Lovie likes to fish, y’all.

exhibit a

With all of her angling activity, she earned a new nickname.

Catfish.

She’s really taken to it. If you’re at the M3Summit in Atlanta, be sure to call her by the new moniker. (Especially if you wanna see me get slapped.)

exhibit b: ol' Catfish tries a different spot.

The girls preferred another activity — canoeing. They had a blast.

I found an activity I like, too.

is drinking cold beer an activity?

But our main activity was the one which ate up most of Saturday — whitewater rafting down the Nantahala River, just a forty-five minute drive from camp. Eight miles of excitement and fun.

we caught a little air on that one.

Did we eat well?

three NY strips w/ twice baked potatoes and asparagus

Um, yeah. We ate just fine. But just when I thought we’d had enough food for the day, Pookie and M went poking around in the kitchen.

Because they knew we’d not forgotten to bring s’mores. And they were right.

It took a lot of work to pull off such a wonderful weekend, nearly as many hours planning, commuting, setting up, and breaking down as the actual hours spent on the trip itself. Some would contend that it’s too much work.

Miss M has Lovie and Pookie in stitches with her ghost story about a tomato.

But I would disagree. After all, there’s something to be gained from camping which you just can’t get from ordering room service at the Ritz. Just ask Catfish. She’ll tell you.

Thank you, Lovie, for meeting me more than halfway on this one. With each trip, we’re building memories which will last forever.

I love you.

The Auto-Bond Society: Encounters in Carpooling

The world of parenting is dotted with countless commitments, responsibilities, and extracurricular activities of our children. You know, soccer practices, swim meets, school functions, and the like. Whenever these events occur regularly and for an extended period of time, mini-societies are spawn. Societies in which the kids are the focal point. Societies in which most parents play but a supporting role, usually that of chauffeur. Societies in which these chauffeurs are bound by the laws of common decency to engage in awkward conversation with the other chauffeurs regardless of how well they know their counterparts. Societies in which a ruling class of adults will govern. Societies in which many interesting dynamics exist.

With the triplets now at preschool two days per week, and with Lovie in charge of getting them there safely, I’ve suddenly become a member of yet another society. Only this one doesn’t require that I bullshit aimlessly with strangers. In fact, my only requirements are to pick kids up and drop them off. That’s right. I’m now a proud member of the Carpool Society. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong. First off, it turns out that being prompt is a big deal. Which shouldn’t present that big of a problem. Unless, of course, the driver thinks school starts at 8:30 when it actually starts at 8:15.

No wonder Lovie wanted me to leave so early.

Luckily, I got Pookie and her friends to school on time, albeit barely. A wave of relief swept over me until the sight of carefully orchestrated, soccer-mom-operated SUVs brought upon another wave. One of anxiety. After all, if this rookie was fumbling with incorrect start times, no telling what else I didn’t know. I had the sinking suspicion that these right-hand-only-turning divas would make mince meet out of me in short order.

As if my peers in this Auto-Bond society weren’t daunting enough, suddenly before me stood the ruling class of adults presiding over the carpool line, their smiling faces belying the steely disposition required to attain such a lofty and authoritative post. My hands trembled, struggling to maintain their grip of my leather-covered steering wheel. My right foot sat like a boulder atop the break pedal, rendering me unable to lift it, and, therefore, unable to coast the few feet that now separated me from the car in front of us.

What was I to do? Pull up and bridge the gap? Or wait until the three cars at the very front rid themselves of their backpack-toting cargo such that I could assume the foremost position of the unloading area, thereby allowing those behind me to fully occupy the yellow lane, thus allowing for maximum unloading? In a moment, my mind locked in on its answer.

Pull up and unload now, it said. Who’s to know how long the cars in front of you will take? Better to keep the unloading process going rather than to get greedy and wait for a maximum unloading opportunity which may not quickly present itself.

Wrong move. Or so one of the kids told me. One is to wait and pull all the way up. Embarrassed, I quickly put my car back in gear to follow protocol, the lead cars having vacated the lane and permitting me access to the very front. But one of the kids had already the door open. Which allowed the sinful sounds of my stereo to pollute the carbon-monoxide-filled air, a no-no, I have since learned. All stereos are to be turned off in the carpool line.

How Footloose-ean.

Surely my peers scoffed at my embarrassing faux pas and would delight in recounting my cumbersome navigation of the carpool society at the water cooler, gym, country club, or wherever their day might take them.

Not to mention the ruling class. The only thing that could have possibly drawn more disapproval from the elite would have been a poorly timed cell call.

I drove out of the parking lot that morning with hampered pride, but also with an unwavering determination. One that will compel me to one day master the intricacies of the carpool line such that I can promptly, safely, responsibly, and efficiently execute my commuting duties, thus pleasing both my peers and superiors.

Incidentally, if any of y’all have the handbook, would you mind emailing me?

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