Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Giftmas...

Well friends, Christmas is over and we now begin our countdown to the new year. Ah, this is truly a most wonderful time! There are so many things we can do to end the year right and so much to look forward to in 2010! What do I look forward to you may ask? Well for as long as I can remember, scientist, engineers, and novelist have long professed this to be the year of the flying car, beam teleportation, and Jetson Astro dogs! I would say to you though, don't get your hopes up. You and I both know those will not happen. Disappointingly enough though, please allow me to make a suggestion. I suggest that you just change your outlook on technology's failure to live up to its promises. Do this by looking at it like the obviously clothes filled gift box left under the Christmas tree when you were a kid. You appreciate that it has your name on it but know that there's no possible way a dirt bike or a BB gun could fit into one of those things. On top of that you feel slightly cheated when your Aunt says "Bay-be, before you open up anymore gifts, go try on those drawls and corduroys to see if they fit!"

Ok, maybe that was just my Christmas of '87, but Christmas in '09 proved to be bitter sweet. I woke up to no little ones looking me in my face. No one excitedly asking "can we open up the gifts now?," and no one to which I'd have to reply "It's 3 o'clock in the morning! Santa hadn't even finished his rounds yet!" This because I long told them that no fat man in a suit will ever see fit to shimmy down a chimney for the sole purpose of doling out free gifts! That and because they spent Christmas Eve with their Mom. Man, I would have loved to have seen their faces as they crept down the stairs and saw all the gifts wrapped and dressed, longing to be stripped naked to expose their inner parts. Wanting to be used...to be abused! And yes, the graphic language suggested is necessary. If it's too much for you just cover your eyes and peek through your fingers!

I mean, that's how it all goes down right. They get all these new toys and abuse them until the wheels fall off or the drum set has a hole in it, and by the end of Christmas vacation you'll say, "How is the destruction of such a toy even possible!" And they'll say it. You know they will. You know the words I speak of. It makes their eyes droop, heads hang low, and arms go limp. The dreaded words..."I'm bored!"

Yep! You know it'll eventually get to that point and you know why? Because material things have a way of getting old, to fall apart, and break down. It really doesn't matter what it is. Eventually your Mercedes will rust and the elastic on your drawls will stretch, your pearl necklace pop, and your corduroys a hole at the knee. At which point your momma will make you wear them to school with a patch and everyone will laugh at you... whispering. Whispering just like the time you got a Starter jacket for Christmas long after it was played out. They whispered...Star-ter...I still hear them...whispering. Again, let me stay in '09!

What I'm trying to get at is that Christmas shouldn't be "Giftmas." We should teach them what the real reason for the season is and have them appreciate that which doesn't fade, chip, or break. Have them change their outlook and appreciate He whose love is everlasting and never disappoints. To accept, and look forward to that very gift of eternity Christ was born to offer because His gift is much more valuable than a Mercedes or pearls. He was stripped naked, His eyes drooped, head hung low, and His arms limp. Makes me want to cover my eyes! So go ahead, put the other things down and try His gift, with your name on it, on for size. I promise the only stretching involved will be His hand out to you!

See...plenty of things to do before the new year begins and even more to look forward to in 2010!
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Heroes...

Ok, on the count of three name your favorite super hero as a child. 1...2...3...*What???* Dudes, we are so not on the same page! I couldn't make out what you said but it didn't sound anything like He-Man! I bet it was because "The Defender of the Universe" chose to rock tight briefs, high fur Jesus boots, and what looks to have been some sort of ancient school bus patrol belt! Besides those minor shortcomings, I would bet you picked some other character because, well, we all are different and simply desired varying qualities in a super hero. Qualities that we ourselves would have liked to possess someday. Wait, let me clear that up. Know that I have never ever, in any form or fashion, wished to don or condone any of He-Man's apparel...well except for the sword, because that was cool and you know it!

For me as a kid, heroes played a huge part in my life and I would dare say yours as well. This because heroes allowed us to think outside the box and ponder the impossible. Think about it. They did things that no one else could do. They flew, they leaped tall buildings in a single bound, wore cool utility belts, and in my hero's case, rode a magical panther! In addition to all those things that kept our attention they, end the end, always saved the day.

Now some of you will be relieved to know that as I became more mature my heroes did as well. This because I knew better than to think that a cape would allow me to fly or squinting my eyes really hard would produce blinding lasers. These new heroes of mine no longer carried shields, super suits, or swords. In fact they weren't super at all. Well, it's still debatable. That one I claimed as a teenager was pretty close. He wore biker shorts there for a while under his get up...and the number 23!

With that being said, let's drop the super part and focus on plain old heroes. A hero is defined as a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Well, that takes number 23 out of the running. The latest pics posted of my adolescent hero were far from noble. This leaves the door open for very few individuals...one of them being YOU! In this world, we are all given choices and those are absolutely free. It costs us nothing to obtain distinguished courage or ability, to be brave or noble. It does however take. It takes us going through trying situations to prove that we are all those things. I say that since life will no doubt see to it that we all go through those trying situations - become a hero in the process.

You may be surprised to know that I've found that our kids aren't much different from how we were as children and still desire the same qualities everyone wanted in a hero. Well, except for He-Man. They think he's pretty lame! Example... The boys and I had just finished wresting on the bed. I had just performed my signature move, the "Double Daddy Bomb" where I simultaneously slam them both on the bed. I flexed my mus-kuls real hero like and slyly asked..."Who's the man?" One replied, "Triple H," and the other "The Big Show." Both wrestlers, neither of them me, both wear tight briefs! You know, after hearing that, I wasn't disappointed at all. I sensed, for them, a natural progression in their hero selection and more opportunities to make the right choices for me. Choices that could one day put me in the running of being their hero.

It's an ironic thing, this hero progression. Now that I'm grown, my heroes wear a shield of faith, a breast plate of righteousness, a helmet of salvation, and a sword of faith. Isn't that something? They don't sound too much different than my original "Supers!" I guess, in reality, not much has changed. They all ended up carrying shields, super suits, and still to this day,(if we're on the same page) the coolest of them all, the sword - and you know it!
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Entertainment...

Entertainment - man what a concept! Whether it's sports or the opera, movies, or toilet tossing, we as Americans spend over 50 billion dollars a year on it. That's more than the combined gross domestic products of no less than 10 small countries! This makes it nothing less than lucrative. Only in the United States of America!

I imagine that entertainment has come a long way. Maybe it had its humble beginnings with Adam setting up animal no-holds-barred and body bag matches for the first Granny Smith apple, or maybe began when the Romans first introduced Gladiators to the world? Whenever it started, boy has it evolved. Why it feels like just yesterday that I was being entertained by table Pac-man and grooving to "It takes two" down at the local Shakey's pizza joint. Those were the days! The days of high top fades, neon PUMP shoes, TGIF TV nights with Family Matters, and...wait for it... McRibs! I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

But today fellow parents, the forms of entertainment presented to our children are endless. They have the internet, game consoles, board games, TV's, DVD's, PSP's, and that's just in their rooms! With this being the case, I believe as parents, it's our job to limit those entertainment options and teach them to choose more productive forms that would better prepare them as adults. As with anything, entertainment has its choices and it's the choice of when and what forms of entertainment you participate in that makes the real difference. With that being said, I think it's there we should focus. I mean, for me, just for me though, I'm all about having fun, but avoiding prison time, drug binges, and leaving a casino flat broke is a bit of a priority.

So riddle me this? With all the entertainment choices the kids have today, why do they insist that we as parents constantly entertain them? "Where are we going? What are we doing that's fun?" It's almost like they expect me to dance nickelodeon style across the room while I desperately hope for them to spare my life with a thumbs up gesture. I'm thinking to myself, didn't I obtain "shields" level from this by providing you with siblings?!? Are you not entertained?!?

Band together with me parents and step our games up to the point where they entertain us! Go back to the days where we stand them up on the fire place and make them dance, sing, tell a joke -something! I say teach them the in's and out's of the entertainment business in a controlled environment right in the comfort of our own homes - and when they ask for compensation, because you know they will, tell them you'll pay them some ridiculous amount of money. Then proceed to deduct the cost of living charges until their net pay rhymes with hero! What did they think?!? This is the United Sates of "You have to pay your dues first!" I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

Check out their snow day performance @ http://youtube.com/watch?v=bDFhKj4t2YI
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Relationships...

"When I'm alone in my room sometimes I stare at the wall and in the back of my mind I hear my conscience call. Telling me I need a girl who's as sweet as a dove. For the first time in my life, I see I need love"

Relationships...What is a man coming off of a divorce to do? Certainly not sit around quoting lyrics from a 1980's rap song by LL Cool J. But it does put me in the mood to love. Sike! - I'm way to hard for all that soft stuff! Those who know me will attest! "I'll take a muscle bound man and put his face in the sand...!"

As you're no doubt now mumbling the words "I'm Bad," I'll move on! When I hear the word "relationship," my thoughts immediately turn to dating, flowers, movies, restaurants, then to overblown holidays, disagreements, arguments, proposals, engagements, more arguments, affairs, and then one spouse chasing the other down the street smashing a nine iron through the window of the family Escalade after running into a fire hydrant! This relationship thing is scary - the horror!

Ok, so my view of relationships is a bit jaded I must admit. I imagine that a normal and sane person might take it a whole other direction - like concentrating on the bond they have with their family and friends. Or even their vertical relationship with their higher being. Yeah- that's what they'd think! Well, whatever nostalgic place the word takes you, we all must have relationships, invest in them, and build on them to be successful in this world.

I say, let's see to it that our kids understand this process of building relationships. This so they can grow up to be the cool kids! I'm joking...well only with those who weren't actually cool in school! Let's be sure we teach our children to value not only the time loved ones spend with them but their own time as well. See to it that they connect themselves with the right people while learning to both set and accept proper boundaries. To appreciate everyone's gifts and talents and use those to inspire themselves.

You see, I believe that as people we need others to survive. If you don't think so then you might end up...well...like the old lady who had no one to help her. She needed to plug a lamp into the wall which just so happened to be down behind her mirror and dresser furniture set. When reaching for it, she slipped and ended up...well..."end up!" They found her dead, two weeks later in that same position! Sad!

I don't know about you but that seems like a pretty bad way to go! Look, I'm not saying that getting into a relationship will cause you to loose all your endorsements and a tooth, or even that not getting into one will leave you between a dresser and a hard place, but what I guess I mean to say is choose your relationships wisely.

As for me, being recently divorced, my situations have caused me to grow and be a bit more picky about those I choose to invest time with. This in no doubt has made me a better person I believe. And you know what they say..."choose the right one or pick-pick the kiddies up!" Because my cool friends told me that LL isn't cool anymore and quoting songs from this decade might allow for a higher relationship success rate!
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Disappointment....

A young boy teared up right before my eyes. I could see him build up to it. First it was the steel expression on his face, then the lowering of the head, and finally, the expected delayed reaction from a child given when he receives his first shot. This however wasn't a shot. No physical pain exerted. This was worst. He was disappointed!

Disappointment comes in a plethora of flavors and is served as a desert we all must stomach. It really doesn't matter who you are. You can be the surgeon who looses his first patient, a millionaire sports star who misses the final shot, or this case, where my son watched his siblings progress at a higher clip to obtain their next martial arts belt. He was told that he was not ready!

As adults, each one of us could easily create a long list of perceived disappointments much easier than accomplishments. This because we feel its sting. It penetrates the core of our being and lumps right in our throats! If it is within our power to do something about it, we are challenged to do so. If it's not, like the time "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" went off the air, we must learn to simply accept it!

So what did I tell the boy when I recognized his pain??? I did only what a parent could do, I pulled from my MANY experiences with disappointment and shared how I didn't make the basketball team my freshman year in High school. The time I didn't pass my first IT certification exam, and when I walked out of that interview confident and never received a return call - I'm still a little bit bitter!

After explaining all this in vivid detail, he had several questions. What is a freshman? What is a certification? And, Dad, why am I not good enough? I replied, son... I'm not your Dad! Sike nah - I realized that everything I'd said didn't mean a thing. What he needed to hear was that he was not a failure and, in this case, he had the opportunity to defeat disappointment with hard work, dedication, and perseverance. That he could do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens him!

With this in mind, I changed my tactics a bit and left out words like perseverance, and told him about the time I spent two hours in the gym, alone, everyday after school to improve my basketball skills. The times I spent staying up half the night for weeks to try and pass that test, and then the time when I made several follow up calls to the hiring manager of that job. I later received a call asking me "When could I start?," I made the basketball team the following season, and I passed the exam after my third try with flying colors and bags under my eyes!

In the end, I think he understood that anything worth having takes commitment and hard work. I also think it's that commitment that we put into something that gives it its true value. Oh, and about Pee-Wee...My son will soon understand all my "Big Adventure" hype! The Hermster is making a comeback to the Playhouse at age 56!

Well, that was my initial reaction. In my eagerness, I found an old Youtube clip of everyone's favorite 80's funny man. Imagining a 60 year old guy in a "skinny" gray suit with lipstick well...reacted in me a steel expression on my face and the lowering of my head. All the symptoms were there...I was again disappointed...and disturbed! I'd rather have a shot!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Human Nature...

"Human Nature" - Man what a song! MJ really out did himself with that one didn't he!?! It's still to this day one of my all-time favorite songs. Whenever I hear it, my eyes automatically close and my lips begin to whisper "why, why..." Everyone does that right???

So what is this "human nature" thing the King of Pop was singing about? Well, Webster has an answer, and no I'm not talking about the little person of a child star he used to parade around Neverland Ranch! The dictionary "Webster," defines it as "the nature of; the fundamental dispositions and traits of humans."

For me growing up, I was always under the impression that people meant well, and to give them the benefit of the doubt because well...that's what I would want. You know, the golden rule: (in a dragging monotone) "Treat others like you want to be treated." While I still try and live by this, I now take into account that others just don't believe what I believe. That's cool - but the problem is that the 24k (Korean) golden rule I carry on my person sometimes turns me green.

How green you ask? Well believe it or not folks, there was a time in my life where I was nearly kidnapped as a child. How...you wonder??? Shocker! - I was led astray and enticed with a chocolate chip cookie of the finest caliber! I remember it being quite delicious! There was another time though, when I was much older, I won't say how much older, that I agreed to sell my first house to a rather shady individual. I ended up loosing nearly $40k (thousand)! And yes...it still hurts down there!

Well friends, times have changed and ole' Tron won't be taken out to the shed with the ole cookie trick anymore! You see, life had a way, as you may have noted, of showing me human nature in the raw! I began to doubt and distrust nearly everyone. Cynical would be the most appropriate term. I did a total 180. No more trusting, and definitely no more cookies! I held on to the scripture that says "The heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it..." And I simply didn't trust people at all. To me, they were as predictable as a Scooby Doo episode - The mask was always sure to be pulled off in the end!

I mean "how could I trust people God?," I would ask. "People will lie, steal and cheat all the while looking you in your face. I want no parts of it, I said. How could I ever show love to people who see fit to hurt me?" Then I looked at the "man in the mirror" and saw how that statement rang so true! Had I not once lied, cheated, or stole, and yet, I still had the opportunity coupled with the nerve to complain about how others treated me!?! I was truly shown grace - for I needed it.

What I eventually learned was that human nature, in all of its despicable ways could in fact produce good and be used by God. This because, it was from that same imperfect nature that he sent nothing short of actual Angels into my life to help me in my times of need. He also used it as a mirror to show me that the very person I was complaining about was none other than myself...steady singing "If this town is just an apple, let me take a bite!" All the while God closed his eyes and whispered "why...why..."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Miracles...

It had to have been about a year ago now. The sting of divorce still penetrating the very core of our family. The hurts, the separation, the change of it all weighing like a five hundred pound weight on my back, a thousand on the kids. It would take an act nothing short of spectacular to shake it - to find a solid truth in a world crumbling around them...a miracle...believe it!

We came home one evening, the kids and I, to their Mom's car in the driveway. She wanted to tell them goodnight before she made the journey to her new home. Standing at the door I saw my daughters heart rip into pieces as her Mom left. The tear stains on her face already ever present were wiped away only by fresher pains inducing more cascading tears. I was not strong enough to hold back mine. We both sat on the foyer floor crying, the boys perplexed as to why any of this was. I was broken - that they had never seen.

Something else they had never seen, the boys noted in the midst of this that the dog did not greet them at the door nor come when they called his name. We all banded together to search for him with my mind wondering if I'd let him out in the morning and forgotten to let him back in. Panic stricken, we searched the house, every room and every closet, then the neighborhood, twice. We spent that night, all of us mourning seemingly yet another loss.

The next morning I called every shelter and pound, had his implanted identity chip activated, (I know - don't ask) and then we waited. That evening proved to reveal itself with erie similarity to the last. No Tiger, more tears. I clearly needed a miracle that night, they needed one to solidify that something in this world couldn't be shaken. We prayed that night in an unusual place, all of us, at the foot of my daughters bed. In their world, the most poignant pain being their last. They prayed for the return of Tiger.

After we ended our prayer, I vowed to find him as I exited to put the boys to bed. As we reached the door, Tiger in no doubt materialized from under her bed shivering and shaken. It was exactly what we needed!

You see, although I could search for explanations like, maybe I missed that spot in haste, or he was sick and solitarily hiding to lick his wounds. Truth was...I had not and he was fine except for going through the whole "materialization" process! The fact of the matter is that some things need not be explained but accepted for what they are. He was lost and now found. They had come together in His name, prayed, and it was answered! For that night, their solid truth was now a spiritual one tangible to the feel of fluffy fur and a wagging tail.

Truth be told, that as a parent, it's only a few lessons we can teach our children and many they'll have to experience on their own. It is those times that we must rely on miracles - believe it!
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Perspective...

It was a warm summer's night in our quite suburban neighborhood at the Mason household. The kids had been playing outdoors all afternoon and with time winding down until bedtime, I decided to shorten our evening ritual by calling in a pizza. While waiting for it to arrive, I sent the boys upstairs to take a bath. They were thrilled with the idea! They would take out their bath toys, turn on the jets and have at it! Soon after, I made my way upstairs to find them soapy and tossing toys - water everywhere! The doorbell rang and I made my way downstairs, paid for the pizza, and went back upstairs to tend to them. It was then that I found my youngest son mumbling words unable to be made out and clearly upset while my oldest boy floated in the tub face down and not moving!

The sight of such a thing caused my heart to nearly beat out of my chest as I ran over to grab him screaming "What happened!?!" Before his brother could answer, I pulled him out of the water with the same force exerted by "Sho'nuff" to the then drowning "Bruce Leroy" in Barry Gordy's 1985 cult classic, The Last Dragon! With water splashing everywhere I noticed him take a breath...then he said "Dad, why did you do that? I was about to beat the record!"  Apparently his younger brother was counting and visibly mad that his older brother had already beat his time spent underwater! Play time was over - I removed the bath toys!

In life, I've found that many things aren't as they first appear because each person sees a situation from their own perspective. This includes everything from the made for TV magician specials to relationships with people. For example, often the way in which we meet people or our position within the audience of a magic show determines what we think of the people we meet or the show, perspectively.

With that being said, I believe that as parents it's our job to teach our children to put things into proper perspective when making decisions in life or simply encountering things we don't understand. Have them try and mentally remove themselves from the situation and take into account others feelings, backgrounds, and view points. This will give them a broader view of both themselves and the world around them.

Seeing my son in the tub floating like that brought about thoughts I won't even attempt to describe. He was jarred by my reaction and I by his actions. Grateful that the worst case scenario didn't play out, I explained to him how I saw it and how that should never be done again. This unless he really wanted my heart to "beat out of my chest" but to know that it wouldn't be before I did some beating of my own!

By the end of our conversation I think we both understood each others point of view. I mean the boy clearly had an undeniable talent for holding his breath! He then calmly asked for his bath toys back. I calmly suggested that he remove himself from the situation and...oh, not to hold his breath!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Balance...

Ok, so every so often I get asked about my life as a single Dad while being gazed upon as if I'm a gorilla just beyond the thick glass wall at a Zoo. You know...you lock eyes with him and you think you have a connection until he abruptly begins to pound on the glass, moon you, and tight walk with an absurd display of balance back to its "special space" (Where we can still see him pick his nose). Well, I won't do that...today anyway! I'll answer the questions of "how do you manage the house, get them to school, do activities, and stay sane?" My secret...I actually stole it from the gorilla - balance!

As expected, my life as a single Dad can be hectic at times. How hectic you wonder??? At one point during the last school year I was faced with all three playing soccer with practices/games nearly everyday! That meant that in addition to toting them to and from practices, I had to keep the house clean, cook dinner, take care of the dog, help with homework, wash clothes, build relationships with friends and family, and assist with coaching for one team, all the while continuing with my body sculpting regimen of watching my 8 min ab video!

I tell you, by the end of the school year I felt like...well...like I really understood that gorilla! For me, balance was the key because all those activities needed to be planed out, organized, and carried out without me passing out! Early on I realized that if I didn't take care of myself I couldn't take care of them. That then became my top priority. "Taking care of myself" meant to take vitamins, get proper rest, pray without ceasing and do at least 4 mins of the ab video! At first it seemed impossible...get more rest and do more in the same 24hrs...impossible right??? -Wrong!

My next secret is...(This one's free but the next one will cost you) getting rid of the TV! Yes, I did it - I don't even have rabbit ears people! I stopped letting the great time thief steal my precious time and energy. Soon after, I began picking up books (instead of my nose), and reading. I found that it had been not only been stealing my time but my dreams.

Hear me out...It was always curious to me that whenever some celebrity was asked about some movie or TV show other than their own, they rarely had a clue! They were too busy investing in themselves and following their owns dreams rather than watching someone else's play out in front of them.

So there you have it friends...my great secrets laid out before you! Know that they are not mine...I stole them from the lives of such great leaders as Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and Nelson Mandela. All when I took the time to read their autobiographies.

Oh, and know that I'm not without the assistance of their Mom when it comes to caring for them. I fully advocate kids spending as much time as possible with both parents. Now I'm heading back to my "special place" to wonder what ever became of that Tony Soprano character!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stress...

What an interesting topic...this thing called stress. We all have it, some to higher degrees, it affects us all in different ways, and we handle it differently. This always made it seem rather elusive to me. I mean, can you ever properly diagnose it, grasps its stages, or treat it? Many would say yes but for a long time - NOPE - not for your boy!

I would have to say that becoming a father at the age of 17 allowed for stress to practically...how do you say???... "Ravish and have its way with me!" I remember a time staying up late in college spending hours finishing up a computer program only have it disappear with the stroke of a key and having my two year old wake due to my stressful "reactive expressions!" The ambient glow of my laptop - her night light. At times, it was so overwhelming that I'd just ignore it. I mean, stress or no stress, things had to get done and I wasn't about to cave in.

It wasn't until a few years ago when I found myself at the emergency room for the third time that week that I decided that I should probably take it a bit more seriously. I couldn't even talk and this was not due to a vow of silence! I'd go to work, pick up a call and literally be unable to speak. My mouth would move but no sound. When a diagnosis of stress was even suggested from a doctor it immediately made me utter he word "riiiiggghhht!" That was then followed by a litany of thoughts as to what school they'd gotten their degree, fully convinced that they had no clue or a problem with "giving up." Then again these were doctors in DC, giving them a higher probability of being Skins fans and they "punt" all the time!

After finally humoring the doctor that stress didn't just exist in Muppet land, I found ways to deal with it. For me, my favorite stress release just happens to be running! It's getting out on the track after my "best laid plans" at work go awry or my kids just "can't get right," that it all disappears! Really- who can think about anything when your mind is trying to reason why you shouldn't run the last mile and your body suggests that you should have stopped after the first!

You see, what I needed to realize was that we all have stress and we all need several of our own outlets for it. We don't all have to be teenage parents, single parents, or even parents at all for it to a variable in our lives. I am however convinced that it quadruples with your first diaper purchase!

OK...I realize that I was a little late in figuring this whole stress thing out but I felt obligated to bring it to your attention. Take from it what you might and try the track thing. Take the kids when they act up, it's pure torture for them to watch you run around a track or "God forbid" run a lap! Muuuaah ha ha ha ha!

Bottom line is that stress is real and as parents I urge you all to find a convenient solution to dealing with it before you are forced to take advice from doctors who may be Skins fans!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Conversation...

The other day while I was in my car grooving to little Tevin Campbell's "Can we talk" (Circa 1991) and simultaneously doing the bankhead bounce when my oldest boy tugged on my shirt..."Daddy can you buy me some skinny jeans???

 Ok, don't worry people I handled it! Realizing the importance of such a subject I had to address it...like immediately! I calmly turned down the radio (my 90's radio high fully blown at this point), pulled over and hung my head. After a few seconds I figured I'd get myself together and help the boy out! I mean wouldn't you feel like a failure of a parent if your kid asked that question in public? So I had to school him about the perils of skinny jeans.

You know, having that conversation made me think of that scripture that says "Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up...." This is referring to the Word of course. This got me thinking.
I began calculating the amount of time I spent with them in the car and decided to make better use of that time instead of filling it with sports radio and music, barring more important things like listening to The Temptations "Silent Night" of course! This only because listening demands nothing less than complete silence! Surely the Big man understands that one!

What I found was that this conversation fruited endless topics that could be used as "teachable moments!" As a parent I find that I often assume they know things like..."drugs kill your brain cells" or doing stupid things to fit in with the "in" crowd isn't always the best thing to do. I urge you parents out there to do the same-teach them what you know- teach them about the time you wore your jeans backwards to school because "Criss Cross" did so!

Bottom line is that we all do stupid things but don't let your kid be Sams (the one the principal talks to on the roof telling him to jump because he's wasting his life away!) Love them through it with conversation from you is all I'm saying -then teach them the bankhead!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Support...

True Story...

I was at a pee wee league football game once and this kid, he had to have been about 12 or so, was streaking down the sideline about to score. The crowd was going crazy and as he ran down the sideline- so did the kids mom! Upon reaching the end zone his friends celebrated with him and swore that they'd seen his mom give a mean stiff arm to the defensive safety close to the sideline. Now that's support, embarrassing I'd bet, but support nonetheless!

I must say, I don't think I'm as dedicated
a parent as that young lady but I see how it could happen. You put so much into your kids that it just happens. Kinda like when I used to feed my kids baby food and my mouth would open as I fed them. It's almost as if you could live their lives for them - but we can't. That's why we must, as parents, give them the support they need while they're young and sometimes that could mean just being there.

You know, one of the earliest memories I have of my step dad is being taken out to some elementary school basketball court to shoot hoops. The problem was, I don't think I was strong enough to even get the ball to the rim. That meant a lot of ball chasing on his part! Again, not sure I'm up to that task.

Today, as I remember all that support and dedication sowed in me, I feel obligated to at least jog down the sideline a little bit- but only real cool like of course! And although my kids haven't played a lick of football as of yet, I feel up to the task - they've done soccer, gymnastics, dance, and basketball where my youngest son took his first steps.

It is my hope that I can one day influence my kids to be just as much as a source of support to their kids as I try to be to them. The way I see it, as parents, we have an awesome responsibility because what we do will determine how future generations prosper.

So I say, make as many games and practices as you can, chase as many balls as it takes, and practice your stiff arms whenever you have the opportunity! Oh, and I wasn't embarrassed at all when I saw her nearly beat me down the sidelines that day. She was the reason I scored because I would have never lived down getting beat to the end zone by my momma! I dedicate that years' MVP trophy to her!
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Competition...

You know friends, nothing gets me going like a little competition and it's that subject to which I'd like to concentrate today. You see, as a parent, I purpose the tool to teach my children how to conduct themselves in situations of both winning also losing, but most importantly to build their self esteem. It seems to me that exposing my children to the spirit of competition affords them the opportunity to experience, early on, many of the valuable lessons life has to teach.

With that being said, many studies have concluded that competition and keeping score should be excluded from the early childhood curriculum. It is to those studies I emphatically thumb my nose! If it hadn't been for fierce competition at an early age in my life (Glory to God) I wouldn't be the person standing before you today. Look at the facts people...I eventually went on to peak and win a city title for the 10 and under Tastycake Jr. Basketball Bullets! ** I poured in 6 points that day!

So how does one obtain such status you ask? For me, the evenings and weekends of my youth were filled with fierce competition thanks to my brothers. I remember times we'd play basketball from sun up until sun down and in between those times came Power Pad battles of epic proportions! It is my recollection that many a game had to be halted due to "fisticuff escalation." This because one of us couldn't hold our own in Contra or Jackal, or simply put, the intensity level in our head to head Techmo Bowl and Double Dribble battles ended in last second defeat!

As parents today, technology has ill afforded us the opportunity to sit on our laurels. The original nintendo is an artifact of the past and in a world where Guitar Hero and Fight Night rule, it is my responsibility to equip my seeds with those same lessons that catapulted me to greatness.

I challenge each and every parent to have the desire to have your children surpass all your hopes, dreams, and greatness. To have all mine become better than myself - that is success! So get involved and use competition as a tool to take them to the next level, build their self esteem, and oh...serve 'em a piece of humble pie when they snicker and challenge you to a battle in Guitar Hero! In the words of Grandma Klump "I ain't no easy win sucka!"

**Those 6 points scored in the pregame lay up line in no way counted toward the official score and therefore did not actually contribute to the victory in any way!

Bottom Line - Kids keep score when adults don't!
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Discipline...

Let me begin by first saying that I cannot publicly endorse butt whippings nor will I admit to or deny me participating in such, so from here on out I'll refer to the act as...lets say... "blacking out."

Example- If I went to the store and my child fits and makes imaginary snow angels in the middle of isle 6.  I might go home and "blackout." Or... I'm at home and my children, in unison, decide to use foul language to describe how they felt about doing their chores.  I might "blackout" three times!

Now that we've gotten the basic lingo needed to continue our discussion, I can tell you about the time a dear aunt of mine, bless her heart, "blacked out." It twas a sunny day in the country and I wanted to play with my neighbor friend who lived across the field.  Being only six or so, I'd never made that journey by myself and was told never to.  Taking that into account I asked my Grandfather who must have been half paying attention for permission and he said for me to go ahead.  I made my way across the field and had a rather enjoyable several hours.  Upon my return I was taken by surprise by the greeting of that dear aunt who asked nothing more of me then to pull off a switch from the plum tree out front.  "But I told Granddaddy!," I exclaimed.  He somehow did not recall our exchange. (blank stare)  My aunt to this day probably doesn't remember what happened next.

What she may remember though is her conversation when she came to.  I just don't...but I'm pretty sure it went something like she loved me and needed to teach me a lesson of what could happen when a little one sees fit to run blasé through the fields.

I've learned that as a parent, the most important thing you can do for your children is to discipline them and that includes sitting them down and explaining to them how they got into their current situation and have them repeat it back.  This allows them to take ownership of their actions.  Lastly, tell them you love them and how the "love they just felt" is nothing compared to the scenarios that could have happened otherwise.

Bottom line, discipline your children with love and never out of anger.  Proverbs says "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Now that book, I publicly endorse!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Dreams...

OK, so I woke up the other night in a cold sweat.  I couldn't tell if I was hot or cold.  I seemed to have lost all orientation of my whereabouts.  In total darkness, my heart rate was in decline but I could still hear it beating.  The last thing I remembered was being chased by the Cockatoo lady in an episode of Zoobilee Zoo!  To make matters worse, I was dressed up in a Lion suit and skipping more so than running!  If you've ever seen the show and can remember the theme song, you know the horror I've experienced.  What a nightmare!

Now pull yourselves together people, that's not the type of dream I'm referring to.  I want to focus on dreams defined as a condition or achievement longed for; an aspiration.  As a parent, I've taken note from those before me and found that it's important to allow my kids to dream and make visual representations of those dreams.  Allow them to see their faces in place of the Miley Cyrus' or Zac Efron's of the world (neither of whom's views I wholly endorse) - to see their names headlined in the articles.

To do this, I've recently implemented a tool in my household called...the dream board. Our dream boards are made of nothing more than white board decorated with colored construction paper and stamped with magazine and newspaper clippings of their dreamed futures.

The thing is that it didn't take anytime at all to take pics, have them cut them out, and let them have at the periodicals.  What I'm banking on is that their dreams becoming visual may someday turn into a tangible reality.  I would only caution that proper supervision be provided.  One of them cut out my face and pasted it over a Doodlebop! Currently neither of them have confessed.   This in no doubt contributed to my loss of sleep that week!

Bottom line... my nightmare was worth their dream.  Don't be afraid-it's worth the chance...take that chance and don't say you never had the chance.



Friday, November 20, 2009

Intentions...

A short walk down to my neighborhood pond with the kids one summer evening yielded us the opportunity to see the miracle of life at work within it.  We saw birds flying over, small fish, tadpoles, and even a crane nestling in between the cattails.  For me, the way the water ripples over the surface always gets me thinking of the “butterfly effect."  It’s the idea that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events.  Likewise, it’s interesting to me how the effortless toss of a tiny pebble can set in motion the disruption of the ponds entire surface.

Relatively, as parents, it’s our responsibility to provide our kids with the understanding that everything they do, every decision they make, can eventually have that same far-reaching effect on their future.  Evidence of this truth can be found cemented in stories from the prison yards to the graves and conversely from the Oval office to the pulpit.

As we stood leaning against the fence, my oldest was thrilled to see a small frog making its way up the grassy bank just within her grasp.  “Can we take it home?” she asked?  “Sure, but only for a little while, it needs to be at the pond with the rest of its frog friends,” I said.  Eagerly they ran home and searched the house to find their old Dora the Explorer insect kit - complete with a clear vented case perfect for such an occasion.  Once they returned I explained to them how they must treat it.  “Keep it in the case, and out of the sun.”

I must say that the kids did as they were told.  After a few hours, I suggested that we carry the frog back down to the pond to release it.  They agreed…although reluctantly.  We returned back to the same spot as before.  Still being rather close to the street, I intended to put him closer to his “family” by tossing him into the pond.  We all watched it fly through the air and belly flop land with such force as to cause a massive ripple worthy of a tadpole tsunami!  “2 points-score one for Dad!” I said, including a double fist pump!  We waited for it to swim away.  It never did.  I presided over my first funeral that day.

Bottom line, “the path to destruction is often paved with good intentions.”  Be careful and note that your intentions, however good, should be taken into account with the possible consequences of not just you, but all others involved.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Encouragement...

Hey Followers,  I'm back and like the title of this blog indicates, I'm encouraged!  I'm encouraged for many reasons...well four to be exact!  That happens to be the number of followers I've gained since my initial post!  Shouts out to you all!

OK so what exactly is encouragement really?  It's defined as "the expression of giving approval and support; boost: the act of giving hope or support to someone."  Reading that definition gave me the opportunity to look back over my own life and access how I've been encouraged.

My earliest remembered form of encouragement came when I was just a young whippersnapper.  I might have been 5 or 6 and the question was posed..."What do you want to be when you grow up?" My Aunt must have asked me during some point of a "3-2-1 Contact" episode because I blurted out...uh..uh...a Professor!  I never really wanted to be a professor, I think I just wanted to rock a lab coat but it was too late -my fate had been sealed!  For the next 15 years my Aunt called me "The Professor" every time she saw me. It wasn't until college that I got up the courage to tell her the truth.  This after I'd gotten enough of my lab coat fix during Chem 1 and had to be forced into it for Chem 2.

You see, being the young lad I was, I took her attempts at encouraging me as an interrogation until I realized that some people were never asked that question.  Really!

Now as I enter the classroom of my oldest boy I see pictures and writings of what each and every student wants to do when they grow up.  The teacher posed the question to them as a project. "What do you want to do when you grow up?" - Most of the boys said professional sports stars, some teachers, and one lone child said a Doctor.  I was proud of that child.  That was not my child.  Mine said "To jump off the roof of his house with a trash bag" -attached to a full color animated graphic!  Distraught, I figured I'd redeem my parenting outlook and ask my princess who came through with a "veterinarian."  Sweet!  I should have stopped there because my youngest said a "tiger!"

The bottom line people is that you should be careful how you pose your questions, never give your child an opportunity to watch backyard wrestling, and that positive encouragement goes a long way in ones life.  It is my belief that my use of encouragement in the lives of my children will greatly impact their future.  It is true that their minds are as clay and we as parents must boost them with hope and approval to assist them with their own growth into becoming successful contributors of their generation- not just consumers!  


My savior said  "Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith."

So encourage your children and speak their dreams into their lives.  For me, I'll be addressing my children as such...Dr. Mason, WWE Superstar, and to my youngest..."Go get em' Tiger!"  I'm proud of them all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Inspiration....

Welcome all to my first blog!  I was never really into blogging but lately I've been inspired to do so.  Personally, I've always looked at blogging as the modern day "message in a bottle," meaning it's pretty much a toss up on who actually reads what you have to say.  In movies, I've seen it used as a last resort for some helpless sap stuck on an island - their only hope for rescue written in desperate diction on whatever medium available.  They usually roll it up, place it in the bottle, and cork it.  Next, they give it the "ole heave-ho" into the ocean.

I mean seriously people, do you know how far you'd have to toss that bottle to get it out pass the tide and if you were somehow strong enough to toss it far enough, it'd most likely hit a rock and shatter.  But humor me and say it makes it, they still won't be able to find them...but I digress.  Even though my apprehension toward blogging has its merits I do see the principle behind it.  The principle is one of hope.  Hope for a better tomorrow, hope that they themselves and future generations will have more options (not just coconuts to eat), but a better way of life. It seems their dire circumstances inspired them to attempt such methods and so here I stand with them...inspired.

With all that being said, I think it prudent to explain why and how I was inspired to create the blog "Chronicles of a Single Father." For me, it's  a way to pour into the lives of that unsuspecting person walking on the beach.  It's only fair, I've popped the cork on many a bottle in my day! (OK, THAT CAME OUT WRONG) What I meant was that so many before me have poured into me and I only hope to carry that on to help others in my situation benefit and continue the legacy of excellence started before me.

It all began with the suggestion of someone very dear to my heart.  Someone who thought that my story should be told because no one hears about the experiences of young black single fathers raising their seeds.  Single mothers YES, but dads... not so much.  I guess that makes my story rare if nothing else.  In this world, rare means valuable and it's the value you place on yourself that determines who you become.

My value came from the late nights and sweat from my grandmother in the back kitchen of a restaurant for 40 years.  The start of a trash company by my grandfather with only a basket and a mule, and the strength and determination of my father to NEVER allow me to "touch that trash."  It's those things that inspire me.  It wasn't that touching trash was beneath me to him (because I was always tasked to take it out), but to propel me in a direction of thinking past what his own possibilities and options were.  These among others you'll learn has made me the person you see today..still here...still standing...and attempting to continue that legacy of excellence.  I do hope you enjoy!