Sunday, November 17, 2013

Plant

Untitled by benjamin_valadez
Untitled, a photo by benjamin_valadez on Flickr.

My mom gave this plant and it was dead, with a little love and care look at it now. My dad says I inherited my grandfathers green thumb. I have to agree, just like my grandpa I enjoy gardening.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Persistent Rumblings

Lately I've been in a bit of a creative funk. I suspect this largely stems from my current love/hate relationship with my career. Some days I love what I do. Other days, I loathe it. Yes, yes, I'm blessed to have a job at all given the tight economy. And I don't mean to sound ungrateful as I appreciate all the opportunities that having a job has afforded me -- you know, stuff like dinners out, winter and summer vacations, swimming classes for the kiddo, cooking classes for me and other such experiences that having a decent-paying career has allowed me to have. I'm fortunate. I know.

But what happens when you crave the pursuit of other creative interests but long hours at the work prevent you from exploring them? Should you contain the persistent rumblings of entrepreneurial hunger all for the sake of practicality (hello, mortgage, car payment and freaking collage tuition!)? And what do you do when the passion that was once reserved for your career has now been slowly and inadvertently re-directed toward other avenues??? Sigh...
I remember the day when I first learned the meaning of "Carpe Diem". It was in an English class during a discussion of "The Catcher in the Rye" that Mrs Farmer talked to us about the importance of seizing the day. While I appreciated the discussion, I remember thinking to myself, "Duh, how hard is it to seize the day? Just know what you want and go for it!" I was 16-years-old... Young, naive, full of optimism and ideals... free of any real responsibility aside from fulfilling my potential. I was filled with an unending supply of unbridled energy, all of which went towards knowing what I wanted and going for it. It was all so... spectacular and full of promise.

Looking back, I think I could probably learn a thing a two from that kid.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Random Thoughts; Not Well Thought Through.

Don't, as I found myself in a dream last night, find yourself in a circa 1970 Vietnamese village with only five rounds remaining in your M16 rifle. Especially if the village looks like Redlands. (Warning: the VC are forming up at the donut shop on the boulevard.)

Meredith Baxter is a lesbian? Damn! I've had a crush on her for 31 years. I couldn't be more surprised if Rosie O'Donnell came out and said she was straight.

Turkey isn't just for Thanksgiving anymore. Turkey purchased at a cut-rate price after Thanksgiving tastes even better, and the leftovers can stretch on for nearly a week. Yummy.

If so many Jews have had huge success recording Christmas albums (Neil Diamond? OMG...) why isn't there a market for Christians singing songs for Hanukkah? Is there a message there someplace? And, by the way, when is Michael Jackson's lost Kuanzaa album due out?

I've obviously lived a sheltered life. Apparently everybody but me knows that Ambien is a sexual stimulant. This has come to light thanks to Tiger Woods' short drive into a tree. Maybe they ought to rebrand it as "Escalade" in honor of Tiger's damaged Cadillac. Seems like a great name for a product of that nature.

Sophia Loren is 78. Seventy-eight years old? No freaking way!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Look right here! One wish for my daughter.

God is not without a sense of humor – or he has a firm grasp of irony. For the early part of my adult life I had no desire for children. Not because I was egotistical and wished to remain the center of my world; the thought of parental responsibility scared me senseless. I had convinced myself all children grow up to be degenerates where boys skip school and get into fights while girls sneak hoochie clothes in their book bags and slip out of the house after everyone has gone to sleep. I just knew if I were to become a father I would spend the better portion of my remaining years bailing a son out of jail and babysitting a daughter’s love child.

It should be noted that most who meet me say I’m very optimistic.

While being responsible for children terrified me in general, the thought of having a girl forced me to reconsider the mythical Spartan ritual of child selection. I looked at it like this, I could always resort to beating the crap out of a boy to put him on the straight-and-narrow or send him off to some militaristic boot camp if necessary, but what options do fathers have with girls? As far as I was concerned it would have been a perfectly wonderful life if no female were ever produced from my loins – until I had one.

My first child, not planned, was none other than a beautiful long lashed angel. From the moment I laid eyes on her chalky whiteness I was absolutely in love – and my life would never be the same again. Today there are only two females with whom I have difficulty telling ‘NO’. If my daughter grasped for a moment the tightness with which I am wrapped around her decade old finger she could already have a car.

I’m convinced when a man has a daughter his outlook on life should change entirely. I once had a fondness for The Swimsuit Issue and the occasional Playboy – now I go ballistic at seeing a Cosmopolitan or Vanity Fair cover in the grocery isle that shows more of the model’s skin than a nun’s habit. I’ve also become hypersensitive to what she watches; especially shows which center too much on appearance, beauty, or exhibit the occasional ‘boyfriend’ dynamic. The Bratz are Satan’s spawn.

As her father I feel this overwhelming sense of dread as my sole responsibility to be the counter-balance to a culture that will do it’s best to tell her value and worth begins and ends with her looks. Shopping malls across America are filled with untold numbers of tween and teen girls who have already drank that Kool-Aid and my anxiety hits new levels when I consider what she has waiting for her outside the purity of her elementary school hallways.

I’ve met and dated enough women to form this conclusion. The small minority I’ve known who grew up having strong, healthy, and honorable bonds with their fathers all seem to possess a higher self worth and place their value on something contrary to the vast majority of women. Just to be clear I’m not talking about ‘daddy’s girls’. I know plenty of these types who still demand a pedestal even though daddy’s been dead for 20 years – they’re lost and spoiled. Instead I’m talking about the one whose daddy not only told her she was his princess he instilled in her how value and self worth ultimately come from something more than her reflection in a mirror.

Through his complete acceptance and guidance she was given the confidence and wisdom to successfully avoid the traps and pitfalls boys – and later men – would attempt to snare her in. From him she realized she didn’t need to seek validation from strangers in unhealthy ways because her value was in something more than mere aesthetics. He accomplished this by continually reminding her, through his deliberate words and deeds, that she simply needed to

“look right here”

Meaning anytime she was tempted to take destructive paths to gain temporary approval and ultimately experience unnecessary heartache she should keep her eyes looking square into the one man’s who would always honor and respect her for who she is. By looking to him she learned how boys and men ought to treat her and she has the confidence and self-respect to demand nothing less from them. And in so doing she possesses the strength to take a step back from the edge of disaster while everything and everyone says otherwise.

Being that type of father is an admirable albeit intimidating responsibility, the result of which can be far-reaching. I believe, for me, it’s a journey that will go far beyond the occasional daddy/daughter dance or ubiquitous ‘date night’. It will require an intentionality on my part that will often be uncomfortable. Because one thing is for certain, the opportunities for her to take detours will be many and the consequences from heading down the wrong path potentially life shattering. I believe every little girl must know she’s worthy in the eyes of a man, especially her father, and that the man values her unconditionally; and I’m convinced if the girl goes long enough without either she’ll find what she’s looking for in – or from – someone else.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fist Pump - Today I Turn 49

Six months ago, I started on a conscious journey to my 50th birthday, giving myself one and a half years to really focus on preparing myself for the next phase of my life. Today I turn 49 and it’s time to look back and see if I am on track and then to look forward to what is next. This is my 264th blog post and that is probably the most amazing thing of all to me. I started out thinking I’d write once or twice a week, but my cousin pointed out that I needed to post more often if I wanted to maintain anyone’s attention. Well, I have few followers, but I am picking up more now than I did in the beginning, so that is a testament to sticking with something!

My biggest disappointment is my weight. I want to lose 20 pounds by my 50th birthday and in 6 months, I’ve only lost 4. Not really worth mentioning. But I am exercising though and I’m proud of that. I was a complete couch potato for the last several years but now I’m at least getting my heart rate up for 30 minutes or more at a stretch for three to seven days a week. Too bad that doesn’t lead to weight loss!

I did not specifically identify 50 things to do by the time I’m 50, because that is ever evolving. But there were a few that I did mention. One was to read 50 books for pleasure. I’m really happy to say that I’ve read 8 so far and that 7 were fiction…a major shift from my normal reading of primarily non-fiction books. Three were young adult literature (the Hunger Game series), a very interesting genre! Two were Dickens, a beloved author. The others were a Jane Austen book a Stephen King book and, Composing a Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, which I referenced in A Second Adulthood? I love to read and reading is something that has fallen by the wayside in the last decade. I’m so happy to invite it back into my life because it makes it richer and more thoughtful.

I wanted to get myself more physically fit and less expensive to maintain as I get older. I have had mixed results so far with this. I am exercising…a big plus! Weight-loss is something else. I talk a good game and I really do know the ins and outs…but I’ve not done it. For me, weight loss is a major mental and emotional commitment…one I need to make. I have added regular exercise to my routine and eliminated one prescription drug from my daily routine (on my doctor’s advice). Both of these are major successes!

I’ve shared busy times, stressed times, times of celebration, and the experience of seeing my first child go off to college. As one friend told me, this blog has already become a written scrapbook which is a legacy for my children.

My house is starting to shape up in all my fervor for change. I’ve given away about three carfuls of clothing, coats, and bedding to Salvation Army. I’ve cleared out my mudroom, my desk, my bedroom, my linen closet, my utility closet, and my attic stairs. There is so much more to do along those lines, but I’ve made visible progress. I’ve also made progress in finally finishing off the last of the unfinished walls left over from our renovation…A lot of work! I’ve done the trim and the ceiling and need to repair the walls before priming and painting.

More recently I challenged myself to run a 5k and write a novel. I ran in the 5k, or rather finished it including quite a bit of walking. I also made progress on the novel, but didn’t get even close to finishing it…it continues as a work-in-progress. Both of these are important goals for me and I will continue to train so that I can run a 5k from start to finish and get that novel not only down on paper, but shaped into something I’ll be proud to share one day.

Yesterday, I made progress on my goal of listening to more of my favorite music. I am awful at remembering the names of songs or even remembering songs that I used to love. I signed up for Pandora and listed about 10 bands I used to love when I was in high school…and lo and behold, it figured out a ton of songs that brought back so many happy memories! Each song that came on was an “oh, I LOVE that song” moment!

As I look forward to the next year, I see more music, more art, more reading, less clutter, more family time, and more travel. My older daughter will turn 21 in 31 days and graduate from UCR in May. When I turn 50 she’ll begin her first year of medical school. By then my younger daughter will be wearing braces and looking forward to 5th grade. And in between, I’ll be chronicling my journey through these transitional years…I hope you’ll stick around for the ride!

Find the Joy in the Journey and remember to stop and celebrate along the way!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I will survive turning 49

On Match 8th 1964 at 5:36am this blogger you know came screaming into this world in a small delivery room within Memorial hospital in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

What can I share?

I can only share what I have experienced from a male viewpoint, so you girls will have to let me know if it is the same for you.

I can begin by telling you that life in your 40's is about the second act.

It will be about setting right the mistakes of your 20's. It will have you questioning all the decisions of your past, and force you to take a good hard look at where you are in life.

It will have you coming to grips with aging and accepting that you are no longer in your 20's and what you want to do about it.

Some friends will begin to get sick, go on medication, move, experience divorces, affairs and all manner of life’s challenges. You will question your career, your education, and your bank accounts. You will begin to look towards the years you will be an empty-nester, or you will reflect on the years you chose not to have children.

This is what everyone should know about turning 49 –

1. If you are in an unhappy, un-fulfilling relationship – you will want out.

Some do it with affairs during their 40's and others move into their own bedrooms in the same house. Some shop for encounters on the Internet while others begin visiting bars again like they did in their 20's. But however you do it, you will search for a way to get out. If you can’t afford to get a divorce, then you will find a way to leave emotionally. But you will check out.

2. You will have to address years of not taking care of your health.

If you don’t always eat your veggies, and you drink a little too much, have a sweet tooth and don’t exercise much – in your 40's your body will force you to look your lifestyle habits. If you are one of those men who pushes hard, stays up late, survives on 6 hours a sleep a night and three cups of coffee, by the end of your 40's your body will probably be telling you to fuck off. I kid you not. It will find a way to force you to sleep more, eat better and exercise – or you won’t be picking up your grand children.

3. If you hate your job you will be looking for a way out.

When you are in your 40's you will find the job you hate almost intolerable. If you are smart you will take some classes and get yourself re-trained in something else. If you are really smart you will take classes in something you used to love doing. Either way, you will want change and change your life you will.

4. If you have invested wisely and handled your finances you will begin to reap great rewards.

If you have planned well and taken care of your financial details, the 40's are when things begin to really come together. Big promotions can happen and you can find yourself in a comfortable financial position, able to begin traveling and enjoying the fruits of 30 years of laboring. If you’ve taken care of yourself – you don’t feel old, so life takes on a pleasant glow as now you can enjoy better wine, better food and appreciate all you have done to get where you are.

5. In your 40's you know exactly what you want . . . and don’t want.

Everything becomes crystal clear in your 40's. You know what you want and what you don’t want. You find yourself speaking out for the first time without fear. It’s easier to say no and feel okay about it. You find you have true strength and manage looking out for your needs first.

6. Your heart calls you to do what you have always longed to do.

If you have ignored a dream, the 40's are when your dream voice comes screaming back into your mind – begging you to let it in. If you used to paint, you will find yourself buying paint brushes and paints again. If you used to dance, you will be looking for dance groups your age. If you used to write, you will begin writing again. You may even think about publishing your first novel. You will want to re-connect with your past loves and dreams.

7. You will question your faith or lack thereof.

You will either begin to doubt the religion you were raised in, and begin and exploration of other religions (or even give up believing all together) – or your faith will grow stronger and you will find yourself studying a regular religious practice. You may even take up meditation and yoga. But this time around you will make these decisions based on study and exploration – not your parents wishes. You will search for a deeper meaning to life.

8. You may consider having children or having “your last one.”

If you haven’t taken the time, or found the “right girl” to have a baby, you begin to get real serious about this at 40. Those of you who’ve had children may miss the years when they were babies and you may be considering having one last child. Having children under the age of 3 can be exhausting beyond anyone’s imagination – and this is double the older you are. Make sure if you are planning babies in your 40's that you marriage is solid or you have help you can hire!

Your soul will call out to you in your 40's to make changes to align yourself with who you really are or who you have become. If you are smart you will great these changes with great expectation, if not, you may spend a lot of time crying in the bathroom.

So buy some vitamins, get a good journal, start walking and drinking water, get some sleep in anticipation for the 10 year ride of your life.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Women are like apples on trees

Women are like apples on trees, the best ones are on the top. Men don`t want to reach for them because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. The apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality they are amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who`s brave enou...gh to climb all the way to the top becuase they value quality

The days of Ward Cleaver are long over

No longer are dads sitting on the sidelines in this game of parenting, but instead, are rolling up their sleeves and digging right in along side the mothers. The days of Ward Cleaver are long over and fathers are doing the very duties that once seemed reserved only for women.

The internet has given voice to a generation of men who are sharing their fatherhood journey with the world. Bloggers, writers, thinkers are all taking to their stories to the public. These men are not only in the trenches they are also sharing their lessons learned with the rest of us. They are sharing their highs and lows, challenges and fears, and hopes and dreams for their children and themselves.

Over the course of the last two years I have had the fortunate opportunity to come into contact with many of these men through their writings and stories. Men who are thinking deeper and writing intelligently about what it means to be a man and father in the twenty first century. Through their own experiences, trials and tribulations they are gaining a storehouse of wisdom from which the rest of the world can and should draw from.