Definitions

Merriam-Webster first definition of the word definition is “a statement expressing the essential nature of something”. Earlier today the word definition was used countless times when either advocating or lobbying against what constitutes as marriage. Those that opposed same-sex marriage used it in away to define their view of what a marriage is. Those that were fighting for same-sex marriage used the word definition to help them define what marriage was to them.

I saw numerous posts about what defines a marriage. I saw posts that said a marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. Still I saw others proclaiming it was simply a union between two people who love each other. I found it incredible to be quite honest about how wide of a spectrum many of my “friends” – I use this term loosely because let’s be honest, some of you I haven’t spoken to in over 10yrs – fall on the subject of marriage.

For me,even before being married and after being married, now separated with an impending divorce, I’ve always have felt that marriage to a large degree is subjective. Not necessarily the act of marriage but the reasons behind marriage. We see marriages that happen on a daily basis because of money, insecurity, greed, power, impulse, children, love, and simply the fear of being alone. Too often we forget how important the individuals intentions are. Regardless of the act, but what are their intentions? Why are they doing what they are doing?

There are numerous examples of an individuals intent defining a person’s behavior. Our own court of law shows a delineation between murder in the 1st degree versus murder in the 2nd. 1st degree Murder calls for premeditation, which means that the person predetermined and planned out a act with the intent to kill someone. 2nd degree Murder does not call for premeditation, no planning with the intent to murder. I know right now some of you have just checked out, but please stay with me! The lack of planning and intent has changed the changes the definition of murder. In fact, intent is so important that some cases murder is no longer murder because of an individual intent.

Your intentions of getting married help to define your marriage. Your intentions are your own. Your marriage is your own. Your definition is all your own because your intention of getting married is your own. Too often we let others definition of what something is define us. We let another’s expectation or intention define how we live our lives. My take away in all of this jumbled mess that I just ranted about is that marriage is how you define it. It’s a definition that is based upon your intention. If your intention is to be in a Godly, Christian marriage, then that is how your marriage is defined. If your intention is to just simply be with someone you love, then that is how your marriage is defined. Your definition of marriage shouldn’t be determined by someone else’s. It should be all your own.

because who knows…

So I have this habit when I go to court.  I make boys cry.  Yeah.  It happened again today.

Ok, so I guess I should explain somethings first.  I work at a residential facility that works with juvenile males that have committed a crime.  Now my students haven’t committed small crimes.  No, my students are the ones that make the front page of the news paper or even the front page of the latest gossiper.  They are the ones you typically want to see go far away for a long time and only come back if they have convinced everyone and including their mother that they have changed.  My role in all this is to design, monitor, and report on their treatment.  I go to court representing my job to testify how the student is doing and make an official recommendation if a student should be discharged or not.  Most of the time, they are coming back and they need more help.  Trust me, don’t feel bad for these boys because if you read their files you would agree with me about 101% of the time.  In fact, I can count on one hand and I wont need all of my fingers either, that a judge didn’t agree with me and went against my recommendation.

So back to my habit.  I make boys cry.  See many of these young men go to court with the hopes of getting discharged.  Of going home, of seeing their family and friends! Some of these terrible ideas come from their parents, public defender, and/or both.  They start thinking that if they say the right things to the judge or act a certain way things just might be different this time around and they can convince everyone that they should go home.  Now, I’m not a heartless bastard, ok…maybe just a little bit, but I do talk to the students before court and quite plainly explain to them what I am recommending and why.  I even have their counselors sit down with them and explain what will happen at court and what they should expect.  Not to mention we typically have a group and the all the older students give the other students feedback on court and what to expect.  So, they don’t go into court not knowing what to expect.  In fact, they know full well and still… somewhere there is a tiny glimmer of hope that this time will be different.

Of course it isn’t.  Thus the tears.  Thus the hugs from mom, dad, step-dad, step-mom, grandma, pop pop, auntie, uncle bob, crazy aunt Margie and a random cousin no one knows.  Here’s the kicker tho, I like that there is hope.  That they hope against all odds that things will be different.  Why? Because I like to see their worlds come crashing down and a total look of despair cross their face? No…ok..maybe just a little.  Seriously though, its a good thing because if they thought the whole thing was POINTLESS, then they would give up.  They would stop their treatment.  They would not talk to their families, they would stop trying.  I’ve seen kids, hell even adults, be like that.  Its not good.  The kids that think things are pointless are ones that get physically restrained over and over because there is no hope.  They go to court and they know their fate and they don’t care.  They are the kids that get bounced around from facility to facility for years.  They are the ones that become so ingrained into the system that once get out, they almost instantly commit another crime so they can go back in.  I will say this, that the hearings aren’t all bad because the judge, probation officers and even myself give the student even more hope for the next time.  We give them a guideline of what they need to do to get better, to make changes, what they need to work on and accomplish for next time so that maybe…just maybe…they’ll get discharged.

Too often I find myself a realist, a cynic.  The problem with being a realist/cynic is that there isn’t much hope.  Not blind hope like my students have.  I analyze each outcome, thing of all the possibilities and then fully expect that the worst possible outcome will happen.  I do have moments of hope.  I look at Toby and I know I have some outlandish ideas of what he can do.  At the same times I look at him and see him smack his head off the couch because he has box on his head and simply shake my head.  It is good to have hope.  I look at my students and see what happens if we don’t have hope.  Hope can change people.  I have to believe it or what I do as a profession is pointless.  Now that I think about it, it’s all based on hope.  We hope the student changes, we hope the student does not re-offend, we hope things will be different this time.  Even if we look at a situation and “know” that none of those things will happen, we still hope.  We still try.  We still do the best we can.  If we lose hope, then its easier for the next person to lose hope.  Its easier for the student to lose hope.  To turn into that kid.

I know personally, I need to hope a little more.  In what? I’m not sure yet.  Hope in myself? Hope in others? This is going to be a personal stretch.  Recent events and life events have shown me that it doesn’t pay to hope in others or even myself.  Hard to trust either of those things.  I have to hope though.  I don’t want to totally lose hope because if I do, I turn into that kid.  That kid that has lost all hope and just does whatever the hell he wants and doesn’t care about anyone else.  I have hope in Toby.  At the moment, it seems to be enough.  I know that quite honestly, I’ll need to begin to hope in others including myself.  I need to have a little more of that blind hope like my students…because who knows….

“I dunno”

I’m sitting in my recliner and Toby suddenly climbs up with a quarter of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in one hand. He throws himself down back first into me and then begins to stretch out over my body. He looks up at me with a mouth full of food. I ask “What are you doing??”
For some some idiotic reason I expected an intelligent answer but instead he responded “I dunno dad.”

This situation plays out in countless ways. He tosses grapes on the floor. “What are you doing??”
“I dunno dad.”

Smashing his Woody doll into the side of the tv:
“What are you doing??”
“I dunno”
(This one he smiles as he says it)

Throwing sand up in the air and then looking up, crying when the sand gets in his eyes, then does it again:
Third time he does it – “What are you doing??”
“I dunno”

Sometimes I have to stop and laugh because here I am expecting some sort of intelligible answer from him. I expect him to explain himself or give me some reasoning on why he is doing what he is doing. Then I remember he’s 3yrs old. Then I remember I’m 31yrs old and there are legitimate times when I do things and I have no idea why I did them.

I came home yesterday with every intent of going grocery shopping. Even told Toby on the way home from daycare that we were just going home long enough for me to change my shirt and get him milk. I came home, went and changed my shirt, emptied my pockets, got Toby milk and then drove to the store. We get about four things in the shopping cart when I realize that I emptied my pockets, which included my wallet. Why?? Why Nate did you take out your wallet? Did you change your shorts? Nope. Did you need your wallet at home?? Nope. Then why? “I dunno”

“Shhhh, listen”

“Shhhh, listen. Oh what’s that?” Said Toby yesterday night.

No we weren’t playing hid and go seek, looking for bugs, or listening to sun (Toby thinks he can hear the sun rise). No, Toby was peeing in the potty. For me this was the first time he peed in the potty for me. He’s peed in the potty for Nanna, daycare, STBX, Uncle Roo… But up until yesterday, he hadn’t for me.

Now, generally I think of myself as a pretty good dad. I work hard, provide for the little man, make sure he has shows to watch, feed him, etc. However the potty thing has just slipped my mind. It’s not that I don’t want him to be potty trained, cuz I do! I just forget. When you’re use to just changing a diaper and not really worrying about it, well I just… Forget. Which is ironic because use a timetable and schedule for everything with Toby. I give him 15 minute and 10 minute countdowns for when it’s bedtime. I tell him the plans for the day constantly. More often then not though, the plans seem to skip potty time.

I realized how important potty time was until I picked up Toby and one of the daycare workers asked me if I wanted to try and have Toby wear big boy underwear. In my mind I was thinking “really??? The kid that poops and pees himself like he gets paid seven figures to do it?” Of course I didn’t say that. I do gave a look of confusion and said “really??”

The really nice daycare worker explained that Toby goes most of the day in a clean diaper because of potty time and rarely needs a new diaper. Then I felt shame as I sheepishly responded that well… Dadda is the one holding Toby back. That I um… Simply forget… 🙂

Ah there is nothing like the courteous yet disappointing glare from a daycare workers that has spent hours helping to potty train your child as you tell them that in fact most days you undo all of their hard work because you “forget”. When I got that look, I knew it was serious. I knew that this… This potty training was serious business and that I, as the primary parent and father, needed to get on board or else.

So, with that said… My little schedule that I give Toby in the evening and weekends will now have potty time. We play this game called “shhhhh, listen” and I plan on being the best at it! Well… The best supporting figure in the game.

A Man of Steel

I struggle with Father’s Day. Today seems to be particularly tough. I look at friends Facebook pages that have wives and older kids who are doing awesome things for them. Here I am trying not to kill my son. I jokingly told a few friends that I’m trying not to kill Toby on Father’s Day because it may take me out of the running for #1 Dad.

I suppose it will be like this for quite sometime. Even when Toby gets older, he’ll only be capable of so much. He won’t be able to afford a gift on his own until he’s 16, even then there is no guarantee that he won’t mysteriously ask me for $20 around this time of year. So again I’ll essentially be buying my own Father’s Day gift. It’s crazy. I think about all of times that my mom gave money to get a gift, that chances are came from my dad’s account.

I think about my own life and the “Fathers” that I have had. Essentially I’ve been abandoned by two fathers. I’ve had a rocky relationship with the man I now call my father. About a year ago my STBX, asked me how being a father has changed my perspective of my own father. It has completely altered everything. I honestly believe until you are a parent you can’t really appreciate your own parents. The agony and frustration that you parents experienced raising you, you cannot get until you have faced those same feelings with your child(ren).

One of the lessons I’ve tried to teach my students at work is that their parents are human. It’s odd because I think we forget this sometimes. We forget that our parents have their own issues, their own lives, their own problems. Then we become parents and realize just how hard it is. How hard it is to raise someone on your own. Or teach someone right and wrong when you struggle with deciding that yourself.

One of the struggles of being a father that I don’t know, is the attempt to raise someone else’s child(ren). This is a struggle that I honestly cannot imagine. Finding that balance of being involved but knowing that you aren’t their father. Disciplining with the chance of it may blow up in your face. The struggle to build a relationship that isn’t naturally there.

Being a dad has helped me recognize just how hard it was for my dad. His struggle to find that balance, to forge that relationship. The challenges of being a step-father and eventually moving to being a father. Tonight we’re going to go see “Man of Steel”. I find it appropriate because to be a father, let alone a good one, let a alone a good father to kids that aren’t yours you have to be a man of steel.

Lack of sound

If you are a parent you know that sound…or rather the lack of sound. That lack of sound in which you know your spawn is probably doing something wrong. That chances are his toys are now stuck in the drain if your tub and will cause a slow leak, that even when you are taking a shower you will be in ankle deep water and that you will hear the water draining down your pipes for at least an hour after the shower, never mind when that spawn takes a bath and it will take 3 hours for the tube to drain. You know that sound..again…rather lack there of. That lack of sound that happens when you are down stairs, your spawn goes upstairs… and then nothing. You wait for a few minutes wondering, thinking, listening, and anticipating something. Then you hear the door open and you know…they just went outside…why? Oh to find the bunny that ran across the front yard…oh and the kicker…its raining. That lack of sound.

Then there is another lack of sound. The lack of sound when you find yourself with a house all to yourself. The lack of sound when your mom or STBX is watching your spawn. That lack of sound that no matter how hard you listen there wont be a crash, a scream “DADDY BUGGY BUG!”, or the door opening. That lack of sound, the one when you find yourself alone, with nothing to do. No one to keep track of. No wondering where HE is. No anticipating when the next diaper will need changed, the next feeding will be, or when the next crash will be. That lack of sound is deafening. That lack of sound can almost be worse that the lack of sound when you know your spawn is doing something wrong. The lack of sound of an empty house has caused psychologist to create a new diagnosis…empty nest syndrome.

That lack of sound… causes me to think back to my first blog and the tag line… “Now what?”

Now what do I do? The house is empty, for the most part clean. Bills are paid. It’s a week night. I have to work tomorrow. No NBA playoffs. No one to see a movie with. Nothing really to do. It’s incredible the position I find myself in. I find myself missing Toby. The crazy little beast that terrorizes me. That makes me fetch him things like “Toby snacks”, “milk shakes”, a new diaper. That tackles me when I am trying to read. That causes me to create fictional reasons to leave the room so I can have a moment of … silence. Now I have that moment and more. But it’s almost too much silence. It’s too quiet. Right now the non-parents are reading this and they are scratching their heads. They are scratching their heads because all they hear is us parents complain and complain about our kids. They did this, and they did that, and oh man my kid did this thing. Then when it truly comes down to it… parents… lets admit it… 99% of the time our kid is away from us…we miss them. We get use to the noise, the chaos. Then… then its gone. You know something is missing. Will I find something to do? Sure. Will I enjoy my time of solitude to read and watch a few tv shows? Sure. I will however, miss my son. Miss his laughter. Miss his demands. Miss his attacks. I’ll miss them until I pick him up tomorrow from Nanna’s and that lack of sound…is gone.

Weakness

As many of you know, I’ve been battling sore ribs for the past few days. Let me tell you that it sucks. It may seem like a small issue if you have never had such an ailment. However, imagine every time you sneeze, cough, laugh, fart too hard, or even take a deep breath in a sharp pain jettisons through your side. To compound the issue I spent the past few days, not in my comfy work chair, no stuck in a van and in court house waiting rooms for a combined 17hrs. I don’t know if you have ever had to go to court for anything and had to wait in one of their waiting rooms, but I imagine there are more comfortable chairs for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Ok, maybe I am being a bit grandiose again. It doesn’t change the fact that these sore ribs suck. Oh and toss in a 3 yr old who has no concept of “dadda is hurt” or “don’t jump on me there” and you have a great weekend!

Anyways, my current state of affairs has got me thinking about weakness. Right now, without a shadow of a doubt my ribs are my physical weakness. One of my awesome co-workers was intentionally trying to make me laugh so that he could see me writhe in pain. A very odd paradox… making someone laugh to cause pain. Anyways, as far as weakness. I’ve been thinking of my own emotional weaknesses. I think for the longest time my inability to really connect with people was one of my greatest weakness. I did not really invest in people and when things got too serious or they got too close, I would hit the eject button. Even the people that I would consider my closest friends, are still kept at arms length. I can’t imagine how far away some of you are. My soon to be ex…aka STBX as one blogger shortens the title to use to call me a police officer Nate because I was always so direct and to the point. In so many areas in life, being direct and to the point is a good thing. I guess in relationships it isn’t so. It wasn’t necessarily a criticism of how I handled things but how non-emotionally I handled them.

What’s crazy is that ever since I really started “blogging” I’ve become very emotional. I had a talk with one of my friends about how this has become a way of at least unsealing the cap that bottles up my emotions. Generally, I am a good public speaker. It’s essentially what I do for a living. I go to court and speak publicly and on the record about how a student is doing. That however is about as unemotional as it can get, all I am doing is simply stating facts. It’s the non-public and very private speaking that I struggle with. I can write out my thoughts and feelings but ask me to tell them to you, you might as well and try pull my teeth out with a pair of pliers. There is always the “what if’s” that run through my mind. “What if …” I would have been more verbally emotional… what that have kept my marriage from falling apart? Probably not…but still a question…

The interesting thing about a weakness is that you can do one of two things. One is to protect it. That’s what I’ve been doing to my ribs all weekend long. Any time Toby comes running at me, my arm shoots out and I stiff arm him to the floor…(not too hard mind you). I avoid sleeping on my right side and try and not to move too much. Protection… guard that weakness so it won’t hurt you. The other way of dealing with a weakness is working on it. Working on that weakness until it’s no longer a weakness. Maybe one day it becomes a strength. Maybe it will be a difference maker. brokenRib

Scar Tissue

“Scars tissue that I wish you saw” Red Hot Chili Peppers

Last year I saw the RHCP in concert. It was a blast. I was never really a big concert person. My favorite band of all time is Pearl Jam, never seen them in concert. Just never really had the desire to go. However, the RHCP might have awaken my inner concert goer.

One of my favorite RHCP songs is Scar Tissue. It’s because of the line I quoted at the beginning. This line resonates in my head on a consistent basis. Most of the time is when I play sports. Any of you that have played any sport with me know that I’m not the most athletic person. Heck I’m not the classic “Tim Tebow” where I’m non-athletic but I try really hard and go all out to make up for it (you know who I’m talking about, that guy). Heck I’m probably below average in just about every sport I play (except Frisbee).

What’s crazy to me is how many people I’ve played against that have no idea I have a heart problem. That don’t know that the doctors told my mom I might not be able to run again. That my right side went paralyzed and I needed to learn how to do everything left handed. However, if I took off my shirt. Everything would change. You would see a scar that runs down the center of my chest. You would see the “butterfly” scar at the top. The scar that shows how I went into full arrest after my surgery and those “shock” paddles messed up my stitches. Everything would change.

This is my "Butterfly" scar

This is my “Butterfly” scar

On both of my wrists have scars on them. On both of my ankles as well. Really observant people have asked me if I tried to kill myself before or if I was a cutter. I know there are some friends that have literally never noticed them. If they do and ask about them, the explanation goes something like this:

Me “you know how when you have surgery you need to get an IV?”

Them “oh yeah”

Me “Well I was so malnourished when I was 3, I didn’t have any veins close enough to the surface for an IV”

Them “oh”

Me “So they did a cut down on my wrists and on my ankles until they found a vein they could “plug into””

Them “wow…”

So yeah, if you pay attention and ever look, you’ll see them. You’ll see the cut down scars.

Back to the song lyrics. I love that line because so many times I think that line in my head. When an opponent gets pumped because they shot a basket over me, or when one of my kids at work start complaining how crappy their lives are and staff don’t understand. Again, if they saw the scars everything would change. But here is the flip side. I don’t want anything to change. Most of the time I don’t want them to know. I don’t want them to back down. I don’t want them to play me any different. I don’t want their pity, their “soft” game, or even for them to hesitate. I want their best. Why? Because in the end their best isn’t open heart surgery and I’ve already beaten that.

Dear Toby, (6/2/13)

Dear Toby,

Today you were pretty upset. I asked you why you were crying and you said you missed mommy. It killed me. Not that you missed your mom but because there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I couldn’t make it better. The sucky part is that neither one of us is at fault, even your mom isn’t at fault. It’s just the situation that we are in. This is a quick parenting lesson for me. The lesson is that there will be things the bother you, that you are upset about, and things will happen that I simply cannot fix. It’s ironic because earlier you were having me flex my bicep muscle and was saying how strong I was. Here I am weak beyond words because I cannot fix what you are upset about.

I know that there are going to be other times in your life that things will happen that I cannot do anything about. Heartbreaks, failures, and just life happening. As a parent it is something I will just have to endure. It is the weight of any parent, to watch their child suffer with no recourse or action.

I laid down with you and you put your head on my shoulder. I told you I loved you. Just laying there you finally fell asleep for your nap. That’s all I could do. It feels like it isn’t enough.

Love,
Friend Dad
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