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An ode to my iPod…

Posted by doatmon on September 16, 2009

The old cliché is to write about what you know.  While writing what you know is easy, writing about what you love can be difficult.  When your feelings are so deep and the passion so unrestrained, words simply become inadequate.

It is with this at the forefront of my mind that I try to espouse my true feelings for my iPod.

First things first.  It’s iPod.  It’s not I-Pod or IPOD or MP3 player.  It’s iPod.  How would you like it if I called your mom by the wrong name or a generic name like, well, mom.  Bad example.  Still.  Get it right, please.

That out of the way, allow me to simply state that outside of my wife and children, nothing has changed my life as much as my iPod.  It has changed road trips.  It has changed how I fall asleep.  It has changed how I get my news and opinion (yes, Virginia, there is a difference).  It has even changed my trips to the bathroom.  Who needs the Sunday Dispatch when you can listen to a podcast on Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan?

Several years into my relationship with my gorgeous, sleek 30GB video iPod, she still looks and sounds as beautiful as she did the morning I unwrapped her.  How many things can you really say that about? I’m looking at you TMobile Dash.  Lousy tramp.

I will leave my house without my keys before I leave without my iPod.  I am truly lost without it.  I have about four different ways to charge it so I am never left with a lifeless shell of a partner.  I sync it multiple times a day.  Just in case the new PTI podcast has been uploaded.  Or maybe the Instance.  Yes, I listen to a Warcraft podcast.  Don’t you dare judge me.

But it’s not all about podcasts.  Literally, my taste in music prior to my iPod consisted of anything done by Journey and the occasional impulse buy of a CD after hearing a track on Sunny 95’s love songs.  Seriously.  Ask Coke.  I routinely embarrassed her with my musical library.

Here’s an actual conversation that took place:

[radio playing]

ME: Who’s this?

Coke:  My God, man.

ME:  Seriously, who is this?  Is it new?

Coke: This is the Steve Miller Band…”The Joker”

ME: Awesome…I’ll keep an eye out for them on Regis and Kelly

Coke: You’re an idiot.

Since my iPod and my near obsession with iTunes and its “suggestion machine,” it is I who am introducing HER to artists.  I have actually been to several concerts post iPod.  Pre-iPod, my concert experience consisted of a James Taylor excursion with Coke early in our relationship and a trip with my parents to see Chicago.  I was in high school.  Really.  It was that bad.

Now, artists like Amos Lee, Marc Broussard, Ben Harper, Ansley Lister, Tom Waits, Brendan James, Tyrone Wells, Stephen Kellogg, Joshua Radin and Stephen Ashbrook are consistently on my playlists.  Can you tell I’ve also developed a music “type?”

As the years have gone by, my relationship with my iPod has only gotten stronger.  I rely on it more now than ever.  What’s better at the park…being left alone with your own thoughts of your daughter’s imminent death by monkey bar or allowing those thoughts to be drowned out by the latest by Taylor Swift…er…I mean [thinking of something manly] Bruce Springsteen.  I think you know.

I bring all this up because I am sick and tired of my relationship with my iPod being scrutinized and demonized.  Yes, I love it.  I am never without it.  But I am very courteous.  If someone is talking to me, sure, I’ll turn it off.  I won’t take out my earbuds, let’s not be ridiculous, but I’ll turn it off.  If my daughters are talking to me, I’ll turn down the volume so I can respond to Chicken Nugget’s question about flushing Diego down the toilet.  I’m not rude.

All kidding aside, there have been several instances where I have been scolded for my iPod use.  Most recently, fresh from my decision to be a SAHD, I took French Fry to see a morning screening of The Tale of Despereaux.  This certainly wasn’t the first time we had seen this movie.  Nor was it the first time the 50,000 children and 15 adults that were in the theater had seen it.  It was a Wednesday morning screening.  For $1.

There was a particularly rowdy group sitting next to us and bleeding over into the row behind us.  It was clear there were several moms using the darkness and the distraction to pop a few Xanax and take turns catching up on sleep.  Prior to the movie, I heard one say that they would save the three seats directly to my right for “Judgie McJudgerson.”

The movie begins, the rat does something…there’s soup involved…Matthew Broderick is pretending he’s a mouse so he doesn’t have to think about being married to Sarah Jessica Parker and not Carrie Bradshaw.  So I lift the armrest, grab French Fry to cuddle, pop in my earbuds and turn on the latest “Left, Right and Center” political podcast from NPR.

Eventually “Judgie McJudgerson” stumbles into the theater, well after the movie started, with her miniature minions trailing behind her fighting over what was undoubtedly a box of Sour Patch Kids.  They clamor over to the seats that had been reserved for them and make a big production of [very loudly] explaining their tardiness, the appreciation of the reserved seats and something else that was drowned out by Dustin Hoffman’s droning.

They finally settle in and my focus goes back to the completely ridiculous rants of Bob Scheer.  A few minutes later, there’s a tap on my shoulder.  I look over and it’s Judgie McJudgerson.  I’m figuring she wants to run out for a ”five-hour energy” fix and wants me to keep an eye on her kids.  Nope.  She tells me that my iPod is bothering her and I either needed to move or turn it off. It was detracting from her enjoyment of the movie.

Seriously.

I was absolutely incredulous.  There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t have enough bandwidth to list them.  But let me get you started.  There were literally hundreds of kids under 8 in that theater.  It wasn’t exactly the audience of Julie and Julia.  Her own kids were adding their share to the decibel level in the theater.  It was a $1 showing of the Tales of freaking Despereaux.  She showed up late and bothered everyone with her prattling on about the reasons for her problem with promptness.  And perhaps most importantly, IT WAS THE TALES OF FREAKING DESPEREAUX.

Now, understand, if I was truly bothering her, I would be happy to do this.  There’s nothing I hate more than someone else’s actions disrupting my movie-going experience.  But if my iPod had been loud enough to bother her that much, the first person to yell at me would have been French Fry.  She takes her animated rodent movies very seriously and she was a lot closer to my earbuds than Judgie.  Thankfully.

I was too flabbergasted to say anything so I just complied.  Begrudgingly.  I spent the rest of the movie reassuring my iPod that it wasn’t her fault and I still loved her.

Was this out and out anti-iPod hatred?  Was it SAHD prejudice?  Was it simply a woman who was miserable and wanted everyone else to be living in her hell?  Or was I generally inappropriate for consummating (again) my relationship with my beloved Apple product in that venue?  Hurry.  I’m in Starbucks and this Teva-wearing, soy milk-drinking librarian-type looks like she’s about to say something.

Posted in Being a Daddy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

In homage to the great Chris Farley…

Posted by doatmon on September 10, 2009

“Let me tell you why I suck as a blogger…let’s say I go into someone’s web browser and he’s even remotely interested in reading my blog … ”

Oh lord.  Where to start?

Have I mentioned I suck at this blogging thing?

Let me give you a glimpse into what it’s like to be me.  I am a man of tradition.  Whether that’s in regards to a horse race I haven’t missed since I started going in 1992 or my string of sleeping in odd places following or preceding weddings…I am a man of tradition.  This holds for my psychological state as well.  One of my “traditions” is that I will start something.  I will jump in with both feet.  I will be moderately successful.  I will get frightened like the chubby kid before gym.  I will either give-up that endeavor or simply make every excuse I can think of to put off participation until I simply can’t ignore it any more.

Yup, that’s me.  And lord are there some PsyD’s and some drug manufacturers that are thrilled I have made it to 32.

Thankfully, the one thing in my life that seems immune to this self-destructive pattern is being a father.  And perhaps that’s why this arrangement feels so right.  And why I’m happier than I’ve been in a LONG time, despite giving up everything I had developed over 10 years in the working world.

While being a father seems to be immune, blogging is not.  Many still reading this have most likely read another blog of mine.  Or two.   Or, well, you get the picture.  I almost allowed it to happen to this one.  I had gone about a week without a post and longer without a post that didn’t involve Snuggie Sex.

But damnit, I want this.  I need this.  And I hope you’ll forgive me.  I ask of you, my readers, the same thing I ask of my children.  Give me 18 years and I swear I’ll get this right.  And if not, you can head off to college.  Well, not you, the kids…oh, nevermind.

I promise a fast and furious update on a few things that have happened over the past week.

But for now, yes Hank Williams, Jr. … I am MORE than ready for some football.  Go Steelers.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Writer | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Happy Birthday, French Fry.

Posted by doatmon on August 27, 2009

Today is the fifth anniversary of what I consider to be my greatest accomplishment.

French Fry.

My greatest TRICK might be the miraculous hypnosis that has forced Coke to remain in my presence for over 12 years.

But my greatest accomplishment is French Fry.

And today is her fifth birthday.

Half a decade ago, my life was just a bit different.  I lived in a ramshackle Clintonville abode which devoured half of my wife’s childhood and half of our wardrobes in intermittent flooding that plagued the basement.  My biggest concern each week was what days (yes, plural) I was going to Crosswords to work diligently on what were then my TWO greatest accomplishments: my Golden Tee game and my reputation as an “active” member of the Winking Lizard Beer Tour.

Mmmm…Chimay.

I was married and I had been for seven years.  But I don’t think I was yet a husband.  Check that.  I know I wasn’t a husband.  Fantasy football consumed my weekends.  In June.   I don’t think I had cleaned a toilet or dusted an end-table since puberty.  And the only thing I wrote those days was e-mail re-caps of various weekend shenanigans involving digging large holes in my backyard, exploits at high-end establishments in town (i.e. Ruckmoor) and consuming copious amounts of meat in a given time-period.

Now, those days are gone.  And I couldn’t be happier.

It is weird when I look back on that time in my life and realize that I was 26/27 and essentially still a collegiate bachelor who happened to be employed and married.  I was embattled in a Sisyphusian struggle for “happiness” and yet I had no clue what I was aiming for.  At the time, all I knew what I was struggling AGAINST.

With increasing frequency, Coke and I were entering into arguments about the next phase of our lives.  She wanted children.  I did too, but I mean, good lord, not then.  Life was FUN.  Car trips that had once been among the centerpieces of our relationship, were now miserable.  They had turned into rolling battlegrounds with opposing forces holding ground on opposite sides of the parking brake.

As is so often the case, the ongoing argument was taken out of our hands.

Following a particularly raucous December 23rd outing together, Coke informed me that there was an OFF chance that she might be eating for two.  We didn’t yet know for SURE, but as I sat in a bland Methodist Church last night where I didn’t know a soul that didn’t share my last name, each hymn began to embody the internal struggle I was feeling.  Good lord did the annual cheese soup taste odd that Christmas Eve.

The next day, Coke’s entire family was coming to Clintonville for Christmas dinner.  A dinner I was cooking.  Turkey and all.  My plan was to inject eggnog with enough Holiday Spirits to make them ignore the trichinosis.  First I had to drive from one end of Columbus to the other looking for an open drug store.  I can think of better days to try to find a pregnancy test.

I remember the confirmation.  I remember being huddled in my closet talking to my mom on the phone about an un-done turkey and her un-done son.  I remember telling my in-laws.  And driving to tell my family.  But I wasn’t as excited as I was frightened and completely overwhelmed.

And I don’t care about the clichéd nature of this next statement, but I genuinely remember very little of the next nine months that weren’t related to the birth of my child.  Without looking at my now irrelevant resume, I couldn’t even tell you where I was working.  I went through the motions of OB/GYN appointments (hers, not mine), registering at the formerly foreign Babies R Us and even of selecting and moving into a new house for the new baby.  One without a basement.

On August 27th, following a Fujiyama feast, French Fry was born.   And so was the man I am today.

We grew together.  I wasn’t immediately a man and she wasn’t immediately a brilliant princess.  We had our ups and downs.  I was a better sleeper than she was.  We were both solid eaters.  I cried more than she did.  We both relied on Coke for our very existence.  But we grew.

She graduated pre-school and at the same time, I feel as if I graduated life.  I had gone through job after job.  I was sometimes successful.  Sometimes not.  I now had a Chicken Nugget as well as a French Fry and life logistics were more complicated than ever.  And yet, after years of searching and despite a life with more moving parts than I had ever experienced, my search for happiness became simple.

My happiness was inextricably linked with my family’s happiness.  It sounds so simple.  I assure you, it was not.  It was a painful and arduous process and yet as I type, I have never been more confident of anything.  This decision to stay home with my children has provided peace that has long eluded me.

Today, on this fifth birthday of a present I first learned of on Christmas and received in August, I celebrate the life of my French Fry. And I celebrate the life she has given me.

Happy birthday, stinky butt.

If interested, here are a few other blogs focused on my French Fry.

Wishes for French Fry via Marc Broussard lyrics.

Her first buffet.

Her trip to see the Wiggles.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Husband | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I’m not a very good blogger …

Posted by doatmon on August 25, 2009

So apparently I am a horrible blogger.

I like to think of myself as a decent writer and at least somewhat humorous.

But I am apparently a horrible blogger.

And you know what?  Now that I think about it…I am.

I opened myself up to critique by commenting on the “mommy blog” phenomenon in yesterday’s post and as a result started getting critiqued in return.

My posts are too long.  I don’t include any pictures.  My layout is unreadable.  I don’t “blog-work” … my new term for networking my blog.  I don’t write anything that anyone other than my friends and family would care about.

I think those are ALL valid criticisms.

That said, I’m not about to change some of them.

1)      My Posts Are Too Long – I am long-winded.  I just am.  It’s partly an off-shoot of my former career and partly just my nature.  But the beauty of this blog is that it’s free and I’m doing it for myself and for anyone interested in life as a Stay-At-Home-Dad and as a “daddy blogger.”  I will try to keep them shorter (Kayak story aside), but don’t expect any monologue jokes or Reader’s Digest entries.

2)      I Don’t Include Any Pictures – I have done this somewhat intentionally, but I can see I’ve taken it too far.  This blog isn’t about my daughter’s dance recitals or family vacations in and of themselves.  If you want those pictures, add me on Facebook.  This blog is about my feelings toward the dance recitals and the vacations.  I express that in words.  That said, my page is drab and one long body of text.  Variety is the spice of life.  That’s why I developed the gold course theory of relationships in the seventh grade.  I didn’t get my first girlfriend until high school.  Not a coincidence.  I need to recall the basis of that brilliant theory so to whet your appetite, here is a picture of Chicken Nugget (NSFW).

Chicken Nugget During Last Year's SB

3)      My Layout is Unreadable – Perhaps.  I am Red-Green colorblind and as a result don’t see colors like most people.  As a result, I tend to go with what I think the colors represent rather than how they look.  Maybe the red was a poor choice.  But hey, it looks black to me.  Also, I know my page is busy, but I have always been a “substance over form” kind of guy.  But I am working to alter the lay-out.  I hope you’ll be patient with me.

4)      I don’t “Blog-work” – I’m trying!!!  I really am.  I recently discovered the dad-blog community and it is one in which I feel comfortable and which I respect.  I hope to develop a more consistent relationship with members of that community.  After all, community development is the real reason I have considered expanding this blog beyond friends and family and the reason I get so sensitive when all of these “Mommy blogger” stories come out.  I want to find a community of dads…a community of SAHDs…one in which I can both give and receive information, encouragement and insults.  One in which the parenting thoughts of dads is on par with moms and recognition is given to dads participating in the blogosphere.

5)      I Don’t Write Anything That Anyone Cares About – I shortened that one.  See, I’m taking the criticism to heart.  You know what? I may not.  But at this time, this blog is for me.  It’s for the select few, the silent minority that is like me or cares what someone likes me thinks.  Those people will read.  If anyone else reads, I am honored and humbled.  But at this point in my blogging life, they are not my target audience.

I appreciate all of the feed-back and I genuinely mean it when I say I welcome it.  I have reached out to some bloggers asking for their advice on how to be a better blogger.  I am trying.  I am.

And that goes for my blogging, my parenting, my marriage and certainly my kayaking.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Writer | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Kayak Story: The War and Peace version.

Posted by doatmon on August 25, 2009

I am going to break my own rule of no more than one post per day while I’m beginning this blog.  I am first going to post the kayak story for those who have asked.  I don’t think the story is worth its own post, but I have been asked.  So I’ll bury it as the first of two posts today.  The second will follow-up on yesterday’s response-generating diatribe.

The kayak story.

So a few weeks ago, I was in the Outer Banks with my entire family.  Part of the reason was for my Coke and I to renew our vows and part was pure vacation.  As you may have guessed by now, physical activity isn’t exactly part of my daily routine.  So any time I show any interest whatsoever in something cardio in nature, my wife and her physically-conscious family jump on my attempt (no matter how brief) to reduce my, um, bulky frame.

Lately, my obsession interest has been kayak fishing.  I think the concept is brilliant and something I desperately want to explore.  I consider the out of doors to be the closest I will ever get to any sort of deity and as so many have acknowledged, when it comes to boating and fishing, there’s nothing that gets you closer than kayaking.  You’re sitting inches above the water, not leaving any carbon footprint whatsoever and can glide silently across any body of water so as to not disturb the heron, otter or topless sunbather you may be trying to observe.

Sounds perfect, eh?

Well, I have neither a kayak nor access to a kayak and before I spent any money I wanted to test my prowess at both paddling and multi-tasking with a fishing rod in my possession.  Now, the real kayak fishers (really? Fishers?  Is that the best we can do? I shy away from fisherman for obvious reasons, but refuse to use fisherpersons for equally obvious albeit different reasons) use long kayaks with rod holders, GPS, depth finders, refrigerators and bidets all loaded on.  But for purposes of my test run, I would just have a rented kayak and a paddle and a PFD that was unlikely to be used.  My chest is bulky enough thank you.  The rest would just be myself and my trusty, 5.5 foot ultralight rod.

My brother-in-law who is an avid kayaker brought his down to the beach and went with me to select my mode of transportation for the week.  Upon walking into the store, I immediately gravitated to a certain brand for which I had read many positive reviews.  It was the sit-on-top version of a kayak as opposed to the sit-in version that my B-I-L both had and recommended.  But I had read reviews.  On the internet.  That had to be better than familial experience, right?

We wasted no time getting wet and drove immediately over to Currituck Sound.  This body of water lies between the mainland of North Carolina and the barrier islands known as the Outer Banks.  It rarely, if ever, gets above six feet and is for my money among the most beautiful bodies of water I have ever seen.  What a perfect place to kayak, eh?  We set off, sexy water shoes and all, at a brisk pace.  Well, my B-I-L was at a brisk pace.  I was too, it just wasn’t straight.  With a bottle of water and small tackle box strapped to the back with the PFD, my pole resting in my lap and the paddle flailing about in my already weakening arms I was proceeding in a zig-zag pattern that could be at best described as a tacking maneuver and at worst the line an intoxicated Canada Goose might take to a stray piece of bread.

I eventually straightened myself out and slowly but surely made my way north along the shoreline.  We approached a duck blind set out in the water and it was silently screaming at me to throw a lure in its direction.  So I did.  The kayak wobbled a bit, but I was pleased at my distance and my accuracy.  And if my B-I-L hadn’t paddled up there to see that I had casted in about 4 inches of water, I’m sure I would have caught a fish.

But I was 1-1 in casts without tipping my plastic steed and I was puffing my PFD-free chest.   We paddled out a little further in an attempt to locate deeper water and water devoid of the thick vegetation we found all over our paddles after each stroke.

About 10-15 minutes later we were quite a distance out in the sound and came upon another duck blind.  This one was clearly in deeper water and was veggie-free.  I steadied myself and tossed my shallow-running crank at the structure.  As I did so, the wind kicked up and knocked my cast offline.  I reeled back in quickly, determined to impress my B-I-L with my internet-honed kayak fishing skills.  I launched what was sure to be a brilliant cast…and I’m sure it would have been had I not found myself under water.

The wind had kicked up a little, baby wave and knocked me right over.  Now, this in itself isn’t a HUGE deal.  It happens to the best of us and given the relatively small kayak upon which I had been precariously perched, it’s somewhat surprising it hadn’t happened previously.  But as my butt hit bottom and I launched myself back toward daylight I realized that I wasn’t alone in the kayak and began flailing for my fishing pole.  To no avail.  It was gone.  I tried to feel around with my feet, but the silt and sediment bottom wouldn’t give it up.

My B-I-L paddled over and helped me right my kayak.  I checked my tackle box, bottle of water and rented PFD.  All were fine.  In a stroke of brilliance, I handed my B-I-L my tackle box for safe keeping just in case something freaky like that happened again.  The chances were remote, but without a pole, I certainly didn’t need a tackle box.  I set about the difficult task of mounting a piece of plastic in chest-high water with aquasocks buried in muck.

It took some maneuvering and some upper-body strength I didn’t know I had, but I shimmied myself back aboard, grabbed my paddle from my B-I-L and took two stroke toward shore.  I felt a little wobble but I didn’t give it another thought as I had felt many of those previously.  I gave it a little more thought as I was resurfacing, however.  One wave and I was back in the water.  Odd.  Infuriating.  But not debilitating.  My ego was bruised, but thankfully that was all.  I grabbed my paddle and hefted my considerable girth back on the culprit.

I never made it.

I had barely lifted my feet out of the muck and I was back underwater.  Okay, nothing to do now but laugh.  I mean, this was ridiculous.  I am a little heavy, but come on!  I was more than a little embarrassed, but I will give my B-I-L credit…he never cracked a smile (while I was above water anyway) and dutifully returned my paddle.  Just as he did the next 10-15 times I tried to get in the kayak and ended up in the water after two or fewer strokes of the paddle.

I was no longer amused.

It was at this point that I realized I may never get back into this kayak.  I had lost my bottle of water, but thankfully my PFD was floating, cackling at me after every ill-fated attempt to recover my dignity.  I begged my B-I-L to just go ahead, but he paddled slowly and sometimes in circles waiting for me.  After another few tries, I was simply out of energy and in-able to hide my frustration.  I came to the harsh realization that it wasn’t the paddle that was going to get me back to shore, but my legs.  What else was I to do?

Thankfully my B-I-L took pity on me and left me to wallow in my weight and inability to float.  He became a tiny spec as he paddled for the dock and dry land.

I started walking.

And cursing.

Cursing the kayak, the kayak company and most importantly the store that rented it to me.  How DARE they rent a kayak to a portly person that may or may not be able to get back into said kayak should it tip?  They were going to pay for this.  They were going to give me another kayak, one more sturdily built for today’s American population.  And THEY were going to pay for my post-traumatic stress counseling.

I will readily admit I shouldered some of the blame as I walked.  How could I let myself get so out of shape that I couldn’t even get in a boat that the ESKIMOS invented for God’s sake.  I mean, how many skinny Eskimos have you seen in cartoons?  And those are culturally correct, right?  I convinced myself to diet.  To get my upper body stronger.  It was a turning point in my life.

About halfway back to shore, I looked down to see a blue crab climbing from a plant to my chest.  I did what anyone else would do and screamed like a three-year-old girl and started jumping up and down while he scrambled for a foot-hold on my torso.  I managed to fling the SOB into the kayak as a souvenir.  At least I would have something for my daughters to see.  That was short-lived as the crustacean chuckled and crawled back to the amber abyss.

It was that abandoning that led me to try again to get in the kayak.  The first attempt went relatively well.  I got in the kayak, righted myself and even got an oar in the water before I started to shake.  I dropped a leg over the side to help even out the wiggling and promptly dumped myself backward.  The kayak flipped over my head and smacked me in the forehead for good measure.  This was progress though, right?  I didn’t barrel-roll.  I flipped heels over head.  I’ll get it next time.

Subsequent attempts did not improve.  I went back to my Bhutan Death March over my Trail of Tears.

I put my head down while I walked, not wanting to see the distance I had yet to go and hoping that nobody would be able to make out my face during this shuffle of shame.  I began daydreaming at this point.  Could I really die out here?  I mean, sure, it was like four feet of water, but I was pretty tired.  And if an infant can drown in six inches of water, surely someone resembling a weeble-wobble could roll to its doom in these depths.  Or what about the Osprey?  Nature’s perfect predators could mistake me for the world’s biggest muskrat and decide to try a new delicacy.  That could happen, right?

Whether it was these thoughts of impending doom or delusions of grandeur, I decided to try again.  This time, I removed my shirt and tied it to the PFD.  Then I tied the PFD to the front hand-hold of the kayak.  This would have to balance out the front and back, right?  That’s what Bear Grylls would do, right?  Feeling confident and casting my life story in my head, I lept up only to watch the world continue to leep as I tumbled backward.

Back to walking.  And walking.  Walking back toward the dock from which I came.

I couldn’t see my B-I-L anymore, but I was sure he was there waiting on me.  Perhaps he had driven home, had dinner and come back, but he was there.  At the dock.  The dock where the wedding was taking place.  Oh CRAP!  I had seen a sign that the dock was going to be closed for a wedding.  The only thing I could imagine worse than this ordeal would be stumbling up to the bridal party, dumping out my aquasocks as the Preacher prepared them for a life in holy matrimony.

Nope.  Unacceptable.  I would HAVE To at least retain my dignity if not my masculinity and urge to kayak.  I shifted course and began to head toward the closest shoreline.  As I got closer, I began collecting golf balls that I found on the bottom.  It was mindless, but helped the minutes pass.  That’s how long I walked.

When I was about 100 yards from shore, I decided I was going to paddle in whether this kayak liked it or not.  After all, I was in about six inches of water.  How could I not sit down in the kayak and at least pole myself in?  So I did.  And the kayak laughed and flipped me once again on my back.  In six inches of water.

It was at that moment I realized this might not be my weight or my lack of athletic ability.  It was the kayak.  It was flawed.  It was purely the kayaks fault.  I puffed out my chest a bit more and walked the last football field to shore.  By this point, my B-I-L had unloaded his kayak back from his car and paddled out to find me.  He got to me just as I was beginning to lift the floating bastard onto shore.  But I couldn’t.  My God.  I was dehydrated.  I didn’t have any strength left.  I had one-foot in the grave.  Heat stroke?  Snake bite that went undetected?  Regardless of the cause, I was clearly losing consciousness.

I mumbled something to my B-I-L and he got out to complete my feat.  Except he couldn’t either.  It was too heavy.  He began looking around the kayak and found a circular plug in the back.  He unscrewed it and a flow that would make Niagara Falls blush began pouring out of the under-side of my kayak.

Did you know that kayaks had a “ballast” compartment?

Yeah, neither did I.

Apparently the convenient “cup holder” in which I had placed my bottle of water and tackle box was actually the entry point for water into the kayak.  Each time I had dumped myself, I had filled the kayak a little more with water.  Subsequent attempts to get into the kayak served to slosh the water from one part of the kayak to another and quickly dump my fat posterior into the water.  It was not my weight that kept me from kayaking that day.  It was my stupidity.  All I had to do was drain the water.  Or not put a tackle box into the plug.

As I sat on the stoop of an abandoned house waiting on my B-I-L and his Nissan Exterra to extricate me from this miserable and humiliating experience, I thought, “I will have to do everything I can to keep this story from getting out to my friends and family.”

Sure, some were going to find out and my B-I-L was going to have to relay it to some for a few belly laughs.  But it was at that moment that I vowed to make the story so long and so boring that NOBODY would be able to read to the end.

And at least in that, if not in kayaking, I have succeeded.

Myself and French Fry in happier times

Here is myself and French Fry in happier times.

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Blogging, married, father of two looking for men for meaningful blogging relationship (Politicians please do not apply)

Posted by doatmon on August 24, 2009

I know, I know…the kayak story.  It is forthcoming, I promise.  And yet, after all this build-up I can’t help but feel that the story is going to “sink” under the pressure.

[Kids, we call that foreshadowing…lame foreshadowing and poor pun usage, but foreshadowing nonetheless]

Part of the beauty and part of the pain of a blogger is having all these things to write about and yet constantly being bombarded by NEW things so the others get pushed to the “parking lot” as my former corporate colleagues were so fond of saying.

In this instance, I am postponing the kayak story yet again to address the recent bombardment of inescapable evidence that “daddy bloggers” are either as rare as unicorns or facing a glass ceiling of epic proportions.  Just ask the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Monthly and every search engine from Google to Dogpile.

My decision to toss away a developing (and well-established) career to stay home with Chicken Nugget and French Fry was sure to raise more than a few eyebrows, but I felt confident that through networking, blogging and various sites ending in XXX I would be able to meet and correspond with other fathers who either made the same decision or find themselves in a similar situation through events not of their choosing.

As of yet, I haven’t met a single one.  And trust me, it’s not for a lack of looking.  Especially on certain sites.  All I can seem to find are women on those bastions of literary and artistic excellence.  I just don’t get it.

Porn jokes aside, all I HAVE found are women.  As an unabashed flirt with mediocre looks and a body built by Skyline, neither the female dominance nor using the faceless internet as a medium are bad things necessarily.  And yet, in the spirit of the ever-eloquent “bro’s before hoes” sometimes a little testosterone is a good thing.

I recently read an article in Columbus Monthly on local parent bloggers written by enjoyable and prominent Ohio blogger Susie J. Not a single mention of daddy bloggers.  I contacted her through her blog and she said she intended to include men in her article, but editors gave “us” the old cutting-room floor treatment.   Today (August 24), the venerable Columbus Dispatch, which has admittedly written checks to several members of my family for various journalistic endeavors, published an article by Amy Saunders on…what else…mommy bloggers.

In both articles, the behemoth known as BlogHer is referenced along with iVillage, Ms Single Mama, dooce.com and other mainstays of female blog-dom.  Sadly, to the best of my ability, in the 7.5 minutes I’ve spent on it, I cannot find a single “male” example of similar networks, sites or people.  The few daddy blogs that are out there are infrequently updated and scattered more than men in a JoAnn Fabric.

The question is “why?” Are there not enough men who consider being a daddy to be blog-worthy?  Are they so focused on the letter “x” or various forms of fantasy football that it’s all they can blog about/add to the blog-readers?  Are men willing and interested in reading blogs written by women, but women can’t see themselves getting anything other than disgusted and angry over a blog written by a daddy?  And what about these companies giving mommy bloggers cars, cameras and ad revenue?  As a former marketing/public relations professional, I am well-aware of the old-adage that women control the purchasing.  But isn’t that changing?  Why is it that we’re so hell-bent on proving some long-held beliefs of gender stereotypes, but others remain so entrenched that nobody even notices their existence anymore?

And more importantly, how many non-sentence questions can you string together before people quit reading?  Am I there yet?  How ‘bout now?

I recently read a piece on Jessica Knows (written by a woman of course) questioning whether 2010 will be the year of the daddy blogger.  I agree with many of her assertions and they mimic those I have relayed to others as I embarked on my OWN journey.  Specifically, I think the allure of a “daddy blog” is that it’s likely both men AND women would read it.  But I follow that up with, would it be so bad if ONLY women read it?  Apparently that’s still the target audience.  And if there were good daddy blogs, I am confident they would read.

In the mean time, I will continue to write in obscurity, waving the flag for men who aren’t ashamed to be fathers and husbands and searching the internet for men in places other than dickssportinggoods.com.  As a public service to both my readers, I will let you know that I started at the simple, five-letter version of that URL and let’s just say I had no trouble finding men there.

While they didn’t seem to have much interest in my blog, even THEY read Ms Single Mama.

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As of today, I am the father of a school-aged child

Posted by doatmon on August 20, 2009

I’m the father of a school-age child.

That’s right, Kristen and others who repeatedly remark on my self-centeredness.  French Fry went to Kindergarten today.  And yet it’s still all about me.

I have a child in school.  I’m not going to lie to cyberspace.  Wasn’t handling it well.

Okay, okay, okay…let me start by saying that she’s fine.  Got it? No problems with her.  She is even more talkative than her father.  As beautiful as her mother.  And as intelligent as the two of us put together.  She was in an all-day preschool last year where she was a “peer model” for children who were developing at a slower rate.  She’s fine.

This is my blog and I’m going to talk about me.

This may shock you, but I’m not exactly an emotional rock.  I know, hard to believe.  But it’s true.  I bawled uncontrollably when Sidney was born.  Most sports movies leave me in a state of allergic agitation somewhere toward the end.  I am also a sucker for milestones.  And cameras.

“Look honey, she just spit out her first spoonful of peas. [snap]”

“Oooh, oooh, I think she just laughed for the first time. [snap]”

“Oops.  Nope.  Not a laugh.  But she just snorkeled for the first time. [snap]”

So if I react that way to those major/minor milestones, you can only imagine that the batteries literally died in the middle of the photo session this morning.

But my issues started well before this morning.  On the first day of daycare, back when I was employed, I remember strapping the little peanut into her car seat and heading the five miles to Enchanted Care.  Approximately 45 minutes later, I had stopped twice to re-adjust her fragile skull to ensure it was safe and twice to unzip her jacket further to ensure she continued to inhale and exhale appropriately.

I cried all the way downtown.

Then there was her acceptance into the preschool.  It was all-day for God’s sake.  Coke got to take her to school every day, but it was my privilege to pick her up every day at 3:30.  I all too often gave in to her wishes of McDonald’s nuggets and sweet teas because that quick drive-thru stop allowed me to pry details of her day while she was sugar-drunk and stuffed.

She was interviewed on Channel 10.  Her name was up in lights.  At the ripe age of four.  To this day, I’ve been only on TV twice.  Once was completely forgetting King and Jackson when interviewed on the names of the “Fab Five” by an Ann Arbor station at the Michigan-OSU game in Lexington.  The other, well, it was closed-circuit television.  And I was giving out handicapping advice.  Not something you want to share with your children.  I was so proud of the little devil I bugged one of my many media friends multiple times a day before she caved and sent me a CD of French Fry’s debut.  Thank you again, Lindsay.

Did you know the child actually had a graduation for pre-school?  There were songs, emotional videos and slideshows.  Processionals and recessionals.  And she tied Coke for most bunches of flowers purchased by me in the year 2009.  Damn that Columbus School for Girls and their budget cutbacks.  There was so much dust in that auditorium, my eyes wouldn’t stop watering.

And that brings us to this week.  I was somewhat prepared for today.  I had gone over it in my mind for weeks.  I had properly ignored her need for a first-day of school outfit.  I had sufficiently put off thinking about the logistics of today.  I had been able to successfully repress any memory of my mom’s opining on what I could expect.  See?  I was dealing well.

This week, I was ambushed by “Meet the Teacher” day.  I was not prepared.  The sickeningly sanitized smell of the school, the prowling PTO Nazis, the loudly, color-emblazoned bulletin boards accosting the eyes, I was overwhelmed.  Yes, she was fine, but remember, this is about me.

Coke, Chicken Nugget and French Fry strolled down the “Green” hallway to her classroom while I stalled, shuffled and stifled a sob.  Okay, there were a few sideways glances at the potential MILPs, I’m man enough to admit it.  But mostly, I was miserable.  Her teacher is brand new.  The school is relatively new.  Can they possibly comprehend the precious person now under their care?  Her old teachers did.  Maybe I could pay them to come be Assistants in this classroom.  I know, I know…stupid.  I’m WAY too broke to afford that.

Then there were the kids.  Some looked ornery.  Some looked like straight out of “Mean Girls 2020” casting.  One might have been an undercover cop.  I think I saw a beard.  Regardless, all were suspicious.  Judging the teacher, the staff, the kids and still trying to check-out the scrub-clad redhead who looked to have a little one about Chicken Nugget’s age.  If we hadn’t left, hyperventilation was imminent.

Last night, each well-wisher dialing our phone number almost put me over the edge.  I finally had to turn off the ringer in the den and fire up the computer.  I couldn’t deal.  This morning, I begrudgingly got up with Chicken Nugget. She helped make sister pancakes.  Just like my dad did for me.  We were dressed, showered and ready 45 minutes before it was time to walk over.  So we waited.  And we waited.  And I sweat.  And I tapped my foot.  And I bounced my knee.  And I checked Facebook.  And I drank coffee.  And I checked Facebook.

Then something happened I wasn’t even remotely prepared for.  I was at peace.  We walked her over as a family and joked and laughed and beamed at our “little” girl.  Her confidence, willingness and readiness put even a neurotic father on an even-keel.  She disappeared into the school, pink backpack covering everything but her shoes.  I waved goodbye to the backpack, gave Coke a knowing hug and was shocked to realize it was more for her than me.

Yes, this was another milestone.  One which was as visceral and painful as the others.  However, these milestones, they’re not my milestones.  They’re not about me.  They’re her milestones.  And I’m privileged to witness them.  And to share them.

I’m the father of a school-aged child.  I couldn’t be more proud.

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Guilt…not just for Catholics and Mothers anymore

Posted by doatmon on August 19, 2009

I always thought that the Catholic Church and mothers had a monopoly on guilt.  Rumor has it you can add Jewish women to that last, but seeing as my only real exposure to Jewish culture is that my last name means “Chicken Fat” in Yiddish, I am not going to pass judgment.

My own mother, god bless her, is the queen of guilt: both in terms of lavishing guilt trips and absorbing her own, often ludicrous, guilt.  I have seen bits of this mother-guilt metamorphosis in Coke, but she has managed to keep in under control for the most part.  For now.

What I wasn’t prepared for was inheriting my own complex.  And it has been exacerbated ten-fold since staying home with the kids.  Being a pseudo-geek, I really enjoy a web show called “The Guild.”  It’s freaking hilarious.  And one of my favorite characters is this game-addicted mother who has an entire brood of snotting, pooping, crying children whom she uses doggie gates to pen in the kitchen so she can get her fix of dragons, priests and warlocks.  There are episodes where she is breastfeeding while playing, forgets to feed the kids and others which you can only imagine.

I bring this up because it is hitting a little too close to home these days.

No, I really don’t play Warcraft during the day while I’m watching the two fast foodlings.  But I do check Facebook.  And play Mafia Wars.  And write blogs.  And write magazine pieces I never send anywhere.  And read blogs.  And check Facebook.  You get the picture.  Most of the time this occurs in three-minute increments during which the most trouble they can get into is removing their clothes and dancing on the bed while singing Black Eyed Peas.  But I do that with them at other times so that’s not too bad.

I’ll wait while you stop throwing up.  Okay.  There.

But there are other times where I get lost in a particular well-written blog or I spend just a BIT too long trying to decipher a blurry picture that may or may not be from the Erin Andrews hotel video.  I mean, they’re happy.  They’re watching some stupid cartoon animal doing something ludicrous.  Or they’re playing with one of their infinite plastic abominations.  And they’re happy.  But should I be with them every minute? Should I be playing with them non-stop?  Should I be hovering over them even when they’re sleeping just to ensure they don’t choke on a previously unseen dust-bunny?

What about when bed/pole dancing turns into taking out previously utilized toddler toilets and taking turns using it before dragging it all over the house leaving a trail of tears urine? Or when you give them breakfast and are proud when they deliver mostly empty bowls of blueberries and cheerios.  Only to find out that the 90-pound barn mutt now has explosive diarrhea from an anti-oxidant overload?

Not that any of this has happened to me.  I’m just sayin’.

Crap like that can further enhance already-existing guilt.

I can’t possibly watch them every minute can I?  I mean, independent play is good for development right?  I am convinced that’s why my two are so smart.  Right?

Aw, damnit, hold that thought.  They found where I hit the plastic potty.

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I’m back…and with minimal Brett Favre references

Posted by doatmon on August 18, 2009

I’m back.

But, no, I will not use the obligatory Brett Favre reference.  I’m above that.

I’m just back.

And suffering from monumental writer’s block.

No, that’s not true.  Not writer’s block as much as writer’s motivation block.  I’m sure someone with a PsyD could explain this to me, but I have a real difficult time getting back into something after taking a little break from it.

I never have a hard time starting something.  And even keeping it going isn’t an issue.  Once I’m in a routine, I can drone on mindlessly with the best of them.  But throw a little break in there, whether it’s vacation or an illness or the release of a new content patch in a video game…and I immediately lose all motivation to go back to my routine.  This is what happens with me when I start a workout regimen, a new “diet” and what inevitably happens when I start a new writing project.

And that brings us to this moment.  I cannot remain focused, put together a coherent sentence without getting distracted or even “SQUIRREL!” make clichéd jokes pertaining to recent animated features.  Okay, maybe I can still do the last one.  So maybe that gives me hope for the previous two.

Let’s give it the old college try.

We returned from North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Sunday after almost 10 days away.  I have been going down there since my hairline was intact and Reagan was in office and it oddly never loses its power over me.  I’m not going to try to do it justice at this time, but trust me.  It is a mesmerizing, inspiring and captivating locale.

A few thoughts from the trip:

  • Coke and I renewed our vows on a dock at sunset with (almost) every immediate family member and it just may have meant more to me than our first wedding with hundreds of guests.  And I KNOW the vows did.  How could they not?
  • Minivans are God’s gift to parents.  Really.  I can no longer pretend to have testosterone-induced issues with this boxy yet utilitarian masterpiece of vehicular engineering.  Remove the backseat, load with 33 tons of beach toys, processed food and sunscreen, insert multiple Madeline DVDs and go.  Instant success.  Now, if I could just figure out how to make the soundproof driver’s bubble thing a reality …
  • I had my first conversation with non-family and friends about my decision to stay home with the kids for the time-being.  My brother’s wife and parents came down with us.   It was wonderful getting to know them and to see them enjoying my kids and undoubtedly projecting images of their own grandchildren.  But across the dinner table, I found myself stammering to explain my decision and qualifying it over and over again.  Perhaps it was their initial reaction.  They skipped right over the parenting and the writing and focused immediately on the real estate.  And for me, that’s third on the agenda right now.  I’m chalking it up to generational.  But I’m a little disappointed in myself.  What’s new?  I take self-flagellation to Opus-Dei levels.
  • Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest is the Nectar of the Gods.
  • It is absolutely incredible how much children grow up over a vacation.  I think both Chicken Nugget and French Fry aged five years while we were gone.  I can only imagine it’s the additional time with parents and grandparents and it helped reinforce my confidence in our decision to have one of us home with them full-time now.
  • I am too fat for MANY types of kayaks.  I am not ready to tell this story yet.  But I assure you, it’s a good one.  It involves me, a lost fishing rod, two-mile walk through a large body of water and a chest-to-crab encounter I wish not to relive.
  • I still can’t tan.  Especially the parts of my head that haven’t seen the sun since birth.
  • I took the week off from writing in the theory that it is sort of my job at the moment and that is what I used to do when previously employed.  And yet, unlike with previous employment, it was hard to NOT write.  And now I CAN’T write (well).  Oh, Alanis Morrisette, explain the irony!
  • Hearing your brother’s Mother-In-Law tell your father that he better do SOMETHING with his peanut is priceless.
  • Seeing a fawn 10 feet away and watching a mother otter swim in a salt pond with her baby otter right next to her makes it difficult to explain to your wife why we SHOULDN’T have another item off the extra value menu.

In an homage to Madeline and her inane DVDs, for the moment, “That’s all there is, and there isn’t any more.”

Perhaps we should send a copy of one of those DVDs to Mr. Favre.

You didn’t REALLY think I was above that, did you?

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Husband, Being a Writer | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A few random thoughts

Posted by doatmon on August 6, 2009

What? You expected all the posts to be funny and well thought-out?  Please.  Lower your expectations.  This ain’t Mssinglemama here.  It’s not even Postcards from Yo Mama.  And that’s saying something.

Been an interesting couple days with Coke partying working up in Put-In-Bay.  It’s weird to have the girls by myself over night and weird to have her come back.  I was prepared for the issues with the kids following this decision, but I wasn’t prepared for issues with ADULTS.  It’s hard being with the kids almost 24/7 and still relating on an adult level.  No offense to my beautiful daughters, but I expected to REALLY need some “daddy time,” (no, not a euphamism).  Instead, I find myself almost running back to them after Coke gets home.  I’ll write more about this another time, but it’s odd and out-of-the-blue for me.

I locked myself and the kids out of the house today.  Great dad, eh?

French Fry added another slang term into the ever-growing dictionary.  She has deemed a certain often loud, often offensive to the olafactories, get ready, snorkling.  Sadly, it’s almost always preceded by “Daddy snorkled.”  Clearly, that’s never the case and the child has a wild imagination.  Do they still do shock therapy?

In case you haven’t read the story, a woman beat a fawn to death with a shovel in her front yard.  And the public outcry is being derided by the NAACP as racism against the woman.  This world is a truly frightening place.

I am feeling an indescribable urge to start fishing.  A lot.

I am feeling an indescribable urge to get in the freaking car and head to the beach.  Thankfully, I am.  Tomorrow.  And you’re not.

It’s weird being in a Starbucks when it’s dark out.  Think about it.

People are making a big deal out of the people-watching at the Ohio State Fair.  It’s true.  But, people, go to the zoo.  It’s like a fair that never ends.

Funnel cakes are the work of Satan or a benevolent God.  Discuss until I get back next week.

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