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Limiting the Labels- You’re Definitely Worth It

Limiting the Labels-  You’re Definitely Worth It

When I was a college DJ we used to get sent a lot of new CDs every week. On the covers there would be a sticker from the record company trying to get us to play their artists. Conpanies would put “PIYL” or “Play If You Like” and then list bands they sounded like, and all of them drew from about 30 of the best known bands. It made life easier for DJs since if I liked the Ramones I would check out those CDs that said PIYL: Ramones, and not worry about the ones that said “PIYL: Air Supply.” The point is that the record companies would put their bands into categories and make their sound “familiar” to us by listing bands that we would know. As a DJ this was awesome, but it was a different story for the bands. If you have ever been in a band or every talked to someone in a band, you know that there is literally nothing that they hate more than being told that they “sound like” another band. When you’re in a band you work hard to make your music sound different than other people, so being told that it is not only unoriginal but also like someone else is a slap in the face. Sure a band may have influences, but they spend all those hours practicing to make sure that they have a sound uniquely theirs. What the record company does might make their CDs easier to consume and describe, but it fails to honor or even acknowledge the work the band has done. In life, we are the bands but we act like we’re the record companies. We live, feel, experience, and strive in a way that is uniquely ours. We become complex beings who love Mad Men, but hate TV; and that love working out, but keep a bag of bite sized Reece’s cups in our bag. We are defined by seemingly contrasting things that somehow harmonize within us into a glorious whole. That person works hard, is a dedicated parent, is a loving partner, and feels deeply. That person deserves to be known and have the richness of their personhood understood. That person should be energetically sought after by everyone, cherished by our partners, and revered by our children. But people don’t know see us that way. Instead, people see us by the labels...

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My Wife’s First Mother’s Day: What Do I Get Her?

I’m normally a great gift buyer, but since our son was born in February this will be my wife’s first Mother’s Day (well, she has a mother so the first as the direct object in a Mother’s Day sentence). I have never bought someone something on Mother’s Day (well, I have a mother, so the first time buying a gift for a mother I sleep with.) This is apparently a big deal. Everything I read says this is a big deal. Strangers at work and on the subway say this is a big deal. I get it, but what I don’t get, is what I’m supposed to do about it. I want Mother’s Day to be special for her. It’s a lot of pressure, and I have no idea what to get her.   Normally when I give my wife a present it shows how intimately I know her and love her. I like doing things that fit her interests or give her a chance to do something that she wouldn’t do for herself. The problem is that the only thing we’re currently interested in is our son, and he still smells like plastic he’s so new. In my desperation, I turned to the Internet to see what wisdom people I probably wouldn’t talk to in real life have to offer. And the first thing I found was about 96 sites emphasizing that the first Mother’s Day is a very special day for new moms. Thanks for the added pressure, Internet. Not useful. Here’s the one thing I’ve learned about being a dad — no matter how much my son loves me, no matter how many diapers I change, and no matter how much spit up I clean off the couch I am fairly replaceable.  I am not being self-deprecating or feeling sorry for myself, but that’s just the way it is. My son is three-months-old this Mother’s Day. My wife carried him, my wife feeds him, and my wife’s essence has been part of his existence since he had gills.  What I can do, what I feel like I have to do, is make sure that her first Mother’s Day is special so that she knows how grateful I am not just for what she does, but also for giving us our son. Of course this means I have to keep searching the Internet. Here’s one thing that’s...

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Try Not To Blink

We walked past a few pretty flowers today. My nearly two-year-old daughter gleefully determined the size, shape and color of this floral display. I smiled in amazement of how quickly she’d developed this perception from just a month ago. The visual connections were evident to her before but now she could verbalize them. This captivation with nature quickly gave way to a desire to run. Her curly blonde hair bounced in tandem with a playful gallop. My daughter’s passage from baby to toddler had arrived. Being a parent, one never seems to be fully prepared for the next transition in one’s child’s development. Despite the amount of experience or research one invests into parenting, a child’s growth spurt never fails to surprise. Feelings of panic and guilt arise as we fear we’ve not provided the appropriate level of time and energy to one’s children. “Where did the time go?!” And yet, after the self induced crisis mode subsides, we reconnect with our children and hopefully move forward. To a large extent, parenting can be described as an evolving work in progress. We’ve just scratched the surface on the vast potential of humanity. Trying to shape and harness such complex beings should be overwhelming. Template parenting does not work due to the simple fact that each child is different. Tighten your grasp on a child’s development and risk stifling creativity. Loosen your approach and inadvertently open the door to intangible corruptive influences. Yes ladies and gentlemen, raising children’s a tough gig. Yet today was a beautiful day. I was conscious to soak it all in. I know there will be surprises ahead. My wife and I will prepare as best we can. Our kids will frustrate us, baffle us, and bring us priceless joy. We’re embarked on the biggest, most enduring journey of our lives. Might as well try to enjoy the ride. Author: Vincent...

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Talkin’ With Pookie

Today is a special day. It’s Pookie’s ninth birthday. I’ve had the good fortune of being her step dad for nearly four years now. All told, I’ve known her for two-thirds of her life. And I’ve loved her every minute of it. While Caroline was carrying the triplets, countless well intentioned people would say something along these lines: “Just wait til you have your own children.” “I’m sure. I’ve got Alli, so I know what you mean.” “Yeah, but just wait. You’ll see.” The insinuation, of course, was that I didn’t know what they meant and that I wouldn’t until I had my own biological children. And I understand what those people meant. The best day of my life (aside from my wedding day) was the one when the wee threesome began their reign of planet Earth. But that said, I don’t love Alli any differently than I do A, B, or C, except, perhaps, for the fact that I love her like a parent loves his or her first child. My point? The fact that she’s not “mine” has never made a difference. And it never will. When I proposed to Lovie, it was important to me that Pookie be part of the process. So after I sought permission from Lovie’s mom (her dad is deceased), I sought the same thing from Pook. Here’s how it went down. “Pookie, I got something very important I wanna talk to you about. So pick anywhere in the whole house where you want to have a serious chat.” Oddly, she chose the very corner of her momma’s bedroom where we sat Indian style facing one another. Perhaps odder still, my hands were damp with anxiety. Deep breath. “You know I love you, right?” I began. “Yeeeessss,” she answered coyly. “Did you know I love your mommy, too?” “I thought you loved her!” She wore a grin that stretched from one ear to another. “Well you’re right. In fact, I love your mommy so much that I wanna marry her.” A look of genuine disappointment came across Pookie’s face. “But Mommy’s already married,” she said while looking down at the planks of the hardwood floor, her finger tracing an imaginary pattern. Understandable confusion for sure. After all, Pookie was only four, and divorce is anything but black and white. A less prepared man might have been derailed by such confusion. But luckily,...

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No Leave

I sometimes wake from a deep slumber without any predisposed thought to my current place in life. Time in effect is meaningless. I’m not a husband, father, or any other descriptive label assigned to define my existence. I’m just simply me. The guy trying to figure out the big picture. Then some sight or sound disrupts my stream of consciousness and much like a well oiled machine the disparate pieces of my existence click back into place forming the man I’ve become with all the inherent responsibilities as well as the joy of fatherhood. Certainly I’ve evolved as a Dad but yet I wonder if the uninhibited man of the past which continues to resurface during my early waking state shouldn’t still have a say at the table. The question of balance affects both parents. My wife can melt my heart with a simple glance, her countenance still having the effect of quickening my pulse in her presence. Her inner beauty shines through as well by way of comforting words and exceedingly generous nature. A wonderful caring mother to our children, I’m fortunate to have been graced by her love. And yet she too has encountered the growing pains of evolving into a parent. I would imagine for many parents it’s the root of many contentious escalated battles over seemingly harmless subject matter. So how does one meet the challenge without subordinating the man or woman that lies beneath the surface? I think the answer lies in one’s determination to not quit. The solution will come but only over time with sacrifice, compromise and dare I say enlightenment. I draw upon this newfound knowledge not from some late night self help guru or online oracle but rather my one and a half year old daughter. I was leaving my home a few nights ago to attend a martial arts class. My daughter, aware of my imminent departure, raced to the door, positioned herself between the door and I, then looked me dead in the eyes and told me in no uncertain terms “No leave!” As I bent down to gently pick her up to reassure her I’d return, she backed me up with a shove to my nose and told me once more emphatically, “No leave!” My wife got a chuckle out of it and honestly so did I. But I really admired my daughter’s gumption. She made a...

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The Trail

Each year Lovie is good enough to let me abandon my family and hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail for several days. Some of her friends give me grief about my annual sojourn. They seem to consider it nothing more than an alcohol-fueled bender in the woods. If they only knew. Hours and hours are spent consulting our trusty maps as well as several guidebooks to carefully analyze topography, mileage, water sources, weather patterns, shelters, and campsites before we even decide upon our itinerary. It takes almost as long to organize our backpacks. The last thing you can afford on the trail is too much weight, which means many of the things I might have wanted to take get left behind. That’s okay, though. You get by better with only the things you need. My friends and I temporarily trade our complicated but comfortable lives for simple, arduous ones. We hike up and down three-thousand-foot inclines, covering up to twenty miles a day, armed with nothing more than forty pounds of essentials, the clothes we’re wearing, and a desire to lead more meaningful lives. I can’t speak for my companions, but while I’m in the woods, I feel the entire gamut of emotions — from exhilaration after cresting a two-mile incline, to wonder while witnessing the divine beauty at the top, to relief at beginning a much-needed descent, to despair when staring at yet another uphill stretch, to exaltation when I finally see the campsite I’ve dedicated the previous eleven hours to reach. It’s there I’ll rest and replenish all so I can experience another collage of emotions the very next day. Last year’s trip was to span seven days and cover one-hundred-and-six miles. On the second night, we were right on schedule, camping out along the shores of Lake Watauga, and settling in for a much needed night of recuperation. I headed to my tent shortly after nine. At ten o’clock, I awoke to the rhythmic rustling of leaves accompanied by intermittent pops of breaking wood. Loud pops. Too loud to come from twigs, but rather from thick, fallen branches being snapped in two by something heavy. By something strong. One of our friends had stayed up and was still outside, reading by the dim glow of his headlamp. He looked up to spy a bear climbing the tree from which we had hung our food. He...

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