The misadventures of a first time father

Category Archives: Socializing

img_5420We certainly live in strange times.

Like much of the world as of this writing, America is dealing with the growing impact and spread of the COVID-19 virus. The numbers seem to grow at more rapid paces each day, and this week the big word has been “social distancing.”

In our area, like countless others, schools have been shut down, and health officials from the federal to the state and local levels are urging those who have the ability to work from home to do so and stay put.

Let me stop right here to acknowledge upfront my privilege, in that I am lucky to have a workplace that, in attempts to be proactive, has directed many of its employees to work from home during this time. My wife, an educator, has the same luxury.

So many are not as fortunate and I want to take a moment to recognize all you’re dealing with – physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically amid already heightened times.

My father, my brother, and other family and friends are among them.

I worry about my parents. I worry about whether my father (who has had 3-4 bouts with respiratory health issues this year) is coming into contact with individuals who could be carriers and not even know it, in a job that shows no sign of making changes to their daily business. I worry about my mother, who has her own share of health issues, who watches our children during the workday and whom I Skyped with for the very first time Sunday night.

It felt a little surreal. They weren’t in another state. They weren’t on vacation. They were their usually 20+ minute drive away. It’s surreal and weird, and I’m sure it unnerved them as well to be talking to a son and grandchildren they see practically every day through now only a screen, but it’s to do our best and protect them. Or at least as best we can.

We’re all just trying our best to watch out for one another. And keep each other safe. Our family. Our friends. Our communities.

In our household, these first few days we are setting our expectations low, but hoping to do our best managing the day to day office work while trying to maintain some type of routine or schedule for the kids when it comes to schoolwork and learning so they don’t fall behind. It will be rough, it will be messy, and it will require patience that I’m not convinced we have, but we’re going to do our best.

It’s an adjustment to a whole new way of living for a bit and acknowledging (and accepting) the interruption to the way of daily life you’re used to.

I have no doubt that, to many, these types of actions may seem overreactive. It’s hard to really feel a threat that you not only don’t see, but don’t see it’s effects immediately around you. But then, I guess that’s the point. If nothing happens, then that means it worked. And that’s good.

Sometimes doing what you feel is right is not always what’s popular.


Bar Busy with peopleSit down, kids, and I’ll tell you a story.

One of the greatest things I ever did was to take a low point in my life and esteem and turn it into motivation to focus on time for myself, and getting back in touch with things I enjoyed.

I was in my late 20s, single, and going through what might have been classified in retrospect as a form of depression. A good portion of that time was admittedly spent going out, drinking, dating, and in some form or another, always landing right back to the same starting point again, rinse and repeat. I also (being able to look back retrospectively and introspectively on myself) was not my best self and feel that I lacked a bit of maturity and awareness of the world outside my own interests and vision. Perhaps a symptom of my age at the time, perhaps just something that develops through our life experiences. But I’m glad I can see and admit that now.

I wasn’t happy and at the time I looked at many outside factors as things that might potentially make me happy. Only now, almost but not quite 15 years later, am I able to have the perspective to realize that nothing, not a thing that I could have obtained (a different job, a different living space, a relationship with XY or Z), none of it would have actually made a difference.

Because now I’m incredibly fortunate enough to realize that happiness can’t be found in any particular thing. You can chase it, but if you get it, you’ll find yourself still struggling to understand why you’re not better. That’s because being happy comes from something much closer to home. It can only be found within oneself. It’s in your outlook, your mindset, your gratitude for the good in life and letting it tip the scale on the bad.

Hand holding remote controlOne particular Fall/Winter season, after a few of those vicious cycles, I decided it was time to pull back and focus on a new way and a new focus, namely myself. I didn’t go out. I’d come home to my apartment after work, get cozy, make some food, watch some television or read, maybe work on something creative, and call it a night.

To some I think it might have looked like turning into a hermit, but for me at the time, it was refocusing my energies back onto time for myself and things I enjoyed. Quiet time. A time to get back in touch with myself again.

I tried theatre again – something I hadn’t done at that point since high school. Eventually that led to a small part at a playhouse I had never heard of about a half hour away. A friend had suggested to me that I give it a try. There, I met a wonderful group of people in what seemed like a rag tag group of performers trying their best with minimal resources to put on a show (paralleling a similar type of circumstance in the play’s story itself). And among that crew was a new friend – well, sort of. She’d make fun of me a lot. And I’d often leave thinking “that girl is so weird.”

Theatre stage curtain seatsBut, we were becoming friends.

About five or six months later, another play came around at the same playhouse and having had such a fun experience, I tried again. Lo and behold, “that weird girl” and I were both in the cast again and we found our friendship beginning to grow.

By the time the show’s run ended a few months later, we must have realized that we liked each other because I asked her out to a touring production of a Broadway show that came through town.

And I guess the rest, as they say, is history. Three-kids later history.

The realization to look inward for my happiness, that season of reconnecting with myself led me somewhere I never would have guessed, and somewhere I wouldn’t change for the world.

And that, kids, is how I met your mother.


Shazam and SivanaA rare opportunity presented itself this past weekend. Some close friends of more than 25 years got in touch to let me know that they were headed to the movies that very night, for a late (late by my standards these days) screening of Shazam! at 9:40. Was I interested?

By that time, the kids would be asleep. Meg was fine whether I went or stayed, with no plans on our end either way. So, in a rare (these days) display of socialization, I left the house after 9 and headed to the multiplex (do they call them multiplexes still? Is that a dated reference?)

So you went to the movies, you’re saying. What is so weird about that?

I’ll offer you the small bit of perspective that makes this very rare in our personal case: the last time Meg and I went to the movies together was to see Toy Story 3 in 2010. Since then, I went to the movies in Christmas 2017 to see The Last Jedi with my brother-in-law, and when Meg and I (and gramma) took the kids to see Mary Poppins Returns this winter. Those are any movie-going ventures of the last decade. So a cinematic commitment like this was a personal big deal.

shazam - ordwayAnd I was excited. I’ve always enjoyed the Captain Marvel / Shazam characters and story about a boy and his friends gaining adulthood and super powers when they say a magic word. It’s the ultimate in childhood wish fulfillment.

Admittedly, I haven’t read a Shazam comic since Jerry Ordway’s masterpiece of a series Power of Shazam in the 90s (it hasn’t been collected, which is a crime to comics, so if you find issues of the series, pick them up), so I was going in with no contemporary knowledge of the character.

With that said, I loved this movie. Loved it!

It was a superhero movie full of heart and an emphasis on family. The entire cast is dynamite. Zachary Levi, who I loved watching on Chuck back in its day on NBC, was better than I could have imagined as the child in the adult body of a superhero, while Mark Strong made Dr. Thaddeus Sivana more terrifying than I ever would have thought from the comic pages I remember. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Grace Fulton as Mary…the list goes on and on, but every single one of them brought an earnestness to the screen that was an absolute delight.

Shazam Family

As I say, there was a lot to this version of the character I was unfamiliar with (but am told can be found in more contemporary comics, which I’ll have to now check out), but none of that mattered as I sat there in the movie theatre. I was in awe. I smiled, I laughed, I got excited every time I heard that magic word and lightning struck, causing the transformation from boy to hero and back again, and me as audience viewer into a kid all over again too.

Far too often I hear cries for realism in comic books and their movie counterparts, especially when it comes to super heroes. But super heroes in and of themselves are, you know what? Not that realistic. So if we’re skewing reality anyway, why not make them fun, and maybe even uplifting? It’s what Christopher Reeve’s Superman did, and Shazam does in spades thanks to its stellar cast, sharp script courtesy of Henry Gayden and keen direction of David Sandberg, not to mention the countless other crew and cast members that make a film possible.

It was a delight.

Sure, there were a few “sh!$s” and middle fingers that didn’t bother me but would prevent it from being accessible to younger audiences or a full family with little ones (along with the scariness of the Seven Deadly Sins personified). However, even with that said, it certainly is something I plan to add to my rarely expanding DVD collection for future viewing.

This was hands down the best superhero feature film effort I’ve seen from Warner Bros / DC Comics in the past decade or so and should be the tonal template by which other superhero movies follow.

And as I try to avoid any and all spoilers, please, stay for the credits. As if the film itself didn’t carry enough easter eggs for fans of the Big Red Cheese, the mid-credits scene brought in one of my all-time favorite villains and sets up a potential plot for another installment.

“More ways than a mind can imagine,” indeed.

If this is what lies ahead, sign me up now.

Shazam!

Bring on the sequel.

shazam mr mind


messA toddler goes running through the room, a kindergartner close behind, if not passing her from room to room. Calls to cut it out fall upon tiny, deaf ears. An infant now awake and needing to be held. Laundry piling, baths to be given, meals to be made and eaten. Work. The baby’s crying again. Bills. Holidays. Yard work. The kindergartner just got his toddler sister upset and she’s screaming. Transportation. School. Groceries. Now it’s the other way around and the kindergartner is crying.

Life…can be and has been a bit of a challenge as of late. At times, it’s downright overwhelming.

We’re adjusting to life from two to three, doing so on very little sleep, and just trying to keep the household functioning on even the most basic level. What used to be divide and conquer is now one handles the baby while the other manages the two eldest. Or, in some scenarios, all three if one is not available (I’m thinking of a recent nighttime appointment I had where Meg was left with all three kids on her own).

Why am I telling you this? What purpose does it serve?

It’s because I’m being honest with you. I’m letting you know that life, for all its joyous feelings, of all the warmth of a growing family we wouldn’t change or give up for the world, it, yes, can be a challenge or just plain overwhelming.

I say this honestly because it is easy to get down on oneself when we live amid what often seems like a perfect world, always outside of our own, whomever we are, when we glimpse the lives of others through the lens of social media. Most of what we see is not honesty. Maybe it’s partially true, but it’s cherry-picked. It’s a best-of reel, hand selected to present an image and persona of perfection. But it’s not. They’re just crafted to make you think they are.

walk on the pier

“Family decided on a spontaneous walk together across this pier. Crazy day but wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Wait. Who took this totally candid, not at all planned picture?

We hear a lot about it when it comes to teens, growing up in a digital world that many of us only walked into when we were in college or adults. But these days, between a plethora of social media networks, the same desire for acceptance, for validation, has crossed the age threshold into many adults who litter their online presence with only the moments of perfection. But life isn’t perfect, for anyone. It can be fun. It can be crazy. It can be full of love. But life is also full of flaws, of failures, of tripping up and learning. Life gets messy, but somehow so many feel it a taboo topic to talk about let alone show.

treehouse couple

“No better way to end the day than with a cup of our hand-mulled wine in the treehouse we found time to make in the backyard during naptime out of repurposed wood.”

Instead, people try to gloss over the imperfections of life that shape us for a shiny veneer that looks great from the outside.

So, please, remember that the next time you start doubting yourself, your own life, because of what you see on social media. You’re doing great. And if you don’t need to litter social media with curated images that reflect a life unlike the one you’re living, then you know what? You’re doing even better.


Eclipse 01

Waiting for the mother ship.

Like much of America on Monday, I was awash in a world that was talking about the solar eclipse, as the moon stepped in front of the sun like a rude person at the checkout line who either doesn’t see you or doesn’t care.

That was a pretty cynical comparison, right? We all slip into it now and then…cynicism, I mean. What is happening to this world? What is going on with people? Things are just awful!

We all have days where we doubt humanity. If you don’t, bravo. I want to be more like you. I try very hard to be, but I’m not fully there yet, I admit.

But sometimes just a tiny little thing can turn that around.

There were lots of fun moments to be had as I saw people’s jokes and funny satire on social media, but I had no intention of actually watching the event itself. Stores, library, and the like were all out of the special glasses, I was working, and there wasn’t even a box around to make a pinhole viewer if I wanted to. Unprepared was I.

Eclipse 03

It all started with her glasses and generosity.

But once the eclipse began, I decided to go for a little walk out of my work office. I couldn’t look up to the sky (unless I wanted to burn my retinas), but maybe I’d be able to see if the light outside had changed. Would it look like evening or nighttime?

Where we are, it didn’t get much darker. At best it looked a few hours ahead of what it really was. That late afternoon/early evening light of summer, I suppose. A moment or two later, a young woman from another office on the university campus walked by, asking if I had taken a look and pulled out a pair of special eclipse glasses that she purchased online. She then let me have a look as well.

There it was, well, partial for us, anyway…as the shadow of the moon covered part of the sun.

I thanked her for the chance to take a look, and a few moments later, she shared them with one of the university police officers, who came out to look. Moments later, another officer came by to take a look. Within just a few minutes, a crowd of people from various offices had just sort of congregated at this crossroads we were at, each taking turns to get a glimpse.

Eclipse 02

The crowds and the smiles just grew and grew. Community at its best.

When a group of students came by, the glasses were passed to them as this impromptu viewing party grew bigger and bigger.

It didn’t really hit me until I saw the crowds of college students, each one passing the glasses on to the next, looking up to the sky, their faces lighting up with smiles, then talking with each other about what they saw.

Dozens of people who just happened through the same spot, all smiling, all happy, all having a wonderful moment of a community together – thanks to the sun, the moon, and a spirit of generosity that started with one person and spread like the sun’s rays.


Party - Birthday Boy 2We recently had a birthday party for our little guy. It was the first time we ever actually had it at our house. Usually we relied on the kindness of grandparents on both sides to get us through over the years, as our house had long been too small to have anyone over beyond a group of 2 or 4.

With our new digs, though, we figured it was finally time to give it a try, and try we did, not only with family, but this time inviting some of his friends from pre-k to come as well. And was it ever worth it to see the look on his face when he was surprised by the arrival of each of these friends.

Rain the day before and morning of forced us to change up plans a bit, moving from the backyard to the garage. Well, after it was emptied and cleaned out, of course. Then with two pop-up tents from parents placed outside the garage door, and tables and chairs inside, we were good to go as family and friends arrived for this gathering of little heroes.

The theme was his choice (Superheroes), brilliantly executed by Meg with foods that added a heroic flavor such as Captain America Shields (circle pretzels with white chocolate and a red, white or blue M&M in the middle), kryptonite bars (rice krispies treats with drizzled white chocolate and glowy green sprinkles), and some foods that gained their super powers through some signs I made using the PicMonkey app on my phone and a variety of superhero images.

Party signs total

We transformed regular sheet pizza into Plastic Man’s Power Pizza, a vegetable tray into Poison Ivy’s Veggie Platter, and drinks stations became Joker Juice or for the adults, Chief O’Hara’s Adult Beverages (Begorrah!).

Meg also took giant cardboard boxes leftover from a swing set we assembled the week prior and created a backdrop of buildings for little superheroes to have their picture taken by.

Party - Kids and worm

Apparently all we needed for a party were crayons and a worm.

The kids crowded around a table to color super hero print outs, ran around wearing paper super hero masks from Party City and even enjoyed the arrival of a little sunshine just long enough to dry out parts (emphasis on parts…watch your step unless you like mud) to get some time in running through the backyard.

Oh, and never underestimate, much like the crayons and coloring pages, how something as simple as a worm coming out of the ground can create a fascination in a group of children that can be hard to pull them away from.

It felt just plain wonderful.

And when it came time to open gifts and he had oohed and awed over various toys, Legos, and books, I gave him a gift I had spent the past several months putting together for him.

You see, back at Halloween, he designed his own costume, which Meg made come to life – a superhero version of himself.

Hallowen heroes

Us at Halloween as a self-styled superhero version of himself.

But post-Halloween, something wonderful happened. He kept the character going, imagining new adventure after new adventure, as well as a rogues gallery of villains that he was going up against with each backyard or bedroom crime fighting spree. I did my best to covertly take notes of the superpowers, the villain, and turned it into a script for a short comic book story.

I then dusted off my drawing pencils and illustrated the story, handing it over to my good friend and collaborator on two indie comic book series, who graced it with his inks, colors and lettering skills. From there, I sent it out to a comic printer, and upon return, had a limited edition comic book of my son in his super hero persona, solving a mystery, overcoming the very villains he’s created as he plays, and making it to his birthday party to find family and friends waiting.

The shock on his face “Wait…what…how did…how did you get a comic book of…me?” when he opened it was everything. The fact that he asked me to read it for him four separate times that afternoon and again before bed was everything else.

With each passing day, he grows a little more, shows me more of the world and myself than I thought possible, and though not every day is perfect for us, every day he becomes more and more my real-life superhero.

Party - Montage of comic



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