You Can't Catch Being Gay, Karen!*

Disney has really done it this time. As if their attempt to take over the entertainment world wasn’t enough, they are now introducing the first ever openly gay character in the company’s history. *Gasp*. How dare they ruin our beloved cartoons with such filth?! I can already hear the screams of old white people. This will surely be the nail in the coffin for our civilization. We must rise up against this house of mouse.

As you can imagine, with Disney making this announcement, society decided to rear its ugly bigoted head and spew hate and ignorance all over the internet. This will likely spill into white “Christian” homes where the neighborhood moms will gather for wine/book/ignore-my-kids night on “Karen’s” veranda, complete with tiki torches and candles with the words Live, Love, and Laugh inscribed on each one, respectively. Welcome to American suburbia. Inside you will find casual racism and a general disgust for anything that doesn’t think, act, or love the same way they do.

None of this is new, nor does it even shock me. Maybe it’s my naiveite or hopefulness that by 2020 we would be living in a more accepted society. The thing is, what you believe or what someone else believes, makes no difference to either party. You’re welcome to have your convictions as long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else’s.

It is human nature to desire acceptance and inclusion. We are all looking for that special connection to the world where we are free to be ourselves without the fear of admonishment and ridicule. These are basic human needs that we all deserve.

“White privilege” is a fairly new term that has been concocted and overused in the last couple of years. Personally, I can’t stand the phrase, and not because I’m a straight white male, but rather because it addresses a cultural problem with a negative connotation. This causes people to immediately go on the defense before the conversation even begins.

Our culture relies heavily on social media to keep us informed and in touch with the world, from the safety of our own toilet. Think about that for a moment; we don’t break from the arguing and constant bombardment of political trash talk and horrendous news stories, to take a poop. That is how tethered we have become to our devices. This has led to people feeling much more comfortable with how they talk to others. Being behind a screen provides a lot of protection to the would-be bully. These types of arguments don’t happen in the real world, because if they did, a lot more people would end up getting punched in the mouth. There is no civil discourse on the net and morality has been checked at the door.

When we see something on TV or a movie, like 2 people of the same gender kissing or having sex, it’s ok to feel uncomfortable. You don’t have to like it, because that wasn’t the intention. It’s not for you. Every single other scene of love and affection since the dawn of television, has been for you. Congratulations, you’re experiencing diversity.

It is completely acceptable to disagree with how other’s love, pray, eat, work, or play. You have that right, and so do they. It is not your job to go out in the streets and protest for equal rights. You are not required to do any such activity. However, you do have to accept that everyone has the freedom to live their life the way they choose to live.

** “Karen” is simply a personality trait and does not reflect my views on anyone actually named Karen. I’m sure you’re all fantastic people, when you’re not demanding more lemon water from your server.

Everything is Going to Be OK

Well, here we are folks, quarantined and forced to stay home from all restaurants, bars, and public events and spaces. Matters will likely get worse before they get better. I can’t help but to think that maybe this will help all of us recognize how much we take for granted and to become more grateful for the amazing life that we’ve been given. There’s a silver lining here, I’m positive of it.

Before the closures become a real thing at 9pm, I figured I better get my coffee fix in at my usual spot. I’m the only person here, as I kind of expected. The adjoining stores and eateries all around, which are normally teeming with people, are vastly empty and barren. The roadways look like Christmas morning or something out of a zombie flick. It’s eerily quiet for a late Sunday afternoon, with the sun shining and the weight of seasonal depression lightening. Just as people are starting to get outside again, we are forced back in. It’s like Punxsutawney Phil had an evil trick up his furry little sleeve.

The last thing any of us should do, is panic. We will get through this. This is all new territory for everyone, so we must exercise patience and understanding. No one alive in the United States and most of the world, has ever dealt with something of this nature and magnitude. Arguing over what politician did or didn’t do, is not only pointless, but also a waste of time. Let’s put these brain cells to good use and be part of the solution.

Life is uncertain right now as we navigate through troubled waters. I assure you that these closures are completely necessary. Check your conspiracy theories at the door or trade them for some logic. This isn’t a political stunt, the lizard people aren’t coming for you, and you can rest assured that everyone is doing everything they can to make this as quick and painless as possible. No one benefits from shutting down the entire country. No one.

To get through this, we all need to stay positive and remind ourselves that this too shall pass. We have extra time with our kids to play games and eat dinner as a family. We are very fortunate to have everything that we do, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t stressed to the max. What we do with that stress and how we handle it, is what will determine how we get through it.

I wish you all the best and pray that this event is over sooner, rather than later. Stay healthy, wash your hands, and drink some bourbon. That’s an order.

Wherefore is Mine Own Pen Hath Lost…

Do any of my fellow writers have a pen or pencil that you just absolutely adore? It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Personally, I never leave home without my Zebra F-701. It’s an all steel-body pen with a notched grip and metal ink cartridges. For a few extra dollars you can swap out the standard cartridge and replace it with a Fisher Space Pen refill. You know the one; it writes upside down, under water, below zero, or even in extreme heat. I like it for its balance, durability, and precision.

I read a report years ago that said one of the dirtiest items you’ll come into contact with, is a restaurant server’s pen or any publicly used writing device for that matter. Just think of where the hands that touched that….blech. I can’t even finish that thought. So gross.

Today, I was visiting my daughter’s school for the annual Dads Day. At some point, I lost my beloved writing tool. I didn’t even notice it was gone right away, but it didn’t take long to realize it, since I’m constantly jotting down ideas and thoughts. I went into a slight panic, which really wasn’t necessary considering there is an Office Max about 300 yards from my current position. For 7 bucks, I can replace it. Except, I didn’t want to just replace it. I wanted my note taker back.

I don’t see this as just another pen. We’ve been through a lot together and it’s the only thing between the paper and my thoughts. If it had a brain and could comprehend what it wrote, it would know more about me than any person on this planet. It has seen my highest highs and lowest lows, never judging or laughing. It just does exactly what it’s suppose to do; give me a voice and an outlet for my happiness, depression, anger, and solitude. This isn’t just a pen, it’s a weapon and an instrument and a magical wand that can take you places you’ve only ever dreamt of, like Cleveland.

So, you can picture my dilemma. I had already left the school and had just sat down at a coffee shop to do some work. It wasn’t clipped to my shirt, nor was it in my back pocket. I even searched the car, but came up with nothing. I went back to my coffee and pulled out one of my other 12 inferior pens. These things don’t know me at all. They are simply here for emergency purposes or if someone needs to borrow one because they are ill-prepared.

I actually hated the thought that someone would find my pen and not know what they had and they certainly wouldn’t appreciate its value. It would likely end up in some little kid’s bookbag or into one of those pencil cases with all the broken crayons and markers that leak everywhere. Oh, the humanity! My poor pen is out there in the world somewhere, wondering why I had abandoned it. For shame. For shame.

I decide I can’t just let this go. I call up to the school and I explain that it is of great urgency that I speak with my daughter immediately. I quickly explain my awful situation. The secretary said she completely understands the importance and transfers me posthaste. Once my little one is on the line, I tell her of my urgent matter. She giggles on the other end of the phone call, ignoring my strife. She says “Dad, calm down. I found your pen and I put it in your tool bag (We were working on a project in which I had to bring in some tools). I was going to bring it home with me, but I didn’t want you spazzing out, like you are clearly doing anyways.” I want to be mad at her for being such a smartass, but she saved my pen from ending up in a (*Gasp*) junk drawer. She will be rewarded later this evening.

I spring from my chair in the café and like a very slow-moving lightning bolt with asthma, I run to the parking lot, keys in one hand, and my inhaler in the other. I click the button to unlock the car and tear open the passenger door. There on the crumb filled car seat, is my small black bag, with an old Cincinnati Reds keychain in place of the zipper’s pull tab. I rip open the bag with reckless abandon and quickly start rummaging through the contents. There it is, shining from the bottom of the canvas bin. It was glowing brightly as if to say “Hello there!”. My dread quickly fades and turns to great jubilation.

Once I’m back inside, I take my seat and reach for my hand sanitizer with aloe and gently bathe my little inscriber of any possible horridness that might emanate in a 3rd grade classroom, like Coronavirus or Cooties.

Everything is right again. We’re reunited and ready to begin our next adventure!

P.S. Wash your damn hands!

L O L

Alone in your car

Windows up

On a Bluetooth call

Oblivious to the world

I watched with intrigue

As you laughed

And couldn’t contain it

Your heart was beaming

Genuine and true

Blissfully crying

Carelessly happy

I imagined your laugh

and heard your joy

I wished it was me

And wondered to myself

How can I be

That happy

My Sister’s Cancer Battle

undefined
Hey folks, I try to keep this sort of thing off of my pages, but our family, specifically my sister Kellyn, needs as much help as she can get. On Christmas day, she was diagnosed with Stage 4B Cervical Cancer. It has spread to her lymph nodes and lungs as well. As I’m sure you all know, it’s very expensive to be sick in this country. She has had to leave her job, as well as her husband having to cut his hours back in order to take care of his wife.

My sister is a strong woman and is fighting for her life every single day. We are asking for donations to help ease their burdens and reduce some of the insane medical debt that she’s already incurred in less than 2 months.

Thank you all in advance and God Bless.

Love,

Ryan Nadolny

Thank you.

Living a Nightmare

When I talk to my friends that don’t have kids, I try to avoid the phrase “you can’t understand because you’re not a parent”, or some variation of it. It sets a negative connotation and implies that they are incapable of having deep feelings about someone or something they love. However, every parent knows; the biological connection you have to your children is like no other emotion or feeling you’ve ever had. It’s a bond that is difficult to put into words. It’s kind of like being overwhelmed by ocean waves that keep pushing you under the surface. Except instead of it being water that’s trying to drown you, it’s a sensation of relentless love and responsibility. Nothing in life is more important than the well-being of your child. Whether it be mental or physical, their comfort and security is a matter of the utmost importance. Simply put, there is nothing you wouldn’t do for them.

On Superbowl Sunday, we were busy getting ready for a small party of friends and family to come over and watch the game. Our little girls were outside playing on our quiet and traffic free dead-end street, one on her bike and the other on a scooter. We were keeping an eye on them and had already given them a 5-minute warning before they had to come inside and get cleaned up.

Mom was in the kitchen and I was busy searching for the constantly missing remote control. As I passed by the front door, I noticed the scooter was flipped upside down, but I didn’t think anything of it. The girls were out of my line of sight. Next, I heard faint screaming and our 16-year-old telling us that the kids were yelling. My wife came around the corner and went out the front door to inspect. I heard her yell my name in a state of panic. I looked up through the front window of the house to see Maddie lying on the ground motionless. I made a dash to the door, expecting my wife to tell me she had skinned her leg or maybe broken a bone. She started to scream for me to call 911 because she was unresponsive.

I sprinted across the yard to the street, attempting to dial 911, and assess the situation. When I got to Maddie’s side, her eyes were rolled into the back of her head and she wasn’t waking up. Sarah continued to call out her name and try to get a response. At this point, I am absolutely frantic. I could hear my own heart beating. It’s hard to keep your composure and give details to an emergency dispatcher while seeing your first-born child lying lifelessly on the concrete.

Maddie finally opened her eyes and started to slowly come around. She looked very confused and disoriented. It was a momentary sigh of relief, as we still weren’t out the woods yet. She was complaining that her spine hurt. I laid on my stomach and took Maddie’s hand while Sarah stood over her and held her head straight until paramedics got there. It felt like an eternity, even though they were there within a few minutes. I asked Mo to squeeze my finger, which she firmly did, and then refused to let go. She was also able to wiggle her toes and feet. All great signs so far. Thankfully, she was wearing her helmet, so there did not appear to be any trauma to the head.

The paramedics arrived and quickly went into action. In addition to them, there were 3 cop cars and a second fire unit. It probably looked like a bit of overkill from the neighbor’s point of view, but it made me feel better that we had the entire emergency response team in Lambertville right in front of our house.

Maddie was put into a neck brace and thoroughly looked over. They loaded her into the ambulance to get her out of the cold and finish checking her out. Thankfully, one of the paramedics let me climb in with her to help keep her calm and relaxed. I told her I would never leave her side, no matter what.

After a few minutes of observation and passing all of their tests, they concluded that she likely just had the wind knocked out of her and her body went into a ‘reset’ mode. Her blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels were all right where they should be, as well as her lungs sounding perfect. They examined her back and couldn’t find any contusions or anything out of place. Thank God!

I would like to take a moment to give huge props and a thank you to the amazing 911 dispatcher for his composure and steadfast support. These folks do not get enough credit for the job they do. Considering the majority of people they talk to on a daily basis, are ones that are experiencing terrible and even life threatening problems. Your invaluable work has not gone unnoticed.

To the first responders; thank you for your quick actions and for keeping our Maddie-Mo comfortable and safe. Your reassurance and knowledge were so very helpful in putting all of our minds at ease and allowing us to start breathing again.

Later in the evening as I was reflecting on the day, I couldn’t help but be extremely thankful for the family I have been blessed with. Everyone did their part to make sure Maddie was tended to properly. Laura screaming for help, Aislynn bringing Mo a blanket, Ashley making calls to other family members and then taking care of Laura, and my wife for remaining composed and holding our little one’s head from moving around. Everyone made me very proud that day.

We kept Maddie home the next day and let her get some extra rest. She is doing well and you wouldn’t even know there was a problem. This all could’ve been so much worse; had she not been wearing her helmet. I know kids don’t like to wear them, but please don’t let them do these sorts of activities without one. It could easily be the difference between life and death or paralysis.

Forgiveness is Not Defeat

For the first time since I’ve started writing every day, I’m having trouble putting my emotions and feelings to paper. I sit and stare at the screen and try to force the words. Which often results in hastily deleting everything and switching over to the time-suck that is Facebook. My frustration then leads to arguing politics with people I don’t even know. Talk about a waste of good brain cells.

Writing has helped me to cope with a large amount of my daily struggles. I rarely do it at home, but rather at a coffee shop of some sort. Thankfully, a brand-new shop just opened down the street from me. I prefer leaving over staying at home so that I have less distractions. I put on my music, open the laptop, take out my note book and my journal, pen case, newspaper, and start transcribing my thoughts into a poem or story. It’s very cathartic and even Zen-like.

When the words are nothing but a jumbled mess, then the stress starts to back up. I can’t focus and I feel like anger starts to take over my world. It’s as if everyone is out to get me. The anxiety creeps up from the depths of my stomach until it reaches my throat and I feel like I’m being lightly strangled.

As most of you know by now, my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. This was a major blow to the whole family and we’ve all been coping in one way or another; some healthy and some not so much. How does one healthily cope, when they feel their world is crashing down around them?

My sister and I haven’t always been super close, but we weren’t estranged from each other, either. Just very different people with different outlooks on life. Last year around this time, we got into a giant fight at our Super Bowl party. Screaming and yelling over something fairly petty. Tempers were flaring and I asked her to leave. Which she did, in tears. For nearly an entire year, we didn’t speak. The only time was during our Grandmother’s funeral. We were both stubborn and neither of us would make the first step to admit we were wrong.

The year went by fast. I had my own problems and health issues and told myself I didn’t care if Kellyn was hurt by things or not. I was not going to apologize. Yet, I thought about her often, and I missed her. Around Thanksgiving I invited her over for dinner. She never even responded. The next day I sent her a simple “I love you” message. No response. I didn’t really expect one, nonetheless I wanted her to know I was reaching out. From that point on, every week or two, I would send her the same 3-word text. No response. I told my wife that I was going to keep sending her the same message until she was ready to talk. On Christmas Eve, I got an “I love you” back from my sister, who was lying in a hospital bed and fearing the worst news was coming. Her message  made me feel all warm inside. It was like getting to open one of your Christmas presents a day early.

I would find out later that every time I had text my sister one of those messages, it happened to be the same moment that she was in excruciating pain. She said there was no way I could’ve known anything was wrong, since she hadn’t told anyone. I don’t know what made me text her in the first place, but I felt compelled to do so.

This last month has been a hard one on her and the entire family. Chemotherapy and surgery and doctor appointments, not to mention the pain and lethargy. One thing I am eternally grateful for, is the relationship that my sister and I are building.

As I have been reflecting on my life, I really feel I never gave my sister credit for being the amazing woman she is. Sure, she’s the most tenacious person I’ve ever known, but she would probably say the same thing about me. I judged her too hard and never saw her for the funny and beautiful soul that she grew up to be. She’s kind and gentle, and a phenomenal Aunt to her 7 nieces. I’ve really been missing out on her life, because she wasn’t more like me.

Kellyn had to shave her head this week, which if you know her, you know how much she adores her hair. She didn’t want anyone with her when she did it, but she came out looking like a badass and still just as gorgeous. She has this G.I. Jane/Ripley thing going on. It looks great and I hope she learns to wear it as a badge of honor and pride.

If there is one piece of super cliché advice I could offer, it would be to stop taking your life and those you love most, for granted. You rob yourself of happiness and peace when you allow inconsequential instances dictate your life. It’s ok to be the first to say “I’m sorry”. Forgiveness isn’t defeat. Being too stubborn to admit when you’re wrong, is defeat. Hold your people close. Tell them you love them. Don’t waste another moment being angry or holding a grudge. It’s just not worth it.

With gratitude,

~Ryan

Grace

Clap of thunder

Explosive electric light

Darkness devours, but

Her soul shines bright

Flowers wilt, and

Leaves begin to fall

Cold is coming, but

Her smile warms all

No birds left to sing

Nest empty and bare

Forlorn and blue, but

Her embrace like a prayer

Heavy winds howl

Waves crash down

Floods consume all, but

Her song cures a frown

Dangerous elements

Conditions unknown

Weather changing, but

With Her you’re never alone

Fighting the Right Enemy

Anyone that truly knows me, knows how much I love dogs. Simply put, they are the best. Just the absolute best. Years ago, when I first read about what Michael Vick had done to all of those poor pups, my heart broke. Then it filled with rage and I wanted Vick’s head on a silver platter. How could anyone not?! He and his crew heinously killed, at the very least, eight dogs. For as long as these fights had been going on, I wouldn’t be surprised if that number is much higher.

Fast forward a decade and the story still leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Vick did an 18-month stint in prison for his involvement with dog fighting. In addition, he lost his $130 million contract with the Falcons, as well as Nike and the rest of his endorsements, causing him to file for bankruptcy. Despite all of this, he managed to get back into the NFL, which has upset a lot of people. They want him gone for good.

Since, Michael Vick has become a major advocate for animal rights, donating his time and money, to stop the very thing he went to prison for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we praise the man and hail him as some sort of hero. However, there is something to be said about his transformation. Vick also speaks with kids at inner city schools, warning the children not to fall into the traps that he did as a young man growing up in the projects. The pressure to join a gang is something that most of us will never have to know.

Recent news has Vick being named as honorary captain for the NFL’s upcoming Pro Bowl game. As you can imagine, the country is up in arms over it. They want him out. They want him dead. They want him tortured. The very people upset about his torturing animals to death, want to torture him to death. This might be the most upside down, backwards, and redundant way of thinking.

Our current society is so incredibly predictable it’s almost laughable. The media reports that he’s being named honorary captain and it takes just mere seconds for it to anger people from coast to coast. People are triggered instantly and insanely upset about something they didn’t even know they were mad about. In no time, posts and statuses start going up like wildfire. There is no stopping it now. In wildfire suppression, firefighters use a technique called a “burnout”. This is the process of starting smaller fires to stop the bigger fire from spreading. Unfortunately, this rarely works in the case of internet activism. Instead of slowly burning out, the fighting simply shifts to the next “injustice” that the media tells us to be upset about.

Our due diligence ends with the signing of a made-up petition and no further action is taken after that. This has become our way of “helping”. No one cares about the actual atrocities that we are plagued with; they just want someone to pay the price. Even when that person has done their time and paid their debt to society. There is no such thing as becoming reformed. We don’t allow people to better themselves and mature. You can never escape your past or be forgiven for your wrongdoings. God will forgive your sins, but “Cathy from Tallahassee” will not. In this particular case, the dispute between everyone is not about the real problem; dog fighting. It is now a contest of ignorance and egos to determine who has the best “expert” opinion.

This is all part of what is called “fake outrage”. It’s where an individual gets all pumped up over an issue, conjures up a thought that has been planted in their soft frontal lobe, and then spews it all over their social media pages. It is my belief that Vick served his time and has more than made up for his violent actions against helpless animals. This in no way condones his acts. I believe this is where everyone gets confused. What he did was unacceptable, but it is forgivable.

My suggestion would be to take this anger you have for this man and redirect it towards those that are still involved in dog fighting. Vick is no longer the enemy. He has renewed himself and is attempting to right his wrongs. We should be working alongside him to save these pups from a cruel and tortuous life.

We have so much more control over the predicaments that we are faced with, than we even realize. Social and mainstream media are racking in millions of dollars every day over us fighting with each other. Our expectable nature is fueling these news conglomerates and we are dividing ourselves further and further apart. It’s not the government or the media doing it, it’s us. They’re just profiting off of it.

So, how do we resist the urge to argue with someone on the internet? It’s so easy to do and it doesn’t require you to even leave the comfort of your couch. They’re faceless arguments that often result in name calling and a devaluation of other’s thoughts and opinions. Rarely do you see people being subjective and open to new ideas. We solve nothing because we’re too busy waiting to talk instead of actively listening. In my opinion, it is best to avoid it at all costs. This may seem easier said than done, but you aren’t going to win. Not because you are wrong, rather the person you are arguing with has already made up their minds. Everything after the fact is futile. Save yourself from the headache, extra stress, and frustration.

We are a very capable society that can accomplish great things if we would just learn to work together. We can make this world a better place if we would just step away from our computers and dig into our communities and neighborhoods. A little love can go a really long way.

With gratitude,

Ryan

We Can Do Better

Gentleman, we need to have a little talk. This will likely pertain to those that are in relationships in which you live with your mate. Although, those that are single or live separately from their significant other, should also pay attention. There will be information given that you will be able to keep in your arsenal, should future problems arise.

For the longest time, we were the hunters, gatherers, providers, and protectors of the family. Many of us still are. And the woman were the homemakers, cooks, maids, and chief boo-boo fixers. It is a dynamic that seems to have run its course and it is imperative that we change with the times. Women are now CEO’s, executive chefs, artists, business owners, and general bad asses. They have become heads of state and family. They even kill their own spiders, now. Yet, they don’t seem to get the respect that they deserve. Giving them their due, doesn’t take anything away from our own accomplishments. Who doesn’t like praise and validation? It is the biggest motivator and a lost art in most of today’s business models. But I digress.

Men, we have it really good. At least the ones I know, including myself, and likely most guys for that matter. Our ladies maintain the household better than we could ever dream of doing. The deal in our home is, she does the cleaning and I will shoot all the bad guys and slay dragons and stuff. It’s a fair trade off, just don’t tell her I said that. Being off work for an extended period of time, has provided me with a unique look into how the American family runs on a daily basis. It turns out, the laundry doesn’t wash, dry, and fold itself. I know. I was shocked, too.

Being home meant I needed to take on more of a stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) role. In an agreement with my wife; I would cook, clean, do laundry, etc. Let me tell you something, this is hard work, and it sucks. The hours are terrible and it never ends. It often goes without any thanks whatsoever. I’m not sure how many kids we even have anymore. It used to be four, but then on some occasions I’ll see another kid. Where did they come from? Are they 3-D printing themselves now? These little crumb snatchers can destroy a room in a matter of seconds. They’re like a NASCAR pit crew of destruction.

I do my best, and it isn’t even half of what my wife does on a day-to-day basis. I can barely remember everything that needs to be done, let alone accomplishing it all. I should probably start using the Alexa to-do list function. I believe most women would prefer to do things on their own in the first place. So, if they are asking for your help, don’t squander this opportunity to show her that you’re part of this team. By her asking, she is saying that she needs you. Do not take this lightly. My wife asked me to hang a coat rack in the laundry room for 2 years. When I finally “got around” to accomplishing this task, it took me less than six minutes, and I got to use power tools. Everyone wins. The point is, putting off these sometimes-mundane tasks, causes more headaches than they’re worth. I was able to make my wife ecstatically happy, during a commercial break. That hasn’t happened since we first started dating!

I should remind you; I do not have a job outside of freelance writing for a couple hours a day. A task that can be done at any hour and at my convenience. When I was working full time, I would come home and kick my feet up. Before work, I often lounged or did as I pleased. This was not a functional team. Guys, do not do this! I repeat, do not do as I once did. It will cause you great heartache and stress. More importantly, it will make things so much harder on your partner.

A typical day for my wife involves a full work day which is often extended by a few hours, a couple of days a week. When she gets home, she prepares dinner, bathes the kids, picks up around the house, does laundry, and if she’s lucky she gets to unwind a little before bed with some sort of awful British T.V. show. She also handles the finances, listens to the plights of teenage girls, and reads stories to our little ladies. She even found time to beat breast cancer last year. Saying that we couldn’t do this without her is the understatement of the year.

As the only male in the household, (besides one of the dogs and a potato shaped guinea pig) I regularly feel out of place, outnumbered, and out of touch. Nevertheless, I have learned so much from all of them. They have taught me to be softer, more compassionate, patient, and understanding. I’ve also found that they tend to cry a lot and frequently they have no idea why.

I’m sure a lot of you do a great job at this every day. And this truly does apply to both sexes and all types of relationships. You don’t have to subscribe to feminism and rallying for change to show the women in your life that you appreciate them. You don’t have to march with picket signs to encourage them to go after that big promotion and tell them how proud you are of everything they have accomplished. Part of what I have learned in recent months, is that it’s OK to live an average and quiet life. Not every job is going to be some grandiose career that leads to fame and recognition. That doesn’t mean we don’t need validation. We are not going to be judged by the jobs we held, but rather by the type of life we live and the joy we bring to others.

I’m not here to tell you how to run your household, nor do I claim to have all the answers. None of what we’ve discussed is a hard concept. The very least we can do is make sure our underwear finds its way to the hamper instead of the floor or door knob and empty the dishwasher every so often. Take a moment to notice her and validate her feelings. Give her thanks and praise. Take her out to do the things that interest her. Give her time to pursue hobbies or even just some alone time. With the current political climate, women have come under fire and are being treated unreasonably. It is our job to stand side by side with our women and demand change from a male dominated system that continuously knocks them down. Let’s lift up our ladies, show our appreciation, and fight the good fight. Even if there aren’t any dragons.

Nothing is Ever What it Seems

Evening plans abandoned

Physically stranded

Sitting here all alone

Typing on my phone

Everyone has gone

In every way I am wrong

Never will they know

Dying by the crow

I want a life outside of here

Damned and full of fear

Nothing is what it seems

Time boils to steam

Kingdom no more

Illicit to the core

Love won’t save me now

Lord knows how

Here I will make my stand

Inner strength in my hand

Make my way to a happy place

Smiles across my broken face

Everyone has gone away

Left in solitude

Forever I sway

Thankful

What does it really mean to be thankful? We hear everyone ask this question around this time of year, but it doesn’t seem to be a discussion during the remaining months. And the answers always seem so cliché and almost rehearsed. Does anyone take the time to truly think about what gives them thanks? Or, are we just so engrossed by all the “things” in our life, that we lose sight of what really matters?

I’m always thankful for my family. And not just because that’s the easy answer. They are what gives me the most joy and happiness. Family has been the constant in my life that has always lifted me up and gotten me through some of my hardest fought battles. We try to find something positive in every single day. Around the dinner table, after we say grace, we go from person to person and everyone gets their chance to regale each other with the best thing that happened to them that day. Even on our worst days, we find at least one good thing that occurred. It’s usually then followed up by one of our daughters pretending to be a velociraptor or telling a joke they heard in school. We laugh. We share. We delight in each other.

I’m extremely thankful for an amazing wife that has never let us down. I thank God every day for giving her the strength to beat cancer and keep her with us. She works so incredibly hard to make sure we have everything we need. Often times at the mercy of her own sanity. I’m thankful for the chance to grow as a person and realize how important it is to work as a team to raise our family. They may not see it now, but our daughters are so blessed to have such a strong female role model in their lives. She has stood by my side through thick or thin, led by example, and introduced me to God and our church.

I am so grateful for the amazing children that God has given us. Aislynn is our hard working 19-year-old that has had her fair share of struggles, but doesn’t let it stop her. She creates some of the most amazing artwork that I have ever seen. I cannot wait to see what this kid creates next. Her heart is always on her sleeve, ready to help anyone at a moment’s notice. She is funny and articulate and as sweet as they come.

Ashley is our 16-year-old that refuses to take no for an answer. She tackles everything she does with tenacity and passion. I would tell her that the sky is the limit, but that wouldn’t be good enough for her. Mark my words, she will end up on the moon or Mars. I’m certain of it. If not, she can always fall back on her amazing singing voice and fabulous stage presence. If not the moon, then she will definitely be among the stars, performing on Broadway.

Maddie is 8 going on 25. She is so intelligent, well-rounded, and has one of the sweetest souls of anyone I’ve ever met, with a contagious laugh that spreads like wildfire. Mo has big dreams and has already decided she will be an equestrian veterinarian. A career that will suit her just perfectly, just as long as she can overcome the fear of having to perform surgery. With a loving attitude and a huge heart, she will move mountains.

And then there is Laura. Sweet little 5-year-old Laura. This child is the firecracker that keeps us on our toes at all times. It is never a dull moment when she is around. Her love is ferocious and endless and crazy and amazing. She is funny to a fault and never misses an opportunity to perform a new dance number that she just made up. She is our baby, forever and always.

To be thankful goes beyond the trivial answers that we give during the holidays. It’s a state of mind and something that deserves our attention every single day. Setting aside a few moments to show gratitude for what we have, is imperative for a happy and joyful life. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, a happy holiday, and the best every day.

With love and gratitude,

Ryan

Treasure(d)

Give it to me

Give it to me

Don’t hold back

I need it to live

That’s a fact

________________________

Give it to me

Give it to me

Don’t be mean

I need it to survive

I have to redeem

_______________________

Give it to me

Give it to me

Why would you refuse

You have so much

And nothing to lose

________________________

Give it to me

Give it to me

I’m empty and weak

You have it all

A future not bleak

________________________

I just want you to tell me

You did a great job

You look great

Not just a slob

And not someone I hate

________________________

I just want you to tell me

Thank you for all that you do

I know it’s hard

But you have me too

________________________

I just want you to tell me

You’re a treasure

A pot of gold

It’s only you

That I want to hold

While You Were in a Medically Induced Nap

Here we are again, back in the surgery wing at St. Luke’s hospital. I think this is number…I forget. Thankfully it’s a fairly simple procedure that had to wait until Sarah had fully healed from her previous surgeries. I’m much calmer this time around. Maybe it’s because I’m used to it by now or maybe it’s because I know it isn’t as serious as the others. Sarah seems much calmer as well. Then again, she is always as cool as a cucumber.

I do my usual thing and just try to make her laugh as much as possible before they take her back. I may not have a ton of great qualities, but I know I can bring a smile to her face. If she does have any fears, she sure as heck doesn’t show it. She’s as tough as they come and really sets the standard of what a woman should be. At least in my humble opinion. She works hard. Much harder than anyone I know. She’s driven to succeed, not only for herself, but for her family as well. She doesn’t claim to be oppressed by men, despite working in a vastly male dominated office. She’s the odd one out, but that doesn’t stop her from succeeding. She goes out and gets what she wants and doesn’t come back until it’s been obtained. She is way tougher than I am. And she makes it look easy. As I’ve tried filling some gaps at home while she works, I find myself questioning how she manages to do it all.

You often hear men being referred to as “pussies” and I don’t quite understand that connotation. The female genitalia is far stronger and can take one hell of a beating. Now, with men, if the wind blows it too hard, we’re keeled over in pain. It’s the weakest part of the male anatomy. It can’t even stand a change in temperature without shriveling back up into the body like a groundhog that just saw his shadow. If there were a derogatory term for someone not living up to their male potential, it should be “don’t be a nut-sack”.

Guys, women are stronger than us. Maybe not in a muscle kind of way, but you get the idea. They put up with so much of our crap, with nothing but style and grace. Their patience is unwavering. They are the backbone to every home. We work as a team, but we know who does the real work. They remember tiny details that us men would normally overlook. When I’m alone with the kids, we don’t even get out of our jammies and every meal is mac n’ cheese or corndogs. Not moms, though. They actually feed the kids fruit and make them bathe. Dad might be more fun, but mom keeps them alive.

I’m sure my views on women changed as I got older. I always respected them, but I never understood them like I do now. Bahahaha, just kidding. I still don’t understand them. All I know is, my life is surrounded by females. 5 to be exact. 6 if you count one of the dogs. They are all very different from one another. However, they all have one thing in common; they love fiercely and passionately. They are all warriors in their own right. They fight daily battles that us men can’t even begin to understand. I’m proud of all of the women in my life and happy for everything they have taught me about the world.

Fellas, listen to the women in your life. They ask for very little from us, but they give so much in return.

With gratitude,

Ryan

ego(Maniac)

People that tell you “they have your best interest at heart”, rarely do. I think it’s a very egotistical way of inserting yourself into someone else’s life. It’s demoralizing. It suggests that people can’t take care of themselves and they need your all-knowing advice to teach them. What qualifies this person to dish out advice? When it all blows up in my face, can I put the blame on them? Are they going to always be there to pick up the pieces?

People like to be heard. They like to share their experiences and educate you on what worked for them. The problem is, no two wounds are alike. And they all must be treated differently. Listening is quickly becoming a lost art. With the vast number of forums and comment sections on the internet, no one has to wait their turn. They can just spew whatever vitriol they feel fits the narrative. There is no civil discourse. It’s everyone standing on their soap boxes, screaming to be heard. No one stops to actually listen to what someone has to say. Not everyone needs saving. Some just need an ear so they can vent their frustrations.

Then there is that one person who decides you’re going to get their unsolicited advice, whether you like it or not. This might be one of the most obnoxiously annoying people to exist. I’m sure you know the type. They are usually very loud and know everything about everything. They’re nearly untouchable. They think that because they overcame a hurdle, means they are now qualified to tell you what to do with your dilemma. I try to keep in mind that these people aren’t as secure as they think they are. They need validation. They need people to tell them how smart and well versed they are. They gain strength and grow into a giant narcissistic blob, with every approving nod and thumbs up. They gain speed and traction and destroy everything in their path. When they are called out on their shenanigans, they play the victim.

These narcissists love to make you look good in public when there are other people around to hear them. Then behind closed doors they are mean and belittling. When you see them for their true colors, they feel they have to bring you back down. They can’t allow you to know too much about them. They don’t want you to see that they are flawed and powerless over their own lives, so they have to put on a façade for everyone to see. They’re fragile and weak. If they feel they are in danger of you revealing their secret, they will back themselves into a corner and become defensive.

Through therapy, I am learning to set boundaries. Toxic people just don’t have a place in my life. I will always accept a challenging view point. I certainly do not want everyone to think exactly as I do. However, if the only thing you bring to the table is increasing my anxiety, then please locate the nearest exit and see yourself out. I can rid myself of most people, but there’s always that one that finds a way to sneak back in. I suppose this is inevitable and just a way of life. I don’t want confrontation, but I also have no interest in carrying this around in my heart and mind.

With that being said, what is so attractive about someone with an incredibly inflated ego? What makes people hang on their every word and treat them as if they are the second coming of Christ? How can others not see them for what they really are? Or, maybe they do see them, but they long for a connection and they are drawn to them.

As I’ve mentioned before; if I write about what bothers me, sometimes that’s enough to rid my mind of the negativity. I go back and forth on which things deserve to be fully confronted and which things aren’t even worth a second thought. I must keep focused on what is truly important in my life and rid myself of what isn’t.

With gratitude,

Ryan

The Mac Attack is Back, Jack

Alright, listen up food noobs and fodder snobs. I’m about to school ya on mac n’ cheese. And no, not your grandmama’s recipe from when you were just a wee little tax deduction. I’m talking powdered cheese pack, just add butter and milk, depression mac. That Blue Box Blues stuff. Or whatever knock off brand you find at your local dollar store.

See, the box has you cook the pasta for 8 min. Don’t do that. That’s way too long for those tiny noodles. 4 min on a rolling boil. Stir twice. That’s it. Just check it before you strain it. Now, here’s where we mix it up. The directions tell you to strain and then add the noods back to the pan and add the cheese dust, ¼ cup of milk, and a ¼ cup of butter. That’s a half a stick, ya ding-dong. Or 4 Tablespoons. Whatever is easiest for you. And don’t even think about using that margarine bullshit either, you uncultured swine.

Time to get funky with it. BEFORE your broke ass adds the mac back, return your pan to the stove and turn your heat down to medium-low. Now, add that processed cheese dirt back to the pan with the milk. Don’t just throw that half stick of delicious golden butter into the pan. Cut it into like 6 smaller slabs. It’ll melt quicker, college boy. Or girl. Or dinosaur. Whatever you are. Now, stir that shit up! If you’re feeling froggy, grate a little sharp cheddar and add a splash more milk to your pan. And don’t buy that bagged shredded waxy crap. It literally costs the exact same amount to buy a block and do it yourself. I like to add some hot sauce for a little kick. Raid your fridge and toss in whatever makes you feel pretty. Like…leftover taco meat, bacon bits, hot dogs, Skittles…I don’t care. This is your time to shine. I ain’t judging ya. However, do not add salt. There’s enough sodium in that powder packet to choke a yak. Your heart will thank you later.

Once everything is melted and well incorporated, dump your sad little pasta elbows into that agent orange looking sauce you’ve just created. Which is essentially a roux. I’ll explain that a little later. When you mix everything together, you get a nice even coating, rather than a clumpy mess of half melted butter and cheese sand. Adjust the consistency to your desire with more milk to thin it or more grated cheese to thicken. Now, go eat that somewhere in the dark and try not to feel too much shame. We’ve all been there.

Added Bonus:

Mac n’ cheese is not a hard recipe to do. Essentially, you can make a fairly decent version with only 5 ingredients:

-Cooked macaroni

-Grated cheese (ex. cheddar, gruyere, cojack…)

-Flour

-Butter

-Milk

You mix the butter with a little flour over medium heat and add your milk. Congratulations, you just made a roux. Now, you fold in your choice of grated cheese and let it melt until smooth then add the pasta. Now, that you have the basics down, you play around with it and make it your own. You can use different cheeses, bake it with breadcrumbs on top, add different seasonings and spices like nutmeg, garlic powder, or red pepper flakes. If you really want to amp it up, try adding a little stout to your roux. 😉

Yours truly,

The Depressed Chef   

Spanking is Abuse

It’s a highly debated topic. To spank or not spank your children. There have been thousands of studies done for over 50 years on the effectiveness of spanking. All of them have concluded that it does little to teach any sort of lesson. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect. Children that have been spanked have much higher levels of aggression and break rules more often than those that aren’t spanked. Children can’t tell the difference between being spanked or being beaten. To them, it’s the same thing. They do not remember the reason for the corporal punishment, just that if they mess up, they are hit. Kids are associating pain with failure. They are learning fear, not trust. They will bottle their emotions and hide things from their parents because they are scared to come forward. They fear being physically hurt because of a poor choice or a mistake.

And yet, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that explains this as plain as day, parents still mock the research and refuse to believe it. Even though there are no studies (at least nothing I could find) that found spanking to be a positive form or punishment. They often cite that “they were spanked and turned out fine”. I can’t help but laugh at this response. As if someone’s own opinion of themselves should take a higher precedence over half a century of research.

What is it about this research that the pro spankers find so implausible? Why is it refuted without so much as a thought? I think part of the reason they defend it, is because they know they’re wrong. They don’t want to admit how it makes them feel great shame. It’s not a hard concept to understand. When you deal with a problem with anger and aggression, you are also teaching this same behavior. Just because you think you turned out ok, doesn’t mean that every kid had the same outcome. You have to think outside of your own personal experiences and understand that this isn’t just about you and how you turned out.

I have not run my own research study by any means, but I have had a few people tell me of their stories. One of them being my wife, who was spanked on a regular basis, often with fly swatters or wooden spoons. One particular time she was punished with a wooden spoon for forgetting her socks at a neighbor’s house. In another instance the person was struck with a switch off of a tree, that she had to pick out herself. No matter how you spin it, this is abuse. The pernicious psychological impact it can have is far greater than the lesson you think you are teaching.

In my opinion, it’s a ridiculous practice that has a high chance of causing problems in your children later in life. I, personally, would feel great shame if I found out that my spanking my kids caused them any sort of distress in their adult life. Whether it be trust and anger issues, or an inability to make friends. We don’t spank or hit anyone else in our lives, so why would you do that to a developing child?

What works for us, is getting down to their level. Talking to them face to face. Explaining how what they did was wrong and then dish out a punishment. Ask them what they could have done differently. Direct them towards making better decisions the next time. We’re supposed to be teaching them how to deal with problems.

When you validate your child’s feelings and name their shame, bringing it to the surface, you instill trust and comfort. You let them know they are human and that it’s ok to make mistakes. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be disciplined. Remember, kids have a hard time expressing themselves. Hell, so do a lot of adults. They get far more irritable when they are hungry or tired. How would spanking a child that is tired, benefit them or you? In the end, they are going to internalize their spanking and then correlate this with whatever emotion they were feeling at the time.

Before we met, my wife admitted that there were a few times that she had spanked her girls. She didn’t know any better because this is how she was raised. She felt awful each time and vowed to not discipline her kids in this manner ever again. She wanted her kids to always trust her, not fear her.

In conclusion, children respond far better to positive reinforcement than they do negative. I’m not saying you reward bad behavior. However, show them how to handle a problem by being a positive force in their life. This doesn’t mean you are raising soft kids. It means that you are teaching them patience and understanding by showing them respect. Afterall, this world is a cruel place. A little more love will go a long way.

With gratitude,

Ryan

As always, I welcome discussion and opinions.

For more information: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/5/e1118

(anti)Social Media

My little girls are 5 and 8. They play very well together and with other kids. They don’t understand how we’re all different. They don’t see religion or color or social background. All they see is potential fun with someone that’s roughly their size. They may argue, but it’s usually about what game to play or who gets to be which character in their make-believe world. It’s never about something as arbitrary as what the other person looks like.

They don’t understand borders and differences in countries around the world. When I tried explaining how women were treated in the Middle East, they looked at me like I had egg on my face. They asked, “why are women treated so poorly?” and “why do we have it so good here but they have it so bad there?” It was not an easy conversation. How do I explain that some religions and beliefs are different in other areas of the world, to a kindergartener that only understands God to be loving and forgiving?

We are failing as a society. We are so hellbent on making our kids stronger for the future, that we are neglecting to teach them compassion and understanding. The population as a whole, especially kids and young adults, spend an obscene amount of time plugged in and enslaved to their devices. It’s warping our minds and programming us to think the way they want us to think. We have given up our intellectual independence for “likes” and “shares”.

Imagine for a moment… you’ve just hit “post” on a funny picture or meme that you wanted to share. Almost immediately your phone starts to ring with the sound of little validating beeps. Each one is a “like” or a “comment” on your recent post. You turn your phone on and open up whatever social platform you are using. The little red bubble with the number inside at the top of your page is growing. People LIKED it! They LOVE what you have to say. You feel great. You’ve been approved by your peers. You go to bed with a smile on your face. By morning, your post has faded into the dark abyss of the internet and forgotten about before you could even have breakfast. Now, you want that high again. You need to feel that authentication. You try to come up with more witty and funny material, but it only gets 6 likes and your mom is one of them. You feel empty. But you can’t put the phone down. You might miss something.

Social media is destroying the very fabric of society. It’s tearing us apart at the seam. What was designed to help us stay connected with each other and share in all of life’s splendid moments, has turned into a nightmare. People are too comfortable behind their computer screen. The bullying is extensive and nonstop. And the parents are just as bad as the kids. Like many people, I find myself spending way too much time on social media. I frequently think about deleting all platforms entirely. It has become a cesspool of hate and arguing. It’s almost impossible to ignore. Then I justify keeping it so I can see all the good things that it offers. In reality, I’m missing out on all of the good things by being tethered to my phone or tablet.

One thing is for sure, I’m not going to allow my kids to visit these types of sites. Not because I don’t trust them, but rather I don’t trust the rest of the world. They are good kids and they are being raised with a moral compass. They will know how to treat their peers and how to have respect for their fellow man. FB, Insta, Snap…they’re all just breeding grounds for hate. And I cannot, in good conscience, allow that into my home.

With Gratitude,

Ryan

P.S. I realize the hypocrisy of this rant, considering there’s a link at the bottom to follow me on Facebook. We can’t all be perfect. 😉

My Struggle with Addiction

The past 7 months have been one of the hardest fought times of my life. It has also been full of learning and growth. My therapist has been integral part of this journey. She is teaching me to find happiness within, confront my shame and vulnerability, and love myself. My family has also played a major role in my recovery and improvement. For the first time, I feel truly committed to cultivating the best life for myself and those that I love the most. That’s not to say that I don’t battle every day.

During the darker moments late at night, when I feel the most alone and isolated, I turn to God. I pray for guidance and truth. I pray that those I may have wronged, can forgive me. I pray that my children will find peace though all of these trials and tribulations. I pray for my wife who has had to endure so much for so long. I pray for the nightly anxiety to subside so I can get some sleep. I’m not sure if any of it works, but I figure it’s worth a try.

It’s been 3 weeks since I started down my path to sobriety. And it’s been going great. I feel like a different person. This is the least amount of alcohol I’ve had since before I was 21. I’ve spent nearly 15 years, drinking almost every single night. And most of those nights I drank in excess.

“The chains of alcohol are too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken”Anonymous

I rarely ever drank at home. If I did, it was with dinner or if we were having company. I preferred to just go to the bar late at night after everyone went to sleep. I was not only addicted to alcohol, but also to a community of people that I could hang out with and have some laughs or watch whatever game was on tv. I needed to feel that belonging and acceptance. My marriage was suffering. I was in constant pain. I had zero motivation or desire to do anything. The bar was my escape. And it was destroying every facet of my life.

It took a friend that bar tends where I frequented, to stand up and say that he was no longer going to serve me. He said he would not assist in my suicide. That was my eye opener. I’ve had a million reasons to stop, but for whatever reason, this is what did it. He and I aren’t even particularly close, but he stepped up where very few had before. I’ve been able to stop going out and get my anxiety under control. At one point, I was out drinking 7 nights a week. I was in a perpetual hangover, day after day. It affected my mood and my relationship with my family.

The bar decided upon themselves to put me on a limit. 3 beers a night. I understand why they decided to do this, but I also do not like to be treated like a child. I have a real problem with people that are regularly intoxicated, telling me what I can and can’t drink. It doesn’t solve my problem. It only made me angry and want to go somewhere else. They could wash their hands of it, and I could continue to do as I did before.

I found myself spending more time worrying about how I was going to convince the bartenders to lift their ban, than I was focusing on not drinking. I had to use the recent tools I had gained to confront my shame and find my courage to beat this demon.

This was going to take more than just going to a few AA meetings or some other support group, which I had tried. Admittedly, I didn’t give it much of a chance, but I just never felt the connection. The problem I was faced with was rooted much deeper than I had ever thought. I come from a long line of alcoholics and drug addicts. I’m unemployed and dangerously obese with a bad back and bad knees. My wife is at her wits end. I have no career path. No money. No accomplishments. I had no pride in myself. I was a shell of what I used to be and felt as though I was fading into oblivion.

I believe that most addicts fail at getting sober because they aren’t confronting the right problem. The addiction is the obvious one, but what caused them to start down that path to begin with? Confronting what causes their shame and repairing from within should be the first step. If you do not feel any value in yourself, how can you quit the thing that fills that void? Drugs and alcohol are replacements for getting true help.

Once I learned to love myself, I was able to repair other areas of my life. I still have a lot of work to do, but I can now do so with more confidence. I’m still ashamed by my weight and the way it makes me feel. It’s embarrassing. At least I now have more energy to attack these goals and get my life back on track.

“Only when an addict learns to love himself will he feel he’s worth changing.”
― Toni Sorenson

If you have read this far, please keep something in mind: people don’t set out to become an addict. No one wakes up one day and decides to become dependent on something that will take all of their money, steal their youth, rid them of every true friend and family member, and put their life at risk. That’s not how it happens. It’s a problem that existed before the drugs and they made a poor choice in order to stop the pain. I ask you all to please have compassion and understanding. I know it’s a hard concept for most people, but these are people, too. They have families that love them. They once had dreams just like you. Now, all they want is to feel some sort of peace. If you know one, help them. Help them find their courage.

With Gratitude,

Ryan

(un)Withered

What’s good for the goose

Isn’t always good for the gander

Get off your high horse

Quit with the slander

Never pander

Or philander

This would be easy

If I just couldn’t stand her

I’m down with the chase

It’s at her pace

In my face

Just gotta understand

She’s in a different place

Needs her space

Just wish it didn’t feel like

A marathon race

Pour out my tears

Face my fears

Fake smile to the ears

Steer this ship

Anywhere but here

I want happiness

Not anxious

Ambitious

And mysterious

Less delirious

And egregious

To feel like a winner

Not a sinner

No more bitter

Home for dinner

Not my first rodeo

I’m no beginner

Time for a rebirth

No more back and forth

Find where I belong

Shed this girth

Value my worth

Salt of the earth

It’s a new day

Sounds cliché

To find my way

Complete disarray

Be that as it may

The chips will fall

Wherever they lay

WSD

Brain can’t function

While under construction

Or, coordinating conjunction

Weapon of self-destruction

_______________________________

Screaming out loud

Afraid of the crowd

Veiled black shroud

Awaiting nimbus cloud

_______________________________

Embrace the rain

Wash away the pain

Feel no shame

No more blood stain

_______________________________

What is ideal

What do I feel

What life can I steal

Is any of this real

_______________________________

Broken in heart

And falling apart

From the bottom I start

A ragged work of art

Fatherhood

Anyone that knows me, knows that I love my kids more than life itself. I feel as though I have failed in many areas, but not in fatherhood. I’m a great dad. I wear it as a badge of honor. I’m proud of that accomplishment. It feels second nature to me. It’s not a hard concept. Play with them, feed them, hold them when they cry, teach them, talk to them on their level, be stern when needed, but do so with love and compassion. That’s not to say that parenting is easy. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. It’s exhausting and painful. It is unrewarding and often times feels like too much to handle.

Last night, all of us went in separate directions with various activities. With 4 kids, this tends to happen a lot. The 16-year-old had a choir concert at the school, so mom and the 5-year-old went to that. I love seeing her perform, but it gets so packed and it’s hard to get all of us into the small auditorium. The oldest kid was off having dinner with her grandparents after helping with some chores at their house. I decided to take my 8-year-old out for a little 1 on 1 daddy/daughter time.

Ever since my wife was battling cancer, Mo (8) sees a school counselor once a week, sometimes every other week. She really enjoys it. Gives her someone to talk to without fear. The counselor then will relay messages to us as she sees fit. Yesterday we received an email with a status update. She said that our daughter was definitely holding on to a lot of stress and suggested that we keep things as positive for her as possible. She tends to hold everything back and bury it down deep. Occasionally, I can get her to open up. I figured a little dinner with just the two of us would help.

This kid never surprises me. She’s so smart and articulate. A beautiful soul that loves daringly and cares deeply. After we ordered our dinner, I asked her what has been on her mind. I asked her what she was scared of and what bothered her. Usually, I have to drag it out of her, but she was open from the get go. She is afraid that my wife and I are going to get a divorce. Things have been tough recently, but we are working diligently to make everything work and keep this family together. What she said next, I wasn’t prepared for. She told me she was scared that because of my health problems (knee, back, weight) that I was going to die soon. This was like a shotgun blast to the chest and it totally caught me off guard.

All of a sudden, I’m realizing that maybe I’m not being the best dad I can be. I’m not making my health a priority. The drinking and late nights out have caught up with me. My health has deteriorated in the last two years. I’ve gained a devastating amount of weight. I was going to be dead by 40 if I didn’t start making the necessary changes now. If not for myself, then for my daughters.

After assuring my daughter that I was already taking steps to get healthier and that I wasn’t going anywhere for a very long time, we were able to have some laughs and enjoy our meal.

On the way home we stopped at the grocery store for a couple of quick items and then hurry home to hear about everyone else’s evening. Back in the car, I asked Mo if she was interested in eating healthier with me, which meant getting rid of all processed foods and snacks, like chicken nuggets, corn dogs (her favorite), chips, and sweets. She said “will that help you get healthy and keep you here with me?” I told her it would. She responded, “then of course I will, daddy. Those things are all wants, not needs. And I NEED you.” Talk about an amazing kid.

She brought tears to my eyes. And not just because of how sad it made me feel that she was carrying all of this in her heart, but because of how incredibly proud I am of her and how much she cares for others. Her intellect and understanding are far greater than that of most adults I know. Now, I just fear that this world will ruin her. It’s a cruel place full of cold-hearted and mean people. I will do my best to encourage her to always stay focused, keep being brave and courageous, and to never let anyone attempt to steal her light.

As adults, it is our responsibility to protect our kids, develop their brains, and prepare them for adulthood. I’m quickly learning that if you pay close attention, it’s our children that teach us far more than we deserve.

Continue reading

Gratitude

As I move along this path to self-discovery, I’m deeply exploring my vulnerability and courage. I’ve always thought they were polar opposites of each other. I understood courage to be what someone would use to stand up to their vulnerability and overcome it. As I learn and grow, I have found that they are more like best friends that live next door to each other. At my most vulnerable moments, it was actually courage that got me through it. Vulnerability was sitting with my wife during her chemo and discussing possible outcomes of her disease. Recently, I had to admit to a friend that I had betrayed his trust. Quitting a job for a better opportunity, that would end up in failure. Putting down the drink and admitting to my family and friends that I was addicted to alcohol. All of these things left me feeling vulnerable and even shameful. It wasn’t until much later that I learned this was also courage. Courage is what got me through all of those moments. You can’t have courage without vulnerability. It takes strength to be vulnerable.

Why are we so afraid to show our vulnerability? Why do we build walls to hide ourselves? I think it’s because we are afraid. We’re scared of rejection and hurt. We care what people think of us, no matter how many times we say that we don’t. Because we all want connection. We all want to be accepted and loved. If we let our guard down, then we open ourselves to pain and rejection. Love is vulnerability. Love is courage. Some would rather choose to never love so they never have to feel that pain. I just don’t think that’s a life worth living. Everyone will know loss at some point. It’s inevitable. Coming to grips with your vulnerability and embracing it, is the only way to navigate this journey.

I’m still learning how to do such things. Being open and honest with myself was the first major step I had to take. If I can’t come clean with myself, then I’m wasting my time and everyone else’s time that is trying to help. Seeing a counselor each week has helped me tremendously. She has been a crucial element on this journey. I’m also learning to give my stresses and worries to God. This has been particularly tough for me. I don’t know how to pass this along to someone else. I don’t know how to just stop thinking about what bothers me most. I don’t think it’s possible, but it is possible to practice gratitude. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to rid my personal space of clutter. Just as I am trying to do the same in my brain. Pushing out the extra things that I don’t have control over or that which I don’t need. Being grateful for everything I have in my life, because I am truly blessed.

I mentioned God before. This is a very new concept to me. I’ve always disliked organized religion and refused to step foot in a church. I felt God had never been there for me or he had left me a long time ago. It wasn’t until my wife was diagnosed with cancer that I started attending church with her each week. It started to all make sense. I’m not sure if I get into the whole bible thing or if I even believe in Jesus Christ. However, what I have found is a community of positive people that have my best interest at heart. Even with thousands of members in their congregation, they always have time for me. There’s always someone to listen or help. I started to really embrace the church. I had so much gratitude for my new found faith and family. I truly look forward to going each week. I feel it helps to keep me grounded and reminds me to keep practicing gratitude.

As I struggle with addiction, I go back and forth on whether or not I’m addicted to the alcohol or the community. I rarely ever drink at home. The occasional beer while I’m out grilling or maybe some wine with dinner. I never seem to crave it at any point. As my life seems to deteriorate around me, I long for that group feeling. So, I go to the bar. It’s always full of people that I know that all want to have some fun. We’re likely all battling some inner turmoil and have chosen the bar to “get away from it all”. After all, alcohol is a great suppressor of pain and suffering, whether it’s physical or mental. Making the change to get out of the bar and get sober, will help to improve the other areas of my life. I can’t lose weight if I’m drinking every night. I can’t fix my marriage or be a better father if I am out binging until 3am. And no one can do it for me. I have to be strong enough to be vulnerable and have the courage to tackle these demons. I am more than my problems. I am better than this and I will prevail so I may know true joy and happiness.

Depression and anxiety consume my life on the daily. Most days I wake with a lump in my throat and it doesn’t subside until I get to the bar and have my first beer and a shot of whiskey. Unfortunately, it’s only a band aide and not a solution. Actually, it makes my life far worse. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of destruction. My antidepressants didn’t work well because they were constantly mixing with alcohol, negating their effect and usefulness. My brain needed a reward. I tried fulfilling that by drinking, smoking, shopping, eating, and anything else that I thought made me happy. None of it helped. Nothing made me happy. This was no life.

So, here I am. Its 4am on Thursday October 17th. I haven’t been able to get to sleep at a decent hour. Most likely because my body is used to having alcohol course though it. It’s only been 4 days, but that’s the longest I’ve gone without a drink in a very long time. I have to set boundaries in certain areas of my life because I’m afraid they will trigger me. Certain people in my life say they are here to help me, but they drink too much themselves. I don’t think I can be around alcohol just yet. Maybe it will only be temporary. Maybe sobriety will suit me better. As for now, I’m just going to do what I have to do for me. I have to cast fear into the fire and get myself straight.

With gratitude,

Ryan

McFatty

Is anyone else getting sick of all the crazy food combinations that seem to be all the rage these days? It’s impossible to ignore. I feel like it all started with bacon. I mean, bacon is delicious. It always has been. But it got to be such a fad, that I almost (almost) got sick of it. Bacon was in/on everything. Then came pork belly and other variations. It was getting out of control! Just google “bacon recipes” if you don’t believe me. It will yield 269,000,000 recipes! There aren’t even half as many broccoli recipes.

With the internet, there are endless ways to get people to follow you. One of those ways is with food. Usually some sort of gigantic something covered in cheese. I was first in line to share those videos and search where I could find such glorious morsels of food. These culinary bastardizations needed to be in front of me and ready to clog up some arteries. It was this type of thinking that has led me down a dangerous path and right into morbid obesity and Type II Diabetes. I’m chock full of health problems, from high blood pressure to crippling back pain that keeps me from working. I battle depression, constant anxiety, and alcohol addiction. Not many people know what I struggle with. I’m the funny guy. I mask it well.

A few weeks ago, someone on a food forum posted a picture of some sort of fried donut, wrapped in bacon and blah blah blah…you get the idea. One of the comments said, “This looks aggressively American”. It was those 2 words that have really stuck with me. Is that what we have become? Other countries see us as nothing but fat slobs. We fight for all sorts of freedoms, but we don’t fight to be healthier. We get behind our computers and argue until we’re blue in the face over things that we have no control over. We buy guns by the truckload in case we ever have to defend the home front. In case a war is ever fought on American soil, we’ll be ready for it! Except we won’t be. Because we can’t run or climb or swim or jog or anything, because we are carrying 100lbs of extra weight around. We aren’t a nation that is war ready. We’re recliner ready at best. Our population now consists of more people overweight than not. A staggering 71.6% of adults over 20 years old, are overweight or obese.

We’ve just accepted this lifestyle. We actually laugh at people that have decided to eat and live healthier. We make fun of vegans and vegetarians and workout enthusiasts. Ok, maybe YOU don’t, but plenty do. And our kids are being raised this way as well. They see the same horrific food. They are addicted at an early age to sugar and high fructose corn syrup. They crave pop and sugar packed juices. They only want to eat fried chicken nuggets and boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. Fruits and veggies are like poison. Parents are trying to find ways to sneak and disguise healthy food into their child’s diet.

It’s hard to get away from it. Every fast food restaurant is projecting some sort of extremely unhealthy and fattening item on tv and the internet. It’s an epidemic with no clear end in sight. Obesity is second only to tobacco use, for preventable death in the US. And back in the 90’s they made it illegal to advertise the sale of cigarettes on billboards and tv. And it worked. Tobacco sales have had a major decline over the years from around 42% down to under 20% since the 60’s. We need that type of commitment to the obesity problem. It has to start in the home. And it has to start with us taking responsibility for what we put in our bodies. As much as I would love to see a change in menu items at fast food restaurants, I understand that greed is vastly more important to those that run these places, than doing what’s right.

I don’t know about any of you, but I’m really sick of being fat. I’m sick of staring at my TV, because I have no energy to do even the most minimal activity. I’m sick of being out of breath after putting on my jeans. I’m sick of the chronic knee and back pain. I caused this. No one else. No one forced that double cheeseburger down my throat. I just question what the hell is in that food that makes it so desirable and addictive? The evidence that fast food is addictive, is pretty limited. Many believe it to be a psychological dependence. Especially in those that are already obese or those that suffer from depression. Food, especially unhealthy food, is often used as a reward. I’m not saying we should force companies to abide by some crazy laws like they have in New York that won’t allow you to order a pop over a certain size. I still believe everyone should have a choice to do whatever it is they want, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else. I would like to just see more healthy options.

As always, all input is welcome.

You Stink.

Have you ever let your dog out to play and it starts to rain before you call them back in? Before you know it, you have a soaked K-9 dripping all over your kitchen floor. They loved it. They were rolling around and having a grand ole time. You grab a towel and start to dry them off when you finally get a whiff. The smell of a wet pup is like nothing else. It violates your nasal passages. You have no choice but to bathe them. That stench will get on everything if you do not act quickly.

The same exact thing happens when you douse yourself in patchouli oil. It is the most vile and putrid scent known to man. It is obtrusive in the worst way. Against everyone’s will, it violates the olfactory organs. Personally, I feel assaulted whenever you free loving tree huggers passes by me while I’m trying to write at the local coffeehouse.

If you’ve ever sat outside in the summertime, you know how bad the insects can be, especially mosquitoes. You reach for a can of OFF spray and cover yourself with it. It doesn’t smell good, but it’s worth it to keep those little blood suckers at bay. Patchouli was developed by the Hindi in India and other parts of southeast Asia, for the same reason. There’s no need to wear it in Northwest Ohio in January, Sunshine! It must work, because I don’t want to be within 30 feet of your smelly ass. Actually, I’d rather you smell like ass. It’s a far more pleasant odor.

I get it, all of you potheads want to mask the smell of the marijuana. I hate the smell of weed, but I would welcome it over you bathing in, what can only be described as a 3-day old rain puddle mixed with cat piss. With the new wave of edibles and vape pens, you can get your fix without being stinky. Everyone wins!

Please do us all a favor and dump the rest of that hippie extract down the drain and go find something a little more floral or even citrusy. This time of year, try thinking oranges or cherry blossoms or whatever the cocaine riddled strippers are wearing these days.

The point is, patchouli is no longer the exotic and organic Ancient Asian perfume, that you think it is. We love in a modern society with so many other modern solutions. Please, I beg of you. You’ve killed my sense of smell and it’s much too late for me, but please think of the children!

Sincerely,

You Stink.