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The End Has Long Since Passed

I've shut this blog down before a couple times and then written a couple of new posts since. It is now June and my last post was in March. Before then December. Before then, I don't remember.

For those of you who have read I hope this blog on fatherhood and my slant on marriage has helped you. It has helped me to grow, mostly by shining a mirror back at me as to who I've been over the years, disconnected from reality, self-righteous, self-serving and scared of an imaginary lion in the road (biblical reference).

Now it's time to walk a new journey. One that doesn't include sharing intimate moments of my life that I don't even understand while I'm writing them, or maybe if I do it will be reserved for a personal journal, where I won't develop delusions of grandeur that I am MORE than WHO I am because I have an audience.

To anyone who reads this and any of the rest of this blog, be warned, always maintain WHO you are over WHAT you do. The content of your character is way more important than anything else that you try to be. And good things will flow from good character. And go with God whenever you are in doubt. He will open your eyes and make all your paths straight. Just ask Him and you will receive.

It's been my pleasure.



Look at Me! Look at Me...The Ugly Side of Social

I'm a man, a father, a husband. In that order. Not by priority, but chronology. There was a time I really, really, really, really wanted to succeed as a full time blogger. Why not? It was a marriage of so many things I enjoyed - writing, technology, creativity, and of course unknown opportunity. And man, did I go in. I did everything back then that everyone now is calling one-to-one consumer engagement. I experimented with Twitter until I finally got it. I toiled and tooled around on Facebook until I got it. Pinterest, Google+ (yes that too) and LinkedIn. Even Friendster, just to get really real with you. And the better I got at promoting myself - my products (writing and my particular brand of storytelling) - the more positive responses I began to get. And by no means do I have the followings of some of my peers in the game but by myself I have more followers across social media than many of the companies I've worked for. And if I don't, I connect with my fans without effort. There is no strategy, no management, no analytics. It's just me and my people. Of course there is, but it comes naturally to me.

And here's where everything went screwy. So here's the deal, full disclosure, EPayneTheDad has, for many years, been in pursuit of meaning, self, identity, purpose and reason for being. It has angered me, frustrated me and many days left me depressed, unable to function, relate or be any good to the people who depended on me at the time. But all the while I was promoting myself in an effort to get ahead, pull even with my wife, find acceptance somewhere where acceptance has been just out of grasp for as long as I can remember, first grade to be exact. And where I wasn't looking for it, I found it - acceptance. From the sea of avatars that populate social media that have over time seconded my mellifluous musings here on this blog and anywhere else. Being just as human as anyone else the affirmation from the nebula of the Internet triggered my ego and inflated it so at times it has been difficult for my head to get through the door at home. It's made me never wrong and hardly unapologetic because in my mind I have been wrong for good reason and deserve to be cut the slack as anyone completely out of their minds should. Via Social I actually tricked myself into believing I was better and occasionally holier, than thou. Now that I know this I can't even imagine what it has been like to live with and for that matter, attempt to reason with me - the self-declared Mr. Good Guy who actually isn't that good at all. I shared with a fellow married man as recently as this morning that my motivation for doing things for others hasn't been for the good of others but rather for how it would make me look or seem in the eyes of others and the shocking realization for me is that I have been doing this for YEARS! And I can only recognize this now because after seeing firsthand the pain and brokenness I've caused (which never made any sense to a guy like me - figured something was wrong with everyone else) and spending time in intense prayer and personal reflection I've recently moved into a space where I am doing things purely for the well being of others and I'm here to state that although it feels a bit foreign, it also feels pretty darn good.

Be warned, especially men: hanging out on social is cool if that's what you want to do. If it's your job that's fine too. But be sure keep your mind and your heart guarded and maybe more importantly have real friends - ones who are in the flesh who will hold you accountable and keep you and your ego in check.


March 8th is International Women's Day: A Call To Action For Men

It's been many days since I've written here. I've spent a lot of time exploring me and trying to shift my thinking from self-serving and rather negative, to one that is more open and less self-righteous.

Today is International Women's Day. I've written about more than once here on the blog. It was cool, I got the gist of it of the day. One year I shared a video starring Daniel Craig. I figured his scripted piece was better than my own thoughts. Then a couple years later, I wrote about my daughter's amazing light but spent most of the post writing about my role as a father to facilitate this and my viewpoints as a man watching women not being considered equal.

There's a lot of talk about equal rights and equal pay in the press. Most recently, Patricia Arquette made quite a splash at the Oscars with her comments, potentially on the heads of other groups that continue to seek equality. There are plenty of grand global sweeping statements on what needs to happen. Most of them start with, "It's time we start..." It makes you feel good. The heart may even flutter. But there are no real actionable steps to accomplish anything.

I woke up this morning with no plans to write anything, especially here. But as I was looking at some of the Women's Day posts on social media I was literally struck by a very simple notion that came over me: It starts at home.

It Starts At Home
As a 43 year old man, I've come to believe I know some things about this world and yet the more time I continue to breathe, the more I recognize I do not. I have made it my business to surround myself with men. Men's men, strong men, successful men, accomplished men. There are times when we talk, often in circles, about ourselves and how we can be better men. For those of us who have daughters we talk about them as if they are priceless possessions and in the same breath we speak of our women as wholly human - flawed, challenging, at times a handful, and at times burdensome. What gives? The best place to start making a change for International Women's Day is across the dinner table with the one whom you share your life.

How often do we go to work, watch the news, hear stories second-hand about women not having their equal rights and equal say and shake our heads, only to come home and casually dismiss, ignore or reject our wives because we think we know better or because we think we can handle it. And we do so with male indignation.

At times, throughout the course of this blog I have marginalized and even villain-ized my wife and then conducted myself with smugness as being a great father and man. One any woman should be happy to have in their lives. My wife has read everything I've ever written, opting to remain silent, burying the pain caused by my sometimes callous insights on her and often over-inflated insights of myself. What women or rights of women am I celebrating if I am not first celebrating the woman in my home? Sadly, none. If anything I am embodying the definition of hypocrisy and so are many of us, men who don't hold our wives as equals in our lives. This isn't about the ages-old leadership debate, but rather simply holding the one you claim to love in the highest regard as possible so that you can actually see who they are, versus focusing constantly on who they are not.

With that said, today on International Women's Day I'd like start at home by celebrating my wife because she is:

  1. Absolutely Brilliant 
  2. Electric
  3. Determined
  4. Amazing
  5. Potent
  6. Courageous and Brave
  7. A Force of Nature
  8. Adventurous
  9. Thoughtful and Giving Beyond Measure
  10. A Loving Mother
In all honesty, my life is truly better because of her. She is a testament to strength and perseverance to everyone in my family. Being completely transparent, if I spent more time focusing on just these 10 things and less time on what I have perceived as shortcomings there's no telling how much more traction this blog would have as an empowerment tool to not only men and fathers but also women. It pains me to think that this blog has done anything less, especially as it relates to my wife. For this the blog and I owe her a tremendous apology.

For husbands reading this today, here's my call to action: 
  • Lift up the women in your lives. 
  • Hear them out. 
  • Trust them. 
  • Appreciate their perspectives. 
  • Understand they are just as right as you. 
  • Honor them. 
  • See them for their amazingness, not just what they could or should be doing better. 
  • Understand that they are not you. 
  • Celebrate their successes. 
  • Be there for them during their struggles. 
  • Promote them - tell them they matter to you and the world - everyday. 
  • Love them.
This is your duty. Take care of home before you set foot outside your home to entertain Women's Equality.

Meet Ross and watch his testimony on what it means to be a father..
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2014 In Review: The Good, The Bad & What's Next

2014 has taken its bow after twelve months of highs, lows and some stretches of steadiness. I've been silent for most of it as I've been waging a number of personal battles that consumed so much emotional energy, I simply haven't had the bandwidth to share much of myself via my blog, via photos, via nothing. But in doing this I've learned is it's good sometimes to close the gates, pull down the blinds and focus on self. Because, let's put it into perspective, if you aren't any good or are deteriorating, how can you hope to be of any good to anyone else?

2014 was a year of accomplishments:

1. I adopted my son after many years of saying I would and trying to do so. God allows some things to happen in His time no matter how hard we try to do it ourselves. I needed to mature considerably before I could truly have the right attitude and heart for what it was that I was trying to do. It also didn't hurt that I found a great lawyer to work on our behalf.

2. In December of 2013 my cholesterol was high. My doctor told me to get active or get on cholesterol meds. I'm not a fan of  pills. On January 1, 2014, while vacationing in Fort Lauderdale, I decided I was going to run a mile a day after reading an article on the plane about a man who has run eight miles a day for the last thirty-eight years. Or at least I was going to do my best to try. Weather, health and stick-tuitiveness impacted this, of course. These were the highlights of my efforts

  • I ran my fastest mile in June in 7:41
  • I ran my fastest 5K in December in 27:07
  • I ran my fastest 10K in September in 63:17
  • I ran a total of 52.1 miles in August
  • I ran a total of 300.1 miles in 2014
  • I developed a healthy rivalry amongst a handful of runners
  • I lost 15 pounds
  • I lowered my cholesterol

3. I vigorously paid down my debt following Dave Ramsey's debt snowball system so that, minus any unforseen setbacks, I can declare myself debt free in September 2015. It's an amazing feeling to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

4. At the end of 2012 I pledged to triple the income I made that year. In January 2015 I will be making nearly four times what I made in 2012. It took me two years as opposed to the one I originally thought it would, but my point is by simply staying the course and complaining almost never I'm receiving more than I was trying to achieve.

5. I, or rather through God's help I have experienced a real breakthrough in my marriage. Yes, my marriage was on a flaming, speeding bobsled headed straight to Hell. And it had been for a long time. It landed me in therapy, a place I thought I'd never be. But I fought and fought and fought and fought and met a real good dude along the way who was going through something similar. He became a partner in arms providing advice, really GOOD advice every step of the way. And when I finally stopped fighting because I was too tired to even raise my head to look at the sun I've been blessed to see everyday, my wife came around just enough to let me know the fighting was all worth it. And the rest will be the continuation of our story. There is much still to be done and even more to be undone.

6. Therapy was a place I thought I'd never be. Especially as a black man, pumped up with the false notion that I should be able to pray everything away. It's funny how through most of 2013 my pastor referenced his therapy sessions during sermons and it went right over my head. And ultimately, God makes therapists too. In 2104 enough was enough. I didn't understand me and always knew I didn't. So I sat down with a man who's name and number I had for a long time and he helped me begin to slay the dragons in my head that I actually thought existed. He's taught how to speak as opposed to how I had been speaking and how to view things as not being nearly as terrible as I was making them out to be. 

7. Through all of the above, I found my voice. I learned to speak my mind without concern of what others may think. I also learned how to choose my battles a bit more wisely. And I've learned the power of silence. I also learned the power of saying no, affirmatively.

8. I stepped out of my comfort zone and went with the family on a Christmas cruise. My family and I enjoyed sun, surf and the amazing enormity of the Atlantic Ocean. A clear reminder that we take up no space whatsoever on this immense planet. It's a truly humbling experience I would encourage you to experience.

2014 was a year of challenges:

1. I came to seriously question my purpose/reason for being. This in turn negatively impacted my ability to write (blog) and make it through the day each day at work. This continues to be a challenge for me that hopefully, I'll be writing about this experience with fondness at the end of 2015.

2. Fighting for my marriage has left me with a lot of emotional baggage and a lot of collateral damage. It's stuff I have to acknowledge and work through in order to move forward.  

3. I struggled and continue to struggle with the idea that I deserve nice things and so do the people around me whom I love.

4. 2014 was the year I learned to let go of things I was no longer honestly using by either giving them away or throwing them away. This isn't to say I was a hoarder but based on older relatives I know I have the trait.

5. I failed to create a product I could sell or promote. This is something I have been trying to do effectively to no avail year after year. But part of this had much to do with me not having my voice or knowing why I'm here. I anticipate a change now that these areas have improved.

6. Following Number 5 above, I put many of my passions on the back burner considering them to be failed expectations rather than dreams that have yet to come to pass.

7. My father suffered a stroke right before Thanksgiving 2014. It was mild but it was enough to temporarily change life as my mother and I know it. We also learned that over time my father has had multiple mild strokes. Not enough to kill him but just enough to alter him in ways we currently do not know. I learned a lot about myself back in the beginning of December when I flew home and found my dad in a condition that I would never consider possible for a man of his stature. My compassion, strength, ingenuity, patience, willingness to act and speak up for myself, and faith were all tested and strengthened. The silver lining in all that has happened is that my mother and I now know and know how to get him to his new normal. I'll take that over the alternative of my mother coming home one day and finding my dad unconscious or worse.

In Conclusion

I saw a lot of people move on to the next life in 2014. Both friends and family. I'm becoming more and more aware of my own mortality as my son ages into manhood and my daughter continues her ascent into little ladyhood. I never imagined myself as a dude with a legacy and yet, here I am.

I hope you experience the successes and teachable moments from your 2014, write them down and contemplate how they have helped and hindered you. In 2015 I want you to be everything you determine yourself to be. Don't rule out the help of others. No man or woman is an island and doing it all yourself is not a recipe for success. Speak up for yourself and don't let anyone steal your joy.

I will do my best to be here with you in words and ideas.

Meet Ross and watch his testimony on what it means to be a father..
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We Are At The End of The Road

What I am writing may very well be my last long form post on MakesMeWannaHoller.com. This doesn’t mean I won't pick up roots and start blogging again or creating again somewhere else but this I believe is the curtain call for this blog. Certain experts in the field say it's good to end a blog. Many in life say all things come to pass.

The History Lesson
When I first began this blog I was confused. Confused and without much direction in life. The original name of the blog was Manchild In the Promised Land, after the famous book. My intention was to write about how disconnected I felt from life and this world I was born into. It was going to be about the struggles of a youngish, up and coming black man trying to find purpose in a world, and a city - New York City at that, where it constantly eluded him.

My reason for doing this? To become a published author. I wanted to write fiction and tell fantastic stories about the underdog - me - but with more panache, drama and power. An old girl friend told me I’d never be satisfied with life because I lived it much larger in my mind that in reality. To this day, I ponder this and I hope she wasn’t right.

But then something unexpected happened along the way, I wrote about one of my kids climbing into my bed in the middle of the night and beating me as I tried to get a good night’s rest. Some people liked the post. They told me I should write more like that. And write is exactly what I did to the tune of 1,000 posts about fatherhood, marriage and everything in between. I became transparent about my life and then I scaled back a bit to become more inspirational/advisory. But you folks who read me you knew the deal. You knew when I had arguments and you know what I was arguing about. You knew my oldest kid’s struggles and you even knew my desire to make him “officially” mine. Which I did and always quietly told myself would mark the end of this blog. Other than their names, all of them beautiful, I didn’t keep much else secret.

And blogging has brought me unexpected “fame” - a few random television appearances, many advertising and influencer opportunities, a handful of trips in the US and outside and a number of speaking engagements. The job I have now as an ad agency dude has a lot to do with what I bring to the table as a blogger. I have connections I can call friends and experiences that have truly shaped and molded me into the man I am: somewhat outspoken, positive more than negative, and innovative.

But there was something else going on in the background that you, the readers, and I, the writer, wasn’t exactly aware of. It was how I was neglecting my wife even though I was writing about how central a role she played in my life. See, I was trying to create income, create notoriety, create a platform in the name of doing for my family. But in not sharing these motivations with her, because as I guy, I thought she would get this because, well, why wouldn’t she - I left her out of all this. She was the subject of many stories, the butt of some jokes, the focal point of my literary ire (which I point out is way stronger than my face to face ire) and much of it was without her permission or without buy-in from her. I knew that I was doing what I was doing so that when the job opportunities came along or the book deal popped up I could say, “Here, look at my body of work, all served up on a digital platter for you.” But without communicating that intention, and when I did, doing so poorly and sometimes angrily, my efforts were judged as being far less simple, and even less so noble. So for me my blog is my platform. For my wife, it was a thing that came between us and to a certain extent remains between us thanks to the many years of fallout it has caused.

You are seeing this post today because this is the day I published it, but the first few sentences were written as a draft on July 25, 2014. It was something that I knew I needed to do to address the inadvertent hurt I’ve caused. Because sometimes you do have to prove to others you care about, how much they matter. It was what I knew I needed to do because I don’t want anything real or imagined, that I can control, coming between me and any of my family members, especially my wife. It is what I’ve known I needed to do for a long time because sometimes when you have a conviction to do something, you don’t really even need an explanation or a reason that makes sense to others. 

It’s been a good run, but I never really had any intention of writing here for another eight to nine years as my daughter ages up and out of my house. Unless there's something truly compelling happens that I need to share from a dad-daughters or girls’ empowerment perspective. Besides, I’m sure most of it will be a repeat of what I went through with my son, except this time it will be wrapped in pink bows, zebra and leopard prints and a beautiful smile versus a junky room and big feet. If this is your first time here or you are relatively knew, feel free to scroll through the 1,000+ existing posts. This place is a time suck if there ever was one. Ultimately, it is my love letter to my kids, a place that they can come once they are a little older and understand how confused and human Daddy was and maybe not make the same mistakes I have. It's also the safe space I created for myself, a man of color, to be me whether it was right or wrong at times, in a world that doesn't really allow for or even want men of color to be vulnerable or authentic.

Shuttering the Doors
Ultimately, my family’s well being matters way more to me than any material thing. And what my wife believes and how she feels and most importantly how she feels she is being regarded means the world to me though I’ve stumbled plenty in this department. If shuttering the doors on this project which has brought some confusion and some pain behind the scenes heals just one of her wounds well then this action was well worth it. Life is too short and love is too precious to hold on to things. This is not a goodbye, but rather me putting an endpoint on a story that no longer needs to continue publicly. I look forward to living life without feeling I'm not doing something right if I don't share (unless I'm really in the mood). I’m glad and blessed and honored and privileged to have been able to evolve this experience into one that has allowed me to inspire others, both men and women. And with my wife’s permission, I may pop in from time to time to wax poetic here and there or make an announcement about something, but it’s time to move on to the next thing. If I could have my way in a perfect world I would hand the reigns over to another to pick up where I am leaving, so if you’re reading and interested in becoming a contributor let me know in the comments and let’s get connected. I've been wanting to do this for the past two years, actually, but it's hard to get someone to blog for you when everyone has their own blog. 

One simple request, if you’re feeling like applauding me for this, please do not. I do this somberly. Accolades are something I do not want. I’m doing this solely for the purpose of righting past wrongs. I don't do this out of duress. I do it because it is long overdue.

Thank you for the experience, my beloved blog. I’ve become a better writer and a better thinker thanks to you. Thank you, to my contributing writers over the years. I also need to thank my wife for enduring me on the not so good days and being as understanding as possible about something I never truly explained to her. Thanks to all the brands that have trusted me to review their products. Thank you for reading, my beloved readers. Thank you for allowing me to share a little (or a lot) of my life with you and I am nothing but honored by the respect you’ve shown me over the years. 

Until the next experience (maybe/probably) stay tuned… 

And my fondest farewell.

photo credit: Tom Rydquist via photopin cc

Meet Ross and watch his testimony on what it means to be a father.

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Allow Children To Be Exactly What They Are: Children

Parents give your kids the time and space they need to be children. It's easy for us as adults to be totally blinded by the frenetic pace of our lives, always being on, always having something more to do, never having enough time to do any of it. Understand that kids aren't able to move as fast as us (especially if they have to because you're behind schedule) nor should they have to. They have the rest of their lives to be stressed based on their own actions. Do your best not to stress them out because of yours. For example, if they take "too long" getting ready for school, maybe you need to get up a little earlier in order to get them up early enough so you don't lose your mind and your patience trying to get them out of the house. Lord knows I do. This doesn't let them off the hook for everything, but it does when you are the one at fault.

Meet Ross and watch his testimony on what it means to be a father..

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Girls Can Play Sports, Too. And Play Them Well.

Last week, my daughter asked me why mostly boys wore Nike. So we spent this past Sunday afternoon watching the Nike Women and Under Armor YouTube Channels. The ensuing conversation developed into one that included following your dreams, sports, ethnicity, exercise and fitness and having an honest conversation around feminine physicality.

Now, she knows the names of multiple female athletes, across a range of sports and is much more empowered to believe she can do what she wants to through dedication, hard work and opportunity.

Meet Ross and watch his testimony on what it means to be a father.

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