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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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#BackToSchool - College Style

My big boy is Back to School and halfway through his first week of classes. I'm not talking about bright shining faces and new backpacks back-to-school. Rather, rented minivan filled with boxes and clothes and hundreds of dollars in textbooks back-to-school. Not to mention that pesky tuition bill I'm paying via the grace of God and starting a 529 Plan for him nine years ago. 

With everything that's currently going on in our nation, but even if we lived in a utopia, I couldn't be a prouder dad.

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

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It's A Boy!

In the same vein of my cousin by love and the best man at my wedding (won't tag you and infiltrate your feed, but you know who you are), I'm proud to announce that on July 28th I became the proud father of a 200 pound, six-feet, three-inch tall baby boy. Son is doing well, currently sleeping late, working part time and playing Xbox until his sophomore year in college begins in a couple weeks.

In all seriousness (the above is a joke), my adoption of the boy went through a couple weeks back and although I've always envisioned it being some spectacular moment for me it actually just came and went and brought a quick smile to my face. I think the process took as long as it did (it defies logic how long it took and was confounded with hurdles) so God could burn the braggadocio out of me in order for me to see the bigger picture. That picture is that my son (who no one can no longer hint or wink at me and whisper, "Well, he's not really your son..." - without seriously getting cursed out) who has always known he is loved now knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, he is claimed. Hopefully, this will serve him well as continues his journey into manhood and EVENTUALLY parenthood.

Before you go, please meet Ross and watch his testimony on what it means to be a father..
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This Video Will Leave You Smiling From Ear To Ear #wedoexist

The video contained in this post was a rush job. There are no ifs ands and buts about it. I had been trying to schedule Scott for a shoot all week and when he was finally available, my time was not my own. But I committed myself to making it happen.

What I didn't anticipate was Scott's nervousness. We've discussed fatherhood in the past and also in the days leading up to my taping him. He's a fun-loving bear of a man who speaks with so much pride and passion about being a father I was caught off guard by his jitters about saying the right thing. Or worse, saying the wrong thing.

I knew that if we had to do multiple takes, this guy was going to start overthinking and making mechanical something that comes very naturally to him. So we did this in two takes, albeit with some camera shake, the Sun imposing it's will on us and my overlooking some tiny gaffes in the name of getting the most authentic and raw footage possible.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, Scott gave me some of the purest gold I've ever had the pleasure to watch. I literally have grinned from ear to ear while watching. Especially 2:55 into the video.

I hope you will agree. Fatherhood in Black: Because We Do Exist

Happy Father's Day to you and yours.

Before you go, meet Ross and watch his testimony on what it means to be a father.

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