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Monday

Makes Me Wanna Holler Gets a Facelift!!

Check out the new graphic for the site at the top of the page. It was created by my sister-in-law. Thank you, TJ!

Let me know your thoughts and/or if you want to hire her.

Peace.

When A Father Attacks: The Setup

I am a Libra. I am an only child. I am a father.

My Libra friends tell me us Libras are slow to be impressed, don’t excited by much and lose interest quickly. We also are sensitive, giving souls to a fault. We give people around us enough rope to hang themselves and we preside over these hangings gleefully, without regret, without remorse.

As an only child who was ruled with an iron fist I enjoy the luxury of being able to bask in solitude, draw strength from it and recharge in it. As a married man, solitude is a commodity I value as much as gold, wheat and corn in today's economy. I can appreciate an empty house, I enjoy moments without music or the white noise of always-on television --- mindlessly watched, and always on. Being an only child has its downsides, as do most things. I am prone to moodiness, insistent on space that many times doesn’t exist when living together (and not living in a mansion) and when angered, become uber-independent and ice-cold to those closest to me or those whom I view as hurtful or a threat.

I enjoy being a father. Learning to become the father of my wife’s son was a rocky and challenging experience for a variety of reasons, some of which had to do with not only the changing of my thinking from only child’s, but a single man’s to that of one who is a lot more selfless. My wife didn’t make things easy either. She saw something in me that I didn’t know was there and her impatience, in my humble opinion, overpowered her opportunity to teach me the ways and means and ins and outs of parenting.

Additionally, as many men will attest to, the paternalistic nature that most women seem to be born with doesn’t kick in for men until they bear a child of their own.

When my daughter was born, fatherhood just “clicked”. Like my first kiss, it all came very easily. The fear that, in the beginning, kept me up most nights wondering if I could pull it off, became the motivation I needed to pull it off. And now 8 years since I met my wife, with a 13 year-old and a 2.5 year-old, being dad is something I draw strength from and something that is invaluable to me in a world where not too much truly matters (to me). I enjoy being a father. Sometimes, it’s the one thing I look forward to at the end of long days and weeks.

By Wednesday of this week I will be without children for a month. Free to do whatever I want. Wanton in purpose and weakened with no source of strength.

For Father’s Day I was given a trip to New Orleans taking place this Fourth of July. Unknown to me, my wife was planning the trip for weeks and I love her for it. Unknown to me, my wife was planning to have my parents take my 2.5 year old daughter off our hands for the month of July.

My parents live in Chicago.

When she finally shared the full scope of her plans with me, I was less than happy. When I asked my wife why she would do this without consulting me she quickly announced, “Because I knew you would say no.” She argued that our son goes away every year. He's thirteen. He began going to sleep-away camp when he was roughly six years old. She was a basket case when it first happened. I was there to console and reassure her that he would be fine.

My daughter is two. Her argument fell flat.

Immediately, I knew she meant well, wanting to spend quality time together, in an effort to experience that newlywed love anew that being parents doesn't allow time for. But meaning well and doing well are two completely different things. My wife didn’t know it at the time, but she had a serious problem on her hands that was getting ready to balloon out of control. It takes two words to name it and one word to describe it and two more words to explain its cause:

The name: Eric Payne.

The description: Father.

The cause: Her actions.

For what happens next, check in tomorrow for When A Father Attacks: The Catch-22...part two of this four-part series running through July 3.

Thirteen Things About Thirteen

My son's room. One day after being cleaned.

Two Fridays ago my son turned 13 years old. We took him and five of his friends to Six Flags Great Adventures and celebrated his official entrance into teenage life. Three years ago I remember telling him, "You're one of the sweetest kids I've ever known...stay that way." He asked me what I meant and I went on to explain he was the funniest, most genuine, polite, friendly young man I'd ever met and I didn't want him to lose any of this as they are potent character strengths for success in life.

Now he's thirteen and he's not so sweet anymore. My son is quite the looker, a young man who has the young girls flocking to him. Unlike me when I was his age, he seems to be turning into a ladykiller (when his hair is cut, his clothes are ironed, and he doesn't smell). I tease him that he will be the king of the first date as he still hasn't mastered eating a meal without wearing his food on his face, hands and a decent amount of his clothing. Lately, his favorite response to my teasing is, "whatever". And "whatever" probably best describes his disposition on everything except Wii, xBox and Jordans.

I've mentioned in several posts that on most days I daydream about choking him, throwing rocks at him, and generally torturing him, probably because I'm not anything close to the disciplinarian my father was when he reared me. But I love my son for who he is and who he is not, what he aspires to be, what he chooses not to be and what he cannot be. He is a young black man in training and I expend a lot of mental energy making sure most of my words to him are worthwhile, and all my lessons truly are lessons. But I also like to have plain old fun with him.

These are the thirteen things about him turning thirteen that perplex, inspire, elate and deflate me.
  1. His room is clean only on the day he cleans it.
  2. His room smells like burning onions and musty feet.
  3. He can send 300 text messages in two weeks time or less.
  4. He exercises regularly and does his best to eat right.
  5. During the week he asks me how my day went --- everyday, without fail.
  6. He still wants to do things with me and loves spending time with his family.
  7. We talk superheroes, sports, cars and Sponge Bob, Avatar, and Ben 10.
  8. Sex.
  9. He's picked up my penmanship and every once in awhile, I hear my words coming out of his mouth when he's correcting others.
  10. He's polite in public and holds doors open for women.
  11. He's my wife's little man, and my daughter's Big Brother.
  12. He asks me first about questionable movies, music and television shows and has the discernment to know what is inappropriate despite his belief that he's grown.
  13. He's doing a great job being a great kid.
This list could go much longer, but number 13 sums it up. I'm doing best to keep it this way.

Thursday

How Young Is Too Young for an R-rated movie?

Check out the latest poll in the right-hand column of the page (hopefully I'll get this right this time). How young is too young for your kid, or kids in general, to see an R-rated flick?

Vote and comment. Enjoy. After the poll closes I'll have a related post.

Peace.

Wednesday

The Incredible Hulk In Harlem?

I took my son to see The Incredible Hulk on Tuesday night and it truly was incredible. I didn’t mind the fact that he didn’t look completely believable (as Iron Man did) as I’m not sure how you can make a 9-foot tall, bulletproof, barefoot, shirtless, green man with more muscle than most countries look believable under any circumstances. Now that Marvel is producing their own films there is a certain realism that they are injecting into superhero movies that just didn’t exist before --- such as the abject horror splayed across the faces of the soldiers who came face to face with a 9-foot tall, bulletproof, barefoot, shirtless, green man who was toppling Humvees, ripping cars in half, downing gunships and roaring like a lion.

Anyway.

The Hulk and Abomination (Hulk’s adversary in the flick) wind up in this climatic battle sequence on 125th Street, Harlem U.S.A. They lay waste to the street, interesting enough avoiding the Apollo Theatre, all of the new big box stores and overpriced condos that have sprung up thanks to gentrification. And as with any action flick, all hell breaks loose in front of innocent bystanders and what do they do? They run into the trouble, rather than from it. Abomination knocked a handful of people about a city block away from him. Hilarious. Michael K. Williams a.ka. Omar Little of The Wire ran outside onto the street and ran back inside the doorway he emerged from as soon as he saw the chaos. Tankers were blowing up, people were standing around screaming and traffic continued to head toward the chaos. Even a soldier tried to drive away from the scene in reverse with only three wheels on his vehicle versus just getting out and running for his life.

I thought all of this was hilarious. Not because I've seen it at this point dozens of times, but because this time most, if not all of the innocents were black folk. And here's the thing with black folk: we run --- like hell --- at the first sign of trouble. And I'm speaking from personal experience as a person who, as a younger man, attended large outdoor events where too many people were around too many other people. Things go wrong (as they do at all large events) and everyone, including this me, runs like hell.

Which brings me back to the movie.

Had one 9-foot tall, 1,100-pound green behemoth been fighting a 10-foot tall behemoth in present day Harlem, I humbly suggest that this would be the scenario:
  • Anyone not driving a Cadillac Escalade or a vehicle with 20+ inch rims would abandon their cars without hesitation.
  • Everyone on foot would run like the wind away from the chaos.
  • People would kick windows out of buses trying to get off them if they were stuck in traffic.
  • Any and every cabbie spotted going North, South, East or West of Harlem would be pulled out of their car by mobs, and once people finished fighting each other to get inside the empty cabs, at least 8 people would pile in to go North, South, East or West of Harlem (whether they knew how to drive or not).
  • Several cats would bring their lawn chairs to the rooftops of their buildings and watch the festivities on the street. Some of these individuals would even probably begin smoking weed or have a forty with them just to make the whole scene more palatable (or exciting).
  • The few illegal street vendors still around would pack up their goods faster than they do when NYPD does sweeps and descend into the nearest subway.
  • Mothers and fathers would either drag their children down the street by their arms yelling at them the whole way to "c'mon!" or push their babies full speed in their strollers, making sure their shopping bags were still hooked onto the stroller handles.
  • And then a few, because of pride or machismo, would defend their homestead by any means necessary. And they would die.
This is just my take on things. I won't say more because I'll give away the rest of the movie for those of you who actually want to see it. I don't believe in spoilers.

This is completely random and has nothing to do with fatherhood, being a man, or a husband.

I simply couldn't resist.

Blogging As Therapy

A recent Newsweek article speaks directly to me and what this blog has become for me: therapy. All of us manage our daily crises differently and I do believe we all experience aberrations in our personalities and characters from time to time based on societal influences, personal issues, etc. Unfortunately, we've come to loosely term those who are unable to manage these experiences as crazy. It's a word I often use comically referring to others and sometimes my life, and quietly I view myself as occasionally nuts. Before the blog, I was bottling up a lot. Now, I've become pretty efficient at letting things roll off my back...most things.

Now that Makes Me Wanna Holler has been up for a few months, I'm getting a steady flow of comments on the stuff I muse over. Yesterday, I wrote a general post (and associated poll) regarding a subject that's close to me at the moment. As therapy. As most bloggers know you can control what you want the world to see. Surprisingly, but I guess, not so surprisingly you began to comment. My gut reaction was to leave the post as one that couldn't be commented on, but blogging is about open discourse and in the essence of the forum I didn't want to shut that down. There was a difference of opinion that began to develop and there's nothing wrong with that. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

The Newsweek article concludes with the suggestion that it's okay to share as long as you don't share too much and it has been become clear to me that I shared too much on yesterday's question/poll. People sometimes do things without thinking of the repercussions or the feelings that might get hurt. Yesterday and today I am guilty of this error in judgment. With that said, I've taken down the post and in front of all, I apologize to my wife --- the mother of my children --- my best friend --- and unfortunately as of late, my foe. I am sorry for hurting you (should you happen to visit again anytime soon).

For those of you who voted and commented. Thank you, please continue to visit, vote and comment. Keep your eyes peeled for something on the light side. And until I come up with another question, stay tuned. A printer whom I do business at work told me this morning, "The good Lord'll take care of ya, so don't worry about anything and enjoy life." He's an older man with perspective.

I'll take that perspective with a side of fries on the side.

Peace.

Call for Submissions: Single Dads & Married Moms

Monday's post was from a single woman who poignantly shared her thoughts on successful fatherhood based on her wealth of knowledge and personal experiences with her father and her family.

Now I'd like to hear from the single fathers and a married moms who visit Makes Me Wanna Holler. What is your take on successful fatherhood? Reply in the comments section at the bottom of this post with a brief essay (no more than 600 words) of your thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc., and I will post the one (1) best single dad submission I receive as well as the one (1) best married mom submission I receive with full credit to you, a one sentence bio, and a link to your website (if you have one).

Peace.

Monday

What Makes a Successful Father? A Single Woman's Perspective

A cousin of mine responds to many of my posts via email, preferring the privacy of a one-on-one with me to the open forum that commenting on blogs can be. Recently she sent me a comment that was so potent that I couldn't resist making it a post unto itself. With no further ado, I present my first guest blogger: Miss Jackie B.

It was hard for me to answer this poll. Is "successful fatherhood" being defined as someone who provides financially/materially for his family, or as someone who can build a loving and nurturing relationship with their children? Or both?

In my humble opinion, what makes a "successful" parent is the nature and quality of the relationship the parent has with his/her children in that it's loving, supportive, nurturing and promotes in the child a healthy sense of self, well-being, security, self-love, and independence/autonomy. This doesn't necessarily have to do with a job or money or things we can "give" our kids that we believe will make their lives "better". Many people grow up in a home being materially well-cared for, but feeling emotionally neglected/disconnected on some level, or, too overprotected/sheltered. This impacts the child's self-image which impacts their ability to relate with others. And many grow up without the accoutrements of so-called "middle-class" living but have strong, healthy kinship/community connections which contribute to a strong sense of self and the ability to create strong interpersonal relationships which is critical for successful adult living because the emotionally healthy child grows into an emotionally healthy/functioning adult who can have healthy relationships, with others including their spouses and children. I'm not saying that a child doesn't need food and adequate clothing and shelter to be healthy (notice I didn't say the latest kicks or violent video game), but I think that parents give their kids so many "things" because it satisfies a void within themselves. All kids really desire is their attention, time, and connection to their parents, and there are various ways to do that. My fondest childhood memories are around certain rituals I had with my parents --- such as my dad and I eating breakfast after my piano lessons on Saturday mornings at the redwood diner. We'd talk and listen to our favorite songs over the jukebox. Also singing in the car with my mother, harmonizing to songs we liked. I can't remember all the "things" they might have bought me, but i remember those and similar memories.

And yes, the relationship between the parents is important as well b/c it's a model for how kids learn how to relate to others. How loving, respectful, healthy is it (which doesn't necessarily have to do with being married per se)? How do you talk/relate to each other? Is it combative or kind? Sarcastic or genuine? Manipulative/controlling or co-creative? I think it's interesting how our parents punished us as kids and teens for lying, cheating, being rude, unkind, inconsiderate, etc. when parents/adults act/speak the same way in front of their kids, both about and to each other (ever see how parents act at Xmas time in toy stores when the "must have" toy is about to be sold out--the vision of seeing on the news adults fighting over a Tickle Me Elmo is disheartening to say the least). And the b.s. about "do as i say, not as i do" is exactly what it is, b.s. Parents are supposed to lead by example--actions speak louder than words--and kids/teens don't have the emotional or cognitive maturity/ability to discern between what's "good" and "bad" behavior when their parents exhibit both to and in front of the child. It doesn't mean you can't disagree in front of the kids, but how you go about doing it in a way that that doesn't undermine the relationship (and therefore send overt and subtle messages about functional/dysfunctional relationships to the kids cuz yes, they pick up on that energy) is important.

At any rate, what makes a successful father or parent are the qualities that he exhibits in his life and with his children, which is an "inside job" if you will. Things that money or a new job can't give you.

Thursday

I Can Do This


I'd like to thank all of you who commented on and emailed me about my Father's Day post. For those of you who were around last week, the poll I took showed that 72% felt men had the right to plan their own day, but the majority of the feedback I received indicated that a man should allow their loved ones, be it their children or spouse/partner, to plan their day for them in celebration of them.

In the end, everyone was right. There were no wrong answers/opinions/points.

Last week my Monday to Sunday went something like this...

Monday: Went to work, went to a loft party after work.

Tuesday: Got into an argument with my wife first thing in the morning, went to work, came home, fed the kids, ate cereal for dinner, laid out clothes for the next day, packed lunch for the baby, went to bed and didn't say much to the wife.

Wednesday: The wife left on her business trip at 6 a.m., I got the tween ready for school, got the baby ready, dropped her at the sitter, got to work only fifteen minutes late, worked, put out a fire with an employee, inadvertently fanned a fire with an in-law, rounded up the kids, went to Target, gave the tween his orders for the night after arriving home, fed everyone leftovers, worked with the baby on the potty, made dinner for the next day, cleaned the house, packed lunch for the baby, sent my son to bed, laid out my clothes for the next day, chased the cat out of my bedroom, read to the baby, put the baby to bed, cleaned the kitchen, played around with the blog, spread out across my empty bed, slept like a baby.

Thursday: Woke up at 5:45, did push ups, got the kids ready, sent the tween to school, dropped the baby at the sitter, got to work on time, the day went by in a blur (Thank God), caught the train home, picked up the baby, set the table, ate with my family, gave my tween the nightly orders, sat on him to study for his finals, talked with him about his upcoming birthday, played with the baby, gave her a bath, struggled to do something with her hair, worked with her on the potty, read to the baby, put the baby to bed (she actually went to sleep on her own) packed her lunch, packed my lunch, set out her clothes and mine, played Scrabulous on Facebook, put together all the dirty towels and the bath mat, chased the cat out of the bedroom, cleaned some more, went to bed, slept like a baby.

Friday: Woke up at 6, did push ups, got the kids ready, went to the laundromat to have the towels and bath mat washed, caught the train, got to work, felt really good about myself-the day-my life and wrote about it, happily worked in the office until 2, worked off-site (even happier) until 5:30, came home, got the baby, found the tween at my mother-in-laws house, went to my storage closet to throw out junk, picked up the kids, ordered Chinese food, went home, got Father's Day cards in the mail from my mommy, ate with my family, watched my daughter struggle to stay awake until she practically collapsed standing up, talked basketball and the Hulk with my son, sent him to bed, enjoyed the breeze passing from the front to the back of my apartment, laid in bed watching my daughter sleep, passed out, slept like a baby.

Saturday: Expected to sleep late (the stupid cat was screeching at 7 a.m. about absolutely nothing - she had her food and water), woke up early, was greeted by my son who thought I was going to work (when he found out I wasn't, he went back to sleep), vacuumed, fed everyone, took a shower, waited for my daughter's godmother to come over to babysit, went to Brooklyn for the Mocha Man event, got stuck in traffic, got to the event late, met Shon Gables, shook hands, ate food, passed out business cards but spoke more about this blog, got my t-shirt (pictured above) as swag, took a coworker/friend home before the skies opened up, spent three hours driving home through a storm that turned a bright sky pitch black in fifteen minutes, made hot dogs and fries for my son, my daughter's godmother and myself, fed the baby toddler food, shopped for bags online for my wife (see comments for Father's Day Part II), convinced my daughter's godmother not to go to Queens in the storm, gave her sheets and a towel so she could crash in the living room, watched television until the television watched me, went to sleep.

Sunday/Father's Day: Got up early to go to church but my daughter picked Sunday to start throwing tantrums after a 3-day reprieve and my son refused to get up (and I don't believe in going to church mad), was jealous of my daughter's godmother who did go to church, got over it, got dressed for the day, put on my new t-shirt, got the baby dressed, told my son to get dressed, took the baby to the store to buy diapers, rounded up the son to go to IHOP, laughed as brother and sister (12 & 2) fought the entire way there, endured a 40 minute wait for a table, ate Pigs in a Blanket (as I have since the age of 6 - only now I swap in turkey sausage for $1 more), chuckled when my son said, "Oh yeah, Happy Father's Day," watched him devour chocolate chip pancakes, fought with my daughter to eat her Funny Face pancake (she didn't want to eat the face), received a call from the wife saying her flight was delayed, went home and slept the day away while the son played video games and eventually studied and read, woke up at 4, took the baby (whose hair at this point looked like a curly satellite dish) outside and sat on the front steps with her to discuss the trees and the flowers and my SUV (she insists it's her car), noticed that my wife's promised 3 o'clock arrival time had passed, got a call around 5 from the wife saying she had just landed, noticed it was 6 o'clock and she still hadn't arrived, fought back the urge to say, "I told you so," when she finally did arrive --- at nearly 7 o'clock at night, opened Father's Day cards that I heard her and my son signing in the dining room (she also left the receipt on the bed from the drugstore where she purchased them), learned that we're going away to New Orleans in July --- her treat --- with the rest of her family, went back to sleep for an hour, woke up to the baby patting my cheek and yelling, "Daddy, get up," went to a local Mexican restaurant --- her treat, came home, prepared the house and myself for Monday as I had been since the previous Wednesday in preparation for the start of the week. So in the end, the wife had no executable plans for Father's Day and she hasn't indicated that I'm in store for anything more than the Mexican salad I ate that night (which was very good).

I went to be with my "S" emblazoned on my chest.

Needless to say, I was thankful for the trip --- my Father's Day gift, but annoyed that my day came and went without me being able to do anything nice for myself as I had been threatened not to make plans. But the trip wasn't happening on Father's Day itself. My wife is an admitted control freak and controlling that which is out of our hands is where all mankind fails, but for some reason, God bless her, she keeps trying. I knew the odds were against her coming home at a decent time because she wasn't on a redeye and the airline industry just doesn't seem to be able to take care of its paying customers. But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge taking the kids to IHOP was what brought me my joy as well as speaking to my own father about being a father.

When my wife arrived home she saw how clean and organized the place was and asked me how I managed to pull it off. Without bragging, I told her it had been that way starting one day after she left. Simple clean living on the borderline of being austere is who I am underneath all the hats I wear. The kids fed off that energy and simply got on board with me. They were generally behaved and I had the chance to read, listen to music and simply relax during my time as a single dad. I took advantage of the time I had to reinsert/reassert who I am into the fabric of our home. Over those few days I thought a lot about what it would be to do this whole daddy thing by myself. It was very quiet, being the only adult in the house, even though my kids screamed for most of the week. "I can do this," became my mantra as I began to make it from one day to the next.

I can do this. But I don't want to, not alone. My children need their mother's love and guidance. As do I (my wife's, that is).

Wednesday

How Men Fall Apart

It’s Wednesday and I’m flying fast toward the weekend. On Monday I wasn’t sure this was going to be possible. After 5 days (including most of Father’s Day) of holding down the family without the wife, I was dead tired. My superhero juice was gone and as 10% of my daily commute involves walking, I just didn’t think I could do it. With the weak dollar and the warm weather, the streets are completely clogged with international tourists. Add to this congestion all the working stiffs like myself, who just want to get home, and walking down NYC sidewalks at rush hour is no different than navigating a minefield while having someone shoot at you.

Each day I cross two major intersections on my way to Grand Central Terminal --- 34th and 42nd. Standing on the corner of 34th and 6th at 5:20 on a Monday afternoon waiting to cross the street, I was faced with what looked like a solid wall of people that stretched at least forty feet wide. This didn’t make me wanna holler. It made me want to scream. It made me want to put on a gold titanium alloy battle suit, turn on my rocket boots and fly the hell away (√† la Tony Stark/Iron Man). I figured I’d land on the south coast of Barbados, figure out how to take off the suit, and float on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, buoyed by saltwater, as I did the morning before my wedding. I’d send a plane for the wife and kids and hang out there indefinitely.

And then the light turned green and the little walking guy changed from orange to white.

As I hustled to the train, I thought of a friend of mine who was surprised to hear how much I traveled on foot.

“You got the stamina for that?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, plainly.

“He patted his slight paunch and said, “C’mon, man you gotta start putting on that steak weight.”

I laughed and then deadpanned, “Never.”

The last time I worked out in a gym were in the days leading up to my wedding. Back then I’d spend at least an hour, three to four days out of the week lifting, doing cardio and staring at myself in the wall-to-wall mirrors. The year before my daughter arrived, I spent nearly six months in an outdoor, exercise boot camp, rising at five thirty in the morning to reenact scenes from An Officer and a Gentleman, with the Officer being this 50 year old Panamanian psychopath named Mauricio. To his credit, he got me in best shape of my life. I lost eleven pounds (I wasn’t trying to lose weight) and I had a six-pack.

Why, you might ask, other than to satisfy my ego? That same year in 2005, I underwent a surgical procedure to be “cured” of a case of low grade sleep apnea and a whole host of sinus issues that had been plaguing me for most of my life. After my recovery, my surgeon had a simple caution for me:

“Stay in shape. Don’t get fat.”

And I haven’t, nor do I intend to.

Currently, my Achilles Heels are my work/life balance and French fries. But I do my best to keep the pounds off. I get up at six, most mornings, do a round of push ups and crunches, walk part of the way to work, drink water all day, walk for at least ten minutes after I eat lunch and walk part of the way home.

I’ve watched and listened to several men and fellow fathers complain about how they are falling apart physically, cracking fat jokes at their own expense, but seriously complaining about new and unexpected health issues. They ask me how I do it. By it, they mean: looking almost the same as I did in college. I don’t have an answer. I bumped into a frat brother at the Big Apple Barbecue Festival and he told me when first he saw me he sucked in his gut. I didn’t know how to respond.

Other than a small band of fat that has collected along my lower back over the past eighteen months, I do my best to stay fit and trim through a semi-proper diet, toting around a 35-pound baby and all that I mentioned before. Someday soon, I hope to be able to carve out enough time in my day to get back on a regular fitness regimen, get rid of my “back fat” and return my fitness fanatic self. My wife thinks Fitness E.Payne is a nutjob. Oh well! Ask her if she enjoys the fringe benefits and she nods with a lusty grin.

I don’t believe being married or being a father or even having a busy schedule is justification for letting yourself go (if you were in decent shape to begin with). This is a stigma of the two institutions that had me spooked and contributed to my commitment-phobia for years. But on my own, I decided that this wasn’t going to be my fate. I enjoy being strong for my kids so I can wrestle with them, chase them around, and in my daughter’s case, carry her up and down three flights of stairs to my apartment everyday without incident. I don't want my health to be the reason I can't live a full life with my family and for myself. You never know when you're gonna go, but I don't need to help things along by being negligent with myself.

So I ask the question: What is it about married life and fatherhood that causes men to fall apart? What has us believing this is to be expected or even acceptable? What could/should be done to change this?

Monday

Question of the Week: June 16, 2008

After attending The Mocha Man Event this past Saturday, I was inspired to ask some questions of you, the reader. You’ll see the latest Question of the Week in the right hand column of the page. It’s all anonymous so please, be honest.

Friday

Happy Friday - Happy Father's Day!

Every Thursday/Friday depending on whether he’s in or not, one of my coworkers sends an email to our entire staff wishing everyone a prosperous and productive weekend. I used to think this was silly. I know now what his reasoning is behind this:

This morning was easy for me. I finally hit my stride with the wife out of town. My son went to school happy to know the Celtics are up 3-1 versus the Lakers, my daughter was full of giggles when I dropped her at the sitter’s. Her hair is a complete mess after giving her a bath last night which included washing her hair I combed it out, brushed it back and called myself tying it into a ponytail. When I woke up this morning she was fast asleep in her crib with a wild curly afro. I tried a few more times before leaving the house and got her looking decent enough to take her outside. Rosie, my sitter, said she’d help me out. She had a sheepish grin which I just knew was her being polite and not laughing at me in my face.

My commute into the Belly of the Beast was easy and I strolled to work listening to Maxwell with a bop in my step. I’m happy today, for inexplicable reasons and I don’t choose to question them. So I pass that on to you. If you’re grinding away at your desk, know that it will be over in a few hours until Monday. If you don’t have plans for the weekend make some. Some decent movies are out. Take one in with a friend, or go by yourself (it’s like being at home with a much bigger television). Get your sexy on, your groove on, or whatever you want to call it, but whatever you do enjoy yourself. Now that it’s warm and not a gabillion degrees like it was at the beginning of the week, find a nice restaurant with outdoor season and if it’s payday, splurge a bit on yourself. Life is too beautiful, despite all that might be on your plate, to not enjoy a little bit of it.

This weekend I intend to bask in fatherhood. I can’t believe that not even three years ago I had no concept of being dad other than playing dad to my wife’s son. I didn’t know that love could burn hot in the center of my chest, I never imagined I’d kiss fat cheeks and little toes hundreds of times a day, I didn’t imagine that I could spend a day just watching a little one make fun out of the little things around her, I didn’t think I’d be singing nursery rhymes (and being corrected by her) instead of listening to hip hop while driving, I didn’t think it was possible to be able to fall in love all over again everyday, everyday, I didn’t think I’d be feeding someone else for up to an hour, I definitely never dreamed I’d touch another person’s poop, I didn’t know I’d be drawing SpongeBob over and over and over again, I didn’t think that watching her cry at the doctor or when she got her ears pierced would make me misty and then angry, I couldn’t imagine what God had in store for me when I begged Him to make the prospect of having a child out of wedlock go away, I couldn’t imagine being capable, responsible, loving, or even selfless enough to raise a child from birth. But I didn’t know I would be the man God had already destined me to become.

I melt when my baby demands, “Daddeee!” I smile when my son works out to look like me and love when we talk superhero talk. I could’ve done things a thousand different ways and I should have based on the way I was raised. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one. Not even the bad stuff. I am the sum total of my choices and even when I was choosing bad I was choosing right so that I could type these very words.

I am Son. I am Cousin. I am Husband. I am Friend. I am Man. I am a Black Man. And I am Father. And I’m very proud of it.

Happy Father’s Day. Stay tuned for what actually happens for me on Father's Day.

Peace.

Thursday

Father's Day Part II: Hijacking Father's Day

Now that it’s Thursday, I can say it’s been an interesting week. I had a great weekend that included going to see Iron Man for the second time with someone other than my wife and kids, hogging out at the Big Apple Barbecue Festival at Madison Square Park, being caught on camera phone wearing a pig-head crown at this same festival and unbeknownst to me being immediately uploaded to Facebook, going back to that same festival the next day with the family and enjoying the wife and kids despite the 98 degree heat, hanging out with the wife on a Monday night just off the Hudson River at a loft party hosted by Fuse TV with DJ Jazzy Jeff spinning on the wheels of steel, coordinating my parents’ visit to NYC, arguing with my wife in front of my apartment about my parents’ visit (more on this later), walking back inside after our argument and seeing that the stupid cat that lives with us took a shit in my tub (yes…I said s@#$…for emphasis and that's exactly what it was), dealing with a whole lot of insomnia (apparently, I'm not the only one), and watching in astonishment and slight fear as the temperature dropped from about 100 to 75 degrees with the onslaught of a late night storm that lit up the sky with lightning and pushed end-of-the-world-sounding winds howling through all the rooms of my apartment. I have no fear of the rain, but tornado winds are something else entirely.

I’m happy to see that several people voted on the pre-Father’s Day poll. Surprisingly, a whopping 72 point whatever percent of you said a man does have a right to plan his own day, while 27 percent of you said he didn’t. All of the comments I received, no matter the position were all very positive. Thank you, readers, for taking me seriously. Many of you want to know what my ideal Father’s Day would be. My ideal anything would involve my being megarich and having superpowers and since currently, neither is the case, I can only express what I’d like to accomplish this Sunday on the Day for Dads.

If I had had my original way I was going to have the gentleman who shot my wedding come up the Saturday before the day to photograph my son and I getting groomed at BBraxton’s in Harlem --- I’d get a shave and a manicure, and he’d get a nice haircut. Another part of the shoot would involve Ross (the photographer) shooting my wife and daughter getting ready to meet up with the two of us at some clich√©, fancy soul food restaurant for a final, interactive family photo shoot. When I shared my idea with my loving wife she hastily informed me that we don’t have the money for that even though I was planning to pay for the whole thing. The more I mentioned it the more she resisted the idea. Then my own frugal nature kicked in and I started doing the math, airfare and hotel for the photographer, plus the shoot. After a day or so of number crunching, I decided I didn’t want to go this route.

My original plan was out the window. Then came Plan B.

If I had had my Plan B way, I was going to get the family up early on Sunday morning, go to a local church that often reminds me of the church scene in Blues Brothers. Then I’d get my shave and we’d all have dinner at Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn, by far the best porterhouse joint on the planet Earth. Again my wife slammed the idea.

She asked, “How are you gonna take Father’s Day away from me? You’re gonna take the baby to a steakhouse? What's she gonna eat?”

That was a good point. I hadn't thought that part through completely. I looked at her dumbfounded. She continued…

“I let you plan Mother’s Day even though you didn’t do anything for me or get me the bag I asked for.” (I’ve heard this line everyday since Mother’s Day. I thought I did do something nice…my son and I made breakfast and I barbecued with her stepdad for dinner. The bag part: we were in talks about how much it should cost when negotiations broke down. She also couldn’t make up her mind as to what she actually wanted. But to hear her tell it, I just got up, said “Happy Mother’s Day,” and kept it moving.)

“You can’t hijack Father’s Day?”

“Huh?” I asked, now completely bewildered.

“You can’t decide you’re going to do something for yourself and go ahead and make plans. What if I already made plans?”

Why would I leave it up to a woman who’s told me everyday since Mother’s Day that she’s going to make me pay for not giving her the Mother’s Day she deserved? I’m not quoting her exactly, but this is her sentiment. Besides, it’s been a very long time since I’ve done anything nice for myself, so why not do so on my day? But I have been threatened and harassed ever since to not make plans…otherwise I’ll regret it.

Ironically, none of this even matters because what neither of us knew at the time was that the business trip she was taking this week actually lasted through Sunday. That’s right, Father’s Day. So my wife left Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. and will not arrive back to NYC until Sunday afternoon.

Plan B and any other plans I might have tried to cook up have been completely shot to hell. So my question to her has been, “What difference does it make what I do? You’re not even going to be here!”

She insists she will be home in time, but I don’t trust airlines or airports. Now, I am relegated to simply sitting and waiting with the kids to see what she has planned. Yes, it has become more than obvious that she has made plans, but I don’t know when or how she intends to hatch them from a plane, or the company car that’s picking her up from the airport so late in the day. It isn’t that I don't trust my wife, I don’t trust her schedule. I have to add that my father-in-law took my son to get his haircut, so that plan was killed also.

So in the end, who’s hijacking Father’s Day, me or her? I guess I’ll have to find out and let you know.

Wednesday

Father's Day: Part I

For all of you who voted that a man should not be allowed to plan his own Father's Day (please visit the poll results in the right hand column of this page), I'd like to showcase an event planned by women for men.

My friends over at the Mocha Manual, an enterprise that is the black woman's "everything" guide to pregnancy, is having something for Father's Day. If you're in New York and can get to Brooklyn definitely stop by. Maybe we'll bump into each other.

The Mocha Man Diapering Dad Contest - "Real Dads Do Diapers"

Hundreds of Fathers to Convene in Brooklyn to Battle for "King Diaper Dad" Bragging Rights and Set New Record for Fastest Diaper Change

The Stork Store

580 Manhattan Avenue (bet. Driggs & Nassau Aves)

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Saturday, June 14, 2008, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

The diaper change has always been considered a rite of passage for any father. This Father’s Day weekend, The Mocha Manual Company is calling for all mocha men to show their Dad pride, give $1 to a good cause, and be a part of African-American history in the making. The record-setting number of black men changing diapers in one day will be a symbolic declaration of their commitment to fatherhood. The best time will be submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records and the newly-crowned “King” will receive a royal grand prize. All proceeds benefit the Fathers Count program at Inwood House, a teen pregnancy prevention and family support service established in 1830, that serves over 5,000 young people in New York and New Jersey.

Take a break at 2:00 p.m. for:

Redefining Dad: Five Things Every Black Father Needs to Know

Free Luncheon and Town Hall Style, No-Holds Barred Panel Discussion

Moderated by Shon Gables, host of the Black Enterprise Business Report on TV One

Single dads, married dads, dads-to-be, and baby daddies are invited to join Len Burnett, CEO and publisher of Uptown magazine, Isaac Ewell, founder of SoulGenesis (soulgen.com), Andrew Ross, executive director of Fathers Count, along with other local rookie and veteran fathers for straight talk on the real deal of fatherhood.

Giveaways, door prizes, and goody bags for all attendees (while supplies last). For more information go to www.mochamanual.com or email info@mochamanual.com

Tuesday

Bernice McFadden: People I Know

It's not all about me, even in this strange pocket I'm creating in cyberspace. It's 4 o'clock in the morning and I'm suffering from insomnia. When it was cold, my wife was upset for various legitimate reasons. Now that it's hot, she's upset...again. And I'm wide awake, annoyed by this and other predicaments revolving around her. Why I was surprised by this particular predictable probability is beyond me, but c'est la vie. It is what it is.

I have a friend who is a very accomplished and successful novelist. Her name is Bernice McFadden and she hails from Brooklyn. Like me, she has her own blog. And like me, we're both born in September, one day apart from each other. Like my wife, she's of Bajan decent. And like my wife (before she met me), she is a single mother. Her daughter is a beautiful young woman who was beginning to tower over me a few years back when she was barely into high school and I'm not short (all of my tall friends, male and female, disagree with me on this point). She's also the author-friend I reference any and every time I tell the story of how I met my wife --- the woman currently in the back room of my house sprawled out across my bed, who in her outrage threw all the sheets to the floor and has our room looking like a crime scene.

I first met Bernice via email. I was promoting my little book of poetry and short stories and somehow she caught wind of me on the Internet. The proactive woman that she is, she reached out to me to congratulate me on my success, wish me well and let me know she had a book coming out herself.

Sure she did, I thought. I didn't trust the net and I dismissed her as a crackpot until a few weeks later when she sent me an evite for her first booksigning at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Her email opened and displayed beautiful cover art for her book. It was then that I realized she was a real author and I made sure I attended her first signing. We've been friends ever since.

Bernice's first book was the Sugar, a literary masterpiece that read like a good piece of sheet music. She followed this work up with a series of novels that thrust her onto the literary stage, releasing her forever from the prison of 9-to-5 work life and allowing her to travel everywhere for good reason and no reason at all. In an effort to repackage herself and hit the market from both sides, she donned the pen name Geneva Holliday and began writing...ahem...Urban Fiction (normally I choke when I say "Urban Fiction", but the gag reflex apparently doesn't exist when typing). Her latest book as Geneva Holliday is entitled Seduction. It's on display and on sale in the right hand column of this page, as are some of her other books.

Bernice has been an inspiration to me over the years. She simply got sick and tired of being sick and tired of work and put her talent to work for her. Now she's all deep with sexy pictures and candles on her website and rockin' locks (she's always had them) looking like she's getting ready to pull a guitar off her back and start strumming slowly. And to top it off she's got a "I don't give a..." disposition a weak man might find disarming. But she's absolutely pleasant.

Congrats, Bernice. Much continued success to you.

I'm still waiting for dinner in your gourmet kitchen.

Thursday

A pre-Father's Day Poll

There's a poll in the right hand column of this page about Father's Day. Please take 10 seconds to vote. I'm going to use the results in my next post, due out either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Until then...peace.

Wednesday

Being Single In The City

Congratulations Sex And the City. The movie's weekend take was roughly $56 million, knocking down Indiana Jones from the Number One spot after only one week. If another woman I know tells me she cried while watching this I'm going to throw up.

...yay...I'm very happy...can't you tell?

In reality I could care less as I don't get to see any of that revenue. It's so ridiculous that I stay on top of the weekend box office tallies, every week without fail as if I have some stake in Hollywood.

This past Friday was a good day. I left the job with a sense of accomplishment, the sky was bright, the air was warm and it was payday! Although I had no desire to see Sex and the City, the buzz for this movie was palpable. Every female (white, black, pink, purple, polka dot and otherwise) seemed to have made plans to see this movie opening day. There were Carrie rejects everywhere in Midtown, talks of flasks, blah, blah, blah.

I had a walking meeting with a colleague after work and she too had plans to meet up with girlfriends for the silver-screen estrogen-fest.

We completed our talk at the corner of 42nd and 6th and then she left me in order to continue uptown a few more blocks to the theater, her friends and SATC (Sex and the City). Before we parted ways I had to ask how she, as a black woman of Nubian complexion, could be so excited to see a movie based on a television show that portrayed a New York devoid of people of color, except for Blair Underwood and a Latina lesbian (there may have been one more, don't quote me). On the show the help wasn't even African American or Latina. My coworker provided one of the most compelling arguments I’ve heard to date. To paraphrase: despite the presentation of a lily white New York, the needs/wants/issues of these [superficial] women navigating relationships, and the single life and motherhood, matrimony, etc. were portrayed in such a fashion that all women could relate to them, effectively transcending race, ethnicity, class, etc.

I couldn’t disagree and wished her well. As she walked away I couldn't help but wonder what it must feel like to meet up with a bunch of friends and hang out. It's been years since I've hung out en masse, rolling ten to twenty deep, racking up hundreds of dollars on bar tabs and restaurant checks. In the midst of this moment, my wife called to tell me she was going with a coworker to run an errand and would be home later that evening. I sighed. It's my job to pick up the kids, but in that moment I just didn't want to. I wanted to take my time going home, like I did when I was single. The energy in the air was screaming, "It's Friday!" And everyone on the street seemed to be aglow in their singular statuses.

I felt quite dull and ashy. In truth, I felt alone.

As a single man on Fridays, I didn't have plans or anywhere to be. I'd shop, eat out/buy take-out, rent movies, get a nice bottle of something (with alcohol). Once I got home to my quiet, spacious apartment, I'd blast some jazz or some alternative R&B to the tune of Maxwell or Jill Scott, take a bath and smoke a cigar. Sometimes, I'd indulge in a combination of these activities; sometimes I'd do them all. A little more than ten years ago, I learned to embrace me-time, rather than dread it --- a very liberating moment for an only child previously plagued by solitude. But last Friday, there was no one to call, no one to cover for me with the kids on such short notice, and nowhere to go, but home.

I walked to the train, feeling constrained and openly reluctant to fulfill my duties as dad --- pick up my pollen-covered SUV, dirty with litter from the wife and kids; pry words out of my too-cool-in-his-own-mind preteen; and be the personal assistant of my megalomaniac of a daughter. This was a new sensation for me --- one I grew more ashamed of the more I acknowledged it. By the time I was seated on my train home I was a complete mess.

After rounding everyone up, we stopped by my mother-in-law's house in the Bronx to kick back. My son went straight to the back to watch bad action movies with my wife's stepdad, my daughter ran to hug her grandmother, smacked both of the excitable dogs that are always so happy to see her and began playing with the toys we keep there to keep her entertained. I sat down and caught up with Mom #2 without mentioning a word about my woe.

In the end things weren't as bad as I had made them out to be, although at times they can be much worse. My wife even came home earlier than she said she would, which is a rarity for her. We spent the evening talking and laughing until she petered out, early --- exhausted from a week that ran on for entirely too long. On Sunday, I kicked everyone out of the house, in other words, I sent them to the park so I could clean the place top to bottom with no one to pick up after. I put on some alternative R&B, opened the windows to let the breeze in and enjoyed the solitude.

My kids didn't choose to be here. I chose (was divinely chosen) to be their dad. I chose to be my wife's husband. I'm proud of the responsibility I carry. Balance is one of those things that I'm working on, but I'm not there yet. Lord knows, I'm trying.

It's not easy being daddy...but no one ever said it was.

Barack Obama Makes History!

My wife has said she never thought in her lifetime or in those of her parents and grandparents, she'd see a Black man making a viable run for the Office of the President of the United States of America. I never even considered the possibility, so shame on me. When Mr. Obama, a senator from my home state of Illinois, announced he was running for President, I clearly remember watching the footage and saying to myself, "Okay...whatever."

Anyone who reads newspapers, has a computer, watches television or has been harassed to no end with campaign emails and invitations to join Facebook groups and websites (I sure have), knows how this story has unfolded. But behind the catchy slogans, the selection of the GQ inspired Gotham font for all the marketing materials, the furious campaigning, speech after speech after speech, the nasty infighting between candidates, the whole nauseating political process...one man made a determined decision (Not alone of course. I'm sure his wife was involved every step of the way.) with the deck completely stacked against him. He stood firm behind that decision the entire trip and has now changed the course of history --- forever --- barely two hundred years after the legal end of slavery in this nation.

Mr. Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., a man of color, has clinched the Democratic nomination for the Office of the President of the United States of America. If this isn't a lesson in determination and self-actualization for us all, I don't know what is.

I fully expect, before days end, to be spit at by a feminist.

Tuesday

About Me

On Being Man, Dad & Husband in New York City…not necessarily in that order. When I first began Makes Me Wanna Holler, I wasn’t sure what I was writing about or who I was writing to and I didn’t know if anyone would read what I had to say. I’ve tried blogging before --- unsuccessfully. Surprisingly, a few entries in, Makes Me Wanna Holler veered off course from a place to showcase my fiction writing to a place where I could simply write.

I’ve been married less than a year and I'm father to a 2 year old daughter and a 12 year old son. In my wildest dreams as an ostracized, only child, nerd boy growing up, I never imagined I’d be right where I am. Eight years ago I met the woman who would become my wife. I was on my lunch break in midtown and visiting an author friend who was having a booksigning at Macy’s of all places. And there she was --- beautiful, electric, articulate and feisty. According to her, I caught her eye and she sized me up quickly as a summertime affair, also known as a jump-off in some circles. She also happened to overhear my writer friend say my last name while introducing me to one of her colleagues. (She was an event planner at Macy's at the time) It’s the same as hers. Her first words to me --- after butting into the conversation I was having --- were, “Hi, my name is…I go to Fordham University…and I have a five year old son.” I looked at her and said, “Thanks for the rundown. I’m Eric.” Surprised by my “arrogance” she let me know that she wanted me to know the basics before we started. Started what I wondered?

Seven years later, after a whirlwind romance that included almost every play on Broadway, nearly every restaurant in New York and lots of bad behavior, spectacular knock-down, drag out arguments, a year-long stint of unemployment after being laid off at work, an ugly six-month separation, an even uglier reconciliation, a blessed “surprise” that would soon be my daughter, more vacations than I can remember, the beginning of a true friendship, a proposal adventure that was the stuff of sitcoms, the birth of my daughter in fifteen minutes flat, my complete transformation from scared-to-be-dad to SuperDad at the first sight of my baby (followed by an hour of my crying like a blubbering idiot), the death of my hooptie, a seven-month stint of self-imposed unemployment after buying a brand new car, finding a new job and realizing I might be better off as an entrepreneur, and successfully flipping of my first property, I got married.

Just add water. The insta-family was born, Oct. 6th 2007, although it had been in place for years.

Now, as a newly married man I’m not arguing with my wife about where to eat or vacation. I’m trying to figure out how to slow the growth of my twelve year old who believes he’s grown and has no reason to think otherwise since he wears a size 11.5 shoe, is almost as tall as me and has the retail and entertainment industries marketing to him as it markets to me. Most days I want to knock him upside his head, as my father did me, daily.

There are no decisions to be made about when is the right time to build a family. Baby girl is here and in the fast lane. She is personable, beautiful, gentle, kind, compassionate, funny, quite strong, demanding, rude, mean, obnoxious and outrageous. This was before she hit her terrible twos.

I’m not going to blog about new innovations in the stroller market, although I might get excited over a new hi-tech stroller if I see one. The same goes for sitters, activities to do with kids and all that other stuff. There are too many sites, with too many good writers already doing all of that stuff. This is all about my take on being man, dad, husband and a few other things in New York City and its environs. Oh, and did I mention I was black, or African American or whatever it is these days?

Managing all of this, all at once, is a bit much any given day of the week. Most days I wear it all like an “S” on my chest. But some days it really begins to pile up and it just Makes Me Wanna Holler.

If anybody’s wondering, I just couldn’t bring myself to drop the “r” on “Holler” after butchering “Want To.” My mother taught for 37 years before retiring. She'd think it was a bit much.

Holla!

UPDATE: A lot of time has passed since I typed the above words. My marriage isn't so new anymore. My kids are older and much bigger. I've cranked out a lot to read, some of it funny, some of it not so funny, some of it thoughtful and I occasionally stretch my brain and type out nonsense just for the sake of it. Whatever your pleasure, it's probably here. For married men and women, about to be married men and women, women who want to be married, or just someone looking for a little bit of inspiration to get through the day...welcome to the library...I hope you'll stay awhile. For my official, grown-up, bio head on over to About E.Payne.

Whatever you do while you're here, please, Holler Back!