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Father In Focus: Mister Man

Once again, I'd like to share another father like myself who floats around in cyberspace opining about fatherhood and everything else in between. He's also a serious superhero fanboy so as far as I'm concerned, he can do no wrong. Like Mocha Dad he's a Texan, and like any good dad out there, he's committed to his kids and a servant and protector of his wife. Ladies, don't get excited over the word servant. I was being Biblical.

Without further ado, presenting my next Father in Focus: Mister Man

Where do you live? What's your occupation?

I live in Houston, Texas. I am a financial analyst for a large engineering & construction firm. I am also pursuing a doctorate degree in business administration. My main occupation is being a good father to my kids, a good husband to my wife, and to lead my family according to the Bible (to the best of my ability).

How many children do you have, how long have you been married?

I have an 11 year-old daughter and a nine year-old son. I have been married to the love of my life for 12 years.

When did you start blogging and what inspires you to blog?

I started blogging in February, 2009. I have always had a passion for writing, but have been too busy with work and school to write for pleasure. I promised myself that I would begin to write for pleasure again once I completed grad school. I am inspired by many things, but I tend to write about topics that I am passionate about: fatherhood and family, faith, manhood, and politics.

What does being a dad mean to you? How does being a man of color impact this?

Being a dad means everything to me. I often tell friends that it is difficult for me to imagine my life before my children came along. I take the responsibility seriously as every good father does. In terms of being a man of color, it has no impact on the way I parent my children. My kids are being taught that they are just as good as anyone else, can achieve whatever they desire, and to learn to become servant leaders. In the few instances where my children have encountered racial issues, we discuss them candidly and reinforce that they are made by the Creator who sees no color.

What are the challenges, the perks of modern-day living with a family?

The biggest challenge that I see for families today is combating the negative messages that are consistently being relayed to our children. Our children are becoming more desensitized to sex and violence thanks to television, the Internet, and video games. Each family must take seriously the charge to love, protect, and serve their family and the larger community.

The greatest perk of modern living with a family is when I see my children practicing a value or lesson that we have instilled in them. Parents repeat things so often to their kids, so it is nice to see when something sticks.

What has been one of your most memorable moments as a father? As a husband?

The first time I heard the heartbeat (through an ultrasound) of my eldest child and the flood of pure love that washed over me at that moment. I realized then the precious gift my wife was carrying.

What advice/recommendation would you give to someone about to become a father and/or husband?

Don’t rely on what other people tell you about raising kids. General information is okay at times, but don’t let anyone tell you how to raise your children. What worked for your parents will not necessarily work for you. Your kids are unique and special and should be raised as such.
Love your children and don’t be afraid to show them affection. You won’t regret it and they will always remember it.

Lastly, whatever behaviors you model, expect your children to follow your lead. Be mindful of what you say and do if you don’t want it to be repeated.

If you could accomplish anything through your blogging, what would that be?

If I could accomplish anything through my blogging, I would want it to be life change. I hope that the words I write touch or impact people in such a way that will improve their lives.

Thanks, Mister Man!

Paul Easter, author of the blog, “Dear Mr. Man”, is married and a father of two. He enjoys outdoor grilling, enjoys fine cigars, and serving others through his faith.

Mr. Man At MakesMeWannaHoller.com

Where You Can Find Mr. Paul Easter:

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Oxi Clean Can!

Yesterday at dinner, I spilled some tomatoes from the bruschetta I was eating on my shirt. After wiping it away, I began to mess with it over the course of the rest of my meal.

Daughter: It's okay, Dad.

Me: (I continue to mess with the spot)

Daughter (now standing in her chair): It's okay, Dad. On the TV they say Oxi Clean'll get it out.

Wife: (Consumed with laughter)

Me: (In shock that this came out of a baby who is only interested in watching Noggin on television)

Son: Wait...what's Oxi Clean again?

Me: (I say nothing and give my son side-eye)

My daughter is 3. My son is 14.

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A Year Older, But Not Wiser

Red Candle

I really do believe I'm in a place right now.

My birthday was Sunday and I must stress that I believe I'm a year older, but not necessarily wiser. I'm blessed to have my health, my family and a great appreciation for life and a ever growing appreciation for the simplicity of life. Though the irony of this is that I live in (now somewhat outside of) NYC, one of the most complex places, if not THE most complex in the world.

I got plenty of Facebook love. Around 40 notifications just for my birthday. Those are stats normally reserved for my super social wife.

The day began dark and gray and it was only a matter of time before it began to rain. I love rainy days. Rainy days are God's way of putting the world (or whatever geographic space) on siesta for a little while, save for those who decide to have car accidents in the rain because they believe their vehicles are hovercrafts. I couldn't think of a better setting for me to put on some jazz, take a walk, kick back and just enjoy the day on my terrace --- depending on which way the rain was falling.

"Can you take Daddy to the airport?" Was the first thing I heard upon waking after my wife wished me a happy birthday. I looked around in my head trying to find the file on where driving someone to the airport is even mildly acceptable on a birthday. The wife had planned a little get together for me/our new home and had errands to run to prep the house for our guests.

But still, I failed to understand where that was just cause for me to drive to the airport, especially when I learned it was Newark (New Jersey). Before moving to outer space (the suburb where we reside) this was not much of a jaunt barring traffic, but here it's both distance and traffic. And the Man in me knew that going in --- especially on a Sunday afternoon and especially in the rain. And after schlepping furniture, housewares, computer stuff and people for almost 2 weeks straight as we continue to get settled. And in those same two weeks typically only eating dinner around 10pm because that's when I've typically gotten a chance to sit down. Sunday was the only day that presented itself as a day that I would actually be able to get up and not have anything to do. In my head my plan was to go to church to give thanks for everything, and spend the rest of the day taking the day slow, cleaning up here and there, enjoying the new furniture, television and wi-fi'd space we live in before our guests showed up.

No haps. Not only no haps, but I was slightly vilified for my very clear statement: I don't want to. Apparently the Husband in me didn't hear/understand/interpret the question when it was asked of me the day before, which I still don't remember being asked. She didn't want to go to the airport and have guests arrive to our home with nothing to eat. Honestly, I wasn't worried about our guest showing up with no food ready. But I was concerned about them showing up to a unkempt house.

Of course I took my father-in-law to the airport because what else was I going to do? My cause was lost before it started. I left my home at 1 pm in the rain and returned to my home around 4:30 pm in the rain, exhausted. It wasn't the driving as much as it was the traffic. As I spent the significant portion of my waking hours behind the wheel, I had one significant epiphany regarding a particular flaw of mine regarding the wife (more on this later). But other than that, I grew from angry to furious as I sat still for nearly 30 minutes in a traffic snarl. Eventually I was so angry I wasn't angry at all. I promised myself to show up at home with a smile, even if it was fake.

When I arrived home, the place didn't look any different than it did when I left. Everything I had intended to put away or out of sight was sitting in plain sight and in the way on tables, chairs and the floor. The oven was on, but no food was ready for our guests (the first couple arrived 10 minutes after I did). I spent the first hour of being home, as the sky went from gray to black, putting stuff away, misplacing my mother's birthday cards (which I still can't find) and sweeping. My son, who had promised me his room would be cleaned while I was gone, sat happily in a spacious, track-lit room with one-socks and scraps of paper all over the floor and actually asked me if he could leave to go hang out with friends. All the guys that came piled up on my couches, I put on the football game for them and debated switching into something nicer to wear, which is something I had wanted to do since I wear t-shirts and jeans every day of the week. Most of people there made an effort to look like they were out for the evening (even in jeans) so as the birthday boy I didn't want to look like I had been out mowing the lawn or driving someone to the airport because we all know no one gives a damn about getting dressed to drive someone to the airport. Besides that and that, how often do you get the opportunity to look like anything when you're unemployed?

I opted to stay in my t-shirt and jeans and moved about the place, not really ever sitting down or still. Of course, none of our friends and family cared about our place being pristine or no food being ready and all had a good time.

Here's the thing: I did care about the look of the place. As the head of the household I wanted to present my home to all who knew how we had been living previously and welcome them. Not to show off, but to present my family and I. Call me crazy, or just call me a man, a dad and a husband a couple years shy of forty wishing to act like a man, dad and husband a couple years shy of forty.

As usual, I was glad to see everyone had a good time. I did manage to shoot some Macallan 12 whiskey on the terrace with my mother-in-law a.k.a. my drinking buddy. My daughter ate most of the icing off the cupcakes and smeared the rest all over her lips like lipstick. As far as I go, I think my feeling on the day was neutral, I neither liked nor disliked it. This isn't a complaint, but rather a very basic observation. I thank my wife for the effort and the sentiment. But in truth I wasn't trying to make the day about me at all. The loner in me wanted to shrink away from everything, go for a walk, sit on my terrace, smoke a stoagie and drink, sipping slowly at something very strong (my preference: Mount Gay rum, straight and neat...no ice for you non-drinkers out there), look at my family in appreciation, thank God (yes, I know I mentioned alcohol, a cigar and God in the same sentence) for them and keep it moving. Do all of the above and then have a party in my space. Translation: I didn't want any measure of gifts or fanfare. I simply wanted to be left alone for a little while --- not to sulk or be miserable, but just to be. And I know that's not the easiest things for the people who love you to understand, accept or even allow. I wanted my wife to manage the kids for a little while so I could have a few, just a few, to myself on that one day. I believe that this desire was the Man, Dad & Husband in me all rolled up in one. That's just where I am right now and for some strange reason, I don't believe I'm wrong for it.

Shout out to all the September babies, specifically - my friend, Dear Mister Man's son who shares my day, and my friend, Bernice McFadden, who's day was a day before mine. And shout out to all Libras everywhere.

Photo Source: Flickr

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Protect The Insurance Companies - A Funny or Die PSA

Gotta love comedians' take on things. Happy Friday.

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If I Could If Myself Silly

When I was 19 years old, I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. at Cornell University. In addition to all the clandestine-half-fiction-half-reality stuff I had to do, I also had to be able to rattle off, with military precision and intensity, a full catalog of poems, statements and greetings at a moments notice. To this day I can still rattle off nearly everything without error. How's that for negative reinforcement?

While surfing the net I happened across one of the most meaningful poems I had to remember. It is absolutely scary how these words are apply no matter the time or era man (and woman) might find himself in. And they are especially cogent in these times. And they especially make sense at work, at home, with the wife, with the kids, with your dreams etc., etc.

by Sir Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

It doesn't get any more Man, Dad and Husband than this.

Related Link: Frat Life

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My Summer Of Discontent

Aside from my move, being disconnected from the Internet has been horrific. I liken it to being trapped in airtight room of windows --- watching the world go by and quickly running out of air while doing it. Maybe tomorrow I'll be reinserted to the Matrix...maybe Wednesday...

Today is the last day of summer.

Tomorrow is my son’s first football game as a high school freshman.

Six days from today I will be a year older, if not a year wiser.

15 days from today, I will be married a whopping two years.

The fall is front of me and the summer is behind me, thank God. But by no means does this mean I won’t be bringing along my summer of discontent, no different than Jacob Marley. And why was my summer so bad? Because I spent all of it, save for maybe four or five days, arguing and in some instances fighting with my wife.

Truth be told, I’m battle-scarred, bewildered and disillusioned over the whole thing --- who I am and the role I play as Husband in this whole Man, Dad, Husband thing. In no way am I suggesting I wasn’t the provocateur of many of our debates. But the resulting friction/contention/rage that I received went beyond anything I would’ve ever imagined.

And what was all the fighting about? Our future as a family in the new economy, and where and how we were going to be living. Our disagreements began because we disagreed in ideology and methodology. The more we disagreed the more disagreeable things became. Even as I write these words I’m overcome with the urge to scratch my bald head in befuddlement. The simple Man that I am won’t allow me to accept that disagreeing, no different than the way Republicans and Democrats do, can lead to near brawls…

Maybe that wasn’t the best example...

When I was single and giving advice to my ridiculous married friends, I quietly promised myself to never grow up to be married and ridiculous --- a walking advertisement for staying single... Funny how things can sneak up on you. At the end of August I was feeling very ridiculous.

There are certain realities I’ve come upon after all this:

  • Makeup sex is a crock of doo doo – Sex is the last thing I’m thinking about after being glared at hatefully by my mate. Call me crazy, but having sex after attempted emasculations doesn’t really get the blood flowing down there. What people term as makeup sex is, in my humble opinion, sex that comes on after being turned on by your partner’s vigor (usually witnessed during a harmless/pointless argument).
  • Words have the potential to leave marks just like physical blows. The people who “keep it real” and thoughtlessly say whatever they want in the heat of the moment have the same effect as poisonous snakes --- their victims are left to struggle with the effects of their venom long after they’ve moved on.
  • There is no “fight” in team. No goal was completed nor match won where the key players were at each others throats. And if success should flower from this type of dysfunctional relationship, the goal itself becomes air, holding little to no value to one or more teammates. This is why many successful partnerships collapse after whatever it was that brought about their success.
  • Some people in relationships get along famously. There’s no magic or special formula to it. They just do. They believe in it. They stand by it, stand for it and don't accept anything less, from themselves or their partners.

I’m too old to be cajoled into the belief that the grass is greener on the other side. But all you need is eyeballs to see that it can be different. And maybe different sometimes works better than what you know or what you think you know. Who knows?

What I do know is that I’ve got two kids who bask in the comfort of knowing Dad is always there. And now that we have a wonderful space, my Daddy guilt has all but evaporated (even though I'm still working on getting that yard). When I was growing up, my father was a constant for me, like the air I breathed, so much so that I wished he’d go away sometimes. The same is the case for my children (not the wishing I’d go away part – I think) and I pray it remains that way. We're working on it, I think.

Moral of the story: Disagreements between spouses are inevitable, but be very careful when your not being able to agree begins avalanching into a fight. The words you speak in the heat of the moment might become words you can’t take back when that hot moment has passed. There’s supposed to be a reason married folks are married. The theory is they understand, respect and love one another, and interestingly enough it is the love part that creates the atmosphere for understanding and respect. Not the other way around and not on the good days. The true test comes when things aren’t so good to downright awful. Know your partner’s boundaries. And unless he or she is smoking crack, don’t cross them. You may not be able to find your way back.

My kids call me the "fixer". I've got a lot of emotional work ahead of me and a lot to release from my spirit. And right about now it really makes me wanna holler.

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No Snacks For Stupid

I know today is Friday because I learned last night that it was Thursday.

There’s not much else I can tell you right now.

I’m currently suffering from the disorientation that comes with moving, my most hated activity before grocery shopping, packing for trips, and washing clothes. I went from living in a beautiful neighborhood in the attic apartment of what was originally planned to be a temporary dwelling to another beautiful neighborhood, several miles out of my but steps from the area that my son has been going to school for years. I now have more space than I have furniture, 2 terraces that can easily hold 8 or 9 people comfortably, one of the walls in my son’s room is all glass, a skyline view as far as my vision will allow me to see, bathrooms, granite countertops, closets, etc., etc. And I still don’t have a job.
The only explanation I have is that God provides.

I’m sold on the apartment, but not the area. It was a compromise. (Please see previous post).

The disorientation I feel has to do with the fact that I am now an expatriate of nowhere, because since starting a family I haven’t settled down anywhere long enough to say I’m from anywhere. A year ago I wouldn’t have minded. Now, I’m not so sure. When I first came to New York I was able to say my roots were in Chicago, after a 9 year stint in Queens I was able to say my roots were there. Since then I’ve moved 4 times. And we still intend to relocate to another state sooner rather than later.

Needless to say, I’m disconnected. This fact made itself loud and clear on Tuesday when I moved with the help of no one other than my wife and my father-in-law as their work schedules would allow. It wasn’t for a lack of asking on my part. But the answers --- wide and various --- were all no.

On Tuesday night I was tormented by Charley Horses in both legs and in my forearms. This was due to my valiant but incredibly stupid drive. I didn’t drink for most of the day in my desire to get the job done. I didn’t even think to put some snacks in the truck I rented. By night’s end I drank enough liquids to send a 1st and 2nd grade classroom to the bathroom for an entire day and I didn’t go to the bathroom at all. In one day I lost 4 pounds. I’m glad I’ve dropped the weight, but the way I did it wasn’t cool. I was delirious. I'm not just writing this for effect. I was actually delirious.

So now what?

Now I have a fall in front of me and a very painful summer behind me. My wife is satisfied, my son is happy, and my daughter is what she always has been, a ball of fusion energy. My wife told me I make good decisions and she’s glad we are where we are. I’m glad I was able to make it all happen for my family. I wish I could say my reward lies simply in their happiness, but I know that it only accounts for a percentage of it. Though not small, it is only a percentage and not the total. How it all shakes out for me remains to be seen.

Stay tuned…

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The "S" On My Chest - Daddy Kryptonite

Kryptonite comes in more forms than an imaginary radioactive green rock from outer space.

Last week, I thoughtlessly shot the following piece of footage. When I watched it I was taken aback by my honesty and how I conveyed it. And since I'm all about the real, here's the deal (that rhymed)...

Being a father isn't always rosy. I receive a lot of emails from people thanking me for the inspiration I provide. Sometimes, a message can be conveyed without waxing eloquent. Sometimes, it's just raw emotion --- raggedy, honest humanity that is the best teacher. I'm a man, dad, and husband and I have to make sacrifices because of the dad, husband part. I don't always it. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that, even as a dad and a husband. I think it's human. So if you're a dad/parent don't beat yourself up too much for having natural feelings that don't jive with your position. Just don't let those feelings prevent you from doing what needs to be done in the lives of your children.

Stay tuned...

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Real Men Drive Minivans

This IS NOT a sponsored post.

Never say never, ever…

I’ve sworn without hesitation that I would never drive a minivan. First I'd drive the biggest SUV on the planet or just tie a couple of red wagons to my waist to drag my family around. Or even worse, drive a station wagon, which by today’s standards isn’t a bad option at all. It would have been a terrible one a few years back. In a sentence, I find minvans to be the second-most distateful vehicles in the world, with maybe only Ford Pintos and Yugos vying for first place.

All of this changed two weeks ago when the opportunity arose for me to drive a Volkswagen Routan. I immediately raced to the website to see which vehicle was the Routan. I just knew it wasn’t that bus featured in those commercials featuring Brooke Shields. It wasn’t the Touareg, my current favorite of the VW line. I then hoped that maybe it was that little crossover I’ve been seeing here and there in the city. Nope. To my dismay that was the Tiguan. Seconds later, my worst fears had been realized.

I was going to be driving a minivan. The last nail in the yeah-it’s-over-I’m-officially-a-father-without-a-shred-of-manhood-left coffin. I thought about it for about ten minutes, shrugged my shoulders and said, “why not?”

Last Friday, on a eerily cool day which turned into a rainy mess by noon, my Pomegranate Red VW Routan SE was delivered. I was in a rush and didn’t have a chance to kick the tires, check under the hood or even look at it. I was taking my father-in-law to the hospital and we were late. I strapped my daughter’s car seat into the middle row, packed her and my in-laws in and took off not even knowing how to operate the windshield wipers.

By the end of the first block: I got the hang of the wipers, both front and back which provided great visibility even in the inclement weather coming down around us.

By the time I hit the parkway to the city: I was driving with one hand on the wheel, my left, and found myself leaning toward the center of the vehicle, resting my right elbow on the armrest --- a sign of my natural comfort behind the wheel.

Is this a V-6? I asked myself as I effortlessly passed cars and trucks on the road. And the vehicle held to the road in a way I never expected from a minivan or previously felt when riding as a passenger in friends’ minivans. Can we say, floating couches.

This doesn’t feel like a minivan, was my next thought.

Fit & Finish: I’m a fan of red. In fact my own car, a Toyota Rav4, is Salsa Red. The track jacket I was wearing when the Routan was delivered to me was red. The vehicle is devoid of the usual seams present on a minivan, particularly that big slot where the middle doors slide back. In the front, the grill is large and aggressive and coming off the rear roofline there’s an integrated spoiler. With 17-inch alloy wheels, the Routan has a presence of stregth that “unboxes” it from the rest of its competition.

Handling/Comfort: The Routan’s ride is firm, quiet and smooth, and from the driver’s seat allowing you to hear your wife, in-laws, children and whomever else you decide to fill its three rows with. The SE I drove came equipped with a leather-wrapped steering wheel that was hefty and responsive. The turning circle was larger than I anticipated, forcing me to become the king of 3-point turns for the weekend, but once again, I’ve never driven a minivan before. As the driver you sit high in the vehicle with a full view of the road from every vantage.

Performance: The 3.8 L V-6 made driving the Routan effortless. I was able to change lanes, accelerate out of trouble spots and the road without feeling like I needed to punch it. However on those few occasions when the guy in me overrode my sensibilities, the tires took a moment to grab during those moments when I did jackrabbit from a stopped position. The SE’s fuel economy is rated 16/23 city/highway mpg. I barely noticed the gas gauge moving during a two and a half hour drive with the family to South Jersey over the weekend. With a V-6 and vehicle of this size (121.12in wheelbase) and weight (4750 pounds), this is nothing to sneeze at.

Interior: There is more than enough headroom, legroom, shoulder room and space for a family of most sizes and everyone can chime in on the same conversation, or can go off into their separate corners as one might a house. The back seats flip down/fold flat into the floor providing ample cargo space.

There was a nice large sunroof overhead that allowed plenty of natural lighting to enter the cabin. The Routan’s dual power doors ride on smooth caterpillar tracks that make door opening and closing effortless. There’s a little beep that precedes the movement that alerts everyone in the vehicle that something important is getting ready to happen. The doors also came with power windows, another unexpected perk I wasn’t prepared for. There are power outlets interspersed from front to back allowing for all passengers to power up their iPods, cellphones and other electronic devices. The DVD players and DVD navigation is an option that wasn’t included on my vehicle. Stupid Thing A Guy Like Me Likes: the radio controls on the steering wheel and the brake and accelerator pedals that you can raise and lower in accordance with your leg length/comfort of driving. There’s a six speed automatic transmission with a slightly sticky manual shift mode. And my daughter’s favorite feature? The integrated sunshades in the power doors.

And last but not least, Safety: There are front and side airbags; a factory alarm system that comes complete with a panic button on the key fob; Hydraulic Braking Assist that helps you stop the car when you don’t apply enough pressure; Electronic Stabilization for those wet roads, tight turns and everyday evasive maneuvers that are required when you drive on the road with other people.

Why am I going to such great lengths to talk about this vehicle? It’s not because this is a sponsored post. Let me iterate this right now: I WAS NOT PAID OR EVEN ASKED TO WRITE THIS. There was no unspoken agreement with VW to write this. I was simply caught off guard by the experience and I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong --- wrong about the Routan, anyway. Besides, I've also dreamed of writing about a car. This is my first time trying.

I now must tip my hat to my blogging buddy, PJ Mullen, author of Real Men Drive Minivans. He’s right. Not that I ever thought he wasn’t. I just couldn’t say so myself. You may now call me, Routan Van Man.

At the end of our weekend, even my son, currently too cool for school and not impressed by much, casually admitted last night, “This doesn’t feel like a minivan.”

No, it did not.

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Good Man, Great Dad, Better Parent?

So I didn't win the 2009 Black Weblog Awards for Best Parenting & Family Blog... Can you hear the tear rolling down my face?

I was mostly happy and blessed for the recognition and the traffic that came with such an honor. I definitely want to thank the people who voted for me to become a finalist and then those who voted for me.

I'd like to congratulate the Popular Vote winner in my category: MyBrownBaby. I've checked out the site and it's really sweet and I don't use terms like,"really sweet."

I'd also like to congratulate the Judge's Vote winner in my category: spelhouseLove. Definitely check it out.

Truth is, I didn't expect to win this category. I was also nominated for Best Writing on a Blog and something else. I believe that since the parenting category was at the top of the list that is what everyone voted for and since I do talk about my family the pick was a natural one. But I'm not sure this is a parenting blog. It's a Daddy Blog and being a Daddy Blogger gives me the liberty to talk about family and be as random about whatever else I want. Just as dads/men are when they get together. This is no insult to us. Instead I believe it conveys the beauty of the many roles a man plays as a family man, a man, and also his stresses. Right now I don't believe anyone has accurately been able to define us dudes who blog as dads, first, then everything else second. Thank God for Dad Blogs, otherwise I think we'd all be trying to figure out how to be Mommy Bloggers with mustaches, beards and...you know.

Since I opened this door, I might as well walk through it...

Mom's have the whole parenting/family scenario on lockdown, even when they don't. The chips are stacked so high against us dads that when it comes to instances of the dissolution of a marriage or some sort of fight for child custody, mom's are presumed to be such the better and more capable parent that they have to either a) give up their parental rights; or b) be some kind of crackhead serial killer in order for any court of law or public opinion to consider men's parental rights over theirs. By no means is this a knock to my esteemed competitors in this category. This is just a rant I've had inside me for some time now. I'll never forget the day I went to collect my daughter from the infirmary to bring her home as dad --- the man who showed up for the birth, stayed up all night watching over mother and baby only to eventually fall asleep sitting straight up on a chair so hard that it felt like someone had taken a crowbar to my lower back when I woke up. The nurse behind the counter looked me over, even with my official hospital, maternity ward bracelet, gave me a pandering, bless your heart smile and said, "Uhm, yeah, sweetheart...we need the mom to come get the baby."

You mean the mom who asked me to come get our daughter because she has stitches running up her middle because our daughter split her in half and can't walk? The baby has a birthmark in the exact same place as my father and I so even if I hadn't wanted her, there's no denying she's mine. I wondered this silently to myself because nurses scare me (they remind me of mean aunts). But this didn't stop me from wishing the woman dead with my eyes. Tail between my legs, literally, I retraced my steps and got my wife.

Care_Father and Son

"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." Sigmond Freud...

If I have a point to all this it's that men can not only be great dads, but they can also be great parents and in some instances even the better/stronger of the two parents. This is no slight to moms, or a suggestion that children don't need their mothers, but rather an acknowledgment of fathers doin' it and doin' it VERY well. Not even two weeks ago a friend was telling me over drinks that his father was the parent that stepped up to the plate and knocked the ball out of the park. And his father is a company CEO with a very demanding career.

No different than any team, sooner or later certain players naturally express themselves as being more talented, stronger, sharper, etc. The same is especially true for a two-parent household where there are only two on the team. One is bound to present as the "natural". And there's absolutely nothing wrong with this if the two know how to work as a team.

But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

Photo Source: Flickr

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Counting The Years on Your Face

SWEETIE PIEToday is my wife's birthday. That's right 09/09/09. Hopefully if you're reading this, the world hasn't blown up and the machines haven't become self-aware.

Happy Birthday, Lady! By the time she reads this she should be riddled with guilt, stuffed to the cheeks with cupcakes as the motto in her department at work is: Any day is a good day to have cupcakes. Any reason is a good reason to have cupcakes.

She's one year older and wiser --- an intelligent, focused, driven go getter with the world as her oyster. God Bless, you, my wife, may you experience much prosperity in your new year.

Speaking of older...

Over the weekend my son (the refuse-to-take-pictures member of the Makes Me Wanna Holler household) was chatting with his sister about how mommy and daddy are "old people."

I looked up from what I was reading in my room and decided to go for a walk down the hall...

Five or six steps later, I was at the threshold of the den of dorkdom, a realm where dirty socks and underwear live on the floor; xBox 360 Live is perpetually on (until school starts) with children (his football teammates) somewhere in their dork dens shouting out to my son through his television to dive, duck, shoot, etc.; and the smell of cheap cologne and caramelized onions sits stagnant in the air.

My son and I made eye contact...

He smiled.

I didn't.

"I'm older than you," I told him, calmly. "But I am not old."

"The next time you call me old, I'm going to count off my years on your face. And then you'll see how old I am."

My son busted out laughing. I took one step into his room and he screamed, "Mom, Dad's over hear threatnin' me, invading my space, my personal bubble!"

"Please, I own you and this space."

Satisfied that I made myself clear, I left his room. After I was out of striking distance, he called me old again.

Photo Source: Flckr

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A Cat In Need Of A Home

My hate affair with my wife's cat, Tiger, is in its last days.

I'm not jumping for joy nor did I ever expect to.

Despite my best efforts to find a loving home for her during the past two years since she moved back in with us (the deal was if I found the home, my wife would look the other way - which, I believe, explains why she hasn't helped at all in my plight) I've come up with zilch, nada, nothing really. I've gotten close --- people have committed and then reneged because they have allergies (why say yes in the first place?), eighteen cats, or broke up with their lover/roommate between telling me yes and my actually showing up at their front door. Believe me, I've heard and experienced it all and I think the answer I've appreciated most is, "Hell no." It's emphatic, it's to the point and there's no way for me to misinterpret the message.

But enough with my exposition.

By the end of this week I will be out of my current dwelling and presumably living out of boxes in a beautiful, renovated 3-bedroom 2-bathroom space that is walking distance to everything each of us needs, has a great view and a large terrace for outdoor furniture and a plant or two. It also doesn't allow pets. And neither did any of the other places we looked at, through no choosing of my wife or no planning of my own.

Many times in this life when a necessary action isn't taken in an appropriate time or fashion, life has a way of doing it for us, typically with much less tact.

So here I am readers, still trying to find a home for a cat that has done me more harm than good and doesn't even like me. Behind it all I still want to reassure my wife because a shelter is just not an option and my mother-in-law's doors as a pet rescue outpost for her daughters' bleeding hearts are officially closed.

I am dead serious about the following: If any of you would be willing to provide safe, loving room and board for an affectionate and spry cat (who amazingly is as light as a kitten) or know of someone who does and can please email me here or via the Contact tab at the top of the page to let me know. And please, please, please, share this on Facebook, Tweet this post, or Trackback to it to let as many cat lovers know as possible. We've got until the end of the week.

Cat Needing Adoption by E.Payne
Tiger, in one of her favorite places, the window.

Please note: I AM NOT looking for advice on what to do. Thanks, but no thanks. I only need to know about an adoptive home.

Here's the specs:

Name: Tiger
Age: 12-13 (my wife puts her age around 3 or 4 when she was rescued)
Weight: approx 10 lbs.
Medical: she has all her shots
Declawed: Her front paws.
Spayed: Yes

Even if you don't live in the NYC tri-state area. I'm open to considering a mutually beneficial/shared transportation option to assure that Tiger winds up in the right place and not a shelter.

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A Movie For Dads & Tots & Teens & Anyone

Yesterday evening, my daughter and I along with a friend and his family, watched Wall-E under the stars at a park along Moshulu Parkway in the Bronx. It was our second time seeing it and it was just as incredible as the first time around. If you haven't had the pleasure, check out the trailer below.

When my daughter went to bed last night she kissed me several times while shouting, "Goodnight, Daddy!"

My wife smirked and told her to be careful not to step into the puddle I had become.


Happy Friday! Make it a great weekend.

What movie(s) do you enjoy with your little ones?

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Mommy's Loving Day

Makes Me Wanna HollerMy daughter is settling back into her surroundings here in NYC and only mildly disappointed to see her home boxed and packed up as we prepare for our move in the next few days. She was walking down the hall and spotted a framed collage of pictures of my wife and I (including the inset picture) sitting on her brother's floor.

Daughter: Why is that picture on the floor?

Son: What picture?

Daughter: That picture of mommy's loving day...mommy and daddy's Loving Day?

Me (after coming down the hall): Is that what it's called?

Daughter: Yes, you and mommy's loving day.

I smiled. Out of the mouths of babes.

My loving day is a little more than a month away. Shout out to my friends, Ronnie and Lamar Tyler, the Dynamic Duo over at Black And Married With Kids dot-com who's Loving Day is today.

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Father In Focus: Mocha Dad

There's more than just me (man, dad, husband) out here typing into cyberspace. I figure it's about time I begin to showcase some of them for you, my most loyal readers. Hopefully you'll check them out and subscribe to their blogs also.

First on the list of my new Father In Focus series is a blogging buddy who goes by the handle Mocha Dad. For my interview with him, please continue reading.

Mocha Dad Headshot
EP: Where do you live? What's your occupation?
MD: I live in Houston, TX. My occupation is Health, Safety, and Environmental Director.

EP: How many children do you have, how long have you been married?
MD: I have three children (ages 8, 5, 2) and I have been married for 12 years.

EP: When did you start blogging and what inspires you to blog?
MD: I started blogging in August of 2008 to counter the negative stereotypes regarding black fatherhood. I wanted people to get a first hand account of a black father who is intimately involved in his children’s lives. My children inspire me to continue blogging. I want
to use my blog as a historical document that chronicles their lives. When they become adults, they will have a tangible document that charts their growth, development and special moments to share with their children.

EP: What does being a dad mean to you? How does being a man of color impact this?
MD: Being a dad means being fully involved in your kids’ lives. Many dads rely on their wives to handle all the details of their children lives, but when they do this, they miss out on bonding opportunities. Kids grow up so fast. I spend as much time with them as I can because I don’t want to have any regrets when they are adults. I like to take my kids shopping, visit them and their teachers throughout the school year, and play games with them. Something as simple as reading a book together makes a huge difference in a child’s life.

I don’t think that race has anything to do with being a dad. I’ve spoken with fathers of all races and our challenges are the same – protecting our children, providing for our children, giving them a set of values, and teaching our children how to be productive citizens. Of course, many black dads grew up without fathers as role models; consequently, many of us are winging it. But we cannot use that as an excuse to shirk our responsibilities. Dads have to be committed to their families in order for them to be successful. Part of that commitment requires sacrifices and some men, regardless of race, are unwilling to make those sacrifices. Fatherhood is difficult, but it is also the most rewarding job we’ll ever have.

One thing that bothers me is that people congratulate me when they see me out with my kids. They say things like, “It’s good to see a black man out with his kids,” or “You’re a great dad.” I’m not seeking any accolades because I spend time with my kids. I’m just doing my job as a parent. I’m looking forward to the day when seeing a black man spending time with his kids won’t be such a novelty.

EP:What are the challenges, the perks of modern-day living with a family?
MD: Raising kids now is much more difficult than it was I was I growing up. Kids have so many distractions and so many more ways to get into trouble. It is important to find a balance between protecting our children and allowing them to find their own way in the world. That’s why it is important to have a both parents involved in raising children. Men and women have different perspectives about certain things and kids benefit because of these different perspectives. My
wife is much more protective than I am. I have to balance her protectiveness with my desire to let the kids explore the world and even fail in order to develop their personalities. Together we can usually come up with a decision that is right for that particular child.

One of the perks of being a father is coming home each day to a chorus of “DADDY’S HOME!!!!” and receiving big hugs from each of my three children and my wife.

EP: What has been one of your most memorable moments as a father? As a husband?
MD: My most memorable moments as a father and as a husband have been the births of each of my children. Those moments will forever live in my memory.

EP: What advice/recommendation would you give to someone about to become a
father and/or husband?
MD: One problem that many parents encounter is that they place their children before their marriage. All parents need to make their marriage a priority. Make time to nurture that relationship before any other. Children are more secure when they can see that their parents’ have a strong relationship.

Also fathers need to make sure that they are available to their family. We all fall into the trap where we think our main role is to provide for our family. Therefore, we neglect our family because we are too busy working. We must remember that taking care of our families is our most important job. Taking care of our families is much more than just providing for their financial needs. We have to address our families’ emotional and spiritual needs as well.

If you could accomplish anything through your blogging, what would that be?
MD: I’d like to inspire other fathers to be more involved in their children’s lives. I don’t intend to portray myself as a perfect father because I have several faults. I just hope that people can read my blog and see that I’m just a flawed human being who is working to do his best with the gifts, talents, and blessings that God has bestowed upon me.

Thanks, Mocha Dad!

Where you will find Mocha Dad:
His Blog: Mocha Dad
His Review Site: The Mocha Dad Review
Twitter: Mocha Dad on Twitter

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