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Basic & Simple Truth

Nothing fancy, nothing with flourishes, nothing funny, nothing saucy nor any photos to write about today.

I just have one simple thing to say:

I love my wife.

Luv ya, babe!

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Casting Shadows of Greatness

Casting Shadows, originally uploaded by E.Payne.
My son (#15) and his cronies on the sidelines at sunset near the end of another team victory.


Shoelessness: A Father's Shame

In my growing quest to remain calm, no matter what, when dealing with my teenage son he seems to have ramped up his efforts to make me dropkick him in his chest...

Last Tuesday or Wednesday (I've done my best to block the day out of my mind) I pick this kid up from football practice. He moseys over to the car as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. After receiving my normal blah greeting from him I run down the handful of errands we have to do before we go home. He looks straight ahead through the windshield as I'm speaking when he suddenly seems to process what I said.

"Can we go home?" he asked with alarm.

Figuring he had a date with the toilet I told him he can use the bathroom at our next stop.

"No, I need shoes."

I asked why. We weren't going anywhere special.

"No...I need to put on shoes," was his reply.

My face twists up and I swerved a little on the road as I try to make sense of what he's saying to me. My logical mind fought against the insanity of what my son was suggesting until finally I gave in.

"You don't have shoes on?!"

"No, cuz you told me to leave my running shoes in my football locker. And I wore them today."

"Huh? (half-second pause) What?! Lemme see."

He lifted up his leg a bit and he truly wasn't wearing shoes.

"Yeah, and I thought I had my shower shoes but I didn't."

"So you left the school without shoes?! Yes, I told you to leave your running shoes at school, but not if you were wearing them! You actually left the damn school without shoes?! Are you out of your mind?! Un-(oh, how I wanted to curse, but didn't)-believable!"

At this point I have one hand on the wheel and I'm no longer looking at the road at all. I thin my gaze on him and said, "Not even your country cousins would do something this country."

He began to laugh, completely tickled by his buffoonery.

I took a deep breath, collected myself and returned my focus to driving. "I'm going to need you to not speak to me until we get home," I told him. He continued trying to explain but with every attempt I yelled gibberish over his words until he finally gave up.

When we arrived home I should've done the right thing by going upstairs to bring down a pair of shoes and continuing on with the errands we needed to run.

Nope. I told him his mother and I spend too much money on him for him to be walking around without common sense and looking homeless in our presence. But he was welcome to do so on his own. I sent him on his way and waited in the car until he returned with his shoes. And he was astonishingly okay with that. I called the wife and let her know how her son left school.

I do remember being a teen...but not like this.

When my wife arrived home, she kissed our daughter, gave me a kiss, calmly walked up to our son and smacked him in the back of the head.

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You Are Needy & Dumb: A Site Update

So this is a snippet from an Anonymous (of course) comment I received from my now infamous, I Hate Cats post.

"You are needy and dumb... Go buy a dog or have a child..."

Uhh...well...I do have both. That's actually the point of this blog.

The internet is sometimes a dirty gas station bathroom filled with people who talk nonsense in seclusion in front of a computer screen knowing they'd never have the cohones to say a word to anyone face to face.

I actually HATE the fact that to date, this particular post is the single most popular post that ever came from this blog. For those who actually read past the title they know I was actually expressing my resentment for my wife's holding onto an animal her entire household was allergic to.

Oh well. Despite my repeated efforts to erase this post off my blog my wife insists that I keep it because I wrote it and clearly it made an impact with readers. I still haven't made up my mind if I'm going to kill it or not, but considering that I wrote it over a year ago, the comments are now officially closed. There's also another reason why I want to kill the post.

At the end of last month my wife and a friend of this blog and a friend in the flesh found a new home for Tiger. Letting her go was tough as I fully expected it to be. It had always been my hope that a family member or a friend could keep her, but none could. But I'm very thankful that we were able to find the cat a loving home. I would like to thank each of you who sent me suggestions and ideas regarding finding Tiger a new home.

Link Updates:

I'd also like to send out some link love to the latest group of blogs that are now linked to me. You can find a full listing of my links by clicking the LINKS button at the top of this page.

Clark Kent's Lunchbox

Lofton Mania

Chocolate Brides

soulbrother v.2

The Intersection Of Madness And Reality

NYC Dads & Stay At Home Dads Group

Is It Tomorrow Already?

Make it a great and blessed week!

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Win An All-New 2010 Volkswagen GTI (or at Least A Game or Two)

Every so often I get the opportunity to step out and treat myself to a good dose of grown up fun.

Just one of these occasions took place yesterday evening when I attended the launch party for Volkswagen's 2010 GTI (Twitter Hashtag #gti2010) held in lower Manhattan at the uber-sexy Classic Car Club Manhattan. With G4TV’s Olivia Munn hosting, ?uestlove of The Roots DJing and surrounded by shiny 200-horsepower vehicles, my testosterone level returned to it's appropriate mark. And did I mention the iPods? VW has become the first automaker to launch a vehicle exclusively on a mobile device by providing the new Firemint Real Racing GTI game available now for free for iPhone and iPod Touch at the iTunes App Store. It solely features the brand-new 2010 GTI (in multiple trims and configurations, course). For those of you who follow this blog, you know my fondness obsession for the iPod touch, so I was immediately sold. At the event there were plenty of iPod Touches on hand for game play. I spent most of my time on the game hugging the wall with the 4-door GTI I drove (couldn't go with the coupe for the simple reason that I have to stuff 2 kids into the back).

But I intend to play until I'm a master and I would highly advise anyone who loves this car to do the same. Six U.S. players will each win one of six customized limited-edition GTI MkVI (Mark 6) Vehicles now through December 2! For the exact rules and regulations please visit www.VW.com/RealRacingGTI.

Pictures from the event:


[DISCLAIMER: No goods or services were exchanged as payment for this event, product and contest description.]

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A Quick Holler About The All-New 2010 Volkswagen GTI

Every so often I get the opportunity to step out and treat myself to a good dose of grown up fun.

Please see the post dated immediately after this one to read the rest.


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Thank You

I would like to extend my appreciation to all of you who visited and continue to visit my article My Wife Is Not My Friend (on Facebook) over at Black And Married With Kids. As of midnight last night it was viewed over 3,000 times and received 51 comments. As of this morning that number is still climbing. Just to put things into perspective, Makes Me Wanna Holler gets a little more than 6,000 views PER MONTH! Without intending to, I seem to have connected with readers, both positively and negatively, in a way I never expected and set my own personal record for most views of a single piece I've ever written...in a day, a month and maybe even a year...not that I'm counting.


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Facebook And Marriage Don't Go Together?

Facebook and marriage don't (always) go together.

On Facebook, my wife is NOT my friend. I un-friended her about two months ago. Not only did I not tell her what I did, but once she discovered we were no longer connected, I ignored her request to become my friend once more. Like her, I sure many of you are SMH, or rather shaking your heads, thinking, How trifling is he? My wife’s chief complaint was that she was my wife, how dare I not be her friend. Her being my wife is the very reason why I cut our virtual ties.

Read the rest of My Wife Is NOT My Friend (on Facebook) and please leave comments over at Black And Married With Kids.

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The Little Things

On Saturday, I committed what most might consider a harmless offense. So harmless it isn't even worth mentioning here. All I'll say is it involved the borough of Manhattan, a train, a [insert expletive] train conductor, a graduate school fair, a lot of money and a little bit of money. It hadn't been my intention to do what I did --- I didn't want or need to --- but I was caught off guard by a train conductor with an axe to grind on a rainy Saturday morning (who knows why) and when he confronted me I said the first thing that came to mind. And what I said wasn't true.

This little white lie came with a significant price tag and on Saturday I was a miserable mess because of it.

How many times over the course of the day do we have the opportunity to tell the truth or do the right thing --- over the most miniscule things? Then for whatever reason our minds begin kicking out stats, odds, chances of our success in doing otherwise (in other words getting away with it) despite what we know in our hearts to be wrong.

I was raised on very basic truths, one of them being: a small lie and a big lie are one in the same --- in God's eyes and everyone else's. My incident on Saturday had a profound impact on me. I asked myself, What's wrong with me? I had no reason whatsoever to not be honest. Normally I don't even blink when someone comes at me half-cocked. Maybe I'm getting older or maybe I'm just old. The desire to "get over" even in pointless situations has completely left me. While thinking all this over, all my home training came back to me in one sudden rush and I had to ask myself, What kind of man am I? What kind of father am I? What kind of husband am I? What example am I to the people who need me the most? Now I might have been giving myself too hard a time over this. But it gets like this sometimes in the lives of men, dads and husbands. As I contemplated all of this on a commuter train home ride from Manhattan, I closed my eyes and asked God to forgive me --- for everything, my 2009, the pain I've been carrying around because of it and the resulting anger that has done neither my family nor me any good even though most who know me say I haven't been guilty of much.

When I opened my eyes again, I was a little closer to home and the pain was gone. I spent the afternoon and evening appreciating my family for all the good that they've brought me and the camaraderie that comes with having one.


And I fixed the problem I created on Saturday morning by being honest about it on Monday morning.

The Bottom Line:
In the little things as well as the big things be truthful to yourself, in the end you'll be better off because of it.

Yes, No? Let me know.

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Talking About Sex With Your Pre-Teens and Teens

I want to continue the conversation that began last Thursday with The Worst Sex Talk EVER! and continued with On Parenting: A Question For Bloggers, Readers and Commenters, one step further. Over the weekend I had the opportunity to speak to a former coworker of mine, Andrew Ross. He is a dynamic individual who in his spare time conducts workshops for young teens, ages 11-19, about financial literacy, male and female etiquette, leadership styles and skills, and HIV and AIDS awareness 101. He's an individual who in his own words came from nothing, overcoming street gangs, violence, prison and even a near death experience to become a mentor and motivational speaker. His story is a truly an amazing and inspired one.

Andrew provided me with the following short list of tactics to engage your youngster/teen in conversations about sex, abuse and anything else for that matter. According to Andrew, "Your child wants you to talk with him about sex. And you HAVE to have that talk." It is critical to get everyone comfortable with one another so that the conversations can be had, understood and accepted NOW and not later in hindsight as an adult.

  1. If your child is on MySpace or Facebook become their friend (no matter how much neither of you might not want this to happen). These sites will give you clear insight into their friendships, influences and thinking.
  2. Listen to the music they're listening to. Yes, as parents we'd all like to believe that the music choices in our homes and on our iPod playlists are the only ones our kids are listening to, but this isn't true. Music makes the world go round. Best believe it has the power to influence your child. Especially music today. I'm talking pop, rock and hip hop.
  3. Set up designated one-on-one time for just you and your child. This can happen once (or twice) a week or month, or however much your schedules allow. Father-Son Day, Dad & Daughter Day, Mother-Daughter Day, etc. No different than you would if you were someone's mentor or Big Brother/Big Sister. Eventually, they'll look forward to it and begin opening up more.
For more information regarding putting successful strategies into practice with your preteens and teens please, email Andrew directly.

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On Parenting: A Question For Bloggers, Readers & Commenters...

I had an opportunity to re-read and digest a comment left by a follower of mine and fellow father (please see the 4th comment of yesterday's post - The Worst Sex Talk EVER! and my response) at length. I'd like to know your thoughts. To me the tone of it was almost reprimanding. Do you believe this is an overstepping of boundaries? Keep in mind I'm not disagreeing with the comment as a statement of general truths and consequences. But as they were directed at me, they don't apply. Here is a line that jumped out at me:

"...letting him [my son] discover these things for himself are in my opinion just as much an indicator of lax parenting as being negligent in any other area required for healthy growth and development." [a very valid point if it applied to me]

and one more:

"...you are otherwise quite a thoughtful and responsible parent; i can't imagine why this hasn't extended to having an honest, ongoing dialogue about sex." [I appreciate the sentiment, but there's no way anyone who doesn't have actual contact with me to know whether or not I am a thoughtful or responsible parent, firstly, and then to take that sentiment to turn it into an admonishment is...well, interesting. Besides, I state frequently that I'm no perfect parent or husband. Hopefully in time my kids will be the proof that I doing as best as I know how]

If you read The Worst Sex Talk EVER! it was about my struggle to initiate and carry on a specific conversation with my son and along with this I mentioned my other flops and what my reasons are behind the flops. I didn't think it was funny when it happened. Nor did I find it funny when I wrote it. Although I must admit I was able to laugh at myself after reading the post. But I wasn't aiming to make anyone laugh. And the fact that commenters found it funny and in some instances hilarious is no reason for me to get my wrist slapped (I think). Finally, I provided resources for those who might be going through the same thing at the end of the post. So even if I had been hell bent on being effing hysterical, I concluded on a very deliberate note.

Now...what I didn't say
was that over the years my son and I have had many impromptu conversations when the subject comes up for various reasons --- sometimes as a result of some ridiculously disrespectful song that pops up on the radio or some movie he'd like to see that clearly is above his age range (name a Judd Apatow flick). We in fact do have an ongoing dialogue. Our discussions about sex actually began when he was 10 9 and asked me what HIV stood for. I love my son too much to let him loose in the streets without being armed with knowledge. I go to sleep at nights worried that I'm not doing enough to protect/educate him in particular as a young black man soon to be a grown one. The truth is that I'm really terrible at getting the conversation going. My previous post was exactly about that which is why it read like a transcript. I guess if I wrote the title of the post as, Blowing Conversations With My Son About Sex When Pressured By The Wife, then maybe it might have been perceived differently. But that isn't what I chose to do. I didn't feel I needed to.

I'd like to point out that the 5th comment was as equally passionate as the 4th, but it offers insight, not judgment. A couple others addressed only the seriousness of what was underlying in the post, but their comments were instructive. And I appreciate that.

Clearly this is an instance where a parent feels passionately about an issue which I raised, which I think is absolutely great. And because this a blog which is open and accepting of all opinions, I'd like to know, do you believe this comment represents an overstepping to question a virtual (literally) stranger's parenting over a blog post that is merely slice of a total picture of one's life - candid, comedic or otherwise --- or is it simply an opinion?

I bring attention to all this (which went completely ignored in the comments of the original post) because this is an interesting phenomenon that I've seen erupt on other parenting/mom/dad blogs and since it has now happened here, I'm curious to know if anyone has an opinion. Personally as parents/dads/moms in this growing Internet community I think we should be there for each other to offer advice first, foremost and always if we think another might be a bit or completely off track. But that's just my opinion.

As always, thanks for staying tuned.


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The Worst Sex Talk EVER

temptressThere is one way in which I feel I am failing my son miserably. In the birds and the bees department I truly suck. The extent of my mother's sex talk with me was, "BOY, DON'T LET THESE GIRLS GET IN YOUR PANTS!" (Thanks, Mom. That really helped). And my father never had "The Talk" with me at all. So in truth, I honestly don't have any real-life background on how to broach this subject with my 14 year old boy.

Since the age of 10, my wife has asked me to go down this road with him. At 10 I was morally opposed. At 11, I don't remember what I said. At 12, I believe I threatened him when he went away to summer camp. At 13, I spoke to him about not doing anything I wouldn't do (which is probably the last thing I should've said to him). And twice this year, before the summer, in which I had a threatening, comical heart to heart with him and once again at the end of the summer I was asked/pressured/demanded to have the talk again.

"How many times am I going to talk to this boy about this?" I half pleaded with the wife. "You don't think he gets it?"

"He went away this summer and now he's in high school he needs to be spoken to. If you don't I will." This is something neither he (my son) nor I need or want. Think of Sam Witwicky's mother in Transformers.

As much as my parents didn't talk to me about this subject I did have church to fall back on. And here is where I feel I'm failing my son. We currently and haven't gone to church in years. So what he would probably already know via Sunday school, he does not.

About a month ago, I brought it up again on the way home from football practice.

Me: "So I just wanted to talk to you about the summer and the upcoming fall. You're getting older, and you're going to be playing sports and you're an attractive young man." [This has already started wrong]

Son: Listens intently.

Me: "And I just want you to know that I know you have a little girlfriend and although I didn't date when I was your age (or even have girls like me), I can understand the thoughts that may or may not be going through your head. And with the music on the radio these days, that's not helping matters at all because music is just... [I trail off realizing I'm going off topic]

Son: Continues to listen intently.

Me: "All I'm saying is that you can flirt, even kiss if you must, but I don't want you bringing home any babies or diseases." [at this point I feel like I did the first time I jumped into the deep end of a pool without knowing how to swim] "I want you to be respectful at all times, that's all. You have your whole life to act as a adult, you don't have to rush and do it now. Got it?"

Son: "Yeah, dad."

[I should've ended here]

Me: "Because even though I'm married now, a few years ago I used to be a man and I used to do my thing, I mean, I was out there." [DANGER! DANGER! ABORT!] "So you can always come and talk to me about anything when it comes to the ladies."

This was a Freudian slip and a half that left me choking on my words and wanting to rewind time. I looked out my driver's side window and mumbled, "That went great..."

Me: "Well, that's all I've got to say. Just be respectful and don't do anything that will put yourself in danger or mess up your education."

I sighed and then groaned. My son went back to sending text messages from his phone.

I didn't want to holler. I wanted to scream.

For more information about giving "The Talk" to your pre-teen and/or teen check out 4Parents.gov and Talking With Kids About Sex And Relationships.

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Our Loving Day

heart shadow from wedding ring

A week ago today my wife and I celebrated our 2nd year of wedded life together --- our Loving Day as my daughter puts it. 2 years ago we were on a mountain bluff off the South coast of Barbados exchanging vows at 4 pm. This year at 4pm I was sitting on cold metal bleachers watching my son's football team stomp out their opponents like someone had stolen from them (they are currently undefeated). My daughter was yelling at the sun to go away because it was in her eyes. And it wasn't warm at all. But it was all good.

The good people at Volkswagen helped out by giving me a loaded Campanella White Touareg TDI to drive for the week; I had semi-detailed plans for a weekend jaunt to Toronto, Canada or Philly (as a backup). I knew my son would have plans for the weekend as he seeks to be out of the house as much as possible these days. The plans hung entirely on someone being able or willing to watch babygirl for the weekend.

Here is where my plans crashed and burned.

That's the way life goes sometimes for parents, particularly parents of little ones. Desperate to go anywhere, I initially begrudgingly included our kids in our plans and shifted gears to plan a family weekend trip. Needless to say, everything was booked and what wasn't was either overpriced or charged by the hour. I went to bed a sad and sorry chap.

The next morning my son abandoned us after football practice to spend the night at a friend's house (after begging me to set him free). On a whim I decided I needed some retail (window shopping) therapy and dragged the wife and daughter to Woodbury Commons. We stayed until the place closed and none of us left empty handed. On Sunday, we picked up the boy and headed upstate to Wilkens Fruit And Fir Farm for an afternoon of spontaneous apple and pumpkin picking and some amazing apple cider donuts made from scratch.

Bottom line: Things don't always go as planned. What are you gonna do? Bitch about it on a blog, or have a good time anyway? I/we opted to have a good time. Hopefully sooner, rather than later we will celebrate our Loving Day.

When have you had to go with plan B, or C, D, E, or F? Did it work?

Photo Credit: Flickr

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So, I was going to post a nice, happy frivolous post today, a Friday. Instead, I turned on my computer and was stunned to see that President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

This isn't a political blog so my reasons for being stunned are mine and I have no desire to share/impose them. But the Web 2.0 in me simply won't allow me not to call attention to this event in real time for the sake of a post about a loaf of bread.

Stay tuned.

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Dora! All Day Everyday

I was initially warmed by my daughter's love for all things Dora. She talks to Dora, she creates stories around Dora, she draws pretty convincing portraits of Dora, she is even convinced that there is a Dora version of everything, such as rocket ships, houses and computers. She insists that her Dora toothbrush matches the Dora on the toothpaste tube. There are at least 7 Doras that go for a swim with her at bath time. Clearly she is utilizing her big imagination to the fullest. Even on the days when it's a bit much, I'm not going to knock my child for being a child.

Then I saw the following the other day:

I am now convinced that the Church of Dora is secretly recruiting acolytes ages 2 - 8. My jaw dropped when I saw the girl (who was too convincing to merely be a budding actress) in this commercial stating, word for word, things my own daughter says all day long. Even my daughter was silent with awe as she watched with me. When it was over she turned to me and asked, "CAN YOU BUY ME THAT?! THAT WALL OF DORA TOYS AND BOOTS AND DIEGO?!"

"Sure, honey," I answered wearily. First it was my son with Power Rangers, and now this...

What (if any) kiddie obsession does your child have? Do you have to pay for it?

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Let’s End Domestic Violence: A Challenge to All Fathers

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. My brother in blogging, Mocha Dad wrote a poignant and candid piece on the subject. Here are some straight and sobering facts:

  • Each day in the U.S., three women die as result of domestic violence.

  • More than one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

  • More than three out of four Americans know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

You can read the entirety of Let’s End Domestic Violence: A Challenge to All Fathers at MochaDad. Please do more than just read. Please respond to his challenge, and in your own life, in your own way do your part to bring awareness to this epidemic that destroys children, families, spouses and lives. Also keep in mind it's not just people in the married lane who are victims.

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Gettin' Bitchy

Dog Park

It has always surprised me and I consider myself blessed that I haven't been attacked for anything that I write (except one instance on AOL Black Voices) as I don't believe this is something I am built to handle. I don't do well with confrontation.

September 2009 has come and gone. I went into it knowing that I might lose a reader or two or at the very least leave them scratching their heads. I wrote a total of sixteen (16) posts for the month, down from my usual twenty (20), and out of that total, four (4) of them were less than positive. Please also keep in mind that these 4 posts which all were published over a 30-day span belong to a body of work that now has reached a total 360 posts: exactly 1.1% of my posts on this blog. It was something I was very wary of doing. I debated it for many days before diving in. But I did it fully prepared for the fallout and consequences. I shined a light on my imperfect side. Not that I have a side that's perfect, but what I did was share my gripes, my insecurities and frustrations.


Because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want. Honestly. But way above this base reason I wanted to show that despite all the positivity and love I've tried to promote as a not-so-new family man, I'm very much made out of flesh and blood, my thinking can go South, there are things I don't like, they aren't funny and can't be spun to be read as funny, and some of them actually arise out of my house. As of late several men who typically have not commented here have reached out to me to share their frustrations with me, by email, Facebook or a comment or two here and there. I don't know them. I don't know if they're right for how they feel, but it was nice to know that I connected with the guys who aren't so sure about being husbands, who are struggling with being dads, who may not have their ish straight. And several women let me know the same via their comments. With these 4 posts I let them know they aren't alone and I learned I wasn't either. Besides, who in 2009 wants to be alone? I'm sure plenty of people do, but you get my drift.


For whatever reason, I thought it was my duty to be transparent whatever the fallout might be, here on this blog and in my home. And there was fallout.

My point is that I went into September with every intention on being transparent about me because I was beginning to feel a little silly writing about the usual stuff I write about here with so much else weighing on my mind. It was giving me writer's block, for starters. So I wrote out what had my soul in knots. Even though it's here for all the Net to see, this is a journal of my comings and goings, my hopes, dreams, sorrows and fears. Something that maybe one day my children can see and read through as a cheat sheet and a testimony of my love for them and their mother, and also a journal about their dad --- who I am as a human being navigating real human problems --- sometimes well, sometimes not so well. And then of course, there's plenty of stuff that will never see the light of day.

For the people who don't know me from a can of paint, I hope that even in the midst of my bitching I was able to shine a light on something for you. Even if that light was, I don't need to be bitchin' like this guy! For the friends and MMWH followers who saw through the layers of text in these 4 particular posts; felt the pain, saw that clearly I needed to vent and/or someone to help make sense of my mess, to tell me it really isn't all that bad because we humans do have a tendency to make more of what is there and what isn't there (not dismissing anything I've written) and reached out to me directly in the comments (namely Damon who succinctly told me to "Shake it off.") or shot me emails with words and videos of inspiration or made calls of concern (primarily married folk who've been married a whole hell of a lot longer than I have and understand that this marriage thing is a journey of peaks and valleys no matter who's right or wrong) I appreciate you more than you'll ever know. And for those of you out there who I have a pretty strong sense read my posts and saw a man merely bitching and moaning even to the point of being ungrateful...well, you're entitled to your opinion too, as you have stated it either directly or indirectly to me.

When it was all said and done, September was a mixed bag of results. Despite or because of these 4 posts along with the other 12 I published for the month, my visits dropped by 6% but my new subscribers/readers/followers increased by nearly 6%. Go figure.

Thanks for reading! This month, Makes Me Wanna Holler is going to experience a revamp, or a re-formatting to put it best. An idea came to me the other night and I hope you all will like it. If you don't please let me know. Constructive criticism is something I can take.

Stay tuned.

Photo Credit 1: Flickr

Photo Credit 2: Flickr

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1st and Bench: A Simple Lesson of Manhood


Tuesday was a day I've been waiting for for a long, long time.

My 14-year old son is hard headed. Not that anyone at 14 isn't, but a hard head makes for a soft behind, goes the old adage. My father went upside my head so much when I was growing up (something he now claims to not recall) I have no desire to lift a finger or raise my voice to discipline my son. All the same, I've had a run-in or two with him over the years. I clearly remember in the midst of fracases with my father I stared him down with bloody rage in my eyes. This always made things worse. My son, on the other hand, has collapsed to the floor, a screaming, hysterical mess. I wasn't even able to stay angry at the sight of his theatrics.

My, how times have changed.

Besides, why do anything when Life is such a better instructor? My policy is to warn, once, twice, maybe even repeatedly, but I make sure to give full disclosure.

With fall comes football and on Monday, sonny-boy missed football practice because he didn't know what time it started. The night before I asked him to check. He said, "Okay." This meant it wasn't going to happen. He was visibly upset when his teammates called to tell him he missed practice but got over it quickly since his school had off for Yom Kippur. Over the course of the day he repeatedly insisted that it was a light practice. I have no idea how he knew this since he wasn't there.

My warning to my son: "That's fine, but you are the co-captain of the team. You're supposed to be the example. You not showing up tells the people you lead they don't have to show up either. This isn't going to fly for long. It's unacceptable that you don't know when you have practice. And it's not going to happen again."

My son gave me a legitimate, "Yes, Dad." He understood.

Unfortunately for him, I wasn't the only one who felt this way. When I arrived to my son's game Tuesday afternoon with my daughter, I saw him on the sidelines standing suited up. And that's all he did --- stand --- for the entire game. I missed the first quarter and initially thought to myself, what could he have possibly done to get yanked out of the game so early? Finally, I realized he never entered it. And neither did a few other starters who paced the sideline with him.

After the game I introduced myself to his defensive coach (a man who looked like he could eat me for lunch) just for the sake of being polite. Incorrectly assuming I wanted to know why my son didn't play he shook my hand and immediately stated that he had to make an example out of my son because he's missed practices (this was his second time for the exact same reason).

I told him that was my son's problem, not mine. My job is to get him where he needs to be. His job is to know when and where he needs to be.

My son got a nice bitter taste of what it means to be a man --- something he covets as a football player and an aspiring Air Force pilot. You mess up, you pay the consequences. He's heard this a thousand times from me, but this time it was something that truly mattered to him. And based on the size and demeanor of the defensive coach, I'm almost certain he was dealt with harshly.

My son sobbed loudly in the car on the way home. I told him it was one game, that he needed to accept responsibility for his actions, that he had the opportunity to turn himself around, to shake it off and to do his best to ensure this never happens again. "This," I said, "is what being a man is really about." He ran inside our building dragging his uniform and backpack behind him and closed himself up in his room to cry some more. Part of me laughed and part of me truly felt his pain because I know it myself and experience it often as a Man. An hour or so later he emerged from his room to eat dinner and do his homework. He left his trash everywhere around the house and didn't do any of his chores for the night. He was a miserable, gangling, teenage mess.

Next lesson for another time: Your bad day has nothing to do with me or you not fulfilling your responsibilities.

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