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Unsung Stepfathers & Jive Turkeys

Today is April Fool's Day, but yesterday I felt like quite the fool...

A couple months back I had a conversation with my daughter's godmother and it went a little something like this:

Me: I don't want to say this, but sometimes I just want to give up...let them handle this mess and I'll just deal with babygirl.

DGM: Aww...you know you can't do that.

Me: Can't I? They're the ones that passed that boy around and left him up to his own devices and now everything is coming to roost and I'm the one who's gotta deal with it. My entire life centers around making things work for him and I'm tired of it. I don't even know what to do. I didn't sign up for this.

DGM: I know, I know, but it'll get better. Have faith. Besides, if you don't take care of things, who will?

An emotional outburst that isn't 100% correct, but it was 200% emotional. The godmother's last charge stuck with me. My father first uttered this to me when I was barely 20 reeling from the accidental shooting death (one of his idiot friends pointed a loaded gun at him) of one of my closest cousins. Grieving something awful, I didn't want to do anything but just get by in life. My father told me and promised me that that was not acceptable.

Here at MMWH as transparent as I am, I am edited. I give you guys all of my joys, but I rarely share the full extent of my sorrows or even my woe. What follows is an unedited piece of me.

I am not my son's biological father. Where that joker is is anyone's guess. Technically it should've made my entrance into his life easy. But it didn't if you take into account that his mother was both his mother and father for the first 5 (arguably 10) years of his life. And if a man is already present, even if she actually isn't a man, then you're in for a world of trouble.

The second the woman who would be my wife decided I was the one I was plunged face first into this trouble. I went from boyfriend to husband/father material overnight and quite honestly having only spent roughly 6 months as a capable adult (at the age of 28) I wasn't prepared for any additional responsibility. But that didn't stop me from trying and complaining. And for all you novice stepfathers out there reading this, don't be dismayed, you will get your stride but only after beginning your walk through a minefield. Unless somehow either mother or child welcomes you openly. No matter what it takes time. It takes the comfort of both you and the kid(s) and it will call upon more patience from you than you ever thought imaginable.

What made my walk so trying was that I simply could not please my future son's mother. Friends began to take notice and speak disparagingly of the situation I was in. And I disparaged them for their words, though I secretly wondered if they were right. To make a long story short things got better when I discovered that I needed to have a relationship with my son-to-be that was independent of the girlfriend. One she couldn't touch or pass judgment on. I taught him how to swim. I got him into superheroes. I began attending all of his little games. I talked with him as much as he would talk with me.

But even still I found myself on the fringes --- good enough to cart the boy all over the tri-state area, but never good enough for a hardline opinion on how the boy should be raised. Not slamming his mother or any of the other key players for how he was being raised, but just offering a different perspective. A man who truly is a man (I know this is a very mysterious thing) has a vantage on what being a boy means that no woman will ever have. Sorry, moms. My father was practically unbearable to live with, but he instinctively knew how to deal with me in a way my mother never could.

Now to the point: In the fourth or fifth grade, my son was diagnosed as ADD-inattentive. He zones out in the classroom. He zones out if you talk to him for too long. He doesn't get up and start acting out, he just sits there goes bye-bye. This has affected my son's academic career and as I've documented here on the blog his grades are getting worse as more responsibility is being heaped on him. It has his mother and I scared for him, scared for his future and angry with him for not trying hard enough. But no matter how angry I've been something has always caused me to hold back. I've always feared there was something more beside some attention issue and a willful child. And I've caught some flack for it. Often I've asked my wife, what if we're punishing him for something he can't control? My son is practically 6 feet tall and has a savvy about him that in the eyes of most makes him responsible even when he is not... To my absolute distaste, I've sat with my wife at my son's school in entirely too many jive-turkey seances with scores of teachers informing us (me specifically) of absolutely nothing helpful. But I've been somewhat alone in my displeasure. I've been the naysayer, the killjoy, the one who pointlessly holds on to the fact that both my parents were educators and I've only seen one or two of those in all my meetings with these people.

Enter Dr. Bruce Roseman, an absolutely lovely wisenheimer (sp?) and a very capable pediatric neurologist. Yesterday he re-evaluated my son, initially on the premise that maybe he could give him something to help him focus. And if focus had been the issue then maybe I wouldn't be blogging this. Instead Dr. Roseman decided to open a Pandora's box on me: My son has a language comprehension issue. Similar in nature to dyslexia, the way he takes in, computes, packages, absorbs and regurgitates written and spoken info is off kilter. It definitely explains all the who's on first moments I've been having with him this year. What made matters worse is that the principal at his kindergarten caught it, named it and labeled it. But nothing happened for reasons that I don't know because I really wasn't in the picture back then. As Dr. Roseman sifted through all the paperwork I provided, he discovered a rather alarming trend. His current school system identified the issue without actually naming it and never took the necessary/required steps to address it. Then they branded him ADD which puts the responsibility on him.

"If you can't comprehend what's going on, you start looking around for visual cues. If you can't find those cues, you zone out. I mean wouldn't you zone out if you weren't grasping something?" Dr. Roseman asked me.

"Wouldn't anybody?" I asked him back.

As the picture became clearer and clearer I became overcome with a mix of anger and sadness. I thought of all the anger, all the confusion, all the punishments and my beautiful, beautiful son just taking it. It was too much to contain. As the doctor concluded his session with me my face was wet with quiet tears that I kept wiping away so the boy wouldn't see. But the doctor did. He patted me on my back and told me, "It's hard when you know something and you know it by yourself. I went through the exact same thing with my own daughter. You're a good man to do this...listen to what I had to say and not get riled up. And it can be fixed without medication. I have tremendous respect for you. You're not his stepfather. You're the father who sets the steps and I'm marching to your beat. You stepped up. Don't ever diminish yourself (which was something I definitely did when the consultation began) like that again.. ."


None of this excuses my son for his complete ridiculousness as a teenager. But it definitely changes the course of his education and puts learning, or rather the facilitation of that learning, squarely on his teachers' shoulders where it should have been in the first place --- not simply cranking out a curriculum, shrugging and stating he won't pay attention.

After the doctor visit I dropped the boy to the Y so he could shoot hoops for the rest of the afternoon with the rest of the on spring break kids. The tears kept coming for a while, but they eventually passed. And now I'm optimistic and encouraged.

Bottom Line: If you're a stepdad or even a stepmom and you're giving you're all despite the results, despite the gratitude, despite what might even make sense to you, just keep doing it. It's not about you or the biological(s). It's about that kid needing you more than you'll ever know. Keep on fighting...for them.

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Some Random Bible Thumping About Husbands And Wives

Someone I know recently launched a blog and her second post inspired me, so I decided I'd follow suit today in a similar vein with some food for thought...

It's better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.
Proverbs 21:9 (NLT)

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.
Proverbs 21:19 (NIV)

A worthy wife is her husband’s joy and crown; the other kind corrodes his strength and tears down everything he does.
Proverbs 12:4

And what about men?

The man who finds a wife finds a good find; she is a blessing to him from the Lord.
Proverbs 18:22

But if any man does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:8

A husband must also love his wife as he does his own self.
Ephesian 5:28,29

Husbands must "honor" their wives.
1 Peter 3:7

Her price is far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:10

Everyone all together, now...

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Romans 13:9-10 (NIV)

You don't have to be a believer to know love is the message. How many believers acknowledge love is the message but then don't give their all to put this into play? (Am I raising my hand by myself?)

I'd even argue that most days those who aren't all "churched" up get love in a way that those who are rarely do. But that's a different conversation, not for this blog...ever.

Feel free to share, if you dare.


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Disney's The Princess & The Frog DVD - Winners!

Congratulations to the following winners of the Princess & The Frog DVD Giveaway:

#5 - Michelle @MrsMChappelle

#70 - Audrey @mrsbynoe

#62 - Nicole Lynn Lewis @NicoleLynnLewis

Please Contact Me no later than Friday, April 2 with your US mailing information. Responses received after 11:59pm, April 2, 2010 will not be considered and a new drawing will be conducted for a winner(s). Winners are selected via Random.org.

Congratulations to the winners! And thanks to everyone who participated!

Stay tuned for future contests and giveaways on my Facebook Page.

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Bye Bye, Backfat...Part IV - The Check-In: Then, Before And A Goal

You can view my entire Bye Bye, Backfat...Hello Boxing Gloves Series to date and more at my Vimeo Page.

Stay tuned for prizes/giveaways on my Facebook Page.

Happy Fatherhood Friday!

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Wordless Wednesday: Facepaint!

Her first time...

And most likely my last posting pictures here. Look for my new photoblog/website in the coming weeks.

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Running Plays

Last Saturday, as the storm that took down many of New York's trees began to brew, I was at Chuck E. Cheese's with my wife and daughter. We were celebrating the birthday of one of my daughter's best friends. The party was fine. Chuck E. Cheese's was a nightmare.

My son, of course, opted not to go and was given one set of very simple instructions: Clean your room. He was on punishment for breaking curfew the night before and had nowhere to go anyway. He had begun the process before we left.

When I arrived home, traumatized by bad pizza, bad children and greasy wings, I found my son sitting in the living room blasting hip hop and playing xBox, which he had attached to my flat screen in the living room.

  • The kitchen was a mess...
  • His room looked almost exactly as it did when we left...
  • The living room looked vaguely like did back when I got my first apartment and didn't know what to do with my freedom --- it was a mess!

His mother was not happy...at all. She asked him to clean up his mess in a surprisingly calm voice. He said, "Okay," and kept playing his game. She asked again and I don't think he said anything. She asked a third time and he relented and went to turn up his music that was playing from the iPod dock in the living. Finally, I had to ask:

"What are you doing?"

"Putting up my music so I can clean."

"In the living room?"

"Yeah, why what's wrong?"

"You had the house to yourself to do what you were supposed to do and do it at your own pace. Turn that off and get your stuff out of the front of the house." (I thought to myself that I desperately need a man room where only my daughter and maybe a dog are allowed.)

From there he turned sulky, put his headphones on and did what he should've done hours earlier. Every time we asked him a question he didn't respond because of the music blasting in his ears. Finally, unable to take it anymore his mother tore in to him, but not as much as I expected - maybe the birthday party had sapped her strength. Right then and there I decided it was time to be honest and earnest with my son, but how was I going to do it in a way that made sense to him?

About 30 minutes later I went into his room and closed the door behind me.

"Turn your music off."
"Turn the TV off."
"Put your phone on your desk."

My son's eyes were wide. I had his full attention.

"You make trouble for yourself...In football what happens when you run your plays right (correctly - for all you English majors out there)?"

"You don't play," he answered without hesitation.

"Let me ask you another question...if you're on the sidelines texting and Coach "I Can't Get Over My High School Fame" calls you onto the field and you say, 'Gimme a second' and then never come off the sidelines, what do you think is going to happen?"

"I wouldn't play."

"Would you get in trouble?"


"Then why is it okay for you to do that here? You have one simple, single play you have to run here: wash the dishes, take out the trash, take out the recycling, clean your room and your bathroom...and there hasn't been a single day that you've ever gotten that unbelievably simple play right. And then have the nerve to have an attitude about it. So what am I supposed to do?"

Gotcha...it was all over his face that there was no way around my question. It didn't matter anyway because I didn't let him answer.

"I before any and all these other clowns you call Coach, am your head coach. Everything that happens in your life either happens because of me or I have somehow signed off on it. It is an insult to me to be blown off when I tell you to do something and you say, 'Gimme a second.'"

He nodded his head.

"I was a boy just like you, so I understand. But you, sir, seem to go out of your way to make trouble for yourself. You had almost 5 hours to get your room clean, and you messed up the rest of the house acting like it's yours? It's not yours, it's mine. An you're not my roommate, you're my son."

"Eventually I got it through my head that if I want them (us) to leave me alone then I gotta do what they ask me to do. I have to not do things that will bring them coming, like being on the phone at 4 in the morning. Best believe had the house or your room been clean, you wouldn't have gotten kicked out the living room."

He sincerely looked like he understood. But I wasn't finished.

"At the rate you're going, I have to tell you, you have one foot already in the door of military summer school. Nothing's been paid for, but the arrangements are already in place."

Shock registered on my son's face. "Really?"

To be continued...

Bottom Line: Speak to your kids in terms, or utilizing scenarios that they can understand. It will make things a little simpler.

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Reality Sinks In: Backfat The Third

You just learn how to endure the pain...

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Disney's The Princess & The Frog DVD Giveaway


I remember Daddy told me
Fairy tales can come true
But you gotta make ’em happen
It all depends on you
So I work real hard each and every day
Now things for sure are goin’ my way
Just doin’ what I do
Look out boys, I’m comin’ through...

-Princess Tiana

My passing fairy tale, better stated, passing want (not without some work on my part) has come true. I'm very happy and proud to announce the Makes Me Wanna Holler Disney's The Princess & the Frog DVD Giveaway.

Anyone who keeps up with this blog knows how much I love this movie and why. In December 2009, I wrote The Princess & The Frog - NYC Style! to chronicle my sheer jubilation in watching my daughter connect with a movie that I believe has since shaped the course of her childhood imagination and definitely cemented for her that a princess can be of any complexion and any pedigree, and being helpless and in need of saving is no longer a prerequisite. The soundtrack is the first (of many I'm sure) that's she's learned word for word. I created a musical slideshow to commemorate the experience.

    And now you have the chance to bring the experience home for your little princesses (or simply enjoy it yourself). Because this is so near and dear to me I'm not tying any "sign up for my site" requirements to this contest. (It's your choice whether or not you want to follow this blog, I have no desire to rope you in temporarily with a giveaway).

    The Prize:

    Three (3) copies of the Princess & The Frog DVD will be given away to three (3) individual contestants. Winners will be selected using Random.org.

    Contest Rules:

    To enter you must do one or all of the following:

    • Add a comment to this post about your favorite childhood full feature cartoon movie.
    • Add a comment to this post about why you want Disney's Princess & The Frog DVD pack.
    • Tweet the following: Check out @MakesMeHoller - enter to win (for real this time) a copy of Disney's The Princess And The Frog DVD http://bit.ly/9hLOHY #giveaway Make sure to let me know here in the comment section so your tweet(s) will be counted as an entry/entries.

    That's it. Enter as many times as you like. The more times you enter the more chances you have to win!

    Contest Duration:

    The contest will run from Thursday, March 18, 2010 to 11:59 pm, Friday, March 26th, 2010.


    You must be a resident of the United States or have a valid U.S. mailing address.

    Good luck! And I'd like to thank fellow Dad Blogger and great man, MochaDad, for facilitating the relationship that allowed me to host this contest.

    Please Click Here For Official Movie & Product Information.

    Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Neither E.Payne nor MakesMeWannaHoller.com is being compensated in any way.

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    The Sweat: Bye Bye Backfat, Part II

    My next installment in the Bye, Bye Backfat series. This time I brought along a show and tell...

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    The Movies of My Youth

    It's the differences that attract us, but then it becomes the differences that stand between us...

    I say this to say I have been waging a video holy war with my wife since we began living together (one of many reasons not to do such a thing - yeah, if I've never mentioned it before I'm totally against living together before marriage even though I did it myself - both based on my spiritual beliefs and just basic cons outweighing pros - which I learned the hard way).

    I like old movies. She does not.

    I like foreign films. She does not.

    I like blaxploitation flicks. She does not.

    I like kung fu movies. She sometimes tolerates them.

    I can watch a good action movie until the DVD player breaks. She wants to know what is a "good" action movie.

    I thought LOTR (Lord of the Rings) was amazing. She thought they were the worst movies she never saw.

    And she likes girlie stuff, and the occasionally heavy piece, and I can't be bothered.

    At one point we both had Netflix accounts. But it didn't make financial sense to have two accounts once we moved in together. Since her plan allowed for more movies per month I discontinued mine and effectively silenced my rights to have a say in what we watch on DVD.

    Until now...

    One day I happened to be driving by the good old public library and I had an "A Ha!" moment. I swerved out of traffic, parked and walked inside. In less than five minutes I was able to verify my residency at the front desk. They handed me a crisp new card. And I walked out with not one, not two, not even three or four DVDs. I walked out with 10.

    So now my wife's DVD selections trickle in here 2 or 3 at a time and are movies we may or may not have already seen based on how out of date here queue is. I now rule the pile with stacks upon stacks of my quirky movies. And did I mention they were free? As long as I return them on time. And I have a week to do that, which is more than enough time to view or decide not to view a movie.

    I have since reignited my love of the movies of my youth. Movies that were meant for kids first and a toy line second. Today's toy-driven cartoons just don't do it for me (except for Transformers). In the last month or so I've been able to introduce my daughter, and in some instances my teenage son to the following:

    • Almost every Disney princess offering in existence.
    • A ton of Pixar movies and even Pixar shorts.
    • Disney's Robin Hood (the one where Robin Hood is a fox).
    • Disney's first full feature Jungle Book movie.
    • Several Charlie Brown/Peanuts movies - my stand alone all time favorites, period. I was Charlie Brown and I always wanted my own Snoopy even though I didn't get why real beagles didn't look like Snoopy.
    • Rikki Tikki Tavi (a personal favorite of mine based on Rudyard Kipling's tale of a rescued mongoose who loves his adopted family and goes on the warpath against two despicable cobras that threaten his new family and all the animals in their garden)
    • American Legends (a James Earl Jones hosted and narrated piece about US icons, John Henry, Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed)

    Believe it or not, next on my list is a compilation of all the School House Rock shorts and Puff the Magic Dragon (I cried after this one and my father took me to McDonald's and soothed me with their Quarter Pounder --- they hadn't added the cheese yet --- yeah I'm really, reealllly dating myself now).

    If you haven't considered it or never thought of it, your local public library is a great source of movies and those other things called books. Some even have gallery spaces for artists. The original paintings and sketches of Dr. Seuss are currently on display at mine. Who knows, you may rediscover your youth (or at least your interests) while looking through their selections.

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    Bye Bye, Backfat - Hello Boxing Gloves! (The Video)

    Never a dull moment...even when it's supposed to be.

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    My Job

    Brooklyn Home Office, Minimized, At Night
    This IS NOT my office, by the way. I wish! (Photo Credit: mkosut)

    Throughout the course of the last 12 months, I've mentioned more than once that I'm not working --- at least not in the traditional sense. In the last several weeks. My "at home" skill set has landed me some very real interviews. Some have gone bust, some are still in progress.

    Because I'm at home some might believe my job is to be homemaker. I know my wife believes this on occasion such as when despite the house being perfectly clean (sometimes Spic and Span clean) because I didn't take something to the cleaners I farted the whole day away.

    I spend my days looking for work, creating work opportunities and investing in my most valuable asset --- the gray matter above my eyeballs. What I've always wanted has come to pass, I have become a student of the world.

    But being a student in any capacity doesn't put food on the table. Thank God for a wife with a well-paying job, a formerly large savings account, a growing revenue stream from this blog and a potential photography business in the making.

    But what is my real job?

    • To love my kids and make sure they know they're loved everyday --- even when they are wrong.
    • To provide them with everything that I have to give them.
    • To have the clarity of vision to see their needs. To have the discernment to prioritize them. To have the ability to address those which should be addressed.
    • To nurture them.
    • To talk to them.
    • To love, cherish and nurture them for who they are while giving little energy to who or what I may want them to be.
    • To provide them with a happy home. One they will be able to remember for the rest of their lives.

    Everything else is secondary. But the secondary responsibilities drive all of the above.

    It's Fatherhood Friday. What is your job (or rather the one you think is most important)?

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    The Princess And The Frog DVD Giveaway

    You don't have to tweet to enter this contest. You don't have to subscribe to my feed or become an email subscriber. You don't have to mention me, my blog or this contest on Facebook. You don't have to blog about it, trackback, and blah, blah, blah. The deadline to enter is Nevuary 40th, Two Thousand Never.


    Because there is no contest, no giveaway, no nothing. At least not on this blog.


    Well as no one has provided me with any reasons all I can do is run down the first things that came to this writer's mind.

    • I'm a guy.
    • I'm a dad.
    • It's not my demo(graphic).
    • I don't get enough traffic.
    • I'm a guy.

    Believe it or not, I really wanted to be considered for a giveaway such as this back when the movie first came out. I started by writing what turned out to be one of my favorite posts, The Princess & The Frog - NYC Style! I linked to the Disney's Princess & The Frog Site. I linked to an article about Anika Noni Rose (the voice of Princess Tiana). I uploaded a photo slideshow that included music from the movie. If nothing else, I was certain the music would raise at least one eyebrow and get me shut down. But it never happened and the PR folk who could've easily pushed this giveaway on me never came knocking.

    Now here's the facts:

    • A day hasn't passed since that movie premiered that I haven't spent at least 30 minutes of my evening as Prince Naveen, a general prince, or a king.
    • Updated: We both know the soundtrack to the movie word-for-word.
    • A weekend hasn't passed that I haven't helped my daughter slip into one of the two Princess Tiana dresses she owns (one of which I bought).
    • My daughter has a Princess Tiana sheet set and comforter. A backpack, dolls of all the characters of the movie, a blanket, a pillow book and about 3 books (including a Leap Pad version) that all tell in more or less detail the story of the Princess & The Frog. In fact, as of the writing of this post she managed to read half a new book I bought her on --- take a guess --- The Princess & The Frog.
    • Bottom line: I've been immersed into all things little girl and I'm used as a prop on a daily basis for fantasies, daydreams and playtime. Because I'm the prince, king, bad guy, frog, dragon, bear, whatever role needs to be filled by a male.

    Now here are a few more facts:

    • My readership/subscribership is well past a thousand and quickly chasing down two thousand.
    • Out of the above number 65% are women.
    • Of this 65% approximately 70% are in the 35-44 age demo (people with kids and probably some degree of employment longevity).
    • And I'm going out on a limb here...I'm willing to theorize that many of these women who read me do so because they've already got the woman thing down (since they are women) and are interested in something different, something new, aka my readers might not read all the more popular mommy blogs and represent an untapped market.
    • And then what about the 35% male readership, almost all of which are over 35, have kids who I figure 50% (if we consider that there are only two genders) are girls?

    And if not me (someone who doesn't use the word "dad" or "daddy" in my domain) what about more prominent dad blogs like Outnumbered Is Jason Mayo, quite possibly the wackiest blog I've ever come across. This guy is a stand up guy in person, a media savvy businessman and he has not one, but 2 daughters and a wife. To say he might be a little batteredseasoned in things women and girls is an understatement. Or my good buddy in Texas, MochaDad, who has a readership that dwarfs mine and as of late seems to be launching a new blog every other week? There's the powerhouse daddy blogger and Photoshop guru, Daddy Scratches. And then there's The Dad Man who is a category unto himself. There are just so many others. Now I don't know if any of them would want to do this promotion, but was the question even asked?

    Given the new economy and the resulting new legion of at home dads who are tech savvy, and given that the dads that are blogging don't really give a damn what anyone thinks about their being open with their love of wife, sons and daughters, I cannot believe that a single man with kids with a blog was not asked to promote this DVD giveaway.

    Seriously, I cannot.

    If there is one or more out there then please let me know. I'd love to stand corrected. Because if not then I would like to simply say HELLO to those who would think a dad blog isn't the right fit for this type of product. Us dads and particularly us dads with daughters might not be at the height of superstardom that mommy bloggers enjoy (nor do I imagine most of us want the demands and rigors that come with that) are a viable and quintessential piece of the tapestry that is family and should be considered for more than just tech items, business improvement/optimization items, music and sporting goods.

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    Why I Love You

    Last night at dinner I asked my daughter if she loved me and she told me, "Yes!"

    I asked her why. She looked at me and shrugged her shoulders.

    Fair enough.

    My daughter then asked me if I loved her and I answered, "Yes, I do."

    She asked why.

    "Because you're the most beautiful girl in Daddy's world."

    "Because you're the apple of my eye." (She began smiling).

    "Because you're God's gift to me and a blessing beyond blessings."

    "Because you are my heart."

    "Because you're the very breath I breathe."

    She began to laugh. "You breathe me? Dad, you're so silly!"

    "Yeah...I am...finish your broccoli."

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    Who The Hell Is This --- Leaving My House At 4 In the Mornin'...?

    For any and all of you in the know, the above is an adaptation of a Biggie Smalls (Notorious B.I.G.) lyric. And such was the case in my house 2 Saturdays ago (Sundays actually).

    After doing my best to stay up with the wife while she studied, but doing a better job of slipping in and out of consciousness, she decided a little after 3 am that it was time to go to bed. So we did and I was happy to be dragged from my sleep station on the couch.

    My son (why is it always my son?) had gone to sleep around 9 pm that Saturday evening after a rigorous two days of basketball tryouts for an AAU team. I figured he'd wake up at some point during the night. But I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

    My eyes popped open when I heard a drawer slam at 4 am. Side note: I can sleep through a tornado outside my window. I can sometimes stay knocked out for five or so minutes once my daughter starts crying. But if the floor creaks the wrong way from inside my home I will hear it.

    "What was that?" asked the wife.

    "It sounded like his room," I answered. Maybe he's playing his xBox (he keeps his controller in his underwear drawer sometimes).

    "Go check on him."

    I dragged myself out of the bed fully expecting to find my son at the edge of his bed playing his games. Instead I saw this boy fully dressed in sweats with a hoodie pulled down over his head.

    My mouth fell open.

    "What are you doing?" I asked.

    "Hold on," (to someone on his phone). "Nothing, I just want to go outside in front of the building to clear my head."

    "You're on the phone? It's four o'clock in the morning. It's freezing outside. What are you doing?"

    "I just need to clear my head, Dad." He began to laugh based on the expression of complete and utter flabbergast on my face. "I'm fine, Dad."

    Big Bad Mama was now up and chomping at him from over my shoulder. "What are you doing? Are you out of your mind? You aren't going anywhere. You wanna stand somewhere? Go stand on the terrace."

    I looked behind me and then back at him, shrugged my shoulders and went back to bed.

    Ten minutes later the entire house was freezing. But I didn't feel it. I grew up old school --- in the winter you wore long pjs and put heavy blankets on the bed because it was cold. But the cold blooded reptiles I live with insist on living in desert climates in the dead of winter so the second the temperature dropped my wife was jabbing me in my back asking me to go check on our son once more. But sleep had overtaken me once more and I mumbled something and only managed to get one leg out from under the covers.

    Moments later I heard bumping, banging and cursing (my wife). My son had the terrace door wide open and was sitting on his cell phone giggling like it was eight o'clock in the evening. My wife relieved him of all his belongings, including his phone and sent him to bed.

    "What did I do?" he asked like a two year old before closing his bedroom door.

    The next afternoon, I had a heart to blank face with my son. I told him he has no common sense whatsoever. And then I took it a step further. "You're not even slick with yours...if you're trying to walk out the house in the middle of the night you don't slam drawers," I told him. I also explained that he was a minor and based on the neighborhood we live in the cops would never believe based on the way he was dressed and his permanent tan that at 4 in the morning he was clearing his mind, suffering through some teenage angst and that he actually lived in the building he was standing in front of. He nodded his head appreciatively and said he didn't know kids couldn't be out all night long. "No son, you have our curfew, and then there's the law."

    An honest oversight on his part...I guess.

    At dinner the same day I rolled out a new set of phone rules for him because clearly we had not done our job as parents in setting any since he was so blatantly abusing his privileges. It was one simple rule: any and all infractions involve him losing his phone all together. No questions asked. I like to keep things simple. I don't scream and yell. I tell you once, maybe twice. Then I speak firmly and I take. Especially from the ones in my home who pay for nothing but maybe snacks.

    I'm not sure my son will ever top his Shoelessness episode, but just when I think everything is going along smoothly he always manages to go galloping (without a horse), full speed into the land of "Who Does That?!"

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    "Conflict comes to distract and destroy...stay focused!"

    Photo Credit: J_a_m_e_s on Flickr

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    Spring Cleaning

    Cleaning Up My Act (028/366)

    "As I peer through the looking glass of my life, I realize I'm at an age when the natural cleansing of non-essential/poisonous persons from my life (no matter how messy) no longer hurts."

    Photo Credit: MannyWallace on Flickr

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    For the Love of Blue People Who Look Like Cats

    In the last ten years...

    • The movie, Spider-Man, made all my daydreams about superheroes visually plausible.
    • Batman Begins and Dark Knight made real for me the notion that a man with no superhuman abilities could don a costume and will himself to be a force against crime (if you can get past the fact that his billionaire status completely exposes him to be Batman) and that a crazy person (Heath Ledger's Joker) could easily exist in today's times.

    • Daniel Craig returned to the 007 franchise the brutality, swagger without schtick, and fine tailoring that disappeared from under our noses once Sean Connery departed the role of James Bond.

    And now there's Avatar...

    Now that the Oscars have run their course and everyone who was supposed to win has, I feel comfortable in speaking out about my love for this movie. Is the story one that we've seen or heard before? Yes. Were the Na'vi a very obvious sampling (or celebration) of all the indigenous and aboriginal Indian peoples of Earth? Yes. Should James Cameron have given credit where credit was due? Where? In the credits? For all who were up in arms about this movie I have one thing to say...Sci-Fi. Other than the Western European ideology of Eminent Domain and the violence it breeds and the classic science might vs. military might clashes, there was very little that was real about this movie --- from the Robotech derived military exo-suits, to the impossibly large gunship, to the blue (translucent at night) people who were described as being ten feet tall but looked closer to fifteen in most of the scenes with humans, to all that beautiful scenery and all those ugly, UGLY animals.

    This movie was so unreal that while watching it the first time, it took me nearly a quarter of the movie for my mind to accept what it was seeing. Suspension of disbelief at the movies has never taken me so long. But then there was the love. And the love was real.

    I absolutely loved this movie. I loved everything about it. I loved the celebration of simple living. I loved the visually stunning landscapes and airscapes (if there is such a thing). I loved the love story that evolved between Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), even though it was totally obvious from the very beginning. I LOVED watching her fight for her man. I LOVED that she loved him fiercely and with no drama.

    Was the dialog complex? No. But I don't know how complex a conversation can be between people who speak different languages, let alone aliens. (Some of my best conversations ever were had in Brazil when I could barely put a sentence together in Portuguese).

    For me, Avatar was a movie that allowed me to escape into a life of simplicity I'm not sure I'll ever know and see through the eyes of someone else. Kind of like an Avatar. I recently saw it again after having seen it just two weeks earlier. It was like watching it the first time. It didn't drag for a second and I didn't sit though a single scene haughty because I knew what was going to happen next. It was like seeing it brand new all over again. And amazingly, I want to see it again. Something I never want to do while a movie is still in theaters. I simply can't get enough of it.

    For being able to do that writer and director, James Cameron nailed it. Without seeing or reading about it, it was obvious to me that this was the story he had in his heart, the one that had to wait for all his other movies to be made first. There's a story like that inside of me. It's been in my head since 1985. At the end of this blog and all the other projects cooking in my head I hope and pray I get to share it one day.

    But despite all this and maybe because of it, Avatar was no Hurt Locker. There is no comparison whatsoever, nor should there be. Why we force creative forces to compete alongside one another will never make sense to me. Nor will making real world arguments against sci-fi/fantasy movies that are about as real as a teenage boy getting bitten by a radioactive spider and instead of dropping dead instantly, he wakes up the next day and transforms himself into the one of the most powerful superheroes ever.

    For a great take on all that was Oscar please visit the craziest dad I know, Jason Mayo is Outnumbered for his Oscars Through Interpretive Dance.

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    Hello Boxing Gloves, Bye Bye Backfat

    Ask, and it shall be given you...
    Seek, and ye shall find...
    Knock, and it shall be opened unto you...
    Complain about being fat enough times on a blog...

    K.O.The good folks over at LA Boxing have provided lil' ol' me with a month-long membership. Beginning next week I'll get to burn between 800-1,000 calories per session during boxing, kickboxing and MMA (mixed martial arts workouts). I've always wanted to learn how to use a heavy bag and jump rope like a boxer. I'm very excited.

    Reality Check I: Other than running this past summer I haven't worked out seriously since my daughter was born four years ago.

    Reality Check II: I fully anticipate getting beat down in the beginning (or "beat up" depending on where you reside in here in the US - not sure what anyone overseas says).

    Stay tuned...

    PS - If you're in NYC this weekend and looking for a nice intimate place to eat, then consider Harlem as a destination. Check out my latest restaurant review: Mojo Harlem.

    Photo Credit: Photofreaks on Flickr

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    Snow Day!

    If you were anywhere in the New York Tri State area last week Thursday you saw the snow start as rain, then come down like cotton balls, then even out and just not stop...until 11am the next day. I reveled in what was finally a recognizable Chicagoland area snowstorm.

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    Flashy Sites

    I’m occasionally emailed or asked the question, “E., so how did you get your site to look the way it does?” This is typically followed with, “I need to launch a site for my business (portfolio, etc.)…who do you use?”

    After thanking the person, I’m quick to point out that I own and operate a BLOG, short for web-blog --- static pages with text, some dates and a few pictures thrown around here and there. I am my content/creative/techie person. And I had to tortureteach myself the basics of site design --- a long and painful process I wouldn’t repeat unless paid to do so.

    If and when I ever launch a photography site I’d seek out a service that would allow me to design and build a site to my unique tastes. It would have to be easy on the eyes with a strong enough dab of sexy to keep you there awhile and keep you coming back for more. Flash is sexy. Flash that you don’t have to program is even sexier. After visiting Wix.com you’ll learn how anyone can create a free website in 2 minutes time with their drag and drop site building tool. Soon you’ll be wondering why you ever asked my advice.

    Whatever your business, from fashion to music to photography to financial consulting. Having an eye-catching web presence is the name of the game. Build your online shop to be as inviting as one you would build in the real world.

    Disclosure: This post is a solicitation.

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    Sometimes, I get disconnected from my present reality.

    These moments are fast and fleeting lasting only seconds at a time. But they are undeniably intense and visual. The only thing I can liken it to is an out-of-body experience.

    They usually go something like this:

    Why is this 42 pound fusion reactor calling me, "Daddy?"

    Who is this boy who is eye to eye with me, but not even half my age? Why am I telling him what to do? Why do I answer my phone whenever he calls? Why does he make me angry? Why do I want so bad for him to succeed?

    I know at some point in my past I fell in love...but why is this woman in my personal space and why is she telling me what to do?

    ...Who are these people?

    ...How did this happen?

    ...Where am I?

    Quarter_To_EPayneAnd then something snaps me back and I find myself exactly where I was when I left the space I was occupying. And then I go on about my business...just as I did this past Saturday night while rooting for my son as he tried out for an AAU basketball team.

    I'd be surprised if I was the only one who's experienced this. Here's a place where you can be honest with yourself, if no one else. Has something like this ever happened to you? Let me know in the comments.

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