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Down For the Count

Punch Out!! Wii
I'm not the guy with my arms out...

I've been blessed to not suffer from writer's block. But I can be distracted from writing like nobody's business. April was a month that knocked me on my you know what. It was a time of change, some good, some bad. Either way, all of it came together to prevent my brain from focusing that much on Makes Me Wanna Holler.

And here they are in no particular order:

Boxing: Not so much boxing but remolding my schedule to fit that of someone who works out --- intensely. This covers everything from what I've been eating, when I've been eating, what I've taken out of my diet, and when I sleep. I've actually had to start sleeping to get a decent night's rest in order to function. You'd think this would be obvious, but bad habits learned over the last four years of my daughter's life has made the obvious not so clear.

My Wife: As the woman I've pledged my love to immerses herself more and more into her MBA program and starts telling more econ and statistics jokes, more and more of the responsibilities here at home are piling up on me. I've gone from being Dad, to House Administrator. All I do these days is tell little people what to do, drive them around and feel like I'm going in circles in the process. I've even begun to start cooking again --- something I did daily and effortlessly as a bachelor. Now, I've either knock a meal out of the park or I sit at the head of the table with my kids looking at me like, "Why are you feeding me this?" Then once I get everyone to bed I have all the time I need to dig into the pressing matters of my own life. I take a deep breath, crack my knuckles and pass out for the night.

Photography: I booked 3 gigs between the end of March and the month of April. Easy enough on the shooting end, not so easy on the editing end. The beautiful thing about my relationship with photography is that each photo session is leaps and bounds better than the last one, but then I have to still deal with the one before it, trying to exact perfection and spending a lot of time doing it. I'm also building another blog and doing it very very slowly.

The Future: This one comes up daily. I spend a lot of time thinking of my family and what we're going to be doing in the next six to eight months.

My New Smartphone: I am not a proponent of smartphones. Being connected at all times is something I've always dreaded. My wife decided to switch my plan to hers and get me the same new shiny smartphone she has. She told me I didn't have to use all the features if I didn't want to...Like that was going to happen...after a week of staring at the box and holding on to my old phone which was duct taped together, it took all of a day for me to connect my new phone to everything I do online. Now it rings and sends me notifications constantly. And I'm too weak to ignore it.

AAU Basketball: It was my idea to have my son try out for AAU basketball in his age group. I wanted him to play on a competitive level. I wanted him to actually try out for a team. Something he has yet to do at his high school (they just sign up). He made the team, he's practicing two nights a week and playing four games each weekend. Sometimes the games are back to back. Sometimes, there are huge lags of time in between. Sometimes they are all under one roof. Sometimes they are located no less than 20 miles from home. My goal was to wear him out. It didn't dawn on me that the same would happen to me.

My Son: If I ever thought I was running out of material for this blog, all I had to do is sit still for a couple days and let my son simply exist. Over the course of this past month, even with the revelation that he may be learning disabled, this boy has given me enough material to blog about until Father's Day. Just to catch you up: I currently own all his time. His cell phone hours are restricted. And the door to his room is missing (I took it down). Why? Because my son has decided in his infinite teenage wisdom that since he doesn't like school, he's simply going to stop participating in it. He had it all figured out. He'd be social instead. He blamed everyone for his shortcomings --- from teachers to fellow students to that creature named I Don't Know. And then his grades came in. A horrific piece of paper I affectionately call his Concerto in F Flat. Not for lack of understanding, but rather lack of effort as in not turning in homework or showing up to class. And he's become a victim of the very technology (emails and IMs) that led him to believe he could pull a fast one and not get caught. This past Monday I sent out 10 emails to his teachers and received about 20 in return. He's not a bad boy, he's actually pretty well behaved. He's just misdirected. Stay tuned for the redirection.

Stay tuned for the blogging...

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Men's Health --- Dad's Health

Apples, Apples and more Apples!
An apple a day...

All my life I've been under the impression that I'm allergic to nearly everything under the sun. But after a recent visit to the allergist I learned that I'm only allergic to nuts, which truly is my personal Kryptonite. Of course there's seasonal allergies which currently has my keyboard littered with balled up tissues, but otherwise I'm good.

Now I have to figure out how to resolve myself to the fact that I'm not allergic to chocolate and shellfish, foods I always reacted to as a child, but apparently outgrew. I'm still in a state of shock. How long have I not been allergic to these foods? Who knows? Maybe I just reacted to them because my parents told me I was allergic. Maybe when I ate these foods they had been contaminated with some proportion of nuts or coconut which sent me running like a wild man to the bathroom without fail. Honestly, the smell of chocolate makes me a little nauseous, but I must admit I've enjoyed sips from my wife's occasional white chocolate caramel latte from Starbucks (she told me I could drink it because white chocolate wasn't really chocolate).

Men and doctors don't particularly mix. Especially when on the surface nothing appears to be wrong. There are more doctor's out there than just the physician your wife forces you go to for your physical. Five years ago, I made a pledge to myself that I was going to find out everything about me before I hit middle age. I've had surgery to correct blocked sinuses, a deviated septum and sleep apnea; my opthamologist informed me that I have a scarred cornea (probably thanks to improper care of my old school hard contact lenses of my teenage years); I sometimes suffer from exercise induced asthma; I learned from a dermatologist that when severely stressed or weakened due to sickness, certain areas of my skin experience low grade eczema; I spent 2008 and half of 2009 wearing Invisalign to straighten my teeth to correct what was becoming a severe crossbite and underbite (until then I can't say I ever smiled for pictures); and thanks to years of living with a feline my lung capacity is just average, lower than it should be given my level of activity. And now this, which isn't bad news at all, it's just another surprise that has taken that much more guesswork out of my understanding of me. Other than an occasional prescription here and there I live with these things quite easily, rather than having to live a certain way because of them. Why? Because I took the time now, while I'm still young(ish) to find out and do something about it.

Men, dads (moms too), go to the doctor and get more than just a physical. Your life, your wife and your kids will be better off because of it.

Photo Credit: moonjazz

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What I Hate (Not Really) About My Kids

Instead of National Poetry Month or National Autism Awareness Month, April in my house may as well been dubbed, "The Rise of The Children." During the siege that has taken place here, I've been able to put my finger on one thing per child that I can't stand:

  1. The Son: The entire time I've known him he has almost never greeted me with a "hello" when I pick him up. When he was little it was, "What's for dinner?" and "Where's Mom?" Now it's, "I'm hungry..." "Where's the car?" or "He (he points at some random kid that lives nowhere near us) needs a ride." And then he walks past me to my car, which is locked, and just stands there. After his basketball games I watch the other kids walk downtrodden (they're on a serious losing streak) to their fathers for a high five, or a chewing out (by the super sports fanatic dads) or just to be beside the man they call Dad. I have no idea what that is like (shaking my head). And I may have to have another son to find out (shaking my head even more).

  2. The Daughter: My diabolical princess sabotages every single attempt I make to leave my house (or anywhere) to be on time anywhere. No matter how early I wake her, no matter how dressed she is, no matter if she's sitting by the door with her coat on, no matter what, she either runs around the house, throws a tantrum because she's not wearing pink socks, falls down and says her legs are broken...you name she's concocted it. And this only happens when I'm alone with her (reminiscent of that singing frog from the Warner Bros. cartoons). Because it only happens when we are alone, no one, wife included, believes me when I show up 5 - 30 minutes late --- everywhere, exhausted.

In truth I don't hate a single hair on my kids head, and I clearly know the difference between hating an action and not the person committing it (hate the sin, not the sinner). It's just one of those things that goes on under the roof of E.Payne.

Sound familiar? Or can you put your own twist on the above?

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Happy Earth Day (A Reposting)

The Hudson River @ Sunset, originally uploaded by E.Payne.

Mother Earth has been particularly hard on us these past couple of years. The people who know me know how much I respect the land and love the water. Though I grew up in the Midwest, I've always been drawn to water like a fish. There was something about driving downtown and having Lake Michigan fill my vision that made gave me an energy I still can't describe.

If there is a true treasure to being in a coastal city, it's what's pictured above. On any given day, you're likely to stumble across an amazing sunset reflected back at you on the surface of [pick a body of water] (in this instance the Hudson River).

Moments like these drive home the point that I'm no more than a speck of dust compared to this planet we live on. I thank God for these moments.

Happy Earth Day!(?)


R.I.P. GURU, R.I.P. Gangstarr

I first heard this song during the outtro to Mo' Better Blues...

...and I thought to myself, What the hell is this?

As a rabid fan of rap/hip hop in the nineties, I didn't get the jazz thing. Of course jazz was the undercurrent behind many of the samples of the day but this was straight jazz, not a hook, not a loop, but just rap and jazz.

Slowly but surely Gangstarr began to grow on me and the majority of hip hop. Before long nearly everyone from Black Moon to KRS One was rhyming over some arrangement of horns, bass and saxophone.

From that point forward anytime I heard the signature sound of DJ Premier followed by the unmistakable gravelly, ever-steady monotone of GURU (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal) I went crazy, bobbing my head with my eyes closed, absorbing every word and note. He was "dropping science", talking about what it meant to be a real man, a real person and society's ills; and slamming hip hop back then for what it has become today.

And then came Jazzmatazz --- a masterstroke that set him apart from everyone --- a 4 album series of pure live jazz produced by heavyweights such as Marsalis, Byrd, Hancock and Hayes (Isaac) and hip hop. The earlier volumes were packaged to look like Blue Note recordings. It persists as some of the best music I've ever heard and when I run across it on my iPod, I'm transported back to the time when I heard it for the first time.

GURU, born Keith Elam, passed away this past Monday from what is being reported as cancer (multiple myeloma and related respiratory issues). What I didn't know while he was alive was that he was a native of Boston, grad school educated and had a father who was a judge, nor did I know his former DJ was a native of Houston. It's amazing what you learn about a person in death. But I choose to celebrate his life and the music that will live on in me and now my son who loves DWYCK, another one of his classics with Nice and Smooth.

Rest In Peace, GURU.

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Autism And Us All

An illustration from the book, My Brother Charlie.

As I've been stating since last week, I'm a little behind with things.

April (and what remains of it) is National Autism Awareness Month. I'd like to shed some light on a disease that many hear about but I suspect few probably actually understand. I can count myself as someone in this category.

What is Autism?
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not
Otherwise Specified), Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.
How common is Autism?
Today, it is estimated that one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism...

What causes Autism?
The simple answer is we don't know. The vast majority of cases of autism are idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown.

The more complex answer is that just as there are different levels of severity and combinations of symptoms in autism, there are probably multiple causes. The best scientific evidence available to us today points toward a potential for various combinations of factors causing autism – multiple genetic components that may cause autism on their own or possibly when combined with exposure to as yet undetermined environmental factors. Timing of exposure during the child's development (before, during or after birth) may also play a role in the development or final presentation of the disorder...

For those of you who are loving and raising children with autism, please know that today and for the rest of this month (and year) I applaud, appreciate and celebrate you. Be encouraged, never despair --- no matter how rough the road may seem at times, no matter how unfair life may appear.

You are not alone...and neither is the child you love so much...

Holly Robinson Peete, bestselling author, actress, and national autism spokesperson, has paired with her daughter, Ryan, to co-author an uplifting book based on their own personal experiences with Holly’s son and Ryan’s brother, RJ, who has autism.

We need to lift these kids up and let everyone know that they are just as valuable as anyone else in our society.

To win an autographed copy of My Brother Charlie, please visit my Facebook Fan Page for contest rules and details.

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Falling Down On The Good Book

If I have one shortcoming as a father it's that I don't have my kids parked up in church the way I was. I was in every church play. I went to all my church's youth retreats. I attended Sunday School nearly every Sunday. I was an acolyte. And other than going to McDonald's I did nothing but sit around as working on the Lord's Day was forbidden in my house.

Other than being an acolyte, I hated Sundays.

My personal walk in faith has gone through so many twists and turns and taken me through so many highs and lows of my adult life I don't know where I'd be without it. It has been so intensely personal that I believe that it is actually a fault now. Because although my spirituality is no secret to the people in my life, I often conduct myself as if I'm in a secret society (like a frat) that no one but me can be a part of.

My wife and my wife's family have a much more pragmatic view on church, having a spiritual relationship with God, and religion itself. I, myself make the distinction between these interconnected but very different partners. But after listening and observing them over the years I've deemed it absolutely necessary to keep my thoughts and comments to myself.

And this is where I believe I've gone wrong. It's not that I need to preach from the hilltops (this isn't my gifting anyway). But I could do a much better job as Husband and Father to reign in my own little family to expose them to the possibilities so that they can enter into their own personal exploration as I did. I have a son who is stoic and pragmatic and doesn't fall back on that thing that I used to when I knew I what I was getting ready to do was dead wrong because of some scripture I knew. I did it anyway, but I went into it with the conviction that hopefully no one was watching because of what I knew in my heart --- because of what had been poured into my heart --- because my parents sought to facilitate a foundation for me. So that when I became a man and ideas and hopes began to explode, the floor seemingly dropped out, the sky seemingly fell and friends became enemies, I knew where to go: to my knees in prayer; and I knew what to do: stand strong and tall...in the gap.

I believe that because I pray and because I meditate on the things I want for myself and my family things have a way of coming along to assist. Such as a the set of bibles I received from Zondervan, specifically for kids and teens of African American descent. To be honest with you I balk at the idea of Bibles, the Word of God, being stylized for anyone and not everyone. When I go to church I always see at least three women with bibles for women. I don't get it. But that's just me. I don't have to get it. It's none of my business.

My Holy Bible For African American Children (for kids ages 7-10) sports bright and shiny covers that feature smiling children. The pluses: it comes in the version of your choosing (NIV, KJV, etc.); the text is large and easy to read; there are plenty of illustrations and inserts by esteemed artists of color who put their interpretation on biblical times (just as everyone else does); and the pages are pretty durable. The minuses: the book is huge and though I prefer the look and feel of a real book to today's new infantry of electronic books, I personally can't lug around a big clunky bible. My bible (which is currently missing) is slim and sleek, leather-bound with a magnetic flap to keep it safe from bent or torn pages. But the print is microscopic and you can practically see through the paper it's so thin.

Our Heritage Our Faith: Holy Bible For African American Teens is definitely mature and aimed at the tween and teenage set. The good: It's leather-bound and duo-tone with a funky alligator skin embossed surface. The text is smaller and the pages are thinner. The expectation here is that the own will take care of this book. It has photographs, notes and articles interspersed throughout and features a great section at the end which asks and answers the most if not all of the questions a teenage mind might have about Christianity, God, religions and fellowship. The bad: The book is not for boys. On it's face the cover's duo-tone is deep pink and rich lavender. And the box art only has teenage girls on it. The only kind of male who will even glance at this is a father looking to buy a bible for his daughter. No boy will ever consider it regardless of what's contained inside.

The Old Leave Out On The Table Test: I left the bibles out on the coffee table in my living room. My daughter was immediately drawn to the photo art on the kids bible and like the drawings inside. She let me read to her a little bit at bed time, but lost interest quickly because there were no pictures to go along with the words I was reading. My teen noticed the kids one too, completely ignoring the pink book sitting next to it. He began leafing through the pages and asking me questions. A discussion ensued that left me relieved to know that maybe it isn't to late for me to facilitate pouring a few things into his heart.

I'd love to hear your stories (struggles, triumphs, day-to-day) of how you (male or female) instill your values in your household.

Please visit my Facebook Page where I will be giving away 2 of the bibles discussed here.

Disclosure: I received three (3) bibles from Zondervan Publishing for the purpose of reviewing them. MMWH.com was not compensated financially in any way for this review.

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Bye, Bye Backfat...Hello, Boxing Gloves! Part V: The Week Off

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Silence of The Holler

I know it's been quiet here on my blog...

I haven't really been into the blogging thing...which is ironic given the number of giveaways I have backing up. When I was blogging like a man possessed I couldn't pay for a giveaway...

I haven't even had much to blog about in recent days. My new boxing regimen has all but consumed me on the days that I work out. I've lost 6 pounds but gained swollen knuckles and a trick right knee in the process.

My wife is out of town for her quarterly on-campus stay for Business School. The experience has left me ragged this time around with my daughter in school and my son playing AAU basketball. My mom came in to town to help out, but I'm finding myself spending more time than I thought I would making sure she's okay. After all, she's my mom and when I let her, she talks a hole in my head.

Been doing a lot of physical and spiritual spring cleaning, too...

Trying to find/establish a meaningful and consistent source of income has become a downright humiliating process in this new and bizarre America we currently live in. Were I a person who without hope and faith I'd say it was hopeless too. But I am not.

Maybe more important than any of the above or any other reason I could conjure up is the fact that I thought this blog in general was an exercise in catharsis, but it seems that writing about Unsung Stepfathers & Jive Turkeys was the catharsis within the catharsis. Writing that piece rendered me silent but reflective, almost mute. I've been unable to do my usual extrapolation of my life, distilling it down, making it funny, or not, for public consumption. If I looked at the totality of my blog, all 450+ posts and strung them together as one story, then that post was the climax, and now I'm living in the denouement --- that boring part of the movie where the hero is sitting somewhere in a coffee shop talking to the girl your girl (or you if you're a woman) thinks is ugly or walking through a field all bandaged and scarred up but at peace even if his war isn't over.

Is this the end of Makes Me Wanna Holler?

Of course it isn't. My son hasn't stopped any of his teenage antics. My daughter has entered a particularly disobedient phase where in an effort to exact world domination, she defies every blood related adult, but is perfectly obedient in pre-school. Oh and her incessant need to play from the second she opens her eyes in the morning until the moment she closes them for the night. Yeah, that one is unraveling me nerve by nerve. She's still the jewel of my eye, but she is truly testing me. And the wife? I've had plenty of experiences and revelations that will make for great anecdotal advice for those of you seeking and needing it, as I've always believed this blog is about me, but only minimally for me.

And I'm still boxing away that backfat, and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon...La máquina ha vuelto! I am slowly but surely returning to former my in-shape, powerful and healthily focused and deranged self. I even have an acupuncture appointment scheduled to see if I can fix my new trick knee and heavy-daughter-strained lower back.

So I'm hardly done. But as of late I've been unexpectedly silent. And for this I do apologize.

Please bear with me.

Oh and did I mention I'm on Kindle, too? Check me out below.


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Why Have A Horse At All?

Man With Horse

As a follow up to my warm-weather inspired MMWH PSA about men and their cars please see the questions below:

Why have a horse (car) at all when you have a teenager who leaves food and water and gatorade bottles all over it and a wife who knocks in the back end, cracks paint off of it and cracks the rear saddle bag (tire case) - (unintentionally, of course) - and can't even explain how it happened? All after I spent hours cleaning it?

My horse and I are in pain right now.

Photo Credit: Shane5ab

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If I Can Do It, So Can You - A Bye Bye, Backfat Giveaway/Challenge

The contest I promised you in my last video is here. I hope you're game. I hope you qualify, and I hope to see you there.

Check out the details right now on my Facebook Page.

If you're not a fan yet, now you have a reason to be.

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A Man And His Car - A MMWH PSA

Just like the days of old there is a special bond between a man and that which transports him back and forth across hill and dale. Maybe it's the memories generated, maybe it's the thrill of moving through time and space at a speed (within the law and sometimes not) of your choosing. Maybe it's power, without horse, motorcycle, or car, a man can only move at the pace that his body will allow, but with these instruments a man can do as he pleases.

On a beautiful sunny day there is nothing more rewarding that alone time with your car. Your wife or lady friend can stand in the window wondering why you're out front polishing your tires to a spit shine, emptying out the trash that most likely someone else left behind in your chariot, and just playing the radio with the doors open while you rest against it with the sun in your face.

Whether you have a hooptie or an Aston Martin there are very few bonds stronger than the one a man has with his car.

If the weather is nice where you live enjoy the weekend and take some time to enjoy your car.

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