Another New Beginning

Well, the girls and I are faced with another new beginning. We need to find another place to live and it couldn’t come at a more difficult time of the year. Christmas time, with expectations of presents and such, makes moving into a new place seem like a nigh-insurmountable feat of accomplishment. I won’t go into the reasons behind our unexpected change of venue, suffice it to say, it’s not helping the feeling of family togetherness.

It’s another new experience for me, Christmas as a stay-at-home dad. Last year I was able to provide a modest haul of gifts for the girls, who absolutely adore Christmas. This year couldn’t be more different, for me or the SO. With the impending move to be made around the 1st of the year, money hangs like a dark cloud over this years holiday festivities as there isn’t likely going to be enough for anything but food, gas, and moving expenses. This isn’t the recipe for a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday for the girls and I. Yes, I am aware that the holiday season isn’t supposed to revolve around gifts and consumerism (unless you are asking anyone in the media or the retail sectors), but try telling that to a child who has no clue about money and how it doesn’t grow on trees. For us grown ups it’s difficult because we feel like we can’t provide for ourselves or the kids. For me it’s difficult, sometimes, to see the importance of my role at home when money is the issue on everybody’s mind. Yes I take care of the kids while the lady is busy bringing home the bacon, but as a previous wage earner, it’s hard for me to be unable to help solve the main problem causing all this stress and unpleasantness.

Despite all this, I am grateful for all that we do have. We have each other. We will be fine. It will be a rather bare Christmas, yes, but it will pass and life will go on and the girls will find more reasons to be happy. Maybe that sounds callous in regards to the magic of Christmas, but as I cook the bacon the SO brings home, all I can do is stay positive.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving, even if it is a bit late. It is never too early or too late to give thanks for who and what you have in your life.

We all make plans. We have dreams and desires, we set goals, and sometimes we even accomplish those things. Other times, life gets in the way and we get diverted from our path into a new direction. Those can be difficult times, trying to figure out how to start over again or how to adjust to a new set of goals. In this way, I never pictured myself having children. I wasn’t anti-kid, I just never saw it as a part of my future. Now that I have a child and am helping raise another, I find myself adjusting to my new reality. More importantly, I find myself being incredibly thankful for the children and my girlfriend, they are wonderful people and I am a lucky guy to have them as family. My baby is 7 months old, now, and she is as active as I could hope for. Babbling, rolling, jumping, and darn near crawling, she is a joy to see and I can’t wait to see how her life unfolds. Z, my girlfriend’s daughter, is progressing at school and it’s cool to watch her learning new things and becoming more able to understand the world around her. As for my girlfriend, she just got promoted at work and, even though it’s a hectic position, I have no doubt they got the right person for the job. I love them and the make my life better every day.

I am also very grateful for the childhood I had, and the family I was born into. I have always been loved and I have always known it, something that many people can’t say, unfortunately. I’ve had opportunities, I’ve had help, and I’ve made mistakes, but my family has always been there for me, and I will always be grateful for them.

This Thanksgiving, or whenever you read this, I challenge you to sit down a while and think about what you have to be thankful for. Please take some time to put away the frustrations you may have over changes or adjustments and give thanks for what you have, even if it’s not what you planned for or expected. Yes, sometimes life doesn’t follow your plans, but that doesn’t mean that the unexpected path won’t be every bit as wonderful as what you had in mind.

Happy Holidays

Chronic pain as my companion- Weigh the benefits with the side effects

This is my mom. She is in a lot of pain and the difficult part is that the doctors aren’t exactly sure why that is. Despite that fact, she is finding ways to stay positive and grateful. This is a trait she and my dad both possess,and it is inspiring to see that. If you know anyone who is in chronic pain pass this along, so that they might know they are not alone. Even if you or someone you know aren’t/isn’t experiencing chronic pain, give it a read. My mother is a wonderful, loving person and I’m sure you could find something of value in her words. Also comment, comment, comment. Positive words from strangers are always uplifting.

Redeeming Pain

Hello readers.  Any of you who suffer from chronic pain have heard the phrase: ‘you must weigh the benefits of this medication against the side effects.’  I have had that conversation with all the neurologists i have consulted with trying to find the cause for my constant headache and vertigo.  When you are in severe pain, you want to believe that the new medication being prescribed by a well respected medical professional will be the source of relief so long hoped for.  The side effects seem a small price to pay if the medication will return you to normal enough functioning that you can return to work.

i am now at the end of the 7th week of medical leave and just consulted with the 6th neurologist to weigh in since May.  After looking at the transcripts from all the previous doctors, his opinion was that the medications I was…

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On a Winter Night Years Ago

Greetings lovable readers, and welcome back for another helping of my thoughts. Today I would like to share about an aspect of my life that is important to me, an aspect that I don’t often share with other people. I recently posted a comment on another blog (Dark Circles etc) about a nostalgic reaction to a song. The song reminded me about a winter night a long time ago, when I gained a better understanding of the energies that surround is, infuse us, and connect us to everyone and everything in the world.

I am a Pagan. At least, that’s the closest term for a spiritual belief with which I identify. It should be noted that I also use the term “Pagan” as a blanket term so that I don’t identify myself too tightly with any one brand of Paganism because I am still searching for a clearer direction in my spiritual journey. No, I am not a witch. No, I do not worship satan. No, I do not engage in ritual sacrifices, either animal or human. There are many ways in which people, now known as Neo-Pagans, practice their spirituality, but a common belief is centered around nature. They, and I, believe divinity can be found in nature and the natural order of the world.

The night in question is the night that I came to look at my previously held spiritual beliefs. I was with a friend who could already be described Pagan, and we were at Starbucks discussing nature, energy and how energy affects the world around us. More specifically, we were discussing how energy could be directed to affect a desired change in the world around us. It was cold out, we were drinking coffee – go figure – and as I contemplated what she was saying, the more sense it made and the cold seemed to be less cold, somehow.

Energy is everywhere and in everything. Matter, as we see it with our eyes, is merely a very wide variety of energetic configurations of the minute amounts of actual matter of which the universe is composed. Our personalities, the behavioral traits that make is who we are, are the result of our unique synaptic pathways. Energy in the form of electricity. There has even been shown to be an electrical field around our bodies.

Many people in the Pagan communities use ritual magick to effect the world around them, using ceremonial artifacts and incantations to focus their desires/energy to be sent out into the universe. There are also particular times of the year when the communities celebrate the changing of the seasons, those who have come before, and give thanks for what has been given. These times are known as sabbats.

I suppose I am not all that different. While, I don’t worship the pantheon of Pagan deities throughout the year, I do pray to the Mother Goddess and Father God. I don’t have intricate rituals, but I do have a simple ritual of meditation and visualization to focus my energy. As for nature, I have always felt more at peace while in nature. Nature goes on as nature does, has always done, regardless of human interference. I find that particularly comforting.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out in nature, truly out in the wilderness, and I miss it. But it’s not that bad. I live in a house in a neighborhood surrounded by trees of all sorts, we have a family of squirrels in our backyard, and all sorts of birds (including woodpeckers, blue jays, owls, and small clouds of little tiny hyperactive birds I can’t identify). Time has passed. Priorities have changed. I’ve got a family and all the activities that surround daddyhood. Although I haven’t been out in the forest for a while, I am comforted that I have nature here with me, in the kids and my family, as we all grow.

That night at Starbucks, I didn’t find an absolute answer about the functioning of the universe. I’m willing to admit that I am wrong about it all if that’s where life goes. What I did find was a way of looking around me and relating to the world in a way that is comfortable to me. It encourages me to learn, it is a moral compass, it helps me embrace change, and it just felt right. No matter what life hands me, I know I will be okay, that I can be a loving individual, and that nature will be there to welcome me home when the time comes.

Scrabble in the Cold and the Meaning of Life

I love scrabble, you should know that. I’m not world class great or anything, but it is my favorite game, hands down. Some of my best conversations and cups of coffee were enjoyed amidst games of scrabble in the cold with my friend Marnie. I met her on her first day of work at my favorite Starbucks back in Palm Desert and immediately I knew we would be friends. It wasn’t long after that day that we were playing our first game of scrabble and discussing a thought that has gotten me through a lot of difficult times. The Meaning of Life (cue suitably dramatic music).

People spend so much time contemplating, philosophizing, and pontificating about the meaning of life that it’s hard to know which brand to buy. A lot of it requires a number of college courses to understand, but even then, one is frequently left with more questions than answers. Sometimes it seems that the study of philosophy has been made intentionally difficult to understand so that philosophers and philosophy teachers are kept relevant and necessary because they are the only ones who understand what the hell is going on (much could be said for politicians, too, I suppose).

Why is philosophy so complicated? If you are expecting an answer from me on that, then settle in and prepare for a disappointment. Sorry. However, perhaps I can make it up to you by proposing another answer to an even more difficult question, a simple answer, even. A simple answer to the question: What is the Meaning of Life?

During my first game of scrabble with my new friend, it came into my head to discuss the meaning of life. Why? I don’t know. I had never discussed it before, nor even considered it for any length of time. I blame the scrabble, really, it gets my mental juices pumping, and cool things happen because of it, sometimes. (That’s crap, I know, but it’s the best I’ve got) So, having started this lofty line of discussion, I had to come up with something, and quickly. Didn’t want to come off as a dope by saying something stupid like mongooses or the music of Abba (42 would be a great answer, but only for laughs and only in certain circles). I thought about it for a moment and then, I held forth, extemporaneously about a topic that I had never held forth about before.

Looking back, I am suitably impressed, with the simplicity of my answer and the amount of sense it makes to me. The best part of all is that it is accessible to anyone who can think clearly for about 10 minutes or so, depending on the time of day.

Change. In my opinion, the meaning of life is change.

I told you it was simple. And why shouldn’t an answer as simple as this be right? Everybody’s lives are a function of change, whether they are religious, atheist, agnostic, etc. We are born, we age, and we die; these all examples of changes in life, that’s the obvious angle to take, sure, but it’s what we do between birth and death that I’m talking about, more specifically the things that are important to us.

As a baby, love, warmth, food, a clean diaper are where it’s at for us. As kids, it’s candy, playing, our parents attention, and anything that makes us feel grown up. As teens, it’s stretching our legs and testing boundaries in an attempt to find out who we are. You get where I’m going with this, yes? Life marches on, whether we like it or not, and with it our biological clocks and what moves us to action (or what tempers our tempers). Our needs change, our tastes change, our fashion changes (not as critical, though the media would tell you otherwise), our understanding of constants in our life changes (religion and science, for example). Change comes for all of us, no matter what we do. We can either be ready to embrace and use change the best we can or we can fight it and become embittered, out of touch versions of ourselves.

Life is hard and complicated enough, people. Why complicate this, too? The meaning of life is accepting the inevitable changes we will face in life (that’s just an opinion, of course), however you feel called to relate to life. Whether you are religious or atheist, your understanding of those respective lifestyles will change over time. If you are a nihilist, well, time still passes…so, there’s that, but you don’t care anyways. Moving on.

I guess what this all means is that there is no ONE meaning to life. How could there be? When all lives are different, how could the meaning for all of them be the same? Perhaps when I die, I will find out that I’m dead wrong (see what I did there?), that there was a different meaning that I missed altogether. But the way I look at it, taking this stance leaves room for learning and admitting when I’m wrong. That’s a change, right? It has also freed up the energy I used to expend trying to keep things the way they are in favor of enjoying what is in front of me and figuring out how I can ride the “change wave” to be a version of myself that is in touch and loving.

Anyhow, it’s late, and I’m rambling. So, the last thing I will say is this: change is good, you might not always know how at first, but if you let fear get in the way, you will never know.

[if you have a smart phone and you want to discuss or simply play a game of scrabble (words with friends), my user name is bohemiamdan81]

Coming to Seattle

Growing up, my family would often take our summer vacations on the road. We would pile two adults and three kids into a car (and as time went on, a number of different vans and an SUV), and venture across multiple states, seeing what there was to see, visiting scattered friends along the way. These treks took us through every state in the west and one memorable jaunt into Canada. We spent countless hours on the road driving between destinations, begging dad to pull over for pit stops, we ate at all manner of diners (different names, but they all managed to have similar fare), and stayed some of those nights in hotels, some more questionable than others.

Of all the cities we visited, there aren’t many that stuck with me so much as Seattle. We kayaked Puget sound, explored the market (where my dad pretended to be a street performer with a fart noise maker he got in the market – we look back fondly on this now) enjoyed some local food, and I even ended up burning myself on a climbing rope cutter at the local North Face store. Memorable as this experience is for me, I had no way of knowing just how important this city would be for me.

Before I moved to Seattle, I had lived in the desert for a total of 22 years, 19 in Palm Springs and 3 in Phoenix. Towards the end of my hot and sandy lifestyle, my life was what I could only describe as stagnant. I completed some college coursework in Palm Springs,but had no real focus; I graduated from a technical school in Phoenix, but had no realistic prospects for working in the field. All the while, I worked low end, low pay, superficially satisfying jobs with no foreseeable future.

I was suffering the effects of a profound inertia that I am trying to break free of, even today. I needed a change. I needed a way out to a place where I could make meaningful, fulfilling changes in my life.

I thought long and hard about what change I needed. About how it would look, how it would feel, and about imagined possible outcomes. I put all that desire and hope out into the “ether”, the universe, if you will, asking for what it is I wanted. About a week later the universe answered, in a spectacularly direct fashion…in a karaoke bar.

I was meeting a friend and his fiancé to celebrate her birthday with drinks, singing, and pool. In the course of the evening, my friend looks across our table and says: “I’m going back to Seattle in November, if you can be ready you can come, too.” I was stunned. It was unexpected to say the least, but I knew that here was the opportunity I had been looking for, asking for, needing. So, after all the waiting, anticipation, and preparation, we went. He went back to the town and people he loved, and I moved even further from the people I love and the towns I had developed a distaste for, to open a new chapter in life, in a place I had loved from long ago.

Seattle just made sense, plain and simple. I could extol the economic, social, and environmental virtues of Seattle to explain just how exactly it made sense, and, while they may all be accurate statements, they don’t quite capture the nature of why. It was just a feeling. Driving into Seattle at nearly 2:00 AM, a zombie after a 36 hour drive, I got the feeling of coming home from a long, confusing trip. Not since I lived with my parents have I felt that way, though I never told them that. The difference, here, is that, despite the family I love in the desert, I needed a place I could call home as an adult making my way in the world (something I had no hope of finding in the deserts) From the moment I arrived, I knew that Seattle was exactly what I needed. It just made sense, and, now looking back to the few times I had visited, I suppose I always knew that somehow.

After two years here – November 13th – I am a stay at home dad to a baby and a 5-year old. I am a daddy who feels less of the inertia he suffered under in another place, for whatever reasons. I have no illusions about it, Seattle didn’t do that, I did, because I felt better able to breathe and less afraid of failure. I guess home has a way of doing that, and I am grateful for every day and every choice that brought me here, both good and bad.

Thank you, Seattle.
Thank you, Hope.
Thank you, my loving family.
Thank you Jojo.
Thank you to the children.
Thank you to the universe.

And thank you for reading. I challenge you to examine how and why you came to be where you are and to be grateful for it, even if you aren’t quite where you wanted or expected to be.

Uncharted Territory for Daddy Daniel

Greetings, readers and friends, and welcome back for another installment of my thoughts. Today I would like to share about some new developments in my life as “Daddy Daniel” – that’s what my girlfriend’s daughter calls me. She just started Kindergarten, which is, in and of itself, new to me. Dropping her off and picking her up, making lunches, helping make sure homework gets done, and let’s not forget school functions.

I went to my first school function Wednesday night, pizza and playtime in the gym for all the kids/parents in attendance. Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect, a byproduct of my occasional social awkwardness. The event was run by a dads group called Watch D.O.G.S (Dads of Great Students), guys who have been dads for much longer than me, which is where my slight anxiety came from. What if I didn’t know how to speak the language of dad? What if I found out that there was something I could be doing as a dad that I was missing? What if there was and THEY found out? So many silly what-ifs parading through my mind, that the moment I got there I did what I always do at social functions, I helped. I helped so that perhaps this group of experienced parents, that already knew each other, might not notice my minor trepidation.

Turns out I was worried about nothing. Within minutes, I was splitting my attention between setting up pizza slices on tables and keeping an eye on my girlfriend’s daughter. It was easy, it was natural, it was fun, even. Whether it was my self-underrated social skill or the other parents talent for making noobs (look it up) feel welcome, I’m not sure. I’m also not really sure it matters, but what I am sure of is that I’m going to be a Watch D.O.G.; that in this case, as in many others in life, the result was more important than how it came to be.

In short: I was nervous, I went, I socialized, I conquered. Not only did I hand out pizza and water bottles to parents and students, I found an ongoing project. I didn’t just find a project, I may have created it myself out of thin air. The details aren’t all ironed out yet, but I volunteered to create and maintain a blog for the group. You see, the group has fallen by the wayside in the last couple years, and they are trying to make a comeback. I may be a new dad, learning to speak “dadese” (if that’s even a thing), but I can use a computer and I can proficiently string together various words to form very readable sentences. With that in mind, it seemed natural that I use my modest talents to find a way to help, for the benefit of the school and it’s students, specifically my girlfriend’s daughter.

We were understandably excited, that night, the other parents and I. They found someone to help get the word out about them and I found a new project. But, as I fell asleep later, it hit me: I had committed myself to creating something new for a school group after being involved for only one night.

Wow…ummm, just wow. In a good way, really. I’m a dad now, and dads, get involved, right? So…I got involved. I just hadn’t anticipated getting involved so much, so quickly. But that’s just what I did, and it feels great. I am definitely still nervous about the whole thing, but it has taken on a different quality. It is a good nervous. I’m doing it because I want to help, because I want my girlfriend’s daughter to be proud of me (my girlfriend, too), and ultimately, because I want to be a good dad.

As it stands, I’m sort of proud of myself for taking the first step of showing up and then taking the next step of getting involved, despite my nerves (maybe even because of my nerves). Maybe I know more about being a dad than I had led myself to believe, and maybe I am overthinking the whole dad thing. I’m leaning towards the latter, truth be told, but who cares? Again, the why isn’t as important as the fact that I was myself in that moment and it was a resounding success. I am doing community service, it feels great and it has been a boost to my confidence as a dad.

I will post more about the project in the coming days and weeks. If you have thoughts, suggestions and even constructive criticism, know that it’s welcome. You have likely all heard the platitude (?): “it takes a village to raise a child.” Well, I’m a village member now, and you could be a virtual member of my village. All you have to do is take a moment to comment and show your support. Every little bit helps.

Daddy Daniel