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.

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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

School suspends teen boy for carrying purse. Why???

This is another example of the harmful messages children are being sent everyday. It’s no wonder so many kids grow up with self-esteem issues. They are being taught that it’s not okay to be who they want to be.

Dr. Rebecca Hains

For several weeks, an eighth-grade boy outside of Kansas City has been expressing his individuality by carrying a floral-print Vera Bradley purse. But yesterday, his assistant principal demanded he remove it. The boy refused, and he was immediately suspended from school.

This raises a question: Why is it a problem for a boy to carry a purse instead of a backpack if he wants to? By breaking gender stereotypes, he’s not hurting anyone. Instead, he’s showing the world that he has good self-esteem and self-confidence—that he is secure his identity.

Unfortunately, his school administrators’ actions show that they want to force a 13-year-old kid into stereotypical masculinity. Apparently, they value gender conformity over creativity and individuality.

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My thoughts on the princess culture

My family isn’t all that large. Mom, dad, two sisters, five aunts, two uncles, two nieces, a passle of cousins my girlfriend, her daughter, and last, but certainly not least, my daughter. I am surrounded by women. I am surrounded by women and, for the most part, I am used to it. Let’s face it, this female environment wasn’t a difficult thing to get used to, as my parents didn’t raise me in an environment laden with gender stereotypes. Oh, I played with boy toys, my sisters played with girl toys, but along side our gender specific toys we had selections that violated the societally proscribed norms. I housed my My Buddy buddy (look it up, that wasn’t a typo) in a Strawberry Shortcake house, and my sisters loved their trucks.

Now that I have a child, I’m looking at gender roles, play, toys and values in a different way. In fact, this is the first time I have ever had to examine them. That’s different…right? Well, it’s different to me.

The girls and I were visiting some friends who also have kids yesterday, and as I sat on the patio with our friend (let’s call him Ted), we got to talking about kids, in particular, having daughters. Somehow, our conversation got onto the topics of critical thinking and princesses in the space of about two minutes. Not a discussion of our favorite princesses and the qualities of each that make them special to us (if pressed, I would have to pick Ariel…that’s all I’m gonna say), but rather the way some girls fancy themselves princesses.

As a play choice, I don’t have anything at all against the princess. I mean, which girl (young and young at heart) doesn’t want to feel beautiful, radiant, special, sparkly even? When you get right down to it, who doesn’t want to feel special, sometimes, regardless of gender? I know I do. I’m just not likely to assume the identity of a princess to achieve that. (I might pretend to be Harry Potter, however)

My problem isn’t with a girl/woman’s desire to feel beautiful, but with society’s princessification of girls at a young age. That is, feeding them the ideals of princess-hood, promoting a particular image of beauty, telling them that their worth and status as a special little girl is derived from them looking a certain way.

It didn’t take a lot of searching to see this and the resulting behaviors when many of these girls grow up. Those girls (you’ve seen them), scurrying around so worried about how their appearance is going to affect their social standing, searching for the “fairy tale romance,” where the prince arrives and showers her with gifts and happily ever after just because she’s beautiful, complaining about men when they don’t find what they have been consciously/unconsciously told they should have (and that they are a failure if that isn’t how their life unfolds).

There are many reasons that I know I am lucky to have the parents that I do (and I will post more about that in the future – stay tuned), but as it relates to this, it’s because they allowed me a healthy level of control through choices and promoted critical thinking. Because of them (and reinforced by a small collection of teachers through the years), I believe that I am well prepared to raise my child in a way that is open and accepting of her as a person, not just a gender, as they grow.

This is important to me. We still live in a society that pays women less for the same jobs, on average. We live in a society that still finds ways to justify rape (“she was asking for it! Just look at the clothes she was wearing.” Sound familiar?). We live in a society where it’s okay for our daughters to play with boy toys, but god help the boys who want to do something feminine; it’s as if the feminine things are of a lesser value, while it’s okay for the girls to express masculinity. Is that really the message we want to send our children?

Yes, my parents gave me a gift, alright, and it’s one I am going to do my level best to pass on to my daughter and perhaps to my girlfriend’s daughter as well. I am definitely not going to discourage princess play, but nor will I discourage play choices simply because they aren’t girly. If she wants to pretend to be Cinderella, I will dance with her as if we were at the ball, but I will not forget to teach her about her own worth, as a person and a girl; that her future and fortunes do not hang solely on her looks or her gender. I can’t control how society draws it’s gender lines or how it views those who don’t conform to those lines. All I can control is how I think and how I raise my daughter to view herself and her place in this global community. If the society of the near future hasn’t come to evolve its gender sensitivity, I will be somewhat sad and disappointed, but I will be comforted by the knowledge that my daughter will always be able to readily find a safe place to escape the gender judgement she may face simply because she happened to be born a princess.

Violence in Games: When the Agenda Dictates the News

Greetings, friends and readers. I’d like to take a moment to share this post from a fellow blogger. It relates to the ever popular media target – Video Games (cue the ominous and dramatic music). You have probably heard this debate at some point in the time since video games began depicting violence. I’m not going to add anything new, here, I’m just going to say, that, as a parent that has spent many hours visiting various varieties of violence via video games (always wanted to alliterate publicly), I have never used violence to solve my problems. Just saying…

Don’t believe everything you read.
Don’t ignore your children.
Don’t let your children listen to Justin Bieber

Urchins Take Sides – What Came First, The Revolution or the Catalyst?

Greetings, friends and readers. Today, I would like to share something that jumped out at me as I was looking for fresh reading material. It seems that Russell Brand has gotten political recently, using his celebrity to share his thoughts on democracy, the environment, and voting, to name just a few.

I was obliquely aware of his presence as a political activist (?), so much of his purpose and message is new to me, but after reading this article and the brief analysis of his essay featured in New Statesman, I would like to know more. I’ve included a link to the article regarding his essay so that some of you might read it and perhaps then find his article. Im not going to go into his article, not yet, anyways, because I’m not sure I want to espouse any political movement or viewpoint here. What I would like to do is start looking at things in different ways and not simply accept things for the way they appear or for the way we are told they appear.

With so much conflict and posturing around the world (and at home), it’s hard to know what to think and believe. What are the facts? Who came up with these facts? Which side should I take? Should I take sides? I don’t know if these are good questions to apply to any given issue, but they could be a good place to start for asking more questions. Questions are good, but unfortunately I don’t see people asking enough questions, when we as a country allow things like The Patriot Act and NDAA (and more) to become our reality.

I won’t claim to know the truth about any of these issues facing us today, all I will claim is that I am going to try and learn to ask more questions. I encourage you to do the same.

russell-brand-new-statesman-cover

 Urchins Take Sides – What Came First, The Revolution or the Catalyst?.

 

On Beginnings

Greetings readers, and welcome back for another installment of my thoughts. In my first post I mentioned beginnings and the excitement that comes with starting something new, so I figured I would use my second post to examine the impetus for my blogging endeavor. It is my sincerest hope that my somewhat organized rambling resonates with you, somehow; that my thoughts might stay with you after your clicking whisks you away to internet regions unknown.

To jump right in and set the stage, in recent years my father was diagnosed with diabetes, and more recently with MS. About a year and a half ago my mother began to suffer from intense, chronic headaches, and to make matters worse, these headaches were accompanied by fatigue, balance issues, occasional nausea, and the psychological pain caused by the disruption of normal life.

As time passed, my dad’s diabetes and MS came under better control, with the diabetes being virtually gone, and not suffering any major attacks from the MS. My mother, however, has not found the same level of recovery. The headaches remain, as does the fatigue, balance issues, and the discouragement of not being able to live the life her heart desires.

After more than a year and a half of doctor/specialist visits, resulting in limited results, my mother continues with her own meditative exercises to keep her spirits positive (to learn more about that, and her, you can read her blog, as I don’t want to put words in her mouth).
Fast forward to yesterday. I was chatting with her about how she was feeling and she shared part of her meditation process with me. This have me an idea: Blogging. Taking her thoughts, feelings, disappointments, and triumphs to the internet masses, in hopes that she might find some new measure of relief, new ideas, and perhaps even help others in pain. As it happens, she had thought about it before, but didn’t know where to start. I’m proud to say that I got to be a part of that start, the small push she needed to begin something new. And, new it is; as I write this, she may or may not have posted her inaugural entry of Redeeming Pain , so, keep an eye on her blog, as I have a feeling that wonderful things are about to happen with it.

As for me, while I was helping my mom get started with her own blog, I decided to start my own. The decision was rather spur-of-the-moment, because I didn’t have a clear purpose in mind just yet. All I knew was that I could use an easily accessible outlet for my thoughts and feelings, whether or not they relate to me being a stay at home dad.

Well, there you have it. They story behind the beginning. It’s strange how life works out sometimes: where we find ourselves, with whom we find ourselves, and what we find ourselves doing; all the while not knowing how those things might change in the future. I had never planned on having children, yet here I am lying in bed while my daughter has nappy time after breakfast. Unexpected? Absolutely! However, it is also wonderful despite being 100% uncharted territory for me. I’m still adjusting to this new life, trying to figure out possible next steps for a career when the kids are old enough (goal = high school math teacher), and how to be better at cooking according to a menu, etc. To avoid too many tangents, I will close this thought by saying this: life is wonderful for all it’s surprises, I just had to open my eyes and see it. I’m grateful for what I have, even if I don’t always know what to do with it or always make the right choice. Tomorrow is another day, and today is too short not to love what is in front of me.

– – – –

So, now you know me just a little better, and, perhaps I, too, know myself a little better. Let’s find out together, shall we?What do you say? Will you be my friend?

Until next time,
Daniel