Money, family, or time?

I’m tired. I left a good job in the city, (working for a woman every week day, no song here), that meant a $10,000 cut in pay a year. Yes, the cost of living is cheaper where I’m at now, but not that much cheaper. I miss being able to go out to eat, to not write down what I spent; and Marshalls. I have some decisions to make in the next six months to a year. The timeline is due to owning money, (moving three times in two years is expensive as well as getting divorced), applying for positions away from home, and can I leave my kids again? The answer to the kid question is yes, as long as I’m a short drive away; which to me is two to three hours one way. The jobs I’m seeking are in education, teaching at the community college level, or working for a larger university in student success and wellness. I’m not sure why the success and wellness calls to me, (aside from the good yearly salary), I am sure why the teaching position calls to me it has a good salary and I’d only be working nine months out of the year. There it is, money, family, or time; I’ll take all three for a thousand Alex.

I will continue to teach online as long as they will have me which truly is a solid base once my finances are in order, (come on February 2021). Teaching online does require some level of time for grading and student communication that can’t be done on a lunch hour; I need a job where I can “double-dip” so to speak. It’s been awhile since I’ve had that kind of position; again the teaching job would work as professors don’t truly work THAT much. The appeal of staying where I’m at but trying for higher paying positions, (retirement to part-time is only 14 years and five months away, but who’s counting), I’d probably live with one my kids and honestly would save money in the process. All this sounds great now because I’m single, (just call me Casper as I get ghosted as well as I ghost), but if I do find someone I think living even with an adult child might be awkward. Then there’s the dream retirement.

I don’t plan on retiring until I’m medically forced to; I like being busy and not sitting alone with my thoughts. I’d like to own a Bed & Breakfast but with zero savings that’s not likely for at least five years. The same goes for dream number two; a hobby farm, same timeline but complete opposites. With the B&B it would be about never being truly alone, guests would come and go, year to year, until one year I’d be gone; hopefully retired not dead. The hobby farm is more about the quiet, and love of animals, and everything green. I’d raise chickens, worms, and have a trout pond; yeah not the most realistic thing to think I can do in my later 50’s by the time I buy one; but I can dream.

The next few months will settle me down into what’s next, I need to keep my options open as my current day job isn’t stable, and I wouldn’t keep me if my caseload doesn’t pick up. In the mean time I’ll keep writing, keep grading, keep looking for work, and a partner in crime.

Closure

One of the hardest events in a person’s lifetime is the end of a relationship, whether it’s a friendship or an intimate relationship like a marriage. Unfortunately in my lifetime I’ve lost many friends for various reasons, death, location, differences of opinion to strong to overcome. I’ve also have had three divorces in my life with the last one, for whatever reason, being the most difficult to “get over” of the three; here’s how I found closure.

I’m a face-to-face person, I need to see into a person’s eyes to say goodbye, to express remorse, and  to share positives as well. I drove six hours to deliver a card that held an invitation to meet up to help me find the closure I felt I needed; card was delivered, meeting not accepted. I was happy that I saw her, she looked happy, healthy, and was kind. The last time I had seen her she looked tired, she was ready for me to move and I moved a day early to avoid the final talk, the talk that may have kept me from months of what I felt was the need to say goodbye. After a weekend of reflection it was time to say goodbye, I did what I think I do best, I wrote a letter.

I’ll admit in the letter I never offered forgiveness for behaviors that opened the door to our ending our five year relationship. I did however own up for my behaviors that were not part of my normal character, I yelled, I screamed even, at what I felt was a betrayal of a life I’d never get to live; for that I apologized. I thanked her for her care and concern for my girls, and her ability to keep us all happy and together when I feel she gave her happiness away and perhaps we didn’t give enough back? I promised to never text in anger or tears again, that only birthdays or events worthy of a text like a new life or death of a loved one or former loved one. I care deeply for people and even through this all I will still care. I want her to have the best life possible that she envisioned when she left and for her to know that I’ll always have a spot in my heart if she ever needs a kind voice or text that I’ll be there. She may never read the letter, and that’s okay. I’ve sent it out in the world for her to see, if she chooses not too at least it’s out of my head, heart, and hands. Enjoy life dearest as I will try to enjoy life with a new plan in mind.

Slowing down time

 

One of my biggest pet peeves is wasting time because time is something you can never get back. Sometimes it’s a meeting that’s presenting material that’s been gone over before, a bad movie, a party that you feel obligated to go to; they all can take away time from what you want to do. We all complain that there’s not enough time to get everything done but maybe it’s because we aren’t trying to get everything done? I’m currently attempting to add a regular exercise routine to my already busy weeks. My solution is to go to a gym that’s open 24/7; that won’t work for everyone. There are 24 hours in a day. Let’s say you sleep for seven, work for eight, that’s 15, an evening meal, that between prep and cleanup is two hours, put the kids to bed, do laundry, take a long relaxing bath, (just kidding), shovel or another chore; another two hours; this leaves five hours of time. For argument’s sake we will toss two of those hours for your personal care and work with the three remaining hours.

Are you’re a night owl or an early bird? When my house was full I liked to get up before everyone to have that half hour of peace and quiet; and I still get up early to spend some quality time with my cup of coffee. I’ve never been a night owl but if you are there may be that glorious hour after everyone has gone to bed for you to use for your “me” time. Sadly, a large portion of individuals will break out their screens, either a phone, computer, or tablet and browse social media or look for that program they saved that they can’t watch when it originally airs. I’m one of them. I hit up my Hulu and watch my dramas like This is Us or something truly just for noise like America’s Got Talent the Champions, and then wonder why there’s not enough “me” time; so here’s what I’ve done, (these suggestions are for demonstration purpose only, no one needs to follow these but me).

For the gym during the weekdays, (these suggestions are for the weekdays, weekends are a whole different story), I set a timer. It’s kind of like in Crossfit where you have a workout for the day, WOD, but less challenging. My cardio is about 30 minutes then I set a timer for 20 minutes when that goes off, I’m done; by the time I get home there’s my one free hour. Did you know you can pause your shows? I watch my shows while eating, or cleaning; that way I’m getting one thing done while “wasting” time watching television. I talked to someone recently who said they didn’t have a television; I’m still processing that. That’s two hours. With my one hour left I should do something creative but I don’t, I work on my grading for my second job; which does truly make you feel like you don’t have enough time. Lastly, use your phone for other reminders other than a timer; set reminders, or get an app that gives you daily quotes like, “I matter” and “Good things are going to come to me”.

The best thing you can do if you feel you are wasting too much precious time is to sit down and look at your day to day life. For me it was watching Sportscenter for 30 minutes a day; I’m canceling the app that allows that and I’ve replaced it with staring into space with my coffee cup in my hand. I’ve wasted enough of your time, until next time remember; slow down and smell the coffee.   foremanbrian4@gmail.com

No, You’re Obese

I have a fascination with watching fitness shows like The Biggest Loser. I’m not a cruel person who watches to just see people struggle, I watch because 40% of the American public is considered obese. I’m obese by my BMI at 25 pounds overweight, I work out, I eat fairly well, but yet I carry an extra 25 -30 pounds, (and no I doubt that it’s my muscle mass). I’ve recently gone back to a mostly plant based diet and a typical day will consist of oatmeal with berries or peanut butter in it, lunch is practically nonexistent, (a banana or two), and dinner is a Vegan meal from the health section and or a pasta dish, without meat. I know you’re reading this going “why” and that’s “boring” and it is boring at times but I eat to live and not live to eat; or at least that’s my goal and I’ve failed many times. The “why” part is based off of reading The China Study that with thousands of examples has shown that a vegan diet eliminates all non-genetic heart disease and severely reduces the chances of colon cancer. I have genetically high cholesterol and it will always hover over 200 but with a plant based diet it won’t get higher. I’m sure I have some issues in my arteries because I’ve only been a healthy eater-ish for about three years but at 50 I don’t feel it’s too late to start; but why are we so fat?

I stop at the gas station every morning for coffee and bananas, (two for a dollar and yes it would be cheaper to buy but they rot at home). At that gas station there’s a hot food section with breakfast pizzas, this sandwich and that rollup. There’s bakery and every conceivable type of snack around; that doesn’t take will power that takes won’t power. If you’ve ever gone through a drive-thru you know a burger is much cheaper than a salad. Cheap ice cream cones, mini pies, etc., it’s all out there and there isn’t an easy answer, but there are answers to lower your weight and increase your health.

Eat less and exercise more. That’s the diet, no matter what you eat if you want to lose weight that’s the formula, not this pill or take away this or add that; simply eat less and exercise more. I’m a busy guy and only get to the gym two to three times a week, but that’s two to three times more then someone who doesn’t. I get my coffee from a gas station verses the drive-thru even though it’s more expensive because I can resist the gas station food but for some reason the dollar menu calls to me.  You don’t have to eat a plant based diet to lose weight it’s all about calories in and calories out. Every 3500 calories is a pound, thus why the fasting craze is happening, people would rather not eat for a day or two then eat less. Not everyone can exercise at a high rate but everyone can do something from curling soup cans to a walk around the block. If you can crawl, start crawling. I’m writing this primarily to vent about the gas stations food selection and how hard it makes it for me but also to say that at 195 pounds I’m considered obese. but with a bulky hoodie on it doesn’t show, but it’s there, that dad bod is hiding and I want it gone.

Taking the Fight On

A common thread through my posts is my struggle with depression. The “depression is winning” texts to significant others and the days where I sit and stare at a television screen sometimes so lost that I have to restart the program. But, and a big but, (hopefully not mine getting bigger), I’ve decided to fight my depression and no longer just live with it. I felt I had it managed but after my divorce from the woman I coined as the “love of my life” I couldn’t shake the depression. It wasn’t because I lost her, it was that I lost a future I was prepared for. I’d work until 65 and then just be a house husband and hope that she could retire ten years later and I’d maintain my health and we’d travel and see the world, or at least all of Michigan. Losing that was hard until I realized that I can do that alone. The hardest part was the timing, my “nest” was empty and now it was truly empty without a soul living with me. After over a year has passed with many crying nights for “no reason” it was time to take on the fight.

I’ve avoided medication since the last one threw me into a manic spell that lasted for months, it was because the pill interacted with my allergy pills that I failed to mention to the Dr., but still I was afraid. Also I struggle with my weight, I’m not a picture of obesity but I’m also not one that will be posing for a calendar any day soon. Lastly, a lot of pills have sexual side effects, I’m single, and “not active” in that department but I hope to be someday when it’s right, and I’d like to be able. With those fears in mind I consulted with and old friend who has a vast amount of medical knowledge and has known me my entire adult life as to what pill I should try.

I’ve been prescribed a pill that hopefully will not only lessen my depression but has a focusing agent and a side effect of weight loss. I’m scared it won’t work and it’s too soon to tell but any minor side effect like dry mouth is much better then waking up sobbing. A bonus part is that drinking while on this medication is not recommended, that will save me a few dollars and a hangover or two a month; but again I drank to keep the depression at bay and as an educated man I know that’s not how it works. I’m hoping to write more often, I’d love to write daily if I could, and just the fact that I’m on here today, day three of the pills, makes me feel like I made the right choice.

Girl Dad

Girl Dad

I wanted to title this column “Mamba Out” and have a tribute to one of the greatest basketball players to every lace up basketball shoes; but I’m not a sports writer. I’ll admit I tried once to write about sports, it was a farewell column about Michael Jordan called, “Be like Mike”, and it was about his drive to succeed, his willpower to be the best, and how even in his last season as a Wizard, he averaged a respectable amount of points; he was one of a kind. But, he wasn’t was he? Kobe Bryant died this past week and will go down as one of the most feared competitors in NBA history, many accolades, a world mourning his death, (not a perfect human with a rape accusation that was never tried); but this column isn’t about  Kobe, it’s about his daughter and all of our daughters.

Kobe was asked about due to having all daughters, who would carry on his legacy? The answer was GiGi, his 13 year old basketball loving child that was just one of the apples in his eyes. The University of Connecticut, (UCONN), probably the best woman’s basketball college in existence was where she wanted to play, (they honored her with a jersey on an empty chair). GiGi was a prodigy some would say, but after watching many videos of her practice sessions with her father and some game highlights, I would say she was simply an owner of that Mamba Mentality that her father created, never quit, never back down, and always strive to be better. Sadly, GiGi was with her father when the helicopter went down, a life cut short; yes the famous father Kobe Bryant, but to me the life of GiGi.

I’m a girl dad. Many of you who read my column know this. I cried when I heard the news of the crash, but I cried even harder knowing there were daughters on that helicopter, (teammates and other parents and coaches). A friend recently said, “if you raise them right they leave you”, this is true. Our children leave to start their own lives but they also know that the door is open at any time to come in, eat my food, and sit on the couch and tell me about their days. Bethany, my youngest, is a full time employee and in college. She’s got her parent’s work ethic and may skip class from time to time, (I won’t get into how many times I did), but work; she doesn’t skip. I couldn’t ask for a more caring child that will come over, eat my food, and pick my brain as she’s pursuing a psychology degree like her dad. Briana, my Jr., my mini me, (a term she truly dislikes), has the same emotional output as me. She cares deeply for others, has a great work ethic and is destined to be a “boss” as she has my trait of not liking employees who doesn’t pull their weight; and she makes me laugh the hardest. Hannah, my oldest, my writer and teacher, (she subs and I hope that some school will pick her up permanently as a paraprofessional), she’s the one with the most sass; mostly giving it to me, but still has that edge. Just today as I was dropping her off for work she mentioned that she has a cold, nothing too bad though, and reiterated one of my sayings, “if you can breathe , you can go to work”; I am proud of the work ethic but I may have pushed too hard. I write about my girls, my young adult women, because I am a “girl dad” the phrase coined for Kobe. I’m not like Kobe in any other respect but I pray for his family that lost a father and a sister. Lastly, a downside of divorce is that you lose touch with former in-laws and outlaws; a shout out for Jack, a man who took me under his wing and taught me some “man stuff”, I’ll miss his laugh and I truly loved him. Mamba Out.     foremanbrian4@gmail.com

 

A piece I wrote for an online magazine

 

What Makes a Great Dad?

“Parenting is a walk in the park: Jurassic Park” Anonymous

Father’s Day on the calendar is just one day a year; fathers and mothers are needed every day.  There are many ways to be a great dad and each way has significance in a child’s life. A dad is the first man their child will have as a role model; long before they’ll have a coach, a teacher, a Scout Leader; they’ll have their dad. Below are some ways to not only be a great role model but also to be a great dad.

Play with them

Money can’t buy you happiness and neither can it buy a lasting bond with your child. As a dad you need to spend time with them. I spoke with a single dad with three girls who talked about some of the things he did that he never though in his wildest dreams he would do as a dad. When he taught his daughters to paint their nails pink he found a dark shade of purple to do his. When they wanted to be princesses he dressed up as a prince. His greatest experience as a play date with his children was at the end of a long day of playing make believe they read to him; and he quickly fell asleep having spent “the best day of his life” being Prince Charming.

Support their interests         

Kids have dreams that start at a young age. Some want to be doctors, lawyers, and teachers. But there’s still those that want to be astronauts, actors, and President. As a great dad every interest possible should be viewed as an opportunity to teach them. If they want to be a doctor provide them with the kit for their dolls or their stuffed animals and be prepared to be a patient yourself. Encourage them to teach something they know to you, (and the stuffed animal audience, the family pet, etc.), to get them comfortable with speaking but most importantly to show them that you believe in them. Books are a great tool. Read to them from books on astronomy, history, and teach them if they can dream it, they can be it.

Be a good mirror

Children look to their fathers for cues to what good behavior is. If you drive your children home after a dinner or family gathering where you’ve had even one glass of wine you’re demonstrating that drinking and driving is okay; don’t do it, and when they mention that so-and-so’s dad does, explain why it’s not a risk you’re willing to take. Eat healthy meals with your children. One dad I spoke with stated that his greatest regret in life was not teaching his kids how to cook more things. By teaching them how to eat at home you’ll provide them with skills that they someday can teach to their kids. Exercise with your children. Prince Charming can go for a hike as well as sip tea. If your child wants to be a professional in any sport, provide the example, get off the couch and shoot some baskets, play catch, or go for a run.

 

 

Have a “Dad Talk”

One quote from the tv show The Simpsons is from Homer, “If you don’t try you can’t fail”. That’s not a talk you should have with your children but the one you should have is one that sets your expectations that at some point will be a positive check mark in the book of great dad things. One dad I spoke with had a talk with each of his kids on their 12th birthday. He took them on a daddy-daughter date or a father-son date and asked them that all important question; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For one child he stated that she said she wanted to be popular. This great dad laid down the groundwork for how to be popular in a positive way. He encouraged her to chase her dreams of music and acting but in a practical manner; becoming a teacher. His son wanted to be a professional athlete, he encouraged him, signed him up for camps but also lead him on a path of learning how to be fit, and be a coach, “just in case”, he didn’t become a professional. His third child didn’t have an answer. He encouraged her to be a good friend, a hard worker, and a good student. This child would drive her friends home from parties, study after hanging out with friends, and work two jobs all through high school all to meet those expectations but also to remain “cool”. Great dads lead but also set expectations that can be reached.

Never “let” them win

A great dad will treat all his children equally, even if that means never letting them win. A great dad understands that in the real-world chances are few and far between, failure happens and often there’s no one around to give you a hug or wipe away a tear. The great dad beats you in HORSE, checkers, chess, and even at that three-legged-race at the church picnic, (beating mom and sibling in the process). Why? Because eventually their child will win and when they do it will mean something. They will have truly earned that E in HORSE and that checkmate. They’ll be mad at first, but that in-your-face moment will aspire them to keep working hard.

Lastly, a great dad knows how to take care of mom. They will make a face when you hug and kiss but secretly like it. Great dad will take shifts in getting up with a crying baby, sit in the pouring rain at a five-year-old’s soccer game; and they will treat mom like the Queen she is and by doing so will model how they, (if they are girls), should demand to be treated, and if boys how to be a real man; or in this case, a great dad.