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.


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.

Last One out the Gate

A little bit of Love
In one short month Bethany Love Foreman will graduate high school with honors, many evidenced at the time of this writing as she returned home from the academic awards night, with again enough certificates to make a fan; but this path started long ago.
Bethany was born smiling, the last of the Foreman girls born; but born with a big heart that matches her smile. As a small child she had many ear infections that lead to a delay in speaking clearly. In elementary school in South Range there’s a yearly Christmas play. Due to her trouble with speaking she was given a part with another young girl who was shy and had trouble speaking to crowds. They shared one line and they did fine but there was a bigger story behind that line. I was told later that she would read to the other girl in class, to work on her speech, and to include the other girl who had some special needs. To hear that your child does a good deed is great but to hear that they did it on their own; that’s even better. Bethany had to deal with her dad coming in as a Germ for the Germbuster’s program and to this day many of her friends remember me as the Germ and for being her dad.
As she grew she tried out for everything, from being a sealion in the Little Mermaid, taking Judo lessons, playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, band for the whole ride, (a percussionist like her dad), and 4-H for years; all before high school. In high school she was active in theatre carving out her own roles, the lead one year, and a cheerleader even when she didn’t have time to do it fulltime. Can you tell I’m proud? As a senior she took psychology at Gogebic, (but not from me), and is currently wrapping up Trigonometry; all while working and getting all A’s as a student at Jeffers. Bethany will graduate third in her class, and hopefully with scholarships to help her as she enters MTU this fall; the best part is she’s going into psychology, not to teach like me, but into forensics to use that great brain to help solve crimes someday. My heart is aching as I write this so let’s get to what I hope for her as my last child out of the gate.
I made a deal with my girls with the middle names of Hope, Faith, and Love, that if they could go through high school with good grades, no “troubles” (I’ll let you define that), that once they graduate they would be adults in my eyes; still dad’s girls, but women ready for the world. Both of her sisters earned that right, the right to be an adult at 17 in Hannah’s case, (still “adulting” quite well), and Briana at 18 now finishing her second year at EMU also adulting well. Now it’s Bethany’s time to shine, (earned as well), and here’s what I hope happens.
Bethany Love, my youngest, my baby, (no matter how old you’ll get you’ll always be the baby), I trust you to make decisions that make you happy, productive, and content. In four years I hope to sit and watch you get your first degree, and then another, until you’ve reached your goals. Along the way you’ll make friends, (and sadly lose friends), find jobs and lose jobs, find love, and keep it. But remember this, no matter the troubles, the trials, the triumphs and losses, I’ll be there for you to give advice or simply listen. No go show life a thing or two; I love you.

When Depression is Winning

This isn’t a post you’ll see on Facebook or Twitter. This would never appear in Family Matters; this is personal. I resisted texting my wife today a text she has seen many times, “depression is winning today”. There are days when I sit silently in my chair, the TV is on, some mindless sports are on or some bargain hunt property show on HGTV, but I’m not there. I’m “fiscally motivated”, I like to work because some day I want to retire. I want to go to bed when I’m tired and get up when I’m not. I presented the go to bed philosophy many years ago and was told that’s not a real goal. Normally I can’t pinpoint what’s dropped me into the dark zone but today’s depression is easy to track.

On Monday night I was pondering when I can or should retire. My original fantasy of 55 won’t happen and when I do retire I don’t want to work, at all, with the exception of selling things or cash jobs for fun, but nothing structured. I decided to look up what my Social Security will be and when I can retire with that as part of my income. The age, 67, works, the dividend, (I say dividend because if SS folds the government best give me back what I’ve put in and my employers have put in over the years or I will revolt), is $1500 a month. My teaching retirement for online at 67 should be $300 a month and whatever else I set up in the next 18 years say $200 a month; $2000 in total. In my mind that’s not enough; cue depression. I currently have a contract to design a class and some training’s that do make money but the depression is winning, energy non-existent.

Part of my process is to write it out. In the past I’d go shoot hoops but bad this and bad that prevent me from doing that. Write it out….wait it out….fight it out; beating depression isn’t the correct term; living with it is. This is part of writing it out, then I’ll start on one of my projects, make money, feel better; sadly this will always be a losing proposition.