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Monday, July 11th, 2011
Yes, you did read that right. No, this isn’t a rerun from March. This coming Saturday on July 16th as Jack turns eight months old, we return to Music City for keeps.
Imagine you’re me. You were raised in the Eighties and were taught that money isn’t everything but that being happy is. You were constantly told that if you really believe, you can achieve your dreams. So at age 29, you decide to choose happiness over money and move your wife and 3 week old son back to your hometown to be close to family. You willingly choose less money and less busyness with the purest intentions.
Enter four months of unemployment, then living from savings despite eventually getting a job. Then after eight months since moving, you come to the realization that it is not a choice to move your family back to Nashville, but simply the only option.
It’s ironic how it took me four months to find a job and how my wife was sent countless rejection letters for all the places she applied, never landing a job that would keep us from dipping into savings every month; yet in a matter of just a few days and few emails, both my wife and I have jobs lined up in Nashville where we will begin Monday, July 18th.
Our former employers are taking us back. It’s that simple. Granted, this means we have to put Jack in daycare. We will barely see him on weekdays because by the time I drive him home from daycare, he will only be awake for an hour before it’s his bedtime.
So, how do I feel about this? Bittersweet.
We came here truly believing that we would be spending the rest of our lives here; thinking it would be the last time we would have to unpack our things. And when it seemed our expectations were being threatened, we only tried that much harder to make this work. But our resistance was futile.
As I have mentioned before, a married man can never stop thinking about his need to provide for his family. So imagine what kind of psychological toil this constant wondering has taken on my own sanity. For the fact we will be able to pay our bills without dipping into what’s left of our savings; well, that’s more relieving than I can say. But yes, we will have to move away from my family and they won’t see Jack as much as they used to.
He and his cousin were going to be attending the same school and be in the same grade. Not now, though. It’s only a 2 and a half hour drive, but still, things will be somewhat different.
By this point, I am nearly emotionless when it comes having to repack our lives again. Because again, it’s not a choice to be made; it’s the only option.
So I am accepting my fate. I was not meant to live in my hometown with my family. Instead, I was meant to live and work in Nashville, one of my favorite cities in the world.
I am choosing to move forward and be positive about it. There have been a lot of things we’ve missed tremendously about Nashville: Our church, our friends, our quirky restaurants, proximity to Country music stars, and surprisingly more than you would think, shopping for groceries at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.
As much as I enjoyed growing up in my hometown and the great memories I always have, it has ultimately proven to be the wrong fit for the 2011 version of me, which includes my wife and son. And that’s not my hometown’s fault. It’s just that Nashville is simply where we belong.
My wife and I met there. My wife was baptized there. We got married there. Our son was born there. Heck, even this blog was born there.
One of our mutually favorite movies is Away We Go, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. As they prepare for the birth of their first child, they travel to several cities to figure out where their new home as a family is. It’s obviously very relatable for my wife and me.
After sticking it out this long, we were obviously more than willing to make this thing work in my hometown. But now it’s time to return to where our home, as a family, is.
Need another pop culture reference? This reminds me of the best TV show ever made (and that ever will be made), Lost. Those who crashed on the island were “chosen” by the island for a purpose. Even when six of them eventually found a way to leave and go back to their homes, they ultimately had to return because the island still needed them there.
For us, Nashville is the island. We just need to watch out for those darn polar bears.
Categories: Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Nostalgia, People, Recaps, Spirituality, Story Bucket, Storytelling | Tags: Alabama, Away We Go, bittersweet, Christianity, church, dad blog, family, fatherhood, life in transition, LOST, moving, Nashville, parenting, psychological, Publix, The Eighties
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
For this past Father’s Day, I received a card from my wife, a card from my son (whose handwriting looks suspiciously similar to my wife’s), and Brad Paisley’s new CD, This is Country Music. It was just perfect.
How could I, the guy whose passion is to positively re-brand fatherhood, not be a fan of a genre of music that respects the idea of family and faith?
Despite living my whole life in the South, I don’t have a Southern accent. Nor do I drive a pick-up truck, wear Wrangler jeans, or know how to rope a calf. But I ama proud fan of Country music. Not only did I meet my wife in 2006 because of it (we met while waiting in line for a taping of the CMT show Crossroads in Nashville), but I grew up in the same small town as the legendary band, Alabama.
While I can’t personally relate to the songs about tractors, cheatin’, and honky tonk badonkadonks, I can relate to the way Country music is brave enough to be simple and honest.
In other forms of music, like Rock, it’s not quite as acceptable or natural or cool to talk about your wife and kids. Or to mention that you love Jesus, without it being ironic somehow. In other words, Country music, more than any other genre, holds the strongest value for family and faith.
I am very sensitive to sexism; especially in music, because music is so influential on our culture, whether we are willing to accept it or not. And this goes for not only Rap music where it is common to openly degrade women to the standard of sex objects in bikinis at pool parties and refer to them as words that are not in my vocabulary, but also in Pop music where it is normal for man-bashing to be common.
Honestly, I don’t care what kind of music it is, if it negatively stereotypes either women or men, it bothers me. I don’t take it lightly. Both women and men deserve respect and honor, not to be damned into a stereotype of bimbos and idiots.
But with Country Music, it’s not something I really have to think about. Because for every “you’re a no good liar” type of Country song that exists, there are a dozen “I love my wife and kids” songs to overpower it. That’s not the case in other genres.
Granted, I don’t just listen to Country. I love Jazz, 90’s Alternative, and anything in the likeness of Guster and Pete Yorn.
But when I hear a song like “People are Crazy” by Billy Currington, or “Love Without End, Amen,” by George Strait, there’s a connection there that just can’t be matched by even the coolest, trendiest Rock star.
“Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love,
A secret that my daddy said was just between us,
You see, daddies don’t just love their children every now and then,
It’s a love without end, Amen.”
–Love Without End, Amen by George Strait
Categories: Home Life, Spirituality, Story Bucket, Storytelling | Tags: Brad Paisley, Christianity, CMT, Country music, dad blog, faith, family, fatherhood, George Strait, Nashville, parenting, Southern, southern accent, The South
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
What does your “art” tell about what you value?
While earning my English degree at Liberty University, I was taught in my “World History of Art” class that artists honor what they value through the subject matter of their work: If a caveman etched an outline of himself clubbing a stegosaurus to death, it meant that he prided himself in his abilities to provide dinner for his village.
This “art equals value” concept can apply to many different areas in our lives; even without it officially being art. One of the most obvious examples is my desk at work. I keep things pretty tidy; not a whole lot of decoration. But the little bit of flare I do have points to the same central theme: my wife and son.
My computer’s screen saver is a picture of my wife holding Jack, as is the background on my cell phone. My coffee mug is one that my wife customized for me on Shutterfly, featuring Jack. Sitting on my desk is a small framed family portrait. Hanging on my “food shelf” is a paper-clipped wallet size of Jack when he was just a week old. On my other shelf is a framed “Happy 30th Birthday, Daddy!” certificate made with Jack’s inked hands.
So in essence, everyday is “Take Your Kid to Work Day.” No matter which direction I am looking while at my desk, I see my son. And of course my wife as well. Because obviously, they are what I value the most; always on my mind and in my heart.
The three of us are sort of like our own trinity; all separate entities yet paradoxically one in the same. I will always be a part of my son and he will always be a part of me; you can’t get the son without getting the father and you can’t get the father without getting the son.
The same goes with my wife; neither Jack nor I are complete without her. We are one intertwined family unit.
Even when I am physically away from Jack and Jill during the day, it doesn’t change the closeness we share. And I guard that closeness with all my time, all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind.
So that neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, not even Facebook nor cell phones ringing during dinner time, may separate us from the love we share. Our family bond goes beyond a marriage covenant and shared bloodline. It’s literally out of this world.
Categories: Deep Thoughts, People, Spirituality, Story Bucket, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: art, baby, baby blog, Christianity, dad blog, family, family values, father and son, fatherhood, history, Liberty University, marriage, office, trinity, values
Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
For a nostalgic guy like me, it can be very difficult to “live in the moment.” And that’s not a good thing when it comes to being present in body, mind, and spirit as a husband and father. Not to mention, it’s sort of impossible for me to stop thinking about how I will provide for my wife and son.
In 1996, while most other 15 year-olds were listening to cool alternative grunge bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Stone Temple Pilots, I additionally had something they didn’t have: a cassette tape of the first album by The O.C. Supertones.
You’re probably familiar with hearing someone say “I grew up really Jewish… bar mitzvah, the whole deal….” Even if it was simply Seth Rogen on Conan who said it, you understand the concept of “growing up really Jewish.”
Well, I “grew up really Christian.” I learned to play the guitar in Junior High because I led the music for my church’s youth group on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Every summer I went on a mission trip to a different state or country, doing repairs on widow’s homes during the day, then participating in drama and singing performances at city parks in the afternoons. (Yes, I had a trendy W.W. J. D? bracelet.)
And while DC Talk was the coolest Christian rock band back in the those days, I also was a huge grassroots promoter of The O.C. Supertones- the main Gospel ska band of the ’90′s.
Last week as I felt like listening to nothing but all of their albums back-to-back, a line from their song “Unknown” stood out to me. I have been listening to that song for 15 years but it finally made sense to me at a time when I needed to hear it most:
“Killing ourselves faster than fast; living in the future, living in the past.” I haven’t been able to shake the thought of how constantly I do just that: I participate in the self-destructive behavior of either A) dwelling on how I should have/could have/would have done things differently in my past, if I was able or B) dwelling on how much better life will be a decade from now when my problems will hopefully have worked themselves out.
I realize that with all the positive vibes I constantly send out in my daily writings here on The Dadabase, I may sometimes make my version of being a dad and husband seem easier than it actually is. And perhaps it seems that Jack never causes any stress for my wife or I. But despite my optimism and quirkiness, my life is as normal as they come. I encounter the same basic stresses as all other dads and husbands.
Admittedly, I question some of my past decisions and actions. And I seriously wonder about my future; financially.
Since moving from our secure jobs in Nashville before Jack arrived, we now live on a much smaller single income, with a kid. Yeah, the thought of money stresses me out big time. Living here in Alabama now, I can’t provide for them the same way I used to. Money sure isn’t everything, but Nashville’s good economy definitely eased things in my mind.
As I am wired to do, I ultimately feel responsible for providing for my family. So I question the version of myself who a few years ago led me to make the decisions to get me here today. And I often fantasize about a future time when I won’t feel the stress that I am feeling now.
Of course, my making a habit of mentally time traveling is not a good thing. Because if I keep going back far enough, I may fantasize about a time when I had no real responsibilities and no family of my own. And it is nothing but counter-productive and selfish to subconsciously covet the 21 year old college version of myself who made money by selling egg rolls and Hot Pockets from the mini-fridge in my college dorm.
The weight of my responsibilities is constantly on my mind. Will I be able to care for my family? Am I good enough for them? Should I have gotten something other than an English degree a decade ago in college, so I could be assured I’d make enough money to be the breadwinner at age 30?
This is an honest, vulnerable look into a guy’s brain. I’m never unaware of my need to provide. Never.
Other men have greater or less financial concerns and decisions to make. But still, as men, we are perpetually terrified of the realistic demon who reminds us that nothing we can do is ever enough.
It’s a matter of reminding myself that that even the ravens, who don’t even sow or reap, who don’t have storerooms or barns, are still fed. And I am much more valuable than a bird.
Categories: Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Must Read, Nostalgia, Spirituality, Storytelling | Tags: 1996, Alabama, anxiety, baby, bar mitzvah, Bush, Christian, Christianity, Conan, dad, fatherhood, financial, Jewish, Nashville, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, The Supertones
Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Week 24 (5 months).
Jack travels well. And that makes life a lot easier for my wife and I. He really didn’t mind camping out two nights without power, then traveling an hour to stay in Georgia for two nights to stay in a hotel suite with us along with his grandparents, aunt, and uncle. For a couple of days, we lived amongst people who were instantly made homeless by last week’s tornados, like Pastor Sidney Ford, featured here in this story by ABC. He was such a blessing to us and it was an honor to meet him.
For us, life is picking back up to its state of normalcy. Our power came back on Sunday afternoon, and everyone in my family was able to return to work on Monday. My employer (who is also my dad’s employer as well) is so gracious to us that they are paying our wages for last Thursday and Friday, when no one could come to work because the entire city was without power. I am constantly aware of how blessed (by grace) and spared (by mercy) I am.
I’m not convinced I’m the kind of person who has to be reminded by a tragic event just how fortunate I am- who gets so caught up in the “hustle and bustle” of life that they “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Because I make it one of my daily personal goals not to become distracted by life- by the chaos and unsettledness and not-knowingness that each day brings. I’m not saying that’s easy. Something life has taught me is that typically when I am the least happiest, it’s often because I am focusing too negatively inward and not enough positively outward. My own mind and attitude are fortunately and unfortunately much stronger and influential than I often realize and give them credit for.
But Jack doesn’t have to worry about that kind of stuff yet. As long as he’s fed, played with, has his diapers changed, and has assistance falling asleep, he’s just happy to be here. He thinks everyday is a celebration just to be alive. And I believe that is one of the many reasons that a baby brings so much joy to us adults. Babies teach us so much without speaking any intelligible words.
Jack's new "puppy dog" face
Categories: People, Recaps, Spirituality, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: baby, baby blog, Christianity, dad, dad from day one, daddy blog, parenting, tornadoes