Posts Tagged ‘ Fort Payne ’

The New Version of Our Old Selves

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Seven months.

After all the plotlines my wife and I have lived through in accordance to our move from Nashville to my hometown in Alabama, and now back to Nashville again, it’s only natural for us to wonder: Why?

Q) Why did we spend seven months and [x amount] of dollars to live here in my hometown, only to have to go back to where we came from?

A) It took moving away from Nashville to cause us to become positively changed people so that we could go back to Nashville as the necessarily improved versions of ourselves.  But we didn’t know any of this when we left Nashville.

I can confidently say that living in the small town of Fort Payne, Alabama has caused us to fully adopt the millionaire mindset (living as frugally as possible.)  Because we became Dave Ramsey followers shortly after we got married and have since been living on a budget, we thought we were doing pretty well when it came to financially planning our lives.

But we had much more to learn.  And I know for a fact I would have never learned to be this much of a penny-pincher if it weren’t for my unemployment and my wife’s inability to get a job, despite having a Master’s degree.

The move to Alabama has been the most humiliating process I have endured in my life:  Note that when I used the word “humiliating” just now, I meant it in the sense of being humbled and disciplined, not embarrassed or shamed.  (Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission.”)

Looking back, I can see how our former budget allotted my wife and I too much “blow money” (Dave Ramsey’s term for extra cash for personal enjoyment), too much “gift money” (money spent on gifts for birthday and Christmas gifts for our friends and family), and too much “food money” (money spent on eating out at restaurants and going out for coffee on the weekend).  Not only that, but now we have learned to ask the question, “What will cause us to earn/save the most money?” when making any decision, big or small.

The version of me from a year ago just didn’t care about money.  I only cared about happiness.  And that was an epic flaw in my thinking.  Now I realize that without conservative financial planning, I will not have sanity.  And without sanity, I can not be happy anyway.

The truth is this: Without moving to my hometown and being psychologically broken down, I would have never been a responsible enough decision maker when it came to finances.  Moving to Fort Payne was the only cure for my disease.

It’s more than just refusing to use a credit card or to buy name brand products.  It’s a matter of taking my finances nearly as seriously as I take my love for my wife and son, health, and my religious beliefs.  So now as we rebuild our lives again, we will be able to be better stewards of our income.  Our money will be better saved, better spent, and better given away.

Photos courtesy of Moments in Time Photography in Fort Payne, Alabama:

www.mitbyamie.com

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Dads are From Neptune, Moms are From Pluto

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Seven months.

The DadabaseWhat do some parenting blog titles reveal about certain insecurities that we may have as parents?

Back in March when I was trying to figure out what I was going to rename this dad blog for Parents.com, obviously the first thing I did was to Google-skim (I made that word up but I assume you’re hip enough to get it) the Internet for inspiration and to check out my competition… I mean, my… fellow dad bloggers.  During my 43 minutes of research, I picked up on blog name patterns for both dad bloggers and mommy bloggers.

The dad bloggers who were more vulnerable and self-depreciating with their blog names often focused on the fact that they didn’t know what they were doing, with titles like “Rookie Dad,” “Thingmababy,” “Daddy Knows Less,” and “Daddy’s In Charge?”.

Meanwhile, their mom blogging counterparts often focused on their attempts to organize the chaos of motherhood with “Three Kid Circus,” “And Then She Snapped,” “I Want a Nap,” “The Tightrope Walk,” “The Life of a Juggling Mom,” and “Cinderella is Falling Down.”

If I were to extract the assumed meaning of this particular pattern I discovered, it would be this: Dads want to be helpful and productive, but don’t necessarily know what to do by instinct.  And moms more instinctively know what to do, but they just don’t always have enough energy, “sanity”, and/or time in the day to get it done.

So I assume if these characteristics are at least somewhat true for those of us who blog about our daily parenting experiences, they are typically just as true for the parents who don’t blog about it.  There’s a reason why these blog titles I’ve mentioned do indeed ring true with readers.

Evidently, dads have the energy, sanity and time to get the job done, but not the know-how.  Conversely, moms have the know-how, but again, not the energy, sanity, and/or time in the day to do it.  As dad-and-mom teams, we have everything we need to pull this thing off.  It’s a matter of working together to win this three legged race.  Actually, we don’t even need to win the race; all we have to do is run it.

Or hop it.  Or walk it… whatever it takes for the family to move forward, together.

How can you enhance your own parenting skills today? Communication: Ask your spouse for help and be vulnerable enough to tell him or her the ways you feel sub-par as a co-parent. By nature, it’s easy to want to help someone who is being humble enough to ask for your help than someone who is complaining for lack of it.

I guarantee that your spouse abounds in the things you lack as a parent.  And have this conversation with them: Acknowledge that one of you often feels like a third wheel who tries to contribute in caring for your child, but often gets discouraged by not having the instincts to know what to do when it comes to parenting.  And that the other person often feels overwhelmed by the never-ending list of stuff that needs to get done. Then work out a plan accordingly. Then act on it.

We can allow ourselves to remain frustrated by our deficiencies or we can celebrate and make good use of each other’s goods and services.  As for me, I’ll always choose working smart over working hard. And working smart, in this instance, means confessing my weaknesses so that my strengths can be best utilized in both marriage and parenting.

All pictures were taken courtesy of Dave Stanley at Little River Falls in Fort Payne, Alabama.

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The Buddy Factor of Being a Dad

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Seven months.

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I believe everyone has multiple personalities and different versions of themselves that they reveal based on their environment.  But these multiplicities of ourselves ultimately are still built on top of one default personality.  My default personality is amazingly similar to the character of Peter Klaven (portrayed by Paul Rudd) in my favorite movie ever, I Love You Man.

The movie focuses on Peter’s lack of ability to make and keep strong male friendships and the difficulty that means for him in trying to find groomsmen and most importantly, a best man, for his upcoming wedding.

Most of my guy friends are scattered across the country; instantly available via text message, but not for hanging out with on a regular basis.  And I’m completely okay and comfortable with that.  And interestingly enough, whether it was my female-orientated major in college (English), or every work environment I’ve been in since then, I’ve constantly been surrounded by women instead of men.  And again, I’m completely okay and comfortable with that fact.

Even here on Parents.com, I’m the only male parent blogger.  It is simply my life’s destiny to be a guy who relates to women almost as well as I relate to men.  Need I remind you, it’s mainly women reading The Dadabase.

(Granted, my wife edits out anything too masculine or overly male-driven.  Recently, she had me delete several paragraphs which went on way too long about the details of a Nintendo game.)

But now I have a son.  A baby boy who will eventually grow into a big boy who will eventually grow into a teenage boy and eventually a man.  This means that I will ultimately have a buddy.

I will always have a reason to get to do what I want to do with my free time, as long as Jack is with me.  Because I will be spending quality time with him while I do what I enjoy anyway (or at least enjoyed in my youth).

Already, I’m mentally working on a list of things I will enjoy doing that also will serve as good male-bonding, quality time with my son over the next 2 to 20 years:

1)     Watch the entire series of the following movies and TV series: Rocky, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Band of Brothers, and Lost.

2)     Go hiking and exploring in the woods on the weekend.

3)     Build awesome Lego sets.

4)     Take our bikes for a long ride in a new neighborhood.

5)     Have old school Nintendo game marathons.

6)     Blow stuff up with fireworks.

7)     If ever can ever afford it, take him on a trip to Thailand.

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Of course, this is only the beginning of my list.  But I really look forward to the underlying male friendship in my father-son relationship with him.

I am adamant on being Jack’s father, not his friend.  However, just like how I mentioned in the beginning that we all have different personalities, I know that a father is not simply the paternal figure of his son’s life.  Being a good dad means being someone to relate to and it involves a lot of mentoring.  It requires good communication and quality time.

Being a father is like being a friend, but it’s so much more than that.  Yet it’s paradoxically both more casual and more demanding of respect than simply being a friend.  But even though I won’t refer to my son as my friend, I will gladly call him my buddy.

Man, now I’ve got the jingle to the 80’s toy, My Buddy, stuck in my head:

“Wherever I go, he goes… My buddy, my buddy, my buddy and me!”

All pictures taken courtesy of Dave Stanley at Little River Falls in Fort Payne, Alabama.

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Moving Jack Back to Nashville? (Part 2)

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Week 18 (4 months).

“So take your lessons hard… and when your car crash comes don‘t be misled.”
Convince yourself that everything is alright, ’cause it already is.” – “For Nancy” by Pete Yorn

In last week’s cliffhanger episode, I closed by saying that I was counting on a miracle in order to remain in Alabama, knowing that our savings we had been living off of since December 4th would be running out in the next few weeks and that every door and window had closed for us  regarding a long term job.  And more importantly, I needed a job with good insurance, since there are 3 of us now.  I avoid drama at all costs, but in order to be true to the reality of “dad from day one”, I couldn’t play down the real life happenings of coming to terms with the fact that our leap of faith may end with us moving back to Nashville, despite all our efforts to move to Alabama.

That was last Wednesday. It literally felt like my world was collapsing in on me, which I realize is no comparison to the literal collapsing that occurred in Japan last week, but still, it was the most intense thing I have ever lived through.  Maybe a better comparison is that it was like being in a car wreck, where I was in the driver’s seat, running the car through a guard rail, causing my family to be flipped upside down a few times as the car rolled over, not knowing if we were looking up or down.

It helped me to literally understand the phrase, “hell of a week”.  I never so literally felt such a heavy, demonic presence around me.  Not like dark storm clouds and a violent storm; more like a silent, heavy overcast.  It was so subtle, yet terrifying.  I truly felt that my family was caught between two spiritual worlds- with one army that wanted us here and one army that wanted us gone. With that being said, there must be some serious unseen reason why my family should or shouldn’t be living here in Alabama.

But as I had always expected, the scarier that things got in my real life during this move, it would only make it that much more obvious when God miraculously provided for us. In order for this real life story to be more legit, it had to be obvious that it was no coincidence if things worked out in the end.  I, the protagonist, had to be that desperate and completely dependent for God’s intervention.  And I couldn’t just paint God as a genie who grants wishes.  Also, like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, I had to be willing to give it all up.  I had to become humbled more than I ever have before.

As I put it last week, “Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness. The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job.”  I could also compare it to that “bankrupt/million/bankrupt” wedge on Wheel of Fortune.

That was last Wednesday.  Less than 24 hours later, in what felt like a loopy dream, I found myself in a job interview at the place I truly had my heart set on when I moved here.  (Interestingly, this is not the position I referred to last week; this is something completely different.)  It’s a Marketing position for one of the world’s largest playground equipment companies.  I know it’s the perfect fit for me.  Today I took my drug test, so unless there was something extra in the brownies last night, I start this coming Monday (March 28th).

But… the good news isn’t over yet.  God is more creative than that for this story.

Something else happened in the past week that is pretty dang awesome. Something that I didn’t initiate.  Instead, out of nowhere, I was approached. It’s bigger than just simply having one of my articles or “dad from day one” entries being published in a magazine.  I don’t think it would be wise to give away all the details at this point, but just know that it involves me signing a contract, it will take “dad from day one” to a whole new level and audience, it means I will be teaming up with a major publishing company (in a regular paying gig), and it should officially begin within the next month or two…

So, that is what has happened since “Part 1″.  What a week.  Granted, I realize now more than ever, there is no where telling where anyone may end up for the duration of their lives.  I honestly never would have believed that I would ever have moved back to Alabama, or more importantly, that I would ever want to. But as far as my own plans, I want roots again.  I want solid ground.  I want anchorage.  I don’t want to even think about moving again.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if all this dramatic struggle is a necessary part of the story of “dad from day one”.  With rare exceptions like the movie Napoleon Dynamite, a strong plot is vital to build a solid story line- not to mention, it’s absolutely necessary for character development.

So, will we be moving Jack back to Nashville?  With an exciting and fulfilling job starting Monday here in Fort Payne, a big secret “dad from day one” reveal coming up in the next month or so, and a juicy income tax return coming our way soon, I suppose it’s as safe as possible to say that we can keep our anchor down in Alabama.

It’s the ultimate irony that we moved to Alabama to settle down, yet it has been such an unsettling experience until now. And it’s pretty interesting, too, how these doors opened the very week that the winter season ended and the spring season began.  Man, the symbolism.  The dead of winter surrenders to the resurrected life of spring.

Please, God, let this good ending and new beginning be real.

“You got to go through hell before you get to heaven… ’Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay.” – “Jet Airliner” by The Steve Miller Band

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DeSoto State Park (Nature Vs. Nurture)

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Week 15.

Now that the weather is getting nicer, we the parents are very excited about taking advantage of the dozens of trails near us at DeSoto State Park.  That means Baby Jack gets to go hiking with us.  Fortunately, he actually enjoys hiking, even if he’s asleep for most of the time.

I should point out these aren’t simply 20 minutes walks I’m referring to.  I’m talking 3 and a half mile hikes- not just easy, flat trails.  When he is awake during his hikes, he loves to look up at the blue sky, which matches his eyes. Conveniently, we haven’t had to change his diapers during these journeys.  But of course, we feed and change him right before we embark into the forest, to make things easier for Jack and for us.

I don’t know if it’s normal for a 3 month old to enjoy hiking.  But I guess now it’s normal to him.  I help create his reality like that.  It’s a classic case of “nature vs. nurture”.  I am nurturing him to appreciate nature.  And he’s buying it.

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