Friday, February 26, 2016

Abril 22, 2015: The Day God Retired.

It has taken me over two years to write again.  First it was because the daily challenges I was dealing with in my life were so great that I found them impossible to share.  I tried to write several times, but then when it came time to share I was not able to; it just did not feel right.  Eventually I just gave up, feeling that it was a waste of time since even if I spent the effort of putting all my thoughts together in writing, I knew I would not go through with sharing them with anyone else in the end.  Then, the greatest of my fears came true when on April 22nd of 2015 my beautiful son passed away turning my entire life into shambles.  Pain, and desolable hurt ruled my entire being.  My heart was so full of anger, my mind was desperately seeking answers, and my soul felt as if it had lost its bearings. I won't deny it, to me it felt as if on April 22, 2015 the powerful and merciful God in which I had put so much trust in had decided to finally throw in the towel and retire.  Up to that date, I had never lost faith in God's ability to heal my son and allow him to be the great man he was intended to become.  Day after day I had prayed fully trusting that all of our difficulties were just part of a greater plan and that eventually, if I stayed strong and did not give up, life would bring us to the other side of this ocean of difficulties we were living through to a calm shore full of blessings.

I must say that obviously I was wrong and that time did what it does best, teaching me another hard lesson about life, love, and parenting.  Some of us lose our children even before they are born, others to illnesses that devastate their bodies taking them away one day at a time with so much cruelty that I am sure our Faith's tumble daily wondering why it has to be so painful.  We lose our loved ones not because God allows it to happen, but rather in spite of His endless love because that is the nature of life.  Even though from the moment we are born we instantly begin the process of dying, dying is not what life is about.  Life is about "living" and sucking every drop of its wonderous experiences to become ourselves.

I am glad I never gave up on my son.  I loved him unconditionally and am blessed with the memories of the so many things we shared together.  Even now that he is gone I have such strong emotions towards him that these past paragraphs are the most difficult ones I have ever written.  Recently I was asked that if i could do it all over again, what would I do differently?  Obviously my mind rushed to memories of painful moments, arguments, anger, and hurt that I wish we never shared; but then, my heart travels to every single one of those difficult instances and I clearly remember how much I loved my son and how constantly worried I was for his well being.  To not have had these difficult times probably means that I would have to had cared so much less for him, and that would be impossible.  The answer then is "nothing," I would change absolutely nothing that was in my power to change between me and my son.  I have no regrets because I am sure I could have not loved him any more than I did in his short 22 years of life.

I am by far and more than anything else my children's father.  Nobody will ever be able to take away from me the love I feel for my sons.  Now please give me back the air that has been taken away from my lungs so that I can keep breathing.


Monday, February 24, 2014

One more prayer...

I have spent years praying to my almighty God to intervene in my life and bring peace to an otherwise chaotic parental existence. I've prayed in silence and I've prayed out loud. I've prayed on my knees, standing up, sitting down, and while I lay in my bed. I have no shame, I have prayed naked and clothed in just about every circumstance imaginable. In fact, sometimes I've woken up in the middle of the night and realized that I was praying in my dreams. Many of you know me and some of you have read my blog and have been part and shared my turbulent parental journey through the years and might be wondering if my prayers have ever been answered. The answer is simple, regardless of how much chaos is obvious and how difficult my circumstances have seemed, God has never left my side. If at any moment it might seem otherwise, I can assure you that it was I that moved away from the grace of God and not the other way around. I have learned that life is not about getting what you "want", but more so about getting what you "need" to keep going. What I have "wanted" has always been to heal and for an end to such a turbulent life. What I have gotten has been an endless supply of patience and unconditional love in order to weather the storm. You see, even I don't know what I really need in my life as well as my beautiful God knows and then takes care of it all. After all, He is a God of love and in spite of my short minded abilities, He is powerful beyond my comprehension. And so once more I pray: "Dear God, you are amazing and almighty in every possible way. Thank you for knowing my heart better than I know it myself and for giving me what I need and not what I ask. Heal, save, and bless me, my children, and all of those that are part of my life. Amen."

Monday, December 30, 2013

It is said that above all, there is love...

The path that I take defines who I am, of this I am certain.  When I was a child, I lived among the most caring and loving parents, brother, and sisters that anyone could desire.  My path was clearly one guided by strict parenting balanced with overdoses of love that soaked my heart without an end.  If I add to this incredible childhood my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and so many cousins that always felt the need and inclination to pour their caring into my being, the odds of me ever feeling a lack of love were literally zero.  Amazingly, in time I also made amazing friends, people that had nothing to do with my familial lineage, yet at every turn of my path they took their turn giving of themselves just as if they were my brothers or sisters.  How on earth could there ever be a possible outcome to my persona that did not include an individual well versed in the art of giving back the same kind of affection and care that was always given to me throughout my entire life?  This of course is what defined me from the inside out and regardless of any other influences, the mold was casted so far back in time that everything that tries to change it today is pretty much inconsequential.

I’ve had moments in my life that suddenly and out of apparently nowhere nudged me in a different direction.  I made decisions on what to study, where to be educated, where to apply for jobs, basically what kind of life I wanted to live on the outside.  However, out of all of the decisions I have made, the ones that have nudged my path the most have always been those that involved me emotionally, on the inside.  The romantic ones taught me lessons that can never be taught in any other ways.  These relationships made me value strangers, people that I had never met before, but were somehow related to the main character with whom I tangled my heart with day by day.  Again, I have always been what I can only describe as lucky because even in these strangers I found a flood of love pouring my way.  How can an ordinary man be so lucky?  I don’t remember passing roll and testing the waters before throwing me in with these individuals that simply said turned out to be amazing!  Maybe the common denominator is something inside me?  Or maybe the common card is something even greater than any of us put together, like God?  Regardless, the nudging went on, my life took its turns and soon I was somewhere I never expected myself to be.

As a parent, it is simple to explain why I love my children.  They are so much a part of me that I cannot fathom the idea of not caring, loving, or taking risks in the name of daddy’s love.  Granted that not every parent is the same and some are even capable of horrible behavior towards their children.  However, I would not hesitate to guess that there are much more parents being good role models and loving their children to no end than not.  I believe that the amount of love that I unselfishly give to my kids eventually comes back to me in a great deal of blessings.  That is just me, I have no empirical evidence, but my inner gut tells me that this is a safe assumption in my life.  Either way, like I said before, I am already wired this way to protect them, help them, guide them, and more than anything else love them unconditionally.

Recently, life did one of those twists that turned me upside down and on my head.  My wild child did something stupid and life is taking turns at teaching us both lessons that we never thought we would have to learn.  I am not alone, so many of you have gone through this and even worse situations that I am almost embarrassed to feel sorry for either one of us, yet the pain and anguish is real nonetheless. All I can say is that here too, love has paved the way of how I am dealing with this fork in the road, making me realize that everyone makes mistakes and in the end what matters is what I learn from it all. In the midst of it all I have also come to realize that I have no choice in how life keeps nudging me, and regardless of how much I wish for it to all go away, I am bound to my sense of love to see it through regardless of the final outcome.

How do I know as a father, a friend, a brother, a son, a partner, in essence as a man that I am making the right choices in my life?  How do I gauge and measure the proper proportions of love, wisdom, an risks that I should take at the most important steps of my journey?  To me it really is not that complicated at all. I do as everyone else typically does and I ponder on the consequences of my actions, I then add the lessons learned in my life as a "do not ever do this again" filter, and finally I look deep inside myself and figure out how much love I need to pour over the entire situation so that in the end I can live with myself and my final decision.  I might not always get it right, but at least I am able to look at myself in the mirror after the fact without shame.  It also helps to always throw in the "what would mom do" into this entire equation as a baseline to play it safe.

I've walked on this path long enough to know and understand that sometimes I need to simply take one step in front of the other without really knowing what will be the final outcome of my journey.  In fact, this is where I am today, again, realizing that time has a way of changing what was once certain to a great deal of uncertainty. Many have told me that I need to take a leap of faith, to which I am not certain what to reply since I have an abundance of faith, and if I leap any higher, frogs will be jealous.  Instead I choose to take a leap of love because yes, above all there is love. It has served me well in the past, and I am sure it will serve me well again now.

"God, thank you for teaching me how to love, allow myself to be loved, and to love myself.  Amen."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Then, there it was...

Everything was so different before that incredibly beautiful event.  One single glance at the news highlights of any given day was enough to clearly see how disjointed our humanity had become since the beginning of times.  Not only had every single culture on our planet become their own entity, but also every single individual within these cultures found a way to justify in their minds how to excuse themselves from growing into a more united civilization.  Man had become a master over his habitat and a slave to his ignorance all at the same time, creating a sense of arrogance and hopelessness that deeply conflicted with each other with the passage of time.  The very few that had learned to overcome humanity's growth paradox were outnumbered and relegated to the ranks of being unrealistic fools.  Then, there it was, a moment in time which had been predicted by ancient civilizations a long, long time ago.  Evolution in its most basic and predictable nature took over and one by one, the most sophisticated and advanced organism on our planet, the human brain, flipped a switch.  At first, nobody noticed when this happened since the first to experience the most evolutionary event in human history were actually a group of individuals that had themselves been relegated in society as outcasts.  The medical establishment's inability to adequately treat what at the time were considered mental illnesses, apparently triggered a self preservation mechanism in the brain of certain individuals, rewiring neurological pathways and connections in totally unpredictable yet amazingly advanced ways.  These original few could see far much more than the rest of us could see.  Their advanced and beautiful minds had found access to reasoning, enlightenment, and even higher physical dimensions that nobody else had ever before achieved.  One after another of these individuals started to awaken from their disconnected advanced mental states allowing their minds to interact with both sides of their environment, the old visible world and the new higher cognitive world around them.  Once these individuals were recognized for who and what the really were, man's evolved state, they began to take over the mess that we had created in our planet and one by one found solutions to our greatest challenges.  Hunger, poverty, violence, war, and conflicts were all eventually replaced with solutions that allowed our beautiful suspended blue marble to heal itself and become the home of a true and deserving evolved intelligent species.

December 21st came and the world did not end.  In fact, as far as I am able to ascertain nothing out of the ordinary has occurred to justify the incredible hype that Mayan Calendar theorists had promulgated during the last few years.  I'd like to say that I was never influenced by the different proposed outcomes, but admittedly, somewhere in the back of my mind I was actually hoping for something to happen.  Of course, that "something" was never "the end of the world," but at least some kind of global discovery or enlightenment would have been nice.  Something that would somehow steered a unified vision for the betterment of mankind in the right direction would have been my choice.  As mind bending as the paragraph above might sound, I actually think that our biggest asset as human beings is our ability to have larger than life dreams and then set our minds out to make them happen.

When I turned 50 years of age last year, just as probably all of us do at some point in time, I too made an assessment of my life's path and accomplishments.  How many of my dreams did I turn into reality?  How many of my goals had I reached by then?  Where was I and where did I expect myself to be at that point in time many years earlier?  I will honestly say that I strongly discourage anyone to do this unless you are willing to be slapped in the face by your own inadequacies and failures.  On the other hand, doing so also granted me the opportunity to create new goals and apply a new set of rules to my life, this time based on 50 years of life experience and a lot less ignorance.  To me it truly does not matter how many years have gone by, and much less how many years do I have left to live.  Instead, what matters is what I will do with every single day that am living right now.  The retrospective view of my life tells me that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought I could do, especially in the areas of my life that I have influence and surround me daily.  I can be a better father, friend, and companion to those that are in my life.  I can allow life to take its course and find within my everyday the lessons I require to be a better man.  Most of all, I can accept the challenges in my life not as punishment, but instead as rewards.  After all, within each challenge in my life I have become whom I am today, and looking back at it all, I'm very happy with my life.

I have no special abilities or magic ball to predict the future.  I have, however, lived through an incredible journey of love while raising my two sons.  In my path I have found incredibly difficult challenges that I never thought I would be able to overcome, yet somehow God equipped me with the right tools to deal with it all.  I would be lying if I said that I have loved every minute of my life, let's be honest, who wants to walk over broken glass if given the choice of green grass instead?  Still though, that road has brought within it the greatest gift of all, the knowledge that I am truly loved by my children.  With all of my flaws and all of the mistakes I have made as a father, my sons love me.  What else can I ask for?


Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Angels Around Us...

Consider the expression "no good deed goes unpunished" and how often those words seem to materialize themselves in your life. About a year ago, when my gadget itch got the best of me, I did the crazy act of getting in a line that wound itself around more than one block by six in the morning, just to be able to buy an iPad2 a few weeks after its original release. Somehow I talked myself into spending a good chunk of money in order to get myself what I obviously thought was a well deserved toy, something that I rarely and seldom ever do. My youngest son thought it was very cool, but since he is more of a Microsoft child he was able to contain his drooling to a minimum. However, my oldest son is hands down an Apple geek and it was easy for me to see in his eyes the lust and desire for my shinny new toy. I remember well the words "I can't afford to get you one now, but when they do an upgrade I will hand you down this one in order for me to get a new one" coming out of my parental guilt filled lips. As a dad that always keeps his promise, two weeks ago I got into my hands one of the newly released iPad models and true to my word I handed over my still in mint condition older tablet to my oldest son. In my mind I was sure I was doing the right thing, and much more so because the gift suddenly had coincided with a noticeable unpredictable spat of depression in my son's life. For a while he had been in such a positive and graceful mood that I was starting to think that someone had abducted my teenager and replaced him with an alien pod child. Honestly, it felt as if it all came out of nowhere when my son digressed back into his "why am I taking these classes and life makes no sense" mood, which is a familiar but very unwelcoming place for him and anyone around him. The iPad gift seemed to have switched on a new desire and inspiration for him to write poetry, dig into new reading material, and instantly be able to watch so many new things that I was sure it would somehow be a positive influence to the sudden somber mood that had just recently invaded his mind.

OK, now let's see how good a reader you are and if you are able to keep up with the following: Two weeks have gone by, and in summary we have spent $175 repairing the first broken display, $249 exchanging the now out of warranty gizmo because it decided to stop connecting to any Wi-Fi source with a refurbished one, $49 purchasing an accidental damage insurance, another $49 in a deductible in order to replace the 2 days ago purchased refurbished model because of a second broken display, $89 purchasing a heavy duty protective case to be used to house the not yet $49 replacement by another co-payed iPad that will have to be bought in a few days because of the third broken display that happened only hours after getting back from the Apple store in a freak kitchen accident. In less than a week over $660 plus tax have gone into this good deed I thought I was doing by handing down my previous iPad to my son in fulfillment of a year old promise. As I said, no good deed goes unpunished. I am not going to tell you that I am upset because the truth is that I cannot explain why, but I really am not. Frustrated yes, angry or upset no. I am frustrated that life has to take such a toll on me just to teach me a lesson. I am frustrated because I know that these accidents are surely taking a toll on my son's emotional state too. What started as good intentions can now only be described as a series on crazy events that almost seem like demonic possessions. I have even taken out a little bottle I have with Holy water and gone around my house spraying and praying while two white candles shimmer their glow next to a beautiful gifted cross and an image of the Virgin Mary that sit on my dresser as reminders that I have absolutely no power over a great deal of what surrounds me and my life.

Just as I finished taking my desperate Catholic learned behavior to its climax, I laid in my bed and checked my messages using the still intact newer model iPad that started all this mess for messages and found a note left by what to me can only be described as an angel. A long time friend whom I have not seen in years wrote to me in Spanish "Pasaba por aquí...un abrazo con cariño para ti" which translates to "As I passed by...a hug with affection for you." What a beautiful sentiment to leave for someone that is far away and unknowingly going through a difficult moment. Yes, I can only express this wanting to be described as coincidental message as the words of an angel. You see, she did not know how rough a week I had been enduring. In fact, she does not even know that today she actually was an angel. However, that is what she was without a doubt. In nine simple words she changed my frown into a smile. That is a powerful act that tops every word of encouragement that I have mustered to give to my son this week in my efforts of being a better father by not piling any anger on top of the craziness that has been going on in our lives. The power is not so much from the words in themselves, but rather from the genuine act of caring behind their true sentiment.

So tonight I leave you all with my bedtime prayer so that God has no choice but to listen to me every time one of you reads it...

"Dear Father, thank you for taking the time to answer my prayers by sending your message through my unknowing angel. Heal me, save me, bless me, so that I am able to be a better man tomorrow than what I was today. Give me the chance to also be an angel to someone else in their moment of pain or sorrow. In fact dear Lord, I kneel to you with my heart and soul in hand and beg you to cuddle them with your own so that I am able to recharge my life and follow you without hesitation. Amen."


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6, 1981

I was almost 19 years of age, the same age my oldest son is today, when I was rushed away from the middle of my second year of college chemistry mid-term examination to head to the hospital where my father had just suffered a massive heart attack.  He was only 44 years of age, five years younger than I am today and had already embarked in a very difficult road full of health issues that started when he was only 21 years old and was diagnosed with diabetes, and eventually culminated with his death after already having suffered three previous heart attacks starting at age 33.  By the time I made it to the hospital and as I was walking towards my mother whom was talking to the doctor, all I was able to do was extend my arms and reach for her to break her fall as she fainted from the news that my dad had just passed away and there was nothing else the doctor could do for him.  Up to this day, everything that transpired from the moment I was told to head to the hospital until the moment that I stretched out my arms to hold on to my mother is a total blur.  I have absolutely no recollection on how I got to the hospital, how I knew what floor to go to, and who else was with me during all of that time.  Just a few years back I met with a dear cousin I had not seen since then and as we conversed she filled me in on all of the details of those missing moments of my life since she had been the beautiful soul that took care of me in my day of anguish.  Even as she was telling me everything that had transpired, the fog never lifted to reveal any memories of those events.  In fact, the next thing that I do remember was entering the basement of the funeral home where I was being asked to select the coffin that would be used to bury my dad.  It is as if my mind is only able to recollect moments that required me to think straight, making decisions that had to be done right, and everything else is buried under one single all encompassing emotion, deep sorrow.  I have been told that in order for me to remember the true events as they actually happened, I must probably experience the same emotional distress that was weaved within those moments of pain.  This of course is something that I am not interested or willing to do.  I think I am better off not remembering.

I do know one thing, and it is that after 31 years nothing has been able to replace the emptiness left in my heart from the death of my father.  Even if I tried, I am totally incapable of describing the pain, loneliness, and utter emptiness that I still feel in my heart because he is gone.  After all of these years, all I am able to do in order to make myself feel better is to replace my sadness with the memories I have of so many great and beautiful moments that I shared with him.  I can from this experience testify that only the intensity of the original emotions has decreased, but the emotions in themselves are all still there.  There is truly only one thing that I can say and I full heartily recommend anyone that has lost a loved one in their lives: trying to block, hide, or even understand this indescribable pain is futile.  If you want to get to the other side of your loss you must let go and give yourself the opportunity to feel all of those emotions without judgement.  Eventually and in time most of the pain will at least pretend to vanish and love will prevail among everything else.

I hope that I am able to touch, influence, and make as good an impression as my dad did with me on my own children's minds and hearts.  The man was imperfect in so many ways, yet somehow in the short 19 years that we shared he managed to lock into my being an impressive degree of values, love, and plain and simple goodness.  I have never found myself putting him on a balance and trying to figure out how much of him was on the plus and how much was on the negative side of his attributes.  Inside of me I simply have a sense that he was a good man and a great father regardless of his shortcomings.  Any childhood memories of moments that were not so great are eclipsed by the memories of his compassionate heart, loving demeanor, and dedication as a father.  Will I ever be able to measure up with my own children the way my father did with his or will my own shortcomings tip the scale in the eyes of my sons in the wrong direction?  I hope that my efforts to become a better father are not too little too late.  I would hate to think that what I leave in their hearts and minds might not be enough.  One thing is for sure, I won't give up.  This is my real job, I will always be my children's dad no matter how old they become.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Good night dad...I love you dad!"

Today being Valentine's Day, I find it fitting to write a post related to the that sweet nectar that is typically abound when we nurture beautiful relationships with life partners, family members, friends, animals, and even the occasional stranger that manages to touch our heart with a kind smile or thoughtful gesture.  To me, out of all the possible experienced emotions, love stands on its own with probably the most powerful influence in my life.  Books, poetry, songs, letters, movies, plays, speeches, paintings, sculptures and many more have all been utilized over and over again to create some kind of permanent repository for this singular emotion throughout history.  Even the scientific community has dug in deep in efforts to make headway and try to understand the underlying mechanisms that take place in the human body when we experience the various flavors of love.  If you have a few minutes to spare today, take a pause for the cause and go ahead, do a quick online search for "neurology of love" or "language of love" and get ready to discover everything from scientific research, to sexual education, to marital counseling.  The information out there is boundless and fascinating to say the least.

Even more fascinating though is how one single word, love, can conjure so many images in my mind and still prove to be so incredibly hard to describe.  I am not alone though, even most dictionaries are all over the place when they try to pin down a single definition for this incredibly complicated emotion.  However, I can somehow instantly perceive when I am genuinely being loved.  Is that not amazing?  To me, love is by far the most powerful tool that I can use to bring out greatness in someone else.  When I love someone, I reach beyond my own needs and wants to find ways to bring happiness to them.  Is this the same way others feel too?  Or am I speaking a unique language taught to me by my parents since the day I was born?  Obviously I did not always know how to love in this way, otherwise I would of never hurt so many people on my way to becoming a mature adult.

I share these thoughts with you because I think it is crucial that parents realize that as we raise our children, we are inadvertently teaching them a language that will probably be the most important form of expression in their adult lives.  If I am unable to teach them how to show their love or give their love in productive and healthy ways, eventually they might not be able to do the same for their children either.  Worse, my children and their children will find themselves gravitating towards other sources of what might seem as love, but in reality not be love at all.  This particular scenario typically plays itself out in codependent and hurtful relationships that block their progress and ability to grow as individuals in a healthy way.

It was already past ten at night and I was ready to unwind and turn myself in for bed.  My oldest son had two friends with him and they were sitting in the family room playing some video game with the volume turned all the way down.  As I approached the adjacent kitchen area to make sure there were no dishes left to clean or put away, all I could hear were their own silly comments about the characters that each one of them were playing in some frantic battle on his XBOX game console.  Fingers pressing buttons and gyrating thumbs created a spectacle on the large screen television that could easily give an ill child an epileptic seizure.  As I walked away I thought my "goodnight guys!" farewell statement had been lost in the middle of their obviously hyperactive game play behavior.  As I was just one step away from entering my own room at the other end of our home I heard the unmistakable and beautiful expression coming out of my now 19 year old son, "Good night dad...I love you dad!"  This my beloved readers was the most beautiful thing I had heard all day long.  He is without a shadow of a doubt, his father's son!


Monday, January 23, 2012

What is time?

If you feel up to it and are ready to tackle one of the most difficult to understand concepts tied to human consciousness, I recommend that you dig into the written literature and read all about the various definitions of "what is time?"  Go ahead and start with the basic summary contained within the Wikipedia explanation and if after reading it you are still motivated you are most welcome to take it up a notch and continue on with the various scientific, philosophical, and even religious explanations that have been documented throughout history.  A few years back I found myself investing a great deal of my neurons to this subject and am happy to report that I survived the journey in one piece.  The fact that fascinated me the most was that our entire lives are fundamentally based on the mental perception of experiencing our existence through the apparent physical dimensions of space and time, yet we are dumbfounded when faced with our inability to define such a basic concept.  Even though I was able to gain a great deal of insight to the different views that govern mankind's concept of time, in the end I actually found myself divided between my own scientifically prejudiced mind that wants to find a physical relationship between time and the universe around me, and the probability that such a relationship might all be a convenient construct of my mind in order to experience the reality of my existence.  In other words, either I exist inside of time, or I am time in itself.

Don't worry if you don't get it, the truth is that understanding what is time is probably not as important as realizing that what truly matters is that everything that you experience is happening in the present moment.  I live the moment and once it is experienced it instantly becomes part of the past which can only be re-experienced as a memory in the present moment all over again.  The same happens with the future.  Even though I have not experienced a future event in itself, my concern about a potential future event allows it to exist in the present too.  Ironically, the simple minded comment that I so often hear as the cliche "live in the moment" is apparently all that I can actually do.

Then why is it that I am so persistently obsessed about the future?  If I have no ability to exist in any time other than now, why do I compulsively guide my entire life based on ideas or fantasies about tomorrow?  I seem to live mostly within the illusions of how my tomorrow will turn out to be, rather than focus on how my existence is happening right now.  This all seems to me as being a bit counterproductive and wasteful.  Instead, would it not be much more productive if I simply took care of what is going on in my life in the present moment?  I think so.  Why obsess on moments that are not real yet?  Living in the past is almost as wasteful too since it was only real while it was happening, and in the present it is just a memory which I have no ability to modify.  The most I should get out of the past are lessons to guide me in my path to avoid having a painful present.

As a parent I find it most challenging to apply my own advice with respect to living life in the present.  I have found myself constantly extrapolating all of the possible outcomes and consequences to the challenging behaviors that I experience with my children.  "What if" has become more of my reality than "what is," making it a lot harder for me to enjoy the moment.  I can only imagine how frustrating my own conduct must be to those that surround me.  "What if he makes this or that mistake?  What if he doesn't get better?  What if he hurts himself or somebody else?"  Those are all examples of the constant barrage of future queries my mind selects to focus on top of my present reality pushing me away from the actual moment that I am experiencing.  I have learned to accept the past and rarely dwell on it during the present.  However, I am now forcing myself to learn to accept the fact that I am in very little control over the future and that obsessing on negative outcomes is a wasteful use of the present moment.  In fact, if I am to apply this process of trying to live as much as possible in the present, then the choice is actually simple when I inadvertantly find myself spending any time thinking about the future.  It then makes perfect sense to imagine a great future full of positive outcomes and beautiful moments, which in turn then makes my preset much more pleasant and enjoyable.  With this realization I come full circle to discover that I am mostly in control over my own happiness.  If at this juncture I add the benefits of my faith in God, I am now more empowered than ever with the present belief that He has all sorts of beautiful promises working their way into my life during every single moment of my existence.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Don't sleep with that window open over your head!"

We've all heard stories from our parents describing why it is that we should not expose ourselves to bad weather without the proper attire to avoid becoming ill.  "Don't walk barefoot around the cold floor of the house...cover your head from the rain...wear a sweater when going in and out of the house at nights...don't stand in front of that fan...take off those wet clothes..." are all among the many bits of wisdom we all tend to ignore in our youth and figure are hocus pocus elderly advice.  All it takes is a one time incident of getting sick after not following their advice to begin to integrate their voodoo wisdom into our own fundamental logic to hand down to our own children.  I for one am not really sure which one of the rules I broke this time that has led me to get bronchitis in one lung and pneumonia in the other, but I am sure that if I trace it back I probably did something I had been warned by my mother a million times not to do in the past.  Today, after a week of a constant fever between 101 and 103, a miserable cough, shortness of breath, and a good amount of pain in my chest, I find myself pondering how not breaking one of the dozens of rules that I was taught as a child could of saved me from all this misery.  See, even as an adult I still manage to not listen to what's good for me!

The story goes that my great grandparents after migrating from the Spanish Canary Islands had acquired a great deal of land in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.  In those days it was customary for brothers and sisters to own adjacent properties, and with large size families this meant hundreds of acres needed to be crossed before you could leave a family name behind in order to cross the boundaries of other islanders that were not related to you.  Most of the wealth was measured on how much land and animals you owned and very little value was given to cash at hand.  When the need for money became real, the sale of land was the typical outcome to solve the shortage.  Times were tough and owning land to cultivate or raise animals was a major source of income that typically separated social classes, plus it had the added benefit of being able to feed your own family too.  There was no electricity, plumbing was non-existent forcing the young and able to make multiple daily trips to water wells, and sanitation was all about outhouses at the time.  In those days, becoming ill was an ordeal of great magnitude to contend with since hospitals were not in abundance and it was all about having to make arrangements for a doctor to come to your home on horse to treat whomever was ill.  Medical supplies were scarce and treatments were extremely costly.  Dysentery, tuberculosis, and pneumonia were the three major culprits in life expectancy being so low for the families of those times.  My maternal great grandmother caught pneumonia and every effort was made to heal her and bring her back to health.  Land was sold to pay for medical attention and her medications and just a few weeks after fully recovering, one night she stepped up to close an open window so the rain would not come inside their home, and this single exposure to the inclement weather caused a relapse on her recovery provoking a double pneumonia that lead to her eventual death shortly after.

This is just one of the tales from my mother's side of the family that instantly changed the behavior of every single descendant from there on to never approach an open window during the night without making sure adequate clothing was worn for such a trivial task.  It stuck and it made an impact so deep in my family tree that I can guarantee that at least up to my branch, every descendant has been properly briefed on the correct protocol of window closing during the night when it's raining.  This all sounds simple enough, yet I know as well as you do that our family culture is a great influence in not just our belief system, but also some of the most trivial decisions we make day to day.  The way we greet our elders asking for their blessings, the pause we make before answering simple questions while our brains evaluate the most adequate response for the occassion, even the level of eye contact that we project when casually conversing with other people are all part of our heritage.  The truth is that I believe that very little is truly random and that the majority of our day to day interactions and behavior are a sweet mix of our culture, family values, and inherited personalities.  Tone of voice, volume, expressive demeanor are just a few of those traits that can probably be traced back through our family tree.  Yet is it not also true that each one of us are so very different from our brothers and sisters too?  Some quiet and shy, others loud, expressive and outspoken.  Beautiful, is it not, the apparently random texture that covers our children and also the common river of our genes that run deep inside them?

Most of all I like being aware of all of this that I write about above.  It warms my heart when I am able to remember the tales of my ancestors in order for me to pass them down to my own kids.  It humbles me when I get sick after doing something dumb like sleeping with the window open above my head during a cold night, even though I must of heard my parents warn me so many times to not do this when I was a child.  It amazes me when I hear a friend tell me how much alike my oldest son looks like me, even though when I peek at his pictures I am freaked out not to be able to see the resemblance myself.  All of these things force me into a quiet contemplation of trying to figure out "why" this is all so, but I eventually discover that the real answer behind it all is a beauitful thing called "life."


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love, not time, heals all wounds...

I would find it hard to count the number of times when I have shared a story with regards to something hurtful in my life in which the listener's ultimate advice is to allow time to transpire in order for the wound caused by the painful event to heal.  We've all heard it before, "time heals all wounds."  Truth be told, time does seem to make things better but is it because of healing, or is it because other life events start to pile over the previous ones masking our wounds?  Is it not true that if my final work of art is painted over two or three previous attempts it really doesn't erase the originals but merely covers them up?  I believe the same is so for those moments in my life that have in some way or another emotionally scarred me.  Other moments keep piling themselves over the originally painful ones to the point that eventually it takes some digging in order for me to remember what it was that actually caused me to be so hurt in the first place.  Yet there are also wounds that no matter how old they are require very little effort on my part for them to surface and take my mood into a dark or sad place.

I have learned with time that the one true emotion that is able to heal my sorrow is love.  Whether I am the one applying the gooey ointment of love on my own wounds, or somebody else makes the generous effort to alleviate my pain makes a great deal of difference.  Even though I can "talk" myself into feeling better about things that did not go right by digging deep into my emotional bucket and finding all the right reasons to love the culprit of my heart ache, nothing truly works as well as an outside source making an attempt to neutralize my pain with their own source of love.

Everybody makes mistakes and life is full of moments in which we are challenged with choices that aren't really clear enough to get it right the first time around.  If I energize myself and give an outrageous amount of attention to my kids when they make the wrong choices in their lives, I am basically teaching them that making the wrong choices is the best way to get my attention which could inadvertently translate to them as my love.  After all, the reason that I go ballistic when they mess up is because I love them and don't want to see them get hurt by making the same mistake over and over again.  A few years back someone very close to my heart and whom I consider to be an excellent parent told me that when she was having a heart to heart conversation with three of her four kids she asked them what it was that she could do to be a better parent.  Interestingly enough, all three of them unanimously agreed that she should be more strict, which ironically is the same characteristic that they typically would complain about her during challenging moments, the fact that she was too strict.  This to me was a sign that her children correlated how much she loved them with how much attention they would get when they were causing trouble.  Love does come in many flavors, including the parental reprimand that is truly intended to keep our children out of harms way.  However, would it not be smarter to focus our out pour of attention, praise, and love when our children are getting it right?  Would that not be a healthier correlation for them to make about love?

The next time you find yourself hurting because of an old wound, take a little time to uncover the true reason that you are still feeling the pain.  When you discover the real reason for your sorrow find a way to give that emotion a dose of true love so that it can start to heal appropriately.  The next time you are the cause of somebody's sadness, don't expect it to get better on its own with the tic toc of the clock, instead pause and consider taking a humble pill and asking the victim to forgive you from the softest spot in your heart.  Finally, take every opportunity that you find, even if it means creating the opportunities yourself, to teach your children that love is readily and available in abundance from you all the time.  Help them make the connection between their greatness in all the little things that they are capable of doing right, and don't wait to teach them positive lessons only when they mess up instead.  Healing starts when the flow of love washes away any and all of our wounds.


Thursday, December 8, 2011


As I walked into work early in the morning I noticed that the previous day's strong Santa Ana winds had managed to drag into the walkway and path towards my building several huge tumbleweeds.  When I am driving and see one of these dried out bushes rushing towards my car, I already know from previous experience that it is not worth trying to avoid hitting them since the mass of the vehicle is so out of proportion to that of the tumbleweed that they typically disintegrate on impact.  I'm sure it can't be good for the car's paint job, but neither would it be to run into another vehicle while trying to avoid something so benign.  On closer inspection and while walking past three of these no longer rolling menaces that have found themselves wedged in a corner and blocking half of the outdoor stairs that allow access to the final approach of my nine hour a day place of work, I am suddenly able to appreciate the simplicity on which nature has built such a bizarre plant.  Somehow evolution has managed to ensure that the growth of the plant takes form in a cylindrical shape enhancing the plants ability to roll away from its weak root connection and travel long distances while releasing its seeds during its voyage and later on at its final destination too.

As I continued my quick stepped approach to work because of the cold morning air seeping through my simple wind breaker, I could not help but wonder how the tumbleweeds made it into the highly fenced and secured space of our work compound.  A quick scan of the area revealed that just a couple of hundred feet away, the greener version siblings of the now trapped tumbleweeds grew content and healthy on a vacant area close to the perimeter fence.  Apparently other tumbleweeds had through time and in similar windy circumstances rushed all the way and crashed against the fence most likely releasing their seeds in the wind which traveled and landed on the opposite side of the fence where they eventually germinated and grew into the now visible healthy plants.  In less than 15 seconds as I finally entered the tightly controlled access of my workspace I had already come to the conclusion that whenever nature wants to get its way, there is very little that we can do to stop it.  Life on this beautiful blue marble is full of will and it takes an extraordinary effort on our part to control it.

I know it might sound totally unrelated at first, but believe it or not, the unsightly tumbleweeds quickly brought to mind how hard it is for me to control any of the influences that tumble into the lives of my children.  Many times I have questioned myself where in the world have some of the influences in my kid's lives come from. 
They have been surrounded by a constant stream of love, caring, and parental involvement that has purposely tried to shield them from negative outside influences, yet it almost defies logic how quickly and easily the seeds of trouble manage to sneak in between our parental chain link fence and plant themselves inside their minds causing all sorts of eventual havoc.  The question that I find myself asking is whether or not I could of done something differently to prevent the tumbleweeds from hitting the fence in the first place?  Once the seeds are in, what could I have then done to prevent them from growing?

The advantage of having two kids instead of one is how quickly it allows me to understand that much of what I have done to protect my boys was effective at least fifty percent of the time.  Which leads me to believe that the individuality and personality of each child plays a major role on what parental influences are effective.  In other words, what works for one does not necessarily mean it will work for the other.  I suppose this is the reason so many of the recommendations that have been given to me by friends rarely work with my oldest son even though they were totally effective with their own children.  This can be so frustrating for me as a parent and I can only imagine how incredibly difficult it must be to my son too.  I just try to visualize someone trying to influence my life and me not being able to relate and understand what they are trying to tell me.  I don't have a choice but to put myself in his shoes many times in order to try to find the missing connection, but the success rate of doing this effectively is very low.  How do I as a parent flip off my logical switch in order to let go of my own prejudice and protective instincts?

In my quest to find ways to be a better father I discovered that out of the too many to mention methods and approaches that I have researched and tried, a single one stands alone as being truly effective and useful when dealing with my oldest son.  It is unfortunate that it took me so long to discover this approach, as now my son is already 19 year of age and so much has transpired in his life that the level of influence on my end is quickly becoming negligible.  Howard Glasser is the designer of The Nurtured Heart Approach and author of Transforming the Difficult Child.  There is no way I could do justice to even try to explain in any kind of detail the techniques that Glasser has proven to be effective to transform a difficult child.  I will, however, tell you that I have listened to his almost three hour seminar which I bought on CD over 20 times in the last 12 months and found it to be a masterful and incredibly enlightening.  He has by far earned my respect, admiration, and most of all attention for his amazing contribution to not just finding answers on how to deal with my son, but also bringing hope to a cause that in most cases feels as impossible to improve.  My advice is that any parent, educator, or therapist that wants to truly be effective in transforming a difficult child take the time to learn Howard Glasser's techniques and take them to heart on a daily basis.  Even though I discovered this approach after falling so far down the rabbit hole to actually be able so see the light in my parental influence with my oldest son, I for one have seen noticeable improvement, something that was completely absent until now.  I truly wish I would of found this resource earlier, as I believe that it would of taken a lot less tweaking from my part to be able to make it work in our lives.

I need to find better ways to ensure that what grows inside the minds and hearts of my children is not the result of the improper influence of tumbleweed seeds of adversity.  I also need to foster and not stifle the creativity, intensity, and passion which my kids bring with them to our lives.  I need to learn how to nurture the heart of my kids regardless of their age with the goal of allowing them to be succeed in life.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You are beautiful...

I sat at my office desk today during my lunch break writing a short note to a dear friend that is currently going through a bit of a rough time.  In the midst of reading her previous message I could easily sense much of her emotional state mostly because we have both been served some exquisite wine out of the same bottle which we have reluctantly sipped during our lives.  Just as love has no boundaries and is able to transcend space and time, sadness also has a way of reaching far and beyond the constraints of our complicated lives into some of the people that bring us meaning.

If you have had an opportunity to read through this blog I am sure you can easily notice that nothing has impacted me more emotionally in the last two years than my relationship with my children.  The common thread that weaves through most of my posts is essentially made of my desire to be able to understand and contribute to the well being of my kids regardless of any of our household circumstances.  I have learned to search for what might seem as the most insignificant details in our interactions in order to make sense of our challenges and find whatever common ground we can in order to overcome our difficulties together.  When faced with some of the behavior of my children I have had to learn to take it all in strides and patiently find a way to stack the odds in our favor so that we can not just survive, but also prevail.

As I sat here writing to my friend I did what I always do when I sense that maybe I was sharing too much...I found hope in some of the images that surround my cubicle office space.  Pictures of my children in all stages of their lives surround me together with many others of family and friends.  Almost without exception each of the moments in time that are captured say something amazing about the individuals that are contained within the minuscule dots of millions of colors of ink and sometimes even billions of silver halides that create their photographs.  The delight of both my children posing inside of a giant Easter Egg without a care in the world of how hard their lives would eventually become as they grew older forces me to dig deep into my brain and find the exact moment in time that we all went to have that picture taken.  A four year old Superman, an effortless gigantic laugh from my son while posing next to a live orangutan at the zoo, and my proud younger brother wearing a tuxedo minutes away from celebrating one of the greatest accomplishments of his life when becoming a doctor, all reveal themselves to me with the same intense grip on my heart as the one caused by the black and white image of my father when he was a child.  I can honestly say that all of these people that at one moment or another have touched my life and now reside on my walls have a heck of a lot in common.  For one, they are all beautiful to me regardless of how much they might of changed during the years that have gone by.  They are beautiful to me because at that very moment that they either stood next to me posing for these images or in front of me waiting for the light to bounce off their essence and record itself in a camera, at that exact moment they allowed their memory to be a part of my life.

I've said it before and I will say it again, I am a very lucky man indeed.  Without all of these people that have touched me in one way or another, there would be no way I would be able to appreciate the extent of my blessings.  Love has surrounded me from the instant my parents knew I was on my way into their lives.  Even in my darkest moments, when my knees have hit the ground to beg my Maker to spare me from some of the incredibly painful events of my life, still I have felt that I am loved.  It is this message that I wish I could teach to my children most of all.  They need to know that love has and will always surround them so that they can live their lives without ever doubting how important and amazing it is to love and to be loved.  They need to know that they are beautiful because of what is inside of them.  After all, it is what makes them different that impresses me the most and not the other way around.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A place to rest my body, mind, and heart.

Writing to you is a double edge sword which with one side cuts through time and space to bring the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of my life while with the other it opens deep wounds that might of already been closed or healed by time.  It has been over seven months since I have written anything in these pages.  On several occasions I have logged in and written entire posts with the full intent of eventually publishing them, but without exception, every time I've read them a day or two afterwards, I cannot find it in me to make them public.  I guess what I am trying to say is that some things are too hard to share when they are still squeezing my heart so tight.  For this I apologize and the most I can offer is, maybe later?

So much can happen so quickly that in retrospect it becomes almost impossible to make total sense of it all.  I always thought that the longer I would wait, the clearer things would become and the easier it would be for me to put it all into words.  Interestingly enough, this is not always true.  Time moves on and piles on top of the past additional moments that simply complicate the view even more.  However, one view stays clear, being a dad.  It's not like I have much of a choice, right?  It's one of those things that you "are" or your "not" and clearly I "am."  I've seen this many times in the past, including my mom taking care of us kids while my dad was in Vietnam, and while he was mostly at work, or mostly in school, and finally dead at age 44.  It's not like she ever said "Today I'm not going to be a mom, instead I'll be somebody else!"  Nope, once she defined herself as being our mom, she simply aways "was."  In fact, even now that we are all adults, my mom still takes her maternal role in full strength setting and example for all of us of how endless that duty truly is regardless of your children's ages.

This morning on my drive to work I called mom as I usually do to do some catching up and sharing.  I vented a bit about a few things, she quickly allowed me to let it all out and in less than 20 minutes I felt much better knowing that regardless of my eventual decisions, the outcome of my actions, and the consequences of my turbulent life, I still have my mother's unconditional love.  As simple a statement as this last sentence might be, it is to me the root and foundation to keeping your sanity as a parent.  Notice that what I cherished the most is not that my mother would come to the rescue and solve my problems, not at all.  What I value the most is the fact that when I needed to vent she listened, allowed me to vent, gave me her time, and most of all gave me her love.  On her end, if she is able to pick up the phone, listen, encourage, and love, without taking on my burden, then her job can be done without the consequence of unnecessary entanglement.

There are obvious reasons as to why as adults we need to learn not to totally rely on our parents as our physical, mental, and emotional resting place of choice.  For one, at some point in our lives we should find ways to alleviate any emotional stress we might be imposing on our elders that could be affecting the quality of their lives.  Another reason could be if you see signs of unhealthy codependent behavior or abuse.  Change is not always easy, and many times not necessary since in many cases the bond between parent and child is so strong and even if we wanted or tried we would probably not be able to change a thing.  It is typical however that many times children get married or find a life partner or friend that fulfills this role to a certain extent, especially if the parent child relationship was lacking in the first place.

We all need a place to rest our bodies, minds, and hearts in our lives.  Children are no exception, which is why it is so important that as parents we make ourselves available to them and not make it too hard for them to find us when they need us.  When your child is physically tired it is easy to notice and simple to provide them with a  resting place.  What about when their minds and hearts are weary and tired too?  What is it that you and I can do to provide our children with what they need when their minds are exhausted from all the crazy stuff that goes on in their lives?  If I remember one thing clearly enough it was how confused I was always feeling about "love" and "relationships" when I was growing up.  What can I do as a father to provide a parking spot for my child's heart to rest in between the battle of emotions and the surge of hormones that rage within his body?  There is comfort in listening.  Sometimes we just say too much.  Shut up and listen to them give in to their true thoughts and emotions, it really does not take that long if you poke around the few cues that they give when they are emotionally and mentally tired.  Most of the time they can only express themselves by sharing a song, or watching a movie that they've recently watched alone and truly enjoyed.  If you are going to interject, make it something that is not judgmental, and instead provide a real short emotional snippet of your own life.  The only reason to make it long is if it is REALLY funny, which then becomes engraved in their mind as a positive feedback.  Finally, never leave a feel good moment scene without planting a seed of love with the right gesture and word.  A hug, a kiss, and a "You know I love you, right?" goes a really long way to making the moment repeat itself again in the future.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fixing my door...

In the midst of my daily routine, I have suddenly found myself reconsidering the true value of the commodity of patience.  Patience is not something that I can go shopping and acquire a booster, reload, or cart full at any local establishment.  In fact, to me, just learning how to access this behavior from within the ocean of other types of responses stored in my habitual personality is a daunting task that I confess to be extremely challenging.  Yet so many of you that are close to me keep telling me that I am one of the most patient individuals you know and cannot believe how much I am able to put up with before I literally blow a fuse and resort to other measures and behavior.  I was not always this way, in fact I remember being much more inpatient than patient throughout the pages that I am able to recollect of my life.  Something deep inside me has changed; the core storage of my instant replies and the impulsive actions that follow their release have been altered and somehow tamed.  Personally, when hurtful and frustrating moments knock on my door and push their way in regardless of my efforts to keep them outside of my life I still feel an incredible urge to grab them by their hypothetical necks, tighten my grip, and defuse their powerful effects.  However, something else inside me pulls my hands down and brings me to an almost complete halt instead.  Is this good or is this not so good in the end?  I won't lie, the jury is still out on my own assessment to the real value of these changes in my own behavior.

It could be that I have become more of a victim; a survivor if you will.  I read about it all the time with the life stories of those which have been handed incredible difficult or painful moments which in the end numb their responsive behavior to the point of allowing the negative effects to simply perpetuate themselves through time.  Another alternative could be that I have lowered my parental expectations so low that at the current level it makes very little sense to take aggressive action in order to achieve any true change.  Or could is just be that I have in some sense lost the sense of hope that is required for other kinds of responses to want to come out and play? 

The choices are many and even though I have just given you a taste of how some of them can be very unappealing, there are other possible reasons that could also describe why it is that so much has changed and given me a larger supply of that enviable patience response.  One explanation that immediately comes to mind is rooted on the basic principles of human learning behavior.  Learning, in its fundamental mechanics requires me to substitute old information with newer and more updated information in order for it to be effective.  How many times to I have to embark in an ineffective particular type of behavioral response before I decide to stop applying it?  Sooner or later, the lack of success in one type of action typically will lead me to either try something different, or in some cases nothing at all.  For example, I the last two and a half years in which my oldest son has lived with me 100 percent of the time, he has broken into my room to many times to count searching for something when I was not there to grant him physical access.  I've learned that threats, angered responses from my end, consequences, and punishments don't make any difference in the end.  Once the next moment in which his impulsive personality finds itself needing something that might be stored in my room and I am again not there to grant physical access, everything that I did in response to the previous incident of invasion of my privacy simply goes out the window without any rhyme or reason, and much less fear or remorse.  This kind of behavior I understand is tied to his differently wired mind.  I have learned that since I do not have the power, ability, or resources to make any changes to his twisted mental wiring, me going down a path of anger simply affects my own physical and mental health and very rarely if at all affects him.  In fact there is actually very little motivation on my part to even fix the physical damage he has caused over time to the side door of my room since I already know that it will happen again.  He has broken the door while I am on travel for some of the dumbest reasons.  For example, when asked why he's broken my door to get in his response has been: "...because I needed soap...because I needed shaving cream...because I needed batteries...because I needed a charger for something...because I needed shaving blades...because I needed some medication...because I needed money...etc."  I've tried pretty much every trick in my book to convince him to please wait or ask his mother while I am not there for whatever it is that he suddenly needs from my room, but in the end it simply happens again.  As I have said before, he never lies about his behavior and actions when confronted or asked.  So the superficial reasons are always easy to learn.  It is the root of his behavior and actions that are so hard to understand.

When I got home yesterday my privacy had been invaded again with his intrusion into my room, this time needing money.  Interestingly, I rarely ever say no to him when he asks me for cash, as long as the amount and his request is done so in a reasonable manner.  "Dad, can I have some money for food...for clothes...for something I need?"  And my typical response is "sure."  I actually don't feel abused when he asks, since he typically does so in a good way and truly not that often.  I did feel extremely hurt when I discovered that he had taken a cup full of about twenty dollars of change from my closet shelf without asking while I was not home.  My blood raged, my pulse increased, and instinctively I got into my car and drove to his mother's place where they were having Thanksgiving dinner to confront him, probably not a good sign of parental self control.  As I walked in I found the three of them at the dinner table and even though every bone in my body told me to walk away and not say anything, I somehow could not resist the urge to open my mouth and say a few words.  "It really upsets me that you would steal from me...I rarely ever deny you of anything you ask me, especially really hurts that you would do such a thing," I said with a calm, low volume, and none aggressive tone.  "How much did you take?" I asked, to which he replied "Twenty dollars in quarters."  Then I simply apologized for having brought it up during their dinner, told him that this made me very sad, and just walked away.

I am sure you understand that this is not about the money.  Most people can probably read the above and recognize that this is all about trust, respect, and maintain a certain degree of dignity with your own flesh and blood.  Later on that same afternoon I walked into the house to get my jacket that I had accidentally left behind on my previous entry and as I walked into my home he simply walked towards me, gave me a hug, and walked away.  Honestly I am not even sure if that was an apology or just our common greeting, but either way it did do some good somewhere inside me because afterwards some of my resentment went away.

I have spent much of the past 30 months of my life praying for both my son's and my own healing.  In fact, the word "much" truly does not do justice to the amount of time I have lifted my words and heart to God during these difficult times in my life, which brings me to my final assessment as to why it is that maybe I have found so much patience in my daily responses and actions lately.  It could be that the reality of my behavior is more likely tied to the psychobabble I mentioned earlier in this post.  However, not being an expert in psychological behavior gives me the luxury to instead give God credit for my deep well of love.  So again I pray...

"Dear God, please fill my heart with what it is that I need to keep going.  I so often feel empty and with so little hope with regards to my son's behavior.  I do trust that You have a plan, and that this plan is well on its way to being obvious.  In fact, thank you for what it is You are doing to heal us both even though I cannot see it yet.  Amen."


Monday, November 1, 2010


Once again, as so many other times in the past 25 years, I was unfortunately not home for Halloween.  Many of you might think and even say "what's the big's not like Halloween is a holiday."  The statement holds true to just about anyone that does not have a child.  However, for most of us that have kids we understand that the gory night of ghosts and ghouls is much more than just a freaky day for children to go out and dress up in their favorite costume and ask for candy.  Halloween is the day that once a year we get to experience the curious world of fear, fun, and silliness all mixed up in one, regardless of age, gender, and our social status.  If you are curious about how creative and original a bunch of nerdy engineers can truly be, invite a bunch of them to a costume Halloween party and be ready to laugh your head off all night long.  The same is probably true for so many other careers that so many of us have in which seriousness takes the lead on a daily behavioral basis.  As a parent, I can't remember a day of the year that made me smile more intensely than when I would hold my boys by the hand walking down the street in our neighborhood as they would tighten their grip when we would walk by a scary house.  Interestingly though, regardless of the fear of the moment I can't remember a time in which the choice was ever made to not go in and get some candy.

Today my children are already 15 and 18 years old respectively, yet I would of given anything to be able to still be with them yesterday night instead of out here at sea doing my tedious job.  A few weeks earlier my youngest son made his typical request, "dad, are you going to be able to help me make my costume this year?"  We've kind of gotten into the habit of "making" things instead of buying them.  To be totally honest, the last thing on my mind on the week just before having to get on a airplane and land on an aircraft carrier and then catch a helicopter ride to another ship was having to spend a good ten to twelve hours making a Halloween costume.  The though crossed my mind more than once of how great it would be if he would simply ask me to take him to the costume store to buy an outfit this year.  However, once I started making the costume with my youngest son it all came back to me, the reason I do what I do even though my older man's body is constantly telling me to stop doing it, is quite simple.  It is during those moments when we look at what we are doing together and both find ourselves respecting each other more than ever.  This is something that is hard to put into words.  He probably sees in me the reliable old man that gives into his quirky request to make the most awkward looking costume imaginable, and I see in him the loving boy that even though today he has already grown a full beard, inside he is still a child.  He respects my sense of not backing off from a promise, I respect his sense of giving me enough credit to think I can pull it off once again.  Last year the costume was Pyramid Head from Silent Hill.  This year it was The Butcher, again from Silent Hill.  The names of these characters do not do justice on how complicated making their costumes can be, but go online and do a picture search and maybe you'll understand what I am talking about.  Finding the right kind of  material to build the props is a project on itself.  Building them is definitely an adventure.

I started searching for materials at least two weeks ago which was definitely not enough time, but in the end we still got most of what we needed.  Cutting, gluing, painting, filling, sanding, taping, screwing, and detailing took a good twelve hours which from the processes just mentioned you can probably understand why they cannot all be done consecutively even if you wanted to.  On two occasions we took off in my car looking for a hard hat, an apron, spray paint, and a few other materials that eventually all came together to help complete the project.  I opened up the garage and we got to work cutting cardboard, gluing things, sawing the hard hat in half, painting, and on and on I can go into excruciating details since now I am an expert at building the most esoteric helmet I have ever seen.  It fits on half of the individuals face exposing only one eye and is made to look as if it was made out of rusted iron.  Every once in a while he would tell me that he needed to go finish some homework and I would stay on the task knowing that if I waited for him to be 100 percent available I would not be able to finish it before having to leave on my work trip.  Diligently he would come back almost every half hour to see if I needed help holding things while I glued parts together and also taking pictures with his phone to later post on his own blog some of the steps of our creation.  More importantly, while we worked together we talked, shared, and bonded immensely.  I'm glad we did this together, most of all because I was not going to be able to be home on the spooky night to come.

I know it goes without saying, but I wanted to share with you this short moment in my life as an example of the things I sometimes do to be able to connect with my kids.  They might look like men, but deep inside they are still children seeking for answers in their lives that sometimes come in the form of simple acts of sharing.  Doing things with your kids is a powerful tool to stay in touch with them.  It takes effort on my part even if I make it sound easy.  I have to drag my tired butt out of bed and get up earlier than I really want to during the weekends in order to find the time to do these things.  Lately I have found myself going on hikes when I am not feeling so well, or am more tired than I care to admit to my oldest son.  However, I also confess that I have no regrets because in the end I feel rewarded by that short moment that we connect and are able to see eye to eye.  If you find yourself disconnected with your teenage kids, maybe it's time you take a closer look at how you pick your moments to connect.  It is not always when it feels right, and much less when I feel ready, but for sure I've learned to take it when I can get it...that is how spooky love can be!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

A simple moment of prayer...

"God, I understand that my job is not to worry, but to dream about all the blessings you have in store for me in my life.  It is obvious that my limited eyes are not able to always see the answers, yet in my heart I truly believe that you are doing everything that needs to be done for everything to be not just ok, but truly great.  Nobody understands this path I have walked with my children better than you, so today I pray to give you thanks and praise for taking care of us.  Every single day I eagerly wait for each one of your blessings knowing that they are constantly on their way into my life.  Thank you Lord!"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


It took my brain less than a faction of a second to realize that the words leaving my lips would haunt me for the rest of my life.  In anger, sometimes I have said things that I have come to deeply regret.  Being a nerd at heart, I envision a time in the future where moments like this can be avoided by implanting in my brain a "don't be a dumb ass" filter that is automatically activated when my anger rises above a certain level...that would be so cool!  Unfortunately, in the meantime I must create a semi-effective filter myself utilizing the tough lessons I have learned in my life by the consequences of my words.  You would think that at my not so tender age, and taking into account the so many times that I have screwed up, that by now my self created filter would be amazingly effective, yet I am here to testify that I am very much still work in progress.

One thing led to another and as his anger increased, so did mine.  A simple question about whether he had done his homework or not, somehow eventually led to screaming on both sides, and unfortunately in the end turned into a physical confrontation.  He had just started high school at the time, and because of my separation I took advantage of not being able to purchase a home yet to rent a place in a more desirable school district.  A better school or environment does not necessarily mean that your children are in the "right" place, but that was still a lesson I was starting to learn at the time.  It only took a few weeks before the novelty of the new school wore off, and the reality of not feeling that he was in the right place kicked in.  I can see now, in retrospect, how ignorant I was to think that he could adapt to this drastic change when in reality "adapting to change" had always been his greatest challenge.  Top it all off with his parents, me and my now ex-wife, going through the motion of a divorce, and you can probably see the impending train crash clearer than I could at the time.

My parenting instincts took over during the challenging moment, and my reaction to his defiant behavior was to take away something that he cared about in order to gain some leverage.  I walked over and demanded he hand over his iPod as a punishment, to which I was immediatelly confronted with physical opposition.  It was at that moment that I escalated the situation by trying to take it by force.  Soon I found myself in a physical struggle, and even though I overpowered him and was able to win the battle, the war was far but over.  The rage in his eyes was obvious and for the first time as a parent I felt fear.  The verbal abuse from his side grew exponentially hurtful and obviously out of control.  He ran to the kitchen of the two bedroom apartment, open a drawer, and reached for a knife.  My adrenaline raised to never before expected levels while arguing with my son and I lunged at him and took him down by overpowering him, removing the weapon from his hands and then pinning him on the floor while keeping an obviously painful grip on his hair.  He threatened some more while being overpowered by me...I threatened to defend myself and also call the police if he would not stop instantly...and when I finally let go thinking it was all over, he raised himself from the floor reached for a dining room chair, tilted it over and brought his entire body weight on top of its fragile legs tearing it into many pieces.  In retrospect, considering the level of anger and danger of the moment, we were blessed that nothing more than a chair and some headphones were destroyed in the process.

I take pride of thinking that both my son and I are intelligent individuals, yet it took more than just a few of these terrible incidents for me to realize that we both needed professional help to be able to avoid these kinds of encounters.  At the moment, as much as I had already learned that my son had issues that made him very different from other kids, I still wanted to believe that if I was a tough dad, an enforcer, and did not give into his out of control behavior, that sooner or later I could fix what was broken.  What I did not realize at the time was that much of my own behavior factored in significantly as a trigger to his anger and outbursts.  If I sat down and described every one of the times in which we went down this scary path, I think I would need to take a sedative first, since just the memories of these painful moments trigger in me levels of anxiety that I do not wish to experience again.  I can only imagine how they must feel for my son too.  Sooner or later we are going to have to deal with these memories and try to find a way to turn the lessons to our advantage without the second hand effect of their emotional triggers.  I actually look forward to doing this since I believe it will bring us both a great deal of peace.

Violence comes in more flavors than one.  Somehow I am cursed with the ability to trigger a cornucopia of violent behavior in my son.  Interestingly, he does the same to me, making me reach deep inside my basic survival instincts and say and do things that I would never consider saying or doing under normal circumstances.  This obviously is a sign that it is not just my son that has anger issues, but I myself am most definitely work in progress keeping my demons at bay.  To know me as a friend might be extremely deceptive, since unless the right buttons are pushed, I am simply not an aggressive individual.  For example, cutting me off on the freeway would never trigger an angry response on my part.  In fact, I am not one to yell at a stranger, maybe because I don't see the point of it.  However, if I find myself being hurt at an emotional and personal level, many times I have found myself lashing out in return even though in a much less physical manner than my teenage son.  Words, though, can be just as hurtful as knives, even if I do not yell them out.  It is almost as if I could compare showing a knife in an angry gesture to saying something mean and hurtful.  Even though I might not lunge at my opponent with a sharp weapon, the fact that I reveal it is threatening enough.  Certain things that I might say in anger happen to have the same effect, turning the moment into one much worse than it has to be in the first place.

Even though in those days we set out to deal with my son's confrontational issues based on a weak diagnosis of my son having a condition called Intermittent Explosive Disorder, the outcome eventually benefited us both immensely.  Forcing ourselves to accept the fact that we needed to learn to control the level to which we could allow ourselves to be angry by avoiding certain triggers, made us realize that we both could do so much more on each other's ends to bring us to a better place.  Even though it took us a while to get significantly better at this task, the results are outstandingly impressive and effective.  Unfortunately we both are probably going to need to re-visit some of the words that were said during our difficult times in order to heal some of the wounds caused by our verbal attacks.  I say unfortunately because I truly wish it was just as simple as saying that it is all water under the bridge, but I know better to assume that his love for me as a son could ever be as powerful as my love to him as a father.  I care for him so much, that I am easily self-convinced that at his age those mistakes can all be washed away with love.  However, my mistakes are an entirely different beast.  At some point he really will need to know that I am truly sorry for some of the things that were said on my part in anger.  I should of been the bigger man, the adult, the good example.  This is why it is crucial for me to eventually find the proper moment in his life to bring with me a bucket of humility to try to wash away some of damage I might of caused.  It is not about giving in, or being weak, and much less about relinquishing parental authority.  In fact, not once should I do any of the above if I ever want to retain his respect.  However, there is a great lesson to be learned by my son from him hearing me say that some of the words that I once said were only words in anger and not the reality of my heart.  The lesson would be that a good father makes sure his kids know that he can be a better man.  After all, if I am trying to set a good example, what better example than picking the right words to say I am sorry.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Above all, your real job is to never give up!

It takes being a parent to totally grasp what parenting is all about.  In fact, I have learned that one has to be at this selfless job for more than just a few years to totally come to grips with how incredibly ignorant we were about parenting in the first place.  To those who play golf I would give them the analogy of how simple the game seemed before they ever played a game.  Come on, how hard could it be to hit a little ball down a beautiful green field and put it into a hole?  In fact, the first time anyone plays golf they are typically amazed at how quickly they can learn to hit the ball straight with just a few tips from a friend.  But then they go and invest in a set of golf clubs, some dorky looking shoes, maybe even take a few lessons, and when they return to play the game truly thinking that they will be so much better at it, they find themselves losing more balls than they did when they knew absolutely nothing about golf in the first place.  Funny how that goes, the more you practice, the harder the game becomes even if you get better at it.  Well, that is a bit like what parenting is in real life.  The longer we are parents, the harder the job becomes and then we realize how simpler it was in the beginning.  This is why we find so many grandparents telling their children how important it is for them to enjoy their kids while they are little.  Grandparents also tend to give the advice to younger parents to not be so hard on our kids when they are young, knowing well that in time there will be plenty of things for the parents to take immensely seriously when they grow older.  My mother's youngest brother and parent of two boys, one of my uncles, has told me many times that "as your kids get older, the problems always get larger, prepare yourself..." as a warning of things to come.  Even though I tend to agree with my dear uncle, I also believe that you should not live life waiting for the dark moments.  Since dark moments have a way of showing up uninvited regardless, I am one to try to keep a more positive perspective and not be the one that triggers their invitation in the first place.  I rather deal with those moments as they show up, than live my life waiting in fear for them to reveal themselves.

All this been said though, I barely have any time to spend second guessing myself with regards to the decisions I have made parenting my children.  I believe that this is the same for other parents too.  From the moment we bring home our little bundles of joy, until the day they flee the nest to begin their independent lives, we as parents invest an enormous amount of time, energy, and not to mention money taking in our new roles as caretakers, enforcers, guides, and counselors.  Very few times during those irreversible years do we ever have an opportunity to once again breath the air of peace and solitude that we once so easily took for granted and later were so eager to give up in exchange of having children.  In fact, at every stage of their lives we seem to live as if constantly throwing pennies into a wishing well hoping that what is next to come will be somewhat better than the days we just went through.  Maybe when he is potty trained things will be so much easier than constantly cleaning his poopy butt.  Maybe when he starts to talk I'll be able to tell what it is that he cries so much about.  Maybe when he is finally in school, all the pre-school nonsense and headaches will go away.  Maybe when he finally has some real friends it will be easier to get him involved in some sports or special activities.  I bet that as soon as he starts liking girls he'll begin brushing his teeth and wearing deodorant without me having to tell him to do so every morning.  Our fantasies go on and on with respect to how we visualize improvement in the future without realizing that at every stage a new and more difficult challenge creeps up its head to make the past look trivial in retrospect.  Oh how I wish that my biggest problem would be the burden of having to buy diapers by the truck load!  It is no wonder that so many mothers become depressed soon after giving birth to a child.  Not only do their environmental, physiological, and emotional worlds change without warning, but to top it off they are no longer just responsible for their singular life, but also the entire life of the new born creature.  It must feel as if at every corner someone is judging their ability to be a good mother, while at the same time almost no one is willing to do anything to lessen the weight of it all.

You will almost never find a parent referring to caring for their children as it being a burden.  Rarely will you hear those words reveal themselves from the lips of a mother or father that loves their kids.  Yet deep inside we all know that there are very few words to describe the enormous amount of responsibility and hard work that it takes to be a good parent.  The job is without a doubt the hardest task anyone will ever have to complete without a good set of instructions or procedures manual.  I might sound cold and harsh by talking about raising children in these terms.  However, all it takes is to be a parent for a few years to realize that there are very few other ways to describe the weight that is brought upon caring for a child, let alone more than one at a time.  Top it off with the fact that in most circumstances being a good parent also means being the bad guy, and soon you come to realize how great your own parents were in the first place.

I write this post today to give you a rare opportunity to reconsider some of the judgements that you might of made towards your own parents in the past.  Most of the time we are so self involved in our personal lives that we rarely take a moment to go back in time and understand the reason, the circumstances, and much less the reality under which our own parents behaved and acted under certain circumstances towards us as parents.  It seems so much easier to criticize their actions and decisions that it is to truly understand their reasons and motives.  I for one feel blessed for having such dedicated parents that cared enough to give it their all in order to be good parents.  What they did right or what they did wrong truly matters very little in comparison with what they accomplished in the end.  If you are reading this post chances are that you learned enough to recognize that in order for you to be a good parent, you must listen to others, learn from others, and most of all understand that nobody is perfect as a parent.  In fact, in my humble opinion, if you feel that you are a perfect parent, then you are well on your way to being a terrible parent in the end.  Nothing screams louder "bad parenting" than an individual that thinks that they know it all, and that the only right answer is "their answer".  I believe that the most important rule in good parenting is recognizing that we all make mistakes and that sometimes we need to make amends with what we've done wrong in the past in order to get it right in the present.

I can without a shadow of a doubt tell you that if you care enough to take the time to learn from your mistakes that sooner or later you will be well on your way to becoming a good parent.  The trick is to never let it all go to your head.  Don't ever make the mistake to think that you already know everything you need to know to be a good parent.  As long as you keep the door open to allow yourself to continue to learn, chances are that you are on the right track.  Even when you think that you have nothing else to give or nothing else to learn that might change your immediate circumstances, you cannot give in to failure.  The truth is that behind every failure there is a lesson that guides your steps towards eventual success.  If you keep learning, sooner or later you will succeed.  Above all, your real job is to never give up!