Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Some Cats Catch More Mice

I wanted to start with, “It doesn’t really matter who you are.” Actually, that’s not true. It does matter who you are. It does matter who you are when your child is sick in the middle of the night.

You’re a father who doesn’t have a partner. You create a safe and comfortable space where your children can study, play, and thrive. You manage the finances so your children have roof over their heads, so there is milk and jam in the refrigerator, bread and peanut butter in the cupboard, and a frozen pizza in the freezer, so your children go to the popular place to have a birthday party, so your children have the cool logo on their shoes or on their hoodie or on their on their tee-shirt. You fold laundry, load the dishwasher and vacuum. You work so you have a responsibility to answer either directly to your customers or to your supervisor. These are people you also need to care for because they sign your check. You work try to care for yourself and stay healthy because you’re the gosling making the golden, (or at least bronze, copper, brass, or maybe even tin) egg and because no one else can do it for you. You do the grocery shopping, try to eat right, and exercise when you can. Like your own efficiency consultant, you excavate a little time for yourself to blow-off steam with your buddies or even, perhaps, spend quality time a lady friend. You’re a skilled time manager because you have to be, so you prioritize. Your children always come first and that means something comes second, something comes third, and something comes last.

Tom and Jerry.
A friend tells you, “I don’t know how you do what you do.”

“A fish swims. A bird flies. A cat meows,” you answer. “I do what I do because I am what I am.”

“Yeah,” your friend tepidly agrees. “But, some cats catch more mice than others.”

Your child is sick in the middle of the night. You’ll wake up and take a moment to get your bearings. If the situation calls for it, you’ll clean the mess.  If the situation calls for it again, you’ll clean the mess again. You’ll provide comfort and encouragement and empathy and a hope your child will feel better soon. If circumstances require it, you’ll drive to the emergency room. You won’t sleep again that night or, if you do, you won’t sleep well or sleep much. You wonder which of your priorities will drop from your list the next day. You call the sitter. Before you go to work, you stop at the convenience store for ginger ale, Gatorade, and saltines and bring them home for your now peacefully sleeping child. You go to work.

You wish you could say and you wish you could believe, “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” but you would. Given the circumstances, you don’t have that choice. It does matter who you are.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Not Just For Valentine's Day: Dating Your Beautiful Lady

It's all about her, even if she likes white wine.
Being a fairly inquisitive guy, I sometimes ask people somewhat personal questions. On more than one occasion, for example, after I’ve met someone who I think has a really awesome job that I didn’t even think could be a job, I’ve asked, “So, what could I expect to earn if I did this really awesome job, too?” I must have an honest face, because I can’t remember a time when my interviewee said to me, “Shove it up your *.”

My curiosity hasn’t been limited to potential earnings for doing really cool jobs. Considering I’m a single father who writes for other single fathers about single father issues, I tend to talk to people, men and women alike, about a lot of stuff . . . like dating. I’ve heard some pretty funny and interesting stories, much of which I won’t repeat here. However, I’ve also learned that a lot of you, my single father brothers, just aren’t doing it right. So, considering it’s almost Valentine’s Day weekend, I thought I’d impart a few really important things that you need to do when you take a lady out on a date.

(Ladies, you can thank me later.)

The Notebook based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks.
1) Have a plan. I know it’s a generalization, but a lady enjoys the dating experience. For you, my brother, spending time with your beautiful lady should be enough. Hopefully, you know your lady at least a little, so have a specific plan in mind to do something mostly (or all) about her. If she likes Tai and Nicholas Sparks movies, then plan make reservations and check Fandango.com. (If you have to Google “Nicholas Sparks movies,” please do so now.) If she likes a picnic lunch and hiking the Adirondack Trail, plan that. Unless she’s a NFL junkie or a Yankees (Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, etc.) fan, then save watching the big game for your buddies and your man cave.

2) Guys, ask your lady for a date. Don’t expect your lady to ask you and even if you’re in a long-term relationship, don’t assume that you’ll go out on Friday/Valentine’s Day/Whatever Day. It’s not part of the romance thing. Your lady wants to feel special and, when you ask, you’ll help make that happen.

3) Dress for success. This includes grooming. To a lady, it’s a matter of respect that you’ve taken the time to look good for her. I know you want her to look good for you, right? I can’t believe I have to say this, but get a haircut. Shave or, if you’re like me, trim your beard. Make sure you’re clean and that you’re wearing clean, nice clothes. Here’s one: throw on a sport coat. If you don’t have a sport coat, go to Joseph A. Bank right now and get one. Spend at least $500.

Be a gentleman, gentlemen.
4) “Don’t use your mobile phone” and other gentlemanly behaviors: Be a gentleman. When you pick her up for the date, assuming you don’t cohabitate, walk to her door and ring the bell. Open her car door. If you go to a restaurant, look at her and listen to her while having a conversation. Don’t talk about yourself. Of course, you pay for dinner, movie tickets, and whatever else. From research I’ve done, a woman’s #1 dating peeve is her partner’s mobile phone use. So, if you have money on the game, then check your phone briefly with one hand . . . when you’re using the restroom. (Wash both before returning to the table.)

What happens next?
5) Intimacy Protocol – Send Flowers: Look, I’m not going to tell you all my secrets and some things you just have to figure out yourself, but you may end your wonderful evening with your beautiful lady in an intimate way. Because you’d had a plan, been respectful by asking your lady for a date, showered and shaved, listened, and been a gentlemen, you probably went a long way to creating a romantic environment. If you do happen to have connected intimately with your partner, make sure she knows that the time she spent with you meant something and that you’re still a gentleman. I’m not kidding about this, send her flowers the next day. Regardless of anything else, the flowers will say a lot of things like, “You’re special,” “Our night together was beautiful,” among others. I’d also suggest that you call your beautiful lady the next day, but you won’t have to. She’ll call you to say, “Thanks for the flowers.” Then, the two of you can figure out what happens next.

Of course, you can put your own personal perspective on these guidelines, Romeo. Hopefully, you’re already on board with some of this. Still, I can all but assure you that, if you just do this stuff, you’ll be, at the very least, a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my brothers.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Have Fun, Be Polite, & Make Good Decisions

Beautiful Daughters. Favorite Son.
It's a blessing that a man's journey has many milestones. I am blessed.

My First Beautiful Daughter returned from her first, very successful semester at the University of Missouri in December to spend the holidays and her winter break with her family, me included. I think she enjoyed the solace of home as she reconnected with her best friend sister, younger brother, friends, and family. For me, it was very nice to have her home.

The departure for her return flight to Lambert
Home for the Holidays.
International Airport in St. Louis was a reasonable time on a Saturday morning in mid-January. Still to get her to the Newark in time to check-in and get to her gate, we needed to leave our lower Hudson Valley home well before we saw the Sun. As I drove southward down the Garden State Parkway, I wondered to myself whether there was any nugget of wisdom that I wanted to impart before she returned to school.

Then, I remembered the times when I'd take my First Beautiful Daughter or one of her siblings to friends' houses for sleep-overs or play-dates, which, after the kids evolved into teenagers, became hang-outs, there was something I always said. It was sort of a mantra, which, I believed, would help to insure a happy and successful affair.

I pulled up to the Departures drop-off at the first of three colossal terminals at Newark Liberty Airport and pulled the First Beautiful Daughter's luggage from the trunk. As I walked around to the sidewalk and wheeled up her colorful suitcase, my daughter said, "Thanks, Dad."
Some things never change.

I responded, "Have fun. Be Polite. Make good decisions." She'd heard me say that a thousand times. Then, I said, "I love you."

As she walked away, I thought to myself, "This is the first time I dropped her off for a flight outside the terminal."