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Helping others.

June 24, 2014 3 comments

 

“I don’t know him that well.”

“I don’t have extra money right now.”

“I’m sure that others will help.”

Those three things are all true.  I have never met Oren Miller.  I’m aware of him via his blog, and the fact that he started an online group for us dad bloggers to connect to share ideas about both fatherhood and blogging.   I’m sure we’ve participated in some of the same discussions that have arisen over the years, but I can’t recall more than one time in which I wrote a message directly to Oren.

The part about the money is true as well.  While we are not even close to poverty, we tend to live paycheck to paycheck, and this month we got smacked with the need for repairs to both of our cars.  Still, when the next payday after I heard the news arrived, I consulted with my wife and we gave.

My assumption that others would help was true in this case but often not true in others.  When news that Oren was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer hit our group, the response was overwhelming.  I’m sure Oren got hundreds of cards in less than a week, and when Brent of DesignerDaddy started a GiveForward fundraiser to help raise money for Oren’s family, people stepped up.   While it was true in this case that others have helped, making that assumption in general is often what causes folks not to get help.  Called “Bystander Apathy,”  when everyone makes the assumption that someone else will help, the less likely it is that someone will actually step up and do so.

Bystander apathy is probably one of the reasons why gaining up the courage to ask for help can feel so difficult to do.  We all want to feel self sufficient, and it’s hard enough to gain the trust in others needed to disclose that you have a need without feeling shame.  Then when you add into the equation that with asking likely will come rejection, it’s no wonder that most folks will shy away from asking.

So how do we overcome this?  I’m no expert, but I think the insurance commercial which shows that helping others can be contagious is on to something.  Obviously we can’t do everything for everyone, but if more of us took opportunities to help out where and when we can, we would all be better off.  This will also show our kids the benefits and importance of helping and giving, and hopefully work toward reducing the stigma involved with making the decision to ask in future generations.

Note: While what I wrote above about others stepping forward to help Oren and his family is true, this is a long and hard fight and they have only just begun.  If you would like to read more and consider giving to Oren, please do so here. Sharing this and other posts about Oren is also a free and easy way to help. Thanks.

Richard Durrett

June 18, 2014 2 comments

I woke up to terrible news this morning.  While my son was eating breakfast, I went to Facebook and saw the words “Richard Durrett” and “died suddenly.”  It was a post in our Dad Blogger group by Carter Gaddis of DadScribe, who like Richard, was in the baseball media, but gave up what many guys would consider a dream job so that he could be around his family more often.  After reading Carter’s post, I just couldn’t believe it.  Shock quickly led to sadness, and that’s where I’m still at now.

I first became aware of Richard via Ben and Skin, two Dallas natives who host an extremely successful sports talk show.  At the time, their show followed Mike and Mike in the Morning on the ESPN Dallas affiliate, and Richard was often a guest whose appearance was preceded by this simple but unmistakeable intro song.  Richard’s appearances seemed somewhat out of place on the show.  The Ben and Skin show works so well because the two guys are engaging personalities and friends, and their brand of sports talk comes with lots of laughs in the process.  Richard, on the other hand, was plain vanilla in his delivery.  He just flat out knew his stuff.  He knew anything going on in baseball from both the on-field and front office perspectives and was able to break it down so that the average fan could understand.  With that as my intro to Richard, I periodically checked in to what he was writing on ESPN.com, and would read things just because he wrote them.

All of the above being said, I’m not going to front like I’m the world’s biggest Richard Durrett fan.  If he had gotten a better job in another city I would have been happy for him, but would have quickly gotten over his absence in the Dallas sports scene (which isn’t even really my scene, just where I happen to live now) without much further thought.  This is as much about Richard being a dedicated 38 year old father, just like me, whose time ended way too soon.  Calvin Watkins, a fellow ESPN Dallas guy, wrote that Richard was dedicated to his family first and foremost, with unique ways of balancing family time with the demands of his job.  Without knowing Richard at all, that’s not the least bit surprising.

While on the way to work today, I heard Colin Cowherd, another guy whose show Richard appeared on often, give a heartfelt tribute to Richard, ending with the words “a kick to the gut” to describe how he felt.  Obviously for Richard’s family and close friends, this loss is much more devastating than that.  However, for the rest of us, especially dads with young kids, it’s exactly how it felt.  A class act of a guy and a father was taken far too soon in a way that hit a little too close to home for me today.

Rest in peace, Richard.

 

Loving the Library

June 5, 2014 2 comments

Note: This post is written in conjunction with the #DadsRead campaign.  Learn more about it here.

About two years ago, the Montessori we send my son to called us early on a Monday morning.  Over the weekend there was a plumbing failure, and for the whole weekend water had been collecting on the floor.  It was a nightmare for the owner, who had to close the school for a week and a half and to get everything dried out and cleaned up, and for licensing to be satisfied there was not a mold issue.

It was also a burden for us parents, who all of a sudden didn’t have a place to take our kids.  My wife and I both work full time, so we had to split taking time off from work to be home with our son while the school was closed.  For a few days, I became a stay at home dad, and quickly had to figure out what to do all day.  Through some online searches, I learned about all of the benefits of my city’s public library system.   We love books, and my son’s bedtime routine includes us reading three books to him each night, so we are not strangers to reading.  What I was a stranger to was all of the awesome programming the libraries do during the day for kids.  I’m sure this is old news to stay at home parents who might be mentally writing me a late pass right now, but I had never sought this out before.  I found that each branch runs several story time activities each day, with different sessions targeted for different age groups.  At that point my son was not even two, and for that age group the sessions consisted of reading some short stories and mixing in some singing and movement to nursery rhymes.  Then at the end they bring out a bubble machine, just because toddlers love bubbles.

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Bubbles stuck in my son’s hair during the end-of-storytime bubble machine madness.

During that time, we went to almost every branch in the city to participate in what each of them offered.  Each branch’s story time was a little different, but all within the same theme, and all with the beloved bubbles at the end.  For older kids, the libraries had even more to offer, including puppet shows and programming related to animals and science. And it was all free.

Being full time working parents, we try to make the absolute most of our weekends and do lots of different things.  We don’t use the library programming in the same way as we did during those days off, as most of their programming is during the week.  We take my son occasionally to check out some new books, and we still keep our eyes open to what they offer from time to time. When we saw that one of the branches was having a party based upon Mo Willems’ Pigeon Character, we were there.

Fast forward to two nights ago, and the evidence that the library experience has stuck with my son.  I mentioned that I needed to return the book Spork, which I had borrowed to read to my son and also to review it for my post on culturally themed books.  When I mentioned that I had to return it sometime this week, my son’s face lit up and he asked if he could come with me when I went.   I have some extra time off from work this week, so I picked him up early from school yesterday and we went.

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Yesterday at the library, kicking back and reading some books.

 

Unfortunately with budget cuts, some cities’ libraries are being threatened with reduced hours and services, and even closure.  I was proud of my friend and then-Boston City Councillor Felix G. Arroyo when he stood up to threatened library closures in my former city.  It’s up to all of us to show our cities and towns that our libraries have our support, and if you haven’t checked out all that yours has to offer, go for it!  If you’re a dad, check it out during the #DadsRead campaign and let me know what you find.

I Think I’ve Created A Monster…

June 3, 2014 Leave a comment

“Do you want to watch the Longhorns play baseball?”

The question took him by surprise, and made him pause to process the revelation that, in addition to football and basketball, his beloved Longhorns also play his favorite sport (at the moment), baseball. Once it all computed in his little three and a half year old brain, the excitement displayed itself on his little face and his answer was an emphatic “Yes!” It was a typical weekend late afternoon in our house a few weeks ago, maybe 5:30-6pm-ish. My son had yet again refused to nap, and so we were just entering Crankytime, the overtired zone he gets into on days when he doesn’t nap, and everything becomes a whine, a cry, and/or a tantrum. My goal was to try to buy a half hour so that we could respond to the “I’m hungry” whines by getting dinner ready. And the random Texas vs. TCU baseball game I found on TV did exactly that.

Longtime readers of the blog know I love sports and actively share them with my son. We love it all…the Boston teams of pro sports, college football and basketball (and apparently now baseball too), soccer, tennis, golf, the Olympics, and all else.  We play it all too, both indoors and out.  Every Friday during basketball season when I’d pick him up from school, his first question would be if we could go see the Panthers (the local high school team) play that night, something we did five times this past season. Upon waking up in the morning, a typical question of his is if the Red Sox won the night before.  He used to get excited about wearing his Dusty Crophopper t-shirt, but now it sits in the closet while he requests to wear his Tom Brady jersey or one of his Red Sox shirts.  I love that my son loves sports, but am wondering if I created a monster.

Part of it is my own stuff.  I don’t have many hobbies or interests outside of sports to pass on to him. Back in Boston I was an avid fan of the hip hop scene there, and that was my balance to sports. I still love the music, but I moved far away and can no longer be out at a show that ends at 2am and still be able to get to work and be functional at 9am. The part of my life in which I was a regularly active participant has ended.

I don’t have the same interests that some other guys do. I lost interest in video games somewhere during the transition from the Sega Genesis to the first Sony Playstation, whose controller had too many buttons for me to try to master. Even as a kid, I was never into DC or Marvel comics. I played with Legos as a kid, but don’t understand why they’re now in video games and movies. I only know of the existence of shows such as Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc, because they trend on twitter while I’m on there trying to get reactions to the game I’m watching, while also wondering why so many guys I know are live-tweeting about those rather than watching the game that I am.  And, at the risk of getting my dad blogger card removed by some of the other guys, I could care less about Star Wars, Star Trek, or anything else intergalactic.

So perhaps it’s only logical that as my son grows out of the “big things that GO!” phase, he gravitates toward sports as a follow to my lead. He does love music, and we have and will continue to cultivate that. I am sure he will get exposed to some of the other stuff by friends, some of whom are already Spider Man fanatics at age three.  If he decides he doesn’t like sports anymore, or only to a lesser degree, he will have my support. But yeah, as of right now, I’ve created a monster and I’m okay with that. He’s not a big scary destructive monster, but rather a fun loving sports fanatic monster.  Kind of like the Green one in Boston, who also wants to wear his Red Sox stuff every day.

 

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