Leaving a legacy (with a little help) . . .

Let’s start with this. I am not what you would call a journal kind of guy. I like to keep my internal thoughts . . . well, internal.

So, when Ned over at Rebel And Create (go check the site and the podcast, it’s a fantastic resource for dads wanting to be better dads) sent me this journal he’s created, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep it up.

This is not your ordinary journal.

Ned gives you all the tools you need in this one beautifully bound book to decide who you want to be as a dad, celebrate your victories, reflect on and learn from your mistakes, give yourself grace when (not if) you screw up, and really focus on how to be a better version of you.

The journal covers 3 months. Each month starts out with a calendar so you can plot out your month with what you have to do and what you want to do. Already, this makes it more practical than any other journal I’ve tried. Then the daily entries are a series of guided prompts to help you focus your mind and your heart on what really matters: your family and how you can best love and serve them.

I worry about leaving a legacy for my kids. I don’t always feel like I have that much to offer. I’m a former retail manager turned stay at home dad. Whoopie. But I’m starting to understand that it’s not what I do for a living that matters. It’s how I live. My 2 year old doesn’t care what my paycheck looks like. She just wants to know that Dada will hold her (and get her cheese on demand). She just needs to know that Daddy is there and will love her no mater what.

One of my favorite things that surprised me is a small not printed on the first few pages: “If found after my death, please give to my children.” This is not just a tool to better your own life. This is a legacy you give to your kids, so they can see just how much you tried to invest of yourself in their childhood.

Ned, thanks a ton for this, thanks for having a passion to help fellow dads out on this adventure of fatherhood, and thanks for this piece of the map to get to the end of it better than we started.

Becoming The Father You Want To Be By Using Mindfulness

Guest Post by Damon Dietz

Have you ever experienced that moment where the small stresses of life build-up, and it feels like you are going to explode? If you are a dad, I already know the answer. Maybe it happened when your son was having a temper tantrum in the dairy aisle at the supermarket. Or, when your daughter was screaming hysterically and yelling at you for serving her macaroni and cheese. “You know I hate mac & cheese” she screams, even though last week it was her favorite. 

It’s times like these where mindfulness can help save us from ourselves. What is mindfulness?

mind·ful·ness

noun

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Why is this important? Because most people are always looking in the past or in the future. Very rarely do we look into the present moment.  Mindfulness is about experiencing and appreciating the present moment. 

If we as dads can become better at being mindful in the present moment, we can become better dads. Let’s talk about how we can do this. 

Listen More

The last thing we want to do when we are in the middle of a temper tantrum crisis, or when we are being yelled at that we are the worst dad in the world, is to listen. We immediately become defensive, and attempt to solve the problem at hand, which is primarily, “how can I make this stop?”

Instead, I impress upon you the importance of listening. When we really listen and focus on what is actually being communicated, and not the obnoxious method in which the communication is taking place, we become better dads.  We need to give our kids our full attention. Put down the cell phone. Stop multitasking. And listen. By removing the distractions, our kids might actually start talking and stop yelling and screaming. 

Meditate

I am a huge advocate of meditation. I am not talking about hours a day of eyes closed, deep breathing, chanting, and yogi type of meditation (though that’s fine if you have the time and that’s your thing). I am talking about being present in the moment. It is as simple as closing your eyes, and taking five deep breaths. And in that moment you think about nothing, except taking those breaths. 

Once you can make a habit out of taking five deep breaths daily, increase it to six. Then seven.  And so on. Soon you will find yourself meditating for a few minutes at a time. Your mind might wander. That’s ok. Bring your attention back to the breath. The idea is to stay in the present moment. Do this for as long as feels comfortable, but many experts agree that 20 minutes of daily meditation is ideal. Harvard researches have determined that that’s all the time it takes to see measurable changes in the brain that would help you become more focused, creative, productive, and less anxious.

If you don’t know where to start or prefer a guided meditation, check out headspace, one of the best apps for guided meditations.

Have Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This was the toughest aspect of implementing mindfulness for me. I am not naturally empathetic. I am a problem solver. Most of my friends love that aspect of my personality. My kids? Not so much. 

Children yearn to be understood. It is the same reason why listening is so integral to developing a positive relationship with your kids. But it can be difficult to show empathy when you’re frustrated, but acknowledging your child’s feelings is an important way to connect. 

Final Thoughts

You will notice that when you start practicing mindfulness, your children begin to learn from your example. They will become more mindful, more grateful, and their behavior will improve as well. Mindfulness will help your relationship with your children and make you a happier and more positive parent. 

Bio

Damon Dietz is a writer, filmmaker, and professional speaker, who shares his knowledge of finance, health, and life from the perspective of a single, divorced dad over 40. He is a father to three amazing kids and thinks dads are kick-ass, even when the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots. You can read more of his musings at: www.damondietz.com

Image by skalekar1992 from Pixabay

Me Time -A Precious Commodity

During this time in which the universe seems to have told us all to go to our rooms and think about what we’ve done, I have been spending most of my time helping my in-laws around the house, trying to keep up with my 20-month old toddler, and taking care of my now 9-weeks pregnant wife. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for Daddy-time (hence the sporadic posting here). At this point, I take over the living room after everyone else has gone to bed. So, here I sit, on the couch, with my beer.

Hear that? That’s a sigh of temporary relief you hear.

As a result, I have to be pretty selective about what I watch/listen to/play. Gotta make Daddy-time count. I thought that I’d offer up to you all what I’m using for personal entertainment because so many people have asked me . . . no . . . wait, no one has asked. Oh, well. I’m forging ahead anyway. Here you go.

Podcast: Espionage from Parcast.

I’ve been a fan of spy stories for as long as I can remember. From Bond to Bourne, I’m a sucker for it. Espionage goes deep into the true stories of real spies, and offers up some of the most interesting history lessons I’ve heard in quite a while. I highly recommend the recent two parter on George Washington’s spies.

I listen to this on my morning walks with Little Bit. She sits in her stroller and eats her Cheerios while I listen to podcasts. It gets us out of the house in the mornings, gives her some quiet, gives my wife some extra sleep, and gives me, well, some time out of the house. Everybody wins!

Book: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

I got this on my Kindle on a whim. I know of the Expanse TV series based on this book, but have not watched it yet. The book reads like a detective novel set in an epic space opera (so far, anyway. I’m only a few chapters in). I’ll usually read a little bit before I finally drift off to sleep, so a paragraph or two at a time. So far, it’s an interesting read.

TV: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Yeah, I’m a nerd. Sue me. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. Ahsoka Tano is one of the more interesting characters in the Star Wars universe. Thus far, this is an excellent way to close out this series. Two more episodes to go as I write this, and it looks like we’re coming to an emotional conclusion. Again, unapologetically a nerd.

How about you? What podcasts should I be listening to? What books should I give a chance? Let me know.

Stay safe and stay sane out there, y’all.

Led By Little Bit

This picture is a snapshot of the rest of my life. My little girl will be leading me around from this day forward.

Let me clarify; I don’t have any intention of letting my daughter dictate what she gets, when she gets it, whenever she wants. I’m not going to be a parental yes-man. What I mean is this: everything I do, from this day forward, will be for the betterment and welfare of my daughter and my wife, in that order. (Before the comments start, I regularly tell my wife she is my second favorite person in the world. She agrees, and knows that’s how it should be. I’m her 4th or 5th favorite, I think….)

I also tell my wife that, as far as I’m concerned, I’m 3rd in our family equation. For her part, my wife is usually pretty good at seeing when I need some quiet and sends me on an errand or two so I can have some non-baby time. I try, though, to make sure that my girls are well taken care of before I do my own thing (which usually means playing Red Dead Redemption 2 at 2am when everyone else is asleep). This is tough for me, because I was an only child, as well as the fact that Little Bit came along later in my life (I’m almost 50, and she’s not quite 2), I was pretty set in my ways. I like to have a quiet cup of coffee in the morning, maybe read a little bit before bed. Those days are no more. My daily coffee is in a travel mug, even though I’m not going anywhere, because it’s the only way to have at least warm coffee in the mornings. Reading before bed, which used to be Tom Clancy or Jim Butcher, is now Dr. Seuss or Sandra Boynton (Ok, I kind of like the Boynton. They’re delightfully silly.) I do all this because, since the birth of my daughter, it’s simply not about me anymore. My life is led by what’s best ofr my daughter and my wife, and thus it shall be until the day that I die. And nothing makes me happier when my baby girl comes to me with a book in hand, climbs into my lap, and has me read “Green Eggs And Ham” 4 times in a row (although I kind of want to smack Sam-I-Am upside the head).

Take my hand, Little Bit. Take me on your next great adventure. I’ll be there o help and protect you as much as this old man is able.

Sleepless In Sentimentality

My daughter is sleeping (FINALLY) next to me. The dog is curled up against my leg. I’m waiting for my wife to get home from work in a couple of hours. The house is blissfully quiet. I should be sleeping as well, but I can’t. My stupid brain won’t stop. (I’m sure my wakefulness has nothing at all to do with the Coke Zero I’m sipping on.)’

I’ve just spent the last hour or so trying to get Little Bit to sleep. It was a hard-fought battle. I tried everything. I tried reasoning with her. She’s got half my DNA, surely reason and logic should be innately effective. Surprising no one, my repeated refrain of “Sweetie, it’s late, you’re obviously tired, you should go to sleep now,” was met with the effective counter argument of continuing to scream in my ear.

Next course of action: singing. Those who know me know that my singing does less to soothe the savage beast than it does to send said beast scurrying away from the horrible sound. However, most of the time, Little Bit seems to like it. Fortunately, she doesn’t have much to compare it to other than Raffi and Elmo. Tonight, however, the mellifluous notes of my serenade did nothing to lull my little one to sleep. She did what most others do when I sing. She cried.

I thought of what my wife usually does to get the girl to sleep, She’ll usually nurse her until she’s full and falls asleep in a milk coma. There were two problems with that tonight. One, She already had a full belly from the bottle I had given her a short while ago, and two, I lack the milk-rich mammaries required for such an act.

All I could do was all I could do. I simply held my little girl as she cried and resisted sleep, assuring her that Daddy is here, and Daddy loves her very much, no matter how difficult or stubborn she was being (traits she gets from Mom, I’m sure. Not at all from Daddy). I gently rocked her and whispered my love over her until she finally calmed down enough to let me lay back onto the bed, her head resting on my chest, eyes finally starting to flutter closed. This is my favorite moment of any given day. When she is at peace in her Daddy’s arms, breathing deep and clear, this is when all is right with my world. (I’m sure there’s some spiritual parallel to be extracted here. I’ll trust you to find it. I’m too tired.)

After all the crying, the resistance, the refusal to sleep, the frustration of it all, I find myself surprisingly not stressed or frazzled, but content. And sleepy. But mostly content.

Still, I can’t wait for my wife to get home so the magic boobies can soothe Little Bit when she inevitably wakes up again. She’s so much better at that than I could ever hope to be. Surprising no one.

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The Starting Line

OK, a little background. I’ve been a Midwestern kid all my life. Smaller towns, open spaces, the whole nine yards. My wife (talk about opposites attract) grew up in California. Los Angeles, to be exact. How we came to meet and marry in Kentucky is a story for another time.

After almost 5 years of marriage and one kid (just over a year old), my beloved and I start talking about how she misses her family, some of their health problems, and how she’d like to be able to help them. Fast forward a few months and a few dozen such conversations, and guess where we are today? That’s right, L.A.

Culture shock would be an understatement. This has been, as they say, a difficult transition. As I write this, we’ve been here about three weeks, and I’ve been moved into the role of stay-at-home-dad. This is not a complaint. I love my little girl more than anyone on this planet. We’ve moved in with my in-laws, and I’m learning how to navigate this bustling metropolis of insanity.

I have mixed feelings about being here. The pop-culture-nerd in me is excited. Disney, Universal, Warner Bros. (Helloooooo Nurse!) and the rest. The chance to see places where my favorite movies were made, take nerdy pics with my daughter to embarrass her with when she’s older, go to podcast recordings, live shows and the like; it all makes my little geek heart pound.

Then there’s the Dad in me. I know we’re only here temporarily, but how safe will my little girl be? How can I keep her as safe as possible? It’s good that she’s here to spend time with her cousin (who is ten days older than her), and it’s good that we have some family in town to help take care of her when we need a Mommy and Daddy break.

The bottom line comes down to the question I’ve been asking myself since the day I knew we were having a child: What do I want her normal to be? What default mode can I instill in her to go back to when things get rough as she grows up? For me, this all funnels into a more personal question: How do I want her to see her Daddy living.

The answer to that question leads to a change in perspective for me about being in L.A. Instead of just seeing this as taking care of my wife and her family, I’m choosing to take this time as a new beginning. Since I’m in Hollywood, let’s call it a personal reboot. I want my daughter to see her Dad take control of his life, make better choices, be a better man, better husband, better dad, so that when she gets older, she has that as an example for how to live her life the best way she can.

Me being me, I need a plan, a framework, to make this happen, so I’m focusing in four main arenas, physical, mental, spiritual, and creative. In my mind, the breakdown looks like this:

  • Physical – eat better, get in shape, be able to keep up with my daughter and my wife, and live as long as I can for them both.
  • Mental – I’ve taken a long hiatus from learning new things, so now is the time to learn some new skills, teach this old dog some new tricks.
  • Spiritual – This is a little tougher. I’ve gone through some church politics issues and some betrayal/cover-up from church leadership in the past, and it’s led to some level of mistrust of what I call the church of man. I want my daughter to trust in God, not fallible men. I need to live that in my own life as well, and no longer confuse one for the other. Possibly more on that down the line.
  • Creative – I’ve always been a creative soul; music, theater, prose, and so on. I haven’t been able to indulge that side of me in the last little while, and I miss it terribly. Moreover, I want my little girl to have a creative outlet for herself. So, for her sake and my sanity, I’m looking for an avenue back into that side of me.

As I’ve been contemplating all of this, I’ve decided to document my journey through it all. Why? Maybe there’s another 40-something guy out there who feels stuck, scared, and stagnant, and needs a kick in the tail-feathers to do something about it, and I’m supposed to be the boot. Maybe in documenting this, it’ll motivate me to keep going. Maybe there’s another reason for it that I haven’t found yet. Regardless, here it is. The starting line. I have no idea where this’ll take me, but you’re welcome to come along for the ride of nerdiness and self improvement. Buckle up.