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My So Called Over-Complicated Life
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I ran a mile and half today and it felt great. I haven’t run in over a year. In reality, with the exception of a few weeks of poorly training for a Muddy Buddy bike/run event that I did with my best friend a little over a year ago, it’s actually been many years since I’ve hit the pavement. And the funny thing is, that as enjoyable as the run was, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do it again. Or maybe that’s more of a sad thing. And it’s essentially because I have no time. One of my good friends told me on several occasions that I needlessly complicate my life. He’s right.

I have a few traits that contribute to this phenomenon of self-complicating one’s life. First, I feel like my weekends are longer if I do something on Friday nights, so I generally like to plan something for those evenings. Second, my free time (like most people) primarily exists during the weekends, so my wife and I manage to schedule all the tedious tasks during that timeframe. Thirdly, I know my free time is limited, so I feel like I need to cram in visits from close friends and family in-between my many tasks. Factor in that I’m a father of two who works an average of 50-hours each week, that we just bought a house which needs lots of attention, and that I then try to relieve my wife by tending to our children when I can… and, well, you can see where this is going.

And I simply continue to pile it on. I try to plan date-nights, man-dates, visits to friends and family who have new arrivals. We have several weddings coming up, a baby shower, I want to visit my and my parent’s home towns up north, and my wife and I want to go to her mom’s house in Texas for Christmas. We had wanted to go to Greece in the next year or so, and can’t wait to get back to Paris so we can continue to explore Europe … but realistically, I’m not sure when we’ll ever finally work in those kinds of vacations. I mean, how much of what we have to do (not counting the dream vacations) will actually even happen … probably less than half. We’d be lucky if we get a third accomplished in the next two years, if they could all be spanned out that far. And I’m guessing it’ll be closer to five years before we start considering those dream vacations.

One of my closest cousins lives only an hour and a half away and I’ve not been able to visit him since before his wife was pregnant. They celebrated their daughter’s one year birthday a few months ago. And yet, none of that seems to stop me from wanting to do things like volunteer to help my old condo’s Budget Committee. I invested so much time in the Budget Committee the year before, and we made excellent progress. But it was the first of a series of steps that would need to occur over the course of a few years. And so I feel like I have an obligation to see it through. And yet, realistically, there is no time for it.

It’s almost like this is some form of masochism, except my vehicle for pain is stress; And I really don’t get off on being stressed, but I can’t seem to turn away from it and continue to want to do more; But now this stress is starting to wear me down; Not only me, but my family too. And I’ve got to stop, but I don’t know how … so I write instead … which, of course, is something else I enjoy doing, but have not time for.

But why do these things? I guess that’s the big question. Well, because they make me feel good. Because I feel needed. Because I feel like I’m contributing to some greater good. And maybe even just because I want to, and sometimes it’s just nice to do something I want to do instead of the many things I feel I have to do. This brings a song to mind. The chorus goes “You can’t always get what you want.” That’s right, “You can’t always get what you want…” which is how I feel. But is that really fair? I mean, sometimes some of the things you want end up being something that you need. I know I can’t give any justice to explaining it. But sometimes one just needs to do something to feel whole or feel like they contribute to more than just themselves or their family. I recall a little more to that song, “But if you try some time, you just might find… You get what you need.” And so I’m trying. Trying to run, trying to write, but probably not trying to participate in the Budget Committee. As much as I feel like I need to help them, I gave them a good enough start last year to keep the ball rolling. And in the end I do need to have some checks and balances. Hmmm… could this be a breakthrough. I may actually make it my cousins in the next year. Who knows, maybe I will even make it to Greece in the next year or so. Nah, who am I kidding.

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What is right, and who is wrong?
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As a young boy, I grew up as part of a large Greek family, my father being one of six siblings.  Like most people, I imprinted from my surroundings.  I noticed that all the members of my extended family married around the age of eighteen.  Each appeared genuinely happy and, to me, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do:  make it to high school, meet a young lady, fall in love, and start your life together.

The story of how my parents met didn’t help either.  They knew each other since elementary school—my father would shoot spit balls into my mother’s hair.  He pined for her in ninth-grade, though she was uninterested and took retribution by causing him to fail French (story for another time).   Junior year of high school, she’s walking home with a friend who happens to like my father, when he pulls up in his car, offering a ride.  Naturally the friend wants to accept and convinces my mom to do so as well.  Funny enough, my dad goes out of his way to drop the friend off first so he can ask my mom out… and the rest, as they say, is history.

In high school, I never considered myself a “looker”, and by no means was I popular.  Being a bit of a loner, I focused on academics and did some sports in the latter years.  There was no high school sweetheart, although I pined after my fair share of ladies.  No girlfriends, no prom dates… in fact, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I brought my first girlfriend around family, to which my grandmother exclaimed, “Thank God, we thought you were gay.” 

I guess you could say I was a late bloomer, or at least I felt like one.  When I looked at my relatives and heard everyone’s “story”, I just didn’t fit the mold… but I wanted to, and felt like I should.  The only solace I took was in my Uncle Dave.  More of an older brother than an Uncle (we’re seven years apart), he didn’t marry until his thirties.  But, then again, he was something of a ladies’ man; so it wasn’t from a lack of prospects.

The Blink 182 song “What’s My Age Again?” came out as I was turning twenty-three and it became my theme.  As I struck out on love in the work-place (high school for your twenties), I kept repeating to myself its lyrics:  nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three.  So it was probably natural, being relatively new to intimacy with women, that I found it rewarding to sleep with those few who actually were interested in me, even though I lacked much interest in them as a person.  But the trap I laid for myself was not to be that guy—the one-night-stand.  So many relationships would drag along as I deceived myself that there was some sort of emotional attachment when, in fact, it was purely physical.

Like most men, I loved the sex.  But, more importantly, I loved the intimacy; and the way it made me feel.  Somehow I felt that, by being with someone, I was that much closer to being married, and therefore closer to being like the rest of my family.  Then along came my first wife (never thought I’d hear myself say those words).

I always knew I wanted to be married.  And I felt like I missed the mark considerably when eighteen came, then went, and I wasn’t… not even close.  I know many women think about their age, when they’ll be married, and having kids (Sex in the City has to be accurate, right?).  I mean sure, their biological clock is ticking, there is an expiration date on their eggs, and they only have so many.  But here I am, a man, and I’m worried about similar things.  I wanted to be married, I wanted kids, and I didn’t want to be too old to enjoy their grand-kids.  And, for the record, let me say that I always thought I’d marry once, and would never be divorced; I believed in commitment.  But let’s face it, my track record with women leading up to this point has sucked.  I was a nice, well-meaning guy who (at the time; and probably still to a degree) was also a bit naïve.

My first wife (referred to from here on out as “the ex”) started working at my job.  The girl there who I was actually pining after, being uninterested, finally left work (or was she fired?), so my friends and coworkers thought it would be cute to try and set me up with “the ex”.  I was told the new-hire liked me (so juvenile).  When she was pointed out, I truthfully didn’t mind much of what I saw, but there was no “moment”… you know, where time slows, music plays, and everything else melts away letting you know that she’s the one (I mentioned I was naïve, right?).  What can I say, I was a hopeless romantic, had my fair share of crushes, and so I thought I knew what love was.  So how did we end up together you ask?  Essentially, I’m a glutton for punishment; that, and I later realized my perspective on love was kind of adolescent, and I convinced myself that being happy was being in love.

Over a period of a year or so she continually made her intentions known while I tried not to be rude and inevitably led her on… as she said (years later), “I look back at our courtship and I see where I forced myself into your life.”  To be honest though, I too had my fair share of blame.  Knowing my own past, I let things get physical and, although I tried to break it off a couple times, I never completely severed ties (men are horn-dogs).   After a couple years, I felt I owed it to both of us to give the relationship serious consideration.  And there was a point that I was happy, and felt that I could continue to be happy, seeing a future together.  Let me clarify, you can be in love and therefore be happy; but being happy does not necessarily mean you are in love.  I know that now, but not then since I didn’t have any personal experience I could base it off of.

To make a long story short (and not steal any thunder from my other writings), we were married for four years, had a son during the last year, and she must have realized what I’ve now learned, because she took our six-month-old son and left me.  We divorced almost a year later.

But what is right, and who is wrong in that kind of situation?  I mean, I was blind to the fact that there were issues in our relationship.  I missed the signs.  I guess I should’ve known when she wanted to take Dr. Phil surveys to inspect our relationship.  I figured he was a “quack” who couldn’t make it as a proper therapist and used his connections to get a daytime show—another Jerry Springer.  Now he’s a household name.  It took her getting verbally abusive and antagonistic, trying to provoke me physically, and then finally the “D” word (Divorce) before I realized we had problems.  We practically separated around our third year of marriage and were seeing a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.  The writing should’ve been on the wall, and yet we stayed together and decided to bring a child into the mix.  I felt the issue with our relationship was in our dynamic.  She came from a previous marriage that ended due to her man’s multiple indiscretions, so she naturally had trust issues and became insecure.  When I couldn’t comprehend her concerns, it was as though she needed to become independent and therefore leave or force me to.  I, being inexperienced with marriage, felt I couldn’t live up to her extreme expectations of me and would shutdown when she exploded.  When we were apart, I would be confident and in control, and she would come to trust me again.  In this way we lulled ourselves into a false sense of security, thinking the relationship was salvageable.

Now I believe it is always the best approach to stay the course and work at being together as a family unit; but not just because you hope it’ll benefit the children.  It must also take into consideration the parents and their interaction.  A healthy relationship is a healthy environment for the children.  In my opinion, an unhealthy relationship can many times do more damage to our children in the long run.  And sometimes it requires work to make a relationship healthy again.  Could we have tried more to make it work and stay together?  Possibly.  Would we have been happy, and would it have been a healthy environment?  I think not.  We teach our children by example, which includes our relationships.  That also means in the way that a relationship is dissolved.   There is a “right way” and a “wrong way” for a relationship to end.  I’ll go even further by saying that my circumstance would probably lend more towards a “right way”.  We went through mediation and sought the expertise of a Licensed Psychologist who specialized in divorces with children.  We tried not to involve our own lawyers; but I believe, although costly, we both could have benefited more from their involvement towards the end.  In contrast, I believe that deliberately destructing one’s relationship by being physically abusive, emotionally abusive, viciously attacking one another through lawyers, cheating on one’s spouse, or worse; are prime examples of the “wrong way” to end a relationship.  There were definitely minor “wrong way” elements in the dissolution of my previous marriage.  And some tend to still occur through interactions I have with “the ex”.  But those are stories for another time.

So I have since remarried and have been with my current wife for almost three years.  We have a beautiful three-month-old baby girl.  I am truly in love, and therefore very happy.  I do have joint custody of my son, Iain, from my previous marriage to “the ex”.   And when we finally did separate, I tried to reconcile and do whatever it took, but by that time it had become too late; which was for the better in the end.  Although, I must say, I didn’t think so at the time.  She had already determined to be apart, and knew that to be the best course of action for our son.   It has been a difficult situation, but I honestly think it has been for the best and therefore the healthiest approach for Iain.

So what is right, and who is wrong?  Well I’m right in the end, for doing everything I could to try and save my marriage.  And, then again, so is she for knowing we would never really be happy.  So who is wrong?

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Happy Mother’s Day
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The bedroom is dark. A faint blue hue blankets the room—its origin, the clock-radio that serves as an alarm during the work week. In the darkness, the soft blue extends and paints the silhouette of a once crib, now toddler bed. The glow rests as arches on each rail from the column of stacked spheres that make them up. Curved outlines of the rails glide down to a soft pillow that cradles the stirring head of my small boy. Previously a crescent of stillness curled on the edge of the mattress, he now sits up and calls out to me.

“Daaaaddy . . . Daaaaaaddy. Daddy, I wanna get up.”

Typically I would do what any sane father would do in the wee hours of the morning—play possum. On those occasions I would breathe silently and attempt to not move for fear that the slightest rustle might give way my true state; that I’m now awake. This is particularly important since we currently share the same room. If my silence was unconvincing and my son became persistent, then a glance at my nearby cell phone would confirm the early hour, and I’d call out to my son to go back to sleep. I too want to go back to sleep, and retrieve what little rest I can before the start of the morning. After all, I do have to keep after a boy who’s about to turn three.

But today is different. Today is Mother’s Day. And although this is my weekend and my time to spend with my son, he will be spending it with his mother. And she had requested to pick him up close to the time he generally wakes: six-thirty in the morning… I’ve given pause to allow that to sink in. Especially since I know that any parent whose child wakes early is going to fight for a little more sleep on their weekend; be it minutes or an hour. And let’s all be honest here, how many people are really and truly awake when their kids drag them out of bed. I’ll admit that I’m usually a shell of myself and walk as a zombie, seeking the TV for help, and hoping it distracts long enough for me to make coffee.

Granted, I get Father’s Day. But I would consider planning times that are more conducive for most people. Now in her defense, it did sound as though there was a need to amass with her family members early and depart to a hospital where her grandmother has been admitted during illness. And she was willing to pick him up instead of meeting somewhere half-way like we normally do. But still, six-thirty in the morning? I mean, they can’t be travelling more than ninety minutes, and I’m not even certain that visitation hours start that early. But who am I to question. It’s a holiday, and I don’t pry or care to know too much of his mother’s comings and goings. Only as far as my son’s well-being is concerned.

So it’s Mother’s Day and is five-thirty in the morning. I know, because I glanced at my phone before telling my son he can get up. And we’re up so I can spend time with him and play before he leaves in an hour. In three more days he’ll be gone for a little over a week. I’ll miss two of my days with him while he’s at a family reunion of his mother’s. And last night was an upsetting night for my little one because he went into time-out before we got him ready for bed. He threw an especially large fit for not wanting to clean up as it came time for his bath. We were all tired from the long day, and wore it on our face, and he then in his actions. Thus this morning was an opportunity to re-connect and bond again.

We played blocks, listened to counting songs, traced our numbers from one-to-ten. Afterwards we wrestled and found that his nails were long, so I carefully clipped them all back as he patiently watched and helped. Several times he hugged me, and told me he loved me. Then I received a text that his mom was fifteen minutes away. We changed his diaper (he wears pull-ups now and helps). And then I helped him dress. There was a short span where he was upset at having to take off his sleep shirt, but we quickly talked through it and he was happy again and excited at the prospect of wearing his green dinosaur shirt. His mom texted she was here. He gave kisses his own way—a bonk from his forehead, the rubbing of noses, pressing his right cheek against mine, the same on the other side with his other cheek, and then a firm hug. No more pecks on the lips from him, although he still wiped his mouth like we did. Then we walked down to meet his mom, so he can spend the day with her on Mother’s Day.

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Colby’s First Night Away
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Colby’s First night away….

It was drizzling… the damp night was dark, only lit by the likes of our moon, and the dim street lights, which fought there way to shine through the light drizzle.  What lies for Colby’s parents, on this eve of the New Year?  Well, a party of course!  On this evening before the first day of two thousand and ten (2010), Colby’s parents have made plans to go to a party.  A party that was about a forty-five minute drive away, no less, at his daddy’s sister’s house.  Colby’s parents were very confused on how to make arrangements for this certain evening.  His parents knew that they wanted to go to this party, but they also knew that they now have a precious lil’ baby boy to consider in their event planning. 

Colby’s parents had very mixed feelings about this particular evening.  If they were to go, which they wanted to do, it most likely would be planned with Colby needing to stay the night at one of the grandparents home.  It would stand to reason, that if Colby’s parents went out and got home late, let’s say about 3ish in the morning and Colby needed to get up and eat about 5:45ish in the morning, then Colby’s parents would get no sleep.  But, Colby has never been away from mommy and daddy.

Well, this is what we were contemplating.  We definitely wanted to go out, but we knew that it was not good for any person involved, if we didn’t get the sleep that we needed, especially after being up late at a party.  So, we concluded that Colby needed to stay the night away from home.  It was not easy on me, though.  I was glad that we made this decision, but at the same time, I was sad that he was not home with us.  It was like, something was missing when I arrived home.  And that was Colby! 

In the end, we had a great time at my sister’s New Year’s Eve party, and everyone had a great time.  I enjoyed myself very much, but I did miss the lil’ guy!!!  It was a relief though, knowing that he was safe and sound at one of his grandparents’ home, being taken good care of.  It is also a relief that we were told that Colby was a very good boy, and slept very good too!

It is just a whole new ball game, to plan an evening out.  It will be like this every time now, and I realize this.  With Colby maturing and developing, I know that I will not want to miss anything, which makes leaving him, (even though I know that he is completely well taken care of), extremely hard.

Colby’s First X-Mas!!! Part 2….
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Colby’s first Christmas was a huge success!  It started basically with the annual Christmas Eve party at my mom’s house, December 24th.  Colby was able to meet the extended family, of brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc.  Colby was the hit of the party!  Everyone commented on how well behaved and cute he was.  This makes me a very proud papa!  Colby usually has to nap, but on this evening, he was able to stay awake and alert for a long time, while continuing to be in a good mood and continue to learn his smiles!  He was smiling at all of the family, which was just adorable. 

Then we had a long day, on Christmas day as well.  We started by opening gifts at my house, that Santa left for Colby.  Well, he must have been a really good boy this year, or, in his four months of life, because Santa left him plenty of good toys.  After that, we went to my parents home to open more gifts, and had brunch.  After that, we went to my wife’s parent’s home, and again opened more gifts, and had dinner.  Colby was a real trooper throughout this long day.  He did take a long nap at my in-laws, in his pack and play, while we put some Christmas gifts together. 

All in all, it was a fantastic first Christmas for my son, Colby and his proud papa.  It was extremely joyous, and I look forward to many more!