Welcome to our world, LJ

My friend is forty-two.  My friend became a first time Dad on 21 November 2015.  He is not freaking out.  I think.

There is a general consensus that becoming a father is somewhat life changing, if only for the newly acquired skill of not puking whilst changing a dirty diaper.  Those of us who became fathers at a younger age were too cocky/oblivious/ignorant/arrogant or plain stupid to fully appreciate the ginormous responsibility we got ourselves into.  At that age men are invincible and they feel they can do anything.  Young fathers roll with the punches and shoot from the hip.  Much like we did causing us to become fathers in the first place. Continue reading

Writing 101 – Day 8: Death to Adverbs (My Heritage Day)

Assignment for day 8: Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Then some blah blah blah with a twist of “no adverbs”.

First off, my restraining order doesn’t allow me any public access.  I got it after a little fit I had about an incorrectly priced chair.  “A little fit” is an incident where you haven’t assaulted anyone, but required the Wife to remove you from the incompetent imbecile they appointed as the manager of the furniture store.  Removal was deemed necessary as a preventative measure in keeping me, a non-violent person, from slapping the shit out of him.

Seeing that hindsight is such a perfect science, I’m slightly embarrassed at my temper tantrum, but I had a rough day.  And the price was wrong.  And I couldn’t get the chair on the day I wanted it.  I had to wait a full 24 hours, which at the time implied that I was going to die. Continue reading

Barasti and being 23

Peter, Luke and Mark* (* actual names) met each other in a buzzling upmarket beach bar in the middle of the desert.  An oasis of televisions, live music and beer.  Paul, Matthew and John and the other six apostles were nowhere to be found.  Probably fishing.

We were young

We were young

The three met in the Bruce Willis section of the bar.  Where pecs, biceps, twelve hour stubble and weird hair were trying to impress high heels and plunging necklines.  The obvious problem being that the ratio was totally skew.  With 7 testosterone fuelled young men for every one girl.  The poor ladies all seemed like a deer caught in headlights.  Well not all of them.  Other were enjoying the free drinks, but had this weird it’s-you-and-your-hand-tonight sparkle in their eye.

Peter, Luke and Mark were observing this mad scramble for attention from a distance, for two reasons: (1) Marriage and (2) Maturity.

Eventually observing the ridiculousness became boring and the woman screeching through a melody to the monotonous beat of a loud drum a bit overwhelming.  It was rowdy and very loud.  Conversation was basically impossible.

They moved one level up to the James Bond section of the bar and sighed with relief.  The vibe was chilled with tables and couches scattered throughout.  Mature people were drinking whisky and settling comfortably listening to the live band.  Mellowness took over.  There was a few girls dancing on a small dance-floor surrounded by more desperate men.  They submitted more proof to the well-known fact that (1) White men can’t dance and (2) Desperation is never a good move.

Peter, Luke and Mark continued their discussion on the ignorance of youth and how it’s wasted on the young.  The guys on the dance floor were totally oblivious to the fact that their dance moves resembled a man taking a piss against an electric fence.  Way too much gyration of the lower half of the body.  And flinging your arms around like a windmill in heat should never be considered cool.  One must never consume that much alcohol.  Ever.

What Peter, Mark and Luke didn’t realise whilst sharing their endless wisdom, was the copious amounts of beer waiters were carrying to their table.  And the well known fact that beer causes people to grow younger.

Luke showed the first signs.  He stood up unannounced, hands in pocket, and had this very unnatural swing in his hips.  Mark and Peter should have realised immediately what was happening, but it was too much fun watching other people making asses of themselves.  Maybe they didn’t really want to.  But the evidence was clear.  The three friends were growing younger.  Yes, it didn’t lighten the dark spots on their hands or filled the crevices around their eyes but it was happening…

Mark was next to go.  He sat back in his chair and lifted his arms high, moving them like anemones on the sea bed.  In his mind he was matching the beat of the music.  It seemed more like a deaf-mute musical number.  Peter was laughing hysterically, until the band started playing that awesome eighties hit…  And he was lost too.

The next moment all three prophets were standing, growling like a pack of hungry wolves, focused on the dance floor, and the promise of release.

All restrictions held together by their grey hair and perceived wisdom; fell off like melting snow in the spring sun.  Landing on the ground with a loud POOF.  It didn’t matter whether they could dance or not.  It only matter that they had too.  They were turning younger by the minute.

Yes they were...

Yes they were…

To cut a very long story short, Peter, Mark and Luke ended up as 23 year olds in the Bruce Willis section of the bar.  Standing on a beach, jarring their fists at the DJ who was pumping beats into the Middle Eastern sky.  They were celebrating.  The night for being dark.  The music for having a beat.  The air for being invisible.  They celebrated being 23.  Being alive.  Letting loose.  And they had more beer.

Finally it ended.  It was time to go home and they parted with enthusiastic high five’s and brotherly embraces.  Never to  meet again.

***

Peter woke up two hours later to catch a flight back to his actual home, but stayed in bed for a moment after the wake-up call came.  Running through the nostalgia of the night before, trying to crack a smile.  But Peter could only manage a silent curse as he swung his legs off the bed.

The problem was that the mind of the 23 year old was still stuck in the body of someone slightly older.  And the body wasn’t impressed about the abuse he had to endure a few hours before.  So it was going to be a very long flight.

My first real face-plant.

Royalty Free RF Clip Art Illustration Of A Cartoon Clumsy Businessman Falling On His Face

Yes it hurts.

It happened instantaneously.  One moment I was on my feet, the next, I was lying on the floor, spread out amongst shocked faces that turned into hysterics shortly thereafter.  Final result: Floor = 1, Ah Dad = 0.  And I have the bruised cheek (and ego) to prove it.

We celebrated the arrival of 2014 in spectacular fashion with some great friends.  It was the awesome-st of awesome, a sort of middle-age frat party if you will.  Our joyous gathering migrated from friends talking, to eating, to appreciating eighties music, to dance roulette.  (For those uninformed people, dance roulette is a game where you flick through your music selection on your tablet and then dance to any random song that comes up.)

Eventually we ended up in the pool.  It was there.  It was clean and shiny.   Technically we just kept on jumping in and getting out and jumping in again.  Like anxious toddlers standing on the side waiting for daddy to catch them.  It was basically an exercise in water displacement.  I was a little disappointed to find there was still water left in the pool after our Olympic level diving sessions.

What we didn’t realise at the time was that all those little droplets who were exhumed from their serenity of glittering in the moonlight were plotting revenge.  They were gathering their forces and sneaked by in little streams and puddles.  They eventually made their way onto our “dancefloor”.

We were refreshed and decided to continue our game of dance roulette.  And here’s a little known fact: White men can’t dance, but white men with too much punch think they can.  It was my turn and I was assigned a great eighties anthem.  I was about to do an interpret dance on “Shout”, my own freestyle version of it , when I stepped on the rebellious water that gathered silently in a huge puddle on the floor.  (Curses for making water a clear liquid!)

I slipped.  Spectacularly.   And fell on my face.  With the loudest “DUD!” every recorded in the history of man.  A full-on text book face-plant.  This only happens when your head decides to move south at the speed of gravity and your body follows suit, only to be stopped by a concrete floor.  I was am still pissed at my arms for failing miserably in breaking my fall.  And now I have a semi-swollen, blue-ish tinted left cheek, with a much more bruised self-esteem.  In fact, I think my pride is still stuck on that damn floor.  Must admit chewing is slightly more difficult than last year.  (But it was worth it!!)

To add insult to injury, which in this case implies a literal reality, I asked my wife how the hell did I manage to fall so hard…on my face?  Don’t people normally slip and fall and end up on their asses?    Her reply was a sinister one, camouflaged with layers of love and sympathy.  When actually is was just a very typical I-told-you-so.  She said:

“It happens when grown men wants to act like little kids.”

Isn’t she lovely?

A male perspective.

P1020444 mod

The first person on the moon was a man.  The first person to kill a human being was a man and the first person to blame a female…was also a man.

Men like doing things first, it’s the testosterone.  So I was REALLY surprised to find out that I am the first male contributing writer on a website on parenting.  The website is a forum where parents from all walks of life write about various issues we face as parents.  And like I always say, we need all the help we can get.

Parental roles have evolved.  Father’s can no longer only be the authoritarians and breadwinners anymore, we need to play a more active role in changing and sculpting the life of future generations.  Just like we don’t expect Mothers to only cook and clean.  So this website, Parents-space, is basically acting on the saying of “It takes a village to raise a kid.”

I was furthermore impressed with the fact that the captain wrote a piece on the first male deckhand working on this ship.  She has some theories as to why men are reluctant to write about experiences in parenting.  I agree with her husband when he said that men also have strong opinions about a lot of issues and yes we do discuss them, normally between mates over a few pints.

These discussion cover all aspects of life, most men just don’t feel the need to write them down and thus tell everybody.  So this one goes out to all my mates for sharing their opinions and allowing me to form a collective opinion for a modern father, which I am taking the liberty of writing down.  Cheers, to those who will supply content for all my future posts on the subject.

Sisters might be doing it for themselves, but we men, we do it collectively, we hunt in packs, we group together to ensure that our weaknesses are diluted and thus creating a stronger chain.  We do this in all aspects of life, of which parenting is an inevitable reality.

So girls, when the bro’s goes out of a drink, know that we are sharing and solving and making life better.  Just like you, but without the tea.

Staying afloat.

Islands Feb 2013 055

When you look at the ocean from a beach in Mauritius you see serenity and calmness, amazing sunsets colouring the horizon orange and red and amber; from the comfort of a deck chair with a long cocktail in your hand.  When you stand on the Wild Coast of Africa you see the ferocious waves breaking, the wind bellowing at your shirt and the spray wetting your face.  You are greeted by desolate skeletons of ships, memorials to glorious history.  The same ocean, but worlds apart.  Both views allow you to appreciate the volume of water as far as your eyes can see.  Blue and wide and deep.

Exactly like human emotion and opinion, where one situation can cause two people to have widely different views.  Where two people can experience the same thing but choose to react in ways that are fundamentally different from one another.

Sometimes the reality of a situation is bleak.  One cannot argue with the facts when it does not promote hope or courage or motivation.  The Titanic struck an iceberg.  It was sinking.  There was not enough lifeboats.  The water was cold.  People were going to die.  When life hands you those kinda cards, how do you continue playing?  How do you keep a positive outlook?  How do you keep afloat in the icy water when everyone else around you is drowning in their ocean of cynicism?

If I had the answer to this question I would probably be a very successful (and extremely rich) motivational speaker, which I’m not.  I am just a frustrated man who does not understand why most people choose to give up, why they choose to shout their views of failure, to only bring problems and reasons why something cannot be done.

I probably sound like a broken record, especially to those who have been following me for a while, but I firmly believe that every reaction on every situation is a personal choice.  I would be a liar if I have to say I am happy all the time, but I choose to keep criticism to myself, I choose to not talk about the problems constantly and I choose to look at the successes.  I choose to avoid negative influences in my life.

I know now, that no matter how motivated I am, the decision on how to react to a situation is an individual quest.  I have come to realise that the environment where people move, will further influence their decision and ultimate reaction.  If you surround yourself with more and more people who share a similar opinion, you will probably end  up with that opinion rubbing off on you.

Like the smell of smoke when you stand next to an open fire on a cold night.  You might not be aware of the smell, just enjoying the feeling of warmth and knowing that you belong somewhere.  But the next day you will, the smell will stick to your clothes and your hair.

It is not that people in groups can’t think for themselves; it’s just easier not too.  When you are bombarded with different variations of the same opinion you will eventually conform.  Feel like they do.  You will be sucked into the vortex and not even realise that you are becoming just another generic voice in a growing crowd.

Fortunately this is true for both sides of the coin.  I know it is not easy to be the optimist in a sea of pessimists, but imagine being the only pessimist in a sea of optimists.  Imagine for a moment how different life could be.  Maybe I do have the answer for my own question, asked in the beginning of this piece.

There has to be a balance in power for all the cynics out there, my people, the crusaders for optimism.  Seek them out and invite them into your inner circle.  Make them your shield against the attack of the opposites, so that you can remain strong and shine the light in the darkness.  Become the majority.  Seek other swimmers and blow your whistle even if your lips are frozen blue.  They are out there, those willing to survive, those who has not given up.

(For balance and reason, include some realists in your circle too, they anchor us.)

Home

“Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

O OOoooooo OOooo oooo”

This is some of the lyrics that Phillip Phillips sings in his first single post American Idol.  We all know that is true.  He promises someone that he will make the place familiar, comfortable, to  fill it with love.

There is also a saying:  Home is where the heart is.  This was probably scripted by some soldier in a ditch during the civil war.  He was at his last resort, just lost his best friend due to a stray bullet.  He was filthy, tired and depressed.  Comrades were screaming, bombs were firing, guns blazing.  He suddenly turned around and fell back against the dirt.  Red eyes seeking hope in the hazy sky,  Then he thought of his loving wife on the farm with his two boys whom he left on the porch.  And he new he had a reason to fight because “Home is where the heart is”.

Or maybe not.  Maybe someone just came up with it, sitting in front of a fire with a pipe and goblet of cognac.

The truth is that when you have slept in as many hotel beds as I have; the concept of home becomes very real.  You see wonderful places from the towering skyscrapers of New York to the pristine beaches of Fiji.  In the end Phillip get’s it right, home is the place where you are not alone.  The place where your loved ones are.

One thing that struck me is that home is not only defined as the venue where my dearest wife and two kids are staying.  It is so much more.  It expands to the space where you are most comfortable with yourself.  Where people around you create an environment where you can flourish, like a greenhouse.  Where your friends love you despite of yourself.

Home is where you can remove all the masks that society expects you to wear.  Home is where your soul can breathe easy, with no fear of criticism or rejection.  Home is where you can put your feet up and have an opinion and not be judged.  Where the person in the body can truly blossom.

At home your loved ones and friends surround you and embrace you, like a fully functioning rib cage.  You can run free and be safe and be the rib cage for the others around you.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

I am shocked.  I am stunned.  I have no words to describe the feeling of total loss when standing in the little workshop, watching my wife comforting a friend, who had just heard she lost her husband.  He was ran over by a pick-up truck on his bicycle two hours before.

I stood in silence with tears streaming down my face.  We were still in bed, when we got the news yesterday morning, and we simply could not believe it.  (I actually phoned a friend to verify the news!) Then I sat in silence on the edge of the bed, trying to gain some perspective, trying to understand, trying to sort my mind into some kind of logical order so I can answer the question of “Why?”

I couldn’t.  It didn’t make any sense.  It just remained tragic and unfair.  Two dads in two weeks, both in my little bubble of nothing-bad-ever-happens.

“Do bad things only happen to good people?” My wife asked.

Suddenly my daughter came running into the room, giving me one of her big hugs. (The older she gets, the more dangerous these become, I fear she might be choking me soon).  I hear my son and his friend, after his sleepover, laughing loudly while watching something on Nickelodeon.  Everything seems so normal, so in place, so typically Saturday morning.  Then I look up into the sorrow of my beloved’s face, replacing the happiness in her eyes momentarily.  I knew then that this day, 2 February 2013, was never going to be forgotten.

Then it hit me.  I got a wake-up call.  My God-alarm!  We have no guarantees in life, and we only get one day at a time.  Don’t waste it.

Make sure you tell your wife how much you love her everyday, hug and spend time with your children everyday.  Simply because it might be the last one you have!! Love your family and friends.

When we returned home later, we just sat in our car and prayed.  We asked for strength for our friend to get through the day, wisdom for us to say the right things to her, and thanked God for the gift of life, but to remind us constantly of just how precious that gift is.

I still don’t have the answer to my wife’s question.  I still feel what happened is utterly sad and unfair.  I still don’t know which words to use when seeing our friend broken.  But I do know that we have to keep her arms up today, and everyday.

And I choose to believe that there is a good reason why this happened, even if I don’t know what that reason is.

For those who keep my arms up

Moses was sitting on a rock watching the Isrealites fight the Amelikites.  (They obviously won that war, because no one has heard from the latter ever since.)  The secret weapon used in that battle was the fact that Moses had his arms up in the air.  And not out of dispair or frustration, but because keeping his arms in the air ensured their victory. God tipped the winning scale in the favour of the Isrealites as long as Moses had his arms high.  When his arms got tired and it fell to his sides, well, let’s just say, he needed to keep his hands in the air.

No you have to remember that Moses was like 800 years old when this specific event occurred.  And we all know that they spend a few years wandering aimlessly in the desert so he must have been a little withered.  He wasn’t trained as a navy seal and never partook in any Survivor challenge, although keeping your arms up for an extended period might seem like a chance to win individual immunity.  Anyhow it might seem cruel to expect an old man to have his arms raised for a prolonged period of time.

But I don’t think that was the lesson. I don’t think it was punishment or even cruel.  I think this story teaches a lesson in support, friendship and co-operation.  Probably went something like this:

Between blood and spit and sweat the general saw the old man standing on the mountain with his arms raised.  He saw the strain on his face, even from this distance.  His sleeves fell to his shoulder and his arms was exposed to the heat of the day.  The wind tussled on his long grey beard.  Seeing this old man, fighting exhaustion, filled the general with vigour and strength.  He fought hard and annihilated every opponent challenging him.  His men did the same, they could almost taste the wine that will be consumed during the celebrations later.

Then something changed.  He saw it on his brothers face first a few metres away.  He was fighting hard, his opponent a strong looking young man.  Fear gripped the general’s heart as he shoved his own challenger out of the way and rushed toward his brother.  He stabbed him low in his back, aiming for the kidney, just in time, as he was about to kill his brother lying in the dust, drained of all his energy.  He grabbed his brother by the hand and lifted him, his grey eyes filled with gratitude and surprise. 

The general turned to the mountain again and looked at the old man.  Moses was exhausted and his arms hanged helplessly by his side.  His face turned into a mask of sadness and failure.  The general realised Moses needs help.  He started shouting for Aaron.  

“Aaron, go help your brother.  He is too tired to keep his arms up in the air, and we are starting to lose the battle.  Go quickly and take one of my men with you.  We WILL have our victory today!”

And they did.

The point of this little analogy is not about the victory, it’s about the awesomeness of support.  God knew that it would be physically impossible for any man to maintain that posture indefinitely.  So by His grace, by allowing people to assist Moses, He kept the miracle going, thereby teaching us to help one another.

And that is why God created friends.  They are there to help us in times when we feel like we are losing our battle, when we want to give up hope facing dark demon days.  They keep our arms up and thereby give us courage, allowing us to fight and eventually win the war.

This one goes out to all those people in my life who keep my arms up.