Friday, October 27, 2017

Sometimes the Bottom of the Barrel Really Isn't That Bad...

Don't let the title fool you... Things can always be worse.  I've had the splinter of this blog in my head for months now, and I haven't had the courage to write, the gumption to write, the desire to write.  I've had bigger fish to fry to be honest, and I was one of those fish.

Before I started pecking at keys I decided to read my last entry - and found what I wrote was still relevant, so here we are once again.

There have been times in the past three months where I have felt I was at the bottom of some barrel, I was confused at times, angry, and days where the dizziness of not being in control of things just seemed to be too much to handle.

I wrote the above entry in April of 2014.  This post was incredibly hard, and painful to write.

That barrel turned out to be a very large barrel.  Sometimes dark and scary.  Sometimes, dark and comforting.  Sometimes, well... sometimes it just turned out to be downright hopeless.

Why am I telling you all this?  Isn't the title of this blog "Surrounded by Awesome"? Not "Surrounded by Darkness"?

Yes, my friends, yes it is.  Which is why I'm still here.  Which is why I'm back.  Which is why I hope that maybe, I may reach just one of you.

If I need one post to go viral, this is the one.  Sharing is indeed, caring.

Having a kid changes everything.  You read books, you take classes, you get as much information as you possibly can to deal with being a parent.  Then you realize all those things may not have helped at all because your kid didn't read the same book you did while in the womb.

Folks, marriage and having kids is work.  Hard, daily work.  But like a crop of corn or wheat - if you tend to it, water it, add to it, it will flourish.  Sometimes, crap happens and a part of that field gets tarnished. You work to rebuild what you had, or it will consume your entire crop.

When L.A. was almost two, he had surgery to remove a mass in his back.  We spent months going to doctors.  Running tests, x-rays, and more tests.  No answers.  First, second, third and fourth opinions all with the same shoulder shrug.  We decided to have surgery done.  It wasn't an easy decision.  We got lucky and combined that procedure with ear tubes.  Two birds, one stone.

As Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part.  Finally, the results came back.  Benign mass of excess connective tissue.  Like gristle on a steak.  Relief.

Medical bills, sharing chores, don't get Mrs. Awesome started on the infinite abyss that is laundry.  Do you eat in, or eat out?  Do you watch kids shows for the umpteenth time, or seize control of the remote?  When are you finally going to clear out that overgrown patch of yard and plant that garden you're always on about?

We are a social media centered society, where we are bombarded by memes, copy and paste stories, guilt trip shares (If you're my friend share this, if not delete me), picturesque instagrams and Pinterest pins of people who have it figured out and have homes that look like they stepped out of a magazine, their kids are enrolled in sports and art projects, and hey, why isn't your kid stepping up to the bar?  Where do you measure up on the amount of likes and shares?  Are you done Adulting yet?

I've spent my entire life trying to fit in, trying to measure up.  I have a really hard time looking at myself in the mirror and taking stock of what's good in my life, what's good about me and realizing that what is good in me may just be a surplus worth to someone else even when it seems like I'm looking at a huge deficit.  Sometimes that barrel is dark, nasty, unforgiving, greasy, and at times feels like you're right where you're supposed to be and sometimes you wonder if you should stop caring.

I reached out to a friend of mine to talk.  These are the things you learn over a lifetime of therapy.  Have the courage to reach out, especially when you feel yourself at the lowest.  It's easy for someone to say you have a family to live for, it's harder to say go talk to them, and even harder still to do it.

When I met Mrs. Awesome back in 2000-something, I only had one requirement when we started dating.  Communicate.  I had been through a marriage where communication was one sided and I darn sure didn't want to play that record again.  She was always very upfront and honest and I always knew where we were in our relationship.  We hit a patch after having L.A. where sleep deprivation and the surgery and other factors caused us to seek out a therapist to help us figure out how to communicate with each other again. Again, it was work, but it was worth it.

I didn't want to tell Mrs. Awesome that I didn't feel Awesome.  I didn't want her to see her knight wearing rusty, greasy armor.  But I did.  It was the most terrifying moment in my life.  Not because I had to tell her, but because at that moment I had to believe that I trusted her as much as I had always said I did.  I had to walk the talk by talking.  I made no promises.  I didn't need her to have answers, but she was and still is there for me each day.  And contrary to a lot of self talk, she didn't love me any less.  I'm still her Mr. Awesome.

Please, if you're having issues that feel insurmountable... If you're fighting a fight you feel you can't win.  If the bills are piling higher, and you think that there is only one way out.  When memes, and bible verses, and commenting "AMEN!" just aren't cutting it.  When your fight is the only thing that is important, when it feels no one could ever possibly understand, or would even want to understand...  When it feels like the good in your life is the only thing that matters and you feel the only answer to saving them is an exit sign... Please. Please. Please.

Send me an email.  Make a phone call.

You ARE Surrounded By Awesome.  There are moments, and things that will take your breath away, and give your soul pause to reflect on things that are worth it.  Including yourself.

For those who are fighting, keep fighting.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663

If you have lost someone, please find a support circle you can turn to at any given moment.  Grief does not work 9-5
/https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/find-a-support-group/

You matter.  You ARE Surrounded By Awesome.

mrawesome@surroundedbyawesome.com




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sleep. An Early Birthday Present

The past few nights L.A. has given me the best present I could ask for.  Uninterrupted sleep.

Usually I am surrounded by Awesome, but when it comes to sleep, I'm surrounded by two dogs, and a boy who likes to move around in his sleep... a lot!

For the past few nights however, it has been a welcome change to at least some semblance of a good night's sleep - knowing that the weekend is coming and the 5AM-6AM wake call is coming and I will wake up and make breakfast for the family.  All the while listening to the positive merits of "Mickey and the Roadster Racers".

Some of you, as parents, have a very strict policy on children sleeping in your bed.

Some of you, as parents, wish that you could reclaim your pillow-top Paradise from the wily invasion of your child or children.

We, fit in the middle.  We do not like being climbed on Sam I Am.  We would rather you slept in your room, Slept in silence like a Tomb... We would like our eight hours in a row, now off to your room, to bed you go!

There are moments... precious moments.  Where the dog cocoon is positioned just right, Mars is in line with Virgo, and L.A. has played so hard during the day (Thanks Daycare) that he sneaks in quietly and softly enough that he respects everyone's place, finds his spot in our bed, and passes out.  A few hours later, we find him sleeping peacefully, breathing deeply.  I look over at Mrs. Awesome, she looks at me, and we thank God for such a peaceful Angel...

Okay, the last two sentences never happened.  We got woken up and it's early, and Mickey and the Roadster Racers is on.

Would you like sausage or bacon with your pancakes?


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Honesty is Your Best Policy

Little Awesome is a very active, wiggly, and strong four year old.  He is also beginning to push boundaries a little more each day.  We, are working hard to be consistent to ensure him that those borders are being monitored very closely.

"L.A.!" Mrs. Awesome pipes up from the kitchen.

"What?!?" says the tyrant.

"I'm sorry son, I didn't hear you." I say.

"*sigh*, Yes ma'am." with the air of complete annoyance and defeat.

We are trying very hard, and I do mean very hard to

  1. Be consistent in our relaying of values to L.A.
  2. Not tell him he is wrong all the time.
I don't feel it's necessary to micro-manage everything he does.  I'm not always successful in this endeavor.  Mrs. A is usually the voice of reason asking me to go easy on him - reminding me that he has been working hard all day.  It takes effort to stay focused on the days of the week when you have a pinball machine attention span.  Since he's too young for happy hour at the bowling alley he's forced to stay home with us and tell us about his day.

Yes, yes son... That IS the letter "R". (again)...

We want to be honest with him as much as possible.  I think the wonder of children should stay intact as long as possible.  That is really the Fountain of Youth for those of you that are searching for it.  He firmly believes many of his childhood heroes are real and I will not be the one to squash that for him.  One truth that we share with L.A. is how much we love him.  No matter what happens in my life or Mrs. A's life - that fact will never change.

There are times when we are sleep deprived (i.e. all the time) and we are getting increasingly frustrated at being overwhelmed by whatever it is at the time (Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, you name it...) and we're T-minus 3 seconds away from DEFCON 1.

L.A.:     "Dad?"

Me:       "What???"

L.A.:     "I love you."

Enter the sensation of feeling like a mule.  Of course you love your child, but this is underhanded and very observant for a four year old.

You immediately reduce yourself to Tapioca pudding and shower your child with affection.

Yes, I do say "I love you." L.A. often. We give him hug sandwiches.  We are currently working on reducing our phone time when he is in the room, because he is starting to understand that phones are starting to replace televisions as the almighty time sucker.

Thankfully, "I love you" has not reduced its value.  Granted, it has morphed into a tool (weapon) at times, but the value has not decreased.  I hope that when he finds someone to say it to when he's older he'll still remember its weight and power.  I hope he never loses his wonder for the simple things, as they are usually the most powerful.

(A crisp, cool morning in the South.  It is 85 degrees.  A father is walking his son to daycare just as he has done many days before.  The son now walks, superhero mask on and proclaiming that victory is near.  A pause from the speeches of battle...)

"Daddy?"

"Yes son?"

"I Love You."

"Thank you so much son, I love you too."

"No Problem!"

(Battle cries against Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle villains resume).

Priceless.  What's in your wallet?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life is Still Awesome

Little Awesome turned 7 months old on Sunday.  He gets baptized next week.  It's his first Christmas, his first New Years.  A lot is happening in his life.

I've had a couple of months to reflect why I started this blog in the first place.  At first, I wanted to chronicle the growth of my son and share it with the world.  I wanted to hopefully record my growth as a father, mistakes and all.  I wanted to share a journey of smiles from a groggy child at 5 a.m. that make you forget in an instant how much sleep you've lost.
This was my Birthday present from L.A.

If I had to take anything from the last couple of months - it would be "Make sure you have your support team intact".  Things happen in life.  Unexpected things.  Things that you knew were coming, but secretly were hoping would be taken care of behind the scenes.  Yes, accountability and responsibility are givens when you're an adult but sometimes you wish on wishes that you could take a mulligan.

This was my struggle the past couple of months.  It wasn't getting older (That happens, get used to it.) It was dealing, and there were days when I didn't feel awesome.  There were days when things didn't feel awesome.  I loved my bride, I loved my son, I loved my dogs, and I was thankful that we had a roof over our heads - but I felt like I should be doing more for my family.  That scraping by wasn't awesome enough.  How could I share that with the world and put on a face that things were awesome when I didn't feel like they were?  How could I share with the world that today I felt inadequate as a husband, as a father, as a provider?  How could I say my life was awesome when I was losing my temper and swimming in a pool of frustration?

I reached out to my support team.  Your support team may be (and most of the times should be) the people that you are fighting with.  Those are the people who are going to set it straight for you instead of telling you what you need to hear anyway.  Sometimes, you won't get anything in response.  Sometimes... people listen without giving you their opinions, and sometimes that is the greatest gift. Sometimes, it's a look...

Sometimes you will say the things you don't mean.  Sometimes you go in a totally different direction just because you think that it is the right thing to do simply because it is different.  Sometimes you let the first words come out just because you're tired of holding your tongue.  Sometimes, you're instantly sorry...


Sometimes, you reflect on how it all started...


Sometimes you remember how far you've come...

Sometimes you pray silently when all is quiet in the house, when the big boy is sleeping for the second week in his big boy nursery.  When your beautiful wife is finally getting the rest she deserves.

First, a prayer of thanks because let's face it - what graces your life can easily vanish in an instant.  Second, a prayer of guidance, because let's also face it - I'm not perfect and every day I'm learning and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.  I'm slowly but surely learning how to let go of that little voice inside (mine) that has that grainy recording that flatly lists everything I've ever done wrong...

Sometimes you have to realize that even though it's not rainbows and unicorns all the time, it's still worth it.  Even a grimy mirror can still reflect something beautiful.  Share it.  Live it.  Shoulders back. Chin up.

Life is Awesome... It's not perfect.  But it's Awesome.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Hill?

Today is my birthday.

I'm 40.  30 years ago you would find me sitting in my room with a calculator.  Trying to work out the math for the year that it would be when I would turn 40.  I would be so olllld. Yuck! Yuck yuck yuckety yuck!

Either that or the fact that, according to my brother and sister, that The Earth would be swallowed up by the sun and we would all perish in a rapid ball of flames and I would never make it to 40. I believed them, so I spend many a night wide awake in my bed wondering what my purpose was and what it would matter since we were all going to be the toast headed for a very. Large. Toaster.

So here I am, and aside from the still looming uncertainty that is my purpose - I have learned a few things along the way to 40.


  1. You're only as young as you feel.  Yes, my feet and ankles hurt more on cold days, but otherwise, I feel great.  Occasionally, I channel some cranky, cantankerous soul and thankfully my wife reminds me that I am not that person.
  2. Life throws you curve balls.  Your ideal image of what your life should be may not be the way it is going to turn out.  Divorces happen, Friends pass away, pets pass away, Planned Pregnancy comes sooner than planned, Medical bills, dogs and cats living together - Mass Hysteria! When they happen, don't forget to breathe.
  3. On the heels of that, when curve balls happen in the form of folks "doing you wrong".  I put that in quotes because sometimes, maybe sometimes it's not their fault.  It's called a Jump... to Conclusions Game. Maybe you might want to take a minute to look in the Mirror.  Maybe, sometimes, it's best to forgive that person for your own peace of mind knowing full well you won't really get anything in return over than your Peace of Mind, and Heart, and Soul and friends, sometimes that is worth the sacrifice than perceived Justice. Then is it really a sacrifice?
  4. Pray, and pray often.  Whether you serve God or have your own personal belief.  We live in scary times and more often than not it's a darn good idea to pray for guidance.  You may wind up with the calmness of spirit to handle the crisis before it starts.
  5. Remind yourself daily of the blessings that are right in front of you.
  6. My parents were right more than I care to admit.
  7. I'm proud of my Dad more than I will ever be able to tell him, and equally as proud of my Mom, Sister, and Brother. My Dad started his own business at 40 years old, My Mom survived a near fatal heart attack, My sister and brother both run businesses and raised fine children.  
  8. Don't be afraid of your feelings, tell the ones you love you love them.
  9. I'm 40 and I'm still scared of the future. That is okay. There is a dash of excitement in the unknown.
  10. Don't be afraid to be yourself, it's okay to be ridiculous sometimes.
  11. That doesn't mean getting loaded and acting a fool.  (I wish I had learned this one sooner)
I'm sure that there is so much more.  If it was the old days, my friend Trevor and I would have ridden our bikes out to the woods and smoked cigarettes and probably solved all of the world's problems.  And maybe we did and the world just evolved with a new set of problems.  But we evolved too, and I think that is part of the perception of getting older - older is a mindset, and perhaps each day we're just evolving into wiser, better versions of ourselves working towards being the best versions of us we can be.

Friday, September 27, 2013

And That's... One To Grow On.

Let's face it.  We all struggle with things.  Whether it's finances, career, weight, self-image, or the New York Times crossword puzzle. Or, all of these things.

This week I have struggled with Social Media.  More specifically, using social media as my own personal dumping ground.  I have written post after post after post and stared.  Isn't my life Awesome?  Yes, yes it is.  Should I share my struggles with everyone and let them know I'm human? Maybe.  But that's like giving an Automatic Photon Blaster to a heavily caffeinated solider.  Someone may get hurt in the crossfire.

So, I paused to think about what I was doing.  I prayed about it.  It was a small thing, but splinters still hurt right?  I was fine, Mrs. Awesome was fine, Little Awesome was fine.  I've seen that Pinterest pin that says something along the lines of, "Most of my problems are made up scenarios in my head".  That is me 99% of the time.  Did I need to let everyone in the cosmos know that I was worried about things in my life? How about this?

Dear Cosmos and Planet Earth, I worry about stuff.  I worry about the same stuff you worry about.  Sometimes quite a bit.

Mrs. Awesome has a tendency to know when I'm worried.  She tells me that everything is going to be alright, and she is right.  Everything will be alright, because usually one of two things happens and sometimes both.

1) Either it works itself out, or you find a way to fix it or make it work

or

2) It's something you can't control, and/or it wasn't worth worrying about in the first place.

In this case, #2 won out this time and after a day or two of pondering the issue I realized that it didn't merit the energy I was pouring into the worry.  As Stuart Smalley would say, I'm good enough, smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.

Will I ever stop worrying?  Probably not.  But every day is an opportunity to see how Awesome life truly is.
So, yes, I am Awesome - I have flaws, and I may have baggage.  But I have a great family, and great friends.  I have a great deal to be thankful for and that requires daily evaluation and daily acknowledgement.  And that. is. Awesome.

We're All Cinn-ers Here.


  

I think by now my faithful readers have figured out that I enjoy cooking.  Some would say a little too much.

My cooking ability, while not Michelin Star quality (yet) is one of the few things that I am beginning to realize that I do exceptionally well.  Not to mention, when I am in the kitchen listening to music and whipping up a delight for my family and the select few who become my critics - I am truly, and blissfully happy and content.

I conducted a Facebook poll last week to see what Culinary Delight I should whip up this past weekend and Cinnamon Rolls won the vote.  I have never made Cinnamon Rolls before... I'm frightened.

Walk up to any Cinnabon in the mall and you are cold cocked hit in the face with the most glorious smell.  Angels in Heaven surely must smell like a mixture of Cinnamon Rolls, Lavender, BBQ smoke, Bacon, and Leather. Or do the smells take turns?

So I set out to find the perfect Cinnamon Roll Recipe.  Normally I would turn to my trusted friend, Alton Brown, but something told me to venture out beyond my comfort zone.  So, I looked towards another friend, Laura Vitale and Allrecipes.com.  I used Laura's bun recipe and Allrecipes version of the frosting.

We began the night before we actually wanted to eat the rolls... See? It even begins like a fairy tale! Break out your bowl and add your yeast, sugar, and water. Give it a stir and let it sit for ten minutes.  Yes, there is a lot of waiting in this recipe.  Use your time wisely to be Awesome! Go write a poem, or register for the Winter term at school, write down your goals for next week, pet your dog, but don't dog your pet it's rude.  A lot can happen in ten minutes, and your yeast mixture will be bubbly and sticky and smell like beer and that's okay.

Add your eggs, butter, salt, and vanilla and mix that up with your mixer.  I found a Kitchen-Aid refurbish on Ebay a while ago and I've never regretted it for a second.  Then, slowly, one cup at a time, add your flour.  You've seen this in cookbooks your whole life and you've always had the urge to be a Rebel this time.  Please don't.

You want this. 

To look like this.  

Not this.

After you've kneaded your dough for about 5-7 minutes, grease up a bowl and put your dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and put it in a draft free place.  I usually place mine in the oven because it's well insulated and it just seems like the right thing to do.

After a good night's rest your dough should indeed look like this... 
For those of you who are die hard's like me, give the dough a good smell.  The scent should remind you of a respectful bakery down the street.  Now, pat yourself on the back.  Good job.

Find a rather large flat surface and dust it with flour, punch down your dough and scrape it out of the bowl onto the work surface.  Lightly dust the top and roll your dough out into a rectangular-ish shape.

Now, you can mix your brown sugar and cinnamon together.  I put mine in a small tupperware and shook it.  I sang a little tune and Little Awesome asked me to please stop.

Spread some butter on your rectangle and sprinkle your sugar mixture on the rectangle leaving about a half to a quarter inch at the end non-buttered and non-sprinkled.  Press the sugar mixture down into your dough.

Now, tightly roll your dough up into a cylindrical shape, start with one side and move your way over into it is tightly wound.  Some folks will say stay in the center and roll but I think that allows for the sides to go rogue and you're left with guerrilla cinnamon rushing for freedom out the sides and who really wants that early in the morning?

Here is your finished product placed on a cutting board.

Slice your cinnamon rolls, wiping your knife between each slice.  Yes, it's extra work, but yes it's important, and yes you will be pleased.  I promise.  Place your cinnamon rolls in a well greased tray. Let them rest covered for 30 minutes.  Start your oven at 350 degrees.  Once your 30 minutes is up, bake for 30 minutes, which will allow you time to make the glaze.

Mix the cream cheese, vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar together.  There should not be any lumps.

Take the cinnamon rolls out and turn the dish over to coat the rolls with any of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture that may have leaked out.  Then coat with your glaze.  The finished product with look something like this...

The cinnamon roll exceeded my expectations for the first time out.  Try it served with vanilla ice cream.  Is this recipe labor intensive?  Yes.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.  Will I make these again?  Already planning on it.