best self

Regular Maintenance

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A few months ago I was really struggling with anger and patience. There had been a lot of changes in our family routine. I am a creature of habit and so too much change at once without some kind of normalcy is not good for me. The anger and lack of patience was mostly unleashed on my four year old. I was really hard on her and it culminated one day after mass where Claire was being particularly difficult. It was a Saturday night after 7pm and Claire was tired and hungry, which led to her bad behavior. I was so angry after mass that I grabbed Claire before leaving the cry room, slapped her bottom and shook her as I yelled. Claire immediately started crying and my wife almost unleashed her second-degree-Shotokan-Karate-black-belt-skills on me.

We went home, and I was angry—more with myself then anything else. My wife was pissed off and my daughter was upset that the man she looks to as a source of love and protection had just mistreated her. Needless to say it was a low point for me. My wife took Claire upstairs and put her to bed after calming her down. I sat on the couch with tears in my eyes.

My wife and I talked (no Karate involved). We decided that I needed to go and speak to a counselor. This had been something that I had been considering for a few months, but for a number of reasons I kept pushing it off. I got an appointment pretty quickly and saw my counselor for about 4 months straight (once a month).

It was great.

I know there is a lot of taboo regarding counselors and psychiatrists. As a Hispanic man I have always heard people shun mental health professionals in my culture. “People will think you are crazy”, is one of the many things I heard growing up. The reality is that if I hadn’t gone to a counselor I probably would have erupted again, and gone crazy.

Counseling was great for me. It was like going into the mechanic and getting regular maintenance done on the car. Some of the fluids needed to be topped off, a few alignments were made here and there, and I was back on the road. There was no discomfort or frustration. The counselor heard what I had to say and he made some recommendations. I applied the said recommendations and things got better. I still struggle here and there, but there is a huge difference between then and now.

There are lots of men—particularly fathers—that could benefit from seeing a counselor. There is nothing worse than going to the mechanic and hearing that if I would have brought the car in months ago for regular maintenance I could have avoided the catastrophic damage that I now have on my hands.

So maybe you think counselors are for the weak, yuppies, or stupid people. Regardless of the possible bias you may have, the potential benefits of seeing a counselor vastly outweigh those biases. Our families need strong men that can lead, love and serve them mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. So be a man and go in for some maintenance.

 

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Categories: being a man, best self, counseling, dads, fatherhood, frustration, healthy living, home and family, manhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The One Thing All Successful People Do

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One of the most difficult things about being a father is managing time. I don’t know about you but it seems almost impossible to do certain things during the day. Exercise, reading, writing, etc. almost always take the back burner because there isn’t enough time to get to it.

I love reading books from all walks of life. One of my favorite genre of books is business. I love seeing what people are doing to better master best practices. There is a lot of great advice out there, that if focused on really helps.

One of the things that I have noticed in my reading is that the most successful people in all industries, and public/social sectors wake up early. Early can be a relative term, so to clarify I’m talking 4:30am early. (insert WTF face gesture here) I usually glance at that fact in my reading and ignore it, or say something witty to myself, or frankly consider the writer to be a crazy bastard. However, I can’t deny the fact that all of the most successful people I know and read about are waking up between 4am and 5am.

Now here is the kicker. The folks I read about are not waking up at 4am to go to work. They are waking up this early to begin their daily routines that help them thrive. Most of these people don’t get to work till 7am or 8am.

So what are they doing?

Well, for one thing these crazy bastards…I mean, highly successful people are exercising. Their average amount of exercise is between 20-50 minutes of high intensity training in the morning. This is something that hands down I see in all of the books I read. I recently started waking up at 5am to exercise and it has been magical. Yes I said magical. I literally roll out of bed complaining every-single-time. As I get dressed to go to my basement and work out I am telling myself over and over, “I can do anything for 20 minutes.” 20 minutes is currently how long my HIT workout takes (high intensity training).

Once I enter into the exercise it is great. It doesn’t mean I want to do it, but I push through. By the time I am done I am pumped. I get a shower, get breakfast, pray and get the kids ready. All before 7am. GAME ON!!! #AdultingLikeAPro

I am exercising like this three times a week (only on weekdays). I am definitely noticing the difference. I still hate waking up, but I can do anything for 20 minutes. I love sleep, it literally is my favorite thing ever. Well I love to eat too. If I could eat and sleep I would be in heaven. Ooo, maybe heaven is where sleeping and eating happens at the same time—cant wait!

Anyways, I know it is rough to even consider waking up a little earlier, but I am finding that getting exercise in before work is absolutely amazing, and the best time of day to do it. Once the kids get up and the responsibilities of life take over all bets are off. If you wait to exercise after work, there is a good chance you wont do it because you are so drained from the previous 8-10 hours. So this fathers humble opinion is to join the thousands of crazy bastards…I mean, highly successful people out there and exercise in the morning. Its making a difference in this busy dads life.

Just remember: you can do anything for 20 minutes!

Categories: being too busy, best self, exercise, fatherhood, fathers, healthy living, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Killing Me

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The last two months have been tough. Going from one kid to two has its challenges. The baby has been easy: sleep, eat, poop, repeat. My wonderful wife has been great and for the most part is the one that has to focus on Cecilia (the baby). Most of my time and focus has been on Claire (the four year old). This started of really well, but it has quickly spiraled into chaos.

Everything is a struggle with Claire.

Waking up, getting dressed, eating, going to preschool, coming home, play time, snack time and definitely going to bed at night. There isn’t one thing that we do during the day that doesn’t have the potential to explode on my face, and it usually does. Claire and I will have a great time playing and eating a snack, when suddenly she will fight with me about getting a bath. Claire will be dead tired and fight getting into bed; she will then wake up at 3am, 4am and 5am because she “can’t sleep”. WHAT THE HELL!! There is no rhyme or reason to it (at least I can’t see one).

I realize that change for a four year old is difficult, and lets face it…she is only four years old. Regardless of this fact, I am exhausted. I literally feel dead and spent every single day and night. The nights where Claire decides to wake up at 3am because she’s hungry are the worst. It takes all that I have to not run off to Mexico and seek asylum.

The kid is killing me.

When I am able to see past my exhaustion I recognize that this is exactly what is suppose to happen.

I need to die.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my daughters fighting, crankiness, random 3am wake ups that are killing me. Sure this is tough for any person, but the fact is that my comfort, my desire for control and order are being purged out of me. They are unbalanced and unrealistic.

I don’t want to be purged. I want comfort. I want control. I want order.

I have known that I am “particular” about things; I believe its one of the reasons why I am successful at work. However, I never would have consider myself so rigged that I would be stressed out the way I currently am. I guess its always different in the most sacred of inner sanctums like home.

Comfort is good to some extent, but there is no growth in it. Comfort doesn’t allow for testing and purging. Trying to control things and people isn’t freedom, its slavery for them and myself. Order has value, until it turns your wife and daughters into tasks, objects that must be taken care of.

The kid isn’t killing me, she is an instrument of Gods grace that is taking this overly comfortable, control freak, that values order way too much; and is slowly, painfully, yet beautifully changing me into something else. Something better.

Something worth dying for.

I never would have thought that I would have these things messing with me, but I do. My spiritual director and counselor tell me that I am in a beautiful place, a sweet spot of sorts that has exponential opportunities for growth and transformation. I see more and more through this crazy, beautiful gift of a four year old that discovering fatherhood is not just about what I can do to help my children become holy, loving and responsible adults. It is also a journey of discovering that this father has to become a holy, loving and responsible adult.

Man! Never a dull moment in this journey.

Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, dad and the kids, dads, death, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four

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A couple of days ago I was outside doing chores. My daughter Claire was out back playing on her playground and running back and forth entertaining her self. At the end of the day before bedtime Claire asked, “I want someone to play with me.” Regardless of how long we play with her, Claire will always want more play time. After Claire went to bed my wife and I reflected on the day and I couldn’t help but hear Claire’s words: “I want someone to play with me.”

Claire turned four a few days ago and it has caused me to pause and reflect on these last four years. What does my daughter see within these four years? Does she see a dad whose engaged, present, kind, forgiving, gentle, calm? I’m not quite sure. I’m those things described above: hopefully most of the time. Still the words, “I want someone to play with me.” echo in my mind and heart. Do I play enough with my daughter? Have I spent the quality time that Claire needs? Am I busy doing things for our life while Claire entertains herself?

Lots of questions now that she is four.

Claire will have a little sister soon. Cecilia. Will Cecilia ask the same question? Will I look back when she is four and wonder; did I play enough with her?

Maybe it’s the realization that my baby isn’t a baby but a little girl. Maybe those thoughts, emotions, etc. are getting the best of me. Maybe I’m doing as best as most dads. Maybe the statement, “I want someone to play with me” is a challenge. Something God is letting rattle in my head. Maybe I need to be pushed to become more, to do less, and play.

Lots of questions now that she is four.

 

Categories: being too busy, best self, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Stuff

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My family and I are moving to a new house in the next week. Needless to say we are in full-blown packing mode. We have only lived in our current house for a little over 3 years and it is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated. You would think that two adults and a 3 year old wouldn’t have so much, but man…there is a lot of stuff here!

What is crazy to me is how often in this packing process I have found things that we should have gotten rid of a long time ago. Clothes, food, toys, random things that I cannot even remember buying, etc. Some things I just shake my head at and wonder why we ever thought it was necessary in the first place.

A few months back there was a smell coming out of one of our lower kitchen cabinets. My wife thought it was the smell of the fish I had cooked the night before that had embedded itself into the cabinet. I figured, like most food smells, it would go away or be overcome by the next thing we cooked. The smell remained. Neither my wife nor I really paid too much attention to it. One day (sadly to say, this was about three weeks ago) I reached deep into the cabinet to get the food processor and amongst the movement of stuff I released a foul smell. I was immediately repelled back by the stank that came out. I recovered myself, took a deep breath and went in to investigate. I pulled the food processor out, some pans, and pots and finally there it was: a really old, really decomposed red onion. Thankfully it was in a bag and I was able to pick it up and throw it outside.

We threw the onion out and right away we could smell the difference in the kitchen. My wife and I laughed about the whole thing, but it got me thinking about how often the same type of thing happens inside of us. We can accumulate so much stuff inside our mind, heart and soul. Things we should’ve let go a long time ago. Regret, doubt, failures, what someone said, what someone didn’t say…the list goes on. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this stuff is affecting us.

Kind of like a decomposing red onion.

At some point I bought that onion and placed it in that cabinet. For some crazy reason I forgot about it but it affected me—it affected the whole household. As a man I recognize the desire to push things that are bothering me away. The “get over it” mind set may lead this, or maybe I convince myself that it really isn’t that big of a deal. The reality is that the serious stuff, the things that bother us do need to be dealt with or else they rot inside and whom are we kidding—it affects everyone we encounter: especially our family.

There is a lot of stuff—red onions—that I have stored up over the years deep inside the “kitchen cabinet of my being”. Some are based on old situations with my dad. Some are insecurities that are common to many men. Some are silly, but for whatever reason have a hold of me. As I continue to find random things in my house that we don’t need to carry on with us I am challenged to reflect on what I need to let go of so that I am not carrying it within me anymore.

Who knew moving to a new house would be such an existential exercise.

Categories: being a man, best self, cleansing, fatherhood, getting rid of junk, home and family, letting go of the past, moving, packing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Call to Battle – Be a Man

So something weird happened when I tried sharing this last week. Somehow I had a different video show than the one below. Anyways, hope you enjoy this video. It is awesome and all men should watch it.

Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, fatherhood, fathers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: 4 Ways to Become a Better Man & Father this Season.

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Happy New Year!

In the Church, Advent commences the Christian New Year. Advent is the season that most retailers miss between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Advent is a preparation in anticipation for the coming of Jesus. Most people focus on Jesus coming during Christmas, but there are two other “comings” of Christ that occur. The Second Coming refers to Jesus final coming in time where He will take His peeps to Heaven and the rest well…you know. The third coming, which technically should be called the second coming since it happens between His birth (first coming) and the final coming at the end of time (second coming) is what I call a daily coming. This is the daily decision to let Jesus come into our hearts and literally reign over all we do.

For many people Advent is completely off the radar and gets surpassed by shopping, planning family gatherings, etc. I want to challenge all men (and women too. I know you read this, but I’m focusing on dads primarily) to use this season of Advent as a way to help you become a better man and father. So here are four ways to let the season of Advent transform you.

  1. Daily Invitation: Does Jesus have a place in your daily life? Is He a Christmas and Easter thought only? If so why? There are many reasons why this could have happened. The question is do you want it to stay this way? If the answer is ‘no’ then challenge yourself to doing some daily reading this Advent. Go online, to a bookstore, etc. and find an Advent Companion. Here are a few: Magnificat, LivingFaith. Maybe you are one of those dudes that don’t like to read, so here is an option for you: redeemedonline.com. This website gives you a 2 minute daily video on Advent that you can reflect on.
  2. You are going to die: Eventually we all do. Advent has us reflect on the reality that Jesus’ Second Coming is going to happen and how we lived will have a huge impact on what happens after you die. The point here isn’t so much to focus on death, but to help you reflect on how you are living so that you are on the right side of this Second Coming. If you dropped dead right now where would you go? Something worth thinking about.
  3. Serve your family: This may seem like a no brainer and something you already do. The question is how can you do this better? Most men are really good at serving their families by working and providing for their material needs. What about other needs like quality time with your spouse or kids? When was the last time you had a good conversation with your son or daughter? When was the last time you did something for your wife so that she could have a few hours of free time? I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself constantly trying to get things my way and this is not ok. Being a man means being able to sacrifice and serve—it is at the core of who we are.
  4. Your family’s overall health: How is your family doing in the following areas: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually?
    1. Are you all overweight and not eating well? Do you have some way to be physically active? If not, walk around your block once a week as a family, or go to a park and walk together.
    2. Can your family members communicate emotions, feelings, thoughts in a healthy loving, yet challenging environment? Having a dinner or after dinner discussion once a week on how everyone is doing is a great way to check in.
    3. What is your family’s prayer life like? Is it just grace before meals? Besides the fact that Church on Sundays should be a priority what are you as a father doing to lead this effort? How about taking that Advent companion and doing the reading and reflection during dinner and have everyone go around and share their thoughts.
    4. How are you challenging your family intellectually? Do you read articles, books, etc. on things that help them flex those brain muscles? Why not once a week present some discussions on a topic that will make your kids think beyond what they are accustomed to? It could be political, moral, ethical, etc. The key is getting them to think and grow in their intellectual capacity.

I know that these four things may seem like a lot, but the whole point of having a time to reflect and push ourselves is so that we can live better lives. Advent is here and will be gone in the blink of an eye; will you be a better man and father after the fact? Will you have helped your family be better after the fact? Maybe all four of these are too much for some of ya’ll. That’s fine. Do two. Do one, but definitely do something.

Categories: Advent, being a man, best self, Catholic, christianity, christmas, fatherhood, fully alive, God, home and family, Jesus, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Seconds

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A few days ago I was playing with Claire in the living room. As  usual our dog, Rocky wants in on the action so he forces his huge head in between Claire and I in order to “play”. I usually shoo Rocky away but he is persistent and my patience fades quickly. Finally after several times of shooing Rocky away I whacked him upside the head with a book Claire and I were reading. It was a quick reaction. Whack the dog, and we are back to reading.

The whole thing took 3 seconds.

Claire saw me whack Rocky. Then, she turned and looked at me and began to whack the dog with her book. Rocky ran away and Claire chased him, laughing the entire time as she whacked him upside the head. For the next half hour I am trying to keep Claire from whacking the dog with her book, shoe and anything else she gets her hands on. I distract her, avert her attention and even try to bribe her with food and juice. Finally, Claire is able to focus on other things and leaves the dog alone. Rocky stayed downstairs the rest of that day.

You always hear people say that children are like sponges and suck up all they see and hear. I believe it and am aware of it, so I try do whatever I can to be a good example. Clearly I failed in this instance. After this incident I began to reflect on all the other things that I do that are just “reactions”. Some of my reactions are great, and others not so much. It is difficult to try and change these reactions, because they are just that—reactions. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing them.

One thing that I discovered in all of this is that my daughter is watching and hearing all that I do. What she sees and hears isn’t filtered as a reaction that I can’t help, or as a calculated response I meant to do. Claire simply sees and hears it all. Claire sees my great moments and the moments I chose to settle; when I pray or chose not to pray; she watches when I treat her mother with respect or snap at her; when I talk well about others or criticize; when I eat well or stuff my face with junk. Claire sees, hears and she responds by doing as I do. All it takes is one example, one action or reaction and it is processed and imitated. 3 seconds and I either have a great new habit established or I’m spending half an hour telling her that she shouldn’t do that.

3 seconds…

Categories: being a good example, best self, children, fatherhood, frustration, reacting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Metamorphosis

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I am changing.

I am not the same person I use to be.

There is a change. It is gradual, but noticeable.

When my wife and I first got married sometimes we would have different days off. My normal response was to rent a new video game and play it for an ungodly amount of time, or watch movies, or binge on TV shows. It was ok. I enjoy video games, movies and TV shows.

Every now and then I get a day where my wife and daughter will be away from the house. Sometimes I spend time watching TV or a movie, but most of the time I am thinking about things like house projects: staining the fence, painting the rooms I never got around to, dry walling the basement we had to gut, etc. More often than not it’s smaller things like taking the trash out or going grocery shopping or cleaning the house.

A few weeks ago I notice that I had a four hour window of time to myself and my immediate reaction was to do something for my family. It was strange in a sense. I think most of the time in a situation like this I would want to do my own thing, relax and let it be a easy day. Yet, there is stuff that needs to get done for our family. I recognize that my wife and daughter probably would say, “chill out and enjoy those four hours.”

However, there is this change in me that desires to serve.

“People that know about these type of things” say that most modern men don’t really mature now a days until they are in their mid to late twenties. Maybe I am maturing. Maybe this desire to serve is proof that this man has reached full manhood status. My response: about freaking time! I am 32.

In discovering fatherhood I am discovering who I am called to be – a servant. Not someone that aims to please himself, because although it is okay to use four hours for R-and-R I much rather use them to make my wife and daughters life better. I don’t know if I would have said the same thing a year ago or six months ago.

But today there is this change in me. It is gradual, but noticeable.

Categories: best self, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, husband and wife, Transformation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dust

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Today is the beginning of Lent and in the Catholic Church it begins with going to Mass and having ash put on your forehead with the following words said, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.  It is kind of a weird thing to say, but it is a physical symbol of death. We recognize that we were created out of the dust and that we will die and become dust again.

There is nothing like the reality of death to put things into perspective.

Death is that inevitable elephant in the room that no one really wants to talk about. Death is very real and it will come to all of us. If you have ever spoken to someone who is dying they will usually talk about things like family, friends, relationships they had. Rarely does a dying person talk about wanting to get the latest iPhone or regretting not having more stuff. Death pushes away the junk of life and prioritizes it.

Thankfully I am not dying, but I still need to prioritize, reflect on my relationships—the things that are really worth living for. Lent begins with dust—death—but more importantly Lent ends with life, new life. A life that is better than the one we have. At the end of Lent we have Easter, the empty tomb, resurrection—New Life.

Lent is an intense time of prayer, repentance, sacrifice, reflection, denial, surrender to God, acceptance of our weakness, recognition of blessings, etc. At the end of Lent I should have a new focus, a renewed desire for all that is most important: God and family. Not stuff.

My wife and daughter need a husband and father that is being purified of all that is not good. They deserve the very best of me and I can’t give them that if I don’t take stock of where I am and focus on the important things of life. It’s too easy to get distracted and knocked off course. That is why I love having Lent every year to help me refocus.

I think that if every father took these next 40 days to pray, reflect, repent, sacrifice, deny, surrender to God, accept our weakness and recognize all our blessings we would be better men. The men our families deserve, the men God has called us to be. In the end we will all face death…return to the dust. I hope that we can all face death joyfully, with the understanding that it isn’t the end but the beginning of something great, a New Life.

May this Lent transform us all!

Categories: best self, cleansing, dying to self, fatherhood, God, home and family, Parenting, surrendering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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