September 23

Spirituality and Antiquated Practices

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As a child I wore a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet proudly, going as far as to try and ask myself that very question before every action I took. In my young age I was in love with the church, Kiwanis and my spirituality.

My mother raised me in a baptist church and, honestly, some of my fondest memories come from that place. At a young age I loved the stories, the sense of belonging, the love I felt walking into the church. It was alive, with songs and smiles. I remember driving in with a member when my mom wasn’t able to take me. I remember the ride home after worship, with a happy meal and, more importantly, a happy heart.

I was never baptized. I was promised to God, however, like many things in this world, it fell through. In moving from California to Connecticut, I went from being heavily involved in the church to having no connection.

My faith dissipated.

My spirituality lingered.

During my youth, as I began my own exploration of what spirituality was and how it related to me, I found myself attracted to Buddhism. It seemed so simple and so right. Be a good person. Of course, their is the abstaining from desires, which I didn’t like too much, as most of my actions have always been driven by a desire. At it’s core though, from the 12 pages I had printed out in the high school library, I identified with the message as it spoke to me.

In college, I got the chance to learn a little bit about all the major religions from a scholarly standpoint. Learning origins and basic concepts briefly awoken my interest in finding the connection between a higher power and myself.

In my late teens/ early twenties I met the woman who would eventually bear my beautiful children. Out of a love for her, and a lingering sense of spirituality (although it only beat like a faint pulse in the background) I decided to reaffirm my faith in God, beginning the process of becoming a member of the Catholic Church.

Now, this isn’t me trying to force beliefs on anyone. At the end of the day I am not a member of any religion. I still remain on the dry side of baptism, constantly flirting with spirituality like it is a high school crush, always with awkward stares, never approaching it seriously or confidently.

This isn’t necessarily about my religious viewpoints, or whether I agree or disagree with any one religion. I have always had a sense of mistrust with organized religion. While certain sections they acknowledge, however reluctantly, as antiquated, they take what they want from the good book(s) and carry on about their day satisfied in their position with their god. The pick and choose faith, coupled with “reading between the lines” has always rubbed me the wrong way, especially when it is used as basis for things like discrimination.

I cannot stress this enough, I’m spiritual. I feel a strong connection to the powers that be. I am not religious. To me, at the end of the day, it comes down to two things.

We need hope. The world has always been a difficult place. With technological advance didn’t bring utopia. In fact, as most deadly disease became non threatening thanks to strides in medicine and the average life span began to grow, mankind has found other ways to destroy itself; inflicting mass casualties on each other in the name of god, country and skin color. The world hasn’t become easier, MTV has just made it easier to ignore.

The second reason, in my opinion, is that for some reason, morality has to have at least some form of written rule. While it is simple to say, “just be a good person”, we have always had the guidelines in place and they are hardly followed. Most teachings in all religions boil down to being a good person and looking out for each other.

Now, like I said, all the books have antiquated sections that most people, even in their own religions, can see as relics of a past life. Progressive moves have happened across religious platforms, from the consumption of pork to the rights of people to marry in what used to be considered a sinful manner. Love is love, from bacon to homosexuality, and the masses can recognize that.

My children, with my consent, are members of the Catholic Church. They have been anointed and go to church every Sunday. Besides the fact that it gives me a chance to follow sports, from the comforts of my couch, every Sunday it also give them an opportunity at a young age to learn about the basic tenants of morality and structure. As they age I will have in depth discussions with them about thinking for themselves and how they can be spiritual and understand that at the end of the day the path to God is their path that they will walk alone.

Spirituality is important to me, regardless of my lack of affiliation with any religious sect.

Now, this is all just to preface a conversation personally that has given me trouble in tackling. I only lay out my opinions and decisions regarding religion for my family to show my background and where I come from. I could go as far as to talk about how my in-laws made me disillusioned with the Catholic Church. With their ways of never accepting me, and in my opinion, treating me like a lesser coupled with their standing at church, I lost all interest in becoming a member of an organization who had such types of people at elevated positions. That isn’t a strike at my in laws, I wouldn’t go round about to tell them they suck, I’ve told them plenty of times I think they suck.

As a spiritual but not religious person, it is easier for me to look at different religions more objectively than I think the average Christian or Muslim or Hindu or whatever religion someone might identify with. I am a part of none. I am simply a man who has come to his own terms on the search for relevance in this universe.

My wife, she is a Christian along with our children. Portions of my family are Atheists. Some I know are Muslims. Some found their way to these religions while others were born into them.

Born into them.

My children were born into Catholicism and while they do not really know what is going on, I feel it is in their best interest to learn the religion first. If you were to look at religion as a language, it is important in my opinion, for everyone to have the opportunity to start with one and grow from there, learning bits and pieces or becoming fluent in others along the way.

There is nothing wrong with identifying with one religion. There is something wrong with using said religion to inflict violence on others. That, in my opinion, largely goes against the foundations of all religions. As it stands, violence IS discriminatory. Religion has played an aspect in war and violence since the prehistoric period. Seriously, look it up! ( I did)

Yes, you could go as far as to say a primary motive in most violent altercations throughout history has been creed.

“In the name of _______(insert deity here)!”

With that cold hard truth, it is hard to say that religion is necessarily a good thing. I am not saying it isn’t, just pointing out that many throughout history have used it as a reasoning for aggressions.

Still we are here, with more diverse religious beliefs than ever before. Religion is here to stay.

If religion isn’t going anywhere, why are are they still fighting each other? You would think in this day and age that we would have learned boundaries and to respect each other’s religions, especially in a country founded on freedom of religion.

With history on our side, multiple military engagements in our lifetime, and the blood of innocent people on everyone’s hands, it is time to take a stand and realize that the continued treatment of one another as enemies. Why are we still killing each other, when we see it does nothing but exacerbating our problems and widen the rift between everyone. The cultural divide is steeped in enough blood, and it isn’t by the wishes of the powers that be.

We should, in the year 2015, be able to respect each other’s differences. Maybe, more importantly, we shouldn’t identify and set people apart by their religion. Everyone has their own connection with what they believe in, not everyone is radicalized or even in agreement with all aspects of their own religion.

Some people recognize the antiquated. Some people just want to feel a connection to something otherworldly.

For our kids’ sakes, enough is enough.

This was inspired, in part, by picking my jaw up off the floor at Ben Carson’s comments about Muslim Americans. It appalls and saddens me that we are still having what is quite literally an age-old argument. The deities may change, but the lack of acceptance stays the same.

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September 10

Punk Rock Papa’s Practical Parenting Guide for Soon To Be Parents

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The other day, on Facebook, a friend was nice enough to do a little promotion of Punk Rock Papa to a soon-to-be dad of twins. A brief back and forth with the man brought me back to before kids, hearing the news that my life would change forever. I don’t know if I was as worried as this man was, and if I was I wouldn’t admit it, but there is a definite fear of the unknown going into parenthood. Rather than let him know there are worse things out there than whether your kids have a place to ride their bikes, I told him to breathe. 

We all need to breathe sometimes. A lot of parenting is living in the moment. When our kids are babies that can’t move we go on and on about how we can’t wait until they crawl and walk and such. Then, when it happens, we yearn for our sweet snuggle buddies to go back to being completely dependent on us. In that first year or two of parenting, most of us learn our lesson about looking too far ahead.

If you spend all your time worrying about whats next, how do you fully enjoy the now? 

Before going on, be warned that there is all sorts of unsolicited advice coming your way.

Another thing that stood out to me in this conversation was that the man said nothing he read in preparation has helped him.

Well, not that this will help anymore than anything else and there is definite irony in giving advice to not take advice, there is no true parenting guide. There is a lot, A LOT, of advice out there. All should be taken with a grain of salt. Except my advice. Take it with a grain of sugar ‘cuz these are sweet truths. There is a small library of parenting books at my house, including but not limited to; What To Expect When You’re Expecting, When You’re Expecting Twins Triplets or Quads, Juggling Twins, The Complete Handbook for Expectant Fathers, Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads.

Out of all the books read on parenting, Be Prepared was the best. It tied humor into useful dad information. It was what you would call “funny and informative”  and if they are ever looking to update it with a new edition and a young hot shot blogger with funny helpful information I might be available. It is the type of parent guide I could see myself writing, if given the chance. Please.

That being said, I don’t know that I have used a lot of the information from it. The thing I did take from it was that you could still have fun. Having kids isn’t a death sentence. While I enjoyed the reading for what it was, it hasn’t necessarily been put into application. It was just a good, fun, read.

You can’t learn how to parent at the library. You can read until your eyes are shaking but until you do it you don’t know what you are getting into. Books can be moderately helpful, but the book on flying planes I read doesn’t make me a pilot.

Practice makes the parent. 

Let’s go through the obvious for new parents. If these don’t make you go, “Well duh” maybe consider not being a parent.

  1. Don’t shake your baby violently to make it stop crying.
  2. Don’t leave your baby in a car unattended.
  3. Don’t starve your baby.
  4. Don’t drop your baby. (this will happen, don’t do it on purpose.)

That isn’t so hard to follow, right? Bonus parent tip: Don’t drown your kid.

When the twins came into this world, unexpectedly and dangerously thanks to HELLPS, I ran to my precious library of knowledge. Checking glossary after glossary I finally found HELLPS Syndrome in What To Expect When You’re Expecting. They had dedicated a whole paragraph to it.

A paragraph.

This post is longer than their section on HELLPS.

Breathe.

Life is filled with the unexpected. 

Worry about blowouts and whether people mean it when they say your kid looks adorable.

Don’t look forward, as hard as it is not to, just don’t do it. Life is the shortest/longest thing ever. Do you really want to spend the years in the future looking at how much you missed in the past because you were busy looking towards the future. Confused? Me too, just stop thinking about it. The future that is. And this section, too.

There is a simple routine for a baby. When the baby cries, go into this cycle.

  1. Bottle
  2. Diaper
  3. Playtime

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Go through the cycle as many times as your baby needs to calm down and go to sleep. Don’t worry about having to hit the cycle a few times, everyone does it. If your baby is pushing you into that territory where you want to add violent shakes to the cycle there is this wonderful thing you can do instead. Walk away. The best part is stupid babies don’t know how to move so it won’t give chase. Seriously, take breathers when needed. Your baby is crying, not dying. They are going to cry with you there so why not go to the fridge and grab a cold one before hitting the BDP cycle again.

Diapers! Do you know how to put one on a baby? Just make sure the liner covers their butt, I really don’t see what is hard about it.

Blowouts! Onesies have these cool shoulders on them designed to roll them right down your exploded nasty baby’s body. toss it with the diaper and run child under a sink. Sitting there using half a case of wipes is futile. just let the poop mess run down the sink along with your youth.

What else is there? If your kid is sleeping, whether it is in a crib or a pile of unfolded clothes, leave them alone unless you want to play the BDP cycle game with a pissed off cranky child.

Cherish your child and the moments you have with them. I can’t state that enough. 

Parent for your kid, not your peers. 

No one is going to give you a gold star for good parenting. Also, no one is going to parent for you and even less are going to babysit for you so their opinions don’t matter. It is YOUR child. As YOUR child’s parent you are responsible for doing what you think is best for, you guessed it, YOUR child. If you are parenting to the best of your ability then chances are you are doing a good job. People who might look down on you or disagree with your parenting can take their complaints, spit on them, sit on them, and make them disappear. 

The best parenting method? Easy, be a Transformer. Preferably an Autobot. Have the ability to transform into a helicopter if need be. Also, be aware that sometimes you have to stand back and let your little guy (or girl) roll out on their own. Transformer Parenting by Dr. Optimus Prime. 

Breathe, you have got this. No matter what anyone else might think or what you sometimes think yourself. You got this and will rise to the occasion without even realizing you are doing so. Look in the mirror, new parent, and repeat after me- “I am going to parent the fuck out of this kid”

You ready? Yeah, you’re ready.

Lastly, if you are ever lost in this crazy parenting thing- this is the golden rule:

Fake it until you make it. 

Punk Rock Papa’s Practical Parenting Guide

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September 2

217 days

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The effects of loss  don’t get cremated with the body.

It has been 217 days since I felt loss.

Loss on a profound level.

In 217 days I have lost more sleep than I care to admit.

217 days. It just knocks me down writing and realizing it has been so long.

With the loss of my mom a lot changed emotionally for me. If you are new to my blog or me you can take the time to get to know a little about my past by simply reading through my other posts. I think I mix it up decent enough, every third post or so should be personal information that is probably better suited for a counseling session. Or several. Okay,  I need a lot of therapy.

Long story short, (The official PRP season one, two and three recap if you will) at eight I moved from CA to CT. I spent my adolescent years angry and feeling orphaned. I spent my teen years angry, angsty and disconnected. Around sixteen(give or take?) I forgave my mom for her decision to move me across the country, without her, to live with my brother, his wife (who didn’t exactly like me) and their brand new family. By nineteen I had convinced myself it was me against the world. My relationship with my mom was strained, at best. I largely considered the friends who let me crash on their couches as my family. At twenty I began to slowly clean myself up. I got a job and started slowly pulling out of my the gutter life of drugs and alcohol. I met an amazing (and patient) woman who would expedite the process of becoming an adult. She gave me three beautiful children.

In the two and a half years since my wife gave me beautiful twin boys I have grown more than I did the first twenty one years of my life. Finally, I had a feeling I lost at eight years old. I had a family. The abundance of love that now filled my life pushed out the anger and angst. I couldn’t hold onto so much love and anger at the same time so I let go.

My mother and I worked through some of our problems, I still didn’t speak to other family, and I watched my family grow. I was, healthy (getting Dad Bod) and growing as a human being.

I was happier than I had been in a long time. Maybe ever. My mother would nag me to reach out and talk to other family members, which I curtly replied, “This is the only family I have or care to have. I don’t need anyone else”

One of my biggest failures as a son was refusing to extend an olive branch to my siblings even though it was begged of me every phone call. It is something I regret daily. It shouldn’t take death to stop people from being so stubborn.

My aunt says my mother died of a broken heart. I can believe it. 217 days ago my mother was having medical conditions, was a few months removed from losing a daughter and in the midst of her two remaining children refusing to so much as have small talk. For all my mother’s shortcomings you could never question her enormous heart. She wanted her family to get over their issues and be a family again. Maybe the pressure of that not happening was too much.

On January 28th a heart attack took my mom suddenly from this world. Only weeks prior we had planned her first visit to meet her grandchildren. She was going to meet her newborn grandson and his twin brothers during the summer for the very first time. Instead, we flew to Colorado with a month old child and two boys who had no clue what was going on.

217 days and I begin to think about what is left of my family. A sad eight year old boy grieves on inside me, still trying to wrap his head around the loss. A sixteen year old comforts him with words of understanding and empathy as a nineteen year old sips harsh liquors trying to just forget, forget, forget. The father puts on a brave face for children too young to understand the sorrows of loss. He…I lie awake losing sleep to the beast of burden. With my pain compartmentalized enough to make it through the day I put a smile on my face as somedays I sadly just go through the motions.

My biggest failure as a son was not forgiving. My biggest failure as a father is not being able to let go of what haunts me.

Along with the general grief is a new monster I wrestle with. As I said, I think of my family. My wife and my kids. I try my hardest to add to that list a brother, a sister in law, a nephew, an aunt and two cousins. The coping mechanism of an abandoned child has trained me to only love those who are constants in your life. So I sit up at night worrying.

I worry about the four constants in my life. Diana, Killian, Nicolas, and Ezra. I worry about losing them. The same imagination able to create words from nothing shows me vicious images of having them torn from my life without warning. Just as sudden and surprising as my mother was taken.

Anxiety attacks overwhelm me when I can’t get in contact with my wife to see how the kids are or if she is on her way back from the store. I know how crazy and ridiculous it is.

I just don’t know how to get over it.

The thought of losing someone I love again terrifies me.

217 days.

I don’t miss my mother anymore.

After 217 days, I miss myself.

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