May the Fourth be with you

98px-Bdna_croppedA couple of years ago, my mom purchased me the DNA analysis kit for ancestry.com. The ethnicity results somewhat amazed us. We were met with a huge tide of emotions because it was different than what I had been taught for my entire life. My DNA analysis said that my ethnicity was estimated to be made up of 42% Western Europe, 28% Great Britain, 18% Ireland/Scotland/Wales, 8% Scandanavia, and 4% from other places. It was within these 4 percent that I found a 1% for four specific regions and it was within these areas that we pondered on the most.

The first 2 percentages were said to be from either Finland, Northwest Russia and the Caucasus region. The thought of me being from the Caucasus region which consists of 220px-Tunisia_in_its_region.svgArmenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey was surprising. The next 1% from the Iberian Peninsula surprised me even more because the Iberian Peninsula consists of Spain, Portugal, Southern France, the Western Italian Islands, Northern Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. The last 1% comes from Northern Africa which primarily consists of the Western Sahara, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The three popping up consistently were the ones that were the most surprising but after some research into my family tree many months later; I found my missing African link.

220px-Star_wars_1977_us.svgTurns out that my 12th paternal great-grandmother was from Tunisia. Now you probably suspected by the title of this blog that this was a Star Wars Day blog; well in that you would be correct. The reason why is because while reading up on the information I couldn’t get over why the name Tunisia sounded so familiar. The reason why this North African country that borders the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert sounded so familiar was not my great-grandmother’s ghost whispering information about her homeland; no, it was because I had just re-watched a documentary about the filming of the original Star Wars movie last summer. Part of the Tattoine locations, including Luke’s Tatooine home, were filmed in Tunisia. Guess there could be a little Jedi in me after all.

 

Happy Star Wars Day!

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Images:

B DNA gif by Spiffistanderivative work: Jahobr (talk) – Bdna.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17436581

Geographical Location of Tunisia by TUBS – Own work, This vector graphics image was created with Adobe Illustrator. This file was uploaded with Commonist. This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this:  World location map (W3).svg (by TUBS)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15302417

Star Wars Logo 1977 by Lucas Arts – http://www.starwars.com/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40435409

1977 Cinema Advertising Star Wars by Michael Dorausch from Venice, USA – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51237185

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The Sun is Setting

Saying that the sun is setting on a certain part of your life is mostly an understatement. Most of the time we are frantically going here and there that we miss the small things; like a sunset. Before the era of smart phones with built in cameras, I used to carry around a cheap disposable camera and snap pictures of things. I would mostly take pictures of nature which included lots of pictures of the clouds, sunrises and sunsets. This picture is extremely significant because it signifies so much. When I got my driver’s license, my parents told me that I needed to get a job to help pay for gas, car payment, insurance, etc if I wasn’t going to play football; so I got a job at a local grocery store bagging groceries and stocking shelves. The job was not that labor intensive but my heart was not in it. I enjoyed the interaction with people; and I have made friendships and acquaintances that I value greatly. The downside was that when I walked out the back door to prepare a mop bucket or take a pallet outside, I saw that sunsetting over the wood line and I knew that I was stuck in a big brick building until my shift was over.

It has been almost 20 years since I started that job that lasted for 4 years of my life teenage and then young adult life. I still visit that grocery store as a customer. While going to get some groceries the other night my son Daniel noticed how beautiful the sunset looked behind the store. So I snuck behind the store to get a better look and take a picture. As we turned the car around to head to the front of the store, I noticed the back door that I would stare out of those many years ago. The sky was not bathed in an abendrot hue of an Arizona sunset; but as the sun that drifted down below the horizon line built a scene that made me think about the differences in that sunset and one that I would have seen some 20 years ago. I looked over to my son and thought about my wife. I couldn’t imagine that my life would have been where it is now 20 years ago. It is truly amazing what a sunset can do to betray the feelings that should be in our hearts at that moment. img_4457

‘It’s so quiet out here’

Living in eastern North Carolina doesn’t usually allow us to have a lot of snow during the winter; but thankfully a beautiful blanket of snow fell early this month. The snow reluctantly fell after a layer of wintery mix and ice so that made the roads somewhat impassable. This caused my wife to not be able to go to her antique/thrift store but the schools being shut down due to the dangerous road conditions allowed Daniel and myself to be home with her. Since we live on a small creek that leads to the Northeast Cape Fear; Daniel and myself set out on our trek the morning after it stopped snowing.

We walked our way through the inches of snow and relished in the site of the sun rising above the snow carpeted horizon. We meandered our way through the woods; walking on the grass that was smothered by the inches of snow. We walked down the snow kissed creek and appreciating God’s beautiful creations. We saw rabbits huddling in their underbrush dens and the melted spots of ground where deer had bedded themselves the night before. Daniel climbed fallen trees and laughed as he caused snow to cascade from the leaves on me as I stood below.

Daniel and myself finally found our way to a small tributary that leads to the creek. I used to sneak off to this spot when I was a child to draw, write or just to relax. Who am I kidding…most of the time when I was a kid, the dominant thought that shouted its way to the forefront of my thoughts was bouncing around the woods with a sword and pretending to be He-Man or Rambo; (I’m a child of the 80s…don’t hate. ;P)  but most of the time I used that place to just relax. It brought a sense of calm to me to share that moment with my son. Daniel and myself found ourselves enjoying the solitude of the silence. The lack of traffic out on the road that runs about a mile from our house or maybe it was the fact that we weren’t being distracted by uselessness on our smart phones or wasting our time watching TV. We were just enjoying something that we don’t get to experience that often…and times like those are worth their weight in gold.

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Anything but pedestrian

It may not take a genius to sit in quiet contemplation while staring at a body of water; but you may be one for taking that time to do so. I think that Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu said it best when she said that she, “go(es) to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.” Ever since I can remember, I have had a love affair with the ocean. I would surf the waves when I was a teenager and the older that I get, the more I love just staring at the endless waves, cascading on the sandy shore. Being from Eastern North Carolina definitely has its perks because in my opinion, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. But the beaches are not the only place that has been a place of quiet contemplation.

I have mentioned before that my parents house was built 50 yards from a creek that is a tributary to the Northeast Cape Fear River. This creek connected to another small tributary that flows from a wetland area south. These tributaries met behind my parents house and the smaller tributary had a small waterfall. Over the banks of the small creek lied a huge fallen oak tree. I would sit with my back against this tree for hours listening to the sounds of the waterfall and watching a beautiful aspect of nature. There was nothing pedestrian about the situation. The sensory overload was anything but lackluster. This spot in the middle of a wooded area was my secret oasis; my serenity. I would grow older and hurricanes would tame the landscape as they saw fit. Water erodes. Trees fall down and rot. The spot does not look the same anymore but there are other spots that I frequent to try to find a break from the mundane.

On the banks of the Hollands Shelter Creek (a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River) sits Hollands Shelter Creek Restaurant. My family took me there when I was a kid and now that I have a kid of my own; we enjoy taking him. Daniel has always been fascinated with the river that flows by the seafood restaurant, so it seems only logical that his favorite place to go is to sit on the dock on the river, eat some ice cream and hopefully spot an alligator.

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A new Grainy Orange Drink

Metamucil_ad_(cropped)

If you were a child of the 80s, you will remember that Metamucil commercial where the guy takes a spoon full of the orange flavored granules and mixes it until it looks like the delicious drink that it ‘should’ be. Well there was a time that I guess that I missed seeing that commercial.

I remember being in love with Tang and Country Time lemonade when I was a kid. I would take spoon fulls of mix them in the tap water at my grandparent’s house on the hot summer days that I would spend with them. One summer in my youth, I remember seeing a new type of ‘orange flavored’ granule on the counter of my grandparent’s kitchen. I got out my favorite octagonal shaped glass, filled it with tap water and began to mix in the new orange flavored granule. It wasn’t as delicious as Tang but when you are thirsty, it wasn’t that bad. I must have left a small amount of residue on the counter after I had created my mixture because she immediately became inquisitive. She asked my cousin, who said that I had made the mess but the mess was not what was on my grandmother’s mind.

She asked how many spoonfuls that I had used and I reluctantly answered, ‘two’. She walks over to the phone to call my mother at work and I hear a chuckle from my mom on the other end a stern ‘it ain’t going to be funny to him in a little while’. I thought I was about to get a spanking due to using this new orange drink without permission but boy was I wrong. I realized what my grandmother meant by ‘I’d know in a little while and I will spare you any details of the pain and bathroom agony that ensued for the rest of the day. All I know is that it will still be a cold day in Hell before I drink Metamucil…or a really constipated day in hell rather.

via Daily Prompt: Grainy


Images: Metamucil advertisement Photo Source is the National Cancer Institute and company of ownership is copyright owner, fair use.

“I don’t think I can parent today.” Guilty as charged.

Father_and_son_surf_lesson_in_Morro_Bay,_CA.jpgI was sending silly Snapchat videos back and forth with one of my best friends yesterday, like we usually do; and he, in jest, said that he was so tired after his day of work that he didn’t know if he could parent anymore today. He was on his way to pick up his daughter up from preschool and he was hoping that she wasn’t going to be too hyper when she got home because he was just plain tired. SO should we as parents feel guilty about…well…about being tired?

IMG_0284Daniel decided that he didn’t want to play baseball this year. He has usually been a three athlete kid but he decided that he wanted to concentrate on two sports instead of three. We respected his decision and have been patiently waiting for Football season to start. As the baseball season has been in full swing, I have noticed all of my Facebook friends talking about how tired they are from working all day and then flying down the road to get kids and drag them to this practice or that next game. So why do I feel guilty about being happy of his decision not to play baseball? We as parents are conditioned to believe that we have to do everything for our children and be happy about it…or we are bad parents. You feel as if there is something wrong with you if you really just don’t want to watch another episode of Spongebob Squarepants.
Yesterday, Daniel was following me around reading his new video game magazine and
all he wanted to do was tell me about a contest that they were advertising in the magazine. We had just walked in the door and between changing clothes to head to the gym and talking to my wife, I had yet to even take a breathe to relax. I lost my cool and told him to ‘please stop talking about video games for 5 seconds’. To a 12 year old, who was excited to talk to his dad about something that he is passionate about, it crushed him. I immediately felt the guilt and my face flushed red and I could feel myself welling up with tears. His unhappiness is the last thing in the world that I would want…and I know that I am not the only parent who just wants 5 seconds to chill. I want to tell you that you are not alone. Well moms and dads, here are some things to NOT feel guilty for but it may be a topic that you need to address.

Guilty as Charged:

  1. Yelling – I’ve done it. You’ve done it. According to Devra Renner, co-author of the book Mommy Guilt, says that yelling is the one thing that that was the #1 thing that all of the 1,300 women that she interviewed for her book revealed to be the thing that caused them to feel the most guilty. Some parents have elevated levels of communication. That’s just how they roll. Some kids know that when Momma starts talking with her teeth together and her voice is low….its time to leave Momma alone. The decibel of your communication is something that accidently comes out. We lose our temper. Sometimes, we as parents, get frustrated and loose our cool. We yell out of frustration. But when that is all our child knows…then there is our problem. If you always yell at your kids, then you need to take a step back and evaluate your manner of communication.
  2. Work – Someone in the family has to work. Money doesn’t grow on trees. I’ve had conversations with many of my friends and they always express to me that they feel like they are losing out on pivotal moments of their child’s life because they are working so much. What can you do when your trying to balance being a spouse, parent and a demanding 40+ hour-a-week job? First off…don’t let it get you down. Realize that your kids love you and after they are grown, they will realize how hard you worked for them. Take advantage of the precious time that you have with them. Know that work is important but your family needs to be a priority as well. Take time to support your son at his Karate tournament, your kid at their dance recital, or to watch your little girl at her first softball game. Take time to play with them. You don’t have to dedicate hours to playing with them or buying expensive toys or going to expensive water parks every day. Memories are made right in your living room playing pretend or by kissing your child on the forehead after reading them a bedtime story. Basically, just create a work schedule that is flexible enough for your family to realize that they are just as important to you.
  3. Taking a Break – Sometimes you just need a break. I don’t mean a Kit-Kat Bar (even though I need one of those right now), but what I mean is that sometimes you just want to walk away from the crying babies and the chaos of our lives. You of course feel guilty about it because you love your family BUT it is important to take some time to recharge. Whether it is something as simple as a bubble bath while your husband takes the kids to the park, a couple of afternoons a week at the gym, or a night at Hooters with your buddies to get some chicken wings and a beer. Some people need that recharge and you shouldn’t feel like you’re not making the right decisions. Just because you’re a parent, doesn’t mean that you give up being a person. You need to care about your own mental well being as well. Your spouse should respect that and not think the worst of you when you want to have some ‘you’ time (and no I’m not talking to my friend’s ex-wife…or am I).
  4. Play – I touched on spending time and playing with your kids earlier and I just wanted to touch on it once more. I know that in today’s crazy life, actually taking the time and slowing down long enough to play Legos with your son or to have another tea party with your daughter. Before you feel guilty about seeing your son or daughter playing by themselves or them complaining about being bored; I want you to remember that YOUR CHILD DOES NOT HAVE TO BE ENTERTAINED EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY! BUT you should dedicate some time to your child, even if its for only an hour. Some parents are the ones that will get down in the floor and give horse back rides or will pretend to be Princesses with their daughters for hours…but some are not. You should not feel guilty about that. Find something that you and your child both enjoy, so you can build a long lasting memory with your child.
  5. Acceptance – I’m not in your house but I’m assuming that you are a good parent. So you need to accept that fact. You are a good parent! Being a perfect wife, husband or parent is impossible. What we can do is realize that the photo-shopped, Susie home-maker, super-mother is a fallacy. Realize that we will fall short of scaling the mountain of tasks that it takes to reach perfection. Besides being tired from our normal lives, the last thing that we need to be is riddled with anxiety and guilt-ridden by some cookie cutter expectation. If your child goes to school wearing two different colored socks…its not the end of the world. Remember to try and be a positive role model for your children by handling the things that life pushes our way with a happy, good-humored demeanor.

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I’m not a registered family therapist. I’m not even a perfect parent. What I do is I know a couple of things. I know that you don’t need to feed into the guilt mongers. Don’t worrymcdonalds happy meal about the judgement of the pretentious parenting police who judge you when you get to baseball practice five minutes too late with a kid whose shirt is untucked and hair is unbrushed, all while he’s taking his last bite of his McDonald’s Happy Meal cheeseburger that you picked up on your way to take kid number 3 to dance practice. We’re busy. It’s life. Just remember that it’s not about the quantity of the items that your child has or how many times that they have been to Carowinds. What matters most is the quality of the hours that you spend with your child. That is what makes the difference when they grow up and look back on their lives.


Images 

Feature Image: Father and son Surf lesson image by and accredited to “Mike” Michael L. Baird, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9176643

Reading a Bedtime story to my Daughter image by and attributed to Ludwig Bemelmans, Ldorfman – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18437032

Boy with McDonalds Happy Meal image attributed to uploader. Own work. Fair use.

Big Man + Little Dog = Perfect Combo

FullSizeRender-3Image-1-1I was always a ‘big dog person’. Despite at one time having a chihuahua, I always had Country Bulldogs or I would domesticate one of my dad’s big hunting dogs as a pet. I would grow to hate little dogs due to my grandmother’s half chihuahua – half feist – all demon possessed Hellhound that would growl at us and bite at our ankles if we moved too quickly around his aging food bowl. In my adulthood, I began to make fun of Paris Hilton and her little Chihuahua accessory dog whose little head we would occasionally see pop out of her Gucci purse. So when my son asked us for a dog that would ‘always stay puppy size’, I knew what that meant. My worst fear of having a yelping, ankle biting tiny demon dog would now come to fruition.

I was against it, as you can image, but you do what you have to do for the happiness of your children. So to make my child happy; my wife & I settled on a respected small dog breeder (ensuring that they were not a despised puppy mill) and went to visit her facility. In the entryway to the facility, the owner’s husband greeted us and Image-1asked us to dip the bottoms of our shoes inside of a shallow container of miscellaneous liquid; whose Bitter solution would keep us from bringing in outside contaminants into the dog’s sterile environment. The air conditioned building’s walls were a dull gray and instead of a cages, the puppies lay on nicely padded beds inside of their own 4 foot walled rooms. As we rounded the first corner, we found the area where a Mini Yorkshire Terrier and her newly born puppies lay. Most of the tiny black and brown puppies were barking and  jumping up as high as they could on the 4 foot cinder block wall that kept them from running around the facility. Five tiny female puppies were energetically trying to gain our attention….except for their little runt of a brother who sat alone in the corner staring up at us. We asked about him and the breeder picked him up and gave him to us.

As I held him in my hand, he laid his tiny head down on my thumb and went to sleep. IMG_2254Tears filled my eyes and my heart was broken. The walls of animosity towards tiny dogs was gone. The angst and fear of having a yelping ankle biter had dissipated. As a tear rolled down my cheek, I looked over to my wife and we instantly knew. We knew that we had found the furry addition to our family and that puppy that would never grow too big for Daniel. Seven years later, our little Deacon (that’s what we named him) has been joined by another Yorkie that we rescued named Ginger; a fat, energetic English Bulldog named Annie; and a skittish, fawn colored Chihuahua named Cookie that we rescued from an abusive family. I went from closing my heart to little dogs to having a wife that laughs at me because the ‘big tough man gets out of his big four-wheel drive truck after working out at the gym after work, sits down in his big manly recliner only to pick up, hold and commence baby talk to a 2 lb. dog in his arms’. Sounds like a perfect picture to me. 🙂

via Photo Challenge: Friend