As a full time father of four it’s not often I can say that. It’s rare to have any time to myself let alone two full days. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to a quiet house, the sleeping in, the getting to do whatever I want to do.
By having ME time has allowed me to keep my sanity most of the time when confronted with the chaos of four kids. Or six kids back in the day, or in the seven kid chaos coming my way later this summer. I once had a 17 kid dinner in my house and I was the only parent. It was a dream of mine, as each kid asked if they could have there friends over I said yes and yes and yes and yes until I was making dinner for 17 kids. I have the video to prove it…
Although I can’t seem to find it at the moment, believe me it happened…
These weekends I use to recharge my batteries and do the things that I love. For example I am going to go for a nice long run down to the waterfront and back, it’s full of elevation changes and great scenery. I am going to stroll the flea market and do some window shopping, and I am even going to sleep in tomorrow. No five am gym session for this guy!
I consider having the best of both worlds, full time Dad by week and bachelor on the weekends. Yes I miss my children terribly but at the same time I enjoy the peace and quiet a Friday night with an empty house brings… I think I will go play a game of pool.
And if you haven’t seen the movie Dead Poets Society, go watch it and take some lessons from it. You will be glad you did, have a great night everyone!
So for the first time in maybe forever, although I know I did some crazy things while Ironman training a few years ago, today I did my second 10 km run in as many days. I had every intention of doing a nice and easy 30 minutes job on the treadmill at the YMCA while the kids ran around the gym downstairs with there hair on fire (not literally).
Perhaps it was the fact that I actually only ran 9.96 km yesterday and not the full ten that kind of bugged me today. I have OCD and I felt I needed to fix that, or perhaps it was the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt advertising my start up baking company for the first time…
And I figured that the longer I ran the more advertising I would be getting. Is it wrong for me to have parked myself in front of a few out of shape folks sweating away and working hard? And here comes some in shape triathlete running for an hour advertising a bakery company right in front of them.
I ordered a bunch of items from Vista Print including a banner for the outside of my house, business cards, car magnets for my doors and the aforementioned t-shirts… I have high hopes that this business venture allows me to remain at home longer with my younger kids to continue to enjoy he magic of their childhood.
Tomorrow will definitely be no longer than 30 minutes or 5km, which ever comes first!
Does anyone have any tips for muscle and leg recovery that I might use? After all I still have 89 more runs to go!
One of my friend’s on FaceBook shared the picture below, and it emcompasses everything that I have come to believe in over the past few months.
I spent 45 years of my life blissfully unaware of anything that existed outside of the bubble that I had created for myself. As the years went by the thickness of my bubble grew and grew, eventually I wasn’t able to see beyond its barrier and for me nothing else existed in the world.
When we are first born, we are born outside of this bubble. Think about it, as a child you are not weighed down by the weight of life itself. It is our experiences as we grow up that force us into the bubble, call it a defence mechanism. All the negative things that happen to us push us just a bit further inside.
For me, and many of us we first start to lose our fearlessness when we are kids and playing anh hurt ourselves. In that moment we start to live with fear and play it safe. You slow down a bit when running full speed because last time you tripped and scraped your knee. As we age things like peer pressure and wanting to fit in, to be like everyone else teaches us to hold back, to not be the true version of ourself, to settle for less because we want to be accepted, to be like everyone else.
My first marriage was a perfect example of settling due to fear and insecurities. I wanted to have children before I was 30 and settled for a woman that I knew wouldn’t make me happy, I just that she would be a good mother because she worked in the childcare industry. I kept the same job for 20 years but was only ever to reach at certain level in the company as when I got comfortable it became about being comfortable and I stopped growing. I was afraid of change. This all led to a dull life and just surviving.
I spent 25 years trapped in this existence.
I have been rediscovering my childhood through the eyes of my son, he will turn 4 next January and I am so blessed that I have been able to stay at home with him over these last three months. Everyday I get the chance to see the world through his eyes and have such a unique perspective on everything. Watching and PLAYING WITH Austin on a daily basis I can see his confidence as his explores new things, he is constantly laughing and always happy, he wants the most out of every day he is with me never stops asking me to play, he has no fear when he embraces the unknown and always has an abundance of energy.
He lives every second of every day outside of this bubble.
And I just had an epiphany as I was pulling the banana bread that I just baked out of the to cool, it’s our job as parents to help our children exist outside of this bubble their entire life. Imagine that. To teach them to continue to live their lives with the eyes and the attitude of a child that has no fear, that embraces the unknown that doesn’t settle for comfort and will continually to test their boundaries and grow.
I knew this journey I am on would take me to some amazing places, and I knew the power a parent has being able to influence and shape the destiny of their children. Both good and bad. I am only now learning what that really means and I am excited for each and everyday that the future holds for us. One filled with love, testing our limits and growing spiritually, physically and emotionally in every way possible.
In my own life I want each and everyday to be filled with an abundance of happiness, to live without limits and embrace the unknown. I am able to do this more and more everyday, I celebrate the little success and the small steps that I can take to move forward and further away from that bubble until it seems like a distant memory or a lifetime ago.
Yesterday after school I was picking up Jennifer as I always do, this beautiful 5 year old is definitely an old soul and looks at the world in a way that I absolutely love.
She asked me to dance with her while we waiting for Megan to meet us outside, and I found myself standing on a wooden stage holding her in my arms slow dancing to John Lennon’s Imagine playing on my phone. It didn’t matter to me that a 100 other parents and kids were watching us, we were dancing and singing like no one was watching. As we were doing this the most magical thing happened.
Almost every other kid in Jennifer’s class joined us on the stage and danced around with us. Here I am all 6 foot, 5 inches of me dancing with my daughter for all the world to see and a host of other children circling around us without a care in the world. Now close your eyes and imagine the smile I had on my face. Got it? I challenge you to do something today to put that smile back on your face again.
That my friends is the power of living outside your bubble.
And I guarantee that you will be glad you did. Have a great day everyone!
To continue to live here you must be willing to accept ALL the following conditions.
(1) Follow a simple weekly schedule that will allow you to complete the following tasks,
Get up in time for school, including having breakfast
Have the appropriate clothing for the weather
Have everything you need for school that day.
Set aside time each day to complete homework and projects so you can stay ahead of timetables and due dates.
Complete and hand in ALL assignments.
In your bed with lights off at 11pm, phone turned off at 11:30pm asleep by midnight (ideal goal).
Monday through Friday nights you come home after school to complete job list, homework, etc…
All homework finished you may hang out with friends, home by 10pm.
(2)Tell the truth. Do not steal. Respect your yourself and the other members of our family.
Lying cannot be tolerated anymore. You need to be honest with yourself and with others, this past Friday showed me clearly how easy and natural it is for you to spin a tale and lie directly to my face. You have broken and damaged that trust and it needs to be rebuilt over time.
Do not take from others and earn what you need. You will be given the opportunity to earn money via a chore chart every week. You will not be given money by me anymore for any reason. You also need to pay me back the $100 in Uber charges from the past ten days.
We will talk to each other in a respectful manner. When we have an issue, we will talk about it, have a discussion and come to a conclusion together. All problems will be resolved in this manner.
(3) There are to be ZERO drugs and alcohol used while living here, this means on the weekends when are hanging out with your friends. This is a ZERO tolerance policy moving forward.
You have watched me struggle with this problem for too many years, it was one of the factors that pushed us apart. If you continue to smoke weed it will keep us from drawing back together. It is a dangerous addictive and damaging drug for a developing mind. Yes the Canadian government will legalize it next year, but they will also place restrictions on it who can use it (age related) and the penalties for driving while high, etc.. These already exist for things like alcohol and cigarettes. Once you reach the legal age for these substances then you are free to with as you please.
(4) We will find you someone that you can talk to about the issues that you are having in your life. Above and beyond your school guidance counselor who will help you with school related matters. You need someone to talk to about all the baggage that you are carrying in your life.
Your relationship with me, how you feel about things, what you felt like over the past four years, and over the past two years especially.
Social pressure and anxiety that you may feel.
Depression, negative thoughts and emotions and better ways to deal with these feelings as opposed to internalizing and keeping things to yourself.
In the last few weeks with everything that you have gone through, I don’t feel you have opened yourself to anyone fully yet. Even when I talked with Shy’s mom she told me that she never got the full story from you. I cannot even begin to tell you how opening up and sharing all the baggage that I have been carrying over the past several years has weighed me down. By sharing my stories and experiences with sometimes complete strangers has given me such a strength I cannot put into words. I suddenly realized that so many of us carry around this baggage that we do not need to all by ourselves. This is my support system…
Amber McCauley – the family therapist I’ve started to see
Jason Mackenzie – runs the men’s support group that I joined on Amber’s recommendation. It has about 200 members all over the world and all struggling with different issues. They is such power in numbers and every time I have shared a piece of me, I have felt the love and support come back a hundred times over. This past weekend I shared the story of Uber and lying and stealing, and I had 28 different responses and opinions.
Jodi our next-door neighbor. She is an incredibly giving woman and does tons of mentoring and giving back to her community. She delivers food for Wheels on Wheels, she mentors parents that have special needs children. Both of her children suffer from autism and HDSD and require full time assistance, yet she still makes times to give back as much as she can. Including reaching out to me this past summer and has become a very close friend.
Ryan Lewis, my best friend has been instrumental in talking things out and being a sounding board for each other. We would talk/text daily for a few months encouraging each other with our goals of quitting weed. He is such a genuine person who has strong values, the same outlook on life as I do and has been there to listen in a very nonjudgmental way. It was the reason that I enjoyed playing golf so much this summer as those afternoons were spent having fun and talking about ways we could improve our situations. He has such strong connections with both of his parents and spends much of his time these days helping out both his mom who runs several business in Northern Ontario (landscaping, FedEx delivery, etc.. she showed him some tough love when he was younger and getting into trouble, and to his Dad who lives in Newmarket and is bound to a wheelchair taking him to and from the doctors on a regular basis, helping with his medications, setting up his new place and so much more. I don’t know of anyone that gives back to his parents as much as he does right now.
And I look to continue to expand this circle as much as I can. I have made several other contacts in my men’s support group and I will be starting a 26-week Master Mind course with 10 other men starting in January. This involves a 75-minute weekly phone call that focuses on mental health, financial security and physical and spiritual well-being. There is so much more to this course and it will help take all that I have learned recently to the next level.
All of this has only come from my ability to be open and not afraid to share all that I have been struggling with in my life.
(5) Be a member of this family.
And by that, I mean you are free to do whatever you want in your free time as long as you are following the conditions laid out above and below. We will plan outings to the YMCA, I will be having movie nights, I plan of getting a working Wii for the kids for Christmas and will start playing Mario Kart. I want you to be included, and I want your input on things that YOU want to do and like doing. I want you to develop an interest or hobby that I can support in anyway needed, in terms of paying for it, driving you to and from, helping you find what you are looking for, etc.… Channel some of your time and energy into something that you want to do, just for you.
(6) Get a job. It is time for you to put together a resume and start looking for a part time job.
It will provide you additional money above and beyond what you can earn from the Chore Chart.
It will start to teach you some aspects of responsibility and develop a work ethic, working with others, etc…
It can lead to new friendships and new opportunities in the future.
Start to become more active, exercise not only your mind but your body as well. This is entirely your choice as to how you would like to proceed with this, the easiest perhaps is to join us at the YMCA when we go several nights a week and walk/run on the treadmill. The kids will be starting a Hip/Hop dance class there on Mondays in December, they will continue their swim lessons on Thursdays and we most likely one other night of the week as with the winter schedule they have increased the amount of child mind hours available. Megan has really enjoyed going and you will quickly see the benefits as well.
We will talk weekly on how things are going, evaluate how things are going and talk about making adjustments as needed.
I agree to the above conditions of living here and will do my best to uphold and follow through. I also understand that I will make mistakes along the way and will need help from time to time. I will not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help when I need it.
________________________________ Emily Dillon
The Benefits of Option 1
I will pay for your monthly cellphone bill.
I will pay for a Family subscription for Apple Music.
I will drive you to and from school (as I can and may not always be available, especially when I return to work in the new year). If you miss a class then you will be on the bus for the rest of the week.
You will receive a monthly clothing budget of $100 for your needs. Dad will take you shopping on Wednesday evenings if you need something from the mall.
Additional money may be earned via the chore chart, once jobs are completed to my satisfaction. Transferred to your bank account each Friday.
You will be allowed to have friends over to our house on Friday nights including sleepovers as you see fit. (On Saturday mornings to Sundays you will visit your mom’s house for the rest of December.) In the New Year if you have been able to follow along with the plan we will discuss the option of you going out to friends’ houses.
I will drive you to and from work (as I am able to based on other family needs, swim lessons, etc.), to job interviews or whatever other work related tasks you may require.
You may your TV and Bell cable box back into your bedroom, following the conditions set up with your cell phone. Off by 11pm.
I will be open to talking about additional benefits of living here that are discussed when we sit down and talk each week (The drive to and from Mom’s house is a perfect chance to do this… you get the drive down on Saturday and Megan can have the drive home on Sunday)
I agree to the above benefits for Emily living at home and will let Emily know if and when something needs to be altered.
Well guys as hard as it was for me to do but I had to ask my daughter to leave my house by the end of the week.
After the events of last weekend with her lying and stealing, I sought out as many different thoughts and opinions on the subject. I made a post in the Men’s support group I have joined and got many excellent suggestions. I talked to several more people and solicited several other female opinions trying to get inside Emily’s head as this is clearly something a 45 year old man would have trouble understanding.
I came up with three options for her.
First was to continue living at home, I laid out very clearly all the expectations of living here along with a list of the benefits and consequences of her recent actions.
The second was to live at her mom’s house that would come with it’s own set of expectations and consequences.
And the third was to move out on her own/with a friend into the real world, and away from this reality she has created for herself through her choices and actions over the last several months. And again I clearly let her know about the real world and some of the issues that she would face. Rent, food, clothing, etc.
I explained that I would not pay her cell bill, apple music and a few others as these were the consequences of choosing option three.
She continually told me that she didn’t need help and didn’t want to be treated like a 2 year old that had Downs (as she put it). The words back came easily to me as they were all coming from a place of love and only wanting what is best for her. Not to control her life, not to take away the independence that she was had but help, help in making better choices.
If she didn’t need help why was she failing three of her four classes this semester? If she didn’t need help why did she openly refuse to stop smoking pot? If she didn’t need help why couldn’t she get up on time to catch the bus in the morning? I laid out these scenarios to her trying to show her the behaviours that I had been watching.
Her steadfast refusal to admit she needed help, or to even talk to anyone. I calmly asked that had she not seen the changes in her father over the last few months (and she did) and I said I was only able to achieve this lasting change through talking and sharing the weight/burden that I had been carrying for years. That I actually got help.
By sharing, by becoming an open book by allowing others help me with my issues. Not solving them, listening, being there for support. There is such strength in a community and sharing the weight of your troubles with others. They help you carrying the load, to get through, to persevere and to grow. A concept that I didn’t understand until very recently.
She wouldn’t even look at or let me talk to her about what my house conditions would be. She out right refused to option one. She didn’t want to move back home with her mother so I told her that she clearly has chosen option three.
I had no choice, stuck to my guns and asked her to be out by Friday.
I did let her know that she would be welcome back her at anytime as long as she was willinging to follow my rules. She started crying, asked me to leave her room. I had been talking with her mother, she was quite upset, I talked to Megan her younger sister (13) and explained exactly what was going on. This whole experience has really drawn the two of us closer together and strengthened that bond.
I left sticking to my guns and while not feeling good about what I had to do, I did it knowing that I was coming from a position of love, wanting the best for her, and wanting her to get the help she refuses to acknowledge that she needs.
It may be the toughest thing a parent will ever have to do is to remove a child from their house. But I did it but man does it suck. This week should be interesting. I don’t suspect she will come home from school today, in fact I doubt she even gets up for school today but that is another issue entirely.
Today was another fantastic day continuing the trend of yesterday, and last night and I kept the adventure going this morning and into this afternoon. I don’t normally ask complete strangers to go out for breakfast but I did last night and it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Please allow me to explain.
My neighbor Jodi invited me over for a chat last night with her husband and another lady that she has been helping, we shall refer to her as Tiffany. I have no issue openly sharing my life and I will certainly respect the privacy of others as much as I can. Tiffany is dealing with her own issues in life, Jodi thought she would offer a different and unique perspective on the issues that I am having with Emily as there were some similarities in their stories.
AS the evening progressed and the conversation bounced around from topic to topic I found myself intrigued by her openness and willing to share her story with us. As the night wound down and I said my good-byes I went home and started to think to myself that I wanted to talk with Tiffany more but in a one of one setting. So I sent over a quick email asking if she wanted to have breakfast with me this morning. And she accepted.
So two things of note right away, it’s not something that I have ever done before asking a relative stranger out for breakfast and I would quickly find out she had not done anything like this as well. So up this morning, shower and away we go. It was a quick 10 second walk to knock on the front door 🙂 and off we went. There is a restaurant here in Barrie called the Farmhouse, which is an old converted farmhouse right on the shore of Kempenfelt Bay with a great view of the water. We were seated on the upper level and in the corner table which gave us the best view of the water on a beautiful Sunday morning. You could still see the fog lifting off the bay even with the bright sunshine all around.
Social anxiety, meeting new people, worrying about being able to carry and have a conversation with someone I didn’t know always caused me a great amount of stress. I would often go out of my way to avoid situations like these, or make up excuses to back out at the last-minute. Those thoughts and feeling didn’t once enter my mind last night or this morning and every time that I have challenged myself recently I have been initially surprised at how easy it actually is.
On the drive down I inquired about she met Jodi, we chatted about dinner the night before and when we arrived we were seated, ordered some coffee and got into some deep and heavy topics of conversation right away. It was a blessing that we were seated along on the upper level and it was almost an hour? maybe before another table was seated. I don’t recall how long, we were there for almost three hours but it didn’t feel nearly that long at all.
Your perception of time is always an amazing thing, sitting in class as a kid waiting for school to end the second-hand on the clock seemed to take forever. The exact opposite seems to happen when you are in great company and having a good time.
Having the room to ourselves, Tiffany was able to tell me her story, about the issues that she was dealing with. I sat there sipping my coffee listening to this beautiful woman open up and reveal intimate details of not only her past but her present situation as well, again to a complete stranger. Personally I have learned the power of sharing, the power of talking with another person about what is going on in your own life, and I suspect that Tiffany feels exactly the same way.
I asked questions at breaks in the conversation, I dug a little deeper on certain things and in the course of sharing her story with me I felt that I was able to get to know her much better and have a deep understanding of the events in her life that had shaped her into the person sitting across from me today. Seeing up close another person completely open up and be honest gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
As the morning progressed, the menus remained untouched and it was my turn to share my story. Just as Tiffany had done, I didn’t hold back and shared the events of the last 20 years of my life going over both marriages, why I got married to each lady (topics for future posts indeed!) and ultimately the reasons these relationships would end in failure. I talked about all of my children and the conversation eventually ended up with Emily.
The secret (well maybe not) reason that I wanted to talk with Tiffany in the first place was to get a female perspective on the thoughts and feelings that may be swirling around in Emily’s head. What a young lady thinks about their Dad who wasn’t there at a period of time when she perhaps needed me the most, and what actions could be taken next and possible reactions I might receive from Emily.
If you would like to know more of the back story between my daughter Emily and me, I’ve written about our situation in our last several posts.
We would eventually order and have breakfast but over our three-hour conversation I was presented with thoughts and options that I would not have been able to come up with on my own. I have spent my afternoon preparing a much more detailed and written version of what the expectations are for any child under my roof and have planned a date with Emily tomorrow evening after school to review these options with her and talk about her life moving forward.
Several of the key points came from my Breakfast with Tiffany.
The talk won’t be easy but it might be the most important conversation that I have had with any of my children to date. I so desperately want her to get some help, despite her repeated plea to me that she is fine. I can see her struggling with a lot of the same issue that I was as well.
We finished out breakfast and stepped outside shortly after noon and marveled at the beautiful December weather that we were having. The summer was not a hot one here in Canada by any stretch of the imagination and on December 3rd it was nicer than a lot of the days this past year. Certainly a lot more sunny! It felt like God had open up a small piece of heaven and it was shining down on us.
When we got home I thanked her so much for sharing with me, letting her know what a great time that I had and I sincerely hope we get the chance to do it again really soon. I made a new friend today, and added another peice to my ever expanding circle of support. I hope she looks at me in the same way.
You honestly never know what tomorrow may bring, and you need to open to all possibilities. Life will surprise you when you least expect it, we remember the bad but often close ourselves to all the good out there.
For too many years I had my head buried in the sand. And by that I mean I kept my eyes to the ground and really wouldn’t make eye contact when I would pass people on the streets, in the mall, even at work. Perhaps especially at work, as the kitchen operations manager for The Keg I would often do laps of the dining room and I would look at people’s dinner plate, checking for food quality. Ten to fifteen times a night I would lap the dining room and always, always had my eyes down looking at each table and the plates on it as I would pass by.
I realize now in retrospect that I had it wrong the whole time! What I should have been looking at was everyone’s eyes and face, to see they were enjoying themselves and having a good time. That information alone would have told me all I would need to know, having a good time then the food must be good as well. Making eye contact, smiling at our guests would have made me and them feel better. After all ins’t a smile contagious?
I was an introvert, and I didn’t like people. I kept to myself, and presented a very business like front at work. I presented a professional version of to keep everyone at an arms distance away from me and at the same time I didn’t go out of my way to get to know my co-workers on a personal level. Since moving out on my own when I was 18 I already had this mindset and never in all the places that I lived (and there were a lot, I moved on average once a year for 10 straight years) did I get to know any of my neighbors more than a casual nod of the head in passing, some not at all.
Even friendships from childhood, friendships I had made when someone would ignore my walls and want to get to know me anyways on a personal level. Those people I liked the most as they put forth the effort to see what was beyond the image that I had presented to everyone else. Over the years, even those special people I let fade away and lost contact with.
Let’s take Facebook for example, those of us that use it most likely have some of childhood friends on our friend list, I know I did but I never went out of my way to actually reconnect with any of them. I would have considered myself a silent Facebook stalker, as everyone once in a while I would see what they were up to. At times ignoring or making up excuses to reconnect. Too busy, too many kids, too caught up in my own head at times.
When I started this journey I have started to look at people much differently than I ever did and I have found myself doing things that I never would have before in my life. And every single time that I push my personal boundaries and do something that once upon a time I would anxiety about or uncomfortable with I would jump in head first. Let’s go back a few months shall we…
My neighbor Jodi came by my house one summer day offering me a couple of extra winter coats that her daughters had outgrown, and having two daughters slightly younger I thought that it was an incredible gesture and that was the literal start of our friendship. Over the weeks to come we would continue to talk and get together a few times a week and converse almost daily now by email. She has become a very close friend and important part of the support circle that I have been creating. She helped open my eyes to new thoughts and new possibilities, she helped change my life. Had I not been open to her and kept my old mentality that exchange at my door may very well have been the end of things, and I so very glad that I didn’t as she has helped me in numerous way. I just returned from a delightful dinner with her, her husband and another lady that she is mentoring. It was a delightful evening full of great conversation, and as I sat there I was thinking wow Ed, you never have done something like this before. It was really great.
Thank you Jodi.
The other side of the coin is old friends. Lot’s of times we bump into an old friend, chat for a few minutes and ultimately leave the conversation saying we should get together some time. I know I would do this, and never follow through. Far too many times. This morning I actually reconnected with one of my best friends from grade school and high school, James. We grew up in Milton together along with a circle of friends, and today I drove down to his house in Toronto to have an afternoon full of nerd adventures playing a Star Wars miniature game along with another old friend John David.
The old Ed would have had much anxiety meeting old friends, not to mention a room full of strangers that I had never met before. I considered bailing on the outing last night and even this morning as I had a convenient excuse built-in with the issues going on with my daughter but I ultimately decided that a day reconnecting and catching up with old friends was exactly what I needed to take my mind off things.
And boy was I right! Driving down from Barrie to Toronto taking all the back road to both enjoy the view, avoid the gridlock on the highways gave me such a sense of peace that I was able to think about the situation with my daughter and rock out to some great tunes. I parked my Jeep, walked up to the front door and knocked. The second James saw me through the window he threw up his arms in the arm with a big smile, opened the door and we immediately embraced in a big long hug.
It has been 28 years since I had seen my childhood friend and both immediately agreed that it had been far to long. He was open and welcoming and we sat down and chatted for a few minutes about life and then headed down stairs to meet the rest of the crew. I gave John David another big hug and spent the next several hours getting blown out of the sky (in the game) and reconnected with a couple of class gentlemen that I realized after I left had missed for far too long. It was a great afternoon talking about the old days, meeting new friends and just enjoying life and each other’s company. When it was time to go James walked me out to my car, exchanging another big hug and made plans to meet again real soon.
It was an incredibly powerful afternoon and evening for me. I will definitely have to write more about these guys and some of our childhood adventures as they are some of the happiest times of my life.
Nothing about today was difficult or hard for me. Once i started to drive I did not feel any kind of anxiety or feelings of nervousness. It was pure joy and enjoyment in the company people who I call friends. True friends with no motivation or hidden agendas, genuine people that honestly care about my well-being and that of my family.
I learned a lot today, not only about myself but about my view towards the rest of the world. Quick side story, at a traffic light waiting for the light to change green I looked to my right and watched a wonderful old couple, perhaps in their 80’s laughing and smiling at each other just enjoying each others company. I thought to myself we all should be so lucky. It brought a tear to my eye.
I am very happy to write that Emily is currently upstairs sleeping in her bed, in fact all four of my children and sleeping soundly under my roof for the first time in several weeks. It has been one heck of an emotional day that started at 6:30am this morning with tears running down my face as I listened to a very powerful song from Simple Plan called This Song Saved My Life. I instantly started to think of Emily and how much I missed her..
The first stanza is as follows…
I wanna start letting you know this Because of you my life has a purpose You helped me be who I am today I see myself in every word you say Sometimes it feels like nobody gets me Trapped in a world where everyone hates me There’s so much that I’m going through I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you
I was broken I was choking I was lost This song saved my life I was bleeding Stopped believing Could have died This song saved my life I was down I was drowning But it came on just in time This song saved my life
When I picked up Emily today we had a long talk about the last few weeks, I (as nicely as I could without turning it into a lecture) about the expectations of coming home and what I expected of her in terms of behaviour and life goals moving forward. I will get to those in a second. I was as open and honest with her, which isn’t easy for me as I have been here with this blog.
I told Emily that she was my catalyst for change. She was the reason that I wanted to change my life, to get better, to be a better father and dad. Through her actions, and at times her words she was screaming out loud for a Dad that would be there for her. I had spent too many years wrapped up in my own world, focusing on career and personal gains, wrapped up in addiction to both drugs and stupid iPad games.
When in front of me the whole time was this little girl, slowly growing up in front of me and I was too wrapped up in my own shit that I couldn’t see it. Emily inspired me to make change in my life, to get better not only for her but for me as well. I have really enjoyed reading about other people’s rise out of the darkness, we all share similar stories of overcoming the darkness in our lives. The issues may be different, but we all share something in common, that there is something that triggers the change.
To me this was a father bearing his soul to his daughter. I wanted her to know the power that a child can have. Any person can have to inspire another to be better than the sum of their parts. I hope to do that for others one day.
I wanted Emily to have a clear understanding of that, and what I expected from her coming home. I explained to her that we are in this together, and that running away is just running away from your problems, and that I would always be here for her, that she wasn’t alone, and help comes when you least expect it. It sure did for me. In many different ways and many different forms, in places that I never expected as soon as I opened myself up to it.
I would love your thoughts in the 11 House Rules if you will for Emily, Megan, Jennifer, Austin and myself to follow moving forward. In no particular order…
Have a simple schedule in the morning, getting up with enough time to do what you need to get ready for school, including having breakfast.
Get a minimum of hours of sleep at night to get the proper amount of rest, phone turned off and put away at least 1/2 hour before bed.
Go to school. Complete projects and assignments on time.
No drugs or alcohol period. I’ve done too much research on the damaging effects on a developing brain.
Don’t take things that don’t belong to you, respect others property.
Weekly chore list, including bedroom tidy and laundry done before going back to mom’s house.
We will talk out our problems, anger hostility and disrespect don’t have a place in our life anymore. Be honest with yourself and others.
Ask for help when you needed. Don’t be afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to need it. I was and resisted for too long, we all need help from time to time. You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Eat dinner and help clean up afterwards. Your body needs fuel and if you’re not hungry you most likely filled up on junk before dinner.
Exercise, very important for long-term feelings of wellness. Something as simple as going for a walk will do the trick.
Be happy, enjoy life.
That’s my list. I also mentioned that I was not going to force family time upon her, and that she was free to choose to do what she wanted as long as the above guidelines were being followed. I did suggest that spending time with her brother and sisters playing would take her mind off any stress or anxiety in her life. I know I do…
I ended our conversation asking her what she needed or wanted from me, mentioning that I didn’t need an answer right away and wanted her to think about it. Tomorrow we will talk about consequences as opposed to punishments. Everyday moving forward I hope to learn more and more about being an effective, loving and awesome Dad.
Emily turned 16 on November 15th and told me the next day that she was moving out and didn’t come home after school. She spent the next two weeks at a couple of friends houses and she had very little contact with her mother and sister, and even less with me. Just over two weeks had gone by and in that time I have done a tremendous amount of research on parenting, mental health, the effects of drugs and alcohol on the teen-aged body and a host of reading on legal issues with regards to a 16 year old leaving, rights, financial responsibilities etc…
It has been a very tough few weeks.
I could see the effects on her mother, she was crushed. I have full time custody of my girls but Mom has remained close and talks to them everyday. This experience has drawn us closer together in terms of a united parenting team even though our marriage ended many years ago. And seeing first hand the effects on her younger sister Megan as she has been struggling to understand why her sister left in the first place. Megan asked to come home from school early this past Friday as she had been sitting in the bathroom crying. Both are beautiful young ladies, raised in similar environments but have turned out completely differently.
I’ve written a few blogs posts so far about the experiences I have had over the last few years that have led me on a path of self discovery, and also recently realized that the mental seeds to this journey were planted before I even realized it. In the post,A Letter to Emily I actually foreshadowed what exactly happened a year and bit later when I stepped back from work to re-establish my relationship with her.
The other post of note, The Power of the Nothing I knew I needed to fix me and the way I reacted to and dealt with any and all issues that life would throw my way. Emily leaving derailed all the progress I’ve made at the gym in the last month, the nothing had me! It’s been an amazing journey so far, but I am just getting started as I have so much that I want to write about and share with whomever is interested.
I had hoped and prayed that Emily, when she was ready would want to come home and as hard as it was to watch her walk away, I gave her the time and the space she needed to come to that decision on her own. There were perhaps some legal way to force her home, and force her to get the help she needed, but I feared it wouldn’t last and would only cause further distance between us.
So as hard as it was, I patiently waited…
This morning I received this text message from her, and instantly started to cry. It wasn’t the first time that I cried today. That happened this morning around 6:30am when I was down in my basement hitting my heavy bag, and dancing around like no one was watching. A song came on and within seconds I started to cry…
This Song Saved My Life by Simple Plan.
I was dancing around with tears streaming down my face and in truth I’ve never felt more alive. I missed my Emily terribly but connected with the lyrics in a very powerful way. Emily was the main motivating factor for me to change my life, she doesn’t know it yet but she saved me. She really did, you only ever will have one first child and I could see my beautiful baby girl slipping away from me right before my very eyes.
The life choices that I had made, and the things (at the time) that I thought were important to me were the very thing(s) that were pushing her away. The older she got the faster the divide started to grow, and she was already gone long before I realized that she was gone. Her leaving the house forced me into old habits and inaction and I started second guessing all my reasons for wanting change. This kind of thinking in the past has led to long term disastrous result for me, and thankfully a lot of the things I have learned recently kicked in and I was able to get back on track.
No the pain of Emily never went away or lessen in intensity, but I was able to live with it.
I have so much to live for, three other amazing children who were getting the short end of the stick as their fun loving father has been emotionally crippled and they deserved so much better. Pain, emotional turmoil and other negatives emotions will always enter our lives, it is how we deal with it determines our strength of character.
I will have setbacks along the way, hopefully minor in nature but I continue to move forward to grow as a father and a man. To gain a better understanding of how to unconditionally love everyone in this world, to grow spiritually and emotionally and intellectually. To show my children to do the same.
Emily comes home tonight, I am a little nervous but I am ready to talk about her experience, and to let her know what my expectations are, I need to be to her parent and her friend.
Ready to love her unconditionally, to parent her to the best of my ability, to get her any and all the help that she wants or needs.
To rebuild our relationship and revel in the love between a father and his daughter, the road may be hard and bumpy at times but I know now that I have the strength to stay the course.
There have been several life altering events in my past, and beyond family type things (marriage, children, divorce…) the sport of Triathlon has had the biggest impact for sure. The story starts in October of 2005 when my first wife and I separated, I was an inactive, unhealthy, unhappy 238 pound man. It was New Year’s Eve I had been sitting in a bubble bath reflecting on life and just how messed up things had gotten in a short amount of time.
Getting out of the tub I took a good long look at myself in the mirror and realized that I needed to do something about the reflection staring back at me. I was going to start dating again shortly, and with any luck and or charm on my part a woman was going to be seeing me naked again. I didn’t like what I saw reflecting back at me, how would she?
At that point in my life I did not know the difference between a protein, a carbohydrate and a healthy fat as my diet consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches, kraft dinner, hot dogs, pizza and whatever take out I would order. It also didn’t help that my job, as a Kitchen Manager for the Keg afforded me free food and drink on a daily basis. In my first five years as a manager I put on about 10 pounds a year, when I started managing I was a 6 foot 5 inch, 170 pound beanpole. Now replaced was a beaten and broken 238 pound man, whose every single pair of pants would not button up as I refused to buy a 38 inch waist pant.
I was into my early 30’s and had not done any form of exercise since I was a teenager, I smoked weed on a regular basis and that often led to the eating of whole pizzas in one sitting, and tons and tons of junk food. I think my personal record was 37 Halloween chocolate bars, and I knew that I was on the fast track to obesity?, diabetes? and who knows what else. It was that night I decided that I needed to do something about the direction I was headed.
That winter I started to workout on a beginner weight bench that I purchased at WalMart and started to speak to some friends at work about ways to change and things that I could do to improve my health. Two people in particular stood out, Jimmy Rego and Jeromy Mueller.
Jimmy was a server with the Keg, but had been a collegiate cross country runner for the University of Arizona back in the day. He literally taught me how to run, this is how naive I was, I did not know how to go for a run. Anyone watching me would see this guy walk out his door and try to run as fast as he could right from the start, and due to my years and years of inactivity I couldn’t reach the end of my street without my lungs exploding and fire in my sides.
We talked many nights about setting a pace, starting easy and building into the run, doing a combination of walk and run to build up my stamina. At the time it felt like I was being given the universe’s greatest secrets, and slowly overtime I increased my stamina and increase the distance. One story in particular sticks out as Jimmy had challenged me to do a long run to see what it would feel like. So I did, I had a 7km course that looped past my house and off I went, I don’t recall what the intended distance was but I do recall doing three laps of that circuit and when I got home I felt so elated at my accomplishment! Fast forward to later that night and I could not lift my legs or get out of bed, I had to crawl across the floor to get to the bathroom. It took about a week for everything to feel normal again, but I learned that day about how to push myself to accomplish some crazy things.
Jeromy was a fellow manager, and has his own story about how working out changed his life. He was a beast and trained hard everyday, and still does to this day. He invited me over to his house several times to workout, and through him I learned about proper form when lifting weights but more importantly proper nutrition. It started with post workout protein shakes and it was during this time he explained how a protein worked, what carbs were good for, etc… Again, it was like a light had been turned on inside my head.
The exercise has dropped my weight down close to 200 pounds, and it was the change in diet and increased nutrition cracked that barrier I had trouble passing and quickly dropped to about 190. It was an amazing six months, but for me something was still missing. I had joined the world of online dating, far different in 2007 than it is today and I actually met the lady that would become my second wife years later.
I had two young kids, Emily and Megan and the Keg had provided me a great schedule that allowed me to have my children Sunday morning through Wednesday morning when I would return them to mom’s house. Working a lot of evenings hours left many daytime hours to fill. Just sitting around by myself in the day became very hard to bare, and I needed to find something to do, a hobby, a sport?
My sister suggested that I come watch a friend of hers that was competing in the Milton triathlon in June, and while I didn’t end of going and watching the seed had been planted for the next evolution of my life. I began to do some research on the sport of triathlon, as honestly I had never heard of it, and I had no idea how many races were happening throughout Ontario in the spring and summer months. I did some research and found what I thought was the perfect course for a beginner, the Niagara Give it a Try race would be the one I decided to enter.
A Give it a Try triathlon is a 400 meter swim, followed by a 10km bike ride and then finished up with a 2.5km run. I picked this particular course as the swim was along the shore of Lake Ontario and they claimed you could touch the bottom the entire swim, perfect I wouldn’t drown. The bike ride was completely flat which again was perfect as I was riding a very old, and very heavy mountain bike, and then the run. I had a full cheering section with me there on that day, my dad, sister, ex-wife and both my children came out to watch and cheer me on.
I had trained for that day, but really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Being my first race every I had only the basic gear, no wet suit, no fancy bike, no spandex outfit and no light weight race shoes. Just my drive and determination to cross that finish line, in under an hour I had hoped. Walking down along the shore to get the swim start line, I noticed a dead fish lying on the shore and I thought to myself…
“What the hell have I gotten myself into?”
When the gun went off and I ran into the water to start, I didn’t take into account just how cold Lake Ontario water is, even in July. Everything inside me seemed to seize up as it was so very cold, but I managed to do a combination of front crawl, breaststroke and floating on my back when needed to finish the 400 meter swim (and being truthful it was the discipline that I had trained the least for). I did make it to the swim finish and did not have to be rescued by any of the lifeguards on duty, running up out of the water I saw both of my young ladies there cheering Daddy on. I made a point of stopping and giving each of them a hug and a kiss and I was on my way to the bike.
I knew biking would be my strongest of the three and actually had a pretty good bike, that indeed was flat with no hills to worry about at all. There were a few times when I did get discouraged, as my manhood was challenged when I saw many, many other athletes passing me on the course. Most I am sure where in much better shape than I was, and were riding bikes that most likely weighed much less than my ancient clunker. I must have given it maximum effort while I was out on the bike as when I got back to the transition area I was physically spent, yet I still had a 2.5km run to do!
I put on my best and bravest face for my family, although it felt like my lungs, sides, and legs were all about to explode. I smiled at them, and I ran, and ran right out of the transition area until they could not longer see me and immediately started to walk. I felt a little discouraged at my inability to run but I was still making forward progress… I eventually caught my breath, the lungs stopped burning so much and I was able to finish strong by running back into the chute, and across the finish line.
I had unbelievably finished my first triathlon, in just under an hour. The time to me didn’t matter and driving home afterwards I had such a sense of accomplishment that I had never felt before in my life. I loved this feeling so much that I would end up doing 4 more races that summer and fell in love in the sport of triathlon forever.
Reaching the end of this course, the journey I had taken and the feelings it left inside me, changed me forever.
Over the next three years I would go on to do some pretty amazing things in this sport, but that my friend will be another post here in the future.
I invite you all to get out there and Give it a Try! It might just change your life as well!