Posting From an Undisclosed Location

Hey, Dads (and WordPress readers)!

Sorry for the lack of updates, but as you can imagine things are crazy right now.

I, like many of you, am feeling the effects of the corona virus in my life. These last few weeks were already going to be difficult-new job, fixing up our house to sell it, finding a new place to live-but I never expected the anxiety levels to be this high!

For starters, our daughter is a premature baby under the age of 12 months. Covid-19 could be devastating if she were to be exposed to it. I would be devastated as a parent if I knew I was the one who exposed her! So my wife and I have taken the precautions we can to try to protect her, but with something this serious and unknown there’s no guarantee that we can prevent it.

There are also the economic consequences. This may the worst time to try to sell a house or buy one, and we cannot afford to pay two mortgages. Up until this week I wasn’t certain that I would actually have a job to pay for anything! Thankfully, my start date has not changed. What has changed is that from day one I will be working from home, on-boarding and all, which comes with a variety of other anxieties.

Social distancing is another matter entirely. The country has never seemed more divided at a time when we really need to come together, spiritually not physically. Physical distancing is what we should really call it. There are many great ideas on how to stay connected. But I worry that in a time when we are already suffering from a pandemic of misinformation that we’re licked when it comes to doing what we need to do slow the spread of Covid-19. It’s one thing to disagree on policy, it’s another to disagree on facts.

WHYY Radio Times – Connection and kindness during the pandemic

So what have I been doing to cope with all of this? Let’s start with the simplest thing, knowing what I have control over and what I do not. Simple but not always easy. For one, I can make sure I wash my hands, I cannot make other people wash theirs. There is not point at being angry at other people for how they choose to deal or not deal with this pandemic. It’s out of my control, and it’s out of your control. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can focus your time and energy on what you can do.

I have tried to maintain a schedule, minus a few late hours trying to finish working on our house to get it ready to list, by going to bed and waking up at my regular times. Sleep is essential to good mental and physical health.

It has been difficult to unplug, but if the news or social media is stressing you out, turn it off, put it away and spend some quality time with your family. Play a board game. Cook together. Learn to tie knots! Anything is better than obsessing over something that is out of your control. Staying glued to your news feed may seem comforting, because we all thirst for information when facing an unknown situation, but drinking from a fire hose is a bad idea.

Know that this is temporary. It doesn’t mean things will go back to the way they were, but chances are we will have different things to worry about a year from now. In the meantime, I am trying to do today the things I need to do to set myself up for success in the future. Work out more if you have the free time. Learn how to cook and eat healthy, it’s not like we’re going out to eat all the time right now. Keep saving money and investing for retirement if you are fortunate enough to have a job today. Teach yourself something new if you suddenly find yourself with a lot of free time. And most importantly, hang out with your family. Take care of them. They need you right now and you, as a Dad, are the person who can comfort them in scary times.

I see a lot of jokes about being stuck at home with the family, but trust me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in your children’s lives. Don’t waste it worrying about things that in the end will not be as important. No man says, “I wish I had worked more hours” on his death bed!

Meditate. Pray. Take a nap. Do whatever it is you need to unwind (just a heads up, drinking increases anxiety) that improves your mental health. Write, even if you have never written before. Sit in a quiet place and record voice notes on what you are thinking and feeling. As soon as you bring it to the surface, you have a chance to identify what you are afraid of, whether it is worth fearing, and if there is anything you can do about it. Reflect on the moment. Step back and then you can calmly take action to resolve it. If you can do anything, then know that! The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.

This is going to be a trying time for all of us. I know that it has been for me, but I also believe that we will come out stronger on the other end of it. This is a time to practice humility, compassion, and gratitude. Everyday is a gift, don’t waste it.

Now listen to this great song by Toad the Wet Sprocket and relax.

Change Your Actions, Change Your Mind

I haven’t had much time to work on the blog lately. I got a promotion at work a few months ago, which was kicking my butt until I accepted an even better offer out of state. After giving my notice at work, my employer decided to let me go. So I have a couple extra weeks to get our house ready to list, pack up, and move to Kansas City, Missouri for the new job.

At first I was bummed about their decision to not let me finish out the last two weeks, but let’s look at the positive side. I get to spend more time with my family for the next few weeks. I don’t have to go to work tired when our daughter isn’t interested in sleeping through the night. And my wife is pretty happy to have me around the house more, too!



And thank God we decided to prioritize our spending and build up our emergency savings. The situation would have been different if I had made the decision to live paycheck to paycheck and suddenly found myself with no income for the next four weeks. There are actions I have taken to change the way I think about the world, to practice forgiveness and acceptance, and to accept responsibility for any situation in which I find myself.

For some people, getting let go would have resulted in the feeling that a great injustice has occurred, and a few years ago that is exactly how I would have reacted. But it became apparent that the world is not happening to me, but the world and I are symbiotic. As German philosopher and psychologist Ludwig Klag says, “[T]he world pushes back as we push through it, no mind is an island but always with other ‘things’ from the world.” Which brings us to the difference in the way optimists and pessimists think about the world. A broken leg means not being able to walk and lost wages for the pessimist but the optimist thinks, ‘Oh, joy. I get some time off work to pick up that book I haven’t had time to read!’ Optimists and pessimists react differently to the same situation, which tells us that the problem is not ‘out there’ in the world, but ‘in here’ in our minds.

Ludwig Klage
‘The world pushes back as we push through it’

Rather than think about how the world affects me, I have to think about how I affect the world. There is so little we have control over, but one thing is certain, we have control over our own actions. I ask myself what is my motivation when I make a decision. Is it out of self interest do I think about how it will affect others? For example finding a way to have an emergency savings account rather than buying myself something I don’t need. Even better is taking the time to discuss these decisions with the people who will be affected. My wife and I spent a lot of time discussing the decision to leave my job and move back home. And the decision was based primarily on what was the best thing we could do for our daughter.

If this is something you have struggled with, just know that over time you will get better at thinking about others the more you practice doing it everyday. If you change your actions, you will change your thinking.

One more thought before I wrap up. With my schedule unexpectedly opening up, I’m already filling it with things to do. I love to work, and I’m always thinking about how I can be more productive. Which brings me to this; When I was in college, an architect that we interviewed in our professional practice seminar said we could either be great with our families or great at our jobs, but we couldn’t be great at both. Ever since I heard that I wondered if it were true and what kind of person I would be. It wasn’t until I heard Ramit Sethi talk about the stories we tell ourselves that prevent us from reaching our full potential that I knew it wasn’t. Many times our self doubt is the result of what psychologists call cognitive distortions. These cognitive distortions are created by our often imperfect perceptions of the reality around us and an unquestioning acceptance of what we expect our lives should be. There’s a really great book on this subject, The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Jon Frederickson.


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‘Embracing life on its own terms can be difficult. As we embrace life as it is, our illusions collapse. We need emotional courage to bear the pain without running, explaining, or justifying.’

What is stopping me from being a great father and husband and being great at my job? When I find myself thinking that I have to make a choice between one or the other I have to question if I even have to make a choice! I have found that these decisions are most often driven by selfishness. ‘I don’t like my job so I can use family as an excuse to get out of work.’ or ‘Hanging out with the family isn’t that fun so I hide out at work.’ Truth is the only choice I have to make is to not be selfish. I can be great at my job and great with my family if I choose to. The only thing that can prevent me from being great at anything is me and my own silly mind.


Top Books for Better Dadding

How early should you start reading to your baby? You can start the same day they are born if you are so inclined. The psychologist in the NICU told us reading to our baby is one of the most important things we can do for her cognitive development. Newborns are taking in a lot of information so read to them and let your baby hear your voice and the variety of sounds that it produces. If you are running out of things to say to your baby (after all it is a one sided conversation for many months) and find your vocabulary is limited to few sentences repeated over and over you can just read books you enjoy outloud to your baby. It’s a win-win situation!

What to Expect: The First Year

Heidi Murkoff; Sharon Hazel

My wife and I read this book together while she was pregnant. There are a lot of myths and other misinformation that we pick up through life about being a parent and how to take care of our children. For example, I always thought you had to pat your baby on the back to make them burp after eating. Not so at all. Most of the time babies burp on their own, just make sure you are holding them upright should more than air come up with that burp! This book is a great starting point for knowing what to expect when you are a first time parent and how to just about any situation that you can think of during your first year as a parent.

The New Dad’s Survival Guide: What to Expect in the First Year and Beyond

Rob Kemp

The New Dad’s Survival Guide was one of the first books I picked up while getting ready for our daughter to arrive. If I were going to write about book about what you need to know as a first time, I wouldn’t, because Rob Kemp already wrote an excellent book to cover what you need to know. It’s about more than how to change diapers and burp your baby, but also covers things to like how to communicate with your partner and a heads up for some of the mistakes we make when trying to adjust to this new way of life.

The Gardener and The Carpenter

Alison Gopnik

What is your approach to parenting? Are you trying to shape your child into a specific person following strict guidelines or do you allow your child to come into the would and learn to flourish on their own? I think Dadding teaches me as much about myself as I can teach my daughter Parenting is a fairly new term. In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult. Gopnik shows that although caring for children is profoundly important, it is not a matter of shaping them to turn out a particular way. Children are messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative, and very different both from their parents and from each other. The variability and flexibility of childhood lets them innovate, create, and survive in an unpredictable world.

The Consolations of Philosophy

Alain De Botton

I read this book to my daughter in the NICU. There was a local bookstore down the street from the hospital and this book was mentioned in an finance book I was reading at the time (Hagstrom). The book is an insightful look into how philosophy helps us to understand ourselves and the world around us. I read his book The Architecture of Happiness while I was in college and it completely changed the way I felt about what I could accomplish as an architect. Consolations changed the way I felt about what I could accomplish as a human being by changing my perspective.

Investing: The Last Liberal Art

Robert G. Hagstrom

In the year leading up to our daughter’s birth I was trying to learn as much as I could about personal finance and investing. I knew enough to know that the more money I invested the greater my annual income would become. I didn’t expect this book to be such a paradigm shift in the way I thought not just about investing, but innovation and insight. Hagstrom uses Charlie Munger’s ‘Latticework of Mental Models’ as a basis for understanding business models and how we can take the principles from one discipline and apply them to others. Depth of knowledge is great, but breadth of knowledge is where true innovation comes from.


Check out IndieBound.org for children’s books and support local bookstores

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Baby’s First Trip to the Emergency Room

We knew our daughter would get sick at some point, I just really hoped it would be much later. My wife caught a cold with a fever on Wednesday, and by Friday she was texting me at work, “Don’t be alarmed but Veda is sick now.” Our daughter had a temperature of 102° F. My wife called the nurse hotline provided to us by the NICU and they said at this age we didn’t need to be as concerned about her temperature but to keep a close eye on her respiration. Before three months of age any temp over 100.4° is of serious concern.

Our daughter is coming up on six months (three months adjusted for prematurity) and might have been eligible for a flu shot at her next appointment. She already receives the RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) vaccine. The Coronavirus is all over the news, but we seriously doubted that was the problem. I have heard the stories about new parents rushing their baby to the ER at the first sign of a cough and didn’t want to be that kind of parent. So we kept a close eye on her breathing and reluctantly gave her infant Tylenol to reduce her fever.

Friday night she slept on my chest, skin to skin, and my wife and I got up to feed her every few hours. We wanted to make sure she was staying well hydrated as her immune system battled it out with the illness. Fortunately, I was able to spend all day Saturday with her. My wife had a previously scheduled appointment she wanted to cancel, but I assured her we’d be okay. I looked forward to some father-daughter time and put Star Wars on the PlayStation and held her all morning.

Saturday evening I met up with my friends Bob and Tyler for coffee and we got to talking about my daughter being sick. When my daughter was born I found out Bob had also been born premature. That’s the way men console each other. I went through a difficult time, but you can’t even tell. So he mentioned he got pneumonia when he was a few months old too. “I got sick at that age but it was okay. I’m still alive, right?”

Unfortunately, in this new Dad’s mind, that meant “Holy shit! My daughter might have pneumonia!” I was also thinking about the days before our daughter’s birth where my wife’s condition continued to worsen and we thought it was just a normal part of being pregnant. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake.

I was worried that I might be overreacting as a new parent. I didn’t want to be the kind of parent that rushes to the ER every time my daughter coughs, but when I got home, our daughters temperature was still high and the Tylenol didn’t seem to help break the fever. She was starting to cough more and I was starting to worry more. “Babe, let’s call the nurse hotline again,” I said to my wife. The nurse helped us get a rough count of our daughters respirations per minute and said it seemed a little high. She recommended we take our daughter to the ER so at 10:30 pm Saturday night off we went.

At the ER they ran a test for RSV and Influenza, checked our daughters breathing and x-rayed her chest. Everything came back good except for influenza. Now everything that I have seen on the news makes it sound like you should panic when the elderly and infants get the flu, but the RN acted like it was no big deal. “We’ve seen a lot of kids for influenza right now. She’s going to be just fine.” The pediatrician prescribed Tamiflu, gave our daughter more Tylenol and discharged us. So at 1:30 am these very tired parents were back at home. This was the latest we stayed up since our daughter was born, I didn’t make it passed 11:20 pm on New Years Eve!

I’m glad that we did go to the ER as soon as we did, because if we had waited it out our daughter would have missed the window for any kind of treatment. And that is when complications can occur. Thankfully she is getting better now and I am reminded that as a parent I have to trust my instincts, and ignore my pride. The flu can progress into something more serious so it is best to err on the side of caution.

For more information on how you can protect your children from Influenza check out the following sites:

March of Dimes – Influenza and Your Baby

CDC – Protect Against Flu: Caregivers of Infants and Young Children

What Matters?

I recently rejoined Twitter to try and promote this blog and follow a few traders I like from Options Action. I recently shared that I left social media altogether and life has never been better for me. Less distraction, more progress toward my goals. But I bit the bullet and signed up, because that’s how this machine works.

Everyday we encounter the world outside of us and respond to what we sense (sound, sight, smell, taste, temperature, texture, etc.). We are struck with emotion every step of the way, sometimes intense, sometimes subtle. Emotions are involuntary, no matter how much you believe you are a rational person. Emotions are precognitive, like reflexes. If you are in sound health they work, if not you should see a doctor.

Feelings are different, and typically confused with emotion. Feelings are just your opinion of the emotions you are experiencing. You can call them thoughts if you do not like to consider yourself a ‘feely’ kind of person. How you feel about your emotions determines how you will act upon them. For those that insist upon arguing you are not driven by emotion, let us just say it this way-Your opinion about your emotions determines how you will react to them. Opinions are not facts.

We live in a world with more stimuli than ever before, with each stimulus encountered comes an emotional response. Those emotions tell us what is going on in the world around us. You cannot make decisions without emotion (read Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio for more information.)

Social media and our smart phones act like a sixth sense, alerting us to something happening outside of us. The emotional responses come and go so quickly we don’t even have time to ‘feel’ them until we have already reacted. A tweet about a new venture by someone I follow was attacked by other twits about an unrelated subject and as an expression of schadenfreude. I, of course, wanted to jump in and defend them. But do they need me to defend them? Does it matter anyway?

I put down the phone and went to check on my daughter, still soundly sleeping. As I stood there at her crib feeling a great sense of love and compassion (and a little bit of fear as I leaned in closer to see if I could hear her breathing!) I was reminded of what really matters in life.

Cracks in the Sidewalk

As a father we have an idealized expectation to be a good caretaker of our family. We may fancy ourselves a teacher and a leader to our children. How many times have you heard that with age comes wisdom? And have you ever questioned it?

As I have grown older I can assure you I did not reflect upon each birthday and say to myself, “I feel wiser now!” In fact, I wondered why I continued to make the same mistakes again and again, if I reflected at all. Wisdom comes from making mistakes and learning from them. Some people grow old and die before they ever realize it. They are same as a man who lived his whole life without ever making a mistake.

If you want to be a leader that means you have to make the first mistake. You have to walk ahead and trip on the cracks in the sidewalk. You have to learn how to avoid those cracks and then you can teach others to do the same. But you cannot make anyone learn, you have to let them learn. We like to think that we are the smartest animal on the planet, but humans default to trial and error which most intelligent creatures on this earth are capable of doing.

Our advantage is that we do not always have to make those mistakes ourselves in order to learn from them. We can also learn from other people’s mistakes. In college, I would rarely ask a professor for help because I thought I was smarter if I could figure everything out on my own. I missed the opportunity to learn from the experience of others. Experience defined as the mistakes made by others and how they learned overcome those mistakes.

My father rarely talked to me about the mistakes he made as a young man. I certainly felt I could point out all the mistakes he made as a father while I was growing up. But if I am honest with myself, like with my professors in college, I never asked him for help. I believed I could figure it out on my own.

As you walk down the sidewalk of life with your children, point out the cracks in the sidewalk and humbly admit when you tripped on one. Simply dictating that a crack must be avoided is the equivalent of posting a street sign saying, “Sidewalk Cracked Ahead.” The sign doesn’t teach anything, it only expects a reaction of avoidance.

I can only teach my daughter from my own experience and the experience others have shared with me. ‘Because I said so!’ never worked on me and if my daughter is as recalcitrant as her father, she’ll ask why a lot. Hiding behind my pride would be a great disservice.

What’s your experience?

Resolutions for 2020

Most often we think of resolutions as declaration to stop doing some bad habit and after few months of trying to stop that habit we go right back to doing what we have been doing for many years. It’s not long before we just resolve to not make New Year Resolutions and that ends up being the only one we keep. I’m going to assume you haven’t totally given up on making resolutions if you still reading this paragraph and I’m going to show you how I make resolutions and keep them.

Take a quick look at the definition of ‘resolution’ and see that maybe making a new year resolution isn’t quite the way we have always understood it. The first definition fits our common understanding best. A firm decision to do or not to do something. In others words, set a goal. Setting a goal is just a decision. Goals are typically something we set out to do, not something we set out to stop doing. Setting goals means living life with intention.

The second definition defines a quality of being. I want to be a person who sets goals and achieves these goals. I want to live my life with intention and determination. Doing so helps me find my purpose in life. Many of us think of purpose as some specific destiny given to us like curing cancer, ending world hunger, being the hot dog eating champion of the world or whatever grand thing we can think of. If you are reading this blog I can already think of one of the greatest purposes in life that we share – being a father.

And third definition from this quick Google search relates to what we really desire. I have discovered a problem and I want to solve it. We started with a decision to do something and then we followed through with action to resolve the problem. Men by their very nature are problem solvers. Problem solving is so great a desire that we try to solve problems even when there is nothing to solve! Ask your partner if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

I make resolutions almost daily. I’m somewhere in that second definition trying to make resoluteness a quality of my being. It’s like the old GPS devices that used to try to get us back on track when we missed a turn – recalculating… recalculating… I get off track sometimes and I need that GPS device to let me know. Here are two ways you can make that GPS device a part of your resolutions:

  1. Write down your goals on a piece of paper and put that piece of paper in your wallet. Revisit it from time to time and assess what you have done to achieve that goal. Or just rediscover it when you’re trying to find that receipt you need but misplaced. Add that goal to the calendar on your phone and set it to remind you about your goal every couple of weeks or months.
  2. Tell your friends, make a declaration on social media and to your best friends so that you can be held accountable. This works mostly because you want to look good to other people, but it also works because you might find other people who have already set the same goals and achieved them. Ask them for pointers. How did they do it?

Check out the Hidden Brain podcast on making and breaking habits:

https://www.npr.org/2019/12/11/787160734/creatures-of-habit-how-habits-shape-who-we-are-and-who-we-become

One last thought about resolutions. Ditch the idea that you either succeed or fail. If you set out to lose 40 pounds and only lose 20 you still lost 20! If you set out to save $10K this year and you only save $5K you still saved more than ZERO!! Whatever your goal is, getting closer to it is better than getting further from it. Success only happens when you never give up.

Make a big goal and then set little goals to get you there. Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. If he revolutionizes space travel in the process but doesn’t colonize Mars do you think he will be seen as a failure? If we start off thinking we can’t achieve our goals, even knowing that we can’t achieve our goals, then we won’t even try.

Really try to do something amazing this year. If you are honest in your efforts there is a good chance you will be better off for it. Your success may not be what you expected when started, but I bet you’ll be better off than when you started.


What we need are two lists. On the left side: This is what matters to me. On the right side: This is how I spend my time. In the middle, one resolution: to make the right side align with the left.

-Ellen Goodman

Countdown to the New Year! …And New Decade!

The countdown to the New Year is begun! As we usher in 2020, this is a good time to reflect on the last ten years. How is life different today? What did I do with the last ten years? Am I where I want to be and if not, what could I have done differently? Just as I try to reflect on the day I have just finished, I think this is good opportunity to reflect on the past year, and the past decade.

Benjamin Franklin

This could be a very depressing exercise. Thinking about the failures and successes of the last ten years, I tend to get hung up on the failures. In 2010 I did not give a single thought to the idea of 2020. I definitely never thought I was capable of being a father. And I’m not convinced 2010 me thought I would live to see it! Thankfully, I did survive despite many mistakes along the way and it is those mistakes that I have learned from. Learning to learn from my mistakes gave me the opportunity to make corrections and reevaluate my direction. So maybe 2010 me was a complete tool, but I can look back at the last year and feel content knowing I did my best.

Let me share some of those mistakes from the past ten years and how I intend to improve over the next ten:

Be a good custodian of my financial health

At the beginning of 2010 the future never looked so bright. I saved a ton of money in my high yield ING Orange Savings account while I was in the Army and I had built up a decent portfolio investing through Sharebuilder. Both accounts were bought out by Capital One, who coincidentally also owned my high interest car loan on a 2004 Nissan Sentra that I would sometimes fall behind on. I did pay off that car loan six months early in 2012 after working a summer job painting houses.

Watching the World Burn

I burned through the savings and investments within two years, mostly spending it at bars and on alcohol. I bought anything I wanted as long as I knew it wouldn’t overdraft my account (occasionally my knowledge was mistaken) and ended up living in a house that looked more like a storage unit. And I somehow left college with over $90k in student loans. WTF?

After I finished my internship 2017, the first decent pay I received since leaving the army, and still didn’t have any money I started to realize I couldn’t keep living that way.

I’ve jumped from job to job all my life but I found a decent job after college even though I didn’t complete my degree. I started to get serious about managing my money. I started to measure how I spent it with something kind of like a budget and I started to focus on the psychological reasons why I kept acquiring so much crap. Cleaning up our cluttered space (my wife had to live in that mess too!) was like an overweight person getting into shape. First I stopped getting more stuff and then I slowly started getting rid of stuff that I did not need.

I started to be more mindful about my spending habits because of an investing app I was using and I started to use that money I saved from not buying things I didn’t need to pay off debts. First thing was the credit card, and today I pay off my credit card in full every month. Over the last ten years I slowly built my credit back up. Now I have a credit card that pays me! I have only just begun to put a dent in my student loans, but the total owed is shrinking now rather than rising. And I have a small emergency savings and the beginnings of a retirement fund.

I started trying to be a better employee and co-worker which is a real effort for me. And for some reason they decided to give me a chance. I got a raise and a promotion this year!

If I can keep it up 2030 me will be grateful for 2020 me.

Be the best husband, father, and friend I can be

When I came home from the Army in 2010 I had no friends welcoming my return. If I wanted to hang out with people I went to the bar and made friends for the evening, assuming I didn’t run into people I used to know. I’ve had a drink thrown in my face before, and I wish I never lived a life that was so selfish and arrogant that someone would want to throw a drink in my face, but that’s who I was and I have to learn from it.

I always thought being a loner was an asset. I hated going out to eat or going to movies with friends because they could never decide where to go. Or when they did I didn’t care for their choices. It was easier just to go by myself because then I could do what I wanted to do. It seems obvious now, but it didn’t at the time. What I was saying to my friends was that being in their company was an inconvenience to my wants. I thought I was a good person if I did anything nice for anyone. Truthfully, If I did anything for anyone it is because I expected something in return.

I never realized how selfish I was until a couple of years ago when I had to sit down and rethink my life. I certainly could not blame other people. If people who had never met each other all had the same reaction to me then the only common denominator is me. It’s not like I set out to be a crappy person, I just didn’t know how I could be better. Somehow I needed to change the way I acted and I had to accept my mistakes.

Andy Warhol

This is where I learned to think of mistakes not as blemishes on an otherwise clean slate, but as indicators that I needed change direction. Think of life as a canvas. At birth there isn’t much there but as time goes on marks are made with paint brushes, pens and pencils. Maybe glue and scrapbook clippings are added and the occasional puncture. At some point in life we take a look at what is on the canvas make the decision to be more intentional about what we apply to that canvas. When we make mistakes we have to practice our brush strokes more to get the desired result. There is no tabula rasa waiting for me, I have to continue painting on the canvas I I was born with.

Socrates Funny

I’m not a perfect husband, but I actually put in the effort to learn from my mistakes. I won’t be a perfect father, but don’t use that as an excuse not to try. And I’m not the best friend anyone has ever had, but I try to be there for them and expect nothing in return. I will never give up trying to learn how with the help of others.

If I can continue to make progress everyone in 2030 will be happier with me!

Take better care of my body

When I got out of the army I was in the best shape of my life, except for maybe right after airborne school. But I got complacent. I put on the freshman fifteen followed by the sophomore fifteen and so on. I was rocking the Dad bod before it was cool and I wasn’t even a dad yet! 2010 me didn’t think about being in shape to keep up with his kid, or living long enough to see her graduate from college. I think about those things now!

My wife and I met smoking cigarettes which is the funny part about our relationship. I considered quitting in 2013 and talked her into quitting with me. I lasted two weeks and she hasn’t had a cigarette since. It’s been a little over a year since I smoked regularly but not without getting nicotine from alternative sources. I started vaping a year and a half ago and when our daughter was in the NICU all the news about people dying from vaping was everywhere in the news. I switched to nicotine gum for a little while, but went back to vaping using one stressful day as an excuse. I hope to be completely nicotine free by this time next year. I really don’t want any of this stuff to be in my house while my daughter is growing up!

That 70's show

And I haven’t had a drink in over two years now, which has been the biggest contributor to my betterment as a person. People just don’t make good decisions when they drink and they certainly don’t consider the future. I wish that ordering stuff from Amazon and eating a whole pizza were the worst decisions I ever made while drinking, but sadly that’s not the case.

How to change the past and make a better future

I hope that 2020 me is laying the groundwork for a successful future, because I know that 2010 me was not. I can get angry at myself and point out the monumental mistakes I made, or dream about what you have happen to my 2010 investments if they had stayed invested in things McDonalds, Microsoft and Target. Or better yet, I had made those investments in Netflix and bitcoin!

That just isn’t being fair to myself and it ignores the lessons life was trying to teach me. 2020 will be the past eventually and it is up to me to do the right things today so that I don’t look back in 2030 wishing I had done things differently. You got the rest of your life to get it right, don’t waste it on yesterday.

Use this New Year to make progress, and don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. Life takes practice just like learning to play the guitar you’ll hit the wrong note or playing football you’ll fumble the ball. If you stop practicing you cannot expect to get any better. Start with one thing and when you get good at it use that success as motivation to move on to the next thing.

Wishing you the best in 2020.

Back to Winning at Dadding

What toys should you get for a premature infant?

I spent the first couple of weeks with our daughter really not knowing what to do as far as play is concerned when it came to our premature daughter. I was told in the NICU the most important thing I could do is read to her, sing to her, and hold her. After a couple of weeks of my wife and I feeling like we had to constantly entertain her and we started to realize she could in fact entertain herself if we let her. Then came her first Christmas and we really got to see what she was interested in.

Our daughter was 20 weeks old at Christmas, nine weeks old adjusted for her premature birth and there are certain milestones she has hit for a three month old. But there are still some zero to three month milestones she hasn’t hit. She just recently started to reach for things, and probably not coincidentally it was when we introduced the piano mat. Mostly, she loves the lights on our Christmas tree.

She received some gifts that are intended for when she gets older, but others we were not sure if she was ready yet. These are the gifts she was most receptive to. So if you are trying to figure out what kind of toys to get for a very new baby, start with these.

Our Daughters Top Five Gifts

5. The Glowing Plush Animal

Bstaofy Glow Polar Bear LED Stuffed Animals Night Light

This was a gift from my wife’s brother and sister-in-law. This toy may not be that impressive to a Dad who has lived a life of sensory overload but this toy makes our daughter smile. It’s pretty simple. My daughter has no idea what a bear is, but she knows this soft bear feels nice and she is fascinated the light glowing from inside. Let it be a reminder that Dad can overthink things.

4. The Carousel of Music and Light

Haktoys 2-in-1 Activity Toy & Night Lamp Sky Constellation Rotating Projector

This was a gift from my Dad and Step-Mom. My Step-Mom told me they were just as clueless about what to get a our daughter as well, but they nailed it. Our daughter loves this toy! Obviously she cannot push any of the buttons yet, but she enjoys watching the lights pass by and coos to the tunes for now.

3. The Tummy Time Pillow

VTech Tummy Time Discovery Pillow

This was a gift from my sister who has three kids of her own so she has a pretty good idea about what kids like. So far our daughter only accidently hits the buttons but the pillow itself is a good start for getting our daughter doing push ups and trying to use her hands while she is on her tummy. Before this toy she was using Dad’s belly as her primary source for tummy time fitness.

2. The Lullaby Hippo

Summer Slumber Buddies Projection and Melodies Soother

This was a gift from my wife’s mom. Despite the horrible photoshop images trying to sell this toy, it is honestly more impressive in real life. Remember those glow in the dark stars that a lot of kids wanted in their rooms in the 90’s? This is the same idea. Thinking back to when we are kids my wife and I knew this toy will spark joy at bedtime for years to come. As a bonus for parents who share the room with baby, there’s a sleep timer that shuts off the lights and music so you don’t have to get out of bed to turn it off.

1. The Kick Piano

MooToys Kick and Play Newborn Toy with Piano

This is the gift that my wife picked out for our daughter. Dad approves! I have never seen my daughter get so excited for anything. Being a fan of music (the noise making toys don’t bother me except that I usually think the sound resolution is cheap) I expected the piano part of this toy to be the most exciting thing for our daughter. While she does interact with the piano as intended the biggest surprise was how excited she is to interact with the mobiles dangling from above!

My wife found it used to save money and we replaced the missing hanging plastic animals with stuffed animals on clips. Which actually worked out better because they hang a little lower so our daughter can reach them.

Infantino Shake & Pull Jittery Pal, Lion

Hopefully these gifts give you a good idea of where to start. As a bonus I have included one more gift idea specific to Christmas. Every year since my wife and I have been together I buy an ornament with the year on it and sometimes an ornament to mark a special occasion such as graduation, our marriage, our first house etc.. Over the years our Christmas tree begins to tell the story of our family, just like my Opa and Oma’s tree did when I was growing up. This particular ornament marking our daughter’s first Christmas came from my Mom. Thanks, Mom!

Unapologetic Dadding

Pre-parenthood I would have made fun of people for talking about their kids all the time. Or made jokes about the goofy pictures parents posted on social media. And why not? It is pretty common in our culture to complain about social media posts with pictures of your food when you go out to eat with friends. Or pictures of your kids just doing whatever weird things kids do. And even our ridiculous pets.

What it does tell us about our culture is that these are the things that matter to us. The picture of that plate of food is expressing our natural human desire to share a meal with friends, because friends matter. Those pictures of our kids are an expression of our desire to be a part of a family, because families matter. And yes, our ridiculous pets matter!

I withdrew from social media in 2016. No more Facebook. No more Instagram. No more Snapchat and Twitter. I decided to go back to a time where the relationships I had with people happen in real time, unscripted, warts and all. I decided to let people see me as I really am, not how I wanted to be perceived. The unexpected consequence was that it forced me to actually act the way I wanted people to see me.

Just not right away.

Thankfully I had a little time to make improvements to myself before my daughter was born. I am tested often and sometimes I fail those tests, but I make it a point to learn from my mistakes. The things that matter to me today seemed unimportant years ago. I had grand ambitions that were primarily driven by selfish ideas and reinforced by the desire to have others think well of me.

Today I do not worry about what others think of me, and I will never need to worry as long as I know that I am doing the right thing. My grand ambitions now seem like tiny matters, but they are not. I desire to be a great husband. I desire to be a great father. I desire to be a great friend. And when I fall short of these things the people around me let me know because I have a great wife, a great daughter, and great friends. I’ve surround myself with great people, and they help me to be a better person.

Being a good dad is not easy. Being a good husband is not easy. But the things worth doing in life usually aren’t easy. If I make a mistake, I learn from it and try harder. Life takes practice. And if people make fun of me for getting all gooey eyed when I talk about my daughter and pull out my phone to show pictures of the cutest kid in the world I don’t worry about what they think about me. Why should you?