Thursday, June 22, 2017

Father's Day: What It Means To Be A Dad

In May, I talked about Mother's Day and the difference between being a mother and being a Mom. I talked honestly about how motherhood isn't always the number-one-best part of my life, but also talked about how there's nothing that would make me want NOT to be a mother. Mostly though, the post was meant to outline the differences between a person who has been biologically successful at having a child and a person who has taken the time to create an emotional bond that stands the test of time - the kind of bond that survives rejection and sadness, overwork and underpay, and sometimes outright desperation of more kinds than I care to list here.

This applies to fatherhood too - because while it only takes a few blissful minutes and one wildly determined little sperm to create the beginnings of a human child, it takes so much more than that to create a parent. So with Father's Day being this past weekend, I thought it appropriate to explore fatherhood - and what it takes to make a father into a Dad.

Just like with motherhood, DNA creates fatherhood. It's simple science, the magic of our God-given biology. The joining of two people, two cells. And that's all it takes - boom! You're a father. One missed condom, one drunken night, one moment of physical need. Fatherhood.

But to be a Dad ... to choose a child above yourself in all things, to want the best for that little person even if you lose out in order to give to them, to care enough to nurture them, to guide them, to partner with them in building a future you may not even live to see ...

That's something different entirely.

I've talked very little about my own father here, because my relationship with him over the years has become something painful enough to avoid talking about. It would take more than one hand for me to count the times my father has somehow come up in conversation, only for the person I'm talking to to sit up a little straighter and say with surprise, "Oh! Your father's still alive, then?" And I tend to lower my eyes and say quietly, "Yeah, but it's complicated."

Now, raising two daughters who will also feel the same ways and say the same things, I'm forced to deal with my own issues so that I can coach my children through theirs, and the lack of what the women in my family experience in the way of fatherhood has really drawn a line for us as to what we think makes the difference between a father ... and a Dad.

I was a "Daddy's Girl" as a young child, and I can still vividly remember the sense of hero worship that filled me whenever I thought of him. My father was a huge man with a bull temper and a strong personality that could not be contained. He had a sensitive pride that was easily injured, and a big heart that loved well - when it loved. I remember him letting me play music he probably thought was horrible whenever we were in his car together - and not only did he let me choose the music, but he let me have my own preset button on the radio. And he would learn my music, too. I can close my eyes right now and see him, hunkered down, slouching off to the right, heavy elbow pressing deep into the console armrest between us, his low baritone belting out the lyrics to Ginuwine's Pony while I grinned to myself, proud of our closeness.

He loved music - probably still does, though I wouldn't know. My first introduction to the power of music was at his hands; we were in church and I looked up, following the scope of his big hands on the hymnal, The sight of tears streaming down his face as he sang, along with the tremble of his chin as he struggled to compose himself in that moment, stole the words of the song from my lips. I mumbled along, quietly, marveling. I wish I could remember what song that was - I too have wept through the words of countless songs, and I've wondered a time or two if maybe the same song that touched him so also touched me along the way.

We're estranged now, and have been for years - a wall of old hurt and resentful unforgiveness stands between us just as solidly as the wall that stands behind me right now as I'm writing this. There are some hurts that heal and scar over, becoming a part of the past - not quite disappearing, but ceasing at least to be painful. Others ... well, others remain, sensitive to the touch and flaring up again with the weather.

Despite the wall and various injuries that built it, the most valuable gift my father has given me over the years - the same gift my children are now receiving from theirs - is the stark and sometimes jarring contrast between what makes a father, and what makes a Dad.

A father is a man who might begrudgingly pay a little child support (if the mother is lucky), resentful of his need to do so. He might take his child(ren) for a weekend now and then, parking them in front of his television or video game while he tolerates the inconvenience of his visitation time. A father is a name on a birth certificate, a donator of genetic material.

But a Dad ... a Dad is something different entirely, a blessing and a guide, a teacher and a companion, an encourager, a protector, a safe haven.

A Dad is a man who doesn't just provide a game to play - he takes (or makes) the time to play it with you. A Dad gives his heart and his soul, so much more than the occasional set of school clothes.

A Dad is a man who never forgets your birthday, who keeps his word, who shows up when he's supposed to. A Dad is a man who swallows inconvenience for the sake of those he loves, who puts his kid's birthday parties and concert recitals ahead of TV football games and boxing matches.

A Dad is a man who calls you to see how you're doing, and lets you know that it's okay to not be okay. A man who praises you when you're doing well, and holds you up when you're not. He's a counselor, a friend - a safe place to hide from a world of judges.

A Dad is a man who wants the best for you - who wants to give you more than he had, who wants to see you rise above where he started, who wants to see you grow.

For a daughter, a Dad is the first man to hold her hand, the first to show her what it feels like to be cared for. A Dad is the first man a daughter dances with, the first man to hold the door for her, the first man to buy her flowers. For a daughter, a Dad is what to look for in a future Husband - the King who shows his Princess how to choose her Prince. Or how not to. For some daughters, a Dad becomes the first lesson on how to recover from heartbreak, how to survive not being enough, how to live with letdown.

For a son, a Dad is the strongest and most steady example a boy has of what to become when he grows up. A Dad is a lesson for Princes everywhere ... on how to become and behave as a King. Or again, how not to.

A Dad is strength gentled by compassion, hard lessons softened by love. And sure, he's imperfect. He messes up and makes mistakes - a Dad is, after all, only human, and at his core he is only a father like the rest. The difference - the one thing that pulls him over that line and makes him something he wasn't before - is in his willingness to make the effort over and over again, to reach out and reach out and reach out, to find the balance between endearing vulnerability and determined fortitude.

So although I skipped the public spectacle of Father's Day, I'd like to encourage men who are reading this: if you have children, don't just be a father. Don't throw a check at your children and call it a day, and don't come in and out of their lives, using them for your convenience. Take the time to be a Dad, make the effort to nurture a relationship that will enrich your life. Foster a bond with a person who will grow up to change the world - confident in the strength and guidance you gave them. Give your heart to being a Dad with the same enthusiasm you give to your other passions.

And if you're a child - grown or otherwise - who has a Dad that takes the time to be a Dad ... appreciate the gift that that is. Show your Dad some love, and let him know that you see and appreciate whatever he gave you over the years. Because your Dad? He's a gift not every kid is blessed with.
In keeping with this post, today I'm sharing a pair of "Featured Favorite Products" that are all about Dads - and the effort that makes a father become the kind of Dad every kid longs for.

We'll start out with this fill-in-the-love journal for Dads I found on Amazon! This is a cute and fun way to show your Dad how much you see, appreciate, and respect the dedication he's shown you over the years. And for under $15, Amazon makes it easy to show your Dad what a difference he's made in your life.
But if you're the dad and all you want is to keep being good at it, then beef up your summer energy levels with  Strike Force Energy - this zero calorie, zero sugar, zero carb packet of magic delivers your energy for an entire afternoon at the park without making you sweaty, jittery or cranky (at least, that's how it works for this mom). You won't crash when it wears off either, AND each single liquid packet is small enough to fit in your pocket, wallet, or desk drawer (works for moms, too - I always keep a packet or two in my purse)! My favorite thing about it is that it's simple to mix (tear open, dump into a bottle of water, shake it, and then down it, baby) and it isn't gross or disgustingly sweet like so many other energy drinks on the market. Makes a great low-cal, sugar-free substitute for my usual coffee, too! And to make it even better, I'm partnering with Strike Force to give you 20% off your order - just use AFLBRANDI8634 as the discount code when you checkout at (or click the link above)!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
To all the Dads out there - thank you for being dedicated! If you're reading this and loving it because you have an awesome Dad, share this post with him and let him know he's amazing even if it isn't Father's Day. Or if you're reading it and relating because it's all about what you want to be as a Dad, share this post with your kids and let them know how much you love them.

If you liked this post for other reasons, or you think you know someone who will, feel free to share it on your social media, and don't be afraid to invite your friends to come hang out in the comments!.

Make sure to come check me out on Patreon, too! The people who support my ability to keep writing mean a ton to the girls and I, and I'm always looking for an opportunity to welcome more people into my community - right now, we're just THISCLOSE to reaching the next goal there, which will bump my poems to two a month AND trigger my first Patreon giveaway. I also post short stories, podcast, mini-blogs, and lots of other content there!

But in the end, whether you come to Patreon or not, I'd like to invite you to make sure you never miss a post here - this content is ALWAYS free so take a second to subscribe to my blog (the subscription form is in the right sidebar) and make sure we stay connected. By subscribing, you're making sure you stay updated on all the latest news. And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a loyal follower of this site, from the very bottom of my heart, thank you for reading.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Motivation Monday: Build A Life of (Core) Value

Who we are as people - and where we go in life - will be largely determined by the principles that we see as important, the morals we adopt as humans, the beliefs that we hold dear. These things dictate our behavior, they decide who we are, and they influence where we draw the proverbial line between what is "right" and what is "wrong."

It was November of 2016 when I received confirmation that certain things I'd been living with for years were due to the presence of PTSD. It was only a few months before that that I found the similarities between PTSD and my own life, thanks to the teachings in a series of videos I found on YouTube. But through those teachings, I also found something else, something that's been brewing in my mind now for almost a year.

I found myself with a new curiosity - a fascination with core values as a subject in themselves. What constitutes a core value, and how do we begin to recognize which ones most matter to us as individuals? And how do you order them - how do you number them to figure out which ones are highest on your list? Beyond that ... how do you seek to create a life that most aligns with the values you value most?

Honestly, I'm still not sure what order my values go in - although I can say for sure that there are certain ones that stand out for me in ways that cannot be ignored. Integrity is one - I simply can't tolerate or respect people who don't hold this particular value in high regard. I need people in my life who value the things that Integrity embodies - honesty, dependability, solidity, kindness. I hope to embody those qualities myself for the most part, and so I find myself almost desperately frustrated when spending too much time with others who don't.

There are countless other values though, some of which mean a lot to me, and others which don't - and that's why core values are themselves at the core of my Patreon podcasts. These podcasts are a monthly exploration of core values as chosen from a list I found online; each podcast is something of a long blog post, but in an audio version that you could listen to while cooking, cleaning, driving, etc. Each one is (so far) just under six minutes long - and each one is thoughtfully written to explore not only why these particular values are (or are not) of importance to me, but also why they are (or can be) important to our human society as a whole.

These podcasts take a little more prep to create though, in the time required to explore my own personal connection to each chosen value, the investment of time taken to put those thoughts to paper, and the effort undertaken to record and edit each podcast into something I can be proud of as a content creator. For these reasons, my podcasts are only available to my Patreon subscribers, so I felt it a good idea to take time explaining what Patreon really is and how it works for creators like me (in correlation with supporters like you).

Patreon is a site that allows content creators to connect with their supporters in a whole new way, converting the usual give-and-take into a more solid relationship between small business and loyal patron. These creators, just like humans in general, come in all shapes and sizes, and we as a community create in a variety of content genres. On Patreon, you'll find a bit of everything, from writers to vloggers, from artists to musicians; with Patreon, each creator has the choice of what they offer their supporters, and the opportunity to ask for what they need most in the way of support.

Because the truth is, no matter what kind of artist you are, no matter what your chosen medium is - whether it's clay or paint or music notes ... or words ... art doesn't create itself, and art in itself doesn't pay the bills.

For many creators like me, Patreon is what stands in the gap between keeping a dream alive, and living a life that's only a shell of what it could be. There are any number of creator accounts currently thriving on Patreon with the support of people like you, and because of that kind of support, this world has more artists that are free to live an artistic life. It means we still have people who can paint and sing and write without being suffocated by the need to stifle their art in favor of their electric bill. Patreon allows people like you to give your favorite creators the ability to have art AND electricity.

Actually, that's the best part - it isn't, and doesn't have to be. With Patreon, you subscribe to your favorite creators the same way you subscribe to Netflix or Gwynnie Bee or any other monthly service. And just like with any of those services, you choose your own level of benefit/commitment. For example, my Patreon currently has seven reward tiers to choose from, ranging from $1-$20 a month, and each tier has a different set of included benefits for my supporters. Most importantly, each upper-level tier also includes the benefits of all lower-level tiers, so my $15 patron receives not only the $15 reward, but also everything from the $1, $2, $3, $5, and $10 tiers. Patrons can choose at any time to edit their pledges, giving more or less as they see fit or can afford, and changing or canceling a Patreon membership is SO easy (I've done it once myself, and it literally took less than two minutes).

Another of my favorite things about Patreon is that it pretty much does everything by itself. I can even schedule my writing bits to go up automatically, which means I can work myself ahead of my deadlines and earn some time "off" now and then. I also like that your information stays private and so does mine - Patreon takes care of everything to do with monthly charging, and they also keep track of who sees what (according their chosen reward tiers, etc.). The site itself is intuitive and well-organized, easy to operate and comfortable to use - AND you don't have to check in all the time in order to stay updated. Patreon settings allow you to choose what you see and how you see it - you can even set up notifications that'll let you know when someone you follow or support adds new content!

That depends on the creators you support. Some of the vloggers offer extra exclusive videos, or exclusive bloopers from the videos they share on YouTube. Other creators offer exclusive podcasts or e-magazines, or early access to their music or other art. Some even offer their patrons a little bit of control over their process, such as choosing what they write next or what the topic of their next video might be. To clarify and offer examples, here are mine:

  • $1 - For this tier, I post a monthly short story. Each story is around 1500-2500 words, and each one is posted along with the photo I used as inspiration for the writing. On this tier, I also post photos and mini-blogs (I call them PhLogs - PhotoLogs) as I go through my day to day life. These are often a lot less focused than what I post here, and are usually quite a bit more personal. My patrons are getting the inside scoop in a way that no one else can - and as a bonus, new patrons also have access to the entire backlog of $1 content!
  • $2 - Currently on this tier, I'm posting one poem a month. These are usually emotion-driven and so they're quite personal, which is why they are on one of the higher tiers. These are a look inside my most personal thoughts, as it often takes a very strong emotion to drive me to poetry. Once my Patreon account hits the goal of $20 a month in pledges (we're just about $1 short, so ONE more patron would make the difference!), then I'll be bumping this tier up to two poems a month! Patrons on the $2 tier also have access to the monthly short stories and other postings from the $1 tier.
  • $3 - On this tier, you help take charge of the way the $1 tier flows! We currently have seven active romance stories on the $1 tier, each one with a different plot, each one focused on a different couple. So each month, Patrons on the $3 tier get to vote on which couple will be featured in the next month's $1 story. It's a great way to take charge, and you still get access to all the content from the $1 and $2 tiers!
  • $5 - This is the podcast tier; on this tier, you'll have access to the Core Value podcasts I record each month, along with all the past podcasts! And of course, you'll also have access to everything from the $1, $2, and $3 tiers.
  • $10 - On this tier, you'll have early access to any and all of my future novels! Each time I finish a novel, I'll put out a call to my $10 patrons, asking for their direct-to-kindle email addresses. This will allow me to send my newest books straight to my Patrons' kindles, FREE, a full month before release! It's the last chance for ME to polish the work before it goes out to the world, and this is YOUR chance to participate - you'll be invited to let me know about any formatting or editing errors, AND you'll have your name included in the acknowledgments of the book! As always, patrons at this level also have access to everything at the lower levels, which means $10 patrons are rewarded with EVERYTHING I've talked about so far.
  • $15 - This is the live tier, where you'll basically be reading my novels AS I WRITE THEM. With my current writing schedule and stress level, this means one chapter a month - but I'm looking forward to adding more to this in the future as time and life allow (and as more people sign on to this tier). I envision this being one of my most active tiers in the future, with (eventually) as much as a chapter a week (or more?) being posted for patrons to read (all for the same pledge from patrons - it won't cost more!). The coolest thing about this tier is that since patrons are literally the first to see my writing (even before editing or anything else), this is a chance to catch errors I might have made, or offer feedback into the story itself (such as the plot, characters, scenery, writing style, etc). It's your chance to take an active role in my writing in a way that can actually help direct my career. You also have access to all the previous reward tiers too, as well as all previous content.
  • $20 - On this tier, you take charge of YOUR writing. In addition to all the rewards of the previous tiers, you're now taking a step toward a whole new partnership with me - because on this tier, you're signing up to have your writing critiqued by me! Twice a month, you'll have chances to send bits (2000 words or less) of your own writing to me, and I'll look over them to offer feedback, editing suggestions, or other coaching. Your writing can be whatever you want it to be, too - so that means it could be an essay, a memoir, a blog post, or a chapter of YOUR next great novel!
One of the best things about Patreon (I know, I've mentioned so many "best things" already but Patreon just doesn't stop, y'all) is that Patron support is something that builds on itself in a way that doesn't need MOREMOREMORE from anyone. I'm still posting the same $1 short stories whether I have 4 patrons or 400 - and if Patreon supports my writing enough to allow me time to write more, I can do that without asking anyone to give more. It's truly a partnership between my patrons and I, and I love that we're building a community together that we all care about - proven by the fact that we're all giving something, whether it's content or cash.

But don't just check Patreon out for me - check it out for the already high and steadily increasing number of amazing creators that keep the site alive and thriving just by being there. (But of course, if you did want to check it out specifically for me, you could find my Patreon page here.)
If you were watching closely in the text above, you probably caught the Gwynnie Bee link - because Gwynnie Bee is today's "Featured Favorite Product." Gwynnie Bee is a subscription-based clothing service for curvy and plus-sized women who want to try different brands and new clothing styles without the commitment to constant shopping (and laundry!). Gwynnie Bee is like Netflix for mid-to-high-end fashion, and I love that they cater to plus-sized women - allowing women of all sizes to dress well as they live undaunted lives.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
Thanks for hanging out with me today - if you liked this post or you think you know someone who will, take a minute to share it on your social media, and invite your friends to come hang out with us in the comments!.

And again, make sure to come check me out on Patreon! Your support would mean a ton to the girls and I, and I would love the opportunity to welcome more people into my community - like I said before, we're just one or two supporters away from reaching the next goal there, which will bump my poems to two a month AND trigger my first Patreon giveaway.

But whether you come to Patreon or not, let me have one more minute before you head to the next site on today's internet travels. I'd like to invite you to make sure you never miss a post here - this content is ALWAYS free so take a second to subscribe to my blog (the subscription form is in the right sidebar) and make sure we stay connected. By subscribing, you're sure to stay updated on all the latest news. And in the meantime, whether you're a first time reader or a loyal follower of this site, from the very bottom of my heart, thank you for reading.