bloodlines.

i’ve tried writing about my biological father for years. it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me for a long time as i’ve navigated my feelings and i’m not sure how clearly i’ll be able to articulate my thoughts here. sifting through the rubble of uncertainty, pain and grief is the toughest task anyone could go through. it’s also tough to write about someone i’ll never get to meet.

i was adopted when i was a baby, and it wasn’t like I was lacking anything really. I grew up the youngest of seven kids, four of us adopted, with an incredible dad who worked extremely hard to provide for all of us. My dad was also the perfect example for us about how a husband should treat his wife. It’s just that you always will wonder where you come from when you don’t have any connections to your bloodlines.

i used to daydream about those bloodlines. maybe my father was a famous NBA star, maybe he was an actor. how cool would that be? for the most part, i figured he was a regular, non-famous, guy. even though i was born in north carolina and grew up in michigan, i wondered (hoped) if i would ever bump into him and just know that he was my father. sometimes, when i was a kid, i’d see a black man and i’d want to ask him “hey, are you my dad?” i just wanted to see someone who looked like me. i wanted to see someone and it just be so obvious that we were connected. i envied my friends who took for granted that they looked just like everyone else in their family. i never experienced that. i really just wanted to meet someone who had the same DNA as I did. anyway, as it turns out, he wasn’t an NBA superstar or an Oscar winning actor, which i suppose is okay. those who knew him would probably say he was much more than just a regular guy. he also wasn’t the man i started to think he was.

for a long time i thought he had abandoned me, leaving me as another statistic. needless to say, i grew to despise him and vowed to never be anything like him. i thought up a lot of names for him, none that i’ll display here. truthfully i was just hurt and disappointed and really, what kid would feel any differently? it wasn’t his fault though. he didn’t know that i existed for years after i was born. once he found out about me, he vowed that we’d find each other. he wanted to be my father and he wanted to be there for me. he just never got the chance.

well, i did find him. i had to go to his grave site to see him.

my father died when i was 19, on march 22, 1999. he had just turned 45 years old. his name actually was also james, though he went by the nickname “tadpole”. that’s all anyone ever refers to him as. i don’t believe in coincidences but it’s pretty crazy we both have the same first name. i never got to meet him or look in his eyes or see his smile. he liked to shoot home movies, so i’ve heard his voice and his laugh and seen him party and dance on camera. it’s pretty surreal to create memories of my father from VHS tapes. i read his obituary online and found out i had more brothers. it’s a strange way to discover that i had siblings and the younger brother i had always wanted.

sometimes i will look into my daughter’s eyes and wonder if there is any resemblance of her grandfather (“Paw Paw”) in her. i wish that they would have been able to meet. sometimes i will squeeze her extra tight and thank god that i get to be her dad, but more, that she will hopefully always have me around and not experience the emotions i’ve waded through.

never getting to meet my father has been one of the toughest experiences of my life. i remember the first time i went to his house in north carolina. it was surreal and was rainy of course, just like a movie. i walked in and i felt his presence immediately. it was overwhelming to think that my father had lived in that house, walked and slept in there and now i was there. now i get to bring my wife and daughter to his house. it’s incredibly surreal to think of the long road it’s been.

today marks 19 years he has been gone. i didn’t get to meet him, but i’ll always feel his connection to me.

i’ve often wondered how i could feel so much love and pain and grief for someone i never knew, but the truth is, you always know. you don’t have to be physically present to experience a connection with someone you love. what i’ve found is that no matter the distance, and especially when they are no longer on this earth, they will always be with you in some form. i’m proud that he was my father and that i’ll always be his son.

we’ll always share bloodlines and hopefully i’ll be the father to my daughter that i know he always wanted to be for me.

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identity crisis.

what i’m trying to understand these days is how, as a christian, my faith interacts with what i see on social media, the news and what i see from my friends and my peers. it’s not easy for me, being a liberal christian, to see similarities these days. some of my friends don’t comprehend the concept behind being a liberal and a christian, and i guess that’s okay. they say that it simply cannot be done. i’m just saying, here i am and i’m pretty sure i’m not the only one with this identity crisis.

for example, i believe in science. the way i see it, climate change is no hoax my friends. the evidence is there, quite loudly in fact. climate change is not a liberal fact and a conservative fallacy. it’s. simply. happening. glaciers are melting and rivers are drying up, it’s a fact. we don’t get to make up “alternative facts” when we don’t want to believe the truth. my wife and i have conversations frequently where we are both stunned at the, at best, apathetic christian response to climate change. even as a christian conservative, wasn’t the very first job given to humans was to take care of the earth and everything in it? and now, because you oppose climate change, the response is that the earth is supposed to die anyway so who cares? quite remarkable to me. but still, i want to be respectful of opinions here on this blog while exercising mine. this is after all, my space.

i’m trying to understand the pro-life movement. i’m not for the killing of babies. i hate that. i was adopted at eight months old, which taught me that there are other options. mothers have other choices if they are willing to consider them. it’s also not that simple. i feel that many people who are telling women what they should do with their bodies have never walked a day in their shoes. some have and those opinions are valued. if we are to be pro-life, doesn’t that also extend to life after birth? shouldn’t we be there for each other while on this earth or are we just concerned that babies are born and then they are on their own? do we care for them as long as they stay out of trouble? is their life valuable to us as long as they don’t get fat off of government hand outs? should we not care for them if they don’t care enough for themselves? is that the Jesus way of handling things?

as a christian, don’t understand the gun argument. throughout our society we have protections in place to protect humans from danger. we are required to wear seat belts in cars, for our protection. it’s actually against the law to walk across the street when the signs says stop, for our protection. we cannot drive drunk or above the speed limit for our protection. we have to take our shoes off at airports because one time one person had a bomb in his shoe. i’ve seen little old ladies in wheelchairs get patted down through the TSA lines because 17 years ago we had a horrific terrorist attack and we didn’t want that to happen again. they don’t even let us use our phones on planes unless we put the on special settings in case it disrupts frequencies and we end up falling out of the sky. in some areas of my city we cannot have bonfires because it might be destructive enough to burn down a house and be harmful to humans. so why, if we are pro-life, would we not want the same type of effort be taken so that our children are safe in schools? wouldn’t we do everything we can do to ensure we are all safe when we go to nightclubs and concerts and frankly anywhere? why is this the one thing we are just dumbfounded about? in america, we never say we can’t do anything. we have got to be the most confident nation on earth. there is nothing we say we cannot do. except preventing people dying because of gun violence. i just don’t get how the same people who vote along republican lines for pro-life purposes can continue to argue against gun regulations. wouldn’t being pro-life preclude you to do something? wouldn’t marching for life extend to those already living?

people get so upset about people living on food stamps, and i’m over here thinking, “what’s it to ya?” we are always experts on other people’s lives while ours are going to crap. “well, my taxes are paying for that! get a job!” taxes are actually meant to pay for things for the community and the common good, not just for what benefits you solely. who among us has not needed a helping hand? if other people are looking for hand outs in ways you wouldn’t, that’s their cross to bear, not yours. i just don’t get the venom spewed, and then the same people go to church on sunday and ask God to help them be a light in the community. i’ll never understand it.

i’ve struggled the last few years with a lot of these issues. i hold on to my faith because it has sustained me through some tough times. i see how faith has gotten my friends through unspeakable tragedies. i look at my little girl and i am convinced there is a higher being. that’s the only way to explain it. she’s too perfect. i’ve worked in a church. i’ve been called pastor. i get that side of things. what i don’t understand is how we can all say we love the same God but not all love the same people we believe he made. it’s not really optional is it?

i get that we are all different and i love that. i think we should celebrate our differences more than we should be debating them. what makes us stronger is not when we all conform to each other, but we can see each other’s view points and grow and learn from them. just because we have strong opinions, it doesn’t make them right. it just makes us human. what makes us good is when we take all of our differences and become a community.

#girldad

i’m a #girldad. i’m more than cool with it. not every guy gets to have a babygirl and i cherish every moment i get with her.

i even cherish those kicking and screaming moments. those moments when asking her whether she wants to eat crackers or puffs results in complete meltdowns. i guess i’m already supposed to read her mind. she’s probably wondering why she always has to make the decisions. i can just imagine her thinking “you’re the adult, you figure it out!”

i’m good with those moments because those good times are the best times. when she says “daddy!” and i still have to pinch myself because i’m the one she’s calling for, damn it’s crazy that i get to be her daddy forever.

i love cuddling with her and watching her shows, no matter how many times we watch moana or sesame street. i can watch cookie monster learn he better “stop and think it through” a million times if it makes her smile every time.

in 2018 though, there is a lot to make a #girldad uneasy. i’ve been reading and watching the accounts of the gymnasts and patients treated by the despicable larry nasser and it’s hard to imagine the horror these young women are experiencing while reliving their torment. i just cannot imagine being a father to one of these girls and not wanting to tear off that guy’s head. heaven help me.

we have a president who has bragged about sexual assault and then brushed it off as “locker room talk” as if simply joking about grabbing women by their vagina without consent is funny and acceptable, as if forcing his cold duck lips on women is just material for a funny story later. what’s worse is that while senators and congressmen and actors and directors and other public faces have been ousted in shame, this man was elected to the highest office in the land with no recourse. what are we thinking?

as a #girldad, i want my daughter to know her voice is strong and powerful. when she speaks, i want people to turn and say, “whoa, who is that!?” i want her to be independent and tamed by no one. i want her to shatter ceilings. when she says no, brother, you better stop and think it through. it starts with me, when i ask her for a hug or a kiss and she says no and runs her little toddler strut the other way, it’s all good. because she said no and even at 18 months, no means no. no question.

when my little girl is searching for her first career job, is it too much to ask for her to get equal pay to do the same job as a man? i bet she’ll do it better than anyone else anyway. tell this #girldad why she isn’t worth equality.

listen, i know the world doesn’t operate in utopia, but utopia isn’t what i’m after. yes, i’m biased. i think my daughter is the best at everything and i see no reason to think differently. i just think we can all do better. as men, we can be better examples of what real men look like.

i’m not dreading those trips to american girl if that’s what she’s into. i’ll run to sign her up if she wants to learn karate, pretty sure she’ll be fierce and you won’t want to mess with her. when she gets her heart broken, i’ll force myself to keep quiet about whoever hurt her. i hope.

she’ll always be daddy’s little girl.

let’s just create a better future.

hushed tones.

you know what gets old? hushed tones.

for instance, if you have an opinion, you find someone like-minded and rush to the corner and whisper in their ear your thoughts. socially it has become so unacceptable to disagree and the worst is actually talking through disagreements. we don’t even dare let anyone know publicly how we feel about anything important, especially politics. i know i’ve been guilty of that. we are so worried about the backlash. but why? we segregate ourselves not just by our skin color or economic levels but by the level of value we place on opposing opinions.

it’s crazy that i have to whisper my displeasure with Trump. who cares if i don’t like him and so what if you do? what does it matter if i’m a liberal and you are conservative? why can’t we have a conversation? i don’t hate america or the troops no matter how many times you are told the opposite. we get nowhere if we are always in our own corners talking negatively about the idiots on the other sides. i think if we actually talked, we would realize we aren’t all that different. we are all idiots anyway.

it’s funny the things that draw the strongest reactions. it’s either politics, sports or religion. generally the reactions are matter-of-fact. “i liked hillary, i’m glad i voted for her.” — “but her emails!” yea. those emails. “hey i think the cubs are going to the world series this year!” — “you’re a moron! they have no pitching!” oh okay. these days it’s the loudest person in the room who gets the most attention, regardless of whether they are actually coherent.

 the thing is, we have so much more in common than we think. i think we’d all be surprised at the lack of differences in our view points. some times i think it’s just that our methods for getting to conclusions are different, but the conclusion itself is basically the same. we all want to love and be loved. we want to be accepted for who we are and we all just want to have a good time and love life. you might have a different way of describing a good time, but it doesn’t mean we can’t find common ground.

there are those who want to divide us, who enjoy the arguments and the flame throwing. i refuse to believe that is truly who we are. as a liberal, sometimes i think conservatives are crazy and i will truly never understand the commitment to donald trump, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet in the middle. i hate ohio state with almost every fiber of my being but i’ll still talk to a buckeye if i have to!

we come up with so many new year’s resolutions every year. this year why not just try to see the glaring similarities in others that we otherwise might refuse to see? just like trump said, “what the hell do you have to lose?”

silent.

“our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” -martin luther king, jr.

we don’t need to shout. we don’t need to yell and scream at each other. but we shouldn’t stay silent either.

i’m tired of feeling boxed in, like my voice doesn’t matter, as if it doesn’t even count.

today is just another day for most of us in america. except that it shouldn’t be. another day, another shooting. we shake our heads and sit in stunned disbelief and say that something should be done. we all agree that this tragedy is horrific and we don’t listen to bill o’reilly say that 59 people being murdered because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time “the price of freedom”. we know that’s wrong and he is wrong for saying that. american citizens should not be paying with their lives for the right to go to a concert, to enjoy a vacation and certainly not for someone to gun them down just because they can.

this is not a political debate.

i don’t want your guns to be taken away.

and no, i don’t know what the answer is.

but being silent and doing nothing isn’t helping. 273 mass shootings (four or more shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter.) in 275 days means that we don’t have time to wait for another day to talk about this.

when do you think enough will be enough? it wasn’t enough after columbine. it wasn’t enough after sandy hook. it wasn’t enough after virginia tech. it wasn’t enough after aurora, colorado. it wasn’t enough after san bernardino. it wasn’t enough after kalamazoo. it wasn’t enough after….. you get my point. when will we be mad and hurt and upset enough to actually make changes so that american citizens don’t fear going to class, or the movies or a concert?

are we adult enough to have discussions? can we chat about this? can we actually demand change? do we want change or are we just waiting for the next news cycle to blow this into last week’s topic?

the quote from dr. king reminds me that we cannot stay silent about this. we cannot let people continue to be gunned down because we were afraid to have a conversation.

fear.

i’m just guessing here, but we probably don’t agree on everything. should we fight? should we call each other names? should i do everything in my power to stop you from being successful?

if you are a different gender, should i be given higher privileges simply because of my anatomy? should i be able to speak to you in any way i please just because i can? should i get paid more to do the same job just because? if i was a single man (or married, really), should i be able to sleep with whoever i want and not worry about any labels detracting from my character?

if we disagree on politics, can i hold you to a higher standard than i do myself? do you mind if i call you stupid and an idiot because you don’t agree with me?

why invest in our schools? it’s not like education is a direct correlation to our future. let’s spend billions of taxpayer dollars on a mother***** wall. let’s let the school crumble. and why not put someone with no experience and no qualifications at the head of our schools. makes sense right? well i guess if we can do that for the head of the country, the commander -in – chief, it won’t hurt to do that for education right?

if we believe in different religions, should it be okay for me to shun you? clearly you are wrong and i am right anyway… right? i’ll just call your people radicals if you’re Muslim and hopeless if you’re  Atheist. that’s okay right?

maybe i should build a large fence around my house, to keep my neighbors away? you never know who and what is out there.

since global warming isn’t really a thing, maybe it’s okay to throw my trash out the window. who cares right?

we don’t need the arts… we need more military, right? the enemy is getting closer.

fear is the most dangerous drug. once we are hooked on it, we need it. we hunger and thirst for it and we don’t even realize it. fear influences our decisions. fear makes us question truth. fear turns facts into alternative facts and we are even okay with that. when we are addicted to fear, we allow our morality to turn into poison that we then inject others with.

we’ve allowed our fear to turn us into a nation of hate and divisiveness. instead of celebrating our differences, we despise them. we have forgotten that our hope is not in our solidarity, but in our ability to unite and build together solid foundations for our communities.

so, we can continue to tear each other down, or we can find a way to use each of our unique qualities and gifts to unite. we can continue to say “ME FIRST!”, or we can say “let’s do this together”.

is that too much?

Rise.

i couldn't think of the right words to express my thoughts for today. So i let Maya Angelou say it. she was always the best.
Thank you Ms. Angelou.


"You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise"