Category Archives: Blog

Toilet Papering the Department Chair’s House

One of my favorite college theater stories, apropos of nothing, other than it happened about this time of year, 16 years ago.

I was in my last semester at Murray State University, mostly coasting through my final classes, working full-time hours at Wal-Mart but not getting full-time benefits, because…Wal-Mart.

This one night, some of us theater nerds were hanging out at Heidi and Eric and Krista’s place. I don’t know how we got to this, but we decided it would be hilarious to toilet paper our theater department chair’s house. It wasn’t out of malice; we all loved and respected David Balthrop. We just thought it would be funny.

TP We went to the store – (probably Wal-Mart), grabbed a bunch of toilet paper, drove out to his house on the edge of town, and did what we did. I don’t think any of us had ever toilet papered a house before, and we were making up for that lost experience, giggling like school kids in the cold autumn air.

The next day, word got around pretty quickly that David was livid over our prank. It had apparently freaked his kids out when they came out of the house the next morning. He wasn’t absolutely sure, but he had a strong suspicion it was theater department people. He made it clear it was absolutely not to happen again. Later that afternoon, I got summoned to his office.

Well, here we go, I thought.

He had called me in for a different reason. He was directing the Music and Theatre Department’s joint production of “Fiddler on the Roof”, about to open in a couple of weeks. The lead actor playing Tevye was having some personal issues and may be dropping out of the show, he said. If he did, David wanted to know if I would be interested in taking the role. There were a couple of people in the cast that could have done it – and much better singers than me – but he thought that would cause even more disruption to the show, and I had a reputation for being able to learn lines freakishly fast.

I told him my only concern was being able to take the time off work. He said if Wal-Mart would let me have the time off, he would work it out so the school would reimburse me whatever time I had to take off. In essence, this would be my first paid acting job.

I told him I would love the opportunity. I went home and told my then-wife, excited at the possibility to jump in the part, and we laughed over what strange timing this was with the prank, and how I thought I was going into his office sure I was in trouble.

The next night, my wife and I were just starting to eat dinner, and the phone rang. It was David. The lead actor hadn’t showed up to rehearsal. Could I come to the theater right now?

That was the beginning of one of the most rewarding theater experiences I’ve ever had, academic or otherwise. I got to take two weeks off work at Wal-Mart (my manager was much more understanding than he had to be), and I got to be a full-time actor. The cast was warm and welcoming, of course. The person who the role maybe should have rightfully gone to – my old roommate and friend, Dustin – went out of his way to help me learn the songs. I am not a strong musical theater singer.

It was a hell of a run…all four performances. (These days, I can’t imagine pouring so much energy into a show and doing only four performances.) I can’t quite put into words what that experience meant for me, and how great it was to leave my college career on that note.

A few days after, David called me into his office again to give me my paycheck from the school, and to de-brief what I had learned about the experience and how I could take that and apply it to my future professional career. We chatted for about 20 minutes, and just as I was about to leave, David said he had one more thing to give me.

He opened his desk drawer, pulled out a half-crumpled up wad of paper, and placed it on the desk in front of me.

It was one of my Wal-Mart pay stubs.

A pay stub I had haphazardly shoved into my coat pocket after tearing the check off of it.

The coat I was wearing the night we toilet papered David’s house.

We sat there silent for a moment. David said he’d found it in the yard the morning after. He knew I had toilet papered his house the day he first called me into his office to talk about the show, but he didn’t want to deal with both issues at once.

I wasn’t in trouble. He confessed that he wasn’t ever really that mad about it, he thought it was funny, but he had to put on a display of being angry so it didn’t turn into a thing for his students to mess with him. We had a good laugh about it. I graduated the next month, and my second professional gig came a few weeks after that in Louisville.

The experience of doing the show crosses my mind often, but I had forgotten about the toilet papering incident until recently, sitting around telling stories at Betsy’s family reunion a couple of months ago. I have no idea what was said that made me remember it.

But a fun memory indeed. That was the first and last time I ever toilet papered someone’s home.

The Ghost of your Children’s Future

GhostChildren“Once you’re a parent, you’re the ghost of your children’s future.”

I’ve come across this quote a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. If you’ve seen Interstellar, you know this idea is taken somewhat literally. I haven’t seen the movie since becoming a dad, and Lord, I think it would wreck me.

Which, of course, means I must watch it soon, because I’m a sucker that way.

I was feeling this hard tonight as I was spending time with Harrison. It’s a Friday night. Betsy is at a community healing circle event, something she does three or four times a year. She acts like it’s huge inconvenience that she goes out and treats herself like this, even as I work frequently odd hours and am often holed in our bedroom doing podcasting stuff.

Anyway.

The little guy and I were playing on the living room floor after dinner, me watching him push one of his toy trains along the floor, his head down on the floor level with it, watching the train as he slowly dragged it across the rug.

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He indeed loves his uncle. Thanks for the onesie, Uncle Joe! It’s one of his bedtime favorites.

As he gets older, becoming more a toddler, not an infant, more memories of my own at that young age are springing up. Nothing significant, really, just memories of playing around the house with my family. Remembering those occasional nights when the routine wasn’t the same as always – dad was working late, or I got to stay up later. I didn’t quite have words yet, but those nights were special.

 

I’ve noted before how I often have a hard time being in the present moment with my family, worried about work. I found myself not present tonight, but in a different way. I was floating outside the moment, watching it as Harrison might remember it and other moments like it some day, perhaps years after I’m gone.

Watching the moment, in a way, as a ghost of my future self.

The thought is saddening and awe-inspiring at once.

We wound down the rest of the night with a bath, and our usual bedtime ritual, at least the usual when Mommy’s not home. He was fussy when I put his fresh diaper on him, trying to pull it off. I couldn’t figure out what exactly he was unhappy about, but I took the diaper off, made a show of throwing out the offensive item, and ran the hair dryer over his body for a couple of minutes, and that relaxed him enough to restart business as usual.

After story time (which isn’t so much reading him stories as it is him pulling books one-by-one of his shelf, “reading” one, replacing it, and picking another, I picked up to give him one last cuddle before bed, and he laid his head on my shoulder as he does, but then he pulled back, put a hand on either one of my shoulders and gave me a huge smile, as if he were just noticing I was the one holding him.

That kid. He’s something special.

 

 

 

 

 

Ep. 12: Harrison’s First Post-Halloween Crash

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This is our son’s second Halloween, but the first one he really grasped something special was happening, and he got into the spirit of “How’Ween”, as he calls it. This is a fast and dirty episode in a week that’s been busy for me and my family.

For photos and video and more, check out dadtothefuture.com, and check out my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all @dadtothefuture

Ep. 5 – The San Dimas Time Dilemma (or Anxiety in Multiple Time Periods)

San Dimas Time.
It’s a trope in time travel stories. It’s when tension is added to the story by having two or more different time periods linked to one another, time running concurrently, even though it makes little sense since one of the characters has a time machine at their disposal. It gets its name from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Rufus tells the duo that no matter where they go in time, the clock in San Dimas is always running, meaning even though they have a time machine, they have do have a finite amount of time before they have to do their research and get back to give their presentation.
If you start paying attention, you start seeing that trope in a lot of time travel movies and tv shows – including Doctor Who, Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, Frequency…trust me there’s a lot of them. Look them up online.
Anyway, this week’s episode is about my own personal San Dimas Time dilemma in my own life, and how I fight it.
I realized I had developed a bad habit in the way I spoke about this time a year ago. I did it a lot, but I noticed it most when were putting our son to bed at night – he was about 8 months old then. We would be in the bedroom – he co-slept with us until just a couple of months ago – Betsy would be nursing him, and I’d be on the bed next to them, us chatting quietly as he dozed off.
Here’s the bad habit I had developed: I would, somewhat anxiously, rattle off all the work I had to do after we had him to bed, and what I had to do the following day. I was three months into working entirely for myself, both as a real estate agent and a massage therapist. That sounds like an odd mix, but in the couple of years I’ve been an agent, I’ve met a lot of people like me: Agent slash massage therapist, agent slash yoga teacher, pilates instructor. You get the idea. It gives you a chance to flex entirely different job skills in either line of work. The most difficult part, to be honest, is the wardrobe change if you’re wearing both hats in the same day.
Anyway, trying to basically run two different businesses at the same time was stressful. Constant anxiety, constantly on the move, working with clients, arranging showings for home and apartment tours, and so on. It seemed like I was being conversational with my wife during bedtime on the surface, but I was more just talking to myself, talking through everything that had to be done. Instead of, you know, having actually quality time with spouse at the end of a long work day.
Only a small part of me was present with my family. Another part was a half-hour an hour later doing work after we had Harrison put to bed, another part of me was living in the next day, and the next week, and top of that, the end of the month, wondering if we’d once again barely be able to make ends meet and pay our mortgage.
What I can tell you though without giving you a whole bunch of examples in my past, is that not being able to be in the present moment wasn’t some new development born out of us having our first child and me struggling to make money in my work. I’ve always been like this, in one way or another.
I’ve always been anxious, racing against the clock in multiple time periods.
After picking up on this bad habit I was doing at our son’s bedtime, I decided to work on it and change the habit. Not just then, but any time I started a conversation with Betsy, I would check myself before I began speaking to make sure I was just about to start rattling off my to-do list. Was it necessary? Would it actually be useful information to her, or was I just using her as a sounding board?
This wasn’t easy at first. A few nights, I just ended up lying quietly on the bed for a few minutes, trying to think of something to talk about other than my to-do list.
I’ve gotten better at this…but it is still a constant struggle. I may not actually rattle off my to-do list, but it’s still often running in my head. But I get a little better, and little better every day. Being present in the moment, especially those fleeting moments of my son’s early life.
Here’s the thing: I have a lot going on in my life and a lot I want to accomplish: I want to work in two entirely different professions, I want to produce and create art…well, at least podcasts…I want to be a good husband, father, friend. And I have all of these different…time lines…running at the exact same time. I want to be all of these things at once, and that…isn’t how actual time works.
But I’m working on that. Because life is too short and too precious to be living on San Dimas time.

 

Becoming Your {{{Time Traveling}}} Dad

Becoming Your Dad started with great ambition and intention. I started the blog a couple of months before my son was to be born. The idea was to write letters to my son to read at some point in the future, chronicling my journey towards growing into a new person…becoming his dad.

The blog started off strong. And then Harrison actually came into this world.

A lot of days learning how to care for a tiny human, and accompanying sleep-deprived nights followed. I was also trying to get not one, but two, businesses off the ground – my real estate business, and my massage therapy practice, after deciding to completely break out on my own, leaving the clinic I had been working at for four years.

Those were good reasons in and of themselves, but there’s another factor, and perhaps the most important: I got writer’s block.

Specifically, I got blocked in writing in the particular format I had chosen. The truth is, becoming a dad unlocked a lot of baggage for me in how I was raised, a path I don’t care to go down in raising my own family, and that’s where much of my head space has been in that regard. Putting those thoughts in letter form to my son didn’t seem fair; it felt like I would be unloading my issues onto him.

So this blog has been, unfortunately, infrequently updated.

Meanwhile, thoughts on how I can creatively and artistically express myself in my new role as a parent has been percolating for some time – an idea revolving around a podcast about fatherhood and marriage, mixed with my love of time travel stories.

Here’s the truth, something I didn’t fully realize until a few years ago: Time travel stories (particularly the 80s/90s cult classic Quantum Leap) saved my soul when I was a kid. I was a misfit. I was constantly teased and bullied.

So I often imagined I was actually my future-self having come back to relive my childhood and observe how hard it was for me to fit in, and to assure me it would eventually get better.

I never actually believed that, but it was a great fantasy, a coping mechanism, a thought exercise.

To this day, I still often look at life a bit through the lens of being a time traveler – I’m able to go back and revisit my past with a present day perspective, and somewhere within me – sometimes more present than other times – is my future self guiding me towards being the better man, husband and dad I am to become.

And so that’s the new direction of this blog and podcast.

The podcast will be launching sometime in mid to late-August. Blogs and perhaps other video content will hopefully become more frequent.

I’ll hope you’ll join me for the ride.