Dirty Laundry


Tonight I was back plugging quarters into a machine, hoping to get laundry done so I had socks to wear for tomorrow. I don’t exaggerate by much for I stretched it about as long as I could. But alas, deliver of my new washer could not happen before Thursday, the previous delivery attempt arrived with a dented washer unit so only the dryer was installed and the washer was returned. One-week has turned into two as the expected delivery is scheduled for this coming Thursday. Thus, my birthday enthusiasm for a new washer/dryer had to be tempered for a bit longer.

This has been a big deal for me, silly I know and one most people don’t understand. It is a small thing, but a practical item of life. I know, first-world issue right! However, unlike a new car or a fancy new TV, the washer/dryer is a core household item and I feel represents stability and independence. Most of my life I had access to W/D units, even in university I only spent two years where I used coin-operated laundry facilities. My only true “laundry mat” experience came during my first year of marriage as our place didn’t have room for our own. So, when I was moving out after 14-years I was leaving behind a lot of what had been built together, and part of what I left behind was the washer and dryer units.

I put the best spin on it I could, selling myself on much of it as I went. I turned down places with coin-operated facilities, choosing instead for a place with hookups but no units. Only later to find my circumstances did not go according to plan and buying, even used, units seemed too expensive. I was finding my rock bottom, and it was going to be a while before I could find some secure footholds to start climbing out.

At the time, I brushed it off. I like being humbled from time to time and thought this would be a good experience for the boys. So started our 2-week trips to the laundry mat, I made an adventure out of it as much as I could. The kids always found other kids to play with, and helped out more and more each time. Yet, inside, I hated it. This wasn’t me. I was a grown man with kids. I had a solid, well-paying job. Yet, I could not even provide that basic amenity. It infuriated me.

It was months before we moved, and in that time I made the best of it. I would take the boys when I could, always felt it was a good experience for them. I would bring a book to read and spend the time expanding my mind, and escaping the pressures and stress of the world. But I was happy to once again have 24/7 access to a washer/dryer at the house.

Not all foot holds are secure. The units that came with the new place were old. It was only a couple weeks before they boys mother was complaining that their cloths stunk of mold (thanks for the support!). The dryer finally died, taking a few of my cloths with it, and leaving me air drying clothes around the house which was a lovely image for guests. A craigslist replacement only quelled the problems for short time, so when the washer finally died I said “enough is enough!”.

It was time. I had the funds. I had the plans. So the weekend following my birthday I bought; I bought what I needed, I bought what would work, I bought a little for luxury, and I bought what wouldn’t break the bank. To me it was another affirmation that my life was returning. I was back! … and at least could do a load of laundry.

Tonight, standing there under the florescent lights I smiled. I only needed to wash the cloths, I could dry them at home.

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Adventure Bound

Photo by Kai Oberhäuser
Photo by Kai Oberhäuser

Received a text this morning from the boys mom informing me that they will be heading out-of-state to visit a friend for quick weekend vacation. Not sure if it was the way it was presented, how I read it, or just the unexpected nature of it but the note tore into me. I wasn’t left mad or angry, but knots filled my stomach and questions swirled in my mind. And I had no immediate answer to why … ?

Could be jealousy. Even after two years of separation and multiple relationships of my own I still find I am jealous of her with someone else. Of course, I expected it. Have known about it. And felt I had dealt with it. I am happy she has someone, though have to admit I still hold grudges towards aspects (but that is another story). However, the name she included as who she would be visiting was new, and no one I had ever heard of before. This left me wondering, is this someone new? Or is she just hiding a trip with her ‘other’ from me? Honestly, it smelled of that latter, but I was only left with my conjectures at the time – and that, I know from experience, is not a healthy place to leave one’s mind for long. It would be futile to chase answers to most of my questions, yet I was left unnerved by the few details and late notice provided.

Whisking the boys away on a last minute adventure sounds fun, but for the parent left behind it can be gut wrenching. Not knowing who would be accompanying them, who they would be meeting there, or what they will be doing … it leaves only worry and concern as the mind swirls trying to fill the gaps. Is this going to be a safe trip for the boys? Is it going to be safe for her?

This is where I stopped myself and took a break for lunch. I stepped out for some air walking along the path leading around a small lake just outside the office building. There, underneath a tree just out of reach from the beating sun, I sat. I slowed my mind down. I remembered why I thought she was the perfect one to raise a family with. She is smart. She is loving. And she will do anything to protect the boys. So I sat, meditated on that, and searched for what else could be bothering me.

Is it that I could be missing out? The fear of “missing out” or “being left behind” has been the largest mental obstacle I have faced since separation. And this trip fits right into my horror story of the kids, their ‘new family’, and being replaced as dad. However, this last year has proven to me that my kids are not looking to replace me, and that there is no way I am stepping back from being their Dad. And … while I may be missing out on this adventure, we have been on a few adventures ourselves. In fact we just returned from a weekend outing a couple weeks ago. Even if this does happen to be a trip that I have been wanting to take with the boys … it doesn’t mean we won’t take a similar one in the months ahead, and we will find a way to make the trip very unique to us. So I am not really missing out, I have my own plans.

At the core of this is our communication, or lack there of. From that I think the biggest thing is a lack of respect between us as partners in this parenting space. We are constantly complaining about how the other is responding, reacting, or demanding. It is the arms race, a cold war of sorts … and we heading down a path of destruction. I could fight back, rage on the technicalities. Yet, at the end of the day what is that going to do but put more landmines in the path of my own future and create more drama in the lives of my kids.

So I reside myself to the concerned parent, so just want to know the kids will be in a safe place and request that they bookend their travels with a call or text to me so I don’t worry. I smile at the thought of my kids getting a chance to see new sites and try their hand at new skills.

Yet, I hold fast to the condition that I be treated as an equal in this partnership. And if we cannot find a way to work together, I do know we are working to a similar goal … so I will continue to make choices that I feel are right for the boys, for me, and for our lives.

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Blood, sweat, and the sweet smell of success

Tonight I hurt. I can be honest with myself about that. I have several bruises, my head aches and yet I couldn’t be happier. This past weekend I was participating in the AAU National Championships for TaeKwonDo, and not only was it a whole lot of fun just getting out of town for a couple days but I find such events good for both myself and my boys.

The struggleI am an active person in general and I love playing sports. I love putting it all out on the field, beach, floor, ice or mat (take your pick). I play to the final buzzer.  I don’t give up.  I enjoy the competition and the adrenaline that comes from it.  I also enjoy competing as part of a team, getting encouragement and criticism from those working towards the same goal.  Makes me push myself further not wanting to let the team down.  I find this attitude is good in life. It pushes me at work, it pushes me at home, and it pushes me in life.

Failure tells me I have more to learn, success tells me I can still do it, and the pain tells me I am still alive.

Yet, it is not just for me that I do these events. For, I am getting older and the hips don’t work as they once did. I do these competitions for my boys even though they don’t participate as they once did, they feel the pressure and they just want to play. I understand that, they are young, and I feel that the lessons and experiences can still be passed on as long as I continue.

Training for martial arts is a long process that takes sacrifice. We get together several times a week and that can sometimes really cramp life’s flow. So I want them to see that we are training for a purpose, an event that stands alone. We train for self-defense, we train to build confidence, we train for fitness – but often those are intangible to the children as they don’t have the life experiences yet to see the value. So I like the crescendo of these competitions; the build up, the anxiety, the nervousness, and the result of the moment. You are judged only by what you put out when it matters. There are times you need to focus and go all-in.

I also want them to see that I am a person too. I want them to watch as I struggle. I want them to see me get anxious, frustrated, and mad. I want them to see that I don’t always win, that sometimes I fall down. Because that happens. Yet it is critically important that they see that when I fail I learn, when I fall I get back up and when I get hit I keep on going. My theory is that in watching me they will be better situated to tackle their own disappointments, frustrations, and anger. I am not just telling them how to get through life – they see me living it.

AAUThis past weekend we experienced failure, pain, resilience, and success.  They watched as I made a major mistake during forms, one I had been making repeatedly in class leading up to the event. They watched as it ate at me, they saw the emotions involved.  They were filming as I took a shot to the head during sparring, giving me a bloody nose. They saw the intensity of battle. Yet they also saw that I stayed calm, I didn’t give up, and I didn’t back down.  They then got to watch as I fought back, held on and won gold. I got to see their pride. We then turned and together cheered on our teammates, gave tips and talked strategies.  We were together, supporting each our team in both failure and success. They experienced what it was like to be part of a a team in both competition and play. They saw how we can have fun while also taking the necessary moments to focus and perform.

They experienced a weekend of team spirit, perseverance and respect. They also got to see their Dad stand tall. Doesn’t get much better than that.

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