Sunday, November 1, 2015

THAT'S SO WOW!

I found this blog and I hadn't ever published it....so I want to share it now. It is a significant moment in how my daughter has developed, matured and understands her parental dynamic/makeup. Enjoy!!

As most of my friends and family know I volunteer a lot at my children's school. That is an opportunity afforded to me by my husband. We both decided that I would be a stay-at-home dad and take care of our children. So, I became very involved at their school. Now how involved, well a lot! I served as a board member on the Executive Board for the non-profit group that supports the elementary school. I am a committee head and a member on several committees as well. Anyhow....as I was saying.

So I was volunteering in my daughter's class one day and overheard a conversation she was having with one of her classmates, Lily. Her classmate was talking about how she has two dads. This kindergarten girl went on to talk about her daddies and how one does this and how one does that. Janette was listening intently to Lily's story. I could tell she was really interested in what her friend had to say. 

Now I was thinking to myself, how awesome that another child has a 'Two Dad Family' and that my daughter Janette could relate to her classmate. Finally! Another example of a same sex family. A lot of her classmates have a different family makeup so to hear this now was intriguing to my daughter. 

They both laughed at the story that was being told by Lily. I could see the common bond of laughter and how they each agreed on what was silly about Lily's daddies. Innocent laughter over innocent things. My daughter proceeded to tell her story of how I always dance, sing, laugh, dress up with her and I am overall silly. Clearly I'm fun but more so over-the-top! I have a joie de vivre. That's me.....okay back to the story. So she was going on and on. Lily listened intently and asked a question here or there. One was about farts....

Now I perked up and looked in their direction. They didn't know I could see their faces or that I was listening. This was a moment that clearly I was privileged to witness. So my daughter made the cutest scrunched face I had ever seen, a new one. She giggled and said yes. She also admitted to letting a fart out here or there herself. Lily stated her dad has farted too and it's STINKY. Laughs ensued again. There was a moment between them that was honest, conversational and there was a relatability between them that was evident.

My daughter was having a conversation about her family, her two dads and her life. It was a moment. A brief look into her process of her family, her two dads and what she experiences. I was just the audience at a moment that I replay over and over and over again. Now the best part of all of this was still to come. Yes, there's more!

Lily asked my daughter, you have two dads too! My daughter said yes. Then she asked Lily the same and Lily nodded yes. My daughter said, "That's so wow!" Then she said, "I love my daddies." My daughter is telling her friend that she loves her daddies. She enjoys the quirks of the stinky farts, the silly dancing, the singing of songs I know I don't have the range for, the jokes, the laughs and more. My daughter thinks it's all 'Wow' all of it!

I was a proud father at that moment. I give her love, nurturing, learning, understanding, moments of reading books, mani/pedis and more. What she remembers is the farts, it's stink and that she too has farts. She loves her daddies for who they are. She loves me. She has a friend who has two dads as well. She knows there are families out there that resemble her own. She knows there is a dad out there like her own. Lily validated that for her.

I knew in that 'That's so wow!' statement/moment that me being a stay at home dad was beneficial. I am being the dad that my daughter needs me to be. I am present. I am there for her. I cherish every day of every moment that I am able to father and parent my children.

    Monday, October 5, 2015

    Joy

    Let me preface this blog with the details that this story was selected to be in a book by a dear friend of mine who is writing his second book. He's a stay at home dad like myself and he has been my inspiration to tell my story, share my experiences and show part of my family. So I wanted to share what Henry selected to be in his book. Please respect my story. Thank you in advance. 


    Hello to anyone who is reading this. My name is Joël. I became a father seemingly over a weekend. My husband and I received a call on a Friday from our adoption agency. We were matched with two children, yes two! Siblings to be exact.

    Now in our child desired packet, we had specified that yes we would consider siblings but at a specific age and my husband wanted a specific gender as well. What was presented to us was a boy and a girl, both who had just had their birthdays earlier that year. The boy was 3 and the girl was 1(14 months to be exact). So we had to decide.

    After much thinking, discussion, calling Human Resources for our work benefits and the overwhelming things we needed to do beforehand we said yes and we would meet them. So we had a list of things to do from our agency. There was going to be a home inspection on the coming Monday. We would be starting the placement process.

    Now I had plans, one of my best friends was coming over for the weekend. So I quickly called him and told Garrett that my husband and I had some errands to take care of and if he wouldn't mind tagging along. He was cool with it and was uber excited that we would be starting our process of hopefully becoming parents. We were in for a surprise. (Oh and were we ever!)

    So yes, the weekend was fun, we handled our list of things, cleaned our house (AGAIN!!) on Sunday evening after Garrett left and knew what we could put away/store somewhere else before Monday's home inspection. A side note, our agency knew we didn't have anything child appropriate for either child and that was okay. Our understanding was this placement process would be a while.

    Now Monday comes. I am at work, yes I did work once however I don't remember it much now being that I'm a full time stay at home dad. Eek, tangent, so I am at work and my husband, Sean - don't think I ever told y'all his name - was home meeting our agency's representative for our home inspection. By the way, a home inspection is to check the child safety of your home. You do foster before adopting a child. That's the process.

    Okay so the story continues, my husband is going through the inspection. He's calling me every so often to let me know what we need to do with X, Y, A and G. Just a bunch of new 'To-Do' tasks. Then I don't get a call for about an hour. I, being at work, have focused back on my normal modus operandi. Work, work, work and more work. Business as usual.

    Then my manager tells me my husband is on the phone for me. My boss tells me to take the call in my office. So I do. Worry sets in, questions start to arise, my head is spinning and it is only then that I realize I didn't eat breakfast and lunch shifts at work are about to start. Gotta send Gigi to lunch, so I did before taking the call. That was my last work function/duty for the next two weeks but I didn't know it at the time.

    Sean tells me that we are being placed with the children today, Monday, not in a month as discussed, but today! We need to be at our agency by 5pm. It was only 11:59am when I looked at the clock right after my husband told me this. I began to sweat. Code red, code red....child placement is happening, I repeat child placement is happening. We are going from Zero to Two Children......TODAY! This is where our process differs from others. I immediately thought of our full bed in our spare bedroom directly across from the bathroom and how that canopy bed was not suitable for a 3 year old boy. Let's not even talk about the futon bed in the other bedroom as that is NEVER appropriate for a 14 month old girl.

    Our agency knows we aren't exactly child ready. We AREN'T! We don't have toys, clothing, child appropriate hygiene products or toiletries either. We are two men who have two spare bedrooms, empty for the most part but yes we have two separate rooms for our long term goal of two children. Now we are going from zero to two children. One boy and one girl, siblings, they are becoming our reality faster than we had ever expected.

    So I spend the next hour and a half in my office after telling my boss the news. I end up no longer working that day as I call Human Resources again and let them know I am being placed with children that my husband and I intend to adopt. Yes adopt. We had decided early on in our journey of becoming parents that we would always want to adopt. We knew that the process involves fostering the children first. Another tangent!

    I was going to be able to take two full weeks off of work and be paid. My husband was going to be off the second week of those two weeks with me and he too would be paid that week. We had our Family Medical Leave time. So with a whirlwind of a storm, almost like from The Wizard of Oz that carried Dorothy to Oz, I was leaving work. I was a basket of emotions. Happy, excited, anxious, nervous and even scared. I don't remember anything work related and I don't remember the drive home.

    I arrived at home and my husband was already there. So we both changed into more comfortable clothing. I couldn't figure out what to wear! I actually was concerned that these two children who were about to meet me for the very first time in their lives would actually care about what I was wearing. I mean can you say 'HOT MESS' because that is what I clearly was at that very moment.

    Pink rolled up sleeves button up shirt with white linen pants and brown loafers option 1. Red tank top with white linen short sleeve button up shirt over it with navy fitted capri chinos oh and those cute white leather shoes too - option 2. Oh what about the lightweight taupe chinos that flare at the bottom with that cute green polo shirt and those cute navy boat shoes option 5,675,897! I mean who was I kidding. My husband wore his black suit pants, white dress shirt with a New England red v-neck sweater, he was preppy sharp! Children at that age have no idea about clothing at that age and neither did I at that moment in time!

    I was on my way with my husband to the agency. He drove and I navigated. I had so many questions. I also remember my husband telling that he spoke to the boy on the phone. It was in reference to us coming there and him meeting us. It was brief but he heard his voice. Wow! Already talking on the phone. My stomach gurgled....excitement.

    At the agency. We both were in a room going over documents, lists, a rundown of the situation, processes, what's next, what's tomorrow, what to do in the first week and it went on and on and on. I was just absorbing everything. My husband was writing everything down as he always does. We were going to be receiving all this information in two separate binders, one for each child.

    Now time to meet the children. We were escorted to the playroom where both were at. Jonathan spoke to Sean first as he was the one who spoke to Jonathan on the phone beforehand. I said hello and his eyes looking at me, melted my heart, warned my soul and touched me deeply. I was mesmerized. Then came Janette. I saw her little self and her face and I waved. She on the other hand gave this pinched look and went running back into the playroom.

    We watched them play for a while and noticed that Janette will play but will also clean up any toys before she goes to the next toy. Jonathan loves bubbles and he would giggle, jump and spin all the while trying to grab and pop the bubbles. (Childhood bliss) One of the social workers of our agency was blowing the bubbles to keep him entertained. Next was for us to gather our things and take them home. TAKE THEM HOME! Already! Really?!

    Just as quickly as we got there it seemed we were quickly leaving. Now I looked at my watch and it was 7:34pm. I hadn't eaten a thing that day. Maybe that's why my head was throbbing. (No that's not why!) We were escorted to our car with Janette being held by one agency employee and Jonathan holding hands of another agency employee. I had a bag of their belongings and Sean and one bag too. Then I also had all the binders and materials given to us.

    Now I realized these two children only had one plastic grocery bag full of their belongings. ONE! They each had their own car seat, I installed them into my car once we were in the parking lot. (I remembered how to do it.) Sean put the bags and stuff in the trunk. Then it was time to hand off the children to us. Jonathan cried and Janette scream cried. It was a whole lot of emotions going around. However I won't ever forget the one emotion that I felt that day. I was elated! I was over the moon! I was now a parent. Yes, there were a lot more steps to finalizing our process but I just knew. This was it. This would be our family.

    Today as I type this I have tears of joy rolling down my face. I have my family. We are together and the last 7 years have been awesome. Our son is now 10 entering 5th grade and our daughter is now 8 entering 3rd grade. I look forward to all the years to come. This is my joy!

    Tuesday, September 29, 2015

    2015 20th Annual At Home Dad Convention - Life Altering!

    The event is over but I still wanted to post this blog entry.

    I am on the plane headed to Raleigh, NC for the 20th Annual At Home Dad Convention. This trip came about in large part to the National At Home Dad Network which offered a scholarship application option. Here is how it happened: 

    I didn't really know what the scholarship was all about. I did read what I needed to do to submit my scholarship application. I mulled it over for a few days and then submitted my application. 

    So I am not one to just jump at anything when I come across it. Especially any 'dad' group as I haven't had a great experience with dad groups, well 'gay' dads groups. 6 years ago I started my journey as a stay at home dad. I've been a parent for 7 years total. The first year of being a parent I still wanted to work. My husband wanted the same thing I wanted, for me to be an at-home dad with our children. It wasn't something I had thought would come true but it did. I was elated!!! 

    Now I thought about all that while I wrote my essay to send to the AHDN. I really remembered a lot of what I did in the last 6 years with my children. All the different life moments, tears, growth, joys, celebrations and then our finalization of our adoption process. Which coincidentally the placement date is Sept. 22nd (7 year anniversary) and Sept. 25th is the adoption finalization date (6 year anniversary). So going on this trip to this convention was going to be a full circle moment and then some. Right, eh! If I was selected to receive the scholarship. 

    While writing my story and letting this organization know about me and my family, which at the time I didn't know anyone from this organization, I was compelled to just let it all out. Be honest. Tell my story. Isn't that what each of us does, we tell our story. Tell it to our friends, co-workers, random checkout cashier, barista or via any of our social media profiles. Yes, we each tell our story. 

    My fingers were racing/typing and my mind was a flutter but I wanted so bad to be able to share my perspective, my sorry, my life and why I would like to attend this event. I was on my proverbial soap box just oozing with honesty. What did I have to lose? All that could happen was a yes or no reply. I just sent it out, put my heart and soul in my letter. I told my truth. 

    Well time kept on running and I forgot about the application I had sent. It was on a Sunday that I received an email from Robb, Chairman of the 2015 Brian Dickson Memorial Scholarship Committee. I was being awarded the scholarship. I got it! They picked me! Me! I was in such shock and joy at the same time. I can remember tuning out my children talking to me, tv on and my dogs barking all in that instance as I read the email in its entirety. I was going to be attending the 20th Annual At Home Dad Convention put on by the National At Home Dad Network. Yes I said 20th, so when I was 15, that was when the first convention took place. 

    Here is the jist of the convention: 
    I arrived late in Raleigh, NC due to a flight connection delay in Minneapolis, Minnesota. However a group of stay at-home dads waited for me to arrive. Dads/Guys I've never met. They had made a sign that said, 'Joël, Its about F@#K-ing time." Which I will remember for the rest of my life. Alex Harwood; who I had texted, Facebook messengered, talked on the phone and Facebook comment exchanged with for the month before the event; had told the dads about me on the Thursday day/evening of the first group of dads arriving. Robb Tavill was the dad who I rode with to the hotel & thanks to Eric Wright for picking us up, taking us to CookOut and then dropping us off at the hotel. Eric wasn't going to be attending the event due to a wedding but he being a member of the organization wanted to support his fellow at-home dads! 

    So these dads were waiting for me, happy, full of joy and welcome. I had to choke back tears of joy as this was the first time I was meeting these guys. Gotta be strong right! LoL! My two roommates were among the guys waiting too! John Jackson had got me my vodka gimlet with a shot of blue curaçao on the rocks and lets say I downed that. Why? I will save that for a separate blog entry. Anyhow, Alex has made sure I received a 'Welcome' fit for a king, celebrity or government official. He made me feel special. They all did! Cuda gave me the biggest hug and smile. 

    I learned so much from this event. New information about parenting, kids music, mental health, child safety, fire safety, returning to the workforce, CPR certification, entrepreneurship and more were offered in breakout sessions. Dadly Words and guest speakers/presentations were also among some of the highlights of the event. I even met someone I admired and had my #FanGirl moment. I kvelled when I met him the night before, at his presentation and my only wish was that I could have purchased his book. But meeting him was the best swag ever! 

    I also was amazed at how much of an impact I had on the fellow dad attendees. Since leaving on Sunday I can't seem to keep my cell phone charged enough for all the new friendships, connections, admirers, messages, comments, additions to new groups and now even new endeavors as well. I feel like I was in a dream the entire time and I made sure to soak up every single moment. I had so many great conversations, laughs, tears, child(ren) pic sharing, soul sharing & overall brotherhood fraternity - no my Tribe. Where I truly belong. 

    I want to thank the Brian Dickson Memorial Scholarship Committee for selecting me for this trip of a lifetime, the NAHDN for their efforts and work for putting on an AMAZING event, all the at-home dads I met, the sponsors (Huggies, The American Cleaning Institute, Britax, Trickle Down Happiness, Dove Men+Care, Billion Family Dinners, Kidde, City Dads Group, Dads Behaving Dadly & Dad 2.0 Summit)

    As of Sept. 29th:

    I am being inundated with a plethora of so much from all the dads I met, those I missed meeting, those that haven't met me and those that will seek me out next year. I am kvelling, I stream tears of joy as I type this because little 'ol me has made a significant impact in various dads lives and I find it truly unfathomable that this would have come about just by attending the #AHDCon put on by the #NAHDN New endeavors have come about as well. I have had to fight my whole life, I have had to endure so much strife, I have worked very hard, I have loved so hard and lost so hard as well, I have love and support from my husband Sean, my children who actually understand where and what I attended, extended family and friends. Look at me now, here I am over the water heading towards new and great things. I am ready. 

    Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    Happy Day

    Hello All,

    It's been a very long time since I've posted anything on my blog website. Well a lot has happened to me in the last two years. I will let you all know in a moment. I am relaunching my blog and my YouTube channel to coincide and work along with my other social media profiles. My goal is to have my blog be more conversational and story telling. It will also be easier for me to not get too bogged down about what to write. I have a lot of ideas, thoughts, stories and probably more too but that is just going to start to come out and I am going to share it with you all. Yay! So sit back, read, comment (be respectful) & welcome to Joël Land. Hahahaha, the best way to describe me is slow like honey and heavy with mood. HA!

    So two years ago.....I lost my best friend of 17 years. His death was so sudden. I had spoken to him on the phone on a Thursday morning after dropping my children off at school. It was one of the many usual phone calls I made to him. I would speak to him maybe 4 to 5 times a day and text message a whole lot more than that. He was someone I told everything to aside from my husband. Actually, Nick had known me longer than my husband. We are from the same hometown area. Our upbringing was very similar too. We related on a lot of levels not just our sexuality.

    Now, the conversation I had with Nick was an upbeat and happy conversation. He was telling me to never give up on my dreams and to keeping working towards them. He knew me well and he knew what I wanted to accomplish. It was intuitive with us sometimes. I could tell when he was going to get sick and he knew when I didn't want to do something by my facial expressions. I would say he was a brother to me and not just my best friend. He had my back and I had his. Support.

    Well, I received notice from his sister via his cell phone, by way of text, on Saturday evening, that on Friday late night, he had passed away. It was sudden and there were unknowns clearly. I was in utter shock and for the first time in our friendship I spoke to his sister, whom I share the same birthday day with. He had family issues, that's all I will say about that. I've met his dad and some of his uncles often though. Anyhow, I spoke to her and she told me what she knew and asked me to be at his place the next day. I did.

    So long story short, it was a sudden death and I will honor my best friend by not disclosing the full particulars about his death. That's private. His funeral was held on the day before Easter, I was a pallbearer which his father asked me to be, I was totally honored. I remember that was the third time I had cried over his passing. He and I were teenagers when we met, young adolescent men still discovering ourselves and the world. Now I am here laying him to rest and saying all I wouldn't ever be able to say to him in person. I always told him how I felt about him. He was there for me when my previous husband died of cancer. I have a strong bond with my best friend.

    Time passed and my life went on. I also lost three dogs later that year. One ran away on the 4th of July, one of the last eldest dogs died of a heart attack in my arms and then my youngest dog died due to his seizures. That dog was in my arms as well. It was devastating to have it happen in my arms. I bitch about my pets often but I utterly love them and adore them. Each one has always had their own personality. The cute little fuckers steal your heart. Oh I miss them. We now have 3 dogs again. There is Hershey, which my children named. Totally cute story for another time. Then Bella my husband got but she fell in love with me. Then, Winston who also fell in love with me. Both Bella and Winston were very young when he got them so they follow me around all the time.

    Another sad thing was my mother died the following year after my best friend Nick passed away. My mother had a drug addiction for most of my life. My first memory of her is of her shooting up with a needle. At the time I just thought she was hurting herself and I didn't ever like how she was afterward. In therapy is when I learned that was what that memory was. Well it was a year of back and forth of her being at her life's end. This had also been going on when I learned of Nick's passing. So I didn't ever feel like I had left the mourning phase or sadness stage of it all.

    I do remember the night I received that defining call that my mother had passed. It was very late at night and I had my cell on vibrate but actually awoke from it ringing/vibrating. I saw it was my eldest sister Yvonne. I knew exactly why she would be calling at 1:20am. She had a crackle in her voice and she told me the news. I wasn't in shock but I was relieved. Relieved that my mother wouldn't suffer from her demons and addiction anymore. I won't ever know that woman who birthed me but what I know of her I hold so dear to me. She was the one person on this planet who I looked like. We really looked a lot alike.

    She also gave me my name and made sure it would be pronounced the way she wanted. All my life I have received heckles, comments, jokes, sass and what have you about my name and pronunciation but it is what it is. Jo-Elle spelled Joël, that was what she wanted. It was done and then my father erased the accent mark and so my birth certificate doesn't have it but I still spell it that way. My name is the one thing that I can say was truly her's and mine to share for the rest of my life. I was sad over her death but I honored her with a church funeral and reception.

    Yvonne and I were able to carry out her last wishes. My brother, Fino, signed paperwork to agree with us and allow us to lay her to rest. My eldest brother, Gabriel was fighting over what he wanted etc etc. So the sibling majority needed to agree, 3 of the 4. My mother wasn't married and no will was in place. It was up to her children. Well my mother's side of the family got in the mix and it went to hell. In the end it was a beautiful ceremony and reception.

    I thank all who helped me put it on. My husband, my children, my inlaws, my church community, my friend who paid for a live piano accompaniment and all who attended. A moment that I won't ever forget. It also helped me teach my children about life.

    Onward life went and then I had a friend pass from a freak car accident, then another died from a freak accident and I was again in that same head space......just hurting. After that my husband had some life matters happen and that changed a lot of our life. It was ongoing but we've made it through.

    Now life isn't all that bad. I have followed a blogger for the 7 years I've been a stay at home dad. He is writing a second book and I submitted a story which he will be using. I also will be attending the 20th Annual At Home Dad Convention in Raleigh, NC. I leave tomorrow for the event, more to come about that event. Thanks in large part to being awarded the 2015 Brian Dickson Memorial Scholarship. The At Home Dad Network offered a scholarship and I submitted my story application. Elation is all I feel right now.

    So both of these lovely accomplishments were based on my writing and storytelling which I am actually very proud of. I have been blogging and YouTube-ing for so long. I didn't ever give up on my dream. I still pursued it! Now I have sponsors, a larger following and a new opportunity to pursue more of my dreams. I am elated! I'm covelling!

    Now you can see me and my journey. I will let you know what I did to get through it all. You can see my whacky side, silly side, fun side, randomness and many more facets of me and my life. I won't ever not be 'ME' and what I share is what I want to let you peek into. Welcome to Joël Land. Who am I? I am one of the J's in the 3 J's and 1 S of my family. Hence 3jsand1s.

    You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube @3jsand1s & on Snapchat @threejsandones

    Thank you all for reading. Please comment, share if you are compelled to and thank you again. Hugs and smooches Followers!

    Kindly,
    Joël