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!