Thursday, February 18, 2016

When I Look In The Mirror

When I look in the mirror I see him and I see her.
I see his mean stare.
I see her absent expression.

When I look in the mirror I see my father.
I can see his beard, the way his hair grows.
I can see his skin tone.

When I look in the mirror I see my mother.
I see her big eyes, her smile and I wonder when was the last time she smiled.
Has she ever?

When I look in the mirror I see myself and how easily I am able to behave like him.
I don't like his angry tone.
I don't like his hands on me.
You're hurting me.

When I look in the mirror I see myself and how easily an addict I could become.
I am not addicted to anything.
Maybe addicted to wanting to know you.

When I look in the mirror I see the hurt and sorrow of my father.
I remember the day his grandmother died and how he couldn't even talk as he was crying.
I too am sensitive that way.

When I look in the mirror I see the black eyes of my mother.
That was the day she forever lost custody of me
and my siblings as her mascara dribbled down her face.
Her addiction left me locked up in an apartment for two weeks with no food.
I won't do that to my children.

When I look in the mirror I see them both staring back at me.
My father and his judgemental dismissive self.
Yes dad I'm gay and I still love you even though you cast me out.
My mother who died from long term drug addiction.
I didn't know the woman who I look like most.
I wish I knew you.

When I look in the mirror I can now say I see me.
The man who is strong.
The little boy dying for love and affection, no more.
I may not hurt so much anymore and I'm here.
I am the man who I want to be.
I am the husband I want to be.
I am the friend I want to be.
I am the dad I want to be.

When I look in the mirror I see a man who has been through hell
 and back and I'm still standing.
Life is a whirlwind, it will throw you up and down.
Get back up off the ground!
I look in that mirror and I know I am.
I exist.

When I look in the mirror I am happy at what I see.
I see the best parts of every single person
I have encountered in my life.
I am me!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On My Way

I am sitting at LAX right now heading to Washington D.C. for Dad 2.0 Summit. I’m  a first time attendee thanks to being a recipient of a Miller Grant. I truly was honored to be selected to receive this grant and opportunity. It is beyond my wildest dreams that tomorrow I will be experiencing my first day of the summit.

Now, I have been blogging since I became a stay at home dad. I am onto my 7th year as a stay at home. I honestly set out to tell my story. How I have prevailed. I want to share the experiences I had growing up. How I overcame adversity, strife, adolescence, adulthood, death of my first husband and the list goes on and on. I didn’t ever stop blogging even if it was here and there. I really utilized social media as a away to let my friends know what I was up to as a new parent and stay at home dad. I was the first among my friends to become a father. My husband Sean and I were the first among our core social group of friends to have children.

So that to me was an opportunity to be the first at many new experiences as a parent. Did I feel that my blogging would lead me to my first discovery of a gay dad blogger, Henry Amador-Batten, of DADsquared, which was my first resource of any kind about parenthood? No. His blogs, posts and actual email interactions helped me navigate the ins and outs of being a parent. Those feelings of loneliness faded away when I could share with someone the same feelings, struggles, questions and funny stories about parenting. I developed a friendship with him even though I hadn’t ever met him.

Now, I did discover other parenting groups which didn’t work out well. One group consistently gave me the impression of being racist and elitist. The proof was that no one welcomed us, by us meaning my husband and I. I would approach people and have pleasantries but nothing afterward. Our children were ignored by the children. It felt like we were intruding on the event versus being welcomed. Anyhow, that didn’t last long. I still kept searching for that group or niche where I belonged. Clearly I was seeking a dads group.

DADsquared was able to connect me to City Dads Group, which routed me to LA Dads Group. It was local to me as it was in the city I live in. Ha! Yay! Well I was nonchalant about it to be honest. Too many failed attempts at dad groups left me feeling very wary. I went in with an open mind and without any emotional influence. I wanted to give it a fair chance. I could have found what I was looking for. Right!?

I learned that LA Dads utilizes an app called ‘Meetup’ to notify its members of events, RSVP options and a message board too. Well I signed up for my first event and went in with my fingers crossed. A Cinderella movie premier in an IMAX theater. Well that event was all red carpet with a kids bar, tea sandwiches, fruit and more galore. I also had a MAC makeup artist give me a touch up. Face painters made our children Cinderella ready. Oh did I mention swag bags too!!! Trevor Mulligan was the organizer for this event. He was welcoming and communicative about any questions I had about the event.

It was a stellar event with my husband and our children. I continued to attend various events of LA Dads and befriended Trevor. I then went on to learn about the National At Home Dad Network and their convention details. I applied for a scholarship to attend their event. I fortunately received the scholarship and had the time of my life there. I made lasting friendships with many fellow dads. I learned a lot and took home a lot. I was blown away by the entire organization, dads, programming and more. Yay!

All of the above has led me to Dad 2.0 Summit. I was awarded the Miller Grant. I made it in to this event. I hustled, worked and scrounged it all up to attend. The grant afforded me so much and I can’t wait for it all. I also was able to secure a new business relationship with Clifton David Clarke, wardrobe stylist and image consultant. His talent, keen eye and versatile fashion expression was able to create a wonderful wardrobe story for me to showcase at the event. You will see the fashion on display via my social media profiles and more.

I am beyond blessed and fortunate. My hard work, passion and continuing dream pursuance has afforded me many wonderful opportunities. I have my brand ambassador bag, Chabee Outfitters, with me, my tablet, selfie stick – thank you Melissa W., travel keyboard, awesome hat – Clifton again!, my joy and kinetic energy and much much more. I am coming DC, Dad 2.0 Summit. My husband Sean and my two children are what keep me motivated and focused. If it wasn’t for my husband believing in me, his love and my children I don’t know how I’d be so driven. I am here and I surrender to it all.


P.S. Thank you to all who helped me as well. You know who you are and I will send you each a personalized thank you. To name a few Warren Carlyle, Stephen Tupy – can’t wait to see you bestie boo, Peter Bedard – your belief in me is beyond!, Andrew Carter – words will never be enough to express my love and gratitude. I could go on and on and on. Okay gotta go get ready to board my flight and see you all in Washington D.C.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What To Say

I sit here and I ponder what to say. I didn't plan on this being my first blog post but it ended up being as such due to circumstances beyond my control. So please sit back, relax, sip your favorite drink and welcome to my world.

I want to say to that little boy sitting underneath the dining room table longing for that pickle that sits atop the roach trap, who's very hungry, that you will one day not ever worry about when you will be fed. I want to say to that little boy who also on that same day witnesses his mother use a needle for something other than a medical reason, that it's okay to be scared and worried. You won't be there forever and this will get better. Remember your faith and dreams.

I want to say to that young 1st grader that it's okay that your teacher didn't let you use the restroom. Yes you ended up peeing in your pants and stayed that way for the rest of the school day. So what! It wasn't your fault. You did nothing wrong. You are not dumb or careless even if you were made to feel so by hecklers and taunters. You are kind, smart and important.

I want to say to that 6th grader that your best friend stopped being your best friend for his reasons. You didn't speak ill of him someone else did and you know that. You know it to be true because you heard it firsthand. Yes you will be a loner for a while but focus on the fun you get to have with your aunt and grandmother. They made sure you had the best times ever. Friends come and go but more will see you for the quality person you are. Chin up young person.

I want to say to that teenager to be more brave. You are brave for pursuing performing arts, dance, colorguard and songleading. Yes you know you're different but not just from this but your sexuality too. Be brave and know thyself. Make yourself known. Be the trendsetter and trail blazer. Others do look up to you. You may not know it now but you will. I know you're scared even when 'doin' your thang' but at least you're doing what you love. Hold onto it and don't let go.

I want to say to you that you love so hard and deep. Your first husband died of cancer in your arms and you will be ready for the next part of your life. You will find love again in your second husband. That will lead you to becoming a parent and marriage. Your life will have so much more. It takes time but it does get better. Remember you are strong and you are brave.

Yes your father disowned you for being gay. That isn't your choice nor your battle. It's his. Your mother will pass away and yes she may look like you and vice versa. Well you're your own person. You may see each parent in the mirror staring back at you but you are not them. Your path will be different and you know how you want to be. There is plenty more love for you in the world. I want to say to you, you are wonderful!

I want to say to you that you will lose your best friend suddenly. You will lose more close friends shortly after. Remember you had so much with them and it won't ever go away. Yes they are physically gone but the memories are forever. The last thing Nick told you was to follow your dreams so don't ever forget that. Your life will have more friends and you will find where you belong again.

I want to say to you that the at home parent journey you've been on will lead you to the National At Home Dad Network, to Dad 2.0 Summit, Gays With Kids, Marrow Deep by Richard Gayler, Warren Carlyle, book reviews such as Peter Bedard's book Convergence Healing and Clint Edwards This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. You will have your first paid brand ambassadorship with Chabee Outfitters. You will have great success and more to come. You will have a new great business relationship with Clifton Davis Clarke, a wardrobe stylist/ image consultant, to make you your best for the Dad 2.0 Summit and beyond, yes you deserve this!

I want to say to you that your husband, Sean, will need your social media expertise for his business venture. You're going to be great at it. You have an opportunity of a lifetime to use what you have been given so freely toward this. You're smart, savvy, diligent and creative. Let go let flow. He loves you and you love him. Two queens are better than none.

I want to say to you that you're going to have more than you know what to do with and that's okay. You can handle it. You have been through so much in life and you are more than capable. Your heart knows when to let go, your mind knows when to not stress and your inner voice tells you how to handle any situation. Listen to yourself. Remember your struggles, embrace the changes and forge ahead. Your dreams haven't ever left your mind. Keep going. Be unwavering in your creative self and be you. There is only one of you.

I want to say that I am Joël. I love myself. I am comfortable in my own skin. Anyone who takes pity or offense I say 'judge yourself' it's who I am. I am here.