Papa Bear

I love the metaphor of the Mama Bear!  That time when a mother is called upon to defend her child.  It is a thing to behold.  But what about that creature we don’t talk about.  The ferocious beat that fathered those kids.  That mythical creature that hides in the shadows and only reveals itself when things are really dire.  The Papa Bear…the Kodiak!  Try standing up to that monster!

I’m tire of the stereotype of the deadbeat dad.  There are a lot of them, but times have changed.  There are many men that are amazing parents.  They can provide a life for their kids that previously both parents wanted for them.  Courts seem to still be under the mistaken notion that women are always more nurturing.  It’s an old and outdated model.  It needs to be rethought.

2014…What a year!

Can we just take a step back and appreciate how much difference a year makes?  This time last year, my divorce was almost final.  I was not entirely sure what to do with myself.  I felt lost.  My apartment felt too big.  I missed my kids.  2013 had been a nightmare.

I woke up from the NYE party my buddy Jeremy throws, in a chair at his house.  I gathered myself together and started making plans.  I saw the Secret Life of Walter Mitty and booked my first trip of the year to SLC.  Jeremy’s 40th Bday in NOLA. After that, solo camping, camping with my daughters, road trips to Memphis, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and even Disney World.  Lots of happy hours with my friends and even a few dates in there. ;^)

So, what is 2015 going to bring?  I’m not entirely sure.  Something else I learned was to live with few expectations.  Enjoy where you’re at with those you are with.  I do hope to travel more by myself, with my daughters and with those special to me.  I hope to write another post like this in a year talking about how much more amazing 2015 has been.

On the Trail

I finally got back out on the trails this weekend.  It was amazing to get out and hear the tread of my feet on the rocks, wind in the trees and noises of nature.  I saw a deer at one point and heard one calling out a little later.  The trip down south has become much easier with the new Chisholm Trail toll road.  While it is expensive to drive, the trip down takes all of an hour now.

Up on the ridge coming down.

In the tracks of dinosaurs

Changing Rules and Weaponizing Kids

This past week I found out my ex wife had to go get a real job.  Ten months after the divorce was final, a little over a year after we split up.  Up till now, she has run a home business selling reusable feminine hygiene products. Apparently the income is too sporadic and the spousal support I have to pay is quickly coming to an end.  She told me that on top of the spousal, child support and all the medical I already pay, that I would have to pick up half her childcare costs, to which I said no.

I hate saying no.  To my kids, to my friends, anyone really.  It puts me in the position of having to disappoint someone.  I don’t care for that, but I also don’t like being told I have to do things I don’t want or even need to do.

I get the girls on Thursday and every other weekend.  At first, we tried like everyone else to meet halfway.  We couldn’t make that work, so we decided she would bring them all the way to me and I would take them all the to school the next day or after the weekend.  Well, once I decided I would not pay for childcare, she suddenly does not have the fuel to bring them to me and if I want to see them, I have to come get them.  Meeting her at the library near her house by the way since I cannot actually go to the house since her boyfriend objects.  She points to the decree and says that I *should* have been getting them right after school since it says my time of possession starts after school and ends at the beginning of school.  It’s pretty vague, but all my experience suggests that just gives me the right, not the obligation.

Being a loving dad, I don’t want my kids to suffer at all because my ex decides to play dirty. I know it could be worse.  I still get to see them without much trouble and financially I’ll be fine.  It’s just frustrating.  It’s just frustrating since there is really little I can do about it.

There and back again…with kids.


This past weekend 9/13-9/14 I surprised my daughters with a trip to Disney World.  It was quite a surprise, even though Kassidy had found a Disney vacation disk I had laying around.  I was fretting about the trip since it was going to be my first solo parent flight and long weekend in a crowded park.  While there were a couple of snags and was certainly more expensive than I’d planned, the overall vacation was a resounding success.

The flight.  We flew Spirit airlines from DFW to Orlando.  If you are unfamiliar, they are the no frills airline that charges for every little thing.  That being said, they post all their fees all over their website.  When you buy your ticket and check in, they give you multiple opportunities to purchase carry-ons, reserve seats, etc.  You get one free “personal item”.  I have used my largest backpack that can hold up to four days of clothing and never been questioned.  If it can fit under the seat ahead of you, you’re golden.  They have a place where you can test the size of the bag if you are still unsure.  Spirit will not hold your hand and they are not for luxurious travel.  If you are a parent on a budget, I really don’t know how you could fly any other way.  Having flown with them a couple of times, I have not had any trouble personally.  I have heard of poor customer service and delayed flights, but from personal experience that is all airlines, so just be prepared.  One note about the airport, traveling with the kids seems to get you into the TSA pre-screened line, so there’s a little bonus for flying with the little ones.  The girls did remarkably well on the flight.  The first lift off had them all holding hands and white knuckled.  Once we were in the air they were fine and even got bored.  The flight back was a breeze with them being only a little tense at lift off.  Each girl was in charge of her own backpack, so I did not have to manage carrying a bunch of gear.  My oldest was also invaluable as a second pair of hands and eyes to help with her younger siblings.

Transport.  At first, I thought I would use public transport while I was there, taxis, buses, etc.  This idea was quickly quashed when I realized the cost and lack of convenience.  It would have cost $50 just to get us from the airport to the hotel.  I also needed to make it to the sales pitch and back then back to the airport.  All totaled, it would have cost me about $130.  I’m a AAA member which is just discounts on all sorts of things, car rentals among them.  You log onto the website and you can see all the companies, side by side with vehicle type, cost and if they are in the terminal.  I’m not certain if it’s an added perk, but each time I have used the service to book a car, I get unlimited mileage.  The day of the flight, I got online and picked Thrifty which was $11 a day for four days.  Taxes and fees had me at $56 total.  I got a hybrid, and spent an additional $5 for fuel before I turned it in even though the gauge had not moved.  All total, $61.  Parking at the hotel was $15 a day for three days for a total transport cost of $106.  We did use the bust and tram to get to the theme parks, but that was included in the room.

The Hotel.  I used a timeshare promotion to get an incredible rate on the room.  We stayed in Hilton near downtown Disney (not the Magic Kingdom) for $201.38 for four days and three nights.  You can book cheap rooms at 1 star hotels for about $30 a night.  That’s not bad especially because you won’t spend much time in the room if you’re there for the theme parks.  The room may be questionable and the bed like a rock, but it’ll be cheap.  We stayed at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Walt Disney World Resort which is rated 4 stars.  The beds were ultra comfy, the room was quiet and the view was spectacular.  It should be noted that I am a Hilton Honors member with lots of points.  Because of this, I get upgraded anytime I check in, breakfast is usually included as is wifi.  It’s the little things that just make the experience better.  We had three king size beds, chairs and a desk to use.  While we were not in the room much, the time we were was amazing.  Personal note. This location is older.  You need to pay for parking since they don’t actually own the land around the hotel.  There are three pools, with one being a wading pool for the toddlers.  Our room had a double door and an old, non-working doorbell.  It was all updated, but you could feel the 60s vibe just under the surface.  Finally, the water pressure.  That glorious water pressure.  This shower pounds you with water.  I loved it.

The Parks.  I purchased two day passes to the Disney Parks for $780.  I could not find any way to get cheaper tickets, though I have not given up hope.  It allows entry into any of the Disney owned properties.  I didn’t know this until later.  I got confused about the “park hopper” option which allows you to go to different parks on the same day. Otherwise, your ticket can only be used at one park for each day and expires 14 days after you first use it.  The girls were really excited to see the Magic Kingdom.  It is all built to be amazing to kids even if they think they are too old for it. We got to ride the Mine Train, the Log Ride, Jungle Adventure, Little Mermaid, Haunted Mansion and train around the park.  A few notes. You know it’s expensive, but you really have no idea until you are there.  Whatever you think you’ll spend, double it unless you are really disciplined.  I had to say no a lot, but I did this by giving the girls options.  I told them I would definitely buy the ears, whichever they wanted.  Pins, keychains and postcards were always good choices and I would even splurge on one major item as long as it was not something I could definitely get online later for much less, specifically non-park items.  Case in point, we ended up at Epcot in Japan and the girls found themselves faced with more choices than they knew what to do with.  There was stuff from a show they loved, but it’s double what you’d spend elsewhere.  I did get them some postcards from the show.

Speaking of Epcot, I found out the tickets I had were good for any park only because I got to the transport over to the Magic Kingdom only to find it was closing in at 7pm for the Halloween event from 7-10.  There was nothing other than a sign outside to tell me that.  The cost to get in was the same as a day pass, so we chose to take the other train to Epcot.  In retrospect, Epcot was much better.  You get the princesses, but also food and drink from every country.  The girls loved all the various cultures and the three hours we had were just not enough.  There are not as many rides of course, but there are still shows and people from the countries they represent.  Disney has great rides, parades and characters.  The price you pay though is the crowds.  We were there in the “off season” and there was barely room to move.  The Mine ride was consistently at an hour wait even up to midnight.  The heat was pretty hard on the girls and there are not many cooling stations.  Bring your own water spraying fan.

The timeshare presentation.  This is a device used in many comedies and dramas about cheap vacations.  I did the tour with Hilton Grand Vacations.  You have to promise them two hours so they can show you the property, give you the presentation and generally make you stew until you buy.  In reality, the sales pitch was not all that high pressure.  The property was lovely and overall the deal was amazing.  The trap is that you start to convince yourself that you can afford such a thing.  Somehow you’ll justify to yourself that it is a good deal, you deserve it and can afford it.  The good news is if you are disciplined, be consistent and just say no, they’ll give you the promised certificates and send you on your way.  Assuming you do give in though, Florida gives you a full 10 days to rescind your contract without any penalty to you.

All in all I had an amazing time in Florida.  It was entirely too short.  Next time, I will pay a touch more and take the earlier flight in and later flight out so I can enjoy the hotel amenities as well as downtown Disney.  I will also have a plan in place to buy food at the grocery store to minimize the food expense.  I learned a lot about traveling with my daughters and how to visit Disney.  I look forward to going back next year.

Songs From An Open Book Tour

I got to see Justin Furstenfled at the Rockin Rodeo in Denton last night.  It was amazing.  Last year as the reality of my divorce was sinking in and I was struggling to find my new identity, I bought tickets to see How the Edge Stole Christmas.  The show was only mediocre, but I was introduced to Blue October.  They were the best part of that whole show.  I got the Sway album the next day and it became my soundtrack for the next few months.

This show was unique since it was Justin doing a solo show and spending time in between each song to give some background into what was going on at the time.  It feels good to know that I am not the only one that suffers.  That others have gone through worse and still come out, not just ok but better.  What made it even more amazing is the fact he is the father of daughters.  While my situation is not nearly as complicated as his, his music and experience speak to me about the struggle of living apart from my kids.

I also spent the dollars and went to the meet and greet.  He played a few songs for the small crowd of 50 or so, signed some autographs and took pictures with each of us.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet and shake the hand of someone who has helped me and had an impact on my life.  Thanks for your work Justin.  Keep on making music.

The Grill as Metaphor

My ex-wife got our house in the divorce.  After a year, she decided she no longer wanted to live there.  Instead of selling, we worked it out for me to take back possession.  She had wanted to take the bbq grill, but after having trouble with it, she decided to leave it behind.  I moved back in and thought I’d grill on it.  Sure enough, it would not light and when it did the flame was very weak and would not cook the food.  I spent an hour cleaning it and when I was done, it fired up using the self light and burned very hot.

While sitting there, sipping my beer and listening to the sizzle of steaks, I realized this whole grill thing was a metaphor for our marriage.  Her tendency to want something to the exclusion of other more important things and to just abandon and move on when things got too hard.  In this case, there was quite a bit of build up.  I put a lot of it in there, but it was from more than just one person.  Because of that build up, the flame could not get started easily.  When it did, start there was a burst of flame that burned someone, but the fire itself was just too weak.  It was left behind for something that required less work or at the least was just different.
When I looked at the grill, I saw something I could count on, that had produced some good meals in the past and was worth taking some time to fix.  I scrubbed at it, even if it was kind of painful.  I got the muck out, cleansed it and made it as good as new.  I had to reexamine who I was, what I wanted and why I wanted it.  In the end, I found my fire burning much brighter and hotter.
I’m glad I got to keep my grill and the first meal I cooked on it was for some friends to warm my new house.

Kissing Giantesses

So my cousin and her lovely wife Jane were at a pride parade being amazing in stilts and colorful costumes made by Regina Armenta when Jai Brooks captured this photo.

This was then turned into a painting by the talented Joan Cox.

This was in turn used as the cover for the cover of the Sep/Oct 2014 Lesbian Connection magazine.
And finally offered as a print, which I have since ordered.
And that’s the story of how it ended up on my wall. :^)

Christy Hays and Ali Holder

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Christy Hays perform last night at the Magnolia Motor Lounge with Ali Holder.  She is on tour to promote her new album, O’ Montana.

I have been a fan of Ms. Hays for about 3 and a half years now.  When I was down in Austin for business, I took a walk down Guadalupe St.  I got all the way down to the Hole in the Wall and was about to pass by when I noticed a pair of shapely legs then noticed her sweet voice.  I picked up her self titled album and saw her once again about a year later.  After that, I kept up with her through social media and picked up her second album Drought.

When my marriage hit the rocks, I reached out to Ms. Hays to commission a song.  Unfortunately things fell apart before she completed it.  It was about a year ago that I sat in the same bar with a friend lamenting my relationship and trying to figure out what to do.  It was fitting that I got to hear the song I had inspired played in that same bar.  It’s been great seeing this musician grow as an artist.  I hope to see her go far with her craft.

Oh…and Ali Holder was amazing too, so thanks to Ms. Hays for introducing me to a new artist.