dad from day one: License to Procreate

Twenty-eight weeks.  (The beginning of the 7th month.)

I’ve been thinking how it’s kinda weird that in order for two people to reproduce, there’s no paperwork involved before things can get started.  Giving birth to another human being is one of the most life-changing events that can happen to a person.  And not just to the family of that new baby, but also to the world-wide network regarding that human interaction of that person’s present and future life.  For example, in 1981, my parents had me, and now 29 years later there’s a guy at Aflac getting a commission off my paycheck every week because he sold me an insurance policy three years ago.  I am affecting that Afflec guy’s life simply because I am alive.  And that’s the slightest of examples!

In the back of my mind, I question why God is okay with the fact that it’s so easy and natural for human beings to be born.  If I was God, I would be pretty tempted to prevent certain people from being born, like Adolf Hitler (a pretty obvious choice).  And not let future serial killers and rapists be born either.  Instead, God allows all kinds of people are allowed to be born into this world, under the best and worst circumstances.

But God doesn’t prevent “ignorant people” from having babies, nor does He keep “bad people” from being born into the world, nor does He prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Ultimately, every time a person is born, it’s another opportunity for someone to bring glory to Him, whether they ever do or do not.  Not every child who was abused in their youth grows up to repeat the vicious cycle and by becoming an abuser themselves, even if most do.  And what about all the babies who were born into this world as a result of rape?  What about all the orphans throughout the history of the world who were born destined to die young of starvation or disease?

It’s pretty easy for babies to be born, given that that the father and mother physically can conceive.  No paperwork and background check required.  So as I tame my wildest fears regarding all the ways I can mess up this kid who is planning to arrive in two months, I have to remind myself, millions of babies have been born into this world under the worst of circumstances and actually turned out okay.  My future is as unpredictable and uncertain as anyone’s.  Yet I must daily resist thoughts of financial concerns and pointless worries regarding my own conceived incompetence.  But all I really can do is enjoy this new life and remind myself of all the countless times God has provided for me before.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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What Percentage of Your Day is Spent on Entertainment?

It’s not as simple as logging your TV and movie time: Entertainment is much more complicated, subtle, and encompassing than that.

When my sister was born in January of 1984 (I was about 2 ½) she gave me a Garfield stuffed animal as present.  I realize that the idea of a newborn baby giving her older brother a gift the day she is born may seem illogical, but my parents’ idea to keep me feeling special that day worked.  Because I didn’t question the rationale of my sister’s gift until high school.  That Garfield doll ended up being one of my favorite childhood toys.  I dressed him up in my dad’s whitey-tighties; they were Garfield’s diaper.

A major part of being a kid is being strung along by your parents.  It’s a constant, endless series of countless waiting rooms, strange places, and unfamiliar people.  But all I could really think of was eating, drinking, and peeing.  And when I checked all those activities off the list, that meant I must be bored.

So I needed something to entertain myself.  During the younger years, Garfield in my dad’s underwear did the trick.  I eventually graduated from the stuffed animal circuit to video games and action figures.  Then to playing guitar by the time I started junior high.  Evidently the worst thing in the world was to be bored.  So I always had someway to entertain myself.

*This explains the psychology behind Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell). Click that title to read more about it.

But I have to imagine that most people, like me, carry this idea of constantly entertaining themselves into adulthood, for the rest of their lives.  And as Ive learned by now, a tangible object isn’t necessary for entertainment- though something as subtle as checking for new text messages 33 times a day is a popular form of fighting subconscious boredom.

I learned as a child to use my imagination to daydream; while I still do that on an hourly basis, I’ve also made a habit of planning my future and coming up with ideas for my life.  And I figure I’m not the only one.  I figure that most people find some way to entertain themselves throughout the day, despite the busyness of life.  In between the busyness of life.  And during the busyness of life.  Even if it’s just while waiting in line, sitting at a red light, or zoning out at work (and often even not realizing we’re doing it).

Heckler-reader yells out: “Bahahaha…You just wait ‘til you have a baby, that’ll all change!”

Yes, life will change and my time will be spent in different ways and I will be functioning on less sleep.  But no matter how preoccupied I am with life and all its responsibilities and distractions, there are still moments throughout any day, even if it’s while I’m falling asleep, that I fill in those moments of fading consciousness with random thoughts like, “What was Grimace supposed to be, anyway?”

So how what percentage of my day is spent on entertainment?  It’s pretty much a trick question.  Because at least for me, my mind is constantly in entertainment mode.  Even when I’m asleep, dreaming.

The Good Ole Days: Past, Present, or Future?

At what point does life reach its peak?

Last August I bought Third Eye Blind’s new album, Ursa Minor, on the day it came out. And while I love it tremendously, I realized several years ago that nothing they ever do will top their 1997 debut album with “How’s It Gonna Be”, “Semi-Charmed Life”, “Jumper”, “Graduate”, “Motorcycle Drive By” and “I Want You”. They keep making good music, even if I’m the only one still listening. But they peaked 11 years ago.

Michael Jackson experienced his peak in 1983 with the success of Thriller, personally haunted by the fact that he was never able to commercially or critically top it. And as much as I love Dave Matthews Band, I find it scientifically impossible for them to top their 1996 7x platinum album Crash, featuring the flawless “Crash into Me”.

Not that it’s an awful thing to peak early in a career. Not everyone can go out with a bang like George Burns, or remain relevant after several decades. It happens to plenty of good actors and comedians too: they continue to make movies after people stop really caring. Steve Martin. Jim Carrey. Will Ferrell. Robin Williams. Tim Allen.

A sign of a once-relevant comedian officially being past his peak is when he appears in a family movie in which he gets thrown high into the air, then lands abruptly but suffers no major injuries, then looks up at the camera with this expression that says, “Ugh, that’ll leave a mark…” (I have a visual right now of Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen when he gets catapulted out of the Gymboree.)

Gone are the days of Steve Martin’s classics like The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Parenthood, and the legendary Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (which I refer to in about 23% of my writings). Now we’re stuck with The Pink Panther. I’m sure it makes him millions of dollars, but it doesn’t make anybody laugh.

Steve Martin: surprisingly, not Jewish.

While I don’t have a career in acting or music where I have to keep reinventing myself to please fans in the business of entertainment, I do live a life in which I am sometimes tempted to keep looking to the future for my vindication, contentment, or perfect stage of life. When those thoughts cross my mind I have to remind myself of some corny forward that someone e-mailed me a few months ago that said: These are the good old days.

Whether or not I am living in the peak happiness of my life now or in 30 years, it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve learned it’s not the bad, boring, or annoying memories I keep going back to. It’s the good ones. Those are what I keep close to heart: These are the good old days.

Robin Williams: Also, surprisingly not Jewish either.

“I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.” -John Mayer (“No Such Thing”)

“And I’ve never been so alive.” -Third Eye Blind (“Motorcycle Drive By”)

Blue Skies Eventually Become Outer Space: From the Real World to the Heavenly Spiritual Realm

“Is there a God?  Why is He waiting? Don’t you think of it odd when He knows my address?  And look at the stars- don’t they remind you of just how feeble we are? Well it used to, I guess.” –John Mayer, “New Deep”

Though it may be difficult to grasp, neither the Wild West (in the past) nor Outer Space (in the future) in fictional entertainment have ever really interested me.  In fact, they have actually turned me off from certain franchises.  Back to the Future, Part III was a Wild Western, as was American Tail: Fievel Goes West.  And though it was before my time and marketed to the opposite gender, before being cancelled, the Saturday morning cartoon Josie and the Pussycats went to Outer Space for their final season.  Going into the Wild West or Outer Space both come across as “jump the shark” moments to me.  (Star Wars is an exception because it happened a long, long time ago, which is weird to think about.)

Here in the year 2010, the Wild West has been replaced as modern-day Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas have more trouble with violent gangs than they do misbehaving cowboys or Indians.  However, no matter what year we survive to, there is still an unseen future- and an unexplored Outer Space will always be something we remain fascinated by.  Even if we can shake off the possibility of other life forms out there (see Do Aliens Really Exist?), the scientific fact remains that there is no end to the Universe.  Space never stops; it literally can’t.  The ultimate great wide open.

A cliché idea is that when you look up at the stars you realize just how small you really are.  It’s true.  Even right now if I look up at the sky, I think how if only I could see far enough, I would see Outer Space.  And part of the whole “you realize how small you really are” doesn’t just account for physical size, but also for our spiritual relation to this Universe.

I am not convinced that Heaven is millions of light years away from us, way out there past Outer Space, like I have always unquestionably assumed.  God doesn’t fear that we humans will become so smart and efficient with our space travel programs that we will physically be able to fly to Heaven and therefore force our way in, despite our spiritual condition and relationship with Him.

For all I know, Heaven is actually so physically close we could throw a rock to it.  But our inability to see the spiritual realm prevents us from seeing it now.  Even when it somehow becomes easy to forget the relevance of God and eternity and how everything really is spiritual, Heaven isn’t that far away.  We definitely don’t have to travel past the blue skies into Outer Space to find the place.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on outer space, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Today is Copyrighted

Important Rule in Life: When someone asks you “what’s up?”, it’s good to have something cool or funny to say.

A good thing to ask yourself at the end of each day is “What happened today that makes this day different from every other day I’ve lived?”  So many of the days of our lives seem normal and insignificant.  As a way of making them seem more meaningful, I like to observe what makes each day special.  It makes future conversations more interesting. 

Like today, I jumped in my Honda Element for the drive to work, and immediately I was taken back to the smell of the boys’ locker room from my high school in 1996.  But there are never dirty clothes in my car and I never leave the windows down (in the event it had rained during the night) and there’s no carpet in my car at all.  So why did my car smell like a sour milk sock?  I endured the odor for 22 minutes until I arrived at work when I took a minute to sniff around, but to no avail.

Six hours pass and I’m getting my mountain bike out for my lunch break ride.  And near the front of the bike tire, underneath my emergency hoodie, was a black-and-brown banana, wrapped up in a clear plastic grocery bag from Publix.  And then I thought to myself, “So that’s where left that banana!”  I’m thinking it had been there for around 16 days.  It was so rotten that it was liquefying and running out of the bag.  Good thing I keep emergency Wet Wipes handy.

That mildly entertaining story will become the copyrighted material of today.  It’s why today is different than any other day of my life.  Nothing too dramatic or life-changing.  At best, just a reference I can make at some point in the future in a conversation with a group of friends where the conversation topic is “smelly things”.  This day will live in infamy.  And comedy.

dad from day one: Proud Papa

Twenty weeks.

*Did you hear about this blog from American Baby magazine?  If so, click here to get to the main page (table of contents) for “dad from day one”.  There’s a whole lot more where this come from…

During the closing credits of my favorite movie of all time, I Love You, Man, Barry (Jon Favreau) finds out his wife Denise (Jamie Pressly) is pregnant after she vomits on him at the wedding reception.  With puke on his shirt, he says to her, “Please, try to make it a boy.”  Barry is a Type A jerk, inhabiting every memory and idea of a typical beer-guzzling frat boy.  So of course, having a boy (instead of a girl) would be very important to him.

Being that I’m nothing like that character in the movie, instead being much more like the main character, Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), I had just always assumed I would have all daughters.  Here’s the picture I had in my head of my future family: Me, wifey, three daughters, and two Cockapoos (or Labradoodles).

It just makes more sense that a guy who has no interest (or talent whatsoever) in sports or hunting (or anything proving I’m man enough by showing my “game face”), but instead has always been enthralled in everything artistic (drawing, entertaining, acting, singing, songwriting, writing) would somehow automatically make a better father to daughters instead of sons.  So that’s part of the reason I was so authentically surprised to learn that our baby is a boy.  Like somehow I deserved a son less because I’m not a certain macho stereotype I’ve memorized from three decades of watching sitcoms and movies.

And now, I have to admit, there’s a part of me that can’t help but laugh that without any preconceived hopes or crossed fingers, I get what every man secretly hopes for- a son.  There’s an unspoken concept (at least in my mind) that raising a son is a rite of passage for a man.  A coveted elective course, a special honorary badge, an engraved trophy so easily received- to be a father to a son.  A chance not so much to relive my own life, but to enhance another future man with all the life experience and knowledge I’ve learned the hard way.

The movie I Love You, Man is built around the fact that male friendships and bonds don’t often come so easily.  By a man having a son, he is automatically given that opportunity- to nurture a male the way every boy and man craves to be taught and directed.  What I lack in knowledge of fixing cars and football statistics and home repairs, I can make up for in teaching healthy communication skills and anything that falls under that categories of “literary”, “artistic”, “psychological”, and “entertainment”.

In other words, I have a feeling I will be raising  the likeness of a future Jewish comedic actor, maybe the next Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the next Shia LaBeouf, the next James Franco…

A well-rounded people-person who is confident in who he is, that’s who I predict he will become.  Who knows?  Maybe he’ll be a quiet, mild-mannered, studious, future accountant.  But with a dad as quirky and Hawaiian-shirt-wearing as me, I just don’t think he has a chance of being anything like Clark Kent.

Baby Jack's body is the length of a cantaloupe this week.

Here’s what The Bump says about Week 20:

Baby’s digestive system is busy creating meconium (a tarry black substance made of swallowed amniotic fluid, digestive secretion and dead cells), which will fill the first diaper after birth. And, speaking of the diaper situation… baby’s genitals are now fully formed!

To return to the “dad from day one” main page, click here.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Nonfiction Rules; Fiction Drools (Why I Would Rather Allude to True Stories of My Own Life Than to Have to Create Characters and Story Lines)

Why make up a bunch of stuff to write about when the story is just sitting there, waiting to be told?

There are many times in life when I believe it’s important to work on my weaknesses until they become my strengths.  Like with the Rubik’s Cube, for example.  Other times, I just run the other way, knowing that the best option is just to stick with what I know best.  And so is the case with writing fiction; I’m not good at it, I don’t enjoy it, and I have no desire to try.  Seems like too much homework to me.  Granted, I very much admire/envy those who have the talent to write fiction.

I write nonfiction, instead, because it comes so naturally to me.  There’s no need to invent clever, yet deep characters- I already have all the ones I need.

The characters of my writings are usually you (both specifically and generically at the same time), friends, family, heroes, idiots, time, life itself, and myself.  The trickiest part of making this work is how I handle both the first and last subject I just named: you and me.

When I do actually use the word “you”, I try to avoid placing it next to the word “probably” because I don’t truly know anything “you probably” do, think, or are.  All I can do is portray things from my own perspective based on what I do, think, and am.  As for myself as a subject (the narrator and host), I’m careful not to make it obvious what a major role I play in the story.  I will quote French author Gustave Flaubert, “An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.”  It’s not about me; it’s about the story.  But the only way I can set the stage for common ground between “you” and me is by accenting the whole thing with my own life.  Like most album covers for the Steve Miller Band’s records where Steve Miller himself was M.I.A., if my face or image is attached or present, it’s almost better.  Let the art speak for itself.

I also love writing nonfiction because it’s pretty convenient how time can be manipulated; I am able to encompass the past, present, and future all in one.  Typically I start out the post with a story that already happened (past), linking it to who I am today (present day), and end it with how that sets the tone for how things will continue to be (future).

Writing nonfiction allows me to serve as my own psychologist, hopefully entertain others, and in a sense, to have the ability to travel through time.