Father’s Day- A Different Meaning Every Year

Each year, Father’s Day means something different to me. I can remember back to a few years ago, right before my first daughter was born, I looked at Father’s Day with a good amount of trepidation. It wasn’t that I had regrets about becoming a dad, but I knew that once Father’s Day rolled around I would have to put on the “proud dad” hat. It wasn’t a hat that I ever saw myself wearing simply because I didn’t think that I was old enough to be considered a “real” father. When Father’s Day finally arrived, I fully embraced it and took as many “Happy Father’s Day” remarks as I could. The weirdest part about all of it was when my own father said it to me. I immediately realized how being a father made me appreciate my own father even more.

I used to celebrate Father’s Day in non-traditional fashion. My wife and I left the kids in the care of some friends, while we vacationed to the Ozarks. I only say “non-traditional” because I never imagined spending Father’s Day away from my children. However, the experience taught me so much about not only being a father, but being an individual. I read a quote a few years ago that went something like this: “The one thing that fatherhood will always remind you of is that your children will never be you and you will never be able to live their life for them.” To me, that means that even if you have a child, you should never lose sight of your own identity.

I have conversations with both expecting parents and non-parents who seem to think that their life is over just because they’re bringing another life into the world. Most of you already know how far from the truth that really is. In fact, you should expect your identity to swell after you have children. It improves your drive and increases your concern for your own well-being. Plus, I found that you’ll only drive yourself insane if you don’t nurture your hobbies and spend some time away from the family from time-to-time. For instance, one weekend a month, a few of my buddies and I pick a city where a great band is playing. Then, we’ll spend the entire weekend in that city—child free. Next month, we’re actually all going to France with our spouses and while we’re there, we’ll be checking out The Black Keys.

Now, don’t get me wrong, on Father’s Day, I do like being showered with the affection and presents of my children. I’m a huge fan of birthdays because I love receiving gifts, so you could imagine the expectations I have for Father’s Day. Right now my kids aren’t exactly old enough to pick out gifts for me, so I usually just put the request in to my wife and they present it to me. This year, I’ve already asked for the Bose Soundlink Bluetooth II that Verizon Wireless actually recommends specifically for Father’s Day. I hoped to have already installed a full speaker system in my house and on the back deck, but I haven’t gotten around to it. So, because I’ll be doing a lot of yard work this summer, it would be nice to have a quality speaker to take outside with me. Like I said, each year, Father’s Day means something different. We’re going to make this year about pumping up the volume.

Guest author bio:

Jared Harris is a father of two and recent college grad. When he’s not juggling work and his family life, you can find him playing his favorite albums in his man-cave. Follow him here – @JaredRHarris

 

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Vow to Be a Better Parent

Father’s Day was a special treat this year. My children are getting older and finally grasping what these holidays mean. I got lots of love and some wonderful homemade cards among other things. Despite all of these creative gifts and tons of love, I believe that the greatest gift I received was an eye-opening experience about parenting.

My epiphany came sometime during the morning of Father’s Day. My wife, Kristine, shared an article with me. The article was about a man (a bad father) who essentially had mentally broken his child. The article was a bit overzealous, but I got the gist of it and it really sunk in. After reading it, I did a little Google research and found more articles and thought provoking tidbits. As I delved in deeper, I uncovered some inner feelings that I had about myself and my family.

My dad raised me with a strict and stern outlook. He was swift with his hand and mouth. However, he never struck me out of anger. He would always send me to my room to wait for my punishment while he (presumably) calmed himself down. When the spanking time came, Dad was always sad and determined at the same time. He would explain to me why I was being punished and the ways that I could improve. Dad loved me with all of his heart, and he sincerely was doing the best that he could to raise me into a respectable adult. I happen to think he did a fantastic job with the tools he was given.

Looking back, I can learn from some of my dad’s mistakes. I can also learn from the things he did correctly. I can use the generations before me to figure out what worked and what didn’t. It struck me as sudden as a shock from an electrical outlet. I hold in my hands and mind (and always have) the power to improve based on what I’ve experienced.

This latest bit of information hit home and I sat pondering… I philosophized for literally thirty or forty minutes. It was deep thought. And, it was emotional. In the moments that followed my thought provoking inner look, I realized that I want to improve. Strike that… I NEED to improve.

I know that I’m not here to be my children’s friend.

I know that it’s my parental duty to create responsible and caring adults out of my children.

I know that my young children rely on me to guide them and help them.

However, all of those things don’t mean that I can’t still be my child’s friend. That I can’t be loving and nurturing at the same time that I’m strict and firm. Deciding then and there, I vowed to be a better Dad to my kids. I vowed to listen more to them. I vowed to touch and hold them more. I vowed to try and empathize with their needs, wants, and feelings. I vowed to love.

Love is the key. It means everything to me. With love, I can accomplish anything. And, with love I can help teach my children how to be all that they can be.

It has always been my goal to do the best as a parent. To teach and lift my children. To inspire and motivate them. Now, my eyes are opened to a deeper feeling. A longing of improving my abilities and doing even better and even more.

Today I vow to be a better parent. Will you take that vow with me? Together let’s turn the world on its ear and show that it is possible to raise understanding, smart, and responsible adults by using our brains and our hearts. Let’s learn from our past… Let’s learn from our parents… Let’s learn from our friends… And, let’s learn from each other. Join me on a quest to make a better world, one child at a time!

I hope this touched some of you, and maybe even inspired you to vow to be a better parent.

Typed (and conceived) with love,
Vaughn

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A Son’s Eulogy for Julien Kim Ripley

My dad, Julien Kim Ripley, died on December 4th, 2011 at 1:12 a.m. Two years ago, today. Not a single day goes by that I do not think about him. In tribute, I decided to re-post a eulogy that I wrote for him more than a year ago and posted on my HIV Longevity blog.

Julien Kim Ripley (January 12, 1945 – December 4, 2011)

580_k_dad_di

Often when you see a headstone in a graveyard, it has the person’s name and then their birth and death dates separated by a dash. To me, that seems to say that the person’s life merely flashed by—a sprint—and not worthy of talking about. Well, Dad grabbed life by the horns and inspired others around him. His life was not just a dash. Quite the contrary… Dad spent every moment of his life improving himself and others around him. He had a vast thirst for knowledge and continued building it until his dying day.

Dad taught me so much about life. He introduced me to music and showed me how to play the guitar and piano. He brought me into his office and helped me learn to use computers before most people even knew what they were. He instilled in me values, a sense of worth, honor, and courage. He took commitment to family and work very seriously. Dad was the hardest working person that I have ever known. He was also frank and insisted upon candid talking. Often he was brutally honest, and not everyone appreciated that, but you always knew that you would hear precisely what he was thinking. Dad was sincere and fair with his words. Rarely would he judge someone else. And, he would encourage me to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

My favorite “Dad story” was also one of his favorites, even though it deeply embarrassed him. We’ve both told and laughed about this one a thousand times, so bear with me if you already know it… I used to work with Dad at his land surveying company, Rodgers and Associates. And, I would often use his desk and computer. One day I was typing away at his desk when he came in and I had to give up the seat. What neither of us knew was that I had spilled a few Milk Duds out of my pocket and into his chair. Well… Dad sat in them and didn’t notice. He sat there for an hour or so working diligently. Finally, a client came in to meet with him and when he stood to greet the man, Dad found he was peeling himself out of his chair. His rosy cheeks and demeanor must have given away the fact that something was wrong, but Dad simply smiled and shook the guest’s hand. Walking down the hall and to the Men’s room with his brown-stained Khaki’s must have been one of the most embarrassing things ever to happen to him. As furious as he was over this incident, Dad told me about it later that afternoon and he laughed at himself instead of scolding me. That was simply the kind of man that he was.

I used to see Dad occasionally reading the obituaries. When I asked why, he said, “I read them every day just to make sure I’m not in them.” He continued with, “That way I know I’m still alive.” As I read his obituary earlier this year, I imagined him looking over my shoulder and saying, “Oh shit…”

Since Dad’s passing, I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from tons of folks who knew him, even friends from back in the 60’s who have nothing but fond memories. He touched so many lives and inspired so many people. Most of what I’ve heard was how honorable Dad was and how he made their lives better and stronger. All were thankful for meeting and knowing him. Mostly I’ve heard how Dad’s work ethic and principled beliefs rubbed off on them in a positive manner. That is the Dad that I knew and remembered. I’m proud to say, “That was my Dad!”

As I sat with my Dad and listened to his “death rattle” breathing, I knew that he would not be with us much longer. And, I was right, because he died that night. I’m honestly not sure what made me travel down to my parent’s house that weekend, but I’m glad I did, because I was able to be with him in his last days. Odd as it may sound, I honestly believe that Dad was relieved to see me. Almost as if he succumbed to death with comfort, knowing that I was there. Hard to explain it, but it was a completion of sorts.

Dad carried a fire in his heart. A strong fire that could be felt by everyone around him. I miss him every day of my life, but I still feel that fire, inside of me… I think that is because he passed it to me through his lessons and examples. Hopefully I make him proud as I work daily to strengthen and stoke that fire, in the hopes that one day my fire will be as large as his was.

Dad was also a humble man. He never tooted his own horn, even though he had plenty of reasons to. He would never have approved of me writing my thoughts and memories for all to read… But, this is a healing process for me, and this is who I am. Fortunately, I know that the man I have become is directly in response to the way he raised and fathered me. So, despite his wishes to stay humble and quiet, I am standing on top of the highest place I know (the Internet) and shouting his praises!

I miss my father so much! I will always miss him! And—yes—Dad’s life was much more than just a dash!

Posted with love by a son who misses and feels you every day.

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Male Bonding Making a Rubber Band Loom Spider-Man

If you look, you will often find opportunities to bond with your children. The key here is that you must pay attention and be observant. Recently my children have gotten into this rubber band loom bracelet building craze. Normally, I barely notice passing fads like this… However, this time my son made me a beautiful bracelet and meticulously sized it for me. When he handed it over to me you would think he thought he was giving me a million dollars. His eyes were gleaming up at me, and he carefully handed it with two hands with a partial (proud) smile on his face. This stood out to me, and I knew at that moment just how important this “fad” was.

The other day on Pinterest (yes, I go there sometimes) I spotted a Spider-Man rubber band action figure diagram on my friend’s (Nikki) page. It looked cute, and I immediately realized the value… My son is a HUGE superhero fan, and Spider-Man is one of his favorites. I printed out the diagram and left it laying around for him to find. My plan worked… When he saw it, he was absolutely enamored and practically begged to build the character.

*hook line and sinker*

I offered to work with him and make it the next morning. His eyes brightened, he beamed a smile, and hugged me with a big “Thank you, Daddy.” This melted my heart. My heart was melted even further when he woke me early the next morning and asked if were still going to make Spider-Man. I said, “yes” and he ran off. Coming back with the paper, he said, “I slept with it under my pillow.” Holy crap, my heart was in my throat! I live for (and love) this stuff!

After brewing some coffee and making him wait a few minutes, we broke out the loom and started working. It was so fun learning about this fancy-dancy rubber band loom (this was my first time) and how cool it actually was. My son (Xander is five years old) was more than happy to explain how it worked and he diligently hunted for different accessories as we prepared.

The whole time we were working, Xander and I chatted and I could see him bouncing off the walls with energy and excitement as the project neared completion. His smile grew by the minute and he kept exclaiming how cool it was. This was an incredibly heartwarming experience for both us!

I highly recommend bonding time with your children, and this is a perfect example of something silly and fun that you can do that will remain as a fond memory for years to come.

This article was not meant to be an instructional one. I merely wanted to reference using the loom for the Spider-Man rubber band action figure thingy creation. Rather, this post is about bonding with your child (in my case, bonding with my son). However, I know that some might find this article purely by searching for “Spider-Man rubber band loom” and it wouldn’t be fair to at least point you in the right direction. So, I thought I would also share the YouTube videos (there are two of them) that I used to make the trinket. Here’s the videos that I followed along with to make this masterpiece:

PART ONE

PART TWO

If you plan to build the Spider-Man rubber band figure, I can give you a few pointers and tips to make your experience a tad easier…

  • This is what I would consider an intermediate level thing to build and will take some time (it took me about ninety minutes to complete).
  • Rubber bands do break from time-to-time… It is not the end of the world. I used a broken rubber band as another bonding/training tool, explaining to Xander that it’s no big deal. We worked carefully together to replace the broken band and moved on.
  • The video was very well planned and covers everything. But, you need to watch closely at a few key points (at least I did) to really catch on to what he’s doing.
  • Remember that you’re bonding with your child and let them do some of the work. I had Xander searching through his rubber bands to pull out a bunch of the deep red and blue ones. I also asked his advice a few times and had him do some of the actual work. We had a blast!
  • Be patient and methodical.
  • Cherish this time!
  •  

    After we finished, Xander made a long string of white rubber bands (sort of like a bracelet that didn’t connect the ends). He held it up grinning and said, Here’s his web.
    Spider-Man rubber band web

    How do you bond with your kids? And, have your kids gotten into the rubber bands?

    I hope you enjoyed this story,
    Vaughn

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    PEP Talk from the Grave

    My dad taught me countless things. On a daily basis I relate more than a dozen things that I do that came directly from his teachings. He helped me to mold the base of loyalty and creativity that became the grown up me. Among the manifold things he guided me on, he impressed three things into me more than anything else. Those three things were preparation, elbow-grease, and persistence. I do not remember him ever teaching me to combine these powerful tools, but I clearly remember individual lessons based around each one. The ironic thing about life is that after Dad left this life, I came to the epiphany that he had inadvertently taught me the secret to success in life. You see, my father recently died. I had the fortune and good luck of being down in South Carolina visiting him and my step-mom on the day he finally succumbed to lung cancer. Very early in the morning on Sunday, December 4, 2011, my dad passed. I know it sounds final and maybe even morbid, but I believe that it is not the end of my dad. Julien Kim Ripley lives on, through me. And, he will live on through my children as well. Over the past year and a half, I have spent time each day thinking about Dad’s teachings and the amazing things he shared with me. A few months ago I was designing an inspirational speech for Sodexo, and I listed the three most important elements Dad taught me. I suddenly realized (literally in an instant) that the three things worked in conjunction with each other. Beyond that, I also found that if setup and performed correctly, these three things would solve ANYTHING! On top of that, I almost jumped out of my skin, when I found that those three things formed the acronym and word, PEP. How fracking cool is that??

    Today’s blog article is going to briefly breakdown each ingredient and then mix them together to create a recipe for ultimate success.

    Preparation

    Be Prepared
    —Boy Scout Motto

    Dad instilled a sense of planning in me from a very young age. Dad was a land surveyor and engineer, so planning was practically ingrained in him. For Dad, preparation was almost OCD. He planned, mapped, or drew out everything (regardless of how small the task). I can remember the countless hours he and Mom spent mapping out our trip across America. I also remember many pre-planning session before going out on our boat. His fascination for maps and route-planning has rubbed off on me. Along with mapping and general planning, Dad got me and my brothers to join the Boy Scouts. While there, I learned more about preparation and planning than most anything else in my life. There are tons of books on proper planning and preparation. Even better, the web is chock-full of advice and information. Seek and ye shall receive!

    Elbow-Grease

    “There’s plain few problems can’t be solved with a little sweat and hard work.”
    —Preacher from the Pale Rider

    When I was eleven years old, my dad asked me to move some chopped wood from our large wood pile to the easy access pile by our side door. I remember moaning and slumping as I dragged my feet toward the log pile. I acted as if Dad had put some terrible burden on my shoulders and it showed in my demeanor. I kicked the ground with each step and when I finally stood before the enormous stack of wood, I almost cried. Picking up a single log and carrying it like it weighed 50 pounds, I sauntered back to our house. I dropped the log and was turning to go back for another single log load. As I turned, I caught my Dad’s eyes. Dad was working on another project. He always worked so hard. I mean HARD. Most of us have no concept of what “hard” really is… Well, if you saw my dad in action, then you would understand what I’m saying. He worked incessantly, with a purpose, and HARD. Dad glared at me momentarily and then he called me over. Even though he was always busy, Dad had time to lecture and teach me. He stooped his sinuous 6 foot 2 inch body down to my level, smoothed the angry look on his face, and then firmly said, “Vaughn, you work harder at getting out of work than doing the actual work.” I honestly didn’t fully grasp the meaning of such a profound statement when I was eleven, but I get it now. And, I’ve gotten it for years. As a matter of fact, it is often my mantra to help boost me in giving an extra push during hard work. My dad and Clint Eastwood were a lot alike, and I can easily see Dad saying the above quote instead of Clint.

    Persistence

    “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
    —Calvin Coolidge

    Out of the three, this one is often the toughest to stick with (no pun intended). Almost any project, goal, or outcome that is worth completing will have a trouble spot (sometimes several) that seems impassable. It is times like that when you must batten down the hatches, lean into the battle, and move forward despite your internal objections.

    One my favorite sayings that Dad used on me was, “You gotta keep trying until you get it right.” I know that it is popular these days to say, “There is no try” (usually conveyed in a shoddy Yoda impersonation). But, that is not altogether true. I think that most people mean try as a solution, not as steps along the way. What I mean (and what my dad meant) is that you must try, try, and try again before completing some things. When Yoda said “There is no try” he was talking about the final outcome … Like, “I tried, but failed.” In that meaning, there really is no try, there is only do or do not. But, we do try along our path to success and understanding that will take you leaps and bounds ahead of the curve.

    Bottom line: Being persistent is the difference between making something magnificent and failing to make anything.

    Each of those above ideas by itself is mighty powerful. But, when combined, they form one of the best known combinations to plan, do, and follow through. I guarantee that you WILL NOT fail, if you properly execute each of these in conjunction with each other. The next time you have a desired result, utilize PEP. Start by sitting down, hashing it out carefully, and outlining a defined plan of how to achieve it. In other words, Prepare! Once the preparation has been completed and you have clear milestones and an action plan, get down to it. I like to call this part Elbow-grease… Get some! As you are diligently working on completing your project, dig deep and find leverage and other tools to keep you going… Be Persistent! I know that some of you are saying, ”That can’t possibly be all there is to it.” But I can confidently tell you from experience, that it truly is all there is to it!!!

    “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”
    —Amelia Earhart

    Dad may be dead, but his advice and ideals live on through me—and now—through You!

    Shared with love,
    Vaughn

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