Valentine’s Day Horror: A Heartless Tragedy

I’m never one to shy away from sharing a bad or awful dating story.  Unfortunately, this post is not about that.  This is much worse, far tragic, and something no one should ever have to face.  This is about the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting…the school my daughter attends.

So I am doing what helps me cope, as I sit and toss and turn in my bed, weary-eyed, unable to catch any ZZZZ’s as I play the day over and over in my head, and tell the story of what happened from a parent’s point of view.  This is hard to tell, but better that I see it on paper than playing like recorder on loop-play or repeat.

As a beautiful warm day began, I drove to my daughter’s school, usually arriving around 2ish to sit in the parking lot and write or listen to podcasts until her release at 2:40pm. That way I beat the car line and we get to drive off without facing any traffic.  Today was no different – or so I thought.

Around 2:25pm, several students on either side of me were exiting the building when out of nowhere the security man came by on his golf cart at top speed.

“GET BACK INSIDE!  NOW!  GO! GO! GO,” he shouted.  I looked around thinking this was a drill.

At 2:29pm I texted her, “What the heck is going on?”


Within two minutes, there were cops everywhere.  S.W.A.T. teams showed up, armored cars, and just about every police department arrived at the school.  They were pulling up in droves, getting out of their squad cars quickly, throwing on vests and pulling out fully-armed artillery.  They moved quickly up to the building, guns and rifles drawn, circling inside and outside.  Several kids were seen running, smoke was in the air and none of us parents sitting in the parking lot had any idea what was happening.

“Dad, is this a drill?  I’m shaking,” my daughter text me.

“Not a drill honey.  Cops everywhere.  I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m scared.”

“Take a deep breath.  Relax.  Daddy’s here.”

Just after I said that, gun shots were fired.  Several cops came into the parking lot and we had to abandon our vehicles as the shooter was still on the loose.  We were being forced to leave and go across the street and down a few blocks to the park.

“Gun shots are fired.  Shooter is in the parking lot.”

“omg.  please be safe.”

“I’m fine.  It’ll be over soon.  Just relax.  Be safe.  I’m not going anywhere.”

My stomach had crawled into my throat as I had no idea what was happening, nor was I about to go away from the school.  So I crossed the street, walked up the hill, passed through the shrubbery separating the neighborhood of homes from the school and stood on the other side, watching, waiting, and worrying.

There were a few people near me that lived in the neighborhood, but they were merely there to find out what was going on.  Finally a couple other parents arrived, standing with me, waiting.

“I am still shaking.  We are in a closet.  I’m scared.”

“Just stay safe, keep hidden.  I promise I’m not going anywhere.”

This was the first time in my life I felt completely helpless, like if my daughter was drowning in a pool and I could see it a mile away but would never make it in time to save her.  That’s exactly how I felt.  Several parents were standing around, feeling the same way, I’m sure.

Cops kept arriving, guns drawn, running to the school.  Helicopters were flying all around.  More armored vehicles arrived.  Ambulance vehicles, firetrucks arrived.  Finally, a group of kids were running out, single-file, with their hands in the air.  They had to drop off their backpack in the street, were instructed to sit on the hill, and then were asked the following three questions:

“Is anyone injured and need assistance?  Does anyone have any knowledge of this happening or witness the shooting?  Did anyone capture the shooting on your phone?”

They would then allow the children to retrieve their backpacks, head single-file to the north end of the street, and from there, I believe they were bused to a safe location.

With each group of children, I hoped to see my daughter.  I was on the phone with my mother as she was trying to get details about the incident from the news and keep me patient while I was waiting to get word on my daughter and her safety.

Suddenly, the gentleman standing next to me screamed out, “OH THANK GOD!  THERE’S MY BOY,” as he pointed diagonally from where we were standing on the hill.  I screamed it out in support of him as you could see the look on his face suddenly relaxed in relief to know his son was across the street and safely out of the school.

My phone would ring and this time it was my ex-wife.  She was in hysterics just under the overpass to the south of the school, unable to get by as police had secured the location to keep everyone away and safe.  I kept trying to reassure her that she would be fine, all while still feeling a knot in my stomach and an equally large knot in my throat.

Suddenly, the mother standing behind me began crying as she saw her son coming from the next group of children crossing the street.

I smiled at her and we hugged.

“Any word on your daughter?”

“Nothing yet.”

I was doing everything to keep calm, pray, and hope for the best as there was still no word on if the suspect had been apprehended or if he was still on the loose.

Standing at the top of the hill, I watched closely and carefully, waiting to hear from my daughter.

I then received a text and she told me she was out.  They were all against the wall directly across from where I was standing, about 300 yards away.  I text her that I was waving my arm, but she was seated and couldn’t see me.  It still wasn’t enough even though there was a group of officers standing guard while they sat in the grass, in the shade, against the school wall.

Finally, she was standing.  I saw her wave.  They were then escorted across the street and were seated on the hill just below where I was standing.  Several of the students were crying.  Teachers were hugging.  Parents stood with open arms as their children came running.  She was given the nod to go and it was at that moment I was able to hold my child in my arms.

I shed a few tears, but was mostly relieved to have her near me.  I walked her to the other side of the overpass where her mother stood and then we all began to cry tears of joy.

This continued on throughout the evening.  My eyes are still glossy as I write this.  The news was full of information – video of the event inside the classroom, students that were hospitalized that my daughter had as friends, text messages that a student sent to her mother saying “if I don’t make it out alive, thank you for everything you’ve done for me and know I love you.”  It was heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, pain.  I had to watch my daughter cry several times.  She watched as her mother and I broke down.

While we were happy to have her home safe, the loss of so much – those poor children, their families, the teachers, the coaches and security – I can’t begin to fathom the pain they will endure.  The three of us were a mixed bag of emotions, sitting together, watching the news; happy that our daughter was home safe with us; sad that this tragedy happened; sad and hurt that it happened in our daughter’s school and so many wonderful people lost their lives; and angry that this coward caused so many so much pain.

Never in this world do you ever imagine an event like this happening that involves you.  The acts of Columbine, Va. Tech, Sandy Hook, and so many others were tragic.  I felt for those parents, but never understood the state of shock and fear they experienced…until yesterday.  Even writing this, as therapeutic as it has been, my stomach is still in a partial knot and I’m still saddened by this tragic occurrence.

I wish I had an answer.  I don’t.  Stricter gun laws?  Red flags on social media the way they do when pornography or nudity is posted?  Less violent video games?  Maybe we need to be more observant, or nosy or curious, like the nosy next door neighbor?  I don’t have the answer.  However,  I did research on the past several mass shootings and there is a hugely shared identifier – all of them had clues that lead up to the event that were either disregarded (Columbine) or not reported (as in the case of the Sutherland Springs church shooting…but much more intricate with details that involved Kelley’s military career).

Again, I don’t have the answers.  I pray for those that lost family yesterday.  I cry tears of joy that my daughter is home safe with me.  My heart breaks all around because I can’t imagine how the students must have felt.

I do know that this was the scariest day of my life…by and large!  I never wish it on anyone.  I hope no one ever has to go through this.  And I hope and pray this never happens again.  You never fully understand the magnitude of a situation until you are knee-deep in it.

I praise and thank all Broward County LEO, SWAT, FBI, ATF, EMS, and Firefighters. I thank all those who supported me and my ex with phone calls, text messages, FB messages, and FB posts to check on us as we moved patiently and anxiously through this harrowing event.  I pray for the entire Stoneman Douglas family as we all go through this trying time, to heal quickly and begin moving forward.  I love all my family and friends and am happy to start moving ahead and being available to help out in this time of need wherever possible.  God Bless!  Eagle Pride!


She Was Just 17…

And you may, or may not know what I mean.  But I can tell you that it was a toughie to realize and I got a funny feeling it’s going to be a rather emotional year.

First, sorry I’ve been away for so long.  I had to redirect and refocus again.  Things are changing.  It was time to set new goals and not look back.  I had much to do within me and for me before I could open up where I am, what I’m doing, and making a stride to better myself and share stories so those that read can learn, laugh, or better themselves as well.

I’ll be doing my daddydoright blog every Tuesday going forward.  Thursdays, I’ll be writing a separate blog which I’ll share next Tuesday to help you find and become a better you.

So how’s the new year working out for you so far?

We are almost six weeks into the new year.  Last Wednesday, my daughter turned 17.  I didn’t think much about it until Tuesday night.  I got home from work and sat at my computer.  I began looking through photos and thinking about how quickly the last 17 years have flown.  I then went to Facebook and posted a few pics of her throughout the years, wishing her a happy birthday.

Then it was waterworks – for two days!

I’ve been a single father, fighting and struggling to do the best I can, to be the best dad, to guide, love, care for, and offer any life lessons, advice, or be an ear to listen whenever she needed me.  I moved within a mile and a half of her mother’s home to be as close to her as possible.  I never wanted her to feel I wasn’t far at all.

I didn’t sleep that night, tossing and turning, crying on and off.  Finally at 6:30am on her birthday I decided to get up because there was no sense in trying to sleep and watch the news.  I planned to pick her up at noon from school and take her to lunch as there really wasn’t anything she wanted for her birthday except a good place to eat.

My eyes were swollen so I didn’t remove my sunglasses as we sat outside to eat.  We talked, laughed, and all I could do was look at just how marvelous a young lady she has become.  It was happiness and sadness all wrapped into on big ball of emotional mess.  I took her back to school and dropped her off, realizing that the waterworks would soon come again (and it didn’t help that I had been up for 30 straight hours).

After coming home and passing out on my coach for five hours, I woke up and felt…amazing.  I walked to my “2018 Goals” board and looked it over, carefully scrutinizing what I had written down five short weeks prior.  I then walked to my “2018 Vision Board” carefully examining my future travel destinations and living quarters (it’s called Sterling on the Lake in Flowery Branch and one of the most beautiful neighborhoods I have ever been and will live one day).

I sat at the computer, working on finishing up my third motivational book to be released in a few short weeks via Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

This feeling of greatness came over me.  I had goosebumps and my eyes welled up with pure happiness.

I realized that I successfully helped to raise a wonderful individual.  She would be graduating high school in a few short months then off to college in August 2018.

It was then that everything was OK.  I can now focus on myself.  I now have the ability and right to do all the things I wanted to do but chose not to do to make sure I was as available as I could be for my daughter.

Am I where I want to be in my life as far as career and success?


But I’m heading that way, quickly.  I have some wonderful strides I’ve been making in the last 5 weeks to hit those goals on my board.  I’ve dedicated myself to doing so and I haven’t let up since.

Everything is great!  I look at the accomplishments and achievements and I smile.  I had a big hand in contributing.  I’m a proud dad.  And now it’ll be just fine to be selfish.  It’s time to work on becoming the best I can be for me…and for my daughter.  I owe it to her.  I owe it to myself.  I have just begun walking that road to greatness.  The future looks very bright…for Daddy and Daddy’s (Always) Little Girl!

Father-Daughter Bond

There’s a special bond a father and daughter share, much the same way a mother and son share.  Being a dad of a 16 year-old comes with a whole new set of worries.  However, there has to be a new level of trust, honesty, and responsibility.  I’ll explain…

I find it difficult to watch all that is going on with the sexual harassment claims and lawsuits.  What’s worse is having to swallow the idea or the thought of how I would react if it were my child, my daughter involved.

I read an article today about Larry Nassar and how he sexually molested McKayla Maroney from the time she was thirteen years old.

Before I delve any further, the Olympic Training facility and U.S. Gymnastics did not allow the parents to stay with, room with, or be with their daughters while they were training, claiming  that they take great care of them and “it was safer than being President of the United States.”  That would have been my first red flag…having grown men around a bunch of young girls and not allowing the parents to be around.  Her father did question it, but I would have found a different way for my daughter to train.

I can’t (and won’t) judge him for his decision and his wife’s decision to allow her to train without their supervision, despite the rules.  They are barely teenagers and you are not going to tell me I can’t be present.  I can only say that I would not have been comfortable at all with it.  What that poor girl must have been thinking and feeling is mind-numbing and it breaks my heart.

Then you have all the Entertainers, Hollywood Producers and Directors, big political pundits, news anchors, executives, etc.  Ugh!

I can’t watch or listen to it anymore.  My heart breaks for these women, how they must have felt, helpless and scared.

I got into a FB war, with a female friend.  She was defending the accused claiming how they have the freedom in this country to “remain innocent until proven guilty…and we have no right to implicate them based on said accusations.”

Here’s my take on this – I find it profoundly impossible that several women got together and decided over coffee how they were going to ruin the careers of several of these men. It just doesn’t work that way.

It all started with the mouth-agape look of shock when America’s favorite dad – Bill Cosby – was accused.  But after one woman, it was another.  And another.  And another.  And another.  Next thing you know, this man that the world looked up to suddenly became America’s most hated.

It’s not about money.  It’s about self-respect.  It’s not about notoriety or fame.  It’s about closure.  It’s knowing the feelings and secrets they withheld for so long are finally – FINALLY  – able to come to fruition.  It’s the long awaited sigh of relief that these women are able to come forward and release this monumental amount of angst in order for a chance at a little reprieve.

I’m not saying that every single woman experienced it.  There are conditions at work where people joke, say things, play around, etc.  Some of them may have been taken the wrong way.  Sometimes you work with people so much and for so long that you get comfortable.  But there is a line you can’t cross.  Having a button under you desk when you invite a female into your office so they can’t leave unless they get naked for you or have sex with you (Matt Lauer) is WAY beyond imagination.

All of this is sickening, grueling, disgusting.


As I’m driving my daughter home from school two days ago, I turned to her and told her she needed to get to college, secure a solid career, and make her way to the top.

“You see all this that is going on with these so-called men of power, right?”

“Yes Dad.  It’s very sad, actually.”

“Yes it is. But it sort of makes me happy, to some extent.”

“Why is that, Dad?”

“Because, so much policy is going to change.  If you are working your way to the top of a corporate chain and some dim-witted, bumbling excuse of a male decides to use his penis to coerce you into promotions via sexual favors, I would hope you destroy his whole world.  Because if not, I will!  Corporate policies are going to change.  Company policies will be rewritten.  This behavior and acceptance of it will not be tolerated.”

“It was tolerated before,” she asked.

I pondered that for a moment.  In my several years of working, and working in management, I witnessed behaviors…some definitely inappropriate.  It was a position of power.  And shame on me for not confronting it at the moment, but I had the fears of retaliation all the same.  Mind you, this was years ago when I first entered into management.  My attitude and work ethic has drastically changed since then and I work with a fearless nature because I’m always going to protect my people.  But it took time for me to develop that way.

“No, honey.  It was not supposed to be tolerated before.”

“So it was already in the company policy?”


“Then how come they didn’t do something before?”

This is when I had to explain job threats, retaliation, fear, nervousness, anxiety…all the thoughts and feelings that overcome an employee if they are put into that particular position by a person of power.

“Sweetheart, the bottom line is that no job is worth it.  If you ever feel threatened or in a position like any of these…and I hope you never will…then I should hope you take immediate action.  You can always call me and I will help you figure it out if necessary.”

She smiled because she knows I will always have her back.

She asked to have a young man pick her up tonight and take her out to get ice cream, someone who is 19 years old, whom she met two weeks ago on Instagram.

Her mother was not OK with her being picked up by a 19 year-old she just met, has only known two weeks, and wanted to pick her up to take her out for ice cream.  Turns out they met a couple years ago at a get together and have a bunch of mutual friends.  Naturally, I was not keen on the idea either.

While her mother was gung-ho against this and they were going back and forth, they wanted my opinion.  I always weigh out the options:

  1.  My daughter will be 17 in 2 months.
  2. In eight months from now, she will be off to college on her own and making her own decisions.
  3. She has never done anything against the will of her mother or me (other than the brief rebellion she went on in 9th grade but has rebounded tremendously well).
  4. I have to believe that her mother and I have raised a young lady, smart enough to make sound decisions while allowing us to still guide her without immediately jumping the gun.

So it was simple:

“Ashley, you are still 16 years old and he is 19.  If he wants to take you out for ice cream, he can.  However, I will be there when he arrives and he has to come to the door, introduce himself to me, and I will have a conversation with him.  If he cannot do that, you cannot go with him.  Fair?”

“That’s fair.”

“Any young boy/young man that cannot knowingly meet your father if he wants to take my daughter out is bad news…and you need to know that.”

We have an amazing relationship.  Always have.  My heart breaks for these women that have suffered so at the hands of these monsters.  My one goal in life above all others is to make sure that the bond between me and my daughter stays strong, that she can talk to me about anything at any moment in time.  And that she will never have to succumb to the whims of scumbags and should she ever come across such gross immoral characteristics (because I’m not ignorant to the possibility), then she will reach out to me immediately to help her take further action.

There are many instances we have shared together to create the bond.  If any of these women have fathers they are close to, then I can only imagine how they must feel, especially if they are close to them.  It’s just another concern to carry, having a daughter.  I have to feel that her mother and I raised her well enough to know that she will always be honest with us, make good decisions, and will act responsibly.  The slack on the rope has definitely loosened, but we are not ready to cut it just yet.  It’s our job to have faith and hope that she will do right by us…and by her.

Whether a beautiful young girl or a beautiful grown woman, she will always be daddy’s girl and I will always be there for her because that’s the power of the father-daughter bond.  And one that I’m thoroughly blessed to have with her!



It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – Well, Sort Of

I began putting up Christmas decorations yesterday evening.  While doing so, I searched the guide to see what was coming on and found Rudolph on at 8pm.  My A/C was going full-strength, it was in the 80’s outside, and it was about to rain.  I sighed deeply.  Then I smiled as I watched the beginning of Rudolph.  It always takes me back to when I was a kid and the awesome childhood memories I had growing up in New Jersey.

My mom and dad left Orlando when I was five years old and moved to South Jersey to a little town called Egg Harbor City.  It was there that I grew up and experienced – well, just about all my childhood memories.  I lived there from the time I was five years old until I was twelve.  My mom and dad divorced when I was ten; about two months into my seventh grade year, my mom packed up my brother and me and we relocated to South Florida…where I’ve been ever since!

However, some of my greatest memories growing up were during the holidays.  The weather would experience a bit of a chill some time in late September, early October.  The leaves from the trees would change – bright yellows, oranges, and reds.  The air would change.  It would go from a stale, humid feel to a dry, sweet smell.  The sound of the leaves rustling down the road when a brisk wind came through was euphoric.

Watching my dad rake the leaves in the front yard was a great memory.  He would make several large piles and call on us to come out.  We would run, top speed and dive head first into the pile.  Then he’d rake them up and we’d do it over again.

The most exciting moments were coming home after being in school and seeing the house decorated for Halloween.  The windows were open with slightly cool breeze circulating throughout the house.  This was also back when we would set the clocks back an hour in October – BEFORE Halloween arrived.

Then Thanksgiving would come.  The air would get colder.  I remember one year, just before Thanksgiving, it rained for a couple days and then a cold front swept through.  There were icicles everywhere.  And on the alley about two houses down, there was an area of the neighbor’s driveway that always held a good amount of water, especially after it rained.  We called it the mud-puddle.  And when it froze over, it was fun because we could run and slide across it.

Then came Christmas.  Downtown Egg Harbor City was notorious for being a small city that decorated.  I always looked forward to driving down Philadelphia Avenue and seeing the street lights and store fronts all decked out for the holidays.  Also, driving around in the neighborhoods was fun as you would begin to notice all the homes putting up their decorations.

One of the best parts of Christmas was going out to get a tree.  We would go to the local lots.  The air was cold and crisp and the smell of pine from the trees was very strong.  You noticed it before you even walked up.  Once we picked out our tree, we would stop by Long John Silver for chicken tenders and fries or McDonald’s for a happy meal (they had the best Christmas stuff back then).  Then we’d head home, put the tree in the stand, eat, and decorate while watching Christmas shows that we either taped on our VCR (that’s Video Cassette Recorder if you have never heard of it) or watched on television as it was the special of the night.  I actually still have a VHS tape of all the Christmas specials from 1984.  The commercials are hilarious.  I forgot how many Christmas commercials they once played.

Then there was my favorite night of the year – Christmas Eve (still is!).  It would be very cold outside.  We would take our normal trip to get Chinese food or eat at the Diner.  Then we would drive around looking at Christmas Lights.  When we got home, we’d get some hot chocolate or eggnog, eat some Christmas cookies, and watch Christmas shows.  Then we would set up cookies and milk for Santa, celery and carrots for the reindeer, and off to bed we’d go.

I miss the cold weather.  I miss the feel of the holidays when the air would change.  I miss the change of seasons.  One day I will experience it again.  But there will never be a time, especially this time of the year, where I will ever forget those feelings.  That’s what keeps the spirit alive.  I try and make sure my daughter has those feelings.  She does.  She reminds me every year.  And I love that she knows that.  Even though she didn’t grow up in the north, she loves the feeling just the same.

I look around my room, decorations hanging, lights glowing and I get that wondrous feeling.  It’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I sighed deeply because even though I’m still in shorts and t-shirt, it doesn’t change that feeling, especially when the Christmas shows come on.  I’m immediately whisked back to those times and reminded how much fun and how exciting this holiday truly is.  I would love to trade in the heat for the cold air and a fireplace, but regardless…it is still beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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The Wonder Years

While sitting with a friend the other day, we were having a great conversation about our lives, our kids and our life being single.

“Did you ever imagine your life would end up like this?”

“Like what,” I asked quizzically.

“You know, a single dad helping raise your daughter, the dating struggles, etc.?”

It was a great question and one I have not really spent much time thinking about.  I’ve spent more time wondering how I ended up this way, if maybe I didn’t give it enough time early on to develop, or the three girls after my ex that I just completely buffed.

There’s no secret that having spent the last 16 years as a single dad is a hard pill to swallow.  I’ve made several attempts at dating…online, bar scene, grocery store, park…wherever and whenever.  If there was an attraction, I’d observe or read to make sure there was more of an attraction – can she be intellectually stimulating, does she have a personality, will we click when we hang out, is she fun to be with.

I tend to try and weigh out the entire package.  But what you may see is not always enough to determine what you actually get.  It’s like biting into an apple.  It’s red, shiny and looks delicious.  But the inside is browning or very soft, there’s no sweet flavor and as interesting as it appeared, it lost its luster the moment you bit into it.

That wasn’t always the case.  I had a few of those “shiny, red” apples…and the content was amazing!  Unfortunately, I was the spoiler:

I started dating Tresha about six months after Lisa and I divorced.  I had a crush on her.  She was a bartender.  After work, we would head down to her bar and grab a few “after work” beers.  She not only was a knockout, but she had one of the most amazing personalities – outgoing, funny, and knew football really well.  I had to catch myself at times because I found myself staring.

I finally asked her out.

“Sorry, I don’t mix work and pleasure.  If you ever see me out and I’m not working, ask me again.  Please, I hope you understand.”

How could I not.  I just hoped I had an opportunity to see her outside her job.  I also thought she was not much into me and said that as a way of “letting me down nicely.”

Lo and behold about a week later, she stopped in while I was bartending, looking gorgeous as ever.  My heart was racing.  She sat at my bar and ordered a drink, but this time the roles were reversed.  We had great conversation as always.  After a little time, she finished up and was about to leave so I called an employee over to watch the bar so I could walk her out.

“Ok, you came in tonight and you are not working.  Can I ask you for your number so I can take you out to dinner?”

She smiled as only she could, wrote her number down, and after handing it to me said, “And just so you know, I don’t believe in the three-day rule so feel free to call me whenever.”  Cloud 9 was my best friend at that moment.

I called her the next evening, we set up a date, went out, and had what I thought was an amazing time.  I took her to Lulu’s Bait Shack at Beach Place.  The night couldn’t have been more perfect.  I took her home, walked her to her door, said goodnight and left.

My confidence wasn’t very high at the time.  I hadn’t dated in over four years.  And I psyched myself out into believing she wasn’t interested in me.  So on a knucklehead move by yours truly, I didn’t call her.

I know, I know.  She gave me nothing but positive signs and I blew it.  What hurt worse is what my buddy had to tell me four weeks later after running into her.

“What did she say?”

“She wondered why you never called her.  I told her I had no clue.  She said she thought the date went well, but that you realized after the date that you just weren’t interested in her.”

“Shit!  I completely am.  I thought that’s how she felt about me.  I messed up!  I need to call her.”

“Too late bro.  She is now dating another guy and is very happy.  That’s who she talked about mostly after asking me about you.”

I once wondered, “What if I had called her the next day or a day later and asked her out again…”

UPDATE:  Fast forward fifteen years later, they are married and have two kids .  Yep, Good Luck Chuck Syndrome.  I have that, too and it happens frequently.

Then came Melissa.  She was also stunning.  What a smile!!!  She started at the restaurant where I worked and I was smitten almost instantly.  I asked her out and we dated for about five weeks.  It went well in the beginning, but I didn’t do enough to keep her interest and it wasn’t her fault.  She was awesome, beautiful, fun, intelligent and I blew it.  She eventually moved to Tennessee, met her (now) husband and they are happily married with two kids.  (Again, Good Luck Chuck)

I use to wonder, “What if I had spent more time courting her, building our time together…”

Then there was Corinne.  I won’t get into that one or you will be reading for hours.  Lets just say I goofed on that one, too.  That was ten years ago and the last time I had any opportunity to find happiness; every girl I’ve been out with since then has been a bust for whatever reason.  And truthfully, none of them have made me feel the way those three made me feel when meeting them and being with them.

With Corinne, I looked back and wondered too frequently, “What if…”

His next question to me was, “Do you find it hard sometimes, hanging around your married friends, being single?”

No.  Definitely not.  It’s a good reminder that love still exists and can last for a long time, happily.  I don’t take anything away from what they have because I share in their happiness.  And I’m a very happy man myself.  Could my life be more complete if I had someone to share it with?  Of course.  I’m the man that believes a great woman help makes a man the best he can be.  But I don’t dwell on what I don’t have.  I embrace what I do have.

My daughter is healthy.  I have a great-paying job.  I have amazing friends.  And no one could ask for a more wonderful family.  My time will come, when it’s ready. And when it’s ready, I’ll be ready.

I spent years looking back, wondering about the “what if’s”, if I’ll meet someone again and fall in love, if I had done things differently.  I spent years wondering when it happens to make sure I won’t lose her this time, or find a way to mess it up.  I spent too much time wondering.

I don’t waste time wondering anymore, not like I use to.  I have new goals to accomplish.  I have a life that’s about to open up 100% when my daughter leaves for college next year.  I’ll have plenty of time to watch my wonderment become my reality.

Until then, I love where I’m at, what I’m doing.  I love what will come soon, for my daughter and for me.  I know there are great things on the horizon.  But my time is here and now.  I cherish what I have and who I have in my life.  And I’ve made peace with wondering… because the wonder years are far behind me.

Empty Nest

Before I begin, I apologize for being gone for a bit.  I had a career change, have a set schedule, and this new career affords me the opportunity to write more and focus on myself as a blogger and eventually a full-time author.  Thank you for following me.  On we go…

Yesterday I sat outside on my balcony, watching and listening to everything going on around me.  I then sank deep into my own thoughts.  I began reflecting (like I do often) on my life.  Before I go further, let me delve into the circumstances that lead up to my reflecting…

Several months ago, my daughter called me because she wanted to talk.

“Daddy, I don’t like high school.  I don’t hate it, but I want to be done with it already.”

“You’re not telling me you’re dropping out, are ya?  Otherwise, there’s gonna be a dead daughter somewhere,” I replied sternly.

“No, of course not,” she laughed, with a bit of a tremble in her voice.  Not really, she knows I kid with her.  “I just want to take extra classes and graduate next year (2018) instead of waiting till 2019.”

Most parents would be floored, in a good sense.  I was.  I was happy and impressed.

“Honey, you do whatever makes you happy.  If that’s what will make you happy, then you do it.”

“You’re not mad?”

“God no!  Whatever on Earth would I have to be mad at.”

Now granted at the time, I was gung-ho for her.  Then I sat back and realized several things:

  1.  She could take extra classes then dual enroll her senior year and graduate like normal.  That way some of her college is covered.
  2. She will only be in high school once in her life, why rush through it?
  3. I don’t want her to look back one day and regret not having completed it the way she has the opportunity to now.  She can go to college whenever.  But high school…

She proceeded to take extra classes over the summer.  During her first couple months of school, we revisited the topic.  I expressed my feelings as mentioned above.  I told her I jumped the gun and felt that she didn’t need to rush to graduate and explained the aforementioned.  I then told her to go see her counselor and discuss it.

This was the conversation the following week:

“I spoke to my counselor today.”


“He told me that high school isn’t for everyone, that what I was doing was noble and awesome that I was taking initiative while still maintaining a high GPA and that he supported my decision.  He then began showing me what I needed to do to prepare for graduation as I’m now listed as a senior because of the classes I’m taking.”


I kid, sort of.  If this was the advice of her counselor, then I couldn’t do anything but support her.  He was right.  She is taking extra classes.  She has mostly A’s and a few B’s.  She updates me and her mother on her test grades and quiz grades regularly.  How can I fault her or slow her down if she wants to overachieve?  I can’t!  I can only support her in her endeavors.

“Well, I support you then.  But make sure you keep those grades up and keep up the hard work.  And make sure if this is your decision, you stick by and support your decision.”

I don’t really have to tell her to do that.  She’s a work horse and does not need any instruction or direction on getting her work done.  She does it all on her own.  So impressed with her.

But that’s where it began.  The reality set in that I’m losing a year with my daughter.  This was going to be her last year of high school.


I begin reflecting on my time with my daughter, which brought tears to my eyes (man, I got soft(er) over the years).  Then after going through the memories, the laughter, the holidays, our many trips to Georgia and what not, I was hit with a new reality…my life is about to start over again!

I don’t mean that I didn’t have a life with my daughter in it.  I don’t mean that I wasn’t able to do things because I had her.  It just meant that I am going to have to readjust my own schedule.  I’m going to have to get involved in events.  I’m going to have to tackle goals of my own.

Soon, there won’t be the few days a week that she comes to stay with me.  It’ll be every few weeks, during holidays, and over the summer if she decides to come home or stay in summer school.  That means that those days that I looked forward to her coming to be with me will be much more distant.  That’s the sad reality.

The other reality is that I have to do things for me now.  I will have all this extra time and will need to prepare myself.  Obviously, I’m a single father so one goal will be to date again, even though the thought makes me cringe because of my past experiences.  I can also contemplate where I plan to relocate because I don’t want to live here in South Florida anymore.  I want to get more involved in other things, too.

In other words, I have to create/set goals for myself.  I want to take trips to see old friends I haven’t seen in a long time.  I want to travel.  I want meet someone and fall in love.  After researching, I’m starting a new gym in a couple weeks because I have physical goals.  I want to work on becoming a motivational speaker (that way I can tour the country so that covers travel AND I will get paid).  I want to finish my novel.

I got up quickly off the patio the other night and sat down and created this wonderful goals list.  I set up a short term and long term list.  The short-term list is in the next six months to year.  The long-term list was what I want to accomplish in the next 3-7 years.  After about two hours of thinking, crossing out, scribbling, writing, thinking some more, scribbling some more…I created what I feel is a wonderful list.  Not only did I create this list, I created it with confidence.  I took a deep breath and let out an exhale like I owned it – or I will at some point.  It felt good.  It felt real.  I could envision all the wonderful things that I wrote down.  I could see it all.

An empty nest is a sad thing to realize…unless you have several children, then it could be quite pleasurable.  Ha!

She is my one and only.  So this moment has both elements of happiness and sadness.  As a friend said to me the other day, “You and Lisa have done an exceptional job.  You’ve raised a brilliant young lady, beautiful, well-mannered.  You did what you needed to do as parents and succeeded quite well.  Now you need to go be happy…for you, too.”

I am.  I’m a very happy and very proud dad.  As I tackle these goals, I will be making trips to visit her, of course.  These goals don’t rule out the fact that I’m still a father.  That’s my entire life’s greatest work.  Nothing will ever compete with it.

But while she’s living her life and becoming a young woman, learning, growing, and me sitting by waiting for a call to give her advice or an ear for her to vent to, I realized one very important lesson – he’s right!  I need to get ready to go out and do what my daughter will soon be doing herself.


The Calm After the Storm

The image I have attached to this blog is the size comparison between Irma (lower right) and Andrew in 1992 (upper left) to gauge an idea of the size comparison of the two.  

I’ve been through several hurricanes in my lifetime.  I’m a native Floridian and I’ve lived here practically my whole life.  Two of my biggest experiences were with Wilma in 2005 and Andrew in 1992.

Although Irma was massive and destructive, I watched people take full caution for the first time ever.  People were planning days (not a day) in advance.  They were boarding up, filling up on gas, water, batteries, flashlights, etc.  five to six days before Irma hit land.  I had friends of mine who left the state, traveling northward to get far away to be as safe as possible.  People were making sure they prepared for this one.

Now, it is my partial belief that if Hurricane Harvey hadn’t impacted Texas and caused the mass destruction it caused, then people may not have prepared as heavily early on as should be expected.  Regardless, people were not taking a chance on this one as the entire state was affected.

As I drove around this afternoon, I watched neighbors helping each other get cleaned up.  People tend to be more kind, at ease, and less stressed realizing it is over and cleanup efforts are in full effect.

If I had to make a criticism of the event, I just find it sad that it takes a natural disaster – or any disaster for that matter – to ignite a windstorm of human kindness.  I wish we could see more of this “just because” rather than “because of.”

However, it’s nice to see all my friends and family were safe.  I thank God that so many listened, paid attention, and took action versus making light of a situation that was severe.  My heart and prayers go out to the people in the Florida Keys.  They are still searching for survivors.  So I pray they are found and well.  I pray for a speedy recovery and the return to normalcy.

The good thing about hurricanes is that you always have time to prepare.  Tornadoes come without warning.  Earthquakes come without warning.  Tsunamis.  Volcanoes.  But we always know when a hurricane is coming and that provides plenty of time for us to prepare and ensure our safety.

I hope those that experienced Irma, you are well and in full recovery mode.  May God bless us and keep us well!

Where Do Broken Hearts Go

Before I begin, I’d like to express my condolences to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and blessings to those that have pitched in and either helped find missing persons, partook in rescue efforts, or those that are giving support via money or goods!  May God bless you all and help with a speedy recovery to rebuilding.  I donated to the Red Cross today at my local Publix!

This has been the week of one particular topic – relationships!  It has come up multiple times.  Let me start from the beginning:

After a rocky start to her high school career, my daughter began her sophomore year with better intentions.  Come September she started dating a senior.  They hit it off well and spent the year together, making great memories, having fun, hanging out, going on trips with each of our families; in my opinion, he is a great kid.  A few months back, he graduated high school.  The summer was tough for both of them as they knew he would be heading off to college in August and she would be starting her junior year.  Currently he is in his dorm at college a couple hours from us.

At the early part of this week, he told my daughter he wanted to take a break.  This was a break alright – including a break on her heart.  She was devastated.  I was called by her mother to stop by on my way home from work and as I went into her room, there she was on her bed crying her eyes out.

She eventually told me what was going on.

The next day, she text me to let me know that everything was OK, that they were gonna be fine and that he is just confused.

I can fully understand both ends of the spectrum.  I would go so far as to say I saw this coming.

The next night, my daughter came by to see me and broke down into tears again.  Apparently he decided he wanted to make it official.  He needed a break.  Aside from that, he removed all their pics from his social media and it really hurt her.

On a side note, it’s not obvious that he has already met someone new, or is interested in someone and doesn’t want to be in a relationship.  When I started my freshman year at UF, my buddy Dan was dating Becky.  Dan was a freshman in college and his girlfriend just started her Junior year in high school…exactly the same scenario.  They made it two months until they realized it was time for them to call it quits because they were living two very different lifestyles.

So I’ve been around and have seen it happen.  It’s hard to make situations like that work.  It’s no one’s fault, really.  Just a difference in cultural changes – well, for the first year college student at least.

Her mother and I have been consoling her.  She’s doing a little better, but one day at a time.  This was her first true love.  Still is.  My heart breaks for her as I know how it feels.

I was seventeen when I met Stephanie.  She was fourteen at the time and she lived near my father whom I only visited for the summer.  That was in the Summer of 1993.  She was beautiful, spunky, and had a STUNNING personality, but I was starting my senior year, she lived miles from me and it was a fun summer fling and that’s how I saw it.

Fast forward to the Summer of ’95…

I just returned home from my first year in college.  I had a good year and was looking to work and have fun with friends during the summer who were also home from college.  Late in May, Stephanie called me and asked if we had anything going on.  I told her we could talk – and we did!  I don’t know what happened but she won me over – and I let her!

I drove up to spend four days with her and we fell instantly in love!  After a month of not being with her, she was partying and going out and doing things that normal high-schooler does before starting their senior year.  I went back to visit her because I had a feeling something was slipping.  She was distant, detached, and I wasn’t feeling right about this.  I left that day and drove home and didn’t feel right about anything that went on.

About a week after I returned home, she called me one evening and told me she wanted nothing to do with me anymore.  It hurt something fierce and I experienced my first heartbreak.  Of course, her living 3 hours from me, being in high school, and me being in college, wasn’t a key for a successful relationship.  You don’t know these things when you are that young because you haven’t fully developed a logical mindset.

As for my daughter, she will be just fine.  We spoke today and she is doing a little better.  She is still holding on to hope, but I can’t convince her not to.  It’s just natural for someone who loves someone else to hang on to when they feel that there’s a threat of not being together.  I don’t foresee this lasting and eventually my daughter will understand, too.  But for now, I can only be a source of comfort, advice, and someone she can vent to until she is ready to move on and let the healing begin.

I miss that kind of love – so young and innocent.

I bring up the relationship topic this week because I was having lunch with a good friend the early part of the week.

“Hey man, when are you gonna finally get someone in your life?  You’re a great guy, great Dad…just overall great human being?”

“Thank you for the compliments, but I’m just not interested in it anymore,” I said smiling.

“Come on.  You can’t give up.  I’m sure you’ll find someone.”

“I don’t consider it giving up anymore.  I’ve been single for fifteen years; sixteen come January.  I’ve had my fair share of so-so dates, horrible dates, and a couple opportunities I missed out on because I just wasn’t very smart at the moment.  At this point, I don’t consider it giving up, I consider it retiring.  I have other interests like securing myself financially, traveling, and developing myself into the best person I can be…not just for me, but for those around me.”

He laughed and said, “Now that’s an answer I guess I can’t argue.  I still think you shouldn’t retire,” with his fingers in air quotes.

I’m surrounded by great love stories – some of my best friends have them to share and it makes me happy to know that they were able to find it.  And I’m OK if I’m not one who will experience it.

It’s my job to be there in case she needs me, like trying to figure out what do with a broken heart.  No matter how big she gets, she’s my little girl.  She knows I’m there for her and that’s the kind of love I never have to worry about losing!

Decisions Of a 16 Year-Old

I love my daughter.  And why wouldn’t I?  My ex and I have raised an amazing girl.  How amazing?  She told us a few months back that she wants to take extra classes over the summer so she can graduate early.  But before she did, she made sure she spoke to me and her mother about it to see how we felt about it.

At first, I told her I think she should do whatever she wants to do in order to make herself happy.

“Dad, I’ve been to Homecoming and Prom.  Homecoming is actually better than Prom.  I like high school, but I don’t love it.  Do you care if I take extra classes so I can graduate next year instead of waiting until 2019?”

“Is that what you want to do?”

“Yes Sir.”

Of course, I’d never dash her hopes and dreams.  So naturally, she enrolled herself in online courses over the summer.  Where most 16 year-olds are laid out on the couch in front of the TV watching shows on Netflix or playing video games or hanging out at the local ice cream shop or movie theater or beach, she was working a part-time job and doing schoolwork.  How can I not be proud?

But today…today, her mother and I had a long talk on the phone.  We discussed her future, preparing for college, and her current will to finish school early.  So when I picked her up today, this is what I told her:

“You do realize you only get to be in high school once, don’tcha?”

“Yes Sir.”

“And you do realize that you can go to college any time in your life, but there will only be one time to experience a 4-year college experience, correct?”

“Yes Sir.”

“So, doesn’t it seem more feasible to stay in high school, have a senior year where you are investing your time dual-enrolling with a local college or university (either Broward College or FAU), that way you shorten your run in college vs. shortening your run in high school…since you can’t get high school back again?”

“Yeah, I guess I never thought about it that way.”

“Also, the benefits of staying in high school and dual-enrolling in college will save a whole year’s worth paying college expenses…doesn’t that sound like the better deal?”

She agreed with me, as her mother and I have both spoken to her about this.  I think she is getting the picture and a better understanding.

These are the decisions my 16 year-old is making.  I can’t stress enough how proud I am of the efforts she is making toward her education.  What’s more?  I love being able to be there to offer advice and guide her by supplying options and allowing her to make decisions.  It instills confidence, makes her think, and builds independence.

Fishing through Facebook the last couple weeks, smiling at my friends and their families posting pics of their kids hitting 3rd grade, 5th grade, 6th grade… it makes me miss the moments where my daughter was young, in elementary/middle school, shopping for school supplies, missing that young innocence.  But there’s the other side where I can have conversations with her now that are more “adult-like” and she’s done a fabulous job of developing amazing habits and sticking by them.  Nothing is more complimentary to any parent than hearing your friends who have young children and say, “We can only hope when our child gets older, they turn out to be just like your daughter.”  Makes me warm enough inside to melt polar ice caps.

I still can’t believe she is a Junior in high school.  But I couldn’t be more in love and proud of the amazing woman she is slowly becoming.  Her heart is bigger than the sun.  Her mind is as vast as the universe.  Her drive is as fast as a Lamborghini.

If these are the decisions of a 16 year-old – OUR 16 year – her mother and I have to deal with, then I’ll take it all day.

It Takes Two to Bring the Kids Up Right

One question I get asked the most is, “How did you and your ex raise your daughter together?”

First, let me preface this blog with this comment – there are children that are raised by single parents who turn out just fine.  There are parents that decide to adopt or go through artificial insemination and choose to have a child as a single parent.  Children are resilient and as long as you show them love, structure, discipline, and teach them well, they will grow up just fine.  This blog is meant for those parents that have gone through divorce and find it difficult to co-parent.

With that being said, it is never easy to co-parent.  When my ex and I decided to divorce, we made it perfectly clear to each other that our daughter was our first priority.  That may be the intention of parents when they first separate or decide to fulfill the divorce.  There may be joint or shared custody.  The mother may decide she wants the kids and the dad can have them on the weekend or vice versa.

When you divorce, there must be the understanding that things won’t be the same between the two of you.  You can make it hard or as easy as you’d like.  There are many avenues to divorce and with them may come feelings of hatred, anger, bitterness, disgust, feelings of being let down.  There will be pain.  But when divorcing with children, civility must remain and compromise is essential to maintaining civility.

When Lisa and I divorced, we talked over how we would work it out.  Yes, we called on family to help at times.  Yes, we both started dating (other people) again.  Yes, we both had jobs and had to work.  But we both did whatever we could to make sure we saw eye-to-eye on how our daughter was raised.  If things occurred and she was unsure of, she called me and we talked about it.  If I wanted to make a decision that concerned my daughter, I called her to discuss it.  And if we disagreed, we found a way to compromise, to reach an agreement, even if that meant putting the conversation on hold until the next day or two.  Neither of us ever decided to make a decision without the other’s involvement because our daughter needed to know that we were still very much her parents and would be involved in anything she did and it would be our final say – as a team.

“She doesn’t agree to anything I say,” I’ve heard.

“He’s a complete asshole and never hears anything I tell him,” I’ve heard as well.

Divorce is never easy, but there were TWO people involved in bringing the child or children into the world.  And as that child or children’s parents, it’s very much the same importance to be equally involved in their lives.  You have to find a way to compromise.   You have to put the pain and hurt aside and do what’s in the best interest of the children and NOT make decisions to spite one another because that is only going to hurt them (the children) in the long run.  You are adults.  You are parents.  And as adults and parents, you must act like them.

The hardest part of divorce is spite.  It may have been amicable.  It may have been messy.  He cheated.  She cheated.  He’s a liar.  She’s too busy.  His job consumes him.

Whatever happened in your relationship to cause the divorce is irrelevant when it comes to raising your kids.  One of my friends reached out a little over a month ago.  Here’s a piece of the conversation:

“Gosh, I wish I had what you and Lisa have,” she said.

“You can,” I replied.

“No I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because he seems lost when that bitch he’s dating is over?”

“Really,” I said.  “What does that have to do with you being parents?”

“Because, she’s a part of his life and in his house when our kids are there and I hate it.”

“You didn’t answer my question, so again I ask what does that have anything to do with THE TWO OF YOU raising your children?”

“Well, I guess it doesn’t,” she said.

“Right, because you are mom and he is dad.  You are just angry and bitter about the situation.  It didn’t work out.  Time to move on.  Time to heal.  But you and he will always be parents of those two little guys.  Embrace it.  Is she nice to them?”


“Great.  As long as she is and I’m quite sure she understands those boys have a mom already.  Use it to your advantage.  Remember, it takes a village…”

We went back and forth for a while, following that conversation.  Three days ago, she messaged me to tell me that she went by the house after work, while the kids were staying with him.  She told me the girl he is dating was there and answered.  She introduced herself, they spoke, laughed and the lady was adamant to her about just being there to help and how much they love their mommy, etc.  She told me that not only did that help her, she was able to find closure and is no longer mad and was actually going out on a date that night.  Even if that didn’t happen, she is still the mother to those two little boys and he is still the father and she would have needed to put her anger and her feelings aside to be mom and communicate with him.

I’m perfectly aware that situations don’t always work out.  There will be times where you will wish you can hold a friendship and co-parent without any weirdness or past feelings of angst.  But that is on the parents to fix.  They have to get past that.  More importantly, they have to realize that if they have a child or children, their number one responsibility is to give them the best life possible – the same life they would have had if they were still married and still together.  It is not the child’s fault that the parents couldn’t work it out.  But it is the parents responsibility to make sure that they communicate, compromise and maintain civility.  Aside from the obvious, children see how their parents are.  And you, as parents own the responsibility of showing children that you make the best of any situation.  The benefits are also great as they will never be able to play either of you against each other knowing you still have a strong front and strong level of communication as a co-parenting team.

Remember – it’s their lives now, not just yours.  They come first.  Not you.  Do what’s right.  Show them what’s right.  And you’ll most definitely bring the kids up right.