"It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live." -Marcus Aurelius
Every year the dreaded day comes around: 9/12.
We all have our stories about the day before. Mine took place 1.2 miles away from the maelstrom.
But, it's the next day that haunts me. In my ideal version of my own history I bravely answered the call and immediately rushed to Randall's Island and joined the FDNY, desperate after the loss of 343 of its members.
This is a lie.
I hid. I held my wife as tanks rolled down the street and I tried my best to put on a brave face as NYC seemed to crumble around us.
I did this for five years. My true 9/12 moment didn't happen for another thirteen. It took me five years to come out of my stupor; to quit the job I took after 9/11 in a place with no windows. I approached the firefighters at a recruiting table and let them know I was finally ready, emotionally and mentally, to give back to the city I love so much.
Did you know the FDNY has an age cut off? They are one of only a handful of fire departments in the country that do.
I was too old by only a couple years.
Looking back on my 9/12, I feel a sense of shame, of opportunity wasted. I talk a lot about the common good, of larger purpose and "doing" for the community. And yet...
But life is long and full of surprises.
The rest of our time in New York, I dove into my work, helping create and produce great new theatre as part of an Obie award winning theatre company, co-writing an award winning film script and an award winning short.
Next up, fatherhood where I jumped headfirst into a movement of male care givers.
Inside I still felt I needed to do more.
So, thirteen years later, I have been given a do-over. As of last week, I am a fully certified Colorado fire fighter. I am the oldest probationary fire fighter in my class at age forty two. I am working for the department that serves the community in which I live; a department that was all volunteer since 1942 and hired full time crews for the first time this year.
Nearly 70 percent of all fire departments in the United States are staffed by volunteers. At the moment, there is a shortage of fire fighters in communities all over the country. If you've ever felt like you need to do something more, something for your community, consider becoming a volunteer fire fighter. If rushing into a burning building is not your thing, look around you. Does your local school district need another great teacher? Are there community programs that help the poor or elderly that need your assistance? Are there youth programs where you can share your experience and expertise?
Let today be your 9/12.
Share your ideas in the comments or with me on Facebook!
Someone from the Denver Dads Group asked a question about potty training his son. I thought I'd share some advice. When I saw how amazing and brilliant it was (humblebrag), I realized it had to be shared with the world... or the five people who still know I write this thing. (Hi, Mom!)
My thoughts on Potty Training: The Definitive Solution*.
(He and him are used only because I have a boy. This will work for girls, too.)
Dear Potty Frus-Training,
Here's something really important to remember: You're not "training him" to pee in the potty, you are practicing the skills. Our pediatrician shared that with us when we expressed our frustrations. Think about it, we are expecting a three year old to do something an inebriated adult can barely do. So, we treated it like practice.
Here's my set up: go to Home Depot and buy a plastic lined paper drop cloth in the paint section. Lay it out on the floor and place a small toddler potty there and one in the bathroom. You can also put a training seat and stool on your toilet, or whatever he's going to use. Toss toys, crayons, and books all over the drop cloth, turn on Sesame Street (specifically because it's 1 hour... and because it's Sesame Street).
Now, take off his diaper and put him in underwear NOT TRAINING PANTS. Make sure they're underwear he picks and loves. My kid loved the lego Jedi ones. Let him roam free and play on the drop cloth. It's his special play place. Set an alarm that makes noise. Every fifteen minutes, you race to the potty. He races in and practices getting his underwear off and sitting. (Don't have him stand and aim. Again, think drunk 19 year old and ease of use. Standing will come. Also, NO Cheerios or food in the toilet. Can be confusing for a toddler and next thing you know, you're training your kid to NOT eat cereal pieces from the toilet.)
MM's are an awesome reward. Let him pick which kind he wants. It gets fun as their specialty seasonal ones come out. (If you've used treats in the past, don't do this step. Or do. It's flexible.)
If he has an accident, don't get mad. Tell them, "Oops, almost."
Take off the dirty underwear and have him race to the potty from all of the rooms nearby; his bedroom, the living room, the kitchen. Then have him sit on the potty while you grab the drop cloth and fold it up and toss it. Then you're done. Let him know he did a good job racing to the potty and your work is done for the day.
The entire process lasts no longer than one hour (one episode of Sesame Street).
He will eventually make the connection between the feeling of having to use the potty and the skills you've practiced. Mine did it when he got sick with a stomach flu and he FELT the urge. Hard. And one day later, he's completely diaper free forever. We've only had four or five accidents in the last year.
And most important, make it fun and never seem like something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
*This is in no way a definitive solution, more of a definitive suggestion.