The Horseman

Poetry

Stocky and solidly built
The wide brimmed hat shading
His weathered face from the mid-day sun

A man of 86
Not one to mince words
Requesting one last ride before he kicks off

“I was practically born on one of these”
A longing in his eyes
He recounts distant memories
A log cabin in the Western Nevada mountains
An uncle raising horses

In the saddle now,
He guides the horse around the corral
A mischievous grin spreading across his face

Long days short years

Essay, The Charlotte News

On November 2, 2009, two weeks after Noah was born, I was laid off from my job as the creative director of a living-history park in Utah. The day had started off like any other for two new parents- hectic.

Shortly after I arrived at the office that day, I found myself sitting across from my boss as he blew sunshine where it did not belong, telling me how this was an extremely hard decision and he had been up half the night and blah blah blah. They wanted to go in a new direction, get someone with marketing experience. I was completely blindsided.

Not quite two years earlier I had been hired as the graphic designer for the park. I never pretended to be a marketing genius; in fact, I had told them I did not know much about it. I only took the role only because they had fired the marketing person for not doing her job, and with the understanding that I would only do it for a short time until we could find someone else, someone with more training than I had. Nonetheless, I loved my job, and I was excited to go to work. I may have been learning on the fly, but I was giving 200 percent every day.

I left the office mad and scared. The park is over 400 acres with dozens of buildings and I headed for one I was sure would be empty. I sat on the porch exhausted. I looked out over the valley, wondering how I was going to tell Erin. After a short time I got in my car and drove home. Thankfully I’ve never been the breadwinner in the family. Still, the pain of being out of work weighed on me.

By the time I pulled into the driveway my plan was set. I would get a job in a restaurant. Since college it had been my standard fall-back plan when times were lean. That way I could at least contribute to the household income. I was the man of the house after all. I stood outside our front door, staring at the lock, trying to find words. I walked inside and right away Erin knew something was wrong. I told her what had happened and of my plan. She told me there was no way I was going to wait tables, I hated waiting tables, and I could stay home with Noah. The running joke since the beginning of our relationship was that I had found myself a sugar-momma and someday I would be a househusband. We had stayed in Utah because of my job. Me staying home had never really been talked about when we found out we were having a baby.

Now we were at a cross roads and I had a choice to make. Did I really want to be a stay-at-home dad? At first I was on the fence; I figured I could go out on my own. I had a healthy list of contacts and the experience. We figured why not give it a try, and I set to about creating a company. Soon Erin went back to work and I was a full-time dad, trying to juggle starting a business, caring for a baby and doing some consulting work for our church. The day it took me an hour and half to write a ten line email was the day I realized I had a choice to make. I could be a stay-at-home dad or I could be a graphic designer, but I could not be both. It did not take me very long to make my decision.

The last six years have been far from easy. I’ve learned so much about who I really am that at times I sit back in pure amazement at all of the changes that I have gone through. Several times I have told Erin that I could no longer handle staying at home and needed to find a job outside of the house. I’ve made two more attempts to start my own business each resulting in me spiraling into a stressed-out anxiety riddled state that leaves me short fused and unable to deal with the little things that come with raising two very strong willed rambunctious boys and running a house. No amount of money is worth that.

Lost and Found

Essay

I spent a good portion of my twenties wishing I was doing something else or was somewhere other than my current situation. I would think to myself, If I could just get to this point, I would be happy. If I just did this more, I wouldn’t feel this way.

In 2008 I was hired as the graphic designer for a living history park. I can honestly say that I loved going to work. We had only planned on staying in Utah for three years but since I had found a job that I actually enjoyed we decided to stay longer. Then, on a Monday two weeks after Noah was born, my boss called me at home and asked me to stop into his office when I got to work. When I got there, he told me they were going in a different direction and they were letting me go. I knew I’d been doing a good job, but just like that it was over. I went home, and after some soul-searching my wife and I decided that the most logical thing was for me to stay home with Noah, even though this was not part of our plan.

I thought that I had figured it out, that with the job at the living history park I was finally able to define who I was. Then the job was gone and I felt lost and completely uncomfortable in being defined as just a stay-at-home-dad. At first I tried to do some freelance design work. Then I began writing this blog but soon became more concerned with how many people were viewing it and how often I was posting, and it became more stressful than fun so I stopped. After so much time spent on the computer writing, I drifted into painting, which led to printmaking, which led me to turn our shabby garden shed into a shabby but functional art studio. Every month or two I would freak out and exclaim that I could no longer do this and I needed to get a job. Then I would come to my senses. I looked into being a volunteer Chaplain at the VA but found that, unfortunately, the time commitment was too great. I looked into ski patrol, but for the same reasons I decided against it. My painting turned to sketching and then to watercolors, which were easy to transport when I was out with Noah. I would try running now and again but it never stuck. So I stayed with the art, even though what I put on the page or the canvas never looked like I had planned it to. I did a lot of journaling for myself and the boys, and spent a lot of time putting my sketches onto my blog and looking at other people’s sketch blogs and wishing I was as good as they were. Then my dad’s cancer treatment stopped working and his health deteriorated fairly rapidly and I wrote poems nearly everyday to cope with it. After he died, I stopped sketching and soon journaling but the poems continued, for a while. Then it all stopped. It was all just too hard.

We moved back to Vermont and I again tried freelance graphic design only to discover that I really did not like being a graphic designer anymore. I was really struggling with the loss of my dad, the move, the stages the kids were in, and who I was. Then I began to trail run and it felt right, so I kept at it and that helped release some of the pain and frustration I felt and the extra pounds I was carrying. Yet something was still missing. I wanted to be writing more. Then I would remember the stress that having the blog caused me and I would think, I’ll write when the kids are in school and I have more time.

This past winter I began journaling again and I started carrying a small notebook in my pocket again. I got rid of all my old ideas that what I put in the small notebook had to be good, and I just put everything into it, thoughts, things I would hear, descriptions of people, the start of essays, poems, and random notes. Then I decided I would start writing for this blog again on a regular basis. I came up with a posting schedule and I developed an editing system. I read a book about writing called Writing Down the Bones and it opened my eyes.

When I recently agreed to write a monthly column about parenting for our local paper, it occurred to me that God had a plan that was not anywhere near my plan, but it was obviously a better plan. As hard as it is to stay home at times, it has allowed me to try all these different things with little risk. We have a greater freedom to spend time together as a family, and my writing has given me a creative outlet and a way to capture the little moments in life that are often lost to time. Running allows me to satisfy the adventurer in me and gives me time to clear my mind. I’m no longer looking for something else or thinking if I just do this I’ll feel better. I finally feel comfortable in the definition of who I am: a runner, a writer and a stay-at-home-dad riding the coat tails of his boys’ imagination.