Month: October 2016

Facing The Music

Some nights are perfect for a little YouTube scanning. Last night I ended up watching several videos of The Voice. I watched all of the blind auditions. They are incredible. Several things about these auditions and songs stood out to me and helped me enjoy a part of myself that has been suppressed by work, obligations, and life in general.

First and foremost, I love music. If I could trade a leg for a singing voice, I would. I love listening to good artists. Probably not in the same way as musicians who can play ten different instruments. More for the poetry of it. Good lyrics. True lyrics. Heartfelt performance. I can listen to those things all day. I have to be careful driving to work in the morning and listening to good music because I will catch myself tearing up. If you are driving by and see me then just know, its allergies. Maybe I empathize too much. Eh, I’ve talked about this phenomenon before so we can move along.

As I thought about how the music connected, I noticed something unique about The Voice. All of the judges listen with their eyes closed and feel the song. Obviously, that is the premise of the show, to focus on the voice, but watching their emotion is pretty cool. Some singers come out with a note that gets everyone interested right away. Some singers tease the judges for a minute before belting out their talent. Either way, once the judges hit that button and the chair swings around there is always a celebration backstage. Spouses, children, and parents who are supporting the contestants are waiting for the judges to validate what they already know, the person on stage is awesome.

One contestant was of Asian descent but no doubt American born. Her father was watching backstage and when she was accepted by the judges he started jumping around and shouting in a heavy accent, “You show them you know, You show them you know!” He was so freaking proud. I imagine he immigrated as a young man and he was enjoying the success of his decision. For a moment it felt like all of the good things about America. I know it is cheesy but this is my party, deal with it.

The thing that really got me was a similar scenario of father and daughter. The father was auditioning while his wife and daughter were waiting backstage. An interesting twist was that the father had previously performed with Christina Aguilera (one of the judges) as a child on the Mickey Mouse Club. The producers were trying to drum up the story between the two of them and if he would be remembered or not. He did an amazing job singing and ended up joining Team Adam. Without mentioning his past history he thanked the judges and exited to backstage. His wife and daughter were glowing with excitement and they all collected in a group hug. At that moment he had won everything he needed. Through my welling tears (allergies), I saw another connection. I promise this is where the rabbit hole ends.

Early last week, at a leadership summit, I listened to a speaker who goes by the name of Coach Burt. He was a unique combination of human being. If he wasn’t a motivational speaker he could be a wrestler for the WWE. He talked mostly about building greatness in people and how to create character. As a former girls basketball coach he was able to share an insight that resonated with me. He said, “Parents drop off their kids for me to coach and they tell me, ‘She has a lot of potential’ or ‘She has a lot of talent’. They want me to teach them discipline to reach their potential.” He said that he would often turn the question around on the parents.

“So you want them to have discipline?”


“So they can reach their potential and achieve their dreams?”


“How are you teaching them at home? Do they see you living up to your potential?”


Truth bomb.

As I sit here and type this out, Prima is sitting next to me playing with her Littlest Pet Shop toys. She has crafted a computer out of notebook paper and her little character is saying, “I am writing a computer blog to make people happy and get more fans.” Wonder where she picked that up?

I guess Coach Burt is right. Kids are always watching.

The father auditioning on The Voice was showing his potential. The father who changes countries to raise his family is showing potential. The child who make the parents proud is also teaching them that dreams are possible. Inspiration goes both ways.

If you are living each day as an example for you children, this post is for you. You’re welcome. I’m not sure that I am. Some days sure… but not most. Whenever I feel discouraged I remember for who I really do things. It isn’t for me. One of my favorite lines is from The Eli Young Band, “Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart.”

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Can I Get A Witness

Do you ever catch yourself having a thought and laugh?

Like, you start out thinking about something and one idea leads to the next and before you know it, a strange phrase runs through your mind. You think, “if I said that out loud it would be confusing and hilarious”.

I remember a time at an Evangelism conference when I had a really weird thought. For my friends who are unfamiliar with an Evangelism conference – it is a gathering of Christian children from the middle school to early high school ages and it has the general agenda of making you feel like a selfish piece of crap while convincing you to commit to silly endeavors like not swearing or having sex before marriage. It may be the primary source of self-esteem issues for Baptist youth. It is also an unofficial training ground for sneaking out of hotel rooms without chaperones catching you. Anyway, most of the event is a stage show where everyone gathers for hearing stories of people who have been saved.

At this conference there seemed to be a parade of people coming on-stage and telling stories about living a wild life of sin only to have it turned around by the warm and loving grace of the lord. Each time I thought, “Wow, what could be more inspirational than that guy?” and lo and behold a new sage would appear with his tale from the gutter. By the end of the day I was convinced that the only person who could have a better “witness” would be a spiritually redeemed Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hilter.

One guy talked about being a serial womanizer. Trying to always fill some sort of emotional/metaphorical hole with lots and lots of frivolous sex. Burning through partner after partner only to realize that he was avoiding true love and self acceptance. Side note for the sex addict guy: To a teenager with raging hormones, your story just sounds like bragging or a challenge. I’m sure 90% of the audience missed the intent.

Then another guy talked about living a life of crime. Stealing small things, like CD’s and packs of gum, before increasing his portfolio to cars and armed robbery. He learned that he was trying to have control of a ship that already had a captain (God). A little time in the slammer made him realize that he didn’t like being in the slammer but needed some solid evidence that he had changed. He recommitted his life to “being good” and has “never been happier”.

After this guy, was a man who became addicted to heroine laced with PCP and stole orphaned kittens from his Grandmother to grind up for dog food to sell on the illegal black market to pit bull fight clubs or some crazy sad shit like that. Sad stuff for sure but almost terrible to the point of being unrelated. Yet again, once this wayward scamp had snorted all the powdered kitten crack he could get his paws on, this man hit rock bottom and turned to the ministry. Who can challenge the authority of the witness from Kitten Krack Kenny?

All the stories left the audience with the desired effect. Knowing that even if you run your life into the ground you can apologize, straighten up, and through youth ministry have thousands of pre-teens share an empathetic tear in a packed indoor arena. Most will even agree that the person is “so brave” or “totes inspirational”. The girls in the youth group were particularly moved. As a borderline teenager myself, I was intrigued by their interest so I did some pondering on how to increase my attractiveness.

I found myself wondering if being a complete and total screw up was a pre-requisite for being inspirational in the religious speaking circuit. I tried to imagine what the story might be from a totally normal guy who was a good person from day one. Could he deliver a riveting tale of how following the rules totally worked out? That led me to my weird, middle school logic thought.

“Maybe I should try crack or gambling.”

How ironic. In a system where high morals are valued the most impressive resumes are from people who battled a string of drugs and prostitution. I guess it is the prodigal son concept, which I think is critically flawed. We should be celebrating the loyal family member who never strayed in the first place. Crazy parables.

If you have ever listened to inspirational speakers and had the strange thought that maybe you should strike out in search of your own personal rock-bottom, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Go live it up and work on that backstory. You can be inspirational in no time. If you survive.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Beam Me Up Already

For those of you who read these to make yourself fee better about parenting by enjoying my fails, I present my official Parenting Win of the Week. My P-WOW!

I get a call from Supermom informing me that Don Threeto had a breakdown at school. She had a panic attack of sorts. It was bad enough that her oldest sister, Jane, had to be called out of class to come and calm her down.

My kindergartener freaked out and the principal of the entire school had to summon a fourth grader sister to talk her down.

Part of me is extremely proud to have such a sisterly bond between my children. It does my heart good to know they watch out for one another. However, the reason for the breakdown concerns me.

When I first heard, I thought to myself “I wonder if she got scared of some ants?” That would be reasonable since she is allergic. I also considered that maybe bees had snuck in through a crack in the window. I am afraid of bees, maybe I passed that on. What on earth could elicit such a reaction?

I did a top five list in my head:

  • Rabid wild animal was lurking outside. Peeking
  • Someone brought one of those blue star tattoos that were being passed around schools a few decades ago and was laced with a hallucinogenic substance and she was being chased by talking floor tiles.
  • Another student had threatened her and she was scared. (This one was not plausible since she doesn’t fear other people.)
  • She realized that all the lunches are now free and therefore there was no money to steal from the weaker kids.
  • She learned to read and figured out that Russia and the United States were on the brink of thermonuclear war through a combination of angry Facebook posts and Wikileaks.

Most of those would have been better than the truth. #2 and #4 are questionable alternatives. Anyway, here you go…

Supermom had done some detective work and figured out the root of the trouble. Turns out… a sudden high-pitched metallic noise from somewhere in the ceiling convinced my five year old child that aliens were coming to abduct her. She was convinced that she would be swept away into the space ship and never see her family again.


She told the teacher and principal that exact story.

We are now “those” parents. Awesome. We were probably already those parents so whatevs.

If you have children who share insane conspiracies and their teachers judge you from afar, this post is for you. You’re welcome. There is nothing you can do. Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Camping and Tents

Camping. The world’s most confusing hobby.

It makes about as much sense as fertilizing a lawn that you have to mow twice a week. Humans have spent hundreds of thousands of years solving the challenges of nature. We live in houses that maintain a stable temperature, supply clean water on demand, carry human waste out through a magic network of pipes, rain water is deflected by advanced roofing systems, beds adjust to our individual preference of firmness, and if we want to experience nature or community then we pull out some technology and surf the vast world of the internet. Dogs live better in these modern times than cavemen ever thought about. Yet here, in the pinnacle of this accomplishment, is a growing culture of people who yearn to eat reheated trail food and shit in the woods. I don’t have that burning desire.

Deep down in my soul, I enjoy domestication.

I know this because last year we tried camping. It was Memorial Day weekend and my father always has a family get together at his vacation spot along the Tennessee River. There are enough utilities for running water, an RV hookup, and a guest bathroom. A good balance of rustic and domestic. This particular weekend was foreshadowed by a trip down the clearance aisle in Walmart. As fate would have it, there was a two room, easy-up ten-man tent on sale for $5 BILLION dollars. (I’m sure it was a deal but I hate spending money so my memory recorded it as expensive.) We had a lapse of sanity and thought to ourselves, “Camping could be a fun family activity. Think of all the memories and closeness we will gain. We don’t have a dinner table so surely we could do better at quality time. Yessir, a tent is exactly what we need.” This is the point where I reflect and I am disappointed that Jesus didn’t intervene and burn the clearance aisle to the ground as an unmistakable sign that we shouldn’t go camping. Shame on you.

I recall being hesitant, “I don’t know honey, it sounds like a lot of work. I don’t remember ever sleeping in a tent and enjoying it.” She wasn’t having it, “Nonsense. Camping is fun. I remember doing it this one time really long ago.” (I think she has dementia and was remembering a Care Bears movie or something. No one likes camping in a tent.

Didn’t matter because as every good man knows, Happy Wife = Happy Life.


This would be the second tent she talked me into. It is for playing with Sugar Gliders. Read more on that in some previous stories. 

We bought the tent and lots of accessories. If the tent could hold air pressure we might have had a sufficient kit to colonize Mars. Whoever survived the six month road trip to the Red Planet would have been good to go. Bravely, we declared our intentions to the family, “YES we are coming this weekend and we are CAMPING!”

Fast forward to the weekend. Setup of the tent was flawless. We had fans, sleeping bags, air matresses, two coolers of various beverages, soft pillows, warm blankets, mosquito deterrents, and the tent even had a screened in porch area that acted as an airlock for bugs. This was going to be awesome!

Our dreams of family bliss began to erode almost immediately. The kids were so excited about the tent that they wouldn’t stay out of it. I was constantly urging them to “Close the damn flap!” or “Don’t walk on the beds with your shoes!”

The weather was pleasant in the morning but it started to get annoying by mid-day; Temps in the 90’s and humidity around 101%. I also began to realize that choosing a big weekend as our first tent experience was erroneous. A fellow river-goer had hired a band to play and there was no shortage of booze. Drunken Frisbee and Bean Bag Toss accompanied by cover band renditions of all the country classics definitely drowned out the cicadas and peep frogs.

By ten o’clock the children were all way past bedtime and exhausted from all the dancing and playing of the day. We rounded everyone up including the fowl breathed dog and entered our tent. I mention the dog’s breath because in about five minutes we realized that sleeping in a tent on a hot humid night is very much like being nestled in a fat man’s armpit if that man was also wearing a windbreaker. The fans were useless against the foggy air. The kids were in a separate room in the tent and all four were piled together on an air mattress. The touching, cover stealing, and rolling around provided constant complaining. The dog decided that she needed to go out about four different times because noises around the tent sounded like something malevolent was planning an attack. I think once it may actually have been an armadillo but I didn’t care. Two hours past bedtime and the children were still waking up and complaining. I was down to my underwear and trying to sleep without physically touching anything. Supermom was covered a stream of air from battery powered fans. The crowd outside had been distilled down to only the drunkest people left at the party. Their talking volume was near a yell and their vocabulary was fifty percent swearing. At two o’clock in the morning, fuck becomes a universal word; noun, verb, adjective, adverb, exclamation mark, a comma. I knew the children were listening because I heard one of them sigh and mutter something about “hot as fuck” as she tried to steal a blanket back from her sister.

Then, at 2:35 a.m., I snapped. I had enough of this adventure called camping and I was done. Maybe it was the fifteen mosquito bites on my abdomen. Maybe it was knowing that some campers would be getting up for the sunrise in four hours and the children would rush out to join them and make me get up too. Maybe it was simply sleep deprivation. Who knows? At any rate, I had enough and jumped up out of bed. The only words I uttered to Supermom were, “Fuck it”. I went and started the van and began systematically loading sleeping children into their car seats. I rolled up anything I thought we might need and threw it into the back. Supermom grabbed the dog and some pillows and barely had the door closed before we pulled out onto the gravel road and headed home. I didn’t give a damn if the fans caught fire and the tent burned to the ground. I was utterly unconcerned with anyone stealing any part of the stuff we left behind. I was done.

I went back to the campsite in the early afternoon of the next day. No one said much and my brother and sister-in-law had packed up most of the stuff for me. They are good people. I loaded everything into the van and brought it home to our garage where it has been sitting ever since.


Every so often, Supermom will mention nice weather and ponder going camping in our tent. I try to smile as the left side of my faces twitches in revolt. Four billion years of evolution of life did not culminate into a species who can overcome every element only to go camping. No thank you.

If you enjoy camping, you are insane and this post is for you. When I want to feel connected to nature I will eat a Cobb Salad. Take a bath hippie. This particular story was by request so Mr. L,  you’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Call of the Wolf

On our last day in Arizona we enjoyed another day of random people interactions. The morning started with a lady who had some personal issues and probably boundary issues as well and ended with a lady named Healing Wolf at a wolf-rescue-sanctuary at the end of an unpaved road in Rimrock, AZ. If it sounds a little out of the ordinary, good because it was.

Before diving into that I would like to assure everyone that our decision to drive into the desert to sit around apex predators was not our first questionable act. The day before, we visited the Grand Canyon and walked all along the South Rim. There were several points that stuck out into the canyon a bit and allowed tourists to take great pictures of the canyon. In one of these locations there was a trail that had been worn down by the footsteps of fools and risk takers. Several people were hiking out to this perilous point and taking part in the almighty selfie. The whole trip looked manageable until I was standing out on the rock at the edge of a several thousand feet drop. Supermom completely lost her mind and ventured out further than I did. She got a better photo out of it too. Dammit.


Whatever. We both survived. That is the important part.



I think that shirt makes my ass look fat. 

The next day was planned to be more laid back. Just some shopping and leisure walks along the local creek sides. Shopping was cool. There are lots of fossils and rocks which keep me entertained for hours. Local Native American crafts were abundant and we happened upon a Navajo craftsman who sold us a nice dream catcher.

We passed by a neat looking toy store and decided to drop inside. A man in his mid-forties was purchasing a trinket and trying to make small talk with the cashier. In a matter of seconds he was wishing that he hadn’t. She had a brace on her right arm and was trying hard to perform all the cashier duties with her left.

Man: So how did you hurt that arm?

Cashier: I fell down.

Man: Took a little spill did you? You weren’t drinking were you?

Cashier: No I fell and broke my arm, ankle, and three ribs on the sidewalk.’

Man: That must have hurt.

Cashier: I was raped.


Man: I’m uhhhh sorry to hear that. That is awful.

Cashier: Yeah I know who did it. He is an old man who sits at the same bar in town.

Man: …

Cashier: He always hit on me and then one night I woke up raped. I think he put something in my drink to make me forget who he was but I didn’t. I don’t go anywhere anymore. My life is basically over.

Man: That is terrible. Do you have to see him?

Cashier: No he is at a bar. If I saw him on the street I would have him arrested but he stays in the bar. So I stay at home with my boyfriend and come to work.

Man: Well I hope things get better for you.

Cashier: Have a nice day.

You. Just. Never. Know.

We didn’t engage in small talk mostly because I didn’t want to provide any therapy. She had some serious issues going on and I’m not totally convinced they were all on the surface. The toys were really cool though.

The next stop got us pointed on our journey towards the wolves. It was a small rustic-looking shack up on a hill; called Clear Creek Trading Company. We walked inside and immediately knew the shop was unique. It was stocked like an old-time general store or western outpost. Like an organized hoarder. All of the normal trinkets were there but there were also animal hides and several rooms with oddities like teeth and bones from animals; bobcats, beaver, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, bison, deer, turtles, and wolves. The front desk had a basket of “coon dicks” or raccoon penis bones (didn’t know lots of mammals actually have bones in their boners) which were for fertility. There were colored beads and wooden carvings. The owner of the trading post came around the corner and asked if there was anything we were looking for and unable to find. “Honestly, I didn’t know you could buy most of this stuff”, was my reply.

“Oh yeah, I have everything. Just try me.”

I thought for a second and asked, “Do you have anything to do with wolves? My oldest daughter is always leading her sisters in a wolfpack and is really interested in wolves.”

He got a funny look and opened up his shirt to reveal a leather medallion with a red wolf. “All joking aside. That is some strong medicine my friend.” He looked at me in a way that was more serious than the jovial thirty seconds prior. “My Indian name is Red Wolf and the calling of the wolf is no joke.”

“I’m not really joking. Jane loves wolves. Animals in general, really. She has a way with them and wants to be a veterinarian.”

He put his hand on my shoulder. “That is awesome. Children have a strong connection to what they want. I have to make you something… may I?”

“Okay. Sure.” At this point we had picked out a wolf claw and had it sitting on the front desk.

“The wolf is a teacher, protector, and a leader. They persevere and are very loyal.” He picked up the claw. “I want to make her a necklace that she can wear and remember what it means to be a wolf.”

It went from browsing in a neat store to being a little surreal but I was enjoying it, “That sounds really cool.”

He shared some folklore about the other animals and Native Americans in general. I feel like I better understand their emphasis on animals and how that is useful in their culture. We looked around and picked up a few other items that matched the other children’s spirit animals. Don Threeto is, of course, the fox. She got a nice fluffy fox tail. Red Wolf returned carrying the newly threaded necklace. He paused after handing it to me and said, “How long are you in town?”

“Just until the morning, why?”

“I have a friend that you need to meet. She will want to hear about your daughter. She rescues wolves and uses them as therapy animals. They are healing wolves and you can sit with them. They are big powerful animals and it is really special.”

Supermom had seen a brochure earlier in the week and was already interested. We had run out of time to schedule things but the afternoon had opened up so we figured, why not? We thanked Red Wolf for all his information and his gift of the necklace at wholesale price. I called the lady, named Healing Wolf, and she sounded very excited to hear about the whole situation. We found out in just a few moments that we are originally from the same state. She made room in her schedule and gave us directions.

Now. The drive to the wolf sanctuary gave us a while to reflect. Here we were, driving forty five minutes into the Arizona desert to meet a lady named Healing Wolf on the good word of a brochure and a man named Red Wolf who runs a shack that sells animal parts in the same way a junkyard sells car parts. This has all the hallmarks of a good decision. Each mile made the trip a little more curious.

The directions required the following: After leaving the interstate turn right beside a gas station onto a dirt road; stay right at each fork; the road will cross a creek, it looks like you can’t drive through the water but don’t worry, you can; keep going until you see a fall themed display and our gates with the sign; park around the side and walk up to the house.

We crossed the flowing stream boldly, because the car was a rental. We dodged boulders and ruts down the dirt road and found our way to the parking area beside a small double gate. The only neighboring house was under repair or perhaps being upgraded from a trailer to a more permanent trailer. A lone black dog stood watch over us as we locked the car and walked through the gate back to the house. An older man in a cowboy hat greeted us with smiles and a big hug. His name was John and he immediately started giving us a tour of the house by inviting us inside. For those of you who wonder how Hansel and Gretel felt. I know.

They were uneasy but curious enough to go inside anyway. Curiosity did kill the cat, you know.

John pointed to the right wall of the house which was made from smooth stone and informed us that the house’s previous owner was none other than Morgan Earp, younger brother to Wyatt. John purchase the house about fifteen years ago and renovated it to be livable with modern conveniences like a non-leaking roof and non-dirt floors. He also had a really cool picture.


It was taken at a hunting club and is pretty strong evidence that the villains and the heroes of the west were probably friends. Hollywood messes up everything trying to sell a story. Also, not too different from the main characters of today’s political scene. Don’t think for a second that they aren’t all friends. John also had lots of pottery fragments, fossils, and old pictures that he had collected from the property. All of this was really cool but I had never heard of John and I still hadn’t seen a wolf. Just as I was about to ask, Ms. Healing Wolf emerged from the back room with a wide smile and warms hugs. One thing about genuine “animal” people is that you can tell if they are sincere right away. Ms. Chris who sold us the wallaby was exactly like this lady; dedicated to her animal of choice. She really loves wolves and enjoys helping people through their interaction. We got lots of stories of people overcoming fears and pre-conceived notions. We saw firsthand how the alpha differs from the beta and how they really are all about the pack.


We never were afraid because they all looked a lot like Chester. Who could be scared of a teddy bear who just wants a belly rub? One of the wolves had been part of a fur farm and watched his family members be beaten and killed. He was still wary of humans and I don’t blame him. Humans can be awful sometime.


After a good two hours of talking and sharing stories we had our way to the door and exchanged another round of Tennessee hugs with our new friends. She sent us home with a gift of some wolf fur for our own little wolf pack to hold and remember all the good things they can be. This whole trip has had an underlying theme of connection and while I may not buy-in to the theory of energy vortexes and spirit animals, it is good to know that everyone holds something close to their hearts and they all want to share.

The scenery, at the end of the day, is just scenery.

If you enjoy a good adventure, this post is for you. You’re welcome. If you are a grandparent, we couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for helping us celebrate 10 years!

-Underdaddy to the rescue.