Candle Hug

Some people are unspoken leaders. Unrecognized.

They lead through actions, often from the back of the pack.

They are gentle and kind. Giving example and reference.

Their influence comes when other people decide to “act more like so-and-so”.

Seeds are sown that grow and blossom at odd times. Usually in the winter of discontent.

Love grows when and wherever it needs to. Maybe the seed is more like a flame.

I’ve read that love is like a candle’s flame. It can light a thousand other candles and the heat and flame the first candle carries will not be diminished.

Each love that burns has unlimited potential. Each flame extinguished is immeasurable loss.

No wonder that new love excites us and a loss is bitterly mourned.

When people are sad about the death of a loved one they are offered the words, “Sorry for your loss.” It feels misplaced. Don’t feel sorry for me. My friend carried the flame of love and it often warmed my heart. I’ll carry it always. Grieve for your own loss; one candle that you didn’t get to see in action.

Tend your flames. Don’t grow cold.

Hug someone long enough to realize they are warm. Enjoy it. Its why we hug. To verify love is alive and to keep it that way.


If you sometimes meander in your thoughts, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

I Love You Daddy

“I Love You Daddy!”

Sometimes I get this simple little sentence without even asking. It is enough to stop time for a second while I let it soak. Tingles run up my neck and, from time to time, I get a little teary. For just a moment I wonder if that feeling is love, unfiltered and running up my back? I want to think so.

My ADD kicks in and my mind fast forwards to explaining the concept to my girls. What are they being taught about love by the world?

I think we do a really crappy job of describing love as a base emotion. Movies and books would have us believe that love is something that happens instantly and without warning. We develop this idea that love needs to be proven. If he doesn’t do this or buy that then he doesn’t love me. If she won’t do this or that then she doesn’t love me. Love doesn’t require advertisement.

There are two areas that I think we all confuse with love.

One is obviously lust. Love at first sight is probably a misdiagnosed double-lust that happens to work out. I don’t mean to pop any bubbles but that is probably pretty accurate. I knew in a tenth of a second that I wanted my wife but I would be lying to say that, at that point, it wasn’t purely visual. She is a sexy lady, what can I say? Then she turned me down and played hard to get, which brings me around to the second misplaced emotion…

The need to be needed. The desire for someone to prove that you are likeable or worthy. This is the area that scares me the most for my kids. This is the feeling that becomes addictive for the bad relationships. A terrible falling out and emotional low, followed by a reunion and validation that you were worth something after all. Also in this category is the idea of having the power in a relationship. For instance, have you ever been in one that both of you knew it wouldn’t work out but the one who breaks it off first has the power? Never mind that 24 hours before everyone was miserable. The inevitable result is that the dumped person feels rejected and the dumper feels a hopeful freedom. Rekindling the romance usually ends up in the roles being reversed. The longing that remains is more self-doubt and disappointment than love.

So what is love? I’m not sure how to define it but the further I go, the more I learn.

This is what I have so far:

Love is putting a diaper on the dog because she is still happy and healthy but can’t control herself all the time. She taught us how to parent and deal with something that depended on us to live. She was our first child and devoted to her new pack.

Love is also, not putting her to sleep even though she snores like a Pug with a deviated septum.

Love is that same dog diving into a pool to rescue you while she knew the entire time that she couldn’t swim. It was a very “Titanic” moment.

Love is holding your youngest baby and singing Row Row Row Your Boat long after she is asleep because you let the phase pass to quickly and she doesn’t need you to sing anymore, but you do need it…. Kiss her head. Smell her sweet baby-shampoo hair. Notice how she is limp and relaxed against your body, totally trusting and deeply asleep. Comforted by you. Love lives here.

Love is crying like a baby while you write that last little bit down.

Love is letting them sleep in your bed sometimes. Not often, but enough.

Love is watching them care for one another, sometimes on purpose.

Love is rocking your sick child and wanting to take the fever and pain and carry it for them. To snuggle them hard enough to protect them from anything bad.

Love is dropping everything to play board games or have a sudden movie night.

Love is driving a minivan when you really want a sports car that plays loud music and drives too fast. Instead you have a sweet DVD player that you can’t watch but at least minivans still have warp-speed abilities to evade law enforcement. Probably more pity than speed getting me out of tickets.

Love is telling your children that you are an engineer and they assume that you are THE ONLY engineer and thereby a hero. A superhero scientist who has reached mental enlightenment and must know the answer to every question ever. They feel this way because they love you and most likely you have their trust.

Love is standing in the kitchen eating the leftovers of the meal because everyone needed something at different times and you never got a chance to sit down so you just played the part of waiter until everyone was finished.

Love is when the children want to be around you. Maybe not engaged with you necessarily but in the same room. Playing with plastic ponies and dragging in piles of books asking to read.

Love is what leaks out as tears when I scold a child that needed a hug instead and I have to pull her out of her shell to apologize. Holding them while they cry at their disappointment is a cruel punishment that I deserve.

Love is going into a hospital room while my wife is having a panic attack with a resting heart rate near 200 bpm and when I put my arms around her, the rapid heartbeat calms and there is a peaceful easy feeling that just comes from being together. This is the love that I love the most. Companionship. Someone who my world requires to feel right. The person who occupies the right side of the bed and three fourths of the comforter. When I am not working, we are most likely together. Fighting back the onslaught of life, side by side. She is my truth that if “Someone loves you, you are never rejected, decide what to be and go be it.”

Love is donating a kidney to your husband without a flinch or question. My mom did that.

Love is watching your mom entering that moment on a hospital gurney and knowing deep down she taught you enough and loved you enough to keep her spirit alive by sharing it with others. Love is saying a just-in-case goodbye by not saying much of anything and just letting the moment be. In some ways we spend our lives saying goodbye, a grand buildup to the climax of life. Anything worth saying probably already has been said. Tell your loved ones in those last moments but use all the time before to show them.

Love is knowing that the people in your past are just a mirror to your future. You don’t lose people you love. You keep the parts of them that are special. Those become a part of who you are and you spend the rest of your time giving those good things away to someone else. The slow flame that passes over us from one generation to the next, love is the flame. We are the fuel.

“Like a small boat, on the ocean, sending big waves, into motion, like how a single word can make a heart open, I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.”

If you think Love is a complicated topic, this post is for you. I think so too. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

The Fear Questions

“What would you do if your daughter got pregnant as a teenager?” This was the question I got in some religio-political debate that I probably should have strayed away from. Debates over strongly held beliefs are usually arguments at best and no one is really looking for honest debate, only an edge to prove they have the best opinion. But the question is very similar to a lot of questions I get as a father of four girls. The intent is for me to consider what I want for my children but something is off. I struggle to wrap my mind around what really bugs me about those types of questions but I think it is this:

A quote from Jim Carey that I am sure he borrowed from somewhere else, “Everything we do is motivated by one of two things; fear or love. We run because we are afraid. We stand and fight because we love.” How relevant is that? For me it resonated.

We are breaking our society down through doctrines of fear, legislation of fear, and trying to control our children through fear. I try to make fear/love my filter. When I give my opinions away to my children, I try to choose love.
They ask questions that seem scary at first. “What makes girls different from boys?” “Where do babies come from?” “What does being gay mean?”

Holy shit. I didn’t want a philosophy debate I just wanted a kid who looks like me and does fun stuff. How do you answer these questions?

Let’s take the easy one first. How are boys different from girls? Easy answer: boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. Raise your hand if that was uncomfortable to read. Fear makes us not want to say those words aloud and especially not around children or, God forbid, directly to a child. What kind of sick puppy talks about penis’ to his five year old girl? But they need to know those things exist. They need to know proper names at some point. Honey Boo Boo called hers a “biscuit” on national TV and I’m pretty sure that makes for an awkward breakfast order at McDonald’s. I would make a joke about biscuits and gravy but the thought of Mama June just ruins it for me.

What about where babies come from? Fear tells us that the sooner children learn about sex the sooner they will do it. We avoid any uncomfortable sexual references for a direct fear that it will fast-track our children straight to a greasy brass pole in a seedy club. But they need to know sex has a purpose because it will be sold as enjoyment and pure carnal pleasure at every corner. Even kids shows have a sexual undertone these days. I’m surprised my box of Frosted Flakes doesn’t show Tony mounting a hot female tiger while enjoying a big ol’ spoonful of yummy goodness. Her tail in one hand and a spoon in the other. “They’re grrrrreat!” (Note to Kellogg’s: If you decide to go with this idea then just email me to arrange royalty payments, thanks!)

What about the other fun questions? Sexual orientation, gender confusion, gender bias, race, religion, creed, deciding on Ford vs Chevy when we all know that Honda Odyssey wins the day. What type of jelly should go on a PB&J? I prefer grape and my wife chooses strawberry. Never mind that some companies make premixed PB&J in a squeeze bottle and they obviously use grape, that debate is still ongoing in our household.

Fear has a lot to say on these subjects and the best way to spot fear is to listen to how a question is presented.

“How would you feel if your daughter was _______?”
“What would you do if your daughter dated ________?”
“What will you do if your daughter decides to ________?”

I’m glad these people are worried about my wellbeing and mental status but the questions are weird if you think about it. Someone is asking you how you feel about something that is ultimately going to be none of your business. I am not my children. They do not represent me. They are independent people capable of thought. People who ask these questions are trying to bring emotion to a logic party. If you make it your business it will only speed up the process. If my daughter is straight or gay, that is her business, not mine. I didn’t hand out pamphlets either way. I want them to be happy.

If my daughter dates a little green Martian, that is her choice to make. I’m not moving to Mars and I hope they don’t either but I’m not going to be provider/protector forever so they need to find someone who will love and support them in life. Dad’s get the role of protecting the innocence of their children which is good to a point. Where it gets creepy for me is when it feels like dads are trying to be pimps for their children, deciding who is worthy for potential procreation. We have to let that idea go. If they can find genuine, hardworking, and respectful I can support that. My job is to show what that looks like.
The most interesting thing about the fear based questions is that the person who asks them is showing their own fears. They feel vulnerable and maybe even question their own opinions. We get beaten down with opinions all our life and when it comes time to pass them along we try to maintain opinions from our parents and grandparents. To get that validation that we are good at parenting too and we have passed the torch. We fear being judged otherwise. What we should really fear is withholding the truth from children who learn it faster and faster every day. Because one day they will need a straight answer and they will need to know you answer out of love. Fear can only hold off truth for a little while but love is undeniable.

So if you don’t let your little boy play with a doll because someone might make fun of him, you need to hit pause and think. You are the first in the judgment line by telling him he is wrong for feeling that way. No doll ever made a kid anything except better at communication. The person who is supposed to be the protector is the first attack and the deepest wound. For people who insist on telling your daughter to find a man with a good paying job, you are telling her that she isn’t worth much on her own and she better find a life raft because you are scared she can’t swim. This post is for you. We all need to work a little harder to choose love. In life or online, it will make us happier in the long run. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

To A Patriarch


  1. Head of a family or tribe.
  2. Figures (biblical) regarded as the fathers of the human race.

Synonyms – Father, Leader, Elder

I am not the best of fathers. I am not a bad father but I have room for improvement. I am fun most of the time. I am overbearing sometimes and overprotective at others. I swear more often than I would like. We don’t do as many extracurricular activities as we should. We don’t do as many curricular activities as we should either. I could read more bedtime stories. I could teach the kids more about love and less about judgement. I could make less fart jokes but let’s face facts; Fart jokes are funny.

I have some work to do before I can reach the storied status of patriarch.

Luckily, I know what the job looks like. I have been under the guidance of several patriarchs and never even knew it. They all have a special place to me but this year is about one in particular. He had an interesting butterfly effect on my life and a domino effect into several others.

His name was Daddy Ron and he passed away this year after a battle with Alzheimer’s. I wore a pink tie because he was a father to daughters and the father is the side of him I saw the most.

Daddy Ron was married to Mama C and until I was about sixteen I thought that is what everyone called them. My mother also used those names for them, I assume, since they opened their home to her during a rough time in high school. Daddy Ron had two girls around the same age and they welcomed my mother as family, as a sister. Later their family made me feel like a grandchild and a nephew. I enjoy seeing their children because I feel like I have more cousins. They are one of several families who make me believe that blood is a minor factor in who your family becomes. The village is the family.

Daddy Ron had a big heart and a big laugh. He had a habit of inserting the word “there” or “okay” during pauses when he was delivering a story or a speech. I can’t remember a single petty or hurtful comment. He might have been honest and direct but he wasn’t a man of low blows. He was a man of faith and more than that, he helped me remember that there is a positive message to faith that is becoming more uncommon lately; Love. He passed that trait down with ease.

My mother had the chance to repay the original favor of providing a home as a teacher in the very same high school she had attended. Life has a funny way of boomeranging. In our house I knew it would never be a question, if anyone truly needs a place to stay or a bite to eat and we can provide, it will be automatic. I’ve tried to hold the same standard. Each time I’ve seen love paid forward, the people who come out the other side of their struggles are better than they thought they could be.

Daddy Ron was a patriarch and the definition falls a little short. I think it goes beyond being a good father and includes making great fathers as well.

Everyone knows I enjoy good irony and I think Daddy Ron got the last laugh over Alzheimer’s. It is a disease that erases your legacy within your own mind. Little did it know, he created something that extended out into the world and as he forgot things his legacy returned to remind him. That is what life is all about.

Happy Father’s Day.

I Know A Mother Who

Instead of a generic Happy Mother’s Day post, I decided to sit and think about all the different mothers that I know. Mothers are some of our most powerful influences and they put up with a lot of crap. I am living proof of that. Below is a list of Mothers I Know.

I know a mother who loves. In spite of harsh words or cold actions from others; she continues to love.

I know a mother who has lost. Deep loss with wounds that won’t heal but she continues to shine for others.

I know a mother who has sacrificed. People who buy houses with deer murals, red shag carpet, and one complete bath for a family of four are not the kind of people I call selfish.

I know a mother who is strong. The kind of strength that inspires some and at times confuses others. The ability to stand up to the odds for family and speak out against wrongs.

I know a mother who is scared. Afraid of not doing the right thing or teaching the best way. Fearful that she will make the wrong choices and totally mess things up. There are no “right” choices and there are laws against most of the “wrong” ones so, To that mom: Rock on, you are doing great!

I know a mother who gives. Love, time, health, money. It is impossible to hold anything close without sharing it with others, you might as well hold love.

I know a mother who never had a child but was just as much a mother for the family tree. She nurtured and protected people who learned from her. People who went on to teach their own children. I think that counts for a lot of mother points.

I know a mother who didn’t have to be a mother but chose to be, before she was probably ready. She figured it out on the fly and is a wonderful mom.

I know a mother who does it alone. She is single and powering through life as a parent.

I know a mother who worries for her children and for other children too. Nothing specific, just a deep seated wish for the happiness and success of others. A desire to protect them from sadness and pain.

I know a mother who faced death. She had cancer and delayed treatment for her baby. She was able to deliver and recover. Can you imagine making that choice? I can’t and until you stare down that barrel yourself, I dare you to even guess how it feels. That child will know what love looks like.

I know a mother who traded reasonable dreams for a less glamorous reality, then worked in that reality to give dreams to others. Many others. I hope she realizes that having an effect like that is something most people only dream of. Life is funny, we get what we ask for but the packaging is often unexpected. (I think we may see a veterinarian out of Jane)

I know a mother who thinks she does not do a good job and I know that thought is a lie. She is beyond amazing. She is showing her children how to be creative, how to try things that scare you, and how to give yourself to make other’s day a little brighter. The world of parenting is hard and exhausting. It really does take a village and for a large part of the village you are their helping hand.

I know a mother who is not a mother yet. She is learning what it means to be mom and is watching others to form her own ideas. She will become what she sees in her world. I know several of these types of moms.

So in a few days we will celebrate Mother’s Day. It is a day to say “Thank You!” but also a good time to say, “Good Job!” and “I Love You!” Remember all the moms you know.

If you are one of these Moms then obviously this post is for you. In the words of Sir Elton John –

You can tell everybody, that this is your song, It may be quite simple but now that it’s done, I hope you don’t mind,…, that I put down in words, how wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”

Thank you.