#Beardwatch: Shot to the BEARD & You’re to blame…

                         It’s been 4 months since I first decided to grow my beard for a full year and this last month has been the best one yet. Why? Christmas jokes! I’m hearing a lot of “You should be Santa Claus/Black Santa” comments and while the majority of them aren’t creative, they are still quite funny. My barber has never worked on a beard before of this magnitude (pop POP!) before so he’s quite ‘jazzed‘ by this challenge and my now 1-year-old son takes to my beard like rope to pull himself up from whatever mess he has made in our home.

There are still some beard haters, though…the ‘You should look clean-shaved‘ people.’ Example:

          But to quote the quotable Sean ‘Puffy/Puff/Puff Daddy/P-Diddy/Diddy’ Combs, “Can’t nobody beard me down/Oh no/I gotta keep on moving!” Haters will beardhate© (copyright pending) all day, so you know what I say? Hate the Haters…With love. Boom. I just bearded your mind. Even Wifey*is warming up to the beard life.

(*Okay, she’s not but she’s much better now that she was at the beginning.)

Things I need to do more of in the meantime:

  • More Flickr pics. I think I overshot doing it all the time everyday, as I started to, then fizzled out. My friend Steffan advised on that I should have listened. There you go, Watson. You were right. And if the Spurs win the NBA Finals, you’ll hear me say that again.
  • More #beardwatch tweets. Quotes, thoughts, beard stats…I have to keep the #beard alive.
  • Start working out. That has nothing to do with #beardwatch. But I start at the gym tomorrow. Please pray.
  • Buy some lumberjack shirts. And a thermos. And become more outdoors-y. I know I look like a hipster wannabe, but inside me is a person who wants to camp, cut down trees and who am I kidding, I’m writing this while waiting for a Gingerbread Latte.

All to say, the beard life is a good life. It IS weird though to grow a beard  during Movember. Movember is a great cause to raise awareness (and funds) towards research for prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives where men of different races, ages and stages of puberty look like creeps by growing moustaches for the month of November. And so because I have a beard, many people ask “Are you doing Movember?”, to which I have to reply “No”, which signifies I’m sure: “Yes, I love facial hair. Yes, I am a narcissist. No, I do not care about Movember’s mission…I just look like a hobo because I WANT too.” (And for the record, I am a major fan of Movember and why it exists. Check out my latest blog on mental illness and it’s affects on our family here.)

But the thought of growing my beard FOR something other than my own resolve has struck a chord in me since attending Catalyst in October (I can’t shave it now…I made WAY too much of a deal when I started!). And so my second quest, apart from the beard, is to find an organization to support with my #beardwatch. Because I think there’s something cool about using everything about you to be able to help someone else.

Even your beard.

So send your suggestions here!

Chris

Question: what part of you life have seen as unusable to help others? How can you start making those areas available?

PS: Here are some cool beard sites and links provided by great #beardwatch supporters. Check them out!

Marriage Blog: It’s Not Her Fault

prefix: Becca and I have been overwhelmed in a loving way at those who have read and commented on our posts dealing with our journey through Becca’ postpartum depression. We’ve both talked about how we don’t want to write to “capitalize” on that readership (hence my monday blog was this) but at the same time, we’ll open up a bit more from our story with Becca writing from her experience and I from a naive husband’s perspective. That being said, I will still talk about my amazing beard too, among other things that I like to talk about. But today, the postpartum story continues. And do look out for Becca’s blogpost as they come.

I have often heard that it is wrong to kick someone when they are down. I know this to be true but for a number of months I didn’t practice this in my own home. During my wife’s pregnancy and especially during after Liam’s birth, i did this. It’s hard to admit but I did. How? But quietly getting angry at Wifey without knowing what was going on in her. And I didn’t realize that in my actions that i was making things worse.

I saw her sadness and thought, “why can’t you snap out of it!?“. I saw her fatigue and thought, “maybe we (but really meaning her to be honest) should eat better…” and I saw her frustration and thought, “Life is good, why complain?” At the time, Becca was driving long hours to work and the drive was killing her. It always had but at this junction in our lives, it was worse. Her sighs were louder, her sadness more pronounced. Truth be told, she loved who she worked with but didn’t love her job and it was really getting to her. And at home She wasn’t able to play with Ellie. And after his  birth, she was always mad at Liam. He didn’t feed like Ellie or sleep like Ellie, or cry like Ellie…and she would let him know that. And I saw this…

And I kept it in. And grew in anger towards my wife.

*Let that sink in, Chris. 

I remember Becca mentioning on night, “I think you should read about postpartum depression…” and getting defensive. I mean, I KNEW about it. I read books, studied it for classes…but much of what people know in theory means nothing if it’s not practiced out when the time comes. And at that moment when healing should have taken place, my anger push her away…deeper into her depression. And there is nothing worse that being alone when you already feel alone.

My worst moment came during an extended family situation where the end result was me kicking a piece of furniture in front of my wife and daughter. Everything boiled over: my sadness, my feelings of failure as a husband, my naiveté, my embarrassment…

…There is no worse feeling than the ones you love seeing you at your worst. Nothing like embarrassing yourself because your own pride was wounded. And there is no bigger bittersweet moment then when you have to say, “I was wrong, I am sorry, what can I do to help?”

It took me a lot of time, counsel and tough talks with Becca to realize something that all husbands need to know:

It wasn’t her fault. My wife didn’t ask God for the test of depression to prove his glory. She didn’t get herself tangled into darkness to then find herself bound by something. No. Her body failed her (As ALL our bodies will in some form at some point) and she hadn’t received the medicine and counsel to be her again. She was unable to love us as she wanted to, not unwilling. And there is a big difference there.

So what did I do when this revelation came about:

Marriage Blog: Post-Partum Depression

prefix: I am writing this with my wife’s full knowledge and support though it is hard for her to read. She herself is a blogger and I look forward to my own uncomfortability as she writes how this affected her. Please encourage that too!!!

Depression is a real thing. It’s not made up. It hits us at different points of our lives for different reasons and without help, counsel, prayer and sometimes medicine, it can easily take over one’s life, making them a shell of who they want to be.

How do I know this? It happened to my best friend: Wifey, during and after her pregnancy with our second child.

We found out we were pregnant with Liam on Ellie’s 2nd birthday. We had been trying but Becca’s symptoms hadn’t kicked in like they did with Ellie, so we were completely taken back not only by knowing he was coming but that we missed so much in the getting ready. For some reason it really bugged Becca. More than normal. Things became different from there…

Becca’s always been quieter (she IS married to me so I take up a lot of room in the noise dept!) but now her silence was moody, sad even. Sleeps were longer, conversations shorter. She had less energy than with Ellie and more, how-do-I-say passive hostility. Much of that was because now while being pregnant, she had to place attention to our bubbly 2-year-old non-potty trained daughter and me, who is a handful. The pregnancy took much out of her…even the birth didn’t move her. She was almost placid. Tired is an understatement when a woman gives birth but there was an extra lethargy to her. She cried a lot more too, and Becca is not a crier. At all. At first her tears made sense to me; she missed Ellie, Liam wasn’t as good a sleeper or eater as Ellie was, she was disappointed about moving to formula so soon after his birth. But still, it was different.

I should stop here to say that I didn’t notice much of this when it was happening. I was too busy trying to be a fixer. Or making sure I wasn’t the cause of her grief. My thoughts for many of the above things were

  • You hang with Ellie, I’ll take Liam. I didn’t realize how deep her sadness went.
  • Couldn’t argue the sleep thing. The beginning was rough!
  • Who cares if we move to formula now. Other parents aren’t us. Her sadness was only heightened by what she saw other parents doing via social media. Their “lives on-screen” made hers seem like a failure, deepening the spiral.

My thought was, tomorrow will be better. Let’s get out of those pyjamas, go for some outdoors time and everything will be okay. But it got worse. There’d be days of sitting on the couch and not moving. Blank stares while Ellie roamed around, Liam just being a baby…It just didn’t make sense. Plus, as a husband: no sex, no affection. My Wifey was different. And I didn’t now how to help her. So I did what I thought best: I took care of everything else. Shopping? Check. Ellie? Check. Cleaning? Check. And on and on. But that made things worse.

One night while at work, Becca called in tears asking for me to come home, as something had happened that threw her off. And I did the worst thing possible. I didn’t go straight home. I waited to make sure all was well at work and then did. Stupid. It was there that our talks on her being depressed began…and continued for some time with help from good friends, family and staff where we work. Becca got some medicine and began to come back to her normal self, though she may be dependant on them for the rest of her life. And if I ever thought this was hard on ME, I can only imagine how this ordeal has changed and affected her.

I’m summarizing a two-year ordeal here to get to this point:

Netflix, TV and My Kid – A Parent’s Tale

“It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day.” – Homer Simpson, B.A. and father of The Simpsons.

This, for many people, is their unspoken motto. A life filled with sitting in front of a flat screen/laptop watching hours of episodic television, 24 hour news TV or March Madness. That statement is much of my life’s story (minus the troubled Bart-like kid), for growing up I had 3 parents: Mom, Dad and TV. Much of my pop culture nerdish quotes and ideas come from hours as a kid, teen and at times, adult, watching and learning from TV. From Perfect Strangers to Community, Summer to Winter Olympics, from Lost to Fringe, from live to PVR/Netflix and online, TV had been a part of my framework and a part of how I see things.

Now I’m not writing this blog to tell someone to turn off their TV and get to running outside or fasting or something.  Nor am I writing to invite that for myself from a loving commentator. I think there’s someone much Bigger than I am who can do that. I’m writing because I have a daughter who like her father loves TV. And because she loves it and we let her watch it (with we hope, wisdom), it’d be good to talk through how we do it and hear from other how they walk their kids through it, if at all. So here’s how we’ve done TV with Ellie and what I’m learning in the process.

  1. Some cartoons aren’t good for her. At first we simply left a Canadian channel called Treehouse on all day while she played for background noise. And in all honesty, sometimes we did it for a break too (any “Oh man I’m not alone!” chants starting?)! And what we would hear would most often by fine but some shows, even for kids, would promote behaviors that we didn’t want her to see as approved. And this goes for me (and you) too. I talk about that on number 4.
  2. Know the limits. Winters are the worst for this. It’s not like you can go outside at minus whatever to ride a bike and Lord knows craft time, if you’re not a craft person, can be draining. So the easy decision is to simply turn on the TV and walk away. And for a time we would do that. Now we let her watch some educational stuff for a bit then turn the TV off and enforce play time. And that might be in her room with toys, might be coloring, but it is something away from the ‘tube.
  3. Talk with her about what she sees. I think good parents know when to simply say no and when to explain a no, even to a 3-year-old. The reason to explain isn’t to get them on your side or even the Lord’s side but instead to help them start to think critically over what they take in. This past summer Ellie was watching a kids show on my iPad through Netflix when a character said something I found inappropriate. My initial instinct was to take the iPad and walk away. Instead, we had a short talk about being nice and kind with our words. Did it stick? She’s three. But I do believe that the seeds are there.
  4. Set an example. Man this is hard. Am I on my phone in front of her all the time, checking emails (not tweets, if you remember)? My iPad? Even a book? Am I paying more attention even to writing this blog than to playing with her and her brother? It might not be a TV but if it’s something and it’s for a long time, it might at well be a TV. I have to take my own breaks, even when she’s sleeping. And I also have to constantly reevaluate what is appropriate and not. As I read today through Jon Acuff’s Quitter, “Discipline begets more discipline.” How I do things will affect her greatly, to make better calls, take better breaks and know when something shouldn’t be in her life.

So, thoughts? Ideas? Do you own a large TV but never use it because of different principles (side question: then why have the TV? But I digress…)? Was TV never a big deal for you? If not, what do you find is? How do you help your kids think while they do? If you don’t have kids, how to figure out what you watch and how much is too much?

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So You Call Yourself Pro-Life…?

Let me ask you a question.

When you hear the words “Pro-Life“, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

I’m guessing that the only thing that did was being anti-abortion. We tend to loop the two together all the time, don’t we? Whether believer or not (though most pro-lifers tend to be believers of some kind), pro-life tends to mean one who believes that life begins at conception and not at 3/4/7/8 months, that the life made between a man and woman is made in the image of a Creator and as a life made by said Creator, cannot be killed by man’s choice (hence the pro-choice stance, which is more about the carrier of said child than the child him/herself). In today’s overtly political climate, one question that riles the conservative/republican/right/Christian-type up (when it’s not about gay marriage) is the issue of abortion.

Now, don’t please mistake my intro to think that I am for abortion. I am not just a card carrying Christian. I am a father of two who watched my children grow in the belly of my wife their mother. Who felt their kicks, heard their heartbeats and cut their embelical cords when they came out. Not for second did I think “They’re not alive.” I knew they were miracles the moment I learn of their existence, that I and Wifey partnered with God in their creation. Their birth alone put me on the other side of the argument.

That being said…I don’t think most people who say they’re pro-life are actually pro-life. I think that instead they’re more simply…Anti-Abortion. The more I think about it, pro-life is so much deeper and fuller than simply being anti the abortion of the unborn. For we abort the older too all the time.

Let me explain in point form with actual canadian statistics found on stats canada:

Parent Real Talk: Feeling Sucky

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand this feeling: inadequacy.

This isn’t what we’d project on Facebook with our fun family pics or on Twitter with our happy 140 character notes, but more often than not, behind the front door of our homes, we sometimes feel this way. Especially when it comes to how we raise our kids.

The other night, Ellie was taken by SOMETHING. She was kicking her brother, crumpling her face while crossing her arms, cry screaming (which is a mixture of both crying and screaming) and just not listening to us at all. The night ended up with her in bed crying at 7:00 with no snack, me standing outside her room angry that I yelled at her (there is a difference between being stern for her sake and simply yelling because I lost my cool) and Liam picking his nose.

That night I felt like…I wasn’t a good dad. I know I am but there are days where I just feel…inadequate.

Question for Parents: Ever known that feeling? What seems to trigger that for you?

It’s worse when you’re out somewhere and you kids seems to…dare I say “embarrass” you. You know those times when they are the only kid who throws themselves into a foam-at-the-mouth, roll-in-the-dew (#seewhatIdidthere, Cobourg Camp peeps?), punch-kick-claw-yell-cry state while other parents look on with that face? You know the face…that smug look that says, “If that was my kid that would NEVER happen!” And it is so embarrassing, isn’t it? I know it is for me.

The real talk truth is that every kid has moments like that, whether we want people around us to know it or not. If a kid doesn’t:

– Sleep long enough or sleep too little
– Eat enough or sleep too little
– Play enough or play too little
– Feel the sun or to the moon
– Find out there is no Santa or some fictional character
– Suffer from first world problems like “Sorry no McDonald’s, kiddo” or “No Ellie, we’re not getting Starbucks banana bread (told you…first world yuppie problems)”

…They will freak out. And the younger they are, the harder it is to explain to them why they can’t have what they want and why they shouldn’t respond they way they do. So there are only a few things I can do.

1. Pray a lot. Becca and I picked up a cool booklet by Mark Batterson called “Praying Circles Around Your Children“, based on his book “The Circle Maker.” Without giving away too much of the book, the main gist is to help give parents direction on HOW to pray for their kids on a regular basis. The other night, I made a list of things I will speak over my children. For Ellie, kindness and honesty (among other things). For Liam, humility and love.

2. Apologize. I lose my cool sometimes. If you’re a parent, you know what that’s like. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to say sorry to a three-year-old who would rather play than listen at the time but if I live a life of apology, maybe when they are older, they’ll learn that being wrong and admitting it is okay.

3. Say “I love you” a lot. Today Ellie asked me, “Daddy, do you still love me when I do bad acts?” I told her that I could never NOT love her no matter what she did. Out of that, on her own, my three-year-old said, “Daddy, I’m sorry for hitting and yelling…”. She apologized for something she did the last week. Love brought out honesty from her, not my yelling.

4. Still discipline. Sometimes my kids are going to need to be disciplined and as a good dad I have to do that. But I have to talk afterwards.

5. Not compare myself to other parents. Hey other parents: I know you have sucky days when you get mad at someone else because you had a bad day at work or something. Because I know that, that face don’t mean nuthin! People without kids, know this: Your kid will mess up. Your kid will do dumb things. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means you’re like every other parent, whether they say so or not:)

6. Remember that kids remember. Today I saw a tweet from Mark Driscoll that made me pause (Thanks Taigan Bombay for retweeting him). It said, “Men, we need to be the kind of men we want our sons to become and our daughters to marry…because they will.” I think that goes for all parents. Our kids will be like us no matter what, so let’s all aim to be the best we can be.

…Tonight when I got home, Becca and I had to have a long talk with Ellie about her recent behavior. It was crazy to see Ellie embarrassed and saddened by her actions. She even tried to hide, reminiscent to two people who tried to hide from their own discipline so many years ago. Yet when all was done, we had a dance party.

Thankfully when things are done right, the ending is always sweet and filled with awkward attempts at dance moves meant for teenagers and NOT 30 year olds.

Parents: Please pass this along to other parents to hear their thoughts! How have you dealt with your own feelings of inadequacy?

If you have a similar story, I’d love to have some dialogue with you on it. Leave a comment OR email me at cchase101@gmail.com. We’ve all got a story, so let’s share them. Also, feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the “subscribe me” button. Thanks – Chase

Sent From Above…What a Gift!

It’s not what you think.

This is not a heartfelt blog about someone/something that has been a blessing to my life. This is not a God-blog. You know what I mean, right? The ones about how “heaven is close & the kingdom is near“? Yeah, not that type of blog. Not that I don’t like ’em or even can’t write em. But this ain’t one.

At all.

Unless God was sending me a sign.

Here…let me explain.

Last week, I did something  I rarely do. I went downtown. Now this is not because I hate downtown or anything but moreso because I have no reason to ever go downtown, plus I ain’t got no extra coin to spend on downtown swag (except for the NEW ERA hat store…that is a piece of heaven, for real.). Anyhow, as part of my new responsibilities with my alma mater Master’s College and Seminary (I’m co-teaching a class on Pop Culture and Media. It’s cool. Cool cool cool.), we went downtown for a pop culture tour to see a TIFF movie, a taping of George Strombo (on whom I now have a slight man crush on *blushes*), a taping of Much Music’s New Music Live (60 mins, 2 videos…TWO.) and a red carpet entrance (no stars…).

At the start of the morning, I was feeling excited and nervous at the same time. See, I’m a 31-year-old going to spend a day with a bunch of 20 somethings whom I don’t know well and I never do well in those situations. I’m the “try-too-hard-to-be-funny-only-to-come-off-awkward-type of guy”. I work with a bunch of 20 somethings  every week who are like family to me so they get the awkward guy part and accept me for who I beeez, which is awesome. But in a new setting, it can be off-putting…which is even worse when you know it! So I get dressed (tried to hard to be hip…Wifey thought I looked…how do you say “less manly” without offending someone who accidentally googles ‘Chris Chase Girly Man’?), get on a school bus, memorize 24 names and get over my internal fear of embarrassing myself.

When we get downtown, I connected with some of the students who I already knew over The Office and Simpsons references (it IS a pop culture class…) while waiting in line for Great Expectations. Around high buildings.

Filled with birds.

And as we walk into the theatre, my body feels several droplets of what I thought was water on my chest and arms.

And my face.

Then I heard gasps and some laughs. And I smelt what I can only describe as Liam after eating prunes.

Yup…from above I was crapped on. By a bird.

I imagine it had been following us from Ajax, waiting to hurt one of us with its deadly dangers of poop. And it struck me with such force that I smelled bad. And was terribly embarrassed.

Yet, the poop was a great ice breaker for me…I didn’t have to worry about being cool, because I was crapped on. I didn’t have to worry about what I was wearing, because I was crapped on. I could be me. With no worries. AND it missed the beard by this much!

What a gift. What a crappy “crappy” gift!

#seewhatIdidthere?

If you have a similar story, I’d love to have some dialogue with you on it. Leave a comment OR email me at cchase101@gmail.com. We’ve all got a story, so let’s share them. Also, feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the “subscribe me” button. Thanks – Chase