My Top Ten Favorite Things About Being a Dad

boysI don’t throw around the word often, but I am truly blessed to be a father to my two amazing sons. I have learned so much from them over the years, about the world, about myself, and about what being a daddy is all about. I’m a member of a writing group that does a “Top Ten Tuesday” every week, so I figured I’d write a quick one this week seeing as though I’m not writing a book at the moment!

10. The things I find myself having to say. “Stop peeing on your brother”, “Your brother is not a pretty princess, he’s a sparkling rainbow pony, get it right”, “Get your fork out of his ear”, “We don’t throw Batman, now go pick that up”… the list goes on.

9. Seeing the world through their eyes. I feel like I’m rediscovering the world every day. The questions they ask about what I think of as everyday mundane tasks force me to re-examine the world constantly.

8. Having permission to be silly. Weather is making up none sensical stories, talking in made up words, or running around the house as Batman and Wolverine battling the Decepticons (kids don’t care about crossover in their comic book universe), running around and being silly with them is one of my favorite things to do.

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My little ninja enjoying his morning coffee and watermelon… he actually has a superman costume on UNDER the ninja suit… the boy loves dress up.

7. Watching them play together. With two boys so close in age (20 months apart) it was very tough when they were really little and had very different needs, but those tough times were so worth it to see them play together now. They’re little best friends. I get so much enjoyment out of watching them use their imaginations together, build things together, or work together on a game or a puzzle. Most of all, I love watching them play dress up.

6. Listening in on their conversations. Whenever they’ve been separated for any length of time, when we get back together one always turns to the other and says, “How was your day?” and they have an actual conversation about their day… it’s like they’re people or something?!

5. The singing. They both love music. My wife and I are very musical people, so I guess it’s just in the genes. They generally listen to our music, not kids music, and they know all the words for good or bad. My 3 year old’s favorite song right now is an Alan Doyle tune that starts, “Whiskey, whiskey“… as long as he doesn’t walk around singing it too loud at preschool, we’re OK (fun song by the way). My oldest almost never stops humming or singing. Sometimes it does get on my nerves, but I still love it.

4. Seeing them eat food that I’ve made for them, and enjoy it. My Italian grandmother loved to feed us, stereotypes rarely disappoint when it comes to Italians. I never understood it growing up. Why did she want me to be fat? I get it now. My oldest goes wild for my homemade bread, my little guy loves… well… he loves to eat just about anything. If I made it and they love eating it, I get so much joy out of that. I wish I knew why. It’s got to be some type of survival thing embedded in our DNA I guess.

3. The drawings. My oldest loves to draw. One day a couple of weeks ago I pulled a bunch of papers out of his backpack that he had brought home from school. Going through them, there were at least 3 or 4 drawings of a little stick figure daddy and little stick figure Jake holding hands. It melts me every time.

2. Snuggle Time! Whether it’s watching a movie, or crawling into bed with us in the morning, our boys are big time snugglers and so is their dad. Nothing better than a nice warm kid to keep you cozy on those cold New England nights.

1. Their excitement to see me. I’m very lucky in that I’m “Mr. Mom” and spend most of my days with them. We do have times when we don’t see each other though. When I walk into the house and they jump up, scream, “Daddy!” and run to tackle me – that’s just the best feeling in the world.

 

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Stop Saying You’re Not A Real Runner!

For those who don’t know my story, I’ll sum it up very quickly.  5 years ago I was a cupcake away from 300 lbs, and a double bacon cheeseburger shy of a heart attack.  I couldn’t walk a mile.  Today I weigh 192, and that is the result of many years of healthy eating and exercise.  Mainly running.  Today I killed my personal 10k time at 9:26/mile.

I’ve always said, “I’m not a real runner.”  Why?  Because when I started, a 16 minute mile was a joke – I’d be lucky to get it done in 20.

I continued training, and got better.  I hit the 12 minute mark, “I’m still not a real runner.  Real runners have ten minute miles at worst.”

I continued training, got better, and easily hit the 10 minute mark time and time again.  “I’m not a real runner.  Look at all the people that came in before me in 5k I just ran!”

I keep training, I get better, I’m regularly in the 9’s, “Nope, still not a real runner.”

I keep training, push myself hard, regularly hit the 8’s, “I’m not a real runner.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

Here’s the thing I can tell you from my experience.  I feel no more like a real runner hitting my 8 minute times than I did when I was doing my 16 minute times.

So my advice to you is to embrace it and declare that you ARE a real runner!  Do you put on some running clothes, a pair of sneakers and hit the pavement?  Do you sweat, and push yourself hard because you want to be healthy and in better shape?  Do you go out, have a terrible run, have to walk most of the time, finish feeling defeated – BUT you lace up and do it again a couple days later because damn it I’m going to get better!

You do!  So guess what, you ARE a real runner, and whether you’re the slowest one of your group of friends, the fastest, finish middle of the pack in your local 5k, or finish dead last, YOU ARE A RUNNER!

Wear it with pride, and start now!  Because I can tell you from experience, you can lose 100+ lbs, you can go from not being able to walk a mile in a half hour to easily running 3 miles in that time, and you will feel no more like a real runner than you did at the beginning until you embrace what you do for what it is.

So what are you waiting for?  Go lace up and hit the pavement!

 

I’m Dave, a novelist, Mr. Mom, husband, son, office worker, and guy who has struggled with weight for 20 years.  If you like what you read, go ahead and use the links on the right over there to follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and drop me a line!  I love hearing from readers.  Hope you enjoy, and happy reading!

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Daddy, why are your eyes leaking?

When I was in the market for a new messenger bag, I decided on the same one that’s used by Jack Bauer in the Fox series 24 – it was my choice in bag solely for that reason.  It’s the same army combat tested bag that Jack uses… I’m so cool, right?!  

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My supercool bag, showing off with Jack

The cargo however is a far cry from what Jack carries with him.  Mine is filled with pull-ups and wipes, goldfish, hand sanitizer, a first aid kit, juice boxes, a copy of Siblings Without Rivalry to read in my spare moments, and anything else I might need to take on the world as a Mr. Mom.

I’m no tough guy like Jack.

So I was surprised at an interaction with my son this past weekend when our cat died.  While he was part of our home for 12 years, I’m not the biggest fan of cats in general, and while he was pretty cool – as far as cats go – he was old and very sick, and I wasn’t devastated.  But my son was.

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JJ and Quag’s – buddies since my little guy was a baby.

When I sat him down to telll him that Quagmire (our cat) had died, he screamed and bawled his eyes out.  I held him tight, and found a couple of tears running down my own cheeks as well.  I was of course sad about the cat, but what really had touched me was how upset my son was.

When he finally calmed down and pulled away, his own cheeks completely soaked with the tears still flowing from his little blue eyes, he looked at me and said, “Daddy, why are your eyes leaking?”

I was caught off guard when I realized that in 5 years he had never seen me cry.  Like I said, I’m not a “tough guy”, I don’t intentionally hide my emotions from my kids.  But as emotionally open and enlightened as I think I am, I had never let him see that side of me, and didn’t even realize it.  I’d venture to guess that many dads fall into this same category.

So I guess it was a double learning experience for him.  It was his first real experience with death.  While it wasn’t a person it was an adored pet that he loved dearly and it was still a profound loss for him.  But he also learned that daddy can get super sad and shed a tear or two as well.

I’m not suggesting all the dads make it a point to go home and weep in front of their kids, but I don’t think it’s something that needs to consciously be kept a secret.  Given the occasion and the reason, my little man seems no worse for the wear from it.

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It always seems impossible until it’s done

Today I find myself in the enviable position of being alone, which is a rare occasion for me.  Both kids went to pre-school today, and wifey is working.  What have I done with this precious alone time?  I ran 10k this morning… this hot and humid New England morning… and I did it for fun.

I passed a guy on my run this morning.  I had never met him before, but I knew him well.  He was really overweight, gut hanging over his belt line and out of his shirt.  His jogging pace was about the pace of my brisk walk.  Sweat poured down the sides of his face, which was beet red to match his shirt.  His breath came in wheezy gasps.

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Me, about 5 years and 100 lbs ago.

Oh ya, I knew this guy.  I was that guy five years ago.

I said a chipper, “Good morning,” and waved as I do with everyone I see when heading out on a run.  Staring down at the ground, he grunted, and I trotted past him and along my way.

I thought of a quote I read on a roadside sign yesterday, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

I’m going to tell you a very small part of a long story.  It’s a story I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone in it’s entirety.  Five years ago, my wife was six months pregnant with our first child, and I had the realization that I’m not just going to be a dad.  I’m going to be the fat dad.  At just shy of 300 pounds, I needed to take a break after 20 minutes of mowing the lawn.  It was an effort to climb a flight of stairs, and I would be out of breath by the time I got to the top.

I had been a fat guy for my entire adult life to that point, it was nothing new.  Sure, I’d lost a few pounds now and then – most notably for my wedding – only to gain it back with interest.

I looked in the mirror one day and said, this will not be the example that my son follows.  He will not be the kid who gets made fun of for having a fat daddy.  I want to run around with him on a soccer field.  I want to be there for him as long as I can.  But every time I sit down to eat a bacon double cheeseburger I wonder, Will this be the meal where I leave on a stretcher after my first heart attack?

I had to make a change, so I decided that day to go for a jog.  “I’ll go a mile,” I said to myself.  I can do that.

Gasping for air, legs on fire, heart in my throat, I all but collapsed onto the curb.

I looked behind me.  I had gone maybe 500 feet.  Not even the length of two football fields.  This is impossible.

I had, to that point, spent my whole life being told that I could not be too active because I have exercise induced asthma.  It was easy to buy into this, given that sitting on the couch with a box of Cheez-its is much easier than exercising.  The easy decision that day would have been to turn around, walk home, order a pizza and fire up the XBox.  But something made me look ahead.

I got up off the curb and started walking, not towards home, but away.  “I’m doing this mile.”

I walked, I jogged, I sat on the side of the street more than once trying not to throw up, but forty minutes later I had done my mile.  I paid for it, for days, but I did it.  That was 5 years ago, almost to the day.

Getting back to my run this morning, finishing my 10k loop, I passed the guy again.  He was struggling, but still at it.  Again, as I do with everyone I pass on the way back in from a run, I waved and said, “Have a good one.”

He didn’t stare down at the ground and grunt this time.  He looked up and smiled, and gave me a thumbs up.  I said, “Alright!” gave him a nod, and continued on.

I finished my run and checked my time, an average 10:16 per mile.  Not my best 10k time, but pretty good for such a hot and humid day.  I thought about how far I have come since my first try at a jog.  There’s obviously a ton that’s happened between that day and this morning, and I’ll write about it at some point, but having seen myself 5 years ago, and then looking at where I am today, that road side quote came back to me again:

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  

Isn’t that the truth.

I’m Dave, a novelist, Mr. Mom, husband, son, office worker, and guy who has struggled with weight for 20 years.  If you like what you read, go ahead and use the links on the right over there to follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and drop me a line!  I love hearing from readers.  Hope you enjoy, and happy reading!

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The Secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time.

The lyric goes, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.  Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it” Oh James Taylor, you’re so smart… if only it were that easy though!

As my two boys are getting bigger and developing more personality, one thing stands out to me: they love living life.  They’re such happy little guys.  Sure, they don’t have two kids, a mortgage, a couple of jobs, and other responsibilities and stresses to bring them down.  What’s not to enjoy?

I think it’s bigger than that though… or maybe more simple… either way, James Taylor has got it right.  Their secret is that they simply enjoy the passage of time.  They’re able to live in the moment without worrying about what happened yesterday, what’s happening later today, and what’s going to happen tomorrow.

I think it also helps that they generally have no concept of time.  I remember the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever taken.  Me and a buddy took the camper to the beach for a week.  When we arrived we took off our watches, and being 15+ years ago, we had no cell phones or any other way to track the time.  We spent the entire week not knowing or caring what time it was, or having to worry about being any place at any certain time.  We woke when we woke, ate when we ate, and slept when we slept.  We simply enjoyed the passage of time, and it was probably the most relaxed I’ve been in my adult life. 

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My buddy Rob, myself, and the Free Spirit Cub camper on the most relaxing vacation of my life

Certainly it’s unrealistic to think that I could live my life that way.  When I’m at work there are often times when I’m in and out of various meetings for hours at a time.  Without paying attention to the time, I would be doing quite a disservice to the folks I work with.  When I’m taking care of the boys during the day, I do need to keep an eye toward naptime, and lunch time, or I would pay the consequences, don’t I?  But maybe I can find moments during the day to simply enjoy the passage of time like my kids.
On shifts where I don’t have meetings or other obligations, I could avoid looking at the clock.  It’s not like the end of the night is going to come and go and I’ll forget to go home.  Eventually everyone will be leaving and maintenance will come around with the vacuum.  On days where the boys and I are just hanging out at the house, I’ll avoid checking the clock every twenty minutes.  It’s not like I’ll miss the tell tale signals that they’re starting to get hungry for lunch, and sleepy for nap.

I think this is a case of something that our kids can teach us, instead of the other way around.  I’m not saying to amble through life like a three year old.  That would be irresponsible.

Sure my toddler may throw a fit if it’s nap time and he doesn’t want to take a nap, but he doesn’t let the anticipation of it ruin his morning.  Likewise, once he realizes his nap is an inevitability, he calms down and gets over it.  He lives in the moment, enjoys the good times, and deals with the bad times when they come along.  God bless him, I wish it came to me that easy.

So try to learn a lesson from your kids, and James Taylor, and just enjoy the passage of time.

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Author Q & A on Past Sins

Thanks for all the great questions.  I can’t believe it’s only four days until ESCAPE, Past Sins is released!  Let’s dive right in...

What’s different about the second book?  

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ESCAPE, Past Sins – Available March 20th through Amazon in Paperback and Kindle eBook

The second book is very different from the first, and similar at the same time.  I didn’t want to just rehash the story, have them go back to the island, etc.  I wanted a fresh new adventure for Abby, but I also wanted to keep the fast pace and twists and turns of the first book.  I think I did a good job of that, and the feedback so far has been very positive, so hopefully you’ll agree.

Where does this one take place?  Do they just go back to the island?

I don’t want to give away any spoilers.  This one starts out almost right where the epilogue left off in the last book, so they do spend some time in their tropical paradise.  However there is quite a bit of travel, as would be indicated on the back cover that references their journey halfway across the world.  It is an adventure, that much is certain.

I loved Robert, please tell me he comes back in this one!

Yes, Robert is back.  Almost every character that was left alive at the end of the first book shows up at some point.  A careful reader, especially one who just recently read the first book, will even recognize some seemingly minor characters that play a larger role this time around.

Does Abby get her memory back?  Will we find out about her past?

Again, no spoilers, however the back of the book says she does, so the cat is out of the bag on that one.  That in itself is an adventure.  And yes, we do learn all about her past.  She has lead a very interesting life to get to where she is now.  Some of you may have even more respect for her, and some may not.  If nothing else, you will see her in a different light than book one.

How many more ESCAPE books are planned?  Please tell me this isn’t the last one!

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My wife says that because I have a hat on in my Facebook pic, everyone will think I’m bald.  So here you go, question answered, I’ve got hair… it’s thinning, but still there.

This is not the last one.  I originally planned the series as a trilogy, and book three is already in the outline phase.  That being said there are some interesting characters that we meet in book two, and I would love to explore their lives and stories in another series.  While I only have one more ESCAPE book planned, I do have outlines for two more projects, and story ideas for another series.  If you enjoy my writing, which I sincerely hope you do, there is plenty more to come so don’t worry about that!

What was different about writing the second book, as opposed to the first?

The major thing that jumps out at me is how quickly it came together.  The first one took several years from idea, to outline, and by the end was an altogether completely different story than I had intended.  This one, while the ideas and outline were bouncing around in my head for some time, came together in about 8 months from the first day I put pen to paper, to the final draft.

I also added an extra step and had two specific proofreaders pick through the manuscript once it was complete.  The only real negative feedback I got on the first book was about spelling errors.  I’m sure there are still some in this book, but hopefully we’ve eradicated most of them.

How excited are you to release your second book?

Very!  But I’m also a ball of nerves!  The first book went out, and aside from a few friends who I told about it, no one knew about it, or had any expectations at all.  Neither did I.  I’m no Dan Brown or anything, but there are over 50,000 copies of A New Life out there which has exceeded my wildest expectations.  Many people have written to me to say how much they liked it, and left very positive reviews on Amazon.  All of these people are now expecting the sequel to be good too!  That’s a ton of pressure!  I think Past Sins it‘s a really good solid story, and I’ve had good feedback from everyone who has read it to this point, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t  still nervous to release it.

What do you do for fun, besides write?

I love time with my family.  My wife and I work split shifts, so we don’t see each other that often, but that affords me the luxury to be a “Mr. Mom” all day with my two boys.  We love to play music, and go for hikes.  Any time I can spend in nature is a good time.  I look forward all year to “man-weekend” when me and some friends disappear to a cabin in the middle of the woods for a few days to get some R&R.  Oh, and I’m also a complete Disney fanatic… this is a fairly new thing… I guess it’s what happens when you have kids!

Thanks again for all the great questions – if any more come up send them my way!  Happy reading! – Dave

ESCAPE, Past Sins

Available March 20th through Amazon in Paperback and Kindle eBook!

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What if I don’t have a Kindle?

I’ve already heard it.  “Why are you only publishing to Kindle eBook, I have a Nook!”  My answer is that I would love to publish to Nook, and Kobo, iBooks, Sony eReaders, etc.  And I will be in the near future.  But there is a method to my madness.   question-mark

You see, Amazon is where independently published authors thrive.  As a consumer, when you hop on Amazon to look for books, I’m sure you’ve noticed they give you suggestions.  The same is true for the other eBook stores as well, however there is a major difference between Amazon and all the rest.  When you see those suggestions from Amazon, they are based on your buying habits and the past books that you have purchased, and Amazon is going to fill that suggestion space with the book that the consumer is most likely to purchase.  

It does not matter if you are Dan Brown and have sold 200 million books, or Dave Antocci and have sold 200 books.  If Amazon looks at your buying habits and determines that you would be more likely to purchase Dave Antocci’s book, that is the book they are going to put in that space.  It is a truely level playing field on the Amazon platform.

Barnes & Noble and all the rest still operate like a brick and mortar book store that have the tables of new releases from big publishing houses at the front of the store, and the independent authors buried on the shelves.  As I understand it, their suggested books space is bought by the publishing houses, so they are going to hit you in the face with Dan Brown until you buy it.  (Let me say, I’m not picking on Dan Brown.  He is one of my favorite authors, I have read every book he’s ever published, and I would love to achieve even a fraction of the success that he has had.  He has worked hard to get where he is, and kudos to him!  But I digress.)

For this reason, it is near impossible for a new independent author to gain a foothold in those eBook stores.  

So Dave, why not make them available anyway, so the people who do know about you can buy them?

The reason goes back to Amazon.  By giving Amazon exclusivity to the eBook distribution, they in turn give me some great tools to help market the book.  So as a brand new author, the advantages in being exclusive to Amazon far outweigh the sales missed through the other outlets.  The good news is that their exclusive distribution rights run out in 90 days, so in October ESCAPE will be available on Nook, Kobo, and everywhere else!  For now, if you have a Nook (like my wife) or other device, I am sorry – but you can always buy the paperback!  

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My Secret Project

secret facebook groupsOh man – it feels so good to finally let the cat out of the bag!  I have been working on this novel for about two years, and really working on it in earnest for many hours every single day for the past seven months… and I barely told a soul!  I told my wife just a few months ago, and around the same time told a select few other folks who have been helping me with various things, otherwise no one knew!

Every morning when I woke up before the rest of the house, every day the kids went down for a nap, every night when I got home from work, I fired up the laptop and got to writing.  I have not taken the time to watch a television show in months.  Do you know how hard it is to dedicate so much of your life to something and never talk about it to anyone?  Why on earth would I do such a thing?

I guess I’m not 100% positive on the answer to that.  When I was in the writing process, part of me was worried that I would stall out.  I would run out of time, run out of energy, or would be besieged by a severe case of writers block.  I hated the thought of telling people that I was working on a project only to have it fizzle out.  Once the first draft was written, I moved on from worrying that I wouldn’t get it done, to worrying that it was terrible and I would never want it to see the light of day!  It took a lot to get past that.writersblock

At this point, the manuscript is on it’s 6th draft, it has been through several rounds of test reading, and has been picked apart by editors, yet it is still terrifying to put it out there.  I came to the conclusion that self-doubt is part of the process, and it’s time to get over that and put it on the line.

So now the cat is out of the bag.  I wrote a novel!  And it’s being published!  If you are someone I see in everyday life, trust me, I’ve nearly blurted this out to you on many occasions, especially in the last month or so when it has been going through the final stages with my editor.  I’m a pretty open person, and hiding such a huge undertaking was tough, so I’m glad that I’m not anymore.  I can’t wait for you to read it, and I truely hope that you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it!   And please – tell your friends!

– Dave

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