Lowering the Bar: What Is a “Good Father” in Current Year?

It irks me when someone tells me “Oh, you’re such a good father!” when they see me out and about with my son. 

Do I have your attention? Good. 

I’m know I’m not the first to notice this. And I know I won’t be the last. 

Why does this bother me so?

Because all I do either in public or in private is the parent my son. 

That’s it. Really. 

  • I pay attention and interact with him, and not my phone. 
  • I try to bring him with me everywhere I can just so we can hang out and maybe learn something. 
  • I use situations as lessons when appropriate. 
  • I discipline him when necessary. 
  • I try not to leave it up to my wife to do everything. 

And most importantly:

  • I love the little bugger, and I love him fiercely. 

In 2017, apparently, a man being a parent is all it takes to be considered a good father. 

The bar had been set so low by forces outside of our control, everyone’s perception is completely screwed up.

I hung out at the pool with my son over the weekend, chilling with a guy who also lives in the building and his two kids that he obviously loves. 

Does spending time with our kids make us “good fathers,” or just fathers?  Continue reading “Lowering the Bar: What Is a “Good Father” in Current Year?”

Lessons from a Life


I know that most of my fellow Americans are gearing up for their Independence Day celebrations–which are important–but this time of year has a different meaning for my family.

It was around this time last year that my mother-in-law passed, just shy of her 57th birthday, after a nasty 10-month bout with the god of all sicknesses, cancer. We just had her one-year memorial service, which has overshadowed any Fourth of July-related activities. 

Even before she got sick, I spent a lot of time thinking about death and what it means, and I suppose her illness got me thinking about it more

But I don’t want to talk about death right now. I’d rather talk about life. And though I only knew my mother-in-law for nine years, they way she lived her life, and how she acted at its end, made a strong impression on me that I’ll never forget.

See the good. My mother-in-law, no matter what, has everyone the benefit of the doubt. Every person, no matter who or what they were, had a chance in her eyes. And if they did something to prove they weren’t worthy of her time or respect, she never acted maliciously towards them. Her attitude was “Everyone’s different, and everyone’s going through something.” So why waste your energy hating them, or letting them control your thoughts and emotions?

Party. My mother-in-law didn’t drink, but she was an incredibly vivacious person. And she loved having fun whenever the chance presented itself. Dancing, music, laughter…she was always the life of a party. As her and my father-in-law ran their own businesses, they worked very hard. But she never forgot that it was good to let loose and have fun with family and friends. 

Forgiveness. Even at the end, she forgave people who did them wrong. And let me tell you, she would confront people about things…but always in a respectful manner, from a place of love and of wanting to move past it. She took Church teaching on this very seriously. I think we’d all be better off if we did too.  Continue reading “Lessons from a Life”

Travels in Greece, Part III: Why It Matters

So why go on about my trip? What purpose does this have beyond sharing some photos and stories of a voyage to one of the most interesting countries in the world?

I think travel is good. It’s beneficial to anywhere new to you. It is especially good to get off of Planet America once in a while, not to bash the USA, but just to get some perspective about how people in other parts of the world live, act, and think.

See, America is a huge country. Which is great! And while there are regional differences–think New Hampshire versus Kentucky versus California (in a three-way fist-fight, my money is on the Bluegrass State), there is much more similarity between the states than there is between the U.S. and other countries.

Okay, you can argue that Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia are all quite similar, but you get my point.

Spending a length of time in another country makes you think about your home. I had some particularly interesting thoughts and feelings, given that I and my entire family is Greek, and so is my wife’s. I’ve written about the changing nature of America and what being an “American” even means anymore, This was underscored in Greece, which has a cultural cohesion we just don’t have in the United States.

It’s interesting, because the United States has historically been billed as “A Nation of Immigrants.”

Or has it? This is actually more of a modern conception. The first few great waves of immigration, including the one my family came to these shores during a century ago, were actually tightly controlled affairs. And the integration was not as smooth as we’re lead to believe.

And of course you have the African-American population, who were brought here as slaves and then, even after the abolition of the slave trade and then, finally, the institution of slavery, had difficulty integrating into the wider white-dominated society. And they were here from the founding!

So going to any monoethnic, monocultural nation is a bit of an eye opener.

And it was kind of nice! Being Greek in America, you don’t exactly stick out like a sore thumb, at least from a visual standpoint (though most people guess my ethnicity on the first or second try). But there are only about a million of us here, we are a minority religious denomination, and not everybody understands the glory of moussaka, souvalki, roasting lamb, pig, or goat on a spin, spanakopitabalkava, or bougatsa.

People in America do get gyros. But I digress.

Anyway, I liked being around people who got the food, the music, the dancing, the religious traditions, and all of the other cultural touchstones.

And it got me thinking . . . it’s good to keep places what makes them unique, that keep Greece Greek, Japan Japanese, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Egyptian, Brazil Brazilian, and so on.

We see this sentiment to a degree here among the states as well. “Keep Austin Weird” comes to mind. Or how New Yorkers want to keen New York NEW YORK. The South doesn’t like the Damn Yankees moving there. Some in Oregon and Washington claim that Californians irrevocably changed their states. Hell, people in New Hampshire get pissy when Massachusetts residents pack up shop and move to the Granite State.

How do you preserve these state cultures then? Discourage people from moving there? How?

It’s a weird thing, but it really makes you wonder. We like to believe in freedom of movement, but there are also issues of national sovereignty. Obviously, nations can do things that U.S. states cannot. But do they? Should they?

Tough questions, and interesting ones. Do I have any answers. Absolutely not. But travel just makes a guy think about these things.

Anyway, that’s why this whole experience is important. Not my experience. Just travel in general. I highly recommend that if you have a chance to visit a foreign country, you take it.

In my life I have been to Canada, England, Greece, Austria, Germany, and South Africa. Each have offered insights into not only my life, but my homeland of the United States. Each have been worthy experiences. I only wish I had the time and the resources to travel more.

Where would I like to go next? That’s an interesting question. There are places in the U.S. I am yet to see. I’ve spent time in most of the coastal South and parts of the Midwest. But I’ve never been to California outside of L.A., never seen the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or the rest of the mountain west.

As far as other countries, I definitely have a bucket list: Italy, Hungary, France, China, Japan, Australia, India, Egypt, Israel, and Russia come to mind. As you can see, I’m into places that have a lot of ancient history. Maybe I’ll make it to these places someday. And maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

But what I do know is that I’d love to go back to Greece again, and soon.

So now a little fun: Some of my favorite things about Ellada–that’s Greece in Greek-talk–and some things that I find a little . . . less-than stellar. Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part III: Why It Matters”

Travels in Greece, Part I: Setting the Scene

Travel has a way of putting things into perspective. There’s something about getting away from home for a while that allows one to look at home in a different way. 

I spent two weeks in Greece for a family wedding and some rest and relaxation. I didn’t even have Internet for that time, which let me tell you can reorient your thinking (in a good way).

Yet I know a lot of people enjoy it when returning travelers share photographs and all of that jazz. I’ve posted some photos on Instagram, so you can check that out if you’d like. What I can do here is provide a little more insight and hit some of the highlights of the trip. Later, I’ll write up more of an analysis, but for now, enjoy the pics. 

The Place

Village road. Mountains in the background.

We went to the small village in northern Greece where my wife’s parents are from. It’s idyllic, if a bit empty. This is because, given the lack of economic opportunity in Greece, so many have left for England, Germany, Australia, Canada, and yes, the United States, mostly LA or central Massachusetts. 

It’s a gorgeous spot near a massive lake called Kerkini. The lake stretches far and wide through the northwest section of the state of Serron; here, it’s ringed by olive tree groves planted along the mountainside. 

A stretch of Lake Kerkini.

The northern mountains mark the border with Bulgaria. There are some that are snowcapped year round, which is a rather majestic sight. 

The village is close to other, larger towns that have managed to avoid the depopulation blues plaguing it. One such village, where we have some family, could even be classified as “bustling”: There are coffee shops, restaurants, retailers, travel agents, attorneys, pharmacies, and an open-aid bazaar every Friday. 

A small part of the Friday bazaar.

And about a half-hour’s drive is the city of Serres, the capital of this particular state. Series is a sprawling city with no buildings taller than about six stories, but full of shops and restaurants and food merchants and lovely pedestrian-only areas; it’s very easy to spend the day just walking around with no particular plan. 


We spent a lot of time in the bigger towns and cities, as you can imagine, but the village, though empty, proved to be my son’s favorite place. 

Why? It had a playground. And even better, there tended to be kids there quite often. After siesta time, sure, but from 4:00 to 8:00, there were usually a dozen or so friendly children ready to play with my son, even though they spoke spotty English and him (and me) spotty Greek. 

There’s Nothing More Sad than a Run-down Playground  Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part I: Setting the Scene”

Working Stiff Blues

It began like any other work day. 

Dressed in my suit and tie, I grabbed my stuff and said goodbye to my family before I head out to greet the workday.

“Stay here daddy. I don’t want you to go to work. And I don’t want to go to school. Let’s play!”

“Believe me, kiddo, believe me: I don’t want to go to work either.”

The words pass almost unconsciously from my lips. After all, nobody wants to go to work. Work is bad, right?

Well, no. Work is necessary. Work equals survival. Without work, nothing ever would get done. We’d still all be hunter-gatherers and there would be no civilization to speak of, modern or otherwise.

Maybe one doesn’t like their job, maybe one doesn’t like being away from their family for so long, maybe one would rather be doing something else for work, but work itself is not the problem.

“All jobs suck.”

“That’s why they call it WORK.”

“No pain, no gain!”

These things are true. But is that what kids hear? Are they able to parse these truths from generic statements like “I don’t want to go to work”?

Kids are sponges. We all know that. It’s what made me stop saying this to my son. 

Maybe I’m paranoid, but I don’t want him to equate “work” in his little mind with “bad.” Because if I do, what’s going to happen whenever he has to work at something, especially something difficult? Continue reading “Working Stiff Blues”

Feeding the Perfection Beast

Today is February first. In addition to things like Black History Month, President’s Day, and whatever else is celebrated in February,* it also marks the beginning of the annual RPM Challenge

Think of the RPM Challenge as the musical equivalent of November’s National Novel Writing Month. The Challenge, which started in my home state of New Hampshire back in 2006 by local music magazine The Wire, is a call to record either 35 minutes or 10 tracks worth of new music in the month of February. 

It’s a lot of fun. Or would be, if I ever finished the challenge. 

Unlike National Novel Writing Month, which I accomplished this year, the several times I’ve began an RPM Challenge project, I never finished it. 

The one time I sort of did was in 2009 when I played bass on my brother’s album. He’s finished the challenge four or five times, now, maybe more. And he has more kids than I do. 

Me, I always petered out somewhere along the line, sometimes due to time restrictions, sometimes due to technical or equipment difficulties, but usually due to being my own worst enemy. 

You see, back when I had the music equipment and the space to record, I fell into the thrall of that dreaded monster perfection.

Perfection is one mean bastard. He gets into your head and makes you think you’re some kind of rock star when you’re really just a dude with a 9-to-5 and a hankering to pretend, just for a few hours here and there, that you’re something bigger than you really are. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

This is the difference between me and my brother: I let perfection play on my immaturity and narcissism. My brother, while only a year and some change older than me, got married, started a family, and finished school far younger than I did. 

In short, he grew up faster. 

He knew the value of time and realism. He didn’t dicker around with trying to get everything just right. No, he said to himself, and I’m making this up based on observations but bear with me, “There is something I want to do. If I do X, Y, and Z for this amount of time every day, I will accomplish what I set out to do.”

He had a goal, and a system to achieve that goal. 

Process and not perfection. 

In short, he went for it. 

Me, not so much.  Continue reading “Feeding the Perfection Beast”

Smaller Spaces

My long personal nightmare is over. After  over a year-and-a-half of living a dual existence, bouncing between New England and the Capital Region, driving 800+ miles per week and being away from my wife and son three out of the seven days, 2017 sees us all together 24/7. 

To say I am happy about this does my feelings no justice. 

Mentally and emotionally, I am at greater peace. 

Physically, I finally feel like my old self again, the high-energy guy who hardly slept and never took a minute off. 

I had thought I was getting old. It turns out that not sleeping, spending 16-20 hours in a car per week, and being separated from my family had deleterious effects. Who would have guessed?

So we are all back together, and there is much rejoicing. 

But an interesting thing has happened as we’ve gone from owning a house to renting a small apartment. And while the current living situation is temporary, I have discovered something very interesting:

I don’t miss having all of that space. 

I know, I know, I’ll get back to you after a year of this, if we’re still. And maybe the “honeymoon” of being reunited has worn off. 

But still, I find myself not missing all of the extra room a house brings. 

Of course, much of our stuff is still stored with family back north. And we are actively looking for a bigger, more permanent place. 

I can’t help but wonder about the so-called “American dream” of home-ownership. 

Owning a home is nice, and it’s great to have your own little piece of America, but consider this:

  • Unless you have the money to purchase it outright, you don’t really “own” your home. The bank does. 
  • Home ownership is another kind of debt. A huge one. 
  • Banks and other mortgage lending institutions do not care about you. 
  • We are pushed to view homes as “investments” rather than places to live, yet we’ve seen this “sure thing” burst quite severely before. Why won’t it again in the future?

And where I am now looking for a home, real estate prices are preposterous. 

Culturally, the “more and bigger” phenomenon is interesting. We want space; it becomes a status symbol

I view houses the way I view cars: Utilitarian things designed for heavy use that need to work for the individual, what other people think be damned. 

Maybe I’m just wired oddly. I don’t know. 

But the thrill of more is persists. Is it worth it to be housepoor, just so you can brag about your house? Continue reading “Smaller Spaces”