Finding strength in the moment

I stood there and watched, my heart barely beating in my chest. Her little legs stepping up onto the box. Amazed with her graceful, surefootedness, not showing a sign of the weight she was bearing. The once vibrant, now muted from use, frock covered most of her little body. Heavy with the lead inside, but undeterred by the little body under it. She silently listened to the instructions.

“Place your hands here”

“Move you head here”

“Bite down like it is a cookie”

She complied with them all. From my vantage, standing in the doorway, I could see the wild inside of her being quelled. Self-restraint. Such a strange thing to see in a five year old. But then again, she has been full of surprises since the moment she was born.

In a flurry the staff exited the room. Stoically she stood there. Her hands exactly where she was told to leave them. Frozen in that moment. The small room looked so much bigger then it was just a second ago. Just outside the threshold my body remained still and imposing. But my heart, it was in that room with her.

“I am right here, you are doing so good, I am so proud of you my little one.”

I spoke to her in my calm, metered tone. She smiled, just a little as to not hold her position. But that smile, it was for me. She knew that I could see it. Then, a moment later there was a whirring sound. The device began to move slowly around her head. Then there was… the cry.

“Daddy! No!”

I could hear the fear, and it tore through me. My heart lurched as it began to beat again. Adrenaline flushing through my veins with a fiery burn. The attendants shut off the panoramic x-ray machine and I rushed to her. She jumped into my arms, the added weight of the lead vest being only an afterthought. The smile gone from her face she held me tightly, I could feel the tears soaking though my shirt, into my soul.

She tried to be brave.

For her entire life my daughter, Zoey, has been showing the world how strong and brave she is. She has not had a choice in the matter. But being so little, and having a machine move around her head was too much. Heck, even I hate those things. But, it is also in this moment that she showed be what she does best.

Finding strength in the moment

While the x-rays did not happen the way that the doctors had hoped, something amazing happened in that room. My daughter fought all that was in her, casting aside every reasonable fear. She stood on that box, and she listened. In that moment, she dug deep and found her own strength. Perhaps she knew that it was in her, perhaps she did not.

In addition to this, she has, yet again, helped me find strength as well. It is a daunting task, this role as a parent. Further complicated by things such as Craniosynostosis, it is a real struggle some days. The worry and fears that I have about what the future will be like for her is, well, there have been many sleepless nights.

It is an odd thing to be in a position that my daughter is showing me that I can be stronger than I think. But it is reassuring that she is going to do so well in life, digging deep, and finding strength in each moment.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    A dad’s thoughts on what happened yesterday.

    It is not just a gun issue.

    It is not just a mental health issue.

    It is not just a faith issue.

    It is not just an immigration, rights, society, freedom, security, constitutional issue.

    It is not a love, hate, indifference, compassion, community, education issue.

    It is not just a family issue.

    It is all of these, and scores more. We’ve reached a state in our society that would newsbreaks of children being killed it becomes a headline and not a moment of sorrow . More and more frequently parents are having to worry about what’s going to happen with their child when they send them away from their home.

    As a dad, when I watch the news, I am terrified about the world that my children are growing up in. It is my job to raise them, it is my job to protect them. It is my job to teach them what is right. It is my job just show them love, compassion, understanding, and safety.

    As a dad, it is time that I voice the fact that all dads out there, in fact all parents, need to own this.

    As a dad, I need to do better. Not just for my children and their future. Look for yours as well.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    Building the Bridge

    So, just to make sure we are all on the same page, let’s recap. I have realized that there is something that is stirring in me. There is a change that I need to make to get back to my roots. That I have realized that I let my daughters Craniosynostosis identify me as a dad. I want to add to this that there is NOTHING wrong with this. That is why my identity is not changing. I am not casting off the moniker of Cranio Dad, and I doubt I ever will.

    This change will be a recovery of divergence, wherein I will focus back on my original goal of answering the all-important question: “What does it take to be a great dad”. Moving down the path that I have carved, I want to gain better sight to all the parts of this question that I have gleaned. Continuing to blaze a trail while working on building a bridge to the louder voices. Tired of yelling into the wind, I need to bring all that I have learned into the fray.

    The Big Reveal

    By the time you read this, I will have launched a new site, Fatherly Fieldnotes. This will be a place that I will be pouring all of my focus into answering that nagging question. Moments of insight, uplifting tales, heartbreaking failures. I want to take my unique voice and tell a better story for other parents out there.

    I am harkening back to a former life, when anthropology was the direction that I KNEW my life was heading. I will be taking the approach of being an anthropologist embedded with a tribe or locals. Those locals are my children. I want to expose all the things that I do to try to prepare them for the world that they live in. Further, and this is the biggest realization, I want to show all the things that these local savages (hey, I am their dad, I can call them that) are teaching me about what it takes to be a great dad.

    I do not know what this journey will bring, but I know that it is going to be an amazing trip. So, when you have the time, check out my other blog. It is young, with little detail. But I will be working hard to make it grow. You can also follow my page on facebook. I will still be posting here. This will be my place to talk about just being a cranio dad, and cranio family. But, I will be striving for good, meaningful and (hopfully) hilarious content over on Fatherly Fieldnotes.

    So, if you would like, head on over to Fatherly Fieldnotes and join me on this adventure.

    While you are at it, follow on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

    I Will Carry You: By Angie and Todd Smith. A Review. Book 6 of 52

    I knew that I would be experiencing some roller-coasters during this reading challenge. Still on a high from ‘Crash the Chatterbox’ this one hit me. It hit so hard that I had to visit some places in my heart and mind that I have left barren for some time now. “I Will Carry You” is a breathtakingly raw look into dealing with life after loss. Not just any loss, the compounding and exhausting emotions around carrying a child that was found to be ‘incompatible with life’.

    This book raised to the surface things that I, purposefully, have ceased any conversation on since my daughter, Zoey, was born. Many, many nights this week were spent crying in the dark, reliving my own losses. From a lifetime ago, the pain still exists. I am not going to lie, it wrecked me a little.

    Okay, a lot.

    But Angie and Todd Smith have a quote about dealing with the loss that I think that so MANY out there need to know.  For countless parents out there, working through a miscarriage or stillbirth will leave your lives scrambled, hearts broken, and faith shaken. I know that I felt abandoned by God for a long time. It did not stop me from reaching out, but the thought was always there. Anyway, the quote (as I am running out of my word limit):

    “..all the while He is just waiting for the time that is right. He hasn’t forgotten, nor has he abandoned us.”

    Folks, the long and short of it is this. This kind of loss, it is devastating. You must know that you are not alone in what you feel, what you are going through. But that does not mean that it is not unique. Or, that it is any easier. I think that there is a post building in me about this. Though I am not sure if it will ever come to view. Regardless, if you are in this moment, dealing with this, know that you are not alone. Know that there are many out there that understand that the pain you feel, will never go away. But, we have found some ways to make it hurt a little less from time to time.

    “I Will Carry You” By Angie and Todd Smith is a MUST read, for everyone. Weather you have experienced loss or not, read it. Without a doubt 5 out of 5. Very, very emotionally hard to get through, but happy to own, and will read again.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Recovery of divergence

      So, on the heels of the realization from the previous post, that I had let my focus of fatherhood be consumed by my beautiful daughter’s medical condition, I am left staring at the chasm. Where I am standing is where I am now. Across the way is where I want to be. Between the two is a partially built, yet nearly forgotten bridge.

      There is an importance in what I have been doing as Cranio Dad. Bringing the perspective as a man, a father, that has knelt before God and screamed for Him to help his daughter. To transfer the pain that she must be feeling to himself, because as her dad he can take it. Who has journeyed to hell, stared the devil in the eyes, and watched him blink. Having watched my boys on their journey to manhood. Being perched on the precipice of social media, and social change, having spent so long screaming into the wind that my own words have fallen on my deaf ears. A recovery of divergence is needed. But, in my wake, I bring all that I have learned with me.

      Trust me, Cranio Dad is here to stay. I have worked too hard for far too long to change that up. If anything, it will help with what I see as the next phase.

      Getting to the “Other Side”

      Remember the analogy of the chasm and the bridge that I mentioned in the last post? Well, that bridge is this amazing group of dad bloggers that I am proud to call my friends. I see a sea of voices that are working hard to lift each other up, promote change, and look forward. It is an awesome group. For the entire time that I have been blogging my voice has been off to the side of what them. I keep hearing that I am ‘ridiculously micro-niched’. There have been moments of praise for some of the writing that I have done, and they expand it to their audience. These things have been a huge part of who I am, as a blogger. But now, it is time to bring my voice into the fray. Not to get lost in the sea of voices that already exists, but to bring my own, deep resonant voice, and particular viewpoint into the mix.

      In the coming days I will be announcing the step that I am taking to make this happen. Not intentionally stringing you all along. I am a dad with 3.5 kids, recovering from the worst sinus infection that I have had in years, and life is life. Bear with me, and keep your eyes open. You will not want to miss this.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Something is Stirring

      Perhaps it is because I had to experience the awesomeness of #dad2summit through the lens of my cellphone instead of through my eyes.

      Then again, there was so much to unpack from “Crash the Chatterbox” which I just finished reading for my 2018 reading challenge.

      It could be stemming from preparing to add #4 to our brood in a few months.

      Or that our oldest, and only daughter, is turning six years old even sooner than that.

      But something is stirring. Something deep. Its rawness is sharp and its weight is heavy.

      It all stems from this quote from Steven Furtick in the aforementioned book “Crash the Chatterbox”:

      “Every second you spend wishing God would take away a struggle is a forfeited opportunity to overcome”

      But, what is the struggle that I am talking about? Better, which one from the endless list of shortcomings or pain points does this have to do with? I could marinate on these two questions. Dear readers, you know me. I could launch into a winding torrent of a diatribe as I dabble with it all. But, this time. I am not. The answer is too clear for me to use that tactic this time.


      The way that I see it, I started down this road on a mission. I wanted to ask the questions, and find the answers about what makes a great dad. Then, all of a sudden, the picture perfect dream of fatherhood was upended. Shattered as I spent my daughters first few days in the NICU. Listening to monitors, researching Craniosynostosis, and getting involved in lengthy and weighted conversations about what my daughter’s future may look like. These things drown out the pictures and images that I had already formed. Hiding the voice that I had harbored for so long.

      Somehow I missed something. I have been saying it all along and I never applied it. I let my daughter’s condition define me as a dad. NEVER, EVER have I let it define her. But it is who I am. I know more than most doctors and pediatricians about her condition, and the countless variants. I can speak for days about what the surgeries are like, what we have been through, and how amazing my daughter is. Time and time again I have said how thankful that I am to be found worthy of being called “daddy” to such an amazing little girl. But I let my focus of fatherhood be consumed by her condition.

      It is becoming more and more clear that I need to enact a change. I feel like I know what the next few steps are. Nervous and excited I have already started working on them.

      I have more to say on this, but I am actively putting things together to make it all make sense. Stay tuned over the coming days for something awesome.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Crash the Chatterbox: By Steven Furtick. A Review. Book 5-52

      On the heels of finishing “The Giver” quartet I dove into “Crash the Chatterbox” by Steven Furtick. I know of the author, as my beloved bride and I watch some of his sermons from time to time. But, I really was not ready for what this book stirred in me. This is what excited me the most about this book.

      There is so much that Furtick hits you with, from the start of the book. Heavy, heavy stuff. But this is displaced with fairly transparent views into how the very topic that he is asking you to think about has affected him. But that, in no way, made them less challenging. There is one quote that has been sticking with me since I read it.

      “Every second you spend wishing God would take away a struggle is a forfeited opportunity to overcome”.

      As a dad, there have been so many times that I have wondered about some of the struggles in raising children. We all have them. Some of us write about them, others do not. However, being a cranio dad. Man, let me tell you. The times that I have been on my knees crying and screaming at God are countless. Begging to take on the pain for my daughter, to have her get a break, to not have to go through whatever event we are going through. Man, my conversations with God are awesome.

      But, still reeling from the context of this book, something was made clear for me. Look for more on this topic in the days to come.

      All in all I would say 4.7 out of five.  Add it to your shelves and devote some time to what may come from reading this book.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

      Son: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 4-52

      After making great headway on the books I wanted to read this year, life became life. However, I finished “Son” on time. Having had a weekend to digest all that this tome entailed, and wanting to keep the momentum moving, here is my review.

      Gut wrenching heartache. Having the ability to read all four books of the quartet, back to back, has been astounding. “Son”, by far, the longest, takes some of the craziest turns out of the four book in “The Giver” quartet. I had heard from many that this book was highly favored in the series. Though I found the book to be amazing, I also found it harder to follow.

      There is such a departure from the rhythm. Trust me, I stay that knowing that based on what all is covered by “Son” that this departure was needed. Regardless, there were times that I had to re-read multiple chapters, listen to the audio again and again, all in an effort to make sure that the leaps the story was taken were intended.

      Still, it was a fantastic book. Not my favored in the series, least favored to be frank. But still a very good book. The arc that the protagonist takes is a wild and crazy ride. I found myself wanting to dive into the story and be there, to place my hand on their shoulder, out of comfort and guidance. Times that I was internally screaming for joy, and others that I was wracked with sorrow.

      But there is one thing that just irks me. One thing that I have had to read, re-read, and listen to multiple times. The conclusion. Things, all things, come together. The climax has been built, laid out, sullied, and then displayed for all. My heart was racing, pages were turning. Each word was being read with a sniper like accuracy. Then, in a flash, it was over. The end. Perhaps it is the quick ending of the entire saga why this is my least favorite book out of the four.

      Three and a half out of five stars is all that I can give. Pales in comparison to the books that preceded it, but still worthy of reading by all. I may come back and read it again later, just to see how my mind has changed.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

      Reading is challenging during the winter storm

      As I awoke yesterday to a fresh, white, blanket of snow, I knew what I was going to hear. “The Richmond offices are closed due to inclement weather” the voice echoed on the other end of the call. A flurry of texts ensued as I alerted my staff of this event. Wondrous thoughts of sitting by the fire and finishing my second book, perhaps starting my third, of my 2018 Reading Challenge lulled me back to sleep.

      Boy, did I sleep. I finally had a chance to get some rest. For the past few months I have been running at full speed, tilting all the windmills in my path. Perhaps it was the cold weather, the radiant views as the sun streaked across through the barren trees, but I relaxed. I rested. I woke up late. The kids were going outside to enjoy their snow day. Though, truth be told, snow days do not exist as a homeschooling family. Be that as it may, they were filled with excitement to run outside and dive into the snow that caused a day off. All one and a half inches of it.

      Having spent a better portion of my life in regions that truly understand snow, it was a little laughable. But, to have some time to relax, time with family, is always a blessing. We quickly made plans to clean, organize, and de-clutter. These are never ending tasks when you have three children ages five and under. I assure you that the hurricane that is them trying to ‘help’ clean is far worse than the snow that kept me home. But we did these things just the same.

      I watched them bounce up and down as we talked about snow, and smile chocolatey smiles as they had their hot coco. I handled the negotiations as to why I felt we would not be watching any more Christmas movies, even “Christmas Train” (or Polar Express as some of us call it), just because of the snow. They tried. It was adorable. But, it was an amazing day.

      Near the end of it I realized that I had lost the opportunity to read as I had intended. It was the end of the day, the kids were going to sleep, and I was just relishing in the relaxation that I received from this unexpected day. In the quiet of the night, while I soothed my youngest back to sleep (for the millionth time) I read a little. Happy, and content with my progress, I logged in at 50% complete on my second book. Slowly, still reflecting back to the cool weather, and the day off, I lulled myself back to sleep in preparation for the day to come.

      I hope to have a post on my thoughts on the first book, “The Giver”, sometime this weekend. Stay warm out there, and remember to take time to enjoy the unexpected gifts that are a snow day.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

        It snowed last night.

        I woke to a white capped winter wonderland, and a list of things to do. I smirked as my thoughts drifted to all those local residents who probably saw this is the apocalypse. I have to admit I felt a little shame as I realize I was relying on other people’s fear of this weather. However, knowing that this meant that I would have decent travel, I got up, donned my flannel shirt and jeans, and got out the door.

        As I walked my car I looked back and saw my children, wide-eyed with excitement, faces pressed against the glass of our front window. Every part of me that is a dad uttered a small prayer that they keep the wonderment that is the season. That they hold fast to the childlike joy that is all things winter. Playing in the snow, building snowmen, hanging Christmas lights, all of it.

        The peace of the open road, the sound of Beethoven softly playing over the radio, these are the moments. In astute reflection I paused as the red light glared at me. This season is so much more than just a cold winter’s holiday.

        I am reaching a height of purpose that I could not even ink out from the base where I started. My home is full of love, passion, understanding, and joy. This more than warms the heart. My job satisfaction is at an all-time high, even as I face new beginnings with my promotion. My faith has been continuously reassured with every struggle and victory. This season is good.

        These thoughts are juxtaposed with the view out my windshield. This is the weather that begs for our melancholy. The deep, dark gray skies cascading against the cool white snow. The ceaseless creaking as the wind blows through the snow laden boughs above. The shocking silence as even nature seeks respite against the cold.

        The light turns green. As my car navigates the barren road every second brings a beauty that negates the misanthropic thralls of my mind. I smile as I accelerate. Feeling all of the parts of me coalesce; dad, husband, and a little bit of lumberjack muddled in, as I own the road.

        Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.