Thursday, March 4, 2021

I was on a podcast. Check that box.

When you’ve written a blog for as long as I have, there are several crowning moments.

Like the time I passed a guy in a stairwell and he looked at me and yelled, “RUDDYBITS!”

Or when I was in the local grocery store, and a mom who was friends with my sister came up and told me she enjoyed my blog. That was shortly after I’d written about my child barfing in that same store, so it caused mixed emotions.

Undoubtably, the top “accomplishments” that stand out for me over the past 9 (holy crap) years are getting to write for the Washington Post and that ski trip to Gore almost 5 years ago that a magazine actually paid me to write. I’d be remised to not also mention how my blog introduced me to the Dad 2.0 community and helped me make fatherhood friends from across the globe. That led to being a spotlight blogger at the 2019 conference and speaking in front a few hundred people more talented than me, which was a blast. Those are the “best ofs” from over the years, for sure.

But, a close second place – or third or fourth, but who’s counting – is getting to talk about this entire blogging experience, and how it ties into my fatherhood journey in general, on a Podcast launched by a couple friends.

The Men on Men Podcast tackles many of the same issues I always tried to, talking about things dads deal with in a humorous and thoughtful way. And in the latest episode, I spoke with the men about my time being the “frontline” parent and all the fun that ensued. I love this podcast and these guys and certainly hope you will give it a listen.

I was a guest on this podcast

I always joke that podcast are the new reading. Which they kind of are. People used to start a smart sentence with, “I read recently…”  Now people say, “I heard on a Podcast recently…”

This was the first time I was a guest on a podcast, and I proved my old self-deprecating adage that I write better than I speak. Still, it was enjoyable. One less thing on the bucket list.    

But it got me to thinking how I really haven’t written much lately. At least not here. It’s been a combination of busy at work, focused on Twitter, and lack of motivation due to the pandemic. You know, I don’t have a lot of regrets, but not writing more this past year is likely going to be one.

Then again, maybe I’m just done.

Maybe appearing on this podcast was the final act. The pinnacle. Or the last gasp.

This blog has served an essential purpose, it has helped me chronical the part of parenthood that turns into a total blur years later. And maybe someday, I’ll be able to look back at old posts and be like, “Oh yeah, remember when that happened,” about something I wouldn’t otherwise have remembered. (Actually, I did that yesterday).

But, the truth is, writing here doesn’t help the way it used to. I don’t hold out any hope that this is going to lead to a book contract. Or that I’m going to go viral with one of my barf stories and end up on Good Morning America, after which, of course, we’d be set for life.

And for some reason, self-publishing the intimated details of our daily adventure for free doesn’t give the endorphins it once did -- or provide the therapy I likely need. It was always kind of like being an artist who paints pictures and then hangs them down by the mailbox for passersby to glance at and say, that guy always was a bit odd. Slightly talented. But odd.

Frankly, with three teens in the home, my life isn’t the constant source of humor it once was. Now, it’s more like a slow-moving horror movie. And if I wrote about that. Well. It would be like the biopic of the suburban dad who descends into madness, but in blog form.

There are things I wish I'd written about but didn't: like school musicals or my pride at my daughter's involvement in the High School Improv Club. I went to a High School that had one room for the cafeteria, the auditorium and the gym. We didn't have an Improv Club. Or a school musical. Or a track team for that matter. So, I wish I'd written about that stuff.

This is starting to feel like that Facebook post where someone announces they’re signing off, while the rest of us just scroll by. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. And all the poster is really doing is yelling into the void.

And, who knows, maybe something will change inside of me and I’ll need this space again. It has been fun. And, if you do like it and are just discovering these posts, there’s 152 more – just enter a key word in the search bar on the right. You can start with a common term, like “poop.”

I’ve even been thinking lately about using this space to share some of the great recipes I’ve grown to depend on over my years in the family kitchen. Kind of a “Dad Can Cook” thing. We’ll see. It starting to sound like my trip to madness is complete. But why not. I’m no better a chef than I am a writer or a parent. And, a general lack of expertise seems to be my most endearing quality.

And maybe I'll wake up tomorrow to a headline that says, "Blogger's Heartfelt Goodbye to His 3 Readers Goes Viral."       

So, I’ll keep this channel open in case I am so inspired.

But for now, thank you for reading. And be well. It's not goodbye, but until I see you again.

*Passes torch to podcasting friends

RuddyBits out.

I repeat, For now.

P.S. Follow me on Twitter.

Monday, March 1, 2021

One Last Time Up a Mountain

The dad stood atop the tallest ski hill in the east, 4386 feet above sea level, looking out at the surrounding mountains and down a steep slope of white. It’s one of those views that make you say, holy crap, I’m on a mountain.

Then he turned to his kids and lowered his goggles.

“Alright, we’re gonna take our time, wait for each other, and stick together,” he said. “We got this.”

And off they went.

I turned to my kids and could see the concern in their eyes.

“What he said,” I muttered with a less cool lowering of my goggles.

It was our only trip to the top of Whiteface Mountain. Accomplished thanks to an intimidating chair lift that takes you into the clouds -- with signs noting the famous mountains you‘re higher than along the way.  

“I think I’m scared,” my 17-year-old daughter said when we passed the sign telling us we were higher than Vermont’s Jay Peak. And there was good reason to be.

After filling my kids with dread, the lift eventually deposited us atop the Adirondacks. It was on us to get down in one piece.

We’d decided to take the family skiing during Presidents Day week due to a break from online school and the mental need to do something, anything. It was a calculated risk.

Like most people, we’ve had very few adventures away from home over the past year. Mostly local hikes here and there, and a few trips to a nearby beach with no crowds. We’ve taken the pandemic health protocols seriously, and always wear masks and social distance and make sure not to do all the things that can spread the virus. But this ski trip felt needed.

Before we planned the trip, we read up on the health protocols at the mountain and on articles about the relative safety of skiing as an activity during a pandemic. Masks required all the time. Limited lodge access. No virus breakouts recorded. It was in the same state and would only require a long car ride to get there. It all checked out. So, we weighed the decision against our increasingly debilitating cabin fever and went for it.

But there’s another reason we did this. And that’s because it was likely the last time we could.

A lot of people have given up things they love as we as a society and a world try to fight this pandemic. With a daughter headed to college next fall, most of what we’ve given up and what she’s given up are the lasts. Her last school musical. Her last school dance. One last normal year with all our kids living at home.

The last family ski trip wasn’t going to be another casualty. Not if we could prevent it.

I don’t want to give the impression that we spend a lot of time, typically, galivanting around the country going skiing. We don’t. That’s not who were are or who we can afford to be. Most winters we just ski at our local little hills a few times. But, we’ve also taken trips to bigger hills, once memorably to Gore Mountain and more recently to Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont. These trips were the culmination of the many years we spent teaching our brood to ski, which was no easy task. Though, it got better.

We’ve also learned over the years that special events, like family ski trips, are the flowers in the garden of our memory. They’re the times that stick with you, when the day to day fades into the background of your life story. And who couldn’t use some flowers right now?

I also don’t want to give the impression that we will never take another family ski trip. We well might. Maybe our eldest daughter will come back from college for a weekend, and we’ll be able to find time and money enough to make it happen again. It just doesn’t seem likely. And when your kid is quickly becoming an adult, those last family moments together are tangibly fleeting.

In the fall she goes to school. Where, we’re not yet sure. Someplace far away, she says. I’m trying not to take that personally. But going to a college that’s cool and big and challenging is something she’s been focused on and dreaming about since before high school. Like most parents, I’m proud that she has a solid plan, and I slightly dread that it’s about to happen.

I just hope that we’ve raised her with enough guidance and support that she willfully decides to come home from time to time. And that she desires to go on a family ski trip again, or something akin to it, because we’ve given her a reason to want to spend time with us.

The truth is, I’m a little scared myself right now. I know life always brings change. And, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that you won’t always see the changes coming. But sometimes you do. And that can be hard too.

Our family is about to change. The four kids under our roof are about to become the three. We’re one step closer to being empty nesters. And to grandchildren. Oh my god. I’m getting old.

I just want to stay at the summit of the mountain with my kids and my wife nearby. Looking out at the world and the adventure ahead, with all the fear and excitement you’d expect and ever want. But, things do change.

Not to spoil it, but we did make it down from the summit of Whiteface Mountain in one piece. And it certainly was a day to remember for the ages. Filled with gondola rides and ski fries. And even a few smiles.

And, between now and next fall, we’re going to do our best to enjoy the lasts that remain. The last trip to Hilton Head. The last days at the beach. The last campfires in the backyard.   

Hopefully, no matter what the future holds, and where we all end up after the pandemic is over and this family is separated by many miles, we’ll always remember to take our time, wait for eachother, and stick together.

Here's other articles you may enjoy: Learning Lessons from a Little Boy, One Smiling Moment -- The Truth Behind an Okay Photo, and To the Lost Little Girl in DC: Watching You Find Your Mom Made My Day.