After several minutes of careful introspection, I think we need to ban the word “lean.”

Lean has so many pejorative connotations, such as how harsh economic downturns are often referred to as “lean times.”
Lean directly correlates to body image, especially among women who starve themselves and/or develop eating disorders to maintain the lean physique that our judgmental society expects.
Leaning indicates an inclination, but is non-committal. If you’re leaning one way, you can just as easily revert to normal perpendicularity and then lean the opposite way, bending to the will of the strongest gust. To lean is to be an equivocal, tentative, unsure, mealy-mouthed, disingenuous, vague, obsequious, ineffectual, servile, little toady.
Also, lean is often paired with mean, which is not nice.

Bracing for the big thaw

This is my first post since Halloween, and a lot’s happened since:

my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary;
our Movember team raised another $15K;
the Christmas season came and went, and I barely noticed it (more about that later);
I appeared on Michigan Public Radio to talk about Dad 2.o; and then
Dad 2.014 amassed 84 million Twitter impressions and globally out-trended the Super Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday.
On top of all that is coldest, snowiest, polar vortexiest winter I can remember, one that has left me with a fleeting memory of whatever grass looks like. And it has recently occurred to me that the huge snow fortresses on either side of my driveway are a remarkably apt allegory for the way I’ve lived my life since the turn of the millennium.

It’s been a slow build, but a build nonetheless. It began when I started losing jobs, the first of three, in the fall of 2000. Then my marriage ended, I moved away from my friends and family, and (in what was very nearly the coup de grace), I had a heart attack.

So much of these last 13+ years has been about loss that it’s been increasingly difficult to invest emotionally in much of anything. Why be vulnerable and love something, even something as precious as life itself, when it’s all destined to go away?

Protect yourself. Be genial, be kind, be who you need to be for the people who love you and depend on you, but keep your heart locked away, under a layer of frozen insulation.

I think that’s a pretty shitty way to live, so I’ve decided not to anymore.

And the first step, I think, is laying “Laid-Off Dad” to rest.

I spent ten years with LOD as my nom de blog, but I don’t see the value of identifying with those three layoffs any longer. (It’s just so last-decade, y’know?) So I’m changing my blog name and my Twitter handle, and for the first time in a very long time, ending something on my own terms. It feels glorious.

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The boys will arrive later today for the dadportion of their week, and 2) I’ve spent most of my morning eradicating all the evidence of my debauched, kid-free bachelorhood. I may raise some eyebrows when I say this, but I truly believe responsible parenting means rinsing all that caked vomit out of the drapes and recovering every bullet casing — even the ones that roll under the fridge — in order to be the best role model I can be.

As I was gathering up all the undergarments and drug paraphernalia from the grotto, I found myself thinking about work/life balance. It’s been a huge topic among moms forever, but in this time of elevated expectations, dads are feeling it, too. I wish I could write more about it, but the truth is I’m terribly unqualified to do so.

Because at this moment, right now, pending the inevitable cataclysmic event that will screw everything up, my work/life balance is really great.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I guess it dates back to my dad, whose bankers’ hours brought him home at the exact time every night. Door, kiss, couch, martini, right before dinner. The steadiness of his routine is sort of amazing, when I think about it. But that’s the model I had to work with when I envisioned my own fatherhood, and I think it’s served me pretty well.

I had The Crazy Jobs in my 20s and 30s, but since I’ve been a dad I’ve been a financial editor, then unemployed, then a high-school math teacher, then unemployed again, then WAHDing it up in my current gig. All of which got me home every night, kept my weekends free, and afforded me lots of time with my kids, even after I split up with their mom.

And that’s a big point: It’s not lost on me that a big part of this balance is being single. Frankly, cramming “engaged fatherhood” and “engaged couplehood” into a nebulous term like “life” seems terribly reductive, since each of those is a full-time job completely separate of your full-time job.

I’m grateful that circumstance has let me be such a big part of my kids’ lives. And even though I’ll likely die alone, it’s good to know that, when my sons come home, they will find me there, waiting for them on the couch. Usually after I’ve just finished vacuuming all the cocaine out of the cushions.

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