February 25, 2016

The Day the Lights Went Out

I'm not exactly sure how long the Christmas lights have been hanging around my son's door. Since he got his own room after his brother was born in March of 2007, I have to assume that they have been hanging there since sometime around Christmas of that year. Aside from a couple of times when we moved burned out light bulbs around, the lights haven't been turned off or unplugged for over eight years.

Every day I would walk by his room and get a little smile on my face as it brought me back to that sweet little boy that moved into his "Mickey Mouse" room. He was so into music that I painted piano keys on the wall. He was into Buzz Lightyear, Star Wars, Cars, and all the typical things a three year old boy would love.

His likes have changed through the years. He's not so much into Disney things anymore (though he loves GOING TO Disney), music isn't his passion, Star Wars is still cool, but not in the "I want to be Anakin Skywalker" type of way. All of that has been replaced by baseball. Some of the old stuff still remains, but only because we are too lazy to go about remodeling his bedroom. He could probably use a new bed. The one he is in now is made with crappy particle board and one of the drawers underneath his bed fell apart a couple of years ago. There is a chair in there that has never been used and books pile up with no place to go.

While he has changed and some of the room has changed, the lights on the outside remained constant.

Eight years they have brought me back to the past. A time that as I get older, I long for more and more. I was just thinking this morning that my younger son no longer runs into my bedroom in the middle of the night. He used to wake up and go to the bathroom and then jump right beside me. It sucked at the time, but it sucks now that it doesn't happen anymore.

Half of the lights around my son's door shut off the other day.

Normally I would have gone in and tried to fix them. Just like replacing batteries in toys that they no longer use, I realized that perhaps it's time to move on. As much as I would like my kids to stay young forever, it's not going to happen.  I can't fix that. Who knows, maybe we will hang a new set of lights around his door, but the glow will never be the same.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?


February 23, 2016

He was a...

"I never lived the dreams of the prom kings and the drama queens, I'd like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve." - John Mayer
Have you ever thought about your own legacy? What is it that you will be remembered by? How DO you want to be remembered? I've never really given it much thought myself. I'm just a simple guy with two kids, a wife, and a dog.

A lot of how you will be remembered depends on when your story ends. If you wrote my obituary when I was 10, it would have to have said that I was a pretty good bowler, that I loved sports, and that I spent too much time watching TV. I hadn't really made an impact on anyone as of yet, except maybe my parents who I'm sure thought I was the cutest kid alive.

By the time that I graduated college I had made a little mark on society, but still nothing stood out. There were no research papers where I cured cancer, I didn't found a non-profit organization to help the less fortunate, and I certainly didn't start any sort of business that created much needed jobs for my home area of Upstate New York. I DID score the game winning basket in a high school basketball game against Mount Morris and I DID help my dorm win the Intramural title in my junior year of college, but is that something that I really want to be known for?

I couldn't really answer that question until I had a family.

It's nice to be known as a pretty decent bowler and a solid high school basketball player, but those are nothing compared to being known as a good husband and a good father. If my life is a multi-chapter book, chapter one ends when I was 25. Sure I had some really good moments, but in the movie version of my life, they would get about two minutes of screen time. The story of my life really takes off after I met my wife and our two kids came into the world.

But is that what I am going to be known for? Being a good dad and a good husband? If I died today, I would be happy if that's how my story ended. But I'm 42 years old and my story is still being written.  I could come up with a cure for cancer, I could create that non-profit, or I could build a company and create those jobs. Who knows? The one thing that I do know is that I don't want to be handed my life story and be left thinking, "That's it?" I don't want to wake up in 30 years and wonder where my life went, I need to wake up tomorrow and figure out where it's going.

He was a...  who knows?  The next chapter starts right now.


This post was inspired by a keynote speech from Brad Meltzer at the Dad2Summit that I recently attended in Washington, DC.  I went into the conference thinking about what's next and while I didn't come out with any definitive answers, there are lightbulbs going off on top of my head.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?


February 4, 2016

I've Got Friends in Snowy Places

By all accounts this was going to be the storm of the century, well this season's storm of the century anyway. Bread was bought, milk was procured, and the eggs were purchased; all we had to do was sit and wait for the storm to hit.

This winter hasn't been a very harsh one here in the northeast.  We've set record highs left and right and it was 72 degrees ON CHRISTMAS EVE.  While my wife loves that kind of weather, the kids and I were longing for some snow to fall.  Up until last weekend, we had none... but that was about to change.

My oldest son Tyler swears that his favorite season is winter.  I'm not so sure that I believe him because he's always asking when baseball season starts. My other son Carter seems to be indifferent about the cold weather; he will play any sport in any type of weather.  However it always seems like we play basketball outside when the temperature is the coldest. As for myself, having grown up in Western New York, I've always had an affinity towards the cold.  Like a lot of men my age and older I can vividly remember walking uphill five miles in the snow to get to school and I liked it.

We don't get as much snow as I used to get when I was a kid.  Back then in Western New York a lot depended on which way the wind blew.  You could get four feet, while your neighbor a mile away might not even realize that it snowed.  When I was younger, the snow would fall before Halloween and last until Mother's Day. Now it snows, then it melts, then it snows, and melts again.  I'm under the feeling that if it's going to be cold outside, it might as well be snowing.

And last weekend it snowed... did it ever snow.

Twelve inches may seem like a lot, but at this point we were only half way through the storm.  It would go on snowing for another 12 hours and the storm would dump 21 inches of snow all together.  I'm not one to let the snow finish falling before I get out and clear my driveway.  I would much rather clear our seven inches three times than the entire 21 inches as once.  I'm tough, but not "clear 21 inches at once" tough.

I was sent a pack of lozenges by the folks at Fisherman's Friend and asked to take an EPIC picture.  I didn't want to fake a winter scene like Patrick Quinn did, pretend to know what snow is, like James Zahn, or never leave the house like The Thirsty Daddy. Much like Chris Burnholdt, this Winter Storm Jonas (can we stop naming these storms please) was the perfect opportunity to get out and show how tough I was.

A photo posted by @jdubs44 on

I like to call this one "The First of Many."  This was about 10:00 am and the plows had barely been through our neighborhood (which is another story).  The snow was really falling at this point; probably two inches an hour at least.  I think one of my kids was still asleep and the other was at a sleepover party in the neighborhood.  I didn't need to get out of my driveway, but I'm a guy with a snowblower... I HAD to get out of my driveway.  By the way, I took this photo myself (#SELFIE!)

The only problem with getting so much snow at once was that it made it almost impossible to sled in. We had to really wait until the next next day before we could get out and play in it.

A photo posted by @jdubs44 on

Sadly, it's only a week and a half later and all the snow has melted... but there might be more on the horizon!  Better go get bread, milk, and eggs... and Fisherman's Friend Lozenges.

Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges are the toughest on the market, originally formulated in 1865 for deep-sea fishermen from Fleetwood, England. And they are now perfect for a dad who shovels snow in New Jersey. It's good to have friends in snowy places.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?