What’s Going On

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted. Here’s what’s going on:

  • I got a job. One day before our end date in my office, I shot off an email to a former client of mine. Later that day I had an interview scheduled for four days later. At the conclusion of the interview I was offered the job. I started work the next week. While the major stress of unemployment was avoided, it’s cut in to other parts of my life, which includes this blog. Due to the commute, I’m spending an extra hour and 45 minutes away from home, which results in babysitting issues when my wife works, less time with the family and no desire to sit in front of a computer for an hour. Also, I did quite a bit of writing while at my previous job. That’s not happening anymore.
  • Two weeks ago the hope that life was turning around, things were going our (the family’s) way and dark times were behind us were crushed in an instant. I may write about it in the future, I may not. What’s important for you to know is it devoured my dreams, aspirations and energy. Fuck everything, is what I thought. Nothing matters. Especially not this blog.

cardboard whatsgoingon

So I went silent. It hardly seemed important to share my weekend, a stupid animated gif or whatever was kicking around in my head and heart.

On my Facebook page I shared a bit of what was going on when someone asked where my posts have been. Which led to encouragement from a couple of people, messages and texts of support and some songs/videos from a reader. I can’t be fixed. But I appreciate everyone trying.

(skip to the two-minute mark for the beginning of the song, if you wish)

I also received Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up.” The video is cheesy-ass but the lyrics are strong and appropriate, especially Bush’s haunting chorus:

Don’t give up ‘cos you have friends
Don’t give up, you’re not beaten yet
Don’t give up, I know you can make it good
Don’t give up, you still have us

Don’t give up, we don’t need much of anything
Don’t give up ’cause somewhere there’s a place where we belong
Rest your head, you worry too much
It’s going to be alright when times get rough
You can fall back on us, don’t give up, please don’t give up

Don’t give up ’cause you have friends
Don’t give up, you’re not the only one
Don’t give up, no reason to be ashamed
Don’t give up, you still have us
Don’t give up now, we’re proud of who you are
Don’t give up, you know its never been easy
Don’t give up ’cause I believe there’s a place
There’s a place where we belong.

You can watch the video here. WARNING – There’s a whole lotta hugging going on. 

I have every intention of returning to a normal posting schedule. I feel beaten, but I’m not going to give up. This is a place where we all belong. To be real. To share. To cry, to laugh, encourage and console.

Thank you for reading. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

(T)GIF – Our First Reader Submission

(T)GIF is a regular Friday feature at Smiling Through Tearz. Know of an animated gif that makes you tinkle with laughter, cry or cringe that you think should be featured at STT? Let me know at seth@smilingthroughtearz.com.

Finally, someone took me up on this. Thank you, Kurt! Since he’s the only one to have submitted a gif, I’m running with it. If it was an ant crossing a sidewalk, I’d still feature it, just because it’s my first reader submission.

My wife and I took the twins to see Pixar’s Planes earlier this week. Let’s just say I wish I was as happy watching it as Stephen Colbert looks here.


Like a Little Fonzie

Do not watch the clip below if you do not like the F word, the use of B!tch or the best movie EVER FRICKIN’ MADE.

Last night I lost my patience with Gray, my 2-year-old son. Over the past week or two he’s been exercising his free will. Which means he doesn’t listen, or doesn’t care, what I have to say. He instantly whines when something doesn’t go his way. He shrills as he runs through the house playing with his twin sister, Ellie. And he’s in super-annoying goof ball mode.

Generally I’m a pretty laid-back guy. On my good days I have the patience of a Buddhist monk. When my tank runs lows, I become Chef Gordon Ramsay.

I’ve spent most of the past five days with the rug rat, enduring his tantrums and decibel-blowing noise. It’s worn on me. Usually I’d be at work and have a break. But since it’s my first week of unemployment, I’m home. All. The. Time. By the end of the night I was snapping off rushed grunts. “NO.” “STOP.” “GRRRRAAAYYYSSSONNN.”

It wasn’t pretty. As a family we regularly watch America’s Funniest Videos while the twins sip their milk and wind down before bed time. Ellie squeezes in with my wife, who plays with her hair, and Gray leans next to me asking “What’s that?” for every single clip. But last night, I as he sat next to me, I shamefully spouted “Don’t talk to me.” My wife gave me that look of “Really? You just said that?” Yeahhhhhh. I suck.

When I woke up this morning I found my wife emailed me a blog post from Awesomely Awake entitled “How to Be a Calm Parent.” Shawn, the blogger, reached out to her Facebook fans and listed 25 ways to stay calm as a parent. In order to channel my inner Fonzie and “be cool” more consistently, I’ll be working on several of her recommendations below.

1. Own your Nos. There are times when I say no without even thinking and then one no leads to another no and soon we’re in a vicious cycle. I’ve learned that by really thinking before I respond I feel authentic power when I do say no — or yes. Try hard to not rush to saying no to your child just because of inconvenience.

It’s such an automatic reaction for all parents once your kid hits 2. I’m especially guilty when I feel inconvenienced. Not only do I get tired of saying it, but no doubt Gray and Ellie get sick of hearing it. And not only do I need to think before I use it, but I need to enforce it once I’ve said it. Damnit I need more energy for this parenting thing.

4. Solitude. I suspect that many of us who struggle with staying calm in the chaos also struggle with noise. Some people — extroverts — are happy with a ton of noise. I am not. Silence is often the medicine we need to replenish and rejuvenate ourselves and yet it may be the hardest to make happen. There are many other ways to stay at peace.

I’m an introvert as well. I fill my tank by being alone. Away from not only my kids, but my wife too. Yesterday, rather than sneaking in a couple of hours of alone time during naps, I helped clean the house. When my snapping period rolled around at night, I was wiped out. While I can’t always get quiet time to myself, I need to recognize when my patience is wearing earlier, so I can avoid being a total dick.

14. Exercise. Walk. Do yoga. Run. Whatever you can do to feel good on the inside will make parenting from the heart a lot better.

I probably need a punching bag. Not only will exercise help to exert built up frustrations, but I need the energy that it’ll give me. I can’t highlight this one enough for me. Yet I find myself rationalizing why I don’t exercise constantly. As I type this, there’s a treadmill behind me. Facing the TV. I’m gonna just continue to ignore it.

16. Get silly. I’ve said this before but doing something entirely out of the ordinary is a great way to turn things around quickly. Tell jokes. Just act nutty. You’ll laugh. SING. DANCE. Laugh. Deal with the consequences later, when everyone’s thinking more clearly.

When I’m floating on clouds of cotton candy, this is easy. When I feel like ripping Gray’s head off and punting it to the neighbor’s house, it’s the hardest thing in the world. I just need to take myself a LOT less seriously.

23. Be Grateful. Many of you mentioned that reminding yourself of how special it is to have a child is the best way to calm yourself down. Savoring the little moments. Being grateful for the time we have with our children. These are all big, heart-filled reminders of what it really means to be a parent, even when times are challenging.

You’d think I’d have mastered this one. And I did for several months after Jax died. Once I went back to work and rejoined the rat race, it went to shit. It shames me to write how I snapped at Gray last night. It shames me like you don’t even know. It’s crossed my mind several times today that it’s pretty fucked of me. I’ve been blessed with two beautiful, funny and compassionate kids. I wouldn’t be alive today without them. If they give me that “F you, dad” look every once in a while, who cares?!?!

25. When all else fails, hug it out. I love this one that came up on the Facebook page. Too often what our children need — and what we need in return — is that close connection and touch of the ones we love. My very spirited daughter responds positively to touch and so we snuggle often. So, instead of yelling or hurting, hug it out. If only we could pass this tip along to the rest of the world, right?

Both Gray and Ellie respond positively to touch. Gray is a cuddler and Ellie gets clingy and wants to be held. For me, it calms me down. And a few seconds of silence sneaks in to crush the momentum of tension. Plus it’s nice to show love in a moment of anger.

But the biggest thing for me to remember: they’re 2 and there’s two of them. What should I expect?

Unemployed, Ellie Knows My Name and Rick Warren Comes to Corona – How Was Your Weekend?



I’m officially laid off. Those of us left in the office spent our last hours clearing out our desks, turning in keys and idling around while we waited for our flexible time off checks to arrive. I didn’t notice any tears, except for the customer service rep from sales that seemed to take it really hard. Their jobs are safe, for now. She wept for us while we wore our “it ain’t no thang” faces. I think we were all more focused on getting our drank on.

Down to the parking lot we moved, where one festive co-worker brought a flavored Malibu Rum bottle. Another grabbed a Coke from the vending machine and plastic cups from the kitchen. We stood in a circle sipping on a taste of summer. In essence, this was our collaborative sigh. All the stuff that we’ve endured for the past five months, five years or decades, for some, is behind us. We’re free to move on. To what, we don’t know. And that part’s scary. But we’ll all find our paths. And we’ll look back on this as a forced blessing.

A yard of Bud Light, from the Yard House.

A yard of Bud Light, from the Yard House.

We moved the party from the parking lot to the Yard House where I got the small beer pictured above. Remember the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally? I think the lady in the background is planning a remake.

My wife worked so the twins and I hung out with the family of one of her co-worker’s. On the way there, I flipped the radio to the Angel game to catch the final frames. During a commercial break I switched back to music, and Gray was not pleased. He’s really good at whining, so that started as he moaned “More Angels.” I tuned it back and as the game returned, Gray began a “Let’s go Angels” chant. This was new. He kept repeating it to the point of annoyance. I tried to mix in some clapping for him, and showed him how.

“LET’S GO ANGELS!” clap clap clapclapclap. He told me that was silly. A few minutes later he slapped his leg in a display of “Okay, I’ll clap, but I’m just using one hand, and it’s still silly, Dad.”

At the house our friend made us and his five kids a breakfast dinner. Ellie loves her some pancakes and Gray, while pretty picky, can’t deny him some sizzled bacon, so it was a good fit. We chowed. The kids played. And it was an uneventful night at the hospital for our wives. It was a good night.


“Are you Seth?” Ellie asked me during breakfast. I stared at her blankly.

“Huh?” I replied.

“Are you Seth?” she repeated.

“Yes,” I answered. She shouldn’t know my name. The hell?

“I’m Ellie,” she said. “That’s Gray.” She tilted her head to her right. That was the whole conversation. Twilight Zone shit.

My wife's party favors.

My wife’s party favors.

We celebrated my brother-in-law’s success in school and a recent job working in the field of environmental science. My wife and her mom, never the ones to simply blow up some balloons and order a pizza, threw together a school-themed party featuring brown-bag covered books, globes, lined brown paper (found only in elementary schools) as place mats and a photo booth filled with props.


I was getting Ellie dressed to head off to our second trip to Saddleback Church. As I pulled a summer dress over her head and straightened it out, I saw too much exposure up top. Since my wife didn’t like my idea to tape the top like the celebs do on Oscar night, we switched dresses. Which is increasingly becoming a problem.

“I no want to where that dress from Target” Ellie scowled. She’s 2. Almost 2-and-a-half. Her grammar blows but she sure knows her fashion. I don’t even know where the dress came from. Somehow I got it on her and we got out of the house.

Rick Warren, Saddleback’s lead pastor, decided to attend the Corona campus today. And he brought a whole mess of other people with him. Last week there were 500 attendees between two services. This week that number catapulted to 1,200. He jumped on stage to worship, spoke to us before the video sermon aired and dawned some board shorts after the service for baptism. It was cool and all, but it’ll be nice not to have to hunt for a seat next week.

After naps the twins and I met my sister, her husband and my nephew at Tom’s Farms to let the kids explore and munch on some tasty burgers. We found them finishing up a train ride which was right next to a raised stage. Gray and Ellie feel super at home on stage and spent most of the night running, jumping and dancing on the platform.

My wife’s grandpa built them a stage last Christmas to feed into their love of performing The Lumineers songs. Enjoy this video from Christmas night.

Man, they look little.

(T)GIF – My Last Day in the Office

For those of you that don’t know, today is my last day at work. Our office is closing and the work is moving to Phoenix, Arizona. I wasn’t interested in the company’s relocation offer. I have a rule against living anywhere that resembles Mercury.

After today, I’m officially laid off. Monday you can find me at the soup kitchen with all the other unemployeds.

officespace(T)GIF is a regular Friday feature at Smiling Through Tearz. Know of an animated gif that makes you tinkle with laughter, cry or cringe that you think should be featured at STT? Let me know at seth@smilingthroughtearz.com.


Survival Strengthens the Soul


In the short time since I’ve created this blog, I’ve met many other parents that have lost a child. Many of them read the site, either sporadically or regularly. There’s a kinship among us. We relate to each other the way our best friends can’t. We’re drawn to each other. They know exactly how I’ve felt, what I’m feeling now and what I’ll feel next year.

This post is geared specifically towards my bereaved crew. We’re all at various stages of our loss. It’s been 13 months for me. For others I know, it’s only been a month. For some of you reading this, unfortunately, maybe it’s something that will happen in the future.

It’s a post of hope. It’s something to read when you’re in the pit. When you don’t feel like you can climb out. When you don’t feel like anyone hears your cries for help.

George Anderson is a medium. On his website he claims to have had a special relationship with souls since he was 6, and he’s dedicated his life to helping the bereaved cope with loss. According to a post on a message board for families that have lost a child, Anderson wrote these words.

This post isn’t to vouch for his abilities or credibility. Like I’ve written before, it’s all confusing to me. I just wanted to spread his message, which I hope can comfort either yourself or your loved ones that have or will experience tremendous loss. I hope it helps.

It’s become typical–yet  still always surprising–to hear from souls during a session who were  themselves bereaved parents on the earth, that not only was the struggle of their lifetime here necessary, but “worth it.”  That’s a rather  spectacular statement to make, considering how we already know how  difficult the path of a bereaved parent is.  Let’s face it–things have to be pretty darn good in the hereafter  for (formerly) bereaved parents to tell us here that every minute of the struggle here to continue after a devastating loss is not only worth  the immense cost to us, but it was necessary to their spiritual growth  and reward in their new world of joy.

The souls tell me  that reunion with the children they longed so much to see again is  breathtaking, and one of the most curious things they encounter is that  with regard to appearances, not a second seemed to have passed since  they last saw their children.  It seems literally as if we pick up  exactly where we left off, and that only once we are comfortable, we get to see the progression of the souls of our children almost exactly as  it would have happened on the earth.  It’s one of the joys the souls are most happy about–not having lost a minute of their child’s growth and  maturity.

What is so encouraging about sessions like these, where bereaved parents “talk” to parents here, is that they don’t try  to minimize the entire spiritual journey of a parent here by tossing out phrases like “it all gets better” or “you do get rewarded, so  relax”–they take the journey both they and we have gone through with a  seriousness that is unlike any other time in sessions.  The experience of having lost a child on the earth and having struggled through the  most difficult challenge of this lifetime (their words) has not at all  been forgotten by the souls–but it has been forgiven, since they now  see the arc of their lives, and the lives of their children, and how  necessary it all was as a means to a magnificent end.

I  can’t make you feel better when your heart is broken by just telling you  that as a bereaved parent, it will get better one day–that is part of  the spiritual lesson each of us will learn here.  But I can remind you  that when life seems at its most cruel and hopeless, parents just like  you survived it.  They not only survived, but they found everything they had lost, and much, much more.  I hope the example of these brave souls and their incredible words can at least help us understand that there  is Light ahead, and no matter how hard it is, we have to keep walking  toward that Light, where everything we love and have lost is waiting for us in a world where no harm will ever come to our loved ones or us  again.   From your sisters and brothers who walked the same path as you, and came out the other side in joy, you know they can be trusted to tell you the truth.  And it’s pretty spectacular.

I can’t wait to see Jax again. And if it really feels like not a minute has passed, it will be a glorious moment when we reunite. I can’t wait to rub my hand across that chicken-head hair of his.

Some of my bereaved brothers feel the same. To the point that perhaps they’ve seriously considered speeding up the process. It’s crossed my mind. I’m sure it’s at least crossed all of our minds for a second. But the hell we’re in isn’t for nothing.

So stay strong. When you’re not, let others carry you. When you’re feeling strong, let others lean on you. And when we do finally see our kids again, we’ll know surviving this hell was worth it.

County Fair and We Go Back to Church – How Was Your Weekend?


I left work early and we drove down to Costa Mesa to hit up the Orange County Fair. Since Jax was born this has been an annual tradition for our family. We have the photo booth strips to prove it.


Maybe announcing “Okay, kissy face!” was a bad idea in the second pic. Damnit, Gray, CLOSE YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU KISS YOUR SISTER!


From noon – 4 p.m. certain fair food was $2 and the children’s area was $2 for rides and games. We packed in carne asada tacos, garlic fries and shaved ice in the 90 minutes we had to exploit the offer. Oddly, the kids didn’t want to go on any rides. They cried hysterically on the carousel. Ellie panicked on the motorcycles (they go around in a circle) to the point that the ride’s operator told us that they’d prefer not to the scar kid if they’re scared. All I wanted was for him to pound that start button, because I knew she’d be okay once it started. He finally did. When she got off, she told me she had so much fun. Her face was red and swollen from crying.

Sunset at the OC Fair. No filter.

Sunset at the OC Fair. No filter.

We saw farm animals, watched the pig races and chowed down. Don’t bother with the fried Klondike. Unless you like bland mush.

At night a Sublime tribute band, 40 Oz to Freedom, performed at The Hangar. Gray’s obsessed with live music and stood at the front of the railing that separates the paid audience from the mooching fair crowd, chewing on his hands (a nervous habit) and surrounded by adults sipping on beers. Eventually we moved towards the back of the pack for some space.

As Gray straddled my shoulders, Ellie felt the music from the stroller.

She looks like the second-hand smoke got to her. But I assure you, this was a smoke-free environment.


We went over to the Corona Farmer’s Market to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies. They should really change the name to A Bunch of Pop Up Tents in an Old Parking Lot Market. I think that Sears sign is about as old as me. ANCIENT.

At night my wife and her mom worked on some party-planning activities, so the kids watched another of the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks. I think it was the third one. Honestly, I have no idea wtf was going on. The sound wasn’t super loud, I didn’t really pay attention, and it appears this was the third movie in the franchise. So we have no idea what happened in the second. But it seemed like the director took a substantial amount of mushrooms to do the film. He was probably paid in mushrooms. “Forget the points on the back,” he must’ve told the studio. “I want mushrooms.”


Earlier in the week my counselor told me that Saddleback Church’s pastor Rick Warren returned after 16 weeks following his son’s suicide. He started a series called “How to Get Through What You Go Through.” My counselor handed me a sheet of notes she received when she attended his first service back. The sheet outlined the upcoming topics in the series, which I identified with immediately. I told my wife about it and we decided to visit a church for the first time since our church closed in May.

saddlebacksermonsWarren breaks down six different emotional steps of crisis. His and mine relate to the death of a child, however he said this also is for people who have lost their job, a relationship or have been diagnosed with a serious illness.

Saddleback Corona makes its home at Santiago High School. We made it to the 11 a.m. service, got the kids registered for their class and found the auditorium for the service. The satellite church (the main church is in Lake Forest) has its own worship band and pastor. Then we watch Warren’s sermon from the night before on video.

In the middle of it Warren’s wife prayed. She asked those that are going through a crisis to stand. I kept my big butt in my seat, but my wife was ballsy enough to stand up. I sobbed during the whole prayer. Every single thing she said was spot on. Throughout the sermon I found myself hoping for less scripture and more of Warren’s own account of his feelings, emotions and experience. This is what I thirst for. What I yearn for. It’s what I identify with.

He talked about the day his son died. He stood in the driveway of his son’s home with his wife, and minutes after they arrived friends came to support them. They didn’t talk. They just placed hands on Warren’s shoulders. They were simply present. Words weren’t needed. But touch was. That night these same friends slept at Warren’s house. On his couches, his floor, anywhere. They didn’t want him and his wife to be alone.

I flashed back to the night Jax died. The hospital waiting room was packed with our family and friends. Most waited to come hug us after he died. To cry with us. Their tears were enough for us. Words weren’t needed. And if they were spoken, I don’t remember what was said. But I remember everyone’s presence.

Anyway, we decided to go back through the end of the series in early September. This is exactly what we need to hear right now.