Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Straight From The Dryer

To my son Tommy,

Today, for the second time in your life, you put on clothes straight from the dryer. You were as thrilled as you were the first time. It was exciting to see your face light up as the warmth of your school uniform took away the chill from the morning air. You reminded me, yet again, to appreciate the little things in life. And to think, had we been completely organized and on the ball, your clothes would have been done at least the night before, and cold by the morning. Warm clothes right from the dryer is just a reminder that there is joy in life even when you are playing catch up with the world that is seemingly coming at you too fast. Warm clothes from the dryer remind you that everything will turn out okay in the end. Wait till you realize that you can warm most anything in the dryer, like a blankie to cuddle with your mom and dad on a chilly autumn or winter night!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, September 29, 2014


To my son Tommy,

Dads get a bad rap when it comes to fashion. "What? Did your father dress you?" Is a common question when you go out mismatched, or what I like to call the idontgivea fashion. This is an unfair judgement on many a father. You don't have to look too far in the dad blogging world to see guys with GQ fashion sense who are equally adept at dressing their sons and daughters. Most men are at least adequate at the task and rare is the father who dresses his child not knowing of his errors. Yet still all dads share in the charge of being fashionless bumblers when it comes to dressing our children, and only mothers know how to properly dress a child.

Well, let me tell you a secret. I know when you don't match. I know when you look funny. I however don't worry about such things. If the end result is feeding the stereotype, I don't care about that as well. I would rather my son learn to judge content over cover. I'd rather my son not become obsessed with appearance over character. I'd like my son to be able to laugh at himself when he mismatches and even occasionally mismatch on purpose for the shock and awe factor. I want my son to learn to express himself with his clothes

Take, for example, this expression of self in the picture above. We were heading to a viewing at a funeral parlor. Your mother had already picked out the shirt and was in the shower when you came down holding this tie. You don't have many occasions to wear a tie, but you knew that a tie is appropriate for a funeral. I looked at the tie. I looked at the shirt. I looked at your hopeful face. I put on the tie for you. I smiled and looked you in the eye and said, "There is no way your mother is going to let you out of the house like that."

I had your back. I even thought the tie shirt combo may have been inspired by the spirit of Mrs. Gloria, as this would have made her laugh. I accepted you for your sense of style, or lack there of, just like I accept you when you decide you want to wear a princess dress and/or a superman cape. But I told you your mom wasn't going to like it. I even got you laughing about the inevitable result which was of course going sans tie. At least we made your mother laugh before she took it off.

You are a Downey through and through my son. You have your own quirky sense of style and you define what you think is cool and appropriate regardless of outside influence. Your grandfather used to wear the ugliest orange Oriole shorts for a good part of my life and much to the chagrin of my easily embarrassed high school self. I am sure my own sense of style will embarrass you one day too. But like your father before you, you will learn that it truly is what is on the inside that counts and you will stop making excuses for the fashion of those you love because that is truly a part of who they are. I am glad I learned that lesson because it has helped me more than you know with a son like you! For now, know that I will stand by you, no matter how badly you are dressed.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mrs Gloria and Mr J.D.

To my son Tommy,

Our next door neighbor, Mrs. Gloria, had been sick for some time. She had been hospital bound for the majority of the past year. She had been a constant and recurring member in our nightly prayers.

I doubt there was a day that went by that her husband, Mr. J.D., didn't spend with her even through all the trips in and out of the hospital and dialysis or wherever the doctors had her. He'd come home from visiting her, catch a quick nap at best, head off to work, and then back to the hospital. His love and service to his wife was an amazing inspiration on how to love, no matter how hard the struggle.

Mrs. Gloria was a good person and easy to love. She was kind and thoughtful and she would always ask about you and your mom. She earned a special place in our hearts and vice versa.

The level of sacrifice and dedication Mr. J.D. showed to his wife has been an example to me. Though I do not wish for the same circumstances to prove it, I hope that I can live my life loving as strongly and fiercely as Mr. J.D. Sadly Mrs. Gloria passed away. She will remain in our prayers. Our condolences go out to Mr. J.D. and her family.

God, please give rest to Mrs. Gloria after her long illness on this earth. Accept her into your merciful arms and send comfort to her husband Mr. J.D. and those of us who mourn and grieve her death. We ask this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Opt In or Opt Out

To my son Tommy,

Of all the things people have to be outraged about in this day and age, and trust me there is plenty worthy outrage events or topics right now, the most humorous and most trivial one has been dubbed "The U2 Virus". It seems that Apple, in its ultimate wisdom and generosity, attempted to give each and everyone of its users a free album from the band U2. I am sure some mid-level executive somewhere is shaking his head and saying, "On paper, this looked like such a great idea. How did it go so wrong?"

The problem is people want the freedom to opt-in and never want to have stuff forced on them and then later have to opt out. Had Apple offered the album free of charge and said "Come and get it", this would have been the talk of the town in a positive note, instead of the negative it turned out to be. Instead they thought they would be helpful and make it just appear in every users account. When some 500 million users logged in and saw the album sitting in their account, Apple assumed everyone would be thrilled and they also assumed every user heard about it from their press conference because every user obviously hangs on every word they say. Apple was wrong in its assumptions.

Well what would happen if you woke up, went to your refrigerator, opened it up, and there was a U2 album sitting there? You might get a little freaked out. Did someone break in and leave this album here? What else did they do to my refrigerator? Is the OJ poisoned? What else did they do to my house? This is the type of fear and paranoia that struck in the hearts of many an iTunes user.

If they weren't scared, then they were annoyed. They opened their accounts like a guy picking up a free newspaper off his lawn, grumbling "I didn't ask for this. How do I delete this crap?" For the record, I didn't listen to the album so I am not sure it is crap, but I also didn't read the free newspaper that was on my lawn today before throwing it out.

I guess some people were happy or at least indifferent about the free album, but it seems they are in the minority. If someone in the Apple hierarchy knew their age old idioms, they would know that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Apple just forced a gallon of water down our throats. Some thought it poison, but most of us were just not thirsty and didn't appreciate not being given the chance to say, "Thank you, but no thank you."

I don't care how well intentioned you are or how beneficial something will be, forcing people to do stuff is wrong. Hmm, maybe I should put a caveat there and say it is usually wrong, because as a parent I sometimes have to force you to take your medicine and such. So, forcing people to do stuff is usually wrong. It is best to reach them on a personal level and make them want to do it. Make people want to opt in, rather than forcing them to opt out.

This philosophy or rule of life is ubiquitous. It applies to computers, accounts, politics, healthcare, religion, retirement savings, finance, insurance, and yes even parenting. I joked earlier that, as a parent, sometimes I have to force you to do things you don't want to do. In all honesty though it would be better if I can make you understand why you should do something. If I get you to understand the why of it all, then life becomes so much easier. That is my goal as a father, to make you understand why we need to do the things we do and make you want to do them! Funny enough, you now willingly take your medicine and there are very few things that you do reluctantly and almost nothing that I have to force or coerce you to do. Now if it were only so easy in the rest of the world. In the meantime, we can stay outraged that Apple ruined our illusion of freedom by spending a $100 million and by forcing us to take a free album from a premier (though perhaps outdated) band. The nerve of them.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


To my son Tommy,

On the school playground, you learned a very valuable lesson...DUCK! When you are the prey in your friendly game of chase, don't focus that much on what is behind you at the expense of not seeing the obstacle in front of you. You learned it the hard way, and have the forehead to prove it, but no real damage. At least I can now personalize my joke, "My son Tommy walked into a bar, ouch!" (One of the best things about being a dad is you get carte blanche for corny jokes!) I figure you will have to bang your head on another ten or twenty poles (or various other obstacles that will seemingly jump out at you from nowhere) before you learn your lesson. Boys will be boys. I'll spare you the deep life metaphors.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Time Travel

To my son Tommy,

Your mom finally nailed me down to watch a movie. She had wanted me to watch this movie, called "About Time" for some time.

I have a great aversion for watching movies that others want me to watch because frankly what they really want is for me to love the movie as much as they do. I especially am not fond of watching the movie in their presence because they will see my true reactions. That is a ton of pressure! What if I don't love it? What if I don't even like it at all? What if I hate it? If I watch it alone, I could at least politely lie about it if I thought it to be that important to the other person!

Luckily, I liked the movie. I didn't super duper fall madly in love with it, but I enjoyed it and teared up which seemed to make your mom happy. Funny how me crying would please your mom, but it did just that.

At first I worried my reception of the movie would be really disappointing to your mom, considering in the first couple seconds I recognized the main actor as playing the part of one of the Weasley boys in the Harry Potter movie series and spent the first half of the movie trying to figure out which boy and which movie. It was a slow movie so I could let my mind wander without missing much. Still I imagine my reception to be a bit better than the movies I want your mom to watch. The list of movies I want your mom to watch includes stuff like Casablanca (your mom has a great aversion to black and white movies and no matter how good the story is can't get passed this fact) and Star Wars (which she is reluctantly watching because I want you to watch those movies as well). Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to watch, like, and love the same movies in a relationship because that is just not true. People put way too much weight on this type of thing. Anyways, I digress...

The movie's premise is the men is this one family have the ability to travel back to a point in time of their existence. Not only that they can change time, as the ginger haired star often does in the beginning, trying to optimize the future with varying degrees of success. This movie was like the British answer to "Back to the Future" or "Groundhog Day" or the "Butterfly Effect" but on a much more serious and emotional level. The idea of wanting to go back in time and change things is as old as the feeling of regret itself. "If only" and "why didn't I" are the words that spawn the muse for these type of movies.

It takes some time, but our protagonist (Tim) learns that changes in the past can mean you miss and lose some of the most amazing moments you have already experienced in life. His father seems to had already learned these lessons, but instead of spoon feeding him these lessons, allows Tim to make his own mistakes. That might be a luxury of knowing that no mistake is permanent with this power.

In the end, even such a power is not enough to avoid death. Tim's father ends up with terminal cancer and time travel can do nothing to change this. The father gives his final lesson of how to be happy. His father suggests to live each day twice, that way you can really appreciate that day. In the end, Tim stops going back in time altogether, choosing to live each day only once, but determined to appreciate it as if he is living it a second time. It is the age old answer for the age old feeling of regret, live in the moment and appreciate every moment you live!

Still the power to go back in time...that would be an awesome gift for a dad to give a son. Though I will never give you the power to go back and change the past, in a way I have given you the power to go back in time. That is what this whole blog/letter writing thing is...the power to revisit the past. When you are older, when you read these letters, you will be able to go to a quiet place, close your eyes, clench your fists if you feel like it, and concentrate really really hard and you will be right there, in that moment you just read about it, even if it is only in your mind's eye. When you do this, even if I have gone from this world, I will be right there with you in heart, mind, and soul.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spare A Square

To my son Tommy,

You know what this is a picture of? Well yeah, it is a picture of empty toilet paper roll, but yet it is so much more. It is a milestone. Let me explain.

This morning you went potty. Of course you left the door open as, like most five year olds, the idea of privacy while pooping is a novel concept. After some time, I looked over at you and you were just sitting there. I have been working with you lately, encouraging you to rely on your own wiping abilities more. I waited and you just sat. I asked if you were done and you said yes. Assuming you wanted someone to wipe for you, I told you to wipe yourself and get up. You picked up the empty toilet paper roll and put it to your mouth like a bullhorn and said, "There is no toilet paper!" Then, you continued to bugle through the empty roll in almost a rap version, "No paper, ugh ugh, no paper, ugh ugh, need to wipe, ugh ugh, no paper."

Ahh the first time stranded! What a milestone! In our household this a rite of passage. It won't be the last time stranded, as even adults have to constantly relearn the rule of looking for paper before sitting. I got you a fresh roll and you even made me proud saying that you want to do it yourself. Still I wonder how long you would have sat stranded. At least you had a good sense of humor about your predicament.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pre School

To my son Tommy,

When I say pre-school these days,  I am talking about the half hour before we leave the house. Often, we have Daniel with us now, which is great and something you look forward to. I am just not sure Spider-Man vs caped funny hat man is the right note to send you guys to school on as it may rile you up for the teachers a bit, but life long friendships are often made in half hour increments!

Sincerely we love from your dad,

Monday, September 1, 2014

What Makes A Good Party

To my son Tommy,

Starting about Friday, you were determined to have a party. You have spent the weekend discussing a party in your room, one of your own, that you personally would host. You kept calling it a disco party and had all these grand schemes of decorations and such.

Well as far as parties go, there was no food, no booze, and excluding stuffed animals only three real people in attendance including the host. But always remember, a good party is not based on amenities or what it offers. No a good party is based on attitude and company. Good people and a make the best of it attitude make a great party. And that is what you had, in your room today. One of the best parties I have ever attended, complete with disco ball and party hats and dancing and one hot mamma that I kept flirting with! She had a camera, so maybe I can use the excuse of getting her pictures and videos to hook up with her later!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Our host

Our host dancing on his bed.
Our host dancing on his bed with audience.
A good party always marks its location with some sort of external decoration

The "boingy" things from the ceiling added that extra party feeling

We used flashlights to light this aluminum foil disco ball. Much better in person.
The guests. The one in the orange shirt is the hot mamma I met!
The party crashers, but everyone was welcomed.

P.P.S. I got the pictures from the lady I met at your party. Things are looking good.