Dads Count as Real Help

This is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.

Mijos,

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)
Dad’s count as real help!  Parenting is very complex and encompasses a wide range of activities and responsibilities which are split differently depending on the family structure and what simply works best for everyone.  However, it was made evident to me that there are people (I hope a small group) that assume that dads just cannot/will not/should not complete certain tasks.  I understand that men are not typically seen as nurturing, and may cringe at the idea of completing domestic tasks like cleaning and laundry.  But honestly, gender aside, who really enjoys doing these things anyway?(Except your mom, she gets an inexplicable satisfaction from cleaning).  However, this is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.  That mayMammoth include bringing a mastodon back to the cave for food or just changing a diaper.  Simply put, a new breed of modern men exist and are thriving.

Mom, you need HELP!
It all started around Mami’s 36 week pregnancy check-up with Deuce.  The appointment started off very routine with the doctor asking how things were progressing, checking Deuces heart beat and the usual “look under the hood”.  The mood of the check-up changed when the doctor used the dreaded “B” word, BEDREST.  Honestly, after understanding it was strictly precautionary to get as close to the 40 week mark as possible and that Deuce was healthy and thriving, my next emotion was jealousy.  Imagine not going to work, chilling in bed with a bell to ring for someone to address your every need, and endless hours of Netflix and DVR binge watching.  It sounded like a mini vacation to me; except for the whole human growing inside of you thing.

I quickly snapped out of my haze as the doctor began listing activities Mami should avoid while on bedrest.  As the list grew longer with orders like “do not pick up/carry your toddler, no vacuuming and no bending over”, I started a mental list of tasks I would need to take over.  Then came the slap in the face…the doctor finished the list and asked Mami, (as if I wasn’t in the room), “do you have any real help close by, like your mom?”  After glancing over to me with a puzzled look, Mami stated “no, my mom is not close by…”

In my opinion, I was expecting the doctor to turn to me and say “Ok dad, your time to shine!” It didn’t.  She started to explain how Mami could do modified tasks while on bedrest.  The modified task that insulted me the most was cooking.  She highlighted that Mami could season and prepare the food on the counter and cook on the stove top, but I would need to hand her any pots and place the food in the oven because she shouldn’t bend over.  While annoyed, I tried not to take it personal assuming she was under the pretense that women do all the cooking in the home, and this may be a valid concern forEating some pregnant moms.

Not Another One
Let’s fast forward to the delivery room the morning after Deuce’s birth.  As usual, the nurse arrived to check on Mami and Deuce, and after going over a few documents and ensuring that feeding and bowel movements were occurring regularly (for Deuce not Mami), the nurse asked Mami if anyone was in town or close by to help her.  Mami stated that ‘Abuela’ was in town, which prompted the nurse to respond “glad you’ve got some help here”…again…as if I wasn’t in the room.

Obviously every helping hand is welcome when bringing a new baby home, especially when this is the second one and we, as a family, could use all the help we can get from whoever is willing. It takes a village.  But, dads count as help too!  Maybe I’m reading into the nurse’s comments too much given the encounter with the doctor.  And it’s possible that I read too much into the doctor’s comments as well, but either way a dad is part of the family team and not a liability when it comes to domestic responsibilities.

“You ‘gon Learn Today”
As a self-proclaimed SSM, “Self-Sustained Man”, I cannot stress the importance of learning how to complete domestic tasks.  As your father, I never want you to be in a situation where you can’t be of help to your family or to yourself for that matter.  So as my parents taught me, I will transfer that knowledge to you.  Let the record show I am doing this in the spirit of caring, but at times, I know it may seem like punishment when I am making you do chores.  Just remember that one of the best ways to learn is to do.  The following is a list of tasks that will serve you well throughout your life and you can “help” with when you have your own family.

cooking

Cooking:   I learned the basics of cooking from watching your grandparents when I was young, but my love of food is what really got me into cooking.  During the holidays, I would spend time trying to help in the kitchen while asking a lot of questions to your great aunts/uncles and great-grandma as they cooked my favorite dishes.  Whether it was Aunt P’s macaroni and cheese, Aunt L’s dumplings or Grandma’s honey ham, I wanted to recreate those dishes because once a year was not enough.  I didn’t realize until I was older that what I learned growing up can save money, make me feel like I am back home or in a particular place/time, and can even impress the ladies (like Mami and your grandma of course).

Laundry:  This is a big one!  For me, I do laundry for a few reasons, first I don’t want Mami touching my gym clothes. They are usually soaked from sweat and have a smell of…. progress to them.  I personally feel that if she was subject to that encounter every week she would begin to resent me.  Secondly, one time she washed my clothes and she didn’t empty my pockets and there went my wallet…so yea, I just do it.  Doing my own laundry served me well, especially when puberty hit, but that subject is for another day.  Just know, it’s probably better for all involved for you to wash your on clothes and bedding yourself than to subject one of us to it.  Laundry is quite simple, the daunting part is separating everything and putting it away after it’s done in a timely matter.

Ironing:  There is nothing like a fresh pressed shirt, even if it’s a t-shirt, but it does take a little effort.  While putting it in the dryer and taking it out right after works to get outdryer wrinkles, a method I’ve used since middle school, it just doesn’t give it the clean professional look you get with an iron.  What I have learned though, is that ironing men and kids clothes is a lot easier than Mami’s.  Be thankful that you won’t have those problems because I still don’t know how to iron a dress with all those creases.

Dishes:  I’m going to pull the “you have it easy because back in my day” card.  Growing up your grandpa used to say “I don’t need a (machine) dishwasher, I have 6 of them right here”.  If you don’t get the reference he is referring to me and your uncles.  We got to the point where we used an assembly line with one person washing, another rinsing and the last person drying and putting the dishes away.  It wasn’t until college that I learned how to use a dishwasher.  However, you’ll still have to rinse off the food and give it a quick wash with the sponge and soap before running the dishwasher to sanitize the dishes.

SweepingCleaning:  Cleaning is a broad term, and depending on the room, the tasks change.  In the bathroom you’ll have to scrub the tub/shower, sink, toilet, and don’t forget to wipe the toothpaste splatter off the mirror.  In the bedroom you’ll need to just keep the floor clear of toys and other objects that will cause me pain when walking in the dark.  Also, make sure your clothes are put away because you can’t have a “chair closet” until you’re grown.  Don’t forget to make your bed and don’t worry, hospital corners are only for show and not practical.  Just keep the Living room in order and you’re done.  The dining room and den, well those rooms are just for show per your mom, so just keep them dust free.  Speaking of dusting, all furniture in the rooms will need to be wiped down and the floors will need to be swept and mopped or just vacuumed pending on the floor type.

There are levels to cleaning, but understand if company is coming over, Mami goes intoCleaning sanitation inspection manager mode and will expect a deep clean.  Honestly, my standard for what is considered clean is not to your Mami’s standards.  I don’t think anyone meets her standards, but she will try and teach you, I can assure you of that. Clean to her standard and you’ll be fine.

Sewing:  When I say sewing I am not referring to operating a sewing machine because I don’t have one nor do I know how to use one.  However, your great grandma had one and created awesome patch quilts, but her impact on me is for a different time.  In short, you will need to learn how to use a needle and thread to sew holes, put on buttons, fix a broken zipper or hem pants if you’re feeling adventurous.  As a parent this skill can be used to conduct eye surgery to give sight sewingback to toys or to ensure they don’t lose their internal organs.  To me, sewing is a lost art, but the trick is always being able to thread the needle.

Fully Equipped 
In college, I witnessed firsthand, other kids that couldn’t do for themselves.  Some were unable to do laundry and literally going home every other weekend just so their mom could do it.  During ROTC training, some couldn’t iron their uniform or make their bed to save their life.  While I learned all these tasks for different reasons, whether it was because I liked cooking or because I was forced to scrub a tub, they have all served me well once I was out on my own.  Again, this is not to be seen as “chores” or “punishment”, this is us (no pun intended, but also the name of one of the best shows ever!  Find it. Watch it.  See your life change) fully equipping you with the ability to be self-sustaining men and “Real Help” to your families.

Love you both to “Infinity…and Beyond”
@Outer_space_dad

The FEAR of Fatherhood

My Beloved Osito,

I always had dreams of my future and how my life would turn out.  That future always included having the “perfect” family, like the Cosby Show, and being the fun, enthusiastic, and involved dad.  But, no one ever explained to me the utter FEAR that comes with fatherhood.  For me, the fear came in three distinct stages, the announcement, pregnancy and labor, and your introduction into the world.  With the arrival of your brother, “Deuce”, I had to relive the fear that comes with stages one and two and now I have a double dose of fear for the third stage.

Stage 1: The Announcement – FEAR of being Unprepared
This is the beginning of fatherhood.  For you, the announcement came one fall afternoon.  As I was watching The U’s football game, Mami came in nervous and hesitant.  After asking her to tell me what was wrong a few times, she handed me the pregnancy test and sheepishly said “I think I’m pregnant”.  For Deuce, the announcement was the complete opposite, occurring one June evening.  As we were sitting on the couch I noticed an inexplicable glow encompassing Mami who had just walked into the loft
from taking a shower.  See, I knew that glow. I had seen it before. Add that, and the fact that in hindsight I noticed she had been getting tired earlier than usual I had the pleasure of telling her she was pregnant.  Disclaimer: She completely brushed me off and life went on as usual until she took a test 2 weeks later that proved I was right.

Along with the shock and the joy of expectancy that comes with the announcement, the FEAR of being unprepared is not far behind.  For me, I feared being unprepared financially, to an extent, but honestly my biggest fear was my maturity level.  You hear stories (and they are true) of the financial burden that comes with having kids, and I knew we were not in a place where I felt comfortable to do more than just meet the needs of having a child.  My plan was to be a D.I.N.K (Dual Income No Kids) for several years before children came into the plan.  As Announcmenta D.I.N.K, my goal was to be debt free, (95% of my debt comes from my school loans), followed by building wealth and then preparing for kids.  However, things did not go as planned and while I still have the same goals, the schedule has shifted slightly.  While managing this fear, I chose to change my lifestyle dramatically and with that my priorities changed.  Since money always goes to your priorities first, things freed up in the budget.  And while some things I enjoyed have been cut out, I honestly don’t miss them because I have us.

Maturity was a completely different battle that I couldn’t figure out with spreadsheets and formulas because it was completely mental.  Prior to both of you, I would constantly have thoughts like “I am not really an adult”, “it feels like I left college yesterday” and “why is the cashier calling me sir, I can’t be more than 4 years older”.  Following your births, those thoughts along with the fact that I’m now supposed to raise and be responsible for a helpless human being…you may understand my fear.  While no switch has ever flipped that I am aware of, each day, I simply try my best, read what I can, listen to the doctors and do what we believe is best for you both.  However, it has been beyond refreshing to realize that I can run around the house in my underwear with you in your diaper yelling and mimicking my every move at the age of 29 without fear of being judged (except by your Mami) because I’m “playing with my kids”.

Stage 2: Pregnancy and Labor – FEAR of Helplessness 
This stage of fatherhood is very hands off and feeling helpless for 9 months is an indescribable FEAR.  Between the 37th and 40th week of pregnancy, there was not much I could do directly for you, but by making Mami comfortable, I knew I was helping…I think.  This phase was very difficult because while the reality of fatherhood becomes real upon hearing your heartbeat, seeing the ultrasounds, and watching Mami’s belly grow, there was nothing else I could do to make sure everything was going as planned.  During the day, to help ease the fear and feel part of the process, I studied like I was trying to be valedictorian in our lamaze class subsequently acing all the quizzes.  At doctor’s visits, I always had a list of questions and just tried to remind Mami of all the questions she had because “pregnancy brain” is real.  However, at night was when FEAR would peak.  Some nights were sleepless, but sleep or not, thoughts of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy and labor crept into my mind.

Labor was more intense than the pregnancy, whether it lasted 3 days (you) or 3 hours (“Deuce”).  Watching the sheer pain that Mami was in and only being able to offer ice chips or suggest a position change, gave me an overwhelming helpless feeling.  And, as she pushed, I offered what felt like empty words of encouragement like “just a few more minutes” and “one more good push”.  As I watched you guys come out, instantly, I counted limbs and appendages and wondered if the purple hue was normal. Specifically, during your birth Osito, your purple appearance had me speechless as the doctor guided you out and stated that the umbilical cord was around your neck.  His calmness didn’t help ease my fears of the worst because I was sure you weren’t getting enough oxygen.  It turns out, 1/3 of babies are born with the umbilical cord around their neck and some doctors don’t even mention it during the labor.

Stage 3: Introduction to the World – FEAR of the unknown. 
The fear in this stage is difficult to categorize, so we will call it the FEAR of the unknown.  I can’t count the number of times I check to see if you’re breathing by watching your chest rise and fall on the baby monitor or by blowing softly in your face while you’re in my arms to make sure you twitch.  While part of my fear has to do with innate behaviors like will you choke on food because I don’t know how you learned to chew and swallow or complications like the risk of putting tubes in your ears, the biggest area of concern is how you will successfully navigate this harsh world and making sure I teach you everything I know to help you do it better than me.  Reading and watching articles and videos on social media of kids getting bullied or an encounter with the police that goes tragically wrong, I find myself analyzing the situations like a case study.  My hope is that I can learn something, anything that I can teach you both to ensure you always come home.  What I have concluded to from my own experiences is that this fear is difficult to overcome, just being a father, but there is an added layer of complexity being a black dad raising his sons to be men.  My fear is that I may miss something and the worst happens to you because of it.

Osito and Duece

Coping Mechanism: 
As the cliché goes, I have a good understanding what my parents must have gone through raising me and your uncles and yet you’re not even old enough to leave the house, drive nor are you even ready for kindergarten for that matter.  I also understand why my parents and grandparents spent so much time praying for us.  Once you’ve done everything you can whether that be by making spreadsheets, reading and making up case studies, you have to turn it over to Jesus and know that he is your help and trust that all things work out for the good of those that trust him.  While fear is a natural human response, I encourage you both to not let it control you and prevent you from living the life that was planned for you before you were a twinkle in my eye. Despite all of this, you guys bring me so much joy with just a simple smile and I will never let fear stop me from being the best father possible.

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad

Food & Football Week 13 2016: The U vs Duke

My Beloved Osito,

It’s week 13 and with this being the last game of the regular season, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel of the 2016 NCAA Football season.  The grand finale will be a match up against the Duke Blue Devils in Durham, North Carolina.  This is an intmiracleriguing game solely based on how last year’s game ended with the “miracle“. It was a crazy last second play that ended with some officiating controversy.  The wildest thing about this game was not the play, but the backlash from the media after the game.  Many across the country were calling for The U to forfeit the game or for the ACC to give the win to Duke.  Anyone who has played sports or been around sports knows that you can’t focus on one play or call and ignore all the other calls throughout the game.  The U isn’t the first team to win (or lose) on a controversial call, yet this is the first time I’ve seen the ‘mob’ calling for a team to void a win.  It just feeds the narrative that the NCAA and the media is not very fond of The U, but I digress.

For the game meal, I explored a few options. The first was the “Devil” aspect of Duke’s mascotmascot named after the French soldiers of WWI, “Les Diables Bleus”.  This led me to explore devil’s food cake or maybe even loaded deviled eggs, but that didn’t intrigue me.  I reverted back to the state vegetable of North Carolina, the good ole sweet potato.  The game was right after Thanksgiving and everyone was shifting into the Christmas mood and I was craving a homemade pie.  It was a perfect match because I really wanted a sweet potato pie like I used to have at your great grandmother’s during the holidays.  The icing on the cake, or pie if you will, was that we also had a Weekend Adventure planned to Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, TX.

The game, with all the intrigue leading up to kickoff, was basic fundamental football.  You could tell The U had no intentions of putting the game in the hands of the referees again and took care of business.  Despite a very tight game in the first half, 16 -14 UM, The U ran away with it in the 3rd  quarter which gave more playing time to 2nd and 3rd string players in the last quarter.

The pie was very basic in execution as well.  I thought it was a complicated endkaden-patatoeeavor, but after talking with my mom, it is a simple dessert to make.  The game ended with a score of 40 to 21 and the U closed the regular season on a 4 game win streak.  The pie, coupled with all the nostalgia, ranked an 8 of 10 for me and it was Mami’s first time having sweet potato pie.  Next time I make a sweet potato pie, there will be a few tweaks I would like to make to enhance the experience.  For example, making the crust from scratch and adding a crunchy element of some type on top. But overall, this one was really good.  The U’s next game is a few weeks away as we wait for the start of the “College Football Bowl Season”.

crust-and-patatoe

Ingredients:

1.  Take two sweet potatoes and place them in the oven at 350 degrees until the peel starts to blacken and pull away from the flesh of the potatocooked-patatoe

2.  After the potatoes cool, peel and place in a mixing bowl

3.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg

4.  In a separate bowl, mix a cup of milk, two eggs, melted butter, and vanilla

5.  With the mixer on, slowly add liquid mixture into the potatoes and mix thoroughly

6.  Add mixture into the pie crust and sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon

oven-ready

7.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for ~30 min or until filling is set and the crust is brown

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad

Food & Football Week 12 2016: The U vs NCSt

My Beloved Osito,

Week 12 is upon us as The U travels to the state of North Carolina (NC) again to face off with the mr-and-mrs-wufNC State Wolfpack.  Going into the last two games of the season, knowing you don’t have a chance to play for the ACC Championship, can make you think that there is nothing to play for.  I hope this mindset is not the case as The U looks to increase their win streak to 3 games and close out the season on a high note, for a change. Realizing that we play a lot of teams from NC, and in an effort to avoid duplicating a meal, I decided on Carolina pulled pork.  It was basically my only option, given that their mascot, Mr. and Mrs Wuf was a nonstarter and I needed a break from the sweet potatoes, state veggie, trend, but I’m sure it will be back though.

Admittedly, I did not cook the “game meal” on game day, but on Sunday.  I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Air Force lab overseeing testing for one of our experiments.  One of the tests was to make one of the cells in the satellite’s battery burn-up to see if the heat would spread and destroy the other cells. This is called thermal runaway and we were going to create this by drilling a screw into one of the battery cells.

The other test was called vibration (vibe) testing. In simple terms we shake the experiment very hard to see if anything breaks.  Unexpectedly during this trip, I govib-testt some parenting tips. Prior to the start of Vibe Testing, we were delayed for about 10 minutes as one of the Doctors brought his kids in to watch. I thought to myself, how cool is this…not many kids get to see things like this and I need to expose you to things like this. You may like it and you may not, but at least you will know it’s an option because I never thought I would be doing this.

Despite cooking the meal after the fact, the game meal and the actual game were both very similar.  The game started off slow, and as a purely defensive battle, as both teams were only able to score 3 points in the first half.  For the meal, it was a slow process, since low and slow is the best when cooking pulled pork. I used smoke and indirect heat on the grill.  I left the pork on the grill for a few hours as we went to church, but upon our return, things began to pick up pace.  The pace picked up for The U as well after they returned from halftime with some much needed offensive adjustments scoring 14 points in the 3rd quarter.

I picked up tpressure-cookerhe pace for the game meal by transferring it from the grill to the pressure cooker. The U completed the game by outscoring NCST 24-10 in the second half on their way to a third straight victory winning 27-13.  After removing the pork from the pressure pot and pulling it, Mami voted to have loaded baked potatoes. The meal rated out at a 7 out of 10 because the grilled (baked) potato just wasn’t the best, but the pork was really good. Next week in the regular season finale, The U hosts the Duke Blue Devils.

Ingredients:
Meat Prep:
pork-in-seasoning
1. Fully unthaw pork butt and place in a large pan. Pour a bottle of beer into pan
2. With a sharp knife cut small slits (aka season pockets) all around the meat
3. Coat with olive oil, then cover and stuff season pockets with dry rub and minced garlic
4. Let marinate for at least 24 hours turning the butt over half way through the process

Dry rub:
1. In a bowl mix brown sugar, Cajun, dried onion flakes,
adobo, parsley, thyme and black pepper

Cook Prep:
1. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry
2. Lightly coat with soy sauce and add another layer of the dryer rub

Grill Prep:
1. Soak wood chips (I used cherry wood) according to packet instructions
2. Light the grill using the indirect heat method with fire on opposite side of chimney
3. Place the pan with liquid marinade under the rack where the meat will be placed

Cooking:
1. Place meat on grill for ~5 hours rotating the meat on all sides
2. Make sure to keep the heat going by adding coal and soaked wood chips as needed
– The flames died out a little when we went to church
3. Remove meat and cut into chunks
4. Place meat in pressure cooker with some of the liquid marinade from the pan
5. Place on high ~15mins depending on pressure cooker
– Ensure meat is done and it should easily pull apart

Potatoes:
1. Take baking potato and cut a few slits into it and coat with olive oil
2. Place the potato in foil with a slice of butter, salt and pepper and seal completely
3. Cook until soft, turning to ensure even cooking

final-meal

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”
@Outer_space_dad

Christmas Traditions: All of the Lights 2016

My Beloved Osito,

Christmas traditions come in various forms and develop under different circumstances for each family. Despite the tradition or how it was developed, pPresent.JPGeople cling to these events, activities or foods and find comfort in them and admittedly I am no different. Growing up, our traditions never revolved around presents. Presents were not a focal point, not
because we didn’t want things like every other kid, but because Mom and Pops only had enough to provide us with our basic needs most years. And thankfully, now that I’m grown, I am glad they were not the type to go into debt to get us things we were convinced we needed to survive.

As a kid, outside of dreading the presents aspect of Christmas; when other kids asked “what did you get for Christmas?” while showing off their designer clothes, shoes and overpriced toys from their parents; I looked forward to one thing (other than family), Christmas light displays. Going to see lights was not a tradition in our family, but more of a coincidence. Honestly, I don’t know why I enjoy the lights, but the art behind these master pieces with different colors, inflatables, and the surrounding environment
brings me joy. As a kid, there was one stretch of road, merry-texashighway 278, which always had an enormous display that stretched across multiple houses. I remember being in the backseat seeing all the vibrant colors and pointing out all the characters and designs screaming “did you see that?!”

Now, this childhood “coincidence”, has now become a part of our family tradition. As the Air Force moves us around through the years, we will explore the    Christmas lights displays in those areas and surrounding cities. This year we had a very “Merry Texas Christmas [Y’all]”. Comprised of two Hutchins’ Weekend Adventure(s), we went to Magical Winter Lights in Texas City and Santa’s Wonder Land in College Station, Texas.

Magical Winter Lights (MWL)

The environment of MWL did not create a Christmas mood, at all, given it was a gigantic parking lot right off I-45. Once you enter, there was no organized fchinalow, but just isolated displays scattered throughout the parking lot. Once you get over the highway noise, the street and business lights in the background and the huge Waffle House sign that looked like it was part of the park and focused on the displays, it was really awesome. We started at the enchanted forest, fully stocked with deer, unicorns and a carriage and then made our way around the world with stops in several different countries. We then took a step back to the “Land before Time” and visited with the dinosaurs. We then rushed to ‘Houston’ making it in time to catch the Space Shuttle. (Don’t be confused, you know the Shuttles were launched from my first base, Cape Canaveral, but there is a replica at Space Center Houston. We ended the adventure with a view of the solar system.

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Santa’s Wonderland (SW):name

SW completely nailed it when it came to putting someone in the Christmas mood. Once you walk through the over-sized red doors, you instantly felt transported to a scene out of a Christmas movie. The design of the different shops, the fire pit in the center of town and the music made for an amazing ambiance. The food was good and decently priced, but you can easily bring your own food inside. I am not sure if this is against policy, but you do what you want/need to when you have a baby bag and a sometimes picky baby (looking at you). The main attraction of SW is the hay ride through a wooded area full of lights and displays. The line was long, but worth the wait. Plus it didn’t seem that long since Mami held our place in line as I walked you around to keep you occupied. SW’s displays ranged from military tributes to magical castles with national landmarks and scenes from the North Pole in between. It was definitely worth the trip and you loved your first hay ride. However, I would suggest going during the week for a lower cost ticket and a smaller crowd.

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Overall, Christmas 2016 was composed of two really good adventures, but they both had their good and bag. If you could take the environment and ambiance from Santa’s Wonderland and combine it with the displays from Magical Winter Lights it would be an epic park.

1-houston

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

Outer Space Dad

Food & Football Week 11 2016: The U vs UVa

My Beloved Osito,

After getting back into the winners column in week 10, The U looked to start a new winning streak against the Virginia Cavaliers, UVa, on the road in Charlottesville.  UVa’s football team has been one of the worse teams in the ACC, statistically, the past decade winning 2 to 3 (2.6 average) of their 8 conference games a year.  Virginia Cavaliers NCAA Football Vs William & MaryDespite their woes, UVa has been a tricky opponent for The U winning 6 of the last 10 games.  Speaking of tricky, the game meal almost caused me to lose my mind trying to figure out a plan.  For this
meal, the mascot route was a dead end.  UVa’s mascot, a Cavalier, is a mounted horseman named CavMan and through research, I found that this was the name given to supporters of King Charles I in England’s Civil War (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/choosingsides_01.shtml) in 1642.  After the mascot route, I started down the road of UVa’s nickname, Wahoos.  However, the nickname was apparently derived from the schools rally cry in the 1890s.  So, here I was, with no good leads, and game day quickly approaching.  As Mami and I laid in bed, she asked me what my plan was for the game and I told her that I had nothing but information about King Charles’ supporters and a rally cry.  As I told her about the rally cry, she looked over and calmly stated “isn’t a Wahoo a type of fish?” (it is!).  And so the game meal was set.

The game did fish-marketnot start off well at all.  After a solid defensive stand on the opening drive, on The U’s first offensive play, UVa snatched the ball out of the receiver’s hands for an interception.  It appeared that The U’s bad luck with UVa was go to continue for another year.  My luck with the game meal did not start out well either.  Living in Houston, we are close to the bay where there are a ton of fish markets.  After doing my due diligence online, I found a fish market in Kemah that I thought had exactly what I needed (http://m.baybrookseafood.com/?url=http://www.baybrookseafood.com%2F#2804).  However, I was living the reality that you can’t believe everything you see on the internet.  After visiting 5 other markets in the area, with no luck, and talking to one of the owners, I realized that none of them sold Wahoo fish because it was mostly found in the Pacific and Caribbean waters.

WAHOO

Needing to adjust to this sudden bad fortune, I remembered that Mami was having pregnancy cravings for tuna salad so I decided to make grilled tuna.  Much like my quick adjustment, The U changed the course of the game by scoring the next 17 points of the game, but after another UVa TD, The U had a slim 3 point lead at halftime.  The U completely dominated the second half and with a 34-14 win started a 2 game winning streak.  The grilled tuna was amazing as well with a 9 out 10 rating.  This rating was despite the fact that half way through the cooking process Mami informed me that she was craving canned tuna and not fresh tuna steaks.  Next week, The U faces the Wolf Pack of North Carolina State.

Ingredients
Fish

  1. Take tuna and clean and cut into 2-3 in cuts of
    not done by the market
  2.  Coat the tuna in olive oil (so it will not stick on the grill) and place in the m
    arinate/sauce
  3. On direct heat, cook for 3-4 minutes on each side
  • It is safe to eat under cooked tuna (like sushi), but I cooked this one thoroughly because Mami was pregnant with Deuce


Marinade/sauce

  1. Add two table spoons of mayonnaise (also helps sticking) and 1 table spoon of Greek yogurt in a food processor
  2. Add minced garlic, dried onions, cajun seasoning, lemon juice and a pinch of black pepper
  3. Add a handful of lightly chopped dill and mix well
  • Note: I marinade the tuna in this mixture and I also used it as a sauce with the fish and air fryer fries (yea again)

meal

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad

Dad vs GM: Why I will never buy GM again

My Beloved Osito,

High school, in Dr. H’s marketing class, is where my love for business started.  It even led me to become the President of our school’s Distributive Education Clubs of001 America (DECA) chapter.   During this time, I learned the philosophies of how to treat customers and the importance of establishing repeat customers.  I would even say I had a great comprehension of these and other business lessons given I made it to multiple National
DECA competitions, winning region and state, and then graduated from one of the top business schools at The U (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-miami-1536). Because of this, I was completely blindsided when GM not only refused to remedy an issue they caused, but made it extremely disheartening to be a customer.  Since I don’t believe in blind following let me explain what happened.

March 2015:  The Letter                        
While everything started in 2013, the best place to begin this story is in the middle.  It was like any other day, I had just gotten home from work and your mom went to check the mailbox.  As she came into the house, among all the junk mail, she noticed I had mail from GM.  She admits she almost threw it in the trash, but something told her to give it to me.  I don’t fault her for almost throwing it away because the letter looked eerily identical to junk mail asking to buy your car because there is a shortage.  While I sat next to her feeling you kick in her stomach (she was 6 months pregnant with you), I read that my ‘08 Chevy (Road Warrior) could experience a loss of 3rd, 5th and reverse gears due to a faulty wave plate in the transmission. The letter also stated that GM would reimburse customers if you have already paid for “REPAIRS” if they submitted a claim (http://www.gminsidenews.com/forums/f53/2007-2009-6spd-gm-extends-wave-plate-coverage-10yr-120-000-a-199849/ ).  I was excited and angry upon reading this.  Excited because I knew I had paid for two repairs that fit this description and angry because it opened up an old wound that I thought was healed.  Now, let’s go to the beginning.

June 2013:  The Beginning    
It was a sunny and breezy Friday evening after work in Cape Canaveral, Florida that I remember vividly.  I was driving over the Banana River on HWY 404 headed to Patrick AFB to meet up with your Godfather at the Officers Club to….um… network! Yes, yes, network…over a few beverages.  As I was driving, I felt my car jerk and skip.  I immediately thought I hit something in the road, but when I pressed the gas the car revved without accelerating.  At that point, I knew my transmission was done.  After the long tow truck wait and the long ride to the dealership, I spent the next 6 days in a rental car and bombing rides waiting on Road Warrior to be fixed.  During that time I was also wondering how much this was going to set me back financially.  I had only been in the Air Force for ~2 years and aSAMSUNGfter buying furniture to be a real adult I did not have enough time to create a significant ‘Rainy Day’ fund.  According to the GM report the “engine will not accelerate.  Engine revs and transmission is slipping.  Internal transmission failure” and they “remove[d] and overhaul[ed] transmission”.  It set me back pretty hard, but since I kept up with all my routine maintenance and now had a warranty on my transmission, I thought I was in the clear for a while, but then..

September 2013:  You Took Everything      
Yes, you read that correctly, three months later I found myself in a similar (no no no) the same exact situation, but worse.  Oddly, your Godfather was involved and like before it was on a Friday evening.  It was a calm, cool evening after work and we were making the 2.5 hour drive to Miami to complete the second half of our 2 week ACC vs SEC College Football extravaganza.  The previous week, we road tripped to Clemson, SC, Death Valley, and watched his Tigers take down the University of Ga. and now we were on our way to see The U take on the University of FL which marks the start of Food and Football. (https://outerspacedad.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/football-food-week-1-2016-the-u-vs-famu/).

We made it to Miami and were literally pulling into Abuela’s driveway when I felt that oh so familiar jerk and skip.  Immediately, I knew what was wrong and was beyond upset because I needed Road Warrior to execute the weekend agenda, but I knew it was covered under warranty so I wasn’t stressing.  Thanks to Abuela and Mami for using their cars, we had a great weekend, but after another tow, Road Warrior was back at the dealership, this time in Miami. Talking with the GM rep, Mr. Erickson, I was ensured that if it was the same issue (and I was positive it was) the work would be covered, but they had to look at the transmission first.  A day later I got the call and like a punch to the stomach, the rep told me that it was a different issue and the repair was 1.25 times greater than the first repair.  Knowing that my ‘Rainy Day’ fund was had just taken a devastating hit 3 months earlier, I was stressing trying to figure out how to pay for this repair.  My only realistic choice, without borrowing money, was to withdraw money from my retirement IRA (it is never too early to start planning for that) and deal with the tax penalty during tax season.

Your Godfather and I were able to make it back to Cape Canaveral with a friend I knew from college that was also heading North after attending the UM vs UF game as well.  While Road Warrior spent the week in Miami; for me, it was another 9 days in a rental car and bombing rides.  Back in Miami the following week, the GM report from the dealer stated that the “transmission will not accelerate. Revs and sounds like slipping with an internal transmission fault” and they “remove[d] and rebuilt the transmission”.  Now I am not a mechanic nor did I major in English, but these descriptions are basically identical with the use of a few synonyms.  It felt like the Miami dealership took the report from the Cocoa dealership and scrolled through a synonyms list to edit the report to avoid plagiarism.  Needless to say, I was beyond upset, but I felt like there was nothing I could do.  The dealership said it was different, so despite the reports being basically identical, it was different and my money was gone.  Now that you understand why I had the mixed emotions on receiving the letter let’s go back to the present.

April 2016:  Put the Plan in Motion     
After hunting down proof of payment by contacting the Miami dealership and searching through years of bank statements online, I had everything required to submit the claim.  I started the process with the local dealership in Houston since we had changed duty stations in this time frame.  I submitted the claim for both repairs, but the dealership stated that the report for the June (Cocoa) repair was not detailed enough (mind you, I didn’t write it, the Cocoa dealership did and they could have contacted them to clarify) and suggested that I should work this issue through GM’s Reimbursement Office.  Looking back, I should have got this in writing, but the GM rep, Rodriguez, stated that it shouldn’t be an issue because the repairs look identical and was surprised I had to pay for them both.  After submitting the claim for the September repair, I contacted the GM reimbursement department and opened a case.

May 2015: Patience is a Virtue
In accordance with the department’s instructions, I mailed all the required claim documentation for the June (Cocoa) repair and then anxiously awaited the 10 weeks noted in their letter  for them to respond.  There was good news during this time period which was that the September (Miami) repair was reimbursed.  It was very timely given you would be here next month and we were still missing things needed for your arrival.

July 2015: It’s Over, When I Say It’s Over
After the wait period, I called the reimbursement department to get an update on my claim.  I was given a case manager to assist me in the process, but no assistance was given.  Every time I called, one of two things would happen.  First, I would get the voicemail and have to leave a message.  It was upsetting because the voicemail would state that my phone call would be returned in 24 hours, but that never happen.  Second, I would call and get directed to another case manager who would make me explain the whole situation only for them to say they can’t help me because, you guessed it, they aren’t assigned to my case.  I felt like they were trying to wear me down for me to just give up, but despite the fact I would have to leave my office every time I called, I kept at it.  This phone tag game lasted for about a week and then I finally heard from the case manager in a voicemail (I have zero cell phone signal in my office).  To my dismay, the voicemail was not the news I was hoping for.  I was told that “It is only one reimbursement per code, so unfortunately the second reimbursement cannot be reimbursed for”.  Followed by, “if I had any questions I should contact the dealership in Florida”.  Obviously I was blindsided by this statement because nowhere in the official GM notice did it state that they would only reimburse one repair, in fact it said repair[S] (Language Arts 101: the “S” makes it plural which means more than one) and never mentioned anything about a “code”.  I called back immediately to get a detailed explanation, but I was never able to contact the case manager again.  I attempted to elevate the issue, but I was told that I had to work through my case manager whom nobody could locate.  I honestly thought the situation was over and I was just out of luck. I thought it was over, not because the issue was resolved, but rather because GM decided it was over, but then…

Aug 2015: Time for Counsel     
During a routine conversation with Brother A, I told him the story and how GM just ceased all communication with me the month prior without a real resolution.  He switched out of his friend hat and put on his lawyer hat and informed me that I had a good case if I wanted to pursue a resolution through the legal system.  I quickly jumped on the opportunity to get a real resolution and now that I had someone in my corner, I was ready to fight.  Not only for the reimbursement, but to get closure on the wound that was opened in 2013 and the feelings of being ignored, bullied and ran in circles by GM.  However, things got worse…

September 2015:  The Demand    
Over the next month, when we could both find time, we (well Brother A, I just fed him information and drafts and he put his lawyer spin on them and made thdemand-letterem official) worked on our approach.  The first step was a demand letter.  In summary, the letter stated that his client (that would be me ) was wronged and GM was legally obligated to reimburse for the second repair based on the contract established in their letter.  In closing, it stated that if GM did not respond, that legal action would be taken promptly.
After sending the letter to GM the waiting game commenced again.

October 2015: The Counter Punch
Shortly after the demand was sent, we got a response from GM.  I know I have been caught off guard throughout this whole story, but this one took the award for best blindside.  The response from GM’s legal department stated that they had reviewed all the supporting documentation and came to the following conclusion.  First, I would not be reimbursed for the June (Cocoa) repair and second, I should not have been reimbursed for the September (Miami) repair.  The rationale behind this claim was that it did not meet the requirements in their “Special Coverage” policy.  When Brother A asked about this ‘so called’ special policy, we were directed to read the letter they mailed me in March 2015 that started this whole process.

November 2015 – April 2016: Trust the Process 
Given that their response did not resolve the issue, but in fact made it more mystifying, we stayed true to our word and started the process to take legal action.  Trying to feel my way around the Texas court system was not a fun experience.  In fact, multiple times I wonder if this was worth
the time and effort going back and forth to the court house.  Filling out all the court forms was a mission and left me in the middle relaying information between the court and Brother A and at times required me to just give my phone to the clerk and let them just talk.  One thing I did learn, being in the system is not where you want to be even if you are on the right side of the law.

May 2016:  small-claimsYou Got Served
After months of treading water and fighting waves, I had everything to file a small claim lawsuit.  As I walked into the post office to mail the citation, a feeling of excitement and nervousness covered me.  This was such a surreal moment for me.  Like most, I have made off the cuff comments like “yea you do that and I’ll sue you”, but I never thought I would actually be in a situation where I was actually suing someone.  This story that has spanned
3 years was now in motion to officially be concluded for good or for bad.

June 2016: A Step in the Right Direction
Per the court, GM had 15 days to “answer” the citation.  While I didn’t really know what would happen if they didn’t “answer” (I assume the court would rule in my favor), part of me hoped this fell through GM’s cracks and this would be over.  However, a few days prior to the ‘answer’ deadline, I got a call from GM legal just like Brother A predicted.  They explained that they wanted to settle the issue without submitting an ‘answer’.  I’ll admit I was excited when I heard this. Not so much for the money, but that this journey was over.  In summary, their settlement was to refund me for the repair.  This would have been great a year ago when I first submitted the claim, but now, now it’s just not enough.  I tried to meet GM halfway for the sake of a resolution.  In addition to the repair cost, all I asked for was court costs and attorney fees.  I took this offer to cover the repair as them admitting to being wrong since they had adamantly said NO over the years, I would expect them to stand their ground unless something had changed?  I know you’re thinking “attorney fees? but that’s Brother A, didn’t he do this for you for free?”!  Yes, attorney fees, I don’t believe in the “friend” hookup because if you believe in your friend’s skills and abilities and happen to need them one day, you should be their best full paying customer, but that’s a story for another day, so I digress.  The rep had to call me back because they needed approval to accept the new conditions.  The call back was prompt and as I listened I quickly realized that this journey was far from over.  I was told that “GM would only pay for the repair and it was against their policy to pay for fees and damages”.  I will admit that the rep seemed sincerely sorry and stated the obvious, that I did not have to accept the offer and that they would submit an answer and that was exactly what happened.  So the story goes on…

July – October 2016:  Lost in the System
After receiving the ‘answer’, the long wait for a “speedy trial” began.  I was honestly disappointed in reading their answer because it basically said nothing.  We sent a 6 page citation with exhibits detailing the entire story and their ‘answer’ was 3 sentences that stated GM wants to settle, but since they are offering less than what I asked for in the citation they request a court date.  Over the next several months, I contacted the court house fairly regularly to get an update.  I was told I would not go to court earlier than 6 months from when the ‘answer’ was submitted which put a resolution possibly in January 2017.  My biggest fear was that I would get a court date after we moved to our next duty station and I would have to fly back to deal with this.  This was only second to me losing, which is a possibility.

November 2016: Light at the end of the Tunnel 
On one of my random visits to the courthouse, I would get better service in person than over the phone. I was told that due to the low cost of my claim I would probably be given court appointed mediation.  True to the clerk’s word, within the week, I received a notice in the mail to contact a local mediator over the next 10 days to schedule a date within the month.  Thinking to myself that the end is near, I quickly tried to contact the mediator.  After a few days of calling, I finally got an answer.  Per the mediator’s request, I supplied dates over the next month that I could meet.  Between work, traveling for work, and the Christmas holidays, I only had 5 free days.  The mediator took my openings and contacted GM for their availability.  I was a little upset assuming GM got the same notice I did and wondered why the mediator had to hound GM for their availability when we were told to do the contacting.  The next day I heard back from the mediator and true to form, GM did not accommodate any of the 5 days I provided.  They only submitted 2 days during that period.  Annoyed and reluctant, I moved things around to accommodate GM’s date.  The mediator gave me the option to delay, but this would have put the appointment in Jan 2017 and if mediation doesn’t work I assume we would be back on the courts waitlist.  Being back on that wait list rebirths the risk that we would move before this is over.

December 2016:  The Last Chapter or Just Another Chapter    
Preparation for mediation has been very nerve wrecking and unsettling given I’m in uncharted territory.  I have been playing out different scenarios in my head and how I would respond to each aspect of the case.  I’ve prepared a cost summary to justify every dime I’ve asked for and it has even got to the point where I am debating my wardrobe.  If one of my days had been selected, my plan was to go in business attire, suit and tie.  I was trying to avoid wearing my Air Force uniform to avoid appearing as if I was looking for the sympathy card because I served in the military.  I don’t believe I am owemediationd anything for choosing to serve, not even a “thank you.” However, now that I will be going to mediation during the work day and have to return to work right after, I have no choice.  But as Mami explained it, “you’re taking time from your job to deal with this mess that was handed to you, meaning you don’t have time to go home and play dress up to ensure that your uniform does not present an unintended bias.” Outside of cost summaries, wardrobe debates, and running scenarios, my mediation prep has also birthed this post.  I felt it best to capture my emotions throughout this 3 year
roller coaster for the mediation and I also wanted to share it with you so you’ll know why I’ll never buy from GM again.  This journey started when Mami was 6 months pregnant with you and you’re now a year and half. Hopefully by the end of the year this will be resolved and I will have a happy ending to share, but until then I will continue to fight for what is mine.

TO BE CONTINUED…