Massage Your Way to Fatherhood

This is a piece written by Tom from who is chronicling his journey to fatherhood!


Have you ever tried giving somebody a massage while at the same time watching an exciting, tense blockbuster flipflopmovie? Not a very good mix. It is a bit like the childhood challenge of ‘patting your head and rubbing your stomach’. Your eyes are watching explosions, car chases and fight scenes, your whole body wants to flinch and jump but somehow you have to force your hands to ignore the carnage and continue gently and lovingly caressing the shoulders of the person in front of you. As the main character nearly dies, so to, does your partner from sustained deep tissue compression and asphyxiation. It turns out, the commonly used film review term ‘gripping’ has a very literal meaning.

I have been giving a lot of massages recently. Twice daily in fact. I concentrate on the lower back in the morning and work on the feet during the evening session. Of course I am happy to oblige. My girlfriends belly is heavy and her feet are swollen as she continues to carry our child who is now ten days overdue. At this rate she could be the first baby ever born old enough to formally introduce herself on arrival.

It is interesting how my massages have changed from an apathetic 5 minute neck squeeze into the primary source of support I am able to provide at the moment. They have become my outlet for feeling useful again. My own little specialism. Every evening we settle down on the sofa after dinner and I get to work. Rocking and pressing particular areas of discomfort and circling specific points that are known to induce labour. When there isn’t a film on in the background to distract me, I am fully focussed on the task. I think to say I enjoy it would not be entirely true. But it has certainly become an important part of our routine and is something I will miss when no longer needed.

I have a sneaky suspicion that my girlfriend had this situation fully in mind when she insisted that we join a twelve day retreat in Greece to study the ancient practice of Thai Yoga Massage earlier this year. It was a strange but interesting course, full of colourful people (and I don’t just mean in personality trait sense, they were actually all bloody colourful. Green hair, rainbow t-shirts and orange leggings seemed to be the standard uniform of choice). The teacher was a real life Guru. He had spent ten years living in a Thai Buddhist monastery, meditated for three hours a day and spoke very few words. One of his favourite words however was ‘Tats’. He ended every sentence with the word ‘Tats’. He told me at the beginning of the week that I had a good ‘Tats’. I covered my nipples and thanked him. It was three days into the course before I realised he was actually saying ‘Touch’ in a thick Greek accent.

I didn’t get off to the best start on the retreat. On our first evening we were told to meet in the studio for a welcome circle. When I arrived, around thirty people were already sat cross legged, their eyes closed and bodies softly swaying to the light mantra music playing the background. Everybody had a smile on their face as they deeply inhaled the positive energy up through their pierced nostrils. I took my seat, awkwardly folding one leg over the other and joined in. After a few seconds I opened one eye just to check they hadn’t all changed position or crept out of the room as part of some elaborate prank. My gaze was instantly drawn to a huge menacing hairy spider in the middle of the room. I really hate spiders. It began to crawl directly towards my exposed feet. I started blowing at it to try and change its course. It came at me faster. I tapped my feet forcefully on the mat to scare it off. My heart rate picked up and I could feel sweat gathering on my forehead. It continued forward, intent on sinking its fangs into my flesh. In a split second before it reached me, I smashed it with a flip flop.

There was a gasp from the room. Thirty angry militant vegans simultaneously opened their eyes, saw what had happened and glared at me. I peeled the remaining three spider legs from the bottom of my shoe and carried what was left of it outside, apologising profusely as I went. The next 12 days were tough. I am sure I could hear whispers of ‘murderer’ whenever I entered a room.

But aside from this awkward start. I actually did learn a lot. I discovered how massaging certain points on the body can release pressure in other areas. I learned techniques in manipulating joints and the effects this has on different muscle groups and, more importantly, I found out that I had good tats.

Massage is something us expecting dads can offer without any qualifications or training. It’s easy and relaxing, it helps your partner feel more comfortable and allows us to play a more useful role especially during the later stages of  pregnancy.

Just perhaps avoid giving one when the football is on. Bruised shoulders are probably not the best look to enter a hospital with.

Posted on August 3, 2015 by Holdin' Holden 0 Comment

My Kids Aren’t Friends, and I Won’t Force Them to Be

Whenever I tell people about the insane amount of fighting that goes on in my house, they brush it off, laugh, and say “sibling rivalry!”


hhlogoMaybe it’s normal, natural, even totally okay for siblings not to get along in their youth. Maybe it’s normal, natural, even totally okay for siblings NEVER to get along in their youth. I certainly didn’t get along with my brother growing up, but I sometimes wonder if that was normal, too. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.

As a parent, I find “sibling rivalry” to be the most annoying, irritating thing I’ve ever had to deal with. More annoying than a fork being dragged across a plate. More cringe-worthy than teeth grinding together, or nails on a chalkboard. It’s the worst. Seriously. Most days, I’d rather sit in a vat of acid than listen to them fight over Legos one more time. It certainly gave me a whole new insight into why my mom was so f’ing crazy while I was growing up. Me and my brother were at each others throats constantly. I don’t actually even remember a single moment where we got along. My mom’s method was to punish us by telling us we’d better get along “or else”. “Or else” included all kinds of fun punishments from the loss of toys, and desserts, to groundings, to being sent to be without dinner. So, of course, we played together, but I think my mom’s method was flawed.

I don’t want to say it was wrong, because I know that when we get put in situations where we feel like we’re about to snap, we utilize whatever parental skill we can think up to make it stop as quickly as possible- and every kid reacts differently. But, in the long run, forcing me and my brother to play together backfired on her. Our fights went from verbal to physical. He broke my nose, I broke his finger, and it was all laughed off and called “Sibling rivalry”- but man, could it have been avoided?

Me and my brother didn’t get along until our twenties. There was a long period of time I thought we never would.

I wouldn’t call my kids mortal enemies, but they are not friends. They fight more than they get along. They argue more than they agree, and just like my mother before me, it’s driving me crazy. Really crazy. Like, wire hangers, putting them in a “get-along” t-shirt, making them hold hands all day kind of crazy.

At first, I went the same way as my mom. It seemed like the right thing to do. “YOU TWO STOP FIGHTING AND PLAY TOGETHER NICELY!” Reasonable, right? At first, it seemed to work, at least a little bit, but the older Holden got, the less he seemed to want to play with his little brother- and the older his little brother got, the MORE he wanted to play with Holden. It became clash of the titans up in this bitch. “PLAY TOGETHER NICELY” quickly turned into “JUST PLAY WITH YOUR BROTHER! GOOD GOD, MAN!” and the longer that went on, the less they enjoyed playing together. The more they fought, argued, complained, and banished each other from their rooms. I nearly took their damn doors off of the hinges. I’m still tempted to some days, honestly.

In a rare moment of clarity, I realized my tactic wasn’t working. It would probably never work. I should probably try something else, and so I did. I stopped. Completely. They didn’t “have” to play together anymore. If one wanted to be alone, I made sure that happened. Of course, I nipped their rudeness in the ass, and insisted if they didn’t want to play they should at least be polite about it, but there would be no more pushing from me. That mess was exhausting anyway.

The less I told them to play together, the more they wanted to. I didn’t have to force it on them, instead, I started having to force them apart as punishment (because, still, they constantly fight). Arguing with no resolve? You two don’t get to play together. Complaining non-stop? Banned from playing together. Crying or getting hurt? No more playing together. They might not like each other very much, but they sure hate to be apart now. …Most of the time.

They’re not friends. They might not be friends for a long time, but I’m thinking they’ll get there before their twenties, and hopefully before I’ve resorted to sticking them in a “get-along” t-shirt….. which I might do anyway, just because it’s hilarious.

Posted on July 31, 2015 by Holdin' Holden 2 Comments

My Spam Box Just Doesn’t Get Me

If I had to count the number of times I check my e-mail per day… well…. it might be kind of embarrassing. In my spamdefense, I’m pretty much ALWAYS waiting for an e-mail that might be important, so it’s kind of necessary to obsessively press the refresh button. Over the years, my spam filter has gotten a bit over protective, so along with checking my regular inbox, I have to scan through my spam box to see if anything accidentally got caught.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this obnoxious task, it’s that spam mail just doesn’t get me at all.  The internet isn’t dumb. It’s full of dumb, but it is not dumb. The filters and algorithms and circulation of our information have all evolved to the point where they know what we want when we want it, and make it a point to shove it down our throats at all times. It’s this strange, unnerving Stockholm Syndrome-like comfort. So… then why is spam so WRONG?

HEY- SPAMMERS! Yeah, I’m talking to you!

If all your botting, info sharing, data farming, and list buying worked, you wouldn’t be sending me erectile dysfunction emails. I don’t have a wiener. I MADE two wieners, but I do not have one, and the ones I made best not be using theirs like that for a long time.
You wouldn’t pretend to be “Kelsey”, who is apparently so horny that she e-mails me thinking I have a wiener and want to secretly hook up.
I don’t.
Sorry, “Kelsey”. You’ll have to find true love (or a “super hot hook up”) elsewhere.
I’m not interested in international affairs or financing, so no, I do not want to open a bank account for you to filter your millions through. Not even if I get to “keep” some, you generous devil, you.
I’m not interested in cheap Raybans, or Wal-Mart gift cards. To be honest, Wal-Mart scares me.
While I appreciate your concern, my Paypal account has not been limited, so clicking your link isn’t going to be necessary.
No, I don’t believe that random e-mail actually came from my own e-mail address, nor do I have split-personalities.

Geez, Spam- why do you have to suck? Why can’t you offer relevant topics? Why do you have to be such a scam all. the. time? If you would just take a MOMENT of the time you are wasting to use my e-mail address to do anything other than spam me, you could fulfill an actual need that I have. Like, say, you invented a product to shut my kids up in 5 seconds that doesn’t involve duct tape or locking them in the broom closet, that’d be super awesome. I’d click on that shit.

Instead, you leave me to have to find these magical things myself, and still sit there spamming me about enlarging my invisible wiener. This is the digital age. You cannot convince me that enough people are falling for overseas banking scams and fake internet call-girls named Kelsey to make ANY amount of time wasted on this shit worthwhile. Get your shit together, or remain forever being emptied from my spambox. Links unclicked, files undownloaded, and Kelsey’s unsatisfied.

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Holdin' Holden 1 Comment

Texas Hold-On

This is a guest piece written by the wonderful Amanda. She doesn’t have a blog, but she seriously should.




I don’t blog because I don’t have a blog. I never know what to put in a blog. It’s funny, really. Writing is like breathing to me, and yet, blogging is this foreign beast that I just don’t know how to handle…but lately, I’ve had a lot building up on my chest. A lot that I just don’t know how to handle. A lot that, if I don’t get it out, could crush me.


I have friends and family I can talk to, though no one truly understands how I’m feeling and that’s not their fault. Maybe it’s my fault. How do you explain the sensation of your skull filling up with fluid? How do you explain the frustration of having to practice a sentence five or six times in your head to make sure you get it right only to have your brain fail you when you go to speak it out loud and you end up stuttering or having to restart it at least twice before it all comes out?


My brain is broken and I can’t fix it. My thoughts are muddled half the time and the only time I can put them in order is when my fingers are on a keyboard. I can’t focus on a conversation and lose whole parts of sentences that are being said to me even when I’m staring right at the person talking to me. I don’t know where the lost information goes. I am not distracted when I’m being spoken to. I am focusing solely on the person I’m speaking to. I am wholly in that moment and yet chunks just disappear.


My life: every moment, every conversation, every sensation, every interaction with the world around me, they are all grains of sand and I’m holding them in my hands, trying to hold them close and not lose them and they’re slipping through my fingers no matter what I do. I scrabble to scoop them back up, to hold them more gently, and to move more slowly so they’re not knocked loose, to take the time to savor them, and yet I still lose them. Every night I lay in bed and I think about the day I had with my family with this nagging feeling in my stomach telling me I’m forgetting something. I’m forgetting something. I don’t know what I’m forgetting, but it’s slipping past my fingers.


Another grain of sand gone. Another memory lost.


Another misspelled word that I used to be able to spell without thinking. Another word I had to look up that I used to know without the help of a dictionary.


And yet I cling to a date.


February 18th 2015. A month and a day after my 9th wedding anniversary. I sat in a neurologist’s office, staring at the ornate swords collecting dust on top of his book shelves- book shelves filled with texts and journals, studies and research articles- and I thought about how much Mat would love those swords. Something was wrong with the front end on my car so my mother in law had dropped everything to bring me to the neurologist. I needed to say thank you again for that.


I tried to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as I waited for the neurologist to come in. I tried not to focus on what he was going to tell me. I was pretty sure I already knew what was wrong- the neuro-ophthalmologist had been fairly certain of the diagnosis when he referred me to the neurologist.


I made it two pages into Frankenstein and I lost focus. I’d read two pages and couldn’t tell you the faintest thing about what I’d read. I closed the e-book and pulled out my phone. I scrolled through Facebook looking at the smattering of late Valentine’s Day posts. I’d started Weight Watchers on Valentine’s Day and gotten a small fake rose from the cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts that morning. When Facebook couldn’t hold my attention, I went to texting my best friend, but she was at work, so responses were going to be sporadic. I texted mat as well. He was playing a video game and then had to get Connor off the bus. I was bored, I was scared, I was trying to be brave. I wanted to go home. My head hurt.


Finally, the neurologist came in. He asked me a thousand questions and then handed me a piece of paper to read and I was supposed to tell him if I had any of the symptoms on the list. I skimmed the first ten- I had them all. After that the words blurred and I couldn’t read them. My eyes kept skipping off the page and it made my head hurt more. My brain was aching. I didn’t know your brain could ache. I didn’t know that you could feel the different parts of your brain throb if the pain was bad enough. You can.


I hopped up on the exam table and made some sarcastic comments- hiding my fear and my pain behind humor because my hands were trembling and my chin was quivering.


“C’mon, Amanda, you’re a grown woman. You can handle a doctor’s appointment. He’s going to tell you that the neuro-opthalmologist was wrong, you just have a migraine, and you need to take your imitrex more often. You’re fine,” I said to myself. I berated myself for letting anxiety and fear make a home in my chest.


“Its just a migraine…” I chanted it to myself as he listened to my heart and he had me squeeze his fingers. “It’s just a migraine.” I repeated it like it was a mantra as he checked my reflexes and shone an insanely bright light straight into my eyes. “Here it comes. He’s going to tell me it’s just a migraine,” I told myself again as he set the light down and took a seat next to the exam table.


“You have pseudotumor. Another name is idiopathic intracranial hypertension. It all means that you have spinal fluid going into your brain- we all do actually- but for you, it doesn’t leave and so the pressure builds up and it causes all of the symptoms you’re feeling.” He said it like he was telling me I had a cold.


“So, what do I have to take? How long does it last? When should the headaches go away?”


“We have to do another CT scan because they didn’t do one of the back of your brain. I am going to start you on medication today. It doesn’t go away. If the medicine doesn’t work then we have to put a shunt into your brain, which means I have to drill into your head and put a tube from your brain to drain the fluid into your stomach. The pills should make the headaches manageable…so will weight loss.”


It doesn’t go away. Those four words have echoed in my head for four months and sixteen days now.

The medicine should make the headaches manageable.


They’re “manageable.”


When you ask me how I am, assume I have a headache. If I am mentioning that it hurts, I’ve reached the point where I can feel every region of my brain and they’re all throbbing to a different beat.

When we’re having a conversation and I suddenly stutter or seem like I’m starting a sentence over and over, be patient with me. My brain is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.

If I seem disinterested, I’m not.

If I seem impatient with you, I’m sorry. I’m impatient with me…never you.


THIS ISN’T WHO I WAS A YEAR AGO. This isn’t who I want to be now. But this is who I am. And it hurts. It hurts to my very soul. It’s a knot that sits like a lead ball in my gut. I can’t explain how I feel. It’s like trying to explain the color orange to someone who’s been blind their entire life. For all that I can do, I cannot, for the life of me, find the words in my ever dwindling- but once extensive- vocabulary to explain the soul searing pain that I feel every morning.


I live my life by a timer. Every six hours I must take my medication… There is no spontaneity allowed for me any longer.


There is no easy happy ending to be found here. I’m sorry if you read all of this hoping to find happiness waiting at the bottom. That’s not the case right now. Sometimes, it’s not about being happy with your situation, though. Sometimes it’s about realizing that this is the hand you were dealt and while you can throw a few cards back and maybe you’ll even be luckily to be given new cards to play, at the end of the day, all we can do is play the hand we have. There’s no folding allowed in this game.


The pseudotumor shortened my lifespan but I’ve decided if Death wants me she’s going to have to lace up her running shoes and chase my ass down. I will not go to the grave silently nor will I go easily. I’m still here. I’m still playing this hand, dammit!


This is not who I want to be. But this *is* who I am.



Amanda is an unpublished author and stay at home mom. She was raised in Green Bay but transplanted to Chicago to be with her husband and has been married for nine and a half years now. When she’s not writing, or trying to keep her son and husband out of trouble, she can be found watching the Food Network and knitting inappropriate novelty items.

Posted on July 24, 2015 by Holdin' Holden 1 Comment

A Letter to My Kids: There Is ALWAYS a Good Reason!

Dear kids,

You don’t have to ask me for most things, because I already know. I know you. And you should know that the things I do for you, and tell you to do, might not always be fun, but there is always a good reason behind them!

I don’t put tomato on your sandwich because I know you don’t like it
I bring you your stuffed lemur because I know it’s your favorite
I tell you not to jump off the top of the picnic table because I don’t want you to get hurt
I kiss your booboos because I want you to feel better
I make you pick up after yourself because it’s important to learn not to be a slob. And also, I don’t want to die via Lego to the arch.
I don’t let you watch hours of TV because I don’t want you to rot your brain
I set your bed time because, contrary to childhood belief, sleep is good for you
I don’t buy you everything you want (but claim you “neeeeeeeed”) because I want you to learn to be grateful for what you havetimeout
I put you in time out, not to be mean, but because you need to learn that there are negative consequences for some of  your actions
I make you wash your hands after going to the bathroom because ew
I tell you to do chores to reach you responsibility and the satisfaction of getting work done
I remind you to say please and thank you when you forget because manners are important. So is not being a douche.
I tell you I love you because I want you to know that even if I don’t like you very much, the love always remains
And I tell you that you’re being a raging asshole because I’m your frickin’ Mommy, and if someone doesn’t call you on your shit early enough, you’ll always be an asshole, and I don’t want you being the asshole who is living alone in my basement at 28 years old, eating microwave easy mac, playing with your junk, and  smelling like shit. That’s not gonna happen on my watch.

You’re welcome.

Love, kisses, & time outs,

Posted on July 22, 2015 by Holdin' Holden 2 Comments