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Retirement: So Long Honorary Mom

13 Jan

Almost 40 years ago, my parents moved to Wichita, KS when my father accepted a marketing position at the corporate headquarters of Pizza Hut.  I was born soon after and the rest, they say, is history.  The story of my father’s rise to pizza and rent-to-own infamy is well documented…but this story isn’t about him.  Its about another rising star named Linda Wyatt.  I won’t dare butcher the telling of her story as I only have a small role in it, but I’d like to tell you about that role as it has had a profound impact on my life.

Linda and my dad began working together in the early 80’s.  Secretary?  Executive Assistant?  Business Executive?  Super Woman who does everything?  Wearer of many hats?  My dad’s right arm?  (or was my dad her right arm?)  Again, I’m not going to butcher the story and I don’t know all the titles nor how they evolved, but I do know the role she played in my life, my family’s life, my dad’s life, my businesses, and more.  I want to recognize one of the titles she has had in my life…one they don’t put on plaques over office doorways:

MOTHER FIGURE

My family is very close and we pride ourselves on how emotionally available we are for each other.  We also have a lot of honorary uncles, aunts, brothers, and sisters.  My mom is my mom, but there is one other person who has looked at me and cared for me the same way my mother does…and that’s Linda.  She played with me as a child, helped me with my homework while I waited for my dad at the office, taught me proper grammar, met my girlfriends, proofread my resumes, called to check on me while I was away at college, hugged me when I got married, brought me soup when I was ill, stood up for me when I was not strong, plays with my children just like she used to play with me, and has always been there for me when I need her.  She prays for me, my parents, my sister, and my children.  She is part of the family.  Her daughter was my baby sitter when I was a child.  Now we’re all grown up with kids of our own.  She used to help keep me in line when I was a child playing at the office.  Now she reminds me every day that I can do what I want and should play more in life.  She was once the person who assisted my dad with everything he did.  Now I think of her more as a partner in the family business and a bigger partner in our family.

She is intertwined with my family and business…and today is her retirement.

Linda has worked with my dad for over 30 years.  Over 60% of her professional career has been spent working with him…and with that comes working with the family.  Linda has done everything from scheduling airlines for my school travel to debating marketing tactics in the board room.  She seamlessly weaves between the role of business executive and maternal figure at our office.  If asked to describe Linda with one word I think most people I know would say, “professional.”  And I would agree.  I have never met someone with so much integrity, patience, knowledge, and professionalism in all my life.  However, I think the word I might choose would be “loving.”  I say this because I know Linda has loved her work, loved her co-workers, loved my family, and loved her family.  It is clear she does what she does out of love…steadfast, truthfulness…humble, authentic care.

I also know that she is likely reading this right now and blushing with shyness or red with anger…so I’ll keep it short so as not to cross her boundaries of professionalism.

I just wanted to say publicly, to the woman who is also one of my most ardent readers, that I love you dearly and appreciate everything you have done for me, my family, and my father.  I know this is not goodbye.  I know this is simply the end of you working every day.  However, I would be lying if I said I won’t miss you dearly and I feel extremely sad.  I’m not sad because you are retiring…I’m selfishly sad because I will miss you and I’ll miss seeing you every day and I miss how you make me feel.  You make me feel at home.  When I see you it is like a hug in my heart.  No matter how stressful my day, no matter how much life throws at me, no matter how rough I feel when I’m having anxiety…seeing you centers me and reminds me that things are going to be okay.  You have always seen through me and recognized when I’m having a rough time…and you have always been in my office a few minutes later to embrace me in a hug and remind me that you’re there for me and that you believe in me.  I know I’ll likely never find that again in business.  This has been a very, very special time.

I am excited for your retirement.  I see how hard you work.  I know the long hours you put in.  I know that you take your work home with you.  I know how much care you put into your work.  I see all of it and have an idea about the things I don’t see.  I am excited for you to start to let those things go and focus on yourself, your family, and your faith.  I believe that in your retirement you will channel those traits into a cause, an organization, a family member, or something else…and someone else will get to see how amazing you are.  I truly believe this is the beginning of something special for you and I’m proud of you for being brave enough to seize it.  You will be missed in business…but business is business and we’ll figure it out.  Family is family…and that is different.

You are family.

So, from an honorary son-like guy…to an honorary mother-like role model; I love you Linda.  This is not, “Goodbye”…this is, “Let’s grab lunch.”  This is, “See you at Max’s birthday.”  This is, “Call me when you need me.”  This is, “I’ll call you when I need you.”  This is the beginning of us being family, which we’ve always been, but now we get to focus on it more.

As I wrote this last sentence you emailed me…we are clearly thinking about each other right now…and thinking about each other in the same way.  You addressed your letter,

“Ryan,

You are like a son to me.  You are very special in my eyes and always will be.  Please remember I am a safe place to land when needed.”

This was when I started crying…so thank you for that.  I won’t share your email as it is just for you and me but I do want to quote your last sentence because the same rings true from me to you:

“Take care of yourself.  It’s okay for you to be who you are.  I am always available to you.  Love you.”

I love you too Linda…like a mom.

See you soon.

Congratulations on your retirement.

Lice To The Max!

12 Feb

Max has lice.  Show of hands…who just got the creepy crawlies up their neck.  Yeah.  There are bug living in my 5-year old’s hair…and laying eggs.  When you put it like that, it’s friggin disgusting.  However, according to the CDC “an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age.”  That means, and this is my own stupid math, about 25% of kids under the age of 10 will get lice…or 1 in 4 kids if you prefer to think of it that way.  Max has come home from school before with that note telling parents that someone at school has lice and we should take precautions.  Well…today, that’s my kid.  Your kid gets the note because my kid has the bugs!

Great.

Lice CombInstead of going to work, my wife and I got to get that weird lice shampoo and a lice comb from the pharmacy and got to work preening him.  I made the executive decision we were buzzing Max’s head.  He had been intentionally growing it out and it looked cool…but it smelled since he hates to wash his hair and we battle him on it every night at bath time or when I make him shower with me.  He said he didn’t want to do it and so I backed off.  Its his hair.  His hair with tiny bugs crawling along his scalp and laying eggs.  Gah!!!  Creepy crawlies for me.  Lice has nothing to do with being dirty, having unclean hair, or coming from an unclean home so I actually congratulated him for having such clean hair that the lice wanted to make it their home.  Then I asked him if he wanted them to stay for a while, get itchier, and not be able to go to activities -OR- buzz his head and make them move out much faster.  He thought about this long and hard.  He was leaning towards the buzz cut but he hates clippers.

You’ll look like Isaac.” Said Kate, referring to one of his best friends.

Buzz it!” Max said, and I did.

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Now he looks older than he did before and considerably more Midwestern.  This is Kansas, where the buzz cut still roams freely among the prairie unaffected by the styles & trends of major cities.  Seriously Kansas, I’ve lived here 7 years and I’m getting fed up with the buzz cuts and brown shoes.  Spice it up a bit!

Lice_0Kate volunteered to stay home with the boys so I could go to work.  I went about my morning and dammit if I couldn’t stop scratching my head and checking the mirror.  Ghost lice.  Are you itching right now?  Imagining those tiny dirt-like bugs crawling along your scalp?  Laying those white eggs that stick to your hair?  Itching.  Scratching.  But most of all…the feeling that something is MOVING along your scalp!!!  Yeah, you’ re welcome.

All hair from the buzz cut was contained and is getting tossed.  All sheets, stuffed animals, clothes, etc. are getting washed in hot water.  Everything is getting vacuumed.  Dodge (my 2-year old) is getting the lice shampoo as well.  So is Kate.  So am I.  My mom, dad and I survived my sister having lice for weeks when I was little…Kate, dodge and I will survive this as well.  Lice only live for 1-2 days after falling off a person’s head…so we can kick this thing over the weekend or so!  The list of things to avoid are:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
  • Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

What has me worried is Max took a nap in my bed the other day.  Getting the creepy crawlies again.  Pleeeeeeease let this be confined to my son.  First sign of itching I’m shaving my head…like, bald shaving.  Its just hair…it’ll grow back.  I’m buzzing Dodge tonight too I think.  Kate does not want a buzz.  I have brown shoes…at last I’ll finally fit in out here in the Midwest…

…and it’s all thanks to lice!

Special lice shampoo & Max's new buzz cut

Special lice shampoo & Max’s new buzz cut

Dodge getting lice shampoo...just in case.

Dodge getting lice shampoo…just in case.

Dealing with lice in your home?  Here are some helpful links:

lice-penny

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So Long Gluten: A Call For Recipes & Recommendations

24 Sep

After countless labs, blood tests, diet restrictions, and research over the past month I have learned a great deal about my biochemistry, my body’s ability to process nutrients, and my food sensitivities.  Today’s post is simply the tip of the iceberg as I can’t wait to share my entire experience, which will cover over a year’s worth of personal exploration and research in bettering my life through nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments.  In the meantime, I’d like to share one snippet of the journey and ask for your participation:

CxL-R2OAThis morning I found out that I need to become gluten-free (among other life changes).  I will get into the details as to why when I recap this whole experience…but for now I need your help, my wonderful constant readers, by submitting your recipes, snacks, and beverages that are gluten-free.  I am asking for your help to better myself.  I’m hungry, for food and knowledge.

Below is a simple form to fill out and submit your recipes, snacks I can bring to the office, drinks I can have at the bar, etc.  Know a place that has gluten-free options when I eat out in Wichita?  Tell me.  Know ways to avoid gluten when on the road?  Tell me.  National chains that have gluten-free options?  I’d love to know.  As you submit recipes, recommendations, and ideas please keep in mind that I need to avoid these following foods as well:

  • White Wheat Flour (obviously)
  • Whole Wheat
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Rice (all forms)
  • Hops & Yeast
  • Soybeans
  • Cantaloupe
  • White Potato (can have in small doses)

So…tell me your recipes, recommendations, and ideas.  I’ll try them out and then publish some of them here with your name credited.  Your help and participation in this is greatly appreciated…you are helping save my life.  So…thank you.

wheat-proteome

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Chapters Of My Life

1 Sep

Ryan W. Gates DudegrassI just realized…I’m in a chapter of my life.  I know that sounds stupid, or maybe I just think it sounds stupid, but it is true…I think I just woke up from a fog and realized where I am.  Of course we are all in chapters of our lives, but some chapters are more fun to read than others.  Some chapters are character development.  Some chapters are full of adventure!  Some chapters are boring.  Some chapters are just bridges to other chapters.  Some chapters are sad.  Some chapters don’t make much sense…but they are all in the damn book.

Don’t ask what set this train of thought in motion because I’m not entirely sure and I don’t know if it really matters.  What I do know is, the chapters of my past have been extremes.  I’ve lived in 7 cities in my lifetime and have worked as a busboy, a model, an actor, a film producer, a TV writer, a social media strategist, a restaurateur, a consultant, a marketer, and more.  I’ve been engaged twice and married once.  I have two small children who won’t leave me alone and I have lived alone without electricity and wondered what it would be like to not be alone.  I’ve shouted from mountaintops, gone scuba diving in the Caribbean, ridden elephants in Thailand, skied The Plunge in Telluride, seen icebergs in Newfoundland, played golf in Ireland, eaten tafelspitz in Budapest, raced streetcars in Puerto Rico, climbed a glacier, totaled a car, flipped a motorcycle, spent the night in jail, made friends, lost friends, laughed so hard I cried, and cried so hard I laughed.  My life has been pretty rapid-fire!

Now I wear khakis.

So what?  So I used to wear shorts and tennis shoes.  So I used to wake up when I wanted to.  So things used to be different.  So Long Freedom?  So long old chapters in my life.  I don’t know what the next chapter of my life will be but I know this, there will be another chapter.  How do I know?  Because every chapter prior to now has ended…and this one will end too.  Maybe adventure lies ahead!  Maybe more khakis but with a higher waistline and ergonomic underwear?  Who knows?  However, when I was in all those adventurous chapters I didn’t know I was in a chapter of my life…I was just living.  Sometimes I think this chapter of my life sucks.  Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am and love this chapter of my life.  All I know is I’ll look back someday and recognize this time period as a chapter…and I sense things are transitioning.

Maybe its the sleep.  I finally slept well for the first time in 3 years.  I’ve been sleeping well for 4 nights in a row now.  More to come on that soon.  Maybe its nothing.  Maybe its everything.  This may be one of the odder posts I’ve written in a while.  Yeah, what are we talking about?  When I used to write comedy for TV I always said the best way to end a non sequitur was to cut it off oddly and leave the audience confused as to what just happened.

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The Secret To My Marriage

26 Aug

377_44793293834_3508_nI honestly believe my relationship with my wife is special.  Not the kind of special people think of when they say, “You guys are such a fun couple.”  Not the kind of special where we’re a “Match Made in Heaven.”  Not the kind of special that can be defined through grand gestures on anniversaries and times of accomplishment.  I honestly believe my relationship with my wife is special, stronger, and healthier because of the small gestures on a daily basis which are born from how we see each other.  We don’t just have that indescribable thing that makes us click…we have open dialogue and mutual understanding of each other.  I have been thinking about this because recently I have been asked by a number of people how my marriage is holding up due to my new responsibilities at work.  I spend 10-12 hours a day at the office for about a 60 hour work week.  In my spare time I am an owner and Managing Partner of a 288 capacity restaurant and entertainment venue.  In my spare time I am also the co-founder of a non-profit arts organization which requires weekly duties to manage, promote, and provide upkeep.  I recently resigned from a board of directors to open up my schedule so I could spend more time with my family.  I still sit on the board for a health clinic that provides services to the public regardless of their ability to pay and I sit on a community board for my city’s downtown development.  I am a very active guy…and my wife is no slouch.  Aside from being a full-time mom she teaches 3 days a week at the college level, is the CEO and co-founder of our national arts organization which requires her attention on a daily basis 7 days a week, is the president of the board for one of the local museums, is a full-time painter who has just been selected into another publication, and is an organizer on so many committees for our community I can’t keep track.  We are a busy couple!

So…how is the relationship doing?

Fine.  I won’t sit here and lie, saying “it’s never been better.”  That’s not true, entirely.  Marriage was much easier when we were in our 20’s, had no kids, worked from home, and were still in the “honeymoon phase.”  I had more hair and less belly, we argued over things like where to go out to eat, and at night we cuddled up and laughed about how good our lives were.  Now?  Most of the time we spend together is putting the kids to sleep, working on our arts organization late at night, relaxing watching TV, or sleeping next to each other which I call “farting next to Kate with my eyes closed.”  Marriage is harder now.  Marriage can be work, and that’s okay.

Look, we all know that wedding vow:  “For better or for worse.”  We’ve heard it, we’ve said it, but have we really thought about what “for worse” means?  When Kate wanted to move to California for Grad School we gave up our lives in New York, left our jobs behind, and found a way to make it work financially…that’s an easy “worse” to do.  I got really sick after our wedding and we missed our honeymoon due to a surgery I needed, but that kind of “worse” is easy to get through and survive because it has a palpable end.  My panic attack 3 years ago and going through counseling to get through agoraphobia and rejoin the world was much tougher “worse” to get through, but we did…in fact it brought us closer together.  Those are the big “worse” type things that happen to people.  Shit happens.  Life happens.  “Would you still love me if both my arms fell off and I could only talk like a duck?”  Yes…yes I’d still love you.

The real “worse” that challenges a relationship is when someone annoys you.  I’m annoying…Kate puts up with it.  She’s annoying…I’m not as good at putting up with it but that’s because I’m really annoying.  Here’s what brought me to this post:  I fill out a ton of paperwork for medical things, financials, contracts, etc.  Every form there is a section for my “spouse” or “emergency contact.”  That is always Kate.  Every time there is another field that asks me what her relation to me is and I always write the same thing:  “Wife/Best Friend.”  That sums it up right there.  She is not just my wife, she is my best friend.  Think about your best friend.  Have you ever gone a long period without talking?  Have you fought about stupid stuff?  Have you had adventures so silly you cry laughing telling stories.  Do they know your secrets?  Do you know theirs?  That’s a best friend.  That should be your spouse.

Some days I love Kate so much my cheeks hurt from smiling.  Some days I imagine what life would be like if she fell off a bridge.  Some days we hold hands.  Some days we don’t.  Some days we talk for hours.  Some days we just say a cordial “hi” and “bye.”  Some days she feels like my soulmate.  Some days she feels like my roommate.  Some days I can’t wait to crawl into bed and tell her all about my day and hear about hers.  Some days I can’t wait to crawl into bed and just turn off the light.  Everyday I love her and know she loves me too…but I’m aware that love is different from affection, and I respect the ebb and flow of emotions it requires to be in a long-term monogamous relationship with a person.  It requires a foundation of trust and honesty.  It requires the ability to go with the punches and evolve.  It requires the ability to look forward, not back.  It requires a friend…a best friend.

My marriage is not perfect, but I don’t believe in perfection.  My marriage is special.  I’m married to a special person.  She gets me.  I get her.  Sometimes we loathe each other.  Most times we love each other.  She is my wife, my best friend, my co-parent, my partner in business; life; adventure; and hardship.  Sometimes she is everything to me.  Sometimes she is part of everything.  I’ve watched so many marriages break up over the past decade for so many reasons, but primarily its been from lack of best friendship.  Guess how many of my gay friends’ marriages I’ve seen break up?  Zero.  I think it’s because their courtships were built on friendship and mutual respect without a legal option to marry…yet straight folks still insist on revoking their rights when they seem to be the most fit to be married and stay in a healthy relationship for life.  That’s a different conversation for a different time.  However, sometimes I literally have to picture Kate like my male friends and take the attraction out of it…and ask myself what my best friend needs…or what I need from my best friend…and is it realistic?

So to answer everyone’s question about how my marriage is doing now that I’m so busy, it is moving forward and evolving as it always does.  We renew our wedding vows every year, because life throws some curveballs at you and you gotta adapt and keep on truckin.  I respect Kate.  I appreciate her as an individual, as well as my partner, as well as a member of a family unit, and as well as a member of society.  I hold her to the same standards I hold myself to, and expect that she do the same for me.  Quite simply, I love her.  I love her more than anyone will ever know.  She is the only one who comes close to understanding how much I love her.  I also like her.  I like her a lot.  She also drives me batshit…so I leave the toilet seat up every now and then and don’t replace the soap bar in the shower.

Kate is my best friend.  She is also my wife.  That’s the secret to my marriage, and my marriage is special.

RK_Royals

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