Tag Archives: family

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.

Thankful For My Nephew

26 Nov

164403_489341263086_7458514_nA few years ago, my nephew Jake sat down for dinner with the adults on Thanksgiving Day and listened as we all went around the table telling each other what we were thankful for that year.  The ole Jakester was about 5 years old at the time and my journey into fatherhood wouldn’t begin till the following year.  No one had ever called me “Dad” back then, in fact all of our names were from the lone grandchild of the family, Jake.  My parents were “Papa Doo” and “G.G.,” my wife was “Kee Kee,” and I was “Uncle Boo Boo.”  Still am.  I’ve been “Boo” or “Boo Boo” in my immediate family for as long as I can remember and once Jake graced our lives with his presence everyone called me “Uncle Boo Boo.”  I loved it…I remember the first time Jake looked at me with those bright eyes and said, “Boo Boo.”  It was awesome.  I got to be an uncle for half a decade before learning to become a dad.  Jake and I taught each other a lot.  That day 5 years ago at Thanksgiving I think I said something to the effect of being thankful for family, for Kate, for us all being together…and it was special…it was a time to be thankful for family.  We all raised our glasses and were about to cheers when Jake pointed out that he hadn’t told us what he was thankful for.  I smiled hoping he’d say he was thankful for his mom, and he did…but then he threw us a curveball.  He turned to the table and said, “But most of all…I’m thankful for gravity, because without gravity we’d all float off into outer space!!!”  It was the finest toast I have ever heard.  “To gravity!”  We all cheered and clinked our glasses together.  It has become my favorite pre-dinner toast, making cameos throughout the year and always on Thanksgiving.

Gravity Cheers

To Gravity!

Jake will be turning 10 next month and has grown from a lovable little kid into a marvelous young boy.  He astounds me every time I see him!  I cannot believe how fast he is growing and it makes me hug my 1-year old Dodge and 3-year old Max a little longer and harder…soaking up this stage of their lives.  When I first found out I was going to be a dad I read a statistic that when women picture themselves as mothers they see themselves providing for a tiny baby, while when men picture themselves as dads they see themselves participating in activities like swimming, teaching, and sports.  Basically, men see themselves as dads when their kids are older – not when they’re babies.  I rejected this notion proclaiming that I would be the best dad on earth!  Turns out I’m the best dad I can be which sometimes is only “meh”…and that’s okay.  I’m not perfect, but I’m full of love.  Jake let me learn how to have Dad-esk moments before being a dad.  I learned how to change diapers, I learned how to care for a baby, I learned how to listen, I learned how to be patient…or at least pretend to be patient.  Jake taught me how to love someone who frustrates you and how to frustrate someone you love.  He taught me that kids don’t think like adults but adults should learn to think more like kids…because thank goodness for gravity!  Jake was like my adult pre-school for becoming a dad…which is why he’s my son Dodge’s godparent.

I got to learn so much from Jake over the years.

Yesterday Jake came home from school with a project from class most likely aimed at further developing his written skills both mechanically and visualizing his verbal thoughts.  He wrote me a letter for Thanksgiving.  Me.  Uncle Boo Boo.  Stupid fat old me.  The guy who asks himself daily, “What can I do to be a better dad?”  I ask myself this because I fear I’m not a good dad.  I ask this because I get frustrated, because I make mistakes, and because I realize I am responsible for two tiny lives…and that’s scary.  Maybe that’s what makes a good dad?  Maybe that’s more important than always trying to look perfect to the kids.  I like to think so.  I like to think that by being myself and letting my kids see me for who I am they understand that perfection is nothing more than a word, and we are all human.  I tell them I love them every day, and they tell me they love me too.  I can feel their love and I know they can feel mine.  I love my family, immediate and extended, and Jake’s letter from school leveled me.  Reduced me to rubble.  Brought me to tears.  Reminded me who I am.  It is one of the sweetest things anyone has ever written me and there is nothing more special than feeling the love of a child, especially when it comes seemingly from the blue.  Jake wrote:

Dear Uncle Boo Boo,

I love you.  Thank you for teaching me how to swim.  Before that I only knew the doggy paddle.  Now that I know how to swim you teach me how to do cool tricks.  Like that group of rocks you use to go fast under water.  Thanks to you I can touch the bottom of the Lake George Club.  That’s 12 feet!  I can also jump off Calfspen.  That’s like 50 feet.  Thank you.  Sincerely,

Jake

Yup…he got me.  I can’t tell you how proud I was of him when he touched the bottom of the lake at the Lake George Club.  I taught him how to clear the air out of his lungs while diving so buoyancy wouldn’t work against him.  I sat on the bottom of the lake and watched him swim down to me, touch the bottom, then push off like a rocket to the surface!  It was amazing.  It was the gift of accomplishment after a summer swimming together.  Jakester and Boo Boo.  I also remember the first time his tiny fingers wrapped around my index finger as I fed him a bottle.  I remember the first time he crawled.  I remember the first time he walked.  I remember the first time he did most things…like hold my sons in his arms when he met them for the first time.

Jake reminds me why I do what I do.  Jake was frustrating when he was my boys’ age and I frustrated him too.  He is a glance into the future and the rewards that come from making a child know they are loved.  Every letter should start out like Jake’s, “I love you.”  What fantastic 3 words, written out in pencil on a turkey.  I love you too Jake.  Thank you for teaching me how to be Max and Dodge’s dad.  This Thanksgiving I am also thankful for the things that teach us about life, remind us who we are, allow us to be ourselves, and bring us together:

Here’s to Family and Gravity!

May your Thanksgiving Holiday be filled with both!

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Our Film Will Premiere At The Tallgrass Film Festival

20 Sep
Max At Kate's NYC Show 2011

Max at Kate’s 2011 NYC show in Chelsea

My wife Kate and I have deep roots in the arts, which can often be tested when you have two small children.  Kate is a renowned painter and published artist, I am an accomplished film & television director/producer, but for the past three years we have pretty much just been “Mom and Dad.”  This year we started changing out of our baby-food-encrusted pajamas on weekends and started dressing like real people and actually going to events.  As active board members of multiple artistic institutions in Wichita it has been wonderful to have all access passes to the amazing things happening here, but it hasn’t been till recently that we were able to leave both kids with a sitter and actually participate on an adult level instead of just an observer.

RyanTallgrassMost recently we entered the 2013 Creative Rush Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race which you can read about here.  24 hour film races are extremely challenging.  Kate and I added one extra challenge to the mix:  I wanted to make a film 100% created by, starring, and executed by our little family of four.  It was our first family art project.  I wanted to make something different that challenged the conventional films we saw at last year’s race and show that an engaging film can be made by a small family for less than $100.

24hour-filmfest-logo-GRAY-185x300I threw out the concept that we would use special effects, complicated locations, setups that would require large lighting rigs, and any script ideas that would require more than one central character:  Kate.  I went back to my roots of studying Stan Brakhage and Abigail Child (whom I studied under at Sarah Lawrence College) to provide a film that was visually driven, aesthetically pleasing, a plot line fun to follow, and driven by the motto of “less is more.”  The result?  Last night I received an email from the Tallgrass Film Festival stating, “Congratulations! Our selection committee has agreed that your short film would be a great addition to the 2013 Tallgrass Film Festival.”  Max and Dodge will be walking the red carpet this October!  (Technically…the Tallgrass carpet is green).

2013-08-26 12.14.01My film, “Best Hubby Ever,” will premiere at Tallgrass this year as part of the Creative Rush Down To The wire Spotlight.  The festival runs from October 16-20 and once the full schedule is released I will post updates here and on Facebook and Twitter.  After its premiere at the festival I will release the film publicly online for those who cannot attend the festival.  While this little 6 minute film was made in 24 hours and for less than $100…I am extremely proud of it because it was made as a family.  As well, I realized that through all my career, Oscar nominated independent films, Hollywood big budget films, awards, and multi-million dollar projects…I had never had a film in a festival that was solely my own.  Something I wrote and directed.  I skipped that early phase when I took my first major directing gig for Disney my Sophomore year of college.  I’ve always been the line producer, or the assistant director, or the director, or the editor, or some other part of the crew.  Somehow…I’ve never had “A Ryan W. Gates Film” go to festival…till this one, and I love that it is starring the three people I love most in the world.

Stay tuned for details and hopefully you will be able to attend the festival and see a film made by a family of four that challenges conventionalism.  Maybe it’s not “A Ryan W. Gates” film after all?  Maybe its “A Gates Family” film.  However you slice it, I know I’m pretty lucky to have a wife that supports me and two gorgeous children that allowed me to capture them on camera and be patient for 24 hours while Dada edited at the dining room table.  Thank you Kate, Max and Dodge.  You are wonderful people and I can’t wait for all of us to sit together in a theater and see our project on the big screen with an audience.

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Max Meets Dodge

3 Mar

All questions as to if Max understood we were having a baby have been answered…he gets it. He’s met Dodge twice and is quick to point out, “that’s the baby.” We explained his name is Dodge and Max calls him “baby Dodge.” He knows to be quiet around him, wash his hands, loves touching his soft hair, and kisses him on the head every chance he has. Today we bring Dodge home and I’m excited to start our lives as a family at last!

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My boys

New Look For So Long Freedom

29 Jan

SoLongFreedom_MainAs the birth of the new baby approaches (less than 3 weeks till the due date!) So Long Freedom has made some changes to the online site layout, making it easier than ever to enjoy articles on parenting, life, anxiety, and beyond!  We’ll be doing more product testing and reviews in 2013 for all you tech-dads out there, sharing our experiences with our family, introducing a new family member, and inviting guest bloggers to add content as well.  If you haven’t browsed through SLF in a while be sure to check out the new menu options allowing you to follow the stories that speak to you.  Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already and pass the word on to your friends!  Thank you for your readership and support!

-Ryan Gates

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