bMEwBjRWJsVB_-9VLqBQDC4N082mJ5D-omkL39AOZlc,_B9LnibBDM2q13A-hhnhfWXKl971_sRQLCGFqhM0n0II am on the plane headed to Raleigh, NC for the 20th Annual At Home Dad Convention. This trip came about in large part to the National At Home Dad Network which offered a scholarship application option. Here is how it happened:

I didn’t really know what the scholarship was all about. I did read what I needed to do to submit my scholarship application. I mulled it over for a few days and then submitted my application.

So I am not one to just jump at anything when I come across it. Especially any ‘dad’ group as I haven’t had a great experience with dad groups, well ‘gay’ dads groups. 6 years ago I started my journey as a stay at home dad. I’ve been a parent for 7 years total. The first year of being a parent I still wanted to work. My husband wanted the same thing I wanted, for me to be an at-home dad with our children. It wasn’t something I had thought would come true but it did. I was elated!!!

Now I thought about all that while I wrote my essay to send to the AHDN. I really remembered a lot of what I did in the last 6 years with my children. All the different life moments, tears, growth, joys, celebrations and then our finalization of our adoption process. Which coincidentally the placement date is Sept. 22nd (7 year anniversary) and Sept. 25th is the adoption finalization date (6 year anniversary). So going on this trip to this convention was going to be a full circle moment and then some. Right, eh! If I was selected to receive the scholarship.

While writing my story and letting this organization know about me and my family, which at the time I didn’t know anyone from this organization, I was compelled to just let it all out. Be honest. Tell my story. Isn’t that what each of us does, we tell our story. Tell it to our friends, co-workers, random checkout cashier, barista or via any of our social media profiles. Yes, we each tell our story.

My fingers were racing/typing and my mind was a flutter but I wanted so bad to be able to share my perspective, my story, my life and why I would like to attend this event. I was on my proverbial soapbox just oozing with honesty. What did I have to lose? All that could happen was a yes or no reply. I just sent it out, put my heart and soul in my letter. I told my truth.

Well time kept on running and I forgot about the application I had sent. It was on a Sunday that I received an email from Robb, Chairman of the 2015 Brian Dickson Memorial Scholarship Committee. I was being awarded the scholarship. I got it! They picked me! Me! I was in such shock and joy at the same time. I can remember tuning out my children talking to me, TV on and my dogs barking all in that instance as I read the email in its entirety. I was going to be attending the 20th Annual At Home Dad Convention put on by the National At Home Dad Network. Yes I said 20th, so when I was 15, that was when the first convention took place. The following is my story about my experiences at the convention.

I arrived late in Raleigh, NC due to a flight connection delay in Minneapolis, Minnesota. However a group of stay at-home dads waited for me to arrive. Dads/Guys I’ve never met. They had made a sign that said, ‘Joël, Its about time!” Which I will remember for the rest of my life. Alex Harwood; who I had texted, chatted on Facebook messenger, talked on the phone and Facebook comment exchanged with for the month before the event; had told the dads about me on the Thursday day/evening of the first group of dads arriving. Robb Tavill was the dad who I rode with to the hotel & thanks to Eric Wright for picking us up, taking us to Cook Out and then dropping us off at the hotel. Eric wasn’t going to be attending the event due to a wedding but he being a member of the organization wanted to support his fellow at-home dads!

So these dads were waiting for me, happy, full of joy and welcome. I had to choke back tears of joy as this was the first time I was meeting these guys. Gotta be strong right! LOL! My two roommates were among the guys waiting too! John Jackson had got me my vodka gimlet with a shot of blue curaçao on the rocks and lets say I downed that. Why? I will save that for a separate blog entry. Anyhow, Alex has made sure I received a ‘Welcome’ fit for a king, celebrity or government official. He made me feel special. They all did! Cuda gave me the biggest hug and smile.

I learned so much from this event. New information about parenting, kids music, mental health, child safety, fire safety, returning to the workforce, CPR certification, entrepreneurship and more were offered in breakout sessions. #DadWords and guest speakers/presentations were also among some of the highlights of the event. I even met someone I admired and had my #FanGirl moment. I kvelled when I met him the night before, at his presentation and my only wish was that I could have purchased his book. But meeting him was the best swag ever!

I also was amazed at how much of an impact I had on the fellow dad attendees. Since leaving on Sunday I can’t seem to keep my cell phone charged enough for all the new friendships, connections, admirers, messages, comments, additions to new groups and now even new endeavors as well. I feel like I was in a dream the entire time and I made sure to soak up every single moment. I had so many great conversations, laughs, tears, child(ren) pic sharing, soul sharing & overall brotherhood fraternity – no my Tribe. Where I truly belong.

I want to thank the Brian Dickson Memorial Scholarship Committee for selecting me for this trip of a lifetime, the NAHDN for their efforts and work for putting on an AMAZING event, all the at-home dads I met, the sponsors (Huggies, The American Cleaning Institute, Britax, Trickle Down Happiness, Dove Men+Care, Billion Family Dinners, Kidde, City Dads Group, Dads Behaving Dadly & Dad 2.0 Summit)

As of Sept. 29th:

I am being inundated with a plethora of so much from all the dads I met, those I missed meeting, those that haven’t met me and those that will seek me out next year. I am kvelling, I stream tears of joy as I type this because little ‘ole me has made a significant impact in various dads lives and I find it truly unfathomable that this would have come about just by attending the #AHDCon put on by the #NAHDN New endeavors have come about as well. I have had to fight my whole life, I have had to endure so much strife, I have worked very hard, I have loved so hard and lost so hard as well, I have love and support from my husband Sean, my children who actually understand where and what I attended, extended family and friends. Look at me now, here I am over the water heading towards new and great things. I am ready.