Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sherlock Jacobson and the Case of the Fallen Fir

Christmas is right around the corner and it’s already been an interesting holiday season.  We spent Thanksgiving in Williston, North Dakota which was fun but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I wasn’t slightly uncomfortable with gas stations selling both AK-47s and Jack Daniels. 

From there, Adrienne and I set about the task of getting the homestead ready for the plethora of visitors we will be seeing over the last few weeks of the month.  We have my in-laws in town just before Christmas and then my family after that. 

It should be said that my wife loves all things Christmas.  I like Christmas, sure, I like seeing family and having a long weekend.  I like watching my girls get the things, which they believe in their individual heart of hearts, will complete them as people.  Adrienne is different.  Adrienne loves Christmas.  She loves decorating and planning and wrapping and shopping.  There are little things about Christmas that keep me from going ‘full-Whoville’ like my wife.  I am admittedly a touch claustrophobic and in the days it takes to it takes to decorate our home, the living room and family room become a mine field of large Tupperware containers and boxes.  Our plates change, our glasses, our door mat, furniture moves and so do the schedules.  I generally don’t fear change but the upheaval that the silly season brings can be a touch off putting. 

Last night, I was asked to stop for milk on the way home.  I went to the grocery store and while I was there I called my wife.  (Fellas, put this phone call in your ‘one less trip to the grocery life hack’ file.)  There was no answer.  It was strange but not so unusual.  I paid for the milk, left and called again from the parking lot.  This is a back-up call that either offers one more chance to get forgotten items or to leave a voice mail confirming that I thought to make both phone call ‘A’ and phone call ’B’. This phone call got her voice mail as well.  Curiouser and curiouser.  I set about the business of going home forgetting that I hadn’t gotten a hold of my better half.  It wasn’t’ until I opened my front door that I knew the reason for the radio silence. 

It seems that I had walked in just after the situation in the house had devolved.  Some of what occurs after this point is speculative.  What we know is this.  A catastrophe had befallen our Christmas tree.   Although the tree was upright, he floor was a cacophony of tree branches and ornaments. The tree skirt that the girls made their mother last year was soaked, presumably, with the water that had once been in the tree stand.  The dog was cowering behind the chair opposite the tree and the cat was nowhere to be found.  Of note: Phoebe the cat hates people so her being scarce is not entirely unusual. My children were scattered doing homework in several rooms and my wife was furiously scrubbing dishes in the sink.  The crime scene was set before me, Sherlock Jacobson set to work.    

I began evaluating the facts.  The girls scattered doing homework and not greeting me at the door asking for who knows what, means that they are scattered less by design and more by circumstance.  Something startled them into thinking homework was necessary regardless of where they were when it happened.  The cat being gone could mean several things, she was involved or she wasn’t, she’s scared or she isn’t, or could be bothered to care, or couldn’t.  The tree being upright but the ornaments being scattered shows an instant reaction. Setting the tree upright but then walking away from the rest is an act of frustration.  Pair that with the hurried way the flatware is being scrubbed confirms that.  The final piece of the puzzle is the cowering dog.  When added together, the untrained eye would propose that the dog was chasing the cat who then hid under the tree.  The dog, in turn, couldn’t slow fast enough and careened into the tree.  All of this happened just before Adrienne came home with the kids.  The kids scattered immediately and thought it best to be productive as to avoid the wrath that was developing.  The wife then propped up the tree to see the disaster underneath and upon seeing it she went to the kitchen to take out her frustrations on the dishes, sparing the dog in the spirit of the holiday. The dog still cowered because the noises coming from mom meant that while there hadn’t been a beating yet, it was still an option.  Finally, the cat was nowhere to be found because she either didn’t know or didn’t care.    

That…is the amateur reading. 

Here is the more likely scenario.  There is a firm chance that I could be blamed for not having put the tree stand not on well enough, or not wiring the tree to the wall or not training the dog to not jump into the tree after Phoebe or a variety of other reasons.  Its also possible that I am not to blame and Adrienne witnessed the whole event.  Its possible the kids were decorating and one of them made a misstep and toppled the whole thing.  Only one thing is for sure, it would be in my best interest to put the milk in the fridge and get to cleaning.  Case closed. 

The lesson here little girls?  Well, I guess that doing your homework during the calamity was a smart choice.  But more importantly, and we discussed this recently, it can absolutely be more important to be kind than to be right.  Realistically, I had nothing to do with the tree coming down, nor did you.  What we do know is that mommy had spent the day working on the tree and was now upset and trying to scrub the paint off of the dishes.  It wasn't important what happened, it was important that we helped fix it.  The same thing for you guys when you disagree.  Sometimes, it isn't important to be right.  The way my mom used to say it was "is this the hill you want to die on?".  I watched you girls fight over an extra balloon the other night.  You all had one but decided to fight about the extra one.  At the end of the day, you guys fought, got a lecture from yours truly and no one got the balloon...was that the hill you wanted to die on?  Probably not.  I had the same fights when I was a kid, and truth be told, they all seemed like the hill I wanted to die on.  All these years later, I can't even remember a single one of the fights.  All I remember is that they, along with your mom, are my best friends.  So, yeah, the tree wasn't my fault, but it was also not the hill I wanted to die on. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What'cha Talkin' 'Bout Williston?

Thanksgiving was an interesting time of year this time around.  My wife and I decided to take the girls to North Dakota to visit my brother-in-law and his family.  In true Grizwold style, we decided to visit a place called the Jewel Caves, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore on the way.

We loaded up the vehicle with snacks, three kids, two in-laws, the wife and yours truly and made our way into the great white north.  Twelve hour drive with three different tourist stops, what could go wrong?

First of all, the Jewel Cave is remarkable.  I'd never heard of it before our stop, but it really is incredible.  It has currently has had seventeen of it's miles discovered but it figures to be much larger, per our tour guide.  This is the same tour guide who turned out all of the lights to show us how predictably dark it is thirty stories underground.  A demonstration that one three year old objected to  and expressed her displeasure with a cry/scream hybrid.  The problem was the stand-off that ensued, the kid wanted to cry until the lights came up, the guide seemed to be unwilling to turn up the lights until she had finished her song and dance.  It was a careful dual in which the child finally won.

Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore were great, too.  Perhaps we went through a little quick, but still impressive.  Fun Fact #1: Mount Rushmore would fit entirely in the head of Crazy Horse, if you had the means and the inclination to do so.  Fun Fact #2: At the rate in which they are constructing the Crazy Horse Memorial, my grand kids will need to see their nineties to see the halfway point.  Fun Fact #3: Privately funded Crazy Horse cost around $30.00 to get the family into, National Park Mount Rushmore...$5.00.  There is a lesson in there about private companies and government agencies but I'm not sure what it is.  

Honestly the ride there was fairly uneventful, and Thanksgiving was nice.  My brother-in-law smoked a top loin that brought a tear to my eye.  It was so good I almost forgot about the fact that there would be not be my wife's 'Chardonnay Turkey' this year.  The problem, in truth, was the return trip.  No monuments, no tourist traps, just twelve hours with seven passengers, better than half of which picked up a flu in Williston, ND.  Fun Fact #4: In Williston, there are several gas stations that also sell firearms and liquor.  Nothing in the world says 'freedom' like being to pick up Skittles, an AK-47 and a liter of Jagermeister from the same store.  Fun Fact #5 The afore mentioned gas station also had a rack out front for processing your deer or elk.  That's actually more of a sticky fact as I didn't notice the carnage until it was too late for my Nikes.

The lesson this week, girlies?  I was apprehensive before making the trip.  I have never been a 'half the fun of any journey is the travel' kind of guy.  I'm more of a 'Xanax on the plane makes the flight quicker' person.  Maybe that's something for me to work on.  It was really a lot of fun.  I understand that you may not have seen a lot of the country side as your little faces were stuffed in iPads and the like, but it was really pretty.  There were a few bald eagles, deer and enough antelope to keep Williston in target practice for a decade.  The monuments were impressive, they and the cave reminded me of how small we really are in this journey we are on.  I suppose the real lesson is that this whole go-around is a journey, and it's best not to Xanax your way through it.


On a more somber note, over the Thanksgiving weekend, there was a car accident involving the son of a friend of mine.  It's been a rough few weeks for the Ryder family and it seems they are far from out of the woods.  I've never met Nash but the stock he comes from is about as good as it gets.  They are a very loving family and Mai, Nash's mother, is a very special lady.  If you have a few dollars and want to give, the karma you'll get back will be tremendous.  If you are interested, click HERE and chip in.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sunday School, my iPod and Dad's Cologne

Sunday was one of ‘those’ mornings.  It fell in one of those weekends where most minutes are accounted for.  Plans upon plans upon plans.

I woke up around six o’clock to get a run in before my day really hit its stride.  Things started to intrude the way things tend to.  It is important to note that I am not such an accomplished runner that things can go wrong and my morning run not be a train wreck, someday perhaps, but not this day. 

It started with little things.  I was greeted with yesterday’s dishes, having opted to ‘do them in the morning’.  Now that morning was here, it seemed inopportune at best, but they needed done.  

Today’s iteration of me decided that starting the coffee maker before doing the dishes wasn’t something that need be remembered.  ‘Morning me’ just cost ‘runner me’ another twenty minutes.  After starting the java machine and cursing myself, I laced up my shoes and set to get my equipment together.  Again, if I were a better runner, equipment for a run might not be critical to my ability to accomplish said run, but alas, here we are.  Long story short, I was first unable to find my running water bottle for a while and when it was eventually located, I found my iPod out of juice. 

Thanks Macy. 

The iPod proved to be the death nail in my running plans more because of the time than the device.  The dishes, the water bottle, the iPod combined set me too late to get a run in.  No bother, I run not for the love of it but for the benefit of being able to go up a flight of stairs without sweating.  I decided to enjoy the fresh coffee I had made and then get the girls up for Sunday school an event they generally enjoy.  But today wasn’t generally, today was one of ‘those’ mornings. 

Both Macy and Darby woke up on the way east side of the bed.  They felt it important to complain about breakfast, about their clothes, about going to Sunday school, then about not going, and then about going again.  By the time the waffles hit the table, it was eight o’clock and I was already through with my day.  I went upstairs, got myself ready and was wanting to be left alone. 

We got in the car and made our way to St. Luke’s.  Apparently, Sunday was the first day Christmas music started its assault on the radio waves.  The girls asked that the music be turned up, (because Burl Ives can never be played loud enough) and I sank deeper into my morning.  Things haven’t been going great of late and this morning felt like the kick to the undercarriage that I didn’t need. 

Now would be a good time for a couple of confessions.  As church goers go, I am often as interested in a quiet place to sit as I am the ceremony.  I am much more interested in strengthening the girl’s moral compass than salvaging mine.  Second, I am not someone who believes in fate, karma, kismet, or things that are meant to be.  This is important to the story. 

I was thinking about my morning as I walked in the door of St. Luke’s and I thought to myself, “Faith is an easier thing if there’s a little less faith in it.  Some people feel like they’ve had a ‘sign’.  That’d be something I’d like.  It’d make things easier.”

We walked in as the service started and I pulled a move that I haven’t pulled since I was twelve.  As everyone got sat I excused myself to the restroom.  This afforded me the time to go for a bit of a walk, get a drink of water, whatever floats my boat.  I was trotting around and made my way to the restroom.  A man held the door for me as he was walking out and I was walking in.  Then it struck me.

There was a smell, a familiar one.  Not the kind you generally associate with my locale. It was my dad’s cologne.  If you had asked me before that moment if I could have identified that smell, I would have thought there would be zero chance.  But there it was.  I went into the restroom and felt a weird calm.  Yes, and it was as awkward typing it as it was reading it.  I had an overwhelming sense of calm standing in a church bathroom.  There are things that I have wrestled with for years revolving around church, my dad, my family and my role in the world, but for one afternoon, I was at ease. 

The lesson this week, ladies, well, I’m still not a person who thinks about ‘meant to be’ but I won’t claim that I understand everything either.  I can say this, the cologne I smelled was absolutely your grandfather’s brand and I can say that I have absolutely not smelled it since he passed.  I remember my mom saying the same thing about her father and if I remember correctly; it was in one of her own moments of need.  I guess the lesson is this, don’t assume that if you can’t see it, it isn’t there.  Who knows, there may be nothing after we shed this coil, but there may be something great, too.  I don’t know, honestly, but I’m not ready to write it off just yet. Also, Macy, if you’re going to play with someone’s iPod, plug it back in! Apparently I needed a miracle to turn my mood around to get over you not plugging mine in.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

We Make Good Ceilings, Don’t We?

I’m hoping for the best although the election didn’t go the way I wanted.  There isn’t a part of me that wants to watch it all burn to prove a point.  I truly hope the President elect does a great job and a bunch of us are proven wrong. 

But there is something else.

I won’t speculate as to what he will and won’t do and who he will or won’t do it to.  I want to talk about my morning.  I went to bed between midnight and 1:00 this morning and woke up at the crack of 3:30.  My wife, mother and sister all went to bed in tears and I knew that my girls wouldn’t be taking this well either.  I sat on my couch for a few hours considering the conversations I would be having with the girls as they woke. 

Avery woke up on her own around 6:45.  She smiled and asked “did she win?”

“No sweetheart, she didn’t.”  She sat on my lap and put her arm around my neck.  We sat for a minute and I said “Everything will be all right.  Why don’t you go upstairs, mommy could use a hug.”

I sat for a minute longer not proud of myself.  I should have said more.  I felt like I had lied to her on some level.  I don’t think I believe that everything will be okay.  Things are still a little raw, but I think that something is broken in me that can’t be easily mended.  I don’t mean that with any hyperbole, as it was something that had been fraying for a while.  My faith in people in general has been diminished.

Upstairs, Macy had woken up and was in tears.  I knew this would be the case as she knew something was wrong last night.  Despite being 7 years old, she saw real value in a woman breaking the glass ceiling in this circumstance.  She didn’t understand how we could have 44 men and zero women.  It makes the Cubs futility streak look amateur.  When she first heard this 44 – 0 streak she didn’t believe it.  Ah, the optimism of youth. 

“Did she lose because she was a girl?”

NOTE: Those who want to chime in anything about emails, or private servers, get your own blog.  This one is for me and my girls. Now back to my morning.

I wanted to say ‘no’ but I didn’t.  I wanted to say that the country tried it differently last time around but just felt more comfortable with super rich, out of touch, old white guys, but I didn’t say that either.  The fact is that I didn’t have an answer and I didn’t want to lie again.  I believed that she was the better qualified, more experienced, more level headed candidate and that her fault, may in fact be related to what she pees from.  I didn’t say anything.  I hugged her for a minute, Avery too and sent them to get dressed. 

I woke up Darby, and true to her personality, she wanted to play immediately upon waking up.  We play a wake up game where a stuffed fish tries to eat her toes and fingers thinking that they are worms and her penguin tries to eat the fish.  Sounds stupid, sure, but it was exactly what I needed.  She asked if she could have some Lucky Charms, a breakfast generally reserved for an occasional Saturday morning, but I acquiesced.  Opportunistic little poop. 

My wife and oldest two girls ate quietly and Darby told us about the naughty fish. 

We went to go out the door and I hugged my wife goodbye.  To say she burst into tears would be an understatement.  I had sensed even last night that something much bigger was broken in her.  I hated leaving but endeavor to persevere, right?  I feel as though I hadn't handled anything right yet.

When we got into the car, Avery asked, “What can we do now?”

I asked her what she meant. 

“To help, what do we do now?”

I asked her what concerned her the most.  She said pollution and global warming.  Where she came up with that I have no idea, but I told her that we have to think about it.  I looked in the rear view and Macy was staring out the window, listless.  I turned on a song she loves and she smiled a little.  We pulled up to the school and she hugged me hard.  I kissed her and sent them on their way.  I didn’t make it out of the parking lot before I broke down. 

There is a lesson in here somewhere we just need to pick it up and hose it off.  To Avery, “What can we do now?” is the right question.  Don’t look back, look forward.  Keep your generous, compassionate heart, it’ll serve you well.  To Macy, yeah, she lost because she is a girl, at least partly.  She also made it farther than any woman ever has.  Mommy and I may take this as an indictment against this country, but you, Sweetheart, take it as a challenge.  You’re smart enough, kind enough, good enough to take the next step if that’s what you choose.  To Darby, keep that innocence as long as you can.  Play and laugh, darling, and make it last forever.  Finally, to my wife, I know it’s bad.  I know it’s easy to draw a straight line from this election to your gender and worth.  It’s bad math.  You’re my much better half although I don’t often admit it.  You’re the glue that keeps our little family unit going…pretty important stuff.  Lick your wounds today but tomorrow we have to dust off and figure out how to make the future better. 

And to my sister, in a bit of a break from my regular blog formula, keep up the fight.  Contrary to what you believe, you aren’t invisible; you’re just playing against a stacked deck.    If you give up, what hope do the rest of us have?  To be honest, the only reason I started giving a shit all those years ago was because of your passion.  Take a Xanax and knock back a beer or twelve but eventually you need to get back in the game. 

Now, I’ll put my soapbox away and go back to the regularly scheduled broadcast. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

From The Mouths of Babes - Putting 108 Years In Perspective Like A Boss

Last night I stayed up to watch game 6 of the World Series.  For those not in the sports “know” the World Series this year puts forward two unlikely advisories as neither of the contestants has won the series since Truman beat Dewey. 

This morning, while taking the girls to school, I discussed with my eldest daughter, Avery, that this game, this wonderful game 7 is far and away the most significant baseball game in my lifetime.  It is my guess, that should the Cubs win, there will be a time in her life that someone will ask where she was when it happened. 

I would have had the conversation with all of my girls but the other two were singing along with the Ghostbusters theme song in the back seat and couldn’t be interrupted. 
 I looked at Avery and tried to put the historical importance of this game into perspective for my little girl. 
“The Cleveland Indians last won the series when Grandma Sue was a little girl, but the last time the Cubs won it Grandma Sue’s mom and dad were little kids, and hadn’t even come to the United States yet.”
I was satisfied that the explanation would galvanize the importance of the game.   Her follow up question would let me know just how wrong I was. 
“You mean ‘cubs’ like baby bears?  I think I’ll cheer for them.”
I don’t know why, exactly, but getting Avery to understand the historical significance of the game became my mission.  I knew full well we would be pulling up to the school in just a few short minutes and time was short.  It was time for the big guns. 
“This is a special time in this country.  Baseball is the national pastime and this game may be the biggest one the game has ever seen.  It’s not like the Super Bowl or anything else.  This is two teams trying to change the history of baseball.  It’s huge!”
We stopped at the last light before turning into the school.  Ghostbusters had given way to Thriller.  I looked at my little girl waiting for a light to come on.  It did.  She turned in her seat and looked me in the eyes.  A smile stretched across her face.  It wasn’t a smile of understanding, it was different.  It sat somewhere between pity and ‘the cat that ate the canary’.
“I get it, but we might get the first woman president next week, right?”
Touché, sweetheart.  The lesson today is mine, maybe a couple of them.  What is important to me may not be as important to you and vice versa.  Tonight, you probably won’t care about the baseball game and most likely, I won’t have a true interest in what is going on with Elsa or Cinderella or Supergirl, but we both care about each other, and that, little girl is more than enough.  The other lesson, I suppose, is the big picture.  There are things more important than sports although it can be tough for daddy to see at times. 
UPDATE:  Alert! The “other lesson” is wrong, don’t take it to heart.  After watching the Cubs win the series and the explosion of emotion that followed, I saw stories about fans sharing the victory with moms and dads and deceased loved ones.  My next door neighbor had a picture of his grandmother by the television so he knew she was with him watching the game from the Pearly Gates.  I thought about my own father, who I lost a few years ago and some of the bad times we had.  There was a time where all we talked about was sports, fantasy football to be exact and how it brought us closer.  Sports, while sometimes silly and overblown, can also be a unifier, perhaps something we need at a time as divisive as today seems!



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Take Me Out To The Ball Game...Or Anywhere Its Playing!

Anyone who knows me know that I would do just about anything for my family.  I like to keep that "just about" caveat just in case, but for all intents and purposes, there isn't anything I wouldn't do for them.  I have to be honest, however, tonight is pushing it.

Generally speaking, I write these posts about something that has happened in the recent past, but the events of this evening have made it easy for me to write this in real time, save a few interruptions.

A little background may be in order.  I played baseball for most of my youth and teen years.  Being around baseball was once my life's dream.  Admittedly, it has shifted with age, but I love it.  I have defended the sport from friends and a wife who compare watching baseball to watching paint dry.  I have sat by quietly as each of my children have chosen soccer and basketball over a sport with bat and ball.  I take my girls to see the Rockies play despite their attendance being based on a cotton candy based agreement.  I love baseball.

To those who aren't fans of America's Pastime, this year the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs meet in the series.  Neither team has been a picture of historical dominance, Cleveland having won a world series just about the time World War II was wrapping up, That may seem like a while ago until you consider the last Cubbies series win predates the Great War.

Needless to say, this baseball fan was excited to see game one, playing as we speak.  I left work a little late but still had plenty of time to get home for the first pitch.  Best laid plans of mice and men.  I got a call from my wife saying that Avery, my eldest, was sick and laying on the couch.  Not a huge deal I told myself, we have a second TV in our bedroom.  Not ideal, but it'll work.  It was the next statement that has me typing now.

"I don't feel well, either." my wife said, "Can you pick me up some Mrs. Grass'?"

There is code in that sentence.  The code is, I'm not feeling well enough to get out of bed, the home of my last available T.V.  So here I sit, pecking away on these keys.

So the point of this one?  It isn't to make anyone feel bad, which mommy will and she'll say, "aw, you could have watched it upstairs with me.  I wasn't watching anything anyway."  The point is about sacrifice.  There are sacrifices you don't notice, like making two different breakfasts because half of you won't eat cereal while the youngest is on an 'oatmeal only' kick.  But there are also sacrifices that you notice readily, like the fact that I routinely give up football Sunday for birthday parties and soccer and church and whatever else comes along.  This baseball game I'm missing definitely falls into the latter.  Here's the catch, I may notice I'm missing things, I just don't care all that much.  Its far more important to me that you get feeling better or get to hang out at Chuck E Cheese for a birthday.  Remember that when your sister wants to borrow a skirt you haven't had the chance to wear yet, or breaks apart a Lego set you've spent your day working on.  Let it go.  A little sacrifice feels good.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Duck, Dodge and Most Importantly, Admit Nothing!

Avery, my eldest, takes after me in a lot of ways.  One of which, a trait that serves me well at least 30% of the time is the ability to ignore problems until the time when they are ready to explode.  I’ve watched my daughter do this and wondered what my role is in this part of her development.  Fortunately for me, this sort of problem is precisely the kind of situation that I am able to ignore until it explodes.

Avery was playing in a soccer tournament a couple of weekends ago.  It was a two-day affair in Denver, because, who needs weekends?  The first game went great…for Avery.  She played well and seemed confident, a hurdle that she sometimes wrestles with.  The team lost, but I’ve said to the girls on plenty of occasions, play hard, leave it on the field and I’ll be proud win or lose. 

Avery was invited to go have lunch with some teammates and the rest of us sat around talking about the game and Avery’s efforts.  To those who don’t know me, I’m not huge on a nine-year-old team needing to win.  For me, it’s more about learning the fundamentals, making friends and having fun.  When I was coaching, I had three rules: listen to your coach, try hard, and have fun.  During game one, regardless of the loss, Avery seemed to have fun, step one, and she was invited to lunch by a friend, step two, assuming she listened to her coach, mission accomplished. 

Then came game two.  Avery returned from lunch and was starting lineup for game two.  She played for a little while but seemed a bit listless.  The coach had warned before the tournament that kids not giving their best effort would not play as much as their effort filled counterparts.  Avery was taken out of the game, but not so quickly as to raise red flags.  When she came off the field, the coach gave her a little instruction and she sat on the bench.  A few minutes later she was back in the game but this time for only a minute or two.  Red Flag!  This was the first half and she would not return to the game.  There were a couple of other girls who suffered the same fate.  The game was 0-0 until the other team scored with less than a minute to play.  I personally thought it was because the girls who were allowed to play were exhausted and some very good players were well rested from their extended stay in the coach’s doghouse. 

The team had a huddle after the game and I overheard the coach say how proud she was of the girls for their efforts.  Avery was sniffling as she walked towards me.  I pulled her aside and sat down with her for a few minutes.

“What happened, babe?” I asked thinking I knew the answer. 

“I don’t want to talk about it” Avery replied, tears now flowing.

“Did your coach tell you why you didn’t get to play?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

We did this version of verbal ping pong for a few minutes, knowing full well that she was deploying my standard ‘ignore it till it goes away’ method.  It would have worked, too, but she was talking to the Bruce Lee of this technique.
“We’re talking about it, Avery, but you aren’t in trouble.  We have to know what happened so it doesn’t happen again.”  All of this was said with me thinking that she was pulled from the game for lack of trying.
“I was out of position.  I was supposed to be playing right-midfield and I kept getting out of position but I didn’t know where I was supposed to be.”  She replied a little desperately.

I didn’t see it coming.  I went from a semi-prepared statement about responsibility to your teammates and trying your best to being sure that the coach had it wrong and that Avery was being punished for a coaching shortcoming.  I felt my temperature rise a little. 

Long story a little less long, Adrienne and I agreed to wait until after the tournament to talk to the coach about it.  No reason to make the next day tough on Avery. As it turns out, it was the right call. 

A day or two later we called the coach to discuss.  Her response would surprise us both.  It seems that she was, in fact pulled for being out of position, and the coach described to Avery where she was supposed to be and gave her a rest on the bench.  When she put her beck in, Avery was still out of position so she took her out of the game for what was supposed to be a couple of minutes.  She figured out a way to talk to her about it that she thought Avery would better understand.  However, while on the bench, Avery and a couple of other girls decided to play with each other instead of paying attention.  They were advised that they would go back in when they could pay attention to their teammates.  They didn’t pay attention to the game, so they didn’t go back into it. 

I had been played by my own game.  She told me enough of the story to be honest, but not the full story.  It was one of her father’s classic moves.  She told me about the out of position thing but had left out the left out the ‘not paying attention despite the coach’s request’ thing.  One is worse than the other, Avery knew it, and she tried to run my game against me.  She didn’t see us calling the coach.  I would have done the same thing. 

So here’s the thing.  Go ahead and tell me when you screw something up.  I’m a pretty understanding guy and I had my fair share of screw ups growing up.  I remember losing a baseball game because I wasn’t paying attention in right field.  I’ve been there.  It’s not a huge deal, just tell the truth and learn from it.  The three rules still apply, listen to your coach try hard and have fun but maybe we add a fourth, you’re going to mess up from time to time.  Take responsibility.  Trust me, there’s a certain satisfaction in saying, “yep, I did it, I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”  Just so you know, I’m still working on this one, too.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Official "I'm Out of Parenting Ideas" Jump the Shark Blog Post

So, my last post was a little dark.  Certainly not one of my traditional posts, but it was from the heart.  I decided to post this week in a decidedly different direction.  I’ll warn you in advance, girlies, the lesson you get from this one will be manufactured as to fit our format.  The real world application will be extremely limited.  Here we go.

A few weeks ago my mother, my girls and I took a weekend trip to Glenwood Springs, a trip I mentioned in a previous post.  One observation I left out was out hotel.  I booked it, no one’s fault but my own.  I have gone to Glenwood for years and the hotel I booked was not the one I thought I was booking.  Needless to say, expectation did not meet reality.  It wasn’t awful, but it did spark a conversation on the long drive home of the actual worst I had stayed in.  It’s a less than distinguished list, but here it is. Some names have been altered out of forgetfulness, not kindness but you won’t be booking there anyway.

Honorable Mention -  Idalia Colorado – No hotel name given, and none needed as I can’t imagine there is more than one hotel in Idalia.  I am sure Idalia is a fine place, but you’ve heard the term “don’t blink, you might miss it”, well I blinked and we missed it.  My wife and I were in Idalia for a reunion and we had been warned to get our room early as space was limited.  It was.  The hotel, and the town, had exactly four rooms.  We got room number four, I hope the other three were better.  When we got to the hotel, the check in counter had a note sitting on it reading “If you are trying to check in go to The Grainery Bar and Grill and ask for Beth”.  Sure enough, Beth, the bartender, had the key waiting.  It wasn’t really a put-off, the room had plenty of that.  The interior of the room was unspectacular, the glue down carpeting and brick walls left if feeling like a classroom more than a hotel room, but really not enough to make this list.  Even the lack of telephone in the room in a town that has no cell phone reception was inconvenient more than it was list making.  The two things that made this hotel take the list were the bed, or pallet, totally interchangeable and the bathroom.  The bed was solid, the shower was not.   The bathroom felt like something out of Camp Crystal Lake.  It had one of those ‘swingy lights’ generally reserved for horror movies and pool halls.  It was yellow, dim and it flickered fairly wildly.  It was the dimness that made the bathroom dangerous.  Needing to get ready for the reunion I decided to take a shower. I couldn’t see much and I didn’t step into the shower as much as I fell in.  The basin of the shower was a solid 18 inches below the floor I came from.  I suppose one could argue that it was an aesthetic decision, but the calking gun in the shower and the layers and layers of caulk around the basin argues that the shower was sinking slowly in to the fertile Idalia soil.  I had literally never felt dirtier coming out of a shower until Playa Del Carmen, you’ll see.

3) Budget Host Inn, Sandusky Ohio – I was driving by myself from Colorado to Philadelphia and I had decided I would attempt to make the trip non-stop (mistake # 1) and I had started and maintained the trip on a diet of coffee and Mountain Dew (mistake #2 ).  The combination of these decisions, when combined with seventeen plus hours of windshield time led me to the delightful burg of Sandusky for a short stay.  I checked the usual hotels; Days Inn, Holiday Inn, etcetera.  After being told they were sold out stop after stop, I wound up at the Budget Host Inn.  After asking if they had a room, I should have been suspicious when the clerk answered ‘Yeees?’.  His face contoured in a way that should have let me know that he had space, but not necessarily a room.  After paying just shy of $170 he led me to a room and opened the door with what looked like a house key.  The key had no key fob and the room had no number.  Oh well, I was tired, in I went.  A full day’s worth of Mountain Dew had caught up to me so I went into the bathroom immediately.  Two things of note, the toilet was unflushed and the shower curtain was for the Comfort Inn.  Both were head scratchers but nearly as interesting as the fact that the rest of the room was apparently a break room/ storage for the hotel.  The furniture was a Tetris game to navigate but I was tired so I climbed over the couch and laid my head in the twin bed.  The three hours of sleep I enjoyed before the door was opened by someone looking to use the break room seemed like enough.  I got back into the car and bid adieu to Sandusky.

2) BFE, Tennessee – Years ago, a friend of mine and me had been hired to pick up a storage unit full of antique furniture in Nashville.  We were provided a large, crappy, rusted, windowless van sans air conditioning and money for gas, food and a hotel in Nashville.  Our job was to drive there in one day, pick up the furniture the next and then drive back day three.  The best laid plans of mice and men.  Somewhere in the Volunteer state, short of Nashville, the drive shaft dropped from our chariot and we were stuck without a building in sight.  This was pre cell phone and two guys that had been sitting in a van for fifteen hours did not seem to encourage fellow drivers to stop and pick us up.  I remember walking for what seemed like hours until we found a small town that was made up of a gas station and a small hotel.  The two of us were young enough not to have credit cards of any kind, but fortunately-ish, we were informed that they took cash.  We paid our money to the semi-toothed owner of the motel and we were advised that we were welcome to the VHS tapes in the lobby.  We looked at the movies and realized that the themes of the movies were fairly consistent; they were all documentaries that featured some variety of exploding varmints.  We declined but, as it turns out, we would be back.  We opened the door to our room and found a small single bed in the middle of green shag carpet.   As we walked across the carpet, small bugs began to jump, thousands of them.  We both made an instinctive leap to the bed but realized quickly that there wasn’t a remote for the television.  Being a gentleman, I raced across the room and turned on the TV.  Huge mistake.  The TV had one channel, one pornography filled channel.  One small bed, a carpet full of fleas and one pornography rich channel.  Lo and behold, when informed that this was the only available room (really?) we decided to borrow from the redneck hunter video library.  We would wind up staying in the room for three days waiting for the new drive shaft to arrive, existing purely on a diet of potato chips and snack cakes from the gas station.   

1) Cucarachas y Proxenetas Hotel, Playa Del Carmen – The beginning of this story is a long and amusing one but attention span will not allow for it.  Suffice it to say that my friend Dave and I were trapped in Playa by a hurricane and we were unable to find a resort that had space for us.  The storm was inbound and after an exhaustive hunt, Dave and I had resigned ourselves to waiting out the storm in a church.  While shuffling our luggage to a church Dave came up with the idea of moving inland.  Forget resorts; let’s find a regular, local style hotel.  About a mile inward, we hound a bright pink hotel with four rooms, two up and two down.  We met with the hotel manager, a young man about 14 years old and asked about price and availability.  There was one room available and it was $20 a night, $25 with air conditioning.  We opted for the cool room and he handed us the cord to the air conditioner.  Of note, even with the cord we purchased, we never got the air conditioning working.  We got the key from the young man and made our way to our room.  It was a bottom floor room, strategically located on the far side of the other bottom floor room.  As we walked past our neighbor’s door it opened quickly.  Behind the door was a large local, dressed in a black suit with nothing underneath it short of a thick gold chain.  His hair was slicked back and behind him were two very large, very scantily clad women.  The generally very prepared Dave stood mouth agape at the sight. 

The man smiled wide, pointed at the women over his shoulder and said in his best English, “Hey boys, you like fiesta?” 

Dave shook off his stupor enough to decline and we hustled to our room.  It was not nearly as inviting as our neighbor.  It was overly grey and tile floored, the two most appealing qualities of the room, it went downhill dramatically from there.  There were little things, like the burlap bed coverings, the 12 inch rabbit ears television and the non-working A/C but these could be chalked up to a different standard of living.  When I sat on the burlap sheets, a disgusting combination of things happened, the first was a scattering of roaches.  The roaches ran like kids from a high school party after the cops arrive.  I’m not overly squeamish but roaches cruising through your flip-flops is a less than pleasant experience.  The second thing, upon standing, I noticed black stains on my hands, as it turns out they were on my shorts and legs as well, from some ‘God knows what’ residue on the bed.  We elected, smartly, to leave the room, buy towels to line the beds and drink beer until every bar closed before returning to the hotel.  I needed to clean myself up and made my way into the bathroom.  Maybe this isn’t strange in Mexico, but the restroom was the size of a phone booth and the shower head pointed directly at the toilet.  Efficient, sure, comfortable, not so much.  It was like staring down the barrel of a bidet.  Needless to say, we stayed out of the room as much as possible and, the next morning, as the sun came up, returned our key through a broken window per the 14 year old manager’s instruction. 

So the lesson, girls, I don’t know, pay a little extra when reserving a room.  You’re worth it.  Like I said at the beginning, I’m just spitballing a lesson anyway in this one. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Little Dutch Boy is Short a Few Fingers

I haven’t posted here in a while.  I’d like it to say it is because life got in the way, and in a way I guess that’s true.  Problems at work, financial issues, running injuries, the start of school, coaching retirement, no time, no money have all led to no drive. 

I sat down this morning to a breakfast designed for someone who has given up on fitness entirely and considered the fact that I hadn’t written in a while.  A few months ago, I had ideas a plenty but lately, it seems that the well has run dry. 

I considered a couple of ideas, but they seemed to be of the ‘mailing it in’ variety.  So here is what I have come up with, ladies.  The point of this blog is to give you three girls little lessons to grab onto and maybe apply to your lives later.  We’ve talked soccer and boys and running and school and pierced ears and cell phones and how much mommy and daddy love you.  We’ve talked about growing up, bathroom jokes, heroes and villains and the Crisco incident.  For the most part it’s been light and for the most part it’s been optimistic. 

Today, maybe not so much.

Today speaks more towards why daddy’s temper may be a little shorter and treats get a little fewer and further between.  I’ve always believed that life works in little changes, that the things that will change the world appear on the back page of the newspaper, not the front.  I believe that life isn’t about wholesale changes, it’s about small, incremental increases in happiness.  At the same time, life doesn’t usually deal haymakers, it deals tons of jabs, the death of a thousand cuts.  Life requires monitoring because the tide can change without notice and the incremental growth can turn into a slow, barely noticeable slide. 

I think that’s what has happened to me.  It’s a bastard version of the Little Dutch Boy.  If life is the dam, I saw a leak with soccer starting, insert finger, then plantar fasciitis, insert another, school, work, money, time, finger, finger, finger, thumb.  Before I noticed, I was playing a monster game of Twister and I was out of left feet.  It came to a head last night, my wife asked about fixing a leaky kitchen sink and I was out of proverbial fingers. 

I needn’t go into the discussion, but suffice it to say that mountains were made of molehills.  I think, as life goes, soccer practice and homework and not enough hours in the day are the finger sized holes in the dam, but when relationships get chippy and communication breaks down, that is the cracks in the foundation of it. 

So here’s the lesson, ladies, keep an eye on the dam, fix it with your own hands when you can, but remember that this isn’t your dam, it’s your whole families.  That means two things, first, ask for help.  You have a whole family wanting you to be happy, if the holes get to be too much, ask for a hand.  The second, and this one is harder, watch to make sure your family isn’t plugging up too much themselves.  Be willing to lend a hand even if someone isn’t asking.  Frankly, it’s more important than you know.

Life is full of ups and downs.  I could always write poop jokes and threatening the lives of potential boyfriends, but it would be disingenuous to only write when the world is great.  Anyone can thrive when the world is all about finished marathons and three goal games, the test is staying together when the mortgage is late and the math homework is too hard. 

So for today, the sink isn’t leaking anymore but the still dam is. Life isn’t perfect but it’ll get better. 


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Dumbassery of the Wild West Relay

A couple of weekends ago my wife, my sister, and myself joined nine other knuckle heads and ran the Wild West Relay.  For those with half a brain in their head and would never subject themselves to such dumbassery, the Wild West Relay is a 200 mile relay run between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs in Colorado.  It consists of two vans of six people taking turns running ‘legs’ with each runner eventually running three legs adding to a total of about 17 to 19 miles for each runner.  The legs and distance are one thing but the real issues are the lack of sleep and the unforgiving body odor that accompanies six people stuffed into a van for thirtyish hours.  

Many of the people I work with have asked me why I would commit to such a stupid endeavor.  The question is similar to one I got from my daughters about marathon running, but the answer is very different.  For marathon running it is about the accomplishment of pushing yourself a little farther than you think possible. That is simply not the case with relay running.  Being honest, I tell my coworkers and anyone else who asks that it is about the feeling of finishing something so difficult, but that isn’t really it.  I have run this race several times so the feeling of accomplishment has been replaced with the joy of being finished, which is hardly reason enough to participate in this endurance test. 

The real reason is to be a part of a team.  I am part of a team in a golf league but I had missed the camaraderie of a large team pushing themselves to reach a common goal.  I had played baseball and softball, but in the years since my ‘retirement’ from the diamond, I haven’t had that feeling until I started relay running.   Being the weakest link at times didn’t change the fact that I was a link. As I am becoming a better runner, I am enjoying it more and wondering 'why' less.

For the last few years our team, Tuts and Teabags, has set simple goals: to have fun, to push ourselves and to finish in under thirty hours.  We have succeeded in the first two goals to varying degrees every year, the third goal, the thirty hours, has proven as elusive as the alleged ‘runners high’.  

Enter Tutus and Teabags 2016.  As a team we made the decision to become a slightly more competitive team this year, not by improving our runners, per se but by signing up for a more competitive division, so dumb its genius. 

As it happens in relay racing, we lost a few runners and we gained a few.  The vans were fun.  It was nice to see old friends and the new runners fit in really well.  What happened next was surprising.  We were faster than ever.  For some unknown reason (perhaps the new runners, perhaps the right combination of GU packs, coffee and post leg beers) we were able to manage a time under thirty hours!   Truth be told, I have to believe, that as we starting crunching numbers as we were getting closer to the end of the race, no one wanted to let the team down.  Everyone ran very well and the second van made up the last dozen minutes we needed to get to our goal.  We not only came in under thirty hours, we were, in fact, able to take the bronze in our division!  I don’t know that we felt any better at the end of it all, or if the bronze medal made a difference, but the sub-thirty hour time had our collective chests puffed out a little more than they usually would be. 

So girls, how does this relate to you?  Simple, you all play on soccer teams, and it is likely you will play other sports, too.  Signing up for these sorts of things are fun, but they are an obligation as well.  It’s fine to play for the love of the game, but you need to recognize a love of your teammates as well.  Not trying your hardest, not training on your own, not doing your best before and during games is being a bad teammate.   Giving your all for yourself is great but leaving it on the field for your team is what makes sport as awesome as it is. At the end of the day, team sports will eventually give way to individual sports and activities and you, like me, will miss the camaraderie.  So for the time being the message is simple, give it your all, because you never know how long this team thing will be going on.  Heck, I'm surprised I keep getting invited back!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Smelling the Roses in Glenwood Canyon

A couple of weekends ago, my mother and I took my three girls to Glenwood Hot Springs.  For those not from the Colorado region, Glenwood is a massive sulfur smelling pool surrounded by shops that boast offerings from ice cream to rubber dog poo.  This is the third or fourth year I have taken my daughters to the hot springs and it is now a trip they look forward to it every year. 

It got me thinking, a good part of the reason I take my girls up to Glenwood is because it was an annual trip that my family took when I was a kid.  I’m not necessarily a sucker for tradition but it is among my favorite childhood memories.  Not that having three kids in a pool the size of several football fields afforded me a ton of time to reflect, I was able to afford myself a minute here and there to dwell on my less-gray-haired days. 

I think the main thing I noticed, outside of spending a great family weekend and reliving memories, was that everything seemed to take longer back when I was a kid.  For example, the drive to Glenwood takes about four hours, maybe three and a half with me behind the wheel.  This weekend we left home around six in the morning and were in the pool well before noon.  When I was a kid, it was an all-day adventure.    Like so many things about my youth I think I am misremembering the details of these trips, but I’m sure that Glenwood was easily twelve hours away when I was a kid.  I’m not saying that they moved Glenwood, but I’m not conceding that they didn’t either.  Then there were the lines, the lines to the slide, the diving, hell, the line to get in the door of the pool always seemed daunting.  I listened to my daughters complain about the line for the slide on Saturday.  They were gone for no longer than fifteen minutes.  I’ve waited longer than that for a cup of coffee.   

But it wasn’t just the bad things that seemed to take forever.  I remember the water slide taking an entire lunch break to get down, but my girls rode it for twenty seconds at a pop.  Side note, the price per ride seemed like a much better deal thirty years ago.  The soft serve seemed bigger than my head, the days seemed to last forever and the weekend seemed to be about six days long.

I’m not quite sure why that is.  Maybe the world just moves a little slower when you’re a kid.  Maybe it’s a little easier to stop and smell the roses when you aren’t thinking about mortgages and getting kids to soccer practice and work and making ends meet. 

Whatever it is that slows time down, it has also erased a lot of the not so great things that Glenwood brings.  Long gone from my memory was the sunburns, the chafing, the red eyes and getting dunked by my brother.  Three of the items on this list reared their heads this weekend, you’re welcome little ladies. Long gone are the car rides and the construction in the canyon.  Long gone are the smashed PB & Js and the seemingly always damaged rafts.  When all the little nuisances get stripped away, I suppose what is left is a childhood memory worth passing on.

So here it is girls, the point of today’s diatribe.  It’s something I’ve been working on in the days since.  Stopping and smelling the roses should be a way of life.  As you grow up you’ll find yourself racing through days, looking towards goals down the road failing to see what is right in front of you, that there is a lot of beauty in the ‘now’.  Sure the construction in the canyon made those childhood drives to Glenwood really long, but it’s when my sister and I threw rocks into the river while we waited for traffic to start moving.  Of course red eyes and sunburn hurt a little, but they were earned in the hours I spent playing with my siblings from sun up to sun down in the springs.  Life is short, and it gets even shorter when you are constantly looking down the road.  This one is a lesson I need to take to heart as well.   Speaking of which, your cousins are just waking up so this post will be cut short and less than edited.  Living in the ‘now’ so to speak.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Are "Semi-Pet People" Possible?

So for the umpteenth thousandth time this year I have been asked for another puppy.  Those who know me I already live with an awesome dog named Otto.  “Otto the Hammer” as he is known is a bizarrely smart, bizarrely athletic member of our family.  He has the ability to clear a six-foot privacy fence, an ability he uses a touch more frequently than I would like, but as dogs go, he is a good little man and a valued member of the household.  For clarifications sake, we call him “the Hammer” because of his willingness to butt his head, full speed, against our backyard fence as squirrels run across the top.  The effect is a disoriented squirrel dropping to the ground and a disoriented dog.  He’s damaged the fence, and caught a few varmints that he had absolutely no idea what to do with.  All members of the canine and rodent community have survived to date. 

Lately, Adrienne has begun to drink the Kool-Aid that the kids are serving.  I am the stand alone in my house denying the kids their new puppy.

Here’s the thing.  There are more than two types of people in the word, most people see “pet people” and “non-pet people”.  Personally, I fall in the middle.  I like the pets I have (besides Otto, we have a cat named ‘Phoebe’ that barely falls under the category of pet…being un-pettable and all).  I like having a pet that is well behaved, lovable and again, well behaved.
Of the “pet people” in my life, I have my children who love animals in all capacities, except for their pet fish, Skeletor, who has eaten all of his roommates.  All three kids have offered to flush Skeletor themselves in order to clear the way for different sea life.  I have my wife, who due to her rancher upbringing, sees pets as a lovely addition to the family but hardly equates them with an actual member of the family.  I think that this comes from raising and naming pigs only to eventually see them on the breakfast table.  I suppose this gives her a cognitive distance from any four legged member of the team. 

As you extend the view beyond our little home, the nearest member of the family is my Mother.  She is a “semi-pet person” like yours truly.  She had a cat we grew up with named Conan.  He was a great cat but after he shed his mortal coil, she went pet -free for a decade or two as it was prohibitive to travel.  She recently decided to get another cat and adopted one from the daughter of her best friend.  Oliver quickly became a favorite of my children.  When she dove back into pet ownership she went full bore, including all appropriate check ups and shots.  The single best part of the ‘Oliver’ experience was the fact that a few months after ‘Oliver’ moved into my mother’s house, ‘he’ had a checkup that necessitated the name change to Olivia.  I guess it’s fortunate that my Mom never bought gender specific cat toys.

Beyond that are exhibit ‘A’ and exhibit ‘B’ in my life.  My sister is simply put, a pet-person, my brother Steve is not.
Jennifer, my sister, has two cats, Frank and Roger.  It is not fair to say that they rule the roost, but they have about the best living situation that pets could find.  She is careful with their diet, their health and who watches them while she is away.  At one point, years ago, she owned a pet who literally saw her through the biggest transitions in her life and Jen reciprocated as Bill got ill and eventually left.  Her willingness to extend herself for Bill as his condition lessened was inspiring but as a ‘semi-pet person’ was more than I could have done.  She deserves a ton of credit.   Honestly, every pet should have someone who cares about them the way she did Bill. 

Annnnd then there’s my brother Steve.  I remember him owning a couple of cats (but may just be one cat with multiple names).  The names were P.I.T.A, and acronym for Pain In The Ass and Burlap, because at times it was asking to be put into a burlap sack and tossed into a river.  Pita/ Burlap was never tossed into a river but my estimation is that it probably didn’t see the same care that Bill, Frank and Roger has seen.  He now has a dog named Bentley who is certainly is key member of his family and, because of his adorable face, because of my brother’s maturity or more likely, his wife’s and children’s influence, seems to have transitioned Steve from ‘non-pet’ to ‘semi-pet’ ish. 

I certainly fall between Steve and Jen.  I like what I have, but am scared of buyer’s remorse on the next one.  Otto is a good dog, not without his flaws, but a good boy.    I worry that we don’t get as lucky with the next one. 

Okay my little ladies, this time’s lesson is more of a lecture.  I’m probably not ready for another dog and I guarantee Phoebe is definitely not ready for it.  Our non-pettable pet would die if we brought your little bundle of joy into our home.  Despite her abrasive nature, she has been with us twice as long as any one of you have and deserves consideration too.  She is above the “Burlap” treatment and above the “Skelator” solution.  Let’s all let her bid her own adieu before we look into another adoption.  And frankly, in spite of her 18 years on earth, she is merely a kitten, so we should be able to revisit this conversation just about the time Avery is heading off to college.  That should be about the time when Old Man Otto is ready for a playmate and Daddy is ready for another puppy.  I can hold out that long assuming Mommy never weighs in, so admittedly, I’m screwed.