Saturday, December 28, 2019

If You Can't Trust Saint Nick...

Santa dropped the ball this year.  More specifically, Santa dropped the ball, popped it and threw it in a lake.

SPOILER ALERT: Anyone under the age of 12 should stop reading this immediately or risk growing up too fast.

I’ll pause for a moment.

That should clear out the stragglers. 

So, this year, as we do every other year, we spent Christmas with my in-laws.  My in-laws live in a small mountain town that exemplifies a country Christmas and is as enjoyable as it is picturesque.  While lovely, it is important to this story to understand that spending Christmas in a small town requires a sacrifice here and there.  The biggest of such sacrifices is the fact that you had better be fully prepared for Christmas before you arrive.  Because of its size there is no mall, no box stores no place to do last minute shopping.  It is also remote enough that you cannot rely on shipping from the Amazons of the world. By the time we arrived it was already too late to ship anything.  This is key to the story.

What is also key to this story is I set extremely lofty goals for myself for 2019 and am falling short.  That fact has led to a Chris that has been less than gung-ho about this particular holiday season.  In this, I probably haven’t been as helpful to my wife this Christmas as I have been in year’s past. 

The culmination of all of this is the fact that a single gift was left behind.  Four hours from home and an important gift to my middle child, Macy.  It was the single thing that she asked Santa for ( a mistake I will not make again).

Macy is a sweet child but often has a personality that believes that the world is conspiring against her.  In the rare event that her soccer team loses, there is always a reason; it was the officiating, or the other team played cheaply.  If she does poorly on a test its that it wasn’t taught well enough. 

Not a chance she would take the missing gift well.  Damn it, Santa.

Here’s the rub.  The girls are allowed to wake us up on Christmas morning at 7:00 a.m.  We discovered the missing gift at about midnight Christmas eve.  My house is four hours away.  The quick math said that I had eight hours of driving that I needed to make over the course of seven hours.  I was willing to try.  I made a cup of coffee and made my way outside.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered a couple of inches of snow on the ground.  The seven-hour drive would be impossible, as would eight hours. 

We were done for.

We began to form a plan and landed on a poem, written by Santa, that explained that the gift had fallen from the sleigh, but he would have them at our house for when we got home.  We also had another gift that she hadn’t asked for to take its place thanks to my mother in law.  Macy believed it and was proudly showing her little Santa note to everyone.  I played along, all the time feeling guilty knowing my role in the missing gift.  It turned out to be a very nice Christmas despite my mistake.

The lesson here, little ladies?  Its tough.  As much as Mommy and Daddy want to be all in on every holiday and every birthday and every class performance and soccer game and anything else you are a part of, its not always possible.  I’ve been under a weird amount of pressure and maybe a little depression and consequently took my eye off of the ball a little.  I’m always sorry when that happens and am willing to take any proverbial seven-hour car ride to make it right.  Here’s the catch, sometimes a car ride can’t fix the issue.  Sometimes a Santa note can’t do it either.  Sometimes, people just fail and need to apologize.  That’s when it is up to you to realize that most of us would do anything not to let someone else down and that their apology is their last resort. 

For Macy, had the note not worked, my gift would have been a heartfelt apology.  I would have hoped she would have accepted it. 

I suppose that’s the lesson.  Realize that a heartfelt apology is often the worst-case scenario for the person giving it.  You should probably do your best to accept it, even if its a careless Saint Nick.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Baldilocks : No Photo Available...On Purpose

My birthday has just come and gone and for one reason or another, this one was a bit tough on me.  It wasn’t the birthday as much as it was the year.  I really applied myself to physical fitness this past 360ish days and didn’t quite see the results I was aiming for.  I’ve worked harder on my person this year than I have in the last two decades and I don’t have quite enough to show for it.  I’m thinking age might have something to do with it.  Something came up recently that hammered the point home.

Here’s the thing, I’m not generally a prideful guy, but I did something that kicked me square in the shame button.  I’m generally the opposite of prideful.  If I go to a high-end restaurant or hotel, I feel out of place, like an imposter waiting to be sniffed out. 

I have spent years trying to change that a little bit.  Trying to not mind being pampered a little, but thus far, I have failed completely. 

My ability to accept being pampered isn’t the point here.  We are here to talk about my shame. 

A little back story.  I was not a popular kid.  I lacked fashion sense and probably should have mixed in more salads than I did.  That may be true, but what I lacked in hygiene, and style and svelteness, I made up for with really good hair. 

I’m talking “Flock of Seagulls” good.  Perhaps is wasn’t that flamboyant, it was rock solid.  Jason Priestley would have looked at my hair and said, “damn, that fat kid has great hair!”

But all of that has changed.

With great hesitation it was time to take action.

I have shaved my head.

To some, that probably isn’t a big deal.  To me, earthshattering.

I used clippers set to #1.  I knew that I would regret it instantly, so I decided to go as short as possible on the first run.  I started by shaving in a mohawk.  Little did I know that my balding had made it wo my mohawk in profile looked more like Morse Code than teen angst.  As the last strip of hair left the top fell into the sink a few things dawned on me.  The first is that my head, although fairly round, is a touch off putting by sure size.  I’ve always known that I had a large head, having it shaved really put on full display how bulbus it really is. The second, perhaps less obvious to outsiders, is that I have a few “Klingon Wrinkles” on the back of my head.  If a bulbus head is slightly off putting, alien lines are just awful. 

Truth be told, I didn’t hate it, not exactly, it was more that the person looking me back in the mirror didn’t resemble me very much. 

Here’s the rub.  I don’t know that keeping my head shaved is something I want to keep doing, but I also know that Mother Nature is an angry lady and isn’t going to let me keep what I have now.  It’s a follicle Catch-22 and there is no way out that doesn’t involve toupees and hair plugs, so I guess this is me now.

The lesson here ladies?  For starters, I hope male pattern baldness isn’t a problem you’ll have to face in life.  I truly do, but there’s something else.  Its pride.  There’s a funny balance between having personal pride and being prideful.  Its great to have personal pride.  It keeps you studying hard and staying fit and keeping things clean.  Being prideful is a different animal altogether.  It can rear its head in a few ways.  For some it’s a feeling of superiority.  Like others are beneath you.  For others, its unrealistic expectations.  For me?  It was being unhappy about something “surface” that I couldn’t do a darn thing about.  It was being completely unable to see the silver lining.  Interesting choice of words considering my head now actually has a silver lining of grey hair.  Bit realistically, there are bright sides.  I’ll never have to pay for a haircut again and my shampoo budget just got cut by 90%.  I don’t have to worry about my hair on a windy day or after I step off my mid-life crisis motorcycle, I may need to pick up some day. 

But more than that, I’m surrounded by people who couldn’t care less about how thin my hair or my waistline are.  They apricate the work I’ve put in this year despite the lingering results, and I suppose that lesson is a good enough one to end on.

So, happy birthday to me, ya old, creaky, bald dummy! Go get yourself some cake!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Sober October, The New Year's Resolution for Slackers

Its Halloween.  Sure, my daughters were excited.  Avery, my eldest, was practical as always trading out her Wednesday Adams costume for something much warmer considering the 20O  temperatures here in Colorado.  Macy, par for her particular course, dressed as a girl Pennywise from “It” despite the fact that she would undoubtedly freeze her clown shoes off.  Darby, being Darby, wound up being the same Grim Reaper that Macy was last year.  She thinks her older sisters are very cool and can’t wait to mimic anything they do, even twelve months after the fact.

As scary as their costumes were, this post is about something much more frightening.  Its about a little thing called Sober October.  A little backstory.  I live in Fort Collins, Colorado.  We have more micro-breweries, per capita, than anyplace else in the country.  We are blessed in that capacity.  Along with delicious inebriants, I am not someone who people would describe as svelte.  Both the amazing beers and ‘Tubby Chris’ are key points for this blog post.

I was listening to a blog post featuring a few of my favorite comedians and they commit themselves to something called #SoberOctober.  What they are doing is committing to being sober for 31 days and pairing that with some physical challenge for the month.  One year they had a weight loss challenge, another was a heart rate challenge. 

I’m about to go on a tangent, but it’ll make sense before too long.  I recently attended a class at the gym.  For those in the know its called “Body Pump”.  The guy offering the class was in waaaaaay worse shape than I was.  He was a six-foot-tall red headed guy that had fifty pounds on me despite the fact that he wore shorts one size smaller than what I wear.  Some people may have been put off, but I was excited.  It was freeing for me to see someone standing in front of a physically fit group and commanding their attention and action.  He gives hope to those of us that more closely resemble an arctic seal than a Navy one. 

All of that being said, the podcast I was watching featured four comedians, two of which would be considered “plus sized”.  It got me thinking. If they can handle it, surely, I could. 

So, I decided to not only do the “sober” part of October but also commit to a rigorous workout plan.  My intention was to work out, in some capacity, all thirty-one days of October.  Sober and sore was my intention.

Sober and sore is what I became.

I am proud to say that I was able to do a really extreme workout regimen all while not consuming a single sip of alcohol.  It may not seem altogether impressive, but I was continually sore and I was able to maintain my beer-free self through a wedding with an open bar and the 50th birthday party of a very dear friend. 

Here’s the catch.  I worked out, I watched everything I put in my body and at the end of the day I lost two pounds.  Two.  Two little insignificant pounds.  A small enough amount of weight that it could be that I was just a little dehydrated when I weighed myself.  Pfffft, two pounds.

There is actually a lesson here, girls, and it isn’t to shelve things that seem difficult.  I suppose its about follow through.  I suspected for weeks that the weight loss benefit of this Autumn experiment was not going as hoped.  It would have been easy to step on a scale on October 15th and then bail on the whole thing when the results were less than awesome. 

Easy, sure, but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.  Setting a goal, even a difficult one, can really move you in a positive direction.  Yeah, maybe I didn’t get the rewards I wanted, I still get the satisfaction of knowing I set a difficult goal (difficult for me anyway) and exceeded my own expectations in terms of effort.

Long story short, give yourself goals, tough ones, and do your best to achieve them.  I’d rather you set tough goals and fail than set no goals and succeed. That seems obvious, but trust me, as you get older, it becomes pretty easy to set a low bar for yourself and then congratulate yourself for hitting it.  So, Avery, its time to start training for that half marathon.  Macy, maybe skateboard lessons would do you some good, and Darby, my dear, you’ve tackled a lot this year, but there have been a few things that have eluded you. Let’s get to work on those. 

Now, get busy little ladies, daddy is taking a nap.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Free Golf and Expensive Beverages at Torrey Pines

A few months ago, I posted about a trip my wife won to Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.  Last weekend we went on said trip.  It was an all-expense paid vacation that included a couple of rounds of golf and a stay at a hotel that was so far above my pay grade that I considered being a caddy to help me look like I belonged anywhere near it.

It had slippers and bathrobes and bell hops and valets and shoe cleaning and concierges and little mints branded to the hotel. 

I’m used to locking my door at hotels for safety sake, I locked them here because I couldn’t afford to replace the hotel bathrobes if they were to get stolen. 

That being said, it was lovely, my wife loved it, the down mattress, the pampering, all of it.  White collar living has always been an ill-fitting suit for me, but I made myself appreciate it as much as possible.

There were moments where appreciating it was impossible.  There was a fella who threw his bag of donuts on the ground because his room wasn’t ready.  There was a woman who berated a poor busboy because the coffee station was out of coffee and she was “going to need coffee if I’m going to be dealing with my kids this morning”. 

The golf course was a different thing altogether.  While privileged and crawling with caddies and $10 beers, it played like every other golf course I’d ever played.  It was picturesque and featured holes I had seen on T.V. but they were all made out of grass and dirt and had a hole with a flag in it.  I watched dozens of people hit their first tee shot looking like a dog pooping razor blades, I didn’t have the same nerves.  I don’t know why.  I literally have been playing crappy golf for the last six months but fixed it all on a world-renowned golf course. 

I was proud of myself in this: I recognized some of the more famous holes and didn’t hit the panic button when I stood over the ball on them.  There was a long downhill par three that was 180 yards into a stiff offshore wind.  It was gorgeous and a hole I’ve seen a lot of pros miss completely.  I watched the two golfers before me spray the ball, one into a cavern, the other into the ocean.  It wasn’t a settling feeling but where the voices would normally be poking me in the ol’ cranium they were quiet all day long.  I hit the green and parred the hole.

I could go on about fancy hotels and unexpectedly good golf games, but that isn’t really the point.  I was able to spend a long weekend with my wife and a couple of dear friends.  It was a weekend without social media and soccer games.  It was a weekend of setting aside my workout program and eating delicious food regardless of calorie count (also, here’s a tip.  If you find yourself in the greater San Diego area find Hodads and get a burger immediately).  It was about getting away a bit.

The lesson here little ones?  Well it isn’t about playing good golf and staying in way to expensive places.  Its about mommy and daddy recharging our batteries.  Macy, you asked me if you could go on the trip.  I gave you an unapologetic ‘no’.  It may have sounded abrupt (probably too abrupt) but the answer would have been ‘no’ regardless of tone.  Mommy and daddy need away time.  We love traveling with you girls, seeing a bit of the world with you, but we need us time as well.  It isn’t any kind of shot at you but every once in a while mommy and daddy recognize that we’ve only seen each other at soccer games and carpool handoffs. 

Getting to see your mother do things that aren’t on the mother schedule is great.  Seeing her have a beer at noon or whack a golf ball into the ocean is good for me and her being able to sleep in a way-too-soft bed and lose her cell phone for a few hours is good for her.   Trust me, the mommy and daddy you’ll see now will be a much more relaxed pair than the one who left you a few days ago!  

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

I Get it, Tradition Traditionally Sucks

I’m not at all one for tradition.  That’s not exactly correct.  I cannot stand tradition.  It comes from somewhere deep in me.  From my childhood.  What I remember from the times where this Chris was much smaller and less hairy is that tradition makes you do things you don’t really want to do.  It makes you do it annually.

Let me flesh that out a touch with an example.  When I was a wee person, we spent Christmas day at my mother’s best friend’s house.  It was a whole lot of grown-ups and my sister and yours truly.  There would be a series of small gifts exchanged.  I’m ashamed to admit that I always loved my $5 McDonalds gift card.  They gave me a sense of power, but that’s a different story.  After gifts we would turn to Christmas dinner.

This is where tradition became a nuisance.  My sister and I were sat at the kids table.  But we were the only kids.  So, the kids table would also be home to the impossibly old.  I’m sad to say that watching nonagenarians try to gnaw down prime rib led me to be nervous around seniors for years.  My older self can sympathize, seven year old me could not.

It was tradition, but it was the worst kind. 

Which brings me to the point of this.  This past weekend we brought the girls to Glenwood Springs.  I’ve written about this trip before. When I was a kid it was an annual trip for my family.  In my youngest days of the trip it was fantastic, but as I got older, perhaps my early teens, it seemed a burdensome tradition.  I failed to recognize a ton of key truths about the annual jaunt up the mountains that I see much more clearly as the parent that was dragging his own kids up the mountains. 

There’re the minimal things that go into it: the organizing the trip, the cost, the long drive.  All of them have their issues but in reality, none of it is too much trouble.  The real thing is realizing that the trip isn’t just for the kids.  It’s a chance for the adults to relax, to play with their children and to spend time with them that isn’t driving to soccer practice or cleaning the house.  When I was thirteen, I’m sure I didn’t recognize this part of it.  I remember the four-hour drive seeming like twelve hours.  I remember the rooms without air conditioning.  I remember the long lines and the lukewarm tuna-sandwiches. 

What I failed to remember was the things my mother did to make it happen.  Like the car breaking down over Vail pass and the cost of getting it fixed and the hotel while we waited for the repairs.  I didn’t remember the canyon was always under construction and it would have been easier for Mom to skip the trip altogether as opposed to listening to the griping kids in the back seat.  I forgot that, while the hotel had no A/C, it was connected to the pool and, while more expensive, it made for many more hours of fun for the kids.  I couldn’t possibly have remembered that the lines to the rides were rides that cost a lot of money and our complaining about it was a slap in the face to the poor woman who purchased them and the tuna fish sammies were a means of controlling costs as to not take a family of four out to eat for every meal that we ate. 

I suppose the biggest thing I failed to recognize is that some years the trip wasn’t affordable, or time was too thin, or we complained too much, but Mom still made it happen every year. 

The lesson here little ladies?  I suppose its about tradition and my loathing thereof.  I guess, from my point of view, its okay to dislike some tradition but its important to look at the reasons for the tradition in the first place.  When I look back at those Christmas dinners, I have always looked at it through my own eyes.  A little change of perspective may offer a little insight into why we did it for all of those years.  Maybe it was that my mother simply wanted to spend time with her best friend, or maybe she assumed that we loved it.  But I think, if I looked at it honestly, it was that a single mother that wanted a little company on Christmas.  Her kids were occupied with toys and simply sitting and drinking coffee with friends was preferable to sitting at home. 

I think you girls had a nice time this weekend, but as the years roll on, maybe there will be a time when it won’t be as fun.  Maybe you could do your old man a solid and put a smile on anyway because he wants to spend a weekend having fun with you.  In exchange, I’ll promise to try not to embarrass you with my killer cannon balls and jack knifes.  Deal?

Friday, August 30, 2019

Uh Oh, This One Needed A Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER:  This posting has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s rights, Second Amendment or otherwise.  It is not a commentary on anyone’s ability to own weapons or anyone’s hatred of them.  It is just something that happened in my week, that’s it, nothing more.  I’ll wait for the hate mail.


A bit of seriousness in my generally light postings.  Something happened this week that broke something in me.  I was dropping off my two youngest children at school.  They are in grade school and being a charter school, we don’t have the luxury of a bus.  Almost every morning for the last seven years I have made the same drive. 

That morning was different.  To most it would be innocuous, but for me, seeing an armed guard at an elementary school was disconcerting then and has gnawed at me ever since. 

Last year I realized my oldest daughter was at a school with an armed guard but to me that was different.  It was a middle school and the guard could be there for a variety of reasons.  Fighty kids or graffiti kids or even stabby kids, plenty of reasons that don’t involve gun toting kids who feel the need to harm a bunch of their classmates. 

I couldn’t make the same argument about the grade school armed guard.  To me he was there for one reason, one horrible, terrible reason. 

A couple of years ago the grade school had a lockdown on the last day of school.  It had little to do with our school and more to do with the middle school across the street.  It was a bit scary, but I knew, while I was trapped in the classroom, that no one was coming through the door to hurt my children.  I remember hating that the kids knew exactly what to do.  Those first graders, for the most part, knew where to be and what to do in a very mechanical way.  I comforted myself in the knowledge that my parents had mastered “in case of nuclear blast hide under your desk” drills.  Both being useless drills that you would never need but seem to comfort a certain percentage of the populous. 

I couldn’t apply that flawed logic to the armed guard at the school.  It was not a drill and those weren’t blanks in the cop’s gun. 

I am quite sure that a good percentage of parents saw the guard and felt comforted.  I did not.  What I felt was a heaviness that I haven’t shaken since.  The heaviness I felt was that of change, and not for the better.  My kids, all of them, will now grow up in a world where they need protection by armed guards means that I can’t raise them quite the way I want to. 

Full transparency.  I am not a gun fan.  My wife doesn’t mind them.  I don’t like them.  I imagine that there is a direct relationship between feeling uncomfortable around guns and the number of times you’ve had one pointed at you.  I’ve had three people point guns at me, two of which were in anger and the last guy wanted to show me how safe guns are (fun side note, he didn’t realize it was loaded).  Long story short, I feel like I have earned the right to be uncomfortable around them.  I don’t tell people they shouldn’t have one.

For me I don’t want my kids thinking that they need something to make school safe.  It should be safe inherently.  Their biggest fears should be pop quizzes and what is on the cafeteria menu.  Active shooter drills and armed guards change that.  It deprives them of an innocence that I want them to have. 

The lesson here little ladies?  Here you go.  Your school is safe, really safe.  The drills and guards aren’t necessary.  These things, the shootings, while horrifying, are a statistical rarity. 

I want you to believe that.  I want you to know that to be true even if I can’t entirely believe that. 

I want you to learn all of the drills and know where the guard is stationed but I want you to know that you don’t need them until, God forbid, you do.  I remember a time in this country that we were told that Saran Wrap and Duct Tape would save us.  I filed it away in the back of my head, sure.  If anthrax knocked on my door I know I would have been screwed by my thinking that the warnings were comfort food for the simple minded. 

So, pay attention, but only to the routines, not the reasons.  Please know that the world is okay.  Grandma hid under a desk to save herself from an attack that would never come, you do the same.  Learn your drills for the attack that isn’t coming.  And here’s the tricky part, you need to know it isn’t coming.  You’ll be better for it. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Dumbest Show on Dirt - 2019

The Wild West Relay was this last weekend.  I’ve said for years that this relay is the dumbest fun thing you can do.  This year was no different. 

This relay is a means of seeing friends that I don’t get to see the rest of the year, a place to push yourself a little farther than you think you should and a serious endurance test for your olfactory sense. 

The Wild West Relay is a 200-mile run from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs Colorado.  It takes place over two mountain passes and has a total of 16,000 feet in elevation gain.  We pay good money to do it.  We are not smart.

For the first time in a few years, my wife and I weren’t in the same van.  I missed running with her.  I love seeing her beat things like this.  It offered a different dynamic than I usually have.  I got to ride with my sister, some old friends and a bit of a reconnection with another one. 

Here’s the thing about these adventure races.  They take you out of your element in weird ways.  There’s the lack of sleep, the hours of running, the soreness, the empty belly, the dehydration and the close quarters.  In any other walk of life, this would be torture, but here, it’s a fun challenge. 

So here it is.  I didn’t run great.  I didn’t feel great.  But I had a great time.  So much so that as someone who was sure this was his last adventure race, now I’m not as certain. 

I’m sitting here writing this with incredibly sore calves and swollen feet.  I struggled through my first leg not knowing if I could finish the run.  I was dehydrated and my groin was spasming.

A friend asked me if I could run my next leg.

“Well, sure” I said because I’m an idiot.

My second leg was in the middle of the night, forty degrees and a malfunctioning headlamp.  I had minutes at a time where I was invisible to traffic.  I broke an eyelet on one of my shoes. 

My third leg was the opposite, a balmy 92 degrees and this writer forgot his sunscreen.  Steamboat traffic threw rocks my way and their passing breeze felt akin to a hair dryer.  I think I forgot how to sweat after a while, and that doesn’t seem like a good thing.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right.  It was great. 

I got to spend time with my sister and also my stepbrother with whom I am rekindling a relationship.  I spent time with a woman who whipped cancer’s ass while pregnant, a university professor who at times seems so different from me and at others could be my twin and a dear friend who has daughters just slightly older than mine.  He gave me the lay of the proverbial land as his eldest has earned her driver’s license.  Side note, I’m afraid.

We met up with our other van where my wife accomplished a leg that she had worried about for weeks.  That van was packed with new friends and old.  Those eleven people and our volunteers are why we do this and I’m not in a race (pun intended) to give all of that up.

So, the thing here girls?  You’ve watched me help put this race together for years.  I’ve complained about it and occasionally been hurt by it.  After last year I was ready to give up on it.  I literally quit in January and picked it back up in March.  Want to know why?  Because it’s worth it.  For all of its flaws and challenges, its worth it. 

I get to see some of those people once a year and if a little challenge and frustration stands in the way from hanging out with them, then the fault is on me. 

I guess the lesson here is about priority versus sacrifice.  It’s way more important to me to spend those hours jammed in a van with B.O. and foot smell than it is inconvenient to set it all up.  Running difficult legs and having sore muscles pales in comparison to the joy of dinner and beers with those people who I completed the race with.

I was talking to a friend, Mai, who talked to me about connectivity.  I’ll paraphrase.  You meet people all the time, but without connection, there isn’t anything.  If they won’t give you the time, then they aren’t worth yours.  I’m sure I messed that up.  But to me, the connectivity I offer is the sacrifice I make setting it all up.  Know what?  It’s worth it and it isn’t even close.  Now excuse me, I need a hot tub and a six pack to feel human again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Girls Least on the Pitch

My daughters have never been interested in sports that they aren’t themselves playing.  My eldest claims to be a Bronco fan, my two youngest claim the Raiders to be their team.  None of them will sit through a football game short of watching Super Bowl commercials.  All claim to love the Rockies but they attend games purely for the snacks and have never made it past the seventh inning before requesting to leave.  They like playing sports but none like watching them. 

Until now.

Macy really took to watching the US women’s national soccer team in the World Cup.    She took to it, and I mean really took to it.  She looked up when every game was on.  She cut a trip to the pool short as the quarter final game was starting.  She pulled a veteran move asking my mom to get her a drink instead of getting it herself because “the game is on”. 

She loves it, but this posting isn’t about Macy’s love for soccer.  Its about her ability to watch it at all. 

I’ll make sense of that for you. 

We were watching the semi-final game.  It was my wife, Macy, myself and my eldest, Avery, was watching peripherally.    The US battled England for a 2-1 win.  The game was close.  Macy, clad in her Alex Morgan jersey...and her Alex Morgan sweatshirt, chewed nervously on her thumb for the last twenty minutes of the game not saying a word.  She came to learn the meaning of “extra time” at the end of a soccer game and she didn't think it fair.  She endured the extra five minutes, her thumb barely did.  When the final whistle blew, she jumped off the couch and screamed with glee.  Avery clapped as did I.  My wife’s eyes welled up. 

Everyone’s reaction made sense to me except my wife’s.  She isn’t a huge soccer fan and she isn’t a big ‘cryer’. 

We got our girls put to bed and I brought up her reaction.  What she said shook me in a weird way. 

“When I was a little girl, I couldn’t have done this.”  She said of watching the women’s World Cup.  “I loved sports but there weren’t any women competing on TV.”

I had never thought about it before.  That my generation of women were limited to Olympic games and tennis to watch girls compete on television.  It stuck with me for a few days.  I brought it up to my mother.  If Adrienne’s reaction shook me, my mother’s would make it somehow worse.

She said that she never took sports seriously because when she was younger, they just weren’t an option to young women.  It explained a lot to me.  My mom has never seemed to understand the value of sports.  When I ran my first marathon, she asked me why I would do it if it hurt so much.  She said the same after my next marathon and my relay races.  I always thought that she didn’t think I should run them, but I now think maybe she literally doesn’t understand why anyone would run them.  

For me, my brother and my father, sports were an assumed.  They were readily available year-round.  I never considered a world where they just weren’t there.  Hell, I remember playing sports I didn’t even have interest in trying.  Looking at you, tennis. 

The lesson here, little ladies?  Its about appreciation and value.  Sports aren’t the most important thing in the world, but they have value.  For me, sports helped me make friends, they taught me how to work as a team and they helped me stay in shape.  There were times where my father and I didn’t always see eye to eye and sports gave us something to talk about.  Watching football with my brother, my dad and my father-in-law gave me an avenue to grow those relationships as did running relay races with my sister and friends.

And about appreciation?  You are in a wonderful time where girls are starting to get their due.  Mommy couldn’t have watched the women on television the way you can and grandma couldn’t have participated in the sports that you can.  In just two generations women have gone from not even being at the table to a ticker tape parade in New York.  With appreciation comes obligation.  The ladies before you fought hard to get you where you are, it is for you to keep up the fight.  Don’t take it for granted.  Score goals, play hard and stick up for those who need it.  If you see someone sitting on the sidelines looking at the game, invite them to play. 

And, a note I am reluctant to put in.  To those who found it off putting for the ladies of the US national team to air their grievances financial and otherwise during this process, I hate to tell you, but the world is a changing place.  For a long time, women in sports (or a lot of other arenas) have lacked the platform to demand equity in their participation.  You may not agree with their stance, but we are founded on the idea that they are allowed to have it.  So, thank you to the women of the USNWT for their elegance, their tenacity and the example they set for my little girls during the World Cup.  These are truly lessons they can use on and off the field. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Death to Snake Bit Chris

I have long thought of myself as an unlucky person.  I have used the term “snakebit” for myself from time to time.  People will say, “you’ve got a great wife” (true), or “great kids” (also true) or “at least you have your health” (well, kinda.  I’m pretty doughy).  It’s not that stuff, per se.  It’s the automotive breakdowns or golf swings or job opportunities, things don’t often seem to roll the right way for me.

That isn’t to say life isn’t good, it is.  I’ve just noticed sometimes in life that the same people seem to have amazing stories of falling into perfect situations or just having things work out for them.

So, where am I going with this?  Funny story.

I played in a golf tournament last weekend.  It was a charity golf tournament for the Rotary Club.  I played with my wife and a couple of her work friends.  It was a nice afternoon that included a couple of cold ones and a lot of bad golf.  For those who have played in scramble tournaments, you’ll know that our even par final score is well below what one would expect from such an event.  I didn’t help.

I have developed an intense case of the ‘yips’ over the last few months and it has led to a very frustrating experience on the links.  Yips aside, it was a fun, relaxed afternoon.  Frankly, it’s the most fun I’ve had golfing in a while.

When we got done, we were offered a buffet lunch.  As stated earlier, I’m a bit doughy and you don’t get that way without taking advantage of buffets.  I went through the line and filled my plate.  I blissfully sat down to enjoy my lunch with my wife but then her name got called over a loudspeaker.

We both dismissed it a bit, me thinking I misheard it, her knowing that there was another Adrienne in the crowd and guessing it was meant for her.  Surely our even par score didn’t merit any prize beyond a consolation prize for ‘crappiest team’ and they would have had my name for that award, not hers.

Then it was called again “Adrienne Jacobson”, louder, clearer and more impatient than the last time.

She got up from her plate and made her way to the tent that the voice came from.  I was curious for a moment then got lost in conversation about better golf games than mine.

A solid ten minutes passed and no wifey.  At this point I was at least peripherally curious about her whereabouts.

A friend of mine came over letting me know she was in the raffle and had gone pretty far.

That was an understatement.  The raffle was for all of the golfers in the tournament and she had made the final twenty.  Pretty exciting except for the fact that a one in twenty shot isn’t great and I had no idea what the prize was anyway.

They called ten names. Adrienne’s was among them.  I assumed she had just been eliminated. 
She hadn’t.  Those ten got to continue on and then more waiting.

Some ten or fifteen minutes later they called five more names, this time hers wasn’t among them.
“Damn” I thought to myself, not realizing the ridiculousness of bemoaning losing a prize that you were oblivious to in the first place.

The five named called were eliminated.

There Adrienne stood with the final five.

Then the final three.

Then two.

Adrienne and an older lady.  They were hugging each other warmly, disingenuously wishing each other luck.

I was as invested as I could be in a mystery prize.  Everyone else seemed VERY excited.  What did they know that I didn’t?

Then the MC got to talking.  “The final two for the all expense paid trip to Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego.”

I perked up immediately.  It is where Adrienne and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary and we had discussed going for our fifteenth anniversary, just six months from now.  We discussed that the money may not be right to go.

“Uh-oh” I thought to myself.  Snake-bit Chris is getting his hopes up.  This is precisely the moment where the carpet generally gets torn out from under my feet.  Generally, the stakes aren’t this high.
The MC started up again.  He drew a name out of the hopper.  “If your name stars with an “A” (then a cruel dramatic pause)….you’re OUT!”

Adrienne walked off the stage, obviously dejected.  But then a funny thing happened.  The other lady walked off, too.

The MC continued, “Ann, you can keep walking.”

Adrienne stopped in her tracks.  She won! We Won! A snake-bite free experience.

The lesson here girls?  It’s as simple as it is self-directed.  There is no need to look at the dark side of things all the time.  It’s okay to have hope.  It’s okay to have hope even if it kicks you in the short and curleys later.  I’ve spent a lot of time in my life assuming the worst to give myself the softest landing, but there is a cost to that.  Living with negative expectations has probably cost me a lot in terms of jobs, and achievements, and writing, and relationships.

Let yourself hope big.  Sometimes even the failure is a fun ride! Granted when 1st place is San Diego and 2nd is a long walk back to your table, sometimes winning is better!

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Rattler: Fun for the Feeble Minded

I ran a race this past weekend.  I trained for it from early January and began to get excited/ nervous as the big day started creeping up.  The race, The Rattler, took place in Colorado Springs and is a 15.5 mile trail run that I thought that I may be a good target for the first quarter of the year.

I was wrong.

Turns out, The Rattler would be the single most difficult undertaking I have ever paid to participate in.  Admittedly, I don’t have a solid point of reference, but I assume it to be much tougher physically than childbirth.

I knew going in that the weather was going to be a little rough.  It was.  What I didn’t consider was how bad the weather was going to render the course’s condition.  The mud on the course was uniquely clay.  It was made of the very stuff that Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore would have made sweet pottery with. Each step in this stuff created a weird suction that tempted shoe from foot.  When my foot disagreed, its reward was several ounces of tagalong mud.  Layers built up step by step, making my feet heavier as we went along.

Rain and snow made clothes heavier and made the first half dozen miles very chilly.  A slip in the mud three miles in cost me an iPod and a sweatshirt.  Losing the sweatshirt made me colder but losing the iPod let me live between my ears for the next several hours.  Losing the iPod was much worse.

Around mile 13 sat the final checkpoint.  It is the first time in any race I have ever run, that I considered quitting.  Had there been a way off the mountain that didn’t involve my feet, I may have taken it.  There wasn’t so I didn’t.  I pushed and finished.

I didn’t set any records, not in a good way anyway.  I came in around 100th out of 150 finishers.  I came in a full half hour after my running buddies (they had beer, so I think they didn’t mind).  My initial reaction after finishing was “that’s a one-time deal, never again”.  Often times, finishing a race offers a feeling of euphoria with a smattering of pride.  This race left me feeling a little weak and disappointed in my performance.

Let me tell you something.  Running for four hours then being disappointed in yourself sucks.

There is a lesson in here, ladies.  The big takeaway is to give yourself a break every once in a while.  As I got a little distance from the race, I started to think a little differently.  We sat down for a well-earned breakfast and time with friends.  The benefit was two-fold.  Spending time with Katie and Jon and Randy after made me remember one of the reasons for running these types of races is the comradery. Talking with friends after about the race and how tough it was is fun.  A shared experience like The Rattler leaves plenty of room for self-depreciating jokes.

There is also the accomplishment.  Four hours of trudging around the mountains in the rain is hard.  Doing it in the rain and snow complicated it.  Maybe I didn’t get the time I wanted and maybe I can allow myself to get down on myself a little bit about that but in the big picture, I accomplished something difficult.  I trained for a few months for it which in itself is difficult.  If you can’t celebrate your victories, even if they come with a bit of an asterisk, then you may not be prone to tackle the next one.  So, maybe this thing wasn’t a “one and done” experience.  Maybe I’ll see The Rattler again next year. Never can tell, but I won’t rule it out just yet.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Lower Your Expecations and Save Your Weekend!

Expectations are a funny thing.  

Not so long ago, my daughters played soccer to have a good time.  They played in soccer tournaments for the opportunity to stay in a hotel and have unfettered access to a pool and the guarantee of dining out multiple times in a few days’ time.  We paid a lot of money for tournaments, what we got was ice cream and chlorine.  

Macy, my nine-year-old had a tournament in Denver this past weekend.  We were sure to get a hotel with a pool for the kids and free breakfast for my wallet.  In years past, the prospect of the hotel was enough.  That just isn’t true anymore.  She spent the days leading into the tournament talking about winning a medal, pitching shutouts and shots on goal.  Ugh, who are you.  Where is my little Star Wars fan?  

A day or two before the tournament we got an email saying that a local team in my oldest age group needed players as well.  Avery plays with a team that is a year older than she is, but she was excited to play with her own age and there were a number of kids that she had played with previously on the team.  

But I knew in my heart of hearts that this little girl played for the love of the game.  Winning and medals didn’t mean as much as it did to Macy, hell, it wasn’t even her team.

I’m a moron.

Avery started talking about how good this team was and that they had a real shot at the tourney.  I knew this was going to be a long weekend. 

The first day went okay, it was “fine” but not spectacular.  Avery’s team got rolled in their first game.  The other team was awake and looked to have drank at least a few cups of coffee before the game.  Our girls looked like they had spent at least a few hours in the pool.  Note: they had.  They lost 3-1.

Macy played a couple of hours later.  They were more awake.  A lot more awake.  They jolly-stomped the poor team they played.  They won 6-0 and took their foot off the gas in the second half.  The scoreboard didn’t reflect how bad it was on the field.  

Avery was up next.  The temperatures were dropping and even the most enthusiastic of parents were beginning to lose interest.  Her team didn’t lose interest.  They won their game 3-0 and the team played with the skill that Avery had talked about.  

Macy had the last game of the day.  It was against what may have been the best team in her age group.  The parents knew it but the girls didn’t.  Macy’s team looked good.  They took a 1-0 lead into halftime, but the second half was a bit more interesting.  The other team tied it up early in the second half, but Macy’s team put up the leading goal a few seconds later.  The game hung with a one goal lead with almost no time left and a parent yelled “Girls!  Only a minute left!”

Now, I don’t know what the parent hoped to accomplish, but I can tell you exactly what happened.  Smiles spread across the girls faces.  One girl raised her arms in victory.  One audibly squealed. The other team heard it, too.  But they didn’t raise their hands or squeal.  They had what could be described as an ‘increased sense of urgency’.  A couple of seconds later they ball was in the back of our net.  2-2 tie.

The loss for Avery’s team and the tie for Macy’s team meant that they had to count on other teams to get them into the finals.  Avery’s team still had another game Sunday morning.  Macy’s did not. 
Avery’s team won the morning game 3-0.  They had a shot.  Macy’s team looked like a long shot.  Both kids knew where their respective teams stood.  Both were surprised, Avery not so pleasantly. 

Avery found out at noon she wouldn’t have another game.  We tried to console her in the fact that she finished third in a very tough division.  She was consolable, but only to the point that she wasn’t ‘Old Yeller’ broken.  Macy’s game wasn’t until three.  It was going to be a long few hours.  

In the interim, we found out that Macy’s team would be playing the upper team from our hometown, meaning that all of the girls on Macy’s team tried out for that team and didn’t make it.  There was a group pant soiling that took place among the parents.  No one said it out loud, but we were all thinking the same thing.  “We could beat traffic if we just forfeited the game.”

The game would go on.  We sat anxiously as the game started.  They had a tiger by the tail.  They got to halftime with a surprising 1-0 lead.  We kept waiting for the tiger to break free.  A minute into the second half, the game was tied.  “Uh oh” we thought to ourselves.  We kept waiting for it to turn ugly, but that little group of girls kept the game exactly where it was.  The game finished 1-1.  Soccer allows for ties, right?  Usually, but not in the finals.  

It would be decided with a shoot-out.  This was where the extreme size difference between their team and ours took full display.  These sasquatches of children lined up five feet from our goalie and our little angels did the same with theirs.  Long story short, they aren’t Cinderella stories because they always come though.  They took second.  Macy was crushed.  Macy got a second-place medal.  Avery was crushed.  

These are two little girls who went through years of tournaments without winning a game.  I remember one particularly bad one where Avery’s team didn’t score a goal.  They never seemed upset back then. 

Expectations are funny things.

The lessons here girlies?  There’s a few.  I like you being disappointed by losing and I like you having the expectation of winning.  It’s healthy.  On the flip side being leveled by losing isn’t great.  Both of you played well, your teams did great and everyone involved had fun.  Maybe you didn’t get every single thing you wanted out of it, but you should appreciate what you did get. 

There is also something to be said for what you do with losing.  You can sit and cry in the back of the car for an hour and a half.  You can let it ruin the end of your spring break.  Or, you can ask what happened.  What went right and what went wrong.  Celebrate your wins and evaluate what you can do to prevent your losses. Listen to the coach after the game and figure out what is needed to help your team next time. 

All of that being said, winning medals is fun, winning tournaments is fun, I get it.  So, don’t just hope to win them, work your little tushies off to make it happen.  Keep working hard and it’ll happen for you.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Curious Case of Winnie the Pee

I try to mix heartfelt writing here with observations about my kids and the world.  This week will be a little different.  I’ve been trying to solve a mystery for some time now and perhaps I should be reaching out for some help.  I have exhausted the help of wife and family and no turn to blog readers for help.  What could possibly go wrong?

Here we go.  

The Curious Case of Winnie the Pee

As few people know, I have taken on a year long project and will be documenting the experience for a book for next twelve months.  This project will require me to spend more time than usual in the gym and in the vegetable section of the grocery store.  

My body had grown doughy and somewhat translucent over the winter months and I was not looking forward to my first day at the gym this last January.  I tend to go to the gym before the sun comes up and that day was no different.  I entered the gym around 5:30 which means the mystery started at approximately 5:35 A.M.  That detail may seem too specific, but I’m no detective so I don’t really know what is important and what isn’t.

I put my glasses, my sweatshirt and hat into a locker and prepped for my run.  I decided to use the restroom if for no other reason then to delay the inevitable run I was about to go for.  I took the end urinal, because I know the code, and began to relieve myself. 

Here is where the mystery hits full stride. 

An older gentleman strode up and chose the urinal next to me (despite the third urinal being available mind you).  My attention was drawn to the man due to the slap of his bare feet against the tile floor.  My cockles went up.  Who walks barefoot to the urinal?  Disgusting, sure, but a mystery? Not really.  

What happened next Is what really perplexed me.  The barefoot man proceeded to take off his shorts and hang them on the divider between him and me.  Underneath the shorts?  Nothing.  Just full Donald Duck.  Full Winnie the Pooh.  His little septuagenarian patootie just out in the world.  

For my more feminine readers.  A note about men’s locker rooms.  They are regulated places.  Regulated by social norms that go back to ancient Greece.  You can shower, change all in full view of your cohorts.  It is also more than acceptable to have a modicum of inhibition in such situations and change under a towel or even at home.  Those rules go for both the shower and locker room, but that brand of exhibition tolerance does not extend to the urinal area.  Those rules aren’t written anywhere but they are widely accepted and understood all the same. 

The fact is, that even without those rules, it does not explain the need to remove shorts entirely.  I pondered that fact long after the man put his shorts back on and left.  

Here is what I came to.  He was a swimmer.  He had no shoes on because he was headed to the shower and his swimming suit didn’t have a ‘pee-flap’.  That reasoning doesn’t excuse him completely, but it begins to flesh out a reasonable explanation.  

I was satisfied with my rationale and made my way to the treadmill in some brand of peace.  A peace that was instantly broken.

He was there.  With shoes.  With shorts.  Walking on the treadmill in front of mine.  

There was no lap pool or hot tub for Winnie.  He was wogging in what I know to be commando attire.
So many mysteries.  He distracted me from my run completely, for which I was grateful, but I haven’t been able to shake that situation for near a month now.

So here we are with the unanswered questions.  
  • Why take the urinal next to me with the third one open?
  • Why the bare feet?  Are staff infections still a thing?
  • Finally, and most importantly, why remove the shorts entirely? 
Any assistance to this mystery would be appreciated.  I thank you in advance for your help.  

Total side note.  For those of you in the Northern Colorado area, you may have heard of a young man named Carter Edgerley.  He is a good kid who is battling a rare form of cancer and his family could use help if you are able.  If you want to learn more or are inclined to help, click here, if not, it costs nothing to share!

Monday, January 28, 2019

I Just Knew She Would Outlive Me....Now What?

We put our cat down this week.  She was 23 years old.  It wasn’t a surprise.

Funny thing, she, for 95% of her life, defied the definition of ‘pet’ as no one could pet her.  For twenty plus years she was just this thing that lived under my bed and came out occasionally for food or to scratch someone.  She always looked like a kitten which always gave me the idea that she would outlive me, if for no other reason, then merely out of spite.

She was relatively unlikable for a long time.

But late in life something changed in her.  Perhaps it was age, perhaps it was the fact that she had outlived all of her other pet friends, perhaps it was one last dig at me, getting me to care about her before she shed her mortal coil.  Somewhere in the last year or so, she became a cat.  A somewhat pleasant creature who even ~ gasp~ let one of my daughters pet her in the last month or so.

Last Thursday we sat the girls down letting them know that we would be taking Phoebe to the vet the next morning and that they should spend the evening saying ‘goodbye’.  Macy, my animal whisperer, lost it completely.  It was no surprise.  Avery, my eldest also had a meltdown.  My youngest, Darby, ever the opportunist immediately asked for a new 'replacement' kitten.

Let’s get the body in the ground before we have that discussion, Darbs, but nice try.

My wife was able to keep herself together until the big day, as was I, but when the time came, we both became the same brand of puddles that our kids were 12 hours earlier.

Our reactions surprised me, but I was surprised for different reasons for each of us.  For my wife, it was surprising seeing her melt down considering she grew up on a ranch.  The rancher’s life requires that you often see things you’ve named appear on the dinner table.  It offers a bit of detachment from situations like this from a young age. For one reason or another, her immunity didn't work this time.

I was also surprised that I was bothered to the degree that I was.  I literally had a hate-hate relationship with the animal for half of my life and most of hers.  I have, in the past, tried to get my wife to get rid of it.  I have kicked it off the bed tens of thousands of times.  Simply put, she has been my nemesis since I was in my late twenties. So why was I upset?

I guess that’s the lesson here, little ladies.  I was affected for a variety of reasons.  The first is familiarity.  The little demon lived under my roof since we owned the roof.  I’ve thrown her off the bed ten times a night for the last fifteen years.  I was used to her.  But more importantly, it’s the weight of having to tell you guys, the weight of being there with mommy.  It’s seeing how it affects you three and your mother. I don’t want to see any of you hurting.  Sort of my dad job is to keep you safe and to see you that upset gives me a “I’m failing at dad jobs” sort of feeling.  One last thing it could be.  Perhaps we all need an nemesis.  A being that proves that you are good by the very nature of their existence.  I know I'm good because I'm hated by something evil.  Not entirely sure about that last one, but I'll take it.

Here’s the other thing though, ladies.  It’s important to learn the lessons that the death of a pet teaches.  You had it once with “The Claw” the hermit crab, but this one cuts a little deeper.   I can tell you this; there is no substitute for experience when it comes to loss.  It sucks, it sucks a lot, but down the road, you’ll be a little better for it.

Phoebe knew you loved her and deep down, super deep down, Mariana Trench deep, she appreciated it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Sorta Wish I had a Real Reset Button

2018 wasn’t all bad, but more often than not, I didn’t have a great time.  I didn’t accomplish much of what I wanted to do and got fatter while not doing it. 
I didn’t run the marathon I planned on running.
I didn’t get certified for the certification I intended to do.
The porch didn’t get built and the flooring looks like the same flooring as 2017.
I was moodier than I wanted to be.
I ran half as much as I had hoped.
Long story short, I wasn’t the dad, the hubby or the person I was hoping to be last year. I wasn’t bad, but I had big plans.  The best laid plans of mice and men, right?
Here’s the thing.  As the calendar changes from year to year, nothing magical happens at midnight.  The world doesn’t reset itself.  It is merely the morning after a later than normal night.
Sort of.
While nothing magical happens to the outside world, something can change inside.
I have long believed that as the January calendar rolls around, a lot of things can change.  It takes a bit of honest reflection.  It requires a willingness to call yourself out for your shortcomings.  Most of all, however, it necessitates a boat load of optimism. 
I have all of that in spades.
Reflective, self-critical and foolishly optimistic?  Check, check and check!
So, with 2018 solidly in the rear view, it’s time to turn my sights towards 2019. 
Most years I give my self an impossibly long list of resolutions.  Long enough to be pretty much unattainable.  I always figure that if I fall short, I will still have accomplished a lot. 
This year I have only one resolution.
But it’s a monster.
And it’s just for me to know.  Suffice it to say that if I fall short on this one, I have accomplished nothing. 
Maybe I’d better build the porch, too.  

So, girls, the lesson here is pretty simple.  A lot of starting fresh and getting a bit of a life reset lives between your ears.  For me, January first is a big deal.  Realistically, it could be January first or August first or June fifth.  It doesn’t matter the day or the hour or the minute.  I personally like to reset on New Year’s as my batteries are generally recharged having seen friends and family over the holidays.  If you decide it’s time for a fresh start just give yourself one. Look at what needs fixing and approach it with vigor and optimism. 
Avery, if you’ve blown off baritone training for the better part of the semester, it doesn’t do you any good to look backwards.  Push forwards.  Macy, if you lose your starting spot in soccer, you can remember that you haven’t practiced your foot skills in a year but don’t beat yourself up, just try harder.  Darby, yeah, you’ve missed some homework assignments.  Get caught up and move on.  Life is to short to fill it with regrets.  Hit the reset button and move on. 
I need to remember that more often the rest of the year.