Tuesday, December 15, 2020

What a Difference a Year Makes

2020 has been a dumpster fire for most if us.  For myself, I did a year of research for a book in 2019 that I have only written about half of in 2020.  I’ve gone from a runner whose weight was going in the right direction to a guy who lacks the social queues to remind him to shower and shave. 

For me, what a difference a year makes, around my waistline specifically.

But this isn’t about my fattitude.

It’s about my wife’s attitude.

Spoiler Alert: if you are of the mind that your Elf on the Shelf departs every evening to the North Pole to inform the man in red about your behavior, you may want to skip forward a paragraph or two. I’ll begin again in 3….2….1….

 So last night, my wife and I were doing our evening duty of finding a new vantage point for Jingles, our elf to watch our children. I was distracted, probably by a sandwich judging by my 2020 track record, so Adrienne wound up taking care of it herself. 

I was on the couch when I heard giggling from upstairs.  It was Adrienne, pleased with the predicament she had put Jingles in.  It seems Jingles had been captured by a host of other Christmas toys and was now taped to the inside of a glass panel in a cabinet. 

It was funny, but that’s not what this is about either. 

It was her effortless laugh.  You see, for the last couple of year’s Adrienne has had a tough go.  She had committed herself to a career that was perfectly stressful and completely thankless.  Her health suffered.  Her relationships suffered.  Her self-worth suffered.  She was unhappy but like so many people she equated who she was with what she did for a living.  She was unhappy, for lack of a better term.  A few months ago she left the position unceremoniously.  She added scared to the rest of the things she was feeling.

But then something funny happened.  She didn’t miss it.  Sure, there was the sense of impending doom that comes along with losing a job during a pandemic and there were regrets of friendships that were lost.  There were no tears, no real anger and no laments.

Once the immediate pant-soiling fear of unemployed in a pandemic subsided, what was left was someone who realized what she was sacrificing to keep up with a job that had little interest in her succeeding herself. 

Fast forward to December.  Last year, I took care of the holidays pretty much by myself.  Christmas was just another day to Adrienne.  Something to endure.  Phone calls from coworkers that seldom realized boundaries asking for help despite the fact that it was Christmas Eve.  She smiled, sure, but it was forced and transparent. 

This year, I live with a wife that couldn’t wait to cook Thanksgiving dinner, do some Christmas shopping, wrap gifts or even tape an Elf in a shelf.  What a difference a year makes.

The lesson here, girls?  Well, it’s an easier one to say than to live by.  A job is just a job but your health and your family are forever.  All of you noticed a change in mommy over those last few months.  Mommy listening to Christmas music and running and eating better.  Mommy and I always promise ourselves that if our work starts getting in the way of our family we would need to reevaluate.  I think this is the best example we’ve had. 

You need to keep in mind what you are doing and what you are trading to do it.  Sometimes the tradeoff is worthwhile, like giving up your evenings to soccer practice, and sometimes its not, like giving up family time to watch YouTube.  Make a decision to do what betters you and don’t punish yourself if it takes a while to make the decision. 

Now, I’m going to make the decision to go downstairs and spend time with my family instead it ticking away at this keyboard.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Uh Oh, Someone Left Some Ceiling On The Floor

 There are times where this blog is tough to write, where ideas don’t pour out or the subject matter is a little difficult.

Today is not one of those days.

Yesterday morning I had a planned run with my wife and some friends.  My middle decided to tag along and we headed off to the Colorado/ Wyoming border for some windy, high altitude running.  I was reluctant.  I hadn’t been training due to a hamstring injury I endured playing, wait for it, kickball!  My God I’m getting old. 

Needless to say, running at eight thousand feet, undertrained and less than motivated was not a recipe for success.  I was nervously drinking coffee and driving north.  Macy had fallen asleep in the back seat and Adrienne sat quiet, nervous as she hasn’t been trail running either.  The car was unusually quiet.  I was considering the fact that I hadn’t taken my allergy medication and that a few ibuprofens may have made my back feel a little better for the run.  Did I mention that I am getting old?

I reached down for my coffee and noticed Adrienne is a weird position.  Her phone was in her lap and she was looking at the roof, crying. I’m an idiot for not immediately knowing what had happened.

“It’s over.” Adrienne said, “They called Pennsylvania.”

I knew instantly what she was saying.  This wasn’t a “trash the current administration” thing.  It wasn’t a “Go Biden” thing.  Those tears were tears of joy because a ceiling has been broken.  A glass one that she thought was going to get broken four years ago.

She woke up Macy and told her what had happened.  Kamala Harris had won the Vice Presidency.  The first woman to hold the spot.  A woman of color.  A black woman.  An Asian woman.  It shines a light for many people across this nation.  In my car, for my wife and daughter, it was the ‘woman’ part that really struck home. 

Adrienne called my other two daughters, who didn’t get the news firsthand as they did not want to get out of bed to run(decisions have consequences).  She was beaming.  The looming run had all but been forgotten.   We parked and met our friends, who were having a similar morning.  We talked gleefully in a way that I don’t often do before a run like that.  My wife made a friend at the bathroom of a woman who was also grinning from ear to ear. 

I kept that joy in my heart for the first quarter of a mile until I saw exactly what kind of run I had gotten myself into.  Side note: Jon, you are a bad friend and I should not let myself get talked into your ideas.  See you next weekend.


The lesson here girls?  This is a big one.  You can do anything you want in life.  The last election left us all licking our wounds a little.  I remember you three questioning why our country would elect someone who seemed “mean” and wouldn’t vote for a woman.  I remember trying to explain that wasn’t really what happened, not totally believing it myself.  I remember my sister saying that our country would never elect a woman for national office. 

Those conversations are over.  An overdue, two hundred-year-old wrong has been righted a bit.  A woman is in the White House, at least in the West Wing.  So, to those who begrudge the election, I get it, we all want our team to win, but for a moment, just a moment, think of the women around you.  Think of the people of color.  Let them have their moment in the sun. 

So, to my wife and daughters, to my mom and my mother in law, to Lisa and Aunt Rosemary.  Today is a good day.  There are plenty of struggles in this country, to be sure, and plenty of work to do.  For one weekend, we should set that aside and celebrate the election and what it means to so many marginalized people. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to lie on the couch and ice my legs.  I’m not getting any younger.


Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Calm Within The Storm (with and assist from beer and football)

 Election Day was a few days ago.  There still isn’t a result.  Like so many Americans, my family has been locked to their televisions and Twitter accounts like there was a pandemic keeping us home.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, people feel like the outcome of this election will shape this country for decades to come.  Perhaps those people are right.  In a moment of introspection yesterday morning, I had a bit of an epiphany, that and a ringing hangover, but let’s keep focused on the epiphany. 

Here it is.  I can’t change anything. 

That’s it. 

No amount of nerves and Twitter scrolling will change whatever outcome is headed our way.  Full stop.

That’s not to say that I don’t care who wins.  I absolutely do.  I am someone who believes that the decision made this week could affect my kids twenty years from now.  I’m sick of the craziness of the last four years.  But none of that will affect the outcome. 

I work from home and usually have the news on in the background, which is the worst brand of ambient noise, but yesterday I listened to music all day.  It was delightful. My wife and I went out for a beer with a lovely couple last night.  We sat for a couple of hours talking about running, and football, and kids, and work.  What we didn’t talk about was the election.

There are bigger things at play to be sure, but I now realize that it doesn’t have to overtake my life.  Its freeing.  Today I listened to music from all over the world while I worked.  I never tuned into the election.  Tonight, I intend to watch football and hang out with my kids with full knowledge that the country is on fire in more ways than one. 

I’m hoping that I wake up in the morning and its, at least for the most part, over.  I’m hoping we as a country learn to agree to disagree better.  I’m hoping that there is a return to dialogue and decorum. I’m praying for normalcy.  Finally, I am hoping that my wife gets to tell my girls that a woman is the Vice President of the United States. 

The lesson here girls?  Pretty simple, actually.  Its important to stand up for what you believe in.  Its important to fight the good fight.  Its also important to know what you can and cannot control.  I don’t think it’s a secret that I am not a supporter of the current administration.  Girls, you know exactly how I feel about it.  But sitting around wringing my hands and cursing at the television won’t change anything.  The fact is that there is a bigger picture to me.  Since you girls have been walking the earth there have been three women on major presidential tickets.  I’d just as soon as not have them go 0 for 3 in those elections. 

So, girls, America is ready to have a woman run it.  If not now, soon.  And if not soon, then maybe one of you will have to do it.  Now, excuse me, I need to generate another stinging hangover so I can keep this chipper outlook.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

So, It Just Comes in Threes, Right?

Macy had a week.  She had an absolutely craptastic, shit-fest of a week.  It was one of those weeks that through ten-year-old eyes feels like being knocked down and then kicked and kicked. 

Macy found out that one of her best friends was moving out of state.  It was really weighing on her.  She tried to keep a stiff upper lip, but truth be told, this friend encapsulated what Macy thinks of as ‘cool’.   

I remember kids like her when I was young.  A kid that always knew what was cool before the rest of us.  They were the ones that pushed boundaries.  It was like they had a special report on ‘hip’ that I was never privy to. 

Macy’s friend shaved the side of her head and always had a different hue hinted in her blonde locks.  She is a paddleboarder, a skateboarder and was among the first in her grade to have a cell phone.  Macy couldn’t help but look up to her and I think got a little star-struck when her admiration was returned.  They were a good pair.  I get why Macy was upset.

That week, Macy also had soccer tryouts.  It wasn’t merely a formality, but it was close.  Macy’s team was very good, and I could hardly see the league disbanding them.  The Rapids had informed us that they were trying to limit tryouts due to Covid, but we were later informed that, in fact, all three of our girls needed to tryout for their individual teams.  Avery, my eldest had the first tryout.  She struggled.  In an unfortunate turn of events, due to scheduling, all three girls had to sit and wait for the others to complete their tryouts. Avery was in near tears when her tryout was over.  I didn’t think it went as bad as she did, but I didn’t love her odds either. 

Then it was Darby’s turn.  More often than not, my youngest didn’t seem to realize that soccer is a competition.  I assumed that she would A) not make a competitive team or B) care.  She had a fair tryout and then immediately left the field to play with her puppy without a thought of making a team.

Macy went last.  Her tryout was about an hour.  In the spirit of transparency, she was slow to start.  After the first five or ten minutes, old Macy came out and I was very comfortable with her performance.  I worried about Avery and Darby, but Macy?  Not so much.

Best laid plans of mice and men.

Avery would find out that night that she had, in fact, made the team she wanted to make as had a few of her close friends.  She was overjoyed and proud of herself.  We were told that it may be up to 48 hours before we heard results, so we were thrilled to get early notification.

Darby and Macy would have to wait….and wait….and wait.  They waited long enough that the other local organization’s tryouts came and went.  No coincidence, me thinks.  The evening after the other organization’s tryouts we got a phone call.  Darby had made her team.  Macy had not. 

We were floored.  Someone somewhere had made a mistake.  Macy had long thought that her coach had a problem with her.  I dreaded to think that the ten-year-old may have been right.  The exponential problem was that one of her best friends was moving and many of her other friends were on the team she was just cut from. 

The next day was a morose one around our house.  Macy was trying to get a hold of her friend before she moved but for a few days she was sent straight to voicemail.  My suspicion is that they already moved.  We tried to keep her spirits up, but she decided to take a nap. 

She was only upstairs for a couple of minutes before she came down, her hands cupped holding something.  Her tears were fresh. 

What she held was her hamster.  I don’t know why, but the little guy had passed away sometime that morning.  Ham Solo was a good hamster, short of the fact that he picked the worst week possible to shed his mortal coil.

The look that was on Macy’s face was one I’ve never seen in one of my kids.  It was resignation.  It was helplessness.  She was upset to find out that her friend was moving.  She was crushed to find out that she hadn’t made her soccer team.  The hamster left her defeated.  She asked if we could go for a car ride. 

We took a ride around a mountain lake a few miles from our house.  She said that she was feeling something she hadn’t felt before.  That she felt like she was waiting for the next thing to happen.  Like something was stepping on her not letting her catch her breath.

I understood. For a ten-year-old, that’s a lot to deal with. 

There is a lesson here, girlies.  Yeah, it was a bad week.  It was.  By hook or by crook the world conspired against Macy.  She had no control over her friend moving or her hamster dying, and truth be told, I don’t think she had a ton of control over soccer either.  It’s how you deal with it, and Macy dealt with it great. 

My wife was able to talk to someone at the Arsenal soccer office and got her a one-on-one tryout.  She killed it. The coach was floored by her performance.  He said that he couldn’t believe that the Rapids would have let her go.  She wound up making a team a level up than the one she was discarded from.  She let us know that she would use this season to get better.  She would make her old team next time around.  She may, she may not, but I love her pulling herself up and saying so.

We also got her a new hamster as well.  Derp Vader isn’t quite the pet that Ham Solo was but he’s working on it. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Dad wasn't a Great Golfer, But That's Okay

My dad was a crappy golfer.

I spent round after round with him playing golf.  I took golf vacations with him. He never really got better.

I tried to help him. It was about weight transfer.  It was that he lifted his front foot and was inconsistent on his swing plane.  None of it really stuck.  But he kept plugging along.
It was actually during a golf trip in Florida where he told my brother and me about his diagnosis.  He then called my sister and told her as well leaving my brother and me to discuss the ramifications of what we just heard over beers in an open-air sports bar. 

Dad seemed relatively cavalier about it when he told us.  He said that the brand of cancer that he had was very curable and that he would be fine.  He talked to my sister and came back to the table.  He was more upset after talking to her.  A bit of the confidence faded from him.  My sister had that affect on him. 

This isn’t about my dad’s cancer diagnosis.  Its about golf and my father’s inability to hit a golf ball consistently.  Dad took lessons and made some strides, but muscle memory would take over and his bad swing would return.  He was a very strong, healthy guy.  He lifted weights and ran daily.  It wasn’t a physical issue.  Like all of us, bad habits overruled his good ones as it related to his golf game. 

I suppose the questions becomes, “yeah, he wasn’t a great golfer, why write about it on Father’s Day?”

Here you go.  Dad was a bad golfer but kept going because it was a means of meeting his sons where they were.  He took time and absorbed great expense because it gave him a chance to hang out with his kids.  Frankly, those were some of the best times with Dad.  As I’ve detailed before, in my younger years we didn’t always get along.  He was very structured and very business minded.  I tended to be a free thinker and ideological.  But on the golf course all of that faded away.  We were all relaxed and funny.  It was literally my favorite times with him.

I sense it’s why he played fantasy football as well.  Every year he stated how little research he had done and leaned heavily on my brother and me for advice.  That meant phone calls for the entirety of the season.  Phone calls with no politics, no history, no arguments. Just football.

My sister had this same bond with him as it came to running and travel.  He understood her drive to run long distances long before anyone else in the family did.  I would think that I’m not stepping on her toes here.  I remember her saying last year that the thing she missed most about dad is her post race phone calls to him. 

He was a great runner.  He was a crappy golfer.  He did both to meet his kids where they were. 
The lesson here, little ladies?  Grandpa was a lot of things; a great golfer was not one of them, but a proud guy was.  He was a proud guy but was willing to set that aside to golf with his kids.  So, while we may not have seen eye to eye when I was younger, my dad made strides in his later years of bridging any gaps we had.  To my credit, I made my own moves to meet him in the middle.  Obviously, neither of us were completely innocent all of those years ago. 

It took me a long time to figure out the golf part of all of this.  I couldn’t figure out why he was always the one proposing golf.  I think I’ve got it now.  He didn’t need to be good at golf to enjoy the time together. I think he enjoyed his kids most when we all let our guards down and the times we did that best was when we were running, or traveling, or drafting Ryan Leaf in fantasy football or even skulling a 7-iron.
So, Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Hopefully, you’re up there hittin’ them straight, or at least visiting the 19th hole. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

5'10" Pudgy Guy Just Trying To Help - A Working Title

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.   ~ Desmond Tutu

I don’t generally write posts in a back to back fashion but the events of the last week spurred something in me and for the parent, husband, friend and writer in me, I have a few words to say. 

Here’s the thing.  I have consciously raised my children to be more than ‘tolerant’ of other’s differences.  To me, to be tolerant is to accept someone else’s flaws and love them anyway.  For example, my wife is a fan of the Denver Broncos.  Sure, its unbecoming but I tolerate it because I love the rest of her.  I think that saying you are tolerant of someone’s gender, or race, or orientation or anything else that makes them different than yourself is saying that you love them despite being a woman or gay or black.  It shouldn’t be ‘despite’ it should be ‘and’.  I love you AND you’re gay.  I love you AND you’re Jewish.  I love you DESPITE you being a Bronco fan. See?

Up until this week I thought I had done a good job I this regard. On some level I have, but it just isn’t enough.

I can give examples for each of my kids and how they deal with people different than them.  My eldest had an African American friend in grade school (still does, but that’s not the point).  We wanted to invite her to a birthday party, but Avery didn’t know her last name.  We had her describe her.  “Curly hair, tall, brown eyes, really nice”.  Tons of descriptors, just not the color of her skin.  In talking to her about it, we found that she didn’t use that as a descriptor because she simply didn’t notice.  She knew she was black, she just didn’t think of it as something different.  The girls go to school with kids from every walk of life.  When I hear their names I generally can guess about where their families stem from.  The kids just don’t care. Frankly, the only time we hear any of the kids talking about someone’s nationality in any capacity is the “Immigrant Program” where the kids dress up in their heritage's traditional garb.  Side note, all three of my kids chose their mother’s German side completely ignoring my way more fun Irish side. 

In a previous post I talked about my youngest realizing that my next-door neighbors were a lesbian couple.  Her question about it was not about their relationship or the fact that they were both girls. It was whether or not their dogs are allowed to get married.  From the mouths of babes. 

My kids are fine.  They simply judge people for how they make them feel.

Here’s the rub.  It’s not okay just to fail to notice our differences anymore.  I recently read a book featuring Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.  I was moved by the simplicity of their thoughts.  Tutu said,
“To be neutral in a situation of injustice is to have chosen sides already. It is to support the status quo.”
And that’s it.  Too much sitting on the sidelines for most of us.  Too much for me, anyway.  I’ve watched my mother and my wife and my sister protest.  I’ve seen my aunt write and call her senator.  My sister actively campaigned for several candidates she supported.  None of that may seem like a lot, but they’ve done something.  They were moved enough for change to go out and try to extract it themselves.  I need to show my daughters that I can do more as well. 

I haven’t fleshed it out yet.  Truth be told, the images of protesters being tear gassed in D.C. are still all jumbly in my stomach.  If the last week has made me feel na├»ve about the world, the situation in our nation's capital made me angry. I'm open to suggestions.

I’m sure I will return to this subject over and over in my mind.  I need to talk to my kids about this week, so that by itself will keep it fresh in my mind for the time being.  Normally, I end these things with a lesson for the girlies.  Today I’ll close with another quote, this time from the Dalai Lama,
"The challenge today is to convince people of the value of truth, honesty, compassion and a concern for others."
I'll leave it at this.  If you need it, my phone, my house, my shoulder are all safe places.  If you're in need of a friend, you've got one.  As a 5'10" slightly pudgy, slightly balding white guy I cannot speak to your experience, but I can offer you a beer or a joke or an ear.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Love in the Time Cononavirus

I’ve been noticing a ton of complaining lately.  Most if it has been of the “making me wear a mask is infringing on my rights” or “you not wearing a mask is infringing on mine” variety.  For today’s purposes, I don’t particularly care what side of that line that you, dear reader, fall on.  That is not the complaining that is concerning me.

The complaining I’m referring to is coming from inside the house.  My kids have been troopers through this whole thing.  They’ve done their schoolwork and helped around the house from time to time.  They’ve not fought as much as they did pre-virus.  They seem to understand that they are in a much better situation than a lot of other people.  Their parents haven’t been catastrophically financially ruined by the stay at home order.  We haven't had to buy bigger pants, put 'Keep Out!' signs on our doors or break up any fist fights.  We are a family that genuinely gets along.  We are, for the most part, happy and healthy. 

The last week or so, there have been chinks in their armor. 

It started with Darby, my youngest.  She has become more secluded when allowed.  Her base instinct lately seems to be to sneak off to watch TV or play on someone’s phone. 

Next was Macy.  She has always been the most prone to run hot and cold.  The last few weeks, lots of hot.  Fire breathing hot.  Angry hot.  Not very cool.

Finally, Avery, my eldest.  She has just dropped.  Her mood has gone into the proverbial shitter.  To her defense, she’s missed the last months of her 7th grade year, her soccer season and was trapped in her house during her 13th birthday.  She has every reason to be down in the mush, I’m just not that great at letting her wallow.  Anyone who knows us knows that she’s my little buddy and it kills me to see her, or my other kids, feeling low.

My wife has been less affected, job wise, than I have. I am better able to shift my hours around.  It has left me feeling a little more responsible for my kid’s school, their free time and, in some ways, their mental state.  My wife keeps the lights on, I keep the boogie man away, so to speak. 

I needed to act.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a caring dad but a weird hybrid of impulsive and strict.  This situation would be no different.  I decided that maybe what the kids were lacking was a schedule.  The answer to their boredom?  Clearly its assigning them a bunch of duties and a limited time to get them done!

“Hey kids, you bored?  Here’s War and Peace.  Get me a report on it as soon as you’re done.”
Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad but the rules were an hour and a half a day.  Math, reading, music and phys ed.  Half hour each, math and reading being daily.  Its not monstrous, but the kids definitely didn’t see it as a cure for boredom either.  What they didn’t know is that I had plans for when they got finished with their chores*.

*Chores-crap they should be doing anyway so they become better people and their brains don’t turn to porridge.

The result was interesting.  They complained at first, but they started gravitating towards it.  I’ll be dipped, they seem to appreciate the normalcy.  Maybe I’m being overly generous, but they get it done daily, even proudly checking off their lists. 

Rewarding them, during the time of the virus is a different animal.  Finding fun that is also socially distant isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.  So far we’ve gone fishing, kayaking, bike rides, the drive-in movie theater (total life saver) and done more in our back yard than we have done in years, if ever. 
The lesson here little ladies?  This one’s about mommy and me.  We have found a ton of fun and got a ton accomplished.  We’ve struck a balance. Our house is cleaner, we’ve built a new deck, we’ve run more miles and done more workouts than before the virus.  We’ve done more as a family during this time as well.  We’ve played games and done puzzles and swam and watched movies and on and on. 

Naysayers would say “Of course you’ve done all of this stuff.  You are stuck at home”. 

Maybe, but I think more specifically, we’ve made the time.  We’ve made it a priority because of how different the world seems.  It could have been this way all along, it just took a decision to make it so.
I wholly believe that when my girls look back at this time, they will look back fondly (assuming our family and friends don’t get sick or lose jobs).  Hopefully, it will be a time where they remember further embracing the outdoors and learned to play the piano.  A time when they mastered their math and read a great book series.  Hopefully, it’s a time where our family bonds grew stronger and we laughed and played more than we ever have.

Now, fun and games aside little ladies, you have an hour and a half of stuff to do.  Get you butts in gear.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Avery: The Quarenteenager

Today is going to be a rough one for me.  I have a daughter, my oldest daughter Avery, turning thirteen today. 

This is tough for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we are locked in our house and unable to give her the great “so you’re a teenager now” birthday party.  I want, for the purposes of this post, to ignore that little part of this whole birthday and focus on the “my little girl is fast becoming a little lady” part of it.

On her birthdays, Avery likes to ask me about the day she was born.  It was truly a comedy of errors and I think it makes her feel special that after all of the things that went wrong on that day, we still decided to dip our foot back in the pool and have her sisters. 

When Adrienne was very pregnant with Avery, we went to the doctor for what was supposed to be a well-visit at our doctor.  Clearly, everything wasn’t well as our doctor instructed us to get to the hospital stat.  To my experience, when a doctor says “stat” it’s almost never good news.  It’s never “you have a clean bill of health. Go get yourself a sammich stat”.  As it turns out, we went from planning for the birth of our first daughter to inducing delivery in the course of just a few hours. 

For the sake of an expediency that Avery didn’t afford us, it will suffice to say that Avery birth required hours of natural delivery and then a C-section. My wife often claims that she gave birth twice in the same night without the benefit of twins.  The doctor thought she may have nicked Adrienne’s bladder during delivery and would have to explore that problem while I sat in a dark room for a little girl who was ready for mom to feed her for an hour and a half and she didn't hesitate to let me know it. There's the fact that her little feet were so small that her sensor anklet kept slipping off making the hospitals “kidnapping alarm” go off constantly.  It was an extra long stay at the hospital and days without sleep.

It was a crash course in parenting that all parents go though.  It was an unsettling beginning to a wonderful adventure. 

If I were to use one work to describe Avery, that word would be ‘kind’.  Her default setting is to think of others before herself.  Maybe that’s something that every parent thinks of their own children but with Avery, it’s so incredibly accurate. 

Over the years I’ve watched Avery take her birthday money to buy treats for her sisters, her friends and her cousins.  She is appreciative and generous.  She doesn’t judge people based on anything besides how they make her feel.  Popularity and other external factors just don’t matter to her.  I’ve watched birthday after birthday where Avery invites kids from every avenue of her life and try to get all of them to get along, regardless of their interests.  She can’t understand that simply being nice isn’t enough for everyone to be besties.  I envy that part of her as it’s something I have truly lost.   If she is entitled to a special dinner, or gets to choose a movie, she asks those around her what they want and makes her decision based on that.  Hell, for her thirteenth birthday dinner she decided the menu almost exclusively on what her sisters like to eat while watching movies.  Incidentally, she didn’t take me into account when she chose a menu of cheese sticks, pizza rolls and little smokies. 

Long story short, she is a special kid.  My favorite time with her was shortly after her sister, Macy, was born.  Macy, for a long time, didn’t see the value in anyone who couldn’t produce milk.  In our little household, that eliminated Avery and me from any real utility. 

What that meant is that Avery and I had to fend for ourselves in large part.  During those months, Avery became my little buddy.  We became inseparable, and that is something that has continued for the decade since. 

The lesson here.  None really.  I just want to celebrate a wonderful little lady who will always be my little girl and my little buddy.  I am proud of the woman you are becoming.  It astonishes me that someone as good as you came from my parenting, clearly you leaned heavily on your mother in that department.  I’ve said to you dozens of times, “I can be your friend and I can be your Dad.  I’ll always pick Dad first, but my favorite times is when I can be both.”.  Well, Avery, I can tell you, that for the last thirteen years, I been both more often than not.

Now, go get your homework done and clean your room, just because you’re becoming a teenager in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t mean I have to turn off being dad!

I have an addition to this post today.  I want to say a giant thank you to those of you that took the time out of your day to do a drive-by happy birthday for Avery.  Seeing friends and family pour past the house was a surprise to her and the numbers were a surprise to me. It was something generally reserved for YouTube. We did everything we could for her but the fact that so many people swung by and yelled their warm wishes her way meant more than anything we could have boxed and wrapped in pretty paper.  

She said it was the best day of her life.  

And she's been to Disney.

You people did that for her.  Thank you.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

350,000 Scovilles Of Fun - Also, I'm a Terrible Person

Okay, boredom has set in on some level.  Of course, we spend our mornings doing homework and regular, grown-up style work, and we run and ride bikes and play, but we were looking for something new.  Something fun.  Something inspirational.  Perhaps something dangerous that didn’t involve standing closer than six feet to someone. 

It took us days of thumb twiddling to come up with an activity.  Then, from the far side of the internet.  From deep inside the YouTube machine came a show called Hot Ones.  Billed as a show with “hot questions and even hotter wings”.  The features celebrity guests eating progressively hotter wings while answering questions asked by the host/ demon of hot foods, Sean Evans. 

Now, I’ve long claimed to be a terrible salesperson, but I somehow convinced my two oldest children that filming our own version of the show would be a perfect way to pass the time.  My oldest was a reluctant participant, but my middle, Macy, grabbed onto the idea the like a dog to a bone.  She insisted on show quality sauces.  She insisted on difficult questions.  Hell, she was the one that insisted on multiple camera angles. 

Things really started falling into place.  I had a few sauces already.  In the limited shopping we were allowed to do we were able to find a couple of more.  We weren’t able to find “Da Bomb” or “Blair’s Mega Death Sauce” like the show, but we put up a reputable showing with one sauce boasting 100,000 Scoville units (the heat measure of a pepper – a jalapeno coming in around 2500 units) and our hottest sauce being between 350,000 and 400,000 Scoville units.  We even received an ad from a wing shop the morning of the contest saying they would deliver us wings to our front door.  That was more than coincidence, I thought, the angels were smiling on us.  Smiling on us for at least for a while.

We ordered the wings, we set up three different cameras, I wrote questions for the girls as I would be playing the host and we staged the sauces and five wings on the table for each of us.

It was show time. 

Wing one went down for everyone easy enough.  Wing two was Siracha.  No problem.  Child’s play. Three was where it started getting interesting.  It was an El Yucateca XXXtra Hot.  It sat around 11,000 Scolvilles.  My eldest began having serious doubts.  It was hotter than she was planning on eating.  It was nothing compared to what was coming. 

The questions were coming as well.  “If you had to kiss a boy, I mean you had to, who would it be?”  and “You could go to space camp or get an iPhone X, which would you take?” (Thank Christmas they both took space camp)

Next up was this Habanero/Orange/Garlic monstrosity that even had me nervous. 

We each took the wing.  We bit down.  Nothing.  Sweetness sure, but no heat.  Then another bite.  We all smiled.  “Pffft, what’s the big deal?” we each thought to ourselves and then with each other aloud.  Then we realized our mistake.  The orange was a Trojan horse.  The sweetness gave way to what could be described as a penny dipped in battery acid.  We had all made a tremendous mistake taking another bite.  The second bite offered the same orange sweetness but this time it was paired with the heat of the first bite.  Not just unpleasant in flavor, it was also the realization that food may never taste the same again considering the damage we had done to our tongues. 

Then the questions, “Getting a red card in a championship game but your team still wins or score three goals but your team loses” and “you can have any pet you’d want but you’d have to give up one of your own pets, would you?”  Turns out both would take the red card and still win, but one would need a new tank in the back yard for her new narwhal.  Sorry Obi.

We all looked apprehensively at the final wing.  350,000 Scoville units staring straight at us.  I wasn’t particularly nervous about the previous wings.  The smell of this one completely cleared my sinuses.  I don’t know if it was the wings they had already eaten, the boyfriend related questions or the anticipation of this final super spicy wings, but they were both sweating like, well, the oldest profession in a place of worship. 

My wife shook her head at the table full of idiots as we bit down into the final wing. I think, and I say ‘think’, as things became a little rushed with that last wing, I think it made for good camera.  This wasn’t a ‘creeper’ like wing four.  This one was right up in your face.  It made its intentions known quickly and with rigorous authority.  My oldest, Avery, drank one glass of milk, then another, with the ability generally reserved for fraternity parties.  Macy tried to waive air into her mouth.  I didn’t know that move was used in real life, Tom & Jerry, for sure, but not in the flesh.  Myself, I tried to keep up a stiff veneer, a move I learned from the show our dumbassery (sp?) was based on.  He does a much better job. 

My face was melting when I asked my last question.

“Who is your favorite, Mommy or Daddy?”

The lesson here girls?  Its about fun.  Was it a bit risky eating things that spicy?  Perhaps.  Did we all regret it at the time and again in the morning when our home seemed short three bidets?  Absolutely.  Was it the most fun we’ve had during the stay-at-home order?  Yeah, probably. 

I guess, every once in a while you should truly embrace the absurd.  Do something profoundly stupid.  Throw caution to the wind in search of a great time.  Its how adults become kids again.  Children have these wonderful imaginations that we tend to squash as we get tubby and gray.  We adults need to manifest our imaginations from time to time and the easiest way to do it is through rugged acts of idiocy.  You know how I call the Wild West Relay the dumbest fun thing you can do?  Rugged idiocy, get it?

So, as you get older, embrace the absurd, to a point.  If you aren’t going to hurt anyone, and only slightly hurt yourself, go nuts!

Also, the answer to the last question was unacceptable.  Just because I fed you 350,000 Scovilles of fun doesn’t mean you get to pick Mommy as your favorite.

Also, hope you're feeling better @seanseaevans

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Tale of the Woefully Unqualified Teacher/Chef/Maid

This week was the toughest our household has had it since this whole thing started.  It’s not been awful.  Certainly, people have it a lot worse, but this was a tough week. 

Perhaps I should offer a touch of back story for clarity.  My wife and I are both still working.  We are fortunate in that regard.  It would be more honest to say that my wife is busier than I can ever remember her being.  She wakes up earlier and goes to bed later than ever.  She has about one hundred fifty people in her office and they all, in some capacity, rely on her to help them through this crisis. 

I suppose that’s where the story begins.  While she is working from home, she is always working.  On Friday, she was in one conference or another from 8:30 in the morning until 4:00.  That doesn’t even include her more traditional work duties of recruiting and retention for the office. 

I, on the other hand, can work but have definitely seen my workload decrease.  That’s probably a good thing.  You see, I’ve expanded some existing roles and taken on some new ones.  I am now a teacher, who, in most classrooms, would be seen as the “cool teacher”.  I am the entertainment director of a landlocked cruise ship.  I am a chef, a maid, a counselor and then I am a dad and when there’s time, a husband. 

I have learned to navigate dozens of educational websites who were clearly built by the lowest bidder.  I’ve committed to several virtual happy hours.  I’ve cooked meals with all of my children.  I’ve played board games, video games and done enough crafts to make your mind bleed.  I have somehow managed to keep myself out of the snack drawer and even plugged some running into the time. 

Its been chaos. 

What I haven’t done, at least not enough, is write.  I have three different works-in-progress that I cannot find the time for.  Its inexplicable.  No, that’s not right.  Its simply untrue. 

I guess, in all of the chaos, what I’ve not given enough credit to is the below the surface panic that I have.  I’m not sleeping well and having a few more beers than I generally would.  I guess the writing isn’t coming as I’m not feeling funny.  Not funny or introspective or clever or any other emotion that makes one want to sit at a computer and share their words.  I feel worn physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I feel like a worn-out shoe that still needs to serve.  That I can still do the job, just not at the level that I was designed for.

It seems silly to complain considering the state of things.  People are literally dying out there and my inability to turn a phrase is among my biggest problems. I suppose that’s the point though, isn’t it?  That our normalcy has been upended, further upended to be more specific.  Athletes can’t athlete, lawyers can’t lawyer, teachers can’t teach, servers can’t serve.

The lesson here, girlies?  The uncertainty that’s out there right now is stressful.  Perhaps it’s time to realign what is considered normal.  So maybe looking at all of this through a different lens.  I feel like a worn-out shoe, fine, maybe the shoe is worn out because the shoe is loved.  I’m now a chef and a teacher and a maid.  Really, I always have been but there’s been more help.  Maybe it’s a promotion.  Mostly, we get the chance to spend a lot more time as a family.  There isn’t constant soccer practices and carpools and homework and choir and drama and piano lessons.  It’s just us, for a little while.  Maybe it’s time to celebrate the little wins a little better. 

Now, for the love of God, put your dishes in the dishwasher and your socks in the laundry.  The maid is getting fed up.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

No Gold Medals and Even Less Toilet Paper

The spring soccer season got into full swing this weekend starting with a Denver tournament called the Ice Breaker.  My two oldest daughters were playing, one for a team that’s just starting to get its footing and familiar with each other and the other, Macy’s team, who expects to win every tournament they enter. 

You know what, scratch that.  Topic change.

This was supposed to be a funny post about my middle daughter bemoaning a silver medal from a soccer tournament in front of my oldest who has no medals that don't have the label "participation" on them.

And then today happened.

Today I received a text from a buddy.  I’ve been training for a race called the Bataan Memorial Death March that was to take place this weekend.  I’ve been training for a few months now and where I was once nervous, I was getting excited.  We were due to fly out in the morning.  We had been figuring out travel plans via text for the last couple of days.  This text was different.

The text let me know that the Bataan Memorial Death March had been cancelled due to “an over abundance of caution” concerning the coronavirus. 

“Four months” I thought to myself.  “Four months of training in the shitter.”

I began considering all of the time, and effort and expense I had put into this stupid race.  I thought about the fact that races don’t refund.  I thought about the time I would be spending on the phone with the airline trying to cancel my flight and get refunded.  I thought about the friends I hadn’t seen in a while and that it would now be a while longer. 

It was a real pity party.  That was around noon. 

I went to pick up my kids from school and they let me know that there was some chance that the kids would be doing online schooling after spring break and therefore they would be sending home all of their supplies over the next couple of days. 

We went home and to soccer practice and to dinner.  The coronavirus didn’t come up except to let the girls know that I wouldn’t be leaving for the race.  My phone was on hold with Frontier airlines throughout dinner.  I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, but the day had been bad.
Then they said that no fans would be allowed at the NCAA tournament.  Then they postponed the NBA season.  It seemed to be getting real.  My mood went from pity to something just short of concern. 

Then I heard that Tom Hanks was confirmed to have the virus. 

This just got real. 

My mood was no longer short of concern. It became full blown concern.  Time to hermetically seal Betty White.

Here’s the thing.  I’m not a person prone to panic.  But as things are moving along with this pandemic, I’m starting to feel a pinch.  Spring break for the girls got extended by a week.  My office has considered shutting down.  Soccer season is on an indefinite hiatus.  The St. Patty’s day festivities in my town are cancelled.  My daughters have tickets to Spongebob the Musical, that they received for Christmas, are in jeopardy.  It’s a lot of normal, day to day stuff that has been upended quite a bit.

The lesson here girls.  First of all, as it relates to the first paragraph.  Macy, no shame in coming in second.  You guys did great and maybe crying because of the color of your medal in front of someone who hasn’t won one is in a little bit of bad taste. 

Now onto the coronavirus.  Yes, I was bummed out by not being able to compete in the race.  Believe me, training for nearly half of a year only to find out it was cancelled a few days before was tough.  Just like the fact that you’ve waited since Christmas for the Spongebob musical.  But there is a much bigger picture.  It's more important that families are safe.  It’s also more important to help those around us.  It’s important to make rational decisions like washing our hands and keeping our collective fingers out of our collective mouths. 

I hope it doesn’t become more important to wipe our posteriors (stupid hoarders). 

Taking precautions may seem inconvenient, but with a little ingenuity and creativity, we can have every bit as much fun during your extended spring break!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Chris' BS Taxi Service is Once Again Operational

I suppose I often complain about my schedule.  In fact, as I think back, I think my very first blog post was about the chaos that our family’s schedule creates.  That may true, and this may be a touch of a reboot, but this Spring’s schedule looks to outshine any that came before. 

Currently, my daughters are in choir, soccer, various musical lessons as well as wrapping up ski season and still, somehow attend school.  This would be far better explained by example than the desperation of my keystrokes. 

Let’s take a look at this week. 

Monday: Today, I am working late as I see what is on the horizon.

Tuesday: I have a training run at around 5:00am.  7:00 am, Macy and Darby have choir practice and Avery goes to school around 8:00.  Then I work until we need to get the kids from school.  Avery (along with her friend Maddie who I will pick up at school) has practice one town over from 4:30 to 5:45 and then Macy has her practice a different town over from 6:00 to 7:00.  In the middle of all of that Darby had piano lessons from 5:30 to 6:00.  We then race home to Macy’s guitar lesson.  After that, it’s home for dinner, homework and bed.

Wednesday: another training run in the morning and then girls to school around 8:00.  Avery will practice in another town from 4:30 to 5:45 but then huzzah! Macy practices in our town from 6:00 to 7:00.  Then homework etc.

Thursday: See Tuesday without music lessons.

Friday: here’s where we really get rolling.  Choir lessons before school, then school.  Only one practice but Adrienne and I also have a banquet in Denver.  No biggie, right? Find a sitter and get to Denver for delicious dinner, however…….

Saturday: Avery and Macy have a soccer tournament in Denver.  You’d think that they are both in the same tournament, they’d be in the same location.  Think again!  Avery plays at one locale from 10:30 to 12:30 while Macy plays from 11:30 to 1:30 and then Avery has her second game from 2:00 to 4:00 and Macy from 3:15 to 5:15. Now, somewhere in there I have to fit in a 13 mile training run and still be available to take the kids to dinner.

Finally, on Sunday:  See Saturday but shift the game times around buy 30 minutes here or there.  No training run for me but after the last game (assuming they don’t make the championship game- which they could make) home by 7 for dinner and homework. 

Now, that may seem like a lot, but that doesn’t take into account that Darby’s soccer season doesn’t start for another week or two.  It doesn’t take into account the fact that my wife often travels for business.  It fails to take into account that sometimes there are birthday parties and sleep overs and dogs that need attention.   It doesn’t take into account that my wife and I don’t see a “date night” from March until the seasons wrap up sometime in October (maybe embellishing a bit).

We get some relief from my mother and carpooling but, if last year’s season taught me anything it’s that I could spend three or four hours a couple days a week just driving from town to town and practice to practice. 

Believe it or not, there is a lesson hiding in here little ladies, a couple of them, actually.  The first one is simple.  Why do we do all of this if its such a pain in the patoot?  Well, pretty simple.  Doing these things makes you better little folks.  Playing piano, playing guitar and drums and baritone and xylophone and choir and whatever else stimulate your little minds a ton.  Similarly, soccer and cross country and bike riding and skateboarding make your little bodies healthier. Mommy and I have the job of raising happy kids and solid adults and these sorts of activities help us in that. 

The other point is pretty obvious to me but maybe not quite so much to you.  Getting you involved in these activities can be a handful.  There are days where I could watch Dancing With Wolves faster than I can get all of you to and from activities.  You’ll learn exactly how long that is someday.  There’s tournaments and recitals.  There’s practices, games and endless parent meetings (those are the worst part by the way).  It can also be pricey.  Alone, competitive soccer or piano lessons can hammer a wallet, but combined they can alter your tax bracket in a hurry.  So, not that you three aren’t grateful, because you’ve always been great at showing that, but maybe there’s other ways you could show it.  Maybe don’t drop your soccer bag the second you walk in the door.  Maybe bring your smelly uniforms downstairs and put them in the wash.