Compassion

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My friend died…

…I am sad.

As I wrote in my last post Goodbye Satan (not THAT one)  I found out a good friend has left us.  I was compelled to write that post, to say goodbye and to express my grief.

Right now, to add insult to injury, our little guy is sick. Fever, cough, fatigue. There is nothing worse than when your kid is sick. NOTHING.  You would do anything to make them well again.  That is what makes this story so much more impactful.

I wrote the post earlier in the evening, and our little guy wanted to lay down, and not have any dinner. I was sitting at the table with new mom, and read her the post. During the reading, I broke down and choked through some of the post.  There were tears. Then our little man called from his room for new mom.  She went into his room and after a minute she called out for me.  I went to his room and he said “I think you need a hug”.  I sat on his bed and he hugged me.

It was a powerful moment for me.  It showed an emotional maturity. Even when he was sick and in bed, he wanted to help.  It showed compassion for his dad.  To see that kind of compassion makes me know that new mom and I are definitely doing something right.

I still miss my friend, very much. It will take a great deal of time for me to process this and it not to hurt as much as it does today. I got a call today from a friend who thanked me for that post, he said it helped him. I got help as well, but not from words, but from the hug of a six year old who just wanted to comfort his dad in a time of need.

 

 

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Goodbye Satan (not THAT one)

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As we get older, death becomes a regular part of our lives.  People we know and love, friends, coworkers, family start to leave us. Whether through natural causes (old age, disease) or not (accidents, overdoses, by their own hand) these people are gone, no longer a part of our lives. No longer a part of our routines.

The (s)hit-show that is 2019 has struck again, only 16 days in.  I say this because 2019 has really gotten off to a rough start for us.  Our family opened 2019 at a funeral for new mom’s cousin, who died right before Christmas.  Just last week, one of my oldest and best friends lost his father in law, after a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s.  When I spoke with his wife to offer my condolences, she said “I know this is something you can relate to” because she knew my own father was not only battling cancer, but Parkinson’s as well.   This morning I was getting ready for work, eating breakfast when a text came across: ‘I know its early and i’m sorry, but did you hear about Steve? He passed away’.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on my screen.

I text right back “call me now”.

I got the call and was told the horrible news. Our friend, lovingly referred to as ‘satan’ was gone. I was completely flabbergasted, gob smacked, crushed. How can this be? What happened? I just spoke to him like right around Christmas!??  Like many people, I wanted to know what happened. I knew he was moving from where he has been the past year and a half back to his home state of Kansas. Did something happen on that trip? Was it his health? So many questions I had and unfortunately my friend had no answers. I have gotten some information, but not enough that will answer all of my questions, and not knowing is always hard.

I met Steve years ago at a local sports bar close to where I was living at the time. There was a group of guys watching Sunday football and one guy was lamenting not starting quarterback Trent Green, who was having a phenomenal day. I was looking through the Sunday paper at the table in front of them, turned around and pointed at the interior of the paper and said “says here you should have started Trent Green!”  After a good laugh, they invited me to sit with them and the rest is history.   I became friends with that group and we still meet for Sunday football, over a decade later (I don’t make it as often as I used to, but remember, I was younger and single, now I have different priorities, but I make it a point to go a couple of Sundays every season to see my friends).

Steve and I hit it off and we became good friends. We didn’t see each other very often, but he would always pick up the phone if I called, whether we were living in the same state or not and he would call from time to time just to check in.  Steve understood the value of a good old fashion voice to voice conversation.  As I look through the feed on his social media accounts all I see are similar stories to mine, a true friend who took a genuine interest in other people and their families.  Steve would often ask about our little guy and new mom, and I would share stories of little league achievements, daily life as a dad and husband, work and other milestones.

Now, about the nickname. I don’t know exactly where it came from. I am sure from his younger,  wilder days. But everyone referred to him as ‘Satan’. The trophy for the Fantasy football league we all participate in is referred to as the ‘antichrist crystal’ and is one of those laser etched cubes you can get in a mall kiosk. Instead of having the Eiffel tower or a hot air balloon in it, it has Steve’s head with horns on it.  It seems very sacrilegious, and there is even a story of one of our friends winning the league one year and the housekeeper would always cover it with a tissue when she cleaned his study in the house because she thought it was evil. If you knew Steve, he was not anti-religious.  As the matter of fact, when I told him about reconnecting with my own faith these past couple years, he was very supportive and encouraging.

We lose people. Things happen. Circle of life kind of thing.  But some losses just hit you much harder than others.  And you never know when the last time you are going to talk about football, family or how your job is going. I don’t want to make it appear that losing one friend over another is better, each loss hurts, some people just end up making a deep impact in your life, and Steve was one of those people for me. Not just me, but the entire circle of friends I made that day at the bar. When I spoke to another member of this circle of friends today, he said that he ‘lost a brother’ and I know that is the truth.

Steve, your laugh was infectious, your smile could light up the room. Your sense of humor had us all in stitches. I hope you are at peace, sitting next to our friend Willy, taking a shot of tequila. We will miss you dearly, you made a big impact in our lives.

goodbye Satan…

Goals for 2019

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Goals, resolutions, commitments. We all have set them at one time or another in our lives.  I remember when I had a gym membership how ridiculously full the parking lots got every January, only to be thinned out by the second week of February.  You hear the stats on how often new years resolutions fall to the wayside so quickly.  We have all gotten frustrated as weight hasn’t dropped off, or not been able to run or bike as far as we would like, or lift the weight and developed the physique we wanted to.

So what do so many of us do?  We quit. Why? Because it’s easy. Easy to throw up our hands, make excuses, say “well, most people fail at resolutions, so I don’t feel as bad”.

I am VERY guilty of this.  I can’t tell you how many years I have tapped out by mid February.

I have been thinking long and hard about goals for 2019. I have come up with a short list of them. I won’t share them all here, but I can and will share a couple.

  1. Run.  I want to run at least six(6) races/events this year.  As I mentioned in recent posts, my nephew has really started to take a liking to running, so my goal is to be able to run a 10K strong with him, not a 30%run/70%walk but a STRONG run.  This will take dedication to train. I have found it much easier to train when you are registered for events, so I believe the secret to achieving this goal is to register for events throughout the year, time to check the Renegade racing calendar!!!
  2. Write.  I really enjoy writing. I promise I do.  So what makes me come to a complete stop? I get on these tears where I write for a week or two then I come to screeching halt.  When I was in Arizona for family earlier this month, a few people told me they really enjoy the blog and say they go on just to see if there is new content.  That alone should be enough motivation to write, or you would think.  I also feel better when I write. I suppose it is because I am able to get more out of my head.  SO here is my goal. 104 blog posts in 2019. That is writing twice a week. If I start a short series, I could bust out five in a week (ok, lets not get too crazy, lets just shoot for 104).
  3. The classic “get healthier”. this one is tough. but having a 6 (soon to be 7) year old is the motivation I need. Recently we were all watching something on television when the little guy said “that character is fat, like daddy” !!!!GUT PUNCH!!!! I don’t want to be the fat dad anymore. I already have cornered the market on the old dad.  this makes it even more difficult.  So my goal is to make small well planned steps to get healthier, slimmer and fitter. He is only going to get faster and stronger and I don’t want to be the dad who everyone has to wait on to catch up.

I feel that most people attack goals and resolutions in the wrong way. They go “all in”. We live in an instant gratification society, where we want it and we want it now.  Very often they burn themselves out and sometimes do much more harm than good. this ‘fast food’ culture drives us away from planning and puts success that much further away.

 

If I plan this right, take small steps rather than dive directly into the deep end, I have a much better chance of achieving everything I set out for, and will make 2019 the best year so far.

Have you made any resolutions/goals for 2019? Are you still on track for them even though we are still so early in the year?  Share them in the comments section.

Opening 2019

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2019 has already been very busy with loads of adventure.

We opened with ringing in the new year with my cousin and his wife who were in California for the Rose Bowl. We celebrated a ‘East coast’ new year as they were still on East coast time.

After they left the little guy once again reminded me that I promised to build one of the last Lego sets from Christmas, so from about 11:15 through the end of 2018 we built some Jurassic Kingdom Legos.

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Last Legos of 2018!!

The ball dropped in times square, kisses were given and cheers to 2019 were made. Not too long after midnight, the little guy crashed for the night. New mom and I stayed up a while longer and went bed.

We woke up on New Years morning and the decision to go to Pasadena to watch the Buckeyes play in the Rose Bowl was made.  The drive up to Pasadena has NEVER been easier. I consulted with a friend who has purchased tickets at the game many times and assured us we should not have too much difficulty.  We ran into a scalper who sold us three REALLY great seats at a REALLY great price.  So off we went.

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TICKETS!!!!

At the game, the seats next to us remained empty, so at halftime, my cousin and his wife joined us. it was a great time and memories I will cherish for years to come.  The little guy seemed to enjoy himself, but I have to be honest, I think the highlight of the day for him was the cotton candy.

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Look Dad, COTTON CANDY!!!

After a nail-biting 4th quarter, we saw a Ohio State victory and history, as the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State came to a close. After a long hike to the car, we had no problem getting back into traffic and on our way we went.

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All in all, a fantastic way to kick off 2019!!!

The day after the game, the fun came to a stop, as it was time to head to Arizona to say goodbye to a family member. See my post Tragedy in a season of Joy.  for more information on that.

 

 

 

Podcasts of 2018 (some Favorites)

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Podcasts.  A new channel to share information, data and opinions. I LOVE them.  I am fortunate enough to have a job where I am reading and analyzing for extended periods of time.  This allows me the opportunity to turn something on in the background. I can’t say I always listen or comprehend everything on them, but they are on in the background.  I listen to at least one a day Monday through Friday.

It all started with my first recommendation, a great music podcast (you will note a trend) called ‘Rockin the Suburbs’. Jim and Patrick have been doing the Podcast thing for quite some time, before this one they had “Dad Rock” which can still be found online and is quite good as well.  They do a show every weekday and each episode varied in length from 16-50 minutes.  I have recommended it to a lot of friends, and tune in most days (every now and then, they just have a subject that does not interest me).  I use Audioboom to find and tune in.

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Through ‘Rockin the suburbs’, I was introduced to the insanity of Tyler Mahan Coe. this guy does an INCREDIBLE podcast about some of the seedy underbelly of old country music called ‘Cocaine and Rhinestones’. It is extremely fascinating and the level of detail he gets into is incredible.   I use Google music to listen to this podcast and HIGHLY recommend it. Season one is available and I am impatiently waiting for season two to begin.

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Tyler does another podcast that is a lot more tongue in cheek humor and very opinionated called “Your favorite band sucks” I absolutely laugh out loud at least ten times an episode.  They just tear apart some of music’s sacred cows (The Beatles Suck was their very first episode). I don’t always agree with much of what they have to say but then they hit on something that is so on point that I go “oh yeah“.  And if they are going after a band you love, it is absolutely infuriating until you they say something you can’t really disagree with.   You can find this on most platforms but again, I use Google Music.  they post about once a week but have taken a couple of breaks.

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Dirty John is a true crime podcast that was recommended to me by my uncle, who listened to it as well.  It happened right here in Orange County, California and it was very interesting.  James Patterson could have written this storyline, but it happened in real life.  It was a single season, but if the writer does another true crime series, I will definitely check it out.

 

I left the best for last. Why is it the best? because a good friend of mine is one of the hosts. He is a writer for the daily beast and other sites/magazines and he and a good friend of his launched killboringmusic.com. and from that came ‘the Ringing Ear’ podcast.  It’s not the most polished podcast (which adds to its authenticity), but it is truly in its infancy, and I don’t get to hear from this friend very often, so listening makes it feel like I am having conversations with him every week.  They publish a new episode every Monday, and right now are taking a year-end break. Listen on many podcast platforms and catch up in time for season two to start early in 2019.

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Tragedy in a season of Joy.

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Oh the end of December. A time that old blue eyes himself sang is “The most wonderful time of the year”.  A time where we are focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ and of course presents and family. A time filled with great joy.

It is not supposed to be a time of great sorrow. But unfortunately that is exactly what our family is going through. On December 21st new mom’s cousin was killed in a car accident. There is never a ‘good’ time for something like that to happen, but four days before Christmas makes it all that much harder to deal with.  At a time where families come together, we find ourselves saying goodbye to a member of ours.

New mom has explained it hits her harder at times than others. And there are triggers that  bring it forward.  She told me that just seeing a picture made her lose it at her work earlier this week.  This is not unexpected. I still have great waves of sorrow at times when I see something that reminds me of someone I have lost, friends or family.  At Christmas dinner, we were having a prayer before eating and New Mom’s father was saying the prayer. He stopped mid prayer because he was just so overwhelmed at that moment he could not continue.  I placed a hand on his shoulder and finished it for him. I apologized later, telling him I hope that I did not overstep my bounds and he said he was very thankful I was able to finish it for him, he was just so sad thinking about his sister and brother-in-law, who lost their son.  I love new mom’s aunt and uncle and can totally relate to his sentiment, for my heart just breaks for them. 

This brings me to  another remarkably sad part of this all. It just does not feel natural that a parent should or would ever bury their child. It feels, wrong. I just don’t have any other word to describe it.  In our family, one of my cousins died early in an automobile accident. It was and has been a remarkably difficult thing for my Uncle and their family.

One of the few consolations of this tragedy comes through faith.  During a very difficult time in his life, he was born again, reconnecting with Christ and accepting him as his savior.  We definitely are at ease knowing he has been welcomed home in the kingdom of heaven.  I know faith is a touchy subject for many, but this is a perfect example of faith not making you exempt from tragedy, but rather giving you the tools to handle it.

Our little guy has shown amazing grace through this all. He is old enough to understand the situation and when new mom starts to get upset, he will say “mom, mom, stop. He is with God now.”  He also surprised me on the day the accident occurred. New mom was putting him to bed, she was very upset. I was in the front room watching something on television when the little man yelled “Dad, we need you!”.  When I went into his room he asked if I would pray for our cousin and mama because she is so sad.  So I prayed with them and as I finished he curled up around new mom and gave her a big hug. It was a very proud dad moment for me.

This is not the first time our family has experienced loss during this season. Many years ago (32 to be exact) my Grandmother passed away exactly one week before Christmas. Recently new mom lost her Grandfather right before the Christmas holiday as well.  It was a very crappy holiday season those years.

As we wrap up 2018 with so many questions as to how and why, we find ourselves without answers and attempting to find the joy of the holidays through tears and forced smiles.  But we have our faith and our family to lean on and have been able to smile genuinely.

This was the first time the little guy met New Mom’s cousin 

 

 

 

mello

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mello is where I work. More exactly, it is the technology building for the company I work for.

It’s also the name of our spring team mascot, mello the turtle. During holidays I get to bring him home and the family watches him while there’s no one at the office.

I could just sit and watch this guy all day.

Gifts

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As we approach Christmas I obviously am drawn to thoughts of gifts. For the little guy, newmom and family. But I am also feeling a bit nostalgic and thinking about gifts of Christmas past. These are some of the ones that really stand out.

Many many years ago my brother and I got Shogun warriors. These were the full sized ones that were probably between two-three feet tall. This by far was one of my favorite gifts of all time. The thing is probably worth a fortune today, but we played with those until they basically fell apart.

I do remember the first real bike I got as a child at Christmas. It was gold in color and had those 70s handle bars. I loved that bike and rode the heck out of it. It was a family tradition that when you turned 10, you graduated to a ten-speed. I moved to that for my birthday, not Christmas.

Now I often joke that your childhood ends the year you get more clothes than toys and you don’t get upset about it. I kinda remember that transition in my teens. I can’t remember if it was Christmas, but my brother and I got these satin jackets from Japan (my dad brought them back while on a trip to Japan for work).

The funny thing is I don’t really recall the best gift I have given. To my parents, my wife, even the little guy. Santa has brought him some pretty awesome things, including his bike (featured in multiple posts in those blog). I am sure I’ll remember something right after I post this, but unfortunately I got nothing.

What are some of your favorite gifts over the years? Please comment below.

Two Sport Athlete…

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Some boys like to play sports. Others are not into sports and their interests into other things.  Building, art, creating things, just other things. Some boys are better at sports than others.  Our little guy loves to play. ANYTHING with a ball, he is all about it.  He has always loved throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing and rolling anything round (even baby pumpkins!).

So over the past couple years, organized youth ports has been a part of the family routine in the Spring and Fall. Over the past couple years Xavier has played on four Tee-ball/Baseball teams and has completed two seasons of Soccer. He has also been a part of an intermural basketball program offered by the city.  This past season (fall of 2018) we enrolled our little guy in not one, but TWO sports. He was on the Green Dragons (soccer) and the Flames (A-league Baseball). It was either going to be great or a catastrophe.  Did I mention that new dad was the head coach of the Soccer team and the co-manager of the baseball team?  Now it sounds more the latter (a catastrophe) than the former (GREAT).

Well it definitely kept us busy. Three practices a week and two games over the weekend, our week was pretty much all about school and practice.  I was also blessed with having a pretty good group of kids on both teams.  As always there were a few challenges, but no ‘bad’ kids. I learned a lot of lessons this past season which will make me a better coach and father in the future.  The first is patience, and realizing that I am very patient with some things, not so much with others.   I also learned how difficult baseball can be for some of the kids, and why it has the stigma of being ‘boring’.  It is a great game, but realistically there is not a lot of action unless the kid is at bat, pitching or is playing first base.  Otherwise it is a lot of standing around and when you have a couple of kids who have trouble focusing, it can be VERY challenging, for both the kids and the coaches.

This season was the first season the kids pitched. New mom and I had real concerns about this.  It turned out to be not quite as bad as I first imagined.  but it was still challenging.   it was quickly apparent the key to success at this stage was to have a pitcher that can get the ball across the plate.   Unfortunately the Flames did not have a very successful season, but I hope the kids had fun and learned something about the game.

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The final game of the season, our little man made his pitching debut.   He did pretty good for his first (and only) trip to the mound this season.

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And yes, he’s a lefty!!!

 

Now moving onto the other sport that consumed our fall, soccer. I had the pleasure of coaching the Green Dragons in the Boys under seven (BU7) division.  This was our second season of AYSO and I asked our friend Albert to be my assistant coach again. His son Raiden was on our team last season and again this season.  The boys vastly improved over the year but at this level, the team is randomly selected with no ranking or skill matching. So you can end up with a couple of kids who have played for a few seasons and are the best in the entire division or end up with five kids who have never played organized sports before.

My team consisted of five boys and those aforementioned kids who are the best? Not on my team. What I did have were five GREAT kids who tried very hard every game. I would be honored to have this same group of boys again, but I believe we will start to see a little more parity at upper levels, so the likelihood of that happening are pretty slim.

 

It was a lot of fun coaching soccer, and the boys continued to improve throughout the season.

 

So what other lessons did we learn about a two sport season? I honestly have to say the most important is be ready for the grind. It is a long season and can tire you out quickly. But it is very, very rewarding. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I want the little guy to look back fondly on his youth sports and say with pride: ‘My dad was there and coached my teams.’

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