Aging Gracefully, or, Damn You’re Old

As children, we believe that we are invincible. We think that we can do things without any kind of repercussions. Realistically, when we are younger, we can.

Climb a tree, fall, hurt, cry, get back up.

Ride a bike, miss the pedal, hit the middle bar, cry, get back up.

Rush down the stairs, fall, slide the rest of the way down, cry, get back up.

You get the picture.

But then comes a time when you are a tad bit less sharp than you were in years previous; where invincibility becomes mortality; where each ache is a reminder of what you did to your self and fleating youth.

For me, it started at age 33.

At 33, I discovered that there comes a time when you have to be more preventative with your care. I discovered that it would behoove you to listen to your body instead of trying to work through it. I discovered that my body would force me to take days off in order tto recover from what I put it through rather than going full bore all of the time.

At age 33, my back when out.

Look, I would see the family television shows where the father’s back would go out and he would not be able to stand straight up causing him to go throughout his day hunch over for the entire episode. I thought, “There is no way in the hell he can’t just straighten out his back. What a wimp!”

And then it happened to me.

I was the father of a three-year-old and a baby. The family had just returned home from watching a local varsity basketball game at the high school. It was late, and I was putting the baby to bed. As I gently bent over the crib to place her down… It happened.

I was flat on the ground before I could brace myself.

I cannot explain the pain I was in (it was a lot), and I knew what had happened –  I just don’t know why or how it happened. While bear crawling to my bed, I questioned everything about my body and its abilities, “How could this be?! I had never had a back problem in my entire life! I was in really good shape! My body has failed me! Is it normal for a 33 year old man to have a bad back?” What amazed me the most about this happening is that I never realized how much you depend on your back muscles for mobility. I learned that day. *side note: I got the chiropractor to write me a note saying that I was no longer medically cleared to change diapars. My wife failed to see the humor.

Speaking of humor, at age 35, I ruptured my Achilles tendon.

It happened during a pick-up basketball game with my students. One student challenged me to drive past him and go to the hole using my left hand. As a former jock, I am way too much of a “man” to not oblige him. I had always had a pretty good first step, so there was no way in the hell that this doofus was going to stop me.

He didn’t.

My Achilles did.

Surprisingly, there was no pain. Also surprisingly, my tendon did not recoil into my hamstring like I had heard. But, it was torn completely in half. Grabbing my ankle felt like grabbing my wrist. As I was sitting on the floor unable to stand, it hit me:

Holy shit, how was I going to explain this to Heather?

This is when the story gets good.

The first doctor – we will call Doctor Dumbass, diagnosed me with a serious ankle sprain. I politly informed her that she was wrong and that there was, in fact, no tendon attached. “Yeah, but you can move your toes.”

Dumbass.

So I went to a specialist. She looked at it, laughed at me and asked who diagnosed me. I told her. Without a word, she walked directly out of the room and closed the door.

Somebody got cursed out (I could hear her in the next room).

She comes in smiling: “Welp, we will schedule you for surgery next week.”

“Doc…uh…my son is due by C-section in two weeks.”

“Why wouldn’t he be.”

The  surgery was scheduled that week. Post-surgery, I was not, under any circumstance, supposed to touch my foot to the ground. Let me set the stage for you (sans all of the curse words my wife enjoys using when telling this tale):

The day of my oldest son’s birth. My wife had to make sure that I was in the van and properly situated (I am in a soft cast and, remember, no touching my foot to the floor). When we arrived at the hospital, she dropped me off under the awning and parked the van, 100 feet away, while I found the nearest wheelchair. Then she wheeled me to the appointment desk:

“Sir, are you here to check in?”

“No, my pregnant wife.”

There was a look of utter disappointment and/or disgust of me from ever women within earshot. If those women could push my wheelchair down the steps, I believe they would have. It gets better. How? Well —

When it was time for my son to come out, my wife’s nurse wheeled me into the operating room while she walked.

Mic Drop.

Believe me, it is a much funnier story when she tells it; and, she loves to tell it when attending get-togethers where the women outnumber the men 3 to 1. Nothing I have done or will ever do will make up for it.

At age 38, I had figured by now that I should probably go for a yearly check-up. I had been doing a check-up for the last two years after I realized that, A) I have a mortgage, B) have 4 kids, C) have a family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and D) have proven to myself that my body is deteriorating. But this time, I had to do blood work. Simple enough, right. Yes. Until I saw the results:

My kidneys were not working at full capacity…

WTF!

That was not even on my radar.

“You should see the specialist.”

Shit.

So, there I am, three weeks later; sitting in the kidney specialist’s office. Wondering if I am going to be in dialysis within a year.

Note: For the love of God, do not interpret your results through WebMD. Ever. There are so many things you can die of. Don’t let fear be one of them.

“We will send your blood sample to Mayo Clinic for a more accurate test. I will message you when the results are in. Don’t worry.”

Hmmm… Ok. Wait. Shit. Mayo Clinic? Shit. Shit. Shit.

Results came in. Everything is normal. Great, I just almost crapped myself, but great.

So let’s review what we have learned here.

  1. You really are not as invincible as you think. It will catch up to you one day and you will not see it coming.
  2. You are as old as you feel, unless you feel like you are 55 and your actual age is 35. Take preventative measures in order to maintain the machine.
  3. See a doctor once or twice a year. Sure, I got a scare, but that is better than not seeing it coming and leaving your loved ones to pick up the pieces.

Hooked on the Digital Devil! Or, Daddy’s Last Stand

A couple of events happened to me this month that made me think twice about parenting in the age of technology:

2018-12-01 15.06.41
Would it kill her to clean up a little? I don’t dare find out…

First, I have noticed that three out of four of my children are entranced with their electronic devices. My son has found himself needing to check the status of his eggs and/or fight other creatures on a dragon game that he is playing. He is absolutely hooked. As soon as he gets home from school, he disappears. To where? Some corner of the house to be left alone until, hours later, he realizes that he has not eaten anything.

Daughter #1 is kicked back in her room watching stupid (so, so stupid) Youtube videos that challenge viewers not to laugh (I laugh) on her Ipod (Yes, an Ipod. She is the only one in her class that does not have a cell phone – and believe me, she is pissed; but that is for a different post). Meanwhile, Daughter #2 has watched every kid Netflix movie and/or show that ever created and has now started to re-watch them.

They are totally different people when those devices are in their hands. Heaven forbid their dear, loving parents ask them to do any chores. Those requests are met with tears, eyerolls, and under-breath mumbles as they begrudgingly fulfill their duties that are their only requirement to be granted sustenance, safety, and sustainability by us. I understand that there are stages of child development, but this seems like something more.

So, as a trained researcher, I take to the computer to do discover a fix. I know, How ironic — I use technology to fix the technology problem in my home. Save it. Anyway, I came across a multitude of research about both the positives and negatives of technology on children’s brains.1

So, what are you going to do about it, you ask?

I am going to take all of their devices away, at least for now. I’ll take charge of my household. I’ll show them.

Genius! On its face…

What ensues is both interesting and sad. My kids, as multi-talented as they come, had no idea what to do with themselves. Seriously! They either walked around the house like lost puppies trying to find their owner; or, they stared at us parents with those big, sad eyes that screamed, “Help us!” I did not know whether to feel sorry for them or send them to bed. Each suggestion we gave was met with wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

Luckily, by the end of the night, the drama subsided and they found marker and paper and started drawing, not well by any means, but drawing nonetheless.

The second event involved me stopping by the local hobby shop to look for a possible Christmas present for my son (Afro #3). When I walked in the store, I immediately knew that I was going to blow a lot of money. I was totally overtaken by nostalgia – remote control cars, boats, planes, slot cars, and model sets – all things that I grew up with. Things that defined my childhood!

THE THINGS THAT MADE ME THE NERD THAT I AM TODAY!

But, as I was reliving my childhood and contemplating my future credit card bill, I notice something – there were not many people in the store. In fact, for the thirty-or-so minutes that I was in the store, I had notice 3 other people (not counting me and the two employees) in the entire store. One of them, I am sure, walked in by mistake but pretended to look interested out of pity.

“Slow day?” I asked.

“This is how it has been since the ‘beep, boop, beep, craze.” (gyrating his thumbs in a Gameboy motion).

“Wow, that is sad. There is really a lot of cool stuff in here.”

“Yeah, these things are just not as popular as they used to be.”

It then hit me… My children have no hobbies for themselves. They don’t have that one thing that they depend on to keep them busy when they have nothing else to do and are bored.

2018-12-12 16.20.47
Slot Cars. Why yes! Don’t mind if I do!

If you are reading this article, you are most likely old enough to remember a time when your parents told you to “Go away and find something to do.” Full disclosure, I have not researched this thoroughly, but It seems as though our parents were giving us the gift of finding our inner nerd when they would tell us to “get out of their hair.”

Don’t act like I was the only one!

When my parents were too busy to entertain me, I built Legos, played with my action figures, delved into my collection of comic books, or played with my remote control/slot cars. All things that are not as popular now as they once were. But why? Where did all of the nerds go?

Did technology kill imagination? I mean… I don’t think so, but I do think that technology cannot survive without discipline. It seems that it is way more than a coincidence that my kids were hooked on technology and once that was taken from them, they were in a state of confusion.

Here is the conundrum:

  • Hobbies help kids learn by doing, test the limits of their success, and provide an remedy for boredom.
  • Electronic devices help kids research, provide instant answers to questions/issues kids may have while also combating boredom.

Where is the balance?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/video/the-impact-of-electronics-on-a-child-s-brain-1235967043828

Further Reading:

*https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-fortnite-triggered-an-unwinnable-war-between-parents-and-their-boys-11545397200?mod=e2fb

Pick-Up Basketball Retirement Notice

Effective in 2019, “The Juggernaut” is retiring from all pick up basketball games. In the past year, I discovered the following about myself:

My first step is gone,

My hops are gone,

My muscular stature is now working against me,

My Achilles are tight,

My hamstrings hate me,

Ibuprofen is my friend,

My mind is telling me yes, but my body (my body) is telling me noooooooo,

I am always the oldest guy on the court,

I am still wearing And1’s and partying like it’s 1999,

I regret my decision to play every morning for the next four days afterward,

People now say, “Oh you are still playing, good for you!“

My wife shakes her head in disgust as I can no longer hide my soreness/injury from her.

Streetball has been good to me for the past 38 years. But, year 39 has been hell. So, goodbye old friend. I am letting go and putting myself out to pasture to heal.

Father of the Year Moment #49: Shopping For a Car Seat

Seat #1:

Positive – Comfortable

Negative – Buckles contain lead

Seat 2:

Positive – Ease of use

Negative – Too big to see out of the rear view mirror

Seat 3:

Positive – The “name your website/magazine/report” seal of approval

Negative – cannot remove belts or cushion. If your child pukes in the seat, good luck.

Seat 4:

Positive – Safest in all crash tests

Negative – Welts on the skin from an unknown source.

Seat 5:

Recalled

Seat 6:

Recalled

Seat 7:

$500.00 (no thanks)

So, buying a car seat is really about picking the best of the worst, right.

A Lesson in marriage:

Remember Gentlemen, she never just wants her share, she wants yours too. This rings true for:

Covers

Attention

Money

Free time

Take out (which is why her order never turns out right, so she switches and you end up with yuk).

Blankets

Space

Clothes (yours are so comfortable)!

Pillows

Cologne

Etc.

What is all yours, you ask?

Whatever you can wipe your sweat on, she won’t dare touch it.

The Gift of Failure

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling

2018-04-07 10.48.48

A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.

Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.

I honestly hope you don’t make the team.

Bear with me…

Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.

That being said…

If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…

Winning.

Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.

Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.

Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.

So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.

2018-03-30 20.50.06-2

———————————————————————————————————————————-

For the record:

Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…

“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team.  We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision. 

We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.

Thank you.”

Okay. Now, let’s make them regret that decision…

A Letter to My Children About Turning Left

What if I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly?

– Erin Hanson

Eight years ago, I sat in a room across from both of my bosses and realized ahead of me lay a fork in the road — a decision was being forced upon me. I had two options: One, stay in a place that did not deem me or my services valuable, yet provide a comfortability. Or, two, go with the uncertain, improbable, and uncomfortable. Looking back, I can now say that without a shadow of a doubt that I made the right decision.

I had always loved the poem, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. But I was never put in a position where I would have to put those exact words to the test – until that moment. When I am old, and it is time for me to reflect upon my life, that meeting will be the pivotal point in my life. It will be the time when I told the right people where to shove it and chose to take my own path.

I want you to believe in yourselves as smart, able-minded people. I want you to be able to depend on your education, grit, and skill to choose the path that you want to take. If you choose to switch careers, or start your own business, I hope that you are able to make sound decisions that won’t incur a ton of risk. But if you choose to risk it all, I hope that you do it without fear because you are willing to put your all into it.

During that pivotal time, I was father who was expecting his second child and in need of all monetary compensation that I could get my hands on. Everybody, including your mother, was very fearful of what we would do next. But I was not. I saw that moment as an opportunity for me to grow both as a person, and as a professional – that is what is most important. It is important that you have a job that will help you attain your goals; a job that will provide you with an opportunity to advance – both monetarily and position wise. It is easy to be comfortable; it is extremely difficult to rely on yourself and your training to reach your goals.

People will call you a fool. They will ask what in the hell you were thinking. They will sit back and whisper to others about your sanity while waiting for your failure so that they can tell you that they “told you so.” But after a while, they will admire you because they could not take that leap themselves.

Do not listen to the accolades and do not track the accomplishments. Those things show you an event or feeling from a snapshot in time. Many people have heard their praises only to fall from grace soon after. But, on the other hand, do pay attention to the doubts and the criticisms. Those come from true feelings. Use them to fuel you, but not burn you. Use those to help you and not hinder you. Use those as reasons and not as excuses.

Because of my choices, I am living a life that I once believed was only a dream. I am only to that point because I understood that there is truly no such thing as luck – good or bad. So, I’m telling you that there are no wrong decisions, only consequences. If you choose to do something. It is no one’s place to tell you that they, “told you so.” Don’t use that to make your decision. Whatever you choose, go about it with reckless abandon, pour all of your heart into the venture, and live with the consequences.

Go Left. Everyone chooses right. No one wants to dare because of the possibility that it could lead to failure. I am begging you, go left. You are stronger than what you realize. You will not know that stregnth until you put it to the test. If you are willing to put the work in, go left. We only get one life to live, don’t live it trying to be someone that you are not. Don’t live it trying to do what others think that you should do. Do what makes you happy — unless it hurts other people, then take one right.

Father of the Year Moment #500: Sense of Community

A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.

— Yehuda Berg

The pinnacle of being a successful person is the way that you can go back and affect your community. Whether it is the community that you grew up in or the community that you currently live, the ability to use your platform to affect one or more kids. Some people choose to give back monetarily, some choose to work within the community, I have chosen to start a non-profit. I have chosen to start Father’s of the Year United

Growing up, I was lucky to have a father who took the time to teach me how to be a man. But, my father was a very hard worker, which meant that he was not home as often as he would have liked. Luck for me, I had a group of men who help mold me into the person I am today. This group of men consisted of coachers, fathers, businessmen, and community members who believed that it takes a village to raise each child. Fathers of the Year United believes that fathers play a pivotal role in the development of not only their own children, but children within the community. The mission of the Fathers of the Year United is to promote positive fatherhood by providing opportunities, support, mentorship, and fellowship to men so can be the best fathers (or father-figures) that they can be for their children and children within their communities.

I am not sure of the impact that I can make, but, however small, it is the best avenue for me to feel like I am making a difference. And, that is all that counts.

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