It is not you, it is me… Promise.

Where have I been? Yes, I know, I have not written a post for a while.
I took a break this summer. I took some “me” time. I did this for one primary reason:
I am selfish.
I don’t feel ashamed.
I don’t owe anybody an apology.
I needed time.
I am a husband, I am a father, I am a coach of many disciplines, an educator, a doctoral student, I am a school board member, a committee member, a writer, and a very active community member – I wear a lot of hats.
I do it gladly – I love being busy, I love having projects, and I love giving myself to others.
But, unfortunately, I burned out.
I found out that I was pulling myself in too many directions, which made me less effective in all other aspects; but most importantly, I was not an effective father or husband. And that is not okay.
So I put all of my responsibilities aside. I walked away from everything.
Except for family.
Family is essential, and we must place emphasis on spending as much time with them as possible. Kids grow up, parents work, significant others get busy. It is too easy to let the time fly by due to everyday “business of life.”
I refused to let that happen. So, I made a conscious decision:
I traveled with family.

 

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If you have not been to Folklorama, you are really missing out.

I explored.

 

 

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Canadian Museum of Human Rights – Winnipeg, Manitoba.

I lived with reckless abandon.

 

 

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I did not get a hole-in-one, but I did split a golf ball in half.

I learned a lot about my kids’ lives.

 

 

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Never too young for a checkers beat-down.

And…
I reconnected with my wife.

 

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It was awesome.
The moral of this story? We all get super busy with life. Make sure you take the time to see what is around you; not just what is in front of you. We are constantly reminded that we do not have very many years on this earth. Make sure you take the time to reflect on what is essential and what is sacred. If there is something that you want to do; someplace you wish to see; someone that you want to spend time with – do it!
I know what you are going to say, “Not everyone has the time and/or resources to cast responsibility aside…”
…And I will gladly call bullshit on that statement… mostly because it is the easy answer.
Yes, we only have 16 hours in our day. A good portion of that day is taken up with employment. But that still leaves us time to practice the things to which I am speaking – we just have to make it a priority.
Just make sure you fill your own bucket first.

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Bucket List

So, I started writing my bucket list.

  • Watch the Ball Drop in New York City.
  • Watch ‘Ol Faithful
  • Play basketball vs. NBA player
  • Attend the NBA or WNBA All-Star Games
  • Go to Disneyland…

Correction, I have always had a bucket list, but I started to actually write it down.

  • Get my Masters
  • Start a Foundation/Company (Non-Profit)
  • See Mount McKinley
  • Compete a Bodybuilding Competition
  • See the Iditarod…
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Las Vegas Hotel

I first started to write down the things that I have always wanted to do and completed.

  • Stay in a 4-star hotel
  • Eat at a top of the Line restaurant
  • See the MLK Memorial
  • Get a passport
  • Fly an airplane…

Then I realized that I have had a pretty good life with a ton of positive experiences.

  • Go to Hawaii
  • Watch a Cirque du Soleil show
  • Buy a tailored suit
  • Walk across the Edmund/Pettus Bridge
  • Go to an ethnic festival…
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Chatterbox Pub. You play classic board/video games and eat good food. Let that sink in for a minute…

Experiences that many people live their entire life and never have the opportunity to do.

  • Get into a Hall of Fame
  • See MLK Church
  • Go on a Civil Rights Trip
  • Stand in the spot that MLK gave “I Have a Dream” Speech
  • Hike a Mountain…

But then, I realized that my list kept growing as I got older and had access to more was of funding my adventures.

  • Become a Black Belt
  • Have a structure/scholarship named after me
  • Own a BMW
  • Buy a Rolex
  • Become a Pokémon Master…
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Olympic Training Center. Colorado Springs, Colorado

I also noticed that I have a shit-ton of things that I still want to do.

  • See the Great Wall of China
  • Go to Comic Con dressed up as a comic book character
  • Watch a Premier League Game
  • See the Gate of No Return
  • Drink Beer in Germany…

The older I get, the bigger the world becomes. The older I get; I have more responsibilities that derail me from checking some of these things off.

  • Walk across hot coals
  • Take the kids to Disneyland
  • Stay at the The Kakslauttanen Hotel
  • See Stonehenge
  • Go to Cuba and smoke a Cuban Cigar…
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If you know the show Double Dare, then this is also on your bucket list.

Here is my dilemma: I grew up in an environment where it was worth a celebration if you, at the age of 25:

  1. Were alive,
  2. Had no previous or current convictions,
  3. Did not have children, and
  4. Graduated with a college degree.

Yes, it sounds funny. But those are serious aspirations for a group of Americans. The problem is, once you get to the age of 25 and have met and surpassed those goals, there is a ton of confusion on what to do next. I have been so narrow-sighted about accomplishing those goals (ones that many unfortunately do not meet and/or take for granted), that I failed to see just how big the world actually is.

So, why not now? I, now that I am older and have a career, should be able to do many of the things that I want?

Not so fast.

For starters, I have children and it is damn near impossible to find someone who will care for them while I am on an excursion. Side note: There is no way in the hell that my wife will let me take a “life goal” trip while she is at home with the kids; not happening. Also, it is too damn expensive and too damn painstaking ape-shit to take our entire family on a plane. So, for now, my plans to see the world and experience different things are on hold.

For the items that require a purchase (own a BMW, own a Rolex, become a blackbelt), the older the children are, the more those things seem like they will never happen. Really?! Buy a Rolex?! I spend that same amount of money paying for travel team, camps, concessions, and equipment.

It looks like I will have to put some of these ventures on the backburner until retirement.

If there will ever be such a thing…

 

Full Circle

When I was younger, Powerwheels was the toy that I wanted. Every Christmas I would wish for one, and every Christmas I was disappointed. I vowed that my children would have one. Twenty years later, the price shot up to 300+ dollars and I have 3 kids. Do the math.

The other day, Heather informed me that she saw one on Facebook classifieds for $100.00. Before I could say I wanted it, she said, “The money is in my purse.”

Be jealous, gentlemen. I’m lucky.

10 Things I Learned from Taking My Daughter to a WNBA All-Star Game:

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  1. Get your Merchandise Early: The merchandise shop in the arena is a mad house. I went in for a jersey and ended up partnering with a mom that I had never met before so that we could both walk out of there with our goods and our limbs intact. If you love personal your space, don’t step foot in there.
  2. Be Prepared to Pay for Convenience: If you want a good parking spot, pay for it. If you want to get good seats, pay for it. If you want a hotel closer to the arena so you won’t have to do much walking, pay. Take the dive, don’t complain. The All-Star game is a bucket list experiences; you might as well live it up.
  3. No Cap on Drinks: This may be specific to the Target Center, but when you order a bottled drink at the concession stand, the venders remove the cap before they give it to you. I don’t know why this is, but I think it is so you spill you drink, which will make you pay another six bucks to quench your thirst.
  4. See the Sights: During the NBA All-Star Weekend, there are different venues/events that you can attend when you are not at the practices or the game. The WNBA All-Star weekend does not provide as many opportunities. Make sure you map out what you are going to do on your down time. Minneapolis was awesome! With places such as the Walker Museum, Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens, Target Field, Mall of America (Bloomington), Minnesota Children’s Museum, Como Zoo, and much more; if planned correctly, there is no end to your adventure.
  5. Entertainment: If you ever have the opportunity to see the WNBA All-Star Game, you will not be disappointed. There may not be the flashy dunks that you would see in an NBA All-Star Game, but you will some of the best personalities on the court that you could ever hope for. One of the highlights of the All-Star practice? The team dance off… If you don’t know what I am talking about, you missed out.
  6. Game recognizes game: It is a shame that female athletes do not get the recognition for their talents as their male counterparts; and I am not talking about the business side of things (that is for another point). What I am talking about is an overall lack of respect for the game.

Look, it does not matter who is playing basketball. If the person has game, you respect it. I was shocked at some of the comments on social media regarding the WNBA, its players, and the All-Star game. Some of those comments were from male players, both amateur and professional; and that’s damn shame.

My best friend growing up was a girl who used to run both boys up and down the court. She was the only girl in the city who was allowed to play in the men’s league, averaged 35+ ppg. in high school, was the 22nd best point guard in the country, had multiple college scholarship offers, and played at both Ohio State and the University of Nevada Reno. I never realized the trials and tribulations she had to go through to have men recognize her game. Shame on me for that. I was too ignorant to see it then. Now that I have daughters, I will not let that happen now.

I would love to see the support from more NBA athletes in terms of sporting WNBA jerseys or attending the All-Star game (shout out to those NBA athletes that did make the trek to the game, and to those NBA stars who are supportive).

  1. Game recognizes game (business): As a black man, I have always stressed fully utilizing the power of your dollar. But what I failed to do is utilize it when it comes to other aspects of humanity, including sexual orientation. I looked high and low for a WNBA All-Star jersey only to be disappointed when I was unable to find one. Why is there not a WNBA All-Star Jersey? Because it does not make as much profit as an NBA All-Star Jersey? Come on Nike, shame on you!. The least you can do is make a custom jersey. Hell, charge double for the customization.

For me, this is mostly about the trickle down for my daughters. There is an impact to be made with little boys and girls. There is nothing cooler than walking into a sports outlet and seeing a Maya Moore jersey next to a Kevin Garnett jersey. Game recognizes game. Period.

I have stock in that Nike, I may look at selling. Will it make a difference? Who knows. But a dollar is a dollar.

  1. A Woman— Dunking!: I don’t care what anyone says – you can see it multiple times on television, but to watch, in person, a woman dunking is something out of this world.
  2. Height I could only dream of: The event program lists each of the athlete’s bio, so it should come to no surprise that these athletes are tall. But, it is a totally different thing to actually stand next to them. Excuse my ignorance, but to walk up to a 6’6” (or taller) female to ask for an autograph is pretty daunting. Luckily for me, these athletes are some of the most down-to-earth individuals that you could ever meet.
  3. Once and a lifetime experience: If you ever get the opportunity to see an All-Star Game, do it (especially if you have young children). To see all of the greatest athletes to ever play the game together in one venue is a sight to behold. I am so glad my daughter and I took advantage of the opportunity to attend.

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Giving Back

To me, 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 the Father of the Year Foundation.

Contrary to what is displayed in the media, there are many fathers that want to do what is best for their children. Whether that be volunteering to coach a children’s team, doing their part to fulfill a need in the family household, providing discipline and/or structure, or promoting positive childhoods for their children and children in their communities.

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. The Father of the Year Foundation 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 Father of the Year Foundation 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.

So, there you have it. I am starting a foundation. I am not sure where this will take me and I am not sure of the impact that I can make. But, however small, it is the best avenue for me to feel as though I am making a difference.

And, that is all that counts.

So you want people to call you Doctor, huh? Sure.

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Pain. It is an 8 hour class session.

My goal is to attain my Doctoral degree in educational leadership. Really, the fact that it is in educational leadership is a not as important in gaining a doctoral degree itself. Attaining a doctoral degree stems from my understanding of my upbringing and heritage. There isn’t a person in my immediate (or extended) family with a doctoral degree. Also, there aren’t many people from where I grew up that have one. So, for me to be able attain one as a black man from a very low-income neighborhood is pretty amazing.

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When do I have time to study while on vacation? When everyone is asleep…

The Doctoral degree is something that is to be cherished because it entails a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Most people think that they may have an idea of the type of sacrifices that you will give in order to obtain one, but the reality is, you have absolutely no idea. So, here are some hard-hitting things you should consider before entering into a doctoral program. These come strictly from my experiences and no one else. Your if you have a different experience than mine, feel free to share.

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Yes, Honey! I am watching! Good Job!
  1. You will possibly sacrifice everything: During your time as a doctoral student, all types of things events will happen in each cohort members lives. Some good. Some terrible. Members will die, have children, get a divorce, get married, become sick, drop out, and so on. A lot of these events will affect you strongly because of the bond that you have created with these members. Seriously, you may have to prepare yourself mentally for these challenges – which brings me to my second point…
  2. Spousal support is everything: Before you register for a doctoral program, you had better take a good look at your marriage. Everything that you believe is “wrong” with your marriage will be multiplied tenfold when you are in the doctoral program. Examples: If you argue about money, you will really argue about money. If spending time with each other is a challenge, it will really become a challenge.The doctoral program is going to test your relationship like you will not believe (again, divorce is something that you may see within your cohort). Consider your relationship.
  3.  The professors don’t care about your personal life: Okay. I am not saying this as “the professors are assholes” type of thing. But, there are a few things that you must consider about your professors:
    • You are most likely at a research institution, so they may have to do research themselves on the side;
    • They also have families;
    • Most, if not all of them have an advisory role;
    • Some are traveling professors, especially if there are more than one cohort;
    • They just aren’t getting paid enough for this shit. Seriously.
  4. So, when you come in for a class, they expect that you are ready to participate and are going to be there on time.
    • On second thought, there is death – Your death. Death is probably the only reason to not be at a class. And even then, you are pushing your luck.
  5. Incompletes: Don’t. Nothing good comes of it. Just don’t.
  6. Grade Point Average: Here is where some will disagree. And that’s okay – mostly because I don’t give a shit what you think –
    • Do not stress over your grade point average. Try your absolute best and if that is not good enough and you end up with a B, so be it. Nothing is more annoying than someone who is giddy with glee about their perfect 4.0. Listen, we can celebrate and all, but I am yet to be in an interview where an administrator says, “So, I see you took a B in “whatchamacallits” class (again, if you have found different, please let me know).
    • Here is one thing, I hate math. I am told that I can draw my ass off, but that there is something a little off about my art. I know what it is, it is the fact that my mathematical skills are so shitty that my perception is off – which manifests itself in the form of uneven arms, eyes, and legs (and don’t even get me started on fingers). So, when stats came around, I was happy to get a C (I got a B, and ran out the classroom exclaiming, “Thank you, Black Jesus).
  7. Keep everything: Documents, emails, even literature on a dirty napkin is fair game. Why? Because people forget shit. Once, the college really messed up my status as a student, which would have demolished any funding that I received in the future. The college claimed little responsibility. That is, until I gave them the email stating my full-time graduate status. Keep it all; keep a digital and hard copy. Besides, nothing is worse than somebody saying, “I never said that!” and you absolutely have no proof to the contrary.
  8. Never burn a bridge. Ever: I am from the ‘hood. If someone fails to do right by you, you immediately cut that “summuma” right the hell off. But, in academia, that could mean your demise. Now, you should have learned this lesson in the first 6 to 8 years of post-secondary education. But, if you have not, listen closely.
  9. Just hit submit: You will come into situations that call for you to just hit the submit button. For example, when completing my comprehensive exams (which took one week and a minimum of 10 pages to do), it is easy to make yourself sick with worry. “Should I read over it again?” “Did I answer all of the questions?” “What if I missed something?” “What if the professor does not enjoy what I have to say?” “What if I fail?” “I wonder if the professor thinks I am a complete idiot?” “How much money have I spent persuing this already?” You will continuously ask yourself those questions over and over again until you hit the submit button. Look, all of those questions are valid; but it is not worth waiting only to rehash the same questions over and over for no more than a few days.
  10. Learn to say “no”: It is easy for you to become spread too thin. While pursuing my doctorate, I was also teaching full time, coaching high school track, coaching my daughter’s basketball team, parenting and sharing the love between four children, and trying to be a good husband. How was I getting this done? Sleep was not an option. Yes, I know, it is totally unhealthy. But, how the Hell else am I supposed to do it?!!
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Graduate students will take a strong internet signal anywhere they can get it.

At some point, for your sanity (and for your marriage), learn to say no. There just is not enough hours in the day; and college tuition seems to be rising by the semester.

“Can you be on the school improvement comittee?”

No.

“Can you come to this event?”

No.

“Honey, I know you are writing, but can you take the trash out?”

Careful. But, politefully decline.

The point is, make sure you prioritize your life during this venture.

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Stuck in the office.

Bonus:

Don’t take it personally, but you suck: You are not going to be told this to your face ver batim, it will be suggested in an articulate manner. You will work your ass off, send in an edit and/or meet with your committee, and (after a good cry) wonder what in the Hell were you thinking taking on such a venture.

But it is okay, you will get through it; you will get through all of it.

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