A Force to be Reckoned With

When I was in junior high, I had the opportunity to take part in an accelerated language arts program. This meant that I was able to handle a bigger workload and take on more responsibility. The teacher was a plump man with a round face, facial hair, and a ponytail that went down to the middle of his back. He looked like the type of guy who loved books.

No, I love books.

I mean, LOOOOVES books.

The first assignment he gave us on the very first day of school (really, who does that!) was to read Fahrenheit 451 within the first two weeks of school. As I shockingly gazed at the thickness of the book, along with the “further required reading” list that accompanied the book. I knew that this class wasn’t for me.

I went to my counselor.

So my counselor took me out of the program and placed me in one of the regular classes. I walked into the class and gave the transfer sheet to the teacher. This was no ordinary teacher, this was a woman — a black woman, which was weird because I had only ever once encountered a black female teacher throughout my academic career (at that point).

She took the slip from me.

“Mmmmm-hmm. You can sit over there.”

I sat — still in shock.

She had a personality that was bigger than life, she had a loud, booming voice, she had a slight southern twang to her voice, and she did not take shit from anyone.

…and I mean anyone.

To tell the truth, I was scared of this woman for the first quarter of the school year. Every time she asked for a volunteer, I sank a little lower in my seat. When she wanted one of the students to diagram a sentence, I would stare directly at my paper, trying my damnedest not to make eye contact. When it was time to go, I would hurriedly get my shit together and get the hell out of that room.

One day, everything changed. That day, I did not get my shit together fast enough.

“How come you never give the answer?”

She smiled.

Oh, shit.

“What do you mean?”

“I know you have the answer. I know you came from the accelerated class. You need to start answering the questions in class. Don’t hide your genius.”

I was confused as hell. Although I have been trying to avoid her, she has been paying attention to me.

“Tell your mom and your sister, I said hello.”

Fuck.

From that moment on, she would push me academically and personally. She would be one of the most influential people in my life — often giving me lessons not only on being a man but a black man as well. She would teach me about responsibility, she would teach me about perseverance, and she would also teach me about respect for myself and for others. I had a mother at home, and I had a mother at school.

What started out as a teacher to student relationship would years later become a relationship as colleagues as I was hired in the same district that I grew up in, and that she still taught in. What I did not know was that she was always looking out for me and doing what she could to give me every opportunity to succeed.

Sixteen years after I sat in her classroom, moved to another state, and started a family, I embarked on a mission to attain my doctoral degree. In the orientation class, we were tasked with writing a letter of appreciation to the person who got you to this point. To tell the truth, many helped me along the way. But there was one person who took it upon herself to not only discuss just how successful I could be but to hold me to a higher standard based on that potential.

I found out that Mrs. Francine Jackson passed away on May 11th.  I never knew if she received that letter in particular, but I think she knew the impact that she would have on my life and the lives of countless students in our area. I can only hope that I am living my life in a way that would do her memory justice.

Return on Investment

In the financial world, return on investment refers to the ratio between net profit (over a period) and cost of investment (resulting from an investment of some resources at a point in time). A high return on investment means the investment’s gains compare favorably to its cost. As a performance measure, return on investment is used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiencies of several different investments.
Recently my wife and I have come to terms with the fact that, because we have kids, we will not:
a) live forever. As a matter of fact, we think the “kids make you live longer” research is bullshit,
b) never get enough sleep,
c) never have the nest egg in our bank account that we desire.
So, we both figured. Fuck it, maybe we should throw caution to the wind a little and invest in our kids’ experiences. Perhaps we should show them some things that might be in the history books instead of them being told about it in school. We did set parameters:
We will not clear out our bank account;
We will not spend any of our retirement;
We will not borrow money from anyone or any entity.
We scrounged up the little money we had in investments from when I was younger, budgeted the funds that we had, and picked up some odds-and-ends jobs. But, most importantly, we had to redefine what an investment meant.
When I was younger, with not much money, I started to dabble in things such as ETFs, bonds, and futures, I loved looking at ways that I could grow my wealth. I would read the prospectus of different companies (who the hell actually reads those), look through the tickers on all of the financial networks, and check out the financial history of prospective companies that I could invest in. I was really hardcore!
But as I got older, I started to question how long I would hold these investments. I began to wonder what an investment really was. Especially after having our first child and needing a bigger house, a more dependable car, and diapers. God! Diapers!
Is a child an investment? In what? Futures?
What is the rate of return? When do I start to account for profit or loss?
How will I know if the current rate is running in the positive or negative?
The answer: You don’t, and you never will.
A child is a super heavy, crazy large investment. One that is hard to analyze or compute your return on that investment. Sure, it is all nice and dandy to say, “Every child is a gift that will last a lifetime,” but it is really freaking hard to keep telling yourself that when your rate of return is rolling their eyes when you have a simple request. Or, when your precious investment breaks a different investment because they won’t stop bouncing the damn ball in the house as you told them not to do 100. But, I am not angry.
Not that angry…
okay, angry.
Now that we have decided to invest in family, what does that look like?

Basically, it looks like us saying yes to a bunch of expenses that we would normally say no to. It looks like we are going to spend our money on experiences rather than things, which is good, because it allows me to go into the house and announce, “Okay, we are getting rid of your shit! We are minimizing! Round up the stuff you plan to donate!

My wife says, “You will need someone to push that wheelchair to the home, you know?” I hope that is true. Yes, I hope they are good people. Yes, I hope they give me grandkids, but I would be lying if I did not admit that I would love it if they would place me in a charming home and come visit me every now and then.

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The Letter She Received this Morning

Look at you! My first-born in her first varsity competition! I have dreamed about this day since you were born… although I did not think it would come this soon.

You were so nervous when you found out that you were chosen, you freaked out and started crying. You started the dangerous game of playing all of the “what if” scenarios in your head.

What if I miss?

What if I do the wrong thing?

What if I suck?

It was funny to watch such a composed girl, a girl who I have viewed countless times score baskets in numerous situations, freak out about something that seems so trivial.

But then I remember how young you are. I often forget that. You have conducted yourself in such a way that it is easy for anyone to forget that you are a year or more younger than girls in your grade.

As you are traveling to the venue, I know you are nervous, so I am going to give you some advice:

• You are going to suck; embrace it – It is your first crack at some real competition. Newsflash: you may not win. The coach believes in you but understands that you are very green. You do not have a target on your back, so you are in a low risk/high reward situation. Just go out there and compete.

• Have fun in the moment – There are many who would love to be in your shoes. Next week, it could be someone else; but today, it is all you. Live in the moment, and everything will be fine.

• Take notes – There is going to be a lot of good athletes out there. Most of them have been playing this sport a lot longer than you. Take notes on the best or the ones that you favor. Look at their routines, study their approaches, emulate their techniques so that later you can make those same techniques work for you.

• Do not try to live up to any other athletes’ standard – As I said before, these athletes have been doing this a lot longer than you have. Don’t try too hard to outplay them. You are here to gain varsity experience so that you can learn the game at a different level and with a different pace. If you make this a head game, you will be terrible. Relax, slow down, and play like this is recreational. Winning is nice, but it is not the point.

• It is really about the small victories – Playing a sport that you just picked up 2 months ago is a win; daring to join the school team is a win; being chosen for varsity is a win. Enjoy the small victories. The big ones will come later, don’t look for them now. If they happen – great, but if they don’t, learn from it, count yourself fortunate, and move on.

Your mother and I are proud of you. And we cannot wait to hear about the day.

Now, go have fun.

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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1 Difference is Just as Good as 100

So, I had this idea: why don’t I use my non-profit as a vehicle to create an opportunity for fathers or father-figures to read to their children. Afterward, both could go to a local restaurant and enjoy a root beer float together.

…And so I planned, I networked, I advertised. I played and replayed all possible scenarios, which all pointed to a successful event.

On the day of the event, I waited at the venue for people to flood the event. Slam Dunk!

One hour in and only one person came to enjoy the opportunity.

What the Hell?

This seemed like a slam dunk to me. Why wouldn’t a person take 15 minutes out of their schedule to read to their child? The way I see it, it’s a win-win for our community! Kids are read to, thus increasing their brain capacity; the local public library gains more readership, and a local restaurant gains patrons. I sat on the step wondering where I went wrong.

One hour in, I was ready to walk away.

But, just then, I see a father and his daughter walk in and grab a book.

Shit! A glimmer of hope. Would you look at that?

After choosing a book, they both walk outside, sit together under the gazebo, and read together.

…and that made it all worth it.

Maybe the event did not work out as I wanted it to…

Maybe I should have done a better job planning within the logistical side…

Maybe I should have been more aggressive with my advertising – shook a few more hands/handed out more materials.

I could “maybe” this thing all day. Grasping at what went wrong.

What I do know is that I possibly helped make a difference in that little girl’s life. She got to spend quality time with her father, under the gazebo.

Today, she and her father possibly made a memory.

I won.

 

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…

 

My Buddy

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“Father of the Year Moment #267: Raising a man.

This is my son’s doll. He is very protective of her and demands that she is in bed with him at night. I don’t care that he has a doll, I am just glad he has a sensitive side.

The ladies love a sensitive man.

Trust me.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

This post from four years ago set off a friendly debate amongst people who read my social media post.

A little background:

Before my son was born, both of my daughters had an American Girl doll. They promised anything and everything to have one, and when they received it, my wife and I were the best parents ever. But soon after, as with all toys, they lost interest. Sure, they took it to bed with them at night, but months after purchase, it was not cared for with the same love that they once had.

Enter my son. He found the discarded doll and really took to her. He named her after a newborn who attended his same daycare. He took care of her and demanded that she be in bed with him at night.

I am not going to get deep into the whole men vs. women, boys vs. girls, gender roles arguments, but I did have some takeaways from witnessing this experience:

  • It brought him closer to his mother: Every night when she would tuck him into bed. He would talk to her about his doll. She would talk to him about what his doll would like to do when they both woke up in the morning. She would talk to him about treating that doll with respect, often asking if that doll would appreciate him acting in a negative way.
  • It prepared him for any future younger siblings/younger playmates at daycare: We were not sure if we were going to have any other kids (we did), but we did know that there were younger children at daycare. So, we used the doll as a tool to show him how to care for a baby. Many times, he would gently rock the doll to sleep, exclaiming, “It’s okay,” only to drop the doll on its head when he felt his job was complete minutes later. We were able to show him that a baby is something to be continuously cared for.
  • It made him soft: Yes, I said soft. But really, what in the hell is wrong with that? There are definitely worse things that could happen to a young boy. I highly doubt that having a soft spot for a favorited doll is one of them.

 

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