K.I.D.S. = Kleptomaniacs Invading, Devising, and Scheming

So, there I am. Sitting alone in the living room when an argument breaks out between my two daughters. My dear, bold, wife has informed them that their room is a pigsty, and she would like it clean. NOW.

“These are all her clothes!”
“These are all of her books!”
“That is her side of the room!”

All of this culminates in:

“If I had my own room, it would be spotless!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that bullshit for a minute. Instead of worrying about one room, I will now have to worry about two separate bedrooms, two separate attitudes, and two separate sets of excuses. Ultimately, this will result in too many glasses of wine at night.

But, being that both of my daughters are as tall as I am, and have appetites the size of two high school middle linebackers; they should probably get the chance to prove the inevitable, right?

Here is my point:

Nothing is my own.

Space
My child is taking over my beloved office, and she has requested that I clear the walls of all pictures, relics, and memories (probably so that she can put up posters of the latest boy band — heaven forbid).

Food
I sit down after a hard days’ work with a plate of food. All of a sudden, I am the most famous person in the house. “What’s that?” “Can I have some?” “I am hungry.”
(Or, if you are my youngest, you just grab whatever you want to any person’s plate).

Time
I want to go to the gym, but my child needs me to take them sledding/to the park/ to an event/ to get something for school/ to get something from school/etc. Me time? What me time? What the hell is that?

Sleep
Just when you think that you are ready to call it a day, you hear a cough, a gag, and…puke. Now it is a quick change of bed and bath time at 2 in the morning. Work is going to go so well tomorrow morning.

Nice things

Imagine. You finally get enough money squared away to replace all of the cabinetry in your kitchen. You get the work done, and when completed, you love what you see — custom cabinetry that is exactly like you envisioned it. Now imagine one of your little cherubs finding a permanent marker and playing Pablo Picasso using the cabinets as a canvas.

The Little Shit.

For my Sons: ManUP lesson #1

“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang!” – John Proctor, The Crucible

Your last name is everything. It may not seem like it now, but it is one thing that will carry more with it than you can imagine. It is not only an identifier, but it is an identity. That is why it is extremely important that you take ownership of that last name very seriously.

You are your own company

Pick a company — any company you want. Would you purchase the company’s product if it had very bad reviews? Would you purchase products from a company that treated you in a negative way? Would you spend your hard-earned money on that company’s product if you knew that it would make you look like an idiot? I believe you would answer no to all of these questions.

Think about it, your last name is your company.

There are millions of people in the world that wish that they could own companies. They think about the possible financial freedom that comes with it, the awesomeness of being your own boss, and the ability to influence others within the “company.”

The problem is, they cannot keep their own names clean. Seriously, if your company sold a product that was intended to be used on infants, do you trust yourself enough to buy the product and use it on your own newborn. If the answer is no; you have to seriously analyze who you are as a person. Being able to think of yourself as a business is something that athletes have to learn. Some learn it the easy way, and some learn it the hard way. Either way, reality usually hits them like a ton of bricks. They often find out that becoming an athlete and making the team was the easiest part of the journey. They find that teachers, bosses, community members, and teammates hold them to a totally different set of expectations — higher expectations. Talent is not enough to get them through, they need hard work, a set of values and beliefs, and a moral compass. Those who step up to those expectations find that the journey may become a little easier for them. Those who choose to go the other direction often find themselves in trouble the institution and/or the law.

Burning Bridges

There is going to come a time in your life when you are going to need someone to help you achieve a goal. Maybe it is a recommendation for a position that you wish to have, or maybe you need to get into a program and want one of the “higher-ups” to put in a good word for you. Here is a question: Did you do everything you could to make sure that the person you are asking sees you in a positive light? Like I said before, your last name is everything; that person’s last name is everything to them. When you ask somebody for a recommendation, you are asking a person to put their name, credibility, and reputation on the line in order to vouch for you — that is a big deal.

But how are you to know whom you would need a recommendation from? You’re not, which is the reason why you should be very careful about burning bridges.

“It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a second to destroy it.”

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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14 Years of Marriage to an Extrovert

The following post was written and submitted by my uber-talented wife, Heather…

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Nothing surprises me.  It’s not because my husband is all that predictable.  No, he’s acted on plenty of off the wall ideas during the tenure of our marriage.  It’s just that I’ve come to expect literally anything from him.  What will David do today?  Will he buy a foosball table?  Will he spray paint our patio furniture on our concrete driveway?  Will he go to Scheel’s and to purchase NDSU jerseys for our daughters while I am in the hospital in labor with one of them?  Will he snap his Achilles’ tendon when I’m 39 weeks pregnant?  Will he claim that Trey’s interest in the game is what drives him to continue playing Pokémon Go?  Will he join an adult soccer league in a fit of a midlife crisis?  Will his plan of attack for any problem or situation be totally different than the one I would choose?  The answer to all of these questions is:  Yes.  And I’m not surprised.

A few years ago, I told David I thought we should write each other a love poem for Valentine’s Day.  We’re both English teachers; we can admire a beautiful piece of writing.  Why shouldn’t we immortalize our love in verse?  He said no; but I suspected he was secretly creating his masterpiece so I started work on my own.  Valentine’s Day came and went and neither of us mentioned the poems.  But I wasn’t surprised when I woke up on February 15th and saw that he had posted his free verse, narrative, comical, yet sincere litany of love 11:59pm the night before.  This is my life with an extrovert; it’s what I’ve come to expect.  That evening, in true introvert fashion, I presented him privately with a compact ten-line poem complete with couplets.

 

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Not much ever changes.

 

Fast forward to mid-November that year.  A few days after giving birth to our fourth child, David went to Fargo to see a tattoo artist.  He wanted to incorporate Reese’s name into an existing tattoo.  I want to take a moment to describe the state I was in when he came home that evening.  I was six days into recovery from my third C-section and my body was in shambles.  I couldn’t yet tie my shoes and stairs hurt.  Child number four hadn’t yet slept more than two hours in a row and I was nursing exclusively.  November is a tough time to have a baby.  The first three had summer birthdays; it’s easier to enter into new motherhood when daylight isn’t in short supply.  Once the November sun goes down, a feeling of hopelessness set in and the nights were long.  When David returned from his tattoo appointment late that afternoon, it was already dark.  “I have a surprise for you!” he crooned, grinning.  I asked the only question a woman in my state could: “What?  Did you get me a burrito from Qdoba?”  My recollection of the new few minutes plays back in slow motion.  He peels back the plastic covering his arm to reveal a new tattoo.  My poem is forever memorialized on my husband’s forearm.  I was surprised, speechless and horrified.

In Susan Cain’s Ted Talk about introversion, she says that we all fall at different points along the introvert/extrovert spectrum and that no one is a pure introvert or a pure extrovert.  This is true, but there’s a good amount of distance between David’s “dot” on that line and mine.  It’s one of the things I love about him and it keeps marriage interesting.  Just like that old Diamond Rio song and so many aspects of our union, “Meet in the Middle” and “that’s what love’s about.”   Happy anniversary, honey.

 

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So far, it has been one hell of a ride.

 

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.

 

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