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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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…

 

Father of the Year Moment #493 – Therapy Awaits

‪Oldest daughter, grossed out:‬

‪“Put a shirt on!”‬

‪(Bouncing my pecs) “Why should I? I look damn good for my age!”‬

‪“Okay, that is just weird”‬

‪“Pretty sure your friends’ moms don’t think so…”‬

‪“What!”‬

‪“That’s right! I am funny, good looking, and I rock the muscles; sorry, but I got it all. (Double bicep) I’m a hot dad…”

*shocked and mortified*

‪“Mom!”‬

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.

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.

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