2021: The Year of F*#% It.

If 2020 has taught me anything. It is to not take things for granted (hold on to your hats, this will be a bitch session). After the year that we have all had, we needed nothing more than to get on a plane and head to a destinition that we have dreamed of visiting — I am dead serious; I was about to snap!

The pandemic has brought with it social distancing; social distancing meant that we couldn not travel. We were unable to buy a plane ticket and catch the next flight out of the state with the same carelessness that we did before.

Maybe I miss the carelessness. I was a jet setter in my youth, dammit!

Before the pandemic, I would get an itch to travel, purchase a ticket, and take off — whether it was just my wife and I, or with our kids in tow — without even batting an eye.

Damn, I missed the carelessness. 

So now that group travel is an option, what have I done to fulfill my travel itch? Absolutely nothing. 

Jack. Shit.

Actually, I have been watching Travel Channel… and looking at travel pages at Barnes and Noble… and pinning places that I need to visit when able on Pinterest. But I have not make been able to make that jump; to buy that ticket; to spend that money.

That is, until now.

Motivation

Examining positive things in your life along with practicing gratefulness is extremely necessary right now. I often look at all that I have and consider myself extremely fortunate to be where I am in my life. But in the end, we have to be realistic. It is becoming harder and harder to live a quality life under our current constraints. So it is also essential to recognize when you are swamped, or stressed, or keeping barely above water. And I am telling you that, like many of you, I am all of those things. So if 2020 showed that life is too short. 2021 will be the year that I say, “Fuck it!”

Yup, I said it. I said it because I have not said it enough. I have been worried about a lot of other things other than myself and my happiness. I have been making excuses as to why I have to hold back. But not anymore. I deserve to have those experiences that I have been working for.

My family has not seen the ocean. I mean, seriously, what the hell am I waiting for? Retirement? Savings? College for the kids? I literally have no idea. 

My wife and I were doing everything the right way financially when the unthinkable happened. A damn pandemic. Who in the hell prepares for a global pandemic. Some people were more stocked up and ready for a zombie apocalypse than they were for a global pandemic. So now that movement is an option, what am I going to do? I sure as hell am not going to let opportunity pass again, that’s for damn sure!

I am taking some of that saved up money and spending it on experiences for my family and me. I will travel, travel, travel with my wife, travel with kids, and travel with friends. I will spend money on things that I have wanted to have, see, and/or do. This is going to be a total reassessment of my priorities.

Fuck it.

Disclaimer

I am not going to break the bank. If I do make it to retirement age, I will need something to live on. But again, we have learned in the past year that nothing is guaranteed.

Basketball is a Spectator Sport — For Me

I debated writing this, but, in the end, I think it is more important to share. Don’t judge me!

I have come to a pivotal point in my life. I did not know that I would get to this moment, and it came on suddenly. In fact, it came on so sudden that it took me by surprise. What happened, you ask?

My oldest daughter told me that my help was no longer needed during her basketball games.

Back when I was a genius…

I was not surprised that I was told that my help was no longer needed; it was the manner in which it was done.

I will provide some context:

I have been my daughter’s coach since she was able to run. I have been her basketball coach since she could pick up a ball. Playing basketball and learning new skills has been a part of our relationship – a bonding point between us. Like other kids who have played on a team coached by a parent, we had our ups and downs. But, with my wife’s help, we had always hugged it out with some understanding. Now, she plays on the high school team, which puts me on the sidelines – and I am okay with that.
During her second game, she was defending a girl, who I believe was a weak ball-handler.

“Get up on her!” I yell.

And that is when she looked at me, while playing defense, and held her hand in a way that represented open lips, and she pressed her fingertips together – closing the “lips”.

Yup, that is correct; she motioned for me to shut up — all without getting out of defensive position.

Son. Of. A. Bitch! She shushed me.

I was so shocked by this! I went through a gamut of emotions:

What the…?!

How dare…?!

Ungrateful ass!

Just then, I turned and looked at my wife who was sitting next to me with a family friend – laughing. Not just any laugh; it was a full-out belly laugh. And then it hit me – I am no longer my daughter’s coach. It was time for my transformation from father/coach to father/mentor/fan.

I had once read the book, Changing the Game, which has a lot of useful information concerning the way parents can help and hurt their kids in youth sports. One thing I took away from the book is this question:

Do my actions reflect the values I want my child to embody.

Both on and off the court, I want my child to have the following:

  1. A love for the sport,
  2. A growth mindset,
  3. Confidence,
  4. The ability to make mistakes,
  5. The ability to learn from mistakes,
  6. The ability to correct mistakes,
  7. Independence.

By her gesture, she was claiming her independence. She was ultimately doing everything I asked of her since she was in third grade — I cannot be mad at that. It is effortless to yell out and coach from the sideline. But that is just it; I am no longer on the sideline – I am in the audience, which brings up another thing that this book has taught me—the importance of saying to her the words:

I Love Watching You Play.

She is such a fierce competitor.

As a youth athlete, I remember nothing that I disliked more than the post-game report — especially after a loss. I did not get it from my parents but from the parents of my peers. They all thought that they were being helpful, but mentally, it was not. My parents? I believe that they knew that there were more pressing issues in the world than how much I scored or how much playing time I received. They left the improvement up to me. If I was going to be good at anything, it would be intrinsically motivated (but don’t get that confused with not caring).

So, what did I gain from this experience?
I should count my blessings that I have a healthy daughter who loves to play basketball at a high level. Before each game, I should review my goals for her this year. Realistically, the goals I have for her have very little to do with a specific sport but life lessons that she can use for the future.

Let’s Go, Afro!

The Decision

To be a black male is to live a life that is full of contradictions. Contradictions that cause us to make decisions that we may not understand. Decision that now our black boys are having to make.

It is a critical one that directly affects them future and the future of their children.

It is one that has been overlooked in our society for far too long, and it is time we discussed it.

It is a decision whether to assimilate or not.

Each path comes with favorable and less favorable outcomes. And, it is a decision that each black individual will need to make for himself.

The decision is whether to become an assimilationist or a non-conformist.

The definition of assimilation is to act accordingly with the intent of fitting in and or conforming. In this case, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

A non-conformist is a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices. Again, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

For a black male, assimilation can be considered a good thing. A black person who chooses to assimilate is more likely to be accepted and given privileges that maybe not part of their original environment — an environment that could deviate from society’s expectations of “success.” On the other hand, choosing to assimilate could come at a great price. The acceptance of one set of norms could mean the a denial of another. The ability to attain and keep street credit within ones own community (not just geographical location) is an important part of the black society. To be able to walk down the street and get “the nod” from peers means acceptability and the ability to walk through certain neighborhoods with confidence and respect.

For a black person, to be a non-conformist is to keep and maintain street credit, which holds the ability to walk around a neighborhood as a leader or a a well-respected member of that community (again looking at more than geographical location). People who do not understand this may ask, “Why would anyone forgo the opportunity to improve themselves for street credit?” Those people would be missing the point.

Improving oneself is only relative to society’s definitions of success. If a house, a car, and a picket fence is society’s definition of successful, then the non-conformist may net ever meet the expectations for success, which is why it is important that society does not create perimeters for what it is to be successful. Success can come in many forms and is only contingent on each individual who must decide for oneself when enough is enough.

In order for black youth to be able to make a concious decision, they must first be presented with the question through conversation. This conversation between older and younger generations of blacks males needs to be had and must continue because it is critical. The conversation has not gotten any easier — especially for those of us who live in homogenous communities.

Look no further than the current state of events. It is getting harder and harder to avoid the elephant in the room. It is harder to look past the fact that if it were a group of African Americans that stormed The Capitol, we would be reading a different story. But, who bears the cross of uncomfortable silence? Is it me – who fears that the conversation could go too far and disrupt my livelihood or my life’s work? Or is it my community — who has to live with the fact that there are some truths that they must come to terms with? Especially since the community knows and interacts with me, my wife, and my children daily.


Once again, I, a forty-year-old man, am forced to decide between assimilation and non-conformity. I am once again forced to make a decision that can derail what I have worked for. I am forced to make the same type of decision that I had to as a youth.


Is it fair? No.


Is it real? Yes.


So, here I am, stuck between two worlds — forced to navigate this world without a playbook, instructional manual, or a tour guide. Trying to be successful, while trying not to become a traitor –

An Uncle Tom.

An Oreo.

A Coon.

While also not trying to be angry —

ungrateful

ghetto

intimidating.

It is a terrible thing to be black male to be labeled as one of these things. But, it is a reality.

This is why representation matters. This is why we need black people in positions that matter. Black males deserve to have people in positions that matter!

We shouldn’t have to make this decision. But we do — and, as a whole community, it is our job to guide our black youth and not judge their decision. There are no wrong answers, only consequences.

To Be Young, Gifted, and Unapologetically Black

Many people say to me, “I don’t see color, I just see a person.”

I think it is about time that you start to see color.

I am black.

I am proud to wear it.

It is a badge of honor.

Seeing me as a black man would help you realize how I, along with many others, have to navigate this world.

When a black man is gunned down while he is jogging, you can expect social media to buzz. It’s easy to say, “I’m glad that doesn’t happen where I live.”

Many of us, regardless of color, have said that. Including me.

When you look at me, you see a confident, educated, capable individual on the surface. But inside, I have been suppressing forty years of experience in my skin, and a boatload of instances that suggest that this type of racism is not so rare.

A few years ago (when writing checks was still a thing), a clerk at a local grocery store told me it was against policy to write a check for more than purchase. They cashed checks for my wife all the time. She is Caucasian.

When we first moved to town, an older lady from the community stopped by to welcome us and asked if we had a church.  She suggested one to us that she had “referred another colored family to a few months ago.”

When Covid-19 hit, and officials were recommending that people wear masks, a part of me was more worried about people perceiving me as a threat.

I once looked at a pair of earrings at a department store jewelry counter. After the clerk locked them safely away in the case, she accused me of putting them in my pocket. My girlfriend pointed out her mistake; that was enough to settle it. She didn’t apologize.

I applied for a position for which I had more experience and was better qualified to do than the competition. I didn’t get the job and my boss told me it was because I was “rough around the edges.”

Earlier this year, my wife and I spent a long weekend with friends in Arizona. When we booked the trip, I started researching the social climate of the area we were headed. Finding it to have little diversity, I took my wife with me on my morning walks.

These are just a few of the realities that I have faced as a person of color.

A black man.

And yet, I, like others, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and persevere. It is what my mother and father expect of me.

I often feel bad for my wife, who married the love of her life – not realizing the anxiety she would experience with starting a family with me. She did not know the terror she would feel when she sees a person of color receives racial injustice. She did not envision the sheer horror she would experience towards those injustices as her sons grow older – the crippling uncertainty of their futures.

This is not a “woe is me” post. I need everyone in the room to realize that a person of color can go through life doing everything right:

– following the laws,

– getting the highest marks,

– receiving a degree,

– loving their family and community,

and still, receive “less than” because of their color.

This is not our father’s racism; this is systematic – and it is time we discuss it.

 

Parenting: This can’t be right, can it?

I was reading the book, Every Moment Matters by John O’ Sullivan when I came across this passage:

Far too many coaches think skill is the aggregation of various techniques that are then applied in a linear fashion back into the competition. That fundamentally misunderstands the fact that skill is something that requires context to develop. You cannot separate it from context. You need problems to be solved in order to develop skill. In a practice with no game-like activities, with no defenders or direction to force decision-making, there may be technical development, but there is very little skill development. And without skill development, there is no transfer.

As I read this passage, I thought about the implications it had on my parenting (which is weird, because I chose this book so that it could inform my coaching).

I am a father. I am not so much a helicopter father, but I am an asshole parent. I am that guy who will not let his kids do “whatever the other kids are doing.” I am that guy who creates hard-line expectations for his children that have consequences if not met. I am the guy whose children are the last in the class to have the latest technology/social media platform. I am their father; it is my duty to protect them. To say that I do not enjoy wearing that badge would be an outright lie; I wear it as a badge of honor.

Until I realize that there is a fine line between protection and shielding.

The book continues,

Transfer is the ability of a learner to successfully apply the behaviors, knowledge, and skills acquired in a practice environment to the competition. If training environment does not mimic those game conditions or if it poses decisions and scenarios that are no encountered in a game, then transfer does not occur.

In the parenting realm, this means that if I am applying discipline to my children for them to be able to transfer lessons into real-life situations, that is a pat on the back for me. But, if I am applying discipline that shields them from transferring lessons into real-life situations, then shame on me. I would be blocking the side of the discipline that promotes learning.

The hope is for my children to find themselves in a situation and mentally go through this checklist before making a decision:

  • Perceive the situation.
  • Conceive of possible solutions.
  • Decide on the best solution.
  • Deceive their opponent, if necessary.
  • Technically execute their best solution.
  • Asses their choice and prepare for the next day.

Is there a right or wrong answer when it comes to handling situations, no. There are only positive and negative consequences based on their decisions and actions. Hopefully, when they are conflicted, my likeness can pop on their shoulder and point them in the right direction.

Likeness Ownership, Digital Footprint, and Growing Up

For the past 12 years, I have brought you the ins and outs of my entire family, Mostly the times when I stick my foot in my mouth. I am sure you all enjoy typing “Heather is a Saint” in the comments.

My household has come to a milestone. A benchmark.

My first-born is a teenager…ish.

Shit.

Help me.

I am not ready for this bullshit.

For the past 12 years, I would see something funny, dumb, or light-hearted, and quickly publish it for the world to share.

And, whether you want to admit it or not, that shit is funny.

After a while, she would become perturbed.

“Dad! Really! Do you really have to take pictures of everything?”

“Yes.”

“Does it have to go to social media?”

“Yes.”

*Marches out of the room without swinging arms in a pre-teenagerly way.

(Just to dig one in) “I legally own your likeness until 16!”

*door slams

I have come to the conclusion that when she becomes a teenager, she is to own her likeness. Yes, really I own it, but she should have a say in how she is represented. I have to accept the fact that she is no longer a little girl and she should be able to choose the way that people interpret her actions. She has a personality, and (God help us) it is damn similar to mine.

Next, will come the lesson on digital citizenship and etiquette.

Part 2

Before I could even get this first part posted comes the other question:

Why can I not get a (insert social media here)?

I am usually the “because you are too young now shut up and go away” parent. But this time I decided to be the “transformational leader”.

I should have stuck with what I knew.

Do you know how hard it is to explain digital marketing and business ownership to a pre-teen? It is full of, “So, what,” and, “I know that,” and, “All of my friends have it.” Seriously, let’s just forget the chapter about owning your own likeness, digital theft, and copyright.

“Do I really need to know all of this if all I want to do is have fun?”

Fuck. Yes. Little girl.

First of all, the world is a cruel place with shitty people looking to make a buck anywhere they can get it. And second, what is the first thing a potential employer or recruiter does before contacting you about a position?

I’ll wait.

They Google your name. That’s right, you may not get a call back at 20 because of the shit you did at 13 and thought it was funny. So please forgive the long-winded, passionate overprotective speech that your dear, caring father is giving you.

…and spare me the eye roll please.

Am I going to give you your own social media, yes — prohibition in the digital age will work just as well as prohibition in the 1940’s. But you are going to learn the rules, you are going to give me the password to your accounts, and you are going to get used to constantly looking over your back to spot me on my helicopter.

Man Up: Lesson #3

Here is the thing, gentlemen. I have an attitude problem. I am very quick to get offended and I am the type of person who will use confrontation in order to resolve it. So, when I say this, I am coming from a place of caring and understanding.

The lesson of this post: Live to see another day.

This is a line that could save your life, your career, or your marriage.

Storytime:

I was driving home with both kids in the van when a car cuts across two lanes and almost puts me into a snowbank. Being the person that I am, I follow the car for another mile before the car pulls over and a young man gets out. Two things become obvious at this point:

  1. I can kick his ass for sure.
  2. I am going to kick his ass for sure.

So what did I do?

I drove away.

Here’s why.

First, I don’t know what this guy may have had on him. He could have had a weapon, and if he did, what was  I prepared to do about it — especially with kids in the van?

Second, I knew that I could kick this kid’s ass, but then what? Sure, I would have immediately felt better — until the consequences hit. People are not built like they used to. They admit wrongs and take their deserved lickings. He would have gone to the police, and I would have been arrested for assault, which may have resulted in the loss of my job and/or career. That would have messed with my money; and doing that is a no-no.

Third, he could have retaliated in an unforeseen way — always a bad deal.

Fourth, what example would I show my kids? That if you can overpower a person who offends you, kick their ass? Let me be clear; if there is a person who threatens the well-being of you and/or your loved ones. Kick their ass, enjoy kicking their ass, and make them remember it so you don’t have to kick their ass again. But, if what the person did was only offended you, keep walking.

So, what is my point?

It is super easy to get mad, threaten violence, and even act on that violence. But, in the end, where does that leave you? Always hurting yourself. When people get in trouble for violent acts, it is often because of a split-second lapse of judgment. By the time their wits are about them, they realize that they did something that they are unable to fix or take back. Don’t take the easy way out. I am not saying that you will not want to, I am saying try your best not to. In any given situation, you have more to lose than they do.

Public Figure

Previously, I had written about my pet-peeve of complaining about a situation without having a call to action. I discussed how the mentality that “somebody should really do something about that” is far too commonplace in our society. Individuals should get off of their butts and do something, rather than talking about what others should do.
It seems that I have arrived at one of those instances where I need to put my money where my mouth is. It is time for me to take the next step in being involved in my growing community. It is time for me to take the reigns and become a leader that envokes change and accepts constructive criticism.
It is time for me to run for public office.

No, I am not running for Mayor.

Not yet…

But I am going to run for a position on the City Council.

Never in a million years did I think I was going to run for office. However, as the years have gone by (and my house became more crowded), I realized that a person has to get involved in the community to improve it. So, I have worked to build our community and make an impact. But I want to make a more significant difference. A seat on the City Council can do that.

Running for office is not about me. This is about having the ability to make a powerful difference for the good of the community.

  • I want to improve the overall economic health of the community.
  • I want to be a person who actively listens to the community and votes with their considerations.
  • I want to create opportunities for our children to grow up in a community that gave them every opportunity to become successful citizens.

We live in a wonderful city. I want to help make it even better.

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.

ManUP Lessons For My Sons #2

Boys,

It is my duty as your father to teach you how to be a man. Honestly, I do not know how to do it because, other than having a penis, I really don’t know how to be a man. So, I am going to do my best to figure this out and teach you. Most of the lessons will be based on my experiences and my mistakes.

Hopefully, by the end, you will still have some resemblance of respect for me.

I am not going to bore you with statistics or anything (you can find the numbers to justify anything). But I will give you an honest answer. Like I said before, I do not know how to be a man. People tell me that I am a good man, but I really don’t know what that means. And my personal definition of being a man has changed as I have grown older.

When I was in elementary school, I thought that to be a man was to be physically tough. Girls liked the tough guys. If people were too scared to mess with you, you were perceived to be a badass. Badass boys aways had girls that hung around them. Being a chubby elementary kid, I thought I would attempt to be a tough guy to increase popularity. This would have been successful, but for a couple of things:

  1. I was a nice guy and definitely not a fighter.
  2. I was afraid to get hit in the face.
  3. I was not very cute.
  4. I was prohibited by my parents to sag my pants.

In junior high school, I thought that being a man had a lot to do with the sports you played. Girls loved the boys who could jump high, run fast, or lift the most weight over their head. They also enjoyed sneakers — really dope sneakers. I thought to myself, “Hey, I play sports, I should be able to do this. I just need a pair of fresh kicks!” There were a few problems with this:

  1. I had only played streetball; organized ball was another story (I would never make the junior high varsity team).
  2. My mother did not believe brand-name shoes were necessary (especially Jordans). Hey, shoes are shoes!
  3. So, she bought me a pair of Kevin Johnsons instead. 
  4. Oh wait, she decided to get the knockoffs from Walmart. “They look just like them!”
  5. As the basketball season went on, the stitching in my “FakeJ’s” started to come undone. By mid-season, my shoes were shedding all over the court and looked like I was wearing a pair of Air Chia Pets. No Shit.

And then, there was high school. I started lifting weights, I got better at basketball, and I began to play football and track. And, I was sporting a pair of “Allen Iversons.” Surely, I had made it. I was on my way to popularity, which would put me on a sure path to manhood. Look at me! When I flexed, you can see a line in my bicep! Look at it.

It was not meant to be. Although my popularity grew, it was not until I went to college that my real journey into manhood would begin.

At first, I believed that I should be a strong, confident college man that have women swooning all over him, which was what I read in all of the men’s magazines: 

“How to get abs,”

“How to get the girl that is out of your league,”

“How to know her socks off in bed,”

“What foods you should eat to live longer and look good doing it,”

“What places you should visit before you die, what careers offer you the best payday….”

So that became my mission, to live up to what those magazines said was the ideal life. And you know what? I achieved most of what the magazine said I should. I had the abs, I had women, I spent a lot of money on travel, and I was in college and working towards my career. I believed that I was living the life that I was supposed to. But, as they said, if you tell God your plan, he laughs. 

What I was shown was that I was living a superficial lifestyle. I was shown that I was headed in the wrong direction. And then, I was taught that what I wanted was stupid.

Who showed me this? Your mother. And, she was nothing like I had ever imagined. And so, I married her.

I read a book that your mother gave me called Chasing Skinny Rabbits. Although it is not a “knock your socks off” book, there were takeaways within that book that would ultimately change my life. The author discusses people’s perceptions of what is fulfilling in their lives. People are always chasing after the next thing only to find that when they achieve it, the sense of accomplishment is not there, so they move onto the next thing. The skinny rabbit is impossible to catch. Manhood, or the perception of it, is a skinny rabbit. Manhood is subjective, so chasing after it only means that you are chasing after something else — whether that be love, lust, money, or material things. All of which lead to destructive behaviors.

The Lesson:

  1. Be kind
  2. When you make a mistake, own it
  3. Be chivalrous 
  4. Create realistic goals
  5. If you start something, finish it

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