Part One: My Path to The Well

On Sunday, January 28, 2018; I stood in front of a town hall meeting and shared my story that brought me to The Well. I was given two to three minutes, probably took five to ten and I still did not even really touch on all the details of what brought me to deliver that message.  I decided that for both of you (and all others interested) that I would share in more detail here.

The Well is a United Methodist Church, and my journey to The Well is about as unlikely an event as any in my life.

Until three years ago; the thought that I would attend church, much less become an engaged and grateful member of one, was the furthest thing from my mind.

However, your mom said I could join the three of you at church if I wanted to on one Sunday morning and that was the start of my journey to The Well. A journey that I know today will never end.

Why was it unlikely?

It had been more than 30 years since I attended Church on a regular basis. I had never considered attending Church on a regular basis during that 30 plus years. In fact, Church had become to me a place where you went for weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. My memories of Church had become ones of annoyance, boredom and one specific event that started my 30 plus year hiatus.

My memories of that event, like many from long ago, are vivid. The words clear in my head as if they happened yesterday, which interestingly enough I am more likely to forget things that happened yesterday. The words echoed from downstairs and down the hall to my bedroom where I was barely awake. “Get out of (expletive) bed it’s time to go to (expletive) Church.”

Being 13 at the time and already had grown out of my dads’ clothes I had found my voice and responded, “I’m not going to (expletive) Church you (expletive) hypocrite.”

I immediately popped out of bed, locked the door and crawled under my bed. I awaited the door to be blown off the hinges and the dragging of me kicking and screaming to another Sunday service. Not even a footstep towards my room followed and only silence continued to echo with some occasional mumbling to my younger brother and sister and then the door closing as the two of them along with Dad left without me.

I had won. I was never asked to go to Church again in any manner outside of weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc.

Let me stop for a moment to share something I hope both of you by the time you read this know. Your Papa, my Dad, has changed so much and life is so different from those days. If I think about all he did back then just to make sure we survived as a very broken family, I am in awe of the way he handled that specific situation. I truly am in awe of how much you both mean to him and know how much he means to you today.

So fast forward almost 30 years and two face masks and a kicking incident in a youth football game.  Big brother was the offender.

The coach on the first offense sits you out a series, the second a full quarter and the third the rest of the game. In response you storm off intent on walking home. Your coach is yelling at you to come back and your mom heads you off and makes you come back. Your coach talks to you after the game about this game and similar incidents from previous games. The coach, with direction from the league director benches you for the next game.

I was the coach and the conflict, as much as we all tried, did not stay on the field. Our house was flooded with anger, resentment, anxiety and today; as I write this; the same type of silence and feelings I had as I laid under my bed when I decided I was going to take a stand (under my bed) and not go to Church.

The day after you served your suspension or maybe the week before, you’re Mom said to me as I laid in bed on a Sunday morning. “We’re going to Church, you can come if you want to.”

I knew it really wasn’t an option, unless I wanted to add to the negative energy that was in all of us. Well maybe not little sister who was just about one and was happy about almost everything.

So we all went. Ruth to the nursery, Graham and the rest of us to the service.

However, it was odd from the beginning. We walked past the traditional church with the altar, pews, and typical trappings. We found ourselves walking through a cafeteria where people of all ages were eating treats and the smell of coffee and sound of conversation filled the air. We walked into a gymnasium filled with chairs a up on the stage there was drummer, a guitarist, a pianist, a tambourine player and a choir decked out in not robes, but normal clothes.

We find our seats and then we are asked to stand. The music was not what I associated with Church, the members of the congregation were moving to the music and singing and clapping. I still wasn’t sold. The free coffee mug as a new attendee that we got didn’t close the deal either.

We got home and nothing really changed. The experiment had failed and Sunday’s would be mine to focus on football once again.

Then the following Sunday we went again. This time Graham went with all the kids to join in kids activities and Mom and I were alone in the service.

And we went again the next Sunday and Graham stayed and Ruth didn’t want to go to the nursery and we were all together. I had lost football Sundays and somehow at this point as we all sat together it was okay. I had no idea why, but it was okay.

Hockey season started and we didn’t make it to church every Sunday, but we still went when we could. I don’t remember the sequence of events that followed, but the events were formative and kept us coming back.

  • Graham started randomly attending service or going with the kids to do the kids activities. When he stayed he would hang out with Pastor Karen at times in the front row. When he went with the kids we picked him up, we kept hearing how well spoken and thoughtful he was.
  • Ruth randomly attended service and went to the nursery. She randomly would go with Graham to be by Pastor Karen when she attended service and at other times played with the silly putty, coloring books and other random items in the activity bag.
  • Then there was the first moment that placed me on my personal path to the well. At the end of a service, Pastor Karen would usually go to the back of Church and say her final words from the back. On this day she stayed up front and asked Graham and Ruth to join her. She simply said, “If you have any question about why we are here, we are here for these kids.”

That was the first moment I became engaged in a service. I also realized at that moment just how much had changed in our lives.

To be continued…

2017: The Crap Sandwich

Mid-December 2017

I am sitting here today with a back and leg that won’t stop hurting. They are the remnants of a bacterial blood infection that put me in the hospital on my usually favorite day of the year, Thanksgiving.

I feel between numb and nauseous most of the day remnants of the medication to treat the pain and to wipe out the remaining bacteria. Not to forget treatment for the side effects of the medication. Then there’s the medication for my usual ailments; anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart burn.

My Craptastic Crap Sandwich 2017

It’s been almost a perfect end to 2017. Let’s review how the year started:

  • A reality TV “star” was sworn in as  President of the United States
  • Cold War WW III flashbacks really have messed with my head and sleep habits

Those feelings continue to persist and the thoughts that come to mind are pretty consistently:

  • How do people fail upward?
  • The philosophy that most people get promoted to their highest level of incompetence.

Then the thing that I look forward to almost every year for what past two years turned to crap too. The youth football season was a complete bust. Even though you, son, and all the kids on the team said they had a fun season, which is most important to me, we finished 0-9.

But while the kids had fun, some of the parents on the team were not happy and I got the worst feedback of any coach in the league. I have four rules. Every one of the kids said we met all the criteria for the rules.

  1. Have fun.
  2. Be positive.
  3. Learn something.
  4. Hug your mom.

The parent feedback was that kids didn’t have fun, that I was not a positive coach, that I failed to teach and worst my number four rule was thrown in my face.

That was the feedback that hurt more than any other. As a member of the team was leaving the field with his mom, I yelled to him to ask if his mom was yelling at him for not working on rule number four. He said no, and I said, “you need to work on it finger tackler.” Apparently finger tackler was a bad thing to call him even though the kid was trying to bring kids down by grabbing a handful of jersey and kept hurting himself. The point of hug your mom was two-fold:

  1. Tackling involves wrapping up like a hug.
  2. You should hug your mom, because you never know when her or any of us won’t be there to hug.

I also had to deal with the fact that we live in a new day and age where we need to shelter kids from, among all things,being told they are fat. In the first week of practice one of the kids said to one of our big boys, “Get out of my way fat ass.”

The fat kid was starting to cry when I said, “So what, he has some fat?  That gives him an advantage that you will be thankful for some day. You need all types of body shapes to be successful in football. I have been fat all my life, it paid for a trimester of college. My little brother still to this day calls me by my grade school nickname, fatty.  You are out here exercising, you are doing you best to be in the best shape you can be. Not everyone can be the perfect body shape, be proud of who you are, even if it means being proud that your fat, but you still need to exercise and eat right.”

Three kids became part of the fat kids club and they were proud of it, but a parent overheard that and thought it was just the most awful thing to do to a child. Interestingly enough, the two other parents besides myself that were the parents of two of the three fat kids felt the season was great and for one of them who was having their fourth year of football he had the greatest season he had and for the other who it was his first year, he is coming back for more.  I also know that all of them were in better shape at the end of the season than they were in the beginning.

So what, some kids carry a little extra weight, genes are a funny thing. You work your ass off and strive to be healthier almost every day I am not going to shame that kid for being fat, I’ll celebrate it as an advantage. That is all I care about and I really just want you to be proud of who you are and that is most important.

Then there was other feedback that I showed up to practice late.

Yep. I was unexpectedly putting in extra hours at work due to a merger, but everyday I sent a practice plan to the assistant coaches and made sure someone was there.

Then there was the fact that I used foul language, but with one exception where I was very concerned about player safety I know I apologized and corrected myself.

Then I used the words shut up with my son and sometimes loud. Even though I received permission to use those words with other kids, I never did.

Then I was not using the positive coaching alliance approaches, except for the fact that I almost followed it by the letter of the law and tried incorporating at least one new thing every week. And, although every player said they had fun, they learned something, that the season was a positive experience and they all left with rule number four which I hope they remember for the rest of their lives.

I won’t go into the details of the mud slide incident, but lets just say what qualified as fun in the 1980’s has a smaller fan base in 2017. It also qualifies a coach as an embarrassment to the program versus being the best coach ever.  I did get that feedback as well.

Enough about all that jazz, I knew midway through the season that I was not going to coach next year.  Which some parents took issue with me sharing that with the kids as well. I only shared it so they knew that I was not taking over the offense because of our record, but because I wanted to focus on one facet of the game and utilize my assistant coaches better so I could watch my son play defense.

Son, I know you will excel in football as you have in hockey with a new voice at the helm. Don’t ever forget the four rules. Especially the fourth rule.

Football is not life and death, for that there is the bad things come in threes country song year-end of 2017:

  • Cheddar (our 16-year-old beagle) died
  • I lost my job
  • I was given a 50/50 chance to live and 30% chance of paralyses

A definite topper to the crap sandwich.

Time to Move Forward – January 2018

The year may have been mostly a crap sandwich, but there were so many things that brought me joy last year. Most of them come from the two of you.

 

Son, you had a great Association Hockey season, the families were a true hockey family and your teammates for the most part helped you grow more than any other teammates you had in the past.  Not to mention you boys took home your fair share of hardware.

The Association season was followed by a great AAA Hockey season and a baseball season that was amazing. You played most of the baseball season with a broken wrist, but you didn’t miss an at bat or any play in the field.  You even hit a home run the first game you played with your cast on.

Then there was  the great part of your football season, I loved to watch you play. You were amazing and my desire to just watch you play was another reason that I will be on the parent sideline next year.

Finally for sports, you ended the year starting another Association season of hockey with a great coach. Your team is truly a team and the hockey family we have is just as amazing as the one you had at the beginning of the year. They have been instrumental in making sure you have had a good season and so generous with their time, money, prayers and love. You also continue to grow as a player and as an individual. When your coach calls you a team leader I light up with pride.

Beyond sports, you continue to perform at a high level academically, you have blown me away with your clarinet playing and you have grown up big time.  You’re maturity scares me at times, because it reminds me how quickly you are growing up. The things you used to need help with that you do on your own make me proud and sad at the same time.

Baby girl, you have grown up so much too. You hit four (going on 40) this year. The world is yours to be ruled by you according to you and if you hit an obstacle you always try to move forward. You began ice skating this year (no hockey plans still) and are skating with kids that are mostly two or three years older than you. You have brought me so many great memories watching you swim, although I am pretty sure by next summer you will not be able to jump off my head as you continue to grow.

As we continue to grow as a family and individuals we have also found a wonderful church. The Well has been a great to us and I hope that we all can continue to grow with our family at the Well to make us better people.

Kids, at the end of the day; you, our family, our hockey family, our church family and our friends and your mom are there for me…and Remi (our new dog) too.  Your mom especially has shown all of her super powers. Your mom is the best role model you can have. Your mom is penultimate professional, nurse, chef, taxi driver, hockey mom, wife, mom and so much more. All of us are lucky to have each other, but without mom, I am not even going to guess.

Family, friends and love will get us through everything, including a crap sandwich of a year.

 

 

Older People Drive Slower Because They are the Smart Ones

It’s funny how being told you have a 50/50 chance of living affects how you view life in general. For me, the biggest impact has been on my driving habits. I drive slower.

I always used to complain about slow drivers and inevitably the majority of the people that I was complaining about and giving the evil glare were older at least in appearance. When I say older I mean senior citizens, the people that you perceive as closer to death.  Just stating facts here.

Right up until the day before I went into the hospital I remember both thinking and saying out loud, “You would think old people would be the ones that drove faster, because they has less time left and should be trying to do as much as they can.”

Well, being told you are going to die actually doesn’t make you want to go faster and get more done at all. Your life may flash before your eyes right before you die, but all I want to do at this point is slow down.  I want to relish every moment, every breath, every detail.

The fact is detail fades away the faster you go. Everything becomes a blur, flashes of light and streaks of colors. I have no desire to do that anymore.  I have no desire to go fast and get more done. I just want to go at a pace where every detail sinks in.

Your mom has told me more than once, actually more times than I could ever remember, that my attention to detail sucks. It is the pace that I had a propensity to move at that had a significant impact on it.  I moved at a pace that caused the details to become blurs and flashes.

I think I already may have mentioned that the hardest part of being in the hospital and not being well was missing hockey games.  It wasn’t just missing the hockey games, because even when your mom made it better by Face Timing the games, it wasn’t nearly as great as being there.

I couldn’t see your smile on the ice son when you scored your goals or went to hug your teammates.  I could see the sparkly eyes baby girl, when you inevitably would ask for a treat.  I couldn’t see that look on Mom’s face when she had to run to that late third period in a close game potty break that sometimes was baby girl just being bored more so than having to go.

Now that I am back at the rink, even that nasty hockey smell is awesome. The disappointment in the losses really isn’t all that disappointing. My appreciation for all the work and effort you have gone through to get to where you are son is greater. My appreciation for your mom letting me be by myself to watch the game in the corners while she manages you baby girl is greater.

Lastly, I drive slower.

I appreciate the opportunity that I have to observe the world and see things clearer. I know that I am less likely to have an accident too. I truly appreciate knowing that an accident could take me away from both of you.  While that day will inevitably come, I am definitely not in any hurry to get there.

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