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.

Black, White or Gray. Which would you choose?

Throughout my life I have always been worried when I don’t know what’s coming next. However, in raising the two of you I have become more comfortable with that because kids are about the most unpredictable things in the world.

And puppies…puppies are unpredictable too.  Your new puppy Remi has reminded me of that. You go 16 years without a puppy and you completely forget how hard they are to deal with. Thankfully your mom is about as good as they get when it comes to dog whisperers.

People refer to things being black and white when they are clear. People, including me, love clarity. A clear direction, clear steps on how to get where you’re going, clear plans to how to overcome obstacles that might come up and a clear finishing point. However, life only has one ultimate finish, death. Even death to some is just another journey’s beginning.

When things are not black and white, people refer to them being gray. The definition of gray is a color between black and white. While I enjoy black and white I know that things truly move forward and I have been happiest in my life in the gray.

The two of you make me happier than anything else in this world. You are the grayest of the gray. I have no idea what you are going to do next much less in your lives. What I know you have is potential.

Gray while uncomfortable is where all potential lies. This is true in almost every aspect of life. I not only hope for you that you become comfortable with the gray, but learn to embrace it and seek it out. Expand your horizons and never embrace clarity.

Seek adventure. Seek to always be better. Be better than you are today, tomorrow and ever day.


 

 

 

I Learned Everything I Need to Know from Caesar: What’s Really Important

When Caesar came into our lives we lived in a small townhouse with a linoleum kitchen and dining room floor.  That floor was perfect for a puppy going through potty training, but when I think about it, I think about it as cold and lonely. Just ask Mom.

Mom spent most of her time on that floor with Caesar until he was potty trained. Just her and Caesar.

Right about the time we brought Caesar home, I got my first senior leadership role in marketing. It was an amazing opportunity for a guy in his mid-twenties. As a point of reference all my peers were in their forties and fifties and all had been with the company for more than ten years. I was in my third year with the company.

I couldn’t have imagined falling into that opportunity, having the responsibility that I had or taking home that kind of paycheck in my wildest work dreams.

Interestingly enough though, work dreams were all that I had when I did sleep. I lived and dreamed work. Most days I left for the office before Mom was up, got to let Caesar out to go potty, got ready for work and left. I would get home late on the weeks I wasn’t traveling for work. 

If it was too late and I was in the office, I would just stay at the office until the middle of the night. Since the office was an hour drive from home I would get a room at the only hotel in town. I would take a shower, work a bit more, sleep for two or three hours, take a shower and go back to the office.
When your Mom and I did get time together, it was nice to catch up. She would tell me how she was doing and about all the things Caesar was learning. However, I only really remember vividly is her telling me about spending time alone with Caesar on the kitchen floor. Not exactly the type of conversation one usually would expect to remember with their new spouse.

We got through winter that year, but as spring was upon and new life was filling the landscapes of Minnesota, I was feeling like the life I was planning on building with your Mom was dying and slipping away.  

I really had grown to hate my job, even though I liked the people I worked with. They were tons of fun and we had some great nights on the road. I even sang karaoke for the first time; Aqua’s, “I’m a Barbie Girl.” The job though was eating me up, I was tired and I finally decided what was important.

Your Mom taught me a great lesson when we were dating. The first time I told her I loved her, her response was, “I love me too.”  Eventually, several months later she would say “I love you to me,” but she explained to me when I asked her why she wouldn’t say it to me she said,”because I need to make sure I love me when I’m with you before I can love you.” 

At the time I thought it was pretty selfish, but I finally understood it when I looked at myself as a senior leader in my mid-twenties.

I had come to the point where I didn’t love me anymore. As a result I couldn’t love Mom or Caesar. It wasn’t what I wanted for myself so I knew it was time to move on.

I took the first job offer I got, without knowing exactly what I was going to do or even how much they were going to pay me.  In part it went down that way because I was young and stupid, but the bigger part was that I knew it was an opportunity to get things right.  

My decision was validated when on my first day on the job, I finished the work they asked me to do at 5:00. I went in to ask what was next and was told. “Go home dude, it’s quitting time. Take every chance you get to go home early, because when you die you’re never going to wish you worked more”

I went home and when I got there Mom and Caesar were playing on the kitchen floor. I joined them and was on my way back to loving who I was again.

So at the end of the day Caesar taught me what was important. That vivid memory of him and Mom on the floor continues to serve as a reminder. You have to love yourself first and that is the most important thing. 

Is it selfish? Not one bit.

Who you are is your family, your friends and the experiences you have with them. It’s not just you as an individual. At the time, I was Mom, Caesar and me first. Followed closely by the rest of my family and friends.

I still value work, I take it personally and I love my work team.  And while some of them already have and some of them may at some point even make it into that circle that includes friends and family at the end of the day they are not what you are. 

You are and always will be part of me. Part of me like your Mom, Caesar and Cheddar always will be. 

I hope for you that you will always love yourself first. Your Mom gave me that lesson before I was ever ready to understand it, but Caesar was responsible in a very real way for teaching me the true meaning of that lesson.

I Learned Everything I Need to Know From Caesar – Love Changes Things

While we would have loved to bring Caesar home with us that first night we saw him, he was too young to take from his beagle mom yet.  It broke my heart leaving him know that his brothers and sisters would probably continue to get the best of him in the weeks to come. However, we knew that we would be back to rescue him.

In the weeks to come your Mom and I had lots of discussions about what was going to happen and how we were going to take care of Caesar. However, when you love someone as much as we loved Caesar a lot of those plans and rules that we made got bent or broke.  They started with the car ride home.

We had decided we were going to crate train and that Caesar would ride in the car in a crate because that was supposed to be the safest way to do it.  Almost before we even got out of Litchfield on the hour ride home Caesar was on your Mom’s lap in the passengers seat because it broke our hearts to listen to him cry inside the crate.

He would rarely ride in the crate in the car and he definitely spent more time in our laps in the front seats or buckled in his harness in the back seat than he spent in a crate in the car.

We had also decided that when we got home Caesar’s crate would be downstairs in the living room because we knew he would cry and we knew it was best for his house training to stay in the crate.  The first night he was in the house the crate made its way up to our bedroom.

In fact while he was in his crate being trained, until he fell asleep or whenever he would wake up one of us would lay on the floor next to his crate with our fingers inside the crate to keep him from crying and comfort him.

We had decided when Caesar was trained that he would lay on the dog bed next to our bed because their was no way he was sleeping in our bed.  He not only slept in our bed, but he created the standard H position and created a whole other set of challenges.

He not only slept in bed in between your Mom and I.  He slept under the covers, but only until he got overheated and would come huffing and puffing out from under the covers.  That would last until he was ready to go back under where he required one of us to lift up the covers so he could go back under the covers until he got overheated……Wash, rinse, repeat.

We broke a lot of the rules and plans when it came to Caesar and we did the same for both of you.  Because when you love something as much as we loved Caesar and as much as we love you it does not always lead to logic.

I Learned Everything I Needed to Know From Caesar: It Was Meant To Be

We said good bye to Caesar on Friday and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  The best moment of that incredibly crappy day though came when big brother leaned down to kiss Caesar as we left him for the last time and said, “I’ll see you in heaven.”

Since then, big brother did a book that was given to us by the people who helped us say good bye.  As he was drawing pictures, trimming photographs to paste and writing his memories I heard him read that sometimes it helps to write your pet’s life story so that is my intention here for a while.  However, staying with the intent of writing these messages to you I will try to offer a few lessons taught to us by our experiences with Caesar along the way.

Caesar was meant to be our dog from the beginning.  Your mom and I used to watch a lot of Animal Planet and it just so happened that on a Saturday night in 1999 they had on a dog show and during the dog show the 13″ beagle stepped up to be judged.  We had been talking about the idea of getting a dog for so long, but decided that we needed to have a house first which we had just recently got and get through our wedding day which we had just recently done.  When we saw the 13″ beagle we had finally an idea of the type of the dog that we would want.

The next morning your mom was reading the classifieds in the paper and saw and ad for 13″ beagles.  We called that day and were told that all the dogs in the litter were already gone, but we asked if we could still come out and meet them.  Lisa, from RiverBottom Beagles, said that they would probably have another litter soon and that we were welcome to come out.

After we both got done with work on a night that week we got in the car to make the hour long trip to Litchfield.  On the way we got a phone call from Lisa.  She let us know that one of the buyers had backed out and that if we wanted we could have our pick of the males in the litter.  We knew we wanted a boy too so everything seemed to be falling into place.

When we got there she brought a green laundry basket out full of beagle puppies and she asked us which one we thought we would want.  It all seemed to be going so fast and your mom definitely is not an impulse shopper, but it just felt right.

Then I saw him, the runt of the litter getting his but kicked by his brothers and sisters as they crawled over him.  I remember it like was yesterday.  I simply said, “I want him.”

It was just meant to be and that is where the story of Caesar begins.

Caesar and his Littermates
Caesar and his Littermates

Cold Feet – Maybe You’re the Problem

(Now that this is a blog for both kids I apologize in advance for the dual pronoun usage.  Get used to it folks :))

So the expression of getting cold feet is usually associated with brides and grooms before a wedding.  Which I never had with your mother, have I ever mentioned she is AWESOME!!!!

However, this post has nothing to do with it.  This is a lesson in humility, really listening, trust and evidence that I am not perfect.  Not that I really needed more evidence that I am not perfect, because no one and I really mean no one is.

So it’s been three years since big brother / you started hockey, and for three years I have been tying his skates.  For the last six months however, I had been listening to him complain about having cold feet to the point where at times he came off the ice and had to sit out of practice.  It wasn’t consistent so I just kept blowing it off as him / you being tired and he / you always has had a tendency to be more sensitive when tired.

Well as luck would have it one person says to me, “His skates are probably too small.”  We go through the process of trying to figure that out, finally taking the sole out of the skate and realizing that his / your toes were at least a half an inch over the sides of the sole on the front and the sides.  A trip to Total Hockey (Note to Self: I should be an investor there.), a brand new pair of wide width and heat moldable skates and fast forward to the next practice.

He / you were tired from a long weekend, were not paying attention, came off the ice almost crying complaining about cold feet.  It got to the point that he / you were just picking fights on the ice and were so not paying attention that he / you almost knocked your coach, who was on the ice wearing shorts, on his butt.

Another trip to Total Hockey and $45 in neoprene and insulated skates later, he / you go two or three practices without complaining about cold feet.  Problem finally solved, but then all of a sudden one more practice with cold feet when he / you are tired, but he / you powers through.

Fast forward to a practice session at Total Hockey of Minnesota (not the same as Total Hockey) and thinking I am helping one of your friends put on his skates, but he comes off the ice almost crying about how cold his feet are and he / you do the same.  Enter Google.

I Googled, “Why are my sons feet cold when he wears his hockey skates.”  Interestingly, more than one article mentions tying skates too tight as the issue.  Enter next practice and I don’t crank the laces on your skates and his / your feet have hockey stink (that is an actual aroma and not something you want to smell, but at this point it was great.) After a few practices with the fancy socks he / you revert back to wearing whatever kind of socks you have on your feet and there have not been any cold feet issues for over a month.

At the end of the day, why didn’t I listen sooner and why did it take me tying another kids skates to tight and cutting off the circulation in his feet to do a simple Internet search.  I had made up my mind on what the problem was and determined the problem was not me but him / you and I was wrong.

It’s a hard lesson for people, including myself, to learn; but sometimes you are the problem.  Sometimes you have to look at yourself first and ask, “Is it something I am doing wrong that is causing this to happen?,” and some would say that is always the first thing you should do.  I don’t know about that, but I hope I do more often moving forward.

hockey-skates-on-ice,1000538

Priorities – Hard Decisions Made Easy

If I were to summarize my priorities they would be:

1. Family
2. Friends
3. Fun
4. Work

It was that simple list that led me down the path to make one of the hardest career decisions I have ever made. Making the decision to leave Mayo Clinic.

I think it is pretty well established the impact that Mayo Clinic has had on me in both my professional and personal life. Starting with Charles Mayo pioneering the pyloric stenosis procedure that saved my life as an infant to bringing me new friends, mentors and an appreciation for life in general that I will never loose.

Ultimately the three hours I was loosing with my family a day were unacceptable and with work being fourth on the list of what is most important, the choice was easy.

I think that this lesson applies in so many ways to so many things. If you are presented with difficult decisions, just ask yourself; “Where does this fall in my list of priorities.”

Doing nothing or making the hard choice may be very easy depending on where things are on your list of priorities.

I have also done this relative to competing in triathlons. While I would love to do much better than I do today in triathlons, I do not want it to take away too much from family in the number of hours I spend training. However, while it might be something that falls lower on the list at first because I find it to be fun, the fact of the matter is that if I do not train and work out my health will suffer impacting my family. That is something I do not want to happen either.

In this case, I was able to find a compromise. I train to finish and to be healthy and focus less on the improvement than I used to. So while it may be easier to make decisions if you have priorities, the answers do not always have to be one over the other. Compromise is healthy too.

Balance

“At the end of your life no one that matters will care how well you managed a balance sheet, but the balance you managed to maintain in your life will have mattered to them.”

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