The Talk

They sat on a bench on the bike path overlooking the river. The late afternoon sun lazily making its descent to the horizon. The leaves rustling in the late fall breeze.

In days past they would have sat holding hands, or at least making some sort of physical contact. Lately, they didn’t mind the space. As a matter of fact, they felt more comfortable with a bit of separation.

They looked at each other at the same time and knew that they were both thinking the same depressing thought. They sighed.

She broke the silence first, as usual.

“How did we get here?”

“Seriously? We parked the car at the park, then followed the path to the bench” he said.

Another one of his ill-timed jokes that she used to find adorable, but now she found irritating.

“Sorry, I just don’t know how you want me to answer that.”

“I want you to be honest. I want you to tell me how you feel. Why do I always have to drag things out of you?” Continue reading

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Chunking

Our brains get lazy and let us down all the time. Mostly, this happens when we are doing something innocuous. We let our brain take over and go into autopilot.
This is called chunking. It’s when something has become so routine that our brain lumps it into one task.
For example, going to work. Do you ever get to work and think, how did I get here?
Our brains work to be as efficient as possible. You aren’t actively thinking about opening your car door, backing out of the garage, shutting the garage door, etc.
99% of the time, this results in arriving at work with no issue. But, if there is a slight change in your normal routine it can lead to a mistake. For example, you get in your car and then remember that it is garbage day. You get out of your car, roll the garbage can to the street, get back in the car, and drive away completely oblivious to the fact that you left your garage door open (not that this happened to me today, this is a fictional situation that I came up with).
Something like this has happened to all of us at some point. Our brains skip a beat and pick things back up at step 10 rather than step 9 during some ritual. It is irritating, but it is usually harmless.
So, why are you reading this? Well, sometimes chunking can lead to an embarrassing moment. Like this one…

Continue reading

An Open Letter to My Son

Dear Jude,

I write this letter with a heavy heart. Last night, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. You, of course, slept peacefully as the results came in across the country, incapable of understanding what was taking place.

This morning, you woke up smiling as I pulled you from your crib. Blissfully ignorant to the divide in our country. I have never been so jealous.

Despite telling myself that I need to stay off of social media, I could not help myself. Reactions of people all over the world range from shock and fear to elation and pride.

I started  on the shock and fear side.

See, for me, this election was about so much more than Republican versus Democrat. Conservative versus Liberal. Right versus Left.

With you in my life, this is the first election where I felt the pressure of your generation weighing down on me. I had an honest concern for the world that you will grow up in. It is not because of conservative policy or what is best for our country’s economy. It is not about trade agreements and foreign policy.

It is something far more simple and basic.

I don’t want you to grow up thinking that there are human beings that are worth less than others. I don’t want you to think Muslim = Terrorist. Black = Criminal. Woman = Object. Gay = Wrong.

What happened here is that people got sick of “the establishment” and the status quo. They wanted an outsider that wasn’t a politician (although, I would argue that when one runs for political office they then inherently become a politician). These people put their blinders on to the xenophobic, racist, bigoted, and misogynistic ideals that Mr. Trump stands for.

Let me be clear, a vote for Donald Trump does not mean that those people share the same views of other human beings (some of them do). But, they did choose to ignore those views.

Only time will tell if that ends up being worse than sharing those views.

I woke up with fear but that subsided quickly. For one simple reason.

No matter how bad things may seem, there is always love. When people attempt to spew hate, spread more love. Love will always win.

So, I promise you this today.

I will not allow the hate that exists today in.

Together, we will move forward.

I will teach you to love and respect all people regardless of their religion.

I will teach you that love is love, whether it is straight, gay or lesbian.

I will teach you that you respect the women in your life. No exceptions.

I will teach you that what a woman does with her body is her business. No exceptions.

I will teach you that even though people have different ideas on how our country will be run best (even if those ideas cause them to vote for a person such as Mr. Trump) that you respect and love them.

We will move forward. We will fight to ensure our country is not set back. We will create a bright future for you. And, I will rest easy knowing that you understand that hate and fear mongering are no way to get ahead.

I only hope that when you are old enough to read this that irreparable damage has not been done. Because even if Mr. Trump’s policies mean good things for the economy, it will be worthless if there are people who are marginalized, oppressed, or discriminated against.

We will continue to fight to make sure that doesn’t happen.

With Love,

Your Father

Cheers.

 

Seventeen Years

Seventeen years ago, today, I asked my wife to “go out with me.”

Today is also my birthday (thanks for remembering).

Here’s the thing. When I was younger and birthdays still kind of mattered, it always irritated me that our “anniversary” fell on my birthday. I am not proud of having felt this way and I regret the years that I didn’t mention it or buy something for my girlfriend.

Now, the “anniversary” is less important, so to speak, since our wedding anniversary falls on a completely different day. But, as I have grown up and we have continued our life together, my birthday has gained significance for me again.

This year seems especially important since we now have an amazing child together.

I don’t think that my fifteen-year-old self could have ever imagined what life would be like seventeen years later. In fact, I am pretty sure my fifteen-year-old self never thought about much more than 5 minutes in the future. But, I sure would like to travel back in time and give him a hug for having the courage to whisper, “will you go out with me?” in my wife’s ear.

We all have moments in our life that we look back on with regret. I know I have lots of them and, lately, they seem to be clouding my brain in a fog of negativity. Humans tend to focus on the negatives and the missed shots in their life.

Today, I get to celebrate the best shot that I took and made.

Nothing but net.

Little did I know standing in the hallway of Franklin Junior High that I was making the best choice of my entire life. Which is obvious by my countless attempts to mess it up over the years that would follow.

For some reason, my wife stuck with me through the bad times and now I am able to reflect on the woman that my wife has become. It has been nothing short of amazing.

It has been nothing short of amazing.

See, I have remained relatively the same. Aside from some disgusting weight fluctuations, I remain the remarkably average guy that I have always been. There isn’t all that much that is impressive about me. I have the same sense of humor that I did when I was fifteen. I remain relatively average in most other facets of my life.

Except for my wife and son.

Over the past seventeen years, my wife has turned into a woman. Dare I say, a sexy woman.

When I look at it now, in hindsight, it is awe inspiring and beautiful.

Professionally, she is a force. A strong, confident woman that gets things done. Everyone that works for her loves her. I am astounded by her drive daily.

As a mother, she is nothing short of incredible. She is attentive, patient, and loving every minute of the day. Even when she is covered with spit up at five in the morning, she seems to appreciate the moment and enjoy it. Even when she is exhausted and her nerves are fried due to a lack of sleep, you wouldn’t know it when she is interacting with our son.

Finally, as a wife. Well, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe what she means to me. Day in and day out, she loves me despite my many flaws. She is the reason I am the man that I am today. She is the reason that I smile when things seem to be going bad. She is the reason that I am able to get out of bed every day.

So, if you have made it this far, what’s the point?

First, I just feel like everyone should know that I have an amazing wife.

But, more importantly, I know that I am not alone in having a moment in my life that I can look on and point at as a time where my life changed for the better.

Rather than focusing on the things that did not go as planned. Focus on the time they went perfect and be grateful for that moment.

I know that today when I look at my wonderful wife and son, I will be.

Cheers.

What’s In A Nickname?

You do not get to choose your nicknames. They follow you around, silently stalking until they attach themselves to you, like a parasite, when you least expect it.

Sometimes they are funny and endearing. Sometimes they are malicious. Sometimes they are cool and catchy. The nickname that attached itself to me is somewhere in the middle, I suppose.

You have no recourse if the nickname that finds you is one that you do not care for. Resisting only results in the moniker taking a stronger hold, like a Chinese finger trap. Though, you do not realize this until it is too late.

My nickname found me in the fall of 2002 the Monday following the final football game of my senior year. The last football game of my life.

Now, it is important to give a little context that involves football, rest assured that this will not turn into a nostalgic reliving of my glory days on the football field. I have no illusions that my career was anything more than what it was, mediocre. I was not the star of the team or anything close to it. I had a weak knee, due to a snowmobile accident that I have written about previously, that caused me to play hesitant in a game that has no patience for hesitant players. I did what I could to fill my role on the team as a Fullback. I had a few games where I made solid contributions that would show up in a box score but nothing to brag about.

Well, I was 100% (1/1) kicking extra points as the backup placekicker.

That being said, I had an amazing time playing and enjoyed all of the time spent on the field with my teammates and coaches. What’s more, I was a part of a historic season as our team had the first undefeated regular season in 64 years. It’s hard not to have fun when your team is winning all of the time.

Everything came down to the section 8, Class 5A championship game on November 1, 2002. A cold, blustery day. The kind of day that you don’t want to play football unless there is something important on the line. With temperatures below freezing, everything hurts and the field, which was forgiving green grass a few months prior, now more closely resembles an asphalt parking lot.

A win on this day would send us to the next round, competing in the state quarterfinals.

Athletes, in general, are superstitious people. All sorts of traditions and rituals are followed as the competition approached. This was the case for the Brainerd Warriors. Before we would take the field to warm up for the game, we would slowly assemble in the dark basketball gym. This was not only a respite from the stench of high school locker room but also a chance to relax and visualize your upcoming performance. Time to mentally prepare for the game ahead and the game plan that was installed during practice.

This ritual was interrupted by the opposing team as they opted to warm up in the gym, avoiding the cold temperatures outside. This was an unwelcomed distraction, to say the least.

The other ritual is lining up at the top of the long stairs that overlooked the football field below holding hands with the teammate next you. The goal here was to be a cohesive unit and to have “one heart beat” as a team. Looking down at the field illuminated under the stadium lighting with our friends and family in the stands, it occurred to no one on the team that it would be the last time we would do so.

As a teenager, I spent so much time dreading football practice. Putting on the same smelly pads day after day. Conditioning in the unforgiving August heat twice a day for two weeks.

It wasn’t until we lost the game that I realized how much it all actually meant to me.

I couldn’t believe that it was over.

After shaking hands with the opposing team, we huddled as a team under our goal posts. Another ritual but this was the first time we had done so as the losing team. Another sobering pang of reality.

After a brief speech from our team captains, the field is flooded with family and friends offering condolences on the loss.

I am an emotional guy. I often wish I wasn’t but it is just who I am. I cry easy and the more I try to prevent it, the worse it gets.

Tears flooded my face as I realized from now on playing football would be nothing more than a fading memory.

Now, I will maintain that I was not the only guy crying on the field that night. There were many others. If any of you are reading this, you know who you are.

As I made my way to my parents and my girlfriend, crying, I saw the flash out of the corner of my eye. At the time, I paid no attention to this. There were pictures being taken by families all over the field. I hugged my parents as they congratulated me on a good season.

I walked around to teammates, doing the same thing.

It wasn’t until the following Monday morning that I would realize that the flash that I saw out of the corner of my eye was my nickname attaching itself to me.

As I walked into the high school a little before 8AM, still in shock that the season was over, one of best friends approached me, “Hey! It’s Timmy Baby Pants!”

“What?” I said. I had no clue where this was coming from, I was confused and anxious (the state that I am in about 75% of the time).

Laughing he said, “Nice picture in the paper, Timmy Baby Pants!”

“Wh- what picture?” I said. I had not seen the paper.

Oh no.

He calls out to another one of my “best” friends, neither of them played football, “he doesn’t know! He hasn’t seen the paper!”

They lead me down a hallway to a bulletin board hanging outside of a classroom where a teacher would pin-up articles that highlighted students performances, athletic or otherwise.

Even from a distance, I knew exactly what the picture was.

This picture adorned the front page of the sports section.

What's in a nickname?

Why me? Why would they use a picture of me? I was a meaningless role player at best. What did I do to the photographer?

“Are you sad, Timmy Baby Pants? Should we call the wambulance?” one of my “friends” says.

“Did Timmy Baby Pants lose the big game?” says the other.

This is my life now.

I tried to justify. I tried to explain that I wasn’t the only one crying. This made it worse.

By the end of the day, most of my friends were calling me Timmy Baby Pants.

By the end of the week, my mom was calling me Timmy Baby Pants.

This picture is framed and on display in my house.

It has been 14 years. The nickname remains. At least yearly, the picture is posted on Facebook by one of my loving friends. One year, a large number of people even made it their profile picture. This winter I was introduced to a mutual friend at a bar and after a moment of studying my face he said, “Wait, you’re the crying football player!”

Over the past 14 years, I have surrendered. I now realize that the stupid nickname fits. But that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

Cheers.

Timmy Baby Pants