Stuff I Hate

People have told me I’m getting too serious. Let me fix that. Here is a bunch of stuff I hate.

1. Jared from Subway. No real reason. The man makes me feel violent.

2. When my wife tries to sneak low-fat cream-cheese into my diet. You are not fooling anyone. It is like spreading Elmer’s paste all over my bagel. Knock that crap off.

3. People who stand in line at a fastfood place for 15 minutes and decide to start their decision making process when they get to the register. If you do not know that you want a cheeseburger by now you never will. Get out of line.

4. Time changes. That is just stupid.

5. People who say, “Yeah, no, right?” I asked you the question. I do no need three contradicting responses. Yes? No? Move on.

6. Monkeys. They are disgusting. See previous post entitled “Dad, Get me a beer.”

7. People who order rum and Diet Coke. It’s not the calories that are killing you.

8. The “Very Special” sit-com episode. If I am watching this show, I want you to make me laugh. Do not try to teach me something. Do not make the characters “real.” Make laugh. Now.

9. The lack of an IQ requirement to use the self-check out line. You all know what I mean. On to #10.

10. People who think that “No Pets” sign does not apply to them because they are toting around some rat-dog. I do not care if it is canine, rodent, or if your will states that the creature you are pushing around in a stroller gets your house. It is still some type of animal. It is a pet. Get it out of here. While I am at it, if there is a doggy afterlife, there are wolf ancestors waiting to destroy that creature for being toted around in a carrier while wearing an argyle sweater.

That’s it for now.

Pinewood Derby

Four years ago we attended our first Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. Grandpa and I helped James and Ben with their cars but really had no idea what to expect. When we walked into the race we were a little concerned that maybe we had violated “The car should have minimal adult assistance” rule. We had not. Cars that had obviously spent time in a NASA wind chamber destroyed us. I am pretty sure one had a nitro-tank on it. James and Ben were by far the two slowest cars in the field, and it was not close. It was like watching the 2008 Detroit Lions go 0-16. Dan Orlovsky, you just ran out of the back of your own end-zone and do not even know it! As we left, Grandpa said, “That will never happen again. They do not have to win, but it won’t be like that again.”

Grandpa is a very handy, skilled man. I am not. The following year he fell out of a tree stand and broke several vertebrae. He spent the next couple of weeks on the couch. Did he read? Watch movies? Write a blog? Nope, he spent hours watching YouTube videos on making Pinewood Derby cars. Realizing that my involvement would more than likely result in some type of gruesome injury, I excused myself from the process and let Grandpa and the boys go to work.

There was a lot of time put in those cars for the next three years. Yes, G-pa was heavily involved. Whether or not people believe it, he provided guidance, suggestions, told the boys how to distribute the weight and helped with a lot of the assembly, but he made those boys do the grinding, put in the graphite, do the test runs, etc. When the boys were done working, the cars went away and Grandpa was hands-off. James, who put in significantly more work than Ben, won the next two Pinewood Derbies and moved on to Boy Scouts. Ben won in his final tournament today. Would they have won without Grandpa? No chance, but I am comfortable with the work they put in. They put in a lot of hours and had a very talented adult with them. So be it.

I loved watching my kids win and seeing their excitement, but I the time my boys spent with Grandpa was far more important than winning. My father and I are very different people and frankly do not have a lot in common. He can build or repair almost anything. I draw stick figures. He sits in a tree stand (when he’s not falling out) for hours to hunt and has been all over the country hunting various animals. I once bagged a 10-pt on Big Buck Hunter on the Wii while sitting on my couch. I have never heard of someone falling off their couch and breaking their back while shooting stuff. We think differently, have different opinions and sometimes it can be difficult for us to find a common ground/interest so when my kids have an opportunity to spend that much time with him, it is very special to me. G-pa has a skill set that I will never possess and it thrills me that he will spend so much time working with them and giving them that opportunity that I could never provide them.

Yes, my boys had a pretty dominant three-year run at Pinewood Derby and it is mostly because they got to work with a very talented man. Not going to lie about that. My suggestions for flame-throwers (seriously, you know pinewood has to be highly flammable) were ignored and time was spent working with tools that I did not know even exist. I can use a fork. I see things. I stab them. I eat them. That is how I use tools. Yes, we have a lot of trophies laying around now, but I am far more proud that my boys and grandpa had a three-year run of working together on a common interest. All three had a blast doing it, and that is what is important to me.

Thanks Grandpa

** Footnote. This year there was Pinewood Derby division for adults. Grandpa finished 2nd.
11046355_10155424657930341_1025364290123878466_n

385172_10152482425065341_1356018548_n

Father-Sons Weekend Rules

OK, boys. Mom has left for a four day week-end. I do not remember if this one is for scrap-booking, college reunion, a race, or what. In fact, I am not 100% sure where she is but I know it is the three of us for a few days. Let me take a few minutes to review how the rules change when Dad is flying solo.

1. The quality of your dining experiences are about to decrease. Actually, you can count on spending some time in a restaurant or seeing dinner delivered. No, it will not be McDonalds. Anything else you eat this weekend is probably coming out of some type of box.

2. Hey Ben. Dad does not play your night-time games. All those nightly calls for someone to come upstairs because you have a question about the weekend, you dropped a pillow and want mom to get it, you want someone to get you water or you want to plan a meeting of your comic-book club? You remember how those work on these weekends? You call downstairs. I remind you that mom is not home. You say, “Oh that’s right. You don’t play those games. Never mind.” That rule is in effect.

3. We all get one “Don’t Tell Mom” card. I will feed you something she does not like, I will break something, say something inappropriate, get bored and make an impulse buy, or get fed up with some mess mom left here and just throw everything away. I play my card and you play yours. I will not rat you out for spilling something, breaking something, or leaving some expensive item at school. That’s the deal, boys. Code of Silence. Omerta.

4. When I say we are leaving at 9:15, the car is rolling at 9:15. We are not walking out the door at 9:20 then running back inside for a billion different things. Better be ready to saddle up.

5. You will probably get a little extra video game time. Good for you, but you know this rule. You can ask me once. Fine. I will assume the next request was a reminder. The third request is nagging and every time I get nagged, you lose just a little more time. I kind of enjoy the breaks you gaming time gives me. I will not forget them. Let’s keep the nagging to a minimum.

6. Sure, we can stay up a little later for a guys’ night. I would hope you would give the courtesy of sleeping in a little extra in the morning. I would hope for it, but the data suggest I should not expect this.

7. We are going to have fun.

My Boy Chose Right!

Sometimes you have to let the boy choose. You try to give them the freedom to weigh options and choose, but you secretly pray that he chooses the option that most benefits you.

Ben plays travel soccer and the season starts soon. He loves it. I love it. I love soccer. I like his team. I like his coach. I like watching the games and practices. I have already paid for all the uniforms, ref fees, and equipment. His games are pretty local. His first game is about six weeks away.

Ben also does Destination Imagination. He loves it. I do not. Destination Imagination is basically an event that his team works on for weeks on end. It culminates in a competition that boils down to parents sitting in some random school gym for a couple hours before the kids perform a 5 minute, mumbled and incoherent skit that centers around some project they worked on. Usually a load-bearing structure. Parents then sit in the gym for a couple hours more. Then the kids go to a room for some problem-solving contest. No parents are allowed in. We get more gym time. Then the parent sit in the gym until the awards ceremony. Usually in a gym. It is a slight step above hell but the kids love it. Ben’s team competed last week and again qualified for the State competition which is the first week of soccer. Of course.

Here is the kicker. State Competition is a three hour drive to the town I went to graduate school in. I hate that town. In fairness, when I went there I had just finished my undergrad work. I left my girlfriend back at the college I had spent the last few years drinking my way through and was now renting some lady’s basement and trudging back and forth to a library for a few years. The town did not get a fair shake, but I despised my time up there. All my friends were getting married or getting paid to work while I sat in a library, eating 49 cent Hot-N-Now Burgers and watching my relationship with my girlfriend (now wife) disintegrate. When I left, I swore I would never set foot in that town again. I have driven through that city in such desperate need of a restroom that I was sweating, but refused to stop until I was outside of the city limits. I swore my feet would never touch that soil again. I broke that vow last year for Destination Imagination State.. Here we go again

I had to let Ben understand the commitments he made, weigh the options and choose However, here is what it boiled down to. In the white corner, weighing in as a weekend at home with a couple hour commitment that I enjoy…. Soccer! In the red corner, weighing in as six-hours-of drive time, hundreds of dollars in hotel and food fees, countless hours of sitting in lobbies, and time spent in the wasteland of Mount Pleasant, MI (oops, I said it. Sorry CMU. Oops, again)… we have Destination Imagination.

I can say with all integrity that I let Ben choose and did not push my agenda at all. Today he announced that he made a decision. The last time I felt so nervous and scared was walking alone in the wood after watching the Blair Witch Project. Today, Ben made his choice and I could not be happier. Sorry D.I.

My Father was Right… Darn it.

You were right on so, so many things. I get it now. I am sorry.

I am sorry that I thought you were a complete moron for not being able to understand the difference between an X-Wing Fighter, Y-Wing Fighter, or Tie-Fighter. Quite frankly, I now have no idea what an Enderman, Creeper or HeroBrine is. Honestly, I do not even care what they are and have put zero effort into learning. I now understand that glazed look you got in your eyes when I tried to explain the differences between storm troopers, Imperial troopers, and biker scouts. Yeah. I get it.

I am sorry that I mocked you for not being able to make Mario run faster by simply holding down A and B. I am currently taunted because I can not hold ZR, flick the direction pad, tilt the whole unit left, and rapid tap a trigger while doing sit-ups or whatever else I need to do to keep Ben from fragging my butt back to the Stone-Age. I also now admire your ability to keep the obscenities to minimal and not to backhand me while I toyed with you. I get it.

I am sorry that I goofed on you about the bald thing because, well….

You were right. Picking on a child who is angry is hilarious. It drove me nuts as a kid and I swore I would never do it, but.. wow…. It is so much fun. There is nothing like having a kid all hacked off about something stupid, wrestling him down, whispering goofy stuff at him about his little problem and tickle/poke him until he bursts out into a tortured combination of anger and laughter. As soon as you stop, they are angry again and you get to start it all over. It is a complete donkey-cavity move but it is completely irresistible to a father. It is behavioral crack. You were so very right.

Hey, guess what? You were right. Being told a kid is bored is not informative. It is freaking annoying. I always thought putting us to work brought you some sort of sadistic joy, but now I get it. A dad could actually use a hand with some things and when that kid is whining about being bored, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask them to stop being a parasite and pitch in a bit more.

So many more things. I get while you drove lame vehicles, wanted to stop kicking a soccer ball non-stop after “only” an hour, and got mad when I had “only” lost three pairs of gloves. I get it.

What I will never understand is why you always made me cover my eyes during a movie when the sex scenes came on. Seriously, the FF button? It meant Fast-Forward. All you had to do was push the stupid button and I would not have to sit there like a loser desperately trying to peek between my fingers. I suggested it. You ignored it. Easy solution old man.

Who am I kidding? I get that too.

I Run Because I Have To

After three years, I have reached the point where I have to label myself a runner. Three years ago, I could run ¼ mile without stopping. In May, I will be running my third marathon. A lot of people tell me I am crazy or ask why I would put myself through the training. The answer is, “I have to.”

I do not get “runner’s high.” There is no physical feeling that I look forward to when I am on the road. I do not enjoy the blisters, cramps, or dead legs I experience after long runs.

There is no social aspect to it. I do not take part in the “runner’s community” or use my runs to talk with friends. Largely due to schedule and personality, I run alone. I am closing in on 3,000 miles logged. Fewer than 20 of those have been with another person.

I am not addicted to any sense of accomplishment. I can usually finish in the top 3 for my age division for 5Ks and I have finished two marathons. However, until I break 4 hours in a marathon, I do not really consider them successful. I’ve missed by 7 and 9 minutes. One way or another, I am sure you will read about this in late May.

IMG_1659

I do not like what running has done to my body. I am down 35 pounds from when I started. However, I continually hear that I am scrawny, too skinny, or that I need to eat. People who have not seen me in a while have pulled me aside and asked what is wrong with me. I am not bragging. I eat and drink whatever I want and do tons of push-ups but this is the body I have. They will never make a Magic Erik-XS movie. I do not like what I see in the mirror or that running has apparently turned me into Christian Bale in the Machinist. I am not a physically attractive man. I know that. Running has not helped.

I run because, quite frankly, I need to. I have always struggled with focusing on the negatives in life. Failures, lost relationships, mistakes, worry, self-doubt, the ugly-side of humanity that my jobs slams into my face. For years, I have resolved to be more optimistic and positive, but it is not easy because life is so fast… except when I run.

Whether my training runs are 25 minutes or three hours, I refuse to let myself think about anything except positive experiences in my life. No worries, no regrets, no planning. I try to relive, and replay, moments that are important to me and that I never want to forget. The obvious one are there. The birth of my sons, Disney trips, but I try to vividly remember the small, special moments in life. The compliments someone gave me. What was she wearing? Goals you scored in high school. Random conversations you had. Stupid moments that everyone else has forgotten but I hold on to. Little flashes that I enjoyed but will fade if I let them. Friends. A smell. Laughing. The moment in that conversation with a girl when you made eye contact, smiled, realized, “She gets me and we both feel something” and became simultaneously thrilled and terrified.

A Counting Crows song says, “I can’t remember all the times I’ve tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass.” When I run, I force myself to hold on to the moments. I do not want people and memories to become ghosts.

When I run, there is nothing to do but think and I force myself to make sure those thoughts make me smile. It makes me a better person. It is not easy to do, but I have successfully trained myself to do it. When I am on the road, by myself, tired, slogging through snow and wind with another 8 miles left, I feel surrounded by friends and memories. The time alone on the road is the time that I feel the least lonely. I run because I need that feeling in my life. I run because I have to.

10382739_10154805636235341_1625699240273641787_n

10366003_10155114225795341_9117606482821675047_nd

So, my kids think I’m an idiot..

A random sampling of interactions that demonstrates just how stupid my children think I am.

“Dad! I am turning off my IPad!”
“Then why are you laying on couch, running your fingers all over the screen while I’m hearing explosions?”
“That’s how you turn these off.”

“Dad.  Can you fix this Lego piece?  I was just sitting there playing with my Legos and this dude ran into the house, took this piece, snapped it and ran away.”

“Dad! I did finish eating the hamburger.”
“Why are you squirming in your pants with ketchup leaking out of your pocket?”
“It’s not because there’s a hamburger in my pocket!”

“Boys! Lift the lid!  Which one of you peed all over the seat?”
“Mom was the last one in there!”

“I’ll practice every day!”

“If you game with us, we promise not to kill you.”

“Technically, my teacher said I don’t have to do this.”

“Ben, I have a question about school.”
“How’d you find out about that?”
“I had a question about your homework.”
“Good, because nothing happened.”

“I wasn’t playing with it!”

Seriously, if I was as blind, deaf, and stupid as my children apparently think I am, natural selection would have picked me off long ago.