Monday, December 17, 2012

Separation Anxiety


Cookies and I have been taking a break. I didn’t want to do it, but sometimes, for the sake of a the relationship, you have to agree to step back and spend some time apart from each other if you’re ever going to be able to move forward harmoniously.

It had come to my attention that maybe, just maybe, I’d been taking Cookies for granted. So now, like the production of your favorite television show, we’re on hiatus.

This epiphany came a few weekends back after the kids and I ate not one but two packages of red holiday Oreos in less than a twenty-four hour period.  The last package I’d bought that Friday night – Brady and I had snagged three packages at the grocery store as part of our impulse shopping – was gone by Monday. Surprisingly, it wasn’t me who hammered out the last bag, but my son.

Any time cookies go missing from the pantry or my wife’s secret hiding spot, the finger is always pointed in my direction, that is, unless I’m the one doing the pointing, and the only reason I’d be doing the pointing is if someone disobeys Dad’s Cookie Rule #1: don’t bother leaving me a cookie package with only two cookies; the punishment will be the same as if you’d eaten the last of the cookies, so you may as well get your money’s worth. Kacie, being the caring soul that she is, doesn’t subscribe to that ideology and is always sure to leave just enough to be able to say “But I left some for you!” but not enough to really, truly enjoy. Brady, on the other hand, operates under the notion that if one is going to complain about not being left any cookies, then one should have beaten him to the punch and eaten them all one’s self. That’s how my wife knew, after interrogating me about the cookies’ mysterious disappearance, that the only other possible culprit was Junior.

She sat across the table from Brady, a bright light shining from behind her so that he could not see her face. His hands were bound to the table by cuffs, restricting his movement. “Did you eat the Oreos?” she asked Brady.

“No,” he said.

“No?”

“No.”

“Then who did?” she asked, slamming her hand down on the table in front of her, propelling her body upward, launching her face within inches of his.

“A ghost,” he said without flinching. This kid was a new breed of operative, trained to remain cool under pressure.

I giggled. Traci looked my direction, daring me to laugh again. I didn’t dare.

“Ghosts aren’t real,” she said.

“Neither were the Oreos.” He smiled, knowing he’d stumped his captor.

I excused myself to the bathroom, where, after shutting the door, I proceeded to laugh my butt off. Did I feel guilty for bailing on my wife? Not one bit. In fact, my lack of presence in our living room was a sign of solidarity in parenting, because laughing in front of Brady would only encourage his orneriness, whereas laughing to the point of tears privately allowed me to spare him from getting into further trouble from his mother for laughing with me. Leaving also afforded me the chance to have a very matter-of-fact conversation between me and my reflection in the mirror in which I’d said “You, sir, make the best kids ever. Job well done.”

Later that night, after my son copped to wiping out The Last of the Oreos – I wonder who will play me in the movie for this family spoofed rendition of James Fenimore Cooper’s famous novel? – I thought about how it is some things can control us so completely, or alternatively prevent us from being able to control ourselves. There’s no question I like my family. I like baseball. But I love Cookies, which is why I had to hit pause on our relationship.

A lot, though, has happened in the time since Cookies and I went our separate ways. I’ve been working seven days a week, hoping to preoccupy my mind by focusing more on my job. Two days ago I finally graduated college, which didn’t seem like such a great accomplishment without Cookies there to celebrate with. 

Even during an impromptu celebration/we-may-as-well-grab-something-to-eat-while-we’re-here-at-the-mall-shopping dinner with my wife, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cookies. I tried to avoid eye contact with Cookies, but even then could still taste its chewy texture, its plump chocolate chips, and its perfect balance of white and chocolate icing smothered on top in thick, zigzaggy lines. My wife encouraged me to succumb to my inner desires, but I refused; Cookies and I had been apart so long, the last few days that separated us were merely going to be a formality at that point - my twenty-eight days of rehab were almost over and I was not going to let my anxiousness ruin everything we’d been working towards.

With this being the holiday season, I know that, for many, this is a time of family gathering and presents. For some there’s a deeper meaning to the nostalgia, a reason for the season. For others, it’s nothing more than a paid day off work at a time when work can be overly demanding. But this year, for me, the Christmas will take on a whole new meaning: it’s when my love and I will be reunited…and it’s going to feel so good. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My letter to Jon Daniels, GM of the Texas Rangers


Dear Mr. Daniels.

I feel weird referring to you as a mister, being that I’m just over a year and a half older than you. Nevertheless, I want you to take what I have to say seriously. So here it goes:

Over the last several weeks, Rangers fans have sat by and watched while their favorite players or potential future favorites were either signed to lucrative contracts with other teams or traded. I’m not going to pretend to have any idea what it is that you and your front office team do behind the scenes on a daily basis to try and build a winning franchise. You’ve worked some incredible magic over the last couple of years, and I’m thankful for that.

I’ll be quick to admit that I fully understand that baseball, first and foremost, is a business. You, Mr. Ryan, and the rest of the organization are providing a service to those of us willing to pay for that service. It’s because of that knowledge and understanding that I’m able to separate the practical business side of baseball from my love of the game side. You see, as much as I might love the Texas Rangers, it pales in comparison to my love for the game itself. I’m hoping it’s your own love for the game that will force you to hear me out.

It’s not often that both a father and daughter’s hearts are broken by the same people, let alone broken twice in the same week, but it happened – first with Kacie (my 14-year-old daughter) losing her favorite player in Mike Napoli and then a few days later with me as Michael Young was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. I can’t say the loss was more significant for one of us than the other; we each have our reasons for why we call someone our favorite, and because of that one loss doesn't sting less than the other.

I get that Mike Napoli, despite his post season heroics and being a name that sells a fair share of merchandise, isn’t somebody who’s statistical history proves worthy of his $13 million a year asking price. I also get that moving a career Ranger and $10 million of his $16 million salary clears a significant amount of cash to make a move on a free-agent like Zack Greinke, despite his opting to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But now the Anaheim Angels, for the second year in a row, have swooped in and signed one of our players to a contract he may or may not be worth, which is beside the point.

Frustrating as all of this might seem to the casual fan, the lack of fan-based communication is equally frustrating too. Not everyone is willing or capable to separate business from fandom, so why not find a way to keep the Ranger faithful abreast of the comings and goings of their favorite players, but from a front office perspective? Why not come out and publicly say that Mike Napoli, as much as you know fans loved him, because of his asking price didn't fit financially into the puzzle of what you’re trying to build and that by not meeting his salary demands you were aligning yourself to make a greater push at landing Zack Greinke, or possibly even resigning Josh Hamilton? Why not come out and say that while Michael Young has been the consummate team player and the face of the Texas Rangers for over a decade, the decision - a decision in which there really was no right answer – had to be made to move the team forward, into the future, rather than hold onto the past? Why not come out and say that you made every effort possible to sign Zack Greinke, which included not bringing Napoli back and trading Young to free up money to sign the free-agent pitcher long-term? Why not come out and say that while you’re appreciative of what Josh has done as a member of the Texas Rangers, his asking price was too gaudy for someone who brings a tremendous amount of drama (both seen and unseen) with him, a history of injuries, and an inevitable slump each season that seemed harder and harder for the star centerfielder to dig out of?

Please don’t think of this as me trying to tell you how to do your job, when what I’m really asking is what can the organization do with regards to how and what it communicates with the fans? As fans, we take it on faith that you know what you’re doing. I'd say that it isn't our business if you're running the team into the ground or not, but it actually is our business. Assuming you’re trying to resurrect the team from the demise imposed upon it by its former owner and in turn create a winning organization, why not just come right out and tell us matter-of-factly the reasons behind some of the decisions that were made? You’re probably thinking “Do you do that with your kids?” The answer is yes. I try not to take the “Because I said so” approach with them, but instead offer them legitimate reasons for the whys and why nots that are made on their behalf. I want my kids to know, that even though they might not understand or agree with those decisions, those decisions really are (hopefully) for the best, and that by my telling them these reasons, they might be able to step back after the shock of it all and see the bigger picture. That’s what the Texas Rangers are trying to create, isn't it? A bigger picture? A picture that forever stakes their claim in baseball history?

            Now to my point: I’d like to offer my services to you and the Texas Rangers. Think of me as your real life connection between the club and the fans. I wouldn’t be there as someone simply collecting a paycheck, therefore possibly having no true allegiance to the organization. Instead, in me you’d have a person who, as mentioned earlier, can separate the business side of baseball from the fan side. I’d be willing to be your voice, your not-so-typical communication piece to the masses. I could answer the Facebook and Twitter cries that suggest, in not-so-nice ways, that you and the organization don’t know what you’re doing. In fact, I’d be willing to consider quitting my current job and come to work for you for free. I know, it sounds crazy, but that’s how committed I am to making this thing between you, me, and the rest of the world work.

My wife doesn’t know of my plan to come work for you and the Texas Rangers organization yet, so I’m sure she’s not going to be happy on my making such a life-changing decision without involving her, so we may have to negotiate leftover hotdogs and nachos into my contract. Also, I’d like permission to wear my Michael Young jersey or T-shirts on casual Fridays. He might be gone, but for me he’ll never be forgotten. Lastly, should my wife kick me out, I may need a place to crash for a while, so a cot in the clubhouse might be in order. How is your coffee in the break room? Never mind, we can discuss that stuff later, at a more appropriate time.

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out and for considering my offer. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


Sincerely,


Brad Simmons
herlivingroomhero@gmail.com

Monday, December 3, 2012

Going, Going, Gone


As a father, guarding your child’s heart has to be the hardest mission of all to accomplish, despite many of those difficult missions having involved late night cleanup sessions of vomit in the bed, diaper blowouts all over the baby carrier, times where a floating turd in the bathtub makes a better toy than the actual bath time toys, solemn conversations about dying pets, and convincing them that sharing a room with their baby brother is only temporary when you know it’s not anything close to that.

To my knowledge, Kacie has never had her heartbroken, although I thought we were once going to come disastrously close.

She was five.

We were in the car, driving from Somewhere to Someplace, listening to the local sports radio station. This was at a time in her life where car rides were probably our best chance at quality time. We could talk about anything, everything, or nothing of significance and never run out of things to say.

That day Kacie heard the news guy talking about her favorite baseball player, Hank Blalock. She shushed me, wanting to absorb every word this stranger had to offer, perhaps hoping, no doubt, that he’d even mention her name as his biggest fan.

While the commercials played a few seconds later, Kacie sat in the backseat, confined by her thoughts and the car seat she’d long felt she no longer needed. I turned the radio down, positioned the rearview mirror so we could make eye contact, and asked if she was alright.

She didn’t answer.

She wouldn’t even look at me. Instead, she stared out the rear passenger window, trying to work something out in her mind.

Stopped at a traffic light, I turned to face Kacie, tapping her left knee to break her trance. She looked at me, still confused from what she’d just heard.

I asked again.

“Daddy,” she said, “what’s traded mean?”

I found myself in one of those moments where there was no right answer, just the least wrong one.

“Traded means that the Texas Rangers might send him to a different team in exchange for some of that team’s players.”

She gave my words considerable thought.

“So he might not play for the Rangers anymore?”

“No.”

Kacie began to gasp for air, not in the way one would before they are pulled underneath the water by a lake monster, but in a way one might who’s just been punched in the stomach and doesn’t remember that breathing is a series of simple repetitions of in through the nose, out through the mouth. Crocodile tears welled up in her eyes. Again she shifted her attention away from me, damming the corners of her eyes with the palms of her hands.

I’m not sure how long the light had been green, but the impatient sound of horns honking around me signaled that it’d been too long. I adjusted the rearview mirror again, my eyes shifting back and forth between the road ahead of me and my daughter behind me.

The trade never happened.

But today, though, Kacie won’t be so lucky. Mike Napoli, her current favorite Texas Ranger, has opted to sign as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox.

What makes today harder, I fear, is that in the last decade since that conversation, Kacie has learned to appreciate baseball players for more than just their cool tattoos, awkward batting stances, powerful homerun swings, and cool last names. Okay, maybe the cool last name thing remains, but the other traits have been replaced by how cute the player is, not to be outdone by how good his butt looks in his tight baseball pants.

Not to be overshadowed by posters and magazine clippings of The Avengers, there’s an assortment of Napoli paraphernalia strung throughout Kacie’s room. Jerseys with his name and number twenty-five are draped over her bedposts. T-shirts of similar designs are buried in the pile of clothes in her floor. Drawstring backpacks made to look like the back of his jersey hang from a knob of her closet door. Dog tags are pinned to the wall. Some girls prefer to dream of vampires and werewolves. Kacie prefers heroes, both of the super variety and of the post season. She gets that from me.

I wonder, though, how she’ll handle this break-up – her first “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Losing your favorite baseball player from your favorite baseball team is serious business. Despite what any rational thinking person might say, it is very much like saying goodbye to the love of your life. You’ve invested so much time and energy into that person. You’ve winced as they struck out with runners in scoring position to end the game, celebrated as deep fly balls barely managed to escape the field of play to put your team on top, and crossed your fingers and said a prayer as they’ve prepared to throw the ball to first base to make the twenty-seventh out. The thought of never getting to be a part of that person again is heartbreaking. Every time you see them from this moment on, it’ll be like they’re dating your best friend, which in this case is true because Kacie’s best friend’s favorite team is the Boston Red Sox.

You’ll still see them from time to time, but things will be different; different is the only way we think it can be. On the outside, you won’t even give them the time of day, but on the inside, you’ll be rooting for them because letting go is harder than you anticipated.

Somewhere between her tears and my binge eating, I’ll tell Kacie of the silver lining that awaits her: Spring Training is closer today that it was yesterday. It’s there, possibly, that her new love awaits her. I will encourage my daughter to try again, and give her the “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” speech. Do I mean this in real life? Hell no. But this is baseball we’re talking about. Baseball is better than real life. Baseball can’t give you a STD, can’t get you pregnant. Baseball won’t try to convince you to drop out of college and run away with him to some hippie commune where bathing is optional. But more than anything, baseball, even after you graduate law school, find your one true love after years of celibate searching, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, and finally decide to have children, will still be there, waiting to be shared with your dad, the only man who will ever promise to love you unconditionally.

I don’t know if Kacie will buy any of that crap. Probably not. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Yep, it's definitely alive


I used to wonder what Dr. Frankenstein must have felt at the precise moment when he realized that not only had he created a monster, but he’d created a monster.

I no longer have to wonder.

Last night Brady and I were cuddled in our denim overstuffed chair, preparing for today. I’d worked late, and had given him precise instructions by telephone earlier in the evening that if he would have his bath taken, jammies on, and teeth brushed by the time I got home we’d be able to play for a bit before he went to bed. To my surprise, not only had he done everything I’d required of him, he’d also pulled one of his toy boxes out into the living room.

The sole contents of this particular toy box, as it so happens, are the various bodies and body parts of probably twenty different Mr. Potato Head figures. There was Texas Rangers Potato Head. Dallas Cowboy Potato head. Old School Mr. Potato Head. You get my point. None of the MPH (Mr. Potato Head) figures were put together, which if you’ve ever spent any amount of time playing with MPH (much easier, right?) in your life then you know the limitless options that lie on the operating table before you – sort of a kid-friendly version of Frankenstein’s Monster in which you can hide random, leftover body parts in its hiney.

Before we could get down to the business of creation, though, Brady and I had an important matter to handle first.

I submit to you the following document, an account of the conversation that transpired between father and son, co-creator and createe.


Fade In:

INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

BRADY (5) dressed in blue flannel button-up pajamas littered with snowmen and hair still wet cuddles with BRAD (37) in an oversized denim chair that’s seen better days, and in those days, lots of moments like this one. They are father and son.

BRAD
We’ll play Mr. Potato Head in a second, but
first… isn’t there something you want to ask me?

BRADY
                                    No.

                                                                        BRAD
                                    I think there is.

                                                                        BRADY
                                                            (giggling)
                                    Not really.

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Okay, if you say so. I’ll give you one more chance,
                                    then I won’t ask you again.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Do we want to watch Survivor while we cuddle?

                                                                        BRAD
                                    That’s not it.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Do we want to eat Oreos while we cuddle?

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Not it either.

Brady laughs. Not a silly, fake laugh, but one that suggests he’s only just begun with the witty banter and thinks he’s the funniest guy around.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Doooooo you wanna play Hot Wheels?

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Nope.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    You wanna give me five dollars?

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Nuh uh.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Twenty dollars?

Brad gives him a look. A get serious look.

                                                                        BRADY (con’td)
                                    A hundred dollars? Wait. A million dollars?

Yep, funniest guy around.

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Fine. If it’s not important to you, it’s not important to me.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Okay, okay.

Brad slinks deeper into the chair. A moral victory.

                                                                        BRADY (cont’d)
                                    Daddy?

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Yes, Brady?

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Can I turn one hundred tomorrow?

Pandemonium ensues. A one kid laugh track.

                                                                        BRAD
                                    You know what? If that’s what you really want, then yes.
                                    Yes you can. By all means, turn one hundred tomorrow. Be
                                    old. Lose your hair. Lose your hearing. Lose your mind. Have
                                    fun pooping your pants again.

This grosses Brady out.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Really?

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Yep. Old people do that. They can’t always control when and
                                    where they have to use the restroom.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    So they poop their pants?

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Why don’t you wait until tomorrow when you wake up and
                                    you’re a hundred. If you’ve pooped your pants you’ll know I
                                    wasn’t lying.

Brady’s scrunches his nose. One hundred doesn’t sound fun.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Daddy, can I please turn one tomorrow?

Seriously?
                                                                        BRAD
                                    Sure, but you’ll still be pooping your pants, and
                                    you won’t know how to work the PlayStation anymore.

Brady gives it some more thought before locking eyes with Brad. It’s a war of wills, a Wild West showdown of sorts where new is trying to push out old. Old isn’t budging.

                                                                        BRAD (cont’d)
                                    We don’t have to do this. We can all wake up tomorrow
                                    and everything can still be the same if you want it to.

Brad makes a move to get up, catching Brady off guard. Brady stiffens, sensing the moment that could change his life forever is about to evaporate.

He grabs Brad’s face, cupping his father’s man-sized cheeks in his tiny hands.

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Daddy…can I please turn six tomorrow?

Brad thinks about it. No more fun and games.

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Will you still love me as much as you did when you
                                    were five?

                                                                        BRADY
                                    More.

                                                                        BRAD
                                    Oh yeah?

                                                                        BRADY
                                    Yep. I’ll be six, so I’ll be bigger. I’ll have more
                                    room in my body to love you.

Brad hugs Brady. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Old doesn’t have to give way to new – there’s room for them both.

FADE OUT.

THE END

Sentiment aside, that little turd played me the entire time. Brady knew, that with every turn in our conversation, he was baiting me. He understood that tradition has him ask me on the eve of his birthday for permission to turn the next age. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s all I have. The younger version of Brady eagerly complied. This new Brady 2.0, however, I wasn’t prepared for. It’s like he’s the Bionic Man of kindergarteners. Sure, last night everything turned out okay. But what happens when the day comes and it doesn’t? What happens when he says something so witty that even I don’t have a comeback for it? Daniel LaRusso was never better than Mr. Miyagi. Luke Skywalker didn’t best Yoda. Rocky never took a swing at Mickey.

And now, even as I write this, something Traci said to me reverberates through my mind. “What do you expect?  You created him.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Man, His Nikes, & A Warrior-Sized Hero Complex


My mom texted me the other day. She wanted to know why I haven’t blogged in a while. “Are you mad at me?” she asked. Yes, Mom. I haven’t been blogging the last several weeks because I’m mad at you. You got me. Smiley face.

If you read this blog, you know I hit a wall twice a year: about six weeks before the end of each semester. It’s when I like to think that I’m forcing myself to “buckle down” and focus on school, when really it’s the semester caving in on me.

But these last two months have been different than the previous times. I’ve been reassessing what it is at 36 I want out of life. Is going to school to pursue a writing career really in my best interest, in my family’s best interest?

As many of you may also know, I spent several weeks training for the Warrior Dash. By training, I mean that I ate less pizza and snacked on fewer cookies. I tried to add a jogging regimen to my workout routine. Said routine wanted no part of that, outsiders aren’t welcome. But thanks to an Internet call-out by my baby sister’s husband, I had to man-up…or at least try.

My brother-in-law Jeremy raved of the warrior-sized obstacle course we’d attempt to conquer. He promised the finish line would be waiting with a warrior-sized turkey leg to reward my efforts. There was talk of a warrior-sized beer to wash down my warrior-like feast. All that was missing was a wench to satisfy my warrior-like needs - he’d said I could bring my wife; he was bringing my sister. Yuck.

He’d said that upon completing The Dash there’d be warrior-sized stories to tell my family and friends. I could tell the truth or exaggerate my warrior-sized accomplishments. The choice was mine. So this is where I tell you, my fledgling peons, that I conquered the race in the fastest time ran by any man, woman, and superhero, and despite what the photos-for-purchase that were taken at various points of the course might show, I didn’t walk at all. Not. One. Step. This is where I don’t tell you that my chariot to the Warrior Dash was my mom’s mini-van, because mini-vans aren’t warrior-like…despite the heroic antics of Flynn Rider in the movie Tangled playing for the kids in the back seat.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t think I was anywhere near ready to commit to something I thought was so challenging. Mentally, I wasn’t ready to do the work, so I didn’t do the work – not really. But as I ran to the first obstacle, I found my inner monologue telling my overactive brain to settle down, just have fun. So I did.

We finished the race in 47 minutes. Not great; not horrible. But being that Jeremy and I were running in the very last heat of the two-day race, my only real goal was to not be lapped by the volunteers cleaning up trash on the trail before calling it a weekend.

Despite as much psyching myself up and psyching myself out that occurred in the weeks leading up to the Warrior Dash, once the race was over, I’d forgotten about everything I’d previously feared. You see, after races like these there’s an option to donate your shoes to charity – they’ll be cleaned and shipped across seas to people in countries where used shoes are better than no shoes. The shoes I’d left behind that day were shoes I didn’t want to let go of. I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy for being so sentimental about a pair of Nike Shox that were nearly four years old. You probably think I’m crazy for spending the three weeks prior to the race questioning my decision to give up those Nike Shox, and instead wondering if buying a new pair of cheaper shoes to run in and then donate would be a better option. But something inside of me, no matter how much I tried to rationalize my reasoning for why I’d miss those shoes, wouldn’t let me run in anything else. So I ran. I walked. I waded through water. I crawled through mud. I crossed the finish line. Then I donated. That’s when it hit me: those Nikes had been with me when I’d experienced some of the most memorable moments of my life.

Those shoes were there when I’d finally gotten to watch a baseball game at Fenway Park. They’d been to famed Dodger Stadium, where Kirk Gibson became a legend, and John Cusack made out with a girl on the hood of a 1967 Camaro that was parked at home plate. They saw Derek Jeter collect his 3000th hit in front of the home crowd in The Bronx. They’d seen Mickey and Minnie and all of their friends at Disneyland. They were there the day I took my first steps as a grown man and enrolled in classes at a university full of teenagers, and then again the day I almost backed out of going to my first class, a writing class. Those shoes walked down Hollywood Boulevard, and took part as I had my photo taken as I crouched next to Tom Selleck’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Those $140 Nike Shox that had been purchased one hot Texas July evening in 2008 saw Big Ben tower over London, waited patiently outside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul for me but were later allowed to step inside the Hagia Sophia. A few days afterwards, they walked in the rain through Paris at night as my wife and I looked for the perfect souvenirs in shops scattered on various streets at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Those shoes had seen more in four years then some people will ever see in a lifetime – more than I thought I’d ever see in mine. I loved those Nikes, as if they were an extension of my soul. And as I took them off and placed them in the pile of other participants’ memories, I knew they’d soon see a different part of the world without me. I found comfort, not regret.

Donating my tennis shoes that day was just the beginning though, there was a dumpster for unwanted race clothes as well. I’d run the Warrior Dash in a blue T-shirt that on the front read Her Living Room Hero. My Twitter address was on the back. I let it go too. Only fitting that something that represented my entire family and supported some random thoughts and anicdotes on an Internet page read in over thirty countries around the globe should make its way into the world too, apart from us. Somewhere, somebody owns the very first Her Living Room Hero souvenir. Sorry, Mom. I promise I’m really not mad at you.

So today, I write. I’m doing the work – something I’ve started waking up and telling myself every day. I keep those words on an index card, tacked to a corkboard by my desk. A reminder that nothing comes free, that everything requires some level of sacrifice. That effort might lead to frustration and even heartache, but it’s the only thing that’s going to make life happen – not just happen by default, but really happen. If I want to be a writer, I have to write – no excuses. I have to do the work. I want my kids to know that. Kacie turned 14 today. She has eleven days left before the summer that will lead her into her new life in high school begins. I especially want her to know that. Do whatever makes you happy, baby girl. Be who you want to be. Dream of the impossible if that's what you want. But do the work. You won’t get where it is you really want to go if you don’t, no matter how awesome your shoes might be.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nowhere Above The Influence

Bad association spoils useful habits. That’s what my mom tried to always teach us when we were kids. She wanted the five of us to surround ourselves with people that we knew wouldn’t willingly try to lead us down paths we had no business going down. She understood that it’s hard to say no to doing things you know you shouldn’t when you’re outnumbered and feel out of place. That’s why it’s ironic that my mom tried to play such a significant role in my demise today.

Those of you who’ve spent any significant time reading Her Living Room Hero know I’ve tried numerous gimmicks to lose weight. I’ve attempted P90X (which is less of a gimmick and more of a crazy, intense workout if you’re up to the task…), wrapping my chest and gut with Saran Wrap while I work out (almost had to turn my Man Card in for this one…), eating more times during the day (seriously trying to figure the logic behind this…), eating less times during the day (actually doesn’t work as well as you’d think…), drinking chocolate milk three times a day (yes, this is an actual diet…), no carbs (boo…), more carbs (hooray!!!...), and so on and so on and so on.

But in the last two months, something’s changed. I’ve found a determination and focus and drive that I haven’t been able to find before. I’ve found within myself an understanding to do what I can rather than worry about what I can’t. With that, I’ve lost 33 pounds. For those who are bad at math like I am and have trouble visualizing calculations of the sort in your head, I’ve lost a petite preschooler. My goal? To lose a full-fledged kindergartner by May.

This time around I’ve done well at making time to exercise; I avoid eating things I shouldn’t eat. But with that, I allow myself to indulge in certain junk foods, to kill the craving before it kills me. Because of this, Santa’s job is safe as I’ve pretty much punted cookies from my diet. Hard to believe, I know. The separation of church and state between cookies and I hasn’t been an easy one, but we’re making progress. I don’t miss cookies nearly as much as they miss me, but I do miss them, as evident by my loss of will Sunday night when I ate an entire sleeve of Thin Mints in what I can only conclude was my body throwing a coup d’├ętat. Those damn Girl Scouts. I seriously hope they make this year’s naughty list.

I was pretty bummed. I felt like all my hard work had been for nothing. Dramatic, I know. Coincidentally, the next day I received quite the random consolation as a friend who lives over 2,100 miles away admitted that she too had eaten a sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies the night before. It was like we were living parallel lives in a land of awesomeness. I told her that if our cycles synced up I was going to be pissed. She laughed. I was being serious.

As crappy as Sunday had turned out to be, Monday proved to be much better. I’d eaten right. I’d worked out, hard. I’d slept seven hours. I’d even watched like six episodes of Good Luck Charlie with Brady. All was right in the world. I’d forgotten about cookies. I'd forgotten that for a moment the day before I'd been human. I was awesome again.

But today being a newer day than yesterday, I get this:



It’s moments like this I think about hitting up Mark Zuckerberg and telling him there needs to be a “Time Out” function on Facebook, you know, for when you want to teach your friends a lesson that it’s not nice to post photos of Oreo Cookies on your wall so early in the morning, especially when you’d give anything to eat three or twelve of them for breakfast. Seriously. That’s like posting photos of Marc Anthony on JLo’s wall, or posting Baseball Hall of Fame updates on Barry Bonds’ wall, or tagging The Hamburglar in your check-ins at McDonald’s even though he’s not even there with you. But being the most awesome, most forgiving guy in the world, I chalked Susan’s moment of what seemed like “haha, suck it!” up to being a good friend who wouldn’t want Oreo’s biggest fan to miss out on celebrating 100 years of yummy goodness and I let it pass. And then my mom decided to chime in:



Rationalization tried to set in. A war between my two selves. I’d been a good boy these last two months. A really good boy. I wanted to go to the ball, but I had nothing to wear because my clothes don’t fit anymore, not like the used to…all snug and tight and huggy-like on my bottom. I decided at that moment I was going to have to miss the festivities, despite the best efforts of my mom and one of my closest friends to sabotage the shrinking confines of my body's mass. I was not going to be influenced by the thought of heaven in my mouth. I was above it all.

But as the day progressed, my willpower faded. How could I let the single greatest union ever known to man go uncelebrated? How could I, on this anniversary of all anniversaries, continue to pull a Chicago and look away every time I passed by that beautiful blue packaging in the grocery store the last two months? Oreos had been there for me when I needed them. They’re even still hanging around now that I don’t. They’ve been a good friend to my many a glass of cold, lonely milk. They’ve comforted me in times of good, bad, and in between. Mostly in between. How could I not, only for today, raise my glass just once more in honor of them? And if not in honor of them, in honour of them? I opted to throw them the best 100 year bash ever. Go big or go home. My only concern: what do you get the cookie that already has everything? More milk, of course.

Look at me. I'm such a bad host. I completely forget to make introductions. Mom, meet Susan. Susan, Mom. Hope you two enjoy Time Out, because I enjoyed my Oreos. All twelve of them. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s not really a party until somebody throws up…