Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stay away kids...please?

My girls are coming home tomorrow after spending the last three days with their mother. When they leave, I take a deep sigh of relief and enjoy a little piece and quiet. However, it isn't too long after their departure that I am ready for them to hurry back to me.

Tomorrow isn't one of those days. May God strike me down for even uttering the previous sentence. But, it's true.

Stay away girls... let me have tomorrow all to myself. Let me enjoy the last football game for the next seven months all on my own.

Despite the plea, they will come and take every bit of my attention away from the the big screen TV. Oh, I'll try and watch, but it will be fruitless.

My girls will try and let me enjoy the game. Bless their heart, they really do love me and want me to be happy. But, any attempt on their part will be short-lived.

They will soon forget about Daddy wanting to watch the game and will request to put a puzzle together with me, or go for our Sunday afternoon walk, or cause me to run to the aide of one of them while the others are beating the hell out of her. Just your typical Sunday afternoon fun in my house.

I have tried everything in the past to get them to enjoy a game with me. I make snacks, sit us all down together, and start trying to teach them the game I love. But, it never works.

They ask questions like, "How come they don't just run away from the others guys? They keep running right into them. That's dumb." I have never have the right answer for them and the question keeps coming up.

Or, they start complaining that the cheerleaders aren't on TV enough and it is dumb that they don't get to be on the field. While I agree a little more cheerleader shots would be cool, I certainly don't think they should be the focal point like my girls do.

As hard as it is for me, I am slowly coming to the realization that it might be best to forget about trying to watch the game. You can't get disappointed and upset about them ruining my viewing experience if I don't watch the game.

To those who will be hooting and hollering it up at home or at a party, I say the hell with you. I hope your cable or satellite goes out right before kickoff.

Why should I be the only one to miss the game?

Friday, January 30, 2009

My brother Jason

I am quickly finding that the first sign that I am getting old is when I try to call someone on a Friday night and I am unable to get a hold of anyone. It's 9:30 p.m. and everyone I have tried to reach has already called it a night.

Normally, this doesn't bother me, but I wanted to talk. Sometimes, writing isn't enough. I wanted feedback... instant feedback.

Writing will have to do, though.

After getting home from coaching a high school basketball game, I clicked on my laptop and went straight to reading my email. One caught my attention right away:

Brett,

What's up man? Thanks for the invite to our class reunion and I look forward to seeing you there. I noticed you don't have an account on Facebook. I have looked for you multiple times to no avail. I did find someone you might want to get a hold of on there. Your brother Jason. I remember you telling me at our last reunion you haven't talked to him and had no idea where he was. Just thought you should know he is on here and you probably want to reconnect with him. Good luck to you if you reach out to him.

Sincerely,

Andy

I must have read that email 20 times before I walked away from the computer. I was shocked and couldn't believe that I may have found a way to talk to my younger brother again. Of all the places to try and find him, it never occurred to me to look on a website that so many of my co-workers had raved about. I had not followed their lead by creating my own account.

I felt like I had no need to. The people I want to talk to, I already do. Finding my soul mate wasn't something that I desired, I already have her with the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. I didn't want to sign up with a website that might give my students insight into my personal life.

Ironically, I did set up an account on Facebook just one day earlier. I did it because I was selected as one of three to try and locate people from my graduating class and inform them on the details of our impending reunion. It was to be the only reason to go to Facebook.

But, a chance to find my brother might be the reason to finally embrace Facebook. He is one of three brothers I have, but the only one I have no relationship with. I have seen and talked to him just once in the last 10 years.

He left my life after a dispute with my father over payment of a truck he bought from my Dad. Despite not taking sides, Jason took off for Washington and then Canada without saying a word to me. There is also speculation in our family that he had some issues while serving in the Army and that is the reason why he left the country.

Jason once told me what occurred when he was in the Army, but it never seemed like it was reason enough to leave his country and family. I really don't know what is true and not true about why he is gone. I really don't care why he left.

He's my brother and one of the few people in the world that really knows what it was like to grow up the way we did. He knows what is like to have a loving mother who had troubles picking her kids over the bottle and men. I have forgiven my mother for her past, but it was a past that was hard on all us kids.

He was one of the few in the world to know what it is like to have a father who loved you but at times had trouble showing you it with his words and actions while we grew up. I love my Dad and owe him so much for where and what I am in my life. He did the best he could as a single father and I thank him for it.

Quite simply, my brother is my brother, and I want any semblance of a relationship with him. I am done being bitter about him leaving and not reaching out to us. I used to think that if it was important enough to him to call or write me, he would.

After reading the email from Andy, I am done waiting for Jason. Maybe, he is embarrassed or ashamed for his departure and hasn't been able to swallow his pride. I have learned when it comes to family and to the ones you love, pride only leads to you being alone.

So, at 9:25 p.m., I sent my brother a request to be my friend on Facebook. I hope he accepts and becomes a friend of mine in life.

More importantly, I hope we can become brothers again.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hot Dad?

I have been asked to be a contributor to a new blog called Hot Dads. I find this to be quite funny since the only time I consider myself hot is when I am fuming over one of the many things my daughters do to upset me.

Things like, two of them fighting over a Barbie doll when there are 10 others on the floor next to them. Or, the four of them playing dress up with clothes that I have just folded and put away.

And one that has bothered me the most lately, asking me for something to eat all day long and then claiming not be hungry when I have made dinner. That one really gets me hot.

If this is what they mean by being hot, then I am hot.

The mission of the Hot Dads was stated in the first post by Bedside TalesMan, "to create a central place where dads, who want to be heard, can voice their opinions - while also giving the disgustingly huge community of mommy bloggers a place to hear what us guys have to say about parenting and life."

Well, hell, I am game for this.

In fact, I am honored to be asked to contribute to the new blog. My first post will be up Friday and it will be one that I have already had up on my blog. I got the invitation today while teaching and I didn't think I would have time to write a new post.

So, check it out and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Parenting technique

I am becoming an expert on parenting. Or, at least at one technique that has been working wonders for me lately.

Some may say my methods are a little extreme. To them, I say you have never been a single father of four daughters under 10.

My method is the often-criticized but underutilized tactic of brainwashing. I have mastered it so well, I would be fine with one calling me the Jim Jones of parenting.

Tell your kids something and repeat it enough times, the desired outcome eventually happens. The key, as with most things in life, is repetition, repetition and more repetition.

With almost everything that happens, I have a simple sentence that corresponds with an activity. Pretty soon, my kids know exactly what I want to happen and how it should happen.

From the mundane every day tasks to the lessons in life that will keep my children on the right track, I have a saying for it.

When my youngest daughter was an infant and suffering from a seizure disorder, I was constantly taking her to Doctor appointments. The nurses were telling me what to do and not do when raising children. One of the ones that stuck with me, was when a nurse told me, "When you are changing and cleaning your daughter, make sure you wipe front to back. Otherwise, you are just wiping everything into her vagina."

Wow, now there is something I would never known, but it made sense. I followed her advise, and then began to tell my daughters front to back after they were potty-trained.

When they head out of the bathroom three years later, they still tell me, "Dad, I front to backed. You don't have to ask."

I often wonder how long they will continue to tell me that when the exit the bathroom. I hope not much longer.

Other examples are, "Food in, mouth closed", "Dad gone, pool closed", "Multiple flushes when pooping", and the one I tell them the most, "Say no to boys and drugs."

It is the last one that I hope prevents what gives me the most nightmares as a father. They can drop out of school, join a cult, become a vegetarian, do just about anything but become a teen mother or have a drug problem. I have seen too many teens as a teacher who had one of the two, if not both, happen to them.

My daughters are going to be attending the high school I teach and coach at, and the last thing I want is to be known as is the coach with the drugged-out or pregnant teen daughter. I'll love and support them if it happens, but I am going to do whatever it takes to prevent it from happening.

I started saying it to them when they were still in car seats. When I would leave them at daycare, the single women thought it was cute as I would drop them off with a kiss and a "Say no to boys and drugs" farewell.

There still hasn't been a day that I left without saying it to them. While my others sayings can actually be applied by young daughters on a daily basis, I never really knew if they understood what I was trying to convey to them with the boys and drugs thing.

That changed for me recently with an outing to the park.

I was sitting on a bench reading a book as my girls were playing on the swings. Looking up, I noticed a boy walking toward Shelby as she exited one of the swings.

The two of them talked and as they did, Shelby kept looking over at me. She finally put her hand up in the air toward the boy and then sprinted to me with a question.

"Dad, Dad, Dad, " she said, while huffing and puffing from the run. "That boy wants to know if I can play with him. Is it Ok? I know you always say to say no to boys, but I don't think he has any drugs. So, can I?"

It took everything I had not to fall over with laughter as I told her she could play with him. The hard work paid off, and just hearing Shelby ask the question was music to my ears. I didn't even need any of Jim Jones' Kool-Aide for Shelby to remember what I have been preaching for years.

I told you I was an expert.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Male chatter

After a weekend and last night in a house with seven females, I was ready for some attention from a man. I am completely secure in my sexuality, so I have no problem making that statement.

Who could blame me?

After all, I just spent three days playing Barbies, painting fingernails, running to the local pharmacy to grab tampons for a roommate, and hearing about the discomfort of hot flashes from the house mom. Doesn't anyone in my house know that I am not one of them? I mean, shit, I do have testicles!

This morning when I walked into work, all I wanted was some good ole male conversation with the other PE teacher who shares an office with me. I knew he would be up for some football talk, or chatter about the sex we didn't have this weekend, and maybe even some arguing over whether or not Heath Ledger should have received the Oscar nomination for his role in The Dark Knight.

Any of that would of been have been great and exactly what I needed. I knew he wouldn't disappoint me.

"Morning Coach, what's up?" I said, waiting anxiously for his response.

"Hey... You should have seen the Chicken Soup I made for dinner last night. I made it from scratch."

I cook and take great pride in it, but, really? Are you kidding me? This is what we were going to talk about? Who traded the male chauvinist I was used to working with for Betty Crocker?

"Really? It was good?" I said, trying to sound interested.

"Oh yea, even my son liked it and he doesn't like anything. Don't you hate cooking something for your kids and they don't touch it? That's him all the time."

Almost as much as I hate where this conversation is going. But, Ok, well that has to be the end of it. Time to move on to something else, right?

"It was awesome cutting up everything and actually cooking it myself. You should have smelled the house... it was like we were in the kitchen of some great chef. But, it was me!"

"Oh, yea?"

"I never thought that soup could be a meal in itself, however, it was so rich and full of vegetables and chicken. I was full after one bowl. I made plenty... I brought some if you want to try it at lunch. You'll love it."

"Sure, Rob. I'll try it. What part of the chicken did you use?" I asked, hoping his answer would lead to the type of conversation I wanted.

"The recipe called for a whole chicken, but I bought these big chicken breasts and cut it up in big chunks. I like the breast the best." Bingo... he took my bait.

"Me too, Rob. I have always been a breast man."

Finally, we were talking like men.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fighting sleep

Laying in bed last night, I suffered from insomnia. Instead of fighting it, I let my mind take me where ever it wanted to go.

Most nights this happens, I wish I had a court reporter inside my head, writing down everything and every where my mind takes me. This night, one wasn't needed.

First stop, was a camping trip I took with my still-married parents in Yellowstone National Park. We were what a family is supposed to be... laughing together and enjoying each others company while catching trout in one of the many lakes the beautiful park had to offer.

My Mom, as I like to remember her as, holding her son's hand as they walked gathering firewood for the evening's fire. Dad back at the camp with my two brothers gearing up the fishing rods for the next morning's outing.

It was a trip that I hold close to my heart as it was the last one we took as a family. A memory that I always welcome with open arms.

Then my mind takes me to my third grade class and next to a beautiful girl named Pam Day. I haven't thought of her since grade school and don't really know why she has entered my thoughts 29 years after the one year we spent together. It is not my job to question where my mind takes me, rather, it is my job to simply enjoy the ride.

Pam looked just like the young Jenny in Forrest Gump and she was all I could think of for a year. I followed her around everywhere and she seemed to like it despite running from me most of the time. I wonder where she is now, and hope she is happy.

Without warning, I am off running the streets of Los Angeles with 29,000 other runners in one of the biggest marathons in the country. With every step, pain shoots up and down my legs as if I am running on an electric current that enters through my shoes. As much as it hurts, I can't and don't stop.

An overwhelming sense of accomplishment sweeps through me as I lay in bed, just like it did when I crossed the finish line in 2002. It is a feeling that I hope to be able to duplicate on demand the rest of my life.

From there, I am sitting on the Santa Monica Pier looking at the Most Beautiful Woman in the world. I can't keep my eyes off her as I try to work up the courage to grab her hand and place it inside mine.

I never do get the courage to reach for her hand, but three years after that night, I do get to hold it on occasion. I hope I am holding that hand when I am old and walking on the pier again with her. It is with that last thought, that I finally succumb to sleep.

I wonder where my mind will take me tonight.

And the award goes to...

I am in a giving mood. And thanks to Diane from Diane's Addled Ramblings, I actually have something worthy to pass on to some friends.

Midway through a day of teaching, I received an email from Diane telling me that she had given me my first blogger award. It's an award that I was honored to get from someone who I would definitely call a friend.

She gave her reasons for giving me the award in a post today by saying, "He's funny. He's cool. I just like him." Smart woman. She really does know me.

Thank you, Diane. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and the time you spend reading my blog. Just so you know, you are way cooler than I am.

So, on a day that I received my first award, I will reciprocate by passing the award on to others.

The envelop please:

Slapdash Thinking - If Diane thinks I am funny, she needs to check out Slapdash. The posts "I'm Sure I am Not the Only One" and "How I know when the "Force" is with me." are must reads and will bring you back for more. After reading my post on drinking too many shooters, she commented, "someone you might know may have had a similar shooters experience..." She is too cool.

daily momsense - A single mother who gives restaurant reviews and has a way of saying so much with so few words. My favorite post I have seen so far is simply a picture of a glass of wine with a box of hair color next to it. On top of the picture is the question, "Was this a good combination?" It would have made a great next post if it wasn't, however, it turned out to be a success after all.

Violet in the Middle - Anyone who likes the Mayfair Witch series by Anne Rice as much as I do deserves an award. So, here is your second award in the last two weeks Violet!

Thank you Diane for the award and letting me pass it on to others. And to everyone who commented on the email I received yesterday, thank you for the encouraging words and helping me realize what is really important.



Friends Award

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good times missed

The biggest coaching clinic in Southern California is going on as I write and I am at home. It's only the third clinic I have missed since I have been a football coach and I am going through some serious withdrawals.

It's the economy that kept me from going.

Seems our high school district can't justify paying for some coaches to spend money on hotels and clinic fees when they are struggling to supply books to its' students. Can't say that I blame them, but damn, I am missing out on some serious fun.

Oh, I mean I am missing out on some great opportunities to learn some more football.

At last year's clinic, I picked up a new offense that we implemented this past season and hired a great coach that knows more football than I may ever know. In fact, he knows so much about football that he quit my staff shortly before the start of the 2008 season.

He must have knew we were about to go through a 1-9 season and left before any one could blame him for our lack of success. Like I said, he knows football.

Sitting here thinking about what I am missing out on made me think of some of my favorite moments at past clinics.

Like the time when a coach you might know who writes a blog spent a whole day on his hotel room's balcony calling a friend who was standing outside three floors below. As soon as his friend would head inside his room to answer the phone, the coach that you might know would hang up and then laugh hysterically watching his buddy flip him the bird when he returned outside.

However, eight hours later his coaching friend would get revenge. The coach that you might know got stuck 12 miles away from the hotel when he hitched a ride with some friends from college to a bar. When his friends refused to let him drive even though he was the only one sober, he refused to ride back and called the coach he had hung up on earlier the day.

Needless to say, the coach you might know had a long walk back after hearing his friend on the other end of the phone say, "Yea, right... your on the balcony right now. Go to bed asshole."

Good times.

Or the time when the coach you might know was called on stage by the current head football coach at UCLA in front 1,500 of his peers. After dropping pass after pass while trying to demonstrate a drill with the UCLA coach, the coach you might know was sent back to his seat and replaced by someone who actually had the athletic ability needed to finish the drill.

More good times.

Or the time when the coach you might know walked into a bar with 20 of his friends and tried to act like a high roller by ordering a tray of Watermelon Shooters. When the tray of 20 shots arrived to him, all of his peers had left and were pursuing the attention of women.

I lost count of how many shots the coach that you might know actually finished, but I do remember his night ended with him handing a woman $20 to be used at a dry cleaner of her choice after he threw up the shooters on the back of her dress.

That one still gives the coach that you might know trouble when he spends time with his coaching friends. For some reason, they get quite a laugh out of remembering the coach you might know handing over his last $20 to a complete stranger.

I could go on for hours telling stories about the clinic and the coach that you might know, but I am pretty sure he'd like the rest to be untold. He'd rather sit back awhile and think about next year's clinic.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Three weeks and counting

When I started writing a blog three weeks ago, I did it for my sanity.

Not that I was afraid I was one foot in the door at the local psych ward. Trust me, I have been there before and I know what that feels like.

I also know that I am no where near that point, and that I will never be there again. I have never been happier or more content in my life than I was at the start of the year.

But something was missing and I knew I needed and wanted more.

What I was looking for was an opportunity for me to do something that I enjoy doing and that didn't cost anything as far as time and money goes. It is not often that my life allows me a positive outlet to let loose a bit and let it all hang out.

Writing has and will always do that for me.

What I have found by writing the prior 17 posts is exactly what I hoped to find: a place that I could say anything with out the fear of being judged for what I was thinking or for whatever may be going on in my daily life as a father or as a teacher.

Where else could I tell someone about my foul-mouthed daughter, my zipper being unzipped in front of a crowd of high school kids, or pour out my feelings for a grandmother that has given me so much in my life? Before now, there was no place.

In my first post, I wrote what I hoped to gain from starting a blog and that I expected to do it with little or no audience. I honestly didn't think or cared if anyone would be reading my stuff.

So, when I have written my posts and have come back three or four hours later to find the number of comments and the things that have been said to me, it has been overwhelming. I can't tell you how much it has meant to me and I can't thank you enough.

It is funny that the people that I know the most, and who deal with me on a daily basis, don't really know me. And the people who have read what I have wrote, but wouldn't be able to pick me out of a crowd of people, probably know me the most.

So, thank you so much for reading. Whether or not you come back and read again... I'll keep writing. But, it would be cool if you did come back.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's next???

I got some parental advise from my seven-year-old the other day. She is concerned with the way I am bringing up her little sister - the 4-year-old who thinks she is 18.

Seems Savannah is trying to make up for the fact that I don't have their mother around to make sure I don't screw my kids up too much with the way I raise them. Cute for sure, however, what the hell does she know about molding a young child?

After all, I have been doing it on my own for four years and aside from telling Shelby to hide a quarter her in mouth to keep it away from Savannah two years ago, I think I have done a pretty good job. (Shelby would go on to swallow the quarter and we would end up spending the rest of the day in the emergency room.)

In addition to making sure they are provided for, I read to them every day, help them with homework, play games with them, let them apply makeup to my face, wake up at a ridiculous time on the weekends to make them pancakes, and never go out at night because I feel guilty about them spending so much time with a babysitter while I work.

What could I possibly be doing wrong?

"I just think you need to do some things differently around Alani,'' Vanna said.

"And what is that baby? Don't be afraid... just tell me."

"You need to stop saying bad words around her. Me and Shelby know that just because you say them doesn't mean we can. I am worried Alani will be saying them all the time at school when she starts Kindergarten next year. It's bad, Daddy."

Wow. . . just like that, I was speechless. She had a point. I do spew out four letter words a lot in the house. I don't direct them at my girls, but they leave my mouth quite regularly. And Alani has gotten pretty good at including them in her own vocabulary.

I always tell her not to, but it hasn't seemed to deter her too much. It probably doesn't help that the girls and I laugh after hearing Alani talk as if she is walking the halls of my high school.

Some of her classic sayings that have brought laughter from her siblings and I include:

"What the fuck did you do that for?" Said after I hit the back of her mouth while brushing her teeth recently.

"This is bullshit... I am going to play with my Barbies." Said after being frustrated at losing when playing the game Sorry with the rest of us.

"Dad, don't you think Hannah Montana is cool as shit?" That one needs no explanation.

And her favorite and one that was said recently while I had some coaching friends over watching an NFL playoff game. "More fucking football? Don't you watch anything else?"

Did I mention she is four?

After replaying all this in my head for a few minutes, Vannah brought me back to the present by asking me, "Don't you think it will be your fault if she is cussing in class next year and in trouble all the time? What do you think she is going to say to the teacher when she is told that snack time is over?"

I answered her, "What the fuck? I am not done yet."

"Yea, Daddy. You have to stop it around her."

She was right. Son of a bitch, she was right. I gave up smoking last week, now I have to stop cussing?

I hate to think of what's next.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordful Wednesday




Yes... that is three puppies and a piglet sleeping next to mom. Do you think Pappa Dog had questions for Momma Dog? Meg from life's free treats was kind enough to send me this picture for my daughters. Thanks Meg and hope you don't mind me using it!
Check out more Wordful Wednesday posts at 7 Clown Circus.


Reading an old story

I am a people person and a people watcher. Given the choice of going to see a movie or heading to an outside coffee shop to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, I'd probably skip the theater.

Everyone has a story and I am always willing to listen. It was what I enjoyed most in my prior life as a sportswriter. While co-workers were fighting over the opportunity to cover an NBA or MLB game, I was content heading out to talk to a local athlete or coach to hear and then write their story.

While looking for a book in my garage this afternoon, I found a box of some of my old articles and began to reconnect with some of my favorite people that I interviewed. I loved hearing their stories, and rereading them made me feel like we were sitting down and talking all over again.

One story always stood out as my favorite and it had nothing to do with me being the author. It was a story the wrote itself. It was one that would make anyone have the utmost respect for the story teller.

It is a long, but his story is one worth hearing. I changed the names and places, but it remains the same.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bill Jones remembers exactly what caused him to turn his back on his mother. It wasn't the death threats he was receiving on a regular basis. It wasn't the fact his name was in the paper every time there was a story about his mother.

It wasn't that he was routinely on the news, seen opening and shutting the front door of his home with television camera crews parked in his front yard. It wasn't the constant questions he got from friends, or anybody else he ran into, that ultimately caused him to seclude himself in his house.

And lastly, it wasn't a suicide attempt by his mother that caused him to leave.

Jones had no problem handling all that. He handled it just like he did when he took on an offensive lineman as an All-Silver League linebacker at AB High in 1986. He handled it head-on. But what Jones couldn't handle, still can't, and never will be able to handle is that his mom thought she was right.

"My mother never seemed to accept the fact that what she did was wrong," Jones said. "It was a mess and I didn't want to be a part of it."

Jones remembers the night it happened as if it was yesterday, but tells the story as if he was talking about someone else. Facts followed by more facts, with little or no emotion.

It was a warm night on Aug. 30, 1989, when Jones got a phone call from his younger sister, Christy. He rolled out of bed at 12:33 a.m., picked up the phone and heard his sister say, "Mom shot Keith. You have to get over there. You have to see what happened. You gotta see what is going on," Christy told him.

Jones had no idea who `Keith' was. Never saw or met him.

He quickly dressed, jumped in his car, and followed the directions his sister gave him to the house of the shooting.

Jones didn't have far to drive. After a couple of miles, he remembers driving over a hill and looking down at the house that already had "like 15 Sheriffs" parked in front.

He saw his mom sitting outside the house. Then, shortly afterward, he saw the body of Keith Farmer, who was just 23, being wheeled out of the house.

"After that, and from that point on, everything was really not knowing what was going on," Jones said.

What went on was his mother, Belinda Johnson, was facing murder charges. She posted a $100,000 bail and spent all her free time trying to convince anyone who would listen - including Jones - that she shot Farmer to protect her daughter.

Christy Jones had dated Farmer briefly, and even stayed with Farmer a short time before the killing. Johnson thought Christy was using drugs that she believed were provided by Farmer.

Christy had suffered from a heart murmur since she was a child. It was a disorder that - coupled with the drug use - Johnson believed would lead to her teenage daughter's death.

When it came time for the jury to decide her fate, they returned a verdict of first-degree murder. The sentence was 27 years-to-life - a sentence Johnson is still serving.

Bill Jones already had left his mother's house when she went to trial. He left, went out on his own - his father died when he was 3 - and never looked back. At first, he tried to believe the stories. He tried to support his mother. But the more he looked at the case and thought about it, Jones knew it wasn't right.

"I tried for a time to think that what she did was legitimate or something because these were people, and not that anyone deserves to die or anything like that, they were just trouble," Jones said. "I found out later that my mother was the same way. She was with those people. She took drugs and she was in all that stuff. That was her lifestyle. It wasn't mine. It's not what I did. I totally didn't identify with that. The fact that my mother seemed to think that it was everybody else's fault. I had a real big problem with that."

He remembers hearing about the verdict on the news. A verdict that Jones, to this day, thinks was fair.

"She doesn't deserve to get out," Jones said. "If you are going to believe in something, you gotta believe in it all the way. I think if you take somebody's life, you should have to give up yours. It doesn't matter who it is. It's not like all of a sudden it changes. Blood is not thicker than water. It doesn't represent so much more. For some people it does, but it is more like an excuse."

When all was said and done, Jones was alone, left with no family at the age of 20. He and his sisters were divided over the question of their mother's motives. Jones, meanwhile, was left wondering what to do.

He started by taking odd jobs, working long hours while living with friends, then on his own. College was never something that was brought up when he was younger. Jones' one semester in college in 1988 was only a way to continue his football career. As soon as the season ended, Jones dropped out.

Growing up the way Jones did helped in many ways. He was very independent. He remembers having to cook his own meals, starting when he was 6. It wasn't unusual for his mother to sleep all day, while Jones and the girls were left to fend for themselves.

"Above all, the thing that hurt me the most was not having direction and guidance," Jones said. "We were always alone, my mother always left me by myself. So now, I am just kinda fine being by myself. As much as I would like to be close to other people, I am not."

After all the odd jobs, Jones began to do one of the few things he loves. In 1992, he went back to his high school and began coaching the freshman football team. It didn't take long for Jones to have an impact at his school - or for coaching to have an impact on him. He called the defense on a team that went 9-1, with a perfect 5-0 record in the Silver League.

"I think a person has to grow up real fast when something like that happens, and he did," Head coach Burt Coleman said. "I admire him for what he has done for himself and in the coaching profession. He has worked hard to get where he is in coaching."

That year of coaching lit a fire in Jones - a fire that still burns with him today as the Lincoln High defensive coordinator. Jones' defense is the best in the Valley and second-best in the Southern Section. The Eagles have given up just over 170 yards a game.

Football always has been Jones' escape. It always has been something he could rely on for success. The only people Jones calls friends are former teammates and coaches with which he has worked. Even during the bleakest, most isolated moments, there's been football.

"There are always tough times," he said. "One thing that has always been an escape is on Thanksgiving morning when you're at football practice and you don't have to worry about it."

Jones clearly has moved on. He has gone back to school and is just over a year away from graduating from Cal State Bakersfield with a degree in Criminology. He now has a future, one that includes teaching and coaching.

"The things I feel good about are football matters," Jones said. "That is what keeps me going. That, and looking forward to finishing my degree and getting all those things for myself. Football is the one thing that has kept me balanced, kept me happy. It is the one thing I could find success in. Everything else could fall apart around me, even with the family."

Since Jones left before his mother's conviction, he has seen her just once. He received a letter from her during the 1996 football season, asking him to visit. After battling with himself, he finally went in March of 1997 in the hopes of relieving some of the built-up anger. To say the least, Jones was disappointed.

"Basically for the couple of hours I was there, all she did was tell me how everything was against her," Jones said. "I wanted to hear that what she did was wrong. How bad she felt for hurting all of us, and destroying all of us kids. And the separation that it occurred, dividing us up so bad. She didn't accept any kind of accountability for that whatsoever."

If Jones is sorry about anything, it is that his future children will not have grandparents from his side of the family.

"I miss the fact that I can't love her," Jones said. "I miss the fact that she is not there and I will never have a grandmother for my kids, or a grandfather. That bothers me."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That was more than ten years ago and I still get goose bumps reading his story. He is now a husband, father and a successful contractor.

One can't help but think that if he can overcome his obstacles, we should be able to overcome ours.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Room for rent

I am considering sending an email out to all employees on my campus. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Tell me what you think.

Dear fellow staff members,

I am looking for a roommate to join me in the house of horrors... I mean, house of fun. Requirements are you must be willing to live with one 37-year-old male who resides permanently on the couch in front of the big screen, a 50-year-old woman who bakes endlessly to stop from going insane, two 19-year-old girls who continually are shuffling in and out enough teenagers to fill up of one of our classrooms, four beautiful girls under 10 who are constantly looking for adults to give make-overs, three dogs that think they are cats, and four cats that are intelligent enough to stay out of the house. Other requirements are, but not limited to, being able to handle my dirty laundry always residing on the floor next to the washing machine and my clean clothes resting on top of the dryer, me cooking spaghetti every day as it is the only meal my children enjoy, Spongebob always playing in the background, my goatee trimmings in the bathroom sink, toilet paper that has only one sheet left at all times, a toilet seat always up, an empty refrigerator, barbie dolls taking naps on every step of the stairway, weekend wake up calls at 6 a.m. from a 4-year-old screaming at her father to make breakfast, the only quiet moment in the house being at 2:34 a.m., and the thermostat on the heater glued at 58 degrees. So, if you are about to be kicked to the street by your wife, or simply want to go some where that will make you feel better about your own life, email me back. Oh, I need a first month and a deposit ASAP.

Sincerely,

Your Football Coach

Think I will get any takers?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Be careful with your comment

I made one comment too many over the weekend. Now, Ronda is making me pay for it.

A whore for comments on my own blog, I always leave something after reading someone's post. I can honestly say that it is not because I hope they will reciprocate. Rather, I know how good it feels when you have been read and I want others to know that there is someone who is reading what they write.

After visiting one of my favorite sites, Ronda's Rants, I left a comment after reading her answers to an interview by another blogger. Her interviewer had some great questions and she took a lot of time answering them all. So, what was my comment?

"Red is my favorite color as well."

Good stuff, huh? Not really.

Ronda must have felt the same way and is now going to make sure I say a little more by asking me my own set of questions she came up with. I want you to notice there is no favorite color question.

Stupid me already answered that one.

1. My oldest son played baseball and football for most of his childhood and teen age years; even now, at 29 you will find him on a field playing football with great passion. What kind of life lessons do kids learn playing football or any kind of team sport?

I believe there are so many lessons learned by playing a team sport. For starters, I believe that kids learn that if they want to be successful at something they have to work hard and be dedicated to working hard. Secondly, if they want to have success as a team, each athlete has to realize that they have to work together to achieve a common goal. One person who has their own agenda will only hurt the team's chances of a successful season. Lastly, they learn that they may not agree with the coach or like the coach, but in order to play and be successful they have to follow the lead of the coach and buy into what he/she is selling. I believe all this traits are vital when one goes out in the real world and begins his/her career.

2. I read your letter to your grandma and I was touched by the love it conveyed...Do your girls have a close relationship to their grandparents?

It's funny how parents are so much different as grandparents. My Dad is incredible and has an limitless amount of patience with them all. I have no complaints about him as a father, however, he is so much softer and easy going with them. It is awesome to see. His wife is equally loving and never seems to tire when playing with them. They live in Oregon, so we don't see each other very often. However, they email each other and talk on the phone once a week. It means a lot to me that he is so good with them. My mom has never seen them and I wish it wasn't that way. I hope it happens before she passes away. She has had a hard life battling alcoholism, but she is a good person who has been very sick of late. I talk a lot to my girls about her and show them pictures of her. Unfortunately, that might be the extent of their relationship.

3. One of my best friends is a single Dad living In SF Area and even though he has been divorced for many years, he struggles with his relationship with his EX...What advice would you give him?

I may not be the best to advise any one on this matter as my ex and I have really had some rough moments since the split. She kicked me out when our youngest was three months old. My daughters and I left and got an apartment and it wasn't easy. I was real bitter and it was real hard for me to try and have any conversation with her. I'd say try to remain as civil with her as possible for the sake of the children. There is no person that pushes my buttons more than my ex and it is very hard for me at times to remain calm. However, nothing ever good came out of me losing my cool. Never, never, never bad mouth their mother in front of the children. My parents did that at times and it affected me and how I viewed both my mom and dad. No matter what I feel about or think about my children's mother, I never say anything in front of them. She is the only mom they have.

4. One of my favorite books is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and I noticed on your profile you listed it as well? Why do you like it?

The most perfect book ever written. If I was on a deserted island and could only have one book, it would be Harper Lee's. It tackled social issues like no other, showed great love of a father to his children, had a narrator in Scout that you couldn't help but love, and reminded us what it was like to be a child with the antics of Scout, Dill, and Jem so beautifully portrayed. It is inconceivable to me that Harper Lee has never written another novel. If you read my post about calling author George RR Martin on the phone, it may not surprise you that I have Harper Lee's home number and address. However, I have never had the courage to call her. She is an icon to me and I wouldn't know what to say.

5. I noticed that in your first blog you write about the difficulties about all the hats you wear in your daily life! It tickled me that your girls are all photographed wearing hats! But....of all the hats you wear...which one is the most difficult and why?

Each of them can be tough, yet, I love wearing them all. There are times though I wish I could switch my schedule around and parent my children during the day and work as a teacher at night. It frustrates me at times that I allow a long day at work dictate how I am as a parent. If I had to pick which was truly tougher it would have to be the parenting, though. There is so much riding on how I parent and how my kids are raised. I don't want my kids 30 years from now being messed up because of the way I raised them. I just want them happy, well-adjusted, and able to take on the world with confidence and respect for others around them. Little overwhelming to think that I will have a huge influence on whether or not that will happen.

Thank you Ronda for the questions and I hope I answered them well enough for you. I promise the next time I leave a comment on your blog, it will be worthy of what you have written. If you haven't visited Ronda's Rants, click on her link on my page and take a look. It is worth the trip.

Just leave a better comment than I did.

Now it's your turn if you would like me to interview you just leave a comment and I will email you the questions! Here's the directions:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Looking to be led


I am not a political pundit and have never claimed to be. I am a wannabe jock who has been blessed to make a career at playing games.

It is something that I sometimes can't believe that I get to do on a daily basis. I am a kid at heart and my job has allowed me to remain one.

However, this past political season has made me enjoy the game of politics. Much like following the NFL, MLB, or NBA season, I found myself glued to the television watching our Presidential race.

Along the way, I like to think we as a country have found what my generation has been looking for my entire life. It is something that I don't think our country has had for almost 50 years.

I love the '60s. They had at it all.

Great iconic figures nearly every where you looked. Causes that rallied the country around and against each other, and political figures that changed the course of history for our country.

As a child of the '70s and '80s, I always felt cheated and almost like I grew up in the wrong time in our country. We had no Beatles, Elvis, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, or even a Cat Stevens. We had no polarizing causes like the draft, Vietnam War, or Roe vs. Wade. Politically or scoially, we had no Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, or JFK.

It was as if I grew up in a time where we were waiting for someone to come and lead us in the right direction. We had a few political leaders that did seem as if they had the right stuff in Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

However, they both had major flaws with Reagan's involvement with the Iran-Contra Affair and Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Both Bush's certainly didn't have or give the country what it needed.

Growing up with a Republican father, I always identified with the conservative point of view. I was born into it and it was all I knew. However, working in a field that is dominated by liberals has opened my eyes to their cause. This has left me wondering what side of the fence do I stand on, politically speaking.

The only way I know how to answer this question is by looking at how my life was affected when each party was in control. What I found is that my adult life really wasn't any different whether a Bush or Clinton was in the office.

Any struggles that I may have suffered during my life have been self-afflicted. No one living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can be blamed for my poor choices that I have made. Would be nice if I could, but it would not be true.

I know I am a financial mess. I don't mind knowing I am a mess. I don't mind being a mess. What I mind, is people expecting the government to take care of my mess. I guess that is the Republican in me.

So, when this last political season began I fell victim of watching every primary or caucus, every debate and every interview any of the candidates may have been involved in. I couldn't help myself and was especially transfixed by the race between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.

If either won, it would be historical for obvious reasons. However, there is something about Obama that drew me to him.

He had a presence about him that made me think that my generation finally had its historical icon. I am not naive to think that Mr. Obama is going to fix our current economic crisis over night, or eliminate the problems of the Middle East, and he isn't going to stop terrorism.

There isn't one person who can do all that on his own. What I want is Obama to truly lead the Republicans and Democrats to work together to conquer those issues.

I want Obama to bring our country back from one that is divided down race lines and one separated by economical differences between the haves' and have nots'. But not by doing it for us, but rather, by leading us and motivating us to do it on our own individually as a country united.

Every time he talks, I feel like I am hearing another JFK telling the country, "Ask not what your country can do for you... ask what you can do for your country."

You won the election Mr. Obama, so now it is your turn. Take us and bring us back to a country that we can be proud of again. Lead us there and we will follow.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Last laugh

Two years ago, I googled a friend from college in the hopes that I could reconnect with him in some way. Not necessarily to communicate with him again, more to simply find out what he has been doing with his life.

I do this quite regularly and usually to no avail. However, when I typed in Danny Evans' name I was rewarded by finding his blog, Dad Gone Mad. It was a great find. . . I was able to learn that he is married with two kids and working in the marketing business.

But more than just finding out about his personal life, I found out Danny is still Danny. I really enjoyed hanging out with Danny in college, and by reading his blog, it felt like we were hanging out all over again.

Three to four times a week I read his blog and I really admired him for being committed to it. We share a common thread in that we both were journalism students at Fresno State and yet neither of us are working in the journalism field.

I loved the fact that he had found an outlet for his writing bug and I often wondered if I too could start a blog of my own. Two weeks ago today I finally said, "Fuck it, I can do it."

As much I have enjoyed writing, I still love to go read what Danny is up to.

Yesterday, Danny wrote about a gift that he has in being able to identify the age, the sex, and sometimes even the name of a person that he hears fart. As moronic as this may sound, I have to admit, it was a great read.

It made me think this morning about a gift that I have and always have had. The gift of gab, wit, and sarcasm. A co-worker calls me the walking one-liner and I really enjoy finding humor in situations or in people.

It has been with me throughout my life, and has sometimes gotten me in a little bit of trouble. I embrace it though and find that it entertains me. I really try not to use it to hurt other people, but sometimes when the mood strikes, I can't control it.

As a high school teacher, there are times when a student says things to you that you would never dreamed of saying when you were in school. Things like, "Fuck that, I am not running a lap. You run it fat ass."

This can have a way of getting you a little amped up. So, I usually fight fire with fire. I almost always win and the problem usually goes away when the rest of the class is in uproar with laughter after I have turned the tables on the student with my tongue.

It is not often the student a gets payback, but one certainly did last night.

Shortly before the start of our school's girls basketball game, I walked into the stands to talk to a group of students. I love interacting with the kids and hanging out with them. I was surprisingly in a good mood and I really enjoyed being in the stands with the students.

(I say surprisingly because as some of you read, I quit smoking Wednesday night and have yet to go back. It has been a bitch, but thanks to the many tips and encouraging words I have gotten from you, I have handled it better than I thought I would.)

After ten minutes of talking with kids and having them all laughing hysterically, I started to head down to the bench for the game. As I was leaving, the students were laughing louder and I couldn't help but think how cool I was.

Then a student yelled over the laughter, "Hey, Coach?" It was one of the students that I had a problem with this week. One of the ones that I humiliated after he had some unpleasant things to say about my mother.

I turned around and headed back up, anticipating round two.

"What's up, Jeff"

"Coach, what are you doing?"

I started getting a little irritated at where this was going and knew I was taking his bait, "What do you mean, what I am doing?"

"Are you trolling or something?"

"Trolling?"

"Yea, I mean your zipper is down. You advertising to all the mom's that you want something... are you trolling, Coach??"

I would like to say that the laughter in the gym wasn't that loud and noticeable as I turned away and quickly zipped. But, it was deafening. Everyone was pointing and laughing and all I could do was laugh back.

That shouldn't really count as getting me back, though. I served it up to him. It was like pitching a professional baseball player an underhand pitch... he better hit a home run. But, I gave credit, where credit was due.

"Jeff, it seems you got the last laugh. Congrats. That doesn't happen often to me"

I walked back to the court with whatever dignity that I had remaining and resumed my role as an assistant coach. Throughout the game, I could hear a small group chanting, "Zip it Up, Zip it Up, Zip it Up."

It was unpleasant and funny at the same time. My only hope is that it will remain at the basketball game and be forgotten after a three-day weekend.

I doubt they will forget, though.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ending a relationship

I dumped a loved one last night after 10 years of being together. It isn't the first time I have done it, but I hope it is the last time.

The three prior times I stopped the relationship, I quickly ran back to it after a month or two as soon as I had faced adversity in my life. It was always there for me and if given the opportunity, it always will be there waiting to embrace me with open arms.

Ironically, I will have a harder time with the breakup than it will. It's as if it knows that I will be back.

Not this time, though. I can't go back after hearing these words from my daughter.

"Daddy, I saw on TV today that smoking can kill you. Is that true?"

My heart sank just hearing the way she asked me. Shelby seemed so upset about what was about to come, despite not knowing the answer.

How do I answer that question without upsetting her even more? More importantly, though, how can I live with myself knowing that my habit was causing my daughter to worry about my mortality.

As hard as it was for me, I answered her with the truth.

"Yes baby. Cigarettes can kill you. It doesn't happen over night, but it can cause you to get sick and maybe even die."

"Then you have to stop... please Daddy."

My daughters have asked me to stop smoking before, but never the way Shelby did. It was the first time where I could actually see the pain in her face at the prospects of losing me.

So, last night at 10:15 p.m., I smoked what I hope to be my last cigarette. It has to be my last cigarette.

In my life, I have climbed to the the top of Mt. Whitney (the highest summit in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet), jumped out of an airplane, and ran in and finished two Los Angeles Marathons. However, if I am successful in quitting, I will view it as my greatest personal accomplishment.

That's how hard I know this is going to be. Smoking isn't just something I did, but it became part of who I was. As a casual drinker who has gotten drunk in the past, I can say that I have never miss getting drunk or drinking at all.

Smoking will be missed for me. A non-smoker can't understand, but smoking and I did have a relationship. I turned to it for everything. I truly loved to smoke.

That's why today was as hard as I thought it was going to be for me. All day I had thoughts of smoking and wanting so bad to bum a smoke from a co-worker. It truly was something that I could not get out of my head no matter how hard I tried.

Fortunately, though, Shelby's face and the way she looked when pleading with me to quit also kept popping into my head. It was that thought that kept me from going back to smoking.

At least for today.

I view my blog as a mirror of sorts, the way I that I see myself. While I may have been able to lie or mislead other people, I have never been able to lie to myself when looking at a mirror at the end of a day.

So, I will never lie to my blog about whether or not I have smoked. I hope that this will also help me quit as I will have to face my blog at the end of each day. Wish me luck and feel free to offer up any tips that may have helped you or anyone you know who has successfully quit smoking.

There is nothing better than having friends who prevent you from going back to a bad relationship.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New titles

You ever wake up in a bad mood and it never leaves you? Well, maybe not a bad mood, but everything you see or hear promotes sarcasm and cynicism.

That was me today. I actually found it quite funny and pleasurable.

At least it was for me. I am sure there were plenty of people who were glad to hear the last bell ring and see me leave school for the day.

Throughout the day, sarcasm was oozing out of my mouth like a leaky faucet that couldn't be fixed. To save face with co-workers and students who were on the other end of my jabs, I'd rather discuss how this mood affected me when I got home.

Sitting on the couch and flipping through the movie channels, I began to attack movies and the titles that they had. I hate when you tune into a movie and find that the title really doesn't give a you a fair indication of what you are about to watch.

Uncontrollably, I found myself renaming movie after movie to better fit what it was really about. Here are a few examples:

Home Alone - Not a bad title, but would have been better as Home Alone: We left him on Purpose. If you had a son likes this, would you take him on a plane all the way to Europe? I hate everything about Malcaulay Culkin and never found him to be the cute kid he was portrayed as in his movies. I was rooting for Daniel Snyder and Joe Pesci through out the movie.

The only MC movie I enjoyed was Good Son, naturally because he died in the movie. The only change that would have made the movie better was if the last scene where he fell to his death from a cliff was moved to the first scene.

Grease - I understand that they were a bunch of Greasers who like to work on cars. However, wouldn't this title be better? What I had to go through to sleep with a Blonde Prude. A little long, but it fits. Hiding feelings from friends, trying to earn a varsity letter, and drag racing in the Los Angeles River seemed like a little too much work just to bag Olivia Newton John.

If John Travolta liked Stockard Channing's character, the movie would have been over in five minutes. Instead of Summer Nights as the catchy song in the beginning of the movie, we would have had Easy Nights with a chorus something like this:

It so damn Easy,
Being with a girl who is easy
Easy loving, Easy loving, Easy loving
Loving me some easy, easy nights


Star Wars - This might be the best series of movies ever made. I can't help but think that Mr. Lucas might have missed one more movie for it, though. Maury Povich Heads to Space. Maury could have ended any controversy over whether or not Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia's father. Can you imagine the tension and build-up leading up to Maury proclaiming, "Darth Vader, you are their father!"

I would have paid to see it.

Juno - Absolutely loved this movie... but could be more helpful to teen girls if it was called Here is what Happens when you Sleep with a Cross Country Runner. Sleep with a football player and you don't have to worry about getting pregnant. They are likely sterile due to steroid use.

The Sun Also Rises - An oldie, but a goodie. Title is not bad, just needs a little tweaking. How about, The Sun Also Rise, but his Penis Doesn't. I know a lot people who have read this book or watched the movie and wondered why Jake and Brett don't just hook up. This would clear up any confusion.

Step Brothers - I love Will Ferrell, but if you have seen this, you have to agree that it should just be Dumb and Dumber: The Dumbest! While it is sprinkled with some entertaining moments, most of the movie is spent wondering can there really be two people more stupid than these two? Should just be a sequel to the next movie.

Dumb and Dumber - Wait a minute... this actually works. However, which one is Dumb, and who is Dumber?

What do you think? Have any that you can think of that work? Would love to see them if you do.

I actually found this quite enjoyable and allowed me to save my daughters from the wrath of my tongue.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Trading places

I got a call from a sportswriter yesterday asking me if I knew any high school football coaches who would not be back next year. My first response was asking him if he was referring to me.

If he knew something about my future, please tell me. I just finished a season where we won just one game... it didn't seem far-fetched for some newspaper to wonder if I was going to be fired after the season we had.

After he laughed at my response for a few seconds, he politely said, "No, I wasn't suggesting you should be fired. I just heard that someone you might know was on his way out. But, if you tell me there isn't anyone you know of, than I believe you."

And that was the end of it. Or, at least, I thought it was the end of it.

While walking a few laps as a Physical Education teacher with some of my students, I noticed that I missed a call and had a message from my mentor and former head football coach.

"Hey, Brett. Happy New Year. I just wanted you to know that I talked to Brandon last night and he informed me that he resigned as football coach. I was shocked and just thought you should know."

If Coach was shocked, I was dumbfounded and bewildered by the news.

Coach is Brandon's dad and coached us both in high school in the late '80s. We both went off to college and later came back to work for the old man until 2002 when he finally retired after coaching for 30 years at the same school.

The logical choice to take over for his dad was Brandon. He had been around the football program since the day he was born. He was a ball boy for his Dad until he was in high school and he seemed destined to continue the winning tradition set forth by his father.

However, shortly after his dad announced his retirement, Brandon was hired as the head football coach on an Indian reservation in Arizona. It was a school that hadn't won a game in years, and in five years, Brandon has won four to six games in each season.

It may not seem like he accomplished a lot in wins and losses. However, he is almost a hero on the reservation for the the turnaround he had created.

I remember talking to Brandon after a win during his first season and he was laughing about how well he was treated by the Indians on the reservation. After each win, Brandon would go home to find packages of deer and elk meat carefully packaged for him on his doorstep.

I stepped away from football after both Dad and son left to try and put my life back together. My marriage had just ended and I thought it would be best to focus on being a single father and not worrying about working for a new coach that I didn't know.

I never regretted my decision to hang up my whistle and exchange it for diapers, bottles and car seats. That time was the most challenging and rewarding time of my life. But, I did miss football. I hoped that some day when my kids would be a little older and able to hang out at practices and games without my constant attention, I could go back.

When the new coach walked away from coaching football after three seasons, I took the job and have given it everything I had for the last two years. I have loved every minute of it and have taken great pride to coach at the school that I graduated from and one that is rich in tradition.

While Brandon was his Dad's ball boy for so many years, my four daughters can be seen on the sidelines during games working as water girls. They love being around the cheerleaders and football team and think it is pretty cool that their Dad is the Coach.

When Brandon and I worked together as coaches, he used to give me hell about having a wife at home calling every five minutes wondering when I would be leaving. Brandon was married to football and I can honestly say that I cannot remember him going on a date while we worked together.

It was, and always seemed to me, to be football and football only for Brandon.

That changed last May when I drove to Arizona and was his best man in his wedding. In October, he called and told me that he and his new wife were going to have a child this Spring.

And now he has stepped away from football. With everything that has changed in his life for the better, maybe I am not all that shocked with his decision.

After all, I walked away from football before so I could be a father to my babies. Now, it's his turn.

Best of luck Brandon and enjoy every minute of it. I know I did.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Money matters

Today's lesson with my kids was on the importance of saving money. Since I have a combined $236.33 in my savings and checking accounts until the end of the month, I may not be the best role model for my kids.

This definitely qualifies as one of those "Do as I say, not as I do" moments. There are a lot those in my household.

But, nevertheless, it was my duty to get my kids on the right track when money is involved. It is going to be a challenging task to say the least.

Over the weekend, my second-grader has been finding change all over the place. In two days of looking, she has amassed just over $5 in quarters, dimes, nickles and pennies. After spending over an hour counting and recounting her loot, she was ready to go shopping...

"Dad, can we please go to the dollar store? I can buy five things. Five, Daddy!!"

"Baby, why don't you save your money so you can buy something better a little later?"

"What's better than five things from the dollar store? I can get a pencil, crayons, a notebook and two bags of M&M's!"

She certainly had already mapped out a shopping list. However, I tried to use reasoning to get her back on my side.

"Listen... Why don't I let you look on the internet and you can see if there is anything on the Toys R Us page you would want. Ok?"

She agreed to take a look and I left her to do some window shopping, so to speak. Two hours later, she had an impressive list. Nothing on the list was close to costing $5. A sample of what she had found:

1) Carnival Games for Nintendo Wii
Price: $39.99

2)Baby Alive Potty Training
Price: $34.98

3)Barbie & The Diamond Castle Playset Doll and Pet
Price: $92.99

4)18" Girl's Disney Fairies Bicycle - Huffy
Price: $99.99

5)Nintendo DS Lite Onyx
Price: $129.99

She was really excited about the list until I explained to her how much more money she would need to get each item. Disappointment was written all over her face.

"Do you know how much longer I am going to have save to get them? It's going to take me for ever! But, I'll do it... I guess."

As she walked away from me with her money and headed upstairs, I told her I was proud of her and the decision she made. She turned around to me and I thought she was going to say thank you. I was wrong.

"You are just glad you don't have to take me to the dollar store. Now, you can keep watching football."

Wow... she is smarter than I thought.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Motivated by another blogger

As much as I have enjoyed my first week writing in my blog, I may have enjoyed reading other blogs more.

An avid reader for the last 20 years, I love to read the written word and admire how different people express themselves by writing. I have been motivated and stimulated by what I have seen this week and look forward to the time I spend seeking out other blogs.

While reading others tonight, I found myself needing to write a letter after reading life's free treats. The latest entry was about the art of letter writing and how no one seems to do it any longer. Meggie talked about how she treasured letters she had held onto for years and how she still enjoys pulling them out and reading from time to time.

I don't remember the last time I wrote a letter to anyone, but reading this motivated me to write to someone that I have neglicted far too long...

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Dear Grandma,

It has been almost two years since I saw you and I can't tell you how much I miss you and our visits. I know I should call more often. I can tell you how busy I am teaching and coaching, or I can tell you how much time it takes to try and to do my best raising my little girls...but there really is no excuse. After all, a phone call takes just a few minutes to make.

I guess what I want you to know is how much you mean to me and how much I loved spending time with you and Grandpa. Over the years I have periodically been asked who my heroes are... with no reservation I have answered it has been and always will be you two. I can't imagine a greater pair of role models. You are everything I want to be in life, and everything I want to have in life.

Having been married and divorced twice, I can't tell you how much I envy you two and the relationship you had. I can't imagine being married for 60-plus years like you two were. I am not naive to think it was always easy, which only makes me respect this great accomplishment even more.

But more than just being able to make a marriage work for so long, your greatest accomplishment is in the kids you raised. A registered nurse, an aeronautical engineer, and a President of a bank. All have been incredibly successful in their careers, no doubt because of the pride in their work and desire to do everything to the best of their ability that you and Grandpa instilled in them.

Aside from what they have accomplished professionally, they have all remained close with each other and would do anything for you. What more can a parent ask for than that? You have truly been rewarded for your great work as a parent.

I often look back at the times we spent together. Spending the summer in Chicago and the summers you flew out here to Southern California were truly some of the greatest times of my life. Watching you walk off the plane every time you flew out here was a moment that I looked so forward to and one that I still relive today.

There are times when one of my daughters wants to climb into my lap when I am having a long day or just want a moment to myself. As soon as I start to push her away, I think of you and how you were always there for me to climb into your arms or rest my head in your lap as you ran your fingers through my hair. How can I turn down my daughters after remembering how you never turned me away?

I can't imagine how lonely you have been since Grandpa has passed. Please know that you have a grandson who thinks of you often and tells his children what a wonderful Grandma I have in you.

I promise you this year that I will do a better job of calling you on a regular basis. But even if I don't, I wrote this today because I wanted you to have this with you whenever you may be thinking, "How come my Brett hasn't called me in awhile?" I want you to read it so you can know that there is no one who can admire you more, respect you more, and simply love you more than I do. I also want you to know that I will always be YOUR Brett.

Your loving Grandson,

Brett
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Grandma and her grandchildren


Thank you Meggie for your wonderful post and motivation to write a letter. Ironically, your blog is named life's free treats... I can't help but think that a letter from a loved one would qualify as one of life's free treats.

I can't wait to mail my Grandma a treat from me in the morning. She has certainly given me so many in my life.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Here's to Guilt

It is not often that I embrace the feeling of guilt.

Who does? It's an emotion that makes us feel like we screwed up and is notorious for not letting us forget about it.

Today, I was glad to feel guilty.

Laying around and enjoying the pleasure of complete silence in my house, I realized that I had left my cell phone upstairs the night before. Confident that I had probably missed a call or two, I ran and grabbed it from my nightstand.

I already had 13 missed calls and four messages. One message stood out from the rest.

"Hey man, our girls are having Lunch on the Lawn today at school and we should go,'' said my lifelong friend who my kids refer to as Uncle DJ. "Call me back and we can go up there together.''

I am a single parent and have my kids fifty percent of the time. My kids went to their mother's house yesterday morning and will be there until Friday afternoon. I had no idea about today's big day at the school and planned on enjoying one of my last days of vacation at home alone.

Despite the message, I tossed the phone on the couch without returning the call and tried to go back to doing nothing. I am a high school teacher and coach and after a rough football season in the fall, I felt like I needed and earned a break from it all.

I was going to sit on the couch surfing the web and watching rerun after rerun of SportsCenter. The only thing I was getting up for was to get anything and everything I desired from the kitchen. To hell with everyone and everything else!

Then guilt hit me and hit me hard. It was as if it was coming at me from every direction and all I can do was picture my beautiful second-grader walking around by herself while her friends were at lunch with their parents.

Quickly, I grabbed the phone and called DJ and told him I was ready and looking forward to going. He didn't need to know that just minutes earlier I was completely Ok with blowing it off.

As soon as I walked into the school's cafeteria I spotted my daughter in line to get some cardboard looking piece of pizza with a cup of corn. After seeing that, I then started feeling guilty about not making lunches for her and taking the easy way out by paying for all her meals at the beginning of each month.

I'll tackle that guilt on another day.

I walked toward her and heard the most beautiful sound a father could hear...

"Daddyyyyy!!!!! Hi!" Vanna said as she sprinted to me. "Are you here for Lunch on the Lawn day?"

"Of course baby. I wouldn't have missed it."

We had a great lunch and then spent the rest of time walking hand-in-hand while she pointed out friends and things she enjoyed doing at school. It couldn't have gone better.

While she thanked me for coming, I couldn't help but thank guilt for coming to me.

Just hope it waits until after vacation to come again.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hey George...it's me again

I fucked up yesterday. I really don't know how else to describe it. I just fucked up.

I am sorry about cussing... but I am pretty fired up. I am around high school kids all the time and I really have to control the language. Right now, though, there's no controlling it.

Before I get into what I did, let me give some background information that pertains to what happened.

Three years ago, I started dating the most beautiful woman in the world. I really don't know how it happened or what she was thinking at the time. Really... I mean if you saw a picture of her and me, you'd be wondering the same thing. Pretty fucking cool, huh?

Before we started dating, we talked about books and what we each like to read. I was a classical book fan, meaning I was reading the Hemingway's, Harper Lee's, Steinbeck's and anyone else that I heard won an award or two. I thought it broadened my mind and made me cool if I read them.

She, on the other hand, was into fantasy, sci-fi, vampire and a whole bunch of other shit that I never even fathomed of reading. I couldn't even imagine why someone would want to read that stuff. I mean, we did grow up, didn't we?

We traded books from our own collection and promised each other we would actually read them. She gave me Marta Randall's A Sword for Winter and I gave her Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.

I actually read it. I really liked this woman and anything to help in my pursuit of getting her to bed... I was going to do it.

A funny and unexpected thing happened while reading this book... I fell in love with fantasy writing. The only other fantasy writing stuff I read before was the letters in Penthouse, and there was no cleanup needed after reading this genre.

It was incredible. It brought me into whole new world that I never knew existed. I wanted and needed more.

She then proclaimed me ready to move up a notch and tackle a series, not just one book. She gave me George RR Martin's series Fire and Ice and I dug in and started reading.

And I read and I read and I read. I finished four books of more than 1,000 pages each in four weeks. I couldn't help myself. It was the most beautiful, and yet, kick ass story you can imagine. I still get goosebumps down the back of my neck thinking about it.

But after the fourth book, I asked her for the fifth book. That's when she broke the news to me that he has yet to finish his next installment in the series. I was crushed beyond belief. And pissed off to boot.

What the hell was I going to do now? I had jumped into this series face first and it taken over all my thoughts throughout the day. Now, I had to wait for him to finish the next book?

Three years later and I am still waiting.

I routinely go onto his website looking for updates on the book only to find that he has been working on other projects, blogging about the NFL season, and traveling with his wife. He even writes a blog entry about HBO turning the series into weekly TV show.

How the fuck are they going to do that? He hasn't finished it!

Well, when it comes to books, I am not one to sit back and not do anything. After reading the book Friday Night Lights which a sports writer follows a high school football team from Texas, I called Boobie Miles to find out how he was recovering from a knee injury he suffered during the season featured in the book.

I don't remembered how I got the number, but I did and called him. We talked and he told me his football days are over and that he was still trying to figure out what he was going to do with his life. I wished him luck and thanked him for taking my call and we hung up.

Today, I thought I'd try calling Mr. Martin so we can discuss his lack of writing these days. His site told me he lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and I began calling information.

Damn it if I didn't find a George R. Martin and I now had a number.

This is where the "I fucked up yesterday" comes in. I was pretty nervous about calling and may not get exactly what I said right, but this should give you a good idea of what happened and what was going through my head as I called over and over again...
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Ring, ring, ring, ring...answer machine.

"Thank you for calling the Martins. We are not available right now. Please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Beeeeeeeep."

Yea, George, uhhhhhmmm... I am a huge fan... I can't believe I am talking to you, well not you, your answering machine. Shit, this awesome. Hey, how come you don't have something cool on your machine? Like, I am up on the Wall right now on lookout... Winter Is Coming. I'll call you back when I can. Now, that would be cool as shit. But, anyways, I am calling about your fifth book, when is it...Beeeeeeep.

Shit, I didn't even get to ask about the book. Relax this time. He is just a person... you can talk to him. Ok, calling again...

Ring, ring, ring, ring...answer machine.

"Thank you for calling the Martins. We are not available right now. Please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Beeeeeeeep."

Hey George, it's me again. But, what I was going to ask is, uhhhhm, this is fucking awesome. But anyways, when is your next book coming out? I and I am sure many others are waiting. Your shit is soooo fucking good, but I can't wait much longer. I mean, your picture on your website looks like your old and shit. What the hell am I going to do if you.... beeeeeeeep.

Oh shit, that didn't go well. I don't want him to think I am stalker or a fucking nut. I have to call back...

Ring, ring, ring, ring...answer machine.

"Thank you for calling the Martins. We are not available right now. Please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Beeeeeeeep."

Yea, uhhhhmm, what I was going to say is what if you die? How will I know what happens then? So, please finish this series. I am real big fan. Thanks and have a good day.
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And that was it. What an idiot. I came off as a total dumbass. I can't believe I fucking did that. He'll never finish the book just to spite me.

I was ready to forget about the whole calling Mr. Martin thing when my phone rang. It was him. He was calling me back?? I hate caller ID...should have blocked my calls.

"Hello?"

"Hi. This is George Martin. But not the author George Martin. The plumber George Martin. Please don't ever call here again, and I recommend you never try getting a hold of the author. Do you understand, asshole???" Click!

Damn. Who would have guessed there was more than one George Martin in New Mexico?

At least the real George Martin doesn't think I am an asshole.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New baby?

I am trying to rent a room out in my house and just got a call from a couple that would like to take it. The euphoria of having an extra $600 in my pocket was short-lived.

I was brought back from bliss when the following sentence came out of her mouth...

"We have an 11-month-old that would be moving in as well... but we promise you won't hear anything coming out of our room. The baby is really quiet!"

All I could think of saying was, "Really? What's your kid's name? Helen Keller?" Fortunately, though, the governor on my mouth was on and I said I would think about it and get back to her this evening.

I know babies. I have had four and have raised them on my own for the last four years. The last thing I would describe any of them as would be quiet. There are more noises, smells, and bodily secretions coming out of them to cause anyone to get a little nauseous.

However, those are my kids and my noises and my smells and my bodily secretions. My kids stuff couldn't make anyone sick.

Besides the fear of all that... I have graduated from babyhood fathering. I have done my time. And I did it my own. It wasn't always easy.

Days of searching the house for bottles at 2:30 a.m. only to be rewarded with ones that had week old formula in it that looked like cottage cheese are over. As are the days of taking diaper after diaper to the trash can outside so that the house didn't smell like gerber baby food gone bad.

Don't get me wrong. I loved being a baby's dad.

I loved their constant craving for attention. I loved the fact that they still wanted to climb into my arms and fall asleep. I loved their eyes looking up at me as I held them and fed them a bottle. I loved it all.

It was their constant need for me that kept me from going completely crazy after the relationship with their mother ended. I had to get up each and every day for them. There was no choice in the matter.

But, now, I love the new challenges and pleasures of having children from the ages of 4 to 10. We play Wii together, put puzzles together, do laundry together, make dinner together, and just hang out together. There is nothing better than a day with my kids.

But someone else's 11-month-old?

I think I'll pass.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Get up, Brett!

I ran into my best friend last night for the first time since 1991. We had talked a few times over the years, but never like this. It was great to finally reconnect, laugh, and relive the fun times of the past.

But more than just laughs, it was an opportunity for Kelby to set a few things straight. He was always good at putting things in perspective and reminding me what truly is important.

Kelby and I first met when we were on the same baseball team as third graders. He was by far the best player on the team, but it wasn't his talent that drew me to him. He had a presence about him that was beyond his years. He was in complete control of his surroundings and made sure everyone around him knew it.

During our third game of the year, Kelby did something that I never forgot.

"Kelby... you can't use that bat," Coach Spragno barked. "It is way too big for you to swing. Grab the littlier bat."

I remember his repsonse like it was yesterday.

"Coach, we need a big hit. I need the big bat to get a big hit. Relax Coach... I got this"

I was shocked. What 8-year-old talks like that to an adult? I was a military man's son. All I ever said was, 'Yes Sir, No Sir.'

After one bad swing and terrible strike called by the ump, Kelby did get his big hit. He hit a ball over the fence to score three runs and we won the game 4-3. With all his teammates surrounding him at the plate, Kelby had only one thing to say...

"You missed that call on the second pitch, Ump. You are lucky I got another one to hit."

From that moment on, Kelby was always a little more special to me. He was always someone I admired and not because he could hit ball farther than me. I admired him because of his confidence and belief in himself that I have and am continually looking for in myself.

We spent the next 15 years coming and going in eachothers lives. I was the one who always had the parents who would let Kelby stay over whenever he needed. Kelby was the one who was kicked out of house as senior in high school and somehow got his own apartment. The parties and good times we had in that place are times that I will never forget.

But more than just good times, we both had something that we wanted from eachother. He wanted the stability and love that I got from my own home, and I wanted his ability to go out on his own and to be able to take on life with the same vigor that he did.

He left me for good during the summer of '91 and I had never gotten over it. I have been bitter, lonely, and even cynical ever since. Until last night.

Laying in bed with nothing to entertain me other than my thoughts, Kelby came back.

"What's up?" he said with the same cocky smile he always had. "What the fuck you doing? You got another chance that I never got. Make it happen."

He said a lot more to me, but I am going to keep that for me and only me. Like I said earlier, he always had a way of keeping things in perspective for me.

Here's a guy who overcame so much in the short time he was in this world. It's about time that I start doing the same thing... I don't want our next visit being a motivational speech from him to me.

I want to tell him about being the head football coach at the high school we went to. I want to tell him about my daughters, two of them that I named after him.

But more importantly, I want to tell him that every time I start to feel sorry for myself he pops into my head and says, "What the fuck you doing?".