Sunday, January 31, 2010

Just keep swimming

Sitting in a bar last weekend with some of the top high school football coaches in the country, a coach with more than 100 career wins came to my table and asked me if he could sit down and talk for a few minutes. He was one of the presenters at the clinic and said he wanted to ask me a few questions.

What the hell would he want to ask me? I have won one game in the last two years. Does he want to know how to keep a head coaching job despite not winning?

"Yea Coach, ask me anything," I said.

"First, can I buy you a beer or anything?"

"No, thank you. I am good."

"Well, I overheard you last night talking to some other coaches about how you lucked out that your kids were with your ex-wive this weekend, allowing you to come to the clinic. My wife just left me and took my three kids. She told me she is going to fight for full custody because she doesn't think I can be a single Dad with all the responsibilities that come along with coaching.

"I don't know what to do. She is right in a way... football takes so much time. I don't know how I can do it all and yet still do what it takes to be a coach. But, I can't not be around my kids. I am seriously thinking about quitting football."

I was floored. I never imagined that this is what he wanted to talk about when he sat down next to me.

I have been exactly where he is now. Five years ago and two months after my youngest daughter was born, my ex and I officially separated. At that time, I wasn't coaching football and there was no way I could have coached at that time.

I was too heartbroken, too emotional, and too overwhelmed to do anything than other than survive. In a flash, my whole life was in disarray and I saw no way to overcome the state I was in.

The only thing that got me out of bed at that time was my kids. I had no choice. They needed me to function as mininmally as I was for their own survival.

Honestly, if I was given a choice of staying and raising my kids on my own or running as far away as possible, I might have chosen the latter. I'd like to be able to say that my love for my girls made me stay. But, what really made me stay was that those little girls needed me to.

I remember so many nights leaving work, rushing over to their daycare facility to pick up a four-month-old, two-year-old, and three-year-old, running to my piece of shit two-bedroom apartment (after leaving a beautiful five-bedroom, two-story house), feeding them anything remotely healthy, bathing them all, and then finally getting them to bed. That three-hour process was much harder and exhausting than the nine hours of teaching and coaching high school kids.

The things is, I always hated when I was complimented for being a good Dad. To me, all I was doing is what I had to do. Single mothers do it all the time and never get praise for it.

Instead of throwing kudos out to those men who remain Dads and do their share of parenting after a divorce, people should look down on men who don't do it. That is something I have no empathy for... men who turn their backs on the children when the marriage falls apart.

Reliving all that, I had an answer for the Coach.

"Coach... you have to decide how important football is and how important being a dad is to you. If they both are important and are worth fighting for... then do it. My kids are at football practices, games, and team functions with me. If I am there and it is their week to be with me, then they are with me."

"You can do this Coach. You can do both. It isn't always easy, but it is better than not doing it. And, you know what? My kids love being a part of it all. They feel like they are on the team and take the losses just as hard if not harder than me. But, they wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

"Coach, this is going to sound stupid, but I have watched a million kids' movies over the last few years and one really helped me through this. You ever watch, "Finding Nemo"?

"Yea," the Coach said with a laugh.

"Remember when Dory and Nemo's Dad begin their journey looking for Nemo? Dory kept singing that song, "Just Keep Swimming". Didn't matter how far they had to go, the only way they they would get there was to keep swimming.

"Well, Coach... you may not always want to do it, but you got to keep swimming."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Done with me... Facebook Features

Blah, blah, blah and more blah. That's what I see every time I read something that I wrote about me and my daily goings on.

It's getting old. Like an overplayed song you can't get away from when you turn on the radio.

I am done with it. At least I am done with me or my girls always being what I write about on my blog.

No more of me rambling on about how miserable I have been over the last two weeks while going through chemotherapy, or how I just celebrated my sixth month of sobriety, or what one of my little girls may have done to make me laugh, cry, or scream.

But, I am not done with writing.

Nope. Now, I want to write about people. People that I have known for years or who I have recently met. People with stories.

I have always been a people person. And, I am often moved by what they have gone through, overcome, or simply accomplished in our little world.

During my days as a sportswriter, I was lucky enough to cover the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Lakers, and a Rose Bowl. Great fun and a dream come true for a someone whose life revolved around the Los Angeles' sports scene.

But, what I loved most about being a sportswriter was when I wrote feature stories about local athletes.

Stories of high school athletes like the star softball player who went to bat every time hearing the same words from her deceased father who taught her eveything about hitting before being murdered. Or, the story I wrote about a football player who set state records as a running back while serving time at the only youth detention center in the country that is allowed to compete in athletics against high schools.

Each person I encountered while writing features about them had an impact on me. In some way or another, they made me want to be a better person while giving me perspective.

So... to prevent myself from reading more of the same blah, blah, blah stuff I always spew, I end by saying that I will post my first Facebook Feature in the next couple of days.

The Facebook Feature came to me while glancing through the many so-called friends I have on Facebook and wanting to know more about these people that I have been in contact with at some point in my life. I look forward to bringing their stories to you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When not to play with yourself

A conversation I had with my doctor Monday afternoon. What your about to read made me realize that there are people more stupid than me.

Doctor: "I really think it is best if we start you on a chemotherapy right away. You have a lot more spots on your face that are cancerous and I don't want to have to keep cutting you up."

Me: "You are the doctor. I will do whatever you think is best."

Doctor: "OK, good. You will apply the ointment every day for 30 days. Your probably going to break out all over your face and it won't be pretty. But, it will kill any cancer cells we can't see."

Me: "OK... let's do it."

Doctor: "Make sure you wash your hands after you put it on your face. I had a patient last year who had a serious problem after not washing his hands."

Me: "What happened? His hands swell up?"

Doctor: "No. He decided to play with himself a little after putting the ointment on and his scrotum swelled up. It was quite embarrassing for him to have to come back in here."

Me: "Good to know, Doc. No using the ointment when I masturbate. Got it."