5 For Friday: 5 things I hate

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

I’m usually one to love. Write about love. Loving things.

But like vegetables, shin splints, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, love can’t exist without a dose or three of hate.

“Leave hate for Hitler,” I like to say. (OK, I don’t say it, yet, but I heard it in a movie, and it sounded cool.)

Inspired by the hateful words on tidbitsofchaos.com (the author isn’t hateful – she’s honest, insightful and funny), here’s my list of 5 things I hate (I’d considered making it 10, but it didn’t make sense to double the dose on my Five For Friday theme that I got from another blogger, Krafty Kat).

1. Every country that goes against the U.S. in the Olympics.

 

The kids have picked up on this one, and it’ll mean talk about the difference between American pride and, um, being openly racist. It’s actually a fine line. We can stew over a Russian gymnast celebrating an American mistake, and rightly so, but the following exchange happened between my oldest two and me, in the presence of my sister, who was appalled:

Me: Dangit, the American didn’t win.

Elise: Who won?

Me: The French dude.

Elise: I hate the French.

Marie: I hate anyone who isn’t American.

They’re just learning about this great big world. Of course we don’t hate the French; of course, we don’t hate anyone who isn’t American. But the seeds for a healthy disdain for your rivals and the seeds for hating your rival sometimes get mixed in the same pack.

We’re working on that.

As American women’s soccer star Alex Morgan pointed out, “I wanted to beat Canada SO BAD.” This isn’t a bad thing to feel or say. As I said, we’re working on it … because it’s OK to really, really dislike your rivals.

2. The rivals: the Dodgers, Raiders, red wings, and lakers.

It’s OK to have rivals. That team you can’t stand. That school you have nightmares about your daughter choosing. I’ve always felt if the Broncos went 2-14, and beat the Raiders twice, it’s a great season.

I wonder how many of you noticed I won’t even capitalize the teams’ names. Rivals, though, are what gives sports such depth. They make winning sweeter, losing more bitter, and the desire to get back in and play again overwhelming.

Been part of a rivalry? You know how it feels. For every kid who wears a Duke jersey for a trip to Chapel Hill, or helps carry a rival-inspired trophy out of a stadium, or who has celebrated a title on a rival’s playing grounds, it’s a rich and delicious fabric in sports.

The Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry has been explained as “just plain hate.”

I can associate.

3. Buying tortillas in the store.

I’d rather buy maxi pads or Preparation H. There’s just something fundamentally wrong. I’m no longer Catholic, but I’m fairly sure there must be a saint in the Latino Catholic church that watches over the coconut – you know, the one who is brown on the outside and white on the inside.

Saint Masa Trigo, forgive me my sins. I know I should be home making them myself.

My penance? Three Our Fathers, six Hail Marys, and 50 homemade tortillas.

During a shameful trip to Wal-mart, I felt self-conscious taking the white, er, easy way out with tortillas prepackaged in Trenton, N.J. When I decided on the even-cheaper Wal-mart brand and put down the Old El Paso, I did so in the presence of a young Latina.

She shook her head slowly and shopped on. My Latino card had been revoked.

What would abuela do?

Like I was no longer permitted to yell “aye! aye! aye!” during a Spanish polka song (OK, so this isn’t something I have the opportunity to do every day, but still … ), or to bark out “primera a la pelota!” during a soccer game (translated: “first to the ball!”), or to order enchiladas in the Mexican restaurant and use a Spanish accent.

4. Jacking up a favorite shirt by slopping on it.

It’s one thing when a little butter seeped through the end of my tortilla, or pizza sauce dribbled. It’s somehow all the more tragic when the offending spot-creator is something as deplorable as Italian dressing.

I mean, I’ve just relegated a shirt – probably a favorite – to the charity/yard sale pile, all because I thought I’d go all Dr. Oz and douse my salad (what am I doing eating salad in the first place? I’m a carnivore. It better have had bacon bits) with Italian dressing and pass on the Thousand Island, Buttercorn Ranch or Super Creamy Oh So Dreamy Caesar dressing?

Man, I’m getting all steamed up just thinking about it.

Damn salads. Trouble. Leave them for the rabbits.

5. Losing a golf disc to a sneaky kid. Or forest snake. Or wilderness nymph who doesn’t even grant me wishes.

 

More likely, it’s just someone who happens by and decides not to call the cellphone number I’ve scrawled in Sharpie underneath. (Who am I kidding? Half of the discs in my bag have someone else’s name and number on them, and I never call them. It’s the one Old Testament part of me. You know, eye for an eye. We’ll get into this later).

Not to be insensitive to those who’ve lost pets, but when you have to walk away from a thicket or creek without one of your discs, and it’s because you made a lousy throw, it kind of feels like coming home from the vet without your pet.

You feel empty. You’re mad at the world and mad at yourself.

You stew over your emotions. Place blame. On Dodgers fans or Latvians. Or whoever invented the machine that can make tortillas in mass quantities and the companies that are big enough to sell them for 99 cents a bag.

Makes me want to add extra bacon bits, and maybe creamy French dressing, to my salad.

Oh, wait.

Not French.

hate

Things a dude must give up at ages 20, 30, and 40

photo credit: Facing The Storm via photopin (license)
photo credit: Facing The Storm via photopin (license)

Men, we do enough to make ourselves look silly.

We wear fedoras, even though we’re not direct descendants of Vince Lombardi, in Justin Timberlake’s close circle of friends, or play bass in a really cool band, for instance.

We pick fights at youth soccer or baseball games.

We Grow a soul patch or wear skinny jeans. Wrong, at any age.

Continue reading “Things a dude must give up at ages 20, 30, and 40”

$ign here: Something to think about before you pay for an autograph

 

photo credit: andres musta via photopin cc
photo credit: andres musta via photopin cc

Poor Cam Newton.

Not poor Cam Newton. An NFL quarterback, with multi-year contracts and endorsement deals, cannot be called *poor*, unless he’s gambled his earnings away, or squandered them on wine, women and song, or left them in a Hefty bag in the backseat of a taxi cab.

Or if he’s torn a knee ligament just before the playoffs and can’t play. Then it’d be, “*poor* (insert quarterback’s name here – I don’t want to jinx anyone), he can’t play in the playoffs.”

Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers star quarterback, isn’t poor in any of those ways.

Continue reading “$ign here: Something to think about before you pay for an autograph”

5 Ways to Give Your Kids Confidence (Without Becoming an Ogre or Doormat)

 

photo credit: lawndart via photopin cc
photo credit: lawndart via photopin cc

 

There’s this delicate balance we want to establish in our kids. No, I don’t mean popular in school, without living like a starlet.

Or being the star of the team, without regard to the concept of team.

Or brilliantly smart, without knowing when to take time from the books and be a kid.

Come to think of it, we want those things, too. But that’s not the purpose of this particular blog.

There are three other things we want to instill in our kids, at some point between the moment we cut the umbilical cord to when we take the training wheels off the bike for the first time to helping to pull their jeep out of a lake after college homecoming (what?).

I want my girls to feel …

Young Boy in Confident Pose - Centro Habana - Havana - Cuba

Confident, but not entitled.

Self-assured, but not self-centered.

Happy in their skin, but not oblivious to the world around them.

It’s like trying to balance an egg on one end on Arbor Day (or is that Winter Solstice? I forget.

The generations before were just as perplexed, from the era of Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard to Kids Are Just Little People to Let’s Idolize Our Child With Bumper Stickers Declaring Their Academic Brilliance, Window Stickers With Their Jersey Number, and Cost Of Private Lessons In Anything They Choose To Do Recreationally.

What is right?

There’s more validity in action than theory, as parents know.

These are a handful I try to put into action. The less you speak, and the more you do, the better. I even asked the kids for their input on this. After their initial suggestion that I instill confidence by buying them i-Pod touches were squashed like an Eva Longoria romance, we got down to business.

1. Hype it up, with good stuff

athletes,horse races,horseback riding,horseracing,jockeys,men,persons,riding crops

Grace told the world (or at least her first-grade class) daddy yells at her during soccer. No, not spittle-spewing, vein-popping, profanity-laced discourse, but something really simple: “Go Grace, go!” My sideline sounds are mostly confined to prodding the kid bringing up the rear.

I won’t scream “reverse field!”, “get to space!” or “Pass! Shoot!”; but, kind of like the horse crop on the flank, just a little prodding to get the lead out.

This happens to work, not as effectively, to finish school projects before bedtime (at which time they become parent projects. Definitely thoughts for another blog).

2. Pay attention. Always. Completely.

animals,lizards,nature,Photographs,reptiles,salamanders

If your nose is still in your Louis L’Amour novel while she’s telling you about the salamander she found in her school lunch, she’s gonna be bitter. That wacky play he’s dreamed up for the next soccer game that involved sliced lemon and a hedgehog? Take notice.

When they ask to help mush up the hamburger meat for dinner, tell them to wash their hands first, then let them get messy with you.

Honestly, when there’s these sweet familiar brown eyes fixed on you, how can you look anywhere else? I can’t confirm this scientifically, but I feel like if I listen to them, they’ll listen to me.

3. Get behind them – in a real way

brass instruments,entertainment,music,saxophones,valves,leisure,arts,tools

Drive the distance to be at the game. Switch shifts. Praise the effort, not the result. Make sure she has cleats that don’t pinch her toes. A saxophone that the b flat doesn’t sound just like a C. Think about it: If you feel someone cares about what you do, doesn’t it make you want to do it better?

4. Shoot straight

goals,nets,soccer balls,sports,equipment,scores

Not even a kid wants blown smoke. If it wasn’t her best game in goal, no need to call her Swiss cheese and an embarrassment to her heritage, but don’t also tell her she’s the next Hope Solo. “Those were great opportunities you created to shoot today,” you could say, “and I think with a left-footed shot, you might have ended up with a hat trick.”

Now, you can both work on that left foot together.

Beats the heck out of telling her you thought you saw the other team’s goalie driving herself to their U-12 match.

5. Love, Love, Love.

Soccer Ball Cake (2)

I had a goalkeeper who let in the tying goal with 10 seconds left, then missed a penalty shot, and gave up with winning PK. Lots to swallow in the span of 3 minutes, 37 seconds when you’re 10 years old and away from home.

She got hugs as she cried on the field afterward; no words would have done it justice. I’m talking from not only her parents and coach, but parents of other players. We all couldn’t help but think of our own kid in that very spot.

It’s really what makes us want to look into their eyes and root for them and listen to their ideas and watch their mouths move and eyes light up and just get as close to them as you possibly can, because they’re like a really, really awesome little version of you before you knew anything about mortgages and failing transmissions and downsizing.

Plus, love’s the easy part, right?

I’m On the Prowl – for Page Hits

I’m sort of on the prowl. At the grocery store. The soccer fields. McDonald’s. Even the DMV.

I can’t help myself. Sometimes when I see a woman, I just know she’s the one. I’ll size her up – see what her clothing and accessories say about her. If she appears smart, or technically savvy, or maybe even a bit lonely.

I always check that ring finger.

If she wears a ring, I’m more likely to approach her. I’m not proud of this, but I’ve learned that a wedding ring actually enhances our relationship.

I alway look for that specific quality. She either has it, or she doesn’t. It’s tough to explain. But if she has it, I want to share myself with her. You know, the part of me that makes its appearance about this time every week. I want to expose it. Hear what she thinks of it. Elicit her admiration, maybe.

I want her to know me.

Some might call me charming. Or an opportunist. I prefer to think that I have exceptional social skills and a little something (okay, a BIG something) that keeps the ladies coming back for more. Something provocative, even.

That something? My blog.

I want the page hits. And the comments. love the comments.

I believe in my blog. It’s informative, and edgy. Well, maybe not, but it means a great deal to me, helping me grow not only as a writer, but to understand myself as a father and as a man.

I was inexperienced at first, even a little awkward. I needed to “make things more personal” and “get naked with my emotions.

Back to moms….

I had a few choices during a fire alarm once at the DMV. Chatted it up with the nice-smelling girl named Kristen ahead of me. Pretty. Mid 20’s, jeans and boots. Friendly. She just didn’t have it, though. That look of joy with a twinge of exhaustion that tells a guy he’s in the presence of something as heroic (and kinda hot, really) as a mom.

Nothing to see here … busy businessman … quiet young guy who looks like he’s going to be in trouble for being late to work … two cheerleaders dolled up for spirit day.

Wait. Under that tree. Two o’clock. Looks like a pair of mommies, Houston.

I run my fingers through my hair. Straighten my clothes. Make my approach.

Me: (jokingly) Come here often?

Mom 1: Once a year.

Me: So … which one of you pulled the fire alarm? And … are you moms?

The direct approach. Women appreciate that. Laughter ensues.

What gave it away? They’re not wearing mom jeans or carrying a diaper bag. One’s in scrubs. The other, toting a huge coffee. Both smile. One tells me the details of her son’s recent tongue-bite injury.

They have that quality. They just do. They’re snapping pictures of the fire truck. Total Facebook-update material. (It’s lucky truck 13, by the way.)

I mention my blog. One has her phone out in an instant, to check it out.

beautiful,blondes,Cell phones,colors,emails,Fotolia,happy,images,laughing,messages,phones,Photographs,pretty,telephones,texting,texts,women,young
“Hey … I found you.”

“Ha!” she says. “This guy’s writing about the bad words his daughter knows!”

Got you right where I want you, mama.

Another notch in my belt.

I mean, hit on my page.

I hope she’ll share me.

With a friend.

There’s plenty of me to go around.

Sometimes, finding your way means running your way.

photo credit: #312/366 via photopin (license)
photo credit: #312/366 via photopin (license)

When Marie ran, Daddy followed.

Though, not immediately. The day she first ran – the morning of the soccer draft, four years ago, when Marie said she didn’t want to play soccer any more – I didn’t know what to do.

How could this happen? After all those great times, tournaments won and lost, the fun and excitement, happiness and disappointment and growth shared?

One teary Saturday morning, Marie said she’d had enough.

Continue reading “Sometimes, finding your way means running your way.”

There’s Power in the Ponytail

photo credit: Erik Mallinson via photopin cc
photo credit: Erik Mallinson via photopin cc

I’m all about Girl Power, y’all. I’m the hairiest feminist in Piedmont North Carolina, unofficially. That I’ve championed the cause with three girls of my own is not surprising.

But what if I’d had a boy?

His name would have been Tyson. Or Kyle. Or Hudson. He’d have carried on the name, but what else? What expectation? The first and every time he stomped around like a dinosaur in the super market, or snagged a pinch of bacon bits with his bare hands in the buffet line, or made unfortunate noises at the dinner table, he’d be labeled – well, stamped – as unmistakably, hysterically, pathetically Eli Junior.

This is just the way it would have gone. We inherit things, we men. Me? There’s a skill set and a range of expectation and a persona that I established somewhere along the same timeline as, um, I began KINDERGARTEN, that has been as easy to shake as onion breath. Not fair, but true.

There’s a lot of pressure in raising a boy, I gather. From reading. TV. Observation.

Grace can play with Matchbox cars. Marie can tug her Red Sox cap on tightly, and swing for the fences. Elise can rear back and fire a perfect spiral, right on the money.

Nail polish2

Then, they can all do each other’s nails. Thank you, Brandi Chastain, Sue Bird, and Lindsey Vaughn, for making pretty and pretty damn tough and talented a lethal combination.

But if Tyson or Kyle should dress up a Barbie or craft with mom or wear anything pink …

It’s a double-standard, I know. And if I’d had three boys – or even two, or even one – perhaps I wouldn’t have these comments on my columns, lauding my attitude and approach as a father.

How would I handle it?

Would I be that dad/coach who chastises his son when he lets Elise rip a shot past him into the goal? Would I be the father who shakes his head when Marie again fakes his boy out with a little shake-and-bake? Would I be gracious and acknowledge a parity among sexes, teach my boy that he should feel no shame in losing to a girl, that he should give her his best and see how it plays out?

What began as a cute display became more tenuous with every score. You see, that was usually someone’s son getting schooled. Another man’s boy getting burned. A nephew. A grandson.

So the chants began.

Get IN FRONT of her!” moms and dads bellowed.

SHE’S JUST A GIRL!”

Mädchen beim Fußballspielen

I’m usually stellar at muting the parents’ side of the field. But I heard it. I saw boys grit their teeth and take aim. I saw her jersey tugged, her feet taken out from under her. I wondered what I should do.

Then, she got up. She giggled at halftime, asking me, “did you hear that lady, daddy?”, as she covered her mouth in embarrassment. The boys on her team stuck up for her.

Then, the tide turned.

Maybe they saw the enthusiasm, the spirit, the refusal to consider gender when she played. That she just cared about the color of the shirts.

Those moms began to see themselves in those ribbons in her hair, in that expressive face that would scowl at an opponent, then smile at him if she missed a shot.

“C’mon Grace!” I began to hear, even from opposing moms. “Don’t take that from him!”

I like to think that if it were my boy takin’ the schooling from a kid like Grace … I’d show a little grace, too.

Perfection Pending

Sometimes, you see best when you remove your glasses

photo credit: pasukaru76 via photopin cc
photo credit: pasukaru76 via photopin cc

Elise, Marie, and Grace:

I hope you’re never embarrassed by WHAT you are. Who you play for – maybe; where you shop … perhaps; how your daddy behaves … probably, but never WHAT you are. What I am embarrassed me, once. OK, twice.

Fourth-grade incidents don’t count, though.

The kids on the bus made fun of a boy for being Mexican, only he was Greek. So they stopped picking on him because they didn’t know any good Greek jokes. I took the preemptive strike.

Continue reading “Sometimes, you see best when you remove your glasses”

25 Things About Me … to Get This Party Started

photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc
photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc

1. I don’t know if it’s just my vibe or a gift from above, but I have this tendency to get food when I really want it but don’t ask for it. It just appears. I’d rather have this gift than, say, X-ray vision.

2. The longest I’ve ever lost one of my kids was probably a minute, but it felt like an hour. It was probably more like 27 seconds, but she was just 3. I found her as she stood among the crowd at a tech and toy show in Tallahassee, all smiles at everyone as she tried not to look nervous.

3. I always assume I’ll have enough sugar in the kitchen, gas in the tank, or spirit in the soul to do whatever I want to do in the moment. When I don’t have enough, it’s as big a shock to me as anyone. (Reminder: Sometimes the soul doesn’t have a low-fuel light).

4. I’d love to buy a cheeseburger for everyone who has commented on my blog.

5. Because the Colorado Rockies have a pitcher who 9 nine years older than me, it doesn’t matter that I’m nearly twice as old as any of the rookies on the team. The old guy’s presence alone means I’m still young.

6. My sister and I used to camp with my dad so high in the Rockies that you couldn’t get a radio station. We thought we were on another planet.

Baritone saxophone

7. I was supposed to play baritone saxophone in a studio band. At least, that’s what I thought in junior high.

8. My first celebrity crush was Judy Jetson. I’ve since moved on. My first human crush was Ms. Tisdale, the teacher’s assistant in kindergarten. I’ve since moved on.

9. My coolest scar is on my elbow. Well, really my only even good one. The cool story is that I got it after I was hit with a pool cue. Sounds tough, huh? The details – that I was 12, had just gotten out of the swimming pool and it was by a 10-year-old girl named Angie, because I called her “Angelina” – make it less Steven Segal and more like the kid from Wonder Years.

10. I once carried Stephen King’s bags when I worked in a hotel. We talked baseball. He’s a good tipper. He had tons of sh*t in the back of his car, including a wooden bird cage. I didn’t ask. He carries about eight identical ink pens in the front pocket of his jeans. He also totes these bags of steno pads with hand-written stuff in them. I so wanted to steal one.

11. I feel like a bowl of Frosted Flakes is a good way to end a day. Don’t judge. It’s not hard liquor or animal testing.

12. I’m from Colorado, but don’t ski. I’m Hispanic, but don’t speak very good Spanish. I live in the South, but don’t drink sweet tea.

13. When I hear the song “Follow you, follow me” by Genesis, it’s like a special message from my dad, and it’s always incredibly timed. I’ll write about it someday.

14. I once dropped a quarter at McDonald’s and it landed inside a young girl’s shoe. She didn’t know where it came from. She picked it out and showed her mom. “Where did that come from?” Mom asked. The girl just shrugged. The mom seemed a little ticked. I said nothing. Hopefully, she’ll think it was the tooth fairy gone rogue.

15. My one and only athletic highlight was scoring a two-point conversion on my junior varsity football team in seventh grade. It was a simple off-tackle run. I even acted like I’d been there before – in the end zone – even though, I hadn’t. Or would ever return again.

16. I know that parents hate it, but the kids and I love it when it rains during our games.

Charlie Brown! (7539446408)

17. I always wondered why there were no Mexican kids on Charlie Brown.

18. I once fell in a hole while jogging. Pitched forward after stepping in mid-calf-high mud and landed with a thud. This, just two blocks from the place the pedal of my bike snapped off just before I turned onto a busy road. It’s like Jesus doesn’t want me to exercise outside.

19. I can’t swim. I’ve almost drown, twice, but I still love to go swimming with the kids. I try to limit my time in the deep end, though. That’d be a lousy way to make the news.

20. The coolest names we’ve had for my soccer teams have been Mysteries and Snow Monsters. My kids made those up.

21. When I was a kid, I swore my Fred Flintstone piggy bank and the Darth Vader toy on my desk had conversations. More like pleasantries and small-talk. I didn’t think they had much in common though.

22. I could have been an NFL quarterback. It was the height and athleticism and talent I had a problem with.

23. I don’t yell a lot on the sideline and this bothers some parents. The kids know what to do. My vocalization is encouragement for a kid lagging behind or reminders of where they should be, stuff like that. I’ve also been nearly-tossed from a game only once.

24. Math is, by far, my worst subject. UNC Charlotte, my alma mater, didn’t even offer the math I qualified for, so I took a course at CPCC. I did pass it. Thing is, I can calculate slugging percentage and third-down conversions and batting averages on the fly when I need to. Luckily, there’s no trigonometry in soccer.

25. I joke around to such an extensive level with that sometimes when I’m really telling the truth, my girls won’t believe me. For hours.