Oh boy! It’s my second book!!

Last year at this time, I received the good news that I was about to have my first book published.

I’m happy to say that 2015 is starting the same way. My newest book is called “Hushpuppies are My Favorite Fish and Other Stories.” It will be published once again by Raburn Publishing, and will be released in mid to late May. hushpuppies

I’m just as excited as I was a year ago. And I’m looking forward to seeing my second book in print.

Also, I’m working on some other material. I have three children’s books that I’m close to finishing, and I’m also working on a novel. If anyone would be interested in reading some of these works and providing some feedback, I would greatly appreciate it.

And once again, I want to thank everyone for all the feedback and support since I started this blog. Without that support and encouragement, I would have never had a first book, much less a second one.

If I’m not a dad, then what am I?

It’s a question that’s been hovering around me in recent weeks, pecking away. And it’s this: if I’m not parenting, if I’m not in full-on Dad Mode, then what should I be doing?

And, more disturbing, who am I?

For some time now my life has been defined as much by my role as a parent than anything else. After my wife passed away, my goals in life seemed to all focus around one main objective: raise the kids.

I’m not going to say the task was easy, but at least it was laid out in front of me. When my son was a baby, he would look up at me (usually crying), and I knew it was either time to give him a bottle or change a diaper.

My son and I have found new ways to spend time together. Here we are on top of a press box before I broadcast a high school football game.

My son and I have found new ways to spend time together. Here we are on top of a press box before I broadcast a high school football game.

But that was 10 year ago. Now my son doesn’t need his diaper changed (thank goodness), and bottles have become meals.

That’s how I’ve spent much of my time over these years. I’ve been organizing, directing, making sure that the kids know what they’re supposed to do, and when they’re supposed to do it. Homework? Check. Chores done? Check. Papers from school signed? Check.

Now, however, things are changing. Sure, I still check on homework. But I don’t need to. It always gets done, usually before I ask. And I still have the parent conferences to attend and games to go to.

But I can see things are changing. And worse, I can feel them changing.

My daughter is grown and almost through with college. And my son doesn’t need me to be the complete organizer of his life any more. In fact, many times he doesn’t need me to do much of anything for him.

And that’s where I’m feeling a bit lost.

Because if I’m not doing parenting things, what should I be doing?

The good news is that as my kids have gotten older, we’ve found new ways to spend time together. New interests to bond us together.

In the last couple of years, my son has started traveling with me to all of the high school games I broadcast on the radio. We go to the movies, and then afterwards enjoy a pizza while we discuss what we watched. There’s air hockey games (which he now regularly beats me) and video games (where he also beats me).

And with my daughter there has been concerts. And they both enjoy (translation: have been forced to watch) my watching my bad movies with me.

But I’m not still not sure where it’s going. Or exactly what my role is supposed to be.

No, my kids don’t need me to do all the little things I used to do for them.

But they do still need me in their lives. And that’s something I hope never changes.

 

Take whatever you want, but PLEASE don’t take the chocolate!

The kids caught me by surprise.

It was the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We were sitting home one evening, when my daughter said something that sent chills down my spine.

“Dad, can we get rid of all this chocolate?” chocolate 1

It had been such a calm evening up to that point. Now, my heart began to race. I could feel myself about to go into withdrawals, even as I had a Reese’s mini right next to me. I tried to maintain my composure.

Must. Not. Panic.

But then . . .

“Yeah, dad. Please, can we?” my son chimed in.

Has the world turned upside down? Since when do kids (KIDS) want to throw out the chocolate? Since when have kids been on the side of health and good nutrition? I mean, I always thought it was supposed to be us grouchy old parents who put our foot down and stomped out chocolate, dancing (for more info, see Footloose, a movie I still haven’t seen all the way through, yet), and virtually all activities deemed as FUN.

So how could this be happening?!

There was only one thought that crossed my mind: you’ll have to kill me first.

Remember the old Marathon bars? I still miss those.

Remember the old Marathon bars? I still miss those.

Sure, there might be room for some compromise. I might be willing to give up broccoli. I might possibly even be willing to negotiate on parting ways with green beans, beets, and perhaps even asparagus.

But chocolate? NEVER!

Ok guys, here’s what you don’t understand, chocolate is my sedative. It’s my Xanax. And it’s my vodka – all rolled into one. (Well, ok. Maybe not my vodka – we’ll keep that separate.)

It’s like when the Beatles sang “Let it Be” – When times of trouble come to me, let me eat my chocolate. Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but not much.

I wanted to lash out and blame someone. Maybe Mrs. Obama. After all, she’s the one who’s taking away all important food groups in the cafeteria, like sugar, starch, and cheeseburgers. Or something like that.

It's hard to beat the delicious simplicity of a Snickers.

It’s hard to beat the delicious simplicity of a Snickers.

But I guess really I don’t have anyone to blame. I knew I should have followed my first instinct and put Nestlé’s Quik Chocolate Milk in their bottles when they were babies. Then we could have avoided this entire ugly episode in our lives.

As I sat there, finding it hard to breath, trying to hold off the same feeling of panic that I’m sure our great ancestors felt when they came face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I was reminded of that cheesy song by Tim McGraw. Remember it? You know the one where he says you can take anything, just don’t take the girl? Well, it was kind of like that for me.

But here in real life, single-dad-trying-to-survive mode, there was no happy ending in sight.

So I calmly tried to explain to the kids about my allergy. You know how some people are allergic to chocolate. Well, I’m allergic to NOT having chocolate.

Ok, I didn’t really do that. But I did explain (state, reinforce, put my foot down, bluntly say NOT HAPPENING IN MY LIFETIME) how dad needs his chocolate to keep the family ship sailing smoothly.

They were very understanding, until . . .

“Well, can we get rid of the cookies . . . “

Parenting Inside the Box

boxYou’ve probably had this happen before. You’ll be in a meeting at work or with a group of friends, brainstorming about a problem. And someone will say, “We need to think outside the box.”

I love when that happens. Because basically that means “let’s be creative.” “Let’s be innovative.”

And, in marketing especially, I love, love, love being creative.

But while I love new ideas and ways of doing things, sometimes it’s important to remember what’s inside the box as well.

Sometimes there’s a lot of good stuff in there. Some golden nuggets of wisdom. That’s how they became popular and widely used to begin with.

Of course, this isn’t just true in marketing. In can be true in just about any area of life. Including parenting.

When it comes to parenting and raising kids, I’m often asked, “how I do it?” I’m not always sure what IT is, but I often feel flattered that someone asked me. (However, I often feel like Oz in the famous book – everything looks good to those on the outside, but they might be very disappointed if they could see how things worked on the inside.)

Sadly, I don’t have many new or innovative ideas when it comes to parenting. Most of my parenting ideas come straight out of the box. Or, just about as often, from experience and what works for me.

Here are the basic strategies I use when parenting:

1. Routine. First, you need to understand, I am not really a routine person. Sure, I have certain things I try to do every day. But, in the past, I might not have always done them at the same time every day.

But I found that my kids, my son especially, responded much better to having a routine that we followed every day. I found that he needed this type of structure in his life. And it has forced me to be on a more strict routine each day too.

2. Be involved. I’ve always been fortunate to have jobs that were flexible enough that I could attend almost all of my kids’ functions and activities, whether at school or in the community.

But being involved is more than just attending. You also have to be there. You know what I mean. When our kids are talking to us, sometimes we’re not mentally there. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, whether I’m working on a project or, sadly, doing something on my phone, I don’t always give my full attention. But it’s my goal to be in my kids’ lives physically and mentally.

3. Be adaptable. At our house, we stay pretty busy during the school year, what with the kids’ schedules, and my schedule. And I’m sure it’s that way at your house, too.

You need to have a routine and rules. But it’s also important to know when to be flexible. When you need to make changes to the routine.

And you also need to be adaptable with your parenting. What works with one child might not work with another one.

4. Respect. I’ve always tried to treat my kids with respect. Not just because I think it’s the right thing to do, but also because our kids watch us. They learn from us. And respecting others in our lives and in the world is one of the most important lessons we can teach our kids.

5. Laugh. Often and easily. You might have already discovered this – in this world we live in, there’s a good chance that things aren’t always going to go right. You know the rule: if something can go wrong . . .

When things go wrong, it often comes down to our attitude. How we respond. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. Most of the time a good laugh will make you feel better anyway. And it will certainly make you feel better than getting angry and upset. Plus, if it wasn’t for stuff going wrong in life, I wouldn’t have many good stories to tell in my blog.

6. Love your kids. You can never love your kids too much. And you can’t tell them you love them too much. You say you already told them today. Well, tell them again.

Remind yourself everyday that your kids are a blessing from God. And then let your kids know that that’s how you feel.

So do these principles make me a perfect parent? No. I’m far from perfect. But I try to work each day to be the best parent I can be. And that’s all any of us can ask of ourselves.

 

The open road

I’m outside this morning, on the brink of a run. open road

It’s cold. And it would be easy to go home, put on something warm to drink. And to wear.

But the morning is beautiful. Still. Quiet.

The sky offers a feast for the eyes, with clouds in various shapes and colors.

My iPod plays “I Would Walk 500 Miles.” A quirky song. A fun song.

I smile because I know I don’t have to run nearly that far this morning.

And yet, I have a million miles to go. In so many areas of my life.

Today I take another step in that journey.

Today the road stretches out in front of me. Wide open. To wherever I want to go.

 

“You beat cancer by how you live”

stuart scott 1I didn’t know Stuart Scott.

Scott, a sports anchor for ESPN for a number of years, passed yesterday after a long battle with cancer.

No, I didn’t know Scott. It felt like it sometimes, seeing him on Sportscenter with his very personable style. Sometimes it felt like I did.

I might not have known Scott, but his life, and his fight with cancer, touched me. And judging by the comments on social media, a lot of people felt the same way. There has been an outpouring of support and condolences for Scott – more than I have normally seen for a journalist.

Scott connected with a lot of people with his comments during the 2014 ESPY awards when he said “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”

Inspirational words for sure.

And it reminded me of my late wife, Tracie, and how she handled living with cancer.

It was never easy, but she handled it with a level of grace and strength and fortitude that I can only imagine because  saw it first hand. But I’m not sure I could duplicate it.

In the early stages, you wouldn’t have known she had cancer – she lived her normal life as much as possible.

But even when she was struggling mightily, she still tried to live her life. To hold on to who she was. trout family photo2

I remember one morning . . . she was weak and had been very sick. But she was up, feeling a little stronger that day, and scared us all by wanting to drive the 30 minutes to work that day.

But it wasn’t the work that defined Tracie, or Scott. It was the unwillingness to give up who they were, and their work was part of what defined them.

There are always a lot of positive affirmations on how to live life, “live like there’s no tomorrow” etc.

Maybe the newest one is going to be something like “Live like you have cancer.”

Embrace today. Embrace your family and loved ones. And embrace yourself and who you are.

And if you need a role model on how to do it, Tracie and Stuart Scott are both good ones to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

Mechanical foot could be first step in realizing childhood dream of becoming 6 Million Dollar Man

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed one indisputable fact – I can’t eat the way I did when I was younger. And by younger, I mean like a few weeks ago.

That’s not exactly true, of course. I have tried to eat a little better. Not as hard as I’ve needed to, but I’ve tried.

And I’ve always tried to run and workout some. But that leads me to the other hard truth I’ve had to face – I’m not in the shape I used to be in when I was young. And that’s saying something because that bar was pretty low to start with.

And now when I try to exercise, my body doesn’t want to necessarily cooperate. Sometimes it calls in sleepy, especially on these cold mornings. But usually my body responds with injuries, which is your body’s way of saying “Hey buddy! Whadda ya think you’re doing! Don’t ya know you’re getting old!!”

With a foot like this, I might be unstoppable at my next 5K.

With a foot like this, I might be unstoppable at my next 5K.

The latest of my assortment of injuries has been plantar fasciitis?

Not sure what that is? Don’t feel bad; I didn’t either.

Put simply, it’s just a pain in your foot.

Put in more complicated, highly-specialized medical terms it’s a-pain-in-your-foot-that-won’t-go-away-for-months-and-makes-you-want-to-cuss-in-a-way-that-would-embarrass-the-cast-of-Pulp-Fiction-type injury.

But I try not to get caught up in all that medical mumbo-jumbo.

So the other day, while I was limping through the house like an actor doing a bad Frankenstein impersonation, my son had a very reasonable, sensible suggestion.

“Dad, why don’t you just get a mechanical foot?”

Hmmmmmmmm. I admit it seemed a bit ridiculous at first, but then . . .

I mean, why not? Sure, it wouldn’t be easy cutting off my own foot, but once I inserted the Mechanical Foot . . . well, that would just be the beginning.

And then it hit me! The foot could be only the FIRST part I replaced!!

Is this what I might look like if I incorporated Bionic Man technology into my body? Some might say this is an improvement . . .

Is this what I might look like if I incorporated Bionic Man technology into my body? Some might say this is an improvement . . .

I mean, let’s face it, I have a lot more pressing problems with my body than just a foot. Why stop there.

I could finally become, as I so often dreamed when I was a kid, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN!

Remember that show? The special effects? Ol’ Steve Austin fighting crime and all, and all the time to the incredible special effects. And sound effects! Remember the sound of the Bionic Man in action? Wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa.

Or something like that.

And imagine how well I could do with my running. I can see myself competing well at my next 5K. Of course, admittedly, most of what Steve Austin did was shown in slow motion. But even slow motion is still an improvement over my usual pace.

So with the new year starting and resolutions flying all around, I think I’ve found the goal that best fits me: incorporating Bionic Man Technology stuff in my life.

Besides, this isn’t really a new goal in my life anyway. Instead, this is me realizing a childhood dream.

So as the new year starts, know that I, too, am working on improving myself. I’m going to rebuild myself. I’m going to be better, stronger, and faster than I was before!

Now, on this Bionic Technology stuff? Do I use Tinker Toys or an Erector Set . . .