A “Best” is THE best

As I sit at my computer this morning, there are ominous piles of paper stacked around me. Piles stacked dangerously high. If my desk was a ski resort, the slopes would be closed to protect the safety of visitors.

In other parts of the house, clean dishes diminish, while dirty clothes accumulate. I see the cat. tired of the hunger pangs, has resorted to planting crops in the dust layers around the house in hopes of producing a quick crop.

If you’re a parent, you get it. There’s always something to do. Usually too much. If we had 30 hours in a day, we still couldn’t get it all done. sam snow pic spring 2015

And yet with so much to do, I still find it surprising, almost amazing, when the simplicity of life can cut through the chaos and grab my attention.

And make me smile.

We had a snow day earlier this year. Snow days may not mean much to you. But around these parts, we not only measure snow and ice, we go so far as to measure the amount of frost we get. (Read this with a southern drawl – “By jimminy, that’s the biggest frost we’ve had around here since I was a young’un and had to walk five miles to school”

So with two (count em, TWO) snow days, my son was a tad bit excited.

He wanted to build a snowman. He wanted to have a snowball fight. He wanted sledding, and snow forts, and if he’d had skis at that moment, I’m sure he would have wanted to install a lift in our back yard.

But I had work. Work that I needed to do. Piles that I needed to diminish, and other piles that I needed to undiminish. (that’s a word, right?)

But how do you turn down an 11-year-old who is dying to peg you with a snowball.

So I pushed the work aside, bundled up, and headed out.

We had a great day. We threw snowballs at each other. We ran around like we had frogs crawling in our pants. We went to my office where the snow was even deeper and made even BIGGER snow ball to hurl. My snow made a snow angel. He kicked snow. Threw snow at icicles. We even tried to play snow baseball.

At home, we build a fire, and listened to the cackles and the pops as we slowly thawed out. We cooked pancakes and bacon for lunch – a “treat” my son had never experienced. And later we watched a movie as we rested from the day’s adventures.

At the end of it all, the piles were still there. But so were the memories.

And in case I hadn’t realized how great those could be, my son reminded me. “Dad, that was one of the best days of my life.”

Yeah. It really was.


Kids say (and eat) the darnedest things

When it comes to sick kids, there are basically three types of parents. First, there are the parents you see in a typical comedy at the theater: parents teetering on falling into chaos as panic sets in.

Then there’s the more normal parents. The ones who calmly assess the situation, show a balance of concern, and schedule a doctor’s appointment if necessary.

And then there’s me.

You gotta be pretty sick around these parts to earn a day off from school. I’m not saying you’ve got to be falling-out-of-a-death-march sick. Or even as sick as some for the guy yelling “Bring out your dead.” picking nose 2

But it’s pretty close.

When my daughter had pneumonia? Well, I wasn’t convinced she was even sick.

And when she broke her arm? Eh, it doesn’t look that bad.

So it was just a little short of front page news when I had my son at the doctor. What pushed me into seeking medical assistance short of a free-flowing artery or my son’s arm hanging on his body by a thread? Well, I like to think I’m objective as I examine the symptoms.

First, my son said he had a pain in his side. Ok, that could be something as simple as gas, or the Matchbox car he had eaten just the day before. Second, there was a fever, but it wasn’t much above 103.  But when the alien burst through his chest . . .

Ok, so that last part didn’t happen. (But if it had, I swear I would have taken him straight to the doctor. Well, unless I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.)

So it was off to the doctor’s office.

And it’s often there that you hear (and sometimes have to confess) the HONEST TRUTH. Which is exactly what happened.

As we went through the standard questions (some of which I even knew the answers to) the doctor asked, “Have you had anything to eat this morning.”

Wow, if only tests in college had been this easy. “No, he hasn’t,” I said with some authority. Ahhhhhh, such a good parent, monitoring every calorie my kids consumed.

Yep, things were going smoothly and I was feeling pretty good. Until I heard . . .

“Mumble, mumble, mumble.”

I looked at my son. “What,” I asked? Maybe he had eaten something.

More mumbling from my son. I still couldn’t quite make it out.

So I leaned down REAL close and asked him again what he had said. This time I got the answer in a whisper.

“I ate some boogers this morning.”

Oh. Boy. Sigh . . .

I patted my son on the head and turned to the doctor, who, thankfully, hadn’t heard. “Nope. He hasn’t eaten anything.”

As expected the booger intake hadn’t had an effect on his health. Or his diagnosis.

As we left the office, I swore that it would take a lot more than a mere alien chest explosion before any child of mine would see a doctor again.

The Hero is in the Eye of the Beholder

I don’t wear a cape. Or fly. Or even have x-ray vision (although that would be a nice super power to have). In fact, about the closest I feel to accomplishing anything even remotely heroic is fixing my son’s lunch in time to take him to school. superhero sound effects

But I recently found out that even if I don’t see myself in the role of a hero, sometimes our kids see us with a much different perspective.

I had the chance to travel to Houston recently as part of my job. And I was fortunate enough to be able to take my son with me.

Now Houston may not seem like the ideal destination. But I’ve been there a few times. It’s one of my favorite cities to visit.

And for my son . . . well, he’s never been to a city that big before. He had trouble sleeping the night before we left because he was so excited.

He wasn’t disappointed. The trip was everything that he had hoped for. And more.

He got to attend his first professional baseball game, and almost saw a no-hitter. He got to make his own waffle in the shape of the state of Texas. He got to visit two businesses, and saw some things at both that he found amazing. We got to tour a ship. He got to tour a museum, and aquarium, and an indoor rain forest.

We toured the Galleria Mall, where he put on ice skates for the first time, and instantly skated circles around his dad, who was content to grip the railing while teetering around the rink. And he got to walk on the beach of Galveston.

It’s a trip he’ll never forget. And neither will I.

But with all of the great things that we did, the one thing that will always stick out to me is what happened in our hotel room following our first night’s stay.

I woke up early to go running. And my son groggily woke to my stirrings. Half awake, he asked me, “Dad, did it really happen?”

“Did what really happen?” I asked.

“Did someone try to break into our room last night, and you beat the stuffing out of him?”

In the semi-darkness of our hotel room, I bit my tongue. I wasn’t sure which was funnier. Thinking about someone breaking into our room, or the fact that I would be capable of beating the stuffing out of someone like that. Or just the phrasing that my son had used. Does anyone really use the expression “beat the stuffing” any more?

Is this man a superhero? Only in the mind of his son.

Is this man a superhero? Only in the mind of his son.

But before I could answer, he said something else.

“Because I was really scared, but you were a REAL hero.”

I was touched.

And in that moment I realized that our kids see us in much different ways than we see ourselves. While we as parents often view ourselves as bumbling and stumbling through a life that we’re trying to figure out on the fly, our kids have a much different view of us.

To our kids, we are the brave ones, who face the darkness without a night-light – even when we’re trying not to show the fear our kids are feeling. We know what to do, even in the most extreme circumstances. We’ll ALWAYS have the right answers – even when we don’t have a clue.

As our kids get older, that perception of their parents changes. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not.

But we as parents have a chance to shape that image our kids have of us – with the choices we make, spending time with our kids, keeping the promises that we make.

No, I don’t wear a cape or leap over the tallest buildings in a single bound.

But it felt good to be a hero, if only for a brief moment. And if only in a dream.

Who needs Super Bowl? We’ve got Kitten Bowl

This was the year I had been waiting for. My son, now 11, was excited about watching the game with me.

Ok, he was excited more about the commercials. And the promos for Kitten Bowl, promos that aired all week leading up to Sunday. And my son fixated on this program.

I think it was just the name of the event itself that drew him in. Or maybe he thought the cats were actually going to be playing football.

This was, without a doubt, the WORST thing I’ve ever seen on TV. But it wasn’t bad in a good way, like saySharktopus or some bad Lifetime movie. No. This was three the commercials than the game, but that was ok. (And what have I done to this poor boy when it comes to commercials?EEEEEEEEEK! But that’s a story for another blog)

Not only was the scoring impossible to understand for viewers and cats alike, I think the game might have been fixed.

Not only was the scoring impossible to understand for viewers and cats alike, I think the game might have been fixed.

But as a lead up to the Super Bowl, we were looking forward to the Kitten Bowl. In case you’re not familiar with this “event”, it’s three-hour (that’s right, three – count them, 3 – hours) program on the Hallmark Channel that basically is just a bunch of kittens playing.

I’m not sure what the allure of it was, but sometime during the hours of excruciating fingernails-on-the-chalkboard TV.

How bad was it? Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever seen, and multiply it by 10. Or 1,000. It doesn’t matter.

This show was so bad that the FCC should step in and revoke Hallmark’s right to broadcast a television station.

If convicted criminals were given a choice of punishment between death or watching Kitten Bowl non stop for 20 years, they would pick death every time. Heck, I was ready to die and I was only on my first viewing of the thing.

The show had these kittens playing as kittens do with a small kitten-sized field in the background. Somehow (we never figured out how) points were scored. Time was kept, just like in a real football game, but there never seemed to be any consistency.

And the announcers . . . sigh. Let’s just say that I’m sure the announcers would have chosen death, too, if it had been an option in their contract.

There were a couple of announcers you might have heard of. Boomer Esiason was there. So was Mary Carillo, who used to be one of the top tennis announcers on ESPN.

Yep, if you’re an announcer on the Kitten Bowl, chances are good your broadcast career is not heading in the direction you had hoped.

Oh, and the puns. There were so many bad puns. I counted something in the neighborhood of just over 500 puns on the words Purr and Paws – and that was just in the first 10 minutes of the show. Words like “Purrking lot” and “Purr-lates” were common.

And the names they stuck on those poor cats. Talk about animal cruelty. There was Joe Montuna, Wes Whisker, and Ryan Fitzcatrick. (Ok, I admit, I kind of liked the name Mr. Meowgi, but only because I have a special place in my heart for the Karate Kid.)

At one point, my daughter had joined us, and through our laughter at all the badness, she said that she could have written the dialog for this show. And I told her that she couldn’t – she couldn’t write that badly.

Yep, this was about as bad as it gets. And who do you blame for something like this? Hallmark Channel? Television in general? Cats?

Well, I blame Patricia Heaton and her friends and fellow cast members from the family sitcom The Middle. My son and I happen to watch that on Hallmark Channel in the evenings. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the emotionally scarred wreck I am today.

So Patricia, I’m laying this one on you. Your punishment? You guessed it. You’re going to have to sit through three showings of the Kitten Bowl. And if you survive, well, then you’ve got the plot line for another episode of your show.

But as for me and my son, we’ve got better things to do . . . like watch the Puppy Bowl. We recorded it yesterday.

What if kids ruled the world?

I’m not sure how it happens, but the other day I found myself in another rather (how can I put this nicely?) interesting conversation with my son.

I’m not sure how we fall into these, but these talks always seem to be lurking around the corner, just looking for a chance to jump into our very normal, everyday conversations.

“It’s about time to start getting ready for bed,” I said.

“Awwwww. Can’t we stay up a little longer,” my son pleaded.

Would you sleep better if THIS KID was in charge?

Would you sleep better if THIS KID was in charge?

It’s a common ploy, but I was ready for it with a boring, but stock response. “Nope. Let’s go.”

“Why do we have to go to bed right now?”

“Because I said.” Another stock response on my part. But this time my son was ready.

“It wouldn’t be like this if kids were in charge,” he said.

“How do you mean,” I asked, a bit intrigued but scared to show it.

“If kids were in charge, the parents would have to go to bed early, and the kids would stay up until 2 every morning.”

“I thought that’s how it already was,” I quipped. I started to go with “You have to wait until you get to college for that” but I was afraid it would motivate him to skip some grades.

My son was not to be deterred. “The world would be a lot different if kids were in charge.”

Well, I think that’s a given.

If he was our national bird, Sonny wouldn't be quite as majestic as an eagle, but he WOULD provide a tasty breakfast.

If he was our national bird, Sonny wouldn’t be quite as majestic as an eagle, but he WOULD provide a tasty breakfast.

Then I started to think about all of the possible changes that we would see.

  • The national bird would be changed from an eagle to Sonny the cuckoo bird from the Cocoa Puffs commercials.
  • Playing video games wouldn’t just be a past time, it would be mandatory.
  • Lunch room cafeterias across the country would be admonished for not providing enough sugar.
  • Parents would be in charge of doing all the drudgery while kids had most of the fun (Oh wait . . . )
  • The nutritional food pyramid would be topped with whipped cream and a cherry.
  • EVERY day would be a Saturday

Hey, you know, this kids in charge doesn’t sound half bad. I might not mind giving it a try.

“And, dad,” my son added, “if kids were in charge, we’d get rid of a lot of the bad stuff. There wouldn’t be smoking. And we wouldn’t have beer and alcohol any more.”

On second thought, we’d better scrap this idea.


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.