“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 . . .

 

 

Exposing the Cold Gap

Running in the winter is a bit of a hassle sometimes. During the coldest of those days, usually early in the morning, I wear layers of clothes, including a long-sleeve t-shirt and tights to keep my legs warm, a hat and gloves, and sometimes a light jacket.

All those clothes help protect you from the cold temperatures to an extent, but it also slows you down (not that I need much help in that area). my foot

However, there’s one part of my body that’s not shielded. I wear very short socks when running that only come up to my ankle. And my tights don’t quite come all the way down. In between there’s a small band of skin on my lower leg that’s totally exposed to whatever the elements might offer on that day.

The Cold Gap.

That one small, narrow band of skin on my lower leg that feels the cold instantly.

And, contrary to what you might think, it feels exhilarating.

That one part of my body feels alive and tingles as it’s exposed and open to the world.

And that’s my goal for 2015 – to expose more areas of my life-like the Cold Gap. To open myself up to new challenges and opportunities.

It’s not very specific, I know. I do have some specific goals, but those were already set before the close of the year. I’m in the midst of trying to drop 22 pounds by the first of July. I also want to finish my first novel that I started writing this year.

But most of my goals are much more general. I’m reading a book by Zig Ziglar, who I admire very much. He stresses six fundamental areas of our lives: spiritual, mental, physical, family, career, and financial. It reminds me very much of the areas of our life that Benjamin Franklin stressed in his autobiography.

I want to improve in each of those areas, but how do you measure that? You can’t, except by your own standards.

But for many of us, those standards are pretty high.

So as this year comes to an end, and we look forward to what 2015 will bring, I’ll be looking for ways that I can continue to improve myself. And my life.

And I’ll be looking for ways to widen the Cold Gap and embrace the excitement that life has to offer.

 

Son doesn’t fear receiving bag of switches from Santa

I guess it happens to all of us sooner or later. You know, that time when you’re cruising through life, thinking that you’re hip or cool.

Well, maybe not hip. And certainly not cool.

But still you think you’re up on current events, and you can relate to young people, especially your kids. You can RELATE to them. You know you can.

Only to find out that while you were cruising through life, a couple of pieces fell off your car, including one of the tires. And oh, by the way, there’s been some NEW and IMPROVED kind of  new type of transportation built that makes your car look . . . well, out of date.

And makes you feel, ummmm, how can I put this nicely . . . it makes you feel a tad bit . . . old.

santa with switches

Santa’s idea of switches . . .

I had this experience right before Christmas. I was joking with my son this year like I do every year that if was bad, I would only give him coal and a bag of switches as gifts.

Only this year, instead of just joking about it, we actually talked about it. And that’s when I found out that not only were we not on the same page generationally, or even the same book. Nope. We weren’t even in the same library! (Or I guess today we’d say, we weren’t even on the same internet.)

Sure, coal he understood. It’s that black rock that used for . . . well, it’s used for something. My son could probably explain it.

But the switches. Well . . .

Of course, I was referring to the switches that one can get off a tree. These have been in the news recently as NFL player Adrian Peterson found himself in legal trouble after using a switch to discipline his son.

Obviously, my son hasn’t been disciplined in quite the same way.

Because as I found out, my son wasn’t imagining wooden switches at all. For all these years, he’s imagined a bag of light switches. And (as they say in the south) bless his heart, for the life of him, my son couldn’t figure out why this side of the North Pole I would give him even ONE of these, much less a whole bag of them.

. . . as opposed to my son's idea of a switch - which, in fact, I wrapped and gave to him this year.

. . . as opposed to my son’s idea of a switch – which, in fact, I wrapped and gave to him this year.

And he (once again operating in a world much different from the one I thought we shared) had been trying to formulate a plan for years on how he was supposed to use the coal and switches together to make something.

I laughed. Then I explained to him what I actually meant by a bag of switches. And then he laughed, a bit tentatively, but a laugh nonetheless.

But his expression said something more like, “Oh. Hmmmmmm.”

Sigh.

I might need a bag like this in the coming years to help keep me straight.

I might need a bag like this in the coming years to help keep me straight.

Yep, it’s not just another year gone and older on my end. Nope, I have had the unfortunate experience of realizing I’ve been driving around in an antique for a while now.

And I’m afraid it’s going to take more than just a little coal to get it up to today’s speed.

 

Does Santa really give the best gifts?

I love the quiet of Christmas Eve. I’m sure some of that (maybe most of it) is my imagination. And some of it comes from living in a small town. But to me Christmas Eve seems more than quiet. It seems peaceful. charlie brown christmas 1

Last night, as I was tucking my son in bed, he said, “Dad, I don’t know how to say this, but Santa always gives the best gifts.”

I wasn’t sure whether to take it as a compliment or an insult.

For a kid, there is something magical about this time of year. About tonight. And tomorrow.

As I tucked him in again tonight (Just two and a half more hours until Christmas, dad) we had a discussion as to how Santa could make it to so many houses in one night. He speculated that it might have something to do with the different time zones.

I’m afraid evenings like these are numbered. And I’m going to miss them.

I asked him if he knew what I liked most about Christmas. “All of us being together?” he asked.

That’s right, I said as I pulled the covers up to his chin and kissed him on the forehead.

I’ve thought about what he said, about who gives the best gifts. Every year we buy gifts for our kids to show them how much we love them. But I know that there’s no amount of gifts in the world that can ever truly express how much I care about them.

So this year I’m also writing them each a letter. A letter that will basically say just that: I love you. I’m proud of you. You make me proud every day.

Before he went to bed tonight, my son expressed concern about his chores for tomorrow. He usually does them first thing every morning. But he really wished that tomorrow, just tomorrow, he could maybe, you know, hold off on the chores until a little later.

I told him I thought the chores could wait just a little later into the day tomorrow. “Really,” he said, surprised.

And now I sit in the quiet that is Christmas Eve at our house. I always think what it must have been like all those years ago on the first Christmas Eve. How different the world must have been.

And how different it has been since Jesus came into our world.

As I was about to turn out the lamp in my son’s room, he said “I like the presents at Christmas, but I like them for a different reason. I like that I can open them with all of us together.”

I like that, too.

I know tomorrow is what he’s waiting for.

But I can wait just a little longer.

 

Putting up the Christmas tree – man style

I guess just about everyone else in the world already knew this, but me: There are two ways to put up a Christmas tree – the single man’s way and the right way.

Ok, I guess I’ve known it for several years, but just didn’t want to admit it. But THIS year . . . well, this year it became even MORE apparent.

Somehow every year I think I’m going to have time to do all this great, as-seen-in-Better-Homes-and-Gardens Christmas decorating around the house. And every year I don’t.

And what’s even more laughable is that I think I’m going to do all this great stuff AFTER Thanksgiving.

Well, as a college instructor, my two busiest times of the year are the two finals weeks of each semester. And one of those just so happens to coincide with the two weeks after Thanksgiving.

I gave real thought this year to instead of using an ARTIFICIAL tree for Christmas, we could use a REAL box!

I gave real thought this year to instead of using an ARTIFICIAL tree for Christmas, we could use a REAL box!

Growing up, I must have been a kid who kept repeatedly putting his hand on the hot stove – because I just don’t seem to learn my lesson. At least not in the holiday decorating arena.

Sometime during that time between Thanksgiving and the end of the semester, I got it in my head that THIS YEAR I would buy an artificial tree. In the past, we’ve always had a real tree and all the joys that go with it – pine needles on the floor, sticky hands, and a trail of water from the sink to the base of the tree as I tried to water it on a regular basis. Well, a regularly occasional basis, anyway.

The kids weren’t real happy with my decision at first, but I was aided that by the time I finally went to buy a tree at some point late last week, our Wal-Mart was already out of real trees. And we all KNOW that there aren’t any other stores to shop at than Wal-Mart. (What’s that? There are some other stores in my town? Well, don’t tell the kids. At least not until after Christmas.)

So I picked one out (they had a wide selection of two to choose from) and brought it home. After I brought it inside, I plopped down in a chair and stared at the box with the picture of what the tree was SUPPOSED to look like pasted on the outside. And for the briefest of moments I entertained the idea of just using the box AS the tree. I mean, it was a really good picture. In fact, it probably looked better than what our actual FINISHED product would look like. And in my mind I pictured presents scattered around the box. And thought to myself . . . ahhhhhh, wouldn’t that be easy . . .

And we did finally get the tree up . . . yesterday, December 22.

How sad. But unlike many things in my life, at least I didn’t wait until the last minute to put it up. You know, the last minute, like say early Christmas morning.

But it’s up now, and it does, in fact, look nice. But more than anything the kids like it. Now, if I just had some presents to put under it . . .  I’m kidding! I did all my shopping early this year – Last week.

So another year almost done and another lesson almost learned.  Yeah, I know. I should have put up the tree a long time ago. Very selfish of me. I know, I get it.

But here’s the good news for the kids: they will still have plenty of time to enjoy the tree because I doubt I get it down before Valentine’s Day . . .

The (book) worm has turned at our house

We’ve found a new activity at our house that doesn’t involve television, video games, or my smart phone.

And, no, the activity we’ve found isn’t sleeping.

Instead, it’s reading. As in, my son reading to me.

Now before you start to think I’m either a GREAT parent for thinking up this rather (ahem) novel idea or you think I’m a CRUEL and UNUSUAL (ok, the unusual part might fit) parent for making my son read to me, there’s something you should know. This was his idea.

The newest book in the Wimpy Kid series is one of several books my son has read to me lately.

The newest book in the Wimpy Kid series is one of several books my son has read to me lately.

I’m not even sure how or why it started. I was basically just sitting around one day minding my own business – probably watching an intelligent and entertaining Lifetime movie or something – when my son asked, “Do you want me to read to you?”

Well, you know what? I did want that.

As our children grow older, it seems we have less and fewer opportunities to have one-on-one moments. Things that we do together. Moments that we share. It seems like as kids grow older, we tend to think that activities must be more elaborate.

But here was simplicity staring me in the face. My son. A book. Me.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

And so he’s been reading to me just about every night. He might read for 10 minutes. Or he might read for 30 minutes or more.

He started out with a couple of stories from a book he bought at one of those regularly occurring book sales they have at schools. It’s a book of about 10 stories on crime scene investigations.

I wish he hadn’t. I thought if you bought the book at the school, then the book might be, you know, written for someone on that grade level. i didn’t realize it was going to more graphic than many CSIs actually see first hand.

But then he moved to some of his favorites: the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

The latest one came out the first or second week of November. And I bought it for him not knowing that I was going to hear it in the near future.

He wants to read the entire series to me – in reverse order. Fortunately, this isn’t a series where the story builds on itself. Otherwise, I might be in trouble.

We’ve made it through three of the books so far. And I’m looking forward to hearing the others in the series. Not because I’m enthralled with the stories or the depth of the characters.

But because it’s a chance to spend time with my son. Doing something that he wants to do.

The other day we were coming home from work and school, and my son asked me how my day was.

“It was great,” I said.

“Why, what happened,” he asked.

“Nothing special. It was just a great day.”

“You know,” he said, “we just don’t take time to appreciate the simple things in life.”

Sometimes I have no idea who this kid is. But I’m always thankful that he’s mine.

 

Son’s criticism of Davey and Goliath wildly misplaced

“Oh Boy!!”

It was my birthday and I was so excited! It was a Saturday morning and I was cruising through the menu to see what was on TV when I stumbled across “Davey and Goliath” about to come on.

Ok, so Goliath IS smaller than Davey. Who cares?! Except my son, of course . . .

Ok, so Goliath IS smaller than Davey. Who cares?! Except my son, of course . . .

Oh boy!!

There’s nothing that gets me excited like bad TV. And on my birthday, too!!

And my son was excited, too. Well, at least initially. He’s seen the show, and he enjoys some bad TV, too. Or at least he says he does. But I think a lot of it has to do with just watching me get excited about it.

But then he let loose with his criticism of the show.

“Why do they call it ‘Davey and Goliath’ instead of David and Goliath.”

“Ummmmm, well, I’m not really sure. That’s just his name,” I said hesitantly.

“Well, they shouldn’t have named it that anyway. Goliath is too small.”

Uh?

“in the story in the bible, Goliath is a lot bigger than David. But on the show, Goliath is smaller than Davey. They should have made Goliath bigger.”

(Hmmmmmm. A show about a giant dog. I might be all in on that one. Of course, it would have to be a giant dog that goes around the neighborhood eating kids or something. Oh wait, I’m way off track here . . . )

Uh?

You’ve seen this ghastly, horrible show, and this is what you’re complaining about?

This show has plots that are so syrupy that even Brer Rabbit couldn’t have worked his way out of, and you’re worried about the title?

I always like it when Davey's evil side comes out. If this show were on Fox, they might refer to it as Claymation Damnation.

I always like it when Davey’s evil side comes out. If this show were on Fox, they might refer to it as Claymation Damnation.

Ok, I get that you’re not too crazy about the title. And, yes, maybe they could have gone in a better, more inspired direction, but there’s so much more to sink your teeth into with this show.

The simplicity of the resolution of each episode is just so darn . . . simple.

And the show features nothing but cardboard characters – literally! Ok, I know that it’s actually claymation or some other otherworldly technology, but back in the 70s, wasn’t clay made out of cardboard anyway?

And the lessons? Wouldn’t you rather make fun of those?

Each episode features a “lesson” that Davey learns from some misguided decision that he makes. And before Davey can act on his boneheaded plan, Goliath offers the familiar foreboding “I don’t know, Davey.”

But most of the lessons are impractical at best. Like, for instance, don’t crawl down a well blindfolded when your parents have warned you that you need to study for a spelling test.

Huh?

Exactly. 

Or how about learning how you shouldn’t explore a house that’s about to be demolished to look for a little girl’s doll, which, in fact, turns out to be a voodoo doll or something.

Yep. This show is rich in material to laugh at. There are so many juicy nuggets to make light of. And yet you, my son, have focused only on the title. I have no idea what you were thinking.

Where have I gone wrong as a parent?

Maybe I could find a good book on parenting. You know, the kind that would show you how to instruct your kids on the fine art of poking fun and truly awful TV. Maybe I’ll get it as a gift this year . . .

 

Turning 50 – A Bad Poem

I never really thought about the day

Where my friends and family would say . . .

Happy fiftieth birthday to you we wish,

Now go out and have some fun; and oh, your cake was delish! birthday cake

Getting older is a hard thing to do,

But for now I can still walk, and my food I can chew.

But there are parts that are a failin’

Running is harder, my physique is bailin’

I can’t see any more, I have to wear glasses.

I’m gaining weight around the middle from sitting on my as- . . . ummmm, molasses?

My hearin’ I’m losin’, and to that there’s no mistakin’

I pretend to hear, but it’s hard to keep fakin’

You say, “Come quick! You’re son got a stick jammed in his eye!!”

And I hear, “Would you like to try some of my grandma’s apple pie!”

To the food I eat, I’ve made some changes

My beer and burgers have become fruits and grains.

No, growin’ old isn’t easy.

Especially when I have to eat those little green peas-ies.

Sure I’m achy, sometimes hurtin’

But I promise  this ain’t the final curtain.

There’s still life in these old bones, I tell ye.

Because I plan to keep on rockin’ til I’m a hundred and three.

 

We’re Going to Dance with What Brung Us

In my early days out of college, one of my first jobs was writing sports at a newspaper in the small town of Nashville, Arkansas. That wasn’t anything completely new to me because I had spent most of my falls in college doing radio play-by-play for a local high school.

I’ve moved on to other jobs since, but I’ve been able to stay somewhat active covering high school sports in the area. For years, I worked at the same Nashville newspaper I started at. In recent years, I’ve started covering the team for the radio station.

My son and I have found that the best way to spend an off night from football is with MORE football.

My son and I have found that the best way to spend an off night from football is with MORE football.

One thing that I’ve always found fascinating is how different coaches are. And not just their take on all things football. But their personalities, too.

One coach was like a CEO. One was aloof while focusing on new offensive formations.

And one presented himself as very country – just your friendly, down-home boy. But he was probably the most savvy when it came to dealing with the local media.

And he always had a unique way with words and phases. For example, about every three weeks, we would be starting a new “half” of the season. I figured it up one time, and according to him, there were about six halves of every football season.

When I asked him what he was going to do in preparation for a game with an upcoming opponent, his reply was “We’re going to play our game.”

I found a good life lesson in that – always do what you do best.

He sometimes phrased that line just a little differently – “We’re going to dance with what brung us.” I think some other coaches over the years (before and since) and used that same line, but I still like it.

About 10 years ago, I had just finished up my MBA, and I remember thinking that I would keep doing the sports as long as I still had fun with it. As long as I still enjoyed it.

Obviously, I’m still having fun. But a couple of years ago it became even funner.

When my son was little, he would often stay with my mom on game nights.

But about two years ago, I thought he might enjoy going, so I invited both of them to go with me. And a tradition was born.

He and my mom went to almost every game with me last year . . . although both were conspicuously absent for my five-hour trip to a playoff venue. Hmmmmmmm.

But this year, my son has gone with me to EVERY game. And we’ve had a blast.

He thinks it’s BIG TIME to sit in the press box. I don’t have the heart to tell him otherwise. But I guess when you’re 11, it does seem pretty cool.

The high school playoffs started last week in Arkansas, and Nashville ended up with a bye in the first round.

We’d been going to games now on Friday nights for two and a half straight months. And here we are in the first week of the playoffs with no game to go to. It’s hard to quit suddenly like that. So what did we do?

We went to just watch a game.

We decided to go watch a game in the same town where the grandparents live. Temperatures that night were down in the 20s, but we dressed warm, took some blankets, and bought some hot chocolate.

AND we had a great time.

And it’s one of those events that you love as a parent – it really wasn’t that big a deal, but it WAS a big deal.

It was another bonding experience, something that we did together that we can look back on someday and say, “Hey, remember when we went to watch that playoff football game when it was freezing?

No, it wasn’t the biggest event ever had together. But it’s what’s brung us this far together.

And I’ll be looking forward to this same dance in the years to come.