My Kid Finished Last

5kMy daughter, age eight, ran/walked her first 5K today.  Out of 69 kids, she finished dead last.

My daughter is an amazing kid.  Sure, my opinion may be biased, but the facts remain.  She is creative and funny and smart and thoughtful and unique and sweet and innocent.  She’s just as likely to pick up a salamander as she is to pick a flower; as likely to design an evening gown for her doll as to take a hike through the woods; as likely to sit quietly reading her book as she is to spend a morning watching episodes of Phineas and Ferb.  Her interests are wide and varied, her time split equally between scholarly pursuits, girly-girl frivolity, tomboyish exploits, media consumption, and keeping her little brother at bay.  This may sound like fatherly braggadocio, but ask anyone that knows her and you’ll hear much of the same.

Despite all her qualities, athletics is past time she has yet to show much aptitude for.  Our first attempt to introduce her to the world of participation, competitive sports was a weekly basketball clinic when she was four.  Granted, she was one of the younger kids involved, but she showed next to no interest in doing much of anything that wasn’t a water break.  She often complained of being too tired to participate in the drills, feigning yawns and “needing” to sit down to “rest.”  The next try was soccer last year.  It started well, though we quickly noticed she was more interested in the social component than the competitive.  She did show some surprising flashes of an underlying competitive drive.  Once as goal keeper she actually leaped onto the ball with an opponent rapidly bearing down on it.  It was shocking she actually knew what to do, did it so quickly, and with apparently little thought of the possibility of getting kicked in the face (getting kicked was usually her #1 concern).  As the season went on, her enthusiasm waned, with a nice little resurgence for the last couple games.  I thought maybe we had found her athletic niche.  But when signups rolled around this year, she wasn’t interested.  She complained of being too slow.  Her being too slow, not the game.

So far organized sports have been a miss (we may try basketball again next year, or maybe softball).  As a life long watcher of and participant in team, competitive sports it’s been a little hard for this dad.  I’m not one of those parents who think winning is not important.  If you do anything where there is a stated goal, you should do all you can (within the rules) to achieve that goal.  In sports, the goal is winning, so you should try to win.  However, I’m not one of those insane, win-at-all costs people either.  If you lose, that’s fine as long as you give it your best shot.  There’s a lot of life lessons to be learned through losing; probably more than in winning.  I’m not a big fan of participation trophies, but with little kids who are just learning the rules of the games and whose feelings are a bit more feelery, it’s probably for the best.  It’d be great if Lily showed a bit more competitive fire in the proper contexts, but she’s just not there.  Who knows, maybe she never will be (and that would be okay).  She has taken to swimming and loves riding her bike, so at least she’s moving.

This spring, my wife signed her up for a running group called Kids on the Run.  It included other members of our homeschool group, and was run by some great parent volunteers.  For about eight weeks, the kids all met to run together, divided into age groups, in training for the 5k at the end.  Boys and girls from all grades of elementary school participated.  I went to several of the trainings.  Lily was, without a doubt, the slowest one there.  And it wasn’t as if she would stick with the pack, then fade toward the end.  Within just the first few minutes of starting, she’d be waaaaay behind.  Before long, she would be begging to walk.  She wasn’t the only one who had to walk a fair portion, but she was the one who walked the most portions.  We would try to alternate, run-walk-run-walk.  We set small goals:  walk to that tree, then run to that cone, now walk to the fence, then run to the picnic table.  In between the weekly group runs, Jen did a great job of running with her at home.  In the evenings, they would go to the track near our house and do a few laps.

She often complained (“my feet hurt” “my tummy hurts” “my head hurts”), she took a few spills, always finished with her face red as a tomato (a Bauer trait), and more then a few times contemplated quitting.  But she kept at it.  She was still always the slowest at training, but showed noticeable improvement.  She still whined about her sides hurting, but she didn’t give up.

Jen took her running five days of the week leading up to the big 5k.  Two days before the run, she got an agonizing toothache.  A filling had become infected and the tooth would need to be pulled.  But it was the weekend.  The procedure would have to wait a couple days.  The day before the run, she was in excruciating pain, mostly sitting on the couch trying to hold back the painful tears.  The dentist prescribed some antibiotics and a regimen of pain reliving meds that seemed to be working by that evening.

Unlike me, Jen did not grow up with a love of competitive sports.  While I have known both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, this is all very foreign to her.  Couple that with a mother’s love, and it was difficult for her to watch Lily be the last one to finish week in and week out.  She was concerned for what would happen to Lily’s fragile psyche if she finished last at the big run.  The toothache gave her an out.

The night before the big run, she told Lily if she didn’t feel up to it, she could skip it.  We could do our own, private 5k when she was feeling better.  To Jen’s surprise, I think, Lily said she still wanted to do it.

The day of the run, all the family came to support Lily.  Both sets of grandparents turned out, and one grandma (Mimi) even decided to run with her.  The race began, and before long Lily was already bringing up the rear.  The run was not on a regulation track, and it would take 10 laps to equal the 5k.  The kids all wore 10 rubber bracelets to help keep track of the laps.  After finishing a lap, they would take one off and toss it in a bucket near the starting line.  As the run went on, more and more kids had fewer and fewer bracelets on and it was looking like Lily may well indeed be the final runner on the track.

Jen, Mimi, and I ran along side her.  Encouraging her to keep pushing and reminding her she had more down inside than she realized.  Her tooth was fine, but she complained of her tummy hurting.  Red faced and winded, she pressed on, all the other runners having already finished.

The final lap was her strongest.  Her best friend, who had come to watch, ran along side her. Just before the final turn, a group of kids who had already finished joined her for the home stretch.  She raced toward the finish, energized by the cadre of kids and coaches running along side her, all the other participants and spectators lined up along the last few yards, cheering her to the end.  She threw her last bracelet into the bucket and raced to the finish line, probably the fastest she ran all day.  When she crossed the finish line she had a look on her face I’m not sure I’ve seen before.  It was the look of accomplishment, of having achieved something thought not possible.  Rather than Jen’s fear of a crushed spirit at finishing last, she had the glow of someone who set a difficult to reach goal and met it.  Jen threw her arms around her in a hug, tears welling up in her eyes.

My daughter, age eight, ran/walked her first 5K today.  Out of 69 kids, she finished dead last.  I couldn’t have been prouder.


– Brain Dump Volume 2 – Or – Vegetables Scare Me

Item #1 – Vegetables

Do they really scare me?  Well, no.  Maybe this one.  A few of them I actually enjoy.  But in the very near future, like, Monday, I better learn to enjoy them a whole lot more.  I have agreed to join my wife in doing something called the Whole30.  If you haven’t heard of it (and I hadn’t until about a week ago; oh how quickly our fortunes can change), it’s a torturous healthy eating plan where you eschew the delicious evil foods we all enjoy, like sugar, dairy, grains, and everyone’s favorite, legumes.  You do this for 30 days and by the end you supposedly feel amazing.  After the 30 days, you can gradually start adding those evil things back into your diet, in moderation of course.  I guess the idea is to detox, break bad eating habits, and shock your body out of it’s cravings for all that junk.

I’ll be the first to admit, my eating habits are pretty terrible.  I’m certainly not above washing down a few doughnuts with a Mountain Dew, usually at 2 AM.  So, I’m sure this will be a good thing for us and the kids, who will be doing a modified version.  Still, I’m terrified.  We have a few friends that will be doing it at the same time, so maybe there will be strength in numbers.  Still…terrifying.

So this week I’ve pretty much been on a mission to eat as much horrible-for-me food as is humanly possible.  Exhibit A: the two corn dogs I’m eating this very moment.  And I may or may not have eaten a bacon-cheese hot dog and fries for dinner a few scant hours earlier.  And I can neither confirm nor deny, that was preceded by an Oreo McFlurry.

Yeah, maybe this Whole30 thing isn’t such a bad idea.  I mean, I would like to be alive when my kids graduate.  From elementary school.

Fortunately, bacon and eggs are on the approved foods list.  This is basically how I plan on getting through the month:

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  If I don’t slip into a spinach induced coma.

Item #2 – The Wife Video

My wife recently turned…a different age.  For my own safety I won’t say what the different age is, but know that she does not look it.  When someone does manage to deduce the number of years she has graced the planet Earth with her presence, they are always surprised she isn’t younger.  In honor of her age turning, I produced this little video for her.  She’s embarassed I put it on YouTube and Facebook, but she’s amazing and I don’t care who knows it.

There was a time when I made videos like this on a regular basis.  Even had a little side business for a while.  I miss doing it and enjoyed putting this one together for her.  Maybe I’ll get back at it.

Item #3 – Milkshakes

I’m really going to miss drinking milkshakes.  Like, a lot.

Item #4 – 15 Minutes

I recently had my very own 15 Minutes of Fame.  I can’t really get into specifics about it here.  All I can say is that I never expected it to involve a goat.

Random song lyric of the day

Like you’ve got nothing to prove
No matter what you might do
There’s always someone out there cooler than you

I know that’s hard to believe
But there are people you meet
They’re into something that is too big to be
Through their clothes
And they’ll put up with all the poses you throw
And you won’t
Even know

-Ben Folds – Cooler Than You

-Hey, Remember Blogs?- or -Brain Dump Volume 1-


Lately I’ve had some things rolling around that empty space just below my bald spot I wanted to get out.  They aren’t really conversational things, not that their taboo, just not things that would naturally come up in a conversation.  At least not my conversations.  I think I’ve always been more comfortable writing things down than at actually talking.  At least when it comes to most things deeper than, say, level two small talk.  I’m much more comfortable carefully crafting my words with characters I can touch with my fingers than I am coming up with them in my head, then spitting them out and having them sound semi-coherent.*  That’s why I love texting.  I mean, yes, I am like a high school girl in some ways (hello, Snapchat!), but everyone should, and mostly has, embrace texting.  Texting is like having a real life, talking conversation, with the added bonus of seeing what you just said before actually saying it.  This not only prevents me from saying dumb things, but is a big help in making me sound more smarter.  Because, as it turns out, sometimes we say things we really shouldn’t!  What a world.  Texting hasn’t always saved me from shoving my size tens–ok, size nines–into my virtual mouth, and it’s not a one size-fits-all solution to every conversational need.  But still…don’t throw shade on texting.  (Oh, and I am somewhat capable of carrying on a normal, verbal, face-to-face, conversation.  Usually.)

*Sort of iroinc given my current occupation basically requires me to talk AT LEAST semi-coherently for 10 hours a day.

I guess that sorta turned into Item #1.  Moving on!

Item #2 – Work Friends

I have been fortunate in my working career to have worked with some of my very best friends.  In my earliest job, I worked with my still-to-this-day best friend for many years.  After the first few years of that job, one of our other very good friends came on staff.  The three of us had some great times.  The two of them even threatened me into asking this cute new teacher out on a date (It worked out, we’re married now).  We didn’t make a lot of money (we were custodial services technical engineers–janitors), but you can’t put a price on that stuff.  Eventually, one of us left for greener pastures…but the other two followed to the same pasture less than a year later.  Together again!  We had more good times.  Ping-pong, wiffle ball, darts, blasting really bad music on the manufacturing floor.  We also occasionally did some work.  Good times, good times.

That went on a few years, then one of us left again.  Then I left a little while later.  Now we’re all in very different career fields, and the chance of us ever working together again is slim to none.  But we had a solid six or seven year run.  I realize that’s pretty unusual.  Not only that we got to work together for so long, but that we actually remained friends.  Did I mention we were all roommates for a while too?  People were amazed we hadn’t killed each other with all the time we spent together.  But it worked for some reason.

I guess I’m a pretty likable guy and so at my few subsequent jobs I always was able get along with pretty much everyone.  There was always one or two I could go a little deeper with, share a few inside jokes with, felt I could trust.  But even then, they were pretty much workplace relationships.  With the exception of one birthday party, I can’t remember doing anything social with anyone from those jobs.  It’s not that I wouldn’t have, and it wasn’t by design.  Had I stayed in those places longer maybe it would have been different, it just never happened for whatever reason.  They were good people, we had some good times at the office, and we keep in touch on Facebook and such, but that’s as far as it went.  Maybe it was because I already had built-in close friends at those other jobs, so I never really had to branch out before and didn’t know how.  Who knows?

It’s been a little different at my current job.  I’ve been there for about two and half years, and though it’s impossible to say yet that I’ve made lifelong friends there, something feels different.  Maybe it’s the nature of the work.  It’s a pretty small organization and you really have to trust and depend on the people you work with.  You spend a lot of time together, often in close quarters, and deal with a lot of stressful situations.  Now, this could be a recipe for disaster, and in a lot of other, similar outfits it certainly turns out that way sometimes.  But where I work, it works.  Of course, there are some I would prefer to work with more than others.  Some a lot more.  Though I’m partial to my team, I’m fortunate that there are very few at work as a whole I would have a problem working with.  That’s pretty rare, I think.  The crew I work with regularly is tough to beat.  My squad, we work well together and we LIKE each other.  We hang out off the clock, we text and, yes, Snapchat each other on our off days.  We go to each other’s birthday parties, give ourselves nicknames, tease the crap out of each other, and generally act like total goofballs.  I think part of it is the camaraderie of the job, but mostly I think we just enjoy each others company.  And we trust each other.  I know they’ve got my back, and they know I’ve got their’s.  That’s a big deal in our line of work.  It’s weird, because there’s a pretty big age spread between us, so it’s hard to imagine another scenario where this would have happened, but fortunately it did.  Like any tight knit group, we have our bad days where we would just as soon smack one or more of the others across the teeth as look at them, but they’re pretty few and far between.  It’s a good group.  I’m sure at some point in the future, maybe the near future, one or more of us will move on to something else (Heck, now that I think about it, it actually already happened once).  But this time around it’ll be “see you on the weekend” and not just, “see you on Facebook.”

I guess all of this is just to express how grateful I am to have been able to work with very good friends, and then make some new very good friends when we parted ways.  I know it doesn’t work that way for everyone. #blessed (<—that’s kind of a joke, by the way)

Item #3 – Item #2 Went Too Long

Item #4 –  Blogging Can Be Fun!

Well, I think that’s about all I’ve got in me today.  This was fun.  Who knows, maybe I’ll do it again soon.

Worst Christmas Songs Ever – Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney

This one is really sad.  Paul McCartney.  Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal recipient Paul McCartney.  Sir Paul McCartney.  Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney!  What was he thinking with this infectious tune?  And not infectious in a good way as some songs are.  Infectious like an infection.  Like an oozing boil, festering in your ear canal kind of infectious.

It’s basically the same two notes over and over and over and over and over and over and over…you get it.  You’ve heard it, unfortunately.  This is the same person that wrote Hey Jude, Helter Skelter, and Let It Be?  If this was someone’s first exposure to Sir Paul, they’d skip The Beatles, like they’d skip Nickleback after hearing Chad Kroeger.  And that would be a tragedy.  Skipping The Beatles, not Nickleback.

Besides the irritating, yet somehow unforgettable melody, there are the lyrics.  Behold:

The choir of children sing their song
Ding dong, ding dong
Ding dong, ding ooo
Ooo ooo toot toot toot toot toot toot

The word is out
About the town
To lift a glass
Ah don’t look down


So, two notes plus lazy, terrible lyrics equals radio Christmas airplay forever.  Must be good to be a Beatle.  If you don’t mind causing your former bandmates to roll over in their graves every yuletide.

In case you’ve forgotten how truly annoying this piece of garbage is, here you go:

The Worst Christmas Songs Ever – Last Christmas by Wham!

bad-christmas-musicThis month my friend/uncle Jeff has been counting down the top 25 Christmas songs on his blog, You Know What I Mean?  For a man his age, his selections have been pretty, to use a phrase from his era, “boss.”  No real disagreements from me, and I consider myself something of a Christmas music connoisseur.  From the sublime to the classic to the absurd, if it’s yuletide I’m on board.

Between his countdown and the ubiquitous sounds of the season on every car stereo, department store PA system, and television screen, I have become inspired to dust off the ol’ blog and do a countdown of my own.

However, while he is counting down the 25 best Christmas songs, I will be offering my opinion irrefutable evidence as to the worst Christmas songs. These will all be pretty well known atrocities that make us all want to jerk the car into the nearest bottomless ravine when they come on the radio.  Fortunately, I doubt I can come up with 25.

Let us begin.

While this countdown will be in no particular order (which makes it more of just a list, I guess), this first abomination should be at or near the top of any worst list.  Better yet, all copies should be at the bottom of Mariana Trench where the only ones to be audibly assaulted are invertebrates and really ugly looking fish.  Nobody likes them anyway.

The song, Last Christmas by Wham!, is without a doubt one of the worst recordings in human history, Christmas or otherwise.  I dig 80’s pop as much as anybody, but this 4 minutes and 38 seconds of putrid dog vomit takes all of 80’s music’s worst qualities, most notably George Michael, into a holiday horror show.  Whiny, dull, and waaaaay too long, if it wasn’t for every easy listening radio stations obsession with playing it every 15 minutes it would not seem like a Christmas song at all.

The thing is, the song itself isn’t actually bad.  I’ve heard a number of covers over the years that are solid.  The Jimmy Eat World version is especially top notch.  Their version has an upbeat, sort of dreamy modern nostalgia feel to it.  Like it should be played over a video montage of your Christmas morning.  The original Wham! version has the feel of sadly drinking a bottle of gin alone on your way to jumping off a bridge on Christmas Eve.  Happy holidays!

You’ve all heard it way too many times, but here it is again if you’ve somehow forgotten how truly terrible it is.  Enjoy?



Eulogy For Jackson


To those that know him, you know the word “rascal” is the most apt descriptor.  He is known for barking at the neighbors for having the audacity to use their backyard, eating entire blankets, escaping into the woods behind our house, or stealing countless food items left unattended and sitting too close to the edge of the counter.  He even stole our Christmas treats:  the wedge of brie (2005); the three giant fudge brownies (2013).  He rarely came when called, sat only when there was a tasty reward to be had (and even then, only long enough to get paid), and never learned to behave at the vet.  He was basically useless as a fetch partner, refusing to de-mouth the ball, and he once peed on the Christmas tree in protest for the in-laws having the gall to bring their dog for a visit.

But for all his shortcomings (most of which can be traced back to his masters), Jackson was the best kind of rascal.  Yeah, he’d steal your sandwich right off your plate without batting his big brown eyes.  But after inhaling it, he’d nuzzle up to you with his tail all a’wag and melt you with those same, guilt-free eyes.  Always playful, rarely grumpy, it was almost like he was winking at you as he walked past with that dirty sock in his mouth.  “Chase me,” he would say.

The first six years in our house, he was Number One, getting lots of attention from Jen and me.  When Lily arrived, he was demoted, but never jealous.  When Henry came along three years later, I’m sure he felt his stature slip a little bit more.  He didn’t get to come along on as many trips, he was banished to the outdoors more than he probably would have liked, and he lost being-on-the-furniture privileges.  Still, he took it in stride, rarely acting out, and treating the kids like the older brother he was.

When I first noticed the hint of the lump about two years ago, I knew it was likely the beginning of the end.  Not having the financial means to pay for a surgical procedure, we just had to watch as it grew larger and larger.  Golf ball, baseball, softball, volleyball, and now, nearly basketball sized.  Despite the growth, Jackson was barely phased at all.  It wasn’t until very recently we noticed it effecting his mobility.  He gets around nearly as spry as ever, just with a slight hitch in his step.  He wasn’t in any pain and it did nothing to curb his napkin/paper towel/wipe thieving ways.  He was still Jackson.

About three weeks ago, the sores started to appear.  I’ll skip the grosser details, but a trip to the vet about two weeks ago confirmed what we already suspected:  the decline had begun, and it would be rapid.  We could probably put the inevitable off a little while longer–a month more, maybe–but it’s clear things are getting more difficult for him.  He pants almost all the time, the sores are getting worse, and it can’t be comfortable to walk around with a basketball sized growth hanging from your side.  The time has come.

Tomorrow will be a pretty terrible day.  There’s already been quite a few tears, and I don’t think it’s really sunk in for the kids yet.  I never look forward to taking Jackson to the vet, and this is one trip I especially would prefer to skip.

It’s easy to get attached to almost anything that’s been a part of your life for 12 years.  But when it’s a living, breathing companion, it’s all the worse.  Jackson has been with Jen and me for all but two years of your marriage.  He’s the first dog I’ve ever had.  He’s far from perfect, but he was my puppy and gave me a lifetime of stories and memories.

For the last three and a half years, I’ve worked jobs with weird hours, getting home sometimes at three or seven in the morning.  Whenever I walked through the front door, Jackson would be walking down the hall from the bedroom to greet me.  As much as I won’t miss the hair on the sofa and pooper-scooper duty, I will miss that every day.

Good bye, old friend.


Review: everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present by Jeremy Writebol

Back in my less contented days as a Junior College student, my uncle used to tell me to “bloom where you’re planted.”  Sort of a cheesy phrase, but true none the less.  As a not quite (or barely) 20-something, I was in a rut and wanted a change.  But rather than making the most of where I was, even while not wanting to be there, I moped and complained.  To usurp another gardening metaphor, that grass on the other side sure looked emeraldesque.  Fortunately, through no real workings of my own, but through divine pruning and care, I did eventually bloom.  Or I at least sprouted (I think of myself more like a vegetable than a flower).

I can’t help but think that if I’d read Jeremy Writebol’s debut book everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present, that sprouting process may have been sped up a bit.  It’s not everyday a good friend of your’s publishes a book; probably rarer still that it is actually worth reading.  But Jeremy’s book is a good and easy read on how the Gospel of Christ relocates the Christian where he or she needs to be, without having to move them at all.

It’s a fleshing out of that “bloom where you’re planted” philosophy.  It spells out what makes that possible; through focusing on the Gospel, not only how it relates to our spiritual location, but our physical one as well.  The Gospel is more than just about our spiritual salvation.  Clearly, that is a fundamental element of it, but there is more.

God is omnipresent, and Christians, as His ambassadors, are nearly so.  Wherever Christians are, they are to be the light to this world.  That includes in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools.  That is being ever present.  By doing so, we can “relocate” ourselves and those around us, as human beings, into the place where we were supposed to be all along; with God.  We were dislocated from that position after the Fall, but the Gospel puts us back where we belong; in the presence of the Father.

For the discontented 20-something to the satisfied 60-something, and beyond, being “ever present” wherever we are is not only a reassurance, but a duty.  Christians are called to go into all the world and make disciples.  This includes going to work, school, and next door.  It sounds intimidating, but it really doesn’t have to be.  As Jeremy says in the book, “The method is: be present, as a Christian, with lost people.”  We do that everyday.

I’d encourage anyone to read Jeremy’s book (and not just because I happen to be in it, briefly).  It’s a great wake up call, and a fresh look at what should be a well known truth.

Here is where you can get it:

ebook –

paperback –