Love and Hate

“America loves an underdog.” I’ve heard that quote, or some variation thereof, a few times in my life. There are times when it seems abundantly true. However, I’m starting to wonder if it’s really about loving the underdog or hating the successful.

I’m particularly talking about the Super Bowl right now. Seattle is by no means an underdog. Pete Carroll is a fantastic coach with one of the class-of-the-league teams in the NFL. In fact, some lines have them the favorite. But considering Belichick’s Patriots and their 14-year-long streak of success Seattle is seen more as the underdog in the historical sense. And you can see it in the large number of Patriot haters out there. My brother even mentioned in passing something to the effect of people seeming to have no reason to hate the Patriots other than their success.

It’s a shame that a team that is dominant for so long invariably falls out of favor with a large swath of the public. No, I’m not speaking scientifically here, it’s just an observation from the comments I choose to read on the internet and discussions with customers (on those occasions when sports come up). People just hate the Patriots. But they’ve had a great record for fourteen years now by following a great game plan with the right personnel. Why should this be rooted against? Fortunately, except in the case of certain franchises (cough-cough RAIDERS), developing that winning game plan should be copied with the necessary modifications for your team. But the public doesn’t seem to want that. Of course, should Seattle win another one and take the torch from New England, then it won’t be long before they become one of the hated teams – all for success.

I think the Jerry Sandusky molestation case serves to illustrate this point further. I’m not saying Joe Paterno is untouchable, but not a single person in the investigation or prosecution considered bringing up any charges against Paterno. Yet when the internet trolls took to the comments sections the venom unleashed upon the successful was in full force. According to our well-informed commenters Paterno and the entire football program from coaches to players knew exactly the crimes Jerry Sandusky was committing and swept them under the rug. For some, it seemed like it was time to bring the successful down and rip them to shreds. Perhaps a bad example, and certainly risky to bring up, but I do feel Paterno’s success as a coach made him an even bigger target for the internet trolls.

At its core, I believe it to be fueled by jealousy. People want to see their teams win – so they root against the successful team. When the successful team continues to be successful, the jealousy turns to a hatred of the team. Sadly I think this is reflected in our lives, as well. But that is another blog for another time.

Shifting Priorities

It’s interesting to sometimes sit back and think about your life, especially when you consider what was once important to you and now is not so important. These moments of introspection can provide focus for the future, enjoyment in recollection, or even a little embarrassment of one’s self. But I think we should all take the time to do this every so often, it can really help us all to refocus on who we are and where we’re going in our life journey.

I remember considering joining the band and taking music lessons. I think this was around sixth or seventh grade. There were some girls who asked me about it and I thought – “Babes! Cool!” But, upon looking at the music lesson schedule my dad pointed out that it would interfere with basketball. Well that was a no-brainer for me – shooting hoops was far superior to tooting my own horn with the babes. (Granted, had I been older and even more interested in girls when this dilemma struck, the result may have been different.) These days I coach youth basketball. Although I’d like to play every so often I’m not exactly in the best of shape. Should signing up for an adult league be an option, I’d probably not do it. Instead, I’ll hang out with my girls. Girls beat basketball these days.

I used to love watching movies. 1992 was a particularly good year for me. Of the 200+ feature-length films eligible for the Oscar I saw more than half (almost three-quarters, if I remember correctly). I was an avid follower of the film industry – at least with the films, not so much with celebrity gossip. I always had my own Oscar predictions and preferences and would watch the event every year for a number of years. Television was also a favorite activity, but not as much as film. Let’s see, the last time I went to a movie theater was 2008 to watch High School Musical 3 with my girls. We gave up TV a long time ago. Except for occasionally watching whatever is on when visiting family the last thing I watched on TV was the Super Bowl…when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts! My friend Farrah has shared her movies with me (Marvel in particular) and Game of Thrones (which I’ve read all the books, too) but even if I didn’t have them it wouldn’t phase me. It’s just not a part of my life anymore.

Of course, at 41 the decision-making process has greatly changed due to this shift in priorities. The other day I had remembered to pack a real, full lunch for work. What did I do when lunch break came? I took a nap. Didn’t eat a crumb! The same can be said for being a husband. “Hmmm, sex or a nap?” ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! That’s why older couples don’t have as many kids as the younger ones, it’s so hard to coordinate schedules so both parties are energetic enough for bedroom calisthenics.

It’s also very entertaining to watch my eldest daughter and her priorities. More to the point, priority – boys. If it’s not celebrity crush Ross Lynch, it’s asking me constantly if we can go to the basketball games of a specific team featuring her favorite player in the league. Nice, handsome young kid, and a good player, too. But, c’mon girl, give Daddy a break with the guys already. Wait until Mommy let’s me buy the shotgun so I can intimidate the crap out of the young fella.

Yes, as our lives change over time so do our priorities. It will be interesting to see what I think of my 40-something self twenty to thirty years down the line. I’m pretty sure I won’t be playing basketball with 13-18 year olds, I’ll be taking more frequent naps, and still convinced that my daughters are too young to be thinking about boys.

An Esoteric Reference

My name may not be Joe, but I am a regular one.

I have a regular job – nothing exotic about it.

I’m average and I’m white, but I live within city limits. Though I can be a little bit of a slob at times.

I do like football. I regret to say that I had view pornography in my younger days but have, fortunately, come to my senses about that vice. I like to read all sorts of historical non-fiction whether they involve combat or not.

My house is average and the hardwood floor has a few nicks in it. But, hey, the house is almost one-hundred years old, what can a man do?

I have a wife, a job, kids and a car. I can’t really put my feet up on my dining room table and the only other table I have is an end table. That would just be awkward. I don’t smoke cigars, Cuban or otherwise.

Although I have plenty of other interests, that’s all I really do need in life. I certainly don’t seek entertainment at the expense of others.

I think I drive at a good speed – passing slower cars and getting passed by faster ones. I may hold up the ass-faults who drive too fast, and may even hide a smirk knowing that they have to slow down from their excessive velocity, but I don’t mean to cause any road rage.

And, yes, I’ve been called bad names before – by multiple people.

When using a public restroom I try to be neat. But, at 41 years of age, I may sprinkle a little. I promise that I always clean the seat, however.

Working in a freezer about 25-percent of the time certainly diminishes the effects of summertime heat and humidity, but I wouldn’t upset others by talking about the soupy weather.  Otherwise I think I know what they’d call me.

I’d never park in a handicapped space, and I have no idea what a handicapped face is.

(I think that’s enough for now. For those of you who get the reference, good for you. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about – that’s entirely to your credit.)

Ghandi’s Greatest Quote

Ghandi’s quote about being the change you wish to see in the world is perhaps his best known. It sure seems to be his most repeated; appearing on t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, etc. It is a great quote, to be sure. But, in my humble opinion, it’s not his best.

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

There, that’s the one! I love this quote. It may be the best quote of the last century. It is a double-edged sword which can motivate and encourage as well as teach an essential truth of life. Let’s examine further my love of this quote…

Take two identical buckets: one empty and one filled with water. Put one drop of water into the empty bucket. Then dump the full bucket. The remnants of water left over from the emptied bucket are actually greater than the single drop-filled bucket. That’s how insignificant that one drop was.

Our lives are much like that one drop of water, insignificant when taken independently. However, when added to other drops (and I’ve met quite a few drips out there), it will fill the bucket. Hence, it’s important to add all those independent drops. If one drop is not added, that’s also insignificant. But, once again, taken in large quantities it all adds up.

What a way to motivate me through the monotony of my daily life. (Work life, that is. There’s never a dull moment with four active kids in the house.) My job is insignificant – I’m not saving lives, I’m merely selling baked goods. But it’s all part of the larger tapestry which can unravel as a whole should a few loose strands develop. Hence, I have significance in my insignificance. I love the poetry of the paradox.

Where the hard-truth edge of the sword comes is the reminder to our ever-strengthening ME-ME-ME culture that we are pretty insignificant on the grand scale. There are over six billion people in the world today. How many of them are going to be named in the history books students will read a century from now? Even some of the seemingly most-popular figures today may only get a few sentences in such a text. The libraries of books about celebrities, sports heroes, political figures, corporate barons and others may all be out-of-print (or digital text) by then. In the end, they are independently insignificant.

This is an especially important lesson in our internet society where so many people think that their opinions are of such importance they need to troll others with their “wisdom.” (If you’ve never read the comments section of an online article, I suggest not even starting. You’ll lose a lot of faith in humanity.) We seem to live in a more self-important society than ever before. Perhaps we all need to share Ghandi’s words of wisdom with more people and take them down a notch. Make them realize the insignificance of their inflated opinions which offer no real dialogue to contribute to the solutions of the problems of today and the future. Those are the insignificant dopes we don’t need. (I mean, drops, I must’ve had a typo there.)

When I look at my baby, I know that what I do is insignificant in this world. But, even though she calls me Mater, I mean the world to her, and she does to me. So, I must continue doing those insignificant things as an example for her and how to live her life. Who knows, perhaps her insignificant actions later will make the history books.

The Jason’s Guide to Happiness

Every so often the media like to post stories about the growing income inequality gap. A number of Facebook contacts have shared such articles and often commented on them. More often than not those comments are soapbox speeches about the unfairness of it all. Well, if you don’t already know, life isn’t fair. Not everyone will be rich. Not everyone will have a seven-or-more-figure net worth. Not everyone is going to live the life of luxury. Get over it.

We are about 12 percent above the Federal poverty level (2014 guideline). This may make some wonder why I’m not bothered by the income gap. In essence, my happiness is not based upon the financial situation of others. My company’s president recently sold about twenty-thousand shares of his stock, a transaction worth over eight-hundred-thousand dollars. That’s more than twenty times what I make. So what! Who cares? I sure as heck don’t. I’m happy in my life, and money is nothing more than a way to provide for the necessities of life.

I guess I’m lucky that I’m not attracted to the popular culture. Perhaps that’s because of my conservative nature. After all, they say liberals have won the popular culture. Good for them. Because the popular culture has no pull on me. I don’t care about what celebrities are saying, doing, wearing. I have no need to go see the latest movie, watch the big television shows, and most importantly, I don’t feel any desire to have the latest must-have material goods. Who says they’re must-haves, must-watches, must-reads, anyway? The popular culture. What do they know?

Instead of following the crowd like the popular culture herd, I decided long ago to do my own thing. Now, am I 100-percent completely happy in absolutely everything? No, I need to work on that. I don’t really feel fulfilled at work. But that has nothing to do with money. I’d gladly take a lower-paying job and work a part-time position to fill in the gap if the opportunity were there. I’m working on that. Until then, I’ll just do the best I can and plow through it. My job simply provides an income to pay the necessities, save a little for retirement, and allow me to pursue that which does fulfill me within my means.

And what does fulfill me? This is the fifth year I’m coaching youth basketball. I love doing it and hope to continue to coach as long as I can. Writing this blog has been a joy, and it’s gotten me back in to writing in general, which is something I’d love to do for a living. And, most importantly, I am fulfilled spending time with my wife and children. They are worth more than any amount of money.

I love to be entertained, too. I’m a geek for superhero movies, fantasy literature, science fiction, etc. But I think we’d all do well to turn off the cacophony of the popular culture. They popular media like to entertain and provide pleasure. But pleasure is no substitute for happiness. Find what really and truly fulfills you and makes you happy. And then the jealousy which inflames anger and hatred between groups will melt away. And then we can all be happier.

Knowing Better

I’d like to meet the person who coined the phrase, “With age comes wisdom.” I’d like to meet this person in order to kick them in the groin, hard! Because it appears that, in my case, the only thing that comes with age is, well, age. There are just too many times when I really ought to know better.

Many years ago I began coaching basketball for the homeschool recreation league my oldest daughter was playing in. It was a lot of fun and I’ve done it ever since. There are (usually) two age groups for each team in the league; a 9-12 group and a 13-and-over group. I’ve always coached the 9-12 team. The two teams share the court for practice, each team taking one half of the court until the last 15 minutes or so. During those last minutes teams will take turns holding a full-court scrimmage. The coaches play with the 13-and-over team.

This week, we began practice with the usual wind sprints – running one-quarter of the way up the court then turning around and going back and forth adding one extra quarter of the court each time. I pulled a groin muscle on my first turn but continued to push through anyway. I really should know better than to run with the kids. I should REALLY know better than to keep running after a muscle pull.

But I managed to shrug it off for the remainder of our practice. The other coach and I put the kids through drills, trying to get them to perform them at game speed. I did this by staying put and passing the balls around instead of running. I also managed to stretch a little in the process so that by the end of the drills I was feeling okay.

Then came scrimmage time. The first two practices featured myself, the other 9-12 coach, the 13-and-over coach and the seven members of the older team. Precisely enough players for a full-court 5-on-5 scrimmage. This last practice included the assistant coach (and league administrator) of the older team. Thank the Lord, God above that the coaches had a substitute. I was the first to be subbed for…thankfully. I tried to talk to some of my players on the sidelines about how the older, more experienced players moved without the ball on offense and how they shifted on defense. I’m not sure if they heard the words over the heavy breathing, it was hard to discern by the looks on their faces.

Fortunately I wasn’t totally alone in this regard. My co-coach jogged to the sideline and said, “Line change, just like hockey,” signalling for me to take over during game play. At the end of the season we hold a game between the 13-and-over All Stars and any of the coaches stupid enough to play against them. I am stupid enough to put my body through that annually. By the second half, all old-man substitutions are handled like hockey. Screw waiting for the buzzer!

Normally another team practices immediately after us, so we have to get out of the gym promptly at 5:30. That wasn’t the case for the last practice. So, we continued to play for another 15 minutes. I should’ve known better than to continue to play after the first five.

I think all us old guys kept playing because we didn’t want to let on we were tired. It was a macho thing. Eventually I decided to be the girlie-man. (Although I think all the other coaches were grateful that I declared quitting time.) As I huffed and puffed my way out the gym, I saw the mother of one of my former players who graduated to the older team. It’s a relief to know a charge nurse with years of experience is present at practices for an old coot like me. Who cares if she works on the NICU, I’m pretty much crying like a baby by the end of scrimmages anyway.

I really ought to know better.

Epitome of Random – Vol 10

-Daddy: “Did you see The Princess and the Frog?” Five-year-old: “No, but I saw the movie.” Huh?

-I made a new year’s resolution to stop cussing. I had to go to work January 1st. Oh well, there’s always next year.

-My five-year-old continues to have issues with going to sleep in her own bed, insisting on sleeping in ours. Maybe I’ll get my wife pregnant again. Once morning sickness kicks in and the kid gets puked on she may re-evaluate her present sleeping habits.

-Outside-the-box gift giving: I’m going to give my 11-year-old a front end loader. It’ll be easier to add her usual amount of sugar to her cereal that way.

-Dubrox Ear Wax Removal kit has a label on it which reads, “For the ear.” Thank you for clarifying that for us. Also, thanks for not labeling it, “For your ear,” otherwise when read out loud that could cause some confusion and possibly a little pain to the patient.

-I think I’ll quit my job and become a gigilo. My mid-section has the jiggle part down pat.

-Just to give my loyal readers an update, I’m still Mater!

Two Years

Two years ago tonight my wife and I had the joy of experiencing something totally different. She was expecting our fourth child at the time. One would think that, after three kids, going into labor with her fourth would not have been new and different at all. Except all three prior children were induced labors. As my mom says, the landlord served the eviction but the tenant refused to leave. Not with this kid, she was ready to explore the world beyond the womb.

It all started innocently enough. (Labor that is, not much innocent about the conception!) My wife began to complain of a little back pain. Once again, having three prior induced labors we weren’t expecting it to start of its own accord. After about one hour, I reflected upon the evening and saw a pattern to her discomfort.

“Honey,” I said, “you’re in labor.”

She wasn’t entirely sure she believed it, it could have been cramping or something else. Labor, surely you can’t be serious. (I was serious, and she didn’t call me Shirley.) So we went down stairs to the rocking recliner and began to keep time. Sure enough, the pattern was there. Contractions were far enough apart and not overly strong so we waited to call the hospital. But, her obstetrician was the doctor on duty so we were pretty relaxed.

Then, they stopped. They stopped for almost 45 minutes, this after 20 minute intervals. We thought about going back to bed, perhaps her body was just warming up for the big event. But we began to think that would be another day or two later.

Boy, were we wrong!

All of a sudden the contractions came on. Stronger and with greater frequency. We called the hospital as soon as the second hit mere minutes with this second string of contractions. Then we called our friend Jamie to tell her we would be dropping off the kids.

After dropping them off we headed the completely opposite direction to the hospital. All the while the contractions were getting stronger and more frequent. I thought for sure I’d have to clean up the car after delivering my own baby. But we made it before that happened with a little help from God and my alter ego – Captain Moving Violation! Speed limits, what are they? Stop at red lights? Merely a suggestion. Fortunately it was about 2 in the morning and no cars were on the road. Even the usually very busy Sheetz on the way had two employee cars parked in the lot and nothing else.

We made it to the hospital with plenty of time to spare. And upon arriving in Delivery there was her doctor, ready and waiting to help bring our newest baby into the new world. They gave us a gown, took her to her room and left so I could help her get dressed. Once that was accomplished, my wife looked at me and snarled through gritted teeth, “Get him in here, NOW!”

I walked to the nurses’ station. Doc asked if she was ready. I gritted my teeth and snarled, “Get him in here, NOW!” He laughed, nodded his head and pointed. “Yeah, that’s her!”  After getting through the last few hours, I felt a little levity was in order. Especially since she couldn’t see me in the process.

Interestingly, after the epidural the labor slowed down. But the wife was comfortable and we were just ready to play the waiting game. After a few hours and lots of pushing, our youngest was born to the world!

Since then I’ve had the joy to, once again, watch my beautiful daughter grow. She continues to impress me with her intelligence, curiosity, and cuddly nature. She’s chased her sisters and grown so quickly. She loves to be read to and play games. And, it didn’t take too long for that magical moment that I always cherish as a father, the first time she called me, “Daddy.”

Granted “Daddy” has had its place taken with “Mater.” Waking up on Sunday, she smiled and said, “Mater.” Upon picking her up from her crib and taking her downstairs to wake her up and get her dressed for the day she rubbed her eyes and said, “Mater.” When I got home today from work, she took the time to remove the bottle from her mouth just long enough to greet me with, “Mater.” That’s okay. It sure beats “Not the Mama.”

Here’s to two beautiful years. I’m looking forward to the rest.

Seeing Daddy

In The Great Outdoors Roman Craig (Dan Akroyd) said of Chet Ripley (John Candy), “Why do Chet’s kids look at him like he’s Zeus but my kids look at me like a rack of yard tools.” Perhaps not an exact quote, but I didn’t feel like doing the research to get it exact. But the point is, we all have different roles we play in life; with our co-workers, our community, and our family. We especially have many differing roles within our family. My newest role has been interesting to say the least.
We recently watched Cars as a family movie night movie. We have a few Lightning McQueen toys, which are beloved by my littlest. She was giddy watching Lightning on-screen. So much so that she now calls herself Lightning McQueen. I’ve been dubbed Mater! Okay, sweetie, I love you very much. But exactly why am I Mater? Does she see me as the goofy-looking, old, socially-awkward redneck in the family? Okay, I’ll concede that I do fit that description, but where’s the awe-inspiring Zeus role enjoyed by Chet Ripley? Then again, Mater is seen as the truest of true friends. This is especially true in the decidedly-less impressive Cars 2. He is always there for Lightning even if it took Lightning a little more time to come to the same devotion. But, given her call of, “Mater. Mater,” throughout the house, I know that MY Lightning McQueen’s devotion to her Mater is complete, total and loving. Not to mention, adorable.

Epitome of Random – Vol 9

-Voting is a privilege which should be cherished and given proper respect. It is appalling that voter turnout over the last few elections is only about one-third to one-half of all eligible voters. With the candidates the Republicans and Democrats are turning out, that number is way too high!

-My 15-year-old learned a parental lesson today. She picked up her baby sister and lifted her high above her head a few times. Her sister said, “Do it again.” She replied, “No, sweetie. My arms are tired.” Not to be deterred, the little one answered back, “Do it again. And again. And again. And again.”

-The oldest has not seen the trailer to the movie The Other Woman with Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton; but she’s familiar with the movie because of Diaz. She still sees Diaz as Princess Fiona from the Shrek franchise. So, she thinks she wants to see the movie and has looked up the cast in IMBD as well as a synopsis. When she saw an online article about Kate Upton the other day when I was online she said, “Oh, Daddy. Do Kate Upton.” I really need to warn her about American slang.

-My little one may be a demigod, a daughter of Poseidon specifically. She seems to thoroughly enjoy pouring water onto the floor for no apparent reason. Tonight she emptied the 1.5 gallon Brita pitcher. If she starts talking to horses I’ll be worried.

-There’s a site marked on the Rand McNally Road Atlas on the Idaho map called “U.S. Sheep Experiment Station.” I know scientists may get a little lonely from time to time, but that’s just plain wrong.

-My employee Lisa had recently watched The Hobbit. She said I remind her of Bilbo Baggins. I’m not sure how to take that, other than grateful she didn’t mispronounce his first name in telling me.

-Lost possessions are like boners, eventually they’ll pop back up.