Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Inspiration

Inspiration can come in many different and surprising forms. My inspiration is 11 years old, about 4 feet 9 inches tall and weighs approximately 90 lbs.

My daughter Savannah is my inspiration. She inspires me because she believes something that few other people believe, but she ignores that and does the impossible anyway. She is following her dream and she is determined to see it through.

Last year she looked at me and said, “Dad, I want to be the first female quarterback in the NFL.”

As most parents do in times like that, I smiled and said something like, “That would be great. I bet you can do it.” I am ashamed to say I didn’t believe her. Children rarely understand how difficult their dreams are, but parents are supposed to support them in their quests and somehow still protect them from the harsh realities of the world.

Savannah is not the biggest, the strongest or the fastest child at her age, but she was born an athlete. I don’t know where that comes from in our family line, but I know where her love of football comes from. It has to be my fault.

Spending every Sunday during football season locked in front of the television had to have rubbed off on her. She wanted to throw the football in the front yard. So I taught her the Peyton Manning Method for Throwing a Football. She learned it so well that in 2nd grade she broke her friend’s finger playing catch.

About a year later we found out that Flag Football was offered at the Field House near where we live. We signed her up and it wasn’t long before she was forced to be the quarterback. I say forced because she was the best option on the team, she could throw the ball accurately, she knew where everyone was supposed to be and she didn’t mind telling them where to go.

It is pretty much understood that football is for boys, but Savannah was fortunate to have the support of some girls who also wanted to play flag football. I will never forget last year when the flag football team they faced mocked the girls on Savannah’s team as the three young ladies walked out to the center of the field for the coin toss. The other team felt differently when they walked off the field with a loss.

I am not saying that she has always been a winner, because she hasn’t. She has had many games when she had to suffer tough losses and outright humiliation as opposing teams piled on points. Those defeats only made her more determined and probably a better player.

At the end of last year’s flag football season she declared that she wanted to play tackle football and she wanted to try out for her middle school team. Her mom and I said things of support, while we tried in vain to steer her towards some other sport that might change her mind, or better yet, prevent her from trying out because of overlapping schedules.

Savannah’s focus could not be broken.  I had promised her that I would take her to the Landstown Middle School Football tryouts, and so I did. I watched her take the field with at least 70 boys and begin doing group calisthenics and football drills. Knowing that the coach was only keeping 32 to 35 on the team, I sized each boy up. They were huge! I like to say that I am 5 foot 10 inches, and on a good day I might weigh 175 lbs in my underwear, and there were quite a few boys who were taller and heavier than me. But Savannah didn’t blink an eye.

The first day at practice I tried hard not to show it, but I cried. I am not afraid to admit that I have emotions, but I don’t always want other to see, so I hid behind my sunglasses. She gave it her all, and I was proud, but I was also torn by the prospect of her not being able to follow her dream. I was a wreck.

Day two at practice had the kids line up in a tackling drill, without pads. One kid had to run by another kid who was trying to tackle the first kid. Savannah faced the one of the biggest kids on the field, who promptly tackled her at the waist, picked her up and drilled her into the ground. It was a textbook tackle. I almost boo-hooed out loud as she bounced right back up and ran to the end of the line. Now I also had to add to my list of emotions the fear of her being hurt.

At the end of day three, cuts were to be announced in the form of a list of numbers that were assigned to kids on the first day of tryouts. If a kid’s number didn’t appear on the list, he did not make the team. I agonized over how she might take the news when her number wasn’t on the list. I thought about how I could turn the conversation to a positive and express how proud I was of her just for trying. I wouldn’t allow myself to think that she could make it, because I didn’t believe it could be possible.

The list was posted before practice was over, but I couldn’t look. It seemed wrong to take that away from her. If nothing else she earned the right to know before me. I watched her as she slowly walked up to the list, one of the very last to make it there. She looked briefly and dropped her head as she turned away. I walked over to her and began my consolation speech. She seemed ok, as she told me she didn’t see her number, but she added that one of the coaches had asked her to meet him over by the buses.

We milled about for a few minutes and talked about things. She had done her best and was at peace with herself. I was sure her coach would say something positive about her performance and encourage her to keep working at it and then end with the “maybe next year,” line.

The coach came over and as I said my fatherly lines about how she would work hard and we would see him tryouts next year, he looked at Savannah and said, “Did you look at the list?”

Savannah said, “Yeah…”

He said, “You better look again, you made the team. I thought that you might have missed it because your number was penciled in.”

Savannah and I exchanged unbelieving looks with our mouths hanging open, and I think I said thank you. The coach said, “She earned it,” and he even repeated it to make sure we both heard it. He walked us back over to the list and pointed out the number 7 written in pencil at the bottom of the page.


Lucky Number 7
I was overwhelmed by the enormity of what my little girl had done. The only thing I could compare it to was the movie Rudy. I jumped on Facebook when I got home and begged for someone to share their copy (thank you Aaron!). As a family we sat and watched this movie while I hoped that the significance of Savannah’s accomplishment sunk in not only for her, but for her brothers as well.

By the end of the first week I had stopped crying at practice. Well, for the most part.

In her first scrimmage I watched her get steamrolled while playing corner. The wide receiver put a vicious hit on her while blocking downfield for a running play. Savannah jumped up after the play and ran back to the defensive huddle.

During her first game I was sure she wouldn’t get any playing time. But as the score rolled up, I realized that she might see some action during junk time. And then she ran on the field!

She played tight end and blocked on one play, and the running back scored a touchdown! She ran off the field pumping her fist thrilled with her first taste of real football in pads.

From my limited knowledge of middle school football, I would have to say that the Lancers are a good football team. As I sat in the bleachers last night watching the game it seemed for a while that the score was a bit too close for Savannah to take the field. Then suddenly in the 4th quarter the score was 42 to 6. I was thrilled when Savannah ran onto the field, but I was shocked to hear the Landstown Cheerleaders began to cheer, “Go Savannah! Go!” over and over. Soon the play was over, but a minute later she was back on for another play. Again the Cheerleaders shouted, “Go Savannah! Go!” and now the people in the stands joined in with them.

And I remembered Rudy.

Game Face
This is why Savannah inspires me. Despite all the odds, and all the people who scoffed that a girl was trying to play football, she has taken another step towards her dream and made believers out of others. Including me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

First Date

Our Matching Halloween Costumes
Twenty years ago today I went out on my first date with my wife. After we played in the very first Gator Bowl game, I remember I thought I was being sneaky and invited everyone on the team to the Honey Bee Golf Course Clubhouse for a drink after school. I knew it was the day before Thanksgiving and most people wouldn't come, but I didn't care if anyone else came.

Amy was the only player who showed up. I gave myself silent high fives as I celebrated my brilliant manipulations. She entertained me with her favorite party tricks, while I tried to play it cool and mature (which is terribly awkward when you are neither).

I tried to plan how I would be smooth and get a kiss before she had to go. She was leaving that night to have Thanksgiving with her family in Northern Virginia and I didn't have much time. I walked her to her car and hoped I seemed more smooth outwardly than I felt on the inside. Amy laughed and kissed me anyway.

We went our separate ways that day, but I knew she was different. I couldn't stop thinking about her. At Thanksgiving dinner the next day I sat at my grandmother's table and told my uncle about this girl I met and how I blocked for her as she scored a touchdown in the flag football game we played in together. I am sure that no one was as impressed as I was, but they hadn't met her.

That holiday weekend was the longest weekend in history! I couldn't wait to see her again, my mind was full of perfect plans to cover up my glaring imperfections with the goal of convincing her to go out with me again. Luckily for me she agreed to another date. And for the last 20 years I couldn't have been happier.

She always saw me as I really was, she laughed, and stayed with me anyway. Thank you Amy, I love you!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mr. Flashlight Holder Guy

A few weeks back I added another check mark to my personal list of man accomplishments. There are certain things that once you have accomplished, other men acknowledge as being manly. We don’t talk about it a lot because that is just not our way, but we all know it is there. Don’t let any man fool you, men are secretly comparing their list to other men’s lists to see how they match up.

Some things on the list seem silly, such as growing a moustache. But it is on the list. I have done that one. Check!

Killing wild animals is also on the list. I was able to check this off my list when I declared a purposeful killing of wildlife with my car, and then I supplemented that story with a slightly exaggerated fish tale that may, or may not, have included a shark. It doesn’t matter because I have already checked it off the list and I will protect the story with further truth stretching if needed. Check!

I won’t go through the entire list, but one thing that has always escaped me is being mechanical. You know, working on a car. I have always wanted to work on my car, but when changing a wiper blade takes 20 minutes and makes me a punchline for my wife’s jokes- I would rather a professional handled that. Besides, it is important to me that my cars actually work.

Neither my father nor my stepfather had any skills in this area. So my automotive experiences were limited to taking the car to Jiffy Lube and trying to look like I knew what the guy was talking about before I said something like,"Yeah, go ahead and throw that on there too,” and handing over my credit card.

But that was the old me! Now I can say that I helped “drop an engine.” That is what it is called when you put an engine back into a car. A friend of mine was fixing his car and I was excited to help. No, I had no idea what was going on, but I tried to pay attention and keep out of the way.

Once, I came inside for something and my wife asked me, “What are you guys doing out there?”

I locked up for a second scanning all the words I heard and stopped when I got to mani-something, so I said, “We are hooking up the manifest destiny...” and I trailed off on the destiny part hoping she wouldn’t hear that.

“What? What did you say? Ha! you don’t know what you are doing out there, do you?” She laughed in that way that wives do when they figure out the severity of their husbands’ cluelessness.

I shouted,”Shut up! You don’t know anything about cars!” and then I stomped back outside with the men. It sounded like a much better comeback in my head.


But I wanted to be useful, and the guys could see that, so they handed me a flashlight. I then became “The Flashlight Holder Guy.” It was the only job I was qualified for, but gosh darn it- I did it well.

I pointed the light here and there. Occasionally I needed to switch hands, and I did try to get style points with around the corner awkward angle spotlights. I wanted to be one step ahead of the work, so I anticipated where the light would be needed next. I really wanted to be the best Flashlight Holder Guy ever.

My dedication to my new craft was noted by the guys who knew what they were doing around a car. Sure they were making fun of me when they suggested that I be the focus of a new Bud Light radio commercial, but I didn’t care because I was helping.

So I created my own Bud Light commercial, not for me, but for all those guys out there looking to make a check mark on their man list and trying to help someone who is mechanical with the power of light. Because the spotlight is never on the un-mechanical, but the job is still important.

Working on a car- Check!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Boycott The Lorax

Is there anyone else out there who is bothered by the commercialization of the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, into the new movie, The Lorax? I try to be a good consumer and not think about things; just do what I am told. The economy needs to grow, so I must buy things. I need to go to a new movie because it is there for me to see. But the more I think about what The Lorax has become, the more wrong it seems because it is in direct opposition to the original message The Lorax was trying to get across to children.

This is a book that I love. Not just because it is a great tool to introduce children to big ideas like reducing, reusing and recycling. Not because I read it to many students when I was a kindergarten teacher. And it is not because Dr. Seuss plays with words in such an effortless and meaningful way.

I love The Lorax because this book has a heart and tries to get the reader to find theirs as well. I l love it because it helps you to understand that what you do effects the others around you and your negative impact can become much bigger than just you and your wants. This is a book that I have always believed was good for more than just being a kid’s book.

I have to admit that I was excited that this movie was coming out. I was looking forward to taking the family to see it, but then I saw my first
IHOP commercial featuring The Lorax. That gave me something to think about, but I figured that was pretty much the normal for a new movie release for kids. Not popular with me, but I could live with it.

Then I saw the
Mazda CX-5 commercial. Sure it is a 40 MPG vehicle, but The Lorax promoting a car? I thought cars, not just factories belched out "smogulous smoke." Would the character the Lorax have agreed with promoting cars? Greed is what leads to the Oncler’s downfall (and the Earth’s), but the commercialization of this product (The Lorax) is driven by unrestricted greed.

What is funny to me is that I am bashing a movie that Lou Dobbs is bashing, but for the opposite reason! He is upset because he says the movie is liberal and is trying to indoctrinate children into fighting rampant industrialism. I would say the movie supports what he likes, but the book doesn’t. I am thinking he is accidentally on the wrong side of the argument and he is helping the ideals that he opposes. But it could be that the inverse is true as well, that I am actually hurting what is a essentially a good message. Why do things need to be so complicated? Couldn't Universal just make a good family movie with a positive message that doesn't support products that could hurt the environment and promote an endless cycle of greed?

I usually try to withhold criticism for anything until I see what it is all about for myself, but I don’t think this movie is in any way aligned to the book’s original message.

The book points out what is wrong with human wants, but in the end it gives you hope and fills you with a feeling that you can make a difference. Yes, there are environmental issues involved, and human weakness, but the beauty of the book is its simple delivery to children in the form of a book. All of that has changed with this movie into a promotional tool for more products.

I believe in capitalism. If you own a product, or idea, you should be allowed to make money off of it. But I don’t have to buy it, and I am not going to see this movie or purchase any related products that have sprung from the original work because I think it is not what the book is about. I believe that is a boycott. I will also make sure my family doesn’t support this movie or any or the products that
The Lorax represents. It will be a tough fight, and one I might not win, but it just doesn’t seem right.

I think the Lorax would understand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Live and on the Air!

I haven't seen my friend Sean in a couple of years since he moved to Ocracoke Island, NC. I decided it was time to fix that, so I emailed him and he told me to come on down.

Sean mentioned a month ago or so that he was doing a radio show on WOVV FM 90.1, http://Wovv.org. I couldn't believe it when he said I could join him on the air if I was interested. Of course, I was interested!

I have no idea what we will play or what ridiculous things we will talk about, but we will be on the air in Ocracoke on Friday, July 22nd from 1- 5 pm. No joke!

You can listen live here.

I hope the FCC won't be listening. I wonder if he has one of those 5 second delays with a mute button?

I will be taking requests from now on- get them in and I will play them! Contact me via Google+, Facebook, Twitter, email, leave a comment, hit me on my cell, text me, or shout loudly. But not up close- I hate when people yell in my face.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My New T-shirt is Here!

After writing the Godzilla Hates Technology post I just couldn’t shake the idea. I kept thinking there was something more that I needed to do with the idea. And then it struck me-i t would make an awesome T-shirt!

I took the original design idea from Warning Sign Generator and recreated it (enlarging it, redrawing with Vector tools) using Macromedia Fireworks, and adding a Godzilla font found on dafont.com.





I decided that the image would be best on the back of a shirt, but I had to have something on the front. So I slapped a big red X on just the Godzilla part of the image and placed it over the left front side (over the heart) of the shirt.




Using Zazzle.com I made the dream happen and for a total of about $17 (I Googled Zazzle coupons) I was able to have the shirt made and delivered to my front door. It looks awesome! I thought I would share my shirt with the world, so if you would like your own Godzilla Hates Technology Tshirt, click the link below.

Look for a personalized gift at Zazzle.



http://www.zazzle.com/dtshirts




The best part is that the shirt arrived just in time for ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia. The perfect shirt for a educational technology conference. Yes, I will be wearing it there!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Question


It makes me feel unimportant to someone when they begin a conversation with the one word, "Question." Sometimes they might vary this a little by saying, "A question." Or maybe, "Oh I have a question for you." If the word, "question" appears in the first sentence then I wonder about that person’s manners.

Polite society says that you should always greet a person with a, "Hello" or some other harmless introductory word or phrase. Then after pleasantries have been exchanged, you can present the goal of the conversation from your point of view. In this way, you ease into the question; sort of like dipping your foot in the pool to test the temperature before performing a cannonball to splash people at the poolside.

At least that is what my mother taught me.

I don’t have a need to be important to everyone, but it annoys me when people walk right up to me and say, "Question." It reminds me of Dwight from the office. He is socially inept and oblivious of that fact. I am certain that people who speak to me in that way do not fit into that category, socially inept. So I can only believe that they do not care enough about me to extend the conversation for an additional 5 seconds.

I do, however, love Jim (another character from the office) when he imitates Dwight in episode 21 "Product Recall," in Season 3, and begins a conversation with the word, "Question."



Typography (http://youtu.be/AWtt4dpzoWQ), or this http://youtu.be/wHalf8liZJw more complete version.

Now, should someone begin a conversation with the magic word, I will interrupt with this-

Random Person: Question.

Me: Question. What kind of bear is best?

Random Person: That's a ridiculous question (not really sure what they will say, this is what Dwight said in return).

Me: False. Black bear.

Random Person: That's debatable. There are basically two schools of thought-- (not really sure what they will say, this is what Dwight said in return)

Me: Fact. Bears eat beets. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

Random Person: Bears do not... What is going on?! What are you doing?! (not really sure what they will say, this is what Dwight said in return)

I will not reply to anyone in this way as an attempt to disrespect them, but for my own personal amusement. In this case I am being proactive, preparing a response in an attempt to lighten the moment, for myself. If they get the joke, great. If not, perhaps they will not approach me with that word first the next time they want to know something, and I will get what I truly want. Just a, "Hey, how are you doing today?" would be nice.