Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Glad to be (former) D-III

It seems that every year about this time we go through the same thing… numerous “sources” leak a story about a big-time Division I college football team. The headlines are always the same – “BCS contender under fire for inappropriate behavior,” “Hopes for undefeated season for (insert big school’s name here) in shambles after star player suspended,” and “NCAA to investigate possible infractions by Heisman winner which would erase all of last season’s wins and Bowl title.” OK, that last one was a little wordy, but you get the idea. As more time passes, it’s headlines like these that make me glad I wasn’t gifted enough to play at that level.

Allow me to put things in perspective for you. I’ve been a jock my entire life, even though I might not look like it much these days. I was a sprinter/hurdler on the track team since 1st grade and joined the football team as a wide receiver as a sophomore in high school. Needless to say, I could run pretty fast for a white kid. Even though I was all-league every year on the track and our football team went to the state playoffs each year I played, I was not your “typical jock.” I got it done in the classroom first and foremost. I was never a straight-A student (well, maybe in grade school – but who wasn’t?), but I pulled high enough marks to get accepted to Denison University, one of the top 50 liberal arts colleges in the entire country. Out of 215 students in my graduating class, the only other person who was accepted there was our Valedictorian. I certainly don’t consider myself a genius but I’d like to think my parents have invested wisely in my education. Being wiser than my years at the time, I knew damn well that I wasn’t going to make a living as an athlete after high school.

With that realization and understanding firmly planted in my head, I had come to grips with the notion that I might never get to play either sport that I loved at a varsity level again. In fact, playing sports in college was such a distant thought in my head that when the Denison football coach called me and personally asked for a highlight tape I had to think to myself, “Why would he want to see a 30-second video?” Lo and behold, he wanted me to come out for the team anyway – as did the track coach once he got his hands on my resume. Four years later and once again I was all-conference in both sports.

I’m not writing all this to toot my own horn about my past athletic achievements. It was a Division III school/conference, after all. Does anyone stand around the water cooler and talk about the D-III football championship from this past weekend? Did you even know the D-III championship was taking place last weekend? Me neither. You see, Division III schools are not allowed to give athletic scholarships.  Also, under NCAA rules, D-III schools "shall not award financial aid to any student on the basis of athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance". Financial aid given to athletes must be awarded under the same procedures as for the general student body, and the proportion of total financial aid given to athletes "shall be closely equivalent to the percentage of student-athletes within the student body."

You see where I’m going with all this? D-III schools aren’t allowed to give purely athletic-based scholarships like the big D-I schools can. So any 5-star athlete with less than stellar grades who can’t afford full tuition is out of luck. Now I’m not saying that athletic ability and intelligence are inversely correlated (as shown by my personal example above)… but as we all know, the last few Heisman winners haven’t exactly gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

This inherent difference makes the athletic culture between the divisions contrast so starkly that I begin to wonder if they both can really be considered “college athletics.” I’ve mentioned before that my father played D-I basketball at Ole Miss on a full-ride scholarship, and he’s told me stories that make me just shake my head in disbelief. But as more of these same headlines appear in the paper, I realize that he wasn’t just telling tall tales all those years.

Based on the stories I’ve read, if you’re a D-I scholarship football player you basically get every need catered to. If you’re not the brightest crayon in the box, they have tailor-made majors to help you stay eligible. A little short on cash this week? Just call John Q. Booster and he’ll slip you a couple C notes in a sealed envelope in the locker room after the game. Need a little Mary Jane to get you through “mid-terms” but afraid of failing the random drug tests? Don’t worry, Billy Horn-rimmed over here will pee in a cup for you. We’ll have to be careful though – his ADHD medicine is banned by the NCAA too, so we’ll have to file paperwork stating that you take it to manage your anxiety.

I’ve read it all – envelopes in lockers stuffed with cash prorated based on game-day performances; team “aides” who write term papers for the lineman who can’t spell; sexy co-eds doing unspeakable things with recruits (who are still in high school mind you) while they are on campus for a visit; drug dealers (both illicit and prescription) on assistant coaches’ speed dial; professors getting brow-beaten by team “handlers” to ensure they pass certain players to keep them eligible; class notes taken for players who miss class (either due to laziness or team travel); assistant coaches assigned with ensuring you’re sticking to your diet; free sports drinks and supplements from the trainers; world-class facilities and chartered flights for all away games (not to mention luxury hotel accommodations); and more cover-ups than you can imagine. Basically anything you can think of to keep the players happy and eligible was the status quo.

The moral of the story is that the blatant disregard for the rules (and common decency) by the coaches and administrators sets the example for the players to emulate. Those in positions of power seem to forget how impressionable their players still are at that age. Most of them are still teenagers – and I’m sure everyone reading this can think back to how dumb we all were at that age. The higher-ups in the big schools are basically setting a precedent and the players look at it and say to themselves, “Well, if those in charge of enforcing the rules don’t have to follow them, then neither do I.”

Before I go all OG (old guy) and tell you how it was “back in my day,” I understand that there are certain limitations placed on schools that don’t offer athletic scholarships. The idea behind it all is that these schools (like mine) operate their athletic programs with the understanding that they are not revenue generating. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t expect a D-III school to have an athletic complex that rivals the Space Station. I will tell you this though… the life of a D-III athlete was far from glamorous.

The only person I could count on to take notes for me in class was me. I don’t even need all my fingers and toes to count the number of classes I missed in four years of college. Some people can’t even say that for a single semester. No aides followed me around making sure I went to class or that I was getting plenty of calories and fluids. I had to practically beg the trainers just to let me fill up an ice bath after two-a-day practices. And there were certainly no free Gatorades or supplements to be found anywhere. I’d like to think that I’m somewhat of a decent-looking guy, but I certainly never got the attention from the ladies that the big recruits do. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I met a single female on my recruiting visit. Drugs (of any kind) have never been my thing, but if they were I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask my coach where to find them… the man came to my wedding for Pete’s sake. Believe it or not, instead of getting preferential treatment from professors for being a jock, we actually got treated worse. Not only did they peg us as being meat-headed football players, but we actually had to produce written permission slips from our coach if we had to miss class due to team travel. That of course meant boarding a chartered Greyhound and driving 6-8 hours to our next opponent. And we weren’t staying at the Hilton before game days, either. After long days of class followed by practice followed by a lifting session followed by dinner, it wasn’t chill time with the Xbox until midnight for me… it was the library. My professors didn’t care that my weekend was basically shot due to Saturday games and Sunday practice/lifting/films – that friggin’ paper was due on Monday whether you liked it or not. There were no easy majors because at a liberal arts college you pretty much major in everything. There were no bounty systems, no shifty boosters, no pay-for-play envelopes stuffed with cash – heck, there was no cash period. Just like a college student should be…

I want to reiterate that my point here is not to come off as holier than thou because I “did it the hard way”, but more so to express how grateful I am to have not had to worry about all the shadiness that takes place inside a D-I school’s locker room. Even though I had to bust my arse day in and day out to participate in two sports that I love, I never had to worry about breaking any rules. I knew all the while that I was never getting special treatment in the classroom just because of what I could accomplish on the field (or the track)… and my professors made sure I knew that. I’m proud to be able to say that everyone I call a former teammate and I played the sport for the love of the game. Not because it was our meal ticket or because it was the only chance we had at a college education. Too many of the D-I athletes can’t say that same thing, and I say my thanks every time I see one of those headlines appear in the newspaper.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Single Parenting

Eric and I have taken our turns playing single parent these past few weeks, thus the reasoning for being so behind on blogging, on top of everything else we have going on in our lives. First, I took one of the first weekends in November to head up to Charlotte to visit The Koehler's and meet new baby Ella, and try to help her out as much as I could. When times were rough with Aiden, Gena came up to surprise me and help out for the weekend, and I think that was the best thing that someone could do... just being there and being available. So, I tried to do the same. After work on Friday, I drove straight up to Charlotte and stayed until an ear infection for poor Ms. Anneliese had them heading out to the doctor's and me back down to Chucktown. I got to spend a lot of time holding sweet baby Ella, trying to entertain Anneliese, and also even got a bit of shopping and coffee time in with Gena. Although the sweet baby smells, cuddles, and adorable-ness that was Ella were overwhelmingly wonderful, I realized even more how content I am with not having another baby. We are definitely done, and I think seeing Ella made me sure that I didn't have that neeeeed for another baby in me.

The following Tuesday after I got home, Eric headed to Washington, D.C. for a few days for work. He had been selected to go do some training at his company's headquarters, and it was definitely an experience he needed to go be a part of. It made for some challenging nights, and tested my patience a lot more than I knew could even be possible. Especially due to the fact that for the most part, they were at school all day while I was at work. So, I basically took care of them from 4pm to 7pm - and those three hours wore me out more than my entire work day.

I commend single parents, or those that have to act as single parents due to deployments, work travel, etc. I don't know what I'd do without my tag team, partner-in-crime, other half. He truly is an amazing dad, so involved and interactive... you can always find him on the floor instead of on the couch, or "bump-bumping" one or both of the kids around the house. I'm lucky to have him, and hoping for no single parenting days in the near future... however, zero parenting days (aka, no kids) would be much appreciated... hint hint when we get to Ohio for the week... whoever wants to take the kids so Eric and I can eat alone, rest alone, watch TV alone, etc., we are totally up for it :)

A First!

Lil bubby's hair is a highlight of my life :) It's so blond, so sweet, and so curly. It's especially curly right when he gets out of the bath, and the back always stays pretty curly throughout the day, too. I am thinking he may end up getting my hair, and Alli getting Dad-E's, but ya never know what could happen as they get older. However cute his hair is, we had noticed that it was getting so long in the front and around his ears that he definitely needed a little trim. Instead of attempting to do it myself (ha!) especially for his first time, Dad-E and I took him out of school a little early last week, left Alli there to play with her friends, and took Aiden by himself to get his first hair cut. This is monumental in many ways, obviously, it's a first for him, but it's also a first that his sister has yet to experience! 

We got to the hair salon and the hair stylist was wonderful. She got the booster seat out and I said, "Oh I'm sure I'll probably need to hold him in my lap..." and she said, "No! Let him try by himself. If he gets used to doing it without you, he'll never know the difference." So, we did, and she was was right. She let him play with the comb and was very patient yet efficient with doing the trimming. When he started to get even a tad antsy, I attempted to bribe with food, which she also shot down, stating that he would think he always gets food or a reward when getting his hair cut, so to try to not do that, too. And to my surprise, she was right again and did wonderfully without it. He sat through the entire thing, no tears. Not even tears from mommy, because she pretty much left those curls alone. :)

November 19, 2013 - 19 months old, first haircut!


Back in 2007, a lot of wonderful things happened. We moved to Charleston at the tail end of 2006, and both started our careers in 2007. I started working at MUSC on January 7, 2007... and mainly the reason I can remember  that is because that same day, I signed up for the 3 waiting lists for a parking spot. At MUSC, because it's located in downtown Charleston, parking is extremely limited. When you are first hired, you must drive to a old gravel lot, park there, and get on a shuttle bus to take you to and from the hospital. Such a pain. Such a hassle. So of course, all new employees sign up for the honor to finally get to park closer to the hospital. And then, we wait.

Mid-2007, I got engaged. It was one of the most memorable, incredible, amazing moments of my life. I'll never forget it, and thanks to both my mom and Eric's dad, we have videos of the entire proposal from two angles to capture the experience (his family's and my mom/best friend's adventure to get here in time). It was an amazing day, topped off by an amazing ring that I cherish.

Fast forward almost seven years. In the past week, two big things have happened that have a lot to do with those two moments back in 2007. First, I finally got a parking spot a few blocks from the hospital. I nearly jumped for joy, thinking Christmas had truly come early for me this year... and only MUSC employees can truly understand the depth of importance of this magical moment! When I got the notification, I replied immediately, and went crazy when I actually got into the parking management office to pay my fees (yes, now I have to pay to park... but seriously, it's still an honor) and get my coveted parking sticker.

One day later, I've finally flopped myself on the couch to take a breather from a busy little Saturday with the family, and look down at my beautiful reminder of Eric's commitment and promise to me, and find nothing. The ring and wedding bands are there, but one prong that holds up the diamond is completely bent backward and there is a big, empty, ugly, open space where my diamond once was. I felt physically sick, nauseous, and incredibly sad. I texted our photographer right away, as she had taken some pictures of us that morning and I wanted to see if she could zoom in on any and see if the diamond was missing then, so we could possibly narrow it down to see when this may have happened.  She responded back almost instantly, even providing a picture, that in fact, it was NOT in my ring when we took the pictures that morning. So literally, I am trying to think back and remember when the last time I DO remember seeing it was. And I have no idea. None. I can't remember, but I feel like I would have remembered getting it caught on something to bend it back like that, or, something, wouldn't I? But, I don't. I just cried a lot. Oh, and after the evening was over, Eric and I were just heading into bed, turning the lights off, and we hear Scarlett throwing up downstairs. Both of us rush out of bed and head down... and proceed to sift through smelly dog vomit to see if possibly, maybe, she ate my diamond and it wasn't agreeing with her stomach. No luck. I am definitely thankful that we have insurance on it, but it's still the sentiment behind it. And if we would have found it in her vomit, I definitely think she would have earned her nickname of Scarley, as that would be eerily similar to what they go through in Marley & Me.

So on Monday morning, I'll happily be pulling into my parking spot in the garage a few blocks away from work and happily WATCH the shuttle bus drive by me instead of being on it... but I'll be walking into dealing with insurance companies and trying to replace a diamond that means a whole lot more to me than anyone would imagine. Win some, lose some.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Daddy, get me!

Alli’s new favorite activity these days is getting chased around the house by yours truly, followed by a tickle-fest on the couch when Dad-E gets tired. Aiden has been joining in on the fun recently, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it frees up Mommy B to work on her papers for a bit; on the other hand it means I get double duty of chasing the kiddos around our open floor plan and throwing them on the couch when I catch them. Each time I catch one of them, I grab them up, run over to the couch and let them flop down on the pillows. They of course bounce right off and take off running again, so I have to alternate between them so as not to keep one of them waiting too long. Each time Alli takes off running, she’ll say “Daddy, get me!” I think it kind of defeats the purpose of being “gotten” if you ask for it first, but hey whatever works, right?

Once I tell them that Daddy is tired, they immediately switch gears to an activity that they know is much less strenuous on their father – tickling. Thanks to genetics, I have big enough hands to tickle each one of them with a single hand… one on one side, one on the other. Not sure how much longer that’ll last, but I digress. These two will literally giggle themselves blue unless I stop to let them breathe. The tickling will continue until one (or both) of them gets the hiccups, at which time they’ll take a break – for about 30 seconds.

After that, it’s on to piggy-back rides around the house. They’ve gotten very good at taking turns recently, so Alli will wait her turn while I run Aiden around first. After I drop her off on the couch, Aiden will pounce on my back and say “Bump bump!” Apparently he thinks we’re “bumping” up and down when we run around the room. Lap after lap we go – until Mommy B decides to join the fun. At that point we’ll each grab a kid and take turns chasing each other around the house. That way, both kids get to be both the chaser and chasee… until we all get tired and flop down on the couch again. While this activity certainly gets tiring night after night, it has instantly become one of my favorite pastimes with my children.

Last week I had to make a short trip to Washington, D.C. to teach a class on a new piece of software that we’re going to be rolling out next month, and boy did I miss those kids! I flew out early Tuesday morning and got home late Thursday night after they were already in bed. I missed three night’s worth of playing with them, and I didn’t like a minute of it. Don’t get me wrong, I got to meet a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise and get my face/name out there… but nothing beats play time with my kiddos.

Friday morning came around early (as does just about every morning these days), and it was back to the same morning routine. Even though I was running on less than six hours of sleep, I had to get up and get everyone under the age of 29 ready that morning. I walked into Alli’s room first as I heard her stirring a little bit and said “Hey hun… it’s Daddy.” She sat up in the dark and these were the first words out of her mouth in the sweetest, most innocent voice: “Daddy, can you get me… and tickle me downstairs?”

It was the cutest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. In that instant I could tell that’s all she’d wanted to do with me while I was gone. That’s what she had missed about me the most and now that I was home she knew we could do it again.  I told her that of course we could play downstairs, and she leapt into my arms. Aiden heard us talking and woke up, and he was equally as excited to see me – which warmed my heart even more. He said “Dada? Dada!” when I walked into his room and began bouncing up and down in his bed.

It made the lack of sleep all worth it to get them both back in my arms again. Needless to say we were a little late getting to school that morning… we had some missed play time to make up for.