A Friend Like You

The death of Robin Williams has made me very sad. I never knew him, but he had a profound impact on my childhood. I know millions of other folks feel the same way.

The news was shocking. Of course, none of us know why he’d take his own life. Mental illness is such a powerful force. I’ve seen it rip apart my own family in recent years. We’re repeatedly left asking the question “why?”. There is no answer.

Robin Williams has left an incredible legacy of laughter. However, I hope his greatest legacy will be the awareness his passing brings to mental health issues. There are millions of people out there who desperately need help. My brother is one of them.

Rather than do a disservice to mental health issues, which I know little about, I want to write about a few fun and silly ways Robin Williams impacted my life over the years:

1. I don’t care what the experts say, “Aladdin” is the best Disney movie of all time (“The Lizzie McGuire Movie” is a close second). The music in “Aladdin” is amazing, the story is great, Abu is my dude, and Jafar is an epic villain. However, that movie is legendary because of Robin Williams. His Genie character was fantastic. He also improvised most of it. Genius. I loved “Aladdin” so much, I would watch the cartoon show every single day after school in sixth grade. I was a hardcore middle schooler.

Friend Like You

2. “Hook.” It was my first favorite movie. It was also my first job. I loved that movie so much in second grade that I would sit in class and doodle pictures from the movie. Of course, I then put them in the front of my Trapper Keepers. Other kids saw them. Other kids wanted them. I wasn’t about go give my masterpieces away for free, so I charged a dollar for each drawing. I made $4. I was rich.

“Hook” has continued to play a significant role in my life, 20+ years later. A few weeks before the babies were born, we watched “Hook.” It was still such a great movie. However, I had a bit of an identity crisis. It seemed like only a few heartbeats ago that I was a little kid watching that movie and swindling classmates out of their money to buy my terrible drawings. As a little boy watching the movie, I identified with Peter’s kids and the Lost Boys. Now, all of a sudden, I had become the dad in the film. Much like Peter, I had grown up. However, just like Peter, and just like Robin, I’m still a kid at heart (and I’ll still draw you a picture from the movie for a $1).

Hook

3. All kids like to push their bedtime to the limit. Our kids hate sleeping. As soon as we put them down to bed, they start laughing and hollering to keep themselves awake and to try to convince us that we should let them stay up later and play with them instead. I remember once in elementary school I stayed up past my bedtime. No one said anything. So I stayed up longer. I ended up watching “The Tonight Show” by myself. That joint came on at like 11pm, so I was living on the edge. Robin Williams was a guest on the show. I probably didn’t understand all the jokes and references, but I laughed so hard. He told a story about throwing sandwiches from a hot air balloon. I thought it was the greatest thing ever.

4. I saw “Jumanji” in seventh grade. I was terrified. I had legitimate concerns that a herd of rhinos would come storming through my bedroom. I was in the seventh grade. That’s proof that Robin Williams was not just a hilarious comedian, but a phenomenal actor (and that I’m a wimp).

Thanks for the laughs, Robin. You will be missed.

Thank God It’s Monday

Thank God it’s Monday.

Like nails on a chalkboard or Britney Spears singing the National Anthem, those words just don’t sound right.

I’ve spent most of my “22” years dreading Mondays. It usually starts on Sunday nights. Once 6 or 7pm hits, the inevitable march towards Monday morning begins. There are feelings of dread, stress, and sadness. Once Monday morning arrives, the complaining about work usually begins soon thereafter.

Lately, I’ve realized that I spend too much time complaining and just trying to survive until the weekend.

No more.

I heard an awesome message at church a few weeks ago from a guest speaker who challenged us to stop dreading Mondays, to stop complaining about work, and to stop spending our days thinking about the next big thing. Rather, he encouraged us to treat work like an opportunity to be a positive influence on others, to serve those in need, and to think of work as another way to give props to God.

Hello.

I felt convicted. I needed an attitude adjustment. So now I’m saying, “thank God it’s Monday.”

TGIM.

However, I’ll miss these two:

TGIM

All You Need is Love (and a Webcam)

Hi.

It’s been a long time.

As I rode the Metro to work two weeks ago, I jotted down a list of all the blog posts I wanted to write over the next ten days.

How many did I write?

Zero.

Why?

Because the last two weeks have been really hard.

No, not “deployed overseas and fighting in a war” or “suffering from a chronic illness” kind of hard, but a challenge nonetheless.

I’ve been working an insane amount. I’m tired. I miss seeing my family. The kids have also decided that sleeping for more than an hour straight at night is boring. Austin woke up 11 times between 8pm and 7am on Wednesday night. Finally, after nearly five glorious months of kicking it with our kids each day, Amanda went back to work.

All You Need is Love (and a Webcam)

It had been quite the emotional buildup leading up to that moment. She wanted to go back to work, and interact with human beings who don’t pee on themselves all day, but she also wanted to stay home with the kids. As the “first day” creeped closer and closer, we both wanted to quit our jobs, scoop up our kids, hug them, and then never leave the house for the next eighteen years.

All You Need is Love (and a Webcam) 2

As millions of parents have experienced, it is really hard to leave your kids with someone else and go back to work. We questioned whether we were making the right decision. We then questioned it again and again and again.

We spent countless hours trying to figure out childcare options. That’s always a really tough and anxiety-filled decision to make. Well, it’s an even more complicated issue with twins. Day care for two is all kinds of expensive in the DC area. Some places hit four figures. A week. We looked into stay-at-home daycares and nanny shares. Those options are more “reasonable,” but no one was willing to accept two infants. Plus, as a teacher, Amanda has off for approximately three months a year. A lot of daycare options would still make us pay for those months she wasn’t working. That’s a clown policy, bro.

We finally found a lady who would come to our house and watch the kids each day. I refuse to use the word “nanny” because it is way too pretentious for a thug like me. She’d charge less than the ratchet daycare down the street, the kids could stay at home (less sicknesses for them and “more” sleep for us), and she was a mother of twins so we believed she could handle our dynamic duo.

All You Need is Love (and a Webcam) 3

Despite feeling relatively good about the whole situation, we were still devastated by the idea of leaving our beloved kids with someone else. We finally had our breakdown moment around 11pm the night before Amanda went back to work. Surprisingly, I lost it first. I was folding laundry and came across some “old” onesies that the kids have outgrown. I quickly and begrudingly realized how quickly these priceless memories are passing. I tried to compose myself as I went downstairs. That lasted for about four seconds.

We cried.

And then we started cleaning again, because, wow, it was midnight, the non-nanny would be here in eight hours, and our house looked like a hurricane blew through the joint.

The next morning, both of us went to work. There is nothing in this world we love more than those kids. We left them behind.

But again, we felt pretty good about our non-nanny? Everything would be okay, right?

Wrong.

We had to fire her on the third day.

She forgot that we have a webcam in our house.

This story is not something I celebrate or am proud of, but it is an important lesson for parents. Get a camera in your house if at all possible and do whatever it takes to make sure your kids are healthy and happy.

So what happened during those three days with the non-nanny?

Nothing.

She ignored the kids, left the house with them sleeping in their cribs, and spent most of the day on her cellphone and watching TV. Of course, the daily reports she gave us talked about all the great activities they did. False.

We had some suspicions on the second day, so we watched the webcam the entire time on Day 3. It was both heartbreaking and enraging to see someone ignore and neglect our precious angels. To see photos and videos of someone watching TV sprawled out on your couch as she ignored the cries of your babies six feet away is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We literally had no idea what to do. After months of dreading, worrying, and stressing about leaving our kids with someone else, a lot of those worries had come to pass.

After lots of quick discussions, debates, and prayers, we decided to fire her. Immediately. Some issues can be corrected, but lying is unacceptable. It went down as well as anything awkward and painful like that ever could happen.

It was really sad to see how differently the kids acted during those three days. They are usually so spirited and animated, but during those three days, when they were ignored for much of the day, they were dull and lifeless. After only three days. At night, they went bananas, likely because they did not have any outlet for their energy all day. The first night, one of them woke up every ten minutes throughout the night. That made me sad.

Our dear friends, Paul and Eddie, volunteered to watch the kids the next two days after we fired the non-nanny. Seeing photos of them playing with the kids, hearing their silly stories, and watching how the kids’ temperaments were so much happier meant the world to us. My mom has been hanging with the kids this week and we’ve felt the exact same way. Paul is coming back next week and beyond to be our non-nanny. Thirteen years ago, we were walking around high school together. He was too Green Day to talk to a Backstreet Boy like me. Now, he’s watching our New Kids on the Block every single day. Life is funny.

All You Need is Love (and a Webcam) 4

Okay, my rambling is almost done. There isn’t any real “point” to this post, but I just wanted to get all these random thoughts down on (electronic) paper. I also want to urge parents to get a webcam and express how thankful we are for friends and family who will help us out on short notice. Finally, I want to emphasize that love trumps everything. We’re the kind of people who avoid conflict at all costs. The last thing in this world we’d ever want to do is fire someone (or eat a Fig Newton). However, when it comes to these kids, we’ll do whatever it takes.

Okay, rambling over. Happy Friday!

The Power of the Church

“Church.”

It’s a word that has the power to evoke many different emotions.

Sadly, a lot of them are negative.

For many people, the church is a symbol of repression, discrimination, and boredom. I get it. There is a lot of bad history there and I’ve fallen asleep in church a bunch of times.

Despite the negativity, the history, and the bad stereotypes, I have a different story to tell.

A story of hope, a story of generosity, a story of love.

That is the church Jesus intended.

That is the church Jesus loved.

That is my church.

A family at our church has been going through some really tough times. The unwanted trifecta: medical issues, unemployment, and the loss of their home. They asked for prayer, so a lot of people prayed. However, I felt like we needed to do more. These folks have amazing spirits, are always willing to serve, and their church should be there to help in their time of greatest need.

It was.

In a way unlike anything I could have ever imagined.

Last fall, one of my good friends, Teddy, and I went out to a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. We once lived in the same small town in Texas about 25 years ago and so we both have a passion for Mexican food. Work, technology, and to-do lists occupy so much of our time, so it was priceless to just sit down, eat tacos, and talk with a friend face-to-face.

We invited more guys from Capital City Church to join us for Mexican food the next month. We’ve gathered together every single month since last November. I started to call it “Dude Date.” About 25 of us hit up a local Mexican joint, bond over tacos, give out a coveted “Dude of the Month” award, and raise money for a different charity each month. We usually raise about $125. We also raise a lot of eyebrows when we roll into a local taco joint 25-deep on a Monday night.

The Church

Dude of the Month

These two separate stories converged last week. Instead of raising money for a charity, I decided to use this month’s Dude Date to raise money for the family at our church who needed some hope. I emailed the group of guys and asked for help. I thought we’d raise $300. I was really hoping for $500.

We raised $5,160.

(drops the mic)

(picks the mic back up because there is more to say)

I’ve never seen such unbridled generosity, enthusiasm, or love from a community. I was moved, I was shocked, I was honored to call these guys my friends and this church my home.

Most of these guys didn’t know the family we were helping. It didn’t matter. One guy said God was pounding on his heart when he heard there was a need. He gave $1,250. Someone mailed me an anonymous $800 money order. Another guy paid for everyone’s bill at last week’s Dude Date and encouraged the thirty other guys to donate to the family what they would have paid for their meal.

I gave all that money to the family today. It has felt like the week before Christmas since Monday. I was so excited for that moment. It was priceless. It was powerful. That money will be used to make sure this beloved family has a place to live.

That is the power of the church.

The church Jesus loved. The church I love.

The Classic

Our world is full of amazing traditions:

Christmas

The Classic

Free Slurpee Day at 7/11

The Classic2

The Kreider-McCormick Classic.

The what?!?

The Kreider-McCormick Classic.

Kreider-McCormick ClassicThe Kreider-McCormick Classic started in 1996. However, it wasn’t a Classic then. It was just a dozen kids playing baseball in a park during the last week of school. We were in the seventh grade. None of us had cellphones, flat screen TVs, or the internet. “Macarena” was the number one song that year.

We just happened to play another game of baseball, in that same neighborhood park, during the last week of school the next year too. It then became a tradition. The following year, we went off to high school and met some new friends. One of those friends, Matt H., gave our pickup game of baseball a name:

The Kreider-McCormick Classic.

1999 Classic

(Due to technological and budgetary restraints, this is the only picture in existence from the first ten Classics.)

The world has changed a lot since that first Classic in 1996.  Much of it for the better, some of it for the worse. However, one thing remains the same:

Every summer, twenty or so old friends gather together at the high school we once called home. We play baseball, meet all the new husbands, wives, and babies, and laugh about the priceless memories of our youth. Two strangers met at the 2009 Classic. They got married and had a baby a few years later.

It seems like we were sixteen-year-olds rocking our Jansports, Discmans, and fresh Tommy Hilfiger shirts just a few heartbeats ago. Now, we’re rocking mortgages, baby strollers, and a few extra pounds.

2013 Classic

(The 2013 Classic)

This year’s Kreider-McCormick Classic, the eighteenth version of this esteemed game, so esteemed that the Virginia Beach newspaper wrote about it once, is taking place on August 16, 2014 at 2:00pm at Tallwood High School.

We’re trying to use this year’s Classic to raise money for a good cause. One of our friends and classmates passed away recently. To raise money for a suicide prevention charity, one of the Classic legends, Justin G., designed some t-shirts. You can buy one of those t-shirts for $20 here. All the money goes to the charity. The catch is that we have to buy 20 t-shirts for this to happen. We’re far from that goal. So consider buying some epic Classic memorabilia and supporting a good cause all at the same time.

This event is one of my favorite days of the year. It reminds me that something that may seem small and inconsequential can grow into something beautiful. It gets a little harder to run around the bases each year, but those strained gasps for air and leg cramps remind me there is no place like home and a community of childhood friends.

Goodbye

Saying “goodbye” is one of the hardest things to do in life.

That is why I like to say “goodbye” with awkward dance moves and a little bit of sweat.

Enjoy!

Thanks to David and Jen for hanging out, having some fun, and not laughing at my “dance” moves (too much). It’s pretty funny that we filmed a video for “Bye Bye Bye” and “Gangsta’s Paradise” on the same day. Diversity is the spice of life. Yo.

Goodbye

On a related note, which is the best boy band of all time? Here is your answer.

The Power of Shame

I started writing this blog one year ago. I was feeling directionless and needed a place to coalesce my thoughts. I also hoped to make people laugh by sharing my not-so-deep thoughts about life and insignificant pop culture issues. Most of all, I wanted to use this blog to fight back against the culture of shame that permeates so much of our world.

For years, I was ensnared by the shame of my past mistakes. I was filled with regret. I felt damned to a seemingly hopeless identity and future.

Of course, I told no one.

That’s why I started this blog.

I believe that many of us are bearing burdens that are too heavy to carry alone. Those burdens have the power to crush hope. Those burdens can become our identities.

Yet, we tell no one.

Shame is a powerful force. It hurts to pull down your mask and let the world know that you don’t have it all together.

Well, neither does the rest of the world.

When I started writing about our past marriage problems, I had many people reach out to me and say they had faced similar failures, obstacles, and regrets. It was priceless to know that we were not alone and that others had fought similar battles. I just wished I had shared my story earlier.

That’s why I started this blog.

I thank God for a patient wife, a God who forgives, and two little babies who remind me that what once was broken can be restored.

The Power of Shame