I am done with coaching for a little while…

I rarely put a picture of me, but I actually found one that makes me happy. I love backpacking and this was through a snowstorm!

I rarely put a picture of me, but I actually found one that makes me happy. I love backpacking and this was through a snowstorm!

There is one thing that has not always been logical for my job. I chose to be a history teacher because of my love for history and what it can teach and where it can take you. It is the study of every subject since the dawn of time. When people complain about history I feel sorry for them because what is normally the case is that they never had a teacher worth a damn. They normally sat in class and did worksheets while their teacher sat behind a desk and never really interacted with them or the wonderful lecturer all the time type teacher where you listen and they talk for 50 minutes and you write notes and normally try to either bang your head till you are unconscious or stab yourself to have a homemade lobotomy.  If these apply to you, you have my condolences. I got into my craft because I enjoyed history and thought it would be fun to give that joy back to others. The thing that I did not count on was coaching.

Let me start by saying that coaching is a very valid reason to get into education. You reached children on a daily basis that may not be reached in the classroom. That aspect of coaching I have always been a big fan of and respect those that can do it their entire career. It was never my intention to coach when I got into education. Now I understand the reason that most coaches are history teachers, history is an easy subject to take in college and to teach. You can show many a video to compensate for not wanting to give lectures, you can make the students do worksheets most of the time to have them covering the material, and you can on average not work too hard and get many things done in your class. It never occurred to me to be that type of teacher. I always wanted to teach, coaching was something that I was told came with my position once I was hired.

I have been very fortunate in my career and got the option of coaching my 1st 5 years, but now that I have children I am confused as to why people still want to continue coaching. Not one coach will say it is for the pay because coaches get a stipend and that correlates to actually hours vs. money in about the rate of $1/hour. Now please tell me anyone that would take a job for $1/hour? Anyone, anyone? Now I understand that most coaches do it for the love of sport and would do it for free and I commend those people. They are better humans than me. When I met my wife we decided to have children and that was our 1st priority. We would put almost everything else 2nd to raising our children in a loving and caring home.

Here is the thing that I have observed with the coaches that I have been associated with over the years in many states in many schools over the last decade of my life. They spend a lot of time away from home. The normal coach’s day last 12-14 hours and that is just on practice days, game nights can last from 16- 18 hours. I know many professions where you work a 12 hour shift get a day off, work 2 more 12 hour shifts and then get 2-3 days off. Education and coaching do not work that way. You work M-F, 12-18 hour days and then sometimes have to come in on the weekends for either watching film or traveling to a tournament or even practicing with your players. Next, some coaches never want to go home to their spouses or kids. In my experience as a coach, some people just do not want to be at their house. They actually sit around with a bunch of other coaches and talk about very little. It seems that they are avoiding going home. Now this could be because they do not like their home lives or they are not truly happy with their spouses. I cannot answer for all of them, but I can tell you that I would be asked to be at the school at 7:30 am on a Saturday morning and they would sit around for 45 minutes to an hour just talking about NOTHING! Now as someone who actually likes being at home with my family this sucks. If you want me there let’s work, I do not care about you or want to discuss sports when I am there on a Saturday morning. I want to get my work done because that $1/hour is not worth me being away from my family. I have two young boys at home and another child on the way and it is my responsibility to raise them WITH my wife, not for her to raise them and me see them only six months out of the year. More power to the coaches that their spouse is okay with them being away all that time. They have a very strong relationship and I am proud of them for having such a strong bond. But, I also know that coaching also carries a high divorce rate. This mainly being because some spouses do not understand the amount of time their significant other will be away from the home.

This is my dilemma, education is the career I have chosen and have vested 10 years of my life, but now I want my wife to be at home with our 3 children and my avenues have narrowed. Being unhappy in a job is something that I am expert on since day one. There has never been a job or career that I woke up every morning and was excited about doing, except one. When I was an administrator for a small part of my career I enjoyed the challenge of not knowing what was going to happen that day. Yet, in the great state of Alabama I have been stopped from pursuing that aspect of my career because of my decision to obtain a degree in another state. If you think I am bitter about this you have no idea, but I must move on. The real problem becomes that my options have become so limited. Getting my wife home I need to make at least as much as I make now in my career. Moving to another career will most likely put my pay lower and then I will have to work my way up. I cannot stand being a middle school teacher because it is just not my cup of tea. Lastly, getting a high school job requires me to most likely coach and that means more time away from my wife and children. It seems that I have put myself in a very difficult situation. It is all of my doing, so I am not asking for sympathy. Rather, I am just expressing thoughts on a forum for others to look inside my thought process. The coaching thing gets me every time. Moving to high school where I will ultimately be happier causes me to spend an even larger amount of time away from my family. Now the advantage will be that Em, my wonderful wife, will be at home finally. The down side is that seeing my kids grow up will not be in my future. It is a dilemma that I hope most will never encounter.

As a society here in America, it has become difficult to be a single income family. The cost of providing for your family is too high. It can be done, but with the cost of groceries and inflation increasing at a much higher rate than pay for careers we are creating a very big problem in America. The main issue in schools is that parents do not spend much time with their children educating or helping them. There are many reasons for this, but top on the list is someone working all day does not want to come home and then deal with all there is to do to maintain a household. I completely understand that. But having children you made a choice to bring a life into this world and it is only your responsibility, you cannot pawn it off on someone else. We have more and more two income homes and less time for family. I am certain there is a correlation between this and the downfall of our education system. Most parents do not have the time or are unwilling to put the time necessary to raise a well educated child. This also stems from many adults that are uneducated themselves. When I say uneducated I do not mean just having degrees, it is meant in a way that people instill work ethics in their children and put effort into their children so they may have a better life than the one they have made for themselves. We are lacking this in our country and I am scared that my kids may have to suffer; I have to coach because it comes with my title of Social Studies teacher and ultimately spend more time with children that are not mine.

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Back on two wheels part 2…

This is my Bianchi Volpe and has told two cars that they are no match for it!

This is my Bianchi Volpe and has it has told two cars that they are no match for it!

Riding a bike is one of the most wonderful things I can think of doing. Yes, I love my wife and kids and enjoy them, so do not make me into a monster that cares more about his bikes than his family(my wife may think differently). Riding again regularly has become my serious drug of choice. Birmingham is a hilly city and I see hills all the time that I want to climb, but I have to work up to that stage. This morning I took a stab at a hill that my boy Olney took me up the 1st time we rode once I got back into B’ham. After not riding for 7-8 months he tried to kill me, now about 7 months after my spine fusion I looked at that hill and beat it. Riding has always been a joy for me, but my city has decided that cars are more important.

Birmingham proper is a great biking area with the downtown area being mainly a big grid and lots of one way, multiple lane streets. It is once you get out of B’ham proper that it becomes a battle that I and many others are willing to fight. Getting back into cycling has taught me so much about myself and the type of person I have become. Peddling has given me a chance to cover many many miles and see many beautiful things that a car will never do justice. As you may know, I started seriously riding again in NYC and then never bought a car when I moved to Austin, TX, and commuted by bike for the next 2 years. This put me truly into the mindset of a biker. I had a condescending attitude for a while where I despised the Lycra crowd, but have since realized that bikers are a culture that many see but few truly understand our love of being the engine of our transport.

A much smaller subset of bikers are commuters, my wife never wanting to be in this club. In so many ways I hope to one day find a job in B’ham where I can commute by bike and let my wife have the only motorized vehicle we own. My dream is to get a job and hopefully a permanent job in which I can be within 10-12 bikeable miles of work. Getting up every morning and riding to work was a joy that is hard to describe if you have never done it. Knowing that a car is not an option gives me joy beyond joy. Even days in which it rained I put on my gear and enjoyed the water falling from the sky daring me to retreat to the comfort of cage with wheels. On those days I would put my head down and pedal harder and laugh as the water under my tires parted to let me pass. Arriving everyday wet from sweat or rain taught me that this life is fleeting and you should find ways to do what you enjoy. Without that, what are we doing? That is somewhat rhetorical, but also very answerable. When I get on my bike the world seems to ask, “What do you want to see today?” My response is almost always, “Everything!”

I have 3 bikes and they all bring me a different joy. I inherited a cruiser from my grandfather and that bike has big whitewall tires and is my lets go for a ride and enjoy the sun and fun bike. My 2nd bike is my Bianchi Volpe cyclocross bike. This bike was my 1st real bike once I started commuting in Austin. I went to Ozone Bikes and the guys there pointed me in the direction of bike that I now am happy that I own. The guys at the shop all rode bikes regularly and were not snobby about people coming in to learn about biking. I explained that I wanted a commuter, but wanted to ride almost exclusively on the roads and I was aquatinted with the bike that has been riding more than anything else I own and has made it through two, count them two, collisions with cars. It still rides like a dream and can get me from New York City to Seattle on a moments notice. It is not scared of anything I can throw at it and I feel that it will never back down from a challenge. Last, but not least is my fixed gear. On my daily commute in Austin, there was a bike at this plant that I passed. It had been there for about 3 days and I told myself if it was still there at the end of the week, I would drive on Friday and pick it up. Low and behold the bike gods kept people from going near it until I arrived. It was a Schwinn Traveler III, red, broken back tire, and the components were all busted up. I told my lovely wife that I wanted to strip it apart and use the frame for a fixed gear bike. She humored me and I did just that. I ripped every thing off the bike and painted it orange and wrapped the handle bars that I chopped and flipped to make bull horns in blue bar tape. I bought new a chain, gear ring, fixed gear ring, pedals, wheels and I was off. Austin’s Yellow Bike Project allowed me the use of tools and I put it together myself. To say this is my favorite bike is an understatement, it brings me a joy that I will only know and never be able to express in words. Here are some pics of it.

To put it in simple terms: riding a bike brings me joy. My back has sacrificed running, but has decided to spare my bike. This brings me sadness and happiness. Although running got me through some very dark times, biking has never brought about a bad time. No matter how bad a hill or ride beats me, I know that I can try again the next day and can have a better day. With almost every sport or activity, there are good days and bad days. With biking even the bad days make me want to pedal more and harder. Finding a partner in B’ham that wants to ride as much and even more than me has been a saving grace for me. Thanks Josh Schein, I am sorry to say that you are stuck with me! Although our city does not like riders there is another generation coming and we are not scared of the killing machines that weigh from 1/2 a ton and beyond. We will take back this city and we will not have remorse in our mission. Birmingham is on the cusp of moving forward and we plan on making that move using two wheels and pedaling all the way.

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We all have that one teacher…

Looking at pictures like this make my happy that I appreciate most everything I have in this life and I have a lot!

Looking at pictures like this make my happy that I appreciate most everything I have in this life and I have a lot!

I found out yesterday that my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ward, died over the weekend. You have to work through stuff like that and this is how I am choosing to pacify the grief. Now I know that most of you reading will be thinking that this woman and teacher inspired me to be the teacher I am today. That could not be farther from the truth. She was an older overweight lady. She was normally very sarcastic, that I did learn that from her. She was most of the time telling us that we could do better and stop being so stupid. Hell, I hated English as a class until I actually became a teacher. In high school I read maybe 4 books total, where now I will eat through that in a month. She would tell you on a regular basis that she was going to retire and she was ready to get out of there, teaching. She taught for 24 1/2 years and had so many days left she took early retirement and stopped at Christmas. What made Mrs. Ward my most memorable teacher is that she saw something in me that no one else did. She wasn’t trying to inspire me or even trying to make me a better person, I think she just saw that I was a confused kid trying to do the right thing and she thought that was okay. So after my sophomore year of high school I was Mrs. Ward’s teacher’s aide for the next 2 years. Mainly I sat in her room and graded papers, ran around the school, played jeopardy on the classroom computer, and would run out to her car and bother the ever living shit out of her while she smoked- she would always shoo me back into the school.

Mrs. Ward was the first teacher that I ever had that taught me it was okay to just be happy with what you were. I do not ever remember a deep intellectual conversation with her about too much, we did not have that relationship. She was a good person and I was trying to find a way to be a good person and we just happen to coexist at the same time and place. She may have some very different thoughts about me, but we never discussed that, so I will never know. It is one of those things where someone has an impact on your life so profound and you do not know if they even knew. Being a teacher now, I do things on a daily basis that I completely forget, but that students or kids seem to remember for a lifetime. In that way I guess she did influence me in my teaching career. She taught me that it is the little things that make a huge impact on someone trying to figure out this thing called life.

I hated English and she actually made it tolerable. It was never fun, but I could not be bored to tears in her class. The one thing I do remember is that everyone in the class had to recite the Marc Anthony speech from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. That always stuck in my head. I can quote most of it, but not all of it, but hearing it 30 times over 3 days and having to memorize it does that to your brain. I also remember that Chris Olney, still my friend, showed me his 1st tatoo on his leg in her class, not to mention Olney also looking at me dead-faced and saying, “Is it bad that I can pull this much skin out of my mouth?” Olney used to dip tobacco in class and it was starting to have some very bad affects on his body. I did respond that it was probably bad that skin came out when you did that, but I smoked cigarettes at the time, so who was I to judge?

Mrs. Ward had a profound affect on my life and she will be missed. She saw something that even I didn’t know was there. Now that I am teacher myself, it is apparent that the teachers that really know what they are doing can see those things in young minds that maybe no one else can see. It comes with our profession. The funny thing is that I do not even know if Mrs. Ward even knew that I had become a teacher. She made the decision to retire and never looked back. That is another lesson that I took from her, always look to what is ahead and never look back. It is always amazing that certain people make such an impact in our lives. She never told me to get smarter, work harder, or to even be a better person. I think that she knew as long as she was real with me all that would make sense one day and it did. She was nothing but genuine to me and that has always resonated inside my head.

Mrs. Ward, know that you did some amazing things in your life and you made an impact on someone who wants to change the world. It may not mean a lot, but I will never forget you and plan on living my life influenced by your philosophy of being yourself. As a teacher now, I can only hope that maybe one day I will have the impact on a young mind that you had on mine. Thank you for all that you did. I know you are in a better place. I seriously doubt that I am the only student you made an impact on during your career. That is the amazing thing about people that enjoy being teachers, they truly love young minds and want to make them better people. They have chosen to use their lives to try to impart knowledge on others. I will never be this kind of teacher, but I am glad that there are educators that can make a difference. Maybe one day we can sit down together and have a cigarette, coffee, and talk about some random stuff.

Posted in Books, Change, death, Education, Friends, Health, respect | Leave a comment

The most important job I will ever have…

This announced our 3rd baby and my wife gets all the credit for the really cool picture.

This announced our 3rd baby and my wife gets all the credit for the really cool picture.

June of 2014 is going to open a whole new world to me and my wife. We will have a 3rd child. I can tell you this, it has always been my hope to have a big and healthy family and that day is coming to fruition. We have just moved into the ranks of more kids than parents. Most people think we are crazy and I understand that, but as it has been said before my wife is an amazing mother and as many children as possible should experience her warmth and love. As far as me, that is a very different story. Being a father is a great love of mine and I take the job very seriously, but I have not been winning an awards for being the best dad in the world. My kids seem to think that I am okay, but they are a little biased and they have no frame of reference yet. They haven’t met all the other dads yet and it will be years before they start analyzing where I failed as a father and point out my flaws as to why they turned out to be the person they are today. As you can tell my cynicism runs very deep. But that will never keep me from my goal of working to being the best dad that I am capable of ever being.

Every man that is raising young men into this world needs to take their responsibility very very seriously. You are raising the next generation of men that will be treating women the way they see you treating their mothers. Do not be scared of this responsibility, but be happy that you have been given this opportunity. I do not have any girls and may not in the future so I can only talk to raising young men. The fathers out there with daughters have a whole different task and one that I cannot give you any advice on, but know that your job is just as important. Just very very different. It feels that I have been being trained for this task for many years before I had my own children. Being a high school boy’s coach has shown me how influential a positive male role model can be to a young man who is confused and trying to figure out the ways of the world. I do not shy away from that moniker, role-model. That is what I have to be to raise these young men in this world we call reality. It feels that many in my generation do not want that responsibility, they shy away all to consumed in what is going on in their lives. That is the attitude of a boy, not a man. A man takes on what is put in front of him and tries his damnest to do the right thing. From my point of view we have a shortage of men in the world. That is right, I am calling the boys out in this world. If you are offended by this, you can believe you are not a man. The men in this world will know who they are and will be secure in their decisions. They will know that they are doing what needs to be done to raise the next generation of men. They will not have any qualms with calling out the boys in this world who have chosen to remain boys. We have a hard task set before us, but the reward is amazing.

My wife has always had a problem with me saying that I am not going to be my boys’ friend until they are out on their own in this world. My responsibility is not to be their friend. It is to have them go out into this world prepared to be a contributing members of society. They need to be respectful of woman and men, hard working, and honest. Too many parents now want to be their children’s friend. This is not something I have ever wanted to be. I have plenty of friends and my obligation to them is to be there for them and let them make decisions for themselves. Friends are there for support, both ways, and are people that you form a life long bond. Your sons count on you to help them make good decisions. This can be misconstrued as you should make the decisions for your boys. That is incorrect. You have to help them to learn to make choices and good choices in their lives. You also have to have a solid foundation with them that when they get older and have tougher decisions to make when they make mistakes, and they will make mistake, you are there to help them learn from these errors and for you not to take responsibility for their actions. One of the biggest problems I see with parents that I encounter is that they want to do everything for their children. This hinders them from making mistakes. Screwing up is part of life. I have learned more lessons from my wrong decisions than I have ever learned from my good decisions. But, that was possible because I had a father who knew it was much more important for me fail and figure out how to correct my failure than to fail and help me out in all those situations. As a man, I have a great obligation to my sons to let them make their own mistakes and to learn from them. In our home it is regularly stated that mistakes are okay, failure is okay, but giving up or quitting is never acceptable. These are lessons that my wife and I instill in our sons on a daily basis. Our two boys must always know that they are the ones making the decisions, but their is a proper way to do things and their decisions should be based off our standards. Saying this, the standards I have for my sons are very high. They did not get the easy draw in the father department. They will always be held to a very high standard, but I cannot hold them to that standard unless I myself am willing to set that example. There are many things that I am not, but a respectful grown man is not one of them. My father, such as myself, had his flaws. I cannot ever say that one of his flaws was raising a boy into a man. He taught me the things I needed to know to go out into this world and succeed, and everyday I am thankful for having a man raise me and not a boy.

Men of the world raising boys into men:

Know you have a great obligation to us all. You are the example that they will follow. They will look to you to see how to grow, live, act, and treat others. You cannot take this task lightly. This is your most important job. When you choose to be a father you took on this responsibility. This is not a responsibility you can shrug off because you are failing yourself and your son(s). Be a man and do what you have been chosen to do in this life. Know that your childish ways are behind you and you must be the example and model you want your son(s) to follow and grow into one day. We are here to raise a generation of men that will be better than ourselves. They will immolate what you have shown them. I beg of you to make it something that makes us all proud.

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A world I do not understand…

This is beautiful, but I can tell you it pales in comparison to my wife and kids.

This is beautiful, but I can tell you it pales in comparison to my wife and kids.

I am now paying attention to an aspect of society that I have never wanted to fill my brain with and it scares the shit out of me. There are many worlds I do not understand and many aspects of American society that I am clueless about much less the rest of the world and their norms and rituals. Let me get to the point, this week Hueytown Middle School, the school in which I teach, is holding their annual “Sweet Treats” beauty pageant. This entry may be long so be forewarned that I have some thoughts on this and it is going to be based on my biased opinion and view of beauty in our country and throughout our world.

Be aware that I am obsessed with things also. My wife would probably say that I have an unhealthy relationship with bikes, watches, and backpacking gear. These are the 3 things that I love to look at, collect, and want to own but generally am to poor to support my habit. So understanding obsession is easy for me, especially with material things. But know that I would gladly give it all up to make sure my family and friends were provided for and happy. Also, those things(except the watches) help me to get in shape, commute, or enjoy the outdoors. So I say all that to talk about beauty pageants and what a obsession they are to a certain sect of our culture. In the rest of the entry I am going to try to not make any broad assumptions about a group of people that I do not know and am only looking inside their fishbowl from outside the glass.

Let’s discuss our culture’s obsession with beauty and what the gatekeepers tell us is beautiful. As a young man, 12-14 years old, I bought into what society thought was pretty and what they pushed as beautiful. What became very clear moving into high school and actually looking at the world and not letting them tell me what to believe is that the ones pushing a certain type of beauty have their own agenda. They are trying to sell you something that is hardly ever obtainable. Know that even though I say that, it has been put in front of me so often in so many different forms that it is hard not to let a little of those beliefs seep into your mind and be accepting of them. Fighting back is fun, but can wear you down because of the forces against you. America, being my experience, has an unhealthy obsession with beauty. Let’s not be stupid and not acknowledge that looking at beauty is one of my goals in life. I have a very beautiful wife, I backpack to see a sunrise in  a place that many have not experienced, I go to as many art museums as possible to see what an artist has created to make beautiful, and most of the art has to do with the human form. But, the misplaced beauty I am talking about is involved in beauty pageants. This is a contest that starts at a very young age to make very young girls look like grown women. To be brutally honest I have never been to a beauty pageant and really never plan on it and some of my viewpoints come from movies such as “Little Miss Sunshine“. It is a contest that mothers, like fathers of kids in sports, seem to live vicariously through them. They use their daughters to obtain infamy that they themselves have always been striving for in their lives. That is one of the saddest parts of this whole pageant society, that adults possibly ruin the lives of their children because of their insecurities. I agree this happens with mothers and fathers with children very involved in sports. Some teachers at my school told me some stories of what parents and kids did to be in this contest in a small suburb of Birmingham. These may or may not be true, but made me wince when they were spoken in my presence.

Starting with something minor and bringing you into the appalling is the path I have chosen. Most of the mothers spend hundreds of dollars on make-up, hair, and dresses. That is not abnormal, but scary for a community that lower-middle class is the majority and most do not live an even middle class lifestyle, but what is spending money on physical beauty when you can barely afford bills and forget buying books who needs those because education is so not the way you will make money, looks are the way to go. These girls will get checked out of school for this pageant and then have the gaul to come to me, a coach whose players never get a break and I have to remind constantly that education will get them everywhere and sports will teach them some very valuable lessons, and ask to get an extension on work they chose not to do because they wanted to look pretty for some judges. Needless to say I cut them absolutely no slack. Yet, let me say that the one that made me cringe was when they told me that some young ladies with financial backing from their parents get their braces removed for the week of the pageant. I will not espouse my disgust(trust me when I type that I could write pages on the wrongness of this), I will let you think about that for a moment.

Beauty is something that we should all strive for whether it be with your life, your partner, or the things you surround yourself with(material and non-material). It is just my humble opinion that we should not be having children strive for a physical beauty on the outside, but a radiance that comes from within. When I think about this whole contest I think of the “Gilded Age” of America. For those, like my wife, who hated history let me be brief. The Gilded Age was coined by Mark Twain as a cheaper metal covered in gold to make it look valuable. It is not my mission in life to point out all that is wrong from my perspective, but I do have to poke fun at things or else my head would explode. We are all crazy, but we all have our level of crazy. I feel that I am about a 7.5 on a 10 point scale. Could be worse, but I have room to grow. Beauty is wonderful, but be careful what you consider beautiful. Make sure that it is you that appreciates the beauty and not what you have been programmed to believe.

Posted in Bureaucracy, Change, Education, Family, Friends, parents, Politics, Social Issues, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another birthday another day older…

This sums up my whole belief system, look out into what you do not know and explore until you figure it out.

This sums up my whole belief system, look out into what you do not know and explore until you figure it out.

Since I am two days late I understand you being annoyed, but I am sorry family business got in the way and I wanted to write on my birthday and talk about being older than when I posted last. We were traveling and I did not put a lot of effort into trying to find a computer to type on Sunday, I also enjoyed hanging out with the friends we were staying with in Mobile than writing about life and myself (sometimes my ego loses the battle, but it is rare). Back to the topic at hand: life, coming closer to death, and what to do in the meantime.

I doubt that I will impart a great deal of knowledge on you in this little amount of text, but here goes nothing. My birthday is December 31st. There are many ways to look at this: 1) this is the greatest day for any parent as it is the biggest tax break most middle or lower class people will ever get 2)everyone parties on my birthday 3) most people forget your birthday until they see you that day and give you a beer to make up for it 4) you find out who your real friends are by them throwing you a surprise party (Keith Kirkland you the man!) 5) you have a great wife who tries her hardest to help you spend every birthday in a different city (my wife is the best, read the post before this!)

I have been doing some thinking and think that my birthday has defined me. Let me explain.  My birthday is the one day of the year where people promise themselves or others that they will change. Since I have been a human being for 37 years now it is very apparent to me that we as a species do not like change overall. Here is where my birthday has made me different. In some part of my brain that has made me always want to change. If you have ever met me I do the normal things that humans do by getting into routines, doing the same thing over and over, and for the most part enjoying it. This is where I tend to break from my species. Overall, there are certain things that I like and let remain the same, but mostly I am a beast of change. Even when I was growing up within the confines of my parents providing for me everyday I moved 6 times before I was in 8th grade. This had a profound impact on how I interacted with other humans. I had to make friends fast, have a thick skin, and generally adapt to new situations without getting eaten alive by the fellow vultures called kids. My first adaptation method was to have a sense of humor about myself. In almost any situation I was able to make fun of myself before anyone else got a chance and this helped for two reasons: 1) it diffused anyone being a bully to me because I took away their thunder 2) I have a high self-esteem (some call it ego, I call it confidence) and what people said normally didn’t bother me, so ultimately if someone did make fun of me I ignored them because in my heart I was somewhat cool or maybe just indifferent to their judgements. This much movement helped me to navigate through high school. After that I decided all on my own that I should try and beat my parents record of moves and lived like a nomad for the next 17 years.

In the next 17 years I moved 13 times. Not all of them were to new cities, but to new locations within the same city- college it is a wild ride. I moved to Auburn, around Auburn, back to B’ham, Alabaster, Southside, Southside, Southside, North Carolina, New York City, Austin, TX, and back to B’ham and now reside in hopefully my more permanent place Homewood. In all that moving I was always happy and enjoyed the challenge of setting up roots somewhere else, even if those roots did not go that deep. It feels that my whole life has been a big change. It is obvious to me that most people cringe when they hear how much I have moved, but to me it has centered me and made me the whole ball of crazy you now see today. Not to mention that I will get up and travel to anywhere in the world in a moments notice. My lovely wife has promised me that she will do what she can to get me to see everything, but I know that monetary restraints will keep this from happening. I still love her for placating to me and trying her damnedest. My whole life has been an ever changing mass that keeps moving through this reality. The insane thing to me is that I actually get excited about all the change. It makes me wake up in the morning and I am excited about what is to come. Now be aware there are some unchanging things in my life: my wife is amazing and will always be that way, my lust for finding something new will hopefully never change, and my love for both watches and bikes! Besides that I hope that everyday brings something new because being born on the last day of the year has made me a being of change.

Being born on the one day of the year where people want to change has had a vast impact on my psyche. Whether people follow through with their change or not it is a day universally that people want to change. It feels that being born on this last day of the year where so many people put so many thoughts of change out into the world has flowed into the creature that now inhabits my body and mind. It has given me a foundation in the belief that everything must change and that change is good. The irony of a foundation built on something different all the time does not escape me, but it is one of the few things that I know for certain in life and gives me solace that change is the one of the things I can count on everyday. Although people on average do not want to change, it happens and I have come to embrace it rather than fight it or get angry about it. When I wake up tomorrow the sun will rise again, the sun will set, and all I can control is what I choose to do in that time period. As everyone says every year at this time: “I want to do (fill in the blank) differently than last year. My thoughts are I know things will be different I just cannot wait to see how different they will be and am thankful for the opportunity to experience it all, hopefully.

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Emily you make me so much better than I ever was…

My girl on the left and her sister on the right and a whole lot of beauty going on.

My girl on the left and her sister on the right and a whole lot of beauty going on.

This is a public letter to my wife of 7 years, Emily Sockwell Batson. I know I fall down on the gift giving side of things when you always create something wonderfully sentimental. Here is my attempt and I just want the world to know.

Dear Em,

The first day we met was at 3:00 am in the morning in the worst dive bar in almost all of America, The Upside Down Plaza in B’ham, AL. On that July 4th/5th over 9 years ago in the most unlikely place and the most unlikely time I found the most wonderful human I will ever encounter. You may have a completely different viewpoint as I had hair past my shoulders, a beard that had not been trimmed or shaven in months, was about 3 sheets to winds, and smoking cigarettes; I was quite a catch. Yet for some reason you saw through all those negatives and after turning me down for a walk around outside you asked me to breakfast and as it has been said once or twice, the rest is history(you actually understand the irony there because of your deep love of history). That is where I would like to continue, the history part.

There has never been a time since you have met me that I have ever come close to admitting I was anything near perfect, heck most of the time I am very honest about the negatives I bring to the table. But, I guess that is why some people are supposed to meet and be together. There are many arguments that monogamy is not natural for humans. The apex of most of those beliefs is along the lines of: it is unnatural, we are here to reproduce and create a better species. Most of those I have read seem to be written by men who need to ease their consciences about their inability to control their urges. All I have to say is that I have found the perfect person for my journey through this existence on earth. You have made me realize what love for another should be and the model is set for us to show our children.

As in every relationship you have, there are ups and downs, good days and bad days. The truly remarkable thing about meeting you is that even the bad days or downs still make me  realize that my choice was well-made. The path I was following did not have a good outcome. Then in the summer of 2004 I found a very specific reason to change the way I had been living and it all revolves around you. You always said that I should never give up my bad habits because of you because I would revert to them if we did not work out, but I beg to differ. Picking up those bad habits were all my fault and you made me want to be a better man in almost every aspect of my personality and choices that I make. You have shown me a new side to this existence that I had never seen before. I found a best friend, lover, traveler, adventurer, reader, intellectual, mother, empathizer, comforter, yen to my yang, and the voice outside my head that tells me another logical side of the craziness that goes on inside my head. Em, you make me wake up every morning and be happy that I have one of the sweetest people on the planet to spend my whole life.

Since you know me so well, it is amazing that I guy like me, with such a dark and cynical outlook on the world around me, gets to basque in the wonderfulness and positivity that makes up your whole being. On so many different things day to day we disagree and we laugh about how one of us will choose inside and the other wants outside, one will choose music and the other needs silence, one loves big dogs and one loves small dogs, I am a nerd for Star Wars, sci-fi and fantasy, and Dr. Who and you are a nerd for crafting, creating, and office supplies-alas, our nerdinesses will never intersect. Yet, with everyone of our differences we have some core beliefs that make our relationship so very strong: 1) We both have a firm belief in a higher power and know that they are the reason for all that we have and how truly blessed we are and will ever be in this life.  2) We both care deeply about family and friends and would sacrifice almost all that we are to help another human in a time of need. 3) We both have an almost unhealthy passion to be parents and raise our children in a loving and structured home. 4) We both understand that neither one of us is perfect and mistakes are to be made, but we just have to learn from those errors. 5) and last is that we both realize that there is a love that you must work for, enjoy, and cherish everyday you are fortunate enough to have someone like you as a companion in this life.

You have blessed me with two amazing children, the amazing part comes from you and the rest is all my fault- I take credit where credit is due, thank you. You have given me an outlook on life that I would have never seen had it not been for your eyes and voice showing me a different way to interpret the world in which we live. You have shown me compassion when I do not deserve it. You have shown me love when I have been a horrible man. You have stood by my side when hard times have come. You have shown me kindness that I never knew existed in this world. You have shown in the over 9 years I have known you that there is so much out there and I cannot wait to see it all with you. You have blessed me with a loving and caring family and home. The things that I contribute to this partnership pale in comparison to the attributes you bring. Everyday that I know you, becomes a day in which I am becoming a better man. I hope most men can say that, but sadly I know that is not true. With you by my side I know that anything is possible. I am the dreamer and you are the realist who tethers me to the ground. If it were not for you I would rarely see the world through glasses that did see all the crazy things that I could do in this life. You help me to realize that not all my dreams should be obtained, but know when to push me to go after what is truly important.

I say all this to say this: Emily Sockwell Batson, you mean everything to me and I want all that care to know, to know. You have and continue to make me a better man, husband, father, and friend everyday that I know you. Growing old with you will be my pleasure and I hope that one day we will be able to agree on some of the simple things.

I love you with all that I am and all that I can become,


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