Curing 30 Years One Month At A Time

December 27, 2008

Sleep-Deprived Kids Love Bubble Wrap and A Cardboard Box Under The Tree For Christmas…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — 30tocure30 @ 9:11 am

 

Wow..Dad What I Always Wanted A $1.00 Coloring Book...

Wow..Dad What I Always Wanted A $1.00 Coloring Book...

 

 

Any fathers of kids under the age of 5 who are reading this I am suggesting you hop up from your seat and go grab a pen and piece of paper. What I am about to tell you qualifies as a certified golden nugget of truth that is worth writing down. Don’t worry, we’ll all stop and wait for you to get back to this riveting blog (a writer can hope, can’t he?).

I know some of you dads are completely exhausted and cannot remember the last time your head hit that precious pillow. The past few days have been a whirlwind of family dinners, office parties, shopping and gift-wrapping. If your house was anything similar to mine it means you were up no later than 5 am on Christmas morning. Santa fever swept over my family with my youngest suffering the worst case. Maddie and Paige were jumping off the walls jonesing like crack addicts for some presents. They needed sweet relief and the only thing that would do the trick was something wrapped with a bow.

Both girls came nowhere close to budging when mommy and daddy pleaded, begged and actually bribed them to go back to bed. It did not phase them in the least bit when they found out it was so early that Elmo, Dora, Shrek and the Disney Princesses were still catching some Z’s. Once Maddie spotted some weakness in her good old pops, she instantly turned into Ivan Drago from Rocky and said “I Must Break You!” Break I did as we were opening presents a few minutes later.

Nothing causes Jenn (my wife) more heartache than the annual experience that is Christmas shopping for the girls. She pours her heart out over every gift as she pictures the girls going bonkers as they peel the paper away and unwrap pure happiness in a box. There are some nights when I experience her restlessness. She tosses and turns in bed as her mind races about what the ideal gift looks like. 

In a weird way as a man, husband and father I know what she is going through. If I could buy the entire world and stick it underneath our artificial tree I would. Every man wants to be the provider. It is not that I want to raise spoiled brats, but for one Christmas I would like to not let the quality of my presents be dictated by the balance of my checking account. Funny how easy it is to become ungrateful and bitter on a holiday centered around thankfulness.

Growing up, Christmas was much like attending a firework show in that each gift built its way up to the grand finale. The last gift defined if the holidays were a smashing success or an utter disappointment. For some reason, this tradition is something I’ve carried over now as a parent with kids of my own. This year’s end-all-be-all gift for Maddie was a Ukulele. I know it is random, but if we had to hear one more time that is what she wanted for Christmas we were going to ship her in a box one way to Hawaii so she could experience the music firsthand.

Now care to wager what gift caused the biggest reaction out of my sleep-deprived daughter? Nope, not the computer games, clothes or even the Ukulele. The present that led Maddie to shriek and jump for joy then promptly plow over Jenn with a bear hug was a coloring book that cost 100 pennies at the Dollar Tree.

The morale of the story and golden nugget of truth for dads with kids: stop worrying about what gift to give your young one…. toss some bubble wrap and a cardboard box into their room and they’ll be entertained for hours. The magic my grand finale toy held wore off in a few days or a month if it was truly extraordinary. These items, which my parents wondered how they could afford, were quickly tossed aside as I looked for the latest and greatest thing that would capture my attention. Yet, the things that have stuck in my brain about the holidays were memories like decorating the tree, shoveling the driveway and breakfast on Christmas morning. Or how my dad and I would always chuckle when the donkey in the live nativity scene would take a deuce as Joseph, Mary and the Son of God baby would make their home in a manger. Just being there for your wife and kids is what matters most. The toys will make their way to the back of the closet while the moments you spend together will create memories that last forever. 

December 10, 2008

Mom, I Just Got Passed By An Elderly Woman With A Walker…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — 30tocure30 @ 10:25 pm

 

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

A real man knows what he is doing when he gets behind the wheel of a car. They can commit road rage, pull out of a skid, change the radio station and talk on their cell phone all at the same time. Inside every man there is a little Tony Stewart of Jeff Gordon attempting to break free; every man that is except for me. There is a good chance that your grandmother drives faster than I do. I have a tendency to soil myself out of fear every time a big rig pulls in the lane next to me on I-95.

You really can’t blame me for my reaction. After all, unless you count the bodies lying six feet under, there wasn’t another soul around me during my formative driving training. While other 15 year olds were experiencing how to drive the open road on the actual open road itself, my first encounters behind the wheel were in a cemetery where the speed limit topped out at a whopping 15 MPH’s.

The location was my parents doing as they felt more secure in knowing that if I got in an accident the probability of me killing someone was almost 0%. You know, since the parties involved would have long since met Jesus. Looking back on it now, learning to parallel park a car between tombstones probably led to me failing Maryland’s driving test on my first two shots. For those of you who are wondering, this is where the official expression of “third times a charm” gets its’ origin.

Driving at a snails pace in the cemetery, I was able to read the majority of the tombstones near the road. There were some who lived a long life while others time on this spinning globe was cut way too short. Still, each one attempted in a few short words to capture what they wanted to be remembered for: caring husband, devoted wife, lover of life, kind friend, idealistic dreamer, laughed a lot.  Men want life to make sense and to see a grander picture of what their time on earth is for. None of them desires for their life to be just a blip on the radar screen. We want to make an impact that will last long after our years have passed.

I toss and turn at night dealing with this paralyzing fear that I am going to completely blow it when it comes to the precious time I’ve been given. Here lies Tony Ripa…an utter failure. But, the thing is, most of my decisions are based on the right now with little regard to the impact it will have on the finished product. What I mean by this is that my words and actions are largely driven by how I am feeling at the present moment.

One day I will die. So will you. It is inevitable. Stop reading for a second and take a breath. Didn’t last long did it? Now, let the words of Palm 39:4-6 sink in: Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Thinking of the wording that will appear on your tombstone might at first seem morbid, but it also helps one to start to think of the legacy they will leave behind. What will be chiseled on your tombstone?

December 9, 2008

If You Can Dodge A Wrench, You Can Dodge A Ball…If You Can’t Dodge A Ball, Then You’re Like Me In 7th Grade…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — 30tocure30 @ 9:23 pm

 

Let's Just Say I Couldn't Dodge A Wrench

Let's Just Say I Couldn't Dodge A Wrench

No matter how many years have passed I often view life through the eyes of my former 11-year-old chubby self. For as much as I loved chocolate cake, I dreaded 7th grade gym class at West Frederick Middle School even more. My fastest recorded forty-yard dash was the evening they placed a fresh pepperoni pizza on the buffet line at the Golden Corral. Sweat beads graced my dome only on the mornings when I attempted to cram my jellyrolls into the Husky sized Levi jeans my mom bought on sale at JcPenny’s. Let’s just say athletic ability was not necessarily something I possessed, unless you count my wicked jump shot on the Jordan vs. Bird video game as a skill.

When you’re a fat kid with thick glasses and braces, gym period can feel like the shortest and longest 45 minutes of the day all at the same time. On one hand, not much action is going on when you’re positioned in deep right field so you have ample opportunity to reflect on one of life’s important debates: Big Mac or Whopper with cheese. Time seems to fly by as pictures of burgers dance in your head. Yet, if another kid has a mean streak and decides to actually hit the baseball in your direction, life takes place at slow motion speed. While watching the ball soar in the sky, your entire life flashes before your eyes including all of the embarrassing scenarios that will take place once (not if) your butterfingers cause you to drop the ball.  

Shame stings even more harshly when you are forced to wear tight yellow Champion shorts that ride up your butt crack. This doesn’t even touch upon the torment that is the middle school gym class group shower. I’ll spare you all the shrinking details. However, for us portly fellows no horror compares to that of Dodgeball. There is little concern where the fat kid is on the soccer field or basketball court. This changes when the sole object of the game you are playing is to nail people in the gut, head or junk with big rubber balls.

All of a sudden you become the most popular kid in class. Everyone is now wondering where that bright yellow sun of a rump is located. If you wanted to find me, your best bet was to look for the huge mass quivering in the corner. While the athletic kids would go towards harms way by running up to the front lines, my tactic was to retreat towards the back wall. Let those proactive fools take their chances while I play it safe. But, my actions did noting to stop those big balls from whizzing by my head any less. One by one my teammates would get picked off until I stood all alone with my back against the wall. There was a group of blood hungry pre-teens on one side and I was the hunted. Game over.

For far too long, I’ve accepted the lie that life is set and you can’t do much about it. So, you might as well flee to the back wall because at least when you get hit in the gut with one of life’s curveballs the impact will hurt less. Once you become a target you’re not surprised to get hit upside your head on a consistent basis. You grow accustom to watching from the sidelines as life happens. It is easier to blame the man you have become on the circumstances or conditions you face. During my 30-day journey to becoming a man, I’ve noticed how this mindset has crept into the words I speak.

 

“That’s just how I am wired.” (My behavior is predetermined. There is nothing I can do to change it)

“I couldn’t help blowing up. The kids are driving me insane!” (Something outside of my control drives my emotions)

“If she would notice my effort more, then I would….” (My actions are dependent on how others respond)

“There is no way I can do that.” (Why even try if I already know the outcome)

 

There are three major problems that are created when I use this type of language: (1) I no longer become responsible for my actions (2) By feeling out of control, my words become a self-fulfilling prophecy (3) Until I am able to admit my mistakes, there is no chance to grow from them. I am setting myself up for failure over and over and over again. Part of the disconnect is my failure to realize that even though you sometimes have no control over the events that unfold in your life, you do have power over one thing: your response to those circumstances. 

Life is similar to those continuous dodgeball games where when you get hit you aren’t out you just switch sides. Up to this point, when I’ve been blindsided by life I’ve wanted to stay on the floor and just play dead. I’m slowly learning that a man’s character is formed and developed during those times when they are knocked out cold. How will he respond – wave the white flag or jump back to his feet and continue to play?

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