Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Meaningful Birthday

To me, birthdays have never been a huge deal.  While I've always appreciated the cards and gifts that I'd receive (along with the mud pie, strawberry shortcake and ice cream), I've always thought it was a little strange to celebrate something that I had very little to do with.  Celebrate my poor mother who squeezed my melon head through the birth canal. Listen, I understand why we celebrate birthdays, it's just not a big deal to me. The truth is, we get older every day. When I turned 18, I probably had track practice - just like when I turned 16 - and I didn't get my license because I was still taking the driver's ed.  When I turned 21, I came up from Portland and had a few friends come to my folks house.  Many birthdays as an adult have been spent at parent conferences.  A handful of times my bday has coincided with Easter, which is cool because that is a worthy reason to celebrate.  Most birthdays usually involve getting together with my family and having some cake.  Nothing big or extravagant, and certainly no traveling. Cortney threw me my first surprise party when I turned 38 and it was perfect.  A couple friends, and like always, my fam (which includes her fam now too).  All that to say that you can celebrate yours however you like; this year will be different for me.

I turned 39 last March which means a few things: I'm obviously getting older (I swear I was just in my 20s), I should be getting more mature and wiser, and the next birthday is a biggie.... 40!  Instead of doing the norm, I want to do something different.  Some people want a party, some want a star to be named after them, some want a new chainsaw or car or whatever the case may be - I want a well.  I'm going to build a well.  Well, not actually dig and build a well, but fund the digging and building of a well in a place that needs it badly.  Maybe Africa.  Maybe South America.  Maybe Asia.  The location is irrelevant to me.  Where there is water, there is life.  Water changes everything.

Some simple points to bring some meaning to the plan:
  • 4,500 kids die every day from diseases related to drinking dirty water.  Think of it like this - diarrhea is a big child-killer in places where clean water doesn't exist.  Death by dehydration.  The only way to battle dehydration is to drink more of the dirty water that got them sick to begin with.  It's a cycle that doesn't have to exist. 
  • Many schools in poor/underdeveloped communities don't have clean water or bathrooms.  This has obvious ramifications but a real simple one is that teenage girls miss school a week out of the month, every month, because they are unable to take care of their cycles.
  • The gathering of water is typically done by women and they walk as much as 8 hours a day to do so - only to get as much as they can carry (up to 5-6 gallons typically, which is heavy!).  Then they have to decide what to do with that (dirty) water once it is home. Drink it? Prepare food with it?  Clean their clothes or bathe?  Water their plants/garden?  Five gallons is one flush of the toilet for us.
  • Trekking such distances for poor water is dangerous as well.  The further away from the village one goes, there is an increase of animal attack, theft, rape and murder.  All this just so they can get a few jugs of dirty water that could potentially kill them anyway....
Where there is clean water, there is improved health and quality of life.  Where there is clean water, there is education.  Where there is clean water, there is agriculture.  Where there is clean water, there is commerce.  Where there is clean water, there is dignity.  Where there is clean water, THERE IS LIFE.  This is what WE can help provide to people desperately needing it.  Can you imagine what the 25 year old mom can do with the 8 hours she now has because she doesn't have to walk every day for 6 gallons of water???  What a gift! 

It costs $10,000 to build a well and that's my goal.  I'm donating my birthday to Charity: Water. I've researched the charity and it is incredible (I encourage you to look them up too). 100% of the donations go right to the well.  So I'm asking if you will donate $40 for my 40th.  I've never raised money like this before and 10k seems like a lot.  That's why I'm starting 10 months out.  If 250 people/families donate $40, BAM, there's a well.  I know 250 people and you are one of them.  I'm hoping that on March 27th, 2017, I can transfer $10,000 out of my PayPal account and drop it into Charity: Water - and then they send me the location of the well via GPS and Google Earth and WE can see how WE have changed the lives of a village or an area.  Sounds cool right?  Give according to your means and partner with me on this opportunity to do something life-changing to a community.  Let's do this!

Monday, February 22, 2016

A different time

In the last month, two coaches from my youth have passed away: Mike Heuer and Dick Compton.  Mike coached (with a few other guys) the very first football team I played for - Kelso Merchants (6th grade) and Dick coached my baseball team in 5th and 6th grade (Elks).

I really enjoyed playing for those guys.  Both made playing and practicing a worthwhile experience.  Mike had known family members of mine long before I came along and he and I remained friends until his passing.  I hadn't seen Dick in many years, but I remember him as a slow-talking, kind hearted man.  As I got older, one thing that I really grew to appreciate about these guys is their devotion to youth sports.  Neither of these men had kids on the team when I went through.  They coached for the love of coaching and their belief that sports are important.  Those kind of guys are on the endangered list.  To coach a team, and give all that time and energy on kids who aren't yours for the sake of a community really speaks loudly of what kind of men they were.  Most teams nowadays (regular season and all-star) are headed up by a parent of a child who is on the team (or is headed up by a parent who's child's only chance of being on an all-star team is if his/her dad is the coach - but that's a post for
another time).  And there are many mom's and dad's that are good coaches, but often the parent is either way too lenient on their child or way too hard.  I imagine that you can think of more than one example of an unhealthy parent-child coaching relationship.  I can.  In my opinion, my desire for controlling what/how my kids learn sports is not worth disenfranchising them from the sport - or worse, straining my relationship with my kid. I love the model of instruction where a child learns fundamentals from someone with experience/knowledge, and then the parents support/practice/build on that knowledge and skill at home.  I also understand that where there's a need, sometimes you don't always get to choose who the coach is, so I'm also thankful for parents who step up.

I love coaching, and I like that I get paid for it - even if it's just a stipend.  But those types of guys are on a different level because they weren't paid.  It was all volunteer - for many years!  It was what they did because they believed it to be the right thing to do.  It was worth the time at practice/games and planning for them. It was worth coaching the kid who was just starting out and the kid who was athletically gifted. It was worth the second guessing from parents/fans.  It was worth the time away
from their own families. I love that.  Guys like Mike and Dick made a huge difference to me, as I'm sure they did to many kids.  It was a different time I suppose - I think.  It seems like non-parent coaches were common then, and much less now.  We need more people like them.

So let me thank all my youth sports coaches: Mr Karnofski, Mr Adams, Mr Cox, Mr Davis, Mr Hiatt, Mr Compton, Mr McGee, Mr Allred, Mr Heuer, Mr Dunlap, Mr Sundquist, Mr Morrison, and apologies to any I may have forgotten.  (It's been awhile so forgive me.)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

That's Incredible!

Incredible - inˈkredəb(ə)l
  1. 1.
    impossible to believe.
    "an almost incredible tale of triumph and tragedy"
    synonyms:unbelievable, beyond belief, hard to believe, unconvincing, far-fetched,implausible, improbable, highly unlikely, dubious, doubtful

Remember the old show from the 80's That's Incredible?  It was one of the first reality tv shows and
featured John Davidson, Cathy Lee Crosby and Fran Tarkenton.  I loved it.  You'd get to see people doing incredible things in incredible ways in incredible places.  As a little kid I'd often respond to such episodes with awe and wonderment, "whoa!"

The last year has been pretty incredible for me.

Found out I would be teaching middle school for the first time, got married - with a step-son, got a new truck as a result because my old one got too small real fast, am finishing the basement now too for the same reason, went on a teacher strike, and now have a baby... incredible.  And that's all in less than a calendar year. Any one of those things happening in a year would have given me plenty to do (and think about) but holy smokes.  I also would have considered myself lucky to have gone through just one of those (except the strike - that wasn't fun but I did learn a lot) but I got to experience them all!  It's beyond belief.

A couple years ago I had resigned myself to the notion that I wasn't going to have any more kids.  This was kind of sad, not because I had been disappointed in my only kid (hardly), but because I had always envisioned myself as dad of a few.  Being around Kaeden (Leah's oldest) for 8 years and then suddenly not being around him was a painful experience as well, and I went through times where I was ok with not taking that risk again too.  In all honesty, a couple of years ago, dating was going not well (I'm a terrible dater) so the idea of just Dash and I would be fine moving forward.  I knew that it was going to take a lot, and someone incredible, for me to reach for "completeness" again.  Thinking about that was overwhelming.  Mind you, Cortney and I first started being around each other a couple years ago but I was far from a sure thing.  (I'm surprised she hung around. Thank God she did though.)

Fast forward to now: I come home from a busy day of 13 year olds to Zain squeezing my knees, "Hi Daddy Andy!"  Dash is reading or playing video games  but comes and sits by me when I plop onto the couch.  Cortney kisses me and gives me Tov.  There's no place I'd rather be. I am a happy man.

Can I tell you about Tova for a minute?  She's been a great baby.  I don't mind the diapers or the sweet little crying.  I enjoy the ridiculous little girl clothes and accessories.  Her hair is brownish/redish for now and I think her eyes will be brown or green eventually.  She is beautiful and I'm so lucky to have her.  I get asked about her a lot - especially her name.  We heard it from my Aunt Paula.  Tova is a Hebrew word for good, but it's a Scandinavian name. Good.  A short name that is easily spelled and easily pronounced - a teacher's dream.  And good.  She's good.  My family is good.  My life is good.  I think what Cortney - and Tova - have done for me has been so good for me.  They have put a peace on my life that I didn't know I was missing/needed.  A calmness.  A good-ness.  It's not by accident that I am where I am today, and it's not necessarily because of me.  I have a wife that sees what kind of man I can be and pushes me to get there.  Anyone who would have met me for the first time 2,3,4 years ago would not have gotten real excited about who I was.  I know this.  But a good woman does strange things to a man, and I have "found a good thing".  She is incredible.