Sunday, April 5, 2015

Stopping to Smell the Roses

It goes without saying - in this the era of #hashtags, iPhones and Wifi - that it's difficult (for me, anyway) to take a few minutes to power down into neutral and simply relax.  To a certain extent, I guess that's what I do when I go for a run.  Still, between family responsibilities, buying a new house and work, it's Go! Go! Go!, all of the time.  At least, that's what it feels like to me.


Thursday morning before work, I was rushing around the house, trying to get ready for an 8 a.m. board meeting at Children's House.  I had been in trial until almost 7 p.m. Wednesday evening, so I was mentally exhausted anyway.  Jude already had left to take J.P. to school and I was trying to keep Joe entertained while I shaved and got dressed.  I decided to let him play with J.P.'s iPad so I could keep him occupied for about 10 minutes. 


As I was getting dressed, lost in thought about what I had to get done that day and where I had to be, I heard a voice say, "Daddy?"  I looked down and there was Joe, staring innocently up at me.  "Daddy, I need to go potty." he said.   I smiled at him, powered down, and said, "sure, Joe, let's do that."  And we did.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Lucky Seven

I'm sitting at "J.P.'s table" in the back room at Bongo Java on Good Friday, gazing out the window with a view of the back alley and houses behind Belmont Boulevard.  The Belmont students are gone for Easter weekend, so it's unusually quiet this morning.  I like it that way, at least for a while.  They'll be back soon enough and Bongo Java will be abuzz with activity every morning as the students begin the push to the end of spring semester and final exams.


The cycle of (college) life.  It's reassuring and somehow comforting for a person, like me, who doesn't look too fondly upon change.


This morning (and lately), I've been listening to James McMurtry's new album - "Complicated Game."  Although I'm far from an unbiased observer, I think it's his best in years.  So many well written songs.  Today I'm listening to Copper Canteen.  I don't know why, but I think music in general sounds better played through ear buds/headphones.  Just music, no noise.


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J.P. turned seven years old last Saturday.  It's hard for me to fathom that seven years have come and gone.  The thing that has surprised me the most about being a parent, I think, is how quickly time passes.  It's like I'm a passenger on some kind of high speed bullet train headed toward my final destination with life unfolding outside the windows before my very eyes.  The train stops occasionally, but for the most part, it just keeps running faster and faster.  It's an exhilarating and scary feeling.

J.P.'s growing up and maturing so quickly.  He's getting taller and leaner.  When I check on him at night before I go to bed, he looks like a teenager laying in bed, legs and arms tangled with the covers.  Gone almost with a trace are the whiny days (not gone totally, because Joe has taken up temporary residence in "Whiny Town.")  He and I talk about sports, watch sports and play sports.  He reads to Jude or me - books from school - every night or every morning.  When Joe throws a fit, he just looks at Jude and me, a half smile on his face, and nods knowingly.

Friday evening, we had a party for J.P., for family only, at Richland Place, the assisting living facility where "Great" (Jude's grandmother, Rita White) has been staying for the past few weeks.  J.P. wanted to order pizzas from Domino's for some reason, so that's what we did.  One hour and twenty minutes after I placed the order, the pizzas arrive.  This, after the person who took my order over the telephone informed me that "we haven't had a 30 minute delivery guarantee since 1993."  Truer words have never been spoken.  That notwithstanding, we had a great time, especially since the boys had plenty of room to run around after eating cupcakes.

Saturday, J.P. had a baseball game.  Later, we went to Chago's Cantina for dinner, after we couldn't get into Taqueria del Sol, his first choice.  And we watched a lot of NCAA tourney basketball.

Sunday was close to a perfect day.  Rather than have a traditional birthday party, J.P. had told us he wanted to have breakfast at Bongo Java with 4-5 of his friends, which is exactly what we did.  E.J., our friend and the manager at Bongo Java, reserved the upstairs alcove ("my office") for us and we decorated it before the boys arrived.  We ordered lots of food for J.P., Calhoun, Cecil, Aiden and J.D., all friends from school.  We sat in the back room, underneath the alcove, where could hear the  boys while giving them some space.

After breakfast, we walked across the street to soccer field (actually just green space now) at Belmont U.  For an hour and half or so, the boys played in the new fountain, played football and threw the Frisbee.  Finally, we settled into a spirited kickball game, dads (and Jon Meade) against the boys.  It was cool to watch the boys interact with each other and to spend some time with Jeff and Giles, Calhoun's and Cecil's fathers.  And, as always, Jon Meade, was the best.  He's naturally gifted when it comes to interacting with children and literally one of the best people I know.

That afternoon, Jude, Joe, J.P. and I went the Predators-Flames game to top off a perfect birthday weekend.

As I've told J.P. a few times lately, if God had asked me seven plus years ago to describe for Him what I was looking for in my firstborn son, I would have described J.P. 

J.P, as you turn seven, and continue to grow and develop into the young man you're going to become, know that your dad is proud of you and loves your more than life itself. 

Happy birthday, son. 



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Basketball Jones

Today, J.P. played in the final basketball game of the season or, actually, seasons.  Before Christmas, he played in a league at First Presbyterian Church.  After Christmas, he played in a WNSL league, in which the games were played at the Eachen Elementary School gymnasium.  This weekend, Friday - Sunday, his WNSL team ("the Dores") played in the "March Madness" tournament through WNSL. 


With one exception, the same group of boys played on both teams.  Great, great boys and great parents, but more on that later.


The First Presbyterian league was less intense than the WNSL league.  Although the boys lost one game in the First Presbyterian League and went undefeated in the WNSL league (there was one tie), the WNSL League suited them better and was a more competitive basketball league.  The rules were enforced more rigidly in the WNSL league and for that reason, I think the boys learned more about the game. 


Because we ran the table in the WNSL league, the Dores were moved up from the "Silver" division to the "Gold" division for the "March Madness" tournament.  As a result, they struggled in all 4 games, the closest being a 13-4 loss Friday night.  In both games Saturday (10 a.m. and 8 p.m.) and in the game this morning (11 a.m.), they were "boat raced."  The reality, though, is that they were playing against all-star/travel teams in every game.  In truth, the Dores are a Recreation League team, made up of friends, not players selected solely on ability.  I was proud of J.P. and all of the boys, as they played hard and never gave up.


The WNSL league and the tournament were especially good for J.P.  He played tougher and more aggressively than he has at any time in the past.  In the tournament, he was probably the youngest boy on the court at all times (most of the boys were 7 years old).  Still, he scrapped, dove on the floor after loose balls, got knocked down and even shoved a kid Saturday evening (which I liked).  I saw toughness out of J.P. that I haven't necessarily seen in other sports up and until now and I think that bodes well for him. 


Like me (and his mother), J.P. is never going to be the biggest, fastest or most athletic kid on the team.  He's got good hand/eye coordination, also like me (and his mother).  Because he likely won't be as athletic as others, he's going to have to play harder and tougher than other kids.  I think he has that in him and it excites me to see it develop. 


Like yesterday, I remember him at the age of 3, in the backyard, trying to hit a plastic baseball off a plastic tee.  When he missed, he slammed the bat down, kicked the over the picked up the tee and slammed it down.  Jude and I laughed uproariously, which made J.P. even madder.  When I recounted that story to a friend of mine, he correctly pointed out that, as a parent, you can control and mold that type of competitiveness, the "want to," if you will.  But you can't put it in a child, if it's not already there.  J.P. has that fire, that competitive spirit, which is something I love about him.


Basketball (First Presbyterian and WNSL) was the first sport he has played that I haven't coached.  It was really good for him to be coached by someone else.  He learned so much from his coaches, Chris Taylor and Russ Allen.  He responded to their instruction, he played hard and most importantly, he had fun.  On a personal level, I enjoyed watching him and not coaching him.  It was less stressful for me and I could devote all of my attention to watching him, which was nice.


I won't forget the thrill I felt in our second or third WNSL game, when two times in a row, he brought the ball up the court and drove down the right side of the lane straight to the basket.  I elbowed my mom as he hit a layup, my heart filled with pride.  It was awesome.


Now, it's on to baseball.    

Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter Wonderland


I love this shot of J.P. pushing Jude and Joe down the alley on the sled.


Joe's first sledding experience.  He's wearing Jude's snow pants, which I'm assuming are, what, 40 + years old!


Action shot!  As you can see, J.P. has mad ups.


The crew, getting a little cold.

 
This guys loves the snow.  Loves it.


Snaggletooth.


Always nice to get a tow.


One last action shot.

Snow Day

I'm sitting at a table, sipping a latte at 8th & Roast, a coffee shop literally around the corner from my house.  People straggle in from the snow and ice (mostly ice) outside 30 minutes before today's early closing time of 4 p.m.  It's packed and I'm tucked in comfortably amongst the quiet murmurs of groups of 2 and 3, talking about work, school or families.  It's warm inside and cold outside.

Jude and the boys are napping at the house, worn out after an hour or so of "sledding" in the alley across from our house.  Since we really haven't had any snow or ice to speak of since Joe was born, it was his first time in the sled.  It was great to watch Joe and J.P. sledding down the ice in the alley, laughing and squealing with delight.  J.P. was more demonstrative and aggressive, while Joe was content to sit in the sled in front of Jude and enjoy the ride down the alley.

The Snow Dome proved its invincibility yet again, as predictions of 7" - 10" of snow made by the weather wizards as late as yesterday afternoon quickly were revised to 3" - 5" with ice mixed in, then finally to ice only.  "Snowmageddon" it was not, as all we got was a bit of ice and less a dusting of snow.  It figures.

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After the good folks at 8th & Roast closed down, I drove around the neighborhood, reveling in my ability to expertly drive in ice and snow.  It's one of my hidden talents.  I listened to "the Head and the Heart" (Joe's current favorite band) and slid around corners, polishing my bad weather driving skills.  As I drove by Sevier Park, I noticed there were still a ton of people sledding down the hill facing 12th Avenue. 

When I arrived home, J.P. and Joe were up from their naps.  To J.P.'s delight, I told him to put his snow gear on because we were going to do some real sledding.  He could barely contain himself as drove to Sevier Park.  When we parked and got out of my Yukon, he was bouncing up and down with excitement and anticipation.  

We spent 45 minutes in the freezing cold, flying down the hill in our blue and yellow plastic sleds - toboggans really - dodging people walking up the hill, dogs and trees.  And we loved every minute of it.  J.P. couldn't stop grinning.  It was way cool to introduce him to something he'd never done before and to know we were making memories he'll carry with him a lifetime.  Just J.P. and me and our sleds, smiling, laughing and yelling as we careened down the hill again and again.

Simply awesome.    


Monday, January 12, 2015

Guytown

Friday morning, after she dropped J.P. off at school, Jude flew to Charlotte, NC, to meet her new niece for the first time.  That left the boys with me for the weekend in, as we like to call it, "GUYTOWN." 


It's a running joke, especially between J.P. and me, that in "Guytown" we do things quite a bit differently than normal.  For the past couple of weeks, at breakfast and dinner, J.P. and I talked about all of the things we were going to do in "Guytown."  Watch Monday Night Raw ("wrestling"), eat cold pizza for breakfast, not brush our teeth, crank up the music and rip the knobs off, stay up late and wear short outside no matter how cold it is.  You know, "Guytown" things.


Friday afternoon, I left work early and picked up Joe at school (West End Methodist Church) at 2:15 p.m.  Joe and I stopped by the house to change his diaper, then went to pick up J.P. at school (University School of Nashville).  We drove to REI in Brentwood, so I could buy a backpack (men don't carry diaper bags in "Guytown").  Next, it was off to Centennial High School, so we could watch my niece, Kaitlyn, play a JV basketball game.


J.P. and Joe had a great time at Kaitlyn's game, as they always do.  Actually, attending a JV game was nice, because the varsity games we attend are more crowded, and the boys were able to interact with Kaitlyn during the game a bit when she was resting on the bench.  After the game (an Independence victory), Matthew (Hearn), J.P., Joe and I grabbed a couple of basketballs, walked on to the court and played a little basketball while we waited for Kaitlyn.  It was fun watching Matthew rebound for J.P. while J.P. took some shots.


J.P., Joe and I drove home, but not before stopping by Brown's Diner to pick up takeout.  The big news was that J.P. and talked Joe into trying a grilled cheese from Brown's Diner and he liked it.  Shortly thereafter, it was off to bed.  Well, sort of.  As we had previously agreed, J.P. waited 10 minutes or so until Joe was asleep, then sneaked downstairs with me to watch television.  In what may have been the highlight of the weekend for me, J.P. and I stayed up until almost 10:30 p.m. watching the Golden State - Cleveland NBA basketball game.  It was a real father-son moment.


Saturday morning, the three of us went to breakfast at Sylvan Park, one of J.P.'s favorite breakfast and a place we haven't been to in a while.  We had a "Guytown" breakfast, for sure, as J.P. had toast, bacon, pancakes and orange juice.  He even tried my sausage, which he liked.  Joe tried "real" pancakes and liked them, which was cool. 


After breakfast, I surprised the boys with a trip to the Boat & RV Show at the Convention Center downtown.  J.P. (more so than Joe) loved climbing into and out of the RV's, as he has in years past when we've attended the show.  Joe was a little tired by the time we headed home for lunch. 


Next, it as off to J.P.'s first basketball game (WNSL) at Eachin Elementary School.  J.P. played his best game yet.  I was pleased because he played aggressively, which is something I've encouraged him to do.  He had a couple of steals and mixed it up with the other boys under the goal as he tried to rebound the basketball.  Best of all, though, was when he brought the ball up court one time, then drove the lane all the way to basket.  I didn't care that he missed the layup because he took the ball to the rim.  It was awesome!


From basketball, I drove J.P. to Bounce U for a birthday party.  We arrived a little late, but J.P. was able to get some playtime in with some of his classmates, not to mention pizza and birthday cake.  We arrived home, packed up and drove to Cool Springs (with Jude's parents following us) to go to Sportsmen's Grill to celebrate my mom's 75th birthday party.  The boys were great and we had fun at dinner with my family.


Back home for the night, I got the boys to bed.  J.P. was so tired, he fell asleep and didn't sneak out of his bedroom for some more late night television watching.  Sunday morning, we all slept in, then had a leisurely breakfast at Bongo Java.  We picked up donuts, then went to church, where Jude met us, having driven straight from the airport.  The boys were glad to see her, which was sweet.


Even better for me, though, was when J.P. told Jude later Sunday afternoon that he was sad "Guytown" was over.  I don't get much time alone with the boys, so I treasure the time that I do get with them.  It's nice to know that the three of us can make it on our own, when Jude is gone for a few days.  It's good for her to get away every now and then, I think, and it's good for me to get some alone time with J.P. and Joe. 


Like Christmas (or so J.P. and I joke), "Guytown" is a place in your heart. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sand Through the Hourglass

After a late night grocery store run, I'm sitting at a corner table in the back of the 12South Tap Room, having a quick beer before I head home.  Once upon a time, the Tap Room was one of my regular haunts, before the 12South building and population explosion.

In fact, between six and seven years ago, when J.P. was in infant, he and strolled to the Tap Room almost every Saturday afternoon while he napped in the City Elite.  More often than not, he and I were the only people in the bar on those lazy Saturday afternoons.  While he slept, I read the New Yorker, worked crossword puzzles or just relaxed.

For a while, I arranged for special guests to meet us at the Tap Room on Saturday afternoons.  Among those who made cameo appearances were Mike Matteson, Rip Pewett and Peter Klett (w/his son, Cortland).  It was the beginning of my fatherhood ride and for the most part, a blissful time in my life.  With two boys and with J.P. starting school, playing sports, etc., things are more hectic now, for sure.

I miss the early days.

When J.P. and I first started dropping by the Tap Room on Saturday afternoons, I got to know a bartender named "Sweeney."  As we chatted amiably one day, I realized I had played softball against him in the law league a few years earlier.  He had hit 2 or 3 home runs off me and I hadn't seen him since that game.  It turned out his father is a lawyer I know and we had a few laughs about him coming out of nowhere (seemingly) to hammer the (self-proclaimed) best softball pitcher in the history of the law league.

Over the next few years, I saw Sweeney less and less as I stopped coming into the Tap Room as often.  I lost track of him, for the most part, until tonight, when he happened to be working.  He told me he's down to his last two weeks working at the bar, as he's leaving to work as an "outfitter" (whatever that means) in New Hampshire.  I  remember talking with him after he got married and bought his first house, but perhaps that didn't work out.

Great guy, great personality and a bit player in Act I of my life as a father.

Good luck, Sweeney.