Monday, August 22, 2011

Swimming With Guy: The Results

Writing a blog is tough because I want to write well, but writing well takes time and I wanted to get these results out fast, so please excuse the brevity of this post. I will write a longer blog about the experience of the triathlon and everything surrounding it later.

First, I would like to thank the Vitale family and all of my family and friends for being incredibly supportive. Secondly, I would like to indulge in what my old (yes I said old) swimming coach would have called "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda".

I did not win the swim, but my time was faster than the best swimmer from the 2010 race. I finished the swim in 8:28, two seconds faster than the best from last year, but about a minute slower than the best swimmer this year.

I didn't win the triathlon, of course, but my time "would" have been top ten from the 2010 race, but was only good enough for fifteenth place this year. It may sound like I am disappointed with that result, but I'm not. I am very happy with my performance and even happier that I was able to share it with all the people who are nice enough to read this blog.

The link for the results of the 2011 race is on the menu bar on the right. They are separated into age groups, but my wonderfully talented accountant wife has used her magical skills in excel to combine all the results into one list for me, so I could see where I ranked in the overall competition. If you would like to see that list, send me an email and I will get it to you.

My results

2010 Overall Time : 1:22:28 VS. 2011 Overall Time: 1:08:08
2010 Place: 82nd VS. 2011 Place: 15th
2010 Swim: 10:19 VS. 2011 Swim: 8:28
2010 Bike: 39:00 VS. 2011 Bike: 32:54
2010 Run: 27:30 VS. 2011 Run: 23:17

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Swimming with Guy #2

Shortly after Guy Vitale was diagnosed with cancer, my dad told me a story. I would love to say that my dad has the kind of memory that leaves no detail unremembered, but unfortunately it is more accurate to say that you’re just lucky if he remembers your name. Regardless, I have been using this story as motivation for months, so I will do my best to tell it accurately on my end.

I think it’s safe to say that there are some universal fears. It is a rare sixth grader that doesn’t dread walking the tiled hallways of junior high for the first time. In my time as a teacher, even the most confident students suffered the uncontrollable hand shaking, blushing, and accelerated speech so symptomatic of the oral presentation. It is rare that a day goes by in my house without my wife or daughters screaming “SPIDER!!!” and pointing to a small black speck moving slowly up the wall. But there are other kinds of fear. We are afraid of that lump just under our skin or that mole on our shoulder, or even worse, the look on our doctor’s face before he or she tells us that it is indeed cancer. I can’t imagine my reaction in a situation like that, but I know I wouldn’t be as brave as Guy was. When Guy was diagnosed, he had to endure that meeting—had to hear the words and process them just like everybody else who is attacked by cancer. He had to hear his oncologist, someone he trusted, tell him that he had stage four cancer, and he had to endure another specialist’s more pessimistic assessment that he only had three months to live. These are the kinds of moments that define us. There is no right way to react to a proclamation that you only have three months to live, but I think Guy’s reaction says a lot about who he was. Guy’s only words in that fateful moment…”Bull Shit.”

I can’t even begin to articulate the effect this story has had on me. As a writing teacher, I preached the importance of the minutest choices that we make as writers. As a parent, I lecture my daughters everyday about the importance of making good choices. In my attempt to be a triathlete, I am faced everyday with choices that will most definitely affect my performance on August 20th in the Three Rivers Triathlon. But I don’t think I understood what the important decisions were until my dad told me this story about Guy. I used to think that the important decisions were more macro than micro—that the choice of college was more important than the work put into a particular paper or the choice of job was more important than the choice to do your best every day or in each moment. When Guy said “Bull Shit”, he didn’t just say it once. He said it every day. He said it every time he felt nauseous but went for a swim anyway. He said it every time somebody poked him with another needle or made him lie still while they scanned his body. He said it every time he got out of bed in the morning and with every breath he took. Most importantly, he said it every time the voice in his head said “Wouldn’t it be easier to just let it happen? You’re tired. Nobody would blame you. Its stage four cancer, your chances are slim at best.”

I have spent too much of my life letting that voice influence my choices. I have spent too much of my life thinking that the choice to do something only happens once—that commitment means that all you have to do is show up. I used to think that if someone beat me at something it was because they were simply more talented or had been doing it longer and there have even been times that I very absurdly thought that they were just having a better day than me. I used to think that doing my best was only about giving everything of myself to a task on the day it “mattered”. I did my best last year at the Three Rivers Triathlon. I didn’t have anything left when I crossed the finish line in just over one hour and twenty two minutes, and I was proud of my performance on that day—I was proud that I finished, and I actually believed the voice in my head when it told me that the people that beat me were simply better. I actually believed that the men and women that seemed an endless parade passing me on the bike and the run were simply better than me. Now I know that they just made better choices—I know that they worked harder. Thanks to Guy, I approach these choices differently now.

Last year, if I was having a bad morning, exercise was the first thing to go. If I got up later than usual, ML was in a bad mood, or IR was especially sensitive, I would skip going to the gym. This year I have made different choices. Even if I work eleven p.m. to five a.m., then sleep until awakened at eight by two little girls fighting over a toy they hardly play with anymore, I still eat breakfast, feed the girls, feed the dog, get everyone ready and go to the gym. Last year, if I had made it to the gym on such a day I would have taken it easy. I would have let the voice in my head convince me that it was okay to make it a light day. I would have let it convince me that thirty minutes on the bike was enough, that nobody expected me to do much in the triathlon and that I knew I could finish and that was enough. This year I push just as hard as any other day. I make sure I get at least eighty minutes of exercise five days a week and I don’t let excuses get in the way. Swimming has been the biggest revelation. I realized that I have to choose to make every stroke count--that momentum is too easily lost when I don’t concentrate. When Guy said, “Bull shit”, he committed himself to the idea that he could beat cancer, so when I decided to do this triathlon to honor him I committed myself to the idea that I could win. Guy didn’t exactly beat Cancer, but he did beat his cancer for a while. His commitment to beat Cancer allowed him to live more than a year beyond his doctor’s original prognosis and he fought with everything he had until the end. I don’t think Guy would say that he regretted his commitment to beat cancer, knowing the outcome, because there were many rewards. He got to meet his first grandchild and be in the pool with him when he swam for the first time, and that is just one life experience of many that I’m sure he would never give back.

Like I have said before, my odds of winning this triathlon are only slightly better than the Cubs winning the World Series this year, but my commitment to win has driven me to work harder than I ever would have if I had just committed to finish. I have learned things about myself that I would not have known otherwise. At the time of the triathlon last year, I weighed in at 228 lbs. As of right now, I weigh 188 lbs. Last year, I competed in the Shamrock Shuffle, which is a five-mile race in Downtown Chicago and I finished in 47:50. This year, it was a stepping-stone in my plan for the triathlon and I set a goal in January to finish in 35:00. I didn’t quite reach that goal, but on April 10th I did finish in 37:31, bettering my previous time by more than ten minutes. More importantly, before that day, I didn’t think I could run a mile in 7:30 and not only did I do that, but that was my average pace over five miles. None of this has anything to do with talent. It all comes down to a commitment to the effort of achieving something that seems beyond reach. It is ignoring the voice that at this very moment is telling me to delete this entire paragraph because it seems like I am bragging and, worse than that, is creating expectations that I am afraid that I will not live up to. Just like Guy, win or lose, succeed or fail, I would never give back the life experiences and lessons that I have learned in the pursuit of this triathlon.

Guy’s daughter Alexis is an inspiration too. In fact, my decision to publish a blog at all was somewhat influenced by her bravery. I was terribly impressed by the idea of someone creating an organization, let alone a charity. It is one thing to have a good idea or a good intention, but it takes a special kind of drive to follow that idea all the way to fruition. Hopes Song is still fairly young though and, like all charities, needs a lot of people to believe in it enough to support it and give it strength. Sometimes I think people get discouraged from helping because they don’t think that their contribution is enough. What is the point? Right? We can’t listen to that voice. Credit card companies make billions on transaction fees that are sometimes less than five cents apiece. If ten people give ten dollars apiece, does that money somehow have less power than if one person gives one hundred? Yes, this is my appeal. According to the stats on my blog, more than three hundred people read my post “Swimming With Guy”, but less than twenty have pledged any money. If you don’t like my convoluted pledge scheme of giving Hopes Song more money the better I do, then just give whatever you can. If everyone gives a little, it can make a huge difference in the lives of the families that Hopes Song benefits. Hopes Song is a 501(c)3 charity and all donations are tax deductible. Please visit the website to learn more about the people Hopes Song has helped and donate if you can:

Here is my convoluted scheme again, if you would like to pledge based on this send me an email at

If Mike…
Finishes I will give ______
Finishes in the top fifty I will give_______
Finishes in the top twenty I will give _______
Finishes in the top ten I will give _______
Finishes in the top five I will give ______
Wins the triathlon, I will give ________

A character in Paul Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, said “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I would like to believe that is true, but I have a friend who said something that is easier for me to believe. He told me, “Contrary to what you might think, and how some people act, most of us like to see people succeed and we combine our hopes with the hopes of people who are brave enough to declare their intentions to succeed.” I am asking you to combine your hopes with ours and give other people the chance to fight Cancer like Guy did.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Freaking Out for Kindergarten Cocktails

Imagine if you will, your worst nightmare--the thing or situation that scares you more than anything. Imagine that you are forced to endure this torture by people that claim to be caregivers, but worst of all, imagine that one of the people you trust and love most in life is holding you down while these "caregivers" torture you mercilessly. Imagine all this, but add something, add the fact that the person you love and trust is laughing while holding you down. My five-year-old daughter, IR, experienced this very situation not long ago.
"Daddy, am I going to get shots at the doctor?"
"I'm not sure honey, but I think so."
"How many shots?"
"I don't know honey, but you will be brave right?"
"Yes. But I would like to know how many shots."
"I will find out for you."
I have been present for every shot IR has received and the pediatrician has said that after they turn four it gets better. That statement never made sense to me, because the older kids get, the smarter they get, and the smarter they get, the better they are able to anticipate and imagine, and as that happens, their fears seem to grow exponentially. IR's ability to remember, anticipate and imagine has taken her fear of getting shots to a whole new level. I have to stress that the story I am about to tell is NOT exaggerated for effect.
To save time, I scheduled ML's three year checkup at the same time as IR's kindergarten checkup. This was the first problem. ML didn't need shots so IR literally and figuratively felt the sting of unfairness.
At the end of a fairly standard visit, the girls were declared healthy and I was told that IR would need the "kindergarten cocktail" of four shots. The doctor left.
"Are we done daddy?" Asked the hopeful IR.
"No, sweetie, you have to get some shots."
"Does ML have to get any?"
"No, she doesn't need any today."
"Why do I need shots, but she doesn't?" At this point I should establish the IR Freakout Scale. It goes from 0 to 100, with 0 being completely calm and content and 100 being a complete loss of bodily control, hyperventilation, and borderline passing out. You might ask why not just a scale from 0 to 10, but I just don't feel like 10 provides an adequate description for her ability to freak out. At the beginning of the visit to the doctor, the possibility of shots had IR at about 35 on the Freakout scale. She appeared to be calm, but little things that didn't usually bother her were causing tears. When I told her that she needed shots and her sister didn't she jumped to about 55 on the scale. Tears started rolling and her hands went directly to her mouth. Bringing her hands to her mouth is a sign that the 50 threshold had been passed and we were getting dangerously close to a freakout.
After a few minutes the nurse who was going to administer the vaccinations came in. She was a little gruff and very businesslike in her approach to IR. The sight of the tray with the needles immediately sent IR above 70 on the scale.
"Daddy, how many?"
"Four shots."
"Four?" 85 on the scale now, full blown crying with sobs and hitches and pleading for some sort of pardon. It was hard to concentrate as the nurse was having me sign the necessary papers for the vaccinations.
"Okay, I need you to put her up on the table and hold her arms, I will take care of the rest." The nurse said this to me and sent IR to 99 on the Freakout Scale. Full blown screaming and slapping away my hands as I tried to pick her up to put her on the table.
"NOOOOO...NOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOOO" She kept screaming as I finally got a hold of her and put her on the table. The nurse crossed IR's arms in front of her chest and told me to hold her that way. I leaned over her and held her down with my face right in front of hers. "NOOOOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOO, please daddy, pleeeaaaase NOOOOOOOOOO" At this point I might confidently say that most parents would be heartbroken at the thought of being the one who was holding this beautiful child down while she was in such pain. My wife got a little teary when I told her about it. But I guess I am different, because when IR was dangerously close to 100 on the Freakout Scale, and my face was one inch from hers and I could feel her tense as each of the four needles pierced her skin, I didn't cry--I laughed. I tried not to, but I giggled uncontrollably. I tried to hide it, but I couldn't--we were too close, and as my lovely wife likes to remind me all the time, my whole body shakes when I laugh. So my beautiful, smart, sensitive and dramatic little girl was on the verge of passing out and I was holding her down and laughing, and she knew it.
When it was over, the nurse told her to sit up.
"Calm down sweetie, calm down." I pleaded, though I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The whole scene was completed by the sight of my dramatic little girl walking stiff legged out to the car like she had casts on both legs.
When my wife came home she asked IR how the doctor visit went.
"I freaked out." She said and went back to her drawing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Count of Daddy Cristo

One of the beneficial side effects of my new employment as a night stocker at a grocery store is that I get to listen to books on my ipod. They are technically podcasts of classic books that are in the public domain and read by volunteers--in other words, free. I have been enlightening myself with books that I have never had the heart to pick up and read. I have already listened to Wuthering Heights, Crime and Punishment, and War and Peace. Most recently I have been listening to The Count of Monte Cristo, and it has given form to my own thoughts of vengeance.

For anyone who has not read The Count of Monte Cristo, it is the ultimate story of revenge. The shortest summary I can achieve goes like this: A man is condemned to life in a dungeon by his jealous counterparts, suffers fourteen years of imprisonment where he is educated by a fellow prisoner and given a map to a buried treasure. The other prisoner dies, the man escapes, finds his treasure, which he uses over the course of many years to exact revenge on the men who betrayed him.

I am about to go off on a fantasy of revenge, but please understand that I don't equate anything of my life or my revenge with the good Count--I just need to think there will be payback someday. (Yes, Mom, I know you are enjoying yours right now)

Someday, when IR is old enough, I am going to make her start cooking and doing dishes. I can only imagine what she will be like, but I know what I am going to say. IR is going to come in, after some sort of practice and plop down on the couch. “Hi sweetie how was your day?” I will ask.
“Fine.” She will answer and not take her eyes off the TV. It will probably be Access Entertainment Hollywood Inside hosted by some child star whose career was revived by the Dancing With the Stars of past Dancing with the Stars where past contestants of Dancing With the Stars partner with a new b-level celebrity and are coached by the aging professional dancers.
“I’m hungry.” I will sit down next to her and change the channel to Wheel of Fortune. Pat Sajak will just do intros and commentary at this point, because it will take him too long to remember if there is an E in “Riding in a Solar Car”.
“So, eat something.”
“I want you to make me dinner.”
“Seriously?” She will take back the remote and change it back to her show. We will sit and watch while Will Smith’s three-year-old granddaughter, Willowina is photographed on the red carpet as an oscar nominee at the Academy Awards. “You are just telling me to make you dinner?”
“Please make me dinner?” She will sit for another five minutes while Willowina tells the interviewer that she has wanted an Oscar since she was little.
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know.”
“You just want me to make something?”
“Yes, and I’m hungry, so could you do it now?”
“Right now. Okay.” She will drop the remote on the couch and stomp into the kitchen and she will close cabinet doors a little too hard and stand for too long in front of the open refrigerator. I will hear her running some water and she will come back in and sit down again.
“What are you making?”
“I don’t want spaghetti.”
“Are you being serious?”
“I don’t want spaghetti.”
“Well, that is what I"m making, because you didn’t tell me what you wanted.”
As an added measure I will ask for buttered bread and salad and not eat the salad and I will ask for seconds of spaghetti and not eat it. I will also use at least two forks and a spoon and I will find a way to dirty two butter knives. I will then proceed to get up and watch TV and then throw a fit when she cleans up my dishes. I will proclaim that I was not done eating and that I want more spaghetti. I could do that every night for five years and it still wouldn’t be even.
The second chore that my daughters will be tasked with is the laundry. They will start by doing their own clothes, but I will let them do mine as well. I fear they will play the same trick I did on my wife’s clothes that I did when we first got married. Yes, I shrunk a few sweaters on purpose. I am not proud of it. I was young and stupid--something my daughters will also be. I picture my daughter ML at the wonderful age of fifteen, coming home from school and so excited to see me. She will run up the stairs and give me a big hug and tell me how much she missed me. She will also tell me about her day and how she aced her quiz on The Grapes of Wrath because we talked about it after she read it. Yes, this is a fantasy.
But this will actually have to happen on a day we spend together. It will be a Saturday morning. I will walk into her room and throw off her covers.
“What are you doing? Its Saturday get out!” She will put her pillow over her face and turn on her side away from me.
“Get up, its laundry day.”
“So. Go do the laundry.”
“It’s your job now, so get to it.” I will continue this wonderful new day for ML by taking my shirt off and putting it in the hamper.
“Why did you do that?” She will ask.
“I just wanted to.” I will answer and go get a new shirt. Later I will accidentally drip some milk from my cereal onto my shirt and be forced to go upstairs and get yet another new shirt.
“Did you do that on purpose?”
“Of course not.” I will have to be careful here, because both of my girls will have been subjected to more than ten years of my almost constant sarcasm. IR already calls me on it sometimes.
I will spend the rest of the day stepping in puddles, wiping my Cheeto fingers on my pants, eating waffles with too much syrup, and other things of the sort. I will also buy three sets of pajamas and refuse to wear them more than one night in a row.
Is my pain and suffering on anywhere near the same level as the good Count of Monte Cristo? No, of course not, but when you have committed yourself to the care of tiny people whose brains are developing in unpredictable ways, strange things can happen to you. For example, you might find yourself fantasizing about being the father of teenage girls. What I have discovered about The Count of Monte Cristo is that it is as much about love as it is about revenge, so I don't feel so bad about plotting my vengeance on two of the three people I love most.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One Year Down...

I have completed my first year of being a Stay at Home Parent, or SAHP as we in the "biz" like to call it (that statement could only be cooler if I said it out loud and put air quotes around "biz"--for anyone out there who has trouble detecting sarcasm, like my wife for example, that was sarcasm). I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I feel like I am getting a handle on this thing. I mean, just the other day, I had everything under control. The girls woke up needy and whining, but after I enacted the no smiling policy (an SAHP classic), they happily picked out their own clothes (they actually did, I'm not just making an excuse for mismatched outfits), and we headed downstairs for breakfast. The girls had a nice breakfast of cereal and milk and after that we headed back upstairs for the brushing of teeth and hair, and washing of faces. They played in their room while I got myself ready and before long, and without drama, we were in the van and headed to the gym.

The girls sang along to the radio all the way, and held my hand willingly in the parking lot. Our gym provides two hours of childcare, which provides me with an extra incentive to go. ML had picked out her new jellies to wear and they were loud on the tile floor. For those who don't know what jellies are, they are clear plastic shoes that are usually tinted pink or purple. ML charmed me into buying them for her on an unrelated trip to Old Navy. If she wears them without socks, they give her blisters, and her feet sweat in them so badly that the sweat actually condenses on the inside of the shoe and they smelled after the first day. I find it disturbing that, at two years old, she is already willing to sacrifice the health of her feet for the sake of fashion. She has to wear socks to the childcare center in the gym anyway, so her feet were protected that day. At this point, I was feeling pretty confident, basking in the glow of my cute little girls running down the halls to happily submit themselves to the care of someone besides me. I was also basking in reflected happiness that ML was experiencing. She was running down the hallway, slapping her plastic shoes on the tile floor and loving the fact that everyone she passed was looking down at her and smiling at her cuteness. I was about ten feet behind her and feeling proud and happy that the morning went so well, listening to the slap slap of her little feet and watching her run in the cute bouncy way that only toddlers can right before they aren't toddlers anymore. I was jarred from my reverie by a man reaching for ML. By the time I realized what was happening, ML ran full speed into a water fountain.

She fell flat on her back and already had a welt growing at her hairline when I got to her. I will never forget how loud the bang was when she collided with the metal of the water fountain, nor will I forget the shame of not paying close enough attention. ML didn't cry, in fact, she seemed to enjoy the extra attention from the ladies in the childcare center. She even managed to put on a contented frown as they put the ice pack to her forehead.

Later that day, our neighbor invited us to Monkey Joe's for his son's birthday. It wasn't the official birthday party, which will also be at Monkey Joe's, but it was the actual day of his birtday, so it was just the birthday boy, his younger sister, and my two girls. Monkey Joe's is a kid's dream--a massive room full of massive inflatable bounce castles, slides, and pirate ships. The kids run around like they have completely lost their minds and jump and slide and knock their heads together and cry and jump some more until they are completely worn out, which makes it a parent's dream as well. My neighbor and I sat down while the kids played, and once again I was feeling proud of myself. I was letting the girls play and I wasn't following them around and making sure everyone was okay. ML was doing great and following her sister around and being a big girl.

"Do you have any extra clothes in the car?" My neighbor asked.
"No, why, did something happen?" I asked, looking around for my girls.
"No, but I should have told you to put pants or shorts on ML." He pointed to ML lifting up her dress to dig her underwear out of her butt. And, once again, the gazillion year old universe was reminding me that a year doesn't make anyone an expert at anything, especially parenting. Every time ML would slide down one of the massive inflatable slides she would run to the next with her hand tugging at the wedgie that inevitably occured. So please indulge me while I release some frustration from that day.

To the Mom obsessively cleaning her kids' hands with Purell at Monkey Joe's:
"I see you looking at me--and yes, that is my daughter with her hand in her butt crack. I'm sorry, I have never been here before, and my princess of a daughter refuses to wear anything but pretty and dancily dresses. I see you looking at me while you force your boys to stop having fun and submit to their third round of disinfection. Why not stare at the mom of the kid who keeps sticking his finger up his nose? What about the little girl who looks like there is something radioactive travelling from her nostrils to her eager tongue? Why not make their moms uncomfortable? Did you see the kid who keeps keeps sticking his hand in his pants and scratching himself? Did you know that jock itch is a fungus? I got the message, you can stop looking at me and shaking your head. We aren't going anywhere. I paid my fifteen bucks and we are going to stay until I get the fifteen bucks worth of exhaustion that I paid for."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Swimming with Guy

Almost eighteen years ago, Guy Vitale challenged me to an open water swimming race. It was July--the week that he turned forty-seven, and I turned sixteen. We were in Ontario, Canada on a fishing trip with a group of fathers and sons that were connected by familial relations and friendship. Our cabin was located on a lake that was littered with pine tree covered islands and random rocks above and just below the surface of the fifty-seven degree water. It was a few days into the trip when Guy suggested that we race to an island and back. He always was an avid swimmer, and I was a high school distance swimmer at the time, so the challenge seemed appropriate if not for the frigid water.

Our purpose in Canada was fishing, but kids can only sit in twelve foot fishing boats with metal bench seats for so long. On this particular day, it was decided by the adults in the group that the pre-adolescent and adolescent boys were in need of some washing. Three or four days without a bar of soap for a boy of that age is bad enough, but near constant contact with fish and warm July nights in sleeping bags zipped up tight against the whining menace of the Canadian mosquito creates the necessary conditions to prompt a man to force his son to bathe in fifty-seven degree water. In case you are wondering just how bad we smelled, it only takes an hour of exposure to fifty-seven degree water to induce hypothermia in an average sized adult.

While we were treading water and our teeth chattered against the cold, bald eagles and enormous turkey vultures circled and landed on a nearby island where we dumped the carcasses of the northern pike and walleye that we caught that morning. Luckily, the bar of soap floated, and we passed it around quickly after doing our best to wash before losing all control of our numb fingers. I was about to climb out when Guy spoke up. “Hey Mike, I’ll race you to that island.” He said and pointed to an island that didn’t seem very far away. I thought he was crazy, and as one of the necessities of the trip was alcohol, I figured he was a little drunk.

But he was serious, and so was everybody else. I was allowed the chance to restore circulation to my extremities while my dad and uncle stripped one of the aluminum fishing boats of fishing gear and threw in extra life jackets. It seemed appropriate and ridiculous at the same time that there would be a chase boat for swim that couldn’t have been more than a half mile. While I sat next to the camp fire, and Guy was in the Cabin getting his swimming suit on, I still had a glimmer of hope that he would back out. I didn’t know him as well at that time as I had the pleasure of getting to know him. If I had known what I know now about Guy Vitale, I would have known that my fate was sealed as soon as the thought formulated itself in Guy’s brain.

We raced that day. We jumped in the freezing cold water, treaded for a moment while the air returned to our lungs and set off in the direction of the island. I won the race, but I was a high school distance swimmer at the time. I am confident that if we repeated that race at any time after my competitive swimming days that Guy would have beaten me handily. On August 21st, 2010, I competed in my first triathlon in Three Rivers, Michigan. It just happened to be my first open water swimming race since my race with Guy seventeen years earlier. Three days later, my dad called to let me know that Guy had died from an extended battle with cancer. I had known he was sick, very sick in fact, and in my rational mind I knew that the prognosis was not good, but in my heart I could not believe that Guy would succumb. He was an acquaintance when we raced, a friend of my parents’, but in the following years I was lucky enough to get to know him better. I would like to say that we were friends, and in many ways he felt like an uncle to me, and I’m sure that I am not the only one to feel that way. Guy was a benefactor. It seems weird to say that, but I can’t think of a better word. He was always eager to help if he could and I can say from my own experiences with him that he was a positive force in the lives of countless people. I can’t imagine a better definition of a successful life.

Guy and his wife Andrea, through their tremendous example, raised three children who, not surprisingly, follow in their brave and confident footsteps. In what seems like the Universe or God or Fate stepping in, their son Adam returned to take over the family business about a year before Guy’s cancer was diagnosed. Their daughter, Alexis, gave birth to their first grandchild, Pierce, who had his first swim with his Grandfather in the pool that Guy swam in almost every summer day for I don’t know how long. Their youngest daughter, Kathy, works as a television news producer in Colorado, not far from the family’s vacation home.

Here we finally get to the purpose of this posting. Alexis Vitale, a thyroid cancer survivor, courageously created a charity called Hopes Song. The mission of Hopes Song is to provide services to people diagnosed with cancer. Those services include financial assistance in the form of grants as well as educational materials and a website to create an online community for people battling cancer and their families. We have all heard of Livestrong and all the walks to cure cancer, but Hopes Song is a smaller organization that fulfills a very important element in the battle against cancer. These larger organizations provide billions of dollars for research in the pursuit of a cure, but those cures may be a long way off, and for families being attacked by cancer right now, there are more immediate concerns. Some patients need constant care, which costs money, and some family members take on that care, but that takes them away from their jobs. It seems crazy that a family battling cancer should have to worry about paying the mortgage, but they do, so Hopes Song is there to help. If you haven’t been there yet, I encourage you to visit the website

Up to this point, Alexis has engaged in many fundraising activities, the main course consisting of a line of clothing that she has designed herself. I have wanted to help, but anyone who has seen me dress my daughters knows that my knowledge of fashion is rudimentary at best, so I recently approached Alexis with an idea that has been fermenting in my mind since the week of Guy’s death. I am going to compete in my second triathlon in Three Rivers, Michigan and I want to do it in Guy’s honor and raise money for Hopes Song.

If I am going to do something in honor of Guy Vitale, I have to commit completely and I thought that it should also be fun. So it you want to help, here is the idea: I have about the same chances to win this triathlon as the Cubs have to win the World Series this year, but in Guy’s spirit of hard work I am committed to the effort of winning this triathlon, and I want you to bet against me. If you want to give, please send me an email to me at, and make your bets using the following scale:
If Mike…
Finishes I will give ______
Finishes in the top fifty I will give_______
Finishes in the top twenty I will give _______
Finishes in the top ten I will give _______
Finishes in the top five I will give ______
Wins the triathlon, I will give ________
I know this isn't the most convenient or efficient way to collect pledges, so if anyone out there has the internet savvy and would like to help me create a better system, just let me know.

If you need extra information in formulating your bets, I finished 82nd out of 147 finishers last year. My time was 1:22:28 and the winner finished in 1:01:24. I have worked harder this year in preparation for the this triathlon and will continue to train almost every day until race day, which is August 20th. I also welcome any questions you might have to help you formulate your bets—just put them in the comment box, and I will write a weekly blog posting in relation to the triathlon and answer all questions as well as relate stories about Guy and the works of Hopes Song.
On a final note, as a personal commitment to Guy and his friendship to me, I plan to win the swimming portion of the triathlon. That may sound like a bold declaration, but triathletes are notoriously bad swimmers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More Questions, Part Two of Nine Thousand

The only thing better than a five-year-old asking endless questions, is a two-year-old joining in. Here are just a few of my philosophical conversations with my daughters.

"Daddy, why is Kool-Aid purple?" IR asked me over a lunch of macaroni and cheese.
"Well, grape Kool-Aid is purple, not all of it is. But it is purple because they make it purple with dye, just like you did with snow at school that one time."
"Who makes it purple?"
"The people who make it, honey."
"Why do they make it purple?"
"That is a good question. I guess because some grapes are purple so they want it to look like that."
"What is my color?" ML asked, sticking out her tongue.
"What do you mean?" I returned.
"What is my color?!"
"I don't know what you are talking about." I snapped. She opened her mouth again and I realized the meaning of the question. "Your tongue is purple sweetie."

New parent warning: If your child happens to have bright green poop, don't panic, it is a result of drinking grape Kool-Aid. Berry Blue Kool-Aid results in electric blue poop. Yes, I am the father of the year for continuing to give Kool-Aid to my kids in light of this discovery.

On other days I get questions like this:
"What is that?" asks IR.
"That is a rhinoceros."
"Why is it a rhinoceros?" She persists.
"Um, because that's what it is honey."
"Because isn't an answer Daddy."
"Yes, I know. It is a rhinoceros because that is what the people who name things decided it was going to be called."
"Why is it gray?"
"Because it lives around gray stuff and it makes it harder for it to be seen."
"What was that joke you were telling me yesterday?"
"Why did the chicken cross the kitchen?"
"So he could poop on a plate." Then they both giggle.
"Why did the chichen cross the kicken?" ML blurts.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Princess and the Boss

We are once again on to a new phase in the developing personalities of our little girls. These traits have always been there, but recently have taken primary positions in the hierarchy of their personas.

ML is a princess--no qualifications necessary. Her clothing consists anything that can be described as "dancily" and must look pretty when twirling. Anything that is sparkly or pink or both is a bonus. She loves dancing and singing being complimented on her pretty dresses. She is enamored with pictures of her beautiful mommy in her wedding dress and, much to my dismay, claims that she is married when wearing an especially pretty and dancily dress.

IR is the boss, but much like a good manager, answers dutifully to the management structure in the house. Mommy is, of course, President and CEO, as we adhere to the matriarchal structure inherited through the maternal familial lines passed down through generations of my wife's ancestry. Daddy qualifies as Vice President and COO, which gives me enough authority to run the show when Mommy is at work. My position does not, however, exempt me from the rules that we have imposed upon our lovely little girls, which gives IR the authority to remind us when we happen to forget the rules.

Just the other day we were eating lunch, macaroni and cheese as usual.
"Daddy, I spilled. Daddy, I spilled. Daddy, I spilled." ML whined. She didn't spill, every now and then she will take a drink, fruit punch Kool-Aid this time, and inexplicably let it trickle out of her mouth onto whatever she is wearing. I don't know why she does it and it is one of those things that would induce me to spanking if I did that sort of thing--an irrational response of course, but in these moments, rationality is difficult.

"Why? Why did you spit out your drink?" I snapped. "I hate when you do that!" I wetted a paper towel and dabbed her pink dancily dress even though I knew she would soon take this one off and go to her closet in search of a clean dancily dress.
"Daddy, we don't say hate." Ir whispered to me when I was done. I took a breath.
"You're right sweetie. I'm sorry. Now eat your food girls." I replied and sat down to eat a sandwich. I took at bite.
"Daddy...Daddy...Daddy...Daddy...Daddy...Daddy." Ir kept saying while I was trying to finish chewing.
"You shouldn't talk with your mouth full."
"Then why did you..." I started impatiently, "You're right sweetie, I'm sorry. What did you want?"
"What do you mean?"
"What did you want when you were saying my name?"
"Can I please have some more water?"
"Yes, just a second." I got up and put the cup under the ice dispenser. It turned and made grinding noises but nothing came out.
"What's wrong Daddy?" Ir asked as I opened the freezer door to see what was wrong.
"The stupid ice maker isn't working."
"Daddy, we don't say stupid."
"You're right sweetie, I'm sorry."

Thursday, April 28, 2011


**Serious Warning** This particular posting contains serious content. If you are a reader of this blog for something light to do on a break from more serious things, then be forewarned.

I have been debating including a recent change in my situation as a Stay at Home Dad, but it will be hard to write about my days without explaining the difference. I have recently been looking for a part-time job that didn't interfere with my being the primary caretaker of my daughters or my wife's work, and since my wife doesn't get home until six p.m. or later, that doesn't leave many options outside of working overnight. I applied for overnight operations at Lifetime Fitness, overnight stocker at Target, and overnight stocker at a grocery store. Much to the detriment of my ego, Lifetime and Target didn't think I was a fit for those particular positions, at least that is what the emails said. But, recently, I was lucky enough to be hired at a grocery store as an overnight stocker. The manager who interviewed me said, "We are just going to go ahead and hire you right now because you are the first person who said anything more than ""I like the Cubs"" when I asked them to tell me about themselves." High praise.

So now, on three to four nights a week, I make the short drive to the store, clock in, and commence opening boxes, putting cans on shelves, stacking toilet paper and making sure everything is orderly and facing out. It is perfect in that it is physical enough to keep me awake, but brainless enough to allow me to think about other things. During the week, I work from eleven p.m. to five a.m., so when the end of my shift approaches, I stop what I am doing, push my cart of broken down cardboard boxes back to the bailer, load the boxes, compact them, collect my things, clock out, walk out from the fluorescent brightness into the light blue pre-sunlit sky. I make the short drive home, quietly creep up the stairs, trying to keep the dog from making too much noise. I wash the store off my hands, take the store uniform off, sneak into bed in the minutes before my lovely wife's alarm goes off. I wake a couple hours later to my little girls playing in their room.

The day after my second shift went exactly like that, but when I woke up, everything made me angry. IR was yelling "Daddy! Daddy!", so I jumped out of bed and ran into their room to find her distraught over a thread that was unravelling from her favorite blanket.

After making our way downstairs, I realized that the house was abnormally cold. I checked the thermostat and it read sixty-four. It was set to sixty-nine and the furnace wasn't running. I spent the morning running back and forth from getting the girls breakfast to trying everything I knew how to do to get the furnace running again. I didn't feel irritable, but I was snapping at the girls.

"I want more ice christies." ML said as she spooned some milk into her mouth, dripping it all down her pajamas.
"What do you say?" I snapped.
"You have to say please." IR whispered.
"Peas I have more ice christies?" ML whispered, following her sister's example.

Later I was getting them dressed and they were happily playing with each other and not paying any attention to me. "ML, please come get dressed."
"IR go first!" She said and went on playing with her fairy dolls.
"IR, please come get dressed." I said. She usually dressed herself, but I didn't have the patience to wait for her to do it.
"Okay," she said but continued to push a car across the floor.
"IR, get over here right now and get your clothes on!" I didn't feel as angry as it sounded, but the effect was immediate. She dropped her car and slowly walked to me. I expected her to start crying. This is the girl who cries when we calmly ask her to cover her mouth when she coughs, or completely melts down when I tell her that she needs to practice writing her J again. And this latest outburst was just the last of many impatient requests. She didn't cry. She walked right to me and as if trying to balance herself while putting her pants on, put out her skinny little arms, but instead of putting her hands on my head, as she normally did, she wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek.

"I love you Daddy." She said and smiled.
"I love you." I said and returned her hug. I know it is fairly cheesy to admit this, but it seemed as if a fog was lifted and I was happy. I can't imagine being more proud of my daughter than I was in that moment. Many people are sympathetic, or empathetic, but that sympathy usually gives way to defensiveness and anger when faced with someone who is mean to us. I was mean to her and she had every right to be upset with me, to cry, and to pout, but she was strong enough to forget her feelings and worry about mine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

More Mistakes

After my very unkind posting for public consumption of my cousin's unfortunate baby launching, I realized that I have endangered my children in more ways than just banging one in the head with a pot or stepping on the other's face. Let's be clear, I have never harmed my children intentionally, so please don't call any agencies.

A little over two years ago, when IR had just turned three and ML was about six months old, I was home alone with them during the day. It was springtime then as well, and just like now I started to get a manly hankering to grill some meat. Sorry, the words grill and meat just naturally follow words like manly and hankering. Not the same when you say something like "I had a manly hankering to drive my minivan," or "I had a manly hankering to put pigtails on my daughter." But I need to get back to my story, as I said, the nice weather put me in the mood for some grilled meat. We live in a townhouse, and kitchen is on the second floor above the garage with a sliding glass door that opens onto a small porch that is cantilevered over the parking lot.

I made the necessary preparations for cooking some pork chops, like starting and cleaning the grill etc... It was still a little cold outside, but I had shorts and a t-shirt on, which is my normal uniform for being home with the girls. IR was in the wonderful territory of learning who she was and what the world was around her, and ML was just starting to crawl. IR was already being a good big sister and trying to coax her sister to some toys across the room when I stepped out to check the pork chops. I slid the door shut behind me and turned to see IR hanging on the handle and pressing her face against the glass. I pretended not to see her and was going to open the door with her swinging on the handle. I pulled on the door, but I realized quickly that IR had accidentally locked it. The lock is a little black lever that sits right under the handle.

"You locked the door sweetie." To which she responded with muffled giggles and dropped from the door.
"IR, you locked the door, can you push that little black lever up for daddy?" I don't know why parents start speaking in the third person, that is the subject of another blog. IR didn't understand so I pointed to the black lever and pretended to push it up. Her response was to mimic my movements on the glass. If I wasn't standing on a porch, ten feet off the ground, in shorts, a t-shirt, and barefoot in forty degree weather, I might have thought it cute how she put her little finger adjacent to mine on the other side of the glass and moved it up and down with increasing intensity.
"Honey, no, push the black lever, the black lever, please sweetie, push the black lever up!" My increasing intensity seemed to take the fun out of the game so she ran into the living room. It was then that I realized that I couldn't see ML, who was just barely crawling at that point. I imagined her chewing on a power cord or falling down the stairs. I banged on the glass. "IR! IR! Please come here!" She came back, but slowly--she thought she was in trouble. I can't blame her, I was mad and a little frantic. "Honey, please push the black lever." I said after I had tried to calm myself. She came to the door and sat down facing me. "Please, sweetie, I will give you some candy if you push up the black lever."
"Tandy?" She replied, standing up.
"Yes, I will give you two candies if you push the black lever." I held up two fingers to the glass, and she responded by putting two fingers on the glass. We repeated the earlier exercise. I pointed to the black lever and she pointed to the tip of my finger. I got frustrated again, and she ran away again. This time I pounded the door with the palm of my right hand in frustration. "IR, get back here right now!" I knew this wasn't going to work. I knew that none of it was going to work, so I was allowing myself to be angry. She didn't return, so I started to consider other options. I thought about breaking the glass, but I didn't know how and I couldn't help think of the cost.
I thought about jumping, but I was barefoot and for some stupid reason the fact that it was chilly out made the blacktop seem even less inviting. I climbed over the rail and tried to hang from the floor of the porch to gauge the distance, but I couldn't tell, and I couldn't let go. I tried to hang from the satellite dish that the former residents of the house left behind, but it was really flimsy. I looked up to see IR hanging from the door handle again and was relieved to see that I was forgiven for my earlier outburst. It was then that I jumped down onto the hood of the truck we had at the time, and luckily was parked under the porch. It wasn't too bad, but the cold blacktop did sting a little as I jumped from the hood. I opened the garage with the keypad on the door and went upstairs.
"Daddy, are you okay?" IR asked as I picked up ML and was relieved to see no injuries.
"No sweetie, you locked me out." I know, I know, it wasn't on purpose and I shouldn't have been mad at her, but I was. "Look daddy, I can do it! I can do it!" She said.
"What can you do?" Her response was to run into the kitchen and push the black lever up, unlocking the door. She couldn't have been more proud of herself, and though I am very proud of her for many things, pride was not on my mind in that moment.
Later that day, they were in the truck with me on the way to drop them off with their mother. It was a circumstance of us both working. To get to my class on time, I had to take them to my wife instead of waiting for her to get home before leaving. I was going through an intersection and was surprised by the car in front of me stopping in the middle of the intersection to avoid a pothole.
My wife called me later to tell me that IR had told her all about our day together. First, IR told her mother that I locked her out of the house, and second she told her mother that I had said a bad word in the truck.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Eleven-Year-Old Black Labrador Retriever Seeks New Situation

Families with small children need not apply. My name is Truman and I am taking this opportunity to advertise my desire for a new family. My family doesn't know of my intentions, so please don't tell them about this.

I am an eleven-year-old male black lab. Yes ladies, I am "intact" with a nice pair of, well you know. I can catch a frisbee, but I must admit, that my age and lack of attention from my family has hindered my ability to catch more than a few frisbees before I collapse in front of a water bowl and hyperventilate for a few minutes. Yes, I was in better shape a long time ago. My master took me for at least two walks every day, and my mistress would let me sit on the couch and they would scratch me behind my ears all the time. My master would throw the frisbee and I would catch it. I don't know why, but the sight of a frisbee would make me almost lose my mind with excitement. In the first year, they let me sleep on their bed with them, or they would at least let me get up there in the morning. But about six years ago, something changed. I noticed my mistress started to smell differently and I felt an intense urge to protect her. If I only knew what this change meant for me, I wouldn't have been so eager to protect her.

Well, she had a baby and eventually another and my life couldn't have changed more. My master still walks me, but only once a day if I am lucky. Sometimes he is too tired or lazy and just lets me out the front door and yells at me if I take too long doing my business. I don't know about you, but I have a process for going to the bathroom. I have to smell for other dogs' business and make sure they know who I am by leaving my scent, and I can't just poop because my master is yelling at me. It is either going to happen or it isn't. He makes me so mad sometimes too, because he pays so much attention to his precious babies that he forgets to let me out when I need to go. I whine and walk towards the door, but he just ignores me, so sometimes I have to be a little more obvious. I drip a little pee in front of him and continue to dribble all the way to the front door, but its hard to stop once you've started, and I'm not a puppy anymore. Then he yells at me and runs to open the door and by that time I have emptied half of my bladder so he inevitably steps in it and gets more angry with me even though it is all his fault.

I'm not even allowed in their bedroom anymore, they yell and scream about how I lick my paws and make the carpet smell. What do they expect? I am bored out of my mind, so I lick my paws. I know the sound of it drives them crazy, but I can't help it sometimes. They really get mad when I lick other places. Sometimes, I get an urge to lick my butt, and whatever is in there gives me a little high and I forget where I am for a minute. By the time I gain use of my mental faculties, they are yelling and telling me that I am gross and to get out of the room.

Nobody pays attention to me anymore. Guests come, but I get so excited at the prospect of someone petting me that I end up knocking into someone and then I get locked in the basement until they leave. The kids are okay, but they try to hug me and they don't pet me very well. And besides, they scream if my tail hits them, or heaven forbid I accidentally step on their little feet. Of course, all is blamed on me, so I just try to avoid them. I must admit that I do appreciate the little one. She must feel bad for me, because she is always "accidentally" dropping food on the floor for me. Sure, she cries if someone sees her doing it and blames me for eating her food, but I know that is just so she won't get in trouble.

I know it is disloyal of me to want to leave, but I am a good dog and I deserve more attention. In the interest of not falsely advertising my ability to type or use a computer I must admit that I cannot do either. My master's brother must be an Apple Iphone salesman or something, because he is constantly showing people all the things his Iphone can do, so I asked him to find me an App that translates dog's thoughts. He wants a labradoodle, but his wife doesn't want a dog, so I told him that I would find a poodle bitch and make some strays that he could adopt. I don't think he liked the plan, but he helped me anyway.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mistakes we make with our children (new title for the entire blog?)

As a preface to this entry, I would like to change the online names of my daughters to IR(five-year-old) and ML(two-year-old). I don't want this blog to come up if a future friend, enemy, or the worst of all, frenemy, Google's them, so I will continue to keep their names out. (I know I didn't say boyfriend...shutup)

I would like tell a story about karma. I don't particularly believe in karma, but we sometimes get what we deserve, so when that happens I will call it karma.

I have a cousin, we will call him BA, who has a new baby boy. To say that BA is accident prone is like saying that a tsunami is wave. I am being a little mean for including this story in my blog, but if I was really mean, I could write a blog everyday for a year about all the things that BA has done to either embarass or hurt himself. I can only imagine the things that are in little baby BA's future, and I'm more than a little envious of all the stories he will have to tell about his father.

A few weeks ago, I got to see BA, his wife EB, and little boy BA at a wedding shower. Usually EB takes the opportunity of seeing me to tell me stories about BA and the absent minded things he has done, but this time, BA was more than happy to tell me a story about EB and little boy BA.

"Last week, EB was sitting on the couch and little boy BA was laying next to her. She was doing something else and the baby rolled sideways off the couch." He went on to describe how his lovely wife performed a spiderman, Tom Cruise, or ninja like move and caught little boy BA with one hand a split second before he hit the ground. I think he teased her about letting him fall off the couch, even though, to me, it sounded like he was more than impressed by his wife's superhuman quickness in saving their son from hitting the floor.

Not long after telling me this story, BA was trying to figure out how to eat his food while holding his infant son. BA has trouble eating a peanut butter sandwich without getting a stain on his shirt, and nobody knows this better than his wife, so she told him to put little boy BA in the car seat and then move the car seat next to her. So BA gingerly placed his son into the car seat and grabbed the handle to swing it over to his wife. The problem was that he didn't lock the arm of the car seat, which allowed he seat to swing forward as he lifted it. Little boy BA didn't have a chance. As the front of the seat fell down, the back leaped forward, launching the baby into a head first dive into the carpet. There was a brief moment of stillness while everyone, including the baby, tried to figure out what just happened, but that ended when he let out a nice little scream to express his displeasure. I waited the obligatory few seconds to make sure the baby was okay before I laughed, and my wife scolded me until she realized that EB was laughing as well.

I was nice. I told BA how I accidentally hit IR in the head with a pot when she was two. Okay, yes, that was after I laughed for a while and, yes, maybe I reenacted the position of the baby on the carpet after he was launched into a faceplant, but I was nice after that.

So here is where the karma comes into play. The day after we got home, we were in the living room and one of the compact fluorescent bulbs in our ceiling fan burned out, or stopped working, I don't know the correct phrasing for when a bulb that is supposed to last for six years stops working after six months. So I got out the step stool to replace the bulb. IR and ML were playing on the floor around me and my wife was sitting on the couch. I climbed to the second step and unscrewed the old bulb and went to step back down. I felt something soft under my foot and looked down to see that it was ML's face. She had layed her head on the first step and I didn't know it. I jumped off and stepped on a toy and almost fell down. ML screamed and wouldn't let me console her. She went right to her mother and it was then that I saw a big red line across her cheek where it was pressed into the step stool. She eventually forgave me with a little smile after I got her a baggie of ice, but that just made me feel more guilty.

So BA, as long as you never step on your son's face, you will not be as bad as me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back by Popular Demand, or Polite Encouragement

If you sincerely appreciate this blog and don't just check in on it every now and then to be a nice person, I apologize for my absence these past few months. I have to admit, I thought people were just being nice to me when they told me that they liked my blog. I was in the midst of my passion for my blog when I did something that I should not have done. I cruised the so-called popular blogs. I was bombarded with pictures of various things like sleeping babies posed to mimic famous paintings, and I was bored to death with matter of fact accounts of everyday things that I would hope that my wife would know better than to tell me about. Yes, there are things about my lovely spouse's day of which I simply don't need a recounting, just as she really doesn't need to hear every detail of my day. I was amazed and appalled that some of these ridiculous diaries had hundreds of followers. They were everything that I didn't want my blog to be, and it made me think that if I kept going that I would fall into the trap of writing about things that nobody cares to read, so I stopped.

So if you were just being nice when you complained that I hadn't blogged in a long time, then this is karmic revenge. I will be the guy who shows up to your party after you accidentally talked about it in front of me and invited me to avoid awkwardness. I will be the neighbors who actually show up on your doorstep after you say "We should really get together sometime." to avoid a long conversation at the grocery store. On the other hand, if you were sincere in your urging for me to blog again, I will do my best to give you something to do instead of work, and hopefully it won't feel like work to read it.

You all have my cousin, Doug, to blame for the revival of my blog. I assume most of the readers of this blog know him, but for those of you that don't, here is a brief and relevant description. Doug is the opposite of your mom. If your mom is the only person who tells you that you are pretty, smart, handsome, brave etc... then you are pretty sure its not true. If your mom tells you that you could use some deodorant, then you better go get some. If Doug is the only person who tells you that you stink, you check with your mom before taking a shower, but if he gives you a compliment, first you check to make sure you aren't dying or something, and if you are satisfied that you, in fact, are not dying, then you are pretty sure the compliment is sincere.
Now, let me admit, Doug has never read the blog, but he relayed messages of encouragement from other people and that is enough for me.