Kid at Heart

“Bang,” “Pow,” “Boom,” “Whap.” Sounds that are familiar to the original television series Batman show popular in the 1960’s. However, these sounds depict an exhilarating battle with fierce competitors.  The eldest challenger of the two is more experienced and would be considered the favorite. The younger rival is less experienced but has the stamina of the energizer bunny.  Neither opponent will give an inch, but as the clash continues lasting what seems like hours, eventually the will and endurance of the younger competitor outlasts the elder to a shocking victory for the unlikely winner.

What would seem to be an epic MMA fight or a match seen in WrestleMania is actually a light saber battle. Ultimately, in this case the younger competitor was my 5 year old son, Landon. The eldest would be none other than his Uncle.

In another event, a one sided basketball game was taking place somewhere on the asphalt of a front yard court. This is street ball: there are no rules, every man for themselves, fouling isn’t optional, it’s mandatory to survive. This is a kind of beat down if there was a scoreboard, the clock wouldn’t stop running in the second half, also known as the mercy rule. Elbows are being thrown towards the end of the game and almost to add insult to the whipping that is ensuing, the winning team blasts an amazing dunk for the final points to put an exclamation on the victory.

Similar scenes were shown in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” released in 1992. However, this case played out in our front yard on a 3 foot goal.  The winning team, John Brock, our three year old son. The losing team, his Uncle, who took a beating that day playing from his knees to ensure a fair competition.

Lastly, an elegant occasion where the dress code consists of men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns with gloves, all of which will only be worn for this special occasion.  All guests are mingling among each other eating appetizers consisting of bruschetta, seared scallops, and grilled eggplant. The drink of choice is a mixture of pomegranate juice and freshly sliced pears. There is a live Jazz band with plenty of dancing. This night is magical, one that most only dream of. It ends with a chariot ride where closest friends laugh and excitedly exchange about the evening they had just experienced.

The little girl who dreams of such an elegant occasion in this case is my daughter, Laylah Kate. She lived out this fantasy recently with baby dolls and plastic food. The night was amazing in her eyes filled with excitement and adventure. Her date for the night was her Uncle.

Words are hard to come by in the face of tragic situations. Tragedy doesn’t show bias to a particular race, gender, or social status. Losing a loved one is a very difficult situation and although we don’t always understand and it is often hard for us to rationalize why this happens, we can cherish the prized memories made and share with others the impact and privilege of them being a part of our lives.

Heart of Gold, Gift of Serving Others, Kid at Heart, Family Man, Hard Worker, and Loving could all describe Russ Taylor. These descriptions do not scratch the surface of describing what type of person he was. My children were truly blessed with memories that will last a lifetime. During the moments spent with him, they were the center of his attention and in their young eyes each scenario described played out just as they were portrayed.

As our time with each other would come to an end, Russ would always say “If there is anything I can help you out with, let me know.” For some people, this is casual conversation, but this came from his heart. He would truly go out of his way to give you the shirt off his back. How great this world would be if we took on this servant attitude daily in our life.

Just Glad To Have A Cup

Make a list of things that you are thankful for today:

Mine would go something like this.

  1. God’s gift of Salvation.
  2. My in-laws for creating my beautiful wife.
  3. My wife for putting up with my busy schedule.
  4. The privilege to raise children.
  5. Henry Ford and others who created the first automobiles.(Imagine what horseback transportation would look like with three children)
  6. Farmers who grow fresh produce for our families.
  7. Soldiers who fight for our freedom.
  8. Police, fire fighters and first responders.
  9. Food service industry people who get up before sun rise to prepare breakfast, so I don’t have to starve until lunch.
  10. My parents for sitting in sub-freezing temperatures to watch my teams compete.

The list could go on and on. My point is how many times a day do we think about what great things are going on in our life and the many blessings we are provided.

Are you an optimist who looks at the cup half full or a pessimist that looks at the cup half empty? Maybe a better question is what have you complained about today? Would your list of things that you have complained about be larger than the list of things that you are thankful for?

Somewhere today a waitress is getting harsh treatment from her customers: The coffee is cold, the food is taking too long, my grits don’t have cheese in them, the menu said the dressing was Zesty Italian and I’m not tasting any zest.

What you don’t know is that this waitress is a single mother who is asking management for double the tables to put food on the table for three kids, pay childcare, and keep from being evicted from another rental property. Her dead beat ex husband hasn’t helped with any of the recent medical bills that have added up due to little Suzy being diagnosed with Type I diabetes.

I’m thankful for her efforts and other like hers to try and make a better life for her children. It doesn’t hurt that by us dining at establishments like this we don’t have to wash dishes or clean up food particles that are meticulously placed all over our house after a sit down dinner at our home.

Somewhere someone is complaining about having to go to work today. Aren’t you glad you have a job to go to? I’m sure the homeless man standing in front of wal-mart asking for spare change would love to have that opportunity.

An athlete is disgruntled because football practice is still on for today, even after the three inches of rain that dropped thirty minutes before school was dismissed. Think about the kid who tore his ACL the practice before the first game of his senior season and will never play another down of football in practice or a game. He would love the opportunity to suit up for one more practice.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Circumstances will not always be ideal, but in those times God has put you in the situation for a reason. A failed relationship now results in meeting the woman of your dreams later. A flat tire that caused you to be thirty minutes late for work may have saved you from hitting a deer a mile away from your house. Be thankful for all things, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.

Keep Up the Great Work

 

“I’m proud of you,” a statement that isn’t used enough. I find myself being too much of a perfectionist on certain things and in doing so sometimes I miss the small battles that are being won around me each day.

As a coach, we preach to kids “never be satisfied,” meaning that we should always strive for better results or continuing improvement. Most elite athletes can be characterized into two different categories: complacent and unworthy.

Complacent athletes have been told all of their life how good they are and the extra work needed isn’t necessary because they will always be the cream of the crop. The results will be shown just because of their God given talent.

Unworthy athletes are those that feel as if whatever accomplishments they have conquered are not good enough. These are the people that even if they are hitting .575, they will be the last one at practice taking extra reps to bump the average just a few more points. These are the athletes that coaches love to coach, because they are never satisfied. However, these type of people will be the hardest on themselves and ultimately this can affect their production on and off the field.

So, in short we have to find a balance somewhere in the middle of having these unrealistic expectations and complacency.

Parents and coaches are pivotal in the growth and mindset of their children or their players. Growing up some kids face harsh criticism from both and this adversely effects the attitude towards the sport. Some kids will hear a parent in the stands or the car ride home will be filled with things that could have been done differently. In some cases the coach gives only criticism and very seldom gives any praise. This creates a fear of disappointment and the athlete’s performance most of the time will decline as a result.

Sadly, through all the experiences of coaching I have been that guy that was more critical than uplifting. Several years into my career a group of parents changed my way of thinking. They cheered loudly for everyone on the team, a negative comment didn’t come from their mouth about their kids or any other kid, the score could have been 25-0 and they still were encouraging our kids to do their best. We also had a group that didn’t have the same attitude and mostly negative comments were made from their area in the stands. So, I thanked this positive group and in sarcasm towards the negative group started making positive comments about every aspect of the game. This could have been a routine play or a strikeout that was a really good swing, but the kid just missed the ball. Something changed during that year the attitude of team changed and the results on the field were amazing for this group. We went on to be very successful. I can’t link it directly to the change of my attitude, but it couldn’t have hurt.

No matter how many reps that have been taken, athletes are going to make mistakes. I’ve never met one athlete that tried to strike out intentionally or missed a ground ball just to miss it.

My point to all this is to say, telling a kid how proud of them you are will go a long way. As long as they are putting in the work and are giving the best effort they possibly can some form of praise should be given.

To my team, I am proud of the effort you have given to this point to become better softball players and better young woman. I am proud of the resiliency that you have shown in practice and in the games when things are not easy. I am proud to be your coach, because of the way you play the game with no restrain. I am proud of the way you encourage each other and put others needs ahead of your own. I am proud of the excitement that you have created in this community because of the way you play the game. I am proud to wear the W across my chest because of what you are doing to carry on traditions set forth by groups behind you and for others to follow in the future. I am proud to be a “Wicksburg Panther.”

Crony

“Friend” defined by Webster has several definitions: a favored companion, one attached to another by affection or esteem, acquaintance, or one of the same group.

My high school football coach used the term “Crony.”

Most of us have that one person you can relate to because of similar backgrounds or common beliefs. These people have characteristics that attract us to them. It could be that they are fun to be around, they are a good listener, they are trustworthy or they are always there for you in a pinch.

I can remember childhood friends that great memories were shared with. Waking up to a foot of snow in South Alabama and building snowmen and having snow ball fights was unforgettable. Playing pick up basketball games and whiffle ball games in the backyard was a daily afternoon routine.

At a young age, one of my best friends’ dad passed away in a helicopter accident. Their family was originally from Iowa and they were stationed at Fort Rucker at the time. They lived less than fifty yards away from the house I grew up in. I stayed at their house often and I was saddened by the news. A few weeks after the accident, I found out that they would be moving back to Iowa where his parents were from. It was like a scene from a movie, I watched as they pulled out of the driveway for the last time as tears rolled down my face.

At some point comes the awkward stage of the teenage years. During this time, some of those childhood friends would remain, but often times with differing interests many of those relationships faded away. Again in this time of my life many fond memories were made: bus rides to ball games, bleeding, sweating and crying on the battlefield of high school sports, and well let’s say a lot of other things that I’m glad camera phones weren’t around for.

Some of us went to college. Some went into the workforce, and after high school more of those friendships faded. It’s hard for young minds to understand that they spend so much time trying to make people like them or to have the most friends. Many people want to just be a part of something. When in reality those same people you are trying to impress will not be significant in your life in ten years.

The few true friendships that remain as an adult have endured it all. The heartache of a lost loved one, the birth of your children, the night when adversity strikes and they know just the right words, or when your child does something terrible but hilarious and you can’t wait to tell your best friend because you wondered fifteen years earlier what your kids would be like.

Hold tight to those people that are your friend because they love you with no strings attached. This may be a childhood friend who has lasted all of those disagreements, but still loves you unconditionally. This also could be a person that is some older than you, but more experienced(they will tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear). This person may be someone you’ve only known a short time, but has never betrayed your trust and keeps your biggest secrets. Lastly, it’s that person that will help you transport your belongings every time you move, even if it is five times in the last four years.

Think of that special person in your life and be that kind of friend this week.

Everyday Love

Would your romantic evening consist of dining at a fancy restaurant with soft music being played by a small band, the lights are dim and the items on the menu are too hard for you to pronounce? Would it be a picnic dinner at a local park with lighting provided by the reflection of the moon on a pond? Would it be something simpler, like a candle light dinner at the waffle house? Would you imagine a home cooked meal at your home, candles and rose petals leading you to a bubble bath in the master bedroom?

Valentine’s Day is a romantic celebration of love in many regions of the world. Although it isn’t a national holiday, many people celebrate by buying gifts and spending quality time with their significant other. Commercially, millions of dollars are spent on cards, flowers, candy and other items related to Valentine’s Day.

My point is that people often times go out of their way to show love to someone on this one day of the year. According to a recent survey, people will spend almost twenty billion dollars on Valentine’s Day this year.

Romance has many faces and our opinions and preferences vary from person to person or couple to couple. Showing love isn’t a one day a year thing and wooing your significant other should be a daily ritual. Divorces would most likely decline in our country if we spent the days of our marriages trying to win our spouses like we did when we were dating. I’m preaching to the choir. In the business of life sometimes we get wrapped up in life, work, kids, and our spouses get the short end of the stick when it comes to our attention.

But give credit where credit is due, my wife hits it out of the park on every day.  This is what romance looks like in our house.

Dinner is on the stove, man it smells delicious. I know dinner is what happens in most households during the evening hours. The sounds of the kitchen don’t reflect the majesty of what has been prepared. While preparing a meal, one child is screaming “Hold Me,” another is banging pots on the floor, and the oldest is oblivious to any of his surroundings due to the volume of the television show he is watching. So this is “Romance” in my house.

We are lying in bed with one, sometimes two and even three children, the television is on. One child is screaming “CUP,” another is screaming “PACI,” and again the oldest is zoned out due to the volume on the television. My wife grabs my hand and squeezes it and says “I Love You.” This is “Romance” in my house.

It’s 2017 on Valentine’s Day, three children at the ballpark. Our oldest has baseball practice. We have pizza and our two other children with us on a picnic dinner, sitting in the bleachers watching the baseballs being hit or thrown. This is “Romance” in my house.

It’s Christmas, Father’s Day, Anniversary, or a Birthday. My wife has to shop while trying to herd the three children and make sure they aren’t pulling each other’s’ hair out or stuffing a foreign object in an ear or nose. After securing the perfect gift for her loving husband, she anxiously awaits the day to come to surprise him. When all of a sudden, the three old exclaims, “Daddy, I hope you like the wallet we got you.” This is “Romance” in our house.

In life things can get crazy, your partner can get pushed to the side for other things. This is sometimes unintentional and may be for very good reason in your eyes. But this is not the case in my house because “Romance’ is given through all the hard work, the effort to make me feel amazing in the midst of our crazy busy schedule.

Amanda, if you were a football team, you would be the Alabama Crimson Tide, because you are a “Champion” in my eyes.  I love you, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Daddy’s Hands

Holly Dunn released a song in 1985, named “Daddy’s Hands.” This was

her breakout song and touched many people with the words.

Personally, I can remember hearing this song at an early age. One instance was at my Uncle’s funeral. It described him well, and his family sobbed as those words were sung at that small baptist church in the country.

The chorus reads, “Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’, Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I done wrong, Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand, There was always love in Daddy’s hands.”

Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy……

I can’t count on my fingers and toes the number of times I get called Daddy each day. “Daddy, will you help me do this?” “Daddy, come here please.” “Daddy, will you go outside with me?” Hearing these simple words makes my heart smile.

Can you remember your child’s first words? I would venture to say that most of you would say that one of the first words they said was either, Momma or Daddy in some variation.

I can remember the first time I was called Dad, I was 29. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to have kids. But the Lord had a plan. Then appeared a three foot tall, forty pound, four year old.

My wife and I started dating when Landon was four and soon after I can remember the first time he called me “Dad”. It was a simple statement. “Dad, can you help me?”

Wow! After all these years, someone called me Dad. But, wait this is a lot of responsibility. Is there an idiots guide to how to be a father? Sure I had nephews, but when things got awkward or if there was puke, poop or blood, I could always just take them home.

Of course Amanda threw me to the wolves to start with. In a local restaurant, “Will you take Landon to the bathroom?” Sure how hard could that be. Needless to say, in about fifteen minutes my phone was ringing from the mama bear to see if her cub was ok.

There are plenty of other stories like these where I learned just as much from Landon as he was learning from me. Like anything else in life, it takes practice to be good at something. There are days that are better than others, when I say that I mean there are days that I screw up less than others as a parent.

If you listen to Rick and Bubba, you know that Rick from the show had a two year old son who drowned. Rick spoke at the funeral and I came across a video from that day that really touched me. He talked about how things of the world don’t matter. The boy, Bronner, would get in trouble for playing in the office at their home. He would dump crayons in the floor of the office. When Rick went into the office after Bronner’s death, the crayons were there. Those crayons, along with spilled milk, or broken vases represent things of our life that truly don’t matter.

Sharing our faith with our children, so that they can accept that gift and share it with others is all that should truly matter. However, I too get caught up in the hustle and bustle and sometimes spend more time telling them what Nathan wants them to do, instead of what our Lord and savior expects of them.

Now, we have three children and one day diapers will not be on our list of things to buy at the grocery store, and the number of times I get called Dad or Daddy is multiplied times three. This is music to my ears. But, Landon was the first. I’m optimistic that long after I’m gone, he will explain to his kids the love in his daddy’s hands, but most importantly his Godly fathers love for them.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A Trip Down Memory Lane

How many of you have ever been to Asbury, Alabama? It’s a don’t blink or you will miss it kind of place. Located in Western Coffee County, it’s a small community that in each direction there isn’t a grocery store for at least 15 miles. In fact, there aren’t any stores in Asbury, only a few local churches.

This is the kind of place that you don’t have good cell service if you get to the bottom of the hill and there may be trouble getting internet in certain areas.

But what you do have is plenty of good ol country folks as they say,” they are good people”. Mostly farm land and chicken houses are vested in the area which is within smelling distance of the chicken plant.

I spent most summers in this area with my grandparents.

My grandparents were those people, “the good ones.”

They farmed acres of land that my grandfather had purchased and built a house that still stands today. They went to a local church anytime the doors were open. My brother and I stayed with them briefly in the summer and many of you may understand, but have forgotten these times in our life. When life was much simpler.

We sat in the old wooden chairs at the breakfast table and waited for Granny to put those biscuits on the table. Those things were heaven on a plate. With a little butter and a little syrup, they would melt in your mouth. As we were waiting, PawPaw would talk about how we slept and the things we had to get done for the day. The television wasn’t on, it wouldn’t have mattered any way, there were only a few stations and they didn’t always come in clearly. It was according to which way the wind was blowing.

After breakfast, we went to the fields to harvest what had been planted for the season. I can remember thinking, playing with my cousins would have been a lot more fun than picking peas and butter beans. PawPaw was a simple farmer. There were no GPS tractors or fancy equipment most of the work was done by hand. You could tell this by his arthritis ridden hands that would barely make a fist.

When lunch came, we would eat a healthy dose of something that Granny had warmed up from the night before. The afternoon was filled with naps on the front porch or in the swing under the pecan tree in their front yard. It was much cooler outside, because there was no air conditioner on the inside. We might even walk to the service station about a quarter of a mile away and get a RC Cola and moonpie, while talking with some of the older gentlemen in the community that stayed there for hours each day.

Before long PawPaw would tell them, “we’d better get back to the house; Granny will have supper cooked directly.”

Talking about some good eating, supper would include some of those peas, cornbread and chicken fried in the cast iron skillet. I can still taste that chicken, but never been able to replicate it.

Before long it would be bed time and we would get beside the bed as a group and kneel for prayer. PawPaw would pray, and then Granny and finally all of us would take a turn.

You see things were a lot simpler back then. At the time, I wished there was more excitement. But now, I wish I could turn back the time to sleeping in that swing under that pecan tree in 1986.

A Penguin in South Alabama

A Penguin in South Alabama

Have you ever seen a penguin in The South. Yeah, it’s highly unlikely unless you find one of those fancy aquariums somewhere in the big city.

In Newton, Alabama, summers can reach over one hundred degrees and your weight can fluctuate five or six pounds according to how much you sweat. So, when I tell you that I have a pet penguin, I know it is hard for you to believe.

However, it is true.

This penguin lives in our house. He, I assume the penguin is a he, I never really paid attention in science class. I never gave him a name, but for the sake of the story we will call him Jake.

Jake likes to hang around the refrigerator, I’m pretty sure he is trying to stay as close to his normal habitat as possible. Although, as of now it’s twenty-eight degrees outside, he would probably be better off outside.

But Jake means too much to me to allow him to go outside. You see I am afraid that he may get away from me and I may never see him again. We’ve been through a lot together.

Jake has lived with me since I was a young adult. In perspective, Jake has survived thirteen plus years. During this time a lot has changed, five different houses, three vehicles, passing of other loved pets, heartbreak and finding true love. Then came kids of my own, and we all know how tough small children can be on pets.

You all probably have an image of a toddler pulling the tail of a cat or riding on the back of the family dog. So, you can imagine how hard it is to keep our children from injuring an animal that moves so slow.

I am not really sure of the life expectancy of penguins, should’ve paid more attention in science class. But who would’ve thought I would have one as a pet. But hopefully Jake will make it a few more years.

As you may have guessed, I don’t have a living pet penguin living in my house. Jake is a penguin that my nephew, Hunter, colored for me when he was less than five years old. He didn’t really stay between the lines and on the side of the picture it reads ” I love you Unkel Nate.”

Yes, I do know how to spell Uncle.

But those imperfections didn’t matter, because this picture touched my heart deep in a time when I needed something. At times in our lives, things get away from us. We make mistakes, hurt people, and push God away, even though he is the only way out of this downward spiral.

This picture provided me “Hope”, that no matter what mistakes I had made, a five year old boy loved me no matter what the world thought of my decisions. All he knew was that his Uncle loved him no matter what, because he let him sit in his lap and drive his Toyota pick up. His Uncle would also give him Mountain Dew and Bubble Tape and then hear it from his parents a few hours later.

So after all these years, the picture will remain on my refrigerator as a constant reminder that we are all loved. Someone always looks up to you, no matter your imperfections. God loves you as well, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.

Sincerely,

Unkel Nate