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For Jonah…

5 Dec

… And the millions of other kids who are bullied and abused every day.

For those of you not in the know, Jonah is a kid who has been bullied for years.  This is his story:

Like Jonah, I was tortured / bullied throughout middle school. Not because I was any different from anyone else in my school. Not because I was gay (although it was certainly said often enough). Not because I was anything. I was a Nothing. And Nothings get teased, picked on, poked, prodded, laughed at, and kicked to the curb on a regular basis. We Nothings are the kids who are beneath “regular” members of society. We are made to feel like we deserve the treatment we are getting.  There were plenty of times when I thought about ending it all.  Fortunately for me, I had a few great friends who got through to me and convinced me that things would get better.

Even being convinced that things would get better didn’t cure things.  For me, things didn’t get better until someone took things too far. After 2 and a half years of being bullied verbally, mentally, and emotionally, they got physical. I was pushed from behind in the locker room after gym class. I turned around and started swinging. I swung at the first kid standing behind me. A kid I easily out weighed by 20 pounds. I punched him, hit him in the chest. He punched me back. Several punches were exchanged, then I took a step back and kicked him. I put every bit of anger I had into that kick. I lifted him off the ground (not really surprising as I could leg press 500 pounds when I was 14). Yes, I got in trouble. Yes, it was worth it. Suddenly, I wasn’t a Nothing anymore. I was a Something. I’m not sure if I liked what I had become, however, I did like that I was FINALLY left alone.

Please note: I’m not trying to trivialize what is happening to Jonah.  What I am getting at is, that sometimes standing up for yourself is what it takes. Sometimes going with the status quo isn’t enough. Sometimes action is required. I’m not saying that Jonah should take up fighting. Something has to be done for that poor kid and the millions who are bullied who don’t speak out.

I know there are a lot of other videos out there saying he faked the video.  So what.  If that kid was acting, then he is taking an important step to bring the effects of bullying into the mainstream.  People need to see what bullying does to kids.

How can you help?  Simple.  If you see someone being bullied, put a stop to it.  Go to that bullied kid and introduce yourself.  Be their friend.  Be there for them.  Honestly, what can it hurt?  Are you afraid that you will be bullied as well?  I know if ONE, just one of the kids who stood by had stood up to the bullies, I would have felt amazing.  They say that two wrongs don’t make a right.  Standing by while someone is bullied is just as wrong as being a bully.  Stand up to bullying and put a stop to it.

The big jump

22 Jul

Have I ever told you about the time I hit the big jump?  No?  Well.  That will have to change.  Out in the woods in my neighborhood was a motocross practice track.  The neighbors who owned the property were big into motocross, atv’s, and the like.  For us kids this was one of the best places in the world.  Utilizing their track we learned all about how to jump our bikes, land them correctly (this comes into play later on), and how to rebuild bikes when they break.  One fine summer afternoon we thought we would measure how far we could all jump our bikes.

Of course we couldn’t use actual measurements.  We were too cool for that.  We had to come up with “cool” names for the distances traveled prior to landing.  I think the first one was “Wuss”, followed by “You Suck”, etc, etc.  Eventually they got to be pretty good such as, “Damn!”, and last but certainly not least was “Holy S#!%!”  We would get up a good bit of speed and hit the jump with everything we had trying for at least a “You don’t suck as much as that guy does”.  Eventually we all started hitting the “Damn!” spot (I believe this was about 6 feet from the jump).  We were stuck there for hours.  Everyone had hit it, no one could get any farther.  There was no way I was going to hit any farther with my crappy, beat up, second hand bmx bike.  Not when everyone else had nice shiny GT’s and Kent bikes.

Oh how wrong I was…  Maybe it was peer pressure, maybe it was that I wanted to show the neighborhood that the kid with glasses WAS really cool.  Who knows how I decided to start much farther back along the trail than anyone else had gone.  I pedaled my butt off.  I hit speed unknown to man or machine.  I’m pretty sure that at some point I passed the Enterprise.  I hit that jump going at least 88mph.  If I had a flux capacitor on my bike I would have been instantaneously transported back to 1955.  Suddenly I was airborne.  I quickly passed “Wuss and You Suck”  “You don’t suck as much as that guy” wasn’t even in the cards.  “Damn!” was coming up fast!  Would I make it over?  Would I FINALLY be one of the cool kids?  Holy S#!%!  I’ve gone beyond “Holy S#!%!”!  I ended up landing just passed “Holy S#!%!”, about 7.5 feet or so from the jump.  That’s when things went completely wrong.  See the thing we didn’t plan for was the possibility of someone getting that far.  The track at that point turns 90 degrees and is banked.  I flew up and over the bank, flipped over my handlebars catching one in the gut, and thought I had died.  Then everyone came up to me to tell me how awesome I was.  Oh how quickly the body heals when the ego is stoked.  In the end I was the popular kid from the neighborhood for about a week.  Then Billy got a b-b gun and I was regulated back to second citizen status…

Playing with fire: Part 2

21 Jul

A couple of days ago, I wrote about my experience as a crappy Boy Scout.  I wrote about how I got my fire chit and was able to build awesome fires.  Back in May I wrote about me throwing flaming paper airplanes out of my second story window.  I said that was my last time playing with fire, but not my brothers.  Here is his tale:

Behind our house was for the longest time a construction company’s stockpile and yard.  Directly behind our property they had put a bunch of small mounds of dirt for some purpose I suppose.  Picture a mogul field but rather than being on a ski slope these were on flat ground and you’ll have a good idea of what I’m talking about.  My brother and I thought it would be a great idea to have a camp fire one fine summer evening, toast marshmallows, sing songs, etc.  So that afternoon, me being the ex-Boy Scout with 3/4ths of a fire chit built a killer teepee surrounded by a log cabin stack of wood, kindling, and paper.   One of us stupidly brought a packet of matches with us (I contend that it was my brother who brought the matches, I’m sure he thinks otherwise).  As I’m building our fire, surrounding it with stones, etc. my brother is lighting matches, watching them burn, then dropping them on the ground.  Did I mention that these hills had been there a LOOOOOOONG time and it was a very dry summer so all the vegetation (weeds) that had grown on top and around the mounds was nice and dry?  Yeah, I’m sure you can see where this is going.  I told him to knock it off and stop wasting my matches.  His reply?  “Just one more.”  Of course he lit “just one more” too close to his fingers, burned himself, and dropped the match.  Right on a nice bit of dead stuff.  I don’t remember how fast the hill caught fire.  I do remember running up to the house yelling for my mom and her friend that my bro had set the field on fire, laughing hysterically the entire time.  I was USELESS when it came to helping put the fire out.  I could not stop laughing.  On the plus side, my fire started right up and burned beautifully.

In the end the fire was fairly quickly put out and no one was hurt.  I guess that’s a positive end to the story.  Except that it’s not the end.  You would think that my brother would have gotten into trouble for setting fire to a field, right?  Wrong.  I got in trouble.  For being useless.  For laughing at my brother thinking he would get himself into trouble (finally).  For not helping to put out the fire.  I think I was grounded for a week, and had my fire chit taken away from me.  Not that it was at all useful being a piece of paper.  Actually, I probably would have set fire to it at some point, so it was probably wise of my mom to take it from me…

How to not get caught sneaking out after curfew

20 Jul

Time for another summer camp story.  Back when I was 13 I started working during the summer at Camp-of-the-Woods.  I worked there for six summers.  I came away from there with a greater sense of independence and a bunch of awesome stories.  My last summer working there, I was a Boat Guy.  What does that mean?  Basically it means I was a slave to a girls camp on the island in the middle of the lake, I gave sailing and boating lessons to people who probably had no business being out on the water, and I taught waterskiing.  I also learned that if you look like you are on official business, people will leave you alone.  Part of catering to the island’s every whim entailed carrying  a radio to be at their beck and call 24 hours a day.  While I hated having to carry the radio, it did have its uses.  My buddies and I loved late night boat rides and hanging out on the lake smoking cigars.  What better way to accomplish this than to leave our bunk house at midnight walking right past the curfew checkers and explaining that you were needed on the island and your buddies were going along to watch for rocks, logs, etc?  Nine times out of ten they didn’t have a radio, so there was no way for them to check up on us.

So kids what can we learn from this?

  1. Sneaking out after curfew is fun.
  2. Hanging out at night in the middle of a lake on a brand new ski boat is awesome.
  3. If you look like you are on official business, you probably won’t get caught.
  4. Make sure no one talks.
It’s that last one that will make or break you.

In which I jump from a perfectly good boat

19 Jul

Yup, you read that right.  I have repeatedly jumped from a perfectly good, moving boat.  Where did that land me?  Well in the water for one, and on one occasion in a heap of trouble.  Back when I was 14 I had a little 12′ aluminium boat with a 9.9 horse power outboard.  For me, this was just about perfect.  I had my own boat.  I could take it out fishing, swimming, etc.  A buddy of mine had a similar sized inflatable (think Zodiac) with a 9 horse power motor.  We would take them out, race each other, snorkel from either boat, and just have a great time out on the water.  Somewhere along the way we (along with my cousin) thought it would be cool to get the boat up to speed and jump off the side (ala Baywatch).  We did this for hours on end.  Sometimes we’d all jump with one of us having the kill switch strapped to our life jacket, other times one would stay in the boat and swing around to pick us up.  We never thought about the consequences of us jumping from a perfectly good boat with a prop in the water spinning at about 3000 rpm…  We never thought about hitting the water at 20+mph.  All we thought about was how much fun we were having.

Yeah sort of like that…

So we’ve been jumping from the boat for weeks.  We. Are. Pros.  We could put the “actors” on Baywatch to shame with our skills.  Then of course fate, or karma, or whatever has to intervene.  My cousin and I jump from either side of the boat while our bud stays on board to pick us up.  He swings around to get me, and turns just a bit too much.  I am hit by the front of his boat and forced under.  Fortunately, he has realized that he is going to hit me and pulls up the motor before I get chopped up into chum.  Unfortunately I am trapped under the boat by my life jacket.  I’ve never been one to panic in tough situations.  I also never panic when I’m in the water.  I very quickly assess the situation and realize that there is no way that I am going to get out from under the boat with my jacket on.  I remember unbuckling my jacket, swimming out from under the boat, then reaching back under the boat to get my jacket.  My cousin and friend were amazed to see me alive.  This is why I hate to wear a life jacket.  The only time I wear one is when I’m on our wave runners.  Kayaking, hanging out on the boat, swimming, whatever, I won’t wear a life jacket.

In which I become a hustler

13 Jul

Big surprise, huh!?!?

Growing up I had a tournament size pool table in my basement.  I learned how to play when I was 9 or 10 years old.  I learned to hustle pool at 11.  We always had family friends, bible studies, high school kids, etc hanging out at our house.  People were always playing pool at our house.  It did not take long for me to realize that high school students are dumb and usually have cash on them.  It was very easy to get them to bet me a quarter or fifty cents that I could not make a shot.  Usually I did.  I raked in a good bit of dough playing pool.  To a 11-12 year old kid this was awesome.  Even more awesome was that a CVS just opened up a quick bike ride away.  I bought so much candy it’s a wonder I have a single good tooth left in my head…

Fast forward a couple of years:

So now I’m 16 and have just gotten my license and have to figure out someway to pay for gas.  I worked all summer to pay for my insurance and to have some spending money throughout the year, but this was quickly drying up.  What’s a guy and his best friend to do….  Why not hang out at the local bowling alley / pool hall?!?  It was very easy for us to drive over (even though it was right next to the CVS which a few years ago I was riding my bike to), grab a table, and pretend we didn’t know anything.  Eventually one of the guys playing at the other tables would challenge us to a game.  We would of course say yes, but only if we could put money on it.  Not a problem for those guys, they were going to beat us hands down, we didn’t know what the heck we were doing.  We’d usually let them do pretty good for a while.  Then we’d start getting them to bet on our shots.  That’s when we would switch from no-nothing shlubs to pool hall junkies.

I can’t count how many times we got kicked out of pool halls.  I was even banned from the one around the corner from my house.  I would show up, and the guy on duty would kick me right out.  Still, I managed to keep gas in my car, and a smile on my face as some dupe would take our bait.

Today is Thing 2’s birthday!!

30 Jun

Today is Thing 2’s birthday.  He turns 9 today.  9 flippin’ years old.  I remember when he was 2 and the night he graduated to a big-boy bed.  He was always an early riser (still is).  He would usually be awake bouncing in his crib or playing with the couple of toys he had in there.  Well this morning was different.  Bored with playing with his toys, he decided to get undressed.  I mean completely undressed.  Unfortunately, he had also crapped himself.  What is a naked 2 year old to do?  Why let’s finger paint!  That sounds like an awesome idea!  Where did he get finger paint from you ask?  Right from his loaded diaper.  Yeah.  That was TONS of fun to clean up.  The weasel.

3 was a very trying year for us.  He was becoming his own little person and also becoming very annoying.  Thing 2 is the most stubborn person I have ever met (besides myself).  Most 3 year olds start to think about potty training, ABC’s, and maybe reading a little bit.  Not Thing 2.  He has always been one to decide for himself when and where he is going to do things.  He refused to be potty trained until his 4th birthday.  He was told at his party that it was against the law to not be potty trained when you are 4.  “Do I poop on the law?” he asked.  Honestly, how do you respond to that?  “Well son, it’s fine to poop on the law, just don’t be surprised when they haul your sorry ass to jail for doing so.” is not an appropriate response to give a 4 year old.

When he was 5 and entered Kindergarten, he did not like his teacher.  Because of this dislike (which was mutual, btw), he would refuse to recite his ABC’s in front of her.  She thought he was the dumbest kid in the world.  We thought she was the dumbest teacher in the world.  Thank God she only lasted 2 years…  Thing 2 is the luckiest kid in the world.  This year he is given his very own snowmobile.  He learns that going really fast and falling off don’t hurt when you are well padded and have a helmet on.  This ends very quickly.

6 was fun.  We took our first trip to Disney World (with the kids) when he was 6.  It was absolutely amazing to watch his eyes light up when seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time.

7 things just keep getting better.  Thing 2 repeated first grade.  He learned to read, to love science (like his old man, and gramps), and to make new friends.  He tries to kill me on our sea-doo, by trying to make a 90 degree turn while we are doing 50mph.

8, the year we just past was trying.  We had a hard time with his teacher initially.  2nd grade is much harder than first.

Here’s hoping that 9 is a great year!  Happy birthday bud.

Hilariously Inappropriate

17 Jun

This morning we had some hilariously, unintentionally inappropriate comments shouted throughout the house.  Today is pajama day at school (way to teach until the end of the year).  The kids are allowed to wear pj’s and bring in a stuffed animal.  Thing 2 is bringing a stuffed beaver (see where I’m going with this?).  He always gets very excited about the end of the school year.  This year is no exception.  He was running through the house yelling at the top of his lungs, “My beaver loves wood!!!!”  Over and over again.  Then he switched it up to anthropomorphizing the beaver with, “Hi, I’m a beaver, I love wood.  Got Wood?  I love woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood!!!!”

Dear Lord, I love my family….

In Which a Hamburger Jumps

1 Jun

When I was 17 and my brother was 14 we took our last family vacation.  We went down to Disney World during April vacation.  Since this was our last family vacation we went all out:  We stayed at the new Wilderness Lodge, a striking building reminiscent of the great camps of theAdirondacksand thePacific Northwest.  We got park hopper passes so we could visit whatever park we wanted to, whenever they were open.  We had an awesome time together as a family, and my brother and I on our own.  Since we were old enough to do things on our own, we often took off to hit up some of the better rides and attractions that my folks didn’t want to go on, or were too scared to go on (Ha like my mom is scared of anything.  She survived raising the two of us for goodness sake).

Now for a little background:

My brother is the smartest person I know.  He is absolutely brilliant.  He is also extremely stupid.  Or rather he was extremely stupid.  I don’t know how someone so smart could have no common sense what-so-ever.  NONE. N.O.N.E.  He is also very forgetful.  Remembering birthdays, phone numbers, little things like that completely elude him.  When he was younger he always managed to spill something while eating.  Usually he would spill on himself, though sometimes others we the victims of “friendly fire”.

 Back to Disney:

As I said, we went all out.  This included our meals both in the park(s), and at various resorts.  We of course had breakfast at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort.  We had dinner inGermanyone night.  We ate at the Whispering Canyon Café in the Wilderness Lodge (all you can eat BBQ, yes please!).  At each location my brother spilled something, dropped something, or knocked something into his lap.  Our last full day, my brother had one clean shirt left out of the 12 or so he brought for our 7 day trip.  We were eating that night at the Grand Floridian, a place we had never dreamed we would ever step foot into, never mind eat at.  As we sat down mom told my bro not to spill, drop, or otherwise stain his shirt as it was the last clean shirt he had.  I know if I was told that, I would have to look at it as a challenge to stain my shirt, cause that’s the kind of person I am…  My brother on the other hand is not such a person.  “Mom I didn’t do it.  I promise you!  The hamburger just jumped from my plate onto my shirt.  I didn’t do it, honest!”  “He’s right mom, the hamburger jumped (See, I’m not such a bad big brother, now am I?).”  “Boys!!!!”  “What?”  “We didn’t do it!  The hamburger jumped, honest!”  One $20 Disney t-shirt later….

Let’s here you family vacation tales.  Comment below!

In which I believe I have killed my brother

23 May

Ah the joys and tribulations of growing up the oldest brother.  I’ve always been bigger than my little bro.  Not that he’s scrawny.  Not by a long shot.  I’m just bigger than him.  This often came in handy for a variety of reasons.  You see we used to fight.  A lot.  We fought like cats and dogs.  Like two brothers.  Of course we loved each other (not that we’d ever admit it), but we still liked to fight.  My brother being smaller than I am would fight dirty.  So I often had to take advantage of my size and put him in his place.

We lived in a fairly large subdivision.  The land behind our house belonged to the builder who did the original bunch of houses in the subdivision.  This was their staging area, their stockpile area, etc.  There were often cool bulldozers, front end loaders, and dump trucks for us kids to crawl all over.  Sometimes if we were lucky the doors would be unlocked.  Oh how many times we would sit in the seat of a bulldozer and pretend we were running over our “enemies”.

Since this area was a stockpile area, there were often large piles of dirt and loam.  One such pile stayed around for a long time.  It stayed so long, us neighborhood kids named it.  I can’t recall the name at the moment, but it was probably something cool like “MountDoom”.  Something like that.  We used to climb to the top and horst around.  Of course horsing around leads to dares which leads to “King of the Mountain”.  We would play “King of the Mountain” for days.   We’d push each other around on the top of this hill hoping to knock everyone else down and be able to keep them down with a combination of dirt clods and well aimed kicks to the face.  One afternoon it was just me and my brother playing on top of the hill.  Of course we were playing “King of the Mountain”.  I had just suffered a crushing blow from my brother (the cheater) when I got mad.  I don’t often get mad.  It leads me down a path I don’t want to go down…  So I got mad.  I picked up my little brother, pressed him over my head and threw him off the hill.  Fortunately he bounced a couple of times on the way down.  Unfortunately his head hit a rock.  Remember from my post What I believe is the first stupid thing I’ve ever done, I commented on head wounds?  Yeah, they still bleed.  A lot.  From all the blood that was soaking my brother’s shirt, coming from the back of his head, I was sure I had killed him.

Wait!  What’s that?  He’s moving!  Oh no.  He’s really mad.  Oh.  Crap.  Fortunately I was able to stop him from killing me, and was able to steer him towards home.  I of course followed along well behind.  I knew mom was going to kill me.  There was no doubt in my mind that she was going to take one look at him and launch into a full out Warrior Mom scream and take off my head with one swift kick.  But no!  She’s bundling his bleeding head in a towel.  They’re out the door to the car to bring him to the hospital.  I’m still alive!  Wait.  She’s just prolonging the agony.  She’s going to kill me for sure as soon as she gets home.  Oh why didn’t I have a sister?  I’d have NEVER thrown a GIRL off a mountain.

I am proud to say that I was not even punished for that bit of horsing around.  I think somehow in the rush to get my brother to the hospital, get him x-rayed and stitched up, she forgot all about me.  Today 5/23 is my mom’s birthday.  This post is in honor of how awesome she has always been to both me and my brother.

What sort of trouble did you get into as a kid?  Any good punishment stories? Comment below!