Dear Holly: What You Learned at Your Brother’s Karate Lesson

2 years, 9 months.

Dear Holly,

You had curiously yet quietly observed your brother’s karate lesson last Saturday morning.

So on Sunday afternoon, when I began trying to wrestle with you on the living room carpet, you shouted:

“Get your hands off me!”

You made it clear that you had listened well to the karate instructor when he explained how important it was to not only tell the person to stop hurting you, but also to announce it so everyone could hear.

A few days later, when I dropped you off at school, I even asked your teacher if you had shouted to any of your friends:

“Get your hands off me!”

To my surprise, you hadn’t.

But I think it’s only a matter on time.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Started Taking Karate Lessons at the Rec Center

8 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday, we drove around the corner to the rec center so you could start intro karate lessons.

The instructor called you up several times to help him demonstrate in front of the class on how to get out of certain attack holds.

He explained that the first action in self-defense is to verbally tell the person to stop.

His focus was on helping students to prevent a fight, as opposed to participating in one.

We are trying out this class over the next couple of months to see if you want to take it to the next level and enroll in an official karate studio.

I have a feeling that could easily be what ends up happening.

Love,

Daddy

For My Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am Today

To My Health Nut Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am

This morning as my wife and I were getting ready for work, we were talking about the concept of how parents can influence their kids, even without trying to.

For example, no matter how much you praise your child on their abilities, talents, and looks, they can be just as influenced by the way you, the parent, see yourself.

As Bekah on The Wally Show explained yesterday morning, a mother who picks herself apart in front of the mirror will often, by default, teach her daughter to do the same; no matter how much the mother compliments the daughter.

We learn so much from our parents.

Today is my dad’s 59th birthday. So naturally, having just had this conversation, I’ve been thinking all day about the ways my dad made me who I am; whether he meant to or not.

I easily thought of 5 ways:

1)      Diet:

The first story that comes to mind was back in the late 80s one time when my dad stopped to get gas for his Ford Ranchero.

I asked him if I could get a candy bar inside the gas station. He reluctantly said yes, but went on to explain how unhealthy candy bars were, because of “all that sugar”. He told me how little boys my age needed to be eating healthier foods.

That made me curious. I then asked him when the last time he had eaten he candy bar. He replied, “Years… I probably was a boy. But I shouldn’t have, because those things aren’t healthy.”

Similarly, I can also specifically remember, around the same time, we were watching 20/20 on TV and there was a special about how kids were having heart attacks because of their diets.

My dad warned me if I didn’t start eating healthier foods, I could end up like those kids on TV who had heart attacks.

1To My Health Nut Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am

In our house, we never had white bread; only wheat. I felt deprived.

Granted, those elementary school years passed, then my teens, then my college years, and I ate horribly the whole time; whenever it was up to me. I didn’t heed his advice.

But by the time I reached my late 20s, I started seeing my processed food diet catch up with me…

Now, look at me. I am the strictest vegan anyone personally knows. If it weren’t for my dad, though, I wouldn’t currently be the healthy man I am.

(And when I say I’m healthy, that’s based on Dr. Thomas John at Vanderbilt Primary Care in Spring Hill, TN; during my visit with him back in April.)

If it weren’t for my dad, these days I would be a highly medicated guy: I would take something daily for severe allergy and sinus issues; and I would still constantly be suffering eczema, paying for prescription medicine to attempt to alleviate it, but not cure it.

That all went away when I became a vegan 2 and a half years ago; not to mention I’ve effortlessly remained in the perfect weight range for my height and weight since then.

I am confident that my dad’s “you better stop eating candy cars or you’re going to be a kid who has a heart attack” comments greatly influenced me for the good; even if I couldn’t appreciate it at the time.

It was ingrained in me from my dad that it’s important to prevent cancer and disease; not simply focus on the cure.

Here’s a webisode that he and I made with my son; which hints on the fact we don’t trust microwaves:

2)      Being active:

Plus, my dad was always physically active. During my entire childhood, he participated in martial arts; he was a black belt. Back in 1992, he even won 1st place in the sparring competition, for his division in northern Alabama.

(As for me in modern day, I regularly run and go mountain biking; plus I take at least two 10 minute walks outside during my breaks.)

Quite regularly, I when I was a kid, I would go with my dad to his Tuesday night practices and workouts. I knew that he would let me get a cheeseburger at Hardee’s on the way home if I went with him.

Here’s another webisode that my dad and I made with my son; which features my dad in one of his classic karate uniforms:

3)      Letting me make my own decisions

And perhaps that’s another way he influenced me: He let me make my own decisions, even sometimes when he knew there was a better way.

I’m not sure I’ll be as hands off with my own son. I don’t know that I can be as Libertarian with my son as my dad was with me.

But had my dad not been so laissez-faire with me (a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering), there’s a good chance I would rebelled and acted out as a kid, teenager, and even a young adult.

So twenty years ago, during the reign of grunge, I had the long hair and the baggy jeans; and my dad never once revealed he was concerned about it.

Of course, my dad also taught me, by default, to be calm-assertive.

These qualities are only the tip of the iceberg. In all this, it was not only his words, but more importantly, his actions that inspired me how to live my life.

4)      Faith

Going deeper, I grew up with my dad reading me stories from the Bible for my bedtime stories, teaching my Sunday School classes at our church, and leading the youth group at church.

Therefore, I do my best to lead my own family in the teachings of Christianity; not out of tradition, but as a way of life- serving others, not judging them.

I seriously doubt my blog would be called Family Friendly Daddy Blog if it weren’t for him. He never cussed, so neither do I. Curse words never seemed necessary in order to communicate something worth saying.

For My Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am

5)      Politics

And when it comes to politics, I see that I have become my dad as well:

“Vote for the lesser of the two evils; whether that happens to be a Democrat or a Republican.” I remember he told me that a couple elections ago and it’s stuck with me.

A mindset like that requires an individual to use critical thinking beyond what they are taught by either the left wing or the right wing.

After all, they are both wings of the same bird.

Ultimately, he taught me to question the norm. And I do. That is a huge part of who I am.

It’s even one of  the main reasons my wife started dating me, as she has told me before, “You always seem so confident in what you believe, even if it not what most other people believe.”

So really, the way I see it, it’s undeniable that my dad greatly influenced who I am. Today he turns 59 years old. Despite whatever gift card my wife and I mailed him for his birthday, these words today are my gift to him more than anything else.

Classic Home Videos

Where were you on Labor Day of 1990?Before there were reality shows starring idiots for us to pity/make fun of every week, or a phenomenon called YouTube where any fool can upload their tomfoolery for the entire world to see, there were two decades (the ‘80’s and ‘90’s) where we filmed opportune moments of our own lives and kept them to ourselves to laugh at.  And they became classic VHS gold, forever saved in our memories; ready material for reminiscing with those involved, in an instant’s notice.

The most honored tape of cherished memories still at my parents’ house is labeled “Labor Day ‘90”.  It had just been a few months earlier that my parents finally sacrificed a thousand dollars for the behemoth black-and-white-view-finder-equipped video recorder.  On that lazy afternoon at my Italian grandfather’s house with the whole family there, our lazy vacation day became a personal collection of gems. 

So maybe those moments aren’t funny to the rest of the world (not YouTube material), but to our family, the tape is hilarious every time we throw it in the now antique VHS player.  These moments include, but are not limited to the following:

“Is this thing gonna be that thang?”- My sister holds up to the camera in one hand a dandelion in which the wind had blown off the seeds, and in the other hand, a dandelion still with all its seeds in tact.  Then in her (at the time) Southern-fried accent asked the camera operator (my mom), “Is this thing gonna be that thang?”

“Can you figure it out?”-Sitting sideways on a plastic ribbon braided lawn chair with my arms behind my back, I faced the camera while my dad hid behind me, putting his arms out as my own.  As my mom asked me basic questions, none of which I seemed to know the answer, my dad used his arms to make motions to indicate it (he used his arms to scratch my head like I was thinking, etc.). 

It was pretty obvious he was behind me, not only for the fact that his arms were much bigger and darker than mine, but also because his mullet was showing in the shot.  Finally my mom (as the cameraman) asks the viewers at home, “Can you figure it out?”

“Nick and Dana… back up now!”-  My grandfather lived on five acres which he was very proud of and which was prone to appearances of wildlife.  In the front yard that day, he found a baby bird in nest in a small tree (only about five feet tall).  My mom walked the camera over to the tree, attempting to zoom in on the bird.  In the meantime, my sister and I (respectively ages 6 and 9) ran over to see if we could get a closer look at the bird. 

For fear of us scaring the bird away (like a baby bird is going to fly way…), my mom warned us, through clenched teeth (to keeping from scaring the baby bird away) “Nick and Dana… back up now!”  The hilarious part is that the whole time the camera was on the tree, the bird was barely visible up in the top corner of the shot. 

“I’m a winner!”- My dad, who a year later won 2nd place in the Northeast Alabama karate sparring tournament, was “play fighting” me.  Doing my best to ward off his slow-motion kicks and punches, he finally got me in a headlock.  He growled to me, “Say ‘I’m a winner’!  Say it!  Say it!”  I struggled to escape as he took me to the ground.  I gave in, with a clever twist.  I declared, “I’m a winner!” in a wimpy, Southern, nine year-old voice that in no way indicated what I was saying was true. 

We were the original comedians of comedy in our own worlds.  And even if we never get around to converting those video clips from VHS to digital format and eventually to YouTube, those classic hilarious moments in our minds are still better than any reality TV shows we’ll ever know.