Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Journey to, and of, Fatherhood

Preconceived Notions
I've been a parent for 10 months and a week, now. I can honestly say, that in my young adult life, pre-fatherhood, I was scared of being a parent. I thought it was going to be hard and I thought I'd lose my own identity. But I also knew that I always wanted to be a dad.

An Extraordinary Woman makes me do Extraordinary Things
Sometimes it takes people to take you out of your comfort zone, though. I have that in my wonderful wife, Steph. She's always challenging me and pushing  me to do things that I don't think I can, don't want to or don't think I'm ready for.

It took Steph for me to finally buy an HD-TV, which is something I had studied and agonized over for damn-near a decade. If it wasn't for Steph, I might have researched buying a house for the same amount of time. With Steph, I walk into Best Buy, stare at every TV. Study the specs, look at the picture, analyze the price, etc. She see's this happening, walks up to a salesman and says, "We'll take this one." Done deal.

With the house, we went and looked at five or six houses one cold day in January. The last house we walked into just felt right. So because of Steph, we went after it.

Fast forward to deciding to have a family. If it was up to me, I'd have thoughtfully considered every detail about when the right time would be. Then, we'd never get there because something always would come up. With Steph, we got to a point and she just gets me. She knows when it's time to do stuff, whether it's buy a house, a TV, or have a baby.

These are just examples of how my life goes, now. Stuff like this is a regular occurrence. I feel like with Steph, I can do anything in the world (except run a marathon, why would I want to do that?).

The Journey Begins...
We got pregnant within a matter of a few months. For Steph, each month seemed like a massive failure. For me, I knew it was a process and was in it for the long haul and helped her avoid becoming discouraged or upset with results. But we were lucky, it took only a few months and we got the green light (or the red line, or whatever means "pregnant!").

We told our families when we were still only a few weeks along, very early in the pregnancy because Steph was to run the Minneapolis Marathon. This means a healthy dose of family and friends cheering her on along the course. But with Baby Deer in tow, she was backing out of the race (reluctantly, I might add).

So we arranged a big pre-race dinner for family and friends at Old Spaghetti Factory where they thought we'd be loading her with carbs and more energy (as if she needs more energy!). But to their surprise, we announced she wouldn't be running because we were pregnant.

Rocky Mountain High to Rock Bottom - Overnight
It was a super memorable moment I'll never forget. I think my dad even had a couple tears come out and I know my mother-in-law did! The emotions are so hard to explain but they are absolutely overwhelming. Everyone was overjoyed.

The next morning, something was not right and Steph was super concerned. We rushed to the hospital at some odd hour of the morning, sat in the ER for what seemed like an eternity, had tests done and went to get an ultrasound where the technician was stone-faced the whole time. She didn't show an ounce of emotion, and I'm sure she's trained to do exactly that. An ER ultrasound tech must be either directly trained or have had so many tough experiences that it's ingrained: stone cold no emotion. The ultrasound seemed to last forever, and I studied the little monitor for any sign of the baby or heartbeat I could.  It looked very similar to the ultrasound I had seen at Steph's clinic but I couldn't be certain. I can't remember if I had convinced myself  everything was fine, or if I had silently come to terms with what my worst fears were.

We went back to an ER room and waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally a doctor came in, and I could see it in his eyes. He started to speak and his voice trembled slightly as he confirmed our most horrific fears: we had lost our baby. It was such a horrible moment I thought we'd never recover. My heart screamed out silently for my wife, who I can't imagine how she had felt physically and emotionally; especially because of the pain I had felt for the loss. She was beginning to bond with our child in ways only a mother can know. And now...ugh.

When we left the hospital, Steph asked me to call her mother. Man, I don't even think I spit the words out I started balling immediately and she just knew. It was morning, but I don't know what time it was. The sun was out but it was one of the gloomiest moments of my life.

It was such a roller coaster. 12 hours earlier we had shared in so much joy with our family. My sister even got a "My auntie rocks" onesie for her new niece/nephew. We went from the highest high to the lowest low.

We'd struggle for the next few weeks. But we had each other and we helped each other through. We watched episode after episode of TV on Netflix, I think it was the Showtime series, Weeds. I think we watched five or six entire seasons of it in a matter of a couple weeks. Time was irrelevant.

We had planned a trip to Colorado, and one of my SID-friends who works at Metro State even helped us get really good Rockies' tickets which meant I got to cross Coors Field off my baseball stadium bucket list. But as the trip approached I just didn't feel like going. I was not myself. So I cancelled my plane ticket and told Steph to have fun with her girlfriends.

Back on Top
Then came unexpected, super good news. We were pregnant again!!! We were much more apprehensive about when we'd tell family and friends, but with Steph's impending trip to Denver, she was forced to tell her friends because she wouldn't be enjoying any adult beverages, and she is horrible at lying.

So we kind of started telling people right around that time in the summer of 2010. The next seven to eight months seemed to drag for me. I made it my mission to be at as many appointments as I could. It helped me learn about what was happening, I enjoyed meeting Steph's doctors and nurses. And knowing my crazy weekend schedules, it was a really easy thing for me to be able to do.

The Rocky Road to Baby Logan Begins...
We had some hurdles along the way, like Steph's kidney stones on Thanksgiving weekend. She had a few "spotting" spells that scared the shit out of us. Most of all, her high blood pressure was a constant source of stress for me.

I constantly worried she'd be put on bed rest or we'd have to deliver insanely early. I also frequently worried about complications during birth. I couldn't imagine coping with the loss of this child, and I couldn't imagine coping with life without Steph. There were times when I had a hard time calming myself down from my worry.

Which is another reason I was excited to go to Steph's appointments. If I had concerns, I could ask the doctor directly. AND I DID! Many of you know Steph. She is not a good patient, and she does not necessarily relay information accurately. She wouldn't have been good at the telephone game as a child! So going right to the source (doctor) was a very calming aspect of the pregnancy for me.

I think anyone who knows us well knows our labor/delivery story. Steph was very open about it, and it was well-documented. The short version: at about 37 or 38 weeks (Feb. 28), a Monday night, Steph's face was super swollen. She had puffy lips, I had never seen anything like it. So we made the usual route to the hospital.

On that drive, I just knew I'd be meeting my baby shortly. I was so excited, but very nervous for Steph's health.

It was very hard to balance, especially while concentrating on driving. But I'm already a careful driver, so it was all good.

The Delivery
When we got there, they did all the usual tests. We had a home playoff basketball game that week, so I brought my laptop to do my regular game notes. I had plenty of time to work on them, so I got after it while we waited and Steph watched some crap on TLC on the shitty TV in the room.

After the tests were, etc., they came back in and said, "well, I hope you are ready to have this baby because it's gotta come out." I believe they diagnosed Steph with pre-eclampsia which meant the only cure was to have the baby.

Welcome to the World, Son!
Fast forward to Wednesday early evening, at 6:17 p.m. and out came Logan Jay Deer.

When he came out, it was the most amazing moment of my life. It was like being hit by a semi-truck full of emotion. I cried my eyes out immediately when I laid eyes on him.

But his color was super pale, and the first thing I hear Steph say as she grabs him to hold him was "why isn't he breathing?!"

She doesn't remember saying this, but it totally freaked me out and I was internally panicking and overjoyed at the same time. But everything was normal, so the nurses cleaned him off, got the stuff out of his lungs, etc.

I was on the other side of the room from him with a hospital bed, tons of medical equipment and a bunch of people separated us. It was nerve-wracking. I wanted to be with him immediately!

Finally, after Steph, Laura and Joanna held him, I got my turn. Meeting him was a brilliant moment. Completely perfect.

I have only held a few babies in my adult life, and none this small. None this new. None this fragile. I had been nervous or scared to hold other babies, including my nieces.

But not Logan. He was mine, I'd protect him from anything; and he knew I was his dad. It was amazing. It felt so real, so right. I loved him with every ounce of my soul immediately.

The Beginning of Fatherhood
The next few days, I changed my first diapers, and did all sorts of other stuff I never thought I'd be ready for, never thought I'd be able to do. The nurses and staff at Abbott were great in helping me learn, but it was all natural.

And it has been ever since. Being a father is the most natural thing I've ever done in my life. It's the best part of my life, too.

That night, while Steph was recovering, Logan and I sat down and flipped open my laptop to watch our first game together. Our men's basketball team was hosting Winona State - a perennial Division II power - in the first round of the conference tournament. To host a team of this caliber means you had a really good season. I was excited about this game, but I was more excited to sit with my son and call it our first game together.

Little did I know that Logan was not ready to live life without interruption for two straight hours! So we didn't watch the whole game, but rather bits and pieces here and there between diapers, exams and baths. I was even able to text a few fact corrections to our play-by-play broadcaster to which he gave a shout out, something like, "and, oh, a fact correction from Josh Deer, the sports information director at Concordia who is away from the game for the birth of his son..."

But I had more important things to worry about besides a basketball game. It was a big night that changed my life. I had been a little sick that week and obviously had not slept much and had a lot to learn, so the details of the game completely escape me after the shout out other than we had lost.

The next day, I remember holding Logan in my arms out in front of me so I could see his little face and I'll never forget the first time he peeked his little eyes open and made eye contact with me. I felt like I was looking at myself as a baby, if I had to put it into words. WOW! My little boy!

Ready to be a Father, question mark?
That moment set the tone for the next 10 months. Logan, we took you home that Friday, just your third day in the world. We got home and realized we had no clothes small enough for your little body. Your mom's high blood pressure did not allow you to fully grow, so you were just a peanut.

Mom still calls you peanut. Even though her heart didn't let you grow big in her belly, your brain got every ounce of development it needed. Your organs were developed, and you were just ready to start growing on your own!

But without clothes, or even diapers that fit, we got home and panicked. We had a breakdown. First, mommy  lost it. Then, I decided to go take the dogs outside (we still had Ryder) and get the mail. On this short walk to the mail box I lost it.

But just like we helped each other get over losing Baby Deer before you came, we got each other through our first few days at home, and of course had to make a couple trips to the ER for jaundice.

You slept that first night for something like eight hours. We were thrilled, until we learned that was a bad sign. You needed to wake up when you were hungry, that's what your doctors told us.

So we focused on feeding you often and you started to grow up really fast! The doctors at Children's Hospital even put a strict plan together that got you back on the growth charts!

My First Letter to Logan
Mr. Logan, you have been a joy to be with. From the mornings when mom brings you into bed and you wiggle your way around to me as I sleep peacefully to wake me up with your little laughs and wiggles. I wake my sleepy eyes to see you chugging a bottle, sitting up like a big boy resting on mom's pillow.

Always smiling and laughing, you've been such a joy to raise. So many unforgettable moments we've had together. We'd do anything for you.

Yes, there have been times I've been so frustrated I have had to leave the room with you wailing away in your crib. Times when we've been alone together and I didn't know how we'd make it through the day. Those moments were just that: moments. They always gave way to happiness, laughter or simply peaceful naps because you were too tired to do anything but cry!

I can't explain how much easier being a parent is compared to what I had made it out to be. Diapers? Piece of cake! Bath time? No problemo!

I must admit, a big reason why I've enjoyed being a parent so much, is because of your mother. You have supermom on your side, and so do I. We are truly lucky dudes. Your mom can do anything, and she is such a good mom that it makes it impossible for me to fail as a father!

Most importantly, though, Logan: we have fun as a family just about every day!

Watching you grow up is the most rewarding part of my life. Leaving you in the morning is a challenge, but you always smile at me before I go. Coming home to you at the end of the day is a feeling I can't explain. I love walking into the house and finding you, and seeing your eyes light up when we greet each other.

You have your own little personality and are a perfect combination of your parents. You have your mommy's enthusiasm and energy for life, and you smile like your Grandpa Randy. Your mom will tell you all about him as you grow up, I promise.

It's been a while since I've blogged. Tonight, I was inspired to write by your Grandpa George. You know, he writes about you often. He keeps a journal of letters he's writing to you.

So I've decided to do the same. Hopefully I'll be able to write Letters to Logan on a regular basis for the rest of your life, or at least until you tell me to stop because it embarrasses you.

I still remember telling my dad not to call me "Goober" anymore because it embarrassed me. We were driving up my old street, Finch Way, in the car to the house I grew up in. I don't remember how old I was, maybe eight? But I know I regretted telling him that shortly after, but never wanted to admit it.

So now, one of your many nicknames is "Goober" and I hope that's okay with you.

I love you, son!

Love, Dad

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tebow Time for a Rant

The Tim Tebow Phenomenon has inspired me to do a lot of reflecting. Throughout the season, I've been very interested to observe what's happened with public perception on this issue. The media has been against him all season for one reason, and it's not because they hate God or hate his politics, it's because they hate being wrong.

Here's where I get confused on Tim Tebow. He declares himself an underdog, like he's always had an uphill climb in life. Um, okay Tim.

If being one of the top ranked high school recruits with a freakishly athletic 6-foot, 3-inch build is being an underdog, what does that make the David Eckstein's of the world?!

Then he gets a full college scholarship to play for one of the top NCAA Division I football programs in the country, and a fine academic institution: University of Florida. Boy, being an underdog sure has it's perks!

As a true freshman, he didn't get to start, because they had a senior starting quarterback named Chris Leak that was another prized recruit 4 years earlier. Leak didn't make it as an NFL quarterback, but he did well for himself. The Gators only won the National Championship his senior year, with a rookie star in the making Tebow playing a key reserve role and finishing 2nd on the team in rushing yards.

As a sophomore, Tebow took the reins, like everyone knew he would when he was recruited. And, he did okay, he only won the Heisman Trophy. As a junior, he won the National Championship for the second time in his three year career. By his senior year, he had the SEC record for career passing efficiency and career rushing touchdowns. Not a bad combo. Oh yeah, he was 2nd in NCAA history in pass efficiency and 10th in career rushing touchdowns. He was a three-time All-American (two-time First Team).

Still, he's a self proclaimed underdog.

Then he goes and gets drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos. Life is rough, isn't it?

He starts three games as a rookie, Aaron Rodgers didn't even get to do that.

He earns the starting QB job as a second year pro this year, and is a piece of the puzzle that turned the Broncos from a 1-4 team into AFC West Division Champions and a playoff team.

He had amazing 4th quarter heroics. His best attribute is not his build, his frame, his athleticism, his strong arm or his QB instincts. His best attributes are his work ethic, his leadership and his unfailing ability to forget his prior failures. How many players in the history of the game can be exposed as a terrible quarterback for 3 quarters, and in the 4th quarter lead his team to victory? He's never thinking about his last throw, he's always thinking about his next throw.

This is an intangible quality that the Todd McShay's and Mel Kiper's couldn't measure. The combines, the personality tests, the interviews, etc. But the Broncos saw something. And even if John Elway has been ready to pull the plug all season, the intangibles are most likely going to win him over as well.

Any player that starts as a high school great with everyone saying how great you'll be at college and probably a professional is never going to be an underdog. Any 3 year starter at a school like Florida (Ohio State, USC, LSU, Notre Dame, etc.) who wins two NCAA titles and a Heisman is never going to be an underdog. First Round Draft Picks are not underdogs.

Player's with Tebow's pedigree will all be scrutinized for everything they do as an NFL player. Tebow has earned the right to be nit-picked at the highest level. This is what happens to guys who have already achieved what he has achieved.

So he can go one of two ways: the Aaron Rodgers route - a QB who slid on draft day and had to sit on the sidelines for his shot at glory, and then delivered when it was his turn; or first round bust.

Helping his team reach the playoffs and winning a first round playoff game already put him out of the first round bust equation.

But he's nowhere near Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tom Brady status. And let's not forget, Tom Brady is way closer to an "underdog" than Tim Tebow ever will be. A 6th round pick, won the Super Bowl in his first year as starter with a former stud (Drew Bledsoe) sidelined because of injury.

Tim Tebow is what he is. He's a starting NFL quarterback. He deserves to start the Broncos next game. He deserves a contract extension to be the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. That makes him one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the world, and safe to say one of the top 20 QB's in the world.

The most important position in America's most popular sport, and Tebow is one of the 20 best in the world.

Is that an underdog?

Part two of the rant are the Tebow supporters. If you are a Bronco fan, you should love this guy. He wins games and that's all that should matter as a fan. Who cares about the stats, it's the wins that count, and he already has a playoff win.

If you are just a fan of Tim Tebow, he's easy to like - I totally get it. He's a Christian with a good head on his shoulders. He's a leader. He works hard. He doesn't quit, he doesn't relent and he rallies guys around him when times are toughest. He has all the immeasurable characteristics.

If you like him because he's a Christian - that's okay! There's nothing wrong with that.

If you like him because of his conservative political values, that's okay, too!

There's nothing wrong with liking an athlete because of what they represent off the field. I'm moderate politically and am generally turned off by the extremes on both sides, however for disclaimer purposes, I do vote Democrat in nearly every election (that doesn't make me "a liberal" either for all my conservative readers).

That said, I don't know any other athlete's political stance - it's absolutely not a factor for me to like or dislike a player. I like players for what they do ON THE FIELD, that's my personal stance, because too many times a "good guy" athlete turns out to be a scum bag.

But Tebow's off-the-field views don't change his ability on the field. They don't make him the best player in the league. They don't make him the most compelling story in the league. Being a Christian and being conservative don't mean he deserves the headlines, and those qualities don't make him better at football. His values help make him a good man, but being a good man is hardly a prerequisite for being good at football and I think his supporters need to separate these things when his football play is criticized. Again, a player of his pedigree is going to be criticized for the reasons mentioned above.

He's certainly a flawed NFL quarterback. But so was Drew Brees. He was too short and didn't have a strong enough arm to be great, right? He's done pretty well. Tebow might have a slow delivery and telegraph passes, but he has a strong arm, and that pass to Thomas against the Steelers was a laser and right on the money.

The point here is this: Tim Tebow is what he is. Currently an average NFL quarterback, but a young NFL quarterback. He has major flaws to his game for his position. But he has what not many players have, almost a 6th sense. He is so young in his NFL career. Let's not anoint him the savior of football because he believes in Jesus; and at the same time let's not prosecute him out of the league because he takes forever to throw a ball.

Time will judge Tim Tebow as an NFL player. Will he be a Hall of Famer? It's not even worth discussing yet for any player of his experience. For a guy this young, take it a game at a time and keep it in context or fans of Tebow are setting Tebow the player up for failure if he doesn't live up to it.

He deserves to play, and as a result of getting his team to the playoffs and winning an NFL Playoff game, he deserves a contract extension and a starting job next year. From there, NFL jobs can be a game-by-game decision on if you deserve to play, especially at quarterback.

Let's not forget, Tarvaris Jackson went 8-2 as a starter and led the Vikings to the playoffs. Tebow could be the next great QB and a once-in-a-lifetime player due to his unorthodox QB attributes; or he could be the next Tarvaris Jackson. Time will tell, in the meantime, give him the ball against the Patriots and see what happens.

Some people say his belief in God is over the top, unnecessary and should be kept out of the locker room. To those people, I say: Who cares, it doesn't affect you at all! If it's over the top, the guys in the locker room wouldn't respond to him as a leader. His team has rallied around him, and if they are fine with it, then you should be, too!

At the same time, God isn't winning football games for the Denver Broncos. I'd hope that God wouldn't intervene in the world through football, because in the grand scheme of things, it's just not that important. Bronco fans may disagree, though :)

There are Christians in both locker rooms, there are agnostics in both locker rooms, there are probably Muslims in both locker rooms on any given Sunday. Tebow is no more of a believer and no more righteous than any other Christian, he just has a large platform from which to be a role model for other Christians.

All believers are treated equal in the eyes of God, and I'd hope He wouldn't put special treatment on a spiral off of Tebow's left hand then on a spiral off the hand of any other quarterback.

It's okay for Tim Tebow to be himself. If his religion bothers you, maybe it's your own insecurity. Personally, I know what my faith is and I don't need Tim Tebow to tell me it's okay to be a Christian. So I ignore that aspect of Tim Tebow, because I don't know him, and he's not a personal role model in my life but it does make him a guy you want to root for.

I saw a Facebook post by a longtime family friend that said because of Tim Tebow's "John 3:16" on his eyeblack, XX million (don't remember the number, too lazy to look it up!) people Googled it; and he helped deliver the Gospel to that many people - maybe a decent percentage of them for the first time.

That's pretty cool.

I truly hope that Tim Tebow is who he says he is, and he's not just another out-of-touch superstar that has let the money and fame turn him into a non-human like so many other pro athletes, movie stars, music starts, politicians, etc. I hope he's not just another scum bag.

Time will tell, and Tebow has one true judge.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Three Step Blueprint to a Playoff Run

Okay, having your favorite football team at 1-3 flat out sucks. There's no getting around that. And in the preseason if you told me that the Vikes would be 1-3 and the NFC North Division leader was 4-1, I'd be ready to hit the panic button.

But, let's just calm down and relax.

The NFC North Division leaders are the Chicago Bears led by Todd Collins with an absolutely awful offense that is not capable of contending for a championship; and the Green Bay Packers have massive injury problems starting with their quarterback who has a concussion and will either miss some time or might not be the same for a few weeks. They also lost their running back and have not found an answer to replace that production.

Now, when Rodgers and Cutler are healthy, those teams improve dramatically. But with a RB in GB and with the Bears offensive line issues, I don't think either team is capable of running away with the division.

And the Vikings, at 1-3, are not that bad of a 1-3 team. All three losses were within a play of being a win (sorry to sound like Tim Brewster, but this statement applies much more to the Vikes than the Gophers). Their three losses are to teams who either are playoff-bound or will be in the playoff picture come December. At New Orleans and at NY Jets are both quality losses, and although we had to have that Miami game at the dome, that's a quality football team as well. Plus, with two of the three losses going out of the conference to AFC teams, that could help later as well.

I'm certainly not saying the Vikings played to how we expect them to in any of the three losses. They didn't, and they lost those games for reasons that were within their control. That makes it even more frustrating as a fan. It's what we as Vikings fans go through every year, and it sucks!

But the fact remains that they are capable of playing better football, I'd like to see what happens when they put together a complete game.

I think nine or ten wins COULD win this division. Obviously that could change, but this early in the season it's certainly a possibility.

So, let's figure out how the Vikings can get to that 9-10 win range with realistic goals based on how the team has played, and how they can be expected to improve with Moss getting acclimated with the offense and the potential return of Sidney Rice...

1. Go a minimum of 5-1 against the NFC North. The Vikings are 1-0 against the division with a win over lowly Detroit. The Lions are flat out not a good football team, and we took care of that game. It was kind of ugly, but not as ugly as the Bears "win" against them at Soldier Field... I maintain the fact that the Bears and Packers are not very good, partly because of injuries (Ryan Grant, Rodgers, Cutler, etc.) and partly because they just aren't that good (Bears offensive line). Splitting the Soldier/Lambeau away games, winning out at home and beating Detroit again gets us to 5-1. I think we still can sweep the division, but that's an unrealistic expectation for how the team is played, so we'll stick with 5-1.

The 5-1 against the NFC North gets the purple to 5-4.

2. Beat Dallas and Buffalo at home and win at Arizona. These are very realistic expectations for this team. Buffalo is awful, Dallas is coming to the Dome next week in a "must win" for both teams, but at the Dome and with Dallas' problems I like a big win next week. Arizona has a horrible QB situation, if we can't win these three games and go 5-1 against the division, we don't deserve a playoff run anyway.

That three game parlay gets us to 8-4.

3. Out of the remaining four games, the squad needs one or two of the other four games: at New England, at Washington, Giants at home, at Philadelphia. I think the Giants at home and at Washington get us into the playoffs, and we won't choke at Washington like Green Bay did (DOINK!).

By the time we play at Washington and the Giants at home, we have Sidney back, and hopefully Favre is doped on pain meds and has a cortisone shot per week so his elbow feels 20 years younger!

Let's not forget that this team is capable of winning at Philly and at New England, and is capable of sweeping the division. I hate to say that we need that Green Bay game in Lambeau in two weeks, but it could get us to 3-3 if we take care of the Cowboys at the dome.

We need to be 3-3, and will need to pick up a win against the Packers to gain some momentum on the green and gold. A loss there would be a set back, but not season ending. It just gives the team ZERO margin for error the rest of the way.

They already have a very minimal margin for error after the hole they put themselves in. Looking at the schedule in the preseason, I thought we'd be 2-2 right now, that Miami loss hurts but at 1-3 it's not the end of the season.

So I plead with my fellow Viking fans to stay on the ship, don't jump off yet, and if you do - don't get back on, because this division is still there for the taking!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cliff Lee to the Twins - do it!

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the Minnesota Twins trading for Cliff Lee. Let's take a quick look at the pro's and con's of such a move.

The Twins are in first in what is now a three team race in the AL Central. A staff ace would not only provide assurance that the squad will win the division, but more importantly is a necessary piece for a playoff rotation that would look pretty solid with Lee at the top.

Not only that, but if the Twins fail to acquire Lee, the Tigers might step in and grab him, making the top of their rotation dominant as he pairs with Justin Verlander. That would be extremely dangerous and is not something the Twins can let happen.

Obviously it is not a secret that going after a guy of Lee's caliber and contract status (rental player) is not part of the organization's history. I support the Twins overall organization philosophy and they do a great job developing  and scouting and they have ever since the young group got the call together for the early part of the decade and started winning divisions.

They clearly have identified how to be successful long term. But it's time to win some series in the postseason, and in order to that, you have to possess an ace in the rotation that can not only survive a potent lineup like the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Rangers all have; but neutralize them and shut them down.

Having an ace takes pressure off of the Liriano's, Pavano's and Baker's in a short series. You win game one regardless of the venue and all of a sudden you are in the driver's seat.

So clearly it makes sense to add Cliff Lee. But at what cost? This is where the Twins are in the driver's seat right now. They have the young talent and the organizational depth to survive dealing a top OF prospect, top catching prospect and MLB starting pitcher.

If it takes Wilson Ramos, Ben Revere and Kevin Slowey/Nick Blackburn to do this deal that is an absolute no-brainer!

Why? Ramos is obviously blocked by Joe Mauer and his value to a team like Seattle is much greater than his value to the Twins. Seattle's catching situation is dismal at best (I have Adam Moore on my fantasy team, I know from experience!). Ben Revere is a solid young outfielder, but the Twins are currently deep in the majors in the outfield and also have Aaron Hicks among others who are behind Revere and developing to provide depth at the position.

In the rotation, you add Lee so someone is the odd man out. I'd prefer to keep Slowey over Blackburn but in this deal if the Twins have to give up Slowey then so be it. The Twins have Kyle Gibson dominating the minors and he should be ready for The Show at some point next year and potentially a full-time mid-rotation guy (a-la-Kevin Slowey) by 2012. Their 2010 1st Rounder, Alex Wimmers, is a seasoned college pitcher like Gibson and could also arrive by 2012. So long term, the Twins have answers if they don't keep Lee long term and Pavano bolts with him when his deal expires (I believe he's on a 1 year deal currently).

They also have Duensing, Manship and a few others who have experience, so they have the organizational depth to survive losing Slowey.

Aside from all of that, they have the insurance on Joe Nathan's lost season, so they are getting some money back immediately already, and the success of Target Field as a revenue source is certainly as good as they expected and most likely much better.

That means they could be in position to pony-up for a multi-year offer for Lee and/or Pavano to keep them around for sustained success. Is that a probability that they'll be able to do that? No, but it's possible.

And, if they lose Lee, they get 2 1st round picks next year, 1 from the team that signs him (mid-20's?) and another in the supplemental round. So they'll have 3 first rounders, and if Pavano leaves, that could be another 1st rounder or supplemental choice with the year he's had. And the Twins draft well.

The downside of all of this is that they've already paid the bonuses to Revere and Ramos, so the Mariners get cheap young talent that they'll be in control of for a few years, while the Twins will have to divvy up more bonuses to the future draft picks. So this would certainly be a costly move financially for the Twins.

But, we now see the support from the fan base. The Twin Cities loves this team right now, and you see it with daily reactions (for better or worse) - that means the passion is there. If they spend the money on the team, they'll keep selling tickets for years to come.

But if they just stand pat and hope to win another division and just play competitive in a first round exit in the playoffs - the fans will grumble.

We've seen too many first round exits with the Wolves and Twins and even the Wild. The Vikings finally made a serious run last year and the town was electric.

The Twins have shown the ability to electrify the town as well, but they need to go deep in the playoffs or they'll just see a big collective YAWN which will be even more financially devastating to this proud franchise than taking on the Lee contract and having to shell out more bonus money down the road.

This piece was written based solely on opinion - no research was conducted

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fantasy Baseball - 2010 Strategy

I'll be posting a series of blogs about my fantasy baseball team in the coming days/weeks. I had a great strategy this year and I thought I had executed it perfectly. The result? I'm toiling anywhere from 6th to 9th place depending on if it's a good day or not.

Heading into the season, I was confident that I had a 2nd place team (the best team in the league before and immediately after the draft was a foregone conclusion).

First, the details of the league. It's a challenging 10-team AL-only league without unlimited daily moves. In this league, you can not get rid of a player unless he is DL'd, traded to the NL, sent to the minors, or (gasp!) DFA'd. These kinds of players are nearly impossible to unload on unsuspecting owners as well, because who doesn't suspect that Gerald Laird will be a batting average anchor with no productivity that will be on the team for the full season?! (more on that later...)

We have a $260 budget to spend on 23 players with no limit on how many guys we keep or how much we spend on keepers. I had a feeling early in spring training that our league would be aggressive with keepers, making the draft pool thin.

I was correct.

Last year, I kept a lot of guys but was cocky heading into the draft fresh off three straight championships. I remember my sharp 15 year old (at the time) cousin who was assisting his dad, calling me out for this strategy. I just looked at him, showed him my trophy (thank you, CBS Sports) and thought "nuff said." Well, I struggled to finish 6th place, so maybe he was on to something?

But, in the process of surging to 6th last year (I was as low as 9th - no one but Schultz is ever in 10th), I picked up youngsters like Gordon Beckham, Nolan Reimold, Michael Brantley, Marc Rzcepzynski, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Derek Holland, etc. All of those mid-season pick-ups can be kept at $10, which is a decent salary to pay unproven talent, making it difficult to judge who will keep it going and who will fall off.

In addition, I had draft bargains like Rick Porcello ($2), Alex Rodriguez ($31), Kendry Morales ($12), Jim Thome ($1) and I had acquired Jacoby Ellsbury via trade for an expiring Justin Morneau contract. Ellsbury was priced at $13. To top it off, I had keepers John Lackey ($18) and Jonathan Papelbon ($16) and Jason Bartlett ($9).

So I was aggressive with my keepers, on offense keeping A-Rod, Morales, Ellsbury, Bartlett, Beckham, Reimold, Brantley and Thome. On the pitching side, I came in with Lackey, Papelbon, Niemann, Davis and Porcello.

I was in great shape heading into the draft. I had power in Morales, A-Rod, Thome and Reimold. I had speed in Ellsbury, Brantley and Bartlett. I had average in A-Rod, Morales, Brantley, Ellsbury, Bartlett and Beckham, and I had high upside guys that if they didn't succeed would get sent down before long (Beckham, Reimold, Brantley).

For pitching, I was psyched about my starters in Lackey, Niemann, Davis and Porcello - 4 solid starters and a stud closer.

I decided to extend Ellsbury's contract to $23, giving me this year, next year and 2012 with him at that price, as opposed to letting him expire at $13 after this season. I waffled on Bartlett, but decided to keep him at $9 and let him expire after this season. Papelbon is also going into his final season, as I had him at $6 in our original switch to the auction.

So, I kept 13 of my 23 roster spots for $162. I had $98 to spend at the auction, needing to fill 2 catcher spots, middle infield, corner infield, 2 outfield spots and four pitchers.

My strategy is going great so far. I have some stud bats, solid pitchers and a boss closer. And money to spend.

Going into the auction, I decided to punt on catchers since all of the goods were gone (one team kept Mauer and Victor...). But I wanted a stud bat, a guy in the mold of Cabrera, Sizemore, Kinsler, Teixeira. I really had Kinsler and Sizemore in my sights because I knew I couldn't get Tex or Miggy for the money I had. If I didn't get 2 of those studs at decent prices, I had a few secondary options as well.

For pitching, I fell in love with Brian Matusz thanks to the ESPN Fantasy Focus podcast that I became addicted to. I was willing to spend up to $15 on him, but wanted him for the $7-8 range. After that, I would round out my staff with young power arms that could assume closer duties (Bard, Joba, Perry, Feliz, Thornton, Guerrier, etc.).

I made 2 massive mistakes at the auction: 1.) getting stuck with Gerald Laird trying to get a catcher of the board, thinking someone would bid $2; and 2.) getting stuck with Fernando Rodney when he was thrown out for $1, I bid on him trying to price enforce and got stuck.

I got Matusz for $15, Kinsler for $33 and Josh Hamilton for $27 - I love the Ranger lineup and was happy to get Hamilton as a 2nd tier stud bat, especially with the keepers I was bringing back. I added Inge for $2, not bad for 25 homers, and Jose Bautista for $1, another potential for 20 homers and a guy that plays both corners and the OF giving me in-season flexibility. Unfortunately, it looks like I'm punting on average with Laird, Kinsler, Inge and Bautista. But I look good in the other 3 categories and I love my pitching staff.

My other catcher is an upside buy with Adam Moore for $1. I rounded out my pitching staff by missing out on Bard but getting Feliz for $9, again I got stuck with Rodney and got Perry for $1. I left $6 on the table and Joba went for $7, so I might have been able to fill my Rodney spot with Joba, which was a major regret at the draft.

In hindsight, Rodney has been great value and could get more saves and he has 5 wins. Matusz is 2-9 on a horrible Baltimore team, Wade Davis is struggling as a soph but Niemann has been everything that Davis hasn't. Porcello just got demoted but Feliz has been great as a closer. Perry has been bad but finally got hurt while Lackey and Papelbon have been solid.

On offense, Kinsler took longer to get going from his ankle injury, but finally appears to be in a groove and Hamilton has been a beast and worth every penny. A-Rod's power isn't there yet and Kendry broke his ankle after a walk-off granny. Beckham has been awful and so has Bartlett. My youngsters in the outfield, Brantley and Reimold, both were awful and got demoted in the opening month. I certainly shouldn't have kept those 2 but I wouldn't have done anything else differently (who wouldn't have kept Beckham for $10?!?!).

Jacoby Ellsbury right now has probably cost me at least 5 points in the standings, and my terrible sub .200 batting catchers and Bartlett have probably cost me another 5 points if Ellsbury was hitting .315 and playing everyday. 10 points puts me in the top 3. Those points would be coming in the SB/Avg categories, and now will be very hard to make up especially since Ellsbury is still not playing.

My other problem this year is midseason pickups like Andruw Jones, who was responsible for leading my team in steals for the first month (ouch) but is now hitting horribly for me and I can't wait for Brantley to get the recall so I can dump him.

I think I can still right the ship and finish 3rd, but Bill and Russ are running away with this thing. I'll do some blogs about other teams in the future, and will touch on their squads first. I'm shocked at how great Bill's team is doing - I'm never shocked that Bill is in the top-3, but 60 points and leading the league was unexpected.

In order for me to surge in the 2nd half, I need A-Rod to go on a Hamilton-streak, I need Hamilton to keep hitting like it's 2008, I need Kinsler to regain his power stroke and Ellsbury to come back and run and hit for average. Bautista hit 20 first half homers and I need 40 out of him to have a shot at a top-3 finish. Thome is starting to play now with Cuddy at 3B, and he homered in back-to-back games and has a great OPS, if he stays in the lineup, that will help if (when) Bautista slows down. Beckham HAS to turn it around, and fast.

For the staff, Lackey can keep winning and that will make me happy, my closers have to keep closing and it would be nice for Rodney to overtake the Dirty Fuentes so I can make a trade. Niemann has to keep it up, Davis either has to get demoted or get consistent, and Matusz just needs to pitch out of the 6th and 7th innings better. He's been great through 5 in most of his starts before unravelling. Now that I have Tommy Hunter in Ryan Perry's spot, if he can hold down a rotation spot he'll win some games with that lineup. Corey Patterson needs to steal some bags and hit some bombs. I can gain some points with my current squad so I probably won't hit the trade market unless I gain a 3rd closer...

It's a long climb, but I have the talent. In baseball, over 162 game, 6 month season, "water always seeks it's own level" - A-Rod will hit 30/100, Kinsler will hit some dingers, etc.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Contest - Concordia style

Hopefully most of "my readers" (whatever that means) are familiar with the show, Seinfeld, as I have already often used that, along with Curb Your Enthusiasm.

This post is a spin on the Seinfeld episode, "The Contest" with the cast of characters involving Concordia staff. The "Seinfeld" in this scheme is our soccer coach, Joe Alianiello, who came up with the genius idea. The rest of the cast involves conference & events specialist Julie Neidt (pronounced "Night" not "Neat"), assistant AD Valerie Olson, myself (the SID, writer of the DIS), my wife Stephanie and her mother, Jolene and brother, Chris. Also contributing was Melissa Wolf, assistant SID (no affiliation with DIS).

So here's the premise: Joe came up with this brilliant (another word for genius at the sake of avoiding redundancy) idea to do the Master Cleanse diet. He enters my office and asks, "Julie and I are doing the Master Cleanse, are you in or out?"

Not know what he was talking about, I asked for more info. He proceeded to explain the MC, calling it a lemonade flushing system that rids the body of all toxins. Anyone who knows me well knows that I drink coffee in the morning, diet coke in the afternoon and if I'm lucky, beer in the evening. I could use this flush, I'm thinking.

I ask what it entails. Joe proceeds to explain the plan, and as he does and I realize I have to go 10 full days with just drinking "lemonade" I insist there is an 80% chance that I will fail on the first full day of lemonade (which is the fourth day of the MC).

However, I decide to tell him that if he convinces Steph then I'm in. So he emails me a link, I forward to Steph and as a health fanatic that loves trying crazy things, Steph is gung-ho about it.

So, we are both in. Steph then proceeds to get her mom and brother involved, saying they are both "in" as well.

While Julie and I are in Joe's office, we get Valerie on the phone and she's "in" - now this is a good crew, seven in all. With that kind of system in place, I think this will be a "lock" for success!

Still in Joe's office, Julie and I get more info on what this lemonade drink really consists of: freshly squeezed lemons, grade B maple syrup (not Mrs. Butterworths which is the "good stuff") and cayenne pepper.

GROSS. But whatever, I like lemonade, syrup and spicy stuff so it has to be good, right? Or at least consumable.

So, I'm still reluctantly in, despite my hesitations about only consuming liquid for 10 days - yikes.

This all occurred on a Thursday, and we were to start on Monday. So we had four days to gorge ourselves with any food imaginable. When it hit midnight on Sunday, no more good stuff.

On Sunday evening, after bowling where I consumed nearly a pitcher of beer, I hit up the grocery store while Steph studied, bought up our fruits and veggies for day 1, and possibly day 2 since I went a little overboard. Apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, red/green/yellow/orange peppers, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower. We were all set.

After the grocery store, since Steph was cramming for a Tuesday test, I stopped at Applebees and ordered a tall Miller Lite for my last beer for two weeks. It was funny because I assumed on a Sunday at 9:00 p.m. that there would be no one at the bar. But with President's Day on deck and Valentine's Day nearing an end, there were like six dudes of varying ages between early 20's and mid 60's all drinking away their single sorrows.

So I pounded my beer to avoid further conversation with the weird early 20's dude to my left and got out of dodge, happy to have put the beer and the people in the bar behind me.

I should also mention that at "Sunday Dinner" with Chris and Jolene they both confirmed that they were in fact NOT "in" for the MC. Since they probably never actually confirmed being "in" in the first place, they were not the first ones officially "out."

Monday morning strikes. I eat an apple and a handful of strawberries for breakfast, feeling confident.

No coffee, though. It's going to be a rough morning.

9:30 a.m. rolls around and I'm absolutely starved for some reason, even though over half the time I don't eat breakfast anyways. But since I'm armed with four apples and four sliced up peppers, I dominate a sparkling red apple.

That tides me over until about 11:00 a.m. when I start eating some peppers. The mix of peppers saved me, and I was able to eat a lunch that filled me up.

We called Val from Joe's office where I was eating my third apple of the day, Julie was eating blueberries and Joe was eating tuna (that was his way of easing into the MC). Val said, "Oh man guys I had toast for breakfast, I guess I'm out! Shoot!" She didn't actually sound disappointed, though, and wasn't really the first "out" either since she never really started and apparently didn't even intend on being "in" without getting groceries for day 1!

We had baseball that afternoon at Metrodome, so I made sure to bring my fourth apple, my peppers and a big bottle of Aquafina with me. On the way to the Dome, I check in with Steph.

She had recently checked in with her doctor to make sure she could attempt this crazy venture without doing harm to her health since she requires potassium pills and high blood pressure medication - a combo that works together with her food intake.

Doctor says "no-go" as I find out via a text in the middle of the first of two baseball games. Now I'm at the dome, eating freaking peppers and drinking boring water, the guy at the dome press box just offered me the rights to dominate his fridge full of pop and I'm on this stupid-ass diet and my wife is now "out"?!?!

What gives!

With Steph now "out" (she's the Kramer of our Seinfeld scenario as first-out) I have to go home and see her and Chris eating her awesome meals in front of me while I drink this shit-concoction of lemonade-grade B maple syrup and cayenne pepper?

Fuck that, I'm "out"! That makes me the "Elaine" of the story as the second one out.

I did make it a full day, though, as I resisted the free soda at the dome all night. When I got home, when the clock struck midnight I gorged on a "Funfetti Valentine's Day Brownie" and it was glorious.

That day was awful. I had a headache all day, I was crabby and hungry and the apple/pepper combo really got old, and that was the EASY day?! That made my decision all the easier.

I woke up the next morning feeling awful and wondered if I felt this bad after one day of strictly fruits and veggies, how would I have felt five days into the lemonade bullshit?

I got to the office early and napped on my couch until 10:00 a.m., still feeling tired from the long day of work and baseball (14-plus hour Mondays are not Fundays).

Went to Holiday, grabbed a huge 24 ounce coffee and a bag of Cheeseburger Doritos.

On the way back to the office, I stopped by Conference & Events and knocked on the door to show off my Holiday purchases to Julie and she was not impressed.

Nor was Joe in the morning when I got to work with my TV dinner to put in the fridge for lunch.

I was immediately shunned by the only two left who were officially "in." They even had made predictions on how long I'd last. Joe said I'd crack on Friday (the second day of lemonade, a very good prediction since I said an 80% chance of failure on the FIRST day of lemonade!) while Julie gave me a little more (undeserved) credit by saying I'd make it through the weekend and crack on Monday.

But Melissa had my back. She was proud of me for getting back on the coffee bandwagon and off the MC and even suggested my Cheeseburger Doritos selection (and they are really good, ps). You see, last year, she gave up coffee for lent and we shared an office at the time and I continued our ritual of drinking coffee. So on Monday, she had a pot of coffee brewed that smelled wonderful that I couldn't help her finish. The last half of that pot is still currently resting in the coffee pot two days later, by the by...

After a completely normal day of eating and being shunned yesterday, I receive a Facebook post from Julie in the evening saying she broke down and ate food and was officially "out" as well.

So Julie made it to Tuesday night, presumably just drinking soup broth and juice all day yesterday. She would be the Jerry in our story, as the show would reveal in the series finale the true winner...George...

...That brings us to Joe Costanza - the Master of His Domain.

He was happy because he'll continue his Tuna Trend (I like alliterations...) through the weekend and officially start the MC on Monday meaning his recruiting trip to St. Cloud will not be interrupted by crazy spicy-tangy lemonade.

So Joe is the winner, sort of. I think he'll actually make it through a good chunk of the MC. I can't wait to get a taste sample of the lemonade next week.

So, Mr. Joe Alianiello, you are officially the Master of Your Domain - Congratulations!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Ideal Life

Growing up, whenever I was on a road trip I would picture my life as if I had lived there. Looking back, it is easy to realize that this mental image as an adolescent was overly romanticized. Whether it was driving through the western plains of Minnesota, a journey from the Twin Cities to Chicago, or my annual drive with my dad and Paul to Kansas City. All of the communities we passed through would spur my imagination at some point in time.

Either in the car just gazing out the window across the landscape, skyscrapers or neighborhoods; or actually being in the community at a restaurant, gas station, baseball field or any other public setting - these are the experiences that helped shape my imagination.

Today is Valentine's Day. Lately, I've been so busy that I was not able to make it to a spot of commercialization to purchase some red or pink crap to buy for my wife, Stephanie, who deserves any of that type of stuff she wants.

However, we had a nice little Valentine's Day together. We went to the move, appropriately titled, "Valentine's Day" with her mom (Jolene), brother (Chris) and his girlfriend (Nicole) before going out to eat at Panino's - a family favorite. We topped it off with our bowling league and as a husband-wife team we completely dominated.

The movie Valentine's Day sparked my imagination. And another movie we recently watched from Netflix, "Up" - a Pixar film, also sparked my imagination.

These factors along with my life-long habit of daydreaming for my future life in various settings over numerous points of my life made my mind explode.

The movie Valentine's Day was far from Oscar-worthy, but was entertaining and had a great cast and was well worth the movie ticket purchase.

It also provided plenty of thought-provoking moments to people of all age groups from childhood to high school to young adulthood to married life through elderly years.

But what I started thinking about was my own experience and why I appreciate my wife, Stephanie.

Before the movie, there was a preview for a movie called "She's Out of My League" - a completely ridiculous concept for a romantic comedy. Basically, Hollywood is telling the population that everyone gets a rating (1-10) and "5's" have no business being with "10's" regardless of personality traits outside of athleticism, looks or perceived popularity. It's pure adolescence being portrayed by adults which is dangerous.

I've often joked with friends that I've overachieved, and have joked with other friends have they have also overachieved. It's a fun way to compliment our own significant others and wives while also complimenting our friends.

But in reality it is complete and utter bullshit.

The rating scale is a complete myth and is one of the factors leading to high divorce rates despite what the evangelicals will say about gay marriage being the reason (another talking point from "Valentine's Day" by the way...).

Getting back on point, I have a great wife, and I think we compliment each other incredibly. I say this because of how our Valentine's Day went.

You see, Stephanie is a planner who enjoys spontaneity and I tend to live and act in the moment but enjoy someone else's diligence in creating and executing plans.

This morning, I woke up to Stephanie saying that my breakfast was ready and would get cold if I continued to wait and that a pot of coffee was brewing.

Who wouldn't wake up to this?! Despite not getting home from work the night before until 1:30 a.m. because of a triple overtime men's basketball game (which was SWEET by the way!).

When I got to the table, there was a card sitting with my sausage and cheese omelet, toast, coffee and milk. Wow, what a way to wake up and what a great gesture!

That took some pre-planning, thought and care on her part and I was so appreciative.

I tend to have things brewing upstairs about how I feel constantly and have trouble putting my feelings into actions such as a breakfast. Why do I have this disconnect? I have no idea, but I'm just not wired how Steph is. But I am not void of thoughts and feelings about my appreciation for my wife, what she means to me and how I feel about her regardless of if it is a greeting card holiday, her birthday, our anniversary, etc.

Take my proposal. I clearly put a lot of thought into the rest of my life. I bought a house with her, that speaks volumes, right? But when it came to marriage, I approached my proposal differently and on a separate timeline. I knew I wanted it to be "right."

I finally purchased the ring, special ordered, and when I went to pick it up, I had no idea when I'd ask. But when I saw the ring and put it in my finger-tips, I was so excited I couldn't wait.

I had all the words I wanted to say, and put them on paper in a "Birthday Card" that was two weeks late. (Good thing I put the words in writing, as I would later learn I'm not good off-the-cuff at Andrew and Sara's wedding in my best man's speech - more on that in a future blog...).

When I got home that night, it was just one of those days. A bad day all around for all involved. I even had to go pick her brother, Chris, up in the middle of the street because he ran out of gas a few miles away.

When I got home, I was still so excited despite a bad day that I made my move. Dressed in scrubby clothes at home in our living room, I popped the question.

She was completely surprised and ecstatic and we had a moment neither of us will forget.

So that is just how I roll.

Today, similar. No card, no presents. But, we had a great day with a movie, dinner and our couples bowling time, and even spent time with her family.

But I'm not done.

You see, all of this shaped my thoughts in such profound ways and it really hit me hard during the movie, almost to the point of me breaking out in tears a few times because my thoughts were so surreal.

I had everything I wanted to write in this blog come to me clearly about 3/4 through the movie. But I knew it was eight-plus hours until I'd get to write it out.

But here is what I know.

I have the wife we should all strive to marry. I'm not saying Steph is the perfect wife for every man. But she is the perfect wife for me. She's the perfect blend of spontaneity and planning. The perfect mix of carelessness and cleanliness. The perfect mix of energy and relaxation. And I think I have the exact compliments to all of her traits in every way. We balance each other out perfectly. When I'm hot, she's cold - meaning if she needs my blankets, I don't need mine.

Quite simply, we just "work."

And I adore her more than anything in the world.

To bring it all together, when I think back to all of my mythical journeys and lifetimes I've dreamed of, she's always there.

Whether we live in the country on a farm and are swinging on our porch drinking lemonade as 85 year olds reminiscing about our lives together; or are running on treadmills in our trendy downtown condo's - it's her that matters. It's having her friendship, her love, her companionship that matters the most.

I can see myself taking a job in Southern California, going to the beach regularly, always having warm weather; but it's her that makes it sunny.

I can see myself living in New York in a hustle and bustle style of life, but it's her that gives me the energy to be my best.

I see myself taking a risk and moving to Europe to get away from the Red/Blue nightmare that stalemates progress in the U.S. but it's her that gives me adventure. It's her that makes me secure that I won't fail.

I can see myself giving everything up and moving to Mexico for paradise and it's her that gives me the serenity that we'll be able to be happy despite leaving our lives behind.

But most importantly, it's her that allows me to be confident in our lives together as home owners in New Brighton as I continue to pursue a highly stressful but highly rewarding career in a position as the breadwinner of the family that barely allows us to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, I hope that I'm able to be the force in her life that provides the same balance and stability, giving her confidence to pursue her education so she can change careers to be a highly skilled and qualified nurse.

And we can do it anywhere and with confidence. That is the best part of the equation. I'd sell our home in a heartbeat and pick up and move as long as I know that Stephanie is by my side.

Together, anything is possible. That is not something I would've said before life with Stephanie.

It's something I didn't immediately understand, but as I continue to live in it everyday, it puts me more and more at ease. All that matters is that we are happy. Where we are and what we do are nothing without that happiness together. And happiness is only attainable together.

These are just some of the thoughts that rumbled through me today in the dark movie theatre in Mounds View. Many of my thoughts were crystal clear at the time, and now seem to resemble one of my rambling basketball game recaps (see this Friday and Saturday's recaps - talk about wordy!).

On that note, if anyone has read this far, come find me and I'll buy you a bottle of pop, as my boss told me the other night about the writings he used to do for his corporate job.

One person I know is still reading is my loyal wife, Stephanie, who certainly wouldn't be reading this far if it was anyone but me writing.

But for anyone else brave enough to withstand this much of my text, the point is that what I have in my wife is more than I could've ever imagined possible. I have a companion, a best friend but most importantly, a soul mate.

I love you Stephanie Lynn.