The day we lost our puppy Continued…

The guilt sets in, as so do the “what if’s”

I spent the next two weeks running over what had happened in my head. The long laundry list of possibilities of what went wrong, I needed some shred of explanation to help me cope. I looked back at Sunday and analyzed every minute, figuring out where the mistake was made, and what could have been done.

That whole day seems insignificant at best. Sarah and I were fighting that day, the stress of all of our running around was materializing in words. We did a ton of errands, went out to lunch and didn’t even get home to see Kellogg until nearly 2:30.

When we got home, we let him out, and he pooped twice. I wasn’t actually there when he was out, I had said hello and went about the things I wanted to do trying to work off my own stupid frustration.

It wasn’t even a half hour later when Sarah came into the office and told me she let him out and he pooped again, twice actually. So in the span of an hour he had pooped four times. We knew this was not normal.

The day was cold, and he came inside like he usually did after doing his business, shivering and a little out of it. Usually we cuddled up with him and after about 15 minutes, he was warm and out to exploring some unseen part of our house to cause mischief. But I came upstairs after his last trip outside and sat with him for awhile, the shivering didn’t go away. We started to worry more. He didn’t eat lunch, and we thought it very strange he had to go potty that much for having not really eaten anything. Sarah called Banfield just before 3, and they were about the close up shop for the day. They gave us the number of an emergency hospital on the West side of the city if we needed it later on.

Not moments later Jeff and Sarah Styf called. The were down the road at the “Y”, and Sarah really wanted to meet Kellogg because she also is a big fan of puppies. They arrived to say hello, but his shivering and asthmatic breathing continued. He just seemed sluggish, tired, and weak. He would stumble around, not barely able to stand up before he would have to lean against something. He got really cuddly with Jeff, leaning right up against him and then came over to me, climbed up over my shoulder, whimpered a little and laid down.

I cry thinking about this, we were so stupid, it’s like, could it have been more obvious that he was in pain? Sarah was doing he same thing I was, trying to find answers through searching the past. She says that he was in the kitchen at one point and whimpered for water, but she didn’t give him any because when she called Banfield based on what we told them, they suggested to refuse him from water and food to not upset him more. Sarah cried thinking about this simple act, knowing that when puppies die from parvovirus it is mostly because of extreme dehydration.

At about 8 pm, after he had done a lot more sleeping, we finally called emergency and asked about his general conditions. They said the shivering is usually as sign that the dog is in dire pain. They told us to take his temperature rectally and told us what the normal temperatures would be for a puppy of his age. I winced at that, because if he really was in pain I didn’t want to make him ever more uncomfortable. How stupid was I to think, “This is just a day that he doesn’t feel good and tomorrow will be a new one. Tomorrow he’ll be fine. I really don’t want to have to drive all the way over to the West side of the city, pay some huge fee at an emergency hospital to only find out that everything was alright. If we take his temperature, we don’t have two thermometers, we would need to go out and get another one.” Who thinks like this? Not a good parent. When I started to remember these thoughts the next day my self loathing consumed me. My thought were of convenience not of love, and what had it cost me?

So we did nothing really and It got to be late. Sarah was heading off to bed, and had been holding him as he slept. All night he had been sleeping in some really funny positions and we took photos thinking it was cute. Tongue out, upside down on the bean bag, on his back with his feet out, all unusual for him.

I wanted to stay up with him and hold him as I watched some tv. He just lay there, he didn’t shift at all, and when I went to change the way I was laying he just lay there with an unusual weight. He didn’t fuss at all or wake when I moved, which was weird even for him. He just lay there, his breathing difficult as I stroked him, looking up at me with those loving, confused eyes. After awhile his eyes would roll back into his head and be completely white. It was freaky and concerning, and it happened twice. I would then rub him more and talk to him to make sure he was ok. Yet again I told myself, “He’ll be better tomorrow.” That thought, and the look in his eyes is seared into my memory. He just looked at me lovingly, but also as if to say, “Save me. I don’t know how much longer I can make it.”

I put him to bed with Sarah just after 11, and came to bed about 12:30. He was in his bed, breathing heavy still, but seemed to be sleeping. Twice in 15 minutes I got back out of bed to check on him. I could hear him breathing, and I heard a little whimper, but my mind rationalized again, he is just dreaming again in his sleep and making those noises.

Before I even climbed in, I prayed for him. “God, just let him make it through the night.” I had every intention of taking him to the doctor in the morning before work at Banfield to check him out, but he never made it that far. It was only two short hours later that Sarah got up to take him out and she found him, not breathing.

Looking back, I have tried to analyze things to death. I am human, I need answers. It is the only way to get some sort of closure, and I need closure. I need blame. I think I am the only one to blame for this, certainly not the doctors and not Sarah. As the man of the house, I needed to do whatever was necessary, no matter the cost, to save my dog. I thought it would be alright. Everyone tells me, that with the knowledge we had, it wasn’t up to us, it wasn’t our fault. But my mind isn’t accepting that. People also tell us that he must have been very sick, and that this was meant to happen. I don’t want to accept that right now either, I can’t. This is what I remember, and this is what I believe. I believe his lungs were filling up with something. If he had parvo, and he was dehydrated to dangerous levels, I don’t know how that could have been, but he vomited in the morning. He was vomiting to breath, he couldn’t breath. I don’t believe his convulsions killed him, I believe he drowned in his vomit and couldn’t get air. He caught that little bit before we got in the car, but that was too late. Sarah tried to pump his heart, if I could go back, I would have pushed harder, to the point it may have damaged him. If I could go back, I would do a ton of things. I may not have gotten our puppy in the winter, knowing that he was cremated in a group of dogs almost killed us at the emergency room. To have to make that decision where he was just alive only 10 minutes before.

This is not me forgetting, and this is not me moving on. The cliche goes, “I will never forget you”, and your life ended truly too soon.

We love you Kellogg.

The pain I feel is a lack of life within me. When I come home and see your empty crate, I don’t cry. It seems a little soon to have moved on, but we have to get back to our daily routines because our future relies on it. But this is not the pain. I feel empty because I have thoughts about whether you really existed. The snow thickened our memories as it blanketed the ground of your life. Our lives so quickly sprang back to how they were that already my memories have started to fade.

Kellogg, know that we’re sorry for so many things, a list that feels too long to list here. But the first is that we have to leave you.

You were a winter puppy, and we couldn’t take your five minutes ago warm body back with us. It didn’t matter anyway, we wouldn’t have buried you in the frozen ground, so once again we’re sorry we had to leave you. We love you, we have to leave you. We’re sorry, can’t you see our tears. We don’t want to leave, please still love us.


The day we lost our puppy

Note: I never did finish this. The combination of the craziness of everyday life with the fact that this was hard to work on for me, and now with Nokes….good intentions sometimes aren’t enough. But I still think it is important to have it, as a snapshot of the time no matter if it is finished or not.

The day we lost our puppy

I awoke to a hysterical, tear choked voice and a brief shake , “Jeff, he’s not breathing.”

My mind was focused, and I was fully aware that Sarah was talking about Kellogg. In one and a half steps I am in the living room, and there he lays, flat and outstretched, no subtle rise and fall to his chest. On her knees, Sarah was stroking his, shaking with doubt, her remaining sanity transparent, a usually rock hard knit of calm fibers, fraying to the core.

I am now in the kitchen, paper in my clumsy numb hand, dialing a set of numbers for the airport emergency pet hospital. The unfairly calm voice on the other end tells me to bring him in immediately. I am thinking we have to leave now, immediately, but for six disbelieving seconds we are both stricken, frozen with fear and crippling tears.

Kellogg’s little head suddenly lashes back once, mouth open, and slowly back to it’s resting point.

Then again.

And again.

He’s going into seizures!

Sarah’s shaking, bouncing on her knees. Our little frail puppy vomits a little, and he is breathing again, and I lose time again as another 6 seconds before I realize we are both in the car, hurtling, curving down the on ramp onto an open highway. It is 2:00 am and sarah is crumbling.

Fear and panic drove my car at a velocity of over 90 miles per hour, there was precious little time.

Sarah’s voice quaked, “Ooooh Kellogg, c’mon honey.” He had stopped breathing. I told Sarah to pump on his fragile little chest and give him CPR. Two buttons presses and I had called the hospital again but they only repeated my instructions. I need to concentrate on the road.

But it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter that God’s wings swept us half way around the city in a mere ten minutes.

It didn’t matter that in only two and three quarters steps our outstretched quivering arms crashed into the attendant.

Three minutes passed and the doctor came out shaking his head, defeated. We lost you at East street and never got you back.

Sarah clenched and lifted me with a gasp of remaining emotion as she buried her head into my chest. Her walls crumbled. Then just as quickly she looked up at the doctor, wiped her bloodshot eyes and ask, “Can we see him?”

The doctor bobbed his head complacently, and we headed behind the counter through a frigid metal door. The small room had only a brushed metal table, everything felt like ice to the touch. The doctor came around the corner, cradling our blanket in his arms. He laid him on the table, paused, then left. Sarah unwrapped the blanket, there was Kellogg’s face, quiet, stiff. She covered her mouth and sobbed, I succumbed to the shock and our bodies held each other heaving and convulsing together.

Five minutes ago he was warm, but now self loathing set in as the doubtful thoughts race through my mind, “He didn’t even seem real.” We both touched him delicately with our fingers, said a disbelieving goodbyes and closed the door. My mind is racing thinking, “We’re leaving? But Kellogg isn’t with us. We just got here, aren’t we taking him with us?” It was obvious that the gravity had not yet hit.

The next half hour was stupid. It doesn’t even matter. In 20 short minutes my world was upside down, and I was stepping beside myself, and watching myself say, “Honey, what can we do with him? We can’t bury him in the middle of winter. ” We have an option of a group cremation, still in shock, we agree. It’s the only thing we can do, we feel like it is like signing some generic contract to get to the thing you actually want, and that is the safe return of our puppy that we love so dearly.

But we left, my legs heavy, the weight of my head crushed my shoulders.

I felt like we were marionettes, desensitized and emotionless when we got back to the house. It was dark outside, we opened the car doors slowly and I dropped off the keys in the dish. We hit the couch and melted into each other.

We only had you for two weeks. We have lived together for nearly four years but we knew we had forgotten how to be normal. I felt completely lost.

Continue to Part 2…..

Column 13 – Part 2

Adopting a dog in Indianapolis, IN? continued……

One morning, in his stool, we notice a huge four inch long white worm. We start to panic a little bit. This is our first dog so we don’t actually know what standard protocol is for treating a pissed-off, worm infected puppy. We start by taking him back to the hospital for a checkup. Come to find out, not only does he have a terrible case of roundworm, but a stool examination shows bacteria consistent with Parvovirus, a deadly virus that eats away the lining of the intestine and kills dogs in as little as three days.

Wow. What a bomb, emotionally especially. We had tried so hard to be prepared, and to make the right, responsible decision, how did we miss something this huge? At adoption, there were a ton of waivers we had to sign concerning the health of the dog, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t blame P.A.K. at all. The point of the long story above was to show you that P.A.K. is that much better in quality from just a typical shelter. But much like a shelter, when a litter of puppies is dumped at their doorstep they don’t know the dog’s history, much about the genetic makeup of mom and dad, or in general where the puppies have been.

A long story, but here comes the point. If you are reading this article, and are preparing to buy a puppy from Petsmart and P.A.K. Rescue in Greenwood / Indianapolis, IN you will be the beneficiaries from our mistakes. If you are serious about the dog, but can resist the cuteness of a puppy long enough to think things through, have it checked out. I know it seems harsh to make a decision about getting a dog or not on whether he is healthy or not, but consider this. Our dog Kellogg ended up being ok. He had a test done for Parvovirus and it came back negative, and his roundworm issues are fairly common and easily treated. All added up, these treatments we not that costly. But it was a cost we didn’t necessarily have to pay, and just think if he did have Parvovirus. The treatments for something that serious are expensive, and don’t guarantee anything depending on the progression of the disease. We could spend a ton of money into a dog that could be beyond saving and pass away.

Back to the point. Take advantage of the “foster a puppy” program if you are serious about looking at a particular dog. The same day you are fostering, make an appointment at a veterinarian, or at Banfield Hospital right there in Petsmart and have them do a rigorous check over of the dog. Have them check for a number of the diseases young dogs get, and ask a lot of questions. Do your research, Banfield provides a pamphlet that gives you an introduction to many of these ailments, but you still need to get online and learn a little more.

This may seem cruel, but I consider myself a businessman, and I don’t like to rush into any decision. You have two options, either you can pay $500 in medical bills for a dog that dies because you didn’t do your research, or if you are so serious that you are taking a dog home, have him checked out for considerably less, make sure he is healthy, and best of all get some peace of mind.

You want to have a long term friend and pet, and you both want to be happy. This is my advice to you, do the right thing and don’t be fooled by those puppy eyes. There is much more to a puppy than face value, and you want to make sure he stays that cute, happy little puppy that you will enjoy for a long time.


Column 13 – Part 1

Adopting a dog in Indianapolis, IN?

Both my wife and I have always wanted a dog of our own. We both grew up with a furry companion, but just in the last year we have felt like we were secure enough financially to get one.

At first, I was looking for a specific mix of Shar Pei and Pit Bull. Why that combination in particular? We knew another dog that we thought of as “perfect” that had that exact mixing. We watch her from time to time and really love her a lot. But the options for this mix were slim, costly, and usually involved a time consuming trip. It took me over 8 months of semi-passive searching to come to the realization that I may have to compromise some, but also to realize that it shouldn’t be this hard to adopt a dog.

Up until now, I had always shuddered at the thought of adopting from a shelter. The shelter’s I have visited have the wafting aroma of a loaded diaper, and are equally messy. Not to mention, the few folks I have met who run shelters seem to be less than welcoming. I would make a large assumption that their hardened demeanor is a result of what they have seen over the years. They also have probably also fought losing battles with weak willed character and apathy in potential adoptees who don’t really want any of the responsibility of owning a dog.

When a friend of ours told us that certain shelters came to the major pet outlets (Petco and Petsmart) on the weekends with dog’s to adopt, I was skeptically anticipating a similar experience in a store as I would have at the shelter itself. But I was wrong. At Petsmart there is a rescue named P.A.K. (or Puppy and Kitten Rescue as the acronym goes) that dispelled most of my preconceived notions.

Thursday through Sunday P.A.K. would set puppies out in little fenced in gates out on the main floor for all of the people to swoon. Just like any other puppies, they aren’t potty trained and their little fenced in area gets messy, but here in the store helpers quickly snatched up the dirty newspapers out of the gates as soon as ” business” occurred. And despite the reality that not all puppies would be adopted, and there would be many unfit, flighty, spur of the moment decision makers who would want to adopt, the P.A.K. rescue folks were warm, friendly, and ready to re-explain anything they probably had to explain ten times over during the course of any one given day.

This was what really impressed me about P.A.K. rescue. I am not oblivious to the responsibilities of adopting a puppy, but at the same time, I don’t want to concentrate on the inevitable smell and ruin any pet will bring to your nice things. You take the good with the bad, and when you are shopping you want mostly the good. Not to mention, here, your heart gets a rest. These are playful puppies, hopeful but aloof, not grown dogs who have been abused, underappreciated, and in cages most of their lives. The in store dog shopping was a nice medium for me, it was more neutral, and P.A.K’s main focus was the customer, not some pressing duty or care around the shelter.

So, we had made the decision that we wanted to adopt a puppy in one of the major pet stores, but we still were very unsure of what sort of knowledge we should possess before owning a young dog. Both my wife and I had grown up with dogs, but weren’t the primary care givers so our combined cobbled knowledge made for a set of inexperienced, retarded, red-headed-step-child-named-Cletus type owners.

Not to worry, P.A.K. rescue also had a great solution for potential owners like us. They would essentially let you “rent a dog” for one night or for four days during the week. At the surface this seems like a good racket to get you committed to those beautiful brown eyes. But if you have a strong will, this will allow you to get to know their personality a little bit, and find out some things about puppy rearing that you may have not already known. I am sure most people bring a puppy home and probably can’t help but get attached and adopt it. We were aware, and did our best to be prepared.

But despite our big fat pragmatic brains, our heart went out to the dog we chose, and we got attached. Hell, we had already started the naming process for our “Rent a dog” before our 24 hours was up, so we decided it was time to make a little leap and keep him. In the day we watched him, he didn’t give us any weird surprises, we liked his personality, and we were ready to have the responsibility of training him and caring for him on a day in day out basis.

P.A.K. gave us all of our forms and the remaining information we needed, calmly going through everything and not rushing us through the process. Now, an important note to this story is that these puppies were rescued from another shelter, meaning the history of the young dogs was one mystery you would have to accept. But P.A.K. did give them their first deworming and other initial puppy checks and treatments.

On top of that, Petsmart has made the whole new owner ramp up period even easier. They give you coupons for the supplies you will need, and they have partnered with Banfield pet hospital, which is located inside the store, to provide packaged health care visits and vaccinations to keep your puppy healthy. Banfield is a registered veterinarian hospital that has convenient hours (the same hours as Petsmart) and great prices. (I almost think they may be subsidized because of their agreement.) Banfield even provides a completely free looksie at your newest family member before you sign the final adoption papers.

This is where we were naive. I thought, that if the vet checked the dog over, then we would know right away of any major issues the puppy might have. But as I stood there, the puppy check seemed to be nothing more than a visual lookover to make sure your puppy wasn’t bleeding from the tip of his tail or missing a leg or something. There were no real tests concerning the health of the dog, only a check for some obvious visual cues, that if found would signify some condition so long progressed that your dog probably would pass away before you even left the store.

But, still committed, we left with our new puppy in tow. Now, fast forward a week. We have experienced good and bad in our new puppy “Kellogg”. He is clumsy and cute, but poops and pees all over the house and bites everything within a two inch radius of his mouth. We expected nothing less, but alarmingly we got something we never anticipated. It seemed about mid week that Kellogg started to growl when we picked him up, his demeanor changing from playful to nasty at the drop of dime. Then we get a larger, longer sign that something is wrong.

Continue to Part 2…..

Column 12 – Part 2

Striving for a love of every detail of life continued……

Dreams never die

The childhood dream surged back into my mind, and I knew the next step was playing in college. At the University of Michigan I made the team as a walk on my freshman year, and believe it or not, played all through college as well. But again, because I stayed so close to home to go to school, I was still able to use my mom to help me pick out the best spikes to wear.

After college, because of my stamina, intensity, and accuracy in my shots, I had drawn interest from professional teams and I signed with a new professional team in Indianapolis. It was all falling into place. The first thing on my mind was, “I need a pair of shoes to play professional soccer and these worn old pair won’t cut it.”

The first new pair of shoes I bought for pros out of college was with the money I was planning to use to eat that week. I didn’t know for myself exactly what the most important aspect of the shoes was, and I didn’t have extra cash to toss around. Plus, time was money and the first game was the next day, so I was not able to sit on my decision and think things through rationally.

I found a pair of shoes that seemed like they “would do”. The sale price was perfect, but they were far from my dream shoe. When I tried them on they seemed a little tight, with little room to breath. But since they were selling out inventory and they only had select sizes, I decided to get them.

Although they helped me play the game, this new pair of shoes didn’t let me utilize all my skills. They were stiff and I developed blisters on my heels so I couldn’t pivot as quickly. My output suffered as a result, but, I worked through them, because it was my decision to buy them and I had to take what I had and make the best of it. In my mind I started to set my standards much higher to prevent a repeat the next time.

Eventually, nine months later, I figured it was time for a new pair. I didn’t throw the first pair out because I could still use them, besides, I didn’t have the money to be so wasteful.

Learning from my mistakes, or so I thought

Time to take another dip in the shoe pool. I went a couple months ahead of time to start looking before I knew the old ones would wear out. I had a little more money and a few less bills, so there wasn’t as much pressure. But the first season of pro soccer was spent mostly on the bench after my lack luster performance, and I knew that this could be my last year if I didn’t get a good pair.

I found lots of different shoes that were on sale, but I rarely bothered to waste my time, instead looking at the ones that fit me. I needed room to move around and lots of padding to stay comfortable throughout the season. I looked for awhile, gave some shoes a test run, and finally chose a pair that although not a dream, were definitely better then the first pair.

These weren’t on sale, which was fine. Sometimes the quality reflects the price and sometimes it doesn’t. I wore the shoes for two months, and then one day during the game, right at a crucial moment, the shoe exploded. It just fell apart, the sole came off, the left side tore open, and all I had left was a foot that looked like a peeled banana. Only later I found that with a little more time in research would I have learned that the shoe had a history of being unreliable at best.

I had to go back to the store very suddenly. I hadn’t planned on going back for a long time, and this was extremely jarring for me. I thought I had made the right decision last time. I hadn’t settled, but I didn’t hold out for the dream shoe when it might not exist, and even more importantly, when I didn’t know exactly what it was that I wanted. But still, I thought I had picked a good shoe, and I felt scared about my judgment.

Why is it happening to everyone else but me?

To complicate things, it seemed all of my teammates from college were so successful on the other teams they played for. They had played for a couple of years straight with the same shoes, or had successive pairs of shoes that were great. I felt left out, like my life was worth less than theirs, and although I knew I was just as good if not better because my playing skills were so much more diverse, I had nothing to show for it.

Strange enough, at a store the same day that I had my on field explosion, I found a pair of shoes I really liked. Immediately, I walked away, waiting as I researched a little more. I called the manufacturer to find the history of the shoe, the idea behind the design, and the materials that were in it. I asked others who wore the shoe; I went to the plant to see them made. I wanted to make sure that I made the best decision about one of the most important things in my life.

I wasn’t going to settle anymore, I was emotionally tired. Even though I needed to have a good pair to play, it came down to the fact that I felt I had exhausted my research, and now all that was left was to trust that my decision was right and the shoes would last.

From what I can tell so far, from what my parents have taught me, they are a perfect fit. I can maneuver anywhere I need; they have an inch so my feet could grow forever and still have enough room. They aren’t tight so I can move but at the same time hold me tight enough to give me the best possible performance I could ask for.

Now that I have them, I think I appreciate them that much more because I had two other pairs of terrible shoes. I didn’t make the right decision out of the gate, but I did learn, and maybe that was my destiny. Granted, it has only been seven weeks now since I have had the shoes, and it is too early to really judge if they will last for a long time, and if they will continue to be great or if that is just because they are new.

To pause from looking behind my back..

All I know is that when I get home from the game, and I see the amazing things I did, I well up and want nothing more to cry. Everyday on my car ride home from practice I thank God. I smile from ear to ear, to know what it is like for my friends, what it is like to perform as best as I can, and to know what it is like to be happy all the time and wake up in the morning wanting to live life.

Settling was a bigger mistake then I could have ever dreamed. I had nothing to compare to know what good really is. The key is to not make a rash decision if the opportunity has been given you to choose. Sometimes you have no choice, you have to take the cheapest pair, but my parents gave me the opportunity to have better and therefore perform better.

The duh factor.

I reality, I stopped playing soccer in the seventh grade. Most of you know me well enough now through these columns to know that I write in the most extreme of situations. I have written about sadness, pain, anxiety of the future, and introspection. This may be the first time I am writing about true and utter happiness, and I ask that you pray for me so that it lasts, and that it really isn’t too good to be true to finally have it happening to me.

I know God, and I am not stupid. I don’t understand why I had two bad pairs of shoes that didn’t fit before my new great pair of shoes. But I will not be angry with what was, but elated over what can be. With arms wide open, opportunity has been given to me and once again I remember that God truly is great and he will bless his children.


Column 12 – Part 1

Sometimes it comes in spurts!

Four weeks ago I thought I was going to write a column for the first time in a long while, and then figured I might not have something to say for a number of months. Turns out it was just the next week that I feel the voice stirring, and now, we are here…

Striving for a love of every detail of life

If you have ever watched a Simpson’s episode, I believe that my writing is very similar in structure. With that said and most of your not having a clue what I am talking about, let’s move on.

I was in the third grade and that is the first time I remember the amazing experience of wearing a pair of sweatpants. Their lack of resistance to outside air that makes your crotch feel like a wind tunnel. The little cotton pieces from a brand new pair that sticks in places that was formerly reserved only for sand, and then there’s the elastic, who doesn’t love elastic?

It had been another swarmy day at the two room school house in the country, where I received my pre-adolescent education. Just like any other day, I was watching the clock, but not because I was waiting to leave. My stomach felt like it was full of those striped tree worms, slithering anxiously all about.

The bus ride home was long, and I prayed that my mom had forgotten. But there she was, sitting in our onyx colored Buick that now had a dusting of oregano colored rust around the wheel wells and quarter panels. She had fruit snacks and crackers packed into the glove compartment because I wasn’t going to be eating dinner for awhile. The crackers tasted like chalk and the fruit snacks like an old truck tire. You’d think that I was going to have open heart surgery for how nervous I was. But oh no, it was much worse. For the first time in my life, I was going to play soccer and I was scared to death.

My parents had a sense of humor.

My parents had a compulsive affinity for signing my sister and me up for myriads of different activities. Kicking and screaming, I was convinced that anything my parents said was cool was obviously not, so you might say I was a little resistant to new experiences. Usually the conversation would go something like, “But I don’t want to do stupid ballet. Ballet is for girls….and I’m I boy!” Ok, so maybe not that last part, but they would always come back with, “You need to try new things, besides…. You don’t know what you want.”

After about five whole minutes of soccer practice, I realized that not only was soccer cool, but I knew that this is what I wanted to be when I grew up, a super leaguer soccer player. I mean, I’d been playing it for an hour and I loved it. What would it be like to play soccer all day, then come home and hang out with Raphael and Master Splinter and have pizza every night? (Dreams of sublime happiness are also a little strange at that age.)

I learned early on that one of the great things about soccer that there is not a lot of gear that is required to play. Shin guards, some shorts, a
soccer ball, and shoes. However, shoes were more crucial in soccer than any other piece of gear in any other sport. You were always on your feet, andnot having your footing possibly meant disaster, cost goals, lost games, or even worse could injure your body that would end your playing days for good.

My mom would take me (when I was still on their dollar) to get spikes, from my first pair to the many replacements. I learned early on how to
pick a quality shoe and how to know if they would last. Because she had lived with a family of three other under-sportsed girls, she had to define her own standard of quality in athletic shoes. But in the same right, I gave her plenty of practice for how many pairs of shoes I went through. It was usually by the end of a month of soccer, my shoes looked like Bill Murray, a lot older than they actually are and a ton of holes. I went through them like toilet paper and the store clerks practically knew us by name.

The shoe picking process

So not only did we get new shoes often, but my feet were freakishly big (at ten years old I would taunt my dad with my noticeably bigger canoes) Basically, I had a heck of a time finding shoes, but we still ran through this quality testing process;

1. Check the little tag on the tongue of the shoe, and make sure that they were real leather and not something fake. She believed leather lasted longer, but as time went on, we found that I still wore through them just as quick and all new shoes were synthetic.

2. Try the shoes on, both shoes. That meant taking them out of the box, threading the laces, and tying them up. Needless to say, there were a lot of lucky people who didn’t have to tie anything.

3. Stand up and my mom would press the toe to see how close I was to the end to make sure that I would have some room to grow.

4. Walk up and down the aisles, to see if the shoes would slide up and down my heels. I would squat to see if they would come off, and just do some small typical movements to see if I noticed any other glaring problems.

But in all of those times I went never once did I make the decision; instead, I put autopilot on. “My mom liked this” I told myself, and she would do it all for me. But this may have been a mistake. Having your parents make your decisions takes away from your life experience in good judgment. Little did I know that my disregard for my brand of shoes was a more important experience than I thought.

I continued to play right until I was in sixth grade and we moved from the Podunk town of St. Johns MI to Grand Haven MI. The move was a great plan God had for us. The Grand Haven team was immensely good and soccer is very competitive there.

I tried out and got to play on Strikers, the competitive traveling soccer team, and even then all of my free time I would practice my skill. I would come home and juggle, my best getting up to like a 119.

Three years later I was at that secondary age level and I can remember practicing all night the day before tryouts. Tryouts lasted all week, and I knew that this would be the first of a couple huge turning points in my life and what I was really meant to do. If I made the team in freshman year, it would be that much easier then trying to come on later and oust someone.

The end of the week brought the announcement of the team roster and the beginning of the next week started my life as a Grand Haven high school soccer player. I was so happy and continued to be for the next four years that I played through high school.

Continue to Part 2…..

Column 11 – Part 2

Superbowl 2004? continued……

What did I think of Timberlake’s performance?

That was just it, he was Michael Jackson, and not original. His performance was ok at best.

The song and his first single, “Like I Love you” wasn’t overly inventive and his performance had thematic elements and choreography stolen, not expanded on, from Michael.

I passed his debut off as just another recording artist. He didn’t seem to have his own voice, and that seemed to be the popular consensus over the next week in the media. Timberlake’s album came out soon after to harsh reviews of “Timberlake is a good study of Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson, but not an innovator.”

A couple of months passed, and I forgot how important I thought that moment was, and started to have more down to earth expectations for his music and individual style.

Fast Forward to a different state of mind

Now November, I was working my first job and due to the long commute, I listened to the radio a ton. “Cry me a River”, the second single from Justified, was released, and although not a real catchy tune, it was really soulful. Different with a strong, slow beat and a high vocal range that only Timberlake could pull off, it seemed to get a ton of buzz. Plus, the fact that it was about his breakup with Britney made the song that much better.

Soon after, the radios lit up with ‘Work It”, a song he did with red hot Nelly. Catchy with a perfect meld of lyrics and melodic chorus, it was song that you turn up to make the time fly.

Over the next year and a half to two years it seemed like Mr. Timberlake was everywhere. He had a couple more singles off the album that were cool, “Rock your Body” and “Senorita” that further distanced him from his days as a teen heartthrob and carving out a niche for his brand of Rhythm and Blues layered with Funk.

It was becoming apparent that like Michael, one of Timberlake’s greatest strengths was that his music crossed over into so many genres. He performed on BET, (Black Entertainment Television) he was on the mainstream pop stations, as well as the alternative ones, and he seemed to be growing steadily in popularity as a solo artist.

On top of all that, not related to his music, Timberlake has always seemed like a really cool guy that wasn’t too over inflated. From Kentucky, it seemed like he was living the American Dream. Good looking, rich, and at one time dating (arguable) the hottest woman on the planet, Britney Spears, he had it all! He even dipped in the dramatic waters with a sense of comedic delivery as a dancing omelet on SNL and a funny spoof skit of the Matrix with Sean William Scott on the MTV movie awards.

He seemed like he came to his stardom deservingly, through hard work and talent with a hearty helping of charisma. But I confused thatncharisma with artistic integrity and always putting his work before anything else.

And then it hit me.

That is when I realized what was upsetting me about the Superbowl.

I had not seen the incident in real time, but had been taping the game because I had work to do and the Superbowl is an all day event. When I saw it later, it didn’t seem like the big deal everyone was making it out to be at first. Then I started to really think about who it impacted, and listened to the backlash as it unraveled, and I realized how big of a deal this was.

But I am not a parent, so it didn’t directly affect me and it didn’t offend me.

What I do care about is the fact that Timberlake was just starting to become this great innovative solo artist for me.

I will read articles in passing about Timberlake when I browse through the newsstands. He says he only now realizes why people were labeling N’Sync as this candy pop band and that he knows that the songs he wrote on Justified are so much above and beyond that.

He isn’t the only one who thinks so. At an award show late last year, Eminem and 50 Cent stood up and gave him applause on his walk up to the stage. Earlier this year, he won a Grammy and gave a stellar and engaging performance of Senorita on the piano in what is becoming his trademark style of a pastel suit and canvas shoes.

This is the same artist who pulled off a piece of Janet Jackson’s brassiere and later passed it off as a “wardrobe malfunction”. Maybe it was all Jackson’s doing you say, that they had rehearsed something similar the day before, but she changed her outfit to surprise him on the day of. “Have you naked by the end of this song” doesn’t seem to fit with a simple display of a bra, there is more skin on NYPD Blue.

Oh, he knew, and he liked it. He liked the idea of being involved in such a large stunt with such a large name that he was drawn to. I do believe that in most cases, all publicity is good, no matter type it is. But not this time, it wasn’t just a regular display, and it wasn’t on a regular day.

Considering all the details

Let’s play the devil’s advocate. Maybe he was feeling some unwarranted pressure from the kiss between his ex-girlfriend Britney and Madonna back in September. Maybe his obvious outspoken respect and attraction for Janet Jackson, which was apparent at the Icon awards last year, took over. Maybe it was that continuing heat between the pair that resulted in a real accident onstage during the Super Bowl.

But I doubt it.

The Superbowl is the unofficial holiday of America. Not many other days of the year can give you that much exposure. An excuse for families to spend all day together and eat more than they would on an off day, some 120 million people were watching, including many children.

I do not think that all children have seen a naked breast, and if they have, they haven’t seen one many times.

I don’t think MTV is at fault. They probably knew and didn’t stop her, because MTV fosters those sort of ideas. But, it was her unprompted idea, and you know that she didn’t care. She just kept saying, “I apologize for those of you who were offended” instead of “I am sorry because I was naïve enough to think that the American public actually believes this was an accident.” Or “Sorry, I don’t care how my actions may affect anyone else.”

As I look down at my own chest, covered in hair, I know that if I shift wrong, I can pull some hair out, and cause “discomfort”. I cannot imagine gluing on a nipple “decoration” or “enhancer”, let alone attach a die cast metal, quarter inch thick object, with six to eight half inch spikes to my chest, underneath my clothes, unless I had some intentions of showing it off.

I read a couple of weeks ago in Rolling Stones that Timberlake said, “I’ve had a good year, a really good year, I don’t need publicity like this.” But that wasn’t what I heard come out of his mouth immediately after the event. I heard something similar to what Jackson said, apologizing to those who were offended. Maybe he meant sorry for choosing on national television what should be offensive to every person on the planet.

I thought Justin was better than that; it’s my naïve conservative upbringing shining through. At some point all musicians will cross the line in the name of pushing their own careers and reputations plummet from there. I just didn’t think it would be before his career really began.

Look at his mentor Michael Jackson. Michael is an innovator as well as a button pusher in his risks. I mean, he even pissed off Steven Spielberg. That’s pretty good. He may be getting torn apart with these molestation allegations, but it isn’t like he hasn’t given the media reason over the years to blow things out of proportion.

Justin may not be as bad, and he may not be going down the same road, but this may be his first step. They both knew to shock the most people that the Superbowl was the ideal event. Maybe they wanted to sell more albums, but I doubt it was that basic. I think it was just to shock and nothing more, for the thrill. Sad really, to need the attention.

Solely my opinion and my closing

Maybe every American is already desensitized, and maybe children have already seen something similar. Maybe we are more uptight than Europe with their free display of the human body in mainstream media. We may be hypocritical in letting massive amounts of increasingly depictive violence on TV slide, but being hyper sensitive to nudity.

But I am still going to say for the sake of a budding career, a bad reflection on his N’Sync band mates, and disrespect to those parents out there that didn’t want to expose their children to a plastic black woman…

What Timberlake did was inappropriate.