Gator: Missing My Dad

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First, just know that this post is a long one. I tend to try not to write long ones…but this one will be a long one.

My Dad has been gone 10 years and I really wanted to write something for Father’s Day. Instead, I got to spend the day with my two favorite people…my kids. We hung at the park, laughed A LOT, ate way too big a breakfast, bought a few books. It was a pretty perfect day.  I actually ended up showing them pictures of my Dad holding each of them. They were the pictures from the last time he would see either of them, the only time he would see my son. Neither of them can possibly remember him, they were too young. I am including those pictures here, as well as one more that sends home who he was. He was so surprised to see his grandkids, but I remember my Dad telling me that day with my son, “Holding him was the first time I realized I was going to die. That I wouldn’t see him grow up.”

I actually ended up showing them pictures of my Dad holding each of them. They were the pictures from the last time he would see either of them, the only time he would see my son. Neither of them can possibly remember him, they were too young. I am including those pictures here, as well as one more that sent home who he was. But I remember my Dad telling me that day with my son, “Holding him was the first time I realized I was going to die. That I wouldn’t see him grow up.”

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He passed away around a month later. We got closer than we had ever been during that time, calling each other early in the morning to watch reruns of Coach together for an hour. I will forever be grateful for that time.

My Dad was a spider-fearing nuisance alligator trapper for the state of Florida. Between that and the Marine Corps, I grew up in maybe the most exciting was possible. Can’t be bored like that! He was not defined my any illness but by the mark he left on his family, friends, and people he came in contact with. He ws a man that worked with an animal he respected and loved. If he is defined by anything, it is simply by his love and respect for this world.

My Dad fought lung cancer for a long time. From April of 2006 until it got the best of him on July 2, 2007. He was 54, but he did well.  He was originally given 3 to 6 months, tops. He fought hard and I know he is up there enjoying being reunited again with my Mom, who died of cancer at 38. To be honest, he never really recovered from that.

The day of his funeral, I was not able to attend. My son was at the children’s hospital for tests. At that time, they were thinking it was a blockage and that we would surely be looking at surgery. I was heartbroken to not be at my father’s funeral but knew he would understand the gravity of the situation if he were still with us.

To that end, I wrote a eulogy that a friend delivered at the funeral for me. For Father’s Day, I thought I would simply share that eulogy.

Also know that, from the beginning, my Dad would send out updates on his condition. He was originally diagnosed with small cell carcinoma. Treatable, but aggressive. At 6 months, he was declared cancer-free. Unfortunately, it made a comeback and would not be defeated again. This was the email he wrote about that (I left the typos. He never had typos. I think that it is important to leave them here):

Well, I’ll make this short and to the point.

I ent to the hospital the past couple of days for some tests. Seems the little devils are ddoing their thing despite all the poison we have thrown at them. The docs and us have decided there really isn’t anything else to do and at the pace the cancer is going I have maybe 2-4 weeks. Maybe less.

So, we are preparing for my journey and I am doing fine.

I want all of tyou to know how much I love you all and amm truly a blessed man for all the wonderful family and friends God has seen fit to put in my life.

I have a request for you all. Do not grieve me. I have lived a life very few have the opportunity to live. I have been able to come and go at will and do whatever I wanted at the drop of a hat. I have 6 wonderful grandchildren, 3 terrific children and A wife sent directly to me from God himself. An incredible number of wonderful friends who love. Can you think of anything I’m missing? I can’t.

So I say to you all once more, I love you more than you’ll ever know and am eternally grateful for all your support and prayers sent to me and my family. Please don’t stop the prayers for the comfort of my family and friends who I must in this world. They will need it now most of all.

Tony

So when I found I could not make it, I wrote the eulogy. I attach it here.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. We miss you, bud.

Note: “Sexing” an alligator simply means checking the sex of it, which involves placing a finger in their “vent”. Generally, not pleasant for the checker. And as you read, you will see why I am explaining this.

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First off, I deeply regret not being able to attend today. After all, this is probably the largest group of people who have been tricked into sexing an alligator in history! Unfortunately, our 7-week-old son has been diagnosed with a type of blockage and will be going to All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete for treatment and surgery. But I know Dad would rather I be with my wife and son in this situation. Just one of the things that makes him him.

My Dad was a hard as nails, tough old buzzard. Not that you’d know it. Cause that man would give you the shirt right off his back even if it was his last one. Wouldn’t matter, not if you needed it. And there’s no saying “No” to that either.

In one of our last conversations, we were talking about trust. And one trait we share is that we trust people immediately. When someone tells you something, it never even occurs to you that they may be lying. Their word is golden unless they prove otherwise. Just who he was.

He was also straightforward and honest. If he told you he’d be there, he would be there. –He’d be a ½ hour to an hour late, but he’d be there…– And that’s the thing about Dad. He is definitely here. And there. And at your home, work, boat, truck, stand, or secret fishing hole. Truth is, he is everywhere. In every story you tell about the time he scared you to death gator hunting. Every time you go into the outdoors. Every time you think about how he made your life a little better cause he was so willing to share his. That’s where he is. With all of us. On Lake Miccosukee, Talquin, Seminole, Jackson. Back in the Everglades where those orchids grow and monsters bellow. The Wacissa River and every single body of water that holds a snook. He will live on.

Because he gave us so much of who he is that we are part of him, and that means every person we share a memory with is part of him too. My Dad may not have been the greatest man in history, but he’s damn sure the greatest man I have ever known. And I would not be the man I am if not for his being the man he is. There are alligators all over my house. Pictures, books – including a book called Meet Gator that Dad gave my daughter, stories, memories, and fishing gear. Heck, I couldn’t get him out of my house if I wanted to. I pray that I can be half the man he was.

Dad, I know you asked us not to cry for you. I understand. But allow each of us to cry, instead, for our poor sorry selves. Cause we were all selfish enough to hope to keep you forever. No doubt you are much better off than the rest of us. And already hunting and fishing with Mom, Uncle Greg, and Grandaddy…among others. But man, we sure do miss you down here. And of that, you should be proud. Cause there is not a single one of us that won’t feel a little elation mixed with sorrow every time we hunt, fish, or see an alligator. I can tell you that he already reminded me.

July 3rd, we went down to see my in-laws and I spent the whole evening doing the only thing I could think to do to beat back my pain. I cast and cast off their dock. I had never caught a fish there. I was casting a jig and…BUMP…a bite! And the fight! But it felt odd…I got a light down and looked, and it was a 7-foot alligator. On a jig fished on the bottom. In brackish water. I smiled and cried, thanking him for allowing me that moment. An alligator biting a jig. And then he let go. But not before letting me know he was there. Oh, and for the record, the next day I caught 4 snook in that fishless canal. Thanks, Dad.

And although I know I have been long-winded, I would like very much to read something. Dad was sent an email by a friend of his that he immediately connected with. It was a poem called “The Dash”. And I’d like to read that to you now.

The Dash
by Linda Ellis
Copyright 1996

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years. (1953 -2007)

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth…
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars…the house…the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard…
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile..
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s being read
With your life’s actions to rehash…
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

Hopefully, all our dashes can be even half as full as his. I love you, Dad. We all do.

Be seein’ you…

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A Night Light in Darkness

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When I was a child, I was scared of the dark. ANYTHING could happen in the dark, and none of it was good. My son is the same now. He knows that the only way to make the darkness go away is with light. For now, we combat that.

Try asking him if he thinks that it will help if we kill all the lights and shut his door, making it darker. Ask him if that will drive out the darkness that brings him so much fear.

I am not the answer to all of the world’s problems. But WE ARE the answer to all the world’s problems. We can all be night lights.

Darkness and hate can not be driven out with hate and darkness. It doesn’t work like that. It has never worked like that.

The only thing that cuts darkness…destroys it…is light.

You want to destroy darkness? Try light. Try being the change. Be a night light. The cool thing about a night light is that, yes, it helps with your own dark. But, almost by accident, it helps with other peoples’ dark as well. It does not choose where its beams will fall. They fall everywhere and cut the darkness, providing a brighter view to the world around it.

What we are seeing right now are people fighting hate with hate. Closing the door and making it darker, believing that this will help fight the darkness. Until the rest of us learn to love, really love, nothing will change. It will grow darker. You will stop caring if the sun rises.

Be a night light.

Me? I still look for the sunrise. I still notice the vibrant greens after the rain. I still smell the salt air or the pines on the breeze.

Yes, I am a man that will always do what is necessary. Sometimes those things are not pleasant for everyone. But that is not what is needed right now.

The problem right now is a lack of love, compassion, and light. The problem right now is that there are too many fighting hate with more hate. We are killing EACH OTHER. We are not the enemy, folks. We are humans. We are beings.

We are scared of the dark. Be a night light.

Unless we can find a way to accept each other and love each other just for being a human, we will not recover. We can’t.

We need a night light.

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It Should Be FUN

Sometimes you have to remember that simplification can bring the fun back. Especially the kind of fun that leaves you smiling and in a sweaty heap.

My Workout for Monday

Tire Flips A1
Tire Jump Throughs (Jump into and out of the tire = 1) A1
Curls A2
Press of any kind A2
Goblet squats A2
Lat Pull Downs A2
Face Pulls or standing cable rows A2

Start at 10 for A1, 20 for A2
9 for A1, 18 for A2
8 for A1, 16 for A2
All the way to 1 and 2

And I had FUN! It was at home, I beat on myself and sweated hard. No music. No mirrors. A storm outside the doors. And it was AWESOME.

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I came across 3 big tires of varying size (see photos), a large wooden fence post (maybe a quarter of a telephone pole) , a Weider Machine, and a couple barbells. FREE. I was heading to the Y and then asked myself why. I didn’t have a good answer so I created a full-body circuit and had some fun. To be honest, it was the most fun I have had working out since I was last in a CrossFit gym or working out with a buddy back in IN. I plan to add a wheelbarrow, a rope or 2, a couple sets of Rings, and a couple sledgehammers. And maybe a bit more weight.

Here’s the thing that I think we forget…
You don’t NEED a gym. What you need is a dollop of discipline. Motivation gets you out the door, but discipline makes you return when you don’t feel like it. THOSE are the most important days. The days you go but don’t feel like going.

And when I say “going”…that’s to your spot. Is that the woods? Is that the living room or basement for a BeachBody program? Is it the gym for some Wendler 5/3/1 or something of your own design? Sprints in the backyard? CrossFit box or the WoD from CrossFit.com in your garage? A long walk in the woods stopping to lift a log, carry a rock, jump a creek, or climb a tree? Because whatever it is, it will become a sanctuary. A home. A place for you to put in the work. That’s it! It is one of the pillars we will discuss. One of the load bearing beams that keep your roof up.

You don’t have to follow a set plan or program. It can be this simple…
Eat real foods: Meat, veggies, fruit, some nuts.
Move daily and at high intensity a couple times a week
Repeat.

Suddenly you won’t be so sore. You will feel good when you move. Serotonin and Endorphins do their work and you notice that, as you are recovering, you are smiling! And you want that feeling again!

There is no right or wrong. There is simply looking at your life and figuring out where a workout fits. Looking at nutrition and understanding it. There is no cheat. There are simply foods that you choose to eat. Some have better effects on your body than others. So when you eat something because you are at a party, you know what that does and how you feel. You enjoy it and move on.

There are no such things as “cheat” foods. There is only food with varying degrees of nutrient density. Choosing nutrient dense food more often will lead to positive changes in your body!

Got an idea? Go put it in action and see how you feel. Day 1 you will feel tired. But feel beyond that. How do you feel overall?

Discipline and habit will always beat out motivation in the end. But motivation is what will get you there today. Motivation was when I found myself 6 years ago too out of shape to play with my children. Discipline helped me make sure I can continue running with them, picking them up, PLAYING!

More about food and fitness in the future. But for today I am just enjoying a body that feels like it did work yesterday. And it is a great feeling.

Want some help with what any of that looks like? Message me! I will be happy to help you with a way to eat or move that works for you.

 

A Good Man

Maybe it is time we all stop arguing about what is or isn’t right. What we should or should not be.

You know what it is to be and do good. Just go out today and do that.

Love, fight the good fight, spread joy, drive out darkness.

LIVE.

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Do The Damn Thing

My Dad and I always had a tough time. He was a damn good man that tried really hard, but never quite got me, although we did finally connect on a deeper level a month or two before he passed away. He was a tough man to please if you were his kid, a great hunting pal in my adult years, but a loyal friend to the people around him. I learned a lot of lessons from him. A love of the outdoors, the value of a hard day’s work, how to trust first until you had a reason not to. Some were about how to do things. Some were about how not to.

Dad had a lot of sayings, but there was one that stuck with me all these years.

“Son, if you’re going to do it…do the damn thing.”

Maybe at first blush, it doesn’t mean much when you read it. It may just look like a Dad telling his son to apply himself.  Heck, maybe that’s even what he did mean. But to me, it has come to mean more.

Do the damn thing.

At one point, it became a battle cry in our gym. When things were about to get nasty with a particular workout, just before we started, I would say “Let’s DO THE DAMN THING!” It never failed to fire us up.

But there is another meaning there.

We all live this life doing what we must. Working a job, living a life, taking care of our families. Most of us also have a dream. Making the leap to follow that dream is spicy. It is terrifying and will launch you into a state of being uncomfortable. Of uncertainty. It is outside what you have built as your comfort zone. A scary, dark place.

But if you want it, if you truly believe you are moving to your life’s purpose, there is but one thing to do…

DO THE DAMN THING

Take a chance. Make that leap. Be a catalyst for change in your own life and in the world around you. It may be terrifying, but will it be more terrifying than leaving this world with that regret? That “What if” still in your soul?

You know what you want. You know the chance is there. You know it will be hard, as most things that are worthwhile are. You know your beliefs, your purpose, your life’s goals.

Mindfulness, purpose, fitness, health, a new career. You know your dreams and goals.

There is really only one thing left to do.

Do the damn thing.

What Pain Do You Want?

What do you want out of life? That question is ok, but the answer will be pretty vague and usually be “happiness” or something to that effect.
A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is this:

“What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?”

That seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

 

The Man in the Arena

On April 23rd, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech titled “Citizenship in a Republic”. There was one part of this speech that resonated with people. And it is a worthy lesson.

The excerpt is called “The Man in the Arena” and it speaks of something that is the most important lesson you will ever learn. Something I have taught my children. Something I have been taught by many great people before me. By the giants whose shoulders I stand on now.

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

No one who has ever tried has completely failed. The only people who truly failed are those that never tried. Those that never took a chance. Those that never fought a losing battle to the end just to make sure that they finished.

Anyone can fall. It is those that get up, dust themselves off, wipe the blood from their face, and dig back in that know the real beauty of life. It is impossible to fail if you keep standing up.

It doesn’t matter how many times you fall. The secret is to stand up one more time.

Time for a Tune Up

A week ago I decided to go back to basics in another aspect of my life… fitness and nutrition.

Over the last 5 years or so, I have really enjoyed myself by trying all sorts of interesting programs. The first, which was actually 10 years ago or more, was South Beach Diet. And it worked fine, but just wasn’t the right thing at the right time for me.

Then, about 5 years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution. I joined Planet Fitness and started working out. No other real changes, just that. And I started losing weight. But I was BORED to tears. Nothing against them, I just needed more.

I saw a commercial where a guy was sprinting, hitting a tire with a sledgehammer, climbing a rope, and jumping on a box. I started looking and found CrossFit. I walked into CrossFit at about 300 pounds. I had just really let myself go. It was really disappointing. I walked in and asked the coach (who I am still buddies with) “Hey, is this for big guys, or just little fellas?” He laughed and assured me I was good to go. I went Paleo and worked out 5 to 6 days a week for anywhere from 20 mins to an hour each day.

6 months after starting, I dropped to 254 pounds. And plateaued.

The problem with that is I didn’t understand why. I felt like I didn’t have the energy I did and I wanted to get stronger. So I decided to complicate things.

Since then, I have played with all sorts of eating styles and workout programs. I got strong as heck and then injured. Had setbacks here and there. Marginal results. But never duplicated that 1st time.

The thing is though that…you know…how could I? When I first started I was eating like a fast food critic and basically sedentary. My body was primed for crazy change! The problem for me came when the results weren’t happening fast enough. And then when I went from “I want to be healthy and run with my kids” to “I want to be the most powerful CrossFitter in the world!”.  And injured and 280 I went. Frustrated.

So, since I am going back to basics with so much, I have designed a workout program for myself that is simple and easy to follow and went back to eating whole, good foods from good sources. In the first week, I have lost 7 pounds, and that was with a very southern Easter feast mixed in.

There are no post-workout shakes. In fact, I am not starting the workouts yet. Just walking. Next week I will begin the full program I designed.

So, here’s what we are going to do with this. I have taken before pictures. Uncomfortable, horrible, real pictures that I am not posting quite yet. However, I will track the progress through photos and show the before and after at the 30-day mark.

I can tell you that my diet is basically meat and veggies with some fruit sometimes. Black coffee. And healthy fats. And it is DELICIOUS.

I think that is the one thing I really want people to keep in mind here. This is not about counting macros or anything else right now. It is about getting lean protein, healthy fats, and LOTS of veggies. Eat until you are almost full, which feels a LOT different without processed food. To understand that, eat ssslllooowwwwllllyyyyy. Eat mindfully. Eat with purpose while thinking of how these things are fueling your body, visualizing them helping your body and turning it into a leaner machine.

Here is the main goal in this:
Get and keep a healthy relationship with food and its role in your life!

Look, this isn’t about never again eating fast food or cheesecake. It’s about understanding why you aren’t eating like that every day. It’s about treating your food like what it is. It is fuel for your body (machine). Here’s what I mean.

When your car runs out of oil or fuel, you know it. All the signals are there. It is time to get more fuel.

If you put the wrong or dirty fuel in, your car runs awful. It is sluggish and sputters. No oil? The engine seizes up and is done. But put in the right fuel and oil? Your car gets better gas mileage. It runs better. It even lasts longer! Perfect! Let’s do that.

Now think of overfilling the gas tank. When the tank gets full, it triggers you to stop adding fuel. Well, what if that trigger is broken or, worse, ignored? Well, you overfill the tank and gas runs everywhere. All of that gas on the ground around you is what turns to fat in your body. You just need to fill your tank and move on.

Because of processed foods, many of us have broken full triggers. We are used to “Thanksgiving full”. That full where you loosen your belt and can’t eat another bite. I just did that at Easter! But that is not the feeling we are striving for every meal. All we want is to feel satiated. To know we are not hungry anymore. And that’s where eating mindfully will help. You will begin to notice your body has its own trigger, even with these nutrient-dense, non-bloating foods. It will take time, but it will happen.

I encourage all of you to take your time. Eat your meal slowly, a bite at a time. As a former Marine, I am TERRIBLE at this part. But I am improving. And so is my machine. And yours will as well. You will feel the food begin to nourish, picture it filling your tank, noticing how much better it feels when it is well-chewed. And that is where the magic will start to happen!

Then start walking. Sleep longer. Turn off the tv and read or play with your family. Go climb a tree with them or just play tag. Or go for a walk.

More on my program later and progress coming down the road. But I want to leave you with a single goal for now.

Change just one thing this week. Just one. A goal that you can meet quickly. Unsure what to change? Try one of these:

  • Drink one less soda or sweet drink
  • Eat a veggie instead of fries
  • Eat an extra veggie
  • Drink an extra water every day
  • Get up and walk once per hour (this is mine!)

We all have to start somewhere. Start with a small goal, crush that, then add another.

I know you can do this. I believe in you. Huge change always starts with the smallest detail.

Let me know what the one thing you are changing will be. And give a yell if you need help choosing.

Now…START YOUR ENGINES!

The Peace Within

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is better proof of a well-ordered man than his ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.” ~Seneca

 

If you are struggling with nutrition, fitness, a relationship, your job, or life in general, I want you to realize something. Nothing outside of yourself that you do will matter if you can’t get your mind right. The secret to everything in your life is much more simple than you think.

A powerful mind is an interesting thing to define. Some will think of a story or movie they are familiar with that tells a story of overcoming hardships or life and death struggles. Some will think of the Dali Lama. Some may think of prisoners of war. But each of us is trapped within our own prison or cell. Our minds are so often the limiting factor of what we can do or accomplish.

Have you ever stood in your shower and turned the hot water down or off? At first, the feeling is unbearable…or so you believe. But there is a wonderful strength to be found in learning to bear such situations. Growth is most often achieved through overcoming difficulties. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable teaches us to dig within and find the piece of ourselves that allow us to persevere.

At the heart of it, these things come from love and positivity. Love and positivity are so important. I cannot stress this enough. If you cannot see yourself and your life in a positive way that allows you to visualize your success, no amount of hard work will matter. Wake up thankful with a vision of your life in mind. Say thank you out loud if you want! Write your goals for the day. Meditate and breathe peacefully. This isn’t all hocus-pocus. It is about getting you a set point that springs forth in a positive way. Knowing that any situation, no matter how daunting or awful, is simply temporary. You can choose how to react to it but nothing more. Your reaction is your own.

Here is a test…
The next time you are in a quiet place, close your eyes and attempt to clear your mind of everything. No thoughts of your day or obligations or responsibility. When something springs to mind, remove it. Clear your mind.

Were you successful?

I can tell you that, in times of stress, I used to find it impossible to simply read a book. I would read the same sentence over and over, with thoughts of my troubles constantly invading and overrunning my peace.

You must find your peace and your center. You must find your positivity. You must be able to focus on just your own breathing or heartbeat.

Until you can master your own mind, body, and soul you will find it difficult to master anything outside of that.  And like exercising or training, there are ways to train this. No one masters it without exercise and repetition.

This is truly where your journey will start. Just practicing being at peace with yourself.

There are so many good places to begin. Sit on the beach and watch the waves cycle. Walk through the woods and pay no attention to anything except the stimulus around you. Sit in the woods before daylight and watch the world begin to awaken as the sun rises.

The world is cyclical. Be mindful in your pursuit of these cycles and in your pursuit of peace. It is there for all of us and free of charge. It is your therapy and your medicine.

Your life is yours and yours alone. No one in this world cares more about it than you do. It is up to you how you will perceive it and grow within it. You cannot control what happens to you, only how you react to those things.

Live on your terms. Define your own goals and limits. Learn to be good company for yourself. Build a mind that is the strongest part of you. The rest will come.