Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Painful Tradition!

A Painful Tradition!

The day before Thanksgiving left much for me to do between work and home but for the most part my mind was on one thought…playing football. It had been 15 years since my long time friend Joel and I started organizing our Turkey Day Mud Bowl football game and I was again looking forward to all the game would bring. So when I texted Joel about what time we were starting (which is a stupid question because we have started at 10 am every year), I was shocked when he messaged back that he wasn’t planning on playing this year. What? How could he do this to me? It was akin to him saying he wasn’t going to celebrate Thanksgiving itself.

Now Joel had his reason to be skipping our annual competition this year. He had recently had some injuries and he was trying to nurse himself back to health. But there was a part of me that was shaken to the core. Could our holiday ritual of football survive my friend’s absence? Just a couple of weeks earlier I celebrated the big 50 and this seemed to me to be a cruel joke of life shoving in my face the fact maybe it was time to quit playing. But I am stubborn and I was not going without a fight.

I really can’t remember how the idea of playing football on Thanksgiving started for the two of us. And to be honest we are an unlikely pair to be competing again each other in the first place. Joel is highly competitive AND very athletic. Every sport he takes on he competes at a high level to win…and more times than not he does. Now anyone that knows me knows I am very competitive but I don’t really have the physical traits of a highly honed athlete, to say the least. Lightning fast speed and cat-like reflexes are not the way most people would describe me. But it matters not to our game. I just make sure I choose people faster, taller and quicker to be on my team. I have no problem supplying the competitive drive or the inspiration.

Over the years I remember having a fondness for movies where the family or group of friends would get together to play a game of football on Turkey Day. Maybe it was the fellowship I liked or my appreciation of tradition. I am pretty sure my competitive spirit fell in there somewhere. But I had always longed for the chance for a regular game on Thanksgiving Day so it was natural for an annual contest to form.

Now Laura used the news of Joel not playing to remind me that it just might be time to give up our “stupid boyish game”. After all, she has experienced all the after effects of all our games over the years. There were the sprained knees, the bone contusions, the twisted ankles, the cracked ribs (my personal favorite) and of course the multiple times of throwing out my already bad back. She said she really didn’t understand how I kept up this tradition when more times than not it put me in so much pain. But this was not my time to quit. Not yet. I refuse to accept what she kept telling me…that I was perhaps TOO OLD to keep playing our yearly game.

But the reason I play is very simple and natural for me. I Like It! When I compete, I feel alive and for that time anything is possible. During the game I could throw a pass. I could stop the runner. I could catch a pass. I could score a TOUCHDOWN! I don’t have any regrets about what I did or didn’t do in school sports but it’s just fun to be able to play now. Age has always just been a number to me and I really don’t worry about it but playing football every year really does make me feel young. I don’t know why others like to play but for me it's the chance to test myself. Being a spectator has never been very appealing to me and I don’t do well on the sidelines. Our annual game is not only a very fun tradition but a small reminder to me that I like to live my life big and fun.

The good news is that Joel felt well enough to play football this day and our tradition lives on for at least another year. He and his friends showed up for what was perhaps the most fun I have had in years playing our game. We laughed, we cussed, we competed and we lived.

As I sat in my warm home hours later I could feel my back seizing up. The old, familiar pain was returning and large doses of Ibuprofen became part of my Thanksgiving menu. But I won’t complain. I won’t bitch. I will just be thankful for our annual game and my painful tradition.

It makes me feel alive!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Tribute to Katie!

A Tribute to Katie!

Being that Katie has always marched to her own drummer with her connection to God I guess it really didn’t come as a surprise to me that she had TWO different churches she attended. But I was surprised to hear that I was expected to attend a youth group senior tribute on a certain Friday night in May at the lesser of the two places of Katie’s worship. Come on, Friday night? In my mind Fridays are more suited for end of the week celebrating and not for “churchin”. But I figured this was important to Katie. Her older sister had graduated three years earlier and I have been through the senior celebration extravaganzas before. They usually involve putting aside what you want to do personally and doing what is best to honor your graduating student. I was in and I decided I was doing so without protest.

Katie was not crazy about attending this certain tribute in the first place because she felt it was not appropriate for her to do so. She had not attended the Christian youth group at this church as regularly as her other friends because she preferred her other church. But she was learning the power and the obligation of in-laws, so to speak, and how you end up doing things you don’t want to just because of your connections. Her boyfriend’s mother was in charge of this senior tribute night and she would not hear any part of Katie not attending. Even though Katie had told Laura and I previously that under no certain terms was she was going to attend, it only took a day or two for her to say yes to her boyfriend’s mother.

I was informed that we needed pictures of Katie’s childhood for a slide show. Easy Schmesy, right? I thought so. But Laura informed me that all pictures had to be Okayed by Katie ahead of time. Katie is very self conscience about how she looked at certain ages and I was given orders not to embarrass her. Sheesh! Part of any good tribute should include a bit of a roast or good hearted ribbing like showing compromising photos of one’s youth. Curses…foiled again! So after spending a couple of hours picking out photos of Katie I made sure those pictures got the thumbs up.

But I was told we also needed a written tribute to Katie. This was to be read aloud during the night’s event and it should tell a short testament of her. Right away I knew I wanted to take on this project. During this last year I’ve rediscovered my enjoyment of telling a written story. Knowing that if I did it right it would be something that Katie would remember for years to come. A worthy challenge, for sure, and I was up for it.

So as the three of us walked into the church for this senior event on this night in May I wondered how my words would play out. In my mind we were there for one reason and one reason only. We were there to honor my daughter and the words I prepared needed to convey that message. So as the ceremony began I decided to relax and take it all in. It didn’t take long for me to realize that others were there for the same reason as us. I could see the pride the other parents had for the students and the pride in the students themselves. Both parents and seniors had all taken time to dress for the event. Not something you often see in this ultra casual world we live in today. The organizers of the event had spent the extra effort to decorate the hall like it was a formal affair with flashing lights, glitter, black tablecloths and elaborate centerpieces. The slideshow looked professionally prepared and was projected on the large screen at the front of the room. Each senior was cheered by the crowd as their name precluded their collection of pictures on the giant screen. The Master of Ceremonies then welcomed us and told us the tributes were next. Within minutes, Katie’s name was announced and the three of us stood at our table. We faced each other with the normal nervousness of being in front of 300 strangers. Well, they were strangers to me. Then as the MC began his words we looked at each other and smiled. The words I had written to my daughter were now ready to send the message:

“Dear Katie,

We are both so proud of the woman you have become. Your passion for giving is truly a testament to who are you on the inside. It takes a special person to offer yourself to others in the way you do and we are glad it brings you such joy. Remembering back to when you were just 10 years old, your willingness to give prompted you to raise money so that you and a young friend could buy Christmas stockings for children in shelters. This truly helps to show how you are special.

Your strength in your faith is admirable and it clearly defines you as a person. The personal decisions you have made in leading your life makes us proud each and every day. You are strong and confident.

Katie, this world is yours to explore and we are all better off because you are here with us.

We love you very much,

Dad and Mom”

I saw in Katie’s eyes she was touched by the words. I know I was because my eyes were misty. But anyone that knows me knows I am a sap in situations like this. Our message was given and I was glad that Katie and the audience got to hear how proud we are of her. And I think the words that were read speak for them self.

I am very glad I didn’t say some of the things other parents said. I didn’t say as other parents said that Katie should not be tempted by drugs or alcohol. I didn’t say as other parents said I was happy she was pure. And I didn’t quote scripture as other parent did. To give such a lecture in such a public setting seems like not only such a waste of a message but insulting to your child. The time for big controlling sermons about such topics is long past and should have been delivered years before. What my words did say to her was how her mother and I have always tried talked to her. We talked our heart and we didn’t worry about image. Tonight our only message was to tell our daughter we love her.

The next few weeks will be a whirlwind of graduation events and parties. This time will go fast for Katie as I am sure it will go for us. But I hope that she takes time to stop and enjoy it all and appreciate what has brought her to this point. Her hard work…her good decisions…and her kind heart.

We couldn’t be more proud. We love you Katie!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Strong Confident Women Part II

Strong Confident Women
Part II

Raising strong confident women meant making some hard choices as a father. It would have been easier to do what a lot of parents did and give in to your kids. But I always believed my role was bigger than being my kid’s friend. I am their FATHER. That meant having rules and being consistent with them. That meant not giving in because “everyone else was going to the party”. I still remember the year Maddie was 13 she told me I was the strictest parent of any of her friends’ parents. I said thank you. She was taken aback and told me it was not meant as a compliment. I thought it was. My job as her dad is not to be popular. I was not her father to be her friend though I hoped she would like me. They knew I loved them because in our house these words were always said. But my job was to be that guiding force that helped her be ready for what life would bring her. It was my true job. That job I do selling chicken just pays for my important role.

Early on Laura and I figured out that rules needed to be established on how certain situations would be handled. For instance, at what age is it ok for girls to get their ears pierced? When was it ok to go on a date? We seriously put lots of thought into some of these rules. The concept was that if we told them about the rules long before they applied then they would argue less about them. These became our “family rules”. The way we told them to the girls made it sound like they were written on a stone tablet that had been handed down through the ages and protected away in some sacred, hidden room somewhere. How could they argue with rules that had the appearance of years of tradition? The fact of matter was the family rules were simply crap that Laura and I made up. But it worked and in fact in a couple of instances they gave the girls a shield to hold up in difficult situations. Peer pressure can be brutal and giving them the opportunity to use the discipline of these rules as an excuse ended up making their life easier. More than once the girls told me they liked our rule that they couldn’t date an upper classman. It made it easier to brush off those creepy older guys than only try to date younger girls. See how protection can make you kid’s life easer?

But one of MY rules was that I needed to speak to every guy that was going to take the girls to a dance. And usually I spoke to two to four boys at a time. My daughters’ generation never attends dances outside of a group so every boy that was in the dating party would end up hearing the speech. We would always go out on the deck or go into the basement, somewhere in private. My ranting would always be done away from the girls as I didn’t need to embarrass the boys, just to scare the crap out of them. With the eyes and voice of a crazy man I would begin by telling them that my family was the MOST important thing in my life and my number one priority was to PROTECT my girls. BUT for this night and THIS NIGHT ONLY I was giving this job to THEM. I expected them to take this job VERY serious and THEY DID NOT want to have to come back here and tell me how something bad happened because THEY DID NOT DO THEIR JOB! Since my girls knew my speech would always happen before they were allowed to go to any dance they never dreamed of bringing a boy to the house that would not be respectful enough to accept the warning. Now see how this rule actually helped them make better choices in the guys? It really worked. And to my surprise some of the boys actually appreciated the speech. I was once stopped by a boy I didn’t recognize as our family was out for a night of bowling. He said a year before he was one of the boys with another date other than my daughter who was “lucky” enough to get the speech at my house. He told me that he could tell how much I loved my daughters and he respected what I did. He then told me he hoped to be that kind of father someday. Fuel for my fire, man…fuel for my fire!

Laura is a wonderful mother. My girls are very lucky to have been raised by her and she really did the heavy lifting through the years. She continues to this day to be a wonderful role model for them. But the function of a father is special in the life of girls. The good example you set will most likely become a component of the man they seek. If you do it correctly you help set the concrete foundation to their self confidence and respect of themselves. Helping them to have the self assurance to be comfortable with who they are and the strength to venture out. If you screw this up you run the risk of messing with their psyche and doing damage that may not repair. John Mayer had it right:

“Fathers be good to your daughters, Daughters will love like you do; Girls become lovers who turn into mothers so mothers be good to your daughters, too”

I have always joked that the problem with raising strong, confident women is sometimes you are successful. My girls are no pushovers and that includes with me. There have been many times their confidence has caused me much grief as they stood up to me for what they truly believed. But this is a small price for me to pay. This may just be the best protection in life from them having a relationship with a guy that is abusive. I won’t always be there to protect them. I might be doing 25 to life for the murder of the first guy that lays a hand on them. So giving them the tools and strength to keep from pairing up with this kind of jerk seemed like a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong. When I put my foot down as dad they did as I said. But now that they are older and they have made good decisions along the way it’s only right that they choose their own paths more and more. I think as they get older you need to give your kids a looser “leash” as they make good decisions…assuming you have laid the ground work with good but fair discipline previously. We should be getting them ready to brave the big, scary world all their lives. Too many parents can’t bear with the thought of their children moving on without them so they encourage their kids to cling to them. This is a probably the biggest mistake a parent can make. You shouldn’t wait until the last minute of your kid’s life at home to get them ready to live life on their own.

I am very proud of all my girls. Madeline Grace is a dedicated, disciplined woman that can multi task like nobody’s business and is a world class athlete. Katherine Ann is very strong in her beliefs, has a passion for giving and is very comfortable in her own skin. Mackenzie Alycia is a very hard worker with strong morals and has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. I hope that I get to influence them through the rest of their lives but what I accomplished in helping them thus far in being strong and confident will end up being my greatest accomplishment.

That works for me. I love strong, confident women.

Strong Confident Women Part I

Strong Confident Women
Part I

Before we had kids I was sure I needed a son to be “complete”. This was my own na├»ve belief brought on by both growing up in a male chauvinistic household and my youthful ignorance. I thought there was so much I could teach a son and me being a confident guy I was sure I could be that strong but supportive father that I knew was so important. I could also teach a boy to love women yet to respect them at the same time. My personal belief is that the men that get in trouble in this world never learned to respect women and in turn they don’t respect the world around them. So I was the perfect guy to raise the perfect son…so I thought!

When my wife Laura first became pregnant I was really hoping for a son. But soon that would all change when we were told about concerns with her pregnancy. After some routine blood tests our doctor told us there was a chance our child could be mentally retarded (yes that is what they called it 22 years ago) and I was scared to death. I already had worries about being a good father and this type of handicap made me wonder if I was tough enough for this level of trials. The fear associated with this possibility hit me very hard and made me feel not only afraid but helpless. So we were both relieved beyond belief when our doctor said it was a false alarm and our baby girl was perfectly normal. It was at that moment that my first child being a son didn’t really matter anymore. You know that old saying as long as they have ten fingers and ten toes? It’s true.

Maddie was born very true to her nature and she demanded much of our attention. Laura’s labor lasted 19 hours and much of it was what they call “back labor”. Laura had previously made the decision to have a natural child birth with no drugs but I think she ended up regretting that choice later. Me? I could have never done it. You have probably heard that joke that if men had the babies there wouldn’t be any? I really believe that. Laura spent hours on her hands and knees trying to get pain relief as I massaged her back. I later would joke with her that she had the easy part. She got rest on the table while I HAD TO stand and rub her back for hours and hours. I just don’t know why she doesn’t think I am funny.

After being up all night and knowing that mom and baby were fine I decided to go home, grab a couple hours of sleep and a shower before I brought the girls home. As I was getting ready to walk out the door on my way back to the hospital I had one of the most significant yet surreal thoughts of my life up to that point. I realized that when I returned to my house just a few hours later I would be bringing home someone I would be responsible for, for the rest of my life. This hit me like a ton of bricks. It was at this moment I began to appreciate my role as the father of a daughter.

Three years later Katie was born. Laura had experienced the natural child birth experience and once was enough. This time an epidural was on the must have list. And boy (excuse the term), what a difference drugs made. During her labor Laura chatted. She played games. She even napped. And before she knew it, it was time for Laura to push and our little bald baby was born. Another girl! At first I was a little disappointed foolishly holding on to the hope for a boy. But that feeling soon faded as I realized I liked the idea of being the father of girls, as in plural. Laura’s doctor teased me saying that when I become an old man a son would just lock me in the nursing facility but daughters would take me into their home and take care of their daddy. I am hoping there is some truth to that.

Seventeen months later Mackenzie came to this world very similar to how she lives her life today…big and bold. We rushed to the hospital beginning to understand that Mac was not the patient type. Little did we know that it would only be 45 minutes later she would arrive. And when we did meet her for the first time she made sure every human being in the hospital could hear her scream. I have two other daughters. I know what it’s like to have girls and what they sound like. They are soft and sweet and delicate. Who the hells baby is that? This one was different. But it was at this point I knew it was wonderful to be the father of three wonderfully different girls. And I was very glad Mackenzie was a girl. It was now I was figuring how I could make a difference being the father of three girls, helping them become strong. Besides a boy would have just screwed up the mix…AND he would have looked ridiculous in all those hand me down dresses we had in our closets. By the way, thanks for all those pretty little dresses, Grandma.

I have always thought women are special. They are just possibly God’s greatest creation. Is there anything as wonderful as when we men first discover how soft a woman’s skin is? Or seeing the sparkle in the special girl’s eye? How about how the smile of the woman you love can melt most any man’s heart? I have always told my girls that a man should treat them like they are precious gems and if they don’t, get rid of them. Don’t get me wrong I think women need to be strong and independent all on their own. Their self worth should not be tied to how a man treats them or what he thinks of her. They do not need men to be confident but men need to respect them. The way I was raised helped teach me it was my job to open the door for any woman I was with but I also think this came natural for me. I always understood that I could honor women as an equal AND open the door for them. Or by bringing them flowers for no reason other than to show my affection. I wanted my daughters to find someone that would make them feel as beautiful inside as they are on the outside. I realized the way to do this was to raise them to be strong and confident. This became my job.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Scott Video...Take One...BEEEEP!

Scott Video…Take One…BEEEEP!

Every time this line was announced it cracked me up. I get why you would verbally tag each segment so as to label what sequence you were filming. But I am used to hearing a machine generated sound for the beep. Not today…Gabe, the sound guy provided this sound effect with his voice in a comical tone. There is a surreal feeling that goes along with a normal guy like me being involved with a professional video shoot but this funny part of the day provided a much needed level of humor to what COULD have been an event filled with anxiety. But I am getting ahead of myself. I will start at the beginning.

On March 8th, 2009, I attended an awards ceremony in Olympia for the Washington Restaurant Association. I was one of three nominees for the Quick Service Operator of the Year. I remember the date because it was my wife’s birthday. Now I know there were about 10,001 things she would have rather been doing on her special day but she was good enough to be there for me. Long story short the honor of that award went to a very worthy colleague of mine from the Seattle area but what I remember most from that night was an incredible short film about the restaurant industry. This portrait style film was a moving snap shot of a few of the millions of people involved in the crazy restaurant business I have devoted my life to. But this was no ordinary film. The way each and every person was portrayed was very moving and very soulful. There was a depth and richness to this seemingly simple industry film that was truly unique. I was so impressed that when it came time for me plan a KFC Board of Director's meeting the following summer I found a way to commandeer a copy of the film to show. This is the type of production that helps us to remember why we do what we do in this weird business of serving food.

Fast forward to February 2010…I get a call from my friend who is the Communications Director of the Washington Restaurant Association. She asked me if I was willing to speak to the guy who created the film I saw at last year’s award ceremony. He was creating a new film that would focus on individual restaurant operators from all over America. His latest work would be part of the key note speech at the 2010 National Convention in Chicago for the NRA (Restaurants not Rifles). Always up for something new I agreed. Besides, if this new film was anything like what I previously had seen this could be something special.

Within a few days, Mr. Brent Souter gave me a call. Brent had a very natural, easy going way about him on the phone that made me very comfortable. After we talked for about 20 minutes Brent said he would like to include me in the filming but he was unsure if he could fit me in. And even then there was a chance I might just end up on the cutting room floor. But he also assured me that if I made it into the film he would make sure I didn’t look, in his words, “stupid”. I laughed to myself, “Yeah, but you haven’t even met me yet”. But what Brent said he really wanted to try to use about me was my passion for music. He had been told how I love to perform and I think he thought he could use that as an angle. He talked to me about performing on camera as in showing a different passion of mine besides the restaurant business. Hmmm, using me as an angle? I think that’s how these creative guys roll.

So filming day is here and Brent calls a few minutes before he arrives. It would seem there were a Starbucks a couple of blocks away that he and his team were attracted to like moths to a light. He said he would show up soon and I would know them as they would be the scruffy ones. Once again, he was putting me at ease. Within a few minutes, in walks Brent the Creative Genius, Brian the Photographer Extraordinaire and Gabe the Master Sound Dude and Maker of Funny Beeps.

Brent again began putting me at ease about how the shoot would go. I wasn’t really nervous as I have done a little TV/PR event work in the past. But I was a little anxious and I don’t know how most people couldn’t be. Naturally, I wanted the shoot to go well but I could tell that Brent and his team were professionals. So with some quick set up we began Part I: Interview with Scott. Gabe gave the video tag and the funny sound effect, Brent laughed like a school boy and I was once again put at ease. These guys really were good.

I have never worked with a true director before. I was quickly impressed how Brent would bring stories, words and emotions out of me. “Perfect Scott, but this time tell me more of how your experience with your family drives you today?” My favorite was, “Maybe this time leave out the story about the funeral”. That was probably for the best. Dead people can be depressing. But it really was fun to see real artists of their crafts at this level. I was getting to see how these guys created the film I loved so much. And I was being part of their next great work. Very cool!

After four hours we had completed my interview, the B roll footage of me interacting with customers and our team and some incredibly great shots of seemingly ordinary things made to look special. How they took unique camera angles in slow motion to make regular stools look like mountainous structures was really something to see. I was impressed. But after some goofy shots of me out the drive thru window it was time for what I was really looking forward to…getting chance to perform my music.
I have been playing music for 43 years with several different instruments but my latest enjoyment is playing the harmonica. The blues harp, as it’s called in some circles, has always attractive though its sound and how it touches me. That’s why I began teaching myself to play it about 10 years ago.

So Brent and team packed up their suitcases of equipment and followed me out to my house. My good friend Bob the guitar player was meeting us there and weather permitting, we were going to use the backdrop of my back yard fire pit as our stage. Just an hour before the skies had open up to a deluge that would have frightened Noah so I was hoping we would get lucky…and we did.

With the speed of seasoned vets the team set up and it was again surreal as light towers and a microphone boom was in my back yard. I got the fire going and walked back for a more wood. As I was gone Brian began filming Bob playing his acoustic guitar. Sneaking up behind the monitor I got to once again see their cinematic genius at work. On the screen was a giant view of Bob’s fingers playing truly great classic guitar. This was a new level of cool. But now it was time for me to join in. After picking the correct harmonica Bob and I began playing as a team. He played his role and I did mine. Back and forth we would put our own spin on that basic 3 cord blues. And as I do sometimes playing I got lost in the moment. But something was very different. The lights were set. The sound was ready. Brent gave his nod of approval and they began to roll the film.

The smoke rose from the fire for the perfect effect. Bob and I both stood at the circular fire pit with our feet on the side. There is a familiarity playing with Bob that is comfortable. We have these nods and looks we give each other when it’s time for something to happen. It’s the kind of teamwork that comes from experience. And it all came together. We played for maybe only 30 minutes total but it was more than enough. The team got the music spots they needed.

The next 30 minutes were spent getting shots of us tapping our feet, me pulling my harmonica up to my mouth and the coolest shot of the day…me opening my harmonica case in slow motion. Well, Brian said it was cool AND I BELIEVE HIM.

As this highly talented team of film makers began packing up their gear we said our goodbyes. They were off in the morning to Cleveland…then Rhode Island… Florida… Kansas, I think…Pennsylvania…then maybe New York…and several other ordinary places throughout the US. But they were done with me. My time in the spotlight was over and it was time to showcase someone else.

The reality is that when this 10 minute film is complete I'll be lucky to be in it for more than about 30 seconds. Five hours of filming for 30 seconds. Why I didn’t get my own trailer with green M&M’s to kill time in between shots is beyond me. But I feel honored to be asked to tell my story. I feel lucky to be a part of a great project like this. And I love that I got to play my music. Thanks Brent, Brian & Gabe. Go get some great stories about this way of life I have chose and the incredible people that serve us all over America.

Hey Brent, do us proud…and don’t make me look stupid!