Sometimes I wish I had Down Syndrome

Sometimes I wish I had Down Syndrome. I don’t say that lightly because I know folks with this diagnosis struggle with things just like anyone else. My oldest sister has Downs so for my entire life I’ve had a front row seat to her amazing attitude towards life.

Now, I know generalizing the characteristics of people with Downs will have exceptions but from what I’ve seen in my 38 years with my sister and experiences through Special Olympics and every day life, they are the sweetest people on earth! How’s that for a generalization? 🙂

NDSAM1I hope you can give a handshake or a hug to someone with Down Syndrome while you’re out and about, as October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Ask them questions. Chat with them. Enjoy their perspective and learn what you can from it. I’ve learned a lot from my sister, starting way down in Key West, Florida.

That’s where she was born. Then about 7 years later, that’s where I was born. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Two siblings born in the same city? Well, it is a big deal because my dad was in the Coast Guard, so between my sister and I, we have 2 others siblings born in California and Virginia. The chances of she and I being born on the same little island was probably a million to one so that’s something we get to share that I am thankful for!

In my childhood, here’s a little what I remember (and a shout out to my parents for this, as well): she was in public schools, she had jobs, played sports, and was involved at church. She loved being part of whatever was happening, whether it was managing the high school track team in Stafford, VA where she and our other sister attended, or working in the cafeteria at Westminster Christian School when my brother and I were in high school.

Then when college came around, she worked in the equipment room at Florida State. Some would attribute the 1999 championship season to the cleanliness of the towels, just sayin’. *shoulder shrug*

Besides work stuff, though, she’s a great example of being a people person. I remember in college she had a “guy list.” Basically it was whoever was her favorite at the time. But being named Scott, Travis, or Troy helped a lot! Let me tell ya, though, guys were fighting to be #1! I think a few of the best ways to just make the list was simply to talk to her, give her a hug, and well, let’s be honest, you had to be cute. She’s a woman, after all! 😉 Mention anything good about the Gators though, and bam, you’re off the list!

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Providing water for the elite athlete’s at Masters Academy in Orlando, FL.

All kidding aside, she’s always loved hugs. She’s so caring, so prayerful, very spirited and so genuine. Nowadays, she works a full-time job. She sings in the church choir. And just the other day she was the honorary water girl at my nephew’s middle school football game. She loves sports, that’s for sure. She’s also so good in front of a crowd, something I admire about her. She will get on a stage to play piano, sing, whatever and yes, she gets nervous about it sometimes, just like I would, but then she goes on stage and slays it!

She knows how to love well, often, and consistently; asking about your day, adding you to her prayer list, and hugging you whether you need it or not.

Her example of how to live right hasn’t changed. She talks to God every day. She reads her Bible. But she does have some fire in her bones, too! Just ask her about the Gators 🙂

 

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my sis with my mom at a recent FSU football game

She also loves animals, especially every pet that’s ever been in our family including my dogs, Piper and Asia. When I was in middle school our family had a ferret and I kid you not, that thing was evil. Nipper got her name because she gashed our ankles with her devil teeth. She was a wild ferret who wouldn’t be tamed. We couldn’t hold her without being bitten or clawed. Tough times! But they weren’t tough times for my sister. She could pick Nipper up, snuggle her, hold her, pet her and Nipper was as calm as a morning sunrise. It was sweet and slightly frustrating.

But it’s because my sister, at her very core, is sweet and caring.

There are lots of moments I wish I had the personality and disposition of my sister. She’s the best example of how to live with grace, humility, courage, and trust in God every day. If we all loved and cared the way she does, 99% of our problems would disappear. And I’m only leaving the 1% because there would still be Gators out there. 🙂

-Out of the Wilderness

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That time I was sucker punched in the face

Have you ever been walking down the hall of your college dorm, and someone you barely saw out of the corner of your eye sucker punches you?

punch

All this fighting between the alt-left antifa and the alt-right white supremacists got me to thinking about the scuffles I’ve been in over the years. All one of them. Not including the wrestling between my brother and I where I clearly won every time (don’t verify this with him, please!), I was in one real fight in a dorm hallway on the campus of Florida State University. But I wasn’t in college just yet. I was on school grounds for a week-long baseball camp along with my brother and my cousin. We were probably, I don’t know, between 10 and 13 years old at the time. The three of us were bunked up together in one of the dorms and this is where the altercation happened.

There were a bunch of macho dudes in the hallway of this particular dorm (in other words, other kids that were attending the camp that week), and somehow a fight broke out. Maybe one kid said their girlfriend was prettier than Kelly Kapowski and got raging mad when someone said she looked more like Screech, who knows, right? tumblr_n4uketGwGz1rn2pfqo1_500

My cousin jumped in to help defend one of the guys and hey, he’s not going to go in alone, so I joined to help my cousin because, ya know, family.

Soon after I got involved, I felt a strong blow to my facial area and found out later this punk kid who was standing off to the side decided to punch me even though he wasn’t even part of what was going on. What a punk!

The next moments are a blur but I remember there was someone on the ground, and I was kicking him. But when word came that one of the coaches was on his way to the brawl, my brother and cousin grabbed me as everyone scrambled back to their rooms.

No one got in trouble as far as I know, and no one really spoke of it the rest of the week. I guess when you get a bunch of knucklehead teenagers together playing sports, and all that blossoming testosterone, something like that is bound to happen? I’m just glad no one found out because getting in trouble there is one thing, but then having to explain to your parents why you were kicked out of baseball camp is a whole different ball game.

PS. I also caught pink eye and peed in a dorm room trash can. What a week! Did I even play baseball that week, I don’t remember.

-Out of the Wilderness

I was going to be a baseball player

In middle school, one of my teachers asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember timidly responding, “I want to be a baseball player.” Well, it wasn’t for a few more years that I would lose my love for the sport (and haven’t ever regained it :)) but up until then, I believed I could do it.

2 me and Whitney Williams

me in 5th grade sporting a Semper Paratus shirt.

Childish dreams, that’s what it was. I didn’t have the talent, and even if I had the drive and the willingness to work hard at it, I didn’t have the talent. Have I mentioned that I didn’t have the talent? But kids don’t think about what it actually takes to make it in professional sports. Or anything professional, really. It takes time, dedication, and oh yeah, talent.

The last year I played organized baseball was in 8th grade. Something flipped and I didn’t care to play anymore. When I went off to college (I say “went off” like my parents didn’t live right down the street), I played intramural softball for a winning team, albeit we were all students not playing for any school-sanctioned team of any sport whatsoever, but we were the best intramural team at FSU for 3 or 4 years running. #stillhavemyjersey #livinginthepast

As a grown man, yes I’m a grown man!, I love playing softball and even if most leagues I’ve been in fall into the “beer league” category, I’m still competitive and I’ll push a guy if it comes to that. Hmm, maybe I’m just living out the broken dreams of a middle school kid who just wants to come back to his hometown and ask his dad, “Are you prouda me, Pops?” like some dramatic New Jersey school dropout with a strong accent.

It’ll never happen, though, because my dad doesn’t go by “Pops”. Dang it!

-Out of the Wilderness

All the jobs I’ve had with my brother

The other day I was thinking about how a lot of the jobs I’ve had are thanks to, and were right along side, members of my family. Probably because we’re both guys and only a year and a half apart, it was my brother that I worked with mostly. Going all the way
back to 4th grade, I remember helping him deliver newspapers when we lived in Fort Adams; military housing in Newport, Rhode Island.

Paper or plastic, ma’am?
wdMy first real job, though, was bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie in Miami, Florida… once the area recovered from Hurricane Andrew, that is. Who was bagging there, too? Yep, my bro. The dynamic duo at your service! I have a few memories from this job. The one that stands out most was this lady that came through the line, you had to keep an eye on her, for sure. Even thinking about it now, all the fear I had in the moment rushes back. I think she just had some sort of mental disorder but here’s what she would do: grab something from a nearby shelf (like a candy bar next to the register), throw it on the ground and step on it. At one point, she had a loaf of bread in her hand. Tossed it down, stepped directly in the middle of it. I couldn’t believe it. She did this with a few other things, too. Weird stuff, man.

We gotta wake up at what time????
hardeesFast forward a couple of years and my brother and I were spending the summer in Monticello, Florida. Our dad was starting a new job in New York, so he went up early, before the rest of us moved there from Florida. My mom was spending time in Tallahassee with her parents. So there we were living with my dad’s parents in a house they built off of South Mulberry Street. Well, about a block away was a Hardee’s. We both got jobs making biscuits on the weekend. We only worked a couple days a week, but just knowing we had to wake up at 4am both days was enough to ruin the entire week. But it was pretty awesome to have grandparents that woke up with us, made us breakfast, and drove us the 1 block to get there. And our boss was funny, in a “does he think we’re curing cancer?” kind of way. One time a batch of biscuits came out overcooked. Lost the batch. Boss proceeded to punch the wall. Classic.

You’ve got to scalp ’em Seminoles!
Two years later we were both students at Florida State and he helped me get a job at the Leach Center, where he was already working. We both worked there for the remainder of our college careers. This job reinforced the importance of being on time. They didn’t have much tolerance for being late, I’ll say that! We both made a lot of good friends there, some we are still friends with today. And by the way, if you’re ever trying to use someone else’s ID to sneak in somewhere, at least make sure you kinda sorta possibly look like them! College kids, man, you’d think they’d be a little smarter 😉Leach New Inside

It’s where, now?
Another place we both worked was a summer camp in Lampe, Missouri. It’s called Kanakuk. I know, I know, I just said a few words you may not have heard before. But Lampe is about an hour south of Branson and Kanakuk is pronounced can-uh-cuck. An amazing place for kids to learn sports taught by college athletes and at the same time, grow in your relationship with God. No, I was not a college athlete. Unless you count being intramural champs, baaabbaaayyy! DSC09261My brother and I both count Kanakuk as a big influence on our lives, from the people we met and worked with there, to shaping our outlook on life and faith.

We’ve also worked together on various video projects over the years. One might be a workout video, another a sports highlight reel. Here’s one we made recently of his son, my nephew, playing football.

So I’ll finish by saying that of all the things my brother is great at (sports, public speaking, being a brother, friend, etc), he’s also been a great co-worker. And he’s got an amazing younger brother, too!

-Out of the Wilderness

 

 

Furious 7 and the U

If you have the chance to watch Furious 7, do it. The movie is action-packed and it’s quite remarkable how they kept Paul Walker in the entire film, even up to the very last scene, though he died halfway through production. I wish I read the IMDB trivia before I watched, it would’ve made the movie even more interesting. One scene that triggered a memory for me is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a hospital bed. The scene opens with him there, watching football on the hospital television. The action in the game looked familiar… I guessed it was a clip of Dwayne Johnson playing college ball at the U. When I got home I checked the trivia and confirmed my suspicions. It’s actually #94 Dwayne Johnson on defense for the University of Miami breaking loose to sack Seminole quarterback Charlie Ward. You can see the play in the video below, so watch it, then go watch the movie!