Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I want to tell you about my Howard

For those of you who read "The Drive at 35," you know a little about my dog Howard (picture of me and him enclosed) but I wanted to share his legacy with all of you. Why am I thinking of Howard today? I lost my dog nearly 21 years ago to the day. I still share stories about that brown-haired crazy mutt with Andrea, Avery and Ethan. I told them of the time he scratched and scratched at his collar and cried when we finally found out he had about twenty bees stinging him simultaneously through his collar in our house. I told them of the time Howard ran into the woods after a stay at the kennel and didn't show up for two whole days. And now seeing Magic, our black lab-mix, with 2 torn ACL's (Yes, TWO!) has made me think of the other story I told them about my heroic dog...the dog who probably saved my life.

Let me give you a background of that crazy brown dog. Howard came to us when I was a little kid. He was the offspring of my Aunt Anita and my late Uncle Jerry's dog Hunky, which coincidentally was my nickname in high school (just kidding!). Howard bit me the first time I met him because I was all over him. He never bit me again and little did I know but I was meeting my best friend for life.

As a youngster battling CF, Howard sat with me as the big kids played in our yard and we watched through the sliding glass door. I didn't have the adrenaline nor the competitive fire to compete myself. Howard sat with me as if to ease my depression. Howard was faster than Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson combined. The dog used to run through our yard and chase every fire engine, ice cream truck or ambulance that drove down our block. He chased cars and bikes too. He was was an equal-opportunity chaser.

Howard was no angel. We think he may have impregnated a few dogs in the neighborhood. Fortunately there were no dog DNA tests at the time. Are there now? I would have hated to bring him on Maury Povich's show.

Maury: "Howard Lipman, you are the father!"

Howard: "Woof?"

I saw him hunt down squirrels and rabbits. Leash laws were pretty lax then...I'm not sure we even owned one. Still it was the one hunting expedition he went on when I was a kid that may have just saved my life.

Max, the black Doberman that lived one neighborhood over, had killed our friend's dog and was on the prowl again. I'd been throwing the Nerf football to myself, as most high-profile jocks probably started their professional careers doing, when all of a sudden the big haunting black dog wandered towards me. I tried to move but I was scared as if a poisonous cobra was staring me down. Max attacked me and started nipping at me. The rest is honestly pretty blurry but I do remember one thing. I remember the sound of the bell, the same bell that came from the collar of the dog who zoomed across our kitchen floor whenever I dropped a piece of steak or chicken.

Howard came storming across the yard and went after Max, chasing him around the outskirts of our courtyard, through the backyard and into the woods. Max had Howard by about 10 or 20 pounds I suppose so I didn't know what to expect. Soon after, with a few injuries of his own, Howard came out of the woods a victor. Max never bothered us again. I heard he was put to sleep months later for attacking another pet but you never know where rumors start.

Howard was my best friend before that and a legend after. My parents and I celebrated his birthday every April 1st with a candle in a burger. April Fool's Day was fitting. Howard didn't know a single trick. Ask him to sit and he licked you. Ask him to stay and he licked you more. Ask him to...well, you get it.

As he grew older, I became the better athlete between the two of us. I was the one now running around the yard. I was the one who was breathing less heavy. I was the one who had his whole life ahead of him. Howard was aging pretty fast as college grew near. I always said I would take him with me. I couldn't see my life without him, but things changed. Howard couldn't lift his leg to pee anymore. I know there were fire hydrants around the area that were probably cheering but they were the only ones. Slowly Howard couldn't even sit down without circling around the same area 10 to 20 times. He also started having accidents in the house. It was a sad time. Howard was getting older. Howard was dying.

Howard died one night as I was preparing for one of my first college fraternity parties. I was devastated when my mom told me that the old furry guy had left our world. People who don't have pets don't understand how that love can cure a person of anything...including the concerns of cystic fibrosis. I felt all alone when Howard left. Now I had no one to talk to. Howard was the one I confided in when I was scared about my disease. Howard was the one I confided in when I was concerned about how skinny I was. Howard was the one I secretly told that I would never find a girlfriend.

It's been about 21 years. I am not that same kid anymore. The blonde hair I had most of my young life turned brown and now sadly is turning gray. The speed I showed back then running around the yard can still be witnessed...if you watch Ethan, my little boy, play soccer. As I towel-walk Magic with Andrea twice a day, I feel sad for our little lab but I also remember Howard. I remember how brave he was and how much he took care of me. I never really got a chance to take care of Howard. I had to go off to college. I'm home now though and I'm going to make sure Magic gets well so my kids, her two best friends, will get to enjoy her the way I enjoyed that brown-haired crazy dog...I mean the way I enjoyed my life-long best friend.

Howard, another Halloween will have come and gone since I've seen you. I now have two beautiful little children who love their dog and hear stories all the time about my dog. Ethan reminds me of me, begging for Magic to lick him every second, climbing on top of her and trying to feed her all sorts of goodies.

You did a lot for my life besides saving me that fall afternoon more than 30 years ago. You taught me how to love...I mean really love my pets. I have tried to pass that on to my children and I think I've been successful. It doesn't hurt that Andrea, my love, was a vet tech for 6 years and knows all there is to know about animals. She's a pet lover too. We hope our kids pass that love on to their kids. I miss you very much.

By the way, there's a fire hydrant across from our house...I'll tell it you said hello.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

the sadness of weddings

I was at my cousin Jeffrey's wedding this weekend. It was a beautiful event and the celebration was wonderful. I was happy for my cousin. Still I find it difficult getting old.

I know I'm only 39 but I'm not really talking about me. I saw several family members who have aged or gotten sick. I remember those same people on the dance floor years ago and now they can hardly get out of their chairs. It's difficult to watch people get old. It's difficult to see a new generation of people at these weddings and another generation either not able to travel or who have already passed on. A few years ago, we lost Jerry, Jeffrey's dad and my uncle. Before that we lost my grandpa Leon, before that my grandpa Carl and before that my grandmother Ethel.

The amazing thing is that my grandmother is nearly 90 years old and she is still walking around, talking to people and even dancing a little bit. She makes me feel young but I know one day she will be gone.

I guess seeing all of the older people around me reminds me that I'm getting old. I never thought that would even happen but now I have to prepare for it. I remember seeing my aunts and mom take a picture at the wedding, all of them a little older since my wedding (the picture attached is me, my parents and Emily at my wedding) and a lot older since my Bar Mitzvah where the same pictures were taken. I thought of the movie "A League of Their Own" when everyone gets back together years after they played baseball together.

Part of life is growing old...if we are lucky. Life changes as we age. Responsibility grows. Priorities change. I remember when I was the oldest cousin of 8 (including me and Emily). Now, it's my daughter who is the oldest of her cousins of 7 (including herself and Ethan).

Congrats again to my cousin Jeffrey and his new wife Jessica.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Remembering the transition

I was watching a film recently called "Becoming Christopher" about a boy going through the transition of going from a pediatrician to an adult CF doctor. He is 22 in the film. It reminds me of my days moving from the pediatrician to the adult doctor. There wasn't a video then showing patients how the transition should go and my doctor's office did a lousy job of making the transition smooth for me.

One morning I wasn't feeling great so I went to my CF pediatrician. They told me I could not be seen. I felt like Rosa Parks being thrown in the back of the bus. "What do you mean you can't see me?" I asked. It turns out I was over 25 now and was too old to go to a pediatrician. When I was growing up, Adult CF Centers were like unicorns. You did not see them anywhere. At this time, my doctor had fled the practice for another opporunity out of state. I wasn't even told until I got to his office that day that he'd left the practice.

I felt helpless and lost. I never liked going to the doctor and now apparently the doctor felt the same way about seeing me. I made some calls and was able to get an appointment at the Emory Clinic where I met my new adult CF doctors. Eventually Dr. Lindy Wolfenden became my doctor. We became pretty close as a lot of CF patients become with their doctors. She had a good sense of humor and told me how it was. I didn't always like the latter but I believe it made me tougher. Sadly, Dr. Wolfenden died of breast cancer a few years later. A new transition for me.

In hindsight, it was time for me to get out of the pediatrician's office. I was sick of being amongst kids and walking into rooms with toys and children's books. I was also tired of going in for X-rays and having the receptionists ask me what my kid's name was. "I'm the kid," I always had to say.

While I understand why the change had to be made, I didn't appreciate the way I was made to feel. I felt alienated which was a feeling I was all too used to feeling because of my CF.

I'm just glad I've got a good staff at Emory that I work with now. I hope other patients have a smoother transition.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My special glasses

Having cystic fibrosis is not all bad. Granted it sucks when I have an infection. I can't stand having quarterly doctor's appointments. I would prefer not taking 40 pills a day and hours of treatments. Still there are positives to having it. CF has helped me to see the world a lot more clearly. It's almost as if CF has given me special glasses. Here are the Top 10 things that CF has shown me.

10. Friends are as important as the oxygen we breathe. Without supportive people around me, I don't think I'd be alive today. At one point or another, I have had people in my corner and have truly appreciated their support.

9. Seize the day. Who has seen Dead Poet's Society when Robin Williams' character tells his students that they must seize the day? CF has shown me how important that mindset is. Having a disease that limits your time makes you appreciate the time you have so much more. I also spend so much time doing treatments and taking medications that I know that every minute I have available for non-medical stuff needs to be used wisely.

8. Don't sweat the small stuff. With CF, I have learned that little issues that go on in life aren't worth fussing about. We live in an imperfect world. It's crucial that we don't let the less important things get to us.

7. "Dreams make life tolerable." That's a line from Rudy when his friend is telling him how important it is to have your dreams. I had all these dreams that I didn't think were possible but I kept them in the back of my mind. I wanted to get married, have children and beat cystic fibrosis. I'm 2 for 3. I can never consider the war against CF over until a cure is found.

6. Faith is key. I am not a very religious person but I truly believe that faith and spirituality are so important to overcoming anything in this world. I believe that people who I've lost that were close to me are still there. I believe that if you never give up then good things will eventually happen. The important thing is that we believe in something and that we have some type of higher power that gives us faith and also allows us to leave our past mistakes behind.

5. Nobody's perfect. CF has been a large cause of my mental issues. I have been to many therapists to work on these things. I think I'm finally getting it. For one, it's important to communicate your issues. For another, don't let your issues make you spiral out of control. We all make mistakes. We all have skeletons. The important thing is that we work to improve ourselves and to limit our mistakes.

4. Be a good teammate. I'm not just talking about on the field of play. I'm talking about life. I referred to how important it is to have friends. Well, it is just as important to be a good friend to others. It's important to have people that you can count on and talk to. When life is tough, it's good to have people that you can depend on and vice versa. It's also great to win in a team atmosphere whether it's at work or in sports or even as a family. Nothing is better than sharing a great moment than sharing it with someone else who just experienced it too.

3. Exercise is forever. I have learned that exercise is not something you can do one day and then wait a few weeks before you try it again. It's critical to get some type of exercise in every day. My doctors never get on me about exercise because they know how passionate I am about it. Exercise is not just a good thing for your physical state but it's very important emotionally too. It helps to release endorphins but also it makes you feel good when you can look in the mirror and know that your efforts have changed the way you look in a positive way.

2. Find your passion. Sometimes we all need distractions. That's why it's so important to have hobbies. I know when I have a bad doctor's appointment, I need something to distract me. I find that to be my fish hobby. Sometimes I just need to take some time and watch them swim. It calms me. I know it sounds crazy but it really helps. Sometimes I even listen to classical music. Those of you who know me must think that's bull but I do listen to it in my car when I'm having a bad day. It relaxes me a lot more than sports radio or hard rock.

1. Find your legacy. Having a terminal disorder means that I was afraid that I would be written off in time. I didn't want that to happen. I wanted to do something to be remembered. Yes, Andrea and I have kids and that will continue a legacy BUT I was referring more to what I do in this world. Fighting the battle against cystic fibrosis is probably my legacy. Still if an opportunity comes to make the world a better place, I will definitely lend a hand.

Thanks everyone. I hope that all of you are well.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Awful Sports Weekend Part Deux

A night after seeing my baseball team's season end horribly, I saw an even worse performance from my college football team. South Carolina ripped Georgia 35-7. The 2 teams didn't belong on the same field. South Carolina dominated all facets of the game. Georgia didn't score until South Carolina had pulled many of their starters. Several of my co-workers and my own father went to South Carolina so I know I'll get ribbed for last night's game. I wish UGA had put forth a better performance.

In Richt's first few years, his team was tremendous on the road and terrific against ranked teams. Things have changed since. The last few seasons Georgia is 2-9 against ranked teams. That's not good enough for a program that recruits in the top 5 to 10 every season. We lose a lot of players to suspensions off the field. We don't have a special teams coach and haven't for some time. That makes no sense to me. Frank Beamer has shown the football world what special teams can do.

I love Mark Richt the person. He's an amazing human being and easy to root for but I question whether he is the right man to lead this program further. He has been a big upgrade to Jim Donnan. Donnan was a big upgrade over Ray Goff. I think it's time to find a big upgrade to Richt. There are only a few guys out there and most of them are employed like Meyer, Spurrier and Saban. Who is the man I would go get? I would be looking at Kirby Smart, a Georgia guy who has been with Nick Saban and Alabama for some time. The negative is that he's never been a head coach but neither was Mark Richt when he took this job. I know Jim Tressel and Bobby Petrino are out there but ethically I cannot condone hiring either man. Smart, due to lack of head coaching experience, would be a risk and may not even be an upgrade to Richt but I would certainly consider him especially if Georgia loses to Florida, another ranked team that Georgia has as much if not more talent than.

Last night, the analysts said it looked like Georgia didn't even come to play. The week before we nearly lost at home to a far less-talented Tennessee team. Turnovers, penalties and suspensions have been an issue for Richt's teams for several years. We finished with 3 losses a few years ago when we had Matthew Stafford (5,000+ yards last year for the Lions and a number one pick), A.J. Green (1st in receiving in the NFL and a top 5 pick in the draft) and Knowshon Moreno (another 1st round pick though far more of a disappointment in the NFL). That brings me to our offensive coordinator. Bobo seems to take advantage of bad teams which a good coordinator is supposed to do but when he plays teams with solid defenses, his teams implode. See South Carolina last night and Boise State and LSU last year. Also the Michigan State game last year was a big disappointment but I blame Richt more for that game. Richt is also not known for good time management skills.

If you asked me to give you a list of nicest people in the sports world, Richt would be at the top of my list with guys like Dale Murphy and Brandon Beachy. However, I think it's time that the direction of the program change and Greg McGarrity hire someone to lead us to the next step...national title contention.

An outsider might say, "Andy, you're crazy. You went to the SEC Championship last year. The SEC is the toughest conference in football and you were a half away from winning the title." I agree with the SEC being the toughest conference however we lost to South Carolina last year as well. We were fortunate that they had a much more difficult schedule than we did. We lost to 4 ranked teams last year and beat 10 unranked teams. In other words, our record was deceptive. The year before we went 6-7 with a a lot of good talent. We lost to Central Florida in the bowl game. That's not nearly good enough.

When we had Ray Goff, he didn't lead us anywhere. Donnan took over and made us a top 25 team again. Richt took over and made us a top 10 team again. It's time to find someone to take us to the next step. Yes, I'm greedy. I believe Georgia has one of the best athletic programs in the country and is ready to do what they last did in 1980 - win it all. After all, we do fit 90,000 plus people in Sanford Stadium for every home game - we have some of the best attendance numbers in the country.

I'm not giving up on this year's team. They may still make it to the SEC Championship (SC has to play LSU and we don't) but as much as it pains me to say it, the Dawgs are not in Alabama's, South Carolina's or LSU's league...and I'm now worried about the Florida game.

I hope the Falcons give me some good news this weekend but either way I'll tune in throughout the season as the Dawgs and Falcons will be at it again...ready to break my heart and millions of others.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Insanity = The Atlanta Sports Fan

There is a famous theory that says doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results is defined as insanity. Well, consider me insane. I went to the Braves game last night expecting different results yet the same thing happened. I did get to see the final official game of Chipper Jones' career (picture enclosed). Still it ended the way it always does. I want to thank my friend Eric for coming to the game with me. I enjoyed our discussions of heartbreaks past. Now back to the blog.

Here are the common threads to every Atlanta Braves postseason failure:

1. Defensive Lapses: The Braves made 3 errors last night. If it wasn't for Freddy Freeman's great plays at first base, we would have had at least two more. This was from the team with the highest fielding percentage in the National League. We in Braves country call this Brooks Conrad syndrome. This was the guy Bobby Cox inserted into the lineup in the biggest playoff game of our 2010 season and watched him single-handedly lose a game with us by making 3 errors in the same game including the biggest in the final inning.

2. Controversial Calls: The ball that hit Andrelton Simmons in the head that would have scored 2 runs was instead called an out. According to everyone, that was actually a good call. BUT then the call they'll be talking about in this city for a long time, the infield fly, was a horrible call. It probably cost us at least a run and some momentum. It cost Turner Field a lot of water bottles to pick up in the field. We in Atlanta call this Kent Hrbek syndrome. In the 1991 World Series, he obviously pushed Ron Gant off of 1st base during a casual throw to first and the umps called him out. Also see the Eric Gregg-Florida Marlins game where Gregg obviously had an agenda against the Braves and called balls a foot outside in that game a strike. The Braves lost 1-0.

I know the analysts said that Atlanta fans were classless for littering the field last night. Listen. I'm never in favor of risking injury to anyone and I'm one of the biggest pacifists you'll ever meet but I'm actually proud of our fans. They showed heart and passion; something that we are always told we're lacking. We sold out a 5pm playoff game which everyone around the sports world thought we could not do. We chanted all game long and stood most of that game. We cheered for the legend Chipper Jones even after his error allowed 2 runs and maybe a third to score. We chanted his name after the game ended and our hearts were ripped out. Even down 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th after a disastrous performance, 90% of the attendees at that game were still in the ballpark. That's loyalty. That's fandom. That awesome!

3. Hitting with runners in scoring position: This was a problem all season and it continued last night. We doubled the Cards in hits and still were doubled in runs. We left double-digit runners on the basepaths. It was awful. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out and the pitcher on deck, Andrelton Simmons bunted and Freddie Freeman wasn't coming home. In other words, we didn't put on the squeeze (though Fredi Gonzalez says we actually did) and we took an out, didn't score a run and then brought the pitcher up to strike out. So either Freddie Freeman missed the sign or Gonzalez covered up for his young rookie.

4. Heartfelt storyline - NOT: 2 years ago it was Bobby Cox's swan song and we lost in heartbreaking fashion. Last year, we were cruising and lost one of the biggest leads to miss out on the playoffs. This season, destiny looked like it was on our side. Chipper's last year, Medlen's 23-game winning streak, a home game, a revenge game against the team that knocked us out last year. Welcome to Atlanta where fairy tales do not come true. We lost. Chipper made the big error. The Cardinals advanced.

5. Homefield Disadvantage - our record in playoff elimination games at home is abysmal. I believe we've lost like 6 or 7 in a row. We haven't won a playoff series since 2001, the year before I was married.

There's a myth that says Atlanta fans are poor sports fans because we don't fill up our stadium. Let me explain the reason for that.

1) Mass Transit System - Our mass transit system is terrible. It doesn't even take you to the stadium. I remember being in NY and the subway takes you right to Yankee stadium. MARTA was created before Atlanta developed into a major metropolitan area. Basically we built a skeleton before we knew what the body would be like. We took the skeleton of a skinny twerp and later realized we had a 300 pound offensive lineman.

2) Transient City - Most people that live in Atlanta are from elsewhere so if you're asking someone from NY to come watch the Braves and Marlins, you're probably not going to have much luck.

3) Losertown USA - we have 1 title in 45+ years between 4 teams. Why should we go to games to get our hearts ripped out again and again? That's like going to the doctor when you know he's going to say you have 1 day to live. I'd rather spend that day enjoying myself. The NHL took not 1 but 2 franchises from our city. Our NBA team, the Hawks, have never been to an Eastern Conference Final much less the NBA Finals. The Falcons have been to one Super Bowl where our safety, on the eve of winning an award for character and on the eve of the big game, was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. The Braves have been to the postseason 16 times since 1991 and have 1 title to show for it and have lost 6 straight postseason series. Our WNBA team the Atlanta Dream has been to finals 2 consecutive years and was swept both times.

4) We sell out Georgia Bulldog games every Saturday - 95,000 people. Can people in NY say the same thing about Syracuse or Rutgers games? Absolutely not. We are more of a college sports town. I'm not denying that. We are an amazing sports town. By the way, Georgia hasn't won a title since 1980. Georgia Tech has won one title since 1980 and that was a split national championship with a team that got a phantom 5th down that season, Colorado.

Last night was awful. I love my Braves and so next season I'll go in 110% hoping we can change the results but we'll have the same manager, the same GM, the same ownership and many of the same players. What makes me think the results will change? Oh, that's right. I'm insane.

Have a good one.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Going back to those bleak days

Things have been going really well lately but as I've told all of you before I suffer from compulsive/anxiety issues. When I get too high on myself, my ego becomes my worst enemy. I've learned a way to cope with this is to not get too high on the highs and not to get too low on the lows. Still with all of the good news lately and great celebrations, I've had to look back at the lows to keep myself level-headed.

I've recently had to go back into the Andy Lipman vault and remember the tough times too. Trust me. It's not easy going back there and facing the most vulnerable moments of my life.

I remember laying on my sweat-filled, mucous-infested couch back in 1992. I remember lying there wishing I would just die already. I hated my life, my friends and my family. I especially hated cystic fibrosis.

I remember in October of 1992 watching the Braves beat the Pirates in improbable fashion with a Game 7 ninth inning comeback. I also remember shutting off the TV, lying there in the dark and hearing everyone jump for joy. People knocked violently on my door to celebrate. I just sat there in horror worried that they would see the person that I had turned into. I was the biggest Braves fan in the world and I couldn't even raise my arms to celebrate. If I jumped up and down, I probably would have vomited from all of the mucous that was tightly clinging to my lungs. I plan to enjoy the Braves postseason run this year whether it's only one game or several.

I rarely showered during those tough days. I wasn't doing my treatments nor was I taking my pills. I was very sick. I could hardly sleep at night. I would pick moments when everyone was asleep before I would walk out of my room to use the restroom. My weekends were filled with one meal...a Shoney's Strawberry Pie. It's hard for me to go to Shoney's today without remembering those horrible moments. Seeing as there are not many Shoney's around anymore, I rarely have to experience that heartache.

If you'd told me nearly two decades ago that I'd be an honoree of the UGA 40 under 40, a board member of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia and be throwing out the first pitch at a Braves game, I would have said you were crazy. My first thought would have been that I would have been dead two decades from then. I would have been shocked if I even reached a second decade. My second thought was that I was failing out of UGA at the time and would not think anyone would want me on the board. If you told me I'd be throwing out the first pitch for a team whose most celebrated moment was possibly my most miserable moment, I would have said no way. I couldn't even walk out of my room to face my fraternity brothers and back in July I walked out in front of 20,000 plus people to throw a pitch.

Depression and anxiety are enemies of mine as much as cystic fibrosis. I still have a journal I look back at from time to time from the days that I was an out-patient at Ridgeview Mental Institution. It's in my car underneath a lot of my stuff (which is French for I'm a little bit messy). I don't want anyone going and reading it. It's for me and only for me.

Whenever I get too high on myself, I read that diary of some of the worst times of my life and remember I had the lowest self-esteem score at one point in a group full of drug addicts, suicide survivors and manic depressants. In other words, don't pat yourself on the back too many times, Mr. Lipman. I'm always one spiral away from a return trip to Ridgeview. At the same time, I've learned that you have to appreciate the great moments. I definitely try to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain when something celebratory happens. I just have to remember to get off that mountain and start a new hike.

I still go to therapy both to a psychiatrist and a therapist and while they both reiterate that I'm doing well, both of these individuals will be on the Lipman payroll for a long time because I don't want to slip into another emotional spiral. I have ceased going to meetings but I still have several members on my phone list and call them from time to time to stay level-headed. I'm never above going back to meetings. I just enjoy that time with my wife and children and I'd prefer to use that time to enjoy those special moments.

Life is a book in that we have to live chapter to chapter and we control most of what's inside each page. I have had chapters in my life that I'd like to forget but it's probably best that I remember them. I've had chapters in my life that I'd love to boast about but it's probably best I don't get too arrogant. I guess what it comes down to is that I'm just happy that the book can still be edited. I have a lot of things I still want to accomplish. I want to celebrate many anniversaries with Andrea. I want to see my kids grow up to live wonderful lives. I want to be the best person that I can be. I want to see a cure for the disease that took my sister and still torments me.

Thanks for listening.

Live your dreams and love your life.

But don't forget your nightmares either. They make living your dreams even more fulfilling.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bend It Like Ethan

8 more goals on Sunday for Ethan!!! The kid is a one-man wrecking crew! 10 goals in 2 games!

Ethan was named after 2 men. This is special to me because one of those men was my grandpa Carl who was an outstanding soccer player and coach in Europe. Grandpa, I hope you're smiling down on the little guy.

I'm proud of the little guy because he's giving his teammates high-fives and his mommy hugs all game long. If only I can keep it together.

As you may have read in one of my previous blog posts, Ethan had an infarct when he was born (a stroke in the left temporal lobe of his brain) which significantly affected his right side. Doctors then were very negative about his potential athletic prowess. Now each Sunday he is building on his soccer stardom.

If you'd have told me that Ethan Lipman would have stepped on a soccer field at all 4 years ago, I would have thought you were crazy. We were busy then with apnea monitors, seizure medicine and neurologist appointments.

Now the kid that never made it to our room at Piedmont because his oxygen levels were unstable is changing the way we look at him. He's no longer the kid who had a stroke at birth. He's the kid who is inspiring his mommy, daddy and sister every day.

We love you buddy.


Monday, October 1, 2012

TEP: New & Old

In September of 1991, I made the 75 mile drive East to a college town known as Athens, Georgia. In the weeks ahead, I would go through orientation until I decided on my fraternity choice. It wasn't easy. All the fraternities were pretty good but I loved the brotherhood at Tau Epsilon Phi. The location of the house was even better...2 minutes walking distance from the stadium. The only negative was the house looked like the Titanic...after it 100 years after it sunk. Still this house had the best ice machine ever. It made little cubes of ice that went down easy. I seriously think I joined a fraternity because of the ice machine.

I could not find a picture of the old house. All I could find was the picture of attached when the house was imploded to make room for university property. This picture is probably best because this is what the house looked like to me when I first saw it and it was actually a live-in structure. I notice there were a few bricks missing in this picture but I'm going to guess that some of the rats that lived there probably carried them out when they moved on after years of cozy living.

The top picture is the new TEP house. It's beautiful...except to me. How are these kids supposed to struggle when they live in that inspection-approved house? How are these kids supposed to be humbled when they don't know the feeling of getting a splinter by sitting on the kitchen benches? How are these kids supposed to understand how lucky they are when they come home to find things that the TEP house used to never carry...soap, toilet paper, toilet seats. I bet the house meets all standard building codes. That just makes me sick!

But I digress. I did decide to make a list of the 10 things that make this TEP house different from ours. I'm not saying that this makes the new house better. I'm just saying these kids missed out on the beautiful house myself and my brothers lived in during the 1990's.

The top 10 differences between this TEP and the one I remember:

10. This TEP House has an elevator. An elevator!!! I am not kidding. Trust me when I say that in the old days the only way the brothers in our house got high was can figure that one out. Heck, we were lucky when all the stairs were available to use. These kids are going to be obese when they're taking the elevator every day. I wonder if they have a dumbwaiter too. I didn't check. I bet the fridge was packed with Grey Poupon...spoiled brats!

9. The first room you come to is the House Director. It's labeled on a nice sign next to the door. Seriously? They actually vote for a house director??? In our day, the house director was the one who explained to guests that the 2 foot rats outside the ice machine were not pets and should not be fed...and the foam coming from their mouths was not shaving cream.

8. The basketball goal looks like a real modern day basketball goal. I remember our basketball goal. Most times the rim was bent. We rarely had a net and the odd times that we did, it was ripped down immediately as we didn't want the brothers to be spoiled. What would our brothers have wanted next...The Ritz Carlton?

7. There is central air conditioning in the new house. At the old house, we had a unit that was ripped out of the wall one day that was in the center of the kitchen just lying there. We considered that central air...or when someone brought a portable fan and threw it in the middle of the chapter room to get rid of the smell of old Chinese food that had been left on the pool table for days. We knew how to treat our residents right.

6. There were no cars parked in the yard of the new TEP House. The grass was actually green. It made no sense to me. If the cars don't park in the lawn, where do you put them? A parking lot? Seriously? Good luck finding a fertilizer that smells like gasoline to give the lawn that wonderful new-car-just-got-gas smell.

5. The chapter room in the new house was large and clean and looked like a sorority chapter room. It made me want to vomit! Our old chapter room was the place that the kids who were doing fraternity rush would sleep in. It brought comradery...and maybe some flies when they forgot to clean up after the previous night's party.

4. The women's restroom had the strangest sign on it. It said "women" and even had a lock on it. The one we had did not say women. Basically you'd let your date go in the bathroom and scream to her if a brother was coming, "Hide Baby Hide! Run for your life!" You would actually let the guy in but tell him not to use stall number 2. How did you know it was stall number 2? It was the one missing a door. How did you know which one was stall number 1? It had 2 doors slanted against the wall. It's always good to have wood lying around in case you need to make a fire or if you want to build another loft.

3. They had real authentic liquid soap. They actually had someone come in to check the soap and install soap dispensers in the new house. Our soap dispenser was called your hand grabbing a bar of soap that may or may not have been in the shower and may or may not have been used several times prior.

2. The house was 3 or 4 stories. Our old house had 1 story...that story was "Once upon a time there was a piece of crap house with bricks missing..."

1. They have windows in the new house. Don't get me wrong. We had places for windows; the glass was just missing. Actually having no glass in the windows allowed us to use our wonderful imaginations. We were able to pretend there was glass in the windows. It was pretty fulfilling. I think we were better for it quite honestly.

In conclusion, while this house may look pretty, may meet building codes and may even get more rushees to join, this house is the worst thing to happen to these kids. They will never understand what college is supposed to be about.

Finally here are 5 terms that we at TEP in the 90s would define differently than the kids today...

5. Recycling...

The kids of 2012: Put glass and plastic in recycle cans to preserve the environment.

The kids of 1991: Put Chinese food back in the fridge for 2 more weeks until it walks out on its own.

LESSON: This taught a better sense of smell.

4. A Restful night sleep

The kids of 2012: Sleeping a good 8 hours before class.

The kids of 1991: Having a firecracker not shot through your vent that night lighting your comforter on fire.

LESSON: This helped hand-eye coordination.

3. Making it cooler in the house

The kids of 2012: Turning up the A/C and laying on their beds.

The kids of 1991: Turning over the ice machine and grabbing cups of ice to pour on our sweat-infested heads.

LESSON: This taught McGyver-like skills.

2. Announcing the big party

The kids of 2012: Sending an Evite

The kids of 1991: Running through traffic finding pretty girls and begging them to attend our parties.


And finally...

1. Someone throws a rock through your window...

The kids of 2012: Call the police. Call your parents. Call University security. Lock your doors. Clean up all the glass. Wear shoes in the house for a week so not to get glass stuck in your foot. Hire a cleaning service. Replace the glass. Go before the chapter and collect money from people. Pray that this doesn't happen again.

The kids of 1991: That's why we don't have glass in our windows. Ah-Chah!

LESSON: Apathy is next to Godliness. While our house may not have looked like a castle, it sure was low maintenance.

Thanks for listening. To the kids from 2012 who may be reading this, please enjoy your elevator rides and lovely chapter room.

So I lived in a house full of asbestos and possibly acquired rabies from the rats who ate through our walls...I'm still much better for it. At least I had the best ice machine the world had ever seen...