Since today is Easter, I thought I’d share an Easter story, which I think was both comical and tragic. Although I’ve never killed a goat, this seems like the type of well-intentioned thing that parents do all the time to educate their kids that turns out terribly wrong.
A few years ago at a family reunion, I was able to sit down and interview Krista’s grandma Mary (91) and her little brother John (89). For John, just imagine an older, possibly smaller, Danny DeVito with a pony tail, and Mary is just a sweet Italian grandmother of about the same size.
The story begins with their father Luigi, who came to America in 1901, from a little village called Raffadali, near Agrigento (aka the Valley of the Temples) in Sicily. He not only had to save up enough money to bring over the girl from his village he wanted to be his wife, but he had to pay for her parents’ voyage as well.
Fast forward 30 years to the Chicago suburb of Joliet, Illinois, where Luigi and his wife had started their own grocery store and were raising five children- four girls and one boy.
Luigi decided it was time for his children to learn the old Easter tradition of eating a ‘capretto’, or baby goat, on Easter.
Luigi purchased a little goat, which they kept in the basement. The children took turns feeding it, and it became their little pet.
Now, Luigi had grown up working in the hillside fields, laboring all day, sleeping on haystacks at night and waking up a first light to work all day again. His children had lived their entire lives in a city, sleeping indoors. They had learned hard work, but at a grocery store where all of the meat they saw had already met it’s maker.
Finally Easter arrived, and it was time to prepare the capretto for Easter dinner. I’m sure in his childhood, Luigi remembered this time fondly, as a point when his family would enjoy the celebration and a good meal together. Now, as an adult with his own family, attempting to reenact that joyous time, he was instead surrounded by five wailing children in a basement, horrified that their father was killing their pet. John, the youngest, vividly remembered his dad’s hand shaking as he took the knife to slit the baby goat’s throat.
Luigi and his wife then painstaking prepared the goat, all the while having their children in a deep state of mourning for their lost pet. Finally they finished preparing the capretto, only to find that when they tried to put it into the oven to cook, it was too big to fit.
Exhausted, they gave up, and took it somewhere else to cook it. John and Mary never said if they actually ate it or not.
If I get enough good comments on this, I might share their stories about knowing Al Capone and their Luigi saving lives in the Depression.
For kicks, what family Easter traditions are you passing along?
What do you do when you have a surprise snow when you’re supposed to be doing a swim workout? Swim in the snowfall, of course! Of course, my daughter singing “Let It Go” in the snow (following my video) is much more impressive.
Comparing this to Michael Phelps, he did have better form, but I think I had better total distance.
Have you ever gone swimming in a snowfall?
Tomorrow, I’m re-tracing the steps of my first half-marathon, that I decided to run for my unborn daughter. Here’s the story of that ill-planned adventure.
A few days after Christmas 2004, we found we’d be having a child that summer. It hit me I needed to do whatever I could to stay healthy for a long time, so the day after I found out, I signed up for my first half marathon. The race would be the Tom King Half Marathon in mid March.
I’d done a couple of 5Ks, but training was foreign to me. Preparation was pretty much limited to fitting in a mile run maybe once or twice before a race. Otherwise, I just stuck to basketball twice a week. Someone had told me that if you wanted to do a half marathon, you did this thing called a ‘long run’, where every week, you run one mile longer than the week before. I started with the week of the half marathon, and worked my way back subtracting a mile each week. To figure out mileage, I’d go out and drive to a point of half the distance I needed, and drive back. I learned that the distance around the parking lots of a nearby school was one mile. Oh, the boring laps I ran around that school! I only knew about this long run thing, so I didn’t do any running outside of that. I had a radio headset, so I’d time my runs during football and basketball games so that at least I’d have some company. I never ran with any friends, because at that point, I only had friends who did normal sports like football and basketball.
Finally, race day arrived. My mildly pregnant, mildly supportive wife agreed to go to the race with me. To pass the time, she brought along a pillow, blankets, a personal DVD player, and four or five DVDs that she could watch laying down in the back of the car. “How long do you think this is going to take me?” I asked. “I just want to be prepared,” she replied. I’d set a goal of running a 10 minute mile pace, but I decided I’d be happy with a 2 hour, 20 minute finish. They open up the Titans stadium for fans to watch the finish, and she promised to be there. The race also advertised that they’ve have Gatorade and gels throughout the course, and that the Titans cheerleaders would be there at the finish cheering you on and handing out medals.
The race started off pretty well. In general, the Tom King Half is a good race for a beginner. It’s as flat as you can ask for in the Nashville area and there aren’t a lot of turns or side streets for you to get lost. I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to go a little faster than I had in training. That’s a big rookie mistake. Probably around mile 3 or 4 I started getting tired (which is bad, because I had 9 or 10 miles to go), so I slowed back down to my normal pace.
Although the race had advertised that they’d have Gatorade every mile, it turned out that they had run out of that on the faster runners, and only had water for us slower runners. That made me mad, so I just decided to skip drinking all together and gut it out. It’s not really very smart to punish yourself for the mistake of someone else. Rookie (and just immature) mistake number two. (Also, you have to realize no race is perfect, they volunteers are doing their best, and you just have to roll with it.)
Mistake number three came courtesy of being too much into music. I didn’t have an mp3 player, so I just listened to whatever was on the radio. If a fast song came on, I ran faster. If a slow song came one, I ran slower.
By mile 8 or 9, the decision to only drink non-existent Gatorade instead of water hit me with a vengeance. I started cramping in both calves badly. I got water at every chance I could, but it was too late. Mile 11 took me 20 minutes, mostly ‘duck-walking’ on my heels with my toes up.
I was really happy once I got to the stadium, thinking I was finished. I was wrong. You had to run around to the back side of the stadium, which was bad enough, but then you had to run around some short curves and up and down in the underbelly of the stadium, which was just torturous on my calves.
Finally I emerged into the light of day onto the field, but still had to run down one sideline, across the end zone, and back down the other sideline to the finish line. I couldn’t see where she was, but I knew my young bride must be up there somewhere in the stands cheering for me, so I knew I had to somehow stop duck walking and actually look like I was running. To add fuel to the fire, some lady jogged up next to me and in her best drill sergeant voice yelled, “You’re not gonna let a GIRL beat you, are you!!!”
I wanted to say, “Listen, lady, about 1,000 girls have already beaten me today, one more won’t make a difference.” But I could tell in her own cruel way she was trying to be supportive, so I picked up the pace and rounded the last curve.
By this point, I was exhausted, still cramping badly, dehydrated, and I now realized I probably needed to add hallucinations to my list. I squinted and peered down the sideline at the cheerleaders, and they just seemed SO tiny. I know cheerleaders are small in general, but these were just miniature. I heard someone yelling, “GO BRIAN”, and looked to the stands to see my friends Adam and Mary Ann from our Sunday school class up in the stands. They looked fresh and energetic, like they’d been able to take a shower and possibly a nap from the time they’d finished the race till the time I finished. But I didn’t see Krista.
Finally, as I crossed the finish line, the mini-cheerleader mystery was solved. Apparently, after so much time, the cheerleaders had left, and were replaced by Girl Scouts. It was very painful with every part of me cramping, but I bent down like everyone else and gratefully let a Girl Scout put my finisher medal around my neck.
I had actually finished my first half marathon. I checked my watch- 2:40. WAY slower than I’d wanted, but I’d finished. I found out that Krista had been in the stands, but for reasons that remain unclear, left the stands just as I was finishing. But, she was there to receive a sweaty hug as I walked to the car, to tell me she was proud of me, and to drive me home. I was famished, so we decided to go to Jonathan’s for lunch. I almost couldn’t get out of the car, and my legs wouldn’t bend. My walking was so comical that the manager who opened the door literally laughed at me and then stopped himself. But that race helped launch me into endurance sports. I’ve now run 10 half marathons, three full marathons, and countless 5ks and 10ks. For my second daughter, I decided to do a triathlon, and have now down seventeen of those, including six Olympic distance races and one Half Ironman race. I’ve been a part of helping a number of people get into running and triathlon for the first time.
It’s hard believe the little girl I ran the first one for and her sister are now doing 5Ks and triathlons on their own. Since deciding to be crazy and signing up for that half, I’ve lost 20 pounds and am vastly healthier, and I think the course of my life and those of many family and friends have been changed as well. I’m truly blessed.
Syd is driven to be a famous singer. As soon as she saw it was snowing, she exclaimed, “I have to put on something blue and doing a video singing in the snow!” My California-born wife, who is afraid of any and all forms of precipitation, exclaimed (there’s a lot of exclaiming in our house), “You can’t go out in that! No one goes out in that!” (granted, it was only 21 degrees out.) A few minutes later, my wife relayed the story to me, and I said I’d be happy to video Syd singing, and here is the result.
Syd seems to be a natural performer. She immediately grasped the production value of singing in the snow. She also didn’t break character or stop either when snow started gathering on her eyes or her friends started yelling up from the street. Plus, she’d worked hard enough on the song beforehand that when the chance came up with a surprise snowfall, she was ready.
For a living, I’m kind of a talent agent. I book speakers and celebrities to talk at events for big companies. I rarely go to events, because if I actually spent my time traveling to and from all these events, I’d never actually book anything. However, I will occasionally make exceptions. Being from Indiana, when I booked Peyton Manning to speak for an event a few years go, I couldn’t pass up the chance to go to the event in person- ostensibly to meet up with a top client, but really, I wanted to get a picture with Peyton to give to my grandma. (She’s addicted to Indiana sports. I know not to call when any major Indiana team is playing. I remember calling one time and she didn’t want to talk because she was too flustered that Purdue’s Robbie Hummel had just gotten hurt. “I just don’t know what Purdue is going to do without him!” she said.)
Plus, you know, it’s Peyton Manning. So I went.
Event planners have a million things they have to do on event day, so my job that morning was to help out in greeting him when he got to the convention center, showing him where to go, and just generally helping out so that all he had to focus on when the time came was delivering a great speech, and the event planner could just focus on the event. By the way, I should mention that I don’t know Peyton, and I’m sure he wouldn’t remember me. The joke among talent agents is that we don’t know any famous people, we just know famous people’s assistants. And I just say “Peyton” here because that’s what everyone called him, not because we’re close and we go shoot hoops on the weekend or anything.
What Went Wrong
At an event, anything can go wrong, and the first one that happened was outside the event planner’s control. The Indianapolis Convention Center is a massive building, and this company’s event was taking place in Hall A. For some reason, the driver had thought he was supposed to drop Peyton off at the exact opposite end of the building, Hall Z or whatever. The driver then took off without making sure Peyton was in the right place. We got the news, so the event planner and I headed over to the far end of the Indianapolis Convention Center, which is located in Ohio. We’d been told he’d need security by his office, and then convention center, hearing that Peyton Manning was coming, decided to get additional security for good measure (and, probably, to show Peyton they cared). The most direct route was to walk through the main hallway past all the different halls and ball rooms. There were a lot of other events and meetings going on in, so you just imagine the worried looks we got from people as our large group of people, many in security uniforms, were walking at high speed past them.
The Entourage Guy
When we finally got to the exact opposite side of the convention center and said hello to Peyton, we could tell he wasn’t happy. But it wasn’t because he’d been dropped off at the wrong spot, or that no one was there to greet him. It’s actually for a reason that his fans would like. He took the event planner and me aside and said, “I do appreciate you guys going to the trouble and you’re just trying to do something nice, but I really don’t need any security. Can we send them away? I’m just really not the entourage guy.”
The Prima Donna Incident
During the long walk back we managed to get rid of all but one of the security guys (I think he was just too big of a fan to let the opportunity go). We got Peyton backstage where he could meet a few executives, go over the introductions with the emcee (who happened to be Miss America, Katie Stam), and get ready to go on stage. When you’ve got a big room with a couple thousand people and a big stage, everyone who goes out on stage has to have make-up. While Peyton was stuck in the make-up chair, he turned to me and asked, “If it’s not too much trouble, could you see if there’s anything to eat?” I went over the food table, piled up a plastic plate with bagels, fruit, and danish, and brought it back to him. A few minutes later, he turned to me and said, “Um, I’m really sorry, and I don’t want to be a Prima donna, but could you get a napkin for me?” As we all know, some celebrities express their self importance by trashing hotel rooms, demanding green M&Ms or boxes of caviar, but we all know that the height of arrogance is to politely ask for a napkin. Still, I got one for him anyway.
The Bagel Question
By this point, other speakers were presenting on stage, Peyton was done with make-up and breakfast, and he was up talking with some of the executives and the emcee (fyi, Katie Stam was actually very cool, down to earth and not a Prima donna, either). My friend Rob is a huge University of Tennessee (and therefore Peyton Manning) fan, so I jokingly texted him: “Hey, Rob, do you want Peyton Manning’s half-eaten bagel?” He texted right back, “Only if he’ll autograph it.”
The Speech and Lunch
The tough part about working an event is that you rarely get a chance to enjoy it. The (sound) speakers are all focused forward toward the audience, not back toward the backstage area, so it’s frequently very difficult to actually hear the speaker speak. If you want to hear him, you have to head out some side door, go outside all the way around and then into the hall through the back. Then you need to head back before the speech is over so you can be ready to help if needed. I could tell the audience was loving it, and so I mainly followed along on twitter as people kept quoting what he was saying (this is actually a great way for speakers to know which part of their speech hit’s home). After the speech, I walked him back to where there would be a lunch and VIP photo op. This was during the height of the lockout, so when he was ‘off duty’ (as in not speaking or interacting with the client- he was really good about that), he was getting a seemingly endless barrage of messages. When that happened, I’d politely just walk to the other side of the hall to give him some privacy.
The Missed Clue
I don’t know if it’s because my mom is a nurse and I grew up with her pointing these things out, or from years of always trying to find an advantage in sports, but if someone has some sort of injury, I’ll usually pick up on it pretty quickly. I remember thinking that he must have slept the wrong way or something, because he never once turned his head to the right. The neck just seemed stiff. A few days later, the news broke that Peyton had just had neck surgery (maybe even the day after our event?). I think it speaks to his professionalism that even though he had to have been in some discomfort, he didn’t show it, and maybe even put off surgery a bit in order to keep this speaking commitment. As soon as I saw the headline on ESPN, I had that ‘a ha’ moment.
If there was any surprise, it was that he had a bit more of a cool guy vibe than what comes through in commercials. Not ‘cool’ as in ‘aloof’, but as in there’s some Matthew McConaughey in him. Instead of being 100% “aw, shucks, ma’am”, he’s probably 80% “aw, shucks, ma’am”, and probably 20% “aw, cool, dude.” He finished the lunch, and took a photo with everyone who wanted one. Then he was off, and I was back to Nashville. All in all, it was a fun experience.
I’m an age group triathlete, and I’ll admit it- I probably spent too much on my carbon fiber bike. Sure, it does help me be healthier, and on group rides and at races, it helps me hang out with my friends. But it’s nothing compared to this $100 bike. This $100 bike will help girls in Cambodia and India get to school safely, and more easily avoid violence and kidnapping that can happen to those who walk. This $100 bike can help a girl have a better chance at a future, to grow up to be an educated woman, who can in turn make a difference in her family, town, and country. You and I have our bikes that are cool, but don’t make nearly the impact that this $100 bike will. If you want to spend money on the best $100 bike you’ll ever buy in your life, here’s the link. I know I’m getting one!
They did a study where they put a child in a room with a marsh mellow. They told the child they could eat this one marsh mellow now, but if they waited 15 minutes, they could have two marsh mellows. Most of kids couldn’t wait and gobbled up the marsh mellow right away, but some kids were able to wait the 15 minutes and got two. They then tracked these kids through high school and into adulthood, and found some pretty incredible things. The kids who could wait ended up averaging 210 points higher on their SAT skills. Because these kids could practice delayed gratification- putting off something good now for something better later- they became better savers and investors and became much wealthier in life. (from Richard Paul Evans’ “Five Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth.”)
With trick-or-treating last night ,I figured we’d try this out this morning. I told the girls that they could have one piece of candy now, or if they could wait 15 minutes, they could have two pieces of candy. They thought it sounded fun, at least at first. Krista whispered to me, “I know B can do this. I’m not so sure about Syd.”
“What’s your favorite piece of candy?” I asked them.
“Snickers!” Brooklyn responded, even though we all knew of B’s well documented love of Snickers.
“Reeses Peanut Butter Cups!” yelled Syd.
Krista overheard and said, “Wait a minute, Syd. Last night you gave me all of yours because you don’t like Reeses.”
“Mom!!!” Syd yelled, knowing she’d been ratted out. That little stinker has figured out early that life isn’t fair, and she’s always trying to figure out ways to make it unfair in her favor.
We knew that Syd liked Snickers, too, if not as much as Brooklyn, so I put each of the girls in their rooms with an open Snickers in front of them. Brooklyn sat in front of hers and just stared at it, daring the temptation to try something.
Syd, on the other hand, was not so quiet.
“Daddy, why did you have to open it?!?!?! Do I have to sit here? Why can’t someone be in here with me!!!!” (‘Don’t worry, Syd, I”ll come back in.’)
Syd decided to try to distract herself from the candy bar in front of her. “Daddy, can I dance? Can you turn on some music?” I put on Disney Pandora and left.
With about 9 minutes left, Syd yelled, “Daddy, how much time is left?”
“About 9 minutes, Syd.”
“Is that a long time?”
“About 3 songs, Syd.”
Shortly afterward, I heard a tune skipped, mid-song, to the next one, also skipped after about 15 seconds. Then a Pandora commercial, and finally a third song.
“Daddy, it’s on the third song. When this song is done, I can eat my candy!”
I admired her ingenuity in trying to work the system, but I stayed firm. ”Syd, I just said three songs, meaning 3 full songs. If you skip ahead, it doesn’t count. 6 minutes left.”
Finally the 15 minutes were up. Syd, having waited, declared that she didn’t like Snickers, and had tricked me, and was going to eat two other pieces of candy. ”OK, Syd, I get your Snickers, then,” I replied.
“NO!!!!” she yelled. So at least I know she likes them a little bit.
Brooklyn, not content to do the bare minimum of the 15 minutes laid out in the study, decided she’d go a full 20 minutes before eating. Take that, temptation!
All in all, I think it was a success.
Is this something you’d try with your kids? How do you think they’d do?
Let me know!
If you want to become a Christian, it’s not an accident. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44)
You don’t have to be perfect to become a Christian. In fact, if you read the Bible, those who were the most messed up- Moses (murderer), David (murder, adulterer, terrible dad), Jacob (thief, coward), Rahab (prostitute), Peter (all talk, no follow up), Paul (murderer)- were the ones God used the most. Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” (Mark 2:17) The common denominator was choosing to follow him.
It’s actually very simple to become a Christian. You simply say (and mean), “Dear Jesus, please forgive me of my sins. I believe you died for me. Please come into my heart.”
“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”,and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
About.com has really good information on becoming a Christian as well.
Next, connect with a friend or a local church to learn more about Jesus. You can even download podcasts at places like Crosspoint, Elevation, and Northpoint. And, to make my mom happy, here is her favorite, Joseph Prince.