Tag Archives: Fatherhood

Advice on Oranges

I was never a big fan of oranges growing up. I liked orange juice. I liked orange jello. I liked orange soda. I also truly enjoyed putting quarter slices of oranges my mom put in our sack lunches into my mouth and acting like an ape. That was fun.

The idea of eating an orange did appeal to me, though. I just never could get past the white pith inside the peel and how dang hard it was to peel an orange. Seeds, although a pain, were tolerable since they could be spat out either as projectile weapons against siblings/friends or, like the watermelon seed of summer, expelled for distance.

As an adult, I’ve turned my childhood dislike of oranges into them becoming a seasonal staple of my diet. What changed? First, the emergence of the navel orange gave the consumer a seedless, yet, delicious citrus product. Sure, one lost the necessary basic component of seed-spitting but gained threefold in pure edible joy.

The second, and most monumental, change occurred early in my teen years when dad taught me an orange peeling trick. It was brilliant. It was effective. It transformed me into an orange-loving citrus-phile. This food hack my dad showed me was to gently roll the orange around on a hard, flat surface with slight pressure. When performed properly, the white pith loosens from the fruit and makes peeling the orange a breeze. Over the years, I’ve found the technique also works by rolling the orange between your palms. It’s magic. 

My dad was by no means handy or comfortable in the kitchen. He could hardly make himself a sandwich. When my youngest brother was born and mom had to stay a few nights in the hospital, I’ll never forget the meal dad made for the rest of us five kids that first night before grandma showed up to help. He browned a couple of pounds of hamburger. He put a piece of white bread on each of our plates. He scooped a serving spoon of hamburger on each piece of bread. To top off the delicacy, each plate got a healthy shot of ketchup over the mound of hamburger. We each put our heads down, side-eyed each other, said a prayer that mom would be home soon, and quietly and quickly ate.

Thanks to my dad, I have become a joyful eater of oranges. The fruit is one of the bright spots of winter for me and has been since learning the peeling trick. Dad simply taking five minutes one dark winter night after a long work day to show his kid a better way to peel an orange made a lifelong impact on me, my kids, and my grandkids. It’s one of the many pieces of him I carry with me to this day.

A small and seemingly insignificant piece of advice went a long way to enrich my life. 

Think about that little nugget for a minute.

Small kindnesses can make huge impacts on people’s lives. 

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“Are you proud?”

I was doing my best to be a badass. It was working pretty good. Well, it was working well enough to keep second graders in line at their fine arts visit to the university. It was the class of second graders that my eldest daughter teaches. I walked across campus on a brisk, cloudy morning to help corral and keep the kids in line. A job right up my alley? Perhaps.

For you folks with no experience in the art of elementary school field trip duty, let me tell you a 30 minutes cello + piano concert is an amazing cultural opportunity for these kids, but…it is not the easiest thing to get an auditorium full of 8 & 9-year-olds to behave and listen to a 30-minute cello + piano recital. Not an easy thing at all.

The kids were awesome! They paid attention and listened; really listened to the music. I only had to pull out the Coach Hays death glare a couple of times and even had a productive discussion with the supposed “naughtiest” kid in the class who I had the pleasure to sit next to.

After the show, the class waited for their bus to arrive on the sidewalk outside the venue. Classic elementary school style of single file line order. My daughter leads the line and my job is to bring up the rear and not to lose any kids. The precision spacing and order of the line begins to break down as soon as we quit walking and start waiting. Kids start nervously moving around and telling “interesting” stories about their cat, their little brother, or their mother’s current boyfriend. Herding goats is actually easier to keeping these kids in alignment, but we survived.

A group of girls drifts back to the end of the line and the spokesperson of the group slides over until she is standing directly in front of me. She looks up with an angelic, second-grader face and asks, “Are Ms. Hays’s dad?”

“Yes.” I begin to wonder where this is going as the throng of girls collectively inch closer.

“Mr. Hays, are you proud of her?”


I was stopped in my tracks. My badass failed me. My cold heart melted.

Yes. I am extremely proud of my kids. One teacher and, in a week, two college graduates. I am beyond proud the way they’ve started their lives outside the nest.

“Yes, I am.” was my simple answer. Three words that easily could have blown up into a thousand words (and possibly with colorful language not appropriate for second-grade ears). The little girl’s face lit up and her smile almost made me break down in tears. The bus soon came and I said goodbye to all my second-grade friends.

As I walked across campus a proud dad, I hoped each of the little girls, and the rest of the kids in the class, had someone in their life to be proud of them. I wished the people in these kid’s lives appreciated their potential and will help them grow into something they can take great pride in.

It’s a great feeling having kids turning into adults, especially when they are turning into much better adults than their “badass” old man.

It feels kind of like…


Every single day.


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New Year’s Eve #1

New Year’s Eve. Boy, howdy! I’ve had quiet ones and I’ve had crazy, insane ones. I’ve had snowy ones, ones with big crowds, ones with small crowds and ones I cannot for the life of me remember (and paid the price of a miserable January 1.).

The top of the list, New Year’s Eve Numero Uno, is by far one of the quiet ones, one of the ones spent at home with my young kids. I tried to recall the year and the age of the kids but can’t seem to pinpoint the details. It really doesn’t matter, they were around elementary school-aged.

As usual, the Mom went to sleep by the end of the 10:00 news. She, by habit, usually celebrates the New Year with the people of the Nova Scotia/Atlantic time zone, while the rest of the family celebrates in our resident time zone, the Central Time Zone. The kids and myself made a pact to stay up as late as possible with ten minutes after midnight being the dad’s preferred target.

Lo and behold, we turned on the television and TCM was running a all-night Marx Brothers marathon. We spread blankets on the living room floor, the kids got their various Disney character sleeping bags and pillows and we settled in for the night. We watched the Marx Brothers. We giggled. We laughed and laughed until about 3:00 AM when members of the crew began to nod off. It was the greatest of times.

As a parent, those are the times you never forget. Even these many years later, I still flashback to that New Year’s Eve whenever I see the Marx Brothers. The giggles and the belly laughs still ring sharp and true.

I know there’s the big deal in Times Square, I know there are loud, wild and woolly celebrations that go on around the globe to bring in the new year. But, to me there will always be one favorite New Year celebration, the New Year’s I spent sitting on the floor, surrounded by giggling kids, being completely entertained by Groucho, Chico, and Harpo.

Here is the famous mirror scene from the classic, Duck Soup.

Happy New Year!

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We all sometimes need a healthy dose of “OUT”. To whatever you do, to whatever you are good at, add some “OUT” to it. Supercharge it, push it, take the leap off the high dive.

OUT work
OUT prepare
OUT plan
OUT perform
OUT hustle
OUT play
OUT coach
OUT run
OUT lift
OUT compete
OUT love
OUT study
OUT design
OUT write
OUT lead
OUT love
OUT participate
OUT read
OUT discover
OUT learn
OUT laugh
OUT recover
OUT forgive
OUT carry
OUT follow



Now, go OUT and do whatever you do with joy, passion, and intensity.

Never give up.
Get better every day.
Hard work is the magic.
Be OUTstanding!

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When I was younger, I viewed life as linear function. Sort of like the board game, Life. Move down the path, forward only. Get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, and then make your pink, globe-shaped head, uber-thin wife sit in the back row of the sleek, blue roadster as the fam cruises the plastic landscape. Linear. Set a goal and go do it. Simple.

With age and experience I have come to find that life is not really like the game of Life at all, it is more like the Plinko game from The Price Is Right. You know the game. The contestant climb the stairs to the top of the vertical Plinko board and drop big round plastic chips down slots. The board has bumper pins spread over the surface to block the straight path to the targeted money slot at the bottom. Gravity pulls the chip down into collisions with the pins and it moves randomly down the course. Sometimes it glances off a pin and only slightly knocked off course. Other times the chip has a full force, head-on collision with the pin and gets knocked straight backward until gravity wins out again to start down another path. Plinko.

Doesn’t that sound more like real life?

Hey, I’m not complaining one bit. At age 48, with my wife, my three kids, two dogs, maybe two cats, great friends, a house in a cool small town, job(s) and never ending chaos, I welcome the Plinko-life. It is a grand adventure climbing up to the platform above the Hays family Plinko board, aiming our chips at the intended goals at the bottom of the course, and then letting go. Yeah, we fret when the chips glance off pins and veer away from their intended course. We feel the pain when a chip hits a pin head-on and gets knocked backward. Sure, it hurts and is a bit disheartening to see the chip plink further and further from the big prize.

That’s where the fun begins. We laugh as the chips dances down the board. We learn to enjoy the journey and try to get the most out of the new directions. These surprise changes of direction become moments of great joy, truer and more real than any plastic scenery can match.
Sure, I’ll miss my cool, blue roadster, but I kind of like my chances getting knocked around on the Plinko board.

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The Last One Consumption Psychology

One cookie left in the package on the counter. I’ve passed it thirty or forty times and it’s still there. It’s been there for several hours sitting in the wide open waiting to be eaten; the package emptied and tossed into the trash can in an act of finality. But, instead nobody touches it.

What is it about the “last” that forces us to avoid eating the last one? What forces us to sip no more than half of the minute remnants from the milk container because we know in theory that we can sip half as we approach infinity and there will always be a theoretical half remaining?

Boys are the worse. Growing up in a house of five boys, I lived this phenomenon on a daily basis. Our house was strewn with bread sacks with one piece of bread left, boxes of Stover’s candies with one piece left (99.99% of the time a piece of some crappy fruit creme chocolate with the investigational thumb poke through the bottom), a half dozen crumbs-on-the-bottom bags of chips in the cabinet and a fridge stocked with a collection of Kool-Aid, juice, milk, tea…etc. containers with microscopic amounts of liquid product staining their bottom side.

Is it the psychology of not wanting the label of being the greedy S.O.B. who ate THE LAST ONE? Do we not want the to accept the responsibility when The Mom throws a holy hell outrage about who ate the last one and didn’t write the need for a replacement on the grocery list? Do we not want to accept the responsibility as the final consumer, with the inherited duties of clean-up and disposal? Or perhaps, it it just plain laziness?

Many questions but few answers.

I just don’t know. But, I am going to sit here and keep an eye on that one cookie for awhile while I try to figure it out.

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Fire Baton Dad Duty

Once upon a time, one would find me roaming the sidelines as an assistant football coach on a Fall Friday night at Otto Unruh Stadium.  Unfortunately, beginning in Fall of 2009, personal decisions steered me from the sidelines and into the stands. My plan was to show up, sit in the stands and watch the football game. But, as with most things in life, (especially with one’s parental slice of that life) plans often change without consultation and without notice.  One night early in that 2009 season, I came home from work on a Friday night, to find myself recruited by Twirly-Girl Daughter #2 (see this for example of Twirly-Girl baton skills) to prepare the fire batons for the fire baton performance that night.

The first thing I did was laugh because I had no idea where to even start. I was a football coach, which meant I was pretty much oblivious to anything else which occurred outside the white lines on a football Friday night in America. Patiently, even though she was desperate for help, Daughter #2 quickly taught dear old dad the process. From there, it has been game on.  With her instruction and the help and guidance of fellow Baton Dad Jeff L.,  I became the proud stage/equipment/pyrotechnic manager in charge of fire batons.

So here it is, the top secret protocol describing the preparation of the fire batons for action. I thought it important to document how this is done as I retire from active baton dad duty. I thought it important to pass this down for future generations of dads; for the fathers of those little girls who sit on the front row of the stadium and watch the twirler’s halftime performances.

It’s not really hard, but it was a pain in the ass at times.  Some Friday nights after work, I really did not want to work on fire batons.  I often would get hands covered with tiki torch oil to the point where I did not sit in the stands during the game for fear of spontaneous combustion. Plus, I would always worry about making a mistake and having one of the girls spin burning oil onto themselves and get hurt. But all the work, all the discomfort, and all the worry melted away when I would watch the girls perform then turn around and see those little girls faces’magically light up and jaws drop open as the twirlers did their thing.

Preparation of Fire Batons.

1. Place one of the ends of the fire batons completely into standard tiki torch oil. Allow oil to soak in for 30-45 minutes.

2. Shake out the excess fluid by flinging the batons over the oil container and let drip for several minutes.

3. Place on a large piece of aluminum foil.

4. Fold top half of foil over the soaked end of baton

5. Fold one side of foil in.

6. Roll foil around to get a good seal around the end of the baton.

7. Turn batons over and repeat the process:



8. Done with both sides, then put in an over-sized plastic bag and take everything  to the stadium.

9. Before the performance, shake out any excess fuel from the ends and light the ends with a lighter.

10. Showtime!

Click here for a link to a short performance video.


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Parenting Legacy

One day when I am gone and people are considering my life or pondering as they read my headstone what type of person I was, I hope they ask one question:

What kind of parent was this person? 

Maybe then, through some advance in graphical interface headstones technologies, I am able to program a visual answer to this question, a question which speaks volumes of the joy a person experiences in their lifetime.   Below is the picture I  choose.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one is worth an infinite number of words to me. And yes, that is how we rolled.

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Five Things I’ve Learned: Parenting

These are five things I have learned (and am still learning) since becoming a father, with some things learned from the wise mother.

1. Watching your own kids is NOT babysitting, it’s called PARENTING.

2. The dining room table is one of the most effective family-building tools.

3. The kitchen, household and laundry appliances are unisex in design and engineering. Go figure.

4. Not much beats a good family game or movie night, especially when the Dad wins the game or John Wayne and/or Star Wars and/or Indiana Jones is the movie.

5. If you give them a good base and allow them to be them, your kids will become better human beings than you. (Just as you wished for the day they were born.)

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The Dingo Ate The Bingo

Rest Day Read (SR-58)

The Dingo Ate The Bingo by Mike Hays

I was going to link to an intellectually uplifting article for today’s RDR, but I have got to relate to you a story about fatherhood.  But to warn you, it runs a bit to the smartass/amusing side.  In fact it made the Mom expel her lime green jello from mouth to plate during the dinner where the tale was first told.  For the record, that hasn’t occurred in a LONG time.  (Don’t say anything to the Mom about the lime green jello incident, though. Some things are better kept between us.)

Son, age 16, and father, age 46, went to Salina for a doctor’s appointment.  While on the hour-long drive, son periodically shouts “Bingo” and tallies a count.

Finally, as they hit the I-70 Abilene to Salina stretch, the dad says.”Bingo?  What the heck is that?”

“You say ‘Bingo’ when you see a yellow vehicle.”

Okay, easy enough.  So we travel a few miles ahead, the ultra-observant dad sees a school bus. “Bingo!”

“That doesn’t count.” says passive-competitive son. “Buses don’t count.”

Next, the dad sees a Catepillar bulldozer in a construction zone.  As “B…” begins to slip out of dad’s mouth.

Teenage son says, “Neither do construction vehicles.”

“Are you making the rules up as we go?” dad asks.

In that wonderful teenage tone comes the answer, “No.”

So teenage son runs the score up through the city of Salina on the way to the doctor’s office.  Apparently, not only are yellow buses and construction vehicles not legal fare in this game of Bingo, but about every yellow vehicle the dad points out lies outside the rules.  “Too orange-ish”, “no delivery vans”, “no 1972 Coup de villes”, etc., etc. etc…

After the appointment, a trip to exchange some clothes at the mall, which feels like sticking pins into the eyes, stop by the McD’s for a quick lunch and hit the road back toward home.

Son continues Bingo game, every yellow vehicle he points out is acceptable within the rules of the Bingo Society of North America and every yellow-ish vehicle the dad points out gets negated.  Back on I-70, the dad has just about had enough of the game of Bingo.

Ahead, as if sent by God himself, the dad sees a tandem Fed-Ex tractor-trailer in the westbound lane.  “DINGO!” the dad shouts.

Teenage son, ‘What are you talking about?  Dingo?”

“Yeah, I am now playing Dingo.  Delivery truck Bingo…Dingo.  Get it?”  The dad, using superior evasive strategy, completely dumbfounds teenage son.

“Dingo!” he shouts out at a passing Old Dominion trailer.

“Doesn’t count.”


“It’s Monday, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.  So…” he mind is racing trying to figure what is coming next.

The dad chuckles, “Son, Monday is Fed-Ex Dingo Day. I am up by one.”

On the east side of Salina, another tandem Fed-Ex trailer. “DINGO!  Up 2-Zip”

About a mile or so down the highway we see a mid-size Fed-Ex delivery van.  The son points and just about jumps out of his seat.

“DINGO!” He shouts.

“Sorry.” says the dad.  “That’s a van, not a delivery TRUCK.”  The laughter from one half of the car is uncontrollable as the car veers slightly in the lane.

(Note: This is where the start of the green jello incident commences on the retelling of the story later that evening.)

“That is NOT funny!” Teenage son is not happy as the tables turn in old papa’s direction.

You know sometimes you just can’t script real life any more funnier than it turns out.  There is truly a God and He has a great sense of humor.  For just at that moment, as the teenage son turns around and is complaining and pointing at the Fed Ex delivery van that did not count as a legal hit in the game of Dingo,  four or five Fed-Ex tandem delivery tractor-trailers, a virtual convoy, rise up over the ridge in the opposite lane.  As son is still lamenting about his lack of a score, the dad, who is laughing so hard he doesn’t really remember if it was actually four or five trucks in the convoy, says, “Dingo, Dingo, Dingo, Dingo and Dingo!”

(Herein lies the actual point that the Mom expelled the lime green jello from her mouth.  3 family members at the dinner table are laughing so hard they can hardly breath, while one stays absolutely silent.)

Teenage son sits in stunned silence.  About 30 minutes down the road, he’s still silent.  The dad sees a yellow trash truck down the road where they are at a stop sign.  Just to rub it in, he calmly says, “Bingo.”

Teenage son’s head snaps up, returns to straight ahead stare position then deadpans, “Nope, that’s gold.”

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