Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013, We Hardly Knew Ya

Our New Years Eve celebration is getting out-of-hand. It started with me taking down the Christmas lights from outside our house. As I was carrying them into the basement, I missed the last step, fell down hard on the concrete floor, and totally raged my ankle/foot. I also ripped a gigantic hole in the crotch of my jeans. In order to avoid the same issue, Carson is no longer wearing his pants. He's down to his shirt and onesie. Mackenzie keeps pulling off her sling in protest. Sarah has downed a half of a glass of wine. I've iced my foot, finished my wine, and opened a beer.

Crazy, I tell you.

If you can remember back to January, this is what I wanted to work on: writing on my blog, getting healthier, and taking more pictures. Let's see how we turned out.

The pictures have been taken, mostly of our two little people. Did I take as many pictures as I had hoped? Of course not. I don't have enough time to do such a thing. But I did a better job of capturing moments from our lives during this year. With two little people to photograph (and a smoking hot wife), I had plenty of opportunities to take pictures and I feel like my effort in 2013 was a huge step up from the previous year. I'll consider this a win.

My health is basically the same as when I last wrote this. I did take a step in the right direction - I had my brother (certified personal trainer) to give me a workout that would be effective and quick. I did try some of the exercises one day. I'm going to be slim and trim in no time. Workout resolutions are a waste of time and I knew it from the beginning. Glad I joined the majority in this failure. Maybe in 2014. . .

As for the blog, I was striving for twelve blog posts during the year. Not including the introductory resolution blog and this one, I managed to crank out nine blog posts. Since I set the rules can change them at any point, I will allow the resolution blogs to count. This puts me at eleven for the year. Crap. Still short. Maybe if I break this blog into two posts. . . The point of this goal was to get my writing going. In 2012, I wrote a total of two. TWO!! That is awful and pathetic and horrendous and whatever other descriptive word that is similar. I am excited that I managed to crank out nearly a blog post a month. Truly, sitting in front of a computer putting my thoughts into words that are enjoyable to other people is a cathartic experience. I hope to keep this trend going (or improve) in 2014. This should be easy as I have four (yeah, four) blogs in draft mode. Game on, people.

So if you are keeping score at home, it looks like I won the pictures, lost the workouts, and tied the blog posts. (I don't care if 11 is less than 12. My blog, my scoring.) Not too shabby.

I hope any of you who are reading this are closing out 2013 with grace and style, just like the Flicks are. May your 2014 be full of excitement, successes, and happiness.

Until the next post,

Update: After I posted this blog, my AMAZING cousin Terri reminded me that I had posted a story of Carson's arrival on our family blog. This puts me at 12 blog posts for the year. Let's call this a WIN!! Thanks, Terri!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

When Will It Stop, Colorado?

When the news came over the radio, my head dropped in disbelief. It happened again; Colorado felt the collective breath of the state escape from its lungs. Another high school; another emergency; another troubled student looking for solutions through violence. Again, a multitude of questions flooded our brains.

I wish I had the answers.

When you start listing off the places: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Washington Navy Yard, and now Arapahoe (plus the multitude that I am missing), it is evident that there is a problem. Troubled people are using violence to attempt to solve their internal issues. All of these instances only have one singular thing in common: innocent people were brutally and unjustly murdered because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other than that, every scenario contains its own variables and conditions that make it impossible to determine a common denominator. Each gunman was troubled, but in different ways. Each shooter had their own motives and rational behind their actions. Each shooter came from a different background. The characteristics of each tragedy and their perpetrator splash across every corner of the spectrum. If there is so much diversity in the people doing these heinous acts, what can we attribute for this insanity?

Do we blame media? Violence (and gun violence specifically) in video games, movies, television, and music is a topic that is discussed as a source of the problem after each of these tragedies (most notably after the Columbine tragedy). The argument is that a submersion into these make-believe and violent worlds could numb a person towards actual violence in the real world. A person might start believing, after being immersed in these fantasy worlds, that violence does indeed provide an avenue to solve problems. While this is entirely a possibility, I have a hard time believing that violence in the media caused these people to make the decisions they did. Every friend of mine at some point has watched 'The Boondock Saints' or 'Die Hard,' anxiously awaiting the next episode of 'Breaking Bad' or 'The Sopranos,' listened to Eminem talk about Kim, and played every violent video game on the market from the cartoonish 'GoldenEye' to the fantastical 'Halo' series to the realistic 'Grand Theft Auto' or 'Call of Duty'. Yet they are not violent people. In fact, millions of people are exposed to these same forms of media. How is it that only a few people are unable to maintain an appropriate gap between the fantasy world full of violence and the world we actually live in? The media is not the source of the problem.

Do we blame the lack of gun control in this country? The argument is that restricting access to guns would end these types of crimes. Would tougher gun regulations have stopped Karl Pierson? In this particular case, Karl walked into Arapahoe High School with a shotgun and shells that were legally purchased in the days preceding the tragedy. Stricter gun laws would have had no effect on Karl's purchase as he had no prior history of illegal activity that would have raised a red flag. The only way to stop this purchase would be to ban guns completely. No one with an ounce of common sense would think that this is a viable solution. If you make guns illegal, people will still own guns. Period. Self-defense, hunting, and our historical protection from oppressive government will always be used to provide a legal means for owning arms. Lack of gun control is not the source of the problem.

Do we blame the decline of religion in our society? The argument is that more people are moving away from religion (20% of Americans list their religious affiliation as "none") and this movement is causing a degradation to the societal mores that once were held sacred. This argument clearly draws a line separating good and evil, with religion siding with good and everything else siding with evil. Doing the math, this equates to mean that non-religious people are not good; even evil. That statement is ludicrous. Human beings across the globe respect the lives and property of others with or without an organizational structure telling them that they have to do so. I would go so far as to argue that people inherently are good toward others, regardless of their belief structure. Humans are social animals who rely on human interaction for their emotional needs. It is in our nature to operate and function as a group in a society, religious or not. National decline of religion is not the source of the problem.

Blaming external causes for these inexplicable tragedies is a waste of time. The individuals committing these heinous acts are acting the way our society allows them to act: as individuals. This is where the problem gets scary. How do we as a society identify and fix the problems of individuals for the greater good of the group when the group numbers over 317,000,000 in just our country alone? A minuscule minority, for whatever reason, believe that violence solves problems. That violence is a negotiation tactic. That violence can replace open and honest conversation. That violence is THE SOLUTION. Who are these people making the conscious decision to let violence solve their problems? And how do we convince them that their solution is not right?

I wish I had the answers.

I will not even pretend to understand what the Davis family is experiencing this holiday season. Their 17-year-old girl was taken from them suddenly, unexpectedly, and brutally. I do know that I spent a few extra minutes with my little people after the news broke. I can only hope that tragic story of Claire Davis heightens our concern for our fellow man. Kindness, empathy, and humanity will most likely not eradicate evil from the world, but it won't hurt to give it a try.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Empty Lanes

Nearly every element of a highway is intentional. Signs, pavement markings, barriers, shoulders, signals - they all have a purpose. I feel like most people understand this concept.

Also, I am not an asshole.1 Really, I am not.2 However multiple times on my daily commute, people automatically assume I am.

I design roads for a living. A professional roadie. As is true of any person in their chosen field, my career path has given me a greater understanding of the "why's" associated with my chosen profession. "Why is there guardrail in that location?" "Why does the traffic light operate that way?" "Why are roundabouts showing up everywhere?" "Why is this road construction lasting as long as it has?!!" (Obstruction in the clear zone, because of the interconnect with the adjacent signal, because they are 1000x more efficient than a signal a lot of cases, and road work takes time impatient people!)

On this divided highway, the median guardrail was installed between opposing traffic lanes to maintain separation of the vehicles in the case where a vehicle were to drive into the median. Easy.

Roadway design isn't that hard, is it? (No joke, every other type of engineer tells us this all the time. We apparently do the easiest engineering ever created.)

There is, however, one element that people refuse to understand its purpose. This element shows up everywhere on normal streets and in constructions sites and is misused 100% of the time. This confounding element is an ending lane of traffic.

Picture yourself in a construction zone. Traffic is backing up entering the cone zone. At the front of the line is a flashing sign with three chevrons telling you that the left lane is ending. What is the natural reaction of every human on the planet? Get into the right lane immediately.

Picture yourself on I-70 westbound approaching I-25. There are four lanes of traffic as you near the interchange. The left lane and left-center lane are through lanes continuing on I-70 WB. The right-center lane allows through movements to WB I-70 and turning movements exiting to I-25. The right lane is an exclusive exit lane to I-25. Which lanes does every single westbound I-70 vehicle use? The two left lanes.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG!

Now take those same two scenarios and ride with me. Scenario #1: We are driving in the left lane as we approach a construction zone and the left lane is ending. Where do I go? Nowhere - I like that left lane. Scenario #2: We are driving westbound on I-70 approaching the I-25 exit ramp. Which lane are we driving in? The right-center lane. In both situations, I cruise past the logjam of vehicles in the occupied lanes and merge into traffic at the designated merge point. And this is why people assume I am an asshole every single day. In reality, I am not an asshole. They are just stupid.3

Just like the guardrail and the traffic signals and the signage, travel lanes are there for a reason. That reason is to efficiently move traffic from one location to another. By clogging up only some of the lanes, you are doing the exact opposite - restricting traffic unnecessarily. Since I do (pretend to) design roads for a living, let us take a look at what always happens when a lane drop appears. I, obviously, am the yellow car.

As you can see from this example, ten vehicles are attempting to go north towards a lane drop. There are six cars sitting on the side road that would like to either go north with the crowd or go E-W through the intersection. Because all the idiots got into the right lane, super idiot #1 is blocking the WB traffic from continuing on their ways, even if they have a green light. "But wait a second, Mike. No one would stop in the middle of the intersection and block traffic like that!" These words were actually uttered to me by NO ONE EVER because we all understand how IQ drops when behind the wheel of a car. Of course the intersection is blocked. Rude and moronic people do this all the time. Notice that as I am trying to get into the through lane (again, the yellow car), Johnny Jerkface in the second car is desperately trying to stop me from joining in the parade. This is also an accurate representation of humanity on the road. Even though I am attempting a maneuver that is completely legal, all other drivers do their utmost to ensure that I do not cut in line. To review this setup: I'm mad because no one will let me in. Car 2 is mad because he thinks I'm cheating. The cars going E-W are mad because they are stuck at a green light. And moron car in the middle of the intersection is mad because the cars in front of him are not moving forward and he is getting honked at. So much anger.

Now let us look at the same situation done correctly. Here we have the same ten vehicles going north and six going E-W. This time, the traffic is correctly using the dropping lane of traffic and the cars are proceeding into the cone area doing the zipper - one car per lane right at the merge point. Who ends up mad in this scenario? I am not mad because I am seamlessly merging into traffic without grumpy Johnny Jerkface trying to squeeze me out. Johnny himself is not mad because he does not feel cheated by any other drivers. The E-W drivers are not mad, because they will be able to move onward with a green light. All ten northbound drivers are happy because a fair and smooth system is in place to reduce delays. And the moron car in the middle of the intersection is not getting screamed at for blocking the intersection because he is not blocking anything.

At this point, can you possibly say that I am wrong? If you still have some doubt, I will let the Minnesota Department of Transportation close this up for me. Also, this video.

Now stop honking at me.

Until the next post.

1Not necessarily true 100% of the time.
2Still not exactly the truth.
3"Don't say stupid, Dad" - Mackenzie

Sunday, September 29, 2013

When You Think About Me, Do You Think About Seventeen?

Seventeen years ago, I was entering my 8th grade year at All Souls. A skinny little whippersnapper, I was a nerd with big, nasty, Coke-bottle glasses and an innate ability to repel females. I was a goober. Hell, I looked like this.

My loves at the time were simple: riding my bike, golfing in my parent's yard, cutting my grandpa's grass (he had a riding mower), and baseball. Man, did I love baseball. I loved playing it. I loved watching it. I loved drawing pictures of it. I loved thinking about it during class. I loved talking about it (surprising, I know). Kirby Puckett was my favorite, as he led my Twins to two World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. I loved Matt Williams because we both played the hot corner. I loved Ken Griffey Junior because, well, if you didn't love watching Junior swing the bat or play defense, we can no longer be friends. I loved the Ironman, the Big Hurt, and Dante Bichette. I loved Devon White simply because I had over 30 copies of this card.

It was on August 2nd of that year that a young stud first basemen emerged from the Colorado Rockies minor league system to make his major league debut. His introduction to MLB was outstanding; 2-5 with a solo HR. The following year, the Rockies traded Andres Galarraga to the Atlanta Braves and Todd Helton took ownership of first base, a position he has held until this past weekend. Seventeen years after his memorable debut, Todd Helton retired from baseball after Sunday's game in Los Angeles.

I was sitting in my living room on Wednesday night watching Todd's final game at Coors Field, a place he has called his home for the last seventeen years. His daughter threw out the first pitch. The Rockies gave him a horse. The crowd honored a great baseball player. After the ceremonial fluff that is complete opposite of how Helton conducts himself, he settled in to do what he does best - play baseball. In the second inning, Roy Hobbs Todd Helton stepped into the left-handed batters box and gyrated his bat high above his head in his signature style. After two fastballs, Jake Peavy grooved an 87 mph cutter that Todd quickly deposited into the seats in right field. His career was ending just as spectacular as its beginning.

Fast forward a couple days. It was Sunday afternoon and the Broncos were doing their weekly dismantling of an NFL team and the Rockies were nursing a tight lead in LA. As I switched between the two local team games, the top of the ninth was starting. Due up third was the man that I have loved to watch since he broke with the big club. As he walked to the plate, the Dodger faithful stood to honor a man that had destroyed their team for years. A quick strikeout later, it was over. That was it. The last at-bat of the greatest Rockie of all time.

I have often tried to rationalize my love of sports, but moments like the ones we experienced last weekend make it so much harder to do. Here was a person that I have never met. A person that I have never talked with. A person that I have never exchanged a simple glance. Yet his successes and failures have felt like my own and his retirement resonated with my whole being. As a true fan of baseball and the Rockies, these last few games have been emotionally wonderful and, simultaneously, terribly sad. No longer will his name be marked in the starting lineup. No longer will his name be called at Coors Field. The saddest fact of all is that my kids will not remember watching him play.

For the past seventeen years, Todd has been the face of our beloved Rockies. He was a part of the old guard, the tail end of the Blake Street Bombers. He continued to excel as the Rockies struggled through their rebuilding years labeled Todd and the Toddlers. And it was Todd Helton who will be remembered for his involvement in the miracle season of 2007: his two run walkoff home run against Takashi Saito, his hands raised in triumph upon sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS (sidenote: I loved that it was a sliding Eric Byrnes that failed to reach first base on that play).

As my kids grow older, I will tell them stories of the great players I watched in my life. Jeter, Cabrera, Mauer, McCutchen, Maddux, Pujols, Chipper, Bonds, Halladay - the list will be long. But more than the average number of stories will emerge about a special player; a player with such ridiculous bat control that he would foul off pitch after pitch until he got the one he wanted. A player who saved runs and eliminated errors for his infielders with superhero glove work at first base. A player who calmly delivered in the few crucial moments that he was placed in during his career. A player who will soon have his number hanging in Denver and plaque in Cooperstown.

Thank you, Todd, for seventeen great years of tremendous baseball. It has been a pleasure to tag along for the ride.

Until the next post,

Friday, August 30, 2013

An Open Letter to Jim McElwain and the CSU Football Team

Coach McElwain, Ram Coaching Staff, and Ram Players,
We are great at being the little guy. Being the underdog is easy, especially when you are constantly reminded that you are inferior. When you are told that you are not in a premier conference. When you are told that you are not a football school. When you are told that you do not deserve to even be playing schools from the BCS conferences. When a majority of the residents in the state support your rival. But those doubts unite us and give us a goal: PROVE THEM WRONG. When CU ranked in the top 10 in the country, Bradlee Van Pelt bounced a football off their helmet. When CU talked about playing their "little brother up north" on their home turf, we rolled into Folsom and stormed their field in victory. When the outside belief that we should play second fiddle to CU is constantly crammed down our throats, we elevate ourselves in the classroom and on the field. We become smarter, stronger, and better. We become Rams.

Going into Sunday's game, things look a little different from what we are accustom to seeing. Yes, CU will still be in a "better" conference. Yes, we will be outnumbered at Sports Authority Field. Yes, they will call us the "little brother" (which makes no sense since we are an older institution than they are). But this year, we are favored. As much as I love seeing our program appear to be in better shape than the Buffoons, being favored is not necessarily where we want to be. Remember, we thrive as the little guy. We use that giant chip on our shoulders as our motivation to beat a self-proclaimed "superior" opponent.

My hope is that being the favorite means nothing to you. I am ready for you to get on the field and act like we are 10 point dogs - hungry, aggressive, and physical. I am ready to win all three aspects of the game. I am ready for the west side of the stadium to be empty before the game is over. I am ready to watch the black and gold turn tail and run back to Boulder. I am ready to show them the greatness of Colorado State University.

This weekend, we continue our journey into our Bold New Era. One team. One town. One dream. Let's get after it.

Mike Flick
CSU Class of 2005

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lasers (Part 2)

I had intentions of writing a follow-up post covering my experience with shooting laser beams into my eyeballs shortly after my procedure. A Cliffsnotes version of an abbreviated draft was simmering, waiting to be finalized. Then life decided to flare up and get crazy. There were two trips to Wisconsin to see my grandfather and then to attend his funeral. Our house went onto the market and we received seven offers in less than 48 hours. We closed on both houses, only to pack, clean, and clear out one house in order to move into the other. Then the fun began. Unpacking, organizing, decluttering, sorting, decorating, making the house ours. All the while, I have this pesky thing called a job taking up big chunks of my time. Oh yeah, there are two little rugrats running around that we are responsible for, as well. We have been busy.

Back in March, I had eye surgery to correct my 20/400 vision. That day was exciting and scary all at once. After doing all the administrative stuff, they sat us in a room where I could relax and Sarah could feed Carson. When they finally came to get me, the tiny sedative had done just enough to take the edge off and I was ready to go. I looked at Sarah one last time - you never know right. She had already assured me that she would not immediately leave me if I was blind after that day (jokes, people). They took my glasses and I blindly stumbled into the operation room. I laid on the bench and the equipment slid over my face. One eye was patched, the other was pried open and positioned to be looking right at a green blinking light. They put in drops, cleaned, scrubbed, put in more drops, put in more drops, cleaned more, and added more drops before they placed a tube right on my eyeball. I felt suction and then my world went dark.

During my contacts days, one of my biggest fears was being in a situation where I did not have my glasses or contacts available to me. My vision was bad enough that I could not function without some sort of correction. Before any trip, I would neurotically quadruple check to see that I had my glasses and extra contacts packed just in case my contacts would rip. So what is the one thing worse than functional blindness? Full blindness. So there I laid in the darkness - one eye was patched, the other just went dark; hoping that my fears were irrational.

After what feels like eternity, the lights showed back up. As the lights started to appear, I noticed something peculiar. The lights were patterned at the bottom of the machine in little hexagon shapes. Hexagons. Wait a minute. HEXAGONS?!! I could see the patterns of the lights!! I was not blind any more! During the excitement, the doctor added more drops, cleaned the corrected eye, and repeated the process on the other eye.

In total, I was in the operating room for 6 minutes. When I stood up, I could somewhat clearly see Sarah and Carson sitting in the observation area (of course Sarah watched the whole procedure, sicko). I read the clock on the way out of the room. The whole world had a smokey haze hovering over it, but things were recognizable. I loved my bionic eyes already.

Looking back, I should have done this so much sooner. It is amazing. I don't even remember what life with contacts and glasses was like. (This is a lie. I remember quite well and it sucked.) At each of my follow-up appointments, the doctors have been kind enough to show me what looking through 20/400 eyeballs look like. What a happy reminder of the difference before and after. For anyone out there interested in going through this process as well, I would highly recommend 20/20 Institute. They are incredibly professional, thorough, and willing to spend as much time as needed to ensure that you are comfortable with the process you are about to undertake.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Good Land

The conference call was scheduled for March 22nd and we knew that the news could not be good. When the doctor asked to speak to my grandma and her three daughters about my grandpa's health situation, my immediate thought was that we needed to start preparing for his passing. The conference call confirmed our suspicions - medically, there was nothing else the doctors could do for Papa. The news was not shocking; my grandfather had his fill of medical issues for years. Despite the somewhat expected nature of the news, actually hearing that the end was in sight was difficult. Immediately, we set plans into motion to get back to Milwaukee. With Sarah still on maternity leave, Katie on spring break, and Matt and I having flexibility at work, we booked our flights from Wednesday to Sunday.

The next few days were tough. My strong Papa had become incredibly weak, needing assistance to stand up or sit down, and a walker to move about the house. His face was badly bruised from falling when his walker got caught on the carpet. His voice, once loud and clear, was raspy and muted. The fluid building up in his body caused him to cough regularly. There was an oxygen tank in the living room, with tubes long enough to reach every corner of the house. He slept for long portions of the day, obviously exhausted from what he was experiencing. All the while, we still saw the same man we have loved for years and years - my happy, funny, calm, and wonderful Grandpa. We spent each of our days in Wisconsin with that tremendous man, watching Marquette basketball, talking about the Brewers, helping him get from his favorite chair in the living room to his favorite chair in the den, showing off his great-grandchildren, sitting by his side as he napped.

For the last several years, my grandfather had been uncharacteristically emotional at our departure. My guess is that his emotions stemmed from the uncertainty of ever seeing us again and his refusal to be ready for such a scenario. Our flight home was scheduled for early Easter Sunday morning. As we left his house on Saturday evening, we said our goodbyes, knowing that they could be our last. We filed into his bedroom where he lay peacefully. He was calm and composed. At first I was unsure if he understood that we were leaving and not returning until May. He smiled and kissed Carson and Mackenzie, then said goodbye to Sarah, Katie, and Matthew. I was the last one to leave the room. I had no idea what to say to a man that I have loved and emulated my entire life. I finally told my Papa that I loved him so much and that I would see him soon. With the emotion of the moment, I don't quite remember what he said, but it was something to the effect of "I'll always be with you." With heavy hearts, glistening eyes, and memories running through our brains, we left for the evening, each hoping that we would see him again.

When we landed in Denver the next morning, the text messages were waiting on each of our mobile phones.

"Call me right away - Dad." 

Papa had passed away that morning as our plane was leaving the ground in Milwaukee.

Our trip had been tiring, emotional, and rewarding. I am so thankful that I got to say goodbye one last time. And during those days, I witnessed some truly remarkable things.

I watched the quiet strength of my younger siblings. We found ourselves in an unfamiliar and uneasy place - watching the difficult last stage of one of our beloved heroes. We all could see the strain that the situation was placing on our grandma and our family and Katie and Matt were rocks for all of them. They helped, they supported, they were strong for my grandma.

I noticed the beauty of my grandparents' relationship. Each day, my grandma used every last ounce of her strength to make sure that Papa was comfortable. Her focus was on the love of her life and his eyes were happy when she was around. They were married for nearly 65 years, dance partners for a little longer, and what they shared I only hope Sarah and I can achieve some day.

I witnessed all the reasons why I know that I married the right woman. Sarah had no obligations on our trip, yet she threw herself into the situation with such care and compassion that my heart swelled with love and pride for this woman who for some reason chose me. She translated the medical terminology into lay person English. She comforted my grandma when grandma was overwhelmed. She helped my grandpa stay comfortable. And throughout all her assistance, she corralled Mackenzie and Carson so that I could have my final moments with my Papa. Few people in this world could have provided the support, love, and care to my entire family that Sarah generously donated during those days. It was incredible to watch.

Until the next post,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lasers (Part 1)

Earlier this week, I took out my contacts to go to bed. Contacts that I have been wearing since I entered high school. Contacts that were preceded by years of horrible, horrible glasses. Contacts that are a seemingly permanent extension of my eyeballs. Contacts that correct my 20/400 vision. Contacts that I hope to never wear again.

I started looking in corrective eye surgery at the end of 2011, anticipating that I would use my 2012 flexible spending account to cover it. Appointments were set at several different offices. One location in particular scared the begeezus out of me. The place was chaotic, cluttered, dirty, and not exactly professional. The appointment was ridiculously short, but I was not upset since I could not leave that location fast enough. Since it was the first place I had checked out, I almost called the search off. At the suggestion of a friend, I went to 20/20 Institute. All the things that were wrong with the other place were right with 20/20. The professionalism of the staff and doctors, the thorough explanation of the medical procedure, and the willingness to take time to answer any questions and explain all the details. I left 20/20 with much better outlook on the future of my eyes. Naturally, I dropped the ball on the FSA that year, so the wait continued.

Throughout 2012, the procedure stayed in the back of my mind, popping up from time to time. When Sarah and my benefits enrollment rolled out in the fall, we were forced to make a decision. We slid some money into our FSAs and waited for the funds to become available to me after the first of the year. There was no turning back now, unless I became willing to eat that money. (Here's a hint, I am cheap, so I would not be.) With Carson's arrival and Sarah being off work for 12 weeks, now was the time to set up the procedure. A quick phone call to the office and I was set - my eyeballs were going to get lasered on March 1st.

Now I am sitting in a sort of laser purgatory - halfway between the world of blindness and the glory of perfect eyesight. The only thing that keeps running through my mind is the story told by my friend Johnny X after his eye surgery. During the procedure, his one job was to look directly at a red dot. Naturally, his mind started telling his eye to stay still, the eyeball hates authority and starts moving to spite the mind, and the mind retaliates with anger. Realizing that if the procedure failed it would be his fault made it harder to keep his eyes immobile. This cycle happened for the entire procedure, seemingly worsening the situation as it progressed. Despite all the mind games and his best efforts at causing catastrophic issues with his eyes, everything worked great and his vision was correct. Knowing that one day I might have eye surgery myself, this story has emerged from the caverns of my cranium numerous times over the past few years. I know for certain that his story will be played over and over as I lay on that table. Thanks for that, Johnny!

My lensless journey begins on Thursday with the standard eye exam to verify my information. Procedure on Friday, follow-ups on Saturday and the following Friday. How incredibly frightening and exciting at the same time.

Until the next post,

Monday, February 18, 2013

Papal Pontification

By now, the news has spread around the world that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned his position as leader of the Catholic Church. With the new Pope being elected some time in March, this gives the world ample time to discuss who should be appointed as the next Pope. And no, this post is not going to be my ruminations on the Cardinal that I believe should or will ascend from the enclave. Off the top of my head, I can only name a couple. In looking through the list of all the active Cardinals, I only recognized the names of a couple more. Cardinal trivia ain't my thing. To be completely honest, I do not even know much about Benedict XVI, much less the crew of gentlemen who may follow him in history. (I would classify my lack of papal knowledge as average to above average Catholic.) Regardless of who the next Pope might be, I have a ground-breaking idea for him. Maybe it is my work rubbing off on me, but the next Pope should focus on getting some of that low-hanging fruit immediately following the emergence of that white smoke from the roof of the Vatican.

The range of topics that could and can be discussed in terms of the Catholic Church is long and controversial, but I do not wish to dwell on those. Perhaps another post. Instead, ask yourself this: How is it that we are living in the year 2013 and there are not female Catholic priests/bishops/cardinals/pope? Who can honestly tell me a legitimate reason as to why a female is not fit to wear the cloak of Christ? Exactly. Not a single defensible position can be made to refute my stance. History is not a valid argument. Neither is "well, they can be nuns." The Catholic Church is so antiquated on issues involving women. This new era in the Vatican would be a terrific time to move toward bridging that gender gap. Since its inception, the Church has been controlled by a bunch of white-haired men. That. Is. Wrong. My mother is in her 40s (you are welcome, Mom) and she was unable to be a Eucharistic minister for a large portion of her life. Females were not allowed to be alter servers when I first started as one back in elementary school. How has time passed the Church so rapidly? Or maybe the question is how has the Church refused to move with the world? Regardless of how we got to now, it is time to move forward to the present. It starts with righting a wrong that has been lingering for centuries.

I understand that there might be bigger and more important decisions to be made in the initial year as Pope. However if my name got called, I would be looking to create a renewed interest in the Church that I now shepherd. That interest could be generated with a single step towards the modern world we live in, rather than dwelling in the archaic nature of history. That interest can be sparked with one simple decree: "Women, we are equals. Feel free to immediately enter the seminary to become a priest. And I am sorry that it took us so long to say that."

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Hall of Lame

With the announcement of the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame vote being announced today, I planned on crafting a lengthy dissertation on how annoying the Baseball Writers Association of America members are. But then I ready two posts, one from my friend Jon (http://www.eksaxis.com/cheaters) and the other from Steven Goldman from SB Nation (http://mlb.sbnation.com/2013/1/9/3854546/baseball-hall-of-fame-theyre-all-scum). I think they echo my sentiments pretty well. 

Ah, hell. Here's what I'm thinking anyways. . .

The National Baseball Hall of Fame is responsible for recording the history of the game, good and bad. It is to recognize the greatest of the greats (Charlie Hustle, for Christ sake!). The BBWAA is full of pompous, self-righteous jerks who feel it is their responsibility to keep the game pure and clean. Except baseball is not pure and clean, nor has it ever been. Baseball has an unprecedented inequality in the financials between the haves and have-nots. Baseball has drug testing that is years behind the drug users. Baseball has blown calls, dirty slides, high and tight fastballs, stolen signs. Baseball's imperfections add to why it is the greatest sport out there. Despite the fact that these imperfections have existed, currently exist, and will exist in the future, the BBWAA attempts to smooth out the wrinkles. Baseball has wrinkles. If you cannot see that, you do not watch baseball. And if you do not watch baseball, you should not be voting for its Hall of Fame. 

I despise Barry Bonds. I booed him every time he appeared at Coors Field. I hated how he crowded the plate so aggressively that any pitch over the dish was an inside pitch that he was able to pull to right field. I hated his 30 pounds of body armor that he wore in order to set his toes on the black of the plate. I hated his jerky and unnecessary bat twitch as he awaited each pitch. I hated his cocky, smug, and reprehensible attitude toward everyone and everything outside of himself. Barry was good for Barry and the Giants, no one else. He was also the greatest hitter of his time. Period. Before you shed tears for those poor pitchers who were sacrificed every night on the mound, please remember that Barry Bonds was not the only baseball player who may or may not have been using steroids. And juicers were not just the big headed sluggers. Pitchers juiced too, right Roger? Who was juicing? Who was not? We will never know the facts about any of this. We cannot just ignore years and years of baseball history just because a cloud hangs over that particular time frame. Because of that, the Hall needs to operate per normal: the best players get in. Barry Bonds was the best hitter of his time. If he is not deserving of the Hall, who from his years of playing is? 

Until the next post,

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Resolutions Schmezolutions

The year of our Lord two thousand thirteen. Hard to believe it is already here. I am not typically a resolution person, mostly because I understood that they were a waste of my time. It is not that I don't believe in bettering myself, but I never actually do what I say I am going to do. That attitude probably puts me with approximately 98% of the population who do make New Years resolutions. It is amazing how difficult it is to make even simple changes in your life. I feel like this year is different, though. What better way to provide motivation than laying it out online for all to see?

To be quite honest, I am spoiled with where I am in life. My wife brings happiness to my life on an hourly (if not more frequent) basis. I have a beautiful, smart, and mouthy little daughter who loves me more than I deserve. Little man Flick is expected at any moment, helping me balance out the estrogen to testosterone ratio in our house. My job has taken me places that I did not expect to see this early in my career. The opportunities that are exposed to me daily are not typical of a person of my experience. Besides my bum knee, I'm holding up pretty well for a over the hill geezer who just hit 30. I am financially comfortable, own some things, and am looking to own some other things. Life is good, people. Life is good.

Regardless of how good life might be, there are things that happen that cause you to step back and take a broader view of who and what and where you are. Hitting 30 years old and realizing that I am about to have two little rug rats rolling around my house was my moment of reflection. Life is good - a couple little things can make it even better.

Number one on my list mirrors pretty much every resolution ever made. I need to get back into better shape. Kids are time consuming and exhausting. Add in wife, work, house, cars, everything else and your body takes a back seat. That cannot happen any more. The gym and I need to become acquaintances again. My natural reaction to free time is couch time. That needs to change to anything but couch time. The eating needs to slow down and get healthier. I have this fear that I get to a point where I cannot play with my kids because I am a fat blob and I can't handle physical activity. Although I am not at that point yet, I could always get to that point if I don't make a change soon. There is only one way to make sure this does not happen. Get after it.

Number two on my list is actually doing more with this blog. Writing is an outlet for me. Putting words on paper has always been a source of relaxation and stress relief. I blame it on my English-teaching mother and fantastic teachers along the way. Writing is therapeutic. My biggest issue with this blog has always been determining subject matter. Any recommendations would be greatly accepted (no seriously, suggestions would be great mikeflickblog@gmail.com). In 2012, I had exactly two posts on here (with an additional two on our family blog). Pathetic. In 2013, my goal is 12 (not including this one). I think an improvement of 6 times would be a great start. There is only one way to make sure those posts happen. Get after it.

Number three is photography. I grew up with cameras (my dad's Nikons from the 1970s) and now have a few of my own. They have been far too dormant the last few years, it is time for them to make frequent appearances. The first step is having a camera with me at all times. Step two is remembering that I have a camera on me at all times. Step three is taking lots and lots of pictures. Of family. Of friends. Of bridges (can't avoid the nerd in me, sorry). Of whatever I see. I hope that resolution three can arc back to resolution two - the pictures I take need to be displayed somewhere. All I ask is for constructive criticism of whatever I do share. Just like before, there is only one way to make sure that this happens. GET AFTER IT.

So here we go - publicly stating what I need to get after this year. If you see me slip up at all this year, remind me that I suck and I need to get after it. Saltier language will be accepted. And get after it, I must. My kids need a fit, refreshed, and camera-toting dad for years to come.

Until the next post (now with a sixth of the wait!),