Hi, My Name Is Joe. And I’m Addicted To Food.

My wife and I indulge in a guilty pleasure each morning before we leave for work. Nope, it’s not what you’re thinking. This little slice of sin that we partake of is seeing what senseless drivel NBC is promoting on the TODAY Show.

I will give credit when it is due. At times, the show will have a story that is riveting and inspiring, like the one about the late Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn. But, for the most part, I think a lot of what TODAY offers is, to be kind, less than stellar.

It’s like that train wreck that you shouldn’t look at, but you can’t turn away.

What the show seems to specialize in is turning the spotlight on people who do things that are stupid and/or detrimental to their lives, and then refuse to take responsibility for it. For that, you get the reward of an interview with Matt and Ann.

One of this week’s features was “food addiction”. You know, the type of addiction that happens with drugs and alcohol, but with burgers and fries instead.

It was, in a word, awesome. It detailed the life story of a woman who said she tried all kinds of diets, and always struggled with certain types of food. She was addicted to it. She finally opted for surgery as a last resort to lose weight. No mention of attempting a  healthy lifestyle, vegetables, walking, exercise, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Just diets (which ultimately fail: lifestyle change = success) and surgery.

I will say, I did empathize. Because I think I’m addicted too.

You heard me right. My name is Joe. And I may have a food addiction.

My drug of choice is Italian food. When I’m not eating it, I’m talking about it with a friend or a co-worker. If I’m not talking about it, I’m probably thinking about it. Or I’m watching my wife cook it. Sometimes, I cook it. I’ve just begun, within the last couple of years, to take a serious interest in what happens in the kitchen. And I’m not bad at it.

I make a mean tomato sauce. And I do some other things very well too.

Yup, say words like marinara, carbonara, puttanesca, cannoli…you may as well be on a street corner, whispering “Hey, pal…you want some of this?”

We all have our issues. I’ve certainly had my struggles with food. When I was a kid, I was the pudgy pre-teen that was an easy target for the occasional cruel comment or joke. I did what I needed to do, taking responsibility for myself, to take that weight off. Back then, I used inspiration from Sly Stallone’s breakthrough project to possibly save my life.

Back when I was a kid, there was no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit against a restaurant you thought made you fat because they put a gun against your head and forced you to super size the fries. Nope, that phrase “personal responsibility” reared its ugly head.

Almost one in three people are obese at this point in our country, and there seems to be some confusion as to why it happens, and what can be done about it. In the battle for the title of most obese nation, America’s the champ. Were number one…

Although weight loss tips may not apply to everybody (read: don’t post an angry comment here on how your glands don’t allow you to lose weight–I’m covering all my bases), some very simple but time tested principles will always work when trying to drop some lbs and get in better shape.

Want some tips from a former fat guy on how to lose weight and keep it off? Sweet. Stop by for the next post to get the “skinny” 🙂 To make sure you don’t miss it, just subscribe already. I won’t spam you, offer you a free e-book (yet), or try to sell you anything other than the advantages of putting some Old School principles into your hectic, short attention span, modern life.

My grandmother and grandfather showed them to me. So I know they’re right.

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What Do You Believe In?

My eleven year old son lost a tooth the other night in what has been a succession of lost teeth over the last few weeks. The only difference with this one is the tooth fairy forgot to  slip some money under his pillow in exchange for the tooth (damn short term memory).

This led to a discussion with Mom about, well, how Mom and Dad actually are the tooth fairy. Over the initial shock, he seemed to take it pretty well. Since his reaction was less than explosive, my wife took it a step further… to include Santa and the Easter Bunny.

At first, I couldn’t believe she was doing it. I think both my son and daughter are growing up too fast as it is, and I wasn’t sure if telling him that Santa and his reindeer are fiction was the greatest idea.

I thought, in the past,  maybe my writing partner Gabrielle would spill the beans to her brother about Santa and his holiday crew (she has an affinity for the Great Pumpkin). Impressively, she kept it tightly under wrap.

Turns out he suspected it, anyway. Although Suzie and I have always made a big fuss about leaving cookies and milk for Santa and seeing hoof prints from the reindeer in the snow, the little boy spied gifts from Santa he unwrapped on Christmas Day in the back of a mini van in a department store bag.

I know they’re growing up. I know the concept of “being realistic” is setting in.

I knew they weren’t going to believe forever.

Tooth fairy or not…there’s some things Dad thinks they have to believe:

I want them to believe in themselves. Without self confidence, the world can be a hard place. Even if they don’t feel confident, I’d like to see them fake it. Until they are. With a good dose of confidence, their opportunities will open right up.

I want them to believe that they will always have something to offer the world. Because they do. I’ve already posted of my daughter’s budding talents in art, writing, and photography. My son already has a martial arts black belt, and is honing his skill in baseball. They have the ability now to help and inspire others if they want to.

I want them to believe that no matter how many times they get knocked down, they can always get back up. Dad can tell them a little about rejection. I work with it every day. The sting of rejection goes away the more you deal with it.  If you’re not meeting some resistance, you’re not doing anything of consequence.

I want them to believe there are no shortcuts. The very best way to win, do a task, fulfill a dream, achieve a goal is desire: to want it just a little bit more than the next guy (or girl) and give maximum effort to do it.

It’s a very simple solution that their great grandparents could have taught them. Just outwork everybody else.

I want them to believe, no matter what, Mom and Dad will always have their back. Enough said here. My wife and I could not imagine loving anyone more. We’ve got your back.

I want them to believe that no matter how old they get, living the dream is always possible. Even if they get caught up in the cycle of education, getting a job, paying the bills, wrestling with the mortgage, and wondering if a retirement is even possible… they can always believe in something more, no matter what “it” is.

Even if you’re in your forties and you still wonder what you may be when you finally grow up…you’ve still got time.

That’s my case. What do you believe in?

A Father and Son, A Perfect Swing

As father – son baseball moments go, we have one that may stand the test of time, ranking right up there with Kevin Costner as the fictional Ray Kinsella, playing catch with his ghostly father with a backdrop of an Iowa cornfield  in the final scene of Field of Dreams.

For me, a Dad who has played ball with both of my kids, son and daughter, it was one of those “goose pimple” events.  Yankee star second baseman Robinson Cano, winning the All Star Home Run Derby, with his father and mentor Jose as his pitcher.

It was compelling television. Jose was stoic and unsmiling as he threw the batting practice tosses to his son, and didn’t even crack a smile until he knew that Cano would grab the title of “home run king” for the night.

The outcome never seemed to be in doubt. In the final round, Cano hit a home run with most of the pitches his Dad threw to him. In retrospect, it looked like they had been doing it forever. And they probably have.

Once victory was secure, the only thing left was a bear hug between a father and his boy.

In a night full of baseballs launched out of the park, majestic moonshots landing in second and third decks, Robinson had the most majestic of all, a couple of balls measured beyond 470 feet.

In an interview after the competition, the younger Cano did not reference his upper body strength, sense of balance, or his perfectly Ruthian swing as the factors for his stratospheric display. Instead, he gave credit where he thought it was due.

It was my dad.”

Cano said he wished the trophy could be cut in half — half for him, half for his dad.

“These are the things you share with your family, when you retire you can look back and say, ‘Wow, I was good in the day’,” Cano said. “This is something I’m always going to have in my mind and my heart.”

A committed father rarely understands the importance of his role. The statistics bear out that having a father at home shuts down that greater risk of having major challenges in life while growing up.

On the flip side, I think having a Dad like Jose Cano can not only keep a kid out of trouble,  but also accelerate any success that child might experience. And once you get momentum…

Jose was a professional athlete himself, who took the time to teach his son the finer points of the game, and obviously, the skills required to live a life of success within the sport he loves.

An old school guy, who puts family first and his needs and wants on the back burner if necessary.

Thanks to Jose and Robinson for showing us real must see TV for families. In a time where most television is reality garbage, this baseball event was one for the ages.

Black Belt Strong: How Kids Benefit from Martial Arts Training

Another candidate for post title: “How My Kids Can Now Kick Their Father’s Ass.”

Yeah, that’s funny. But the truth is, a martial arts black belt (in this case, tae kwon do) is less about “kicking ass” and more about self defense, discipline, focus, and the ability to have confidence and respect. Respect for yourself, and your peers.

Both my daughter and son are involved in the classes. Joey started practicing martial arts in 2007, and while advancing through some of the lower belts seemed easy for him, real challenges have come within the last year and a half.  It took an absolutely insane amount of effort on his part to finally finish and qualify for his first degree black belt.

My son is 11 years old. As part of his requirements, within a couple of months, he had to complete 1000 push ups, 2000 sit ups, 30 miles of running, and numerous sessions of jumping rope, forms practice, and self defense practice.

Black-Belt
Board breaking en route to the Black Belt!

What my son did in a 90 day period most sedentary Americans don’t do in a lifetime. The kid worked his butt off.

He also had to write an essay on why becoming a black belt was important to him. This is an excerpt:

“I became a Bodan black belt candidate in December of 2010. When I got my binder in January, I realized how much work and discipline it would take to be a black belt. My instructors have taught me many things besides tae kwon do. I have learned to be respectful of everyone, and made friends with many people.

My body has become stronger and my mind has too. I am a better listener, and can study better as well. Tae kwon do has made me a leader in my classroom and given me more confidence.”

Before he started tae kwon do, he was a quiet guy who was a little shy and had trouble focusing in the classroom. This training did boost his confidence as well as his focusing skills. I still don’t know how he remembers all the forms he’s had to learn over the years.

My daughter takes the classes as well, and she is even more naturally skilled at the sport with her length, height, and flexibility. Since tae kwon do emphasizes kicks from a mobile stance more than punching, she has an advantage here with her powerful legs. Just ask Dad…she packs a wallop!

There were adults as well as many kids going for a black belt at some level the last testing period. Some common themes ran through the essays of everyone;

  • The ability to do anything you set your mind to
  • Enhanced self esteem and confidence
  • Not giving up, no matter what
  • Going beyond your comfort level and pushing yourself
  • Smarter, stronger, more self confident
  • Becoming stronger not only in body, but in your mind
  • The thing you need most is effort

“A black belt is a white belt who never quits”

I’ll admit, tae kwon do classes are an expensive option for a kid’s (or adult) activity. But, if you have children who need lessons in discipline, persistence, and fending for themselves in a world that’s going to try to slap them down, I’ll say it’s well worth the coin.

What do you think? What tools do you use to instill a little discipline into your kids? Or better yet…yourself? Share this with your friends, tweet it…use the buttons below, thanks!

500 Words On the Power of Music

I used to have coffee with my Nonna and my father on a regular basis, but now that my grandmother is gone, I still go to my Dad’s house to have coffee with him. Driving over there the other night, I was surprised to see a Cars CD in the player that my wife was listening to.guitar_neck2-922x883

I’ve gotta tell you, listening to certain bands just gets me all fired up.

The Cars were one of my favorite bands when I was a teenager, and now that I’m in my forties, I’m still impressed with their sound. I’m even more impressed with the way the music makes me feel. That night, when I heard songs like Magic or Heartbeat City, I felt a surge of adrenaline and energy that made me feel like a teenager all over again.

Music has never been just music to me. I consider certain songs and artists to be the soundtrack of my life. Bruce Springsteen has been my background music for nearly thirty five years.  To me, there has not been another rock musician that plays with the passion and intensity that Bruce does. And I’ve loved every minute of listening to it.

Whenever I hear a song by Rush, I think of hanging with my childhood friend Mike. Any song by the Clash reminds me of my buddy Chris from military school, who turned me on to the punk and new wave scenes when they were starting to gain musical ground.

Say the name “Tom Petty” to me, and I think of outdoor concerts in scenic Saratoga Springs, with torrential rain always greeting the concert goers.

I could never listen to Bob Marley without thinking of my wife Suzanne, who opened my eyes to the sweet sounds of reggae.

At the other end of the spectrum, whenever I hear Jerry Vale or Al Martino or Frank Sinatra, I will always think of my grandmother, who loved music and used to turn the volume up on the little transistor radio in her kitchen as far as it would go whenever she heard a favorite song. More times than not those sounds were accompanied by the fragrant smells of freshly fried meatballs or soup cooking on the stove.

And she would sing too. Giving in to the power of her favorite sounds.

I’m just like her. Few things inspire or motivate me more than music. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing during the course of the day, it has to be accompanied by m-u-s-i-c. My teenage daughter is the same way. And thankfully she likes a lot of the stuff that Mom and Dad are fond of, like Coldplay and the Beatles. So we can listen too…

Only she listens on her iPod now, not stereos or tape decks like her parents used to. Music in an instant. Just like the instant it takes for all my great music to take me back in time, to when life was a little different, but no less sweet.

“Music takes you back. There are some songs I avoid, since they depress me or make me feel the unwanted tug of lifestyle choices I gratefully abandoned nearly 40 years ago. They want to take me back to places I never want to see again. But most of the playlist of my youth recreates all the positive feelings and joy I felt the first time I hear it.

A culture, an era, a whole world. It’s all reflected in the music.” – Bill Davis

OK, the post is a little longer than 500 words. So, what’s your story? Do you love a certain artist or style of music? Does it get you pumped? Or do you take it or leave it? When it comes to music, who do you love?