Our First Pet Funeral

About two months ago, I finally caved and let me daughter buy a hamster.  We allowed her to save her own money and if she saved up enough, we would contribute half towards getting her a hamster.  We tried everything to distract her from this idea.  Yet my daughter was persistent and wouldn’t let it go.  So she smiled at me with those hazel eyes and said “daddy, will you take me to get a hamster tonight?”  I couldn’t say no.  The girl has me wrapped.  I’m aware and I don’t apologize for it.  I made her aware that a hamster is a big responsibility and she will be the main person that takes care of him.  She was ok with this.  Enter Nibs.


Nibbles, or Nibs, as she called him was a dwarf Siberian hamster.  She took really good care of him.  He had survived our cat twice.  Two times my daughter forgot to shut her bedroom door and the cat knocked the hamster cage off her dresser.  Both times we found Nibs unharmed.  I really think he was some type of ninja hamster or possibly a 007.  She loved that thing to death.  By the way he let her hold him all the time, he loved her too.

While at worship practice last night, we got a phone call from my in-laws that Nibs died.  I could feel my daughters heart breaking.  They said she was crying but she was ok.  We got home and hugged her little 5 year old body while she cried.  I told her that we could have a funeral for Nibs and she said she would like that.  So I went down to the shed and got my shovel and found a nice spot under a big tree in the backyard that doesn’t get mowed over.  I even got her a little hand shovel for her to help and be involved, hoping this would bring some type of closure.  We made the hole about 8 inches deep so that it was deep enough he wouldn’t be dug up by scavengers.  Then we went and got Nibs.  We carried him down in a little shoe box and laid him in the hole in the ground with only a spotlight flashlight illuminating him.  “Can I pet him one more time to say goodbye?”  We told her she could And asked if she wanted to say anything to him before we buried him.  She said she did.  These are her words: 

Jo: “He was a very good hamster.  I just wanted to say goodbye to him.  I’m trying not to cry though.”

Me: “He was a very good hamster.  You took very good care of him.”

Jo: “He was and yes I did.”

Me: “But you know what? Jesus is going to have a very good hamster now.”

Jo: “He is.  Its Nibbles.”

Me: “I bet he’s playing with Jesus right now.”

Jo: “I bet he’s playing patty-cake with him.”

Me: “He probably is. And you know what? I bet there are other little boys and girls hamsters that died that are playing with him now.  I bet he’s so happy. Are you ready to say goodbye to him?”

Jo: nods head  “goodbye nibbles. I didn’t want him to pass away though.”

As I covered the little guys body, my daughter had a little fake flower that she brought with her to put on his grave.  We stuck the flower in the ground and headed back inside.  She found a rock that she wanted me to paint with nail polish as a headstone.  She wanted me to write: “Nibs…great hamster…by Jocelyn.”  She insisted on putting one of her prized littlest pet shop toys on his grave.  

So there in our backyard lies Nibs, a flower, a littlest pet shop toy, and a lot of little 5 year old tears.  Rest in peace Nibs.



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Spartan Heart – Through The Eyes Of A Child

Shortly after my daughter was born, she was diagnosed with Amblyopia, or a lazy eye.  To most people, it’s not noticeable.  At least not until I point it out.  When she looks at you, it takes a little longer for her bad eye to focus.  Most people wouldn’t know she is almost legally blind in that eye.  She never lets it stop her.  She has finished two Spartan Kids Races at four and half years old.  Fast forward to when she was three, the specialist eye doctor told her that she needed to wear a patch over her good eye.  This would force her to use the muscles in her bad eye, strengthening it.  With enough persistence, her bad eye may become strong enough that she won’t even need glasses.  The problem was, she hated wearing her patch.  Her bad eye was so bad, she couldn’t see anything.  It was pitiful watching her bump into things as she walked around the house.   Fast forward again.  Two weeks ago, the eye doctor said that surgery wasn’t an option anymore.  She HAD to wear a patch.  Not only did she have to wear the patch, she has to wear it for at least six hours a day for the next year.  If she doesn’t, she may eventually go blind in that eye.  The deterioration of the one eye could lead to the deterioration of the other, causing her to go legally blind. The doctor had a sit-down with her and explained the importance of wearing her patch.  This was reiterated by her mom, and again by me when I got home from work.  I explained to her that if she didn’t wear her patch, she might not be able to see things anymore.  If she can’t see things, she might not be able to do some things that she was excited about doing when she got older, like driving a car. I was very careful not to tell her things she can’t do.  I don’t ever want my child to think that she can’t do things just because she has a disability so I was very careful.  However, some things, like driving, are just a reality.  I sat down with her and explained that wearing a patch is a lot like working out.  She understood this because she loves Spartan Races and she loves to go down in the basement and work out with me.  I explained that whenever she wears her patch, it makes her bad eye work out.  The more her eye works out, the stronger it gets, just like when you exercise.  I guess something in her head clicked, and she understood.  She wears her patch on a daily basis.  Yesterday, we were out of patches, so we had to stop at the store and get some more.  They didn’t have any patches with the fun kid designs, they only had the plain jane flesh-colored ones.  She was upset that she didn’t have a pretty patch.  So I told her I would make her an awesome patch, a spartan patch!  A couple of minutes later, this is what I came up with:

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She loved it.  She calls her bad eye her “spartan eye” because it keeps getting stronger and spartans are strong.  So naturally, I thought this was adorable, so I posted this same picture on the Spartan Parents Facebook page.  One mother saw Jocelyn’s picture and commented that she had a 6 year old daughter who had optic nerve hypoplasia and she struggled with her patch too.  She said that she hopes I didn’t mind if she showed the picture of Jocelyn to her daughter because her daughter felt “different” and seeing her would mean a lot to her.  So of course I said, ABSOLUTELY, DO IT!  I immediately told Jocelyn this story.  I told her:  There was a mommy of a little girl named Addison that saw your picture.  Addison has to wear a patch too because she has a bad eye.  Her mommy wants to show her your picture so she can see that wearing a patch can be cool and that she doesn’t have to be scared or afraid to wear one. Because you are being so good and wearing YOUR patch, you are helping her wear HER patch so her bad eye can get stronger too!!! 

Jocelyn thought that was the coolest thing.  Then Jocelyn showed her spartan heart.  She asked me, “Can I make a video for Addison so I can tell her to wear her patch so her eye can get stronger like mine?”  My heart melted.  I asked her what she wanted to tell her.  I only wanted her to tell me so that she could practice what she was going to say in the video.  I pressed record and I heard, “ummmmm….” with a really long pause.  I said, “it’s ok, don’t be nervous, just talk to Addison and tell her what you were telling me. I’ll start over and we can try again.”  So I pressed record again.  This was the result.

I couldn’t have been more proud as a dad.  I couldn’t wait to send this video.  Just when you think this story is over and couldn’t be more mushy.  There’s more.  As I opened up my phone to send the video, I got a message back from Addison’s mom.  This is what it said:

I couldn’t get the video to download when I just got Addison off the bus, and she just went to a birthday party.  But I told her about Jocelyn and that the video would be waiting for her, and you should have seen her face light up.  I showed her the picture you posted and she said “that girl sees differently too! She’s sooo pretty! And a spartan!” LOL.  She said she wants to make a return video too, so when she’s home in a few hours we will 🙂 “

I teared up.  Here I am, reading this little message with tears streaming down my face. Not because of anything I did, but because of how proud I was of Jocelyn.  Yes, my daughter has a bad eye, but she has the most awesome heart in the world.  Nobody wants to feel alone.  Today, she made Addison’s day, all by herself, just by being her.  She showed her that she is not alone and it’s ok.

This morning Addison sent a return video to Jocelyn.  She was so happy to see Addison.  She keeps watching it over and over.

I don’t know what anyone who reads this is dealing with.  Maybe someone reading this is dealing with a disability, or a difficult situation, or struggling emotionally somehow.  Jocelyn and Addison showed me today that your situation doesn’t have to define you.  You can define your situation.  As adults, it’s easy to feel down on ourselves because things aren’t going the way we’d like.  You never know who you might help along the way when you help yourself.  Your difficulty could become your biggest testimony.

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How Fear Can Change Your Life

Today, I welcome Anthony Sloan as my first ever guest blogger.  I’ve been wanting to do a guest blogger for a while and I knew Anthony would be perfect for the job.  A couple of months ago when I was going through a rough spot in my life, I came across a Facebook page that Anthony belongs to called the Curahee.  Every now and then a video would pop up on my news feed and I’d watch it.  Slowly, the shell that I had been building around me began to break.  This was a man that was changing me and we had never interacted even once.  I’ve had numerous conversations since then with Anthony, both online and on the phone.  We both have this weird connection that somehow we were meant to be friends and our families will be super close one day. So thank you Anthony for being the man that you are working so hard to be.  We aren’t there yet brother, but we will die trying.  Without further ado, I give you….Anthony Sloan.

How Fear Can Change Your Life – Anthony Sloan

In 2005 I found myself In the middle of Afghanistan. My wife was eight months pregnant when our Unit left, so in our first month there, she gave birth to my daughter Brianna. Our deployment there was supposed to be 6 months long. Now if you’ve been to Afghanistan you know that they love to fight – and die. So every time that we went outside of the FOB (Forward Observation Base) on mission, we would get into a firefight. The first firefight I was in after my daughter was born, I felt something that I had never felt before. I was afraid! I know most of you are reading this right now and thinking ‘he’s been afraid before’. This was a different kind of fear! I was afraid I would never make it home to see my wife, to never even get the opportunity to see my daughters face. and to never get the opportunity to kiss her little cheeks. This fear was like something I’ve never felt before.  So in that moment I had two different ways I could’ve reacted, I could’ve froze and did nothing, or return fire and fight for my life.

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I believe men and women have to face fear at least once in their life. Maybe it’s not the fear of death, like I had to face; maybe it’s the fear of growing. You see we go to school and learn for so many years only to become adults and forget that we are supposed to keep pushing ourselves and growing as human beings. Most of us will spend a lifetime standing still and watching the opportunity pass us by. That day in Afghanistan I had a choice to live or die, to freeze up out of fear or fight like my life depended on it, cause it did!

So how can fear, growing and learning all tie together?

You see as Fathers and Mothers we have to grow daily, pushing ourselves to learn something new and forget the fear of trying! Just the fear of trying alone can kill you. It will make you freeze up in life and instead of doing something, you will stand by and watch life pass you by. Then one day you will be old and gray and the only thing you will be able to remember is what you didn’t do when you should have done it. The moment that would have gave you the perfect job, but you didn’t do anything to get it because it interfered with your current job.  How about that moment where you could have been a better father or husband?  Instead you failed by spending all of your time at work making money, instead of at home spending time being the father and husband that your family wanted you to be.  Your growth just doesn’t affect YOU anymore. What you do affects everyone around you. More importantly it affects the children that you have or the ones you will have someday.

I got out of the military in 2011 and I found myself in a world I didn’t recognize anymore. It wasn’t so much the world had changed, but more that I had changed. I didn’t feel like I belonged in an environment other than war anymore. Then I got around people and realized that they live everyday like the day before. They go to the same job and do the same thing every single day.  Technically they don’t have to really grow. Now I was in the same boat and instead of growing, I slowly slipped deeper and deeper into depression. My PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) started to slowly eat away at my head. I started to believe the lies in my head that I didn’t belong, that my life should have been taken away in another country, and that my family would have been better off with the $400,000 life insurance policy than to have me in their life.  I was hurting so bad and it caused me to start pushing my family away because I couldn’t explain to them what was going on in my head. I was still praying, I was begging God to take these thoughts from me.  Then I believe God answered my prayers and my wife changed our lives forever.

Jennifer wanted to lose her baby weight and decided that we were going to start our own online fitness business. At this point in time I was drunk at least 90% of my day. So Jenn started fixing our nutrition, she started to shop better and made sure that I would drink my shake everyday. It was such a drastic change for my mind, body and soul. Just by switching up my nutrition I found myself being a much happier person. I had been around while my wife was making daily exercise a priority for herself. It began to make me want to do it.  After a few months of not being able to do the gym anymore due to my time at work and the hours I worked, I started to try the 30 minutes a day workout.  I began to really enjoy it and I was seeing great results come about too. Then as the time progressed, I enjoyed it more and more.  Then I started to work out with her everyday. It was always only a 30-minute exercise, and not very often was I doing weights. For a guy that grew up in the gym, in a weight room, since he was 12 years old, this was awkward for me. But then all of a sudden I started to notice I was a happier person, I was living life Instead of life taking over and being this monotonous action that I felt like I had to suffer through. Then again, I started to notice this different self-confidence. I started feeling good about who I am and started to push myself daily in my workouts. I tried to go harder than the day before. I had an image of what I wanted my body look like, so I pushed myself every single day to get there. As my self-confidence changed, I became a new father, and a new husband! I believe that our bodies want nutrition and exercise. Just think about it for a second, if your body was a machine, what would make the machine run correctly? Would it be drinking an energy drink everyday? What about eating at McDonald’s?  Would that make your body run the way it should and to the best of its abilities?

Before PICS 2014

Exercise and nutrition changed my life. Now my wife and I work out together every single day. We push each other to get better every single time that we work out together. I can honestly tell you that the key to happiness is through exercise and nutrition. That even with my brain being chemically disabled, the release of endorphins into my body saved my life. It made me a better man; it made me a better father and a better husband. Now my kids will exercise with us every single day. Just by that decision in our lives, it has developed a mental strength in us and it is being created in our kids as well.  It all started from watching us daily and that has been an unbelievable difference in everyone!

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So let me finish with a couple questions, just to get you to meditate on your own life for a couple minutes.

Do you wake up tired everyday?

Do you find yourself wondering what could have been instead of how today has put you closer to the vision and goal you have planned for your life?

What did you do today that will change the lives of others around you?

I want to thank Gerad for the opportunity for me to write this and share my heart and life of transformations.  I also want to thank our team, Warrior Team Fitness! Warrior Team Fitness is the team Jennifer and I have developed with others having the same passion to change lives around them with daily nutrition and exercise. I love that we are changing lives for the better! Building a stronger world through 30 minutes of exercise and nutrition easily accessible because of online accountability, also giving people the opportunity to work for themselves and change lives and homes at the same time.  

Fun Kisses