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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Spartan Trifecta

Tomorrow is the big day!!! The day I enter Spartan Trifecta glory!!!  The day where a culmination of determination, motivation, and inspiration transpires into a beautiful conglomeration of red, blue, and green.  In case you can’t tell, I’m excited!

For those of you that aren’t in the know, the Reebok Spartan race is the most challenging obstacle course race series there is.  They have three different distances – the sprint, the super, and the beast.  The sprint is usually a 3-5 mile course, the super is 8-10 miles, and the beast is 12-14 miles.  Upon finishing the sprint race, you get a red medal as well as a red third of a medal.  When you finish the super, you get a blue medal as well as a blue third of a medal.  Then when you finish the beast, you get a green medal with a green third of a medal.  When you complete all three distances, you can put your the thirds together and form a giant red, blue, and green trifecta medal.  The coveted trifecta medal, the holy grail of Spartan racing (other than a coin but I digress), will be mine tomorrow.

The obstacles in this race are crazy.  There aren’t any electrified wires or jumping off of 12 ft platforms.  Everything in the Spartan Race requires some level of physical fitness.  There aren’t any gimmicks, you either train for it so you can complete the obstacles OR you can fail the obstacles and do burpees.  Either way, you’re going to get a workout.  My favorite part about the Spartan Race is the racers.  A spartan does not leave another Spartan behind.  I’ve found this to be true as I have time and time again witnessed fellow racers helping each other complete obstacles.  Most of the time they have never met that person in their life before that obstacle.  That is the beauty of the Spartan Race.  It does not matter how you get there, as long as you finish.  Even if that means some help from fellow Spartans along the way, you still finished.  You pushed yourself past what you were capable of doing.  You reached your limit, then ran past it in a cloud of dust, mud, and triumph.  

If anyone is considering running a spartan race, do it.  Sign up.  If you sign up, you will put in the training.  How do I know this? Because you won’t spend over $100 to go embarrass yourself.  You won’t spend $100 to quit halfway through.  You just won’t.  Find out what you’re made of.  Then, find out what your kids are made of.  In an age of kids that would rather lounge inside and play video games, engaging your kids outside and helping them grow up to have a healthy, fit lifestyle is incredibly rewarding.  Tomorrow, I get to watch my daughter complete her second Spartan kids race, a 1/2 mile obstacle course that is a smaller version of the full course.  My daughter loves this and can’t wait to run through the mud and climb over the kid obstacles.  Watching Jo get her second Spartan medal is more rewarding to me than my trifecta.  Blasphemy right? But it’s true.  If anyone reading this is coming to wintergreen tomorrow, say hi, introduce yourself!  I’ll be the dad that’s beaming ear to ear with a trifecta medal around his neck with a cute 4 year old with two medals hanging on his arm.  AROO!

  

What Are Your Goals?

If any of you read my previous posts, you would know that I am very goal-oriented.  There is something about setting a goal for yourself that forces you to work harder.  When you achieve that goal, there is nothing like it.  I had a goal to run an ultra-marathon by the time I was 30.  I achieved this goal by setting smaller goals along the way.  I started with a 5k, then a 10k, then a half-marathon, then a metric marathon, then a full marathon, until I ran my first ultra-marathon.  I cried after achieving every one of these goals.  Why? Because it was important to me.  Every one of those moments were a defining point in my life.  Every one of those moments showed me that I was capable of way more than I ever thought I could be.   Completing a Tough Mudder and a Spartan Race was part of this.  I also ran the Merrells Down and Dirty in DC, a 10k.  After completing it the first time, the 2nd time I elected to ruck it in the brick division, 40lb of bricks in a backpack.  None of this is to toot my own horn although I am proud of myself for putting in the work to achieve these goals.  It goes to show that if you set smaller goals for yourself, even an average guy like me can do great things.  

So what are my goals moving forward?  I have signed up for the Spartan Super in VA on Aug 22.  This is the third race for my trifecta, which is a goal of mine.  In September, I want to compete in the Civilian Military Combine in the Poconos.  I think my running and crossfit background will fare me well in a race designed like that.   The Battlefrog series looks challenging and was rated high in the OCR arena so that might be worth giving a shot.  I also want to complete an Ironman triathlon.  The Ironman is a longer term goal.  This isn’t something that I can do this year, nor have I extensively trained for it.  The Ironman is one of those races that are reserved for elite athletes.  I want to be in that club.  Maybe next year.  Fitness wise, I want to be able to bench twice my body weight.  I got a ways to go on that one, farther to go since I’ve put on 20lb in the last 4 months.  I’ve always wanted to be that guy that can bench twice his body weight then go out and run a 6 minute mile.  When I think of fit, THAT is it.  That is why I personally aspire to be.

Whatever your goals are, put in the work to meet them.  Figure out how to make that happen.  Set smaller goals along the way.  I don’t want to see anyone sitting around their living rooms at 75 years old, reminiscing on life, and thinking “man, I wish I would have done __________.”  Dream big.  Aspire to do more, be more.  You never know what you’re capable of until you give it an honest shot.  So I ask you….what are your goals?

 

Spartan Super VA

  
So this is what separates the boys from the men, the weak from the strong, the daddy’s from the Spartan daddy’s.  I signed up for the VA Super on Aug 22.  I was telling my daughter about me signing up and she was like, “I want to run a Spartan race too!”  So looks like little miss Spartan girl will get her second orange medal.  This race is extremely important to me.  This will be my first trifecta. I’ve been dying to get my trifecta ever since I saw the huge red, blue, and green masterpiece at my first sprint.  It’s a pride thing for me.  The reason I run has nothing to do with anyone but me.  I’ve always said that my running is pushing myself to my limits, doing things I never thought I could do, getting to that point where you want to give up but you don’t.  Intestinal fortitude.  Guts.  You never know how strong you really are until you get to that point.  That point where you really have nothing left, but somewhere deep down inside, there is more.  That’s why I run.  That’s why this trifecta is so important to me.  Can’t be any harder than Norm’s NJ Beast.  Eff Norm by the way.  Although the accounts I’ve heard is that the VA super is even harder, which is perfect.  Push me to my limits, make me want to give up, break me down and hurt me.  But when you know what, that medal is mine and there is nothing anyone can do to stop me.  Run, walk, or crawl, it’s going to happen.  The best part is, my tiny Spartan mini-me will have a pretty orange one to match my red, blue and green. AROO!!!

How to Put Your Four Year Old to Bed in Three Easy Steps

Now that I got your attention, it is impossible to put your child to bed in three easy steps every single night.  If I really had a solution to that, I could be making millions selling foolproof parenting tips.  Here is what a typical night putting Jo to bed looks like:

Bath, pajamas, brush teeth, prayers and bed.  Looks simple right?  Let me elaborate, I’ll just skip to the pajamas part.  “We need to put a pull-up on Jo.” “But I want to wear big girl panties!” “No because we had an accident the last 4 nights and all your sheets are still in the dryer so we need to wear a pull-up.” (Fight ensues) *pull-up on and in bed*. “Ok let’s say prayers.” “But I want MOMMY to say prayers!” “Ok, mommy say prayers.” “Don’t forget to pray for all my cousins….oh and no bad dreams! Only good dreams! Of pets!” “Ok now get some sleep.” “But I’m thirsty!” “But I just gave you milk before you brushed your teeth.” “But I’m still thirsty!” *gets milk, drinks milk* “ok, goodnight!” “Daddy you forgot my music!” (And by music she means “Let it Go” on repeat, I wish I wasn’t telling the truth on that) *turns on music* “ok goodnight!” “The light is too dark daddy, turn it up a little.” “If I turn it up anymore it will literally be ON Jo, go to bed.” “Where’s purple?!” (Purple is her purple blanket) “purple is right beside you sweetheart now go to sleep.” *leaves room and shuts the door* “but I wanted MOMMY to shut the door!” *opens door back up so mommy can shut it* “GOODNIGHT JO!” “Goodnight daddy!” *5 min later* “daddy!!!! Minnie is in here!!!” (Minnie is our cat)…47 min later, she is finally in bed and quiet.
I wish I was exaggerating this but I’m not.  There are nights where I will lay down beside her and she’ll cuddle up next to me and I’ll tell her about the day she was born.  How she looked at me with those big eyes and I was the first human she saw in this world.  She loves to hear how I cried happy tears.  We will talk about how we are hillbillys, or hillybillys as she calls us.  We talk about all kinds of things.  I tell her about all the things she did that day that made me proud.  Usually there is a tickle fight thrown in there somewhere.  It always comes up that she isn’t allowed to turn 5.  She is not allowed to get any bigger, she has to stay my little girl forever. Her response is priceless, “but daddy! I HAVE to turn 5! God is making me bigger! I will still go on dates with you and give you hugs and kisses!”  It’s things like that where all the struggles, all the frustrations, all the impatience I exhibit on a daily basis, all the tantrums…none of it matters.  She’s my girl.  Whether she is 4 or 44, she’s my girl.  And you better believe I’m going to hold her to those dates! AROO!