2,700+ days

At 2:00am I turned off a major highway onto a fairly busy avenue. Whipping my car left as if I were in a NASCAR race. In the blink of an eye sparks are flying all around me like a weld shop. Me, being the responsible adult, I was at the time, hit the gas. I’m flying down this avenue with houses up and down each side of the road, stop signs, and normal 2am activity. I’m not creeping to a stop…not looking both ways…my hands sure as hell aren’t at 10 & 2. I manage to pull into the garage and pretend like nothing is wrong. That’s what I did then. I got drunk…did something stupid…and pretended nothing was wrong. Welcome to my hell…the end of the bottle

Why not get off work and go to the bar? Forget that I have a wife and kids at home. Forget that maybe my wife may actually needs my help with the kids that I helped create. Forget that maybe my kids want to see their dad. Instead…I go to the bar and sit down for “1”. I know that there is no such thing as “1”. Bellied up to the bar like Norm on Thursday’s nights, a moment of “Clarity” washes over me. I say to myself “I’m going to do the right thing. I’m going to go home early tonight and grace my family with my drunk self” So I put that beer down (after slamming it of course) hit the door and try and walk that straight line to the door. Open the door, fall into the seat, put the keys in the ignition, light up a smoke, crank up the music and hit the road. 30 mph over the speed limit later, I find myself looking in the rearview mirror more than the front due to the fact I’m terrified of a Police Officer being behind me. Whip into the driveway a few minutes later and I’ve escaped death..again.

Traveling east with 4 people in my car at 4:00am. I’ve been drinking all night and probably have some drugs in my system. I come across an intersection. The light is blinking red for me signaling me to stop…look both ways…and go when it’s clear. I have massive amounts of alcohol in my system and sprinkled some drugs on it for a real doozy of a cake. I don’t see the light. There’s a motorcycle hitting that same intersection about a millisecond before me. He sees me and must know that I’m not stopping and in a fraction of a second…..swerves so I don’t plow into him. 4 cop cars see the whole thing and pull me over. DWI at 20 years old. Thankful I didn’t kill someone

My wife comes to my work and tells me I should come home right after work. She’s confident she’s going to give birth to our 4th child tonight. I go to the bar like any good alcoholic would do. She calls me and tells me to come home so I can take her to the hospital. I drive home drunk from the bar and pick up my pregnant wife and unborn child and drive them both to the hospital…drunk. That night my daughter is born and 2 nights later I leave the hospital. I get black out drunk and don’t pick up my bride or our daughter from the hospital. Why? Because at 26 years old I’m a full fledge alcoholic

I could probably come with another 600 words or so and continue to share story after story much like the above. Instead….what does it all mean? Does it mean I’m lucky? Why wasn’t there a cop around after I hit that car? Chances are I may be getting out of prison close to now. I wouldn’t be married as my bride would have divorced me for certain. My kids may or may have not have come to see me. Knowing me I’d probably push them away. I wouldn’t have that Philly trip with my oldest. I wouldn’t have those state titles with my youngest son. I wouldn’t have those 5-minute car drives to school every day with my oldest daughter. I wouldn’t have those memories of my youngest daughter crying at the idea of seeing a sloth.

Why didn’t I hit that motorcycle? If I did, 3 out of the 4 of my children wouldn’t be alive. No hugs from Kam…no sass from Balooga… no HUGE heart from BaBose. Why??? Because I got drunk.  Why was I spared? How did I not kill myself or anyone else? How am I not dead or in prison? Am I still here to be a better husband to my bride? Maybe I’m still here to love my children and give them the dad they always wanted. I’m lucky to be here this long. Am I here to write, talk, or just spew my stories of drunkenness and recovery? Am I here to be impacted by a team of youth boys I coach? Why? Maybe a more appropriate question is  Why don’t I have a better relationship with God or my Higher Power?

How drastically different would my life be if I hit that motorcycle? What if there was a young child crossing the street that night and I didn’t see him or her? I’ve gone to church and listened. I’ve read and I often self-reflect. During this self-reflection is when I ask if I’ve buried that monster forever. I like to think I have.

Recently I was told that I’d be dangerous if I learned how to forgive myself. I quit looking back in that mirror like I did when I was drunk and put my head forward. Things started looking differently and my perspective changed. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m good enough to forgive myself. I’ve got 7+ years sober now and it took damn near all of that to finally forgive myself. I was also challenged to find my faith. So…how do I do that? Do I go to church? Do I read a bible? Maybe I ask some questions. Do I make sure to pray at night before I go to bed? How do I find faith??

Listen, I’m a firm believer in a higher power. You may or may not have yours but I gotta believe there’s something that’s far more powerful than me that put you and me here for a reason. Things aren’t the way they were before. I don’t just read now…I understand. I don’t just look now…I see. I’m calm. I’m at peace. Does this mean I’ve put my trust in my higher power? Am I looking for something that’s already right in front of me? Does it matter?

I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. Maybe some of that Karma stuff has been around me. Maybe today/tonight I’ve finally realized how fortunate I am. Maybe after all these years I’ve come aware of all of me. Is it possible as I sit here with damn near 3,000 days sober that I’m having my spiritually awakening? Are the goosebumps on my arms a sign telling me that I have? Are the tears in my eye lids real….or are they there because I’m remembering that monster that once was me?

I’m not sure I’ll ever find the answers to any of the questions that I’ve asked. I do know a handful of things. I’m loved. My bride loves me. My kids love me. I have a handful of friends that love me. I have family that loves me. I feel that love and reciprocate that love. Maybe that’s my higher power talking to me and telling me things are good and he or she has been there all along with me. Maybe now I’m realizing it.

April 25th, 2010, I decided that I wasn’t going to drink again. My life changes daily since then. I’m no longer drunk, hollow and alone. I’ve let go of all that. My bride says, “Let go and let God”. I don’t stumble yet stand strong. I don’t slur..yet articulate. I don’t fight; yet love. I’m not blurry yet clear. My thoughts are no longer clouded with evil yet with thoughts of love. I do believe I’m healed. April 25th, 2010 was day 1. Today is day 2,791 and somewhere in between I put the pieces together. My wife has held my hand through it. My 4 children have given me strength. Apparently, my higher power has been looking over me.

So now that I have this new found inner peace…what’s next? For now,…I think I’ll hug my bride and thank her. Then I’ll tell my kids I love them. Maybe I’ll say a quick “what’s up??” to my higher power. After that???? Who knows..I know I’ll do it clear minded, sober, and with the support of the people that love me and whom I love.

2,791 days with no alcohol. Never thought it would take that long to get sober. I’m thankful for that. Forgiven…not fotgotten


Sleeping with the TV off 

Recently a 19 year old from Watertown died in what has been reported as “alcohol poisoning”. That got me thinking about my own alcoholism. Why was I spared? What makes me any better? Why was this 19 year old taken and yet, after hundreds of discretions, here I sit? Why after going 70+ in a 25 am I still here? Why after going on multiple 3+ day bingers am I still able to wake up and hug my bride and kids? Why have most friends and family forgiven me and I haven’t forgiven myself? Not sure I know the answers to any of those questions or even if there are answers to those questions.

So, let me see if I can make an attempt at answering these questions. It will be a feeble attempt but an attempt none the less. Let us start with “Why after going 70+ in a 25 am I still here?” Sad thing about this question is that it happened on several different occasions. One time that I remember better than others because it damn near landed me in prison. Let me set the stage. I’m in my very early 20’s. I found a local watering hole that allows you to drink all the tap beer you can from 9pm to close. I’m bellying up to that bar at 8:58 with my $5.00 in hand. As a raging alcoholic I’m doing everything possible to drink that place dry. Time to leave. I hop into my car (not sure what that thing was. We called it The Lawnmower because; well because it sounded like a lawnmower. Clever; I know.) I’m heading down the highway and make a right hand turn onto an avenue. Unbeknownst to me, there sits a car minding its own business at a stop light. I scrape the entire side drive side of their car with mine. Sparks are flying like it’s the 4th of July on that street. I, being the smart person I am, take off like a prize horse at the Kentucky Derby. Absolutely flying down that street with no regards for anyone or anything. No stopping. No slowing down. No looking left or right. No yielding. No cops. No problem? I got the car home and I was relatively unscaved. The car I hit got my plate numbers and called the incident in. I ended up going to the police station days later and was told that no chargers were being pressed and no action would take place because whoever I hit knew me and didn’t want to see me in trouble. Years later, no idea who that was or why they would make that decision. Why after all that, am I able to sit here and tell the 10’s of people that read this about that? I absolutely could’ve been arrested, injured, killed or seriously hurt or even killed someone else that night. Am I to believe that a higher power was looking after me that night? I can get behind that thought. What I can’t get behind though is why a higher power would’ve been looking out for me multiple nights just like that. Once? Sure. Two times? Maybe. 3 times? Unlikely. 15,20,40+? No way. Am I lucky? Maybe. Amy I fortunate? No doubt. Was I spared to tell my story? Sometimes I think so. I’ve shared some of my story in other writings but never the whole thing. Not sure I’m strong enough to do that. Not sure I can go back to all those dark times and relive that. To go back to the letter, the garage, the fights, and relive all that hate, anger, and emotion isn’t something I’m super excited about. For the sake of keeping things relatively simple, the answer to the aforementioned question is…. I am fortunate. Also, I feel luck has a lot to do with it. I like to think the big guy upstairs has more pressing needs to attend to than some drunken asshole….which I was just that… a drunken asshole. I like to think that he was more so looking out after the people around me.

Why after going on multiple 3+ day bingers am I still able to wake up and hug my bride and kids? This may be the easiest one of them all to answer. Because even after all the horrible, rotten, awful things I’ve done, I was taught a lesson here. I was taught that love is blind. That there is nothing more amazing on this planet of ours than unconditional love. Love that no matter what happens, can withstand any storm thrown at it. My bride taught me what unconditional love is. After I woke up from my years of being drunk, I saw it. Yeah, sounds cliché and cheesy but it’s true. Clear eyes see more. Sobriety sees more than booze. Why after multiple 3 day bingers am I able to sit here and ramble? Some will say that I like to sit on my high horse and tell everyone how much better I am than everyone else. Those that say that truly don’t know me. Don’t know how I struggle to sleep at night. Don’t know that at times, I just sit and cry for no other reason than thinking of all the hurt I’ve caused. No amount of “I’m sorry” or anything that I say or type will ever take away any of the things I’ve done. So why did my bride take me back in after throwing all my clothes out the window into the front yard? Unconditional love. She saw what was behind all the booze. She saw the man that I could become. Not sure how. Not sure how anyone could see any good in me at that time. Every step I made at that time was a mistake. Eventually everyone grew numb of it….even Audrey. Yet, as everything was falling apart right in front of me, she showed me unconditional love. Through her love, I was able to show love and affection to her and our kids and eventually family and friends. My kids feared me. Scared of dad coming home drunk and starting fights. Today they want to hang out with me and they are my friends. I survived drinking my breakfast of vodka and orange juice so my kids could show off their strength. I was spared so my children could realize how strong they really are. Again, I was spared as to not hurt someone else more than I already hurt them.

Why was this 19 year old taken and yet, after hundreds of discretions, here I sit? I have no idea. I don’t even know where to begin on that. She was in school trying to better herself. She had an entire life to live and could have contributed in a litany of ways. I have no idea…none. I hope her family finds peace in their grieving. I hope that anyone who has ever lost anyone to addiction or because of someone’s addiction can heal. Just doesn’t seem fair. I feel like I’m not even close to qualified to answer a question like that so I won’t even try.

What makes me any better? Far from it. I’m a dried up drunk who selfishly talks about his own alcoholism to keep me sober. I can without a doubt say that I am by far the most selfish person I know. I’ve been told I hide my shortcomings or I use my sobriety to mask my shortcomings. Maybe I do. I won’t hide my shortcomings here though. I’m a selfish, arrogant, asshole. I’m not proud of it. It’s not easy to admit to what I’ve become or what I’ve done. It’s impossible to erase any of it. So I own it. I talk about it. I try to make amends. You can quit drinking and get sober but you can’t mask who you really are. So who am I? I’m a married man and father of 4. I’m a recovering alcoholic with damn near 7 years sobriety under my belt. I’m a football fanatic. I’m softball enthusiast. I’m an ok father. I like to think I’m a good husband. I’m a terrible friend. I’m an awful god parent. I’m a chameleon constantly changing my colors to get acceptance from someone. I’m a terrible sleeper. I don’t like my mind. I can’t shut off the unnecessary thoughts. I want to slow it down and bury the entire negative I’ve done. I do that by having the TV on at night although I know my bride hates it. That goes back to being selfish. I put my own wants and needs in front of my families. We go where I want to go, not where they want to go. I don’t compromise well. I don’t listen well. I can take any story that you’re telling me and make it about me. I’m an attention whore. I’m not an inspiration and I’m sure as hell not a role model. I don’t take compliments well but when I do get them, they feed my ego. I’m arrogant yet insecure. I’m not comfortable in own skin yet portray leadership qualities. I’m a hypocrite. I’m lazy. I take advantage of situations. I’m a 36 year old drunk who got sober. I’m no better a person than the guy or gal who still spends countless hours with a bottle to their lip. I confuse reality with my sense of it. I am a terrible brother. I am an even worse son. I try to celbratise myself when I know that I am far from it. The only real talent I have is loving my wife and kids. I instigate. I am definitely not any better or deserving. Far from it.

Why have most friends and family forgiven me and I haven’t forgiven myself? Not sure. I live everyday with the guilt of all the tears I’ve caused the people around me. The drama I’ve caused throughout the years could be made into a Broadway play. I hate the fact that my kids cried themselves to sleep. It angers me knowing I’ve screamed at my bride. It saddens me knowing that I’ve scared her so bad that she tucked her knees to her chest and buried her face and cried uncontrollably while I hovered over her screaming like a monster. Am I to be forgiven for those discretions just because I don’t stop at the local liquor store? Why after damn near 7 years that my alcoholism is a prominent part of my life? Why can’t I forgive not forget? Am I not forgiving myself because if I do I’ll let my guard down and drink again? Maybe. I’m guessing that one day I’ll forgive myself. Just not now. I honestly believe the real reason is because I haven’t done enough good to outweigh the bad. Once I’ve successfully counterbalanced all the pain I’ve caused with positivity, at that point I’ll consider forgiving myself. I had my first beer at 11 or 12 years old. Became a full fledge alcoholic in my late teens or early 20’s. I got sober at 29. For the sake of keeping things simple, let’s say I drank regularly for 10 years. I’ve only been sober for 6 years and 11 months. I figure I have the rest of my life to make a positive impact on my bride, my kids, and whoever else will bless me with their presence.  One day, I hope to sleep without the TV on.





Check the box! 

I was 14 or 15 when I got my drivers license. I filled out all the forms to the best of my ability. Height, weight, address, eye color, and at the time, my social. All that was easy. Eventually I reached a box that said “donor”. I knew what it meant but didn’t really know exactly how important it was. I skipped right by it and left it unchecked. Years later I would meet my eventual bride and she asked me if I was a donor. I specifically remember saying to her “I was born with all my inners and I’m taking all of them with me when I die.” In all her infinint wisdom, she enlightened me on how incredibly selfish that was. When it was time to renew my license, I proudly checked that box but never knew how much a simple “check” would impact my life. 

Several years ago I met a very special person named Phil. I worked with Phil at a retail store and I immediately was drawn to him. Phil and I hit it off right away. We became thick as thieves and soon started spending plenty of time together. My bride loved him as did my children; we all loved Phil. Phil was taken from this world far too early when he was fatally injured in a texting and driving accident. Phil was sitting on his motorcycle at a stop light when out of nowhere he was slammed into by a vehicle. The young man was texting and driving not paying attention to what he was doing. That accident cost Phil his life. However, Phil kept giving after his passing; by donating. 

Several of Phil’s organs were donated to people in need. Through programs that are in place, Phil’s family had the pleasure of meeting some of the recipients. I saw how that made such an impact on the family. By donating his organs, Phil helped so many families, including his own. He helped his own family by being a hero and of course he helped so many other families by giving them life. After Phil passed there were some bracelets made up in his honor. I still wear it to this day. Phil passed away in 2012. I never really understood why I never took it off. Was/is it my way of not letting him go? Was/is it my way of honoring my friend? I constantly flip the black rubber bracelet around my small wrist. I run my fingers through the letters and often stare it. I never knew why….. Until recently. 

A year prior, my brides cousin died in an accident. Like Phil, he to was a donor. His family saw the impact that he was able to have after life by giving life. I remember spending countless hours having conversations with Vic’s family about the donation process. Although hurt and sorrow filled their hearts, pride gleamed over their eyes. What better gift to give than the gift of life? 

Fast forward to the summer of 2015. Like most summer nights, I was at the softball fields. Like most times when I pull up, it’s a long walk from my vehicle to my diamond. I generally stop and talk to several different people largely due to the fact that our little softball community is pretty tight. Pretty much everyone knows everyone and most times there’s a shared respect. This particular evening I stopped to talk to a friend of mine and started the conversation like any other. “How are you?” That escalated into hearing the news my friend has a kidney disease. Right then and there I started asking questions. What does this mean? How bad is it? Are you going to be ok? Will you need a transplant? Will you have to be on dialysis? 

Several months have passed since that initial conversation at the diamonds. My friends kidney condition hasn’t gotten any better. He sits idly by while waiting for a phone call about a potential donor. Some people wait several years before the perfect match is found. In that time dialysis can start, health can deteriate, and worse. Luckily for my friend, his condition hasn’t gotten worse. It hasn’t gotten better either. So after years of wearing that black rubber bracelet, I now understand why. I started the process of becoming a live donor. 

My experience in this process started early in the week. I was sitting on my couch playing with my bracelet like I so often do and without warning, I started thinking of my friend with the kidney illness. I started texting him asking the same questions I did this last summer. I also started asking him questions about donating. He gave me a phone number to call and after a discussion with my bride, my journey to becoming a live donor had officially begun. 

My first step was to have a conversation with my bride. That conversation didn’t last long. As soon as I mentioned it to her, she agreed to it almost immediately. From there I needed to make a phone call. I spoke to the young lady at the hospital for roughly 45 minutes on that first call. The woman I spoke to was very helpful and she told me exactly what to expect. So what can I expect? The first conclusion I came to was that I can expect a very thorough process.  See they won’t just let anyone donate. You have to be in both good mental and physical condition. I can expect several phone calls. Thus far I’ve talked to social workers, nurses, and my personal advocate. Most of the questions are redundant but I know they are just doing their jobs so that’s ok. 

After passing the first few phases, my next step is to get a live donor packet in the mail. Upon completion of that, it’s time to start blood work, and some other physical requirements. I know that my friend and I have the same blood type so that’s a good start. God willing I’ll meet all the other requirements and my friend can have my kidney. Although I’m in the very early stages to becoming a live donor, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. 

I was asked “Why do you want to do this?” I paused for what seemed like minutes but was only a brief second and replied “Why wouldn’t I want to do this?” After all, I have 2 working kidneys and if he doesn’t get one, he could possibly die. So why not give one so you he can continue to be a loving husband, a loved father, a respected man of the community, a trusted brother and son, and just a plain good person? 

The toughest question I’ve been asked in this process was “God forbid one of your children would need a kidney down the road and you weren’t able to donate to them. How would you feel about that?” My response was “I’m not sure I could live with myself knowing that I could’ve helped my friend today and I didn’t. After all, what if my beautiful children don’t need a kidney in the future and I didn’t help when I was able to?” 

Recently I heard a phrase that I really like. Everyday is a gift from God; that’s why it’s called the present. I am choosing to go down this path because it’s the right thing to do. God willing I’ll pass all the requirements and both myself and my friend will live a long, healthy life. My only regret in this process is that I didn’t make that phone call and start the process sooner when he first told me. 

I hope to continue writing about my journey into becoming a live donor. I hope to write about everything including the updates on my friend living a normal healthy life. I hope to get that packet soon in the mail.  I hope that I’m a match to my friend. I hope to update the tens of people that will read this with good news. I hope the next time you renew your drivers license, you check that box if you haven’t already. I hope to become a living donor. Most of all, I hope if I can’t help my friend, someone else can. 

Good people doing good things

In October of 1988 I sat down with my father to watch a Monday night football game. I was 8 years old. My father has always been a Packers fan. Naturally, he raised my brother, sister, and myself to be Packer fans. In his defense, he did tell us “You can like any team you want” but his intentions were clear. That night the Philadelphia Eagles were playing the New York Giants. As a young child I was impressionable. Randall Cunningham made a play that made an impression on me that night and I’ve been an Eagles fan ever since. I never thought that my fanship for a team 1,400+ miles away, would take me on a journey that would culminate with not only meeting the president of the team but consider him a friend. My family of 6 live in a small town in SD; these types of stories don’t happen to us. 

Turn on your national sports channel on any given day, chances are you’ll hear about a sports star getting into some kind of trouble. A DWI, an incident at a gentlemans club, drug charges, and even worse. There are over 1,500 players in the NFL and countless more staff for each organization. I can assure you that all these people aren’t bad. In fact, a majority of them are good, honest people. So why don’t we hear more about them? Is it because people like to hear more negative as opposed to positive? Or is it that its “sexier” to report about an assault as opposed to an athlete devoting time to his community? I don’t have the answer to either question. The only thing I can say for certain, there’s a man in the northeast that’s doing some pretty awesome things. 

My story starts in October of 2012. The Eagles were struggling pretty bad that year. Like most fans of struggling teams, I was getting teased by family, friends, and co-workers. On a whim, I sent an email to Dave Spadaro, Eagles media reporter. The email was short and simple. It basically said, although the team is struggling, there’s a family in SD that watches each game, every week, regardless of wins and losses. I went on to say that football was more than just a game for us. It was a time that my bride, my 4 children, and myself spent time together. When I sent this email, I never intended to get any response. I got much more than a response. 

Couple days later, Dave responds to me and tells me that he forwarded my email to Don Smolenski, president of the Philadelphia Eagles. I was shocked that Dave read it; I was flabbergasted that he took the time to share it with Mr. Smolenski. My response was as best as I can remember was simple; thank you and please don’t confuse my intentions. I never asked for anything in that email. I simply wanted someone there to know that this family of 6 in a small South Dakota town, was/is loyal. Dave asked me for my home address as Mr. Smolenski wanted to send my family something nice. Few days later I received a personalized letter from Mr. Smolenski and my son received a LeSean McCoy jersey. It’s very hard to describe the feeling I got sharing that experience with my then 11 year old son. Emails were exchanged between Dave and I and eventually I was sharing emails with Mr. Smolenski. 

After sharing several emails with Mr. Smolenski, I had a conversation with my bride. Due to previous mistakes in my sons younger years, my relationship with him was less than stellar. I had corrected those mistakes yet I felt he hadn’t fully forgiven me for past decisions. My beautiful, understanding bride agreed to allow me to take my son to Philadelphia for the home opener in September of 2013. I then shared this news with my new favorite president. I emailed him and told him my son and I were flying out for the opener. I asked if we could have the opportunity to meet him, shake his hand, and thank him personally for the letter and jersey. Not only did he agree to meet with us he said ” don’t worry about tickets, they’re on us!” Imagine telling your child that his first NFL game was going to be on the other side of the country and he was going to meet the president of the team. This happened in April of 2012. 

We spent the next several months dreaming about the possibilities of what could happen when we were there. With each passing day, the ideas got more and more extravagant. For him, it was a vacation away from school and a chance to see his favorite football team play. For me, it was a chance to make right so many mistakes I had made in the past. It was a chance for some one on one time with my favorite oldest son. A chance to right some wrongs and be the father I always knew I could be. This was far more than a football trip for me. Let’s fast forward to September of 2013. We traveled 100 miles south on a Thursday after school and work to catch our flight. We flew out around 5:00 am that following day. From there, we flew to Chicago. We had bought tickets to take the tour of Lincoln Financial Field and we were both afraid that we were going to miss our tour due to delays at the airport. Well, we did miss that tour but 3 years later we got a tour of The Linc that far surpassed anything we ever dreamt of. 

Flying to Philly with my son that day, just the two of us, will be something I won’t forget anytime soon. First thing after landing was to head to the hotel. We checked in, put our bags away and walked over to our favorite stadium. We past Citizens Bank Park and looked at the statues. We talked about going to a baseball game on Monday. We finally found our way to The Linc. Looking at that stadium through the eyes of a 12 year old was priceless. He smiled from ear to ear as I shared stories of 4th and 26 and former Eagle greats. I specifically remember telling him that there is nothing like 70,000 people screaming the Eagles fight song after a TD. I was so excited for him to experience a Sunday at the Linc. After a few photos, it was off to eat. After a quick bite, we decided to head to the hotel room due to jet lag, and just flat out being tired from a long day of travel. Little did we know what was behind our door when we opened it. Sitting on our bed was a clear White Bag with the Eagles logo on it. A term my son coined “The Swag bag”. We couldn’t even open it at first because we were jumping up and down the room like we had just won the lottery. We were laughing, hugging, and I really tried to just stop and enjoy the moment with him. Finally we opened the bag (only after several pictures, and a phone call to mom at home) Inside were 2 tickets to the game on Sunday, 2 tickets to the Temple game on Saturday, 2 sideline passes to the Eagles game, a couple of hats, a gift card to the pro shop, and other miscellaneous items. There was also a personalized letter to my son and I welcoming us to The City of Brotherly Love. How’s that for a start to the trip?!?!

Saturday morning we took a tour of Citizens Bank Park followed by the Temple game. Both awesome experiences. Saturday night we got an email from Dave Spadaro asking us if we wanted a private tour of the Nova Care Complex where the Eagles practice. Our game day experience started out with that private tour. My son, myself, and Dave Spadaro. Awesome….just awesome. Dave was so nice taking us from place to place inside the Nova Care taking pictures for us and letting us enjoy the experience. He’s a genuinely nice guy who really wanted us to enjoy ourselves. That’s exactly what we did! Dave gave us a ride back to the Linc and told us to meet him outside the pro shop at a certain time. So we did. Next thing I know, we are running down the sideline to the back of the end zone. My son was running so fast I couldn’t keep up with him! He was running as if his 40 time was being clocked in Indy.

From there, we stood on the field and enjoyed the sights and sounds of pregame. We were introduced to so many people. Darwin Walker, AJ Feely, Howie Roseman, cheerleaders, Sal Palantonio, Merrill Reese. Later we would meet Jeremiah Trotter, chat with Adam Caplan and even met NFL great, Chuck Bednarick. I’ll never forget meeting Concrete Charlie. We were asked “Do you want to meet Chuck Bednarik?” my response was very simple “Yes”. We walked over to the Iron Man and were introduced to greatness. He posed for a picture with us, shook my hand, and put my son in a head lock. Just thinking of that, puts a smile on my face. We walked away from that meeting and my son says ”you know dad, for an old guy, he’s really strong!” My son had no idea what had just happened and how fortunate we both were to meet such a man. He now does after watching old games, reading, and listening to stories.  From there my son would catch balls off the net as the kickers were practicing. Me, well I just stood there and smiled at him with approval.

Next thing we know, Mr. Smolenski is walking right towards us. I remember my hands being sweaty and wiping the sweat off my palms as he approached us. I remember being nervous. I remember being star struck. Finally, we shook hands, posed for a picture, and visited for a while. We thanked him for everything and beings he’s an incredibly busy man, he was on his way. My son and I would stand around for a few more minutes, embracing the sights and sounds of Sunday afternoon. I remember walking up the steps to our seats and wishing we had a little more time to visit with Mr. Smolenski. I’ve told him in person and via email countless times how thankful we are, yet I don’t feel like I can say it enough. Since that day, my son has been my best friend and vice versa. How do you thank someone for that?

The Eagles lost that game on a last second field goal. We sat in our seats and watched the crowd diminish with each passing second. I told my son to appreciate what just happened. To make memories like this with his ,children. To not take anything for granted. Mostly, not to make the mistakes I did. There were 68,998 disappointed fans in that stadium that afternoon. There were also a father and a son from a small town in South Dakota that just finished up a trip of a lifetime. The saying goes “Any Given Sunday” Any Given Sunday the Miracle at the Meadowlands can happen. The “Catch” can happen. The Miracle at the New Meadowlands can happen. 4th and 26 can happen. The Immaculate Reception can happen. You know what else can happen? A father and son can become best friends for life. That’s what happened that Sunday. With the help of some very special people and a football team, a reconciliation happened. A father and son bonded and that’s far more important than a football game.

Cool story right? Father and son travel across country, meet some pretty awesome people, watch a football game, and become best friends. It is a pretty neat story. Fortunately, that’s not where my story ends. My son and I came home and shared stories, pictures, and smiles with my bride, and 3 other children. You can imagine how happy everyone was for us. I remember my bride saying how she’d like to meet Mr. Smolenski one day to thank him for what he did for her husband and son. I told her “you never know, you just may be able to” I never thought we’d see Mr. Smolenski again. Well, I was wrong; very wrong! The Eagles were playing the Vikings in December that same year. We went to the usual fan sites to find tickets. We struggled finding tickets with 6 seats in a row. I decided to email our favorite president again asking for some help. Like before, his response was “tickets are on us!” How about that?!?! Time to pack up family because now we are going to Minneapolis!!!

We make the roughly 4 hour drive to the Twin Cities and get a hotel room Saturday night. The girls get some new pink Eagles gear and my oldest sat on the window sill trying to catch a glimpse of the Eagles plane. He never did get that glimpse but he did get to shake Chip Kelly’s hand the next day. He also got to see Mr. Smolenski again. Mr. Smolenski would come up to the stands and pose for a picture with my entire family. My daughter, being the sweet little thing she is, spent some time making a homemade bracelet for Mr. Smolenski. She handed it to him, he put it on and said “Thanks! I have something for you as well” he proceeded to hand us 6 sideline passes. The 7 of us spent some time visiting in the stands as our favorite president took some time to get to know my entire family. Those few minutes were just as gratifying for me as the trip to Philly. Unfortunately, the Eagles lost that game as well. It was OK though. My family and I had a small vacation together. Making memories just the 6 of us laughing, smiling, and just enjoying each others company. We enjoyed the 4 hour drive so much, we decided to extend it out a little further the next year.

September 2014 we find ourselves headed to Indianapolis, IN for the Eagles vs Colts game on Monday Night Football. Before the game Monday night, we made a stop in Indiana to see some cousins we hadn’t seen in years. We went to Canton, OH and saw the Pro Football Hall of Fame. More family memories. Pretty cool right? Grab a tissue. As we sit outside the gates at Lucas Oil Stadium, the rain is starting to come down a little harder. The kids are growing a little restless to get inside. I’ve got one hand holding my oldest daughters hand and the other holding my youngest daughters hand. My bride is trying to keep all 4 children warm with hugs. Finally, the doors open and we are in. As fate would have it, we see Mr. Smolenski walking through the stadium. My oldest catches up to him and there we stand, visiting with our favorite president again. My oldest daughter hands him a very fancy homemade bracelet. As she’s handing it to him, he drops to a knee and reaches inside his suit coat. My daughter hands it to him with a smile on her face, and a gleam in her eye. Mr. Smolenski politely accepts my little girls gift and says “thank you. This one broke on me”. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the bracelet she gave to him in Minneapolis.  So not only did he wear her bracelet that day in Minneapolis, he saved it . My bride and I were almost in tears watching this take place in front of us. Pretty impressive for sure. The Eagles ended up winning that game but the games have taken second fiddle to family and our interactions with Mr. Smolenski. We ended up driving 6 hours out of our way on the way home to pick up my brides sister so she could stay with us for a week or so. We wouldn’t have made that drive had we not been in Indy. Yet another reason to be thankful to our favorite president.

To recap; my son and I went to Philly for a once in a lifetime experience. My family of 6 went to Minneapolis and then to Indianapolis. Each time our experience so fantastic. Pictures, and lifelong memories for the 6 of us. All made possible by Don Smolenski, president of the Philadelphia Eagles. In February of 2015 my beautiful bride and I were talking about going to Philly in September. The idea was to drive the 23 hour, 1,400+ miles and take a family vacation. The routine was much the same as the others. I sent an email and Mr. Smolenksi’s response was “Hope to see you and your family in Philly” After talking about all the details, we decided to make the jaunt. We started saving and budgeting at that point. Flash forward to August. My lovely bride and I are talking and decided it’s just not going to work this time around. Money is tight and our oldest started high school. Disappointing for sure but the right move. Well, the next day I got an email. Attached in that email was 6 tickets to the Eagles Cowboys game at Lincoln Financial Field! Right then and there, I knew we were going. With the help of an banker at our awesome local bank, this trip was now a reality.

12:30 central standard time we left our small town of 22,000 people for Philadelphia, PA. 2 adults, 4 kids, one epic road trip!!! We packed our vehicle with a 12 pack of coke, 3 cases of water, and a bunch of junk food that certain isn’t healthy for anyone! We were all excited for the game but my bride and I were probably more excited for the journey. We drove 600+ miles that first day and stopped in a small town in Illinois. After some pizza it was time for some shut eye. We made it through the rest of Illinois, all of Indiana and Ohio the next day. We spent that night roughly 4 hours outside of Philadelphia. Eastern PA was so beautiful. There’s so many trees and the scenery was just flat out incredible. Heck, my kids even put down their iPad, and phones to take in what they were seeing. Friday morning we finished the drive and checked into our hotel in Philly. Like the last time, I took my family to The Linc for pictures and stories. This time, we got our tour.

Not only did we get our tour, we got a private tour. Mr. Smolenski arranged a private tour for my family and I. Norman and Dru gave us the tour. It’s really a daunting task putting this tour into words. It started out at the front entrance. Norman and Dru gave us some hats to wear which was super nice. From there, we jumped on some golf carts. They took us to the field, press room, locker room (both home and away) and even the tunnel the players run out of to get to the field. As I’m standing in the tunnel, I stop and look around. They were making some changes to the tunnel so music was blaring. There were neon lights flickering on and off. For a brief second, if only very brief, I felt like a real NFL football player. I’m 6 feet nothing and 200 pounds. A rotund 200 pounds at that. That’s the closest I’ll ever feel like a football player and it was amazing! We took pictures on the field and stood in the lockers of some of the best athletes in the world. It was just amazing. Dru even shared a nice little spot to see the ocean with my wife. And just like that, an hour and a half goes by and our tour is over. Norman and Dru were nothing short of amazing and my family and I are forever grateful to them.

Saturday we took the historical tour of the great city and enjoyed more family time. Sunday is game day and the 6 of us are all decked out in our new Eagles garb. We visited with our friend again on the field for some time. My kids gave him pictures and yes, another bracelet. We took pictures and visited and much like our previous experiences, it was incredible. This time I decided to pay less attention to the players on the field and more with what was going on the sidelines. A gentleman and his wife approached me. They said, “are you the family that drove from South Dakota for the game?” that sparked a conversation that led to some pretty awesome things. I shared our story a little with him and asked him how he knew Mr. Smolenski. He said he had just met him that day. They were graduates from the same school and Mr. Smolenski and this gentleman had exchanged some emails and just like that, we are on the same sideline training stories about such a great man. Later, we noticed a little boy. It was pretty clear that this little boy was going through some medical issues. Mr. Smolenski presented him with a gift bag. He helped the little boy put on a jersey and there were other contents in the bag as well. We watched as he posed for pictures with that little boy as his mother stood by with tears rolling down her face. It was breathtaking to say the least.

The game came and went and the Eagles lost. We didn’t feel like they lost when we left though. Other victories were had that were bigger than football. The next day we drove to the ocean, the spot that Dru told us. It was nothing short of amazing. Just the 6 of us hanging out on the beach experiencing the raw power of the ocean. We took pictures, drew our names in the sand, and brought home half the beach with us! That was the 1st time my bride saw the ocean. I remember looking at her as her pretty blonde hair blew in the wind and she looked happy. At that time, it didn’t matter that a football game was played. It didn’t matter who won or lost. All that mattered is that we had each other. These “football” trips turn out to be much more than football for us. They are about spending time with people you love and making memories that last a lifetime. We’ve got to experience some pretty awesome things due to the generosity of a man 1,400+ miles away.

So when you turn your TV on tonight to catch highlights and you hear about the most recent arrest, I want you to think about our story. Think about the time you went to a game and didn’t see a fight or hear a swear word in the stands. The League is full of thousands of people doing awesome things. From the Make A Wish Foundation to just normal Joe’s and Jane’s like my family, people around the country are doing amazing things. Good old fashioned acts of kindness. The list of people doing amazing things around The League is long. For me and my family, there’s only one person who we feel deserves to be at the top of that list. What started with a simple email, culminated in a friendship. It led to a very strong relationship with my son. It led to a cross country road trip with my family. It led to memories that the 6 of us will never forget. It taught us that there is nice people out there doing nice things. It turned dreams into reality. It turned average Sundays into moments of tearful joy. All made possible by the act of kindness. Acts of kindness that you won’t see about on national TV. Acts of kindness that you won’t read about in national print.

I’m struggling with a fitting end to this. How do you properly but a bow tie on 3+ years of such joy? The only thing I can come up with is very simple. Thank you Don Smolenksi and Philadelphia Eagles. Thank you for giving my family something that you can never put a price tag on; family memories that will last an eternity. My bride thanks you. My four children thank you. From a small community of 22,000 people to the big city of Brotherly Love; its been a crazy journey and we are excited for the next chapter if there is indeed another chapter. For now, we will look at pictures, share stories and smile. We will sit down on Sundays with our food, our Eagles gear, our smiles, and our memories of past trips. One thing is for certain, come Sunday, there’s a small family of 6 in a small town in South Dakota that will always be cheering for our team; regardless of wins and losses. Other victories are made off the field and we are a prime example of that. There are good people doing good things in the National Football League. My family is very thankful for the good things that Mr. Smolenski and the Philadelphia Eagles have done for us.


Marriage is far from dead

As I lay in my hotel bed well over 200 miles north from my bride, I scroll through the Facebook. I run across an article that was shared several times. It listed several reasons why this particular gentleman thought that marriage was dead. He mentioned social media, technology, texting, hard work, and finances as all things that “kill” marriages. As a married man of damn near 15 years, I took offense to this article. 

Let me address some of the above mentioned “marriage killers”. Thanks to technology, I can actually see my bride every night while I’m gone. FaceTime and Skype have been AMAZING since I’m gone. Long days and longer nights all seem worth it when I can come back to my room and see the love of my life flashing that look at me. Not to mention I get to see my kids. For the sake of this “article” I’ll leave my 4 blessings out of it. I look forward to coming back to my room and seeing my best friend every night. Granted, I can’t hold her and physically touch her, but I can take solice in actually seeing her. When used for its intent, Skype and FaceTime are fantastic! 

Texting is a beautiful thing! I wake up at 6:30 and reach for my phone as it doubles as my alarm clock. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and groggy turns into clarity in a matter of seconds. What’s the 1st thing I see? “Good morning babe! Hope you have a great day! I love you!!” How can my day start any better than that!?!?! By taking 30 seconds out of her hectic day to tell me she loves me, she’s starting my day with a smile. She’s also giving me motivation to do my absolute best as I face my day. Occasionally throughout the day I may have a minute or two to glance at my phone and I often see “I love you!” She knows I’m busy and can’t talk but by shooting me a quick text, she’s letting me know she misses me just as much as I miss her. This is all done without interrupting either of our days and yet again, she’s put a smile on my face. 

Social media, if used properly can add to your marriage. I post pictures of my bride from time to time with captions such as “I love my bride” or “Thanks momma for all you do” Basically I’m announcing to the world and any potentional suitorettes, that not only am I happily married, but I’m head over heals in love with the person that stood in front of me when I said “I do”. Now I understand that I’m a 34 year old man who’s out of shape with an above average belly, a goofy beard, old glasses, and I probably scratch myself to much. It’s not like I have ladies knocking down my door but in the event that there was more than one crazy lady out there that thought she had a chance at all that, she would no I’m not interested by simply looking at my Facebook page. 

Finances have been an issue in marriages from the dawn of time I believe. In the 14+ years I’ve been blessed to call my best friend my bride, we’ve been through it all financially. We’ve been in the whole in our checking account. We’ve robbed Peter to pay Paul. (We eventually paid Peter back and no hard feelings or charges linger). We did everything backwards. We got married, had kids, and eventually bought our home. We’ve been blessed enough to take family vacations to exotic places like Indianapolis and even Minneapolis! Point is, no matter how much money we do, or don’t have, that doesn’t change our love for each other. In fact, when there was next to no money, we were closer than ever. We couldn’t do anything but stay at home and enjoy each others company. Today we have a few more bucks and yet we still enjoy each others company. What good is having a huge bank account if you have no one to enjoy it with? 

The most appalling thing about that article was the mention of marriage being hard work. Hell yes it’s hard work! It’s the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done! It’s also the most rewarding. Anything worth doing isn’t easy. If it was easy, then everyone would do it and stay married forever. My bride “makes” me do things from time to time I’d rather not do. For example she likes to give me a “honey do” list. I’m not thrilled about it but I do it because I know two things will come out of it for certain. One, I will alleviate some of her stress. Two, it will make her happy. Isn’t that what marriage is all about; making the other person happy? Sometimes we do things not because we want to, but because it makes the other person happy. 

Fact is there are few things in life I’d rather be called than “husband”. I’m not naive enough, nor conceded enough to think I’m the perfect husband. Lord knows I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. I also know that I’ll make more. After 4 kids, countless ups and downs, I’m damn proud to be my brides husband! Very few things can compare to the unconditional love of a woman. When executed to the absolute best of your abilities, not a lot can compare to being in a marriage. 

Is marriage dead in this day and age? Far from it! Like anything else, the more you put into it, the more you get back. For me, I hope to be married to my best friend for a lifetime. I hope to get wrinkles together. I hope she drives me to the hospital for a hip replacement. I hope to put plastic over our couch and watch Murder She Wrote and Golden Girls together. I hope to draw social security togehter. I hope to color her beautiful blonde hair when it eventually turns grey. I hope to sit on the couch with comfortable silence. I hope to set an example for our children that true love does exist. I hope my bride will let me love her for eternity. Finally, I hope she wants all those things as well because if she doesn’t, we won’t do any of them. After all, she is the boss! 

Marciea Allen, Black Widow

When I pulled up to Black Widow Academy, (now known as Arachnid CrossFit) I had no idea what to expect. When I got out of my car, the first thing I heard was loud music and the sounds of weights clanging. I opened the door to literally a brand new world. A dozen or so people doing an array of exercises. Unfamiliar to me in any kind of gym is people randomly yelling out words of encouragement. Brief celebrations as this person or that person accomplish another goal. Men and women of all ages stepping out of their comfort zone carrying weights over their head from one side of the room to the other. Women and men standing on their heads while their body is up against the wall. From there, they are doing push-ups. From what I can gather, there is no age limit in this gym. The gym is in immaculate condition. . I can promise you one thing for certain, you will not find anything out of its place in this gym. Not a single person is standing around. As the class is winding down, people are putting things away as if its their own, at home gym. While doing so, there are words of positive reinforcement swarming the gym like a pack of angry wolves. In the middle of it all, is the Black Widow herself, Marciea Allen.


So who is Marciea Allen? You may know her as the MMA fighter. But, did you know that she also is a college graduate with a bachelors degree? You may also know her as a Crossfit trainer. Did you know that she worked for a company that traveled her to 49 states and 7 different countries? (Alaska is the only state she hasn’t visited. It’s on her bucket list) You may also know her for her famous boot camps that she organized here in town. You may think you know Marciea but I’m guessing you really don’t. If you did, you would know how amazing she really is. You would know that she is so much more than just a fighter, or a trainer. You would know that the misconceptions that you may or may not have heard about her are most likely false. You would also know that although her profession requires her to be tough, raw, and fierce, it has also taught her patience, compassion, and well, from my perspective, she’s kind of a softy! The traits of patience, compassion, and being soft-hearted have helped escalate her to one of the most sot after trainers in the area.  I recently sat down with her, one on one for an extended period of time. I left that meeting having a better idea who Marciea is as a person as opposed to a fighter or trainer. This woman wears far too many hats to describe her as just a fighter or trainer.

I’ve never written about one specific person before, least not for Sam Says.I’ve spent time with a highschool basketball team that changed my life. I also spent a night with Watertown’s finest which enlighten me on the seedy underbelly that I call home. I’ve rarely spent time in a gym or with a person that has Marciea’s credentials. Why Marciea? Simple; I drive by her gym when I go to work every morning and its packed. When I drive hope at night, it’s packed. When I drive by on Saturdays, there are several cars in the parking lot. Leaving for lunch, I’ve noticed people running down the street away from her gym. I thought “Run like hell people! Get out while you still can!!!” But a few short minutes later, I always saw them running back. Why are they running back? What is it about this person and that gym that drives people to exercise like that over and over? I wanted to know more about the person and her everyday activities. So after months of chasing her down, borderline stalking her, she finally agreed to meet with me.  When I first came up with the idea for working with Marciea, I was a little nervous as I had never met her and I had no idea what, or how this would take place. The only thing I knew about her is that she’s a fighter and a business owner. What am I hoping to accomplish writing this? Well, I hope the one thing that comes out of this is to put to rest the misconceptions about a fellow citizen of our little community. I hope to give you an insight of a person that is well-educated, well-traveled, and one that wears many hats. A person that has lived a remarkable life already and is the ripe old age of 33. I also hope that some of her determination, guts, and will-power will rub off on me. I hope to be able to take all that she’s taught me, in just the few encounters that we’ve had, and be able to use that in my everyday life.

Marciea is a young woman who is in incredible shape. She stands at roughly 5’8” tall and fights at about 135 pounds. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m not even close to the shape that my friend Marciea is. I’m overweight, I don’t exercise, I enjoy a cigarette from time to time, and I certainly wouldn’t last 5 seconds in the cage with her. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not a part of her gym,  nor do I work for her. The only affiliation I have with her is this “article” that I’m writing. I was gravitated to her for some reason though. Upon meeting her, I would soon understand why. She has a huge personality with an unbelievable character. Her schedule makes me tired just thinking about it, let alone actually doing it. A modern warrior is the best way to describe her. She is more than a warrior however. Maybe a better way to describe her is a modern-day Super-Woman. From 5am classes to 8pm classes, she offers it all. Before we get to know our modern-day Super-Woman, lets take a little closer look to how she got to where she is.

Born and raised in Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago, Marciea was raised by both her parents and grew up with her 2 younger sisters. Her parents, high school sweethearts, gave her the intelligence and toughness she has today. Marciea didn’t grow up with aspirations to be a business owner or fighter. Rather she grew up wanting to be a professional basketball player. She would wake up, go to school, go to practice, come home and eat, do homework, and practice some more. Upon completion of high school she thought it would be a good idea and venture off into the unknown. She started her post high school education by attending college in South Dakota. Why the Rushmore State? Why not!?!?! So after 2 years at both institutes that our fine city has to offer, she graduated and ended up at a national organization roughly 44 minutes down the road from us. For the next 5 years, she’d travel the country, no the world, for her profession. She has 2 different degrees in IT and is incredibly educated. Put her in front of a computer and she can do far more than get you to some website, which is about the extent of my abilities. So how does a highly successful and educated woman decide it’s a good idea to purposely get punched in the face?

After 5 years of being on the road for roughly 300 days a year, Marciea was laid off due to cutbacks. Taking some time off to figure things out, she was invited to watch a fight in Aberdeen, SD. She was invited by a fighters girlfriend, now wife. As she is sitting in the front row, turns out she is enamored by what she is seeing. An athlete all her life, something drew her to the cage. After her friend fights, she started asking questions. Like everything else she’s done, she would be incredibly successful at fighting. At 28 years old, she stepped into a gym to learn to fight for the 1st time. Imagine walking into an abandon warehouse. The smell of sweat and nothingness fills the room. To your left, you’ll see two mats. You know the kind, the ones that we all rolled around in elementary school. The not-so-soft blue ones. They are what is considered the “cage”. To the right, a punching bag. From there, with the help of several people, she would eventually be the #5 ranked amateur fighter in the world! She would spend her days fighting against grown men who would help her become the fighter she is today. At roughly 5’8” tall and 135 pounds, she would enter the cage against grown men weighing upwards of 225 pounds. This gives you an idea of the commitment level and fortitude Marciea has. She had put her mind to something and she was going to do everything in her power to make that dream into a reality; even if it meant training and sparring with people almost twice her weight.

For the next 6 months to a year, she would train incredibly hard. Her and a few guys would take to the cage routinely fine tuning their skills. Marciea immersed herself in her training. Like everything before, she strived to be the best. She didn’t find other woman to train with, she found 200+ pound grown men to train with. Not 200+ pound grown men like myself, rather 200+ pound grown men that are in shape and know how to fight. Here’s a petite little thing getting into a cage with huge men and not only knowingly getting punched, thrown, and toughened up, but welcoming it! That may sound completely asinine to you and I, but for her, its Tuesday. It’s a way of life. It’s a portion of her income. Now many people have had aspirations of being a pro fighter. One day lacing up their gloves and shaking hands with Dana White, president of the UFC. How many people get to actually do it? I know of one, Marciea Allen. From an abandoned warehouse in little Watertown, SD to a packed venue in Las Vegas, NV, Marciea Allen would chase her dreams to the height of her profession.

marciea allen

Determination can not be taught. I feel like you have it or you don’t. I’m here to tell you that The Black Widow has it. A TON OF IT!!! Not just happy with winning her fights, she trains to be the best in the country. How does one get noticed in our little Camelot we call Watertown, SD? Simple; fly out to Las Vegas and compete with 150 other woman for a reality TV show with the winner getting a UFC contract!! So imagine standing in a gym with 150 other fighters striving for the same dream you have. UFC president Dana White is well within eyesight and other highly respected members of the UFC community have all eyes on you. Not knowing what is coming next and virtually not knowing a soul there. First thing you do, get in the cage and wrestle or jiu-jitsu an oppent you have no idea who she is. Most fights, Marciea has several weeks or several months to prepare for. Time to study and strategize your opponent. This fight? A few seconds. You have 60 seconds to impress the people who hold your dream in their hands. 60 seconds for the rest of your life if you will. Marciea does enough to impress the powers that be and advances to the next round. Round 2 is stand up techniques or boxing. While others had their own personal trainers with them, Marciea was not privy to this information and does not have her familiar trainer with her. The trainer holding the gloves yells out combinations and she has to hit those combos. While other girls have the familiarity of their trainer and most likely a routine they’ve memorized, Marciea has to rely on her talent and skills. She does enough to make it through that round and now she is in the final phases. She’s outlasted well over 100 woman to get to the final selection of cuts. The interview process is next. After all, this is a realty TV show and personalities bring in high ratings.

Marciea walks into what I can best describe as a board room. A table with 8 people on one side and 8 on the other with Marciea at the head of the table. They start firing off questions to her about everything from her personal life to her fighting. Talk about intimidating! Just imagine that picture. Try putting yourself at that seat and ask yourself how you would react knowing that one wrong answer can make or break your dream. Like most things she does, she exits that room with a smile on her face and has left a great impression. She has now done everything she can do and so it’s time to wait. 6-8 weeks later she gets a phone call from her manager with the news. Imagine waiting 6-8 weeks for the phone to ring with information that can be life changing! When the phone finally rings, the news on the other end is not expected. Due to unforseen circumstances she didn’t make the final cut. Although casting sheets were leaked out with her name on it, she didn’t get a chance to compete. After all that training, all that time, she came up just short. Marciea doesn’t just give up on her dream there though. She does what any good fighter would do, dusts herself off, straps on her gloves, and fights harder! She landed herself in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, NV. A nationally televised fight. The first two rounds are dominated by the Black Widow. She’s fighting someone who has 20 pounds on her and wants to take the fight to the ground. Marciea, knowing this, keeps the fight on her feet and absolutely owns the first 2 rounds. Strike after strike, causing damage and things are going masterfully. With just a minute or so left in the 3rd and final round, our valiant fighter makes a mistake. She gets caught trying to defend herself as her opponent is taking her to the ground. The ref stops the fight (justifiably so in Marciea’s own words) and just like that, the fight is over. That was in June of 2014. Although that was her last fight, it certainly won’t be her last fight. There is no doubt in mind that I’ll be watching her fight in the UFC sometime soon. Afterall, she’s only been fighting for 5 years and she’s only 33 years old. Imagine how good she will be in another year!

For those of us blessed to live in the same community as her, we also know she is a business owner. From her legendary boot camps to her most recent expansion into crossfit. The transition from fighter to trainer seems like a seemless one. Marciea has been in amazing physical shape her entire life. In fact, it was her physique that got her into crossfit to begin with. Out with a few friends at a water park, she’s beckoned over by a few strangers. They compliment her on her amazing shape and ask her what she does for a living. At this time, she was a personal trainer. They invite her over to a gym for a workout. Not knowing what she has gotten herself into, she is staring down roughly 50 people in a 6,000 square foot gym. Quite the change from the 2 blue mats and a punching bag! Of course she’s in her element and it doesn’t take her long to figure out what is going on. Just like that, a business owner and Crossfit trainer are born!! One problem though; she’s got clients in both Sioux Falls and Watertown. The two cities are separated by 100 miles. Knowing that she has commitments to all her clients, she gets up at 4am to be ready for her 5am class. From there, she trains other people or trains herself untill roughly 9:30 pm! That’s a 17.5 hour day. From what I can gather, she is putting other people’s wants, needs, and dreams in front of her own. Although on her resume it reads, fighter, trainer, business owner, it should read selfless, giving, caring, and highly motivated!

Chances are you’ve heard of crossfit. However, if you are like me, you have no idea what crossfit is and how it can help you. I asked several questions of Marciea and below is the best way I can think of to tell you what crossfit is. For starters, it’s a way of life. Its one common goal of a collective group of people wanting to get in better physical shape. Marciea has developed a program based on her many years of being an athlete, and trainer to help exceed any expectations you may have. She offers a program that develops a full body workout that combines everything from cardio, weight lifting, gymnastics, core training, all the way to preparing your body for the unexpected. It’s a high intensity workout that varies from trainer to trainer. The good news is, you will unlikely do the same workout twice in one week so it’s ever changing and evolving. On top of that, most workouts are generally only 45 minutes to an hour-long. A healthier, more fit you can be done before you go to work. You can go during your lunch break. Too busy in the morning with the kids? Not enough time after work? No problem! The Black Widow offers a wide variety of classes to meet any scheduling need. This gets back to her putting everyone else’s wants in needs in front of her own.

So there is a brief background on a very prominent figure in our community. She’s not mean. She’s not intimidating. She’s not going to beat you up in her class. She’s not going to get in your face and scream at you.(Unless your slacking off and you need a good screaming to!) She won’t let you slack off either. That’s whay separates her from other local trainers. She’s not there for just a paycheck! How do I know these things? I have spent time in her gym observing her. I spent plenty of time talking to her clients. Her clients all had the same thing to say about Marciea. She’s a leader and a motivator. 99% of the people I talked to about her all said above everything else, she’s their friend. I guess it’s that old adage that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover or you can’t believe everything you hear. Rumors are rumors and in this small town, they seem to spread like wild-fire. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone, but from my perspective, she’s impressive. In fact, she has about an 85% retention percentage with her clients. Currently she is training roughly 127 people.  That means that after the commitment of their contract is done, 108 will come back. That’s pretty impressive! For those that aren’t returning, she is reaching out asking why. She wants to make time for each individual client and give them the help they need to a happier, healthier life. Who knows; maybe I’ll find my out of shape self in there a few times and see if I can’t be the after picture!


Labled as scary, mean, intimidating, and other not so nice adjectives, Marciea takes to her day flashing that smile. Going about her routine of helping others achieve the personal success they so desperately desire. That doesn’t seem so scary, mean, or intimidating to me. Sure, occasionally she likes to step into an octogon and punch other people in the face, but that doesn’t mean shes’ going to deliver one of those knock out shots to you! For the tens of people who may or may not read this, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Black Widow isn’t so scary. She’s just an average girl who moved to SD, got 2 college degrees, traveled the country, then the world, saw a fight and liked it, opened her own business, and occasionally likes to punch people in the face. How is that so different from you and I?

The name Black Widow was originally thought up by Marciea and a training partner of hers. Actually, that training partner was the very same fighter she watched fight and gave her the want to fight on her own. The term Black Widow is as follows: “Black widow spiders are arachnids that are known for the females’ unique appearance and tendency to eat their mates. They are considered the most venomous spiders in North America;” I think this is fairly accurate of our friend Marciea. The black widow’s bite also feels like a pinprick according to those that have been bitten. Pain begins within a few minutes and spreads rapidly to other parts of the body. According to Dr.’s, the effects of a bite can include nausea, profuse sweating, severe pain in the abdomen and back, muscle aches, and may cause difficulty in breathing. Furthermore, the pain may last 8 to 12 hours and other symptoms may last for several days after. While you may feel all of the above in a workout with Marciea, the only remedy is to come back for some more. Come back for some more muscle aches and sweating and over time, those muscle aches will turn into a toner, healthier you. You see, Marciea’s bite is not lethal at all. So whether you are training in her gym or fighting in her octagon, you may feel that pain running rapidly throughout your body. The only difference is, one you will not like, and the other? Well, the other will give you the gratification of a healthier, happier you that we all long for. Who better to give you that than the Black Widow herself?!.

By Sam Mooney

I’m Pregnant!!

“I’m pregnant” It’s got to be two of the hardest words for any woman to speak. Honestly, think about it. One second the man is doing his business, going about his day, and then BOOM! your entire life has changed! Now obviously I understand that moms life has changed as well. I can’t speak on behalf of moms beings that I’m not one. I’ve had the pleasure of having 4 beautiful children of my own. Thus, I have 4 pregnancy stories of my own along with 4 birth stories. My experience I’m guessing is much different than yours or what you may see in movies.

My bride and I married young. I was 19 and she was freshly turned 21. A beautiful woman with movie star good looks and the prettiest golden blonde hair you’ve ever seen. She was way out of my league. Needless to say we were kids. 14+ years later we are still together and she’s still as beautiful the day I married her. So while you read these awful things that I’ve done, keep in mind 2 things please. 1- my bride is an angel on earth. 2- I’m a much different person today, than I was then. The date was July 22nd 2000. I just married my best friend. After the wedding dance, we stood on top of the steps and I proclaimed “we are going to go home and practice making babies!!” Of course, I wasn’t sober and although it may seem funny now, it’s definitely something I wouldn’t say today. Little did we know, my bride was already expecting. I can’t remember the exact timeline, but I want to say it was about a month later, I got the news. This is where I’m guessing my story alters from yours a little.

I got home from work on a Friday night. I was getting out of the shower headed to the ball fields for a couple softball games. I had put my beer down as I was stepping out of the shower (yes, at that time I was drinking in the shower) and my bride, I’m sure scared out of her mind, hands me a positive pregnancy test and says those magic words; “I’m pregnant” Now I gotta believe that every little girl grows up and dreams of this moment. Her knight and shining armor lunges into her arms with the hugs of all hugs. Tears of joy are pouring down both their faces as they spend the evening going over names, color schemes, and picking out cribs. Our story? Well, not quite that great. I was a 19, maybe 20 year old alcoholic (at the time I didn’t know it) I took the pregnancy test out of her hands, threw it in the garbage and said “You know what this is? This is garbage and that’s where garbage belongs!” Not quite the moment she dreamt of her entire life. I think there was some sarcastic comment about her buying it at a rummage sale as well. As my new bride is in tears I continued yelling. I even went as far as calling her selfish. I ranted on and on asking her how could she possibly tell me this while I was getting ready for a softball game. It’s hard for me to talk about this, let alone write it. I mean what kind of monster was I? Instead of trying to make an awful situation better, in Sam’s true fashion, I drank and made it worse.

Lets fast forward 9 months to the day she goes into labor and gives birth to our 1st born. My role as the father is supposed to be that of comforting, encouraging, I’m supposed to be positive and show love and support. I’m sure I showed flashes of that but for the most part, I was that monster again. I didn’t allow any family in to celebrate this moment with us. Each of them were forced outside the room and wait. Now some still believe that is the way to go and that’s ok. My reasoning at the time was “You weren’t there when he was conceived, so you won’t be there when he’s born!” I’m sure most of our family didn’t have a problem with not being in the room but the way I conveyed my feelings was undoubtedly rude and most likely arrogant. Baby is born and both mother and son are healthy. Your first born is suppose to be a special experience. One full of sublime thoughts and memories that you’ll never forget. Me? I did do the “right” thing and hang out in the hospital for the short stint we were there. I spent the 1st night at home and from there, well, let’s say I wasn’t nominated for father of the year. Parties, bars, beers, bowling, and more beers. Problem is this was probably the best birth story I have. Yup, that’s right, the best….

Two years and two months later, my second child is born; this time in Butte, MT. This go around, she calls me at work to tell me. I remember thinking “Why the hell would she call me at work to tell me she’s pregnant?!!?!?!?” Years later, sober and clear of mind, why would she want to tell me face to face? Lord knows I wouldn’t! After the reaction I gave her the 1st time, I don’t blame her even a little. What do I do after finding out that I’m going to be a father for the 2nd time? You guessed it! Go to the bar and get hammered!! It’s time to celebrate!! I can’t imagine what I was thinking at that time. I mean, who says “Hey! Guess what? I’m going to be a dad!! Let’s go to the bar and get loaded?!?!?” It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Yet, I did it time and time again. After a night of what seemed to be endless amounts of booze and beer, I finally go home to be with my bride. At this point, I’m home but does it matter? I’ve been passed out all day and the second I wake up, time to drink. If you’re waiting for my acceptance speech for my father of the year award, it’s not coming any time soon. I was sick and everyone knew it but me.

Birthday: From Watertown, SD to Butte, MT. This time it was my bride, my oldest, and of course; yours truly. The night before I kept her up till roughly 4am with my drunken antics. I remember sitting at home in a recliner pounding can after can and playing video games. Looking back at that, maybe holding her hand through contractions would have been better. Maybe I couldn’t traded that cold can for a warm cloth on her head. The monster inside me saw things a little different. As I’m working on my 12oz curls, my bride and 2 year old are laying in bed working through contractions. That’s right, my 2 year old was a better man than I was. How many of you out there can honestly say that your child is more responsible and mature than you? I would hope not a lot. I have the “honor” of holding that distinct privilege. Worst part is, this wouldn’t be the last time my oldest would help my bride through contractions. Time to push and a baby is born. Beings I’m in MT, I don’t know a whole lot of people so I stay in the hospital. As soon as we get home though, drinks. Need help with that 2 year old and new born? Don’t bother me cuz I’m going to play video games and get drunk. Tired after taking care of two kids by yourself all day? Leave me alone because now I have friends and we are going to the bar. Been a long day of changing diapers and cleaning up puke? Sounds like a perfect time to have 20 people at our house that you don’t know while we all get drunk. You think that’s the knight in shining armor my bride dreamt about when she was a little girl?

My 3rd child was born in July of 2005. As bad as this sounds, I don’t even remember how my bride told me she was pregnant. I was in a really dark, painful place at that time. My alcoholism had completely engrossed me at this time. I remember my first daughter being born but the moments after have since been lost. I can’t tell you where I was, who I was with, or what I was doing. I can tell you who I wasn’t with, what I should’ve been doing, and where I should’ve been. I should’ve been with my family, in our home, and should’ve been a dad. The one thing that stands out to me about my 1st daughters birth is my incredible knack for being selfish and ruining things. My daughter was born on July 21st. My father in law also was born on July 21st. When we went to the Dr. that day, he gave my bride the choice of being enduced, or to wait it out. Naturally, my bride said she wanted that beautiful baby girl out. At this time, I disliked my father in law very much. It made me sick that my daughter would share a birthday with this man. I pleaded with my bride to wait just one more day. Our anniversary is the next day and I said what better way to celebrate than the birth of our daughter. Of course I didn’t take into consideration that my bride was 9 months pregnant in the middle of the summer. That she was incredibly uncomfortable. Nope, I was just concerned with what Sam wanted. I’m not even sure my father in law knows that or not. Years later, he and I are thick as thieves and I love that man. Why did I dislike him so much? He was helping raise my kids and stepped up when I checked out. I had no reason to not like him. He was a better father to my children than I was. He took care of my kids when I was getting drunk. Him, his wife, my children, and my wife were the happy family. Me? I was drunk somewhere blaming my problems on everyone but me. After what my in laws have done to help both me and my family, I have no way of repaying that debt. My father in law eventually taught me how to be a man and my mother in law taught me how to love. Two pretty amazing traits if you ask me.

For whatever reason, my bride never divorced me. She left me multiple times, kicked me out, and early in our marriage, filed for divorce and I was served with papers. No one would have blamed her for leaving me, why would they? In fact, all her family, my family, and my close friends all told her to leave me. Audrey stuck with me though. She sat next to me while I threw up, while I went on 3 day binges, while I polished off a case a beer a night, while I started drinking at 7:30am, and while I made her life a living hell. Today I’m just a few short months away from being 5 years sober. I’ve asked her several times in several different ways “Why did you stay?” Her response was/is always the same; “I’ve always loved you” She is proof that angels walk the earth.

I’ve been blessed with 4 children. I have no idea how I was told of the 4th pregnancy. I do remember her birth story though. I remember it vividly although I was absolutely drunk that night. While I was working that night, my bride told me she thought the baby would come that night. She recommended that I get off work and come straight home. Instead, I went to the bar and got drunk. While I’m drinking beers, my 6 year old son is helping my bride through contractions. He’s telling her to breathe through them and holds her hand while she’s in pain. He calls me and tells me I should come home and get mom. About an hour and a half later, I show up. Thank God we lived closed to the hospital because I shouldn’t have been driving. I somehow managed to get us there in one piece. We get her checked in and settled. I drink a few cups of coffee trying to sober up. Realizing the condition I’m in, my bride makes excuses for me. Saying things like, “He’s been super busy and he’s just really tired.” Meanwhile, I’ve passed out on the couch and letting things go that, let’s just say don’t smell the best. I’m snoring, letting gas go, and grinding my teeth while my bride is having our child. I manage to get coherent before our daughter is born. I see her come out, sign the birth certificate, give her name, and back to “sleep”. Awesome husband, huh?

Check out date arrives and it’s time for mom and baby to go home. This is supposed to be that special time that’s thrusted into our memories forever. We do have a memory that’s thrusted into our minds forever, but it’s not so special. The night before they were released from the hospital, I managed to get black out drunk. I remember roughly 5 or 6 people at my place (my 3 other children were with my in-laws) and next thing I know, I wake up on the other side of town at a buddies house. Drunk, confused, and embarrassed, I somehow manage to get home. My bride and newborn daughter got a ride home from the hospital. My family scoured the city looking for my lifeless body in a ditch. When my bride got home, she was greeted with beer cans, cigarette butts, and disappointment. Happily ever after.

4 kids, 0 birth announcements. 4 kids, 0 special memories. 4 kids, 4 acts of a complete monster. There are pictures of us with me drunk or hungover. I’ve been asked if she did to me what I did to her if I would leave her. My answer without hesitation is yes. Why would anyone stay with such a horrific person? I can’t even consider myself a man at that point in my life. Monster is the best word I can think of. As I lay in bed writing this, my bride is to my left, my oldest is in the recliner, my youngest son is at the foot of our bed, and my gorgeous daughters are in their respective rooms sleeping. With the help of some special people, my in laws, my children, and of course my bride, I’ve killed that monster. God willing, April 25th will be 5 years sober for me. I understand that no amount of time being sober will ever make up for those horrific events. My 3 younger kids have forgiven me for my antics. My oldest took a little longer but he to, has indeed forgiven me. My walking angel, of course she’s forgiven me as well. My mother in law tells me on almost a daily basis she loves me. We’ve talked and I’ve apologized and she’s been more than forgiving. My father in law is my best friend outside my bride and children. He has also forgiven me. Family and friends have all forgiven me and told me how proud they are of me. When do I forgive myself? I’m not sure I can.

I see happy people sharing pictures of their babies often. I see it in movies, on TV shows, and with friends. Creative ways of announcing their births with amazing pictures and love. Of course I’m happy for them all but deep down, it saddens me. I wish I could’ve given my bride that. I wish I could’ve been that man she dreamt of when she was a little girl. I wish the birth of our children wasn’t littered with my alcoholism. Although I can’t take back everything I’ve done, I can become the man that my bride dreamt about. I can become the father my boys look up to and the father my girls feel safe around. I also hope to forgive myself one day. For now, I will spend my days enjoying what I have knowing I’m blessed with everything I have; even if it’s a little different than what everyone else has. 14+ years of marriage, 4 children, 4 different birth stories, and 4+ years of sobriety = a happy man and a happy family. Although we haven’t done things the conventional way, the end result is the best. A healthy, loving family of 6 that all love each other despite our faults; no matter how BIG or small they may be.

What’s for supper?

I’ve had the privilege of eating my brides cooking for over 15 years. We started dating in our teens so her early “cooking” was maybe a bowl, box, and a carton of milk. I always loved that cereal though. I think the reason I liked it so much is that a woman other than my mother, cared enough about me to feed something. I believe the saying is “The best way to a mans heart is through his stomach.” After almost 15 years of marriage, let’s just say my bride has found her way to my heart…. Through my stomach. So, what’s for dinner?

We have staples or go-to’s in our house. Let’s 1st discuss her chili. For starters, she makes it in what appears to be the largest pot in the world! I can’t really comment on her preparation or how long it takes to prepare this feast but I can comment on my preparation and how long it takes me to eat it. For starters, she generally let’s me know the night before that we are having chili the next day. So my prep starts that night. I usually start with a light meal as I know the next day will be uncomfortable. Let’s fast forward to sit down time. I start off with a light t-shirt and sweat pants. Well, if I’m being honest, sometimes I’m forced to eat it without a shirt on! I sometimes think she has bottled the fire from hell and “sprinkles” it on top. So as I belly up to the troff, I have the following tools in front of me. My heaping bowl of deliciousness sprinkled with cheese, 2 cans of soda, an entire package of crackers, a spoon, and of course; my heart burn pill. So one scoop of awesomeness goes onto one cracker and then the cracker into my gullet. Surprisingly enough, she generally has a perfect chili to cracker ratio. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. Now when that bowl is empty and my stomach is full, I’ve officially over done myself. I usually follow this up by laying on the couch with a smile on my face, couple rolled up napkins by my side, and a smile on my face. The tears are dried up and the liquids have all but stopped running down my nose.

Tacos: My bride cooks the shells so they are crisp. She takes her beautiful hands and crushes those shells up in a perfect way. From there, she puts on hot, spicy hamburger with a pound of shredded cheese, black olives, and sometimes she surprises me with onions. My prep for this is similar to the chili. My plate, some soda, a fork, and of course; my heart burn pill. After 5 or 6 taco shells and all the toppings, I’m pretty much done. The outcome is about the same, couple empty cans of soda, and a few rolled up napkins. Finally, a smile on my face.

Super Nachos: Now these amazing beauties are generally saved for special occasions. Things like opening day of football, a big Eagles game, or a birthday. They consist of a layer of chips, taco meat, jalapeño nacho cheese, shredded cheese, black olives, onions, lettuce, and onions. This plate may be stacked a foot high and could be the nectar of the gods. I mean this is the most amazing thing ever! The sheer utter of pain afterwards is pretty indescribable though. I think the best way to describe it is liking having the flu while being hungover. It’s so worth it though. Now beings that these are generally saved for special occasions, no time to lay down and bask in all it’s glory. I usually sit and try to enjoy what just happened.

Enchiladas: In this household they are known as “la la’s”. They are stuffed to the max and you guessed it, the outcome is the same. Now I know how all this may sound, my bride is stuffing non-healthy foods down my throat. That’s not the case. On top of all these delicious meals, she does mix in some fruits and veggies. My bride likes to make sure that we are all fed and she does it with a smile on her face. I’d be lying if I said she likes to cook for 6, and sometimes more, all the time but she’s pretty much a champ and I’m thankful for that.

My bride puts in 40+ hours a week, takes care of 4 children, takes care of a 34 year old child, a cat, a dog, and herself. She’s pretty amazing in what she does. I make sure to thank her. From time to time she will experiment with something new and I have the luxury of telling her if it’s good or not. I don’t handle this question like you may think. This isn’t “Do I look fat in this?” or “which outfit do you like better?” I answer the question of “What do you think?” as honestly as I can. You see, if she makes something less than good and I tell her it’s good, when it’s not, she’ll make it again and I’ll have to eat it again. I’m very polite when I tell her it’s not that great as to not hurt her feelings. After all, I love this woman!! She does more than cook for this family so the least I can do is be polite to my bride.

So, what’s my favorite food on the menu? I think the best way to answer that is to be 100% honest. The best thing on the menu is whatever my bride made for supper that night.

A night in the life of Watertown’s finest

Recently police officers across the country have been in the spotlight. From MO, to UT, and yes even in our own community. Law enforcement around the country are constantly scrutinized for everything they do. Generally you only hear about the PD when a big bust happens or something terrible happens. Generally speaking, awful things and major drug busts don’t happen every day. So what does our local law enforcement do on a daily basis? More importantly, what is a night like in the life of a Watertown Police Officer?

I grew up in Watertown. I’ve spent a majority of my life in this town. It’s been home for well over 25 years. Let’s just say that I haven’t always been the model citizen throughout my early days and have had my fair share of “encounters” with Watertown’s finest. I’ve never had an issue with police officers. If I’m speeding and get a ticket, that’s my fault. One time I was carrying a bottle of beer from one bar to the other, and was given an open container ticket. At the time, I wasn’t happy about it at all. Now, almost 5 years sober, I understand it. If it’s against the law, chances are, you’re going to get a ticket. It just makes sense. I got a speeding ticket this summer on the way to Pierre. The officer gave me my $125 ticket and I thanked him. I was always told when dealing with law enforcement, “Yes sir, no sir; yes mam, no mam” goes a long way. Basically being polite and using your manners can help you.

Wednesday, November 26th I spent roughly 9 hours with our local PD. Let me tell you what, that was an eye opening experience for sure. I’ve always had respect for police officers. The way I see it, they’ve garnered my respect by protecting and serving the community I call home. Without them, we would live in a world of Thunder Dome. Minor things like patrolling the bars to make sure no fights break out and everyone is safe goes a long way. A police officers presence gives that feeling of safety and reassurance. The access I was given I thought was pretty amazing. I started the night with a debriefing. There were roughly half a dozen officers in the room as the Sergeant went over the announcements. The announcements were nothing out of the ordinary. Need presence at the mall, this person has a warrant for this and that, and as always, be safe. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me. That is until I had one on one time with the officer I was with. I’d love to credit this individual for his heroics and the amazing work that he, and all the officers put in, however I think it’s best if his name is left out.

After the debriefing we talked for sometime just the 2 of us. He showed me a drug called K-2. Apparently this drug is a synthetic type of marijuana. It’s a cactus plant sprayed with chemicals. The odor of it was powerful. When I smelled it, I felt like it shot down my chest and settled in my lungs in a matter of seconds. I know afterwards my chest hurt a little so I can’t imagine actually smoking it and inhaling it. I took several things out of that conversation that just the 2 of us had and many things stand out to me. More than the others, his intelligence of all drugs was astounding to me. He knew and could spout out, what seemed to me, absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about any kind of drug. This is a man who is incredibly knowledgeable. This isn’t just the stereo type. You know the one; guy gets picked on in school and decides to be a cop so he can “stick” it to all the people who did him wrong in school. This is an officer who cares deeply about his community. An officer that cares so much that he puts you and I above his own wants and needs. Who wants to work weekends from 6pm to 6am? Certainly not this guy! That’s exactly what plenty of our officers do though. The officer that I was with, was impressive. He was knowledgeable, passionate, confident, brave, and heroic. I’d go as far to say that he is a role model.

I will refer to the gentleman I was with as “my officer” to make things easier. I asked my officer exactly how he wound up in the position that he’s in. The answer he gave me stunned me to say the least. His dad wasn’t an officer, nor was his brother or uncle. So the stereo typical answer of “its in my blood” doesn’t play here. You see, my officer isn’t your normal officer. He went to school to be a mortician. After doing an internship and being witness to things that no one should ever have to see, he decided that wasn’t for him. He was a sophomore in college, and like many, had no idea what he wanted to be. During one of his generic classes, the professor thought it would be a good idea to spend some time with various employers throughout the community. This was completely random and my officer drew a ride along with the PD. He HATED this idea! In fact, he told his professor that he wasn’t going to do it. Given the ultimatum of doing it, or failing, he went along and did it. As my officer and his “partner” were riding along, they get a call for a domestic violence dispute. As all the badged ones were inside, my officer notices someone crawling out of the window. As this is happening, something clicked inside him telling him that he couldn’t just sit on his hands and watch. So as the criminal takes off down the street, my officer; a civilian at the time with zero training, does his best Carl Lewis impersonation and hauls off down the street after him. Once he makes the tackle and the “real” officer cuffs the perp, a high five is shared and an officer was born. You see, it was in his blood the entire time to be an officer, he just didn’t know it.

After sharing pleasantries and my officer blowing my doors open with his vast knowledge of all things illegal, we were off to hit the streets. After cruising around seeing what we were seeing, we got a phone call for a domestic disturbance. (When I say we, I actually mean him) This was the first time I’ve ever seen anyone high on meth before. I hope to never see that again. Although in the company of several officers and a couple of jailers, this was the only time I felt scared. To be clear, I wasn’t scared for my safety as I knew I was in good hands, I was scared for this man’s well being. Not having ever done meth, I don’t know the feeling that it gives someone. I do know the looks it gives someone and its terrifying. For example; my officer showed me a picture of a rather attractive young lady that moved here from down south. The picture was taken roughly a year ago. The next picture he showed me was of her most recent arrest. It’s flat out scary the transformation that was made. A while back those images were being shown on TV. I remember sitting with my bride thinking “Really? How can one drug do that? I’ve got to believe that there is make-up involved” I couldn’t be more wrong. Meth is damn scary and I urge all parents to have a serious, serious conversation with their children about the dangers of not only meth, but all drugs. If you by any chance are currently using, contact the local PD and get yourself the help you need.

Our local PD does everything they can to help us. I take issue with people saying “I hate cops” or using the slang, derogatory terms that we all know. I’d be foolish if I thought that all officers of the law were as honest and amazing as the officer I was with that night. That being said, for every one “bad” officer, I truly believe that there is 100 good ones. The police aren’t here to “eat donughts” and “harass” you and I. They are here to serve and protect. They are here to make sure your child is safe at school. To make sure that Danny Drunk is off the streets after he’s had too many cocktails. It’s really appalling that people would speak of law enforcement in any negative tone. Example; Danny Drunk (Danny Drunk is a fictitious name given by me to describe someone who is drinking and driving) is out at his local watering hole pounding back alcoholic beverages. It’s been a fairly productive night for Danny as he out celebrating with friends and co-workers the promotion he got. So as Danny is leaving, his friends say “Hey! Danny, you shouldn’t drive!” Danny Drunk replies “I’m good! I actually drive better when I’m drunk! Ha ha ha” So Danny is doing a little swerving from lane to lane and Officer Nice Guy pulls him over. From here Danny explains that he’s good to go and was out just celebrating a little and it’s not a big deal. Office Nice Guy sympathizes with him and tells him to “Go right home!” and Danny Drunk is on his merry way. Danny reaches for his phone about half a mile down the road to call his buddies and brag about getting away with a DWI. He takes his eyes off the road for a brief second and blasts into your young child who was going to get his ball out of the street. Are you impressed that Officer Nice Guy let Danny Drunk go? I wouldn’t think so. Zero tolerance for drinking and driving is a staple in our community. I would think in this scenario that even Danny Drunk would’ve been happier with the DWI as opposed to life in prison for killing a child. Point is, our PD is here to serve and protect, not to linger and harass.

So while you may not think that there is a seedy under belly to our little Camelot that we call home, there is some scary things out there. Our local PD does such a good job of protecting us, you don’t hear a lot about the on goings of what they’re doing. They are doing research, looking into this or that, watching this place or that person, going to trainings, and from what I can gather, learning. Learning and learning and learning some more. The vast knowledge is incredibly impressive. The officer I was with spoke of his “job” as passionate as an NFL QB speaks to his team before a game. I feel like it’s more than a “job” to him. It’s almost like a hobby that he gets paid for which I think is pretty cool. He honestly loves putting on his uniform every day. He has a bunch of patches on it so I’m assuming he’s pretty good at it as well!

I spent roughly 9 hours with my officer and I can tell you about seeing meth, K-2, and marijuana. I could tell you about going 65 mph down Kemp ave because a drunk driver wouldn’t stop. I’m sure those memories will stay with me for sometime but they won’t be the memories that last with me forever. For me, the sense of pride will stick with me. The officer I was with oozed pride. He was dripping with confidence and had such a demeanor about him. Each person he interacted with was treated as not a law beaker but as a person that needed his help in some way. Never rude or unruling, rather calm and collected regardless the situation. How can you not respect a person like that? Someone far smarter than me said something along the lines of 1 bad apple ruins it for the whole batch. I’m not sure how many apples are in a batch or if even there is such a thing of a batch of apples. That being said I think you get what I mean. I don’t like that though. Each man and woman that puts on a badge on a daily basis shouldn’t be lumped in with one incident that you may feel was right or wrong. Each day/night hard working officers across the country put on a uniform and have no idea what they are getting into when they hit the streets. They don’t know who or what they are going to run into.

I feel like every law abiding citizen would agree with me that police officers are a good thing. For those that are out there committing crimes on a fairly consistent basis, I’m sure they would disagree. But if you keep getting arrested for either the same thing or even something different, maybe you should consider stop breaking the law. It reminds me of the little kid standing next to the stove while mom and dad are cooking. Mom leaves the stove and tells little Johnny “Don’t touch the stove honey, its hot” Well, as soon as moms gone little Johnny touches the stove and sure enough, burns his little hand. Difference is that little Johnny probably isn’t going to touch the stove again while we have people getting arrested multiple times. If a 4 year old little kid can learn their lesson,why can’t criminals?

I really have nothing profound or super intelligent to share about my night with our finest. Nothing to bring to light that you haven’t known before. For the tens of people that read this, I’m sure you won’t quit your job and go to school to be an officer of the law. I guess I just want people to know that officers are good people and should be treated as such. Watertown can rest easy at night knowing that our finest are patrolling our streets and keeping us safe. As far as my officer goes? Man, what an impact he’s made on me. One of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. It’ nice knowing that there are people like him keeping people like you and me safe. Rest easy Watertown, we’ve got great people wearing a badge!

Finally, I’d like to thank all officers across the country for doing what you do. Without your selflessness, Thunder Dome would run rampant. Not everyone has the courage to do what you do day in and day out. Take pride putting on your uniform daily and know there are far more great officers as opposed to not so great. Thank you for protecting and serving our communities across the country. For those officers in Watertown, I especially thank you for everything you do. Although you’re not recognized for your heroics on a daily basis, you should be. Thank you WPD for keeping our Camelot safe. 20141220-142957-52197596.jpg

Cancer, Tacos, and Community!

Right now at this time, I’m 34 years old. I’m a married man and a father of 4. My oldest is 13 and my youngest is 7. I like to think that with the four of them and my bride, who is 29 (side note; she’s been 29 for more than a few years) that the 5 of them keep me “hip”. In April of 2013, my bride convinced me to get the Facebook. It wasn’t until recently I learned just how powerful this tool is.

When I first signed up I would scroll through occasionally while I was bored. From time to time I’d update my status with some football fact or a happy birthday shoutout. Shortly after I opened the Facebook, I celebrated my 3 year anniversary of being sober from alcohol. I was flooded with “likes” and well wishes on my status. It was very overwhelming. From there I wrote a piece regarding my families experience with the Philadelphia Eagles. That reached over a thousand shares as well as several tears from me and my family. My third act would be a challenge to my hometown. That response humbled me to my very core as it set up a night in GPL gym that will forever be thrusted into my memory.

Tonight I write to the tens of people that may, or may not read,this and I’ll tell a tale of friendship, cancer, and a community backing the fight of 2 brave people. I’ll start this off by apologizing for name dropping as I rarely do that in anything I post. These strong people deserve to be recognized if only by the few people that will actually read this.

I first met Maggie Einrem at an NFL draft party at my apartment several years ago. She walked in unannounced and made herself at home. I remember very vividly turning to my friend and saying “who the *%?!#% is that?!?!” Turns out she just started dating a very good friend of mine. Maggie and the rest of the girls hit it off right away and we would all establish a friendship that would see some hard times to stay the least. Today, several years later, Maggie is fighting the fight of her life as she battles breast cancer.

I was 13 years old when I met the best man in my wedding, Tim Brown. Tim and I were thick as thieves through a majority of our school years. Seemed like every weekend he’d stay the night at my house and we spent our nights playing video games, staying up all night, laughing, and irritating the heck out of my parents. Many times my dad would yell from the basement “Boys!! I’m trying to sleep!!” Tim and I would just look at each other and just laugh harder! I set his leg on fire one night and he beat me up with a spoon! We were just a couple of kids enjoying life without a care in the world.

Through mutual friends, Tim and I would meet a pretty young blonde name Tori Gaukel. Tori would later marry and be known as Tori Simon. I was a shy 14 year old teenager and felt awkward being around such a pretty girl. Later as I grew up and got closer to Tori, I would find out how truly amazing she is. Tori was also diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. She, like many others, opted to not stand idly by as cancer attacked. Tori went on a attack of her own and started Codington County Cares or CCC. Through this organization she would help so many people who, like her, want to fight and find a cure. Today, she is a staple in our community leading the charge against all sorts of illness with “Tori’s Army” firmly behind her.

Prior to today, the only thing that I know that these three people have in common is I destroyed our friendship through my alcoholism. Through my own selfishness I would lose touch with all three of them. Maggie would lose touch with my bride due to my antics. I pushed both Maggie and her boyfriend away with my own selfishness. Like many others both Tim and Tori grew tired of my ways and eventually we lost touch. Since I’ve gotten sober, I’ve slowly started building these relationships back up. What happened today proved to me that true friendships will stand even the worst things if you truly love someone. I can proudly say I love all three of these people.

To my knowledge Tim doesn’t know Maggie (yet). Out of no where I called Tim and shared Maggie’s story against cancer. I asked him if he’d be interested in hosting a benefit for Maggie. Tim is the proud manager at our local Taco Johns. He’s been there for years and has several awards for his hard work with that restaurant. Tim didn’t hesitate to say “Yes! I’d be more than happy to help!” So on November 12th, Tim and his company are donating 50% of the proceeds at Taco Johns to Maggie. From 4-9, you can accomplish a few different things. You can have some amazing food, help Maggie and her fight against cancer, and shake the hand of one of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling my friend.

After Tim does this selfless act, he simply starts a Facebook status and shares Maggie’s story. He “tags” our good friend Tori in it. As far as I know, they haven’t had any discussion about Maggie and her fight. Tori responds by saying she is working on something as well. Tori responds shortly later with “Codington County Cares will match the proceeds up to $1,500!” Can you imagine donating that kind of money?!? Why does she do it? She does it because she knows what Maggie is going through. She does it because she has a soft heart. She does it because she’s been a mom her whole life and she is always taking care of people. She does it because she’s a walking angel on earth! I was literally brought to tears as I headed back to my desk after finding this out.

I had the pleasure of calling Maggie and giving her the good news. Now for those of us that know Maggie, she’s never one to not speak her mind. For a few long seconds, silence rang loudly in my ear. Maggie thanked me for my very small part and I disconnected the phone with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. So today I feel like I came full circle. I feel like I rekindled three friendships that I had feared were dead forever. These 3 people are not your average everyday people. They are hardworking solders of God that will stop at nothing to better our community and the people in it. They are also my friends.

Cancer is scary. Maggie has a boyfriend of many years that she loves dearly and he her. She is a daughter, and a mother of two. I talked to her almost daily and she never complains. She came over to my house to pick up her daughter as my beautiful bride watches her for a couple hours after school. Maggie had to shave her head due to the chemo. She popped off her hat with a smile on her face with the fight of a prize fighter in her eyes. Maggie needs a belt. Champions wear belts and she’s a champion. She goes through her everyday battle with courage that very few of us know. That being said, she, or anyone else for that matter, can not fight cancer alone. She needs our help.

On Wednesday, November 12th, I invite you to the Watertown Taco Johns from 4-9pm. As much as I love my friend Tori, I’d love nothing more for her and her amazing organization to pony up that $1,500 and I know she would to. That can’t happen without you. I want my best mans hand to be swollen and have finger marks on it from shaking so many hands. Tim is not a small dude, I know he can shake that many hands! That can’t happen without you. I want Maggie to know that the community she lives in, has her back and supports her unconditionally. That can’t happen without you. I’ll be there doing my best to keep tables clean, floors walkable, and traffic flowing. Nothing would make me happier than to go home with a sore back and feet. My bride will be next to me making sure I don’t screw up. That can’t happen without you!

I can’t think of a single thing better to do on a Wednesday night than battle cancer, have a taco, or two, and hang out with our community as we all fight the good fight; can you?