About mikenuckols

Author of NuckolBall.

The Not Cancer Post

(See video at the end)

It was a Saturday afternoon. I was in the living room teaching myself Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen on the guitar. Alex came down.

“Dad. I have this lump.” Then he turned and showed me the back of his right thigh.

“Woah.”

A fist-sized blob of flesh was pushing out against his skin. I felt it; it was squishy and moved up and down if I pressed it.

“How long have you had that?”

“A while. At least a month.”

“Ok.”

He told me later that when he saw my reaction he got worried. He expected Shani to be nervous, but he expected me to blow it off. 

I called Shani down, did some googling, forbade Shani from googling, and then took him to PM Pediatrics. Not so much because I thought it was urgent, but because we were going to worry about it until we saw a doctor.

That doctor wasn’t much help. She said we needed to see our regular pediatrician and get a referral for an ultrasound. And she seemed alarmed. Doctors usually have good poker faces, but I felt her emotions rise when she laid eyes on that lump.

Things went pretty quick from there. Pediatrician Monday. Referred for ultrasound Tuesday. Referred for MRI Wednesday morning. And each step brought another level of fear into the whole thing. Our pediatrician told us she would call as soon as she got the radiologist report from the MRI. She told us to expect it Thursday.

But that Wednesday afternoon, I was on the back porch leading a conference call. Shani popped her head out.

“Come on,” she said, phone to her ear and waving me inside.

“I have to go,” I announced abruptly and closed the laptop.

It was the pediatrician. We sat at the kitchen table; Shani put it on speaker.

I knew from her tone.

I honestly don’t remember what she said, although my heart is racing now just writing about it. I wrote some words down on a piece of paper. Here, check it out.

But whatever words she spoke, what they meant was clear. Alex had cancer.

We hung up the phone just as Alex walked into the kitchen. We told him. I went upstairs and told Jack. And soon we were all upstairs in our beds. Jack was under the covers, stunned. Alex was in his room texting friends. Shani and I sat on our bed and stared at each other. We rotated some. I’d go sit with Jack. Shani would lay with Alex for a while. The only levity was that occasionally the puppy would bound in and demand attention, joyfully oblivious to the situation.

I went downstairs and called my brother. The call went like this…

CHRIS

Hello?

MIKE

[Insert 60 seconds of gasping and trying to speak before he finally gets the words out.]

Alex has cancer.

[Insert two full minutes of uncontrolled sobbing.]

Chris said all the right things; he was wonderful as my brother always is. He asked me a bunch of questions, none of which I knew answers to. When we hung up, I decided I wasn’t up for making any more phone calls. He promptly overnighted Alex a care package of bacon and candy.

That evening, Shani’s friend, who is a pediatrician, came over and read through the radiologist report for us and answered our questions.

And I’m fairly sure that night was the worst night of my life.

The next day Alex and Shani went to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). Our pediatrician had gotten us in to see Dr. Kristy Webber, one of the world’s leading experts on sarcomas. They conferenced me in as well as our friend, Heather. We recorded the conversation and Heather took notes.

Dr. Webber was pretty amazing. She was competent and direct. She spoke in plain language. She listened. She addressed Alex directly.

She told us that the MRI was not conclusive. It could be cancer; it could be something else. She wanted a biopsy and then we would move forward quickly. In the meantime, Alex should exercise and go about his normal life.

So we kinda did that. I told my family after that (through email). We told our jobs. Then a few days later, Shani took Alex in for a biopsy. They laid him on his belly, numbed the area, and then pulled out chunks of the tumor using a giant syringe.

Then more waiting. (I think cancer is mostly about waiting.) Shani and I barely left the house. If we did, we made detailed plans for conferencing each other in if Dr. Webber called with results. We went about our days in a tense fog.

The call was quick. Shani was in the car when it came and it was too fast to conference me in. She called me right after; I was in the car with Alex.

“Dr. Webber said that she wants to run one more test, but from what she sees so far, she is ‘cautiously optimistic‘.”

I felt muscles in my neck and back letting go. I had no idea they were even clenched, but suddenly I was deflating deliciously like a punctured parade float.

“Alex, if you don’t have cancer….Fuuuuuuuucccccck.”

Dr. Webber said she’d get back to us the following Monday or even Tuesday. And I can promise you that during that time, no words have ever been analyzed more exhaustively Tham we analyzed the phrase ‘cautiously optimistic.’

It was actually Thursday when she finally called.

It was not cancer.

Alex has what is called a “Desmoid Tumor.” It is not cancer; it does not spread. And unless it is painful or growing, they don’t do anything. They just leave it. Alex had to have another scan in 3-6 months, but otherwise that was it.

So, funny thing. Alex and I have a list of hikes and backpacking trips in National Parks all over the country. Our plan is to work our way through the list over the years. (You better stay in shape, Dad!) And on our list is to go canoe-camping in Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

We’d planned to go last spring, but we had to cancel due to the pandemic. We’d rescheduled for this April and even put a deposit down on a canoe rental. But the lump screwed all that up. We figured there was no way we could still go. Even if it wasn’t cancer, Alex would still have to have surgery to remove the lump. We’d written off Congaree once again.

But about 5 minutes after we got off the phone hearing the news about the Desmoid Tumor, it hit me. I rushed up the stairs and into Alex’s room.

“Alex! We can still do Congaree!”

And a happy dance followed.

So last Friday we mounted up and drove south. The drive was nine hours. We alternated album choices (Purple Rain, Adele 21, Faith, lots more) and we chattered away about if Jack would get a girlfriend in college, theories about Falcon and Winter Soldier, what it was like living in New York City. We gorged ourselves on luscious blackberries that we had brought. And every time we stopped for gas or to pee on the side of the road, the bright smell of spring got more and more intense.

Our hotel was by a huge mall, so early the next morning I let Alex try driving the car around the massive empty parking lots. At 10:00 we went to get our canoe only to find that the park was flooded (!) which meant canoeing wasn’t possible.

Alex didn’t miss a beat.

“Smoky Mountains National Park is 4 hours away!”

So we shot west as Alex found us a hotel in Tennessee. By 2:30 we were on the trail and did an epic, stunning 13-mile hike that took us well past sundown. He and I are so good at hiking together; it was just terrific.

Sunday morning we gassed up and pointed back north. Alex put on the soundtrack to Hamilton. We cranked it up loud, and we sang out loud to every song as we flew across gorgeous country filled with hills and farms. We even started to cast our family version of Hamilton (I’m George Washington, Alex is Hamilton).

But it was during the song “Dear Theodosia” that I started to feel them. Tendrils of emotion began burrowing across my chest. The song is a duet between Aaron Burr and Hamilton. They’ve both just become fathers and they’re singing their hopes for their newborn children. The lyrics caught me again and again. (“I’ll keep the world safe and sound for you.”) And the reality of the past month started to really sink in. I held it together until “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Hamilton’s son is killed in a duel, and the song is two parents grieving for a dead child. I became acutely conscious of Alex’s physical presence just two feet to my right. The reality of my son. He was right there; I could touch him.

  • On the night after we got the initial diagnosis, three times Shani woke me up wracked with uncontrollable sobbing. We wrapped around each other in the dark and she murmured “my baby” over and over.
  • On the evening we got the initial diagnosis, Jack Nuckols got in the car and drove. He put it on the New Jersey Turnpike and blasted 100 miles north. I can picture him blaring music and screaming along with it, drowning with emotion. Contemplating the threat to our nuclear family that is the core of his whole world.
  • On the day after we learned it wasn’t cancer, my Uncle Bob called me and through gravelly sobs told me it had been “the longest two weeks of his life.”

Because in the darkest moments of this ordeal, when we let it slip in, what we were facing was the possibility of living in a world that didn’t have Alex in it. We were facing the possibility that this boy would grow sicker and thinner and weaker. That he would face debilitating pain and nausea and eventually…let go. This glowing star of a boy, who shines so dazzlingly bright, would begin to dim, and then flicker, and then go out. My son.

But there he was, real, right next to me, signing every word of “Your Obedient Servant.”

I looked out the window to the left and tears just sort of dribbled out.

So, here’s what I’ll say. Two things.

1) No sympathy, please. Accepting sympathy would feel almost dishonest to me. Narcissistic. Ungrateful. Everyone reading this knows someone who didn’t find out it wasn’t cancer 20 days into the process. Send your support there. I actually believe my brother’s response was the appropriate one.

2) Friends. For each of us — Alex, Jack, Shani, and myself — for each of us in different ways, it was friends who carried us. I felt that support every single second of the ordeal. And I come away reminded of what I already knew: That when it comes to love, I am the richest man in the world. Deep and heartfelt thanks to everyone who lent their love and friendship.

Oh. And we’re doing Congaree in November, dammit! Also…I made a little tribute/gratitude video. See below.

You Best College Tip

I wrote Jack a letter for Christmas (I do that every year). And I shared the following advice for when he heads to college:

1) Don’t put off your work.

Jack does.

2) Don’t get fat.

I did.

3) Don’t get into debt

I didn’t.

4) Don’t smoke

I’ve got a deal with both boys (credit to Devin Moberg) where on the day they graduate college, if they haven’t ever smoked a cigarette, I will hand them a check for $1000.

OK…but because it was a big list of “don’t” — I ended with:

But more important is what you SHOULD do. And the answer is…everything. Go explore. Go try things. Go make mistakes. Say yes to the world. Say yes to weird offers. Say yes to pretty girls. In fact, those things I don’t want you to do are really there because they’ll limit your ability to do the million other things that are out there. Go have adventures. LOTS of them. Life is short – go live the crap out of it!

So that’s what I had. Gimme your college advice for the boy.

The Coming Out Post

He told Jack first. We were all on a hike, they were up ahead of Shani and me, and he told Jack he was gay. Jack didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.

Then he told Shani. She was in the living room. He came up, sat on the ottoman, told her, and then went back down to the basement. It was a quick drop and gone.

I was last. And that was strange to me because he and I were really close. Almost every weekend the two of us would spend the day going on hikes. We talked for hours in the car and on the trail. And I felt like things were super open between us. In fact, we’d actually had a conversation about his sexuality a few months earlier. The two of us drove up to Vestal to see the premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 with my buddies from high school, and on the drive home, I asked him.

“So, if you don’t want to answer this it’s totally fine. And I don’t care about the answer either. But…have you ever considered if you were gay?”

“No,” he said definitively. “Because I have a crush on a girl.”

And we talked all about it from there. We laughed about the fact that he had so many stereotypically gay characteristics (loved Taylor Swift, favorite color was pink, into musicals, all his friends were girls), but he wasn’t gay. He even told me that his friends had joked that if they were all characters in a sitcom, he’d be the gay friend.

But he wasn’t gay. I even felt a little relief over it, although I didn’t recognize it at the time.

But here we were a few months later, on a hike in Northern New Jersey, and he says…

“I have to tell you something. It’s not a big deal. Well, it kind of is, but not really…”

I knew right away what it was, and my heart gripped. 

He said it. I stopped. I hugged him. Then I said all the right things. I told him I accepted him completely, and he said he already knew that. I told him he could always decide to change, and that was fine with me.

Then we spent the rest of the hike talking about it. I asked him how he’d figured it out, who else knew, and more. Apparently, it was my asking him on the car ride a few months that really got him thinking. And as he thought about it, it became clear pretty quickly. Most of his friends knew. Jack knew; Shani knew. 

He told me that he’d told the kids on his dive team. Sam, who was 17 and gay, had first danced with joy, and then gave Alex some good advice.

“It took me a year to tell my parents, and I spent that whole year really depressed. So I’d recommend you tell your parents right away.”

So Alex did. And we had a terrific conversation about it. 

I was trying to learn a bit more about how he realized he was gay. So I asked…

“So, when I watch Avengers movies, I see Scarlett Johanssen and I think…yeah, she looks good. Does that happen to you with Captain America?”

And he said…

“Yes. But Thor, not Cap.”

(There are a number of quotes that stand out from Alex’s coming out, and this is the first.)

In other words, it couldn’t have gone better, right? Acceptance. Open dialogue. Still buddies.

Except it wasn’t quite right. Because it wasn’t sitting well with me. I had this nagging dread at the very top of my stomach. I was sad. Which didn’t make sense. I mean, I could not be more pro-gay. I’m all for this. Total support, right?

But then what was this sense of dread? I was ashamed to feel it.

I talked about it at length with Shani, and at some point, I wondered why he told me last. Was he nervous about my reaction?

And here comes quote number two…

“He wants to be you. And by being gay it means he can’t be.”

The second she said that, I started to cry. Kinda hard. It sunk like a stone passing through my chest and into my stomach. That quote still stops me in my tracks when I think about it.

I grappled with how I was feeling for a good week, at least. Guilt, sadness, distraction. Then I called the Chief. He was in the car with his two daughters. I got two words out of my mouth…and I was absolutely bawling. I can only imagine how freaked out his girls must have been hearing this wailing man over the car speakers.

But my man had the medicine. He let me blubber it out, then said…

“You’ve been looking forward to things you wanted to share with him before he was even born. You’ve pictured those moments in your head. But now you’re not gonna get those moments the way you imagined. And you’re mourning the fact that you’re losing that. Which is OK. You’re gonna get different moments and experience different things together. But it’s OK to mourn what you’ve lost.”

That was the answer. And that made it so I could breathe again. It meant I didn’t have to grapple with that dread anymore or feel ashamed that it was there. In fact, it wasn’t dread at all. It was mourning and that was something I could embrace and give myself over to. I was basically all good from thereafter.

There was a terrific talk with Jack shortly thereafter. He and I went for a long walk and discussed the subject at length. He actually felt like he hadn’t handled it well when Alex told him, and I was able to assure him that he’d handled it just fine. He also told me…

“If a kid picks on Alex for being gay, I think it means I have to fight that kid.”

I told him he that was right.

Then there was telling our larger network. Alex wrote his grandparents a letter and they called him right away to tell him they loved him no matter what. I told my friends. I told my dad. And every one of those conversations had a similar pattern. I’d tell them, and then they’d say “I knew it!” like it was some kind of prophetic insight they’d had. But everyone was totally great about it.

So now it’s two years later and I finally feel like I can share the story. It’s no longer about Alex coming out. He’s done coming out. Alex is gay. It’s 100% public.

I can also say that he’s had basically zero problems, for which I’m deeply grateful. The kids in school know and embrace it. He doesn’t seem to have been picked on at all – although I suspect some of the alpha-boys in school may have thrown a little shade his way. Alex loves to point out that their entire identity is success in sports, and that it would never occur to any of them that the gay kid was actually the most successful athlete in the entire school. “They think it’s a big deal if they make the varsity soccer team and I literally won Nationals last summer.”

I’m also happy to report that we’re as close as ever. We’ve had a cribbage battle going on this year and we’re tied at 72 games a-piece. We did a trip to Shenendoah National Park this August, where we camped in a local farmer’s field, went on killer hikes, and got luscious shakes every night made from local peaches. We still hike all the time and chatter away in the car and on the trail. We get meatball subs from Wawa afterwards or find a Dairy Queen and get Blizzards. We jabber on about Marvel movies or trips to national parks.

He’s my friend. 

And I guess I’ll end with some photos. No big conclusion or takeaway, really.

This is us camped out in the farmer’s field near Shenandoah National Park.

This is Alex driving around the field.

Here we are at the top of Buffalo Mountain in Colorado, which was about the best hike we’ve ever done. At one point were hiking among mountain goats.

Here’s Alex trying champagne after Biden was declared winner. 

Here’s him with his brother and mom on the Konza Prairie in Manhattan, KS. Note the rainbow.

Baseball 2021

There is a debate about what priority the COVID vaccine should be given. The official NuckolBall position is:

  1. Healthcare workers
  2. Vulnerable population (especially grandparents who are kidney donors/kidney donor recipients)
  3. Major league baseball players and staff

Last year Jack Season was cancelled, so we had an extended Alex Season. We went all in on camping and had a great year for that. But this year it is pure Jack Season. It’s the final year I have with my boy, and we are planning as much baseball time as we can swing (and still afford college).

Here are the trips that are currently under consideration:

The Bronx Boo-Fest — When the cheating, worthless Astros come to the Bronx, Jack and I will be there to boo them murderously. We’re going to bang trash cans, hurl insults, and generally make their lives as miserable as possible. These lowlives deserved to be booed for the remainder of their careers and we intend to do our part.

The Lakes Loop — This involves driving to Cleveland, hooking up with Avi and Solomon Cover, and making an epic baseball loop. The loop will include Chicago (White Sox), Milwaukee (Brewers), and maybe…maybe….Minneapolis for the Twins. We’ve got multiple drivers to make this doable.

The Dallas Dash — We normally see Shani’s parents 3-4 times a year, but COVID has created a miserable dry spell. So the instant everyone is safe and vaccinated, we are getting on the road, getting down to Arkansas, getting everyone in the car, and getting our butts to Dallas to check out the new Rangers Ballpark.

The Aunt Joan Jaunt — It is ludicrous that we haven’t been to Fenway. Ridiculous. It’s 5 hours away and we actually go to Boston every year. Well that gets fixed this year. We’re making our annual Boston trip, and this time, Jack, me, and my Aunt Joan are going to see the Red Sox (hopefully lose).

The West Wildcard — The summer is tough to figure out. When will diving competitions come back? When does college start? Lots of variables at play, but we absolutely plan to pull off an epic family road trip. That could mean Phoenix, Seattle, San Diego, Oakland…who knows. But I suspect we’ll work in a park or two for sure.

Jack and I currently stand at 17 out of 30 ballparks visited. I think getting to 20 this season is a distinct possibility.

Stay tuned.

First acceptance

Jack just received the following text:

The boy has received his first college acceptance. Milkshake!

Here is the essay that Jack submitted. He worked really hard on it.

Discuss an accomplishment, event, realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others?

In 2017, the Yankees made the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. 

I had grown up a Yankees fan from day one, but ever since I had been old enough to truly follow them, they had been just average. The team was old and, in all honesty, kind of boring. I found myself paying more attention to the league than the team. Then 2017 happened, and that season was different. New York became fun to watch again and I became entranced by every pitch. Instead of watching with my brain, I watched them with my stomach.  What was once a hobby was now a religion. My mood fluctuated with the team, pitch by pitch, game by game. My life began revolving around the Yankees. I felt baseball in my soul.

That October, the Yankees made the playoffs and were set to play in a one-game, winner-take-all series against the Minnesota Twins. Although they were young, the Yankees were a much better team and were favored to blow the Twins out of the water. But instead, they immediately went down 3-0 in the first inning. I was stunned to the point that I was shaking. I got up from my couch, went into my room, and cried. 

I don’t cry much, and I don’t know why. It may be because I don’t watch enough sad movies or don’t get into nearly enough sad situations. I guess it’s just not how I handle loss or sorrow. But there I was, head in hands, sobbing over a baseball game. At that moment I realized how ridiculous this was. I was a freshman, in the middle of one of the most important academic years of my life, and I was in my room crying over a baseball game.  I was being emotionally moved by the actions of men I didn’t know, in a game whose result I had no control over. There are so many hobbies I could’ve chosen that would be so much more productive than this. My brother loves to cook, and his love for that hobby is productive. My mom is an adamant anti-gun violence activist, and spends relatively all of her free time working to help a cause she believes in, an activity that is decidedly productive. But, to an outsider, baseball is in no way productive. My enjoyment of the sport doesn’t benefit anyone but myself. The amount of effort I put into something so seemingly unproductive is ridiculous, almost childish. 

It was a matter of seconds before I realized I was wrong. Baseball isn’t ridiculous, it isn’t childish, and it isn’t by any means unproductive. Baseball is my life. Baseball has been the basis of my friendship with two of my oldest friends. Without baseball, I can’t imagine that I ever would’ve made those friends. We grew up playing wiffle ball together in backyards and arguing over whose team was going to win on any given night. It is also central to my relationship with my dad, who is one of the most important people in my life. Some of my fondest memories are playing catch with my dad in parking lots across the country, and going to every stadium we could.  Baseball is the background music to every one of my summers. It is everything. Without baseball, I’m not the person I am today. So, I don’t find this ridiculous or childish. I find it vital. 

By the way the Yankees came back to beat the Twins. Then two weeks later they were knocked out of the playoffs by the Astros. 

I cried again.

COVIDing and parenting

The tension has been building. We’ve felt a disturbance in the force for quite some time.

We’re pretty strict about COVID.

Actually – strike that. We’re pretty sensible when it comes to COVID. We follow the scientifically-based guidelines laid out by the state of NJ and the CDC. So we’re not strict – we just seem strict because the town we live in is full of morons.

Actually – let me elaborate. Every weekend in my town there are high school parties in basements that parents (moronic ones) allow. And – shocker – these parties led to a COVID outbreak that shut down the school and ended the soccer season. So we’re not strict, we’re smart. But to Jack, we seem strict. Our rules used to be no being inside houses with friends and masks on/windows open in a car.

But with this latest, moron-induced surge, where a bunch of Jack’s friends got COVID, we tightened things up.

So 2 weeks ago, Jack wants to go to a friend’s house to hang out outside.

What kids? How many? Masks? OK.

And off he goes. But then evidence starts to trickle in that there was a large gathering happening. And there are clues that Jack may have attended. Which means Shani interrogates me, and then I interrogate Jack. After a series of texts he calls me and assures me that he’s only with the kids he mentioned and that they’re not at the big gathering.

Fine. But Shani’s not buying it. I sort of am, but I’m prone to believing Jack so I can avoid the conflict. He comes home and all seems well.

Fast forward two days later. I’m in my bedroom presenting to a client. Shani bursts in holding her phone out like it’s a cross and I’m a vampire. 

Evidence. She’s got an Instagram post of the big outdoor party and there is the side of Jack’s head.

Busted.

She rushes out and heads down to the basement to bludgeon Jack.

My meeting ends, Shani and I talk. We discuss our actions. We call Jack up, expecting a big talk about trust and lying and parenting and all that. It’s gonna be ugly.

Enter Jack. He sits.

“What’s my punishment?”

“No X-box until Saturday for lying. No seeing friends until COVID is 20 per 100,000. So figure a month at least.”

“OK,” Jack says. Then he gets up, nods, and returns to the basement.

So that’s that, right? But it’s not. Not at all. Tension is higher than ever. Shani sleeps poorly. We have long talks about…I don’t even know what. Jack stays in the basement more than ever. There is a silent murk sitting over everything. The disturbance in the force is ever present. 

Until a few days later, Shani went for a walk with a good friend and they talked about the whole thing. She got a little perspective.

So I’m at the dining room, presenting to a client, and Shani rushes in.

“IhadalongtalkwithHeather andshemadealotofgoodpointsandIthinkweneedtotalktoJackabout…”

I wave her off, finish my meeting, and then she and I have a quick talk. She’s ready to discuss it again with Jack. New approach. We call Jack upstairs. Shani starts.

“I want to reset. I’m really scared of COVID and I’m hard on you. But I’ve been thinking about how hard this is on you and how much you’re missing out on and it just…breaks my heart.”

Then she’s crying. Which sets off a chain reaction.

  1. Jack goes for her and wraps her up.
  2. The DOG goes for her and jumps into her lap.
  3. All this love and hugging makes me start crying.

So we rescind the lockdown. Jack apologizes for lying. We have an open, flowing, authentic conversation about COVID and drinking and pushing boundaries and being safe, and the whole thing clears the air beautifully.

And with that, balance returns to the force.

Bruncher

Imagine if you took breakfast, lunch, and dinner and you just mashed them altogether in a big bowl. Eggs with a PBJ and roast chicken. Yogurt and broccoli. And that’s your one meal for the day?

None of it would taste good. You would look forward to it not at all.

That’s how life is feeling to me as we slide into a new semi-lockdown.

Everything is bleeding together. Every day I have meetings, I watch Netflix, I make overnight oats, I practice guitar, I go for a walk, Jack comes by and I say “Hey! Jack Nuckols!”, I throw the yarn ball, and the dogs goes and gets it, and then I throw it again.

None of it feel distinct. Very little of it brings me joy.

Making dinner with Shani used to bring me great joy. Now, I silently dread it for some reason and stay on the computer a little longer than I need.

Eating dinner as a family used to be a source of joy. “I hate this pandemic, but I do love how we’re eating together every night.” But now I can’t even seem to remember most dinners. I know we have them, but I can’t seem to bring up any memory of them whatsoever.

Lockdown feels different this time. Or rather, it doesn’t feel like anything at all.

This past March it was new and special. A family adventure. And we had the summer to look forward to; I spent hours planning camping trips to do on weekends.

But now it feels like the exact opposite of an adventure. Thanksgiving and Christmas, which I normally look forward to mightily, look to be shells of themselves. Same daily routine with different music in the background. Staccato zoom calls over the meal.

Maybe I’ll just take my entire Thanksgiving meal and put it all in a big bowl. The stuffing, the sweet potatoes, the apple pie — choke it down as a single unremarkable non-event.

Where NuckolBall Has Been

So…NuckolBall has been pretty sporadic and infrequent over the past few years. A far cry from when I used to write posts all the time.

Well, there are three reasons for my lack of posting.

1. I’ve been taking care of this horrible orange stain on my rug.

Getting rid of the orange stain has been very time-consuming for me. Especially this past year. I’ve spent hours and hours scrubbing away. And when I wasn’t scrubbing, I was researching strategies to remove the statin. And when I wasn’t researching, I was trying to recruit people to help get the stain out. Getting that stain out has been a hell of a lot of work. Phew!

2. Alex is gay.

Wow. Big revelation there if you didn’t know.

Alex came out about 3 years ago, and in all sincerity, working through that journey has been by far the most interesting thing I’ve done as a father in the past few years. I didn’t feel like I should make that public. But it made it hard to write about what was going on in an authentic way.

3. There’s been a lack of conflict

Gone are the days when Jack was struggling mightily to get that big hit. He hasn’t played baseball in a couple years — so that natural tension is gone.

In all honesty, things have been pretty smooth sailing. Which didn’t make for good blogging.

HOWEVER…things have changed.

1. The orange stain is removed.

As of a few weeks ago, it’s gone. I got pretty drunk the night it became official. And there still a little clean up work left, but that serious problem is dealt with.

2. I’m clear to talk about Alex

More on that later. Lots of good stuff to share.

3. Tension is back

Oh yes. Drama has returned to our family. As a 17-year old, Jack has become a smoldering presence in our basement. He’s ready to be done dealing with me and Shani’s rules — and every day he finds a bunch of subtle or not subtle ways to let us know.

It is the tension of impending separation. And it is interesting indeed.

We are heading into Jack’s Final Home Season and I’m going to try and ramp up the writing for it.

Stay tuned.

Watch Them Work

So if you’re filled with outrage and despair about the RNC spewing blatant lies last night, and it fills you with fear that they might actually win. Let me show you this:

This is an image of Moms Demand Action. At the same time as the RNC liefest, over 230 “moms” were taking action making calls to voters in Texas. And look at the bottom row. There is literally a mom making calls with a sleeping baby on her shoulder.

And that’s just Texas. They were making calls in every single state and they will be every night until the election, working in partnership with other community organizations. And that’s just scratching the surface of what “Moms” are doing.

My wife has been part of Moms Demand Action for about 5 years, and I’ve seen first hand how organized, compassionate, and dedicated they are. They are nothing short of incredible. Hell, they’re moms, of course they are.

Are you happy with the fact that the NRA is nearly bankrupt? That’s Moms. Are you happy that 90% of the bad bills proposed in state legislatures across the country have been voted down over the past 4 years? That’s Moms. Are you happy that thousands of common sense gun laws have been passed at the local and state level over the past year along? That’s Moms.

Their theme this year is “Watch Us Work.” And I watch them work and get a lump in my throat. They’re not watching in despair, they’re working. Hard. And they’re succeeding. And they fill me with hope hope, precious hope.

The only issue I have with them is that I’m not content to just “watch them work.” And I’d encourage you to follow their example and get to work yourself.

In fact…I’m running a phone banking event next Wednesday, September 2nd from 7:00-8:30. If you want to spend some time calling likely voters in Pennsylvania for the Biden campaign, I’ve love to have you.

https://www.mobilize.us/2020victory/event/309799/

The Cruise Ship

So imagine you’re on a cruise ship and there’s been major structural damage. The boat is taking on water and the engines are damaged.

So the crew gets together for a few hours to make an emergency plan and then the captain comes to the passengers.

“Folks, we’ve got a plan. We’re going to have to rotate the wait staff and even some passengers to take on extra tasks pumping out the water and maintaining the engine. It will take us a few extra days, but if we all work together we should be able to safely reach our destination.”

Now imagine one of the ladies from first class comes forward to speak for her group. This is her response.

“This is supposed to be a luxury ship. I don’t see why I should have to go without the omelette station for breakfast or the chocolate fountain at night! That’s ridiculous! And if the waiters are only spending half as much time waiting on me, then why are we still paying them full salary?”

Then she sits down and is congratulated by her friends.

That’s the ship I live on right now.