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.

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.

Legal and Binding

I just started a new job, that as a perk provides access to free legal services. Wills and other simple stuff. It’s cool.

So…in the next few weeks, I will be having the following instructions for my funeral made legal and binding.

  1. I will sign a baseball before my death. Everyone who attends my funeral will sign this baseball. It will be given to my son, Jack.
  2. My remains are to be cremated. My son, Alex Nuckols, will select a hiking location where those ashes will be scattered. Alex, Jack, and their families will then take a hike/packing trip to scatter said ashes.
  3. The song “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens was featured in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. It is to be played at my funeral.
  4. Each person who attends my funeral will be given a box of Tropical Dots (my favorite candy). They are to pour the box into my coffin at the viewing, so I am buried in Dots. The people who really love me will remove the green ones from their box.
  5. I am to be buried in a Captain American costume. And not one of those cheap ones either.

 

Toilet Paper and Teamwork

Due to the toilet paper shortage, we have a hodgepodge of brands and varieties. Some are very thin. Some are thick. This has wreaked havoc with our plumbing. My boys are used to ScottTM brand, which is very thin. So when they use thick toilet paper, they use way too much, and they clog the toilet. There has been a lot of plunging and ranting on my part.

So, last week, around midnight, Alex clogged the kitchen toilet. Then, in an attempt to fix it, he flushed a second time and overflowed the entire bathroom.

Now…my boys are 14 and 16. They fight a decent amount. They antagonize each other constantly. They do not voluntarily spend time together. The basement is Jack’s; the living room is Alex’s. They do not encroach on each other’s turf.

However…at that moment, Alex immediately calls for Jack. Jack comes up. The situation is dire. Shani and I are both asleep. There will be hell to pay for Alex if he wakes me up.

Without a word they snap into immediate, coordinated action.

  • Jack went to the basement and got the mop. Together they mopped up the water.
  • Then they got the SwifferTM and wet-swiffed the bathroom floor.
  • Then they took WindexTM and a roll of paper towel, got on their hands and knees, and wiped down the entire room.
  • They put everything away, and without a word Jack returned to the basement and Alex returned to watching Lost on his phone.

I only learned about this yesterday. And I find this extremely encouraging in respect to their relationship as brothers.

Celebrating 20 Years

Shani and I got married 20 years ago today.

We’d been planning to go to Hawaii to celebrate, but last September I lost my job, so we figured we should be more careful with money. We downshifted and decided that when we went to LA in April for my cousin’s wedding, that would be our anniversary celebration. And we’d go out for a romantic dinner on our actual anniversary.

Well, the wedding has since been cancelled. And now we’re not even going to get to go to dinner.

Bummer, right? I should be sad. And I can already imagine the sympathy comments on Facebook. Well…hold that sympathy. Because after 20 years, you learn some things about marriage. And here’s what I’ve learned:

Marriage is not a vacation.

Look, every marriage is great on vacation. The two of you on your own, exploring the sights, a drink at that cute little bar you stumbled on, dinner at 8:30, share desert, sleep in, make love, wander out to find breakfast at 10:15.

And that’s great — my God is it great — but it’s not marriage. Marriage is life the other 50+ weeks of the year. Marriage is negotiating who is going to do the dishes. Marriage is getting into your car and realizing your wife left your tank empty. It’s grocery shopping and budgeting and disciplining kids and watching Youtube videos and trying to get to the gym. All that day-to-day shit, that’s marriage.

And with that said, I will say this.

I love going grocery shopping with Shani.

I love cooking dinner together.

I love putting away the Christmas decorations and getting the kids where they need to go and scheduling out the week. I love having a glass of wine on a Tuesday night and watching The Americans.

I loved washing babies in the sink of our apartment in New York. I loved painting bedrooms and sleeping on an air mattress waiting for our furniture to arrive. I loved reading the same stupid board books over and over to the boys. I loved coming home from work and having the kids chase me around the yard for “first hug”. I loved cooking on a grill for 6 weeks while we redid our kitchen. I’ve loved the budgeting, the arguments, the exhaustion, the laughing, the problem-solving, and yes, I’ve loved the vacation too.

I love waking up at 5 on a Sunday, making coffee, and reading on the couch for two hours while everyone is still asleep.

I love my house and I love the life we’ve built inside it.

So tonight, I will spend my 20th anniversary eating dinner with my wife and our two sons. We are healthy, we are safe, and we are happy. So I will gladly accept your congratulations and good wishes. But expressions of sympathy are neither warranted nor welcome.

Sending my love out to everyone who has been a part of our adventure. It’s been richer and more wonderful and more fun every single year.

Please stay safe. Please stay sane. Please stay inside.

_

Oh, and here are some shots from the wedding.

 

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What Leadership Should Be

My close friend, Hal, is the mayor of a small village in Upstate, NY called Homer. And he just sent the attached letter out to the village. But I’ll call out this section up front:

We are all going through this together. There is no playbook for riding out a global pandemic, but we don’t need one, as long as we keep our focus on one thing and one thing only: Keeping people safe and healthy.

We are committed to being here for you. If you have problems or needs that are not being addressed, I ask that you call the Village of Homer office at XXX-XXXX and tell us your situation and what you need, and we will try and find a solution including assigning a volunteer to help. Residents who are unable to get out to shop for food, need a critical repair made to their home, need an essential errand run, or need your children’s school lunches delivered, please call, and we will do what we can to help.”

And to me, this is perfect. It’s exactly what people need. Call the village — for food, for crisis, for anything you need — and we will try and help you. True to form, I got choked up reading Hal’s message. And felt deep, deep pride.

This shit is getting real. New York State is predicting the peak will hit May 1st. So we may realistically be looking at being locked down in our homes for 2-3 months. That means people are going to lose jobs, run out of food, and face serious peril.

But I read Hal’s letter and it seems clear to me that if we help each other out, we’ll get through this.

So leaders…read Hal’s letter and learn. People are scared, uncertain, and have no idea what source to believe. Hal gives them the real facts. He gives them the detailed information they need for daily life. And he makes it clear that their Village Government is there for them.

VoH Covid Memo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Birthday Presents

My birthday was last week; I just got the most amazing presents and I wanted to share.

First, Alex. It needs a little backstory.

Alex often awards me with a “bad daddy” or a “good daddy”. For example, let’s say I don’t let him order desert: “Bad daddy!” If I beat him in a game, refuse to give him money, tell him to go to bed…”Bad daddy.” I get them all the time. One time in the backyard I pegged a rabbit with a nerf football and received a string of about 30 of them.

A “good daddy” is much harder to come by.

So check out this letter.

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Pretty amazing right?

Then yesterday, a package arrived in the mail. And to our surprise, Jack had ordered it.

“Happy birthday!” he said and tossed me the package.

IMG_5912

He bought me Gerritt Cole Yankees shirt (he’s the Yankee’s new $324 million dollar pitcher). But that’s not what’s so special.

See, Jack has a job. He’s doing dishes three nights a week at a local restaurant. He got the job himself and he’s been steadily putting real money into a bank account we opened. He used his bank card to go online and buy the shirt.

And the pride he felt being able to do that all on his own. To be able to buy his father a gift.

Seeing that was pretty stunning.

That’s the real present.