Proud Of Where I Am From

There it was on my Facebook feed yesterday, the 30 safest cities in Iowa from safewise.com. And firmly locked into the no. 2 spot overall, my hometown of Grundy Center. And I was proud of my hometown.

spartan_stadium
Spartan Stadium in Grundy Center, Iowa.

Although I have spent the last half of my life in Kansas City and Las Vegas, I spent the first 23 years a small-town Iowan. I grew up in a town were people rarely locked their houses and left their keys in the ignition when their car was parked on the driveway. Grundy Center in the 1980s had one elementary school, one middle school and a combined junior high and high school. The uniforms the varsity teams wore were new every two years, the two year old version went to the JV, and the four-year old version to the junior high teams. We were all Spartans.

We were the county seat, and the only town in the whole county that had stoplights. We had two of them. We also had a movie theatre, the county courthouse and a Pizza Hut that used to be a general store.

The Grundy County Courthouse.
The Grundy County Courthouse.

In a town of less than 3,000 people everyone called me Al, not Chad, because my Dad (Alfred, but usually called Al) had been a star athlete as a Spartan 30 years earlier and everyone knew him.

Grundy Center has changed little in the 27 years since I graduated from high school. Farming is still the dominant occupation, though I’m not sure if the farmland is the most valuable per acre in the world like it was three decades ago. The streets are still uniquely-named in simple numerical or alphabetical order, save for a few of the newer developments. I actually grew up on I Avenue, between 11th and 12 Street. My house had doors with skeleton key locks.

 

It’s a town so small my house was two blocks from the elementary school, three from the middle school, four from the high school and four the other direction to the swimming pool. We walked or rode bicycles everywhere.

There have been a few changes. The baseball diamond where I spent so many summer days and nights is now developed with a few houses. That was a little disappointing, as my family has planted some tree at the diamond in honor of my deceased mother. But I hear the new complex is great. Grundy Center still refuses or hasn’t been invited to consolidate with another small school district.So the Spartans now play schedules of alphabet soup: AGWSR (Ackley-Geneva-Wellsburg-Steamboat Rock), Dike-New Hartford, BCLUW (Beamon-Conrad-Liscomb-Union-Whitten) and Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

The house where I grew up.
The house where I grew up.

My son, Jace, will never have the same experiences of neighborhood kick the can, messing around in barns full of hay or playing sports for an entire community, not just a school. He’s a Vegas kid where one school district has almost 50 high schools.

Kids don’t play outside in Vegas like they do in the Midwest for lack of grass and the oppressive desert heat. We definitely lock our doors and cars, and protect our possessions like anyone else who lives in a city.

Jace will have his share of big-city experiences that a small-town kid rarely sees. But I wouldn’t trade my small-town experience for anything. I am proud to be from Grundy Center, Iowa.

 

The Changes Keep Coming

The year 2014 will definitely be one of the biggest roller coasters of my life.

I started the year out intentionally unemployed, as I had taken a buyout from my dead end job at a previous company so I could get back to working as an entrepreneur. My ex-girlfriend was pregnant with my child. My new dog, Ace, was shredding everything he could get his teeth and claws on.

I was definitely embracing the lessons I learned in Jon Acuff book “Quitter” and the nine weeks of classes I took for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

I even found this amazing inspiration video that I loved watching over and over.

I was setting myself up for a great year.


Pregnancy is hard on women, hard on couples. It is especially hard when the couple is not actually together. They are just two people having a child together.

To say those last seven months of pregnancy were challenging was a gross understatement. There were times when I was threatened that I would never see my child. That he wouldn’t have my last name. There were times when I thought we were going to have to go Family Court to settle things.

We were both at fault. She was going through the normal pregnancy feelings and emotions. I had taken a job working graveyard shift as a poker supervisor. I hadn’t worked graveyard since I was a night stocker at a Hy-Vee in Marshalltown Iowa in the late 1980s. The 1-9AM shift, the pregnancy stress and the baby preparations all contributed to me barely keeping it together emotionally.

I was so ready for this little guy to come out.

Jace and Ace hanging out together on the couch.
Jace and Ace hanging out together on the couch.

Then things went from bad to worse. Little Jace Allen Harberts spent 49 days in the NICU overcoming a few health problems. It was tortuous. Driving up to see him twice a day to spend maybe 30 minutes each time then trying to plow through an 8-hour graveyard shift with him on my mind every moment.


In the last quarter of the 2014 things have gotten better. Jace is healthy and happy. He is growing up to be a beautiful, strong boy.

My relationship with my son is great. He is going to be a great man. We struggle at times because a 45 year old man doesn’t have a clue what to do with a four-month old baby when he’s all alone and the kid is screaming. But I walk him around, I beg, I plead, I cry along sometimes and we make it through.

Jace learning to watch football like a pro. Laying on the couch in Daddy's spot.
Jace learning to watch football like a pro. Laying on the couch in Daddy’s spot.

I set a goal to get off the graveyard shift by the end of 2015. Then a job opened with two day shifts and three swing shifts the week before Thanksgiving. I jumped at the opportunity and got off graveyard more than a year ahead of schedule.

My social life is still absent. It would be nice to have that special someone to share my joy with my son and my dog, but it apparently isn’t in the cards right now.

It has been a roller coaster of a 2014. It turns out, however, I am having a great year.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be This Guy

The NFL (and to an extent the other sports leagues) are amazing at promoting their fans to buy jerseys. The reason behind this is the NFL knows the average playing career of an NFL player is 3.2 years. For every 17-year veteran like Peyton Manning, there are dozens of:

Sylvester Morris, Chiefs 1st round pick 2000, played one season in NFL

Charles Rogers, Lions no. 2 overall pick 2003, played 15 total games over three seasons

Erasmus James, Vikings 1st round pick 2005, played 28 total games over four seasons

Justin Harrell, Packers 1st round pick 14 games over 3 three seasons

 

I have already wrote extensively about why consumers should only buy vintage NFL jerseys.

Here’s another reason: Don’t be this guy!

 

Wearing a Vikings Percy Harvin jersey at a Vegas casino is not cool.
Wearing a Vikings Percy Harvin jersey at a Vegas casino is not cool.

I saw this guy at the Fiesta Henderson, a local’s casino in the Las Vegas suburbs Sunday. He is wearing a Minnesota Vikings’ home purple Percy Harvin jersey. The number of things wrong with this jersey selection is staggering:

1. Harvin played for the Vikings 2009-12. In only one season did he play at 16 games.

2. Harvin reportedly got in fights with coach Brad Childress and Coach Leslie Frazier.

3. Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, where he won a Super Bowl.

4. Harvin was traded away from the Seahawks as he continues to be a malcontent. He reportedly fought with Doug Baldwin and gave Golden Tate a black eye the night before the Super Bowl.

5. Harvin has been a nightmare player and teammate since he was first suspended as high school junior.

 

Buying this jersey was (a) a waste of money, (b) enriched a player who does not deserve it and (c) is such a poor choice when a jersey for Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, Ahmad Rashad, Alan Page, Paul Krause or any number of vintage Vikings would be so much more rewarding and long-lasting.

 

What I’ve Learned So Far

Being a single dad is challenging. Diaper changes and feedings are relatively easy. In between diaper changes and feedings are not so easy. There is a lot of crying, a little screaming, a little pulling out of my quickly-graying hair. Babies cannot tell you what they want, but they can tell you they are upset. They are like little Congressmen.

What (I think) I have learned so far in no particular order:

How awesome is this little UNI Panthers shirt? He might get three wearings out of it before he is too big.
How awesome is this little UNI Panthers shirt? He might get three wearings out of it before he is too big.

Jace has really cool clothes. Logo t-shirts, jammies, little socks and hats and onesies. Unfortunately, these clothes last approximately 90 days before he is too big to wear them again. Baby clothes go from 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9 months-1 year. This kid will have four all new wardrobes by the time he is old enough to smash his hands into a cake to celebrate his first birthday.I still wear a windbreaker the youth basketball team I coached gave me in 1995.

Also, I think adults should get to wear onesies.

Diaper Genies make one long intestine of dirty diapers. My Diaper Genie was full…or at least it seemed full…or maybe I just had a few diapers jammed in the chute. Regardless, it felt full. I needed to change the bag for the first time. Diaper Genies are about two feet tall. As I pulled out the bag for the first time I discovered it holds about six feet worth of diapers.

Ace checks out the refuse of the Diaper Genie.
Ace checks out the refuse of the Diaper Genie.

The diapers wrap around in one long blue sack like a large intestine. Which is appropriate because they hold a lot of stuff that passes through the large intestine. I was so impressed by the length of the magical poopy bag I laid it out on the dining room floor. This also impressed the dog. Ace was infatuated by what the human race would refer to as waste, but the canine race would probably call food.

I picked up this giant sack of disposable diapers and tossed them in the garbage container in the garage. Ace used this exact moment to drop a deuce on the dining room floor where the sack had been moments earlier. I guess he was contributing to the cause.

Babies have terrible timing. Just as the Vikings are marching toward a game-clinching touchdown, Jace will wake up and cry. Right when you are considering whether to call off your whole stack with a nut flush draw in a game of online poker, Jace will be hungry. As you take your first bite of lunch, Jace will scream. He doesn’t mean to do it, but he doesn’t really care what you have going on. Nor should he.

When he doesn’t spend the night, I still fall asleep to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Jace spends seven days per week at my house, and usually 1-2 nights. I work nights so he spends seven nights per week with his mother and 1-2 days. When he spends the night I put him in his crib with his lullaby relaxation machine. He had this in the NICU as a way to help him relax and fall asleep. I bought him one of these machines for his crib. It projects cartoon jungle animals on the ceiling while playing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Mozart, white noise, a heartbeat, etc. When he is not spending the night, I still listen to it so I can fall asleep.

Babies are crazy expensive. I have great insurance, and so does his mom. Which is a good thing. Because having a baby is not cheap. I haven’t seen all the bills yet, but just the ones in dispute are more than $85,000. His NICU bill was routinely more than $2,500 per day. He could have stayed a week in a penthouse suite at Mandalay Bay for less than that.

Right after his release from the NICU he had to see the pediatrician for the first time. It was just a routine check-up and a few immunizations.

Here is the invoice:

jace_bill

Thankfully, the co-pay was considerably less than the $2917 for a 90-minute doctor visit and a little anti-cooties juice.

 

After all the things I’ve learned, I’ve also learned I still don’t know a damn thing. Babies are hard. Having one all by yourself 70 hours per week is really hard. The three of us — Jace, Ace and myself — are slowly figuring things out.

Just in time to wrap this up…Jace is stirring.

 

 

 

Boys’ Three-Day Weekend

The first ever boys’ three-day weekend for Chad, Jace and Ace is starting to wind down. Beginning Sunday night at 7PM and continuing until Wednesday at 5:30PM it has been eventful.

The highlights:

Jace went through a crapload whole bunch of diapers. I guess when you eat eight times per day you are going to do a few #1 and #2s. How the heck did people do this when all the diapers were cotton and had to be washed and dried over and over?

I did a few loads of laundry, and a few more and one more after that. My son went through three different shirts in one day because he is either a diva or a slob. I prefer diva. It makes more sense with the whole crying thing.

ace_jace_091514
Ace sneaks in for a little sniff and a kiss during Jace’s play time.

Ace the dog has gone from jealous to curious to downright loving. He has learned to stay back during feedings — no easy feat for a Jack Russell — and plant a few kisses during burping time. He even managed to hone in on play time with his brother.

Sometimes Jace covets sleep, sometimes he fights it. He decides those times, and there is no telling which time is up next.

There are lots of books and online reading materials for learning how to raise a baby. I know my ex-girlfriend has read lots of them and passed along texts and texts of information to me while I am taking care of Jace.

But a lot of this seems like common sense. Protect him at all times, change him when he needs it, be patient, don’t yell, keep the house relatively quiet, keep the bottles and nipples really clean.

Jace thinks Dad's house is his own personal spa. He's right.
Jace thinks Dad’s house is his own personal spa. He’s right.

My friend Jerry and his wife Mei came over to drop off a present and lend a little moral support. It’s always good to talk to people who have been down a road before. In this case, Jerry is probably the most no-nonsense friend I have. It’s calls ‘em as he see ‘em, and I felt better after listening to some of his advice.

I know there are going to be some times when I want to pull my hair out, but I also know I can do this.

Single dads, rock on!