Sunday, July 26, 2015

White Sox Class

      Cue the theme song from Chariots of Fire. Now that you've got that epic song in your minds you'll hear what I heard in my head last weekend when I went to Sox Park for a game with my buddies and a "surprise." Upon arrival, after VIP parking, Kamm, Brendan, Tim and I were brought into the stadium by our own PR escorts. They miked me up, where Kamm said, "you do know he's going to swear a lot," he was right, but they said they have good editors. 
      We waited a few minutes, giddy of what was to come. Jerry Reinsdorf strolled by, Harold Baines in his coaching gear, many player's wives, and then they escorted us out by the World Series monument. A few short moments later, cue the music, the 2005 World Series team walks out to join us by the monument. Brief back story, this is the team that almost cost Kamm and I a college degree. Back in the fall of '05 we boycotted class, homework, even tests when the Sox had a playoff game. One of the best decisions I ever made. The team took a dozen photos with the trophy before the WS MVP Jermaine Dye locks eyes on me. My face already hurts from smiling so much when he walks over, gets down on one knee and shakes my hand. He told me, "we've all heard you're our biggest fan, but we want you to know we think you're a hero," cue the music, when he hands me an '05 WS customized jersey with GRAHNKE across the back and insists I join the rest of the team and trophy for a picture. 
     Hundreds of pictures are being snapped, I told the guys I was worried I was going to swear, when Ozzie Guillen grabs my shoulders and says, "swearing, who the fuck cares?!? Fuckiodnbrbvv," that's how I would decipher what Ozzie said. The players dispersed but Jermaine held back and put the trophy on my chair and snapped a few more pictures. He then called over Frank Thomas. Frank is truly The Big Hurt, the man is massive but such a sweet guy. He and Jermaine grabbed a shoulder and we snapped a photo. That's when they turned the trophy over to my crew. They wanted me to hold the trophy but I was terrified my weakening arms would drop the WS trophy! I gave that honor to Kamm and then we took one of the happiest photos my wife said she thinks she's ever seen.
      On to Act 2. Our lovely PR team took us to the field through the clubhouse halls. Out on the field we listened to Rowand, Anderson, Blum and Ozzie speak to season ticket holders about '05. While they spoke we met the current White Sox RF Garcia. Another large dude, took a picture, got an autograph. Then, out of the dugout comes my dude Robin Ventura. We walk over to him where he shoots the shit with us. I told him of one of my most memorable games where he hit 2 home runs to win the game. Kamm complements his glasses. He told some jokes. Another awesome picture, another autograph, another manly and classy handshake. Cue the Sox players that just wrapped their interview. They come bear hug us and pull us in for more pictures. Ozzie talks fast and we lost track of his meaning, but who cares, the dude is so cool. Aaron Rowand gives me a little man shoulder massage, Brian Anderson complements my sunglasses.
      Act 3. We join Cate, Rosie, Logas, Halter, Joe and Paul in our suite to enjoy hot dogs and beers and take in the WS ceremony where we get another view of our '05 heroes. The videos on the jumbotron gave me chills. We relived every moment of the playoffs as the crowd roared. Kamm, Logas and I recall when the Sox won in '05 and I lead a screaming parade up and down the dorm halls. The day could have ended there and gone down in history as the best day ever right behind my wedding day, but it wasn't finished. 
      It's the top of the 4th inning, Sox are down when there is a knock at the door. In comes Jon Garland and Brian Anderson, as well as a camera crew. These two studs are here to hang out and have beers with us. Brian and Jon fold into our crew as if they've always known us. Jon and I talked about his daughter. Brian and I talk about hot dogs vs polish sausage. All the while they let me wear their WS rings on each hand. Eventually they had to split but not before taking some selfies with the crew and giving me a hug. We continued to party and enjoy the Sox all the way into the 13th inning.
      Now I know this experience would never have happened if I didn't have ALS. Jeff wouldn't have been able to tell the Sox much of a story if it weren't for this disease. As great as this day was, I'd trade it in a second if it meant I'd be healed. But right now the fact is I have ALS and it brought me one of the most epic days of all time. I'll be able to share this experience with my dad in heaven one day. My crew will remember this day for the rest of their lives. There's Grace in that. Cue the music.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


      There was a lot of drama attached to last night's Espy Awards and to be honest I didn't watch any of it. What I did watch was Stuart Scott's speech from last year's award show when he strongly and proudly discussed his mortality that he was soon to encounter due to his cancer. "When you die that doesn't mean you lost to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live." He delivered this quote with such poise that I remember yelling out, "hell yeah," and startling Michelle. I've been trying to live my life by this motto ever since I heard Stuart say it. I too am in a place where I have to face my mortality. ALS is terminal. Terminal doesn't mean I will stop swinging punches, even if my hands have trouble making fists. Terminal doesn't mean I will stop hugging and squeezing my nephews, even when my biceps are getting weaker. Terminal doesn't mean I will stop having fun. I won't give up on the White Sox. I won't stop drinking beer. I won't stop teaching. I won't stop being sarcastic and silly with people. I won't quit.
      I'm not going to lose to ALS, I've already won. I know Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins which means I've already got my ticket punched for the greatest destination imaginable. Thus, I'm going to keep living my life in a manner that's worth fighting for, love those around me that give me strength, and praise God for the blessings he showers me with. 
      I encourage all of you to live this way too, regardless of what obstacles or disease you might be facing. Embrace the life you have and those around you, because we're winning.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


      People handle their time in different ways. The type A's of the world make sure their to-do lists are filled and there is always a plan. The procrastinators of the world always delay, delay, delay. I find that I fall somewhere in the middle. In grad school I would always put off work until the last second and then cram and that worked out well for me. When the weekend rolls around though I want plans, I don't want a moment of freedom to go to waste.
      Now that I know that I have ALS I see time in a whole new way. As I've said before in blog posts, life is finite. When we say, "how am I going to spend my time?" We need to remember that we really have no idea how much time we have, nor is it "ours." It's on loan from God to us and we're to make it as meaningful as possible in the amount we are allotted. 
      It's summer vacation, perks of being a teacher, and having all this time has been both a blessing and a curse. I've already had some impeccable times with friends and family, and been on adventures with more to come in the upcoming weeks. But I've also spent a lot of time dwelling on my diagnosis and pitying myself. I was living by the stupid YOLO lifestyle and indulging too much to try and block out the hand I was dealt. I strayed away from the safe and loving path where God, my friends and my family are to help make "my time" special and worthwhile. 
      Today I found grace when I spoke with 80 kids about the reality of this disease and how it impacts not only me but thousands of others. They welcomed me with open arms and are dedicated to raising money for ALS. They showed compassion, grace and humor. Time well spent. Grace refilled.