Epic Parenting Fail

Growing up in the 60′s and 70′s in Kentucky, Ohio, and Southern California, I enjoyed amazing freedom. When I was six, seven, and eight, I spent my summers swimming at a local pool and playing golf at an adjoining nine hole par-3 course. With my clubs outstretched across my handlebars I biked a mile plus to the course. No helmet, major road crossing mid-way, no problem.

I’d be gone all morning often returning in the afternoon with my mom and sibs. Thus the skin cancer. While Wonderyears Wayne brandished his legend on the 10 meter platform, I decided between Twinkies and HoHos.*

From nine to twelve it was pickup football EVERYday after school. Despite being built like a 3-iron, I just wouldn’t go down. An 80 pound Marshawn Lynch. We’d play on our spacious, fenceless, suburban Ohio lawns, or on especially rainy or snow days, we’d jog along a wooded trail to the Talmadge High School field where the objective was to win while sliding as far as possible in the muddy grass. On Friday nights in the winter I’d take the same trail to the gym to watch high school basketball games.

Fast forward to today, where my wife and I and our friends grossly overplan every childhood activity**. If you had asked my mom where I was at any given non-school moment, odds are she wouldn’t have known. That’s why she was caught off guard when a construction worker chased me darn near into our house after friends and I raised hell on his site. And that’s why, one spring, she threatened to “never take me to the Emergency Room again” when I called to tell her I cut my foot wide open while playing around barefoot on a just melted tennis court. Today, she’d be tarred and feathered for her laissez-faire parenting.

But I lived. More than that, I flourished, because I was allowed to learn from bonehead decisions. Today, parents are squelching their kids with hyper-organized activities and constant monitoring. Recent research reveals that on average, even today’s college students text and/or talk to their parents twice a day. Co-dependence trumps independence.

Why the over-involvement and constant contact? My hypothesis is an irrational media-fueled fear of childhood abductions. My guess is there are the same or even fewer child abductions (per capita) today than in the 60′s and 70′s, but when they happen they get amplified in people’s minds as a result of cable news shows, People Magazine, and the 24/7 news cycle. By tuning into the media bullshit, we’ve helped create a false sense of unmitigated danger.

And so we end up with soccer leagues for three year olds and global position satellite devices for teens’ cars. And to what effect? Young people who aren’t passionate about much of anything because they’ve spent the bulk of their childhoods doing what their parent(s) have wanted them to.

Bethrothed and I talked this through on the way home from Seventeen’s last swim meet. It’s not a coincidence that she only swims in-season when adults expect her to. A friend of hers, an ace violinist, is sick and tired of playing the violin. Neither have ever been even close to the ER.

The GalPal and I have regrets, but also know there was a certain inevitability to our parenting approach given the “tipping point” created by our friends’ decision making. We tried to swim upstream one summer, honestly we did, deciding not to schedule any activities at all. Turned out few if any of our daughters’ friends were around thanks to a steady schedule of drama, sport, music, and dance camps.

If you’re twenty-five or thirty and just starting a family there is one escape. Buy a small farm. Raise animals and grow food. If your kids have to feed chickens, milk cows, and repair fences, they’ll spend far less time playing adult organized activities and facebooking (yes, that’s a new verb).

Of course there are legitimate things to worry about, for older children especially, alcohol and drug abuse, driving under the influence, and teen pregnancy. Minimize those risks by having dinner together, checking in regularly, knowing your children’s friends, and listening. Eliminate them by scheduling all of your children’s time, putting a video cam in their bedrooms, and monitoring their every move.

In the end, the choice isn’t entirely yours, in large part, it’s the families in your hood.

* in hindsight I should have said, “Hey girls, someday I’m gonna crush the Platform Primadonna at Ironman Canada.”

** kid you not, there are about eight parent committees to choose among if you want to help plan the class of 2013′s post graduation Senior Night

Homework Wars

French president Francois Hollande wants to ban homework. Borrowing from Slate:

Hollande suggested the take-home-study prohibition as part of his plan for education reform. The recently elected socialist party leader said “an education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.” He added that the homework ban was a matter of equality, since wealthier children have parental support at home and poor children do not.

When writing previously about teacher-parent relations, I failed to pinpoint homework as a major source of frustration and conflict. Even the GalPal and I, former public school teachers and teacher advocates, get frustrated with the constantly shifting nature of our daughter’s homework. Last year in 11th grade she spent two to four hours on homework nearly every night. This year, in 12th grade, with just a slightly less rigorous courseload, she typically has no homework.

Even though two-thirds of France opposes Hollande’s ban, he’s right that homework complicates equal educational opportunity. In schools that lack academic rigor and parental involvement, teachers start out assigning homework, overtime though, when a majority of students don’t do it, they quit assigning it. Which partly explains the achievement gap.

I’ve also observed in schools in poor communities where teachers sometimes only have one set of textbooks, meaning they can’t leave the classroom. In stark contrast, in the interest of back health and extended learning, a few of my daughters’ teachers checked out two texts per student so they could keep one at home and one in their school locker. So much for equal educational opportunity. And for equal opportunity more generally, the supposed lynchpin of American life.

You’re thinking let’s figure out how to raise the homework floor not lower its ceiling, and of course that makes more sense, but how do we raise the floor if a lot of children don’t have even one adult who knows and cares about whether their homework is completed?

To defuse the growing teacher-parent-homework divide, schools should stop leaving homework decision-making up to every individual teacher to do as they please. That’s what leads to extreme unevenness. Elementary school principals should help grade-level teams decide together on a philosophy of homework. Secondary principals should help academic departments do the same. Then grade-level teams and academic departments should work towards a consensus on a school-wide “Philosophy and Practice of Homework Guide” for parents and students.

And to reduce the number of tearful late nights, it would help if every teacher took time before the end of class to do the first ten percent of so of the assigned homework with students to make sure everyone understands it.

What’s the right amount of homework? The guideline I’ve always liked is ten minutes per night per grade, so an hour a night in sixth grade, and two hours in twelfth. However, parents will adjust to more or less if its purposes are clearly and convincingly communicated and they know what to expect in advance.

The sort of “Philosophy and Practice of Homework Guides” I’m recommending would also help parents make more informed decisions about where to enroll their children. Different guides will resonant with different parents’ educational philosophies.

I suppose there are two other ways to defuse the homework divide. One is to return to the 1970′s of my youth and build a “study hall” into students’ school schedules. Another is to put a proposed ban to a vote of the nation’s students.

Life Lesson Compliments of TSwift

In the life of seventeen year old girls everywhere, today is a RED letter day. Pun intended. If you’re unaware that Taylor Swift is releasing Red, her fourth album, you may suffer from popular culture deficiency syndrome for which the only treatment is a subscription to People Magazine.

Not afraid to say I dig this song. Who says women aren’t decisive enough?

Here’s a TSwift primer to catch you up. From a Los Angeles Times review of Red:

Swift continues to be a lightning rod for attention, positive and negative. For every award she collects, such as her six Grammys including the album of the year for “Fearless” and multiple entertainer of the year accolades from the Country Music Assn. and the Academy of Country Music, she weathers withering blows from listeners and music critics who dis her vocal abilities, even her enthusiasm whenever good news comes her way.

Jealous much? I guess when you’ve never been arrested or even caught acting like a fool in public, those hard wired to criticize rip your enthusiasm. While it’s still on the air, I submit to you a new Sesame Street quiz—which one doesn’t fit—public drunkenness, hit and run, too darn smiley, drug overdose.

Swift says, “I never have the moment where I feel like it’s too much, but there’s definitely the moment where I get sad that I feel like sometimes people don’t believe in anything being genuine anymore. That no matter what, there’s someone questioning everything that I say or do.”

More from the review:

She makes no apologies for her pursuit of happiness or for her ubiquitous and oft-criticized expressions of wide-eyed, opened-mouth surprise each time she is on the receiving end of an award.

“The No. 1 piece of advice other artists have given me,” she said, “is ‘Live in the moment. Really, really understand that this is amazing.’ Some of them have said, ‘I let it pass me by; I didn’t realize how great it was till after. And I acted really cool when it was all happening, and then afterward I realized I’d let it pass by.’

Live in the moment. Really understand this is amazing. “This” isn’t a music award for most of us. For me this is the opportunity to raise two children. This is being healthy enough to complete a long distance triathlon. This is truly knowing and supporting my wife’s dreams. What are you assuming there’s ample time for? What are you at risk of letting pass by?

Instead of ripping TSwift for not having the strongest, most impressive voice in the world, and for being too darn joyful, we should thank her for inspiring us to “live in the moment”. She explains:

“If you really take that advice to heart, you freak out when you win an award. If you’re really living in the moment, you’re not bored that you won an award. I got a Grammy this year, and I really tried hard not to be as excited — not to act so excited when I won. But,” she said, breaking into laughter, “I get so excited and I just was; I was really, really happy about it.”

Here’s to living in the moment and being unapologetic about being really, really happy.

No Child Left Bored

Teaching would be still be damn hard if every student in every classroom read, wrote, and solved for x at the exact same grade level. Curriculum, interpersonal, and time management challenges would still overwhelm at times.

But of course classrooms almost always have some students who are either well behind or ahead of their peers, making teaching especially tough.

In the United States, in the last decade, political, business, and other opinion leaders have realized that the U.S. will be at a serious disadvantage in the global economy if a third of young people drop out of school only partially literate. Through initiatives like No Child Left Behind more attention has been paid to struggling students.

Even if the “No Child Left Behind” rationale is more utilitarian than humanitarian, that curricular emphasis is long overdue, but it’s also important to think about strong students who don’t find school interesting or challenging enough. It’s time for a “No Child Left Bored” campaign.

Conventional wisdom on how to prevent school boredom—go faster—is wrong. In “No Child Left Bored” classrooms teachers would routinely include an enrichment activity or “extension” in every lesson or homework assignment. These enrichment activities or extensions wouldn’t require more time, just deeper thinking. Here are some examples:

• A Pacific Northwest middle school science lesson on the water cycle, how to test for water quality, and how sewer run-off impacts Puget Sound waterways. The extension is an in-class discussion or outside-of-class research writing assignment. Should dams be removed for the sake of salmon populations? Why or why not?

• A high school civics class on the U.S. electoral college. Homework is to watch one of the Presidential or Vice-Presidential debates and then answer a few questions about it. The extension is a homework option intended to take the same amount of time as the debate questions. In life we often learn the hard way that the way we say something is sometimes even more important that what we say. Put differently, style sometimes trumps substance. Offer a theory about the relationship between style and substance using examples from the debate, and if possible, your own life. Be sure to explain whether one is more important than the other or whether they’re equally influential.

•A second grade art lesson is in essence a review of primary and secondary colors. Students practice mixing primary water colors to make secondary ones. The extension is a discussion about whether artists should paint what people might want to buy or whatever they want. How important is money?

Leave no child bored by asking students of all ages more open-ended questions that are usually thought of as “adult” questions. Questions that reasonable people disagree about. Questions that adults haven’t figured out. Conceptual questions. Questions that make your head hurt. In a good way.

The Rise of Expert Recommendations

Saturday night, after enjoying a falafel and pear cider with friends at Olympia’s Fish Tale Brew Pub, I read Washington State’s 39 page charter school initiative which will allow up to 40 public charter schools in Washington State over a five-year period. We’re one of nine states that doesn’t allow charter schools. Bill Gates and other charter school advocates are hoping the third time is the charm.

My reading was preparation for a forum discussion I was invited to lead Sunday morning at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Tacoma. My instructions were to take 20-30 minutes to provide some context for the initiative and then explain the arguments for and against it. Then the plan was to spend the remaining 30-40 minutes with the forty or so church members in an open-ended question and answer back-and-forth. I could have invited my right wing nut job of a neighbor who also happens to be one of my better friends. We’ve been debating the initiative during our early morning, pitch-black runs. That definitely would have been more entertaining, but I didn’t want to split the honorarium with him.

I was amazing. Like Fox News, “fair and balanced.” Today’s Tacoma News Tribune* probably describes my presentation as a Romney-Biden mix of preparation and passion**. I started with a joke. I said I think my wife came with me to make sure I wasn’t playing Chambers Bay—a golf course a few miles away, the site of the 2015 U.S. Open. Chuckles all around.

About five minutes into the larger context of education reform, the first hand, a middle-aged woman. “How are you going to vote?” What the heck I thought, I hadn’t even handed out the “Yes on 1240″ and “No on 1240″ handouts. “Like a good social studies teacher,” I said, “I think I’d like to wait until the very end to answer that.” “But I have to leave early,” she fired back. In the interest of maintaining some semblance of objectivity and suspense, I wiggled out of answering her. After I finished my presentation, an animated discussion ensued. With about ten minutes left, someone else popped the question. “So how are you ready to tell us how you’re going to vote?”

Since I still think like a social studies teacher, my initial thought was, come on people, don’t be lazy, think it through yourselves. But on the drive home, I thought about how I also depend upon expert recommendations. For example, when I first started thinking about how to invest my savings, I read John Bogle’s book, “Bogle on Mutual Funds: New Perspectives for the Intelligent Investor.” Here’s the updated version. Boggle turned me into a passive, index investor. He convinced me I wasn’t smart enough to invest in individual stocks or time the market. Instead of studying the financials of individual companies, I bought Vanguard mutual funds Bogle recommended.

That wasn’t laziness, it was thinking smarter, not harder. Increasingly, we’re all susceptible to information overload. We don’t have enough background knowledge or time to always learn enough to make perfectly informed decisions. So it makes sense to turn to connoisseurs. It makes sense to say to the egg-head education professor who knows public schools and spent Saturday night reading the initiative, “How should I vote?”

It’s a slippery slope though. It’s possible to be too dependent upon expert recommendations. Especially considering “experts” often have a vested interest in how you vote, invest, or spend money. Seconds after this Tuesday night’s Presidential debate, an army of political pundits will try to tell you what you should think about what you saw and heard. Odds are you and I and our democracy would be better off if we unplugged and talked to one another.

Modern life requires some dependence upon expert recommendations, the challenge is figuring out just how much.

At this point, my Washington State readers are wondering, how should they vote. I’ll make you a deal. There’s lots of things you know more about than me. Offer me an expert recommendation (via comments or email) and in return, I’ll tell you how to vote on I-1240.

* It appears as if the Seahawks amazing come from behind victory over the New England Patriots bumped our I-1240 forum from the front page.

** The Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates should be like an athletic tourney—win and advance. Romney and Biden advance to the winner’s bracket and Obama and Ryan to the losers. Given recent events, who wouldn’t want to see Romney v Biden. Then again, Obama v Ryan would be a real snoozer. Another idea. A tag-team format. Whenever you’re getting beat down you tag your partner and he comes to your rescue. Just like we used to do during especially rowdy sleepovers in grade school.

The Great National Happiness Rat Race

Just one of many money phrases, sentences, and paragraphs from a recent NYTimes blog post by Ruth Whippman, a Brit living in California. Whippman beautifully articulates what I’ve long thought. She leads with an Eric Hoffer quote, “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”

Notable nuggets:

Despite being the richest nation on earth, the United States is, according to the World Health Organization, by a wide margin, also the most anxious, with nearly a third of Americans likely to suffer from an anxiety problem in their lifetime. America’s precocious levels of anxiety are not just happening in spite of the great national happiness rat race, but also perhaps, because of it.

Thomas Jefferson knew what he was doing when he wrote that “pursuit of happiness” line, a perfectly delivered slap in the face to his joy-shunning oppressors across the pond. The British are generally uncomfortable around the subject, and as a rule, don’t subscribe to the happy-ever-after. It’s not that we don’t want to be happy, it just seems somehow embarrassing to discuss it, and demeaning to chase it, like calling someone moments after a first date to ask them if they like you.

Evidence of this distinction is everywhere. Blindfold me and read out the Facebook statuses of my friends, without their names, and I will tell you which are American and which are British. Americans post links to inspirational stories, and parenting blogs packed with life lessons. (British parenting blogs tend to be packed with despair and feces.) My American friends post heartwarming messages of support to one another, and often themselves, while my British cohort’s updates are usually some variation on “This is rubbish.”

Even the recent grand spectacle of the London 2012 Olympic Games told this tale. The opening ceremony, traditionally a sparklefest of perkiness, was, with its suffragist and trade unionists, mainly a celebration of dissent, or put less grandly, complaint. Still, this back door approach to national pride propelled the English into a brief and unprecedented stint of joyous positivity — lasting for the exact duration of the Games. For three weeks I was unable to distinguish my British friends’ Facebook statuses from those of my American ones.

The transformation wasn’t absolute of course. . . . Our queen, despite the repeated presence of a stadium full of her subjects urging in song that she be both happy and glorious, could barely muster a smile, staring grimly through her eyeglasses and clutching her purse on her lap as if she might be mugged.

Cynicism is the British shtick. . . . By contrast, in America, happiness is work. Intense, nail-biting work, slogged out in motivational seminars and therapy sessions, meditation retreats and airport bookstores. For the left there’s yoga, for the right, there’s Jesus. For no one is there respite.

While the British way can be drainingly negative, the American approach to happiness can spur a debilitating anxiety. The initial sense of promise and hope is seductive, but it soon gives way to a nagging slow-burn feeling of inadequacy. Am I happy? Happy enough? As happy as everyone else? Could I be doing more about it? Even basic contentment feels like failure when pitched against capital-H Happiness. The goal is so elusive and hard to define, it’s impossible to pinpoint when it’s even been achieved — a recipe for neurosis.

Happiness should be serendipitous, a by-product of a life well lived, and pursuing it in a vacuum doesn’t really work. This is borne out by a series of slightly depressing statistics. The most likely customer of a self-help book is a person who has bought another self-help book in the last 18 months. . . . Every year, with remarkable consistency, around 33 percent of Americans report that they are “very happy.” It’s a fair chunk, but a figure that remains surprisingly constant, untouched by the uptick in Eastern meditation or evangelical Christianity, by Tony Robbins or Gretchen Rubin or attachment parenting. For all the effort Americans are putting into happiness, they are not getting any happier. It is not surprising, then, that the search itself has become a source of anxiety.

So here’s a bumper sticker: despite the glorious weather and spectacular landscape, the people of California are probably less happy and more anxious than the people of Grimsby. So they may as well stop trying so hard.

 

The Art of Science Teaching

Legions of teachers do amazing work with an incredible mix of young people every school day. Very few people are aware of just how amazing.

I’ve been hired by an independent middle school to help nine faculty strengthen their teaching, develop individual professional development plans, and map the school’s curriculum. Groovy stuff.

Last week I observed a former public high school science teacher who has a reputation for spending an inordinate amount of time in his classroom. A pro, who probably outworks every critic who think teachers have it easy, he spends his summers with other teacher leaders at a midwest university writing case studies and teaching other science educators how to teach them.

The class I observed was sublime. The unit is “Osmosis and Diffusion.” The case, based on true events, was titled “Agony & Ecstasy”. It revolved around three college friends who took their fourth friend to the emergency room after she started foaming at the mouth and shaking uncontrollably the morning after a party. The students assumed the role of the medical intern who had to figure out what was wrong with the sick woman. They thought of important questions to ask the friends, first by themselves, then with a partner, and then as a group. Had their friend been behaving oddly before the party? What was her prior medical history? Did she use alcohol or drugs at the party?

Eventually, the students learned they used Ecstasy at the party the previous night. After a short explanation of brain cells during which the teacher used his fingers, hands, and arms to illustrate how neuro transmitters work, the students logged onto Mouse Party, a University of Utah website designed for middle and high school students to learn about how drugs affect the brain. Using information found on Mouse Party the students filled out a data table on how Ecstasy works and listed what else they needed to know in order to figure out why the young woman was so sick.

Next the class will examine her blood work and learn about why salt/water imbalances lead to tissue and brain swelling. In the end, they’ll learn the young woman drank a tremendous amount of water to blunt the drug’s impact and suffered from hyponatremia.

This brief description of the class doesn’t begin to capture the teacher’s skill. He brilliantly tapped the students’ prior knowledge without getting bogged down on too many tangents, he grouped the students so that they’d work well together, he continually checked in on how each group was doing, and he modeled continuous learning by saying things like “I don’t know” and “You know what I’m curious about”. And he used technology so effortlessly that you may not have even thought about it had you been observing.

Best of all, he really wants my help in getting even better. And there’s always ways to improve. Every class, every day. Among a couple of other ideas, I suggested he “sell” the case better by putting one or more of the students names in it and by explaining that it’s an emergency situation so they have to work especially hard to solve it within two class periods. The only limit to enlivening it, I said, was his creativity. His eyes widened and he started talking excitedly about working with the theater teacher and incorporating props.

I had to wait to conference with him because Claire’s lizard had died the night before. He listened patiently, and repeated, “I’m so sorry.” He and Claire discussed the bad things that happen in lizards’ stomachs when they eat sand. He told her he was going to bring a lizard to the classroom so that her friend and her could have a positive experience. “What kind?” she asked. “A gecko lizard,” he explained.

She left without thanking him, but that didn’t ruffle his feathers. He’s used to it.

The U.S. Electoral College Map Explained

Take a gander.

Since you always aced your social studies courses you already know the President needs 270 electoral votes out of the 538 up for grabs. The winner can lose darn near forty small states, win the most heavily populated ten plus, and be the first to tag the bible on January 20, 2013.

Show the above map to grade schoolers and ask who is likely to win. They’ll say the Red Team.

Even though you understand how the Electoral College works, you probably don’t know why some states tip blue and others red. That’s what I’m here for.

It all starts with cool ocean breezes in the Pacific, upper Atlantic, and Great Lakes region. Those cool breezes translate into more moderate temperatures especially on the West Coast and in the upper Northeast. In contrast, the great, red, middle swath of the country is mired in hot and humid summers and killer cold winters almost all the time. Ocean and Great Lake breezes and cool temps contribute to blood flow, heightened brain activity, and altogether clearer thinking. Sadly, over time, people living in the great, red, middle swath of the country develop cognitive deficits as a result of oppressive heat and humidity and dramatic temperature swings. The technical term for this is Climatic Induced Cognitive Deficit Disorder or CICDD.

Also, until the last presidential election, very few people knew that on clear days you can actually see Russia from the West Coast of the U.S. That proximity to Russia—coupled with shared suffering during earthquakes, mud slides, and forest fires—explains the more collectivist mindset of Left Coasters.

Then there’s dietary considerations. Reds don’t just like their heat, humidity, and bugs, they like breaded and fried meat casserole-based potlucks more specifically. All washed down with whole milk. Blues prefer roasted vegetables, fresh fruit, and wine. That explains the dramatic physical health divide, which like the climatological differences, translates into a mental health chasm. Eat well, be well, think well.

Then there’s preferred outdoor activities. This time of year Blues hike among trees and meditate silently upon their changing colors all while looking forward to snow shoeing and cross country skiing. Reds hike among trees too, in search of large defenseless animals to shoot and kill. Then they drag them home, bread them, and fry them. All while looking forward to firing up their snowmobiles and making lots of noise and pollution. Blue outdoor activities lead to enlightenment. Red to blight and lunacy.

Then there’s different artistic sensibilities. Blues prefer classical music, independent and foreign films, modern dance, national public radio, and The New Yorker. Reds, country and heavy metal, Arnold Schwarzenegger films, reality television, Fox News, and The Washington Times. Heightened enlightenment and even greater lunacy.

Class dismissed.

I’m Lost

Now that I’m the greatest triathlete the world my family has ever known, I’m lost. Sibling rivalry is a beautiful thing. For the last six months sticking it to my brother provided me with a purpose for living.

But now I need a new purpose for living. Here are some possibilities.

• Be the first male to break down the Olympic synchronized swimming or rhythmic gymnastics gender barrier.

• Cut a rap record. Are you aware there’s a serious shortage of white, 50-something, Ph.D. rappers? I could be the Chosen One. Today’s Facebook friend request from someone named Joanna Byrnes in Tennessee inspired some sick lyrics. Turns out Joanna is married to Ron Byrnes. But I guess Tennessee Ron Byrnes isn’t quite enough. Yeah Joanna, odds are you did pick the wrong one, but I’m already spoken for, so it’s probably best to get on with your life. One more reason Twitter rules and Facebook drools, lots of people on Facebook share your name despite whacky spellings. Am I the only one that weirds out? Back to my off-the-hook lyrics. Ask a friend with human beat box skills to lay down a beat while you read this seedling of rap genius:

May I have your attention please? May I have your attention please? Will the real Ron Byrnes please stand up? I repeat, will the real Ron Byrnes please stand up? We’re gonna have a problem here.. ‘Cause I’m Ron Byrnes, yes I’m the real Byrnes. All you other Ron Byrnes’s are just imitating. So won’t the real Ron Byrnes please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?

• Go hard after Frenchman Robert Marchand’s new 100k cycling record of 4:17:27. Marchand is 100 years old so that could provide me with a reason for living for the next half century. Marchand averaged 14.3 miles an hour but pre-race said, “If I was doping, maybe I could hit 21-22mph.” Part of his secret, honey in his canteen.

• Compete in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Told the GalPal, given my horrific mountain biking skills, I could literally die during the race. A friend who competed in the race a few years ago almost watched another participant die after a terrible accident. The GalPal’s reply, “Maybe a second Ironman isn’t such a bad idea.” There’s an important life lesson there fellas, but if I need to spell it out, there’s no hope for you.

That’s all I can think of for now. Vote for one of those or recommend something new that my pea-brain hasn’t considered. But don’t delay. It’s tough living day-to-day without an overarching purpose.

Hold the presses!!! The most difficult and important project en todo el mundo just dawned on me—learn to listen more patiently to the woman who, in 1987, won the real Ron Byrnes lottery. I’d like to think her life has been a fairytale ever since, but recently she told me she doesn’t feel truly listened to.

Can I learn to listen more patiently? I’ll try.