Learning About True Love Through My Toddler’s Eyes

Learning About True Love Through My Toddler’s Eyes

For as long as I can remember, I have been captivated by the idea of love. How people find love, fall in love, stay in love, love their families….it doesn’t really matter. My heart and my emotions have forever been tattooed on my sleeve for all to see, in good times and bad, and love has long been the centerpiece of that artwork.

On a day like today (however crafted and commercial you may feel Valentine’s Day has become with the price of fancy dinners and roses marked up 100%, battling to find just the right greeting card the night of February 13th with all the other knuckleheads who waited until the last minute & bitter single people everywhere staging their protests across social media), I cannot help but be thankful for love. Love for my wife who stands by me and chooses to love me even on my worst days, love for my family who in spite of our differences will always care about each other unconditionally, love for my job and the relationships I get to build with my players & students each and every day, and love for my friends who have truly made me who I am over the years.

All of those are amazing by themselves or on the whole but, over the past two years, I have been schooled in a very different kind of love thanks to my most important role/job/responsibility ever….being a parent.

February 2, 2015 marked a day I had always looked forward to & will never forget, when Carter Jamison Bricker entered the world, much to his Mom and my overwhelming joy and anticipation. To say we had waited a long time, often impatiently, is an understatement and through the exhaustion, stress, nervousness and so much more we welcomed him with open arms. Those of you who are parents can attest to the fact that nothing compares to that moment when you first lay eyes on your son or daughter and, in that moment, your lives are changed forever. In that very instant…love, that short but far from simple word, takes on a whole new meaning.

I’ll be honest, due to my aforementioned emotional tendencies, I have tremendous passion for many things: I love my sports teams and cannot stand it when they lose, I love playing basketball, golf & just about every sport there is, I love the smell of a well prepared meal and the sound of company laughing aloud as they enjoy the food, and I love music and the way it pulls people together. But truly, those pale in comparison to how much I have grown to love being a Dad!

But even the love of being a parent, which I have at times been overwhelmed by in the last 730+ days, has recently been overtaken in the polls by my amazement at the love Carter J has for the world around him. And it has given me a new perspective I never dreamed I would have….to see each experience as not just a singular event, but an amazing connection of new and old experiences which I’ve seen over and over in how Carter J finds true love for living each and every moment to its fullest. I have truly been changed by experiencing the world through my toddler’s eyes.

Last week, Carter J turned 2 and I am 100% convinced he has this whole loving life thing completely figured out. Not in the Doogie Howser, my kid is the smartest kid ever, kind of way, but more in terms of how he lives each day. I know he is inevitably going to lose this innocence at some point, but for now I am going to enjoy every second of it…allow me to explain:

  • He appreciates and is amazed by the simplest things in life. Certainly much of this can be attached to the limited development of his brain but let’s not concern ourselves with that right now. Every time a construction truck, trash truck or really any kind of truck drives by, his excitement cannot be contained. In fact, for his birthday party this past weekend, we had a trash truck come to the house for all the kids to sit in and Carter was beside himself. The simple things in life still capture his attention & keep him entertained daily.img_0268
  • At least once a day or more, I watch him be completely captivated by a book, a TV show, a toy or even in people as we walk around a mall, and I cannot help but wonder what he is thinking. He’s not consumed by a to-do list or paying bills or any responsibility at all, really.  He just works so hard to take everything in, all the while being amazed at the experience. A couple weeks ago we were on the same beach in Oceanside where I grew up & Carter must have stood still on the sand staring at the crashing waves for close to 5 minutes which, in toddler time, is like 10 years. His awe & wonder for the world is awesome and I so want him to always be amazed & curious!img_0182
  • He loves people and will say hello and give a high five to just about everyone he meets..after the initial awkward toddler hesitancy where he tries to figure out if you are “ok” to talk to. He will often be bouncing across the living room, moving from one activity to the next, when he randomly stops to look at us and say, “Hi Mama….Hi Dada!” He’s yet to figure out that most people in this world have forgotten the power and impact a simple hello and a smile can have on another person and I hope he always remembers to smile & say hello. 7063da63-f4ee-45e6-a91b-91d60e72f636
  • He has zero trouble expressing his frustration & anger and he almost never holds back. While this often causes his parents to resist the temptation to scream out loud in return and also encourages more frequent trips to the wine and beer aisles of the grocery store, I appreciate that he feels comfortable to always tell us exactly how he feels. Too often as adults we hold back and don’t find the appropriate way to share our thoughts and feeling with those around us. Not saying we should all throw ourselves on the floor crying, kicking and screaming when we don’t get our way…but maybe there is a comfortable middle of the road option.
  • He absolutely dances like nobody is watching! Neither of his parents have a musical bone in their bodies in terms of true talent, but we both do have a true love for music that Carter J has also displayed in the past couple years. Anytime a good song comes on (especially Can’t Stop the Feeling by JT), Carter stops on a dime and starts shaking his stuff for all to see. He couldn’t care less that some people are staring at him, a few in appreciation and a few I am sure judging him for being off beat, and I really wish more of us were that way. Let’s just do what moves us and as long as it doesn’t hurt or directly affect anyone around us, let’s do it whenever our hearts tell us it’s time! 🙂

So this Valentine’s Day, amidst all the red and romance with your significant other…I hope we can all take some time to appreciate our love for life. Appreciate the small things that put a smile on your face, be amazed by the world around you, smile and say hello to a few complete strangers, express your emotions without filter, and maybe most important…dance like nobody is watching!

Carter J…thanks for teaching me all of these lessons and so many more on a daily basis. Know that I am so proud to be your Dad and that I love our relationship more and more each day. You’re the best buddy!




My Final Day as a Charger Fan

My Final Day as a Charger Fan

Throughout my life, every lesson I have learned has come from my involvement in and experiences with Sports. Not just a particular Sport….but Sports as a whole; the single most wonderful gift a boy could be given.

I’ve played just about every major team and individual sport there is, either competitively or just for fun. I’ve made three-pointers, thrown touchdown passes, struck batters out, saved penalty kicks, made birdie putts, served an ace and so much more. Even thinking about doing any one of those right now gives me chills and makes me want to lace up my Nikes and run out on the field. But more importantly, through Sports I’ve learned amazing life lessons about teamwork, passion, understanding your role, focus, and the list goes on. There’s no skill or characteristic I possess currently at the age of 41, that I cannot in some way trace back to my experiences as an athlete, fan or coach.

Sports have also been a major contributor to building and, more recently, rebuilding a relationship with my Dad who, while it has taken me many years to realize, only ever wanted to connect with his son in any way he could and Sports were, and still are, his most comfortable way to achieve that. I appreciate it more today than I ever have in my entire life and can only hope I get the same opportunity to share that passion and love for these great games with my son Carter.

My obsession and love for these great games is all I’ve ever known, but it’s important to understand that I really didn’t have a choice in the whole matter, to be honest. You see, my Grandfather on my Mom’s side of the family (Papa, we called him), showed up at the hospital on April 27, 1975, arms full of sports equipment to greet his first grandchild….a baby boy. My Mom was an only child and, while she was an absolute diamond in her parent’s eyes, I came to realize over the years that my Papa was so proud of me and wanted nothing more than to expose me to all that sports had to offer. On top of that…my Dad, and his Dad too, were die-hard San Diego sports fans and, while Saturday’s were dedicated to Notre Dame football at Papa’s house, just about every Sunday in the fall was spent in my Grandpa’s TV Room watching the San Diego Chargers.

I had the great pleasure of growing up in the “Air Coryell” Era with Dan Fouts throwing TD passes to Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joyner and John “JJ” Jefferson, among others. I can still recite every word of the San Diego Super Chargers song and I remember playing it over and over as a kid with the 45-rpm vinyl record I had of the anthem. I can feel the excitement of my first Charger game when I was a kid in what I will always call Jack Murphy Stadium….tailgaiting in the parking lot, throwing the football around and waiting for the dogs and burgers to finish cooking on the grill. I will never forget Dennis Gibson deflecting the pass in the end zone in Pittsburgh to send the Chargers to their first and only Super Bowl.  I had the pleasure of watching LT (LaDanian Tomlinson) break the single season rushing TD record and, while I haven’t always backed his antics, I will never forget the passion and love for the game that Phillip Rivers plays with each and every day he steps on the field. All of these memories and so many more are etched in my mind for eternity.

Unfortunately, the other memory that will be impossible to exorcise from my brain will be of January 12, 2017…the day my beloved San Diego Chargers “bolted” town to head to Los Angeles. The day my beloved Sports taught me a lesson about the difference between what’s important to owners and what’s important to Fans.

As I sit on my couch tonight, floating aimlessly somewhere between pissed-off and heartbroken, it still feels like a dream. How did the San Diego Chargers come to this point in time where their owner would choose to pay a $550 million relocation fee to move to a city where his team will be the 4th most popular football team, rather than put that money toward building his own stadium in San Diego. The owner tried to put a plan to a vote to raise additional funds and shame on the residents of the city of San Diego who would not have paid a dime for the stadium (but voted it down anyway) because Measure C called for an increase in hotel taxes (among other taxes) that would all be paid by tourists and visitors to the city…not local SD residents. But shame on the owner, SD government officials and others who could never come to the table as a united front to do what was best for San Diego….to keep the Chargers. A new stadium and convention center expansion would have brought with it hundreds of millions of dollars from Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, political conventions and who knows what else. Additional shame on those same folks for how they constructed a plan that could only be voted on by city residents, rather than all of San Diego County, where the majority of Charger fans reside. No Charger fan really had a chance to get involved and help get something done…and we would have done it! All Dean Spanos had to do was come out and say from the very beginning how committed he was to staying in San Diego forever and we all would have been there to help in any way we could. But that isn’t ever what he truly wanted, it seems. All the evidence you need is the new logo and video they released within an hour of announcing the move…on Facebook of all places. Where was the courage or even courtesy of announcing the move on TV so we could at least look into your greedy eyes one last time. Where was the decency to give us a little time to let it all sink in before you bombarded our social media feeds with your new marketing materials.

None of it makes sense when you think about it all, other than the spoiled selfish act of a billionaire sports owner wanting to make a few more hundred million dollars….but as I said, therein lies the harsh lesson of Sports in the year 2017. It’s no longer about the game, the fans or even the players really…it’s about the business.

What hurts the most is that the fans in San Diego will miss out on so much now. LaDanian Tomlinson is sure to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall and who knows, maybe Coach Coryell will get in now too. But the team’s departure from SD surely puts a damper on that. San Diego fans won’t get to see Antonio Gates break the record for TD receptions by a Tight End. Rookie Joey Bosa will make a name for himself under the bright lights and empty seats amidst the smog in LA and Phillip Rivers is being robbed of playing his entire career in a city he loves so much. He’s far too competitive to do it, but part of me hopes Rivers just hangs it up this summer so he can retire a San Diego Charger for life!

With all of that being said, much of my focus has truly been on the question of what I will tell my son Carter. What will I ever say if he asks me to take him to a Charger game in Los Angeles? What will I tell him if he asks who my favorite football team is or why I no longer want to watch the NFL? How can I teach him about the importance of loyalty, the joy of a football tailgate, and the amazing feeling I used to feel when those Powder Blue jerseys ran out on the field? Thankfully, he’s still young enough that he cheers whenever any team scores or even just runs across the TV screen…so I guess I have some time to figure that out.

Maybe someday I can show him game highlights of how Air Coryell revolutionized the passing game in the NFL. Maybe someday I will play for him the San Diego Super Chargers song and teach him all the words. Maybe someday I will tell him about how I used to walk all around Jack Murphy Stadium looking for the Churro stand. And maybe someday he will become as passionate an athlete, leader and person as Phillip Rivers.

So as I contemplate whether to burn, pack up or give away the countless items I have in my wardrobe with that beautiful lightning bolt emblem on them…I’ll wipe away a few more tears and just spend a few days reflecting on how much fun I had being a Charger fan for nearly 42 years. Through the few highs and many lows, I always stayed loyal to my hometown city and team and I love San Diego as much as any place in the entire world. I will forever be a San Diego Charger fan, but I just don’t know how to make sense of all this mess.

I do know one thing for sure, someday I will sit Carter down and share with him what it means to be loyal, what it means to show passion for your teams and also, what it felt like to experience the anger, heartbreak, confusion and disgust, that came on January 12, 2017…..my last day as a Charger fan.

If I Were A Student Using OneNote in 2016

While I may not be able to remember each and every day of my four years in high school in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I do have a very vivid memory to this day of how I found wonderful success in some classes, while also struggling mightily in others. Most of the rules of High School I figured out very early on and was subsequently able to use them to my academic advantage on most occasions. But recently, while reflecting on putting another school year as an Educator in the books, I tried to put myself in my students’ shoes to better understand their experiences, strengths, challenges and much more. What I came away with was a realization that I desperately wish I were a student in 2016 using OneNote….

CUE WAYNE’S WORLD DREAM SEQUENCE…doodely-do, doodely-do, doodely-do…..

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would have absolutely everything I need all in one place. While I loved going to the store to buy carefully coordinated Trapper Keepers, binder dividers and much more, the energy, focus and effort to keep track of all those individual notebooks and folders throughout the school year was, at times, exhausting and often resulted in misplaced work…

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would never get a zero in the gradebook because I forgot my homework at home or left it in my locker. The simple fact that I would have each worksheet, outline, & assignment in one location would be a complete game changer for me. No more, “Where did I put that worksheet,” or “I thought I put it in my backpack,” or any other half-brained thought would ever have to cross my mind again.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would get regular feedback in real time from my teachers within a matter of hours or even minutes, depending on the assignment. With all of my teachers using the OneNote Class Notebook add-in, they would be able to review my work as soon as I complete it without having to wait a day or more for me to turn it by hand in class. To take it a step further, once my teachers graded my work, I would be able to go back into my notebook and see their comments without having to wait for a week or more until papers are passed back to the entire class. Speeding up that process would greatly enhance my learning experience.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would easily be able to collaborate with my classmates on group projects in real time through the Collaboration Space. No longer would we have to email documents back and forth, no doubt forgetting at some point which document was the most recent thereby causing a traumatic interruption to the group’s workflow. I could do peer editing to their typed essays with digital ink and, in fact, several of my classmates could edit the same document using a different color of ink so our classmate would know who left which comments.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would be more connected from year to year when I needed to reference a note, assignment or idea from a previous class. Imagine being in Algebra 2 reviewing an equation, thinking to yourself, “I really liked how Mr. Jensen taught this last year. I need to go back and find his notes.” With OneNote, I would have those notes, videos, etc. in a matter of seconds.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would have the ability to write a more efficient essay by using the dictation tool rather than having to type everything in, pausing every three words to fix a typo. Using that speech-to-text  avenue, my spelling errors would be almost non-existent and grammatical slip-ups would be easily edited, should they happen to pop up.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016,I would have improved reading comprehension with the Learning Tools Immersive Reader. Not only would I be reading the words on the page, but simultaneously hearing them pronounced correctly would add a level of retention and comprehension never before available to me.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would imagine having teachers who would be eager to share their opinions and feedback with me once or several times per week, rather than having to wait for weeks to take home a stack of 120 , seven-page essays to grade over the course of a week to 10 days. That just sounds terrible even typing it here. My teachers would definitely appreciate just making a comment or two at a time and being much more familiar with the final, more polished product when they went to give me a final grade.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would no longer be limited to the 8.5’ x 11” piece of binder paper, the even smaller pages of my English novel, or the Power Point slides my teacher printed four to a page. With the simple slide or pinch of my fingers, I could transform my blank canvas in OneNote from bulleted notes, to inked brainstorm, with lines and connections all over, in whatever format I chose.

If I were a student using OneNote 2016, I would absolutely, at the end of my four high school years, better understand my learning style and strengths having been able to adapt each of my assignments, lecture notes, handouts and more into whatever form I preferred.

If I were a student using OneNote in 2016, I would be a part of learning revolution where students would have the tool to meet all of our needs. The interaction with peers and teachers, the searchable, well-organize workspace,  and the consistency of user experience across all of my classes would give me the confidence I need to maximize my success in the classroom.

If I were a student using OneNote 2016, I would absolutey have it all! One Tool, One Solution…OneNote

The Power of Relationships

The Power of Relationships

In my nearly 20 years in the classroom, on the basketball court and around my three high school campuses as an educator, I’ve never once consciously gone to work looking for, or hoping that, a student or students would stop by to tell me how much they appreciated me or were influenced by my teaching, my class or something I said along the way. I assumed, rather hoped in most cases, that somewhere along the journey through each school year, a small group of individuals would enjoy my class or the club I moderated and that years down the road they would realize just as I did in my early 20’s, how much the presence of their high school teachers influenced the person they’d become. Every once in a while, maybe only every few years or so, one of them would return to campus to reconnect with the community and stop by to share their appreciation for what I meant to them…and that was more than enough. Just one thank you every couple years has a way of rejuvenating my passion for a career I have always loved.

But rarely, however, do we teachers take the time to thank the students for the incredible impact they have on us and the many lessons we learn from them. Sure we say thank you at the end of the year, sign a few yearbooks and wish the seniors all the best as they enter the “Real World,” but really, do we ever take enough time to look a few students in the eye and just say a sincere and heartfelt, “Thank you.” Thank you for making me laugh on those days I came to work stressed out, feeling unappreciated and overworked. Thank you for reminding me how powerful it is to have dreams and goals, and to see the world and life as a beautifully blank canvas. Thank you for challenging me as a teacher, for misbehaving and talking out of turn so my integrity and management skills were put to the test. Thank you for listening and working hard because you didn’t want to let yourself or me down, even when you didn’t feel like learning math or didn’t have the energy to. Thank you for teaching me about relationships and that they are always and every day a two-way street. And maybe most important, thank you for teaching me that those relationships are why I am really in this whole gig to begin with.

I learned that last lesson in a big way during the 2003-04 school year while coaching the Freshman B Boys Basketball team at Juniper Serra High School in San Mateo. To be completely blunt, Frosh B basketball is at the bottom of the program list and only one or two of the players on that team typically ever make it to Varsity…but the 13 players on our team that year never let that fact cross their mind at any point of a meeting, practice, or game. They came every day to the dirty, sun-cracked blacktop courts outside and worked their tails off as though they were preparing for the Olympics. They played together, hung out together, went to class together and stayed together through all the ups and downs a basketball season inevitably provides. They gave me everything they had each and every day and their commitment and dedication inspired me to do the same. I worked harder and harder each and every day to help them realize their goals, knowing I would stop at nothing to ensure I would never let them down. After winning the league title on our home floor in the final game of the season that year,  I passed out Championship T-shirts and we celebrated by walking outside to those same outdoor courts and cutting down the weathered nets to celebrate our accomplishment. It is truly a moment, and a team, I will never, ever forget.

This week, the story of our team took another turn as a second player from that squad passed away after a long battle with Cancer, an opponent tougher than any we faced during the 03-04 season to be sure. Danny, like each and every one of his teammates from that team, was just the greatest kid and he is no doubt hanging out with another of our teammates, Anthony, who tragically passed away a few years ago. While he was not our leading scorer or rebounder, nor our best defender, Danny’s contributions were as vital as any of the starters who played the majority of the game. A terrific teammate, amazing friend, and giving human being, Danny made you want to be a better, more kind person. And from the stories I have heard over the years from people he met after his time at Serra, that never changed.

I moved from the Bay Area before Danny and his teammates graduated high school, but I kept in touch with a few of them here and there and I knew that Danny attended the University of Arizona, my alma mater and a place I am so passionate about to this day for what it made me during and after my years as a Wildcat Undergrad. It wasn’t until this past week, when I heard from one of Danny’s classmates after his passing, that I was a huge influence on why Danny wanted to go to U of A. Makes you just want to beam with pride and cry like a baby all at the same time. Bear Down, Danny!!!

So while I am sad our team has to battle another tough opponent in the grief of Danny’s passing, I hope they all know I am still to this day, honored to have been their coach. Gary, Steve, Phoenix, Jordan, Cameron, Tobi, Matt, Danny, Aaron, Casey, Andrew, Anthony and Nick…I still wear our Championship T-shirt all the time and will forever treasure the accomplishments we achieved and the memories we shared that season. Celebrate Danny’s life and know that we were all blessed to have him and each other for those memorable times.

So to that Frosh B Basketball Team….THANK YOU!!! Thank you for inspiring me to work harder as a teacher and coach than I ever had before. Thank you for your passion and for rooting each other on each and every day. Thank you for the video from the bachelor party, drinking the wine that never should have been saved for all those 10+ years. Thank you for your dedication, your hard work, your trust and, although you may not have realized you were doing so, thank you for helping me become the teacher, coach and person I am today.