Thursday, June 4, 2009

I think I've lost my mind, have you seen it?

Recently, in my efforts to lose weight, live longer, and be healthy, I started a moderate exercise program. I wanted to increase the intensity, so I signed up for and participated in the Nashville Music City Half Marathon. This was a 2 hour 24 minute slog through the streets of Nashville in 80 degree temperatures. I was proud to have completed this major challenge, but I think the heat of that day or the over exertion of the effort made me lose my sanity. This week, despite my better judgment, I signed up to participate in an Atomicman Triathlon. The event is annually held in Lenoir City at the end of September (the 27th). The Atomicman is recognized as a half Ironman. I will be required to swim 1.2 miles, ride my bike 56 miles, and run (I use that word loosely) 13.1 miles. I will move my body 70.3 miles in the course of about 7 hours. 7 straight hours of exercise. The more I think about it, the more I believe I have lost my mind!

There are a couple of positive points to this effort. 1.) I have convinced my brother-in-law to participate in the event with me (it always helps to have a training partner). I should have qualified that first sentence, when I say "positive", I mean positive for ME. He may not enjoy this commitment by the time it's completed! However, for me, it helps to have a training partner. So far so good, 5 days into training, and he has been there by my side every day (even the mornings we train at 5:00 a.m.), GO JOE! 2.) I decided that if I am going to go through all the pain of training and participating in this self-inflicted torture fest, I should make it for a good cause. So, I am looking for sponsors - 100% of your donated support will go to local non-profit organizations in an effort to help them do the good work this community so desperately needs (for a list of these organizations, visit This donation will be tax deductible as I will ask all those interested in supporting my effort to make the check out to the United Way of Bradley County.

Pray for me, wish me well, and be thinking about Joe and I as we take the next 17 weeks to prepare for this cycle of pain. Feel free to call or email me at, but if I don't immediately respond, don't be offended, I am probably visiting with my psychiatrist evaluating my sanity.

I am my brother's keeper

I have a little brother, his name is Sam. Actually, I have a younger brother. I just like to call him “little”; he is actually about 6’5” and almost 300 pounds. He is a BIG boy. He is four years my junior and came for a visit over Memorial Day weekend. I seem to have subscribed to the old George Burns saying, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close knit family in another city.” Sam lives in Columbus, Ohio. He is quite the success. He is a college grad (Ohio State – don’t worry I send him Tennessee clothes every Christmas), a high level administrator at Nationwide Insurance headquarters, and has a beautiful wife, two adorable children, and two dogs (one of them is sweet, the other . . . well, let’s just say one of them is sweet). He is good to his family, friends and community. Overall, he is just an outstanding individual.

One characteristic that my brother has is charisma. You see, everyone that meets Sam, likes Sam. He is always the life of the party and the person that everyone wants to be around. He always has had this affect on people. However, I must have been the exception to the rule, because he seemed to have the exact opposite impact on me growing up. It was probably because we were born 4 years apart. He was simply the pesky little brother that I had to take places and allow to play in games with my friends. We spent most of our childhood fighting. Although, I will give him credit, he could take a beating. No matter how rough my friends and I were on him, he always came back for more.

But Sam was not stupid. He knew how to make my life difficult if I didn’t comply with my mother’s instructions. I remember on many occasions when we decided he wasn’t going to play with us that he would run into the house, tears flowing to tell on me. He became so proficient, that he could make the tears flow without being upset and would threaten us with, “If you don’t let me play I’ll tell mom you hit me.” I tried to call his bluff only to realize he was telling the truth. Because he was the baby of the family, my mother always took his word on it. I remember one such occasion when we went through this exact scenario and I told my mom how he was faking it. Her response was, “Oh Matt, he can’t fake cry.” I immediately glared at my little brother on the other side of the room only to see him giggling at me as the tears streamed down his face.

Why do I share these memories? Only to say that despite this tumultuous childhood relationship, I love my brother. I only see him and his family once or twice a year now and I miss him in between those visits. He is a good man and I hope that I had some small part to do with that. We must all appreciate our time with our family. It doesn’t matter if you had a rough relationship in the past, if you live different lives now, they are family. We should make a point of sharing family time, listening more, and lifting one another up rather than tearing each other down. I have done a good job of beating up my brother over the years. I need to commit to building him up for the future. As Mignon McLaughlin once said, “Family quarrels have a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that it is not for keeps; that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back.” For more information on how to rebuild a relationship in your family, contact us at or 472-9876.

I'm no superman, but my son believes I am!

Yesterday, my son wanted to wear his Superman pajamas all day long. He has taken to calling himself, “Super Jackson”. He has been known to run into our living room, in full superhero gear yelling, “SuperJackson to the rescue!” He has not yet tried to jump off the roof and fly, but we are worried. My three year old son has become a full fledged superhero, or at the very least, a super fan of superheroes.

Superman was also my favorite superhero. I collected his comic book for many years as a child. He is widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Superman was originally created in 1938 and appeared first in Action Comics #1 in June of that year. He was known the Man of Tomorrow, or more recently the Man of Steel. I am such a fan that even as an adult, I still have a growing collection of Superman paraphernalia. But why is it that we love Superman? Is it that he represents what we want to be or is it that we see some of ourselves in the Man of Steel? The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Superman represents the best this world has to offer. He is a righteous role model who seeks justice and fights for those that cannot defend themselves. He can fix any problem, right any wrong, and protect us from the “bad guys”. And yet despite so many strengths, we find in our hero many weaknesses. He is an outsider, an orphan from the planet Krypton with no family to be found. He has difficulty expressing his feelings (especially when it comes to the lovely Lois Lane). Despite his super powers, he hides behind the mild-mannered, dual-identity of Clark Kent. Then there is the ever dangerous kryptonite that steals the powers of our caped crusader. Can’t we all relate to this guy, a man with a pure heart to do good, yet suffering from so many weaknesses?

Our children need to believe in a Superman. They need that safety; they need that security in their little worlds. It was the highlight of my day recently when my son jumped into my arms and said, “You my Superman, Daddy!” The truth is, we ARE Superman. Despite our many flaws and weaknesses (by the way, for those of you looking for my weakness - pizza is my kryptonite), we are our children’s heroes. We don’t have to be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But we do need to be there. We need to be present and we need to love them, unconditionally. Allow yourself to be inspired by the vision your child has of you. Be a hero, better yet, be a SUPER hero! For more information on how your can be your child’s Superman, contact me at or 472-9876.

Matt Ryerson is the Vice President of Community Investment Strategies at the United Way of Bradley County. He has a beautiful wife and two wonderful children (one of which often wears a cape to bed). He is the human to Tucker the dog. His column appears in the Cleveland Daily Banner every Wednesday. He recently found out that his mother threw out all of his old comics long ago. Tears were shed.