Around the start of the year, my 6-year-old’s karate instructor explained the importance of goals to the class. “There are short-term goals and long-term goals,” he told them and made sure they understood the difference. He then asked each student to go home and write their long-term goals on their mirror so they would see them everyday and remember to work toward their goals. Maxon gave his goals a lot of thought and came up with three really good ones:

  1. Do a pull up
  2. Learn how to ride a bike
  3. Be a good helper so I can go out on the boat more

Goals have always been important to me, and I routinely write them down, just as Max’s instructor suggested. By writing down our goals they stay with us. They stick in our subconscious mind and we tend to work harder at achieving them. The goal I set for this year was pretty simple.

To use my boat at least once a week.

I am sad to report that I have not lived up to my goal and it’s truly upsetting. I have good intentions, I swear, but life has come at me fast this year. First, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and that’s consumed our family. She’s fighting like a bull but it’s an emotional ride with many peaks and valleys. Then my nephew ended up in the hospital, but thankfully is okay. And our tenants moved out of our rental property and we had to turn it around as quickly as possible. And of course there are our two boys, one who has special needs and a team of therapists. And there’s work. And my wife’s work. And our advocacy efforts, my wife and I are both on various boards and groups. And birthday parties. And family time. And travel. And shitty weather at the worst opportune times… and, and, and…

I keep telling myself that I will use the boat tomorrow, if even for just an hour, but then the phone rings. A meeting pops up in my calendar. So what is a guy to do?

I guess the only thing I can do is make this goal more important. Going out on the boat brings me joy. It eases all of the pain associated with the many reasons I just listed for not using the boat. So maybe I’ll sneak out on my lunch break tomorrow. Or the next day. But I think I need to cut myself some slack, otherwise I’ll just feel like crap every time I pull in the driveway and see her there sleeping under a moldy boat cover.

For some reason this inner battle to find time to boat made me think of one of my all-time favorite poems, written by Langston Hughes in the 1920s.

(Harlem) A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?


Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?


Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

My four-year-old and I have been butting heads. And I don’t like yelling at him and I need to work on being more patient. I think all parents can agree that there are times when you just lose your mind. And he has been fighting me on everything. Put your shoes on. “NO!” Cry cry cry. Eat your dinner. “NO!” Cry cry cry. Go potty… You get the idea. But having Down syndrome makes things more difficult for Cooper. And while I don’t want his disabilities to be a stigma, I see how hard he struggles.

Cooper has things to say and he can’t get the words out. So my new philosophy is to try to put myself in his shoes. To understand the frustration he must feel when he wants something but he can’t vocalize what it is he wants. And when I spend time in his shoes, it makes me realize how the world is so impatient. And I am right there at the top of that list of impatients. Everything is go go go. If you don’t immediately take off when the traffic light turns green, you get a fuck you. We’re constantly being rushed.

Cooper can do things on his own like getting dressed or brushing his teeth, but I usually end up doing them for him because I can’t slow myself down and I don’t have the patience to let him do tasks on his own. What I often forget, however, is that when he does complete a task, it gives him a great sense of pride and accomplishment. And that’s something that I can easily change, and I have seen the immediate effects it has when I just take a breath and slow down. Who cares if we’re not right on time? Who cares if bedtime gets pushed aside by 20 minutes? Who cares if you are wearing two different colored socks? Well, I care, but I’m trying not to.

And I’m going to use this blog as a way of talking about my feelings. I plan to be completely true to myself and anyone reading this. I have yelled at Cooper enough and I always feel bad and ashamed afterwards. I think we all yell at her kids at some point and the good parents try to explain why they became upset, and the good parents know how to apologize if they yelled for no reason. I’m trying to be the good parent. I’m trying to be more patient. And I know Cooper is trying too.

The other day I took Cooper to the hardware store to return some piece-of-crap electronic digital reader I bought to test a bad outlet, and it didn’t work (or there is a very real chance that I did not know how to use it correctly). He was so good at the store. I let him walk instead of putting him in a cart. And I gave him a job. He held the bag with the item and handed it to the cashier. He listened and waited patiently. When she took the bag, he clapped and she was very nice to him and he made her smile. I need to take that tactic from now on.

I love both my sons. They come with their individual challenges but they are the most important things to me and I love being a dad. It is the most important thing in my life. I am a family man. That’s a beautiful thing to be. And I’m going to work at being a better one in the years to come, and I’m going to do my best to be more patient and temper my temper.

There are many unspoken fishing rules out there. You could call it a code of fishing etiquette that we are expected to abide by. However, because the so-called rules are not available anywhere in black and white, they are often broken. This can cause arguments, vandalism and other devious behavior. In the new fishing book ‘Sucked Dry: The Struggle is Reel,’ author Charlie Levine takes a shot at producing the 10 Commandments of Fishing in an effort to keep such shenanigans at bay. This a set of rules applies to just about any type of fishing. Inshore, offshore, freshwater or saltwater. If you’ve ever had a googan run right up on you as you’re fighting a fish, you’ll appreciate these 10 commandments. Enjoy. The book is now available on Amazon.

Author Charlie Levine is available for book signings, seminars, talks, backyard BBQs, fishing trips, fundraisers… If you’d like to schedule a book signing for your fishing club, tackle shop, boat show, seminar or baby shower, please let us know. We’ll make sure the crowd has a great time.

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My son Cooper has Down syndrome. We received the diagnosis prenatally. We made the decision that he was our son and we wanted to give him a chance at life. The pregnancy went from being a time of joy to one of the most difficult periods of my life. The tests were unending… The potential health concerns stacked up.

I was in denial and held out hope that maybe all of the tests and ultrasounds were wrong. Maybe he’d come into the world just like any other kid. That didn’t happen. It was difficult to accept our new reality, but all of those feelings and scary thoughts dripped away over time. He’s now four years old, and he’s progressing.We try every day to give him what he needs. He is saying more words now but still doesn’t speak. He is not potty trained, but he’s doing better (most days). He knows his letters. He counts. He loves to sing.

In our eyes, he’s more ‘normal’ than not. But it really sucks that the minute someone looks at him and sees that he has Down syndrome, they put him in a certain box. Most people, and other kids, are kind to Cooper. Little girls love him. They are drawn to him and want to help him and play with him. But every now and then I see a person’s reaction to Cooper that hurts my feelings. A look of disgust on their face, and it makes me sad.

To me, raising awareness about Down syndrome is all about showing others that kids like Cooper will surprise you. They are more like you than you may think. Here’s an example of how Cooper has changed people’s perceptions…

My older, typical son was invited to a birthday party by a boy he attends karate with. The boy was turning nine, four years older than my son and the invitation said they were going to have a Game Truck and the pool would be open. I RSVP’d to the mom and asked if it would be okay if I also brought my younger son, Cooper, because my wife was out of town and I was flying solo. She asked how old Cooper was and I told her that he’s four. I didn’t mention that he had special needs or anything like that. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t really think about it.

Cooper does not look four. He’s small, and he doesn’t speak legibly, but he communicates in his own way. When we arrived, and the mom saw Cooper, her face looked annoyed, or scared or upset. I couldn’t tell, but she wasn’t happy. She didn’t say anything but she looked a bit shocked that I had shown up with a kid who has Down syndrome. The other kids, of course, could care less. I tried to make small talk with her and it wasn’t exactly easy. She was stand-offish or worried about making sure everything was set up and what not, I couldn’t really tell. So I took the boys inside the Game Truck and it was like entering Nirvana. Four big flat screens on one side of the truck and a row plush black couches on the other. The man operating the truck hooked us up with Nintendo Switch systems and we started playing Mario Kart. Cooper loved it. Max loved it. I have to admit, I loved it, too.

Cooper started to lose interest and wanted to get out of the truck after about an hour. So we stepped outside and there was the mom, nervous smile across her face.

“How old is he again?” she asked me.

“He just turned four,” I said. She nodded, a bit surprised, and invited us into the house for snacks. We abided by the sign at the door and removed our shoes. Her house was immaculate. I was a bit nervous because the house was filled with little, fragile nick-knacks, glass ornaments and candles. It kind of looked like Hobby Lobby in there. Cooper was excited by the food, arranged neatly on a table with a Mine Craft theme. He took a Mine Craft horse off the table and started playing with it roughly on the floor.

I tried to take it from him, fearing he might break it, but she said it was okay. Then their dog came over, a sweet, 14-year-old golden retriever. Cooper was in heaven. He LOVES dogs, and I could see the mom did too. The dog, Cooper and the mom, had a joint petting session, dog on its back to give full access to the belly. Cooper started warming her over. She made Cooper a plate of chicken nuggets and carrots. They fed the carrots to the dog. Cooper laughed each time the dog delicately took a carrot from his little hand. She laughed, too.

When the Game Truck took off, the big kids moved the party to the pool out back. I couldn’t really watch my older son and Cooper at the same time and the mom asked if she could take Cooper to the spa and put his feet in the water. I said sure. The two of them had a big splash and Cooper was soaked from head to toe. They were both laughing again. She then took Cooper inside and they played together for a while. When I went in a few minutes later, Cooper was entertaining all of the adults, making his funny faces, singing and just being his silly self.

Cooper had changed the dynamic just by being his true self. And I hope that after we left, the adults had a different perception of Down syndrome. I’m pretty sure they did. In fact, I think they were in love with Cooper, almost as much as the dog was.

One thing Cooper continually reminds me of is that you cannot put people in a box just by their appearance or disability. In that way, he has made me, and many others, a much better person.

On another note, we are attending the Down Syndrome Assoc of Central Florida’s Step Up for Down Syndrome walk. If you’d like to donate to our team, Cooper’s Troopers, that would be great! Be kind today…