Sunday, March 23, 2014
...jogging helps one to think. As fate would have it, I've been pounding the mileage these last few weeks.
Last autumn I was offered an opportunity to coach a group of young men, 6th graders, during the upcoming basketball season. Since the current local high school coach forbids parents from coaching their sons & daughters once they reach junior high, I figured taking on this challenge could possibly help my 7th grade son's eventual varsity team, when all of the most talented boys are lumped together for league play.
...one catch, however. The boys whom I was about to coach had yet to win a single game...in three years of competitive play.
Having a substantial amount of experience, this appeared to be a formidable task.
Once we hit the hardwood, back in mid-November, I came away thinking that maybe these boys weren't as troublesome as advertised. They yearned for knowledge, worked hard at drills, soaked up every last history lesson I offered, and begged for more. I was pleasantly encouraged.
Lightening struck during our first game. I promised the boys that if they followed my instruction, played as hard as they've ever performed on the court, by the time our opposition called their first time out, we'd be ahead by ten.
I was wrong.
Two and a half minutes into the game, when they called timeout, we were up by twelve.
These boys won their first game by twenty-three points.
Despite a few hiccups along the way, we finished the season with 7 wins, knocked off our undefeated rival, and closed out the year with a third place tourney finish.
Not bad for a group of boys who'd been given up on far too early in their athletic careers.
It wasn't long after the season, when the varsity coach came calling...
He'd been receiving phone messages from the parents of the 6th grade team. They were already inquiring as to next season's coaching staff, and were requesting me for the honor.
"So...what do ya think?" I was asked.
"Are you asking me to join your coaching staff?"
"I can't ignore the parents. And you did some great things with those boys. If you want the job, it's yours. We'd have to talk money of course, cross the t's and what not, but absolutely, yes."
Up until this point, the locals considered me a dad, who knew a thing or two about basketball. What most of them didn't know, was that I was a coach years before my wife and I had our first child. Until that moment, they didn't realize that I was actually a coach, who was blessed with kids.
I wanted to blurt out "yes," and be done with it. Then just as quickly, realized my dilemma. Moving up to a position with the school meant that I'd get paid a salary, but in return, would lose every last minute that I'd been squandering for my writing. There was daily practice time to consider. Film sessions with the coaching staff. Sitting with the coaches during Friday and Saturday varsity games. Pep rallies. Hours upon hours, dedicated, and expected of me, in return for my services.
This would no doubt lead to spring AAU tournaments, and more coaching opportunities that I'd be expected to accept, as all up and coming coaching prospects do without batting an eye.
...moving on up, while leaving something behind.
"Can I have some time to think about this?"
"Sure can. We can talk about it some more over the summer. I'm sure we'll see each other at open gyms."
"Okay, sounds good."
"One thing to keep in mind, though. Coaching the 7th grade team automatically makes you the 8th grade assistant by default. This means that you'd be allowed some input on your son's team. Not to mention a front row seat. Just thought you should know."
...nearly a deal breaker.
"I'll definitely think about it. Thanks."
...and so, I've been running. A lot.
I truly love coaching. Shaping young minds, keeping our youth active. Too many positives to list.
The writing industry can be a troublesome bear, armed with claws and an unwillingness to negotiate one's passion, regardless of their achievements or work ethic.
And yet...as we all know, walking away is simply out of the question. We stand tall, face the bear, and trudge onward.
My thirteen year old son plays basketball almost every day. We send him to all the best camps. Allow him every opportunity to succeed. And he's pretty darn good.
My daughter also plays. Her team won their championship this past season.
My soon to be adopted one year old, (a story for another day ;) is already dribbling his ball around the house.
...and I'm still jogging, still thinking.
Opportunities are like tests of one's will. As if fate is asking, "How bad do we really want something?" "What are we willing to sacrifice in order to achieve our goals?"
Tough questions...difficult answers to come up with.
In the meantime, I'll keep jogging.
Thanks for reading ;)
Sunday, January 26, 2014
...call it one of nature's interesting quirks with a young person's coming of age...or perhaps not.
Our youth, upon reaching a year or two from adulthood, (my son very much included,) are enabled with an inborn trait, often released while biting into their birthday cake on their sixteenth birthday, of shaping their own opinions on our society's hot topics, and expressing those thoughts to anyone willing to lend an ear. ...for as long as it takes.
They raise a subject of concern at the dinner table or during advertisements prior to a movie, whether appropriate for a younger audience or not, and go right into their personal opinions without stopping for air, or heaven forbid, rebuttal from a parent. If not mindful of an upcoming disagreement, such discussions can lead to a shouting match before the table is cleared of dirty dishes.
This past weekend, left all but trapped inside as Mother Nature dealt us yet another blast of winter, our seventeen year old made the most of the opportunity, speaking of everything from politics to the legalities behind criminal execution, to the upcoming Super Bowl being played in sub-zero New York City.
...and we listened, biting our tongues.
The new drug administered to a death row criminal in Ohio that failed miserably, leading to a lawsuit by the deceased inmate's family.
Suffering through one of our country's coldest winter's on record, as a result of global warming trends, all at the fault of us, the wasteful.
Abortion rights. (When this subject slips from my son's lips, I find an excuse to leave the room, knowing that for the next twenty minutes, the boy and his mother will make for an uncomfortable evening. They'll each look to me for backing each of their own opinion...and I won't be able to please them both.)
And the violence of us, in modern society. Fighting over stuff, wants, not needs, bloodshed and a basic lack of common sense by those who should know better.
I'm proud of my son for his stand on many subjects, and question a few, but value his input. It causes a parent to wonder if bringing a child into this world was really the smart thing to do?
Or maybe, it'll be that child who will bring change. Perhaps he/she will be the person this country's been waiting for all along. Maybe...
"It's funny, despite all the amenities we, the modern consumers have achieved, how little we've actually grown as a society."
My son's words, not mine. And yet...
Young men still gather along the banks of the Feroe Island in Denmark every year, to slaughter hundreds of Calderon Dolphins with hooks and crowbars as a show of manhood. Friendly creatures, nearly extinct, lured in to the coast, and killed for show, the coastline brimming in crimson for days following.
Receiving a call from Social Services to accept an abandoned child who was birthed into a toilet and left behind. The mother? She's on welfare, but driving around in a two year old Kia, paid for with monthly checks from the state.
And so I listen to my son's opinions, agree with a few, shake my head at others, and think, "Please do better than we have. Please."
Thanks for reading, it's good to be back ;)
Sunday, November 10, 2013
...following three months of construction, the family basement is finally resembling the image of an entertainment area worth boasting of.
New flooring, new drywall, new plumbing in the bathroom, a fresh coat of paint, and a forest green sectional to wrap the room up nicely. It cradled two adults, two teens, and two 'tweeners with room to spare for last evening's Saturday night flick ;)
Not pictured is my future desk area, which is still in the works...but getting there. And yes, when complete, I'll most definitely share the goods.
I'll use the basement project as my excuse for not participating in this year's NaNo, but honestly that had nothing to do with it. I've written some fine fodder under far greater duress in my days.
Nope, the real reason for my NaNo NoShow was wrapped around November 6th, 7th, and the upcoming 12th. For those are, and will be our days in court for the custody battle over that little boy who first visited our home at four days old...and thus far, remains under our roof.
Regarding the first two days...testimony rolled on as expected, all witnesses arrived on time, cordially made their statements, and were duly thanked for their participation.
My wife and I took the stand on day 1, were asked questions that we were expecting, and were prepared to answer.
The highlight of the day, coming when my wife was on the stand... "can the little boy in question speak yet, at fourteen months old?"
"Yes, Ma'am, he's been talking for some time now."
"What are some of the words he can say?"
"Typical baby talk, mostly. Dadda, Momma, Sissy, Bubba, Doggie, he meow's for kitty, and can say my son's name, Dylan, as well as you and I."
"When he says, Momma, or Dadda, who is he referring to?"
"My husband and I."
"If you were to be sitting in a room with the baby's birth parents, and he was asked to go to his mommy and daddy, who would he go to?"
"My husband and I," spoken without hesitation.
"Just one more question, Mrs. Grace. If given the opportunity, is your family prepared to adopt the child in question?"
...deep breath, exhale. "Absolutely. We are all he knows, we'd be lost without each other..."
...the case will wrap up on Tuesday...I'll be in touch.
Thanks for reading ;)
Sunday, September 15, 2013
...my apologies, dear friends, for my recent absence. No, I have not been taken hostage by my co-workers, in hopes of thwarting my latest writing project, (which of course means an overall lack of sleep, and a zombie-like appearance at the office ;) Nor have I been run over by an errant passer-by and left for dead like my tiger-striped feline from "South of Charm."
Nope, all's well. Just busy. Very busy. There's a basement renovation project currently in the works, which, when complete, will house my new writing spot, where, with a little luck, "Ollie" will be penned. Pics will be forthcoming...
There's also a court battle under way. Nothing illegal, but rather, justice residing over the possible permanent custody of a little boy who was placed in our care at four days old. A bouncing thirteen month toddler these days, whose fate rests in the hands of our precarious child welfare system. He calls her "Momma." When I arrive home from work, I'm known as "Dadda." For he knows no other. When he places his hand in mine, he never questions why his skin is darker then my own. He clings to us as if there would never be, and should never be, anyone else to reach for. We're always there for him, and will be, as long as we're deemed able...
What I'm currently reading...
Thus far, another masterful performance by Roland Yeomans, in the ongoing Legend of Victor Standish series. Well done, my friend. I'll be leaving a review when complete.
As for me...
Check out my latest review on "South of Charm," from Lu Ann Worley at Rockin' Book Reviews.
Thanks so much Lu, for your time and honesty!
So that's what I've been up to. How about you?
Thanks for reading...
Saturday, August 3, 2013
...I always find it interesting how the ins and outs of life slow to a crawl during visits to those enchanting, southern beach towns, both along the Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic seaboard.
Those citizens who've managed to figure out a comfortable way of life along either coast, have also discovered the secret to an enjoyable life, even if it is a bit behind the times...which is not necessarily a bad thing.
One can still rent VHS tapes at the local movie store. Wifi is often accessible in the town coffee shop, or occasionally on the upper deck of one's rental, as the tide permits. But only then.
Volkswagon vans still troll along Highway 17, rust free since 1963.
When it rains on the coast, it really does pour, fearfully so. And within minutes, the clouds move on, the sun returns, and all's well once again ;)
Something I'm curious about...the demand for local reading material along either side of the coast remains high, and not so much of the electronic variety. Book stores in southern Florida and the Carolinas are a hot spot, their shelves stocked with actual books, some used, others hot off the press, smelling of ink, and bindings that creak when opened for the first time. Lord, how I've missed that sound.
Local writers are held in high regard, showing up at indie book stores for an afternoon signing and a cocktail, or three.
Everything slows to an idle pace, where tourists are not only welcomed, but anticipated. Smiles are addictive, which lead to glorious relaxation, forgetting those irritable to-do lists left miles behind, but waiting.
I realized how fun it is to shark fish in the Gulf...no worries, it was catch and release ;)
In spending a week with the kids, I learned during one rainy afternoon that Robin is no longer Bat Man's trusty sidekick, but is now a relatively tough dude on Teen Titans, having left the Dark Knight in the dust...(at least on Nickelodeon.)
My wife and I realized that our youngest member of the family, the little boy we hope to soon adopt, not only loves the water, but is fearless of those choppy waves. Swimming lessons are on the docket.
And while relaxing, I had time to think. To dream. To create.
An idea took shape, one that tickled my fancy during last year's vacation to the Carolina coast, and returned with a vengeance. Something brewing over the past months that I considered an interesting thought to remember, has now moved to the top of my list of projects, a story that demands attention.
I call him "Ollie." Last year he was just an interesting character. He's now become a very special boy. A foster child buried in the system, struggling for peace, when he discovers a gift that he's been granted. Perhaps born with. One that will change everything. Everything...
I adore those coastal waters and the many gifts they offer. Those of peace, and those of opportunity.
Thanks for reading ;)
Friday, July 19, 2013
...sneaking off the grid for a bit, traveling South with the family for a little R & R in The Gulf.
And perhaps if I can work a little "Charm," there may be a southern-style book signing in the near future...
I'll be back in a few weeks!
Happy Summer everyone ;)
Sunday, July 7, 2013
...this past Wednesday, July 3rd, James David Myers, a convicted rapist serving a life sentence at the Mansfield Correctional Institute, (once the home of Andy DuFraine in The Shawshank Redemption,) celebrated his birthday by escaping from the prison and vanishing into the stormy evening.
An all-points bulletin hit the airwaves shortly after.
Because my home sits less than 30 minutes east of the prison, we took notice.
A twenty-four hour manhunt for the escapee turned up no clues as to the whereabouts of Myers. Many figured him to have departed the area, gaining as much distance from Ohio as possible.
Only one day later, while many of us were celebrating our Independence Day with family & friends, James David Myers entered the Olivesburg General Store, a small locally owned market, eight miles north of the prison, and less than ten minutes from my home.
He steps up to the counter, places a hand over his very own mugshot, taped to the glass only hours earlier, and asks the clerk to use the phone.
Recognizing the escapee, the trembling store attendant hands Myers a cordless receiver.
At about the same time, Mark Cooper, his wife and son, enter the store and order ice-cream cones from the nearby freezer. Mark notices a man talking on the phone a few feet away, considers his appearance, thinking that he's seen him somewhere before, then makes eye-contact with the attendant behind the counter.
Remaining calm, Cooper ushers his family outside, dials 911 on his cell, then instructs his wife and son to stay outside. He fears that Myers may get away before the authorities can arrive. He thinks, what if that were my wife or daughter behind that counter?
Mark Cooper reenters the store, notices that Myers is no longer using the telephone, but remains at the counter, eyeing down the candy bars and packs of chewing gum. Cooper, standing over six feet tall, tipping the scales at three hundred pounds, and wearing a shirt donned in our country's stars & stripes, walks past Myers, hesitates, then grabs the escapee from behind, locks his arms into a full nelson, and pins him to the floor.
There they wait until the police arrive, guns drawn.
In the time it took them to get there, really no more than five minutes give or take, their job had already been done for them.
They found James David Myers tied up in banding wire, and held down under the weight of Mark Cooper, left with no choice but to stare at a United States flag until being escorted back to his cell in Mansfield.
Now that's what I call, being a Patriot on Independence Day ;)
Thanks for reading,