It's been a month since your journey ended, and still we mourn. We rescued you from a puppy mill tucked away along a wooded and blossoming hillside in North Carolina. You were the strongest young stud in the litter. Boasting a broad chest and knobby knees shaped like small fists, your future appeared bright. During your first visit to the local vet however, we were offered a laundry list of future issues. "Care for him. Love him. Hold him close and you'll get eight years...ten if you're lucky." We loved you. We watched you grow. We cared for your ills. And you gave us fifteen years. We were a young family back then. There were grade school holiday concerts, baseballs launched from tees, trick or treating in small towns littered with billowing leaves turned a million different shades of autumn. Baseballs matured to football helmets, voices deepened, there were first jobs at the local grocery store, teenagers with faces buried in cell phones. And through it all, you were there, at our side, adapting to whatever obstacle we took on without complaint. Your trust in us never wavered. We made mistakes along the way, choices made that we'll always regret. Yet you forgave us every time. You never held a grudge. You were always there. Always. Fifteen years. You helped raise our children. Every morning you followed me to the door as I grabbed my things and left for the day. You'd stand in the doorway, watch me leave, and I'd always turn and give you a nod. Fifteen years. On your last day we all returned to say our good-byes. A four hour drive from college, a sick day called in to the office, a couple of missed morning classes at high school. But that was okay. On this day everyone put their cell phones away. We held you, we loved you, we thanked you... One month later, when I leave for the office in the early morning hours, I still turn around, hoping to see you one last time. Thank you for being my friend, Dear Prince.
...did you know Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us. ...think about that before downloading your next read on the Kindle or IPad, and support your neighborhood bookstores. Thanks for reading ;) El
...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 ;) El
...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. http://www.snopes.com/photos/hunting/dolphinhunt.asp 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 ;) El