Biking to Work

After months of saying I would ride my bike to work I finally did it today.

The five miles to work is quite easy as it’s mostly downhill. But getting back up the hill to our home wiped me out. I made it a third of the way before having to walk my bike up the remainder.

I was feeling good about myself until a family with young children passed me on the hill. When a friend pulled up next to me and offered a ride to my home I had sweat streaming down my face. I must have looked pathetic.

But I turned down the ride and continued walking my bike up the hill. Even that provided more exercise than I’ve done in a while. And tonight I don’t feel so bad about having to walk my bike while other bikers and cars passed me by.

It took me nearly 40 minutes to travel five miles. No wonder joggers were passing me.

I dropped nearly 60 lbs. five years ago by changing my diet. I have at least that much to lose today. I know it won’t be easy.

Although my muscles and my butt are sore, I feel energized and excited to do it again.

Air Jordans

In 1992, I was a student at the University of Utah. I happened to run through Nordstrom on my way to catching a bus to campus when I saw these shoes. I stopped, held the shoe in my hand for a minute before flipping it over to see the $125 price tag attached to the sole.

Ouch.

My part-time job delivering vacuum cleaners and chemicals to LDS churches around the area paid for my books and not much more. But I was able to save five bucks here and there by bringing my lunch to school instead of eating at the cafeteria. I filled in at work a few times that month when others were sick.

Eventually I was able to save up enough money to purchase the Air Jordans. When I stopped by Nordstrom, all they had in stock was the white model. I had to have the black so I waited another week.

They were well worth the wait. They are still the favorite basketball shoe I’ve ever owned. They were comfortable and very lightweight. Unfortunately, that comfort came at a price as the leather was soft but thin and not very durable.

I love the red accents, the extended rubber tongue and loop near the back which made pulling them onto my feet a cinch. I still believe they are the best looking basketball shoe ever made. I wore them out in less than a year playing basketball at the Deseret Gym.

I’d pay $125 on the spot to find a pair today.

Do you have a favorite shoe?

The Finish Line

As my children go through life I keep my fingers crossed they are learning lessons that will anchor them as adults. Such lessons range from, if the burner is red, don’t touch it, to asking permission before borrowing any item that belongs to someone else.

Kids learn many of these lessons at home. But, as I learned this week, lessons aren’t always predictable and sometimes they teach more than the intended target.

My oldest son, Lincoln, signed up for a track and field camp this summer. He enjoys the practices where he can participate in each event without the pressure of competition. Although he’s enjoyed learning the long jump and taking part in the shorter races, he prefer the distance events.

lincolntrack
That’s Lincoln in the blue shirt, taking his time down the final stretch.

Every other week, a meet is held where children around the greater Seattle area are invited to participate in a number of events. Although the atmosphere is geared towards having fun, the children earn ribbons and the events are timed. The kids also race in front of an audience which enhances their desire to perform well.

One lesson I want my children to learn is to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

Two months ago, Lincoln’s pinewood derby won 9 of 9 races, and he took home the first place trophy. I was proud at how he carried himself that evening. At the time, I didn’t realize this was his first taste of competition, and he came away without experiencing a loss.

Fast forward to the last two track meets where he finished dead last or second to the last in each race he entered. By the time the third meet arrived, he said his muscles were sore. Or he was tired. Or whatever might get him out of competing. We told him, if he was tired, he could enter one race instead of three most children do. He’d run hard the day before at practice, and we explained to him that some soreness was to be expected.

When we arrived at the track he broke down in tears. We’d packed up the family and travelled about 50 minutes to the high school where the meet took place. Kim and I considered heading back to the car and calling it a night. But we discussed it and decided that Lincoln should compete in one event. He’d committed to the program, and I didn’t matter if he crossed the line last as long as he gave his best effort. Also, his team from Auburn was counting on him.

Lincoln sulked his way over to his coach and entered the 100 meters. Although he got off to a good start, he came in last place. He probably didn’t enjoy running past all those parents only to cross the finish line after everyone else. After the race, he came over to us. He didn’t complain or make excuses. We hugged him, told him we loved him and were proud of his effort.

As I stood next to Kim, just off the track, the girls racing the 100 meters ran in front of us towards the finish line. As they crossed, a man handed each of them a ribbon. Parents were there to greet them and more hugs were exchanged.

That’s when I noticed one girl. She was still running down the track nearing the half way mark. Well, she wasn’t running, she was hobbling. But even that’s not a good description of what I saw. This little girl with long black hair, was rocking back and forth from one leg to the next, angling her body down the track. As she got closer to me, I noticed she was wearing a brace on both legs. Her legs didn’t bend at the knee like the other girls who were off preparing for their next event.

As she neared the stands, the parents erupted in applause and encouragement.

I turned to Kim and said, “I wish Lincoln were still here to see this.” He was off playing with his friends under the stands.

There will be more opportunities for Lincoln to learn that winning isn’t everything. I know that after witnessing this brave little girl, I focus less on the winning and more on enjoying whatever sport he decides to take up.

Batting Practice

It’s never too early in the season to get in a few swings and, apparently, never too cold either. I’m not sure what the kids enjoy more: my wheel-house pitching or drilling line drives at my head.

Either way, the second I step foot into the backyard, they beg me to play baseball with them, and by that I mean they want me to toss the ball, watch them smack it into the neighbors yard, and then listen to them replay the big hit to friends and siblings.

All while they give me helpful pitching tips.

 annalynnbball

I’ll kick the soccer ball around the yard with them, although I didn’t play much as a young boy and have little to teach them. They are still young for basketball, but they enjoy dribbling the ball up and down the street. My son only recently discovered football, and I’ve been teaching him how to throw a spiral. I’m a poor instructor when it comes to tossing a gorgeous spiral like my father and brother can throw. Mine looks more like a lame duck. Maybe by the time my son’s hands grow to where he can grip a football, I’ll have mastered the art of the spiral.  But probably not.

But baseball is different. Even the smallest child can pick up a bat and swing it,  piñata-style, at someone . Each child has a unique swing. Luca’s quick wrists allow her to pull the ball into the sliding glass door. Lincoln uses the bat like a fly swatter while Anna looks like she’s chopping wood.

Only my three-year old son has a natural swing. Hand him a bat and he’ll shift his weight to his back foot, rest the bat on his shoulder and aim his chin right at me. I like to humor myself by imaging that I passed on the Rod Carew swing gene to him, but I know it’s not true. 

I was thrilled to see Anna Lynn join us on this cold afternoon. She normally shags balls hit by her sister and brother. But today she grabbed the bat and took a few practice swings. The first couple of pitches sailed right past as she swung and missed.

“You’ll get it”, I told her.

“I know that”, she shot back.

She fouled one off the fence before smacking the ball across the yard and nearly into the neighbors yard. The ball had gone further than anything hit by her older brother or sister, and she knew it.

Anna put the bat down, and put her hand out as she walked past me, and into position to shag balls.

It’s never a bad idea to step away on a high note. And it never hurts to high-five the guy throwing BP.

Street Ball

My first thought was, “which one of the kids took my basketball?” I normally place it in the kid’s Radio Flyer wagon, but it was nowhere to be found.

After spending a day sitting in front of a computer, I enjoy the relaxation that comes from shooting around on the hoop just outside our home. A sliver of sun shone through the clouds and my neighbors car wasn’t blocking my designated 3-point line.  Just me and the sound of a swishing net.

But none of that mattered if I couldn’t find my Spalding.

 basketball

As I was about to head back inside, I heard the faint sounds of a ball hitting the pavement. I peered out of the garage to see my youngest son standing under the basket with my ball. I watched as he “granny” tossed it towards the hoop. A regulation basketball tossed upwards by a 2.5 year old doesn’t quite make it to the rim. In fact, it barely goes as high as he is tall.

If he was lucky, the ball would end up a few feet away on the grass. But if the ball hit the curb, he’d give chase until it rolled onto our neighbor’s driveway or ricocheted off their car.

I thought of the endless hours my father spent teaching me how to shoot a basketball. I didn’t possess much upper body strength, and I’d tend to drop the ball down next to my chin. I can’t imagine how many times my father instructed me to keep the ball above my head where it was more difficult to block. Before mom called us inside for dinner my dad would stand under the basket and retrieve the ball as I took shots from different areas of the court in a game called “Around the World”. The number of shots over the years would easily number into the thousands. Some even found the bottom of the net.

Those were my thoughts as I left the garage and headed towards my son.

For the next twenty minutes I stood under the basket and tried to anticipate what direction the ball would bounce after leaving his small arms. We talked, and laughed and danced around the court together. If I wasn’t already clear on the issue, he told me again that the ball was his.

A few more years will pass before he’s able to get the ball anywhere near the rim. But until then, I’m happy to play the role of rebounder. Because I know how much this time meant to another young boy many years ago.

How Raising Children Is Like Playing Racquetball

When I began playing racquetball about a year ago, I believed it was a game of power. Hit the ball as hard as I could off the front wall with little thought to placement or angle. My goal was to get my service in, track down the return and smack it off the front wall as hard as possible.

Depending on my opponent, I could get by playing this style. It leads to a lot of running back and forth from the front to back wall. Strategy didn’t play a role, and the player in the best shape usually won.

rball

I didn’t give it much thought until I played a guy who plays a lot more than I do. He plays in tournament sand practices regularly. Physically, he didn’t look imposing, and I assumed I’d run him into submission with my style of play.

I was wrong.

I was the one who was running around the court. This guy didn’t hit the ball very hard, but he used angles to keep me off balance. When I was able to get to the ball, I was leaning, reaching or diving. He seldom returned the ball to my comfort zone, and he conserved his energy while I continued to hit the ball as hard as possible. It was as if he was taking my style of play and using it against me, wearing me down until a simple passing shot put me out of my misery.

I believe that raising kids has many similarities to racquetball.

As our four children mature, I’m finding that a shotgun approach isn’t always the best. There are times when a stern voice is needed to correct behavior. But I’m finding that a thoughtful, even finesse approach can be successful with older children.

It’s easier to say, “I’m the parent so end of story” without providing an explanation of any kind.

My daughter had a rough evening that ended with the cancellation of a play date with her closest friend due to her behavior. As much as I wanted to send her to bed without any of the normal routine, I sat next to her on the couch and listened. It was clear she did not understand how her actions affected others. Part of me wanted to say, “Here’s how it’s going to work…”

I decided it was best to table the discussion for now and return to it tomorrow when everyone has calmed down. I don’t know how it will turn out tomorrow or what I’ll say. Maybe it will take more discussion. But I know one thing: the finesse approach feels better in this situation.

Picture by Coolmallu

Jordan’s Competiveness

Quote from Bill Simmon’s “Book of Basketball” on Michael Jordan:

“He soaked teammates in poker on team flights so brutally that coaches warned rookies to stay away. He once lost to teammate Rod Higgins in Ping-Pong, bought a table and became the best player on the team. He dunked on Utah’s John Stockton once, heard Utah owner Larry Miller scream, "Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?" then dunked on center Mel Turpin and hissed at Miller afterward, "He big enough for you?”

Michael Jordan