Success, failure, and catching your first foul tip

For most of us, our glory days participating in sports are behind us.

Unless you are a weekend warrior whose obsession with softball or another recreational sport takes a lot of your time or a club rugby or soccer player, odds are you play a different role in the world of sport:  the role of coach, team mom/dad, chauffeur, equipment manager, psychologist, and/or number one fan for a son or daughter playing said sport.  This is typically just as hard in many ways as playing the sport yourself.  There is, of course, the time aspect involved with shuttling them to and fro to practice and games or time spent coaching/supporting.  There is the monetary aspect of paying for their participation, photos, equipment, team parties, trophies etc.  But perhaps the hardest and by far the most rewarding thing we do as parents is to see them face challenges, succeed sometimes, fail sometimes, learn how to be part of a team, get bumps and bruises, develop a good attitude and above all have fun playing a game that is a time honored tradition.

Right now my daughter is playing softball.  It isn’t her first season, but this year, in a coach pitch CYO league, as she is about to turn 9 years old and is donning the catcher’s gear game after game I see that she is starting to ‘get it’.  She is starting to pay more attention.  She is starting to realize how much she enjoys the camaraderie and the feeling of supporting and being supported by her teammates.  She is starting to feel a lot of pride when she does something like catch her first foul tip (like happened last week).  Some kids get this earlier than others…some never grasp it at all and decide that sports aren’t for them.  Maybe they are creative and choose music or artwork instead.  Some are readers.  I think it is important that they experience playing on a team at least once or twice to find out if it resonates with them.  We all have passions, sometimes we just need to be exposed to a variety of things to help us discover what brings us joy.

As I watch my daughter play this or any other sport, I have to smile (and sometimes be exasperated) at her independent nature.  She hates it when her dad or her mom (both of us are really competitive) give her pointers when she is on the field.  It is really rewarding though, when she finally accepts something we have been trying to get her to learn or do and gives us a smile and a thumbs up when she does it correctly, realizing that we may just know what we are talking about.   Watching her succeed and have fun is intoxicating and watching her fail is hard but the key is to respond with encouragement no matter what the outcome.  It has struck me lately that I don’t let her fail enough as a father.  I try to protect my little girl as much as I can and I am worried that by doing so (other than keeping her safe and cared for of course) that I am doing her a disservice.  As an adult, if we are at all self-aware, we know that failure is a part of life that has as much value as success because it teaches us what success often can’t…that there is a lesson to be learned or a different way we should approach certain situations.  She will learn in time that success is wonderful, but you can find value in failure.  This is a failure that I apparently need to learn from.

I close my eyes at her games sometimes and listen…I take in smells…and images of my own experiences come flooding back to me…

The smell of glove oil

The clack of cleats on the concrete of the dugout

The clink of an aluminum bat or the crack of a wood one

The feeling you get from donning a uniform

The effortless feeling of the ball hitting the sweet spot of the bat

The heart racing feeling of adrenaline as you realize that the ball has been hit to your position and you have to react

The feeling of throwing the ball as hard as you can and worrying that you ‘threw your arm out’

The feeling of losing a ball in the sun in the outfield

The pressure as a pitcher when you have people on base and you have to get the guy at the plate out

Chants or words of encouragement from teammates when you are up to bat

The pressure as the batter when you have to deliver a hit

The pride of a home run trot

The pride or dejection you feel  doing the ‘good game….good game…good game’ high fives with your opponents after a game

These are what the game ends up being about.  Success and winning are great and it is great to remember them when you become a spectator later in life but it strikes me that, at least for me, it is the little things…the images…the smells…the faces…the muscle memory of throwing a baseball or swinging a bat that brings back the fondest memories.

Some parents live vicariously through their kids.  I try not to.  Her experiences are her own and if anything…sharing them with her and telling her about my own experiences just brings us close together.  It does for me…I hope it does for her too.  Maybe I will ask her…but certainly not when she is on the field, I have had all the stink eyes I can handle 😉

 

 

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Inspiration comes in many forms…

Read an inspirational article on the web today.  It was called ’15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently’.  Now normally, I take articles like this at face value as they often make a few compelling points and sort of peter out as they reach the number in the title.  Overall, this one was good though.  There were several good things about the article:

  • It interested me to see how many of these ‘magic’ things I could honestly say ‘Check!’ to…
  • It made me recognize things I do sometimes but wish that I did more…
  • It gave me additional things to ponder doing…
  • It made me think about who I have encountered in my life that has such qualities, bringing back some good memories…
  • It contained a bunch of cool and inspirational quotes…like this one…  ”Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted.”  Buddha
  • It inspired another blog entry because I could tie it to something that happened to me yesterday :)…

So here is the story… My daughter and I were headed to the gym after a Starbucks run.  The street that our gym is on has very high curbs made out of individual stone blocks instead of the poured cement variety.  A pair of Whistling Ducks was waddling down the street with about 12 newly hatched ducklings trailing obediently in a yellow and black, fuzzy clump behind them.  I slowed down to observe and to protect them from traffic on that side of the road.  The parents hopped up onto the high curb to proceed into the woods but the babies (except for a few overachievers) were unable to hop high enough to get up on the curb and follow them.  I put on the hazards and with the help of a guy who had stopped on the other side of the road, we managed to corral the ducklings (no easy task as they are very fast) into a writhing bunch so that we could lift them up onto the curb where they scooted off to join the others.  The parents were not as distressed by this as I thought they would be, but instead took it in stride and carried on with whatever duck business they had planned.

Now the only reason I feel that this is worth mentioning is that it struck me as a real world example of the above quote.  Aside from (obviously) knowing where the good places are to eat, Buddha seemed to have a lot of those pearls of wisdom.  It struck me as one of those opportunities in life that we are presented with where we glimpse an opportunity make a difference.  The reason this was important was not only that the ducklings were spared…it was really more about sharing this experience with my daughter and also adding a pretty cool deposit to my bank of life experience.  I was smiling the rest of the day about that, feeling like in some small way we had not only made a difference in the lives of those ducks and arguably their ancestors but also in our own lives because we PARTICIPATED….We didn’t just watch it as it went by.

Being a spectator can be habit forming but luckily…so can participation, if you let it…

Anyway, we carried on to the gym and my daughter proudly told all of her little friends about our exploits.  I smiled at this, knowing that as a parent, my actions sometimes speak in a booming voice whereas my words (especially as she approaches her pre-teen and teenage years) don’t always register.   I also smiled at the thought that I was glad that the ducklings didn’t imprint onto me… I would have a hard time explaining this to my daughter’s turtles 😉  Plus, picturing myself walking down the street with a fuzzy yellow and black, waddling entourage was a bit much even for me…

So after all this, the one thought I can offer is…do something to make someone’s day… You will both be better for it.

 

 

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Truck Nuts, Survivor, and the Pot Pie Principle

So I started wondering what to write in my next blog entry…and that caused just general wondering…which led to musing…which based on the tagline of the site seems appropriate….So here goes…

  • I have been encountering what I refer to as the Pot Pie Principle of late…  The Pot Pie Principle is simply this… In order to cook a pot pie, you have to cook it for what seems like hours…then, in order to eat it, you have to let it cool for another hour or risk major mouth damage.  It hardly seems worth it…I don’t have that kind of time or patience for that matter, especially when it comes to food.  Where would I encounter this you ask?  Starbucks.  Why?  Because I eat their breakfast sandwiches which they heat up in some sort of crazy oven before delivering it to me in a bag.  Since this is probably my first meal of the day and I am usually in danger of starving to death having fasted for 12 hours or so…I must then risk pot pie style injury or ignore my burned fingers and let the demon steam out of the sandwich to bring it down into acceptable temperature range.  I know that many of you are thinking that I could also leave it in the bag until it cooled…but again POT PIE PRINCIPLE…I don’t have that kind of time.  The only thing that would be worse is if I also ordered a hot drink to go with my hot sandwich… I may be crazy, but I prefer my beverages cold while consuming food.  Plus, why risk being burned twice in the same meal?
  • In case it isn’t clear from the last item, I tend to get grumpy when I am hungry.  This is the reason I have not tried out for the show Survivor.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be on it…but I am self-aware enough to realize that I might not be the easiest guy to get along with after about 2 days of not eating.  I have a feeling the rationale for voting me off would be something like this….Big, scary looking guy…would probably kick butt in challenges (except those involving balance 🙂 ), dangerous when he is hungry….we should probably vote him out before he eats somebody…’The tribe has spoken…’
  • Does anyone else have a Nemesis Car?  One particular make and model of car that always seems to have an idiot driving it so as to cause major road distress?  When I first moved to Texas, it was the ‘Big-Ass Truck’ but has been quickly replaced by the Toyota Prius.  Not sure why…Don’t have anything against the car really…Actually a fan of the hybrid concept for obvious reasons…But for some reason Prius (assuming the plural form is the same as the singular) are normally driven erratically and 10 miles below the speed limit by some douche texting on his phone makes me want to flip one over and see if it looks better upside down.
  • Speaking of idiots on the road…Truck nuts?…. Really?  enough said
  • Does anyone else think that bicyclists should stop bitching about not being respected on the roadways when they never seem to follow the rules themselves?  They don’t ride in the bike lanes or they insist upon riding two abreast in their silky little outfits like they are in some Tour de France race.   God knows there is probably a Prius out there gunning for them…:)

So how is that for random…Pot Pies to Starbucks to Survivor to Toyota Prius to Truck Nuts to Cyclists…. Funny, I never made it to Kevin Bacon…that is troubling.  Goodnight everybody.  Zzzzzzzz

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Rules of Etiquette for the Average Joe

So I got to thinking about things that bug me…which made me think of amusing ways to portray them… which led me to wonder if other people felt this way…which is good because I needed to blog and needed some inspiration.  So, it wasn’t long before I had a list…which is necessary to add a bit of substance to the entry so you don’t don’t read one or two things and say…’Yeah, I hate that too…kinda funny…but should have been longer.”  Anyway, I digress…

I know there are huge lists of rules about etiquette.  Everything from table manners to how many people have to be seated and have their food in front of them before it is okay to start eating and such…  I probably don’t do a lot of those correctly, but since I don’t often dine or rub shoulders with high society, it isn’t a big deal.  So, if the Queen calls and wants to have tea, I will probably be in trouble… :).

Here is a big one for me… I call it the Bus/Elevator/Subway Principle.  It is fairly simple.  Before you get on the B/E/S, wait until the people exiting have exited.  This will not only provide you with more space once you board, it is just common, freaking, courtesy!  Yet, every time I ride one of these that is the least bit crowded, people seem to have no knowledge of this rule.  They are too caught up in their own agenda to do it right.  Makes me want to smack people…but then I would be viewed as discourteous…or dangerous 😉

While we are talking about doors…I will happily hold the door for someone if I know they are entering or exiting a building or area behind me or if they are exiting and I am entering.  What kills me are the people who don’t acknowledge the fact that you held the door or don’t take it themselves to hold it for the person behind them.  Many are happy to exit, one after another, while I hold the door.  After about the third or fourth person, I usually let the door go… This to me is just out of order.  If I were wearing a uniform that made me look like a doorman, I would understand.  I just wonder where these people grew up…  Note:  Most people catch the door with a body part to avoid being wiped out by the door and look at me angrily.  Oh well.  For those of you out there who smile and say ‘Thank You’, you make me happy.

Another one… I call this the Supermarket Test and I find myself thinking about this when I am interviewing someone.  It is simply asking yourself the question… ‘If I saw this person in the supermarket would I avoid their aisle or would I feel comfortable talking to them?’  If you find yourself thinking that you would steer clear of their aisle, you probably shouldn’t be hiring them.  The only thing that overrides this sometimes is if they are super capable or super brilliant and you are the only person who feels this way.

Another big one centers around Facebook.  I talked a bit in one of my earlier entries about the politics surrounding the social networking obsession and how they have gotten a bit out of control (at least I think I did…if not I am sure I will again at some point).  It is very easy to ‘collect’ friends on Facebook.  It is usually decidedly harder to delete them from your list.  I guess my viewpoint on this is to start by determining if they are really a ‘friend’ or just an ‘acquaintance’.  Some friends you keep on Facebook because they are in your inner circle…you would not hesitate to reach out to these people at any time for any reason.  Some you keep because you share a common interest…for me some of these are Polynesian Tattoos or people that I went to High School with because I may need to contact them at some point for a reunion.  Some are co-workers that you see every day at work.  Still others are family and that is its own box of snakes.  South Park did a really humorous take on this topic that you can find here.  Sorry for the commercial but it was the best copy I could find 🙂  Anyway, the point is that I find myself periodically pruning my Facebook Friends List.  If I think that I will probably never talk to the person again or that they will probably never reach out to me I will delete them.  Other reasons for deleting them are because I think that they are just collecting friends because they have some other agenda like advertising or selling you something.  Still others are because we have had a falling out and I don’t care to have them as friends anymore.  Whatever the reason, their deletion might go unnoticed and be no big deal or they might notice it and have hard feelings.  When you think about it, this is all pretty silly.  The people in your life who you care about are those that you will contact outside of Facebook…via phone…Skype…or God forbid, in person!  If people used Facebook as a communication device or a way to tell people about their lives it would be one thing.  Far too many use it as the basis for their relationships.  This and all the ‘etiquette’ surrounding it makes me wonder sometimes why I bother….

Anyway, these are just a few off the top of my head.  I have short patience for people who can’t be bothered or who have no clue about how to be polite.  Now to see how many of my Facebook Friends pass the Supermarket Test 😉

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A perfect day at Arlington

My father was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery today on a beautiful spring day, under a cloudless sky, beneath a tree that rustled in the wind.  He was honored for 29 years of military service in the US Army, a career that included 4 tours in Vietnam.  It was the way that he wanted it, and I am very pleased that his wishes were honored.  The staff at Arlington and the Servicemen who performed the military funeral did an amazing job.  They truly take care of their own and they do it right.

I arrived at the Administration Building early to make sure all the paperwork was in order.  It struck me as a bit surreal as I journeyed there from my hotel via the Metro and as I waded through hundreds of tourists.  I had asked a very nice woman at the Information Desk if she could direct me there and was surprised when she left her post and led me through a back exit out of the way of the crowds to my destination.   I was met by dozens of family members who were already there, some of whom I have not seen since my grandfather passed away in 1987.  Together we followed the funeral director to the ‘transfer point’ where the young men in uniform transferred my father’s ashes and the American Flag to the casket which was covered with another American Flag and carried in a horse drawn carriage through the historic cemetery to the grave site.  A full marching band, a group of Servicemen carrying the colors, and his Honor Guard accompanied all of us on that journey.  We followed in cars until we reached the grave site and we assembled there as the Honor Guard brought forth the flag and the urn and the seven Servicemen with the rifles fired their 3 volleys.  The service was given by a military chaplain who had taken a lot of time to research my father’s military career.  When the service was over, each one of us placed flowers and said prayers as we honored him in our own way.  It was an amazing day that I am deeply honored to have been part of…and the thought that he would have approved gives me comfort.  It is fitting that he was laid to rest facing the Pentagon, a place where he served some of his military service.  I think he would have approved of that as well.

The hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery has an aura.  It is one of honor…and sacrifice…and freedom…and patriotism.   Even living in a military town like San Antonio where we are reminded everyday of the service that the men and women of the military provide, it is not something that we always think about.  Believe me, this is not something that you forget at Arlington.  You feel it.  Even if you close your eyes, the feeling is one of reverence and solemn respect.   The chaplain told us that there are 320,000 people buried there…soldiers and families of soldiers.  No one may buy their way into Arlington, their entry is earned through their service.  On a perfect April day in the year 2012, with the sun shining, the cherry blossoms in bloom, and the wind whispering through the trees this was made perfectly clear to me and everyone in attendance.  My heartfelt thanks goes out to the US Military for their efforts just as theirs were expressed to me for the service that my father provided to this country.  I am a person who appreciates closure.  I have it now and I believe my father does too.  Rest well my father.  I love you.

 

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Wherever you go….there you are

(Note:  I wrote this blog entry earlier today and clicked the Publish button only to find later that what I wrote had not been published…yep, gone.  So I apologize in advance if this second effort is not as good as the first…  but then again, I guess you will never know 😉 )

Have you ever found yourself remembering something or someone from your past and wondered ‘What if I had done something different?’ or ‘How would my life be different if I had chosen a different path?’.  I think that most people have probably spent some time pondering this…I know I have.  Part of this for me, I guess, is that I am a bit of a perfectionist.  I often wonder if I could have done things better.   For example, I could tell you the word I mispronounced in grade school to keep from getting a perfect score on a particular vocabulary test.  This is really random and not important but it shows how the mind can dwell on things that we have done in the past that might be troubling.  We are usually our own worst critics.  The thing that we don’t consider is… Whatever we have done in the past was a result of the information we had at the time, the circumstances, or because we had an intuition or a gut feeling that was compelling enough to prompt a particular decision.  People say that hindsight is 20/20 but I don’t believe that.  I believe that we do our best with what we have.  We make decisions and choose our directions in life in the moment.  Information we get later only really helps us to second guess ourselves.

If I look back upon my life I sometimes wonder ‘what if?’… For example…What if I had not had a strong dislike for the football coach at my high school?  I may have played the sport that most people have told me I was best suited for…I may have been good at it…I may have been good enough to play college ball…In doing so, I would have gone to a completely different university…my life may have been completely different.  When I ponder this, I consider that if I played football I would not have learned the game of basketball from one of the greatest men I have ever met.  I would not have learned many of the life lessons that I learned during that time.  I probably would not have gone on to discover the game of rugby and I would not have made the numerous great relationships with so many diverse people around the world.  All in all, hindsight or not, I like my choice.

This works for relationships too.  It is easy to think about people in my life that I have cared about and had feelings for and wonder what a serious relationship with that person would have looked like.  All I have to do is take my daughter’s hand in mine and look at her face to know that, once again, I made the perfect choice.

Sometimes if we take the time to be still…to listen…to contemplate…to open our awareness, the universe and our higher power provides us with glimpses.  These glimpses show us that we really are exactly where we are supposed to be at this very moment in our life.  The path we have taken and the decisions that we have made have led us here, making us the people we have become along the way.  I have said before, and strongly believe that ‘Life is a Journey and not a Destination’.  If this were not true, what would happen when we reached our destination in life?

Stories are only compelling when the protagonist faces obstacles or struggles.  It is how these struggles are addressed that adds depth to the character and allows us to experience their joys and sorrows and identify with their humanity.  It would be a pretty boring story if  we were introduced to a one-dimensional character who quickly realized a destination without undertaking the journey.  The reality is….the paths we have taken in our past have gotten us to where we are right now…it is up to us to continue the journey…to learn something along the way… and to make our own story compelling.  If we don’t, we may just find ourselves in the future wondering… ‘What if…?’

Wil

(not sure I like it as much as the first one… but hopefully it works 🙂 )

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2 fish tacos, please! Hold the queso…and the Mariachis!

As you may have gathered by my previous posts, I am currently a resident of San Antonio, TX.  As you may have also gathered, some days this is agreeable to me and other days not so much…but generally I like it here.  San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the US and the culture is predominantly Latin as 70 percent of the people that live here are of Hispanic descent.  The culture here is obviously very heavily influenced by our neighbors from Mexico.   This translates into San Antonio having an awful lot of Mexican restaurants, many of which are the hunting grounds of the Mariachi Bands….  Here are some observations about Mariachis:

  • When in close proximity to a Mariachi Band, it is important to play it cool.  Do not show too much interest.  Doing so will cause them to descend upon your dining experience like a flock of pigeons who have sensed the presence of bread.  The Mariachis too, want your bread….ya dig? 🙂
  • When they hand out instruments to aspiring Mariachis, there seem to be some unwritten rules.  It is particularly interesting to me that the largest guy with the biggest belly seems to play the smallest guitar.  And the smallest guy tends to play the massive guitar.  It is almost as if it provides some sort of cosmic Mariachi balance to the group.
  • In any band, not only Mariachi Bands…the band is better with a horn player.
  • Mariachis are wandering nomadic businessman.  Instead of performing on a stage, they typically converge on a table and do the selling of their services.  They will broker a deal and then perform their music…and they will continue to do it for as long as you are happy to pay for it.
  • Some Mariachi Bands have at least one guy with a really good set of pipes for singing…those that don’t are very adept at the ‘grito’… the whooping yell that gets you in the spirit…Either way, good times.
  • I want a pair of those Mariachi pants…Don’t have anything to wear them with, but I think I could rock them…
  • This is one of my favorite Mariachi clips from YouTube… Now this I would have paid good money to see in person 🙂 Mariachi Clip

I like Mexican cuisine…I always have.  But, having grown up predominantly in California, I tend to gravitate more toward Baja style Mexican cuisine.  There is an emphasis on seafood and fresh ingredients.  After living in San Diego for 18 years, this may explain why I am so addicted to fish tacos and I am still searching for the best one in Texas.  (I know what you are thinking if you have never had one…Same thing I thought before I had my first one…All I can say is try it!)

What you typically get in San Antonio is Tex-Mex which, as near as I can tell, is characterized by putting melted Velveeta cheese sauce all over everything.  What can I say?…not my favorite.  San Antonio, and Texas in general, is crazy for ‘Queso’.  People here order it to dip their tortilla chips in and they also tend to get most dishes smothered in it.  Personally I think ‘Queso’ is short for ‘Que es eso?’ (‘What is this?’  in Spanish).  I am not sure what it is…but it isn’t really cheese 🙂

Anyway… Now I am hungry…Strangely enough, for fish tacos 🙂

Just my $.02

Wil

 

 

 

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