On this hallowed eve…

Ahhh….turning 51 tomorrow.  What can I say?  My celebrity pals have been all over it.   Brad Pitt sent me a pair of mittens that he knitted himself (or so he says…).  Beyoncé dedicated a song to me at her last concert (or so she says…I wasn’t there.  Her concerts are past my bedtime) and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that the first touchdown pass that he throws in tonight’s Super Bowl will be for me (he always says crap like that…).   Anyway…celebrity notables aside, here’s what’s on my mind as I turn 51:

  • You know that you’re getting older when the gifts that you receive become more and more about comfort and “socks” are mentioned as your number one item.  Instead my beloved bride bought me a really nice chair to sit my dainty derriere into whilst I sit in front of the computer, making funny for you folks.  Nicely played Connie Sue.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.  If I had come to this realization forty years earlier I can’t help but think just how different this life would be.  In high school I would have danced my ass off at homecoming and prom.  Ass….OFF.  I would have shot the ball constantly in basketball.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I probably would have started down a different career path.  It’s not that I don’t like what I do now, it’s just maybe these talents would have been better suited elsewhere.  At the age of 51…its probably too late to try something different.  Everyday I’m around many young people. I encourage them. I let them know that while I am their boss and hold them accountable for their actions that they are valuable and there’s no such thing as a “perfect life”.  That todays culture doesn’t put enough importance on being: honest, trustworthy, friendly, moral, having a good work ethic and playing nice with others.  That you don’t have to agree with everyone. That life is oftentimes a grind of the boring and mundane.  That it’s up to you to make it happen for you.  And while I’m at it…making work fun and stable for those under my watch.  I really appreciate those tried and true stalwarts of my work day.

Failing...?

Failing…?

  • Are you like me?  Old enough to remember the days when you had to buy a rock groups whole album just to get the ONE song that you really liked?  Albums were like ten bucks or more, and unless the group was really good you had just paid ten dollars for one song.  That’s why I think ITunes is the bees knees.  $1.29 for one song.  Just a couplea clicks and its downloaded into your computer.  A few more clicks and its burned onto a blank DVD-R for the CD player in my old Chevy truck.  Quick survey…who has AC/DC AND the Statler Brothers in their ITunes library?  Anyone…?  Anyone…?  Just…me?  Figures.  The Class of 57 is GOLD people.  GOLD.
  • Yes, I will be getting back into the gym.  Officiating basketball doesn’t really keep a guy fit or build the upper body.  Goals set.  Failure looms.  Let’s see what happens.
  • At this age I’m probably more apt to call a spade a spade, a drama queen a drama queen and walk away from idiots rather than waste my time and energy.
  • I traveled to four different countries this past year.  Headed to Europe this year.  I’m pumped.  I’m also pumped to take a two-day road trip, camera in tow,  of the back roads of my beloved home state…Iowa.  I might even make it a three-day trip.

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful....but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful….but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Rooms next to the river.  Nuff said

Rooms next to the river. Nuff said

  • I haven’t gotten any post-season officiating assignments.  There’s still time, I suppose, but I’m skeptical.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you do your best, get a glowing evaluation from a state clinician at a big time game, love the sport and work on it daily to get better only to be on the outside looking in…left out of the tournament.  I had a great season, nothing can diminish that.  I’m a good official, and so are the guys on our crew…but it wasn’t meant to be this season.  Failure isn’t fatal, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lesson to learn from it.  I just don’t know what that lesson is, yet.  I’ll have all off-season to mull it over.  All.  EightMonths. 

It could be a long offseason....

It could be a long offseason….

  • I’ll be published!!  A magazine contacted me about writing an article for them.  Dead serious!  I signed a contract and am getting paid to write.  I had my right-brained wife (who’s real anal about being smart…cause she is…) proof-read the article prior to submission.  She had me add a couple dozen comma’s and apostrophes.  Nuff said.
  • It’s a time of transition.  My old classmates are becoming grandparents.  Those big-haired, sexy vixens from the early nineteen eighties are now grannies…and are totally rocking it!!  I love seeing them with their grandkids on Facebook.  It’s also a time when some of my older friends are retiring.  What.  The.  Hell?!  I can’t have friends that old…can I?  Good for them.  AARP has been blowing up my phone trying to get me into their stable of older celebrities.  I’m not buying…for now.

Ooo...touch tone phones?!  Why didn't you SAY so?

Ooo…touch tone phones?! Why didn’t you SAY so?

  • This next year I’ll try to shore up some long time friendships that have gotten on the cool side of luke-warm.  You may never know what kind of journey someone’s on until you park their ass on a bar stool and buy them a beer, or three.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, for reading along and commenting.  I count myself truly blessed to have each of you in my life.  God bless.

R

 

 

2016 Ripley year in review

The highlights and lowlights of 2016 (make yourself comfortable….I might go on a rant)

February…I was assigned three post-season basketball games, a personal high for me.  It’ll be a tough number to beat but every night on the court I try not to suck.  So far….so good.  I used to get butterflies before each game, hours before tip.  Nowadays I get a little nervous, but only to get the game started and start having fun.

April…I took a cruise in the Caribbean with my best buddy.  It was a banner year of travel for yours truly.  Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Japan.  Some of my favorite photos of the year were taken during this cruise.  Dave’s my wingman.  Has been since August of 1984.

KICKIN' ASS SINCE 1984

KICKIN’ ASS SINCE 1984

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

June….a family vacation to Colorado.  All five of us.  Again…lots of fun, great food and a few memorable photos.

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

August…the unexpected death of a young friend.  I miss him.  I was working yesterday when a young man wearing a hoodie turned towards me asked a question, he looked like my friend.  It took me aback.  His death has affected the way that I manage our young employees.  I can’t say that its a better way of managing, but more aware of what’s at stake.  Over the course of 27 years I’ve known five employees who’ve taken their own lives.  I’ve never come to a reasonable answer for any one of them.  As I said before…I miss him.

2016...With our friends daughter, Lilly. She'll never know...

2016…With our friends daughter, Lilly. She’ll never know how great of a person Jordan was.

 

August…..they flew the coop!!  Our two youngest daughters left…in a big way.  One to Germany.  The other to Japan.  Our closest daughter is in Miami…1500 miles away.  My wife and I are all alone.

September….we’ve lived in this neighborhood since 2002.  We’ve been the “new” neighbors for almost 15 years to our next door neighbors.  With Pat and Ed moving into an assisted living apartment and our other neighbor moving to a nearby town…Connie and I are now “old” neighbors.  The young couple living next to us put up a privacy fence and don’t let me pet their dog (of all things…?) but at least Jerry and Claire seem more like our kind.  Nice…wave if they see you…stop and talk.

October...at my workplace, I started posting videos on our stores Facebook page with the charge of “engage our customers”.  Many of the videos that I see on Facebook for our company are…professional though fairly bland, in my opinion.  What I did was become Rowdy Rich.  I  started putting stuff out there with the idea of trying to catch our customers attention with #1…a gimmick (me wearing a pig nose for National Pork Month or something else) and #2…a great price on something that our customers may want.  Its resulted in folks enjoying our Facebook videos but as far as driving us towards a sizable sales increase, don’t hold your breath.

November….I traveled to Japan to visit our daughter Karalee.  Its a long-ass flight…dead serious, but quite an adventure…and I totally enjoyed myself.

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

December…I read my Facebook “Year in Review”.  Can’t say that I liked it, so I didn’t post it.  What I did find interesting is that I “liked” 5300 times.  REALLY?!  Am I that promiscuous with the “like” button?!  Broken down daily…that’s like 15 “likes” a day.  I was wondering if I was being too liberal with it, then I realized that I was being totally stupid because I’m always going to “like” or react to dog and cat videos, beautiful sunrise/sunset photos, memes that are probably inappropriate and a friend of mine posted her Facebook in review and she had over 10,000 “likes” (BTW…she rarely posts, what she does post isn’t funny and she’s a fairly quiet person….so if anyone has a problem it’s her….not me, cause I’m normal).

Connie left me alone for the holidays.  Dead serious.  For the last week I’ve been totally alone.  Christmas Eve…alone.  Christmas morning…alone.  Thank God my brother and his wife had me over for Christmas dinner (where I was fed like a King!!).  Before you get the tar warmed up and feathers ready, she’s visiting our two daughters.  One in Germany and one in Japan, with a quick visit to Sweden where she’s touring where her ancestors lived, not to mention the moose burgers she ate and wine she’s been drinking…all the while “missing you sweetheart!!”  That old ruse!!  Someone needs to start a business where you can rent a pet for the duration of your wife’s vacation.  Her absence would be greatly eased with either a puppy or kitten greeting me every nightDead serious. 

My boss had a baby.  So I’m trying to do my job and hers.  I can’t really half-ass either and get away with it…so I’ve been going into work on my days off for a few hours and working.  I’ve worked 25 hours in two days so far this week!  Its okay…I’m just getting a little grumpy towards the end of my work day…especially with no puppy or kitten or wife to greet me at home.  Also…since its Christmas break there’s no basketball games to officiate to work off my stress.  Honestly…that brings me down as well.

I’m part of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, an organization that pairs at-risk kids with mentors.   I’m a Big Brother to a 14 year-old young man.  I try to be a good influence on him, take him to movies, dinner, games, try to teach him life-skills, etc.  We’ve been together for 2+ years.  Recently his mother (and him) won’t respond to me taking him out like we used to do.  I’ve been trying for two months with nothing happening.  If his mother does reply she says that “he’ll get back to you”.  I understand that he’s 14, probably doesn’t think replying to my texts are a big deal…but I wonder if we’re “done”.  It kind of made me mad, at first, but perhaps I was only to be a part of his life for these past two years and that’s his journey, not mine.  Our case worker is reaching out to him…but I have a feeling that its “over”.  If it is…I’d be sad.  He doesn’t have a good male role model (not that I’m a Boy Scout by any measure….) in his life.  His friends are shoplifting and such, I told his mother that. He might be done with me.   I’ll just wait and see.

Ripley's...jumping for joy

Ripley’s…jumping for joy

I hope that your year was a great one.  Take care and thanks for coming along.

God bless…

R

 

No Speedo. No problem.

Blog #2 of 2 (I’m keeping it simple…its Wednesday for Heaven’s sake).

Our second port of call on our seven day cruise of the Caribbean was in Jamaica.  Again…stunningly beautiful sights.

Jamaica from our ship Oasis of the Sea's.

Jamaica from our ship Oasis of the Sea’s.

 

We walked around the port which was FILLED with shops that sold high-end, duty-free jewelry and liquor…and lot’s and lot’s of Bob Marley related merchandise, wood cravings and other touristy stuff.  Dave sampled the rum and coffee while I people watched.

"Hey buddy...you hot?"  I wonder if this is what folks do when they're hot, from where he hails from...?"

“Hey buddy…you hot?” I wonder if this is what folks do when they’re hot, from where he hails from…?”

Nothing says this is a "Jamaican Paradise" like Dairy Queen and Quizno's.

Nothing says this is a “Jamaican Paradise” like Dairy Queen and Quizno’s.

While at port in Jamaica the ladies refused to braid my hair.  It ruined my whole day.  I ROCK the CORNROWS!!

While at port in Jamaica the ladies refused to braid my hair. It ruined my whole day. I ROCK the CORNROWS!!

This was really, really good. I mean it.  Really good.

This was really, really good. I mean it. Really good.

Our last port of call was Cozumel Mexico where we had bought an excursion to visit a Mayan ruin via a MONSTER JEEP with a picnic on a virgin beach where we could swim, just $149 per person.  Those that really know me are aware that I’m not very cultured but the idea of visiting an ANCIENT Mayan Pyramid plus a virgin beach was too cool to pass up.  As it turns out…they were regular Jeeps (no biggie), we drove them (again..no problem) along a sandy and rocky trail (it got real interesting at this point with one Jeep at the head of the caravan getting stuck for almost an hour).  AAA roadside assistance wasn’t coming to our rescue.

This was our view most of the time while driving to the Mayan ruin...with an occasional well-armed soldier poking his head out of the brush every ten or fifteen minutes.  Who knows why they were out there?

This was our view most of the time while driving to the Mayan ruin…with an occasional well-armed soldier poking his head out of the brush every ten or fifteen minutes. Who knows why they were out there?

Mayan ruin.  A look out.  I was thinking that we'd see Mayan pyramids...nope.  This was it.

Mayan ruin. A look out. I was thinking that we’d see Mayan pyramids…nope. This was it.  Still cool.  Its dated at 400 AD. 

We departed the Mayan look out (it faced the coast…keeping an eye out for pirates and such) and drove to our VIRGIN BEACH with picnic lunch!!

The "catering truck" for our picnic

The “catering truck” for our picnic

Pathway to our virgin beach picnic.  The scenery was beautiful.  The virgin never appeared.

Pathway to our virgin beach picnic. The scenery was beautiful. The virgin never appeared.

We were all given blankets and umbrella's to share until our meal was ready.  That rain in the horizon....yeah...we got that.

We were all given blankets and umbrella’s to share until our meal was ready. That rain in the horizon….yeah…we got that.

I find it humorous that in a Spanish speaking country this sign is only in English...as in "only the Americans would be dumb enough to swim with this kind of rough surf."

I found it humorous that in a Spanish speaking country this sign is only in English…as in “only the Americans would be dumb enough to swim with this kind of rough surf.”

Me pointing towards America...I think...maybe it was Cuba.  Regardless, the water was warm and wonderful as long as you didn't go deeper than your knees.

Me pointing towards America…I think…maybe it was Cuba. Regardless, the water was warm and wonderful as long as you didn’t go deeper than your knees.  The riptide was very strong, the shoreline dropped off quickly.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but I passed on the picnic.  The meat used for the grill was stored in old, nasty looking buckets, they were touching the food with their hands (with no sinks, gloves or anything to wash their hands) and the only thing iced down were the beverages.  Maybe this is what passes in Mexico for a picnic, but for me…I could envision a night of intestinal issues back on the ship if I ate this meal.  Dave ate it, thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t have any problems.

This is Dave.  He fell asleep waiting for lunch.  I didn't have the heart to wake him up about the hermit crab that took up temporary shelter inside his shorts.  Sadly...it left prior to nappy boy waking up.  It would've been a terrific blog...

This is Dave. He fell asleep waiting for lunch. I didn’t have the heart to wake him up about the hermit crab that took up temporary shelter inside his shorts. Sadly…it left prior to nappy boy waking up. It would’ve been a terrific blog.

We made it back to our ship just fine, via a required stop at a “tequila ranch” where they tried to sell us tequila and souvenirs.  While the younger folks in our excursion raved about how much fun this was I felt like what was advertised and what was delivered were two different things.  It was my fault for not investigating more thoroughly before purchasing it.  Its quite a trip to get to the Mayan pyramids is what I was told…like two days of hiking.  Who knew?

The view along our way to the Mayan ruin.

The view along our way to the Mayan ruin.  Hard to beat this view on a Wednesday!

The food on the cruise varied anywhere from good to excellent.  Two examples follow.

Seafood Ceviche.  Shrimp. bay scallops, lime-marinated lobster, red onions, cucumbers, dill & cilantro.  One of my favorite appetizers.

Seafood Ceviche. Shrimp. bay scallops, lime-marinated lobster, red onions, cucumbers, dill & cilantro. One of my favorite appetizers.

Pork Scaloppine Oscar.  Crab meat, fresh asparagus, grill plum tomato and mashed potatoes with a veal reduction.

Pork Scaloppine Oscar. Crab meat, fresh asparagus, grill plum tomato and mashed potatoes with a veal reduction.

I have no conscience while on vacation...but this was probably meant for someone other than Dave or myself.

I have no conscience while on vacation…but this was probably meant for someone other than Dave or myself because this is HOW WE ROLL BABY!!

Dave's impressed.  He only gets this look in his eyes like only...every five years or so.  Its best to just let him finish.

Dave’s impressed. He only gets this look in his eyes…every five years or so. Its best to just let him finish.

Sadly...all seven of my Speedo's were confiscated by the TSA.  The "incident" at Disney World in 2005 continues to haunt me. This dude ROCKS it old school.

Sadly…all seven of my Speedo’s were confiscated by the TSA. The “incident” at Disney World in 2005 continues to haunt me. This dude ROCKS it old school.

I've seen thousands of sunsets from my beloved home state of Iowa.  These were equally beautiful.

I’ve seen thousands of sunsets from my beloved home state of Iowa. These were equally beautiful.

The cruise had plenty of shows and activities to keep us occupied.  Dave especially enjoyed the Broadway style shows, while I usually passed and just walked around the ship or retired for the night.  One of the great things of having such a good friend (of 30+ years) is that we were fine with splitting off from each other and doing our own thing.  I enjoyed shooting baskets at the basketball court then grabbing an ice old beer then swimming while Dave did his thing.  We didn’t need to be joined at the hip to enjoy the cruise.  Folks may think that without our wives along to chaperone us that we’d get crazy and stay out late.  The majority of the time we were in our room before eleven each night.  Did we drink a little too much a couple of times?  Hell yeah…we’re not DEAD!!  But nothing that a little nap and Tylenol couldn’t take care of.  This cruise was a very self-centered extravagance for me.  I doubt that I’ll ever cruise again, but I’m glad that we went.  It was wonderful, except that I really missed Connie.  After I returned home I wouldn’t leave her alone for two days.  She had to grab a stick and whack me with it shouting “DOWN BOY!!” until I got the message.  (true story…I’ll show you the welts later…)

Do you remember all of those baseball and basketball games that I blab about?  Those games paid for this trip.  All of the times that I’ve hustled up and down a court, getting into position?  All of those times that I’ve stood on a hot and windy baseball field in the late day sun with sweat trickling down my back?  THOSE paid for this trip.  I can’t say that I earned this trip…but it was a real nice deal.

Yours truly...looking out from the Mayan look out.

Yours truly…looking out from the Mayan look out.

Its great to be home.  Good to be back at work (I need routine) and I hope that you’ve enjoyed these last two blogs.  As alwaysGod bless and take care!

R