Honorable Mentions

Holy smokes….how did we get to the end of June so quickly?

As I umpire high school and miscellaneous baseball games around the area that I reside in I come upon various situations that I find notable if only for the way that they stand out.  They are as follows:

  • I was working a 13U AAA baseball game as plate umpire where a parent had set up a Bluetooth speaker at the back stop directly behind home plate.  It blasted classic rock anthems between innings and made the game more enjoyable, in my opinion.  After the game I saw the parent retrieving the speaker and thanked her for sharing it with the rest of us.  Her reply “Oh thank you.  Sometimes umpires don’t like it played.”  Well lady…THIS umpire enjoys AC/DC so keep doin’ what you’re doin’.

 

  • I was working another 13U A baseball game.  “Long hits to the gap where sure doubles are turned into singles” is what I thought as the entire line up could hit the ball well…they just couldn’t run to save their lives.  Dead serious…I think I out ran them on several occasions.

 

  • I’ve completed three complete seasons without getting hit in “the danger zone” with a wild pitch or foul ball.  It’ll happen eventually…again…but until then I say a simple prayer of thanks.  #deadserious

 

  • On that subject….I was hit hard in the inner thigh with a foul ball earlier this season.  A “son of a b*tch!!” escaped my lips before I knew it.  After regaining my composure I apologized to the batter and catcher.  “Don’t worry Blue…” the catcher replied.  “I hear it all the time from Coach.”  #bruisedbutforgiven

this bruise is typical for umpires…

  • I was squeezed into a concession stand for an hour with a bunch of ten-year old players waiting out a torrential rain (without much luck).  Firstly…ten year old’s are still children…acting like children except when its something that they’ve totally bought into.  “Yeah…we’ve got football camp coming up next month” one told me.  “Is it pretty intense?” I asked the group.  “OH YEAH!!  Two hours a day for a week!” replied the ringleader in a serious tone normally reserved for only the most important subjects.  “How’s the coach?  He usually work you guys hard?” I continued.  “Yeah.  That’s him over there selling Laffy Taffy at the window.”   The coach was a rotund man in his fifties…selling concessions to keep the boys in uniforms, equipment and baseballs.  #laboroflove

 

  • Secondly….ten-year old’s sometimes have little sisters who have to tag along.  This group had a little blonde kindergartner sister who wasn’t satisfied staying on the fringes of this group of boys….she had her nose stuck in their business whether they liked it or not.  From what I saw I think that most of the boys were fine with it….or just totally ignored her altogether.  Later in the day an opposing team was chanting “we got spirit!  Yes we do!  We’ve got spirit!!  How bout you?!”  but before anyone could answer them they’d shout “WE’VE GOT MORE!!”  This didn’t sit well with little sister and she’d yell back at them from the safety of sitting on a blanket in front of her parents lawn chairs.  In-between innings I walked over to her and asked “you know that kid shouting that stuff…?” She looked up at me from behind the back stop.  “I think he’s flirting with you…”  I’ll say this…kindergarten girls know what that means because she just about cut me in half with her icy glare!  Everyone else enjoyed my little jab….but her.  #shehasthelooksthatkill

 

  • Coach Talk: “YOU STRUCK OUT THE SIDE!!” to his pitcher.  Technically speaking the pitcher being praised did strike out three batters...but he’d pitched through the batter order twice in the same half inning, allowing a ton of runs.  Needless to say the game ended at the bottom of the third inning due to mercy rules.  #18-0

 

  • There are times during the baseball season when our sweaty equipment doesn’t dry out.  Working day and night games…it gets old.

 

  • “Hey Blue!  Can I have a new ball?!”  calls the pitcher.  “Sure thing sport!”  I reply.  As I empty my ball bag into my hands I ask “do you want the one with grass stains or the one with a crease from hitting the back stop?  I got this one that’s almost as dirty as the one in your hand.”  Two pitches and a foul ball later he’s back to his original ball.  #summerball

 

  • “We’re looking for only the BEST umpires….” read the opening line to an email looking for help at a tourney that was sent to me.  “How the hell did I end up on this list?”  is what I openly asked no one in particular.  There’s more games to umpire than umpires to work.

 

  • Between rain-outs and a nagging injury that started in January with the basketball season, my umpiring season has fizzled out.  I love to officiate basketball.  LOVE.  IT.  Baseball is a springtime whirlwind affair.  Assigners email, text and call…begging for open games to be filled with umpires.  I get it….but I’m tired, sore and trying to figure out what’s in store for me with this injury hanging on.  I’m serious enough to see my doctor about it for the second time.  This….is unchartered territory for me.  #gimpy

 

  • My last game of the season.  I enjoy being the plate umpire.  I like being there for every pitch.  Involved.  Maybe its the showman in me coming out.  I know that much about myself, I like the limelight.  I’ve learned when to let the game go about its business and when I need to take charge and use my voice to keep things in order.  When I’ve kicked a call I’ve admitted it.  There’s a fine line between being arrogant and being confident.   While I’m no where close to being what I could be….I’m still better than what I was.  #workinprogress

 

  • Sterling was one of my catchers yesterday at my last game.  He’s a gamer.  Loves the sport…I didn’t need to ask…I can tell.  He’s a left-handed catcher…which is a rarity.  His throwing style was to catch the pitch and then whip it directly in front of the right-handed batters noses.  I could see that the batters noticed this…and I think it may have unnerved a few of them…being more afraid of being hit by the catcher than the curve ball missing pitcher.  Did I mention that Sterling had a mullet?  You just don’t see many mullets these days, and as far as mullets go…it was a good one.

 

  • One of my pet peeves is players not hustling.  I’ve been known to growl at players unnecessarily holding up a game.  The hotter it is…the shorter my fuse.  On more than a few occasions this season, as courtesy runners walked onto the field, to replace a runner at first, then slowly half-assed jogged towards first I, more than once, hollered “IT’S COURTESY RUNNERS NOT COURTESY WALKERS!!”   The message received, their pace quickened considerably.  #grumpyump

 

  • My last game of the season had a temperature at game time in the high eighties.  With all of my equipment on…I was sweating my ass off.  True to form…the baseball gods sent the game into extra innings.  

 

  • For the second game of yesterdays doubleheader I took the field as the base umpire.  As I placed my bottles of water along the fence I spied an elderly lady prying open a can of Pringles.  I inquired “did you bring enough to share…?”  “Of course I did.  I’m a grandmother!” she shot back.  (she didn’t offer up any for me either….)

Our games ended without fanfare…as most do.  My partner and I fist bumped and headed our own separate ways until next spring when baseball is again played in weather much too cold, on fields that have just lost their frost, by boys who are still learning the game from men too old to play.  I hope that I’m there.  #Hiswillnotmine

Thank you for coming along,

God bless…

R

My colon’s more popular than your colon

Who’s the worst?

  • During the NCAA basketball tournament, in a game between Northwestern and Gonzaga, the officials missed a pretty cut and dry goaltending call.  You’d expect reporters and especially the fans of Northwestern to come unglued, which they did.  What’s so disappointing to me is the reaction of some basketball referees.  I belong to several websites that you need to be an official to belong to.  Most of the things that are discussed on these sites are videos of plays that are unique, or just officials wishing to get other officials opinions.  What I’ve found is that some officials are the absolute worst when one of their brothers screws up.  Its like they’ve never missed a call in their career.  Did those officials miss that call?  There’s no question that they did.  Are they feeling poorly about it?  Probably.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters

  • I’ve been dumped by my Little Brother from Big Brothers.  More accurately…he and his mother have fallen off the radar.  Everything that we’ve tried hasn’t yielded any response from them.  Its a shame.  18 months of building a relationship with a kid with no positive male role model and then (puff)…its done.  Ended.  Not even a “goodbye”.  We had a lot of good times.  Movies. Dinners. His first baseball game and car show, and lots of talking.  Figuring out the world, school,  people and going over interview questions for his first job interview (he got the job).  I honestly don’t know what caused the sudden shift of him not wanting to get together.  I have an idea, but nothing concrete.  One idea is that he just turned thirteen, and he’s a quiet kid to begin with.  Those teenage years are tough, maybe he just didn’t want to engage.  Another reason may be that he told me that he and his friends were stealing and got caught.  I told our case worker, then was instructed to tell his mother.  I did.  She thanked me, and that was the last time there was any communication between us that wasn’t just me asking if Logan was available to go out.  Long story short…I wish them well.  I hope Logan does great at whatever he chooses to do.  One telling observation is from a year ago when we were on our way to dinner.  I asked him about his dad (who lived in another state and was rarely brought up by Logan).  Logan’s easy-going demeanor changed immediately to agitated.    He curtly replied “we don’t talk about him…” and since then…we hadn’t.  I hope that he’s okay.  I’ll get a new Little Brother this Spring.  More than likely…with a few issues to go with him.

Dieting…

  • Let’s just say that if you’re the type of guy who doesn’t eat a lot of fiber then increases it dramatically one day…your lower intestine will not appreciate it.  It’ll take a look at the large influx of veggies, fruits, nuts and berries that you gobbled up then swoosh them out the back door.  Literally.  Swoosh.
  • Since the swooshing of the berries, or as I call it “Black Friday”, I’ve lightened up on the fiber and eased into it.  I still cheat and eat some bad for me food (when your blood is 7% Frito-Lay you can’t just go cold turkey…) but I’m coming around with smaller portions, leaner meats, and (yes) fruits, grains, nuts and veggies.  Moderation my boy….moderation.
  • I lose a few pounds then put a few back on.  Its difficult when my lovely bride, the honorable Mrs. Richard Ripley, tells me that there’s “summer sausage and three different cheeses in the frig that’ll get thrown out if no one helps her eat it”.  So yeah….my goal is to lose fifteen pounds by next October through better eating habits and exercise, cheese and summer sausage be damned!

My colon is famous!!

  • I have a colonoscopy later this month.  I had to have one anyway, and since March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month I decided to use our company’s Facebook page to promote the two together (good seats are still available…especially front row).  I don’t like to brag…but my colon is getting quite a bit of air time on Facebook.  Like over 1100 views since Monday.  I’ll venture a guess that my colon is probably the most popular colon of any of my high school contemporaries….so suck on that Ken Glaser! (a classmate of mine who was popular from kindergarten thru our senior year.  Ken’s good.  I think he’s an accountant now.  No hard feelings aye Ken?)  Anyway…the prep will be the worst part of it.  I’ve had them before, but a long time ago…back when they had a person use enemas.  Lots of enemas.  If you’ve never had an enema before I’d suggest that you put it on your bucket-list.  They’re a blast!

BASEBALL IS COMING!!

  • I’m working my way through the baseball rule book.  Its boring, but a refresher is necessary.  Baseball has so many rules with exceptions during many situations that, if you’re on top of them and can recite the rule to the coach when he’s pissed off….its a great thing.  My spring and summer nights are starting to fill up with baseball games.  This season I’m totally off the varsity grid, I’m only working sub-varsity and USSSA baseball.  They’re in my comfort-zone.  I’ve worked the varsity level for a couple of years and decided that the travel, late nights and temper-tantrums from coaches weren’t worth it.  Its not that I don’t get a few coaches that go sideways on me at the USSSA or sub-varsity level, its just that I handle them better AND I’m usually home by ten at night or much earlier.

Thanks for coming along!

God bless!

R

 

 

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

 

 

Why I’m loved the most…the letter

Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven.  It was expected.  He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home.  He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all.  Struggling to be comfortable.  Struggling to breath.  Struggling to live.  The call came in around 2 in the morning.  “Your Dad is dying”.  I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye.  At peace…finally.

By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me.  The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me.  By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child.  Just me, Dad and Mom.  I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…)  I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did.  It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!”  He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.

Dad was ahead of his time.  He communicated really well.  Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt.  Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us.  WE LOVE YOU.”  I took that seriously.  I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school.  When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT. 

Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas.  All three sons and their families at the same time.  Dad and Mom were loving this day.  In the tree there were three envelopes.  One for each son, a letter in each.  I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later.  It was nice.  I filed it away in my dresser drawer.  I might want it someday.

As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago.   I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation.  I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community.  “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them.  I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.”  She took it without looking at it, or commenting.

At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud.  While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional.  Here it is:

THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE

GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME

Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born.  You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other.  You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET.  You were new, BOY, we were too.  You were the prototype model.  You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.

Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position.  I believe you’re stronger because of it.  Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things.  You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own.  You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine.  You were the love of our ambitious years.  Our Love for you is SPECIAL.

Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so.  Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness.  You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future.  You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide.  You are our Love of Life.

We miss Dad dearly.  If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means.  Say it.  Write it down.  Whatever.  Do it.  They’ll want to hear it.  If not today…eventually.

Dad and Mom Ripley

Dad and Mom Ripley

God bless.

R

 

The trip home…

My trip back to good old America started with me being dropped off in Miyazaki for my overnight stay prior to my flight out the following morning.  Miyazaki’s a large city and I readily looked forward to an afternoon to walking around and exploring the sights nearest my hotel.  It was a Sunday so not a lot was going on but there was still plenty to take in.  Firstly…I loved it.  It’s not too often that a middle-aged guy like me anticipates an afternoon of just walking around and looking.  I didn’t have my interpreter with me (our daughter Karalee) so finding my way back to my hotel after walking quite a ways from it would be my biggest challenge.  I had booked my room through Travelocity.com and was pleasantly surprised how nice it was for only $58 a night (The Sky Tower Hotel).  Here are some of the local sights that I found interesting.

McDonalds Halloween Witch's Fries.  Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce.  I didn't try any.  What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

McDonalds Halloween Witch’s Fries. Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce. I didn’t try any. What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

The "thing" in the refrigerator was a bottle of water.  Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them?  True story!

The “thing” in the refrigerator was a bottle of water. Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them? True story!

A traffic light.  This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan...

A traffic light. This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan…

No need to get spooked.  There's only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

No need to get spooked. There’s only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

...and now he's stealing your bike...

…and now he’s stealing your bike…

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me.  I tried to alert the proper authorities...in vain.

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me. I tried to alert the proper authorities…in vain.

So I walked around for a few hours, into the late afternoon, up and down streets and avenues packed with all kinds of shops.

The Colonel's kind of a big deal in Japan...

The Colonel’s kind of a big deal in Japan…

I found, of all places, a “Celtic Sport Pub” where I had a delicious American Blue Moon bottle of beer…for close to $9.  Regardless of its high price it tasted awesome.  I headed back towards my hotel where I contemplated eating in their hotel restaurant.  I hedged thinking that I didn’t fly halfway across the world not to take a chance at a local place.  I chose a place and took a seat.  Thank goodness that the menu had photos and between me and my server my selection was made without any international incidents occurring.

...uh...yeah...the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with...cheese?

…uh…yeah…the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with…cheese?

…and….

Delicous-ness!!  Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Delicious-ness!! Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan.  Dead serious.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan. Dead serious.  He looks none too happy about it.

Fast forward to the next morning.  I had set up a taxi ride to the airport in the morning.  That went great.  Once arriving at the airport the ticket counter couldn’t “find” me.  Literally…they had my passport and couldn’t find me on the 11 o’clock flight to Tokyo…and the lack of them understanding English and me Japanese didn’t help.  We were about ten minutes into this dilemma when I said “listen…I gotta be on that flight.  I’ll buy a ticket and settle up with Travelocity.com when I get home”.  The third of the three ticket counter ladies just smiled at me and continued typing away.  Sweat beads ran down my back…it was warm and I was stressed.  Finally one of the ladies asked if I had kept my old ticket stub from when I had arrived.  CHA-CHING!!  I had kept it!!  I gave it to her and literally (LITERALLY) two minutes later I was walking away with my new ticket.

Fast forward again…I landed in Tokyo’s Haneda airport on time.  I had to transfer to Tokyo’s other international airport via a shuttle bus.  I had somewhere like six hours before my flight to Chicago boarded.  PLENTY of time (or so I thought).  I hustled to the shuttle bus ticket area and found…CHAOS.  Okay…not chaos…but an alarmingly large selection of transportation venues.  I was kind of “oh…sh*t…” (ever been there?  Not a good state of mind…am I right?)  Anyway…if you believe in God (like I do) you’ll like this.  I saw an airport employee, a young 20-something, walking towards me.  I got her attention, without looking like a crazed middle-aged American, and asked her where I could buy a shuttle bus ticket to Narita.  Get this…she was friendly, she took me to a ticket kiosk, changed its screen to read English, helped me buy the right ticket then led me to the bus stop and put me in the right line (mind you…there’s many buses coming and going by the minute).  She was an Angel.  Dead serious.  My wait for the bus was like two minutes before I was boarded and heading the right way.

Second Angel.  As we began our drive to Narita airport, which I thought would be a twenty minute ride, I struck up a conversation with a guy who I was pretty sure would understand English, Thomas.  Thomas is black.  There aren’t many black people in Japan, like he was the only one in Japan at the time.  Anyway…I asked Thomas how long the ride was.  He replied “an hour and a half.”  Holy cow!!  I hadn’t planned for this at all.  In my rush to find a ticket counter and thinking that the ride would be a short one I didn’t buy or bring something on the bus to drink, and I was parched!  Get this…Thomas not only calmed me down (I’m a little high-strung when traveling…) he gave me his unopened bottle of apple juice (I’m not a big fan of apple juice BUT this one tasted wonderful!!) and gave me a great person to talk and listen to during the ride and told me which stop to get off at once at Narita.  Thomas was great.  He’s Methodist by the way.

Once I found my gate I had a couple of hours to kill.  I was flying back in economy…not quite the business class that I had hoped for…but I was going home.  The plane would take off at 6 PM Tokyo time with a 3 PM landing in Chicago.

So long Japan!   Its been fun.  Let's do it again soon.

So long Japan! Its been fun. Let’s do it again soon.

I used to be a nervous-nelly on flights.  Twitching at every little chime, buzz or sound.  Not anymore.  Old Rich Ripley is a world-traveler.  I write.  I read.  I have a few drinks.  I watch TV.  Flying over an ocean…? No problem.  Forty minutes into our flight we had turbulence.  I mean real-live roller coaster, people shouting, plane shaking, pilot telling the flight attendants “ATTENDANTS GET TO YOUR SEATS”.  It was scary.  I thought to myself “this is the way that Hollywood portrays the moments before a plane crash.”  Surprisingly enough…I didn’t get overly concerned, but enough to have an impromptu chat with the Lord concerning aforementioned flight over said ocean.  The turbulence only lasted a few minutes…but long enough to leave a lasting impression.

We reached Chicago unscathed.  I had to really hustle to make it from my “big jet” gate to my little old “regional jet gate”.  I had less than 70 minutes to find my way through customs and on towards my new gate…which I didn’t know where it was…yet.

After clearing customs (when you’re a bigshot like me, they’re just happy to have me back in the States…you feel me?) I was starting to find my bearings as to where I needed to go next.  I saw a couple of the flight crew from my flight walking next to me.  I made a remark about the turbulence that we had experienced, had a nice laugh and I asked them if I could go out the door that they were exiting by…..and my next Angels were there.  They asked me what gate I was flying out from and once they heard that they replied “we’re walking right past it.  Come along with us!”  Dear Lord…these two attendants made the fifteen minute jaunt through a major international airport, onto a shuttle train, through security and right to my gate back to Iowa so easy.  I mean it…our Good and Gracious Lord made coming home so easy.  From the girl in Tokyo to Thomas on the shuttle to these two attendants walking me to my gate after working an eleven hour flight…just AWESOME.

My flight back to Cedar Rapids from Chicago is barely thirty minutes long.  I look down on the lights of Chicago fading to the east as the darkened farm fields of rural Illinois and Iowa slip under us.  I see the Mississippi River, the moon reflecting on it…it won’t be long now.  A combine illuminates the corn rows ever so slightly before taking them it.  Its funny what a person recognizes, if even from thousands of feet in the air above it.  I see a farm houses stretched down rural roads every so often…shining like little warm mercury-lit beacons…like bread crumbs left along a trail…guiding this Iowan back home.  We land, the cool early November air washes over me in the jet-bridge.  Dear God…what a journey.  Thank you for carrying me home.

Thank you for coming along with me.

God bless,

R

 

INNER NERD=Colorado

Day three of our vacation had us leave Nebraska, scurry through Wyoming and into Colorado.  Once we got close to Denver the inevitable question came up from Connie (wait for it….) “anyone want to listen to some John Denver?”  Dead serious…we’re big John Denver fans.  In the mid 1970’s when Connie and I were growing up John Denver was HUGE.  He was at the zenith of his career.  TV specials.  Concerts selling out.  Movies.  His hit music being played and we readily listened.  Unfortunately John was killed in a plane crash.  I can’t help but think that his career would have had a wonderful resurgence like so many other performers of his day.  Back to the present we hooked up Connie’s phone to the vans audio system and jammed out to Rocky Mountain High, Poems, Prayers & Promises, Back Home Again and many others.  I’m as serious as a heart-attack (again…NERD ALERT!!!)…most in our van were singing along with the lyrics as our girls grew up with Denver being played in our home.  With God as my witness I got misty singing along to Back Home Again and Rocky Mountain High having to stop a number of times to clear my throat.

As with any other vacation involving driving, we ran into road construction.  This one was no different.

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is...

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is…

...going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

…going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

We arrived at our destination, a cabin outside of Glenwood Springs Colorado in mid-afternoon.  Connie had rented a cabin for us, it was someone else’s home at other times of the year.  I didn’t know what to expect.

The living room

The living room

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

Loft

Loft

It had room enough for all of us, a full kitchen, garage and (wait for it….)

...an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

…an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

The caretaker of the home informed us that there had been a “small bear” in the area and to “be aware” when outside.  “You’ll probably never see anything…the mountain lions and bears have all moved up….but still, be aware…”.  Well ladies and gentlemen…when you tell Rich Ripley that there’s the possibility that a bear could still be lingering in his general vicinity Rich Ripley is at “Scaredy-Cat Level 3.75” on a scale of 5 with 5 being the highest level.  Rational thought is given some credence, all while said rational thought is being had while sitting inside the cabin whilst drinking a Coors Light, but when I ventured outside around eleven one night to see the stars (they’re spectacular in the mountains) I was marveling at the cosmos when I heard a twig snap down by the creek (roughly thirty feet away) and bolted safely back into the cabin within a few seconds…covering a stretch of gravel driveway in flip flops like a sprinter competing for gold at the Olympics (who was being chased by a bear…).  True story.  Thank God I made it back inside safely and lived to tell the tale.  Stupid bear, mountain loin, skunk, mouse….

Anyway…we have a tradition in our family of leaving at the break of dawn (or earlier) to get to our main activity for the day.  I’m not lying.  Whatever it is that we want to do, we’re usually one of the first ones at the gate, fence, building, ticket office, Ranger station, restaurant, subway, movie theater, airport whatever.  We’ve never been late. Even with reservations we tend to leave early in case we have a flat tire (its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) mechanical breakdown (again…its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) or heavy traffic (see “its never happened in 27+ years of marriage).  Oh sure…we’ve had flat tires or mechanical issues on the way home (twice in 27+years)….but never getting there.  Its our Lou Gehrig-like streak that cannot be broken unless one of us dies, then the remaining spouse will dutifully drag the others dead ass to the event saying “I got dressed and ready for this and you’re not going to ruin it!!”

Today’s activity was white-water rafting.  We had done this nine years earlier on a different river so it was nothing new to us, but we were still looking forward to it.  Our guide was a twenty-two year old, cute, tan and engaging young college student named Raleigh.  Here are some snapshots of our adventure.  You get to enjoy them without getting soaked by ice-cold mountain water, or having your youngest daughter ogle the guide.

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Where'd we go?!?!

Where’d we go?!?!

So far...so good!!

So far…so good!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

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

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

Cold, wet and exhausted we retired to our cabin for the remainder of the day.

What's to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That's easy...pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

What’s to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That’s easy…pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

That’s Sunday and Monday wrapped up in 914 words.  The week gets more interesting with a trip to CERTAIN DEATH, wildlife (damn bears…) and more mugging for the camera (I told the girls to quit screwing around when the camera was out…but they take after one of their parents a little too closely.  I wonder who?

Thank you for coming along with us.

Take care and God bless.

R

 

 

When you’re sliding into first and you feel something burst…

 

Tidbits from the field of play…

Have you heard of the “GREAT UMPIRE SHORTAGE OF 2016”?  Well…its out there.  Schools are begging for umpires to work their games.  I’m getting requests on a daily basis from schools near and far, as are all of the other umpires.  Simply put…there aren’t enough umpires to go around.  Some high school games are only getting one umpire per game, and that’s in a city of over a hundred thousand people.  I can only imagine that its worse if your school is out in the middle of nowhere.  Personally, I’ve worked just about every day and night for three weeks straight on games…sometimes a double-header in the morning and then a double-header at night.  Its a great way to make a little spending money on the side on your day off if you enjoy the game.  Long story short….you need to be able to be criticized, keep your mouth shut and move on.  Its not something most of us are good at. I spoke with a coach last week about a play that he felt that I missed.  It was a cordial discussion held the next day when we had another double-header with their school.  It boiled down to me saying “if I missed it, how could I have gotten it from where I was supposed to be positioned?”  His reply…”you couldn’t.  We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position to begin with.”  He went on “we were scrimmaging this past spring and didn’t have an umpire so I volunteered.  It was the worst.  I’ll never do it again.” 

Now…onto lighter moments:

  • I keep a small equipment bag close by, usually in one of the dugouts, where I stash a bottle of water, sunglasses and towel to wipe the sweat off my face between innings when I’m behind the plate.  This day I also had a small bag of Skittles in it to snack on if my blood sugar dipped.  Mid-game I opened the Skittles and poured some in my mouth.  As I folded the bag and put them back into my bag I noticed a short little chunk of a kid, his uniform stretched tight over his belly, sitting on a five gallon bucket in the dugout…spying me.  I looked at him and said…”I want you to know that I licked all of those Skittles…”.  His replied back “that won’t bother me…”.  I just about fell out of the dugout laughing.
  • During the same game I had a catcher who was totally full of himself (more so than I).  It was a junior high game and the play was….eventful and challenging.  As the batter stepped out of the box to adjust, the catcher called out to his pitcher “THROW HIM THE CURVE COLBY!!” then turned back towards me and whispered “Colby doesn’t have a curve” with a smirk on his face.  The batter ended up walking.
  • A first baseman who was watching his pitcher lob pitches into the catcher turns to me, shrugs his shoulders and chuckles “Sixth graders…whadda ya do with ’em?”
  • Heard during a Little League game from a dugout “…when you’re sliding into first and you feel something burst…DIARRHEA…DIARRHEA!!”  I think the coach put a stop to the remainder of the song very quickly as I didn’t hear the rest.
  • Heard from the third base coach after the opposing teams center fielder made four straight put outs (two worthy of being on a highlight film) “hit the ball ANYWHERE BUT CENTERFIELD!!  HE’S KILLING US!!” 
  • In-between innings of a recent game where the home team was getting pounded (14-2 after the second inning) the home team coach walked down from the coaches box along the third base line.  I’ve worked with this coach before.  He’s friendly and very patient with his struggling teams.  He took off his cap and ran his hand through his hair as he chuckled under his breath “do you know where I can find some alcohol?”  Light moments.  His team won the nightcap, 7-2.
  • A really good team that I sometimes work for was getting drilled 19-2 in the second inning.  Absolutely falling apart.  The second baseman looked at me and said “our outfield is KILLING US”.  The next batter hit a grounder that went between that second baseman’s legs.  Karma.  The game ended after three innings 24-2.
  • I issued a walk to a batter two weeks ago.  He didn’t go.  He stood at home plate and just looked at me.  I looked at my clicker.  Sure enough…four balls.  I looked at the scoreboard and my partner…sure enough, ball four.  Still…he stood, before finally trotting off to first base.  His coach apologized between innings.  Turns out the kid is from Norway and doesn’t understand much English.
  • The smallest kid on the team finally got to play.  He’s noticeably smaller than the other kids on his high school team.  He messed up on a play and let a runner score as the ball went right between his legs.  His teammates reaction?  They came over, gave him a pat on the shoulder and said “Don’t worry about it Lawrence.  We’ll get the next one.”  That team is coached right.
  • Same kid.  Different night.  Gets up to bat and walks.  His bench goes crazy.  He eventually ends up at third and takes the shortest lead possible…maybe a step.  His teammate hits a single and Lawrence runs home.  His team still loses but I can’t help but wonder how many times that he’s got to cross home plate.

The basketball season starts up again for me this Saturday night.  Three games at night after a day at the store.  Its that odd time of the year when basketball camps, summer leagues and tourneys intertwine with the baseball season.  Honestly…its one of the most fun times of the year for me.  One night I’m calling strikes the next I’m running up and down the basketball court.  Good times.

Thanks for reading.  God bless.

R

Its a hit...

Its a hit…

In a nutshell I attempt the impossible

A few thoughts from this past season of officiating basketball…

  • The season had just started when I had a bad night, it came out of nowhere.  Nothing was out of the ordinary in the game, but I made a bad call and got totally reamed by the coach.  I doubled my nights problems by making a second bad call early in the second half.  “Holy sh*t!!” is what I was thinking…TWO BAD calls in one game?!  I rarely have any, much less two.  I was having the worst night in my career and couldn’t wait to get off of the court, and it was only two calls.  Let me preface that by saying that the calls weren’t game-changing per say…every call affects the game but for me….it was a devastating bad night.  How did I make those calls?  Why did I make those calls?  What was going through my head?  I’ve worked hundreds and hundreds of games…why was this happening?! What was different on this night that I’d kick two calls when I rarely, rarely have any calls that I truly regret putting a whistle on?  It was a Tuesday night and I didn’t sleep but a few hours that night…like maybe three or four.  The next night wasn’t much better.  By Thursday I was so pissed off at myself that I couldn’t wait to get back out there on the court and prove to myself and my crew that Tuesday nights game was just a fluke, an anomaly…a minor blip on the radar of my young career.  An athlete can have an off night and its exactly that…an off-night that their shots don’t fall, they can’t dribble the ball nor rebound, their passes sail into the bleachers.  They catch a break from the crowd and coaches.  The coaches can have bad nights with the way that they prepared their teams for the game, and when the other team blows them out by thirty points it was because the other team was better that night…but when a referee has a bad nightdear God help him/her….they’re going to hear it from the student section, the parents, the fans, the coaches and their bench and last but not least…his/her crew in the locker room and the following days.  Officials are to be perfect.  As a crew we thoroughly went through that game the next day, spending almost twenty-four hours critiquing what went wrong.  As a crew…it was our worst night…ever.  After beating ourselves up for a day we put it aside and went out and had a great game our next night out.  I doubt that anyone else knows just how seriously that we take the game, except for other officials.  It keeps us awake at night wondering if we did our best.  I thank God that Joel and Dan were so patient with me during that week.  I was a basket-case.

Bringin' in the subs...

Bringin’ in the subs…

  • There are such light moments in sports that if you just stop and look around its beautiful. I worked over seventy school games this season.  From middle school seventh-graders to varsity boys 4A games where the kids dunk and are Division I recruits.  Each game has its challenges and rewards.  I was sitting in the bleachers putting on my shoes during a C game for eighth grade girls.  C games are the least athletic kids playing and hence…they get the gym teacher to officiate the game.  During warm ups there were toddlers walking on the floor as their big sisters took turns shooting free throws.  Gangly-legged, awkward girls trying to practice lay-ups without traveling with the ball and not having much luck but totally having a blast.  Players looking up into the bleachers expectantly, then upon seeing “Mom” or “Grandpa” breaking into a big smile and waving at them before returning to warming up.  Its seeing someone who isn’t a ball-hog throw the ball to their opponent because they didn’t know what else to do with it and the crowd roaring with laughter at the folly.  It’s kids who apologize and help the other player up after they knock them down.  Its the subs sitting deep on the end of the bench…eating tortillas slathered in nacho cheese sauce when the coach calls them to play and they tell their teammates to “make sure Dakota doesn’t eat these..” as she jogs straight onto the court without reporting to the scorers table.  Light moments, warm thoughts…I chuckle through my whistle.
  • Technical fouls…I rarely give any, I just don’t.  The game is about the game and players, not me and the coach.  Issuing a technical to a coach stops the game and makes it about something that he/she did that I now have to stop and address.  I was having a great season only issuing one technical foul to a kid who dropped the F-bomb fairly loud.  It was an easy call.  Then last week I issued three T’s in less than twenty-four hours, tossing one coach (I whacked him twice within about fifteen seconds…something that I regret doing).  Don’t get me wrong…he earned them and the suspension that’s required, but for me to let him get under my skin when he bellowed “DON’T PENALIZE ME FOR YOUR SCREW UP!!” was enough to really make me angry.  I take this vocation very seriously, always have…and he got to me.  I can’t let that happen again.
  • Last season I earned a post-season tournament game, which doesn’t happen very often for a third year official.  I was honored and hoped that I’d earn that honor again this season, and maybe get TWO (hey…a guy can dream…).  Well…I was lucky enough to earn….(wait for it….)…three post-season tournament games.  One girls semi-final regional and two boys quarter-final district games.  It’s validation of me doing well in this thing that I love.  Blessed to be on a great crew and blessed to get recognition.  My mentors taught me very well.

That...is a foul

That…is a foul

 

“Patience is the art of concealing your impatience”  Guy Kawasaki.

  • So yeah…mid-season we had a game where the intensity was very high.  The coaches were loud, the gym-full crowd was rudely opinionated (I seriously doubt that any one of them had read the 2015-16 NFHS basketball rule book nor its follow up case play book…either of which is a sure-fire page turner).  We heard several personal attacks on us as officials. Regardless, we had a game that as a crew…we walked away scratching our heads.  We didn’t feel that we had a good game as a crew, not nearly as bad as earlier…just not our normal kick-ass game.  My officiating boss e-mailed me later that same week, a friend of his who’s a college official was at the game and wanted to pass on some of his notes.  It went like this….”you’re good, but to be great and work deep into the post season you need to be more patient.  Wait half a second with your whistle and then get the call.”  My boss concurred.  I couldn’t disagree.  I’m as impatient as they come.  I have to work fast at my career, its required.  I eat fast, run fast, talk fast.  I’m fast, period….and now to get better and keep myself out of trouble on the court….I need to wait HALF A SECOND to blow my whistle (if needed) to make a call.  It’s been a struggle.  The average person thinks “half a second is nothing!!  Just wait.”  The game moves so fast. I’m a work in progress is all that I’ll say.  I want too, believe me.
  • My season ends quietly this afternoon at an 8th grade boys game held in a little town twenty minutes away.  Its an anti-climatic end to a wonderfully exciting and fun season.  Two nights ago I was working a game where there was a dunk on a steal in a big school gym that had several hundred vocal fans in it.  Today…I go back to where I came from…small town Iowa.  The game is important to the players, coaches, parents, relatives and now….me.  I want to end this season with a flourish.  I won’t be banging out calls like its the seventh game of the NBA Finals…but I’ll be ready….bet your ass I will.

During my drive to my tournament games Monday night it came to me that tonight...some boys playing careers will end.  They're Seniors in high school, and with a loss...their competitive playing days will be over.  The players and those Senior cheerleaders...its over tonight for them.  The squeak of sneakers on a basketball court, the smell of freshly popped popcorn, the ticket-takers letting you pass without paying since you're the player/cheerleader...it'll be over tonight.  I think of this as I drive towards the school, along blacktop highways on a raw and overcast late winter day as dead prairie grass and corn stalks reach up in vain....breaking the crust of a hard winter snow.  It'll be warm soon, time for baseball and the promise of new dreams...but for now...I'm sad.

During my drive to my tournament games Monday night it came to me that tonight…some boys playing careers will end. They’re Seniors in high school, and with a loss…their competitive playing days will be over. The players and those Senior cheerleaders…its over tonight for them. The squeak of sneakers on a basketball court, the smell of freshly popped popcorn, the ticket-takers letting you pass without paying since you’re the player/cheerleader…it’ll be over tonight. Your parents who brought you up, taught you to play the game and supported you through your playing career will either see that end, or have that career extended if for but one more tournament game.  I think of this as I drive towards the school, along blacktop highways on a raw and overcast late winter day as dead prairie grass and corn stalks reach up in vain….breaking the crust of a hard winter snow. It’ll be warm soon, time for baseball and the promise of new dreams…but for now…I’m sad that it’ll be over too soon for even me.

The hardest part of my basketball officiating season is…the off-season.  I’ll take a few days off then head into the gym for weights, stretching and running.  I’ll read the baseball rules, but its not the same.  My true love is waiting for me December 6th at center court.  Tip time 6PM.  Good seats still available.  I.  CAN’T.  WAIT!!

God bless,

R

PARENTHOOD…DAY 9,178. So far…so good

The time frame for this, the fourth of six chapters of my life as I enter the tender age of 50 (in less than two weeks if you’re mailing your gift to me…), begins around the beginning of 1989.  Connie and I had been married for almost a year when she brought it to my attention that we should start trying in earnest to get pregnant.  If I remember it correctly we didn’t discuss how much the baby would cost us in terms of money, time, patience, formula, medicine, insurance, sickness, loss of sleep, worry or anything else….we were 23 years old and it was time.  Connie, being a right-brained analytical type, purchased a Basal thermometer and started charting her ovulation cycle on graph paper which was compared to a calendar on her nightstand.  After a couple of months of this she informed me that “this next week I’ll need you on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights around nine PM” to which I wholeheartedly agreed that, this whole baby-making scheme of hers sounded “just grand” to me (HAR HAR).  What I came to quickly realize was that being called upon to sire a bloodline is TOTALLY  different from frisky and fun spontaneous sex.  My bride was all business…with no time for foolishness nor foreplay. She was all “GET ‘ER DONE” before the phrase was coined.  The following video closely illustrates our exchanges at that time. The movie She’s Having a Baby was the movie that we went to see on our first date.  Funny stuff…hits close to home.

We got pregnant quickly though it didn’t last…two times in a row.  We were heartbroken, with one even going into the second trimester.  Geez…did we really want this hurt to continue?  We cautiously approached this whole “parenthood” thing again and came through it with our first-born daughter Jordan.  She was perfect.  Eight pounds and a head full of hair.  As I laid down to sleep that night, with Connie and Jordan still at the hospital I thought to myself “I can finally relax…she’s born…she’s here…” before a stark realization pierced my conscience with “DEAR GOD…IT’S JUST BEGUN!!”

Connie and Jordan early on

Connie and Jordan early on

After Jordan was born Eastman Kodak probably posted record earnings.  We took photos of her endlessly.  Repeat…endlessly.  She was unique.  She was so smart. She was in the 100% percentile of her age group!!  She also pooped a great deal, spit up almost constantly, tried to eat our cat and was the apple of our eye.  Why our child was destined to be someone wonderful!!

Never mind that Jordan's gouging my eye out...she's happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

Never mind that Jordan’s gouging my eye out…she’s happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

First born children shoulder the burden of breaking in new parents.  Who would teach new parents that they should ALWAYS bring at least one set of clean clothes for the baby to even the most routine trip…?  The first-born.  Who would teach new parents that they shouldn’t leave the diaper bag (with diapers, wipes, Tylenol, pacifier and burp clothes in it) on top of their car then drive twenty miles before realizing that its now somewhere along a rural county blacktop…probably being ripped apart by cars driving over it?  The first-born. (true story…we realized it at eight o’clock at night…as we were getting ready to put Jordan down for the night).  Someone found it and turned it into the sheriffs office where we picked it up the next day.

Fast forward three years and BAM!!  Daughter number two shows up and she’s TOTALLY different from her sister in attitude, temperament and intestinal regularities (funny how when a kid doesn’t poop as often how your WHOLE being is centered on that until the issue is relieved…no pun intended).  We were in a new town, a nice apartment, new careers and adjusting to being a family of four.

Karalee was more of a Momma's girl in those first few years...

Karalee was more of a Momma’s girl in those first few years…

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky...it was fun.

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky…it was fun.

And fast forward again…

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a "come hither you sexy stud" look? Me neither...

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a “come hither you sexy stud” look? Me neither…

BAM!!  Mason Sue was born…all TEN POUNDS OF HER.  Our girls topped the charts in weight by coming into this world weighing at least eight pounds each.

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Just because you just had a ten pound baby doesn't mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

Just because you had a ten pound baby doesn’t mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

By the time Macy arrived we were old hands at raising little girls. We had bought a little house and Connie was real adept at finding garage sale clothes that a growing family needed and bought our girls winter coats the previous spring during seasonal closeouts.  Our kids didn’t mind and frankly…our family of five’s budget was lean.  All through this time there were always plenty of books, a sandbox, a swing set, bunk beds and their imagination.

Fast forward…

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations in 2001

DON'T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

DON’T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with a death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

We continued to learn life lessons…like if our toddler ate half a bag of cheese popcorn at the babysitters said toddler of ours would throw up an orange mess onto our beige carpet that wouldn’t come out.  Or…if one child gets sick the parent who slept on the floor of their bedroom to comfort them would eventually catch what the kid had (it didn’t kill me….)

It was around this time that I taught the girls how to ride their bikes.  True story.  They were having trouble learning how to ride, so I loaded up their bikes, dressed them in jeans and drove them to a park with a steep grassy hill.  They put on their helmets, knee and elbow pads then I had them take their bikes to the top of the hill.  They weren’t too sure of this method and expressed their doubts constantly to me.  They got on their bikes and I pushed them off, yelling “PEDAL!!  DON’T STOP PEDALLING!!”  They’d make it a little ways, crash then really expressed their doubts about my methods with “DOES MOM KNOW ABOUT YOUR TRYING TO KILL US?!?!”  Within minutes they were riding their bikes down the hill and onto the blacktop playground at the base of that hill.  Happy and confident, but not without a bump or two.  The girls were little, and whenever Connie left town for a conference and I had to be Mister Mom for several days I ran our girls hard….and they loved it.  If it were summer I’d let them get up around 8 and mill around the house until ten or so.  I’d load up the van with bikes, a cooler of food and drinks then head off to a park where they’d play until lunch time.  We’d picnic, then change into our swimsuits and go to the pool.  After a couple of hours at the pool we’d head to Dairy Queen for ice cream.  After getting home I’d send them outside to play some more.  Supper.  Showers.  A little TV and reading then send them off to bed at 7:30 where they’d crash.  It was a great plan…sadly I was almost as wore out as they were.

Without Connie around I usually relaxed the house rules.  On one occasion I encouraged belching at the dinner table with a follow up exclamation “GOOD FOR YOU!!”  shouted by everyone and hitting the table with both hands (this was done by one adult, me, and three little girls under the age of 11 for approximately one week).  It went over BIG!!  The girls loved it and practiced it as often as they could…with silverware clattering with each pounding and a lot of laughing….then Connie got home.  I didn’t think to tell the girls to stop our little routine, why would I?  At our first meal with Connie back Macy let out an ear-splitting belch that would make a sailor proud then hit the table with both hands and yelled “GOOD FOR ME!!!!” with a big smile on her face.  Connie’s jaw hit the floor.  Jordan and Karalee looked on in astonishment like Macy was about to die.  I chuckled and told Connie what we had been doing.  It ended right….there.

Fast forward…we wanted a larger house and bought one.  Everyone was excited.  Each girl had their own bedroom and got to decorate it accordingly.  Friday afternoons I’d pick them up from school then race home to clean the house, shower, order pizza then crash on the couch and watch Nickelodeon’s Friday night line up of Dexter’s Laboratory, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, Rugrats and Ed, Edd and Eddy.

Good times...

Good times…

They grew…

First day of school

First day of school

School days…roughly 7,000 of them…not to mention their time in college.  Our girls got good grades, a direct reflection of their mother’s influence.

Family reunion 2006

Family reunion 2006

Lots of Halloweens…

Thug life. Don't ask me why..

Thug life. Don’t ask me why..

Connie was/is always in charge of Christmas.  Since I work retail I’m usually not in any good mood to do anything other than drink and watch others enjoy the festivities.  We both grew up with generous, loving and thoughtful parents.  I’d like to think that we carried those traits onto our family.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007

Lot’s of birthdays.  We’ve hosted many, many birthday parties for our daughters.  When they got older and had friends over…we got wiser and ended “sleep overs”.  I suddenly started feeling my age when I started telling kids “its 4 AM dammit…get into your sleeping bags and go to sleep!!”  One hundred and thirteen birthday cakes later…we’re still ready for more.

My bride didn't have a "9" for my 39th birthday so she improvised with "38" and "1".

My bride didn’t have a “9” for my 39th birthday so she improvised with “38” and “1”

My 40th birthday with my girl. We're both grayer now...go figure

My 40th birthday with my girl. We’re both grayer now…go figure

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn't bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over the her school shoes)

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn’t bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over her school shoes)

Vacations.  We finally started taking good vacations.  Destination spots.  Disney.  Washington DC.  Colorado.  It’d take a couple of years to save up for them.  I think that Connie and I were just as excited as our girls were.

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn't fit. (I call this my "white socks with denim shorts phase)

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn’t fit. (I call this my “white socks with denim shorts phase)

On top of Pike's Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

On top of Pike’s Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

Photos!!  We took a lot of photos!!  There’s around 15 large photo albums of the past 27 years, with roughly 20 smaller photo albums of our vacations.  Connie is to credit for all of these, that and we took photos of everyday life and special occasions.

High school and middle school days

High school and middle school days

 

Did I mention birthday parties…?

Macy and friends...

Macy and friends…Diet Dew and cake

Jordan...with Karalee photobombing

Jordan…with Karalee photobombing

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Long a tradition in our home...birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn't include a place with Happy Meals.

Long a tradition in our home…birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn’t include a place with Happy Meals.

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Graduations…four of them.  Three high school.  One college.

Macy's high school graduation. 2014

Macy’s high school graduation 2014

As a tradition that our girls started…whenever we have a holiday or event that one of them can’t attend, the absent ones face is printed out and taped to the face of a stuffed snowman…so she can be there in spirit.  What started out as a joke is now kind of a deal for them.

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan "bring" Karalee to Macy's graduation party

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan “bring” Karalee to Macy’s graduation party

Empty-nesters.  Nuff said.

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now...?

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now…?

Flying the nest…literally…

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Traditions.  We have them.  Won’t go too far into them.  One is cookie baking for the holidays.  Here Karalee photobombs with the batter.  I think she’s practicing to take my spot as the family ham…but I’m still firmly on my throne.

COOKIE TIME!!

COOKIE TIME!!

More Christmas…

Who doesn't like a good head-hug from their kid?

Who doesn’t like a good head-hug from their kid?

Uhhh...what happened to my little girls...? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me...? Anyone...?

Uhhh…what happened to my little girls…? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me…? Anyone…?

As I looked back through our family photos I became a little melancholy.  Where did the time go?  I always knew that we were very blessed, but to see it again and again….and again…all of the love, the fun and good times…it makes me feel overly blessed.  Connie’s done a WONDERFUL job as a wife, and mother of our daughters…I couldn’t ask God for a better person to spend my life with.  I couldn’t ask for better parents or in-laws.  They’re the kind of folks that taught us about love, affection, laughter, honor, God, home, a work ethic, family, solidarity, responsibility, honesty and how to be a good parent, spouse and brother/sister.  They taught us without saying anything most days….we just didn’t know it.

Whenever I overhear a young couple say that they don’t have enough money saved up to have a child I tell them “don’t wait, you’ll never have enough money and you’re missing out on the ride of a lifetime.”  Parenthood isn’t for everyone….but it was for me.

Once in a great while…we get all three of our daughters home.  It doesn’t happen very often.  When we do…this is how they act…

Goofy women in my truck

Goofy women in my truck

…but this is how I still see them…

Good times

Good times

Parenthood has made me a better person.  Nuff said.

God bless and thanks for coming along…

R

 

 

 

Endings and beginnings…

Baseball season has ended.  Fall basketball leagues won’t start for another six weeks or so.  What will I do with all of this spare time on my hands?  For starters I have to get caught back up on what I’ve neglected.  I have referee stuff strewn about the house.  Whistles, uniforms, rule books, camp information, cold weather jackets, shoes, etc, etc.  Believe it or not….I’m preparing for basketball season already, which officially starts for me on November 20th in a small town forty minutes west of here.  I also need to haul stuff to the landfill.  There’s just something about moving, and then re-moving, then re-moving again…three daughters about their various apartments and cities that we now have one wrecked futon (I accidently drove over it with the truck…I wasn’t paying attention) two old dorm mini refrigerators, an old TV (weighs around 800 pounds, and old playground slide (not from their apartment) and various junk.

It’ll be a time to reconnect with relatives in other states, getting Mom back to her old stomping grounds and slowing down to sit and visit.  Beers and burgers with friends.  Movies and shooting hoops with my Little Brother from Big Brothers. Lining up help for a Christian Men’s Retreat this fall. Sitting in a lawn chair, eating ice cream in the evening as the neighbor kids ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk. It’ll mean driving along gravel roads on warm and humid summer mornings…watching the Killdeers race across the road while old ghosts from my past watch from the cornrows and pastures.  It’ll be a time when I drive two hours in one direction to have lunch and laughs with cousins that I don’t see enough of. When others ask what I did with my day off I’ll reply…”not much of anything” but in reality…I refilled my soul.

This coming basketball season brings change…I’ve joined a new crew that lives a lot closer to me and that I’ve known for years.  We’re friends off the court, which is a benefit as well…and I’ll still be able to work a few games with my old crew…which is a blast as well…I really am blessed in this regard and practically in every regard.

Summer’s here…its time to relax.

 

 

The end is near!!

The end is near!!

I hope that your summer is good as well.

Peace,

R