Thanks Dad….

Thanks Dad…

 

My dad recently passed away.  He was a good man. A good husband to our mother. A good family man.  A Christian.  I’ve been compiling a list for the past couplea weeks, that even though it’s not entirely complete, I’m posting now. I’d like to take a moment to thank him, in no particular order, for the following:

  • For his love of our family.

 

  • For teaching us to honor our parents and elders by watching him honor his.

 

  • For wrasslin’ us boys in the middle of the living room floor, then years later…wrasslin’ his grandsons and granddaughters in that same living room.

 

  • For leading us in prayer before meals.  You and Mom taught us to pray.

 

  • For playing catch with me until your arm dropped off. Then showing up at our ball games to watch us play, or ride the pine…either way…you and Mom were there if you could be.  For teaching me your “running jump shot”while cutting through the lane.

 

  • For teaching me (and my two brothers) to drive…on gravel roads with a manual transmission no less.  For teaching us to counter-steer when we started to fishtail, and teaching us that if we accelerated then popped the clutch we could peel out.  (maybe he didn’t teach us that….but he didn’t discourage it either).

 

  • For buying me my first car, so I could have something to drive to school and take to college.  It wasn’t Camero or Mustang, but it sure beat walking.

 

  • For letting me use your cologne when I started dating.  Cedar & Scott counties women were never the same after that.

 

  • For providing for our family, both with your city job and on the farm.

 

  • For teaching me and my two brothers how to pick out a woman as a wife; to love, cherish and respect her.  Dad and Mom were married for 55 years.  He adored Mom.  He backed Mom’s decisions (at least in front of us boys).  He and Mom were a team.  Teams sometimes have disagreements…but at the end of the day….they were still a team and they still loved each other.  I remember a time when Mom left for a week to help with the care of one of our newborn nephews.  Upon her return to our farm Dad had made a big banner that said something like “Welcome Home Marcy!! I love you!”  I was a teenager at the time and thought to myself “Jeez…the old guy still has it going on for Mom.”

 

  • For welcoming our fiancées into the family as genuine daughters that he and Mom never had.  Both Mom and Dad made our wives feel accepted and loved, because they were.  It’s a true testament of that loved returned when I saw my sister-in-laws & my wife sitting with Mom at Dad’s bedside at the hospital and at the nursing home.  When the chips are down, love shows up and waits it out.  Love.

 

  • For taking time to listen to me, and encourage me when the situation called for it.

 

  • For letting us know that being “disciplined” is a form of love.

 

  • For teaching your sons a strong work ethic.  One’s a captain on the fire department with 30+ years of service and a medal for valor in the line of service.  The middle son travels the world for the company that he works for, and has several patents in his name and has worked  20+ years for that company.  And me…I’ve worked 22 years for the company that I’m employed by.  I may not have the technical brilliance or book smarts of many others, who surround me, but the good Lord gave me a quick wit and enough commonsense to stay out of trouble….and that’s been enough up to this point.

 

  • For saying to an eight year old Rich Ripley “sure you can try my snuff!  Take some!”  For anyone who hasn’t tried snuff…it’s horrible tasting finely cut tobacco that burns your mouth and gets into every crevice, makes your nose run and your eyes water.  I couldn’t wash it out of my mouth fast enough at the barn water hydrant!  I haven’t touched the stuff since. Lesson learned Dad.

 

  • For allowing me to try alcohol at home.  I found out that it, too, was nasty tasting stuff.  And when I was old enough to drive he’d square up with me, look me in the eye and tell me “if you’re going to drink tonight, call us….we’ll come get you.  We love you.”  I doubt that it was reverse psychology…my parents never made any bones about telling you what was on their mind and what they expected out of you, but when Dad said that, I was usually home, sober, by ten at night.

 

  • For being a super Grandpa…dollhouses and toy farms built for our kids.  For wagon rides behind the lawnmower for our kids.

 

  • For Dad and Mom showing up and helping out at countless moving in’s and moving out’s at colleges, first apartments, first homes and second homes.

 

  • For the free technical advice/service on home and car repairs.

 

  • For loaning, sharing or just giving us whatever Dad and Mom had that we needed at that moment.  Whether it was a hug, advice, a loan or some kind of tool….if you two had it….we could use it.

 

  • The interest-free loans in college and life from Mom and Dad.

 

  • For the advice…whether we wanted it or appreciated it at the time.  It was given out of love and concern.   I know that now.

 

  • For the love of hitting the road early when leaving on vacation.  I don’t remember how many times we’d leave on vacation in total darkness.  Mom and Dad in the front seat, my brothers and I piled into the back seat.  One of my fondest memories is waking up, a couplea hours later, the sun rising, smelling coffee that Mom was pouring from the Thermos for her and Dad to drink.  I don’t necessarily like to travel far for vacation, I didn’t inherit this from my parents….I don’t know how as my two brothers love the open road.  In my childhood Mom and Dad drove us to Disneyland in California, then four years later drove us to Disney World in Florida (from Iowa) There were other trips too, though I was too young to remember, but old timey super eight movies prove that I was present…a scowling tow headed toddler that looked none to pleased to be away from his dog and cats on the farm.  Mom and Dad drove us to places far and wide in either a pick up truck camper or in a ’72 Ford LTD with Aristocrat trailer in tow.  Lots of miles behind the wheel for his wife and boys.  I’d go back to school in the fall and tell the other kids where I’d been and what I’d seen only to find out that they hadn’t gone anywhere.  I realized at a young age that I was blessed to have these parents.

 

  • For serving our country during the occupation of Germany after World War II.  His love of our country was wide and deep.

 

  • For letting me know how proud Mom and he were of their sons and their families.  Some people never hear those words come from their parents, but I heard it just about every time I saw them.

 

  • For comforting me as I tried to comfort him in his final days.  Try as I might….I couldn’t not cry as I told him “it’s okay to go Dad.  We’ll take care of Mom.  You’re work is done here.  You and Mom did a great job of raising us boys.”  He’d look up at me, hold my hand and whisper, “I know.  I know.”

 

  • What gives me great comfort is a conversation that we had a couplea years ago.  I was taking him for a drive one morning, out in the country.  We weren’t talking much; just me driving, him looking out the window at the snowdrift covered farm fields.  I asked him “how are you doing spiritually Dad?”  He replied, “Jesus is my Savior.”  That’s what gave me comfort then.  It’s what gives me comfort now. Thanks for showing us the way Dad.  We’ll see you later.

Love,

Richard

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Sleep deprived is where its at!!

If you had told me just a few months ago that I’d be traveling to Japan this November I’d have thought you were crazy.  Not only is Japan a country that I wasn’t interested in its also a long-ass ways away from Iowa.  But…when your middle daughter (whom you love dearly) moves to Japan to take a job you find that your interest in all things Japanese rises significantly.  Karalee, our middle daughter, teaches English in a school in southern Japan.  Fortunately I can afford the time off and expense of travel to visit her. (remember all of those games that I referee…?  Yeah…some of that money went to this trip)

I decided to make this trip a couple of months ago.  My wife, Connie, wouldn’t be joining me since she was working and also had a trip planned in December to visit Karalee.  With the help of our daughters we planned out what I had to do, when I needed to do it and where I’d end up.  Without their help and expertise I don’t know if I would have been able to make this trip as easily as I did.  Granted…there were some well-place angels along my journey who pointed me in the right direction, and for them, I’m very grateful.

I left Iowa before six in the morning on the 31st, flying first to Denver then onto Los Angles.  I fly stand-by quite a bit.  What that means is that if there’s a seat left empty on the plane, yours truly is in line to buy that empty seat at a reduced price.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll even get a seat on the flight, but there’s a chance I might.  I’ve been left behind before, multiple times if the flight fills up. The bigger the plane, the better the chance to get on.  On the 31st there was a seat in Business class left if I wanted to pay the higher price for it (more than Economy, less than face).  I hadn’t ever flown Business Class before and it was a 12 hour flight to Tokyo so I asked for and got it.  It was over-the-top SWEET!!  My own space.  A totally reclining seat.  Bose noise-muffling earphones.  A top of the line menu (I had the salmon and a hot fudge sundae).  Alcohol, nuff said.  Midnight snack bar. A larger TV monitor.  A better selection of “free” movies and TV shows!!  I was like a kid in a candy store!!  Our flight attendant was Carter…and he was the bomb.  “Another bourbon Mister Ripley?”  Why yes Carter…that’d be excellent.

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I've got time...

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I’ve got time…

...for some nuts and adult beverage...

…for some nuts and an adult beverage…

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The whole experience was wonderful.  I knew that I’d have time to kill during the flight because (wait for it….) I can’t sleep on planes.  Tried it, won’t work.  I always hear someone coughing, or the toilet flushing or a chime or something.  I can’t sleep.  So I was especially excited about the upgraded entertainment options.  After I watched Star Trek 2 I opted for a Melissa McCarthy comedy.

Who doesn't find this funny...? Anyone?

Who doesn’t find this funny…? Anyone?

I watched TV show after TV show.  Read.  Wrote in my journal.  Laid my seat down.  Tossed.  Turned.  Read some more.  Raided the midnight snack island (my take was six lady-finger sandwiches and a handful of delicious cookies).  Anyway…no sleep.  Even in the comfort of Business Class yours truly cannot sleep, but the guy next to me fell asleep shortly after taking off.  I resent him for this. 

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Eventually….we get close to Japan and they serve us breakfast.  It doesn’t feel right eating breakfast when you haven’t slept and you’ve traveled fourteen hours INTO the future.  Towards the end of this day I figure that I stayed awake almost 29 hours straight. (I would NOT recommend it)  At Tokyo I breeze through customs (they’re thrilled to see me, who wouldn’t want to bask in the warm glow of my presence…?) and try to locate the ANA ticket counter for my connecting flight to Miyazaki where Karalee lives.  After several false starts and stops (mostly stops) one of the lady’s at the ANA luggage counter gives me easy to follow directions to the their ticket counter.  I need to stop here and say that the Japanese folks that I ran into were always very polite and courteous, my whole trip.  The ticket counter ladies found my Travelocity reservation and got me my ticket, then referred me to the shuttle that would take me to the correct terminal.  I breezed through a Japanese security check point then onto a shuttle bus where I struck up a nice conversation with two Germans from Munich.  Great guys, too bad we didn’t have time for a beer, but I had to find my gate.

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on...what's that say...?

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on…what’s that say…?

Fortunately the sign above rotated between English and Japanese every few seconds and the gates were easily found.

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out...I don't use them...

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out…I don’t use them…

I was feeling kind of sick now…just not right, so I walked around the terminal until I found a place where the food looked good.  I viewed their menu board and hoped that I could make enough sense to them so that I’d get some food.  The young man behind the counter beckoned me over and showed me a menu with photos of the food.   I just pointed to a sandwich and drink and hoped for the best.  It was delicious.  I’m sure that there’s a Japanese word for these sandwiches but in American lexicon it was a cold cut sandwich with avocados and egg salad on it served on a delicate sweet bread.  As soon as I stood up the young man returned and picked up my tray and thanked me (I think…he was smiling and nodding).  Regardless…my first real experience interacting with the locals.  Speaking of locals…they turned out in large numbers to see me off to Miyazaki!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Once boarded on my flight departing Tokyo we waited…and waited.  Not too long…but a busy night at Tokyo’s International Airport in Haneda.

There's at least two planes behind us out there in the dark...

There’s at least two planes behind us out there in the dark…

My flight to Miyazaki went well, only taking a little over an hour and a half.

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee's apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee’s apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Karalee was waiting for me at the airport.  I was so tired and thank goodness everything went well.  One thing that really played with my head is that in Japan they drive on the opposite side of the roads, that combined with going through some mountains, twisting and curving our way there…left me a little weirded out.  Not by her driving….just the whole being sleep deprived and seeing someone in a big truck in what I thought was our lane coming right at us.  Ah…good times being too tired to be totally scared out of my mind.  Once at her apartment I shower and hit the sack.  Too tired to roll over I fall asleep with my body halfway off the mattress that’s laid on the floor for me.  Karalee snaps a photo and sends it to Connie letting her know that I’ve arrived safely…even if I look like I’ve been murdered on her living room floor.  A fun week ensues.  Come along if you like, we won’t be talking politics.  That’s my promise to you.

God bless!

R

 

 

I GOT A GREEN BEAN OUT HERE!!!

My quick, convenient and easily digestible “3 FOR THURSDAY” edition from the good folks at RIPLEY INDUSTRIES.  They are as follows:

  1. I work retail.  I have for 25+ years.  Middle-management.  I usually get into a store and stay there for years.  I get to know my customers real well, like the guy that comes into the store right after we open in the morning and I’ll have his cigarettes sitting at the check lane for him, or the woman who doesn’t like me to talk to her so I just avoid her grumpy ass altogether (we’re both happiest that way) or the bevy of elderly widowed ladies that come in and toddle around the store once or twice a week to get out of the house, talk with our employees and load up on essentials.  I do my best to make the time to talk to them, give them a tough time or tease them some as they enjoy giving it right back to me.  One of them was shopping the other day and asked me where the toothpaste was located. I replied “Well lets get you out of the laxative aisle and go over here to dental care.”  I paused and said “What would you think of a product that combines toothpaste with stool softeners, Barb?”  She paused and looked up at me and exclaimed “I’D BUY IT!!”  I roared at her genuine answer…apparently I’d struck a chord with her.  I replied “what flavor should I make it?”  And again she shot back “STRAWBERRY!!”  It made my WEEK.  Thank God for little old men and woman. 
  2. We’re empty-nesters, again.  Two of our daughters were on break from college over Thanksgiving.  It was great to have them home, though the house is, again, painfully quiet.  As I was backing out of our driveway Sunday afternoon, with the girls and their stuff heading back to college, I glanced at our kitchen window where my wife Connie stood.  The look on her face was the same feeling that I had in my stomach…we’ll miss our girls and the life and light that they bring into our home whenever they visit.  My throat gets tight and my stomach uneasy as I think about this next phase of our lives.  Now I know how my parents felt all of those years.  I am….my parents.
  3. On a lighter note…I was just getting ready to referee my first basketball game of the 2014-2015 season, a junior high game in late October. Prior to the games that I was to officiate they played a “C game” where all of the reserves and kids that don’t get to play often get to play.  Towards the end of the game I saw a player cup his hands under his mouth and run towards his bench, zigzagging along the way.  I thought that the young man had a bloody nose, but “no”…he was throwing up.  Long story short…that game ended abruptly so that the janitor could clean up the trail of “stuff” that went half the length of the court.  My game was held up as the little guy had covered a lot of ground, leaving his calling card along the way.   Finally the court was cleaned up and the teams warmed up.  Just before tip-off the head coach took one last stroll along the court.  He suddenly stopped, pointed down and yelled to the janitor “I GOT A GREEN BEAN OUT HERE!!” At that moment the principal walked by, looked at my partner and I and said “We had green beans for lunch today.  Nice to know that they’re eating them.” and briskly continued on her way. It’d have been even better if they’d keep them down, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading!  Take care of yourselves and God bless!

R

1500 mile road trip…? Why not

As avid readers of RICH RIPLEY already know, our oldest daughter was fortunate enough to gain employment with an international company who, in turn, based her employment in tropical Miami Florida.  Not having the time to drive her car down to Miami from Iowa herself, I took it upon myself to drive it down there…all 1500 miles.  Now, normally, I’m pretty mild-mannered and not much of an adventurous soul, but the idea of getting out of town, and the cold (it’s been snowing ever so lightly here AND getting out of work for three days sounded like A DREAM VACATION.  Just me, some classic rock and roll, assorted snacks and 1500 miles to sort out some things that have been on my mind.  Priceless.

It went like this:

  • Day One. Work half a day at the store then take off and drive seven hours…taking me south of St. Louis.  I don’t think that I’ve ever been so happy to see a hotel in a long time.  I’m so tired as I’ve brought along a sore throat and head cold with me.
  • Day Two.  Get on the road at six.  I’ve got ten hours of driving to do, taking me from Illinois to Tennessee to Georgia back into Tennessee (dead serious…the interstate goes back NORTH for a few miles) then back into Georgia.  I end up in southern Georgia.  It’s a great day.  Jammin’ to tunes. Looking at the scenery (Tennessee and Georgia are still in “fall foliage” mode with plenty of color left to enjoy).  Southerners LOVE billboards.  In south-central Georgia I witness these three billboards within miles of each other.  “ADULT WAREHOUSE!!”, “ADULT SUPERSTORE…semi and RV parking in the rear!!” and “ADULT SUPERSTORE CENTRAL” (I can only imagine the wacky scenario’s that come up.  “I need a price check on register five on a……”.   I end up in Valdosta where I asked the front desk of my hotel about how long it took to get to Gainesville Florida (just ninety miles away) and I’m repeatedly told “we don’t live in FLORIDA, so we don’t KNOW.”  I live in Iowa and can tell you just how long it takes to drive to Chicago ILLINOIS, Minneapolis MINNESOTA, Omaha NEBRASKA, Kansas City KANSAS and MISSOURI and the like.  I think it had everything to do with their dislike of each others football teams (is it any wonder that they lost the Civil War?)   I did, however, have my best meal of the trip in Valdosta.
Fourteen dollars for this delicious steak, B size taters and green beans.

Fourteen dollars for this delicious steak, B size taters and green beans.

Now being the usual stupid Midwesterner that I am I figured that it’d be warm, if not down right hot in Georgia, but it wasn’t.  It was like 20 degrees almost to Atlanta.

Day Three.  Valdosta Georgia to Miami Florida…six and a half hours.  I’m thinking to myself that I wish that I had a couplea more days off…just to stop and visit some family and friends.  I resign myself to do just that…hopefully within two years.  My thoughts range to when I was a kid and family trips would be guided by Dad at the wheel of our ’72 Ford LTD with Mom as co-pilot, Atlas and a thermos of Folgers in hand.  Now I’m guided by GPS and traffic delays are announced prior to me ever seeing them.  Family and friends recovering from illnesses cross my mind and my prayers.  Silence.  Sweet silence.  I don’t think that you can put a price on time spent with just your own thoughts.  The weather gets warmer.  The sweatshirt comes off.  An hour later the A/C comes on.  God…thank you for the warmth.

A big college football game between Florida State and Miami has the interstate filled with fans darting in and out of traffic while we all manage not to crash….four lanes wide…with the slowest lane going 70.  I end up at my hotel and meet up with our daughter and going out to eat at a Cuban place.  I order the Snapper but in south Florida the folks don’t always speak English…like our waitress.  I knew that she understood the fish part of my order (partly because I pointed to the menu AND said “I WANT THE SNAPPER!!”) but the two side dishes that she explained (without me understanding anything that she said) I just touched her on her elbow and told her “whatever you bring me…I’ll eat.”

Snapper filet, red beans and rice, and a lettuce salad that I didn't understand that I had coming.  Don't worry....I relaxed.

Snapper filet, red beans and rice, and a lettuce salad that I didn’t understand that I had coming. Don’t worry….I relaxed.

Fried plantains....commonly known as fried banana's. Not too shabby.

Fried plantains….commonly known as fried banana’s. Not too shabby.

After the long drive, a good meal and great visit with Jordan we sat poolside and soaked up the late-day sun of southern Florida.  I retired to my room after paying TEN DOLLARS for a watered-down Jim Beam and Coke (the hotel bartender in Valdosta may not have known how long it takes to get to Gainesville but she sure as heck knew how to pour a strong Jim Beam and Coke.  It took away my stuffy head, my sore throat AND my 20/20 vision.

Still poolside, talking with Jordan and Nadia, this weather cannot be beat!!

Still poolside, talking with Jordan and Nadia, this weather cannot be beat!!

Day four.  I get up at 2:45 AM Iowa time and ready myself for my flights.  Miami to Dallas, Dallas to Cedar Rapids.  Let’s just say that it got progressively colder as the day grew older.

Me and Jordan poolside.  75 degrees in Miami

Me and Jordan poolside. 75 degrees in Miami

Home...less than 24 hours after sitting at the pool.  Frigid.  Snowy....I need a Jim Beam and Coke

Home…less than 24 hours after sitting at the pool. Frigid. Snowy….I need a Jim Beam and Coke

Its so cold that even my luggage didn’t want to come back to Iowa.  Its still in Dallas…somewhere.

Peace and good health to you and yours this holiday season!

R

A storm begins with just a slight breeze….

Just a few random thoughts:

  • I’ve been helping with the training of new basketball referees the past few weeks.  On the first night, as I was standing along the baseline instructing a rookie official, one of the guys that helped me along the way when I was a rookie walked by and shot me a sly smile and said “Remember when you were in their shoes…?”  I do remember those nights, it seems like ancient history.  I was so green.  Everybody in the gym knows how to officiate the game.  Everyone.  The coach.  The players.  Mom.  Dad.  Uncles and Aunts.  Poppa and Granny.  Everyone….except the two or three people in the black and white striped shirts.  It looks simple.  Its not.  There’s a lot to remember and make split-second decisions on.   See a player travel.  Strong whistle and arm up with an open hand.  NFHS approved “travel” mechanic done slowly.  Point to where the ball will be inbounded and run to your next primary coverage area.  Simple as herding cats in a rain-storm.  As we wrapped up the last night of on court apprenticeships (they worked some kids games for free) a mother came over to our group of officials and started complaining to us about our officiating.  Mind you…they’ve worked maybe a game, for free and the official scorers are volunteers as well, but the mother of one of the players wouldn’t take those reasons and told our officials that they were “blind” and that they needed to work harder.  Long story short she was told to “get lost”.  And now you know why its hard to get folks to work sporting events.  Parents.
  • Did you know that for every athletic scholarship offered that’s there’s at least one hundred academic scholarships?  Food for thought for all of you parents out there.
  • Last night I accidently set my alarm to wake me up at 5:15 PM, not AM.  I was still on time to work.  Can’t sleep in if I wanted too.
  • I get butch hair cuts now.  Quick and easy to care for, except that there’s always one hair that goes rogue on me.  Somehow it ducks under the repeated passes of the clippers and then gets all brave and decides to stand its curly self up during my work hours, usually above one of my temples…so I have half a devils horn.
  • My school officiating begins tomorrow afternoon, junior high basketball.  Its the beginning of my 2014-15 season, game one of sixty-one.  Thirty-three varsity games this season.  That’s right where I want to be for year three…going into a storm of games almost every night.  I don’t care if I make it to the post season tournaments…it sounds like the powers that be already have people in mind to do that kind of thing and my name isn’t there and in all likelihood won’t be ….I’m doing this for me.

Have a blessed week my minions!!

R

PORK TORNADO WARNING…

Snapshots of my staycation….

Connie and my brother Dan at Cedar Rapids new Central Fire Station

Connie and my brother Dan at Cedar Rapids new Central Fire Station

I always chuckle whenever I drive past this place in a nearby city.  "Thank you for calling ASPRO...how can I help you?"

I always chuckle whenever I drive past this place in a nearby city. “Thank you for calling ASPRO…how can I help you?”

Me and my best friend, Dave....downtown Cedar Rapids enjoying music by the band Pork Tornadoes

Me and my best friend, Dave….downtown Cedar Rapids enjoying music…

I feel like a kid the night before school starts up again in the fall. I’ve been doing the same job for pretty much 25 years…and yet somehow…it’ll take me a couplea hours to get my mind back into gear and into the “work-world” mindset. Sigh…

God bless and have a great week.
R

The fallen….

as in leaves, not people or angels. Living in the Midwest is an especially beautiful time of year, with the leaves of trees turning a variety of bold and brilliant colors just prior to them falling to Mother Earth. We bought our current house ten years ago in a neighborhood that was developed in the mid-nineteen sixties, hence we have a neighborhood chock full of a variety of mature trees providing us with a wonderful canopy of shade in the summer. Wonderful. Cool. Shade. It’s the fall that sucks. It’s in the fall when, I’m not exaggerating, we have ZILLIONS of oak tree leaves taking their suicidal plunge to our yard. Over and over. In daylight and at night. AAAAAaaaaahhhhhhh!!! My retired neighbors, Ed and Bob, work feverously to clean up their yards on a daily basis, like its some sort of sick competition to see who has the least amount of leaves on their yard. If that competition were based on who has the most amount of leaves on their yard I’d win the prize by a landslide…er leaf-slide.

Our city has a big truck with an industrial sized vacuum on it that comes around weekly and sucks up any of our leaves that we’ve dutifully raked to the curb, this is where Ed and Bob really shine, me….not so much. I’d kicked around the idea of approaching the guy who drives the “leaf-vacuum truck” and present him with this scenario. “Hey pal, what if, after work…maybe this Saturday…you borrow this truck, drive over here to my place again…then crank up thee ol’ vac here and then drive all over my yard…sucking up a few zillion oak leaves? I’ll bet that if you did that there’d be a few cases of your favorite barley pop and a Texas fifth of Jack Daniels on my patio for the taking if that could happen…say around 10 o’clock Saturday morning. Aye? I don’t want an answer now….you just think about it.” HAR HAR. You see…we have so many leaves that blowing them all to the curb isn’t feasible. After about five minutes of blowing, there’s a two foot tall, ten foot deep, fifty plus foot line of leaves across much of our front yard. A residential leaf blower just doesn’t have enough wind to blow all of that where I truly need it. I’ve tried just about everything, including raking them into a tarp then dragging them to the curb (but what am I…a mule? Don’t answer that.) Mulching them with the lawn mower is a nice idea, but even the mower can’t handle the volume…so I’m left with using a combination of using all three means of “corralling” those disobedient rascals just as Ed and Bob watch through their respectful picture windows surely cussing me under their breath for being “late” again for the “city leaf truck”. “That kid just doesn’t get it!! Wednesday’s LEAF TRUCK DAY ON NORTHGATE DRIVE!!” At this point I don’t care. I gave up caring about leaves about two years ago, though I make a reasonable effort, for appearances sake, in the front yard. I try to stay out of the back yard, there’s more trees back there, and…I had a really, really bad experience back there last fall. The Leaf Monster almost got me.

An actual artists rendition of the Leaf Monster encounter as well as my cat-quick reaction in staving off the beast (Thank God that I had a disposable lighter in my pocket as a suitable backup plan)

An actual artists rendition of the Leaf Monster encounter as well as my cat-quick reaction in staving off the beast (Thank God that I had a disposable lighter in my pocket as a suitable backup plan)

So…as you can plainly see, and hopefully sympathize with, I’m simply out of options for raking leaves this fall. I’d write more but the Leaf Monster is giving me the stink-eye through the kitchen window and its giving me the willies.

For now and later….peace.
R

Day 6 We hit the beach OR My life as a cliff jumper

Ripley men have always been cursed, cursed with smokin’ hot thighs and calves. One gal approached me recently, pointed to my legs and asked “Pilates or hot yoga?” I answered “brat’s and Lay’s potato chips”. Cursed. I won’t go so far as to say that I’m particularly good looking or muscular but I totally rock in my new swimmin’ britches. I’m hotter than a two dollar pistol in my chartreuse lime green light-weight water-drawers (I purposely bought this color so that the U.S. Coast Guard would have an easier time recovering my body if something bad happened. I’m not kidding). The sad news is that I bought those rascals and continued to loose weight with all of my running around officiating games, so they’re a tad loose fitting. I asked our hotels concierge if he had any suspenders in the “lost and found” box that I could borrow. That, ladies and gentlemen, went over like a fart in a spacesuit. Having gotten the “old Hawaiian stink-eye” from that dude…I departed. To the beach I preceded, saggy swimmin’ britches and all, looking like Deputy Barney Fife at the beach (and “No”…Connie wouldn’t let me call her “Thelma Lou” for the day).

Our lounger cabana had a retractable canopy that was excellent.

Our lounger cabana had a retractable canopy that was excellent.


Several foreign tourists mistook us for George Clooney and his latest Italian supermodel girlfriend hottie. I signed my autographs “Best Wishes, George Clooney and Italian Hottie” and no one was the wiser!!”

I had a goal this vacation. I told Connie that if she was going to require me to travel this far that I’d get to try surfing. She agreed. But before I could try it I spied Black Rock, an outcropping of volcanic rock that jutted out into the ocean from the beach at our hotel. The hotel has a guy swim out there at sunset and perform a ceremonial dive, head first, into the water. During the day, however, kids swim out there and jump off of the same rock. It’s about a 25 foot drop into the water, and it’s free…so of course I had to try it. It went something like this:

George Clooney look-a-like, Rich Ripley, points to his latest objective...which isn't a Dunkin' Donuts for once.

George Clooney look-a-like, Rich Ripley, points to his latest objective…which isn’t a Dunkin’ Donuts for once.

#1 Point to rock with stupid expression on face. Walk along shore, getting closer to rock…hitching up my trunks every four or five steps. Look back at my footprints in the sand, only seeing one set I assume that my Lord and Savior has opted to watch this latest Rich Ripley adventure from the lofty and comfortable confines of Heaven, but I know that He’s in my heart and for now…that’s enough.

#2 Swim to rock, more like dog-paddle to rock. (A journey fraught with peril)
#3 I notice that dog paddling to rock is taking quite a while. I look for a sea turtle to ride. With no turtles taking hitchhikers I continue to dog-paddle onward.

At this point I realize that dog-paddling in Hawaii and the ocean is a lot different than dog-paddling in a pool in Iowa.  WHO KNEW?!

At this point I realize that dog-paddling in Hawaii and the ocean is a lot different than dog-paddling in a pool in Iowa. WHO KNEW?!

#4 Reach rock and climb. Find volcanic outcropping difficult to climb.

I had to wait for a swell to lift me up to get a better grip on the rock...but the swells also take you INTO THE ROCKS...which isn't so swell.

I had to wait for a swell to lift me up to get a better grip on the rock…but the swells also take you INTO THE ROCKS…which isn’t so swell.

#5 Have mock heart attack.

I'm having a mock heart attack and the dude next to me isn't even expressing mock concern.  What the hell?!

I’m having a mock heart attack and the dude next to me isn’t even expressing mock concern. What the hell?!

Climbing volcanic rock barefooted, I found out, totally sucks.

Climbing volcanic rock barefooted, I found out, totally sucks.

...and the climb continues.

…and the climb continues.

#6 I reach the peak and rest. I make a new friend who, by the way, sells drowning insurance for reasonable mainland rates. I buy half a million dollars’ worth on the spot. I LOVE YOU CONNIE!! REMODEL THE KITCHEN AND NAME IT “THE RICH RIPLEY MEMORIAL CAFETERIA”.

#7 Point to Iowa.

"...Iowa's that way (wheez...puff...pant).  How'd you get up here so fast?!  Are you part Sherpa or something?! Wheez, puff, pant!!"

“…Iowa’s that way (wheez…puff…pant). How’d you get up here so fast?! Are you part Sherpa or something?! Wheez, puff, pant!!”

#8 Stand and size up descent, it looks a lot more than just 25 feet. Quietly curse the intelligence of this midlife crisis. I remember the word “bullshit” coming into play.

#9 Almost chicken out as new friend and insurance salesman tells me “there’s an underwater boulder to the left, but you’ll be okay…just don’t jump left.” I’m serious…that’s what he told me.

#10 Signal my bride and insurance beneficiary, Connie, that the moment of reckoning is upon me. Insurance man calls U.S. Coast Guard Water Recovery Team and they scramble a helicopter towards us.

I wave to my fans as they chant "JUMP GEORGE JUMP!!"  I get misty at their heartfelt bloodlust.

I wave to my fans as they chant “JUMP GEORGE JUMP!!” I get misty at their heartfelt bloodlust.

This is how the jumpers look from the same place that I’m about to jump from. These next two photos where taken from a balcony at our hotel.

Not me...

Not me…

...again...not me.

…again…not me.

#11 JUMP!! (More like step out over the water…to the RIGHT!!)

THIS....is me.

THIS….is me.

#12 Splash-down!! Salt water enema for free
#13 Shake hands with SpongeBob.
#14 Surface and dog paddle towards shore

#15 No waves to push me along. I pick the steepest shore to swim towards. Ocean remarkably calm. Curse you King Triton!!

I only look unhappy because my head is filled with salt water and my butt with sea-horses.

I only look unhappy because my head is filled with salt water and my butt with sea-horses.

#16 Reach shore and have a real heart-attack.

Notice that my swimmin' britches fit me better than the gals in front of me fit into hers?  Did anyone else notice that?  Anyone?

Notice that my swimmin’ britches fit me better than the gals in front of me fit into hers? Did anyone else notice that? Anyone?

#17 Reach Connie but cannot hear anything that is said, my head is full of water. (As are other orifices) Salty. Warm. Water.
#18 Collapse onto lounger. Take the next fifteen minutes to catch breath. Discreetly drain orifices.
#19 Feeling invincible I swim out to rock again, this time to try out my new dive “Middle-aged Man Death-Defying See How Many In-Air Jumping Jacks I Can Do Before Accidently Being Caught With Legs Open As I Hit The Water At Mach 5” also known as “the nutcracker”…something that my cousin Doug taught me in Missouri.
#20 I’m was teasing on #19. I stayed on shore for quite a while. I was water-logged.
#21 Forget the whole “learning how to surf” thing. I’ve had enough saltwater for this trip. Maybe for our 50th wedding anniversary trip.
We spent the rest of the day going into the water of both the beach and the hotels pool, before splitting an excellent sandwich from the poolside bar…while resting in the shade of our cabana.

We enjoyed the day so much at the beach that we wonder if we shouldn’t do it again tomorrow…our last day in Hawaii. We agree to think about it overnight. Later on we drive up the coast for supper, and then retire to our rooms for a movie and some ice cold beer and wine.

As it turns out...blogs come quite easily when your view is beautiful, the beer is ice cold and you're stilling draining salt water out of your body.

As it turns out…blogs come quite easily when your view is beautiful, the beer is ice cold and you’re stilling draining salt water out of your body.

Until my next blog, God bless and peace,
George Clooneyat your service

That was a strike…did you get that?

Probably one of the main reasons that I enjoy officiating both basketball and baseball is getting out of my routine, taking on a challenge and getting out of my comfort zone. At this stage of my life most things are routine, predictable and boring; though try getting behind an 8 old year catcher who’s attempting to snag a pitch from the air from his 8 year old teammate before it hits either of you is something altogether different. Try to position yourself in the right place for two different base-runners one trying to head to third base while the other is rounding first with sights on second with the throw coming in from left field. Will the cut off man throw to second or third OR throw to home OR overthrow second or third? It’s fun for me…plain and simple.

Its not very often that I get to work a “big boys” game (twelve year olds and up). Those games require two umpires, one behind the plate while the other is somewhere on the field. While I work these games not as often as I like, they give me a different vantage point from which to observe the game, and during breaks…the people. Like last week during an especially beautiful day, while the team warmed up a new pitcher I noticed a little girl, barefoot turning cartwheels in the grass, a little while later…a little boy with a blanket tied around his neck and shoulders running along the outside of the fence while another kid chased him yelling “Superman!!! I’ll get you!!” Jeez…I felt like I was in a Norman Rockwell painting.

During my last game, a game for eight year olds, the wind was blowing so hard that it blew the pitchers off of the mound (you’ll have that when you weigh forty pounds!!) Or the catcher who turned around and asked me “That was a strike. Did you get that?” Too funny.

I’ll close with this. I had a game with eight year olds again. One team had played several games and had experience, the other didn’t. One team was good, the other…not so much. The outcome was predictable. These games have a time limit of ninety minutes or six innings, and a cap of five runs scored per inning. It was starting to get dark, not too dark…just almost time to quit, the last inning. The winning team was up to bat, had the bases loaded, no outs and the losing teams pitcher had no control where the ball was going when he threw it…everybody knew it. I called “time”, took off my facemask and walked towards the winning coach and called over the losing coach for a conference along the third base line. I looked at the losing coach and asked him “your team is mathematically eliminated from winning this game, is that right?” He looked at me and the winning coach and answered “yeah”. I looked at the winning coach and said “How about you send up two more batters then let these other boys have one more at bat and have a little fun before it gets too dark?” He looked at me with a cocked head, and started to say something about the current pitcher and I cut him short with “Coach…he ain’t gettin’ it over home plate.” The coaches face lightened, he smiled and said “sure…we’ll do that.” And that’s what he did. He pulled his players off the bases after two more batters with no outs on his team. The losing team got up to bat, scored one run with one of their players stealing second, third and then home. The crowd got back into watching the boys play, and the boys got back into playing defense and offense….the way people want to watch their boys play….actively.

The third out came shortly before the sunset. Everyone headed towards the parking lot, lawn chairs and blankets in tow. Players headed to the outfield for their post-game talk. Sportsmanship prevailed. Thank you Lord.