Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 168 - My First Book Club

I became good friends with a Readers Advocate at the local newspaper.  I guess I had called and e-mailed so many times that finally just knew me by name and really listened to what I had to say.  I wrote in to complain about the sexist or racial undertones some articles and photos had.  Like when discussing poor people, there were only photos of black people.  When discussing rich people, there were only photos of white people.  Then there was the total disregard for Womens sports.  The Mens NCAA Basketball Championship team got the entire front page of the Sports color! And the Womens NCAA Basketball Championship team was on page 8 in the corner without a bold headline. I also gave them ideas on what stories would be interesting to read about like the flags hanging in the gymnasiums across the city.

He eventually asked me to join a Feedback Panel in which the paper periodically sends out e-mails with questions about our opinion, which I'm glad to provide free of charge!  The right thing to do is to get involved in civic groups where you can make a difference.  I have also been asked to be on the Newsweek Feedback Panel but that was before the buyout from Huffington Post.  Haven't heard from them since that change in management.  Well recently I was asked to join a book club with this same Newspaper feedback Panel.  I agreed and we have been assigned our first book. It is about the writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Stowe wrote portions of that book while visiting Jacksonville, so the area has a local interest in it.  The book is titled Mightier Than The Sword by David Reynolds. 

I never was a part of the Oprah book club because I think there should be a little more personal interaction.  So I'm trying this out.  I'll update you when I figure out if I like it. I know one thing it may lead to a job...connections.  We can all use connections. 

I am so happy to be reading things I want to read as opposed to what I have to read for school.  By the time you have read this I will have read five books and it has only been one week.  I'm trying to make up for lost time as I have always had a goal to read at least ten books a year.  It keeps my mind fresh and gives me plenty more to talk about...just what I need right?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 167 - Waterfalls

There is just something about Waterfalls that make me feel at peace.  I don't know if its the sound of the running water or the freshness in the air or the memories of my childhood.  On Grandpa's land if we walked across from the front porch of the house, there was a stream.  Many times we would see crawfish and try to catch them but they were too fast for us.  We would walk up the stream and the first time we discovered that about 100 yards up there was a beautiful waterfall on the left that poured water into the stream after a good rain from the neighboring corn field.  The waterfall wasn't huge but it was made up of rocks and old tree roots that had grown together and were exposed to the open air by the erosion of the soil from the flowing water.

On days when it hadn't rain for some time, the waterfall would be smaller and we could climb up the tree roots to the top of the waterfall while the slow trickle of water could still be heard below us.  When we went to Zion, that was my specific goal.  After seeing nothing but rocks for three days, I just wanted to climb the to the upper emerald pool because it had a waterfall.  When I went to Yosemite, it was during the drought in 1993 so we weren't able to see its beauty.  A big let down for sure.  When we went to Moss Cave, it was the waterfall that intrigued us. When we went to Asheville and the Smoky Mountains, we drove both times to Transylvania county in North Carolina.  Home to over 260 waterfalls!  I'm going to post the photos of the waterfalls here and know that since I only have six weeks off from school I'm going to get back there and view some of the other ones.

Cove Creek Falls
As we complained every summer on the way to watch radio at Grandpas (they didn't have a tv), we'd ask the question "Are we there yet?" every thirty minutes or so.  The ride took four hours and for a young child, that was a long time.  We stayed for two weeks with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa would say, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!" but they would be standing on the front porch waving goodbye and laughing when we left. They were probably glad we were leaving by the fourteenth day as we were a handful. I miss the waterfalls, the sound of the trickling water and the view from the big window on grandpa's front porch.

For waterfalls anywhere you'd like to see in the world check out this website:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 166 - Terrariums and The Purple Thumb

I've been thinking about making my very first terrarium.  The bringing of the art of the terrarium is generally credited with a man called Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward.The story of how he first discovered the terrarium is rather interesting and Ward tells it in his book. He had the desire to watch an insect chrysalis transform into an insect so he placed it, along with some [moss] in a capped wide-mouthed glass bottle. He observed this bottle on a regular basis and noted how, because of the sun, moisture would be drawn to the top of the bottle during the day then circulate back down to the [moss] and soil in the evening.

But his big surprise came when quite unexpectedly a seedling fern and a sprout of grass bloomed inside the bottle. He was very surprised by this because he had been unsuccessfully trying to grow these very things in his garden. He had surmised that pollution from local factories had been hostile to the plants and was killing them. This made him believe that the plants were doing well in his little bottle because they were sealed off from outside influences and protected from contaminants. He placed this bottle outside the window of his study and the plants inside continued to thrive for four years with no watering or outside intervention at all! From this he devised further experiments and thus his pursuit, and the science of the terrariums, was born. For a very long time these small glass enclosures were named Wardian Cases after him and even though the term is still in use today it is generally not well known and we just call them terrariums. 


It is a cheap process that even wildflowers from along side the road can be used.  I got all my tips from the website  First I needed the container, I didn't want a small one because I wanted my guests to enjoy the view of the terrarium as much as I would. (I know its hard to view when people just drive by and wave from the highway when they pass Florida but just in case they do come!)  I know it will be placed in the front room where there is a lot of indirect sunlight.  I am not that good at keeping plants alive aka a purple thumb instead of green one. I usually kill them off slowly by not watering them enough or over watering them after I've forgotten about them for a while.  I do try, really.  The terrarium however requires little maintenance, so I set out to do it.

Another White Elephant!
Sure enough on my normal coke cap run during the recycling routine, I found a perfect round globe with a hole cut in the top that someone threw out in the trash.  I really wanted my first one to be glass but I researched and found plastic will do.  Steve had also found an old fish bowl at a second-hand store made of glass so we will try both.  Now neither of them have a top so I had to find how to enclose the terrarium.  They are supposed to be self-contained.  Self-sufficient.

Imagine having everything you need inside a bubble.  Not like a bubble boy from Seinfeld but like an island all your own or living in the country with your own garden and canning.  Reminds you of the earlier generations that came before us doesn't it?  I dare say that with a waterfall, I'd be fine.  No wonder people buy islands for themselves when they have enough money. There is a saying that people outgrow old friendships.  I imagine the only way to keep them all intact is to keep them self-contained with a lid on a terrarium dependent on each other for a balanced ecosystem.  One of the people we met on the plane to SLC was a forest ranger and her e-mail has a quote...Don't tinker with the ecosystem unless your ready to pick up the pieces.

The next step is to pick out your plants...they mentioned to research the maximum height of each plant that way they won't outgrow the container.  Each terrarium is supposed to last four-five years without any maintenance. I noticed when I got the plants that each of them said they were "angel plants" which are specifically meant for terrariums. I'm going to show you photos of mine and hope that you'll do it too!  It is very easy. The hardest part is getting all the parts prior: plants, dead wood, activated charcoal, rocks, screen or bis quine, potting soil and water.  I had gotten a free stool from a garage sale last year and realized if we take the top off, turn it upside down, it would be the perfect stand for the globe. The rocks were from Steve courtesy of the Slot Canyons of Utah!

Put a layer of bisquine or screen or moss

1.5-2" layers of charcoal or rocks, I used both

My first terrarium, the wood is from the Bryce Canyon!

The rock from the Slot Canyons

Aerial View


A view from all sides, a path in the woods.

Smaller Terrarium, not as good as I'd like, the plant is too big for the container

Showing the levels of charcoal, rock and soil

Closeup of the Driftwood

A small graft from the Mother-in-laws or Snake Plant
It's no good trying to keep up old friendships. It's painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it. ~ William Somerset Maugham

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 165 - Utah Rocks! Kolob Canyon

My love affair with Utah isn't over obviously. I have one more blog about Kolob Canyon.  As we watched the movie at the Welcome Center in Zion National Park, we learned about Kolob Canyon that wasn't too far away.  It was late in the day but we felt like we could squeeze in one more Canyon on the way back.  We lucked out as when we got to the top, there was less than a handful of tourists left and even the forest ranger was leaving but we couldn't resist the 1 mile round trip hike to the top of the peak on Timber Creek Overlook Trail.  The 15 mile ascent is 1100 feet and the view is spectacular.  We learned that Kolob Canyon gets its reddish color from the Navajo Sandstone.  Even the red sand is added to make the roads and the roads are a deep red. It gets its name from the Mormon Bible in which Kolob means "Residence Closest to Heaven."  As we climbed, we saw a Western Towhee, a hummingbird that zoomed so fast past us that it literally was just a blur and an Evening Grosbeak.  So again, I just leave you with the photos.

Kolob Canyon Viewing to the Right
Zion Arch

Kolob Canyon View in Middle

Western Towhee with Red Eyes
Evening Grosbeak at Stone Canyon Inn
Evening Grosbeak at Timber Overlook
I realized as I wrote this that I hadn't shown you the Zion Arch from Zion National Park and that some photos were missing.  THANK GOD!  So I'll show you these too.  Then I think I'm done blogging about Utah and I'm going to start chasing waterfalls.  (TLC sang that song! Click here to listen, Lyrics say...Don't go chasing waterfalls, stick to the lakes that you're used to!)

Handmade Tunnel at Zion

Enlarge and look closely at the smooth lines in the rocks

Dandelion? The wildflowers were so beautiful here

Checkerboard Mesa (Mesa means table in Spanish)

View from first window from the tunnel (we slowed down to get photo - not supposed to ;)

View from second window in tunnel

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 164 - Heaven Is For Real

I've met a new classmate recently who has "crossed over."  You know...seen heaven and was sent back to finish the original intended mission from Jesus and God. I also happened to get a book that I had on my waiting list for some time now on a website to which I belong, Paperback Swap.  The book is called Heaven is for Real.  This book tells a story from the father of Colton a three year old who crossed over.  The things that Colton describes happened to him after his encounter with Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit couldn't possibly be explained by a three year old unless this really happened to him. 

The book's website is URL  This website is the right thing to do when you want to save money and help the environment.  You can sign up, create an account and list ten books that you have just lying around the house that you would be willing to send to someone who wants to read it.  So if you have time on your hands, you create a wish list of the books you'd like to have and when it becomes available, the website prompts the lister to send it to you.  When you first list your ten books you get a credit of two.  So you get two books that you may have wanted to read within a week.  It even tells you your rank on the list.  So if you are 2 of 52, that means that you are second in line of a list of fifty-two people who wish to read this book.  You do have to pay the postage to send a book which is usually less than two dollars but overall it saves printing costs, trash and money.  It is a global library in a sense.

Since my classes are over and I have a break for the next eight weeks, I've set out to tackle my reading list.  It feels so good to read something that I WANT to read.  So I dove into Heaven is for Real and although it was a little slow reading for me, it did interest me.  There is one part of the book and Colton's story I just can't get out of my head.  In the year since his crossover, Colton tried to explain what Jesus looked like.  As his mother and father showed him photos of Jesus or illustrations, he'd explain that Jesus's hair was shorter than the image, or the eyes weren't right, or no he definitely didn't look like that! So after hundreds of attempts to find out what exactly Colton had seen and what Jesus looked like, the standard question when presenting Colton with a photo of Jesus to Colton became, "What is wrong with this photo?"

Colton's father was sent an e-mail by a parishioner of the church that he was the Pastor.  The parishioner told him of another child who at the age of five had crossed over.  She started painting at six and had painted a painting of Jesus.  Colton's father called Colton in to look at the painting and asked the standard question, "Colton, what's wrong with this painting?" Colton stared at the image on the computer screen and didn't move.  Silence.  Finally his father asked, what?  Colton replied, "Nothing, that is Jesus!"  The painter Akiane had the same image and was blessed with the gift of god to paint.  That is enough for me to know Heaven is for Real.

Click here to see Akiane's paintings, you are about to be astonished. Once you get to this page, click on any image and it will enlarge and you can scroll through the paintings that are grouped by her age when she painted them.  She paints with the same theme that Colton has, that God is love and loves us.  Colton's specific message is that Jesus really really loves all the children. When deciding on the name of this book, a few ideas were kicked around.  Colton's older sister suggested, He Came Back From Heaven But is No Angel with typical sibling rivalry.  When Colton was asked, he said, Heaven is For Real!  P.S. Akiane was born to Atheists.
Prince of Peace, artist Akiane Age 8

Open Door Age 16 Akiane Artist

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 163 - Melvin Morse and the Molasses Cookies

Somewhere between ninth and eleventh grade a classmate of mine disappeared.  I mean he probably moved but we wondered if he just dropped out.  Melvin Morse rode the same bus to and from school and he was a little eccentric.  It was obvious by the random trash in his front yard and his decaying home that he was from a very poor family.  His hair wasn't always clean and combed and his clothes had holes in them. He always had that sinister smile but in general seemed to be a nice guy. He laughed nervously alot and I think for the most part people tried to accept him but there was a spot on the back of his head that had warts in his hairline which really grossed them out.

Whenever I eat molasses cookies I always think of him.  In seventh grade we had an assignment in English class to show how to make something via a demonstration. Obviously we didn't have a stove in the classroom so the students who demonstrated how to make something that needed to be baked in an oven had to do this twice.  Once at home to have product samples to pass out after the demonstration in class.  Melvin showed us how to make Molasses Cookies.  I hadn't even heard of molasses as it wasn't something my mother ever had in the house.  (I never knew what a bagel was until I was in college.)  So he made the batter and mixed it with his hands.

Classmates snickered as he gave his presentation and I think I heard Mrs. Hershey give a sigh and I saw her glare at fellow classmates. He went to the restroom, washed his hands. While Melvin was out of the room Mrs. Hersey said that we better do the right thing when he returned and eat his cookies. Melvin returned to pass out a molasses cookie to everyone in the room. We all sat there and were afraid to eat the cookies.  This is a great example of groupthink.

Groupthink is defined by Wikipedia as a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process. The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking

The amazing thing about groupthink is that only takes one person to change it. The right thing to do was to at least try the cookie.  I remember somebody saying, "Hey Melvin this is good!" while eating their cookie.  I decided to try mine.  It actually was very good.  I felt that Melvin had a great day that day because he was continually told throughout the day how good the cookies were. He was all smiles.

One person changed the course of that day and ultimately changed the groupthink.  Speaking up or being the first helps groups become more than one collective mind of followers.  Thinking for ourselves ultimately helped Melvin to have a rare moment and as a result he had a good day.  I rode past his house on the bus for two years not knowing what happened to him. I wish him well and hope he graduated from school somewhere eventually. I'm just glad that the first person that tasted his cookie was in the right place at the right time [under Mrs. Hersey's direction] to make a difference in the life of Melvin.

Again I looked throughout the earth and saw that the swiftest person does not always win the race, nor the strongest man the battle, and that wise men are often poor , and skillful men are not necessarily famous; but it's all by chance, by happening to be at the right place at the right time. ~Ecclesiastes 9:11

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 162 - Rules and Rulers

As an official, we deal with rules.  Rules, rules and more rules.  Just when we have figured out for the most part all of the rules (you never figure them ALL out as you have never seen every play and therefore some plays application of the rules may vary) the coaches get together and change, amend, add or delete rules.  This is not good for inflexible people.  We as officials have to learn how to adapt.  I didn't mind this as it got everyone talking about a particular rule every year at the same time during the off-season, usually the middle of summer.  Both NCAA and NFHS come out with rule changes every year at this time. These then trickle down to AAU, USSSA and YBOA immediately.

As I've explained in earlier blogs, camp is another place where the rules change almost daily.  We meet in the morning and at night after the games have commenced.  If something isn't working particularly if we have heard from a coach, "Well the last officials didn't do that." This is the time to bring it up when we are all in the same room and make sure we are all on the same page of the rule book.  [My standard response to this comment from coaches is, "Coach, I can't control what happened on the court when I'm not on the crew, this is now my court and I know the rules and this is what I can control.  This is how we are doing it in my game.  I will be glad to show you the rule at half-time or after the game if you'd like."  I always carried my rule books with me to every game.  This was the right thing for me to do. It would be like being a Pastor or Preacher and not carrying around a Bible wherever I went.]

There were unwritten rules of conduct in officiating also.  But most importantly, we were a family away from your real family and we did what it took to mentor young officials.  All of us have had non-working officials come into our pregame, half-time and post game to help us get better.  It goes with the territory.  Steve and I had spotted talent in three local officials and we mentored them.  After two summers of working with them two of three went to camp and got "picked up" on the college roster to which we belonged.  We knew it was the right thing to do. We were not going to be like the other crab officials trying to keep everyone down.  We relished in the idea that we were giving birth to new officials and welcomed the opportunity.

As is tradition, we would go to our first mentee's college assignment if we were available.  That was tradition for everyone that I knew.  Kerry our mentee, called us and let us know his first game was going to be at the NAIA college fifteen minutes from our house.  We confirmed our attendance and with excitement for support went to the game.  We were absolutely dumbstruck when we got there at what we saw.  The assignor had put three new officials TOGETHER ON THEIR VERY FIRST GAME!  Consequently the shot clock was not watched the entire twenty minutes of the first half.  The shot clock didn't reset when the ball hit the rim. The shot clock wasn't reset after a bucket was made and then when the shot clock operator realized the thirty seconds had run down to zero, he would reset it so the horn wouldn't go off.  It was so painful to watch. The agony continued as we tried to get Kerry's attention on the court during time outs.  Even during the free throws the shot clock would sit at where it stopped.  Twenty, eighteen, nine, anywhere but at the correct time of thirty seconds.

At half-time we went in to let them know what had happened as we had done to us and has been done to officials before us.  I went reluctantly but Steve was adamant about letting the man we had recruited, instructed and supported know that he had to be the bigger person on this crew and take charge of the shot clock.  Which he did.  When we got home we received an email from the assignor of that league, Mitch Kaufman which stated NEVER EVER GO INTO THE LOCKER ROOM AGAIN IF WE WEREN'T OFFICIATING the game.  We were shocked.  This was news to us, we received no courtesy of a phone call to ask why we went into the locker room first.  In officiating we ALWAYS give the other person the benefit of the doubt prior to giving our opinion by asking, "What did you see?"  We weren't even asked this by our assignor.

Shortly before midnight, we received another e-mail from our assignor from another league entirely, Tony MacDonald.  It was obvious the two had talked and he echoed Mitch's sentiment.  Tony MacDonald signed the e-mail with a smart ass non-professional comment which was indicative of his unprofessionalism...Some things never cease to amaze me.  To this day we see officials going into the locker room to be with, listen and or help other officials.  It has been the standard forever.  Our Panhandle Assignor has said it is our duty to help each other out and told us he expects us to do this. This is the part of rule interpretation that I hated while officiating.  I'm ok with rule changes as long as they are done professionally, consistently (like once a year), and with the integrity of the game kept as the foremost reason for the change.

Watching that game was like cutting yourself with razor blades, painful.  I'm truly surprised neither coach noticed the atrocity of the incorrect shot clock.  I was just thankful that the teams were both run and gun teams so the shot clock really didn't come into play in that first half.  The bottom line was Mitch Kaufman acted in the manner of a tyrant, a ruler of rules.  A tyrant doesn't use democracy or diplomacy.  He expects the peasants or in this case the referees to do what is told, how it is told, when it is told...oh yeah and By God, don't ask any questions....The right thing to do when people change the rules and then chastise you in "amazement" that you did something wrong is to ask why so that you don't do it again.  Why is a good question....And in this particular case, the questions should have been:

Why did you put three new people, especially two rookies together at their very first college game?
Why weren't you there to watch if you had no other choice but to assign three new people together?
Why wouldn't you want us to help our mentee and keep the integrity of the game in tact?
Why didn't you ask us first what we saw?

Those are the things that never ceased to amaze me about that event. Don't ever ever change the rules and not communicate this event to the people you wish to follow these rules.  By definition you have no longer filled the role of an Assignor but have filled the shoes of a Tyrant.

Footnote:  Steve immediately gave his resignation letter after this event.  Steve's letter stated he didn't want to work for anyone that was that unprofessional and punished people for doing the right thing.  Particularly helping mentor younger officials.  He quit Tony's league too as this event had nothing to do with Tony's conference yet Tony wanted to pile on.  I was subsequently not given any games by either conference two months later without an explanation for my association with Steve.  I never did anything but referee, study the rules, help mentees, help coaches, help players and be a good partner. Just the kind of referee that coaches would want to have officiate their games.  

These Assignors have the same characteristics of tyrants. The officials fear speaking up or standing up for what is right because they don't want to lose games.  The assignors have no leadership skills and give more games to the people who just do what they say.  Ever wonder why you see the same referees?  They keep the yes men and women. The good referees are either picked up by a higher league conference or quit due to the politics.  The Athletic Directors after hearing the voices of the coaches' disdain continue to renew the contract with the Assignor usually because they are cheaper.  You get what you pay for and the whole system wreaks of nepotism. Who you sleep with and who you drink with.  The only difference in modern day is that they don't eat turkey drumsticks with their hands and drink wine out of goblets.  Chicken wings and beer are now the preferred the food of choice.

To speak and to speak well are two things.  A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks. ~Ben Jonson

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 161 - Big Kahunas

In these days standing up for what is right at the expense of losing your job is hard.  I went to the blood bank to donate blood and as I registered the lady who worked there told of a story about her son John.  This blog is about John and the balls it took for him to stand up to do the right thing.  John gets the Big Kahuna award....let me explain.

John is a student at the local college studying Culinary Arts.  To subsidize his life while attending school, he got a job at a local restaurant called The Big Kahuna. This week while cooking the orders he noticed that the head chef (more appropriately in this case, we'll call him head cook) while cooking a steak, he used the same spatula that he flipped the steak to kill a fly on the wall!  He then used this same spatula to flip the steak again without washing it off. When John protested that he could not do that and still serve the steak, he basically was told to mind his own business.  John continued that he could never serve food that he wouldn't eat himself. He then grabbed the steak and threw it into the trash.  The Head Cook then went to get the manager and the manager confronted John and fired him.  On the way out, John stopped at the table that ordered the steak and told them what had happened. The table got up and left as well.  Good for John!

Doing the right thing takes big balls.  I've been told by officiating assignors and other officials that I have big balls and that I'm the person they expect the least to have them.  I've even told my high school assignor that the only reason he didn't assign me to boys high school games was because he didn't think I had a set of balls. To which I promptly displayed a set of the metal balls that men typically hang on the back of their pick up truck to show they are "real" men. (Nick Mielke's blog calls these trucksticles ~like testicles)  This cracked him up and he eventually assigned me to referee both boys and girls high school games.

As I told John's mother at the blood bank, now John needs to turn the restaurant into the health department if the patrons haven't already done so.  And Chef Ramsey needs to be called in to whip this manager into shape.  This is America's biggest problem is the prevalence of spineless middle managers and managers. Quite frankly John had the biggest Kahunas of them all and he should be running the joint!  John is the real man and doesn't need anyone to tell him who wins the contest in all of this Big Kahuna talk because he had the biggest balls of all.  He didn't need that job and after hearing this story, there should be many managers out there that would love to hire him.

From the Big Kahuna 1999
Larry Mann: There are people in this world, Bob, who look very official while they are doing what they are doing. And do you know why?
Bob Walker: Why?
Larry Mann: Because they don't know what they are doing. Because if you know what you are doing, then you don't have to look like you know what you are doing, because it comes naturally.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 160 - Polly Want To Crack Her?

Sometimes we have scars that are from our childhood.  As we get older, the right thing to do is to reach out to the perpetrator and open a dialogue to help process the pain from this wound.  Through this dialogue, growth can help heal the scar and we can go on.  Or in some cases, just being heard for the first time in what may seem like an eternity is enough. All pain will continue to grow unless we deal with it, no matter what the circumstances are and time only amplifies it. I believe it NEVER goes away.

I recently did this with a coach that ultimately caused so much pain that I quit playing basketball at the end of my junior year.  To this day I have never played organized basketball since then (I'm not counting the mens teams I've played on.) As I process this I also realized this is a big reason why I became a referee.  To hold coaches accountable.  The children's lives they touch are precious and if they don't do the children justice, there is just no way to fix this harm. It's not just physical abuse like hitting a child over the head with a clip board or pushing them hard in their chest. It is the power that comes with the position of being coach that when abused, attempts to keep children or players "in their place."

I share this with you and open myself up to vulnerability only so that we can all learn from it.  I searched my coach down and finally found her thirty years later. She is a bible study teacher so I had prayed and hoped that God would help her to heal my pain that she caused me while playing for her. Even though I was writing the letter in a body of forty-seven, the pain and emotion that spilled onto the pages were the pain of that seventeen year-old girl in high school.

At first I thought I'd share the letter with you but to be honest, it is still just so raw, and painful that to open up to that vulnerability to someone other than Polly [McKeon] Eckert, my high school basketball coach, doesn't feel so good.  And after her response, it still doesn't feel so good.  Instead of hearing the pain, she heard the words. She was defensive and responded with a itemized list of 36 points in my letter. Analyzing the details and missing the general point.  An apology of I'm sorry YOU feel that way was the best I got.  For a Bible-Study Teacher and a girls basketball coach to this day, I'm worried.  The response was indicative of the twenty-five year old coach I had thirty years ago and not one of a fifty-five year old Christian woman she should be today.  The apology consisted of things "not to say in an apology."  Such as:
  • "I'm sorry if I hurt you." (If, in this case, means you do not take responsibility. The person you're apologizing to knows you aren't taking responsibility and the rift between you will continue to grow.)
  • "I'm sorry you feel that way." (Again, you're not taking responsibility here, and instead belittling the hurt your friend feels. Instead of saying this, probe to find out more about why the person is upset.)
  • "I'm sorry you think I did that." (Even if your friend is mistaken about something you've done, discuss it further so you are both on the same page rather than make this statement.)
The bottom-line is I finally have had a chance to say my peace which I was denied thirty years ago. Teachers and coaches have such a profound affect on young adults. She had a profound affect on me.  Coaches are in a position of power.  It is never an equal relationship so communication which includes reaching out to players on the part of coaches can change players lives for both the good and the bad.  I have a friend who played in college and had a similar situation with her coach.  Her coach made her life miserable and knew that she held the key to her scholarship.  She was in control and held all the power.  The coach discouraged lesbians on the team and knew my friend was a lesbian.  My friend had to keep her mouth shut in order to get a free education.  Life was hell for her playing basketball.  This is just not the way to keep the integrity of the game in place.

My coach didn't take responsibility thirty years ago and after reviewing my letter she didn't take responsibility for the same event thirty years later.  It is still MY fault.  It still my own issue.  So I'm doing the right thing and I'm forgiving her because I see now that she doesn't know HOW.  I'm just really sad for the girls that are under her leadership because if she hasn't changed and she will try to crack them too. 

I didn't crack and I made it.  I made it in spite of her continued disapproval of my existence.  And in all honesty for ten years, coaches like her couldn't say a word. There weren't many  Thank God as most coaches are in it for the right reasons. But when I officiated a game with a similar-minded felt good to be the one with the whistle.

Elements of a good apology: 

an acknowledgment of the mistake or wrongdoing
the acceptance of responsibility
an expression of regret
and a promise that the offense will not be repeated 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 159 - Homemade Suet

Suet is the hard fat from around the kidney of sheep and cow.  I never knew that.  I just know of suet as bird food.  Some old recipes call for suet. Because suet has a high melting point, it serves as a place-holder in puddings and crusts when the dough has begun to set, and long after other fats would have melted. As a result, the structure of the pudding is already defined by the time the suet melts, leaving thousands of tiny air holes that give the pudding a light and smooth texture.

There are few people who still cook with this stuff.  When I travel to Indiana or Pennsylvania, we usually eat at the restaurant that everyone says is so good.  Nine times out of ten they are run by the Amish.  The Amish probably still cook with the real suet.  When we were in Utah and we ate at the Lion House, it was like that.  You knew that what you were eating was loaded with fat.  But it didn't matter because it tastes sooo good.  When we go home for Thanksgiving dinners or holidays, we look forward to this kind of food.  So make your own suet with the recipe below and watch the birds come for dinner!  It is their Thanksgiving and they will let you know you are doing the right thing by chirping.  They love it.
Here is a recipe for suet that the birds will love and it is inexpensive to make:
  • 2 cups Peanut Butter or Bacon Grease
  • 1 cup of corn meal
  • 1 cup of shortening (substitute for the real suet from the butcher)
  • 2 cups of Oatmeal (may add more if it isn't thick enough)
  • 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries (dried) [Mockingbirds love these and catbirds too]
  • 1 cup of nuts (peanuts or shaved almonds)
  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds
Mix and put in an open container.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 158 - Sister Claire and the Matches

In college I wanted to do the right thing and teach CCD. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine was an association established in 1562 in Rome for the purpose of providing religious education. In its more modern usage, CCD is the religious teaching program of the Catholic Church. These classes are taught to school age children to learn the basic doctrines of their faith. For non-catholic circles is the equivalent to Sunday School.  I was twenty years old and wanted to give back to my faith and felt like God was calling me to answer the request for new teachers.  One of my basketball teammates had gone on to teach and I later found out that I was really blessed as I ended up teaching the religion courses to the third-graders.  She has taught all age groups and said that third grade is the perfect age as they still ask marvelous questions and are so inquisitive.

It was through the coordination of a special nun that the CCD coordinators were organized.  Our coordinator was Sister Claire Hudert.  I loved her.  We became friends outside of our religious duties.  She invited me one time for tea at McDonalds and as we began to chat, she opened up to me that she didn't understand why the priests would sit around and complain about all the duties they had and needed help with when the nuns of this particular parish had repeatedly offered their services.  Women weren't allowed.

Sr. Claire Hudert OSB
I often gave back my time and refereed the Catholic Basketball Childrens League.  I think this is my favorite league to officiate.  For the most part, coaches are educated and really get the sportsmanship part in the game of basketball.  They teach the kids about life when they accept losing while celebrating personal bests.  It is in these moments that God uses coaches and referees to teach about life through the game of basketball. 

One time upon arriving to do one of these games, I hugged my male partner who I had recently helped recover from a serious car accident.  I mean helped him, like carried him into the bathroom with the open robe in order to urinate help. I was so happy that he and I were going to officiate together but more importantly that he was given another opportunity to officiate by the grace of God.  He had told me the story of how he pleaded with the paramedic before he passed out from the trauma of the car accident NOT TO CUT THE SHIRT.  I've heard that more than one time by officials who have been in car accidents upon returning from officiating a contest while wearing their stripes. 

When I got home from this game, my booking commissioner had called to ask me what happened when I arrived and how did I hug Kevin?  What?  Evidently a nun at the game thought I hugged him "too affectionately" and called him to complain about it.

I didn't hug him lustfully, it was with relief of knowing what he had gone through to get back on the court.  Not only surviving the car accident and rehab but taking the blood thinners too.  I thought why on earth would a nun think that hugging is inappropriate?  Surely we teach children to love one another.  I wasn't sexual in my contact with my partner at all.  That disturbed me that her perception was this reality.

Sister Claire wasn't like that at all.  She was kind, friendly and loved teaching the children about life and relationships.  I was surprised when she was transferred back to the convent near my home town.  We kept in touch and she invited me to go on a hunger walk when I was in town.  I said sure not knowing what I was getting into.  We ended up walking for over thirteen miles in silence to raise money for the hungry.  We went back to the convent (now known as the Mount Saint Benedict Monastery) where we were ravished and ate fruit, cheese and soup.  I had never done this and it was an experience.  Imagine walking with hundreds of people and not saying a word for hours.  Strange but fulfilling. Like basketball...being a part of something bigger than yourself.

She then invited me to the convent/Monastery for Easter Service.  I planned to go. I bought a big stuffed Easter Bunny showed up.  I was so dumb. I knew but didn't think about it. She couldn't keep the stuffed animal as the nuns swear a life of poverty and can't own ANYTHING, but it was with comfort she explained that she would donate to the children.  The convent was like a dorm and I noticed that in all the bathroom stalls there were a packet of matches that was set on top of the casing that held the toilet tissue.  I didn't understand this.

St. Benedict Statue
She showed me the convent and introduced me to the sisters.  I was fascinated by this group of women.  They were so close.  There was a game room in which some were playing checkers.  Sister Claire showed me the gardens, which were phenomenal and introduced me to the "Mother" of the convent which I don't remember her name. (I believe they are now called The Proweress.)  She seemed very old to me.  She lead me into the rectory and told me just to be in this room at five o'clock as this would be Easter Vigil and she hoped I would love it.  I was in awe at the display of Easter Lillies, it was beautiful. As we walked back to have dinner I asked her about the matches in the bathroom.  She explained that the charcoal which the matches are made suck up air when lit.  If there is an aroma in the bathroom that one wants to rid the bathroom of, one can light the match and it will disappear unlike fragrant sprays which "cover up" odors and never get rid of the odor. It lingers like a cheap perfume below the surface breathing air.

Cheaper than bathroom deodorizers, matches will do the trick.  I love that I learned this from a nun. Or if you prefer, a real live sister. But more importantly from Sister Claire who was a match herself. When you lit her up, she got rid of the odors.  This is probably why they transferred her back to the convent from my college town to my home town which was two hours away.  Oh and the Easter Vigil was something I will never forget.  To hear all these female voices that were graced with divine beauty is really from another place...another place where smoke and fires don't exist.

Prayer to St. Benedict

O glorious St. Benedict, sublime model of all virtues, pure vessel of God's grace! Behold me, humbly kneeling at thy feet. I implore thy loving heart to pray for me before the throne of God. To thee I have recourse in all the dangers which daily surround me. Shield me against my enemies, inspire me to imitate thee in all things. May thy blessing be with me always, so that I may shun whatever God forbids and avoid the occasions of sin.

Graciously obtain for me from God those favors and graces of which I stand so much in need, in the trials, miseries and afflictions of life. Thy heart was always so full of love, compassion, and mercy toward those who were afflicted or troubled in any way. Thou didst never dismiss without consolation and assistance anyone who had recourse to thee. I therefore invoke thy powerful intercession, in the confident hope that thou wilt hear my prayers and obtain for me the special grace and favor I so earnestly implore (mention it), if it be for the greater glory of God and the welfare of my soul.

Help me, O great St. Benedict, to live and die as a faithful child of God, to be ever submissive to His holy will, and to attain the eternal happiness of heaven. Amen.