Thursday, September 29, 2011

Average Parents

When you think of youth sports, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? Is it over-zealous soccer moms? Coaches yelling at kids? Dads barking from the sidelines?

Too often the stories about youth sports that appear on the Internet, via news, blogs orFacebook, are about the "politics"of the leagues, bad coaches or bad parents. Stories about fathers assaulting coaches, coaches being too tough on kids, rants about unfair leagues and the "politics" of selecting teams litter the Internet. I understand negative stories are what piques people interests, makes good copy, and sells click-through ad space. I also understand that these stories are the rarity to youth sports.

Every now and then a great heart-warming story about youth sports will go viral, like this one or this one, but again, these stories are rare. These are the extraordinary, positive stories that make good press.

Both the negative stories and the positive stories are the outliers to what is normal in youth sports. I really shouldn't limit this to just sports though. The same could be said for schools, teachers, clubs, and other group activities. We, who absorb the content of the media and Internet, are only really exposed to the extreme stories. We never hear of or read the average stories. I know, I know, "average" does not make good print.

Currently, I am on my fourth stint as a coach in a youth sports league.  I have to say that I have yet to see anything that fits into the extreme, good or bad, in any of my dealings. So far my experience has been average. Every practice or game I see average parents bring their average kids to an average team, to average coaches to play an average game. I watch as average volunteers take time out of their average days to work the average concession stand as other average parents rake and prepare average fields. I listen as average people cheer for average plays, as average coaches give average instructions.

When I stop to think about it I realize that it is the average that is truly exceptional. The average mom who makes sure her kid is at practice on time is doing an exceptional job. The average dad who cheers on another kid for making a play is setting an exceptional example. The average parent who offers rides to and from games for other kids is making exceptional sacrifices. The average parent who gets involved and stays involved, is building an exceptional foundation for their kid as well as others.

We remember to thank the coaches but we, or at least I, always forget to thank all the other exceptionally average people who make youth sports (or clubs) such an exceptional experience.
Photo courtesy of an average parent doing exceptional things
My wife Lauren said to me a while ago, "This is the time when our kids may be forming the bonds of life- long friendships. We need to make sure they are surrounded by the type of people, the type of kids, we want them be friends with 15 years from now."

I think it starts with the kid's parents. Right now my kids are surrounded by a lot of average people and I think it is exceptional.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

High Fives

Most times when it comes to home improvement projects, which we call Begats , I do most of the grunt work. I usually handle the demolition, tear outs, heavy lifting and dirty work. Lauren will do all the refined precise work like, planning, measuring, painting, tiling, and specific carpentry. This arrangement has worked out well for us as a couple and as home owners. You can see our other projects here, here, here, here  and I am sure there are more on the blog somewhere.

Lauren decided she did not like our fireplace. She was determined to change it. The best part was that this project was all in the scope of her area of home projects. I did not need to be involved at all. Which was perfect with the start of football season and all.

The other day, on the radio, I heard the phrase "God high fives over her." The guy who said it was referring to an attractive woman and it was meant that God is proud of his creation and that God is giving high fives to his buddies. I found it to be a funny phrase. I also thought this was a perfect phrase to describe my wife Lauren. Besides the fact that Lauren is extremely attractive, Lauren is also extremely talented.

With the assistance of our neighbor Mr. Jones, Lauren took our fireplace from this:

To this. The entire mantle was built from scratch. Lauren did most of the work.
I didn't even have to help at all. Well I did buy her the Mitre Saw five years ago. And I also helped carry some of the supplies. And I took care of the kids while she was building the mantle. And I did do my best to stay out of her way. And I told her the scores to the football games on the TV. So pretty much the new fireplace was a team effort.
God high fives over Lauren.
But now that the fireplace is done and looks awesome the rest of the room looks a little beat. And of course that means we have to Begat the whole room. We need new walls, new floors, some electrical work and of course new fixtures and furniture. It is going to be a  lot of work, all in the scope of my area of home projects.
So while God is high fiving, I can't help but feel he is also chuckling a little bit at me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cold Shower

Both Wyatt and Maxfield now take showers instead of baths. I am not sure if I should introduce the old prank of sneaking into the bathroom and dumping ice cold water into the shower. I think it would be funny but then I think about my cousin Frankie.

I spent the majority of my Augusts, in my youth, at my Uncle Bill's house at the shore in Wild Wood Crest NJ. Uncle Bill, actually my dad's uncle (which made him my great uncle and is who I named after) owned an old 5 bedroom, 1 bathroom house a few blocks from the beach. He lived there year round with his brother Bud and their dog Butch. The house was open all summer long to any of his 10 nieces and nephews as well as his 35 great nieces and nephews. From Memorial Day until Labor Day the other 3 bedrooms were occupied by various families vacationing.  Most summers there was also 2 to 4 teen aged great nieces/nephews who had the opportunity to live and work down the shore for the summer with free room and board because of Uncle Bill's and Uncle Bud's generosity. During the month of August my family shared the space with Aunt Kathleen's family and on average there were about 20 to 22 people living in that house.

For most of my childhood in Wild Wood we showered at an outside chain-pull shower spigot attached to the back of the house. We did this for two reasons; one,  so we would not track sand through the house and two, there was only an old claw foot tub in the one and only bathroom inside the house. Upon returning from the beach each day all of the kids would line up near the outside shower head. The younger kids were usually stripped naked and scrubbed down by their parents as the old neighbor lady, over the grayish flat-post fence, smiled and laughed at the shiny white tan-lined heinies. The older kids waited their turn and showered wearing their bathing suits, feeling embarrassed by the old lady's smiling glare. I think she lived for watching the afternoon showers. I am sure she was just a nice old lady but I found her to be kind of creepy.

The summer I turned 14 that all changed. Sometime during the off season, My Uncle Bill had a shower stall installed inside the bathroom. It may have been there all the time but I remember I was first allowed to use it when I was 14. Why do I remember that? Because it was also the last time I used the inside shower stall.  My brother and I had met some girls on the beach and we were going to meet them at the boardwalk. It wasn't a date but it was hanging out with girls and girls required the use of shampoo and soap and deodorant.

I was washing my hair, I had only been in for a few minutes, when I caught the shadow of a person through the textured steamy glass. I know I used the hook and eye lock when I went into the bathroom. But I also knew that sometimes people would use a wire hanger to pop the hook and get in if they had to go. I tilted my head back to rinse the shampoo when I saw a hand reach over the top of the stall. At first I felt the blast of the ice cold water that was being dumped on me. I yelped. But then on my forehead I felth the thump of the bottom of the pint glass that slipped from the hand. Then I heard and felt the crash of the glass as it shattered all over my head and face. I screamed. My eyes stung as soap found its way past my squinting lashes. I looked at the floor of the stall and saw soap and blood turn into green trickles against the blue colored tiles.

"Oh my God. Oh my God." said the voice on the other side of the stall door.

I opened the door and saw my cousin Frankie standing there wide eyed. Frankie was living in the house all summer, he worked as a life guard on the beaches. His parents were not at the shore house at this time.

"Shhh. Shhh. Don't yell." he said. I could tell he did not want to get in trouble for what he did.

I stepped on a piece of glass and cut my foot. Frankie helped me out of the stall. Just then the bathroom door opened up.

"What happened?" my mom asked as she entered. "I heard something break. I heard some one screaming bloody murder."

She saw the blood on  my foot and specks of blood on my face.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

Before I could answer the bathroom door swung open. It was one of my brothers.

"What happened?" he said.

Before I could answer Aunt Kathleen ran into the bathroom.

"What happened? I heard something break." she asked.

Frankie started to explain. I tried to wrap myself in a towel but my mom warned me against it saying that if I had glass on my body the towel could cause the glass to cut me. My mom and Aunt Kathleen started to inspect my head and body for shards of glass. It was a difficult task due to me being soaking wet. They asked me if I was okay.

Before I could answer two more of my brothers entered the bathroom to see what was going on. Then my 13 year old cousin Monica ran in. Then Uncle Bill popped his head in. Then another cousin. I stood there naked in front of an audience of curious people. I was mortified and embarrassed, covered in cold induced goose bumps, a knot forming on my head where the glass hit. I immediately became aware of  my just-hitting-puberty-body and who was looking at me. I started to feel feint.

Frankie later apologized. I never went to the boardwalk that night. For the rest of my time down the shore I showered outside. I would rather give the old lady next door a bit of entertainment than to suffer through another round of the entire house seeing me naked.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Judith Jones

Five years ago I participated in the 2996 9-11 Tribute, where bloggers wrote posts in honor or remembrance of the people who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001. Judith Jones was the person that was assigned to me.  I was only blogging for a year at that time, I was very nervous and I wanted to do a good job remembering Judith Jones. I took the project very seriously. After it was all said and done I received a nice email from Judith's daughter thanking me and telling me I had done well.

Two weeks ago, 5 years after the original post,  I received an email from Judith's daughter telling me that when people ask her about her mother she points them to my post. Words cannot describe how honored I feel about that.

In honor and remembrance of Judith Jones and other victims from 9-11, following is the original post from 2006.


If you Googled the name Judith Jones you would find many different people have that name. A Doctor, an architect, a cook, an actress and many more through the 14 million plus search results. Throughout that search, every so often, a result shows that will usually read “Judith Jones, 53, Woodbridge VA. Pentagon.” It is that particular Judith I want to tell you about.

We bloggers learn a lot about each other from reading each other’s blogs day in and day out. I know more about the life of some bloggers I have never met, than I do of the lives some of my oldest friends. Blogging does that. I want you to get to know Judith Jones. Since it will be mostly bloggers that read this I want  you to imagine what Judith’s blog entries would have looked like if she had a blog.  The following is based on information I have gathered from the inter-net as well as from Judith’s daughter.

Judith Jones' Blog.

July 2000
I went to the beach today. It is amazing how much I love the beach. The beach is absolutely my favorite place to be. There is nothing greater than having the salt air cutting across the beach as I have squeeze the sand between my toes while listening to the waves crash. No I need to change that. There is something greater than that. That would be if I could do all of that and hear the laughter of my grandchildren playing in the surf. I will make sure I take them with me the next time I go.

November 2000.
Thanksgiving was fantastic this year. I invited a few co-workers over to celebrate with my family. It is shame that some of the people I work with are so far away from their families for the holidays. But I guess that is the nature of the military. I am glad that I can share my family with them and hopefully give them a sense of family for the holidays. I also need to remember to bring in a cake next week for “Pat’s” birthday.

Go Redskins!!

May 2001.
I lost a dear, dear friend recently. I knew her for 30 years. She was diagnosed with a terminal illness and it was only a matter of time but it is always sad. I did everything I could for her while she fought this illness. Visiting every weekend. Helping her with her house and doing chores for her. I have two other friends that I help in this way as well. It never gets old helping people. The friend that just passed, I loved playing Rummy with her. There were many weekends spent just playing cards. Now that she is gone I will need to find another card player. Maybe I can teach some of the kids at the church nursery, where I volunteer, how to play. I am sure they will love to learn a few card games.

June 2001
I just love being the “secret mail person” for my grand kids. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I leave them secret notes in the backseat of their car. I always try to leave them a little message. Things like:

Make sure you make your bed in the morning
Make sure you tell your mom you love her.
Don’t forget to say your prayers before bedtime.
Pickup your room before going to bed, that way if you have to pee in the middle of the night you won’t step on anything.

I always sign the notes “Secret Mail Person.” I know that the grand kids love getting the notes because as soon as they get in the car they look for them. I figure it is a way for them to learn a little something from their grand mom.


Judith was not the type of person to have a blog. She was very humble and most likely would not post about all the good things she had done in her life. She was a remarkable person who loved her family, her friends, her co-workers and her grand kids. One story that was sent to me from her daughter was that in the mid 90’s Judith inherited some money. She ended up cutting a check to her church because Judith didn’t need anything and she wanted to make sure that the money was directed to people who had needs. That was what Judith Jones was about.

I write about Judith Jones today as part of the 2996 9-11 tribute. If you Googled the name Judith Jones you would find a doctor, an architect, an actress and you will find “Judith Jones 53, Woodbridge VA. Pentagon.” It is sad that you will not find out about all the wonderful things she has done. All the different lives she touched. What type of wonderful person she was. Maybe now, after I post this, you will.

I did not know Judith Jones in real life. The imagined blog above is based on information that I gathered about Judith Jones and all the good things that she did. She helped others. She volunteered her time to help people in need. She loved her daughter and her grandchildren but she also loved people and did what she could for people. I say again, I know that this will be read mostly by bloggers and most bloggers communicate through comments. Please do me a favor and leave a comment for Judith’s “blog”. Not mine, but to hers. She was a good person and I am glad I got to know her.

Thank you.