Friday, November 26, 2010

Smoke in your eyes

I have always loved basketball. My family grew up with woods behind the house and before we could afford a nice cement court with lights, dad leveled a large area of dirt, fell a tree nearby which became a sturdy post, built a strong wooden frame, attached the backboard and rim and then dropped the whole assembly into a deep hole with cement so the rim came miraculously close to 10 feet high.

My brothers and I were in heaven. With our red, white and blue basketball we hosted some great games with the likes of Russell and Havlicek; Goodrich, West and Chamberlain; Alcindor and Robertson; Reed and Frazier; and Unsel with Monroe. I was partial to being Havilcek or Monroe.

On that court we knew where all the roots and low spots were. Whether in the dust or mud we spent hours playing every game we could think of, often coming inside only when the mud on our hands was too thick or when mom yelled that it was time for dinner.

After I was first married, we lived in apartments that backed up to a big park. When getting home from work I would at times unwind by grabbing the basketball and walking across the park to a black top that had two small courts separated by a single high cement-block wall.

One evening I had a half hour to burn so threw on my old running shoes while leaving on my black socks, dress pants and shirt. I just wanted to shoot around a bit and didn’t expect to work up a sweat. After taking a few shots, a short guy appears from around the cement wall to my side, and upon taking an extended drag on his cigarette asks me if I would like to join him in a quick 2-on-2 game with some guys I couldn’t see. I loved playing 2-on-2.

My new smoker friend didn’t project athleticism as I followed him in his old blue jeans and worn tee shirt to the other court. Just as I got my first chance to assess our opponents, who are wearing the latest matching Nike gear with matching “sport” bags, my new acquaintance drops his cigarette to the ground, snuffing it dead with his left foot while yelling out, “want to play us in a game?” The two looked us up and down, smiled and said, “Sure”.

The sport bag duo started out at 70% effort, letting us take a few outside shots without too much resistance. After the first three went in they looked at each other and adjusted their jock straps. My friend “Nic”otine was launching long and finishing at the rim. Everything he and I did was golden. We had played before. That evening we completely smoked the young bucks and they were not happy. Their frustration turned to humility when three of their friends arrived, also in matching gear, and asked what the score was.

Nic and I didn’t say a word but just let their silence reveal what we didn’t have to.

Time to say good game and exit. Nic lit up and headed across the park. For me, it was time for dinner. For at least that moment, Nic and I were Havilcek and Monroe.

To this day, I never underestimate a person on any “court” with the cig or black socks.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I hit the send button and immediately thought “oh *#@+!”. 26.2 miles was never ever something I aspired to. My dad had done it many times and I always admired his discipline but secretly thought he was a crazed man! Dad is a machine with joints of steel and a mind set to complete a goal with only the occasional break for his one weakness – Smokehouse almonds and a fine box of wine.

The last number of months of training have had me both “begging for mercy” and at other times singing “let’s get this party started”. I read about ultra runners who barely break a sweat the first 26.2 miles on their way to 100 miles! Who are these people? Training with the Portland Marathon Training group has made it clear that people of all shapes, sizes and ages are adept at pounding out miles. A lot of people are pushing themselves to new limits.

The thing I like about extended distance training is that at some point it will expose my weakness. There is no faking lack of fitness, sustained pain, overheating or dehydration. Saying “yes” and pushing the boundaries of comfort has been both humbling and encouraging. Doing it with others who are pushing their own limits creates a scenario where there is mutual respect and understanding. There is something admirable about these runners who willingly risk exposing their weakness.

Saying “yes” has set me on a journey that in many ways is greater than the event I am training for. It’s a huge investment of time and energy but it has been worth it.

Speaking of journeys that started with saying “yes”, today my wife and I celebrate 27 years of marriage. Jean I love you and I so value the road we have traveled and the plans for new memories ahead. Thanks for being patient with my recent long runs and even longer recovery periods on the weekends. You rock.

Friday, June 25, 2010


My daughter Amy has been such a gift in my life. With eyes that connect, a contagious laugh and a heart that embraces, she has impact. I grew up with brothers, so having a daughter was always a desire yet a complete mystery. With a wife who grew up with all sisters, I learned quickly as I stumbled along. I must say, however, there are some things I will never understand!

Amy has many great qualities but joy is very high on the list. For me, joy is much more than happiness. While happiness may be present, joy runs deeper and can even exist when times are very uncertain and hard. It comes from something much deeper than that which can be purchased or things I occupy myself with.

I believe it comes through knowing that I am part of something greater than myself – both through faith and having a place in community. It involves knowing I am loved, that the number of do-overs allowed exceeds my reach and that others are there to share in life’s hardships and celebrations. I believe joy is a reflection of first being poured into by one or many. A personal gift.

Amy you are a gift as a daughter and special friend. Thank you for being awesome. I can’t wait to walk you down the aisle and watch as you impact those in the days ahead. Blessings from your dad.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Awake Oh Body

Yoga class was the bees knees but not quite what I had in mind. You see, dark rooms with water sounds and chants of “awake oh body awake” were endured but only drew me closer to the light and sounds across the hallway.

Most teachers try to learn names to connect. Well our well-intentioned yoga teacher called a graying woman Bonnie one session. “Bonnie” informed the teacher that she appreciated the effort as her name started with a “B” but it was not Bonnie. Then Mrs. “B” said something that made the beat and light across the hall more appealing still. She said, “Most people call me bitch, so anything starting with a ‘B’ is fine”. My laughter broke the silence and soon a new B-word entered my vocabulary – Bootcamp.

Across the hall was a room full of light, sound and sweat. It was the fitness start I needed after years of sitting with a few too many helpings of chips. After my first Bootcamp class my muscles were spent but my body and mind were fully awake. I was in the right place. Now a few years later, I am trying more classes, signing up for runs and enjoying fitness like I did in my twenties. I feel great.

Along with my beautiful wife, I now prefer being pushed by one whose name might as well be Mrs. “T” (Torture). One who dishes out pain with a smile. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Dick and I first crossed paths in a conference room after a client asked Frey Design to team with Dick and his wife Marilyn, we would focus on design and they would do the writing and marketing plan. I think it was one of those situations when we both looked across the table at one another, smiled and thought, “Damn, I hope this goes well”!

Well, we hit it off, and soon Dick and I were teaming on other creative endeavors, meeting deadlines and celebrating with ice-cold beers while sharing stories beyond work. A friendship began.

As we shared about our love of the outdoors, it didn’t take long to discover which river most brought a smile to Dick’s face – the North Fork of the Umpqua. A river that is challenging and advanced for any fly fisherman seeking to land a steelhead.

In October, Dick and Marilyn made a special trip back to their favorite river. A welcome break from taxing hospital stays the previous two months. Dick was in the midst of a courageous fight with a rare rheumatoid disease. It made breathing difficult and oxygen support necessary.

There are days in life that become special. Not because we planned them to be but because for some reason greater than ourselves they somehow intersect the divine. This was one of those days. With arms full of gear, Marilyn muscled the tools of the trade while Dick steadied himself with his trekking poles for a careful descent to the river below.

Great marriages are great teams, and this team’s name is “Dick and Marilyn”, a team whose strengths and weaknesses are known and willingly supported to the others benefit. At river’s edge, Dick negotiated the shallow submerged rock shelf to the edge of deep water. He began to cast as so many times before. As part of the team, Marilyn was at his side, her hand securely holding the edge of his waders to aid his balance. Dick was again doing what he loved. It was his passion.

“Fish On”.

The excitement of the moment is captured in the photo above. This one was special.

With animation Dick recalled this fishing story as we met December 18th at our usual Friday spot for lunch with an end of the week cold beer (actually two). As he shared of that day, the focus of his gratefulness quickly shifted to Marilyn. He loved his wife dearly, and it was a privilege to just sit and listen as this man spoke so freely of his appreciation and devotion to the one he loved.

Unfortunately for all who knew Dick, he entered the hospital the next day and passed January 16, 2010. His memorial service was packed. Stories from friends continued as around a fire for hours. It was one of the most meaningful memorial services I have attended.

A life lived with passion. “Fish On” friend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Great Blue Heron

First light and bird life is in full motion in our neighborhood. On my crack of dawn wake-up stroll with camera in hand, I visit the lake and observe one bird standing above the rest – the Great Blue Heron.

While ducks are rooting grass to mud, seagulls soar, small birds perch, geese…well geese do what geese do, the Great Blue Heron moves with purpose, stealthily fishing the shore.

There are multiples of every other species scurrying about but one Great Blue Heron at this lake. She demands attention. She is beautiful, wise, incredibly patient and has full bragging rights in any fishing camp.