Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Bus Stop

There’s a bus stop in Pensacola.

It sits on the westbound lane of 9th Street at the Beverly Avenue intersection.

It sits in front of the emergency entrance to Sacred Heart Hospital.

I spent many moments during the Thanksgiving week standing at that bus stop and trying to figure out what was the right thing to do. 

Praying for an answer.

And the answer came.

Sometimes the answer of a prayer is not the answer that we want. But it’s the answer that we get. It’s the answer that we need, like it or not.

I had flown out of Detroit on the Saturday night before, in a snow storm. The first storm of the season. I had spent the night sleeping in a chair in the Charlotte airport by the American Airlines ticket counter, hidden by a Nissan Sentra displayed in the lobby by a local car dealership. The next morning I landed in Pensacola, emerging in the baggage claim area to find my brother Paul waiting.

We drove directly to Sacred Heart Hospital, to find my sister-in-law Leigh Ann sitting in a chair beside the bed of the intensive care unit room. My mother was sitting beside her, covered in blankets to keep her warm, and wrestling with the grogginess induced by the sedative medicines, an oxygen tube in her nostrils to assist her breathing.

I don’t know if Mom recognized me or not. I thought she did. But looking back now, I think she was too confused.

The next four days were spent at the hospital from the early morning to midnight, and returning to Mom’s little apartment only ten minutes away where I slept until the next dawn.

On the Tuesday morning, as I sat beside her, Mom woke up. She looked at me and her face lit up with a delighted surprise.

“Oh my goodness, what are you doing here?” she asked.

“I came to be with you, Mom”, I replied.

“When did you get here?”

“Two days ago”

“Oh my”. And the happiness remained as she looked around the room and herself, trying to determine the status of her situation. “I have so many questions!”

But she asked none.

So I explained her situation.

“We really need you to cough the stuff out of your lungs” I said. “And we … well … we really need you to … uh .. to poop”.

“Oh, I see. I have so many questions”. She raised her hand and took mine. Smiling as she looked into my eyes. She was actually with me for those moments.

But she wore down after a little while, and she fell back into drowsy confusion.

No questions asked. And the answers I gave were likely not understood.

Over the next hours Mom grew weaker and weaker.

Mom could not cough hard enough to clear her lungs. And she didn’t poop either.

The doctors and nurses asked me to speak to the Palliative Care team.

When I first arrived on the Sunday, I asked the security guard where he wanted me to smoke.

“Go to the bus stop”, he said, “Everyone goes to the bus stop”

So every three or four hours I would succumb to the nicotine cravings and would take refuge standing at the bus stop on 9th Street.

I would stand there and think.

I would stand there and remember.

And now with Mom under Palliative Care, I would stand at that bus stop and pray. Pray for a miracle. Pray for the wisdom to make decisions. And pray they would be the right decisions.

And each time I went to the bus stop, I would be more confused. And the miracle seemed less likely each time. And Mom seemed weaker each time.

Paul and I would discuss the options and agree on our decisions throughout each day.

Sometimes I could get Mom to eat. And I thought she was turning the corner. Then she would sleep. And she would not eat. And that corner seemed to be missed.

On the Wednesday, when feeding her soup, her instructions were simple.

“More”, and I would fill another spoonful and place it in her mouth.

“Done”, and I would cease, clean the spoon, and place it back on the tray.

That day the Palliative Care team asked Paul and I to meet with the Hospice counselors. They said that our only option left was to comfort. Comfort until the end.

And we made the decision.

And I went down to the bus stop, and I asked God if we were right. And he said yes. Not in a booming thunderous roar with lightning bolts. No, he just put the words in my head that yes, this was right, this was kind, and this was love.

God is love, you know.

Not all prayers are answered with the answer we want.

Later that afternoon they transported Mom to the Hospice by ambulance. The place was beautiful. It was out in the country, and her room was spacious with large French doors looking out on the wooded back yard where the gazebo is. It was warm. It was very nice.

In the early hours of Thanksgiving Day morning, Mom passed away.

And the words in my head said “it’s alright” and “she is safe”.

Maybe prayers do come true. But maybe sometimes we don’t know what to pray for. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Dad's Letter to His Daughters

Love is an amazing measure

You can love many people

But you will never love two people in the exact same way

Each measure of love is unique to that individual

It should not be measured in how much or how little

It should simply be measured by that you do love

The main aspects of love are appreciation and caring

Combined it will always calculate you a unique measure of love

You only need one or the other, both are not required. But love is more fulfilling if both are present.

Love can be extended to anyone in your life; near, distant, familiar or even obscure.

If people love you, do you have to love them back? If you love someone, do they have to love you back?

No. Love shared by two people are always at two different measures.

You may love your friend enough to think of them as your best friend. That friend may love you back, but they may refer to another as their best friend.

Familiarity with someone should not be confused with love, unless that familiarity brings appreciation and or caring.

Infatuation is not love, not yet. More than likely though this is a transient or temporary love that could potentially dissipate to familiarity. But infatuation could also potentially grow into a very high measure of love.

You never know.

But when someone tells you they are “in love with you”, understand that their love for you is an infatuation.

People who truly love you do not say “in” or “out”.  They simply do love you.

So what is “romantic love”?

This is the most rewarding love, when shared with another.

This is the cruelest love, when the measures of love between two people differ significantly.

Romantic love goes beyond caring and appreciation – although caring and appreciation are the foundation of all loves.

Romantic love often extends to include passion, desire, commitment, and then contentment.

Romantic love most often begins as infatuation, which entwines the passion and desire.

This is the most dangerous phase of love.

This is the phase of love that requires the most courage.

This is also the phase of love that requires the most caution.

Because, as I said earlier, infatuation can end as quickly as it begins.

And should the end of infatuation occur for the other party before it occurs for you, the pain can be devastating.

And should the end of infatuation occur for you before the other party, I urge you be honest and polite as you dismiss it. Be kind.

But be cautions of the desire and the passion you feel in this early state. Acting to aggressively may well have very severe penalties.

I implore you as someone who loves you and wants only the best for you, that when you feel the strong passions and desires of infatuation, please employ patience and restraint. Not forever. But until you at least gain an understanding of how transient – how temporary or how potential the prospect of feeling commitment and contentment from this love appears to be.

Do not waste your passion and your desire on temporary infatuation. It is dangerous. And potentially costly.

You will know love when you feel it.

And you will recognize romantic love when it blossoms from infatuation.

And you will know when infatuation ends

And you will know when true love takes over as you desire to commit to that love and quite content to do so.

Loves will come.

And loves will go.

Some will pass quickly.

Others will endure a lifetime.

It is important to be honest with those that you love about your love

But it is even more important – and a prerequisite to your own happiness – that you be honest with yourself about your love for others.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Robots in My Life

You just can’t ask for a more beautiful Sunday morning.

I played nine holes of golf yesterday with my good friend Dan.  It was my first attempt to play for several years. And I was pretty nervous about it.

So to take my mind off being nervous, I vacuumed the pool.

In fact, I played golf while I vacuumed the pool.

Okay, I didn’t actually do the vacuuming,

I left that task to my little Nomad pool cleaner.

If you haven’t heard of the Nomad – it’s only one brand of many – it’s a gadget that is a collection of plastic hoses with a plastic cleaning mat at the end. At both ends of the gadget are spring loaded valves. You stick one end in the filter hole that leads down to your pool pump and filter, and it makes the whole collection of hoses connected end to end down to the plastic vacuum cleaning mat jump. The spring loaded valve in the plastic mat then walk around the bottom of the pool liner in random patterns until the whole pool liner has been vacuumed clean.

It’s powered by the vacuum sucking action of the pool filter pump. And when it’s done, you just take end of the hose out of the filter hole and backwash the dirt from the pool floor down into the drain in the back yard.

They’ve been around for years.

It’s so easy. But it takes a couple of hours.

This is by far my favorite robot in our house.

Yes, I will argue that we already have robots in our homes.

They are not smart robots per say, not like the artificially intelligent humanoid looking things that we see in the movies and TV shows. But they have been programmed with just enough smarts to do the tasks they are assigned to do.

They are “smart-enough” machines.

We have washing machines that clean our clothes and dryers that dry them for us. They know just how much water to add, just how much to slosh them around, just how much to spin them to get the water out, and just how hot to tumble dry them. And just how long to do each task. And they tell you when they are done.

We have dishwashers that do the same thing, just for dishes though.
And we have ovens and microwave ovens that know just how long and just how hot to cook or reheat stuff for us based on the information we feed into them. Even our coffee makers have all kinds of smarts now, to provide us with that perfect cup or pot of coffee waiting for us when we wake up in the morning.

My television is even a robot. It will watch TV for me and record the shows I tell it to – the ones I don’t want to miss – and it lets me play them back when I have the time and desire to watch them.

Even my garage door is a robot. When I ask it to, it lifts up the door for me. And it will close it to, when I tell it to. And it’s smart enough to know if it’s open or closed.

And cars? These things are so loaded with artificial intelligence now it’s ridiculous.

To me, if it’s smarter than my black lab Suzy, then it’s a robot. Suzy can’t do my laundry, or clean my dishes, or record my favorite shows for me, or even open my garage door.

And Suzy can’t clean my pool either.

I guess that is my favorite thing about my Nomad pool vacuum. It really isn’t smart.

There are no electronic memory functions or instructions to feed into it. You just stick the nozzle in the filter hole and watch it go.

The inefficiencies of randomness

But my pool cleaner has no logic. It’s a totally random process.

I don’t ever sit and watch my laundry wash and dry in the laundry room, or the dishes get clean in the dishwasher.  And I probably should pay more attention to watching the food as it cooks in my oven.

I could watch my Nomad wander randomly around my pool bottom for hours.

But it’s maddening.

If you leave the Nomad to its task un-watched, when you return your pool will be clean.

But sitting and watching it will drive you nuts.

You will see the Nomad continually wandering over the parts of the bottom that it has already cleaned, and you will find yourself rooting for it to get one patch of dirt on the bottom, only to watch it continually just miss it as it re-travels the same space it cleaned on the last pass by.

It drives me crazy.

It’s worse than watching my daughters clean their rooms. And just as random and just as illogical.

Although the Nomad doesn’t procrastinate and continually yell to me “I will Daddy, I promise”.

I could watch this device clean my pool for hours.

If I were to hire a guy to come clean my pool, well, my lovely wife Darlene would watch him work for hours. That’s not good.

Now I can really multi-task.

I can do the laundry and cook supper and wash the dishes while recording my favorite television shows and clean the pool all at the same time as I sit out on the back deck with a cup of coffee.

Or play golf.

This is the future I dreamed about.

I didn’t really have reason to be nervous about playing golf. I had several putts at birdie. And on the last hole I stuck a 5 wood a foot from the pin, but the ball rolled 10 feet past and I did miss the birdie putt.

I really enjoyed playing golf again.

While I vacuumed the pool.

If only I could cut my lawn the same way.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Falling Behind Summer

This summer has been really busy.

And really rainy.

Here in Windsor, I think a new rainfall record was set for the month of June.

But it never really impacted the fast-pitch softball schedule of practices and tournaments of the travel team my daughter’s play for.

So we stayed really busy.

So our home has suffered for it.

I still need to open the pool. I know, we are in the second half of July now. I know.

But I can’t open the pool until I do some maintenance to the deck that surrounds it. It needs to be re-stained. It’s almost an eyesore. But I can’t do that until I replace a number of boards on the deck. The lumber and stain are both stacked neatly in my very messy garage.

But it just keeps raining. But not today.

So here I sit on my once-beautiful back deck – a beautiful July Sunday morning. The sky is blue. The mugginess of the air is offset by a nice gentle breeze, and my faithful black lab Suzy has found a comfortable corner to lie down. And that damned black tarp is still covering my pool.

This is my first weekend to attack these chores. There are no ball tournaments to travel to, no practices to attend. Once the grass is cut – the front must be approaching ten inches high now. And once the laundry is done – the kid’s stuff is still piled in front of washing machine in the laundry room downstairs.

It’s not like my lovely wife Darlene is not busy. She spends her entire days trying to keep on top of this mess too, to the best of her abilities.

So much of our time and energy is wasted on trying to get my daughters to help. They have their assignments each day. And each day’s daily status update is the same reply.

We will Daddy, honest”.

But they don’t. They never do. Sometimes feeble attempts are made. I think the feeble attempts make me madder than just not doing it all.

You call this clean? You didn’t vacuum this! What’s that pile over there?” I will say in my louder than polite voice as I stand in each one’s room and point.

Don’t touch that! I need that and I know where everything is!

Good grief.

So Mom and I wrestle their iPods and tablets away from them. And we unhook the WiFi box to cease internet access so they can’t Instagram or SnapChat or watch NetFlix. And we put passcodes on the satellite box so they can’t watch the 500 or so stations on the television.

Their rebuttal? Nothing. They sit in their rooms and read a book, and continue to update their chores status with comments like “I will, I promise”.

Then moments later they re-appear, as I am unloading the dishwasher, and they state emphatically …

I’m bored Daddy, there’s nothing to do!

So Mom and I both resume our loud not so polite voices explaining – sometimes with expletives – that they have plenty to do. And we re-state the list loudly enough so that the neighbor’s also know what has to be done.

And then we take an aspirin, and we make a stiff drink.

But this morning I have the luxury of a beautiful summer setting on the back deck that needs repair and staining next to my pool with the black tarp still adorned, and everyone in my little home is still asleep so I can sit here and write with coffee and cigarettes.

I love summer mornings on the deck. Stained or not stained. Pool tarped or open. It’s still a summer morning out on the deck.

But any moment now I expect that Darlene will appear at the sliding glass door and ask me what I’m up to.

Writing a headstuffing post” I will reply.

Do you really think we have time for that nonsense today? You need to get those boards cut and repair the deck so we can stain it and then open the pool!” she will remind me in her loud and not so polite voice.

I know, I know. I will, I promise honey”, I will likely reply.

And that front yard needs cutting! It looks atrocious!”  

I know, I will, I promise” I’ll repeat yet again.

And then I will down the last sip of my morning coffee, read this post one more time to find grammatical errors, and I will ponder that question again in my head …

Why are my kids so damned lazy? Where do they get it from?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pomp and Ceremony and Such

I’m worried about these next generations of kids growing up.

Every event has to be painted as a major victory. Every task as a major accomplishment that deserves reward.

Last Wednesday, my little family attended my eldest daughter Alannah’s grade 8 graduation ceremony.

She had to have a fancy dress. Yes, she did look beautiful in it, and yes, she is becoming a fine young woman. But this was a formal gown affair, and – well – Alannah’s gown was indeed “formal”.

And expensive.

I put my foot down on that idea. But they bought it anyway.

You just don’t get it Daddy” was the winning counter argument.

When we arrived at the high school where the ceremony was held, the same high school Alannah will be attending as of September, the first thing they handed her were graduation robes. And the formal expensive gown was covered by a white robe.

At that point I did my first deep sigh of the night.

And yes, Alannah behaved perfectly as she marched up the stairs and walked across the stage to shake the hands of her teacher and principal while receiving her diploma – a rolled up white piece of blank paper with blue ribbon tied around it – the real one was home on the kitchen table.

Most of the guys in her class screamed “We did it!” as they marched off the other side, holding up the paper roll in one fist while doing that upside down piece sign thing rappers do in videos. And some of the young ladies were posing on stage as the others waited – “Vogueing” as Madonna would call it – striking several overly dramatic poses as their parents begged them to stay for one more shot.

It’s the eighth grade people.

This school couldn’t fail a student if they wanted to, the parents have to consent to little Jimmy or Sally being held back – no matter how poor the marks. This leaves one from my generation to wonder just what the heck was really achieved?

They had a ball afterwards. I mean they had a formal ball. And one of the fathers happens to rent limousines as a business, so there were a couple of limos parked out front.

Yes, I understand, it's a milestone. Lets get the fireworks ready.

In grade 8, my Dad moved us from Minnesota to Georgia as the result of a promotion he achieved. Minnesota had a very strong public education system. Georgia did not – at least at that time. So when I arrived for my first day at school that October, I was greeted by very syrupy southern drawls that I thought only existed in Mayberry, and to school work I had done 2 years before.

I mentioned this to my teacher that day.

“Well, ain’t you special? This should be easy for you – what are you complaining about? Now go sit back down!”

It was easy. I didn’t learn diddlysquat.

And on that last day of 8th grade at Lillburn Middle School, once the bell rang we all sprinted for the door and the school bus – and went home.

We went home and went swimming.

No formal event. No fake diploma with blue ribbon presented in front of the whole town. Not even a real diploma. That came at grade 12. When you were really done. When they really start to keep score. 

And yes, I not only adjusted to hearing the southern drawal, I adopted it as my own too. It took me ten years after moving back to Canada to finally lose it, although when I get tired, or I get mad, the old twang comes back sometimes. I miss it.

As I walk through our open space offices at work, I see a lot of our younger staffers and our summer students, the age Alannah will be in five and ten years from now.

I watch them walking out of their work-spaces – eyes glued to the screen – reading and typing as they walk – around corners – up and down stairs – into walls – and into each other.

I see them somehow gather together out in the courtyard – likely by GPS and Google Maps – all sitting around a table with the umbrella wafting in the breeze and talking – but not to each other – tapping those little fingers on those little screens – talking to people who are not even there. The odd time one will hold their phone up for another to see – and most often no words are spoken. For all I know they may simply be texting each other.

When Alannah and Ashley-Rae have friends over, the all gather in one of the girls bedrooms. When they were little – before the iPod and smartphone – the room would be loud with jumping and crashing and laughing and giggling. If it were quiet, it would be time to worry.

But now as I peek in on these bedroom congregations, they’re all sprawled out over chairs and beds and floors and tables – looking at their little screens – typing away and reading what’s typed back – and sometimes showing the screen to the closest person next to them – as the music – if you can call it music – plays in the background. Maybe they are texting each other – so that they can record for perpetuity their own conversations.

Good grief.

It’s hard to remember that we are still in our technology based infancy. At some point these things will be implanted in their brains. People’s brains will be connected by WiFi and cellular LTE data plans large enough to upload what they see and what they imagine, and at night what they dream of to the cloud of their choice for friends to like and comment on.

A big thumbs up to a video of your nightmare – with friends commenting “wtf – what u eat b4 U went 2 bed last night lol”

My lovely wife Darlene had her smartphone at Alannah’s grade 8 graduation ceremony. And she used it to take pictures and video of Alannah and her best friends and classmates. And she leaned over and showed me what she had taken.

We didn’t say a word.

I just smiled at her and gave her the thumbs up. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Not a bad Father’s Day

Its Father's Day today, and I am spending the morning on the back deck with my faithful black lab Suzy, while the rest family dozes inside.

The temperature is about seventy four degrees with a soft breeze.

The coffee is great this morning.

And Pat Caputo is on my radio musing on the third place status of the Detroit Tigers.

The girl's school will be finished on Thursday this next week. Alannah is graduating from 8th grade and she has her best friend Erin sleeping over because next year they will be attending different high schools. Erin's birthday is later this week, so my lovely wife Darlene bought her a cake that we haven't eaten yet, so we will likely do so sometime this morning.

The pool is not open yet, the black tarp still covers the surface. My deck is in desperate need of a good painting and needs to be done before we open the pool, but it has rained so much we haven't yet had the opportunity. And ball tournaments most weekends limit my free time availability.

Maybe today. But it will have to be this morning because we are heading to my Father-In-Law's house this afternoon. Its Father's day.

But what a great morning.

Father's Day is a nice sentiment. And it would be nice to be recognised today for all the Dad stuff I do. But it's hardly imperative.

It would have been nice to play golf with friends today, but I haven't really swung a club in four years now, and I don't really have any friends outside of work or the circle of parents of kids on my daughters' ball team.

It would be nice to go to a Detroit Tigers game, but they are in New York playing those dastardly New York Yankees – and getting slaughtered these days.

Yesterday, coming home from a fundraising event for our ball team in Kingsville, we realized that we didn't have a key for the house. So while we waited for Darlene to come home and let us in, I opened the combination lock to the back yard through the gate and checked the back door to see if we locked it. Of course it was indeed locked.

So I got out the lawn mower and cut the grass.

But still no sign of Darlene.

So I examined the windows on the back of the house, and noticed that Ashley-Rae's bedroom wasn't locked. And there was a tiny hole in the screen. So I stuck my finger through the hole and pushed the window open. I removed the screen – dropping down onto Ashley's room floor.

Then I hoisted Ashley-Rae up where she climbed in through the window – disabled the alarm – and opened the sliding glass door.

At that same time, Erin's parents arrived for Erin to sleep over, while I explained to the security company on the phone about how I had to break into my own house. So we got in just in the nick of time.

So we have a great Father's day story for this year. It just so happened to occur the day before.

I don't want any more excitement this week. But I would like to open this damned pool.

And I need to take that screen over to the local hardware store to get it re-screened.

Ernie is the neighbor behind me. He is scrambling to get the back year ready around his pool for all his kids to come home and express their great appreciation for his fatherly approach in their lives.

Good for Ernie.

I'm going to open the pool.

Then I'll have a piece of Erin's birthday cake.

And then we'll head over to Darlene's Dad's house so we can celebrate his Fatherly achievements.

And I'll think about my Dad today who passed away 15 years ago.

He was a great Dad too.

And I'll think about all the sailing weekends we celebrated this day on the water. Where he loved to be.

And how lucky I am to be able sit here on my back deck writing a headstuffing post – where I love to be.

And you know – this isn't such a bad way to go.

I hope they save me a piece of birthday cake.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pitching to Towering Redheads

This story is true, I swear it's true, especially the parts I made up.

My daughters' fast pitch team played a tournament in middle Michigan last weekend.

In the first game of the tournament, they faced their toughest challenge in a team wearing red jerseys. These girls were at the older end of the age bracket with fourteen and fifteen year old girls. Our team was a year or two younger.

Our team, the Wildcats, were wearing their most intimidating black uniforms – with Wildcats scripted in bright red across the front.

Our starting pitcher Chantel is a very good pitcher. She throws fast and accurate. She is very effective. On this day though Chantel did very well to hold the opposition to only four runs in three innings.

In the fourth inning, my eldest daughter Alannah came in to pitch. She was throwing very well too, but runners were still getting on base. With bases loaded, a young lady stepped to the plate who towered above all the other players. She was as strong as she was tall. She had curly red hair and freckles that almost covered a sneer of confidence that would make Elvis look insecure.

Alannah threw her best pitches at her, but the third pitch caught too much of the plate and this young lady smashed it as hard and as long and as far as I have ever seen a ball hit in this division. The outfield fence sat 300 feet away from home plate, and this young lady hit the ball to that fence on one bounce.

She crossed home plate before our talented outfielders could even get the ball back into the infield. She crossed the plate to the salute of high fives from the three others that crossed before her.

Even though Alannah was pitching so well, she had just given up her first grand slam.

Our second game was rained out. We were drenched in the downpour racing for our cars.

Driving home, as Ashley-Rae slept in the backseat, Alannah and I discussed the event of the Grand Slam and the towering powerful young lady who hit it.

"I threw her my best stuff, Dad"

"Yes, and I never saw a softball fly so far", I replied. "Was the ball still round when they finally threw it back to you?"

"Shut up Dad"

Alannah sat quiet for a minute.

"Sometimes, Alannah, you can't strike everybody out", I finally said breaking the silence. "She hit Chantel pretty hard too".

"So what do you do then? The next time I face her. What do I do? Do I walk her?"

"I wouldn't waste the energy of throwing her four pitches", I replied. "I'd hit her".

"Dad, you're not supposed to say that", replied Alannah, a glare of slight shock that I would even suggest such a thing"

"Yup, maybe so. But I would hit her. I might say 'I'm sorry after. And if she came up again, I would say 'you know the drill', and I would hit her again.

Alannah kept looking at me.

"Does she respect you right now?" I asked.


"She will after you peg her in the butt a few times with a fastball"

That was all that was said.

The next day when we arrived at the park to play the game rained out the night before, Alannah joked with a couple of her team mates about what we talked about. She told Chantel, the starting pitcher, she told Maddie the third baseman, and she told Lilly who catches. And I guess they discussed it, and in the end it sounds like they all agreed.

But what were the odds they would even play that team again?

Well, those odds were much better than any of us suspected. 

Our Wildcat girls in black uniforms went on to win their next three games. And the Gold Medal game was now set for 8:30 PM under the lights of the main diamond. Their opponent of course was the same red uniformed team that had beaten them the night before. And of course the towering redheaded left-handed batter.

Chantel had pitched a lot that day, and she had pitched very well. But that was enough for one day, so Coach Sue gave Alannah the mound to start the game.

I must say, this was the most motivated that I had ever seen Alannah pitch. She threw her whole body through the pitch, and let out a grunt as she released the ball that was louder than any grunt ever grunted by Monica Seles. Her accuracy was dead on, and her velocity was as fast as I had ever seen her. Her eyes were focused and concentrated. And with each pitch she gained a little bit more of a confident sneer that would make Elvis look insecure.

She held her own with that red uniformed team. She held them off. And the second inning, who led off, but the towering redhead. Alannah's eyes met the sneering redhead's. And Alannah sneered right back at her.

Lilly who was catching behind the plate, winked at Alannah through her mask and yelled to the fielders, "Here we go!".

And then, with all her might she fired her first pitch at the powerful left-handed batter.

"Strike!" yelled the umpire as he pointed a strike call with his finger. The pitch came in hard and fast and made the redhead back off the plate, but it caught just the black edge of the plate for a strike.

The ball hit Lilly's mitt with a loud snap.

The redhead looked at Alannah, who simply sneered larger.

The next pitch came in even harder and even more inside forcing the redhead to back away to dodge the ball, but she swung the bat in self-defence.

"Strike TWO" yelled the umpire.

Alannah sneered even harder at the redhead. The redhead didn't sneer back.

"Let's get her Alannah!" shouted Lilly.

The next pitch came in even faster, this time at the redhead's helmet-protected noggin. The redhead fell to the dirt to avoid the pitch.

"BALL" screamed the Ump. "One ball two strikes ladies".

Lilly punched her mitt as Alannah stared in. Her sneer glaring even more confidently now.

Now, Alannah had two strikes on her. And in my mind as I watched from the stands, I thought to myself "Oh my goodness, she's going to strike her out".

This time when Alannah uncoiled with her pitch, she wasn't looking at Lilly's glove. She was looking at the redhead. And as the pitch came in with all the strength that Alannah could muster, all the redhead could do was turn away. And that's when Alannah's fastball caught the redhead dead square in the right buttocks.

The redhead dropped her bat and lumbered to first, rubbing her butt as she did.

"Sorry!" Alannah said to the redhead – her sneer still sneering.

After the game, as Alannah was showing me her silver medal, I asked her about the redhead.

"You almost struck her out" I said. "You had two strikes on her?"

"I did?"

"Yes, I was sure you were going to get her"

"I did, Dad. But she wouldn't stand still. I had to chase her all over the batter's box to do it!"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

God’s Miraculous Shot

It is remarkable to realize that for the vastness that can only be described today as infinity, how incredible this tiny little dot in the universe our planet Earth truly is.

The perfect blue of a sky on a warm spring day. The warmth of the sun in a cool breeze. The green of the grass, soft on the ground to cushion a bare foot.

All the pieces so perfectly crafted.

Even in a barren dessert there is the beauty of the reds and browns of the sands sculpted by the wind and baked by the sun.

Even in the middle of the vastest of oceans, the shades of the blues and rhythm of the waves dictated by the Moon some 238,860 miles above.

The caps of the world, more barren than the desserts comprised only of ice and snow, are beautiful in their lights and shadows.

Masterfully designed, perfectly crafted, brilliant in their inception, and flawless in execution.

The physicist will tell you that all of this is a result of extreme luck – the laws of motion and gravity and probability all calculated in one big bang 13.8 billion years ago.

The spiritualist will tell you that it is all God in every second of every flutter of a butterfly's wing. That this was all done for man, for man's benefit, and that the world did not even exist before man was here to experience it.

If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

"The vibration of the force of the fall would impact the atoms of the matter in the surrounding objects to cause an effect" would state the physicist.

"If it wasn't heard, then what does it matter?" would state the cleric.

Me? I think the answer lies someplace in the middle.

I think there is an intelligent creator, responsible for all that we know now.

But not sitting right above us, not involved in every nuance of every action.

Think of a very skilled billiards player, one who can sink all the balls on the table before missing.

His break is very important as he shoots the cue ball into the mass of balls on the other side of the table.

Yet he knows where to aim and how hard to hit and what type of spin to use to achieve the result – precisely planned but seemingly chaotic movement of the mass of balls all reacting to each other as they bump off each other and the rails of the table - to finally rest in a position.

Where the billiards player can now pick the right order to easily make each shot.

And he makes it look so easy.

The balls all go where he wants – but his impact is only the split second that the tip of his cue – a cue shaped and chalked to his design – hit's the white cue ball. Everything else results from that precise strike.

Think a golfer who needs to sink his golf ball in the hole that more than five football fields away, and he needs to do so striking that ball only three times to score an eagle.

Like the billiard player, the golfer only controls the result at that precise moment he strikes the ball. After that, the laws of physics take over.

And so, in that same fashion, it seems to me to be completely viable – that a grand intelligence – a deity if you wish – God by any name you choose – made the most miraculous shot when triggering that big bang – patient for the resulting billions of years – to see how that shot would work out – and is still playing out.

God looked at the Sun and said, "That's a beauty"

God looked at the Earth and said to himself "Nice shot. And I got the moon just right too".

God looked at Mars and maybe he said "crap, I overshot all the water to Earth".

Remember, all the balls are still in motion from that one shot almost 14 billion years before.

The result we will never know.

The original intention and target of that shot, we will never know.

But we have and will continue to derive answers that for now satisfy our desire to know a truth.

Maybe there is still a big asteroid that was set in motion in that same shot that is out there still spinning it's way around the gravity pulls of other planets and suns in other surrounding solar systems not yet on the final swing towards striking Earth – and resulting in that miraculous shot where some of the oxygen and water and particles that would comprise life – would then also wind up on Mars afterward.

And then God, who had been waiting 14 billion years to see his result – would give a little shriek of joy and high five himself, and confirm to himself yet again ...

"I love this game".



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