I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Little Things

The funeral home my family uses sent me a "funeral planning survey" this week. It asks some good questions, such as: How much might you expect to pay for a funeral? Do you maintain up-to-date biographical information and accurate family records to assist you or a loved one with funeral preplanning? Have you ever heard of prepaid funeral plans?

Of course, their main goal is to get you to respond in the affirmative to the question: Would you like FREE information about funeral planning and the types of services which are available? Notice the passive voice there? They don't say, "the types of services which we offer," instead they say, "which are available."

But this isn't a grammar lesson. Instead, this post is about question number 6: In the event of your death, who would be responsible for making arrangements? Responders have two options. They can either check the "spouse" box or the "children" box. There is no option for "other" with a blank line to explain. Just the assumption that everybody is either married and/or has children.

As a single person, this doesn't offend me. No offense was intended. I just notice it, along with the other subtle reminders I see – the large package of skinless chicken breasts on sale at the grocery store I pass up, the older couple who walked hand-in-hand in front of me the other day, friends' relationship flag on Facebook flipping from single to relationship.

I don't own any of these subtleties and they do not own me. They just are. But, to say they don't exist wouldn't be honest. I notice them. I also notice the subtle ways people I know show they care.
Latte reads her card
Latte reads her card
In the same batch of mail in which I received the funeral planning survey, my cat received a card from a friend and his wife. Actually, it was from their cat. The card shows a cat peering into a toilet bowl, saying, "This is great! I just have to press the handle and the punch bowl refills!"

So, why in the world would anybody go to the trouble of spending three dollars on a card, plus postage, for somebody else's cat? The answer is pretty simply, really.

This couple knows I lost a cat five months ago. I had her for 20 years, and, as I said in this post, she was all I had. They also know I have a new cat, who is quite the rounder by the way, and that by doing something for her, they were doing something for me.

The little things in life – the subtle reminders of what we don't have, the cards that remind us of what we do have, the unspoken and the spoken words, the remembered and unremembered birthdays – they all add up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

55 Quirky Questions for Readers: Part 3

TS Eliot (1888 - 1965), the Anglo-American poet, critic and writer in his office at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, November 17, 1948.  (Photo by Al Gretz/Keystone Features/Getty Images)
T.S. Eliot (1888 - 1965)
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

I've read fewer books this year than I can ever remember. It didn't happen by design. My business has required more out of me. I probably went for a month during one stretch this year without reading and it made me crabby. 

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

Ulysses by James Joyce.  

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

The phone and poor quality – both in the construction of the book and in the writing. 

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

The Notebook

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

The Time Traveler's Wife. The film just didn't develop the relationship between Clare and Henry well enough.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?


47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

If skimming means, flipping all the way through it, never. If skimming means, reading the first paragraph or two, always. 

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

Poor writing is at the top of the list. I picked up a light-hearted Christmas novella last December and it was awful. Nearly every dialogue tag contained an adverb (she said indignantly, her mother said sternly, he asked politely, he asked curiously, she asked sharply, she asked dubiously – all actual examples from the book). I really wanted to ask for my $16.95 back, but I couldn't because I underlined all the adverbs.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized? 

Loosely. I keep fiction and non-fiction separate. For non-fiction, I divide them into categories: biographies, theology, etc. But since re-organizing my books a few years ago, I've bought many more books and they rarely end up on the correct shelf.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

Keep them. 

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

Books I've already purchased? Sort of answered this one already. See number 34.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

Can't recall any. 

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot. Technically, it's a play, but I think it qualifies. 

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

I don't finish books I don't like.  

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

Character-driven, contemporary fiction – the types of books in which plot-driven readers jeer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

55 Quirky Questions for Readers: Part 2

circa 1885:  Walt Whitman (1819 - 1891) American poet, democrat and author.  (Photo by Edward Gooch/Edward Gooch/Getty Images)
Walt Whitman (1819 - 1891)
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

I generally only recommend books to people I know pretty well. If a book moves me or makes me think, and if I think it'll do the same for someone I know, then I recommend it. 

22. Favorite genre?

Contemporary fiction. I'm fascinated with the way modern characters deal with dilemmas. And I'm fascinated by the way they process life.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)


24. Favorite biography?

Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God (The Life Story of the Author of My Utmost for His Highest)

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

Probably not, although the 4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone book by Barbara Ann Kipfer I'm using for the 4,000 Questions series is considered "self-help." 

26. Favorite cookbook?

What's a cookbook? 

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or nonfiction)?

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. 

28. Favorite reading snack?

I rarely snack while reading. Hate to get the pages (or Kindle) dirty. 

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

Can't think of any. 

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I rarely read book reviews. 

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

I'm not a book review person. I rarely read or write them.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?


33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Night by Elie Wiesel. Wasn't sure my stomach could handle the horrors he faced. 

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Boenhoffer.

35. Favorite poet?

I don't have one. Although, if you made me pick one, I'd probably say Walt Whitman. 

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

I rarely check books out of the library. Did so for a literature group I was part of a few years ago. We read a few plays, poems and various other forms of prose. Haven't used the library since.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?

Given how infrequently I use it, never. 

38. Favorite fictional character?

Tough one. Probably Father Tim from the Jan Karon's Mitford Series. But there are a bunch of others, including: Natalie Pasternak from Nancy Moser's Mustard Seed Series, Frank Bascombe from Richard Ford's trilogy and Ben Payne from Charles Martin's The Mountain Between Us is moving up my charts.

39. Favorite fictional villain?

I'm not a fan of villains, although they are necessary. Don't have a favorite. 

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Novels. I rarely read non-fiction on vacation or on the road. It requires a different way of processing for me and I don't do it well on vacation. 

Part 3 coming tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

55 Quirky Questions for Readers: Part 1

Couple Reading Books
This questionnaire has been making the rounds on blogs and I've enjoyed reading people's answers. Looks like it originated on The Literary Lollipop blog.

Here are my answers:

1. Favorite childhood book?

Benvenuto by Seymour Reit. Hands down. Wrote about it here.

2. What are you reading right now?

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

I don't really do the library.

4. Bad book habit?

I crack the bindings sometimes by opening books too wide. I have this thing about needing to have the book all the way open.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?


6. Do you have an e-reader?

Yes, a Kindle 2 and I love it. Wrote about it here.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

I could never read more than one book at a time.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Not really. But I love talking about the passages that move on my blog.

9. Least favorite book you read this year?

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. The protagonist was too flaky.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

I don't read crime, horror, detective stuff. Doesn't interest me in the least.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

My reading interests are pretty varied, from sports to theology to fiction. I don't really read about sports as much as I read about the lives of athletes. Andre Agassi's Open is a good example. Reading this book last year turned me into a fan of memoirs. I read some theology, mostly from the reformed perspective. I step out of it occasionally. Regarding fiction, I prefer contemporary fiction that is character driven.

13. Can you read on the bus?

I haven't been on a bus in ions, but I could read on one.

14. Favorite place to read?


15. What is your policy on book lending?

Rarely do it.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?


17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Oh yes.

18. Not even with text books?

I detect a bias in this question against writing in books. Putting that aside, when I was in school I wrote in text books too.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

I only know one: English.

20. What makes you love a book?

If it is fiction, I need to be able to identify with one of the characters. If it is non-fiction, it only needs to be genuine – no perfect people doing good things with the correct motivation all the time.

Part 2 coming tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Misunderstood TV Theme Song Lyrics

Three's Company - Season OneTV Land has been showing Three's Company episodes over the past few months, way late at night. I've been recording them and watching them as I go to sleep the next night.

It's funny how little I remember from the series – including the words to the theme song, which, in hindsight, I probably never knew all the way through.

In my mind, here's how the end of the song goes:

You'll see that life is a frolic and laughter is calling for you …
Down at our rendez-vous,
Vonda vonda da day voo
Three's company, too!

In reality, the third line is just an echo of the second line – the same words. I just realized that this weekend. Well, I didn't really realize it as much as I looked it up. I think I'll keep singing it my way. I like it better.

How about you? Have you ever mangled lyrics from a television theme song? Please share.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sutter Home SWEET RED Wine (2008)

Sutter Red Sweet Wine2Maybe I've been overthinking this red wine thing – thinking I needed to figure out which grape produced the sweetest red wine. If you've missed my quest, you can read more about it here and here.

Looking like the novice I am, I spent maybe 20 minutes looking at nearly every bottle of wine in the grocery store the other day. I stumbled across one called "SWEET RED" by Sutter Home. That sounded perfect.

I flipped the bottle over and read this, "Sutter Home Family Vineyards offers this unique SWEET RED blend. We combine traditional California red varietals with a touch of sweet white wine to create a softer style red win that is voluptuously smooth, easy to drink and can be enjoyed chilled."

That is not false advertisement. It's the best red wine I've ever tasted. It isn't quite as good (sweet) as white zinfandel, but I can't imagine finding another red wine that comes this close. Granted, it's cheating a little since they added a touch of white wine to the mix, but if this is cheating, then so is drinking Coke Zero or Pepsi One.

And it passes one of the wine pansy tests – it comes with a cork, not a screw top lid. Although I have to admit, I have still not mastered the uncorking process.

A few years ago, I bought a friend a bottle of wine and he came over to enjoy it while we watched a movie. I was so unaccustomed to real wine that I wasn't prepared to open it. The corkscrew I had was from the 1970s and it probably belonged on the end of a pocketknife or a keychain more than anything.

So, we had to go to the grocery store to get a real corkscrew – the kind with the handle grips on the side that actually pulls the cork out of the bottle. I'm getting better at using it now, but I could still use some practice. Now that I have found a red wine I enjoy, I should be a pro at popping corkscrews soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Young Love

Rear View of a Couple Driving Down an Avenue in a Convertible
This isn't the couple, but they had the same look about them.
Traffic was backed up for miles on the interstate. Police lights flashed in the distance. Time to exit early. Even the next exit ramp was backed up with drivers who had the same idea. I wound my car down the S-shaped exit ramp at a snail's pace, wondering if somebody was seriously hurt in the chaos of flashing lights ahead. I read later that a man on a motorcycle lost control, crashed into a car, and had life threatening injuries. Life is so fragile sometimes.

As I neared the traffic light at the end of the exit ramp, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a man and woman in the car behind me. They were both in their early 20s. The man was driving, but his attention was definitely diverted. The woman was getting her groove on – seat dancing in what can best be described as part belly dancer, part "I dream of Jeannie," as she waved her arms in the air like she just didn't care. Nothing overtly sexual, but she had the driver's attention.

I was a little nervous he might inch forward one too many times and tag my bumper since his head wasn't exactly facing forward. I eyed the rearview mirror as he eyed the woman and inched closer to my car. Every time he inched forward, I tired to inch forward too, being aware there I had a car in front of me as well. We got through the traffic light without incident, but I was left wondering about the couple.

Were they married? Had they just met? Were they about to become a couple? Had he just proposed? Would it last? That final question is the one I thought about most. Young long can look so passionate, but fizzle just as quickly. By young, I don't mean the age of the people involved, but rather the age of the love. They were having the time of their lives on this particular evening, but what about other evenings? Were they always this into each other? Would they always be this into each other?

I hoped so. Still do. Because it was a beautiful thing to see.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Power of Prayer

Jamie McMurray celebrates in victory lane after winning the Bank of America 500 NASCAR race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina on October 16, 2010.  UPI/Nell Redmond . Photo via Newscom
One day last week, I wrote about following sports because of the humanity athletes display – the struggles, the heartaches, the sacrifices, the defeats, the hopes, the unfulfilled dreams, and sometimes the unknown battles. What moves me more than anything else in sports is seeing an athlete or a team overcome a major hardship to succeed in some fashion – and I don't just mean victory on the field – and then be blown away by the reality of it all.

That happened on Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you are a NASCAR fan, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs because I'll just be providing details you already know. If you aren't a NASCAR fan, stay with me because this isn't really about NASCAR.

At the end of last season, Jamie McMurray found himself without a team. Roush Fenway Racing was downsizing, as mandated by NASCAR, to four teams and McMurray was the odd man out. He didn't know if he would race again in the Sprint Cup Series (the highest series) and he didn't know if he'd get a shot in a lower series. He had moderate success on the track, but not enough to turn a lot of heads, especially in tough economic times when sponsors expect high return on investment.

McMurray landed on his feet with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing (the same team he started his career with) for the 2010 season and he won the granddaddy of all races, the Daytona 500, right out of the box. He was emotional in victory lane which made it emotional to watch – in a good way. He won again later in the season and he won for the third time last night. He was emotional again in victory lane and this time he explained it a little further:

Later, in the post race press conference, he went into more detail about his "power of prayer" comments, saying he was emotional at Daytona because his prayer had been answered. He said praying for a win is a very selfish thing and that winning isn't the first thing he prays for every day, but when the win in Daytona came, he was moved to tears at the realization that his prayer had been answered. Here's a clip from that press conference:

His explanations last night were genuine and he got teary eyed again as he explained himself. I converse with other race fans on Twitter during races and immediately after he spoke about the power of prayer, people began to talk about how refreshing McMurray's genuineness is and how cool it was to hear him talk so openly about prayer. Yesterday around noon, I did a search on Twitter to see what random people were saying about McMurray's mention of prayer and here are some of the comments:

@nBoEnforcer: Loved Jamie McMurray's shout-out to the power of prayer tonight...very heartfelt.

@TylerJStrong: Wow Jamie McMurray, what a GREAT victory lane interview. You may be my 2nd favorite driver now. Talking about the power of prayer, awesome.

@attackoflove: I love Jamie McMurray. Didn't just thank God in his interview but he talked about the power of prayer!

@chuckscoggins: Wow! Great Victory Lane speech - talking about the power of prayer - by Jamie McMurray tonight. I'm now a McMurray fan!

@roglee83: Jamie Mcmurray the power of prayer don't work TRUST ME!!!!!!

Years ago, I wrote a commentary for a Christian newspaper. The article was called "Does God Care Who Wins?" I interviewed three theologians, all from differing persuasions, and then I offered my own opinion, which, in part, was this: 

"We know that God is intricately involved in the lives of people – even those with hard hearts. We willingly accept that God ordains the specific circumstances that lead to each new job that we take, each new home that we move into, and each relationship that we participate in. We don’t always readily see the circumstances leading to those changes as positive, though. Getting fired hardly seems positive unless we believe that God was in it.

"Maybe winning and losing on the athletic field is like that. Maybe God orchestrates wins and losses because both have a place in His plan."

Read the article to get my full take, but the couple of paragraphs I quoted pretty much describe how I see answered prayer and prayer that God doesn't answer in the affirmative. God has it all figured out. Sometimes he gives us what we ask for and sometimes he doesn't, but the takeaway from McMurray's reaction to answered prayer was a life lesson in the power of showing gratefulness to God. And I couldn't help but think McMurray's gratefulness prompted somebody, or many somebodies, who had not prayed in a long time, or maybe ever, to drop to his or her knees in prayer last night.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just Press Play

The Mountain Between Us: A NovelI'm devouring The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. The novel is about two people – a doctor named Ben Payne and a writer named Ashley Knox – who take a charter flight from Salt Lake City to Denver one night to avoid a major snow storm headed their direction. The pilot has a heart attack, dies, and the plane crashes in the High Uintas Wilderness – one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States. The bulk of the book is about Ben and Ashley's fight for survival.

Ben is separated from his wife. Ashley was supposed to be married shortly after they landed. You can't help but wonder if, during their fight to live, they are going to fall for one another. Something tells me they might think about it, but not act. Why? Because Ben has a tradition he continues while in survival mode – he records messages on a recorder for his wife to hear. He tells her about their condition, about their fight to live, and he retells her their love story in minute detail. He recalls the butterflies he felt when they first met and the beautiful way they grew as one.

Here's a blurb from the book that explains it. Ben is talking, but he's recalling his wife's words when she gave him the recorder initially:

"I gave you this thing so I can be with you even when I'm not. Because I miss the sound of your voice when you're away. And ... I want you to miss mine. Miss me. I'll keep it a day or two, tell you what I'm thinking, then give it to you. We can pass it back and forth. Sort of like a baton. Besides, I've got to compete with all those pretty nurses who will be swooning over you. I'll have to beat them off you with a stick. Or stethoscope. Ben ... " Your tone of voice changed. From serious to playful. "If you need to hear someone swoon, get weak in the knees, flushed in the face ... play doctor ... just press PLAY. Deal?"

Martin talks more about it in this video:

Narrative Device from Author Charles Martin on Vimeo.

Running across this passage reminded me that my dad and I used to do this very same thing. He would be on the road, selling paint somewhere, and he'd record a message to me, drop it in the mail, and I couldn't wait to listen to it. I remember one such tape Dad recorded on May 13, 1981. I only remember that because it was the day Pope John Paul II was shot and I remember what Dad said on the tape.

"The news is saying someone shot the Pope. What a hell of a thing that is. First they shot Reagan, now they shot the Pope. Was is this world coming to?"

Having Dad's running social commentary in all its authenticity made me feel close to him even though he was hundreds of miles away. I can't imagine saying anything earth shattering in my return tapes to him, but I'm sure he enjoyed listening to me talk about my tennis matches at school, my girlfriend, and whatever else teenage boys talk about.

I have no idea what ever became of those tapes, but I would give anything to put my hands on one of them right now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Learning from the Chilean Mine Rescue

The fifth miner to emerge from the San Jose mine is Osman Araya, 29, after he was trapped for 69 days after the collapse of a tunnel on August 5. The rescue operations began bringing miners to the surface on October 13, 2010 near Copiapo, Chile.  UPI/Hugo Infante/Government of Chile Photo via Newscom
The fifth miner to emerge from the San Jose mine is
Osman Araya, 29, after he was trapped for 69 days after
the collapse of a tunnel on August 5. (UPI/Hugo
Infante/Government of Chile Photo via Newscom)
As the 33 miners were pulled out of the capsule in Chile one by one on live television Tuesday night and all through the day yesterday, the process made me feel conflicting emotions.

On one hand, I was elated. I loved hearing the people chant and sing as each miner exited the capsule. I loved seeing the reunions with family and loved ones. The emotions were saw raw and so real. And that's what made me feel a little uncomfortable – almost as we were watching something that was too intimate, something that wasn't meant to be seen by strangers.

But the Chilean government set it up that way. This wasn't a bunch of paparazzi chasing a buck. It was a country wanting to celebrate the life, near death, and resurrection-like ascent of 32 of its citizens, plus one citizen of another country. Knowing that made it feel more acceptable.

As the rescue efforts neared an end yesterday, Bill Bennett said something on CNN that was so true, "Things go by so fast – particularly good things. You can savor this one – each one coming up." He was right. The cheering never got old. As each guy surfaced, Camp Hope cheered. As each guy was placed on a gurney and shuffled off to receive medical treatment, he floated through a group of people who formed a line on both sides of him and clapped for him.

Watching this happen over and over, it made me wonder if we are clapping for the wrong things in life. Or, at the very least, if we are missing opportunities to cheer for reasons that really matter.

I'm a sportswriter. I love sports. I cheer for athletes (when I'm not in the press box). But in recent years, I find myself cheering for athletes because of their humanity and because of their guts more than their jersey color.

I cheered for Joannie Rochette as she took the ice in February to skate in the Olympics just two days after her mother died. I cheered for John Isner at Wimbledon after playing the longest match in history, but still wanting to come back and put on a good show for fans. Getting overly excited when my team wins the Super Bowl doesn't have the same appeal to me it once did.

And that brings me to my point.

How different might the world look if we stood outside the cancer ward and cheered as a friend walked out after receiving her last treatment? How different might the world look if we stood outside the detox unit and cheered for the family member who successfully completed much needed treatment? How different might the world look if we looked for reasons to cheer louder for people we know than for celebrities we don't?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Turning Leaf Merlot (2007)

Sideways (Full Screen Edition)P1040312b Turning Leaf Merlot was the next red wine on my experimental list. I don't know much about Merlot, other than it is supposed to be sweeter than some red wines. And I remember that Miles from the movie Sideways hated Merlot. I got the impression he thought it was for pansy wine drinkers – for people who like strawberry, white zinfandel. I qualify as a wine pansy if that's the case.

I uncorked my Turning Leaf bottle of Merlot a few nights ago. I kept it refrigerated, ignoring the advice I see online regarding the way red wine should be served, until it was time to pour a glass. I found it easier to drink than I expected. I just wish I knew enough about wine to explain the nuances of tastes I experienced, but I don't. So, I look for reviews online as a starting point.

On Snooth.com, I found a review of the wine that said, in part, "Nice, easy-drinking. Maybe rather non-descript. Slight fruity aroma, then with a soft tannic, oaky taste and quick finish." I wouldn't have picked all of that up no matter how hard I tried, but, like I said, it gave me a starting point. It wasn't bitter, and that's probably the most important thing for my taste buds. It wasn't overpowering, that's a plus in my book. I could detect a little fruitiness, but I have no idea what type of fruit. It was drinkable and that's a good thing.

I drank two glasses and saved the rest for the next night. I pulled the bottle out of the refrigerator so it could assume room temperature the next night thinking maybe red wine would be better than white wine at room temperature. It wasn't. In fact, it was awful. So, I learned two things with this bottle of wine. I can tolerate Merlot. Red wine must be chilled.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

They Paved Paradise

Back in 2007, I wrote a post about a construction project being done at the high school I graduated from in the mid-80s. The team practiced football in a place referred to as "the hole" because the field and a running track actually sat down in a hole. Funds were raised a few years ago to renovate the field and running track and to erect grandstands, a press box, locker rooms and concession stands.

I was sentimental about the changes, but at the same time, I was glad to see them taking place. The project is finished and a group of alumni, including myself, decided to check it out last Friday night. The football team isn't very good, but that didn't matter much. We just wanted to see what our old stomping grounds looked like. The renovation was impressive:

The hole looked nothing like this when I went to school here in the 1980s

One of my friends heard that football games are well attended and that we would need to get there early. So we pulled up more than hour before game time. I had a plan to park by the tennis courts -- the same courts I spent countless hours on during my high school days.

I played on the high school tennis team and my game went from hacker to semi-decent during those years. The tennis coach, Phil Gradoville, really helped me to understand that my game was best suited for the serve and volley style so we often worked on my volleying skills before anybody else got to practice. He also helped me develop a strong serve by taking me through various drills.

In addition to seeing my tennis improve, I also have some great memories of clowning around with teammates on those courts, and winning a few matches on them, and more than anything, feeling like I belonged somewhere.

For all of those reasons and more, I was looking forward to parking by the courts for the football game. When I turned the corner that led to the courts, I saw a large parking lot instead. Apparently that was part of the renovation. I can see why they did it -- because there wasn't any parking nearby, but still, it nearly took my breath away. Here's how it looks now:

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
But life moves on. And hopefully the new facility will lead to many great memories for the students who attend the school now. As for the game, it didn't turn out well for my former high school -- they lost 24-0, but the group of us who attended still had a good time. I wish I would have had somebody shoot a group picture of us, but I didn't. I was too busy shooting photos of the stadium and of the game.

You gotta love Friday night high school football

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm Your Uncle, Nice to Meet You!

I met my new nephew for the first time last week. I covered a couple of NASCAR races in Kansas City and then drove over to St. Louis to spend time with family. While the time there always seems too short, we had a great time.

My sister, her hubby, my niece and new nephew went to Buffalo Wild Wings one night. It was the first time they had all been out together since the little one arrived. The next night, my brother-in-law grilled some steaks and we had a nice meal for my niece's birthday. It was the first time I've ever been in St. Louis for her birthday.

So there were a lot of firsts, including the first time I got to hold my nephew. Once I got situated, my brother-in-law grabbed the camera and snapped this photo -- I love it:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Censored or Uncensored?

Continuing the 4,000 Questions series: "Daily Journal: would you write censored or uncensored if you knew future generations would read it?"

The answer is, somewhere in the middle, which, I know, would make some people say I fall on the side of censoring. The thing is, I don't believe anybody would write something completely uncensored if he or she knew it were going to be read by other people -- even if we're talking about future generations. Some might be willing to spill everything regarding the way they feel about certain topics or people, but few of us know the depths of our own depravity. And even if we know it, that same depravity tends to make us go easier on ourselves, and that is a form of censorship. Besides, I don't think anything is gained from tearing other people down.

I have a friend who loves golf. He takes his little nephew to the driving range sometimes and he teaches him how to hold a golf club, how to swing one, etc. My friend has been keeping a journal of each of their outings over the years and he plans to give it to him some day. Can you imagine how that is going to make his nephew feel? He's going to know his uncle loved him enough to jot down the events of every outing he took with his uncle when he was young. He certainly won't feel cheated due to the fact that his uncle didn't mention any frustrations he might have felt at the time about how disinterested his nephew appeared on one particular outing or how rude somebody in the pro shop may have been. Those things probably won't even cross my friend's nephew's mind as he reads the entries.

When we are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to read somebody's journal from a previous generation, there is an assumed level of censorship going in. But that doesn't make the reading any less interesting or relevant.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Barefoot Zinfandel

I'm intrigued by people who know what type of wine they like and why. I'm equally intrigued by wine culture -- the vineyards, the books, the blogs, the people who gather together and drink it, the whole thing. I think it's because it represents a slower pace of life.

As I drove from St. Louis to Kansas City yesterday on I-70, I nearly stopped at a roadside vineyard called Stone Hill, but time was tight because I had a business lunch to attend in Jefferson City, so I had to pass it. But one of these days, I'm going to stop at a place like that and just put myself in the hands of someone who knows and understands wine.

My doctor recently suggested again that drinking a glass or two of red wine once in a while would be good for me. Thing is, red wine doesn't taste good to me. I favor the sweetest tasting white wine possible -- wines like Arbor Mist and Boone's Farm. I've been doing a little investigating about the differences between white and red wines and I found this tidbit from WineIntro.com:

"As a bit of background, the tannic, leathery flavor of red wine comes from the red grape skins. All grape 'insides' are white in color. So a red wine that only uses the skins briefly during winemaking -- like a white zinfandel -- is going to generally be less tannic and more sweet. It will also be light in color, since the color comes from the grape skins. A wine that sits on the skins for a long time during winemaking will end up darker in color, more tannic -- and more healthy. That's because many of the health compounds in a wine come from its skin."

So, more tannic means more healthy. That's good to know. Now I just need to figure out the taste thing. A while back I bought a bottle of Barefoot Zinfandel. I poured a glass and sat back to watch a television show. I couldn't finish it. It was anti-sweet, sour, even. The one thing it had going for it was, the alcohol taste wasn't overwhelming.

I stuck a cork in the bottle and thought I'd probably dump it out, but I stuck it in the refrigerator instead. I just pulled it back out gave it another taste. It wasn't as bad as I remembered. Then I discovered I've had the opened (corked) bottle of wine in my refrigerator for over a year. According to most wine websites I just looked at, they say opened bottles of wine are only good for up to three days.

So, the taste of this particular wine bottle no longer represents how it tasted when I opened it initially. That's too bad because I found the old, flat wine more tolerable. Oh well. I picked up two new bottles of red wine at the grocery store this afternoon, so the quest to find a good, sweet bottle of red wine will continue. If you have any suggestions, please offer away.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

NBA Jam Memories

NBA JAMA revamped version of NBA Jam is being released today for the Wii. This time around, it will include characters for President Obama, Vice President Biden, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin and President George W. Bush.

I don't have a Wii, but hearing about EA Sports bringing this game back sure brought back some great memories.

So many of the phrases from the game became part of pop culture. Most of the following list came from the NBA Jam Wiki-pedia page. Remember these?
  • "Boom-shakalaka"
  • "He's on fire!"
  • "The Monster Jam!"
  • "Jams it in!"
  • "A spectacular dunk!"
  • "Wild Shot!"
  • "Slam-a-jamma!"
  • "From Downtown!"
  • "For Three!"
  • "Get that outta here!"
  • "Baseline leaner!"
  • "From long range!"
  • "Grabs the rebound!"
  • "The nail in the coffin!"
  • "Whoomp, there it is!"
  • "Puts up a brick!"
  • "Can't buy a bucket!"
  • "Is it the shoes?!?"
  • "Count it"
  • "Tenacious D"
  • "Razzle Dazzle"
My little brother and I used to sit in front of the TV and play the game on Sega Genesis for hours. It was originally released in 1993, so he would have been around 10 years old when we first played it. When we dunked on each other, we screamed, "Boom-shakalaka!" And when we blocked a shot we said, "Get that outta here!" It sounded even better when the announcer said it at the same time.

As competitive as it sounds, it actually brought us closer together. I eventually picked up a copy of the game for him to play at his house. I told him it was so he could practice so he might have a shot at beating me next time. He's not so little any more and if we ever played on Wii he'd probably crush me as payback.

I'm going to see him tonight and I'm going to ask him if he remembers playing the game with me. But I might keep the fact that it's coming out on Wii a secret.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Kansas Speedway, Here I Come

LEBANON, TN - APRIL 11:  Eric McClure, driver of the #24 Hefty Ford get ready for his qualifying run for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Pepsi 300 at the Nashville Superspeedway  on April 11, 2009, in Lebanon, Tennessee.  (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Eric McClure prepares for a qualifying run at Nashville
(Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images for NASCAR)
I'm hitting road early this morning for Kansas Speedway where I'll be interviewing a few NASCAR drivers for Baptist Press Sports over the course of the weekend.

I always look forward to this event, even though I always feel a little under the gun until I get all my interviews done. These guys are so busy and you never know if something else might come up which might cause your interview to get bumped to another time or canceled. So far, none of them have canceled on me.

I get into the interview. I'm fascinated by each guy's story and I love hearing how each guy attempts to live out his faith in his racing career.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed Eric McClure at the track about his faith and he was quite honest during our conversation, admitting, "I got a little bit caught up recently in what we were doing out here. I wondered why we weren’t running better, and I was worrying about what people think -- what people were writing on the messages boards; what people were writing in the press; and I let it consume me. It really affected the way I performed. It really affected my attitude and morale and I got down and I lost focus on what was most important. The biggest thing my faith is doing now is putting everything in perspective." 

Last year, I interviewed 2000 Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte at the track. He was not with a well funded team in 2009 and was really struggling through the notion of not running well. He too was candid about his situation, saying, "Whatever He wants me to do, He’ll lead me. It'll be for the right reasons and it'll be what He wants for me. It's kind of strange to be calm and not worried because that's not my personality. I'm not sure I'm doing it right. It's different for me to not worry, but my wife and I went for a walk in late summer and she told me I had turned 180 degrees from where I usually am. I'm learning to put my thoughts and worries on Him and let it come." I love his "I'm not sure I'm doing it right" admission.

Can't wait to hear some new stories this weekend.


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