Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Pain of Loss

1) If you're regular, Sunday Sevens is going away for now. I achieved a few goals. I got to use this blog more and I got be expressive in a way I don't get to (or want to) on social media. Now, as with so many things, it's become too much of a commitment-- pressure if you want to call it that, to blog weekly. And, I feel that my blogs are becoming forced and not inspired, creative or interesting. My hope is that I'll continue to blog as I see topics that are fitting. When football season returns, maybe I'll start ranking teams again...

2) Today, I want to write about loss and grief. Late Friday, I got the news that the Greatest, Muhammed Ali, died in Arizona. Who can you find that's as transcendent as Ali? Pele? Ali was great as a fighter but I admire his convictions. I didn't always agree with everything and I thought he was too boastful for my tastes, but he was a man who stood up for injustice. He was a humanitarian that graced many people's lives and inspired hope. The world will never have another Ali. 

I like this video, it's not all Ali, but he sort of stars in it.

Yesterday, a church family lost their son, only 18 years old, in a car accident. The family is an active, core part of the church. I cannot imagine the grief that they have to endure, losing their oldest child, The siblings were at church today and I was able to hug them. I know loss, because losing mom was the hardest thing I had to endure. But I don't know how it is to lose a child. So much heartbreak.

And then I found out this morning that a former student of mine lost the baby she was carrying. I don't know exactly how far into the pregnancy she was, but it is a heartbreaker for her, her husband and their families.

This weekend just kept punching me in the gut. Despite that, it was a marvelous weekend. I got to take a guy around Pisgah on Friday afternoon, woke up early and met another friend for ride in Dupont Saturday morning, hung out with Rachel, Elena and Nora Saturday night, cleaned and read, was encouraged by Brian Land's teaching at church this morning and then encouraged again by the Baccalaureate service at North this afternoon. 

I live a blessed life. I hurt and ache for my friends. I mourn that we all lost Muhammed Ali. But I am thankful for all that I have been blessed with. And cling tight and appreciate all that you have. Don't take losing it for you to appreciate it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

S7s- May 15: Hexed?

1) Yesterday was the Regional Track meet at AC Reynolds. We had one qualifier, Odyssey Gaines in the 200m Dash. She's our first stat qualifier in three season. She tried to get out of running the 200, but I made her run. She was in the slow heat and won. Better yet, her time was good enough to be second overall. I told her after her run that I was proud of her effort and she gave herself a good chance to qualify (finish in the top 4). After the fast heat, I told her she'd be close. I was surprised she was second, I would have been thrilled with third or fourth. 

We had some bad luck yesterday. Our 4x200 ran phenomenal. They went 1:49 and was the third team to cross the finish line. Then someone said there was a zone violation. Being the referee, I hustled to see what it was. It was lane 6, our lane. Heartbreaking. It would have been disappointing if we finished 6th and got DQed, but it was devastating because they went from being state qualifiers to being disqualified. As their coach, what can you say? Most of them were running again in the 4x100, so I told them to rally and be ready for their next event.

In the 4x100, we were running well and in the mix and the second handoff got dropped. I didn't even see it happen. It looked good and when I was looking for the third exchange, there was no North Henderson. Their spacing was good, they just dropped the baton. The thing is, these were what I consider my two most reliable athletes in terms of handoffs. If I had to pick two to do an exchange, it would be these two.

I'm proud of my kids. We were 5th in the 4x400 and 6th in the 300 hurdles. Some good efforts in the field events. Despite not qualifying our relays, I'm proud of their effort. There's a reason this happened. We were hit twice with really unfortunate luck in two of our best events-- the events we had the best chance to qualify in. I don't know why things work the way they do, but I'm confident we're all better people after this. Even if we're not happy people at the moment.

2) The 4x100 gave me flashbacks to last year's state championship tournament. Mitchel Langford loses an improbable match in the finals. I truly believe that if Mitchel and Mainz wrestled 100 times, Mitch would win 98 or 99 times. Mainz wrestled a good match and earned that victory but I don't doubt that Mitchel was the better wrestler. The same way that Dan Gable was better than Larry Owings. If my two girls do 100 handoffs, 95% of them are great.

I had a friend tell me that you've got to strive for 100%. 1% is bad. If 1% of parachutes failed, that would be terrible. In Mitchel's case and in the 4x100, we fell victim to that 1%.

3) North Henderson will be host for next year's track regionals. Why do I do this to myself?

4) Went out to dinner with the coaches after the meet. Had my bike. Headed over to Bent Creek to get a ride in. Towards the end, I lose a pedal. It comes off the spindle but is still clipped into my shoes. This is my fifth pair of Crank Brothers pedals and the newest. The first to fail. I slowly and awkwardly pedaled back to the car, just about a mile. It was hard with only one good pedal and trying to keep the other foot on the spindle. I was convinced someone had a voodoo doll of me or put some sort of curse on me.

I took a picture and posted it to Instagram. Also tagged Crank Brothers. They messaged me back and it looks like they're going to replace the pedal. That's good customer service!

 5) Spent the evening at the Grove Park for the WNC Sports Banquet presented by the Mountain Amateur Athletic Club. North Henderson was well represented, especially wrestling! Josh Blatt was a finalist for the 3A/4A Male Athlete in an Olympic Sport (Connor Fenn of Asheville School won), the team was a finalist for 3A/4A Male Team- Olympic Sport (won by Enka Wrestling) and Pete Willingham won a $1000 scholarship. Caroline Marsh, a volleyball player, was a finalist for 3A/4A Female Athlete- Major Sport.

6) "Are you interested or committed?" -Jerry Moore, former Appalachian State Football Coach and WNC Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

7) I'm really bummed out about the Spurs losing. I wanted Tim Duncan to win and retire. It will be an interesting off season for this team. Who do they sign? Who retires?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

S7s: May 8, 2016

1) With Ted Cruz and John Kasich officially suspending their campaign, Donald Trump is now the Republican nominee for president. I think:

  • The Cruz-Kasich plan to split states will go down as one of the worst play calls of all time. Granted, they probably would have lost if they did nothing, but it seemed desperate and played into Trump.
  • Carly Fiorina as the Vice Presidential candidate was another fumble for Cruz. As a friend pointed out, she brings nothing to the table. Her supporters were probably Cruz supporters anyway. And if Cruz is trying to pander to women, Fiorina did not help him with the female vote.
  • The same friend pointed out that Fiorina is now a failed CEO, presidential nominee and vice presidential nominee. Maybe she'll be the next Lincoln.
  • Trump is behind in most polls to Clinton and Sanders, but I think the election will be closer as we get to November. 
  • That said, unless Trump finds a way to win over groups he has alienated such as Latinos and women, then I find it hard for him to win the general election. 
  • But maybe Hillary is so unlikable that enough people don't turn out to vote and Trump steals the election. Clinton has to get out Hispanic, Black and women voters. If she doesn't she's in trouble.
  • I think Trump is going to disappoint his base if he is elected president. He says off the wall things and certainly "speaks his mind", but he's smart and is way more moderate (even left) than many of his supporters want to admit or care to see. Plus, he's friends with many of the people that he and his supporters demonize (including Clinton).
  • Trump has a chance. I wouldn't have said that two months ago. Running mates will make this election interesting. Unfortunately, no one is listening to policy. The candidate with the fewest gaffs stands a better chance. 

2) I've heard people lament that about the prospect of having to choose between Trump and Clinton. Some have said they are not going to vote, which is absolutely their right. But I still think it's important to make a choice. The problem is not that Trump and Clinton are our best candidates for the office, it's that they are the ones that want the office.

We the People, have created this. The office of the Presidency is not for the timid, shy or thin skinned. The office is so scrutinized, the campaigns so long and the spotlight so bright that it takes a certain person to want to be President. When you put yourself out there, you will be assailed on so many levels, but so will your friends and family. It's just not worth it for most people. It takes a certain ego, vanity and personality to embrace all the peripherals that are involved with running for any office, much less the President of the United States.

I said going back to 2000, that out of 300 million Americans, the best we could come up with were Al Gore and George Bush? They were not the best and we have had our share of underwhelming candidates but only because we're putting on the field the ones who want to play the game, not the ones who are the best at the game.

I think Joe Biden regrets not running. But I also believe that he's relieved he is not running, especially with all that his family has gone through. Very few people want to embrace the 24 hour news cycles, the lack of privacy and the critical opinion of the masses. In the age of digital communication and social media, I'm quite certain we would have villified George Washington and our other founding fathers that we hold in such high esteem.

3) Great weekend. Went camping Friday with Brian, Abel, Greg, Jordan and Tim. Good conversation and great weather. Mowed lawn Saturday, got a ride in with Dan, went to a 4 year old's birthday party, ate a Rocky's and saw my friends play music at Blue Ghost Brewery.

Today took the Ducati to Straightaway Cafe on HWY 9. Decent little place, nice to be out on bike. Tonight had dinner at Shawn and Amy's with the Ruiz fans. Amy showed us her bees, which a new hobby for her. It's really cool whenever you get to see people share their passions.

4) Happy Mother's Day. I miss my Mother but everyday I'm inspired by her and it's my goal that she would be proud of me.

5) We hosted the Conference Track meet last week. Boys finished 1st and won running away. It was a great meet for them. The girls had a great meet also. They finished 3rd, which was our goal. It was really close, there were 8 points that separated 3rd place and 7th place. On to Regionals next Saturday!

6) Best Sports moment in a while:

7) Keeping my neighbors up north in my prayers. This wildfire is massive and pictures heartbreaking. I have a feeling that we're in for a very bad wildfire season.

USA Today

Sunday, May 1, 2016

S7s: May 1- Springing into May

1) Kaida turned 4 last week. She had a party in SC yesterday. My brother, Chhay, also just got back from 6 months of deployment so it was a double celebration. And got to see a lot of other kiddos. It was great family time.

2) Speaking of birthdays, god daughter Sydney turned 9. She's growing so fast but she still thinks I'm great so I'll take that for now.

3) Yesterday was the North Henderson High School prom. I drove back from SC, got home around 9:00, changed and caught the end of the prom. I'm glad I made it back. It was great to see all the students dressed up and there were a few that I was very happy to catch. My wrestlers looked sharp and my track team was gorgeous. Everyone seemed to be having fun.

4) My favorite quote of the last week occured when we were outside I noticed what turned out to be fertilizer on the track. Not knowing what it was yet, I asked aloud what was on my track. One of my girls replied, "Grass seasoning". Dunno, I thought it was hilarious.

5)  We went to a meet at Western Carolina this week. The boys took first out of 15 teams. The girls placed 11th. I love WCU's facilities and Coach Williamson and his staff are great to us. The best thing about the meet is that, as coaches, we don't have to work any events or time. That's very rare. It was nice just to watch my athletes jump and throw.

6) I was really amazed by today's sermon. Charles McGowan was the guest preacher and he spoke on Matthew 16:13-17. 
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
I have read the passage before, but read it all wrong. In verse 18, I always assumed it was Peter that was the rock the church would be built on. It turns out that it's actually Peter's answer in verse 16 that is the Rock: Jesus the Messiah is what the church will be built on. 

Also, verse 18, about the gates of Hades... I always assumed that Hades cannot overcome the church. McGowan says that the church is marching on Hades and the gates built to keep the church out cannot win. The church is based on the Messiah  and Jesus cannot be held back by mere walls. 

7) NFL Draft thoughts:
  • Laremy Tunsil better be a game changer. If he flops, the Dolphins have wasted another first round pick, a la Dion Jordan. 
  • I don't love the Dolphins draft. But not being splashy sometimes is good.
  • Panthers took three defensive backs in a row. Josh who?
  • I hope Jared Goff is more Aaron Rogers than Brady Quinn.
  • I like Denver's pick of Paxton Lynch. 
  • I also love that Denver got Adam Gotsis in the second round. Go Jackets!
  • DJ White makes plays. I hope he makes the Chiefs roster. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

S7s: Apr 24- Purple Rain

1) Prince. Such an icon. We all jammed to "Purple Rain" and knew all the words to "When Doves Cry" and "Little Red Corvette". The man was such a talent. He wrote his own songs and played all the instruments on several albums when so many artists today are only performers-- all their songs are written for them. He was also an enigma, with a hidden faith and converting to Jehovah's Witness later in his life.

I watched his Super Bowl halftime show again and forgot what a great preformance that was. He jammed in the rain. First time it ever rained at a Super Bowl. He played live music when most acts in the Super Bowl are pre-recorded. He danced on a slippery stage. He played Foo Fighters and Bob Dylan because he could and he was secure enough to not just promote himself.

Here's a clip from NFL Networks recalling that performance. "Can you make it rain harder?"

I love this clip from the Chappelle show also. Apparently, Prince wrote a song about pancakes after this skit.

2) Eric Clapton was asked how if felt to be the greatest guitarist in the world. He replied, "I don't know, ask Prince."

3) Harriett Tubman to replace Jackson on the $20 bill. Great move. I still think we get away from just having people. Let's put Grand Canyon, Arches and El Capitan on our money. Denali and Crater Lake. Statue of Liberty or the Gateway Arch.

Regardless, moving Jackson is a good move. He was a bigot, bad to women and presided through bully tactics and appointing favorites. He was our first populist president, but he'll never be a hero in my books.

4) My favorite play in baseball is a triple play:

5) I got to share my testimony at Watershed this morning. It was special getting to tell the students where I came from and how God has been with me on the entire journey. They've known me for years, but few know the story of my family and how I arrived at who I am today.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

6) Can Golden State win if Curry is hurt? Hornets got their first playoff in in 14 years! 14 years!

7) Track team had two meets last week. We ran at the Falcon Invite on Wednesday and finished 4th out of 7 teams. Had some season bests. Yesterday was the huge Blue Ridge Classic at Reynolds. I'm happy we placed in the 4x200. We ran season bests in the 4x200 and 4x100 as well as the open 200. 

Mallard Creek and Parkland dominated. I watched Parkland's Mckinley McNeil run 54 seconds in the 400. Her mom was actually talking to me when I was was doing 4x200 splits. She was very nice, asking which team was mine so she could cheer. Not knowing her or her daughter at this time, I asked how her daughter was doing so far and she replied, "State indoor champion in the 400 and 3rd best time in the country right now". Yeah, she's doing alright. Sounds like mom and daughter both have good heads on their shoulders. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

S7s: April 17- Feeling clean

1) After almost 6 weeks of being without one, I own a working washing machine! I swung by Best Buy after Nora's birthday party. I've been looking on Craigslist to no avail. I figured I go new and take advantage of Best Buy's no interest financing. On the floor was an open box that they said was used as a display. It was over $200 off retail and they offered me another 20 percent off. So I took it. It's a Whirlpool Cabrio HE top loader. The reviews are mixed on the the High Efficiency washers, but I'm going with the idea that the new ones have evolved for the better. First load in the machine right now, so we'll see. At least I don't have to go to the laundromat or do my wash at school anymore.

2) Governor McCrory has issued an Executive Order clarifying HB2. It's a step in the right direction, but probably the damage has already been done. He wants to change the legislation to allow North Carolinians the right to sue for discrimination in state courts (my biggest gripe) as well as clarify some of the language. It may be too little too late. Many businesses are still not stepping back from calling for a full repeal. He's feeling the heat, though he is getting a lot of love from supporters of the bill. I think he regrets signing a bill that was so hastily written (1 day) and had so many flaws. The bill reminds me of when I would throw together a project at the last minute: sure I got it done and met the criteria, but when you looked closely it was full of errors and mistakes.

3) Some of this stems from "religious liberty". That's what Mississippi passed, that if you have religious convictions you can deny service to a gay couple. I guess I wonder whether I could deny services to someone of a different race or gender based on my religious convictions. I really do have mixed feelings on all of this. I don't want anyone to be discriminated against. But if someone is a bigot or hates homosexuals, they should be allowed to do so happily as long as they are not hurting anyone and they own a private business. They should advertise their position and let the market take care of it. Obviously, a restaurant that did not serve Asians would not welcome me, but I bet most of my friends would also not frequent that business. I sure wouldn't want to go there anyway. And if you really cared, you could take note of friends, neighbors and public officials that did go to those places and decide if you still want to be associated with them.

4)  My favorite news story of the week:

5) Also from NPR, I found this interesting. I have long told my students that writing things down helps you learn. Now, I have science behind me!

6) NBA Playoffs: I'm pulling for the Spurs. I don't know if they can beat Golden State, that team is special. So fun to watch. 

7) Lady Knights Track finished 3rd at the County Meet. The boys won! We had not county champions, but Lauren Francis finished 2nd in the 300 hurdles and our 4x100 and 4x400 finished second. We also celebrated our seniors.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

S7s- Apr 10: Sign of Armageddon

1) I can officially say it because she has told her students, but Dot Case is retiring. I'll blog more about Ms Case in the future, I'm sure I'll blog more about her later, but the fact that she is retiring has hit many of us hard. We knew it was inevitable, but after 47 years, Dot Case is calling it a career. I'm going to enjoy the last few weeks of having her as a colleague. I'll be forever grateful for all she has taught me over the years.

Here's a link to an interview I did of her a few years ago: Ms Case

And here she is, front and center, with her department that, despite many changes, she was the constant.

2) We hosted the WHKP Relays on Thursday. 16 girls teams and 17 boys teams. It was a great event, though we had some trouble with some results getting inputted because of the sheer numbers of field events. Some teams did not bring their full squads as Taco Bell was also this weekend, but we still had a great meet and I'm really proud of the effort of my squad. I was hoping to finish in the top half of the field and we finished 8th, so I met my goal. And who was there volunteering: Dot Case.

3) Bruce Springsteen cancelled a show in NC that was scheduled for today in Greensboro to protest HB2. I feel bad for the fans, because they're the ones that are hurt but I appreciate the stance that he has taken. The Boss has long been political. Keep in mind that his most famous anthem, "Born in the USA" is not meant to be a patriotic song.

Along with Paypal deciding to not follow through with their plans to build a center near Charlotte, HB2 has also made NC into the butt of national jokes. See this video by Funny or Die.

4) Last week was ridiculously busy, so there was no riding for me. I did get up yesterday and get 60 miles in. Started at the house and headed down to Tuxedo via Mine Mountain. Rode old 25 into SC and got on HWY 11. Met my buddies doing the Assault on the Carolinas at the bottom of Ceasar's Head and we rode back to Brevard together. Great day.

Today, I got on the mountain bike and explored in Pisgah. Rode up Cove Creek Trail. Hit the top of Daniel Ridge and went down counterclockwise for the first time. Then finished with Butter and Cat Gap-- a 19 mile day.

5) You should see the numbers we have at Yellowjackets on Mondays. It's fun and there are over 40 elementary kids. We're doing great things over there. And we got awesome shirts.

6) Opening week of baseball. I promise I won't blog much about baseball. But I am impressed with Kershaw's first outing. And I'm more impressed that the only person to hit two homeruns off Kershaw in the last year is Madison Bumgarner. This is also the last season of the Braves in Turner-- and I hate that.

7) Oh the Masters. What an event. I was at Sanctuary Brewing, watching and commenting that no way Spieth would lose. Then came Amen Corner. A quadruple bogey. He looked mortal. I think Jordan Spieth is great and has fantastic ability. He deserves to by the number one player in the world. I hope that this round does not mentally shake him up for the future. I think the kid will bounce back fine. Two best moments, one good one and one bad one: