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2017 Resolution: To Be, or Not to Be

2017 Resolution: To Be, or Not to Be

It’s that time of year, time to recommit to the things you de-committed to about 51 weeks ago!

Resolutions at the first of the year are a tradition going back between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago, from the Romans to the Babylonians. Most are built around health and habits. Here are some of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Lose Weight
  • Get Organized
  • Spend Less/Save More
  • Live Life to the Fullest
  • Staying Fit and Healthy
  • Quit Smoking
  • Help Others in Their Dreams
  • Fall in Love
  • Spend More Time with Family

Do you ever notice how most, if not all these resolutions revolve around you and I doing something? The problem with that? We’re human beings, not human doings!

The beginning of Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy from Act III, Scene I of Hamlet allows us to move New Year’s resolutions from a state of doing to a state of being. “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” I imagine that if he had written, “To do, or not to do,” it would not have the same impact.

Doing is relatively easy. It’s either yes or no, do or don’t. You lose weight or you don’t. You meet the deadline or you don’t. You win the race or you don’t. Doing brings victory or defeat. It’s an outside process.

Being, however, is an inside process. Being allows you to experience victory and defeat, and then choose how you want to respond. It’s a shift in your soul, a turnaround in your thinking.

Doing causes a reaction. Being creates a response.

From a spiritual perspective, the shift from doing to being frees you from checklists that chain you to consequences (doing) and allows your identity in Christ (being) to define the response you give to any situation. Being allows you to be fed from the Spirit rather than feeding the flesh.

Ephesians 4:20-32 shows the struggle of human doing vs. human being. Specifically, verse 23 says that you should, “let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (NLT). The Amplified Version says that you should, “discard…your previous manner of life…and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Notice that there’s no command to “do” in the flesh, but rather, to “let” and “be.” This sounds like the opposite of the striving to be Christlike mentality that we’ve all been taught!

Being in Christ brings freedom. You are in Christ. God never intended to make your life (the flesh) Christlike. He intended for His son to manifest His life in you and through you. (Galatians 2:20-21, NLT)

Freedom in Christ is not a life long struggle. Galatians 5:1 says, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (NLT)

So, in the simplest of terms: Doing = Law; Being = Freedom.

As you look at your resolution list this first week of the year, may you resolve to be in Christ, and as Christ is in you, the Spirit will guide you to the things that will glorify Him.

Picture courtesy of ThinkWells Thoughts

Silent Night

Silent Night

December 16, 2:45 AM…the bedroom door opens and my daughter is now standing at the foot of the bed. “Dad, someone’s on the front porch and I just heard them outside my window.” My daughter’s bedroom is at the front of the house and our bedroom is at the back. I asked her if she was sure and she said, “Yes, it sounded like they were rummaging around and I heard footsteps outside my window.”

It was a calm, still night, so I dismissed the idea that it might be the fallen leaves being blown about by the wind. I grabbed my phone and went to the living room where I could peek out the front window and get a good look at the front porch. Nothing seemed amiss, but my daughter isn’t one to exaggerate, and given our proximity to a major road, I just didn’t want to take any chances. So, at 2:47 AM, I placed the 911 call. Cool, calm, and collected came the female voice when the call connected. “What’s the address of your emergency?” she asked. I give her the location and then she asked what was going on. I relayed to her what my daughter had experienced. “We’ll send a car over now. Do you want the officer to contact you?” “Only if they find someone,” I said. And with that, the conversation was over.

Heading back into the bedroom, I found my side of the bed occupied. My daughter is brave and strong, but this had her rattled. I let her and my wife know that the police were on their way and to try and relax. I went back into the living room, peeking out again. A few minutes went by and the darkness was broken by the spotlight from the patrol car. Relief. Peace. A slow drive by and away they went into the night, to protect and to serve.

Back in the bedroom I asked my daughter and wife if they had seen the spotlight. “Yes!” Came the reply. My daughter scooted over and I climbed in (thank you king size bed!). I expected her to be with us all night, but a few minutes later, she’s crawling out and headed back to her room. “Are you okay to go back?” I asked. “I’m good,” she uttered, her voice not as shaky as it was when she woke me up.

As I was coming down from the adrenaline rush of the events and wondering if sleep was going to elude me the rest of the night, the last line of the Christmas standard, “Silent Night” came to mind, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace.” I thought about that and who that line is meant for. Mary and Joseph? The shepherds? No!  It’s meant for you and me. The message of the angels? “Fear not! Christ the Lord is born this day!” Peace entered the world at that moment, but it wasn’t fully brought to bear until three words were uttered, “It is finished!”

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Ephesians 2:14 (NLT)

True peace. Lasting peace. Peace that comes only from Christ. Peace for you and me. I drifted off to sleep, safe and secure in the knowledge that my family is at peace because of what Christ brought to the earth, no matter what is happening on our front porch.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

A Pretty Rough Week

A Pretty Rough Week

Last fall I somehow ended up on a parent email list for a 3rd grade elementary class at a nearby public school which shall remain nameless. I’ve requested to be taken off the list a number of times, but that hasn’t happened. So once a week, I receive a note from a teacher who doesn’t teach my kids (For the record, I have a 5th grader and a freshman). Notes like the one I received a few days ago remind me again why my wife and I home school. Here’s the full text of the email. It was entitled, “A Pretty Rough Week.”

Hello 3rd Grade Families, I wanted to let you know that our class has had a pretty rough week in regards to behavior. The students lost their recess last Friday due to the fact that they were not following the lunch aides directions to line up quietly for lunch. Although the students have been doing much better in the lunch line, they continue to get poor reports during specials, and are still having trouble lining up and walking quietly through campus. During Music, P.E., and Library this week the students have been in trouble for not following directions, talking while the teacher is talking, and moving around the classrooms without permission. Although this is not every student in my class, it is many of them. I have talked with my class many times since spring break about working together to be the best class we can be. Many students lost stickers from their specials teachers this week (which is not a normal occurrence). I know the weather is changing and the students are very excited and energetic, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could sit down and remind them of their role as a student at SCHOOL NAME LEFT OUT. I know we can make this a great quarter if we all work together 🙂 Please feel free to email or call me if you have any further questions or concerns. THANK YOU!

Wow! Did that take any of you back to your 3rd grade class? There are so many items in here to talk about, but I want to quickly discuss just one. Near the end of the note, the teacher references the weather and her excited and energetic students. Then she asks for the parents help in calming them down and for the parents to, “remind them of their role as a student…” Their role as a student?!?! In other words, your kid has ants in his (or her) pants and I can’t get them to cooperate! Do something! This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Public schools want kids to behave like compliant worker bees in a factory, doing tasks according to the school schedule, not moving without permission, and for goodness sakes – don’t disrupt the learning environment by being excited and energetic! Parents, as you head into this week, remember why you home school, and when your students are excited and energetic this week, don’t make them lose their recess and make sure they don’t cut in the lunch line!



I want to say Thank You! to Homeschool Mosaics for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts each month. This month, I’m going to share with you why we started home schooling and some of the transitions we’ve encountered through the years. My goal is to provide encouragement to you and your family as you continue on your home education journey.

My wife Carrie and I were married in 1992. We have two great kids. Ryan is 16 and Ashleigh is 12. We’ve also experienced two miscarriages and two ectopic pregnancies. We make our home at an elevation of 7,143 feet in the cool pine and aspen trees of northern Arizona, near Flagstaff. We get about 100 inches of snow on average and rarely does it get above 90 degrees in the summer.

The word transition is defined as: a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another; or change. As I write this, I’m sitting in Marlow, Oklahoma, 780 miles away from our home. We were just here a few weeks ago for Christmas. We’re back for one of the greatest transitions in life – a funeral. My wife’s grandfather, Carl McMullin, passed away. He was 91 and a veteran of WWII. He was awarded six bronze stars while he served with the 3rd Army under General George Patton in Europe. This transition has been a while in the making, with his health declining over the last few years.

Transitioning to home schooling wasn’t on our radar when our son started kindergarten. Both my wife and I are the product of public schools in Texas in the 70’s and 80’s. Our son had an amazing teacher in kindergarten. Ryan couldn’t wait to go to school everyday. Mr. Thomas took a genuine interest in him and we experienced a fantastic year. First grade started great! Another wonderful teacher and what looked to be another good year. A few weeks into the year, Ryan’s teacher developed some major health issues, and as a result, only taught about 6 weeks. The rest of the year was taught by five different teachers, each lasting about six weeks. His second grade year Ryan had a teacher who was one of those who should have retired a long time ago. It was a frustrating time. We were at the school, helping out, being good active parents, doing what we were supposed to do, but it just wasn’t working. Little did we know that the transition to home schooling had begun.

My wife came around before I did to the idea of home educating Ryan. We found out that his third grade teacher was going to be an individual known for espousing liberal beliefs in a very vocal way, and neither of us wanted that for Ryan. The transition for me was abrupt and took place on a Saturday morning the summer between Ryan’s second and third grade year. Some friends of ours had been home educating their children and the father had a very pointed conversation with me in our driveway while we were having a garage sale. I don’t remember the exact details of the conversation, but I do know that we decided that weekend to home school

With just a few weeks before “school started,” Carrie and I were scrambling to figure out what to do. We talked to a few folks, did some research, and decided to go the “home school in a box/DVD” route, because it seemed like something we could handle and the price was right. Our transition to this new way of thinking and living allowed us to experience every available emotion known to man! We had many successes and many failures, and you know what? We survived! No long term damage to our son. No long term damage to my wife. No long term damage to me. We decided in the spring that this route (home school in a box) wasn’t one that was going to work long term. So we started another transition period…and that’s when it happened…we were introduced to…THE HOME SCHOOL CONVENTION!

Our first home school convention was in Phoenix. This transition was probably the most overwhelming to us as we weren’t prepared for the amount of curriculum choices available. We went from our little box of books and DVD’s that UPS dropped off at our house to a literal warehouse of every type of curriculum available. We were overwhelmed. What was the best? What worked for this family? What worked for that family? How would we know what would work for our family? Carrie and I split up and we each found a math curriculum we KNEW would be the best for our son! Then came the english curriculum! Then the science curriculum! Then there were the history videos! So many choices! So much money!

We were a mess. Carrie and I didn’t know what to do. We wanted to make the RIGHT decision, but how could we be sure? Looking back now, we couldn’t be sure of anything! So we stuck with our original curriculum game plan, added a few pieces we thought would help, and dove into the school year. We thought this was the BEST decision. We had starts and stops, ups and downs, but generally we had a decent year. We were still newbies and weren’t sure if what we were doing was working, but our son seemed to be getting it, and he was progressing, so we were happy.

One thing we didn’t do was panic. Panic causes wildly unthinking behavior and rash decisions. We found our local home school support group and we had more and more friends who were making the same choices we were about education. That was comforting, but it didn’t mean that we were in lockstep with them either. This led to another transition…creating our own path. Carrie and I found what worked for our kids, and we followed that route. We were informed by decisions of our friends, but not influenced by them.

In 2012, I had an opportunity to transition in the business world and I created My Home School Grades, which has become the premier online scheduling, grade tracking, and transcript software for home school families. Since then, I’ve been able to listen to and speak with many home school families around the world. I’ve met veteran home schoolers, some who are a few years in, some who have just started, and some who don’t even have kids yet! I have been able to see families in transition throughout all of these stages.

The one common aspect that all of these families have in common is that at some point, about some item or issue (usually many at the same time), they are scared and frightened. Fear overcomes them and they tend to make decisions because they panic (see definition above). I want to encourage you today that when the transitions come and fear creeps in and you start to question every decision you have ever made…know that you are not alone.

Here’s what Carrie and I do (warning – this is not easy!). We make the BEST decision in the moment. We take the facts we have right now and we make the best decision we can. Many times it will turn out to be the RIGHT decision. Some times it may not. “But John, What if this happens? What if that happens?” We can’t predict every outcome, nor should we try. Make the BEST decision right now, and then adjust as time goes on. Otherwise you will be paralyzed by fear, and that never leads to good outcomes.

No matter what stage of home educating you are in, know that transitions will occur! Embrace them! You won’t have babies around forever. Your kids will learn their times tables. They will succeed. They will fail. You’ll have great days and not so great days. Your kids will grow up. They will get married, they will probably give you grandchildren, and then you can drag out the box of curriculum you’ve been storing in the garage all these years. Then you can encourage the next generation as they transition through life.

Questions to Ask…

Questions to Ask…

A mentor of mine encouraged me to constantly ask myself the following questions. They have been valuable to me and I hope they are valuable to you. Here they are:

  • Who am I around?
  • What are they doing to me?
  • What have they got me reading?
  • What have they got me saying?
  • Where do they have me going?
  • What do they have me thinking?
  • What do they have me becoming? (This is the most important question!)

Then ask yourself the question behind these questions: “Is that okay?”



There’s a movie out about me. It’s called 42. Actually, it is not about me, it’s about baseball star Jackie Robinson. I’m turning 42 this week, so that seemed like a nice seque.

I looked back at my family tree recently and noticed that, based upon the age my ancestors have passed away, I am at or past middle age. No one in my family on my side has lived past the age of 84. Basically, I’m halfway done here on the third rock from the sun. Now, I know that it is not for us to know the time or place when our earthly body will cease to exist, and I’m not even the slightest bit worried about it, because I know what lies on the other side.

When I say I don’t worry, I’m talking about my ultimate future. Do I worry day to day? Yes. Should I? No. My Creator and Redeemer has my future in His memory banks. As a dad, I look at my children and wonder about their future. It’s a scary world we live in. We’ve been reminded of that this past week with the events in Boston, MA and West, TX. Dads, I encourage you to speak about these things from an eternal perspective with your family this week. Don’t shy away from the hard topics. Use the opportunity to point out sin. Use the opportunity to point out grace and mercy. Use the opportunity to point your family towards God.

Math Quiz! 42 times 2 equals ??. 84! You got it right! Do I know when I am going to die? No. I could live to be 64 or 94 for all I know. That’s the point isn’t it? I don’t know. Here’s what I do know, from Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord. Yep, I’m stopping right there. If I continue, I’ll probably focus on the rest of the verse – the part that we all tend to focus on. I encourage you to stop and be silent over the first part. Do you believe it? Do you trust it? God knows the thoughts and plans for you. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Dads, as you go through this week with your family, point them to this verse and guide them to the truth in all of it. May your week be filled with the truth and joy of God’s love!

Who Packed Your Parachute?

Who Packed Your Parachute?

Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. On his 76th combat mission, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal.

Years later, Plumb and his wife were enjoying a meal in a restaurant when a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!” “How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.” Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know. Now, Plumb asks people, “Who’s packing your parachute?” Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory-he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, think about and recognize the people who pack your parachute.

Who Knows Best?

Who Knows Best?

It is a fact we all home school for different reasons, and many times our reasons change over the years. No matter the differences, one thing I suspect is the same everywhere – we all are frustrated with the public school system. For the last four-plus years, I have served on a Career and Technical Education (CTE) school board for the county we live in. Most of these programs are taught through the local community college, and students can earn college credit while still in high school. Many home school students in our community take advantage of this program (CAVIAT). I’m on the board for a number of different reasons. If you are interested in why, feel free to contact me directly.

National School Boards Association I’ve attended a few national conferences over the last few years on behalf of the board. One of those opportunities was this past weekend in San Diego, at the National School Boards Association annual conference, and it was eye-opening for me from a home school perspective.

Actual and Direct Threats

One of the sessions at the NSBA was billed as a discussion concerning local control for school boards. It was nothing of the sort. What it turned into was a smack down on anything that didn’t support the public school model. The slides for the session were titled, “Actual and Direct Threats,” and the tenor of the talk told you that these people thought they were at war. Now we all know that we are at war, culturally, and educationally; yet I wasn’t fully aware of the vitriol that exists within the ranks of the education lobby on a national level. The “actual and direct threats,” to the public school system were charter schools, virtual charter schools, school vouchers, and home schooling. When the subject of home schooling came up, it was in the context of home schoolers accessing public school extracurriculars and athletics programs. This was near the end of the presentation and the quote about home schooling was, “There’s not enough time and don’t even get me started.” With the implication being that they would take on the other threats and then deal with home schoolers.

Father Knows Best vs. Big Brother

My family doesn’t long for the days of Robert Young and *Father Knows Best*, we just want the freedom to educate our children in the way we see fit. For our family, that is home education. The National Association of School Boards seems to not agree with me. They believe that, “The public school system is the foundation of the very fabric of our society.” I disagree.

Freedom Under Attack

The freedom to home educate our children is under attack. It is subtle and subversive. The most public attack has started with the Romeike family and I suspect attacks on our home education choices will become more frequent.

Know the Law, Stand your Ground

I encourage you – today – to find, read, know, and understand the laws that pertain to home education in your state. Find out what legislation is pending regarding education as a whole in your state, not just home education. Does Father Know Best or will Big Brother tell you what to do?

Educating the Borg Way

Educating the Borg Way

Those of us who home school do so for a multitude of different reasons, and rightly so. The freedom we enjoy as Americans is under assault by those who would ask “tolerance” from you, yet decry your right to hold an opinion or belief other than that of their “tolerant” crowd.

Did you hear the words spoken by Melissa Harris-Perry, Tulane University professor and MSNBC weekend host earlier this week? If you haven’t, here they are:

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we have this private notion of children. ‘Your kid is yours, and totally your responsibility.’ We haven’t had a very collective notion of ‘these are our children.’ So part of it is to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. – Melissa Harris-Perry

What she seems to be saying is that your kids are not your own, that they are the property of the whole community, or collective. On its face, this was shocking. Here was an individual telling me that the idea that kids belong to their parents is wrong. Yet what is even more shocking is the relative ease with which this was pushed out, as though this is the next natural step in the evolution of America.

Melissa Harris-Perry’s use of the word “collective” got me to thinking about the obvious cultural reference of the word, the Borg from the sci-fi series, Star Trek. If you are not familiar with the Borg, here is a brief primer. The Borg in Star Trek world refers to an alien race who function as drones of the Collective, which is run by a queen. The Borg’s ultimate goal is to assimilate all other species into their way of thinking and doing, each giving up their individuality and beliefs in the process. The Borg generally destroy everything in their path on their way to dominating the universe. As I said at the beginning, all of us home school for different reasons. None of us want to be a part of the “collective.” Now, do we share thoughts and ideas and form co-ops and help one another? Sure we do! That is what the idea of helping one another is all about. Yet I do not abdicate the raising of my children to you, or to a group of my friends. My children are my responsibility. I encourage you today to be wary of radical ideas couched in comfortable language. Be diligent, be on the lookout, be prepared to defend your family from the “collective.”

Something Into Nothing

Something Into Nothing

Do you remember what you were doing three months ago? Do you remember what you were doing three days ago? Some of you might not remember three minutes ago! When we stop and look back at a certain period of time, memories flood the mind, sounds and smells bring back feelings and emotions, and you realize that whatever you’re recalling really wasn’t that long ago – no matter how much time has passed. That’s where I am today. With the launching of My Home School Grades, the idea that was nothing ninety days ago is now something. An idea in my head, spoken with words across a table covered with chicken wings in a local restaurant, has been transformed into a stable, working platform that will serve home school families for years to come.

When I started to share the concept for My Home School Grades with Jordan, MHSG’s developer, I had no idea the ground work that had been laid for a project like this. As Jordan and I dove into the details, it became clear that we each shared the vision of what My Home School Grades could become. What you see in our launch offering is just a small portion of the plans we have. Home school families have so many unique and inspiring stories to tell. How we educate our children is just one of them. My Home School Grades is here to help home school families share the story of their children’s education and activities. This is just the starting point. You’ll see us break new ground in the coming months with what we have to offer. When we look back, it won’t seem that far off at all. I invite you to join us on the journey.



This afternoon my family was afforded the opportunity to clip in and experience the thrill of the new Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course at Ft. Tuthill in Flagstaff. Ryan and I tackled the Blue, Green, Red & Black adult courses, while Ashleigh conquered the kids course (just an inch short of being able to do the adult course). Carrie captured the afternoon with the camera.

When we arrived we were greeted by friendly staff in the metal office located inside the kids course. We had made reservations, so they were expecting us. After turning in our liability waivers, the staff attached our wristbands and issued us our harnesses. After getting rigged up, we were taken through a short but informative training session on how to properly traverse the elements, clip in and out of the safety cables, and how not to get our fingers ripped off in the zip line. At the end of the training session, we jumped on the three element training course so the safety folks could make sure we knew what we were doing.
Now it was time to head out! Ashleigh “No Fear” Echols jumped right onto the yellow (kid’s) course. This is a shorter version of the adult courses with many of the same elements. At about 6-12 feet off the ground, this is a great way to get kids excited about the Extreme Adventure Course. Ashleigh took over and mastered the yellow course in record time. Kids get to run through the course three times for the entry fee.

The only real difference between the kids course and the first two courses is the number of elements (many are the same), and of course, the height. The way the course is constructed, you could be 6 feet or 60 feet off the ground and still feel safe.
Ryan and I headed up the ladder to the green course to start our journey. Now we’ve done a few challenge courses with the Boy Scouts. With the BSA, the challenge courses are focused on individual challenges and personal individual accomplishments. With the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, although many of the elements are similar as a BSA challenge course, I found that doing the course together was much more fun than tackling it on your own. The green course is plain and simple, just a fun journey through the trees at Ft. Tuthill. Simple elements that don’t tax you. The green course is the start of more than a mile in the trees if you complete all four courses.

The Warranty Has Expired

The Warranty Has Expired

So it will have been nine months tomorrow since the big 4-0.  I was not sure what 40 would look like or feel like for me.  I have never been accused of looking older than I am – quite the opposite – many times people have guessed that I am 5-7 years younger than I am.  As for the feel like – well, let’s just say that I actually used the Icy Hot I received as a “joke” gift for my 40th within a week after receiving it.

Since turning 40, I have had a fairly severe case of Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot, along with a very tight IT band issue in the left leg (the IT band was helped by a very sharp elbow on a great massage therapist – thanks Anna Beth!).  Note – the right side of my body is doing just fine.  Glad I‘m a Republican.

This 40th year has been an adventure.  I embarked on a 10 day backpacking journey with my son’s scout troop this past summer to the Sierra Nevada’s.  Needless to say I was a little apprehensive about the trip and my ability to lug 45 pounds over 32 miles.  One of my good friends who planned the hike believes that anything under a 6% grade is “flat.”  I beg to differ.  Up is up, no matter how steep.

I weathered the trip with no problems…not falling or injuring myself until literally the last few steps of the trip…in the I was carrying a pizza up the concrete steps.  Yep – it hurt – the shin – the ego – everything.

A few more scout trips during the fall were just fine and dandy…and then the refereeing kicked in.  As you can read in a previous post, the first night was not pretty from the mental aspect.  The physical side – just fine – until that first game I mentioned.

Just into the start of the 2nd half of my first official paying game as an official…my left calf cramps up.  I can’t run – I can barely walk.  I hobble over to the corner of the court where another set of officials is watching the action – this being opening night and all.  Within a few minutes one of them had relieved me.  I limped over and started to stretch.  Eventually coming back for the fourth quarter.  Embarrassed doesn’t really begin to describe it.

So that coupled with the plantar fasciitis has made for a rough few months.  I found a fantastic stretch for the PF issue (go buy the $25 book on Amazon) that has allowed the situation to steadily get better.

Then came last Friday and an opportunity for my son and a friend of his to earn some money for Troop 33’s excursion to Emerald Bay Scout Camp on Catalina Island this summer.  As we were out completing the work, I took a step – a normal step – and hyper-extend my left knee (see a pattern here?).  Immediate internal swelling – immediate pain – immediate drive home to ice the knee.  Two Aleve with an Advil chaser seemed to help.

It is now Sunday night, just over 48 hours since the incident.  The knee is much better and I think I am good to go for the games I have on Monday.

All this to say, I think women have the right idea when it comes to these milestone birthdays, “39 and holding,” or “the 3rd anniversary of my 29th year.”  I believe they are on to something.

As I shared my woes with a fellow referee, his words of advice were, “Keep on plugging away, John.”  I plan to, I also plan to keep a healthy supply of OTC pain relievers and Icy Hot in my travel bag.

Life in the Fast Lane

Life in the Fast Lane

I began my official career as a basketball referee tonight. Now I have worn the stripes for a year or two now, tweeting the whistle for the Upward basketball league (Kindergarten – 8th grade). This year I decided to make the jump to high school basketball.

Not totally settled on what prodded me into this – maybe this is my 40 year old crisis – maybe the crisis around the belly – or maybe the fact that the stripes are vertical and, for at least a few months, I’ll look thinner.

I’ve been known to heckle and prod referee’s during my younger days, learning the ropes from my friend Matt (I’ll leave his last name out to spare his reputation – because he does have a family) as we watched many a West Texas A&M (oh, how I hate writing the A&M part) Buffalo basketball game at the Amarillo Civic Center (then there’s the story of Matt, me and one of the Bourn brothers, an ill timed gesture…and a beer gone astray, but we’ll save that for later – or maybe never).

For the last month, I’ve been sitting in referee school two nights a week reading through the rule book (did you know there is no “over the back” call?). I’ve also been whistling a few junior high games on the weekends. I though I was progressing along fairly well – until tonight.

Allow me to set the scene – Coconino vs. Tuba City – Varsity girls scrimmage – Flagstaff, AZ. I’m styling, or at least my daughter says so, got the zebra shirt with the tuxedo pants (yep, that’s basically what they are), the black socks, the “holy smokes that’s a loud whistle!” whistle, and of course, the black shoes. To top it all off, or more appropriately, bottom it off, black, well, you get the idea. That was a little tip from some veterans warning me about the hazards of contrasting colors if your tuxedo pants rip in an unfortunate place during the game (cue the wedding video from 1992 and see the sock and pants comment above – another story about contrast from another century). I think a roll of black duct tape is going in my travel bag.

So the scrimmage tonight was 6 quarters, 8 minutes each, with a running clock. If you were lucky enough to be playing Pictionary tonight with family and friends and the phrase you received to draw was, “Deer in the Headlights,” then all you would have had to do was draw me. I’m not sure I blew my whistle until about 4 minutes into the quarter, and that was only to bring the subs in, and my veteran ref shares with the crowd that I should blow my whistle stronger. Now to be fair, all of the veteran officials have been a tremendous blessing to me and have been a blast to work with. The phrase just came out at a quiet moment during the game, and everybody pegged me at that point…if they already handn’t…as a rookie ref.

I went from driving a 2 door Yugo (the 4 door version is a Wego) to a finely tuned Mustang in the span of a week. Junior High boys to Varsity girls is like going from the Illinois State Senate to the Presidency, looking around the White House and going, “How did I get here and what do I do now?” (Yep, I went there). Good thing for me that I have some fantastic veteran ref’s guiding this journey. All he has is a Teleprompter.

I refereed three quarters (1, 3 & 6) and by the end of the sixth I was just starting to get comfortable…and like so many things in life, the scrimmage was then over. I’ve been asked how I am doing and my response is, “Ask me in ten games.” Refereeing is one of the only true gigs that really exemplifies the “on the job training” mantra. Sure, I watch college basketball now from a different perspective, but you don’t get better at this by just watching others. You have to go out there and blow the whistle and make the call. That means getting on the floor as often as possible. It means taking the commitment seriously. It means knowing your place and making the best call you can based upon what you see.

The veteran ref’s ask us newbies to focus on one or two items per game to work on. Right now for me, I’ve got to slow down…slow.way.down when I make a call. Then report it to the scorer’s table. And…I’ve got to trust my deodorant (you have to raise the hand for every whistle – open hand for a violation…closed hand for a foul).

I’ve got the weekend to think about things…as I’m rock climbing and rappelling on South Mountain in Phoenix…before I referee a game on Monday and one on Tuesday. These count…no more scrimmages. No more deer in the headlights. Time to get in the driver’s seat and buckle up tight, because it only gets faster from here. Stay tuned folks…to quote Sammy…I Can’t Drive 55.