Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I'm at work for a short day, then off for a short trip in the Boundary Waters. My paddling friend was mostly packed two weeks ago. I started putting it all together last night. Today I pack my clothes, my gear, my overnight bag for the motel out, my share of the food. Okay, everything. But I've got most of it ready and laid out in the den.

I get anxious the day or two before I take a trip, lists running through my mind, so I was up a few times last night. At midnight, I heard Tim downstairs playing a video game. At 2:30 a.m. he was up and in the bathroom. I knocked on the door and told him he shouldn't stay up so late and to get to bed.

I suspect he's a little anxious and full of anticipation, too. His first intra-squad football scrimmage is today, that kind of showcase where coaches can see how it's all fitting together and who is up for the call to Varsity and who's not. Tim was really tired last night at dinner; had given it his all during yesterday's practice. This afternoon the boys will have team pictures at 3, practice, a meeting, and then a team scrimmage at 5:30, followed by a family BBQ. It's a beautiful St. Paul day. 62 degrees when I drove in; temps not expected to rise above 75. I'm hoping to be all packed, free and easy, and ready to take in the preseason show.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday, a day of rest

Relaxing on a Sunday, combing the sports pages

Did you read Ruth Riechl's Sunday routine highlighted in today's New York Times? Now that's my kind of Sunday. Except I'd rather not do all that cooking. Nonetheless, Ken and I do cook quite a bit on Sundays, and often the morning starts with a big, wonderful breakfast. Ken makes a great from-scratch buttermilk biscuit and that will be the cornerstone to fried eggs and bacon, or sausage omelets, or eggs, potatoes, and gravy. Megan and Tim LOVE these Sunday morning breakfasts. They call about them; they write others about them; they plan their social lives around them.

But this morning, Ken has left the house early for a trip to Cabela's in Owatonna--to return a cot he bought and to buy me new rain paints for my BWCA trip--and Tim is still sleeping. Tim got together for a bonfire with friends until midnight last night and tomorrow is week 2 of football practice, so I'm glad he's still sleeping. Plus, it opens up the living room for me where I can watch Almanac and read the newspapers online, without complaint.

We'll make a big dinner, maybe grill something (last week we grilled an organic chicken with thyme and sage), and finish up our laundry and preparations for the week (lunch supplies in order, bills to pay, compare our schedules). I hear the Vikings have an exhibition game on TV tonight; we'll watch that (I'll watch only until Mad Men is on!).

Friday football ended with a watermelon feed for the boys. Tim came home and said there was bad news. One of his teammates broke his ankle and ripped three ligaments during a drill. Kid's out for the year. The player works hard at football and gives it his all in practice and games and I feel for him, having a chance to make varsity and then having to sit out his junior year. Plus, the injury sounds bad, especially the torn ligaments, which could cause him a lot of problems beyond high school.

The news came a day after Percy Harvin's collapse on the Vikings practice field. Football is a dangerous sport. It's not easy to be a parent of a football player and not feel conflicted about this. At dinner Friday night, as Tim ate with his elbows on the table (a kid takes home the manners of the school lunchroom), I could see that his forearms were bruised from wrist to elbow, on both arms. He had deep scratches on both arms as well, from helmets, he thought. And they haven't even faced an opponent yet. Some people ask me which is worse: hockey or football? I don't know, the potential for serious injury--and the rules that accompany each of these sports--is probably equally dangerous. The part I'm most worried about is the head, however, and football seems to be the leader in head injuries. Reports last week reported whether Lou Gehrig might have died from injuries related to repeated concussions rather than from ALS.

But I can see a new confidence in Tim this week. He speaks with pride about what he's learning in pre-season and he can't wait for the first game in a few weeks. He's been involved in both defense (as middle linebacker) and in offense (as guard) in the last few days. He'll take whatever role they give him. When I asked if he was sore, he said he was, but in a good way. When I asked if he knew all the plays, he said he knew the defense pretty well (from last year) but not the offense, so he'd have to study the playbook.

Ken called me from the car on Friday and I asked him where he was. He said he was in the area (of Tim's school, which is a few blocks from our house) and thought he'd stop home, grab his lunch, and spend 10 or 15 minutes at the practice field watching the boys. Then he called later in the afternoon and I asked again where he was. He said though he stopped home in the morning to get his lunch, he got distracted and forgot it, so he returned back to eat it, and then took another 10-15 minutes to watch more of practice. Guy cracks me up.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2 days 'til Saturday

Boys practice in full pads today.

Extra chocolate milk is in the fridge. A study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that plain chocolate milk is as good--or better--than sports drinks like Gatorade at helping athletes recover from strenuous exercise.
Last night Tim made himself a Digiorno pepperoni pizza, then loaded the top with fresh mozzarella and hot Italian sausage. He said it was a pizza made for a fork.

Read an interesting story about the Vikings accommodating better their safety Husain Abdullah during his observance of Ramadan.
Last year, Coach Childress said, he shouldered the fast by himself.

I had to drop off a check at the school and so swung by the practice field and saw all the players going through offensive drills. Some of those O-Men looking mighty big. I was just saying that I could have brought a worry stone to the dentist yesterday; I got a little anxious about them poking around a sore tooth. If Tim makes varsity and plays against these lumbering boys I'm going to need a worry stone at games, too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aches and Pains

This morning we three each felt a few aches and pains. Ken's left knee hurt because of all the house chores he did this weekend. His right knee has been replaced with titanium so it hardly hurts anymore. He can't kneel on that knee though so all the kneeling he had to do (installing washer and dryer, trimming grass) was on his left--hence the hurt.

My right foot is tender and sore. I dropped my laptop on the top of my bare foot. I've now developed a bundle of nerves in the tissue between those bones in what's called Morton's Neuroma. Makes it sound like a movie starring John Cusack.

After a full day of football practice, Tim's ankle, thighs, hips, and back were sore. Ken and I got to go to the office to sit for a spell. Tim had to go back to another day of two-a-days.

After practice yesterday Tim and some teammates went swimming at a friend's above-ground pool ("fits 8 comfortably"), watched a few episodes of Entourage, and ate dinner at Cleveland Wok. Doesn't sound too shabby to me. I, on the other hand, worked 'til five, pulled weeds in the garden, and had frozen pizza with the hubby.

All summer I've given Tim a small chore list during the week, nudges for him to do things like empty the trash, put away clean dishes, and mow the lawn. I noticed in his gym bag last night that he had grabbed the notebook in which I wrote him these notes and the first two pages have marked in black Sharpie: "Tim, wash dishes before I get home." Or, "Hi Tim, there are leftovers in the fridge and please also mow the lawn. Do a good job, okay?" Annoying, annoying, I see how annoying these are now. He'll use this 3-ring notebook to write down plays and such from his football meetings. I bet he keeps 'em just to get him fired up for football drills.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I never had to do two-a-days. I did work three jobs during the summer between my junior and senior years in college and on a few crazy days put in back-to-back shifts on all three in one day. I was Parks and Rec youth guide and a waitress at a hotel restaurant, and for a few weeks each month, a gymnastics and dance instructor for the same Parks and Rec division. But that's not the same.

I was a dancer for much of my youth and took both modern and ballet classes for a number of years. The hardest workouts were when I danced at the University of North Dakota as a 16-year-old. I also ran track and played basketball in high school. The track coach at the time didn't trust us girls to run our requisite four miles each day in the first month of training and so she'd take us in a van out to the "fourth-mile" on a country road and then tell us to meet her at the track for the next stage.

I also played hockey for a short while and I do clearly remember the grueling hours we girl hockey players were assigned for ice time (back in 1976). We carpooled, in the deep-freeze of northern Minnesota winter, to get to the rink and on the ice by 5:30 a.m. Ladies' Night Out, I guess, it still being dark and all.

Tim is trying out for his high school varsity football team. Fall practice opened today with a 7 a.m. (sharp!) meeting. The practice times this week are 7:30 to 2:45. Today and tomorrow they wear shorts, tees, cleats, and helmets only. Players are advised to pack their lunches in coolers and bring foldable chairs for meetings and film reviews.

This weekend we helped him get prepared. Bought all kinds of fixings for his lunches. Gave him the $21 for the team-required practice stuff from school. Bought a high-end girdle and some quick-dry practice shirts from Dick's: $91.00. (I asked him why he needs new shirts for football practice when we have a gazillion old t-shirts available at home and he told me the ones we had were too hot and too big for a day of practice. Okay. I buy that.) Ken set the alarm for 5:15 and made himself and Tim turkey sandwiches. He had cleaned out our empty Gatorade bottles, filled them with water, and stuck them in the freezer Sunday night. That way the bottles can keep the lunch cold in the cooler and Tim can drink from them by the end of the day.

Tim has his own car now so he got himself up, had a toaster waffle and some milk, and headed out the door with his cooler and his gym bag at 6:45 a.m.

In solidarity, I did 50 crunches and 5 push-ups before work this morning.

He's a linebacker and will be working to make the starting squad on a pretty competitive team. There is also the option of making second team or playing junior varsity. Last year he started for his 10th grade team, played some junior varsity, and suited up for varsity. He's been working out all summer and also worked the high school camp for younger kids, so he's definitely prepared for today.

I got the first two seasons of Friday Night Lights at the library Saturday and we all watched many of the Season 1 episodes over the weekend. Now there's a hyped-up phenomenon: Texas high school football. I was encouraged to see that the women of the series--by the end of the season--started to have more substantial roles and better character development beyond cheerleading and girlfriends who do or don't have sex. I was pretty fascinated with all the context the show's creators brought into the show: the pressure by the townsfolks, the dynamics during practice and on game days, the toll such competition takes on families.

More as documentation of something I find really compelling (because I was an athlete, because I still know so little about football and the systems that keep it a national pasttime) and less because I'm a fawning helicopter mom, I want to post a few summaries on practice and try-outs for the next month or so. Bear with me or visit again in October!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Getting by

"Suicide" has barged into my life three times in the last month. Too much for my psyche. My good friend's brother committed suicide and my friend worried about her elderly parents' ability to cope. One of our Press writers lost her sister to suicide and our writer was next of kin and had to attend first to the funeral service and then to an appropriately meaningful memorial service weeks later. Today we learned a former colleague killed himself on Friday, after a lifetime struggling with depression and a summer with additional work stresses.

Today's news stopped me in my tracks. Our editor in chief commented that on days like this it is hard getting by. What other news will we need to cope with? For those of us without the extra burdens of depression, chronic illness, severe poverty, it might seem trivial to say, but we all can be worn down by the coping, the constant coping. And she said it's as if we need to keep our view on the long gaze, keep looking ahead, keep our visions clear to the future. Otherwise, if we look down or too closely, we may stop in our tracks for longer than we hoped. Stop and wonder about this grace of God.