Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesdays in the Comic Shop with Matt

When it comes to transitions, things can get pretty stressful. Transition to a new job, transition to a marriage or family, or transition to a new place makes people nervous, worried, and fearful. But if there's a constant presence around, that can make a transition a lot easier.

When I went up to spend high school in Saginaw, Michigan, it was a huge transition for me. It's not terribly common for a high school student to board, and unlike my other siblings, I was probably not as prepared mentally for it as they were.

I made friends pretty quickly and got involved in extracurriculars, but there was still moments of homesickness, stress, nerves, worries, and fears. But I had a secret weapon; a solution to the problems that come with transition:

My older brother, Matt.

I was a freshman when he was a senior, and when it came to being a senior, he was a Senior. He did everything: football, choir, show choir, theater, and just plain hanging out with a tight group of friends. It was cool to see him in his element.

But he was very supportive of me, too. He listened to me as I complained about transition stuff and helped me out when I needed advice or assistance on homework.

The biggest thing he did, though, was take me to the comic book shop on Wednesdays.

We both were becoming big comic fans around the same time, and we shared a love of DC Comics. In the year 2000, DC Comics were at a creative height. The 1990s had been good to DC, emerging from the giant Crisis on Infinite Earths arc from the 1980s to produce some amazing comics. The Batman comics themselves were wonderful to read, from the original Detective Comics to Nightwing and Robin, my personal favorites. And there was the best comic series around, Young Justice, which had an amazing script and the best inkwork of any comic. (I should know - I own a Todd Nauck original!)

A man at church, Tom, lent us a gigantic amount of his trade paperbacks in those months, and we gobbled them up. Most of them, of course, were Batman comics, but there were a few JLA and crossover trades sprinkled around here and there.

Our peak comic purchasing came during a major event in the Batman universe called Batman: No Man's Land, which lasted for an entire year, finally ending in March of 2000. Every month a few new comics would be released that were related to that event, and we got almost all of them. A novelization came out a year or two later, and I bought that, too! We really got into how everything was shaping up in the Batverse, but I think both of us were relieved when the story was finally done and we could turn to some other plotline for a while.

It just so happened that in Saginaw there was a comic book shop named Shorty's Three Cs (Comics, Cards, and Collectibles) just a few blocks down the road from MLS. It was across from Tony's restaurant where Bay Road met up with State Street and run by a very nice guy who greeted us whenever we showed up.

We ended up making it a habit to meet up on Wednesdays around 4 to walk down to the comics shop together. (Wednesdays are the release day for new comics, if you're not in the know.) Even if we couldn't fit in any other time to get together, we could rely on those hourlong walks to chat and catch up on what the other person was doing. Most of the time, we talked about the comics.

When we were kids, there was a lot of sibling arguing, posturing, and fighting, as siblings are wont to do. Matt and I were no different. When Matt went up to MLS without the rest of us, that dynamic changed to one where I missed having him around. It wasn't much fun being the older sibling in the house.

Being reunited at MLS for one year made our sibling relationship entirely different. Instead of being brother and sister, we actually got to be friends. We joked around and had serious discussions and shared important details with each other.

I know that Matt looks back on those Wednesday afternoons with fondness, as I do. It wasn't just about comics for either of us. It was a chance to grow up and transition with an older brother helping me out. It was an opportunity to get to know each other better, even though I've known him my whole life and he's known me for most of his. And it was a great way to solidify a great relationship that lasts to this day.

I visited Matt back in September in his new home near San Francisco. We went out to eat, viewed some touristy attractions, and watched a bunch of YouTube videos.

But do you know what we ended up doing, almost out of habit?

We checked out the comic shop.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Serenity. Courage. Wisdom. God.

I have a prayer cube that was given to me by a student a few years ago. I routinely give it to one of my students at the end of our day. She or he rolls it and reads whichever prayer faces up.

One of those prayers happens to be the Serenity Prayer, commonly known as the prayer used by the group Alcoholics Anonymous. It ended up being the prayer my classroom used yesterday, November 9, and while I’ve heard it prayed quite a few times over the past few years, it really struck me that day.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

It is commonly attributed to a German American named Reinhold Niebhur and showed up in publications in the 1930s before being adopted by A.A. Longer versions of it are available, but the one that is on posters and commemorative stones and yes, even prayer cubes is the shorter version.
I think it is a good prayer to think about right now. Let’s break it down.

God,


Yup, we’re going to stop there first. So much of the world is distraught at recent events like the US Presidential Election. People are fearful that their rights and freedoms are going to be taken away from them. So where do we turn when it seems like those who we trust to run our government are failing us?

That answer is easy: God. Actually, that is the answer even if it seems like those who we trust to run our government are succeeding! God should always be at the forefront of everything we do. He is in control. We ask for help doing the things in our lives, but God has the workings of the universe in his hands.

grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,


“Serenity” means “the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.”

How many people that you know are serene right now? Not as many as there were on Monday, that’s for sure.

But we pray to God here that he keeps us calm, knowing that his wisdom is best. We hear that in Matthew 6, when it says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

What has happened in our election has happened. God has a plan for this. Trust him.

the courage to change the things I can,


No one owns a time machine at this point, so the change that we are looking to is ahead, not behind. What can we do?

If you didn’t vote, that’s the first change to make. It looks like around 45% of Americans who could have voted decided not to. Even though social media, television, and celebrities galore encouraged us to vote, people still stayed home. That is something that can’t happen. People who live in this country need to fulfill their civic duty and make their voice heard in government.

While our next major election is in two years, there still can be changes made immediately. Instead of trolling the Internet and lambasting the opposing opinion over their pigheadedness or stupidity, take care to look at the whatever is being discussed critically.

My classroom just read a Time For Kids article all about teaching children news literacy, where we think critically about articles in newspapers, magazines, and online. I could have spent five minutes talking about it; we ended up discussing it for 45 minutes and did an accompanying worksheet. I want my students to grow up to be intelligent adults who use their brains before they use their mouths.

We also need to make sure to show love to all our neighbors. (ALL.) Jesus set such a good example of showing love to everyone he met, no matter who they were or what they had done in the past. He didn’t accept their sins, though - he preached the law and gospel to them with love in his heart, and a yearning to see all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Who are we if we don’t strive to do the same? Will looking down at someone or being cruel to someone for their beliefs solve anything? Will their souls be saved that way?

and the wisdom to know the difference.


We need to understand when we can take a stand and when we can be content. Most of the time, it is encouraging people to act when they are happy to just sit back and be content. It can be difficult to get moving, but once a person starts to move, it’s hard for them to stop!

But when it comes to the opposite, it is important to bring God in. We can make as much noise as we want, but we can also sit and say, “God’s got this.” It’s like when you’re in a fight with a grade school bully and your high school-age brother who’s on the football team shows up. If he’s going to resolve the fight, who are we to get in the way?


I end up praying this prayer many times over the school year thanks to the (literal) roll of the die, and every time I make sure to take it to heart. God can help us see serenity, courage, and wisdom. God can assist us in all our troubles. God is in control of everything. Everything! God will be with you wherever you go and help you in whatever you do.

Trust his will. Take a stand. Serenity. Courage. Wisdom. God.

GOD, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,

Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.

That I may be reasonably happy
in this life, and supremely
happy with Him forever in
the next.

Amen


*one verse was removed from the original Serenity prayer for use in this article due to its leaning toward decision theology. To see the entire prayer, click here.

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Better at the Big House

On Saturday I got to enjoy some time with my father doing one of our longest and most fun tradition: visiting Michigan Stadium and watching a football game!

Watching a Michigan game is fun, but in my opinion, the best parts of the game aren't the 60 minutes that take place between two endzones. While that is still a lot of fun, going to a Michigan football game is all about the atmosphere before, during, and after the game.

Our game on Saturday wasn't very exciting, but that didn't matter. I was just glad to be back at the Big House!

Parking

Michigan Stadium doesn't have a giant parking lot for games, so most people have to park on the streets and lawns of the surrounding neighborhood. I am quite familiar with the area around the Stadium - I pass by there whenever I attend one of our churches. Normally, it's a pretty quiet neighborhood, but on football Saturdays, the area is completely different.

Pauline Boulevard, where the church is located, is clogged with cars going down the main street and weaving around the surrounding streets to find a place to park. My dad and I used to park at the church for free, but now they have pay parking, so on Saturday we parked about 100 yards away on the street.

Parking over here is perfect for us; we have easy access from where we live, and when we leave, we barely hit Stadium traffic that is spilling out.

Tailgating

The tailgating parties start almost after we turn the corner from our parking spot. People around here don't treat tailgating as a fun party - instead, they treat it as a way of life! Even though this wasn't a high-profile game, there were still lots of front lawns, porches, and driveways full of tables laden with Wolverine-themed food, drink, cutlery, plates, cups, and more.

Something that I've added to my dad's and my trips to Michigan Stadium is our travels through what I call Tailgate Row. The parking lot that Michigan Stadium shares with Crisler Center has a lot of cars, vans, and trucks dedicated to hours-long parties. I love seeing the kitchy stuff that people bring along to celebrate their love of Michigan football. And sometimes, just the vehicle is enough to incite excitement among Michigan fans!

Weather


My favorite kind of football weather was exactly the weather we got on Saturday. Too early in the season and you're roasting, and by the Ohio State game you need 6-7 layers.

Saturday was in the 50s and nice and sunny. By the time of kickoff (3:30) the sun was behind the stadium wall where we sat. I needed an athletic long-sleeved shirt, a t-shirt, and a hoodie to keep my torso warm, and at the last minute I'd thought to check my parents' house for a hat. I'm glad I did - it was needed!

However, even with all my layers, I wasn't shivering - that's what mattered the most!

Not only was the temperature and conditions perfect, the trees were nearing or at their peak of colors, as well! The streets were dotted with yellow, orange, and red trees, which just added to the wonderful feeling.

Stadium Atmosphere

We got into the stadium very early, and we walked around the stadium first, taking in everything. We went into one of the M Den stores and looked around before it got too busy. I did some winter hat shopping, since I'd lost my beloved Michigan-tassel hat in an unfortunate parking lot incident a few years ago. (The incident being that it dropped out of my coat pocket when I was walking in a parking lot.)

I love the new constructed areas that opened a few years ago which enclose the longer sides of the Stadium. They've got plaques dedicated to the national champions as well as All Americans. All the counties of Michigan have their own signs (though we tried and failed to find my current Michigan county).

There are food stations wherever you look - most of which are pretty overpriced. (It's kind of like being at Walt Disney World!) Dad and I each bought a pretty decent-sized bag of chocolate covered peanuts for $6, and that's all we spent. (I usually save those for Michigan hockey games, but was in the mood for it today.)

At each corner of the Stadium is something cool. Over by Crisler Center is the Ring of Champions, where each pillar shows the Michigan sports teams and the years that they won the Big Ten, Regional, or National Championship. Another corner boasts the Memorial Eagle, dedicated in 1950 to the men and women of U-M that have died in wars. And over by the Pauline Blvd entrance is my favorite corner, because many years back my family got together and purchased a brick in the walkway to honor my dad. It's still there, and doesn't have any cracks in it or anything. It's fun to find it!

The Pregame

Once we found our seats we had an hour to sit back and watch the players warm up. We were where the Illinois players were warming up, and it was quite comical. When they were doing passing-and-catching drills, we saw 6 out of 7 Illini receivers drop the ball!

It was Homecoming last weekend, so we got to enjoy a huge Alumni band show off their stuff before the Real Deal entered the Stadium. I have been to quite a few homecomings in the past, and I've never seen an Alumni band this big!

But my favorite part of a Michigan game is watching the Michigan Marching Band take the field. They enter so quickly, all of them high-stepping onto the grass without a hint of hesitation. And there's over 230 members and they race on as fast as possible! The drum major then steps out, and the tradition is that he/she bends backwards till the plume of his/her cap touches the grass. Nowadays, though, the drum major takes off the cap and bends until his/her head touches the grass - and then gets right back up! This year was no different - she was great!

After the band warms everyone up with a rousing version of "The Victors," the M Go Blue sign is put up and the football players march through!

Halftime

The Michigan Marching Band came out with a program featuring a bunch of contemporary (i.e. the last 50 years) songs that feature four main chords: the I, IV, vi, and V. It was nice - someday I'd like to see them go crazy, like (dare I say it?) the OSU Marching Band. (Seriously, their routines are crazy!)

However, it was Homecoming, so their routine was a bit short so they could get the Alumni band out there again and do some of the classics like "Maize and Blue," "Temptation," and "The Hawaiian War Chant." Those were fun to hear; Dad has a Marching Band CD with those on it, and I learned those songs from that.

Second Half

The Blues Brothers. There's choreography to it and everything! I first learned it at Michigan hockey games, but now I recognize it at basketball and football games, too. (Actually, I'd forgotten that they used to do that song on the field in a tight circle, and got faster and faster! I'd love to see that again.)
Some people would say that The University of Wisconsin's "Jump Around" to start the 4th quarter is the best, and I would begrudgingly agree. But I personally adore Michigan's use of the Otis Redding hit "I Can't Turn You Loose" from

Postgame

After the game it can sometimes be hard to exit the stadium, but considering how far ahead Michigan was at halftime, quite a few people were leaving even at the start of the third quarter. The couple next to me and the people in front of me were all gone by the time I returned to my seat in the 3rd quarter. It didn't take us long at all to get out of the Stadium.

As you get further from the Stadium, the crowds start to dwindle and go their separate ways, until you kind of feel a sense of normalcy again. By the time we got to our car, it kind of felt like an average October Saturday again.

Home Again

On a crisp fall football Saturday, it's always wonderful to arrive home to the smell of something hot. In my case, it's gotta be some sort of soup, stew, or chili. I'd asked my mother to make her famous Beef Stew for our postgame meal, and it was the perfect way to end the day. Any lingering chill was eliminated after the first bite, but the delicious taste remained!


I love Michigan football Saturdays, and I look forward to doing a few more now that I'm closer to home!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rooted Colorado: WELS Young Adults

When you enter a WELS church, what would you say is the group demographic that you see the most? Would it be the families with small children? Would it be the seniors ages 55 and older? Or would it be a group somewhere in between?

Churches often struggle to keep members that are entering their 20s and 30s. These men and women are graduating college, moving out of the home, and beginning their careers. In the midst of all this transition and change, a foundation based on church life might be lacking.

The unfortunate statistics about Millennials and church attendance are no secret. According to a 2014 Religious Landscape Study conducted by the Pew Research Center, about four-in-ten Millennials (adults born between 1981 and 1996) consider religion to be very important in their lives (compared to every other demographic, which were over 50%), and only 28% attend religious services at least once a week. About that same amount are active in a religious group.*

It is very important for young Christians to feel a sense of belonging in their congregations. But so often, young adults are few and far between. Many are not making church a priority, and those that go to services tend to find themselves without many in their age group. Even many church events are targeted toward families or older members of the congregation.

So how does a church body bring in those young adults, and allow them to continue their study of God's Word in a welcoming environment?

The answer in Colorado was simple: create a group! Rooted was created in 2011 by several young people from neighboring WELS churches in Colorado, including Dan Kleist and James Free of Fort Collins. According to Kleist, “When we [the young adult group at St. Peter’s Fort Collins] heard of a young adults group forming in Zion, Denver, we decided to get together after the area Reformation service and invite young adults from the surrounding congregations to join us as well. We've been meeting ever since!”

There was a need for people in their 20s and 30s to come together for fun and fellowship. While it might be difficult for a single church to attempt to bolster their young people activities, the idea was made easier by combining the churches in the greater Front Range area. "Most Colorado congregations have too few young adults without children to create social groups with just their own members," says Free.

Lorraine Alff, who lives in Castle Rock, shares that sentiment. "It provides an opportunity for people in the same stage of life to gather around God's word in unique places."

The first gathering was just food and games, but it was clear that these Coloradans were looking to enjoy the great outdoors with each other as well. Events included ice skating, skiing, hiking, and camping. But each time an event took place, there was a special emphasis on studying God's Word.

"[A benefit has been] having 20+ people take serious time out of their lives to meet and then having them voluntarily express afterwards that they really appreciated the Bible study," Free says. It doesn't matter if you bring the Bible in book form or downloaded on your phone!

Now Rooted meets once a month, with a different Colorado congregation serving as host each time. They start with a Bible study, followed by a special activity, ranging from disc golf and beach volleyball to bowling and movies. Interspersed between these regular monthly gatherings are other big events, like concerts, camping trips, or the now-annual February ski weekend at Grand Lake.

Bible studies are usually conducted by the host congregation's pastor, covering a wealth of in-depth topics, like evangelizing, homosexuality, atheism, judgment, and marriage. It is encouraging to discuss these topics with people who have experienced current events and cultural changes at the same point in their lives, but who come at these topics with different perspectives.

Rooted not only creates a community of young Colorado Christians, but it also welcomes new faces to the area. I have heard from many Colorado transplants (myself included) that they knew no one when they first came to Colorado. They moved there for work, school, or family, and didn't have those roots that they'd had in their previous location. But they were invited to a Rooted gathering, and through that group, friendships were created. The welcoming atmosphere of Rooted not only provided them with new friendly roots in a new state, but also strengthened their roots into Christ and his Word.

A great challenge of Rooted and other similar groups is organizing and planning the events. Amy Maurer from Aurora has organized a few events for the Rooted group. “A lot of time and work goes into planning and promoting events. When key organizers grow individually, they take on more roles and commitments with family, work, church, etcetera. We are learning how to delegate these organizational roles so leaders can transition in and out as lives change.”

No matter the leaders or the events, the goal of the group stays the same. The Facebook description for Rooted says, "Our hope is that this group connects WELS Lutherans and their friends from across Colorado's Front Range...God-willing, through these events, we will be able to encourage each other in our daily lives, and more importantly in our walk with God."

The success of the Rooted: Colorado group continues even after people leave the area. As a matter of fact, the Rooted group has a sister group in the Phoenix area, started by Rooted members formerly from Colorado! “We've had a couple vicars who have been involved in the past take interest in offering something similar in the area they've been called to serve,” says Kleist.

Plus, Rooted is not the only group in the WELS targeted toward this demographic. Several groups have started up in the Midwest as of late, including the Watertown (Wisconsin) WELS Mingles Group and the TnT group out of Chicago.

The potential is vast for more regional Rooted-like groups, but good leaders and good organization will help them succeed. Free notes, "Our biggest need is to establish continuity beyond depending on any particular organizer's involvement. This will also create a model that is easier to implement in other parts of the country."

That sentiment is shared by Maurer. “What are the long-term goals for Rooted? Hopefully we will be able to establish a solid organizational structure so Rooted can be enjoyed throughout the WELS for generations to come and grow in their faith.”

In a demographic that usually strays from the church, groups like Rooted are making an effort to encourage young Lutherans in their faith through fellowship and God's Word.

Statistics about the disconnect between Millennials and the church are everywhere. But don’t give up if your congregation is struggling to retain young adults. Maybe they just need a like-minded group to help them stay...rooted.

For more information about Rooted in Colorado, check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/rooted.wels. Be sure to check if your local area has a young adult group!

*Statistic from Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, November 23-December 21, 2010 Social Side of the Internet Survey.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Beware of Mid-October

For the past few years, this time of the year gets me a little jumpy. I get a little more reflective, too. This year especially makes me think of two major events in my life that happened at this time - one from ten years ago, and the other from five.

It's not pre-Halloween jitters or anything (though yes, I do despise the holiday). It's just that past history has taught me to tread on this third weekend of October very lightly, because stuff in the past has taken place that's very much outside my comfort zone.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I was enjoying a nice quiet Saturday at Martin Luther College. I was nearing the end of my Practicum - a four-week student teaching warm-up before I did the real thing in Wisoconsin - and was starting to get excited for a new congregation, school, supervising teacher, and location. (One can only handle rural Minnesota for so long.)

Not only was I excited about that, I was anticipating something I'd never seen in my lifetime - a Detroit Tigers team in the World Series. They were on the cusp, up 3 games to 0 against the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS and playing at home with Jeremy Bonderman on the mound. FOX was going to air the game, which meant I could watch it.

Near the end of the game, I got a phone call. It was from my Practicum supervisor - a Kindergarten teacher in the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop school district. We had a great relationship and she taught me a lot. But what she had to say wasn't good news.

She was calling to tell me that one of our kindergartners had been playing on her playset at home when the playset had crashed down. The resulting injuries she sustained in the accident were too severe, and she had died. That day.

This call stupefied me. After all, I had just seen the girl the day before. She had made some comment with her friend that I just so happened to notice as I walked by her table. And now she was gone.

I proceeded to contact other fellow teachers that I knew in order to get their expertise on such a terrible situation, but they all had the same thing to say: they had never had to experience one of their own students die during the school year.

So how did I deal with the grief? Well, that night at least, I watched the Tigers game. Oakland led early, but Magglio Ordonez hit a walk-off 3-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to send the Tigers to the World Series.

I was elated, but that knowledge of what I was going to have to face on Monday never left my mind. It did sour the happiness a bit.

It's been ten years since that Kindergartner died. She should be a sophomore in high school, but she's not. Instead, I have her funeral service folder in my scrapbook. And whenever I see Ordonez' home run, I think of her.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm not going to mention the full details of this day. They're too painful.

However, I will say that this day really set me on a new path - a better one. Before this day, I was pretty cocky and I needed a good dose of humility. Well, maybe not a dose. Apparently God felt I needed to be fully immersed in humility.

Was it an awful experience? You bet. Did it improve my life in the long run? You bet. Do I still cringe at the mental scars whenever October 15 rolls around? You bet.

The kick in the pants I received allowed me to take a step back and see how I needed to change. Outward circumstances meant it was a lot more harsh than maybe it should have been. But it didn't change the fact that it was needed.

It made me see how my life needed to be, and how I could make myself improve instead of trying to put the blame on others. At the same time, I try my hardest to open the lines of communication instead of being closed off.

And as the years have progressed, I have matured. I build on the past, learn from the mistakes, and make sure to do lots and lots of prayer. Setbacks abound, but my hope is that they seem smaller and smaller in personal impact on my life.

Sorry for being so vague - like I said, there's still some mental scars.


I don't hide under the covers when this weekend rolls around, even though sometimes I wish I could. Eventually I realize that it's a pretty stupid thing to do, and perhaps I should just move forward and enjoy the present.

But when I go to bed in the end, I breathe a little sigh of relief and thank God that I made it through. The rest of the year seems so much more conquerable now that this weekend is over.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pitch: A Pretty Inspiring Show

As soon as I heard about a television show during the May upfronts that was highlighting the first professional women's baseball player in the Major Leagues, I was intrigued. Am I a woman? Yes. Do I enjoy baseball? Very. Have I slowly grown in my feminist and gender equality ideals? Absolutely!

The biggest question, though, wasn't if this show was going to pigeonhole this show as a "woman making it in a man's world" show, or would the characters be so one-dimensional that it would render it unwatchable. No, the biggest question I had was, "How accurate would the baseball be?"

Happily, not only was the baseball action very well done, but the story was great, too.

If you're not familiar with it, Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) has come up through the minors and is making her Major League debut. She has her allies, like her agent (Ali Larter, the one actor I didn't like) the GM (Mark Consuelos) and a longtime teammate (Mo McRae), but she's met with animosity from her battery partner (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) her manager (Dan Lauria) and especially the guy she kicked out of the starting rotation (Ryan Dorsey).

She isn't made out to be a tomboy or a weakling. Essentially, she's what you would see nowadays in professional tennis or basketball: someone who is strong in her abilities and radiates that strength. Her father (Michael Beach) has a lot to do with it, but his constant pressure on her, as well as the pressure (some accidental, some incidental) placed on her by all of America, makes her come apart at the wrong times.

You see flashbacks of her time training with her father, and you see that he's never satisfied with her progress. In the culture of parents cushioning their children from any kind of negativity or problems, it's nice to see a parent who is more matter of fact (though at one point he takes it too far - you'll know it when you see it). She lashes out at one point at him for stealing her childhood, but then she still finishes the episode by saying, "We did it, Dad," and you can see it was her dream all along, too.

Considering the show is on FOX, I wasn't surprised to see Joe Buck and John Smoltz acting as commentators, or Colin Cowherd being a jerk. (I can imagine the filming: "Okay, Colin, just be yourself. Act like the moron you always are.") What did please me was when they "cut in" to FS1 coverage of the games. They had the bottom line score updates, the normal FS1 score graphics, and even the music! (I paid close attention to the fake scores, and I did notice the Yankees were beating the Tigers 8-4. I will continue to keep an eye on the Tigers' progress throughout the fake season.)

When Ginny struggles, she gives herself time to mope, but the immediately gets pushed to fight back and improve. I had gone through a long week of work and pet issues, and before the show I was hesitating whether or not to go out for a run. I decided to hold off and put on Pitch instead.

However, by the end of the episode, I was fired up. I couldn't stay on the couch! I had to push myself! So I went out and ran the best 3 miles I have in months. It felt awesome.

I will continue to watch Pitch as it airs, and hope that it doesn't get too soapy. I just want a show about a baseball season and a team's inner workings. They can shove all the analysis and sports talk they want to at me and I'll eat it up! I'm looking forward to season three or four when they throw in another female athlete entering the majors.

Give this show a shot. It's a good one!

Pitch airs at 9/8c on FOX.


I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Beach Bum

For the last few years, I was all about the mountains. I could see the mountains from my apartment in Aurora, Colorado. I drove to the mountains to enjoy all the seasons. I skied in the mountains. I hiked in the mountains. I loved that the mountains were always cooler than the other areas of the state. And everyone knew where they were going because the mountains were always in the west!

I knew I would miss the mountains dearly, but since I moved to the western side of Michigan, I've realized something:

I love water more than mountains!

There are many reasons for that, both historical and current. First, my maternal grandparents bought a cottage outside of Oconomowoc, Wisonsin many years ago, and my family would often travel there to meet up with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. The cottage was on a lake, and while the lake wasn't the prettiest, I really enjoyed sitting on the dock and listening to the water lap up to shore.

My paternal grandparents lived in Bay City, Michigan, where if you hold your hand up to look like the Lower Peninsula, Bay City would be on the curved area between your four fingers and your thumb. My Papa enjoyed going on walks, and my favorite walks were at...the mall.

Gotcha!

My second-favorite walks were on the paths that bordered the bay. I loved looking out and seeing the long ore boats making their way to Lake Huron and other Great Lakes.

I have had negative water experiences. Both times that I have visited the Gulf of Mexico weren't under the best circumstances, and left a bitter taste in my mouth. But most of the time, I have loved my water time.

In my area of western Michigan, Lake Michigan is mere minutes away. I have frequented the dunes many times and ran next to the Lake Michigan beaches. Every time I go, I find new ways to love my new beach life.

I still love the mountains - don't get me wrong. But a mountain trip would require going all the way around the southern part of Denver, and that area was pretty much always backed up with traffic and would have to be at least a half-day trip. A beach trip for me now is about a ten minute drive, and can be squeezed into a free hour in the day.

The people on the beach are an eclectic bunch - especially right before the sunset. I try to time my trips to when the sun is going down, and so do many other people. There are families, elderly, book readers, guitar players, photographers, videographers, dog walkers, friends, beach volleyball players, fisherman, sandcastle architects, and couples. It can sometimes be a fascinating bunch to watch.

Lots of people are there to go swimming. But many just use the time to sit in their beach chair and allow the waves of the water to lull them to sleep.

Much of the first 25 years of my life were spent with a lot of stressful stuff going on. But now that I'm well into my professional career, I can make sure to appreciate the times when I can just sit in the sand and relax. Thanks to my location, that is even easier to accomplish.

Now I have not experienced a western Michigan winter yet, and I've heard that it can be pretty brutal. But if I can deal with a Michigan winter and still get to enjoy the beauty of the beach during the other three seasons of the year, I can live with that!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 16

We're going to start with the mini blurbs this time...

  • Today's roundup:
    • men's marathon
    • men's mountain biking
    • women's rhythmic gymnastics
    • women's boxing
    • men's basketball
    • men's wrestling
    • men's volleyball
  • There was a time, long long ago, when I was convinced that the only two things that took place at the Olympics on the last day were the men's basketball gold medal game and the Closing Ceremony. The reason was because NBC really only aired those two things on the last day. Now I know that there are still plenty of events happening in the morning of the last day, and I got to sample a little bit of all of them!
  • After being so careful last week with not getting spoiled with the result of the women's marathon, I was going to watch something else when the men's marathon result flashed on the screen! Shoot!
  • However, I still decided to watch the marathon because I love watching the marathon. I did notice a lot more security on the course because of the incidents that took place last week. 
  • I got to watch Claressa Shields' gold medal boxing match this afternoon, and she is an incredible boxer. She was ducking under punches and fighting hard even with her opponent's longer arms. I watched lots of boxing matches these past two weeks, and Shields was the best boxer out there. (And I wasn't the only one thinking that - the analyst on the live stream said the same thing!) And now she has two gold medals to prove it!
  • The mountain biking event was fun to watch, but the biggest enjoyment I had was the Spanish cyclists' amazing mustaches. 
  • In wrestling, coaches can challenge points. In Rio, the coaches were using dolls of the Olympic mascot Vinicius to challenge, like NFL coaches use red challenge flags. 
  • Speaking of weird things in wrestling...I just laughed through the ending of a match between Mongolian Mandakhnaran Ganzorig and Uzbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Navruzov. I was tuning in online just to see a match featuring and American, Kyle Snyder, and all of a sudden I see two shirtless guys in front of the judges and a bunch of other guys running around on the mat. I wondered, "What the heck did I miss?!" So I rewound and watched the whole ending. I can't even explain it. Just read about it or watch it and laugh with me. It's just...I can't even.
  • The Closing Ceremony was very nice, especially when I found that NBC WAS streaming the ceremony live online! The Olympic Hymn still brought me to tears, as did the extinguishing of the cauldron and Thomas Bach declaring the Games over. But I did love everything about the Tokyo welcome! It shows they are going to be very forward-looking and less traditional. It got me excited! (Who's coming with me?!)

And finally, the Rio Games are complete. There were some points during these two weeks where I was so inundated with sports that I honestly thought, "I hope these are done soon!" And almost immediately, I would tell myself, "Shut up! You have two weeks of madness, but afterwards there is absolutely nothing!"

It is two weeks of an insane amount of sports. No human would ever be able to watch it all without giving themselves a few months of non-stop viewing. 

However, that craziness gives away to so many amazing moments. We are reminded of amazing American athletes like Phelps, Ledecky, Raisman, Shields, Clement, Harrison and Eaton. We are also introduced to more amazing athletes like Biles, Centrowitz, Jorgensen, Muhammed, Fields, Maroulis, and Thrasher. (Remember her? She won the first gold of the games!)

We also get to see the amazing athletes that the world has - athletes like Bolt, Farrah, Neymar, Murray, Silva, Adams, Semenya, Wu, Lesun, and Trott. Although it was wonderful to see the US win so many medals, it also is great to see other countries excel in so many events. I am glad the US isn't dominating all the events, because then the Olympics wouldn't be fun. Certain countries just have those events where they excel, and that's a great thing! It means they can be challenged. 

We got to see some countries with their first medal ever! Fiji's first medal became gold in men's rugby sevens. Medals were also given for the first time countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Kosovo, and Puerto Rico. The talent pool is spreading out all over the world. 

After all these memories have been made and so many sports have been viewed, that emotional buildup was all released tonight in the Closing Ceremony. The Olympic theme was sung again, the flame was extinguished, and that beautiful, emotional montage of Olympic memories was played to Trevor Rabin's "Titan Spirit" from Remember the Titans, which is pretty much the most appropriate song. For me, those emotions are released in tears - it's so sad to see the Olympics go away.

It's tough for this overflow of sports to suddenly vanish. Come Monday morning I'll be waking up ready to turn on the NBC Olympic stream, and realize there's nothing on, unless they are going to live stream the destruction of the Aquatics Center or the cleanup of garbage in Olympic Park. 

Do I wish that the Olympics would go on? That maybe it would be a more stretched out, month-long event? Honestly, I don't. The Olympics are special because they only last seventeen days, and so many sports are crammed in. The four-year rotation also creates a good buildup that wouldn't exist if the Olympics took place every year. The fact that I am still sad when the Olympics are done is a good thing - it means I am excited for the next Games to come, and not sick of it.

When I was in church this morning, someone asked me what I was going to do now that the Olympics were finishing up. My answer? "Teach!" School starts up for me on Tuesday, and I am so happy that these Olympics finished up before my school year. However, I am still bringing the Olympics into my teaching a little bit this year, and even more next year, when the PyeongChang Winter Olympics take place during school. 

For now, I will shed happy tears and relive these Rio Olympics as much as possible. The Olympic Blurb 2016 is ending, but I'll still be writing once or twice a week about random things. I need to keep my writing fingers going in between Olympic Games, after all, and I hope you continue to read what I have to say.

So thanks so much for following along. The Olympic Blurb 2018 will start in 535 days - I can't wait!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 15

There are a lot of athletes getting interviewed now that their events are wrapped up and done. Near the beginning of the Olympic Games many athletes are closed up, focusing on their event. But now there's a lot of shots of the athletes parading around, relaxing and/or showing off their medals.

If an athlete is getting interviewed, there is one question that is definitely getting asked to almost everyone, even those athletes who insist they are retiring after these Rio Games:

"So are you coming back for Tokyo?"

The next Olympic Games are taking place in Japan from July 24 through August 9, 2020. For many young athletes, going to the next Olympic Games is a no-brainer. However, for athletes nearing the end of their professional careers, keeping up the training for another four years can be hard to process, especially since most of them have experienced a grueling time of it the past four years.

And then there are athletes like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, who keep insisting that they're done even though so many are insisting they stay. I believe Phelps, but I'm not sure about Bolt. I know he's had a lot of injuries outside of the Olympics, but so many people know him and love him, and he drinks up the spotlight.

Those athletes are the ones that dread that Tokyo 2020 question.

But go ahead and ask me.

That's right.

Go ahead!

Hey, are you going to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

You better believe I am going to do everything in my power to be in Tokyo for the Olympics!

London was a pipe dream, since I was in the middle of a move. Rio de Janeiro was never enticing enough for me to attend - not because of the Olympics, but because South America has never been on my list of places to visit.

But Tokyo? That city has always been on my travel list. I have flown through Narita to get to Beijing and then back to Minneapolis, but I have never been outside of the airport.

In 2020, though, I am all about it. I want to go everywhere and do everything. I want to go to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney SEA, the latter of which is rumored to be the best theme park in the world. I want to visit all the sites and landmarks like Tokyo Tower and Chidorigafuchi and the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble and Akihabara!

Mostly, though, I want to see as many Olympic events as possible. I already follow @Tokyo2020 on Twitter, and they have been posting designs and pictures of their event arenas. Many of the buildings are already in existence, and some are pretty far along in construction! See some of the pictures below:











If the IOC ever needed a host city to be completely prepared and ready after the unpreparedness of Rio, I'd say they have chosen wisely with Tokyo.

I've been trying to watch as many events as possible in Rio and decide which ones would be fun to see in person. Here's my list:

  • Track and Field is number one. I've decided that going during the decathlon would be the best idea, since decathlete events last longer than the morning session and start earlier than the evening session. I would also love to go during either men's or women's shot put.
  • Swimming would be great to see, too. While the crowds in the track and field stadium have been less than spectacular, the swimming crowds were dynamic, and I want to be a part of that.
  • Gymnastics would be fun, but it might be a hard ticket to get. 
  • I would love to attend the whitewater kayaking area, or the canoe/kayak stadium. The area for those events are a bit smaller than rowing, but are easy to follow.
  • I think getting a beach volleyball ticket might be impossible, but I like indoor volleyball more, anyway! 
  • Believe it or not, equestrian jumping is also on my list. Dressage is too boring for a spectator sport, but jumping is very exciting. 
  • Track Cycling in the velodrome might be fun, though I'd have to go during the pursuit events.
  • Today I also decided that the modern pentathlon stadium would be enjoyable. I watched the final events of running/shooting, and it was all contained in the stadium.
  • The Opening Ceremony might be fun to witness, but I'm not sure if I'd be able to follow everything without a lot of close-ups. However, the lighting of the flame would definitely still bring me to tears, and I would be able to see it in PERSON.
I am excited to start saving my pennies for this trip. I have a lot of plans in my head, especially because the Rio Games are going on right now. Things might not fall into place, but I always say that if I say to people that I'm going to do something, then I'm even more likely to actually get out there and do it!

Let's see those mini blurbs!
  • Today's round-up:
    • men's canoe
    • kayak
    • women's triathlon
    • women's mountain biking
    • women's golf
    • men's diving
    • women's handball
    • women's rhythmic gymnastics
    • women's volleyball
    • boxing
    • women's taekwondo
    • men's soccer
    • track and field
  • Considering that Brazil has never won Olympic gold in soccer before, I don't mind too much that Neymar secured them gold in the men's tournament with a shoot-out final kick win. Brazil hasn't had too much of a hometown medal bump, so this one is good for them. 
  • You think there are droughts between gold medals? How about 108 years?! Matt Centrowitz finally gave the US another gold medal in the men's 1500m - the first since Mel Sheppard in 1908. He ran in front almost the whole race. Maybe middle- and long-distance US runners are finally figuring out they need to stay in front to medal? 
  • Like I said above, I really loved watching the Modern Pentathlon today. I caught three of the five disciplines: fencing, running, and shooting. (There's also swimming 200m and a horse jumping events.) I also found a nice explanation on NBCOlympics.com's Twitter feed:
  • Usually when we hear of Kenyan athletes at the Olympics, we think of tall, skinny, powerful distance runners. Well, not Julius Yego. He is a large javelin thrower, and his first throw tonight resulted in him splayed on the ground. But he stayed behind the line, and he had the first place throw for a time! (He then got injured in the fourth round, so maybe his method wasn't quite the best.)
  • I can't believe the US finally got its first triathlon gold medal EVER today thanks to Gwen Jorgenson. There are so many US triathletes! How in the world did it take so long? (And NBC's commentator for the triathlon ended up being Tom Hammond, who could have been found earlier in the Games doing play-by-play for gymnastics.)
  • By the end of this week there were so many disqualifications on the track! What is up with that? (Paul Chelimo of the US was disqualified after the men's 5000m but then was reinstated later. Those officials are picky!)
  • The US ran those final relays like beasts. It was great to see them close out the track and field events on top. We didn't take them all, but we took enough!
The Olympic Blurb for 2016 wraps up tomorrow. Don't miss it!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 14

Relays are hard.

The faster they are, the harder relays are.

The closer together the athletes are, the harder relays are.

The moment you attempt to place a stick in another person's hand among a group of people also trying to place a stick in another person's hand while all of you happen to be traveling at a high rate of speed...

...is hard!

Tonight was Relay Night on the track. There were semifinals in the 4x400m heats for both the men's and women's teams, and there were the finals in the 4x100m relay for both the men's and women's teams.

Relay has become a crutch for many teams hoping to get a medal on the track. Sometimes the problems start at the blocks, like it did for the Dominican Republic yesterday in the 4x100m heats. Sometimes it happens in the exchanges.

Okay, it almost always happens in the exchanges. About 95% of the time it's the exchanges.

Yesterday the US 4x100m women's team had an exchange problem with the Brazilian team next to it. Should they have been allowed to re-run the race on their own? Well, let's answer the question with another question: had a re-run ever been done before? No? Well, then maybe not. However, the US women's team didn't let it happen again, getting out to the lead in an outside track and not giving it up, even with Jamaica breathing down their necks.

However, a lot of men's teams had all sorts of trouble. In both of the relay events tonight, the team from Trinidad and Tobago were disqualified. In the 4x400 the teams from Great Britain and India were also disqualified and unable to compete tomorrow in the final.

Similar issues occurred in the 4x100m final. Including the aforementioned T&T team, the relay from the United States was disqualified and didn't win the bronze for which it was celebrating!

Why does this continue to be such a problem, not just for the US but for many teams?

It's all speed.

Speed can create all sorts of issues, and when trying to coordinate something while traveling at a high rate of speed, the issues only escalate. People have never run this fast before, and they're trying to figure out how to deal with the speed while still having proper exchanges.

But let's be honest with ourselves, America: the Jamaicans never seem to have issues when it comes to the relays.

Just saying.

Mini blurb time...

  • Today's roundup:
    • men's racewalking
    • BMX cycling
    • men's volleyball
    • women's synchronized swimming
    • women's rhythmic gymnastics
    • badminton
    • equestrian jumping
    • women's water polo
    • women's field hockey
    • men's handball
    • women's soccer
  • If you haven't looked at NBCOlympics.com yet, or are only watching the live events, know that they have live feeds of both Copacabana Beach and the Olympic Flame all day. Now they also have a channel airing all of the US's gold medal wins in Rio. 
  • People were calling Italy's win over the US in men's volleyball an "upset" but I was just upset that the US men had all sorts of chances to take sets but didn't capitalize on them. They gave that win away.
  • On the flipside, the US women's water polo team refused to give anything away, winning their second straight gold medal pretty easily.
  • Just an FYI if you didn't watch it: if field hockey goes into a shootout, it's not like soccer. Each team gets five chances, but when the offensive player goes up against the goalie, she has 8 full seconds to try to score, and she can rebound and take a second shot if time allows. I had fun watching the Great Britain-Netherlands shootout in their gold medal match.
  • Marathons don't have a lot of rules. Step 1: run. There is no Step 2. However, in racewalking there are a ton of rules to make sure you aren't running
  • Some people were not fans of the relay introduction camera mugging that the teams (both men's and women's) did before the 4x100m relays. I personally loved them. But the US in both relays decided to be all stoic and non-fun-loving. If Jamaica can be goofy and still win gold, it's possible to have fun and win.
  • Last Olympics I only saw the super-short BMX final race, and was shocked at its brevity. However, this time I watched a lot more. There's a time trial to figure out placement, three runs in the semifinals (so if you crash in one race you still have a chance to advance) and then a final run. 
  • Equestrian jumping makes the horses jump a lot higher than the event jumping earlier in the week! Those horses have legs!
  • Just your reminder that synchronized swimming is exhausting and really, really difficult. There is so much strength, agility, and timing required, plus, you know, that whole swimming thing, too.
  • Before each field event, there is a samba band that comes out on the field, and the finalists are introduced. I've seen some event participants dance along (I think it was men's triple jump), but they put all the hammer throwers around the circle with the band playing outside the pit, and those hammer throwers were not going to do any dancing of any kind. (I bring it up again: to be the best, does that mean you can't have any fun?)
They're starting to do the end-of-Olympics montages and I'm already starting to cry through them. If Sunday comes and they release one to the music of Remember the Titans I'm gonna be a goner. I'll explain more on Sunday. Until tomorrow!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 13

I know that a few days ago I was complaining that the media was reporting low crowds at many of the venues. I said that it was normal for the first few days, especially for preliminary rounds, and that it would pick up later on. Well, I have to say that I am stumped by the lack of crowds at the track and field venue. I don't know why they decided to put track and field in a stadium that is far removed from the rest of the Olympic events, in a questionable area, and still charge such a large amount of money for tickets.

Tuesday's crowd for the evening events, which featured three finals, was abysmal. Yesterday, after Usain Bolt ran, the crowds departed and didn't even stay for the last race, the women's 100m hurdles. And even fewer people stuck around for the 3000m steeplechase medal ceremony. Today, the women's 4x100m relay ran their time trial right at 7pm and barely anyone was there, even though the men's decathlon had been going on for a while before that!

I feel so bad! Plus, I know about 40,000 people in Eugene, Oregon, would gladly fly down to Rio and pack the stadium if they could, and I would gladly join them.

Track and field athletes are used to low crowds. Normal Diamond League meets or smaller events rarely get a large audience. But after the huge draws in Beijing and London, this is depressing.
While track and field isn't as big in non-Olympic years in the United States, it is huge here during the Olympic Games. Even without Usain Bolt, enough citizens of the US have participated in track and field to show it support for many years. 

Rio fans only know one name when it comes to the track and field athletes: Usain Bolt. Because of this, they flock to the stadium when he's participating, and don't if he's not there. For the other athletes, that is a shame. They work just as hard as Bolt in training and performance, yet they aren't getting recognized. 

So get with it, Rio. There are two more nights of track and field left. Fill up that arena and cheer everyone on!!

It's time to meander to the mini blurbs...
  • Today's roundup:
    • women's volleyball
    • track and field
    • women's diving
    • men's kayak
    • men's canoe
    • bmx cycling (from yesterday, but I was catching up)
  • After my blurb about the CBC's coverage of the Olympics, I got this tweet...
  • I was away from the Olympics doing personal things for most of the day, and when I caught up at night, I was surprised at the weirdness! First Ryan Lochte's story was revealed to be a lie covering up stupidity, the women's 4x100m relay team got disqualified from the qualification, then wouldn't be reinstated until they ran a re-run by themselves on the track, and Robby Andrews, in his panic at finishing in the top five during the semis of the 1500m, ran on the infield to pass someone. 
  • Did you know Helen Maroulis won America's first women's wrestling gold today? And she looked like a beast doing it! No patting the hair for her. (And I realized that all wrestlers french braid their hair because of that problem - people tend to grab the hair!)
  • Anyone else notice the advertising written on an Irish flag in the track and field stadium this morning? Apparently it was advertising for a pub! So that begs the question: when I've seen writing written on other flags in different languages, is that also just advertising? 
  • That 4x100m relay was crazy to watch, and I made myself watch both the NBCSN and NBC feeds, featuring different announcers. Out of the five people on the two stations, only Sanya Richards-Ross correctly pointed out that Allyson Felix had been bumped. The others suggested she dropped the baton, threw the baton, and got hurt before handing off the baton. Good eye, Richards-Ross. 
  • It's amazing how early javelin throwers have to release the javelin because momentum is shifting them forward, and if they released it too late they would go right over the line.
  • I got to watch almost all the decathlete events live over the last few days. They have been together for two entire days of competition, ending the morning sessions later than everyone else and starting the evening sessions earlier than everyone else. This goes for the heptathletes, too; it's no wonder they end their final event and just spend ten minutes hugging all their competitors. What a bond!
  • Someone mentioned that decathlete Kevin Mayer of France looked like an Adonis, and every time after that I just looked at him and said "Adonis" instead of "Kevin."
  • The US volleyball team was neck-and-neck in the final set of their match versus Serbia, and when they had the serve near the end, they committed a fault instead. Serbia got the point and won the match with their next serve. That's not a good way to lose.
  • I love shot put. I have to mention this again because the men's action was just as amazing as the women's a few days ago. I love watching some of them put the same way that I did when I was in high school!
  • Events I HAVE to watch over the next two days or else I'll have missed it: BMX cross, rhythmic gymnastics, and synchronized swimming.
Are you getting sleep? Not only am I watching Olympics from 8am-12am, I am also trying to train my body for my normal school sleep schedule, which starts next week. I'm tired! But catch some zzzs, and I'll see you tomorrow.