Monthly Archives: July 2013

Pleasures, Guilty and Otherwise, and Something Else

Don’t praise me for doing something extraordinary. I had fun. It was just basketball …

We had a basketball camp at Red Ventures this week for 30 or so kids. Some have epilepsy. Some are autistic. Some are both. They came in a range of ages. They face a range of challenges. But you know what? They were just kids.

I signed up as a volunteer. I don’t play much basketball any more. But I still love the game, and I love showing kids the right way to play. How to throw a chest pass or a bounce pass. How to execute a crossover move. How to dribble with both hands. And one other main thing, which I’ll come back to later.

We signed up for two-hour blocks during the week – a morning session from 9 to 11 or an afternoon one from noon to 2. You could take one session or many. I took two. After we signed up, the times got extended for some of the sessions. Which was a good thing. We got a bit of training. The guy who ran the camp – Mighty Mike – explained his reasoning for it. Turns out he has epilepsy and loves basketball. As a kid, he had a seizure at a camp and got sent home. He was devastated, and he vowed he’d do better.

My first session was Monday afternoon. I picked a group of older kids, because I figured most of the volunteers preferred to work with the younger ones. I connected with them pretty quickly:

  • There was Bob, a tall guy who might have been 20. Only his name was really Jimmy. He was a jokester who had trouble communicating; every once in awhile he’d call out: “Let’s go, Bobcats …”
  • Joey and Brock were about 14 or 15 – both good kids and hands down the best two players. Brock had come from Ohio for the camp, it turned out.
  • Ben also was about that age. Mighty Mike’s whistle really bothered him. Any noise did. He showed me the earplugs before he put them in. He was happier then, though it increased his isolation.

There were other kids that day, too. We ran drills, practiced passing, ballhandling, and other basketball stuff. At the end of the session, Mighty Mike split the kids into teams and they played awhile.

My second session was Friday afternoon, the final one of the camp. Because of a conference call I wanted to be part of, I was a bit late for the session. I walked across the gym a little worried. Ben met me halfway. He gave me a high five. We chatted a little; it wasn’t easy – he still had the earplugs in.

I worked with a group of younger kids this time – many of whom had more challenges. But I kept my eye on some of my kids from earlier in the week. The improvement was spectacular. They weren’t necessarily better players, but they were more confident.

I hadn’t really learned anything yet, though. The final lesson – the big one – came during the final set of scrimmages. I’d been impressed Monday at how the kids with fewer challenges had been helpful with those who struggle. The team I was helping had six players. Which meant someone had to sit out the start of the game. We didn’t even have time to start figuring it out. Brock volunteered. You don’t find that kind of selfless act often.

The game also was a revelation: That other “thing” I like to teach young players is sharing the ball. I didn’t have to with these guys. The best players relentlessly passed the ball to open teammates and encouraged them to shoot. They got some shots in, too, but they seemed to care more – a lot more – about lifting the others. I asked Joey later whether he’d had a good time at the camp. He didn’t have to answer (though he did): His smile told the story better than I ever could.

I had a great time, too. The kids learned about basketball; I got a lesson in unselfishness. I hope I never forget it.

Pleasures: The Guilty Kind

I’m going to indulge in a couple in just a few minutes. The first is getting doughnuts this morning. I don’t need doughnuts, today or anyday. But I like them. And I promised Garrett last weekend that I’d get him some for his birthday (because of his schedule, it didn’t work out to do on the actual day of his bithday). He asked for Krispy Kreme.

But I suggested Dunkin Donuts instead, for a couple of reasons. One, in the aftermath of the controversial Cheerios interracial family commercial, DD had its own commercial featuring an interracial couple. Second, I really appreciated how the company and its employees reacted to that stupid racist rant posted on YouTube. I want to reward it with my business.

Garrett agreed, and I thought that was end of it.

Except Austin stopped by last night. Turns out he and Sam are coming over this morning. He was excited about the prospect of doughtnuts, but he wants Krispy Kremes, too. Because they have lemon-filled doughnuts.

So it looks like I’ll stop at both places. Because I love doughnuts. And I love my kids. So I’ll combine a guilty pleasure with one I freely admit.

Something Else

I’ll leave with this thought: Is it a cliche to say you hate cliches and then use them anyway? Or is it just arrogance? I think I’ll just skip the answer to that one for now.


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Would You Trust a Self-Driving Car?

I’m not sure I would. But I’m not sure I wouldn’t, either. Let me take that back.
I’d definitely use it for myself. Would I put Samu-El in it to send back to his dad’s house. Not so sure.
What do you think? Check out the latest on the vehicles in this infographic, Attack of the Self-Driving Cars.

Courtesy of:

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The Story of Garrett, Again

(Readers, I’ve updated this post I wrote a year ago to mark Garrett’s birthday. It’s that time again.)

“Honey, I think my water broke.”

It was 15 years ago, almost to the minute, when I heard those words. They came during our exile in Henderson.

Karen had gone to the bathroom that morning in the old house we were renting from Evelyn. It was a quirky house. Not in a good way.

Pine needles covered the yard. And pine cones. From the mess of pine trees that surrounded the house. Our neighbor to the rear, Miss Patsy, must have thought we were barbarians. We joked that she never even let a pine cone hit the ground in her yard before she got rid of it.

The house was large and terrible. We never used the front door. I’m not even sure we had a key, but I guess we did. We rarely used the front room. It was a pale shade of green, with a carpet so light we dared not step on it. The curtains were even worse. They looked like they would crumble at a touch. The best thing about that room was the pocket doors it had. We kept it closed off so we never had to heat it.

Did I mention the heating system. It had this weirdo coil system. I think the coils were in the floor. Which meant the floors were never cold. Which also meant that it was extremely inefficient.

We didn’t heat it, so that front room was as cold as Evelyn’s heart. I think she was the only landlord I ever had who didn’t return a full deposit when I moved out.

But there weren’t many houses for rent in Henderson, so we took what we could get. We wouldn’t move out for another year or so. And then only because Evelyn’s stepson helped make it possible (which is a tale for another day).

“Honey, I think my water broke.”

Oh, yeah, back to the point.

Garrett was coming. We didn’t live far from the hospital, and we didn’t waste any time getting there. Which was a good thing. For perhaps the only time thus far in his young life, Garrett was in a hurry. We quickly dropped Austin, Lauren and Nicki off at Miss Patsy’s. They weren’t pine cones, so she treated them like gold.

It was only a couple or so hours later and Garrett was out, in all his orange glory. It had been a bit of a difficult pregnancy, and he had jaundice. Nothing a little time under the hospital sunlight wouldn’t cure. No drama like we’d had with Austin, when he’d been rushed to Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte (again, a tale for another day) within minutes of being born.

No, we thought Garrett was going to be easy. Of course, we thought a second cat would be easy, too. Not to mention a third.

Maybe we should have had an inkling things wouldn’t go so smoothly that first night. I picked up the kids from Miss Patsy’s and took them to see their new little brother. They were pretty fascinated – along with being orange, he wasn’t so pesky in those days. (Your not-so-humble Arthur knows a thing or two about being the pesky little bro, by the way. My sis is 11 years older than I am; my brother is seven years older. So I’m not criticizing G. when I call him pesky. It’s a compliment, a family tradition.)

But Garrett was not, and is not, easy. And I mean that with every ounce of love in my body – again, I wasn’t easy either. My mother was fond of saying I was a bad baby. Contrarian that I am, I’ve always appreciated that.

Our first real indication of that would come a few months later. I think we’d moved out of Evelyn’s by then but we remained in exile in Henderson.

He got sick. It was just one of those baby things. He pooped a lot and vommed a lot and before we knew it, he just looked terrible. We rushed him to the local hospital, where the doctors had the good sense not to mess around. They sent him to Duke. By helicopter.

Now, any of you who know me know how I feel about dook’s basketball team and the university in general. But you’ll never see me misspell or mispronounce the name of the hospital. Because those doctors and nurses and others at the pediatric intensive care unit there took fantastic care of my boy, whom it turned out had contracted a fairly common quick-acting virus. They stabilized him, built him back up and in less than a week we had him back at home. It was like nothing had ever happened.

But it happened. And it was scary. And we’re thankful to have our youngest with us.

He’s 15 today, and we couldn’t be prouder of him (or for matter, of his brother and sisters).

In a few weeks, he resumes high school at the Central Academy of Technology and Arts, where he’s studying software development. He’s funny, kind and as loving an uncle as you’d want to see. And did I mention tall?

I write and edit a lot of websites. If I were writing a website for him, my keywords for him: birthday, love, great kid, big future, proud. The easiest ones I ever used.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” _ Abraham Lincoln

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Reflections on 56 …

A birthday present to myself. With words of wisdom from The Monkees. Reflections on 56 ….

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Reflections on 56 …

“Remember the feeling as a child, When you woke up and morning smiled. It’s time you felt like you did then.”

At 56, the morning still smiles when I get up, as brightly in Indian Trail as it ever did back when I was a boy in South Boston, er Cluster Springs. I sometimes write about those days, both the events I remember fondly and the ones that weren’t so special. I suppose that’s what you do when you get older.

And, oh by the way, the older thing doesn’t bother me at all. I’m glad to have grown up when I did. For one thing, they had festival seating at concerts. And of course we had all sorts of temptations in those days. I didn’t so much withstand them as survive them …

But enough of that. I don’t want to go back to those days. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Personally, the past 365 have been among the most eventful in my life.

“There’s just no percentage in remembering the past. It’s time you learned to live again at last.”

I feel like that’s what I’ve done the past 12 months. In June 2012, I moved upstairs at Red Ventures. Definite symbolism in the move. As a contract editor, I was downstairs. All the important stuff – except eating – happened upstairs (things have changed since – there’s important stuff on both floors). Upstairs was a frightening, mysterious place to me then.

That has changed. I’m still learning, and I hope I will continue to. (I’d better – stay in the same place at RV and you’ll find yourself getting lapped by the field.) But I’m pretty confident in my contributions and how they benefit the company.

That’s not to say that things are static. In September, my role at RV changed for the first time. I concentrate now on insurance. While much of what we do is proprietary, it’s safe to say that I edit and write and research stuff about insurance that shows up – if all goes well – in a great many places on the Web. My team of two young writers and I accepted the challenge we were given and – by every measure I can think of – excelled at it. Much credit, of course, goes to Team Kannon – Kelly and Shannon. They were so successful, in fact, that another cluster at RV “stole” Shannon from us. I’m happy to say she’s thriving in her new role.

But that change in September was nothing, my friends. The big one was coming in October. That’s when Austin dropped his bombshell – he was going to be a dad. I was supportive but scared. I needn’t have been so worried.

He and Grace have been terrific. They’ve made really good decisions, and they’re excellent with Samu-El. Every baby should be so loved.

I didn’t have a clue until he was born what a gift Sam would be to us. A colleague at work noted how I light up when I talk about the little family (and inevitably brag on it). I look forward to his visits constantly.

A lot has happened since Austin gave me the news: I’ve traveled to the Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman Island and Jamaica. I was offered reefer in Jamaica. I didn’t take it.

Back in the U.S., my role at RV has continued to expand. We’ve added a couple of new writers to our team. Team Kamantha – Katherine and Samantha – keeps me on my toes. They’re learning quickly – and they need to. I suspect another group in the office will steal Kelly from us sometime soon. She’s too good for my own good.

“Come with me, leave yesterday behind, And take a giant step outside your mind.”

A giant step outside your mind. Wisdom from The Monkees (by way of Carole King). Yep.

At 56, I’m not a journalist any more. I’m a marketer. I’m a would-be mentor. I’m an ideas guy. It was a pretty Giant Step this late in my career.

The morning smiles at me because I smile back at it. “I choose to be happy.” That’s what the boss of my company says. I do. And I’ve started taking other giant steps outside the routine, too.

I’ve gotten involved in Relay for Life again (as I was during my exile in Henderson). I’ve started being friendly again – had lunch the other day with a new kid who had just started work as a developer at RV. I didn’t know him at all, but the old guy and the new college grad had a pretty entertaining meal. I’ve signed up to help at a basketball camp at work for children with autism or epilepsy. I’ve reached out to all the young writers who’ve just started at RV to let them know I’ll help.

All this comes after a fairly long period of being withdrawn. Some might even say cranky.

Karen and children have asked me several times over the past couple of weeks what I want for my birthday. It’s a tough question. I feel like I have everything I want: A great family, a job I love, great neighbors (whom I wish I saw more of). I’ve got all the clothes and just general “stuff” I need.

It kind of reminds me of the end of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, right after (spoiler alert) Willie Wonka has given Charlie the factory.

Willy Wonka: “Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.”
Charlie: “What happened?”
Willy Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

I think they’re talking about me.


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