I love feature writing, and maybe I can get a job after my current internship where I help cover news in the offseason, but sports is and truly always will be my first ambition and goal.
I wake up this morning feeling like I’ve turned a new page.
I spent just under five years working at the Kansas State Collegian, the student newspaper at Kansas State University. I served in a lot of different positions, not always well and certainly never perfectly, but always intently.
Today though, when you turn the pages to the middle of the Manhattan Mercury, you’ll be able to find what is in many ways a turned page for me as well. Perhaps fittingly, that page is turned to the Sports section.
Last night I wrote my first article post-Collegian work, you can read it here. I covered Rock Creek High School’s first game in the 4A Division II high school baseball tournament here in Kansas.
It was a series of firsts for me. It was my first baseball game covered at any level. I’ve been a fan of baseball since elementary school, my love of the game predates my love for every other major sport except hockey, but I’d never covered a game. I’d never been to a high school game, let alone been in a press box for one. I’d also never covered a sporting event for any publication other than the Collegian, where I was blessed enough to cover K-State Soccer, Women’s Basketball, and to help cover Football in 2016-2017. And while last night’s coverage was far from perfect, it was a start I’m hopeful about.
I’m hopeful for the way I was able to write it and get it submitted fairly rapidly and with little instruction. I’m hopeful about the way I was able to travel and handle the multiple logistics that come with traveling to a game alone to cover something. I’m hopeful about the way I was able to get it right without a better journalist looking over my shoulder, and the way I was able to basically blend in among the other press-box media members and game officials.
None of these things of course is the least bit remarkable. Any journalist of any mediocre ability should be able to master them without err 100% of the time. Yet left alone independently I was able to not screw up. I didn’t lose the proverbial game for my proverbial team. I didn’t win it for them either, but human history is rife with examples of people who started their careers simply by not screwing up big opportunities they were given. In doing so, they left the door open to receive bigger ones later on. History is also rife with examples of people who tried too hard to make the most of their initial opportunities and who ultimately failed because of it.
I’d like to think I’ll prove to be in the former group, but even if I am to fail, I don’t think (having not gotten any feedback yet from my new bosses) that it’ll have been because of yesterday. I don’t intend to throw away my shot, but even if I throw one away, I don’t believe it was yesterday’s.
And that, friends, pumps me the heck up.
I look through a rectangular window facing north outside my basement level apartment and see the green leaves rustle in the wind outside. Instinctively I check my phone for tornado watches and warnings, noting the cloudy skies outside which don’t presently look like the type to birth tornados. Here in Kansas, I’ve seen these types of cloud before, been disarmed by the light appearance of them, only to watch them change throughout the evening into the types of thick clouds people here watch for.
The conclusion of my undergraduate studies and the end of the lease on my apartment this summer bring forth the prospect that this may be my last summer in northeast Kansas. if so, it may also be my last tornado season here.
I admit I’ve come to actually like it.
Obviously not the destruction, nobody likes that and I’m not so insensitive as to ignore the anguish affecting those who have lost property and family members to tornados.
But I admit there is a certain rush to them. There’s a certain adrenaline rush that comes from hearing the tornado siren go off and knowing you need to get inside somewhere. There’s a certain adrenaline rush from gathering up a few of your closest belongings, your emergency water and first aid kit, then taking shelter in whatever window-free room you can find.
There’s also few things more terrifying, and oddly, I think that’s why I’ll miss this part of the country if I ever move away from it, even if I end up moving somewhere like Texas where there are technically more tornados any given year than here in Kansas.
I’ve never been one to enjoy the effect of pumping adrenaline. I avoid scary movies (though that’s as much because I have a hauntingly-good memory and fear is a physically painful emotion), I don’t generally drive fast, even shooting firearms doesn’t excessively get me going.
There’s something about what tornados bring that I find I like. The prospect of helping others, as I was able to do in 2008 when a small city I had lived in was essentially destroyed (including one fatality), the prospect of surviving a close call with a beautifully powerful force of nature and maybe helping others learn more about them; these things excite me far more than most things I’ve done ever could.
As I contemplate what “home” means to me, and where I look to establish it next, I’m suddenly quite conscious that even the most dangerous things in life can sometimes be enjoyable. Like watching fire.
What scares you that you also enjoy?
I’ve heard it said people become a lot like their dogs.
I’d be very blessed if I’ve become anything like Lichet was.
What do you say about a dog like Lichet? What do you say about one who you watched, starting as a junior in High-School, grow from a fresh-out-of-the-womb puppy into a mature, dominate dog who basically ran the home she lived in? About a dog you once held for an evening and prayed over as she, still an infant, fought Parvo?
What do you say about a dog who lived, and taught you how to?
That’s where I’m at this morning as I remember Lichet.
In recent years I only saw her a couple of weeks each annum, but like a typical dog, her love never wavered. She lived on my parents’ goat farm, surrounded by dogs and cats and animals. She was a beautiful criminal with the coat of a Labrador (her father was part Lab, part Beagle) and the brain of a Jack Russell Terrier, a breed the American Kennel Club calls “Intelligent beyond measure.” She was an escape artist who on multiple occasions, usually while in heat, got arrested by animal control after getting out, running down the street, and biting someone. She would lead the dogs as they barked at any poor soul who turned onto their driveway, God forbid they actually enter through the gate and onto the property.
Except me. She never barked when my truck pulled in. On multiple occasions I surprised my mom by entering the yard and walking in without setting the dogs off. She may have come from brilliant stock, but my mom and I were ever-amazed at how Lichet could recognize my truck’s specific sound even from inside the house and often underneath multiple blankets, which she was fond of burrowing into, versus even my step-dad’s car, which she barked at without restraint. She loved me like a good dog always loves the boy who raises them. I wish I’d been there more for her.
She also loved walks. When she was first born, I would take her on mile-long walks around Burnside Loop on Fort Riley. She resisted the leash at first, as I believe most dogs do, but within a couple of weeks had learned to love it. From that point on nobody, stranger or family member, could ever grab a leash in her presence or say the word “walk” to her without her getting excited, even after I moved out and my parents moved onto a road with no sidewalks on which you could take a dog.
This ultimately led to her demise. I’m told that one day in April she got out and ran down the road as she so often did despite my parents’ best efforts to curtail her, and was hit by a passing car.
Lichet was the best of what I aspire to be. Nearly 14 years old at her passing, she came into my life as a puppy when I was in my late teenage years and grew parallel to me into a confident, powerful animal, a protective mom then grandma who never backed down and was never intimidated. Not by bigger animals, not by other dogs, and certainly not by people. She spent her final days looking after my decade-younger brother through some of his toughest times, but her legacy is the way she looked after me through some of mine.
I learned of her death on Mother’s Day 2017.
It’s with great sadness that I write about her today.
Until yesterday, I thought I’d publish my high school poems on here. They I looked at them, and realized something: they’re all terrible.
At least, the 2006 ones are.
I found the 2006 poems which consisted of four “books”, as I labeled them, in a stack with miscellaneous others probably written about the same time. This dates their creation back to my junior year of high school, making them the first poems I ever wrote.
The collections are interesting to me because the poems reveals I had already established certain tendencies. Seemingly from the first poem, I adopted the policy of dating and signing my work, apparently aware I’d enjoy reading it later.
One poem, however, I did decide to publish. I found it, which you can read here, handwritten among the stack, just below a poem dated February 2007. It was neither dated nor signed, so I’ll likely never know when I actually wrote it. Further intriguing is the fact that compared to my other work, especially 2006, this writing as significantly more sophisticated in nearly every way. By the time I wrote this and the 2007 poem found near it, I had already strayed from strictly-rhyming quatrains into the realm of open form. I had also started to stray a bit deeper intellectually, incorporating simple elements of symbolism.
In a way, “Pine Needles” is thus an interesting study for me because compared with what I found it around, it was a nice step forward for me as a writer. I hope you enjoy it.
It can mean doing things you once swore you wouldn’t, because sometimes you don’t know everything, and sometimes, even and perhaps especially in adulthood, you learn things. This is both Biblical: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me,” (1st Corinthians 13:11), and common sense. Yet I was caught completely off-guard not long ago by someone’s apparent disagreement with me on this, so much so that I had to take a few weeks and digest what she said and make sure I was confident in what I believed.
We must preserve our right as individuals to change our minds.
We must preserve the right to adapt our thinking and if necessary change our circumstances or our course. Failing to protect our right to change our mind also in effect yields our right to continue to grow, even as adults. Obviously I mean within the limits of the law, I.E. if you sign a contract of some kind you’re giving up your right to change your mind per the wording of that particular contract. What I am speaking of today is simply in circumstances regarding relationships and things of that nature, where only the laws of ethical conduct apply.
In my suspicion, adulthood is when we do most of our mental growing, making it all the more vital we preserve our rights to change our minds into and through the later portion of our lives.
We must never stop growing, reconsidering things, reanalyzing. It dishonors our existence if we allow ourselves and our ideas to stagnate. We must never, ever be so confident in our beliefs that we never are willing to reconsider them. We must, under all circumstances, continue to seek wisdom, continue to strive for perfection, and aspire to excellence.
With all due respect to the two amazing friends of mine who got engaged this weekend, one of whom is easily one of the five best people I’ve ever been blessed enough to know, their engagement was my second favorite thing from the week. One story from the weekend hit me right in the feels, even more than their engagement.
Read it here. It’s the story of Isaiah Thomas, whose 22-year-old sister died in a single car accident Saturday in Tacoma, Washington, where Thomas is from, and how he played in his team’s Sunday night playoff game despite it.
Spoiler-alert: he played marvelously.
This story chokes me up pretty well. I’m the oldest brother of three siblings. The two closest to me in age are my sisters. Both are around 22 (the eldest being 23, the youngest 19).
It chokes me up even more that Thomas played well and that he got a touching tribute before the game, complete with a standing-ovation by the Boston fans who attended. Like his team, the fans embraced him, and that was wonderful to see.
I can’t even imagine how Mr. Thomas feels right now, but his performance, to even show up and play in the game last night, let alone to play well, can only be described as courageous.
I’ll be praying for him.
I’d encourage you to also.