I Wanted to be a Sportswriter (and now I am…sort of)

I set two goals for myself for this year, one was related to starting and maintaining my own podcast, the other was to do a better job keeping up things here on my site.

Technically, I’ve done both things, as the podcast exists, although it’s been longer than I’d like since an episode has dropped; and the site, well, the front page isn’t as full of new posts as I’d like.

I’ll blame both on the work I’m doing for Niner Noise, where the writing is in-depth and therefore requiring of a great deal of attention, and work I’ve been doing toward the launching of the new Niner Noise Podcast, the first episode of which should be released later this week.

On many levels, this is the very thing I always wanted, as I noted elsewhere before, because the job I dreamed of as a kid looked a little something like this:

Screen shot 2015-01-05 at 9.26.26 AM-2

Once I got into high school, I realized I was better with my voice, and that turned into sports radio, which gave way to writing during the end of high school and into college, and before I knew it, writing was the focus of my education and my career in many ways.

Still, reading student papers and giving revision feedback wasn’t fully what I had in mind, but there’s mostly been time to find other ways to flex the writing muscles, whether that was through my creative writing MFA, my own poetry and creative non-fiction, or this website.

The Niner Noise opportunity came along, and even though I’m volunteering my time, I really do enjoy the writing, and I think that’s because it taps into something that I always wanted to do. I’m not getting rich or famous from it, although I did have one of my pieces featured on the Bleacher Report feed not too long ago, but it is fun to be able to engage with something I love already (in this case, my favorite football team) and then to be able to spend time writing and talking about the team and its current and long term direction.

Who knows if there will be opportunities to do more with this down the road, but honestly that’s less the point, although it would be nice to try my hand at doing this for a living instead of just as a hobby.

For the time being, it’s a nice way to balance my life into not being exclusively either work or family (not as if there’s anything wrong with either of those things), providing me a way to channel my writing and creative energy into something that I enjoy doing (and, in most cases, am doing already).

Keep on the lookout for more from my via Niner Noise, and I’ll post a link to the Niner Noise Podcast once it goes live.

 

School’s Back for Fall

This time of year is one that creates a mixture of emotions within me. My summer is over, and I’m back at work, getting my classes ready for the upcoming semester, and generally recalibrating my mind and other parts of me to what I’d grown accustomed to over the past few months.

Teaching at a college, I got out of school in mid-May, leaving me a week or two on my own until little L got done with her school and E’s year also came to a close within the next few weeks. Hence why it’s only August 11 and I’m already days into the end of summer and staring the beginning of classes in the eye.

But like I said, this brings with it a veritable cocktail of emotions. It’s great to see my colleagues and work friends, most of whom I haven’t seen since school let out, and even those I have, it’s only been in passing. I’m fortunate to work with people that I really like, and many of whom I’d count as friends, making my working environment that much better during the school year. But there’s also the fact that the rest of my family are still at home, enjoying the reminder of their respective summers, both of which are close to ending, but not over like mine.

On top of that, my daily decisions are no longer solely mine, at least not to the extent they have been over the summer, leaving less time for much of anything else, forcing me to be much smarter with my time than the summer forces me to be.

And while I’m happy to be back in my classes and look forward to meeting new students and teaching again, that comes with the requisite work.

So yes, I know: teacher problems, right? But I’m not here to debate about the merits of summers off or to hear about how everyone else has to work all year long, the fact of the matter is that this is part of my career, and so this transition is one I face all the time.

All this to say: if I seem distant or off over the next few weeks, I do entreat you to know it isn’t you. It’s just the changes.

A few more things of note to close things out here.

First, I’ll be playing an event on September 14 called SteveFest. It’s put on by a former teacher colleague of mine, and ticket proceeds are going to help Classroom Central, an organization in Charlotte that helps out low income families and their teachers with school supplies. You can buy tickets through the link on their Facebook page, which is linked above.

Second, I’m really taking it upon myself to get into a better place health-wise. While things like CrossFit have helped a great deal over the years, I’ve been up and down with it in the past, so I finally caved and bought a Planet Fitness membership. It’s not as intense as CrossFit, but I think it’s something I can make myself do on the way home from work or later in the day. So I’m slowly hoping to see signs of change, as I’m also looking more at my food consumption and other things I take into my body. I just want to get to a place I can maintain and feel comfortable.

Third, I might soon be getting myself into a dual podcasting gig. Myself and another Niner Noise writer are going through the early stages of working on a Niner Noise podcast, so I’ll be sure to pass that on once it actually exists. In the mean time, I’ll still be doing Things That Matter (To Me), although the frequency is to be determined at the time.

I’m looking forward to another school year and all that entails. Yes, it’s going to take more focus on my part, but honestly, I could do with a little more of that these days.

Vacation (Or Why I’m So Bad at this Lately)

I’m just not even going to acknowledge the elephant in the (virtual) room. I’m sorry I’m bad at this lately. Time is a suck.

^*^

It has come to my attention over the last few years that there are essentially two ways to vacation. The first type of person points to a map–maybe randomly, maybe with slightly more intentionality–and selects a place, maybe somewhere he’s never been before, and then he books the trip, telling himself that the details of the days spent in this new place will be worked out later. In this case, the act of getting away is the point.

The second type of person has ideas in his head–like “I want to see the Eiffel Tower” or “I’d like to experience authentic Italian food” or maybe “I wonder just how hot it can get in Israel in the summer?”–and then sets out to get himself to that place. There’s an itinerary, there’s lots of preplanning, even if working in “down time” is part of that. In this person’s mind, the destination is the point.

I believe I’ve always known this about myself, but it’s become clear to me lately that I am cemented into the latter category. Furthermore, it’s also obvious that I married into the former category, and I mean that of almost the entirety of my wife’s family.

This isn’t a judgement thing. My preference is for the latter, and so of course, I also find it to be the best choice (“Why wouldn’t you have a plan to do specific things when you go somewhere?” I’d ask); this doesn’t mean that people don’t get plenty of good out of the dart board method.

The problem is that when these two methods of vacationing clash, it’s a very oil-and-water like scenario. I can say this with certainty because in the past few years, I’ve experienced it enough to feel as if I can refer to myself as a bit of an expert on the subject.

Most recently, my wife, daughter and I joined 12 members of my wife’s family (and a few longtime family friends) in Curacao for six days of vacation. If you’re thinking to yourself right now “Where is that,” don’t worry, you aren’t alone (it’s probably the most frequent question we got leading up to trip, so much so that I just started anticipating it when telling people where we were going). It’s basically here:

curacao-location-map-min

Yes, it requires two zooms to see it, seeing as the first level zoom only places it, but there’s no indication if its actual location or size. It’s small (roughly 171 square miles, less than the metro area of Charlotte), and decidedly melting pot in its cultural background. Part Caribbean island, part South American influences, partially still Dutch, it’s certainly one of the more interesting places I’ve ever seen in that regard. However, it also uses its main features–namely the beaches and other water-based attractions–as tourist draws, and justifiably so.

The problem being, at least for me, that I’ve never been a big fan of the water in any form, least of all the ocean water. So that put me in a bit of a troubling place as far as that was concerned. The second part of it was the fact that it was during the planning of the trip that I realized how much my in-laws and I differ on vacation philosophies.

Again, this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just preferences colliding. We were offered to join on the trip, we said we would, and it was only later that I realized the trip wasn’t for any reason other than just to go and be around the family. That’s all fair, it just isn’t my preference.

So while everyone else spent much of the week going off on excursions and seeing as much of the island as they could, I did a lot of reading in the house we were renting. While everyone else went to the beach, I tried to see if I could finish all the books I’d brought with me from the library. Save for one trip, where my father-in-law, two brothers-in-law and myself went golfing, and non-water related trips to Willemstad, I stayed at the house, and was mostly okay with it.

The golf was cool, though. Check this out (and please, correct my footwork here if you can be helpful):

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This wasn’t my chosen method of vacationing, so I made the best of it by doing what I wanted to do while I was there, which was basically to enjoy the opportunity to do nothing for a few days. I didn’t concern myself with what was happening at home too much, mostly because I couldn’t. And that was fine.

In an ideal world, I’m starting to realize more and more, I’d be able to check off my list of places to see: Goodison Park during an Everton match; the rest of Liverpool; San Francisco as an adult, including Levi’s Stadium for a 49ers game; Rome because I didn’t make it there before and to see all the sites there; Seattle because I’ve been told that the city fits my personality; more Cubs games at Wrigley Field, but also in a few other stadiums throughout the country; Scotland to explore the place where my family came from all those years ago. And those are just the ones that immediately popped into my head. I’m sure I can think of more.

Needless to say, if I never return to the Caribbean again, I’ll survive. Nothing against the Caribbean or its islands, they just aren’t my ideal. And I think that’s got to be okay in the same way that other people might think, “A vacation full of doing stuff! Why would you want to do that?” and that’s good for them.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just looking to maximize the experiences for myself (I think our one-year anniversary trip to Chicago supports that fact). And maybe that’s selfish. But I suppose that’s how vacations work, isn’t it? Everyone is trying to get the most out of it for his/herself, and that works out nicely if everyone is pretty much on the same page.

I suppose, then, it’s up to me to figure out how to maximize the experiences, even if the situation isn’t necessarily the one I’d have chosen.

^*^

As for why I’m bad at this, it’s the same old list: summer classes, vacation, writing for Niner Noise, my podcast, and general lack of ideas. I just have to get over that. 

Oh, where have I gone?

You may have noticed that I’ve disappeared over the last several weeks. I don’t want to make excuses, but it’s been a wild like few months. Between Spring Break–where we visited family in Tennessee, spent a few busy days at home, then were in Columbia for a family zoo trip–and finishing up the semester, there’s been a lot going on.

On top of that, I’ve taken on a new role as a contributor to Niner Noise, a website that’s part of the Fansided network, writing about the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a volunteer position, but has been cool to do something I always thought I wanted to do, which was write about sports. I’ve already written several pieces, one of which was read over 30,000 times in just two days. For someone who teaches at a small community college, leads worship at a small church and writes a respected but little read blog, this kind of readership is, well, it’s insane.

The bulk of this particular post, then, is just to remind people that I’m still alive, although my reasons for the disappearance make me think: am I doing this again? Am I spreading myself too thin?

It’s something I have a tendency to do. I’m always looking for something else to get myself into. I started this blog. I started writing for Niner Noise. I started a podcast. I still want to finish that confounded book. And write more songs, record another album. I still have work, church and my family to prioritize.

Seriously, how I get anything done at all is fairly incredible.

The trick, I’m starting to realize, is not make myself feel guilty when I can’t keep up with everything. Priorities are a real thing, and those elements of life that matter most must be given precedence, even in those times where they feel like the biggest struggle. It’s also probably true that the pieces that matter the most take energy away from the other things, for better or worse.

But again, I can’t let myself feel weighed down by what I’m not doing or what I don’t have time to do: instead, it’s better to focus the energy in a positive way to make the most of what I can do.

So maybe the blog suffers for a few weeks.

Maybe the podcast isn’t as consistent as I want it to be.

Maybe that book remains 3/4 finished.

Maybe songs come slowly, but eventually.

But I know that I’ll eventually get around to them as I find myself invigorated by each project again. That’s what gets things done and done well.

Recapping 2018

Goodness me, 2019 is here, and it feels like it came swiftly, hence the delay in getting some final thoughts together for the end of last year. The holidays went off mostly without a hitch, although my threshold for human interaction did hit me right in between Christmas and New Year’s, and there was a mild attempt on my part to disappear for a little while. I also learned why I shouldn’t consume too many Trenta, quad shot iced coffees in my life, as they can lead to my brain literally going haywire in the middle of a shopping trip to IKEA and causing a little bit of a nervous breakdown in the middle of the furniture bins. All in all, however, I’d say that I more than survived the holiday season of 2018 and smoothly transitioned into 2019, planting myself more or less unscathed back at work and ready to take on a new semester.

As I’ve mentioned here several times before, that move back into “normalcy” is a strange one in my house. Everyone just about starts to get used to not have to go anywhere everyday and that’s about the time the break is over and it’s time to go back to work. Add to that the fact that there are no breaks on the horizon for neither E nor myself (we both pretty much have school from here until Spring Break, which falls in between Palm Sunday and Easter this year, a cool 13 or so weeks away), and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster. But I’m proud to say we’ve gotten back into the swing of things rather well, a bit of a first for us, and I’d like to think that feeling settled into the new house and it really beginning to feel familiar and like home is helping, or at least it is for me. There’s still work to be done, and I get this constant feeling that we always have something we could be doing, but overall, things are feeling content for the first time in a while.

I will say, however, that all the happenings of this year–and really of our life–don’t allow as much time for media consumption as I’d like, especially in terms of time to take in as many movies as I have in recent years. We watch the Golden Globes on Sunday, and I really didn’t have much to say about much of the field due to my not having seen as many of the nominees as I usually do. There just isn’t enough time in the day. I should figure out a way to get the studios to send me Academy screeners. That would help a bunch.

All that said, I’ve done a fair amount of listening to things (169 albums this year with at least one listen all the way through, and countless podcast episodes), as a good amount of time in the car coupled with lots of hours in my office has granted me the opportunity to take in a lot of good stuff. One thing I’ve not done nearly as much of this year is reading books, however–partially because I spend a lot of my work time reading student papers and other writing–so I think I want to make that a bigger priority this year, even if it means doing more of that over the summer. Anyway, as a means of recapping 2018, I’ll leave you with my top albums, movies, podcasts and some good things I read, and wrap it up with some things I hope to accomplish in 2019. Happy new year!

TOP 5 ALBUMS of 2018

  1. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]
  2. Dearest – Sonder
  3. Household – Everything A River Should Be
  4. Emery – Eve
  5. Foxing – Nearer My God

The rest, in no particular order:

Mae – Multisensory Aesthetic Experience

Thrice – Palms

Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today

Wild Pink – Yolk in the Fur

Crowder – I Know A Ghost

Justin Hurwitz – First Man OST

Basement – Beside Myself

Author – lifoiic

Underoath – Erase Me

Cory Asbury – Reckless Love

Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love

Weathered – Stranger Here

It Looks Sad. – Sky Lake

Biggest disappointments in music: Dashboard Confessional – Crooked Shadows; Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino; Saves the Day – 9

TOP 10 FILMS of 2018

Like I said, seeing new movies was harder this year than it has been. My total this year was less than 25, so narrowing this down wasn’t as difficult as it has been in recent years. I’ve also included my “need to see” list so you can see just how much this list could have changed.

  1. First Man
  2. A Quiet Place
  3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  4. Avengers: Infinity War
  5. A Star is Born
  6. Annihilation
  7. Incredibles 2
  8. Isle of Dogs
  9. Vice
  10. Black Panther

Definitely not the best picture of 2018 (drama, musical, comedy or otherwise): Bohemian Rhapsody

Other things I liked: Ocean’s 8, Ready Player One, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Venom

Disappointing or just plain no good: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Deadpool 2, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald (Middle movie goes nowhere syndrome), and the aforementioned Bohemian Rhapsody

Everything else (or movies I saw because I live with a 4-year old): Peter Rabbit, The Grinch and Solo: A Star Wars Story (which I’m still unsure about, but think I like more than most)

Finally, a long list of movies I didn’t see but wanted to (and may still yet): Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Death of Stalin, You Were Never Really Here, Tully, Leave No Trace, Eighth Grade, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, Christopher Robin, BlacKkKlansman, First Reformed, Wildlife, Widows, Roma, The Favourite, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Mule, If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Poppins Returns, Welcome to Marwen

TOP 5 PODCASTS of 2018

  1. Happy Rant Podcast
  2. Labeled: The Stories, Rumors and Legends of Tooth & Nail Records
  3. Niners Nation Better Rivals Podcast
  4. The Ringer NFL Show
  5. School of Science Radio

TOP THINGS I READ IN 2018

(Note: Obviously little of this was new in 2018, but it’s simply what I read this year)

  1. Feverland – Alex Lemon
  2. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse – Tom Verducci
  3. Basketball (And Other Things) – Shea Serrano
  4. Authority – Jeff Vandermeer
  5. Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix
  6. Acceptance – Jeff Vandermeer
  7. The Dark Tower series, books 1-4 – Stephen King

TOP THINGS I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH/DO MORE OF IN 2019

(Just don’t call them resolutions)

  1. Finish this pesky manuscript I’ve been working on for well over a year and a half now.
  2. Stick to my read the Bible in 365 days plan (I’m already 7 days behind because I thought of it too late!).
  3. Commit to a 3-day-a-week exercise plan and make better overall health choices.
  4. Having said that, ironically I want to brew at least one beer per quarter/season.
  5. Golf with some frequency (quarterly, at least, I’d say).
  6. Record some music, possible an entire new album.
  7. Write more on the blog, but also produce more material like more poems and maybe even some stories and essays.
  8. Remember it’s okay to make time to do things I love to do, and that doing those things doesn’t always mean I’m selfish or not giving my family what they need. So I can see more movies, go to shows and take time to accomplish these goals; in the end, this time can mean I’m taking care of myself, which can be better for everyone.