Monday, August 13, 2012

No. 62 -- Don't Look Back

We've had a little bit of an event today, and I'm not sure Jeanie has recovered yet.

The boys started sixth grade last week, and Adam's homeroom teacher is also the head soccer coach at the local high school. He gets kids from his class to serve as ball boys, so, of course, Adam was the first to sign up. He was allllllll over it.

Jeanie took him to the high school for the varsity and junior varsity games ... and he promptly took off for the field, without ever once looking back. He left Jeanie standing, and not only that, but he left her standing at the high school.

Ouch. I don't think Adam and Jesse are little boys any more.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

301 Miles

Move over, Tommy Houston. I have now run a Nationwide Series race myself ... literally.

This morning, I ran 4.15 miles in 50 minutes. I didn't set any speed records or anything like that, but that's OK. That's not what I was trying to accomplish.

But here's the kind of cool thing, at least to me. I use an app called MapMyRun to track what I've done, and today's run put me at more than 301 miles since I started using it. That's a Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway!

All total, I've been on the move for sixty hours, 37 minutes, 13 seconds.That's an average of about five miles an hour ... give or take a few hundred feet.

My first recorded run was on 3 October 2011, when I did 2.05 miles at the park in Yadkinville. The longest run I've done was 10.49 miles -- that's the one where I felt like my left knee had been severed from the rest of my body -- and the shortest was a mile last month in Houston, Texas. I didn't know the neighborhood!

I had done three 5k races before I started using the app, so I'm gonna conservatively say that since I started trying to lose weight, I've walked and run maybe 100 miles more than what the MapMyRun total shows. That's a Sprint Cup race at Michigan.

Next stop ... the Daytona 500!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Houston, Two Years Later

Two years ago, I sat down in a space shuttle simulator and could not fasten all of the safety harnesses because of my belly. It broke ... and changed ... my heart.

Ninety-five pounds later, I'm back in Houston to conduct interviews for another space shuttle-related book. Because of the end of the shuttle program, the simulator is now in the process of being moved to Texas A&M making it impossible to visit again.

So I did the next best thing. I found a 5k to run Saturday morning in downtown Houston. The last time I was here, I couldn't have walked a 5k, much less ran in one. The Dad's Day 5k here was my 10th race ... nine 5ks and one 10k ... and it was by far the muggiest and most humid one that I had done. There wasn't a dry stitch on me ... and thanks to David and Angela Hilmers for washing the nasty clothes after the race, so they'd be safe to put back in my suitcase for the flight home.

Believe it or not, I actually won a category in the event. I was first amongst runners from North Carolina ... that I was the ONLY runner from North Carolina is completely and utterly beside the point!

I finished the race in 30:48, 433rd out of 860 overall and 34th in my age group.

This is me in Houston, Texas on 22 June 2010. 

This is me in Houston, Texas on 16 June 2012.

Maybe I shouldn't say it, but I'm proud of the difference.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

No. 60 -- Boo

I don't think many things will ever mean as much to me as seeing Adam cry as we left Coleman Field in Cary, N.C. yesterday.

Let me explain.

Since Tuesday, I've been covering the NCAA Division II baseball championship tournament for It's been a blast seeing the game played the way it's supposed to be played, with no money on the line. Best of all, Adam was able to spend Wednesday through Friday here with me.

Lord, did that kid have a ball. Actually, he had at least eight balls ... seven foul balls that he chased down or had tossed to him and a brand-new one given to him by an off-duty umpire who wondered into the press tent. He kept four of the gamers -- plus the new one that he got signed by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dave "Boo" Ferris.

That's us with Coach Ferris, an absolute legend for the Fighting Okra of Delta State University. I can only hope I make it to 90, much less have as much left in the gas tank as Coach Ferris. 

Adam gave one of the baseballs away to a grandfather of a kid playing for Catawba College and another to the dad of a Delta State player. Yet another went to a kid who had a foul ball he was chasing take a bad hop and go to another youngster.

But he had a game to play himself tonight, so I took him back home yesterday. He didn't want to go, and if you want to know the honest truth, I didn't really want him to go, either. When we left the motel room yesterday morning, he actually made me leave first so he could take one last look around his kingdom for the last couple of nights.

Then, when we left the park yesterday, he cried.

I'm not going to have many chances to make as big an impression on him as I did here this week, and now that I'm back at the ballpark for tonight's national championship game, there seems to be something missing.

There is something missing. My assistant.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No. 58 -- Fussin' At The Ballgame

I darn near started a riot tonight.

For those of you who know me, you know that 999,999 times out of 1,000,000, I'm as mild-mannered as they come. But flip that switch -- and I can count on the fingers of both hands the times in my life that it's happened -- and I get truly angry. Tonight was one of those nights.

For the last several years, I've been helping coach Adam's baseball team. We were getting a no-hitter pitched against us tonight and they were scoring a lot of runs. That's fine. That stuff happens. The son of the other team's head coach hit a shot back to the pitcher's mound, and our guy made an amazing diving stop. I still don't know exactly how he came up with the ball.

After making the stop, though, he threw the ball over the first baseman's head. Safe. That's fine. That stuff happens. But this is where it got ... well ... interesting.

The other team's coach marched to the third-base line and started berating his son for not hustling down the line to first base. The kid was safe and we were getting trounced already, but he wasn't quick enough to suit his father. The guy was screaming, just like he did last year when he shoved -- yes, shoved -- his son into the dugout after walking a couple of our guys.

Did you hustle?!? 

Did you hustle?!?

 And before I knew it ... before I had a chance to fully consider what I was going to do or say ... I was screaming right back at him from our dugout. 

He was safe! Now shut up!

I think I surprised him. I know I surprised myself. He yelled back and said that he was just trying to get some effort out of his player. A woman on their side of the field shouted that if we had better coaching, we might win a game once in a while. A few on our side of the field started firing right back. His third-base coach told me to mind my own business, that they would coach their team and that I should worry about coaching mine. Good point. But in that particular instance, the way their team was being coached stunk.

To be honest, I respect the fact that their team knew exactly what to do with the ball when they got it. They fielded like Gold Glovers. Some of the balls they hit traveled so far that they should've had flight attendants. But for the sin of not hustling, this one kid got screamed at by his coach.

And the coach was his own father.

Here's the deal. I love Adam with every ounce of my being, but if he inherited even a fraction of my athletic ability, he'll be lucky to run to first base without tripping over his own feet. That said, I also love Jesse with all my heart and he couldn't care less if he ever attends another sporting event, much less plays in one.

Should the kid have run to first as hard as he could? Sure, he should have. But if the effort wasn't there, the time and place for correction was in the dugout, out of earshot of his teammates and certainly everybody else who happened to be at the game. There was no good reason whatsoever to show the kid up like that. The young man may make the major leagues some day, and he may not. My hope is that he enjoys the game.

Adam had the last word on the matter after we got home. He came up to me and hugged me as hard as he could.

Dad, he said, I'm glad you don't act like that guy.

That's good enough for me..

Thursday, May 10, 2012

No. 57

It seems that Jeanie doesn't want to go out to eat because she's already hunkered down for the night. She's taken her makeup off, brushed her hair out and broke out the ol' sweatpants.

The rest of us have voted for Mexican -- no surprise there, we always vote for Mexican -- and she still doesn't want to go because, in her words, she'll "have to get fixed up again." As always, Adam came up with a solution.

C'mon, Momma. Just go like you are. People have seen you lookin' funky before.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Run, Rick ... Run

Last week's attempt at running eight miles didn't turn out so well, but I did learn a very important lesson.

Eating a bowl of wonton soup and then trying to run any distance at all ain't a very good combination.

So, today, I tried again and I actually made 8 1/2 miles before I was finally able to stagger back to my car. It was very, very hard and I certainly didn't set any speed records ... but I did it. That's all well and good, but that's not the point of this post.

A funny thing happened as I neared my own personal finish line. Almost back within sight of my car parked at the hospital in town, an older gentleman actually stopped his truck on the side of the road and started running with me. It was honest to goodness like that scene from one of the greatest movies of all time, Forrest Gump, where everybody joins in on Forrest's long-distance journey.

I saw you runnin', and thought I might join you for a spell ...

Thing is, he was telling me to take it easy and not overdo it, so I must've looked a fright, like I was about to keel over or something. Come to think of it, that probably wasn't far from the truth. He told me to take it easy, then got a little winded, turned around and headed back to his truck.

And that was that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No. 56

Eleven years ago today, Jesse and Adam Houston entered the world. My life was about to change in ways that I could not possibly have imagined.

I'm afraid that they've taught me a lot more than I've taught them. They've taught me the difference between being a father and a daddy. They've taught me that the things I once thought most important aren't really that big a deal after all. They've taught me that no matter how badly things might otherwise seem to be going, there's always hope in a hug.

They've taught me what a farmer must feel like trying to herd chickens. They've taught me the value of teamwork with a spouse ...

If you don't come get these kids and do something with them, I swear I'm gonna pinch their ever-lovin' heads off ...

More than anything else, Adam and Jesse have taught me the meaning of a deep and abiding love that's far beyond description. They are my heart, my reasons for being. Happy birthday, boys.