6 Types of High School Baseball Fans

One distinct delight of our Michigan life is attending high school football games. Even though I understand the sport better now than I ever have, watching the people in the stands still distracts me constantly. There are a few very specific types of attendees at high school football games:

The Mom: Every time her child is on the field, her engagement increases. Leaning forward, she holds her breath for the plays. If he gets tackled she doesn’t blink until he’s up.

The Old Guy: Alone and unbothered, he munches on concession treats and takes in the game with placid aplomb. Only a questionable call from the refs is enough to rattle his cool. Standing, he’ll shout and wave his arms.

The High School Crew: Decked out in team spirit, they walk up and down in front of the stands, more interested in seeing and being seen than in how the game is going.

The Younger Siblings: After countless hours spent at sporting events for older siblings, these may be the most savvy fans in the stands. They know when to hit concessions, the bathroom, and even the secret way to sneak under the bleachers and look for loose change. And if figuring out all that stuff gets boring, there’s always the game.

The girlfriend: Proud of her significant player, she comes to every game. Wearing her sweetheart’s jersey, she makes friendly comments to the people around her. After all, she’s never understood football.

The Dad: Caring for his other children occasionally distracts him, but most of the time he fixes an attentive gaze on the field. With every admirable move his son makes, he puffs up and looks around to make sure everyone else saw it too.

PS. This weekend at the grocery store, with arms full, I ran into the candy aisle for some gum. One moment, I was holding a box of cereal, a container of ice cream, a bag of marshmallows, a pint of blueberries, my wallet, my keys, and my phone. The next moment, I was holding all those items except for the pint of blueberries. It had tumbled from the stack in slow motion, hit the floor, and exploded. Blueberries went rolling everywhere. If I had any presence of mind, I would have taken a photo.

Instead, I just stood there and stared, hopelessly mortified.

PPS. I survived, but only after turning burning crimson and scooping up a hundred blueberries.

Investing in Groceries

Investing in what you’re doing doesn’t have to be expensive.

For instance, the cashier at a grocery store doesn’t need to buy stocks in the store to be invested. For him, investment is how he spends his day at the register. Each morning, he gets to choose. Will he fully engage with every customer, greeting them kindly, serving them eagerly, and making eye contact at the first greeting and the final word? Or, will he slip through the day, mumbling answers, avoiding looking people in the eye, and bagging groceries carelessly?

You get the choice to invest in what you’re doing, and you get to make it every morning. Investment may not yield instant gratification—but when you invest, people notice. Over time, the cashier who shows up and engages will go much further in the game than the one who brings his body to work without his heart.

Making the choice to invest isn’t always easy. But it’s always worth it.

16 Unrelated Thoughts on Biking

During this beautiful Michigan summer of transition, Curtis (he’s very wonderful) and I bought a house that’s 14 miles away from my job. Our house is also conveniently located near a bike trail, so every day I ride my bike to work.

After more than a month of almost 30 miles a day on my swift red bike, I’ve learned a few lessons:

  1. Riding to work is somehow always slower than riding home.

  2. On-time arrival isn’t accomplished by sporadic spurts of speed—it’s earned through steady, continuous pedaling.

  3. There is such a thing as having sore, tired thighs all the time.

  4. Skunks don’t spray humans every time they see them, contrary to what kids books and the media want us to believe.

  5. If you think being chased by a bear is a good speed motivator, try attempting to out-bike a thunderstorm.

  6. Deer aren’t exactly the smartest animals, but they can certainly jump.

  7. If you call out to cows, they will look at you.

  8. Riding four miles on a flat tire is not a good idea.

  9. Biking in 45 degrees without gloves on will make your hands very, very cold.

  10. Greasing your chain makes a major difference not only in ease of pedaling, but also in rattling and squeaking.

  11. Some cars are gracious and pass with a wide berth. Others are less so, and pass a lot closer.

  12. Traveling down a mist-covered path isn’t quite as eerie as it is in movies . . . but it’s close.

  13. Skinny road bike tires + gravel roads = lots of fishtailing.

  14. Bikes are great conversation starters.

  15. Every time I pass anyone else on a bike, I always say, “It’s a great day for a ride, isn’t it?” Once past, I laugh because they don’t know the secret truth: it’s always a great day for a ride.

  16. Biking is easily the best part of every day (besides being with Curtis). Nothing compares to the cheery expectation of miles of smooth path on a sunny afternoon.

If you’ve never ridden your bike to work, give it a shot sometime. If you don’t own a bike, I’m so sorry. If you never learned how to ride a bike, come to my house and I will teach you and we’ll go on an adventure and get ICE CREAM.

All in all, it’s not a bad way to start the day.

All in all, it’s not a bad way to start the day.

You’d be amazed how many people stop and talk about biking when they see a bike. It’s almost the equivalent of walking a dog or a baby. Almost.

You’d be amazed how many people stop and talk about biking when they see a bike. It’s almost the equivalent of walking a dog or a baby. Almost.

Biking in northern Michigan poses slightly different road hazards than biking in downtown Chicago . . .

Biking in northern Michigan poses slightly different road hazards than biking in downtown Chicago . . .

5 Disjointed Thoughts on Life Transition

Stepping into transition is like standing on the edge of the pool deck thinking about jumping into the pool, when suddenly your well-meaning but somewhat misguided friend shoves you into the water. It always seems to come before you’ve quite prepared yourself.

Living through change is like going on a run and never quite being able to catch your breath.

Preparing for the future is like planning a birthday party with a guest list of 200, but not asking for any RSVPs.

Leaving one place for the next is unsettling—but not bad. We’re just creatures of habit who take comfort in familiarity, and new places are habit-breaking and very unfamiliar.

Concentrating on personal growth, health, and development in the middle of a hectic season is like trying to change the oil in a hail storm. Not impossible, just distracting and somewhat difficult.

I Should Try

Childhood is full of learning new things. Babies learn to crawl, then walk, then run. Toddlers become potty-trained, feed themselves, and discover how to put on pants. Before long in elementary school, kids learn adding, subtracting, and how to get along with other kids on the playground.

Every experience of growing up is punctuated by awe. It’s thrilling to learn how to tie your shoes, because “they” tie their shoes (who they? the big people). Each skill acquired is a step toward independence, even though kids don’t think of it that way. Their natural bent is simply curiosity and the willingness to discover (spend thirty minutes with a five-year-old and count how many times they ask, Why ?).

But somewhere along the way, it’s easy to lose the hunger to learn. We become confident in our abilities. Admitting we don’t know something is a chink in our armor rather than an opportunity. But what if, instead of a threat, every new thing you didn’t know became an opportunity?

There are two distinct mindsets involved in learning. Either, you come to a new experience, and think:

I probably can’t do that. Oh well.

Or, you venture into something new, thinking:

I wonder if I can do that. I should try.

It takes humility, confidence, and the willingness to accept that you may fail the first time—or the first five times. But if you never try anything, then you never learn anything. And that’s way worse.

Expressway-Turned-Parking-Lot

There are few places where people display their true nature, whether good or bad, as readily as in Chicago traffic. Construction, especially, is the great equalizer of society. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a Tesla or a Yugo—everybody gets treated the same.

After Chicago’s astonishingly chilly winter, the roads look like an m&m cookie that some kid picked all the m&m’s out of. If you steer to dodge one pothole, you’ll hit another. To make up for this, the city of Chicago pulled up several miles of the main tollroad in and out of the city, leaving only one lane in both directions. In a city that hosts hundreds of thousands of commuters every day, this has major consequences.

Curtis (he’s very wonderful) and I left the city last Friday in the middle of rush hour. In the course of the evening, our two hour drive turned into a three-and-a-half hour drive. We sat in stop and go traffic for what felt like a year . . .

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Love is Patient, Love is Kind . . .

Before I married Curtis (he’s very wonderful), I had no idea that two of the most dramatic points of tension in our relationship would be window blinds and lamps.

You see, I hate to be tired. Most people do, really. But I also love to wake up early—well, after the initial misery of waking up early. And one of my favorite things to do as soon as I wake up is draw up the blinds in our bedroom and look out at the pale blue pre-sunrise sky. Or, after doing the other bits of my morning routine, I love to go back into the bedroom and yank up the blinds quickly, pairing the crisp zippp with the chaos of light instantly flooding the dark room.

And that’s where the problem begins.

Curtis (yes, the wonderful one) also hates to be tired. But in life’s game of drawing straws, he drew the “night person” straw. His brain is kicking into gear at 10 p.m., two hours after mine has ceased to function reasonably. So, every morning when I tear the blinds up from the ground and the sunlight comes spilling in, I’m wreaking havoc . . .

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Four Reasons for Sacrifice

There are a few key reasons people make sacrifices:

Someone is making me. “You may not go outside and play until you’ve cleaned your room.”

There’s something in it for me. “If you don’t eat ice cream for a month, I’ll give you a hundred dollars.”

I want to help someone else. “I’ll give you half my sandwich so you don’t have to be hungry.”

I believe in the cause. “I’ll stand outside in the cold in front of the grocery store and picket because I think it’s important for people to know the injustice of the system.”

Believing in a cause or vision doesn’t always result in radical behavior, yet it does often require sacrifice. But when you’re working toward something that you believe in, the sacrifice is always worth it.

A Night at the Art Institute

Thursday nights the Art Institute of Chicago is free to residents of Illinois. In an attempt to become more cultured I’ve started to take advantage of this perk. According to the website, there are nearly 300,000 works of art “in fields ranging from Chinese bronzes to contemporary design and from textiles to installation art.” Based on the rest of my research, it’s somewhere around a million square feet—but for some odd reason, sources are cagey on that one.

As you know, I really love to watch people and then categorize them. And there are lots of fascinating types of people at an art museum.

Stop and Stare: Their family members go through an entire wing in the time . . .

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Your Two Choices

You know the feeling—the first time in your professional career you worked really, really hard on something. You stayed late after work for two weeks, poured hours and hours of energy and heart into the project, and drove all your friends crazy because you wouldn’t talk about anything else.

Finally, deadline day rolled around. You printed off the proposal, took the inevitable my-firstborn-child-is-going-to- . . .

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