Jim Kelly is on my mind again today.
I read another story on him this morning, this time via the Sports Illustrated website. It was a lot like the Rick Reilly piece for ESPN, talking about the recurrence of his jaw cancer, and the litany of painful and heartbreaking events that have occurred during his otherwise magical life. Let's face it, becoming a star quarterback in the NFL and being immortalized in the pro football Hall of Fame is a pretty magical life. I think it is, anyway. He achieved greatness. He reached the top.
Now, he's apparently fighting for his life, and things don't really sound so good. There are touching photographs of Kelly in his hospital bed, with his daughter lying in bed next to him, her head resting on his shoulder and her arms wrapped around his. The emotion is palpable. You can feel it.
And everything Kelly is quoted as saying about his situation is pretty darn positive. He is said to be in constant, extreme pain, but he doesn't complain. According to the stories, he told his wife at one time that he wasn't sure how much more physical pain he could take, but he also says he is "blessed," and he wouldn't change a thing in his life. He hasn't said, "Why me?" or any of that. He wouldn't change a thing.
To me, that is the epitome of courage.
Kelly was never one of my heroes when he played football. My team was the Houston Oilers. Earl Campbell, Dan Pastorini,
Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, Bum Phillips. The Oilers are gone now, so I don't really have an NFL team any more, but that's another story. I remember well watching Kelly play pro ball, but he wasn't someone I rooted for.
He has become one of my heroes as a human being. Because of his courage. Courage is something I admire very much. I wonder if I would have the same courage, faced with the same issues Kelly has faced in his life. I hope I never have to find out, but I wonder.
Courage is something I went looking for when I went to Spain in 2011 to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage that stretches from one side of the country to the other. In the end, I did not find courage as I walked for four weeks across the countryside with nothing more than a backpack, but I did learn the meaning of courage, and I found out that I already had plenty of it. It turns out that courage is not the absence of fear. Instead, courage is being scared of something, but doing it anyway.
I was scared to death to not only travel overseas for the first time -- by myself -- but then to walk across a foreign country. Strap on a backpack and walk across the damn country. But I did it anyway. In fact, that's a big reason I did it in the first place. To try and get over my "homebodiness." I've always had this fear of getting too far away from home, for some reason. I'm not sure where that comes from, but anytime I went anywhere, I'd want to turn around and come home. I could go to Dallas for the weekend, for heaven's sakes, and get homesick.
But I went to Spain, and I walked across the country, not once but twice. And I learned that I already had courage. I was terrified, but I did it anyway. Courage.
Of course, my little trips to Spain are nothing compared to the courage being showed by Jim Kelly. And that's why he is now one of my heroes.
Ciao, y'all ...
In an excellent story written by Rick Reilly for ESPN, Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Jim Kelly says he is "blessed" and "wouldn't change a thing," despite living for years with constant neck and back pain, the death of his eight-year-old son, and a recurrence of cancer that cost him his upper jaw bone and teeth.
Instead of feeling sorry for himself or wondering "what if," Kelly, who led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive unsuccessful trips to the Super Bowl, keeps busy as a motivational speaker and an advocate for fighting the disease that killed his son.
I'd seen this story before, but read it again today as I scanned ESPN's website for late scores from yesterday's NCAA March Madness games. And it was the part about not changing a thing that really stood out this time.
So often, people say things like, "If only I could go back and do it all over again. I'd sure do things different next time." I know I've said it many times. But not Kelly. Sure, he's rich and he's famous, and he's enjoyed a highly successful life. But look at what else he's gone through, and continues to go through. According to the story, he once had to have a cyst removed under his nostril without the benefit of Novocain.
Losing a child, plates and screws in his back and neck, constant pain in his face, cancer that won't go away. And, yet, he wouldn't change a thing? Wow.
That's an amazing statement, really. Think about that. Wouldn't change a thing.
I've always said I wish I'd done this, wish I'd done that. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Hell, nothing bad that's ever happened to me can compare to those things that have happened to Jim Kelly. The bad things that have happened have pretty much all been of my own doing. My own bad decisions. Nothing that has happened to Kelly has been his fault. It just happened. And he wouldn't go back and change a thing.
That's a pretty outstanding attitude, I'd say. He must be a pretty outstanding person. That's what I've always wanted to be. An outstanding person. To stand out, somehow. Not just an ordinary, regular ol' person, but outstanding. I know some people I consider outstanding. And the most outstanding thing about these people is probably their unwavering, positive attitude. That positive attitude leads to everything else.
And I do have a pretty outstanding life, if I really think about it. I'm doing OK, in spite of myself and my best efforts sometimes to screw it all up. Maybe if I start practicing more gratitude and stop thinking about how things coulda, shoulda, woulda, I will get to be outstanding, before it's all over.
Ciao, y'all ...
Cinnamon rolls on Sunday morning is a very good thing. A friend of mine in Tulsa, Okla., likes to describe his Sundays as "over easy," relaxing in his hammock or easy chair. Well, Johnny M., today is Cinnamon roll Sunday here in central Texas.
Freshly baked cinnamon rolls are hard to beat. Not the healthiest thing in the world to eat, but damn good stuff, especially with a glass of ice cold milk. I like to unwind mine and eat it piece by piece, a swallow of milk with each bite, until I get to that last soft, sweet piece in the middle. Goodness gracious ...
Cinnamon rolls remind me of my mama, who was a really good cook and loved to bake. From her is where I inherited my sweet tooth, I'm sure. And, besides, cinnamon is being touted all over the place now for its health benefits!
Along with cinnamon rolls, one thing I remember mama teaching me how to make is cherry pie, still one of my favorites. I don't know if this was before they had ready-made pie crust at the grocery store, but she always made her own pie crust, made cookies from scratch. I kind of remember cake mixes in a box back then, but I imagine she made cakes the old-fashioned way, too.
I remember rolling out the dough on wax paper on the kitchen counter top, using one of those long wooden rolling pins and lots of flour to keep stuff from sticking. Then you'd lay the whole thing over the top of a glass pie pan and gently push it down and around, then trim the edges that hung over with a knife. Take a fork and make those little dents all the way around the sides. Scoop up the dough trimmings and roll 'em back into a ball, then flatten it out and cut long strips to lay across the top of the pie filling, this way and that way.
But maybe the best part of the whole thing was after the pie was finished and in the oven. You take the rest of the leftover dough, roll it back out, cut it into strips, sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar, roll 'em up and bake 'em for a few minutes until they're nice and brown. Oh, my, good stuff ...
Sunday is my usual golf day with Gator and sometimes Bubba. Sometimes Jason and Pete join in, as well. But today the wind out there is blowing 25-30 mph, which usually makes for a pretty miserable time on the golf course, even if the sun is shining brightly. You can't get a cigar lit, for one thing. Or, just when you're ready to pull the trigger on your approach shot to the green, a gust whips your hat off your head and blasts it down the fairway behind you. Otherwise nice shots sail into unfavorable locations, sometimes very unfavorable. Usually majestic tee shots turn miserable. It can be really frustrating. We'll play another day.
And it's the last day of spring break vacation. Up and at 'em again early in the morning. I rolled out of bed about 9:30 today. Tomorrow needs to be 4:30. Oh, boy, c'mon ... you can doooooo it!
Last Friday, I went with about a dozen of my co-workers after school to have dinner and celebrate the start of spring break. I normally don't attend these kinds of events, but I'm trying to be less anti-social, so I went. And it was a lot of fun. I found out things that I had no idea went on at my school, and got to know some very cool people a little better.
So when I got a text the other day from one of the gang about having lunch on Thursday, I said, sure, count me in. See y'all at 11:30.
This morning, I decided it might be a good idea to double-check things. So I messaged one of the suspects.
"Are we still having lunch?"
"Yes," this to-remain-unnamed person texted back. "I am already here. Where are you?" Um, I'm sitting on my couch. It's 10 minutes 'til 11 o'clock, and the lunch is supposed to be at 11:30. "Oh, she told me 11. I can't stay very long, lots to do, but I'll visit for a few minutes."
Huh? Hmm. Supposed to be at 11:30. Or at 11? Well, only one person is apparently there at nearly 11. Is anybody else going to show up? I have no idea. Should I drive 20 miles to have lunch with myself? Tell you what. This sounds like a brewing cluster-you-know-what. It's an absolutely beautiful day outside. I think I'll just go play golf, instead. "Awwww, OK," is the only reply I get.
This is where I'm gonna get into trouble, but I don't care. Let me have it. Make it good!
There's a major difference between making plans with the fellas, and making plans with a bunch of women. If Gator or Bubba or Bob had made plans to meet at a certain place at 11:30 on a certain day, they'd be there. At 11:30. No need to confirm, or double-check. We'll be there at 11:30. OK. See you then.
Take golf, for instance. I make a tee time for 9:30 on Sunday. Gator knows I'm makin' a tee time. I told him I would, and that's what I do. Then I either call Gator and let him know what time, or he calls me to find out.
"What time we got?"
"OK, see you then."
Simple. Do I call him Saturday to confirm his attendance on Sunday. No. Do I need to? No. Why? Because he said he'd be there. Does he get there on time? Yep. Like always.
And the day was grand. A beautiful day on the golf course in Lampasas. Shot a decent score. Came home and mowed the back yard. Made the daughter a turkey and swiss on a bagel, with creamy tomato soup on the side. Saw her off to work. Finished my blog for the day. Laid on couch.
Ciao, y'all ...
A candle flickers over on top of the mantel in the living room. It's one of those candles that changes colors as it burns. Blue, then purple, turning to red, and then yellow and orange. The lights are low, and the sound of a soft, evening breeze rustling leaves outside drifts in occasionally through the open front door. The wall around the fireplace is painted red, and there's a framed Texas flag hanging high and proud. Next to that is a white wall with about 40 family photographs arranged eight-feet high and 10-feet wide. Girls, boys, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas, friends.
It's a little after 6 now. Everything's quiet. My daughter took me this afternoon to retrieve my wife's car from the airport parking lot, then drove on to work. I'll be asleep by the time she gets home tonight. I'm on my own for a month, while my better half works an assignment out of town. It was hard to say goodbye last night. She's been home for a total of about 12 days so far this year.
Today was a pretty good day, though, it really was. Clear, blue skies, short pants and T-shirt temperatures, and a not-so-beautiful golf course combined for a pretty darn good start to this year's Spring Break.
The day actually began about 8 a.m. with me trying to apply on-line for renewal of my teaching certificate, a formality that rolls around every five years. It took a little nail-biting and phone-calling -- and a trip over to my school -- to get mission accomplished, but I finally got it done. Then it was over to the gym for my first workout in a couple of weeks (new spring resolution), and then back home to change clothes and grab my golf clubs.
I decided to give our little local course a try, since I haven't played there in a long time. Well, the course has definitely seen better days, but I played pretty well in spite of the rock-hard, cow pasture fairways and ridiculously weed-infested greens (putting was damn near impossible, although I did sink a few). Still, a sunshiny day on the golf course -- any golf course -- is hard to complain about. One young fella playing a couple holes back was even nice enough to retrieve my trusty 9-iron for me, after I left it beside No. 8 green following a really nice little chip up and that sweet left-to-right, five-footer for par.
I made myself a sort of to-do list for spring break this year, so as not to squander these five blessed days of relief from school. One thing on the list is to work out every day. Check. So far so good. One day in a row. Another is to play lots of golf. Check. So far so good. One day in a row. I also wanted to work on my website and my blog, and I am doing that. Check. So far so good. One day in a row. There are other important items like get the oil in the pickup changed, get a haircut and do some yard work, along with practicing my saxophone and working on my Camino book. I think all of those will get done.
I'm developing a book based on my blogs from the Camino de Santiago, a 780-kilometer pilgrimage across Spain that I walked twice, in the summer of 2011 and again in 2013. Actually, I thought I had the book pretty much finished already, but after a few rejections from publishers last year, I finally chatted back and forth with a really nice lady publisher who told me that for her to be interested, my book needed a hook, a twist of some kind to "hook" the reader. She explained what might make it a more marketable story, and I understand what she meant. I've considered trying to turn it into some sort of novel based on the Camino, since there is no real-life hook, other than it being the most amazing, life-changing experience of my life. But I kinda like it the way it is, too, and I've got an idea on how to improve it. Then, I'll just self-publish again. I don't feel like going through the hassle and time of submissions, trying to find a publisher who loves your work and wants to send you a nice check.
Well, maybe just a few more times.
If you're interested, my Camino blog is at www.golfnman13.blog.com
Ciao, y 'all ...