Getting outside, no matter the weather

Even though it’s the lead story on the 6 o’clock news many nights, I haven’t written about the weather in awhile.

News flash: It’s cold out there right now.

You already knew that.

But it’s not that cold today. I went for a walk/jog earlier, and my car temperature gauge recorded a balmy 17 degrees. The sun was out, too.

Unlike some of you, I like living in a place with four seasons. I don’t wear a scarf in the winter; I like the cold on my face. It’s invigorating.

When jogging, I wear layers. My thumbs and fingers get cold first, so I wear two pairs of gloves. I had no issues today.

Joy of winter

I’m thankful for winter. Last year, it never came. I jogged in the rain in January last year – and got soaked in a rainstorm when it should have been snowing. Ugh. That was my worst jog ever.

Those signs that say “Bridge may be icy”? It’s true. There are two bridges over the Black River on my favorite exercise path, and they do ice over before the path itself does. I tread gingerly there. (They get slick in the rain during summer, too. Got to pay attention all the time.)

I drive a passenger van for a living, so maybe it’s strange that I say I enjoy winter. This means I have to slow down when the weather turns nasty. Welcome to the real world.

I learned how to drive in a Chevette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a long time ago. I can rock a stuck vehicle out of a snowbank with the best of you.

Step up your game

For Christmas, we visited family in Michigan. I drove my wife and oldest son to a late-afternoon Christmas Eve service in Ann Arbor (with Ohio license plates and a Michigan State sticker on the back windshield, by the way) along snow-covered roads. I traversed aptly-named Hill Street and pumped the gas pedal repeatedly without thinking to get our minivan up the incline. If I’d floored it, I’d have spun the wheels and lost traction. Keep the wheels rolling, slow enough to keep traction with the road but fast enough to keep the vehicle moving.

There’s a skill to winter driving. Perhaps that’s why I like it.

Speed limits, of course, go out the window when it snows. Before our sons were born, we motored through Buffalo the first week of January during a snowstorm similar to the one Erie, Pa., got this week. I drove 15 – that’s fifteen – mph on the New York State Thruway, a 55 mph highway then (it’s 65 mph now). We were grateful we had a motel reservation; otherwise, we might have been stranded out there.

I always see an SUV or two speed past me on snow-covered roads. Be my guest. I’m not surprised to see them in a ditch or stopped by a police officer a few minutes later. Happens all the time, doesn’t it? You’d think we would learn.

I have never owned a snowblower. Put on the boots and get out the shovel. I’ve been blessed with excellent health. It’s good exercise.

Year-round beauty

I enjoy spring more when we’ve had a real winter. If trees never “die,” how can they “come to life” again? New blooms, greener grass, warmer temperatures, more people outside (I saw only one older man on my 6-mile walk/jog today).

There’s a reason Easter is in the spring. It’s a symbol of new life, of rebirth.

Summers are nice in northern Ohio (although I did get dehydrated once after my walk/jog last summer). Not too hot or humid, usually. I couldn’t handle a Florida or Texas summer.

Fall is a beautiful time, as leaves change color and the temps begin to chill a little. We bought a house a few months ago that has a number of mature trees in or near our yard. I spent a lot of time this fall raking those leaves. Again, good exercise. (I have to find the positive side, right?)

Our city has an awesome leaf collection system. We rake leaves to the curb, and the city brings around a huge vacuum cleaner that sucks up the leaves. It’s pretty cool. They come through several times each fall, so we just keep raking. (I filled a couple of yard waste cans with late-falling leaves on Dec. 21, just before the most recent snowfall. Someday I’ll get all the leaves off the yard. Maybe.)

I enjoy getting outside year-round. Cold, cool, hot, warm. It’s all good.

It sure beats over-eating while watching blowout bowl games all day (which I did yesterday, actually – yawn).

Fresh air. It’s good for your health, and mine.

See you on the trail. Any time of year.


A sports vacation to see the world’s best

No Federer, No Murray, no Djokovic? No problem.

Three of the Big Four in men’s professional tennis pulled out of last week’s Western & Southern ATP World Tour Masters 100 tournament in Mason, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, which many top male and female players use as a tune-up for the U.S. Open in New York City early in September.

All three are nursing injuries, Federer his back and Murray his hip. Djokovic’s elbow injury has sidelined him for the remainder of the year.

Even without those three stars, my oldest son and I saw some awesome world-class tennis during the two days (well, one and a half, really) that we attended the tournament.

The fourth of the Big Four, Rafael Nadal, a Spaniard who now is the world’s No. 1 male player, was supposed to play Thursday night and again Friday night (assuming he won Thursday, of course).

We never saw him play on Thursday. Neither did anyone else. The entire nighttime slate got rained out. Even some of the Thursday day matches didn’t get completed.

Rain, rain, go away

As the rain drizzled and sometimes poured down, my son and I hung out underneath the Center Court stands with dozens of others. We met a couple from Louisville who drove up for the Thursday night and Friday day sessions – it’s less than two hours to Mason from their home. They arrived just in time to see rain.

All of us were hoping to see some action on the court. We did see some action, just not from the players.



As soon as the rain stopped, ball boys and girls came out with squeegees to begin drying off the court. They were followed by their peers and operations staff with huge dryers that made conversation inside the court area difficult. Others grabbed towels and got down on their knees to wipe off the lines, which are slippery when wet.


Before the job was finished, however, the rain started again. The operations manager in charge of the situation sagged his shoulders and motioned everyone back into hiding.


This process was repeated twice more as the rain kept falling, then stopping, then re-starting. Finally, a few minutes after 11 p.m. (the night session was supposed to start at 7 p.m.), the public address announcer informed those of us remaining that the weather was not cooperating, and all matches would be rescheduled for Friday.

The men

Nadal 2
Rafael Nadal. Below left: Grigor Dimitrov. Below right: Nick Kyrgios.

Nadal, like quite a few other players, was forced to play two matches on Friday. He won his afternoon match easily, but got smoked by Nick Kyrgios of Australia – who also had to play two matches on Friday – in the most surprising result of the tournament.

Kyrgios was hitting serves upwards of 140 mph, the fastest serves my son and I saw, and hardly missed a one. He didn’t miss any other shots either. Or so it seemed.


After the match, according to The Associated Press, Nadal wore a ribbon honoring the victims of a van attack earlier in the day in Barcelona that left 13 people dead.

“A tragedy,” Nadal said. “The feeling that you’re not safe nowhere – that’s terrible … To all the victims, the families, friends – all my support.”

I’m hoping that didn’t distract him on the court.

In the men’s final, which I watched on TV on Sunday, Kyrgios played Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, a steady, consistent player – the opposite of the emotional, roller coaster ride that Kyrgios takes his fans on. In the Round of 16, we saw Kyrgios hit a shot while running off the court to the right; he kept going and high-fived a half-dozen fans in the first row after winning the point. Earlier, he conceded one point by hitting a ball between his legs that his opponent, Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, hit back for a winner.

Dimitrov won the title, 6-3, 7-5.

The women

For star power, we enjoyed watching the women’s draw. All the top women played in Mason, and most were still around when we showed up for the Round of 16 matches on Thursday. The one disappointment was Venus Williams, who lost her Wednesday match.

Garbine Muguruza. Below left, Madison Keys. Below right, Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The eventual winner, Garbine Muguruza of Spain, played arguably the two best matches of the tournament – and we saw them both. On Thursday, she defeated American Madison Keys in a three-set thriller. Keys actually had a couple of match points, but Muguruza won those points and then won in a third-set tiebreaker.

On Friday, she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in another three-setter that took 2 hours, 45 minutes – the first of six matches in 12 hours played on Center Court on Friday, thanks to Thursday night’s rainouts. Muguruza won 6-2, 5-7, 7-5. Both played at the top of their games.

We saw many of the best players in the world playing their best tennis. What a treat.

Halep 2
Simona Halep
Kristina Pliskova

After those two scintillating matches, the semi and final were almost routine for Muguruza, who earlier this summer also won the prestigious Wimbledon championship in Great Britain. In the semi-final, she defeated the female world’s No. 1 player and defending Western & Southern Open champion Kristina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2, then in the final dispatched Simona Halep of Romania, 6-1, 6-0.

Halep would have taken over the No. 1 spot in the world had she won the tournament. It wasn’t to be.

An event worth repeating

My son and I are turning this into an annual event. We attended the Thursday and Friday sessions last year as well, and enjoyed it so much we went for an encore performance this year.

This time, we stayed at a motel three-quarters of a mile from the tennis center, so we didn’t even have to fight the traffic to get there. We walked. Great exercise as we passed cars trapped in the grassy parking lot waiting to exit (the grassy field was less muddy this year, which means they improved it).


During a late-afternoon Thursday rain delay, we left the tennis center to grab dinner at a local restaurant (much cheaper than the food at the center, which wasn’t bad, actually), then returned for the night session that didn’t happen.

It’s an awesome tournament. The grandstand and the side courts are small enough that fans can get close to the players (close enough for a high-five, for those so inclined). We could hear them talk to themselves, and see the expressions on their faces.

Kyrgios was the only player we saw throw a racket in frustration (he didn’t break it).

We saw Nadal’s patented fist pump after he broke Kyrgios’s serve (he only did it the one time).

Tennis is a game of sportsmanship and respect, for the opponents, the judges, the chair umpire and even for the ball boys and ball girls. All the support officials played their roles very well. I enjoyed watching the ball boys and girls roll the balls to the proper side of the court, depending who was serving, quickly, efficiently and unobtrusively.

The players could challenge line judges’ calls, but the original calls were rarely overturned. They have some great eyes to see exactly where a 100-plus mph ball lands.

Tennis does replay right. Fast. They show the evidence to the fans as well as the players. In or out. Play on.

We most likely will be back in 2018. Come join us, if you can. It’s worth the trip – and for those of us in the Midwest, not nearly so far or so crowded (or so expensive) as the U.S. Open in New York City would be. Although I’m sure that’s an experience too.

Professional tennis is a big hit. Even with the rain.

Giving thanks, every day

Things I am thankful for today:


Good health

The ability to donate blood (most of the time)

A good job with a supportive supervisor, a great staff and flexible hours

Hector, the student I mentor in Cleveland

Monopoly, his favorite game (and Robert’s at the center where I work)

Greater Cleveland Volunteers

The American Red Cross

Interstate 90 (I spend a lot of time on it)

Interstate 480 (a great connector to places I go)

Good friends, locally and across the country

My wife

Our three sons

My parents, who are still doing well in their 80s

My sister

Good health throughout my family


Jesus Christ

The Bible




Quiet time nearly every morning for decades

Pittsburgh-based Summers Best Two Weeks, a summer camp where I gave my life to Christ in 1975


Our two cats

Our previous cat, Paws

Coffee in the morning

The ability to write

The ability to edit, including my own copy



The Christian Blog Collection

An Internet hearts game

A good book (I’m reading Hamilton, which the Broadway musical is based on)

Re-connecting with high school classmates

Seeing some classmates at a picnic last summer for the first time in more than 35 years


Food on the table, something I never take for granted

A place to call home

Money in my wallet

My 401(k), future pension (I hope), future Social Security (I expect), as secure a financial future as I could wish for

Ability to tithe

Ability to be financially generous at times

Going out to dinner with my wife every Sunday after church


Time to walk/jog once or twice a week

Jogging in a warm spring or summer rain

Working up a good sweat

Colorful fall leaves

Cold winter air on my face

Good balance on an icy bridge

Buds on trees in the spring


Birds overhead

Occasional turkeys on the property at work


The lawn mower we bought in 1988 that still runs

The 21-year-old car I drive

The Chevette I drove for 18 years

My work van, which has 193,000 miles on it

A sweater my grandmother made for me that I still occasionally wear in winter. Grandma died in 1980

Our nearly 33-year marriage

July 24, 1975: The day I gave my life to Jesus

The red Schwinn bicycle I rode as a child (I still have it)

An indestructible hand-crank pencil sharpener that sits on my bedside table

My Indian Guides vest (it’s a tight fit, but I can still put it on, sort of)

Our card table, which was our first dining room table back in the day


Michigan State University

Classes that challenged me to think

The Magic Johnson-led basketball team that won the NCAA championship my freshman year

The beauty of the campus

University Reformed Church, where I met and married my wife

Bailey Hall, the dorm where I lived all four years at MSU


Ames United Methodist Church, where we raised our children

The Ames softball team

Playing on that team with all three of my sons

The opportunity for my wife and I to both be leaders in that church

The youth directors who taught our sons so much

Sunday School classes

The 12-week membership class, which I helped lead for awhile

Small groups, one a couples group and the other a men’s group

A summer Bible study or two

Monday night basketball in the church gym

The structure and accountability of the United Methodist Church

The chance to serve on a couple of statewide committees through the church


The Saginaw County CROP Hunger Walk, which continues to raise thousands of dollars to feed hungry people locally and worldwide

Ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings

The annual Thanksgiving morning Ultimate game

Playing Ultimate in 8 inches of virgin snow

Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner (no matter how the Lions did)


The Saginaw News, where I worked for 24 years

Accountability, with respect

Proofreading to keep mistakes out of the newspaper

Participating with News employees in the federal summer lunch program, thanks to the leadership of one of the reporters

A clear mind on deadline


The beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Snowplows in winter to keep the roads clear

An engine heater in my Chevette on sub-zero January mornings

Pickford, my first home after college

The Wallis family for frequently inviting this single guy over for Sunday dinner

Learning to drive in a region with no traffic lights and only a few blinker lights


Friends everywhere I’ve lived

Brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere I’ve lived

Wonderful co-workers at all of my jobs

Opportunities to volunteer in the communities where I’ve lived

The future hope of Heaven


I could update this list every day. What are you thankful for today?