Family, Friends …
A happy and joyous holiday season to you all …
When I was a kid, we had our Christmas tree in the living room. That room was dark except for the lights on the tree. I would lie on the couch, staring at the tree, smelling the needles in the air, anticipating Christmas Eve. Outside the air would be cold and there would be a couple feet of snow on the ground.
Sometimes we would go to an evening Christmas Eve service; I think, primarily just to torture the kids. We’d have our Christmas Eve dinner and there’d be no unwrapping of presents until all the dishes were washed and put away.
We would all pile into the living room of our tiny, tiny house: Mom, Dad, Joyce, Mary, David, Jon and in later years, Margaret and her family. How did we ever all fit in that little room?
David, Jon and I would always get matching presents, something needed pajamas, socks, stocking caps, and then a few fun games or toys.
After Christmas, my parents and I would go visit Bobby, my oldest sibling, and his family in Watertown. He owned a gas station and sold Rupp snowmobiles and mini-bikes. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that he was a mechanic for a snowmobile racing team.
One year he visited our house at Christmas time and we took this picture.
When we got older we exchanged names … a big present and a little present. That first year I drew Joyce for my big present. I don’t know how old I was, but I started working at 15 … $2.50 an hour washing dishes at the Embers … so it might have been then. The price limit was $50 for the big present. Naturally, I went to the jewelry store at the Brookdale Mall. I found a watch that was over $100. I talked the guy down to $75 and I bought the watch.
I was so excited. I had to tell somebody about my great gift for Joyce. So I did what I usually did back then, when I had something important to talk about with someone … I called Joyce. I was telling her all about the experience, being very clever to not to give anything away.
I was near the end of the story when I blurted out the word, “watch.”
I screamed a blood-curdling scream that woke my ancestors. I slammed the phone down on the receiver and fell out a bed, causing such a ruckus that my dad RAN up the stairs. He ran up the stairs. He thought that I might have had been attacked by the crawl space maniac or worse. So he ran up the stairs. I don’t think he’d ever been upstairs before.
Here’s a true story from a recent trip for my new job at USA Volleyball.
Co-worker Corinne and I sit at a gaming table at Casino Night. You know the type of event … one free Bud Light, dude with a tall white hat carving meat at the meat sandwich station. Five women and the dealer try to explain a serious amount of rules for what I think will be a friendly game of blackjack. I lay down $50. I get my cards, a queen and a king. I’m thinking, ‘I’m good.’ It was at that time that Corinne tells me we are playing poker. Long story short, I win the pot, two kings, two queens. Pocket $450. One hand, take everyone’s money. ‘Corinne, let’s go. I don’t want to play poker.’
Sixty seconds later, I’m watching the roulette wheel. Five spins, all odd, all red. I tell Corinne, I’m going in. She says, you should bet $200. I put $100 on black, $100 on even. “26, Black.” I just earned $600 in five minutes. Gambling’s awesome.
Unfortunately, I was playing with fake money provided for Casino Night.
Carli in College
Eleven years ago, I went to my first Falfins Swim Team banquet and as I look back, I remember thinking, “God, how long is this going to take?”
In May, my all-growed-up 18-year-old, Carli, gave her senior farewell speech with poise, eloquence and grace. Then, she won the Falfins Pride Scholarship.
Meanwhile, while I’m beaming up front, I’m sure there was some age-group dad sitting in the back, complaining, “I can’t believe there’s no beer at this banquet.” Been there, thought that.
Carli graduated from high school this year. She won a few awards, a scholarship, captained her team to the Metro League title, got an IB diploma, picked a school … Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.
I got to drop her off at school in Washington, which is nowhere near where we live in Colorado. I was there two nights, left on day three. Carli was a little shaky those first two nights, so I had to pretend to be strong. Then came the third morning, I’m crying in my hotel room and pretty much didn’t stop until I got on the plane. Not cool. They called all of the parents into a room for coffee and scones, like pigs to the slaughter. Some Dean sat next to me and asked me to tell him about my student. I could barely talk. “She’s a swimmer … “ I was a wreck. So then Carli comes into the giant room and sits next to me. They bring in the ministers to administer the Last Rites or Final Farewell or whatever. And they actually said, okay students, get up, say goodbye and leave.
It felt like the first day of day care, except I was the one blubbering. I was the one clinging to my baby girl. Not exactly a Cool Hand Luke moment for the old man.
I already thought she blossomed in high school, but she’s really blossomed in college. She hiked Pinnacle Peak near Mount Rainier, scrambling up the incline and rappelling down; did an open water mile lake swim and did a Color Run; was named captain for the freshman swimmers, swam lifetime bests, including the 10th-best time in PLU history in the 200 IM, and is looking to score in the top eight in her three individual events at conference in February.
She has a tremendous support system with her swim team, friends outside of swimming, faculty and staff. And she recently got hired as an Admissions Office tour guide, a coveted position on campus. I told her to ask about a commission.
Carli likes Beyoncé. A lot.
Adventures at Starbucks …
So I’m at Starbucks, getting my Starbucks, when they call my name. My double tall, nonfat, no whip mocha is ready, but they don’t put a sleeve on it. I grab it and think, “Hmm, that’s not so bad” and walk to the door. Naturally, about a foot from the door, I think, “Holy sh*t! This coffee is melting the skin off my fingers!” But now I can’t go back to the counter, everyone in the place will think, “What’s the matter man, coffee too hot for ya?” I look down. I will no longer be leaving fingerprints with my left hand. I start the alternating-hands-in-the-parking-lot dance. “Must … make … it … to the car.” #alwaysgetasleeve
Starbucks story number two …
I’m running late for work, the drive-thru line is a mile long, so I decide to park at the exact time as someone else.
The race is on. I quickly shut off the car, quickly pop out of the car, and quickly walk to the door. Must … get … in … line … ahead … of … her. But she is hot on my heels and being a gentleman, I hold the door. I don’t, however, let her in ahead of me. Can’t give up that space in line.
So I get my order in, wait two seconds and BOOM my mocha is ready. Doesn’t seem that hot, I don’t get a sleeve and then I see her. The woman I held the door for, but didn’t let in ahead of me. She’s totally pregnant. I mean nine months worth of preggers. For a moment I feel bad, like the biggest loser in the world.
Then I think, “I guess she should have walked a little faster.”
Gina the Baker
Driving Gina to her choir concert one night:
“Gina, is there any song in particular that you want me to stay awake for?”
Gina turned 15 in May. One minute later, she got her driver’s permit. She is an excellent driver. I wish I had an amusing anecdote about her driving, but she just gets behind the wheel and takes care of business. She’s got a job. Teaching kids how to swim on Saturday mornings8a – 2p. She’s a born leader.
She’s also a born baker. She can cook anything, but her passion is baking cupcakes. Gina has so many people who love her so much, but her second mom is Mrs. Robin. She’s a swim mom. Andrew’s mom. Mrs. Robin gave Gina the book called, “What’s New Cupcake.” For Gina’s personal project, she made creative cupcakes out of the book. A big hit.
Gina is also very much into a nonprofit out of California, which raises money for a different charity for seven days at a time – weekly cause campaigns – giving seven dollars from each purchase. Gina is interested in interning with them someday. She owns two of their products. One is a t-shirt that says, “Love,” and the other is a sweatshirt that says, “Beauty is in Life’s Moments.’
Rose coaches in the evenings, which would give me and Gina an opportunity to watch a few of my favorite movies from the 1980s: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Back to the Future, and the Blues Brothers.
Gina ranks in the top 98 percentile in math and science in the country, whatever that means, and she’s swimming on the high school team.
Sam the Candlestick Maker
SAM: “I guess playing basketball for five hours wasn’t a good idea for my sore thigh.”
ME: “Did you ice it the other day?”
ME: “Sam, you really need to get in the habit of just doing what I tell you to do. Everything that is happening to you has already happened to me. I know. I’m like Biff from ‘Back to the Future II’ … I’m Biff from the future and I’m handing you the sports almanac.
“Just do what I tell you to do.”
I imagine the Archie Manning is pretty proud to be the father of three strapping young men; two Super Bowl MVPs. But I’ve got something that Archie doesn’t have … I’ve got Sam. He’s my boy. He’s going to write the next chapters of The Book of Snyder.
Sam is 14 and is a big-time football player. This year he played offensive and defensive tackle. He helped turn his losing seventh grade team into a winning team this year. Ask him about any game. He’s like the NFL Network; he can replay any game, play for play. Fortunately, he takes out all of the commercial breaks.
He is looking forward to high school ball.
He also started secretly going to the YMCA to play basketball. Next thing I know I’m taking him to basketball tryouts for the Colorado Springs Elite team. I had no idea what to expect. Sam’s standing in line for a drill listening to the coach, casually palming the ball. Later he does a rebounding drill and gets all the rebounds. Next they are shooting free throws and Sam has the sweetest stroke from the line. I was surprised and happy.
Rose’s favorite Sam moment began with a phone call from the school. The phone rings about six weeks into the year and Rose notices that it’s the school. “Oh no, what did Sam do?” It’s the vice principal from the school. Sam’s been turned in by his Language Arts teacher … and the band teacher … who both caught Sam doing something good. Sam helps a disabled student in a wheelchair in English everyday with his books. The teacher said that Sam always takes the time to help this student and makes him feel included. In band, Sam helps the kid with his music stand and instrument every day.
The vice principal said that Sam has a gift with special-needs children; not everyone has the time and patience to work with these kids.
Sam’s biggest moment of the year was meeting Wilbur the Wildcat at the Arizona-Colorado football game.
Rose the Headhunter
Rose and I visited Carli for Parents Weekend in Tacoma and we had the good fortune to stay with our friends, John and Sally Troup, who live just outside of Tacoma in Gig Harbor. Carli had two meets that weekend, which is exactly how I like spending my weekends. Fortunately, I have one of those smart phones with the interwebs on it. So in between Carli’s swims I followed the Nugs game sitting in the men’s locker room.
The second meet was at another nearby pool the next morning. Rose and I watched for about five minutes, then drove around a bit, then decided not to go back to the Troups, instead we’d go back to the school and try to sleep in the car. We were tired. I push my seat back and I’m set, ready to sleep.
Not Rose. She’s talking. I’m shnoosing. She can’t get comfortable. She can’t stop moving. She’s John Candy from Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It’s getting ridiculous. It’s finally quiet. No movement and then she moves again. We start laughing. And laughing. Laughing hard. Can’t stop laughing. One of us would stop laughing and then it would start again. I think we laughed for an hour. Slept for 10 minutes.
A few months later, Rose was interviewing the CEO of a local headhunting company; they wanted her to do a staff retreat-consulting gig. Rose was asking questions, but before long the CEO started asking Rose questions. And before you know it, Rose became a headhunter at the Woodmoor Group. So now Rose headhunts in the morning and afternoon, coaches swimming in the evenings and the weekends and consults and teaches private lessons, which sounds awfully busy, but it’s been a good deal for Rose. She has an office to go to during the day. She gets paid to talk to people and has a staff around her for support and friendship.
Rose’s favorite moment from 2013, well, one of them, was seeing and hearing Gina sing the National Anthem at the Colorado State Swimming Championships.
Kirby the Epileptic
Little Kirby had three seizures in 2013, not a fun thing to witness. The first one freaked Rose out … she took the dog to the vet’s office and forgot to put on shoes. He is on meds now; three times a day. He is doing fine.
Rocky smells bad. Needs some dental work, we still like him.
Charlie’s Proven Self-Talk Strategy for 90 Minutes of Trail Running
First 30 minutes … “I’m just a big, hairy American winning machine. When I get up in the morning, I piss excellence.”
Middle 30 … “I could go ALL day.”
Final 30 … “Where the f@%k’s my car?”
I left the Fine Arts Center in May to start a new job at USA Volleyball. I get to promote the men and women of our very successful beach and indoor programs. In my first seven months I traveled a bit, visiting our Southern California offices and going to events in San Diego, Long Beach, Reno, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, Vancouver, New York City and Zurich.
Visited a few museums, like MOMA …
Bonus Story | Van Gogh in NYC, Zurich
Had trouble navigating highways …
Bonus Story | Google Maps Lady I, II, III
Did you know that most old people will eventually break their hips? Of course, everyone knows that. But what you might not know is that old people don’t fall down and break their hips; they break their hips and then fall down, which brings me to my next story.
I was bowling. Actually, I wasn’t, I was about to bowl and I pulled my left hamstring. Felt the tug. A little embarrassing. I worked out that night and several more nights before I felt a bruise on my hamstring. My massage therapist got the first glimpse.
Every year for several years I’d think, I need to work my upper body in the winter. But since I keep track of all my miles run and biked, I had a compulsive need to run and bike. Well, the universe conspired and tore my hamstring making it impossible for me to run or bike. So I’ve been lifting weights and doing push-ups. #HangingAndBanging
I’m not the strongest of men. But I’m pleased with my progress.
Something big is going to happen in 2014.