My Relationship With Golf

My grandfather, my father, and all of my father’s brothers belonged to the Derrick Club in Edmonton, Alberta, in the 1960’s.  To me, it was where I took swimming lessons and watched curling matches, and where golf was played.   There was a series of jackets to be won depending on how good you were at hitting the ball and keeping your score as low as possible. I don’t remember the jackets but I remember my grandfather and father competing to see who would get a gold jacket first.  I don’t even know which of them won but I suspect it was my grandfather because he was just a little bit smarter, a little bit better, and a little bit more aggressive than my father ever was or could be.

Before I learned to play golf I got my first job at JF Kennedy Golf Course in Denver, Colorado, where our family had moved in 1968 after selling out of the oil business in Edmonton.  My father was the groundskeeper and I was 14 when I started picking up balls on the driving range and putting them in buckets to sell to the golfers on the weekend.  I earned a small amount for every bucket I assembled. I don’t remember the amount now, but I think it was around 50 cents a bucket.  The golfers would pay for their bucket of balls, practice their swings, and then I would go back out and pick up the balls.  I had a golf cart and a helmet and a long kind of tube made to reach out of the cart and scoop up the balls.  Usually I would pick the balls up after hours, sometimes by hand instead of with the cart.  But if the driving range was popular and we ran out of balls, I would go out in the cart with my helmet, dodging balls, and picking up the ones that had landed.

The next year I graduated to putting golf carts away at the end of every day and filling them with gas for the next day.  I parked carts at both JF Kennedy and Wellshire Golf Courses before I learned to drive a car.  It was the equivalent of my father at 12 learning to drive a tractor long before he was old enough to get a driver’s license.

I am grateful for both of these jobs, my first two paid employment opportunities obtained with connections through my family.   After all this immersion in golf, at age 16 I thought I should learn how to play. My dad was working nights so I signed up for golf lessons in PE at my high school.  The first thing I learned is that it’s very hard as a left-hander to learn golf from a right-hander.  That’s why my father never seemed to have the patience or knowledge of how to teach me to play the game he loved so much.  He got me left-handed clubs and, as it turned out, the instructor at school was left-handed so that worked out okay for me although I never warmed up to it.  Ironically, the other kids in the class who were right-handed had trouble with the left-handed instructor.  Eventually my dad came and helped the right-handed students when he had the time.  It was a win-win situation. By then my dad was a golf pro and teaching golf on weekends.  His scores were consistently under par and he was unhappy if he made par. I remember how happy he was when he beat “The Golden Bear”, Jack Nicklaus, playing in a tournament one time.  Of course my dad had a handicap differential while Nicklaus was a scratch golfer, but it didn’t change the excitement of being able to say my dad beat Jack Nicklaus!

Golf never was my game.  I didn’t continue playing past high school even though the incentives were there.  I’ve never excelled at games where calculating trajectory was key, like pool, golf, or football.  Looking back I think I missed an opportunity to connect with my dad on his terms.  Would we have been closer if I had put more effort and interest into the game he loved, and still loves so much?  My left-handed clubs are still somewhere in my parents’ garage, gathering dust. My father is now 86 years old, and I have never known him to miss a season of playing.

Forty Reasons Why I Write

I’m taking the 40 Reasons “Why Do You Write?” Challenge by Bryan Hutchinson.  Can I come up with forty reasons why I write?  The first eight or so seemed easy; the rest required a little digging.

At first glance forty reasons seem like a lot! But I’m up for the challenge. Thanks Bryan! So here goes.

  • I write:
    1. To fulfill a childhood dream
    2. To inform
    3. To educate
    4. To be heard
    5. To affirm
    6. To be affirmed
    7. To laugh
    8. To make other people laugh
    9. To claim my spot in the company of other writers
    10. To dream
    11. To practice
    12. To ask
    13. To tell my stories
    14. To tell my family’s stories
    15. To tell the stories of the people I love
    16. To tell the stories of the places I love
    17. To reconnect with old friends
    18. To make new friends
    19. To create beautiful images with words
    20. To inspire myself
    21. To inspire others
    22. To think of new ways to say old things
    23. To find my way
    24. To help people think in new and different ways
    25. To release anger
    26. To bring closure to difficult issues
    27. To bring clarity to difficult or confusing issues
    28. To resolve anxiety
    29. To get published
    30. To make a living from my own talents and drive
    31. To be my own boss
    32. To have other people read and react to what I write
    33. Because it’s what I’m good at
    34. Because writing raises my self-esteem
    35. So that I can help other write better
    36. To live life twice – once in the doing and once in the telling
    37. To give voice to social needs
    38. To say something important
    39. Because I am happiest when I am putting words to paper
    40. So I can call myself a writer

Putting this list together was invigorating, empowering, and made me take a good hard look at the reasons why I write.  If you would like to take the 40 Reasons “Why Do You Write?” Challenge by Bryan Hutchinson, go here  http:/positivewriter.com/reasons-why-write-challenge/ and get started!

Compassion

Reynisifjara and Reynisdrangar, Iceland. Photo by Martin Falbisioner

Here are three things you can do now to improve the quality of your own life by consciously improving how you interact with other people.

Set a positive example for others. Maybe you do this without even thinking about it, but what if you were to consciously make the decision to set a positive example?  A lot of parenting advice revolves around setting an example for your children and being a model for how you want them to be as they grow up.  But do we follow this advice in our everyday interactions with others?  It’s been proven that kindness rubs off.  Even a smile can brighten the day for someone who is hurting, wrestling with deep issues or problems, or just absorbed in their own “stuff”.

While you may already treat other people with kindness, do you do the same for yourself? It’s important that you treat yourself with kindness.  Accept and love yourself for who you are.  Your view of the world and your place in it will shift significantly if you realize that in the current moment you are doing the best you know how.  Don’t beat yourself up about yesterday or the future. Tell yourself, “in this moment I am doing okay, I am handling this.”  You may find it hard to accept yourself and love yourself if you are dwelling on the mistakes you’ve made, the situation you find yourself in, when the past looks unforgivable and the future looks bleak.    Count your blessings.  What do you have in your life right now that blesses you?  What are you capable of, what are you good at, what blesses you?  Focus on that.

Act with compassion, always. Shift your mental focus to the other person. Act out of pure love.  This is not easy if you are used to thinking about yourself and how something or someone affects you, but if you practice it every time you are interacting with someone, it will start to come naturally.  Think, “how is this person feeling? How is this person reacting to the situation? What can I do or say to help them through it or feel better about themselves?” Then act accordingly.  Not everything that happens in this life or everything said to you is meant to hurt you.  Sometimes the other person is the one hurting and just needs to be heard.

To become more mindful of yourself and your impact on others, to affect other people in a positive way that shows understanding in a world where you would also like to be heard and understood, step back for a moment and practice these three concepts.  At first people may not be able or willing to see the change in you. They may not trust the “new” you or think it’s just a phase.  But if you are consistent and willful in your desire to change how you interact with other people, you will see a shift in how they interact with you and, like a chain reaction, how they treat the other people in their lives.

Compassion
by Miller Williams

Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.

From The Ways We Touch: Poems. Copyright 1997 by Miller Williams.
Used with permission of the University of Illinois Press.

Unusual Solutions

I’ve never passed a kidney stone but I’ve heard it’s very painful.  A friend of mine once passed one the size of a grain of sand, and in his words, it was the most excruciating pain he had ever felt.   I hope I don’t have to have that experience, but it’s nice to know that recent research has discovered that passing a kidney stone might be a lot faster and less painful if you take a ride on a roller coaster.

I believe it! First you have the long slow climb up to the top of the track, and then the brief hanging seconds when you are anticipating what comes next, and another few seconds when the roller coaster begins to drop, picking up momentum and throwing everyone into a heart-stopping, jaw-clenching scream as you barrel down the track.   If not a heart attack, why not a kidney stone?  According to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association,  research on kidney stones and roller coasters began after a patient reported passing a stone while riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World.  The scientists built a 3-D model of a kidney complete with kidney stones and tested their model on both front seat and back seat rides.  Those in the back seat passed nearly 4 times as many stones as those in the front seat.  So, I guess if you have a small kidney stone and want to avoid the stress and cost of surgery, going to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World might be a more fun and less costly option.

What does this have to do with writing?  Have you ever written an article, paper, or story that felt like passing a kidney stone?  So painful you wish you could avoid it, but so inevitable that it’s going to trundle its way through the small narrow path to its final destination?  And doesn’t writing sometimes feel like being on a roller coaster? The long trudge uphill as you fight procrastination and the need to start putting your words on paper, until you finally get to the crest…hit your stride and plummet full force into your writing, forgetting time and space until you reach the end and the car pulls up short, the attendant unlocks the bar, and you stumble a little dizzy into the rest of your day.   The message I take away from this is to keep on writing even though you may feel like your story is being pulled from you like a kidney stone, excruciatingly slowly, because the high you get when you top the hill and find your stride will cause that story to dislodge itself from your inner being onto the page and into the light and there is no better feeling than being able to look at your work in front of you and exclaim, “What a ride!”  The ache inside of you is gone for the time being and the next time you are struggling to get your stories out and heard, it won’t be so painful if you remember to strap yourself into that roller coaster car and hang on for dear life.

Photo courtesy of Brandon Wholey 2004
Photo courtesy of Brandon Wholey 2004

A Determined Kid

royal-typewriter

A determined kid can achieve most anything he sets out to do. I consider my early writing years to be those between the ages of four and nine when I placed my index finger on my first Royal typewriter and “published” my first poem on a piece of paper easily 20 years older than I was.  This singular act was thrilling beyond what I could have ever imagined. The thrill never left me.  I was a poet.  I was a writer.  The poem, about a dog chasing a fox, was a flop.  Forced rhymes, mundane theme, poor word choices.  But it wasn’t so much the actual poem that made me a writer, it was the act of putting the words on paper, arranging them in a way that was pleasing to me and said what I wanted to say, in a way I wanted to say it.  All the learning of parts of speech, sentence construction, figurative language, tense, structure, and all those other things, were still in my future.  Here’s how it unfolded.

I was visiting my father in his office, a gray shack in the middle of a field.  Technically it was my grandfather’s “field office”.  My grandfather owned and managed oil fields and my father fixed derricks.  A multi-purpose place, mysteriously filled with machinery, tools, cabinets, and dust, it provided plenty to capture the attention of a youngster. But of all the things to do and see, I was drawn to an older model shiny black Royal typewriter sitting on a battered wooden desk. In the desk drawer was a sheath of paper in a notebook my dad said was left over from his college days.  He showed me how to feed the paper and pound the keys to make ink appear.  And I had to pound the keys. Lucky for me I typed with one finger so the long stalks that attached the keys to the letters did not mash together as they did later on when I learned to type faster. Beaming with pride I displayed the poem to my father and he said it was good.  Hearty praise from a man of little words.

Ray Bradbury once said “Run fast, stand still. This the lesson from lizards. For all writers.” I hadn’t read those words yet, but I believed they were true.  Write as though your life depended on it.  Write fast and often. Write everything that was in your heart and you would surely find your calling.   When you write quickly without stopping to edit you are writing from truth.  You are writing from the heart.  Editing can come later. Style can come later.  Don’t stop to look around or, like the lizard, you will become someone’s dinner.