Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

BookCoverImageIn appreciation of the teachers and coaches that shaped my life, I am offering a Black Friday special price for Home Sweet Hardwood. As a gesture of gratitude to the people that mentored you, offer a gift copy of the memoir of A Title IX Trailerblazer Breaking Barriers Through Basketball!

An All American tale with a European twist about a pre Title IX tomboy who fought for right to be allowed on the court and never gave up. Even when she could no longer play the game she loved. Home Sweet Hardwood makes a great holiday gift to offer a sporty daughter or granddaughter or an aspiring athlete.

“Observing the courage and determination with which Pat pursued her dream goes beyond gender and racial lines to reach a much deeper place within us all. This is a profound story of the strength of the human spirit in the face of extreme challenges. Inspiring, illuminating and awesome; Home Sweet Hardwood is certain to have an impact, not only on women of all ages, but upon anyone who has ever aspired to overcome all odds for something or someone that they love.”

Bil Howard, Readers’ Favorite 5 star review

Give a voice of to silent pioneers who helped pave the way for our high flying daughters of today. In the true spirit of the game- pay it forward pass it on.

Four decades, three generations, two continents, one game.

Order online now at https://www.createspace.com/3877698!

Use this special code YEYGSSZD and get a 25% discount! (valid through Friday midnight)

 

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How to Beat November Doldrums

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a view from our window

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep my spirits up in November. The cold, damp, dreary weather reflects my foul mood.  I am surrounded by germs a go-go at the school where I teach. The bacterial infection that I seem to breed within my bone marrow attacks every November leaving my body inflamed with a scratchy throat, stuffy nose, tight chest, achy joints and pounding head.

From my attic window, my bird’s eye view of the countryside reminds me to celebrate each season. In the foreground, spindly naked, tree branches bend low in the north wind. Barren fields line the auburn earth, and white caps dotting silver-colored Lake Geneva send chills down my spine. In the distance, the snow-patched Alps loom like a figment of my imagination. Layers of billowy clouds in various shades of grey roll overhead like waves on a churning sea.

With gratitude on my lips, I focus on the positive to help endure the November blues.

  • Birthdays. My beloved son was born 23 years ago. My treasured niece also shares a November birthday.
  • Basketball. Hoop season begins! I can follow my favorite teams again.
  • Harvest. Though I would have trouble growing dandelions, I grew up in a farm rich community and now live beside vineyards, orchards and fields.  Every year, I marvel at the harvest and admire the men and women who work the fields to fill our tables.

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    the fields in autumn with the Alps in the background

  • Thanksgiving. A table laden with turkey and all its trimmings is always a reminder to be grateful for family, friends, and mother nature’s bounty
  • Walk. I lean into the wind on my way to school feeling blessed for the ability to move my limbs. Each step I take I remember to be grateful to have a job.
  • Family. My husband lovingly shows his support by creating a program to keep track of my schedule when I start a regime of antibiotics and anti-viral again.
  • Voices. Once so rare due to cost, long distance phone calls, now offer a lifesaving link. Occasionally, old friends surprise me, my sisters ring regularly, my Big Kids Skype-in and as reliable as a church service, my parents call every Sunday. Support seeps through the lines in the voices that sustain me.
  • People. The best way to avoid a self-pity party is to focus on someone else. I help edit my senior student’s essay, reassure a distraught parent via email, and mail a sympathy card to a friend to acknowledge the pain of her loss.
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take a walk on the wild side

When your health falters, bad weather hits and the sad, dark days of late autumn bring you down – go for a walk, reach out, connect, engage, and share gratitude.

What keeps you going in November?

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The President’s Coach – From Eureka College to Capitol Hill

A great coach is worth his/her weight in gold. But coaches rarely make a mint or garner front page news unless they coach on campuses making major marketing bucks or if they are involved in some scandal. That is why the story of my grandpa, Coach Mac, a small college coach and the small town boy, Ronald Reagan, who he mentored at Eureka (1928-1932) is so inspiring to coaches everywhere.Coach Mac's plaque

Consider the odds that the son of a tenet farmer in Oklahoma would find his way to Eureka College, a  private Christian school tucked in the Central Illinois’ cornfields between Peoria and Bloomington. There, Ralph « Mac » McKinzie became a legendary athlete and coach.

No one recorded statistics on the hundreds of lives Coach Mac guided during a coaching career at Eureka, Northern Illinois University and Wartburg College, Iowa, that spanned seven decades. How incredibly unlikely that one of his prodigies would go on to become our 40th President.

Coincidence? Maybe, but not to those who knew my grandpa. Coach Mac, a simple, hardworking man demanded high standards and in his gruff, awe-inspiring voice could resurrect the dead in fiery, halftime talks. He set such a fine example that those who played for him wanted to do right by him.

In later years, my grandpa kidded that Reagan had more talent as a sports commentator talking with broomstick at halftime, than throwing blocks during a game. And Reagan, in his self-deprecating humor, often said that though he never became the football star he dreamed of, he learned more lessons on McKinzie Football Field at Eureka College than anywhere else in his life.

« Whatever I am today, » President Reagan announced during a halftime interview of a Big Ten game on national TV in 1981, « I feel Coach Mac had an awful lot to do with it. »

Coach Mac recognized when a boy needed the team more than the team needed the boy. After his freshman year, Reagan wanted to quit football and college, but Coach Mac, known for backing words with actions, walked Reagan to the president’s office to secure a work/study scholarship. Reagan returned to campus to play football, at starting right guard, and to graduate.

From broadcasting to Hollywood to the White House, Reagan never missed an opportunity to publicly thank my grandpa for the role he played in shaping his life. Coach Mac instilled a strong work ethic and a fighting spirit. Reagan never gave up. After he lost the first election, he ran again, and won.

Another not so famous former athlete, who my grandpa guided, was my dad, Jim McKinzie, who went onto influence the lives of countless other athletes (including me and my sister) in his 33 years of coaching at Sterling High School.

As an athlete, I was blessed with exemplary coaches. In addition to my dad and grandpa, I was shaped by Phil Smith at SHS and Jill Hutchison at Illinois State University. In a continuation of the family legacy, I went on to coach my son and daughter at the American School of Paris and International School of Geneva. My daughter had the good fortune to play for Shirley Egner at University of Wisconsin-SP where she was adopted into the Stevens Point community before going on to become the first doctor (pediatrician) in our family.

A coach’s imprint is everlasting, like a stone thrown in a lake, setting off a ripple effect. One life influences another one that goes on to impact a hundred more. Great coaching can’t be measured and not every good coach will have the opportunity to glow in the limelight of a national championship; however, a coach’s worth shines far beyond the record books. Like Coach Mac and Reagan, relationships between coaches and athletes can last a lifetime.

In 1962 at my grandpa’s Northern Illinois University retirement testimonial banquet, the keynote speaker, Ronald Reagan said, « We should wait until after the season, then look at the coach’s record in the hearts and minds and characters of the young men associated with him to see what their contribution has been in later life. The noblest work of man is to build character of other men. By this standard, no one is more deserving of retiring an undefeated champion, than Ralph McKinzie. »

Yet grandpa never really retired. True to character, Coach Mac returned to Eureka as assistant coach, where he donated his salary back to the college, until his final days.

In the real game of life, the only record that really matters has little to do with the final score. Small town coaches at small time schools make major differences in a noble way.

The story of Coach Mac and President Reagan is an endearing reminder to coaches at each level of every sport that even during a losing season, a coach’s influence goes beyond the game. Win or lose, ripple after ripple, great coaches make for a better world, one athlete at a time.

Jim and Lenore McKinzie celebrate Eureka’s 8-2 season and the commemoration of The Coach and The President plaque on McKinzie Football Field

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Best Teaching Tip – The Back Pocket Plan

Le_Chat_30April12_025_copyAfter teaching for years, I know to be prepared for the unexpected, so I always carry a spiral notebook in my back pocket. On it, I have a list activities for those times when the lesson does not go as planned due to faulty technology, essay eating hobgoblins and the never fail, « I can’t present today my group member is sick. »

Kids today are so clever. They must toss a virtual coin on Facebook the night before a group oral presentations are due to decide which member of the team should be absent the next day.

Teachers become adept at thinking off the top of their head, seat of their pants and back of their eyeballs. Since my students weren’t ready, I resorted to the pack pocket plan. I led a discussion about how the weather echoes human emotions in the text we were studying. Then I opened the blinds and told them to stare out the window and write for 10 minutes about this typical dreary fall day. Write about whatever comes to mind regarding weather, how you feel when looking out the window today, how the rainy autumn affects your mood, how you dream of escaping this dreary classroom.

Educational studies show that students learn best when they see the teacher looking at a book during reading time or writing along with them during a writing assignment. I pulled out my pocket notebook and began scribbling.

At the end of 10 minutes, a few brave souls timidly read their pieces of work. Then I think as a ploy to save unwilling classmates, they insisted I read mine. So I began…

« This weather stinks. Rainy. Cloudy. Cold. Old man winter is coming round cloaking us in a death vice. I am sick of the foggy gloom that is November. I am tired of seeing the faded, grey view from my dark tinted glasses. I am weary from too much work and too little time. I want to crawl under my soft, lumpy duvet and hibernate until spring, but I can’t. My students are waiting with eager, smiling faces, fidgety and restless, full of life. So I put on a happy face and greet my class with a grin. They bring me enough light and laughter to endure the autumn blues. »

Bless their generous little hearts, when I finished reading, the class burst into applause. Right on time one ginger-headed boy, deadpanned, « You must have been writing about your other class. »

We burst out laughing just as the dismissal bell rang ending the school day.Le_Chat_30April12_022_copy

And that is why I love teaching.

What is your best back pocket plan?

Best Teaching Tip – The Back Pocket Plan

Le_Chat_30April12_025_copyAfter teaching for years, I know to be prepared for the unexpected, so I always carry a spiral notebook in my back pocket. On it, I have a list activities for those times when the lesson does not go as planned due to faulty technology, essay eating hobgoblins and the never fail, « I can’t present today my group member is sick. »

Kids today are so clever. They must toss a virtual coin on Facebook the night before a group oral presentations are due to decide which member of the team should be absent the next day.

Teachers become adept at thinking off the top of their head, seat of their pants and back of their eyeballs. Since my students weren’t ready, I resorted to the pack pocket plan. I led a discussion about how the weather echoes human emotions in the text we were studying. Then I opened the blinds and told them to stare out the window and write for 10 minutes about this typical dreary fall day. Write about whatever comes to mind regarding weather, how you feel when looking out the window today, how the rainy autumn affects your mood, how you dream of escaping this dreary classroom.

Educational studies show that students learn best when they see the teacher looking at a book during reading time or writing along with them during a writing assignment. I pulled out my pocket notebook and began scribbling.

At the end of 10 minutes, a few brave souls timidly read their pieces of work. Then I think as a ploy to save unwilling classmates, they insisted I read mine. So I began…

« This weather stinks. Rainy. Cloudy. Cold. Old man winter is coming round cloaking us in a death vice. I am sick of the foggy gloom that is November. I am tired of seeing the faded, grey view from my dark tinted glasses. I am weary from too much work and too little time. I want to crawl under my soft, lumpy duvet and hibernate until spring, but I can’t. My students are waiting with eager, smiling faces, fidgety and restless, full of life. So I put on a happy face and greet my class with a grin. They bring me enough light and laughter to endure the autumn blues. »

Bless their generous little hearts, when I finished reading, the class burst into applause. Right on time one ginger-headed boy, deadpanned, « You must have been writing about your other class. »

We burst out laughing just as the dismissal bell rang ending the school day.Le_Chat_30April12_022_copy

And that is why I love teaching.

What is your best back pocket plan?

A Family Affair – Marie’s First Marathon

Image 1_copyToday it is hard to fathom that there was a time pre Title IX (1972) when running, like most sports, was considered unladylike and females were not allowed to join in. I grew up dreaming of one day running a marathon: alas, injury thwarted that goal, so I was especially thrilled that my niece became a runner. No one cheered louder (long distance) when on Sunday, October 20th, Marie stood at the starting line of her first marathon, the IMT Des Moines Marathon 2013. This blog is dedicated to her and to all those marathoners out there.  Run, run, run for those of us who can’t.

What compelled you to train for a marathon?  When I ran on the varsity cross-country team in high school we handed out water at the Twin Cities Marathon. I thought those marathoners were insane but SO COOL!  It’s been on my bucket list ever since.  I missed competitive sports, so to keep the up with my competitive side I need motivation and racing is just that. In June, I ran a half marathon with my cousin, Kayla, and her husband, Steve. As soon as we crossed that finish line she said, ‘We’re signing up for a marathon.’ I thought she was nuts.  But here we are.. marathoners.

What all does marathon training entail?  It is a huge time commitment to training that includes a combination of easy run, speed workout, tempo pace, and then gradually building up to 15, 16, 17, 18, 20 and 21-mile long runs.

What motivated you to maintain your rigorous training schedule?  I was NOT going to be that lameo, who didn’t finish something I set out to do.  If I didn’t train there was no way I would cross that finish line. My friends rarely saw me; I didn’t go out on weekdays or weekends. This marathon became my life.

What kept you going in the marathon when you knee started hurting and you got tired? I didn’t train for 4 months for nothing. I never had any pain while training so when my knee started throbbing after mile 10, I was P.O.ed, but I kept going because NOTHING was going to stop me.(I even texted my mom for Advil and I NEVER take drugs!).  Kayla and I actually ran faster in our last 10k than our first 10k.

Why do you like to run?  I get a runners high crossing the finish line!  Running is my ‘me’ time, I get to think about whatever I want, whenever I want, OUTSIDE!

Completing a marathon takes a huge commitment from the athlete, but Marie credits her family with having the biggest impact. Family – aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, sibling and especially my mom and dad – showed support by biking with me, bringing water, telephoning with encouragement, sending text messages, offering a massage gift card and nine Carlsons cheered us on throughout the whole 26.2 miles. Image 3_copy

What advice would you give anyone thinking about running a marathon?  ANYONE CAN DO IT!  SERIOUSLY.  Yeah, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And my biggest accomplishment (including college).  BUT if you train for it, you can do it.  A lot of the training is physically draining but most of it is mental.  If you can stop saying you ‘can’t’ and start saying ‘I can’, you will!

What have you benefited from most from your sport?  Running a marathon was my dream.  And I lived my dream. Yeah, I had a lot of help, BUT I RAN IT!  Nobody picked me up and carried me, I ran the whole thing on my own two feet.  After college I was just bumming around and not exercising.  Now I have a pretty good reason to get off the couch and exercise and feel good about myself.

Future goals?   Kayla and I wanted to finish it in under 5 hours; we ran 26.2 miles in 4 hours, 38 minutes.  I just wanted to run a marathon; now I want to run another. John Pupkes, also a marathoner, was the first person to run with me on a long run at the cabin and has encouraged me from day one! I will run the Twin Cities Marathon with him this fall and make it in under 4 hours.

Image 2_copyAnything else you would like to add?  WELL. I CAN’T WALK NORMAL. I have never been in so much pain.  I’ve never been through childbirth of course, but this is pretty darn painful.  My knee feels like it is tearing apart and my ankle feels broken.  BUT I’m going to run another one and another one and another…  OH AND I COULD NOT HAVE DONE WITH THIS WITHOUT MY ENTIRE CARLSON AND MCKINZIE FAMILY!

Run Ri Ri Run!

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