bible, faith

The One Phrase You Should Live By

No Comments 14 February 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.23.46 AMOne of the best speeches I ever heard occurred before I was ever part of the world’s largest speakers bureaus.  I was a counselor at Kanakuk, a camp focusing on helping inner-city kids, located in Golden, Missouri.  We were at the end of “Work Week”, the week we spent cleaning, raking, clearing limbs, painting, and doing anything else that needed to be physically done to prepare the camp for students before they arrive.  We’d also spent the week studying and learning more about the Bible, doing prayer walks around the camp, and preparing ourselves and the place spiritually to prepare for the students.

Almost all of the counselors were collegiate athletes in one sport or another.  We’d all gotten to know each other pretty well, and were excited to hear each other say something.  We were surprised when the quietest guy in camp stood up.  He was a big linebacker from an Oklahoma school who I’d only heard say 5 words the whole week But as he began, we realized that even though he didn’t talk, much, boy, could he speak. Continue Reading

history, music

Almost Motown

No Comments 25 January 2016

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This is the story of a manager and two sets of sisters- one Filipino-American and the other Italian-American- who had a goal of breaking barriers and making it into the music industry singing African-American R&B.

Euphony- The Group

Clockwise from left- Ylani Ballares, Krista Darin, Stacy Darin, Christina Ballares

Clockwise from left- Ylani Ballares, Krista Darin, Stacy Darin, Christina Ballares

While studying at Cypress College in Orange County, CA, in 1992, Christine Balleres was approached by James Peacock after a vocal recital with an invited audience.  “James came to me and asked me if I was interested in pursuing my singing career by becoming a part of a female vocal group,” Christine recalled. Christine later introduced James to her sister, Ylani, and a fellow Cypress student, Stacy Darin.  James had connected with another young singer, Melissa Garcia, and introduced her to the group. After a while, Melissa dropped out (showing up as a staging coach on American Idol 20 years later), followed briefly by another singer.  Finally, Stacy invited her sister Krista to join, and the group was complete- Stacy at lead, Christine at alto/rap, Krista sang soprano and while Ylani sang in the middle.

To come up with the name, the girls got out a dictionary of musical terms and leafed through it.  They found a word they loved, “Euphony”.  By definition, Euphony means “the quality of being pleasing to the ear, especially through a harmonious combination of words”.   Christine said, “Since we sang in four part harmony, we felt it defined the music and the songs we sang.”

The goal of the group was to sign a record deal, to sing all over the world, to deliver a positive message in a non-degrading, fun way, and help make a better life for their families.  The girls felt they not only had the talent, but the manager to get them to their goal.

THE MANAGER

Euphony- James Peacock

James Peacock was the man who put them together and his four singers were big fans of his.  According to Ylani, “James was a dreamer, ambitious, hard-working and respectful.” Christine said, “James was just a really nice man, had a good heart, and was very funny.”  Stacy said, “He had incredible drive and energy.”   He wasn’t the tallest guy, so if they ever made a movie about Euphony, “Kevin Hart would play him,” Krista added. In interviewing all of the girls, no matter how much they wanted to make it, they felt that James wanted it even more. “He put so much of his time, money, and effort into making us successful,” Krista said. “It meant everything to him.”

Euphony would perform at James Peacock's apartment

Euphony would perform at James Peacock’s apartment

James and the girls loved R&B music, and they worked hard on covers of En Vogue, Toni Braxton and others, together with original songs written by James and others.  As was popular at the time, most R&B songs included some rap, and James would stop managing just long enough to deliver his rhymes.

Euphony’s go-to song was the a cappella intro to the Jackson 5 song/ En Vogue version of “Who’s Lovin’ You”. James “was serious and was non-stop. He would promote us EVERYWHERE we went. We did more impromptu performances of that song than I could count because we all loved the reaction we would get when we were done. He made a ton of connections that way.”

“James always had his boom box with him wherever he went,” Krista said. “We were always ready to perform.”

James wanted them to practice all the time and even set up performances on the lawn at his apartment complex with the idea that any experience was good experience.

Making (Video Game) History

James connected them with famed Dutch producer Charles Deenen with Interplay and Nintendo. Euphony recorded the first ever vocals used in a video game for the Super Nintendo game Clayfighter (the run is clearly Stacy), and later added the vocals for Virtual Pool.  Charles Deenen went on to compose for massively successful games Fallout 1 & 2, Another World, Need For Speed and many others.

 

James’ goal was to get this group to make it in the world of R&B, and to do so, he wanted to put them in front of tough audiences to not only push them, but to push the boundaries of who would accept them.  That meant putting them into predominantly African-American clubs.

THE PERFORMANCE

Euphony- James Rapping

In a brilliant move that was two decades ahead of The Voice, James made audiences judge the group based on their voices, not on their appearance.  Every single club performance started with the girls behind stage or in the dark.  There wasn’t even any music.

The first impression of Euphony would be made on talent, and talent alone.

The girls would begin by singing the En Vogue song  “Who’s Lovin’ You” a cappella.  After about 45 seconds, the lights would come up or the girls would come out from behind the curtain.  Audiences were shocked.

“The was an audible gasp from the audience, every single time,” Krista said. Then “people freaked and would say, ‘These white girls can sing!’, Stacy added.

“Some audience members would stand and clap for us,” added Christine, “but others would look at us as if we were trying to be something we were not. We chose to start our performances in the dark or behind the curtain because we didn’t want to be judged on the color of our skin but the sound of our voices.”

“With each performance, we started to understand that image was just as important (if not more) as our ability to sing,” said Ylani.

Euphony performed everywhere from The Roxy to The Celebrity Centre, from Carson to Venice Beach, and from Cypress College to Electric Circus, a hole in the wall bar in Buena Park “that at least had a long walkway to perform” per Christine.  Several high school friends came out to the shows at Electric Circus. Stacy even met her future husband Bill Zepeda there.

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Euphony Hollywood Showcase Bio

One of their biggest performances was for the 3rd Annual Hollywood Showcase Awards.  Euphony shared the stage with artists like Tevin Campbell,  Coming of Age, and future singer/actor Terron Brooks (“The Temptations”, “Above The Rim”).

In front of the stage, long before he got to voice his opinion on singers like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and Jordin Sparks, Randy Jackson got to judge the four part harmony of Euphony.

 

The group performed all over Hollywood, Los Angeles and Orange County, working hard and hoping for the gig that would land them their big break. But it turned out that big break didn’t come from a concert at all- well, at least not from their own concert.

THE CONTEST- April 13, 1994

After they’d been together about two years, the group went to see a Christmas concert at the the Celebrity Theater.  They were sitting in the last row waiting for the concert to begin.  As a way to pass the time, they were singing four part harmony, because, well, they were always singing.  Two men in front of them asked, “Are you doing that for fun? Or do you do that for real?”  James talked to them and made the connection.  That spring, the girls were invited to call in and participate in a contest that 92.3 FM The Beat in LA was hosting called “Five Minutes of Fame”.  The girls called in and sang their 45 second interlude over the phone. The telephone switchboard lit up like magic! Listeners then called in and Euphony won with the most call-in votes.  They were invited to come on the morning show with John London and the House Party.   The Beat started playing a Euphony song that James wrote called “Wrong Move”.

“We loved it,” said Krista, “It was crazy hearing ourselves on the radio.  We told all our friends to listen.”  At the time, Stacy was interning for Diana Steele at the station and couldn’t believe they were actually on it.

Luckily, it wasn’t just friends and family who heard Euphony’s contest entry on 92.3.  Three different people at Motown Records heard Euphony’s performance and got it into the hands of the iconic label’s new visionary, Jheryl Busby.

 

THE RECORD EXECUTIVE

Credit Associated Press, 1993

Credit Associated Press, 1993

Jehryl Busby was the executive credited with reviving the legendary Motown label. From 1984-1988, he had virtually started MCA’s black division from scratch, launching New Edition, Jodi Watley, Bobby Brown and Mary J. Blige.   When he came to Motown in 1989, it was a record company in decline.  Having reached highs of $100 million per year, they were down to just $20 million. Busby changed all that, signing fresh new acts like Queen Latifah, Boyz II Men, and Johnny Gill.  In 1990 alone, Motown had five songs reach #1 on the R&B charts.

“With a blend of pop and soul, Motown had transcended racial barriers and consistently topped both the black and pop charts with performers like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Jackson Five, the Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Spinners and the Four Tops.” (New York Times).

Could Motown’s new visionary Busby again transcend racial barriers and launch a Filipino/white sister act from the most iconic African American label?

 

THE MEETING- May 10, 1994, 9AM

Jheryl Busby set up the meeting with James and Euphony at the Motown office in LA.

“Firstly, Jeryl Busby’s staff asked us to sing a capella right away,” said Ylani.  “It was common for people to disbelieve the sound matched our looks.  Still in disbelief, they asked us to sing and dance to our tracks.  We did 2-3 songs before bringing us to Jeryl’s office.”

“His office was amazing,” said Krista. “He had a whole wall of windows that overlooked the Hollywood sign.  The other walls were lined with records from all these famous artists.  He even had a gorgeous four-piece bathroom in his office.”

“Jheryl Busby helped foster the careers of Boys II Men and Johnny Gill and at that time, Boys II Men were huge so I personally was honored, excited and nervous. He was really serious, extremely professional and a strong businessman,” said Christine.

Jheryl asked them to sing something for him a cappella, and the girls did their 45 second song.  James had his ubiquitous boom box there for songs to perform with tracks.

He asked them how the four of them met and how long they had been singing together.

Christine said, “he saw great potential and believed in us and that is why he put together the private Motown showcase for us.”

He then excused the girls and finished the meeting in private with James. They set up the showcase for July, three months to the day from when they won the “Five Minutes of Fame” contest.

THE SHOWCASE- July 13, 1994, 7PM

Euphony Performing at Motown Records

Euphony’s Performance At Motown Records

Between the meeting with Jheryl Busby and the showcase, Euphony took their preparation to another level.  “James Peacock was a drill sergeant” said Stacy. “We rehearsed non-stop and we worked out constantly. We were in the best shape of our lives. We would go jogging together while singing to build up stamina for the stage and performance.”

Stacy continued, “When it came to rehearsal, we practiced whenever we weren’t working in his tiny apartment in Anaheim. We practiced those same 5 songs over and over again. James wanted perfection and so did we. We would practice in front of mirrors, we would practice in rehearsal halls with sound equipment.  We knew those 5 songs and could sing them in our sleep. We performed around the clock to get ready for the big night.”

The set list:
Acapella “Who’s loving You” (Jackson 5)
Another Sad Love Song (Toni Braxton)
Groove Thang (Zhane)
2 original James Peacock songs

James surprised the girls and rented a limo for them so they could arrive at the Motown office in style.  40 minutes before the performance, the girls finished a perfect sound check.  Along with Motown and music industry people in attendance, family and a few friends, including the DJ for whom Stacy was interning, Diana Steele, showed up.

“We were excited and nervous, but well prepared,” said Christine.  “We were thinking this was going to be our big break.”

Euphony began as they always did, behind the curtain, singing “Who’s Loving You”.  Immediately, they could tell something was wrong. One of the girl’s microphones had somehow been turned down or completely off, and in singing four part harmony, you definitely need all four parts. There were other sound issues as well.  “We couldn’t understand it,” said Krista. “Everything had been perfect 40 minutes before, so how could the sound have changed so much? And how could they not fix it as we went along?”

“The reception from the audience was mediocre,” said Stacy.

With that start, the girls weren’t able to make the make the connection they normally could with an audience.   First off, aside from family in attendance, it was an industry audience, which any artist will tell you is the worst audience you can have.  You’re performing in front of people who are paid to judge and analyze music, not enjoy it.  Secondly, they didn’t have the advantage of surprise. Normally Euphony had the opportunity to be judged by their sound before their appearance, but this group had seen their material ahead of time.  And finally, it was felt many in attendance wouldn’t allow themselves to have buy-in due to their appearance.

Ylani met with some of the Motown executives post-performance, “and they were already saying that it would be difficult to market us.”

Not long after, James received a phone call stating that Euphony was not marketable for the genre of music they were singing.

After the showcase, they kept going as a group for a while, but all of them felt inside that it was over.  They had put so much into the Motown showcase.  They met with Tevin Campbell’s manager, with Scott Brothers Records and others, but the fire was gone.

“There were other labels that were interested.  However, they wanted high heels and mini skirts,” stated Ylani.  “Not happening.”

With that, the R&B dream was over, but the rest of their lives were just beginning.

AFTER EUPHONY

After Euphony broke up, Ylani picked up her banking career where it had left off, but continued singing for a while before eventually moved to New York to pursue writing.  Her housemate was working on a musical and she enjoyed being around the creative process.  When she met her husband, he was in a band and they played around with acoustic/songwriter music, more for personal enjoyment than anything else.  When they moved to Arizona, they joined a band that played at a Lutheran church every Sunday.

Christine stayed in the arts, co-producing a Latin-Dance musical in Hollywood and singing in smaller gigs in Los Angeles.  She’s now been working for The Music Center Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County for 10 years in theatrical production, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it.  “It brings joy to my life that I am a part of an organization that supports the arts, music, theatre, and dance as well as offer free community-based events to Los Angeles and surrounding communities.”

Krista and Stacy put their professional singing dreams on hold for a while, but kept singing in church.  Along

The Darins- Letting Go- album cover

The Darins- Letting Go- album cover

with their two younger sisters, Rachelle and Heather, they would perform often at their church, Cypress EV Free. Unbeknownst to them, their choir director sent one of their recordings to John and Dino Elefante (of the band Kansas/”Carry On My Wayward Son” fame), who eventually signed their group, “The Darins” to a record deal to the new Christian label Pamplin Records (which at the time also had Katy Perry- yes, that one).  Along with their parents, Stacy’s husband Bill (who by this point was no longer hanging out at Electric Circus), they moved to the center of the Christian music world, Nashville, Tennessee.   Though with their four part harmony they were often confused with Avalon and Point of Grace, they ended up having a number of top 20 songs on the CCM, CHR and Inspirational charts, with their biggest hit being the top 10 song “Can’t Stop”, which they co-wrote.  After the second record, their label ended up dissolving, and they all got married and started families, but “The Darins” will never break up.  It’s the benefit of being sisters, after all.

The Darins were signed to the world’s largest talent agency, the William Morris Agency.  A young agent assistant got the new group’s press photos and thought, “Wow, that blonde girl is good looking!”, and ended up booking them for several concerts.  After leaving William Morris, he ran into Krista at Schlotzky’s Deli, asked her out, and now they have 2 girls and he’s currently typing up this story.

“It’s like thinking back to a different lifetime. We were all like sisters. We were together so much those few years. We had some disagreements but got along REALLY well!” said Stacy.

“It was a crazy amazing time, and we were all so close to each other and worked so hard. We felt like a family,” said Krista.

“To have shared this experience singing and sharing the stage with my sister, Stacy and Krista is one of the fondest memories that I will always hold near and dear to my heart,” said Christine.

“It was the BEST,” echoed Ylani. “We had such a connection to one another.  These memories will last forever. My sister and I still laugh about those times to this day! It taught us to support one another, let each other have our moment to shine. It helped bring honesty to the table in a way that only sisters know how. So much love in my heart thinking about our journey. [I was] truly blessed going through this with Chris, “Stace” and “Kritta.”

Odds & Ends

  • While recording some of the original music James had written, Euphony ended up at the same studio where Jamie Foxx was recording.  He took a few minutes to chat with the girls, told a few jokes about the woman he was dating, and let them listen in while he was recording.
  • Pamplin is also famous for signing another singer, Katy Hudson.  Unlike Krista and Stacy, who left secular music to pursue the Christian industry, their label mate Katy took the opposite route.  She changed her stage name to “Katy Perry” and went on to become somewhat of a big deal.Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.18.58 AM
  • Original Euphony member Melissa Garcia ended up becoming a staging expert including stints with American Idol.
    Screen shot 2016-01-10 at 7.10.58 PM

    Left- Melissa Garcia in the early Euphony days. Right- working at part of Randy Jackson’s American Idol boot camp.

    Notes on sources: Thanks to Ylani, Christine, Krista and Stacy for the interviews.  Stacy’s day planner and stacks of old photos and event programs were invaluable.  We tried to track down James Peacock for an interview, but were unable to do so.

Rolling Stone article: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/randy-jackson-s-idol-workshop-lessons-learned-from-the-dawg-20140217

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Lord is an Indiana farm boy who wouldn’t have dreamed in a million years that he would have ended up marrying a smart, beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed California girl.

kids, triathlon

3 Nashville Area Kids Triathlons

1 Comment 18 July 2015

3 Nashville Area Kids Triathlons

Nashville is a great area for kids to learn triathlon, and if there’s a season for the sport, it’s August.  You’ve got three great options all around the city.  I’ve got girls who started at ages 4 and 5, who are now 8 & 9, and I’ve loved sharing the experience with them.

A kid who can do a triathlon can do anything!

Here’s a birds eye view of three triathlons.  If your child can swim bike and run, but you’re not sure about how to change from one to another, or “transition”, read my recent post about “Kids Triathlon Practice 101“.

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 8.30.36 AMSaturday, August 1– HEAT Kids Triathlon (Hendersonville)– The 6-10 year olds will swim a 50 yard pool swim, bike 2 miles, and run 1 mile.  11-15 year olds will swim 100 yards, bike 4 miles, and run 2 miles. $30 per child
Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 8.24.57 AMSunday, August 16– BEAT Kids Triathlon (Nolensville) (this is the one my club is putting on, so it’s already my favorite)-
Ages 5-7: 50 yard swim, 2.5 mile bike, 0.7 mile run
Ages 8-11: 100 yard swim, 2.5 mile bike, 0.7 mile run
Ages 12-15: 150 yard swim, 4.8 mile bike, 1.5 mile run
Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 8.32.05 AMSaturday, August 22– TRY BORO Kids Triathlon (Murfreesboro) Junior Division (7 to 10 years old): 100 yard swim – 2.4 mile bike – 0.5 mile run .
Senior Division (11 to 14 years old): 200 yard swim – 4.8 mile bike – 1 mile run.
http://www.tryborokidstri.org/triabout  $25 till 7/23; $30 after.
NOTE: If you plan on doing more than one triathlon in a year, sign up for a child’s membership for USAT.  You have to pay a $10 insurance fee for each event.  However, if you get a kids USAT membership ($15), that covers you for insurance.  Plus, you get the triathlon magazine subscription and a lot of discounts.

I hope you and your kids have a great time with triathlon this summer!

kids, triathlon

Kids Triathlon Practice 101

No Comments 13 July 2015

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Most kids love to swim, bike and run.  Triathlon is a natural step to combine these things, but sometimes people (mostly parents) are uncertain how to teach them how to transition from one discipline to another.  But the answer is simple- just add water.   I recently did this with my nieces and nephews (twin 12-year-olds, triplet 5-year-olds) with my daughters, kids triathlon veterans, helping out.  They absolutely loved it.

The order for 99% of the triathlons out there goes like this- first swim, then bike, then run.

Here are the basics for what you’ll need (please note, this is mostly focused for kids aged 5 to 12. Older kids doing longer distances may want to use adult tri tops and bottoms).

1. Swimsuit (most younger kids)
2. Goggles
3. Towel (any will do, but uniquely-colored beach towels are the best)
4. Bike
5. Socks (the shorter, the better with wet feet) and running shoes

As a parent, you’ll want to figure out a safe bike and run course, either a park or a cul de sac, or somewhere with little traffic.  I’ll also enlist and older kid or another adult to help make sure no one goes off course.

SET-UP – (before the race)
Screen shot 2015-07-13 at 3.39.19 PM

The set up is important.  At the event, there will be many towels laid out, so it’s best to use a beach towel or bike bath towel that’s a unique color or pattern.  This towel set up is directly beside the bike.

HELMET- Lay the helmet down with the straps out and untangled. Make sure your child can easily strap on his or her own helmet.  There are volunteers to help at the event, but it’s always quicker for a child to do their own.  I had my girls practice buckling and unbuckling their helmet when they were younger while sitting in front of the TV.

SOCKS- If your child normally wears socks, have them wear socks in the race.  I find it easier if you roll the top of the socks so you can easily slide them over your feet.

SHOES- Make sure shoes are unlaced or un-velcroed (is that a word)? You can also get zip-tie like laces or no-tie laces for $6-$10 of varying quality from Wal-mart for the cheap kind to your running/tri shop for the fancy kind.

SHIRT/SHORTS- Boys generally wear normal swim trunks for the whole thing.  Some put on a shirt before the bike or run.   Girls can add shorts and/or t-shirts before they put on their shoes.

SWIM to BIKE (“T1” or “Transition 1”)

For the “swim”, I’ll have my kids put on their goggles and spray them with the hose. They absolutely love this.  If you don’t have that handy, have them all stand close together and throw a bucket of water on them.

They then run over to their bike and transition towel.

-The helmet always goes on first.

-Have them practice drying off their feet on the towel and then putting on socks and shoes.  It’s fine to sit down to put on socks and shoes.

“Bike Line”- One thing kids need to know is that they can’t bike directly from their towel.  They’ll have to run their bike to the bike line before they can get on their bikes (this is so they don’t run over kids who are still putting on shoes). I’ll set up a bike line at the end of the drive way with a cone where they are allowed to mount their bike.

Then they’re off!  I won’t have them go too far, just down to the end of the street and back, or around the cul de sac.  If it’s a street, I’ll make sure an adult is at the other end to turn the kids around, and to give warning if there is any traffic.

When they finish, they’ll dismount at the Bike Line and run their bikes back to their towels.

BIKE to RUN (“T2” or “Transition 2”)

Since they already have their shoes on, this is a really simple transition.

Have them park their bikes, take off their helmet and place it on the towel.  Then can they run out.  I’ll usually have them do a short run around the cul de sac or down the street, again with another adult at the end for safety.

I’ll also have a water station on the road, where I teach them the “drink and dump” move.  This is THE highlight for the kids.

 

Basically, you set up a folding table on the sidewalk with a bunch of Dixie cups of water.  As the racer runs by, you take a drink, and then dump the water on your head, and throw down the cup (after the practice race is over, make sure to pick up the cups, of course.)  My nephews liked this part so much, they did the whole thing over again so they could ride their bikes over the cups.

Finish line

Cheering is a must.  Dust off that old boom box for some music. You can also throw water on them or anything else to celebrate their achievement, even in practice.  If you keep the distances short, you can repeat this, invite the neighbors to try it with you, and just have fun.  We love it.

I hope this helps you have some fun with your kids and get them (and you) prepared for their first or next triathlon.

Remember- a kid who can do a triathlon can do anything!

If you live in the Nashville area, make sure to sign your kids up for the BEAT Nolensville Kids Triathon on August 16– it’ll be awesome!

Other kids triathlons include the HEAT Kids Triathlon on August 1 in Hendersonville, and the TRY BORO Kids Triathlon on August 22.

baseball, Cincinnati Reds

Seeing Yourself Beyond Color

No Comments 30 June 2015

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 8.59.25 AM

My daughter Syd is a cute, outgoing little brunette.  Her big sister Brooklyn is a quieter, introspective blonde.  Whenever we’d start a movie, Syd would say “Is there a brown-haired girl in this one?”  Sydney didn’t care for Alice in Wonderland or Sleeping Beauty, but she loved Belle in Beauty & The Beast and Lucy in The Lion, Witch & The Wardrobe. Brooklyn was generally the opposite.  But when we took took the girls to see the musical “Wicked”, I was surprised by their reaction.  When we got home and the girls were singing and acting to the soundtrack, Sydney always played the part of the blonde and extremely outgoing Glinda, while Brooklyn always took the part of the bookish and introspective Elphaba, a dark haired (and green) character.  For the first time I could recall, my girls picked people to look up to and imitate, not because of their looks and color of their hair, but because of their personality and character.   That simple choice told me that my girls were maturing, and seeing themselves for who they were not only in a mirror, but who they were inside.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 8.47.07 AMI realized that I’d shared something similar in my own childhood.  The very first team name I could read was the Reds, and therefore they became my favorite team.  My first favorite player was the Reds’ great catcher, Johnny Bench, who basically looked like a giant-sized version of my dad.

 

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 8.47.36 AMHowever, by the time I reached age 9 or 10, I had a new favorite player.  I’d begun to realize that I really liked being well-rounded, and the Reds’ Eric Davis was just that- a speedy center-fielder who could field, hit for power, steal bases, and basically do everything.  I still have 144 Eric Davis baseball cards. It didn’t matter that he was black and I was white- he was the type of player I wanted to be.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 8.48.16 AMAs an adult, I switched to playing second base and usually hitting 2nd in softball for a decade.   While the Reds had NL MVP Joey Votto and power hitting Jay Bruce on their roster, it never occurred to me to not have the slick fielding second-baseman and under-appreciated hitter Brandon Phillips as my favorite Reds player of the last decade (plus, he’s hit 3 home runs in the 3 Reds games I’ve seen him play in and he’s a great follow on twitter @DatDudeBP).  Beyond sports, there are a number of writers and thought leaders from different countries, backgrounds and even centuries with whom I can identify as well, who don’t look anything like a stocky farm boy in constant need of a shave.

Obviously, what you look like is and always will be a part of who you are.  But I think it’s an important part of growth to see yourself from the inside as well as out, and to connect with people in the same way.  There are a lot of very cool people in this world.

faith, family

The 3000 Year Old Female Entrepreneur

No Comments 25 June 2015

Screen shot 2015-06-25 at 9.25.59 AMFemale entrepreneurs are great, but luckily they’re not a new phenomenon.  The Bible highlights a number of them. In fact, Lydia, who was the very first European Christian, was an entrepreneur in the fashion industry.  Some of Jesus friends and followers were female business owners who helped support his ministry.  My favorite is the entrepreneur in Proverbs 31, written 3,000 years ago during the time of Solomon and Israel’s golden age.  I often read to my 8 & 9-year-old daughters at night.  To help drive the verses home it helps to connect them to someone you know. I decided to show my daughters how their amazing mother is like the woman the Bible holds up as a great example as a wife, mother, and -yes- entrepreneur.

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.

(Girls, I would not trade mommy for any amount of money.  One of the big reasons I married her is that I knew I could trust her.  When I met her, she was singing and making an impact on others around the world, and now she does the same through her business and writing.)

Here’s where we get into the entrepreneur section.

13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
(Mommy works hard to figure out the best things to buy for her business at the best prices.)

14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
(Does Whole Food Fair Trade count?)

15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
(well…mommy is still on California time and doesn’t really get up early, but she works a lot at night.)

16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
(She first started out her business doing what everyone else did, continued to do her homework, and found out she could be more successfully doing things differently than everyone else.)

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
(Mommy saved all the money she made at the beginning, so that she’d never be in debt with her business.  She never spends more than she has in the bank.)

19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
(We’ll substitute essential oil glass bottles for distaffs and spindles.)

20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
(Remember, one of the first things she did was to sponsor kids in three different countries through Compassion International, and also to donate money to help women in developing countries start their own businesses.)

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
(Mommy finds creative ways to make money so you girls can take music lessons and play sports.)

26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
(Mommy has helped so many other people when it comes to their health and taking care of themselves.  Other mommies from all over the country call and email her to ask for advice.)

27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
(Even on days when she doesn’t want to, she’s always working hard in helping her family and friends.)

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
(Girls, make sure to tell mommy how thankful you are for how hard she works.  And you know what? Daddy should write a blog post about mommy.  I definitely would choose her over every woman on earth.)

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
(She is definitely loves and respects God- but I still think she’s pretty good looking, though :).

31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (I don’t spend too much time at the city gate, but tell her how amazing she is, and I do sing her praises on Facebook!)

Our girls have certainly taken their mommy’s example to heart.  Last summer they made a few hundred dollars walking dogs, selling lemonade and washing cars.  Not bad for girls who haven’t hit double digits in age yet.  They are blessed to have such an amazing woman to look up to, and to see she’s living up to a great example from the Bible.

Also check out:

What Jesus Did On The Worst Day of His Life

How To Be Smart Without Being Obnoxious

cycling, running, triathlon

Comparing 4 Tennessee Olympic Triathlons

No Comments 05 June 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 10.23.25 AM

Tennessee is home to a some great races, from sprints to iron distance.  With a love of triathlon but without the time to train for something longer, I’ve decided to race four of the biggest Olympic tris in the state.  In case you want to try one or all of them, here’s a lot at four of the biggest- Challenge Knoxville (formerly Rev3) in May, Chattanooga Waterfront in June, Music City in July, and Riverbluff (formerly Nashvegas) in August.  (Note: Memphis is May is a classic and an obvious 5th option- would have have made for a very cool 5 races Olympic logo symmetry- but with some changes going on with the race and location, it was hard to do course comparisons. Hopefully next year.)

To start, here they are by the basics and numbers, but I’ll also get into the background and a few stories for these great races.

SWIM

Knoxville- wetsuit-legal, 2/3 downriver
Chattanooga- generally non-wetsuit, 100% downriver
Music City- generally non-wetsuit, circle swim
Riverbluff- generally  non-wetsuit, circle swim
(note: wet-suit notes are based on general water temp)

BIKE

Knoxville- 1640 feet of climb, 1 cat 5 climb
Chattanooga Waterfront- 578 feet of climb, 1 cat 5 climb
Music City- 676 feet of climb
Riverbluff – 698 feet of climb

RUN

Knoxville- 190 feet
Chattanooga- 173 feet
Music City- 339 feet
Riverbluff- 41 feet

With a look at the basics, Chattanooga looks to be the easiest in the swim, followed by Knoxville.

On the bike, the elevation changes are virtually the same for the the June to August races, with Knoxville being vastly more difficult.  One year I stumbled across the finished line and happened to come across pro Matty Reed, who had won an hour earlier and was waiting for the awards ceremony.  I said hello and followed that up by saying, “Wow, that’s pretty hilly!” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well…rolling.”

On the run, even with the change of moving the 6.2 miles to a flatter course instead of running up and down hills in downtown Nashville, Music City still clocks in as the most difficult.

Challenge Knoxville Challenge Knoxville (formerly Rev3), May 17, 2015

Personally, I love this race.  With pros racing, it has a big feel to it. The finish line is great, the support is great, and the fact that it is so family friendly is huge.  This was my first ‘big’ race.  Until then, my wife wasn’t very much on board with the whole triathlon thing.  But when the kids got to do a scavenger hunt and then run down the finish with me at the end, something clicked.  She said, “Hey, let’s do this one every year.”  And for the most part, we have.  There are Challenge logos on the clothes and signage, but it’s still very much a Rev3 event, which is a good thing.  The hills on the bike are difficult- I actually do better on road by than tri bike for this one- but to me, that just adds to it.  I’ve really enjoyed meeting several pros there, listening in on the pro Q&A, and getting to a fan.  All in all, it’s certainly a favorite.  With the addition of Challenge, it’s nice to be connected to the “other” global triathlon race series.  (Note: There is also a half iron distance for you over-achievers.)

Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 2.35.47 PM  Chattanooga Waterfront- June 28, 2015

Every year I want to do this race, and every year something comes up.  So far, we’re in the clear this year, and I’m excited about racing it for the first time. Although I’m not a fan of time trial starts for open-water events, I am very excited about the downriver swim, the relatively flat bike and the flat run.  If I’m getting a PR this summer, it’s likely going to be here.  From a family perspective, it’s hard to get better than Chattanooga.  While you’re off on the bike, your family can check out the amazing Tennessee Aquarium or hop the trolley for free to get back and forth from your hotel.  Team Magic always puts on a great race, so I’m expecting good things!

 

Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 2.35.29 PMMusic City Triathlon- July 26, 2015

Pop quiz- Which race is older than Escape from Alcatraz, Wildflower, and Challenge Roth? It’s the Music City triathlon.  The race began in 1979, just a year after the Ironman Hawaii, and is one of the oldest continuous triathlons in the world.  The course has moved around the city several times but has found a downtown right on the river.  This was my first Olympic distance race, and therefore is stuck in my head as crazy difficult, but if you’re racing in the south in the middle of the summer, you’ve got to expect some heat.  Doing well in such an historic race is certainly something to talk about with your friends, and a must on your Tennessee triathlon bucket list.  (Note: There is also a sprint option, which is a lot of fun, too.)

Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 2.49.16 PM Riverbluff Triathlon (formerly Nashvegas)- August 8, 2015

The newest of the bunch, Riverbluff is great for scenery if you prefer the outdoors to the big city. Says Kat Williams of Start2Finish, “The venue is beautiful – Lake front with the post race party under a grove of trees. You can also camp at the race site. The bike course is hot, hilly and hard (especially the half). If you’ve ever heard of the Wildflower triathlon in California, the future of this race is inspired by that one.”  For me, it’s been a good race to close out the season.  With the move from early September to early August, it promises to be hot and challenging, but still keep the great atmosphere.  (Note: There is a sprint option.  There’s also normally a half as well, but due to road construction, the half is taking a year off.)

Out of these or others, which is your favorite Tennessee Olympic race?  Comment below!

I’m excited to try all of these races, and I hope you’re inspired to race one or more as well.

ALSO READ:
Why Older Triathletes Are Freaks

The Triathletes Secret Weapon At Work

 

 

 

inspiration

How To Be Smart Without Being Obnoxious

No Comments 24 April 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 4.10.14 AMThere a few things potentially more potentially obnoxious than wine.  French poetry perhaps.  Maybe indie bands that none but a few have heard of (and, boy, are those few proud of it). Also, people who constantly tell you what something means in the original Latin, Greek or Sanskrit. But wine is definitely up there on the obnoxious scale, especially to a simple farm boy from Indiana.

That’s why it’s always thrown me off when my cousins Taylor and Jeremy talk about wine. Somehow they can get away with talking about it and it doesn’t sound obnoxious at all.  At first I thought it was because they’re my cousins and I like them better than most wine people I know. (And aren’t Taylor and Jeremy cute as toddlers? That picture has nothing to do with the content of this post- it’s purely to get page views as that photo is friggin’ adorable). Then I realized why their comments about wine were different than those from most I’ve heard.

They’re talking about it so you can know it.  They actually want other people to learn, to be able to enjoy wine like they do. It’s not about showing what they know and you don’t, it’s about how you can get there, too.  And that’s a huge difference.  Some people talk to hear themselves sound smart, and that’s obnoxious.  Others talk to help others learn to be where they are, and isn’t that better?

We’re all experts on something, so next time you’re expounding on something potentially obnoxious, check to see if you’re doing it to help others learn, or if you’re just showing off.

author, family, international, interview

Bob Goff Interviewed by Dad & Daughter

No Comments 02 February 2015

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 10.55.44 AMMy daughter Sydney and I both got to interview Bob Goff, a very talented speaker, best-selling author, founder of Restore International, and a guy who has had many crazy adventures both in business and with his kids. Which interview do you like better?

Sydney’s Interview:

My interview:

Comment below on whose interview you like better!

P.S. I’m voting for Syd 🙂

Also check out: Syd singing “Let It Go” in a snow storm (http://bit.ly/SnowSyd)
My daughters B & Syd (with their cousins) learning how to use a fire extingquisher: (http://bit.ly/FireXTree)

business, celebrities, interview

Cheers, Pixar, Star Wars & America- Interview with John Ratzenberger

No Comments 13 January 2015

Ratz

What do you ask an actor and speaker who was in your favorite movie (Empire Strikes Back), one of your favorite sit-coms (Cheers), and all those Pixar movies you watch with your kids?  Anything you can!  (Thanks to all of you who emailed questions to me in advance!)  Here’s a sampling of those questions- make sure to watch the video to hear John’s answers!

What was your favorite Pixar character to play?

What was it like being on the set of Star Wars?

What is your advice for being successful?

How did you come up with Clifford Clavin?

What are some of the best things about America’s culture?

Without further ado, here’s my exclusive interview with John Ratzenberger:

 

Also check out:

KeniThomasInterview

 

Behind the scenes of Black Hawk Down and Sweet Home Alabama with Keni Thomas.

 

 

Screen shot 2014-08-20 at 8.33.40 PM

 

 

The Surprising Reason Rock Stars Prefer M&Ms

 

The Story of An Unknown Mental Health Pioneer

"Safety Car" 1961, Dr. Burton Kintner

“Safety Car” 1961, Dr. Burton Kintner

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