Father and Son Role Reversal

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Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

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Experiencing a Poetic Role Reversal

Words from William Wordsworth’s poem “My Heart Leaps Up” came warmly to my mind recently – and with the coming of another Father’s Day seem worth sharing.

Wrote the wordsmith in 1802: “The Child is father to the Man.”

Perhaps more famously, given the influence of Hollywood’s silver screen, in the 2006 film “Superman Returns,” Jor-El – father of Kal-El, who becomes Superman on planet Earth – tells his boy: “The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son.”

Enjoying pizza, and a role reversal, in NYC.

Enjoying pizza, and a role reversal, in NYC.

So it was when I visited my own Kal-El in New York City; in many ways the 27-year-old son and the 56-year-old father reversed roles.

I embraced this turnabout as happily as I embraced him at the airport. In fact, his surprise greeting at baggage claim was the beginning of “The Child is father to the Man.”

You see, I was going to take the subway from JFK and meet my son at his apartment in Lower Manhattan. However, he was worried about me navigating the subway system and thus covertly trekked out to meet me. A very father-like thing.

So it was the rest of my visit. My son insisted on carrying my luggage, gave me his bed, lent me the jacket off his back when the night air turned cold.

The most dramatic way my Child was father to this Man occurred my first full day there. Just as I used to take my son to Ventura’s now shuttered H.P. Wright Library, he was taking me to the venerable New York Public Library.

Getting on the subway, however, I got a “Welcome-to-New-York” shove from behind just as the doors were closing. Unable to shut because of the rugby-like scrum, the doors instantly jerked back open.

My right index finger, somehow, got pulled into the slit where the sliding door recedes. The result was like a carrot meeting a potato peeler. Quick pressure with a napkin largely stanched the bleeding.

We exited at the next stop and my son located a pharmacy so we could buy Band-Aids and tape. Removing the napkin to apply a proper bandage caused the red floodgates to reopen.

“I’m taking you to get stitches right now,” the Child-turned-father-of-the-Man demanded.

At Urgent Care, my son signed me in and did all the necessary paperwork – more accurately, e-work, on a touch-screen. He even accompanied me into the treatment room as I long ago did with him numerous times.

The first of two anesthetic injections made me curse; the second was threefold more agonizing. The whole while my son held my other hand and told me how brave I was being. He then made me laugh – kept me in stitches, if you will – as I received 16 stitches.

To be honest, the pain of it all was worth the experience of seeing this side of my boy-turned-man.

For the remainder of my visit he kept the tables turned. He changed my bandage. He focused our itinerary on me. He led and I followed.

Too, the son I have always tried to be a role model for, now stepped into this role. At a jazz club one evening, we arrived early and were rewarded with the best table in the joint.

Minutes before the performance began, however, the manager asked us if we would consider changing places with an elderly man who was physically too feeble to sit on a tall stool in the back of the room.

Because my son and I are tall, the manager felt we could still see the show, but emphasized: “You really don’t need to. I just wanted to ask.”

Without a beat’s pause, my son replied: “Of course he and his wife can have our seats.”

We went from the first row to worst row – and I could not have been happier or more proud.

Wordsworth’s poem also includes this line: “My heart leaps up when I behold / A rainbow in the sky.”

So, too, did my heart leap up beholding the Man my Child has become. I wish this same rainbow, one day, for all fathers.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Irreverent Thoughts And Serious Too

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Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

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Stay Calm And Treasure the ‘Helpers’

             A cornucopia of notes, quotes and random thoughts . . .

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With every new terrorist attack, these words from Fred Rogers – the late host of the children’s TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” – become meaningful once more to people of all ages:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.’ You will always find people who are helping.”

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Before the recent bombing in Manchester, England, I could not have picked 24-year-old “Pop Princess” Ariana Grande out of a lineup with Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle and Mulan.1calmcarryon

However, two weeks after the heinous attack outside the arena where she was performing, Grande proved she is more than a pretty-faced singer. For starters, she helped organize an event that raised more than 12 million dollars for the deceased victims and their families, the survivors, and first responders.

Perhaps an even greater, and more difficult, thing Grande did was be a “helper” by visiting with the children and adults still in the hospital – and with the grieving parents of the young victims who died.

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On a much lighter note, I am not a fan of rainfall showerheads – they make shampoo get in my eyes.

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Speaking of shampoo, nobody asked me, but following the directions on the bottle – “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.” – is as harebrained as hand-washing dishes after removing them from the dishwasher.

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Speaking of harebrained, organizers of the Springfield Soccer Club in Nebraska disqualified an 8-year-old Mili Hernandez, and her 11-and-under team, from its tournament because she has short-cropped hair and “looks like a boy.”

Harebrained, and heartless, tournament officials stuck to their decision even when the parents of tearful Mili produced their daughter’s insurance card to prove she is a girl.

Proof once again that youth sports should ban adults from being within 400 yards of all fields, courts, tracks and swimming pools.

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I find it hard to believe how overused the word “unbelievable” is.

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Ben DeWitt’s dedication to philanthropy is, I dare say, unbelievable.

Over the past seven years as Race Director of the “Mountains 2 Beach Marathon” from Ojai to Ventura, DeWitt, now age 30, has helped donate more than $250,000 to the event’s charity partners.

This year’s M2B Marathon on May 28 generated nearly $65,000 for the Ventura Unified School District, Ventura Education Partnership, Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, Community Memorial Hospital, Ventura Community Partnerships Foundation, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, and the high school cross country programs at Nordhoff, Ventura, Buena and Foothill Tech.

Additionally, 600 pounds of food were donated to Foodshare and 500 pounds of clothing were given to Goodwill.

“As a Ventura native and product of VUSD, I am proud and extremely humbled to be able to give back to my community,” says Ben, a “helper” who makes Mister DeWitt’s Neighborhood a better place.

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It takes worn-out running shoes to finish a marathon – and worn-out paintbrushes to create a masterpiece, worn-out pencils to master calculus, worn-out tools-of-any-trade to reach your goals.

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Nobody asked me, but considering how rare it seems to be, I think the term should be “uncommon sense.”

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 Let me finish full circle with a story from the horrific London Bridge attack that would have made Mr. Rogers smile through the tears.

According to “The Sun” British newspaper, 33-year-old Richard Angell was with friends eating dinner at the Arabica Bar and Kitchen when the terror attacks occurred outside the restaurant.

After the panicked customers and staff eventually emerged from safe hiding, Angell refused to let the devils win, defiantly vowing: “I’ll be going back to the same restaurant to finish my meal, pay my bill and give them a double tip. They cared about us and our safety.”

He added: “If me having a G&T (gin and tonic) in a nice bar, flirting with handsome men, upsets them – I’m going to do it more.”

A “Keep Calm And Carry On” attitude that is so perfect, it is unbelievable.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Finding Golden Beauty in Daily Life

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Finding Golden Beauty in Daily Life

“Kintsugi” is the art of repairing broken pottery with seams of gold and, in the process, making the object even more beautiful for having been broken.

However, there is one more ingredient necessary to make this magical transformation a reality: a new perspective. One must embrace the gilded flaws.

It seems to me that kintsugi need not be limited to pottery. Looking at pieces of our everyday lives with a new perspective can bring previously unseen beauty into focus.

Kintsugi should apply to our daily life, not just to repaired pottery.

Kintsugi should apply to our daily life, not just to repaired pottery.

For example, consider a tale shared by my friend, John Watts, about a farmer who had lived on the same farm his entire life. It was a good farm, yet as the years passed the farmer began to wonder, “Is there something better for me?”

The farmer’s discontentment grew and he eventually decided to find a new and a better farm. He listed his property with a realtor who prepared a truthful ad putting an emphasis on all the good features of this particular farm:

“Ideal location, modern equipment, healthy livestock, acres of fertile ground, dependable irrigation, high yield on crops, well-kept barns, and a nice two-story house on a hill above the flat pasture.”

When the realtor called the farmer to get his approval on the ad, the farmer replied: “Hold everything! I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to sell after all because I’ve been looking for a place just like that my whole life!”

Life-instead-of-pottery kintsugi is not limited to fables.

My daughter, who lives in the Bay Area, was home last weekend to celebrate her 30th birthday. In addition to a big party that provided a reunion with dear friends and family, Dallas enjoyed something very small and routine: taking our 10-year-old boxer, Murray, for his morning and evening walks around the neighborhood.

“Every day we would walk the same one-mile loop,” Dallas shares, “yet every day I would notice new, startling details: a small bird strutting jauntily across the street, like a band leader in a parade; sprinklers watering a front yard of dead grass; a toddler shrieking with glee, running in circles in a driveway as her mother watched with a tired smile, raising a hand to us in greeting as we walked by; bushes laden with bright red berries; a father and son playing catch in the park.”

Here she adds a golden observation: “So many rich and beautiful details that would be so easy to miss if you were not paying attention and looking for them. And indeed, we would pass many other morning walkers on their phones or listening to music, rushing ahead with a glazed look in their eyes.”

Dallas was not the only one experiencing a form of kintsugi: “Meanwhile, every single day, Murray exuberantly sniffed at plants and lampposts and studied the sidewalk like it was a brand-new territory to explore – even though it was the exact same path he had taken the day before, and the month before that, and the year before that.”

Again displaying wisdom, Dallas adds: “Perhaps he is on to what it means to be happier: being open to seeing and finding in each day after day after day, new sparks of joy and wonder.

“Walking Murray was a reminder to find the extraordinary in the ordinary and see the beauty in each day because, as my brother likes to say, ‘Each day is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ ”

Speaking of her younger brother, Greg phoned me recently after he finished an evening run in New York City. The run in itself was nothing special, a short four-miler after a long workday at a relaxed pace on a path along the Hudson River.

Indeed, the run was pretty much indistinguishable from hundreds he has done since moving to Manhattan a couple years ago. Except for this, which he shared on the phone:

“Pops, you should have seen the sky and clouds changing colors over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was so beautiful I paused mid-run to just look up and take it all in.”

My son’s voice was filled with kintsugi.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Talent Show Reveals Bravery, Magic

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Judge Wowed by Middle School Talent Show

Imagine if you could create your own dream talent show by choosing a la carte from concerts and performances you have personally seen over the years.

Mine, off the top of my head without looking through saved ticket stubs, would include: James Taylor and Paul McCartney each singing and playing guitar; solo vocals by Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, and Whitney Houston; band performances by The Who, The Pretenders, and Fleetwood Mac; comedy by George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld; a set by the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band; some Cirque du Soleil dancers; and a couple street performers – a young man in Dublin, Ireland, on the violin, and a teenage boy in a New York City subway drumming on large plastic buckets.

In my dream talent show, James Taylor would be in the line-up.

James Taylor is in the line-up of my dream talent show.

Now that would make for two hours of out-of-this-world entertainment!

The ticket price, of course, would also be out of this world.

Last week, and free of charge, I was treated to a talent show magical in its own right. It was my good fortune to be a judge for Santa Paula’s Isbell Middle School Talent Show.

Along with fellow judges Kay Wilson Bolton, Sheryl Meisenheimer and Alfonso Gamino, I was instructed to score the 19 acts in four categories: Presentation, Skill, Originality and Costume. Each category was worth five points.

Judging was more difficult than I anticipated. For example, it seemed wise to score the first few acts conservatively to allow wiggle room above – but how conservatively?

Hence, if Leo Reichling – who did a solo dance that was a mix of ballet, Justin Bieber steps, and street moves – had been the opening performance, I would have felt I could give him only 4.9s across my scorecard. You know, just in case an eighth-grade singing-and-dancing Beyonce came later.

However, by the time Leo took the stage midway through the show, I felt confident giving him a perfect 20. He was that terrific.

Which is not to say there weren’t other wonderful acts. From a guitar solo to piano solos; from an a cappella solo to vocalists with accompaniment; from a handful of group dance numbers to a comedy skit, the talent was entertaining from the opening act to the closing curtain.

It seems a cliché to say this, but just by taking the stage each contestant showed great talent. After all, displaying courage is a talent in itself.

Giving an oral report in front of one’s middle school peers can make the palms sweat; performing on a stage is tenfold more intimidating. Which is why one of the most memorable acts of the night in my eyes, and heart, was one that did not score well.

It was a pianist and bucket drummer. The duo began flawlessly, but slowly the piano grew softer while the drummer picked up the beat and volume. It was all very good and seemed a purposeful decision to fade out the piano and bring the street percussions front and center.

Suddenly, however, the pianist looked up from the ivory keys with his face registering terror. He had lost his place in the arrangement. If only he had faked it, I doubt the audience would have been any the wiser.

Instead, the pianist bolted off his bench and raced offstage, embarrassed. He need not have been. As Woody Allen has been credited with observing: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

The boy had bravely shown up. I hope the lesson he takes away is that the worst thing that could have happened on stage did, and yet it was not the end of the world.

To the contrary. His performing partner did not show the slightest anger. The audience did not laugh or jeer at the slip up. Rather, the Isbell Middle School students applauded the effort.

Actually, I think that was my favorite part of the evening: the kids. Not just those who courageously stepped on stage, but also those who watched respectfully, rhythmically clapped along with singers and dancers, and applauded enthusiastically for every single performer.

Leo’s feet were fantastic, but all the kids were hands-down terrific.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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‘Wright’ Perspective on Air Travel

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Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Air Travel Depends on ‘Wright’ Perspective

At the end is where I shall begin today, with the beginning coming at the close of this column. There is a reason for this, as you will see.

Also, there is a reason for the chronicle of complaints to follow – a list almost as long as a TSA security line. Yes, this tale is about the headaches and frustrations of traveling by airplane.

While my recent flight from LAX to New York’s JFK International had no thrown punches or any passengers dragged off because of overbooking, in many ways it still typified why air travel can seem as pleasant as a kidney stone.

Air travel has changed a great deal since the 1903.

Air travel has changed a great deal since the 1903.

Working backwards, we start at Baggage Claim. After a long walk through the terminal and waiting another 15 minutes at the designated carousel, the bell rang and the lights flashed and the merry-go-round for suitcases finally began moving.

Around and around it slowly turned, but no luggage emerged.

Another ten minutes passed before our flight’s baggage finally began to appear – on a different carousel.

This carousel quickly stopped. Not-so-quickly is restarted. My suitcase eventually appeared, about in the middle of the pack, about 40 minutes after we passengers had arrived at Baggage Claim.

Departing the massive jet was like 100 boxing matches held inside 100 shower stalls. Instead of flying fists to duck, one needed to dodge carry-on luggage being yanked from the overhead storage bins.

A duffle bag far too large to qualify as carry-on, landed a punch to the back of my head. No apology was offered. Instead, the culpable woman tried to push her way through the Space Mountain-like line in the aisle ahead, announcing: “I have to get to a connecting flight!”

As if she were the only passenger in a rush. By the way, we were two rows from the back of the plane. Her rudeness was rightly met with scorn.

Like Usain Bolt at the blast of the starter’s pistol, the instant the captain announced we had stopped taxiing, 97 percent of the passengers bolted out of their seats. They instantly battled to retrieve their carry-on bags like NBA players boxing out for rebounds.

The landing at JFK was so smooth that had a cup of water been secured outside on the wing it would not have splashed. Inside the plane, however, it looked like a tornado had passed through with trash, blankets and food strewn everywhere – especially in first-class.

The man in front of me reclined his seat the entire flight, giving himself a few extra inches of extra comfort while rendering my video screen dark from the tilted angle.

A baby cried, and loudly, for half an hour.

A couple across the aisle from me complained to the flight attendant about this, that and the other. Their complaints grew ruder, and louder, the more wine they drank.

My seatmate also wore a tank top and had armpits like a pelt. I know this because he kept raising his arms to adjust the air-vent nozzle.

My seatmate unpacked a huge salad which he ate with the same gusto the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” attacked a bowl of porridge. Lettuce shrapnel struck me three times.

After boarding the plane on time, our takeoff was delayed 35 minutes.

Now the beginning. Our captain greeted us over the P.A. system with an apology for the delayed departure and then shared this eloquent message:

I know air travel can be frustrating at times. I think it’s well to remember that the Wright Brothers made their first flight just 113 years ago. We’ve come an amazing distance, very quickly, since then.

That historic flight covered just 120 feet – the wingspan of this Airbus A330-300 is longer than that.

That first flight also lasted only 12 seconds and reached an altitude of about 20 feet – our altitude will be 36,000 feet and our scheduled flight time is 5 hours and 41 minutes.

So keep the Wright Brothers in mind and have a nice flight.

Thanks to that wise perspective, I indeed had a wonderful and enjoyable flight.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Local Radio Host Walks His Talk

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Local Radio Host Walks, Walks, Walks

His Talk for Relay For Life

In the movie “Caddy Shack,” Carl Spackler, the groundskeeper played by Bill Murray, is caddying for Bishop Fred Pickering when the wind and rain turns torrential.

“What do you think, fella?” the Bishop asks.

“I’d keep playing,” replies Spackler. “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite awhile.”

This, in a nutshell, describes Tom Spence’s experience at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Ventura at Buena High School last weekend.

Tom Spence is a superhero for local charities.

Tom Spence is a superhero for local charities.

As the winds forced most participants to seek shelter, and eventually pack up and leave early, Spence’s reaction was: I don’t think the heavy stuff’s here yet so I’ll just keep on walking.

Spence, a Ventura County radio personality for more than three decades and currently host of The KVTA Morning Show, has participated in numerous Relays For Life. This year he stepped up his game.

“I decided I’d walk the entire time,” says Spence, who made his goal public: Walk 53 miles – two marathons – during the 24 hours from the Relay’s opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday to its closing celebration Sunday morning.

After arriving more than an hour late straight from work, Spence walked a solid 12 miles in the first four hours before taking a 30-minute break.

The next four hours, however, saw his pace slow down as the winds picked up.

“I thought I was sunk at Mile 22,” Spence confides. “The cold wind was breaking me down. It was awful. I felt like I had the flu. I knew I had no chance for 53 miles.”

His hopes gone with the wind, Spence sought refuge in a friend’s RV.

“I was a new person after the half-hour break,” Spence recalls. “I was rejuvenated.”

It was more than the rest that did him good – it was good company rallying to his side. Friends, neighbors and even about 40 of his loyal listeners braved the elements to keep him company.

“I was stunned by the response, by such kindness,” Spence says. “They really lifted my spirits.”

Misery loves company. As the winds grew even stronger, so did Spence.

“Suddenly, I had a spring in my step,” he says.

A middle-of-the-night cup of Cuban coffee from a friend gave Spence’s stride another needed jolt.

As dawn arrived, so did the rain. What started out as a village of 60 tents for the various Relay teams was now a ghost town. Drenched but undaunted, Spence did the math and smiled into the teeth of the storm: “I realized I might do it after all.”

Do it he did, finishing GPS-certified Mile 53 with 15 minutes to spare.

By walking his talk, Spence raised more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society; honored his wife, Colleen, who is a cancer survivor; and also beat down his body into agony.

“Monday morning at work,” Spence, 58, says, “I parked my car and – this is the truth – I crawled into the station on my hands and knees. I was bloody sore. I’ve done a lot of stuff – mud runs, two marathons – and nothing compares to this. I was in pain from toes to hips.”

Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” One might expect Spence felt this year’s Relay For Life was a long walk spoiled, but you would be wrong.

“I think this was my most memorable Relay For Life because it had to be endured,” Spence says.

It was also memorable for a different reason, a better reason, about 100 reasons.

“The real highlight was the people,” Spence says, warmly. “I can’t name everybody’s name who helped me and walked with me. People who you count on are wonderful – but also people you didn’t imagine, which is really awesome.”

The outpouring was well deserved because Tom Spence is a community treasure who has never met a charity event he would not assist.

“My motivation for helping is to make up for what I didn’t do up to when I was 21,” he explains. “I was a little slow before I started getting involved.”

Now he is unstoppable.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Readers Share Small Gratitudes

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Wooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Readers Share Their Own Small Gratitudes

A few weeks ago, I shared a list of small gratitudes – such as books, butterflies and beaches – I came up with while waiting in long line at the Post Office. Readers responded in a big way with their own musings . . .

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From Mitch Gold: “Greeting someone in the a.m. and getting a smile.”

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From Linda Valdez: “Walking in my neighborhood with the view of Wildwood Park; Hot showers after a day spent getting really dirty doing chores; Always having a book to read; Always having yarn to crochet; Having a loving dog and grand-dog; The joy of reading the newspaper on Saturday morning.”1thanks

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From Carol Ann Roth: “May I just add tacos to your list.” (Yes, Carol, you certainly may.)

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From Father Patrick Mullen: “May I suggest you add rocky road ice cream, and everything it stands for?” (My favorite, too – consider it added.)

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From Doris Cowart: “In my age group, one item you missed – waking up in the morning!”

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From Linda Johnson: “When people begin to complain when I am in a line, I complain back.

“I tell them I work Monday through Friday, about nine hours a day, without a lunch break or any break. I have to pay for my own medical insurance, and have no 401K. About four times a year I have to work 72 -hour weekends.

“My job forces me to spend long hours at our various county parks, libraries, and museums.

“In the summer, I often have to spend several day on the beach hunting for shells and rocks.

“In fall, I am forced on leaf-hunting expeditions. I need to be an expert in wildlife behavior and identification, bug catching, and lizard snatching.

“I am a home-schooling ‘Nana’ to my 4- and 6-year-old grandsons. I quit a well paying job with wonderful benefits to be home fulltime when my first grandson was 3 months old. They feed my soul and fill my heart.

“Money? Nice, but nothing makes me as happy, and tired, as spending the day with my grandkids.

“I usually get a smile from my formerly grumpy in-line-companion.”

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From Dick Birney: “Ventura YMCA, Lakers win or L.”

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From Lauren Siegel Estilow: “There are no bad days, there are only bad moments in a day. I try to be thankful for the small things – they’re everywhere, if you look.”

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From Karen Biedebach-Berry: “Glassy surf at Pierpont Beach, VHS class reunions – Class of ’82 still alive and strong – Monday Night Football anthem.

“My husband, Andy, added these two: first ice-cold beer after giving it up for Lent, Yosemite National Park any day of the year!”

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From Christy Cantrell, with a gorgeous photo accompanying her gratitude: “Hawk sighting in Camarillo.”

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From Sheila Smith: “Since (your column) started at the Post Office, the Jaime Escalante stamps and how far that stamp can take your message!”

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From a reader asking to be identified as “Dave from Newbury Park”, a not-so-small gratitude: “I’ve been battling cancer the past 1.5 years. It’s hard for me to not get depressed about my cancer, but we really do have many things to be grateful for.

“I’m 57 and there’s a 50-percent chance my cancer will return in the next year or two. For now, I’m trying to enjoy the small pleasures you wrote about.

“I’m even looking forward to my next long line at the post office – that would sure be better than not being here anymore!”

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From Ginger White: “Gratitude – to be in a country where we can audibly express displeasure, even if it is not a popular opinion, without too much risk of retribution; puppy or kitten breath; being able to wake in the night and hear the mockingbird’s mating songs, and not warfare; sunrise; friends who stand by me; being vulnerable and open, then falling in love at the young age of 63.”

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From Ethan Lubin, which anyone with a young daughter will want to modify: “Reading with my son.”

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From yours truly: My wonderful readers.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”

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Hitting the Books and Backboards

1StrawberriesCoverWoody’s highly anticipated new book “STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” is NOW available! Order your signed copy HERE!

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Hitting the Books and Backboards

            Aristocles would love the Moorpark High boys’ varsity basketball team.

Better known as Plato – the nickname given him by his wrestling coach, from the Greek word for broad, platon, because of his wide shoulders – Aristocles famously preached “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”

The Musketeer varsity hoopsters’ healthy combined 3.611 grade point average for 2016-17 made them the CIF-Southern Section Academic Champions for all boys’ basketball teams from schools with enrollments above 1,500 students.1reportcard

Being No. 1 in the classroom, and being honored at the Angels’ baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Wednesday, took some of the sting out of a 3-23 record on the court.

The attitude to hit the books as hard as the backboards begins with head coach Blake Jenkins.

“I definitely preach academics and being a model citizen,” Jenkins shares. “I try to hammer home that basketball and athletics need to take a backseat to academics as well as how we conduct ourselves off the court, in the classroom and out in society.”

Jenkins’ sermons resonate with his entire congregation as evidenced by all 45 players in the boys basketball program combining for a GPA north of 3.0.

Below are some of their thoughts on being STUDENT-athletes.

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“I believe academics and sports have a great relationship,” says sophomore Harrison Hanlon, a frosh/soph shooting guard with a 3.8 GPA. “Academics teach me to make a goal and be smart on the court, and the court teaches me to be a hard worker in the classroom.

“The CIF Academic reward is a better reward for our personal futures and future of the program than just a mere league win.”

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“I believe that being a good student and performing in academics go hand-in-hand,” agrees freshman Arvin Hosseini, a frosh/soph guard with a 3.7 GPA.

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“In my opinion, if you want to play a sport you need to have great study habits and time management,” says Jacob Korotzer, a sophomore JV center with 3.6 GPA.

“The next thing you need is to is be devoted to the sport – or to anything you do in life.”

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“In my family, academics come before basketball,” says freshman Jonathan Saiki, a frosh/soph point guard sporting a 4.0 GPA. “If I don’t keep my grades up then I am not allowed to play basketball.

“Sports teach me about hard work and effort which translates to the classroom in the form of studying hard and giving effort in class.

“To be a committed student-athlete, I have to sacrifice hanging out with my friends and free time. I sometimes have to stay up late doing school work, but it is worth it in the end.”

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“Academics teach you responsibility and school comes before sports,” says freshman Noah Martinez, a frosh/soph center with a 3.8 GPA.

“The sacrifices I have to make to be a student-athlete are sacrificing my time and energy, but I don’t regret it for one second.”

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“I think tests are like games in sports because they are actually both tests for how hard one practices or studies,” says junior Branden Johnson, a JV forward with 3.8 GPA.

“Passing a test is like winning a game and failing a test is like losing.

“One sacrifice I had to make to be a committed student-athlete was to give up watching TV completely and it helped a lot. To me, academics come first, then sports.”

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“All my life, I was told that education is the most important thing you can acquire,” says junior Matt Aung, a varsity forward with a 3.7 GPA.

“The way you treat people and how you give back to the community is also very important. The feeling of self-satisfaction in knowing that you contributed to someone’s happiness and well-being is hands-down the best feeling out there.

“And I firmly believe I, along with the other eleven guys on our team this past year, are smart and young individuals – but more importantly, great people.”

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Plato’s response, I imagine, might be: Gratulatione. Vehementi factum. Congratulations. Smartly done.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my new memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”

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TEDx Talker to Write Home About

1StrawberriesCoverWoody’s highly anticipated new book “STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” is NOW available! Order your signed copy HERE!

 * * *

A TEDx Talker to Write Home About

“If I had more time,” Ben Franklin wrote to a friend, “I would have written a shorter letter.”

Julie Merrick takes time to hand write short letters. And long letters. Most of all, she writes letters frequently.

It’s a surprise her right hand isn’t in a permanent claw from writer’s cramp.

1cardjulieTo give you an idea, April is “National Card and Letter Writing Month” and last year Julie took on its stated challenge to write one letter daily for all 30 days. She nearly doubled the goal with 56 letters.

She is about half as prolific almost every month.

“Some ladies buy Coach purses – I buy stationary,” Julie laughs, and then rattles off a string of her favorite stationary stores near and far. Among her favorite recent purchases are cards featuring a drawing of a smartphone with the text: “Not Sent From My Phone.”

Julie believes the pen is mightier than the keyboard.

“A letter means so much more than an email because the receiver knows you went to the trouble of buying a card or stationary, writing the letter by hand, addressing it, putting a stamp on it and mailing it,” Julie explains.

“A handwritten letter conveys that spark of you, your personality, that doesn’t come across when you text or type an email.”

Handwritten letters are time machines, Julie believes, explaining: “Letters preserve lives for future generations. They can be read and re-read and treasured.”

To call Julie an expert on handwritten letters and cards is not hyperbole. This past January, she gave a TEDx Talk on the subject titled “The Gift That Can Last Forever.” (Filmed in the Camarillo Library, it can be viewed at www.tedxcamarillo.com along with eight other local speakers.)

Like a well-written short letter by Benjamin Franklin, Julie’s 12-minute address was long in the making. Her preparation included a four-hour TEDx coaching session.

Next, to assist in memorizing her polished script, Julie taped 49 color-coded index cards on a large mirror in her Camarillo home.

Then she practiced ad nauseam. She practiced to her husband, Bob, a dozen times. She practiced countless times to herself while driving.

“I even practiced in front of my dogs,” she says.

The rehearsals paid dividends. Julie’s delivery on camera was flawless and charismatic; her message filled with passion and inspiration.

“Handwritten letters have the power to change lives,” Julie told her live audience and then shared a few letters that changed hers, including one from two decades past.

In 1987, Julie and Westmont College track team traveled to a meet in Richmond, Va., where their coach grew up. While the rest of the team was outside, Julie ventured inside the house to visit her coach’s grandfather.

“Ten years later on a Thursday afternoon,” Julie indelibly remembers, she received a handwritten letter from her coach thanking her for spending that one-on-one time with his grandfather.

“That really made me realized that the simple gesture of a handwritten letter can actually change lives,” Julie says.

In truth, she had been a letter-writer long before that day.

“Letter-writing has always been a part of me,” Julie notes. “It was instilled in me by my mother when I was young.”

Julie was further inspired by an aunt living in Minnesota.

“She wrote me when she traveled,” Julie recalls. “I don’t have kids, so now I send cards to my friends’ kids when I travel.”

Indeed, Julie walks her TEDx Talk. She sends cards and letters to family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers. For example, she read a newspaper story about the record holder for blood donations. She tracked down his address on the East Coast and mailed a congratulatory card.

Since her TEDx Talk, which has been viewed nearly 1,500 times on YouTube, Julie has received an avalanche of handwritten letters. Also, ironically, numerous emails and texts, too, from people saying they have been inspired to write more handwritten letters.

“The response has been humbling and surprising,” Julie says.

One thing that is not surprising: Julie wrote thank-you notes to everyone who had a hand in her talk.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my new memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”

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Long Line Leads to a Long List

1StrawberriesCoverWoody’s highly anticipated new book “STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” is NOW available! Order your signed copy HERE!

 * * *

Grateful for a Long Line at the Post Office

            Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

In line at the post office the other day, I found myself behind two women who seemingly had their minds made up to be unhappy. Indeed, their conversation was little more than a long list of complaints.

“Why don’t they open another window? . . . I know, they’re always on break. . . . I hate tax season. . . . I don’t even want to talk about my taxes – no refund this year. . . . You won’t believe what my son’s teacher did . . . I don’t know why I bought these shoes – they hurt my feet.”

1yosemitefalls

Yosemite Falls can make one’s mood soar.

On and on it went, yet a surprising thing happened – instead of contagiously bringing my mood down, they lifted it. They inspired me to begin a mental list of simple gratitudes as an antidote to their poor attitudes.

Below is part of that list – not the easy biggies like family and health and a home, but small pleasures and gratitudes. I hope you may be inspired to come up with your own list. Here goes . . .

Having a topic for a column – as happened in line at the post office – fall into my lap.

Wildflowers blooming along the roadside.

Ventura County’s best-in-the-world strawberries in wintertime – and summertime, too. Also, dipped in chocolate.

Watching birds in flight, especially when they float on an updraft without moving their wings.

Butterflies.

Finishing a really good book. In fact, being near the start or in the middle of a really good book.

Related topic: Libraries and librarians and bookstores. And newspapers.

Novocain when I have a cavity or need a root canal.

A foot massage. Actually, both feet being massaged.

Staring at the ocean, listening to the waves crash, watching surfers, seeing energetic dogs run playfully on the beach.

Seeing energetic kids on a playground.

Crawling into a bed freshly made with cleaned sheets.

Going to bed being so excited about tomorrow that I cannot wait to for morning to arrive.

Hearing an old song that transports me back in time to high school or college, to distant friends and places, even to a different me.

Terrific, caring, dedicated teachers. I might as well simply say: teachers.

Being smiled at.

The Channel Islands – viewing from afar and visiting in person.

Yosemite Valley. Especially Half Dome. Best of all, Yosemite Falls.

The feeling that comes after a good day of writing.

Reading something, anything, everything my author daughter writes.

A sincere compliment – giving one as well as receiving one.

Receiving a handwritten letter, note or card – and writing one.

A stately tree with patches of sunlight beaming through its full foliage.

Palm trees.

Pizza. Especially New York City pizza. Best of all, when eating it with my son while visiting him in Manhattan.

A run. Especially along the Ventura beach bike path. Best of all, again, when in the company of my son when he’s visiting me back here.

Ventura County’s talented musicians and artists.

Ventura County’s growing collection of microbreweries that rivals anywhere.

Related to above: A pint. Sometimes a second pint.

Murray has been making our family smile for ten years.

A square, or three, of dark chocolate.

Traveling. Near or far, new places or to see familiar faces.

A welcome-home hug, whether having been gone just a couple hours or returning after months apart.

Visiting an impressive art museum – or a school on Art Nite.

Talking with – more accurately, listening to – someone who has a true passion about something. The less I know about the subject, the better because the more I then learn.

Something, anything, everything that makes me laugh. This includes laughing at myself.

A hot shower after being outside in the cold.

A long hot shower when traveling outside of drought-ridden California.

Friends. Good friends. A few great friends.

Man’s best friend. Tail-wagging dogs. Especially, of course, my goofy, loveable, gray-faced boxer Murray.

One closing gratitude: having endless reasons to make my mind up to be happy.

How about you?

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my new memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”

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