Not all heroes wear capes. Not all champions get trophies.

Morgan Hentz is an all-universe volleyball player. Two-time All-American, and two-time NCAA champion with Stanford.

I worked with Morgan’s dad Mike at an ad agency eons ago. We still get together for the occasional happy hour, but those are few and far between, for reasons that will become patently obvious when you read this wonderful article about Morgan and the Hentz family on the Stanford Athletics website.

Morgan’s younger brother Louie had a cancerous brain tumor at age one. Louie and his mom, Kerin, spent a year at St. Jude’s in Memphis… yes, a full year… while Mike mostly stayed home with Morgan and her sister. Wrap your head around that for a moment: a mom separated from her young daughters, a father 500 miles away while his infant son was fighting for his life.

Then the other shoe dropped: at age 3, Louie was diagnosed with autism.

Louie does not interact through spoken language – other than simple wants and needs. He’s 16 and weighs 300 pounds because of his meds, and can be difficult to control physically. His life has been one of appointments and therapists. His development has been slow — hopeful on a good day. He is repeating some lines from familiar movies and videos, creating some optimism about brain development. But there’s no way to know.

Morgan is a superstar, but so is the rest of her family.

photo from GoStanford.com article. ISIPhotos

Long ago, Kerin and Mike learned to sacrifice things that other couples take for granted – nights and weekends away, dinners out, and even time with their other children. Instead, they’ve learned to roll with whatever happens and be prepared for whatever comes next.

Every day is a new challenge. Mike and Kerin have been playing at the highest level for 16 years. They’re world champs in the game that matters most.

“I feel like I would never wish what Louie had on anyone, but I think that because of my family and being able to make the most of the situation, I’ve learned a lot from him and my parents. They are the biggest role models in my life — the sacrifices they have made for our family. They have always put us kids first.”

photo from GoStanford.com article

Please read the article by David Kiefer. It’s a beautiful profile of a beautiful family.

Rictile unleashed

About a month ago, my old radio pal Ric “The Rictile” Cengeri was unceremoniously dumped from his Vermont Public Radio gig, after 12 years of faithful service.

Full story is here.

I worked with Ric for three years at 97X. We were roommates for much of that time, and morning show co-hosts for a year. So we spent a ton of time together. You won’t find a nicer guy, or one more passionate about creating great radio programs.

His energy was off the charts. His sense of humor was keen. His joie de vivre was contagious. His ability to remember listeners’ names was Rain Man-like. The way he mentored our college co-ops was admirable.

You could drop Rictile onto an uncharted desert isle (not Gilligan’s Island) and come back in three weeks to find a full blown party with hundreds of people. (He earned his Dirty Mayor nickname from his local pub, where he made so many fast friends that they called him “the Mayor.” He even has a cider named in his honor.)

After such a shock, Ric could’ve chosen to wallow in self-pity. But that’s not the Way of the Rictile. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done. Going to concerts, to museums, to sporting events, to restaurants, to the symphony, to poetry readings, to the pub, to farmer’s markets, and volunteering in the community… The Man stole his livelihood, but he’s not going to mess up his life.

The Facebook post below from a former co-worker — and Ric’s reply — speak volumes about the kind of person he is.

Ric’s VPR job ended on a sour note, but the Dirty Mayor’s life is a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to hear about his next adventure.

California is fired

Last Thursday morning, my lovely bride and I boarded a plane bound for San Francisco. We were supposed to run in a 12-person Ragnar relay race covering 200+ miles from San Francisco to Napa. One of my co-workers organized the team, just as he had done in 2017. That year, raging wildfires caused the cancellation of the race about a week in advance.

Shortly after we arrived, it was, as Yogi Berra would say “Deja vu all over again.” We received notice that this year’s race also was cancelled due to raging wildfires in Sonoma.

It was a bummer, dude, but we managed to make some lemonade out of the lemons we were given. The entire team met at the starting line at Golden Gate Park on Friday morning, when the race was supposed to begin, and we ran to (and across) the Golden Gate Bridge.

Then we had lunch on the bay in Sausalito. Then Muir Woods. And sunset back at Golden Gate Park’s beach. And we still did the winery tours that we had scheduled for Sunday. So don’t cry for us.

Nice shirt…

But do cry for California, which has been devastated by wildfires over the past few years. It’s a beautiful piece of the globe, but idyllic has turned dystopian. Infernos are the new normal.

Source: CBS News 11/1/19 at 9 a.m.

And cry for the residents who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their businesses, their power… their way of life. (Check out this NPR article for more.)

Photo credit: Lesley McClurg/KQED from this NPR article

The Golden State has lost its luster. Climate change is real. Now it’s up to us to change.

Thanksgiving in October

I love the sentiment of this quote, and especially the vivid language of it. “Your universe has tilted”… “irrevocably lost”… “bow before the mystery”… “let gratitude wash over you”…. “brief walk on our fragile planet”. It’s note-perfect.

This quote comes from Gratefulness.org. You can subscribe to their “Word of the Day” email. It’s usually a phrase instead of a single word, but it truly is the thought that counts.

I know you probably don’t need yet another email in your inbox, but this one takes mere seconds to read each day, and the heightened awareness can last a lot longer. Maybe even the rest of your “brief walk on our fragile planet.”

[I’m grateful to my good friend Phil Roberto for sending me the link to Gratefulness.org a few years back.]

The poor get poorer

Nick DiNardo is a fellow parent of Walnut Hills High School kids. Our sons played on the same junior high soccer team, and our daughter participated in the Ultimate Frisbee club that he leads/coaches.

(Photo: Jeff Dean/The Enquirer)

Nick’s day job is Managing Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio. He was featured in a Cincinnati Enquirer special section a couple of Sundays ago. The Enquirer is doing a four-part series on the lingering effects of the Great Recession, and it’s well worth the reading investment. You quickly realize how the economic collapse of a decade ago created an even greater divide between the haves and the have nots, and how the cards are stacked against the poor.

The article that featured Nick is about payday lenders. After reading it, the term usury comes to mind.

The article is a great example of how hard it is for the poor (including the working poor) to keep their heads above water. All it takes is a single, solitary, unexpected expense — an urgent care visit or car breakdown — to crush you.

Most payday loan customers are poor, earning about $30,000 a year. Most pay exorbitant fees and interest rates that have run as high as 590%. And most don’t read the fine print, which can be unforgiving.

Cincinnati Enquirer article

Read the article to find out how a working single mom wound up paying $3,878 for an $800 loan. And she’d still be on the hamster wheel if not for Nick’s intervention.

Payday lending may not be illegal, but it sure as heck is unethical.

DiNardo hopes the new Ohio law regulating the loans will mean fewer cases like hers in the future, but he’s not sure. While mortgage rates go for 3.5% and car loans hover around 5%, poor people without access to credit will still turn to payday lenders for help.


And when they do, even under the new law, they’ll pay interest rates and fees as high as 60%.


In DiNardo’s world, this is progress. 
 

Cincinnati Enquirer article

It’s not “just business”…. and it’s not anywhere close to being just.

We come bearing gifts

The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

David Viscott – Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations, 1993

My gift is goofball writing. You’re welcome.

Typical dubbatrubba reader…

Speaking of giving it away, if you have a friend who might enjoy my random brain droppings, please share a link to dubbatrubba.com with them. Thanks.

According to my WordPress dashboard, this is Post #677. I’ve still got a long way to go to get to the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell cites as the benchmark for mastery of a craft. My “gift” is a work in progress.

But I’ll keep working. And I’ll keep giving it away.

They grow up so fast…

In case you missed it: a youth football/cheer squad organization in a town just a few miles from Cincinnati was requiring kids as young as age seven to sell tickets in a gun raffle as a fundraiser. (Full story from cincinnati.com is here. All excerpts below are from that article.)

Absurd is absolutely right. Asinine.

Because the brave mom questioned the “wisdom” of such an event, the organization’s leaders allowed kids to opt out of selling tickets. However, the youth org is still raffling off the type of semi-automatic weapon of war that has been used in several mass shootings/killings. The Junior Lions need to raise funds to… wait for it… pay their insurance bill. Because youth football can be a bit dangerous, don’t ya know?

Kudos to Heather Chilton for trying to provide a sanity check in a country that desperately needs more of it.

Two far gone

Here’s a photo of our second child, Peter, taken just a short while ago:

And here’s a shot of him from yesterday:

We dropped him off at college, at Ohio University. Abandoned him, really, at the tender age of 18.

Our oldest goes to school in town, so Peter is the first one to be truly “away” at college. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive, but it seems light years away.

I know he’ll be fine; it’s the rest of us that I’m worried about. Peter is a “glue guy” as the sportscasters like to say. Easygoing, funny, gets along with everyone. A straight arrow. And more than happy to chauffeur his two younger siblings around. With him gone, the sibling dynamic will change, and the family fabric will be altered. We’ll all have to adjust to life sans Pedro.

I know it’s just the first in a series of goodbyes, of slowly but surely letting go… but that doesn’t make it any easier.

How many days until Parents Weekend?

Biking and breathing

“Just breathe.” It’s become a mantra in our multi-tasking, mile-a-minute society.

But if you have Cystic Fibrosis, it can be difficult just TO breathe.

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. 

https://www.cff.org/What-is-CF/About-Cystic-Fibrosis/

I don’t ride my bike as often as I used to, but I do participate in the Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event in Cincinnati every fall. I’ll be riding a 32-mile route, which is no small feat for an old man with creaky knees pedaling a rusty (but trusty) bike.

Sure, my lungs will be burning a bit, especially on the hills. But that’s a not-so-subtle reminder of the challenges that folks with CF face on a daily basis. As I pedal, I’ll be thinking of the people I know who are affected by this disease: John’s daughter, Walter’s stepson, Paul’s niece and nephew…

I’m sure you know someone battling CF too. If you feel so inclined, I hope you’ll donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and support me in my ride. You can do so here:

http://fightcf.cff.org/site/TR/Cycle/42_Greater_Cincinnati_Cincinnati?px=2458867&pg=personal&fr_id=7574

If you can’t swing it, no worries. Either way, I know you’ll be rooting for me to ride like this:

Even though I’ll really look more like this:

The sad state of our country

I read this a week ago… haven’t had the heart to write about it until now.

Videogame makers down, gun stocks up

Videogame maker shares came under heavy selling pressure on Monday after President Trump referenced the industry after two mass shootings that shook the country over the weekend. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” he said during a press briefing. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.” Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) tumbled 6% on the news, while Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) dropped 4.6% and Take-Two (NASDAQ:TTWO) slipped over 5%. Firearm stocks saw gains on gun control fears, however, with American Outdoor Brands (NASDAQ:AOBC) and Vista Outdoor (NYSE:VSTO) rising over 2%.
(Source: Seeking Alpha, 8/6)

It’s been more than a week since the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings/killings, and despite the cries of “do something” we know Mitch McConnell will do absolutely nothing. Because he’s in the back pocket — the very deep back pocket — of the NRA. He should get another nickname to go along with “Moscow Mitch”: “Mass Murder Mitch”.

(Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

I don’t want your hunting rifles. I don’t want your handguns (even though having a handgun in your home makes you more likely to die of a gunshot wound). But please help me understand how a 24-year-old with a history of violent threats possessing an assault rifle, body armor and 250 rounds of ammo makes us all somehow “safer.” Actually, don’t explain it to me, explain it to the residents of Dayton, Ohio.

Yes, Mr. President, there are some videogames that are “gruesome.” But real human beings being mowed down indiscriminately (or discriminately in the case of El Paso) is much more gruesome. So start by focusing on the real killing machines. There are common sense gun regulations that the vast majority of Americans agree upon. Keeping weapons of war limited to the battlefield, for starters. (The 2nd Amendment was — and is — about arming a militia, not common citizens.) Closing loopholes. A national database. Red Flag laws. Trigger locks. Even the NRA supported gun regulations for decades.

(Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, we the people need to do something besides protesting and waiting for the next election cycle. Advocating for, and contributing to, mental health agencies would be a good place to start. Or even just delivering a small dose of kindness every day.

A good deed doesn’t just evaporate and disappear. Its consequences saturate the universe and the goodness that happens somewhere, anywhere, helps in the transfiguration of the ugliness.

Desmond Tutu