Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Balance", by Nik Wallenda with David Ritz

I said at the beginning of this year that I wanted to read more.

That’s kind of been an epic fail; however, it isn’t something to be totally depressed over either.

The last time that I bought a book at an airport book store was last summer (2012) in Anchorage, Alaska.

Sure, I’ve heard of things such as and, but I just thought it would be cool to buy a book – to read on the plane – on something that was unique that happened in that region.

That book was titled, “The Spill”, and was about the Exxon Valdez oil spill from March 1989.

(As a side note, I’ve always been a current events, history, sports and biography type of bookreader.)

Last Friday, December 12, I picked up Nik Wallenda’s “Balance:  A Story of Faith, Family and Life on the Line” at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

I was flying to Raleigh-Durham where Waverly met me to help her drive home from her first semester at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

I had quickly forgotten watching Wallenda’s walk across a gorge near the Grand Canyon online less than six months ago.  (If you read the Wikipedia entry on Wallenda, you’ll see there’s a little bit of a debate.)

There’s a certain amount of excellent history in the book of Wallenda’s famous family in the circus and with high-wire performances.

It wasn’t enough to bore you, and there was a certain period of time in the family’s history that the life of the circus caused many personal problems in the lives of Nik’s grandparents and great-grandparents.

Yet beyond the great Wallenda name, family itself is clearly portrayed as being tantamount to the most recent Wallenda, Nik.

It is an interesting, yet breezy read, especially relating to his relationship with his wife, Erendira.

It openly speaks about how a controlling spirit was a major challenge in their marriage at one point.

And through it, he shared something that resonated with me about my faith.

He wrote, “We tell people that we’re born-again Christians, and we are.  But being born-again isn’t a one-time thing.  We’re continually being reborn with new insights about our struggles and behavior.  God is always revealing Himself to us, always opening windows and doors that shed new light.

I believe this, but it is often hard to articulate this to people that I know this succinctly.

He also talked a lot about ego.  Obviously, to accomplish all that he has, his comes in mega-doses compared to mine.

I really, really either don’t have much of one myself or I suppress it very well.  Maybe a little of both.

There are things that I enjoy doing well – writing and announcing, among other things – and for me to do them, there’s a certain amount of ego that I must possess to accomplish them.

Yet, to over-sell or over-hype myself are just things that I won’t do – and I’m turned off by people who do.  That, to me, is an unhealthy ego.

As far as race announcing goes, for example, I receive many, many kind compliments on my abilities and God-given talent of knowing what to say right at the right time.

Wallenda addressed it this way:  “My ego-driven vanity is not going to disappear.  I can’t wish it away and I can’t entirely pray it away.  But can I accept it without indulging it?  Can I say, “Hey, I’m a human being.  Human beings, mired in insecurity and assaulted by uncertainty, look for all sorts of validation.  There’s nothing wrong with it – as long as I don’t ego-trip myself to a spiritual death; as long as I realize that my spiritual growth, set against my high-profile career, is always going to be a work in progress; as long I continue to do that spiritual work.”

Well, I don’t have a high-profile career.  And all of my announcing gigs aren’t necessarily high profile.  Maybe to the event producers, they are.

Actually, I won’t take many of them if offered.  I have a certain style that I like and there are certain roles that I believe that I would have to compromise it – and I won’t do that.

I just like to say this, “I like to think that I’m in the top ten in Texas.”

Here’s the catch, though:  It is just that there might only be a little more than 10 that do as much as I do.

Beyond that, Wallenda’s book, ghost written by David Ritz, is just a good enjoyable read of a little more than 200 pages – recapping an interesting, yet non-drama filled life -- that can be tackled in a couple of hours.

Let me know if you’d like to borrow it.  - Jon

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Drive Well-Taken; December 10, 2013

Anybody that really knows me – and probably most casual observers too – know how much that I enjoy the chances that I get to spend time with my daughter.

Really, though, what parent doesn’t?

Yes, I know.  Every parent-child relationship out there isn’t what I’ve been blessed with.  And I’m very thankful for what I have.  Every single day.

In a couple of days, I get the opportunity to help my daughter drive home after she finishes today her first semester in college – and away from home.

I was able to make it there twice to see her during the semester and, of course, she came home for Thanksgiving.

By our summer vacation standards, this will be a short drive.  Just 17-18 hours.

I also know that some of you reading this would rather have a root canal than to be in a car for that length of time.

We’ve had some epic – not to use a recently overused word by an area marathon race director – drives over the years.  Here are some that readily come to mind:

1.       Alaska (Summer 2012; Anchorage to Fairbanks; Denali Highway – Paxson to Cantwell; Seward Highway)
2.       Canada (Summer 2013; Pittsburgh to Erie to Toronto to Ottawa to Montreal to central Pennylsvania)
3.       Hawaii (Summer 2011; All over the island of Kona.)
4.       St. Louis to Las Vegas (Summer 2002:  Five state capitals in five days.  Waverly, MO and Waverly, NE to boot.)
5.       Utah, Montana and Idaho (Summer 2010:  Glacier National Park.)
6.       New York, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts (Summer 2004)
7.       California – San Francisco and Los Angeles (Summer 2008)
8.       Monticello, Mount Vernon, Washington Monuments and Pennslyvania (Spring Break 2004)

I’m sure I’ve missed a few notable ones, but these are some of the ones that standout the most.

With the exception of Hawaii, I’m pretty positive that these were all a minimum of 1,000 miles in the car within a week’s time (or 9 days – a bookend of weekends – at the most).

She’s already promised that she would set a new standard in our travels:  that she would probably talk my ear off.  And, honestly, I’m looking forward to every minute, every word.

We’ve talked “at least” once a week since she’s been away at school, typically every Sunday evening.

The conversations are usually anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and they replace the usual weekly dinners that we would have out, especially the year that I was working week-in and week-out in California.

Therefore, I know that the conversation isn’t one that will include things that need to be solved – or needs input – immediately.

Rather I expect it to be one that has the chance to be transformative for one or both of us.

I think I learn a lot about myself as a parent and especially as my role in that assignment changes more to being a coach than the enforcer to boundaries which are set.

I have different inputs and influences to evaluate now and realize too that she has grown (incredibly, I might add) as a young woman – especially being on her own for much of the last four months.

There were some things that I could have done better as a father, but some of those inputs to do those I didn’t specifically have in my toolbox – and I wasn’t encouraged or bold enough to develop them.

However, I tried to make up for that in the area of time – and unconditional love.

And I did the best job that I could – and doing so genuinely, without smothering or being a helicopter parent.

What is the one thing, starting today, that you can set out to do to create a lasting memory of with your child?

Maybe even something that really isn’t tangible at all.

If you’re reading this, please keep us in your prayers on Friday and Saturday as we drive back to Texas so Waverly can enjoy her Christmas and Holiday break and completely recharge for the Spring semester at Liberty University in January.