In search of fitness, I found diversity: A year into CrossFit

Posted January 15, 2018 by Paul Strack
Categories: strength and diversity, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Before you read too much further, there are a few things I think you should know:

  1. I am an old white guy – no surprise there
  2. I’ve been doing CrossFit for about a year
  3. This is an attempt to mix some of the ideals of MLK with the community of CrossFit. Who knows if it will work?

As we again celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I often wonder what does it mean to me? What does it mean for me? Being a 55-year-old white male, I obviously haven’t suffered the injustices endured by MLK and so many others. On the contrary, I wonder if I’ve actively done anything to alleviate these ongoing injustices.

Raised in a white neighborhood, having attended Catholic schools and Church my entire life, diversity is not part of my everyday world.  It’s not that I avoided it. I suppose it’s more that I never really found it. Or actively sought it out. Maybe its just that I haven’t taken full advantage of situations to expand my diversified horizons.

And then, about a year ago, I joined Omnis CrossFit.  (Ok..stop it. I can see your eyes rolling!!)


I’m not going to delve into the nuances of CrossFit. That’s not what this is about. (Although I have learned not to giggle snort when we talk about the Snatch and the Jerk.)  Instead, I want to share how this interesting, diverse community meshes will with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Omnis CrossFit a diverse Box. (“Box” is CrossFit lingo for “gym.”) Not only do we cover the spectrum (or rainbow) in creed and color, we have quite a range in ages – from those in their teens to those in mid to late 50s, and even 60s.  We have couples and even families that work out together. We have single parents, adoptive parents, folks new to the area, and folks just passing through. It’s almost a live-action version of Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar”.  While I think our club is unique in its friendliness and cleanliness, it’s approach to community and its overall family atmosphere, are common goals among the CrossFit world.

In reflecting on today, I am reminded how so many of MLK’s words resonate with what happens within our CrossFit community. Please be aware that these comparisons in no way are meant to trivialize the larger meaning behind these words of wisdom.  They struck a harmonious chord with me. I’m hoping that they can do the same for you today.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

CrossFit is built on a culture of community. There are wide variances in age, background, ethnicity and culture within our membership. Although each group workout is relatively small in numbers (8 – 12), we all experience the same grueling, yet rewarding daily workout.  Our aches, pains and even groans are common as we all shared in the same workout for that day.

What we share greatly overshadows our differences. Communities such as this would not exist if it were not for Dr. King leading the fight for justice for all.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Keeping within the community spirit, even though we perform as individuals during each workout, we know we are all united in our overall goals.  Members rarely leave the gym until everyone has completed the hourly workout. Usually, those that have completed the workout will be standing by, encouraging and cheering on those that are still performing. It is truly a group united.

Dr. King’s words remind us that we must learn to live, work and play together as brothers or perish as fools.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

At the end of any CrossFit workout, you will see a roomful of athletes lying on the ground, out of breath with blank stares and looks of exhaustion.  There is no comfort or convenience during a CrossFit workout.

We experience each other when we are physically challenged.  Granted, it is by choice.  But even then, you gain insight into the character of your fellow athletes.

CrossFit workouts frequently honor our nation’s fallen soldiers. These “Hero” workouts remind us of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and have proven their true measure.

Today, many CrossFit box will honor MLK with a workout in his honor.

“Human progress is neither automatic, nor inevitable…Every step of the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concerns of dedicated individuals.”

Every CrossFit athlete has different goals – whether it is to add strength, lose weight, compete in CrossFit games or anything in between. Many use their workouts as just an hour of structured “me time.” You will not find a group of more passionate, dedicated individuals than in our CrossFit box.

Because of Dr King’s legacy, we re able to work together, to pray together, to play together, and yes, to struggle together.


On this day as we celebrate and recall the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr, I can see that progress is being made. Slowly. I have gotten stronger – in ways beyond just physical strength. But with respect to both physical strength and in working toward the goal of strength through diversity, I still have much work to do.

We all still have work to do.

Supervised Trippin’

Posted May 30, 2016 by Paul Strack
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

It really started as a defensive move. It was purely a parenting strategy.  Our oldest was graduating from high school and there was no way we were letting him go on a Senior Trip to Panama City Beach with his fellow classmates.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong with a dozen 18 year-old boys unsupervised for a week on the sunny Florida beaches?

We didn’t want to find out.

So in an act of desperation, Lisa and I came up with this idea – a Father-Son graduation trip. In addition to this being a preventative measure, this would provide an opportunity for one last effort of parental bonding and guidance before heading off to college.

The choice was his, and in retrospect, it was so obvious – Universal’s Wizarding World of ZIMG_3023Harry Potter.  After all, he began reading the books by the time he was 7. We attended multiple midnight releases of JK Rowling’s novels over the years.  He was drooling at the sight of the park under construction the previous visit to Universal Studios. So without much hesitation, he made his decision.

A precedent had been set – a tradition had begun.

Three years later our 2nd son graduated from Catholic High.  I anticipated a similar destination, although I did adopt the rules to include any location “within the contiguous states.”  Mostly because I don’t get to say the word “contiguous” often enough.

I encouraged him to give it some thought. Think big. Think worldly. Think someplace you haven’t had the opportunity to visit.

I had forgotten how 18 year-olds actually think.  Even though they come from the same gene pool, I am always amazed how different siblings can be.  This son was more interested in music, having explored the intricacies of EDM (electronic dance music) and learning the ways of a DJ.  So I shouldn’t have been too surprised when his first and second suggestions were music festivals – one being Bonnaroo, and the other being Coachella.  After all, the rules were clear. “Anywhere in the contiguous United States.”

Fortunately, the rules also state that the trip must occur after graduation, and both of these festivals occurred prior to that.  I think.

His next choice was no surprise either. He was a video game aficionado. (Aren’t all teenagers?) His next suggestion was the E3 electronic conference in Los Angeles. And yes, this did occur after graduation.  However, at the time we checked, the event was sold out, so this trip was a no-go. And we were running out of time.

A few days later, he informed me that he wanted to go to Chicago. Having taken family vacations there twice and attending numerous conferences there, ZIMG_3024this was certainly a reasonable and comfortable choice.  But wait, there’s more.  He informed me that he wanted to attend a class – at the DJ Scratch academy.  Well that was a surprise, but it made perfect sense.  But wait, there’s still more.  He wanted me to be a student in the 3- day class alongside him.

And so we did, and I did.  Three days at the Chicago DJ Scratch Academy.  Yes, we used electronic turntables, but yes, we also played real vinyl.  And yes, I graduated!

Last week, our first daughter graduated from Mt. St. Mary, so another senior trip begins tomorrow. Earlier in the year, Lisa inquired as to whether she would be going on this trip. She assumed that since the first two were “father-son” trips, this one could be of the “mother-daughter” variety.  I consulted with the Official Rule Book and sadly, nope, it specifically says “father-child.”  And I’m a stickler for the rules.

So we reminded our graduate to Think Big! The lights of New York City; Camping on the floor of the Grand Canyon, someplace in Idaho.  She has usually been the adventurous one, so I was certain her choice would reflect her outdoorsy nature.  However, an ACL injury that occurred earlier in the year put a damper on some of those desired activities. So what did she decide?

Tomorrow, we’re going to Disney World!


It’s not the most original choice, and it’s not her first trip to the House of Mouse. But it is the first trip alone with me, and just as the other two were, this trip will be unforgettable – especially for me.

What started as a defensive move has now become a longed-anticipated tradition.  Our youngest will graduate in two years, and it would not surprise me if I make a return trip to Disney World in 2018.  And since she is the last child, we may just have to bring Lisa along with us.

But I will have to consult the Official Rule Book first.

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?

Posted November 29, 2015 by Paul Strack
Categories: Uncategorized

I should have known better. Of course, I still love our kids. And yes, I love our pets. Maybe not in that order some days, but still. And to be honest, our dogs, Chevee, a nearly deaf 13 year-old Golden Retriever, and Moses, the 8 year-old Australian Shepherd mix, aren’t as much fun as they used to be. With our oldest son out of the house, one son in college and both girls in high school, they certainly aren’t as much fun as they used to be either. And we can’t forget about the cat. But seriously, are cats ever any fun?

So when the youngest asked about a new puppy, we said no. The first thirteen times. We reminded her about the three other pets and siblings and how entertaining they could be.  But you know how the babies of the family can be. Since it was a long holiday weekend, and everyone would be home, we decided to agree to her demands and take in a new puppy.  We didn’t want a pure breed. Oh no, that’s not how things are done these days. We needed a rescue pet. A mix. A mutt.

After much deliberation, and finally giving in to the youngest one’s desires (Again. Or still.) we all agreed on the selection of a Poodle-Chihuahua mix. It wasn’t a really cute dog; but I’m not saying it was ugly.  And I’m not saying we’ve had a lot of rain recently either. After wrapping my head around how exactly this mixed breed propagates, we welcomed home this little oversized hairy rat.

ugly puppy

The first order of business of course was to give this bony bundle of fur a name. The cross-breed moniker seems to almost name itself: Poochie or ChiPoo. My first choice was HauPoo, until every time I used that name someone would inevitably say, “God Bless you.” In the spirit of upcoming blockbuster movies, I then threw out the idea, PooChawka and ChewPaka, but no one seemed amused.

While watching the new pup roam her surroundings, we noticed a distinct hiccup when she walked. It wasn’t really a limp, or a gimp, it was something different. Centered around the left hip. Whatever it was it certainly brought a smile to our faces as we watched her get comfortable. Being the most observant and obviously the worldliest, our youngest pointed out the obvious, “Oh look, she’s walking like she’s trying to be sexy.” But before I could ask, “and you know that how?”, other family members joined in recognizing this sexy strut too. In one of the most unifying family moments since we concurred that the Tower of Terror was one of our top 5 favorite rides, we agreed, Sexy was her name.

As with anything brand new, we enjoyed playing with our recent addition. I even ventured out on Black Friday, leaving a note for my family stating I was going to get some Sexy toys. All seemed to join in the fun, each taking time to bond with Sexy. It seemed to be a good fit; a new member of our family had arrived.

And just as quickly, things changed. In the first few hours of her arrival, phones were put away; the Xbox was turned off, and we were almost like a Norman Rockwellian family. Sadly, that portrait began to fade. Maybe it was the four days of non-stop rain; maybe it was fact that the leftover turkey didn’t last as long as we had hoped. Maybe there is a thing as too much family togetherness. Whatever the reason, the mood around the house deteriorated late this weekend. Our other dogs were being ignored. Our cat began to walk around the house as if it didn’t care; as if it were a superior being.

We were reverting back to our old ways.  We just weren’t feeling Sexy anymore. It became obvious that it wasn’t going to work out. A decision had to be made, and I was the one empowered to make it.

So sadly, tomorrow….

I’m bringing Sexy back.


(My sincere apologies to all who read this far!)








My Church is Whiter Than Yours

Posted January 19, 2015 by Paul Strack
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
What’s black and white and red all over?

Well, today the red could be found in my frustrated face as I read the editorial section of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. On the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr, our statewide newspaper devoted its entire editorial page to the honor and memory of Robert E. Lee. Yes, the Confederate General. And while I get that today is also Robert E. Lee day (why, I have no idea) there was nary a mention of MLK. Not one iota. And this happens Every Single Year.


So maybe the riddle instead should be “what’s white and red all over?” since there was absolutely no black to be found.

But my frustration didn’t begin with today’s editorial. It began yesterday in church, of all places. Yes, my church is predominately white, as are most Catholic churches in Arkansas, and probably, most Catholic churches in the US. But I’m not really talking about the color of its members. I’m referring to the color of its messages. Or lack of color.

Even though I’m 52, I don’t have all the answers. Shocking, I know. (And weird, since some of my children seem to have all the answers.) Actually, it seems that as I’ve aged, I continue to have more questions. And race relations certainly fall into my category of MWMSA – Married White Male Seeking Answers.

When these difficult questions arise, where do I turn? When the events of Ferguson unfolded, I looked for some calming, sensible guidance. Some words of comfort, some challenges, some moments of united prayer. Hoping I would get this from my Church, I received deafening silence. And yes, I could certainly do this on my own, but remember, I’m Catholic, and spontaneous prayer is not really in my wheelhouse. But alas, nothing was mentioned. No acknowledgement of the events, no attempt to bring The Good News into today’s current events. I was at a loss.

Fast forward to this weekend. What a perfect opportunity to tie HIS message to the message preached by MLK. A message of equality. A message of non-violence. A message of hope. A challenge to change. Instead, what message was delivered? In all honesty, I can’t remember. Shame on me.

And now today, the official holiday honoring MLK, I am greeted with an editorial page devoted in its entirety to the “gentleman” Robert E. Lee. Several have reminded me that officially, it is Robert E. Lee Day too. As a life-long Southerner, maybe I should understand that, but I don’t. Even Jesus doesn’t get that much ink on His Day! But to totally omit any acknowledgement of Martin Luther King Day in the editorial section of the only statewide newspaper is offensive – to blacks, whites and any other color we used to describe our physical differences. And it happens Every Single Year. You think I would have learned by now.

When a trusted and beloved institution – my Church, and a respected, reliable source – my daily newspaper, fall short of my expectations for inspiration and guidance, where should I turn?

Social media, why of course? Good grief. What is this world coming to? But the fact is that at least two inspirational messages on this subject were found through my social media channels.

First, my friend Sarabeth Jones issued a challenge last week to all the “white people.” It posed the same questions – what can we do? What do we need to do? How do we deal with this?

White people, we need to do better.
If you are the slightest bit awake to what has happened this past year, you know that race is still a huge issue for us. And surely, surely, you realize that we all have a part to play in this. This is not a black issue – please don’t let the fact that you live in a culture built by and for whiteness tell you that. Please be smarter, willing to go a little deeper, willing to be less sure that you have the answers. We – all of us – have the responsibility to take care of our own mindset, baggage, understanding. At the very least, we have responsibility for that.

For her complete message to us white people, and all other colors, go here

Shortly after that, I came across a post from a parent of a Catholic High School student. Being a graduate and father of two recent graduates, I was once again captivated by prinipal Steve Straessle’s message he delivered to all CHS Students last week:

Boys, on Monday, we are out of school in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Now, it seems counter-intuitive to miss school in honor of a man who worked – that’s worked – tirelessly to bring about change in our society. However, honoring such a man is important. Dr. King saw injustice, peacefully rose above it, and inspired a nation. Not only did he advocate for those who were institutionally disadvantaged, he nurtured a change in heart for those who let hate be their guide. Great men see things the way they are and work to make those things into what they should be. Great men stand up when others prefer to keep their heads bowed. Great men take action when others prefer to be bystanders.

That was Dr. King. That is Dr. King’s legacy. Honoring that legacy is what makes us human – it’s what makes us a nation. And like Presidents Day – another day we are out of school to honor men who worked hard (and yes, I say that while noting the irony it entails) – we are out of school on Martin Luther King Day but what a waste it would be for that day to be a day off – a day off from work, a day off from exploring our consciences, a day off for doing good.

So, you will not be at school this Monday. But, your teachers and I challenge you to wake up on Monday and do something good. Something good. Read a book. Volunteer. Go for a long run – or – even better, a first run. Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Collect cans for our Dr. King can drive to benefit Helping Hand. Just. Do. Something. Good. You don’t need examples from me…you will know it was good by the way you feel once you complete it. The funny thing about truly great men like Dr. King is that he doesn’t need you to honor him. What great men truly want is for their lives to inspire action. Get outside on Monday. Get into the game. Do not be a bystander.

We are about to watch a clip from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech.” Know that he wasn’t just speaking to that crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, know that he was speaking to the generations. Know that he wasn’t just speaking about getting along, he was speaking about true and abiding love. Know that he wasn’t just speaking about racial strife, know that he was speaking about doing something good.

Allow yourself to be inspired, boys. Allow yourself to take action.

Thank you Sarabeth, and thank you Steve.

Those are the messages I’ve been looking for. Messages of inspiration, messages of hope, and a challenge.

I’m not giving up on my Church, nor am I giving up on the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Although Robert E. Lee is often praised for the way he surrendered to the Union Army, I am not going to surrender my hope just yet. Inspiration and leadership still are in abundance. We may just find them in unexpected places.

Happy Robert E. Lee Day!


Off To College 2.0

Posted August 17, 2014 by Paul Strack
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Three years ago when our oldest began his college career, I shared 10 Commandments for Our New College Student. This week, son #2 begins this same journey. In addition to a slight update to those commandments, I shared with him my thoughts about photos in my office that I stare at daily. They’re photos of all four of our kids, with some sort of motivational cliché attached. They always inspire me, so I offered to share them with him, hoping to have the same effect.

blog - rise aboveRise Above – A reminder to be your best. If things are down, or people are down, or you have options to be mediocre, Rise Above. Be better in how you live your life. Never settle. Take the high road. You were (in my opinion) the best keeper in the state, because you could Rise Above. Continue to do that in your college studies, your friendships, and your decisions.






blog - keep your head in the gameKeep Your Head in the Game – Its message is simple: Stay Focused. There are so many distractions around you, it’s so important that you stay focused and prioritize what needs to be done. Again, with all the freedom you have, it’s easy to stray off track. Put your studies first and the others activities will fall in place.



blog - fall once get up twice
Fall Once, Get Up Twice – You will have many successes, but you will have failures as well. Maybe it will be a tough course, maybe it will be something with your music. But don’t take falling to be an indication that something is over. Instead, look at it as a learning experience to do better. You’ve never given up on things that didn’t work out so well. I am confident that whenever you fall once, you will continue to get up twice.



blog - little things bring big smiles

Little Things Bring Big Smiles– Remember as a child how you always loved to give hugs? That brought smiles, big smiles to everyone who was on the receiving end. And it always brought big smiles to Mom and me. And it was such a simple, small gesture. Keep doing those little things that bring big smiles. Say good morning; open the door for someone; write a note to your sisters or grandmothers; call (don’t text) Mom, and let someone go ahead of you in line. Say “please” and “thank you.” Often. Little things can have such a big impact. Oh yeah, and smile too. You have such a big, heartwarming smile. It’s contagious. Feel free to share it with others daily!


Have no fearblog - enjoy the rides; enjoy the ride – Horseback riding can be terrifying, but if you let go of your fears, it can be such an incredible ride. You’ve never been one to fear much. If so, you rarely showed it. Yes, going off to college can cause a little anxiety, even to the toughest person. But college can be some of the best years of your life. Take it all in; enjoy it. Keep your education and classes a priority, but do absorb the whole college experience: intramurals, frats, parties, fund raisers, football and basketball games – whatever you choose – enjoy the ride.

you future starts today
And finally, my favorite (and probably the worst cliche!), Your Future Starts Today. Our classic shot of you and me on the beach: my arm around your shoulder, and I’m pointing out to the gulf saying, “Someday, this will all be yours.” We always joke about that, but it is so true. Your future rests totally in your hands. Most all of the work that Mom and I are required to do as parents is done. Now it’s up to you. And it starts today! Remember that every day you wake up. No matter what has happened last week or last night– your future starts today.

And remember, call your Momma!



MSM – CHS Triennial Reunion – August 2, 2014

Posted August 3, 2014 by Paul Strack
Categories: Uncategorized

Author’s note: This post is a summary of a recent mini-class reunion that occurred with the members of the CHS-MSM Class of 1981. I am using it as a hopeful resurgence to my posting to this long forgotten blog. While it may be of interest to members of this most august group of individuals; it may absolutely bore the three individuals who follow this blog.

It may have been due to the convergence of several unlikely events – a record cool summer, the midway point between the cosmic display of three Super Moons, and a sales-tax-free weekend in Arkansas. Or it could have simply been due to the fact that Medora was coming into town and noticed that our favorite band was playing this same weekend. Either way, after a few emails, and a few facebook posts, the triennial reunion of the Class of ’81 was on.

As was the case with our 30th year reunion only 3 short years ago, they came from across the globe. Well, they came from the metropolises of New York, Austin, Memphis and Fayetteville. Some even ventured from the more remote towns and villages of Maumelle, North Little Rock, Hot Springs and possibly even Chenal. Regardless of where their travels began, they all would end only blocks away from where it all began so many years ago: in a local bar.

And the beauty of it all rests in the fact that it didn’t involve one meeting, one phone call, one text or one email from Anita Paul! (Wait, did I type that out loud?)

Although the band was not scheduled to begin playing until 9 pm, (Hello, did anyone tell these folks that we are all now over 50??) an intimate, impromptu pre-party occurred around 6pm at the pizza joint across the street from the main venue. As I prepared for the evening with some angst and trepidation, I could not help but wonder what changes had occurred in my classmates lives over the past three years. Certainly we had all passed the milestone of turning 50. Had that taken its toll on anyone but me? But really, in hindsight, it wasn’t the colonoscopy as much as it was the prerequisite preparatory cleansing the night before, but I digress.

So many questions consumed my mind prior to that fateful meeting. In the end, I did decide to take advantage of the sale-tax-free weekend and purchase a new shirt for the evening’s event. I’m 51; this is the age of knowing what I am made of, so I can buy a shirt. And go eat pizza and drink and, hopefully, stay up to listen to a band that doesn’t begin playing until 9pm!

A nice group of alums gathered at US Pizza. As expected, physical changes had occurred over the past three years. Surprisingly, many of us were thinner – above the forehead. And it can’t be denied that some are using coloring in our hair. Although, I assure you, the grey/platinum shades sported by Scott McLeod and yours truly are all natural in nature. And the brilliant color sported by Greg Parham doesn’t count as part of the triennial change – his hair has been that way since sophomore year. Interestingly enough, the Women of ’81 seem to age better than the men. Actually, they don’t seem to age at all. Somehow, they’ve figured a way to make that whole Benjamin Buttons aging in reverse work for them. Spectacularly.

The usual ice breaking ritual of sharing personal photographs continued, but with a slight twist. Let’s face it; we have all shared and over-shared photos of our kids. And for the most part, at our age, our kids are older, and they just aren’t as cute as they once were. At best, they are a burden but we all hold out hope that we have raised them well to become our capable care-givers in the near future. So we focused more on sharing adult photos. Photos of Glenn Smith, Scott McLeod, Steve Selakovich shirtless. Photos of Smitty, McLeod and Selakovich in tie-dye of sorts.   Photos of them on boats, on planes, and on substances I cannot print. Photos of them sober; photos of them not-so-much. So I take back what I said earlier, maybe are kids are cute.

But it was the conversation that was priceless. We have matured as adults. It is no longer the feigned attempts at “keeping up with Joneses”, or Barnwells, or Pauls. Gone are the gossipy “he said; she said” stories from the past. No, conversation at this age is on a much higher and much more personal level. A poignant discourse between Sam Kitchin and Tara Cameron that I had the pleasure of eavesdropping in on nearly brought tears to my eyes. Tara’s youngest child is named Sam. Upon learning this, Sam recalled his amorous adventures with Tara over 30 years ago and posed the question, “so after dating me, you decided to name your son after me?” Smiling so pleasantly and gently, Tara turned her eyes toward Sam and spoke softly, “Well, there were other Sam’s too you know – Sam Harper, Sam Emmerling, Sam Malone, Sam the Butcher and Son of Sam. But yes, of all the boys I dated, you were certainly one of them.” Or something like that.

After an hour of sparkling conversation, wine and beer (not in that order), we knew it was time to ask that question on everyone’s mind.   Knowing it would be uncomfortable with so many different personalities and delicate palates, it was time to address the elephant in the room, so Sam proudly and eloquently bellowed forth, “What shall we eat?”   After much discussion, and after seeing a few more shirtless photos of Smitty, we decided on 3 pizzas – Supreme, Vegetarian, and Meat Lovers. It was good to see how daring we’ve all become during the early years of our second half century.

The highlight of the meal came with the discovery of the generosity of Steve Selakovich. Apparently, we had coerced him to drink enough cheap beer (two) that he agreed to pick up the tab for our dinner. It was quite a pleasant surprise, and one for which we were most thankful. In return, we all promised to buy Steve a drink at the next venue.

The hour had now come to venture across the street to take our places for the real party. A mini-debate occurred as to whether we should simply walk across the street or drive our cars to the adjacent parking lot. Some decisions do not come easier with age.

The “official” triennial reunion party was scheduled to begin at the Afterthought. The entrance signage reminded us that the Intruders (some of us still prefer to call them the Sick Dawgs) would begin playing at 9, and more importantly, that there would be a $7.00 cover charge. (Had Steve been around, I certainly would have paid for his.)   Being the successful graduates that we are, this cover charge was no deterrence to most of us, and our classmates quickly filled the Afterthought to capacity. Had exercised some Forethought, a larger venue may have been in order. See what happens when Anita doesn’t schedule a meeting, or twelve? But I digress…


Throwing caution and the Ebola virus to the wind, the alums shared warm hugs, kisses and handshakes as they greeted old friends. Les Cooner didn’t even graduate with our class, but I let him kiss me anyway. After another round of drinks, (and had I seen Steve Selakovich, I certainly would have bought him one), it was time for the band to begin. Hell, it was past time! It was 9:04 and we are all over 50.

It’s quite amazing to watch your classmates perform in front of an audience. But we were actually here to listen to the band, so I had to divert my attention to them. Johnny McKay’s voice gets better with age. Breaking from their long-standing high school homage to Molly Hatchet and Flirtin’ with Disaster montage, Johnny showed us his maturity and growth as an artist with a vocal range covering the spectrum from Stevie Wonder to Prince. Obviously, Johnny was heavily influenced by the large population of African-American students that filled the hallways of Catholic High. In a surprise move, Johnny abandoned some of his usual set and opted to show more of his feminine range with classics from Miley Cyrus (the good Miley – pre Wrecking Ball) to Pink. The crowd could not contain itself when Johnny belted out everyone’s solo favorite – Just U and UR Hand Tonight.

Fellow Classmate Dave Griffith had surprises of his own. For the first time in recent memory, he wasn’t surrounded by beer. Now don’t get me wrong, he had plenty of beer around him. Didn’t miss a sip all night. (Remind me, I owe Selakovich a drink.) But he wasn’t promoting, selling, pimping or pushing beer; specifically, Diamond Bear. Just check out his facebook posts and you will see photos of the happiest couple you could ever find.

As entertaining as the band was, our classmates continued to provide value way beyond the $7 dollar cover charge. Regardless of our age, girls will always dance with girls, and guys will always stand around, drinking, and enjoying girls dancing with girls. But when the band breaks into current hits like Talk Dirty to Me and Wiggle, it becomes a feast for the ears and eyes. McKay dropping the mic with his best Snoop Dog, and then the dancing of certain alums. I realize some may be uncomfortable with the fact that I enjoyed watching Sam Kitchin, but damn, as the song goes, “guuuurrrl, you got a great future behind you!”

I’m certain that events like these raise as many questions as they answer. Like, who was “High Five Guy” that was giving high fives to all he came in contact with? And what about “touchdown guy” who raised both hands high in the air every time a familiar song began. (Ironically, I didn’t see his hands at all when Johnny crooned Just U and UR Hand Tonight.) And will Todd Curtis’ prediction of a 5 win season for the Hogs come true? And most importantly, did anyone ever buy Selakovich a drink during the evening?

As the night progressed, the photos opps became more frenzied; the dancing more uninhibited, as the time seemed to pass too quickly.  

A little reality came around 11:30 when Lisa and I received a text from our youngest, our 13 year old was home alone and she asked “when will y’all get home? I don’t like being home alone this late?”

See, I told you they could be a burden. But she is our cute one, and she may be our future caregiver, so sadly, we had to say our good-byes and leave.

Thanks for a wonderful evening all! Thanks for dinner Steve, and thanks Medora for getting the ball rolling and making it happen. And Anita, if you want to go ahead and schedule a meeting for old times’ sake, please do. I may need something to write about.

Dirty Santa Rules! (or Rules for Dirty Santa.)

Posted December 18, 2012 by Paul Strack
Categories: Uncategorized

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It’s that time of year. A time for families. A time for gift giving. A time for making memories.  And most importantly, a time for the greatest tradition of the Christmas season, the Dirty Santa Gift exhange!  Our family participates in this long standing custom that dates back to the time when one of the wise men brought the gift of myrrh. I mean really, who gives myrrh?  Can you say re-gift???  So in order to properly acquaint my family with the understood protocol for this event, I sent out the following instructions:

Discussion of food, drink and all that really isn’t important at this point.  But, we MUST talk about Dirty Santa protocol. So, here is my autocratic attempt to define the rules as I interpreted them from our Thanksgiving discussion. I’ve included some necessary embellishments. These are also subject to interpretation and change without notice.

  1. The theme for the Dirty Santa exchange is “As Seen on TV”.  A portion of the gift(s) you bring to the Dirty Santa exchange MUST contain the official “as seen on TV” logo.   And I take some offense to this whole theme due to the fact that when it was proposed over Thanksgiving dinner it was met with some derisive jeers.  Heck, I’ve been giving “as seen on TV” gifts for years and you all seemed to enjoy them. Remember the home-made Cold Duck kit I gave Mom, Dad & Nana??? (And I was 12 years old at the time. How was I even able to purchase a wine-making kit?)
  2. The suggested price range is $30. While I am hesitant to put a price tag on the true meaning of the holiday spirit, this is just a suggestion. Again, going back to statement #1, I haven’t spent more than $30 on a gift for any of you in years and we’ve seemed to do just fine. So, a range of $20 – $50 is certainly acceptable, but if you do spend less, please remove the price tag to avoid embarrassment.  Please note:  Some quality “as seen on TV” gifts are available for much less than $30!!  If so, see next rule regarding supplemental gifts.
  3. Supplemental gifts.  If you are of the extremely generous nature, you may be at the wrong party, or not a real family member.  However, if your initial gift just doesn’t seem to say “Dirty Santa”, or if it falls well short of your financial gift-giving goal, you MAY supplement with an additional gift (understood by most as “alcohol”) as long as one of the gifts bear the “as seen on TV” logo.  A gift such as a Cold Duck kit mentioned in #1 above actually and effectively accomplishes both goals.
  4. Prohibited gifts.  Any gifts containing the following words, or derivation thereof, are strictly prohibited:  boobies, poop, fart, vomit, antidisestablishmentarianism.  However, apparently, gifts containing the words “Hot Sex” are perfectly acceptable.  Our soon-to-be 80 year old father received some of that at a recent Christmas party and was not ashamed to talk about it.  In fact, he offered me some Hot Sex at our staff Christmas party just last night.  It was one of our more awkward father-son moments in recent memory.  Still, is spite of these rules, boobies remains just a very fun word to say.
  5. Eligibility.  All family members, guests and dignitaries present who are currently attending college or have matriculated from such, or are just really old, are eligible to participate. However, you must “pay to play.”  If you don’t bring a gift, you cannot play. If you have not yet reached the legal drinking age and you acquire a gift that contains anything greater than 2% alcohol, the host retains ownership privileges of said gift, unless the underage participant has a written permission slip from participant’s parent.  We recognize that underage drinking in our society is at epidemic levels, and we all take pride in the fact that none of our underage family members have not yet imbibed in such reckless and irresponsible behavior.  Hahahah…I almost had ya’ll going there didn’t I?
  6. Order of Play.  TBD – we seem to change these rules every year, so why stop now?

So tell me, how do you take part in this most ancient Christmas tradition?



A Printer Looks at Fifty

Posted November 7, 2012 by Paul Strack
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(With apologies to Jimmy Buffet.)

Mother, mother offset

I have heard your call,

Recognized the smell of your ink

Since I was three feet tall.  You’ve seen it all,

You’ve seen it all.


Watched the men who ran you,

Switch from film to plate.

And in your rollers you held the treasure

We thought would never outdate.  You printed dreams,

You printed dreams.


Yes, I am a printer

Six hundred years too late

The presses don’t thunder, it causes me to wonder

I’m an over fifty victim of fate; arriving too late.

Hell, I’m not too late.


I’ve done a little cross media,

I’ve run my share of stock

I made enough money to Google Miami

But I pissed it away so fast, never meant to last

Never meant to last.


I have been marketing now for over 6 years,

I passed out QR codes and measured till in tears

But I’ve got to keep preachin’, got to keep teachin’

I’ll Lunch and Learn, again.  I’ll invite friends.

Engagement never ends.


I go for younger gadgets

Tried several for a while,

Sure they confuse me and often they lose me

And yet they still make me smile.

It just takes a while, just takes a while.

Mother, mother offset,

After all these years I’ve found

My occupational hazard being

My occupation’s just not around

There’s a movement aground.  Gonna head downtown.


There’s a movement aground.

I may just head downtown.

Friday Night Lights (Out)! – Part III – Call me, maybe

Posted September 27, 2012 by Paul Strack
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Author’s note: This is the third and final post that recounts events surrounding our son’s injury during last Friday night’s football game.  I want to thank all of you who took the time to text, email, tweet, make a phone call, and/or send up a silent prayer to express your concern.  You are all amazing.  And thank you to those who somehow experienced this event by reading this lengthy series.  Your time is appreciated. If I’ve brought a brief smile to your face, then you too have shared in our relief and joy.

The trip from Scott Field to the St. Vincent ER is literally only blocks away. Yet in those few minutes, I experienced what seemed like a lifetime full of concern, prayers, and love for our son and our family. Keep in mind, I was one of only about 6 people who was 100% sure that Matthew was doing fine.  He had movement in all extremities; he was responsive, and he even knew who the President was.  I, on the other hand, struggled when the paramedic asked me Matthew’s date of birth. Fortunately, Matthew came in with the assist on that question.

Due to all the on-field activity, the radio coverage, and my now infamous “shot to the head” tweet, the majority of those concerned had no idea of Matthew’s condition. Most all of them thought, as I did only moments before, that a tragedy had occurred.

In those few minutes on a bumpy ride in the back of an ambulance, the emails, the texts, the phone calls, and the tweets came in rapid succession.  It was like Sweet Baby Jesus Wrapped Up in 140 Characters or Less.  Ok, not those words precisely, but  all of them, every single one of them, expressed the same sentiment – “our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

There are times when I despise our constant connectivity.  Rather than a tool, our mobile engagement acts as a leash between us and our work, our colleagues and yes, even our families.  Social media conversation can get downright ugly at times, too. So much vitriol; so many hurtful comments, and too often expressions of why my X is better than your Y, it often seems anything but social.  And yet on this night, and even as I look back on these messages while writing this post, it brings back the all the emotion.  How can all these people, even those who have no idea who our son is, (and may not have a clue about me), care? It was the beauty of humanity at its best.

I put away my phone as we entered the ER parking lot. If there is an upside to an ambulance ride, it is that there is no waiting in the ER.  It’s like call-ahead-seating.  You drive up, give them your name and you are escorted immediately to your table.  Before one could say,  “the doctor will see you now,” Matthew was wheeled into an exam room where physicians were waiting to perform a more thorough examination.

While we are in the exam room, an odd array of teenagers, most of them girls, and a few anxious adults, all dressed from head to toe in purple and gold, assemble in the waiting room. Certainly there is no need for me to remind you that teenagers are really nothing more than hormones with appendages, (ok, I’m talking about their arms and legs so get your mind out of the gutter) so it was no surprise to witness the frequent, if not unceasing hug-fest among this group.  But I was totally unprepared for the reaction from Matthew’s two closest friends. Coming straight from the locker room, they were both visibly shaken, and eyes were obviously red due to the recent high pollen count.  Yeah, that’s it, pollen. Once again, that awesomely beautiful humanity in us all couldn’t help but rear its big ole head.

But enough was enough.  It was time to end all the tears, all the drama and this lenthy post. Matthew had been injured, but was going to be fine. So after all the tests had been completed, and the results of the CT scan were negative (which is a positive), it was time for me to break up the pity party and spread the good news to the assembled masses.

Matthew and his relieved sister, Amanda

I quietly gathered the group close by, and shedding my somber tone that seemed to be hanging around for days (when in fact it was only a couple hours),  I excitedly exclaimed, for the entire ER to hear:

It’s a boy!

Friday Night Lights (Out) – Part II – Mis-Mass Communication

Posted September 26, 2012 by Paul Strack
Categories: Uncategorized

Author’s note:  This is Part II of  a 3 part post. And just to be clear, this event was not a tragedy; far from it. Extremely frightening, yes.  But fortunately, all ended well. Matthew is completely fine. This is merely a therapeutic attempt to recap the amusing side of the events surrounding an injury to our son during a high school football game. I hope to prove again that technological communication isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And finally, I also hope to capture the true emotion of the human spirit, and the outpouring of love that exists in us all.

In my mind, I was fairly calm walking down the steps toward the football field.  The crowd was still standing in reverent silence.  I saw Matthew’s girlfriend coming up the stairs toward me.  She too, was in tears.  I should have reached to console her.  (She had just lost her grandmother two days previously.)  I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  I would certainly have lost it.  And besides, I had somewhere to go.

As I set foot on the field, my cell phone rang.  How random, I thought.  I didn’t recognize the number, but answered it anyway.  I mean, there are no laws against walking on a football field and talking, right? Yet, I imagine that made for a most awkward sight: the father of an injured player talking on his phone while casually strolling along to check on his son as he is being examined by paramedics.  At least I don’t text and drive.

The call came from David Estes, Catholic’s head football coach.  His words were so comforting – “Mr. Strack, it’s coach Estes. Matthew is doing fine, we are just taking precautionary measures.”  Yep, I knew that.  That’s why I was so Mr. Joe Cool back in the stands. (Wait, are my pants wet?)  That call helped.  Immensely.  But as I now stood over my son, still lying motionless on his back,  a strange mixture of fear, anxiety and reality still prevailed.  The paramedics continued their work, sliding the immobilization board under Matthew, strapping his head/helmet to it while instructing him to remain still.

Suddenly, my phone rings AGAIN.  Good grief!  This time it was our oldest son, Michael, calling from ASU in Jonesboro.  Of course I had to answer.  While I’m standing on a football field.  While son #2 is being wheeled away on a stretcher. But let’s be honest, that’s why we have these devices, isn’t it?  To stop everything we are doing and respond to them immediately, right?

“Dad?  Is Matthew okay?”  The concern in his voice was obvious. Okay, now I do have to choke back the tears.  Two questions immediately enter my frazzled mind: 1) Why is he calling instead of texting? He ALWAYS texts, and 2) how the heck did he know this already; he was in Jonesboro?? Aww, the power of technology and social media.  I later learned that one of his friends in attendance had already posted a photo of the situation.  What a weird world. Anyway, I think I convinced Michael that Matthew was going to be fine.

At this point, I know all is good, so I can relax, and begin to communicate to those who have absolutely no idea of Matthew’s status. Naturally, I begin with text messages to my wife:

In hindsight, I’m not sure what I was thinking.  Why would my wife pull out her phone and respond to a text in the middle of her hysteria.  I should have called. After all, I had already answered two phone calls. But you must remember, we have been married for over 26 years, and like most spouses, we don’t talk.  Needless to say, she didn’t immediately see that message.

After the paramedics loaded Matthew into the awaiting ambulance and begin running a myriad of tests, I felt quite helpless.  Although I believe the real danger is over and my anxiety is easing; I still needed to be doing something productive.  Oh sure, why didn’t I think of it sooner – I must Tweet!

I have a habit of tweeting football updates. Some folks say they appreciate it.  Or at least they say, “I’m glad that’s over” when the game is complete.  Knowing this, and also fully aware that Rocket football games are broadcast on the radio, I felt compelled to update folks on Matthew’s status.  After all, I had fully communicated all the necessary information to Lisa, right. So, as I sat beside the paramedic as he tended to my strapped down, still-in-full-football-gear, told-not-to-move son, this spewed forth:

In hindsight, this probably wasn’t one of my better social media moves. Given the fact that during my earlier Foursquare check-in at Scott field, I received this “tip”:

So, if you combine those two bits of information, I shouldn’t have been totally surprised when I received these two responses, from folks who most likely don’t follow my football tweets:

And so we began the short jaunt to St. Vincent’s ER.

And at this point, all that is right and good with mobile devices, social media, and more importantly, humanity in general, come along for the ride as well.

To be continued….