I made it to half time in the game of life.

19 09 2016

As the horn blew and I stepped off the court and into the locker room, I sighed a sigh of relief.  I made it to halftime.  The big 5-0, didn’t seem so big anymore, I felt like 24, looked a lot older but over all not what I expected at 50.

untitledThe first quarter was everything you would expect.  Young full of energy, no real lows tons of highs.  You are floating, bullet proof and going through school playing games and hanging out with friends.  Yes there are a few let downs like broken bones, sprains, losing a girlfriend or two along the way.  College comes around and  I started to consider…whoa careful there…responsibilities, yikes.  This quarter I play with the same teammates for the most part until the end with a few exceptions. Towards the end of the first quarter I am a full blown man with a career, payments and no summers off, time out needed.  Man that went fast.

Sydney first day 2nd gradeThe second quarter starts fast after a break to catch my breath.  This quarter is completely different.  This one makes the roller coasters at Cedar Point look smooth.  The second quarter is my country song.  You know, you find love, there are kids, the dog dies, the marriage fails, I get really sick, God gives me a rare disorder that tries to kill me ….. in my pick up truck in the pouring rain.  But wait, there are incredible highs too.  Through the rain an angel reaches out to me, one from a long time ago and I find love again in Jenny.  We dry off together and raise my little daughter who in the second quarter is transitioning from daddy’s little girl to an incredibly beautiful young woman.  This is the quarter where we are tested as a family with illnesses, job loss, another puppy goes to heaven, and moving two houses into one.  As a family we embrace our faith and are rewarded with a clean bill of health, a daughter who is embracing her faith and proud of what she does with it for Him and a Sam, he was new, he is a puppy.  We as a family have ramped up our service at school, in church and in our community.  We are looking further down the road with optimism and hope.  As the quarter turns toward half we are once again reminded how precious life is as we lose another loved one in our 14 year old puppy, Lucy.  Lucy came to us early in the second quarter.  As time runs out at half time, I find it is harder to catch my breath than it was in the first quarter and ironically I am surrounded by many of the same people as when we began.  Family and friends.

vl-auction-2016As I embark on the second half, I am calmly confident.  I am surrounded by my family and blessed that my parents and all of my siblings are still with me.  I was lucky in life as my parents gave me a built-in best friend in my twin brother Chris, yes we bicker sometimes, fight like all friends but he is always there for me and I like to think I am there for him.  My wife and daughter are  my anchors that keep me whole, grounded and loved like no other.  So time to snug up the laces and step onto the hardwood the whistle is about to blow.

Untold stories of my other family

21 03 2016

(Door slamming on its hinges) “All eyes on me!” I started, “ladies we will be successful this  year if we can focus on three things, and three things only….”

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Our team proudly displayed on our mantle, because we are family

This could have been the start to any pre-game pep talk or pre-season chalk talk, it just happens to be one of my favorites that came from Coach Jim Valvano and ends with Coach flubbing his lines and ending with the “Green Bay Packers” which in itself is not bad but he was coaching the Rutgers Basketball Team at the time.  As a coach, you find yourself collecting hundreds of these stories.  Most of us on the Charger staff have pockets of sport coats and pants with various topics stuff with these gems of knowledge.  We look to motivate our team or maybe teach a life lesson or both.  Many times both.

Today I find myself reminiscing.  The season ended weeks ago but I still find a void.  An ache….for my girls.   I admit, I miss them.  Every dysfunctional (ha ha) one of them.  They are each special in their own way.  All the different personalities, motivations and senses of humor.  Over the course of four months you get to know them, care for them, love them.  We become a family as much as a team and we have to learn to trust each other, push each other, trust each other.  We share a common faith and deep inside our Christ centered team we learn to forgive, to help, to reach and to guide.  I miss the lessons, both from us coaches and from the players, the laughter, the goals and the accomplishments.  Six days a week they became my other family, or better, additions to my family and Mrs. Princing becomes a team mom too.

Yesterday we held our end of season banquet.  One big room full of family, coaches and players.  Once again we are all together.  We discuss the team/family, we discuss the season, we thank our wives for letting us play basketball coach,  we take the time to thank the parents for allowing us into their child’s life.  I’m not sure that is enough.

To my girls.  Most of  you will never see this, but it should be said, your impact on our lives as coaches is Huge.  You wiggle your way into our hearts and stake a hold.  You test our patience, you make us laugh and give us your heart on the court and in practice.  Some we reach on a deeper level.  After the season, we watch what you do from afar making sure you are ok.  We will show up to soccer games, softball games, track meets and such, not because we are big sports fans, but to see you and your family.  We go to plays and music concerts, not because we are big arts fans, but to see you and your family.  One more smile, one more laugh is the fuel that keeps us going, to pick up the whistle again and teach the game, teach life, share our Faith and make a difference, hopefully in a child’s life.

So as I quietly read the notes in the card from  my girls last night, I file them all in their spot in my heart and I place the card with the team picture on the mantle above the fireplace.  That is where it belongs, with the other pictures of my family.


photo credit Anne Frank

Dreams, hard work and answered prayers

3 06 2015

Saginaw, MI January 8, 1978

ground breakingThe fruition of many dreams, many prayers and a lot of hard work was about to become reality.  A very chilly day greeted us as we huddled in the middle of a farm field in Saginaw Township.  Looking around in all directions you only saw fields and trees and if your eyes were really good you could make out the Greek Church half a mile away.  I was eleven years old and was surrounded by my parents, brothers & sisters, some of my best friends and their families and a whole lot of friends that I didn’t know yet, strangers for now.

A man in a white-collar stepped forward and offered a prayer to start the ceremony.  The main attraction was a shiny shovel and the men who took to the shovel to turn the dirt.  We were not witnessing gardening by the masses, although you could say we were planting a seed, we were breaking ground.  The ground that was broke and the seed that was planted grew to become the building and grounds of Valley Lutheran High School.  Dreams, prayers, hard work.

The idea was to continue a Christ centered education beyond the K-8 that currently existed in many of the area Lutheran Churches.  The school started in the basement of Faith Lutheran off of Bay Rd in Saginaw and today was the day that the building of the new school would begin.

For the past 38 years Valley Lutheran has done what the founders had visioned and so much more.  Over that time frame, Valley Lutheran has nurtured the faith, educated the minds and created over 3000 Christian leaders through their high school education.  The future looks bright.

B&W flame (9)May 29, 2015 it is 10:15am and I am sitting in a chair in the front row in the gymnasium(Chapelgymnatorium formerly known as the Carpet Dome) of the high school I graduated from, Valley Lutheran High School.  I am an invited guest along with about 60 others and we are surrounded by roughly 350 students of Valley Lutheran.

It’s hot.  I’m sweating.  I’m smiling and emotional.  It is a smile of pride and a smile of feeling blessed.  I sit next to my parents, one of my many sources of pride and I know that my daughter Sydney is somewhere behind me among the students, another source of my pride.  Three generations, a shared dream, hard work and answered prayers.

A  man in a white-collar(metaphorically speaking Pastor Korte actually was wearing a tie) steps forward and offers a prayer to start the ceremony.  We were invited to join in the students chapel this morning and also a special ceremony to burn the schools mortgage.  Debt free.  As Al Kaul(VL ’87) would say in his message a little later, similar to how we are in God’s eyes, debt free.

Such an occasion is spectacular in scope and it of course has to have a hiccup or two.  One such arose with the fire codes. The Township fire code would not allow the burning of two sheets(yes one was fine) of paper indoors.  No worries, a ceremonial urn was placed outside the double doors of the Chapelgymnatorium for the burning.

Two couples earned the  honor to burn the mortgage by being the highest bidders at the schools annual auction.  My parents Dennis and Nancy were one and Dave and Donna Sting were the others.

My parents represented the beginning.  They both served the school when it was first organized and built.  They continued on with service on the various boards and foundations. They are founders, parents of alumni and this year grandparents of a student. They showed me what it meant to give back, to serve.

The Stings represent the future.  They are new to Valley Lutheran and have a granddaughter who is freshman and two more behind her.  They thought enough of what Valley Lutheran means to their grand children to bid high.

As the ceremony progressed and the burning began I was waved over along with my friend and fellow alum Rodney Wakeman to the burning.  We stood with my parents, the Sting’s, Dr. Brandt and Kyle DeWees(development director).  Call it one of the perks of the position, or call it dumb luck, it is a moment I won’t forget.  I am lucky enough to be the President of the Board of Directors of Valley Lutheran this year and Rodney is the President of the Valley Lutheran Foundation. coincidence?  I think not.  Rodney’s parents were there in the beginning too.  Dreams, prayers and hard work.

Turn your head and cough

22 04 2015

hormone-clipart-doctor-clip-artI just finished up one of life’s greatest joys as a  middle aged man.  The yearly wellness exam.  You have to love the PC term that they now give the formerly name physical exam, wellness…..hmmm I guess it sounds more positive.

We are blessed.  We have a great family doctor.  She takes very good care of us and generally cares about our family.  I went to school with her husband so we connect on a generational level too.  That doesn’t mean I look forward to our annual visit.

I suffer from what Doc calls white coat syndrome.  Whenever I see a white coat(Dr. lab coat), I get anxious.  No shit.  I would think you were some kind of a sadist if you didn’t.  My pulse quickens, palms sweaty and my blood pressure goes up.  I literally have to talk myself down in the waiting room prior to going in.  Stupid really with the caring staff that I encounter.  The fear of the unknown I am sure plays into that.

Doc, the nurses and I have really deep conversations.  Part of it is to distract my mind the other is simple curiosity.  We have discussed donuts, drinking, medical marijuana, sun burns and an array of other topics.  Kids, social activities, todays PC climate, poison ivy and somewhere in there she convinced me to get my tetanus updated….I used to think this was just a precaution when I did something stupid like impale a body part with a rusty nail, not anymore now they mix in some magic elixir that keeps stuff like Whooping Cough away.

Overall it went well.  I am a pretty healthy man.  Yeah yeah, I know I could lose a few pounds but she pointed out I had over the last year and she mentioned I should exercise more (how about any) and my back should be addressed and that I drink too much beer(didn’t think that was possible), which I read to say drink more wine, after all it is good for you.

Pretty easy visit.  I know you women get poked and prodded a lot more than men, but I have to tell you I will never be comfortable when she ends with “your going to feel a lot of pressure”…..yikes!


28 03 2015

It’s a lonely 18 mile stretch that I drive every morning and evening. It is here that we talk.

It is serene. Surrounded by fields, trees and a few houses before entering a city filled with sidewalks, houses and blight. It is quiet and easy to slip into thought and this is when I talk to Him.

Our talks tend to be rather deep. They range from emotional to quizical and cover the gammit of what, why, who and where.

Bridge in HeavenI often find myself asking for clarity and reason. I ask him for guidance, direction and strength. I ask for understanding, growth and patience. I offer thanks too, but not as much as I ask.

My talk with Him last night was powerful and emotional as many are. I don’t always understand but I find peace and at times He sends me signs. That’s probably one of those points where there is only one set of footprints in the sand.

Yeah, I ask for signs….I ask a lot of Him.

Miracles….treating the unborn

26 02 2015

I wanted to share this link and this story. It is very powerful and shows how God blesses us when he gives incredible talent to people who in turn use it in positive ways.

Sandy, who writes the note below, is a sailing aquaintence. That is how our two small worlds connect. Enjoy., Matt

Hi sailing friends,

Many of you have not met my husband Scott. He is a Midwestern guy who becomes seasick on the Delaware River so you won’t find him out on a boat a lot. My J22 Hotticket team and I call him our benefactor who supplies us with new sails every few years. He loves my passion for sailing and enjoys hearing all about my sailing adventures. We met 34 years ago at MGH; he was a surgical resident and I was an ICU nurse. 32 years ago we moved to San Francisco and a wild concept to treat the unborn was hatched and research began at the UCSF Medical Center lab. Today Scott & his team have operated on over 1200 mothers caring fetuses with birth defects at CHOP. PBS followed The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Fetal team for over two years along with four families. Check out the PBS teaser below. I thought you would all find it an amazing story.

The PBS series will air over three consecutive weeks, on Tuesday, from 8-9 pm, between March 31-April 14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WHK2t4HT0s&feature=youtu.be . Tune in to watch Twice Born, Stories from the Special Delivery Unit.

For those that want to see a little bit more check out this short clip that was sent to the National media. First part is the same as the youtube video but shows more of the OR in the second part. Sue M this is especially for you as a former CHOP ER nurse:


I am looking forward to warmer weather ahead for some fun sailing. We might need to chip away a path to get to open water with these sub zero temperatures. Maybe we should all go south for the Midwinters:)

All the best,


Growin’ up….or grown up

23 08 2014

As time goes on, I realize just what you me to me. -Chicago

It’s been a pretty normal week leading up to the start of a new school year.  As normal as can be when one of us is a teenage girl who is changing school districts and jumping into the unknown feet first.  As normal as can be when one of us is a middle aged father who is desperately trying to hang on  to his little girl and stop time that seems to jump decades every time he blinks.  As normal as can be with two houses and two sets of parents with different views.

Friday night rolls around and it is orientation night at Valley, our high school of choice.  Orientation will be followed by a lock in at the local YMCA for the whole freshman class.  I can tell Syd the Kid is nervous.  I know because she is short with me and I don’t mean height.  She is also very quiet and doesn’t feel well a combination of nerves and unknown I suspect.  I do my best to keep her mind off things while getting ready.

Kitten has arrived home.  As we all get ready to go she brings out a gift for Sydney.  Jenny had sewn a new comforter for Sydney.  One side was royal blue and white with the Hemlock Husky and the other Navy and Gold with the VLHS Charger logo, very cool.  First smile of the night and I think it made her relax for a few minutes.  Time to go, Jenny asks “What wrong with you?” “my tummy hurts” I reply, damn you nerves.

Orientation goes well, lots of information the children go one way the parents another.  We meet up at the end for a final prayer and to say good night to the kids.  Sydney is so nervous I don’t get a kiss…I’m ok I understand…I don’t get a hug….uh, but that dad over there got one, and that guy there too….I’m ok, I got this, sigh.

5:45am the next morning.  I am not surprised that I am the first parent at the YMCA to pick my daughter up, they get out at 6am.  I over planned the time and calculated in some extra traffic I try to convince  myself, yeah big dumby lots of traffic at 5am on a Saturday morning (my inner voice of reason is screaming “you got to learn to let go”).  6am here she comes with a tired smile and a “hi Daddy, I get the back seat so I can lay down”.  I try to ask and get cut off and we go home.  i wanted to hear about the night and know if she had fun or not.  Nerves, I need a piece of toast.

11:45 am she has been awake for about 15 minutes.  I am busy in the kitchen making her some food so she has the energy to go school shopping today.  “Daddy, come here” I am beckoned.  “Hold on” I  reply “I’m getting you some….” “come here  I want to talk to you” she cuts me off.  Whoa, here we go.  She spent the next half hour or so telling me all the details of the fun and friends she met, the subjects the teacher told them about, the games to meet more friends, the pizza, the swimming, the fight song and more.  We talked about being a teenager and a parent and how important these next four years are and how we….gulp….would be growing together.  We talked about how she was going to have to learn to be more responsible for her time, work and schedule and how she will need to learn to be more independent and we talked about how I need to learn to….let go.  Big Gulp.

She is not a toddler anymore.  She is not a small child anymore.  She is a beautiful, brilliant, funny, unique and precious young lady.  A young lady who taking another big step, painting a new scene on her canvas of life full of vibrant color.  But, she will always be my little girl.  I’m ok, I got this.

Now that your near, promise  your love, that I’ve wanted to share.  And dream of our moments together, color my world with hope of loving you. -Chicago