In addition to the airline joke, I love the trophy.
Flashback: September 1990. I was at UMR, brand new to the whole college experience, looking for activities where I could get involved. The resident assistant on my floor, Matt Groves, taught a group of us how to play this sport called ultimate. I’d never heard of it before (nor had any of us, I think) but I really liked it. I wasn’t really very athletic, but ultimate can be played at a variety of athletic and skill levels, so I didn’t feel completely outclassed on the field.
Although Matt only organized that one game, afterward I continued gathering the group together. We’d walk down to Schuman Park, near the residence hall, and play on the small field there. One endzone was marked by a huge oak tree; the other was a swingset. There was a pond on one sideline… and yes, the disc went into the drink far more often than we would’ve liked. I actually have an old photo of one of our games:
You can’t see it in the picture, but I was playing barefoot. I started out that way, and never stopped. Hence, I became “Shoeless Jeff” on the field.
Over my five years of college, I was the guy who was always calling up friends and telling them we were heading out to play. We upgraded to UMR’s athletic fields, which were much better than running into playground equipment (although one time I hit a 55-gallon trash barrel at full speed when I was watching the disc instead of where I was going). UMR didn’t have an official ultimate team, or even an intramural sport, but eventually we had enough “regulars” that we organized some tournament teams and played in Kansas and Indiana.
Once in Colorado, I found a pickup group in Aurora and played there, and a few years later I joined Grass Roots Ultimate in Boulder. I also organized a Longmont pickup group. So many options! In later years I was probably playing ultimate three or four times a week. And through this entire period, from that first day in college to this week in Longmont, I never missed a month. I played at least one day of each month from then until now. Twenty-nine years. 348 months. Straight.
And last night, I played for the last time. After a fabulous afternoon pickup game, I stopped by the Longmont league evening game.
I’d intended to just hang out on the sidelines, talking with friends, but one team was short-handed and needed someone to fill in for missing players. I played that entire game, and then picked up with another team for a few points. It was a beautiful evening, and a lot of fun to play one last time. Then the fields cleared as we headed out.
And that was it. After 348 straight months of ultimate, I’m done. The sport changed my life, although I think more to the point, the people did. There’s something special about ultimate. It’s different than other competitive sports. There’s a deeper, richer connection between players, even when they’re strangers. It’s hard to describe, and it’s something I’ll always treasure.
Thanks for 348 months of memories. Now it’s time for a new adventure.
Laralee has been growing out her hair for many months. I don’t think it’s because she likes it long– in fact, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t like it long– but rather, it’s because she doesn’t want to make a trip to a salon and drop fifty bucks or whatever for a trim.
I happen to love long hair, and I think hers is gorgeous.
But she finally decided it was time to get a trim, and headed over to the salon today. She lost about eight inches of length:
Of course she’s still gorgeous. When I saw it, I told her something like “I really like your new haircut!” to which she replied, “Have you been practicing saying that?” She knows me too well.
Today was officially “Shoeless Day” at the biweekly Boulder ultimate pickup game. Since it’s my last day playing ultimate in Colorado, several people in the group suggested we have a game where everyone went shoeless. As it turned out, only three or four actually did, but it was still fun to see the group one last time. We had a huge crowd today:
I think it helped that it was perfect fall weather: one of those beautiful days when it’s great to be running around outdoors. It was fun (and hard) to say goodbye to so many friends, some of whom I’ve known for almost two decades. I hope to organize a pickup group in Montana, but I know it won’t be the same. Boulder ultimate will always have a special place in my heart.
Yesterday I learned a new word: vexillology. It refers to the “scientific and scholarly study of flags”. Yeah, flags.
I learned it because Laralee asked what the Montana state flag looks like, and I showed her:
It’s, umm… something, isn’t it? It looks like it was drawn by a third-grader, which is either absolutely horrible or spectacularly fun. La was surprisingly annoyed by Oro y Plata, which is Spanish for “Gold and Silver” and apparently the state motto. Remember: despite what its license plates say, Montana is the “Treasure State”.
Back to vexillology. This flag was apparently ranked the third worst flag in the fifty states by the North American Vexillological Association. I can only imagine the meeting of NAVA where the members sat around discussing this, compiling a list of the fifty flags and arguing about which was really the worst. Georgia came in dead last, although they’ve since changed their flag (possibly due to the embarrassment of their NAVA ranking?). Nebraska’s flag was voted second-worst, and with a bit of reading I learned that in 2017 one of Nebraska’s state senators introduced legislation to redesign the flag, citing the fact that the flag had flown upside-down at the capitol building for over a week with no one noticing.
In the end, both Laralee and I agree that Colorado’s flag is pretty awesome. It’s simple, has no Spanish (or Latin) phrases, and has meaningful colors (sky, snow, sunshine, red earth).
Look at me, analyzing the flag… maybe I should become a vexillologist!
This week will be my last hurrah playing ultimate in Colorado. Some of the guys in our pickup group have organized a “Shoeless Day” tomorrow:
Longtime Longmont pickup stalwart, GRU board member, swilling barefoot-running all-around good guy Shoeless Jeff will make his final (outdoor) pick-up appearance tomorrow at Valmont.
While no doubt true that the brutal desolation and loneliness of a long windy dark Montana winter will bring him back soon, and the likelihood that he’s so far from finished packing up his house that he’ll show up again on Tuesday, we should send him off in style tomorrow. Guard him lightly, compliment his errant throws and tentative soft cuts, and let him score at least once.
Bring your old and extra cleats, old smelly GRU shirts and visors, and cracked discs for Shoeless to take with him, box up and move to Montana to start a new pick-up game in Big Sky country.
And a tent. Shoeless is always on the lookout for a good tent to borrow.
I’m looking forward to one last game. And some good heckling.
I stumbled across some pictures of Kyra from a “photo shoot” we did a few months ago. I couldn’t resist making a little collage.
For the last couple of years, my friend RaeAnna has told me I need a new hairstyle. Without directly insulting my barber (Laralee), she’s said things like “You actually want your hair to look like that?” and told me how much better it would look if I’d let her cut it and add some “product”.
She also gives free haircuts to local missionaries, since they don’t really have the money to spend on a “professional” barber (25 bucks for a five-minute trim?). So she agreed to cut Zaque’s hair as well, since he’s about to be a missionary.
Zaque and I took a quick photo before we headed over:
His hair wasn’t nearly as poofy as usual, because he’d just taken a shower and it was still wet and somewhat matted down. But it was pretty much in full ‘fro mode.
We sat down in RaeAnna’s kitchen and she went to work. Zaque’s hair took nearly an hour to finish– she kept trimming this and that.
At one point she’d pretty much shaved the sides, but the top was still long and curly, and he looked somewhat like Titan from Megamind:
Then she went to work on me. She trimmed the sides and back, pretty much like Zaque’s, and then added some “product”. She insists that “even engineers can be hot”.
Today I bid farewell to my good friend Dave, with whom I’ve enjoyed a thousand lunch conversations over many years.
His startup, KickView, continues to thrive. He started it a few years ago, and in a way I was one of the founders, but at the time I was pretty busy with Zing and couldn’t dedicate enough time to really help him get off the ground. So instead I fell into the role of an advisor, and the two of us talked about strategies and business ideas and all sorts of things. He drew from my experience starting and running a company, and I learned a lot from him along the way. It’s been fun to watch his journey, and I’m sure going to miss those lunch conversations.
Tonight was my last GRU board meeting. I’ve been on the board for the past three years, and before that I was a league coordinator, tournament director, captain, webmaster, official scorekeeper, and a host of other things. This organization has been a huge part of my life for the past twenty years, and it was (as always) bittersweet to bid farewell to the rest of the board.
It’s always amazing to me to see the power that a group of passionate volunteers can have. GRU has come a long way in twenty years, due in large part to the tireless work of the board. I’m leaving it in good hands, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss being a part of it. Thanks for all the memories, guys.
As we continue to dig through the corners of our basement, packing up our house for the move, it’s been interesting to find some things that were long forgotten. For example, today I unearthed a couple boxes of coins I’d amassed in high school. I played poker with my friends for many years, and I tucked away my winnings. It was always nickel-dime-quarter stakes, but over the years I ended up with a lot of nickels, dimes, and quarters.
Everything was neatly rolled, so I loaded the boxes into my trunk (combined, all these coins weighed over a hundred pounds) and drove to the bank. I hefted these onto the counter by the teller, who informed me he’d have to crack open all the rolled coins and run them through the big counting machine in the back room. After a twenty-minute wait, he came back and reported the grand total: $654.65. Clearly my rolling wasn’t as accurate as I thought years ago. But still, it’s nice to have that money in my bank account instead of sitting in a box under the basement stairs.
I also found a savings bond that Grandma Schroeder had given me when I was a wee lad:
Based on the date, this was a Christmas present when I was fourteen. The bond cost $25 and matured at $50. But, since I’d let it sit in my basement for over three decades, the interest had accumulated so the total redemption was a cool $103. Thanks, Grandma!
Now, as I continue to pack, I’m on the prowl for other things I can “cash in”…
As Laralee and I walked around the neighborhood, we were surprised at the number of sunflowers at various houses. I started snapping pictures of them as we walked…
And one perfectly-formed flower:
As we finished our walk, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset (note Longs Peak in the bottom left).
On our walk this evening, Laralee and I saw this bumper sticker on a rusted-out truck.
Stumbled across this photo on the internet today. Wholesome.
Alex timed his wedding carefully so he and Kaitlyn would have a few days to honeymoon before starting classes, so we took the opportunity to bring a bunch of things from home for both him and Kyra. We managed to fill a U-Haul trailer with a bed, dresser, nightstands, Kyra’s enormous comfy chair, and boxes upon boxes of stuff.
Unlike the last time she headed off to college, Kyra knows her roommate (a woman who served in the same mission), knows the campus, and knows what her major will be. So she’s much more confident, excited, and ready to be social. We unloaded things into her new apartment, which is cleverly called a “lodge” because it sounds fancier even though it’s just as worn-down as any college apartment.
After a bunch of wedding festivities, we stopped at the shave-ice shack near her old apartment complex and enjoyed a late-night treat.
It wasn’t quite as good as the one on Kaua’i, but that might be because it wasn’t a scorching sunny 90 degrees, and we weren’t actually in the Hawai’ian Islands (although the shack was themed that way). Still, I’m definitely a convert to shave ice and hope to get a machine for Christmas or something.
It’ll be fun to have Kyra and Alex at BYU together, along with a bunch of friends they’ve made over the past few years. I hope their college experience is awesome.
Yesterday was Alex’s wedding. In the few months since he announced his engagement, we’ve been watching him plan, organize, and run through a thousand details leading up to the big event. Kaitlyn, his betrothed, did her share of the work from afar, since the two of them weren’t together for most of the summer. It was definitely hard to have a long-distance relationship, and to plan a long-distance wedding, but it all came together beautifully.
Here’s the happy couple at the head table:
And of course some goofy faces too:
Here’s a shot of their first dance. Notice their cloaks, and the dagger at Alex’s side. It was a medieval-themed wedding, and although most people showed up in standard Sunday clothes, there were a handful of committed friends who were carrying shields, covered in chain-mail armor, and even a guy in a full knight’s suit straight out of Monty Python. Alex and Kaitlyn cut their wedding cake with a sword!
Later during the reception, Zaque unfurled a long scroll and announced the story of the happy couple. He embellished it a bit, and added some side commentary like only he can. The tale was hilarious.
As an added bonus, we saw a bunch of old friends from Longmont. Some of them drove all the way out from Colorado, while others are now living in Utah and had a shorter trip. I ran into three yahoos who I’ve known since they were little boys:
And we took a picture of (almost) all of the Colorado crowd:
It was great to see all of the planning come together in a ceremony and reception that was fun for all. Now Kaitlex (as they will be known hereafter) is on their honeymoon. It’s weird to think I have a kid who’s married but I’m really excited for them. Here’s wishing them many, many happy years to come.
Today was the Grass Roots Ultimate summer league tournament. I started playing in GRU in the summer of 1999, so this was my 20th summer league. During these past two decades, I’ve probably played in a total of nearly a hundred leagues. So you could say GRU has been a big part of my life during my time in Colorado.
My team this summer put up a .500 record; it seemed like every week we’d win a game and lose a game. We continued that tradition today, winning the quarter-finals on a dramatic universe point, but dropping the semi-finals to the team who eventually went on to win the championship. Regardless of the score, it was a great team and we had a lot of fun together. Plus, we looked really sharp in our fluorescent orange jerseys.
My co-captain for this final season was Brenda, who was also on my very first summer league team back in 1999. She and I became good friends, and we co-captained probably thirty teams in the intervening years. It seemed fitting to finish this journey with her.
Last fall, my friend Jordan let me borrow her sparkly pink skirt for our tournament games. Today, she wasn’t playing in the tournament but drove to the fields to let me borrow her skirt once again.
Then she gave me the good news: I can keep it! I’ve added it to my ultimate wardrobe (alongside maybe forty jerseys from over the years) and will pull it out as needed. When I came home wearing it, Laralee almost fainted with excitement. Actually, that’s not quite true– I think her actual words were something like “If I hadn’t already married you, seeing you in that outfit would’ve definitely killed the deal.”
At halftime, a group of friends came over from other fields to present me with a plaque. Yes, a plaque!
It’s a little hard to tell in the photo, but that’s a piece of turf glued onto the wood backing, with a bare footprint carved out of it on the left. Despite the cheesiness of it all, I was really touched.
I took the opportunity for some selfies with friends I ran across on the field throughout the day.
These are only a handful of literally hundreds of people I’ve become friends with during my years in GRU. I love this sport, but even more, I love the people I’ve met while playing it. What an amazing community.
I still have a few more weeks to play some pickup games, and I’ll be assisting new league coordinators as I transition out of the organization, so I’m not quite finished with GRU yet. But I’ve played in my last game. Thanks for twenty years, everyone.
Hobby Lobby’s web site is down right now, and I got a chuckle out of their error page:
Yesterday was it: the last day we had all three of our kids at home. Alex left this morning for Utah, and in about a week he’ll be married. Kyra will be at college next week, and may come back next summer, but who knows. And Zaque will be gone for two years on a mission.
It’s really weird to know that this part of our job as parents is over. Well, maybe “entering a new phase” is a better way to put it. With three adult kids it becomes more about giving advice (sometimes carefully) rather than instruction. I’m excited for the end of an era and the start of a new one.
You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.C.S. Lewis