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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ruggerfest, a Car Accident and a Head Injury: How My Wife and I ended up in Los Angeles

While I was on Facebook the other day, I saw some pictures posted of a couple of Metropolis RFC Old Boys at Ruggerfest in Aspen, Colorado.  In looking at the pictures of Pedro and Super Joe, it got me to thinking about when I was out at Ruggerfest 4 years ago
At the Aspen Ruggerfest in 2010.
, and what a bittersweet weekend it was, and how the events of that weekend lead me to where I am writing this posting: Los Angeles, California.

While I was having a good time in Aspen, my wife, AKA, "Da Redhead" was going meet some of her friends with a Twins Cities group of Star War Aficionados at the Birthday party for a child with cancer who was hoping to see some Star Wars Characters. (My wife has costumes as an Imperial Officer and a Jedi)
Da Redhead in her Jedi Robe welding a light saber
My wife never made it.

While in route to the party, she was at a stop light on Highway 169 in Maple Grove, Minnesota. A driver in an SUV did not notice my wife stopped at the light in our minivan. His car hit my wife's car at about 55 miles an hour, it knocked loose all the seats in the back of the minivan, and my wife got tagged in the head. She was brought to the hospital via Ambulance, treated and released. Somehow during the assessment by paramedics and the ER doctors, they missed the symptoms of head injury. My wife had really no other visible marks. She told me about the accident by phone. She sounded very tired and somewhat vague about the accident.  The accident was on Saturday. I got home late Sunday and to be honest, we did not say much to each other before we went to bed, because we were both pretty exhausted.

On Monday morning, I got up-before my wife, which does not happen very often. When she got up and was starting to get ready for work and she was talking to me, I was dumbstruck: My wife was making absolutely no sense in what she was talking about. She was speaking random words, and was not able to really keep track of conversation. As a nurse who has worked in neurology and spinal cord units, I was very concerned about symptoms of head injury and concussion-and shocked that nobody really noticed this on Saturday. My only explanation is that in the time after the accident, she might have had some inflammation of the brain that was making the symptoms finally surface. Needless to say, I brought my wife over to the emergency room to get assessed again, where they gave her the diagnosis of a concussion from a closed head injury.

In the meantime, It became apparent that the affects from the head injury were going to keep my wife from working in her job as a funeral director. It's a job where you have to have an eye for detail and multi-task. My wife was in no condition to do her job. She was still officially on the books at work, but the funeral home she was working at needed to hire another director. 

With a head injury, there is no exact time table of when you are going to be healthy and functional.  Many times, you have to deal with "The New Normal". 

At the time, I was working as a nurse on a spinal cord unit at the VA in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I liked  my job and I liked my co-workers, but here I had a wife who was now unable to work and the brutal Minnesota winter was going to approach very soon…The thought of my brain-injured, unemployed wife being homebound in the long Minnesota winter was more than I could bear. I did a little research and found out that the VA health system has a travel nurse corps, to do temporary assignments at VA Medical centers throughout the USA and Puerto Rico. One day I discussed the topic with my wife and I said "Sweetheart, you can be unemployed in a warmer climate".  Since our kids were now adults, I thought that trying to do some travel assignments in some different areas of the country might be helpful in my wife's healing process. I thought checking out different parts of the USA while my wife's melon healed would be a way to make the best of a bad situation. 

I was hired in the VA Travel Nurse Corps, and my first assignment was in Dallas, Texas, where I worked on the Spinal Cord Unit at the North Texas VA Medical Center. 

We were set up in a great apartment in downtown Dallas, that was within walking distance to the light rail so I could get to work, the Uptown area of Dallas, and some great restaurants right in our neighborhood. No doubt that I worked hard in Dallas, but in my off time, we played hard.
At Toulouse, my favorite French Restaurant in Dallas with Da Redhead.
At this point, she was starting to get better-there were still some issues with focus and my wife had a harder time in multi-tasking, but while I was at work, she was able to keep track of the finances, deal with the bank and essentially be my secretary. 

With Kne-Bah Montano at her Kinaalda near Gallup, New Mexico
While in Dallas, I was able to save per diem money over the 9 months I worked there, that allowed us to make a great trip to Australia and New Zealand in September of 2011, where we ended up seeing 3 Rugby World Cup games in Wellington and Nelson.
Before Australia-USA at RWC 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand

When we got back to the USA, we packed our gear and our Bulldog Buddha and headed off to Wilmington, Delaware. It was tough work in the nursing home unit, and to be honest, Wilmington was kind of a dive-BUT, it was close to places that were cool like South Philly, New York City, and Washington DC.

During that winter of 2011-12, I really did not want to extend in Delaware, and the VA did not have anything interesting for me, so I took a job at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico. It was an interesting time working on The Rez, and we were really enjoying the lifestyle in New Mexico. 

One of the constants of the moving around is that rugby helped us meet people in all of the different locations: The Dallas Harlequins, Wilmington RFC and the Albuquerque Aardvarks made us feel welcome at a variety of games and get togethers. Rugby helped me meet Wally Minoli and his place "The Gecko" in Albuqurque, and Chee and Timaris Montano and their family while in Farmington-I even had a chance to get a run in a game while I was in New Mexico with the San Juan Silverbacks.
In Farmington, New Mexico
While we were in New Mexico, my wife and I were really enjoying he lifestyle. We liked the high desert and we thought the people were really nice. It was becoming apparent that my wife's health was improving. I felt at that point she was at about 90%, and was getting enough focus back, where I thought we could look at her getting back in the job market. But a funny thing happened to our plans on staying in New Mexico, I got a message from Linkedin that would change our lives.

I think everybody has gotten those scam emails where you are offered something that sounds too good to be true. Well, one evening I had a message in Linkedin about a job at  Children's Hospital of Los Angeles offering me a job in their "Access Center"-kind of an air traffic control center for getting kids transferred to CHLA and then keeping track of patient movement within the hospital. I almost deleted the message-my right index finger was literally inches away from deleting the message when my wife said "NO! WAIT!…Why don't you apply for it? It can't hurt to try."

Long story short, I interviewed for the job and was offered the position. My wife had finally gotten a settlement from her car accident, and we decided that when I was done with my contract in New Mexico, we would do a one month trip to Europe that included a stay in Barcelona, a western Mediterranean cruise, travel through Southern France, then finishing the trip in England, where I had a chance to go to Twickenham and the city of Rugby-the birthplace of the sport I love.
With Da Redhead in London, May 2012

When we came back from Europe, we packed our gear, and put it, along with our road-warrior Bulldog Buddha and drove from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
Buddha, the Road Warrior Bulldog was a huge comfort to my wife while she was healing up.

You have heard of the expression, "one good turn deserves another"? Well, we had only been in LA for a couple of days. We were apartment hunting up in North Hollywood, when I noticed a funeral home across the street. "Hey Honey, let's go check this funeral home out…maybe they are looking for help." To say my wife was aghast would be an understatement. She was clad in t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops-hardly professional attire for any funeral director. I persisted: "Come on, it will only take a couple of minutes-you gotta start taking a look at the lay of the land here in LA for your line of work!'.  When we entered the funeral home, a man came out and asked if he could help us,  I explained to him that we had just moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota, but that my wife is a funeral director and wondering if they might be needing a funeral director. To our amazement, he said that they were looking for a funeral director, as one had recently quit. My wife ended up applying for the job. They called her for the interview, and they offered her a job. After almost two years of being unemployed, my wife was back doing what she loves: Helping people in their time of need. 

Well, we have been here in Los Angeles for two years now. My wife is with the same funeral group. I am still at CHLA, but now in the neurology clinic. We both love the lifestyle here in Los Angeles, and rugby has allowed me to meet some fantastic people in the LA area between the Pasadena Rugby Club and the Springbok Bar and Grill.
Yeah, life in California does not suck...

It's all hard to believe that the genesis of all of this was a head injury to my wife. I guess you can say that in the end, we made lemonade out of lemons and were able to overcome a really tough break in our lives.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Up Early Trying to Buy Rugby World Cup Tickets….

It's 2:40 AM right now in Los Angeles. I am trying to apply for my tickets for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I should not be surprised that there are a lot of other fans crashing the web site to apply for tickets for the matches of their choice.  I'm on a holding pattern for about the last 40 minutes. At this point, I am looking at getting tickets for the September 26th and 27th matches that will take place in Leeds. The first one will be Canada-Italy and the second one will be Scotland-USA.  The thing that is different with buying tickets for this World Cup compared to 2007 and 2011 is that it will be weeks before my purchase will actually be confirmed.

My wife and I are planning on being in the UK next year-well, I don't know how United the United Kingdom will be, as they will be going to the polls in Scotland next Thursday to see if the Scots want to break away from the UK to be an independent nation. At any rate, we plan on being in Scotland for a week and England for a week next year. I will know more of what our itinerary will be once I am able to buy tickets and get my purchase confirmed. In the meantime…I am still in a holding pattern to try to buy the tickets on line.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Waratahs Dump Crusaders for their first Super Rugby Crown

I guess it's a good thing I don't bet on sporting events. After what I saw of the Crusaders beat down on the Sharks last week, and with all of the experienced All Blacks playing with the Crusaders. I really expected them to win another Super Rugby crown. I was mistaken.

In what was probably the most dramatic Super Rugby Final since Bryan Habana's miracle try for the Bulls against the Sharks in stoppage time in 2007, the New South Wales Waratahs grabbed a last minute win over the Crusaders in a back and forth contest, with some great tries scored by both sides, including a brace from that Swiss Army Knife of a back for the Wallaby's and the Waratahs, Adam Ashley Cooper.

With The Rugby Championship(the former Tri Nations) about to start, a lot of rugby fans wonder if this 2014 version is going to be another stroll for the almighty All Blacks. The Waratahs dumped a Crusaders side that is laden with All Blacks like Ritchie McCaw and Dan Carter, to name but a few.

Can this loss be a sign for the Wallabies, Springboks and Pumas that New Zealand may be ripe for the taking? Time will tell-but in the meantime, a massive pat on the back for the Waratahs for winning their first ever Super Rugby crown.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Super Bowl Champs Learning from Rugby

Logo for the Super Bowl Champs of American Football, the Seattle Seahawks

Word is out the the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks have a training video out, and that part of it is that they are teaching tackling in such a way as to try to make it safer for NFL players"

How we teach this system of tackling was recently inspired by those who play rugby around the world. Rugby players have taken the head out of the game and truly exemplified shoulder tackling." - Pete Carroll

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Super Rugby Semi-finals: Sharks Crunched in Christchurch

Geography can be a cruel thing. My apartment in Los Angeles has a northern exposure, which means I cannot get Direct TV, which means I cannot get any Southern Hemisphere Rugby. (Unless it's rugby league on Fox) All of this means that whatever I have seen of Super Rugby this season has been either on You Tube, or the New Zealand Herald.

As luck would have it, we have a place called the Springbok Bar and Grill http://www.springbokbarandgrill.comthat is over in Van Nuys, where the South African ownership tries to get some Super Rugby on TV when they are open-the problem is that most of the matches are in the middle of the night here on the left coast, which means even the Bok cannot show too many games.

As luck would have it, when I noticed that the start time of the Crusaders-Sharks Super Rugby Semi-final would take place at half past midnight here on the left coast. This gave me a chance to actually watch a game.

I expected a few South African expats in LA to show up to watch the Sharks try to replicate an earlier season win in Christchurch. I think the SoCal Saffas knew the Sharks just would not have it in them. I was the only person there to watch the game.

What I saw on a super-large screen TV was an utter mauling. The Crusaders, playing in front of a full house on a cold night in Christchurch, just did not let their foot off the pedal. They dominated possession, territory, the line outs…hell, you name it. The Sharks did not look like they were going to get a whiff of the try line. Crusader pressure paid off early as Kieran Read scored a nice try after breaking a tackle.

Nadolo, wearing the 11 shirt for the Crusaders played a helluva match for the Crusaders. He ran hard all night whenever he had ball in hand.

Patrick Lamby, on the other hand, did not have a great night either with ball in hand or kicking for the Sharks.

Crusader dominance was capped off by Todd scoring on a totally dominant maul by the Crusaders-an homage to a front line who had played an utterly dominant match.

From what I saw last night, I think this Crusader team can go to Sydney and beat the Waratahs, and win back the Super Rugby title-which they have won a record 7 times already. In watching the 38-6 drubbing, I think after two years of the Chiefs winning the Super Rugby title, I think the Super Rugby title will stay in Kiwi hands.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Namibia Nail a 5th Straight Rugby World Cup appearance.

I think a lot of rugby fans, myself included, thought that this would be the year where Kenya would transfer some of the success they have had in the 7 man game of rugby and translate it to their 15 man game. God knows Kenya has a ton of talent and some players with great pace and are very athletic.

In the recent tournament in Madagascar which would give the Rugby World Cup it's second qualifier from the African Continent that was played in Madagascar, it would seem that stars were aligned for Kenya to finally punch their ticket for the first time. They really had to believe in their chances after they beat Namibia 29-22 in the first game. All they needed was to avoid a decisive defeat to Zimbabwe, and they could pack their luggage for England.

It was not meant to be. Zimbabwe smoked the Kenyans and then Namibia-the plucky country from Southwest Africa punched their ticket for England-the 5th straight time they will participate in the big show. - with a 89-10 drubbing of Madagascar.

All this means that Kenya is out, and Zimbabwe will play the Russians in the Semifinals of the Repechage tournament. The winner gets the winner of Uruguay Vs Hong Kong to decide who will be the last team to fill out the field for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

Namibia has never won a game at the Rugby World Cup, and will be in the same group as Georgia, Tonga, Argentina and New Zealand. In their previous four World Cup, the vastly outmanned and outgunned Namibians have not won a single world Cup game. Can this be their time next year in England?

For Zimbabwe, a rugby team that has has to overcome much, given the travails it has been through playing in a country with a malevolent leader in President Mugabe, can this be the first time that Zimbabwe can punch it's ticket to the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1991?
Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My 2014 FIFA World Cup Confession

For my friends in the rugby blogosphere, it's rare when I write about the round ball as opposed to the oval ball, but I was a soccer/football fan before I ever discovered rugby, so please excuse me while I digress about the current FIFA World Cup.
I may stand like a rock-but I am not infallible.

Before the World Cup Started, I had a lot of thoughts and predictions. As the round of 16 matches ended today with victories by Belgium and Argentina, I have to admit that there is much about this World Cup where I have been mistaken.

-I did not think the USA would get out of the "Group of Death" with Germany, Ghana and Portugal. American and Everton Goalkeeper Tim Howard helped the Americans stay in every game with some heroic goalkeeping.

-I thought there would be two African teams that would make it to the round of 16, but I was wrong about the countries. I thought Ghana and the Ivory Coast would go through, instead Algeria and Nigeria made it.

-I never would have imagined little Costa Rica, not only make the second round, but they would win their group that had former World Cup Champs Uruguay, Italy and England. The Ticos would also, for good measure, make it to the quarterfinals for the first time in that countries history.(They get Holland in the Quarterfinals).

-I never thought CONCACAF would produce 3 round of 16 participants in the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica.

I never thought I would find myself actually rooting for Mexico and their boisterous, colorful coach, Señor Herrera. I usually hate "El Tri", but I really liked this Latino version of the late comedian, Chris Farley.

_ I did not  think that England, Italy and Spain would ALL crash out the first round.

-I did not think that Julian Green would even get on the field during this World Cup, but the young American born, German-raised forward scored a great goal after coming on as a sub for the Yanks to make the game interesting against Belgium.

-When French and Bayern Munich forward Franck Ribéry  had to forfeit for this world cup because of a sore back, I really wondered if Les Bleus would be able to be a factor. Well, they play Germany in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

-I thought that a FIFA World Cup played in tropical Brazil, with day time start times to cater to European TV, would be a yawn fest of boring games. What we ended up with was  a World Cup that has had the most goals since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden that introduced the world to Pélé and Frenchman Just Fointaine and his 13 goals in that World Cup-a record that will probably be never broken in my lifetime. There have been some seriously entertaining matches in this World Cup.
My son Ian(Named after Ian Rush) and my Grandson Duncan play some ball.

Twenty some years ago, It would have been impossible to imagine a couple of thousand people in Omaha, Nebraska gathered around multiple TV screens at a bar/Restaurant watching, cheering and holding their breath as the USA and Portugal played out their drama in 4 parts that ended with Portugal tying the game with about 30 seconds left in the match, after some pulsating end-to-end action. But yet, my son Ian and I were part of the fun at World Cup watch parties in Omaha, Denver, Montrose, Colorado and Los Angeles. The game has come a long way in my country.

There. I feel so much better after getting all of this off my chest.
The Horsefly Brewing Company in Montrose, Colorado-one of several places  my son  Ian and I  caught World Cup action as we drove from Minnesota to Los Angeles.

This World Cup shows what can be great in sport. Even if you have been a long time fan, you can still be pleasantly surprised.