relationships

relationships
28 years coaching experience/ 7 years as a varsity boys' basketball coach, now assisting

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Back to School Blues? Nope, Not from Me

We just started back to school and are in that down time between the beginning of school and the beginning of our fall basketball stuff. It's a hectic time, yet, for me, one of excitement.

I have always enjoyed the first week or so of school because it is a new year, you have some new students and some from the previous year. The kids, for the most part are excited and ready for the year.

Yet, I can't help to wish we had more time to do cool stuff with my own kids and to help with other camps.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

It's Easy to Become Attached...If You're Pure in Intention


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to head up to Xenia, Ohio and Athletes in Action on a "reverse" mission trip. Instead of going to a foreign country to teach basketball and share the Gospel, they came to us. This group of students and teachers were from Nairobi, Kenya, and I was also able to take my son with me.

Brandon, since he was real little, has always wanted to go with me when I travel for basketball. But he's been too little, the cost is too much, and it just hasn't worked out, so we saw this as a great opportunity for him to see what it is, I do. Thanks to Kelly Combs who made the arrangements and to AIA for housing us for a few days.

The first night, we arrived, got some ice cream and got situated in our room and went to bed. Brandon was so excited, I didn't think he would go to sleep, but the next morning as we prepared to go eat breakfast, I explained to him what we would be doing. That we would do the basketball drills he's always done and that he needed to be a positive example with them and in his behavior from our guests from Africa.

We ate breakfast, had our first meeting and then it was off to the gym.

We did fundamental stations and shooting drills. Brandon, who is 8, was going against boys and girls ranging from 12-18 and enjoying himself. When we finished, he had already bonded with a couple of the older boys, a couple of the coaches, and there was more than one little girl giving him "the smile".



That day their group did some bonding exercises and Brandon participated. At one point, he was too young to do what they would be doing, so he and I went off to eat and watched The Secret Life of Animals. We got back in that night at the dorm, got to sleep and he was excited for another day of basketball.

Day 3 started as did Day 2, then we headed off to the gym. Brandon had clearly bonded with many of the people, including some of the teachers from the school in Nairobi. I told them we would be leaving after the basketball clinic that day because we had to get him home and they all agreed that I could leave, but my son could stay...they wanted him to stay.

We were going to do the basketball work out, then head home, but now suddenly Brandon wanted to go eat lunch with the group. Every other meal we had eaten at AIA was not quite up to his standards, but now, he was begging to go eat their food. I spoke to the kids and told them we would be leaving after lunch and a few of them said goodbye and we got some pictures.

As we were leaving, Brandon started to get emotional. He's a soft hearted kid, but this was different. He wanted to leave so as not to be seen, but he didn't actually want to go home. As we got  to the parking lot, he was almost in full out heaving crying because he did not want to leave.

We got in the car and he cried for a few miles, then got real quiet. I asked if he was ok, but all he said was "I just want to be home, that's it, I just want to be home." He missed his new friends.

He was hurting.

I explained to him that this is part of meeting people from different places, that at some point you have to leave. I explained that if you are doing it for the right reasons, helping, then it does hurt when you leave because it is easy to become attached if you're pure in your intention.

He tried to understand as an 8 year old can, but he was not happy.


Eventually, we got home and he excitedly told all the stories he had heard and experiences he'd done to his mom and sister and they laughed and listened.

Eventually, he met up with friends and started playing basketball and baseball and was back to his old self and I thought he had gotten past his time there. And then last night....


Brandon: "Dad?"

Me: "What's up buddy?"

Brandon: "You have anything to do tomorrow (Thursday)?"

Me: "No, I don't think so."

Brandon: "You think we could drive back up to Ohio to see everybody?"

It was an awesome experience for me, but in that moment, I realized how deep of an experience it was for him. He, who doesn't like to drive in a car at all, was ready to drive 3 hours to spend a few more hours with his new friends from earlier in the week.

He gets it.

He may not understand it yet, but he will some day.

And when that day comes, he will surpass his father and any small thing I accomplish during my time here on Earth.








Tuesday, July 5, 2016

To Kristi, Madison, and Brandon...I Love You


I know we have all been through hardships. Some harder than others, some even harder than what we have gone through over the last couple of weeks and really for the last 30 plus years.

But I am here to explain, share and hopefully help myself, others and my children in a few years when they read this by writing about June 28, 2016. That's the day my children's mother donated a kidney to save the life of her sister. Her sister has had two heart transplants and two kidney transplants all because of a virus that attacked her heart when she was a baby.

The days leading up to the surgery, I sort of compartmentalized what I had going on this summer, and really, what I had going on that one particular day or the next few days. Whether it was the kids sporting events, the high school basketball games/trips, or going to Colombia, I wouldn't let myself think about June 28 until around June 26.

That's when I realized I'd be spending the next week in Nashville, TN at Vanderbilt University hospital. I knew I'd be going to the hospital, but it hadn't dawned on me I needed to pack a bag for an extended stay. My wife got the kids' stuff ready and I took care of myself. As she did this, it hit me that I would be the one taking care of most of the "taking care of" over the next few weeks.

My wife, sis-in-law and mother-in-law went down on Sunday because they had tests that needed to be done early Monday, the 27th. The kids and myself drove down that Monday and by the previous day at church and all day Monday, I had gone into an "anxiety riddled, don't talk to me, I have nothing to say, I need to focus on your mother" attitude.

I've been called Mr. Worst Case Scenario before and it's probably true, no it is true. I think it's what made me as good a coach as I could have been always prepping for the worst thing that could happen. Up 20 with 1:00 to go? No way I am relaxing, they could hit 6 three point shots and be right back in it...any way. I realize being around Megan, my sis-in-law, that medical personnel do these types of things every day. Visit a hospital and you will see the transplants and surgeries that are done regularly. To the surgeons, doctors, nurses, etc, this is a typical work day for them. It's like me getting up in front of a high school history class to talk about, well, history. It terrifies some, for me, it's just another day at work.

That Monday night we went to eat ("we", the kids and me) and went bowling. I had little patience for my kids behaving as an 11 and an 8 year old would while they are dealing with the fact their mother is being operated on the next day and I was not enjoying myself. My wife beat me, that just doesn't happen, and we proceeded to go back to the room and prepare for the night's sleep.

At 1:30 AM, I woke up to use the bathroom. I sometimes have a hard time getting back to sleep at night and this night was the worst. As I laid in my bed, on the floor and finally in a chair next to my wife watching her sleep, I let my mind go places I shouldn't have. "What if I don't have her after this?" "How do I tell the kids?" "What will we do?" So I prayed and I prayed and I prayed some more.

I prayed for God's will to be done, it's going to be done whether I ask for it to or not, but I wanted for everything to go as planned, as well as planned. I prayed for strength for my wife and kids over the next few days and I prayed for myself to keep it together.

Finally, the morning comes that she is going to go back for her kidney surgery. As we laid there and I tried to make jokes, I was overwhelmed at how much I love my wife and even more how much she loves her sister. If this were the last time I would see her alive, I wanted to take in every moment. Every corner of her smile, of her face. of her hands, I wanted to remember everything. And as she was wheeled out, I whispered that I love her and that I would see her shortly.

But also, I watched as she was doing this willingly to help her sister. Most of us, many of us would do something like this, sometimes only because it's the right thing to do. Madison, our daughter, asked her the night before: "Are you doing this because you want to or because it's the right thing to do?" I answered for my wife, which I shouldn't have, "Both!" Maddie had many other questions and my wife spoke, I was overcome by her love for her sister.

"Maddie, when I was a little girl, your Aunt was very sick and I always wanted to do something to help her and I couldn't. Now, I can."

As Kristi was wheeled back, I thought of those words.

When I got downstairs to where the rest of the family was waiting, I wanted to collapse. I was emotional and I felt like I had been strong for Kristi and needed to rest. My friend Nick Ray who is married to Kristi's cousin asked if I wanted to get something to eat and I did. As tears were welling up in my eyes, Brandon, our son, said he wanted to go too and I came back to reality that this wasn't about me, but those little kids of ours.

And Kristi's parents.

Many times during the surgery, I tried to imagine if Madison were being operated on at the same time that Brandon was and I couldn't fathom what my in laws were going through, what they have gone through and will continue to do so in the future. But they are a strong example for me that day and always have been.

The surgery went well as the kidney was removed from my wife and placed into her sister. After a few short days both women were checked out and are resting at their homes. So far everything has gone as well as expected. (I am constantly amazed at how tough and wonderful my sister-in-law is. What she has gone through and continues to is an inspiration to me and many people.)

Both have been in pain, but both are smiling and spending time with their family and friends.

Whether I believe in God and the love of Jesus or not, I am sure that I would have gotten through this last week. But I remember before that time, I didn't always have the hope of not just today, but of after this life. Our faith has helped us to understand that it is not about us, it is about serving God, and it is about helping others.

I know we both fall short of both of those ideals (me more than Kristi, everyone will tell you that), but we try.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how upsetting something can be that God is in control and we will not understand everything that does happen or does not happen this side of heaven.

But my wife...my wife....oh how I love her.

Because of her and her example, I was led to Christ.

Because of her, I am reminded every day what selfless love looks like.

And from now on I can never look at her the same.

She's a hero.

She's selfless.

She's humble.

And she's a servant of Jesus Christ.

God Bless You if you are reading this, and thank you for the prayers, thoughts, texts, food, and offers we've had during this time. It has been truly overwhelming.

Never forget that God loves you no matter what your situation and is there for you, just look around.

Just look around.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Let Me Tell You a Story...

(My wife, Kristi...the Big Sister)
(The little sister, my sis in law, Megan with her favorite niece and nephew)

Over thirty years ago, a little girl got a virus that attacked her heart. There were two choices at the time, she would die or she would undergo a heart transplant. This little girl was 2 years old when that transplant occurred. Over the next 30 years that little girl grew up into a beautiful young woman and became a Nurse Practitioner helping children and adults alike, giving back what had been given to her.

For that 30 years, the medications that she had to take to stay alive attacked the arteries to her heart and her kidneys. A couple years ago, that little girl got a second heart transplant and an extra kidney. However the BK virus, which infects the human kidneys showed up and hurt all three kidneys. This now young woman has lost much control of the filtering through her kidneys and needs another transplant to remain off of dialysis.

When the previous little girl was diagnosed, her big sister was devastated. At a young age, she had to face the possibility of losing her beloved little sister, there were no guarantees that she would come home from the first heart transplant.

Once that was successful, this older sister had to watch as her little sister struggled with rejection, not always being able to do what every other child could do and with the reality that her parents would not always be around as they had a very sick little girl to deal with.

This big sister grew up with the understanding that she would do whatever she could to help her little sister survive.

Next Tuesday, the little sister, my sister-in-law Megan McKinly, will be receiving a kidney transplant.

The person who will be donating the kidney is alive and well, it is her big sister, my wife, Kristi McKinley Hunter.

My sis in law is an amazing person. She has fought with a relatively great attitude her entire life and everyone knows how wonderful she is and I would never want to undermine any thoughts on that.

But my wife will be a hero, she is a hero too.

There are no guarantees with this surgery. You can imagine the nerves that my in laws are feeling knowing that both children will be under the knife in the same day, but the dreaded BK virus could come back and attack this new kidney making the whole thing for nothing, or says my wife.

Yet, I have told her to look at it that this is the next best action. If my wife did not do this dialysis is a necessity and who knows when she would be put on the transplant list and when it could happen again. The next best action is for her to offer one of her kidneys and give her a fighting chance for the next 1, 2 or 3 years. And if BK doesn't show back up, well...that's the best possible occurrence.

My wife is a coaches wife, she is the best coaches wife, as I have written she has allowed me to work basketball clinics all over the world, she's kept the book when I was a varsity coach and talked me out of quitting many times.

She's the toughest non-heart transplant recipient I know.

She's a loving mother and wife and I cannot think of a better role model for my children to look up to.

Sure, giving a kidney, it's the right thing to do and most siblings would do it, but she does it with no reservation, with a heart full of love, and anxiety that it works to help her little sister survive and thrive..