Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunrise in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

A few minutes before sunrise this morning I snapped this photo at Morse Park Landing in the coastal town of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. I had Judah in the backpack -- he thought 6 a.m. was wakeup time this morning so we decided to take a drive -- on a pleasant 52-degree morning, on a day we're heading for the 70s. On Dec. 21, no less.

We are vacationing down here for the week at a resort with an indoor pool, a 9-hole putt putt golf course, running paths and a nearby state park with a splendid beach on the Atlantic Ocean. It's a lovely spot and we are thoroughly enjoying our vacation, even if the putt putt golf is getting quite competitive and my team lost 6-5 to the vaunted trio of Abram, Madeline and Eli at a nearby soccer field yesterday.

It never ceases to amaze me the beauty of God's creation. The sun rising beyond the Atlantic Ocean over the salt marsh in a quiet little fishing hamlet was perfectly peaceful. Thanks Judah, for giving me a spectacular early start to the day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wiffle Ballapalooza: East vs. West

Brenton Sabo

Parker Smith

Taylor Sabo

Matt Sabo

Ethan Sabo

It was late August on a sultry afternoon with a slight breeze rustling the leaves of the trees above us when two irresistible forces of nature collided in Gloucester. Perhaps you're recalling how the 5.8 magnitude earthquake and Hurricane Irene struck just days apart, rending earth, trees and homes alike. You would be thinking flat wrong. It was no force of literal nature that collided, but rather forces of unnatural strength, power and dizzying speed that crossed paths. It was the long anticipated matchup discussed literally for years, talked about by pundits, dissected endlessly by commentators and broken down at length on the cyberpages of Facebook. Yes, it was the vaunted "East Vs. West Wiffle Ball Matchup of the Century" at Sabo Field at Courthouse Square. Gloucester may never be the same.

The game was in a round-robin format, mano a mano, pitcher vs. batter with 2 fielders. The friendly confines of Sabo Field would settle once and for all who plays the better brand of Wiffle ball. Would it be the newcomers from the West, who talk smack with the best of 'em and had to beef up their lineup by taking Brenton Sabo on loan from the East? Or would it be the vaunted team from the East featuring a player in the twilight of his career and two young, stout arms in the prime of their youth? The matchup consisted of the aforementioned power-hitting Brenton Sabo and his trusty slinging-n-hitting sidekick Parker Smith, a brawny young man better known perhaps for his starring role playing the prophet Habakkuk in a production that can still be seen on Youtube (Google "Sesame Street Habakkuk" and you'll be in for a treat). Facing them were yours truly, a 42-year-old soft-tossing, wily veteran who's been playing Wiffle ball for 35 years or so and the dynamic brotherly duo of Ethan and Taylor Sabo with electric arms and dazzling bats.

Every player faced every other player as both hitter and batter. The game featured Gold Glove caliber fielding, jaw dropping bombs rocketing off the bat (Sorry neighbors!) and pitching that, in some cases, defied the laws of physics to the point that MIT is sending down a team of top-notch nerds armed with video cameras, slide rules, laptops and pocket protectors to determine how exactly some pitches literally enter new dimensions of time and space.

In the end, it was something of a draw, as the top two run-scorers were from the West and East. Some things are indisputable. Brenton and Old Man Sabo scored the most runs. But they also gave up the most runs. Brenton can still wield a mean glove in the field. So can Ethan. Taylor swings for the fences. If he connects, look out. Parker wields a strong bat and the East teamers grudgingly admit he can pitch.

We do, however, hold these truths to be self-evident:

1) Brenton may look funny at the plate, but leave the ball up at your own peril. Brenton at the plate is a cross between Kevin Youkilis and Craig Counsell. He holds the bat high, wagging it around as he sort of wags his hips, then comes steady as the pitcher hurls the ball at him. Hitting left-handed, Brenton launched one shot into straightaway center that nearly hit the roof -- of our neighbor's house. I'm sure I heard someone say, "Houston we have liftoff!" He, uh, struggles at the mound, however. There's a divot about 20 feet in front of home plate where Brenton routinely drilled the ball into the ground as he was pitching. One time Ethan hit a nice rocket into center field off one of those bounces.

2) As noted before, Parker can pitch. His slider is pretty nasty. He's deceptively fast. For a beefy guy, he's more a slap hitter and uses his surprising speed to motor around the bases. But make him labor as a pitcher and he can get in trouble. He's not an innings eater, but is pretty solid for 1-3 innings. The East players freely admit that if he comes up in free agency, we'd snatch him in a heartbeat. That's about the highest compliment a West Coast player can get, in case you're wondering.

3) Taylor has struggled this year finding his release point and pitches. When Taylor can locate and has his pitches working, fuhgeddaboutit. He did seem to have some elbow issues, until he popped some ibuprofen during the middle of the game. He seemed to get more life on his fastball after that and started inducing grounders. At the plate he swings for the fences. He's not looking to stroke a single anywhere. He wants to tear another hole in the ball. Unfortunately for me, sometimes he actually succeeds.

4) As for me, well, I'm just hanging on. If my forkball isn't working, I'm in big trouble. Taylor and Brenton each scored 5 runs off me in one inning, I believe. I had to go to the chiropractor the next day because my neck was so sore from watching balls fly over our roof.

5) Ethan is absolutely dominant on the hill. It's not even close. He put up some pitching statistics that absolutely boggle, stagger and even blow the mind. Try this one on for size, for example: In 10 innings pitched while the West Coast team was in the 'hood, he did not give up a single hit. Not one. The only thing I can compare that to is Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. Ethan registered more than 20 K's. We had so many forward and backward K's hanging on the fence that makes the short porch in right field we had to run to the store to get more paper. Parker thought about retiring at the top of his game after he simply put a ball in play against Ethan. I would have loved to have put a ball in play against him. The challenge for the MIT guys will be figuring how Ethan's fastball gets so much giddyup on it as it crosses the plate. That thing literally comes in fat and then jumps out of the strike zone as if it's possessed with some sort of bat-avoiding properties. It's like fishing with dynamite. It's not fair. Then he has this changeup that pretty much stops in front of the plate. I threw out my back once waving at it.

In the end, it was determined that nothing was settled. The only thing settled was that a rematch looms in the offing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Judah Benjamin Sabo Then And Now

On May 6, Judah Benjamin Sabo entered the world. He's been a pretty popular guy around our house ever since. His birth was a miraculous event, in my estimation. He's the product of a very difficult pregnancy for Julie, marked by gestational diabetes, insulin shots, sleeplessness, stress ... and at the end a very difficult birth. She began bleeding the night of May 5th. Nothing too serious, but worrisome nevertheless. In conversations with the doctor he at first advised her to stay home and rest. But I believe it was around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. -- maybe a little later; at that time of night what's really the difference between an hour or two? -- that she woke me and said it was time to go to the hospital, even though she wasn't in labor.

We arrived at the hospital at 3 or 4 a.m. and she was doing fine for a while. So was Judah. The plan was for Julie to go ahead and have Judah naturally and to let the birthing process take its course. But around 8 a.m. suddenly things went downhill. Judah's heartbeat couldn't be found and Julie crashed as well, going faint. It seemed an eternity as nurses and doctors rushed into the room and an oxygen mask was placed on Julie that we couldn't hear Judah's heartbeat. It had been so strong at 138 beats a minute, a steady pulsing that signified a healthy baby. Minutes seemed to go by and I watched it at the end of the bed, out of the way of all the commotion, my own heart fluttering and a sense of dread. I did what only I could do in that moment and that was to pray.

I remember praying that I knew God had a plan in all of this but I told Him I didn't know if I was strong enough to face losing my son. And as I watched Julie as she appeared to be in a fog I asked God to save them both. In the scramble suddenly I heard Judah's heartbeat, about 70 beats a minute, weak but a sweet sound. The doctor came to me and told me they were taking Julie in for an emergency c-section. He thought things would be fine and that it appeared Julie and baby were stabilized. They wheeled her away and I waited, alone in prayer.

Maybe a half-hour later the doctor reappeared. Another Sabo had entered the world. He told me that the umbilical cord was wrapped around Judah's neck and in a knot. As he was descending in the birth canal, the cord was stretching and the knot was tightening. If he had been born vaginally, he wouldn't have made it, the doctor said. Julie had her own complications. She hemorrhaged in the recovery room and had a reaction to the anesthesia. For hours the nurses had to keep waking her up because she would fall asleep and quit breathing. It wasn't until about four hours later that I was able to see her. She was still groggy and twice while I was in the room with her she fell asleep and quit breathing.

The doctor, when he was speaking to me just after the birth, told me how another 20 minutes and we might not have either Julie or Judah with us. He told me how lucky we were. No, it wasn't that. "I was praying," I said.

Julie is doing just fine. She's as busy as ever and Judah keeps her quite occupied. Judah is growing into a stout young Sabo, or as stout as a Sabo can be. He's starting to laugh and is reaching out for things. This evening I was holding him and went in the back yard with the little boys and Olivia. Eli started kicking a soccer ball around. Judah watched him and started laughing. Then I joined in and started playing a game with Eli and Gabe while still holding Judah. We've never heard Judah laugh so hard.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Sabo Sampler of Summer Photos & Thoughts on Irene

Here we are a couple of days after Hurricane Irene blew through Gloucester. We did just fine and praise God it wasn't as powerful as advertised. Brenton is visiting and brought a friend with him from Oregon, Parker Smith, we have Lauren Mealey (a 22-year-old friend from Corvallis) living with us this summer, and Anna joined us for the hurricane party. So if my fingers and toes are correct, that was 18 people under one roof for Hurricane Irene. What a night. I am quite positive I wouldn't want to be around for a category 2 or 3 blow. Three trees went down in our vicinity, including one on the neighbor's roof, but major damage was avoided and no one was hurt. We lost power for 14 hours -- fortunately we are on the county water system and have a gas stove and water heater -- and everyone slept downstairs because I was worried about trees falling on our house. Literally, the floor was covered with people on mattresses.

As you can see, Judah is with us. He's a splendid chap, quite popular with his brothers and sisters, and is just now starting to laugh and jabber somewhat in his own distinctive lingo. He was born May 6 under traumatic circumstances, for both him and Julie. God is good, however. At one point the doctor told me that if Julie hadn't had an emergency c-section, we may have lost both of them in another 20 minutes. Julie is doing well, as you can see, and so is Judah. He spends a lot of time being carried around, believe it or not.

Last week was quite crazy. We had an earthquake that struck about 80 miles or so from here -- a 5.8 temblor -- on Tuesday, that rattled the house and nerves. I was in the courthouse and at first thought the folks at Camp Peary across the river (a mysterious CIA camp) were blowing up things again. But it kept shaking and in fact shaking more vigorously. When I poked my head out the door I saw people running for the exits and hollering something about an earthquake. The last quake of note in Virginia occurred in 1897, to give you an idea of how infrequently these things happen here. Then Irene blew in on Saturday. I went shopping on Thursday in advance of the storm and it looked like there had been wide scale looting in the store. No water was to be found anywhere, entire shelves were cleaned out, the place was packed ... it was wild. The gas stations had long lines of people filling up containers for fuel for generators (a staple for homeowners in these parts) and by Friday you could see people hauling furniture and family belongings out of low-lying areas along the rivers.

Irene proved to be a lot of hype, however, and not nearly as destructive as feared. I am thankful for that. My prayer throughout the hurricane, which started blowing in earnest Saturday morning and continued to about daylight Sunday morning, with continuous sheets of rain, was that the Lord would keep us safe, not allow any trees to fall on our house, and to keep our neighbors and those in our community safe. My prayer was answered.