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Award Winning Book

Fun summer reading. “Monkeys In My Coconut Tree” by Ed Thompson, is a compilation of fun, easy-to-read stories of fun, family, and faith. It was a Reader’s Favorite 2016 Silver Medal Winner. So come on, check it out. Read some of the reviews and download your copy by clicking HERE. (Also available at Amazon.com, iTunes and others.)

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Making Better People

I have a vivid memory of my oldest son, Matt, walking off his high school football field after his final game. I wrote about it in “Surviving the End of High School Athletics” describing the slow, agonizing walk off the field. Shoulders were slouched giving way to heavy sobs. And Matt wasn’t doing much better, either.iF7D45B52-C766-470B-9882-B5CF871AB46D-1

Another powerful memory was after my dad died. The time had come to clean out his belongings from dressers and closets. I was standing in Dad’s closet overcome with emotion when Matt quietly put his strong arms around me, buried his head in my shoulder, and cried with me.

There was the time he chased a young man down the street who showed up to visit his little sister. Matt was just goofing around, but it was evident the young man didn’t know that by the cloud of dust his legs and feet were leaving as he took off down the street never to return. Guarding, protecting, and loving his little sister has, and always will be, a top priority.

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Dropping Matt off his first year in college in Pennsylvania revealed the inseparable bond he has with David, his six-year-the younger little brother. Saying goodbye was like they were both having an arm pulled off. I first became aware how close they were when one of David’s school assignments was to write about his hero. I was accustomed to being the “hero” and didn’t quite know what to think when David’s assignment revealed it was actually Matt. The two of them still have an awful time saying goodbye to each other.

054 too hard to say goodbye

Of course, I also remember Matt’s failed attempt at “neighborhood pool hopping.” He and two high school buddies decided it would be a lot of fun to video each other hopping fences and jumping into unsuspecting neighbor’s pools. It was a lot of fun until police cars and even a police helicopter showed up with sirens blaring. Apparently it never crossed their minds that some terrified homeowner may have misconstrued three screaming teenagers’ fun for an Al-Qaeda training exercise. Hiding out at a friend’s house until the heat cooled off was just part of their unforgettable summer afternoon.

August 2nd is Matt’s birthday. It’s hard to believe someone as young as I am has a 27-year-old-son, but it’s true. He married one of Miami’s most wonderful and beautiful girls and a career move has taken them to California. We text and phone and Skype quite a bit, but I still miss them terribly.

One of the things I told Matt when he got to the age — when a girlfriend could turn into fiancé — was to make certain she brought out the best in him and he brought out the best in her. “Do you make each other better?” I often asked. When he met Laura, I didn’t need to ask. It was obvious for all to see and their wedding was one of the great days in my life, too.

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God has blessed me with a wonderful family. We’re so far from perfect that even the hint of such a thing is laughable. But at the end of the day, the one thing that has bound us together is right from God’s Word. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

Thinking back over Matt’s 27 years swells my heart with pride and joy. It is a very rewarding and beautiful thing to realize your child makes you a better person. Thanks, Matty.  I love you, son!

Happy birthday.

Pops

Home Field Advantage

I have watched with a great deal of curiosity as the latest group of high school area athletes contemplate their college futures. Most say the only thing they have decided on so far is that they are undecided.

Miami_Hurricanes_logo.svgBarely 16 months ago, my son was tossing his high school graduation cap high in the air while eagerly looking forward to fulfilling a life-long dream to become a Miami Hurricane.  His recruiting trail was less than 15 miles and the Coral Gables campus was his only official visit.  “Why would I go on any other visits?” he questioned, when out of state invitations were offered. “I’d just be wasting their time and mine.”

I understand that just because you grow up in a certain area doesn’t mean that the local college is the right fit.  For some, going away for school is absolutely the best decision for a myriad of reasons.  Academic standards, financial requirements, and other expectations are always factors affecting decisions.  And of course, there are many who would love to play for their home team but for one reason or another, are simply not given the opportunity.

But now, with a full year of being a family with a student-athlete under our belts, I have discovered that it’s the “other things” that make playing at home so special.

When my son committed early to the University of Miami, I’m not sure who was more excited: my son, or me.  Half my wardrobe has a “U” on it and the stickers on my truck would be difficult to remove. I am very comfortable flashing “the U” sign and my email salutation to friends who egregiously attended other universities often states, “It’s all about the U.”  I’m even friends with a former Ibis.

But things, as we all know, rarely go exactly as planned.  And so it was that before my son even stepped foot on the field his freshman year, he found himself as a medical redshirt recovering from an unexpected and certainly unplanned surgery.  One of the “other things” quickly kicked in as a mother’s care and concern meant sleeping in the uncomfortable chair in the hospital room just to make sure her boy was okay.

The list of “other things” started adding up quickly, like the fun of meeting his new friends and having them over for dinner. “Other things” include catching a last minute movie knowing Dad will gladly pay–even for Milkduds, or periodically delivering a fresh batch of mom-made-cookies for the team to enjoy. “Other things” even included sneaking into a practice and hiding behind trash cans and bleachers so your son (or a coach) won’t see you but being very worried that a security guard will–and taser you from behind.

The “other things” are also late night talks to encourage and advise when things aren’t working out quite right or when the struggle is greater than expected. “Other things” is simply being there to comfort when he finds finds out he needs yet another surgery.   Of course, “other things” is the absolute thrill of seeing your son on the field proudly wearing the uniform and living his dream.

While going away for college has its list of “other things,” too, there is a definite reason for the phrase, “home field advantage.”  It’s more than being familiar and comfortable with your surroundings.  It’s about an entire network of family and friends who support you, come to watch you play, and cheer you on in athletics as well as life.  Home field advantage is all about the “other things” that mean so much, but can’t be found in brochures, locker rooms, or play-books.

So I wonder, as I listen to the banter from some of these local high school athletes, if they have taken the time to consider the “other things.” I suspect not.  But as we have discovered, there is a powerful home field advantage.  Sometimes, it’s even hiding behind a trash can.

Surviving the End of High School Athletics

When it comes to recalling my athletic exploits, the axiom is true, “The the older I get the better I used to be”. The truth is, however, most of my athletic memories involve hospital rooms, casts, crutches, and Extra Strength Tylenol. I had a heart for football but knees for X-box.

My wife, Jenn, never actually saw me play football when we were students at Wheaton College. She did, however, visit me in the hospital where I slightly embellished how I sustained my season-ending knee ligament tear.  If memory serves, it was whilst tossing a perfect 127 yard touchdown pass between 8 defenders while being tackled by 14 rabid linebackers, the opposing team coaches, and a few cheerleaders.  It was quite a play.

David surrounded by family on Senior Day

I exchanged my football cleats for a seat in the bleachers long ago.  And what a great seat it has been.  Front row and center for the past twelve years; a constant barrage of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball games and practices.  But then, in an instant, it came to a jolting stop.  Our youngest played his last high school game and suddenly, it was all over.

We knew this day was coming.  It had to.  It took a slow, inevitable route beginning with our oldest.  I distinctly remember his last high school football game and the slow, agonizing walk off the field. Shoulders were slouched giving way to heavy sobs.  And my son wasn’t doing much better, either.

But when our eldest son’s high school athletic career came to an end, we still had two more to cheer on.  That meant our calendar remained full of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and baseball.  Then suddenly, my daughter’s soccer games were over; then her volleyball.  The writing was on the wall the entire time, but with one kid still in the system, the busyness continued.  Then, on a normal day, our last high school game was played and just like that, it was over.

Erma Bombeck said she took a very practical view on raising children.  She put a sign in each of their rooms which read, “Checkout time is 18 years”.

My wife continues to remind me that our job as parents is to prepare our children for “checkout time.”  As custodians of God’s prized possessions, we hope and pray we’ve filled them with confidence, dreams, determination, and faith and trust in a loving God.

When checkout time arrives, the ones with the biggest adjustments are often us parents.  We go from years of whirlwind activity to the unfamiliar territory of calm and quiet.  Suddenly, it’s just the two of us again and that’s both exciting and a little scary, too.

As it turns out, hanging out with my wife is pretty awesome.  And to my great relief, I think she likes hanging out with me, too.  So, it appears we’re going to survive the end of high school athletics. And if our recent trip out west is any indication, this new chapter  in our lives is going to be rather fun and exciting.

Today, highlighted on our calendars, are those wonderful college break visits and vacation days.  And of course, just because they’ve “checked out”, doesn’t mean they won’t be visiting.  After all, right next to that “checkout” sign is another sign that reads “welcome home”.

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P.S.  To our great delight, our youngest (David) is continuing his athletic career at the University of Miami.  We have many football and baseball games yet to enjoy.

National Signing Day: A Father’s Lesson

February 1st is “National Signing Day.”  It is the first day in which a high school senior can sign a binding Letter of Intent to play football in college. After months and sometimes years of recruiting, the hype and drama culminate on this special day as millions of deeply devoted college football fans tune in to learn which athletes have officially committed to their favorite school.

To be honest, I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to National Signing Day in years past.  But I certainly have this year.  You see, my youngest son is part of the hype and drama. CBS Sports (MaxPreps) lists him as one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the nation.  He is also projected as a high draft pick in the Major League Baseball draft this June.  But first, on February 1st, he will excitedly sign his letter of intent to play football and baseball at what we affectionately call, “The U.”  This is very good news for me. Half my wardrobe has the “U” on it.

To both my wife and son’s chagrin, however, it appears I have gotten caught up in all the hype.  There are at least a dozen or so fan-based websites devoted to University of Miami athletics and dozens more dealing with the MLB draft.  Few articles or discussion boards where my son is mentioned go by without coming to my attention.  And while the vast majority of articles and comments are very positive, a tiny few are negative. And what is a father to do when uninformed nincompoops make disparaging remarks about his son?

Well, in the way of a confession, I’ll admit that I have cleverly disguised my name and relationship to my son and have responded in anonymity to a few of the comments made by knuckle-headed bloggers and fans.  Using my highly developed skills in sarcasm and derision, I not only put those misanthropes in their places, but questioned their very intelligence for even thinking something negative about my son.

Then, and this is where I blew it, I proudly showed my wife and son some of the blog posts and comments (without revealing my cleverly disguised message-board name). I was confident they would be pleased how a total stranger was coming to his defense

To my great surprise, however, they were both able to instantly determine each one of my blog-post replies despite my cleverly disguised name.  Then, after reading my acrid comments, they would turn and look at me with an eye-narrowing “what is wrong with you?” glare.  “What?” I answered, trying in vain to look innocent.

After a brief discussion where various degrees of my intelligence were questioned, a beautiful moment took place, one I will long cherish.  My son put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and with an assuring and loving smile said, “It’s ok, Dad.  I can take it.”

It’s a beautiful thing to see your child grow up with steely fortitude ready to face a hostile world.  It’s that much more amazing to realize they are willing to step into the brutal world of college football where one can turn from hero to goat in an instant.  I have watched in admiration as Jacory Harris, the University of Miami quarterback these past years, has skillfully and graciously managed such a hostile environment.  “It comes with the territory,” is the common view.

And now a new wave of aspiring athletes will face the glaring spotlights and the roar of cheering or jeering fans.  As a Dad, I can’t imagine ever overcoming the sense that I have to protect and defend my children. There are, after all, a few loud cynics out there who like to drag as many people as they can down their sad and lonely road.  But for now, with ample threats from my wife and son, I have retired my clever pseudonyms.  And when I feel that desire to set another pundit in his place, I’ll remember that assuring smile, “It’s ok, Dad. I can take it.”

2009 Thompson Family Christmas Letter

Matt, Jenn, David, Ed & Abby

Warm Christmas greetings from the Thompson Family. Or, as the Spanish Santa’s say here in the malls of Miami, “Jo, Jo, Jo.”

Jenn and I took a moment to reflect on this past year to see if we had anything exciting to report. After a few minutes we realized 2009 was far more eventful than we had initially thought…so we took a nap.

Feeling refreshed, here’s a quick look at our year in review:

Matt (22) graduated from college! That is a wonderful, amazing sentence that wears us out all by itself. Now that a diploma from Florida International University hangs on Matt’s wall, he can always proudly say, “I was the first child to graduate from college in my family…” We are, or course, very proud of Matt. And now, the real world begins for this college graduate…

With that said, the ink was barely dry on his diploma when he was off to Macon, Georgia to begin his “Development Intern” job at First Presbyterian Day School. My brother, Gregg, just so happens to be the Head Master. Gregg was looking for someone with creative abilities to produce promotional videos, webcast school games and special events, speak at chapels, and generate even more excitement, energy, and school spirit for a great high school.

Laura & Matt

That job description had “Matt” written all over it. He is also a football coach once again and has even added “swim coach” to his vast repertoire of things he can do.

But far more exciting than any of these things is… he is getting quite serious with a young lady named Laura, who is as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. Jenn and I are way too young for any of this…we need another nap.

Abby, (19) is a sophomore at Samford University in Birmingham where she is studying the cognitive and corporal effects of college on two hours of sleep per night. She has always been a blur of activity… now she must be seeing everything blurry, too.

She somehow manages to keep up with her studies in between her Facebooking and nimble fingered texting. And while this sounds a bit strange, it does make my day to get a text from Abby that says, “Luv u Daddy.” Abby continues to study Exercise Science. She is still very interested in helping people who need prosthetics, but is developing an interest in working with children who have autism as well.

Abby

She’s in a tough major requiring lots of long hours of study… and I have no doubt, a little extra sleep would help. She loves her Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and has made some great friends. She now has a “big” and a “little” which I’m told means something important. And because she is always awake, she is also the sorority’s intramural chairman planning all their sports teams and events.

Needless to say, this beautiful and energetic girl with a gorgeous smile has a long list of would-be suitors. I have calmly responded by developing a deep and intimidating scowl I’m hoping young men sense and fear from hundreds of miles away.

Abby seems to have developed some sort of immunity to my scowl, however. She knows she can soothe the savage beast with a simple gaze and smile in my direction. It’s not fair. I need a nap.

Most would agree that David (16) had a pretty good year. He started 2009 helping lead his team to their first State Baseball Championship since 1998. David was the only freshman on the team, but led Westminster Christian in home runs, batting average, and other such nice things.

The great season helped David become a First Team All-State Team selection, a First Team All-Miami Dade selection, and to top things off, a MaxPreps All-American (the top 30 baseball freshman in the country). So, yes, I suppose he had a pretty good year.

When the 2009 football season rolled around, David, now a sophomore, had the opportunity to put on the pads and help lead his team back to the playoffs for the first time in six years (Matt’s junior year). As a second year starter, the preseason report by the Miami Herald listed David as one of the top QB’s in Miami. The season concluded with David making the top 10 in several offensive categories for the entire state resulting in him being described as, “the top rated quarterback in Florida for the class of 2012.” Hmmmmm. Matt is quick to remind David, however, that his (Matt’s) 80 yard touchdown pass is still the family record. Even so, you can see some highlights here: David Football Highlights. After attending all his games, Jenn and I need and deserve a long nap.

Dave & Tim Tebow

Meeting Tim Tebow was pretty cool, too. And in case you were wondering, yes, the college letters have begun. Of course, Jenn thinks David being inducted into the National Honor Society was even more impressive than his athletic skills. I know…Jenn is so funny.

Speaking of Jenn, she had a pretty good year, too. She started the new school year at Westminster Christian as the new and very cute Elementary School Principal. Yes, several major changes took place at the Alma Mater of Ed, Matt, and Abby… but none more exciting than Jenn’s new role.

She was promoted from her Assistant Principal job in the Middle School to being in charge of grades PreK – 5th with roughly 60 teachers and over 340 kids to oversee. While most think she is working really hard, the truth is, she’s just reliving her childhood. We especially love to hear the stories of cute little boys and girls who are sent to the Principal’s office for one reason or the other. I tell everyone, “If I worked half as hard as Jenn, I’d actually get somewhere.” Jenn would take a nap if she had the time…

As for Mr. Ed, well, I am working on a very exciting project at LOGOI called our “Virtual Pastor’s Office.” It’s a brand new way to do missions and we have high hopes for how it can help indigenous pastors and leaders, missionaries, churches, as well as partners in ministry right here in the States. You can get a preview at www.logoibeta.org.

It’s also been great to see three of the singles from my “Beautiful Feet” CD make it to the top 20 of Christian Radio & Retail’s Global Charts. Over 500 stations are playing my songs and soon you’ll even be able to include some of my songs on places like “Pandora Radio” on the internet. My single, “Love Me Anyway” climbed all the way to #2 on the inspirational chart and held a top 20 spot for over 25 weeks. A fourth single is scheduled to be released in January. You can check my website for more details: www.edthompsonlive.com. And come on, invite me to perform at your church already.

Finally, I thought you’d enjoy a little picture of our home decorations this year. We’ve thought about doing this for quite some time as our neighbors get into the Christmas spirit with great gusto. They found a few “empty” spots in their yard this year which they’ve been able to fill with blowup Santa’s, snowmen, ferris wheels, and even a manger scene if you can see through all the penguins. So, we put up our Christmas tree, hung a wreath, and wrote, “Ditto” in lights on our roof with an arrow pointing at the neighbors. A steady stream of cars driving by at night seem to be enjoying our Christmas sentiments. We hope you do, too.

Merry Christmas, from our house to yours. May the love and grace of Jesus fill our hearts and lives. “Ditto!”

The Thompsons

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