I always want to be surprised!

(Warning: This is long and probably boring if you're not me. But, I don't want to forget this weekend.)2017 varsity 8.png Spent this past Thursday through Sunday in Sarasota for the Youth National Rowing Championships. Andy was not rowing - he was an alternate. He wasn't thrilled. Mike and I were iffy about spending the money and going to Sarasota. Weather was predicted to be bad. There have been a lot of "growing pains" friction among board members and active volunteers lately. (When Andy joined, the team was struggling with the jump from 40 to 80 rowers.  Today, we have over 160 rowers! Change is painful.)

I drove to Sarasota on Thursday morning to drop kids off for their 10 am check in and practice. I was kind of dreading a weekend of trying not to say the wrong thing and avoiding conflict and just making the best of things. Nationals is a weird race - we have no food trailer, no real responsibilities as parents other than to chaperone and drive the kids. I was doing neither.

I spent Thursday exploring Sarasota  and Sarasota. We go to Sarasota a lot but usually just hotel, race course and maybe a restaurant.  Thursday, I got a great haircut. Visited about 8 thrift/vintage stores. And managed an hour at the beach before heading to the hotel. Hotel was lovely - we try to support people who are working to restore/revive the older hotels in Sarasota. We had one we really liked but they are doing so well we can no longer afford them!  This time we opted for the Lantern Inn and Suites.  Our room was great and totally updated.

I was on my own Thursday so I picked up a sub for dinner and checked in. I had a few writing jobs to work on so I settled in.  Okay, I took a two hour nap first.  Then I messed around with the cable (we don't have cable at home) and discovered a Harry Potter marathon. Seriously? It was the best day ever!  Did my articles and everyone was happy.

Friday, I headed to the race course but no rush - my kid wasn't racing.  Our team had a rough time trial period and there were LOTS of unhappy kids, parents and coaches. I gave Andy a hug, went to Walmart and bought a cheap bathing suit (Mike had the beach bag) and went to the beach alone. I ate hot dogs (2) with excellent sauerkraut and some nachos and just people watched.  Me at the beach without a book? Never happens. But it did and I had the best time.

Mike arrived and we went for dinner with friends we have been volunteering with for years. We've always had fun working with these folks but . . . when no one has any responsibilities?  None of us was dragging a trailer. No one had their dog(s) and no one had extra kids. SO MUCH more fun. We went to a restaurant that was new to all of us. Delicious and really good service. Mostly, though, we laughed and laughed and there was no dread about having to be up at 5 to get the food tent set up.

Saturday, we headed early to the race venue. Weather was iffy. About half way through the weather turned. High winds, lightning and no more rowing. We ended up trapped with the boys team and a handful of chaperones and random parents. We were all soaked, the kids were rowdy and funny and we made the best of it. A dad I have only talked to a few times but who Mike knows stopped by to invite everyone (adults) to a local micro-brewery that evening.  Mike and I have been there before - you can't go wrong with a place that has rock-em-sock-em robots on every inside table, a grilled cheese truck out front (seriously - lobster/grilled cheese?) and horseshoes and bocce ball in the back patio area?

This guy is my hero. He spent Friday and Saturday walking around the whole venue inviting anyone in orange and blue to come to JDubs Brewery. And, they came. There were about 60 OARS people who showed up. Many had never met. This is a lot of people as we were only traveling with four boats (about 40 kids).  So awesome! Multiple people offered to split the tab with this dad and he just kept saying, "This is great. I'm happy to pick up the tab."

I don't think the tab was a big deal for him but he was so right. It was awesome. So many people talking and so many people rethinking and so many people getting along. I think this generous dad put our club ahead about five years. For the price of a few (okay - probably more than a few) beers and some grilled cheese!  Sunday morning - there were all kinds of new friendships and the tension from the past few months was gone!

I don't even know how to explain it - that simple invitation (the man was running around inviting complete strangers) changed the climate of our team!  As far as the kids' races went? It was not a great year for us but . . . it's crazy to complain when your boats end up in the top ten in the country.  The really great thing - the parents were all sane about it. It was just a wonderful, low stress, friendly ending to a well-run event.  People who wouldn't share the same sidewalk on Thursday were having civil conversations on Sunday.

Thank you Mr. M!

reid and andy regionals 2017'Thank you Andy for accepting your role as an alternate (Reid, too).  You guys were awesome doing whatever was asked and keeping the coaches on track.  And, you totally looked like assistant coaches!