Saturday, February 2, 2013

Coach John Laxon (right) with Monica Maravilla in the
foreground. And, (left) Coach Joan Vining, a.k.a., The Legend
(of softball) sporting the standard ABS athletic-wear of green
gouchos and knee socks. Gina Rae in the background. The
team is wearing the volleyball uniforms as softall uniforms. 

During the first years of our softball team at ABS our coach, John Laxson, developed a series of strategic hand signals or signs to let us know what he wanted us to do while we were at the plate or on base. I remember a couple of them even now almost 30 years later. It wasn’t like baseball where the coach’s hands fly around in an almost choreographed bee-swatting dance. Coach Laxson understood that this form of communication and game play was new to us, so he made deliberate, slow-motion touches and sometimes glaring at us with his eyebrows raised like “Did you get that?” And, I might scrunch my nose and tilt my head as if to say “Ummm… what was that?” So, he would do it again, this time hesitating at each spot. Of the ones I remember, I think, he touched his belt buckle for the batter to bunt; he slid his hand down his forearm signaling the base runner to steal; he touched shoulder to shoulder for the batter to take a pitch; and he touched the brim of his hat to erase whatever signal he just gave in an effort to confuse the opponent reading the obvious signs. He was such a fun, good-natured, and patient coach with us those early years of the program.
Last fall, when Eli played football, I developed three hand signals between him and me because he just needed simple reminders during the game – which he had never played or hardly ever watched­. I didn’t want to be constantly yelling at him for everyone to hear (at home is one thing) but sometimes he needed reminding of whether he was protecting the ball or trying to get the ball. So, as the quarterback, running back and receivers looked at the coach, my big guy would look at his mommy. I would hold my hands up in the air in the shape of an “O” to protect the ball, or I would hold up a fist to fight for ball, or I would chop my hands at my knees to remind him to stay low and hit low.
I am sharing a picture tonight of a sign that Eli and I saw at the Lighthouse & Museum on Naval Air Station near Pensacola, Florida. The Lighthouse was built in 1859 and has a museum attached to it now for visitors. Just before you turn to go up the 177 steps of spiral staircase, there is this door to the left. During this vacation, Eli had his inguinal hernia, so he was not interested in climbing the steps. He and I waited in this foyer as the others climbed which is when he spotted the confusing sign. To exit or not to exit? We just decided to retrace our steps and exit back the way we came in. Early in Eli’s journey, I wrote a post about getting confused with the signs when we first got to St. Jude. I got trapped in some kind of architectural mistake.
It is interesting how signs can be confusing because the reason a sign exists is to clarify. The most universal sign is the STOP sign. I can’t even type it without typing the word in all caps. The first idea of a STOP sign, or the idea that a driver had to watch out for the other driver, was introduced by William Eno, of the Eno Transportation Foundation, in an article he wrote for a magazine. Ironically, Eno, himself, could not drive. The streets just after the turn of the 20th century were chaotic and dirty as they were shared by horses, bicycles, and motorcars. It was a kind of “enter-at-your-own-risk” adventure to travel the road system. The first semblance of an actual STOP sign was installed in 1915 by the city of Detroit, Michigan, according to a 2011 New York Times article.

We have a ton of hats that we enjoyed getting and
having while Eli was in treatment. I asked him if he
wanted to wear one since it had been a while. He said,
"Why? I've got hair now. I want to show it off."
Detroit used a white metal sign with black lettering. Usage of such a sign became popular and began to spread. A couple of different traffic agencies began working on unifying traffic signage around this time, (which oddly conflicts with the idea of “unifying”) but it was the Mississippi Valley Association of State Highway Departments that recommended to one of the agencies that an octagonal shape be used. (chalk another one up for Mississippi) This made the STOP sign recognizable even from the back. Furthermore, this group of engineers assigned a simple guideline that the more sides a sign’s shape has, the more urgent its meaning. The circle, which they reasoned has an infinite amount of sides, signals the highest level of danger and is used for Railroad Crossings. The STOP sign, which requires the second level of danger, has eight sides with the octagonal shape. The diamond shape is for warning signs, and the square and rectangle are for information. The color of the STOP sign took a little longer to come around. A manual with the signage standards was written in 1935 after the two aforementioned competing agencies combined, but the sign’s color still waffled between yellow background with red letters, or with black letters. Many revisions were made to the manual as the road system was massaged, but it wasn’t until the 1950’s that red became the standard background color with white lettering bringing it in line with the railroad signal colors. Manufacturers had not been able to produce a red in a reflective durable material for signs until the then. Today, the octagonal STOP sign is internationally recognized, especially in all English-influenced countries. The sign may read “ALTO” or “PARE”, or even read right to left or up to down, but the shape and color are the same.
My sister Wendy helping Eli make a cake-pop.
I don’t have a good transition from that in to what Eli has been up to. I just wanted to use that funny picture of the “exit” signs because I came across it the other day and remembered him wanting me to take a picture of it. Also, notice that I have included a new video of Eli reading a book about his hero Henry Ford to Caleb. It is on the side column of the homepage. Eli has been doing well, and been busy. As far as I can tell, he has been keeping up with his school work; he rests well, eats decently, and is as active as he ever was – which was never much. He has had a cold, but seems to have recovered from that on his own. We are busy collecting Girl Scout cookies to take to the nurses and staff at St. Jude our next trip in March. It is not too late to donate, just send me a check made out to Girl Scouts USA. We are honored to be included in a fund-raising event for the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Aflac Cancer Center. Eli’s story will be featured at a table during this black tie gala and fashion show featuring pediatric cancer survivors.

The front two chairs are ours, Hg is waiting her turn.
Eli will be in on the next round.
 Other than that, we are just patiently waiting for the next scan, March 14-15. Please, be “liking” and “sharing” that prayer event on Facebook so that it has time to go ‘round the horn. Please, remember Ryan as he continues to fight. I think he recently received a feeding tube, so that seems like a big step forward, but as far as I know the tumors continue to grow and nothing is being done to thwart that. His mom was trying an experimental drug, but after the scare a couple of weeks ago with the seizure and coma, I’m not sure if they’ve continued that or not. Some of you may remember – especially the ones that donated - that we bought a brick in honor of Ryan to be
included in St. Jude’s walkways. After his family learned that his situation was terminal, they needed funds to prepare for his final arrangements. As friends of Eli collected, Ryan’s family was able to collect enough for those arrangements, so we used the money we raised to donate to St. Jude via a brick in Ryan’s name. I received a packet with an artist’s rendition of the walkway, so I’ve tried to take a picture of it to share. I’m not sure when construction will be completed, but it looks like it will run alongside the west side of the gold dome building around to the garden. So, if you visit St. Jude, hunt for it. It says “In Honor of Ryan Kitchens, From Friends of Eli.”
In other kids’ news: Baylee’s scans were good, and I think Smilin’ Jack is also doing well. Myah and Jerry are NED, and there are so many others that are successfully fighting – please notice the “ing.” Ayden seems to be doing great with treatment but struggles with some physical deficits. His dad writes some intriguing posts, and I plan to ask permission to publish that “series” as a guest blogger sometime soon. Thank you for your continued prayers for all these little warriors fighting a fight that is not theirs.

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