Forever Ichabod: Washburn has always been home

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wu moves

It’s true: Washburn does move me. Enough so that I’m going back next week.

I spent much of my childhood on the road with my parents, who ran a small leather crafts business. On most weekends, my brother and I would travel with our parents across the Heartland to craft shows throughout the region.

One weekend, my dad and I would wake up at 4 a.m. and drive across Missouri to Hannibal, while mom and my brother would travel into Kansas for a show in Coffeyville. The next weekend, one set would trek to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and the other to Hillsboro, Kansas.

diploma

Both of my degrees, including a master’s, are from Washburn University.

Once in a while, my brother and I would go on a road trip with one parent, while the other worked the show alone. Topeka just happened to be one of the trips.

Every Fourth of July, my mom would drive from our home in Lebanon, Missouri, to Washburn University, where we set up a booth at Go Fourth. The idea, of course, was that the sons would help their mother. More often than not, we weren’t at the booth.

Instead, my brother and I would run around a campus that seemed gigantic to a couple of borderline hillbillies from southwest Missouri. We spent most of the show in the basement of the Memorial Union, which had a small arcade with about 15 games, a TV room and vending machines.

The Union also had an elevator, which we rode up to the top floor from the basement about 6,594 times. When we weren’t in the Union, we hung out around the fountains in front of Mulvane Art Museum or spent much of our time with the Scardinas, who also had a crafts business and lived in Topeka.

The Scardinas’ sons were amazing hosts, taking the hillbillies to the palace known as West Ridge Mall and letting us ignite half of the fireworks they purchased on the Fourth.

Other than growing up a University of Missouri fan, Washburn was my first experience on a college campus. Not in a million years, however, did I imagine how much an impact the school would have on my life.

Even after we moved 20 miles south of Topeka in 1989, Washburn wasn’t on the radar. When I realized that Mizzou and TCU were out of the price range, I ended up going to Kansas State for a year.

Academically, I did OK. Emotionally, I wasn’t ready. K-State was far too big and far too impersonal. It just didn’t feel like home.

After spending a year at Allen County Community College in Burlingame, where I also went to high school, I really had no idea where I was going to go. I did attend a Transfer Day at Washburn in 1996, expecting to enroll.

I didn’t listen well in 1996 (my wife might argue that I still don’t), so I “heard” that Washburn wasn’t going to take most of my credits during a session on transferring (that wasn’t the case). My dad and I left 45 minutes into the event.

Completely lost, I called several schools when we got home, asking primarily if they had a journalism program. After 30 minutes on the phone, I got a call that changed my life. The Admissions director at Washburn discovered we left early and spoke to me for 20 minutes about the Mass Media department and the University.

He asked if I’d come up for a one-on-one tour of the campus the next day. I came to campus early that next morning, met with the director and Mass Media chairperson and enrolled in classes that day.

Two years later, I was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, one of the youngest members of a school board in the state of Kansas and an assistant high school basketball coach. None of that happens if I don’t attend Washburn.

Years later, when I left the newspaper industry, I struggled mightily to find a full-time job. Being a genius, I picked the worst time to change careers: 2010, when the economy rode the struggle bus. After a year of surviving at a part-time job, the Washburn Alumni Association hired me as media relations specialist.

During the next four years, I wrote hundreds of stories about alumni, reconnected with professors I’d had in class and met some of the finest people you can imagine, most of whom shared the bond of graduating from Washburn.

In 2015, I knew if I wanted to climb the ladder, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and take a risk. After several agonizing days trying to make a decision, including a couple of tearful nights, I decided to leave my alma mater to become campus communications coordinator at Metropolitan Community College-Business & Technology.

ernie jeanne

I worked with amazing people at MCC, including Je-Anne Rueckert, an instructor and lab technician in the HVAC department.

For nearly two years at MCC-BT, I tried to learn as much as I possibly could to become a better marketer and communicator. In the meantime, I continued to work toward a master’s degree, which I finally received in May.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that opportunity would knock at Washburn within two years of leaving. But it has. To make a long story short, I’m returning to my alma mater next week as director of strategic marketing and communications.

To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I’m also humbled that a school I love so much would give me such a wonderful opportunity.

Before I go, I want to thank MCC, in particular the staff and faculty who work their tails off to make the college a high-quality academic experience in Kansas City. I can’t possibly name everybody, but folks like Mike, Dan, Steve, Shawn, Ryan, Tracy, Tatia, Dixie, Aaron, Matt, Jen, Star, Lisa, Jim, Robert, Je-Anne and dozens of others have made the experience a great one. Without the knowledge I gained at MCC, I would not be returning to Washburn.

As for my alma mater: Thank you. From Go Fourth to now, thank you for bringing me home.

 

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I’m into fitness. No, really.

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I debated writing this. I mean, I’m sure as hell not an expert on the subject. But I figured it might not only inspire somebody, but also motivate me to keep going. So what am I talking about?

Dancing …

In all seriousness, fitness …

OK, OK, I’d spoken with Shana about writing a fitness blog. After all, many of the things I’m doing these days to get back in shape are tips from her. I also figured that if I write about it publicly, I have no choice but to finish what I started last year.

One of the things that inspired me to write this is a story I’m working on for the December edition of “The Ichabod,” the alumni magazine I’m responsible for writing, editing, budgeting and cutting down the trees to make paper to print on. It’s about a man who lost 140 pounds.

One of his quotes really hit home. “When you’re that overweight, people treat you like you don’t exist.” It’s true. Being obese sucks. It’s not healthy, you’re always tired, people make fun of you, your chances with the ladies are not good. These are just facts.

Weight has been a struggle all my life. I’ve been in good shape (most of college) at times, but for the most part, not so much. After several attempts, though, it finally hit home that to be healthy, I had to change my lifestyle. And that doesn’t mean becoming a sandwich-pimping hack …

As mentioned in a previous blog, I’m not sure what my weight topped out at. My father swears it sailed over the 300-pound mark. Looking back at photos from 2009 … he might be right. …

September 2009

When I moved back here in spring 2010, I’d finally had enough. I was convinced that being healthy – and let’s be honest, looking good – is a lifestyle change. It’s not, “Well, I’ll do this for a few months and get down to where I want, then I’m done.” It simply doesn’t work that way.

THE FIRST STEP

I did not embrace eating the way you should early on. Of course, I had no choice eating a shitload of vegetables because my father, who I lived with for five months last year, insists on eating 36 pounds of fresh veggies from his garden with every dinner.

What I did buy into was working out. And, by buying in, I mean going all in …

The first month or so flat-out sucked. I could not run from my dad’s house to the corner, all of two-tenths of a mile. I did manage to run/walk (almost entirely walk) about 2 miles a day the first part of the summer of 2010.

I also started lifting weights and doing a lot of situps (about 200 a day at first). About a month into that regiment, dad and I started playing basketball … in July and August. If you know anything about Webb family basketball games, they are not for the faint of heart (30-second mark) …

By the time the summer ended, and I’d moved to Topeka, the weight had dropped from a high of 300-plus in late 2009 to about 250.

The workouts slowed after the move to Topeka. The eating wasn’t much better than before. Still too much junk food, still too much pop. The eating didn’t change for awhile  longer, actually, but I did throw myself into working out in January 2011. Why?

Of course, I wanted to be in better shape, but a lot of it had to do with my girlfriend. I wanted to look good for myself, but I REALLY wanted to look good for her because, frankly, she’s ridiculously hot.

So, after a rigorous regiment of running, Tae-Bo and weights, the muscles started popping up a bit. The weight, however, did not change much, partly because the eating did not change much …

And then, after months of hearing Shana talk about giving up dairy and soda and eating the right way, I finally, well, had no choice (I should say, though, that not once did she say “Don’t eat that,” or even look at me when I was eating something I shouldn’t. Having a supportive girlfriend has been extremely important).

I moved in with her in July. I’m not into hiding food anymore, that’s like lying, so I finally bought in to the healthy eating lifestyle.

That was July 15. Out went pop, cheese, Taco Bell, McDonalds (it just occurred to me that I’ve gone a month without franchise food!), in came vegetables, fruit, water … the stuff our bodies are meant to eat. As of Aug. 16, I’ m in the 220s. That’s about 40 pounds shy of my goal weight, and about 75 pounds removed from a pretty pathetic existence.

So, on with the fitness part of the blog. Here’s what I’ve eaten today:

Breakfast: Banana, tea, graham crackers

Lunch: Tortilla chips, humus, cantaloupe, water

Dinner: Dairy-free chicken enchiladas, dairy-free nachos

And the workout regiment: 3-mile run, 30 minutes of upper-body weight lifting, 500 situps (yes, 500).

You’re probably thinking, “Man, that would suck!” It really doesn’t. Once you change your habits and settle into a routine, it becomes second nature. We still enjoy good foods. For example, we went to B.B.’s in Kansas City over the weekend for barbecue and treated ourselves to a huge-ass cherry limeade from Sonic on Sunday. But that’s moderation. Those were treats.

What I don’t deviate from is the workout. Do it every day, and you’ll be surprised how awesome you feel, how much more energy you have … and how much better you look …

August 2011

Randomness marks Tuesday

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A blog about something other than sports? Really? Oh, it be so ….

Move it or lose it …

I’ve grown to loathe Highway 75. That the hour commute to and from work ends in one week makes me pretty damn happy. Nothing’s worse than slow drivers. Especially on a two-lane highway. But I did think of a solution (more like a fantasy) on the way home today. What if you could Mario Kart those slow assclowns (1:15 mark below)?

The biggggggggggggggggggggggg salad …

One of the rare times I head to the cafeteria for lunch at work, after 1 p.m. to avoid traffic. Naturally, they were closing down the grill. But, what the hell, turn a negative into a positive right? Instead of wiping out that hour workout with a healthy cheeseburger, I went for the salad bar with a to-go box. Figured I’d save a few bucks and even have a little fun with it.

Cashier: “So what have you got there.”

Me: “A big salad!”

Cashier: “Not just a small salad, but a big salad. Put it on the scale. … That’ll be 8:52. That was a big salad. $7.”

Me: “I’m not treating you to lunch anymore!”

Hey the cashier got the Seinfeld reference, so I didn’t make a complete ass out of myself.

On tilt

As much as I’m looking forward to moving to Topeka for various reasons, I’ll miss staying with the old man. It’s been awesome being back home again. And I’ll definitely miss watching and listening to him play online poker. I have video/audio of the Mike Matusow-like reactions to bad beats, but I fear retaliation if I post those.

Lyrical genius

Been some interesting conversations at work lately about music, including one about the best song writers. One co-worker said they just figured I’d say Hootie and the Blowfish wrote the best music. As I pointed out, great lyrics don’t always make a great song.

The best songs with the best lyrics. I don’t think you can go wrong with these:

With or without you (u2): Sad as hell, yes. But the best songs are the ones you can identify with. Everybody identifies with this gem from 1987.

All I want is you (u2):  Has love ever been summed up better?

And as for Hootie and the Blowfish, yeah, I’d put this one in the top 10 songs, lyrically, of the 1990s …

Kids say the damnedest things …

This one from Friday after Burlingame’s game with Hartford:

Mrs. Curtis: “I see you’re raising them the wrong way (referring to the niece and nephew decked out in Missouri gear.”

Me: “Hey, they asked me if they could wear this stuff tonight.”

Draven (my nephew), yanking on my arm: “Uncle Ernie, you told me I had to wear this jersey if I went tonight.”

Me: “Busted.”

New years and the decade in review. From Independence to Topeka to Virginia to Oklahoma …

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“Time, why you punish me, like a wave passing into the shore, you wash away my dreams …”

I was going to blog about 2009. Seemed to make sense considering today is the last of the year. It was an interesting year. One that included everything from three apartments to two jobs to one (or two, though I don’t count one) breakups.

But, inspired by a good column by Kevin Haskin, a former colleague and a guy I learned a lot from in Topeka (http://cjonline.com/sports/basketball/2009-12-30/column_closure_comes_for_the_aughts), I opted for blogging about the end of a decade.

It’s strange. It just hit me that when this decade began, I was in my early 20s, fresh out of college with my first full-time job at a newspaper, a cheap apartment in which the furnace didn’t work for a week during December and an unwarranted cocky attitude. Here’s a little rewind …

The jobs: Independence (Kansas) Daily Reporter (2000), Emporia (Kansas) Gazette (2000, 2001, 2002), McAllen (Texas) Monitor (2002, 2003), Topeka (Kansas) Capital Journal (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), Daily Press in Newport News (Virginia) (2007, 2008, 2009) and Tulsa (Oklahoma) World (2009).

Best game covered: 2002 Class 2A championship: Colgan edges Olpe in double overtime.

Best game attended: 2007 Armageddon at Arrowhead. Electric.

Worst game attended: Olpe girls 85, Burlingame 4. You can’t make that up.

Thoughts: Six jobs in 10 years. The good thing is they’ve all been bumps in circ (from 8,000 in Indy to over 100,000 in Tulsa). I’ve done everything from covering college football and basketball beats to news copy desk to assistant sports editor.

Proud of: The amazing people I’ve worked with. Favorites over the years have included Brian Thomas in Indy; Gwen Larson and Jesse Newell (now at the LJW) in Emporia; Wade “Nacho” Baker (now the SE), Oscar, Todd and Kristin Huber in McAllen; Tim Bisel, Eric Turner, Kevin Haskin, Brent Maycock, Rick Dean, the late Pete Goering, hell, pretty much everybody in sports in Topeka; the entire sports crew (Jeff, Andi, Rupe, Sean, Clyde, Sonny, Nick and the writing staff) and select news deskers in Newport News. And while I’ve only worked three months in Tulsa, the sports deskers and writers have been nothing but nice. I’m sure I left somebody out.

The states lived in (four): Kansas, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma.

Cities lived in (nine): Independence, Emporia, McAllen, Cottonwood Falls, Harveyville, Topeka, Williamsburg, Newport News, Tulsa.

Apartments lived in: Eight. Houses lived in: Four.

The relationships: You’re crazy if you think I’m going in-depth. There’s been a marriage, a divorce and a handful of relationships/breakups. Honestly, though, I value the time I spent with all of them, especially Melody and Jena.

I miss: Washburn and hanging out at Bullfrogs with Steve. Pete Goering, who mentored so many of us in Topeka. Turbo’s in Indy. Bruff’s in Emporia. Tom and Jerry’s in McAllen. Terry’s and Tailgator’s in Topeka. Matadive karaoke and Brickhouse (above with Charles the Steezenator) in Newport News. Cats Fu and Chu.

I don’t miss: That 75-mile commute to work from Cottonwood Falls to Topeka. The 40-mile commute from Willamsburg to Newport News. The 30-mile commute from Harveyville to Topeka. Seeing quality people cut at previous stops. My 2000 Ford Ranger or 1995 Lumina.

The sports highlights: The 2007 college football season. 2008-09 college basketball season. 2002 NCAA tournament. 2003 Royals. Most of the Chiefs 2003 season. Zack Frickin’ Greinke.

The sports lowlight: Them. Crackas. Be. Shaken. Nough said.

Last and pretty much least. The before and after. Hootie was right. Time is punishing

2000

2009