Reader Input Needed


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Ruckmann-by Kubota!Good Sunday morning, Readers of Tennis, Trisomy 21 and Taking in Life Together!

It occurred to me yesterday, five months into the second year of writing this blog, that it’s time to request your direct input, especially as I am now posting only on Wednesdays and a weekend day in year two (rather than every weekday during year one).

What topics covered in this blog do you enjoy the most? What would you like to see more or less of? How are the pictures? The writing style: one reader in Great Britain wrote she looked forward to my “ruminations” about life. Should I keep ruminating away about childraising, growing up and being gay, tennis, children with extra chromosomes, royalty, my life’s journey, my hopes to give people who feel left out courage to believe in themselves, community, faith, Quakerism, distance running? Would you like to see more poems?

Let me know, and as we head into the holiday season, I will strive to be mindful about what you prefer to read in this blog.

Thank you for all your support and for encouraging me to keep the blog going a second year. I’m grateful for your readership!




We’re all Royalty!


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With the QueenAs I’ve written in this blog before, I’ve been fascinated by royalty a big chunk of my life. I never quite realized who was Queen or King of what country until Princess Diana married Prince Charles. (Yes, I know, Lady Diana Spencer became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and, after her divorce, Diana, Princess of Wales. Royalty experts are quick to point out that her correct styling was never Princess Diana.)

I even was once married to a baroness, or at least the granddaughter of one. Technically, the title passed on to her. We did not live in a castle. We looked for bargains in supermarkets. I did notice, though, that she had a far more relaxed approach to money than I did.

After all, I am the first son (of three children) of the first daughter (the oldest of six children) of the first son (the oldest of 16 children — yes, my grandfather had 15 siblings!) and many men in my family hunted deer to feed themselves and their children. I wore hand-me-downs. I paid for a decent chunk of my college education, one of the reasons why I made it my goal to finish college in three years. (I succeeded.) To this day, I have never owned a credit card. I live only on what I know I have.

But to relax late in the evening, I read about royalty, castles, who is related to whom. I subscribe to a German version of People magazine, Bunte, and have read it faithfully for decades. My cousins in Bavaria, some of whom still live on the small farm that has been in our family for centuries, used to tease me royally (no pun intended) about my reading Bunte or speaking fondly of Queen Silvia of Sweden.  Don’t get me wrong: I have also read Nietzsche, Schiller, and Goethe, and not just to make my cousins happy! But to this day, nothing feels better than cozying up with my Bunte, a nice beverage, and a leisurely half hour!

So one of the many unexpected pleasures of living in Hawaii is discovering the omnipresence of royalty. Museums have entire wings devoted to past kings, queens, princes and princesses who once ruled the islands. Schools, hospitals, and streets bear their names. A few short miles from where we live, a palace has been restored to honor Hawaiian national identity. Real-life princes and princesses still play a prominent role in Hawaii.

A few weeks ago, my family and I met Hawaii’s last queen or at least a wonderful teacher and actress who represented Queen Lili’uokalani in an anniversary celebration of her life. We spoke with her for about five minutes. During that brief time, she quickly realized and encouraged my daughter’s ability to speak three languages and her potential for contributing to society. I’ve met a pope, and current or former barons, baronesses, even a few earls and countesses. When I was a tennis journalist, I had an extensive interview with Evonne Goolagong who is true tennis royalty. But I had never met a queen.

Just like after my conversation with Evonne, I felt lighter on my feet after meeting Queen Lili’uokalani, as though I had traveled to a more noble form of consciousness. I wanted to go out into the world and do better. My daughter was also a bit transformed. We went to her favorite museum in the afternoon and looked at the permanent exhibit about royalty. For two hours, my daughter was poised and radiant in her pink dress. Later we went home to our tiny castle where we live so close to the neighbors we can hear them sneeze (and say “Bless you” through the window, after which they usually say “Thank you, neighbor), dined on fish sticks and chicken nuggets, and fell into a gentle, resplendent sleep.

An Athlete’s Pride


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I ran 9 miles this morning.

I asked my husband to drive the distance to verify the mileage. I had hoped I had run more.

“What’s wrong with 9?,” my husband asked when I expressed mile disappointment.

“Nothing,” I said. “But I still have an athlete’s pride.”

rudiger_r_annapolis“What do you mean?,” he asked.

“Too complicated,” I said, fearing I would become long-winded.

Here’s the scoop: With a little more than a month to go before my 20th marathon, I feel like I need a long, grueling run even though my husband, who is doing his first, and I plan to walk together and maybe sprint to the finish line.

There is no time limit for the Honolulu Marathon, one of the many things I love about Hawaii. The race is not over, and marathon officials do not leave, until the last person finishes.

So what about my own limits?

As noted in a previous post, I’m becoming more realistic as the miles and years accumulate.

I’m also more keenly aware, especially after becoming a parent, that my focus has shifted more toward helping my daughter reach her potential than running personal bests or even publishing poetry.

As a guy who often was picked last for teams, I sure have loved and stayed with sports most of my life. As noted, I’m celebrating, yes, truly savoring my 20th marathon. I can still hit a great lefty forehand when I step out onto a tennis court. Ice skating, after years of playing hockey, is still as natural for me as walking. My husband is floored that I never fall on the ice even if years go by when I lace up my skates and step out on it again.

So my athlete’s pride? I guess it’s better having than athlete’s foot! I’m trying to let go of it, but not quite yet. Maybe, after ironing and cleaning this afternoon, I’ll sneak out for another two miles so that I can go to sleep knowing that today I finished 11 miles.



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Dear Readers,

Only a few times since I began this blog 16 months ago have I struggled to find an appropriate theme for the day. I so appreciate your interest and feedback about those themes. A thread that runs through them is their universality.

I’ve been lucky with my followers, who now are more than 100. They respond to my words about tennis, extra chromosomes, marathons, parenting, even to my poems. As one of my poetry instructors once said, the anticipation of letting words come out on a piece of paper, or years after I studied with her, on the computer screen, can make one excited about starting the day and writing.

But this morning I’m still a bit numb. In the middle of a Halloween Tuesday, moving from one office at work to the next, our Office Manager stopped me and said, “Oh, no. Did you hear? Another terror attack.”

I couldn’t speak for a few seconds before I said, “What happened?”

She told me. How horrible that when I learned that eight people had been killed, my first thought was, “Thank goodness it wasn’t more.”

I said to our Office Manager, “I just don’t understand how anyone can wake up and knowingly move about to end someone’s life and shatter the worlds of that person’s loved ones.”

I could not eat my lunch afterward. I did know, though, that I needed in a few hours to help my young daughter get ready for a neighborhood Halloween barbecue. She enjoyed the company of our wonderful neighbors and the excitement of trick-or-treating. I was thankful for the evening, the company of good neighbors, my daughter’s innocence. I went to bed early, exhausted by the day, but before I did, I again held the families of the terror attack victims in the Light. In the rush of a Wednesday where I have already answered three work emails before 5 a.m., I will strive to step back and send them more Light.




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rudiger_r_annapolisTo prepare for my 20th marathon, I ran 9 miles yesterday.

Well, to be more accurate, I ran and walked the miles.

With a milestone marathon in December, friends have wanted to know when and what was my fastest of the 19 so far.

I’ve lost track, so I had to Google to find out. I knew it was in the same city where my daughter was born, but before she was born. As the years go by and numbers accumulate, especially after one becomes a parent, one sometimes needs to double check.

The city and time were correct: a 3:40 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, at the Steamtown Marathon! The number of years ago, though, a bit fuzzy. Now I know: 12.

I ran a 3:40 in 2005.

It might have been my 8th or 9th marathon. I’m not exactly sure. What I do know for sure is that I never ran a faster marathon.

But 3:40 is a nice number to remember. Of course I did not realize at the time it would be my fastest marathon. Nor did I know that five years later, the person for whom I wake up every morning, my daughter, would be born in Scranton. But she was, and Scranton, a city I’ve only been to twice, will always be one of my favorite places on our earth.

So what does the title of this post mean? Isn’t recalibrating an unusual word?

Not for athletes slowing down!

I ran a few more marathons after Steamtown under four hours. Then I took a year off from distance running. When I came back, I accepted that I needed to adjust expectations, that finishing a marathon under five hours was fine.

Now, approaching my 20th marathon, guess what?

If I finish under six hours, as I just barely did for my 19th, I’m grateful.

I’m still out there. Just like yesterday, when I ran/walked 9 miles, my legs at times felt like they did 12 years ago, even if for only a few minutes.

But muscle memories, like many consistent, fond memories, bring joy even if that joy is fleeting.

I know 10 years from now, when we are deciding on a college for Ellen, what I will remember most will be the moments of joy, that all the training, all the perseverance, was worth every mile.






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Our BearDear Readers,

I love keeping streaks going.

Once I set my mind to something, I usually follow through.

Like writing this blog every day of the year in its first year (except weekends and holidays).

Like writing this blog every weekend (Saturday or Sunday) and every Wednesday in its second year.

Like finishing every marathon I have ever entered.

My entry on Sunday about parenthood promised a conclusion and some backstory.

And here we have Wednesday already!

So here I go.

Last weekend was typical for our family. Our seven-year-old daughter does not believe in sleeping in so The Three of Us were up by six, trying to stay pretty quiet for the neighbors, getting ready for a day of Hawaiian Studies and hula at the YMCA followed by exercise, followed by chores, meals, homework (for our daughter and her two dads for their jobs!), a lovely drive to take in Hawaii that we sometimes forget to do with the rush of everyday life.

Sunday brought a lot of excitement. Our daughter read an aspiration at Temple service. Her fathers squeezed in work. She then was installed as a Brownie at a large gathering of Girl Scouts. Her fathers held back tears and squeezed in a little more work.

Then we visited Ellen’s favorite museum for two hours while her one father tutored to pay for our daughter’s summer school. (We like to plan ahead.)

This father, the author of this blog, took Ellen to her favorite places. We had lemonade. The two hours went by quickly. We met a new family with two young daughters close to Ellen’s age. The girls played games together and really seemed to enjoy each other’s company. The father I met teaches special education. His wife is a specialist in genetics. Our conversation was easy. They both remarked how they could instantly see that Ellen is a smart, alert, and physically strong young girl with great social skills. Full of hope, I gave out my business cards. They could understand why I dream that she one day go to college. They said with a daughter like Ellen, they would do the same.

The girls left the volcano exhibit to play on a great lawn outside. The girls’ laughter filled the air. But the museum was soon closing, Ellen’s other father, who watched from afar, was wrapping up his tutoring. My new friends wanted to leave. We talked about a possible playdate which is such a rare occurrence for our family. Even when Ben and I have invited families to our home, prepared wonderful meals, engaged in fun conversations, we rarely hear back or are offered an invitation in return.

We’ve often wondered if people are a bit scared of their children having friendships with a girl born with an extra chromosome, or with her parents who often feel we come across as a bit needy or too hopeful.

A natural suggestion many people have is to join groups with other families with children with “disabilities,” a term that I avoid, especially around my daughter. It has always been our goal that she hold her own with “typical” children. And so far she has — at school, at the YMCA, at Temple services at Girl Scouts. She is thriving.

But she needs friends. So when at the great lawn at the museum when we were all getting ready to say goodbye, and my daughter inexplicably shoved her new, younger friend out of the blue, my heart stopped. It was not a hard shove, but a clear one. I made Ellen apologize. The girls hugged. The mother assured me her daughters shove each other all the time. But I was crestfallen.

At home, not the calm, steady Quaker I try to be, my voice shook a little when I explained to Ellen that a strong finish is perhaps more important than everything that came before, whether its miles in a marathon, the end of a tennis match or playdate, finishing a semester, the last sentence of an exam or poem.

I don’t know how much of that life lesson she took in. Why should I expect so much from her when I am still reminding myself how valuable strong finishes are?

It is no surprise for me that I have not yet heard from the girls’ parents I met last Sunday at the museum. My disappointment about how the Sunday afternoon ended is less intense now that it is Wednesday. I am, though, waiting for a few miracles to come my way. Maybe they have and I’m just a little too tired to recognize them.



Mixed Blessings


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Ellen und PapaIf I were not so exhausted by the weekend, I would elaborate on why every weekend since I became a parent more than seven years ago has been a mixed blessing.

So I will save my ruminations for Wednesday’s post. Suffice it to write that except for 10 seconds, I was proud of my daughter most of an exhausting yet fulfilling weekend that soon will be past. Unfortunately, those 10 seconds came near the end of a lovely Sunday.

I know from thousands of tennis matches and 19 marathons that a good finish really counts. I’ve tried to impart this wisdom, in my imperfect way, to my daughter.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post!





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So now the chief occupant of the White House is accusing a congresswoman of fabricating her version of what he told the widow of a slain soldier, that he [the soldier] “must have known what he signed up for.”

Of course he tweeted this morning that he has PROOF to back up his claims about the fabrication.

In my early 20s, I taught teenagers in Austria. Together, we read Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell in German and English.

The teenagers, most of whom had never been outside Austria, took delight in teasing me, an American who has lived his life in both languages and cultures, about how Orwell’s world was really the United States. They would see the slightly embarrassed look on my face, listen to the mild surprise in my voice when I would explain how America is a vast and complex country that has done a lot of good for the world, that it was founded by highly intelligent statesmen who were champions of democracy.

And now we have our current president.


The Innocence of a Sunday


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Mrs-HeckmanI’ve always savored Sundays. I loved going to church and everything that came with it and afterward.

If I were with my grandparents, I would sit with them and near my vast family in what was called the German Church in a small town settled by Bavarians in Pennsylvania. To this day, on a rare visit, I love reading the stained glass windows, all in German.

For quiet people, we certainly had plenty of gentle conversations on Sunday mornings, usually with relatives. Most people in that town were related in some way to each other. To my husband’s astonishment, I know many third and fourth cousins. On the rare times I see my Pennsylvania family, I slip into some form of the local dialect that is English but to this day has subtle Bavarian shadings.

I loved the doughnuts or family meals that were part of those Sundays, buying a big city newspaper, and returning to my grandparents’ home on a wooded hill to read it then or later if cousins, aunts and uncles appeared.

I think of those Sundays when I hear my daughter’s sweet voice in the morning, the excitement in her words about what the day holds — for her two dads and Ellen, usually joining the Buddhists, now and then the Quakers, then mixing with the community, then eating, then a trip in the afternoon to her favorite museum.

The news I gather on Sundays is usually on the Internet or on TV. Today, though, I had to turn it off to preserve some innocence in our home. The reporting may be excellent, but the content drains most of the optimism I wake up with. I want to keep my daughter safe as long as I can, for her to savor Sundays and have those memories with her decades later, to hold onto faith, and to know that the world can still be good and fair.

Staying a Little Ahead of the Game


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Ruckmann-by Kubota!With so many “weighty” headlines in the world, to borrow a Quaker term, I’ve needed a little more discipline than usual to keep myself centered.

A good friend once gave me this advice during times of too much or too little noise: complete one task, celebrate, complete another. Soon, the checklist will be calming. I love the simplicity and wisdom of her words!

Yesterday, when I was making those checkmarks and thinking about my young daughter and how she finds peace when she needs to, I remembered another technique that has helped me in life in surprising ways: getting a bit ahead of the game.

I wanted to graduate early from college because I couldn’t wait to work full-time! I also wanted to save money. I took a few extra classes each semester. When summer came around, I took a few courses while holding a job. In that way, when the official fall semester began, I felt like I was starting ahead. I graduated in three years.

A year into the working world, I realized I loved it but also wanted to go to graduate school — and live in Europe! I applied for many scholarships. Instead of letting the applications pile up, I tried to fill them out the day I received them. For one, I needed letters of recommendation from college professors. Whom should I ask? I took a day trip to my alma mater, visited a few professors, and asked if they could kindly write a few paragraphs. Fortunately, they said yes, so the money I spent on a round-trip train ticket was worth it even though for this particular scholarship I felt I had no chance!

But I also had a sense of relief when I finished the application a few weeks ahead of the deadline, fully expecting many more application deadlines in the next several months.

Guess what? I received a Fulbright scholarship. It changed my life forever. In direct and in indirect ways, it brought me to Hawaii many years later.

All because at the time, barely 20 years old, I wanted to feel I was ahead of the game.

I still like to have that sense, to achieve it costs very little, and years later the benefits can still be palpable! It’s wisdom most of you, Dear Readers, have probably realized long ago but I wanted to share.

Until my next post this coming weekend. Maybe I’ll write it ahead of time!