Monday, February 22, 2016

Mary's Baptism

On Saturday we gathered in Oxnard for the first important religious event our granddaughter Mary Elizabeth's life, her baptism.

Santa Clara Catholic Church

 Andy, Jenn and ever playful Kevin
drove in from Las Vegas

Andy was given the honor of being Mary's God Father.

Mike and Mary Elizabeth

Laurie was almost as radiant as Mary

 Santa Clara is very nice inside

 Ornate Altar Area

 Cool Ceiling too

 Mary was ready

"All parents, God parents and chidden to be baptized, please assemble at the front doors."


A total of ten children were to be baptized in the day's ceremony but somehow the church forgot to assign a priest or deacon for the festivities. They only discovered their error moments before kickoff.

Fortunately, a deacon from another parish was able to fill in at the last minute. The ceremonies started about 30 minutes late which was a disaster of biblical proportions for the parents trying to keep the many small children under control who were in attendance to see their brothers, sisters, cousins or friends officially join the Catholic Church.

Vanessa with Mary,
God Mother Elizabeth Perez,
Mike and Andy

The pouring of the Holy water

The Ceremonial Candle
about to be extinguished

 A liberal dose of aromatic
Chrsim Oil

Mary is a HUGE Rolling Stones fan

With the Deacon

We all thought that he did a good job, especially given the pinch-hitting circumstances.

Mary on the Altar

Lion Queen?

Great-Grandmother Chuny
with Mary

All of Mary's family and friends had a good time after the Baptism at Mary's home.

Another GREAT day in Ventura County to be sure!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Phoenix Glazier Clinic, College Senior Talks, Donated Gear, Troubling News from Poland and the Los Angeles Marathon


One of the things that I miss when coaching overseas each Winter/Spring is the chance to attend football coaching clinics in order to keep up with the latest trends in our great game.

With the late start of our season in Poland this Spring, I had a chance to attend the Glazier Clinic in Mesa, Arizona a few weekends ago.

I attended my first Glazier Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in ca. 1987 with Dan Murphy. We found the organization that legendary coach Frank Glazier put into then East Coast clinics to be way ahead of anything that we had experienced before and I have continued to attend these clinics when they were expanded West. They continue to be excellent clinics 30 years later, in my opinion.

After speaking to the Seniors at La Verne University on a Thursday afternoon about playing in EuroBall (more on this in just a minute), I continued to drive through the night to the greater Phoenix, Arizona area and, specifically, the desert community of Mesa for this year's Glazier Clinic in the Desert.

Overall, it was a another good clinic with Tony Annese, the Head Coach at Michigan's Ferris State University talking for seven hours on all phases of his Spread Option Pistol Offense on Friday, GREAT STUFF!!!

On Saturday, the clinic highlight for me was listening to Rick Darlington, the Head Coach at Apopka H.S. in Florida. With two topics like "Apopka Death Squad Defense" and "Guerrilla Training: Apopka Off-Season Program - Building Warriors From Elves and Trolls" . . . 


Since returning from my first season coaching in EuroBall (Italy's Catania Elephants in 2008), I have made it a point to try to talk to as many college Seniors in Southern California as possible about the possibility of extending their careers for at least another season by taking their game overseas.

I am happy to report that over the past years many have indeed taken the plunge and have enjoyed many seasons on the Continent and in Australia as well.

First stop on the 2016 tour . . .

 University of La Verne Leopards

A Good Turnout at ULV

The next week, it was just a short drive over the hill to California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks . . .

Home of the Kingsmen

GREAT Football Tradition at CLU

Good Turnout at Kingsmen

Finally, this week it was on to Los Angeles' Eagle Rock area to meet . . .

The Tiger Seniors

The Drum

This is the trophy that annually goes to the winner of the Occidental vs. Pomona-Pitzer football game. This is the oldest collegiate football rivalry west of the Mississippi having started in 1895. Occidental leads the 118 game series 67-48-3.

The Battle for the Shoes

This trophy, a bronzed pair of football cleats, goes to the winner of the Occidental vs. Whittier football game. This series is, of course, a younger one having started in 1907. The Tigers lead this 108 game series too by a margin of 56-50-2.

Small Group of Tigers

A small group to be sure but they were definitely into the talk. From left to right, we have OL Jim Partee, Oxy Head Coach Doug Semones and WR Devin Bullock.

Jim and Devon were both First Team All-Conference in 2015.

These talks always leave me pumped up about the next wave of import players for teams in EuroBall.


Ten Shoulder Pads

My old team in Spain, the Murcia Cobras, let me know that they were in need of shoulder pads and after a little probing, Chaminade H.S. donated ten.

That was easy.


This week I was given worrisome news from the Polish League of Football American (PLFA).

Apparently, my soon to be team, the Gdańsk Wikingowie, are in arrears having not paid their dues and other financial issues unknown to me from the Wikingowie's inaugural 2015 season.

Thus on Wednesday, the PLFA decided that enough is enough and has decided that the Winkingowie will not be allowed to play in the PLFA's 2016 Division II season.

Where does this leave me and the players? Not sure at this time, as the team's leadership group is exploring other options including combining our players with another PLFA II team and also participating in the Baltic Sea League ( which is really more of an international tournament than a league.

Stay posted, when I know, you'll know.


Our Son, Michael Contreras

Genetically, we can NOT explain this, but our youngest son likes to run really long distances all the time.

Once a year, on line, we follow with equal shares of excitement and parental pride as he runs the 26.2 mile Dodger Stadium to the Sea course.

Third Consecutive Year
in the L.A. Marathon for Mike

Mike's main goal this year was to complete the Marathon in 3:15:00 or better which was the minimum time necessary for men in his age group to qualify for possible entry into the Boston Marathon.

In 2014's L.A. Marathon, his first ever Marathon, he finished in a time of 3:51:53.

In the 2015 L.A. Marathon he improved over 25 minutes with a finishing time of 3:26:35.

This year he knocked off another five minutes in the unseasonable heat by finishing in 3:21:44.

He was a bit disappointed in not qualifying for the Boston Marathon but Laurie and I were both simply amazed and proud of his accomplishment.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Groundhog Day 2016 in Solvang, California

Unusual Family Traditions . . .

Most families have them and we are no exception.

It all started in 1968 when I was attending and Laurie was working at the University of Washington. We had a quarrel over who knows what at this point and made up on February 2nd, Groundhog Day.

Ever since then we have observed Groundhog Day instead of the somewhat more traditional Valentine's Day as the day to celebrate our love.

In the long run we have found that this practice saves us money on hotel reservations, flowers and restaurants, rather than how people are gouged on February 14th.

This year we opted to celebrate Groundhog Day in the Santa Barbara County's picturesque Wine Country around the Danish themed city of . . .


Solvang was founded in 1911 by three Danish-American educators who believed that their culture could prosper near the California's central coast. The settlers thrived in Solvang while carrying on Denmark's traditions of language, folk dancing, music and cuisine. 

 Our Hotel was a bit foreboding but . . .

We found it to be quite nice after passing by these stocks.

 LOTS of Windmills in Solvang

 That reminds me . . .

 How did this place get into Solvang?

 Holger Danske

Legend has it that this sleeping Viking will awaken anytime that Denmark is threatened to protect the Mother Country. We saw the original statue in Denmark.  Quite impressive in the dark recesses of a castle.

The Movie "Sideways"

A fun movie that used the local Wine Country as the basis of its story.  We had breakfast in this booth and noticed the plaque. 

 We noshed from time-to-time
as it turned out

 Aly's for Groundhogs Day dinner?

It was recently named one of the USA's 100 Most Romantic Restaurants. It was the obvious place for us to dine on this glorious day!

Except that they are not open on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday during the Winter.

What do we do now?

 Also a "Sideways" movie sight

They plied us with what we both agreed were the best BBQ sirlion steaks that we had enjoyed in a long, long time. 

 Another Windmill

 A replica of Copenhagen's
Little Mermaid was a MUST!

 Father Junipero Serra founded
one of his Missions long before
the Dane's arrived

Wednesday's Sunrise near the Mission

Cold, but I liked it

One more breakfast nosh and
our two night Groundhog Day
getaway was complete

It turns out that we like our goofy Family Tradition a lot!