I grew up in a household where watching TV was the exception rather than the norm. If I remember correctly, each of us kids [myself, Bananafishbonehead and the Kurd] could pick one show a week to watch and then we had a family hour of TV on the weekend. If there were special programs [like the Star Wars Ewok Adventure, V, or The Day After] then those were treated as exceptions. One thing that my sisters and I did to entertain ourselves was play card and board games. Risk, Monopoly, Mille Bornes to name a few. I fondly remember being able to dominate at most games and throwing the biggest hissy fit when, with overwhelming strategy and troops, the dice failed me roll after roll after roll and Bananafishbonehead’s meager forces held off the Huns, resulting in a thrown board and army pieces scattered around the living room. Ah, I love board games.
I had the opportunity to pick up Thunderclap from school on Tuesday and spend the afternoon with he and Tammy. I had been toying with the idea of picking up some board or card games for Thunderclap, and a fond memory I had of playing Dungeon! as a pre-teen had me googling to see if it was still available. Turns out it was re-released last year with a new board, cards and all new graphics. A quick call to a local Barnes & Noble let us know that a short hop, skip, and a jump away awaited incredible adventure, monster slaying, and untold riches. Now, I’m not a big D&D geek, but I played my share of TSR games as a youth and there were many hours on ship while on deployment in the Marines where we would pass the time in one sort of campaign or another. That said, I have often thought about how fun it would be to actually DM a game for Thunderclap and I do look forward to that day. But for now, this was a good gateway experience to test the waters.
Thunderclap was all atwitter as we drove home from the store and kept asking over and over if we could battle a dragon.
“I don’t know, but I hope so, buddy!”
I think I said that same phrase in response to the same question near a half dozen times on the 10 minute ride. Once home, we boned up on the rules, unpacked and set everything up and with both of us deciding to be dwarf clerics [he the male, I the female], we started our adventure. Immediately he was into it. Eager for each turn, each new opportunity to battle some monster, and eager see what treasure they would drop. His excitement and anticipation, not only for his turn, but for mine as well, was great to witness. Each new creature had him running into the other room to show Tammy what we were up against.
“Tammy, I’m fighting an OWL BEAR!”
“Look at this KOBOLD!”
“Isn’t this GREEN SLIME gross?!?”
The game progressed at a fun pace for quite a while, but before long, Thunderclap took the leap and jumped down into level 6. Now, in the context of this game, a cleric should not be hanging out in the hardest levels on the board. The creatures are mostly un-beatable and I can imagine a young player like Thunderclap becoming quite frustrated if each turn required him to run away and resulted in lost turns and lost treasure. But something wonderful happened on his first foray down into the depths of the dungeon that hooked him on the game and adventure gaming in general. He encountered a black dragon.
“Daddy, what does the monster card say?”
“You have to fight a black dragon, buddy.”
“A DRAGON?!? Is it really a DRAGON?!? Tammy! Tammy! I have to fight a BLACK DRAGON!”
“Hey, buddy, what number do you have to roll to beat it?”
“Oh, a twelve. That is going to be hard, won’t it daddy?”
“Yup, buddy. It doesn’t look good. Better blow on the dice for good luck.”
And with that, Thunderclap rolled, yes, you guessed it, a twelve. The joy and excitement at defeating a BLACK DRAGON could be heard throughout the land. And thus, a gamer was born.
Since then, each day has been filled with questions of when we can play the game again and nary a request to watch the tube. In addition, we ended up in a game store that happened to be going out of business and picked up Munchkin Cthulhu at discount and spent most of last weekend playing hand after hand after hand. I might have created a monster, but at least he’s a monster that is learning to read, use strategy, use basic math, stay focused for hours on end, and most importantly spend lots of quality time throwing ichor at daddy.
And that is the biggest win of all.
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Over the years I have identified as a runner and despite my foray into other sports, running is where I return for my core exercise. This is not because it is convenient, it is not because it is cheap, it is not because it is comfortable, it is because running is what I love.
A few years ago, I wrote about a 50 mile race that I ran on the PCT. This race was a life changing experience for me as it was the turning point of recognizing that I run because I love it. It was also the race that broke me for almost two years, crippling my identity as a runner as well as crippling my ability to run. That experience, the two years of running doldrums, fighting my body, finding my identity, yearning for the health to get back out on the trails, those were learning years.
I learned that a love of running isn’t something that you just pick up and do. That love has to be nurtured, it has to be cherished, it has to be cultivated, it can never be taken for granted. And in return? I receive all the love that running can give back to me. I can soak in sunrise as I fly down a piece of singletrack. I can revel in the strength and focus it takes to summit a challenging climb. I can gush about the zone I found in the midst of a long run. I can be inspired by the train of thought during a track work-out. I can solve nagging problems as I meander through oak groves. I can celebrate amazing vistas and the awe inspiring playground we call this world. I can feel stress melt away as the miles pass beneath my feet. That is the love that running gives to me. But only if I love running back.
It’s funny, also, how our sports are interesting parallels for our lives. Sometimes shakabuku wakes us up to what is crippling us physically, emotionally, and mentally. Sometimes we realize that to really have love in our lives, we have to work hard for the things we cherish. Sometimes we reap the amazing rewards of completely committing to love. Sometimes that love can completely eclipse and put to shame the love we have for our sports.
And sometimes, just sometimes, you end up with the gold medal.
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