Friday, March 11, 2016

My Ames High Brothers Were There--by Bryce Freeman

AHS brothers-

I told both of my children yesterday that I wished for them the amazing experience I enjoyed with all of you in Colorado. It was incredible to get back together with childhood friends for whom I have so much respect. I feel so privileged to have grown up in Ames with you and to have involved, supportive parents who cheered me on in WAY too many games playing by your side or running on your team.

There is something truly special about youth sports. To strap on the pads, put on the ball cap, lace up the shoes and give your absolute best is a great experience in itself. But I'm increasingly struck by what personally drove me in high school sports, and that was to give my best so that I never let my teammates down.  I never wanted to walk back to the huddle having dropped Seth's pass. I never wanted to face Belzer on the sideline if I missed a block on a D back. I never wanted to face Villwock after walking a batter in a clutch situation. I never wanted to go to the bench and explain to Pollman, Dale, Whiteford, or Warme why I turned the ball over or didn't run my hardest. All of you pushed me to run faster, hit harder, focus more clearly, and do my job better. I've carried this experience and push for excellence into every job I've ever had. Good isn't good enough, we have to strive for excellence, and all of you nourished this belief in me.

And Ames High gave me that same experience in the classroom. I gave my best because people like Kwan Wu, Sarah Coats, Eric Warme, Andy Glatz, and Ryan Carver pushed my limits. Even in the band, I tried my absolute best because my fellow low brass players expected the best from me. Ames High is an amazing opportunity to be around the best, push yourself and achieve.

But what meant the most to me this past weekend was that on the verge of my greatest failure in life, the end of my 19 year marriage, my Ames High brothers were there for me. Your sincere support, selfless love, and genuine concern for me provided me the encouragement and boost I'll need to be a great dad on my own and to move forward in my life. In a time when I've felt so alone, I learned that I'm not alone. Whiteford, I can't tell you how much your candid sharing about your first marriage meant to me. Belzer and Spenser, I can't tell you how much your messages and phone calls meant to me when Laura and I decided to split. Warme, you're not alone in this either. We're in it together, starting over and moving forward.

This past weekend, I laughed harder than I can ever remember.  It was so terrific to remember our childhood in the context of the men we've become.  We bring out the best in each other, and that's a wonderful thing.

I love each of you. Our shared experiences are truly special, whether sweating it out in August two-a-days, running my curveball in on another leftie with Spenser behind the plate, running till I puked for Coach Sletten, or gutting out that last separator in the gym.  Those shared experiences formed a foundation of trust, friendship, and mutual support that can't be taken away. And this past amazing weekend is one more shared experience that we'll build on in our years ahead.

I feel so lucky to be your friend. Anything any of you need, anytime, I'll be there. We're never alone, as our friends are there to celebrate our victories and pick us up and dust us off when we lose. Thanks so much for being there for me. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Together, We Grew From Young Children into Young Men-- by Scott Whiteford

Reaction from Scott Whiteford to a 4-day weekend in Colorado with 8 old high school friends from Iowa, after a separation of 24 years...

Relationships are very important to me, and I have known some extraordinary people throughout my life. So, not surprisingly, when the opportunity arose to re-unite with a group of my closest high school friends, I immediately RSVP-ed "yes!" My first reactions of the weekend--5 months in the future--was excitement and anticipation. Although it had been 24 years since I last saw some of them, I was eager to fly to Denver and "catch-up" with these great guys. As the reunion drew near, I could feel my excitement building, but I also felt the strong adolescent bond I had with these gentlemen. With a week to go, I even started dreaming about these close, but distant, friends. How were they doing? What were there lives like? Finally, Thursday, March 3, 2016 arrived, and I was off to Denver.

Over the next four days, I experienced a wide range of exhilarating emotions. Almost immediately, I sensed an immense amount of trust among the members of our group, and even though time had taken a quarter-century from us, I also felt a great deal of security. We laughed harder and longer than I can ever remember as we regaled each other about adventures of our time together in middle and high school and those of our lives since then. We also discussed deep, personal stories, about the turns our lives had taken as adults. Just as importantly, we shared tears, the cause of which ranged from tough choices in adulthood to the surreal adventure we were taking this weekend. 

The eight of us knew each other during formative years of our childhood. Together, we grew from young children into young men. As youths, we shared vulnerability, security, and uncertainty as we struggled to grasp the world around us. We were close as we played sports, tried to understand girls and school, and eventually focused on an unknown future as we transitioned into adulthood. I believe it is this closeness that immediately led to a deep trust and emotional connection during our reunion.

To me, our weekend was transcendental. I felt a deep brotherly love among our group, but I also felt guilt for allowing so many years to pass between visits. Together, we ventured back to our adolescence as if we were in a time capsule, and we remained there for four wonderful days. However, we all knew that our reunion was fleeting and that we would soon be returning to our lives as 40-something year-old men. I will never forget our time together. How often does one get to relive his youth with a group of close friends; even if it's only for a four day weekend?

A very special thank you to Bryce Freeman, Eric Warme, Mike Pollmann, Seth Anderson, Jon Dale, and especially to Scott Belzer and Spenser Villwock for organizing this special weekend.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

We're Not Friends, We're Family--by Michael Pollmann

Reaction from Michael Pollmann to a 4-day weekend in Colorado with 8 old high school friends from Iowa, after a separation of 24 years...

As I look back on the last 4 days I can't help but think of Family, and I use capital "F" because this is a group that is every bit as important to me as my own blood family. We're not friends, we're Family. How else can you explain, as many of us said multiple times, the feeling of "...picking up where we left off" even though, for some of us, there were over 2 decades of being apart? How do you explain being in a room, full of conversation, people recounting trials that they've gone through, are going through, and without hesitation thinking to yourself "just say the word, i'm ready to drop everything and help out in any way I can if that's what's needed"? (I think Belzer mentioned going so far as to kill, maybe jokingly, but I have to admit that I don't think that's far from the truth). The best way I can explain it is that it sounds EXACTLY like a Family to me.

One thing I keep thinking about, with a bit of awe, is that if you were to ask me back in '92, "Hey, Pollmann, we're going to get together in 24 years. You in?" I would have said "You better F'in believe it!" That doesn't surprise me. What surprises me is who would have been included in that group back when the invitation was extended, that fine May day in 1992. I honestly don't think half this group would've been included in my list at that time. That is in no way reflective of how I felt about you all at that time, I think it's more of a testament to the unbelievable people that came out of AHS and Ames, Iowa. And I don't mean just our class, but all the classes we were fortunate enough to cross paths with. If you want proof, just take a look at FB over the last few days and look at all the people that have commented on the photos that have been posted. Those are good people, GREAT people, and on some levels, it's better than paging through the AHS yearbook. How lucky are we to have grown up in Ames? How lucky is it that most, if not all of us, spent K-12 in Ames (which, in talking to friends not from Ames, it does not seem very common to have spent your entire elementary and secondary education in one place)? Better than winning the lottery, if you ask me.

I have friends from later walks of life that I would also include in the Family, one of which I was fortunate enough to be able to meet for lunch on Sunday (he is part of what Heidi and I would call our KC Family). I have a similar group that was formed in college, which I'm sure many of us have, and their might be one more if I think about it. I don't know that these "later" groups would exist today without that first group from Ames, and I'm thankful for that. I'm sure if you all think about it you'll find these Families in your life. Some of them may pop into your head immediately and some you might have to think about. And then there are those that you may have forgotten about until you gather with a small sample of them over 4 days of bluebird skies, shared meals, shared recreation, the occasional bout of non-stop, 15 minute laughter, and good music (Double T's). I would argue that this last one, the one that stands for such an odd, scary and wonderful blip on our screens is the most powerful. This is the one that will keep coming back, in the worst of times and the best of times, to ground us and remind us who we are. This is that hand on the shoulder.

So maybe some of you may not have been on my 18-year-old self's list of "We're Getting the Band Back Together" reunion. So what? I may not have been on your list either, and maybe I wasn't on your 42-yr-old self's list either. I was giddy when Belzer and Villwock floated this invite back in late 2015. Because, although I may have been nervous about seeing this group after so long, especially those I wasn't necessarily close with in high school, I was POSITIVE that we would "pick up where we left off".

I look forward to this happening again, and soon, and my hope is that this movement that Belzer has started, with his podcasts and this reunion will get the rest of our class thinking along the same lines and the reunions will happen with others. Maybe we'll even overlap. Either way, Belzer, I hope you realize the positive effect one simple question has had on the lives of at least 7 others.

"Tell me what high school was like for you?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Reconnected After 24 Years

I feel a sharp, aching pain in my stomach. 

I am afraid that I may have herniated something from laughing uproariously for roughly 96-hours straight. 

Why was I laughing so violently?  I was laughing because I was surrounded by love, by trust, and by friendship that runs so deep into the root of my soul and entire being.   Eight friends, all that grew up in the same small Iowa town of Ames, coming together after nearly 25 years in a small Colorado mountain town can do that to you.  And it was the best kind of pain one could ever ask for.

We came from all across the United States to embark upon this weekend of skiing and sharing; learning and joking; dining and crying; remembering and feeling; and most of all, laughing.  We came from New York, Iowa, California, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado, and Maryland to be together.  We came with no pretention, no judgment, and no expectation for what a long-weekend together might hold, as the sole purpose was simply to reunite this group of high school classmates.  As organically as we had shuffled into a classroom together at the age of 14, we now shuffled into a beautiful mountain respite overlooking the majestic Rocky Mountains.

These eight men, whom I last knew as just boys, warmly embraced each other in welcome, and immediately picked up where we last left off over two-decades ago. 

Pictured L to R: Jon Dale, Scott Whiteford, Eric Warme, Scott Belzer, Michael Pollmann, Seth Anderson, Spenser Villwock, and Bryce Freeman.

There is something haunting, yet something comforting about that fact.  The faces, so familiar, yet with new creases to remind us that the bitch called time had passed.  These faces walked in, just as they had done in a gym class in 10th grade and across the graduation stage in 1992. 

The voices, only slightly more worn than our last conversation when we were freshly post-puberty. Today, these voices were like a brilliant symphony, melodically comforting and lifting an epic weight off of your mind, body, and soul.  These were faces and voices that have echoed in my mind and in my dreams since we were just children.  Am I dreaming now?  If so, I don’t want to wake up yet.

We talked about old times together, growing up in Ames, Iowa, and the memories were so vivid and so real that it most certainly was only last week that they took place.  At one point, I worried for a brief moment as to who would buy us beer, as I completely forgot that we were all actually well over 21 years old.  The potency of coming together after all these years to share space, to share stories, and to embrace each other will transport you back instantly.  I now believe in time travel, and it has nothing to do with a Flux Capacitor, it has to do with reconnecting with the Brotherhood of your youth.

We talked about all the fill-in-the-blanks since we last knew what each other wore to school on a daily basis.  There have been adventures, there have been challenges—each one of us has lived and loved, and each one of us has lost.  I am proud to know these men, who carried on the shadows of who they were in their youth to become great men, great human beings.  We helped each other this weekend.  We helped each other validate our lives, our guesses, and our choices.  We learned that we are not alone in this fight though the beautiful landscape of life.  We learned that we can count on each other.  After a 24-year gap, we can laugh, we can cry, and we can count on each other no matter what.

Boyz, you know who you are, thank you.  Thank you for the gifts that you gave me then and the gifts that you gave me now.  I love and respect each one of you more than you may ever know.  Nursing this pulled muscle from so much laughter the past few days, I am forever humbled and forever grateful.  Miles may separate each one of us, yet we will always only be heartstrings apart.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Managing Life & Producing Happiness in an Anxious World: Iowa Native, Emily Slaugher (Olson) Shares Her Story

Another excellent conversation with the Ames Whisperer, Scott Belzer.

Scott talks with a great human being, Emily Slaughter (Olson), in the next installation of the Ames High School Class of '92 Podcast series.

Fun Fact: Emily worked at the Buckle in high school

Scott got to sit down with this cool lady and reminisce about the old days and hear how Dax Slaughter tricked her into marrying him.  They talk: 

  • Stepfathers, 
  • Marching Band, 
  • Working in High School, 
  • Underachieving, 
  • Sneaking Out, 
  • Lost Relationships, 
  • Living with Anxiety, 
  • Mother/Daughter Dynamics, 
  • Texas Life, and 
  • Having Twins 

This is a great conversation.  Very real, very relatable.  Enjoy!

Many thanks to Emily for taking the time to share her story.  ‪#‎ahs92podcast