Saturday, July 30, 2011

Personal Note - Eldercare; Wheelchair Van

Ten years ago my wife's mom and step-dad, Jerry, moved to Cedar Park.  In their 80s they they were vigorous and fun-loving but needing a little help getting around.  They loved having us take them to far-away places like Cracker Barrel and Starbucks and Lakeline Mall.  And once all the way up to Clare, Michigan and back, visiting kids and grand kids along the way. 

Back home in Cedar Park they had their own little circle of nearby going-out places - a McDonalds, Walmart, Bank of America, Post Office, Walgreens. 

And a Scott & White clinic.

Age started taking a toll and they spent more and more time at Scott & White trying to keep the old bods running.  Then walking.  Then walking with a cane.  Four years ago Jerry fell and broke a hip.  And traded his cane for a walker.  A few weeks later, mom fell and broke a hip and got a walker of her own. 

Age can be hard on even the nicest people.  There were a few more falls, a few more broken bones (old bones are fragile).  There were memory losses and near-falls when the 90-year-olds would forget they needed a walker and shouldn't try to do housework.  Or go to the bathroom alone. 

They started needing lots meds to control body chemistry.  We learned about Medicare Part D and the donut hole. 

If you've been visiting this blog, you've noticed a lack of recent photos, recent player profiles.  I've only been to one Outlaws game in the past two seasons.  That's because caring for the old folks expanded into a full time job.  Wife Beverly and I have provided in-their-home caregivers for the folks, 24/7.  We've been doing grocery shopping, mowing lawns, making pharmacy runs, transporting to doctor appointments, hiring-firing caregivers (I have some stories to tell).  A highlight for us and them was taking the folks out to favorite restaurants or Christmas light tours.  Or Starbucks - Jerry loved his coffee.

Their ability to get around declined.  We started using part time wheelchairs to supplement the walkers.  Then one day I wheelchaired Jerry to the car and started the transfer.  The routine was to have him stand up, grasp the car door for balance while I pushed the wheelchair out of the way, and then aim his butt to the car seat.  This day things went wrong.  His legs just crumpled beneath him.  I was able to catch him, slip my knee under him and keep him from falling.  But his weakness and the limited space between car door and wheelchair made transfers to the car impossible.

Suddenly the outings were in jeopardy.  My van couldn't accommodate a wheelchair.  There are taxis that can but taxi fare is expensive and we aren't all that rich, especially when paying for caregivers.  There are medical vans but they're pricier than cabs.

Enter Austin Mobility Solutions, a business on I-35 just north of the Pflugerville exit. 

Push the button on the remote and here comes the ramp.

You'd be amazed.  They have vans specially equipped to accommodate wheelchairs.  Press the remote and the doors open, a ramp deploys.  You or your caregiver, can wheel the patient right inside.  These things are so cool the van even kneels, tilts downward, so the upward slope is less steep.

An easy trip up the ramp because the van is
"kneeling" toward the caregiver.
I had owned a van before.  A large luxury conversion van equipped with leather captains chairs, a TV, two stereos, a VCR.  We used it on that long road trip to Clare, Michigan.  I had bought it through Henna Chevrolet and a manufacturer's rep who worked with the conversion company. 

The manufacturer's rep was Charlie Lincoln.  Before I bought the van I checked out his reputation and learned that was highly regarded in the Austin area for outstanding service and customer care.  With our big van, Charlie lived up to his reputation.  What few problems I had he took care of himself. 

Fast forward to our need to transport wheelchairs.  I found Austin Mobility Solutions on a referral byThird Coast vans.  On my first visit to the showroom, I was startled to see Charlie there.  I asked what are you doing here?  He replied "I own the place."

The wheelchair is centered in the middle of
the van and secured with special securement
hardware anchored to the floor and hooked
to the wheelchair frame.  There's also a seat belt.

He demonstrated the showroom vans with the ramps and wheelchair securement hardware. We talked about options.  The ideal would be to own a van but money was a concern.  The business name is mobility solutions.  Charlie had a solution for me - rentals.  We could rent vans by the day, week, month.  We wound up doing daily rentals to transport the folks to the doctor's office and then out to lunch or coffee.

Thanks to Charlie, we were able to give mom and Jerry  the outings they so enjoyed. 

Close up of the cassette that holds the securement strap and the hook
connecting strap to wheelchair frame.  Really easy to operate.

Jerry died this week.  He had had a really hard year with multiple health problems.  He had had a really hard month with two EMS trips to the hospital and two trips (in Austin Mobility Vans) to the doctor.  He had a mysterious fall from his wheelchair - how did he manage to fall when he lacked strength to move without help?  Miraculously there were no fractures. 

A bad month.  In his last trip to the ER, the doctor recommended hospice care and we agreed.  Jerry died a day later.  He was 93.

Jerry was a Christian man and we believe he is now in a much better place.

But over the past year, his life has been better because of wonderful people like the caregivers and Charlie Lincoln. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Back to my high school days - I was playing offensive left tackle.  In a practice session Coach Van Kostegian explained my assignment on a particular play.  At the snap of the ball I was to take a step back from the line of scrimmage, run to my left around our left end, turn right across the line, turn right again and run back toward center.  And block the linebacker.

I've never been one for unnecessary physical exertion.  I favor efficiency over effort.  I suggested to coach that it would be more efficient if I just ran straight across the line and nailed the linebacker.  I may have quoted something about straight lines being the shortest distance between two points. 

Coach wasn't famous for patience but he dealt patiently with me and set up a demonstration.  He had us do a walk through with him playing the role of linebacker.  We lined up and the ball was snapped and I did as he had directed, run/walking to my left, crossing the line, run walking back to my right.  Meanwhile coach was acting out what the linebacker would be doing while I was running around.  The linebacker would be reading activity in our backfield.  And his read would have him sliding to his left, away from me, toward the center of the line.  Then his read would tell him that the play wasn't going right, it was really going left.  And the linebacker would hustle back.  Toward me.

It was a timing thing.  While I was running around to my left, over the line, back to my right, the linebacker was drifting to his left (my right) and then hustling back.  And about the time I got back to my original set position the linebacker would arrive there, too.  And there would be a collision. 

There wasn't supposed to be a collision in this practice walk-through.  Coach wasn't wearing a uniform, was not wearing  pads.  It was a "walk" through.  But I got and impatient and when I crossed the line I forgot to walk and I ran back toward center.  There was a collision when I collided with the coach.  He again exhibited saintly patience, just shaking his head and resuming normal pracitce activities.

I"ve commented about my lack of athleticism.  This was complicated by my being a slow learner.  Although I had been a sports fan from childhood, I didn't understand all that was going on in the game.  Years later I began to "see" all the cool stuff involved in football.  I started understanding pulling-guards and pulling-tackles.  I learned about linebackers reading the offense and quaterbacks reading the defense.  I learned about safety blitzes, trap blocks, bootlegs, empty backfields.  If I had known all of this when I was playing I would have been a pretty good football player.

This week we learned the NFL will be playing a 2011 season.  Watching the pros is a great way to learn about the game.  Especially with commentators like Jon Gruden and Chris Collinsworth with their stop action video replay. 

If you're an Outlaw or Outlaw wannabe, watch lots of NFL games and listen to the commentators.  Watch the pros who are playing the position you're going to play.  Consider recording the games and playing them over when you can stop the action and study what's going on.

It is practically impossible to teach you all you need or want to know in practices.  There just isn't enough time.  There just aren't enough coaches.  The best way to learn is on your own with the help of TV commentators.

As you begin to understand the game you'll find watching games much more enjoyable.  And  you'll be a much better player.

This was shot in my senior year.  Coach Kostegian isn't in the
photo.  I think he retired from injuries sustained in my
devastating block in practice last year.  I'm in the back row, third from the
right.  Just want you to know I really did play this crazy game.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


When I was a junior at Redford Union High School, west of Detroit,  I played on the varsity football team.  But not very much.  I've already acknowledged elsewhere in this blog that I wasn't a great athlete.  Maybe not even good.   So I spent a lot of time on the bench watching better players and wishing I could get out there and hear my name called on the public address system.

Then one day opportunity happened.   

A senior linebacker named Denny Manchester came to the sidelines, sweaty and dirty from doing battle on the field.  He was in big trouble.  His jersey was ripped into shreds.  There was no way he could go back in the game without his jersey.  I heard opportunity knocking.  I focused my eyes on the coach hoping he'd notice me.  Other bench warmers didn't seem to realize someone would have to go in for Denny; they wandered off to the the water jug or messed with their shoe laces.  Coach started scanning the bench.

And his eyes met mine.  It was an electric moment.  "Stostad!  Come here."  I had never played linebacker but I could learn. Anything for the good of the team.  I grabbed my helmet -

Coach said "You don't need your helmet.  Come on, get over here." 

How did he expect me to replace Manchester without a helmet?

You know where this is going.  Coach didn't want me.  He wanted my still clean jersey.  I surrendered my shirt to Denny Manchester and Manchester returned to the field.

On the next play, Manchester made the tackle.  The public address announcer announced "Tackle by...Stostad?!"  Now my feelings were hurt by his surprise.  He didn't even know me so how could he know I wasn't a star?  Another play,  Manchester made another tackle.  "Announcer:  Tackle by Stostad!"  And I jumped up and yelled "Go Stostad!"  And the announcer started getting the spirit.  This Stostad guy was pretty good.  Until some dirty rat went up and told him my number was actually Manchester.

Tiffany James - note the (lovely) red socks.
There's a book titled "Dress for Success" which is popular among wannabe business executives.  I have always been skeptical of the premise - I don't see how wearing a blue suit makes you more effective than a talented brown-suiter.
Did my football experience validate the book?  If someone else wears your suit...?

As I was contemplating my uniform success in that game, I got to thinking about Tiffany James.  Tiffany was one of my favorite Outlaws.  She carried the nick name "Crash Test Dummy" because of her fearless attacks on any runner who had the temerity to escape our first lines of defense and start up field.  Tiffany was famous for crashing into sometimes much bigger players, grab with heroic tenacity, and pull the runner down on top of herself. 

I loved Tiffany's style of play.  I also came to love her taste in socks.  Now when I played football we were bare legged from knee to ankle.  It never occurred to me that we should wear longer socks and cover our legs.  When I started photographing Outlaws games and practices, I never gave much thought to socks.  In practice, some of the players wore long socks, most played bare legged as I used to play. 

Tiffany again - these socks may have
been lovely at some time past but football
has apparently done them in.  Crash wouldn't
wear these in a game.
But then I noticed that Tiffany considered socks to be her opportunity to make an individual fashion statement.  A chance to set herself apart from the uniform crowd.  She apparently had a large sock wardrobe and she enjoyed distinguishing herself, not just for her style of play but also for her manner of dress. 

Apparently Tiffany doesn't
wear garters. 
I started trying to remember to photograph Tiffany's socks at practices and games.  In browsing my Outlaw photo collection, I can only find three instances of Tiffany socks.  I'm certain there must have been more.   Tiffany's taste in fashion didn't sit well with the coach.  He thought all the players should be in uniform, and that included wearing the same color socks.  Tiffany was partial to red and red did not work with the Outlaws uniforms at the time.  Nor now, for that matter.  There was a little battle of wills which Tiffany lost when she realized she wouldn't get in the game wearing red socks.

A chance to get garterless Tiffany's socks photographed
in a group with less stylish players.  You may notice
something unsightly in the legs at the left - don't
worry, that's not a player, that's a coach.
This got me thinking about leg covering for other players.  Other than just Tiffany.  I started studying Outlaw photos, noticing socks other players were wearing.

One thing I learned is that longer socks don't stay up very well.  I found lots of examples of players with socks crumpled down around the ankles.  I wondered if the players whose socks stayed in place wore garters.  I considered asking players but I'm afraid it might be in poor taste for an old male photographer to ask young lady football players about garters.  So I'm left to speculate. 

If I do a feature about uniforms, Houston will win my vote as
best.  The yellow on white makes for great photos. 

Another thing I noticed about socks is they come in different colors.  I like the Houston yellow because they show up great in my photographs. 

I don't like the purple socks of Dallas.
And I decided I don't like the purple worn by Dallas.  I don't know if it is because they don't match the rest of their uniforms (or do they?) or if I just don't like purple. 

The Oklahoma City team wore green socks.  These did match their uniforms but I didn't like them very much either.  Now please understand my "like/don't like" decisions were being made long after the games while I was sitting at my computer screen thinking about socks.  Except for Tiffany, I never noticed socks. 

The green socks do go with the OKC uniforms.

One sock off, one sock on... isn't there a rhyme
about that?  Or is it one shoe off...?
In my study I noticed lots of black socks. 

And I noticed some lack of uniformity in the wearing of socks.  On the same team, some players wore socks and some went bare-legged between knee and ankle.  At least one player had socked one leg and bared the other.  I think she and Tiffany could have been friends if only the one sock were red instead of black. 

Power socks!  I've noticed the officials are always
immaculately dressed.  Note that one of his pant legs
covers more of the sock than the other.  Hmmm.  Is
he still immaculately dressed?
I did notice that the officials socks distinguished them from the players and I thought that was a good thing.  But I have to admit, until I started this posting I never noticed that the striped-shirt guys also wore striped-socks. 

You may think that with the season over I must be running out of good subjects to blog about.   Nothing could be farther from the truth.  My analysis of the sport includes attention to detail.  And who knows, someday I may write a football version of "Dress of Success."  In which I'll devote a full chapter to socks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tackling 3

I've admitted to not being a great football player.  I never was involved in open-field tackling because I wasn't fast enough to get to an open field location at the same time as a ball carrier.  One exception - I was playing defensive left tackle and the offensive blocker missed me completely.  Looking back I'm sure it was a trap where someone else missed his assignment.  In a trap, their right tackle "misses" me.  And their left guard pulls back from his block, runs to his right along the line.  As I charge unhindered into the backfield, the pulled guard blindsides me.  But the guard never made it and suddenly I was all alone with the quarterback who was rolling to his right.  He was as surprised as I was.

Now, I'm old enough that I no longer have to perpetuate the lie - to all who observed from the stands, I hit the quarterback and knocked the ball loose and we recovered and went on to score and win the game.  That is a lie.  In fact, in the open field with just me and the quarterback, I lost my balance.  Flailing to avoid falling I barely touched him.  But startled by my presence he had lost his composure and fumbled all on his own.  It looked like I jarred the ball loose but he just dropped it.

I want to do a player profile on Bridgette.  She is one of the strongest
and most reliable tacklers on the team.  I have many photos of
her getting a sure hold on the runner and bringing her down.
I admire people who can do what I've tried and can't do - that makes a large field of people for me to admire.  I admire people who can open field tackle.

Open field tackling is difficult.  This post is recognition of some good open field tacklers.  To me, "open field" means the runner has space around her.  She's quick, shifty, and should have the advantage over the tackler.  Someday maybe I'll post some photos of missed open field tackles but I don't want to embarrass any of my friends on the Outlaws. 

When the tackler is bigger than the runner, like Bridgette Brown is bigger than the runner in the above photo, the tackler is at a decided disadvantage.  But Bridgette Brown is strong and quick and a great tackler.  She makes it look easy.  It isn't.

In these two shots, Shadana is cut off by a much
bigger defender.  The defender doesn't need
to bring Shadana down, just force her out of bounds.
When the "open field" is on the defense side of the line of scrimmage, when the runner has eluded the first line of defense and is scooting down the sideline, the challenge is first catching her.  I admire defensive backs because they have to catch speedy running backs.  Having caught up with the runner, the next trick is to get her down.  Or sometimes, out.  If the runner is along the sideline, the defender can win by nudging her out of bounds. 

Than can be elegant, as when the Dallas player catches Shadana (#82) and uses a decided weight advantage to push her out of bounds to the left.

Just a nudge was all it took to send the runner out of bounds.
Or it may be inelegant but still effective.  When the runner nearly escapes but the defender makes just enough contact to throw her off balance and send her out of bounds. 

 Rreally tough is having a fast runner with the end zone in sight and one obstacle keeping her from scoring and that is a lone defensive back. 

The back first has to pick the angle.  The runner is going straight up the field and back has to head her off.  Then the back has to deal with any dekes the runner might attempt, any faking right or left to throw the tackler off line and off stride.  Once these little problems are solved and running full speed, the tackler has to get a hold of the runner and hang on and drag her down. 

It looks easy.  It isn't.

The telephoto lens distorts perspective a little.  This shot has the defender closing on the runner.
In fact she isn't as close as she appears.  And the play started with her having a lot of ground to make up.
Running full speed she jumps on the ball carrier's back and drags her down. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tackling 2

This is Bridgette Brown simply crushing the runner.  When
Bridgette hits you you will go down.  Note the runner is airborne.
One way to bring the runner down is with a good solid hard hit.  Football is about power and speed.  In a direct meeting of the two, power wins. 

It is sometimes difficult to see the power in my freeze-frame photos.  One good sign is when one player's feet are both off the ground.  Another is when one player is tilting backwards.  Another way is to notice who is doing the hitting.  If it is Bridgette Brown, you can believe it is a power hit.

This is a poor photo from a couple years ago.  But the
hit is a power hit, the runner is going down.  Now.
When a small runner meets a large tackler, in this
case Nicolette Arceneaux - the runner loses.

Technique helps.   Get low, shoulder into the runner's middle - aim for the belt buckle.  Wrap up the legs.  It is difficult to run if your legs are in the grasp of a tackler. 

A sure tackle, shoulder low into runner's midsection, arms grabbing
the legs.  This shot a little late because the runner is already down.
Shoulder low aimed at runner's midsection,
arms surrounding runner's legs.  Tackle secure.

Tackling is difficult. I've been browsing game photos looking for perfect tackles.  There aren't many.  Part of that is me.  I don't get every tackle so probably miss some good ones.  Part of it, though, is that tackling is difficult and there aren't a lot of perfect tackles.  I had noticed this before in my Outlaws photos and so I started studying NFL games for perfect tackles.  There aren't many.  Even at that level.  

Among my Outlaws photos I have two that I keep returning to, keep reposting because they are such excellent images of power football combined with technique.  One features Ski Tejeda and the other Soho Brooks.  Both outstanding athletes.  Both power football players.

Ski's power is apparent as the runner is driven up off her feet.  In this photo I love the expression on the guy
on the sideline to camera right.  If Ski ever retires, maybe she'll come back as a tackling coach.

Soho in an absolutely crushing tackle.  Power and technique stop the runner cold.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


One of my favorite photos because of the tenacity of the runner
combined with the swarming determination of five or six outlaws.
If you're playing defense, your goal is to put the ball carrier on the ground.  Simple enough. 

But not easy. 

The runner doesn't want to be on the ground.  She resists tacklers.  Most runners are small and quick but some are big and strong.  A big strong runner can be hard to tackle.  A smaller shifty runner can be hard to catch.

Tackling is sometimes elegant but more often messy.  If you've visited this blog before you know I like to find and post funny photos.  Messy is more fun than elegant.  In my next post I will feature some elegant tackles but today, just for fun, I'm going with funny.  Messy. 

As I do this, I want to be sure you understand that I totally admire messy.  The whole game of football is a battle of wills, of speed against speed, strength against strength.  It is rare that one player has the perfect set-up, a clean shot at a runner, an opportunity to make the elegant tackle.

Most of the time, the tackler is fighting off blockers.  Most of the time the tackler is trying to get a solid hold on a shifty runner.  Most tackles aren't elegant. 

I selected the tackles here because they aren't elegant but also because they get the job done.  In every photo, the ball carrier landed on the ground.  And that's what tackling is about.  Even though tackling sometimes looks more like wrestling.

Grab her, wrestle her to the ground.  Tackles don't have to
elegant.  Just have to get the runner down. 

This is Soho.  In a future posting I'll repost some shots of her elegant
tackles but I like this one.  Look at the strength in her right arm.  If she
grabs you you're going down.  And she is willing to
sacrifice her body, bringing a runner down on top of her.
Sometimes you meet the runner head on but just don't have the right position for a clean shoulder-in-middle tackle.  So you grab and hang on and drag the runner down with you.  Sometimes down on top of you.

Other times you may not get a good hold on the runner.  She's moving one way and your body is moving the other.  You're slightly off balance.  Blockers, even teammates get in the way.  So you grab what you can.  Like a leg.

I think the tackler is CPR Benitez.  I love her style of play, always aggressive
always around the ball.  Here she couldn't make the elegant tackle
so she grabbed a leg and hung on until help arrived.

Mary Nguyen weighs 100 pounds.  She is tackling a 200
pound runner who is also a gifted athlete.  Mis-match, right?
But Marry grabs a leg and hangs on until help arrives.
Photo by MaryLou Spence 

My favorites are the the tackles of total determination.  The runner almost escapes but the tackler isn't going to let that happen.  Can't grab the body for a wrestling take-down, can't grab a leg, so grab what you can.  Like a foot.

This is a Dallas player grabbing an Outlaw foot in the last game of 2011.  Not elegant. But it stopped the runner.

One of my favorite photos of one of my favorite Outlaws - This is Ski Tejeda refusing to let the runner
get away.  In my next posting on tackling I'll include Ski doing an elegant tackle.  That is another of
my favorite photos - but I like this one better. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Eyes of Texas

The black & white television cameras used to zoom in on Mike Singletary, a fierce linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and focus on his eyes.  He was intimidating.  Pro football players aren't easily intimidated but Singletary's stare had to give opposing quarterbacks something to think about. 

I wondered if any intimidation goes on in Outlaws games.  I browsed game photos and studied player eyes.  Yes,  intimidation is part of Outlaws football.   

This is the Mike Singletary stare done Outlaws style.  I wonder if
the quarterback (Wilke?) is intimidated by the linebacker who is
zeroed in on her.  And where is the defensive line?

  If I were Dallas' Newkirk I'd be intimidated.  Wouldn't you?

Number 75 is huge, Julie Wilke isn't.  If I were Julie I'd be
intimidated.  Time to run or pass.  Get out of there.
This is Bridgette Brown.  I've seen her tackle opposing
running backs.  She is strong and fierce on the field. 
And focused and intimidating just sitting on the bench.
I've met her.  She's really a quiet pleasant person. 

Kids in sports learn early on to "keep you eye on the ball," a principle generalized and quoted ad nauseum in business meetings to remind managers to keep focused on enterprise goals.  When I started this little study of players' eyes I was stuck by the focus.  In the following photos, the players are focused on the goal, which is sometimes the other player. 

Shadana with the ball.  Off the field she is fun loving, laughing, smiling.
Never serious.  I wanted a serious photo when I was shooting
her for the Outlaws website.  Couldn't get one.  She couldn't not smile.
But put the ball in her hand - brow furrows, eyes glare at
would-be tacklers.  Fake left, break right, pick up serious yards.

This could be filed with the intimidation photos but the quarterback
doesn't know she's in trouble so isn't intimidated.  But Soho is focused,
eye on the ball/quarterback/objective.  

The Dallas tackler doesn't have that intimidating glare -
but she is focused. 

Two players eye-to-eye, each focused on controlling the other.
Every play matches athletes in contests of strength and will.

My favorite photos,  found when I looked at eyes of the players,  are two that made me smile.  

The ball is coming - why is the receiver looking at me? 
Why isn't her eye on the ball?  I don't know.

Julie is one of my favorite and was the subject of a recent player profile in this blog.
I love her expression as she rolls out to her left looking for an escape route.