Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Again with the sad face, America?

Like all of us, I mourn with the folks of Boston, the participants and spectators, family and loved ones of anyone remotely connected to the Marathon yesterday. Friends, I'm so tired. Aren't you tired? I feel like here we are again with another sad face as a country. Again and again the loss of life is senseless. We don't even know who is behind this attack yet, and it doesn't even matter to me. It's heartbreaking...

Will we get to the point where we are living in constant fear of our normal routines? Will we become so adjusted to tragedy that it becomes a way of life. If I ever stop shedding tears for those suffering tragedy I will know I've adjusted. I hope I never adjust. Last night, many hours after learning the news of the Boston Marathon bombings I finally sat down to focus on the news coverage. Courtesy of the news networks I received a front row view of exactly what happened. My 13 year old had already done her own research and was blown away that something so awful could happen to people just trying to do something they love. Simply heartbreaking. I shed my tears. My heart aches for those affected by this. Another sad face for America. I am so tired of frowning.

Then I went to Facebook. Lots of folks lifting up prayers to those affected. Following every cry of injustice, those posts go round and round. I wish people were praying when things were good. If we as a people consistently sought God we would know that prayer changes things; that lives are changed, protected, shielded by the Great One, just because of our prayers. But, for the most part, we don't. We get wrapped up in our own lives and we forget to put God first. Until tragedy strikes. What would happen if we reversed the pattern? What if we consistently prayed and sought God and when tragedy got ready to hit we were so prayed up, so juiced up on God we saw the miraculous pieced together? We would see God move mountains.

The one thing I took away from social media's coverage last night was the repeated quote by Mr. Rogers. Man, who didn't love Mr. Rogers when they were young? I mean, the man took the time to change his shoes, while giving us good advice, and singing us a song. A gentleman. His quote said his mom taught him to look for the helpers in any tragedy. Focus on that. Man, that's good stuff. The good in folks springs right into action when the situation calls for it. Always. Every story has a hero. Many heros. I pray for that. I pray that should tragedy find us unexpectedly the good in people will take over the fear. Thank God for that yesterday.

I don't want to live imprisoned by fear. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking fear is their neighbor, their friend or their constant companion. Yet over and over again America is saddened by the loss of life because of an individual or a group. We want to get to the source so we can answer the "why." But when it's answered, what do we do about it? Do we change laws? Do we revamp our entire mental health system? Often we don't. As a country we are broken. Our government can't agree on much of anything, our financial state is a mess. There is so much division an disunity it's sickening. We attack each other for sport leaving lots of open holes for the enemy to creep in and rip the hole into a deep, infected gash. Then the next tragedy hits and we are left saddened again. It's time to stop frowning, America. It's time to take action in the good times. It's time to be proactive instead of reactive. When nothing's happening something should be happening. We shouldn't be making plans to deal with the next tragedy or massive episode of fear. Waiting for it to happen. We don't think our individual selves can make a difference, but we can. Each one of us has the power to change our hearts, to be more loving, to seek God more, to not be hostile or confrontational. It's heavy on my heart this morning, I'm sure yours too. America is sad again. I'm so tired of being sad.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Call Me 'Coach?!?'

The thing about metaphors, common sayings and phrases is not only the visual picture they give you that helps you understand what the speaker is saying, but the resonant truth to the saying is what really gets you. So when I say I "bit the bullet" I mean I can taste the cold steel in my mouth. Figuratively, of course. But it sure feels real. I can taste the bullet I have bitten and let me tell you, it tastes bad. Or uncomfortable, is probably a better way to describe the emotional roller coaster I have set myself upon.

I would say I've done a great job stalling on stepping up to the plate to actually coach one of my kids in their beloved sports. In my defense, from my comfortable perspective I have hardly viewed it as a stall tactic. Well, it's time to admit to you. That which was a reluctant option has now become a decided on choice. I've been flung over to the other side. Like "whole body, pitched into icy water" flung over. Not sounding so much like "decided on" huh? You know how it is. This back and forth in your mind between what you don't want to do, what you feel like doing and what you know you should do. Now that I'm doggy paddling out here in this little old lake that I've been thrown in, I see this whole coaching thing completely different. The Hub tells me it really isn't even a lake. More like a kiddy pool. Yet here I am, arms flailing, feet splashing and gulping for air. In a kiddy pool. You don't have to tell me to get a grip. The Hub, and my sweet children have already had their chuckles at my expense, and have encouraged me to embrace my new endeavor. I'm a big girl; I can admit it: I was definitely stalling on this one.

With four kids, you would think it was inevitable. You would think at some point one of those kids would need a coach and I would stop ignoring the pleading emails and donate my time and energy. You would think. But I would venture to say there ARE some parents out there who have multiple children and have not EVER crossed the game field lines into dark and scary world of coaching. But rather, they are the same ones sitting comfortably with me on Saturday mornings. Sweatshirts keeping us toasty since the morning sun hasn't burned off the chill in the air quite yet. Doing that little "I'm chilly" shake, while pleased as punch to be out watching our kids. Sitting in our little game chairs that are specially made to keep our rumps comfy as we sit. Really hot cup of coffee, sweetened just right, in that beautiful travel mug made for just these occasions. The cup might as well say "I'm spectating like it's my job."

And then it's game time. You should know I can cheer, yell, jump, shake my head and cover my eyes with the best of them. In fact, over the past 12 years I have perfected my pitch, tone, appropriate responses, and most especially my game faces. It's all about the faces. Well, now that has become my previous life. Somewhere round about the 3rd email strongly pleading for someone, anyone, to step up and coach boys U7 soccer, I caved. Okay, at the 2nd email I thought about it strongly and was fully prepared to defend myself with that should I ever be questioned about why I was not coaching. I mean, at least I thought about it. Yet, here came that pretty little 3rd email. And what was a mama to do?

Sure, I played soccer when I was a kid. But I was the one who quit eventually. Moved on to something else, and now that was so long ago I can barely remember it. Obviously relying on previous personal skills is not my selling point as a coach. Shockingly my husband and kids didn't mind pointing that out to me. They just want to keep me humble, that's all. Here I find myself in this little situation, and my boy needed me. I've got Soccer Chick playing travel soccer this season, Bball Girl is playing basketball like she gets paid for it and then there's youngest. Couldn't have my little ball of sunshine coachless, no could I? So up I stepped, and what do you know, I got me a team. Say what?!?

The great thing about leadership really boils down to who you place around you. Smart leaders place strategically. A really great leader places people around her who not only helps her, but knows more than her. In this case, I'm feeling pretty smart. Smug even. My assistant coaches are none other than Soccer Chick and Bball Girl. What fool wouldn't put these two athletes to work? Shoot, whatchu talkin' bout? I might not be the best person for the job but I have two energetic, athletic, young, sports-minded girls to run this show. Did I mention "young?" All I've got to do is show up with a plan and put these girls to work. The boys will love them!

So I've got my plan in place and now I just have to implement the plan. As any leader knows, a plan is just that...a plan. It does nothing if you don't do something with it. Which means, I'll be out there on the field, running with these boys, trying to teach them what I'm not an expert at myself. I mean, it's ten (yes, 10!) under 7 boys. How hard could it be? Google helps with this, right? Give them a ball and some cones and two goals and we've got a game. This thrust-from-sports-chair mom-coach thinks this should be easy...right? Trust me, no one is laughing more, and finding the humor in all this, than I am. Here's to the chalk lines that shall be drawn on the playing field! Wait...how does that happen, anyway?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Consequences of Adventure

Being rather brave folks, The Hub and I decided to take the teens of our church ice-skating last night. As an avid-roller-skater (by avid I mean solely in my head and not by my feet in oh, say 20 years pretty much) I figured ice-skating would be similar. I have seen those professionals on TV and I know it can't be too particularly easy, but...how hard could it really be? I can do it...

Off we go to the lovely ice-skating rink in Reston. Thankfully not too many souls out there on a Friday night. As we hit the ice, all of us grabbed ahold of the wall, immediately our best friend in this venture. But oh, Youngest, he entered that rink, and I kid you not, did not touch the wall. He just glided on out on the ice and took off. As he lapped us for about the 6th or 7th time we decided to pick our jaws up off the floor. This is the same kid who told us to remove his training wheels when he was only 4 years of age, because he had "seen" someone else ride without them and he could do it too. A testament to the power of believing in what you can do? We reluctantly removed those training wheels, more as a "we're the parents and we know better and this is an opportunity to teach you a lesson" type occasion. We were wrong. He coasted on his bike, a little wobbling here and there but he never fell. Amazing. We shouldn't have been surprised to see him gliding on ice skates making it look way too easy. This time he didn't even wobble. So unfair. Seems so unnatural. But I guess that's just it, for him it's all natural. Safe to say, he had a great time.

The majority of the rest of us made fast friends with that wall and didn't want to let go. Ever. It took me a bit, and I was shaky at first. I'm happy to say I made it all the way until the end of the night before taking my first spill, and that was a result of someone knocking me off my game. Once I got my balance figured out, I could go pretty well too. Not to get too confident in myself, I had BBall Girl also looping me as a reminder. She had no troubles at all, either. Both her and Youngest were showing off to tell you plainly. I started to trip them one time just to bring them down to my level. But you know, the mature adult in me said no, let's not be petty now...

Our teens, including Soccer Chick, remained on the wall for the most part. I got Soccer Chick to finally, after about an hour, let go of the wall and come around with me. I had gotten the hang of it, but like so many other things in life, just because you got it, doesn't mean you can help someone else get it. She would have been the opposite of Youngest. Where he had no doubt whatsoever that he could do this, she believed firmly that she couldn't. That inhibited her success more than her actions ever could have. Poor girl. Like I said, I finally got her to let go of her BFF wall, and off we went. We were doing pretty good until one unfortunate tumble where she lost her balance, fell towards me and I wasn't able to be the rock she needed me to be. Hey, I'm no wall. We both fell and I whacked my butt, followed by a sound thud of the back of my head on the ice. Ouch...

At first I couldn't even get up, and immediately had a massive headache. Pretty sure this is as close as I will come to having that NFL concussion experience. After two or three failed attempts at even getting up I somehow made it over to my new BFF wall. There was my night in shining armor, The Hub to greet me. Did I tell you he's smarter than me? He retired his skates about half an hour before I did. He knew he had done enough show-boating and schmoozing with skilled teens on the rink, and before anything stupid happens, go ahead and turn those skates in. He's smarter than me, for sure. He had face planted, butt planted and wall smacked enough times to know he was done trying to be Mr. Big Shot. But there he was coming to my rescue, and man was he the best sight for me to see. Poor Soccer Chick, hurt her fingers trying to catch my head, which instead got pinned under. What a mess. I'm thankful there are no YouTube watchable moments for this, because I am quite sure it was ugly. Uglier than ugly. It felt ugly, so I know the look of it would have brought me embarrassment for days.

And where was the skate monitor anyway? All night they were skating up to folks who fell to help them get up and make sure they were okay. I tell you I laid on that ice unable to get up, feeling dizzy and dazed and thought now where in the world has that girl gone too. She was inside the skate booth chatting with her co-workers. That also is like life, we can't take a break from doing the things we are supposed to be doing, because you just never know  when some poor sap is laying on the ice needing help. Man down! Well, like I said I got myself over to the wall, definitely with the help of Youngest and BBall Girl who, with their ever-compassionate selves were very worried about their mama. The Hub made me feel better, rubbed my now aching knot on the back of my head, and declared it was time to go...for me at least. No more skating for this old gal. I thought about getting back in there a few minutes after resting, but The Hub gave me a stern look that said don't be stupid. Sit your butt back down. That's what that look said, and I read it loud and clear.

All in all, it was fun. I'm glad we tried it. Other than youngest and Bball Girl, I'm not sure we'd be excited to try it again. Now, take me to a roller skating rink and I think I'd be alright. I can confidently say I used to be a dynamic skater. Like an every-Saturday-afternoon skater. An every-Christmas-new-skates skater. You folks from Charlottesville  know that Roses at Barracks Road had those shiny whites with beautiful red wheels on display every single Christmas. And I couldn't wait to get my newest pair and head on down to the rink. Eventually they closed the rink down and messed up my life and for sure my career in roller-skating.  I could be dreaming, probably am, but I think I still got what it takes for the roller skating bid. Ice-skating I'm not sure to mess with anytime soon. After all, I have woken up this morning feeling dazed and confused, and like I should call my coach and tell him I'm out for the next two or three regular season games. My head is aching and to add to my misery, my whole body hurts. Ice-skating is a great workout by itself. After running 45 minutes on the treadmill earlier in the day, it's pretty much guaranteed the next day will be painful.

I'm going to take it easy today. Moving slowly and recuperating by vegging out, other than BBall Girl's upcoming game (where they will be working to advance to an 11-0 season, by the way!). If you're heading out to do something new and adventurous anytime soon, beware of the ice. It's unforgiving as my butt and my head can tell you twelve plus hours later. How are the rest of the folks this morning, you wonder? Youngest is just peachy, I can faintly hear him making all his imagination sounds as he turns his room into yet another adventure. BBall Girl is washing clothes at the moment (don't get me to raving, she's a girl after her mother's own heart) and Soccer Chick, much to my envy, is still sound asleep. The Hub is working on his sermon, and relatively pain-free, because again, he is smarter than me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On Turning 38...

As I celebrate my birthday today, I thought I'd share some random thoughts that express some truths I've learned in my 38 short years. Enjoy
  • Telling my age really doesn't matter. Telling my weight is a whole different story
  • As young as I feel I am, it is possible for  me to have a grown child and a young child at the same time. Sometimes the way I have to deal with them is exactly the same
  • The older I get, the more appreciation I earn
  • There is at least one daily opportunity to share wisdom with others. I try not to miss a day
  • Everyday must include laughter. This way the days that include tears are not quite as hard to bear
  • Give good advice. You're wiser than you know and more people are listening than you think
  • I started running February of this year. I do not enjoy running. I do enjoy races
  • This year I've completed three 5k races so far. The fact that I have not died is amazing
  • It would not be possible to replace The Hub with a more amazing, unique, entertaining soul
  • Prayer works
  • I am the coolest parent I know
  • I have the coolest children I know
  • There is plenty of room to live in fear daily. The unexpected and tragic happens all around us. Not living bound by fear is a choice
  • There are actual women who love football. I, and my two daughters, are three of them
  • I strongly dislike being forced to relearn elementary school math
  • I am seriously blessed. I have an amazing family, a good job, a great life, strong faith and a million and two reasons to be joyful. All year long.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

No Shame In This Game...

Ask anyone who knows me well, what is this ole' girl's favorite holiday? Easy: Christmas! For a lot of people the answer would be the same; the smells of winter, a fresh cut Christmas tree, the colors, the joy in the air, the warmth of giving and being surrounded by loved ones. Maybe it's because I'm a December baby. I fear it's a little more deep rooted than that.

For as far back into my childhood as I can reach, I can remember being super excited about Christmas. My mother will confirm that I was notorious for scouting out the presents. In the several child hood homes that I can remember, I can still picture rooms and closets where presents were hid. Not to be outsmarted, those presents were carefully unwrapped just enough to see what's inside, and re-wrapped as if this slickster was never there. Like any good crime-committing child, my skills developed over time. There is something about patience and waiting that alluded me...still does today, I'm afraid.

Many a Christmas later, I'm better. I don't scout out the presents for a little game of peeking. I've evolved. Although, confession: it took many adult years to get here. Don't you worry, it's not just the getting that I got hung up on. Wouldn't want you to perceive me as shallow; it's absolutely the giving. Something about wrapping presents, one by one brings the same joy as grocery shopping and doing laundry. Yes, these are real sources of contentment. Strange, I already know. Christmas is my true favorite holiday because I love, love shopping for people, wrapping the gifts and watching the satisfaction of hitting the nail on the head with a well-planned gift. The look of pure glee when I come in with bags, haul out the wrapping paper, tape and scissors and go to work! The Hub finds it amusing. The kids think I'm strange. I can barely tell because my vision is blurred from my cheeks rising so high on my glee-filled face.

Recently, The Hub reminded me that he got a gift at a work party last year, opened it ahead of Christmas (the horror!) and it landed somewhere in the heavily decorated living room. Not a few days later, I scooped that bad boy up and re-wrapped it; put the precious cargo under the tree and called it a day. On Christmas morning, when The Hub got to this gift with his name on it he happily unwrapped it. I thought the man would die laughing as he found his recently received present re-wrapped for him to open and receive again. Hey, who doesn't like to open gifts...twice? I figured it will be one more thing the very-hard-to-shop-for-man would have on Christmas morning. Don't be alarmed. Also, you've been warned. Don't leave your gifts lying around me before Christmas comes. They will disappear and reappear.

All of my over-the-top Christmas behaviors just remind me that I am still very much in love with this holiday. Other childhood favorites like Valentine's Day and Halloween have left my life, practically never to be seen again, I mean, c'mon. Valentine's Day is all pink, and hearts and chocolate that I sure don't need, and a one-gift slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am. And don't get me and my thighs even started on discussing Halloween. But, ah Christmas. Christmas has remained etched into the silly grin plastered on my face almost constantly through this month. I'm leaving my kids quite the legacy to live up to. You know how excited kids get for Christmas. They are energeized children and yet I believe that I have them beat.

I'm working on being more mature about this. The tree & home decorating experience has become more of a group project than it was in our early years of marriage. We maintain a great tradition of going to pick out a tree together as a family. But, clearly, the decorating has to be done under my watchful eye. The lights are mine to wrap around our newly welcomed pine-friend. I concede just a little by letting them hang the ornaments. I have reluctantly given up the job of being the present distributor Christmas morning. This was a hard one for me, but after years of begging I gave in and passed the torch on this one. "Fine, children, take my job, why don'tcha?" I told them, with all the love in my voice I could muster up. I won't be able to tell you that it's easy for me to sit idly by and watch them do it all wrong. But the mature adult in me has learned to manage the inner turmoil I feel over watching more than one present handed out at a time, paper ripped haphazardly and an unorganized, unstructured view of who got what. Oh, good grief. One can't even tell who the gift was from. Just wrong, I tell ya. Just writing about it is causing my heart rate trouble.

Lest you think I'm a neurotic fool, let me assure you this is the only area of my life where the got-to-have-control button is broken and can't be turned off. Right, mom? Don't answer that... Hey, some lifelong habits need to be resolved. Some are detrimental to one's well-being. Some are just odd that earn a person strange looks and unflattering name tags. In my defense, I don't believe that is applicable to me at this time, in reference to this situation. This is just good-natured and full of pure joy. You can either join with me in the spirit of things and try to understand where I am coming from, or join my family who each have decided that mom is strange, and this is one more example of it. Each of us should have at least one thing in our lives that is unreasonably youthful and fun. Merry your Christmas, friends!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lasting Compassion...

"There are people in our life who are hurting...and we don't even know it." Profound quote, taken from the man on Christian radio this morning as he spoke about the unfathomable murder/suicide involving the KC Chiefs NFL player and his girlfriend. It's worth repeating since in the days following this awful travesty, people are left wondering how they didn't know about what this guy was going through. It's terribly sad to read, watch and hear about as it's played out in the news. It's devastating when it hits close to our own homes.

Yesterday my pastor preached a phenomenal message about giving. Many churches across the country will spend the month of Christmas focused on the joys found in being giving people. Statistics show the increase in the giving spirit that comes at this time of year, more than any other time. The thing is, we lose that giving spirit as we round the bend into the new year. We lose the heaviness and sadness we feel at the loss Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. Feelings fade.

Emotions that we feel strongly at this moment, won't be as prevalent in three weeks. Time has that awful way of doing that to us. As I took in the sermon yesterday, I couldn't write my notes fast enough. I'm captivating by giving. Both The Hub and I have a lifelong passion to be givers, whether it's money (doesn't mean you get to call me for some), opening our home, volunteering for service, kindness, resources, etc. Our list can't be long enough. After all, you know what they say..."you can't outgive God." Maybe not, but we'd like to die trying.

Pastor found this amazing website that feeds right into our fancy: www.ilikegiving.com. This fantastic idea sprung from one man's vision to not only be a giver, but be a platform to promote more selfless giving. Giving brings joy. Joy brings peace. Peace brings the ability to triumph over extremely difficult situations. Triumph means we make it through the rough patches unscathed. Jovan Belcher didn't have joy, peace, or triumph. My hope is that anytime we learn of such a tragedy as this one, it's a lasting reminder of how precious people are; a lasting reminder of how we truly don't know what people are going through. Since we can't possibly know our co-workers, neighbors and even friends, struggles completely we should work to operate with compassion constantly. Make it your rule of thumb, not an exception to your normal rule.

On a lighter note, I'll close my blog post today with a recap of a fantastic youth basketball game. Not that I'm biased or anything, but 5th grade basketball is as good to watch as any old WNBA game. In fact, watching my girl out there do her thing yesterday afternoon had me casting visions of seeing her in that WNBA game. She's fierce, I tell ya. Naturally athletic, and ridiculously competitive, she had her opponent ticked off. Season opener was closed with a win, 31-18 and a strong 17 points by my Bball Girl. Her defense is intense and I'm not joking when I tell you the girl she was covering was frustrated. Complaining to the ref didn't help her. Throwing a wild elbow and a push or two didn't help her. Bball Girl stayed in the zone, dominating the play and beautifully managing to not let the girl get in her head. It was fun to watch and possibly even more fun to chuckle at The Hub as he lightheartedly debated with an opponent's parents, conveniently seated next to us. I'm going to have to find a far away seat to put him in for these games.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Month Of Thanks

Found something interesting going on all over Facebook this month. Friends, family, folks I only half-way know, are using the month of November to do a post-a-day on why they are thankful. What a bright idea! I love the thought of telling your Facebook world one thing (at least) that you are thankful for each day. It's honest, thought-provoking and generates the overall theme of thanks that we all feel every November.

Personally, I love November. I'm learning as a native Virginian that I enjoy the cold weather less and less. I'm reminded as soon as the cold, bitter air hits my face that I don't enjoy that part of this time of year. Annually, I give my don't-like-the-cold chuckle to whoever will entertain me. "Why do I choose to live here, again?" Maybe it's getting harder, the older I am getting. I'm not up for exploring that one any further.

Besides my objection to the cold weather, the entrance of fall brings Thanksgiving, and my personal favorite-Christmas. I am, for sure, a holiday person. I love the opportunity to really enjoy my family, outside of the constant hustle and bustle that makes up our busy lives, year round. It's cliche, but I really do take the days off and the family time, at this time of year, personally.

This Thanksgiving, we will be home again, cooking up a feast for way more people that are actually going to ring my bell. I'm looking forward to days off from work, spending time with the kids and The Hub, seeing some extended family members that I don't see near enough of, and more. Black Friday shopping, anyone? This Thanksgiving an additional super-exciting treat of a Turkey Trot is included. I'm bursting with excitement at the thought of my sister and I running this 5k together.

November is going to be tremendous. It already has been, and it's barely mid-month. Being the person of faith that I am, I constantly find myself looking for ways to encourage others. I usually use my Facebook status updates as an opportunity to share wisdom. Sometimes it's my own good stuff, often it's something my Pastor has shared in his preaching. Finding these days of thanksgiving posts on my Facebook news feed got me thinking about how we as a society take one collective deep breath around Thanksgiving. We're nicer people, we are statistically more giving, and we look for more ways to be positive towards others. It's that generous spirit that comes upon us like a warm and fluffy coat. You know the one. That special coat that feels like a big, soft hug. We seem to violently shake our arms right out of that coat somewhere around January.

I wonder what happens that makes us want to take that jacket off. Getting too warm under there, perhaps? All of a sudden, the extended niceness feels stuffy. Maybe like everything else, it's hard for things to stay the same. Maybe we can't learn how to be thankful all year round. But...just maybe we can. Wouldn't  you say it's a conscious choice? If we choose to take that coat-of-thanks off somewhere around January, it's a choice, no? We start to see the let down after Christmas has passed. We no longer feel generous and kind. We feel broke, spent and in debt. We see the New Year resolutions falter. It's still cold outside. And we are back into the daily grind of things. Somehow the things to complain about outweigh the things we have to be thankful for. Or so we think. This year, I would love to see the month-of-thanks posts in February...or April; some random month like that. Let's be random this year. Let's stretch November clear into June. Challenge yourself to be different. Be the change you want to see. After all, just like a good ole' cold, goodness is seriously contagious.