Small Town Sports

Connor on ShouldersMaybe it’s just me. Perhaps this happens in every town where there is a high school and high school sports teams.

Helicopter parents aside, high school sports can make the political arena in Washington look like pikers.

I have a character flaw. I take people at face value. For a very long time, I operated on WYSIWYG.

Okay I was naive. No matter where you are in this world, there is always someone willing to step over you to forward their agenda and to hell with yours.

There was a salient moment when my sons were eight and on a basketball team. I actually watched one of their teammates try and knee another child in the groin. THEY WERE EIGHT AND IT WAS A SATURDAY MORNING GAME! A GAME!
We continued to emphasize fun and sportsmanship but clearly other people had other ideas for their eight year olds. Winning was everything.
Flash forward to now. One of my sons is six foot four. He loves basketball despite the fact that Michael Jordan retired and it has been years since we recovering Chicagoans relished the glory of seven rings. Nonetheless, he (who would sleep twenty three hours a day if he could), sucked it up for his entire high school career when two-a-day practices were mandatory, as was summer basketball camp.
Even with all his efforts, my husband and I spent most of every season watching him support his teammates and warm the bench. There were others in the same position. Each season, the coach would have a parent meeting. To stave off any psychosis, he would announce that he would be happy to talk about anything EXCEPT playing time.
The coach also played his varsity squad on the junior varsity games. And my son sat and sat and sat, along with three of his teammates. Finally, one of the moms in the same situation sent the devil be damned and called a meeting. In that meeting, she talked about rewarding effort. What is wrong with letting your bench warmers have some play time if we are down by twenty points with three minutes left? Her son, God Bless, said, “I’ll give up my time if you play the other three.” We both cried when I heard that. Integrity trumps court time every time.
This is their senior year and final season. No difference. Except that we got to witness how much their classmates went wild when these four fine men were introduced on senior night. Add to that fact that my son had to offer me his arm and you have a golden moment.
But better than that, THESE FOUR GOT PLAY TIME! We were down by 20. The crowd went wild! But that is not the end, not by a yard.
After the game was over, my son was lifted by his brother and a good friend and carried off on their shoulders (no easy task).
Ah, the magic of life.Stretch for Blog

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Small Town Sports

DSC_0037Connor on ShouldersMaybe it’s just me. Perhaps this happens in every town where there is a high school and high school sports teams.

Helicopter parents aside, high school sports can make the political arena in Washington look like pikers.

I have a character flaw. I take people at face value. For a very long time, I operated on WYSIWYG.

Okay I was naive. No matter where you are in this world, there is always someone willing to step over you to forward their agenda and to hell with yours.

There was a salient moment when my sons were eight and on a basketball team. I actually watched one of their teammates try and knee another child in the groin. THEY WERE EIGHT AND IT WAS A SATURDAY MORNING GAME! A GAME!

We continued to emphasize fun and sportsmanship but clearly other people had other ideas for their eight year olds. Winning was everything.

Flash forward to now. One of my sons is six foot four. He loves basketball despite the fact that Michael Jordan retired and it has been years since we recovering Chicagoans relished the glory of seven rings. Nonetheless, he (who would sleep twenty three hours a day if he could), sucked it up for his entire high school career when two-a-day practices were mandatory, as was summer basketball camp.

Even with all his efforts, my husband and I spent most of every season watching him support his teammates and warm the bench.  There were others in the same position.  Each season, the coach would have a parent meeting.  To stave off any psychosis, he would announce that he would be happy to talk about anything EXCEPT playing time.

The coach also played his varsity squad on the junior varsity games.  And my son sat and sat and sat, along with three of his teammates.  Finally, one of the moms in the same situation sent the devil be damned and called a meeting.  In that meeting, she talked about rewarding effort.  What is wrong with letting your bench warmers have some play time if we are down by twenty points with three minutes left?  Her son, God Bless, said, “I’ll give up my time if you play the other three.”  We both cried when I heard that.  Integrity trumps court time every time.

This is their senior year and final season.  No difference.  Except that we got to witness how much their classmates went wild when these four fine men were introduced on senior night.  Add to that fact that my son had to offer me his arm and you have a golden moment.

But better than that, THESE FOUR GOT PLAY TIME!  We were down by 20.  The crowd went wild!  But that is not the best moment.  Not by a yard.

After the game was over, my son was lifted by his brother and a good friend and carried off on their shoulders (no easy task).

Ah, the magic of life.

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Getting the Picture

In a moment of reflection and a struggle to get organized (really?), I spent most of the day going through my dropbox and reorienting my photos.  2013 was fraught with tension, politics, injustice and stress.  It seems that bad guys were winning and the inmates were running the asylum.  Some of it was just life in a small town, but the rest was bad behavior that originated in greed.  It reached a point where I didn’t even want to look at the photos I had taken.

I can procrastinate with the best of them.  Detail work is at the top of the list of things to be put off.  An example would be going through photos on a computer and renaming them one by one when you always carry your camera, have three kids and two dogs who are always willing to ham it up for dear old mom.

So, left with no more excuses, I went to my “cloud” and started digging in.  There were no angels with harps on this cloud.  Click on open, rename and move on to the next photo.

And that’s where the magic occurred.

The glass is not half empty and filled with toxic waste.  It is full to overflowing.  Overflowing with captured moments of joy and we continue down this path called life.  Overflowing with the bubbly water of life, clear and vibrant.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” as Mr. Frost said.  A reluctant traveller though long I stood, we kept moving forward.  There were moments of insight and remembering that life’s deck of card can be shuffled endless ways and many times.

The glimpses were there and I finally found them.  The college reunion.  The graduation of my daughter with honors and acceptance to graduate school.  My husband and son walking down the street from that ceremony with my son now towering over the old man.  The Boy Scout Eagle court of honor giving homage to five great young men. Birthdays, barbecues, friends and relatives visiting  from all over the country.  Even the more mundane snaps held nothing but smiles and memories for the keeping.  It was an important insight for me and a reminder to continue to look on the bright side.  Everything else will sort itself out.

I get the picture now.

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Landing the Chopper

I have just returned from a whirlwind trip to visit colleges with one of my sons.   He wants to return to his birth state and always has.  It is not that he hasn’t found happiness and friends here; he was just imprinted with a reluctance to change.  It will be up to him to come to understand that change is inevitable.  How you deal with it is optional.  Like me, his childhood friends are the ones he holds most dear and a great many of them still keep in touch.

We toured two schools.  Both are well respected.  Both have accepted him so he is in a no lose situation.  It will be his decision and his alone as to which one will get the present of his presence.

Prior to the trip, I fell into my daily mom mode. It is a mode I have embraced in a knee jerk reaction to parenthood for twenty two years.  Did he have a good pair of pants?  Did he pack a couple of collared shirts? Do you have your ID?  I have the boarding passes.

“Mom, I’ve GOT it.”

Honest to God, I didn’t start out as a helicopter parent.  I am not a “tiger mom”, but I do have adequate teeth.  I hide them behind my smile.

Everyone who accosted me while I was pregnant told me, “Oh, you will love them instantly and feel something like you have never felt before.”

How do you love someone you have just met?  I was very smitten from the moment I met my husband but it wasn’t Hollywood love at first sight.  I was smitten with my daughter in many layered levels, including relief that pregnancy was over.  And, in this case, there were two of them!  Unknown strangers who had possessed my body for eight and a half months.  Further, I had been on bed rest for most of that time and looked like the “Queen Mary”; or at least the “Cotton Blossom”.  They had possessed my body and made me look like a side show attraction at a carnival. I did not glow during my pregnancy.  The rampaging tummy patters knew not to come too close.  My husband blocked the rest of those who were inured to my growls of warning.

Helicopter parenting is a skill that is bestowed, probably via a magic wand, and maybe some pixie dust, when we squirt the little puppies out.  For the first time in months, I could draw a deep breath. They were so feisty yet helpless. As with our daughter, we instinctively begin ministering to their every need.  This time, I had experience under my belt.  But stereophonic wailing can be so much more intimidating.  And there was still no shop manual. I checked, believe me.

So we jump off the cliff and attempt to be better parents than ours were.  Instead of a three channel television, 45s and LPs, we battled the Wii and the x-b0x, homework, and fast food.

Needs change. Often times very subtly.

But somewhere along the path, we became a more intense version of our parents.  Or most parents.  Every child became perfect, special and destined for greatness.

Thus, it became our duty to protect that magic spell we bestowed upon them by bringing them to the planet.

I’m snack mom, I have to bake and do it gluten free?  The cookies have to have smiley faces or I get points off my mom record?  (Whatever that is.)  I’m reading mom.  Is Tolstoy okay? Why not, they need to know this stuff to get into the Ivies.  Why is it too early? Can we make a musical out of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Nights Dream”?  We could stage it with a Barney theme.

Do you have your field trip permission slip?  What do you mean you forgot to tell me that your lunch account ran out two weeks ago and you are hungry?  What do you mean my child isn’t qualified for gifted art?  Where have you had a gallery showing?

But the little buggers keep growing and separating.  And, I for one, lost track that the goal was independence. I fell into hoverers anonymous.  Because you really want to minimize the misery and maximize the goals.  We have every reason to be incredibly proud of our children. They take the checklist away from me.  They won’t even hear me when I am working my invisible checklist.

They’ve got it.

“I’ve got it, Mom.”

Yes you do.  I’ll resew the buttons on.

Maybe I can work on that memoir.

Hugs.

I have landed the chopper.

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Don’t Drink the Kool Aid

It has been “the best of times and the worst of times”.

It has brought many important life lessons to our world. Honesty, integrity, and trusting in God, however you may perceive that source, have been the prevailing theme of the past several months. Keeping one’s hand on the tiller is the other half of the same lesson.

Justice comes in its own form and in its own time.

During this arduous period we questioned just about everything. This included “Why did we do this?”

Why? Because, it is what was meant to be. That’s why.

During this time, I ended up watching “Doc Hollywood” several times. Okay, pure escapism. Then I realized that I watched it several times before we moved from the big City to the Wild West. Sometimes I get the message immediately. Sometimes it takes a while. This was one of the latter.

For the fifteen of you who have not seen this sweet movie (definitely a “date” movie, gentlemen) Michael J. Fox plays a hotshot doctor specializing in plastic surgery. He is heading to Beverly Hills still operating under the delusion that he will be doing this in order to also help cleft palates. If there were a cleft palate in Beverly Hills, it would make the headline of the National Enquirer. If Elvis had been that child’s illegitimate father, it would make the evening news.

On the way to the dream job, Michael’s character, Ben Stone, takes an accidental detour and ends up having to execute community service in exchange for inadvertent property damage. This not only endangers his shiny future; ruining his hot car; but, also, leaves him in a very small town. The town is filled with many people who have been there since Jesus was a small child. What’s more, they have been in the queue to see a “real” doctor for almost as long. The old and beloved curmudgeonly Doc is nearing retirement.

We intentionally left the big city, Chicago. That was almost a decade ago. I have come to broaden my horizons and perspective about people. Oh, there are the usual suspects in the character spectrum in this town. They bring a unique individuality and flavor to the mix. And there is a great deal of value in the amusing diversity and tolerance for “quirks”.

But by and large, you take care of your own and they’ll take care of theirs. In a pinch I can put money in the bank that they will be there to help out if there is an emergency. Otherwise, it’s laissez faire.

Due to the greed and desires of two or three people, we have been dealing with the fallout. However, I found myself beginning to drink the Kool Aid. What happened was because of the narrow vision and immoral behavior.

But I began, after swallowing the fruit drink, to believe that it was all-pervasive. And that is simply not true.

Then, one Friday night, during the weekly block party on Main Street, I bumped into a series of friends and acquaintances, each of which expressed their dismay and anger at the turn of events. They offered prayers and support. Each one gave me the universal message I needed.

“Don’t give up on this town.”

I flashed to a similar scene in the movie and realized that to give into that stinking thinking is to let the black hatted varmints win. I saw the magic that this small town has when the good times and people far outweigh the bad.

We’re not giving up.

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Gifts from the Ashtray

In a recent blog, I mentioned the ashtray of our emotional garbage.  The residue that we allow to linger and grime up our lives.  If there were some kind of cosmic  “Spot Shot®’  that we could douse our lives and cleanse, then every version of a therapist in the world would be out of a vocation.

This was going to be yet another pedantic rant about how emotionally hard my childhood was.  White bread on the outside and turdburgers on the inside.  Woe is me, my parents didn’t understand me even though I was the precursor to something like a trophy kid.  The subject, quite frankly, is overused and boring.

And then, on the other side of the country, with the finish line in sight, there were two explosions, twelve seconds apart…

No more whining.

I usually keep these thoughts to myself.  But as much as I have inadvertently rubbed some of that emotional ash on my daughter, I can wipe it off.  I can do this because I still have arms.  I can stand and reach for her to help us smooth out the bumps in our love for one another — because I still have two legs.  I’m here.  And so is she.  And so are my husband and my sons.  And we can all get up, at any given time, and hug each other.  There are many people who are no longer intact.  They were merely giving themselves a life challenge that would reward them when they crossed the finish line.  With loved ones waiting with hugs and love.

A couple of weeks ago, at Easter Brunch, a dear friend of mine and I were basking in the camaraderie while her youngest was running around amped on sugar with her four year old cousin.  These little charmers were racing around the place and her daughter would periodically stop and hug mommy.

“Mommy is base!”

And she was reassured repeatedly that yes, indeed, Mommy was base.  And if you got to base, you were safe… And Mommy would always keep you safe at base.

To the extent that we can.  And I pray every day that we can to ANY extent.

There may have been a tube in Dad’s throat where the money and sanity was swallowed.  But that is WAS.  The past is immutable.  What IS, are my blessings.  Blessings that are richer and more important than anything else.  And an intact family is the biggest one of all.  What I left in the ashtray of my childhood, through magic and luck and kismet, I have created in the most important of times.  The gift, the “present”.  I’ll always be “base”.  Hopefully I will live up to that honor and gift.

No more whining.  And I will stand on my two intact legs and greet my children at the door and hug them with my two intact arms.

Blessings to all.  Glass cleaner is a good tool for cleaning ash and allowing a clearer view.

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The Magic Drive In

Our daughter just turned 21 a bit ago. Seems like yesterday, but so does the day she was born….

She wanted a party.

Okay.

Unlike my birthdays as a kid, we have always strived to make our kids’ birthdays noteworthy. Not spectacular, but noteworthy. It is an effort just to let them know that their birthdays made a spectacular and tsunami like change in our lives and we are glad of it and most grateful for it.

Some of that included buying into the “birthday factory” phenomena.  It ranges from two gals gathering old bridesmaid dresses and accesorizing, culminating in a fashion show and tea party, to parents on steroids renting Disneyland.  (Not us!)  Clearly there are many perspectives in what a birthday party should be.  Universally, I have found that dads  favor Chucky Cheese.  They serve beer…which applied orally seems to take the edge of handling (or “helping” to handle) double digit attendees of the under ten demographic with a droid bear singing Paul McCartney to a room full of over sugared and hyper stimulated party mates.

Maybe it is a sign that only a few of the party factories are still around…

One question is etched on my brain from that era. “Mommy, is it true that Paul McCartney was in a band before “Wings”?

Sigh.

But with this milestone, my daughter wanted to organize everything herself.  Guest list, menu, everything.

But our baby was becoming legal.  She, of course, wanted to be able to serve beer.

NOT!

In this we were adamant as there would be some under aged kids present and driving home was involved.  No way, Jose.  Furthermore we were going to present at all times.  Okay we would seek refuge in the basement but we would be there.  These conditions were grudgingly accepted.

She did an amazing event plan.  One of her dearest friends came up from Omaha and the rest of the guests were friends she had made when we moved here.  Good kids, intelligent kids.  Kids who would live with our policies and even let younger twin brothers join in the frivolities.  Sparkling Apple Cider was the beverage of choice.

I must admit I had trepidation when she carried the flat screen HD tv out to the front deck.  But the skies were crystal clear and the hot tub was prepped for a tribe of twenty somethings in training.  She created her own drive in.  In a year when Drive in Theaters were so far in the past that I sounded like a geezer talking about them.  And I only went a couple of times.  The last time was to watch the original “Muppet Movie” at the Lake Cook Drive In on the corner of Rand and Lake-Cook Road  (opposite a strip club…).  Surprisingly, it’s now a series of malls….  Go Figure.

To add to the magic of this moment so many years (and just yesterday) since I first held her,  there was a meteor shower.  She can plan a hell of a great party, with great kids, but I’ll take the streaking comets as a gift from God.

As she was.  And is. And I witnessed a bunch of really cool neo adults having a good time just being the beautiful people they are and being free and goofy and in the moment.  It was a great privilege to witness, even from behind the lens.

Despite the fact, that I have let her down, hopefully she knows I was always acting from a place of love and light.  Sometimes, I dropped the ball. Is that part of the lessons I’m supposed to download onto our karma?  I sure didn’t think so when she was brand new.  And I couldn’t control that her beloved Nonnie left her with no third adult to rely on and twin brothers who sucked every last bit of time from her needs to their six month old needs whilst I was busy burying parents, neighbors, business mentors and several others who decided now was a good time to their maker. Throw in running two houses and getting my parents’ on the market while settling estates.

But really, I’m fine.  I can handle it. REALLY!

But right now, we are having a tough go of it.  Seventeen years later, she doesn’t want me to come to her collegiate commencement.  Either we all go or no one goes. This is a painful time.  Her jettison into adulthood and her beauty continues.  But not without drama.  Separation, on whatever necessary level always is.

But I will secretly smile and hope that some of my love is felt by her.

Posted in Finding Normal, From Where I Live, Uncategorized