An Unexpected Reward

One of the hardest things about parenting for me, has always been the fact that I would have to allow my children to experience the pain of rejection at some point. Just by going to school, playing a sport, trying out for a theater production or any number of other activities, I knew I would be allowing the possibility that at some point, they were going to feel unwanted.

I’ve always hoped that my children would have to experience a minimum amount of rejection. But deep down I always knew that in order for them to really understand the joy of being accepted or successful, they would also have to learn what it is like to be “not good enough.”

Over the years, each of my kids has had success in various ways. They all played sports – for many years – on teams where no one got cut from the team and everyone got a chance to play. They each found a sport or two at which they excelled and for which they could be proud of their efforts. At any given time, one or the other of them proved to be an excellent student, a popular friend, a talented baseball or soccer or volleyball player. They got invited to parties and enjoyed having many friends. On the other hand, there were plenty of times when one of them was singled out by the class bully, excluded from a circle of peers, struggled academically or sat on the bench watching the rest of the team play. As a parent, it hurt so much to see them hurting. So many times, the advice I wanted to give them was to walk away from a difficult challenge, or to fight fire with fire. It took all the strength I had at times to simply tell them, “You’ll get through this. It may seem like the end of the world right now, but someday you’ll look back on this experience and realize it made you a stronger person.” There were times I wasn’t sure that I believed my own advice,  but I gave it anyway.

Some of the most difficult failures my kids experienced came in their high school years when “equal playing time” was no longer the rule. It was then that they were thrust into a world where the strongest, smartest, most diligent and talented people were rewarded. They learned that when they fell short, they had a choice to make – work harder until you achieve your goal, or choose a different path.

Last spring, in particular, proved to be a difficult time for Kacey. She tried out for the school softball team and had high hopes for being a varsity player. Even worse than being cut from the team, in her mind, was the fact that she was labeled a varsity player, but actually had to “play down” because she was a catcher, and the varsity team was full-up on catchers while the B squad was in dire need of one. She thought it was embarrassing to play with a team of mostly younger girls and was certain she’d gotten the short end of the stick. When she came home from try-outs, she cried and lamented her fate, and nothing I could say would convince her that as soon as she started playing, no matter for which team, she’d remember she just loved to play and she’d be happy. She wasn’t going to relent those first few days, but soon enough she accepted her fate and ended up flourishing on a team where she was viewed as a leader by her coaches and team mates alike. She ended that season as happy as I’d ever seen her. That wasn’t such a bad “failure” after all. She learned that things can often be much better than they seem, IF you have the right attitude.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the time earlier this fall when Kacey was cut completely from the varsity volleyball team. I am not the kind of parent who has delusions about my kid’s talents and I fully believed she deserved a spot on that team. In her previous season, the varsity coach had all but promised her a varsity spot in her senior year. But then came a change in the coaching staff and for whatever reasons, it was decided Kacey’s talents weren’t needed on the team. That was a tough pill to swallow. She was devastated, and rightfully so. But she was a trooper, and her positive attitude prevailed. She found other activities in which to participate. She had great fun managing the varsity football team this fall. (And what 17 year-old girl wouldn’t want the opportunity to hang around a team full of cute boys every day after school and every Friday night? And we only gloated a little bit as with each passing day, the volleyball team’s record stacked up more losses than wins!)

So as much as I sometimes wanted to shield my kids from disappointment and failure, I know that it taught all of us to appreciate their successes so much more. But as much as I always wanted them to learn from the highs and lows of life, the desire to protect and shield them will always be stronger. Maybe that is why even though we all moved on from those failures, thinking back on them, I still at times feel a sting of resentment. And maybe that is why getting the following pix message on my cell phone today made me practically burst with pride for my “little girl.”

 

"Hey Mom! Guess what!"

So there was a mandatory parent/athlete meeting last night at school for anyone planning to participate in winter and spring sports. After the main meeting, there were smaller group meetings for each of the sports. Apparently a vote for team captains was held at the softball meeting. Kacey told me about it this morning before she left for school, and all she said was, “I hope Amanda doesn’t make captain. She’ll be impossible to live with. I hope it’s Katie, or Heather or Andrea.”

I don’t think she had ANY idea that she would be voted in as one of the captains! She was humbled and thrilled all at the same time. The other two captains are two of her very best friends. And the really great thing is, they are all truly nice girls who will take seriously the job of leading the team.

I don’t know why any of us were surprised. Kacey has been playing softball year round and the varsity coaches have been keeping an eye on her and the other girls. She and another girl were asked by the head coach to start finding designs for the team spirit-wear this year. Kacey created her own design and that’s the one the coach chose. He’s come to know her as a dedicated, hard-working and fun-loving player. She’ll be a great captain.

I’m kind of proud. Can you tell?

A wonderful Thanksgiving

It’s all quiet in the house again. For the past few days, it was full of the kind of enjoyable chaos that comes when it is filled with family.

It was my turn to host the family Thanksgiving again and it made for a busy week. Brad arrived home Wednesday afternoon with girlfriend, Heather and dog, Dakota. It was snowing that day… the kind of snow that had everyone talking about how much we might get and how difficult travel might be. In the end, there was just enough snow to make the Wednesday rush hour slightly interesting, but not enough to do any real damage.

I had a chiropractor appointment Wednesday afternoon and when I came home, Brad asked what was for dinner. I had no idea, but the thought of cooking was much more appealing than normal because there were kids willing to stay home and eat it. So I whipped together some meatballs and a side dish of rice. We heated up a frozen vegetable and Kacey, Brad, Heather and I sat down to eat together at the table.

Later on, Heather and I worked in the kitchen, she making up a big batch of turkey gravy and me working on the stuffing for Thanksgiving day. I did some cleaning in the lower level and decided to leave the upstairs for the next morning. I was tired and fell asleep immediately.

Thursday morning was hectic. Mark and I worked together to get a 27 pound turkey ready for cooking. There was more cleaning and food preparation and jockeying for the shower as we all tried to get ready for a house full of company. By the time company started arriving, we may have forgotten to dust the t.v. stand downstairs, but I don’t think anyone really noticed.

My brothers and sister all came with their families and soon the house was bustling with rambunctious kids and everyone seemed to be in my little kitchen. No matter, we worked around each other and soon we had the feast ready to share. We had the usual – turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, home-grown squash, dinner rolls, the family recipe stuffing that no one can get enough of, and mom’s traditional German sweet and sour cabbage (to which the in-law members of the family always say “yuck.” But it is tradition and my siblings and I love it!) It was a wonderful and delicious dinner. The only thing missing was our mom and dad, but they were in our hearts and we thought of them especially as we said grace.

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After everyone had gone home for the night, I called my parents in Arizona. They had been invited to the home of some friends for Thanksgiving dinner, and they said it was nice, but not quite the same as being at home with family. I was glad though that they had someone watching out for them and who cared enough to invite Mom and Dad to share the day with them.

Everyone had a food-hangover on Friday, and it was a low-key kind of day. I was up early for an appointment and came home to the smell of fresh-baked Butter Braids coffee cakes! Mmmmm!

Heather had mentioned possibly doing a little Black Friday shopping, and although I’m not one who typically leaves the house the day after Thanksgiving, we agreed to a quick run to Target, which is just a couple of blocks away. It was busy there, but not too crazy. I didn’t do any Christmas shopping, but I took advantage of a sale on DVD players and got one for twenty dollars for the upstairs television. Then I went and found a couple of my favorite Christmas movies on DVD to replace the VHS versions I had at home.

The rest of the day included some bowling, some movie watching and some munching on leftovers. In the evening, our friends Bill and Tammy came over with their kids, Sarah and Ryan. They joined Brad, Heather, Mark and me for an evening of game playing. We played Apples to Apples and it was a blast! After they left, we tried to watch A Christmas Story, but pretty soon, we were all falling asleep, so we shut it off and headed to bed.

Today was another quiet day. Mark went back to work and the rest of us didn’t do much other than put up and decorate the Christmas tree, watch A Christmas Story and eat some more. We sure did a lot of eating this weekend! By late afternoon, Jake had gone to work, Kacey was off to a friend’s house, and Brad and Heather left to go to her parents’ house before going back to school tomorrow.

It’s so quiet in the house, and I miss the chaos already. Never thought I’d see the day when I’d welcome a chaotic household, but now I really do. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Sister Texts

My sister and I text message each other every day. Sometimes it’s just to say hello. Sometimes it’s more. Often, it is very random. But it is always entertaining.

Yesterday’s conversation, for example:

 

Sis: Kenny Chesney sings the sexiest Silent Night. Yum.

Me: That just sounds wrong… a song about the birth of our savior described as sexy. LOL.

Sis: Well… when u put it that way…

 

Icy Weekend

And another weekend has left us.

We bowled Saturday night in our mixed league and it gave me a chance to really try out my pretty new bowling ball. And although the ball may well be very pretty, it has me all sorts of confused. I throw it the same way I always throw my old bowling ball, but it goes a completely different way. I’m used to knowing pretty much where my ball is going to hit, but now? Not so much. I ended up throwing the new ball on the first throw, and then throwing the old ball to pick up my spares because at least with the old ball, I know where it’s going to go. Guess I’ll have to work on this a bit more.

And to add to my bowling confusion, a familiar face appeared at our table except this face showed up in the wrong place. It was Mitch, one of my bowling pals. But Mitch is from my Monday league which is held at a different bowling alley, so it took me a minute to wonder why he was there. He laughed when I asked him and told me that his neighbors bowl in my Saturday league, so he and his fiancée came to watch for a while.

After bowling, a bunch of us headed over to a little hole-in-the-wall about a block away, Gordie’s bar. We hadn’t been hanging out too long when Dan and Bonnie decided to call it a night. They live much farther away than most of us, so it made sense that they were the first to leave. A few minutes after leaving though, I saw Dan come back in the bar. Soon the word passed through the group. Freezing rain. Icy roads. Time for everyone to go home and BE CAREFUL. The weather had come so suddenly it took everyone by surprise. Mark, Paul, Megan and I headed out the door and “skated” across the parking lot to the car. The windows were glazed over with a thin layer of ice, just like the parking lot and roads. Driving home was a scary adventure. We traveled no faster than 15 miles an hour and saw countless accidents and cars in the ditch. The highway was closed down at one point and we had to get off and take the side streets home, getting creative in our route so as to avoid streets with hills as we saw cars sliding back down them.

Kacey was out with two of her girlfriends, babysitting for the aunt and uncle of one of the friends. I called her and asked if they were aware of how bad the roads were. The thought of three young girls trying to navigate these same slick roads scared me to death. Luckily, the aunt and uncle were arriving home at nearly the same time and insisted the girls spend the night there.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

We made it back to Paul and Megan’s house safely, and then the short distance to our own house afterwards. I checked with one of the other couples today to make sure all of our friends had made it home safely as well and thankfully, they did.

Today was a quiet day. It was still gray outside and raining off and on. Mark and I decided to go shopping for a new Christmas tree. (We’ve put up an artificial tree for many years now and the old one has seen better days.) I had very specific ideas about what I wanted. Slim, but not too slim. Pre-lit with multi-colored lights. (Risky, I know, but I’ll take my chances. HATE stringing all those lights every year!) 7 to 7 1/2 feet tall. Hinged construction (so I don’t have to insert each branch individually.) When I found it, it was like a light was shining down from heaven on this most perfect Christmas tree! Kind of like Charlie Brown felt about his Christmas tree. Only mine isn’t anorexic like his was. And on sale for a great price too!

It’s official. I’m ready to welcome in the Christmas season! Bring on the holidays!

One Saturday in November

I woke up just after seven and realized that rare feeling of having had enough sleep. The house was quiet and there was a distinct absence of anxiety… nothing hanging over my head, the whole day seeming “doable.” Oh, there was plenty to be done in the hours ahead, but none of it seemed overwhelming. You’d be surprised how often life in general can seem such a daunting task to me.

Having been to the gym nearly every morning of the past week, I was feeling motivated and slid out of bed to go in search of gym clothes and a pair of my favorite socks… the kind that don’t slip down into my shoe while I’m on the treadmill. Shorts, t-shirt, sports bra and the “good” socks were all located in short order and after getting dressed and pulling up my hair, I realized the gym wasn’t open for another half hour.  I had the luxury of slipping into a good book for a little while with the silence of a sleeping household all around me.

I walked into the gym just after 8:00 and made my way to a treadmill at the far end of one row. At least that way, no one could sidle up next to me on my right side. I turned on my iPod and got lost in another book, the electronic kind this time, until a couple of women decided to occupy the treadmills immediately to my left. They insisted on talking and laughing and it annoyed me just a little, but I turned up the volume and tuned them out for the next hour while I walked. I haven’t run in several weeks. I’ve returned to being a walker, but I don’t let myself take it too easy. I chose the “rolling hills” setting today and cranked up the speed and clearly was feeling optimistic as my legs are still protesting the inclines we tackled today. They’ll thank me later… I hope.

Home again, I cancelled out all the calories burned with an omelet filled with sausage and cheese, but I didn’t care. I knew they’d get burned off again with a day of cleaning house and an evening of bowling later on.

A very good start to the day, for sure… Nothing exciting. Just a good feeling I wanted to write down and come back to visit later when things seem too much again some days.

Can’t Get Used to the Cold Yet

I’m still not used to the cold. I look out the window and see all that snow that I expected to melt by now and it gives me a chill. It’s been cold in the office this week too. Really cold. Someone finally called building maintenance yesterday and it warmed up for a while, but by 3:30 I had my jacket on again. It’s hard to work like that!

Work has been busy this week and the hours seem to fly by and I can’t get enough done. And yet it seems to have taken forever to get to Friday. How is that?

I went to the gym almost every morning this week. It’s even quieter there on Fridays. I guess some people give themselves a break on Fridays. I give myself a break on Tuesdays because that’s the day after bowling night. :-D I’ve been listening to an audio book, Wish You Well, to pass the time on the treadmill. I got so wrapped up in the story I stayed on the treadmill for an hour. Felt good.

Kacey and I switched roles this morning. Instead of being her usual brooding morning self, she was trying to engage me. Instead of being my usual bubbly morning self, I just feel quiet today. I’m glad it’s Friday.

Happiness is a New Bowling Ball

Isn’t it pretty?

Track 505A Bowling Ball

It’s my birthday present from the hubby. I’m not a girly-girl when it comes to gifts. I can do just fine without sparkly jewelry or a bouquet of flowers. He asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I named a book that I really, REALLY wanted. He said he refused to buy me a book because I would get absorbed in it and ignore him. So I said, “Fine, then. How about a bowling ball?” He liked the idea of a bowling ball better. I told him it was his choice. The book was much less expensive than a new ball, and I was going to get the book, one way or another. (And I did ;-) ) So if he wanted to buy me a new bowling ball, I wasn’t going to argue!

I picked up the ball last night and had it drilled to fit my fingers. Dave, my pal in the pro shop, measured my hand and checked things like the degree to which my thumb bends away from my hand. (I watched him write down the measurement… 90 degrees!) Then he checked the bend of my fingertips and did various other measurements that made little sense to me, but I trusted him.

While waiting for Dave to drill my ball, we went to see if my friend Kendra was bowling leagues, and she was. Her husband, Jeff was there too, so we asked them to come bowl with us when leagues were finished.

Dave finished my ball and brought it over. Then I threw a few games and it felt very nice! Dave did a great job! And we had a ton of fun bowling with Kendra and Jeff!  Kendra started bowling with my old ball and decided she really liked it. She wanted to know if she could have it, but I wasn’t ready to give it up. (Guess I’ll have to buy one of those bags that holds TWO balls now!) The guys talked hunting and the girls talked potential winter get-aways to Florida or Vegas :-)

At fourteen pounds, the new ball is a little heavier than my other ball and I’ll have to work on adjusting my throw to make it go where I want. (I kept hitting the head pin straight on, which isn’t quite what I want. I want it slightly to the right of the head pin, so I’ll have to figure out how to get it there.) But all in all, it feels right and I love it! I might just have to go play with it some more tonight! :D