Saturday, March 29, 2014

Friday Night Soccer Lights

It's Saturday morning, I have a BOWL full of coffee, and the boy is watching iCarly.  It's a perfect time to write, so that I can at least say that I accomplished ONE thing today.  Gee, that sounds familiar.

I'm going to eat crow here a little, so I'll just get it over with.  I'm not a soccer fan--never have been.  I think that goes way back to elementary and middle school when I was forced to play it in PE.  I didn't like running around on the bumpy field because I twisted my ankles a lot.  I didn't like to engage with other players, because I hated getting kicked in the shins. And finally, I'm not a fan of balls being kicked at my face.  No, I lied.  That wasn't the final reason.  Let's face it, I'm not a team player.  I can't take the pressure of other people relying on my non-existent athletic prowess, I'm not all that competitive (wait, did I say that?), and I would sometimes rather die than be in the middle of a field with a bunch of people looking at me.  Uggh.  I digress.

I've tried to watch soccer in the past, mainly because people I like dig it, (a couple of them are actually fairly smart people, too) but it's never really stuck.  It's always seemed like just a lot of running back and forth with no satisfaction, and NOT "The Beautiful Game" they all claim it to be.  (I'll skip over the many reasons that basketball is clearly more beautiful.)  Anyway, I watched just to have some knowledge of what they were constantly babbling about, but it wasn't fun for me, other than relishing in the colloquialisms of British soccer announcers.  Now that is beautiful!

But last night, I was convinced to attend the season home opener for the high school varsity teams.  There were a lot of good reasons to go:  support the coach of the girls' team (one of those fanatic friends I mentioned), support the very talented PA announcer (another fanatic, but the one that I live with) in his first game of the season, and because a good friend sweet-talked me into it.  I started off distracted--it was chilly, it was breezy, I thought it might rain.  That announcer I spoke of--He is fantastic, but I sometimes can't listen to him because it embarrasses me how good he is and how big his voice is in the stadium.  It's silly, I know, but I get the heebie jeebies sitting there in the middle of parents from school and members of the community who all know that it's my hubby up there with the big, booming, ultra-enthusiastic voice that should be doing bigger and better things.  But that's neither here nor there.

I really didn't expect to stay the entire time.  Not only was it a soccer game, it was a DOUBLE HEADER on cold metal bleachers with my bad hip.  But, I snuggled under a blanket with my friends, enjoying watching and letting the boy make friends with other kids that were there and run around having a blast, and I Actually.  Enjoyed. The games.  Yes, I said it.  The girls lost their game, but they played very well, and did some great things--especially the goalie, whom I have mad respect for.  Talk about the pressure!   I hope it's a sign of a good season to come.  The boys' game was a different story altogether, though.  (I'm going to make an unpopular statement here and say that I'm rarely a fan of watching women play anything.  I know, I know.)  But the boys were more aggressive, more athletic, and faster-paced.  There were yellow cards.  There was showboating.  And there was scoring--they stuck it to their opponents with a 4-2 victory.  All of those things are good for keeping my attention, and I'm going to be bold here and say that it was a more exciting game than most of the professional soccer games I've watched.  (Go ahead, soccer people--tell me I liked it for all the WRONG reasons!)

I don't know that I'll be a regular spectator.  There are too many other factors at play convincing me NOT to go.  But I enjoyed it, and I see the appeal.  I also see the danger!  One other thing I left the games with last night was a healthy fear of The Dangerous Game.  I inhaled sharply on one too many occasions when heads banged against each other, elbows flew in faces, and kids went tumbling ass over tea kettle on the turf.  I know how much falls hurt at my turtle's pace, and can't imagine that those kids hop right back up and keep playing without crying.  So, when the boy said he wanted to play (American) football last night, I almost went for it, because there are at least helmets, pads, and full-length pants.  No way is he playing soccer, beautiful or not.

(Note:  This started as a Saturday Six-Pack, but turns out, I had a lot to say about soccer.  Who knew?)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dear Mr. Vernon,

By now, you've all been bombarded with the Facebook memes about the 30th Anniversary of The Breakfast Club...not of the movie itself, but of the actual day our favorite miscreants spent in the best day of detention, ever.  It speaks volumes to me about the movie that so many of us stopped to recognize and acknowledge the date.  It's a combination of the genius of John Hughes, the brilliant casting, and the ensemble of characters that made us all feel like we were included, whether we were a brain, an athlete, a basket-case, a princess, or a criminal.  You know, all of those "most convenient definitions."

Thirty years later, we are the jerk parents putting pressure on our kids to compete harder or get better grades.  We are the asshole assistant principal.  Maybe some of us are lucky enough to be the janitor, lucky enough to be able to see things the way they are.  But most likely not.  What I do know is that it doesn't really matter who was what back then.  Not much of it stuck--the labels faded away, and we grew up.

So why is it that I still relate more to Claire (the princess) and Allison (the basket-case) than to Brian's mom or Andrew's (hah, completely unintended) dad?  It shouldn't be that way--my pressures these days are those of the parents, not of the kids.  And why is it that when I took one of those stupid quizzes that I can't resist (you know the ones, the "Which character in Wuthering Heights are you?" quizzes---wait, where IS that one? I want to take it!) the other day, I held my breath hoping NOT to be the basket-case?  The one who said that, "When you get old, your heart dies."

Because it doesn't.  Not at all.  We just get distracted by the day-to-day, run down by our jobs, driven by our desire to provide the best for our kids (that new group of troublemakers) and keep things functional to focus on our own hearts much.  We do, it turns out, become our parents.  The basket-case was right when she said THAT was inevitable.

And maybe as parents, we remember what it was like as the brain, the athlete, the basket-case, the princess, or the criminal...or as the kid who struggled with math, the kid without running water, the kid whose parents fought violently...and we just try to help our kids avoid having to go through what we did while dealing with our own crap at the same time.

It's midnight, and I'm at a loss for a profound conclusion here.  So, in the words of the eternal bad boy, John Bender (who TOTALLY got more than an earring in that closet, I'm just SAYING!), "Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

When a Guardian Falls

I've been sort of at a loss over how to approach this topic.  If we are friends in real life, on Facebook, even, you might already know that I was devastated last week by the loss of a tree.  Yes, a tree, but not just any tree.  This tree, which I wrote about here.

My grandfather died in 1985, my grandmother in 2002.  Both were buried at the base of this tree, under which I have sat on many an afternoon on my way home.  In the small world that is my life, I pass the cemetery daily, visit from my car as I slow and turn my head toward the graves.  And if the weather suits, or I've had a particularly rough day, or feel the need for some peace and solitude, I make the trip into the cemetery and sit.  That's become a little more difficult lately, as the boy doesn't have much patience for it.  Reverence, yes, but not patience.

Those trips gained much more significance when Edna died in 2009, and when she was joined there by Uncle Bob the next year.  Trips into the cemetery became more frequent, more like a family reunion, a trip through time.  A granite bench was added by my aunt, a loving gesture, and one that allowed me to skip over planting myself on the ground in my work clothes.  It was placed at the foot of the tree, with all of the family in sight, also allowing for the eventuality that some of us will someday be joining them in the family plot.

Through it all, that tree, a sycamore I think, has stood, strong and tall and ancient.  It has always been the most beautiful spot in the cemetery, where many of us in the church community played as children. A former student wrote to me that her husband, also a former student, used to climb the tree with his brothers when they were young, so I know the tree has more significance than to just my family.  But I don't know that any other families have stood together crying and comforting each other at the base of it as many times as ours has.  And for that reason, I always thought of it as ours.  Another friend commented to me that maybe parts of my family members had nourished the tree, and while that sounds morbid, and I think he was mostly kidding and trying to make me laugh when I was upset, there is something to it.

So, the urge to run and protect it, climb into it, was strong when I heard the chainsaw from the school parking lot on Tuesday afternoon.  My sister had texted me, crying, because she had seen already.  She urged me to not go home, to take a different route so I wouldn't have to see.  So, I did the opposite and went straight could I not?  I drove through the wrought-iron gate feeling nauseous, knowing what it looked like from a distance, but knowing that it would be worse up close.  And it was.

The guys working for the tree service eyed me oddly when I jumped out of the car and approached.  I was already crying, and had phone in hand ready to take pictures.  Maybe they thought I was going to yell at them or something.  I tried not to make too much eye contact at that point, wishing that they weren't there so I could sit and cry in peace.  Just before I left, I had a fact, I had already gotten back into the car and turned it around to leave while my son eyed me carefully from the back seat.  I put the car in park, hopped out again, and this time, approached the guy who looked like he might be in charge.  At this point, I was sobbing, which only got worse as I tried to explain to him that my grandparents, my uncle, my mom...were all down there.  And I asked him for a piece of the tree. (Well, I asked him for a piece of that, thank goodness he didn't misconstrue.)  He was very kind, suggesting that maybe I have their names inscribed on it somehow, and picking it up and putting it in the back of my car, even though I easily could have carried it.  (Damsel in distress, I suppose.  The tree is dead, but chivalry isn't.)  

For now, the pile of tree remains.  My piece is safe and secure, and waiting for me to decide what to do with it.  An inscribed wall-hanging, as Mr. Chivalry suggested?  A table top?  Or simply a memento? That remains to be seen.  But at least I can guard it, my family tree.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wednesday Whatevers

Because I feel slightly guilty at wishing for (and receiving) another snow day, when the rest of the world apparently wants to get back to business as usual,  and because I still feel like absolute hell and can't clean my house, which is soon-to-be-condemned, and because my brain is going to turn to mush if I just continue to stream episode after episode of "Justified", I thought I'd at least attempt to write the world's longest sentence a little post.  But the problem is that I've only been out of the house for twenty total hours in the last ten days, and nothing's really happening.  So, whatever!

An old friend found this picture of my mom and me the other day and shared it with me on Facebook.  I'm fascinated with it!  I've been thinking about (and writing about, some) this time period in my life quite a bit lately, so the timing was rather odd.  I'm about Andrew's age in the picture, I think, based on the hair and the glasses.  But what I can't get over is my mom in this picture!  She was going through one of the toughest times in her own life when this picture was taken, but she doesn't show it.  She's sassy--look at those hands on her hips--is it any wonder I stand that way a lot?  And she's smiling, put together, and gorgeous!  I don't tell her enough, but she has always impressed me with her strength and her stoicism and her ability to just do what needs to be done, regardless of her own needs or pain.  She did that for us as kids, and she continues to do so now, for all of us.  I've got a pretty kick-ass mom, and I hope I can do half as well.

My least favorite commercials right now are public service announcements discouraging the use of the word "gay" as derogatory comment.  The commercials are killing me slowly.  They aren't new, which I guess is why they're running during Scooby Doo and Tom and Jerry.  Don't confuse my disgust with the medium as disgust with the message, because that's certainly not the case.  My problem is that they run ad nauseum (no pun intended) on the Cartoon Network and some others of the boy's favorite networks.  He's eight, so Tom and Jerry is certainly appropriate fare, and God knows he hears my potty mouth enough, so that's not really the point either.  What he HAS never heard is the word "gay" used as a pejorative, so the context of Hillary Duff explaining why it was bad was completely lost on him.  We had to have one of THOSE discussions to make sure he knew what the word really meant, why it wasn't a bad thing in any context, and who some of our nearest and dearest gay people are, because he'd never given it a second thought.  He remembered that the biography of JFK that he was reading used the word in a different context, and we talked about that.  All in all, a very teachable moment, so what's the problem?  He now hears, "That's so gay," over and over in the course of the day, when he had never heard it before.  Does that defeat the purpose?  I'm wondering.  The most ridiculous thing about the commercials is that they all feature GIRLS using the word, and female role models pointing out why it's bad.  Hello, Ad Council!  Girls aren't the ones using the word that way; it's the boys!  How about the commercial with Victor Cruz talking to the teenage boys about throwing that word around?  It doesn't exist, and it should, because that's where the problem is.  Okay, rant over.  Until the next time the commercial airs.

I like having discussions with people.  I even like having arguments with people, sometimes, if they're respectful.  The thing is, those people have to be smart people.  They don't have to agree with  me--it's better if they don't.  The point of talking to people is to learn things, and I like to have things to talk about, even if the subject is one that pushes people's buttons or stretches their comfort zone, mine included!  I like to know what makes people tick.  Enough said.  Smart people, engage me. Teach me, expand my horizons.

Does it make me selfish that I'm delighting in the fact that not only is today another day for me to fight off this plague, but that the boy's karate class is also cancelled because the schools are closed?  I know, I know…I'm a terrible mom.  But, see…tonight was supposed to be a belt test, and those make me very nervous.  In my weakened and frail state, I'm not sure I could have handled the stress.  The class being canceled gives the kid another week to practice, to go over his form, and for me to feel more confident that he'll get that purple belt I've been dying to see.  (Orange is my least favorite color, sorry.)  By next week, hopefully I will be feeling better and up to the strain and the stress.  (Oh yeah, and one other thing…JMU Men's Basketball plays at Northeastern tonight, so instead of following the game on Twitter, I'll get to watch the video stream.  But that's totally irrelevant!)

I need to read a book.  I have stacks of them waiting, and one I'm in the middle of on my Nook.  But I can't do that until I've caught up on every single season of every single television series that I've missed over the past three years.  I have this Amazon Prime account that I need to milk for all its worth, for one thing, so I'm streaming away, but I've missed a lot of great things somehow!  First it was two seasons of American Horror Story, then it was on to Downton Abbey.  Once I caught up on those, it was on to Justified (I'm hooked), which I just might finish today, if I'm lucky.  I need to watch Lost, or so I've been told, and I'm sure there are many others I should check out.  Leave me some recommendations in the comments section, peeps.  And it's just a matter of a few days now before The Walking Dead returns.  I just might survive the winter!  I can always read this summer, right?

Speaking of Justified, Timothy Olyphant, the actor who plays Raylan Givens, also starred in one of my former favorite shows, Deadwood.  Which, daggone it, I now think I have to go back and watch again. Good thing he's easy on the eyes.