Category Archives: Daily Life & Humor

Bouncing Back, Moving Forward

I am more than fairly amazed at my 11-year-old son’s resilience.  He’s had a tough couple of days, but it seems he is not at all taken down by happenstance that might crush an adult; he simply bounces back.  I am not speaking of his ability to down 16 Swedish Fish and two packs full of gummy worms in one setting without gaining an ounce, (in good time my son…in good time!), but rather the day-to-day stuff that can reach inside his bony little body and put a choke hold on his fledgling self-esteem.

For example, last night was the last game of his baseball season.  His team had been down 5 to 1 but had rallied during the final inning and brought it back up 5 to 4.  We parents were in a rapturous lather and were cheering our little on men to victory.  When my boy got to bat, the kid before him had been walked to first and the bases were loaded.  Two outs were showing on the board.

Let me stop here to say that my son loves baseball.  He has improved greatly this year, but sadly, although he made some good plays, he does not excel at batting.  He got one hit all year and it was a bunt that went foul.  I silently blessed the other parents for not groaning  audibly  when he stepped to the plate.  (They’re good people, these baseball parents).  Strike one…ball one…ball two…strike two…strike three.  Game over, season over.

While I died a thousand squirming deaths for him and tried to pretend I didn’t notice the other parents avoiding eye contact, he came bouncing up with his bag over his shoulder, corn chips in one hand and G2 in the other.  “Hold this” he said, slinging the chips at me as he used two hands to bring the oversized bottle to his mouth, and tried to open it with his teeth.  I watched his undisturbed countenance for a moment.  Wordlessly, I held the chips back out to him, traded him for the bottle, opened it and handed it back.

On the way back to the car, my husband broke the heavy silence.  “That sure was an exciting game.  Too bad you guys didn’t pull it off.”  There was no pregnant pause, although both of us wanted to give Bryce the opportunity to talk about what had just happened.  “Yeah,” he immediately replied, “I’m gonna spend the summer getting really good and then I won’t miss again!”

And this is where I find myself in awe of the child.  He didn’t bluster about “losing it for the team.” He didn’t pout and shuffle his feet or declare that he “sucked.”  And most surprisingly of all, he didn’t look remotely like he might want to cry…it never crossed his mind!  He believes he is a good player and that he will work hard and come back even stronger.

What a wonderful, beautiful gift this child has and I will do all I can to cultivate it.  Now if I could just cultivate a little of that for myself!

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Me? Running? You Betcha!

My friend Amy is a “rock star” when it comes to running. If I remember correctly, she was on scholarship to a college in Virginia thanks to her accomplishments when she was on the track. So, needless to say when I decided at the age of (insert clearing of throat hear to cover the number I’m trying to hide) to run a 5 K for charity, she was the person I asked for advice shortly after I attempted to train.

Amy was very excited to give advice and even offered to run with me on the weekends. Given that I had never really been taught any kind of technique, especially with breathing, rolling from heal to toe, or gaining additional energy by effectively employing my arms to increase circulation, her consultation was a treasure.

Let me let you in on a little secret: I really loathe running. Loathe it. I have always said that I will not run unless George Clooney is in front of me. However, this may be because I had a dreadful and short lived track career in the 9th grade and because, quite frankly, it is HARD!

And so begins story time, reader. when I was in 9th grade, our little Catholic school in Greensboro must have come into some extra money, or our young gym teacher got adventuresome. For whatever purpose, Mrs. O’Neal decided to form a track team. Since my friend Missy and I finished pretty well on the required course we ran in gym class, we were invited to join the team. I was a “sporting lass” and decided I would give it a try.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a successful venture: we had just one meet. Mrs. O’Neal knew when to quit.

Due to her inestimable confidence in me, or more likely, her lack of options, Mrs. O’Neal chose me, with my short and stubby legs, to participate in (insert derisive snort here) the long jump. Yes, the long jump. The girls I competed against looked like full grown women to me. They had long legs, full breasts, and I’m pretty sure had been shaving their legs and armpits for 7 years prior to the meet. I watched the first girl jump and she cleared, oh, I don’t know — 30 feet? When it was my turn, I ran with all my might, leapt as high and far as I could and maybe hopped a foot. My opponent laughed right out loud, but graciously added, “that’s okay honey, you tried…you tried.”

I will spare you the debacle that was the relay race. I did not run again until a few short weeks ago.

It all started when my nephew’s wife Krissy invited me to attend or participate in a 5 K race to benefit Peacehaven Farm (http://www.peacehavenfarm.org). Being a non-runner, I quickly wrote her a check. But Michael and Krissy had been working so hard for the disabled in their community for some time that I was inspired by their dedication. So, I decided to participate – but not just to walk the event, to run in it. And George Clooney was not eve scheduled to appear, much less be in front of me. Just the same, I knew I had to get in shape fast. I went to my gym and talked to the trainers who set me up with a program called “From Couch Potato to 5K in 6 weeks.” I got on the tread mill and worked the program diligently. But I knew that while the treadmill was good practice, it was unlikely that the track at Peacehaven would be moving beneath me. Enter Amy.

Amy and I have been running together for just a few short weeks. Although she has been off the track for several years herself, once we decided to run together, she was back on. She taught me what I needed to know. She helped me with my form, breathing, and graciously did not absolutely smoke me right off the bat. She’s always very complimentary of me and encourages me to continue when I start to fade a little. She’s even decided to enter a 5K of her own in a few weeks.

Today as we ran together, I noticed we seemed to have developed a rhythm together. Our breathing is easier, our pace relaxed but steady, our goals and plans gelled. Its like we have developed this Vulcan mind meld, and it’s awesome. I don’t loathe running quite as much and as a matter of fact I have even begun to enjoy myself. I look forward to time on the path with my new running buddy; to the quieting my my mind with the sound of our breathing and the beat of our feet on the pavement.

Thanks to Amy, the memory of failures on the track are gone. I don’t have to win, I just have to run. And I may not need to chase George Clooney after all.

Those Kids

Sometimes, it’s all worth it.  Sometimes you get the much anticipated gift of knowing your hard work has paid off.  I am speaking of course, of when your kids “do you proud.”

We live in a small NC town where people know each other or know more about each other than they would prefer.  In a town like this where anonymity lasts about 5 minutes after you move into your neighborhood, it is crucial that your kids not become — you know — Those Kids.

Several few weeks ago we were dining at Gianni’s, one of our favorite restaurants in uptown Concord, and the waiter in the pizza loft was chatting with us as he was taking our order.  He mentioned that he had a band and was going to play a gig for his album launch at a kitschy little restaurant/pub across the street called Little Robert’s.  Our teenage daughter Clarke chirped back that she had a band, too, because first of all Kevin is a good looking young fellow, and secondly, she’s a teenage girl with functioning eyeballs.

Kevin, invited her band to open for them without having heard the band at all, which was both generous and brave of him.  We realized this was a great opportunity and immediately encouraged her.  She said she would check with her band and let him know for sure.

I asked how much she would be paid.

Well, since Kevin is of legal age, he and his band were being paid in beer.  Clarke would be paid with experience.  Still, it was a good opportunity.  She got her band members to agree and she and Kevin agreed a few days later that they would perform for about 20 minutes.

The band practiced several times.  My husband Frank and I made all concessions to ensure she got as much practice as necessary, as we were very excited for her and proud for her to have the experience.  We told our friends and family about the gig, and several people agreed to come.  This thing was happening!

The night before the gig, we were back at the pizza loft enjoying ourselves and Kevin and Clarke were chatting about the next night.  Then he said it…the thing that changed everything…he said he was looking forward to her 30 minute set.  Clarke doesn’t speak rock and roll and took him very literally at his word.  She called the band members the next day and said they needed to throw in a couple of covers to stretch the set and make the 30 minute requirement.

The bass player would have none of it.  He baldly stated that it was a recipe for disaster and that the band was in fact NOT ready for the gig.  He was not coming.  After several hours of back and forth with the drummer and  lead guitarist discussing plans and attempts to convince the bassist that everything would be fine, the efforts came to nought.  The boy would no longer answer his phone and fled to his girlfriend’s house.

His reason for not showing was simply that because it would make the band look bad for them to show up and not play well, so he refused to try.

And this is when our girl began to shine.  She called the lead guitarist and stated that she had made a commitment to Kevin and that people were counting on them.  “We may suck,” she told him, “but we’re going to play no matter what.”  The guitarist, Heath (God bless him) agreed.  This was at 3:30 pm when they were supposed to be at the pub for a 6 pm sound check.

Clarke spent the rest of her afternoon coming up with a song list of covers and original music, printing the music she needed, tuning and practicing.  She timed each song to be sure they met the time requirement.  She went to the pub, met up with Heath and they went over the music from sound check until set time.  (The drummer, for reasons unknown, also did not show that night but it turned out to be for the best.)

She and Heath rocked it.  Make no mistake, our Clarke is very talented, and for that we are extremely proud of her.  But the fact that only half of the band showed up, and she made it happen with a fresh set of tunes and sheer determination blew us away.  It blew everyone away.

I told Heath he was my hero and kissed him on the forehead.

I told his parents how awesome their son was.

I danced when my daughter sang and embarrassed her to tears, but she kept singing.

Yeah, Clarke and Heath are Those Kids:  Those Kids that made us proud!

Adventures in Driving

Like most Catholics, I am a firm believer in the help I receive from Guardian Angels. Tonight, as my daughter and I set out on an errand, I prayed that Jesus would cover us in His protection…forgetting all about poor Flossie, my Guardian and friend for Life. Luckily for me, Flossie shows patience with me.  Otherwise, I’d have been dropped from the protection roster long ago.

Anyway, on our merry way home, Clarke had to change lanes in order to make her turn. There was a short span of available lane for her to use and she dutifully checked her blind spot, as did I.  Neither of us saw the *insert your favorite insult here* coming from behind her to pass her, and as she was half way into the lane change, this (ahem) individual came careening up on her right side, blowing the horn and maintaining position with a roaring engine.

To say I “squeaked a bit” might be an understatement, but rest assured the squeak was in stereo. Clarke pulled back out of the lane allowing the (ahem…) individual free rein to speed by us and jet forward another hundred yards, so that he or she might get to wait at the red light just a little sooner than would have been possible had they applied their brakes.

Once our hearts were out of our mouths and we could speak through the panting, I told her I pray a blessing over people like that. “Heck, it’s only traffic,” I said, “Grow up, chill out and move on…ya know?” “Yeah,” she breathed, still stunned from the experience. “So, it’s a good thing our Guardian Angels were looking out for us, huh?” she asked. Then she said she didn’t know the name of her Guardian Angel or whether she had a girl or a boy protector.

“Flossie!” I said. “Mine is named Flossie!”

“How do you know that?” She said. “I heard you’re supposed to pray to them and ask them to tell you their name,” she stated, matter-of-factly.

“Well, I did that,” I replied. “I did that and my angel said ‘Flossie.’ I heard it in my head.” Then I began to laugh. I began to laugh really hard.

Clarke glanced at me as if she thought she might have to keep driving to the funny farm and drop me off.  You see, I had been imagining meeting Flossie. What if our little incident had turned out for the worst and I came face to face with my very own Guardian Angel? In my mind’s eye, Flossie was standing by the side of the road, arms crossed wearing a disgusted look. Head shaking side to side, Flossie, who closely resembled Mean Joe Greene, growled at me, “Flossie! FLOSSIE?!” That wasn’t me talking in your head — that was that jive-ass Gabriel messing with me again! Pleased to make your acquaintance, Claire…the name’s Crusher. Now, c’mon and I’ll take you to God…

…she’s got a thing or two to talk to you about!”

Thrum and Buzz

Since my father’s passing several years ago
There began to grow in my
inner, spiritual ear,
a persistent buzzing.

It was faint at first
but as I have excelled to those years
When he, at my age, was sole parent,
the thrum yet increased.

Rizzz! I heard when we got a dog
My father thought dogs to be
Antichrist incarnate

Ruzzz sounded the alarm
more firmly still
when my teenage daughter
casually flaunted the word
“butthole” at the family dinner table.

Shaking my finger within my ear
to clear the gnat-like noise,
I could not clear
that growing disturbance
which somehow also
brought familiar comfort.

It was when my husband
announced the impending
ponytail intended for his crown
that the low hum began
and would not cease

Riiiiiiizzzzzzz screamed the noise
the morning I fixed my beloved’s hair
into a beguiling golden cascade
and my daughter wore blue jeans to church
My head sought to split from the
whine so like a dentists drill.

Oh MY – when the full impact
washed over me
What sweet relief to know the source
was merely the sound
of dear Papa Bear
spinning in his grave.

Aside

Dear present self, Just like so many other writers before you, you have chosen to write a “from future self to present self” piece of work.  As lame as that is, (and I know you know it is) I still … Continue reading

For better or not so better

We recently went on a weekend camping trip.  It is the same camping trip that has been organized by a group of friends from our high school since 1983.  It’s called Summer Soltesz after the originator, Steve Soltesz who unfortunately passed away 2 years ago.

The weekend was very much the same as in years past, but also different in so many ways.  First, many of the attendees are parents, so the original party weekend in the woods now involves a pavilion where our children perform, drinking games are replaced by beading and crafts, and most everyone is asleep pretty early.  It’s come to be a truly great family weekend.  That’s not to say that there aren’t still drinking games, but they happen after the tents are filled with mouth breathing little ones passed out from a day on the lake.

One of the major changes wrought on this event is the shifting status of families. Whereas in past years also, young couples were forming and new people were brought into the event through marriage, this year several long standing marriages were reported in jeopardy.  Given the large number of families that have come to camp each year, this should not have been a surprise, but it still was.  The reality of  (1) not seeing the usual couples together because one stayed away as a result of the separation, or (2) seeing two people who literally have a hundred mutual friends sitting frostily at separate camps, was unsettling. I was sad for all of us.

At the end of this strange, and yet still wonderful weekend, there was much to   absorb.  Frank and I worked silently together to strike camp beginning shortly after we got up until close to lunch hour.  And as we were ready to leave, Frank had one final bit of bad news:  He had just padlocked the trailer with the truck keys inside.

It was hot.  We were tired.  It was time to go and we couldn‘t leave.  Frank asked around for a bolt cutter to get the padlock off, and actually found someone who had one to lend.  Unfortunately, it was broken in the attempt to get to the keys.

Did I mention it was hot and we were tired?  Since we had a car and dad hat the truck, the kids wanted to leave and let Daddy catch up later.  When I told them we were not leaving Daddy, they had a ton of suggestions for how he might succeed (Bad Idea).  It was lunch time and everyone was hungry, but first, we decided we would go to Walmart to buy another pair of bolt cutters…and a t-shirt.  My beloved’s shirt had been “decorated” by a bird at some point during our morning’s work.  After 20 + years together, I had learned one thing about how to deal with my husband:  when Frank is upset/hurt/angry/frustrated, my best bet is to shut up, stay calm, and be supportive.  And so we all drove to the Walmart, got his tools and tee and headed back.  The kids and I waited in the air-conditioned car as Frank went back to struggle with breaking into our trailer.

The children began prompting me with what we should tell Daddy he should do.  I whispered to them the secret:  “When daddy is frustrated and saying ‘big words’ it is best for us to be quiet and wait to be asked for  help instead of offering any help.”  That’s when my lovely son Bryce said,
“Mommy, maybe we should pray for Daddy.”
I replied, “I already have.”
Me too! he cried.
“Me too!” chuckled my daughter, Clarke.
“But, said Bryce, “I want to pray all together.”

And so we did.  And at that point, Frank go into the truck.  (Yeah, God!)

Later, as we were headed down the highway toward a late lunch, something very important became apparent to me and I shared it with the kids.
“Do you know what you witnessed today, kids?”
“No, what?” they asked.
“Marriage,” I told them.  “That is what marriage is.  When things are inconvenient and frustrating and not working right:  remember that you are in it together and support one another lovingly and quietly.”

That and the Grace of God has helped us through.
Hopefully, the kids got the message.