Sunday, October 25, 2015

What if we don't all need to be elite?

I'm entering the frustrating and exhilarating world of youth sports rather reluctantly and a bit late in the game it seems.  I've got two boys; middle school and early high school aged.  We live in a small town where sports are big.  Kids start playing tackle football in their early elementary years and are doing all the other sports from kindergarten on.  If sports is not what you do from the cradle, it seems, whenever you decide to jump in, you already feel behind, especially if your parents are like me.  My entire experience in the athletics world consists of 2 seasons of middle school volleyball on the C team and being mildly obsessed with running 6 years ago.

My boys are hard wired for athletics.  Their grandpa and dad and cousins were all avid athletes in school, and it turns out that when they hit their middle school years, sports became all they could talk about too.   No longer could I play the "I don't want to be cold" mama card.  I had to let them play some sports: yes, even if they were out of doors and I had to plan appropriate clothing,  I had to dive in right alongside them and learn what a girdle was, and whether a jock strap was actually necessary.

Thankfully, a dear friend of mine has some kids who are equally sport obsessed, and she has been my sports doula of sorts.  A doula is a person who helps a woman in childbirth.  It's a bit like that entering the sports and teen parenting world, and she and a few other core moms in my life have helped me to retain my sanity while allowing me to grill them on what's normal and what's expected.  I even have texted directly with her son, a senior in high school, and then bragged to some acquaintances that I was "texting all the senior athletes" for advice.  I neglected to say that I was actually texting all the senior athletes I actually knew, which was one, and my daughter, who's a junior, called my bluff on that one.

I remember my eldest boy decided to play basketball for a boys and girls club team back in 4th or 5th grade,  and I thought that was pretty awesome, having come from a Hoosier family and all, and him being tall, that it would be a fun and exciting experience all around.  I was in for a shock: somehow all the children were supposed to be NBA level, and if they were not, well, they just wouldn't ever get the ball.  It was an odd experience, especially since only a small minority of the children had even hit puberty, and last I remembered, you needed to be an adult to be a professional basketball player.  There were parents filming and yelling at kids and the meanest kid on the team was the star player and therefore was the one who carried the ball.  We didn't do basketball again for a while.

We had a brief stint with baseball, but found the games too boring and cold (well, I did), and then we left the sports scene all together and did some Taekwondo.  Positive attitude, respect for self and others, hard work and athleticism were core to it, and though the kids didn't ever go knock down some bad guys attacking them in the alley, I did see their stature rise a bit.  They looked people in the eye and made new friends, listened with respect to their instructor and had fun. So what was the difference?

As I emerge from my first season of tackle football for my boys, I am beginning to understand.  If instead of worrying about being the best, we notice what we have learned, how much we have improved, and how much fun we had, we will find so much more joy in athletics, and really any other aspect of life.

Being highly skilled in athletics, academics, music, or any other vocation is worthy of high esteem.  When I mastered the manual settings on my camera, I was proud, and it took hard work to get there.  Likewise, if my boy makes a good tackle after practicing hard for hours on end, he should be well satisfied in his good work.

There's a word for the select sports teams called "elite" and it's not my favorite, because it tacitly implies that there is another class to the sports world, and that you may never be able to break through that glass ceiling.  Kids start to believe that somehow it is an embarrassment to play sports if you do not play on an elite team or a high school JV or Varsity team, or if you have not played a sport your entire life.  Thankfully, my kids have debunked this myth and have experienced some of the same joys in conventional sports (especially this football season) that they enjoyed in their Taekwondo class, but they have not done it without some reservations.

This is where we need to encourage change in the culture of childhood:  instead of pushing our children to be elite, let us encourage them to enjoy what they do, to work hard at it, and to take great satisfaction in that work.  I think we'll have fewer sports "dropouts," higher caliber sports teams, and much happier kids.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Freshly Mopped Floor

Here's a poem I wrote a while ago about the joys of a freshly mopped floor. 

A freshly mopped floor

Pearl finish
new sheets;
a warm eggshell.

Infinite nerve ends

New beginnings;
peace and clarity.

Optimism and plans;

Cool refreshment;
a gentle embrace.


The kindness of a
removed from a shoe.

The relief of
in the rush
of a cool stream.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Advocate for your bereaved loved ones: #Verizonfail

For all of you with recently bereaved family members, please be aware that they may need a really stubborn advocate when cancelling their loved one's cell phone bill, or even any other recurring bills they may have.

My husband's grandpa passed away and his uncle went into the Verizon store to change grandma's plan into his name. Uncle pays grandma's bills and because she is encountering memory loss, it's very important that he have full access to all of her accounts in order to better advocate for her. Verizon said they could add him to the plan, but told him that their plan was outdated and could not be continued.

The monthly bill PER PHONE skyrocketed from $16 to $60 per month. They then told him that they could not remove grandpa's phone because it wasn't due to expire until next year, and that there would be a cancellation fee, should he wish to remove the phone earlier. He didn't do anything further. After all, he was in the midst of grieving his own father's passing.

I happened to be at grandma's house so my little girls could enjoy her "how to draw" books, and saw Uncle poring over the Verizon bill, trying to figure out a way out. We decided that all three of us would call Verizon on speaker phone.

After 40 minutes, and much questioning as to whether people really do pay the cell phone bill for a deceased person, Verizon finally waived the cancellation fee. They took grandpa's phone off and gave Uncle and grandma back their old plan rate. Of course not before asking if there was any way they could get them to keep grandpa's phone active. Uncle didn't miss a beat and said: "Not unless you have a direct line to heaven!"

Bad form Verizon Wireless. Bad form.

So please be sure, especially if you're a little on the outskirts of the grieving, to check in with family members and see if they need help with any of their bills and loose ends. You just might help them avoid a first hand experience as to why some businesses just shouldn't get so big. The customer should ALWAYS be regarded as a human: a real human with pain and grief and family members who pass away and therefore cannot pay their bills.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ay, a scratch

"Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch, marry 'tis enough."  --Mercutio, in Romeo and Juliet

Friday afternoon the weekend loomed glorious in my mind.  I had finished my day's work and was outside doing a little weeding before heading inside to make dinner and launch into the sunny days ahead.  Distracted by the billions of forget-me-nots that had sprung up like weeds, I didn't see a very sharp twig of my lilac bush, which proceeded to jab me in the eye, as if to poke fun at all the plans I had ahead.  I had actually done this to myself before, and thought I could breathe through it, sort of like going through childbirth or something.

An hour later there was still the same excrutiating pain and I realized maybe I should try to fix it, because, after all, I'm a photographer, and I had a maternity session scheduled for the next day, and a newborn session to finish editing and to deliver.  I was shocked by the gravity with which the doctors took my statement that I had a scratched cornea (the cornea is that clear, jelly like part in front of the iris of your eye), and realized that it probably wasn't an easy fix with a little ibuprofen and ointment.

When the ophthamologist saw me, he gave me some numbing drops as he examined the two scratches to my cornea.  They made me feel completely normal, but he told me that when they wore off in fifteen minutes, I'd have to tough out the pain.

Numbing the pain, he said, hinders the healing.

How accurate, and how painfully true I found this to be over the next 24 hours.  I agreed with a friend who had experienced the same that going through labor a million times would be infinitely more pleasant than a scratched cornea.  I began to realize how weak and needy I really am when my vision and connection to light was warped and became physically painful.

As I tossed and turned for the rest of the afternoon, all night, and into the next day, miserably trying to conjur up ways to relieve the pain, I began to consider all of my friends and family who live in chronic pain, whether physically or mentally.  I thought of the friend who rode to school with me each day as a teen, the most cheerful and positive person I knew, who later told me that every single day she lived with migraines.  I thought of my husband's good friend, who after unsuccessful surgery to his sinuses, lives in daily pain, and yet is probably one of the most peaceful and easy going people you will ever meet.  I thought of my friends, two sisters, who live daily with gastrointestinal issues that would defeat me.  I thought of my dad and a friend, both of whom wake each morning, not knowing whether their emotional state is secure enough to stand the rigors of the day ahead.

I thought of the panic I felt, unable to fix the pain I was in, and knowing I had to endure.  I thought of the fear of losing the sharpness to my vision and thereby losing my photography.  And I realized that these friends of mine experience these same feelings each day.  I can understand now more deeply how so many in our culture are driven to the drink or to other means of numbing pain.  There is the feeling that one would do anything to escape the frantic scrambling and clawing around in the darkness of pain or loneliness and the shocking exposure to light and truth.

I can understand this, but what mystifies me and drives me to the throne of God is the way my friends in all their anguish, have rejected that tempation.  Even as they accept the necessary medications for their conditions, there is the day to day struggle they must fight.

They could choose to numb all of their pain, but they know inside that it will not help them heal.
Instead, in their desperation, even weary as they must be, they carry a faith and a hope that gives them strength to survive, to endure and to press on.

Because my eye was allowed to run its natural course of healing, the nerve endings of my eye are once again cushioned by new cells, and by the time 24 hours had passed,  I could blink without wincing.  The pain is now greatly eased, though the shock of contrast between brightness and dark hurts.   As I leave this small trial behind, I do not want to forget this small glimpse into the wonder of the strength of humanity bolstered by the unwavering strength of God.  I want to be reminded that all around me are people enduring the kind of frantic anguish I felt, and that there is hope to be shared, and I want to help others to notice those around them enduring daily trials just like my friends.

As you go about your life this week, take extra time with me to think about and consider the quiet strength or even desperation that lies just below the surface of what may seem to be just a scratch.  Will you remember with me to embrace those people with compassion and love?  By caring for someone in the midst of their struggles and walking beside them as they endure, we might get to be a part of the beautiful process of growing and healing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

For Oso

Osoberry is one of the very first wild plants to leaf out and bloom here in the Maritime Northwest. It's in full bloom right now. The flowers are an important early nectar source for hummingbirds and native bees when nothing else is in bloom. It produces a bitter fruit that feeds wild mammals, including the bear, (thus the name Osoberry) Seeing and smelling the blossoms of this plant everywhere right now is a constant reminder to me to pray for Oso, to pray for hope and new life where there seems only to be devastation.

I'm not even one of the people directly affected by the tragic landslide in Oso, but still there is nothing that can prepare you for the sight of FEMA and emergency shelters at local schools, crossing paths with a red cross truck on the morning drop off, seeing a truck with "department of homeland security" emblazoned upon it in your City Hall, knowing people who are searching out there, seeing six news trucks with satellite dishes like vultures along the river, seeing another news truck at a horse barn nearby, seeing flags at half mast and knowing it's for your community, hearing ages of children who died and being slammed with the reality that you have children the same age, seeing the detour sign for Darrington, watching your town fire chief get into his car in town and realize you know him from the news briefings, realizing that the place you go to buy jojos for your son is a main shopping store for the people of Oso, remembering living out that way and how beautiful it is out there, hearing heartbreaking stories from dear friends and realizing that everyone you know is affected in one way or another by the tragedy of it all.

There is no reason or sense to be made of any of it, but there is this hope we hold inside that won't leave us. There can never be a good reason that babies and grandmas and daddies die suddenly, but we can be sure that God is walking with each person in our community and we can have the hope that there will be small bits of beauty to emerge from the ashes of this devastation.

We already see it in the community and the way teens stand in the rain selling stickers that say "4 Oso, " the way a child wants to contribute what little they have to provide comfort for others, the way every where you turn someone is helping and the way when someone is crying for what feels like no reason, that someone, no matter whether you've never hugged before, you are hugging them now. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day in the Life

Books of photography beside my bed.

Recently, I have been taking the time to step back from things and focus on rest.  It is easy to begin to spin your wheels, wondering why you're going so fast in the first place.  This is the place I was in by about November.  Do you ever have that feeling where if you do anything, it will be too much?  This is what happened to me.  And so I just didn't.  It feels good to begin to have the time to sit and do nothing but watch a movie, to go on a walk with a friend because there's time, or to read a book that's been on my shelf since high school.  I guess it's not a new idea.  God did it after His frenzy of work at creating the world.  This thing called a sabbath rest had deep roots that grow and revive our souls.  If you have not taken rest for yourself, maybe today is the day.   Rest doesn't have to look like sitting in a chair doing nothing.  It can be fluid and active and full of life.  On Friday, I decided to do a "day in the life" project.  From the time I woke up, until it was time for bed, I recorded with my camera the life my family lives.  It made me realize how our somewhat simple life is so very full.

Yes, this is what I wore to drive one son to school and one to the bus stop.  I promise, I did get dressed.

Soap, handmade by a friend.  Jojoba oil in the background.  I have very sensitive skin and am always learning more about how to care for it.

In the bathroom.  Sometimes the only quiet place I can read these books.

My powder.  I have skin that is not perfect.  This is my one cover my skin with a powder so that the reds are not so red.

Rent.  Tenants of my parents' dropped off rent that day.  The girls played this together in the morning while I tidied up.

Koa dog.  

Large part of the lunch my son grabbed for school because he woke exceedingly late that day.  

The sight that greeted me on our dining room table that morning. 

It has been muddy and it is spring.  You can see this in the things I swept.

Apparently this is the best way to consider a math problem.

The van with which I drove my boys to school.

I ran outside to feed the chickens, who I am now keeping in the pen because the eagles are around.  Our Marans hen and her baby, which she hatched late in the fall when it was very cold.

When I come back inside, they had collected every couch cushion and were doing their math while sitting on top, princess and the pea style.

Simple breakfast.

Heading off to fiddle class. 

This is what the youngest does during fiddle class instead of trying to play.  I think she likes to listen to the music anyway.

This is what we are trying to learn to play.

On the way back from fiddle class, we stopped at a local nature preserve. 
Beautiful heather.

Every single local photographer must go here to this barn and take pictures, so I did.  

Pretend tractor.

We heard and saw small, loud birds.

Not feeling so good, but still gives it a thumbs up.

Home and reading.

Sewing her animal shapes.

So thankful that he works from home.

"Organizing" the pantry.  Notice the pencil?  She is supposed to be doing her schoolwork.  Oh well.  She is a preschooler.

Vocabulary work.

Home from school, he refused a picture from the front, so he ran, saxophone and all.

He is a french fry chef.  He makes them often from scratch.

My kitchen window.  Celery start, box, branches, lichen-dyed wool, a shell with reminders to pray....

Reading and marking favorite poems.  

Writing a particularly relevant poem out.

Picked up from the bus, met friends at a trail and walked.  Not a normal day...there's blue sky in the Pacific northwest, so we tend to go a little nuts when that happens and be outside a LOT.

They must examine ditches with swiftly flowing yummy flood water.

Javelin throwing in his future?  

My friend's doggy.

A new form of curling has been invented.  Take an alder branch and push it along the sidewalk and you are writing with bark and wood!  Summer olympic event perhaps?

Some of my most favorite people ever.

Alder catkins.  I think.  

4H meeting.  Learning about egg candling. 

She's feeling ill...

My eldest won't abide by my photographing her candidly, so here is some beautiful crochet work she was working on.

Calligraphy by the eldest.

Goodnight Koa.