Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Coach

Tonight I went to watch my son’s first baseball game of the season. Well, second game, but the first I could attend.

Just one daughter tagged along with me and we sat in our red canvas chairs hoping the wind wouldn’t pick up, and watched the cute little twins beside us. (I’ll admit I’m one of those moms who doesn’t always keep her eye on the game.) Within minutes, my son was up to bat and I turned to watch him swing. He had a couple of balls, and a couple of strikes, and then he made contact and made it to first base. While he had swung at home I noticed his coach standing behind the plate. The man was tallish with broad shoulders and stood with his arms crossed over his chest. Nice looking and in good shape. But it was the way he spoke that grabbed my attention even more (because, admittedly, his physique got my attention too). With a low voice he threw out encouraging words like “nice try, now swing harder” or “good hold, but step in.” There was no muttering or hollering or condemning. No rolled eyes. Just praise and coaching; exactly as a coach should do. I was glad about that. My son has had coaches before who didn’t understand their role and thought that yelling or criticism was the means to a winning end.

When my son – and the other boys – ran the bases the coach called out in a low voice “hustle, hustle” and it reminded me how twelve years before my older son’s coach had used the same term. Maybe it’s common in baseball, but takes me by surprise none the less. I like it. It’s a nice way to say hurry.

The next player was now up to bat and swung unsuccessfully a couple of times, so the coach moved in to demonstrate with the bat, and his shirt hugged his muscled arms tighter and his chest filled out. I realized my eyes were on the wrong batter – and could have stayed there all day – and then the coach moved back to his place behind home plate. He stood there intent on the game, with a baseball cap like all the boys’, emblazoned with a large bumblebee, completely comfortable in his masculinity.

A few times, when a little guy would ask a question, the coach squatted right down to his height and looked into his eyes. And he called them all “fellas,” whether they were talking in a huddle, or he was calling them in from the field: like they’re his peers. No doubt that will go a long way in earning their respect and best efforts in the game.

At some point his wife arrived and when he noticed her he immediately walked toward her and learned in toward the chain-link backstop, with his arm raised above his head. He flashed her a handsome smile and asked how long she’d been there. It was apparent he was happy to see her. It was just as apparent that she’s a very lucky lady.

He was oblivious to me watching him watch the game. His sunglasses hid his eyes – that I’m betting were green – but I could tell he was squinting despite the glasses. I didn’t have to imagine the smile though, as he flashed it often when a player hit the ball or ran, or when one the little guys got confused.

When the game ended I packed up our red chairs. The coach swung them over his shoulder and we headed home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm doing something today

I'm tired. Exhausted really. My Hero's out of town and that means I go to bed late. Way too late. When he's gone for a few days or more, I get a grip and put myself to bed at a relatively normal hour after the first day or two. But the first night he's gone? I stay up stalking blogs, watching HGTV, wondering what to snack on, and telling myself how stupid I am for not climbing in between the sheets because I will so regret it in the morning. And of course I'm right. I'm always right. (I regretted it in a big way this morning!)

I am totally going to bed at a decent hour tonight. Oh wait, no I'm not! My Writing Group is meeting tonight. Here. And we don't even start until all of our little ones are slumbering, so we often end our discussions and editing sessions way too close to the midnight hour. But we've gotta do what we've gotta do.

So my something today? I'm writing. (Well, obviously it's because I have WG tonight. I heard you.) But whatever. The point is . . . I'm writing. And you know the whole saga - I want it all done right now and so I panic and stew about how long I've been working on this project, and then all my thoughts of failure (in the past and future possibilities waiting to embarrass me) paralyze me from working on it at all. But not today! (Oh, except I'm stalling by writing this). I've been reminding myself of my mantra . . . "I don't have to do it all. I just have to do something!" So I'm snuggling with my Little One, clad only in undies (her, not me) and am typing away. Slowly. 'Cause I write slowly. Can't help it, just do. Occasionally, the words burst out of me, but usually it's just a slow trickle. That's fine, I guess, as long as the pot eventually gets filled up. Hopefully before I'm 80.

I'm not going to tell you what I'm writing. Not ready to be so open with you all yet. Not ready to hear the murmurs or the uninterested "that's nice." Not ready to be so presumptious as to think I can announce that I am writing something I want to see published. Even though I do. And I guess I did just announce that. But I will tell you this. This book I'm working on is heart-wrenching. It's making me dig deep and confront stuff inside me. It makes me cry every time I plunk away on the keyboard. It makes me want to avoid it 'cause it hurts. It makes me wonder (well, not really) why it's so important to me to write it all down. And I'm hoping that I'll come up with some more cheerful chapters soon, but so far I'm disappointing myself on that front.

But whatever. The point is: I want to write a book. I want it finished now. But I can't ('cause I have a life, a husband, and six children - and I'm really tired) and so I just have to do it in bits. So today I am (because I'm really too exhausted to get up and tackle the laundry pile and think of something for dinner). But it doesn't matter the motivation . . . I am doing something.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Not So Blue Anymore

Many years ago we scored an antique armoire. Simple. Basically sound. And free.

It sat in our garage for a while, used as storage for grimy cans and dirty tools and since in its former life, before it came to live with us, its abode was a maintenance shed, it was comfortable and cozy holding our WD40.

Then our family grew and so my grandma's dresser moved from our bedroom to the kids' bedroom, and we decided to overhaul the armoire to hold our t-shirts and Army socks. I inspected and measured and imagined the piece of furniture looking new and beautiful in my bedroom. It was all a dream. That armoire was filthy and homely! So I called a furniture guy and paid him whatever he asked to strip the piece and repair the sagging molding and wimpy backing. When he returned the piece to me, clean and solid, ready to be stained, I kept it to myself that I would have paid him double! We stained and poly'd the piece and put it in our bedroom. And there it lived for more than eight years.

And then we moved. And we ended up with a master closet that can truly deserves to be called a master closet. And meanwhile we had had four more kids. And so the armoire found a place in one of the girl's rooms. Three years later we moved again - to an itsy bitsy place, temporarily - and so the armoire hung out in storage.

We returned to our home eighteen months ago. I can still picture myself standing in the living room watching the movers (who may or may not have been using illegal substances) bringing in the armoire . . . and dropping it on the threshhold. But the base molding remained in their hands. Not even an apology, thank you very much. Just some muttering and pretending they hadn't done anything wrong. Instead of to the bedroom, I had them cart my faithful friend down to the basement . . . to the "graveyard" of other forlorn furniture. (That was the first of TWO armoires that they broke that day. Perhaps some day I'll vent on the whole "movers who shouldn't move anything" story.)

Hmmm, was it really a whole year later that we (and I use that term loosely, as I had nothing to do with it, but My Hero had everything to do with it) finally got around to repairing said armoire? yes. And then I (really, truly, ME) painted it. A lovely aqua blue. Lovely, I tell you. And then we (he and my daughter - I have a bad back you know) hauled it upstairs and parked it at the top of the staircase, to replace the measly table that had contributed to our "traditional but junky" look.

But I didn't strip the tacky contact paper (it was cool in the 90's) off of the shelves. Or fix the two broken ones. And I lost the little doohickies that the shelves sit on. And so I piled a bunch of crap inside the armoire, locked it up and left it. Useless . . .

UNTIL TODAY! "Finish Armoire" has been high on my list (not to mention the writing I'm supposed to do for my Writing Group tomorrow) and today I finally did it . . . finished the project (okay, well mostly finished it). I still couldn't find the doohickies and decided stripping and repairing the shelves was the thing overwhelming me, so I headed to Home Depot. I LOVE that those nice men in aprons cut the shelves exactly how you want them . . . when you want them . . . which is NOW! I found some more doohickies and headed home with them and the six new, clean, white shelves.

Remember how I mentioned the armoire is antique? Well, the doohickies aren't and so they weren't exactly . . . compatible. But a wrench used as a hammer ('cause I couldn't find the hammer) bent them a tad (and bruised my thumb more than once) and I was able to force them to fit the antique slots. And then . . . my favorite part!!! Organizing. Bins, baskets, drawers, and labels.

In case you're still reading and are pretending to care even a tiny bit, here's what's in my armoire.

Top Thelf: Picnic items: fly guards (the meshy things that keep flies off the food, or traps them inside on some occasions!), utensil carriers, serving tray, and so on.

Next Shelf: Eight drawers with scissors, batteries, sunglasses, flashlights, headphones, etc. And cookbooks beside them.

Next Shelf: Three baskets with returns/drop-offs for stores/friends, light bulbs, and packaging supplies for the girls' bread-baking business.

Next Shelf: Child #1 homework bin, art supplies, play dough

Third-from-Bottom Shelf: Child #2 and #3 homework bins, school supplies basket (calculators, pencils, scissors, ruler, crayons)

Second-from-Bottom Shelf: Three baskets with hats, gloves, and scarves (Taking bets on if said items will be returned to the basket where they belong)

Bottom Shelf: My winter boots. (Everyone else has a locker in the garage). Coupon file.

I still plan to glue whiteboard inside the doors (Mr. Home Depot cut it already) to write where my returns go - so I don't always have to sort through the box. And I need to find a couple more bins for the art stuff & play dough - but it's fair to say that I'm 95% done.

I didn't do it all . . . but I did do something. AND THAT FEELS GOOD!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

The calendar read:

10:40 SEOP at the high school (registering my girl for Junior year and gathering scholarship info,)

11:30 IV therapy at hospital (just down the road from said high school)

12:45 Olive Garden (celebrating my friend's birthday with breadsticks)

After: Wal-Mart, IKEA, Taipan (pick up decorations/favors for upcoming party)

The night before this well-planned day, however, I arrived home past the kids' bedtimes and when I tiptoed into kiss them goodnight my 4th grader told me she had to build a wickiup . . . for tomorrow. A wickiup? Really? What is that anyway?

But I cared less about what exactly a wickiup is . . . than I cared about WHY it wasn't built with daddy while I was gone for the last 3 hours (not to mention why it wasn't mentioned to me at all in the last two days). "Because he doesn't know how to use a glue gun" she shrugged. I contemplated, for just a split second, giving her a run down on her daddy's life work right then. Artillery. Warfare. He can name, load, and fire dozens of weapons, from the hand-held kind, to the ones that hit targets 16 miles away. He is trained in hand-to-hand combat. (I'll skip the details here). He's been to war. For heaven's sake girl, he can use a glue gun! (But I must admit, he'd be glad to know that she doesn't consider him "crafty," although he can braid and curl her hair!!) But I knew that my lesson would have been in raised tones, so I sighed instead and told her she'd have to get up extra early in the morning.

Turns out that a wickiup is not a hogan, nor a cliff-dwelling, nor even a teepee. Google couldn't even find a "goshute wickiup" but turned up a "wigwam" and "Paiute wickiup" instead. Hmm, are those acceptable? A search through the Wolf Den book revealed a wickiup, but the 4th grader assured me that's NOT like the wickiup her teacher showed. So, we decided to go custom. Plans and pictures are overrated anyhow.

Luckily my Little Man knew the spot to find the perfect sticks at 7:00 in the morning, and we got to work. Paper plate for the prairie (did they live on the prairie?), cardboard for the wickiup base, and sticks to surround it. Oh, and a hot glue gun. Oh, and a pocket knife to cut the sticks. (Actually only one of the three of us - mom, 4th grade girl, and Little Man thought this was necessary. Guess which one.)

7:15 a.m. Left thumb (and nail) nearly sliced through. Thowing off robe and pulling on jeans and hubby's sweatshirt. Brushing my teeth with water (I think - maybe I skipped that part all together?) LOTS of blood*.

7:40 a.m. Holding down quivering, screaming, sweating, deathly-pale Little Man as the digital blocker is inserted, via very long needle for a very long time, into the gash. My head resting on the pillow beside his. LOTS of blood*.

stroking his head

holding the vomit bucket (but unnecessarily it turns out)

stroking his head

watching the nurses scurry to find a tourniquet for his finger so the stitching can be done, as the mass amount of blood* is impeding the doctor's view.

talking about rocks and dogs and I-don't-remember-what-else into his ear as distraction while the doctor tries to pry off the nail (turns out that didn't work), repairs the tendon, and stitches the skin.

9:30 still resting my head while the nurse cleans and wraps up the ugliness, and the other nurse heads for the pharmacy to retrieve the antibiotic in suspension form, please, rather than the capsules, thank you.

10:15 home. Brush teeth for real. Call the hospital to cancel my IV therapy appointment. Apply minimal makeup, brush through my ridiculous hair, take the Little Man with me to the high school.

10:40 wandering the halls to find #807. Notice that it is mostly boys who aren't in class during class time. Find the room and sit to hear about science, English, and math requirements. Leave to take Little Man to the bathroom. I refuse to let him use the boy's room without me, he refuses to use the girl's room, so we return to #807 unrelieved.

12:15 stop at Wendy's for a kid's meal (a rarity in our family). drop Little Man off at school, wondering if I should.

12: 30 home again. retrieve my Little One from my neighbor (who helped to complete the wickiup while I was otherwise detained at the hospital). Look in the mirror and wonder what I should change before the birthday lunch. Decide I need to change everything, but have time to change nothing.

The rest of the day evolves about the same . . . run from one place to the next. And that night I remember we need 12 rocks in a box for school the next morning. Luckily pocket knives are not needed.

My something today? Stroking a sweaty head and kissing a distressed face. It wasn't on the list, but was definitely more important than everything that was.

*blood is not my thing. I do not do well with blood. I have many, many stories to back this up, but it would make me queasy to tell them, so I'll skip it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Mantra

There were bouts of it, certainly, over the years before, but it wasn't until 2004 that being overwhelmed with life unpacked its bags at my house and settled in for a long stay. Within a few months I had moved, given birth to child number 6, had major surgery, and waved goodbye to my husband as he left for 18 months of war in Iraq. The next few years would bring another surgery, two more moves (across country and back) and prolonged health issues, all with the stuff of daily life sprinkled generously on top.

I had short seasons here and there of feeling cuaght up and okay with where I was, but for the most part I viewed my life, myself, with disdain. "Why haven't you finished that?" "Why haven't you started that?" "You forgot to do that tradition!" " Look at the mess you've got in the file drawer and behind the stove!" "Why did you raise your voice, again, at the kids?" And all of it was said in sharp, belittling tones, with weariness lapping at the edges.

A brief background on me reveals this: I live by lists. I'm a perfectionist (by nature, not practice). I'm an "all or nothing" kind of gal. Undone stuff (and stuff done wrong) burdens me . . . in a really big way.

If and when I bemoaned my unfinished lists to my husband he reminded me that my life isn't about what's still on the list, but what never got written on the list in the first place, but still got done . . . like raising children, praising the Lord, and driving carpool.

And I know he's right. I know it in my head. In fact, I didn't even need him to tell me for me to know it. But in the end, my heart didn't agree. I felt conflicted by the "stuff" I believe to be important that I didn't have "done."

And then, not long ago, I went downstairs. In my arms I carried a few items to put away in our paritally finished basement and saw the trillions of other things that had been "put away" before, left in a haphazard pile (for when I have more time) or strung about by the kids (for when I have more energy). I dropped the stuff on the floor first, and then myself. Even my tears didn't beat the panic to the surface. I wanted it sorted and purged and cleaned . . . I wanted it done . . . I wanted it ALL done right then. I wanted my meals planned (for a month like I used to), our family service projects in progress, and the start-now-to-have-Christmas-finished-by-October on the spreadsheet. I wanted the flat stomach, the book manuscript complete, my family blog updated, the boxes of pictures put cutely in scrapbooks, the closets organzied, the sewing projects out of the bins, the bedroom walls painted, the family history work anywhere but the future, and my life in control!

I cried. I prayed. And the answer came. I heard it in my heart and repeated it aloud. Rhonda, you don't have to do it all . . . . you just have to do something. I reached out and began to pick up each piece of the colored construction paper, scattered on the dusty concrete floor, and collected them together into a tidy pile. I looked around and saw that by no means had I solved the problem, but that it was better . . . because I had done something.

I'm determined to keep doing something. And I'll write about it here, to keep me going.