Defined: Trouble

I grew up in a trailer court.  It was like our own little ecosystem some sick developer plopped in the middle of a Pennsylvania corn field.  Most of that corn never made it to harvest, as we stomped it down for forts and trails, hide and seek, and just for the thrill of destroying something.  Next to the cornfield was a grassy patch where we’d play kickball, and lining the field were mature oak trees with low limbs, perfect for climbing.  At the top I could look out onto all that green and never appreciate how fragile the limbs were or how beautiful the world can be when you get up high enough. It was just another thrill.

Unfortunately for my music teacher, Mr. Komenski, he also lived in that squalid little trailer court, neighbor to the worst-behaved kids he’d ever have in his classes.  It would be like living in the projects with your principal.  A fun trailer court fact is that all our electric boxes are set up together in a little row in the middle of the “backyards” (I use that term very loosely).  They can be manually shut off simply by pulling the lever down.  Poof.  No more electricity for you, Mr. Komenski.  One time he must have been cooking because he came hurtling out his front door wearing an apron and brandishing a wooden spoon.

Even those distractions lose their luster when you’re nine.  One day my little brother, Kevin, my friend Tony, and I were on a mission in the woods near our Darwinian enclave, trying to dispel the boredom that so often afflicts the irresponsible.  When, tah-dah!  Leaning against a tree in the middle of nowhere was an old, rust-encrusted bay window, the kind that had nine panes and took up an entire wall of the living room.  Neglect showed in the dust that lined the panes like laundry lint.   Obviously whoever left this nasty old piece of house didn’t really care about it, and we were sure they wouldn’t mind us playing with it.  I don’t remember whose idea it was to throw crab apples into the panes, set up as they were into nine separate targets, challenging us.  We hit most of them, eventually placating ourselves with knocking off the stubborn shards that clung to the iron frame.   In our reverie, we didn’t hear the crunching of the leaves. When I finally registered the angry, hissing leaves and the low voice, he was upon us.   I was definitely in trouble.

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Civil Air Patrol 2013

“A man of character finds a special attractiveness in difficulty, since it is only by coming to grips with difficulty that he can realize his potientialities.” – Charles de Gaulle.

As of this post, Luke has achieved the rank of Staff Sargeant in the Lorain County Civil Air Patrol, a program I can’t recommend highly enough.  CAP teaches leadership, survival training, flight training, physics, and military etiquette.  Luke’s first-ever camp experience was an 8 day camp at Fort Pickett, Virginia, where he met some great friends and, as Charles de Gaulle put it, took the opportunity to plumb his “potentialities.”

The Lesson Losing Teaches

Actually there are several lessons taught by the strict and Spartan teacher, Losing.  Our soccer game yesterday inspired this post, but I’m hoping that it will get us through this rebuilding season, ie, losing season.  I try to be a cup-half-full thinker.2012 Spring 018

Losing teaches:

1.  I am a work in progress.  No one is finished or perfect.  Unless I’m at the olympics, losing shows the reality of my need for improvement, hard work, and humility.

2.  Excellence has its origin in loss.  The Bible puts it like this, “All achievement and all toil springs from one person’s envy of another.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:4)  How do I envy someone, until I lose to him?  Or her.  Losing inspires me to be better.

3.  The end does not justify the means.  Machiavelli wasn’t interested in learning lessons of any kind when he coined the phrase stating the opposite.  He wasn’t interested in fair play or integrity or civility.   We can thank him for inspiring Hitler, among others.  So in my play, in victory and in defeat, the means matters.   During a loss it’s even more important that I hold on to my sportsmanship. Losing is a challenge to be chivalrous.

4.  Joy comes from who I am not how we do.  We have a 50-50 chance of losing any game.   If my happiness rests on winning, then I’ll only be happy half the time.  Again, unless I’m in the olympics.  Even they come away with a silver sometimes: a loss if you’re a cup-half-empty person.

As I consider our season ahead, I thought it would be helpful to appreciate loss, since that may be what we have in store this season. I’m sure there are  more lessons to be learned from loss, and I would love to hear others.  What have you learned from losing?

*Update 9/29/13*  Thanks to the nicest soccer moms I know for their comments on fb & email!  They follow.

Lori says:  Great writing Kelly! We tell Ryan…you will win, you will lose, but you will never quit:)

Janette says:  Love it! That’s what I like about them, they never give up.

Csilla says:  I consider both winning and losing a necessary experience to build our character. We need to handle both situations with dignity and respect. Loosing doesn’t make you instantly as happy as winning but it can inspire you to work harder and want to be better. I believe that if you look at it with the right attitude, you can learn from loosing and it makes you a stronger person.
The boys are playing in the First Division with a team that almost completely fell apart. Since last season, we have lost the coach and 5 boys from the team. This season will be a challenge to prove that they can build a team and work hard together. 
Today is a new day with an other game with a 50-50 chance. As long as they are not giving up and they will be trying their best till the final blow of the whistle, I will be happy with it. :))

Colleen says: Hello Kelly! I actually read this a long time ago and had trouble coming up with a response! Of course it’s not because I am without loss. I know everyone has had the experience at one time or another.  Honestly, I am sad and hurt that we have lost our coach and some amazing players, but I am grateful that we were all part of such a wonderful team. Those kids were truly team players and a lot of that type of coaching comes not only from the coach himself, but from the parents. Isn’t it wonderful to go to each game feeling excited to watch the team play AND to sit with and talk with such a nice group of parents? Here’s to rebuilding the team into everything they know they can become! Here’s to forming friendships along the way! Here’s to the “magic” of a new season! 🙂

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Taken & edited by my son

Taken & edited by my son

I want to tell you about someone who loves me.

He has loved me all my life, from the time I was in my mother’s womb.  He loved me when I was frail and helpless and messy and when I said silly or ridiculous things; still he loved me.  He did not abandon me when others did, even when doing so would have been understandable.  Caring for me was hard on many levels.  Sometimes I wasn’t loveable.   Sometimes I asked for all his time and attention, as if I were the only thing that should ever matter.  I was selfish.  I was 5, then 9, then 13, but always selfish.  Even when it was hard he loved me.   He is loyal and keeps his promises, even to his own hurt.

And as I grew I did hurt him plenty.  His boundaries for me, though set for my safety and well-being, were like prison bars and handcuffs.  I bristled against him and his love whenever I got the chance.  I reveled in rebellion, never considering how my behavior made him feel.  And still he loved me and provided for me all things, even beyond my necessities.  He even provided fun.  In fact, fun is what he loves best.  He loved and still loves laughing with me.

He loved me when I was not returning his love.  It was often a one-sided affair. The Bible describes this love: “There is not fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) For the longest time I could not fathom what it meant because I was always afraid of losing the love of this or that person.  How could love be fearless?  When all the while he was demonstrating for me exactly how.   He gave me love without concern for getting.  Anything.  Perfect love is not a deposit into escrow for later.  It is forgotten the moment it leaves a soul, bound for another, and its only concern is for the other.  Perfect love doesn’t need to fear because it is the origin.  I can send it like a letter and know that it got there, even if I don’t get an rsvp.  That is what he did for me.

Those of you who know me probably think I’m talking about Jesus.  Those of you who know my dad may have realized I’m talking about him.  My dad gave up his life to single-handedly parent me and my brother when we were 5 and 2, respectively.  My dad put up with the most hellacious, maverick, conniving child ever to crouch on a parent’s last nerve.  But enough about my brother…

Seriously, I was the bane of his existence in my teenage years.  He tirelessly taught me what it looks like to respect someone, to love selflessly and perfectly.  Today is his birthday.  Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

Dad&me 001

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

does not act unbecomingly; is does not seek its own, is not provoked,

does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7