Personal Journey

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.

Personal Journey

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! 🙂

Homeschool Life

Homeschool: A Weapon of Crass Destruction

First difference between summer and school:

Summer.  Kids:  “We’re bored.  Amuse us.  Divert us.  Spend money on us.”  Me:  Can’t you go play Legos or find something to do for just a little while?”

School.  Me:  “Kids?  Where are you?  It’s time for school… Kids?”    chirp… chirp…

So school has begun, and I can’t find them anywhere.  Luke’s probably exploding something or splashing water on the wasp’s nest in the back yard.  Gabriel just got into Diary of a Wimpy Kid and won’t put it down.   Except to make a tinfoil spike ball, described in said book.    I remember when Luke read that book, because I just put it together with a sudden appearance of tinfoil-toothpick spike balls that materialized in bulk around our house several years ago.  It all makes sense now.

Actually, as I type, Luke came to show off his latest effort in creativity and political correctness.  It’s snack time, of course.   I’ll give him Fine Arts AND Social Studies credit for it.image (1)

I find school motivates them to do more edifying things like reading (fun books, not to be confused with education in any way) or any number of activities that somehow aren’t nearly as interesting during the doldrums of summer when mom is available to provide *quality* entertainment.   I feel so… off the hook in a way.  No one wants to be near me, for fear I’ll grab the spelling book or, upon checking the language exercises, call them over for some one-on-one to discuss dangling modifiers or capitalization.

The hardest part of school starting is being powerful again.  Not the emcee anymore; it’s back to Sergeant you-will-do-EXACTLY-what-I-tell-you.  Ouch.  Can we get back to loving each other at around 2 PM, when I’m done making you do things you hate?  Hope so.

xoxo – Mom

Personal Journey

The Dangers of a Life Without Cable TV

poo (Photo credit: roboppy)

I hope they didn’t throw any poo today.

My friend’s email ended with those words.  No jk.  No lol.  I’m dead serious.  This highlights the reality of our existences raising boys.  I came home from a lovely walk with my husband to find my boys and her boys (all between the ages of 8 & 12) playing a game they made up called “Sling-the-Poo.”  The object (not rocket scientry) was to hit your opponent with a worrisomely-thin plastic grocery bag full of dog poo while NOT being hit yourself.   Players got a spontaneous lesson in centrifugal force when a whirling bag tore open, spewing foul batter all over two of them.  I wondered if my friend would ever send her boys over to “play” again.

This is just one example of the fallout from curbing my children’s TV/video game/iPod use– what we in my home refer to as “electrical stimulation.”    But oh!  How much cleaner and less dangerous to plop them down beside the romantic glow of some rectangle.  The worst that can happen to them is a crick in their little craned necks or a swallowed bug, as their mouths fall and remain open with intense, religious concentration.  Over time they might develop that doughy, slouchy, translucent look of the physically diminished Game Stop type– ah, if that were truly the only downside to the virtual life!   Some days, like on poo-slinging days, I wonder why we don’t just plug in like everyone else. I’ve heard all the good reasons to have cable TV– the food channel, Discovery channel, History channel, MTV.   Not.

watching tv
watching tv (Photo credit: Moritz Petersen)

Why do  I continue to turn my back on cable TV?  Ok, TV in general.   I got a taste of it recently.   After traveling some nine hours to drop  my son at encampment, I was a bit out of my comfort zone.    So the idea of being holed up in the safety of our hotel room to watch some very special History channel together was appealing. With all the other raunchy choices, I felt like we were about to have us some television salad.  I bunked down in my pj’s and fluffed the ten feathery pillows under me to do what the rest of America does in stride on any given night.

On comes an episode about serial murderers in America.

After educating me on the many deranged, psychopathic serial killers who live undetected all around me and look like Mr. Rogers, who could be my best friend for all I know because there’s no way to know who is and who isn’t, and even with all our scientific junk we still don’t know what makes a suave, well-adjusted, guy-I-probably-know decide to cut up truck drivers in his spare time and bury their parts in his herb garden

…this phrase actually came out of the TV, along with creepy, anxiety-producing music:   Will we– with xyz scientific gadgetry– be able to avoid the impending carnage?  The.  Impending.  Carnage?  The History channel is referring to my possible future?   Really.  That is about as subtle as being clubbed with a bus.   Even though I was cognizant of the fact that the sole purpose of the show was to scare the snot out of me, I was still afraid to go get my dinner leftovers from the van at a commercial break.  Grrr.  And I said to myself, this is why I don’t watch TV.  I’d rather live in the mildly naive state of DEFCON 5, than in the media-induced neurosis of a perpetual DEFCON 1, a reality that includes, around every corner, a serial killer, a rapist, and a tornado. Yes, even The Weather Channel has figured out how to exploit my fears.  So I turn my back on TV, a drastic thing to do.   Even though for just $75 a month I could have a buffet of terrors at my fingertips.

It can be a dangerous world out there, especially if you have an atom of creativity and a dearth of electrical stimulation.

no-cable-tv (Photo credit: hjl)
Homeschool Life

Good Morning

feet by fireUpon waking, I sip my coffee either upstairs or downstairs, depending on which living space is less messy.  Today was a toss up.   These are my slippered feet and my PJ’s; that is my cat, and this is what my view usually does NOT look like in the morning.

Warning:  this may sound like complaining.  It’s not.  I really like the destruction.  Just ask my husband.  He’ll tell you how incredulous he finds the fact that I don’t even get mad anymore when the box-spring frame cracks under the weight of someone who MUST have been jumping on it or at my discovery of  firewood splinters all over the carpet (the least of possible evils when it comes to my dog’s chewing habits).  I’m just recording the moment.  In 10 years I may forget how the mornings went.  I won’t remember a time when things I place somewhere don’t stay there.

So I’ll start with the piano.  It’s dusty.  The floor is an ocean dotted with  Lego buoys and their large shallow boxes that remind me of  abandoned barges of perfectly recyclable trash floating along forever (a most deeply branded image on my subconscious, all I’ve retained of my public schooling).  Cups, bowls of cereal cement, an unwanted bowl of spicy black beans, a lemon half, and a frat party’s worth of cups greet me from the kitchen counter.  The cat meows that he wants his good-milk (2%, NOT skim, NOT whole– 2%).  Even the goldfish wiggles excitedly when I come close to brew my coffee.   He always seems to say the same thing.

Someone (I know who) was searching for a cough drop last night before bed, so the first aid box is on the living room dresser, and all its contents remain perched on said dresser, as if the reciprocal of taking stuff out of a container can’t possibly be to place them back in.   Inconceivable.    And this one’s mine:  Katae’s puzzle from Christmas break is still rolled up under the glass coffee table, its refugee pieces in sorted piles.  My defense is I’m leaving it until spring break, when I’m sure she’ll finish it.

Books are everywhere.

I like that kind of a mess because, really, it’s strategic.  Convenient books.  Anywhere you look you can see one… or ten.   I even take the piles apart so a roving eye can get curious about what excitement lies between the different covers.  (That was an unintentional double entendre.)  Not that I encourage judging a book solely by its cover, of course.  Just pick one up.

Where does my Lord fit into this?  I was supposed to be reading the Bible; instead I’m penning this record of state of our home.  All I know is that– before I knew Him, my house was spotless because aesthetics were all I had on which to stand.  Now I know that, more important than a tidy home is a happy heart, lots of them in fact.  They are happy making havoc.  I can’t keep up with their joy, is all.  And I’m too busy having fun myself.  So when I survey the jobs-like-stars awaiting my organizational hand and military bearing, I am not overwhelmed.

And I didn’t even bother to describe the room I DIDN’T sit in this morning. 🙂