March 5, 2015

Try Outs Teaching Bravery

I'm coaching LIttle League again this year.  As with anything I haven't done in almost a year, nervousness gets mixed in with the excitement.  Normally these things are like riding a bike.  The getting on is the difficult part, balancing and pedalling comes back easy.  In the beginning of new (or new this calendar year) ventures, I have moments of panic.  Am I going to know what I'm doing?  What if I fail those innocent little players who just want to learn how to excel at baseball.  I might embarrass myself or disappoint parents and players.  What if I fail my own kid?

In the beginning I always have to fake the confidence.  It comes back to me slowly as the season goes along.  Oh yeah, I remember how this goes.  I've got this now.  But that mindset doesn't make it's appearance until about two weeks into the undertaking.  For now, panic and angst rule.

Luke is old enough to play at a level in which he has to go through evaluations.  Last night was the big show.  "Evaluations" are just a nice way to say try-outs.  Nobody gets cut at this level, but they may be placed at a higher or lower level than they wish.  I get that this is a necessary piece in creating even teams with spread out playing levels.  You don't want a bunch of kids who have never played all on one team and another team filled with kids who wear their gloves in the shower and eat baseballs for lunch.  There are also safety concerns of having a kid with less experience playing at too high a level.

These evals were just a two minute snippet of each of the kids' talent.  Two minutes doesn't give a clear picture of throwing, fielding, batting and base running but I don't want to spend the next two weeks watching kids try-out.  I'm sure the other coaches have the same sentiment.  A few hours on a Wednesday night and a fun-filled Saturday is quite enough to spend asigning numbers to 100 kids' skills.

It's really hard to watch them all because I've been in their shoes.  I absolutely hated any sort of "evaluation."  Still as an adult, I have a reoccurring nightmare.  I'm in the outfield during try-out week.  All the coaches sit by the fence with their taunting clipboards.  Their menacing pens make evil assumtions while they record the atrocities.  They all watch as an easy grounder makes it's way into my glove.  The fielding part is never the problem.  Without fail, in my nightmare, I take the ball out of my glove and try to throw it in to the cut-off, but my arm is a traitor.  It ceases to work and fails me in my time of need.  No matter how hard I try, I can never throw the ball.  Sometimes my arm makes some sort of motion but the ball ends up driblling on the ground in front of my feet, miles away from where it's supposed to go.  The dribble only happens if I'm lucky.  Most of the time I can't even get the ball out of my hand.  Those seams are stuck in my palm and I'm doomed.  I will never make the team now.

I'm smart enough to know that these tryouts had a huge emotional impact on me, especially if they are still haunting my dreams, but I also know they were necessary.  Not only were they necessary because I wanted to play sports, but they were a necessary part of prepping me for adulthood.  I didn't realize it at the time, but being a grown-up is filled with evaluations.  There are the formal types like job interviews and professional peer reviews, but there are the informal ones like making social connections and having your neighbors be okay with letting their kids play at your house and not think you'll poison their babies.

So these eight to twelve year olds had to stand in line for an hour. When it was their turn they stepped up to the line, threw a few pitches, then ran over to field a few balls.  Keep in mind that this was in a gym and they were fielding bouncing baseballs on a basketball court.  Then they stepped up to the plate to hit a few off the pitching machine.  It all ended with a sprint to gage their running abilities.  No warm ups.  No loosening up of arms or legs.  All with watchful coaches sitting their making notes with their villainous pens.

For most of these little guys (and one girl) this was their first experience with try-outs.  My heart went out to them.  I could feel the nervousness eaking out of their pores.  I was more wary of the kids who weren't nervous.  I wrote a "C" by their number because I wanted to make sure I don't have any cocky kids on my team.  I can't coach that out.  There's a difference between confidence and arrogance.  My read on these kids may be completely innacurate, but I don't want to take a chance on that.  Yes, yes, I'm judging ten year olds now.  But I can't help it, the man put this whole process on me.  Get off my back!

I wish I could have told all the nervous kids.  I get it.  Don't worry, you'll survive.  You'll make it through this night, even if you fall on your butt and miss every single pitch.  You'll live and next time you come through one of these atrocious assessment of skills, you'll have gained an inch more confidence.  And by the way, I'm not only looking at how well you do tonight.  I also want to see coachability.  Do you have a good base of skills and a good learning attitude.  Will you be open to teaching?  Will you work together with your teammates?

That's all really hard to tell in two minutes, but my evil, red, evaluating eyes were looking for that too.  I wish I could have whispered some of that into their ears.  Encouraging words might have helped a little.  I wish I could have eased their fears.  It would have been nice to tell them that I was nervous too.  I'm a grown-ass woman and I still fear that I won't be good enough.  I'm the only lady coach in a sea of masculinity.  I don't want to give the moms a bad reputation.  I want to prove that girls can be just as good coaches as boys.

They were all so brave and I was proud they all got up there and showed us all what they were made of.  Bravery and confidence are cultivated.  Kids are not born with those skills.  Even though try outs seem icky, they were a chance for each of those kids to step over the monsterous nervous energy.  Bravery was practiced in that gym last night.  Gold medals were pinned on all.

I'm not going to lie though, I did write, "PICK HIM!!!!" next to the nine year old who performed better than most of the twelve year olds.  Because this Mom Coach is going to beat ALL THE OTHER TEAMS, with bravery, good attitude and humble confidence, of course.

March 3, 2015

How do the Rules fit into the Bigger Picture?

I am a rule follower.  I always have been and probably always will be.  Lately, I've been wondering about all the rules I follow.  Some are imposed by myself, some others throw onto me.  Some I enjoy, others I hate.  Some help but some inhibit.  Some I want to keep but some I want to chuck off the side of the tallest cliff.

Now I just have to figure out which ones lie on which side of the line.  Which ones to keep and which ones to trash.

My Mama Addie, my grandma, was a rule follower too.  A few weeks ago, I got to see her.  Well, I got to see her shell.  She's 94 and most of the time she's not really there.  Sometimes though, if I'm lucky, I get to see a twinkle in her eye.  It's a mischievous twinkle.  It used to be there all the time but as the years have come and gone, she's slowly drifted away from us.  I miss the constant twinkle and I miss her mischief, but most of all, I miss her.

You see, I was her first girl.  She mothered two sons but didn't get a female little one until I came along.  Lucky for her, she got two more girls after me.  The three of us got spoiled rotten, probably because she thought God was spoiling her with three granddaughters.  She would have loved grandsons too, if they came along.  It's just that she'd already been there and done that with her own sons.

I'm not saying girls are better than boys, or anything like that.  I just think she wondered what it would be like to take care of girls.  I don't think she realized it but she was part feminist.  She didn't distinguish chores and household duties as belonging to one sex or the other.  Those two boys of hers grew up knowing how to cook, sew, and clean as well as build, fix and tend.   Mama Addie taught her boys to be creative and to think critically.  She rocked being a boy mom and she did the same as a grandma to girls.  Since she raised two little boys, I take voracious notes when I hear stories of her momhood.

She loved all of her family like nothing else.

Funny snippets stick into my brain.  I remember her perfume.  I remember laying my head on her "pillows" as I drifted off to sleep.  I remember her lullabies would creak a little - just like the wooden glider she would rock me to sleep in.  I remember waking up, coming downstairs to the earthy smell of black coffee and to her staring out at the salty Sound.  I remember rootbeer floats and dipping crab into melted butter.  I remember curlers in her hair while she lay on her bed chatting on the phone with her sister like she was a teenager.  Most of all I remember she loved me.

I also remember her absence.  I used to play softball on the weekends and I never saw her sitting in the stands.  She had a rule.  Sundays were Sabbath.  The rule was no work or play on that day.  She thought I was breaking a rule by playing in my favorite game on Sundays.

I never asked after her thought process on the subject.  I wonder if her absense was because she didn't want to condone my unruly behavior.  Or maybe she didn't think she could enjoy being a spectator on that day. I do know she was thoughtful about her own life and faith, so she must have been severly convicted to follow this rule.

I know she loved me and I admire her faith, but it hurt seing that empty spot on the bleachers.  I ached knowing that her tradition and rules trumped our relationship.  I was confused as to why a turn on a calendar was so important.  I wanted to hear that creaky voice, see that troublesome twinkle AND have dirt and grass stuck between my cleats.  I wanted her there.

Her absense never made me doubt her love and devotion to me.  I simply missed her and wished she would break some of those rules to share more time together.  I wanted to see her sitting in the bleachers with the sun beating down on her perfect head of brown curls.  I wish her perfume wafted out to my nose in left field.  I wanted to hear her laugh as I walked up to the plate.  I wanted to go out for hamburgers together after the game.  I never doubted her love for me, but I wished those rules would shatter so we could hangout on a Sunday.

I get that certain rules are needed and important.  Some make life run better and most of us don't want to live in a world of total anarchy.  I also understand that periods of rest and time to exercise beliefs are vital.  But sometimes I wonder if rules are the easy way out.  It's easier to stick to the rules in stubborness rather than see their part in the bigger picture.  It's easier to blindly follow along than to think critically about how they fit into the puzzle of life.

For me, relationships are the bigger picture.  They were to Mama Addie too, but her tradition spoke louder.  I wonder, if she could have a do-over, would she break some of her rules?  Would she do things the same?  I wish I could ask her.  Not in a confrontational way, but in an educational way.

I know that the Sabbath was very important to her, along with other church traditions.  I wonder if we went back to that time, would she realize that sitting in the bleachers could be Sabbath too?  Being together could be Worship.  Eating hamburgers and drinking Coke could be Communion.  Breaking the rules could be church.  It takes great faith to see that.  I wonder if she would have seen Jesus sitting next to us all in the dugout.  He was there.

I like to think that looking back on life, she would agree.

All of this makes me wonder what rules I'm stubbornly sticking to out of faith or beliefs or morals.  Some of them may be beneficial, but others may be blinding.  Am I not seeing the whole picture?  Are the rules getting in the way?

Which ones should I keep and which ones should I break for love and devotion?  Which ones promote relationships, which ones hinder?

What is your bigger picture?  What rules promote that goal?  What rules could you toss out the stained glass window?

All I know right now is that I miss my Mama Addie and she's not even all the way gone.  She taught me volumes and I want to keep learning.  Maybe I'm just thinking about all the times I missed out with her because she won't be here in the near future.  If she still had all her wits about her, she would probably scold me, "Be strong, Lindsey Annie, keep the faith.  We don't know exactly what that means or how it works out, but keep learning, keep asking questions."

I will, Mama Addie, I will.

For the record: She hates this picture.
But she's pregnant, working on a fishing boat.
How badass is that?

February 27, 2015

When My Kid Was the Bully

I'm pretty upset right  now.  This morning I got a call from the principal at the boys' school.  She had Jack in her office.  Apparently, he had been really mean to another kid at recess.  It wasn't a one time thing and I guess it had been going on for a couple weeks.

During the phone call, I tried to stay calm and actually focus on what the principal was saying.  Panicky, one-word questions kept flying through my head.  What? How? Why? Jack?

Yes, Jack.

I was mad.  Mad at him, mad at me, mad at the situation.

The principal told me that the other little boy's parents had coached him to tell Jack that he didn't like the mean comments and to please stop.  If that didn't work, they told him to walk away from the football game.  If it still kept happening, the parents told their son to tell another adult.

All of these happened, yet Jack still didn't stop the ugliness.  The boy had said no yet Jack didn't stop.  He was the bully.  He was the one that was verbally stomping on another kid.  He was going against all we taught him, against everything we believed in.

This kid probably went home so distressed each day. He was probably nervous at the beginning of each recess.  Those parents probably wrung their hands and agonized over dropping off their little boy each day to enter the recess lion's den.

All of this was eerily familiar.  Just a few months ago, Jack, Tim and I were all in their shoes.  We were on the other side of the line. A kid from his class kept singling Jack out and finding various ways to put him down.  Jack was in tears each night. We coached him and agonized each day. It stopped before we had to call the teacher or principal, but what if it hadn't?  What if we were the ones having to let the school know that our child was being minimized.

Not only was I mad, but I was disappointed.  I was disappointed in his actions but mostly, I felt like I failed him as a parent.  Both Tim and I were in a tail spin after the phone call.  We couldn't focus on anything else.  Nothing more got crossed off my to-do list and Tim couldn't focus on work.  We discussed all the possible scenarios.  We wondered if our parenting missteps led Jack to make this huge mistake.  We wondered if the kid he was picking on was actually the same kid who was picking on him earlier and he took our whole sticking up for himself coaching a little too far.  I'm not going to lie, I would have felt a little vindicated if that was the case.  We would just have to sit Jack down and say, "Okay, you made your point, albeit a little too far, now it's time to stop."

My whole logic on the bullying epidemic is that kids are learning how to interact with each other by watching us, the parents.  This is the main reason I was so tormented by this situation.  Where did we go wrong?  Tim and I don't pick on each other.  We try to thoughtfully converse with each of the boys.  We try to facilitate healthy discussions between the two of them when a fight arises.  We try to treat everybody else around us with respect.  We aren't perfect at any of those things, but the objectives are always love, respect, grace and empathy.

Where was our blindspot?  What weren't we seeing?  How could we teach and model differently?

We ended up driving over to the school to get Jack's whole take on the situation.  Our entire day was disturbed and unsettled; we had to get face to face with Jack and chat with him.  He had a fun pizza party reading reward at lunch and there was no way in hell he would get to enjoy that if he wasn't sorry for tormenting another soul.

I had already prepped myself with the ways that would upset me and disappoint me even more.  I didn't want him to be remorseful just because he got in trouble.  I didn't want him to be sorry because now he was labeled as a bully.  I didn't want him to be upset because there were parent and school consequences to his meanness escapade.

I wanted to see true remorse because he had made another human being feel less than.  I wanted to know that he completely understood, and remembered, how it felt to be the little one with a bigger one towering menacingly overhead.  I wanted to see him outward focused, rather than inward focused.  How did this situation affect that other little boy instead of how it affected him?  I knew that if this was the case, there was a really good chance we wouldn't have to address the issue again.

I was still scared.  I know Jack is a thoughtful and loving boy, but he still did this to another person.  I wanted to foresee how he would respond to getting caught.  I was hoping it was a wake up call and he would reverse direction when he realized the bigger picture.  The bigger picture being the other little boy's heart.

Thankfully, he was remorseful for all the right reasons.  He had already genuinely and compassionately apologized to the other boy.  He completely understood why the school and parent given consequences were in the picture.  He had already lost recess time and he knew more consequences and conversations would come later after school.  We let him enjoy his pizza party because he earned that and it wasn't directly related to the recess thing.  Actually, reading is another situation where he lacks motivation to work hard so I didn't want to discourage that part.  We told him he will be doing several things at home that will illustrate to us his thought process on how to make retribution, how to move forward and hopefully never make this mistake again.

When he got home from school, we got the whole story again.  We discussed it in and out.  Of course he was nervous to talk to us, he's a kid who got in trouble.  Of course he didn't want to get in trouble or be labeled as a mean kid.  We reiterated that the main reason he should be sorry was because he hurt that little boy.  Most of the time we never tell each of the boys how they should feel in any situation, but this one trumped that rule.  He already felt this way but we wanted to emphasize that the main reason this was wrong was because someone else got hurt by Jack's actions.

To better illustrate our point, Tim told a story about when he was in 8th grade shop class:

"When I was younger, I was a bully too.  There was a kid who I had a class with named Dale.  Dale stuttered and it made him talk different than the other kids.  Dale didn't have any other friends.  We were in shop class together and I came up to him and asked him what he was working on.  You see, Dale was really talented at everything we did in shop. He got really excited and told me all about his project and who he was making it for.  He thought he was finally making a friend.
After he was done talking, I said, "C-c-c-c-oool Dale.  Th-th-th-th-that's really n-n-n-n-neat."
Dale's face fell.  Tears rolled down his cheeks.  "A-a-a-are you m-m-m-m-making fun of me Tim?"
Then it all hit me.  I was making Dale feel like garbage.  He thought he was making a friend but then I turned around and hurt him instead.  I was trying to make my own friends laugh but he thought I was there to be friendly.  It was then and there that I decided that I would NEVER EVER use others to be funny.  I would never hurt a person to get a laugh out of my friends.  That's when I decided that self-depreciating humor was the way to go.  I would make others laugh by making fun of myself.  I had thicker skin so I could take my own beating so others wouldn't have to.
I always remember Dale.  He's still with me, helping me be kind to others.  And if there is someone to poke fun at, I make sure it's me.  I can take it.  I don't want others to hurt, especially at my hand. 
I always remember Dale and it would be helpful for you to always remember this little boy.  Remember how he hurt.  Remember how you felt when you were in his position.

Jack is a good boy, he just made a mistake.  I'm not going to make excuses for him but I'm not going to let this define him either.  I'm not going to let this slide without an important lesson being learned.  Just because he was picked on at one point, doesn't mean he has reason to pick on someone else.  Verbally bashing another is not cool and it's not funny.  Bullying isn't even justified if that person "started it."  There is a difference between standing up for yourself and slashing back at someone who hurt you.  A wrong for a wrong, doesn't make a right, even if it feels justified in the moment.

I hope he keeps this whole thing in his brain for years to come.  I hope he thinks twice when his possible actions may belittle another.  I hope he chooses differently next time, and every time after that.  And I hope if he messes up again, he'll come to terms quickly and right the wrong as soon as possible.

Thinking over this situation, I see some holes in my parenting.  I think, Tim and I may have portrayed that there are only two sides in this fight of life: The bully and the bullied.  I may have only illustrated the eat and be eaten positions.  While both those roles exist in the larger world, there is another dimension.  Our world isn't two dimensional; the three dimensions are the consumer, the consumed and something else.  I don't have a name for it.  It's just the space between or the step back.  It's a place where we don't have to pick a side, we can see both, help both and love both.  It's a place where we can pick the bullied off the ground and still have compassion for the one pushing down.  The step back is not hands off.  We are still called to stand up for the outliers. We cannot afford to stay silent and therefore, inactively condone the poor choices made by the power seekers.  We just need to know that even if we have played a part in the two dimensional world, that's not all.  There's more, there is space between and we all belong there.

Those are the things I need to teach the boys.  It will be a continual conversation, I'm sure, just like every major life discussion.  Parenting is funny.  You hurt when your kids get injured.  You are happy when they are joyful.  You are proud when they overcome.  But you also hurt when they make mistakes.  You hurt for the people they affected and you hurt for them.  Today there was a lot of hurt and it sucked.  I'm sure it was horrible for the other parents and little boy too, but the sun has gone down on today and tomorrow there will be new light and new freedom.  A new day with no mistakes in it.  A new day where we can all heal instead of hurt.

February 23, 2015

Life's Scoreboard

We had a sporty weekend during the last holiday weekend.  Four hockey games and two basketball games in three days kept us on our toes.  This is the stage of life we are in and I'm loving it.  I have sports on the brain so all I can come up with today are sports analogies.  I know that these are probably nothing new and way overdone, but they are what spoke to me when I was mulling over our game heavy schedule.

On that Saturday morning, we got to witness Jack's very first basketball game.  In the past he has been in camps to work on skills, but he's never been on a competitive basketball team before.  The night prior he set out his uniform, shoes and basketball so everything was ready to go.  I could tell he was really excited but also extremely nervous.  Sometimes his nervousness and self consciousness sabotages his efforts so I was anxious for him.  When he's comfortable and laid back, he just does his thing and it's so fun to watch.

No amount of pep talks could ease his nerves so we knew we just had to get him out onto the court and let him work it out on his own.  I was so proud of how confident he appeared even though I'm sure his heart was racing.  He didn't let the anxiousness stop him from playing.  I know a lot of adults who have a hard time overcoming that so I already considered this game a win the moment his bright, blue Nikes stepped in bounds.

Once the game got going he calmed down.  When his little butt was off the bench he ended up getting the ball about 50 percent of the time.  When he didn't have the ball he was racing around getting open for a pass.  He just knew what to do and where to be and he gave it his all.

Every time he touched the basketball, he paused for a second to gather up where his team was and which opponents he had to get through.  Then he would aggressively plow through and drive up the lane to shoot the ball.  I was so impressed that he used all the skills he had been practicing at home, he took all possible shots and when those shots were not available, he found a teammate to pass to.

I don't pretend to know much about basketball; I'm still learning the rules and techniques.  Put me on a basketball court and it would end up being more of a comedy routine rather than a competitive game.  I consider myself to be fairly athletic but the game of basketball confuses my brain and body.  Since I'm a basketball newbie, I was in awe of how quickly Jack picked up this game.  It's turning out to be his "thing," at least for now and for as long as he wants to keep at it.

More than half way through the game, I looked over to Luke.  He was watching Jack and almost crying.  I asked him what was up.  "I just feel so bad for Jack.  He keeps shooting and none of them go in."

I looked down at Jack and he also looked defeated.  While I was in awe of all his fundamentals, he was focusing on how little he was contributing to the overall score.  After the game, he was teary because he hadn't scored.  Tim and I listed off all the amazing skills he displayed and even his coach came up to him to tell him how impressed he was.  That seemed to cheer him up a little, but he was still disappointed.

I totally get it.  Winning is more fun than losing and you want to help out the team.  Losing is devastating and making those shots is evidence of how hard you have been practicing.  But the cliche is true, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.  Sooner or later, the more you throw that ball up, it will go in the basket.  It just sucks when you have a game full of missed shots.

Isn't that kind of like life?  It devastates us when we miss shot after shot.  Sometimes we get so disappointed that we stop even trying.  It just gets too hard to throw that heavy ball up anymore.  And the more we miss, the heavier the ball feels.  If just like basketball is Jack's thing, isn't life our thing?  We are all here, plodding along on this earth.  We all want life to be our expertise, but some of us have stopped even taking shots.  We aren't even putting ourselves in position to make the shots, let alone practicing to hone our life skills.

Sometimes, I think we have to continue making those agressive drives up the lane, even when we don't feel like it.  LIfe sometimes puts barriers and opponents that have to be pushed through.  It's hard bumping into others who are putting their hands up trying to block you from making a clear shot.  It's not our job to foul them everytime, but we have to get by somehow.  Gently or aggressively, we'll know when we see the opponent.

And we have to remember that the success isn't always if the score changes.  The success is pushing through life and putting yourself in a place to try and try again.  There may be hands in your face, elbows thrown into your side but launch that ball up anyway.  If that isn't success, I don't know what is.  Some days that ball will sink nicely into the net and you will see the reflection on the scoreboard of life, but not always.  For now, push through, throw something into the air and know that you've played well.  That deserves a W in my scorebook.

Luke was also a hockey maniac that weekend.  His last game of the tournament was probably the best we've ever seen him play on any team in any sport.  He ended up playing a position he doesn't normally occupy.  We knew this before the game started so as I chauffered the athletes to the arena, Tim sat in the back with Luke and went over strategies.  Luke said he was open to input and advice so they got a notebook out and planned out possible situations.  Now, keep in mind, Luke normally doesn't like input from us so Tim made sure he got the okay beforehand. He knew that if that didn't occur, he would be advising to deaf ears.

It was a good thing that Tim showed him some positioning and skill strategy because he ended up being paired up with the best kid on the other team.  This kid was a great skater and he was super aggressive.  He knew his stuff - a little too well - because he was nasty at times.  The kid scored all three of the goals the other team made but he also earned all three of the penalties.

Checking is not allowed at their level and Luke got some nasty elbows to the face and he got slammed into the boards multiple times.  This didn't seem to phase Luke and actually kind of spurred him on.  He ended up playing harder and better and he even got to shoot a penalty shot at the opposing goalie because that kid was so nasty.  I was so surprised how fast he would get up after being checked.  The low-blow playing kid was motivating him to play harder.  Luke never scored a goal that game but he played the best we have ever seen, ever.

He didn't let a little adversity get in his way.  He actually used it to his advantage.  I was so proud of how he never stooped to the kid's level of play - he just played harder and in a more stand-up, noble way.  It takes more heart to play that way and I was taking lessons from him that game.  In the past, Luke has scored multiple goals in a game but he didn't play as well as he did on that Sunday.  Again, just like with Jack, the scoreboard didn't reflect the play and effort and heart that went into the game.

On that sporty Valentine's weekend I learned a great deal by watching my kids play.  I realized it's not worth it to keep staring at life's scoreboard.  It's not worth it to be preoccupied with the world's definition of winning - that will just sabotage my efforts.

Let's change our definition of winning.  Let's drive agressively through life and throw up shots.  Let's skate back into the game, even after we get slammed unfairly into the boards.  Let's win the way we want to win and let's do it together.

Who's with me?

February 18, 2015

Ugly Focal Points

I dread my lady time that comes around every month.  I don't really mind the physical aspect of it, it's the mental and emotional side that's brutal.  This was the main reason why I absolutely hated being pregnant.  I felt like someone highjacked my brain.

One week a month I don't feel in control.  I don't feel like myself.  Everything I touch seems to break open and I leave a trail of relational destruction in my wake.

This is a raw subject right now because I'm in the midst of "the week."  I feel emotionally broken down.  I've had multiple red-faced, blubbering conversations with Tim.  These hurt and they are hard, but I'm realizing they may be necessary.  He's so patient with me too.  He gets that this is a sensitive time so he just sits by my side and holds my hair while I emotionally puke.

I always dread this week but maybe it is an emotionally necessary time.  Maybe this is the time that I can't hold it in anymore and shouldn't hold it in anymore.  It's a time where my walls can't hide my feelings anymore.  It's not an excuse to be rude or nasty, I still want to filter that, but maybe the rude and nasty are the actual walls.  Normally, I have other walls like clamming up or letting others steamroll over me.  Instead of letting this time be a positive mental awakening, I just replace it with uglier screens.  Maybe this is the time I'm supposed to do the hard work of self evaluation and promote my own self awareness. Maybe then my spew of garbage will slowly reduce its radius until there isn't any more to spit out.

When I actually say out loud that I'm extremely irritable I gain a little more control over it.  Verbalizing it also helps me realize that I need to sometimes remove myself from the situation and spend a little time alone.  I also let my family know my emotional state so they know when to step in or out.  Alone time can be healing, but together time being honest with my people can be healthy too.  I need both.

If rudeness or nastiness are my walls during this time, what am I covering up?  I'm not sure yet.  I do know that it is healthy and beneficial to find out so I will keep searching.

During my balance poses in yoga I have found a trick to quickly get into position and stay there.  If I find a spot on the carpet or ceiling to focus on I am more successful in holding my balance.  If I glance away from that spot, I fall.  Since I do yoga at home, most of those focal points are a stain on the carpet or a scuff on the ceiling.  Sometimes I laugh and wonder how the boys managed to throw something up that high and with such force to create that dent in the ceiling.  The spots I focus on are dirty and they are things I should probably clean up or repair and paint over.  But they are my saving grace in keeping my balance.

Maybe my "week" is a dirty focal point.  On the surface it's ugly.  And if I let it control me, I will say nasty things and hurt the ones I love the most.  Maybe I can get to a point where I look forward these times because I use them to let down my guard and soul search a bit.  Maybe it's like the practice of yoga.  If I keep at it, I will get stronger physically and emotionally, but only if I put the hard work into it first.  This will only happen if I don't build up my normal walls.  I need to find my balance in life so I am searching for those focal points.

We all need to find what helps us keep our balance.  What walls are we raising up?  What should we be focusing on?  Don't always look for focal points in the clean, pretty, perfect things.  There are treasures and hope in the ugly stains.  In those, you may find your balance.

This is going to be hard for me this week though because everybody is chewing so loudly right now.  The splosh of teeth and gums and saliva is going to make my ears explode.  Everybody is doing this on purpose to irritate me!  Oh my gosh, now someone is picking at their teeth!  Steam is coming out of my ears and I'm trying to take some deep breaths.  Find the focal point, Lindsey, do the work, gain your balance and hold it!

What about you?  How do you find your balance in life?  How do you push through your emotionally raw times?

February 13, 2015

For Tim

Because Valentine's Day is tomorrow and he is my one and only Valentine.  Plus, who can resist publicly shouting out that I made out extremely well with him by my side.  He makes my crazy sane and my unintelligible legible.  I love you Sweetie, more today than all our yesterdays combined.  Our love is exponential.

Hey I heard you were a wild one
If I took you home
It'd be a home run
Show me how you do

I wanna shut down the club
With you
Hey I heard you like the wild ones

-Sia (Wild Ones)

You and me, we'll shut down every club together.  That's how we do.  We've been hitting home runs since day one.

When I first heard of you (yes, we girls like to talk) I was sitting on my bed, under a bug net, sweating in the Haitian heat.  We were countries apart, but you and me, we were tugging hard to get to each other.  "There's a new boy in town back home.  I've heard he's a wild one."

You intrigued me and I hadn't even met you.  Love had started to grow.   I was already fighting to stay on the path that led me to you.  You see, not many people know, but I'm a wild one too.

When we finally met, both of us knew, but neither would admit it.  These things take a while.  The YOU and ME were on our way to US, the way it was always supposed to be.  Us wild ones need to be together.  I'm the only one who gets you and you're the only one who gets me.  Crazy, beautiful, wild ones, trying to keep each other sane.  Hey, I heard we are the wild ones, oooh.

February 12, 2015

My Kids Will Never Be a Status Symbol

I will not parent my boys in a way that is done solely for others approval.  I will love and discipline them in a way that promotes a healthy relationship between us and so they don't grow up to be total dickwads when they leave the nest.  And if for some reason, they do end up being delinquents, I will know I did the best I could do.  It will be up to them to use the tools Tim and I gave them to keep from being grown-up assholes.

My kids have not, are not and will never be a status symbol.

Luke and Jack are not boxes I can check off on my life's to-do list.  They are people and they deserve to be treated as such.  No line crossing out here.

This is not to say that I don't love being a mom.  I will wear that name tag with honor for the rest of my life.  We will always be connected but we are each our own entities.  Their "success" or mine in life does not depend on one another.  No matter if they are "good" boys or "bad" boys - I will have succeeded at this parent thing because I woke up each day and gave it my best.  When I screwed up, we all started anew.

There have been days I asked the boys for forgiveness at 7:30 p.m.  They always let me start over.  Never yet have I heard some version of, "Sorry Mom, you were just too mean and you yelled too much today.  No do-overs for you today."  They are getting really good at this grace thing.

The same idea spreads over to my marriage.  I didn't marry Tim so I could just say I was married.  It wasn't just the next step in life or our relationship.  We didn't get married because everybody else we knew was doing it.  We also aren't staying married because it's the "right" thing to do.  Marriage and parenting for us isn't a keeping up with the Joneses kind of thing.

Tim and I got married because we wanted to create the Pell Team, forever partners in this hard and amazing life.  Besides, he's extremely hot so there's that too.

Sure, I loved saying he was my husband.  When we were newlyweds I would try to creatively drop it into conversation.  "My husband" was so fun to say but the label and married status wasn't the why behind our union.

What we have doesn't fit neatly into a box.  Our love is ever changing, ever growing and getting better each day.  We have our rough spots, sure.  Part of the greatness is the getting through the hard times and looking back on them while giving each other a high-five.  We beat that life tumble, Pell Yeah!

I think we started out with this marriage idea early on and it just transferred to our theory behind our parenting.  We got married young and had kids young.  I am proud of that, but still, the labels and the timing weren't the why's behind it all.

It's way too much work to try to please everybody anyway.  For every one person who approves of our marriage or parenting, there will be 99 others behind them pointing out all the flaws.  I will absolutely never change how I am a wife or a mom in order to gain the "good job Lady!" from anyone.  It cheapens the experience.

Tax forms, mortgage applications, facebook.  Yes, I will check the appropriate boxes.  I do have a husband and two kids, but my status in this world isn't based on that.  That isn't why I galloped into this story or even why I stay and put my all into it.  That kind of story has boring black text on a dull white page.  Our story is full of vibrant pictures and poetry.  Our pages are filled with elaborate imagery and complimented by colors your brain can't even comprehend.

I am Lindsey. Tim is Tim.  Luke is Luke.  Jack is Jack.  We are Mothers, Fathers, Sons, Daughters, Brothers and Sisters.  Those labels depend on how we relate to others in this life.  But standing alone, we are just as amazing as when we stand together.

February 11, 2015

The Rock Throwing Incident

Last Spring, the boys and I got invited to a play date after school.  It was a half day of school and a generous mom of a boy in Jack's class invited us over.  With her two boys, my two boys and an extra boy from Jack's class, it was guaranteed little kid fun.  In a matter of minutes there were superhero figurines strewn about the floor, video games going on in the corner and a mish mash of hopping on furniture and leaping from one room to the next.  They were all in heaven.

I was a little nervous going into it because new interactions tend to be hard for me.  I had talked to this mom off and on at the pick up line after school.  We were both about ten years younger than the average age of most of the other parents at the school and we both had had two kids in less than two years.  Gravity used those two identifiers to pull us together and produced some good conversation each afternoon. I was excited, as well as apprehensive, to spend the afternoon at her house.

This mom was winning all the good mom and best host awards right away.  She put a spread of fruits and veggies onto the table along with the corresponding dips.  Organic apple juice boxes were offered up and gluten free cookies were promised if a fair amount of the "good" stuff was consumed.

After seeing her spread, I felt a little self conscious.  During the last play date I hosted, I chucked a box of Cheez-its out the back door and told the kids to go play in the mud.

After the consumables were consumed vigorously, the tiny males scattered again.  Some stayed inside to play and others went out to play on the backyard swing set.  This amazing mom and I quickly got into a very interesting conversation.  You see, after she realized her youngest, who was on the Autism Spectrum, was gluten intolerant, she started her own business out of her home.  Since she had a talent for baking and her son couldn't eat most of the traditional baked goods, she formed a gluten-free bakery out of her personal kitchen.  Talk about ingenious.  Her idea was on current trend and she filled a niche that not a lot of people ventured into.

I was amazed.  I asked her all about the science behind it and how she got the ingredient combos to work without the standard chemical reactions.  In the midst of talking about fondant and how to shape certain cakes, Jack and the other boy from his class went out to play in the backyard.  Luke and the two resident kiddos stayed inside to game it up in the corner of the living room.

Jack and Gus (we'll call him that even though he has a much cooler name) had been out there for about twenty minutes when I noticed both of them quietly slink back inside to play Mario Brothers.  Hmm.  I got a twinge that something was a bit off, but I was too fascinated by how you can make sugar cookies without wheat flour.

The playdate was still going along successfully when we heard a knock at the door.  It was the neighbor lady from next door.  All I could see was a puff of gray streaked curly hair standing on the stoop.

A low, gravelly voice emerged from the poof, "I used to have young boys, so I kind of understand this is normal, but some boys were throwing rocks over the fence and hit my brand new pick up truck."

WHAT???  My heart starting beating faster and my face warmed up to a nice bright pink.  I looked over to Jack with my eyes shooting fire daggers.  Gus started to cry and went to hide under the kitchen table.  Jack's face paled and he started to quietly cry.  What in the world?

The dark poof kept going, "I just bought the truck a couple months ago so it was in pristine condition.  After the rocks, there are four dents on the hood and the windshield is cracked.  I totally understand this is a kid thing, but I want to figure out how to get my truck fixed and back to the original condition."

The stellar host mom started to panic, "Oh my gosh!  I'm so sorry.  We will definitely figure this out.  Give us a minute with the boys and I'll give you a call back."

That satisfied the poof and she hustled back to her house and her dented truck.  We sat Jack and Gus down to get their side of the story.  Through tears, they fully admitted to throwing the damaging rocks.  It was a pretty simple story.  They saw some rocks on the ground, both threw some over the fence, the  rocks crashed into something on the other side, then they came back inside to play.

Since Gus's mom wasn't there, I took it upon myself to explain the repercussions to both of them.  "So, now that you two damaged the truck, some things have to happen now.  The neighbor lady has to get it fixed and she isn't the one who is going to have to pay for it.  It's probably going to cost a lot to fix it and our two families are probably going to have to cover the bill.  I'm not sure how much it will be, but I know that it is a lot more than what you have in your piggy bank."

Both began crying again and Gus kept saying, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for what I did....Okay, now I feel better.  Can we play superheros now?"  Umm, not quite.

The host mom went to go call Gus's mom, while I stepped out to call Tim.  Jack started crying even harder.  He didn't want Tim to be disappointed in his behavior, but he knew it was inevitable.

I wanted to get out of that house as soon as possible so I left my contact information to be relayed to the neighbor and hustled the boys into the van.  I wasn't thinking clearly so I didn't make Jack go over to apologize to the neighbor.  Plus, I wasn't even sure if Jack was the one who threw the rocks or if he was just the sidekick, so I didn't want to admit any fault that would later be picked up by the insurance company.  I totally understand both the role of the thrower and the sidekick cheering squad are at fault, but as I said, I wasn't thinking clearly.

Later that night, Tim and I were discussing our options and obligations when Jack came in with his piggy bank and wallet.  He spilled everything on our bed and said he would pay for the damage.  We told him we appreciated his sentiment but it would probably take all of his allowances until he turned 18 to pay for it all.  The real lesson here was understanding how our actions affect others.  We have to seriously think before we do things and understand all the consequences.

I was still under the impression that this began as Gus's idea and Jack was following him over the rock throwing cliff.  You might call it the mommy blindspot but I couldn't picture Jack orchestrating this adventure.  When all the emotions had evened out, Tim sat Jack down and asked him again about what happened that afternoon.

Tim: So, who's idea was it to throw rocks over the fence?
Jack: I don't know, both of ours, I guess.
Tim:  When you threw the first rock over the fence did you hear it hit something?
Jack: Yeah.
Tim: Did you know it was a truck?
Jack: Yeah.
Tim: After you knew if was a truck, did you throw another rock?
Jack:......Yeah, a few more.

DAMNIT!  We were going to have to pay through the nose for this.

All sorts of insurance companies got involved, there were inquiries, multiple quotes to fix the damage and lots more drama.  There was finger pointing and some parties refused to take responsibility.  The powers that be determined that the responsibility would be split three ways: the two families of the rock throwers and the nice mom who technically owned the rocks since they came out of her backyard.  Tim and I didn't think that was fair to the nice host mom so we paid our third plus Jack's half of her share.

During this process we had multiple heart to hearts with Jack.  I'm pretty sure he learned his lesson, but only time will tell.  We made sure to emphasize that we all make mistakes.  At some points in our life, everybody makes poor choices.  It's how we act after the fact and how we try really really hard not to repeat those same mistakes.  There is no point in dwelling on the situation once it's done and after you have made ammends.

In our family we have a secret handshake that indicates a grace-filled start-over.  Three fist bumps, while saying, "Let's move on."  The person who is asking for a re-do starts it and the other person can't participate unless they agree to give the grace.  Simply verbalized, but so hard to put into practice.  Grace is a discipline and we all need to ask for it and give it.  Grace is a daily practice.  Some days we fist bump more than a few times.  Other days, none at all.

This is a good childhood lesson but some adults have a really hard time with it too.  Heck, giving myself grace is hard on most days.  I lash out and place blame on others or myself.  Not helpful and never healthy.  I need an internal, "Let's move on," instead of dwelling on it forever.  Those rocks will never unthrow themselves.  The damage is already done.  We just have to pay the fine and move on.

Let's all say it together, "LET'S MOVE ON!"

February 10, 2015


Looking back on my history of friendships and relationships, there are some that were pretty screwed up.  For some reason, I played the role of a spineless turd.  I have no idea how I got myself into these situations.  Maybe it was because it was a phase in my life where I was desperate for friendship and I didn't care who with, as long as it was with a breathing person.  Sometimes I wonder if I had a sign on my forehead that said, "Put thumbprint here.  Push down as hard as you can."  Maybe they had their own insecurities and they saw a passive sidekick in me.  Who knows.

It's just weird though, because anybody who knows the real, whole me, knows that I DO NOT like being told what to do.  I hate feeling manipulated and pushed around.  Who doesn't, really.  I have my own ideas and I like control of most situations.  I know I'm intelligent and strong but for some reason, these relationships left me second guessing myself.

I've just been wondering lately how I got myself into these situations.  I really want to figure it out so I don't make this grave mistake again.  Maybe it's because I tend to be non-verbal in heated conversations.  Maybe it's because I avoid confrontation at all costs.  Some people are for-fun-debaters or confrontational by nature.  There's nothing wrong with that, I just shy away from it.  If people are having a friendly debate and voices get raised all the alarms go off in my head and my adrenaline starts pumping.  Oh my gosh, they're fighting!  Where can I run and hide?  In the fight/flight, my go-to is almost always flight.

I'm not really sure why I'm like this; I just am.  And when I'm around a friend who is opposite, I can only hide for so long.  It just takes up so much energy to be in these kinds of friendships and then even more to figure out how to gracefully bow out of it.

 And believe me, most of the time, my exits were not pretty.

Thankfully, not all my friendships are like this.  I have had, and still have, some that are amazing.  In these we are equals.  We are kindred spirits.  They are iron sharpens iron situations.  I'm grateful for my small circle of friends because it's easy with them.  We have fun, get along great, but hard times, on my end or theirs, don't phase us.

Maybe, me sitting here, wondering why some friendships failed, isn't worth my time.  I just really really don't want to get myself involved with anything like that again.  I might be thinking of it because we are relatively new in our new town.  We are meeting more and more people so we are building our network here.  I'm happy with my small circle of friends that I already have but aren't we supposed to get involved in the community we live in?  How can I do that without building friendships?  Maybe I just have to cultivate my vulnerability by taking the risk that some friendships may turn out toxic.  If that happens, I can fall back on my posse and they will take care of me.

I might also be rolling this topic around because sometimes I see the boys getting into uneven friendships.  I always thought both would take on more leadership roles in their social circles.  This isn't always the case.  I am surprised when they follow into not so positive situations.  I want to save them from eventual heartbreak, from imploding friendships or others that sadly fade away.  I know it's part of the "let them live and learn" parenting trick, but it's so hard to watch.  I wish there was something else to do rather than sit and wait for them to crumble onto the couch after a relationship has died.

Of course, I turn it back onto myself and play the blame game.  Am I setting a bad example of how to be in a friendship?  Is it in our genes to sometimes get trampled on?  Did I pass that shit down to them?  I want to put on a brave face for them and for myself, but I'm learning that a fake smile and blame aren't the answers.  Vulnerability is.

I'm not sure about any of this.  Any suggestions?  Yes, I'm asking for your opinion.  I'll try really hard to not take it as you telling me what to do.  I may or may not put your suggestions into practice because, obviously, I'm sensitive about power plays.  So much so, I have no brain indication of discerning the difference between helpful suggestions and someone making me feel like a wet paper towel.  I need help, obviously.

February 9, 2015

Scary Vulnerability

I struggle with making decisions based on shame and guilt.  These decisions are the major, life changing ones, the little bitty every day ones and everything in between.  I know there is a good version of guilt, like feeling bad for sitting on the couch reading instead of going down to the basement to play in a Nerf battle with Tim and the boys.  That kind of guilt makes me a better mom and I'm grateful for it.  This is not the kind I'm talking about today.  I'm referencing the kind that overtakes my priorities.  I hate when guilt gets played as the trump card.  My tendency to people please double teams with it and I make rash, horrible decisions just to try to make the shame and guilt shut the hell up.

I just started reading this amazing book by Brene Brown.  The Gifts of Imperfection has helped me understand this whole process.  I'm only through chapter two and it's blowing my mind.  I always knew that guilt had an overarching power over me, but I didn't know how to combat it.  You can't just say, guilt isn't going to affect me anymore, and poof, you're free.  At least for me, it doesn't work like that.   Understanding how it works in our brains and then how it flows out through our actions is helpful.  If I can see each piece of the cycle and categorize feelings and actions, I can finally start to get a grip on it.  I have to tangibly process things, talk about it, write about it, then be given measurable steps to follow through.  Only then, can I even approach the idea of changing.

Along with her study on shame and guilt, Dr. Brown found that people who don't let these monsters rule their life cultivate vulnerability.  I think this is the very reason I haven't been able to shake those monsters.  I always try to put on a smiley face, make my life sound Pinterest worthy and shove everything else in the dark closet.  I can do all of the things myself!  Everything is fine!  Being vulnerable takes a lot of bravery and courage.  I don't think I have enough right now but I'm sure going to wake up each day and try my best.

Actually, today I'm feeling especially low, so this post is even harder to pound out.  When I get like this, I feel like I have tunnel vision.  Anything perepheral is fuzzy and I can barely focus on the things right in front of me.  Using my brain feels like walking through a thick mud.  So, my apologies if none of this makes sense.

She also says that there are certain behaviors that work against being vulnerable.  Blaming is one of these.  It's funny how I can totally see myself in all these negative behaviors.  When something goes awry, my default is to blame.

We protect ourselves, by looking for someone or something to blame.  Or sometimes we shield ourselves by turning to judgement or by immediately going into fix-it mode.-Brene Brown

So blame is equal to self protection.  I have to get over this.  I've put all my energy into putting up walls, while silently suffering under guilt's heavy pin.  Now, instead of lashing out and wondering why I can't change, I'm working at tearing down these barriers.  It sounds pretty scary to me, but this post here is my first baby step.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.  Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
-Brene (again, isn't she wise?)

I want that light.  I want ownership of my own story, even if some of the pieces turn out to be really ugly.  I want to be vulnerable and celebrate with those who want it too.