The Boys of Summer

Standard

Baseball 3
Summer means the boys are back…baseball that is…

For years, I have spent most summer weekends (and many a summer evening) sitting on bleachers cheering on my Boys of Summer.

It started with my husband, who played in a 12-inch softball league. Many of our “dates” consisted of me on the bleachers cheering him on and waiting for the game to end so we could go get something to eat and maybe see a movie.

Then we got married and had kids. Who grew up playing baseball/softball from the moment they could walk. So I was back on the bleachers, this time cheering on the kids in the local park district leagues. From there, both moved on to travel teams, which for the uninitiated means official uniforms (versus matching team t-shirts) and weekends on the road to get to wherever the next tournament is being held. At considerably higher prices than the park district but for a “higher level of play” and “more exposure.”

For a couple of years, summer meant saying good-bye to my husband in May, as we split the kids…him taking our daughter since he was one of her softball team’s coaches, and me taking our son since…well…I was the only option left with a driver’s license and a credit card. And I can cheer the team on pretty well from the bleachers, having already gain extensive experience at this point.

When my daughter threw in the towel on travel softball (and the possibility of a sports scholarship…sigh…but that’s a story for another day), we all focused on The Boy’s travel team. And continue to spend every weekend at tournaments.

Now it may sound at this point like I’m not happy with the Boys of Summer. Which is untrue. There are a number of upsides to being a baseball mom.

1) I get a killer tan every year. I actually had a woman compliment me on my tan not long ago…and it’s still early in the season!
2) It’s nice to spread vacation across a number of quick weekend trips and see a little of the Midwest. On a recent weekend, I got to walk around the College of St. Mary’s campus…beautiful architecture and landscaping.
3) It’s a great opportunity to spend time with the kids and hang out with friends, while playing Bags. Hard to beat a relaxing evening spent that way.

But having spent so many years on the bleachers, it can start to pall. At some point in the season, I start to lose interest a bit and I start to get up from the bleachers to wander around earlier and earlier in each game. I also start to look for reasons to not attend.

But when I start to feel that way, I remind myself that, some day, I will be sad when we no longer have games to go to. And, of course, I will need to figure out a new way to get my tan when the Boys of Summer are gone.

 

Life Lessons from The Simpsons

Standard

Simpsons 1

We have been on a bit of a Simpsons binge lately.

We have been loyal Simpsons fans since the beginning. My husband and I even remember them on The Tracey Ullman Show (yes, we are that old). And our children have watched the Simpsons since they could see. In fact, when they were little and hadn’t figured out “time” yet, we’d explain longer car trips in terms of the equivalent number of Simpsons episodes.

I remember the furor of discussion around whether or not The Simpsons was appropriate for children. Not only did ours watch The Simpsons regularly, but my daughter’s favorite stuff animal was a Bart Simpson rag doll we found at a garage sale. In fact, lines from various Simpsons episodes made it into our family lexicon and remain there to this day. From “Eeeeexcelllllent…” courtesy of Mr. Burns to “I can’t believe you don’t shut up!” made famous by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, it’s difficult to have a conversation in our house if you don’t speak “Simpson-ese.”

But I digress, people actually questioned us about the fact that we not only watched but encouraged the kids to watch The Simpsons. My answer was simple. It’s a cartoon. If I can’t teach my children the difference between real life and a cartoon…or any form of television…then I’m really not doing a pretty basic part of my job as a parent.

In addition to that, a number of Simpsons episodes started really interesting family conversations about religion, homeless people, love, faith and a number of other “heavy” topics. Which gave us as parents a chance to share our views without sounding preachy, and the kids a chance to share how they were starting to form their own opinions, which might be different from ours, without feeling vulnerable.

Finally, if you take the time to see past the sarcasm and slightly inappropriate comments (which look pretty tame these days!), every episode really ends with an affirmation that for all the fighting, they are a family who loves each other and has each other’s back…which frankly, is the family that I want.

Not to mention that even the early episodes still pack enough laughter for us that it’s totally worth a repeat watch.

Some of you may not agree, and that’s fine. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. But remember, “I’ve had quite enough of your Vassar bashing!”

 

Know Thyself

Standard

selfawareness 3

I recently read an article that almost made me spit coffee on my laptop.

It wasn’t a bad article overall, fairly well-written and a topic is one that I think about frequently…don’t sweat the small stuff. Great advice overall, but it really got me thinking about self-awareness…or lack thereof.

Now I’m not going to tell you, gentle reader, that I never go over the top thinking of stupid little things that send me into a wild rage. For example, it drives me insane when my family can’t walk the extra two steps to the garbage can when they open a new gallon of milk and instead leave the little blue ring laying on the counter. I have actually exploded with rage about this. Even thinking about it is raising my blood pressure to new heights!

But I digress. I am consistently amazed when I see people talking about how they would never do something “like that,” when they do it all the time! The very definition of “hypocrisy” is “a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.” Pretty clear and something you would think people would understand. But that understanding apparently doesn’t stop it from happening. You often see celebrities who come out publically against drunk driving, and two days later, you see their mug shot on TMZ for driving under the influence. If you stop and think about it, I bet you can remember an incident with a friend who said they hate “X” and go buy it the next day.

It really is about self-awareness. We are all human and will slip from time to time, but I think we all need to really think about who we are, what we believe and if our actions demonstrate that belief. And if we can’t see it, hopefully we have good family and friends to point it out.

The family has made it a game to find clever places to leave the damn blue ring…that have nothing to do with the garbage can. Yes, it still throws me into an unreasonable frenzy, it does remind me to not sweat the small stuff.

“Know thyself” indeed.

 

Post Time

Standard

Horse 3

We watched the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

For the uninitiated, The Belmont Stakes are run in Elmont, New York, on the first Saturday in June and is the third race in the prestigious Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, or more informally, just the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby (first Saturday in May at Churchill Down, Kentucky) and the Preakness Stakes (third Saturday in May in Baltimore, Maryland) are the first two races.

Now before you think I am among the initiated, I’m not. I’ve watch the Derby twice in my life on television, and I only recently saw my first actual horse race live. I placed one bet…and lost. And enjoyed the rest of the day in the sun.

But for some quirky reason, we ended up seeing the Derby and the Preakness on television this year, so by the time the Belmont came along, I kind felt obligated to watch. Plus the hype around the favorite, California Chrome, winning the first two and having a real shot at the Triple Crown, kind of drew me in.

The Triple Crown is not only prestigious, but challenging to actually win. There has not been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed won in back in 1978. But California Chrome looked to have a shot. And his back story had a Cinderella undertone to it. His training was unconventional, and the horse himself also had some idiosyncrasies that made the racing community question his ability to seriously compete. His natural curiosity about things around him made it challenging at times to get him in the starting gate and keep him focused for a good start out of the gate. His owners, DAP Racing, was a tip of the hat to folks who questions the wisdom of purchasing California Chrome’s mother. Steve Coburn, co-owner, was a “regular, down home” kind of guy, and seemed to be a fun interview. A cowboy at heart, Coburn looked like the average rancher from Texas, cowboy hat and bushy white mustache, a little out of place among all the celebrities and outrageous hats at the Kentucky Derby.

Despite having no personal interest in the race, and despite my husband wanting anyone but California Chrome to take first (he had placed a bet which could have paid off big), I was kind of pulling for California Chrome. I usually like the underdog. But it was not to be. In the end, he came in fourth, tied with another horse.

While this was disappointing, I was more disappointed in Mr. Coburn’s reaction. I get that he is disappointed – even more so than me obviously – but to have the tantrum he had was a bit out of line. The reason that the Triple Crown is so prestigious is because it’s NOT easy to win. The field changes from race to race, and while there are some that run all three, there are “fresh” horses that enter each time.

If you have seen any of the post-race coverage, or ESPN at all in the past day or so, you will hear the talk. But I have to admit, the whole thing tarnished the Cinderella story for me. But I still find myself hoping that California Chrome comes back next year for post time.

 

As Time Goes By

Standard

Time 4

My mother turns 91 years old this week.

Thankfully, while she has slowed down a bit and has fought against some health challenges, she is still mobile and sharp and remains an impressive force in my life. But her birthday got me thinking.

In her 91 years, she has seen a great deal of history first hand. She lived through the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed it. She tells stories of the things her mother did to stretch the food budget – and some days the food itself – to feed their family of six.

She lived through World War II, when her two brothers – and most of the young men she knew, including my father – served in uniform. She remembers seeing blue and, sadly, yellow, service stars in the neighborhood windows, representing the loved ones who went to war. She remembers the war time rations, of things like nylons, and taught me how to wear them without getting runs, because she had had to learn back in the day.

She remembers the fight for Civil Rights and against segregation. She saw technological advances that no one could have dreamed of, from the introduction of television to seeing NASA land a man on the moon.

Unfortunately, she lived through more wars, assassinations of political leaders, more world strife. But she also saw the first female Supreme Court Justice appointed and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Through it all, she worked, had a loving marriage and three daughters and generally enjoyed life. Our house was always the gathering place, for my sisters’ friends and then mine. We hosted any number of family gatherings through the years and celebrated my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary with an open house one day and dinner party the next night. We celebrated her retirement and mourned with her when my father died.

As I said, she is still sharp, so I enjoy hearing her stories and memories. But most of all I am amazed by all that she has seen and done in her life. And I am grateful that I am a small part of it still, as time goes by.

 

We Fear Change

Standard

change 1

I recently read something: The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions. If people equate change with death, no wonder they fear it.

I won’t lie; I’m not always a fan of change. I don’t like it when my grocery store stops selling my favorite brand of coffee and I have to find a new one (new coffee, not grocery store). I don’t like it when they move my favorite TV show to a new night (usually a sign that the end is nigh). These are small changes and an annoyance, but I complain for a while and then deal with it.

Bigger changes are harder. Life-changing events can be good or bad but difficult either way. Moving to a new home is exciting but exhausting. Welcoming a new baby is exhilarating but even more exhausting.

I’ve had a number of life changes in the last several years. My daughter going away to college was a big change, and definitely hard. My son getting his driver’s license was a big change. I was supposed to somehow relinquish control in a big way, but it is nice that I don’t have to drive him to those early morning baseball practices anymore. Losing my job was hard, but I was in a rut, so I was able to see that change as a good one. It forced me out of the rut…that did feel like a grave on some days…and made me embrace the change.

Throughout these changes, I’ve look at each as an opportunity to take back control. I am now in a position to determine how I want to change my life and control my own destiny. And it feels good.

How do you master Change, rather than be its victim?