Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sometimes Winning is Just Getting Back On...

All through the spring youth sports season I found myself tempted to write about the life lessons my soccer stars were learning by losing almost every game.  After all I can't be the only parent who feels like everyone else's child is winning, winning, winning all the time.  Or, at least according to Facebook, they are all winning constantly, right?

Everyone wants to win at a competitive sport, but I also know there is great value in losing at something.  We all have at least one experience when we didn't win at something but it was an incredible character building lesson.  I can name mine in an instant - Mock Trial semi-finals my last semester of law school.  But when it seems everyone around you is winning and your child is losing game after game, it can bring you down.  Darn that social media.

Ashley & Brown
Just when I was about to put pen to paper (yes, I still write on paper first) my girls rode in a horse show and it really focused my perspective.

Leading up to the hunter/jumper equestrian show, my oldest was riding and jumping amazingly well for her level.  Her instructor and I  both thought she would finally earn a long coveted blue ribbon during her four classes.  I was buzzing with excitement as Ashley led Charley Brown to the arena to the warmup over fences.  As Brown landed their fourth jump, something wasn't quite right.  My camera slid down from in front of my face as I watched my daughter attempt to regain her balance, her grip and then her seat while Brown cantered on to the next jump.  Suddenly, in front of the next jump, she fell under the feet of her horse.  The spectators all gasped as she lay unmoving on her stomach in the dirt.  My heart stopped as we raced around to the entrance of the arena.  Once I heard her start crying I was able to take a breath while first the trainers and then a paramedic checked her over.
Every parent's fear

After what seemed like an eternity, I heard her laugh (at a joke from the trainers) and I finally exhaled.  Remarkably she was unhurt. The breathe had been knocked out of her and her shoulder was sore from the landing, but Brown had not stepped on her.

I found out later that while she was still laying on the ground, she told the trainers she wanted to complete her ride.  Wow!  Really? Are you sure? But, she did just that.  After a brief time to clean her up and get her a drink of water, Ashley went on to rejoin her group to compete over fences.

Watching her successfully complete that next round of jumps brought tears to my eyes.  Was this really my child? The same pre-teen who began riding less than two years at the suggestion of her therapist to help with her anxiety?  It was incredible to see her complete her competition after such an unsettling fall.


I know you expect me to tell you she rode her best and walked away with that first place blue ribbon, but no, this is real life not a fairy tale.  At the end of the day the colors she won weren't her prize.  Ashley's reward that Sunday afternoon was learning a valuable lesson about herself.   

Sometimes winning isn't actually winning.  Sometimes winning is simply getting back on to try again.  



Friday, July 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday - Summer & Post Vacation


Since I have so many blog ideas swirling in my head but obviously can't seem to get them on the actual blog, I'm participating in 7 Quick Takes Friday. Maybe this will be a good way to get these things out.

-1-


My lounge chairs for the week
I spent last week with my husband and kids at a resort in Mexico on vacation.  We had been planning for a while to do a beach getaway and finally just did it.  My husband and I LOVE to take relaxing vacations, you know the kind where you lay on a beach chair with a fruity drink?  The idea of packing up the family and trying to do Disney World exhausts me.  I mean, the scheduling and rush rush all sounds too much like real life to me, not a vacation.  Brian and I have done the Mexico resort relax vacation a few times before (LOVE IT) but without kids.  The big question we had with this trip was could we relax on vacation with the kids?

YES!  Our kids are too much like us.  They absolutely loved going to the beach, hanging by the pool, grabbing a fruity drink or two and even reading in the shade.   The only scheduled activity we had each day was mealtime.  And even then, it was pretty loosey goosey.   We played on the beach, hung out in the pool, built sand castles and the adults found time to take a nap on a lounge chair.  We didn't leave the resort the whole time we were in Mexico.  No excursions, no nothing.  Just downtime.  I know that's not a vacation for everyone, but our family enjoyed it.

-2-


One of the best things about staying in Mexico for vacation was being unplugged for 5 days.  It has been many, many years since we've traveled somewhere we didn't have access to email, phone or internet and I'll admit it made me a bit nervous.  How would the world go on if I couldn't text, email or check Facebook?  Yep, I've obviously got a bit of an addiction problem.  No phones, no internet, no texting, nada for 5 days.  It was so liberating.  For the first two days, I found myself reaching for my phone throughout the day to check something or just when I was bored.  When I confessed it to Brian, he laughed and admitted he was having the same problem.

The big joke at dinner time when the kids would ask us a question was, "I'd google that, but wait, I can't!"  And you know what?  The world went on even though we didn't get the answer to that seemingly important question.

You know what's funny?  When we landed back in Houston I didn't want to turn my phone on.  I'd enjoyed being unplugged so much that I didn't really want it to end.  Without my phone I was able to enjoy what was right in front of me and focus on the present without worrying about what I should be doing or what I was missing.  Not being connected 24/7 gave me the opportunity to just relax.  I know there is a big life lesson in there for me that I am trying really hard to grasp now that I'm back.

-3-


Selfie of the family watching a US World Cup game at a local movie theater
We have spent LOTS of time in the last few weeks watching The World Cup soccer.    All three of
our kids have played years of soccer with two of them still competing in the fall.  I've been aware of The World Cup before, but have never paid much attention to it.  This year, we've watched it constantly.  At a Houston Dynamo soccer camp in June, Daniel and Birdie were challenged to watch the games and answer trivia questions at camp each evening.  Through them, I learned a great deal about the tournament and soccer in general.  Who knew what a Hat Trick was before the Germany v Portugal game??  Not me...

Watching the games, we learned so much about soccer strategy, penalty kicks and witnessed feats of amazing athleticism.  And I discovered how much my kids already knew about geography!  Birdie was always quick to tell us what countries bordered the country in question, what language they spoke and something else interesting about it.  Who knew??  As an added bonus to this new family watching event, my girls now throw things for my son to hit with his head (think Webkinz flying across the room for him to "head" into a make believe goal). Quite funny.

I'm actually sad it is ending this weekend and that we can't watch the final game between Argentina and Germany. We will dropping our kids off at Summer Camp on Sunday.   Which leads me to #4...

-4-


My kids leave for summer camp this weekend.  All three of my kids for a whole entire week.  What in the world???  I think my excitement of having a whole week to myself (and with my husband of course) is muting any anxiety of my youngest going away to camp for the first time.  The kids are really, really excited to go back to The Pines Catholic Camp in East Texas and I'm excited for them to have a great camp experience that is also filled with faith.  

The big question for while they are gone - do I attempt to tackle all the crazy projects I've been putting off forever or just lay on the couch watching BBC Masterpiece tv shows all week?  Both are tempting...

-5-


Have I mentioned that I am going to the Edel Gathering in Austin in two weeks?  It is a weekend getaway retreat for Catholic moms created by Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary and Hallie Lord of The Moxie Wife.  I'm excited and extremely nervous at the same time.  While I'll know a bunch of women in attendance, I don't have a close friend or my sister going with me.  This will force me to get out and meet so many new women, which is a great thing.  It just makes me a little bit nervous in advance.

I did manage to score a wonderful roomie - Lisa Schmidt of The Practicing Catholic.  Not only does she have the best name in the world, she is a crazy nice and fun person.  I'm really looking forward to spending time with her over the weekend.

AND, there is this shoe thing!  At the Friday night cocktail party, they are giving an award for crazy shoes.  So much pressure!  What to wear AND now I have to think about shoes??    Geez.  Of course, I do have these turquoise heels with bows that I bought on a whim 2 years ago and have never worn.  Is it too much to try to find an outfit to match turquoise shoes?

-6-


Books!  While on vacation I started and finished three books.  The first was The Sign of Four, a Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Since I've been watching the Sherlock Holmes series by BBC on PBS Masterpiece, thought it time to pick up my first Holmes book.  It was so much better than I expected.  A very good detective story that has held up over the last century. While reading it I kept thinking that Benedict Cumerbatch really nails it.

The second book was one already on my Kindle and on a whim I started it.  The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann was something I just couldn't put down.  It is the "astonishing true story of the harrowing experiences of a young German seminarian drafted into Hitler's dreaded SS at the onset of World War II."  I don't want to describe it much more than that and give away his entire story in case you don't know it.  That's all I knew when I started the book and was startled by the turn of events throughout Fr. Goldmann's life.  The most improbable things happen to this young seminarian attempting to follow God while serving in the Nazi army and SS in World War II.  Stuff this crazy only happens in real life.  And as an added bonus, the epilogue reveals the work God called Fr. Goldmann to after the end of the war.  This book is worth reading.

My last book was a recently released fiction thriller called, The Code Within by SL Jones.  It was a pretty good read if you like Vince Flynn and Brad Thor's books.  There was a little too much computer/technical jargon, but the lead character was charismatic enough to keep me reading through several more books.  This is the first book in a new series so I will reserve my final judgement until the next in the series.

Now I'm off to start Ken Follett's Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy.  What are you reading this summer?

-7-


I'm sick this week with a major head cold that is migrating into chest congestion.  It makes joining the real world after a vacation pretty difficult.  Everything has been slow this week as all I want to do is sleep, sneeze and cough.  But there is work to do, a house to take care of, VBS to plan and a whole half a summer left to enjoy.  Quick, let's head to Pinterest to see if there is a pin on how to make DayQuil popsicles!  I can be sick later.  Achoooooo.....

I guess my Seven Quick Takes should be called my Seven "not so quick" Quick Takes.  How is your summer going at this almost mid-way point?



Thursday, June 5, 2014

God Loves Me (and You!)

Lawn Chair Catechism at CatholicMom.com

It's time to talk about Chapter 2 in "A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic's Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe" as part of the Lawn Chair Catechism series by Catholicmom.com. 

The author begins this chapter talking to us about God's revealing of himself to us:
God passionately seeks to enter into a deep and intimate relationship with each one of us.  To that end, God reveals himself to us.... Since the dawn of creation, God has been revealing himself, inviting men and women throughout the ages to enter into relationship with him.  We call this act of God's self-revealing revelation.  
My favorite line from Chapter 2 - "Since the moment of our birth, God has been pursuing us, seeking us out, and inviting us to a deeper relationship with him."  

A Well-Built Faith by Joe Paprocki

This talk of God revealing himself to us made me immediately think of our parish priest, Fr. John Rooney.  In his time with St. Angela Merici, a consistent theme in his homilies has been God's yearning to be in relationship with each of us.  Fr. John reminds us that God is always there, loving us, waiting for us to love Him.  God was there first, waiting for us to respond and He will continue to wait for us, even if we turn away from Him. God loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us.  

What a marvelous thing to realize and accept.  God loves us, want us and will always be there for us.  Wait, I need to say this another way to make it stronger...  (Say it out loud).  God loves Me, Wants Me and will always be there for Me!!!!  

When you say it with "us" it sounds all nice and caring, but when you put "me" in there, it just hits home.  And, saying it that way always makes me smile because I know it is true.  

If God is always there wanting to be with me, loving me, then what do I need to do?  In essence, the author reminds us that being in a relationship with God is not about what we do, but how we respond to God's invitation for us.  We need to recognize His revelation and respond to God with humility and love.  

How do you respond to God's invitation to love Him?  


Lawn Chair Catechism at Catholicmom.com with Joe Paprocki

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Rising

Order from Ignatius Press
The Rising by Robert Ovies
What would you do if your son had the ability to heal, to bring back life from the dead?  Robert Ovies explores this question with gripping clarity and envelops you in his thought-provoking drama, The Rising.

Ironically, I very recently read Mitch Albom’s novel The First Phone Call From Heaven which explores a similar “miracle” question in the same regional location of Detroit.  However, Robert Ovies’ writing style and tone are not similar enough to conjure comparisons, and where Mr. Albom draws the validity of the miracle into question, Mr. Ovies does not.  C. J. Walker, nine years old, can clearly and without question, raise the dead.

The Rising captures you in the first chapter, following the perspective of the local parish priest who returns to the rectory after the wake of his parish secretary, only to receive a frantic phone call from the funeral home owner that the deceased is now alive.

Eventually the “Lazarus” boy is discovered and revealed in an act of betrayal, and his family faces the ultimate in terrifying choices and attention. The author skillfully engrosses you in the moralistic questions facing the Walker family.
What would you do if you were his mother?  His father?

Who would want him?  The church, the government, the public?
For what motives?

How do you protect your child?
As the noose tightens, CJ and his mother, Lynn, become increasingly trapped at every turn.  When all appears impossible, the author releases his end game.  It did not disappoint.

In hindsight perhaps I should have seen it coming or guessed at the proper ending, but truth be told I was so caught up in the action that I didn't see it coming. The author brought the story to a dramatic conclusion with a beautiful message rooted in a truth that cannot be denied.
Occasionally the characters draw dangerously close to the line of stereotyping, but blessedly never  actually cross that line.  In another moment of personal pause, I realized I'd never given much thought to an embalming procedure and the author includes a certain level of necessary detail that was unpleasant to consider. (But don’t let that stop you.) 

Don’t read any spoilers!  Allow yourself to immerse in the drama, the panic, the confusion, the despair, the hope, and the pain. Then allow the ending and all its meaning to settle on your heart.
The Ignatius Press author bio tells me that Robert Ovies is a former advertising director, an ordained Deacon, an MSW Counselor, a mission worker, who spent ten years as a live-in director of a communal Halfway House offering support to broken families, the homeless, runaways, and abused women. His varied experiences helped to form the basis for his novel.  I am pleasantly surprised to learn that this is his first novel. I look forward to his next.

This is an honest review of the novel The Rising in exchange for a gratis copy from Ignatius Press.
 
 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lessons Learned at the Ballpark

I wrote this last June 2013 for CatholicMom.com. Since my daughter is currently playing for the 12U All-Star team, returning to the ASA State Tournament in two weeks, I thought it would be appropriate to post last year's thoughts. I expect many parents with children participating in post-season play will be able to identify with my experience.
Fastpitch softball, pitcher and catcher warming up
Girls Fastpitch Softball
Last year she earned a place on the 10U All-Star team and those girls worked hard playing and preparing for The ASA Texas State Tournament. The Tournament started on a Friday late afternoon with pool and bracket games until the wee hours of the morning, all day Saturday, before culminating in a final Championship Game Sunday afternoon.

Our first bracket game started at a very late 10:30 p.m. The girls bristled with excitement warming up as we parents took our seats on the one set of bleachers shared by both teams. Typically with only one set of bleachers, parents sit on the same side as their team’s dugout. For this game, the opposing team parents were seated across both sides. I purposefully chose a seat on the front row with nothing in front of me but the walk way and chain link backstop so I could jump up and take pictures of my daughter at-bat or catching behind home plate.

Just before game start, a group of mothers from the opposing team set up their folding chairs in the walkway directly in front of me, blocking my view. When I politely asked them to move to the side so they wouldn’t block the walkway, they responded with rude hateful comments that I really can’t repeat here. Suffice it to say that at the end of our brief exchange, I was furious and had to walk away from the bleachers to avoid getting into a more serious altercation. To cool off I walked all the way to the parking lot, fuming, got my own folding chair out of the trunk, and set up along the far side by our team dugout. There I stewed, while the other mothers cheered for their girls and (I later learned) jeered at our players. My frustration and anger prevented me from being able to enjoy the game. Instead I grew consumed with the desire to win.

Ninety minutes later (after midnight) we were closing out the top of the 4th, struggling to hold onto our 1-run lead. When the other team scored the tying run sending the game into extra innings/overtime, I began praying the Our Father. The prayer was a cross between begging for them to win and a meditation to help me remain calm. And then I choked on the words, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” and I knew that we were going to lose the game. I hadn’t forgiven those mothers for their rude hateful behavior. It didn’t matter who was right or wrong, it was my responsibility to let go of that anger, that grudge. As this realization came and I struggled with the need to forgive, the other team scored their winning run and it was over.

Lesson Number 2
The next day we played two easy morning games before facing another tough team. The mothers on this team, while vocal and energized, were also positive and encouraging without being hateful toward the opponents. Facing a possible elimination, I made the decision that if this was going to be my daughter’s last softball game for the season, then I was going to embrace every minute and love to watch her and her teammates play. I felt a real sense of optimism during that game.

In the bottom of the 6th we tied up the game and with our winning run on 3rd and only one out, our batter connected with the ball, started running to first, and was thrown out as expected. What we didn’t expect was our runner on third to hesitate and then take a late lead.

The entire play unfolded in slow motion with our attention on the girl being thrown out at first, suddenly the first baseman threw the ball back to the catcher who blocked our winning run about three inches from home plate. It was a scene right out of A League of Their Own with that immediate deflated feeling realizing that once again we were going into tie-breaking extra innings.

I started praying again. Truth be told I just wanted them to win this one more game and then they could lose the next one, because I didn’t want us playing past midnight again. And as I prayed the Our Father, God spoke to me again. This time it wasn’t “forgiveness” it was “Thy will be done.”

Every single time I prayed and got to the phrase “Thy Will Be Done” – the other team would make a great hit or our fielding would fall apart. The other team began scoring and as optimistic as I'd been before, I suddenly had this calm sensation wash over me that we were going to lose. So instead of thinking about winning or losing, I focused on watching, repeating over and over to myself "I love to watch her play."

And God gave me a small gift.

On deck; Fastpitch softball
During my daughter’s previous at-bat she was thrown out at first. She hates being thrown out at first only slightly less than striking out. I didn’t expect her to come up to bat again during the extra-inning, but one batter at a time our team stayed alive, getting hits, bringing in runs. And then – with two outs and still short of runs – my daughter stepped up to the plate. I didn’t hold my breath or cringe or peek through my fingers. Instead I took deep breaths as she swung for strike one. Then strike two. Tears streamed down my face, silently begging God not to let her strike out and be the last batter.

I love to watch her play I thought over and over again. She swung and connected with the ball, sending it into the dirt straight up the right side. It might have been an easy scoop and out at first, but surprisingly the second baseman reached for it and came up short, allowing the ball to bounce into right field.

My daughter ended her season with a single and an RBI. She even stole second, but when the next batter was thrown out at first, our state tournament ended.

It was the best game of our entire season.

We put our daughter in sports for a number of reasons: to be part of a team, to be a leader, to develop hand eye coordination, to work hard for something she wants, to get exercise, to learn to depend on others, to struggle, to learn how to win and how to lose. What I didn’t expect were the little lessons God would bring to me off the field: to support her, let her grow and be independent, and particularly to let go of my frustration, relax, and just enjoy watching her play.
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