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Monday, April 29, 2013

Extra-Ordinary

Recently we have been so narrowly focused on cowardice and evil that I want to steer myself away from thoughts of cowardly people doing cowardly things by causing destruction of other's bodies and spirits.  I'm tired of hearing news about the cowards.  I'm tired of dealing with cowards in my daily life.  I don't want to make time for the cowards.

I want to focus my time on the Extraordinary people who bless this world.

Recently a friend of mine posted a video on Facebook of her daughter being asked to prom.  "What's so extraordinary about that?" you might ask.  And you would have every right to ask the question, until you see the video.

video


And now you understand.  Extraordinary.

I talked to Kellie yesterday.  She's the extraordinary young woman being asked to her senior prom by the extraordinary young man in the wheelchair with cerebral palsy.  His name is Bing and the excitement he graced us with when Kellie said "Of course" is beyond priceless.  I called her because I needed to know the back story to her enthusiastic answer.

When Kellie and her group of friends were sophomores in high school they joined a club called Best Buddies where they were paired with kids who have special needs.  Best Buddies is an organization striving to take those with special needs and making them a bigger part of the community.  They want to erase the invisible line that separates those who have special needs from those who don't.  Kellie and her friends did something a little special when they joined the club.  In my mind, they decided to make a difference in someone else's life.

Kellie wasn't the first of her friends to be asked to prom by a boy with special needs.  Her best friend Hannah was the first to be asked by young man named Chip.  Hannah and Chip have been best friends since second grade when they began riding the bus together.  Another of Kellie's friends, Brooke, was asked by Michael.  If you live around Richmond you would know his name from a newspaper article about him raising the most money for Deep Run's Marathon Dance (which is another extraordinary story for another time).  To me, Kellie and her friends are shining examples of what life should be about, sharing life's experiences with people by looking at them from the inside out.

I asked Kellie how she came to be the one Bing wanted to take to Prom.  Kellie said it was because Bing's mom knew she could trust her.  She knew Kellie would stay with Bing and hang out with him during the evening.  Kellie and her friends will make sure they, and their dates, have a memorable Senior Prom together.

When I asked Kellie how she felt when Bing asked her to the Prom she told me she was more excited than anything.  I went on to say that going to her Senior Prom with a kid who has special needs is something I don't think many of us would do.  Her response was extraordinary.  "Disability shouldn't define him and he shouldn't not be able enjoy his Senior Prom because of his disability."  Her excitement was evident in her response to Bing as she accepted his bouquet of flowers.

How does a young woman possess such extraordinary poise at 18?  I didn't have to ask that question.  I knew the answer before I even asked it.  It's her family.  Her family instilled her ability to see beauty all around and her poise in her.  

Extraordinary.

Oh for the love of all our children...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bad Behavior All Around

My blog from the other day Coaches With Class has created a shit storm like nothing I've ever experienced.  I've had comments flying in.  Most were favorable.  Some were negative.  And a few were downright nasty.

It was downright bad behavior.

The nasty comments were all comments made directly to my blog page.  Those comments can't be published unless I say they can be published.  I won't post them to my blog, but I am going to tell you what was said to me by anonymous readers.

The other day I received emails letting me know I had comments awaiting moderation.   The emails were from anonymous readers, and they told me I was stupid, ignorant and a dumb ass for writing about what happened at one of Zach's recent lacrosse games.  I will reiterate what I said in my On Being a Jerk blog, this is my story, from my point of view. I would never think to call someone a dumb ass for telling their story, especially not anonymously.  If you want to know what I think about something ask me, and I will tell you.  I won't do it anonymously.  I'll either write about it with my name attributed to it or I'll talk about it.  I won't wait for anonymous comments to be moderated to let someone know what I think.  

I was also told, anonymously, that I need to look in the mirror when it comes to classless behavior.  Several of my previous blogs were quoted by "anonymous," but they were quoted out of context.  If the blogs "anonymous" quoted were read from start to finish, or if "anonymous" read my blogs regularly, they would have seen that I call myself out on bad behavior more so than I call out other's bad behavior. In all of my blogs, I try to be as honest as I can and if I have to throw myself under the bus to tell my story I will do it.  I'm the first one to tell you my behavior was wrong or bad.  I've said it time and time again in my blogs.  That is the point of my blog....We all screw up.  Not one of us is perfect. We learn from our mistakes and go on.

So I can guarantee you that I'm not perfect.  I don't even pretend to be perfect.  I screw up.  But I do work hard to learn from my mistakes and move forward. I saw a quote today that said, "Perfection is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend."(Anne Lamott)  That's me...a true mess, much less than perfect.

Most importantly, though, I'm always willing to learn from my mistakes and move forward...

Zach told me last night that my blog about the game and the coaches sounded whiny.  If he said it sounded whiny I must have sounded like I whiny.  The truth is, I don't like losing to teams whose behavior seems less than favorable.  So I'm sure I sounded whiny just like I said I sounded in my Whiney-Loser Syndrome blog.  I'll be honest and admit that was probably an accurate description of me.

The point of this blog is that I want you to know that I'll keep calling out bad behavior ~ in myself and others, and I won't be cowed by anonymous comments. You are welcome to comment on my blog anytime, in fact I love it when I see a dialogue beginning.  I'll read every comment that comes in and I'll respond.  But I expect comments to be respectful and I'll be respectful in return.  Bad behavior all around is not what I want my kiddos to learn from me.

Oh, for the love of my children....




Saturday, April 20, 2013

On Being a Jerk

It seems my blog post from yesterday has created a little firestorm.  I have had many comments, both public and private about it, good and bad.  I have had some say I was unfair and offensive.  I even had an unfriending on Facebook over my post so I thought I'd address any possibility that I behaved like a jerk.

I certainly didn't mean to offend or behave like a jerk.  I was simply trying to tell my story.  If the telling of my story was offensive and I behaved like a jerk, I apologize.

Yesterday's blog was a story from my perspective.  The telling of my stories will always be from my perspective.  They are my stories, my observances and my experiences.  Not all people will agree with what I have to say and that's OK with me.  What's not OK for me is for any of you to ever think I'm being a jerk or acting ugly.  The story I told yesterday was a re-telling of bad behavior I witnessed.  I wasn't trying to add myself to the mix of bad behavior.  

Maybe I should have focused more specifically on the behavior of the coaches rather than bring the behavior of the boys into the equation.  But when you have coaches leading kids their behaviors become intermingled.  The coach on the team who told his players that he hates our team is a problem to me.  That is where I should have completely and totally zeroed in because that is where the problem was...with the behavior of one individual.

Stan has often told me I hold people to incredibly high standards.  From coaches, to teachers, to friends and family, no one in my circle is exempt from the high standards I set ~ myself included.  I try hard to be a good friend and a good person.  I want to set a good example for my kids to follow.  So, if my behavior was jerky, I apologize.  But I think it's incredibly important to pass on high standards of behavior to our kiddos...for the love of all of them.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Coaches with Class

Coaches have a far reaching role in a young person's developement...for the good or the bad.  Ever since my kids started playing sports I've been an avid fan of whatever activity they are involved in. And in all my years being involved with sports I've seen my fair share of coaches, good and bad.  I've written about many of my experiences with those coaches.  Today's blog will tell yet another story.

Having been around sports for quite some time, I understand the whole concept of sportsmanship and good competition.  I enjoy good competition.  I love watching a game unfold with plays between both teams running smoothly.  And I thrive on good sportsmanship.  I love watching teams battle hard but treat each other with respect.  There is nothing better, to me, than watching competitors, and their coaches, treat each other respectfully.

Here is my latest story.

Recently Zach had a lacrosse game.  We knew it was going to be hard fought and contentious.  We just didn't know how obnoxious it was going to be until the first goal was scored.  The opposing teams scored the opening goal and their sideline errupted.  It literally became a scene of pandemonium.  Their players acted like they had never scored a goal.  Fist pumping, chest bumping, hoots, hollers and body slamming came spewing forth from their players ~ and their coaches.  The same scene played out over and over again as the opposition had their way with our boys.  They did it with all seven goals they scored against the boys in the first half of the game.

I understand being excited and wanting to win.  I understand that excitement builds as the score goes up.  I get it.  I really do.  I've watched my kids as they've played games on both sides of this equation.  

But what bothers me in the above scenario is that it wasn't just the players behaving this way.  It was the coaches leading the charge for this obnoxious, unsportsmanlike conduct.  Coaches leading by bad example.  

In all of the games I've watched in my many years as hockey/lacrosse/football/soccer/swim/dance mom I've never seen coaches like the ones I saw at the game the other night.  The coaches behaved like maladjusted teenagers.  They hooted and hollered like a bunch of howler monkeys in a mating ritual  and went on to chest bump and body slam each other.  Body slamming and chest bumping have no place, in my mind, in the behavior of a coach.  Coaches are there to coach and teach and mentor...in a good way.  As the game progressed, the coaches' behavior escalated.  A time out was called on the field and the coach called his boys together as our coaches called in our players.  As the opposing team came together the coach screamed "I HATE THIS TEAM!!!!!!"   How can a high school coach be permitted to behave so abomidably and teach his kids to HATE another team?  Rivalry is good, hate is not.  I've never seen coaches behave with such little class.

The truly sad part of this whole thing is I know the coach who led that team until just a couple of weeks ago when he had to leave the bench due to work conflicts.  The coach who left is a class act.  He's the one who got Zach involved in Lacrosse.  He knows the difference between sportsmanlike behavior and obnoxious behavior.  He knows the difference between rivalry and hate.  What a pity he had to leave the team to a bunch of coaches who behave with no class.

I left the game angry and agitated.  I get very vested in games my kids play.  I've been known to stand on the top step of the stands at a hockey game and will the game to move my way.  I react when the calls aren't fair either way.  I get angry when refs fail to control the game, both ways.  I want  a good clean game between worthy opponents.  But there aren't many times I've left games as angry as I was the other night.

My anger had little to do with how poorly our boys played.  My anger had everything to do with the fact that these coaches have impressionable boys in their clutches, and they are teaching them to behave with little class.  Our boys may have lost that game 7-3, but in my mind they were the winners of the night.  They behaved with dignity.  Our coaches led our boys with class.  I will take a classy coach over one who teaches kids how to look like idiots by leading them to behave in a classless manner.  If I were a parent on that team our boys played the other night I would be not only embarrassed, I'd be angry too.  

Oh, for the love of my children...












Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm Pissed Off and Scared Shitless

Years ago, when the kids were babies I remember so vividly wanting them to leap frog over that first year.  I never wanted anything more for them than to know they were safe from the dangers of SIDS.  I wanted to wish away that first year and get them into what I considered the "safety zone."

Rarely, if ever, since then have I wished my children's time away, but I find myself doing it now.  And it's pissing me off.  You know me well enough to know that I don't want to wish a single second of my kids' time with me away, but in this instance I don't feel I have a choice.  I want them to be whisked from their time of innocence all the way through to their time where they are loved and cherished by someone like Stan loves and cherishes me.  I want them in the safety zone of adulthood.

The stories in the news lately have set me on edge. The stories of girls being sexually assaulted and raped by boys as others take pictures and post them on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and Snap Chat for the world to see have me in their grip.  Girls whose lives are now in shambles because their bodies were violated in a disgusting manner by their peers.  They were violated and no one stood up for them.  I can't imagine the grief, loneliness and isolation those girls must have felt once their pictures circulated through their schools and their friends.  Two of these girls have gone on to commit suicide.  I. Can't. Even. Imagine.  I want to whisk my kids through this period of adolescence so they are "safe" in the world of adults.

Claire.

She's my daughter.  My sweet, baby girl.  She's the one I worry about the most.  What's the saying about daughters and sons?  I think it goes something like "With sons I only have to worry about one dick but with daughters...."  Yes.  With daughters I have to worry about all of the dicks (and I don't mean just  the appendage.  I mean dick ~ as in the asshole who treats a girl like shit!).  I have so much more to worry about with Claire.  And I'm scared shitless for her.

The boys.

I'm scared shitless for them too.  They have a huge responsibility on their shoulders.  I will hold them accountable and responsible for making sure girls are treated with respect and never violated if they are around.  Their job is big and I hope they can handle it.  But it scares me like nothing else in life ever has.

Here's the thing....

Kids are dumb.  They're even more dumb when they drink alcohol or take drugs.  They think they're invincible.  They're not.  They're just dumb kids who need parents to teach them right from wrong.  And I think some of the kids are not getting the lesson.  And it's pissing me off.

I just want my kids to magically hyperspace through this time.

I know they can't.  I know they have to live through it.  And I know I have to help them.  But it doesn't stop me from being scared shitless.

Here's another thing...

I said above kids need parents to teach them right from wrong and some kids aren't getting the lesson.  Some parents aren't teaching the lesson or believing the lesson themselves.

And I'll give you an example...

Sometimes the smartest men say the dumbest things which help perpetuate the fallacy of right and wrong.  Some smart men I know actually believe "well, maybe it was consensual" when it came to the girls who were violated.  OK, maybe it started out consensual but once she passed out and pictures started being taken it was no longer consensual it was rape.  Pure and simple.  It was a violation of her body.  It's HER body.  It isn't anybody else's body.  It's a HER body and her body was violated by boys who weren't taught that their rights end where HER body begins.  I don't care if she was drunk and passed out.  Those boys should have been taught to keep their hands to themselves and their dicks in their pants if a girl can't actively participate in ANY sexual encounter.  Period.  End of story.  Hands to themselves and dicks in their pants.  They never learned that lesson.

Here's another dumb thing smart men sometimes say...."She shouldn't have been wearing that.  She was asking for it."  REALLY?!?  What effing planet are you from?  You think a girl ASKS to get raped by wearing certain things??  Give me an effing break...Let's go back to the rule above.  Keep your hands to yourself and your dick in your pants unless she wants you, tells you that she wants you and is lucid when she says it.  We are not a country that should EVER require our females to wear burqas.

Let me rephrase the above rule...

"Your rights end where my body begins."

End. Of. Story.

Now, I'm not letting the girl off scott free.  She has to be taught early that protecting herself is of the utmost importance.  She has to realize she is ultimately responsible for taking care of herself.  She can't put herself in dangerous situations.  That will be my job to teach Claire.  You all have heard my story.  I am a survivor.  I will teach my daughter well.  But know, I never asked for it.  I didn't dress provocatively.  The only thing I did was to walk home alone at two in the morning.  And that was my fault.  I didn't take my safety seriously enough.  I will ensure Claire does. It will be my responsibility to teach Claire to keep herself and her girlfriends safe.  I will go to the ends of the earth to teach her how important that is.

I will also teach my boys what to do if they ever see a girl being violated like the girls in the news.  Those poor girls.  They are somebody's sister.  They are somebody's daughter.  They are loved, just like Claire.  One day those girls will, hopefully, grow up to be mothers.  I want my boys to see these girls as they are and as they will grow to be.  They deserve boys' protection and respect.  I don't care if they're passed out on the bed.  They are a sister, a friend, a daughter, a human.  They deserve dignity and respect.  I expect my boys will ensure a girl has both of those things.

I'm scared shitless I'm going to fail in all of what I want to teach my kids.  And I'm pissed off.  Here I am, wishing my kiddos into adulthood because of the dicks of the teenage world.  I have a huge job ahead of me.  I hope you all will join me in being pissed off and scared shitless.  I need your help.  I don't want to wish my kiddos, or any of our kiddos', adolescence away.  I don't want them to leap-frog over their teenage years.  I want them to be safe.  I want them to grow up to be fabulous adults who pass these lessons down to their own children.

For the love of all of our children....



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Love Letter to Summer

For the past couple of weeks I've been going to a creative non-fiction writing class taught by a woman named Valley.  She's a fabulous teacher who knows how to get you to pull things out of the deep dark recesses of your brain.  Every week she has us start class with a writing prompt entitled "Right now I am."  Each time I've written one of these I've been surprised at what my pen puts down on the paper.  I have no control over what I write.  I never know what is going to come flowing out of my hand until I see it flying across the page.  We have ten minutes to write what we want and when time is up pens go down and we share what we've written.  After I read aloud what I had written Valley renamed my piece "A Love Letter to Summer."  Here is what I wrote today.

"Right now I am in a splendid spot.  The sun is shining ~ a big beautiful orb in the sky warming me from the outside in.  Spring has quickly been replaced by summer and I am ecstatic.

Summer.

The word conjures images of lazy afternoons spent basking in the sun, at the beach with the waves coming closer and closer, at the pool lounging on a float, on a screened in porch with the ceiling fan spinning creakily over-head.  I picture a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea sitting beside me.  The sweat from the glass mirroring my own perspiration as the shrieks of small children splashing in the cool waters echo through the air.

Summer.

The word brings a smile to my face like no other season can.  Right now I am in the first blushes of my romance with my season of joy.  I envision days spent at the beach watching my children build sandcastles and ride the waves in as the ocean's tide rolls in.  I see the corn hole boards set up, waiting for willing opponents to face off against each other ~ all of us vying for the bragging rights of being crowned champion of the corn hole tournament.  I smell the aroma of hotdogs and hamburgers roasting on the grill as hoards of children come circling around like seagulls, each clamoring for the first burger or dog hot off the grill.  I hear the crackle of a bonfire as the suns sets below the horizon and a summer day turns to a summer night and right now I am happy."

I hope you enjoyed my love letter to summer.  I know I enjoyed writing it.  But to me, this piece is more than just about writing about summer it's more about enjoying summer with my kiddos.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rock-a-minute

Last week was a quiet week in our house.  I told you in one of my previous blogs that it was almost too quiet here and the reason for it being so quiet was a story for another day.  Today is the day to tell the story...

Last week all of the men in the house kissed us girls good-bye and headed off for an adventure of a lifetime.  Stan took the two boys to Europe ~ specifically Warsaw and Krakow in Poland and Prague in the Czech Republic.  Stan and I realized Zach is almost finished with his junior year of high school and it was a perfect time to take them abroad.  We have friends who live in Poland and we have Jan's family who lives in the Czech Republic, so we decided there was no time like the present for all of them to go visit our friends in Europe.

Time with these kiddos is going so fast, and nowhere was it more apparent than in our house last week.  It was nearly silent here.  Claire and I had a blast together, but it was just the two of us.  I much prefer life when it's the five of us.  I like the loud banter and the pounding through the house that is the noise of the boys.  All too soon, it will be just four of us.  Zach will be gone, but I don't think he'll go too far. He has told me he wants to be kind of close to home when he leaves for college in a little more than a year.

Lucas is a different story, and that was brought home to me last week.

Ever since Lucas was little he has been his own child.  He's been happy in his own company and he's always been able to separate from us easily.  As an infant he was able to entertain himself in his swing for hours.  He would play for a bit and sleep for a bit.  He was rarely fussy or demanding.  He was a happy, easy-going baby.  He never really pushed to grow up.  He was happy to stay in his crib and had zero desire to give up diapers. Zach and Claire were demanding, fussy and all too eager to shed the encumbrances of baby-hood.  Where Lucas was happy to wear a diaper until he was well over three, Zach and Claire gave them up quickly, both potty training before they were two.  Where each of those two longed for a big kid bed, Lucas had zero desire to leave his crib behind and didn't until he was four.  He was completely happy being wherever he was and doing whatever, whenever.

When he first started preschool he would walk happily into class, look back, wave and go do his own thing.  There were few tearful good-byes when it came to Lucas going on to school.  He was completely content to have us leave so he could get on with his play.

It was only at bedtime where we saw a slightly clingy Lucas, the one who didn't want us to leave him.  Stan and I would take turns putting all of the kids to bed every night.  And each night was the same routine for all of them.  Bath, books and bed.  Claire would be read to rocked to sleep first and then Lucas and on to Zach.  Lucas would sit snuggled into our laps and have us read and read and read.  When reading was done we would rock.  And rock.  And rock some more. Just when we thought it was safe to pick Lucas up and put him in his crib he would hold up one, tiny, little pinky finger and say "Rock-a-minute" in his sweet little-boy voice.  And we would.  We would sit and rock and rock and rock.  The pattern was repeated a couple of times each night.  The little pinky finger and the little voice.  "Rock-a-minute."

This went on for years.  And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every night of rocking Lucas and hearing his own version of a catchphrase.  There are days where I can still hear his sweet little voice saying "Rock-a-minute."

The little boy who didn't want to grow up in so many ways showed me while he was in Europe that he wants to grow up a little more than I'm ready for.  He showed me that he can be the little boy I used to drop off at pre-school with a kiss and a wave.  I'm not ready for that.  At all.  While he was in Europe he sent me several texts and this is part of our text exchange...

Lucas:  Hey it's Lucas.  How is America?

Me:  Wait!  Is this Lucas POKRYWKA?!!?

Lucas: Yes this is Lucas, your son.  Why?

Me:  I was just teasing you.  Usually you sign your name "Lucas Pokrywka" and in the above message you only said it was Lucas. How are you, Love?!?  Are you having a blast??

Lucas: Yeah, I'm having a great time.  The only reason I have internet is this crystal shop we're in has it...So how is America without me?

Lucas:  Ok, I have to go.  We are leaving the shop.  Talk to you when we get home.

Lucas:  Hey Mom!

Me:  Hey Sweetie!!!

Lucas:  How is America...I don't want to come home.  I want to stay here.  :-(

There are more text messages, but it was here where my heart lurched in my chest.  It was at this line I realized how easily Lucas could walk onto a plane bound for Europe, look back, wave and go do his own thing.  The last line made me realize how much I wanted to hold him in my arms and hear him say "Rock-a-minute" in his little boy voice.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Monday, April 8, 2013

Coaches with Cajones

The other day I was reminded that when I left high school behind, I really left it behind.  I was with a fabulous group of women from my former high school and it was pointed out to me how little I remembered about the teachers who were the faces of my classes for four years.  I was brought together with a former high school P.E. teacher, and honestly I couldn't have told you she was a P.E. teacher at our school (even though she was the one of only two phys ed teachers at Manhattan High School for all the years I was there).

The only way I remember her is because she was the gymnastics coach.  In my sophomore year of high school I tried out for the gymnastics team.  Now, any of you who know me realize I don't have the physique or the make up of a gymnast, but at the time I thought I was one.  Way back in the day I found out I was dreadfully wrong.  I didn't have a clue what it took to make a high school gymnastics' team.  I had nothing to bring to the table, but I didn't realize that until the fateful night I got the call from our gymnastics coach.  She was very sorry, she said.  She had no choice but to cut me from the team I so badly wanted to join.  She went on to tell me all of the things I could work on for next year so I could make the team.  At that point, though, my brain had shut down.  I decided I was done with gymnastics and the woman who coached the team.

I hadn't really thought about her and how she impacted my life until I saw her the other night for the first time since I left high school~ like I said, when I left high school I really left high school.  I didn't see any reason to look back.  But now I realize how important it is to look back from time to time.

This is one of those times...

Looking back after all of these years I now see what a tremendous heart she had for the kids entrusted to her.  And she had one giant set of cajones.  She had the courage and bravery to do something I don't see very often in coaches these days.  She had the balls to call me herself and apologize to me for cutting me from the team.  She went on to give me advice and encouragement on how to make the team the next year.  She didn't have to do that.  She could have just posted a roster and been done with it.  But she didn't.  And she has my undying respect for how she handled herself.

I wish all coaches could, and would, have the courage to do this very thing for the kids they coach.  I wish more coaches had balls and a heart.  I wish all coaches could see that, in the end, these are kids and these are their dreams.  They deserve the respect that comes with knowing what they did wrong, and they deserve to be told how to improve.  What each child then chooses to do with the coach's words is up to that child.  For me, it was a chance to try my hand a golf where I sucked just as badly but made the team anyway.  And this was a life lesson for me.  The next time I got cut from something, I knew it wasn't the end of the world, and I knew to ask why.

So, Thank You Coach for having such a big heart and an even bigger set of cajones!  I hope my kiddos are lucky enough to have more coaches like you in their lives.

Oh, for the love of my children....