Death and all the beautiful life that surrounds it

Last week I got on a plane and flew to Las Vegas to visit a friend whose husband was killed two months ago.

These are just a few thoughts I took home with me.  I write this because I never want to forget this trip.

1. My friend’s husband seemed to live his life as if an angel had whispered in his ear, “Psst, listen up. You will have ten years together. Make every moment count.” And that he did. Not an idle moment. Not a second wasted. Trips, parties, friends, scuba diving. Ten years cram-packed with love and life. A man who always wanted his dear wife to know how much she was loved and cherished.  Anniversary gifts from the heart that would make any woman swoon.

2. When someone dies, there really should be a pause button on life you can push. “I will get back to all of this when I’m good and ready.” But instead the sun still rises and sets every day, the mail still gets delivered, the dust collects, people go about their day as usual as if the most important person in your life didn’t just die. They even dare to smile and laugh. It’s completely unfair. How can life really go on? It is frustrating as hell.

3. Death is a trickle-down domino effect. While you’re in shock, your health insurance is being cancelled on day 4. The kids you helped raise are whisked away to live again with their mother and you have zero rights. Oh, you have to actually work to make money? The money you shell out for funeral expenses while in the haze of grief will hurt you in a couple months when you’re wondering how you’ll survive. The paperwork for the death benefit you’re entitled to might as well have been written in Japanese. A person not grieving can’t understand it, let alone someone just trying to make it through the day.

4. Prescriptions are really expensive when your health insurance has been cancelled.

5. The CVS employee becomes an angel sent directly from Heaven itself when, upon asking what happened to the insurance and being told, goes to work to get every discount possible under the sun so that the cash payment won’t be as painful.

6. People are inherently good. People want to help. A veterinarian unlike any veterinarian will move Heaven and Earth to save the dog that was hit by a car, the dog who is the only thread holding you together.  He will surely deserve his bottle of Crown Royal.

7. It is a surreal gift to spend time with a friend and see the life the person left behind, to see everything intact, as if he’d never left, like he might just walk in the door any second and wonder what I’m doing in his living room. Even I keep wondering if this is all just one giant nightmare that I’ll wake up from.

8. It is a gift to be caught up on stories of things you missed, to laugh about the light he brought to this world for a short time, to feel like he’s there with us in the room, even if it is just sensory. Heaven feels closer, just a simple curtain of a dimension away.

9. Sometimes all the help you can or need give is just to be- to offer an ear and your presence. There are other kinds of helpers.  They are the doers. They pick up the sword for you when you don’t have the strength. They come to the house and pick up your errands for you, ready to get things done. Everyone falls into their respective roles naturally. You won’t know if you’re a doer or just a simple be-er until you’re there.

10. Life begins just at the end of our comfort zone. I learned after just four short days that God puts special people on Earth to challenge us in this way. Yes, it’s a wonderful feeling to be comfortable. But how much living gets done? How many opportunities do we potentially miss out on because we are scared of being embarrassed or scared to fail?

11. We all know how short life is. I’d hoped to get through this without stating this overused platitude. But it really is. And people are taken from us without warning. When we thought they’d be home to make dinner. And of course we analyze and second guess every action. Why did I do this or say that? Why didn’t I? It doesn’t matter. We’re all living our lives the best we know how, and the soul on the other side of the curtain isn’t holding on to these things. But it’s hard for the survivor to grasp that you couldn’t have made a better life for that person even if you’d done and said all of those things. It was enough!

12. Be grateful for the out-of-the-box thinkers in your life. They are a special gift to challenge those of us who would otherwise rot away on the couch.  And if you are lucky enough to get an invitation to a birthday party with an eccentric theme, don’t shoot it down all at once. Give it some thought. Dress head to toe as the color of a Skittle. Maybe learn how to do some belly dancing to “perform for your man” at the party. People might stare, they might laugh, but there are worse things in life.

Spin the wheel, go to Fiji for five days, seven, or however long you want.  Become a scuba instructor.  Drink Koolaid grape drink every day.  Wear crazy red socks to bed. Never shut it off. Thank you for always being you. You are missed!

Today we say goodbye to grandma and grandpa’s house

A little girl, about three, hides behind the wood shutters.  She hides because Grandpa is home and this is the routine.  She hides behind the shutters because when he walks in the sliding glass door, she will jump out at him and scream, “Boo!”  And Grandpa will throw his hands up in the air, feigning fright, and the little girl will belly laugh as if this has never happened before.  She will laugh just as hard when she does this tomorrow.

That same little girl plays with her older cousin in what was once her uncle’s bedroom with atrocious red and blue shag carpet with a basketball light hanging from the ceiling.  There is a puzzle of the Muppets somebody put together and painstakingly glued to a piece of cardboard.  That little girl learns how to color inside the lines for the first time in that bedroom.

As time goes by, other children join the little girl.  She gains a sister and two cousins who will be much more like siblings. Grandpa goes to bed early every night because he has to get up early, but he ends each night with having all the grand kids climb into bed where they all take turns making up stories.  The most favorite story of all the kids?  It is the story of the little boy who walked and walked and walked and walked some more.

When the girls’ parents work late, Grandma goes to take her evening bath while the girls watch “Unsolved Mysteries,” and the creepy music makes them freak out and believe the house is truly haunted.  It doesn’t help that there are pictures of dead ancestors on the wall in “the organ room” that rival an episode of “Scooby Doo.”

But once Grandma is finished with her bath, she comes back to the living room to do her book work that will keep her busy into the wee hours of the morning.  The girls tell her how scared they were while she was gone because surely the house must be haunted.  She responds with her usual, “Oh, poo!”  She is now watching “Golden Girls” and giggling.

The little girl is now ten.  She sits by herself in “the hot tub room,” away from her sister and cousin who like to cause mischief.  She grabs handfuls of loose leaf paper, folds it in half, and then borrows her grandma’s Swingline stapler to staple together what will become her book.  She sneaks cups of Coke from the bar and then, if Grandma is out of sight, she’ll creep into the kitchen to grab a handful of E.L. Fudge cookies out of the cookie jar.  But always, without fail, Grandma will come around the corner and say, “A-ha!  I caught ya!” As she writes, she can’t concentrate with the noise of the kids playing, so she will take her pen and paper and a Woman’s Day magazine to write on and go hide underneath the willow tree at the bottom of the driveway.  It is quiet and serene here and she can be by herself and her thoughts.  This is also where she will hide when she wants to get out of the dusting her sister will end up doing.

As time goes on, the youngest of the kids, a little girl, will be old enough to want to sit and watch “The Little Mermaid” and “Cinderella” every day.  And the now 11-year-old girl and 2-year-old will belt out “Part of Your World.”  Grandma will close the door so she can hear Donahue.

Soon Grandma will start dinner, just one of many dinners eaten at the table in the middle of it all.  The best days are the ones where Grandma surprises the children with Jet potatoes, chicken wings, or macaroni and cheese. The now 12-year-old fights pettily with her one boy cousin over who will get to sit in the coveted spot nearest the wall of class photos for dinner.  No one knows why this spot is so important to the other.  It is a battle, though, of physicality and wits.  The two kids will dash from Grandma’s car after school into the house to grab their place mat.  Whoever slams their place mat on the table first wins the spot that night.  This continues for months until one or both lose interest.

This home is a hub.  Everyone comes here.  This is where the holidays are.  Grandma must have a tree that is tall enough to reach the ceiling.  It is a yearly rite of passage to come over and decorate and marvel at the huge tree.  It will soon have dozens of presents underneath it for everyone because no one has even heard of a gift card yet or gift bags for that matter.  And Grandma is a shopper.  Christmas morning will mean walking into the front door of the house, which is almost unheard of, but you can’t get through the side door because of the tree.  Grandma and Grandpa stand cheerfully by the door and exclaim, “Merry Christmas!” while Grandpa teases the kids about sitting up on the roof all night long trying to catch Santa.  But never fear, he’ll get him next year.  Grandma makes a french toast, little smokies, and homemade apple sauce breakfast for everyone.  They tear into gifts, but have to head home shortly after as now Grandma will start cooking Christmas dinner for them and the rest of the family. The house will be packed to the gills.  There won’t be enough places to sit, but everyone will make do.  There is plenty of food and laughter.

On Easter everyone will come in their Sunday best.  There will be Easter egg hunts in the front yard.  Grandma will make her deviled eggs, the beloved Jet potatoes, and ham with her signature mustard-mayo mix for dipping.

As the little girl grows into a young woman, she no longer needs to go to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s all the time, but finds that now that she can drive, she likes to stop by and visit just because.

One day she will bring her future husband to his first holiday at the house, Easter, but they arrive very early so Grandma puts them to work making deviled eggs. It is the only holiday he will ever witness Grandma as the grandma the girl knows before she has a stroke that changes her life.  Changes everyone’s life.

Grandma can no longer do anything.  Where she was once running circles around women half her age, she is now a shell of her former self, wanting only to sit on the couch and watch game shows.  There are now two grandmas.  Grandma before and Grandma after.  The holidays still continue, but not as seamlessly.  They are now potlucks.  Everyone brings a dish.  It is the new normal.  But it is still joyous and Grandma is still feisty if nothing else.

The girl brings her firstborn child to visit Grandma and Grandpa at this house.  They sit on the couch and “ooh” and “ahh” at him.  Soon there will be four more babies for them to adore.  Grandpa sits on the recliner and sings to them, reads to them, many of them the same songs and books read to the girl and her sister and cousins. The young woman, now mother, sits in a chair across with her grandmother and patiently answers her questions, even if she’s asked the same question ten times in the last 20 minutes.  Grandma inevitably will make a joke that will have them both in stitches.  Grandma will end up in an endless belly laugh, so very proud of her funny joke.

The children grow, just as the ones before them did and the ones before them.  The original three boys raised in the home turn into four grandchildren that turn into five great-grandchildren.

But as surely as the seasons change, so does everything else.  Grandma passes away, taking with her the two versions of herself that they had known and loved. A house once meant for a family is too big for one man. A field once large enough to ride four-wheelers through is now several houses.  The field where a donkey and a sheep once lived is even more houses. The willow tree once used as a safe haven is only a distant memory now.

Yes, everything changes.  It’s the only thing that stays the same.

Abandoning the third-person point of view now, this house was so much more than a house to me.  It was my second home.  It was where I felt the safest in the world next to my own home. It is where the majority of my childhood memories are stored. As I walked through the empty house last night, I marveled at how empty rooms seemed so much smaller than I remembered them. I felt like I was in the series finale of my favorite show, standing and looking at a portion of my life and saying goodbye before I gave up my key, albeit a metaphorical key.

Of course, feeling a loss of something so great means I had something wonderful, something that many have never had. My memories surely don’t live in the house.  I can carry them with me forever.  But even being in the bathroom, I remembered sitting on the counter while my grandma sprayed Bactine and applied Neosporin and a Band-Aid to my scraped knees. Being in the bar room reminded me of the fabulous parties my grandparents threw.  They were entertainers.  Being in the living room reminded me of eating dinner while watching “Wheel of Fortune” and doing homework.  I can hear my grandma and her good friend doing book work at the kitchen table, laughing while watching Oprah, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Geraldo. I can see and smell my grandma’s hot glue guns and ribbons strewn out everywhere as she prepares to decorate yet another wedding reception. I can hear the eerie tone of the ancient organ I practiced piano on.  I hear the slamming of bedroom doors as my teenage self has an argument with my grandma, because that’s just how close we really were.

Perhaps the memories I carry can never truly be put into words, but after 1749 words thus far, I find my blog post is turning into a novel, and yet I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of telling the story of the house that built me. It was a great house.  I am so lucky.

Sanctus

I was once a young girl who found herself just a little lost after nine years of Catholic school. I have always been an introvert, always just a little quiet and shy – until I know you. I have always struggled with feeling like the odd one out. Once I began my 9th grade year in the last year of my local junior high, I was forced to make new friends after being with the same kids all my life. I didn’t make friends, at least not at first. I struggled immensely there and begged to be allowed to go to Bellarmine with the majority of my friends. That wasn’t going to happen. I was going to have to stick it out and start Puyallup High School the next year. My parents said, “Everyone will be new. You’ll be fine.”
They were right, but in the ensuing three years, I never quite shook that “new kid” feeling. I felt like people were constantly staring at me and judging me. I managed to make a few good friends, but for the most part I was just biding my time.
One of the places I have always found solace and joy is through music. Whether it’s listening to it, playing it on my piano, or singing, music feeds my soul. As a teenager, I would come home from school and immediately sit down to my piano and start playing. It was how I unwound. The kind of day I had had would reflect in the songs I chose to play.
My sophomore year in high school I decided to sign up for choir. I fell in love. Here I could escape into the beautiful music. I felt like myself here. I loved hearing the harmonies come together. In choir I felt like all of us were the same. We were all on a level playing field. We had football players, the super popular kids, the really smart kids, and the in-betweeners like me that just seemed to blend in. When we sang together, those labels disappeared. We were all just one voice. I could forget the times I felt forced to eat my lunch in the bathroom because I was too afraid to approach a table. I could forget how intimidating some girls were to me.
I quickly learned that you couldn’t sign up for choir and expect to just sing.  You had to learn.  You had to take constructive criticism.  If a song had a lyric of “Ooooooh,” we would all sing, “Ooooooh,” as you would expect.  But we were promptly made aware of the “Midwestern ewwwwwww.”  Mrs. G wanted us to sing, “O.”  No Midwestern ewwwwws allowed. I also learned mighty quickly what it was to sing out of one’s throat and that I was NOT to do it anymore.  “Kellie!  Quit singing out of your throat!”  Aluminum, linoleum, aluminum.  Those were the best of times.
The first song we learned in choir was “Sanctus.” It was completely in Latin and I became obsessed with this song. It began with a very beautiful and dramatic piano introduction. Because I had the music, I set out to teach myself the piano accompaniment. Every day after school I would sit down at the piano and play. I soon had it down. That song became my anthem to any dramatic and sad days I had had. In fact, my mom started to catch on that any time I had been fighting with my then-boyfriend or feeling like I liked someone else and needed to break up with him, I would play this song. She would say, “Oh, no. That song again? What’s going on?”
This was in the fall of 1993. I was just 15 years old. I remember leading up to the performance of this song – as it was our first together as a group – we had been struggling with the song. I remember practicing it over and over, and during our rehearsals it looked fairly bleak that we could pull it together by the concert. And then we sang it as our opening song at our concert at the Immanuel Lutheran church because PHS was under construction that year.
We were all so apprehensive as we stood there in silence and waited for the piano intro to begin.  There was a feeling of “Here goes nothing,” and we began to sing.  As the song finished, I will never forget watching Mrs. G lower her arms after conducting us, and she smiled at us with a twinkle in her eyes as if to say, “You did it! You nailed it!”
I graduated three years later, and though many people call their high school years the best of their lives, I knew it could only get better from there on out. However, I knew choir had left an impression on me that would last forever. It would prove to be the only thing I would ever miss about high school.
It has been almost 20 years since I have graduated, and I will still think about many of the songs I sang in choir, but the one that has always really stuck with me is Sanctus. Throughout the years it will often just pop into my head and I will hum it from start to finish. I have tried to find the music because I’d love to play it again, but Googling Sanctus pretty much yields the same results as Googling John Smith. There are many, many versions, and none I have found match mine.
Recently I finally thought to ask my choir teacher who I happen to be Facebook friends with. I thought it was a longshot, but maybe she would remember. She said she had used several versions of Sanctus over the years, and she asked me to play it on the piano and record it for her. I had a little laugh because unfortunately I haven’t kept up with my piano playing much in my adulthood. I don’t remember the intro anymore that I used to know by heart. But I did manage to sit down and spend about 20 minutes figuring out a simple melody to send her.
She recognized it and said she would try to find it! I figured she might figure out the name of the composer so I could maybe YouTube another choir singing it. I never anticipated that what she would actually find would be so much better than that. She found an old cassette tape (yes, cassette tape. It was 1993.) with OUR choir singing the song at our fall concert.
I was fortunate enough to meet with her for coffee on my birthday yesterday, almost 20 years after seeing her last. (I watched the OJ verdict my senior year in her classroom.) She handed me the tape and is letting me borrow it so I can make a copy of it.
I have literally listened to this song now about a hundred times. I swear I can even hear myself. I am blown away and feel like I’ve just opened up a time capsule. I can feel the emotion in the song, and I can tell that we KNOW we are just nailing the song.
I am just ecstatic that nearly 23 years since I sang that song, I now have a copy that I can listen to and remember the one part of high school that was a bright light in an otherwise not-so-bright period of time for me.
As an aside, the Latin lyrics of Sanctus translate to these in English, a hymn I sang many times as a child at Mass.  Interesting…
“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.”
If you care to listen to the original recording, I have attached it below.
The Puyallup High School Concert Chorus, October 20, 1993.

Shoot for the Moon, Kid!

I remember when my oldest son, then a whimsical and sweet 4-year-old, taught himself how to read. One day, as we drove down the street approaching a sign, we heard a small voice from the back of the car.  “Road closed.”  My husband and I looked at each other in amazement.  He was a freaking genius!  This began the sight reading.  The kid never sounded out a single word.

No, we didn’t sit and read to him every day.  We didn’t have flashcards.  He played a lot of Reader Rabbit.  And I think he’s just one of those naturally smart kids, inheriting some gene from someone other than myself.

Given that my kid was a genius, I was on a mission as his mother to make sure he was given every opportunity possible.  As I registered him for kindergarten, I strongly suggested that my genius child should be tested as I believed he could skip right over kindergarten into the first grade.  His teacher nodded and smiled at me.  She had heard all of this before.  She took him into the classroom by himself and gave him some tests.  Once he returned, I expected her to say, “Yes, Mrs. Smith, you were right.  Kindergarten would be an utter waste of time for this Einstein child of yours.  How about we place him in the second grade?  And he should be practicing medicine by 16.”

Instead she returned with the same smile and said, “Well, he indeed is a great reader.  He is reading at a second-grade level.”  I beamed with pride.  I knew it!! He’s brilliant!  She smiled again and said, “But…”

But…you don’t have the facilities at this school to keep up with my smarty-pants child?  But…you think he may get bored even in the second grade?

“But…I tested him in other areas too.  Like math.  He didn’t know what two plus two was.  And then I asked him to draw a picture of myself.  This is what Derek drew.”

She pulled out a piece of paper with a small circle head, a triangle body, and two little sticks for legs.

Well, who needs art anyway?

I said, “Well, he’s five.  No five-year-old can draw.”

She replied, “That’s just it.  He is five.  And even though he is reading at a second-grade level, he is at a kindergarten level in everything else.  And usually by the end of first grade, all of the kids are pretty much at the same level anyway.  I believe that Derek would be better off being the big fish in a little pond than the other way around.”

I was put in my place.  Derek began kindergarten with his rightful age group.  He did excel in school and eventually was placed in the accelerated learning program.  He is 14 and a half, well-rounded, athletic, but he won’t be practicing medicine any time soon.  Or ever, I am pretty sure of that.

In the last couple of years he has discovered a new love: Flying.  On his 13th birthday we bought him an intro flight lesson.  My kid can fly a Cessna.  He can take off and land a Cessna.  It is exciting and terrifying for me. I cannot even go to his lessons.  I tell my husband to text me when he’s landed.

He has goals. He wants to do something with flying. Whether that includes the Air Force or commercial pilot remains to be seen.

Fast forward to the reason for this post.  I am so long-winded.  I was told recently by a friend about a teen flight program in our hometown.  It is for high school kids.  They are recruited based on grades and character.  It is a huge commitment.  Every Sunday and Monday nights for a school year.  But what an opportunity.  These kids get to build an airplane by themselves with very little direction from supervisors.  Once it is built, they get to learn how to fly the airplane and attain their sport pilot license, all for free!

We went to the open house meeting last night and learned all about it.  It was originally touted as being for high school kids, but the one thing that kept getting brought up was that it was for grades 10 through 12.

Derek is going into the 9th grade.  In junior high.  The gears in my mind began to spin.  Yes, he is not in high school yet, technically, but he is considered a freshman and he is getting high school credit.  For all intents and purposes he is in high school.  If we lived pretty much anywhere but here, he would be in high school.

After the man gave the spiel about the program, he asked if anyone had any questions.  My hand shot up out of nowhere.  I hate eyes on me, but this about my genius kid, for which all of my typical introvert laws cease to exist.

“Are there any exceptions made for a mature ninth grader?”

I could see the hesitation register on his face.

“Mmmmm, well, we LOVE visitors.”

Okay, what does that mean?

“Anyone can come by any time we are building and watch, and younger kids can get involved too, but we ask that parents accompany the kids for a while until we get to know your kid.  This isn’t a daycare.”

I’m pretty sure my face scrunched up into something resembling a lemon-tasting face.

In my mind:  “Uh, yeah,so you obviously don’t know MY kid at all.  He can hang with all of these older kids.  I don’t even know what you’re talking about with this daycare business.  My kid could probably supervise these kids.”

Isn’t it amazing what goes through your head as the ultimate advocate for your child?  I am really not that cocky about my kid.  Really.

He kept talking for a bit, but I tuned him out because it was obvious that he wasn’t going to consider taking a 9th grader.  Then my head went to: “We’re going to get an application anyway, and once they see the essay answers he writes and sees his references from teachers, they will accept him.”

After the presentation, we walked around and looked at the two previous planes that these high school kids had built.  Someone came up to us and finally explained why they want the kids to be in 10th grade to begin the program.  After one year of building the plane, the kids then take the flying lessons.  They have to be 16 to solo.  Basically Derek wouldn’t be able to participate in the solo flight portion once he was finished building the plane.  It was reiterated to Derek that he is more than welcome to attend their build nights throughout the year and help out, and then that way they will know him and he’ll be likely to get a spot next year once he is old enough.

It was a good lesson for my son – and myself frankly – that many times in life we have to wait for our turn to do things.  You’d think I know that by now. I don’t have such a problem when it comes to myself, but something weird kicks in inside when it deals with my kids.  We want good things for them.  We want others to know how great they are.

As we left, I told my son, “You know, we didn’t have opportunities like these when we were kids.  And it stinks that you can’t do it right now, but at least you have that in front of you.  You get to look forward to all of these opportunities.  You are young and have so much time to do all of these things.  You aren’t looking back on your life thinking, ‘I wish I had.'”

Everything I want is just on the other side of fear

I am driven and sometimes simultaneously stunted by fear. I like to live inside my little comfort zone. I am afraid of trying new things because I fear failure. Don’t we all? But if my inner voice insists that I can’t do something, my rational side who is also a fierce competitor takes over and it’s game on.

Tomorrow I am leaving my little cocoon of safety to explore unchartered waters. Even though this is just a three-day seminar with a crash course of Closed Captioning 101, I will be expected to bring my equipment and perform. I won’t be just listening, nodding and smiling, offering my ahhhs and ooohhhs and mm-hms and “wow, how cool is that?” when appropriate. I will be expected to try.

It’s not going to be pretty, I’m sure. I will be pushing myself beyond every limit. There is no asking the news anchorman to slow down, please. I will now have to have names like Kim Kardashian in my dictionary. I will now need to actually keep up with current events so I am not frozen when these names of foreign countries come flying at me at 300 wpm. I am scared. I am afraid.

But I also was afraid in 1994 when I enrolled in keyboarding my junior year of high school. I had hunted and pecked at my keyboard until then, and I was quite content with that. It was strongly advised that I take keyboarding, though, since any respectable job I would hope to get someday would require I actually know how to type. (Would it ever!!) Not two weeks after I began my typing class, I was typing as fast as 110 wpm. I realized that my fear was irrational. I feared what I didn’t know. I had a talent that would’ve escaped me had I never tried.

My decision to go to court reporting school right after high school was partially born out of my mad typing skills. A high school friend planted the idea in my head after she told me she was going to go to school to become a court stenographer. After I asked her what that was — and a teacher confirmed that because of my 110 wpm mad typing skills, I would be an excellent candidate for that career — I made that my goal.

Fast forward to September of 1996, my first day of court reporting school. They gave me this funky-looking machine and said “Go!” I didn’t touch it for three whole days. What did I do? I typed keyboarding drills on my typewriter (yes, typewriter) because that is what I knew and that is what I was good at. It was comfortable to me. I didn’t want to look at this scary machine with no letters printed on the keys and not even all the letters in the whole alphabet. What do you mean, TKPW is a G? But after three days, I told myself that I had to at least try. I mean, this is what I’d signed up for, right? Worst case scenario, if I stunk miserably at it, I’d cut my losses and move on. I was 18 years old. The sky was the limit.

And then my fingers met the keys. And I was good at this. This made sense to me. Of course TKPW is G. Of course TKPWO is “go.” What made zero sense to me before now made complete sense. I was a natural at this. I was going to be the one out of 12 who completed the course.

After a few years of working in the freelance arena of court reporting, my husband suggested I try to become an official court reporter, working full time in court. “Absolutely not!” I said. “And work in a scary courtroom? I might not be able to hear. They might all talk too fast for me. I don’t know the lingo.” And of course I’ve now worked in a courtroom for almost ten years. And I’m damn good at it.

Fear is a scary emotion. No pun intended. But I often sit and think about all of the things I could potentially be good at that I’m just too afraid to try. Is it the same fear that compelled me to actually do my homework but not turn it in because at least a zero was a known versus the possibility of having my work scrutinized and being handed back a 40%? Yeah, maybe it is.

But today I am swallowing up all of my fear and using it to drive me. I am going to find out that this is one of those things I never knew I could do. And I’m going to do it. Look for me on your TV’s at the gym and the bars in approximately a year.

Bandwagon Seahawks fan? No, I’m just new to this football thing.

I hated football.  I mean, I hated it.  With every fiber of my being, I detested it, loathed it.  I wished sometimes that it would just go away.  There was a time when my co-workers would bring up the Seahawks and my fingers would immediately go in my ears while I sang loudly, “La, la, la, la, la..”

My dad watched football when I was growing up, but it was his thing, and being the oldest of two girls with a mom who also didn’t watch football, I avoided it.  I didn’t understand it.  I didn’t want to understand it.

I married a man who loves football.  And that was fine with me.  As long as he left me out of it, we’d be fine.  But I later learned that he didn’t really want to leave me out of it.  He started asking me to watch certain plays during a game.  “Watch the quarterback,” he’d say.  But all I saw were a bunch of guys grouped up in the same uniform.  How am I supposed to know who the quarterback is?

My hatred of football continued to grow.  I didn’t want to be anywhere near a TV with a football game.  It was too slow.  It stopped and started too much.  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t want to get it.

There was a time when my husband thought enough of me to include me in a certain college football team’s game that he happens to be a super fan of.  I went along with my husband and my boys, but I’ll be damned if I was actually going to watch football.  I brought my beloved books with me.  Yes, I brought books to a football game.  And yes, I read them.  I read a book while my husband’s team proceeded to play a game, scoring 72 points to nothing.  I’d show all of them what I thought about football.  I hated it so much.  Little did I realize it then, but I was cementing a memory into my two boys’ brains that I now imagine them telling their future wives and their children.

“My mom hated football so much that she actually read a book during a huge game with people screaming everywhere.”  That was nearly five years ago, and I laugh about it now, but I also see how tremendously selfish I was being back then.  Of course life isn’t all about doing what I want to do all of the time.  Being in a family means sometimes compromising and taking one for the team, so to speak, embracing the interests of your spouse and your children.  Once I looked back and remembered how many musicals my husband had accompanied me to, something that probably would never be his number one choice, the tides began to change. I would never like football, but I would at least make an effort to be more pleasant about it for my husband’s and kids’ sake.

In September of 2012, I was doped up on cold medicine, the really good kind that in Washington you have to sign your life away for.  We have a little bit of a meth problem here.  It was Monday Night Football.  The Seahawks were playing the Packers at CenturyLink Field.  Russell Wilson threw the Hail Mary pass at the end of the game, Golden Tate caught it, scoring the game-winning touchdown.  There was all kinds of controversy over that, and with my love of controversy combined with my cold meds, I promptly took a seat on my couch next to my husband and just watched.  I was able to focus on what was going on.  For the first time in my life I was understanding what I was seeing and hearing.

I had a revelation that night that all of my life, the difficulties I have had with focusing on things, having the attention span of a gnat, have translated into feelings of hatred toward the things that I cannot focus on and understand.  It might also explain why I’ve always loved hockey, a game that is fast, the puck is always moving, and there is no time to have to focus on anything.  Oh, and they fight.  See my love of controversy above.

I never understood what “first down” meant.  And it didn’t matter how many times someone explained it to me.  I just couldn’t grasp it.  You mean, they get a first down and now they have to get another first down?  But they just got the first one.  That’s why it’s called first.  Hello?  It seems like some people, especially men, are hard-wired to understand this stuff.  I know my boys are.  It’s like they were born knowing all of the calls that an official might make.  How did you know that they were going to punt there?  Why is it called a safety?  I don’t get it.  But the difference now is that I want to get it.  And I’m learning.

A couple of years ago my youngest son played tackle football for one season.  That helped me immensely in understanding what is going on out on the field.  And I cared because I was watching my son.  I wanted to understand this game he was playing.  I bought “Football for Dummies.”  I’m not kidding.  Good read!

And then Richard Sherman made his way into my field of vision.  The brash, smack-talking cornerback of the Seahawks got my attention when he said “You mad, bro?” to Tom Brady.  He had made me laugh.

youmadbro

Before then football players lived inside their uniforms in the game.  They came, played the game on the field, and left. They weren’t human. But getting a glimpse of a player’s personality grabbed me.  I became a fan of Richard Sherman at that moment.  I began paying attention during games just to see what he might do or say.  And then I started to notice and get to know the other players.  Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin, Michael Bennett, just to name a few,  they all became known to me.  I felt like I was getting to know these young kids.  Because I am old enough now to call these guys kids.

I began cheering for the Seahawks.  I became interested in the games.  Win or lose, I was in.  And it wasn’t because they were winning.  It was because I had become interested in the people actually playing the game, like I was cheering for my own kids and their friends.

And here we are now on the brink of another Superbowl after winning last year’s.  And there’s a term that the Seahawks haters – and perhaps lifelong Seahawks fans – like to use to describe a fan like me.

Bandwagon fan.  You’ve heard it flung around, particularly in the comments section of any Seahawks article these days.  Urban Dictionary defines it as follows:

Anyone who claims they are a “fan” of a particular sports team, even though they had no prior support for/interest in the team until that team started winning. These types of fans only show playoff interest, have probably never watched a regular season game, don’t own any type of team merchandise, nor would they buy any.
I know some of you fans who have been around since, say, 1976, the inception of the Seahawks, believe you are better fans than those of us “bandwagoners.”  I will concede this to you.  You who have been around through the thick and thin, win or lose, deserve some kind of medal. At least a cookie. You had to wait a long time for last year’s victory.  I’m sure if there was some kind of football rapture, you fans would be scooped up immediately, your cars would be left unmanned just like the bumper stickers about Jesus say, and us bandwagon fans would be left here saying, “What happened??”  But in my defense, I wasn’t even on this planet in 1976.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, can we all move on and just be fans?  Isn’t there enough room for all 12’s?
Here’s the deal.  I’m not a bandwagon fan.  I didn’t discriminate.  I hated all football equally.  I just changed my mind.  And I don’t think the Seahawks care either.  Do you think they mind all of the support they get from all of us, new fans and old?  Do you think they put us in categories?  Oh, he’s been here since ’76.  He goes here at the top of the pedestal.  This guy came along during The Boz era and he’s still here.  Okay, put him over here.  Oh, this chick, isn’t she special?  She was won over by Richard Sherman waving at the Redskins’ fans saying, “Bye, beat the traffic, buh-bye.”  She likes our personalities!!  Put her over there!
beatthetraffic
No!  When the 12’s are in the Clink, being the loudest they can be, all fans are the same.  They all sound the same.
 This team has won me over, not only because of how they play, but by how they live.  Whoever they are, whether you like them or not, agree with how they act, whether you agree with Beast Mode grabbing his crotch and barely muttering an answer to the media, whether you like Richard Sherman speaking his truth (which I do!), they are true to themselves.
And when our Seahawks beat the Packers last weekend in the NFC championship game, I later cried when I watched a video of the players miked up.  Russell Wilson continued to cheer on his team.  “It’s only 6 nothing!  It’s only 6 nothing!  It’s only 16 nothing!”  Kam Chancellor rallied, “It’s all about how you bounce back from adversity!  Let’s go!”
And go they did.  They came back.  It was like a miracle.  And I sat in my living room and watched that game all by myself.  And I screamed when Jermaine Kearse caught that final pass from Russell Wilson, when they announced, “The Seahawks are going to the Superbowl!”  This girl who hated football.  This team has become the ultimate in role models for my kids.  They have been given the hugest example of why NEVER to give up in ANYTHING they do.  It’s never too late.  You can still pull out a miraculous win with under two minutes left.
And then stand there in front of the world, crying your heart out, thanking God for your blessings and your victories.
.russell
Yes, this is why I’m a Seahawks fan.  Yes, this is why I now love football.
imin

Reject in the House!

Ever since I was a little girl I have always dreamed of becoming a writer someday.  While my sister and cousins were outside playing at my grandparents’ house, I was busy stapling paper together and writing my own stories.  But I would always inevitably trash my stories because I just knew they had to be complete garbage.   I carried words around that always sounded so perfect in my mind.  Once I put pen to paper, however, I would condemn my words and ball up the monstrosity and curse myself, even at ten, for writing something so very stupid.

I would dream of publishing a book by the age of 12.  I would be on the “Today Show” and “Good Morning America” because I wrote a book that, in my mind, probably rivaled “Harry Potter,” and Joan Lunden would say, “And look, she’s only 12!”  But I continued to destroy every attempt at writing anything.  And let’s be honest, it was more along the lines of “Sweet Valley High” or “The Babysitters Club.”

By the time I was in high school I was selected as the Op/Ed editor for my school newspaper.  I begged my journalism teacher for my own column.  She acquiesced and from there “Iridescent Hues” was born.  I’m not really sure where the name came from.  I didn’t even know what “iridescent” meant, but I thought it sounded cool.  Once I found the definition, I thought, “Exactly what I was going for!”

I loved writing my column.  I took on many topics, including teen pregnancy, abortion, drugs, body piercing (which seemed relatively new in 1994).  My senior year I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper which was published and got me into a lot of trouble at school.  But that’s another story entirely.

After high school, I dove head first into court reporting school.  I was immersed with learning my craft, the skill that would eventually pay my bills.  I was also working part time after school in a grocery store.  The only thing I was writing back then were love letters.

Life went on, but I continued to dream of one day becoming a writer.  I expressed my dream a few times and was shut down by people who probably meant well who said, “Writers write every day.  You don’t.”

Touche.  And I took that to heart.  I didn’t write every day.  I couldn’t write every day.  So I didn’t.  For a long time.  Oh, yes, I can write a great email.  If you ever want to write a scathing letter to someone who pissed you off, I’m your girl.  And for this girl who lives inside her head and has a hard time expressing herself when talking to someone, writing is the ultimate outlet.  I may not know how to tell you how I feel to your face, but I will tell you later with my written words.

This very blog was born two and a half years ago as a way for me to feed my love for writing.  I have neglected it.  I haven’t consistently written.  I have started and scrapped far more posts than I have published.  I have actually considered taking the blog down and starting over.  I restrained myself.  I write for myself.  Taking it down would invalidate my thoughts at the time I wrote them.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about writing. Well, last night I received my very first rejection letter as a writer.

A few weeks ago I was told by a friend about an ad in my newspaper asking for readers to submit two personal essays for a chance to become a reader columnist for the paper.  I have wanted to try out for this for a couple of years, so I felt lucky to have the chance.  I wrote two 500-word pieces, grounded in personal observation and experience as requested.  I sat on submitting them for two weeks after I wrote them.  I changed things up and read and re-read them constantly, trying to read them as if I weren’t the author.  My inside voice was telling me how much they stunk, but I know that she is always out to get me so I ignored her. Plus I didn’t have time to write anything else.  I clicked send on the email and immediately bit my lip in worry.  I have now put myself out there.  Someone is actually going to read this garbage.  What did I do?

I received a response the next day letting me know that they had received my submission, they would read them and get back to me within a couple weeks.  I was forewarned that the competition is very stiff and even very good writers are not chosen.  And then I worried some more.  He said he was going to read them.  Oh my god.

It wasn’t even three days later that I received another response from him telling me how much I suck.  No, I’m kidding.  He was very diplomatic.  But I read straight through all of that diplomacy.

Kellie,
 
I’m afraid this is one of those dreaded rejection notes. We appreciated your interest in being one of our guest columnists; unfortunately, we have to make choices, and this sometimes involves passing up lively writers like you.
 
I’m sorry.
When I first read this, I thought, “Well, what did I expect?  He told me the competition was fierce.”  But then that pesky inner voice started in on me.  “God, you suck.  What were you thinking submitting that crap?  I wonder if ‘lively’ is code for ‘sucky.'”
I ate some feelings after reading that.  I really need to stop doing that.
I woke this morning with a different perspective.  An entire different voice began a dialogue.  I don’t have multiple personality disorder, I promise.  This other voice said, “Kellie, you are too much for that newspaper.  You are sarcastic, witty.  Haven’t you read some of those columns they DO publish?  Booooooorrrrring.  You said so yourself.  You couldn’t even finish one.  Your ADD went into overdrive.  Most of their readers wouldn’t know how to deal with what you have to say.  It’s not the right forum for you.”
I love the voice so much better than the one who constantly wants to tell me how much I suck at the thing I love to do more than anything in the world.  My goal is to someday be able to shut her up completely.
I feel like a bona fide writer now.  I was rejected.  This evening I am wearing my rejection letter like a proud badge of honor.  I only received it because I put myself out there.

There is life after Facebook

I took a break from Facebook.  Like that old song about the jet plane goes, “I don’t know when I’ll be back again.”  But it had to be done.  I was losing my mind – and myself – on the  “social network.”

Facebook was at one time a virtual savior for my introverted self.  It has always been somewhat difficult – okay, awkward – for me to interact with people.  Since I was a little kid I have always felt like people look at me like I am an alien when I speak to them.  I have always kept a close few friends nearby who “get” me.  But large groups of people, especially people I don’t know well, are the scariest of situations for me.  I don’t do well at parties.  I’m not a mingler.  But then came Facebook.  Facebook allowed the writer in me to come through.  On Facebook I had zero fear.  I could say what I wanted or needed to say, and it came out the way I wanted it to.  I could interact with people the way I have always wished I could.  I didn’t feel like a social failure on Facebook.  People liked me there.  I had friends who would tell me they came to my page first to see what I was saying.  When I commented on my friends’ posts, my words came out strong and witty, not bumbled language mixed with a red face.  Facebook was my savior.

That was five and a half years ago.  It is safe to say that though my physical body has remained here on Earth, in my house, living my life, raising my kids, going to work every day, going to my kids’ hockey games, my mind has taken up residence on Facebook.  On my wall.  I live there.  That is my existence.  My kids’ lives are there.  My youngest son’s life has been chronicled there since he was five.  If only it was just a documentary of my life.  But just like all things used in excess, Facebook became an addiction for me.

I became obsessed with posting my every waking thought.  My thoughts are so witty, so smart, they all must be shared on Facebook.  Right now.  I am eating at Red Robin.  Right now.  Thought you’d want to know.  I am seeing a movie with this friend.  Sorry you weren’t invited, but I’m not going to NOT post it.  You must know what I am doing.  Right now.  My kids won both of their hockey games this weekend.  You have never met me, or perhaps haven’t seen me since the eighth grade, but you will definitely need to know all of this.  I am in no way attempting to disparage others who do these things on Facebook.  I am saying this has become a problem, an obsession for me.  I want to be a writer someday, you see.  But I have no time to write.  Because I work all day, and when I get home I am taking care of my kids and my house and talking to my husband about his day. Facebook is an outlet for me to let little tidbits of my writing escape, so I feel like I am doing something, you see.  I will tell Facebook about anything and everything before I even think of telling my husband or my mom.

I want the likes.  Everyone wants the likes.  The likes, to me, are like a high.  I am being validated with every like.  You may have been scrolling through your phone at light speed and maybe just skimmed my post.  But you pressed your thumb to that “like” button.  And I am over the moon because of it.

The first thing I do in the morning after I wake up is check my Facebook account.  I must scroll back to the last-seen post from the night before so I can catch myself up on my friends’ insomnia.  Then I read something that I absolutely must comment on right now.  It cannot wait.  Who needs to get ready for work anyway?  The last thing I do before closing my eyes at night is – you guessed it – check Facebook.

But the thing about any drug is that once you are addicted to it, you must keep it up to sustain that high, and then you must increase the amount you use it because it’s just not enough anymore.  And then you find yourself holding onto your phone all the time.  It might as well be a part of you.  Your spouse or kids or friends right in front of you can be talking to you and you are scrolling through the same stuff you saw an hour ago.  It’s kind of like when you’re hungry for something and you keep looking in the refrigerator for food that isn’t there.  It doesn’t matter how many times you look.  At some point you expect to see something different that will feed that hunger.

And I have many times been the person who has her phone in front of me at a restaurant while eating with friends.  I’m never alone, though.  The drama I have become involved in on Facebook would put some of the “Real Housewives” shows to shame.  Yes, on Facebook people aren’t afraid to say things.  Things that wouldn’t be said to someone’s face can and will be said on Facebook.  I have made comments on posts – stating my honest opinion about something – and then laid in bed awake worrying about what I would wake up to in the morning.

I have slowly become depressed, anxious, and angry inside.  Having started a new job a few months ago, I was having a difficult time feeling like I fit in.  I couldn’t figure it out.  But I had a revelation a little over a week ago.  What if this wonderful social network designed to keep us all so connected is actually ruining us?  What if I can link all of the drama in my life to Facebook?  What if this “social” network that made me feel like a rock star on a web page made me even more antisocial and awkward and is actually amplifying my shyness with others?  My life cannot forevermore be my avoiding social contact, stumbling through any conversation, burying my nose in my book, and basically saying, “See you on Facebook!” as I run far, far away from these people.

I took a break.  I shut my Facebook down for over a week.  I chronicled my thoughts and reactions to my “withdrawals” in my Notes app on my iPhone.  Here’s what happened.

The night I shut it down:  I miss the not knowing.  I miss the ignorance.  I miss not knowing my friends’ opinions and I miss not caring about them.  There is too much chaos in my brain from Facebook.  My son is almost eleven and I’ve been on Facebook for five years.  I went 31 years without Facebook.  I worry too much about what people think of me on Facebook.  I worry about things that shouldn’t even occupy my brain.  Other people’s struggles on Facebook become my struggles.  I lie awake thinking about things people are going through on Facebook that I can’t control nor can I change.  Meanwhile my laundry sits in piles.  I have taken thousands of pictures that just sit on my Facebook account.  I have never printed one of them.  I feel like I take pictures of my kids for the sole purpose of uploading them to Facebook.  For what?  Likes.

First day without Facebook: Woke up and the first impulse was to grab for my phone to, of course, get on Facebook.  Have had to remind myself about three times in ten minutes that I’m on a break from it.  Forced to start actually getting ready for my day.  I am thinking about people who might not have seen my message alerting the masses to my departure.  Fighting the urge to activate to message them.  I feel like a missing person.  I feel like I’m dead.  I keep wondering what is going on there without me.

Interestingly, the first thing I did after initially closing this note was to click on Facebook.  It is worse than I thought.

It’s my first impulse to try to check on Facebook to see what’s going on.  Whenever there is a lull in any action, I want to reach for my phone.

Second day without Facebook: Feeling withdrawn.  Woke up again feeling the undeniable urge to check my phone.  I am spending hardly any time on my phone at all since without Facebook I’m finding little to do with it.  Computer too.  Battery is lasting me all day without charging.  Missing the “social” aspect of it, but enjoying being connected to my actual family.  I feel like I have time to actually text my family or friends.  I don’t have the Facebook chaos running through my brain.  However, I find myself thinking in Facebook statuses.  Thoughts run through my head and I want to put them on Facebook.  My kids say something and I want to immediately log on.

I was thinking this morning that Facebook is like selling one’s soul to the devil.  Oh, it makes us feel good, that high we get from “likes” and comments, but it comes at a huge cost.

Rode bikes as a family.  Enjoyed the trail and just watching life around me.  Nice to watch the pumpkins being loaded onto the truck.  Riding bikes through crunching fall leaves.  There is life after Facebook.

Going to dinner with the family and absolutely no one will know about it.  I feel like I am truly off the grid.

Every time I get a text or an email, my next reflex is to check Facebook.  And I scroll through to find an app that isn’t there anymore.  What a sickness.

Third day without Facebook: Third day without Facebook.  First weekday.  I was super productive at work.  I was able to actually focus on my work.  I do wonder what people are up to, but it’s starting to seem like a distant other world to me.  Not having Facebook is a quiet world. It is silent.  But it brings to mind the songs “Enjoy the Silence” and “Silence is Golden.”  It truly is.

Later in the week: Have worried about big life events like holidays and graduations, etc.  What will happen if I don’t Facebook those events?

One whole week without Facebook: One week without Facebook and I feel the happiest I’ve felt in years.  I am not worried about what my friends are doing or saying.  I am living my life.  I have texted or emailed friends individually.  It feels good to actually connect like that again.

It’s been ten days today.  I just re-activated my account, but I haven’t said a word.  I don’t feel the need to really.  My hope is to be able to have a healthy relationship with Facebook someday.  I don’t want to reside there anymore.  I want people to be able to know me without the Facebook persona.

When I look back at my comments throughout the week in my diary, I have already begun to revise my thinking.  As for holidays and graduations, special events, Halloween costumes, absolutely nothing will happen if I don’t Facebook those events.  They will still happen and I will actually experience them.  The only difference is that I am no longer going to need my Facebook friends’ validation of those events.

The world still turns without Facebook.  The sun rises and sets.  It is astounding how life resembles the life I knew as a child when I remove the complications.  Life doesn’t have to be so hard.  In the course of one week, giving up the weight that was dragging me to the bottom of the ocean,  I described that feeling of loss as feeling like I was a missing person or even dead, when really I was in the process of getting my life back.  I am alive.  I’m out here in the world living that life.  Facebook no longer owns me.

Silence is golden, but my eyes still see…  There most certainly is life after Facebook.

Don’t Typecast Your Kids

Recently I had a conversation with a mom of two boys, like myself.  We were discussing the differences between the two.  If you have two or more kids, you know that your kids are very different from each other.  And as parents, I think we subconsciously label our kids.  One is the smart one.  One is the adventurous one.  The other is the funny one.  I’m guilty of it.  I have said that my oldest son is the “smart one” because he’s in advanced classes in school, forgetting that my youngest is smart too, just in a different way.

During this conversation that regrettably our children were present for, the other mom began speaking about her children’s passion for what they do.  As some context, before I get to my point, I will say that where passion is concerned, we have always considered our oldest son more timid and cautious, always thinking things through.  Our youngest is the bull in the china shop.  No fear.  

The other mom stated that her youngest son had all of the passion, unlike her older son.  Immediately I found myself agreeing with her.  “Yes, that is how my youngest is as well.”  Then I looked to my right and saw my oldest son just sitting there, taking it all in.  And then I looked at her son, also taking it all in.  I immediately regretted what I said in front of my oldest boy.  I didn’t mean that he didn’t have any passion.  It’s just that my youngest’s passion has always seemed more tangible in a way.

I told my son the first chance I got how sorry I was for saying that, and of course I don’t believe that he doesn’t have any passion for what he does.  He didn’t seem scarred for life like I imagined he’d already be from my hurtful comment, but then, I nipped it in the bud immediately.  I wonder if he sustained an entire childhood of this type of thinking from his parents, who should believe in him more than anyone, how this would affect him as he grew into adulthood.

Well, I can tell you firsthand, it doesn’t end well.  I grew up in a family with a cousin who was a hockey player, a sister who was a competitive figure skater.  Me, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with those things at all.  I was the reader, the writer, the musician, the dreamer.  My sister was deemed to be the athletic and helpful one.  I was the lazy one.  I heard this from people my entire life.  If you hear something enough, you believe it and you live it.  My one attempt to be athletic at 17 was my asking to take tennis lessons in lieu of ice skating.  Guffaws and laughter ensued.  I ended up doing one session and I was pretty okay at it, but it didn’t go anywhere because I didn’t feel like anyone took it seriously or believed in me.

My lifelong dream to be a writer has always been in a way stunted.  I’m afraid to start.  I’m afraid to fail.  I stated out loud as a child that I wanted to be a writer.  It was met with comments like, “You can’t be a writer.  You don’t write every day.  Writers write every day.”  To this day, because I’m too busy obviously to write every day, I’m afraid to even try.  I’m afraid to fail.

This is not to bash my family.  I don’t think it was meant to be hurtful.  I think parents are guilty of being adults and forgetting what it’s like to dream.  I did not dream of growing up to be a court reporter.  It was my realistic job.  It’s a cool job, but it was my “plan B.”  

When you typecast your children, you put them in a category bubble that is virtually impossible for them to break out of.  And then they stop trying.  And when they stop trying, they stop dreaming.  Chances are your kid won’t play for the NFL, MBA or NHL.   They might not be the fighter pilot, doctor, or even the firefighter they aspire to be.  But maybe they will.  Believe in your kids and let them dream their dreams.  Let them find their reality when it’s their time.

As a parent, it’s so easy to beat ourselves up over things like this.  But it’s also important to realize that it’s never too late to live in the moment and actually listen to the words that come out of your own mouth about your children.  They are all ears and those words are becoming engraved on their hearts.  Why?  Because you’re their parent.  They trust you.  You must be right.  

I’m a Hockey Mom

I’m a mom. I’m a working mom. I’ve been a baseball mom. I’m now a football mom. But I’ve long been, and always will be, just like a Marine, a hockey mom.
When my oldest wore a helmet as a baby for his misshapen head, we sat in an Applebee’s one night. It was scary taking him out in public because people stared. But we sat him proudly in his high chair at the end of our table. A lady walked by and smiled and said, “Ahhh, look at the cute little hockey player.” We laughed about that, but never gave it a second thought. My cousin played hockey, but I couldn’t even fathom my little baby someday playing.

We used to live very close to a rink, so when he was three we decided to get him into skating lessons. We’d go watch him shuffle across the ice, falling down, just trying to get from one side to the other. After three sessions he was burnt out. We didn’t put skates on him for three more years.

When he was six he wanted to take lessons again. He was in a smaller class this time, and amazingly after three years, he stepped onto the ice and off he went. It didn’t take long before the teacher told us he could transfer to the hockey program if he was interested. He was interested all right.

The night before his first session, as I tucked him into bed, he dreamily said, “I can’t believe I’m a hockey player!”

He was timid at first. This was all new to him. All this equipment and hitting a round heavy thing with a stick. Well, doesn’t sound too much different from baseball when put that way, minus the equipment.

Derek in his first year of hockey.  2008-2009.
Derek in his first year of hockey. 2008-2009.

He loved hockey right away, and of course, when someone loves something, it’s quite infectious. It didn’t take long before little brother, then four, said, “I want to play!” We dismissed it at first as we thought he was too little, but then we saw other kids smaller than him on the ice. We decided to give him a chance. He completely blew us away. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of our hockey lives.

When I say “hockey lives,” I mean it’s our lives. Hockey is not two months long. It starts before school starts and it’s about as long as the school year.

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It takes a special kind of mom to be a hockey mom. Special in the sense of: if you are willing to drive your kids to the rink four nights a week (two kids on different teams) and you’re willing to spend your weekends either at practice or games sometimes an hour or more away, that’s a special kind of mom. And that’s house hockey. You have to be even more special to have a kid on a select team where you’ll be traveling across the state or Canada.

I’m not a very organized mom. I wish I had it all together, but I don’t. I also work outside the home in a very grueling job. I have big dreams of making a month’s worth of crock pot meals that I found on Pinterest, but the reality is we end up eating out quite a lot. Red Robin with hockey friends is the BEST!!

My house usually looks like it’s already been burglarized. It’s a great deterrent. And what is that smell coming from the kitchen? Oh, that’s just the rotten chicken packages in the garbage can. It’s a good thing I also sell Scentsy for my own personal use. I have one in every room.

There are usually two smelly hockey bags in my entryway at all times. They smell like a mixture of rotten milk and the rotten chicken in my trash. I try to put them somewhere else, but they always find their way back there. I just don’t fight it anymore.

My car is lived in. I’m here to say that there is no amount of Febreze that will help the hockey stench. If you ever drive by my house, I’m not having a yard sale. That’s just hockey gear “drying out.” And it only gets worse the older they get.

Sometimes I may show up at the rink in the morning looking like I just got out of bed. Uh, that’s because I just did. Don’t worry. I showered the night before. I rarely look my best at hockey, and I don’t care anymore. It’s a hockey game, not a fashion show.

Our weekends are hockey. Our weeknights are hockey. No, we can’t come to your non-hockey event. We have hockey. See you in April.

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I haven’t been on a vacation with my husband in five years. I remember it fondly. It was my 30th birthday in Vegas. Oh well, I get overflowing glasses of wine at the rink!

It takes a special mom to be a hockey mom. You have to be pretty selfless. I get resentful at times because I wish I had more time for myself and what I want to do. See above: “pretty selfless.”

Why do I put up with it? Well, because my kids love hockey. We love hockey because our kids love hockey. As that song says, “These are the moments…” When I became a parent, I signed up for this. As long as they are passionate about hockey, we’ll support them and be there for them along the way. And it’s not completely without benefit to us. We’ve made the best friends in hockey parents. Wonderful people who will help you get your kid to hockey (or football now) in a bind, moms who buy you peppermint tea when you have bronchitis, people we laugh and drink with on road tournaments, which are fun getaways for kids and parents! Some of my kids’ best friends are their hockey friends. It is the BEST kind of community.

There will come a day when we won’t have hockey in our lives like this anymore, and we will be looking back on it and missing these days terribly. These are the days to savor the moment with our kids.

Sean with his team last year after winning their tournament.
Sean with his team last year after winning their tournament.

I’m a hockey mom through and through. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Or when the kids move out. 🙂

Here’s to the new hockey season!

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