Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February's Wrap Up...

"I got my shirt tonight.  I can quit now."

Oldest's team basketball shirt was ruined last year in an unfortunate event involving the dryer and a fountain pen.  Turns out, he was holding on just for the shirt.  They gave them out last night during Senior night, and now he's just riding out the week.  Two more games.  One pizza party. And then he's on to other things.

Like driver's Ed, which starts on Monday. Overall, he's doing well, but my nerves can only handle so much time in the passenger's seat. Having someone else teach him how to drive in the snow who has a conveniently placed emergency brake will be a welcome blessing.

Youngest's wrestling season has lasted forever due to blizzards, the super bowl, and icy roads.  His last JV tournament is tomorrow and then he's off to the training camp for Spring season. In the mean time, he'll be sporting his new 16th D1 Championships jacket along with all his other teammates.  The verdict is still out on if he'll receive his varsity letter or not, as the standard is set by the coach and no one seems to know the criteria this year.  Either way, with only one head injury, and 3 wins despite having no idea what he was doing, his season was a success.

He's also in the middle of a blacksmiths class that has proven to be very fun and interesting.  I'm a bit jealous, I must admit, and every time I'm in the forge I feel the need to hit things.  I refrain, of course, but if the 4th student "no shows" again this week, I'm thinking of making a campfire stick.

We've done okay snow fall wise this year, but multiple blizzards have made for a stressful work day.  I am lucky that the type of delivery I have is only mildly impacted by snow, but the lack of communication between management regarding our safety is mind boggling. It's amazing that no one ended up dead.

Tony and I spent Valentine's day doing nothing.  He went to Oldest's basketball game, I picked up Youngest from practice, and we had snacks for dinner.

Snacks.

That's true love.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Get Me The Padded Helmet...

Seven years ago, I posted photos of Youngest in his Karate gear on Facebook. The photo that popped up under my "memories", was one of my favorites. He was sitting waiting to spar in his pure white gi and bright red helmet, his round face squished tight inside. His eyes are so clear in the photo, centered and peaceful.  A moment that rarely existed for him back then, captured in those few seconds of rest.  He competed until he was a red belt and then fizzled out.  He has entertained going back to classes, but other things seem to be getting in the way, and it's just never quite happened.

He tried basketball through the rec league. He liked it, but knew at his height there was no way he could compete on a High School level.  He has Scouts, which he also enjoys, but that too will be ending soon, as he will be starting his Eagle project this summer. And while he can continue until he turns 18, he sees how busy the older Scouts get with school and work, and knows deep down that it will not last much through his Junior year. So, while I was not surprised that he was looking for something else to do, I was completely taken back when he came home in November and told me he was joining the wrestling team.

 The.  Wrestling. Team.

The hardest, most demanding, of all sports in his school. The one with full physical skin contact... that can lead to ring worm and staff infections.  And those snazzy singlets.... *shudder*.... Lord help him. *sigh*

Our school has one of the best programs in the state.  Partly because of the recruitment process that starts for most kids in elementary school, and partly because of the extremely demanding yet unbelievably supportive head coach, who has coached here for over 20 years. He is tough.  They practiced on Christmas Eve.  They practiced during the blizzard two weeks ago. Their 6 day a week workouts are the most brutal of all the sports.  And yet, this coach is like the Pied Piper to them.

This year there are roughly 67 kids on the team.  Of those, maybe 15 are Varsity.  He reserves 14 of the remaining 53 for the starting JV line.  This means that roughly 39 or so compete against each other, but not in tournaments.  And yet, they stay.  They stay for the chance of a "wrestle off" to earn their place on the line.  When one kid isn't preforming, is disrespectful in any capacity, or his grades waiver, there are tens more that will take their place. I've never seen anything like it.

There are 4 boys in Youngest's weight class. And somehow, having never wrestled before, ever, he earned a spot on the JV start line.  They've had him weigh in for back up Varsity.  They've had him weigh in in front of opposing caches for a 2 pound swing (whatever that means). He works out.  He's keeping his grades up on his own. He's eating healthier that he ever has.  It's given him a place, separate of his brother, a way to challenge himself and push his limits. It gives his a feeling of belonging.

I rarely catch his meets.  Mostly because of my work schedule and his brother's basketball schedule, but also partly because they are tough to watch. Last week he competed against a Varsity player on an opposing team.  He lost the match on points, which in layman's terms means he lasted the entire match without getting pinned, but his opponent was more technical.  And since his opponent is ranked tenth in the State, I suspect he did quite well.  He won his first match of the day today, only to lose the subsequent 3.  In his second match, his opponent flipped him, slamming him into the mat by way of his face (that's not legal), knocking the wind out of him and leaving him needing to be checked by the coaches and refs before they could restart. There was no way that his small ear protectors, flimsy forehead padding, or mouth guard could protect him from that. He lasted about 2 more minutes before he succumbed to the pin. The refs didn't call the penalty.  Like in any sport, there's always calls that go unnoticed.

But it does make me wish I could put him back in that full head, padded red sparring helmet.  That sucker could take a hit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Committed...

I was raised to stick by my choices.  If I say I will do something, it is incredibly rare for me to not follow through.  I am sticking by my friend when even now that I am not her Maid Of Honor, I am still planning her wedding, and paying for my third of her shower.  I stayed in every job I ever had even after knowing how under paid and over worked I was until I could no longer stay.  I stayed in my first marriage, some would say, much longer than I should have. It's what I do.

It's what my husband does as well.  He gives the people he loves more chances than he should, stayed longer than he should have in his marriage, and often finds himself deep, deep in holes he could have easily stepped out of years ago.

It's not a surprise then, that it's what we try to teach our boys.  You make your choices and stick with them.  Right?

Oldest tried out and made the Freshman basketball team last year, and while he spent a fair amount of time on the bench, we figured he was paying his dues and would eventually develop into a strong member of the team.  The regular coach was out due to personal issues, and the new coach was, well, less than supportive.  They hardly rotated the line, and it became quickly apparent that they had no interest in developing anyone other than the star Senior on Varsity. Unfazed, he finished out the season, did an independent spring league, two leagues in the summer, and worked out in the fall so he'd be ready for this year.

This year, he tried out again and made the JV team. While he was excited, some of his friends had fallen away, some by choice and others by the coach's hand.  This coach is much tougher, and lacks appropriateness.  There are 4 weeks left in the season.  He averages only 4-6 minutes a game, usually in 2 or 3 minute intervals, with last night being only 52 seconds.  In that small amount of time he has scored ten points for the team thus far this season.  There are other players that have played 16 or more per game and have scored none. Zero. the entire season.

He has asked the coach what he can do for more time on the court.  He gets the same answer each time.  He shows early at every practice.  He is not the fastest, but not slowest player either, and does whatever is asked.  And... nothing.

The more I'm talking to other parents the more I'm hearing how abusive the program is.  Kids are told they will never amount to anything, or that they will always be average. The best comment though, was the game before last when he told them all "This team has made me hate the sport of basketball.". And while the program is lead by the head coach, who is notorious for his abusive behavior towards players, in the past the coaches would at least find something positive to point out after trashing the team.  This year, however, that seems not the case.  It's no wonder they have lost every game this season.

He has long be debating quitting.  Last night seemed to be the breaking point.  His grades are faltering because of the schedule. His attitude is wavering.  And more important, he is miserable. This is the last year he can play on the rec leagues, and without the option of Varsity, he will ultimately have to stop playing.  And while I can see that he's torn about it, he seems okay, and is looking at other sports to try.

I hate seeing him go through this and we have left it up to him.  I have asked that he respectfully quit if that what he chooses to do.  He's not happy I asked that.  He doesn't understand about burning bridges just yet... particularly since this coach works all year long, in nearly every sport.  And if he stays through the next 4 weeks, will he look back and think the stayed too long, just like I have so many times in my life? Funny, even at 42 I am still trying to determine at what point it's okay to let go of your commitment, before you end up needing to be committed.

Maybe it's unrealistic for him to know at 16...








Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Day Thoughts...

Sixteen years ago the newspaper headlines read "Waiting for Florida" as the Nation combed over pregnant, hanging chads, recounting votes in Broward County, Florida.  Twelve hundred miles away, my parents also were "Waiting On Florida", and their pregnant daughter in Broward county, who had been in labor with their first grandchild for the last 32 hours.

In his baby book, on the pre-printed pages that record what was happening the day he was born, I wrote the words, we have no idea to complete the line "The President is...".  Folded away in the book is the front page of the paper with the aforementioned headline.  Oldest was born into political controversy, amidst talk of rigged elections, and politicians that just don't know when to quit.  Sound familiar? All of this, during what was ironically, the most stress free time of my marriage.

It all fell to hell a few months later of course, both the marriage and the country.  Ten months later were the terror attacks on NYC, rolling into countless endless wars, recessions, national debt crisis, and politicians acting like spoiled toddlers, refusing to uphold the constitution because someone looked at them funny on the playground.

I don't think anyone was happy about the choices this year.  The candidates, all of them, were heavily flawed.  But here's the thing.  Regardless of who won, nothing was going to change.

Nothing ever changes.

The country is virtually deadlocked in polarity.  Those who voted Clinton wanted establishment, a shattered ceiling, and/or the status quo.  Those who voted Trump wanted an overhaul of the whole system, supreme court justices, and/or vindication for their own private beliefs said behind closed doors.  And, those that voted otherwise either couldn't bring themselves to vote for the two front runners, or actually believed they had the best candidate.

Regardless of the reasoning, nothing will change.  And how do I know this?  Because nothing ever changes.  There are 500+ other people in charge who make sure that nothing. ever. changes. And if, on the off chance it does, in four years or so, it will change back.  Regardless of what judge gets appointed, what law gets speedily passed through, Congress will swing and it will return to the status quo.

I sit here today hopeful that this new elect will ultimately land in the middle.  That he will get none of the promises/threats that his campaigning boasted of, and rather meet at a point of compromise that doesn't send women back to the stone age, or land us in a war so horrific that they reenact the draft. He has, of course, changed his position on virtually everything, even taking his own words and quickly contorting them or just dismissing them as being sarcastic. I am hopeful that the wacko-extremists on the right won't get their way, and that the hippie-extremists on the left won't be correct in their doomsday predictions.  That we will somehow, as a country, land somewhere in the middle. But the truth is, those that hated during this election will still hate.  Those that gloat, will still gloat. And those that believed that women should be seen (only if their attractive) and not heard (unless they have a good singing voice) will still feel that way.  Because the President doesn't change that about our country, WE change that about our country.  And clearly, we are not ready for that kind of change.

But if on the off chance this country does change it's mind, we get a do-over on November 3rd, 2020.  By then, both Oldest and Youngest will exercise their right, whether it be for Red, Blue, Orange, or Kanye. I'd like to say that it will be different then.  That it will be better.  That we will have less of the right and left and more of  a scenic one lane country road.  But in the end, I will not  be surprised if nothing actually changes that election day either.

Unless of course, you're speaking of that election day sixteen years ago.

That election day, everything in my life, in my little country, changed forever.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Backing Away...Slowly...

The boy and his gear spilled through the front door around 6 pm. Heaps of fabric, a cooler sans lid, a tent magically folded back into it's carrying case, all reeking of sweat, dirt, and camp fire.  As it headed to the wash, and the boy to the shower, I breathed a huge sigh of relief as yet another camp out was done.

Scouts has been a huge part of Youngest's life.  He has formed friendships with people he would otherwise never know.  He has learned skills.  He has had adventures without me, and has gained an independence that I could have never given him.

It has also however, been a huge part of my life.  The week before my birthday last year there was a huge blow out with one of the parents and the Committee Chair.  She abruptly quit and since I was one of the very few already taking responsibility within the Troop, all of her tasks, which were many, fell to me.  And while I have given off many of them, the largest of the tasks, Committee Chair and Advancement, still are in my lap.

And from that point on, I was all in.  I spend 20 hours a week maintaining, updating, and planning Scout activities.  Watching the boys go from unfocused, ping pong balls of energy, to planners, leaders, and examples of great men is one of my greatest rewards.  I would not trade that for anything and I feel like, to some extent, they are all my kids.  I want them all to succeed, to go on to become Eagles, and make a difference in their community.  I want them all to be able to get every experience they want from Scouts, whether it be forging knives, whitewater rafting Class 4 and 5 rapids, or shooting a .5 caliber muzzle load rifle.

So it's no wonder that I have long insisted that Youngest squeeze every bit he can from Scouts.  And he has, up to now, without question.  He is now a Star Scout, well on his way to Life, when he will then start his Eagle project and inevitably make the rank.  He has several Eagle projects in mind, with one specifically high on the list, and has started to think of what he will need to put into it, as well as who he will need to work with to get it done.  He has only one required badge left to finish, and actually has finished it, but refuses to hand it in.

Which makes me crazy.

Youngest is a tough nut to crack.  It's taken me 6 months to get him to explain that he doesn't want to pass it in because then he feels like he won't have anything else to do.  I also think he doesn't want to pull too far ahead of his friends.  We fight a lot about Scouts now a days, weather he needs a uniform that night, his role in the Troop, if he really needs to be a Patrol Leader. *Sigh* It's exhausting.

And then, the other day, I had just had enough.  I was rushing around to get to the meeting, trying to coordinate this and that, answering the 15th email regarding something I can't remember, and I was just.... done.  The truth is I don't care if he makes Eagle.  At the end of the day, he has to care.  He has to want it.  A parent commented this weekend about "The next camp out you plan", to which I replied, "Dude, this is the last one I'm planning this year."  And it is.  The May camp out is all his.  The April one someone else's, January falls on our snow camping guy, and June/July are up for grabs.  It's got to somehow start coming together without me.  It will, but not if I don't let it go.

I am done. I want out before I burn out completely.  I want t just sit back, watch him grow, help out on an Eagle or two and enjoy the last 18 months of Youngest's Scouting career.  I want to pick and choose what I'm involved in, not spend my Sunday nights sending out Troop updates and fielding emails of accumulated service hours and partial requirements.  I want to paddle down a river in New Hampshire, in the middle of June, soaking in the sunlight, not mentally taking attendance and dreading the paperwork at the end of the weekend.  I want to not resent the smell of sweat and camp fire as it falls into a heap on the living room floor alongside an exhausted boy.

I don't think that makes me terrible.  I don't feel like I'm abandoning the Troop or leaving any of the boys out on a limb.  And while others may have a different opinion on it, I just can't care any more.

The Troop will be fine.

Youngest will be fine.  He will make Eagle if he wants it enough.

I will finally be able to actually enjoy the camp fire, without all the headache that goes along with it.

Right?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Sweetest Years...

One of the only features I find myself liking about Facebook now a days is the memories feature.  It's interesting to me to look back and see where I was last year, or even 7 years ago. Five years ago this week, I posted a picture of the first professional gluten free birthday cake, with the caption 37 never tasted so good.  

Now a days you can get a professionally decorated, gluten free cake nearly everywhere provided you order it in advance, making it not so special anymore... kind of like your 42nd birthday.

I'm not going to lie, those who have been here a while know that birthdays have not gone so well for me.  My 40th was spent in the hospital, on an IV, with no food for 6 days.  My 41st was spent on an extremely long work day, as my bosses decided I needed to train someone and could no longer have it off, and then at Boy Scouts, where I in fact, became in charge of it all.  I literally got a boy Scout Troop of 32 for my birthday, complete with a balloon, thanks to one thoughtful cub scout who was at the meeting with his brother.  And as sweet as that sounds, I went home and cried.

Don't misunderstand me, the Troop has had it's share of fond memories over the last year, but for the most part it has become more of a job, making Mondays suck even more.  It's not the Scouts, but more the paperwork and protocol of it all.  There is, however, an end in sight for me though, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Where was I?  Oh, yes... this year I decided not to tell anyone.  I took it off Facebook, said nothing at work, and it happened to fall on my day off.  It was just too risky... no one would know, except those in the know... and I could avoid all unwanted, nonreturnable gifts.

I attempted to sleep in, and actually made it to about 730. Unable to fall back to sleep, I cleaned house, and started sanding the bathroom ceiling. Now, I know what you're reading that, rolling your eyes and thinking "Now that's a girl gone wild kind of party right there", but trust me it was sweaty, dirty, hot, and I was bra-less in my jammies.  What?  Did you think I'd actually get dressed to clean? Um, no.

Anyway... after I showered I went to lunch with my Mum, did a little Christmas shopping at the Plaza.  Went for ice cream, then swung into the pet store on the way home to get a new fish for the tank.  Once the kids got home, we went to dinner. Youngest insisted I have steak.  I ended up having the scallops and lobster risotto, but Youngest assured me the steak was delicious.

As the night settled in, we all came home to a strawberry shortcake, made my me, over the previous 2 days.  The strawberries were candied for hours, the cake just spongy enough, and just a scant shy on the home made whipped cream.

It was a great day, and I was genuinely surprised at how many people actually did remember my birthday through texts and calls.  Proving that while 37 may have tasted good, 42 can be just as sweet.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday Night's Hallways...

Oldest has found himself training for the upcoming basketball season by playing in not one, but two leagues this fall.  For the last two and a half months we have found ourselves sitting in the corner of many a gym, sneakers squeaking, balls bouncing off every available surface, on average, 5 days a week.

Two of those days are practice at an elementary school here in town.  Our town has 7 currently, but this is the first one... the oldest one.  It was built in 1913 as the town's only high school.  In 1934 they expanded it to incorporate all grades.  A customer of mine is an alumni of this very school.  He just attended his 70th reunion, in the same school house he attended K-12 in. Just the concept of this is awesome to me, that he both celebrated his 70th high school reunion, and that he attended all of his schooling there.

I tried sitting in the gym in the beginning of the season.  The floors are real hardwood, pitted and buckled from over a century of active play time.  The polish is worn, the floorboards so weathered in places that no amount of sanding will get them smooth.  The base of the walls are a sand colored brick, above which stands ancient windows, 20 feet high, covered in metal cages, protecting the distorted glass from overachieving athletes. Balls and sneakers meeting the hard and worn surfaces make for a sensory overload I can not block out, so about a week into the season I began to wander.

 I have fast become friendly with the night custodians, as it allows me to wander the halls of this relic. In the front entry hangs a metal engraved sign proudly displaying the names of the 1917-19 American Legion.  A safety inspection certificate from 1956 is displayed just to the left of the main door.  Each door's a solid hardwood, stained a traditional oak color. They display hand painted numbers just under the 16 glass window panes, each knob complete with a back plate and key hole, a perfect fit for a skeleton key.

Each classroom easily has 18 foot ceilings, The windows span nearly the entire wall and they open, full and wide.  Radiators sit high up on the walls in the hallways, so as not to burn little hands that pass by.  The auditorium doubles as the library, the domed ceiling adds to the acoustics. A stone relief of a puritan and her child hangs in the doorway, a gift from the class of 1939.

The stairways are worn.  Stair treads dip from little feet that have clamored up and down. The twisted wrought iron railings have been painted gold, perhaps to reflect the sunlight from yet another over-sized weather worn window that adorns the wall.  Even the girl's bathroom hosts a mirror, 6 by 20 feet large, etched with traditional names of the past... "Barbara, Ester, Catherine all were here".  

The building stands three stories in total.  There are 3 night custodians, all very accommodating with a story or two. The oldest one recalls the day Warner Brothers took it over and filmed scenes there nearly twenty years ago.  Funny, Hollywood can recreate nearly everything now, and yet they still come here, where the real history is, the kind that can not be created in a studio.  The kind of history that can only be felt deep in the grain of the wood, the smell of the walls, the nuances of the glass and heard in the creaks of the floors and hiss of the radiators.  There are spirits here.  You can feel them wandering the halls.  They feel childlike and safe, and when I wander far enough away from the gym I swear I can almost hear them.

Oldest's practice lasts about an hour.  My tours are not long and every week I find something new. Tonight I found a cast iron fire alarm that I have no doubt still works. I return to the gym just as he staggers out, exhausted, sweaty, completely unaware of the history he is enveloped in. At nearly sixteen, he doesn't get it.  It's likely that none of the children that grace these halls 180 days a year will ever get it.  It's hard to see the beauty of it all when everything seems to give way to the newest and best in technology. The new schools steal from the budget, and the relics like this, so I am told, suffer.  They need a new roof, new flooring, and desperate repairs in critical, but indiscriminate places.

I suppose that that's the way it is for most things now.  Next year they will open the newest of the two high schools, demolishing the existing one that's just thirty years old. The same one their father graduated from in 1991.  History is lost in progress and technology.  And yet, here this school stands, nearly 104 years later.

And here I sit, outside the principal's office like a misbehaving child, soaking it all in.