Friday, April 29, 2011

Opportunities, won and lost

When I think of all the crap Nic has to put up with regarding his ongoing bullying sitch, this image will remind me of all the things his tormenters won't be.

Tuesday night, my boy took the field with 1600+ other athletes. As my brother said, he came to compete, he competed successfully, running the first leg of his heat and successfully handed off to his teammate. They finished the race, were not disqualified, and did not even finish last in their heat.

He did something not many people get the opportunity to do. He took the same field as the best runners of the last 100 years and did it in front of an audience of thousands.

How cool is that?

I love that we could actually share this experience with family, as my brother and his wife and their oldest were also there to cheer on his youngest. It's a night I'll remember for the rest of my life.

And as for Nic, he had a great time hanging with his teammates and acting, more or less, like any other kid.

The world is bigger than this town. I think he will be fine as long as he remembers that. And at the age of 11, he's already had more experience competing in big venues than I've had in my entire life.

It's all about finding opportunities and taking advantage of them.

Because this is the stuff that will keep him going, even in his darkest hours.

But I can't help thinking of the one moment of his I missed. The fifth grade was supposed to sing in a district-wide choral concert, and he successfully made it through the rehearsals, but opted out of performing.

As I drove the boys to track one afternoon, an excerpt of school children singing "What a Wonderful World" came on the radio.

"Hey, that's what we were singing at school," Nic said.

And suddenly, I choked up and my eyes filled. There is already something moving about children singing this song, but the fact that I was denied the pleasure of hearing my own child sing this hit me unexpectedly hard. I asked, carefully, trying not betray my feelings, "Don't you think I wanted to hear that?"

"Oh mom," Nic huffed. "It's embarrassing. I don't want anyone to hear me sing."

"But I want to hear it, Nic."

"Never mind, mom," Nic said dismissively. "You didn't miss anything."

Ah, Nic. But I did. But this was your decision to make. And this will be one regret in life, that I didn't push you harder on this point.

So when I hear children sing this song, I'll always hear your voice, too. As I might have heard it that night.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Answered Prayers

Going into my staycation, much weighed on my mind and heart. Big changes lie ahead. I'm generally okay with change, to a point. But with so much uncertainty ahead, I called in the big guns...and the Big Guy.

Overall, I've come to a point in my life where I accept change as a constant. When it arrives, it's always the right size, shape, and color--even if I don't think so the moment it happens.

I've looked back enough times over enough forks in the road to see that the change always happened for the better--even if I lacked the wherewithal to get it at the time.

As I served the Holy Thursday mass, I felt a shift in the way I looked at the world, prompted by Fr C asking during the homily: "What do people see in you? What do you see in other people?"

I've thought this many times over the years, but he told a story of his own experience that resonated with me in ways I didn't expect. And continues to. He has given me much to ponder in my heart.

And during Easter Vigil, I found myself serving the mass--something that was not an option while I was in grade school--and how rewarding it was after all these years to be up there as an altar server. Hubby brought the kids to vigil mass, and they did great.

And sometime over the course of mass, peace settled on me. And a voice speaking directly to my heart said: "You can handle whatever comes. Don't you realize that I have made it so?"

I wrote two weeks ago that the poem Footprints was on my mind; my experience Saturday night validated everything I ever thought or believed.

Fr M had something to do with that, too. In his homily, he spoke of his own experiences with depression, and how he found his way through it to the other side. And I think every single person in that church was awed and touched--even hubby, present with the boys as a surprise and gift to me.

So, these thoughts and experiences I bring forward to confront my destiny and change--whatever forms these things take.

I am ready.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I'll start and end with mass last night. It's all there.

I volunteered to serve Holy Thursday mass--the surest way to ascertain I'd get there this year. After a 25-year absence from what had been until that point in my life tradition, I'm glad I'm back.

Glad? Wrong word. Loss resonated with me on multiple levels.

At the most basic level, I see things unraveling. Since the school closed, people have fallen away from our parish. A core of us want to keep going. And we will. But I have a real sense of time--and this special little community--slipping away. Not tomorrow, not next week, or even next year, but there will be a date circled on the calendar.....

But for the present, voices filled the church in a way that doesn't (but should) happen on a Sunday--the few there filled with hope, faith, and conviction. Father C knocked the homily out of the park, in the unique way all our priests here do. Fr M, quiet, bearing witness, has stepped back.

No one says much about this. Or perhaps they do, and I don't hear it. I never hear much, actually. But I don't want to think about what closing down is going to mean, much less talk about it.

But for the present, voices fill the church in song and response. In addition to bearing the heavy cross for processions, I hold the basin while Fr C washes feet. I drop neither the cross nor the basin. I pray Hail Mary after Hail Mary for strength as I lead the procession then stand at attention while the Blessed Sacrament is placed in the repository. My arms and hands shake for a good half hour after.

There's something else; the silence from one quarter has been deafening. Nothing says disapproval any better than that. And I know better than to sulk; I've learned that people don't always need to hear what I need to say, and sometimes my need to speak and act steps over lines.

Apparently, I went over the line. Again.

So. I deal with the cold silence with equinamity. After all, on some level, I knew it was coming, and I am okay with being wrong.

Even if it cost me. Hubby calls me a martyr in his hottest moments. Sometimes, I suspect he is right.

So I turn my thoughts to the wins this week; outings and time out with the boys; the garter snake Nic and I found as we walked in the woods yesterday; the new bunk beds that the boys are enjoying; a quiet week of doing chores and catching up with one another; and best of all, Nic's invite to Penn Relays--his participation will depend on the participation of the other three runners asked, since there are no alternates. We are in. And we wait to hear whether the others are in, as well.

So, with all these things in my heart, my hands and arms still shaking, I walk home in the gathering darkness. Alone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Assume Competence

Very rarely is anything black and white, but sometimes that's how my kiddos see the world. And sometimes, that's the way the world sees my kiddos--Nic, in particular.

But there are two things worth mentioning: Nic broke two minutes on his 400 on Sunday, finishing a full 33 seconds faster than his race two weeks previous. True, he collapsed at the finish line, and also true, he tossed his cookies on the hill post-race, but he felt much better after and willing to take it on again.

He also has an agreement with the coach to try the 800 at the next meet. He and I need to get running. Weather has not been conducive.

I'm also waiting to hear what coach decides about the Penn Relays--with Nic, he has enough for a junior team. But he may opt to run his teammates up. As hubby reminds me, it's enough that he lets Nic run. I hear him. I do. But....


The other thing worth mentioning--Hubby's niece was in a musical over the weekend. He looked at me like I had two heads when I suggested we all go.

"But the kids....?'

"Can come with us," I finished for him.

When we arrived, we surveyed the seats saved for us (third row, center). I looked around, assessed that this would PROBABLY be disruptive for everyone around us and opted to move us all to the balcony--considerably less populated, allowing the boys to be themselves without too much fuss and muss.

And (surprise) they both had a great time, enjoyed the show, and neither of them needed to be removed (although hubby hissed at me to take our younger one out at one point--I refused; he was fine).

Moral: you never know unless you try. And the kids, as it happens, CAN do live performances.

Wonders will never cease. Fortunately.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


What a sloppy week. That's the single best way to describe the week that ended--for me--at 11:59:59 EDST last night.

The adult me mastered the art of compartmentalizing my life. I had to--for ten years I ran my own writing business from home while I shepherded both boys from diapers to early intervention to preschool to elementary school. Running a tight ship--essential. And I carried these lessons with me when I re-entered corporate last year.

But, as I discovered, life cannot always be so neatly contained.

Work, boys, home, hubby--all these things sloshed into one big pot and became stew, cooked on the coals of my own chagrin.

Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who get it, who laugh at me and my chagrin, and encourage me to laugh, too. And I laugh because I can't help it. When things hum along smoothly, I think it's my doing--until I am reminded when everything rides off the rails that I control very, very little.

I cannot always contain the chaos, but I can laugh while I mop up after it. And why not? Real life is messy. But if you want to survive, you damn well better know how to laugh at it.

Just random scenes from the past week: the brothers C showing up to hang out with Nic (one left after 10 minutes, the other stayed to watch a movie with Nic); dragging the boys out to run the mile (Nic complained from start to finish and at least G got his proprioceptive input on the swings at the end); meetings that ran over, spilled over, fires to put out, egos to soothe, feathers to smooth, and the piece de resistance, my running all over the infield at the subnovice meet screaming for an audience of several hundred, "Run G--THIS WAY!" By the way, he finished his first 400 and received his first running ribbon, even though he started with the first heat and finished well behind the last.

But he finished.

So I begin my week off with a pile of work that still needs to get done, the kids will be home, and with any amount of luck we will get some adventures in. We all need to get off the treadmill for a bit--if I can get a couple days of that action, I'll be happy.

But as ever, I will do the needful. Because that's what I do.

My bucket, mop, and sense of humor are standing by.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spoke Too Soon

We’ll be taking scouts out of rotation for Nic for the foreseeable. Last night did not go well, for a number of reasons. After dad gave me what he knew, I had a one-on-one with Nic to deconstruct the evening. He cried. He wants fun! Weenie roasts! I quietly replied that he needed to figure out what he wanted to do, and then figure out a way to make it happen.

Because it won’t happen by itself. And it won’t happen if he doesn’t make it happen. I can only do so much—it’s coming on time for him to do more of the heavy lifting.

His limitations sadden him. I understand—probably better than he does—how sadness converts to other things. In recent past, he has tended to push blame away. Now begins the difficult task of teaching ownership, and using and applying the lessons from disappointment to future wins and successes.

I’ve known far too many adults who continue to blame everyone and everything else for his or her life’s disappointments. I don’t want that for my boys; I want them to claim and own responsibility for that which they can control. Ask the question: how could I have handled this better?

Next time, do it.

I understand why people give up. I wander through the valleys of darkness probably more often than I care to admit. Hubby and I talked after my conversation with Nic, and what I came away with was that he wants, as much as possible, to protect Nic, to keep his good humor and happiness intact.

“He has a long road ahead,” I answered. “I came out on the other side okay. But I worry about him.”

And this is where I fold in on myself, worrying about what middle school is going to do to him, worrying about the mean kids and their mean parents who defend the actions of their children with “If he weren’t so different, if he just TRIED to fit in, he wouldn’t be such a target.”

As if he chose to be this way.

I continue to struggle. Are these activities just a distraction? We do as much as we do because my kids do learn from these interactions with their peers. Yes, it is painful for me to watch, but it’s not about me. It’s about learning, interacting, figuring out where my boys fit in the world.

Some days, I admit, in this little corner of the universe? There’s no fit.

Only with me.

For all the rest of the time, I pray. Hard.

It’s all I have.

Monday, April 11, 2011

All Spring in a Week

Nothing has cratered.

I'm used to crashing and burning, all an affair of my life with my heroes and villains (with apologies to Brian Wilson). We sign up for a half dozen things, and then one by one, stuff drops off because boy 1 or boy 2 decides he's done, and that's that.

We have scouts, now divided between two troops, track, now divided between two teams, swimming and practice, fortunately both together, bowling, ditto, and now soccer starts up this week, also fortunately together.

Unfortunately, the stuff done separately is starting to overlap, and we find ourselves, now two weeks in a row on a Friday, triple and quadruple booked.

Did I ever complain of not having enough to do? Really?

Before Nic's triumphant meet last week, we had spent the weekend camping with G's pack. Hubby and I brought two cars--just in case. And we managed to leave with two cars--not to say there weren't moments when leaving seemed like the right thing to do. Especially when things got a little too Lord of the Flies. Fortunately, we did not require the services of either First Aid or an ER.

Also, being surrounded by big men with bigger voices helped.

I suppose I should spend a moment ruminating about being the only female den leader, but it's actually not too bad, and I think spending a weekend in relatively close quarters with the, um, intensity that is my life with my sons actually helped my relationships with the other committee members. (I mean, the reason I don't do more for the pack is because my kids require intense attention. I think they get that, now).

Track was supposed to be my nonstarter, but Nic likes it. He finished four seconds faster in his 100 than his first run. I am working with him to pick up his times in the 400 and 200 this coming week, and also preparing him to run the 800 in the last meet.

I like it, too. I'm thinking marathon. Maybe.

Scouts, amazingly, seems to be working out for him. We'll finish out the year, and then see where we are come September. But there, too, Nic seems to be enjoying himself and getting a lot out of it.

And Nic made states for swimming again. I will go with him, this time as his 1:1. And we'll see how it goes.

We went fishing last night with friends. And once again, I am grateful for all the good and good people that surround us.

I still haven't figured out how to deal with the four simultaneous events this Friday, but I have four days to work it out.

Nothing has cratered.

Monday, April 4, 2011

He Didn't Give Up

There has been far too much happening lately for me to write; some good, some bad, some ugly, some scary, and some beautiful.

If there is one moment I want to capture of the last two weeks, it was Nic crossing the finish line of the 400 yesterday.

Nic's track coach is wonderful. He is a truly decent man who doesn't mind coaching anyone who has an interest in running. And there is something about him that Nic identifies with, because he does want to do his best for Coach S, even though he understands what he's up against.

Simply put, the rest of the kids have been doing this for years. They are all fast, or at any rate, faster than Nic. They do their best to help Nic keep up, but they break away. Consequently, I run with Nic, so he doesn't get too discouraged. That's been working out well, and Coach doesn't object.

Actually, if I didn't run with Nic, I know he would drop out from sheer disappointment that he is not as fast as the other kids. I want him to run, not because I think he'll be a champion runner, but because it's good exercise, and I think it'll help him start making wiser food choices at some point.

And I run because I need the exercise, and I find that I enjoy it.

So, Coach did a few extra drills with Nic, and made a deal for Nic to run a 400 for him by the end of the season.

Well, yesterday was the first opportunity. And although Nic balked, I convinced him to run it.

"But I won't win," he said. "I'm so slow."

"It doesn't matter," I replied. "Whatever you do today will be your time to beat next race."

So when they called the novice 400 runners to the field, I walked down with Nic to the staging area. Coach glanced over, did a double-take, and trotted over.

"You make it to the 200, I will take it home with you, okay?" Coach asked Nic.

"Okay," Nic nodded and extended his hand so they could shake on it. Coach gave me thumbs up and a wink.

Nic talked to the other two boys who would run with him. I told one of them to assure Nic that this wouldn't kill him. He laughed and obliged. Nic watched the other runners and glanced at me nervously. I knew what he was thinking. He didn't want to start the race and not be able to finish it. Especially with all these people watching.

"You can do this," I told him repeatedly. "I wouldn't tell you that if I didn't believe it."

He nodded, shifted his feet, did some stretches.

His was the last heat. I pointed to the faded hash marks that marked his starting point and wished him luck. He nodded, then turned to look at the starter.

He bolted at the sound of the pistol, and for the first 150 meters kept up with two of the boys in his heat (the third was way ahead, but that's a whole other story). He started dropping back.

"Come on, Nic" I shouted. "You can do it!"

Coach S met Nic at the 200 mark and ran with him. About two thirds of his way around, the other boys had already crossed the line.

Then something amazing happened.

Every one on the field was watching Nic and chanting, "Go! Go! Go!" Coach dropped off and let Nic run the last 100 himself, to the thunderous enthusiasm of the crowd. I stood in his lane and shouted, "You got it! Run it in!"

The place erupted in cheers as Nic crossed the line at 2 minutes and 28 seconds.

He was nearly in tears running those last few meters, but hearing the applause and cheers made him smile. And he could scarcely believe he did it.

"I didn't give up, mom," he said proudly. "I wanted to, but I didn't."

Coach S trotted up, high-fived Nic and praised him. "And you will only get faster, every time you do this."

Nic beamed.

"You will do this again, right?" I asked. "Because you just proved you can do it."

So I will print the picture below, and frame it for him, and hope that no matter how tough life gets, no matter how lonely his struggles are, that there was one moment in his life where he struggled, people cheered him on...

...and he prevailed.