soccer mom

My girls finished their inaugural soccer season recently, and I have come to the realization that I am, frankly, a terrible soccer mom.

I mean, I’m a great soccer mom in the sense that I scramble home after work three times a week and get dinner cooked, served & cleaned up, socks & uniforms washed and ready, and then rush off to the field laden with chairs and water bottles and a spare ball for whichever child isn’t playing that night.

I kick butt when it’s my night for snack; I don’t stop at fresh fruit chunks and the evidently obligatory popsicles for after the game; I bring special, home-made, soccer-themed cupcakes to celebrate the end of the season.

I’ve hauled coolers full of icy wet towels for the girls on really hot nights, and I’ve huddled shivering under my umbrella through seemingly never-ending games in the rain.

For a rookie, I did pretty damn well.

Except for the actual soccer part.

No matter how hard I try, no matter how futile I know it is, I cannot keep my mouth shut during the game.

What starts as mild encouragement grows into raucous cheering and then edges into the territory of all-out sideline coaching.

Yes, I am that mom (cower).

Even as I’m doing it, I am aware of how screechy and desperate I sound, my commands issuing out into the evening air.  My other child (whichever one isn’t playing) will admonish me, remind me to read my magazine or paint her toenails or doing anything to distract myself from the scrum on the field.

I don’t know why I do it.  The players can’t hear me; the coach has asked us to leave the instruction to him, and the other parents don’t seem to give two hoots if our team wins, loses or has a tea-party in the middle of the field.

It is U8 and U9 recreational soccer.  It is the league that was specifically designed for girls who don’t have the skill, athleticism or interest to play competitively.  We are supposed to be happy that they are out there at all, running around and chatting with other little girls.  Whether or not they actually direct the white and black sphere towards a net is apparently completely beside the point.

Obviously, my husband and I are out of the loop on that one.  Both of us being fairly competitive in nature, we cannot fathom how any parent would not at least oblige her child to try.  That they pay attention to the game, at least while they are on the field and the ball is rolling around and bumping into their own feet.  I get that not every child has the same drive or ability; I have a harder time accepting that parents would enroll their children in a team sport, and then not encourage them to be active participants, would not put in the time or effort to help them develop even a little interest in the game or confidence in their own abilities.

My trouble is that I evidently feel the need to step in where these parents have checked out, and I go ahead and tell them to “GO CHARLOTTE, RUN!” and “KICK THE BALL MOLLY! KICK THE BALL!” and whatever you do “FIGHT FOR IT!  GO FOR IT!  MOVE!!!!!!”

It can be truly excruciating to watch these girls play, but of course I love it.  I just wish I could keep a lid on the squawking a little better.   When I was young, I wouldn’t permit my parents within 6 city blocks of any sporting event in which I was participating, and they were IDEAL supporters.  Never said a word, never critiqued a performance, just smiles and encouragement and praise all the time.  And still, if I so much as smelled my dad’s Old Spice inside the gym while I was playing basketball, I wouldn’t talk to him for three days.

I keep expecting an evening to arrive when my girls finally tell me to stay home and not embarrass them.  And I keep hoping that I can rid myself of my bad habits long before that ever happens.  I guess the good news is that having survived the first season, I have all winter to figure it out.

So tell me, what kind of sports-parent are you?

Posted in confessions, kids, parenting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

timbits and patience

There is a scrap of paper that I’ve been keeping hidden in the zippered pocket of my purse for well over a year now.  On it is written the beginnings of a blog post that never got finished:

 

Every day I ask myself the same thing:

What am I going to do today to make it different?

Every day – literally every day – I promise to do better.  To not snack, to not drink.  Every morning, I remind myself that nothing tastes as good as thin feels.  I think of all my friends – most of whom used to be bigger than me – who are slim and fit and defying age, while I, simply, am not.

Every night I lie in bed and listen to my heart beat, quickly – too quickly, I think.  I imagine my blood pushing too hard through my veins, question the salt and fat that I have fed my body that day.  I think about my liver, processing alcohol almost every day, and I think abstractly about the absurdity of drink.

 

From time to time, I would look at that paper, often stumbling across it by accident while cleaning out my purse or looking for a postage stamp, but sometimes seeking it out deliberately to inflict some measure of torture and self-loathing, hoping that doing so might move me to action.  It never did.

And then, one day last winter, for reasons that will always be unclear to me, I started on this road completely independent of self-loathing and torture.

There are all kinds of arguments about the basic principle of “calories in-calories out” but I stand behind the fundamental theory.  Sure, there are some people for whom the “calories-out” side of the equation is more challenging;  those with hormonal imbalances, mobility restrictions or other medical problems, but in general, I think that losing weight is actually very simple.

Simple, but definitely not easy.

Temptation is everywhere.  Food has for centuries been the centrepiece of social and familial gatherings, but in the last 3 decades dietary globalization has offered us so many new and delicious options with which to fall in love.  Prosperity and/or credit cards give us nearly unlimited access to things that only a generation ago were kept for special, occasional treats.   The food industry has recognized the time limitations of dual-income and single-parent families, and has responded with easy, caloric foods ready to pop into the oven or boil in a bag.

It is no wonder we got fat, and it is no wonder it is so difficult to get thin again.

It takes dedication.  It takes control and a willingness to make difficult choices.   We all know it; we’ve heard it a hundred times, and maybe that’s why we give up.

Over the past seven months, I have learned some things more important, more valuable.  Secrets more closely guarded:

It takes patience.  The standard quip is that ‘you didn’t put it on overnight; don’t expect to take it off overnight’, and we smile and nod in dreamy agreement.  The truth is, most of us have a goal weight and a goal date in mind:  a high school reunion, a daughter’s wedding.  I did it myself a dozen times:  “If I lose 2 pounds a week, I’ll be down 10 pounds before we leave on vacation.”

The trouble is you don’t lose 2 pounds that first week and so now you have to lose a little more, and a little more quickly.  And then week two rolls by and you didn’t make it to the gym, or Sally brought timbits into the office (9 timbits equals one donut, right?)   And suddenly you only have 3 weeks left to lose those ten pounds and it becomes unmanageable and inconceivable so you just give the hell up for this year.

Patience means there is no end date.

Patience means that when you say you’re making a “lifestyle change” you really mean it.  ONE timbit here, a bike-ride with the kids there.  Every positive change is an increment towards a healthier life, and every fraction of a pound lost is better than gaining.

It takes forgiveness.  Forgiveness is different than surrender.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you give up and accept that you will always be fat.

Forgiveness means that when you make a mistake, you grant yourself the power to acknowledge it and then move on.

If one cookie turns into three turns into five, you stop.  You accept what happened and you start again.  Not tomorrow, not next Monday, but now.  If you talked yourself out of going for a walk yesterday, you allow yourself that, and then you put on your sneakers and get outside today.  Because forgiving a mistake and moving forward is better than standing still.

 

I went looking for that piece of paper today.  It is the first time I’ve read those words in seven months.  I was going to run it through the shredder, ridding myself of those feelings of defeat and worthlessness that I’d carried for so long.  But instead I think I will keep it.  Tuck it back into its private hiding place, as a reminder to me that I can succeed.  I can – and have – beaten a worthy adversary, but I know he is always preparing for a comeback and I want to be ready for him when he comes.

Posted in health & Fitness, weight loss | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

malfunction

I had been working on a post for a few days, and finally yesterday I was ready to publish.

I usually compose my posts in another platform and then when I’m ready to publish I copy & paste them into WordPress.

Only this time I did Ctrl-X instead of Ctrl-C.  I was in a hurry.  I was distracted.   I had some trouble getting the post to preview in WordPress.  Something else required my attention for the briefest of moments…during which I put something else on my clipboard.

Original clipboard contents:  gone.

WordPress:  no record of post.

Document in original platform:  autosaved (without the content).

Ctrl-Z to bring back the missing text:  fail.

And now I’m struggling just a little bit about whether to start over or just screw it all and move on.

 

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agglomerate (n): a jumbled mass or collection of something

Tee got new bedroom furniture yesterday.  She and her sister are away at their grandparents’ for the week, and I can’t wait to see her reaction when she gets home to see the mini-makeover in her room.   I’ve been stalking Kijiji for over a year looking for the perfect set to replace her collection of mis-matched, donated, re-purposed junk and finally this week I found something that fit the bill.  It is lovely (quite huge, but lovely), has all the pieces I was looking for, came in at a good price, and was located in our end of town.  Planets?  Aligned.

The fact that it happened while she was out of town is just a yummy bonus.

So I spent the last two nights moving, cleaning sorting, and tossing tons and tons of little-girl detritus into various piles, the most troubling of which is, unquestionably, “Garbage”.

My kids are collectors.  I thought Tee had managed to miss out on the hoarding gene that her father so generously passed down to her sister, but after this week, I’m quite positive, that, um, no.

As I literally waded through the papers and toys and key chains and lip glosses (oh my god the lip glosses!) I couldn’t help but think once more about the culture we live in.  The culture of accumulation, of stuff.  We have so much that we can absolutely not appreciate it all.  Don’t try to tell me your kids are different; (okay, go ahead and try; that’s what a comments section is for) if you have 27 lanyards from your fathers 27 last press conferences, you CANNOT love them all, need them all, use them all equally.  You cannot actually cherish the “collection” of thirty-eight bouncy balls that you have received in cheapo birthday goody bags over the past six years.  You do not need – nobody NEEDS – fourteen half-used notebooks and three empty loose-leaf binders.

Don’t even get me started on the clothes.

I go a little crazy about excess.  It’s not even really the excess itself that bothers me.  I’m pretty good at bulldozing a swath through the chaos every now and then.  When the girls were younger, I approached downsizing gingerly, judiciously, weighing each decision with gravity and care in order not to discard an unknown or undiscovered treasure, but I’ve learned that 90% of the time, they don’t even notice what’s missing  (but god help me that other 10%!)

What makes me crazy is that it keeps happening.  We keep buying more.  We buy things that the kids ask for, and we buy things we think they need.  We buy stuff that is cute, and stuff that is on sale.  We have birthday parties and the guests bring presents to sit beside last year’s presents on the shelf or in the basement.  We go to parties and come home with junk food and junky plastic toys and even though goody bags are universally hated, when it comes time for our party, we find ourselves in Dollarama scanning the shelves for exactly the same kind of crap but better.

True story:  last year I picked out a birthday present for Tee that I knew full well she wouldn’t play with once, but I bought it anyway because the packaging was attractive and well, she had to have something, didn’t she?

I am loathe to throw things away; I believe firmly that REDUCE is the most important of the 3 Rs.   My question is, how do we change?    How do you not fill a Christmas stocking, or order Scholastic books when the catalogs come around? How do you avoid the sidewalk sales and the rows of brightly coloured tights that practically have your little girl’s name embroidered on the butt?  How do you not let your kids spend their own allowance money on fluorescent Sharpies and Perler beads and whatever other thing they think they positively have to have at this very moment?  How do you tell friends and relatives, ‘thank you for the thought but please don’t give my children any trinkets…savings bonds are nice, though’, and how do you sell a child on the idea that this year, instead of birthday presents, we are going to ask everyone to make a donation to the Make-A-Wish foundation?

If you know, share the secret, okay?  I’m cleaning Dee’s room tonight and I need all the help I can get.

Posted in confessions, kids, random thoughts, society and culture | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

nana banana

My Nana died 7 years ago yesterday.  At least, I think it was yesterday.  I’m much better at birthdays than I am at deathdays.   I feel as though I should have reached out to my mom, let her know I was thinking about her and my grandmother, but it can be kind of awkward if you get something like that wrong.

What I do know is this:

My Nana-banana was an extraordinary woman.  Born in 1912 she became, like so many women of her generation, a teacher (the other option, nurse, was the chosen profession of my grandfather).  She met my granddad and they fell in love, did what young people in love do, and ended up getting married just 6 months before my mother was born.

Like so many women of her generation, Nana gave up her ‘real’ job after she got married to look after her home and her two daughters.  She was a strict matriarch, although by all accounts, it was my grandfather who really cracked the whip and held his girls in line.

And then he got sick.  Tuberculosis.  He had to go to the asylum (that’s what they called the TB hospital back then, and for years I was sure my Granddad spent his early life in the loony bin.  The fact that he had worked at the ACTUAL loony bin surely figured into the confusion.)

For those two years, my Nana was, like so many women of her war-years generation, a single mom.  She went back to work, managed her home, children and ailing husband, and still found time for church.  Or maybe it was the church that got her through the rest of it.  The TB.  The Great Depression.  The War that took her big brother.

My Nana was without question my biggest role-model in work-life balance, long before it became trendy to think about such things.  Her husband was her hero, her leader, her partner, and she would – and did – do anything to make and keep him happy.  And yet, she never sacrificed herself.  She never gave up her own interests, hobbies or friends.  She was a contributor to the marriage, financially and otherwise, for over fifty years.  Quite simply, she was able to do it all, and do it all well.

My grandfather died in 1986, the day before his birthday.  We did the things that death makes us do:  the emotional things like crying and mourning and grieving, and the stupid, mundane, administrative things like funerals and obituaries and asset transfers.

And then Nana did something that surprised no one:  she kept on living.  She kept going to church (which now also got her through her husband’s Death), she moved into a new apartment, she bought a luxury car.

And then she got cancer.  There is a picture floating around the family albums of my Nana, standing proudly in a red University of Kansas sweatshirt, a gift from my American cousin the Christmas that she was living with a tumor in her breast, and the secret in her heart.

She hadn’t told anyone about the diagnosis because she didn’t want it to ruin the holidays.

God would have his hands full to get her through that.  (I choose to believe she got herself through it without any help from him.)

And once through it, she knew that life wasn’t over; in fact, she had a new life.  A reason to celebrate (and yes, to worship) and participate.

And then Nana did something that surprised everyone:  she fell in love again.

Walking, dancing really, hand in hand through the streets of Victoria, bringing spontaneous smiles to the faces of strangers who saw them, my 82 year-old grandmother and her 85 year old beau would come to meet me for lunch.  He was smitten; she was a schoolgirl experiencing courtship again and yet for the first time.  Their wedding a year later was a celebration of life, love and spirit, a celebration of how it is possible to travel a dark and foreign road, and still find your way Home.

* * * * *

There are many stories to be told, and hopefully I will tell them, preserve them for myself and my children with all the care and dignity and deference they require.  But not now.  This post is too long already.  It started as a recognition of a memory, and now it ends with this:

The last time I saw her, I knew it was the last time, and leaving her was one of the most heartless and difficult things I’ve ever done.

I had brought my babies for a visit – an introduction for 7-month-old Tee – during our annual pilgrimage West.  I don’t actually remember how it was that we ended up in Vancouver that time…dropping out of the sky at that particular point of the voyage is usually kind of a logistical nightmare but back then, when there were still grandparents to see, we made more of an effort.

Nana had fallen, and had been taken from her comfortable independent-living facility to hospital, then to another residence nearby until she could convalesce to the point where they would let her go back home.  Home to her husband and friends and familiar smells and her own, dear, things.

Except she wasn’t convalescing; she was dying.

She was 93 years old and had lived a good life or three.  Her body was failing her once again, and she was fed up and tired of trying to get it to behave itself.

I brought the girls in to the common room, and balanced the baby on her knee and snuggled in beside her with Dee for a couple of pictures.  She was so pleased.  I believe she was both relieved and self-satisfied that I had found someone as wonderful as Gee, and that I had been rewarded for my patience with a beautiful family and genuine happiness.  It was as if she’d been waiting to see my life reach that point.

When Gee took our daughters to the garden I stayed behind and sat with my lovely Nana, having nothing to say and so much to say and not enough time to say any of it before it was time to take her back to her room for another rest.  I wouldn’t be coming back to BC for a year.  She wouldn’t be here in a year.  We both knew it, but wouldn’t say it.  How could  anyone say it?

So I felt the lump grow in my throat and the hot sting of tears in my eyes, and I mumbled something about being so far away, living too far away, and I gently hugged her tiny body, desperate to give and receive some sort of earthly or otherworldly  comfort, and I walked away, waiting until I was outside before letting myself cry hard and ugly.

A month later, home in my comfortable, insulated world, I got the call:  Nana had done what we all knew was inevitable, but couldn’t believe.

She would have been 100 years old this past July 20.  (I’m good at birthdays.)

Posted in memories, relationships | 1 Comment

doorbells in the night

One October night in 1985, while I was on the other side of the country dancing or playing basketball or walking around the quad stalking Andrew Whatshisname’s dorm, there was a knock at the door of my husband’s home. He was 13 years old. His mother, who answered the door, was 36, a full 8 years younger than I am now.

She must have known the minute she opened the door. Maybe before that – maybe when she pulled back the curtain to glance outside, or at the ring of the bell, or the sound of an unfamiliar car pulling into the driveway, turning off the engine.

I don’t know if she knew the man on the threshold. She might have known him, acquaintance or friend or a name tossed around the dinner table in earlier days, days of road trips and three-on-threes and dressing room shenanigans.

The man had come to tell her what she (surely) already knew: her husband was dead. A heart attack, or heart failure (we don’t know, need to know, but don’t) during his weekly hockey game.

How did she not die right there? How did she not melt into floor in a puddle of grief and tears and despair and never get up again? How in the hell did she wake her two sons to tell them that their father was never coming home?

My father-in-law was 40 years old when he died. He had suffered an earlier heart attack, and although he lived his life well and fully, he always suspected he would die young. He loved his sons purely and hard. And he was loved, purely and hard.

I am haunted by that October night. I would have been 17 years old, a freshman in college drinking too much and studying too little and not thinking the least bit about the heartbreak that was occurring on the other side of the country. But now I am the wife of the son. The son who loves cheese and red meat and hates to go to the doctor.

I couldn’t bear to lose him. Just the thought of opening the door to that news sends me over the edge. When I was young, I used to be amazed and impressed by child stars who were able to cry on cue. I couldn’t understand how they could simply will the tears to come and the emotion would follow. Now, I understand far too well. The mere thought of having to go on in this world without that man can reduce me to a blubbering heap.

On Monday, he went out. To his weekly hockey game. The fear got hold of me and shook me like a dog shakes his grimy piece of knotted rope. I knew it was irrational. I knew that there was no reason for him not to come home, sweaty and tired, at 11 o’clock at night, and yet I couldn’t stop the tears or the dread that had draped itself over me like a heavy cloak.

I got through it, of course.  I had to acknowledge my feelings and put them away so that I could go to sleep and wake up again in the morning, his body, familiar and comfortable, beside mine.  I don’t have a choice: I get up every morning, grateful that it is only fear that I carry, and not the heartache that my mother-in-law wakes with still, holds still, in hands and heart that have since held love, success, pleasure and joy.

There are no assurances in this life.  Gee and I have had the talk about healthier eating and cholesterol and getting regular check-ups, but nothing changes.  He’s a grown man; I can’t make him take care of himself.  I cannot make him appreciate the depth of my anxiety that history will repeat itself.  I can only love him, purely and hard and every day, and hope that the doorbell never rings in the night.

Posted in confessions, relationships | Leave a comment

sometimes losing is winning

You hear warnings about it all the time:  your virtual self really never does go away.  In my case maybe that’s not a bad thing.  After being gone for over a year, I can conjure up my old self with a few simple keystrokes.

I’m ready to – actually, I think I need to – start writing again.  Amazingly I remembered how to find my internet footprint and I spent part of my morning reading over my old posts, some with a smile, others with a cringe, and realizing how much my life has changed in the past year.

I could write pages about transitions, renovations, adjustments and variations, but perhaps the biggest change in the last year is, well, me.  Somehow, I lost 30 pounds since January.  It’s kind of surreal, because while I’ve known that I had some weight to lose, I had no idea that it was THIRTY POUNDS, and no real plan to do it.

Then, one day last winter, I was reading on some forum or other about a website called LoseIt.com, and I started playing around with it on a whim.  It’s hard to describe the process because I truly didn’t think it was going to be  a process.  I’d tried other sites previously, but I didn’t have the patience or commitment to continue with them.   I had no reason to believe that this time would be any different, and to be honest, it didn’t even really bother me.  I was so used to failure-by-lack-of-trying that I was kind of expecting to give up after a couple of days.

Strangely, this time it stuck.  Maybe the timing was right; maybe the site is amazing and magical, or maybe I just was more fed up with being fat than I’d realized.  Whatever it was, I started to lose weight, and that feeling was addictive.  For once, instead of feeling deprived by healthy eating, I felt empowered.  I don’t think I really believed that I’d be able to lose 30 pounds, but as the numbers on the scale started to creep downwards, I realized that it was more than completely possible; it was inevitable.

And now here I am, back to a size 4, feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished and walking a little taller.  It’s not just the physical difference; I feel like I can succeed at something.  I think I had stopped believing that quite a long time ago.

Accomplishment breeds aspiration, and I feel ready to take on other challenges, my blog among them.  I have no intention of writing a weight-loss blog; there are a ton (no pun intended) of those out there already and it’s just not who I am.  That’s not to say that I’ll never post about weight loss, or the struggles and successes I might have; after all, this is my space, and if that’s on my mind, that’s what you’ll get.

If you are new here, welcome. I hope you’ll stick around and even add your thoughts in the comments now and then.

And for anyone returning here after a long absence, (myself included), welcome back.

Posted in blogging, health & Fitness | 1 Comment