Chalk Up Another Year

The Big Guy and I recently celebrated a wedding anniversary. We don’t tend to trumpet this news – it’s about us, and we usually keep it between us.

But the children are old enough to understand this milestone, apparently. The conversation came up with my Mother as to any possible plans we might have as she was pulling out of our driveway. When she was safely off the property, Second Born Son’s head spun around.

“Why didn’t you TELL me it was your anniversary?!?” he demanded.

“Uh, I dunno, I didn’t think it was anything to worry about,” I replied.

“MOM! We should CELEBRATE this – after all, it’s another year you made it with Dad!!”


I recounted this tale to my Mother, and First Born Son was within earshot.

“Oh MAN, it’s your anniversary? You should have said SOMETHING!” he said with great urgency.

“Again, I didn’t think it was anything that involved you guys!” I pointed out, “And besides, it IS on the calendar!!”

“I don’t look at THAT!” he replied. I resisted the impulse to state his father ignores the calendar too.

The conversation continued and within this context, it came to mind that there was a reason why my kids reacted so strongly. While my Little Sister and I rarely if ever acknowledged our parent’s anniversary (until it came to milestones much later on), for my kids, parents who mark anniversaries are rare. As a matter of fact, just the day before we found out that another couple “bit the dust” – two kids now live a life with two households.

For me, it’s not a biggie. For my kids, it shows them that their parents are becoming part of a minority – and their lives can continue with some level of “Normal”; even though the new “Normal” for their peers is drastically different.

I shared my revelation with The Big Guy and he agrees. Perhaps we need to review our stand on anniversaries and make it something to celebrate as a family!


How we actually celebrated our anniversary… with a camera, he with a project outside with the pup….. Feel free to laugh at will.

These are The Big Guy’s legs. Note the work boots – safety first people!! Yes, he’s in the Dog House. He’s actually repairing it so Roman can have a warm, dry place to sleep while we are away. Right now he is measuring for some insulation he wants to install.

Here he is trying to get out – Roman has found him and wants to play.

See the size of the knife in his hand? It’s a carving knife, lifted from the kitchen years ago – another beef for another column….. Roman is very keen and wants to help but fails to possess the opposable thumbs required.

The Big Guy goes back in, and Roman thinks he should be able to as well.

Persistence pays off. Roman is ready to launch!

Tee hee – sorry, that’s all I’ve got for this one – hahahaha!

Whew – it’s still “fun” at this point! That was one full dog house.

…and Roman knows as long as The Big Guy is smiling, it’s PLAYTIME!!!

Out comes the knife again! Roman looks worried and wants to get back to the playing.

…and that’s when I’m ordered to remove the pup before he gets drawn and quartered! The Big Guy doesn’t look amused, does he? Probably because I’m snorting AND laughing at the same time…

About A Boy

I have just experienced a rather profound moment. It happened shortly before I took this photo.

I had been listening to the Weather Network, where, in true media fashion, they sensationalized the rash of tornadoes that ripped across my region two years ago. Footage of uprooted trees, destroyed buildings and rescue workers made me anxious when I looked outside. At that moment I immediately identified with two people who lost their son in that storm.

Ironically, I knew The Boy’s parents when I was about his age. His mother rode the bus with me in elementary school and was like an older sister to me, in spite of the fact that she was already the eldest sister of several other siblings. His father rode the bus with me in high school and was someone I could relate to, with his dry sense of humor. I never met The Boy but years after I lost track of his parents, we found ourselves across the room from each other at Prenatal Class. His parents were, like The Big Guy and myself, expecting their first-born child. We spent a summer of excitement and anticipation. We joked about the scarier aspects of childbirth as a coping mechanism. We cheered each other on with our little milestones and marvelled at how our lives continued to be intertwined.

Then lives got busy with babies: ours with First Born Son, theirs with The Boy; and eventually, second babies. It wasn’t until I was on facebook years later that I was able to see what a gorgeous child The Boy was. Dark thick hair like his mother, eyes like his father, and by his mother’s description, a true blend of the both of them. He was more than clever; he was kind, insightful and generous. He had a wisdom beyond his years and after his passing, triggers and memories haunted and comforted his family – the beauty of a butterfly, the surprising reaction of the family pet, the generosity of his classmates.

The first year goes by, and with it, the first Christmas, birthday, school year and other milestones a family celebrates all without The Boy. His family healed, but is still wounded which is why I was so upset with the television coverage today. In the aftermath of the tornado, The Boy’s family refused to talk to the media. They didn’t want their personal nightmare played out like some cheap entertainment for mass consumption. I respect them for that – and wish more people would do the same. They never gave permission for his name to be released, which is why I’m respecting their privacy now.

I have looked at First Born Son and felt a twinge when I think how tall he is getting and how he will enter high school in a couple of weeks – all things The Boy would be doing too. I cannot imagine the pain of losing my child, but I can appreciate the loss. No one wants to live it, and those who live it, will never escape it – and from what I understand, they don’t necessarily want to.

But back to the sky. When I saw it, I felt overwhelmed. I know how the family dreads storms, especially those with high winds. There was definitely something brewing.

Do you see that slice in the clouds? It’s almost as if your arms were long enough, they could pull back the layers and reach into heaven. Or perhaps, if you were in heaven, you could see what was happening down below.

And it occurred to me; The Boy’s family was marking this year’s anniversary this very day with a barbecue. They wanted to celebrate, rather than mourn. And so I looked at the clouds one more time with rose-colored glasses.

There is a silver lining in those clouds – do you see it? The Boy is there, looking down at his family; celebrating with them. He can’t keep the storm away but he was a Glass Half Full kinda kid, therefore the beauty inside that angry cloud could be nothing but happiness. The Boy was full of joy, his mother said, and suddenly the trepidation I felt early was replaced with peace.

While I couldn’t be there for the barbecue today, I was very present in spirit. And I believe The Boy was too.

Volunteer Hours

Merriam-Webster Definition of VOLUNTEER

: a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service: as a: one who enters into military service voluntarily b (1): one who renders a service or takes part in a transaction while having no legal concern or interest (2): one who receives a conveyance or transfer of property without giving valuable consideration 
Funny, this definition does NOT include “whipping boy”, “blame target” or “root of all evil”.
Let me start by saying, I love softball. I love playing it, watching it and for the past several years, coaching it. I’ve had some trials and tribulations, with the past three years being the most difficult. It was to the point that I had decided this year I would not coach, but be a “Mom” in the stands to Second Born Son. But he asked me to coach his team, and since I had only ever helped with First Born Son’s team, I felt it was only fair to help out at least once with SBS’ team.
In recent years there has been a pattern with the issues facing the coaching staff – the kids stop or never did take it seriously (and by this, I don’t mean that they don’t have fun, they just fail to engage in the sport), then the parents get all annoyed that the team isn’t doing well, then gets in the coaches’ grill about how they handle the kids.
Personally, I have taken the view that organized sport is a prepping ground for real life. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you can do your best and some (umpires) can prevent you from winning. Working hard and practicing pays off. You won’t get a gold star just for showing up, you actually have to excel to be acknowledged. Mediocre is just that. These life lessons are why we’ve signed the kids up for organized sport.
But I’m among the minority, apparently. Parents want their children lauded for simply standing on a base. If I ask them to hold their glove in a ready position (partly to “look” like a ball player and mostly to prevent them from eating a ball) I’m being harsh. This revelation was given to me cold and hard by an irate parent, just this evening. This same parent hosted his own ball practice with certain members of the team, but failed to invite, ironically, the three kids whose parents are on the coaching staff.
Such negative and divisive actions have impacted the team pretty much from the beginning of the year. The kids feed of their parent’s energy and combined with their own less than ambitious outlook, end up being a team that could win many more games, but don’t.
It’s unfortunate. I feel bad for the kids who will someday go out into the real world and find out that Mom and Dad can’t hold their hand while they are at their first full time job. I’m sorry for the parents who will look back at this time in their child’s development and realize that there was a service being paid in how coaches motivate and indeed criticized their children – and how their children were able to use that motivation. We play numerous teams in a year and most of the coaches are strict. I’ve heard much more severe comments made from other benches – the teams played better, the parents were supportive of the coaches and that results in wins – which is what all teams strive for.
What it comes down to is this – I’ve volunteered in minor sports for nine years. I’ve never taken a year off. The time has come. I never suggested I knew everything about softball, and indeed have enjoyed the fact that I’ve been able to learn as I’ve move along as well. But to have a parent be critical and suggest I, and my colleagues, are doing a bad job – when they themselves never learned how to play the sport, well, it’s simply insulting.
Sadly, minor sports are experience a drought of volunteers as severe as the lack of rain we had in July. Teams will not be formed without adult volunteers, but who would want to step up, knowing parents and in some cases, players, are ready to tear them down? Individuals with much more experience than I have been dragged through the mud, all because a parent felt their child may have been slighted. I would never have volunteered to coach children if I didn’t like kids. I would never offer my time if I didn’t feel I had something to contribute. To be told otherwise is hurtful.
I don’t know what the answer is for the issue at large, but I know I won’t be signing up for any more volunteer hours any time soon.