Archive for June, 2012

A Picture of Faith

I wrote this after watching a battle between to individuals on Facebook.  One was espousing the virtues of conservatism and the other the heart of liberalism.  They drug religion into the discussion.  It wasn’t my faith I saw being hoisted as the end all of spiritual ascent.  Instead, it was a culturally bound distortion.  This is my response to those who put my faith in the pickup and take it for a bumper stickered spin.

 

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Competitive Demon

“He was in bounds!  Are you blind?” I shouted as the referee tossed his hands to the side, indicating my nine year old running back stepped out of bounds on the way to a touchdown.   My face turned red and my voice growled like a Chucky doll as I hollered at the volunteer in stripes.  “That moron just cost us the game!” I spatted to my assistant coach, Rick, who looked at me as if I had just kicked a puppy.
“You’re taking this a bit too seriously, aren’t you?” replied Rick, with a half smile.
“What?  I…who side are you on?”
“The children’s, of course.  It’s for the kids, remember?”  My first impulse was to argue with Rick, but a rush of shame flooded my heart.  He was right.  My competitiveness turned me into a raging lunatic.  I was a horrible example for the young eyes which looked to me as an example.

Insecurity, inadequacy, and the need for recognition ran deep inside me as a young boy.  Rather than list all the reasons, I would rather state that these negative feelings dominated my youth.  Winning was not something that I wanted to do; it was what I had to do.  If I did lose, I would argue against some minor infraction of the rules or give some excuse why I did not land on top.  Someone else or some circumstance was always to blame.  If, however, there was a competition that I had no shot of winning, like the hurdles or hundred yard dash, then I would simply not enter.  Driven by this demon of number one, I often alienated those around me by my hurtful words or whining attitude.

When my days of college football were over and sports became a hobby, I thought my competitiveness was under control.  That was until I was asked to coach a little league football team.  Knowing little about coaching, I hit the internet and learned all I could about it as fast as possible.  The gurus on the net showed me exactly how to create a winning team.  Everyone would see my brilliant football mind!
Unfortunately, the kids on my team were not seasoned athletes.  Instead, they were, of all things, just a bunch of boys.  They did not follow orders and often just goofed off.  How could they be like that?  After all, they were on my team and needed discipline to win.  What was wrong with these nine year old?

We lost out first game 7-0.  That’s OK, I thought, we would just have to get the offense in order.  The second game, due to my son’s power running, we actually won 14-12.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  We were on our way.  Unfortunately, our way was to lose every game for the rest of the season.  It was the boys’ fault, right?  No matter how many times I stormed the sidelines, wondering why my brilliant plays were not executed correctly, the boys never got it perfect.  They did well on defense, but the offense could not score unless someone on the defense fell down.
I was so angry with the season that in the last game, I tore into the referee with a barrage of insults.  He should have kicked me off the field, but he took it in stride.  The teenage ref was the bigger man.

Rick’s words pummeled my soul for the next few weeks.  Whether or not the team won or lost, I was being a pathetic loser.  My self-image was tied to how well the boys did on the field.  If that was my mark of success, then I missed the point of youth sports.

Following that season, I began to curb my competitive attitude.  When they asked me to coach basketball, I initially declined.  Yet the lack of volunteers brought the athletic director of the community center back to my door.  Reluctantly, I accepted the role of coach.  Once again, I hit the internet to learn how to coach.  That season, however, I learned to be at peace with results.  My mark upon the lives of the kids on my team needed to change.  Instead of teaching them to win, I simply taught them the game and told them to have fun.  We rejoiced in every basket, every steal, and every good pass even if it did not lead to a score.  We had fun.  Our record was 4-5, but for me, it will always be a winning season.  From that time forward, I learned to enjoy games in spite of outcomes.  I released the demon of competitiveness and embraced the angel of fun.

A Little Query Humor

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Rocking the Basement

Nothing smacks a boy harder than entering high school.  Giant upper class-men roam the halls with their make-up clad ladies on their arms.  Most of these look upon the underlings with either disdain or sympathy.  At least that’s how I thought it was going to be.
It was the summer before I entered the doors of OPHS in Kansas City and fears of not measuring up swam through my thoughts like piranha at a swim meet, devouring my aspirations.  I needed to prepare myself.  As a football player, this meant lifting weights.  Three of my friends were also gearing up for the passage, so they joined me at my house to pump iron.  Well, “pumping plastic” is more like it, since my weights were concrete covered plastic donuts.
Great goals often fall short at the point of execution, I’ve heard.  Our little gym certainly proved this.  Somehow, having everyone over on a hot summer day did not inspire us to diligently hit the weights.  Imagine that?
One Wednesday, as we worked on our budding biceps, I heard Keith yell “Crank it up!” as Scott needled my sister’s Journey album.  “Wheel in the Sky” flooded the furnished basement as we played air guitar, drums, and pantomimed singing.  Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic” flopped onto the turn-table, which halted our work-out yet again as we jumped on the sofa, hung from the iron circular staircase, and swung from the floor beams in rockin’ jubilation.  Fortunately, my parents both worked, so we were free to fly through the house on the wings of Boston’s “Don’t Look Back.”
“You know what we should do,” said Scott, “we should come over hear some night and have a concert.”  At first, I thought he was kidding.  After all, spontaneous air guitar is one thing, but a contrived air band?  He was serious, well as serious as a kid talking about faking a band can be.
“Yeah, that would be cool,” replied Keith.  “We could do it some night when your parents go out!”  When his twin brother, Craig, concurred, they all looked at me for confirmation.
I quickly contemplated the damage versus fun factor in my head.  If we cleared the lamps and various breakables, it should work out, right?  “I think they’ll be gone this Saturday to a church party,”
“Great,” said Scott.  “Let’s do it!”
Our first concert date was set, but we needed to prepare.  The following day, Scott and I dug through some of our family treasures for junk to use.  First, we needed a guitar.  I had an old Montgomery Ward guitar with no strings, so Scott peeled off the little smiling sunshine emblem and put black electrical tape all over it so it looked like Eddy Van Halen’s.  Finding a base was easy.  We simply borrowed an damp sponge mop that my mom stuck in a corner.  Two clothes hangers that used cardboard tubes for bottoms were quickly stripped down to make drumsticks.  My dad, being the gadget king of Gladstone, had some old microphones, so we taped those to broom sticks which we propped up with weights.  The concert hall was set.
I cleared our concert with the brass by telling my parents that my friends were coming over to listen to music and stuff.  The “stuff” was vague, I suppose, but parents would never understand air bands, so it was best they rolled with “stuff.”
When Keith and Craig arrived, Scott and I had already cleared away the breakables into my room and moved the sofa back to the wall.  This worked out well, because it gave Scott a perch on which to play the drums.  Keith, being the wilder of the twins, took the guitar in order to lay down some fiery air licks.  Craig, definitely the calmest of us all, took the mop bass.  Grabbing the microphone, I became the lead singer.  I was no David Lee Roth, however.  The only way I could do the splits was if you gave me ice cream and bananas.
First song cued.  “Riding the Storm Out” from REO Speedwagon.  It was from a live album, so we heard the crowd cheer as we commenced rocking the house.  Blasting song after song, we rocked though the evening with perfectly precisioned air excellence.  We heard nothing but the blast of the music and the ringing in our ears.  Suddenly, a pair of feet appeared on the circular staircase.  I quickly realized it was my father.  Keith flipped off the music and we stood there with stringless guitar, mop, and hanger bottoms in our hands.
“What on earth are you doing?” asked my shocked father.
“Nothing,” we replied.

Now I have a teenage son of my own.  Whenever I ask what he and his friends are doing, they say “nothing.”  It makes me wonder if my father ever played mop bass.  Hmm.

The Right Fit

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I used to read self help books until I realized the only person helping themselves was the bookseller.
When I strolled into a shoe store, I saw this wonderful pair of shoes on a guy. Wow, I thought, if only I had those shoes. I tried on a pair. They were too narrow and my feet hurt. Hey, but they looked great on him, so they’ll look good on me. People saw me waddling around town and said I looked horrible. “Does your back hurt?” they asked. Obviously what worked for that guy didn’t work for me.
There is no blueprint for the successful life. What works for one may not apply to another, no matter how good it looks. Part of the joyful life comes when we see those with great shoes and are happy that they found the perfect ones for them. (If you think this is about shoes, please reboot.)

Thanks for Another’s Blog

I’ve really enjoyed the past few posts on literary agent, Rachelle Gardner’s blog. She’s heavily into the business end of things, but she’s been working a lot on encouraging writers who’ve hit the proverbial wall. The wall is different, depending on who you are and where you are on your journey.

How about you? Have you hit any walls lately or experienced closed doors that just made you want to throw in the towel? Have you overcome the impact? If so, what happened to help you move forward?

By the way, if you’re a writer, I highly recommend Rachelle’s blog. She doesn’t even work with my genre and I’ve learned a ton. http://www.rachellegardner.com/

Graceful Existence

It took me years of unnecessary raging about fairness, justice and yada yada before I realized a truth. When I was young, I wasn’t ready to hear it. I thought people who said it were just quitters who gave up trying to make the world a perfect place. How dare they rain on my parade, right?
Virginia Satir once said, “Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
I totally misunderstood what she meant when I was young. I thought it meant, you can’t change the world, so deal with it! Instead, it has a completely different meaning. We can’t change what is, but we can affect what we can and live with the results knowing we did what we could. Perfection is an ideal never realized. It’s quite simple, but I smack my head when I realize how much of my youth was wasted trying to get perfection out of an imperfect world and my imperfect self. Grace rules!