bears, snakes and heights.

The other day my son came home from his last day of camp and I was trying to get him to tell me what he did that day.
And mostly he talked about something called a Tarzan Swing. I’ve done my share of ropes course and I’ve seen this particular swing and was a little surprised that my son agreed to do it. Because even though he is silly and likes all kinds of things. Sometimes I have to push him.
Literally, off the dock. Down the slide. On a ride at the fair.
And sometimes the other parents stare at me, like I’m horribly miserably mean. Forcing my kid to do something he obviously is afraid of kicking and screaming.
But. I know my kid. And I know that by the time he gets to the bottom or in the water that he will be asking to do it again. (at least most of the time). And I don’t ever want fear to stop him from something good.
And so I asked him about the swing.
And he said he was a “little bit scared, but mostly that is was fun” and he thought about it for a little and then said it was more fun than he was scared. And that is a lesson I hope he remembers.

I’m afraid of snakes and bears and heights. 

And I’ve hike mountains with lots of bears and snakes (and even mountain lions). And jumped off bridges. and cliffs, and ridden rollercoasters. And I was usually more than a little bit scared for all of it.
But like Owen says, it is usually more fun than I was scared.
And I don’t want to live afraid.  I am not an adrenaline junkie. I still white knuckle it on ski lifts. And close my eyes on roller coasters. But I will be on them, dragging my kids (and husband when I can) with me. Because I don’t want them to live that way either.

And I see people telling their kids to not be afraid. or hoping they grow out of being afraid of the dark. Assuring them that there is nothing to be scared of. And they are usually right. But there are always things to be scared of. And I can't teach my son to not be afriad. But I can teach him to not let it win or stop him or keep him from having fun.
Because there aren’t always bears or rollercoasters to overcome. They often get replaced with less concrete fears that are a little harder to conquer.
Of people not liking me back.
Of failing.
Of being bad at it. or laughed at. or talked about.
Of never fitting back into those jeans.
Of what other people think.
And maybe those aren’t the kinds of things that are more fun than scary in the end. Sometimes they are just scary. Or they just suck.
But there is still something to be said for not letting fear stop you.
(and i'm not a fan of the video...but love this song)

meeting in the middle

A few months ago, in a conversation with a friend, about who we used to be, and how other people remembered us. She said something wise that I’m sure I’ll get wrong here. Something about how we are all pretty much the same. Who we are is essentially who we were. Maybe with a few more (or less) pounds, fresh highlights and with more insurance. I told her that I didn’t want that to be true. That I wanted to think that we all change and grow and get better. And I wasn’t sure that there was much of the 15 year old, or 18 year old or even 22 year old version of myself that I wanted to keep.

And today I realized that maybe she was mostly right. And there are a few things I don’t mind hanging on to after all.

It is July. And July to me means foot lockers packed with Sunday whites and Mohawk red. Not looking down on the catwalk. BBQ by the river. Sun In. The Wagon Wheel snack shop. Dancing in the alcove. Sticking to my mattress. Late night talks in bunks. Vinegar in my ear. Tipping canoes. Intentionally. Daddy long legs. Chore wheels. Sneaking food out of the snack barrel. Sneaking ice from the ice machines. Sneaking ice cream from the freezer. Sneaking out. (apparently there was lots of sneaking). Jumping off the bridge. Jumping off the dam. Banana boats. Fuzzy Wuzzies. Smores. Writing my name in rocks. Ripping my swimsuit on the rapids. Carrying that impossibly heavy wooden sled up the Mo slide. And most importantly not drying my hair. Not wearing making. And just being me without any pretension for a month or more.

My parents sent me to classic summer camp, and eventually I went back and worked there for a few summers. And it never left me. (and I wrote about all the things I learned there here and here…)
I remember going home every summer, getting back and being so excited to call my friends. And thinking that they had changed while I was gone. They were suddenly
different and less fun to be around. And it is because something about living and laughing and crying and bonding with so many girls for 3 straight weeks ruins you. Maybe forever. Some of my other friendships when I got home just seemed flat and shallow.

In July camp people come out of the woodwork. Something in us aches for that place and each other. It happens every summer. This time someone started an alumni page and started posting old pictures. I have a huge ziplock bag of them ranging somewhere from the late 80s to the late 90s. So I learned how to work my scanner. And for days I couldn’t keep up with my facebook. I had messages and comments and friend requests from people I hadn’t seen or heard from in well over a decade. (or in some cases two decades!). And now most of us, even my own campers, are married and have kids and busy schedules and totally different lives.

But I got an email suggesting a few of us meet up anyways. A few of us from DFW and a few of us from ATX and we picked a place in the middle. And we loaded up our carseats and strollers and drove south. And the north. And we met in the middle.

Micheal W Smith is a little misleading. Most friends aren’t forever. And I was nervous. I’m always nervous about seeing people I haven’t seen in a while because I worry that they won’t like the me that I am now. That we can only remember for so long and that maybe our conversations will stall out and make for a really uncomfortable lunch where we all just stare at each other. But within five minutes I realized this wouldn’t be the case. We were quickly sweating and laughing profusely. Like it was any other July. And more than once I got called an old nickname or said something ridiculous that made people laugh and tell me how I hadn’t changed. A bit. And that they were glad for it. And of course we’ve changed. I’m sure we are all really different women than the teens and twenties we were over a dozen years ago. We have new jobs and some of us have new last names and a slew of toddlers in tow. But. what hadn’t changed was who we were. People who were shaped and loved and felt safe enough to let our guards down in that dorm on a hill down by the Guadalupe. And those girls never went away.

lace 'em up

I was not made to play sports. No one in my family played sports in school. My knees are bad. I’m slightly asthmatic. I got genes for long division and reading music and telling jokes, not ones for basketball or volleyball or even playing ping pong without hitting myself in the head. I have the coordination and natural athletic ability of Paul on the wonder years. When they did the flexibility test on me at the gym I think I scored about average for an 80 year old. My parents never signed me up for softball, even when I begged. I took PE instead of athletics in junior high. I quit dance when I was 6 because it was “too hard”. I quit gymnastics because it was too much like dance (read – again, too hard) and played the piano and violin and read books instead.

I was not going to let those things stop me.
I ran across the driving range ducking and covering to take tennis lessons as a kid and would often spend hours banging a tennis ball back and forth on the side of my garage because only people over the age of 70 lived on my street. By the time my sophomore year rolled around I finally had time in my schedule, between all those honors classes and orchestra to fit in some JV tennis. I didn’t own a skirt or own of those matchy bags and most of the people on the team had taken it as freshmen and played on their respective junior high teams. My coach referred me to the counselor to get a schedule change. But I convinced him to let me stay. And even though I caused all kinds of havoc on the bus on the way to tournaments, and ripped my warmups climbing a fence and was the kind of girl that talked a little trash and threw her racket. I brought home my share of trophies. Plenty of them said consolation bracket or 2nd place. But I got my share. And it wasn’t because I had any natural ability. I never had any fluid motion to my serve. I was no Serena. But I ran hard for every shot, even the ones I shouldn’t have gotten too and just kept hitting it back. I loved the competition. And the sound a ball makes when you have a particularly good shot and the look on someone’s face who shouldn’t have lost to me and did. I did my share of losing too, but was always good about shrugging it off.
I never lettered. JV was as good as it got.

Senior year, my school (thank you title IX) started a soccer team. And well I’d played soccer for a minute because my older sister’s boyfriend coached a team and he picked me up and took me to and from practice. The team was mostly boys and I was terrible and can’t even remember playing any games but I figured I might as well try out.

This was before the days of little girl soccer leagues. The only girls who played soccer my age were doing it on the boys teams or with their brothers in the back yard. But I went to Acadamy and bought a cheap pair of cleats and figured how hard could it be. And a lot of other girls thought the same thing….because about 30 of us signed up and most of us didn’t know a shinguard from an athletic cup.

My coach didn’t know much about soccer either, or coaching girls (which was never more evident than when he told a teammate to pee in a Gatorade bottle because he wasn’t pulling over), but he knew plenty about running. And I guess he figured that he could run us down to a respectable team number and we’d go from there. I think someone threw up daily. I was occasionally one of them.

And at one of my first games I remember the sun going down and the lights coming on and just looking around the pitch. We all had rub on tattoos and double french braids and matching jerseys and I remember thinking tennis never felt like this. There was something about playing on a team that I had never experienced before. I still hadn’t really figured out offsides, but I ran and sweated and pulled jerseys and secretly hoped that the ball didn’t come too close to me or that I didn’t accidentally pick my feet up when I threw it in. I think we lost like 10-0. But I was hooked. I eventually earned a starting position, although I think that had a lot more to do with the fact that I took my coach to the ground while he asked me to help him demo a defensive drill than the fact that I had any skill. I was still a slow runner. I was more likely to toe punch the ball than kick with my laces, and I spent as much time on the ground as I did on my feet. But I always got up. I tried to hustle even when I wanted to puke and wasn’t afraid to use my body to make up for my lack of skill and I rarely complained. I never scored any goals out there and often road the bench as many minutes as I played. And it was no surprise that we only won like 2 games all season.

But I kept playing. In college. In grad school. Even after having babies. I remember pumping in the car right before a few games.

And people thought I was crazy 12 years ago when I told them I wanted to go to the Womens World Cup. They told me the US didn’t stand a chance. And that no one cared about women’s soccer. That no one in the US cared about soccer period. But I had seen Mia, Lily, Foudy, Scurry, Chastain, Akers etc… all play at an exhibition game back in high school. I had a few of their autographs. And I knew that I wanted to keep watching. A few weeks later girls around the nation were ripping off their shirts like Brandy Chastain and they were on the cover of every magazine and newspaper in the country.
Shaun and I went four years later to watch for ourselves.

I haven’t played soccer in well over a year, because these days I’m too busy driving my son to practice and games. My husband walks and talks ESPN and mostly I just tune him out. But the last few weeks I have been glued to the TV and the updates just as much as him. I’m too old to want to be Abby Wambach when I grow up. But I watched her in the college final four from the stands before most people knew her name. And I’ll be watching her again on Sunday. Maybe even with my face painted and my old US jersey on.

And what inspired this post isn’t all the TV/radio talk, but this great article that my husband posted on his facebook.…..which even if you don’t like women’s soccer is a good read: What if soccer isn't a big deal here? from the Wall Street Journal.

And I think I learned something important from my soccer days. You don’t have to be great at something to play. You just have to tie your shoes and go.
me. and yes, i really do have 2 legs.
(my favorite player on the team right now)
my favorite player. ever.

talking about the weather

A few things I strongly dislike.

-Pix-Os. Those tiny little round balls that are supposed to magically stick together when you add water. But. so far all they have done is end up all over my floor.
-The fact that the last time I got a pedicure, the lady who was working on my feet asked if I had cut my own toenails last time. Laughed loudly when I confirmed her suspicions and then said something to the girl next to her in Vietnamese.
-That it is getting annoyingly difficult to stay up past 10:00 o’clock anymore.
-That the next week’s forecast all involve triple digits.
-That I will inevitably leave a bag on that little round bag holder and Wal Mart. And it will be the bag that had the most important item I came for in it.
…you get the idea.

But. one thing I really hate is small talk.

And I am really social and outgoing and completely extroverted, but on lots of days I’d rather have a root canal with no novocaine than have to endure much of it. I’d rather break out the vacuum than talk about the weather. (and that is saying a lot). Small talk is almost always awkward, painful and pointless and I go far out of my way to avoid it when I can.

But once a month (or as often as I can make it), I intentionally do a lot of it.
I comment on how hot it is to stranger after stranger.
Ask where they are from.
Or their name.
Compliment someone on their t-shirt.
Talk about their music. Or tattoo. Or dog.
I ask how old their kids are.
Say hi and ask how their day is even though they obviously do not want to speak to me.
Or anyone.
Except maybe themselves.

And it is always a little uncomfortable. A little forced. And I have to make my self barge in with the smiles and questions and comments about the weather.
And sometimes I am flat out ignored.
And sometimes they tell me where they went to college.
Or what they used to do for a living.
Or ask if I knew their sister who taught at my school. (I did).
Or ask for a ride.
Or hit on me uncomfortably.
Or cuss at me.
Or for another drink of cold water.
Or to be prayed for.

And this isn’t the normal place for small talk. This isn’t a work meeting or soccer practice or the line at the grocery store or the foyer of my church.
It is a park for homeless people. And my church, or another one, or sometimes two or three, show up every so often with a meal. But just as important as the food that is being handed out are the conversations. The slightly forced awkward ones. Asking someone their name. Looking them in the eye. And realizing that you have something in common.

Even if it is just that we are both really tired of the weather.

with vibrato

I have never been a detail girl. I am more of a close enough kind of girl.

I don’t follow recipes. I don’t measure accurately. I don’t edit or proofread.
Which is probably why I never did anything with research or medicine. Because I might really like my science. But I’m pretty sure no one would want me cutting them open or doing important research or even baking a soufflĂ©.

And I had a roommate who was puzzled by the fact that I played the violin.
Because it didn’t fit with my close enough attitude.
Because violins don’t have keys or frets to help you get the note right.
You have to put your finger in the exact right spot every time.
No fudging. No helping. And if you are off, even by a fraction of an inch. It sounds awful. But somehow, when I practiced enough my fingers knew where to go.
Exactly. Every time. Without even thinking about it.
And it has been years. And I don’t even want to think how rough I’d sound if someone put a fiddle in my hands. But I’d still know where to place my fingers for the basic notes.

But. Getting it exactly right is not enough when it comes to anything creative.
I can play the notes perfectly. And something would sound off. Plain. Flat. Missing.
Instead, any violinist who has made it to about Suzuki book 2…..they have something that makes their notes sound richer. Fuller. And better than just exact.
They have vibrato.

Which means that on certain notes you wiggle your finger a little. Just past and just before the actual note.
And playing the note a little high and then a little low instead of just right on somehow makes it better. And. you still have to know where the actual note is to do this. But just not be limited to it. And of course – too much of this and you’d get sick of it. But in the right places these intentional wiggles make a piece …..well more musical. And I googled it, just to make sure I was describing it accurately because it has been a long time since I’ve attempted it…and it said that it creates a more “emotional sound”.
Warmer. Richer. And Fuller.

My parents paid for lessons and I practiced intently in my room every night. Right after 90210 was over. And I always sat near the front.
But eventually I started getting distracted. There was Calculus homework, soccer practice, and boys and of course Dillon and Brandon.
So I stopped practicing.
But I still knew when it came to auditions that I still needed to play with confidence and vibrato. Even if I wasn’t sure of the notes. And much to my director’s dismay – I still made the cuts.

And I’ve almost sold my violin a few times, but my husband has always stopped me. I haven’t played in well over a decade.
But I still try to live like that.
With vibrato.
Because sometimes just playing the right notes is boring and flat. And sometimes you have to be willing to be just a little off.


Ten years ago I walked down the aisle. Trying not to cry and promised all kinds of things I didn’t comprehend.

Like I remember promising to have and to hold.
But nothing about remembering to wash out my bowl after eating cereal or oatmeal.
Or sitting through countless hours of sports on TV.
Or ever remembering to not leave my shoes in front of the front door. And I expected to be holding each other. Not babies and laundry and never the remote.

For richer or poorer.
Mostly I think I was hoping for the first part, but assumed that the second part would be cozy. Like college. A one bedroom apartment and a lot of ramen noodles. I don’t think most people spend a lot of time thinking about the in between. Fighting over how much coffee one girl needs to buy at starbucks or if we really need Xbox live or why plane tickets are a much better investment than our 401K.

In sickness and health.
And. thankfully mostly we have been the latter. But that the sickness part can take it’s toll. That strep makes it’s way faster through the house than a scented candle. Or that I’d rather have a pelvic exam than have someone in my house get a stomach bug. That we would flip to see who was gonna stay home with a sick kid. That we would give that same sick kid motrin and hope for the best or to atleast be able to work until lunch. Or that men are babies when they are sick. That babies don’t sleep when they are sick and that our house would have a quarantine room.

To love and to cherish.
Those words were so idealistic a decade ago. I thought my heart would always swell and to cherish would be my husband rubbing my feet while we cuddle on the couch.
And those things have happened. But sometimes to love means to let him pick the radio station or getting up to let the dog in or put the baby back to bed or even very occasionally mowing the yard or putting away the laundry.
And cherish, well these days we cherish the rare moments of quiet and alone when we aren’t utterly exhausted, and that in those moments we still have things to talk about.

Til death do us part.
That sounds so final and morbid…so I’ll just focus on the fact that we have made it a decade. Which apparently, according to the statistics, is no easy task.
And marriage is hard. But maybe not as hard as some people warned me. Mostly because I think I’ve always gotten the better end of the deal. And haven’t always acted like it, but have known since we were both young and stupid that Shaun was home to me. And I’d say those vows again today. In a heartbeat. This time a little less clouded and wrapped up in the white dress and wedding cake.
Knowing what they mean. More now than ever.
The gooey parts. And the realistic ones.
For hopefully many more decades.

(if you want to know why this video seems so the opposite of high quality filming...
or why I married him ....