Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Come darkness, Come light

I think it's safe to say that my biggest weakness is my sweet tooth.

Actually, it's probably even safer to say that my biggest weaknesses are pride, impatience, slothfulness, selfishness....but let's just start with my sweet tooth. That's a bit more manageable. Baby steps.

Oh my, do I love sweets.

In the interest of good health, moderation and all things holy, I do manage to keep my sweet tooth in check most of the time. I am very aware of the dangers of sugar and the importance of eating real, whole foods. And that is what I do eat, most of the time. My meals do not consist of old fashioned donuts topped off with a sprinkle of M & M's. (But...yum, right?) I'm not Buddy the Elf pouring maple syrup on spaghetti. But truth be told, when I finish off my healthy meal of mostly high fiber, vitamin-rich, minimally processed, heavy-to-the-vegetables foods...I kinda want a little something sweet.

Maybe just a small handful of Christmas colored mint M & M's?

So, you can see why the holidays pose a particular challenge for someone like myself. When we enter into the season where every meeting, gathering, classroom function, or social event comes with a plate of Christmas cookies laid out front and center, it's time to pull out all the stops for sweet tooth dysfunction management.

It's not that I'm not capable of forgoing sweets. I once gave up sugar for a full two months. I like to refer to that period of my life as The Dark Ages.

I mean, really. What is life without a little sweetness?

So, given that any full ban on sweets is ultimately doomed to failure, my strategy for the past month or so has been to eliminate sweets on weekdays, only allowing myself a moderate amount of sweet treats on weekends. The only exception to this restriction are bonafide holidays that fall on a weekday. I mean, like, Thanksgiving and Christmas, not National Potato Chip Day (although who needs sweets if you can celebrate with potato chips?)

I realize that for some people my personal Operation-Cut-The-Sweets plan is probably an eating regimen that is second nature for you. I don't want to hear it. I'll warn you that every time someone primly say, 'I don't really care for sweets...' I am pretty sure an angel loses its wings. So, just keep it to yourselves you salad-loving-health-nuts.

I was walking the dog yesterday (distracting myself from Annie's candy bar she had left half-eaten on the counter), listening to Christmas music, when a song came on that literally had me almost skipping down the sidewalk. I was overcome with such merriness that it was almost silly. The only thing that kept it from being more-than-almost silly was that I did not actually skip down the sidewalk (my children are thanking their lucky stars right now).  But I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that one little Christmas song turned my day, and my mood, right on its heels. I went from melancholy to joyful in about twenty seconds flat.

And it occurred to me that one of the reasons I embrace the Christmas season so enthusiastically is because it is my little something sweet.

For those of the Christian faith, we are really in the season of Advent. The Christmas season does not truly begin until Christmas Eve. And Advent is traditionally a time of reflection and repentance, not unlike the season of Lent. It's an introspective time in which we travel through the stories of our faith, reminding ourselves of why the Christmas story is indeed good news and something to be celebrated.

I'm good at that part. In truth, my heart and mind are all too often inclined more to the heavier stuff of life. Things weigh on my heart easily. I am too willing to carry burdens that aren't mine to hold. I lean into Advent with all the pondering and praying and repenting and sometimes get so far into the darkness that I forget that the light is coming. And, in fact, that the Light is here.

I think that is why I encourage an atmosphere of festivity and jolliness in my home by decorating early, playing Christmas tunes 24/7, and moving that blasted Elf around the house every night to the delight of one nine year old girl. It is because I need to be reminded of the light that is coming, the Light that is here- even as I acknowledge the darkness that is also the truth and reality of this life.

Being honest about the darkness awakens us to be compassionate with ourselves and others. But remembering the light, keeps us hopeful. And hope is the source of joy.

Wherever your heart is this Advent season, I hope Christmas will be your little something sweet.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life." John 8:12

P.S. And if you see me on a weekend, be sure to offer me a cookie...or candy...or brownie...I'm not picky. Just watch out for your fingers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Common losses

Years ago, I was attending the bridal shower of a young woman who had grown up in our church. It was hard to believe that this funny, smart girl who babysat our boys when she was a teenager was old enough to be getting married. I was honored to be included in the event but I also carried into it my own feelings of awkwardness because at that time I had been away from our church home for a few years.

I needn't have worried. The people who had drawn us to that small church family (and would ultimately draw us back again) were still the same. They offered nothing but warmth and happiness in seeing me after so much time apart. They wanted nothing more than to know that I was well, what my family had been up to and to thank me for joining them in this special day. They were grace personified.

One of things that had set us adrift during that time was the loss of our infant twins. Many people find comfort in familiar places in the aftermath of loss but for me my comfort was in solitude. Going back to what had been was all too often a reminder to me of what would never be. So, there were people at this gathering whom I had not spoken to in the time since our loss.

I found myself seated next to one of our elderly matriarchs of the church. A stately, dignified woman not given to showy displays of emotion. She was typical of her generation. She had known and weathered hard things in her life but never wavered in her faithfulness to family, church and community. I admired her but even more so, I liked her.

We talked, catching up on our families and laughing over shared memories in the church choir. Still, in the small talk I felt something deeper, something much heavier than our light, breezy words. She seemed to want to share something. I sensed a story that needed to be told. The words started to bubble up, then she hesitated and I wondered if she would lose her nerve. Eventually, she pressed forward in short, hurried sentences. She told me of her grandson who had been born into this world medically fragile and clinging to life. He died within a few months of his birth. He had been able to go home. He was nursed by his mother, and loved deeply by his family. His was a blessedly full and yet painfully short little life.

I sat close and leaned in wanting to convey my profound sorrow and sympathy without causing undue attention from the rest of the party. I knew this woman would not want to feel as though she had disrupted a festive, happy occasion.

She stiffened then, sniffed and tried to shift back to the moment at hand with some brusque words about how "these things happen" and then looked right at me saying apologetically, "well, you know." She fell silent, stared at her hands in her lap and mumbled, "It happens to so many people."

I sat quietly for a moment. Wondering what words I could offer to this woman who had seen so much more of life than I had. This woman who had known so much more loss in her lifetime than I had.

But I also knew I didn't believe her dismissive words for a minute. I knew she had told me this story for a reason. I knew she carried it with her everyday and that it was a relief to be able to say his name out loud. To tell at least one person that he had been here. That he mattered. That she missed him.

I put my hand on her knee and said gently, "Yes, it does. These things do happen. But that doesn't make it any less sad and it doesn't mean we don't miss those babies."

She didn't look up or meet my eyes. She just squeezed my hand, nodded quickly and said in a whisper, "That's true. That is very, very true."

And then we both turned back to the celebration of life and love in front of us.

We are each of us angels with only one wing. 
And we can only fly embracing each other.
~Luciano De Creschenzo

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What comes next

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, I was making lists, circling important dates on the calendar, stressing over meal plans (how many times a day will he need to eat?!) while also purchasing bedding and towels and toiletries and text books and boatloads of pens and pencils (because he couldn't go buy more?) and paper and everything I could possibly think of that my baby bird might need as he flew from the nest to go land all of two miles away from home where I could have easily brought him anything that we might have forgotten. There is a good chance he would have been able to ascend Mt. Everest with all of the provisions I sent him off with.

We were prepared.

Yesterday, Jack and I had the following conversation when we crossed paths in the kitchen:

Me: Are you still here? 

Jack: It seems like it. 

Me: Do you actually know when you are supposed to be at school? Because I haven't looked at the school calendar.

Jack: Yeah, I'm pretty sure.

Me: Like, do you know your actual move-in date?

Jack: Yeah, the 26th. 

Me: Oh, okay good. you need anything? Stuff for your room? Does anything from last year need to be replaced? Should we go shopping for... anything?

Jack: Nah... I'm good.

Can you tell we are headed for a highly warm, fuzzy and tearful goodbye?

Since this whole writing exercise started as a way for me to process how best to prepare my children (and really, let's face it, me) for their inevitable departure from our loving home, I feel like it is only fair to warn those of you who are just now launching your firstborn, or anticipating launching your firstborn in the near future, that the first flight out of the nest is only the beginning.

Because, you see, in most cases, they may fly away for a little while...but they aren't really gone gone yet. For most of us mama and papa birds, these are still just test flights for our baby birds. They are spreading their wings, going farther and staying away longer than they ever have before but...for most of semi-regular intervals...our baby birds come flying back.

Vacations. Holidays. Maybe weekends. Summer. Right about the time you finally start getting used to the change in dynamics that comes with having one less member of the household that giant, messy, food-eating, leaves-his-Starbucks-cups-everywhere man-child will come strolling back in again.

And in some ways it's the same as it always was, which is great and fun and happyand in some ways it is totally different now.

See, this baby bird is not the same baby bird you booted out of the nest a year ago. This baby bird has been living life more or less on his own terms for the past nine+ months. This baby bird hasn't heard the word "curfew" in what feels like a lifetime, or had to "check-in", or been asked to leave a note as to where he might be going and when he might be back. This baby bird has been flying solo, People, and there's no clipping his wings now.

A year ago Jack and his friends wanted to take a road trip to California. We said, 'no.' It was too far. They had never done anything like that before. We told our son that he needed to start smaller, build trust, and then we will see. So, they didn't go. The trip was limited to the Washington/Oregon coast and all was well.

This summer....

He flew.


It isn't that having them come home isn't wonderful. It is. We miss Jack when he's gone and we all love the energy and stories and laughter he brings when he returns. We love his presence. But we have also grown more and more accustomed to his absence. We have established a "new normal" when he is gone. So when he comes bursting back in (And I swear trumpets sound when he comes through the door. Seriously, the fanfare of that kid...) everyone has to find their bearings again. And none more so than the parents who are having to learn how to live with a child who still has one foot in childhood while the other foot is inching closer and closer to adulthood.

We discovered that the first summer home is when you negotiate new boundaries. You have discussions about the kinds of things you do simply out of courtesy to the people who care about you, not because you have to. You figure out where to give some latitude and where to draw new lines. And, hopefully, everyone can do this peacefully knowing we are all on the same side.

You end up having text conversations like this:

And you learn not to wait up anymore because we are not all 19 and actually do require normal amounts of sleep.


None of this is bad. It really isn't. 

It's just another transition.

And like the first initial launch, it can be both thrilling and sad.

But this is what all of those years of mothering and parenting and loving and scolding and training and hoping and worrying and wishing have been about. They have been about raising a child, your child, to become an adult. Eventually. Step by step.

Mine is not there yet, and that's okay. There is still time. In fact, I'm glad we still have some time.

But this summer I have seen glimpses of the adult he is becoming and while I fear he is destined to live in squalor surrounded by his empty glasses and soda cans, I am also very proud of the man he is becoming (for other reasons unrelated to his housekeeping skills). 

So, this is my message of encouragement to all of the moms and dads watching their baby birds take their first flight out of the nest this fall. I see you as you wipe the tears from your eyes and wonder how the house suddenly got so quiet. I feel your anxiety. I hear your hopes and dreams even as they are mixed with worry and concern. I am with you completely.

I know it's hard.

But try to remember, they will fly back again.

And that will be even harder. :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On the inside

I know I can't be the only adult who feels like an impostor. I mean, how old do you really feel like you are? On the inside? 16? 18? 21? Maybe you are lightyears more mature than I am and you feel like you are even pushing 25?

Or, perhaps you are 25 in which case I'm not sure how old you feel...10?

I have no problem saying I am 44. Heck, I'm proud of that number because it means that somehow I have managed to go to college, go to graduate school, become employed, get married, and raise three kids all while camouflaging my actual existence as a barely 20-something. It means that somehow I have been fooling everyone for over 20 years into believing I am an actual adult.

Shhh...don't tell anyone.

But lately I have been having a hard time even feeling comfortable as my inner 20 year old because I keep seeing all of these 18...19...20...year old girls who look so freakin' effortlessly pulled together and cool! What is up with that? On my best day I have never looked as put together as today's average 18 year old girl. I was a bonafide ragamuffin as a child and never really outgrew it (you'll remember my issues with irregular showers and an inappropriate reliance on yoga pants).

The other day I ran into a 19 year old girl who went to grade school with my oldest son. I hadn't seen her in years but she remembered me and immediately gave me a hug and launched into the most poised, mature, friendly conversation I had had in days. As my head was spinning from the shock of that I noticed than in addition to her brilliant conversational skills (I had a hard time keeping up because I was so wowed by her girl-woman adorableness) she was also in just the cutest summer outfit and her hair was perfection and she managed to pull all of this off while making it look as though she had hardly given any of it a minute of thought.

Did I know anyone at 19 who was that together? Was I?

The short answer is, no. For sure I was not but maybe some of my friends were. Forgive me if any of my childhood friends are reading this thinking, 'Thanks a lot, Friend! I was totally all that and a bag of chips at 19!' but my memory fails me at times (which is how I know I really am 44).

Later though...after the wooziness passed and I texted my son to tell him he should really get in touch with this girl again because she is so stinkin' cute (he loved that) head cleared and I remembered that no one has it all together at 19. No one. Even the most adorable, smart, personable girl in the world. I'm sure on any given day, including that day, this darling girl battles hidden insecurities and hurts and wounds that can't be seen when you are only looking at hair, clothes and a smile. It made me want to go back and find her and give her another great big hug and tell you her, "YOU ARE SO AWESOME JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!!!" Which might have scared her a little so it's probably best that only happened in my head.

And then I look at my own little ragamuffin.

My daughter has inherited my less-than-put-together style. She is starting to care about her clothes but thankfully leans more toward athletic, modest styles then attempts to look "grown-up". She likes her hair long but would never brush it if I didn't tell her to. She prefers it down but mainly because she doesn't want it fussed with. In fact, 9 times out of 10, it's hanging in her face, something she scarcely seems to notice.

She never looks in a mirror.

She doesn't worry about getting her hair wet while swimming.

She doesn't mind getting dirty or sweaty.

She will sleep in the same clothes she wore that day and get up the next day and wear them again (until I tell her to change).

She is far more interested in figuring out what she wants to do each day and who she want to be then how she wants to look.

The other day I was grumbling about the chronic problem of her hair hanging in her face and she said to me quietly, "I don't think my hair should matter so much. You always tell me what matters is what is on the inside. My hair is on the outside." 

And in that moment I decided I was going to practice biting my tongue a lot more and fussing over hair a lot less.

How many more years do we have of her being so blissfully accepting of herself and utterly lacking in self-consciousness? How many more years will she spend all day playing in the lake without the slightest concern that her hair looks like a mound of seaweed on top of her head? How many more years do we have of her wanting the sporty swimsuit so she can play hard without a care in the world? (Hopefully forever).

Every mother and father hopes that somehow with conscientious parenting and unconditional love and positive affirmations our kids can escape the angst and insecurities of adolescence. But anyone who has any accurate recollection of those years at all knows the chances of that are one in a million. Because most of us realize that even though you hopefully leave a lot of that behind the older you get, that awkward teen lives on in all of us making herself known more often than we would like.

So, for now, I will try as much as I can to just let her be. Let her be messy. Let her hair fall in her face. Let her clothes be mismatched. Let her play hard and dream big.

I will let her be....Annie.

Our beautiful girl.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Say nothing

Say what you need to say... ~ John Mayer

Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out... ~ Sara Bareilles

Say something... ~ A Great Big World

I'm going to offer a thought here and I want to acknowledge right up front that there is more than a little irony in blogging about this...but...I'm going to say it anyway.

I think we are losing the art of saying nothing. Being still. Listening without comment. Hearing perspectives that contradict our own and opting not to voice our dissent.

The number of ways in which we are able, in fact encouraged, to share our opinions these days is staggering. We can review products we have purchased. Restaurants at which we have dined. Hotels where we have rested our weary heads. Books we have read...the plumber who fixed our pipes...the carpet cleaner...our dog groomer... There is virtually no service, product or business which we cannot publicly shame or applaud should we so choose.

It's true...those reviews can be helpful when searching for the perfect landscape artist to clip, prune and shape your ordinary shrubbery into a menagerie of circus animals, but the commentary doesn't stop there.

We can comment on news events. Editorials. Articles. We can offer our opinion in response to someone else's Opinion Piece. And we can do all of this regardless of whether or not we actually have even a smidgen of expertise in the migration patterns of the monarch butterfly. 

A few days ago, I read about a local news event that was in my mind nothing short of inspiring and heartwarming. I clicked on the link because I wanted to read more about it but in doing so left my vulnerable eyes open to the string of comments next to the piece. I tried not to look, believe me. I made it my own personal policy a long time ago not to read the comments section for any news story or article once I discovered it was the fastest way to send yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole into Crazyland. But the way these comments were positioned next to the news story, it was unavoidable that a few caught my eye. And sure enough, there they were.... The Opinionators. The people who simply must express their contrary viewpoint no matter how ridiculous or how much in opposition to the majority viewpoint. 

I get it. I know there are those "trolls" who do this just for the fun of it. But the one that really grabbed me was the comment of a "girl" (I say "girl" because her name sounded like a girl and her profile pic looked like a young woman in her early 20's, but for all I know "she" could have been a 70 year old man from Iceland), who wrote, "I don't care. That's my opinion and I'm entitled to it."

Oh, sweet mother of pearl. 

Yes, Princess, you are. But I pray that someday you might learn there is a richness and a peace to be found in stepping back from your own perspective and deciding to hold it quietly. Perhaps even holding it loosely, staying open to the possibility that over time it might change. Life has a way of changing a lot of our "opinions" that we once thought unchangeable.

Recently, I had an opportunity to practice silence. I had every reason to want to have the last word. I felt I had been unjustly maligned and had been dragged into a messy situation against my will, and worst of all there were kids involved who should have never been put in that position. Many, many people would have thought me completely justified if I had taken to whatever megaphone was available to me to pronounce my innocence and trumpet the truth.

But when faced with the choice, everything in me told me to do and say nothing. I did not respond. I thanked the people who reached out to me and let them know that I appreciated their support but I said nothing more. And I felt complete peace about it.

It's the peace part that is shocking. I don't enjoy conflict so it isn't unusual for me to back away from it but generally I am left feeling unsettled and as though I should have been braver in standing up for myself. 

Not this time. 

This time the decision to let my silence be the last word felt like.... grace.

It was a way to let it end for myself and everyone else involved. 

I was choosing peace.

And it was a lesson to me that perhaps I need to start looking for other opportunities to be quiet. How many other times would I be better off to listen more and pontificate less? 

And then, just as I was pondering all of this, I read something that literally leaped off the page and grabbed me by the ears (okay, not literally....that would be super weird...but it was still so jaw droppingly awesome).

Being right is actually a very hard burden to be able to carry gracefully and humbly. That's why nobody likes to sit next to the kid in class who's right all the time. One of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt other people with it. 
~ Dallas Willard 


I do not deny for a minute that there are principles and people worth defending boldly and loudly. There is a time to SPEAK!

But let's give silence it's due.

And if I have my way, that silence will spread to every comment section on every news source on the Internet.

That would be so awesome.

(Cue LEGO movie 'Everything is Awesome' music).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Stating the obvious

Look at Jack's poor, sad little Easter basket still sitting untouched and unappreciated. It's actually sad on two counts. Sad, that no one has dug into its contents and declared them wonderful. But perhaps even more sad is that out of all the Easter baskets my kids have had over the years, these tacky little nylon ones that I bought one year at a drugstore in Maui are the ones that have stuck. They are Annie's favorites and WOE to the Easter bunny that tries to put out the beautiful Longaberger basket my sister gave her when she was a baby. Nope, these bug-eyed, oddly sports-themed, why-didn't-they-fall-apart-years-ago little treasures are the ones that get pulled out every year. Their only saving grace is that they do, in fact, squash down flat which is certainly handy for storage purposes. And given that I refuse to employ more than one storage box for Easter decorations, that is actually a pretty big plus.

But back to Jack's sad little bunny....and his notable absence on Easter Sunday.

I knew he had to work in the afternoon and that he had worked late the night before Easter so that made the likelihood of seeing him sometime Easter morning, or at church, pretty slim. But, I didn't want him to think he'd been forgotten so when we hadn't seen him by 2pm I sent him a friendly text saying: THE EASTER BUNNY PUT A 48 HOUR HOLD ON YOUR BASKET BUT AFTER THAT ALL CONTENTS ARE UP FOR GRABS!

Wasn't that sweet?

This is the second year in a row that Jack has not been home on Easter. Last year, he was in Jamaica on a mission trip and this year he was....well, living like a college student. Turns out, when your child moves away from home, even just to live on campus, even a campus a mere five minutes from the threshold of his childhood home, he just isn't around as much. Huh. Who knew?

The truth is that we have been spoiled. Our firstborn chose to go to school close to home and we have gotten to see him a lot over his first year in college. But I've noticed that as the year has gone on we have seen him less and less. And this decrease in visits and laundry runs interestingly enough directly corresponds with his growing happiness and comfort level with his new home away from home. We see him less because he is happy. And as Mary Poppins would say, "That's as it should be." (which isn't particularly profound but when you hear it in that perfect Julie Andrews accent, it sounds really wise with just a touch of melancholy).

Although, in spite of his thriving independence, I'd be willing to bet that he will turn up at some point today to claim his goods. He has no idea what is in that bug-eyed-baseball-bunny basket but he for darn sure doesn't want to see it go to his brother.

I'm kind of thinking that maybe I will throw in few quick supplements to his basket. Not that the Easter bunny didn't do well, but clearly we aren't doing enough to entice this kid home on Easter morning. Maybe if he gets a plastic egg with a tempting wad of cash in it he will think twice about sleeping in and skipping the festivities next year. I mean, nothing says Easter like bribery and emotional manipulation, right?

Alright...maybe not.

Maybe I'll just let him go ahead and grow up. A little bit.

And I'll start strategizing with the Easter bunny for next year....

Easter Past...and before the ugly baskets
The key to his heart it seems...
Weep, weep...sob, sob....

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We also call him Coach

I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station,
who did not do better work and put forth greater effort
under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.
~Charles Schwab

We call him Superdad because he's, well, pretty super. He's a super hard worker, he's super patient, he's super positive, and he can make a super duper grilled cheese sandwich. But what you might not know is that among all of those other super qualities, he is also a super coach.

I don't think I always knew to appreciate the fact that my kids grew up having their dad coach the majority of their sports teams. Ben has coached 14 years of soccer (some of those were spent coaching two teams at the same time) and somewhere around 12 years of baseball. He has coached little kids and big kids, boys and girls, winning teams and not-so-winning teams. But there are still players to this day who, when bumping into him at the grocery store, or down at our neighborhood village, will see him and call out, "Hey, Coach!" 

You don't know to be grateful for all of the great coaches out there until you encounter the not-so-great coaches. Sometimes it would be the coach of our opposing team who would leave me wishing I could gather up all those other little players and bring them onto our side. Coaches who scream, who belittle, who yell profanities and encourage their players not just to play hard, but to play with the intention to harm. And then there are the coaches whose offenses are more subtle. They are disinterested and unengaged. They don't really know the sport and they don't care to learn. They are the coaches who don't really care if the kids grow as players or as people. 

Sadly, these coaches exist. Thankfully, they are in the minority.

Soccer is really Superdad's sport, but he learned to be a good baseball coach, too. He learned by watching other good coaches and offering to be their assistant when our kids were young. He never minded being the co-pilot and enjoyed the camaraderie coaching with other like-minded men whose goal was as much to model good character as it was to build a winning team.

Superdad has won some championships in his time as Coach, but more importantly he has helped to raise champions. He never allowed foul language or poor sportsmanship on his teams. He made sure all his players played and felt valued. And he modeled an appropriate competitive spirit by ending every game with a smile, pats on the back and encouraging words regardless of the outcome.

The other day we heard about a coach who, while viewing the film of the previous game, called out a single player as being solely responsible for the goal that lost the game. Not only is it rare in soccer that one player can truly be identified as the lone weak link in the string of events that lead to a goal, but my mother's heart couldn't help but lurch in response to such an overt act of humiliation by a coach. But I'll admit that in my head I thought to myself, "I don't's really competitive at this level now. Maybe that's what coaches do." It wasn't what I would do but, heck, I'm not a coach.

But my heart's response was vindicated when I saw Superdad shake his head and then heard him mutter,

You praise publicly, you correct privately.

And I was reminded yet again why parents loved having their kids on his team. Because he knows what it means to be a coach. He knows how you talk to kids. He knows what motivates a kid and what just tears him down. He knows that being a coach is really about being a leader and the basic principles of good leadership apply whether you are running a business or trying to get 8 year olds to kick a ball down a field. You communicate, you affirm, you inspire, you teach, and every once in awhile you get a rousing game of Sharks and Minnows going- because you gotta have some fun.

Superdad's coaching days may be winding down. He got to coach Tim longer than we anticipated when he was asked to assist on his club team last year, but this year Tim will be moving on to a higher level and we will turn him over to a new club, a new team, and a new coach. We feel good about what we have seen from this new coach, but it still feels like an act of faith. Because like teachers, pastors, music instructors, and so many other adult mentors we bring into our kid's lives, coaches can have a dramatic impact for better or worse on the development of these young minds and spirits.

Synonyms for coach: guide, counsel, lead, mentor, shepherd, show, instruct

The best coaches are those who truly understand the power they wield and they do so consciously and carefully. Sports will not always feel fair but it should never feel unjust. Players may not always get what they want but they should always be treated with respect. And my personal belief is that when you are coaching kids below the college level, the development of the person should be as much of a priority as the development of the player. Actually, I believe that should be true at any level of sports, but that's just me.

So, this is my little tribute to our Coach. A thank you for the countless hours he has given not only to our own kids, but to the dozens and dozens and dozens of other kids he has tried to encourage and motivate along the way. I know it hasn't always been easy. I know there have been kids and parents who pushed you to the limits of your patience. I know you reach the end of every season exhausted and spent but also sad to see it end. I see how much you give and it is so very appreciated.

We call him Coach, because that's what he is. Always.