End of a Matter

In Ecclesiastes 7:8, King of Israel and uber-wise man Solomon says:  The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”

I understand this snippet of wisdom. Oftentimes, I find I’m greatly relieved when a matter has ended … even if it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. (The latter consideration doesn’t apply when I’m talking FIFA World Cup.)Brazil_2014_FIFA_World_Cup_Log_0

As to soccer, I’ve already provided (in a previous post) my thoughts on this recent celebration of the sport. I’m definitely not a fan. I don’t begrudge the rest of the world for their enthusiastic embrace of the sport. In fact, I’m greatly impressed by the stamina and athletic ability of the players. There’s no question they’re amazing athletes. Continue reading “End of a Matter”

Baseball, Mom & Apple Pie

It’s in my nature to be competitive, but this month-long FIFA World Cup Soccer extravaganza is stretching me way beyond my normal capacity! Honestly, is there anyone else who is as maxed out as I am? (Come on now … don’t be afraid to raise your hand.)brazil-2014-world-cup-bannerSoccer was never a sport I played. Living in St. Louis where I grew up, our sport was baseball and the Cardinals were always our team. My brothers and I spent our summers out on a vacant field behind our house, and since this spot was an excellent gathering place for other kids in the neighborhood, we usually had a game of baseball going.

But soccer? There might have been a time in junior high school when the PE teacher mentioned soccer but little more, certainly not enough information for any of us to understand and enjoy the game. Whatever the teacher taught was obviously forgettable.

During my children’s early sports years, I think each of them played fall soccer at least one year. As a parent, I knew they needed to wear shin guards, the object was getting the ball in the net, and the children did a huge amount of running every game. (I think perhaps the running itself was enough to discourage them from future participation!)

I know there have been other World Cup Soccer tournaments over my lifetime, and I suppose I must have been living in a bubble not to have noticed them until now. Nevertheless, now that I’m aware of this quadrennial ritual, I’m amazed how many people are caught up in the events — and the number of others who feel like me (totally bored).

When my grandson and his best friend recently started talking soccer, they might as well have been conversing in a foreign language. (Grandson’s friend grew up in Indonesia where soccer obviously generates more interest and enthusiasm. At one time in his youth, Grandson played LaCrosse and has now learned more about soccer from his friend.)world-cup-usa

As the cartoon above relates, I’m absolutely befuddled by the entire event. Here’s what I’ve learned so far. Instead of counting down, the time clock goes up! Sometimes, the end of the game is extended; I haven’t yet figured out why. Teams that lose don’t necessarily face elimination. The penalties, the yellow cards, the rules that govern … I’m not even close to grasping these finer points!

Like the cartoon dad above, I’m convinced baseball definitely makes more sense to me. And American football? Before I married my Beloved, I knew I’d be a football fan because he was; it was the best way to spend time with him, so I learned the game.

Perhaps if my Beloved had loved soccer, I’d know more about it today. I blame my ignorance entirely on him!

Phantom Poet

who-am-iReading various blogs this weekend, I knew I’d take time for a post entitled I don’t like poetry by Mindful Digressions author Doobster418. Yes, we’ve crossed paths before and while there are many things on which we disagree, I enjoy his posts. With this particular post, I’m duty-bound to address his assertions about poetry!

But first, consider the famous Shakespeare quote in Hamlet. The Prince of Denmark has created a play about a man who killed his brother (the King) in order to marry his brother’s wife and seize his brother’s throne. Hamlet asks his mother Gertrude (who is now married to Hamlet’s throne-seizing uncle) how she liked the play. Gertrude answers by saying (line 179):  The lady doth protest too much, methinks. In other words, she’d have been more believable had she been less strident in proclaiming her innocence.

From personal experience, I acknowledge Doobster418’s steadfast insistence about disliking poetry. However, I must also acknowledge he was something of a collaborator and I will not permit him to escape admitting his contribution. When I first posted my sonnet, Playing Catch, I utilized an incorrect word − fumble − and he pointed out (very kindly) the correct word when referring to baseball was error.

Even before my original post, I realized the word was imprecise. Sure, I could argue the definition; the dictionary defines fumble generally in the sports context as failing “to hold or maintain hold on a ball after having touched or carried it.” While the dictionary definition isn’t exclusive to a specific sport, sports parlance very definitely differentiates a fumble (football) from an error (baseball). Doobster418 was correct insisting on precision. His contribution − collaboration − vastly improved my sonnet!

From Doobster418’s collaboration, we can surmise two things:  (1) he does read poetry, at least on occasion and (2) he appreciates precision in language. There might be a third thing implied as well:  he enjoys blogging interaction and the opportunity to playfully tweak other bloggers from time to time. (I’ll leave it to him to confirm or deny the foregoing.)

I freely admit my personal enjoyment of the occasional playful tweak. As soon as I read Doobster’s I don’t like poetry post, I went into action. How else would I do so? By composing a poem, of course!

Mindless-Digression, I hate poetry, doobster418, symbolism hurts my brain, poetry, light verse, poem
Poem: Mindless Digression

 

I’m not sure how many words Doobster418’s post contained, but I’m pretty sure I succeeded in communicating his thoughts on the subject with fewer words. And as for my insistence he is one who “protest(s) too much,” I’m beginning to suspect a hidden agenda at play. Is Doobster418 in fact a serious poet we’d all recognize were he to reveal himself?

Perhaps, methinks.

Bowlish Musings

super-bowl-2014-XLVIIIIt’s Super Bowl Sunday! For some years now, I have to admit I’ve been less than an enthusiastic fan. I think my excitement ebbs and flows based on whether my husband has shown interest or not.

There was a time many years ago when we lived in Dallas (and for some years even after we’d moved away) that we were Cowboys fans. (That was the Tom Landry era and we had high respect for him.) In the years after Landry retired, we gradually lost our enthusiasm for the team (though we still like to see them win and will watch games occasionally).

Picking an NFL team to cheer for is no longer easy, so we tend to reserve our enthusiasm for the Arkansas Razorbacks now. Woo pig sooie!

The Super Bowl is an event of course, whether you’re rooting for one team or another … or just enjoying the commercials (that’s me). But I was amused today by this Twitter post (and answer) below.

shatner

ASIDE:  Though I was never much of a Star Trek fan, I enjoyed William Shatner in Boston Legal. The clever repartée between Shatner’s character (Denny Crane) and James Spader‘s character (Alan Shore) was usually worth the price of admission. As the show progressed, however, I got terribly bored by intrusive political references and wasn’t terribly disappointed when the show went away.

The above Twitter exchange reminded me of a poem, written many years ago. Here in the South, it’s not uncommon to be driving down the highway and see a toilet bowl as the centerpiece for someone’s garden. (This has always seemed a bit incongruous to me!)

When I wrote this poem, it was simply an expression of the odd way in which my brain catalogs and processes information (both sense and nonsense). I remember thinking at the time I wrote it that it would be little more than a poetic exercise because the poem was unlikely to be appropriate for any occasion, certainly not a poem to sell.

(Please note, it’s not a sonnet! My appreciation for the sonnet form would not allow profaning this high-minded form with such low-brow drivel!)

But given the above Tweets and today’s Big Game, I share it with you here as a token of pre-game frivolity.

Bowl-Role, front yard toilet, potted plant, poetry, light verse, poem
Poem: Bowl Role

 

Sons And Daughters

More sports today … and after yesterday’s fumble (mine, not the one OSU‘s Clint Chelf endured in the final minute of the Cotton Bowl), I decided I’d take another run at football!Chelf

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, College Football is taking its final hits of the season. After yesterday’s Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl, there’s today’s Compass Bowl and tomorrow’s GoDaddy Bowl leading up to the grand finalé, Monday night’s BCS Championship Game.

I think it’s fun to watch these games and engage in a friendly competition with friends whose team loyalties may differ from ours.

In our part of the country, we’re sorry the Arkansas Razorbacks had a disappointing season. Of course, we’re also excited for Arkansas State‘s prospects in tomorrow’s game against Ball State … even though Ball State (with the better overall record) is favored.

With his previous ties to northwest Arkansas, Gus Malzahn is also a sentimental favorite for us, and we’re excited about him succeeding with the Auburn Tigers!

In the first year of my marriage, I learned the importance of sharing sports with my sports-loving husband. (Fortunately, this wasn’t totally anathema to me because I already enjoyed sports in general.)

The sonnet below is one I wrote when my children were young. Before we had sons in the house, we had daughters. Since my Beloved comes from a family of boys, he knew lots about boys and the male perspective, but not much about girls … at least he didn’t until our daughters came along. But as they got older, there were occasions when their feminine perspective was incomprehensible to him.

With this poem, I explore what I observed as he learned to balance being the father of both sons and daughters, and I celebrate the unique affect a daughter has on her daddy.

Mixed-Loyalties, fathers, daughters, sons, sports, football, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: Mixed Loyalties

The Writing Field

Update:  When I posted this earlier today, I did so with the sonnet using an unacceptable mixed metaphor that a fellow-blogger kindly brought to my attention. The editor side of my brain knew using fumble in a poem about baseball was incorrect (error being the proper term), but my creative side ignored the critique! Feeling the uncomfortable residue of egg on my face, I’ve made the necessary change! (The words work hard, but sometimes the boss is stubbornly wrong!) My thanks to doobster418 at mindfuldigressions.com for his generous input!

With College Football in its final wind-down and a Super Bowl countdown bringing us less than 30 days till game day, some sports fans are already anxious for the start of spring training. Growing up in a baseball town (St. Louis), I enjoyed knowing something in my younger years about the Cardinals … much less as I got older and then left home. (That probably moves me into the not-really-a-fan category, doesn’t it?)batter

As a youngster, though, I played baseball almost everyday with my brothers … all summer long. My older brother is two years older, my younger brother eighteen months younger, and we spent lots of time together in those days. Yes, I was definitely a tomboy.

Because we played baseball together, I learned how to throw properly, I became a decent batter and an excellent fielder. I practiced frequently so as to avoid any legitimate criticisms that I “played like a girl.” Other boys in the neighborhood joined us on the back lot for games, but I don’t remember any other girl being in the company.

Unlike my brothers, my interest in baseball cards was nil. But I managed to absorb some of their talk about players on the Cardinals team, so I knew who the players were and what positions they played. The concept of batting averages and other intricacies were lost on me, but I knew enough about the best players to use their names in our back-lot games and sound reasonably well-informed … for a girl!

Occasionally, I’m a bit wistful for bygone days when it was the children who organized enough players to field opposing teams, arranged a place to play and proceeded with their games − completely apart from adult supervision. Films about sandlot baseball evoke my memories of pleasant days at play.

Today, thinking about the conclusion of another football season, I thought this sonnet would be an appropriate poem to share. I still enjoy “playing catch” but I do it differently than when I was a child.

Playing-Catch, baseball, writing, playing catch, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: Playing Catch

 

Saying Goodbye

Video___Calendar_996425446For some of us, closing out the year 2013 means saying goodbye. Death is never pleasant; we have treasured moments to remember, but it’s not the same as having your flesh-and-blood loved one with you.

(How thankful I am not to have lost anyone close to me this year!)

Because I’m a people-oriented person though, my attention is usually caught by the newspapers, magazines and television that run retrospective pieces on famous or infamous or otherwise well-known people who’ve left us during any given year. These lists include names of people with whom we may be familiar as well as names of some who are unknown to us.

One list that attracted my attention was a list offered on the World Magazine website. This alphabetical list included six pages of names (and a small bio for most). As one might expect, a few names included on the list were people whose web of influence touched me in some way. I pulled out ten names that meant the most to me.

What girl in the 60s and 70s did not know Annette Funicello? As a youngster, she shone brighter than most of the other Mouseketeers. She sang, danced and won the hearts of viewers everywhere. For me, she was a picture of grace, always smiling, exuding sincerity and warmth, a role model to emulate.

Not everyone will know who Dr. Howard G. Hendricks (Prof) was, but I remember him well. When my Beloved attended Dallas Theological Seminary, Prof was a favorite instructor and along with his wife Jeanne, they generously hosted students and wives in their home, teaching us as we shared delicious meals together.

190px-Billy_Jack_poster

The next name might seem a bit odd:  Tom Laughlin. This actor and screenwriter (many other things as well) brought Billy Jack to the screen when my Beloved and I were young married folks. (One of my school classmates had a bit part in the film, so naturally I wanted to see the movie.) My Beloved and I found the film sort of campy.

Being a gal who grew up in St. Louis, the name Stan Musial was a household name. He started his career in 1941 with the Cardinals. He had a restaurant (Stan & Biggie’s) he operated until after I left the city for college.

One of the pivotal books I read during my early years of marriage and parenting was Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund. I never knew her personally but her book influenced me to train (discipline) my inner person for the purpose of developing true beauty.

Another woman whose influence was strong was author Edith Schaeffer. She wrote many books, but her book Hidden Art encouraged me to make my home an expression of beauty and peacefulness.

My love for music is embedded in my soul. My parents were early mentors, especially my daddy. He loved to hear George Beverly Shea sing the sweet hymn How Great Thou Art, and I pretty much cut my teeth hearing this song as well as others Shea sang (I’d Rather Have Jesus, The Wonder of It All etc.). My daddy often sang solos in church (an occasional duet with me) and though he was mostly self-taught in music, I always thought he sounded a lot like Shea.

When you’re married (as I am) to a lover of sports, the name Pat Summerall will be familiar. Of course his connection to our home state doesn’t hurt, but I just remember sitting with my husband (again, we were young married folks) viewing football and hearing the genial Summerall explain the game to me. I learned a great deal from him.

Margaret-Thatcher-9504796-2-402Margaret Thatcher of course was a role model for many women, particularly those of a conservative persuasion like myself. As first female Prime Minister in England, the Iron Lady inspired me with her tough-minded (but always ladylike) approach to politics and government. Her friendship with President Ronald Reagan increased my admiration for her even more.

Finally, I must mention golfer Ken Venturi. (Again, being married to a lover of sports and most especially a lover of golf, I’ve learned to love the game myself.) Since Venturi’s actual golf career ended in 1961, he is most memorable to me via his distinctive broadcasting voice. Yes, I’ve even learned to watch golf with my Beloved … though I much prefer to play the game instead of watching it on television. Listening to Venturi in the broadcast booth helped his love for the game spill over to me.

There’s another golfer in the list − Miller Barber − and while I recall his name and that he was a golfer, that’s about all. (My Beloved could probably regale me with stories of the man’s career. I can’t.)

So, we say goodbye to these men and women, influencers all. I am grateful for the impact each had on me. Heeding this wisdom from Mark Twain, may we each live fully now, today and each tomorrow God gives us:  “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Failure No Longer An Option

It’s been a long time since I sat in the bleachers watching one or another of my children playing sports. At various times, we were spectators for t-ball, soccer, softball, little league baseball, Kiwanis Kids Day football, junior high basketball and football, and senior high basketball and football.

I feel like I’ve probably left something out but you get the idea. With four children in athletics, there were times we (two parents) needed to be in three different places to attend concurrent events! It was a challenge.

However, only this week did I realize how radically different children’s sports has changed … I knew just how different when I saw this video relating the details of “Silent Saturday.” (I’ll let you make up your own mind about whether you think this is a positive transformation or not.)

Do a Google search and you’ll get results of numerous soccer associations experimenting with this notion of “Silent Saturday.” Their claims are noble − purporting to champion the needs of vulnerable children and prevent [screaming] adults from “invading the children’s playtime.”

For me, “Silent Saturday” is simply one more indication some children are introduced to sports far too early. One of the measures, it seems to me, for gauging a child’s readiness for sports is his/her ability to hone better listening skills (i.e. pay attention to coach, filter out other distracting voices).

As a parent on the sidelines, I observed that most grade-school children who participate in sports just want to have fun! To that extent, it is indeed the “children’s playtime.” Children definitely love to run, to chase a ball, to do the running and chasing in the company of other kids their age. But by the time they enter sports, they’ve already begun to understand the significance of cheers (and boos), of wins and losses, of excellence in performance and the mediocrity of lax performance. They may be playing, but they’re playing for keeps on some level.

Still, as long as parents encourage and permit their kids to enjoy the fun, undue pressure to perform at a high level can be minimized (except perhaps for the few who seem to feed on sports because of their intense competitive drive).

The sports skills children learn (at this young age anyway) are often incidental to the camaraderie and teamwork that takes place on the field/court/diamond, etc. In fact, I’ve known some children who learned the camaraderie and teamwork well without ever actually mastering the sports skills.

Why? May I suggest it was due to their personalities. For some, the sports were only an avenue for social interaction (and possibly because mom or dad wanted the kid to participate).

But even the children who don’t really care about the sport and aren’t naturally gifted athletes do have their ears tuned to their parents’ voices. Why shut down that parent-child communication? Children thrive on the feedback and they long to hear their parents praise them! I shudder to imagine the child who believes he/she has performed a “great” move but mom/dad can’t offer the immediate affirmation and praise they hope to receive! What’s next? A star on the pillow from the tooth fairy? A non-committal thumbs-up for A’s on the report card?

How does a child’s maturity most likely flourish? From the artificial imposition of “Silent Saturday” or from experience (whether win or lose) where the child internalizes natural feedback that can help him/her become a better player and/or a more understanding (wiser) human being?

Children who engage in sports require maturity, but their engagement also encourages added maturity. They learn to deal positively with affliction (sustaining losses, being a benchwarmer instead of top-dog, accepting legitimate criticism sans tears, etc.)

Sanitizing sports events by inflicting children (and parents, onlookers) with “Silent Saturday” is a sure way to squash any interest in competitive activities that move these kids away from the inactivity of computers and video games. The social engineers try to encourage children in physical activity (to prevent obesity) but then spoil the sports activities by pressing a competition-is-bad mumbo jumbo agenda!

I’m betting the kids would prefer less interference, more working-it-out amongst themselves, and a generous portion of normal free play.

Turn Out the Lights

From the time I married my soul-mate in December of 1969, I knew I’d either become a football fan or a miserable football “widow.” I chose the former. I learned the game, the players and whatever behind-the-scenes NFL scuttlebutt others talked about in my workplace coffee-break room.

In those early days, we lived in Dallas, and with Tom Landry at the helm of the Cowboys, we became enthusiastic fans. We identified with “America’s Team” before the rest of the world knew them by that name.

It was never simply a question of wins and losses nor my competitive drive desiring for “my” team to stay on top. Becoming a Cowboys fan also meant I became knowledgable about other NFL teams. When the Cowboys played the Redskins, I needed to know something about the history of that rivalry. If they played the Steelers, the Broncos or the 49ers, I learned the facts and lore that contributed to my enjoyment of each game. Continue reading “Turn Out the Lights”