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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It*

Side note before I begin:  I've found, serendipitously, that one of the benefits of writing this blog and titling entries with popular and classical songs is re-discovering the story behind those songs.

As my children move in and out of youth sports and performing arts programs, I've noticed more than a few disturbing trends. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar:

Youth Coaches take the path of 1) least resistance or 2) what advances their children's best interests.  I saw a husband and wife taking the job as coach of one of our church's CYO teams, but it soon became apparent that they were just running a practice team for their girls (starting pitcher and catcher), who competed on a "traveling squad".

I played on a summer league baseball team.  I wanted to try out for first base, but the coach's son played first base for the two years I was on that team--and I never started, not even in the outfield.  The last year I played they changed the rules so that not everyone had to get an at-bat or turn in the field, and I only played 3 of the 9 games that season.

Coaches don't teach defense (football or soccer) or fielding (baseball) or emphasize passing and footwork (soccer) and don't reward their players for unselfish play.  I watched one game where one boy, every time he got the ball, kicked it solo for about 50 yards once he went out of bounds. I heard parents complain about the few coaches that do.

When it comes to Performing Arts, too many parents follow the lead of that dreadful witch Abby Lee and become "Dance Moms", becoming horrible, judgmental, petty, poor examples for their daughters.  The dance teacher at our daughter's school (both of them take pointe) is under increasing heat to have a "competitive" dance team, and I'm afraid she's going to buckle.


1) The program is there for all the kids that qualify, not just yours or the coach's.
2) While many trumpet the statement that "a parent is the child's first teacher", there are those who know  how to communicate the skills of a particular sport to kids so that they can do it, too.They understand that kids don't get it the first or the tenth or the 120th time.  They are firm with discipline and patient when the kid is doing his best to learn.  If you're lucky, this person is your child's coach. Let them coach.
3) The intention of youth sports is to train kids in the ways of sports, to teach them about life, and--this is where most youth sports programs get it wrong--give kids a vehicle and a properly supervised avenue to improve their skills. Same goes for performing and visual arts.
4) Winning is nice.  Winning is good.  Winning is preferable. But what are you learning when you win?
5) More importantly, how can you benefit from losing? If you're able to answer that question, before long you'll be able to answer the question in #3.
6) For those performing arts parents who turned up their nose and rolled their eyes at questions 3 and 4, re-read #2.
7) Initial struggles are essential to future success; positive success that comes to late-bloomers is all the more sweet.  If your kid finally makes contact with the baseball after 20 at-bats, great! It was a shock to me too.  I had a student 20 years ago that took all year just to play Hot Cross Buns--but we made it happen, and he was proud of himself.
8) Sometimes learning that you're not good at something you attempt can be serendipitous.  My daughter tried flute and trumpet before she settled on mandolin.  Happy as a clam with weekly lessons now.
9) Learn to listen to your kids.  Observe your kids.  Be honest with yourself.  You may not have the next Joshua Bell or Yvgeny Kissgin or Midori.
10) If your child fits in with a particular group of people, embrace it (and them).  Welcome them into your home. Get to know their parents.  My youngest was having a difficult time at school.  She got involved in theater and a local youth choir and has a new slew of friends (and so do we).

Onward and upward.  Cheers.

*--Tony Haselden and Lee Roy Parnell, for Collin Raye's album Extremes, 1992.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Can a Leopard Change Its Spots?*

People who have known me a while know I love dogs--big dogs, little dogs, hot dogs, it doesn't matter.  They also know that I can't stand the sight or thought of pit bulls and their naïve owners.  "Oh, but my dog came from a GOOD kennel, he's friendly".  Yeah, and Kim-Jong Un went to an elite school in Switzerland, does that make him a paragon of virtue? Hardly. I have met only one pit bull that was tolerable.  That was a recent occurrence.  I was picking up our cat from the vet one day and there was one in the waiting room--stocky and enthusiastic, a little like an interior lineman for the local high school football team.  I kept a healthy distance anyway.

Recently, I heard that acquaintances of ours had trouble with their pit bulls--the "puppy" attacked the larger older dog, and that one of their children had been bitten trying to separate them.  They got rid of the "puppy".

Sorry, folks, I have to say this:

It was patently stupid to bring those demon spawn into their home.  Not that the people in the house deserved to be injured by their dogs, and they certainly didn't "have it coming", but...

I don't care what the breed association's official position is.  I don't want to hear anecdotes from naïve owners of those bastards. 

Some things never change.  Some things are always stupid.  Some things are always wrong.

Onward and Upward. Go Blue!

*--Railroad's Men, Railroad's Men Collection: A Bottle of Water, n.d.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Little Lies*

Note to customer service personnel:

If you're going to lie about something you did or something you didn't do, and you get caught, beg forgiveness and make it right (notice I didn't say apologize--the weakness of apologies for neglectful behavior will be the subject of some future post).  I went to the oral surgeon to get sutures removed, and knew I was in trouble when the first words out of the receptionist's mouth were, "You didn't get my message, did you?"

She allegedly called and left a message regarding rescheduling because the good doctor was in surgery.  I didn't want to have to wait another hour or more, so I asked to reschedule. 

She asked, "well, who's your dentist?".
I told her and she said, "Well, maybe they can do it sooner". 
"Would you like me to call down?"
After not getting her "last message" (there wasn't one on either phone when I came home), I told her no, I'd just walk down and ask them myself--and walked out.

Long story short--my dentist's office did it, albeit not without a bit of pain and blood (both mine).

I then asked the receptionist (who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Snapple Lady) for the endodontist about scheduling an appointment for my implant, as it was my understanding that I was supposed to get this four weeks after the tooth was pulled.  The assistant and the Snapple Lady stared at me blankly.  Well, this is inspiring a real lack of confidence, I thought to myself.  Then one of them says (and, like Dave Barry, I am not making this up),

"I think the oral surgeon (The office where I had the tooth pulled last week) is running a special this month".


I'm not buying a quart of paint, a pound of #8 bright nails, and having two keys cut at the local mom and pop hardware/general store.  These are what's left of my 53-year old teeth, for Christ's sake, and I expect better service than that from those expensively educated, impeccably dressed, dental professionals (I'm gritting what's left of my teeth as I pronounce that word, because I'm not certain I believe it).

Note to oral surgeon's receptionist:  When I returned home, there WAS no message on either my land line or my cell phone.  If I can't trust you with a simple cancellation, I'm sure as heck not going to trust your boss to work on my mouth.  My livelihood depends on it.  SHAPE UP!!!

*--Christine McVie and Eddie Quintela for Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night, 1987.